Chapter 71 - Cute Youngster

“You’re talking about another kind of shepherd’s purse, which grows in the grass and has pinnate leaves. This is the one that I’m looking for, which is a type of wild shepherd’s purse that grows in early spring. Though it doesn’t look very good, it’s actually very tasty. If you don’t believe, smell it.”

Xiaocao dug up a shepherd’s purse, which had leaves that were only two centimeters long, and delivered it to his nose for him to smell it. Sure enough, there was a refreshing scent of wild herbs.

“But this kind of shepherd’s purse is so small…” With his butt sticking out and humming, Little Shitou also squatted down and dug for wild herbs.

There were a lot of shepherd’s purse in this area. It seemed like in a few months there would be a bed of white flowers. Yu Xiaocao picked the bigger ones and dug without stopping as she laughed, “We came a little early. They will be bigger in a few more days. The biggest ones have leaves that are three to six centimeters long! Don’t dig out the smaller ones. Let’s wait until they grow bigger.”

Along the edge of the ditch, the siblings kept searching as they dug. The shepherd’s purse on the bank facing the sun had sprouted earlier, so their leaves were evidently larger.

The warm spring sun gradually rose. Xiaocao and her younger brother basked in the warm sunshine while harvesting the first batch of wild herbs of the early spring.

At the foot of the mountains, Qian Wen, who had decided to sit on a rock, seemed to have lost interest in his book. Hearing the joyful cries of Little Shitou from afar, he raised his head from time to time and looked towards the two thin figures who were dozens of meters away. His heart could no longer remain calm.

He simply rolled up his book, stuffed it into his arms, and then walked towards the direction of the siblings. The sister-brother pair were so absorbed in their task that they didn’t even notice him approaching.

Yu Xiaocao squatted and moved forward step by step, while she was busily working with a shovel in her hands. Qian Wen moved closer and wondered: ‘Are there really wild herbs during this time of year?’

Suddenly, Xiaocao saw a large region of big shepherd’s purse in front, so she screamed with delight and jumped up happily. However, she didn’t notice Qian Wen, who was approaching from behind, and bumped right into his chin with the back of her head.

Holding her own head, Xiaocao turned around to see Qian Wen also clutching his chin with a painful expression on his face. She felt somewhat embarrassed and apologized, “Sorry, I didn’t notice that you were behind me. Does it hurt a lot?”

When Qian Wen was hit, he had accidentally bitten the tip of his tongue, which caused tears to pool up in his eyes. So, he hastily opened his eyes wide and looked towards the sky. He was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to control his tears and let the young girl see him crying.

It originally wasn’t Xiaocao’s fault, so he gracefully replied, “It was my fault. I shouldn’t have got so close.” He kept sucking in the cool air because of the injury on his tongue. As a result, his voice sounded muffled and he had a slightly distorted expression on his face.

Yu Xiaocao chuckled and said, “Neither of us did it intentionally, so no one has to apologize for it. Did we bother your reading? After we finish digging around this area, I’ll take Little Shitou somewhere a little farther…”

“No need, no need! I mainly came out to relax. My teacher said that there should be a proper balance between work and leisure when studying. I’ll help you dig for wild herbs.” Qian Wen lifted up his cotton-padded robe and squatted down, but then realized that he didn’t have a shovel.

Xiaocao shook her head at him, lowered her head to dig up the shepherd’s purse that she found earlier, and said, “No need. You should go back and continue reading. I will be at fault if you delay your studies.”

Qian Wen smiled and said, “My teacher said that one can’t just solely focus on reading when studying. The Analects of Confucius says: ‘For someone who can neither do physical work nor distinguish rice from wheat, how art thou considered a scholar’?” As he spoke, he took the shovel from Xiaocao’s hands and began digging the shepherd’s purse on the ground.

“Hey, hey! Be careful! You have to stick to the surface of the ground when shoveling. Otherwise, the leaves will break apart!” Seeing him clumsily digging the shepherd’s purse and destroying a few in the process, Yu Xiaocao felt distressed inwardly and reminded him.

Little Shitou ran over from a distance with a large batch of shepherd’s purse in the pocket of his jacket. Seeing that Qian Wen was using his sister’s shovel, he put the shepherd’s purse in the basket and handed his shovel to his older sister, and said, “Second Sister, you can use mine. I’m a fast runner, so I’ll go home to get another one.”

Just as he finished speaking, he had already sprinted away.

Yu Xiaocao crouched down and patiently demonstrated to Qian Wen several times. Qian Wen swiftly learned how to properly dig the wild herbs. The two of them squatted side by side on the edge of the ditch and silently dug the wild herbs. From time to time, they would quietly converse when one of them had dug a big one. There was a light sense of peace and harmony between them…

A moment later, Little Shitou returned with a shovel and was followed by a chirping Qian Wu. Qian Wu saw his older brother helping Xiaocao dig for shepherd’s purse instead of reading, so he curiously asked, “Older Brother, why are you here? Didn’t you go out to read?”

Qian Wen glanced at him and replied solemnly, “I’ve already finished reading. While working, I can recall the contents of the book, which is conducive to understanding and integration of the subject. Xiaowu, didn’t Mother ask you to tend the ducks? Did you sneak out again? You better watch out because Mother is going to beat you with a broomstick!”

Qian Wu was somewhat scared of his older brother, who was three years older than him and often acted like an elder. He shrunk his neck and said, “I already guided the ducks to the pond. They will look for food themselves. There’s nothing for me to do… Oh, right! Little Shitou, what’s with all the turfs behind your house?” Ah, he needed to quickly change the subject!

Yu Xiaocao looked at him with a smile and noticed that the little guy was completely different from his older brother. The older brother had a fair and clear complexion and a gentle and refined disposition. He also had delicate and fine features. The younger brother had darker skin with thick brows and big eyes. When he smiled, two small canine teeth could be seen. With a dignified and strong appearance, he looked very cute.

Little Shitou proudly straightened his back and said, “What turfs? They’re called straw thatches, which are made of wheat straw and rice straw. They’re used to keep the vegetable fields warm!”

“To keep the vegetable fields warm? Your family already planted the vegetables?” Qian Wen looked at Yu Xiaocao in surprise. He instinctively felt that she was the mastermind behind this idea.   

Sure enough, Little Shitou answered proudly, “That’s right! The crops in the front yard had already been planted for three or four days. This morning, when I lifted the thatches to check, I noticed that the seeds have already sprouted tender buds! Isn’t my second sister amazing? She can come up with ideas that no one else knows!”

“Oh! They really sprouted? Even the water in the vat still freezes at night. Aren’t you afraid that they will freeze?” Qian Wu opened his eyes wide in amazement. In previous years, his family had always planted their seeds at the end of March. They had to wait until at least April or May in order to eat fresh vegetables.

After eating radish, cabbage, pickled vegetables, and soybean paste for the entire winter, Qian Wu felt that saliva swiftly flowed within his mouth when he thought of fresh and green vegetables.

“Does that mean that your family will be able to fresh vegetables soon?” Qian Wu felt extremely envious as he looked at Little Shitou.

However, Little Shitou shook his head and said, “We can’t eat it ourselves! We need to sell the vegetables in town for money. Second Sister said she’ll send me to the academy to study when we have enough money. Brother Xiaowen, if there’s anything that I don’t understand in the future, I’ll go ask you for help!”

Qian Wen couldn’t help but look at Xiaocao again when he thought about their current living conditions. Shitou’s family didn’t even have enough to eat at the moment, yet his older sister still made plans for her younger brother’s academic future.

Xiaocao didn’t have outstanding facial features. She had phoenix eyes, which were narrow and slanted slightly upwards. She had faint eyebrows and her nose wasn’t very tall. Her lips were fleshy, which didn’t meet the current aesthetic of having a small cherry-like mouth. However, the combination of these features on her palm-sized face made her appear very vivid and natural.  

Sensing his gaze, Xiaocao replied with a faint smile. After that, with the addition of the Qian brothers, their speed when digging wild herbs increased tremendously.

Although Xiaocao had already transmigrated here for over half a year, she still hadn’t become accustomed to eating two meals a day. Noon had just passed, but her tummy had already begun rumbling in hunger. Xiaocao clasped her stomach, which was cramping slightly due to hunger, and her digging speed had also slowed down.

Qian Wen, who was closer to her, had inadvertently heard the sound. He touched the steamed bun within his embrace. After a short deliberation, he quietly moved closer to her as he continued to dig for the wild herbs. When he was about half a step away from her, he took out the steamed bun and swiftly stuffed it into her hands. After that, he stood up and quickly walked away.  

Xiaocao looked at the cloth bag in her hands, and then looked at the young man’s slender back. She opened the bag and saw a steamed bun that was made of wheat flour. At present, few families in the village could afford eating this kind of steamed bun. Auntie Qian had probably specially prepared it for her son.

She wanted to give it back to him, but he had already walked far away. If she caught up to him, it would be unsightly to push back and forth over a steamed bun. Xiaocao briefly thought about it, and then rewrapped the steamed bun and put it under the shepherd’s purse in the basket. She decided to find a chance to give it back to him on the way back.

It wasn’t the season to dig for wild herbs and the shepherd’s purse seedlings hadn’t completely sprouted yet, so they had the advantage of not needing to share with others. After digging for more than half a day, the four of them had filled up two baskets. Both baskets were full and heavy.

Little Shitou and Qian Wu used a branch to lift it up and walked in front. Xiaocao bent down to pick up the other basket, but another hand grabbed it before her.

Qian Wen picked up the basket and smiled at Xiaocao. The shallow dimples on the side of his face were slightly visible as he said, “Let’s go…”

On the way back, they encountered Hunter Zhao’s son, Zhao Han. He was walking towards Xiaocao’s house with a pheasant in his hands.   

Hunter Zhao’s family had moved to Dongshan Village thirty years ago. At that time, with the two year old Hunter Zhao, Hunter Zhao’s father had built a straw shed at the foot of the West Mountains and settled down. Their household registration wasn’t in Dongshan Village, so they naturally didn’t have any land. Fortunately, Grandpa Zhao was a skilled martial artist, so they were able to rely on hunting to make a living.

Fifteen years ago, Grandpa Zhao suddenly left for a period of time. When he returned, he told Zhao Bufan that he had selected a wife for him, who was Zhao Han’s mother. Madam Zheng had a gentle and graceful disposition. Moreover, her demeanor always revealed the upbringing of a young lady of a noble family. So everyone speculated that she might be the daughter of a fallen noble family. However, in Xiaocao’s opinion, Auntie Zhao had the agile and competence of a general’s daughter.

The young Zhao Han had also learned the skills that his family had passed down. Xiaocao had heard from her father that Grandpa Zhao would personally teach his son martial arts. Her father also mentioned that his skills had become more nimble after Hunter Zhao taught him a couple moves.

“Brother Han, did you just come back from hunting? How’s your harvest today?” Little Shitou dropped the basket in his hands and trotted towards him.

As a result of practicing martial arts for years, the thirteen year old Zhao Han was a lot taller than his peers. Based on a rough estimate, he looked to be over 1.7 meters tall. There was a healthy glow to his tan skin. He had a pair of long, straight eyebrows that were slanted upwards. His tiger-like eyes shone brightly from time to time. When compared to the fair and refined Qian Wen, who stood next to him, they each had their own merits. One was a scholar, while the other was a martial artist. 

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Translator: Myst