“I don’t want to! I don’t want to! I mean it!”

As soon as Jiang Rui stepped into the courtyard, she heard tearful cries coming from the house.

She placed the basket on her back down. Half of the basket was filled with dandelions and plantain herbs. Since she plucked them from the mountains during dawn, dew was still clinging to those wild herbs. She poured them on an empty space in the courtyard and used her hands to spread them out. After the sun dries the wild herbs, she will feed them to the rabbits.

The argument in the house went on while Jiang Rui stood up and brushed some loose grass away from her clothes. She picked two siberian cockleburs from the bottom hem of her pants and threw them casually near a wall. After she washed herself clean with some water from a vat, she walked to the kitchen.

On the stove, the flickering flame lapped at the remaining burning red charcoal. She lifted the lid of the pot, revealing the rice porridge with golden pumpkin that has been boiled to a mush. She crouched under the stove and used the wood ash to cover the charcoal completely to extinguish the fire.

She could still hear someone crying in the living room through the thin walls. However, the sound is much softer than before as if the person is tired from crying or backing down from the fight.

After waiting for the perfect moment, she called at the top of her voice, “Mother, breakfast is ready. Shall we eat now?”

“You should bring your father and A’qiang their share first. They are excavating the land beside the river today to build a canal.” Wang Tonghua replied from the adjoining room. Her voice came closer and closer. Before she ended her sentence, she already reached the kitchen with a glum face.

“Aye, okay.” Jiang Rui took a few bowls from the cabinet and filled two large bowls to the brim with pumpkin porridge.

This reduced the pumpkin porridge in the pot by half, exposing the two eggs on the bottom. She took the eggs out and put them in a basin filled with cold water. When the eggs cooled, she cut one of them into half and placed one halves on each large bowl of porridge.

Wang Tonghua’s furrowed eyebrows relaxed a little when she saw that Jiang Rui was deftly doing her chores. She sighed resignedly, “Why is Baozhen so obstinate…”

“She is still young.” Jiang Rui smiled at her, before putting the breakfast into a wicker basket.

Wang Tonghua nagged, “She is already seventeen. How is that young? Your father pampered her too much. Just because she wanted to study, he supported her education for so many years. She is too ambitious now! Earlier, she kept pestering me to let her go to university. She wanted to live a better life in the city. Does she think it’s easy to get into a university and live in the city? If it’s that simple, why hasn’t anyone in our commune succeeded in the city? We should keep our feet on the ground.”

Jiang Rui listened to her silently while she lined the other four small bowls on the stove. She ladled out the pumpkin porridge and left it to cool. She sliced the other egg into two and put each halves on two of the three small bowls.

Regardless, Wang Tonghua did not need any response from her. She continued, “How could she be dissatisfied with the Zhao family? The only thing that’s on her mind is leaving our village. I think that all the studying has muddled her mind. What’s so good about the city? She would rather forsake her parents for that!”

Seeing that Wang Tonghua was about to get mad again, Jiang Rui spoke softly as she cut the preserved vegetables into pieces, “The teachers at school said Baozhen excels in her studies. In the future, she will definitely make you proud.”

She managed to appease Wang Tonghua’s anger with a single sentence.

When it came to her life, she was not cherished as a daughter in this lifetime. Moreover, she married an ordinary man. Even though she was clearly the most beautiful woman amongst her friends, she felt inferior to them. The only thing that gave her a sense of achievement was giving birth to a son and two daughters who are brilliant and filial.

Leaving aside her eldest son, every member of Xishan Production Brigade knew that the eldest daughter of the Du family was hardworking, gentle, and great at doing house chores and farming. On the other hand, the younger daughter was a bright girl who is currently studying in the commune. Her excellent results could put most male students to shame. It was also worth mentioning that the two sisters were extremely good-looking. They were lille two flowers that bloomed on the same branch. Even though the young men in the brigade might not talk about them at all, they were secretly attracted to the Du sisters.

Recalling the report card that her youngest daughter brought home, Wang Tonghua’s heart was swayed. Although she kept finding fault with the city out of anger, everyone knew deep down that living in the city was the better choice.

Opportunity knocks but once. She did not want to miss the chance to marry her daughter into a great family. Many young ladies were interested in the sons of the Zhao family. When the Zhao family came to visit her the other day, Wang Tonghua was on cloud nine.

However, the large city was also as tempting to her. If her youngest daughter could become the first university student in the Xishan Production Brigade, people will be impressed!

Both options are equally enticing to Wang Tonghua.

“Girl, do you think that we can believe the teachers from the commune? Can Baozhen really enter the university?”

Jiang Rui placed the chopped preserved vegetables on a plate and washed the knife, before saying, “The teachers have been teaching for a few decades. They should be able to tell whether a student has the potential to succeed. Since they said that Baozhen can get accepted into the university, there is an eighty percent chance that this will happen.”

After Wang Tonghua heard this, the scales in her heart tipped in Baozhen’s favor. If she was to have her way, she really hoped that her youngest daughter would stay by her side and get married. However, it was clear that Du Baozhen was unwilling to do so. She cried and made a huge fuss about it. This daughter of hers was stubborn as ever. Wang Tonghua and her husband did not dare to coerce her. They were afraid that she would take her life on impulse.

However, the thought of giving up on the Zhao family made Wang Tonghua feel as if someone was slicing her flesh with a knife.

She was pleased that her daughter was such an exceptional person, but at the same time, she felt sad about not having her cake and eating it. She wished that she would split her youngest daughter into two.

Just as the thought occurred to her, she suddenly noticed her eldest daughter, who was engrossed in preparing their breakfast, and came up with a solution.

Although she didn’t have two youngest daughters, she still had an eldest daughter! Since Bao Zhen was hell-bent on studying in the university, why don’t she let Baoqin marry into the Zhao family instead?

It’s not that no one came to ask for her eldest daughter’s hand in marriage in the past two years. But Wang Tonghua was sick of poverty, so she wanted to find a better man for her daughters. Therefore, she hasn’t agreed to anyone’s proposal until today. However, the Zhao family was not an average family.

The Zhao family was one of the few financially stable families in the brigade. Zhao Daqiu and his sons were skilled individuals. He and his eldest son bred beads when they were not working at the farm. The slightest mention of honey made people drool. His youngest son was the only apprentice in the only state-run restaurant in the county. Many people covet this job opportunity. Because of this, the Zhao family could afford a better life, such as using more oil in their cooking, compared to other families. As for the second son who was being matchmade by his parents this time, he was a soldier for more than ten years. She heard that he is holding quite a high rank in the army now!

The more Wang Tonghua thought about her plan, the more convinced she was that it would work out. Gradually, she became more and more confident about the idea. Her creased eyebrows relaxed immediately. When she looked at her thoughtful eldest daughter again, her eyes were filled with pride.

Even if the Zhao family came to ask for her youngest daughter’s hand in marriage, her eldest daughter was comparable to her. Besides, she was obedient, unlike Baozhen.

Even if the Zhaos came to ask for marriage because of her youngest, her eldest daughter is not lacking. Unlike Baozhen, she was an obedient girl.

Jiang Rui – or she should be called Du Baoqin now, was fully aware of Wang Tonghua’s change of heart.

Half a month ago, Du Baoqin fell into the reservoir because she was careless. Luckily, she was saved by Zhao Nan who returned to the village to visit his family. That day, Du family members went to his house to express their gratitude. After a few days, Zhao family members came to the Du family’s house and talked about matching Zhao Nan with Du Baoqin.

However, Du Baozhen refused to marry him. That night, a fight erupted in their house and it lasted until today.

The original Du Baoqin knew from experience that her parents will surely relent eventually. If her family could not bear to give up on the Zhao family, it’s very likely that she would be her sister’s replacement.

In that few days, she agonized over this matter. Even when she went to the riverside to wash clothes, her eyebrows were tightly knitted. In a moment of distraction, she fell into the water and her legs were entangled with the water reeds.

When Du Baozhen fell into the water, she was lucky that someone saved her. Du Baoqin, on the other hand, lost her life.

Jiang Rui found her soul and asked her if she was willing to give the right to use her body to her. In return, she would fulfill her wish.

It did not take Du Baoqin long to agree to her request. Her wish was simple. She hoped that Jiang Rui could take care of her family on her behalf and not let her parents know about her death. If her family really wanted her to marry Zhao Nan in Du Baozhen’s stead, she hoped that Jiang Rui could agree to the marriage.

Jiang Rui did not decline her. No one knew that Zhao Nan, who seemed like an extraordinary human being, had an incomplete soul. In fact, this was only a fragment of his soul. Her mission was to nurture his soul and bring him back to where he belonged.

In order to achieve her goal, she approached many recently deceased men and women, old and young. She wanted to make a deal with them to get their body and identity. However, she failed because most people were too unreasonable in their demands. Some of them only looked at her with an expressionless face. She could not communicate with them. The others went insane, unable to accept their death. Du Baoqin was an exception.

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