“Eat! Eat! Eat! They take medicine and also eat meat! How are we supposed to support all of this? I am so old yet I ration my food and clothing. Who do you think I’m scrimping and saving for? It’s one thing to not receive any benefits, but I also get blamed for everything! I… the heavens…, you should just take away this old lady ah! I’ll stop being an eyesore for some people then…” Madam Zhang sat on the kang bed while she slapped her leg and pulled at the fleshy parts of her legs. She howled incessantly yet a single tear drop could not be seen.
In the Yu Family, this type of act could be seen every few days. Yu Hai was mentally and physically exhausted and did not have the energy to match with her ‘acting’ anymore. He silently placed the stew bowls down, turned, and left the room. The view of his back seemed especially desolate and down.
As soon as he left, Madam Zhang acted as if a switch to her megaphone had been turned off and instantly became silent. She furrowed her brows furiously and her triangular shaped eyes beadily stared at the door. Her mouth curved down into a frown.
She noticed that Old Yu had finished one of the bowls of meat stew and was about to grab the other one. The old woman hastily snatched the bowl away and started to eat it in large, heaping gulps while she spoke to Old Yu: “Dahai’s father, why do I have a feeling that Second Son is a bit off today? Does he want to rebel?”
“Why are you talking about rebellion? If your daughter had fainted from illness and your parents refused to give you money and instead caused trouble, wouldn’t you cause the sky to fall with your fiery temper? Other people have tempers too. When Second Son becomes stubborn, even three large oxen can’t pull him away from his views!”
Old Yu wished to continue to wipe his mouth and to savor the taste of the badger’s meat. There was clearly someone at home who was a good hunter, yet they hadn’t been able to even get the tiniest taste of meat in the past few months due to inner turmoil. How was this still living?!
“How can say that? Whose daughter had fainted from illness? Are you saying my daughter isn’t your daughter?! How can your curse your own daughter? You need to kneel on the ground and beg for forgiveness! Don’t blame us Buddha, it was just a slip of the tongue, don’t blame us, don’t blame us…” Madam Zhang piously clasped her hands and started bowing left and right.
That night, Madam Zhang tossed and turned on the kang bed incessantly as if she was a pancake being flipped on the stove. No matter what she did, she couldn’t fall asleep for some reason. She punched the loudly snoring Old Yu and worriedly chattered: “Old man, do you think Second Son’s brat had to spend a lot of money this time? They saw a doctor from the Tongren Medicine Hall and came back with a lot of medication.”
Old Yu impatiently turned over, his voice muffled as he replied: “I’m not a doctor of Tongren Medicine Hall, how am I supposed to know whether the medications are expensive? Stop chatting endlessly, if you don’t want to sleep, that doesn’t mean other people don’t want to sleep! No matter how much money they spent, you don’t need to worry as not even a single copper coin will need to come from you!”
Madam Zhang pushed him once more with all her strength and said: “What do you mean that the money isn’t coming from my hands? I just went outside to check and Second Son caught a lot of animals today. Even when estimating on the low end, the game could be sold for a couple hundred copper coins. If he didn’t owe any money, wouldn’t all of the proceeds from his sale go to me?”
As soon as she saw the pile of game, they had been transformed into a pile of money in her eyes! Madam Zhang’s heart was full of uncomfortable feelings, as if she had a tiny kitten running around and scratching things.
The frustration within Old Yu’s heart bubbled over as he sat up on the bed suddenly. A padded coat was draped over his body as he glared at her: “Who was the one making the fuss today? If it wasn’t for your horrible temper, the child wouldn’t have been frightened, and then Second Son wouldn’t need to borrow money from Eldest Brother. Even though we as grandparents clearly have money in our hands, yet you refused to take any out for an ill child. What kind of face do I have left now? How am I supposed to go out in the future?”
“So what? Whoever tries to talk behind our back, I’ll make sure to confront them in person. How much money is that old face of yours worth anyway? Is it as valuable as Third Son’s future prospects?” Madam Zhang pulled a fallacious argument out to counteract him.
“Third Son’s future prospects?! From my perspective, Third Son’s future prospects will someday be ruined by his mother who’s basically a bull in a china shop!!” Old Yu furiously laid back down on the bed.
Madam Zhang acted as if she was a cat whose tail had just been stepped on. She leapt up quickly and forcefully pulled on the quilt that was on Old Yu. She slapped and hit the old man as she screamed: “You stupid old fool! After you cursed our daughter, you go on to curse our son! How could Third Son’s future prospects be ruined by me? If you don’t give me a reasonable explanation, don’t even think about sleeping tonight!!”
“Why are you acting so crazy in the middle of the night?” Old Yu didn’t quite know what to do with his lunatic wife. He tried to block her blows somewhat fearfully.
“Stupid old fool! I’ve already seen through your true thoughts. You only treasure the son and daughter who were given to you by Zhu Xiuyun. Our Xiaobo and Caidie are not considered Yu Family descendants in your eyes, right? For the sake of a half dead chit, you not only cursed our daughter to become ill but also cursed our son’s future prospects. In the future, will there be a living road for the three of us in this family?” Madam Zhang had reached the end of her rope this time. She howled and screamed as she continued to beat the old man thoroughly.
The usually taciturn Old Yu was nowhere close to being her opponent. The old man could only wrap the blanket tightly around him and shield his head as he endured her blows.
In the room west of the main room, the third daughter-in-law, Madam Zhao, heard the ruckus and frowned sternly. She gently patted her son who was sleeping fitfully and spoke to Yu Bo who was reading under the light of a lamp: “Look, they’re arguing again! What’s wrong with your mother that she has to throw a fit two to three times in one day? With them screaming like this, will you really be able to study? In my opinion, I think we should pack our bags and go back home to town tomorrow. We’ll come back on the 27th to 28th day of the new year.”
“Aish, just forget about it. The weather is so cold now, and our son is still young. There’s no point in making another round trip. Tomorrow I’ll tell my mother that she needs to calm down during the New Year festivities!” Yu Bo abandoned his books with frustration and sat next to Madam Zhao. He pulled at her toasty warm and tender white hands in an attempt to pull her into his embrace.
Madam Zhao made a token protest and gave him a sidelong glance. She gently pushed him away and said: “Be careful to not let the people next to us hear. They’ll scold me again for not being a good example and delaying your studies.”
Under the lamplight, Madam Zhao was as beautiful as a blooming flower. Her sparkling eyes carried hints of welcome, and Yu Bo could feel his heart tremble as he lowered his head to meet her luscious, pink lips. His hand went up to grip that soft and plump… just as they were about to become more passionate, their little fellow next to them ‘coughed’ and whispered a couple of sentences. The couple instantly separated.
Madam Zhao’s cheeks were flushed as she glared at her husband. She pulled her son into her arms to help him go to the bathroom when she suddenly remember the scene from the morning. She lightly sighed and said: “Husband Yu, I’m not trying to criticize your parents’ decisions. However, your mother was definitely in the wrong in the situation that happened today. A human’s life is beyond value. As a grandmother, how could she be so callous to watch her granddaughter fall ill and refuse to give money to have her get medical treatment? That’s a child’s life at stake!”
“Ah...you can’t blame my mother. When Xiaocao was born, the doctor said that her lifespan would not be too long. A lot of money has been spent on her health expenses over the past few years. My mother is doing this for my sake, for my future!” Due to his mother, Yu Bo did not have a lot of sentiment regarding his young niece.
Madam Zhao’s eyes flickered as she replied, “Husband Yu, you definitely cannot say this where it can be heard by outsiders in the future. Just think, if word came out that for the sake of your future we neglected the life of your niece, what do you think will happen? Even if you pass the county level examinations, you won’t have anywhere to go. The reputation of a scholar-official is the most important thing and you should be afraid of any stains.”
“This… What should we do then? There’s a proverb that says: ‘good news never goes far, but bad news travels a thousand miles’. I’m afraid that the news about Second Brother going to Eldest Uncle to borrow money has already spread throughout the whole village…”
Yu Bo trusted his wife a lot, as she was the daughter of a scholar who had passed the county examinations. After hearing her warning, his body immediately became covered in cold sweat from head to toe. He couldn’t help but rub his hands incessantly as he didn’t know what to do.
“Don’t worry, let me think…” Madam Zhao lowered her head to ponder the situation for a bit. She looked at her husband and then said, “Tomorrow, you should give some money to Second Brother and have him use it to pay back his debt to Eldest Uncle… never mind, I should go instead! Go sleep, tomorrow your wife will definitely smooth everything over for you.”
Yu Bo glanced at his beloved son and, seeing that he was sleeping peacefully, quickly hugged his wife’s delicate body and kissed her fiercely on the neck and said: “My good wife, you are truly a virtuous wife. Being able to marry you is the culmination of the blessings from three lifetimes…”
The next day, it was a rare nice day in the middle of winter. The winter sun shined brightly, its rays giving off as much warmth as it was possible. When Yu Hai left to check over the traps they set yesterday and to bring the game they caught to town, Yu Xiaocao could only lay on the bed, pretending to be an invalid.
Acting as a sick person took effort, so she kind of regretted her decision to do so. She repeatedly reminded Xiaolian to keep the money from selling game in her hands and to make sure to not let the main house’s and the east room’s inhabitants find out how much money they had, etc..
Madam Liu was decocting the medication in front of the door and when she was done, she transferred the medication to let it cool before she drank it. Yesterday, her husband and daughter took the initiative to also buy about two taels worth of medication for her. It really made her heart ache. However, the medication had already been bought. Even if she didn’t take it, the money wouldn’t come back. She had to use her daughter as an excuse to prepare the medication but she needed to drink it herself on the sly. Ah, this type of life, how much longer did they have to endure?
After Madam Liu finished drinking the medication, she took the pile of dirty clothing to the pond at the foot of the mountain where she had to break the ice in order to wash the laundry. Little Shitou hugged the little roe deer as he sat on the kang and chatted with his second sister.
At this time, Youngest Aunt Yu Caidie looked around for a bit before she quietly slipped into the west room. In her hands was a bowl of piping hot sugar water with a poached egg floating in it.
Seeing that her young niece was listlessly sitting on the kang (Author’s note: She was actually bored to death.), she softly said: “Xiaocao, your aunt has made some sugar syrup with egg. Quickly eat it while it’s still hot.”
Xiaocao glanced at the contents of the bowl. She knew that whenever her youngest aunt was about to have her period, grandmother would have her drink some sugar water with egg starting three days prior. It was said to enrich the blood and nourish the body, and was supposed to be very good for a woman’s health. To her biological children, Madam Zhang was considered a pretty good mother.
“Youngest Aunt, if Grandmother found out that Second Sister ate your nourishing egg in syrup, she’ll hit Second Sister.” Little Shitou grimaced and spoke like a young adult.
Yu Caidie pinched his plump cheeks and stuffed the bowl with the sugar water and egg into Xiaocao’s hands and said: “Don’t worry. My mother went to town to help me buy some needles and thread. Quickly eat it, once its cold it won’t taste good anymore.”
Yu Xiaocao hesitated for a moment and then slowly drank the sugar water under her Youngest Aunt’s earnest gaze.
A slight smile had finally appeared on Yu Caidie’s face. She lightly sighed and said: “Xiaocao, yesterday your grandmother was in the midst of a temper tantrum. You know your grandmother’s personality. The more other people urge, the angrier she gets. Do you blame me for not speaking up for you?”
“I won’t, Youngest Aunt. Thank you for the sweet soup, it’s really sweet!” Yu Xiaocao couldn’t really say whether she liked or disliked her youngest aunt, who had a weak and pliable personality and was almost invisible in this family. Regardless, she didn’t plan on having too much involvement with her. At any rate, she only planned on repaying the people who treated her well in the future.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Translator note: Like mother like son eh? Not quite sure how I feel about Yu Caidie at the moment.