Chapter 68 - A Better Move

A dense and flavorful pork bone soup was made by gently simmering pork bones an entire night. The staple food for the banquet was steamed rolls made from a mix of wheat and millet flour.

Every table had eight vegetarian dishes, four meat dishes, and a tureen of the rich soup. Out of all the banquets that had occurred in the village, this feast was considered one of the best. In addition, some of the dishes had never been tasted by any of the villagers before. Although the raw ingredients were simple, they were prepared in a way that was exceptionally refreshing and delicious. Everyone who ate at the banquet praised the food endlessly.   

Some of the married women who had a good relationship with Madam Liu surreptitiously asked her how she managed to make so many different and delicious types of dishes using just radishes and cabbages. Madam Liu gazed fondly at her daughter and replied with pride, “Most of these dishes were thought up by Cao’er. She told me and Eldest Sister-in-law what to do.”

All of the villagers were familiar with the story of Madam Liu’s second daughter, Yu Xiaocao. After getting knocked unconscious the past summer, she had forgotten a lot of things. However, none of them would have expected that she would become more clever and lively despite losing most of her memories. In addition, she had a natural gift and talent at cooking. They couldn't help but praise her over and over. 

Madam Li had appeared right when the food was ready to be set out. Jealousy surged into her as she inspected the completely new old residence and she remarked in a sour tone, “We’re not as fortunate as second sister-in-law. Your whole family occupies an entire courtyard and gets to live in a giant house.”’

The kitchen bustled with activity. Several of Madam Liu’s friends from the village had come over earlier to help. Despite Madam Zhang’s disapproval, Yu Caidie had also come over to help wash the vegetables and set the tables, and was cheerfully busy.

Madam Li, on the other hand, didn’t even help them to bring out the food. Instead, she pulled her son to a table and sat heavily down. When they were eating, they gobbled down the food as if they had been starving for a long time. Madam Li’s chopsticks flew at light speed and quickly snatched away prime mouthfuls of meat and vegetables into her and her son’s bowls. Their tablemates could only watch her with disapproval and shake their heads. 

A total of ten tables were at the banquet. Madam Liu had prepared more than enough food for it and there were plenty of leftovers for each dish. After Madam Li ate and drank to her fill, she didn’t leave immediately and lazed in the courtyard under the sun. Generally speaking, the leftovers were given to the people who had helped prepare the food and everyone would get a share to go home. 

Madam Li balked the tradition and didn’t help to either prepare or clean up the food. Instead, when it was time to dole out the leftovers, she brazenly squeezed in and said, “Ah, Second Sister-in-law, you guys can’t possibly finish all of this leftover food. Give me some to bring home so Mother and Third Brother-in-law can try your culinary talent…”

“Dashan’s wife, it’s not like you haven’t tried her food before you guys split off. Did you miss her cooking so much after just a few days?”

The next door neighbor to the Yu Family, the wife of Hai Xing, was a quick-witted woman and had a relatively good relationship with Madam Liu. The two of them often gathered firewood and cut fishwort together. From time to time, she would also ask Madam Liu’s advice on embroidery. At this time, she was obviously satirizing Madam Li. 

Madam Li pretended not to hear her and grabbed an already cleaned basin and started to fill it with food. She specifically chose the dishes that had meat, such as the rabbit meat and chicken pieces. In the end, almost half of the meat-containing dishes had gone to her. The amount of food in the basin was piled into a small mountain. She avariciously looked at the soup pot and reluctantly left, her fleshy waist swaying as she walked. 

When Heizi heard his mother calling for him, he scuttled out from the rear courtyard. In his hands was a small pheasant whose wings were bound together. He shamelessly said, “Second Aunt, your rear court still has two hares and a pheasant, give one to me to bring home, ok. I haven’t tasted meat for more than a month!”

Yu Xiaocao almost wanted to laugh out of fury, ‘Who was the person who took almost half of the chicken dish? Also, did the hare and chicken meat disappear down some other person’s stomach?’ 

 Madam Liu was well familiar with this mother-son pair’s temperaments and didn’t want to bother with those two. She only wanted these two demons to leave faster. All of the other women who helped could only shake their heads in disbelief. Yu Hai had an injured leg, Madam Liu couldn’t do heavy work, and their children were still small. As the eldest sister-in-law, Madam Li didn’t even help them and only came to take things from them. Madam Liu was quite unlucky to have relatives like her. 

After sending off a couple people who had helped, Madam Yao could tell it was getting late by the color of the sky. She also left with her eldest daughter-in-law. That night, Yu Xiaocao and her two other siblings squeezed onto their parents’ kang bed. The five of them were counting their expenses together.

“Although the construction of the house didn’t require us to spend much money for the labor, but when you add on the materials and furniture we bought, we spent around five taels. Building a house is tiring. Even though everyone brought their own food, Xiaocao had proposed we give each of them a steamed roll and a bowl of porridge at lunch. The steamed rolls were made with a combination of wheat flour and millet flour or sweet potato powder. Buying all of those grains cost another tael.” When the house was getting built, Yu Hai’s leg was still injured, so he spent his days recuperating at the main residence. Madam Liu was telling him their expenses right now.

Yu Hai ruffled Xiaocao’s hair and smiled, “Cao’er did the right thing. Although we don’t have a lot of money, we can’t let other people starve when they’re helping us out. Most villagers don’t get to eat much. In the morning they’ll probably have some mixed grain flatbread which is not enough to last until noon, so it is necessary we add a meal for them. I heard Older Brother Li complimenting our family for being sincere and honest as our rolls all contained half wheat flour. He said he always brought an extra flat cake made from bean flour as he couldn’t bear to eat our steamed roll. Instead, he would bring the roll back for his children to eat to their heart’s content!”

Dongshan Village was a small fishing village next to the sea. Most of the villages relied on fishing to make a living. The surrounding land was mostly sandy and only a limited variety of crops could be grown there. The majority of families only ate bean flour, sweet potato starch, and millet flour as their source of carbohydrates. It was only during the New Year celebrations that they would be willing to buy some wheat flour to eat. Thus, even a steamed roll that was composed of half wheat flour was considered something delicious to eat in the villagers’ eyes.

Madam Liu looked at her second daughter who was becoming more and more clever and witty with every passing day. She smiled and continued, “Most of the ingredients for today’s banquet was given to us by Older Brother Zhao. As for the pork, we spent about three hundred copper coins, if we add the amount we spent on grain and vegetables, about one tael was spent in total. Originally we had twelve taels on hand and now we have around five taels left.”  

Yu Hai thought for a bit and then said, “Your mother’s family doesn’t have an easy life and still gave us ten taels after borrowing from others left and right. We definitely cannot let your parents carry debt for us. We should find someone tomorrow to bring the remaining five taels back to your mother. It’s okay if we our lives are a little harder, but we cannot be a dead weight on your whole maternal family.”

This was what being a family meant. When someone was in need, the others would spare no effort to help. Everyone worked together and was concerned about each other…

Xiaocao could feel the warmth of having a family. Although she lived in poverty, she wasn’t alone in the struggle. She still had her father, mother, and all her other siblings.   She smiled brilliantly and shifted to her father’s side to lift up the quilt covering his leg and said, “It’s time to massage your leg. Father, please receive your daughter’s loving, filial care!”

The wound on his leg was healing very quickly, and the vast majority of the scabs that had formed had already fallen off. A few days ago, Yu Xiaocao went with him to town to the Tongren Medicine Hall for a checkup to see Doctor Sun who had previously told them there was nothing he could do. An expression of awe was on the doctor’s rosy face, and the old man was excited and exclaimed continuously over this phenomenon. 

Even if they were in the modern times, this would also be considered a medical miracle. His calf had been shattered, and there wasn’t a single piece of flesh on his leg that wasn’t torn into pieces. A huge hole had been clawed into his back such that one could almost see his internal organs peeking out. Yu Hai had fallen unconscious due to such a serious wound on his leg. The fact that he was still standing and alive without the help of modern medical equipment and medications was incredible. If this wasn’t a miracle, then what was?

At this time, Doctor Sun was amazed and could only say that his innate constitution was very good and that he must have had a very strong desire to live. He must have also had a god taking care of him. 

After inspecting his leg and back wound, he palpated Yu Hai’s pulse again. After confirming he had no issues, Doctor Sun said, “You don’t need to take medication anymore. The injuries to your tendons and veins on your leg are very serious. The leg should be massaged frequently. I can’t say for sure but he might be able to walk without crutches in the future.”

At that time, Yu Xiaocao had asked Doctor Sun for guidance on massage techniques and made sure to note them down carefully. Since then, she used the massage times as an opportunity to use the little divine stone to rub her father’s leg injury. She made the stone use its spiritual energy to slowly heal the fractured, injured tendons and vessels. 

The multi-colored stone on her wrist seemed to inadvertently slide on the dense scars that criss-crossed over the leg as she massaged the limb. Only Xiaocao could see the faint golden streams of light slowly flowing into the leg’s arteries and veins. 

All Yu Hai could sense was that wherever his daughter’s little hands massaged his leg, a feeling of comforting warmth would follow. The aches and pains on his leg slowly disappeared and he drowsily closed his eyes. Under his daughter’s massage, he comfortably fell asleep... 

“Cao’er, you must be tired. Teach mother how to massage and in the future I’ll do it.” Madam Liu saw her daughter shaking out her sore hands afterwards and felt bad.

Xiaocao shook her head and said, “Mother, this is my chance to show my respect and filial piety to Father. Don’t stop me. Xiaolian had also asked me many times to teach her, but I refused! Father and Mother treat me so well and took on a lot of burdens for me. It’s right and proper that I help Father massage his leg.”

After working hard for a whole day, the entire family fell asleep at an early time. Yu Xiaocao lay quietly on the toasty kang bed. Under her was a layer of rice straw and the blanket covering her had hard cotton lumps with patches all interconnected to each other. Despite that, it was still more warm and comfortable than the shabby old kang bed that the entire family had to squeeze onto in their old home.

After she was sure Xiaolian, who was next to her, had fallen into a deep sleep, Xiaocao raised her left wrist and quietly spoke to the little divine stone, “Little Glutinous Dumpling, Little Glutinous Dumpling…

[If you keep calling me by that name, I will stop responding to you!] A faint golden light came up and slowly formed into a small golden kitten with a large head and pointy ears. The little fellow stared indignantly at Xiaocao with its large and round eyes. 

Yu Xiaocao used a fingertip to poke at the little fellow’s smooth and slippery head and grinned, “Okay, okay! I won’t call you Little Glutinous Dumpling then, but what should I call you by? How about I give you a new name then, hmmm… like Little Baldy, how’s that?”

The golden little ball beat its wings to doge Xiaocao’s finger and raged, [In the future when I materialize myself, I will be female. ‘Little Baldy’ is seriously such a bad name. This divine stone already has a name that was given to me by the Goddess Nuwa. It’s called ‘Circle’, now doesn’t that sound nice?] 

“Pffft——circle? Then I’m a square! I still don’t think it’s as good as Little Glutinous Dumpling. That name describes your round figure very well and sounds cute to boot! So we’ve decided on it, in the future, I’ll call you Little Glutinous Dumpling. Complaining about it will have no effect!” Yu Xiaocao forcefully gave the little divine stone a name.  

“Little Glutinous Dumpling, in your opinion, how much longer until my father’s leg gets better? Do you think he can walk like normal then?” Yu Xiaocao asked with a little bit of worry in her tone. For the past few days, although her father had always pasted a smile on his face when he was in front of them, but she could tell that there was a faint outline of loneliness in that smile. 

Her father had previously been a high-spirited and optimistic man. He was good at fishing, hunting, and could even make some simple bamboo tools. If he was doomed to using crutches for the rest of his life, she would bet that would make him extremely depressed…

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Myst's Thoughts

lmao 'Circle'   It actually sounds better in Chinese, Yuanzi (圆子).

Translator: Sanguine