Chapter 1: The Human Realm
In the human realm, the gods are efficacious and bring salvation to all living things.
Yet humans do not know that gods also have troubles. You and other mortal beings. You ask for a high position and handsome salary, you ask for wealth and success, you f*ckin want to be the emperor.
Exactly who is having to be the little mortal here?
It is the public gods that face the people who pray and burn incense, hoping for good fortune of all sorts. If gods are oblivious to what is happening to the outside world and stay in their own place, only then do they not have to bless anyone.
Humans do not know the worries of gods and still go about with their own ways.
January 18th. Tian Yun Country, State of Liang, Hang Shan Prefecture. Within Cheng Yang County.
On January 18th, there were rumors that it was the birthday of the Shinto God of Longevity. The believers all set out in hope of increasing their lifespan and praying for everybody to have a long life, without any diseases or disasters.
There were too many travelers and so the roads were all crowded. The business was good and the bosses selling incense all had blooming smiles, counting money until they got hand cramps.
Everyone thought that praying to the gods added a few years of longevity and so they also laughed heartily.
Within this Cheng Yang town, there was no one who wasn’t happy, no one who wasn’t laughing.
“If the gods really are efficacious, what is the point of seeing the doctor when ill? What is then the point of burying the dead? Pray to the gods to completely get rid of illnesses and troubles, pray to the gods to bring people back to life. If it was so, how would there still be roots of trouble and hearts of sorrow in this world?”
There stood a youth on the avenue. The youth had a slender physique, yet didn’t appear to be thin. A handsome appearance, yet not dazzling. He was gentle-looking and wore a cyan-colored Confucian robe.
There was a faint smile upon his face, as if he were playing some sort of relaxing game.
The youth’s surname was Chen and his name was Guhong, also known as Ziyu. He was a local. Both of his parents had died, and so he currently lived with his sister and brother-in-law. This time’s outing to worship the Longevity God was upon orders from his sister.
Within Tian Yun Country, the Imperial Examinations were prevalent. It was stressed that all things were beneath contempt and only studying was worthy.
Within books there are golden houses, within books there are beautiful women.
Chen Guhong was also a young examination candidate: at the age of five, he began studying, and at the age of thirteen, he participated in the test for boys. This year he was twenty, but he had not been able to repeat the test. He did not become a scholar, but rather a disqualified scholar, and so he was currently still a candidate.
Nevertheless, in the whole of Cheng Yang County, there were many others like Chen Guhong, which made him stand out less.
Of course, Chen Guhong also had his own little secret. He was a person who had passed through from another world.
In his past life, he was an unemployed youth who spent the whole day feeling anxious, looking for a job, looking for a girlfriend, rushing towards that bright future. He already did not know how many years he hadn’t enjoyed himself, how many years he hadn’t laughed.
Gradually though, he lost that nature and became an open youth who was part of society.
“Although this world has some ridiculous absurdities, compared to life in my previous world, it can be considered as heaven.”
Chen Guhong stretched and with the mentality of playing a game, he bought the incense, prayed to the Longevity God and then walked home swayingly in a leisurely manner.
He lived on Chen Qu Lane in a small, normal house, with neighbors who were also only commoners.
Recently there had been children frolicking around; whenever they saw Chen Guhong, they would bow compliantly like little adults. There was nothing he could do about it. Although he was still only a candidate, Chen Guhong’s social standing was still quite high.
He nodded towards those few children before striding into the house.
His sister was called Chen Xiuxiu, a housewife.
His brother-in-law was called Wang Zhengdang, the owner of a small grocery store.
When Chen Guhong returned, Chen Xiuxiu had just been preparing to go out and buy some soy sauce to use for cooking. She saw her little brother, revealed a smile and said,
“Little brother, was the Temple of the Longevity God any fun?”
Since both parents had died, Chen Xiuxiu pampered her only little brother a lot. This time, making her little brother go pay homage to the Longevity God was really an excuse for letting him go outside and play. She had even secretly given him 50 coppers for him to buy some food.
“Everyone was very happy, I was also very happy.” Chen Guhong’s heart was aware of his sister’s concern: he also revealed a smile and spoke cheerfully.
“Hehe. As long as you’re happy.” Chen Xiuxiu’s smile became greater and then she explained, “Big sister is going to buy soy sauce, you stay by yourself. If you’re hungry, there’re still some cakes in the kitchen.”
(Note: Chen Guhong is twenty, yet he still gets this sort of treatment. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.)
“Yup.” Chen Guhong said as he smiled.
“Having a virtuous big sister is really nice.” Looking at the back of Chen Xiuxiu’s leaving figure, Chen Guhong’s heart was full of a warm feeling.
After stopping for a moment, Chen Guhong turned around and went into his own room. His room was divided into two areas: the inner area was his bedroom, whilst the outer area was a small study that was full of all sorts of scrolls, not missing a single one of the Four Treasures of the Study.
Looking at these displays, an expression of sorrow was revealed upon Chen Guhong’s face.
“I have studied for many years, my fame has not risen and I have become an all-day freeloader. Although big sister and brother-in-law haven’t said much, their hearts are also not at ease. It’s better to find brother-in-law and discuss the matter of me making a proper living.”
This thought of Chen Guhong’s had already existed for a long time, it was just that he was afraid of making his sister sad and so he didn’t dare to bring it up. Today though, he thought that it was time.
Determined, Chen Guhong thus waited for his elder sister and brother-in-law to come back.
Not long after, Chen Xiuxiu returned. After she returned, Chen Xiuxiu finished making dinner and called Chen Guhong to sit down and wait for her husband Wang Zhengdang to come back.
In about the time it takes to make a cup of tea, Wang Zhengdang returned.
However, he gave Chen Xiuxiu and Chen Guhong a shock.
Wang Zhengdang was distressed, as if his parents had died.
“What has happened?” Chen Xiuxiu quickly went up to him and said concernedly.
“This year’s compulsory labor hasn’t been dealt with.” Wang Zhengdang wryly smiled and said.
“The compulsory labor hasn’t been dealt with?” Chen Xiuxiu’s eyes widened and her snow-white teeth were almost clenched into pieces. Her pleasant face revealed a horrified color.
Chen Guhong’s heart also tightened.
This world was akin to ancient society, where people had to pay taxes and carry out compulsory labor.
This so-called compulsory labor simply consisted of conscripting activities such as building the city wall or mobilizing the army, where the people were responsible for transporting food. It was like how Emperor Qin Shihuang had built the Great Wall in the ancient times of China by calling upon the people- this was also one type of compulsory labor.
In this ancient setting, it was necessary to trek across long distances of 10,000 li to do the compulsory labor. The number of deaths in foreign lands wasn’t small, so every year during the compulsory labor, tears would surely fill the sky.
(Note: 1 li = 500m. Also, this paragraph was rather vague so I tried my best to make sense of it.)
In the whole of Tian Yun Country, only ranking officials, dignitaries and famous scholars were exempt from the compulsory labor.
On the other hand, Wang Zhengdang was a small businessman whose home was relatively well-off; every year, he was able to make a bit of silver and use some connections to let Chen Guhong and himself be able to carry out the compulsory labor nearby, or simply be exempt from it.
Although this led to a great monetary loss, it also warded off misfortune and made them at ease.
“Every year it has been dealt with, why has it not been dealt with this year?” Chen Guhong asked relatively calmly.
“Some people have caused trouble.” Wang Zhengdang wryly smiled.
“Caused trouble?” Chen Guhong’s eyebrows furrowed.
“Ah, it was that kid Wang Shun. Recently he has landed a position no bigger than a sesame seed or mung bean, the position of a petty official within the county government. Although it is a small position, it has put us exactly into a difficult situation.” Wang Zhengdang’s face revealed a spurned expression and his wry smile became broader.
“Wang Shun?!” Chen Guhong’s face revealed a little bit of murderous intent.
This Wang Shun lived next door- not only was he neighbors with Wang Zhengdang, yet the two of them both came from the same great-great grandfather. They could be regarded as family. This Wang Shun had a cunning character with no bottom line to his morals.
He was a sly and unsophisticated thief.
5 years ago, Wang Shun had made a move and stolen a little hen from Wang Zhengdang’s house, but he had been caught. At the time, Chen Guhong had thought that this person’s temperament was too evil, so it was better to report it to the officials.
However, Wang Zhengdang cared about family bonds and Wang Shun repeatedly pleaded; Wang Shun’s wife even brought their few children over to kowtow for mercy.
In the end, this matter was not reported to the officials, as if it had never even happened.
In these recent years, these two families did get on quite well, as if this event had long become the dust of history. Who would’ve thought that once Wang Shun had prospered, he would actually give Wang Zhengdang a bite.
“He really is a good-for-nothing.” Chen Guhong thought in his heart.