Ningtang was a small county town. There were only two streets in the county town, the longer one stretched from east to west, and the shorter one stretched from north to south and was called Hengjie by the local people.
This country town was located in the south of the Yangtze River. There weren’t many river tributaries except for one river running through the whole county.
The people in the county town washed clothes and vegetables there, so it was always very lively. Some people from the nearby villages would come to the river by boat after harvesting their vegetables, and would then stop by the river to sell them. Over time, the river had become the county town’s vegetable market.
Just before dawn, there were many people already coming to the river. Some were noisy and were quarrelling loudly; many small merchants took out fresh vegetables from their boats to sell. At this time, a boat appeared on the shore, but there was no one on board. Instead, a piece of cloth was hung on the bow of the ship with several words written on it. However, most of the people present could not read, so they could not understand the meaning of those words.
“What is this ship for?”
“Yeah, what are they doing, stooping like that?”
Some people looked at the ship curiously, while others came closer and looked inside.
“Ah!” a cry of surprise echoed, and a man who approached the boat looked inside with a horrified expression on his face.
The man seemed to be frightened, but it was because of this that more people were attracted and went to see the boat. That was when they discovered that inside the cabin with its curtain lifted lay several bloody men who were tied up. This . . . What was going on here?
“Report it to the officials!” Soon someone ran to report to the officials.
When the people of Ningtang County found the ship and the people lying inside, they immediately reported it to the officials. At the same time, all kinds of guesses about the ship spread rapidly within the county town, but the ones responsible for all this had already left Ningtang.
It was already daybreak. Jiang Zhen asked Wang Haisheng to row while he cleaned the bloodstains on the boat and sorted out their cargo. Meanwhile, Wang Haisheng had been secretly watching him while rowing the boat very inattentively.
When Wang Haisheng looked over again, Jiang Zhen looked back and frowned. “What are you looking at?”
“No-Nothing,” Wang Haisheng said hurriedly.
Jiang Zhen looked at Wang Haisheng. Yesterday, whether he had hit or extorted confessions from others, he did not hide it from Wang Haisheng. Later, when he sent those wounded water bandits to Ningtang on their own boat, he asked Wang Haisheng to carry them. He did that to test Wang Haisheng.
Wang Haisheng always thought that he was a good man, but he was not like Wang Haisheng imagined.
“What do you think of what I did before?” Jiang Zhen asked.
“Jiang Zhen, I can’t believe you can read!” Wang Haisheng looked at Jiang Zhen with admiration. “I didn’t expect you can read. No wonder you can calculate so fast. You’re really talented!”
The worship in Wang Haisheng’s eyes couldn’t be overseen, but Jiang Zhen was speechless. Did Wang Haisheng keep peeping at him just because he thought he could read and write well?
“I asked you, what do you think of our fight against the water bandits?” Jiang Zhen said.
“That . . . All water bandits deserve to die!” Wang Haisheng said. “Why did we have to send them to the officials?”
People like him, who had no fixed abode, had always stayed away from the government and liked to solve things by themselves, rather than sending them to the officials. At the same time, they had seen too much in life and witnessed too many deaths. In fact, they were much more receptive to killing than modern people. Water bandits would kill them, so killing water bandits in return was nothing to them.
Jiang Zhen smiled. “Wang Haisheng, you just follow me in the future. As long as you listen to me, I will let you live a good life.”
“I’ve already been following you.” Wang Haisheng looked at Jiang Zhen with bewilderment.
“Also . . . By the way, call me boss later,” Jiang Zhen said.
Wang Haisheng agreed, and Jiang Zhen gave him about ten silver. “Take it.”
“This . . . This . . . “ Wang Haisheng looked at Jiang Zhen with surprise. He always thought that he would be working with Jiang Zhen for food and shelter. He did not expect that Jiang Zhen would give him money.
“You did a good job last night. It’s for you,” Jiang Zhen said, thinking that in the upcoming days, he must train Wang Haisheng well and plant some ideas in his head along the way.
This shouldn’t be too difficult. People like Wang Haisheng, who have never been to school or studied, are absolutely easy to fool. Of course, the most urgent thing was to check those bandits’ nest.
The water bandits had already disclosed the location of their old nest the day before. But it was too dark last night, so Jiang Zhen couldn’t go there and look for it until dawn.
This so-called old nest was actually a house in some remote location. The water bandits lived on the boat during the day, but went there to sleep at night. Most of their silver they carried with them, but the stolen goods were piled there. When Jiang Zhen went in the house and looked around, he had a feeling of getting rich. The water bandits were lazy and they were unwilling to sell the goods after stealing them, so there were many goods stacked there. Although a few of them contained food that had gone bad, the rest could still be sold. Moreover, those things were worth more than the cargo on his ship.
Without hesitation, Jiang Zhen carried all the goods to the ship. Because there were so many things, their ship could hardly fit them all. These goods included cloth, porcelain, bundles of candles, and even . . . some books.
There was not a single book in Hexi Village, so Jiang Zhen had never read a book since he traveled to this era.
He sent Wang Haisheng to row, and without anything to do, he opened one of the books and started reading. Then he discovered . . . he couldn’t understand it.
Jiang Zhen was actually pretty knowledgeable in the army. He not only had a good knowledge of firearms, but also knew three foreign languages – English and two languages of Southeast Asia.
English was hard for him to learn, so he listened to tapes when he was reading at school, and he was forced to learn the latter two languages because of an assignment. But even if he could speak three foreign languages, he had never learned traditional Chinese characters.
And now he had a book in his hands. Not only was it written in traditional chinese characters, but it also lacked punctuation. How could people not know how to write words to form sentences?
Can’t you just use colloquialism? At least, he could understand the simplified version of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and the signs hanging in front of those shops in the city could also be guessed. Jiang Zhen looked at the book in his hand and stared at it.
Edited by : Faro