Nan Ge Er found it slightly weird himself that he was able to just live in Guang Tian naturally. What were his thoughts about it at first? Once injured, he wanted to recover. After recovering, he wanted to have a full meal. When he was full, he wanted to improve the standards of the meals. Only when his meals caught up with the majority’s standards did he have the energy to think of random thoughts. Hence, he felt his present situation was strange.
… Humans sure are odd; their bodies will recover after being injured, and even the wounds in their souls seem to dissipate as the physical injuries heal.
Never was he a vengeful person. No matter if he lived in that pitch dark and ponderous palace, regardless if he used countless dirty methods to survive, in his heart, he was still that college sophomore that transmigrated due to a fire incident. That was determined right from the start.
He wasn’t a naïve or innocent infant in the first place; his current personality was only a continuation from that college sophomore, instead of starting life with a personality that was as blank as a sheet of paper, like any ordinary human being. After that, he used his experiences and knowledge of a college sophomore, to grow into the present Nan Ge Er. Although he looked young physically, in reality, he had already lived for far too long.
After the three years of imprisonment, currently, he didn’t have any huge ambitions like that of a typical teenager; he had also lost any desire for the future, or perhaps, he had long lost such a chance. In the young shell, lies an aged and numbed heart.
However, remarkably, the things in the government office began increasing slowly. Chicks turned into hens, and then laid more eggs, which would then hatch into little chicks. Even the groups of yellow ducklings Nan Ge Er raised started flapping their wings and quacking noisily as they chased one another around.
Some of the food in the government warehouse was stored up by him. Those that were given by the neighbors and residents were so abundant it could even fill up the whole warehouse. More and more passersby began greeting him when he went out. Sometimes, he would be forcefully dragged by others to have a meal in their homes. Whenever he was eating with the advisor and yamen runners, he would always throw the food he disliked into their bowls. After finishing his storytelling, the little kids would hand over fruits and snacks to gain his favor; adults would give him a bit of food as well. When they were free, the women in the town would voluntarily come over to the government office to help mend, wash and dry clothes. Such a boring, illogical, tedious and monotonous life was yet something he had never experienced before.
Maybe, in the past, when he was still just an innocent student, he did live such a mundane life, but as he recalled it now, he realised that his past self had strayed too far away from that life. Right now, he unexpectedly landed himself naturally into such a life again; an innocent yet complicated, busy yet peaceful life. At the moment, he couldn’t even remember how he got conquered by such a daily life.
It had already become so when he began noticing it; as he reminisced on the past half-year, there was totally no indication, nor any related signs to be observed. He wanted to know why was he reduced to a prisoner, and suffered those years of torture. It was evident that I… However, as the busy half-year passed by, he realised, the firm desire in his heart had dulled tremendously. Does this mean that the healing of physical injuries will heal the soul as well? Humans really are fickle creatures.
As time moved on, wounds from grievous events would be smoothened out. Same for blissful events; happiness would be forgotten as time passed. People arrived naked to the world. When dead, nothing could be taken away. The nothingness from the beginning turned back into nothingness in the end. Death was already announced as soon as one was born; as each day passed, the day of death crept closer as well. So, what’s the point of living anyway? Though clearly knowing that there wasn’t any purpose to live on, people still instinctively lived on. How heartless.
“Nan Ge Er, what are you dazing about? Come over quickly to have some meat!” Yellings from everyone could be heard outside the government hall.
It was currently the winter solstice. The winter solstice was a huge event there; everyone would get back home to prepare good food for their ancestors. Every shop would close early, and the government would take a day off too.
Mo Shu and the others went out early today as well. Before noon, they carried back huge wild animals from who knows where. At the moment, the doors were closed. Everyone got around the field and prepared a huge bonfire to roast the wild haul. Nan Ge Er spaced out a bit, before shrugging. What am I being uncertain for? Life, so be it; death, so be it. All of that doesn’t matter.
As he walked out of the hall, the flames in the square blazed on. The wild animals’ viscera and other innards were placed inside the bucket nearby, while the blood was placed in another bucket. The yamen runners and the advisor were all gathered there, with a few women around as well. They were probably their family members. Some were holding onto their plates, while a few were cutting the wild animals’ bodies with their knives. There were even some holding wine jugs as they chattered with the people beside them…
Noticing Nan Ge Er’s arrival, a person holding a wine jug hugged on the jug while drunkenly standing up, “Nan Ge Er, let’s have a drink…” Noticing how drunk the other was, Nan Ge Er reflexively retreated to the door.
A plump madam came over from behind when she noted Nan Ger Er’s reaction, smacking the guy’s forehead, “You idiot! Nan Ge Er’s body is frail; how can he drink together with you?!”
The guy turned over bitterly, rubbing his forehead, “Mum, stop smacking me on my forehead; it will make me dumb.”
“… Can you get even dumber in the first place?” The madam shot him a scornful glance, before switching to a smile as she faced Nan Ge Er, “Nan Ge Er, come over. Xiu Zhu Jie1 and aunty2 have picked and roasted the leaner meat from the ridge for you. Hurry, come over and eat.”
“Xiu Zhu, you are so biased!” Another person holding onto a wine jug at the side began shouting as well.
The plainly-dressed lady, Xiu Zhu, lifted her lips into a smile. She ignored the guy, only offering her smile to Nan Ge Er. Others started shouting blusteringly at Nan Ge Er, telling him to come over and play tricks together. Nan Ge Er felt quite dispirited. That didn’t actually mean that he was popular with the ladies in the town.
Since his face was clearly scarred beyond recognition, plus the fact that he was just a small minor helper of the government, and that his body was extremely frail, there wasn’t any single trait of him that could attract women. The reason why everyone calls me over without any fear is probably because they don’t think of me as a man in the first place, right? Even if they see me as a man, perhaps they still won’t bear any interest or expectation for me. As he pondered, he rolled up his sleeves and walked over. He noticed five to six people surrounded Mo Shu and the advisor as they chatted merrily, with a plate of sliced meat near their feet.
Although it was an obviously boorish and casual way of eating, Mo Shu smiled, donning on a green robe as he sat there, with an air of elegant carefreeness around him. On the other hand, the advisor probably had quite a few drinks. Under the influence of alcohol, he seemed even more valiant and brash. It probably wasn’t an illusion; every single person there, at the very moment, didn’t appear to be ordinary.
Maybe they hid it well normally, so it wasn’t visible at all. However, right now, as Nan Ge Er passed by those who were competing on drinking, he could feel a distinct…battle-hardened yet deeply restrained aura from them. He did meet such people before. Soldiers who survived through a multitude of battles were precisely the ones who would exude such a calm and dignified vigour.
Noticing Nan Ge Er passing by, Mo Shu curved up his lips. He held up the bowl near his hands, moving it in his direction, before pressing it to his lips, elegantly tilting his neck, and gulping down the contents. The movement had an indescribable handsome grace to it.
If I didn’t know how air-headed and senseless that guy was, probably, I really might develop admiration and attraction to him because of his beautiful movements. However…No matter how stylish he looks, I will never forget that guy’s classless act of constantly stealing my parched peas. Nan Ge Er passed him by without any expression displayed on his face and sat beside the ladies.
“Here you go.” A sizzling, steaming hot and fragrant piece of meat appeared before his eyes.
The aunty beside him gave a sweet smile, “Try it.”
Noticing how the other ladies looked at him expectantly, Nan Ge Er swallowed his saliva, took the piece and bit down carefully. Never had he eat while being observed by so many people, making it pressurising for him.
“Is it good?” the aunty asked.
Nan Ge Er gulped down the piece of meat strenuously, before looking at the sparkling gazes from the ladies around him. He stammered a bit, “Mn, it tastes great.”
“Eat more then.” The aunty was happy, telling the other ladies, “Fantastic, Nan Ge Er likes it.”
“I’ve said so; Nan Er Ge definitely would like it.”
“The meats from the ridge are the leanest; those stupid men could never tell the difference.”
“Nan Ge Er, your body is weak. So eat more meat, you will get better if you eat more.”
“Here, this piece is done as well.”
As the women chatted joyfully, another piece of meat was passed over to him. Nan Ge Er chewed on the meat arduously, working hard to swallow it down. In truth, he totally couldn’t tell if it tasted good or not, since…What the heck is this, why is this meat so tough?! He only swallowed the meat down sloppily when he felt his cheeks getting sore. Looking at the laborious expression that Nan Ge Er couldn’t disguise, the women grew perplexed.
One sixteen to seventeen-year-old girl suddenly lowered her head and sniffed the pieces of meat in her hands, before screaming, “Zheng BaiHe! You bastard, who said you could add hardening powder to the meat?!”
A particular guy that was cutting meat began laughing evilly, “Hahaha! Serves you right for leaving all the delicious food to Nan Ge Er!”
“Arg!” The teenaged girl shrieked, lifting her skirt and running forward as she took that piece of meat, while also explaining to the granny beside Nan Ge Er, “Granny, tell Nan Ge Er to stop eating. His body is weak; he should be careful not to weaken even more by eating!” She turned around and shoved the meat into that guy’s mouth immediately, “Who told you to add that? Who told you to add that? You better eat all of them up!”
“Ow, hot hot hot hot!” That guy threw away the knife in his hands to seek for his accomplices behind him, “Help me, Xiao Dai, Ah Wang…”
The granny beside Nan Ge Er swiftly snatched the meat away from Nan Ge Er’s hands, “Nan Ge Er, don’t eat them. Granny will cut other pieces of meat for you. Those little rascals, let Chun Tao teach them a lesson. Those imps, full of evil tricks. Look at our Nan Ge Er; such a small build … goodness…” She casually took another piece of meat and started cutting.
Nan Ge Er made a face as he looked at the granny’s pained expression. Erm, Granny, is it really alright for your guys to reveal your secrets? A typical yamen runner wouldn’t have items like hardening flour, right? I didn’t even hear of that before. Besides, Chun Tao didn’t seem to feel the heat when she grabbed the oil-oozing, sizzling hot meat…Lastly, granny, do you think that, as an eighty-year-old elder, the ability to easily grab meat that weighed around 5kg…is normal?
Nonetheless…Nan Ge Er turned his head to the clamorous crowd. Actually, meat, or whatever food it was, could be easily eaten at any time. The reason why he would feel that the food was especially fragrant, and delicious was probably only because he was in this exact moment… 3
1Jie: similar to “Dajie” in chapter 2’s T/N notes, term used to address a women older than you, english equivalent= older sister.
2Aunty: The madam was referring to herself as the aunty in the conversation.
3It tastes better because he is surrounded by people.