Author: Su Youbing
Translator: chiangyushien, Renkun27
Tao Mo trembled. He did not know whether it was because he was feeling cold or startled.
There was someone there asking the man: “Isn’t it that the magistrate’s going to come after new year? Where did you get that?”
The servant said: “The new officer moved to the county’s yamen yesterday. Now, his housekeeper is still looking for a broker so that they can get men to serve in the mansion.”
The man felt relieved, “It turns out this is how the painting came.”
Old Tao, with a wooden expression on his face, led Tao Mo to look for an empty table so that they could sit down.
It was the busiest time in the tea house, so they had no choice but to sit near the stairs, which was close to the man who was shouting.
Tao Mo could not help but have a look at the man shouting, but Old Tao pulled him away, so he only felt embarrassed.
To their surprise, there were actually people who patronized this three-copper-coin business.
A voice arrogantly said: “Come and let me see it. Is he fat or thin? Is he tall or short?”
There was a faint sound of a picture scroll being unrolled.
“Hah!” That voice laughed heartily and said, “He looks just like a sick chicken!”
The shop assistant said: “I heard that the magistrate was sick when he entered the town. Perhaps, he still can’t hold court.”
The voice said: “Great, then he can get a peace of mind by staying away from all those complaints! Everyone who comes to take up the post as the magistrate always malingers. They don’t mind getting tired. Still, I hate the same old story.”
The servant replied: “Young Master Lu must be cracking a joke. Is there anyone who could copy your way of joking?”
This boot-licking seemed to make that man feel good about himself so that he laughed out loud a couple of times. After that, he squeezed out from the crowd.
Tao Mo turned around, only to see a man with thin eyebrows and bright eyes. He was actually a handsome scholar.
The scholar seemed to sense that someone was looking at him, so he also took the opportunity to look back.
Because of this, Tao Mo quickly looked away.
Old Tao, who was slightly leaning forward on the table, straightened his back.
A fan was suddenly knocked on the table, then the scholar’s laughter drew nearer to them, “Oh, I didn’t expect that with three copper coins, I could not only see the picture but I’m also able to see the honorable person himself,” he said, then he suddenly bowed with his hands clasped and greeted, “Scholar Lu Zhen greets the county magistrate!”
His voice was loud and noticeable, so it immediately caused a moment of alarm.
Tao Mo was helpless, he had no alternative but to stand up and say: “You may dispense with the curtseying.”
The noise in the background gradually calmed down and all the eyes were on the two.
Tao Mo could not help but feel embarrassed. He did not know what he was supposed to do.
Scholar Lu Zhen smiled as he said: “I wonder if Master would mind it if l sit with you?”
Tao Mo looked at Old Tao.
Old Tao had already stood up. As a servant, naturally, it was unsuitable for him to sit at the same table with his master.
“Then, have a seat,” Tao Mo replied.
Scholar Lu Zhen reluctantly obeyed his words. He coldly groaned in his heart and secretly thought: You were hesitant to let me sit with you now. I’m afraid that if you want to ask something from me in the future, you won’t be able to get it from me!
Tao Mo asked: “What do you want to order?”
Scholar Lu Zhen was slightly surprised, then he casually replied: “A pot of Dragon Well tea.”
Tao Mo nodded, and said to the shop assistant, who was waiting at the side: “Two vegetable dishes, two bowls of rice, and a pot of Dragon Well tea.”
Scholar Lu Zhen waited for the shop assistant to go away before asking: “Master still hasn’t eaten?”
Tao Mo shook his head.
“Why didn’t you go to Xian Wei instead of going to Ming Cui? Xian Wei is a decent place for eating. Although the tea in Ming Cui is good, the food isn’t,” Scholar Lu Zhen said.
Tao Mo answered him: “This is the first time I came here and I’m not familiar with this place.” He looked at Old Tao who was still standing as he said, “Let’s sit down together.”
Old Tao only replied: “Thank you, Young Master.” However, from the beginning until the end, he did not dare to completely sit down. His buttocks only slightly touched a small part of the wooden bench.
Scholar Lu Zhen said: “It’s very cold in the winter. Why did Master insist on taking this office before the turn of the year? Can it be that… you’re thinking about the silver?”
Tao Mo asked: “What silver?”
Scholar Lu Zhen blinked, “Master really doesn’t know?”
Tao Mo shook his head.
“It seems that Master considers money as muck. In the future, you’ll definitely become a top honest and upright official,” he taunted with his words.
Tao Mo replied: “I don’t want to be an honest and upright official.”
Scholar Lu Zhen’s expression stiffened.
None of the county magistrates wanted to become an honest and upright official at Tan Yang County. Who did not know that Tan Yang County was a tough nut to crack? As long as there was some way, they were all unwilling to become one. On top of that, the imperial court would not send someone who was really capable. Why not? Because it was not necessary. There were many legal pettifoggers in Tan Yang County. Some of them were good, while some were bad. However, the bad ones were not bad to the point that they cruelly oppressed the townsmen. It was not because the imperial court was not willing to do it, it was because they were unable and did not dare to do it. If the scholars say anything, their words would reach everywhere in the whole world and that would be really irritating. They even dared going to the capital to make a complaint to the imperial court. Therefore, there was no major issue in the area of Tan Yang County, and the official’s performance appraisal was excellent every year. However, this was his first time encountering a man like Tao Mo who spoke from the beginning that he would not become an honest and upright official.
Could it be that because Tao Mo felt that they were like old friends at the first meeting and completely trusted him?
Scholar Lu Zhen was speechless. He did not know what kind of graceful bearing that he had which caused Tao Mo to admire him like that.
Tao Mo added: “I want to be a good official.”
Scholar Lu Zhen was amazed and with a smile, he asked: “A good official is not honest and upright official?”
Tao Mo replied: “A good official is an honest and upright official, but an honest and upright official is not necessarily a good official.”
Scholar Lu Zhen nodded in agreement, but he was not excited to continue the conversation. Everyone could talk big every year, but how many would keep their own promise? To be honest, if he really was brave enough to say, ‘I don’t want to be an honest and upright official,’ perhaps he would still think highly of Tao Mo. These days, there were too few who were bold and decisive in action.
The food was served just in time and the topic ended here.
Scholar Lu Zhen sipped his tea and wanted to find an excuse to leave. He had quite understood where this new magistrate actually stands. He was a hypocrite with empty promises and a clueless person.
Footsteps were heard on the stairs.
Some were fast and some were slow.
However, Scholar Lu Zhen’s waist suddenly straightened. He looked at the stairs which was only three feet away from his forehead and started feeling uncomfortable. However, it was too painstaking to stand up now, so he had to endure staying still.
Old Tao saw the change in his complexion, so he could not help but turn his head and look up.
Five or six people dressed like scholars leisurely came down from above.
Since the lobby quieted down again, Tao Mo, who was eating, also could not help but look over.
With one look, his eyes were glued to the last person and could not look away.
A snowy-white fox fur robe and thick hair as dark as ink—even if this person stood behind another person, his splendor could not be blocked. It seemed that he could feel Tao Mo’s gaze. He swept an indifferent gaze toward Tao Mo, like an indolent star on a cold night, then he looked away seemingly uninterested, as if he disdained Tao Mo beneath contempt.
“Brother Lu!” “The scholar who walked in the front stopped walking and looked at him in surprise, “Since Brother Lu was here, why didn’t you go upstairs for a chat?”
Scholar Lu Zhen replied with neither a familiar nor distant tone: “I was about to go up, but you have come down.”
The man laughed: “That’s unfortunate.” His eyes turned to Tao Mo, “This is…”
Scholar Lu Zhen answered: “This is the person you need to see. He will be the new county master, Master Tao.”
That person made an ‘oh’ sound then he no longer paid attention to Tao Mo.
After Tao Mo was treated coldly, his cheeks were slightly hot. It was not because he had never been treated coldly, it was just that he also had long been accustomed to it; but this time, it happened just before that person… However, maybe that person simply did not care at all.
He looked at the man, who wore a fox fur robe, proudly standing at the top of the staircase, as if the things that happened below had nothing to do with him. Tao Mo felt a kind of indescribable pain.
Those men and Scholar Lu Zhen laughed for a while before they left.
Old Tao noticed that Scholar Lu Zhen’s face was obviously gloomy when they left.
“Master, if there’s nothing else, then this disciple will leave first.” After encountering this group, Scholar Lu Zhen’s mood withered. He was even reluctant to immediately get up.
“Wait.” Tao Mo anxiously said.
Scholar Lu Zhen looked back in dismay.
“I have something to ask.”
Scholar Lu Zhen pretended to wait patiently.
Tao Mo whispered: “Do you know what’s the name of the young man wearing a fox fur robe?”
Scholar Lu Zhen’s complexion slightly changed. He looked at Tao Mo’s shy attitude with doubts. Soon after that, there were flashes of disgust in his eyes and his mouth slowly began to smile, “Are you asking about Gu She?”
“Gu She?” Tao Mo softly spoke the name out and that person’s appearance flashed through his mind.
Scholar Lu Zhen said: “He’s the last disciple of Master Chui. Master wants to befriend him?”
Tao Mo’s eyes clearly lit up and his whole face was lively as he asked: “Do you have a way?”
Scholar Lu Zhen was upset, “Actually, I’m Master Lin’s disciple and l don’t have a deep relationship with them. I’m afraid l can’t help you do anything.”
The brilliance in Tao Mo’s eyes faded in an instant.
Seeing this, Scholar Lu Zhen was even more upset. He tossed his sleeves and left.
At this time, the owner of the tea house came as he seized the shop assistant, who was holding the portrait of Tao Mo in his hand, to apologize for the wrong that they committed. He explained that the drawing was only consigned for sale, that the commission from the sale would be shared with a ratio of three to seven, and so on.
Tao Mo originally did not care too much. Seeing that the owner returned him the drawing, Tao Mo promised not to investigate it.
Old Tao suddenly asked the tea house owner: “What’s Young Master Lu’s background?”
The owner replied: “The Lu Family is a well-known local family. There’s a minister and a great teacher that came from their ancestors. Some said that today, there are also two masters who work as officials in the capital, which is very remarkable. Young Master Lu is a famous talented scholar. Occasionally, he would also work as a legal pettifogger. His master is the famous Lin Zhengyong.”
Old Tao repeatedly frowned as he heard him talking.
Tao Mo asked, “What about Young Master Gu She?”
The owner answered, “Young Master Gu is Master Chui’s brilliant student, but he never became a government official. I heard that Master Chui doted on him very much and his fellow disciples also really care for him.”
Tao Mo listened to the information silently and he was somewhat unhappy.
Old Tao saw the owner’s eyes was full of questions, so he quickly paid the check and pulled Tao Mo back to the county yamen, so as to avoid making more trouble.