Published at 5th of December 2020 02:14:04 PM
Old Man Jin shook his head and solemnly thanked them before he brought the whole group to the three-roomed building on the east side . The smile on his face became more sincere as he said, “This three-roomed building normally doesn’t have people living in it . You all can first place your luggage here . In a bit, when my three daughters-in-law come back, I’ll have them help you clean things up . Xiaohu’zi, quickly go to the back courtyard and pick some vegetables so we can start the fire and help the guests make food!”
“No need, no need! We will do things ourselves!” Without waiting for Xiaocao’s command, Chunhua and Qiushi began to clean up the rooms . The east building had three rooms . Zhu Junyang and Su Ran were assigned to one, Xiaocao and her two maidservants were in another, while the last one was for Hou Xiaoliang, who had gotten lucky this time and had his own room .
When Old Man Jin’s three daughters-in-law came back with baskets full of corn on their backs, they had already finished cleaning and organizing the three rooms . The beds had been made with their own bedding and Yu Xiaocao took her two maidservants to the kitchen to begin cooking . They made a large pot of preserved meat with rice and stir fried some old string beans with stewed meat . In addition, they also made simmered eggplant casserole, stir fried old cucumbers, and spicy and sour cabbage . The portion sizes of all of the dishes were quite large and was enough to feed their group as well as Old Man Jin’s family . After all, they couldn’t just make the host family wait to eat just because they borrowed their kitchen, right?
When she saw that Old Man Jin’s three daughters-in-law had to haul back giant baskets of corn after working an entire day in the fields, she instructed Hou Xiaoliang to bring two of the more gentle horses to help them bring their harvest back . After getting their host’s permission, she picked out some more tender ears of corn from their basket and boiled them to eat .
The sweet smell of cooked corn lured Xiaohu, who had been taking care of his mother this entire time, out of the room . He sidled by the kitchen and lightly sniffed the air with his nose . Not only did the smell of tasty preserved meat hit his nose, but he also identified a new, sweet and savory odor . It made the saliva pool in his mouth .
Yu Xiaocao took out a just cooked ear of corn from the pot and waved it in the air to cool it a bit before she beckoned the young boy over, “Xiaohu, come here and try your family's corn . See if it tastes good or not . ”
When Jin Xiaohu found out this corn was planted by his family, he didn’t try to be polite and took the corn back to the room, “Mother, are you feeling better ah? It’s already been two days since you last ate . Eat some corn to fill your stomach first . In a bit, I’ll go help Eldest Aunt to make supper . ”
“Corn?” Xiaohu’s mother had slept a bit after taking a pill and now felt much better . Her chest no longer felt as tight as before and she already had an appetite again . She took the ear of corn from her son and asked, “Did you eat any yet?”
“That noble young maiden boiled many ears, so I’ll go grab some more later . Eat this first, okay? This is the corn that our family grew and it smells quite delicious . It must be good!” Jin Xiaohu secretly swallowed down his saliva and coaxed his mother to eat .
Xiaohu’s mother broke the ear in two and handed him half . She only began to gnaw on the corn in her hands after she saw him happily eating his share . The corn was soft and tender underneath their teeth . The more they chewed, the tastier it became . Even Xiaohu’s mother couldn't help but eat bite after bite . After she inadvertently finished her portion of corn, she finally realized just how delicious it was .
“Mother, it looks like noble guests that are here this time aren’t the same as the ones we had last time . Although the man dressed in black doesn’t look like someone we should offend, their servants haven’t tried to bully or walk all over us . As for that young maiden who has skin as white as snow, she doesn’t have any of the airs or arrogance of a noble family’s young miss . She even personally went into the kitchen to make food! I peeked in there earlier and saw that she made a lot of food . There’s a layer of preserved meat on top of the rice they cooked and they also made big portions of the other dishes . The spread is even better than what we eat during the New Years . ”
After Xiaohu finished eating his corn, he took his mother’s finished cob and threw it into a corner in the courtyard . There were hens over there and they clucked excitedly over the new food .
“The fact that they just gave us these medicinal pills for free shows us that they’re not bad people . We’re only a mere hunter’s family and have nothing of worth for them to covet . These people must have good hearts, so we must remember their kindness . ” Xiaohu’s mother gently stroked her son’s head and smilingly advised him .
“Then . . . I’ll go see if the traps we set earlier have any game in them . If they do, should I give them to the guests to add to their meal?” Jin Xiaohu no longer felt as resentful as he did earlier towards Xiaocao and the others . However, he still felt a bit conflicted inside .
However, as soon as he exited the room, he discovered that the courtyard had an additional two giant, monstrous animals——one black and one white wolf? Or were they dogs? One of them had a still twitching roe deer in its mouth while the other had a gray bird .
“Are . . . are these two animals your pets?” Jin Xiaohu watched as those two placed their caught prey in front of the maiden dressed in pink like they were presenting treasures . Then, the two large creatures lay down in front of her, acting cute and begging for pets . Their actions didn’t suit their large and ferocious looking exteriors at all .
Yu Xiaocao raised her head and saw that Jin Xiaohu had a face full of bewildered alarm and also a bit of anticipation . She grinned at him, “That’s right ah! Don’t judge these two foolish ones by their appearances . Without their owner’s command, they won’t harm anyone . Especially Little Black, he’s the good-natured one of the two . You can pet him if you like!”
The stupid roe deer that Little Black brought back suddenly jumped up from the ground and began to scramble around the courtyard in a panic . Little Black violently jumped over and used one claw to powerfully press the roe deer onto the ground until it couldn’t budge . Only after that episode did Jin Xiaohu discover that the prey that these two brought back didn’t have a single injury on them . As for the dusty gray bird that had been brought back by the white wolf, it was still calling out on occasion .
“Oh ho! It’s a hazel grouse ah! The sky has hazel grouse meat while the ground has donkey meat . Miss, you all are quite lucky today!” Old Man Jin had gone back and forth two times to help his family move the corn, and they had finished harvesting about one mu’s worth of corn . The corn had been piled in the courtyard . Old Man Jin made a quick estimate and was pretty sure that their harvest had exceeded a thousand catties . This year, they would be able to save quite a bit of money that was normally used to buy grain during the winter!
Yu Xiaocao had Zhu Junyang help to prepare the roe deer and hazel grouse meat . Then, she swiftly cooked up a pot of hazel grouse soup and stewed up a pot of roe deer meat . During the mealtime, she only served up enough food for their group and sent Chunhua and Qiushi with the remaining food to give to the Jin Family .
Old Man Jin attempted to refuse but saw that they sincerely wanted to give the food to them . He thanked them a few times and ended up taking their gift . There was savory preserved meat steamed on top of rice, a large basin of roe deer meat, a basin of hazel grouse soup, and a few different vegetable dishes . The Jin Family couldn't bear to make this much food during the New Years!
“Grandfather, they have given us both medicine and food . Do you think there’s something they want from us?” Jin Xiaohu gnawed on the roe deer meat as he mumbled out his question .
“What could they possibly want from us?” Old Man Jin was also a bit puzzled by their guests’ generosity .
“Father, do you think they want us to lead them into the mountain? Last time, the eldest son of the Lu Family was pressured to take some nobles up the mountain and ended up getting savaged by a black bear . When he got back, he only managed to endure for a few days before he passed, right? If they ask this of us, you absolutely cannot agree ah . How is this leading them into the mountains? This clearly is asking for us to act as bait!” The Jin Family’s second daughter-in-law was a shrewd one . The other two daughters-in-las also began to look worried and anxious .
“They probably wouldn’t, right? Do you think they really resemble those other people ah?” Old Man Jin placed down his bowl and chopsticks as he pondered over this
“Father, how are they not the same as the others? To the rich and powerful, are we, commoners, even people to them? In my opinion, we need to be careful of suspicious folks bearing gifts as they are sure to be ill-intentioned——they likely have ulterior motives!” His second daughter-in-law coldly huffed and picked up a piece of roe deer meat to chew on angrily . The rich added generous amounts of oil and seasonings to their food, so even the vegetables they cooked tasted better than what their own family made .
“Then what can we do ah?” The other two daughters-in-law were so worried now that they had no appetite . Only the second daughter-in-law continued to eat with relish, as if this didn’t affect her appetite .
“Grandfather, if they want us to bring them up the mountain, let me do it ah! I often run around the forest near the mountains and know where there aren’t any fierce beasts but plenty of prey . Even if we encounter any danger, I have nimble legs and feet and will be able to run much faster than those weak and soft young masters and misses!” After thinking about it in this way, Jin Xiaohu felt an urge to eat more . There was so much delicious food and savory meat . It’d be such a pity to not eat to his fill . It was better to fill his stomach than to continue to fret over this .
As the Jin Family continued to discuss how to avoid being taken advantage of, Xiaocao and the others were currently making their plans for the next day to enter the mountain .
“Tomorrow, just the three of us should go up, right? Didn’t they say that there are a lot of vicious creatures up there? It might not be a good thing to bring too many people along!” Yu Xiaocao gestured between herself, Zhu Junyang and Su Ran as she proposed her idea .
Chunhua and Qiushi immediately objected, “Our objective is to keep you safe, Young Miss . You also just said that there are fierce beasts in the mountain . We need to go with you . ”
Hou Xiaoliang regarded them with a bit of disdain as he opined, “With the master and Head Su around, does Miss Yu still need you two to protect her? Just obediently stay back and don’t drag them from behind . Look at me, I know my limits and didn’t even try to bring myself along!”
Chunhua and Qiushi wanted to continue to protest but they were interrupted by Zhu Junyang who made the final decision, “Alright, it’ll just be the three of us . Bring along Little Black and Little White . Cao’er, make sure you let those two know that they are not allowed to leave one step away from you . ”
“It’s not a big deal . Don’t I also have Little Glutinous Dumpling ah?” Yu Xiaocao pointed at the golden kitten that was sleeping soundly on her knee and gave a knowing look towards Zhu Junyang .
Su Ran, who was sitting on the other side of Xiaocao, reached out and picked up the golden kitten by its scruff and brought it over . He met the kitten’s golden eyes for a bit of time and then shook his head and put the angry little animal back down . He muttered to himself, “This kitten’s fur is a bit more brilliant than other cats’, but I don’t see anything else that’s special about it . Are you sure it’s able to protect you and wouldn’t just run off at the first sign of danger?” The second sentence he directed towards Xiaocao .
“Sir Su, don’t underestimate it . Although Little Glutinous Dumpling looks quite small, it’s very fast and has sharp claws . It can easily attack an opponent’s eyes . Even Little Black and the others don’t dare to provoke it!” Yu Xiaocao comforted the little divine stone who wanted to claw Su Ran for the insult . She said a few good words for it in front of Su Ran in order to have the other man not suspect her too much .
“Oh? It’s that special eh? Then it must not be an ordinary house cat right? Little Lass, where did you go to get so many powerful pets?” Su Ran was very interested in the arrogant and aloof white wolf . If it wasn’t Xiaocao’s pet, he would have long snatched it over . Now, she even had an additional strong little kitten and it really piqued his curiosity and desire to investigate more into this .
Yu Xiaocao unconfidently turned her gaze away and lifted the little golden kitten to her eye level . She had an unnatural smile on her face as she said, “I had picked up Little Glutinous Dumpling near the West Mountain, so who knows what type of breed it is . After raising it for so many years, it hasn’t gotten bigger . It’s always been so tiny and cute, so I kept it by my side . ”