Chapter 32: Third World (4)
Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Although it was just a change of address, Bai Duan felt that he was now closer to Zhou Mo. Perhaps the relationship between people was so wonderful. Zhou Mo took him as a confidant when he saw him at first sight, and Bai Duan also felt that Zhou Mo was extraordinarily kind and approachable, just like his brother in his imagination.
Bai Duan’s mother injured her body during childbirth, and coupled with a low-income family was unable to support more children, so Bai Duan became a rare seedling in the countryside. He could only look at other brothers and sisters in groups, but he was alone.
When he was a child, Bai Duan wanted to have a brother. And somehow, he always felt that he should have a brother, a brother who was calm and reliable and could shelter him from the wind and rain.
Later, as he grew up, this fantasy was soon consumed by life until Zhou Mo’s appearance aroused his longing for his brother again as if his wish had finally been fulfilled.
Seeing Bai Duan relax in front of him, Zhou Mo took the opportunity to hit the snake with the stick, put aside the serious topic, and chatted about some everyday things that had nothing to do with business. He picked up a piece of draft paper Bai Duan had used and looked at it for a few seconds. “Younger brother is quite literate. Did you go to a private school?”
“When I was a child, I went outside the window of a private school to listen in secretly for a time, which was not enough.” Bai Duan smiled embarrassingly. “Later, when the Northern Hu people went south, I never went there again. Instead, I learned carpentry from my master. When we became stable, and there was enough money, I picked it up again, bought several books, and self-studied. But, I didn’t know whether it was right or wrong.”
In this life, Bai Duan did not go to school but had the foundation of previous worlds, so even if he didn’t remember anything, it was much faster to learn again. However, he was not very familiar with writing with brushes. Usually, he writes and drew his paintings with carbon strips made from wood sealed and fired in a kiln. Now when he picked up the brushes, he was incompetent. The lines were thick and thin, and occasionally morphed into a ball, even he couldn’t read what he wrote.
Zhou Mo met his look of regret with a gentle smile, “Self-learning to this extent is good, but you need to practice more.” He seemed to have a sudden thought and proposed with great enthusiasm, “Although I am a rough man, and I do not have a lot of calligraphy background, but I can still read your words. How about I teach you how to write?”
As soon as Bai Duan’s eyes turned bright, Zhou Mo immediately grabbed paper and grinding ink before lifting a brush on the white rice paper and wrote a poem full of ambition and pride.
Zhou Mo’s words were indeed excellent with a magnificent atmosphere showing iron and silver hooks, but he was as straightforward and rigid as ever. Even those who were not well versed in calligraphy, such as Bai Duan, could not help but praise ‘good work’ in his heart and look at Zhou Mo with amazement and worship.
Zhou Mo successfully showed off in front of his spouse, silently suppressed his complacency, and then handed the brush to Bai Duan. “Come, Brother Bai, imitate my actions just now and try again.” As he spoke, he weaved his arms around Bai Duan’s waist and helped him hold his wrist solemnly. While adjusting his posture, he explained the main points of calligraphy for him. “Pointing your brush, making sure your palm isn’t weak that your wrist is flat, and your wrist and elbow move together. When I practiced writing as a child, I had to hang sandbags on my wrists. It’s no easier to practice martial arts in winter or summer!”
Bai Duan listened carefully, with all his heart following Zhou Mo’s instructions to adjust his movements, and did not realize how much tofu Zhou Mo had eaten.
Fortunately, Zhou Mo also knew that he could not go too far, so he stopped as soon as he knew he took too much. He pinched the top of the brush, lifted it, and made sure that Bai Duan held the brush tightly. Finally, he nodded with satisfaction, “Now, try to write it.”
“Write…what?” Bai Duan had never written anything formally. Since he felt some tension, holding the pen, but did not know what to do.
“Write… Just write your name.” Zhou Mo suggested.
Bai Duan nodded and wrote carefully, but because he was too careful, the handwriting became more strange and restrained.
Zhou Mo smiled softly and suddenly grabbed Bai Duan’s waist, took advantage of his tense moment and covered his right hand holding the brush, “Don’t be nervous, I’ll help you write.”
Zhou Mo’s breath sprayed in his Bai Duan ear, which made him blush slightly. He felt as if his whole body was covered by the other’s breath, somewhat uncomfortable, but somehow reassuring. This embrace caused him to feel an inexplicable sense of familiarity, and he did not lift any defense to reject the other’s touch.
Under Zhou Mo’s help, Bai Duan’s arms moved slowly but firmly with the strokes, while the words Bai Duan wrote were gradually shaped on white paper. They not only had the softness and delicacy of Bai Duan in themselves but also contained Zhou Mo’s rigidity and decisiveness. The two complemented each other as one.
After writing Bai Duan’s name, Zhou Mo did not let him go but wrote down the word ‘Zhou Mo’ in the next position. Looking at the two names side by side, Zhou Mo showed a trace of a smile, but his tone was solemn, “Hmm? Did you find the correct feeling, dear brother?”
Bai Duan nodded slightly. Although he was confused by the very intimate gesture, he had to say that this way was a very effective method to teach with, and Bai Duan quickly grasped the trick.
Under the guidance of Zhou Mo, Bai Duan became more and more relaxed when writing, and his handwriting gradually became smooth and comfortable from his previous puerile and tender script. Although he still made some errors that beginners often made, he had already revealed his style.
For better or worse, Bai Duan dealt with writing with brushes in previous worlds, and his accomplishments were not shallow. As long as he started, his progress would be thousands of miles a day.
As his handwriting became more and more beautiful to the naked eye, Bai Duan’s interest in practicing became unstoppable until the sunshine outside the window gradually became dim, and he suddenly realized that he had been practicing for too long.
Too embarrassed to look at Zhou Mo, Bai Duan repeatedly apologized, wishing that time would flow backwards. Zhou Mo had only intended to ask him about the idea of improving but did not expect to be dragged by him for so long. Bai Duan was frightened and upset that he had delayed this man’s day-to-day activities for so long.
Zhou Mo waved his hand slightly and didn’t show displeasure, “Since you call me ‘Big Brother’, it is my duty to accompany my brother to practice Chinese characters. Do you not treat me as a Big Brother?”
Bai Duan was frightened enough to bow his head, feeling his guilt and joy intertwine and wished he could immediately say ‘big brother’.
Seeing that Bai Duan was still so good, Zhou Mo sighed deeply in his heart. He was apprehensive.
Bai Duan was sincere, and if you treated him well, he would reward you back. Such a temperament was charming, but it was also very easy to be fooled and used. In case he fell into the hands of a malicious person, he probably would not be able to tell whether the other party treated him well or had other plans. Or worse, even if he knew that the other party was using him, as long as he received a favor, he would still be willing to give anything back.
This was why Zhou Mo chose to seal his memory and let him spend his life like an ordinary person. Bai Duan was not suitable for a situation full of intrigue and conspiracy. At least, he was not appropriate now.
Returning his facade, Zhou Mo raised his hand and touched Bai Duan’s head. He gently reproached, “Since you recognized me as a Big Brother, no one can be as good as me in the future.”
Bai Duan nodded obediently. No matter what Zhou Mo said, he would not rebuke.
“It’s late now. Let’s go to dinner together.” Seeing Bai Duan learn what he needed, Zhou Mo laughed and moved his hand. He grabbed Bai Duan’s right hand and took the brush away. Unknowingly, he touched thick calluses on the inside of his finger.
Zhou Mo’s actions were slow. He put down the brush, opened Bai Duan’s hand, stroked the thick calluses and deep or shallow, large and small cuts decorating his palm, feeling distressed.
In previous worlds, Bai Duan was carefully nurtured, and there was not even a scar on his whole body. The hands were white and flawless, slender and delicate, just like beautiful works of art. In this life, these perfect works of art had so many defects that they were no longer beautiful, but more pitiable and lovely.
Zhou Mo felt his nose turn slightly sour, “Over the years… It’s been hard for you.”
Bai Duan was touched tenderly and pitiably by Zhou Mo’s hands. The whole person was very uncomfortable, and his eyes even misted over. He understood that Zhou Mo seemed to be in love with him, but he could not sympathize with this feeling.
In his view, his life had been perfect; at least he had food and clothing. Also, a little more money than those who were barely clothed, couldn’t find food and had to work hard to live without ever being happy.
Moreover, when it came to tragedy, it was Zhou Mo, a general who had experienced great ups and downs, who had not only been alarmed step by step on the battlefield but also tasted the hard days when he was sent to exile and treated as if he were inferior to animals.
“I didn’t suffer.” Bai Duan shook his head gently. “And I believe you will make my life better.”
“Un, I will.” Zhou Mo held Bai Duan’s hands tightly.
Originally, he began this rebellion to fulfill his original’s wishes and to protect the land and the people living on it. But now, he wanted to recover the broken mountains and rivers, overthrow the decadent court, and return the people to a peaceful and prosperous age of singing and dancing.
After all, this was the world in which he and Bai Duan would live in for a lifetime, and he wanted his lover, together with the beautiful clothes and excellent food, to be carefree, rather than wandering and be uncertain in this troubled world.
Zhou Mo was selfish and indifferent. He could not understand the compassion of saving the people and never regretting even abandoning himself. He even ignored it. But if his lover was also one of the many people waiting for his help, if this were also his lover’s wishes and desires, then Zhou Mo would devote all his efforts to save the Empire.