The next day, after Nan Ge Er got out of bed, he shockingly found Magistrate-daren, who should’ve already left the government office to cruise around outside, was in the hall, gazing thoughtfully at the fake mountain. Nan Ge Er, as he held onto the dirty laundry, was stunned at the sight and stopped in his tracks. What exactly is going on today?
Hearing Nan Ge Er’s footsteps, Mo Shu turned his head over, smiling towards him, “Nan Ge Er? Good morning.”
“Ah…” Nan Ge Er replied in a daze, “Good morning, Daren.”
“Are you going to wash the laundry? Place it there, I’ll wash it later.” Mo Shu told him naturally.
“Uh…” Nan Ge Er twitched the corner of his mouth, “Well… erm… I had arranged with Aunty Wang, who should be cooking today. She will be helping to wash the laundry today.” Observing Mo Shu’s expression, he quickly added, “Erm, I will give her a few more dou1 of grains.” He knew that Mo Shu disliked taking advantage of the townspeople, so he explained accordingly.
Of course, actually, to the affluent townspeople, a few dou of grains didn’t mean much, and couldn’t really be considered a payment. Their reason for helping was mostly because they wanted to help Mo Shu. The few dou of grains was just an offhanded payment, not significant at all.
Nonetheless, Nan Ge Er’s reply satisfied Mo Shu. He stopped focusing on that question and, instead, asked Nan Ge Er, “In that case, is there enough grain at home?”
“Enough to last till the new year.” Nan Ge Er roughly estimated, “That is if Daren stops giving reliefs out freely.” He emphasized on the sentence. Truthfully, he felt that in the entire town, the one that needed relief the most was this Magistrate-daren.
Mo Shu gave a slightly awkward smile. “Well, the weather’s cold, don’t stroll outside, quickly get back in.”
Nan Ge Er asked curiously, “Daren, you aren’t planning to go out today?”
“Mn,” Mo Shu nodded, “I can’t keep doing work outside. There are also various matters for me to take care of here. I can’t constantly rely on secretaries either.”
…So, you do know that, as a magistrate, you shouldn’t be cruising around?! Nan Ge Er rebuked in his heart. He truly felt that the management in Guang Tian differed too much from other places. It wasn’t as if Guang Tian was free of emergencies, but whenever one happened, Nan Ge Er would only see the concerned party rushing into the government office to report on the matter, and then rushing back, not even waiting there. The next day, the issue would somehow be resolved…
If there weren’t any emergencies, Mo Shu would usually flip through the documents and pen the situation down after getting back at night, then write an official report. In any case, he was awfully curious about how Magistrate-daren resolved all those major and minor matters.
“Probably after winter and spring.” Mo Shu contemplated, “I’m usually outside during summer and autumn.”
“Is there any reason for that?” Nan Ge Er opened his eyes wide. Was it because there was lots of farm work, so Mo Shu paid calls directly outside?
Mo Shu gave Nan Ge Er a strange look, “I will go out whenever I want to go out for work. It is boring to keep on sitting around.”
Nan Ge Er drew up the corners of his mouth, speechless. This guy is just purely hyperactive. Simple townsfolk, you are all fooled by his facade.
“I’m going to deliver the laundry.” He didn’t even want to say a word more to Mo Shu, turning and walking away.
“Mn. Be careful on your way out; don’t stay outside for too long, your body is weak.” Mo Shu reminded before continuing to gaze at the fake mountain that was pretty much destroyed.
After taking a few steps, Nan Ge Er couldn’t help but turn around, asking, “Daren, what are you looking at?” Is there a unique artistic conception on the fake mountain that is only visible to someone who has a peaceful state of mind like Mo Shu?
Mo Shu tilted his head and looked at Nan Ge Er, “What am I looking at?” Unexpectedly, he questioned Nan Ge Er back.
Nan Ge Er felt that he probably overestimated Mo Shu, but he still held some hope, scratching his chin, “I saw you looking at the fake mountain.”
Mo Shu nodded, “Is that so? So you noticed it.”
Listening to Mo Shu, Nan Ge Er thought he possibly misunderstood Mo Shu. Perhaps he really was musing on something.
“So the direction where I was gazing at was towards the fake mountain.” Mo Shu murmured.
Though the volume wasn’t loud, Nan Ge Er was near him, so he obviously heard it. Rendered speechless, he turned and walked away. “Daren, if you are that free, why don’t you work on the government documents?” He threw the sentence to him.
“Well, I’m not adjusted to it yet.” Mo Shu grumbled in dissatisfaction, “It’s so boring to just be in one place.”
…I’m wrong, why in the world do I keep thinking that the guy is deep? I’m a total idiot! Even though there wasn’t much interaction between them, Nan Ge Er could be considered having quite a bit of knowledge about Mo Shu’s character as compared to other townsfolk. He believed Zhu Xi probably knew the guy’s empty-headed nature too, but just didn’t reveal it. As for the yamen runners and various government workers, along with the townsfolk… They seemed to have their eyes covered by bullshit. The Mo Shu they saw with their eyes was totally a saint.
No matter what that guy did, their eyes would beautify it subconsciously, overlooking the imperfections, endlessly magnifying the strengths, and then letting the best image of him appeared onto their eyes…
Nan Ge Er believed that even if he spilled out Mo Shu’s true colors, everyone would still rationalize it, before solidifying Mo Shu’s saintly image in their hearts again. Anyway, Nan Ge Er didn’t really plan on doing such an impractical thing.
“Ah, Nan Ge Er.” In front of Nan Ge Er was Advisor Zhu Xi, who approached him. Zhu Xi appeared to be rather anxious, only calming down a little after noticing him. He greeted him, “Good morning.”
Nan Ge Er nodded, “Good morning, Xiansheng.”
“Look at your small stature.” Zhu Xi walked the few steps over to Nan Ge Er and started tousling his hair, “Have you seen Mo Shu?”
“In front of the fake mountain.” Though Zhu Xi looks ferocious, Mo Shu didn’t instruct me not to tell on his whereabouts, right? Nan Ge Er sold Mo Shu out without any hesitation at that moment.
“Hm hm, is that so?! Instead of working early in the morning, that goofball chose to just daze and stroll outside.” Zhu Xi gnashed his teeth as he grunted, before reaching his hands out to pat Nan Ge Er’s shoulders, “Xiao Nan1, you did great, Gege thinks highly of you.” while striding towards the direction where Nan Ge Er came from without turning back.
… Xiao Nan, is he referring to me? Also, Gege, were you mistaken? I don’t remember having such a fierce brother like you… Nan Ge Er was speechless as he looked at Zhu Xi’s figure leaving. Forget it, whatever; I should deliver the laundry to the aunty in the backyard.
Frankly, during the day, quite a few people were working in the government office. There were already eighteen yamen runners, together with the numerous amounts of secretaries, low ranked runners and more; it could actually be considered a decent sized government. As the secretaries, accountants and yamen runners didn’t really have their meal in the government office, so there were only those twenty or so people in the canteen.
As usual, Nan Ge Er was greeted all the way to the canteen; he placed the clothes evenly in the wooden tub, then bypassing the front door, he walked from the back door to the busy kitchen aunty.
Before he could even greet her, the kitchen aunty had already spun around, “Nan Ge Er, you’re just in time. I’ve roasted a corncob for you, it’s at the hearth, hurry and eat it up. It will be lunch soon, so you won’t have any appetite to eat it later.” That was also a routine; he would usually have various food shoved at him by the women in the kitchen whenever he got there.
Nan Ge Er guessed that it was probably because his body was seriously weak, coupled with how unlucky he looked, so it provoked the protective instinct in those women…“I’ve placed the clothes in the big tub near the door, Aunty.” Nan Ge Er docilely took the corn from the hearth.
“Alright, Aunty will wash them after cooking, I’ve cooked Nan Ge Er’s favorites today, so you have to eat more, Nan Ge Er.” As she talked, she took some time to glance at Nan Ge Er, whose face paled a little from the cold, “Look at your small stature.”
…I hate that phrase! Nan Ge Er was extremely gloomy. He held on the corncob while peeling off the outer leafy area, turning his indignation into appetite. Then, he casually moved over a small stool and sat on it, listening to the kitchen aunty gossiping endlessly on all types of matters in many households.
He realized sorrowfully that he seemed to begin to love gossip as well…The influence from fellow humans is indeed quite scary, isn’t it? At the very least, I have already accepted this current lifestyle. Although I still rebuke myself sometimes, strictly speaking, there isn’t much to complain about.
“Oh my, Nan Ge Er, you shouldn’t eat that much, it will be hard to digest.” A hand stuck out from the back, snatching the corncob that was only one-third eaten from Nan Ge Er’s hands.
Nan Ge Er was dumbstruck as he turned his head to look at the fellow unscrupulously gnawing on the corncob that was taken away from him.
“Mum, you are too biased.” The fellow carelessly chewed on, while complaining to Aunty Wang who was cooking, “You always give special favors to Nan Ge Er.”
Aunty Wang threw a ladle at him, “Rascal, look at the amount Nan Ge Er ate from the special favor I gave him; they are mostly in your stomach! You prodigal thing; isn’t the food at home enough for you? Why did you come over to snatch from Nan Ge Er?”
“I’m Nan Ge Er’s benefactor you know, Nan Ge Er always wanted to repay me, what’s the matter with eating a corncob?” That fellow continued gnawing on the corncob swiftly, answering his mum unintelligibly as he dodged the ladle.
Yup, I was allegedly stranded at the shore. This Xia Jia Fu fellow noticed and carried me to the government office. Nan Ge Er made a face as he looked at the shameless fellow gnawing at his snack. Who wants to repay you; you’re too shameless.
“Look at Nan Ge Er’s small stature, do you have the heart to do that?!” Aunty Wang raged, grabbing and throwing the kitchen knife at him this time.
“Woah!” Xia Jia Fu dodged it by a hair’s breadth, “Mum, are you trying to kill me?!”
“Oh my, you’ve guessed correctly!” Aunty Wang smiled coldly, “Just in time for cooking, I’ll chop you up nicely and make you into dumplings.”
“Woah!” Xia Jia Fu was startled by his mom’s sinister tone. Hence, he stopped his movement, lowering his head and looked at Nan Ge Er, who was sitting on the stool and glaring at him.
“He really is tiny…” Xia Jia Fu muttered, before handing the corncob in his hands that was gnawed beyond recognition to him, “Here.”
Nan Ge Er looked at the corncob that only had a few kernels left on it, and lowered his head.
“Woah, Nan Ge Er, don’t be upset, I’ll definitely send a bunch of delicious food to you next time.” Xia Jia Fu panicked. “No, tomorrow. How about I send it over tomorrow? Please don’t be angry, you’re not a real man if you get angry, and you’ll become a dried beansprout too.”
“Xia Jia Fu!” Aunt Wang bellowed, “Do you want to die?!”
“Ugh! Sorry sorry, Nan Ge Er! It wasn’t on purpose!” Xia Jia Fu kept apologizing again, “Wait here, I’ll immediately get you something tasty.”
…I just couldn’t be bothered to look at the corncob that was gnawed messily, or should I say, I refused to take something that had been gnawed on by that fellow. Being angry is way too bothersome. Nonetheless, since he assumed that I am furious, and even planned on getting me something delicious, I might as well just reluctantly accept that I am supposedly angry then. And, frankly, that mother and son, probably the whole town as well, do think that I look like a dried beansprout, don’t they?!
1 Dou: a Chinese unit of measure for grain; equivalent to 1 decalitre
2 Xiao Nan: the advisor shortened Nan Ge Er’s nickname from ‘Nan Ge Er’ to ‘Xiao Nan’, the ‘xiao’ meaning little.