With a knife in hand, Jiang Zhen left from the gate of Jiang family house.

On this side of He Cheng County, most families eat three meals a day. Of course, if the family is poor, they can only eat two meals a day.

Everyone gets up at dawn in the morning, do some work first, and then eat the first meal of the day at around seven o’clock. This is basically just porridge for most households. Of course, a wealthy family can eat it in a different way.

After eating, they will continue with work, and towards noon—that is, around twelve noon—they will have the second meal. Families with enough basic food will have a dry meal. When food is insufficient, they will continue to eat porridge.

And in the evening, they will eat another meal. Most farmers’ meal in the morning is porridge.

Although they eat three meals a day, the most important one is the noon meal, which Jiang family had just eaten.

Because they were too busy until the late hours yesterday, the first meal of the Jiang family today was much later than usual. And because the morning meal was the dry meal cooked for the guests yesterday, they were not very hungry, so the second meal was delayed by an hour. Jiang Zhen looked at the sky and estimated that it was a little bit after two o’clock at the moment.

Waking up after one day and night of rest and after eating well, he finally feels well-rested. Jiang Zhen now has a little strength, so now he does not feel tired, carrying a big knife of about ten kilograms. But after lying down for a long time, his body was very sore.

The wind in early spring was a little cool, but this body was not afraid of being frozen. It was well adapted . . . While turning around the memories of Eldest Jiang in his mind, Jiang Zhen observed the situation around him and began to understand the world.

This area is a plain. As far as Jiang Zhen can see, he saw only a small hill, which was not very high at all. At the same time, it has a large population and many rivers.

Although Jiang Zhen did not know Daqi’s history, he felt that the environment here was almost the same as that of ancient China.

This Hexi Village does not only have a river but also several ponds. The fields are full of vegetables, such as lettuce, and at a distance of two or three hundred meters, the houses, which are the residences of Hexi villagers, are scattered far from each other.

Right then, the sun was high. On the stone steps by the river, several women were washing vegetables or washing clothes while talking.

They saw Jiang Zhen walking by the river, but no one wanted to say hello to silent Eldest Jiang. When they saw Jiang Zhen holding a big knife, they only asked those around them, “Eldest Jiang is holding a knife. Who wants to have their pig killed?”

“I haven’t heard about that.”

“I’ll follow and see if someone is killing a pig. I’ll buy it a kilo of meat.”

Several women said a few words to others, so some people followed Jiang Zhen. However, instead of killing pigs, Jiang Zhen turned to the thatched hut that belonged to the Jiang family. It was where he had lain before.

The hut was a little far from the other village houses, so when the Jiang family had money, they moved away, leaving only straw and bundles of mulberry strips.

Apart from the fact that the house was too broken-down, Jiang Zhen liked it very much. It is quiet and Zhao’s family house can be viewed not far away.

Carrying a bundle of straw from the house to the door, Jiang Zhen sat down and put the knife next to him.

Sitting alone was boring. After thinking about it, Jiang Zhen found another bundle of mulberry strips and began to peel them.

In order to make mulberry trees grow bigger and easier to pick, the families that breed mulberry trees cut all the branches of mulberry trees every year. When the skins of these branches are peeled off, some people will buy them for several copper plates. The thin wooden poles with thick branches, like straw, are used to build a fire for cooking.

The old Eldest Jiang did not know what the mulberry bark was for. But Jiang Zhen could guess that most of the mulberry bark was used for making paper.

In ancient times, if you could make paper by yourself, you would have a means of making a living. However . . . Jiang Zhen’s understanding of papermaking was limited to the point the teacher had told him about the four greatest inventions during a lesson in history and the occasional explanations he gathered from reading a book later. But he did not know the details, not to mention, he was currently poor and broke.

How to support myself in the future? Kill pigs?

In the past, Eldest Jiang worked with old man Jiang and learned how to butcher pigs. The pig butcher was also responsible for turning over pig intestines and other dirty work. Old man Jiang had not done it for a long time and let Eldest Jiang do it by himself. These jobs have little technical content. Jiang Zhen turned over those memories, trying to learn, but he also knew that it would be very difficult to live a good life on that alone.

Forget it. The first thing to do is to be a long-term worker. Isn’t Zhao Jinge living by being a long-term worker?

Jiang Zhen slowly peeled off a pile of mulberry strips and was about to walk back when he saw Zhao Jinge walking along the road in front of his door.

“Zhao Jinge!” Jiang Zhen shouted and stood up.

Zhao Jinge looked at Jiang Zhen in surprise and walked towards Jiang Zhen, but he stopped a few steps away and said, “Is something wrong?”

After asking, he said, “Eldest Jiang, how are you?”

“I’m all right. Thank you yesterday.” Jiang Zhen, took out two eggs and passed them to Zhao Jinge. “For you.”

“I can’t take your eggs. A bowl of sweet potato porridge is not worth it.” Zhao Jinge refused immediately. His family did not have a surplus food to raise and feed chickens. Eggs and similar things were very expensive to him.

“These eggs are not used to return sweet potato porridge but to repay you for your life-saving grace. Is my life not worth two eggs?” Jiang Zhen wanted to shove the eggs towards Zhao Jinge.

Zhao Jinge subconsciously avoided it and paused then said, “You keep it yourself. It will help mend your body.”

“I still have more. Look.” Jiang Zhen took out three more eggs and showed them to Zhao Jinge.

Zhao Jinge looked at Jiang Zhen in astonishment. He also knew that Eldest Jiang had been neglected by his parents. Where did this man get five eggs now?

“You saved me once yesterday, and you rescued me from the river once before. You can’t help this, but you must let me repay you.” Jiang Zhen grabbed Zhao Jinge’s hand and tucked two eggs in his hand.

Jiang’s figure is very tall. Eldest Jiang height is also quite high in this village. Zhao Jinge is about the same height as him, his hands are also very big, so the two eggs can be easily held.

Jiang Zhen grabbed his rough hand and suddenly felt a little confused, but before he could understand his mood, Zhao Jinge had already thrown off his hand.

Jiang Zhen looked up and saw Zhao Jinge say, “Thank you,” and left without looking back.

Originally, he wanted to say a few more words to Zhao Jinge, but Jiang was a little stunned, but he soon realized, Zhao Jinge seems shy?

While whistling, Jiang Zhen hid the remaining three eggs in the thatched cottage and planned to give them to Zhao Jinge the next day.

He had already eaten two chicken legs today, and no matter how much he ate, he probably couldn’t absorb it. It was better to chat with Zhao Jinge using the eggs.

And . . . this body of Jiang Zhenwei, though it still has some deficiency, it still is somehow nurtured. How about Zhao Jinge’s body? The Zhao family did not have enough food. Zhao Jinge used to work around the city as a short-time worker. His health was no better than that of Eldest Jiang.

Having met his life-saving benefactor, Jiang Zhen picked up his knife and went back to the Jiang house, intending to go back and wait for dinner.

At that time, Zhao Jinge had already returned to his home while holding the two eggs. His attitude was rather strange.

He once saw that a beautiful woman in the village was sent eggs by an admirer, but ever since he grew up, no one had ever sent them to him.

But Eldest Jiang’s egg delivery must be different from those of those people. He is no different from a man now, and everyone else treats him like one.

“Jinge, you are back?” Zhao Liu saw her son and welcomed him with a smile on her face.

“Um,” Zhao Jinge answered and gave her an egg, “yesterday I gave Eldest Jiang a bowl of porridge, and he gave me two eggs.”

“How is a bowl of porridge worth two eggs? Give them back soon.” Zhao Liu felt that this eggs should not be accepted.

“He also said thank you for saving him,” Zhao Jinge added.

Speaking about that, Zhao Liu felt that taking eggs was nothing. “Yes, he should thank you. If it hadn’t been for our Jinge, Eldest Jiang would have drowned.” As Zhao Liu said this, she thought of the way the Jiang family did not say a word of thanks that day, and she was somewhat dissatisfied. “Although Eldest Jiang was silent all day, he is still a reasonable one, and his mother was too much. Jinge, you saved her oldest son that day. I can’t believe she doesn’t even know how to thank you.”

“It’s nothing,” Zhao Jinge said. When he saw Eldest Jiang drowning, he remembered his brother who drowned, so he wanted to go into the water to save him. He had not thought about repayment.

“What is nothing? You saved his life. If you are in play, he should have left his life in your hands,” Zhao Liu spoke out.

“Mother.” Zhao Jinge interrupted his mother. Who is willing to marry him?

Zhao Liu saw it and sighed again. Since he had dug out the cinnabar mole between his eyebrows, the people in the village actually viewed Jinge as a man. He saved a big man from the water, and no one thought that that was wrong.

It would be nice if Eldest Jiang would join the family. Although the man is not talkative, he is honest and willing to work. He could live a long life. Unfortunately, a few years ago, when some people in the village helped them to visit Jiang’s family, old Madam Jiang refused.

She knew that old lady Jiang wanted to keep the eldest Jiang at home for work, but she could not say anything about it to an outsider.

Zhao Liu felt lost but still served a bowl of porridge. She peeled an egg and brought it to Zhao Jinge.

“Mother, you eat this porridge. You’re not in good health. You should eat a few eggs to make up for it,” Zhao Jinge said, cutting the remaining egg with a knife. “My father and I will be fine.”

Zhao Liu could not refute her son. In the end, she ate the egg. Zhao Jinge also cherished his half of the egg.

While eating the egg, he inevitably thought about Eldest Jiang, and then he felt something was wrong.

Today’s Eldest Jiang spoke generously and clearly and kept his head up straight, as if he has become a different person from  before.

****

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Edited by : Faro

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