When Nan Ge Er noticed a few pieces of fish had been thrown haphazardly into the wooden tub after he returned, it was inevitable for him to feel a wave of resentment in his heart.
Of course, he could only grumble for a bit before resigning himself to take the fish out for preparation, then place them back to preserve. As he did so, he continually reminded himself in his heart that he must spit into Mo Shu’s teacup next time.
When the winter solstice passed, the days became even colder. Following next, in less than one month’s time, everyone in the county began to prepare for the new year.
Although Nan Ge Er did live a total of sixteen years in this world, in truth, the time he spent genuinely living was probably only this half year. Therefore, he wasn’t entirely ignorant about preparations for the New Year, but it wasn’t his forte either. The women in the county, who couldn’t look on any longer, ended up coming over to teach him what he should do, and what items he should get.
Actually, Nan Ge Er felt gloomy in regards that too. Why does it turn out this way? When did the entire county government expenditure become my responsibility? Exactly when did the accountants start giving me the money to manage instead of just receiving and managing it themselves from Zhu Xi? Even the daily menus are given to me for approval by the kitchen aunty… Great, they even begin to explain the New Year preparations to me now… They are clearly trying to make me manage everything!
He really had no interest in taking on everyone’s daily tasks, but whenever he went to Zhu Xi to discuss it, Zhu Xi would always quickly find an excuse to divert the topic… As for Mo Shu?
Forget it, besides looking through documents and taking others out to hunt in the mountains during breaks to improve the quality of the meals, he would only think of ways to escape. So how could he have the spare time to care about that? Plus, with Mo Shu’s habit of spending money, Nan Ge Er wouldn’t dare to let him manage the accounts. Despite being conflicted, after consideration, Nan Ge Er had no choice but to accept his butler position… There was nothing he could do about it.
In truth, Zhu Xi was extremely busy every day. Before Nan Ge Er’s arrival, he even had to manage the accounts and household while being the advisor. However, since Nan Ge Er was around currently, Zhu Xi was obviously glad that he could relax a bit more now, and he would rather die than to take those tasks on again. Not to mention, with the existence of Mo Shu, a magistrate that was oblivious to danger, it was challenging to manage the household of the government office. Others couldn’t be counted on too; it would be good enough if they didn’t worship Mo Shu blindly. As for Mo Shu, it would be lucky if he didn’t sabotage anything. It was great that the money from the accounts was directly given to Nan Ge Er since it allowed broader freedom for Nan Ge Er. However… Some problematic factors still existed, such as:
“Nan Ge Er.” Mo Shu intercepted Nan Ge Er, who was holding a large jug while heading hurriedly to the kitchen. There were only ten or so days left before the New Year’s; various goods and materials were still unprepared, so he was running off his feet every day.
“Huh?” Nan Ge Er was wondering if he needed to buy a few more fresh pieces of meat to preserve while walking, he kept feeling that there weren’t enough meat products prepared.
“I need fifty wen1.” Mo Shu said.
“Didn’t I give you a hundred wen a few days ago?” Nan Ge Er furrowed his brows.
That’s right, the situation ended up turning into Mo Shu asking for money from Nan Ge Er instead of asking from Zhu Xi in the past.
“Only a widow and her orphan children2 are in the Xia family, and there are only two elderly in the He family. I gave some money to both families so that they could shop for the New Year,” Mo Shu answered righteously, “but as I delivered the money, I realized that there are only widows in the Zhu and Zheng family at Chengnan3; life is especially hard for them.”
It isn’t hard for you to give money away, but can’t you see how hard it is for me to live by scrimping on every cent and penny? Sir, your tiny amount of money is only enough to feed yourself. Moreover, that bit of money is needed to maintain the basic operation of the government…but you keep giving money away every now and then…so how can I earn enough to support that?!
Although Nan Ge Er resented him tremendously, he didn’t oppose to it, “As for money, I have none. I will buy some New Year goods when I go outside later; you can deliver them after that.” Still, he had to reiterate – in Guang Tian, the one that needed relief the most was this Magistrate-daren.
Mo Shu was waiting for Nan Ge Er to say that. He grinned, “Nan Ge Er, you really are amazing.”
“Hm?” Nan Ge Er raised his head, and looked at Mo Shu—I won’t give you money even if you flatter me. Who knows if you will give it to some random family again? Figuring out that Magistrate-daren seemingly wanted to have a conversation, Nan Ge Er had no choice but to set the jug in his hands onto the floor and listen to what he had to say.
“By only setting up a tea stall for a season, you were able to fix the expenditure for everyone in the government office. That is really remarkable. Just a season of work is enough to provide half a year’s worth of food for everyone. How incredible.” Mo Shu narrowed his eyes into a smile, smiling, “How did you do that, Nan Ge Er?”
If I told you that I did it just to survive, will you be able to understand? Nan Ge Er twitched his lips; it was better for him to answer with an explanation that was easier to understand, “I only raised a bit of capital. All of the items bought allowed for sustainable development.” After some pondering, he guessed Mo Shu probably couldn’t understand the terms, so he explained a little bit more in detail, “The hens are able to lay eggs, which will hatch into chicks. The chicks, in turn, will be able to lay eggs when they grow up. The eggs laid can be sold or hatched into chicks, the money earned from selling eggs can then be used to buy ducks. Part of the money earned from the tea stall was used to buy grain, while some of it was used to buy various seeds. Summer, autumn, winter; there will be seeds that are suitable for each season. Since there isn’t a single flower in the government garden anyway, why not use it to grow vegetables? They only need to be watered in the morning and night daily. There is no need for fertilisers. Plant ashes from the kitchen will be sufficient. There is no need to take care of them exceptionally well since there is no expectation of a good harvest. It is good enough if it provides sufficient food ,and the leftover vegetables could be blow dried, baked, and then made into snacks like Ciba. People in the neighbourhood will bring items over in exchange for them. Easily spoilt food will be managed, while items that can last longer will be stored in the warehouse. Sometimes, you guys hunt in the mountains or catch fish from the river. Together with that little salary of yours, it is somewhat enough to get by.” The words that Nan Ge Er actually wanted to say was: your salary is really not that low, if you, my lord, didn’t freely give your wealth away, you could be fairly well-off.
Mo Shu didn’t seem to comprehend what Nan Ge Er said. He merely listened inattentively before nodding, “Nan Ge Er, don’t you want to earn even more money? Having delicious food, wearing better outfits? When you earn enough, you could have your own family in the county.”
Nan Ge Er wasn’t quite sure why did Mo Shu said that; he intuitively observed Mo Shu’s expression closely. Mo Shu had an ethereal look as usual; nothing appeared to be amiss. Nan Ge Er deliberated for a while and answered, “… Daren, do you mean that you think I am not suitable here?” If Mo Shu really thinks I am an eyesore, then I should be tactful and scram; but I don’t have anywhere to go to.
Mo Shu widened his eyes a little, “Why do you say that?” However, immediately, he seemed to realize his words probably caused him to misunderstand, so he explained, “I’m just curious, doesn’t everyone want to live an easy and comfortable life? I think that you should be adept at planning such stuff.”
Nan Ge Er was a bit stunned, before responding a little absent-mindedly, “…I’m just afraid of death.” No matter how proficient I am at planning, didn’t I still land in such a state in the end?
“Mm…” Mo Shu nodded his head, “It’s human to be afraid of death.”
That mildly approving expression of Mo Shu’s made Nan Ge Er laugh all of a sudden, “I am afraid to die from hunger, so I planned all of that. It is enough for me if I don’t starve. Furthermore, I think that it is enough if I can eat well and be warmly clothed. I feel that there is no need to mind much about any other aspect. Wanting to have more? Never did I have that mindset. When was there any moment of ease here?” He tilted his head, laughing, “I think I have a rather comfortable life now, but if I spent all my energy on earning money, it would probably be very tough.”
Nan Ge Er’s reply made Mo Shu raise an eyebrow, “You are quite an unambitious child.”
“What’s wrong with being unambitious?” Nan Ge Er didn’t care much about Mo Shu’s opinion, “Since I didn’t do anything unscrupulous.” At least for now.
“Don’t you ever think of making a name for yourself and bringing honor to your family?”
“Nope.” Nan Ge Er gave an exceptionally straightforward reply to that question.
If he was still in his original world, where he had my loving parents, and his like-minded friends, such ideas might arise in his mind. However, the current shell of his had no such pressure. In this world, he didn’t really have much sense of belonging ever since the start, and he was even more indifferent now. Besides…This shell had already brought honor to the family, hadn’t it? Nan Ge Er laughed coldly in his heart.
The only surviving family member of the king was actually a treacherous, disloyal minister, who vainly attempted to take the throne. Was there anything that could be as famous as that? Mo Shu looked at the expressionless Nan Ge Er, seemingly a little hesitant.
Confused as to why Mo Shu wore such an expression. Nan Ge Er came back to his senses and looked at Mo Shu, puzzled, “Daren, what’s wrong?” Is it really that bizarre for a man to not be ambitious?
“Oh, it’s nothing.” Mo Shu thought a bit before smiling suddenly. He reached out his hand and stroked Nan Ge Er’s head, “You are fine exactly as you are.”
“Not bad.” Mo Shu patted Nan Ge Er’s head in a commending manner – with a movement akin to patting a melon during the summer to judge if it’s ripe. Nan Ge Er was speechless.
“You’re fine, just like that.” Mo Shu smiled, before his sight fell on the jug on the floor, “Are you taking this to the kitchen?”
“Ah, yes.” Nan Ge Er was still confused, so he replied instinctively.
“Carrying it seems to be strenuous for you.” As Mo Shu spoke, he bent down and effortlessly carried the jug, “Let’s go.”
“Hah?” Nan Ge Er got even more confused than he initially was, but as he thought of the free labor, he couldn’t care less. He caught up to him quickly. “I have to go outside to buy beans later, why don’t you help me carry them while you are at it, Daren?” The grain retailers were busy these days and couldn’t deliver to the doorstep like before. There were just too many items that needed to be prepared, so it was extremely challenging to carry everything back with his small stature. He was unwilling to spend money to hire people as well. Right when he was fretting about this, Mo Shu fell into his lap. What a timely assistance.
“…Even though you address me as daren, you are quite unreserved when ordering others around.” Mo Shu’s mouth twitched as he spoke.
“Daren, I will buy the Zhu and Zheng families’ New Year goods on my way.”
“Call me when you are going outside.” Mo Shu immediately replied.
1Wen: olden china currency.
2orphan children: children were sometimes referred as orphaned even if they have a single parent around
3Chengnan: sub-county of Guang Tian