Madam Zhang felt Old Yu’s complicated gaze coming over and felt her heart freeze. She was afraid that he might say something that shouldn’t be said, so she took a deep breath and screamed at him, “There’s no more! It’s just this much! We don’t have a mountain of money at home! After spending more than ten taels on medication, how much money can be left over?”
Xiaocao could tell that the old woman was using her loud voice to cover up her inner turmoil. She knew there had to be more money at home; however, as long as they could smoothly split their families apart, they didn’t need to squabble too much over other things. But, she didn’t want Madam Zhang to pull the wool over everyone else’s eyes, so she said, “If there’s nothing more, then there’s nothing more! Why are you yelling? If I didn’t know better, I’d think you’re trying to hide something!”
“Hide something? What do I need to hide? You little brat, all you know how to do is talk back to your elders. This past morning I really should have sold you off…” Madam Zhang’s face twisted into a grim expression. If the village chief and the rest of the family elders weren’t here, she would have long ran over and slapped the chit on the face.
“Who are you to be able to say whether you can sell my Yu Family’s grandsons and granddaughters?” That morning an unfamiliar woman had stopped by Old Yu house, and the rumors had said that she was a trafficker matron in town. There were no walls that didn’t have cracks in the world. The whole village already knew that Madam Zhang and Madam Li had tried to sell the twins.
As the eldest, Yu Lichun glared fiercely at her and looked dignified and imposing. However, everyone had underestimated Madam Zhang’s shrewish fury.
In the end, Yu Xiaocao’s family had only received two taels, as Madam Zhang’s temper tantrum ability and spoiled whining had been turned on to her highest capacity. That night, Old Yu sat at the head of the kang bed and smoked his tobacco pipe, turning an indifferent eye towards Madam Zhang’s small acts at currying favor with him.
Madam Zhang let out a sigh and said, “I know you blame me for not taking out the three hundred taels that Hunter Zhao sent to us to split between the branches. But I was doing it for the good of our family! In the past, you had always thought that Second Son was hard working and capable, so the family revolved around him. But he’s gotten injured, so now our entire family’s hopes are all on Third Son’s shoulders now. Didn’t the teacher always praise Third Son’s efforts? Next year, after the examination is over, if he passes it, then the teacher will recommend him to the academy of the famous scholar, Teacher Yuan. I had asked around and Scholar Yuan is a rare talent who had placed first in the provincial examination, the metropolitan examination, and the imperial palace examination in the past dynasty. His academy has turned out scholars who’ve placed second and third in the imperial palace examination, not to mention how many other scholars who have passed it too. Didn’t they say that our third son has a glorious fate and has the possibility of passing the imperial examinations? We definitely can’t let this opportunity go by!”
Seeing that Old Yu’s expression had improved perceptibly, Madam Zhang continued cajoling, “I know that these three hundred taels were in exchange for Second Son’s leg, but just think, if Third Son makes it, in the future when he has a scholar-official’s income, we’ll just give Second Branch some more. Then it’s fine!”
Old Yu held the tobacco pipe in his mouth but didn’t inhale from it for a long time. In the end, he let out a deep sigh and said, “I’ve failed Dahai’s mother, I didn’t take care of those two kids…I even stole the money that Dahai’s risked his life to get, ah…”
Madam Zhang felt a burst of jealousy rise in her heart when she saw that Old Yu was still thinking of that dead ghost. However, for the sake of those three hundred taels, she restrained herself and didn’t start an argument with the old man. With the three hundred taels firmly in her hands and the money spending Second Son’s entire family expelled, the taste of sweetness in her mouth was even more delicious than honey.
With their long-standing wish to have the family separate finally fulfilled and their father also looking more energetic, the three siblings were happier than they had been during the New Year celebrations. They surrounded their parents and chattered and laughed endlessly.
Madam Liu’s heart was full of uncertainties towards their future. However, the obvious happiness of her children and the thought of no longer being under Madam Zhang’s abuse and being in charge of her own household made her gently smile.
It was this exact same, sweet smile that had captured Yu Hai’s heart so many years ago. However, ever since she married into the Yu family, the smile that made his heart skip a beat was seen less and less often as the years went by.
Despite the children being nearby, Yu Hai furtively linked his hand with his wife’s and smiled at her winsomely. Madam Liu’s face flushed a bright red and she made a token resistance before she stopped, leaving their hands together.
Yu Xiaocao couldn’t help but laugh, her eyes curving up in joy, when she saw the two of them being lovey-dovey. Yu Hai sensed that she was looking at them and spoke to his most beloved daughter, “Cao’er, were you terribly frightened these past few days?”
“No, I always knew that father would wake up. Father could never bear to leave us all alone!” Yu Xiaocao cleverly sat next to her father and lifted her head to look at him.
“Of course! One is bound for good fortune after surviving a great disaster! In the future, our family will continue to do better and better!” Yu Hai couldn’t help but hug his daughter close to him when he thought about how he had almost died and would never see his beloved family and clever daughter again. Although he was her father, Yu Xiaocao was not used to being hugged by an adult man, so she slipped out of his hold and smiled, “Father, the poultice on your leg needs to changed. I’ll do it for you!”
Yu Hai’s leg injury was extremely severe as almost all of the flesh on it had been torn into pieces by the black bear. If Yu Xiaocao hadn’t been treating him every day with the little divine stone and washing the wound with mystic-stone water, his leg likely would have rotted from the inside out.
Xiaocao carefully removed the bandages and used the mystic-stone water to wash off the old dressings. The scary-looking wound had already started growing new skin and flesh. Yesterday, Doctor Sun had come over to check up on him. The doctor was amazed at Yu Hai’s healing abilities. Anyone else with such a wound would have had their leg amputated by this time.
Yu Xiaocao refused her mother’s offer of help and pounded the fever reducing medication that Doctor You had left behind into a fine powder. She then mixed the powder with the mystic-stone water to create a thick paste before she carefully applied the mixture to her father’s wounds.
Yu Hai sighed in relief as the cool and refreshing poultice covered and soothed the itchy wound. He looked at his second daughter with gratitude and said, “After Xiaocao hit her head, not only did her body get healthy, but she’s also become a lot more deft and clever. She easily learned all of the dense and hard-to-learn medical knowledge. Is this another transformation that the God of Fortune did?”
Yu Xiaocau carefully bandaged the dressing on the wound and raised her head to smile at him when she heard his words. She didn’t agree or refute what her father had said.
That night, when the whole family was asleep, Yu Xiaocao once again pushed the little divine stone to release its hard earned spiritual energy to heal Yu Hai’s ravaged and torn tendons.
The water in this world was clear and pure. In addition, the little divine stone had also helped its master to save her father. All of these factors combined loosened its shackles, and its speed at absorbing spiritual energy had increased immensely. It was convinced that it would soon be able to materialize its physical form and openly appear in front of everyone. However, the energy that it painstakingly gathered every day was always used to treat Yu Hai’s leg injury. This made the little stone feel gloomy and depressed.
Luckily, it discovered that every time it used up all its spiritual energy, the shackles confining it would loosen a little more. It was especially prominent whenever it was healing people’s injuries, like its master’s head wound or its master’s father’s leg.
The clever little divine stone couldn’t help but grumble inwardly: ‘Don’t tell me that every time I help my master is when the Goddess of Spirit’s shackles will loosen on me?’ This was the complaint it had lodged within its heart but this was also the reason why it continued to help Xiaocao heal her father’s injury.
The next day, Xiaocao’s whole family was finally able to sleep until they woke up naturally. When Madam Zhang got up and saw that there was no one feeding the pigs, the chickens were clucking in hunger, there was no firewood gathered, no one was sweeping, and no one was washing the clothes, she couldn’t help but rush towards the west room and holler, “How long are you all going to sleep like the dead? Do you know what time it is?”
Yu Xiaocao opened the door and looked at Madam Zhang with a faint smile on her face, ‘Grandmother, it must have slipped your mind. We already split our family, so each branch is living independently. If you want us to feed the pigs and chickens, does that mean you want to give us a fifth of those animals?”
Madam Zhang choked down the abuse she had wanted to hurl and glanced at the east room’s messily attired Madam Li, who was leaning against the doorframe watching the show. Her fury had found a new target, and she screamed, “Lazy woman, why don’t you quickly start getting to work? If you can’t finish, don’t bother eating breakfast!”
The expression on Madam Li’s face changed instantly. She realized that she would have to be like Madam Liu in the future: working endlessly from dawn to dusk. She silently grumbled inside.
After more than ten years of marriage, she had only been ordered around by Madam Zhang during the first year. Ever since Madam Liu married into the family, she had taken it easy and lived a leisurely life. Now that she suddenly had to do housework again, she really didn’t know where she should start. For the whole morning, she muddled through the multitude of tasks while being criticized by her mother-in-law the whole time.
Her youngest sister-in-law, Yu Caidie, couldn’t stand by idly and watch, so she helped to sweep the floor and feed the chickens. Like this, by the time it was time to make breakfast, they hadn’t even gathered the necessary firewood. When Old Yu came back home, the kitchen was still cold and silent. Up until noon, he had to endure his hunger pains, and only then did he get to eat a breakfast that was poorly made.
Old Yu had an ugly expression on his face as he sighed. In the future, without Madam Liu and the others, it would be impossible to have the residence all tidied up and orderly like it was before. He put down his bowl and chopsticks to go to the old residence to see if there was anything he could help with.
As for Xiaocao and company, after enjoying the melodramatic play in the courtyard, they had eaten their breakfast at the crack of dawn and left to go to the old residence at the foot of the West Mountains. Yu Hai was left at the main residence to recuperate.
The old residence and the current Yu Family residence was about a half an hour walk from each other. Although it was said to be at the foot of the mountains, it was really about one to two kilometers away. With the glorious scenery of mountains and water, Yu Xiaocao’s good mood could not be ruined even if the old residence was about to fall apart. She had no doubt that they would be able to do well and even thrive in their new environment. Adapting to their new home was not a question.
The shabby old residence was in such bad condition that it made people gasp. Even though every year they would go back and fix things, that was only enough to guarantee that the whole house wouldn’t fall down. This year’s snows were heavy, so one of the rooms had also been crushed by the weight of the snow. Although in the spring they had hastily fixed it a bit, that room was currently not fit for living inhabitants.
The broken down house had a courtyard with weeds growing everywhere. On the side was a bamboo fence that had mostly fallen over. Wild hares had nested in the courtyard and, when they heard there were people, they zipped out with a ‘whoosh’ and scared them. Little Shitou cheerfully chased after the wild hares. Madam Liu quietly let out a breath in relief and started to pull up the weeds from the courtyard with her two daughters.
The old residence was located in a more remote area. In the vicinity, there were only a few neighbors. On the left, about two hundred meters away was the Zhou Family who raised chickens to make a living. Madam Fang had married into the Zhou Family and had a good relationship with Madam Liu. When she saw them all stooped over fighting with the weeds, she also brought over her two daughters to help.
The Zhou Family had one son and two daughters. The oldest daughter, Zhou Linglong, was fourteen years old and was already on the marriage market. The younger daughter, Zhou Shanhu, was only nine and had an innocent and open personality. Her favorite thing to do was to play with the Xiaocao and Xiaolian together.
Uncle Zhou, Zhou Danian, started out as a street peddler. His son, Zhou Wenhua, had gone to school for two years and then followed his father in buying and selling goods. When it wasn’t busy at home, he would go to the village and walk up and down the streets selling household goods, such as needles and thread. They also had about a hundred chickens at home. Due to that, they were among the small number of families in the village who could afford to eat wheat flour and white rice on the regular.
“Brother Han!” Little Shitou, who was holding a small sickle and was using it to cut the weeds, raised his head and saw a familiar figure. He greeted the person cheerfully.
Zhao Han rolled up his sleeves and also grabbed a sickle. He stooped over and started to work as he said, “I heard you all are about to move here, so I came over. Is there anything I can help with?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter