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103 Chapter One Hundred and Two - A Spiritual Type of Grain

    It began in the spring, when the weather warmed enough that the nights could no longer be considered cold.  Nathan had found an opportunity to closet himself in the second bedroom of his cottage and had attempted to plant supermarket 'sold', whole grain rice.  He'd never attempted to grow rice before, not that the mechanics of such hadn't caught his attention during his teenaged years, just that he thought that it would not be possibly in the climate of his homeland.

    Even at that point, he had felt some uncertainty, but Nan Li Liang had reassured him of the possibility, though his own experiments during school had required an indoor space heating lights to create a steady temperature, the boy had indeed grown a few stalks of rice paddy in a bucket.  It had only produced about half a bowl of unpolished rice grain, it was not as soft and delicate as white rice, but it hadn't been without its own charm; the knowledge that it had been grown by oneself.

    So, he had soaked a quarter of a cup of rice for half a day in water produced by his own hand, not willing to waste the packet he'd purloined from their food stocks over half a year prior, then drained the water before gently pressing them between too tea towels to keep warm and damp.  Not unlike when he'd first grown a bean in amongst damp cotton wool as a child, he had mused.

    Not all of the rice had sprouted, perhaps no longer viable for the length of time it had been packaged and kept or too 'damaged' to use, but about a fourth of the rice produced seedlings.  Really shouldn't be underestimated how many seedlings that still came into being, though from this small amount.  Nathan had nearing two hundred seedlings to plant into his make shift paddy.  There would not be enough space!

    From Nan Li Liang's memory, the seedlings should be planted anywhere between 6inches and a foot apart in the bed.  It wasn't that he was confused, it was that this information was researched from many different websites and varied between varieties.  Also where one would say each seedling is placed every 6 inches in rows 6 inches apart, another would say 4 inches with rows nine inches apart.  Then also, he'd grown rice in a bucket with five stalks, four around the circumference and one in the middle, not in a field or bedding space.

    Nathan chose the 6x6 method as determining between rows and columns, he didn't see the point and he could always move the plants if the space was insufficient.  The remaining plants were scattered amongst plastic troughs and pots and were placed in the sun rooms for Nan Li Liang to care for.

    Both were careful in caring for the plants, but where Nan Li Liang had nothing unexpected or untoward occur in the four months that followed, Nathan found his plants were thirsty, greedy, nearly drying up the bedding on a daily basis, sometimes twice.  Perhaps a little of this could be blamed upon the sweltering temperatures within the green house environment, as the heat swelled outside, it would naturally be higher in a building made of glass windows, but Nathan couldn't help but feel that the rice stalks were mostly to blame.

    Whenever he entered the green house to care for them, they would shake almost excitedly and he sensed they welcomed him or more specifically, the water he produced.  He did think of speaking to Ren Zexian about this, but decided against this.  Growing rice was meant to be his gift to Ren Zexian, telling him about it would lessen the achievement.

    However, who was Ren Zexian, but a man who'd lived many, many more lifetimes than Nathan could imagine.  Although he was not familiar with the process of growing paddy, he'd passed by paddy fields and places which grew wild rice on many occasions.  He could tell that the grass had taken root within the green house and it would have done so by his beloved's hand.  And he could not help but noticed the rich density of spiritual energy swirling about each plant...

    Naturally, he was aware before his beloved that the paddy growing here was far richer in colour and when finally Nathan came to shyly admit that he'd been growing rice for Ren Zexian to eat, the grain they harvested was not what they had expected.

    Nan Li Liang's rice, which was already quite good, enough for a few meals per person, was pale brown and long in shape similar as to what the plants originated from.  Nathan's rice was shaped as long but more plump and the colour was pale gold and even seemed to glisten as they were held in sunlight.  Once cooked, both original and mutant varieties smelled appetising, but every man and woman with a spiritual root would be drawn more towards the golden rice.  That was Ren Zexian's perception as he Nathan and Nan Li Liang produced two small bowls to test.

    The ordinary rice did indeed have good flavour and texture, Ren Zexian couldn't help but savour it; it had been a long while since he had had the opportunity to eat rice.  He hadn't realised how much he'd missed it once it was no longer available.  He was first to taste the mutant rice out of the three and had to pause in thought, before preventing Nan Li Liang from eating any more than a mouthful.

    Ren Zexian had been reminded of a variety of rice that had once grown in the realm of his birth.  It had been known as Jade rice and had high spiritual properties.  It should be mentioned that this type of rice was not the only spiritual rice to grow in the many middle and high realms, but this type had been exclusive to his birth realm, thus it was what he recalled best.

    Jade rice was difficult to grow, for it insisted on certain peak conditions as well as an abundant source of spiritual energy and water so clear that it could be glass.  It did not like moving water, so any disturbances would prevent the plant from maturing and it did not like the cold, thus sudden temperature drops would also have it wilt.  Once each stalk had grown tall, it's panicles numbered only one or two, so a good harvest would be twenty grains per stalk.  Still, it was highly sought after as each grain was thick with spiritual energy, beneficial to even Cultivators who no longer needed food to live.

    Nathan's grain took much of the characteristics of its source, but had a spiritual grass' greed for spiritual energy and pure water.  It was not as potent and rich as Jade rice, but it produced as much grain as its ancestor.  Nathan's gold spirit rice was still a wondrous thing to discover in this land.

    What Ren Zexian had consider was whether it could be consumed by ordinary people; Jade rice could not.  As he circulated the energy through his meridians, he felt that the gold spirit rice would not be harmful in small amounts for ordinary people, it might even be beneficial, but they would suffer if they tried to eat too much.  He tested his theory through Nan Li Liang's pulse and believed his hypothesis to be true, voicing it aloud.  Only then did Nan Li Liang willingly put down his spoon; rice had been as much a part of his diet as it had the man before him.  He could only step back and look on as others ate.

    ******

    The rice harvest was a boon, no matter how large or small the quantities were, they gave everyone hope for the future.  The whole grain rice which Nathan had carefully hoarded returned to the kitchen for storage, while a tenth of his gold spirit rice and the uneaten portion of Nan Li Liang's was placed to one side to be seed for future harvests.  The rest of the gold spirit rice would be added before consumption to cooked whole grain rice to dilute its potency and then only once a month would it be served, perhaps twice in Winter as the amount of yang energy for absorption was at its weakest then.

    Once this matter had been decided, Dexter followed Nathan and Ren Zexian to the third property to begin planning out the layout.  Dexter found that Nathan was especially chatty when both accompanied by the oriental man and speaking of his favourite subject; plants.

    "Peppers, tomatoes, chilli's, these can all be grown in winter, but not much and then must be placed in the rooms that are the sunniest.  Lettuces, radishes, carrots... Ah, greens can be grown from garlic bulbs, um... I've not tried it before though.  Mushrooms don't mind less sun, but I don't know about how to harvest and spread spore.  Potatoes and sweet potatoes can be grown in light rooms, don't need as much attention as the fruits..."

    The sun room in which both Ren Zexian and Nathan found enlightenment was chosen to have the burden of the crops as well as the largest room, likely once the living room of the property before it was stripped of its assets.  Herbs, greens and root crops for the latter while the salad fruits were to be placed in the former.  Dexter thought it would be wise to renovate a couple of rooms in case the weather became harsh and anyone caring for the plants could not return to their main home to rest.  He had Harry chose a few men to scrounge things from the abandoned village while he, Winston and Paul began to work with what was on hand.

    But before they could truly get too involved in the renovation, they were dragged to help harvest the corn first.
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