Usagi notes: By popular demand, we will make the updates twice a month instead of monthly for this story and we’ll see from there. ^_^ Also, please follow us in our new Wattpad account here.
Author: Su Youbing
After the matter had been settled, Lu Zhenxue rose and took his leave.
Tao Mo walked him up to the door. He thought about it, then turned around, and told this matter to Old Tao, who was doing the accounts.
After listening to his story, Old Tao frowned and said: “That Lu Zhenxue—I’m afraid he’s up to no good.”
Tao Mo was surprised: “Why?” In his opinion, this Lu Zhenxue should be the first person that he should befriend in Tan Yang County.
Old Tao said: “One mountain cannot abide two tigers. How could Mr. Lin Zhenyong’s disciple introduce you to Mr. Yichui’s disciple?”
Tao Mo replied: “Then, what does he want?”
“I don’t know what he wants.” Old Tao murmured, “You still have to go. But as you’ve said, just pay a short visit and then come back. Don’t get entangled with others.”
Tao Mo thought of Gu She and his heart warmed up. However, looking at Old Tao’s eyes, he seemed to know everything. He then coldly stammered: “What kind of entanglement can there be?”
“It’s good if there’s none.” Old Tao knew that Tao Mo was sick again, so he did not pressure Tao Mo anymore. He changed the topic, “The county magistrate is a small official, but even though the sparrow may be small, it has all the vital organs. The county’s yamen has three classes and six chambers . If you have nothing to do, you can deal with them in the afternoon, so that it would be easier to send them on an errand or mission in the future.”
(「三班六房」This refers to the divisions of the yamen.)
Tao Mo promptly agreed.
Old Tao added: “You’ve seen Official Clerk Cui. If you happen to meet him later on, don’t forget to get yourself familiarized with him.”
Tao Mo agreed again.
Old Tao was not at ease when he saw Tao Mo’s weak look, but there were so many official matters that needed to be done. He had to step back and say: “I’ll let Hao Guozi accompany you. If you have something that you’re not clear about, don’t hesitate to ask him. He’s just around the corner.”
When Tao Mo heard that Old Tao was not coming with him, he was a little nervous in his heart, “How about if we go there some other day.”
“Young Master, there will come a day that I’ll die.” Old Tao kept a straight face and added, “Young Master, do you mean to say that after I die, you don’t want to continue being an official anymore?”
Tao Mo was shocked, so he said: “Don’t say that. I know you won’t die that easily.”
The corners of Old Tao’s mouth curled up a bit, “Young Master, if I didn’t know you, I’d think that you’re apologetic.”
Tao Mo replied: “I didn’t mean that.”
“I know. You should have your meal first then go with Hao Guozi.”
Tao Mo turned and walked out. He had his meal and then went out.
The six chambers were just located around the county’s yamen. Going in and out of them was a mere blink of an eye.
Although the clerk who was working there had never seen Tao Mo himself, he had already inquired about Tao Mo’s appearance. When he saw Tao Mo enter the door, the clerk hurriedly rushed out to greet him. Tao Mo inquired one by one and he behaved absolutely befitting of his position.
After that, it was followed by another set of greetings with the other supervisors, who were in-charge at the six chambers all year round.
Cui Jiong did not work here, nor did he come today.
Tao Mo chatted with them for a while, then rose and took his leave.
Hao Guozi followed him from behind and whispered: “Young Master, you seem to have morphed into a different person.”
Tao Mo replied: “What made you say that?”
“Young Master, you just looked very knowledgeable.” Hao Guozi was straightforward.
Tao Mo was dismayed and his face was gloomy.
Hao Guozi seemed to have realized that his words were very inappropriate, so he hurriedly said: “Young Master, I don’t mean to say that you’re ignorant. I was just, just…”
“It doesn’t matter if I have neither learning nor skill. My father used to tell me that before he passed away.”
Hao Guozi flushed with shame and said: “How can I compare with the Old Master.”
Tao Mo replied: “What you said isn’t wrong. I’m illiterate and ignorant.”
Hao Guozi said: “Young Master, listening to how you speak, who’d believe that you’re illiterate?”
Tao Mo smiled bitterly and said: “I only listen to what others, whom I talk a lot to, would say and remember it. I can say these few words, but I can’t write them down. Even if you write it down and put in in front of me, I still can’t recognize them.”
Hao Guozi said: “Who said that all talented people must be literate?”
Tao Mo suddenly asked out of nowhere: ”What’s the meaning of ‘Although the Ruo River is three thousand li long, one only drinks one ladle worth of water from it?’”
Even though Hao Guozi was just a servant, he attended school during his childhood and knew more words than Tao Mo did.
Hao Guozi was surprised and replied: “Young Master, do you have a lover?”
“A lover?” Tao Mo was startled. His ear immediately turned red after he thought about it, then he went straight back into the house without saying a word.
After Tao Mo left Hao Guozi, who stood still for a moment, murmured: “Didn’t expect that Young Master would forget about that Young Master Yi Yu so soon.”
Lu Zhenxue was quite famous in Tan Yang County. Before Gu She’s arrival, he was the most popular figure in Tan Yang County. Everyone knew that in the Lu Family, there was a quick-witted, articulate, and clever young chap, which was none other than Young Master Lu. And so, when he held a plum blossom banquet, he received support from many people.
Following Old Tao’s advise, Tao Mo arrived not too early and not too late.
Since he was the county’s local magistrate, his arrival was still warmly welcomed by the host.
Lu Zhenxue smiled and led him to the main table to sit, “My parents aren’t around, so I have to be the host here. Your Excellency, I hope you don’t feel offended.”
“No, not at all.” Tao Mo inwardly considered what he should say for him to be able to take his leave later. He said casually, “It’s my fault for being unable to pay a visit to your father and mother.”
Lu Zhenxue was temporarily at a loss. He pondered, what relationship does my parents have with you? How did it become your fault? Could it be that he really treats me as a close friend? He looked at Tao Mo’s face carefully and felt that he looked absent-minded. He could not help but sneer. Since you wanted to pretend to be my friend, you should also make it more realistic.
Tao Mo originally planned to say a few words then leave, but when he looked around and did not see Gu She, he was a bit reluctant and could not help but wait for a while.
Lu Zhenxue rose and greeted others, and at the same time, he introduced some people to Tao Mo for him to get to know them.
Tao Mo knew that these people were local wealthy businessmen, so he began chatting with them.
When they talked about this year’s harvest, every corner suddenly became quiet.
Tao Mo turned his head to look.
Gu She slowly walked over, surrounded by his fellow disciples and brothers. His purplish-red overcoat served more as a foil to his eyebrows and eyes, that were as elegant as poetry and painting.
Lu Zhenxue greeted each one of them, and when it was Gu She’s turn, he laughed brilliantly, “I didn’t expect Brother Gu would show his face here. I’m truly overwhelmed by this unexpected favor.”
“Brother Lu is so polite.”
This was the first time Tao Mo saw Gu She open his mouth. Every word he uttered were like pebbles that stirred up ripples in his heart that could not calm down.
“This is Lord Tao whom you’ve met last time.” Lu Zhenxue suddenly pointed his finger toward Tao Mo.
Involuntarily, Tao Mo went over.
He was so spontaneous that the other was unable to take no heed, like last time, and so gave Tao Mo perfunctory greetings.
Tao Mo responded, and at the same time, he stuck his eyes wittingly or unwittingly on Gu She.
As if he felt Tao Mo gazing at him, Gu She’s flickering eyes finally fell on him.
Tao Mo saw him look back and felt a burst of excitement in his heart. He felt that nothing in this world could match this beauty at the moment.
However, it did not last long. Gu She walked away quickly.
Tao Mo foolishly followed him for a long time, until one of Gu She’s fellow disciples did not like what he was seeing anymore. Gu She’s fellow disciple turned around and asked: “Your Excellency, do you have anything to say?” Only then did Tao Mo suddenly wake up from his trance and walked back awkwardly to the main table.
Since then, his mind had been in a trance. His eyes, from time to time, were aimed at Gu She. He even forgot Old Tao’s warning to him before leaving.
After having a few drinks with everyone, Lu Zhenxue revealed what was today’s purpose and said: “Wine should be enjoyed with entertainment. How about if we invite Lord Tao to make a poem to add some luster to this cold winter.”
Everyone drank together.
Tao Mo was shocked and quickly waved: “I can’t.”
Lu Zhenxue said: “Your Excellency, why should you stand on ceremony? Everyone knows that every county magistrate of Tan Yang County is a full-fledged scholar. Your Excellency, since you’re able to come to our county, you must be quite accomplished in poetry.”
Tao Mo whispered: “I really can’t.”
“Your Excellency, could it be that you look down upon my insignificant plum blossom banquet?” Lu Zhenxue’s face became rigid.
No matter how dull Tao Mo was, he could still feel there was something wrong with the atmosphere, but he could only repeat what he said with all his might: “I really can’t write poems. I…I’m actually illiterate.”
It was unknown who took the lead in laughing, which made everyone else laugh.
“Your Excellency, please pardon me…” Lu Zhenxue’s complexion was pale, but he could hardly hide the sarcastic look in his eyes, “…for I’m too demanding.”
“Haha…” Finally, someone could not help but laugh out loud.
Tao Mo was in a very uncomfortable position. His body was as stiff as stone, and he dared not to turn his head back. He just stared at the rice bowl in front of him and his mind constantly speculated nervously about Gu She’s expression at the moment. Did he perhaps, laugh with these people as well?
The more he thought about it, the more he felt bad. Just as Lu Zhenxue spoke with others, he turned around and slipped away. He was so fast so that there was not even a chance for Lu Zhenxue to call him.
When he rushed out from the Lus’ residence, Tao Mo felt his head was heavy and his feet were light. He leaned his body softly against the door.
Outside the door, stood a very beautiful carriage, which happened to block the palanquin of the county’s yamen. Nobody noticed that their respective Master had come out.
Tao Mo rested for a moment and finally recovered his spirit. When he was about to leave, he heard a sound of orderly footsteps coming out from inside. He turned to look and saw that it was actually Gu She.