‘Yes, it must be! Her son had been doing just fine before that little brat Shitou was sent to the academy. Yu Hai’s whole family is conniving, they must have done something to transfer her son’s fate to Little Shitou. They must have!’
If that little brat did not exist, the person who would have been accepted into Rongxuan Academy and given special treatment by the principal of the academy would definitely have been her son! The person who became a county official and had gotten the government grain allowance would also be her son!
The more Madam Zhang thought about it, the more fixated she became. The next day, she went to create a fuss in front of the old residence of the Yu Family, saying things like how Yu Hai was evil and used black magic to switch the fate of his son. She also claimed that everything Yu Hai’s family owned should have belonged to her, and Little Shitou’s county official title was also supposed to be Yu Bo’s. She cried as well, threatening to hang herself in front of the old residence in an effort to force Yu Hai to switch the two families’ fortune back.
The villagers of Dongshan Village surrounded her and watched her like a circus show. No one stopped her even as she pretended to take off her belt and acted as if she wanted to hang herself in front of the Yu Residence doors. Old Yu was so mad he trembled, shouting loud and clear while he pointed at her, “You say Dahai had altered Xiaobo’s fortune? Bah! If fate and fortune was so easily exchanged, why don’t you find someone to alter your fate into that of a noble-titled lady? You’re just jealous that Dahai’s living a good life, aren’t you? Do you regret your actions now? And what have you done previously? You should’ve known this day would come when you hid away those 300 taels and chased them away without giving them a single copper! And you dare say that it’s the fault of the examiner that Shitou became a county official instead of Xiaobo! Your words will ruin the child’s future! If this matter was spread, the authorities will have you arrested and charged with crime!”
Madam Zhang now sobbed sorrowfully. It had been getting harder and harder to pass every day for the past two years, so she had counted on her son to become a county official so she could finally walk with her head held high again. Who would have known that Yu Bo did not end up passing the examination and Little Shitou, who she had not thought highly of, would become a county official instead? The greater her expectations, the greater her disappointment; she felt as though her heart had been emptied. Unable to find any excuse or reason to vent on, the pent up frustration in her threatened to explode!
“Old man! Xiaobo is also your son. The blood of the Yu Family also flows within him! You can’t completely side with Yu Hai; you need to think about your youngest son too! If they hadn’t switched out Xiaobo’s fortune, how could that little kit, who barely knows his words, manage to become a county official after only a few years of studying instead of Xiaobo, who had studied for many years? If it were that easy, wouldn’t everyone be a county official?” Madam Zhang held on to this absurd excuse as she continued to cry.
The people of this era were still quite superstitious and believed in fengshui, fate and fortune, so once they heard her reasoning, a few of those easily-muddled people in the crowd started to believe in her words and their gaze was filled with skepticism as they looked upon Yu Hai’s family. Some of them even thought, ‘What if the reason the Yu Family was earning a lot of money through this and that for the past two years was also because they had stolen some of their own fortune…’
Yu Xiaocao walked out from the courtyard, coldly speaking, “If it were truly like what you said, then wouldn’t it mean the good fortune of all those 80 year old candidates who qualified to take the county-level examinations had been stolen by all the successful young scholars? You’re implying that Headmaster Yuan’s son, a 20 year old top scholar, also stole someone else’s good fortune? No matter how beautiful you carve a piece of elm wood, at the end of the day, it is still elm wood, and cannot become high-quality jade! This should be common sense!”
“Who are you comparing to elm wood? Is there anyone who speaks of their younger uncle like you? Such a rude and disrespectful brat, we’ll see who will want to marry you!” Madam Zhang was akin to a lit firecracker and was so loud she didn't sound human anymore.
When Madam Liu heard someone curse her daughter for not being able to get married in the future, she lost her temper, "How is my daughter rude? What did she say wrong? It's stealing your good fortune if our Shitou excels in the examinations, but well-deserved if he doesn't? What kind of logic is that? Even the headmaster of Rongxuan Academy could see his talent and accepted him as his true disciple. It’d be weird if Shitou didn't excel, considering all the late-night study sessions that the principal gives him every day! Stop spouting nonsense and go home! Your son and daughter still want their dignity even if you don't!"
Seeing that the usually meek Madam Liu had even dared to shout at her, Madam Zhang dropped to the ground on her butt, wailing, “Heavens! Why do you turn a blind eye? Why do you not strike this unfilial thing? No matter what, I still brought up Yu Hai and let him marry his wife. Not only does he not remember my efforts in bringing him up, but he also egged his wife on to criticize me…How am I supposed to live? All of you should be struck by lightning!”
“If the heavens weren’t blind and were going to strike someone, it would still first strike those people who’ve committed heinous crimes. The kind of person that plotted the murder of her own husband and was charged with murder!” Yu Xiaocao paid no heed to Madam Liu, who had tried to stop her, and stepped forward again. She did not care about her good name, since she had never planned to marry anyone in the first place.
When the time came, she would not obstruct both of her brothers’ future. She would withdraw herself from the family and start her own household with only herself. Besides, she had her limbs and she had the skill, so she was not afraid of not being able to feed herself. At that time, she would adopt a few children, then leave all her assets to the ones who were filial to her and took care of her at an old age. It was definitely better than marrying a man who had different opinions and could not cross the gap between their different eras.
Every single soul in Dongshan Village knew of Madam Zhang’s attempt at murdering her own husband. Old Yu almost died in the hands of this woman, and, if Yu Hai had arrived two days later than he did, Old Yu would only be a skeleton lying in his grave now. But a murder charge? What were they talking about? Had Madam Zhang also harmed someone else’s life? Although the villagers of Dongshan Village were sometimes a bit selfish and mean, they were generally not immoral or odious people, so when they heard the words ‘murder charges’, their expressions changed drastically.
Madam Zhang’s heart skipped a beat. Only now did she remember that Yu Hai still had leverage against her. If they were to expose her misdeeds from that time, she would also not be able to stay in Dongshan Village anymore even if the yamen did not come for her. Her eyes darted around, seemingly trying to find an excuse to free herself from this predicament, when all of a sudden, lightning shot down from the clear sky. Madam Zhang could only feel a numbing pain across her entire body before she fell unconscious and dropped to the ground.
“Oh my goodness! The heavens are angry and struck her with lightning!” Someone in the crowd exclaimed.
Madam Zhang’s face was burnt black, while her hair looked like it had exploded and now resembled a porcupine! She collapsed on the ground, with white smoke faintly escaping through her open mouth. Her eyes had rolled into her head, and her limbs were still convulsing. It was a terrifying sight to witness. The villagers that surrounded her earlier now pushed each other, backing away from her. They were afraid that they might be implicated by her and mistakenly struck by lightning.
“The heavens only strike the evil. It would seem that Madam Zhang had many misdeeds! She must’ve been lying too when she said that Yu Hai stole her good fortune. Even the heavens couldn’t stand it! She’s too evil!”
“When Xiaocao said ‘plotted the murder of her own husband and charged with murder’, could it be that she meant Madam Zhang? Oh my goodness, I originally thought that this Madam Zhang was only a little mean and unkind, but I never thought that she would turn out to be this evil!”
“Madam Zhang had murdered someone? Who? It couldn’t be one of our villagers, could it? We should keep away from her in the future, or else who knows when we’ll be harmed by her.”
“I remember now. At that time, I was close with Yu Hai’s mother and often visited her when she was sick. At first, she was already on her way to recovery and the physician said she only needed a few more doses of medicine, but when Madam Zhang arrived, her illness immediately took a turn for worse, and she died not long after…Say, could this be Madam Zhang’s doing?”
“Could it really be? Wasn’t Yu Hai’s mother Madam Zhang’s older cousin? She took her in when she had no one to turn to, so Madam Zhang wouldn’t be so ungrateful as to turn against her, right? What was she after?”
“Tsk tsk! What else could she be after? At that time, Old Yu was still standing tall and looked quite similar to Dahai. Moreover, he was good at catching fish. She was a widow with a child to take care of, and later she became Yu Hai’s stepmother…What do you think she was after?”
“If it’s like this, then Madam Zhang is not only evil, but she’s also an ungrateful wretch. Killing her cousin so she could replace her! Does she have no dignity? Would she have died without a man ah?!” ……
Madam Zhang was originally only unconscious for a short while, but when she heard the crowd’s speculations, she was so scared she had not dared to move and played dead on the ground. It was only when Yu Bo received news that he and Yu Dashan both carried the ‘unconscious’ Madam Zhang back. Otherwise, if she continued to lie on the cold, late-autumn ground, she might actually die from the exposure.
Despite their efforts, Madam Zhang still suffered from a high fever that same night, and even after they hired a physician and fed her the prescribed medicine for a few days, she still did not fully recuperate from the illness. Rumors spread within the village that it was Yu Hai’s mother taking revenge on Madam Zhang. Others said that because she had committed so many evil deeds, her youngest son had to suffer the punishment.That was the reason why he could not pass the college examination.
Yu Bo could not stand that the villagers pointed and talked about him whenever he went out, so he disregarded the still-recuperating Madam Zhang, picked up his bags, and left for the academy in the prefectural city. He would study hard and get good results in two years to wash away the shame of today!
A few more days passed, and Royal Prince Yang returned from the capital. When he heard that Little Shitou had managed to become a county official, he suggested celebrating the success of the little fellow in Zhenxiu Restaurant, while also insinuating to Yu Xiaocao to fulfill her ‘Buddha jumps over the wall’ promise.
It was late fall. The business in the prefectural city was going smoothly, and the winter wheat plantation in the farmstead was growing healthily, so Xiaocao was finally free for a few days. For the past few days, Zhu Junyang kept mentioning ‘Buddha jumps over the wall’. Furthermore, Tanggu Town was near the sea, which made the ingredients easier to acquire, so Yu Xiaocao began her attempt at creating this complicated dish.
Of course, the expensive ingredients required to make ‘Buddha jumps over the wall’ like shark’s fin, abalone, sea cucumber and shark’s skin would be provided by Royal Prince Yang. Prince Jing’s Residence was not lacking in these ingredients, as their storehouse kept quite a lot of even just the top-notch delicacies that were rewarded from the imperial palace.
‘Buddha jumps over the wall’ consisted of eighteen ingredients: sea cucumber, abalone, shark’s fin, scallops, shark’s lips (shark’s skin), fish maw, razor clams, ham, pork belly, lamb knuckle, pig trotters, pig tendons, chicken and duck breast and gizzard, shiitake mushrooms, and winter bamboo shoots.
The process of creating the dish was also extremely complicated. The eighteen ingredients must first be made into their own unique dishes through different methods, then layered dish by dish into a large ceramic pot. Following that, a suitable volume of soup and Shaoxing wine must be poured in and mixed until the soup, wine and dishes combined together. The opening of the ceramic pot must then be covered and sealed tightly with lotus leaves and put over a fire to heat.
The fuel for the fire was also specific. Only the white coal, which was fine and did not produce any smoke, would do. The ceramic pot must first be put over a large and blazing flame to boil, before simmering on a small and warm fire for 5 to 6 hours. Only then would the dish be successfully created.Previous Chapter Next Chapter