'Because we can."Translated by Sunsa & Regina
LOVE IS MORE THAN A WORDChapter 1 [Part 1] - The Arrival of the New Magistrate
"Once we clear this mountain, we'll arrive at the county of Xiangtan," Lao said, as he hunched over peeling a mandarin in front of Tao Mo.
Tao Mo couldn't stand the cart's stagnant air any more, and turned to lift window's curtain, but as he did so, a sharp frozen wind invaded the cart. From the window, he could see a layer of snow blanketing the landscape outside in a thick white. The landscape was barely distinguishable from the white.
Driving at the head of the cart was Guo , who urged the horse faster, "Young Master, did you need something?" he shouted over the wind.
"No" Tao Mo replied, and dropped the curtain.
He turned back to face Lao , who handed him half of the peeled mandarin, before wolfing down his own half in one go.
Tao Mo also ate his half, and as he finished, reached into his inner pocket for his handkerchief. His fingers met with only an empty pocket, and he remembered that he had pitched it into the fire before leaving.
He couldn't help but regret throwing it away now, for it had still carried the nostalgic scent of the past.
"Are you cold, Young Master?" Lao nudged the heating lantern closer.
"No, I'm alright." he replied.
He stayed seated for a little longer, but grew impatient. "Is it true that there are a lot of officials in Dang Yang City?" he asked nervously, "I'm afraid of who we might encounter there."
"There are indeed a lot of rich people in power, and good people may be exploited," Lao replied slowly, "But only if you fear them, will they take advantage of you."
"But why would I be scared of them?" he said shrilly, "I need to be a good magistrate!"
Lao had been dosing off, eyelids slowly closing, but upon hearing Tao Mo, jerked awake.
"Young Master will definitely be able to become a good magistrate."
He could almost imagine himself as a successful magistrate, with rows of soldiers bowing to him in greeting - the future was looking bright.
The cart suddenly jerked violently, and Tao Mo was flung into the side of the cart, sliding to the floor. Lao , who was sitting opposite him, reacted faster, and steadied himself with his hands on the walls of the cart, avoiding Tao Mo's sad fate.
Guo lifted the door drape, and looked in mournfully, "The wheel's broken" he reported, while the cold wind took the opportunity to blast into the cart.
Tao Mo curled up on his spot on the floor to shelter from the cold, burrowing his head in his clothes.
"Fortunately, the county isn't far now. We can continue on foot." Lao said. "Gather all the luggage and tie it to the cart. When we get there, we can send someone to retrieve all of it." He told Guo .
Tao Mo reluctantly stepped off the cart.
"If the old Magistrate has yet to leave, I fear they might not have a place for to stay." Guo remarked.
"Don't worry, I enquired before we left. The Magistrate has already passed away from his illness, and his possessions have been cleared away by his family." Lao replied.
"That's even worse, because now we have no guidance!" Gou mumbled under his breathe.
As the two conversed, Tao Mo stood by the side shivering, hands shoved into his long sleeves.
Lao turned round and grabbed the heater from the cart, before handing it to Tao Mo. "Here, this will keep you warm for a little bit."
He reluctantly pulled his hands out from his sleeves to grasp the heater.
Together, they resumed their journey, on foot this time.
The melting ice on the road was difficult to walk on, and the still falling snow added to it.
Guo fell three times before he found his pace . Tao Mo nearly fell several times, but Lao assisted him each time. Though he was the oldest of them, Lao had the most stable footing.
Just like that, they slowly made their way to the destination.
Throughout their journey across the mountain, not a single person passed them by.
As they neared the city, the sound of the hustle and bustle of people echoed around them, and it was as if a curtain of fog had been ripped open, allowing them to emerge from a dream.
"From now, this is home." Guo said.
"It might not be forever," Lao replied.
"What? Are you saying Master will be demoted?!" Guo asked in shock.
Lao huffed, reaching round to smack Guo head. "He could be promoted, no?"
Guo laughed awkwardly, before taking the horse and hurrying ahead, while Tao Mo and Lao trailed behind him. The busy atmosphere of the city shook Tao Mo out of his daze.
They headed east down the main road and eventually came to the County Magistrate's Court Office. Guo Zhi arrived first, and by the time Tao Mo got to the entrance, some people had already come out to greet them.
"Lord Tao, we had not been expecting you so early, at least not until next January. I'm sorry, but because you have arrived so early, the office is not yet prepared for your arrival." As he spoke, Tao Mo sneaked curious looks at him.
Noticing the attention, the speaker introduced himself, "I am the secretary of the county, surname , others simply call me Secretary ."
"Secretary Jin" Tao Mo repeated earnestly.
The secretary's sharp gaze swept over them, coming to land on Lao .
Lao speaks up. "This humble servant is but a butler to the Tao house."
Though the way he appeared seemed reserved, Secretary could tell that he was the sharpest of the three.
"Ha ," Secretary laughed, "All of you must be exhausted from travelling so far, please come inside so we can talk further".
He gestured towards the house, "Please."
Lao could see that though despite how welcoming Secretary voice seemed, he hadn't spared even a single glance at Tao Mo.
They were lead through to the middle courtyard, where Secretary Jin stopped and lead Tao Mo to a chair, before seating himself.
Tao Mo looked at Lao , feeling doubtful.
"Young Master has been traveling for a whole day now, and he is very, very tired. Why haven't you taken him into the inner court?" Lao asked.
"Ah! Please excuse my insolence," Secretary Jin stood up in mock shock, "When the previous magistrate died, I was unable to send the stamp on, and the guilt was eating at me. So if you could just bear with me, I will take the Inauguration papers and present you with the stamp."
With no other choice, Tao Mo brought out the papers, and they went to retrieve the stamp from the office. Once there, Secretary Jin grabbed the stamp, and gave it to Tao Mo.
Tao Mo was miserable, and his teeth were chattering. He was at his limit from the biting cold, but he didn't want Lao or Guo to worry about him, so he sat and silently suffered, stoically bearing with it.
When Lao saw Secretary turning to leave, he called after him, "Where are you going?"
Secretary smiled, "My previous master is dead, and all the official procedures are finished. Now that my work is done, my presence is no longer necessary."
"Why would you say that, Secretary ?" Lao said, "My master has just been appointed, and he needs as much as guidance as he can get."
"There are those who die from greed, just as there are birds who die from food," Secretary looked at Tao Mo and laughed, "New Magistrate, you have spent 5000 silvers on this position. You have already demonstrated your wealth and talent, I have no doubt you won't be lacking in people eagerly flocking to you, so will you really have further use of me? Plus, in this county, it is hard to find a case, much less a lawyer willing to take it on."
Lao tried to persuade him, but the Secretary had already gone, flicking his robes as he left.
"What a temper this guy has!" Guo grumbled.
Lao turned back around, preparing to scold Tao Mo for not also attempting to prevent Secretary leaving but stopped short when he noticed the young master's pale complexion and the exhaustion marring his face. Swiftly, he rushed to check the master's temperature.
"Quickly, call a doctor!" He shouted to Guo .
"Right away!" he replied, quickly dashing off outside.
Lao assisted Tao Mo to his room. They had been traveling light, not to mention the cart breaking had forced them to leave most of their luggage behind except for a few valuables, which weren't exactly the best at helping to keep warm.
With no other options, Lao had to search quickly for items left behind by the old magistrate, managing to scrounge up two blankets, which he immediately spread on the bed and laid Tao Mo down. He fired up the heater and placed it beside the bed before going to boil some water.
As he returned to the room, he heard Tao Mo softly mumble a name from the bed. Coming closer, he could hear Tao Mo clearer. "Dad!" he called.
Footsteps came from the doorway, announcing Guo return, with the doctor right on his heels.
Lao stepped aside, allowing the doctor to check Tao Mo's pulse and waiting for the doctor's instructions, which he followed to the best of his abilities.
By the time all the fuss had died down, the sky had already turned to dusk.
The former magistrate's wife had taken all the servants with her when she had vacated the premises, and only two of them had remained to look after the house.
Seeing that it was getting late, Lao decided to instruct Guo to go out and purchase food for them, as they had much to do in the morning and cooking would be much too tiring.
The whole night Tao Mo had been sweating, and when he awoke, he still felt a bit weak, but was raring to go. He immediately got up, grabbed a cloak, and rushed out.
Guo , who was bringing hot water to the room, was horrified when he saw that Tao Mo had gotten up and out of bed.
"I'm hungry," said Tao Mo, as he turned to go back inside and slowly began washing his face.
"This morning I went out to get some firewood for the fire, and I was just about to cook some porridge." Guo Zhi said.
"But porridge tastes like nothing." Tao Mo moaned.
Hearing that, Guo grinned at Tao Mo, "We can go to one of the restaurants in town then, and find some better grub."
Tao Mo paled. A moment later, he replied quietly, "Combination porridge is fine."
"I won't let Lao Tao know." Guo whispered.
Tao Mo just shook his head.
Gou only sighed before lowering his head and walking slowly out of the room.
Now that he was alone, Tao Mo, feeling restless, paced around the room.
At that moment, the sound of people talking from outside filtered in, and so, curious, he walked out to investigate.
The whole compound wasn't large, and only had 3 courtyards. The first contained the courthouse, the second was for the greeting of visitors, and the third was the living quarters of the magistrate and his family and servants.
And right then, someone had indeed arrived at the second courtyard.
Said visitor immediately brightened up when he caught sight of Tao Mo, "Would you be Lord Tao Mo?" he asked.
Tao Mo nodded.
"This humble servant is the county book keeper, Choi Jiu." He quickly scanned Tao Mo from head to toe before smiling. "I had originally intended to come last night, but Secretary Jin told me that you were tired from your trip, so I decided to visit this morning instead. Please forgive me."
Tao Mo snuck a look outside before replying, "You came in by yourself?"
Choi Jiu jerked back in surprised.
"Why hasn't anyone alerted me yet?" Tao Mo asked.