Things like reputations are just fleeting… During the fifth day of the lunar month, Nan Ge Er completely lost his face.
In such a gossip-prevalent place like Guang Tian, Nan Ge Er’s embarrassing incident spread like wildfire through the entire county. After getting back discretely to the government office, he’d noticed a hint of a smile in Mo Shu’s expression—Bastard! He is definitely aware of it! Resentment burned in him.
The troubling first lunar month finally came to an end. On the fifteenth day of the next month, there was a display of coloured lanterns during the Lantern Festival in the district. To maintain public order, the government workers were required to patrol. Of course, as a selflessly dedicated Magistrate-Daren, Mo Shu, had to bear the brunt of having the first night’s shift. He’d forced the sweet food provider, Nan Ge Er, along on his patrol.
Actually, Nan Ge Er didn’t quite want to go, since the current gossip between him and Mo Shu had evolved into truth in everyone’s eyes —and he didn’t want to make it real. However, Mo Shu naturally had his own methods. After being threatened with a smiling face. Nan Ge Er had no choice but to go along.
They patrolled the Lantern Festival for one round. Since everything was fine, they could head back to the government office right away. However, it seemed like Mo Shu wasn’t planning on going back just yet.
“Daren, where are we heading to?” Nan Ge Er asked Mo Shu in a somewhat confused tone. This isn’t the direction to the government office.
“To fly the lanterns,” Mo Shu replied.
Please don’t give such a matter-of-fact answer to something that I couldn’t possibly know, alright? I don’t remember you telling me to fly the lanterns together!
“Daren, it’s getting late.” Nan Ge Er quirked his mouth as he spoke.
“Don’t worry, I’m not afraid,” Mo Shu answered.
Oi! That isn’t the point, alright? Can’t you hear how unwilling I am? Anyway, don’t you feel any discomfort when blurting out such an embarrassing sentence?
“Which one do you like?” Mo Shu walked straight towards a stall before asking Nan Ge Er, completely ignoring the gloom on his face.
“Oh, it’s Mo Shu-xiansheng… and Nan Ge Er, huh.” The stall owner grinned from ear to ear as he greeted them.
… What’s with that slight pause of yours?! Nan Ge Er could only feel unparalleled despair.
“See if any one of them catches your interest,” Mo Shu spoke to Nan Ge Er again while taking a look as well, scrutinising the lanterns placed on the stand.
Nan Ge Er glanced at the lanterns, which looked cute despite being crafted intricately. The corners of his mouth twitched, “Uh, well, I do appreciate your kindness, Daren, but I’m afraid I have to decline…” You claim you will let me pick, but I’ll be the one paying in the end, right? I have no interest in getting something impractical.
“Oh, nothing to your liking here?” Mo Shu turned to look at Nan Ge Er, naturally misinterpreting his words.
Oi! Nan Ge Er made a face.
“Take a look here.” Nan Ge Er had only looked away for a second, and Mo Shu had already slipped off to another stall.
… Exactly how old are you, Mo Shu-xiansheng?! Nan Ge Er felt extremely gloomy as he followed along listlessly. With that, they went window shopping from one stall to another. When Nan Ge Er came back to his senses, he realized they had already strolled down a significant portion of the streets, and were nearing the riverside.
Though it was referred to as ‘streets’, it actually was just a causeway which was constructed to go around the river. A vast number of townspeople had drifted onto the long and narrow dam, be it those selling lanterns, buying lanterns or those simply enjoying themselves. Similarly, there were lantern stalls across the river as well. Amid the night, a variety of them was scattered on every corner of the streets, vibrantly coloured.
Children, teenagers, elderly; all of them were crossing the busy streets. Some were laughing and playing, some popped their head around to view the lanterns, some carrying a variety of lanterns. The other side of the river, filled with bustling streams of people and splendidly coloured with eye-catching rays, could be seen from Nan Ge Er’s side.
The glistening waves of the river weren’t all that clear, but the vividly bright colours of the surrounding had sunken deep into the water. The rays on the surface of the water were like threads. The streams of people on the dyke seemed as though they were weaved together, making it an interestingly exceptional contrast. The whole scene gave off the appearance of an unnaturally beautiful scroll painting. Nan Ge Er unconsciously stopped in his tracks. He stood upright on the dyke, viewing the scenery on the other side of the river. Mo Shu followed suit, stopping his tracks as well and standing beside him.
“… It just feels… marvellous.” Nan Ge Er quietly commented in the midst of the cacophonous noise and boisterous crowd. He didn’t need an audience; the words were just for himself. Thus, he, in such a joyous environment, merely muttered the comment softly. He never thought that he could see such a sight in this lifetime, such an…exuberant, yet dreamy view. However, Mo Shu did catch what Nan Ge Er had said. He smiled lightly, watching the opposite riverside together with Nan Ge Er.
In the chilly air, every breath breathed out was white. Everyone was chatting mirthfully with people beside them while complaining about the cold weather. Little brats were chasing one another around in the streets, occasionally being yelled at by the people they had bumped into. Without any care for those shouts, the little ones chortled as they ran away.
Despite being well dressed, the young ladies feigned indifference as they praised others’ attire. On the other hand, a small group of young guys with malicious intentions grabbed a lantern each. They would intentionally bump into the ladies, provoking them to chase and beat them. The elderly were strolling carefully in less crowded places while jovially viewing the lanterns, the river and the people. Similar to Mo Shu and Nan Ge Er, some stood on the opposite riverbank with their hands behind their back, smiling as they watched the scenery on Nan Ge Er’s side.
This is a bustling, living world. And I am currently standing there. Such thoughts popped into Nan Ge Er’s mind. Something rigid and stone-cold seemed to be slowly melting in his heart. Perhaps I kind of understand why I would remain here instead of dying away depressingly.
“Oh, isn’t that Xiao Nan?” a familiar voice interrupted Nan Ge Er’s thoughts, sending him back to reality. Advisor Zhu Xi had a crowd of yamen runners around him as he walked towards them, he even had a lantern in his hand.
The lantern was citrus red, with the shape of a cat squatting on its heels. Every single hair of its fur was drawn on. The cat lantern looked extremely adorable. However, such a cute lantern was carried by the valiant-looking Zhu Xi…This made the whole scene looked incredibly disharmonious. Actually, in his heart, Nan Ge Er had a feeling Mo Shu and Zhu Xi totally had their roles reversed.
Zhu Xi had a righteous and stately appearance, looking more like a magistrate, while Mo Shu had elegant beauty and grace, looking more like a knowledgeable and learned advisor.
However, the tragic part is that Advisor Zhu Xi is competent in his future-less and laborious job as an advisor, while Mo Shu, though appearing meticulous and graceful… is just a total idiot! How can someone’s appearance differ so much from his inner self?! Nan Ge Er dissed in his heart miserably.
“What are you guys doing?” After getting the others around him to patrol in all directions, Advisor Zhu Xi had come up to them himself, standing on the riverbank as well, as he asked them.
“Strolling,” Mo Shu stated plainly, with an otherworldly, transcendent look.
Zhu Xi knew what Mo Shu was like, obviously. Suspicious, he gave Mo Shu a once-over before asking Nan Ge Er instead, “Xiao Nan, you’re viewing the show of lanterns?”
“Mn…” Nan Ge Er jerked the corners of his lips, “Daren kept insisting on buying me a lantern.” And even wants me to foot for it.
It was clear that Zhu Xi was one of the rare few in Guang Tian who knew Mo Shu’s true colors; he knew the message behind Nan Ge Er’s words. He twitched his lips unwittingly as well, “Well, ahem…” After letting out a dry cough, he went silent.
“What is this?” Mo Shu wasn’t concerned at all and didn’t feel any awareness being looked down upon by Nan Ge Er and Zhu Xi. He threw his attention to Zhu Xi swiftly.
“Ah…” Zhu Xi seemed to have forgotten about the lantern himself, only remembering after being prompted by Mo Shu. He lowered his head and looked at the moe cat lantern, slightly twitching his mouth again, “It’s for you, Xiao Nan.”
“Me?” Nan Ge Er widened his eyes. He just couldn’t think who else, other than Mo Shu, would be senseless enough to give a lantern to him as a gift.
“But I guess, when I tell you the reason, you probably wouldn’t want to have it.”
“Huh?” Nan Ge Er looked at Zhu Xi, baffled.
“Ahem…” Zhu Xi murmured, “Well, Chun Jiao… specially…”
After that, he looked at Nan Ge Er’s face. It was blackening up, appearing rather ghastly against the red cat lantern.
Nan Ge Er jerked for quite a while, his lips trembling as he stated, “I think you should just help me return it.” He began remembering the painful memory…
Zhu Xi laughed drily.
Women sure are scary. Guang Tian’s women are the scariest!
“It is adorable.” Mo Shu, who had stood wordlessly at the side, suddenly reached his hand out, snatching the cat lantern from Zhu Xi’s hands. He even lifted it up, illuminating Nan Ge Er’s face. “Isn’t this really similar to you?”
Nan Ge Er looked at him, speechless— He really wanted to reach out and push that idiot down off the dyke now. He felt that even if he could tolerate it now, sooner or later, he would turn these impulses into reality.
Similar, your arse! What similarities do I have with a cat? And I’m just being made fun of by Chun Jiao, you bastard!
In the end, Nan Ge Er could only watch in defeat as Mo Shu carried the stupid cat lantern while walking to the government office. The most depressing thing was, when everyone noticed the cat lantern in Mo Shu’s hands, all of them simultaneously shot ambiguous glances at them.
…I’ve already said, that thing really isn’t mine! Nan Ge Er felt the impulse to bash a certain someone again.
When they were about to reach the government office, Mo Shu stopped in his tracks all of a sudden. As Nan Ge Er was then speaking ill of him with all of the might in his heart, he momentarily lost focus and almost bumped against Mo Shu. He raised his head, a little perplexed as to what was going on.
Why did you suddenly stop? Nervousness rose within him at that moment. Don’t tell me that fellow is hatching some wicked idea again?!
“Sky lanterns.” Mo Shu gazed at the night sky, as he spoke softly.
Nan Ge Er instinctively followed Mo Shu’s line of sight. Over the river dyke, there were faintly yellow sky lanterns. They swayed while gradually rising up, gently adorning the dark sky.
“Make a wish,” Mo Shu spoke seriously all of a sudden. “It is said that wishes made under the sky lanterns will come true.”
… You don’t even bother about praying to ancestors, but you will make a wish under the sky lanterns?! Nan Ge Er made a face again. He simply couldn’t understand the inner workings of Mo Shu’s brain.
Peering over, he found that Mo Shu, who was under the eaves at the roadside with the lantern in his hand, did close his eyes. He looked pious and solemn; both of his hands were clasped together—he really is making a wish! Nan Ge Er was speechless. After Mo Shu had concluded his solemn, earnest wish, the two continued walking.
Nan Ge Er got a little curious, “Even you have wishes?” To be precise, he thought that the desires of a typical person, like wishes, didn’t quite fit the image of Mo Shu…
Mo Shu smiled, “Of course, I do.” At that moment, under the pale, yellow lanterns by the roadside, Mo Shu’s face seemed somewhat blurry, appearing to be quite serious.
“Oh.” Nan Ge Er didn’t continue asking, he felt that he wasn’t entitled to be curious.
“I wished that we can have dinner together tomorrow and that you will cook honeyed beans for me.” Honeyed beans were the sweet beans which Mo Shu favoured a lot.
… Nan Ge Er made a face yet again. This wish… isn’t it a bit too…?!
Noticing how speechless Nan Ge Er was, Mo Shu laughed out suddenly, “Mn, seems rather silly, doesn’t it?”
You know that too, Da Ye?! Nan Ge Er couldn’t but roll his eyes at him.
“But,the future is built by each and every tomorrow.” Mo Shu laughed, reaching out to stroke Nan Ge Er’s head.
Nan Ge Er was stunned for a moment. What does Mo Shu mean?
“Tomorrow, we will eat together here.” Mo Shu chuckled, “It will still be the same the day after tomorrow.”
“…What a cunning wish!” Nan Ge Er got a little embarrassed, as he murmured softly. He is referring to each and every tomorrow when talking about the so-called ‘future’!
“A specific wish will make the process of achieving it more motivating.” Mo Shu smiled, stroking Nan Ge Er’s hair.
“It’s still cunning.”
To tell the truth, Nan Ge Er didn’t know how to describe his current feelings. He just wanted to continue the conversation casually, to make himself feel a bit more natural.
“So, will you be cooking that tomorrow?” As always, Mo Shu used a gentle tone, but the question he asked gave Nan Ge Er a sudden urge to destroy him.
Nan Ge Er didn’t take a single breath, almost suffocating to death at the door from Mo Shu’s words.
After a while, he finally raised his head, looking at Mo Shu, “Actually, you only made that so-called wish to have me grant it, right?” Even if I didn’t bring it up, this fellow would probably still find a way to let me know.
“A good wish is attainable.” Mo Shu grinned as he stroked Nan Ge Er’s head, “Rather than making a request to the gods who may or may not exist, making a request to my Nan Ge Er is much more reliable.” He clearly didn’t know how infuriating his words were.
… I knew it! Violent impulses raged in his heart again.