Chapter 41 - Acute Illness

Doctor You had been gone for two months. The villagers in and around Dongshan Village didn’t feel anything was different in the short term. But after a while, they all felt the inconvenience of his absence. In the past, when they had a minor illness or a small disaster, they were able to pay Doctor You ten to twenty copper coins to be seen. Afterward, they just needed to take some medicine and their illness would be gone. 

After Doctor You had left, the majority of the villagers who fell sick were able to overcome their illness by bearing with it. But if their condition didn’t get better with time, they would have to go to town to see a doctor. However, they had to pay at least several hundred of copper coins to visit even the smallest medical hall. 

Everyone knew that the granddaughter from Old Yu’s family had studied medicine under Doctor You for a month. But, she was merely a silly eight year old girl and also didn’t study under Doctor You for long. They rather endure the illness themselves than to put their own lives in the hands of a little girl. She might even turn their small illness into a serious illness!

Xiaocao was quite talented in studying medicine, and Doctor You felt that there wasn’t much that he could teach her anymore. However, three months passed, and Xiaocao didn’t receive even one patient. But she didn’t take that to heart. Xiaocao’s original purpose in studying medicine was to conceal the effects of the mystic-stone water when she used it. Hence, it didn’t matter to her whether she had any patients seeking her help or not.

Doctor You often liked to concoct pills for common conditions like the common cold, small fevers, and other minor illnesses. The majority of the villagers from Dong Shan village knew this. 

Every once in a while, Yu Xiaocao would be visited by the villagers. She would get the pills or medicine packs prepared by Grandfather You and give it to the sick villager. This was the only role left for her as Doctor You’s direct disciple while he was gone. 

Taking advantage of the fact that the early winter snow didn’t seal the mountain, Yu Xiaocao would leisurely put out some traps every few days when she went up the mountain. With the mystic-stone water as an all-purpose bait, her harvest every time would be quite bountiful. Her private little purse was bulging more and more.  

With more money came more worries. In the past, with only one or two silver ingots, she would be able to find a random corner and hide it. But now she had silver ingots and silver pieces inside her bulging purse, it was more difficult to find a safe hiding spot.. After all, the family had Yu Heizi, who liked to go through other people’s things.  

Xiaocao wasn’t treating him unjustly: Heizi had a criminal record. Everyday, Yu Hai and Madam Liu both had more work than they could finish in a day, and Yu Xiaolian was also not allowed to idle around. When Xiaocao set out the traps, she would bring Little Shitou along. Basically, other than when they were eating or sleeping, there was no one in the West Room to witness anything.

One time, Yu Xiaocao had just returned from selling the animals she had caught using her traps in the mountain. When she returned, she saw the West Room’s door wide open so she quickly hurried over to take a look. The whole room was a mess after being rummaged through by someone. The tattered clothes inside the trunk were thrown everywhere. Even the blanket on the kang bed was tangled into a lump. 

She quickly went to check the place where she hid the money——in the small crack between the kang bed and the mud wall. Fortunately, after she had hid the money in the small crack, she had used some loose dirt to seal it. Otherwise, the money would be hard pressed to escape from Brother Heizi’s sinister hand.

Xiaocao was angered by this so she told the head of the household——Madam Zhang. The biased elderly lady only asked a few questions. Due to the lack of evidence, they were forced to leave the matter unsettled. After that, when Xiaocao hid her secret money, she was much more careful. 

In the end, she came up with a foolproof way of hiding her money. She dug a small square hole in one of the mud bricks of the wall. She also got a small piece of mud brick that can be easily placed into the hole. After she put the silver inside the small hole, she would put the small mud brick in. Then, she would take some mud and fill the small cracks, making everything look flawless.

As the days passed, the winter in the north finally showed its might. On that day, the weather was gloomy. The entire sky was covered in thick, low, and grayish-yellow turbid clouds.

The northeast wind howled as it wreaked havoc in the wilderness. It seemed as if the wind was holding a sharp sword that could easily pierce through a tight leather coat. So when Xiaocao left to go outside, her exposed cheek was stricken again and again by the wind. Her cheeks ached and it was difficult for her to bear the pain.

The umber-black sky was sprinkled with little pieces of pure white petals. It seemed as if the white petals also had a touch of fragrance on them. Snow as big as a goose feather flew down in great numbers, instantly dyeing the world in white.

In her previous life, Yu Xiaocao had lived in Central China. So even if there was snow, it would only be on a small scale. This was her first time seeing a snow so heavy that it looked like torn puffs of cotton were falling down.

The old and shabby cotton-padded jacket she was wearing wasn’t sufficient enough to resist the severe cold of the north. Ever since winter had approached, Yu Xiaocao wasn’t willing to go out. She would nestle on the kang bed everyday.

“It’s the first snow of the year and yet it’s already snowed this much! It seems like it would be hard to pass through this winter! Did we store enough food in the house?” At dinner, Old Yu sat on the kang bed. He looked out to see the snow that had been falling for a day and sighed. From his years of experience, it wasn’t uncommon to see the big snow become a disaster.

Madam Zhang thought about the mountains of sliced sweet potatoes in the storage room. Once again, with food in her hand, Madam Zhang didn’t panic. She nodded her head and replied, “There is definitely enough food. It’s just hasn’t been grinded into powder yet. When the snow stops, eldest son and second son will go grind thousands of catties of sweet potato powder and store it.

Old Yu wrinkled his brows and said, “Even if you don’t get tired of just eating sweet potato flour for the entire winter, your stomach may not be able to handle it. We still need to buy some coarse and fine grains to store for the winter. If we wait till New Years when the snow has piled almost up to the sky, the prices of the grains would definitely be higher.”

Just as they were discussing, the Yu Family’s front door was slapped with a heaven-shattering sound. Within the sound of the wind and snow, they could also hear someone crying at the door. 

“I’ll go check it out!” Yu Hai put down his rice bowl and put on his tattered cotton-padded jacket. He pulled the door open and lurched into the raging storm. The moment the door opened and closed, a few snowflakes entered the house. The snowflakes fell onto the floor and melted into tiny specks of muddy water.

Madam Li continued to eat large mouthfuls of food, yet she didn’t forget to complain, “Who is it? Why would they come when it’s snowing so much? They also came at this hour. Are they trying to prevent us from eating?”

“Cao’er! Do you have any fever pills made by Grandpa You left? Your Uncle Shuanzhu has a high fever and needs it immediately!” A burst of bone-chilling wind blasted through the door. Yu Hai hurriedly pushed the door open and entered the house. Behind him was Shuanzhu’s wife whose eyes were rimmed with red.

Yu Xiaocao swallowed the croquette in her mouth and quickly replied, “All of the medicine that Grandpa You had made is already used up. Is Uncle Shuanzhu burning up really badly? Does he need me to go look at him?”

“You are only a child, what good would there be for you to go? Don’t delay a patient’s illness. It’s better if you send him to town to see a doctor. Don’t worry about the money.” Madam Zhang was worried that Yu Xiaocao would bring trouble to her family so she quickly interrupted her. 

Shuanzhu’s wife was so anxious to the point where tears almost fell from her eyes. “Yesterday, my husband caught a little cold. When he woke up today, he felt uncomfortable but didn’t think it was serious. In the past he would just bear with the illness until he gets better by himself. But who would’ve thought that his fever would begin to burn hotter. Earlier, his hands and feet were thrashing about. We are also out of fever reducing medicine. What should I do?”

Madam Li began to make cynical remarks on the side, “Oh my! His fever has burned to the point where he has cramps? That can’t be! My maternal family’s neighbor also had a fever. His fever was burning fiercely to the point it burned his brain and he became a fool. He’s almost forty now and he still can’t find a wife! Your family’s Shuanzhu’s fever has already burned for a day now. I don’t even know how he is right now!”

After being told that, Shuanzhu’s wife could no longer hold back her tears. She was anxious without any solutions, “Then what can be done? It’s snowing badly so we can’t even send him to the town to see a doctor. Xiaocao, is there really no medicine left?” 

“Human life is worth beyond any value. If I had medicine, I wouldn’t hide or conceal it! Auntie Shuanzhu, if you trust me then I will go with you to check on him. You can’t just stand there and watch his fever get worse right?” Yu Xiaocao decided to receive her first patient. 

Madam Zhang angrily said, “What can an eight year old girl like you do? Is seeing a patient some easy thing? There is a human life involved! How many days did you study under Doctor You? Aren’t you afraid of wasting your Uncle Shuanzu’s——and his wife’s time? Why don’t you go to town and invite a doctor?”

If she left for town right now through the snow, it would still take three to four hours to go and return. By the time she arrived at town, it would be nighttime. What’s more, it would be hard to say if the doctor would even agree to travel overnight to see a patient in this bad weather. 

Shuanzhu’s wife was turning to any doctor she could find out of desperation. She put her last hope on Yu Xiaocao, “Xiaocao, your Uncle Shuanzhu and your father are friends who’ve been through life and death together. They had even fought a shark together at sea. Don’t conceal it from me and tell me the extent of your medical skills.”

Yu Xiaocao’s eyes were steady as she looked at Shuanzhu’s wife. She honestly said, “Auntie Shuanzhu, Grandpa You said that I learned about seven to eight points of his skills. The remaining two to three points is because I lack experience. When it comes to a common cold or fever, as long as Grandpa You can cure it, I can do it too!”

Shuanzhu’s wife’s frenetic and anxious heart gradually relaxed after seeing Xiaocao’s calm gaze. She bit her teeth and made a hard but correct decision, “Good! Auntie believe in you. I will put your Uncle Shuanzhu’s life in your hands!”

“Aiya! Shuanzhu’s wife, how can you believe in a child’s boastful words? Our family’s Xiaocao is only eight years old. We can’t afford it if she treats Shuanzhu incorrectly!” Madam Li had finished eating and drinking. She was watching the show but now she was worried about the consequences if something bad happened.

Shuanzhu’s wife once again clenched her teeth. She stamped her foot and said, “Whether she cures him or not, we won’t make you take any responsibilities. Xiaocao, let’s go quickly. Your Uncle Shuanzhu is still burning with a fever!”

Yu Xiaocao didn’t care about her half eaten meal. She quickly went to the West Room to get the medicine box Grandpa You had left behind. She looked at the medicinal ingredients inside the medicine box and saw that it was complete. Thinking about it more, she looked for the Divine Stone’s bath water with high concentration of mystic stone water. She poured the mystic-stone water in an empty medicine bottle. Only after she had put on all the clothes she had that could help her resist the cold did she leave the house with Shuanzhu’s wife.

Yu Hai didn’t feel reassured and couldn’t continue eating his dinner. He followed behind his own daughter, helping her carry the heavy medicine box. From time to time, he would support his daughter, making sure that she didn’t slip in this snowy weather.

Originally, the walk would take just five minutes. However, with the wind and snow obstructing their path, it took the three of them a quarter of an hour to arrive at their destination. Just as they opened the door, they were able to hear the sharp yet sad cry from the two children of the Liu Family, “Father! Father, please wake up! Father, you can’t die yet!”

When Shuanzhu’s wife heard their cries, her legs suddenly became soft. She sat on the floor and started crying.

Yu Xiaocao half walked and half ran as she rushed towards the kang bed. She pulled Uncle Shuanzhu’s eyelid up and looked at his pupil. She calmly said, “Don’t cry anymore. Uncle Shuanzhu didn’t die! But the fever has made him go into shock. Auntie, quickly prepare some prepare some warm water to lower the temperature of his body.”

“What? You want to lower the temperature of the room [1]? It’s such a cold day and he’s still sick. If you lower the temperature of his body, won’t his illness get worse?” Shuanzhu’s wife swayed lightly as she got up. Her heart began to waver at her decision to allow Yu Xiaocao to treat her husband’s illness.

Yu Xiaocao didn’t know whether she should laugh or cry as she said, “Uncle Shuanzhu’s fever is burning too much. He needs to lower his body temperature. If he only relies on medication, he would recover much slower. Hence, I need Auntie to use warm water to wipe Uncle Shuanzhu’s body. This way, his body temperature will lower faster.


[1] Author was making a pun here. The two words can sound the same, so Shuanzhu's wife basically misheard what Xiaocao was saying.

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Translator: Vi