February 23rd, 2013

Elf

Back, Shortly After Nai was Born...

I wrote this in response to aldersprig's ninth prompt "Nai again: why do they have such a big family?"

“No-one joins the public service to get rich,” Scholar Sung poured tea for his younger brother, “although they may do so for the pension. However, in this day and age it is not possible to obtain a suitable appointment solely on the basis of one’s examination results.”

“And even with the proliferation of new universities,” Sung Ma agreed gracefully, “there are only so many teaching positions available.”

“That is so. I have been fortunate enough to have several of my books taken up as texts,” the older brother sighed, “but they could lose favour for another publication at any time.”

“Is it wise then,” the younger brother trod delicately on sensitive ground, “to keep having more children?”

“My wife and I must make some provision for our old age,” the two men sipped contemplatively together for a moment, “and having many sons to rally around in your years of infirmity is a traditional one.”

“But going out of style,” pointed out Sung Ma. “Besides, you have four sons now, as well as your four daughters, that is probably provision enough. Particularly,” he added delicately, “as you weren’t able to afford anything more than the basic birth prediction for this latest one.”

“School shoes,” his older brother explained briefly, “and Kae is starting secondary school this year, so there were additional expenses there. We have years ahead of us to get Nai’s birth prediction expanded upon.”

“At least it wasn’t one of those awkward ones that tells you what the poor child is going to do for the rest of their life,” consoled Sung Ma. “It only talks about where her happiness will come from.”

“Is that how you heard it?” Scholar Sung looked at his brother with interest. “I thought it meant her husband and children were going to be the focus of her life.”

“You think it means she’s going to marry an older man and spend the rest of her life being tai-tai?” Sung Ma laughed, “Sometimes you can be more old-fashioned than our grandfathers, and one of them was a Reincarnated Scholar.” He looked at his brother and sobered up. “You’re still trying to sire that Reincarnated Scholar your birth prediction spoke about, aren’t you?”