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82 New Years Eve Dinner

    After meandering around for a good few hours, Xue'er returned to the embroidery shop by three, to see there were two bowls and two pairs of chopsticks out on the set table. The bowls and chopsticks were decorated with an auspicious pattern that had hints of red, on top of a red tablecloth.

    Xue'er sat herself down and picked up a bowl to carefully inspect, slowly running her hands over the simple glaze.

    After some time, there was the smell of mincemeat with vegetables and oils. Xue'er saw the dumplings as Huo momo brought the dish into the room.

    There was a gentle steam that rose from the freshly made dumplings and it smelled really good.

    Huo momo seemed to have caught the sight of Xue'er sniffing the air and gave a gentle smile, placing the dish on the table.

    Xue'er silently looked at the dish, but she did not feel the urge to take some instead, she waited for Huo momo to sit and pick up the chopsticks.

    Although there was no rice, the dumplings were still very good, there was a piping hot sensation as she bit into the dumplings, letting all the sweet juices from the dumpling splatter inside her mouth. The smell was simply heavenly.

    As she ate, she realized that there was something that had not yet been done, so she placed her chopsticks down on the table and asked in a slightly confused tone: "Huo momo, are we not suppose to pray to the heavens for a lucky and prosperous year?"

    Huo momo gently tapped Xue'er on her head and said: "Silly girl, we have the entire duration of the festival to do it. Tonight is the night that we will have a good new year's dinner, then we can pray tomorrow, there's no need to rush."

    Xue'er thought about the words for a minute before nodding her head and eating up.

    Her actions were adorable, as she showed the etiquette of a well-bred young lady of a great household. So much so that Huo momo started to ponder whether she had accidentally hired the runaway wealthy young miss of a noble family to do embroidery for the women of the Hundred Flower Hall.

    The more she thought of it, the more her thoughts went down the path of no return. It went on, until she was done with the dumpling, and mindlessly chewed on the chopsticks without noticing.

    "Huo momo...?" The slightly confused girls' voice sounded.

    "What?" Huo momo snapped from her strange thoughts, facing Xue'er. She looked at the child's well proportioned delicate face, although the skin was as perfectly white as porcelain, the girl seemingly never worked a day in her life under the sun, but there was also a sickly shade to it as well. Not to mention that this was the north, there weren't many days where the sun would show itself either.

    "Are you okay?"

    "I'm fine." Huo momo picked up another dumpling with her chopsticks taking a bite of it before placing it into her bowl, she was in deep thought for a while on how to approach this until she finally asked: "Xue'er, having known you for a while, you never told me about where you're from..."

    Xue'er munched on a dumpling and answered: "I'm not sure."

    "What do you mean, surely you must have some family around here."

    "I don't." She flatly answered, beginning to wonder why Huo momo was very curious about her.

    "Any adults you live with?"

    Xue'er thought for a moment before she said: "I have an uncle, he is currently away at this moment, but he comes back ever so often." She thinks of Gan Tian Chi who would leave and return as he pleased, without a single anchor to tie him down.

    [I wonder what he is doing, would he even stay at a place for more than a year willingly?] Her questions would be unanswered, but the need to know such answers did not naw away endlessly at her, as they were mere comments she had at the spur of the moment.

    Huo momo nodded in deep thought, "I see." She internally shook her head as she believed it was her who was overthinking things. She insisted that Xue'er stay for a few more hours so that she could prepare some sweet treats as desserts.

    She went back into the kitchen, not forgetting to leave some sweetened lotus seeds for Xue'er to enjoy.

    Xue'er took a lotus seed and popped it into her mouth. They were sweet but had great uses, they were nourishing to the heart and calming to the mind, but there was no need to make it so sweet, she preferred the lotus seeds that were cooked with dried herbs and slightly salted, that was the best.

    Her eyes wandered outside, to the window that was slightly opened to prevent the smoke of the fireplace from getting too stuffy indoors, it also stopped the room from being too hot. There was a slight influx of cold air since it was only the beginning of the new year, it would son get colder.

    Within no time, Huo momo brought in another dish, this time, it was a cake that had been sliced into small slivers, with a slight golden luster on its Chestnut color. She looked at the cake that was in the dish.

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    [This must be what they call 'Nian Gao' they say eating it will allow you to continue eating it every year, and allow you to live a good life.] Xue'er silently thought to herself as she remembered the stories of the world outside.

    How interesting, was it as true as they say, that eating it would allow one to lead a peaceful life.

    [Then it would be worth a try.] She thought as she picked up a piece and put it gently into her mouth.

    "How is it?" Huo momo asked with great anticipation.

    "Good." She said. It was merely a one worded response. Though her tone conveyed nothing that betrayed her emotions, internally she was slightly disappointed. Not because the sweet treat did not live up to her anticipation, but because she had expected too much from it in the first place, from the legendary tales to the wild claims, she had believed that this would be a magical food that was greatly blessed.

    In the end, it was nothing more than a sweet dessert.

    "That's good to hear." Huo momo smiled at her, "You know, these cakes are only made once a year, and it is during the duration of the spring festival that it is the most efficient."

    Xue'er nodded. Yes, she knew, she had read way too many books about this special holiday. Having become an expert without having to leave her home.

    By the time they had finished talking, Xue'er's mind was at ease as she proceeded to leave the embroidery shop. With a simple farewell, she left the confines of the warm store and trod the streets.

    This night was different from any other night. In that, there were crowds upon crowds of people dressed in the same color.

    A bright and festive red that resembled a field of blooming red flowers. It was a magnificent sight to behold and for Xue'er, not the first time either. This gathering of people would not be here for one night either. It would go on for the next fifteen days, the entire duration of this festival.

    Of course, night time was the time when this place would become the most lively. A time when the bright lanterns and fireworks could be seen from afar. Then, the true prosperity of the kingdom would be on display for all to see.
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