Princess Consort Jing felt very gratified when she thought of how her youngest son seemed to be showing a wider variety of expressions and feelings now. In the past, it was as if he had been crafted of the ice from a ten thousand year old glacier and molded from cold steel. He didn’t seem to have any humanity. Sometimes, even she felt a bit scared and frightened whenever she had to interact with him. Perhaps it was because of her own feelings that her youngest son became more and more distanced from her and never went back to the closeness they had when he was young.
However, ever since he came back from his seafaring journey to the western hemisphere, he gradually warmed up. He started to smile more and other expressions gradually became apparent on his face. His attitude when he interacted with his father was no longer as cold and detached as before. He even learned how to tease other people——No, it had to be said, only when her youngest son was interacting with the Yu Family’s youngest daughter did he actually seem like a seventeen to eighteen year old youth.
“Son, during that episode, who did you think of?” Princess Consort Jing was in a good mood after remembering the recent changes in her son. Thus, her desire for gossip had risen again.
Zhu Junyang had a warm smile on his face yet he stayed silent. His phoenix eyes shifted a bit as he thought, ‘I wonder what that little lass is doing right now. Is she joking around with her mother as they water the vegetables in the courtyard? Or is she at the piggery asking her twin sister how things are going? Or is she helping her older brother calculating the price of seafood...such an industrious little girl, and she always seems to have plenty of energy. It doesn’t seem like she ever stops working, doesn’t she feel tired sometimes?’
In actuality, Yu Xiaocao was doing the exact opposite of what he was thinking. She was currently reclining on a rocking chair underneath the grape trellis. She amused herself by rocking back and forth in a half-drowsy state. Suddenly, a flurry of knocks at the front gate interrupted her leisurely time. Liu Huifang burst in frantically. The weather in late autumn was cool and relaxing, yet she had a head full of sweat.
“Xiaocao, come to my house quickly and take a look! Our chickens are sick!!” Liu Huifang was so frazzled that tears almost streamed down her face. People raising chickens were always worried about poultry diseases. There weren’t any veterinarians in this era, so if an illness came up, it was possible that a whole half years of work could go down the drain!
Yu Xiaocao opened her eyes and sat up straight before she asked, “Don’t panic. Tell me exactly what’s going and don’t leave out any details.”
“On the evening of the day before yesterday, my mother and I brought back the chickens from the woods in cages. When we were giving them water to drink, we noticed that there were a few chickens that looked a bit listless. My mother and I didn’t take it to heart. However, who would have known that yesterday night, when we did the same thing, an additional dozen were also listless. My mother said the chickens probably had gotten an infectious disease, so she put the sick chickens away in their own cage away from the others. But today, half of our chickens are laying on the ground looking sick…”
After getting Yu Xiaocao’s advice, the Liu Family decided to raise their chickens free-range. In the morning, they used cages to bring the chickens into a nearby thicket and had them forage for bugs and seeds to eat. At night, they brought them back to their residence. This method not only conserved the amount of grain they had to feed them but also improved the quality of the meat on the chickens. Half a year had passed and the Liu Family’s two hundred and so chickens were all doing well. Who would have thought that after the chickens got to a weight of two catties each, over half had gotten suddenly sick! It was no wonder that the usually calm and steady Liu Huifang was panicking.
“Don’t panic! I’ll go with you and take a look at them!” Yu Xiaocao was very clear that people who raised a lot of chickens were always fearful of poultry disease spreading. Luckily, she had mystic-stone water on hand. Even if the chickens did have an infectious disease, it wouldn’t be a problem.
When she saw Xiaocao seemed calm and confident, Liu Huifang gradually felt her heart relax. She nodded her head and said, “I almost forgot that you know some medicinal arts Xiaocao!”
Yu Xiaocao smiled bitterly inside, ‘I learned medicine to treat humans not poultry, okay? Ah forget about it, the Liu Family only started raising chickens for my braised food shop. A hundred or so chickens can be sold for at least a dozen or so days. Right now Uncle and my older cousin are out traveling to buy more chickens and they work from dawn to dusk. It’s not easy for them either...it’s fine to let the Liu Family believe that I can treat their chickens!’
The two girls quickly arrived at Huifang’s home. Shuanzhu’s wife was currently sighing and lamenting over the chickens that were currently dying.
“Don’t panic Auntie, let me take a look at them!” Yu Xiaocao inspected one of the chickens that was almost at the brink of death. Its crest was dull and dim, and its eyes were weak and watery. Secretions were coming out of its beak, and it was obvious that it was hard for the animal to breathe. Its crop was obviously swollen as if it accumulated a lot of liquid. She then looked at the poop of the sick chickens. The poop was yellow and green in color and was accompanied by a lot of water...this was the perfect example of a viral illness that struck the chickens.
After she finished inspecting the sick chickens, Yu Xiaocao had an idea on how to proceed next. She first spoke to the mother and daughter pair who were besides themselves with worry, “Don’t worry, I am able to treat this disease! I need to go to the mountain side to dig up some medicinal plants but I’ll be back very soon.”
When Shuanzhu’s wife heard that her family’s chickens could be treated, she silently let out a sigh of relief before she said, “It’s already evening right now. Going up into the mountains isn’t safe. How about you wait until tomorrow?”
Yu Xiaocao smiled and shook her head, “If we wait until tomorrow, I’m afraid that the whole flock of chickens will be sick then! Don’t worry, the herbs I need aren’t up the mountain. I can find them at the foot of the mountain too.”
“Then have Huifang go with you too ah…” Shuanzhu’s wife still wasn’t completely convinced.
Yu Xiaocao thought for a bit and then said to Liu Huifang, “Older Sister Huifang, go dig up some common purslane and bring it back. It needs to be washed before it's used too.”
After she finished, she walked out of the main gate of the Liu Residence. She was only using her need to dig up herbs as an excuse to cover up what she was actually doing. In fact, she only needed a few common herbs that were used to reduce fevers and treat colds. After she finished digging up the herbs, the Liu Family helped her wash them clean. She then mixed them together with the common purslane and pounded them into a medicinal paste. After adding a little wheat bran and corn meal, she formed the mixture into little yellow pill balls. Naturally, she had also added a good amount of mystic stone water to this medicine as well.
After she finished making the pill balls, Yu Xiaocao helped the mother and daughter pair catch the sick chickens and forcefully open their beaks to feed them the medicine. They only finished catching and feeding the sick chickens when the sky became completely dark.
After thinking a bit, Yu Xiaocao also chopped up the remaining herbs into a fine powder and mixed it into some rice and wheat bran while adding a few drops of mystic-stone water. She then advised the mother and daughter pair, “Tomorrow morning, use this feed to feed the chickens. For the next few days, don’t let the chickens out to free range. Instead, keep them in their coops and keep a close eye on them. When it’s evening, I’ll come over to look again!”
There was a thick layer of clouds tonight, so it completely covered the moon and made the night much darker. Yu Xiaocao lived at the foot of the mountain and was a bit far from the village proper. Thus, Liu Shuanzhu escorted Xiaocao back home with a paper lantern. Originally, the Liu Family wanted to keep Yu Xiaocao over so she could eat a meal with them. Xiaocao, however, refused their offer as she was afraid that her family might be worried about her and decided to head home.
The next morning, Liu Huifang hurriedly ran into the chicken yard to take a look. To her surprise, she found that all of the previously sick chickens that had been isolated from the others had become much more energetic. They clucked eagerly, begging for food to eat. Even the first group of chickens that had gotten the sick, the ones that were on the brink of death, were also moving around and asking for food.
Apparently, the medicine that Younger Sister Xiaocao made yesterday had worked! Liu Huifang took out the specially prepared chicken feed mixed with medicinal herbs that Yu Xiaocao made the previous night and poured it into the chickens’ yard. Originally, she was afraid that the chickens wouldn’t want to eat food mixed with medicine. Who would have thought that as soon as she poured the food in, the chickens, which previously had no appetite, suddenly rushed forward as if a flip had been switched. They squawked and flapped their wings as they fought over the food mixed with medicine. All of their necks were stretched forward as they eagerly gobbled down the food.
When Shuanzhu’s wife saw the spectacle, her heart was very moved, “This is amazing! Being willing to eat is a good thing! Xiaocao truly has skills; there’s nothing that she can’t handle!! Huifang, our chickens are saved now!”
Liu Huifang let out a loud sigh and grinned, “Yesterday morning, Auntie Zhou came over to look and said it was truly an infectious poultry disease! She also said, once the chickens get sick, there’s no going back! In fact, the first year her family raised chickens, they ended up getting sick and all of them died. Luckily, they didn’t raise too many chickens that year and didn’t end up losing too much money! Mother, we have over two hundred chickens now and we’ve been raising them for half a year. If they all got sick and died, wouldn’t we lose a lot of money? We’re so fortunate that Xiaocao was here!”
There were still a few pill balls that Xiaocao left behind, so the two of them sighed in relief and then caught the chickens that had been the most ill and fed them the pills. They then took out more of the medicinal feed that Xiaocao had made and fed it to the sick chickens that were recovering. The sick chickens hadn't eaten for the past two days but their appetites were not any worse than the healthy chickens.
That night, when Xiaocao came over to visit, the Liu Family’s chickens had almost all made a full recovery. Other than the original ten or so chickens that had gotten sick first, the rest of the previously ill animals seemed no different than the perfectly healthy ones. Yu Xiaocao made another batch of pill balls and medicinal feed for them. She then instructed them to feed the sick animals tomorrow with the medicinal feed that had mystic-stone water added to it. After that, they could continue raising the chickens like normal.
Three days later, Liu Huifang went over to the Yu Residence with two hens on hand. When she got there, she found out that Yu Xiaocao had gone with the cart transporting pigs to the prefectural city and Madam Liu was in town sending clothing to Little Shitou. The only one at home was Yu Hang, who was in charge of the seafood purchasing.
The seafood purchasing business was busy right now, so Yu Hang handed over the stall to his Third Uncle and washed his hands before getting some roasted melon seeds and pastries his family had on hand to greet Liu Huifang.
Liu Huifang flushed a bright red and somewhat shyly lowered her head as she softly said, “When did Xiaocao leave earlier? I came over to thank her for helping my family treat our chickens...My mother said that these two hens had already laid eggs, so you guys should keep them. They can either lay more eggs for your family to eat or you could cook them. Either way is fine!”
The thirteen year old Yu Hang already had the air of youth around him. His face was handsome and his body was growing tall. His skin, which was the color of wheat, was the exact shade that young maidens growing up in fisherman villages liked. This was the first time that Liu Huifang had spent time alone with Yu Hang. She didn’t know what to do with herself and the words that came out of her mouth were jumbled and a little nonsensical.
Yu Hang spent more time with people on a day to day basis, so, in comparison, he was much more calm and collected. He smiled, “Auntie is being too polite! Let’s not even talk about the good relationship between my father and your father. As fellow villagers, we’re always willing to help each other when another person comes across a problem as long as we can. You should take these two chickens back…”
Who would have thought that Xiaocao’s older brother, who usually looked quite taciturn and quiet, had quite a way with words! When she raised her head to look at him and saw the gentle smile on his face, Liu Huifang felt her face burn even hotter. She silently scolded herself for being a dummy. They were both well acquainted with each other, so there was nothing to be shy about.
“Can’t do that! These chickens are a sign of my family’s sincerity to yours! If you don’t take them, I’ll take it as a sign that you want to distance yourselves from us!” Liu Huifang didn’t allow him to make any other excuses and marched into the Yu Family’s back courtyard to put away the chickens.
The Yu Family’s back courtyard had a fenced up chicken coop and rabbit cages. Even Little Black’s and Little White’s dens were also in the back courtyard. She had a good relationship with Xiaocao, so she often helped them weed the garden and harvest vegetables. Thus, she was very familiar with the layout of the Yu Family’s residence.
Despite Yu Hang’s attempts to stop her, she placed the two little hens into the chicken coop and closed the gate. When she saw that the rabbits didn’t have much food left, she took out two bundles of green grass and placed it in their cages.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s Thoughts: Tee-hee, is spring coming early to the Yu Family?