Don’t Be a Kept Man
shining down upon us, the heavens should tell us what we should do.”
Zhao Xi snorted in laughter,
“What a junk filled scholar who has turned crazy from reading too many books.
Can’t believe you would pick him, when there’s only his face that is passable.”
Xie Yu Zhi said,
“Still better than your nonsense literary writing skills.”
Zhao Xi was not the only one that thought that this was not going anywhere; the others at the table were also thinking this method was too unreliable.
But they stayed silent to save Xie Yu Zhi some face.
That was not the same case for the folks down in the crowd.
“The heavens only made snow fall when Dou E died!”
“The sun is burning too brightly now!”
Chen Miao Ping: “Arrest those who dare to keep blathering and flog them!”
And then turned to Zhang Yuan Qing to say,
“Please hold your contract up with sincereness towards the sun.
The time limit will be when the incense has burned halfway8.
If there are no trickery or lies to this and you can stand up straight and tall under the sun, the sky does not look strange, then this official will judge you as the winner.”
Everywhere was the sound of hushing.
Zhang Yuan Qing thought to himself that it was definitely not a waste in giving away that amount of money.
He trumphiantly did as he was told as he could not believe that in that amount of designated time, the sky could turn into a pouring rain.
The crowd began whispering swears and curses at Chen Miao Ping, but he was undisturbed.
He only played with the crystal pendant by his waist as he waited, which was only with him because he borrowed it from Xie Yu Zhi to patrol with.
Without something to show that he was powerful and wealthy, there was no other way to scare people off and give him that sense of authority, as his position was still considered quite low.
As they waited, in a place where no one was paying attention to, a ray of sunshine was being gathered up.
A slight hand movement from Chen Miao Ping and that beam of sunshine discreetly stopped onto a word on the contract that Zhang Yuan Qing was holding up.
A word that was the “thousand” in the “3 thousand guan” to be exact.
Each word was seen very easily, as the broad sunlight shining down on the piece of paper being held up made it crystal clear.
With one hand holding the contract up high and the other behind his back, Zhang Yuan Qing turned to face Sun Zhang-gui, laughing gleefully.
A perfect reenactment of an evil villain.
“Old man, you better give me everything from Ji Shi Tang! Don’t waste my time, as even the heavens won’t be able to help you!”
Following the time slowly ticking by, he didn’t notice at all the tiny tiny hole being made on the contract which was slowly becoming bigger and bigger.
Until someone in the crowd suddenly yelled,
“Ah! Look! Everyone look! Why is the paper smoking!”
Zhang Yuan Qing then snapped his head back and his face completely changed from his bullying stance.
He quickly spit out blobs of saliva to try and put out that tiny fire.
A nearby middle aged woman said,
“Hmph! This is the heavens punishing you!”
Zhang Yuan Qing spit out and pushed up his sleeves.
Saying as a thug would,
“What happened? How could I not know something happened? You’re saying lies with your eyes wide open! I didn’t see anything, Da-ren didn’t see anything! Right, Da-ren?”
The last few words were said fawningly to which Chen Miao Ping nodded in acknowledgement and said,
This official did indeed not see anything happen just now.
The time limit is now up and since the heavens did not make anything happen, you have won.”
He took the contract back and said to Sun Zhang-Gui,
“Senior, would you like to see how you will be paying him the three guan, or would you like to give Ji Shi Tang’s knowledge in exchange?”
Zhang Yuan Qing coveted and greeded for money as if it was his entire life, and his ears were quite sharp.
When he heard Chen Miao Ping, he immediately held up three fingers and said in a low tone to him,
“Da-ren, that’s wrong! That is wrong! It is 3000 guan! Not three guan!”
Chen Miao Ping tugged his sleeve back and said,
“Wrong what? Da-Ren is never wrong.
Even if he is wrong, it can only be considered right.
3000 guan? Are you crazy from being poor? The contract says very clearly three guan.”
That was when the crowd reacted.
Did Chen Miao Ping just say that it was three guan and not 3000 guan?
Sun Zhang-Gui widened his eyes from the shock.
Chen Miao Ping held up the contract and waved it in front of the crowd,
“Everyone, please look.
Look at this.
Has this official spoken any lies? Does this not say three guan?”
“Woah wow! It really is three guan! A miracle! That’s a miracle!”
“The heavens have eyes!”
“Hahahaha Zhang Yuan Qing, that bastard is trying to fool all of us and is demanding for something that is not there! This is what should happen when he tries to sell fake medicine and harms others! He deserves this!”
Zhang Yuan Qing’s face was red to his ears and his voice was cracking.
He didn’t care about the courtesies anymore and roughly grabbed the contract back from Chen Miao Ping’s hands.
But the only thing that stared back at him was a burned away “thousand”.
Chen Miao Ping chuckled, an act which seemed to take all the colors away from the earth and sky and gather them onto his face.
He dusted his sleeves and said,
“This official orders you to send all the medicine and herbs as ordered in the contract to Ji Shi Tang by today, or this official will judge you for the crime of fraud and send you straight to jail!”
Zhang Yuan Qing’s face was ashen,
“Da-Ren, you can’t be like this, you can’t be like this.
You accepted it…… you accepted it……”
Chen Miao Ping laughed in delight and came closer,
“What did this official accept?”
Zhang Yuan Qing gritted his teeth and said it out loud with courage,
“You accepted Xiao-Ren’s 900 guan!”
Chen Miao Ping turned speculative,
“I did receive it, but that was because you were willing to give it to this official.
This official did not force you and this country has no laws that said when someone is giving you free money, you can’t accept it.”
As soon as he said that, the crowd began to laugh out loud.
Zhang Yuan Qing felt his breath stick in his throat from the shock and he actually fainted away on the spot.
Chen Miao Ping did not care enough to do anything about that and passed the contract to Sun Zhang-gui,
“This is your medicine order.
In the future, you can go find Zhang Yuan Qing to get your stock.
If he does not comply, please come find me.
The Chief Surveillance Bureau is just at the end of the street.”
There were many pairs of eyes on the spectacle and although he was discreet in his actions with his crystal pendant, it did not mean that no one saw it.
Knowing that he had indirectly helped Sun Zhang-gui, there was an immediate cheer for him,
“Wise and honorable Da-Ren! Wise and honorable Da-Ren!”
“I have incorrectly judged you!”
“The most fair and honorable Da-ren!”
Sun Zhang-gui was stunned, but at these calls, he raised his hands to complete a thankful bow,
“I humbly thank Da-ren for your help.”
And then threw that contract onto the floor in front of everyone,
“This old physician does not want any of his medicinal herbs and plants! Who knows if it is real or fake!”
This old man does have quite the personality.
Chen Miao Ping smiled,
“That contract is yours, so it is naturally up to you to decide however you wish.
But you should know, you are looking at patients without any payment or rewards and widely spreading your medicine for little to no cost.
That is a good intention, but that sours the other medicinal shops’ businesses, breaking the balance of the market.
It most definitely stabs into someone’s livelihood.
To think about it this way, you yourself have to eat, don’t you? Don’t do things like this in the future.”
And then took out the bank notes he had stuffed away,
“These, I will give to you.
If in the future, there is someone who cannot afford to see you as a physician, take it out from here.
The money you take will belong to you, and it can be considered the income from Ji Shi Tang.”
900 guan was not a small amount, and in these kinds of warring times, life was hard.
In a year an average family’s spendings would not be more than ten guan.
Sun Zhang-gui took the money with shaking hands and his eyes felt a burning sensation.
He stuttered out,
“This old man, this old man……”
Silence descended upon the crowd, but Chen Miao Ping did not care.
He patted his robe and said,
“Alright alright, everyone move along now.
Don’t block off the road.
Carriages and horses can’t get past.”
Everyone was strangely accommodating and obedient.
Without even needing Qian Tong to send his soldiers to clean out the place, it was immediately empty within a breath’s time.
But before they all scattered away, all the women and men did a courtesy bow and said,
“Thank you, Da-Ren.”
Humans that lived in the ancient times were quite the honest folk.
In reality, Chen Miao Ping had done nothing at all.
His eyes had unconsciously gentled and he glanced at Zhao Xi who was bright red in the face.
In the end, Zhao Xi couldn’t help but compliment Chen Miao Ping,
“What a smart individual.
A good minister.
I have misjudged him.”
Someone beside him also said,
“Much stronger than the previous City Warden Inspectors.”
“That was pretty amazing.
How did the paper burn?”
“I saw it! I saw it! He had done something with the pendant at his waist and suddenly there was a beam of light that appeared on the paper.
And whoosh, it burned! Does he know magic? A blessing of power from the heavens? Can jade pendants be a heavenly weapon of power? Brother Yu Zhi, do you know what happened?”
Chen Miao Ping had been lamenting that he had no money for himself, but he did not think that on the first day he took up this job, a road paved to riches would fall right into his lap.
After the crowd dispersed, without even walking a few steps, a chubby little guy who was dressed in quite lavish robes suddenly stopped him.
And the first words out of his mouth were quite confusing.
“I saw it.”
“Saw what? Saw a mountain? You spy with your little eyes something far away?9”
Chen Miao Ping held his arms by the elbows inside his sleeves, looking quite like an old man.
He stared at that young man before him, a youth that must not be more than 15 or 16 years old,
“What did you see?”
The chubby boy said,
“You have a special item.
I saw it! When you moved the pendant by your waist, the paper burned up! Give me a price.
I will buy it.”
“You mean this?”
After signalling for Qian Tong and the soldiers to give them space, Chen Miao Ping took the pendant off his waist,
“This is not easily obtained, and it requires a rock crystal that is clear all the way through.
Then taking in the chakra of the earth, the dew of the sun and moon, and adding in the power of numerous people, a tiny piece is formed.
Even with all the money in the world, you wouldn’t be able to afford to buy such a thing.”
The chubby boy said,
There is nothing I cannot buy in this world.
Just name the price.”
Chen Miao Ping said to himself that I know you are not lacking in money, with a body like this that just screams wealth.
If I don’t rip a big chunk out of you, I would feel sorry for myself.
“6000 guan, plus extra for a high quality rock crystal.”
The chubby boy widened his round cute eyes,
“This teensy rock and you want 6000 guan? And extra for a high quality one? Why don’t you just go steal this money!”
Chen Miao Ping played with the pendant in his hands,
“This item does not only start a fire.
To need so much is actually for your benefit.
It doesn’t matter too much if I just show you.”
And then he bent down and grabbed an ant onto his palm.
He reached out to show the chubby boy, smiling with his eyes curved and asked,
“Can you see the legs of this ant very clearly ?”
Click here to bypass all the footnotes!
*1 This is from pg 332 of “A new account of tales of the world: Shih-shuo hsin-yu” by Yiqing Liu, Jun Liu and Richard B Mather.
This is the intention of the author to just say a handsome guy gets attention on the streets and making this translator do too much work
*2 In ancient china, throwing fruits signifies that the person they are throwing it at is someone they like/are attracted to (basically like the first line of this chapter, the quote from footnote 1), and if there’s a lot of people doing this/the more stuff that male has on him, it usually signifies that man is handsome.
Besides fruit, they can throw handkerchiefs, their own sewn pouches, and many other things as stated in the next line.
The females are usually up on a balcony of a building like a restaurant, etc.
I guess it’s kind of like throwing flowers or tomatoes (if only with a positive connotation) at the end of a theatre show?
*3 Da-Ren: A term a subordinate uses to refer to their boss or as a commoner/merchant/considered lowered tier status talking to a higher tiered status person and/or official.
*4 Xiao-ren: a way to reference oneself as a “smaller/inferior” person, as the exact opposite of “Da-ren in footnote 3 as Da means big/grand/large and Xiao means small/little, usually in respect to a higher official/minister you’re is talking to.
*5 Ji Shi Tang: The Tang here is usually a big indicator of a chinese medicine store that carries medicine as well as doctors/physicians, and another big indication is the name Ji Shi which means, essentially, to help the world.
In any case, it’s the name of the store for Sun Zhang-gui to take a look at his patients + prescribe medicine.
*6 Zhang-gui: a term to call a shopkeeper of a store.
It encompasses many meanings however beyond just a shopkeeper.
It can be referenced as the manager, the accountant, a physician/doctor(as it does here), the front of the house, and so forth.
They are basically a caretaker of the shop for everything and can be either an owner of the shop or reporting to a higher boss.
Sometimes referenced as just for one store or also a district/an area of places/shops.
*7 Dou E: Also called Dou E Yuan or The Injustice of Dou E.
I believe there is an english version of this play called Snow in Midsummer.
But it’s like an opera piece that is basically about this girl who was given to the elderly mother of someone who was promised to wed her by his father who was rushing for the examinations.
Unfortunately her husband died young and so the mother-in-law and Dou E depended on each other to live.
One day they were saved by their neighbor who started to fall for her looks and wanted her to marry him.
Of course she didn’t agree and so the neighbour and his father planned to poison the mother-in-law but instead the father accidentally drank the poisoned soup when he was hungry and so died.
The neighbor seeing this immediately called for justice first, blaming that Dou E murdered his father, and bribed the judge to see his way.
So Dou E was wrongfully arrested.
They tortured her and threatened her mother-in-law’s life to make her confess and Dou E did exactly that because she didn’t want her mother-in-law to be implicated anymore in this.
So on the third of June (well, in the Chinese calendar so not as in June of Gregorian calendar we now mainly use) Dou E was executed.
Before she was, she yelled out that she was wrongfully convicted and she swore to the heavens that the following 3 things that could not happen naturally would happen that would prove her innocence: her blood would not spill on the floor, snow would fall in the middle of summer, and there will be a drought for 3 years for this injustice as seen by the heavens.
Right after she died, everything happened as she swore/cursed, and after her father passed his examinations, he came back as an official to get rid of the greedy and corrupt officials who executed his only daughter in greed and blindness, to prove her innocence and bring her justice.
It’s a pretty heavy and tragic play that embodies a lot of symbolism and other things, and there’s a lot more details but that’s the basic plot line.
*8 Incense burning: Literally as the time it takes for a stick of incense to burn down.
There are some variations but it’s mostly between either 5 minutes, half an hour or an hour (also can depend on the particular incense as there are many many different versions of incense and the time of day/season as there’s a lot of factors that can accelerate or decrease the speed of the incense burning).
This is a very common way to tell time or to limit time, kind of like “the time to make/enjoy tea” which is less disputed as to generally mean 10 -15 minutes.
*9 He actually sing-says this (which was just sing-songing after what did you see, you saw a mountain? a group of mountains conneced to each other? (basically the 3 lines in that video right after the timestamp), taking from a very well known song: 青藏高原 by 李娜 (1:13 if the timestamp doesn’t work and also headphone/volume warnings!!)
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