Chapter 194 – The scholar goes to the capital to take imperial exam
“I was poor since childhood. Back then, I used to be an innocent kid with stiff and silent temperament. I had no friends, no parents, and no loved ones. I preferred eating porridge with fresh vegetables, over meat. I just loved reading books, and other than that, I had no other aims in life. I always dreamed of going to the capital and passing the entrance examination of Heavenly Academy, so that I could get access to the books stored in their library. But, it all changed when I met Chen’er. After knowing her, I only wanted to study together with her, although she was not at all interested in reading books.
This was the first paragraph written in the notes of Wang Zhi Ce. Chen Chang Sheng felt an intimate feeling arising in his heart when he read this paragraph. He knew perfectly well about Wang Zhi Ce being his rival, but still had an intimate feeling in his heart, perhaps because he was also a person who loved reading books.
“On the way to the capital, I stopped near the main palace in Tianliang County and happened to meet the then governor of the county. I did not know that this person would later become well-known in the world as Emperor Taizu. I also happened to meet Qi Wang, and later, I met him again in Luoyang. I also met Big Brother in Luoyang. Also, in a small alley where sewage was constantly dripping, I met Chen’er and decided to stay with her in Luoyang City.”
“The books were expensive in Luoyang, very expensive, and to be honest, everything there was expensive. Even the sesame seed cakes were more expensive than elsewhere, not to mention in those days, everyday life was equivalent to a battle for survival. When all of the silver money was used up, she wanted to resume her old profession, but I personally thought that murder was not always good. She asked how I planned to manage our household. I considered going to the capital in search of better opportunities. Even if I was unable to enter Heavenly Academy, I could always go the Mausoleum of Books and take out some false rubbings of inscriptions. I had full confidence in my handwriting skills and could always think of ways to earn money by making good use of my intellect.”
“She came to the capital with me but soon I knew that we would be unable to leave even we wanted to, because Emperor Taizu’s army had encircled the capital. At that time I came to know that after the Big Bother left Luoyang, he never intended to come back. At last, the city walls collapsed that day. Along with Chen’er, I was sitting in a boat and saw a white unicorn across the bridge. Qi Wang was riding that unicorn and when I saw his smiling face, I suddenly felt better. I somehow felt that now the things would be fine.”
“His Majesty ascended the throne in front of the Mausoleum of Books, but not long after, the demon army attacked us. Then after two years, the demon army made its move once again. Qi Wang would occasionally come to the inn to chat with us and I could clearly see that he appeared less and less happy as the time passed. I did not know the reason behind his unhappiness, perhaps because his favorite unicorn was sacrificed for ‘The Treaty of the Fallen Willow’, or because His Majesty was not willing to make it clear as to which of the princes would become the crown prince. One day, Qi Wang drank too much, stared into my eyes and said that from the day he met in Luoyang City, he always wanted my help. But, I did not understand why he said that. I was just a weak scholar and had not even started to cultivate yet, then how could I help him…..I came to the capital just to enter Heavenly Academy and read books.”
“I successfully entered Heavenly Academy, started reading books and began to live the life I had always yearned for. But she did not like this kind of ordinary life. I took her to the imperial palace to show the beauty of ivy, then to The Orthodoxy Academy to show her the famous banyan tree, but she did not like any of the things I showed her. She said that the grove of Chaoyang garden was too dense, the banyan tree was too tall, and most importantly the lake near The Orthodoxy Academy was too peaceful. One night, I was looking at various notes and records from Luoyang and laughed. But she sneered and said that no one liked a flat mountain and only people like me would be able to tolerate such a boring life. I understood what she meant but I chose to remain silent and didn’t say anything.”
“Later, she finally left the capital. I did not know where she was headed, but perhaps she went to the Old Snow City to look for the traces of her brother. In short, she left me and I seriously thought about it for three days and three nights and confirmed that I could not change anything, so I continued to study. In the idle time when I was not reading books, I would often think about attempting to cultivate. I always thought that I did not have the talent for cultivation and even my friends said the same thing. However, I did not know that I would start cultivating at the age of 40 and would not encounter any obstacles, contrary to what was often portrayed in the rumors. I just spent one night and more or less understood what it meant to cultivate. That night when I began to cultivate, there was a big commotion and it alarmed a lot of people. They were bewildered when they got to know what happened and I became a celebrity in the capital. Qi Wang took an imperial edict from Emperor Taizu and forced me to become a government official in the imperial court. Everyone thought that I would be proud to suddenly get so much attention because now I could cultivate, in fact, I was really proud of those things but the news not only spread in the capital, but throughout the continent. In short, I became a celebrity for the entire continent and began to visit the mansions of those high ranking officials. I also got on good terms with Qi Wang and several other princes. It seemed as if my life finally became joyful again, except for she never came back.”
“Tranquil and happy life would always come crashing down eventually. I knew this truth but did not expect that the end of the happy days would come so suddenly. Late at night, the martial law was suddenly declared in the capital and two guests visited my house on the same night. They were the non-native officials invited to work in the imperial court. They wanted me to handle some matter, but after thinking for a while, I said no to them. However, I also did not go to stop Qi Wang because I knew that considering his temperament, now, no one could stop him from moving forward. The next morning, I saw carriages transporting the corpses out of the capital. I went upstairs and stood motionlessly, looking in the direction of Hundred Herbs Garden, watching the white smoke rising slowly into the sky. I was silently praying in my heart, hoping for as few deaths as possible. At least, I was praying for the safety of those princes with whom I was familiar with, but unfortunately things were much worse than I imagined. Many people died in this incident, including several princes, their wives and children.”
“I sat alone in boredom for three days, did not go out to inquire about the incident. The two non-native officials once again visited my house but only received silence from me. Finally, Qi Wang personally arrived to see me. In such a tense time, when he was busing handling the foreign affairs, he actually set aside some time to see me. I did not know whether I should feel honored or I should be vigilant. He said that he did not mind my silence for all these days, but he needed me to indicate my view on the incident to the people of the capital. I could only remain silent when I realized what he wanted me to do. He stared into my eyes and asked me, in the end what was my opinion regarding all this. I thought for a while and said that I did not have an opinion. This time, he remained silent for some time then turned around to leave. This was the last time he and I had a conversation as friends, because later I heard that in the early morning of the same day, he had officially ascended the throne to become the second emperor of Zhou Dynasty.”
“I was neither arrested, nor placed under house arrest. I was deliberately forgotten by the people who once knew me and also those who worked with me. My situation was similar to that of Emperor Taizu who had also been forgotten by the people. Qi Wang……no, now I should call him His Majesty. His Majesty wanted to be filial to the utmost and was worried that Emperor Taizu might come up with something if he was too bored in the palace, and he also treasured the friendship between us and was worried that I might come up with something out of boredom, therefore His Majesty appointed me as the personal secretary of Emperor Taizu and made me enter the imperial palace to accompany him.”
“I must say that the lifestyle in the imperial palace was very interesting. Within a few months, Emperor Taizu seemed to have aged by several hundred years. He genuinely turned into a typical old person and was no longer irritable and frivolous instead he had become very gentle and no longer cared about national affairs. Of course, no one allowed him to care about all that, so he began to care about the victory and defeat over the Mahjong Table and the pretty maids. About the latter, I strictly remonstrated several times but he did not listen to me. About the former, it was difficult for him to defeat me in the game of Mahjong, which in turn made him more interested in the game. In the garden full of ivy, I and that old person played a lot of games, including card games, and we spent considerable amount of time chatting. I heard a lot of stories from him and stored them in my heart.”
Chen Chang Sheng could not stop himself from getting excited after reading this far.
These were the accounts of Wang Zhi Ce and contained his legendary memories. The events were portrayed in disorderly and brief manner, but clearly narrated the course of his life. And it happened to be in the course of this continent’s most turbulent period, so these narrations would naturally have a strong impact on any reader.
From these notes, Chen Chang Sheng got the general idea about Wang Zhi Ce’s life. It seemed like he used to be a young scholar who aspired to come to the capital and take the imperial exam to obtain the status of an officer. He was planning to travel for thousands of miles to arrive at the capital, just to read books. On the way, he stopped in Luoyang City and met a girl. His innocent eyes weaved lots of innocent dreams and his footsteps stopped in Luoyang City.
The young scholar eventually began to walk again and arrived at his original destination, the capital. He had not yet forgotten his initial goal but was not able to live according to his past idea. His innocent dreams shattered when the girl was no longer a part of them. He became an official and also turned into a celebrity in the capital. He did not want to enter into this world, but was forced to enter.
Chen Chang Sheng’s mood gradually became tense because now the memoir was going to tell him the most critical part. He wanted to know what happened when Wang Zhi Ce was made to accompany Emperor Taizu who was under house arrest in the imperial palace. He wanted to know the things that Wang Zhi Ce learnt in all those years he spent with Emperor Taizu, and then, perhaps he might learn the method to change his fate.
He continued to read the memoir.
“There were many rumors about Emperor Taizu and the most famous was how he went against the heaven’s will and changed his fate. According to the hearsay, many years ago, he collaborated with that generation’s Pope and used some mystical method to offer sacrifices to the stars and that was how he managed to change his fate. After the Hundred Herbs Garden incident, some new specific details were added to the hearsay. The new hearsay said that Emperor Taizu had actually made a wish to the stars that he would pass on this mystical method to only one son and all of the rest princes would be offered as sacrifices to the stars……However, after Emperor Taizu ascended the throne successfully, he actually did not want to fulfill his past commitment, in fact, all of his sons were so outstanding so how could he choose one and sacrifice the others? Moreover, would his sons ever accept this?”
“I still do not know whether Qi Wang and the other princes had heard this hearsay or not, and even after hearing it, did they believe it or not, but I knew that as long as this hearsay, whether true or false, would continue to exist, it would continue to be heard. It had actually poisoned the hearts of those princes. They were the outstanding sons of Emperor Taizu but were unable to maintain good relations even in Luoyang and then in the capital. I must admit that His Majesty was the most outstanding son of Emperor Taizu and was also among the most formidable men of Zhou Dynasty. When those princes were still trying to influence the choice of Emperor Taizu, and waiting for the natural decision of fate, His Majesty was the first to begin without hesitation and killed all of his brothers…… ”
“I asked Emperor Taizu whether it was possible to go against the heaven’s will to change one’s fate. That day, he was drunk and his elderly face looked particularly brighter than usual. He smiled like a child but did not directly answer my question instead he belched once and was simultaneously humming a local opera song from Tianliang County. He kept on humming and nodding at the same time and immediately fell asleep.”
TL Note: I have read up to Chapter 50 and noted down the terminologies used by the previous translators. And, I have to say that this story is awesome and the author’s writing style is profound and quite hard to grasp. I can see that the previous translators must have faced difficulties, because it is definitely not an easy-to-translate type CN.
At the bottom of this note, you can find a list of terminologies I will be implementing in my translation. They are in accordance with the terminologies used in previous translations, to maintain consistency.
Once I am done reading all the way up to the current chapter, I will make a detailed glossary for the readers.
Also, while I was reading the chapters, the frequently changing terminologies confused me a lot. I feel like those chapters need minor editing and the terminologies need to be set firmly (without changing) throughout the novel.
Since I am planning to translate this novel till the end, I will find time to edit those chapters to give a smooth transition from the previous translations to mine; this should be beneficial for the readers who, like me, also get confused because of the changing terminologies, mostly due to the involvement of multiple translators in this project.
Give me some time so I can consolidate this masterpiece!
List of terminologies
The terminologies on the left are the ones I have used in the last two chapters. The ones on the right have been used in the previous translations. I will be using the ones on the right in the coming chapters.
Demon race -> Yao race (a friendly race that occupies the western region)
Devil race -> Demon race (an enemy race that occupies the northern region)
Great Dynasty Emperor -> Emperor Taizu
Second Emperor -> Emperor Taizong
Heavenly Books -> Heavenly Tomes
The Tradition -> The Orthodoxy
Saintess Peak -> Holy Maiden Peak
Stargazing Pavilions -> Star observation platforms
Snow old town -> Old Snow City