Chapter 43 - Cold-hearted

Dongshan Village wasn’t very big, so news spread really quickly from the east side of the village to the west. Last night, Shuanzhu’s wife had traveled through the snow in order to ask the youngest daughter of the Yu Family to see a patient. The news had already circulated around the entire village, so early this morning, someone had gone to Shuanzhu’s house to inquire about this incident.

After that, Yu Xiaocao would be invited to treat patients from time to time. She had also learned from her experience and didn’t rely on the mystic-stone water for minor illnesses. She would just prescribe medication for minor illnesses and only sprinkled several drops of mystic-stone water into the herbs if it was more complex illness. All the patients she had treated were fully cured. Thus, her reputation as ‘the little doctor of Dongshan Village’ gradually spread to the nearby villages.  

It snowed heavily for seven days before gradually stopping. The entire Dongshan Village was shrouded in a vast amount of white snow. It seemed as if there were only the colors of black and white left in the world.

Twenty households in Dongshan Village had suffered as a result of this blizzard. While all of their residences were more or less damaged, the houses of three families were completely crushed by the heavy snow. Fortunately, there were no casualties.

However, there were many elderly and children who didn’t survive the sudden arrival of the severe cold and silently passed away during the winter weather.

The bitter cold and heavy snow also brought hunger and illness to the weak commoners. The heavy snowfall, which lasted for days, caused a price inflation for grains in town.

The price for coarse grain rose from two copper coins per catty to the same price as fine grains before the snow. Fine grain originally cost five copper coins per catty, but the price had risen to ten copper coins now. Furthermore, the price for the white rice, which weren’t grown around Tanggu Town, had increased to twenty copper coins! The value for all types of meat had also doubled because a lot of poultry and livestock had either died from illness or froze to death during the snowstorm.

As the days drifted by, the New Year was also approaching. However, the price for food and goods still remained high. This was a heavy blow for the common people, who had worked hard in the past year and had wanted to change up their lifestyles during the New Year.

For several days, the atmosphere was strangely gloomy at the Yu Family’s dining table. Madam Zhang’s discontent grumbles and complaints made it difficult for people to eat.  

“Eat! Eat! Eat! You only know how to eat! The Yu Family’s resources are going to be demolished by you people! Why did our Yu Family let such an unhealthy person like you marry into our family? You’re seriously a woman who brings bad luck to your husband’s family!” Madam Zhang saw Yu Xiaocao getting another piece of potato pancake for her mother and began to harshly reproach them.

The heavy snowfall also caused Madam Liu, who had always been weak and in poor health, to fall ill. Madam Liu was often breathless due to her severe cough. Xiaocao didn’t even need to check her mother’s pulse to know that she had bronchitis. She prescribed several doses of medicine and added some mystic-stone water in her mother’s drinking water. Thus, the cough, which usually lingered for months in the past, had been cured with her treatment.

Madam Liu couldn’t suffer from the cold when she was already sick. Thus, Madam Li and the rest of the family had to share a portion of her chores. Madam Li was never a serious worker, so most of the household work fell on the shoulders of Yu Caidie and Madam Zhao’s servant.

Madam Zhang was reluctant to let her youngest daughter do chores, but she also didn’t dare to push all the work onto her youngest daughter-in-law’s maidservant. Hence, she had to do the work herself. When she became irritated from all the work, she would start swearing incessantly.   

“Grandmother, my mother didn’t spend a single penny when she got sick this time. Didn’t she just rest for a few days? With over a dozen people in the family, we can finish all the chores if everyone just helps out a little. My mother’s body is still rather weak, so she can’t be hungry. If she doesn’t properly recuperate, then a minor illness will become something serious. If it becomes a serious illness, do you think I will be able to treat her with my medical skills? Wouldn’t we have to call for a doctor from town?”

Yu Xiaocao continued to eat and ignored Madam Zhang’s complaints. She would be just torturing herself if she quarreled with this biased old lady who had reached menopause!

Madam Zhang didn’t know how to refute to her words, so she just set her chopsticks aside and wailed as she slapped her legs, “What sins have I committed?! Why did I have to encounter such a useless and worrisome bunch? I’m a weak, old lady who works hard to supply food for the entire family, yet I still have to be scolded by a little girl. Oh, heavens! Why can’t you open your eyes and take away that unfilial thing——"

After Madam Li devoured her food, she wiped her mouth with her dirty sleeves and happily ridiculed, “Hey, Xiaocao, how can you talk to your grandmother like that? You’ve made your grandmother so angry. Aren’t you going to quickly kowtow and apologize to her?”

Yu Hai hastily interjected and appeased Madam Zhang, “Mother, Cao’er is still an ignorant child, so please don’t take her words to your heart. We all know that you’re anxious for the family because of the price inflation this winter. But don’t worry. When the snow melts, I’ll go hunt for some game in the mountain. We can keep half for the New Year, while the other half can be taken to town to be exchanged for some fine white and wheat flour.”

As soon as Madam Zhang heard that the problem of the New Year meal had been solved, she stopped crying and looked at Xiaocao, who had repeatedly challenged her authority, with a fierce expression. She turned to Yu Hai and said,

“Second Son, you have spoiled your daughter so much that she doesn’t even respect her ancestors anymore. How can she talk to the elders in her family in that manner? You should quickly give that brat a couple of slaps on the face to teach her how to respect her elders!”

Yu Hai, who wouldn’t even bear to hurt his precious daughter’s fingertip, didn’t actually think there was anything wrong with what his daughter said. However, he knew that the old lady couldn’t accept being shamed. If he didn’t give her a way out of this situation, she would definitely continue to make a ruckus for the entire day.

During Yu Hai’s hesitation, he saw the chopsticks in his daughter’s hand suddenly dropped to the ground. Her brows were tightly creased as she grasped her chest with a painful expression, “Father… I, I can’t breathe…” Before she could finish her words, she had already lost consciousness and directly fell backwards.

Yu Xiaolian had already set down her chopsticks in preparation when she saw Xiaocao frowning. When Xiaocao fell backwards, Xiaolian quickly caught her right before she landed on the ground and prevented her from hitting her head. Xiaocao stealthily opened her eyes and made a gesture of praise to Xiaolian.

“Cao’er! What’s wrong, Cao’er?” With a pale face, Madam Liu hugged her daughter’s thin body and cried.

Yu Hai swiftly picked up his daughter and strode out, “Father! Mother! Cao’er is sick again! Doctor You said this child has an extremely weak constitution, so her life might be in danger if she falls ill again. I’ll go to Eldest Uncle’s house to borrow a sleigh, and then take Xiaocao to town…”

Old Yu immediately stopped eating and quickly covered his granddaughter with his fur jacket, “Dress more warmly and don’t let the child catch a cold. Old Lady quickly take out the money. The doctors in town don’t accept deferred payments!”

Trembling with anger, Madam Zhang stood up and shouted at the old man, “Why should I take out money? That damn wretch is obviously pretending to be sick! She was fine earlier, so why did she suddenly fall ill when I’m asking her to apologize to me? She’s trying to threaten me be pretending to be sick! No one is allowed to move! If any of you dares to leave this room, then don’t ever step into the Yu Family’s house again!”

Old Yu was also infuriated, “You’re such an imperious woman! How can you be so cruel to such a young child? Didn’t you hear what Doctor You said? The child can’t be overly provoked. You tried to hit and punish her earlier, so she got scared and fell sick again. How can you still act this way when you’re her elder? Hurry up and go get the money. Don’t delay the child from receiving treatment!”

“What’s the point in seeing a doctor when she’s just a waste of money! I don’t have any money. Just chop up this old body of mine to pay off the debt!” Madam Zhang appeared as if she would rather die than give them the money. Thus, the family didn’t know what to do with her.

Madam Li smirked and sneered, “Isn’t your family’s Xiaocao very capable? She had earned money by treating patients! She never turned in any of the money that she had earned!”

“The money was for Doctor You’s medicine! Youngest Sister only charged them for the medication!” Yu Xiaolian couldn’t help but explain when she saw the scorn on her grandmother and eldest aunt’s faces.

Madam Zhang hollered as if she found a mistake they had committed, “You guys only charged them for the medicine? Who would believe that? Everything you eat and drink belongs to me, yet you’re still selfishly keeping a secret purse! We can’t let the others follow suit, so quickly give me the money!” As she spoke, she was about to personally rummage in the west room.

Yu Hai carried his daughter’s small body and gritted his teeth as he watched Madam Zhang’s action. His daughter was sick and unconscious, yet her grandmother hindered them from seeking treatment. Furthermore, she also wanted to seize the medicine fees that his daughter kept for Doctor You.

“Father! All the money that Xiaocao kept were fees for Doctor You’s medicinal herbs, which he worked hard to dig up! If Doctor You finds out that we took all his hard-earned money, will our family still have the face to ask him to treat our illnesses in the future? If people in the village finds out, will our family still have any dignity?”

Seeing that his father had no intentions to stop Madam Zhang, Yu Hai felt a deep sense of pain and indignation. People often said, ‘If you have a stepmother, you’ll have a stepfather’. It seemed like that saying was true. Madam Zhang would often bully and suppress the second branch, but his father only spoke up for them when he felt that she went overboard. Today, he actually tacitly consented to her actions when the problem involved their family’s finances.  

Old Yu also had his own considerations. Since the family had to provide for a scholar, there were a lot of things that they needed to spend money on in the future. If everyone had selfish motives, then with his aging body, how would this family be able to survive? The matter of keeping a secret purse mustn’t be tolerated.

However, their Yu Family really couldn’t touch the medicine fees in his granddaughter’s hands. These days, every household had some minor illnesses and problems that requires the help of a doctor. So, they couldn’t offend the only doctor in the vicinity. It would be terrible if he secretly messed with their medicines.

“No one is allowed to touch Doctor You’s money! My children’s mother, don’t you still need Doctor You to treat your rheumatoid arthritis? Also, Dashan’s cough…” Old Yu finally spoke up.

Madam Zhang held the box of money that she found, which was mostly filled with copper coins. There were probably at least a few thousand copper coins inside. If all the money were taken into the family account, even if prices remained high during the New Year, the Yu Family would still be able to spend a prosperous New Year.

Old Yu’s words had caused her hands, which were reaching for the money, to stop. Madam Zhang inwardly thought that she had a very clear idea about how skilled Yu Xiaocao really was. She believed that the only reason those people asked Xiaocao to treat on their illnesses was because of Doctor You’s medicines.

Madam Zhang had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for over ten years. During the snowstorm several days ago, her disorder had acted up again. At that time, Yu Xiaocao had used the medicinal herbs prepared by Doctor You to reduce her pain (Author’s Note: It was actually prepared by Xiaocao.). If they offended Doctor You, wouldn’t she need to go to town in order to treat her leg? That would waste so much money!

After a long deliberation, she finally put down the box of money reluctantly. She angrily returned to her room without eating her meal. She ignored everyone as she laid on her bed.

Yu Hai looked down at his wan-looking daughter, who was in his embrace, and said to Old Yu, “Father, even if I need to borrow money, I’ll still take Xiaocao to see a doctor.”

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Translator: Myst