Mu Yangling didn’t know what her father said when he went to look for her great-uncle. In any case, when her father came back, he said, “We’ll go to West Mountain Village tomorrow. Stay at home and don’t run around.”
Mu Yangling jumped up and said, “I want to go too!”
Mu Shi frowned. “Nonsense. We adults are going to talk about serious matters. Why would you tag along?”
“Cousins and I can go to help Great-aunt with her work while you guys talk about business.” Mu Yangling said, “Great-aunt’s family’s grains are still piled up in the fields. How can the three of them carry all that grains when they’re either old or weak. Since you guys are going there to talk about business, you can’t possibly work in the fields, right? So Father, let me go.”
Mu Shi glared at her. Mu Yangling said, “Anyway, since all the men in the village have gone, they definitely won’t be able to do anything. What’s wrong with letting Mother go to Great-uncle’s house for a day? We’ll definitely be back before the sun sets.”
Mu Shi only felt a headache coming on. It was not good for his daughter to have such a temperament and too many ideas.
Mu Yangling did not manage to convince Mu Shi, but she convinced Shu Wanniang. She had long heard from her daughter about Great-aunt’s difficult circumstances.
Madam Ma-Liu was Mu Shi’s eldest aunt. Among all his relatives, Shu Wanniang had the deepest impression and feelings for her.
It was because she was the only one who came over to help when Mu Yangling was born back then. She was also the one who arranged for the custom of giving bath to the baby on its third day. When Mu Yangling refused to drink milk, she was the one who taught her how to make rice soup for the child step by step. She even served her for five days in the Mu Residence.
If it weren’t for the fact that she had been ill all these years and that Little Bowen’s health also fluctuated between good and bad, Shu Wanniang would have kept in touch with this relative no matter what.
Now that her family’s situation was getting better and she knew that this aunt was not doing well, Shu Wanniang naturally hoped to help out wherever possible.
At his wife’s insistence, Mu Shi could only tacitly agree. He said, “I’ll go look for Eldest Uncle and the others tomorrow morning and get Liu Lang and Liu Lun to go over. Finally, I’ll make another trip there with Cousin the day after tomorrow.”
“Bring more meat over. The two of you eat like you’re fighting a war. You have to bring more things since you’re there to help her. Don’t drag your aunt down when the time comes.”
Mu Yangling continued, “I’ll get up early tomorrow morning and go into the mountains to see if I can catch a roe deer. If I can, we can have that for lunch.”
“Do you think roe deers are rabbits that run all over the mountain? Do you think you catch one so easily? Quickly take a shower and go to sleep.” Mu Shi pushed his daughter out and said to Shu Wanniang, “You’re too easy on her. This child is getting more and more ambitious.”
Shu Wanniang pursed her lips and smiled. “It’s all because you pampered her. How many things have you two been hiding from me? I merely promised her this one thing.”
Mu Shi immediately did not dare to say anything else, afraid that his wife would bring up old scores.
Most of the villagers in West Mountain Village had the surname Ma, while most of the villagers in Nearhill Village had the surname Liu. Therefore, when Mu Shi mentioned it last night, his Great-uncle, Liu Daqian, went to look for his younger brother, Liu Erqian, and a few cousins who were collateral relatives by blood up to the fifth degree of kinship.
Early in the morning, everyone brought their own food and waited at Liu Daqian’s house.
Liu Daqian frowned slightly when he saw the half bag of rice that Mu Shi brought over. “What will your great-uncles think if you bring so much?”
Madam Ma-Liu’s life was difficult. Although everyone was going to speak up for her, according to the custom, they had to bring their own rice. When the time came, Madam Ma-Liu would cook them together and provide a few pots of vegetables.
However, everyone only brought their own rations. It was inevitable that others would be displeased to see Mu Shi bring so much.
Mu Shi said, “Ah Ling and I eat a lot, that’s why I’m bringing more.”
“Ah Ling? Why is she going too?” Liu Daqian disagreed. “The child is still young. Don’t speak to her about these things.”
“Ah Ling said that she wanted to go over and help Auntie harvest grain crops. She also said that she wanted to bring Liu Lang and the others over.”
Madam Liu-Zhao, who was originally standing at the side, was dissatisfied. Her son had been exhausted from working in the fields for the past few days. How could she bear to let them work in another village?
However, Liu Lang and Liu Lun were tempted. Not by the prospect of work, but by the meat that Mu Yangling was going to bring along. They tugged at their mother’s sleeve and whispered in her ear, “Mother, there’s meat to eat if we go with Cousin.”
Liu Lun nodded repeatedly and gazed at his mother longingly.
Madam Liu-Zhao hesitated and asked Mu Shi, “Why isn’t Ah Ling here?”
Mu Shi was a little helpless. “That child went into the mountains early in the morning. She said she was going to hunt for a roe deer.”
Madam Liu-Zhao’s eyes lit up. Since she said that she was hunting for a roe deer, even if there was no roe deer, there should be other meat, right?
The children only had a little meat last night, and it was the strip of meat that Mu Shi had given them. However, since their family hadn’t split up their assets, the meat was split between five children and six adults from the two families. Being just more than a catty, the meat was not even enough to fill the gaps between their teeth. Her mother-in-law even hid half of it, planning to add a little every day to add some flavor to the dishes.
Liu Lang and Liu Lun swallowed their saliva and whispered, “Roe deer meat is delicious.”
“You make it sound like you’ve eaten it before. It’s only delicious when it’s roasted,” Liu Lang said. “Last time, Ah Ling roasted some for us. Unfortunately, Ah Yun almost discovered it.”
When Madam Liu-Zhao heard the two children’s muttering, she couldn’t help but frown. Still, she looked up at her father-in-law, Liu Daqian, and said, “Father, why don’t we let the two children go? They haven’t been to Aunt’s house for a long time. Oh right, let Big Sister follow them, too.”
Madam Liu-Zhao’s daughter, Liu Rong, was 10 years old this year, and her nickname was ‘Big Sister’. Her cousin, Liu Yun, was the second daughter of the Liu family, so she was called ‘Second Sister’.
Madam Liu-Zhao’s sister-in-law glanced at her and said to her father-in-law, “In that case, why don’t all five children go?”
Liu Daqian frowned. “Why would we bring along so many children? Just the three of them will do. If they want to help your aunt, they can always go the day after tomorrow. Alright, when will Ah Ling come out? We’re leaving now.”
Mu Shi glanced at the sun in the sky and said, “I told her that regardless of whether she can catch a roe deer or not, she has to come out at this time. She’s probably already waiting at the foot of the mountain.”
“Then let’s go.”
A group of more than 10 people walked towards the foot of West Mountain.
Mu Yangling was sitting on the ground, plucking weeds and waiting in boredom. When she saw them coming, she jumped up and waved. Only then did everyone see that the prey beside her was not a roe deer, but a goat.
The eldest uncle, Liu Ting, smiled. “Ah Ling is so capable. You can even catch a goat.”
Mu Yangling said, “Goats aren’t as delicious as roe deers.”
Everyone: “…” What should they do if they couldn’t even afford to eat meat? To think she actually despised it like this.
Liu Lang and Liu Lun, on the other hand, were delighted. Eyes sparkling, Liu Rong ran to Mu Yangling’s side and called out gently, “Cousin, let me help you carry the basket.”
“No, my basket isn’t heavy at all.”
Mu Shi placed the bag of rice in his hand into his daughter’s basket. Then, he carried the dead goat and walked in front. “Let’s go.”
They passed through the mountains. Because there were many people, they walked a little slower, but they still reached in an hour.
Seeing that more than 10 people suddenly entered the village, half of them being young adults, the villagers of West Mountain Village could not help but be vigilant. Someone ran over to stop them. “Who are you? Why are you in our village?”
The eldest uncle, Liu Ting, stood up and said, “We are from the Liu Family of Nearhill Village. We are here to look for our great-aunt and the patriarch of the Ma Family of West Mountain Village. Brother, which family are you from?”
The person who ran out was shocked. Recalling the dispute between Ma Youcai’s family and Madam Liu yesterday, he knew that her family had come to seek justice for her. He pointed at the threshing floor and said, “They’re all on the threshing floor. Ma Youcai’s family went to the patriarch and asked to redistribute the threshing floor.”
“What?” The bad-tempered Liu Zhuang jumped up. “The Ma family has gone too far. Not only did they occupy Aunt’s farmland previously, they even want to occupy her threshing floor now. Do they still have any shame?”
Liu Daqian was also furious, but at his age he could suppress his temper. He turned to Mu Shi and said, “Bring the stuff to your aunt’s house and put them down first. Meanwhile, we’ll head to the threshing floor.”
Mu Shi nodded.
Mu Yangling had already dragged the three little ones to look for Great-aunt.
Liu Daqian nodded to himself. It wasn’t good for them to run over aggressively, but he was also worried that his older sister would be bullied. It was good that Ah Ling was running over. With her around, no one could bully his sister.