Chapter 97 – The Sick Donkey
The ox and horse market was located in the northmost part of the town. It was an open area that was surrounded by wooden fences. At this time, ox and horse market bustled with activity. People who sold oxen, horses, and mules had all gathered here. The air gave off the smell of animal feces, making it smell very unpleasant.
“I’m selling a calf! This calf is just two months old. It’s very sturdy! Brother, I can sell the calf to you at a cheaper price if you want it.”
“Brother look at my mule. It’s only two years old and so it’s the perfect time for it to start working…”
“There seems to be a problem with your mule’s legs. It can’t walk so what do I need it for?”
“The calf is too small. I want a calf that will be able to work at the beginning of spring…”
“Uncle, look at my…”
Her ears were full of various kinds of sounds. However, Xiaocao felt that the noises felt very familiar. On her way, she had asked a few people regarding the price of their oxen and mules. But all their prices were on the high side. It was just like her father had said, if they hadn’t paid for Little Shitou’s school fees, then they might have been able to buy one. But even then, they still won’t have enough money leftover to equip it with a cart.
It was not known if the Heavens was deliberately setting itself against Xiaocao, but she didn’t see many people selling donkeys after circling around the market once. Occasionally there would be a family that was selling a donkey; however, their asking price was beyond reasonable limits. Their asking price was even higher than the price of an ox.
“Hey! It’s bustling with noise and excitement over there. Let’s go and look…” Yu Hai also knew that it was not easy to reach a deal when buying an animal. So unlike Xiaocao who had a glum look on her face, when he saw that there was a crowd of people in front of them, he immediately pulled his daughter’s hand and squeezed into the crowd.
Like he was conferring a favor, a man said, “Pedantic scholar, your donkey is sick to the point that it’s about to stop breathing. Yet you’re still asking for such a high price. Who will buy it? Let it be. Forget about it. I’m a kindhearted person. I will take pity on you and pay eight hundred copper coins to buy your donkey cart!” The middle-aged man with a shrewd-looking face looked at the donkey which was as skinny as firewood.
Xiaocao, who had squeezed through the crowd, saw a youngster crouched down in front of a donkey. The youngster was around sixteen to seventeen years old, and he wore the uniformed long gown from Rongxuan Academy. The donkey was so thin that there were only bones left. It was weakly lying on the ground because it didn’t even have the energy to stand up. If its abdomen wasn’t still moving up and down, she would’ve thought the donkey was dead. The youngster’s face was full of melancholy as he shook his head. He quietly said, “No, no! It already takes one tael of silver to make a donkey cart. My father is waiting for the money I earn from the donkey cart to save his life! Eight hundred copper coins aren’t even enough for two packets of medicine…”
The middle-aged man impatiently asked, “Pedantic scholar, how much money do you want to sell this half-dead donkey for?”
“Three…three taels of silver! My father is very sick. He needs this money to see a doctor…” The young scholar appeared to understand that his asking price was somewhat excessive, so his voice was almost inaudible.
But he also had no choice. All the valuables in the family had already been sold off to pay for his school fees. They had relied on this donkey cart to help people carry their goods or transport people around to town to earn money to survive. However, he had never expected that five days ago, the donkey had started vomiting and had diarrhea. It was very sick, so they found a few veterinarians. But none of the veterinarians were able to help. His father was anxious and suffered from excessive internal heat and ended up catching a cold. Now, his dad couldn’t get out of his bed.
There was no money at home to invite a doctor, so he brought the sick donkey to the market to try his luck…
The middle-aged man sneered at him and rudely said, “You want me to pay three taels of silver for that sick donkey? Little scholar, you must know that a big healthy male donkey costs only five taels of silver. And your donkey…tsk, tsk! I’m afraid that even if you kill it and sell its meat, you wouldn’t be able to even get a few taels of silver. I am already showing consideration towards you by paying eight hundred copper coins for that sick donkey!”
“Yeah, yeah! Who would pay three taels of silver for a donkey that’s about to die?”
“Eight hundred copper coins is too little. That amount isn’t even enough to buy a donkey cart. If it’s me, I wouldn’t be willing to sell it either……”
“This child is too pitiful. Looking at the attire the young boy is wearing, he must be a student from Rongxuan Academy. If he didn’t urgently need money, he probably wouldn’t be here and letting people point and gossip about him……”
The onlookers that were surrounding him were divided into two parties. One party said that the youngster had become insane thinking about money, while the other party sympathized and felt pity for the youngster.
The young scholar’s face was pale. His gaze looked crazed as he stared at the donkey which was struggling at death’s door. He continuously said, “No, no…my father is waiting for the money I earn from selling the donkey to save his life. He is waiting for me to save his life……”
Yu Xiaocao was somewhat touched by the young scholar’s filial piety as she looked at him. She thought back to the time when her father was between life and death. She recalled how grief-stricken they were and how helpless the entire family felt. Xiaocao shouted for the little divine stone in her mind, [Little Glutinous Dumpling, will you be able to save this donkey?]
A mini golden kitten squeezed itself out from Xiaocao’s chest region of her tattered cotton-padded jacket. It stretched its little head and lazily glanced at the donkey and in a tender but an unhappy voice, it said, [Smelly master, what do you take me for? You used me as fish bait and to save people. Now, you want me to rescue a domestic animal. I’m unwilling! I, your father, will go on strike!]
Imagine a very small kitten with one of its legs crossed over its other, holding its two front legs, with its head tilted to the side, and calling itself ‘daddy’. The scene was quite cute but also a bit weird.
Xiaocao patiently worked on it, “Little Glutinous Dumpling, the Goddess of Spirits had thrown you into the mortal world because she wants you to learn and gain experience in the mortal world. The so-called saying, ‘saving a life is more meritorious than building a seven-floor pagoda’. If you do good and kind deeds, your achievements will allow you to return to the Goddess Nuwa’s side!”
The little divine stone recalled how every time it had helped Xiaocao do something, its power would restore itself in different degrees of magnitude, especially the time when it had saved Yu Hai. After saving Yu Hai, the little divine stone was able to materialize a physical body. It felt that what Xiaocao had said was very reasonable. So, it unwillingly said, [As long as the donkey hasn’t stopped breathing, then I can save it…]
With the Divine Stone’s guarantee, Xiaocao stepped forward and said to the young scholar, “Can you let me take a look at the donkey?”
The young scholar’s lifeless expression suddenly became full of expectation when he heard Xiaocao’s words. As if he was looking at his savior, he said, “Little girl, you…do you want to buy my donkey?”
But when he saw the cotton-padded jacket that was full of patches that Xiaocao was wearing, his expression dimmed again. He forced his greed away and said, “Little girl, my donkey is sick. It’s best if you don’t buy it…”
Xiaocao saw that even though he had fallen in such a dire situation, he still had a kind and honest heart. She smiled, “My father and I had learned some medical treatments for domestic animals. If the donkey can be saved, then I will buy it.”
“Okay, good! Look at the donkey. My donkey is very capable, it’s not even three years old yet. Before it was sick, everyone had said that my donkey was a good one.” A fire of hope once again ignited in the young scholar’s eyes as he stared at Xiaocao’s every movement.
Xiaocao squatted in front of the donkey. She extended her hand to place between the donkey’s nose and mouth. Hot streams of air sprayed at the palm of her hand as the donkey breathed. Although its breathing was weak, it was clear.
It’s good if it’s still breathing! She borrowed a broken bowl that domestic animals used to drink water. She allowed Yu Hai to take off the water bag that was tied to the side of her waist and poured the mystic-stone water from the water bag into the bowl.
The donkey seemed to be able to feel the spiritual energy from the water as it raised its head with difficulty. One mouthful after another, it slowly drank the mystic-stone water from the bowl in Xiaocao’s hand. After it finished the bowl of mystic-stone water, it powerlessly lay on the ground. Although the donkey didn’t have any more strength to stand up, its eyes were clearer and livelier than before.
“How is my donkey? Little girl, can my donkey be saved?” When the young scholar saw the donkey, that hadn’t drank water or eaten grass for a long time, drinking the bowl of water, the fire of hope in his heart burned even stronger.
The middle-aged man with a shrewd-looking face made cynical remarks at the side, “The veterinarians from the ox and horse market all said that the donkey is incurable. What can a silly little girl be capable of? I advise you to quickly sell the donkey before it takes its last breath. Otherwise, it’ll be bad luck for you when it dies later. When it dies, I won’t spend eight hundred copper coins to buy it.”
The young scholar acted as if he didn’t hear the middle-aged man ridiculing him. He looked at Xiaocao as if she was his last chance at life. He wasn’t even aware that his fingernails had pierced through the skin at the palm of his hand as he tightly clenched it into a fist.
The outsiders thought that Xiaocao was taking pity on the donkey as she stroked the donkey’s boney ribs. But, in fact, she was using the multicolored stone on her wrist to help the donkey sort out the illness inside its body. In a space where other people couldn’t see, soft rays of golden light entered the donkey from the multicolored stone. In less than a moment, the donkey was able to lift its head and its eyes were full of spirit again.
Xiaocao smiled and nodded at the scholar, “The donkey isn’t very ill. I will buy it! It’s three taels of silver, right?
“Y-yes!” The young scholar was in a daze as he stared at the silver that Xiaocao had handed to him. He seemed to be in disbelief that his sick donkey that was about to go to heaven would actually fetch him three taels of silver. For a moment, he foolishly stood there because he wasn’t sure what to do.
Xiaocao saw that he didn’t move for a while, so she thought that he wanted to go back on his words. She whispered to him, “What’s wrong? Didn’t you say that your father is waiting for this money to save his life? Why aren’t you hurrying to him?”
“Oh! Yeah…thank you, little girl. Benefactors, please leave your names behind. In the future, I would like to repay your kindness!” The young scholar made a big bow towards Xiaocao and her father.
Xiaocao replied, “What kindness are you talking about? You are selling something, and I am merely buying it. This is a fair trade. There is no need to repay anything. Go quickly, your father’s illness can’t be delayed!” Fang Zimo missed his sick father. Seeing that the two didn’t want to leave behind their names, he bowed towards them again and left the market while tightly holding onto the silver.
The middle-aged man, who couldn’t take advantage of the scholar, sourly said, “Little girl, you are still young. There are all kinds of people in this world. There are many who pretend to be sick in order to gain people’s sympathy. You were tricked by others and yet you still haven’t realized it.”
“Thank you, uncle, for the reminder! However, the scholar is wearing a long gown from Rongxuan Academy. Rongxuan Academy accepts students based on their moral character. I believe that he is not a swindler.” Xiaocao wasn’t an eight-year-old child who could easily be tricked. She had spent three taels of silver to buy both the donkey and the donkey cart. This was much cheaper than buying a donkey and then asking someone to build a donkey cart for her.
The middle-aged man gave a final glance at the relatively new donkey cart. He coldly snorted, “You will suffer losses if you turn a deaf ear to your elders. I only reminded you because I believe that you probably saved up money for a long time to be able to save up three taels of silver. I didn’t want you to have a dead loss in the end!” After he finished speaking, he swung his sleeve and left.
Xiaocao raised her eyebrows and disdainfully curled her lip. He couldn’t take advantage of the scholar so he could only say a few hateful words. His moral character is really…
However, Yu Hai was a little worried as he asked, “Cao’er, the donkey is very weak. It can’t even stand up so how can we bring it back home? Your Grandpa Zhang’s ox cart can’t fit the donkey…”
Xiaocao confidently said, “Don’t worry. I have a feeling that when we go back in the afternoon, the donkey will be able to walk on its own! Father, there isn’t much seasoning left at home. There is a shop in the food market that sells cheap seasonings. Let’s go look.”