Anyways, with all the busying around, the year finally reached its end.
Today, the kitchen aunty had prepared all of the meals in the early morning and had gone back home, while the yamen runners1 had finished work earlier in the afternoon.
Nan Ge Er was currently stacking straw for the chicken coop in the backyard. The noise from the chickens and chicks and from moving the straw made him unable to hear the footsteps of Mo Shu walking over at that moment. He stood in front of the coop and paused.
Mo Shu looked at Nan Ge Er hunching while strenuously and slowly carrying the straw inside. He frowned, striding towards him swiftly. “Didn’t I tell you to let me do it?” Mo Shu effortlessly took the straw that Nan Ge Er was arduously carrying, “You should rest.”
Nan Ge Er was a little startled by the hand that reached over suddenly. Only after freezing for a slight moment did he reacted, “… Ah, I had nothing to do anyway.”
Instinctively, Mo Shu wasn’t fond of the nervously fearful expression that Nan Ge Er had right then, which made him start to observe Nan Ge Er seriously.
However, Nan Ge Er had already recovered his usual calm look and continued, “Exercise is still needed even if I’m sick,” while nonchalantly walking to another heap of straw, planning to carry it.
Mo Shu furrowed his brow slightly, but he didn’t stop him, “Don’t carry so much, leave the heavier ones to me.”
Nan Ge Er gave a short, half-hearted reply while continuing his work. He always liked to think about other things when he was doing something, that was why he… He hoped Mo Shu didn’t notice anything was wrong.
Mo Shu briskly placed the straw in his hands into the coop, tidying it up before heading back to carry all of the straw left into the coop—even though Mo Shu-xiansheng didn’t look like it, that guy was actually a housework expert. Working dexterously and thoroughly, having impressive strength and a great body, and—being tall with long legs! Nan Ge Er found himself a little envious. If I had just half of the advantages he has, my work efficiency would be higher too!
As he settled the chickens and ducks in the backyard, Nan Ge Er decided that if he had excess money next year, he would get two little piglets to rear from the Li family of the backstreets—if he wanted to be healthy, it was necessary to improve his lifestyle, though he knew he probably couldn’t live long in this lifetime. He busied himself for a significant portion of the day again until the sky gradually dimmed down.
Nan Ge Er looked over at the backyard that was nearly tidied up, and wearily spoke, “Let’s leave it like this for now, I will deal with the rest next time.” The work couldn’t be finished in a short time anyway.
Mo Shu, who was helping fix the shed, stood on the shed’s roof collectedly instead, “it’s seldom for me to be free, so let’s finish up everything here.”
Nan Ge Er pondered, it did make sense, so he nodded, “I’ll heat up the meals then, just wait in the canteen when you’re done.” Mo Shu’s work efficiency was far superior to his; it was even comparable to that of three standard people! It was rare to be able to capture such an easy-to-use and free laborer, to just let him go was indeed somewhat regrettable.
“Sure,” Mo Shu answered, “make the fire bigger.” There was a dining hall in the government office specifically for Magistrate-Daren to meet and have meals with guests. However, since it was always just the two of them in the government office, and that one of them usually disappeared off to somewhere, the hall hardly ever came in handy. Nan Ge Er gave a one-word answer before heading to the kitchen to work.
He didn’t really have any desire for the fish and meat that were hard to come by. He just felt that the two of them celebrating New Year’s together had a slightly intriguing feel to it. No matter which lifetime he was in, he always celebrated New Year’s with a bunch of people. The boisterous and warm ones were from his past, the bustling but cold ones were from his current lifetime. However, a celebration like this, hectic yet a little lonely, that gave him a peculiar sense of being… was a first for him. He was unable to determine whether he liked or disliked such a situation.
After busying himself with work for a while, finishing everything Nan Ge Er had instructed him to, Mo Shu straightened his body. As he looked over the roof that was properly fixed, a slightly prideful smile grew on his face. He jumped down into the backyard, then went over to the kitchen.
Instead of heading in, Mo Shu peeked through the paper window that was a little broken at the inexperienced movements of the busy figure. The corners of his mouth curled up into a smile. No one knew that Mo Shu-xiansheng was actually a skilled chef. He didn’t intend to go in to help; instead he stood near the windowsill, looking at Nan Ge Er’s figure.
One moment Nan Ge Er got scalded by the soup a little, the next he was blusteringly looking at the bowls he shattered when he accidentally placed them too forcefully. Before the work in other areas was even finished, he had to hurry over to one side and scoop out the food from the wok. All in all, he was in a flurry.
As Mo Shu thought about it, Nan Ge Er was indeed a rather clumsy child. Except for having some knowledge regarding making money, and being a bit more adept in observing others, he was just a fumbling and normal child in other areas. Hm, as a matter of fact, I’m only quite flawed in those two aspects, aren’t I? Mo Shu pondered hard. It really seems to be so. He didn’t find it to be a bad thing; it was as if Nan Ge Er was someone that came there just for him.
As Nan Ge Er was working hectically in the kitchen, he kept feeling that he was being spied on, but there was no one when he turned around. That bewildered him a little—He completely trusted his instincts; he was able to stay alive because of them. However, the only person who can peep so openly in the government office is probably Mo Shu, right? Nonetheless, walking to the canteen and noticing Mo Shu sitting there perfectly calm while drinking tea made him uncertain—He wasn’t able to spot any clues. Moreover, Mo Shu didn’t seem to be a Peeping Tom at all.
Mo Shu looked at Nan Ge Er carrying the dishes as he walked in. Though there wasn’t any change in his expression, the bafflement in Nan Ge Er’s eyes still made him laugh out in his heart—that child’s perplexed expression was a rare sight.
“Time to eat.” Nan Ge Er placed the dishes on the table calmly. Did the contrastingly peaceful environment I’m in made my instincts faulty?
“Mn.” Mo Shu played the fool as well, “I’ll help carry the dishes.”
There was a saying, ‘A gentleman should steer clear of the kitchen’2 in this world too. However, since there were only two men with no woman around in the office, even gentlemen had to eat too, so the clumsy Nan Ge Er, who didn’t even know how to cook, had no choice but to ignore the saying… Of course, even if it was only reheating food, he still managed to burn some slightly dry vegetables.
Even so, Mo Shu still appeared to be fairly cheerful. He called Nan Ge Er over to have a seat, taking firecrackers out and letting a string of them off, before starting his meal—He didn’t even bother to pray his ancestors. Straightaway, he picked up his chopsticks, ready to begin his meal.
Nan Ge Er looked at Mo Shu in perplexity, “Aren’t you going to pray to your ancestors?”
The custom was similar here, during the New Year’s Eve family dinner, a bowl of rice would be filled, food would be placed in it, and the bowl would be offered to the ancestors to ‘enjoy’. After a few minutes, the dinner would then finally start. From what he knew, the tradition basically existed everywhere, no matter which country it was in the world, just that some details might be different. However, judging from Mo Shu’s actions, he didn’t seem to be planning to follow the trend…
“Pray to the ancestors?” Mo Shu looked at Nan Ge Er, “Pray to what ancestors?”
… What the heck is he talking?
Nan Ge Er made a face, “Ancestors. Aren’t you going to pray to them?”
Mo Shu glanced at Nan Ge Er’s expression, “Do you want to pray?”
I’m just a wandering ghost now, where can you find any ancestors for me to pray? I’m already dead in the previous world, so my right to pray to them has vanished. The me in this world didn’t want such a reincarnation right from the start; I’m not grateful for it, so I don’t want to pray.
Noting Nan Ge Er’s silence, Mo Shu spoke, “See? Neither you nor I want to pray.” he waved his hands, “Let’s eat, otherwise the food will get cold.”
“Why doesn’t Mo Shu-xiansheng want to pray the ancestors?” Maybe it was the slightly intimate atmosphere that made Nan Ge Er blurt it out. He immediately regretted it—he shouldn’t have asked such a question.
However, Mo Shu was startled a bit before smiling slightly as he replied, “Because my ancestors don’t need my prayers.” He was pleased that Nan Ge Er would have such a conversation with him.
“Huh?” Nan Ge Er blinked.
“They’re all dead anyway, so why should I pray?” Mo Shu smiled. “They wouldn’t know if I prayed or not.”
… This, this…Don’t tell me Mo Shu is the pioneer of atheism in this world?! Hearing such a modern way of thinking in this world for the first time made Nan Ge Er widen his eyes.
It was evident that Mo Shu misunderstood Nan Ge Er’s expression; he laughed as he explained, “My father said so. That’s why I’ve never prayed to my ancestors.” He picked a chopstick-full of fish and placed it on the bowl in front of Nan Ge Er, “Living to your heart’s content when alive, peacefully dying when meeting death, that should be the way to go.”
Nan Ge Er rested his eyes on the fish in his bowl as he unconsciously muttered, “Then, are you content with your current lifestyle?”
“Of course.” Mo Shu smiled faintly. “It’s exactly because I liked it that I stayed here. Don’t you like your current life?” He paused a bit, emphasizing, “Here, life in the government office, don’t you like it?”
Nan Ge Er indistinctly felt something was weird from the way Mo Shu spoke, but he was pondering on Mo Shu’s question, so he didn’t think too much about it. “… I don’t know,” he answered truthfully after mulling over for a long time.
“If you took time thinking if you liked or disliked it, that in itself means that you don’t dislike it,” a faint smile ran along Mo Shu’s lips as he poured a cup of wine for himself, “What do you think?”
The profound meaning in Mo Shu’s words muted Nan Ge Er for a while, who shook his head after that, “I don’t know.”
Nan Ge Er’s honest expression seemed to lift Mo Shu’s spirits he smiled, “It’s alright if you don’t know. Anyway, you have a long time to live, it will be enough for you to figure out.” Holding up his wine cup, he slowly drank the wine.
Nan Ge Er kept feeling that those words made him oddly warm inside. After pondering for a bit, he shook his head again, “Mn, I don’t know, but, uh…” Although he wanted to say something, he wasn’t able to find the right words for it. He kept feeling that the words he wanted to say couldn’t be spoken by his current self, and his present self wouldn’t be able to bear the responsibility of those words.
“See?” once Mo Shu began to drink wine, his eyes would become particularly bright; he glanced at Nan Ge Er, with a smile as gentle and clean as a spring wind, “You don’t have to hurry.”
“Mn.” Nan Ge Er nodded his head, smiling. Wanting to confirm to himself again, he nodded again before looking at Mo Shu, “Let’s eat, let’s eat.”
Mo Shu chuckled, pouring another cup of wine again.
1 Yamen runners (Recap from chp 2): government employees in charge of general services for the government more info:http://www.yamenrunner.com/runner
2 A nobleman should steer clear of the kitchen: idiom from Mencius. More info: (the part on ‘Mencius asks the king (King Xuan of Qi):’) http://warpweftandway.com/eichmann-arendt-milgram-and-mencius/