Chapter 55 - The New Year

Yu Xiaocao, who had become one of the shareholders of the leading condiment production factory in the future, spent the following days pondering about how to get to her parents to let her out of the house to get some fresh air. That was the only way she could get the chance to add some mystic-stone water around the traps that her father had set. Ay! At times, it was quite troublesome to have overly anxious parents!

However, she failed to achieve her goal in the end. It wasn’t due to her parent’s opposition, but the arrival of another snowstorm. This snowfall wasn’t inferior to that of the first snow. The entire mountain village was covered in a thick layer of whiteness.

At the Yu Family’s old residence, half of the roof had been crushed by the snow. Under Old Yu’s insistence and supervision, the three brothers of the Yu Family worked hard against the snowstorm for three to five days and finally repaired the old house.

Old Yu had fled to Dongshan Village as a refugee with his father when he was still a young child. The Yu Family’s old residence was a two-room cottage made of mud and straw that was built with the enthusiastic help of the villagers of Dongshan Village. It was full of Old Yu’s yearning for his deceased father, as well as his childhood memories. The four siblings of the Yu Family were all born and raised in this old house.

Therefore, even though the Yu Family had moved into the newly built new five-room house, they hadn’t abandoned their old residence. Old Yu would frequently visit the old house. They also made repairs once or twice every year. Otherwise, it would have already become a wasteland.

It had snowed too much, so it was impossible to go hunt in the mountains. Yu Xiaocao’s plan to earn some money before the New Year by catching some game was delayed. Furthermore, the price for goods had also reached a new height before the New Year. Every day, Madam Zhang would sigh deeply while she calculated the family’s food rations.

Fortunately, the whole family was just staying at home during the winter, so they didn’t need to do any physically demanding work. The Yu Family had two meals per day, which were reduced to only eating dry pancakes in the morning and a bowl of disgusting bean paste soup in the evening. Moreover, the coarse grain pancakes eaten for breakfast wasn’t an all-you-can-eat meal.   

The men each had two palm-sized pancakes, while the women were only given one piece each. But the children were given even less. Madam Zhang had even stopped giving Yu Caidie a secret portion of eggs. They were a family of over ten people, who couldn’t make any income for the entire winter. During the cold winter, even the family’s chickens didn’t lay much eggs. They were just idly sitting and eating at home, while slowly using up their money. How much money would they have to waste to fill in this bottomless pit?

Madam Zhang glared furiously at Yu Hai and his daughter. If they hadn’t gotten into a debt for that wicked girl’s medical fees, with the money that Yu Hai had earned from selling game, their family would had had enough money for a lavish New Year! Their situation wouldn’t be like right now, in which they had to count their food rations before preparing each meal!

“Second Son! It’s going to be the New Year is a couple days. It just stopped snowing today, so take advantage of this time and go to town to buy some things we’ll need for the New Year! First of all, we don’t have much millet flour. Buy more millet flour back, so we can stock them up at home. Also, no matter what we’ll need to make some dumplings for the New Year. So buy some wheat flour and two catties of meat…”

Madam Zhang made a bunch of requests but didn’t take out any money.

Yu Hai was about to agree when his youngest daughter pulled on his sleeve. He looked over and noticed that his daughter was signaling at him with her eyes. Yu Hai immediately understood his daughter’s meaning. After all, he was already accustomed to being obedient to Madam Zhang for over twenty years. Thus, he fell into a state of hesitation.

However, when he saw his daughter’s pitiful gaze and thought about the resolution he had made to himself recently, he finally said, “Mother, I’ll go to Eldest Uncle’s house to borrow the sleigh—but the money for the New Year goods…”

As soon as money was mentioned, Madam Zhang immediately pulled a face that was even longer than a donkey’s face, “A few days ago, didn’t you go to town to sell game every day? You must have earned a lot of money. Why are you still asking me for money when you have money yourself?! Second Son, there’s no precedent of anyone having private savings within our family! This is a rule that no one is allowed to break!”

“Grandmother, the snow that had accumulated in the mountain forest hadn’t even melted yet, so there wasn’t a lot of game to be caught. We caught very little game during those couple of days! So, aren’t you very clear about how much money we can earn? It’s almost the New Year, so of course we have to pay off our debt first. After repaying the money that Eldest Granduncle lent us for my medical treatment, we didn’t even have enough money for the medication! Fortunately, Doctor Sun took pity on us and allowed my father to buy the medicine on credit! Father! After the New Year, you have to go up the mountain more frequently in order to pay back the dozen or more taels that we owe Tongren Medicine Hall! Our family still needs Doctor Sun to help treat our illnesses in the future!”

Xiaocao knew very well that her father had already made great improvement since he was able to openly ask Madam Zhang for money. So, she interjected and stated everything that needed to be said.

A dozen or more taels? Madam Zhang gasped in astonishment and looked at Xiaocao with a piercing gaze, as if her eyes were daggers. If she could, she seriously wanted to cut that jinx into pieces!

“Tsk! To use a dozen or more taels for a minor illness, it seems like our family really do have someone born with a noble young lady’s life. It’s a pity that she has reincarnated into the wrong family. She has the body of a noble lady without the fate to enjoy it! Oh my, those twenty-something taels is nearly enough for a whole family to use for an entire year while living frugally! Tsk-tsk…” Madam Li clicked her tongue in disapproval as she ceaselessly fanned the fire.

Yu Hai recalled his family’s indifference when his daughter was on the verge of death. They didn’t spend any of the family’s money for his daughter’s illness, yet they still had to endure mocking remarks from them. His expression immediately turned grim and he muttered in a muffled voice, “Eldest Sister-in-law don’t need to worry about what kind of life my daughter has! We didn’t use a single penny of yours for my daughter’s illness!”

“Oh! He’s getting angry at me now! You didn’t spend any of my money for your daughter’s illness, but I, Li Guihua, also didn’t use any of your money for food or drinks! What rights do you have to yell at me?! Do you think that I’ll be easy to bully?” Madam Li wasn’t someone who would suffer any losses, so she clasped her waist and hollered back.

Yu Hai was originally bad at arguing with people, so he didn’t know what to do when he saw her acting like a shrew.

But Yu Xiaolian couldn’t tolerate her, “Eldest Aunt, you’re allowed to criticize others with a mocking tone, but other people can’t even say a word about you! What kind of logic is this? Is there anything wrong with what my father said? A lot of money was spent for my sister’s medical treatment. So, what’s wrong with a father earning money for his daughter’s medical fees? Even two hundred taels isn’t as important as my younger sister’s life, let alone twenty taels!”

Madam Zhang’s glared at Xiaolian with her beady eyes. She threw the broom in her hands at Xiaolian’s direction and shouted, “Why is a child butting in when the adults are talking? Second Son, is that how you teach your children?”

Yu Xiacoao cried out in shock and exclaimed, “Grandmother, what are you doing? It’s not enough that you’ve caused me to become seriously ill, but you’re also going to hit my sister! Grandmother, you should think more carefully about your actions. If anything happens to my older sister, you won’t even get the chance to grieve over the money!”

When money was mentioned, even though Madam Zhang had a belly full of anger, she didn’t dare direct her rage towards the children again. If something happened to the children during the New Year Festival, based on how much Yu Hai doted on his children, he would definitely take his children to see a doctor. Even if they had to owe more debts, he would still get medical treatment for his children. As a result of that, she wouldn’t be able to get any money out of Yu Hai for the next spring and summer seasons.  

Old Yu, who was silently standing on the side, finally spoke up! “Everyone, stop! Aren’t you guys afraid of becoming a laughingstock for others during the New Year?! Wife, it’s not like you don’t have any money, so stop thinking about taking the little money that Second Son has! Hurry up and take out the money. It’s more important to buy the New Year goods!”

“Would the meager amount of money in my hands even be enough for them to use?” It was more painful for Madam Zhang to have money taken out of her hands than it would be to cut off her flesh. 

Old Yu impatiently said, “You’re always talking about money, money, money! To you, even a single copper coin is bigger than a millstone! Can’t we just earn all the money back when the coastal waters thaws in the spring? After the New Year, Eldest Son and I will go out to the sea, while Second Son goes into the mountains. Won’t we be able to make up for our winter expenses?”

Madam Zhang couldn’t escape this situation, so she reluctantly opened the cabinet’s lock while grumbling. She took out a string of copper coins and several silver bits, which were about the size of a fingernail. She reminded Yu Hai, as if she was afraid that he would spend the money recklessly, “Everything is really expensive nowadays, so don’t buy too much food. We have sweet potato flour at home. Although eating too much of it may cause heartburn, it’s still very filling! As for wheat flour and meat, just buy enough for one meal of dumplings…”

Yu Xiaocao looked at the money in her hands. Her mouth twitched as she inwardly thought: Even if they wanted to, this wouldn’t be enough money to buy a lot of things! Did she really need to repeatedly warn them?

Yu Hai took the money and left the house silently. It was a rare sunny day. Although the snow on the ground went up to the calves, there were still many people going to town to buy New Year goods. After days of heavy snow, most people hadn’t had the chance to purchase the goods needed for the New Year. Thus, they wanted to take advantage of this good day to buy the things that they need.

Yu Hai’s eldest uncle had originally planned to go to town today. However, seeing that his eldest nephew wanted to borrow the sleigh and that the good weather would probably last for more than a day, he decided to go to town on the next day.

Yu Hai didn’t dare to buy too many unnecessary things and directly went to the grains shop to purchase fifty catties of millet flour and five catties of wheat flour. After that, he went to the butchers and got two catties of meat. The money that Madam Zhang gave him wasn’t enough, so he used some of his own money to cover the cost.

While walking on the street, he encountered the manager of Zhenxiu Restaurant. The manager knew that the little girl of the Yu Family was someone who his young master highly valued, so he naturally acted very warmly towards Yu Hai. Seeing that simple New Year goods that Yu Hai had purchased, he bought some snacks and candies from the pastry shop. He insisted that Yu Hai accept them, saying that Third Young Master Zhou had ordered him to buy them for Miss Yu and her younger brother.  

Yu Hai bought some meat buns and went to the carpentry shop to visit his son. He also left some copper coins for his son. However, Yu Hai wouldn’t have expected that his son would be reluctant to use the money that he had received from the family and saved them up instead, which led to a disaster that almost cost Yu Hang’s life.

The New Year was slowly approaching. On the morning of New Year's Eve, Madam Liu was busily working in the kitchen with her two daughters. The two catties of meat that Yu Hai bought were mostly fat. Madam Liu cut out some of the fat to make lard, and then left the dregs of fat for the evening when they needed to mix it with cabbage to make stuffing for the dumplings.

Winter vegetables were usually either radishes or cabbages. Yu Xiaocao had already predicted that there wouldn’t be enough food at home for the New Year, so she grew some bean sprouts at the edge of the kang bed. She had also made some handmade vermicelli with the sweet potato flour.

With the sweet potato vermicelli, their dishes for the New Year didn’t seem as dull. Stewed cabbage and radish with vermicelli, stir-fried sour cabbage, braised radish, stir-fried black fungus and cabbage, crispy radish salad, and dry-fried bean sprouts… They also cut a few slices of pork to cook with the bean sprouts and vermicelli, making another home-cooked dish. For the soup, they made cabbage and bean sprout soup.

When the dishes were served, even the picky Madam Zhang was visibly surprised. She never knew that so many dishes could be made with radish, cabbage, and a few bean sprouts.

As for the taste, it was pretty obvious based on everyone’s reactions. No one had time to talk as they were all just diligently eating, which was the biggest affirmation for the dishes.

Old Yu seldom had the chance to drink alcohol, so he poured a cup for his three sons and said with satisfaction, “Second Daughter-in-law’s culinary skills have improved again!”

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Myst's Thoughts

food pic1 and pic2

Translator: Myst