Chapter 231 - Oldest Paternal Aunt
The refugees in the ‘refugee camp’ saw a rich-looking man stride towards them in an agitated manner, while being chased by a pretty little girl . The refugees were afraid of offending the nobles, so they all moved away . After the father-daughter pair passed by, they whispered about what had happened .
Hearing his younger daughter’s voice, Yu Hai halted his steps with difficulty, turned around, and held the hand of his younger daughter, who was chasing after him . After that, he continued to walk towards that familiar figure .
“Father? Who did you see? Is it my oldest aunt?” Since the beginning of winter, her father had been worried about her oldest paternal aunt, who lived in the northeast disaster area . They didn’t know her oldest aunt’s situation . There had long been refugees coming to Tanggu Town, yet they hadn’t received any news from her oldest aunt .
Holding onto his younger daughter’s small hand, Yu Hai felt very anxious, but he still slowed down to match his daughter’s pace . As they got closer to that thin figure, Xiaocao felt her father’s hand slightly trembling .
“Husband, drink some congee . The congee at Tanggu Town is much thicker than that of other places . There’s quite a lot of rice inside!” With a smile full of warmth, Yu Caifeng gently lifted the man lying on the straws, who was so thin that he barely looked like a human .
The man coughed violently, and his haggard face was completely flushed as if he would stop breathing at any time . The refugees around them were afraid that he was suffering from tuberculosis, so they all moved away .
The man finally calmed down slightly . He worked hard to inhale a few times, and then weakly said, “I’m not hungry . You and the children should drink it!”
Yu Caifeng shook her head resolutely and said in a soft voice, “The children are waiting in line to get congee! Since we have arrived in Tanggu Town, we are considered home already . After you drink this congee and recover some strength in your body, we will go to Dongshan Village tomorrow . ”
The man moistened his dry lips, which were cracked and bleeding, with his tongue . He sighed and said, “I’m being a burden to you and the children . If it wasn’t for my treatment, you wouldn’t have to suffer with me . I reckon that I won’t be able to survive this illness . It would be a waste for me to eat this congee, so it is better for you to eat it! The children are still young, so you can’t fall sick…”
“What are you saying! You just have a cold, and you haven’t recovered due to the poor conditions on the road . When we get back to Dongshan Village, I’ll borrow some money from my father and get a doctor from Tongren Medicine Hall to treat your illness… Doctor Sun of Tongren Medicine Hall in town has excellent medical skills . Everyone says that if he’s willing, he can certainly be an imperial physician with his skills . He will definitely be able to cure you! Hurry up and drink the congee!!” With tears brimming in her eyes, Yu Caifeng pretended to be fierce .
The man was several years older than her, and he was also a widower . When she first married him, she had a strong temperament and regarded him with contempt for a long time . However, the man had a good temper . He tolerated her little temper and pampered her as a young maiden . Although she wasn’t satisfied with this marriage at first, she was moved by the man’s sincerity and lived with him wholeheartedly . After depending on each other for fifteen years, it had already become a habit for her to rely on him and trust in him . Now, she seriously couldn’t imagine how she would continue living without him…
Looking at his wife’s helpless and indecisive eyes, the man felt a sharp pain in his heart that was even more unbearable than his illness . He forced out a smile and said, “Okay! I’ll drink this congee! I have already persevered all the way to here, so no matter what, I must hold on! I’m really still very worried about you and our three children…”
“Don’t speak anymore . Drink the congee…” After wiping her eyes, Yu Caifeng scoped a spoonful of congee with a spoon, gently blew on it, and delivered it to the man’s mouth . The man held the congee in his mouth and worked hard to swallow it .
Yu Xiaocao and her father saw this scene from afar and had a mixture of feelings in their hearts . At this time, three children holding congee passed by them . The oldest boy spoke with a slightly brisk voice, “Father, Mother! The people handing out the congee here are pretty nice . Even young kids like us can get a full bowl of congee! These three bowls are enough for our whole family!!”
Among them was a young girl, who was about the same age as Xiaocao . She watched as the man finished half of the bowl of congee and revealed a happy smile, “Father seems to be in good spirits today! Your appetite has gotten a lot better! Mother, is Father’s illness going to get better soon?”
Yu Caifeng fed congee to the man and said, “When we see your uncle tomorrow, your father will be able to treat his illness in town . The doctors in town are very skilled, so your father’s illness can definitely be cured!”
The youngest of the three children asked naively, “Mother, when Father gets better, we won’t have to beg for food anymore, right?”
Yu Caifeng’s nose was sour as she nodded heavily and said, “When your father’s illness is cured, he can go find a job in town . Your father is very capable, so he definitely won’t have a problem supporting our family of five!”
“Yay! Other people won’t call us ‘little beggars’ anymore! Mother, Xiaoping don’t want to be called a little beggar and beg for food . Eldest Brother said that we are just going through a difficult time for now, and it will get better in the future!” With a pair of big eyes that were similar to Yu Caifeng’s, the young boy exclaimed in an innocent and serious manner .
Seeing this scene, Yu Hai choked up and hastened his steps . He shouted at Yu Caifeng, “Older Sister!!”
The hand that Yu Caifeng held the bowl of congee with abruptly shook, as if she couldn’t believe it . She turned her head slowly, and when she saw Yu Hai, her lips trembled and she couldn’t utter a word .
“Older Sister!” Yu Hai rushed forward and hugged Yu Caifeng, who was so thin that she only had bones left . The tears that had been welled up in his eyes for a long time flowed down his face .
“Xiaohai? Is it Xiaohai?” Yu Caifeng still couldn’t believe it, for fear that she was in a dream . Her motivation to persist on the road, other than her children, was her younger brother, whom she hadn’t seen for over a decade .
“Older Sister, it’s me! I’m your Xiaohai!! Older Sister, you have suffered!!” Yu Hai hugged his older sister and cried like a child .
His older sister was only three years older than him . When his mother passed away, his older sister held back her grief, and like how Yu Hai was embracing her now, she comforted him . When Madam Zhang skimped on the siblings’ meals on the pretext of food shortage, his older sister often shared a portion of the little food that she had . In order to protect him, his older sister had often been beaten and scolded by Madam Zhang . Even though he was nearly thirty years old now, he was still ‘Xiaohai’ who relied on his older sister .
Yu Caifeng held Yu Hai’s face, carefully examined him, and smiled with relief, “Xiaohai, Older Sister is relieved to see that you’re living a good life . ”
Yu Hai saw his sister and the children were wearing rags that could barely cover their bodies . He frowned and asked, “Older Sister! In autumn, I asked someone to send a message to tell you to come home . Why did you guys only arrive now? Didn’t I send some traveling expenses? How did you guys turn out like this?”
Yu Caifeng finally noticed the expensive, fine cotton robe on her younger brother’s body . Although she was surprised that Madam Zhang was actually willing to let her younger brother wear such nice clothing, she didn’t inquire about it . She just sighed and said, “Ay… It’s a long story!”
From Yu Caifeng’s words, Yu Hai had learned that due to his older sister and brother-in-law’s hard work and frugality, their family had some surplus grain . There was a great drought in the northeast . The couple had received Yu Hai’s letter and money, but they were reluctant to let go of their hard-earned property . As a result, they took out twenty taels from the money that Yu Hai sent over and secretly hoarded some grain to see if they could survive until spring plowing .
They hadn’t expected that, after surviving the winter, those famine victims had found out from an unknown source that their family had excess grain and rushed to their house . They destroyed their belongings, stole their grain, and also injured her husband . Fortunately, Yu Caifeng had securely hidden the remaining thirty taels, so it wasn’t discovered .
Their food was robbed, and the valuable belongings at home were also taken by those famine victims . With no other choice, Yu Caifeng and her husband packed their bags, took their children, and finally joined the refugees .
On the way, the group of refugees were suddenly attacked by the cold spring, and many of the refugees had fallen sick . Thinking that he had a strong, healthy body, Yu Hai’s older brother-in-law, Liu Hu, gave his clothes to his wife and children, and thus fell ill .
At first, Liu Hu didn’t take his illness to heart . Didn’t he recover from his previous illnesses pretty quickly? He didn’t want the trip to be delayed due to himself, so even when he had a high fever, he didn’t say anything . He just endured it and continued on the journey . As a result, he had fallen ill right after they left a small town in the northeast .
At this time, his originally small cold had turned into pneumonia . The small town had poor medical standards and only had one barefoot doctor . They spent the money and got medicine for him . However, Liu Hu illness always came back and couldn’t completed be cured .
In this way, they need to stay at a lodging and treat his illness . More than a month later, the money that Yu Caifeng brought along had been completely used up . Liu Hu felt that his illness couldn’t be treated, so he refused to accept treatment and insisted on continuing on the journey . Yu Caifeng failed to talk him out of this idea, so they had to pawn off their unnecessary belongings, rent an ox cart, and continue on the road to the south .
On the road, Liu Hu’s condition fluctuated . All their traveling expenses had been spent, so they didn’t even have enough to eat, let alone rent a cart . The whole family supported each other and begged for food as they continued on their journey . Had it not been for the belief in his heart, Liu Hu would have collapsed a long time ago—Before he died, he must see his wife and children return to their hometown and reunite with their relatives . Otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to die in peace!
Once a person was supported by faith, they often could create miracles . Dragging his sick body, Liu Hu was actually able to see the main gates of Tanggu Town . Seeing the moment that his wife and her younger brother embraced each other, a heavy sense of weariness fell upon him—Perhaps, this was the moment he could leave at ease .
“Father… Father! Mother, Father fainted again!!” Yu Caifeng’s eldest son, Liu Junping gently shook his father, but didn’t receive any response . So he shouted in slight panic .
Yu Caifeng turned around and saw her husband’s ashen complexion . She felt alarmed in her heart and rushed to him . With a trembling finger, she reached under her husband’s nose . After testing, her complexion instantly changed and she hollered, “Husband!” After that, she fainted in front of Yu Hai .
Yu Hai quickly lifted his older sister’s body . He looked at Liu Hu, who was lying on the straw with his eyes tightly shut, and felt a sour feeling in his heart .
“Father! Father!!” The three children, who seemed to have realized something, shook Liu Hu’s body as they cried . Those who heard them would feel heart-broken, and those who saw them would shed tears .