Chinese New Year's Eve, Shengtian.
Ever since Grandpa Jiang passed away, the two Jiang Brothers had never spent a Chinese New Year together. It was not that they held any grudges against one another, but a high-ranking government official and a wealthy businessman did not have much in common in terms of worldview or lifestyle. Forcing themselves into getting together would only turn into an awkward reunion.
This year turned out to be an exception. After learning Xiaozhai was coming home for the holiday, Father Jiang willingly sent out the invitation, asking his younger brother to spend the New Year's Eve together. Although Uncle Jiang found it rather strange, it wasn't some unpleasant event that he would turn down outright. He said yes.
Hence, the six people of the two families got together.
Right now, the two brothers were having a private conversation upstairs in the study with the door tightly shut, which was very odd. The two wives were making dumplings downstairs. Well, to be more precise, Mother Jiang was the one making dumplings, while Aunt Jiang was making rice cake.
Aunt Jiang's name was Yang Qing, a woman from the south of the Yangtze River, from a family of scholars. There was a gentleness of the South about her, sort of like the misty rain of the region. Her temperament was not as delicate as her appearance suggested, though. The fact that she was able to keep her throne as the queen of the family for the past two or three decades despite her husband's position and wealth was proof enough of her exceptional intelligence.
It was a little past eight o'clock in the evening and the annual Spring Festival Gala was the ongoing program. The two wives chatted as they watched the show.
"The gala is mainly for people of the North. It makes you think the entire country is eating dumplings on New Year's Eve. To be honestly, though, before I knew all my friends from the South, I used to think the same way."
"I don't watch it that often. The singing and dancing I might take a look at, but I could never get the cross talks and the short sketches, nor do I find them funny."
Yang Qing's voice was always gentle and soft. She kept her hands busy while talking to Mother Jiang. After taking out the cooked glutinous rice, which she had mashed and cooled beforehand, and putting together a filling made from sugar, sesame, prunes, raisins, etc., she brushed a thin layer of lard on a square plate, then put in a layer of the glutinous rice. A layer of the filling was then put on top of the rice, followed by another layer of rice. There were three layers of fillings in total.
The whole thing was then set into a pot and steamed. It was known as the "New Year's cake of eight treasures".
"Sigh, I think I only got to taste your delicious dishes once, when you two just got married. After that, we didn't get much chance to get together. Today is my lucky day." Mother Jiang sighed with emotion.
"Haha, we've all been busy. Spring Festival is a great time for us to catch up."
Yang Qing finished preparing the cake, then darted a look at the bedroom and whispered, " Sister-in-law 1 , Jin Jin has been with Xiaozhai after she graduated. I have no idea what she's been up to and she wouldn't tell me anything. Do you know anything about it?"
"Well, I don't know much, either. Actually, we know very little about what the youngsters are doing nowadays and there isn't much we can talk to them about." Mother Jiang paused a little and added, "As long as they are safe, I can't ask for more."
"You're so easily reassured."
Yang Qing smiled and did not press on.
Back in the bedroom, Xiaozhai and Xiaojin had occupied the entire bed, where they stretched out happily. The 177-cm and 175-cm bodies lay flat on the bed. At a glance, there was nothing but long legs 2 .
The younger one was playing a game while Xiaozhai was checking out that app.
In merely a couple of day's time, seven more species were added to the biological atlas. The Plant category still had the most entries—nineteen spread out across fifteen provinces. The Animal category had thirteen, collected from nine provinces.
The Meteorology remained empty and there was still only one entry under Geography, which was the Peach Blossom Miasma of Grass River Mouth.
She checked the plants first and saw nothing special. All entries were common mutations with improved medicinal value at most. She then turned to the animals and let out a little cry.
"Blackfin Yellow-tailed Eel: snake-shaped, 110 to 160 cm in length; can grow to as long as 2 m. The original species was the ricefield eel. The mutated fish has an additional fan-shaped dorsal fin and the tip of its tail is golden-colored and covered with barbs.
The skin is naked, scaleless, moist, and covered in abundant slime. It has an enlarged head and tiny teeth are found along its upper and lower jaws, as well as on the palatal bones. It has extremely strong bite force, enabling it to break the arm of an adult effortlessly. The fish is savage and aggressive. Approach with great caution.
Place spotted: aquaculture area along Yueyang—Junshan—Huarong region of east Dongting Lake; aquaculture area along Qili Lake—Muping Lake region of west Dongting Lake. The fish was found in great numbers and five people have been found bitten.
Its blood is toxic, it can irritate the mucous membranes of the mouth and digestive tract, as well as damage the nerve system, causing numbness to the limbs, respiratory failure, circulation collapse, and eventually death. However, the toxin is not heat-resistant, rendering the fish edible after being cooked in high temperature. It nourishes vitality and improves physical strength, as well as neutralizes certain toxins of the opposite attribute."
"Big-toed Thickshell Turtle: 80-130 cm in length, 50-90 cm in height standing up, has a flat oval torsal, covered by thick shells both on the back and the abdomen. The animal has an exceptional defensive ability, it can withstand bullets of various types.
The original form was the soft-shelled turtle. The mutated form has small eyes, newly developed teeth, and a thin and long neck. All four limbs have five toes, the inside three of which have sharp claws.
The animal is of a gluttonous nature, will engage in cannibalism when food is scarce, and even crawl ashore to hunt for human beings. The species has abandoned hibernation and is found in all aquaculture area in the Dongting Lake region. So far there was no casualty report."
"Hyriopsis cumingii: originated from Hyriopsis cumingii, which was widely cultivated in the Dongting Lake Region. The mutated species was not significantly altered. The main difference is the enlarged size and the darkened color. Its habits and characteristics remains unchanged.
The type of clam is endemic to our country and ideal for cultivating pearls. With every 80 to 120 of such clam, 500 g of core-less pearls can be produced. This clam is also capable of cultivating pearls with core, colored pearls, luminescent pearls, etc. Moreover, pearl implantation is operable on the species. By inserting a pearl-planting core into the pallium of a grown clam, pearls as big as 8 mm in diameter can be cultivated.
The flesh is edible. Pearl powder is known to release the internal heat, calm the mind, be anti-putrid, help with tissue regeneration, improve eyesight, relieve fever, etc. The outcome of cultivating the mutated clam has yet to be observed. Related experiment is still ongoing."
"Dongting Lake, Dongting Lake..." Xiaozhai muttered, a hint of resignation in her voice. "The aquatic creatures are joining the game. It'll be a handful."
Jin Jin heard her and moved closer to look at her phone. She cried out, "Wow, even ricefield eels are going spiritual now? Anyone go live-stream with one of THAT and I'll give her 100 million reward tokens 3 !"
Xiaozhai rolled her eyes and could not be bothered to comment. She only said, "All three were found in Dongting Lake. The underwater environment is a different story from the dry land. I hope nothing catastrophic will happen."
She was right to get concerned, for Dongting Lake had so much more potential than Flaming Mountain.
The lake was a descendent of the Great Lake of Yunmeng 4 of the ancient times. According to "Annals of Hanyang", "Cloud lies to the north of the river and dream to the south." The area in between was known as "Yunmeng".
In its heyday, the great lake was as vast as 40,000 km^2. The ancient Yunmeng reached as far as Qi Zhou on the east, Zhi River on the west, Jing Mountain on the north, and Qingcao on the south.
The sediment deposition in the later years gradually divided Yunmeng Lake into two parts. The part to the north of the Yangtze River became a swamp and a vast lake remained in the part to the south of the Yangtze River—Dongting Lake.
If the lake mutated and brought back Yunmeng… Tsk, tsk, we wouldn't want to go there!
"Xiaozhai, Xiaojin, dinner's ready!"
The two stayed in bed for another while before they were summoned. They then left the bed and went out.
Father Jiang and Uncle Jiang happened to walk out at that same moment. Uncle Jiang did not give the two girls any unusual look, which meant he probably did not know what was really going on yet, but they could detect a gloominess there; it was likely that Father Jiang had told him something.
Uncle Jiang drank a lot during the dinner and went dizzy in no time. Yang Qing then helped him into the guest room.
Mother Jiang cleaned the table and Xiaojin played the good girl, running around helping her aunt. Father Jiang, on the other hand, looked embarrassedly at his daughter and asked in an awkward tone, "Shall we talk?"
"Yeah." Xiaozhai nodded.
Thus, the father and daughter went into the study.
For a while there, the atmosphere was very odd. Both were very polite—so polite that they did not seem like family.
After a very long silence, Xiaozhai finally spoke. Despite having prepared himself for this moment, Father Jiang was still shocked by what she said.
"Dad, is it possible for you and mum to quit your jobs?"TL/N: I know addressing the person you're talking to as "sister-in-law" sounds a little weird in English, but that's the common expression in Chinese. Since we don't know Mother Jiang's given name, I just kept it that way. ED/N: I thought it's not that uncommon? xD TL/N: long legs, again, LoL... TL/N: see footnote of Chapter 94 for the live-stream reference. TL/N: meaning "cloud and dream"