Chapter 6 – Into the mountain
Yan Shuqin, Yan Shuxue and Yan Shuyun stared at the steaming vegetable buns as they swallowed.
Ms. Zhong had been saving half a pound of corn flour, but since Yan Xiaosi got injured, she decided to finally use it.
Yan Xiaosi was starving to death. She took a bun and ate it quickly with some boiled water.
Shepherd’s purse has no peculiar smell. It was much better than the wild vegetables she ate last time. She could also swallow it with just plain water.
After finishing two of them, she realized that Ms. Zhong, Yan Shuqin, Yan Shuxue and Yan Shuyun had not eaten yet.
“Mom, elder sister, second sister, third sister, why aren’t you eating?”
Ms. Zhong asked with concern, “Are you full Xiaosi?”
Yan Xiaosi burped.
Although she was starving, she couldn’t stomach much food. She was completely full after two buns and a bowl of boiled water.
Just then did Ms. Zhong wave toward Yan Shuqin, Yan Shuxue and Yan Shuyun, “Xiaosi is full. You three should eat some as well.”
There were eight buns left. Ms. Zhong, Yan Shuqin, Yan Shuxue and Yan Shuyun each took one and ate them with some boiled water. After finishing, they didn’t take any more. Ms. Zhong put the four leftovers back in the pot.
Yan Xiaosi felt a bit awkward as she had eaten two.
She knew that it wasn’t because they weren’t hungry, but that they had nothing to eat at home. They were reluctant to eat all of their food in one meal.
After breakfast, Yan Shuqin and Yan Shuxue cleaned up the kitchen while Ms. Zhong and Yan Shuyun began preparing some woodcutting tools.
Yan Wenbo died early, so his parents took back the few acres of farmland they had. To survive, Ms. Zhong relied on cutting wood and selling them in Daxing Town. With winter coming, they would benefit from cutting some more wood. The first reason is that they could sell them for food that would sustain them through the winter. The second is that they needed quite a lot to survive the winter themselves.
Winter in the wild west of the Great Chu was especially harsh. Snow began to fall toward the end of December and wouldn’t melt until March of the next year.
Ms. Zhong and Yan Shuyun came back to the kitchen wearing baskets and holding sickles. Ms. Zhong stood at the kitchen door and said, “Xiaosi is injured, so stay home and rest today. The rest of the buns are in the pot. If you get hungry, just take them out and eat.”
Yan Xiaosi knew her injuries weren’t dire. She leapt to the door and said to Ms. Zhong, “Mom, I want to come too. Big sister, second sister and third sister are all heading into the mountain. How can I, a man, stay at home?”
Yan Shuyun laughed, “A fourteen-year-old boy doesn’t count as a man. Mom told you to rest, so be good and stay home.”
Yan Xiaosi didn’t really want to go collect wood. She had another reason to go up the mountain.
“Mom, it’s just some external injuries. They’re not too bad. Please let me go with you.”
Yan Shuqin finished washing their cookware and came to the door while wiping her hands.
“Mom, since Xiaosi wants to come with us, just let him come. What if the Chen brothers come to make trouble here?”
Yan Xiaosi hurriedly nodded, “Mmm-hmm.”
Siguniang Mountain was the nearest mountain to Shaoyao Village. The mountain range stretches hundreds of miles from East to West. There were four peaks for which it was named. There were dangerous predators, but also precious medical herbs. Normal people didn’t dare venture too deep. So, despite hiking into the mountain to collect firewood, they mostly stayed on the periphery of the mountain.