Having a good brush, good ink, good paper, good night view, a beautiful maid, a cup of tea, three burning incenses, a bright moon outside of the window, carefree writing, and when finished, a handless sword will fly through the sky and kill a certain general thousands of miles away. This was the ideal life style of Ning Que.
The first night living in the house at Forty Seventh street, Ning Que felt he was infinitely close to his dream. Even though the brush, ink, ink stone, and paper were cheap. Even though the night view was shallow and not broad. Even though he only had water not tea and there was only bread on the table, not incenses. Even though a moon was yet to be found outside of the window. Even though the maid was young and dark and ugly. Even though he has yet to achieve his goal to xiuxing…
Although there were so many even thoughs, when he placed his brush on top of the white paper and started to write wildly, he still felt happy. He even thought Sang Sang’s idea of selling calligraphy was genius.
Wei City wasn’t exactly poor, but it wasn’t rich either. The supply and aid from the military for sure didn’t include things like paper, brush, ink, and ink stones, therefore writing a few scrolls of calligraphy costed a fortune. But now, Ning Que could use these materials as much as he wanted, and he could trade his calligraphy work for money, Sang Sang wouldn’t complain either. What happier event could happen to a man?
People always say time goes slow under suffering while fast under pleasure. When Ning Que finally raised his head, drank half bowl of water, massaged his sore shoulders, and decided to take a break, the sunlight already broke the dawn. Faintly he could hear merchants talking in the streets.
After a full night of writing, there were two stacks of scroll piled up on the table. Besides the first two scrolls which were written in wild style to release his emotions, the other scrolls that he wrote were extremely carefully written. Although they seemed to be out of order, there were vertical scrolls, horizontal scrolls, long scrolls, and a great scroll. Except they weren’t framed as of yet, therefore they seemed to be simply a pile of papers in different shape and sizes.
After years of practicing calligraphy, Ning Que was confident in his work. But he couldn’t write the work that he was most confident and proud of. What could he reply when the guests asked him when was the ninth year of Yong He? Which mountain was Moutain Hui Ji? As a result he could only copy some modern poems, articles, and some famous chants. But even so, he believed that after hanging these scrolls on the wall, there would be countless officials and intellectuals fighting to buy his work.
“Well, the door is going to be crushed by the people coming in, I should fix it before it collapse.”
Ning Que thought confidently.His right hand reached out for the old scrolls that the former residents left over and pulled them down. He was ready to tell Sang Sang to go to a frame shop and decorate his masterpieces so he could hang them on the wall, but he noticed the young maid was sleeping in the corner of the room.
“I was thinking about asking you to buy two bowls of the famous Chang An sour and spicy noodle.”
He looked at the young girl who was sound asleep and shook his head. He took a short sleeved shirt and covered her before exiting the house. Following the delicious smell of the noodle and the yelling of the noodle maker, he arrived at his destination.
“Hey uncle, how much for a bowl of noodle?”
“You see, my shop is right over there, since we are neighbors, let’s give me a deal?”
“Yeah, yeah, it’s that shop, I haven’t given it a name yet.”
“I already settled on a name, just waiting to order the signboard. You ask what would be the name?”
“The Old Brush House.“
Just to buy two cheaper bowls of noodle, Ning Que settled on the name of the shop. No matter how you looked at it, it wasn’t really a proper and formal decision. Although Sang Sang didn’t care about the name of the shop, she still talked about it years after this event occurred.
All in all, this calligraphy shop, with a weird name has an owner who’s also the writer and a maid who’s also the worker, had finally opened on the Forty Seventh Street.
The only thing Ning Que wasn’t satisfied with was that the shop was too far from the frame shop, and framing took a long time. Except he didn’t know how to frame a scroll, therefore he could only be patient and waited for two days.
On certain rainy day in Chang An, the Old Brush House opened silently in the Forty Seventh street. Ning Que wore a new set of scholarly green shirt. He held in his left hand a cheap red mud tea cup and stood behind the opened door. He could almost see the new life waving its hand at him, and that new life looked pretty beautiful.
“The spring rain is as thick as oil, a good sign!”
He sipped the tea and stood inside the house and looked at the rain and wind outside, “The smell of tea and ink is making me drunk. Although conquering a vast territory is great, it still couldn’t compare to a good drink.”
A youngster wearing a scholarly green shirt didn’t really show the carefree traits, but rather demonstrated how silly he was. Furthermore, he was holding a teacup to act mature, and he used such a matured tone to speak. It really was cute.
There was a person under the roof of the shop to hide from the rain. Hearing Ning Que’s words, he turned around instinctively and looked at him. Stunned for a moment, he couldn’t resist to laugh. The person was a middle aged man who wore a simple green shirt and held a sword around his waist. His clean complexion had a trace of carefreeness. His laughter brightened up even the rain outside of the roof.
Noticed that there was a man outside and knew the person heard his big talk, Ning Que was a bit embarrassed. Ning Que coughed two times and turned away to face a corner of the Royal Palace, trying to act as if nothing happened.
Perhaps the middle aged man was a little bored, he turned around and walked into the shop. He walked around randomly and observed the scrolls. Although his eyes were full of surprise and praise, he didn’t seem to be interested in purchasing the scrolls.
Intellectuals should act like an intellectual, Ning Que didn’t care to entertain or serve the guest, even though the man was the first guest of the Old Brush House.
The middle aged man walked around the shop and continued toward Ning Que. He smiled and said, “Young manager….”
Ning Que didn’t wait for him to finish and corrected, “Please call me manager. Don’t think because I’m young and call me young manager just like I won’t call you a sword…..master just because you have a sword around your waist.”
“Fine, young manager.” The middle aged man didn’t change his words but instead he laughed and asked, “I really want to know, why did you rent this shop that no one rented for three straight months.”
Ning Que answered, “The place is clean, neighbor is nice, shop in front and house in back. I have no reason to not rent it.”
The middle aged man smiled a little and said, “I just want to warn you, there is a reason for this place to be empty for three months without anyone renting it. It’s not because others are slower than you, but rather the Department of Transportation will be expended and the government always wanted to take the shops of this street back. You know the government always compensate poorly, therefore it’s risky to rent the shops here. You may lose them anytime. You say the place is quiet, but didn’t you notice that the shops around you are all closed?”
Ning Que wrinkled his eyebrows and asked, “How do you know this?”
The middle aged man answered calmly, “Because the shops on this street, they are all mine.”
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