Chapter 48 - A Change

After receiving the medication, the father and daughter pair thanked Doctor Sun profusely over and over. The two of them then went to the outskirts of town to pick up their sledge. On the way there, Xiaocao bought a few meat stuffed buns from a roadside stall and used the buns to feed the two energetic dogs until they were stuffed full. In addition, she added a couple drops of the mystic-stone water to the dog’s drinking water. 

The two dogs instantly became lively and full of energy. On the road back home, the two animals pulled the sled at lightning speed. They even caught up and passed a fellow who was driving a horse-pulled sleigh. The driver exclaimed in admiration at the speed and strength of the two dogs and even said that his own horse would not be able to catch up with them.

The two sturdy and brave dogs finished a distance of around twenty-five kilometers in less than an hour. Before they arrived at the entrance of the village, the father and daughter pair took a detour to check on the traps they had set earlier. It was not a surprise to Xiaocao that more than half of their traps had some sort of game to be harvested. 

Out of the two large snares, one of them had been damaged while the other one had caught a fat and fleshy roe deer. However, it appeared that too much time had passed since the roe deer had been trapped. The animal had already died a while ago and had been frozen stiff. The other smaller traps had mostly caught wild hares and pheasants but one of them had even snapped a badger! 

Xiaocao was not familiar with badgers, so she curiously poked the animal a couple of times. A slight smile had finally appeared on Yu Hai’s face as he said, “A badger’s fur is very warm. After Father finishes tanning its pelt, I’ll have your mother make a badger fur vest for you. The meat from the badger is also very tasty and has the ability to nourish the body. We should keep for ourselves to eat. You should take the badger fat so that when Doctor You returns you can use it to brew some burn ointment.” 

“This badger probably weighs at least twenty or so catties, even if we’re estimating on the low end. It could be sold for a couple hundred copper coins. Do you think grandmother will really allow us to eat it?” Yu Xiaocao casually replied without much expectation.

“This badger was caught by us, if I say we eat it, then we shall eat it!” Yu Hai had a much more resolute and determined air around him compared to before. 

They had quite a large haul from their traps, and altogether it came out to be around two to three hundred catties worth of game. Yu Hai stacked the prey on top of the sleigh and walked alongside the vehicle. From time to time, he would ask his daughter if she was either hungry or cold.  

Yu Xiaocao had been wrapped up until she resembled a large cotton ball. Other than her eyes and nose, everything else was under layers of cloth. She couldn’t help but sigh inwardly: ‘The way Father treats me, his daughter, is beyond words!’ 

The father and daughter pair first went to Yu Hai’s uncle’s home to return the sledge. On the way there, Xiaocao had already convinced her father that he should temporarily not repay the money he had borrowed. With a debt to pay off, he will have an excuse to not give up the money he obtained from selling game. At this time, it was necessary for their own branch to have their own purse!  

After the past few events, Yu Hai was very clear on the importance of having some cash on hand. His wife had a poor constitution ever since she gave birth to Shitou and even coughed up blood several times. Although his youngest daughter had said she was feeling fine, but he still wasn’t completely convinced by her. If he didn’t have a single copper coin in his hands, what could he do in the future? Would he be destined to watch the two of them suffer the next time they got ill or encountered a disaster?”

Thus, he didn’t say a word when his daughter received the fifty taels note earlier. Furthermore, when his daughter suggested to delay settling the debt, he also agreed to the idea without a single hesitation. In the future he will continue to work hard and expand great effort for the family as a whole but he would never disregard his own branch and be foolishly filial again! 

“Dahai, quickly bring the child into the room so she can sit on the kang to get warmed up. It’s a cold day, you must be frozen right? How are you Xiaocao? You look pretty wan and listless!” Yu Lichun stooped down to pick Xiaocao and the blankets combined and quickly entered the house. 

The warm air from the room hit her immediately and before she could take a good look at her surroundings, Xiaocao had been inserted directly into the blankets covering the kang. The toasty warmth of the covers was incredibly comfortable, and it made her feel drowsy.  

“What did the doctor say?” Yu Xiaocao’s third uncle, Yu Jiang, asked as he held two bowls of piping hot ginger soup. After giving one bowl to Yu Hai, he carefully cajoled his niece to drink the ginger soup. 

The Yu Family’s ginger soup was only made with fresh ginger that had been simmered for a long time. It tasted primarily of ginger and its distinctive spiciness lingered in the throat. Yu Xiaocao grimaced and wanted to avoid the torture of consuming the soup but her third uncle pried her mouth open and poured it down into her. Although her body had warmed perceptibly, the uncomfortable sensation endlessly tormented her throat and mouth.

Yu Hai had gulped down his bowl of ginger soup in one go. After seeing his daughter’s uncomfortable expression, he chuckled wickedly and said, “Tongren Medicine Hall’s Doctor Sun looked her over and prescribed a few medications. There’s nothing seriously wrong with her!” 

He definitely would not say that his child didn’t have any health problems. Yu Hai was very familiar with Madam Zhang’s character—money was her life! If she never had to bleed a little bit, then she would never know what true pain was. In the future if she wanted to treat his daughter poorly, she would need to think about the consequences first!

Madam Sun took out a few delicious baked sweet potatoes, peeled off their skins, and put them into Xiaocao’s hands and said, “Eat these, it’ll help change the taste in your mouth. As long as your fine, that’s what matters. This child has endured a lot over the past few years!” 

“Thank you, Eldest Grandaunt!” Xiaocao had a fondness for baked sweet potatoes, but it was a pity that she had a witch of a grandmother with Madam Zhang at home. She rarely had the opportunity to eat any. The sweet and fragrant taste of the roasted sweet potato momentarily eradicated the wound on her heart which had been caused by the ginger soup.   

Yu Hai chatted casually with his eldest uncle and cousins. When he saw that his daughter, who had finished her sweet potato, rubbing her eyes in drowsiness, he stood up and said, “Eldest Uncle, I will definitely return the money I borrowed from you before the end of the year. I will always remember your kindness to me.” 

Yu Lichun hastily replied: “We’re family, no need to say anything about remembering kindness! Don’t blame your father, he’s always been that type of weak-willed person. Your stepmother… aish, just don’t mention it! Don’t make the borrowed money a burden on yourself, my family doesn’t need it urgently!” 

Yu Hai helped his daughter put on a thick leather coat. The coat was so large that it almost touched the ground. As if she was in a daze, Xiaocao stumbled blindly behind her father on the bumpy road. After making sure things were okay, Yu Jiang lifted the little kid up in preparation to send the father daughter pair on their way. 

Yu Hai picked out a plump hare and pheasant out of the pile of game and spoke to his eldest uncle: “Before we went to town, I made a detour to the mountains to set a few traps. Perhaps it was because the snow made it difficult for the animals to find food, but I unexpectedly caught a lot of game. This hare and pheasant should be given to Eldest Aunt so she can let them freeze properly. Then, there will be some extra dishes for the New Year celebration feast.” 

Yu Lichun could not accept such a gift and said: “Dahai, it’s not easy for you to go hunting in such freezing weather. When Xiaocao finishes her medication, she might need to get more. You should take the game for yourself and go back to town tomorrow to sell them for money…”  

“Eldest Uncle, if you don’t accept them, then it means you’re looking down on me, your nephew! Had it not been for you giving me money today, I really don’t know what I would have done instead… This is me showing my filial respect for you, please, you really need to accept this!” Yu Hai was very resolute in his request.   Yu Lichun had long known that this nephew of his had a stubborn personality. If he really continued to refuse the game, the man in front of him might become even more determined out of anxiety.

By the time they left Eldest Uncle’s dwelling, it was already dusk. Yu Hai tread on the snow that was frozen solid and went towards the direction of his home. As he walked, his heart gradually became cold and froze over. 

The doors of the room were all tightly shut, the kitchen stove was ice-cold… hearing the sounds of people, only the door in the west room opened eagerly. His wife and children hurriedly came out. He had truly been stupid in the past in letting his wife endure slights repeatedly. In the end, his wife’s health had deteriorated and his daughter almost lost her life. 

The door to the main room remained as tightly closed as before. The faint sounds of scolding and fighting could be heard from the outside. In the east room, the window was secretly opened up a tiny crack. Inside, a pair of eyes met his line of sight and then abruptly disappeared. The sound of the window closing seemed all the more obvious in the otherwise silent evening.

Yu Jiang frowned, placed the drowsily sleeping Xiaocao on the kang bed in the room, and then left to go outside. Her grandmother wasn’t related to her by blood, but did that mean her grandfather wasn’t as well? Second Uncle’s decisions in the past couple of years have become more and more muddled! 

However, this time Yu Jiang had wrongly blamed Old Yu. After he finished the evening meal, Old Yu got dressed and went outside after seeing that his son and granddaughter hadn’t come home yet. He wanted to welcome them back and so wandered around outside. However, the father and daughter pair were in the mountains harvesting the traps, so they missed each other. 

As Yu Hai was preparing the medication under the eaves, Old Yu came in from the outside. As soon as he arrived home, he hurried towards the west room. He went inside and saw the sleeping Xiaocao. After asking about her out of concern, he also said: “Did you two eat yet? Go tell your wife to make a bowl of noodles and also cook Xiaocao a poached egg.”  

Yu Hai glanced at the main room and shook his head: “We don’t have a lot of white flour left in the household, so we should set it aside for the New Year’s dumplings. Today I caught a badger. After I finish preparing it, it’ll be used to make a bowl of meat stew to drink.” 

Seeing that his son had a plan for the game, Old Yu was about to say something without considering the mood. He caught his words before they came out and then instead said: “That’s also good! A badger’s meat can nourish the body, you should give more to the child to eat.”

After he finished, he clasped his hands behind his back and slowly walked back to the main room. Old Yu had sensed the slight difference in his son and he sighed inwardly—seems like my son’s feelings had really been hurt this time! 

Yu Xiaocao had been woken up by the tantalizing smell of meat. A badger’s meat was naturally very delicious. When that was added with Madam Liu’s culinary skills, the simmered meat stew could bring out anyone’s inner foodie. 

The whole family sat in a circle on the kang bed and enjoyed the savory and tasty meat stew. Yu Hai looked at the meat in the bowl and was silent for a bit before he said: “I’ll go send two bowls to the main room!”

Madam Liu paused in her motion in eating for a short bit before she lowered her head to continue to eat, but didn’t say anything. Little Shitou, on the other hand, sneered and complained: “Grandmother didn’t want to give any money to treat Second Sister when she fell ill. Why are you sending her meat stew?” 

Xiaocao chewed on her mouthful of meat before she swallowed it down. She pinched the little fellow’s cheek and said: “She’s one of the elders at home. She can treat us poorly but we cannot be disrespectful to her.”

Yu Hai glanced at his daughter and inwardly nodded his head. It was true, ‘being filial’ was a law greater than heaven. If word came out that the younger generation of their branch ate meat without sending some to their elders, then their reputations would be ruined. Furthermore, the family had a notorious gossip-monger, Madam Li. Once she knew something, the whole world would know! 

Yu Hai came out of the kitchen with the bowls of meat stew in his hand. As he walked, he saw Madam Li at the doorway of the east room, craning her neck towards the kitchen, looking around. Her gluttonous son was behind her complaining: “Meat stew! I want to drink meat stew! Why can the people in the west room secretly eat it and not give us any?”  Yu Dashan forcefully pulled the mother and son pair back into the room. Just as he was about to close the door, he looked at Yu Hai and said with a foolish smile on his face: “Dahai, your nephew has been spoiled by his mother. Please don’t mind him…”

“There’s more meat stew in the kitchen, if you want some, you can go get some yourself.” Yu Hai walked into the main room with bowls in hand.  

Madam Zhang narrowed her eyes as she looked at him. Her voice was sharp and shrill as she commented: “Oh! This old woman doesn’t have the good fortune this year to drink soup and eat meat! If I do, I might shorten my life!”

Old Yu glared at her and rebutted: “Stop saying so much! I agreed to let them slaughter the badger. Second Daughter-in-Law and Xiaocao both have weak constitutions and should eat something to strengthen their bodies. How can we shorten our lives by eating meat that we have hunted ourselves? If you don’t want to eat it, then I’ll eat both of our shares!”

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Myst's Thoughts

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Translator: Sanguine