Chapter 585 - Guest Residence

When she saw the jade pearl rice, Yu Xiaocao suddenly had the desire to make onigiri. Inside the cooked rice, she added dried meat, crispy melon, ham and some nuts to it. The combination, when chewed, felt very tasty and rich. For Su Ran, this was the first time he had eaten something so novel and he ended up accidentally eating too much. Thus, he had to walk around the vicinity later to aid in digestion.

Zhu Junyang also thought this method of eating was quite interesting and tasty. In the future, the army could add on ready-made onigiri as another type of ration to their supplies. Onigiri contained both rice and other ingredients. As long as you heated them up a bit, they could fill the stomach and they also tasted quite good!

After traveling for another day, they finally arrived at a tiny village at the foot of the wild and flourishing mountain. The word ‘tiny’ truly wasn’t an exaggeration. The village only had around seven to eight families in it, and they were all hunting families. In the winter, wild and vicious beasts often came down to attack the villages around the mountain. Thus, right before it was about to snow for the first time, the villagers would all move about fifty kilometers away to live in town. When spring came again, only then would they come back to their village and begin their planting.

Spring was the season for all of the animals to breed and flourish. Thus, the hunters all had an unspoken rule to not hunt animals that had babies with them, were young, or those that were heavily injured. The fall was the busy season for the hunters. At this time of year, all of the prey was plump and numerous, with glossy fur and high-quality meat. Furthermore, the animals moved around quite a bit at this time so it was more convenient to encounter them on a hunt.

Yu Xiaocao and the others arrived at this somewhat shabby-looking small village. Inside the village, there were only the old, young, and women left behind. All of their adult men had gone into the mountain to hunt. Although the hunters only dared to hunt on the outskirts of the mountain, the forest in that area stretched for hundreds of kilometers. Thus, the men only came back to the village once every ten to fourteen days. 

When the elderly and women in the village saw the group of people with their large horses, splendid clothing and imposing demeanors, they knew that they weren’t ordinary folks. Even their bodyguards and maidservants were dressed in such a way that showed that their masters had an extraordinary rank. Thus, these villagers only dared to watch them from afar and even made sure to keep their children and grandchildren close by, in order to avoid inadvertently offending these noble personages and bringing disaster upon themselves.

Although the elderly and women had curiosity written on their faces, there was no sign of timidity among them. After all, these were all the families of tough hunters. Even the women and elders were able to pick up weapons and fight when needed.

Out of the entire group, Yu Xiaocao looked the most harmless. Thus, she volunteered herself to negotiate with one of the villagers to use their home as a temporary resting place for them. She headed towards the largest residence that was in the village and had a bright and warm smile on her face. She spoke genially towards the elder and child who stood in front of the doors and said, “Old Grandfather, it’s nice to meet you! We’re merely passing through the area and it’s getting dark. We would like to rest at your gracious abode. Do you think we'd be able to?”

The old man’s hair and beard had gone completely white with age but his body was still strong and hale. His back was straight and his complexion was ruddy with health. There was a scar running across his forehead that he had most likely gotten from a hunting injury in his youth, but it didn’t make him look scary. The young boy next to him looked to be around ten years old and also looked quite strong. The boy held a hunting knife in his hand and had a wary look on his face.

The old man observed her minutely. He saw that the young maiden in front of him had bright and pure eyes with a brilliant smile on her face. He returned a genial smile and said, “You all are here to hunt, right? I won’t hide it from you. Every year, our village will get a few noble guests like yourselves who are here to tour the mountains and hunt game. If you noble folks don’t mind our crude situations, then please stay here ah!”

“Grandfather!” The little boy didn’t seem to welcome them at all as the expression on his face showed that he rejected them. It would be hard to blame him. After all, not everyone was easy to get along with. Generally, the more noble and highly-ranked the people were, the more issues they had. Last time, when they had housed some noble young maidens and masters, those people regarded everything around them with obvious disdain. They even claimed that the food that was served to them was only fit to feed pigs!

The people in front of them looked a lot more difficult to get along with than their past guests, especially that man who was dressed entirely in black riding on a black horse. That man had an expression on his face as if everyone owed him a couple hundred taels and his eyes were like knives. He didn’t even dare to meet that person’s eyes! As for the man dressed entirely in white, although he had a smile on his face, the smile didn’t reach his eyes, so he clearly wasn’t someone to tussle with either. Out of the six people in this group, only the young older sister in front of him seemed easy to communicate with. His grandfather was already of an advanced age and his mother was sick in bed. He truly didn’t want to serve these people and end up not even getting a word of gratitude back!

The old man lowered his head to look at his young grandson and rubbed his head. These noble folks had headed towards their residence as soon as they entered the village. If they refused them without a good reason, wouldn't that end up offending them to their detriment? That being said, he had lived for many years and had a good eye for people. Instinctually, he could tell that this group of people weren’t the type to throw around their wealth and rank for no reason or bully the common people.

“Honored, noble guests, please head inside!” He commanded his young grandson, “Take these guests and their horses to the stable in the back of the residence. Make sure their animals get some fodder and water…”  

“There’s no need to trouble this young fellow. Just tell me the general direction of the building. We brought along fodder for our animals!” Yu Xiaocao wanted to minimize the amount of trouble they caused for these people, so she tactfully refused the old man’s good intentions.

The little boy sneered slightly and muttered quietly, “What do you mean by ‘troubling us’? You may have brought your own fodder along but did you also bring your own water too?”

“Xiaohu!” The old man reprimanded his grandson and smiled apologetically at Xiaocao and the others. When he saw that they didn’t look angry, it confirmed his initial impressions of the group.

Jin Xiaohu puffed up his cheeks and reluctantly led them towards the shed for the animals. His family’s residence looked very similar to the residence Xiaocao’s Family had in Dongshan Village prior to their upgrades. It was a decently sized courtyard residence and had a five-room main building. The two side courtyards contained three-room buildings. The shack sheltering their draft animals was on the left side from where they first entered and there was already a strong and hale looking donkey hitched in there.

After the group of six’s horses had all been led into the shelter, the originally large and spacious shack seemed much more crowded now. That large donkey had been squeezed into the corner by Fierce Wind and Little Red and regarded the other strange ‘guests’ timidly.

Hou Xiaoliang retrieved the fodder and fed the horses until they were full. Little Red still acted spoiled towards Xiaocao and managed to beg a few pieces of rock candy to eat. When it saw Fierce Wind staring at it pitifully, it magnanimously gave the black horse a piece of candy to eat. As for the large donkey on the side, who was salivating over its leftover fodder, Little Red revealed a look full of disdain at this ‘country bumpkin’. ‘How is it ah? You’ve never had anything like this before, right? As for me, I’ve eaten this since I was young and sometimes feel sick of it!’

They left Hou Xiaoliang there to take care of their picky horses. Yu Xiaocao and Zhu Junyang had been invited to enter the living area. The old man gave them a brief tour of the residence, introducing the various parts of the house. Although their space seemed large and they had a lot of rooms, they also had quite a few people in their family. His sons, grandsons, and other elderly folks altogether came out to be nine people. Other than Xiaohu, who was by his side, the rest of the men had gone into the mountain. As for his daughters-in-law, other than his third daughter-in-law, who was ill in bed, the rest of them had gone to the wastelands at the foot of the mountain to harvest the corn they had planted there.

Last year, his eldest son had waited in line for a whole day and night at the grain store in town in order to buy the corn seeds that were rumored to produce a thousand catties per mu during harvest. After they finished their summer harvest, they followed the instruction booklet and planted the corn seeds. Although the land at the foot of the mountains was a bit infertile, the corn that grew out of it didn’t seem to be affected by the poor quality soil.

Clearly, this type of crop wasn’t very picky. Their about one mu of land had all grown very well and the corn ears were quite large and plump. Although he didn’t have much experience in planting crops, he could tell that the yield from this crop wouldn’t be very small! They had just reached the harvest season but all of his sons were in the mountains. Fortunately, his daughters-in-law were all hard workers. As soon as it was light out, they set out to the fields to harvest corn.

The other families in the village all kept an eye on them to see how their one mu of corn planting went. They all said that if their family had a good harvest, then, at the start of spring next year, they also planned on going into town to stand in line to buy seeds. That way, the money they had carefully saved throughout the year could be used to buy seeds and improve their families’ circumstances.

“Cough cough...Father, we have guests here? I’ll go make some food…” A sickly matron with a yellow complexion walked out of one of the side rooms after supporting herself at the door sill. She had one hand on her chest as she coughed incessantly. Yu Xiaocao noticed that her face was turning red from the effort and that her breathing was labored. She guessed that this woman likely had something wrong with her bronchioles or lungs.

“Mother, you haven’t gotten better yet. Quickly go back and lie down. They brought their own servants, so if they want to eat anything, they can make it themselves ah!” Jin Xiaohu stepped forward and supported the woman. He used his small body to help his mother support herself. As he walked her back to the room, he even looked back to glare angrily at Xiaocao and the others.

The old man hurriedly tried to explain the actions of his grandson, “My daughter-in-law had gotten a chill from the wind a few days ago. She refused to go see the doctor and insisted on staying at home, nursing herself with some common medicine. Yesterday night she ran a fever. Xiaohu is worried about his mother. Guests, please don’t take it to heart!”

Yu Xiaocao reckoned that this woman’s fever likely worsened her respiratory issues, so she took out a bottle of pills that were used to treat chills and respiratory ailments. She handed it over and said, “These are pills from Tongren Medicine Hall and are used to treat chills and lung ailments. It also can treat coughs and fevers. You should have Auntie take one pill at each meal. After taking it for three days, she should feel much better.”

Xiaocao still had quite a bit of confidence in the pills that she personally made.

“Medicinal pills from Tongren Medicine Hall?” The old man repeatedly waved a hand in refusal. He had gone to the prefectural city to sell fur pelts awhile ago and had walked past Tongren Medicine Hall. There had been many people in line there, waiting to buy medicines. The people said that their pills and syrups cost a few hundred taels per bottle and, despite the high price, were still often sold out. Every time new stock came in, it would very quickly disappear after people scrambled to buy some. The pills and syrups all had an expiration date of one year or later. Any family who had some money would always have some at home. It was better to be prepared!

The tiny bottle of pills in front of him likely cost a few hundred taels. His whole family was good at hunting but, at most, they could make thirty to fifty taels a year. When they were lucky and were able to kill an animal that had a rare pelt of fur, they could sell it for around a hundred taels. Their whole family would need to save money for many years before they could afford to buy such an expensive bottle of pills!

“We were fated to meet by chance, so please take it. Just take it as our rental fees for the next few days! Auntie’s illness should not go on any longer without being treated properly. Otherwise, a small illness could become much more serious.” Yu Xiaocao stuffed the bottle full of pills into the old man’s hands before asking, “Old Sir, where will we lodge tonight? We should unpack our luggage first and then begin to make food. I’m not going to lie to you. We’ve been camping outside for the past few days and we've started to long for some properly cooked food.” 

The old man saw that she was sincere in her actions and didn’t try to refuse anymore. He handed the bottle of pills to his grandson, who was already impatient to leave. As soon as Jin Xiaohu got the pills, he didn’t even say a word of thanks before running into the room where his mother was resting to retrieve some warm water before giving her medication.

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Myst.2's Thoughts

onigiri

Sanguine’s thoughts: I do understand the kid’s resentment towards them, but he’s a bit too overtly hostile towards them. If it were anyone else, he would have gotten whipped to death by now...

Translator: Sanguine