The Human Emperor - Chapter 184: Zhang Munian’s Secret!
“Zhang Munian pays respect to gongzi. Gongzi, thank you for saving my life.”
Upon seeing Wang Chong, Zhang Munian immediately bowed respectfully.
A look of delight flashed across Wang Chong’s face. Meng Long had only informed him that there was an acquaintance of his who had been waiting outside for a very long time.
“Mister, come in and take a seat.”
Even if Zhang Munian didn’t come to pay him a visit, Wang Chong would have gone to look for him. It wasn’t to demand repayment for his favor but for another matter.
Zhang Munian’s visit had saved Wang Chong a lot of trouble.
Wang Chong led Zhang Munian to the lounge and instructed the maids to serve a cup of tea before taking a seat.
“Gongzi, I apologize for not being able to congratulate you on your release yesterday. I intended to pay you a visit yesterday, but upon seeing the nobles who came knocking, I dared not be impudent. Thus, I chose to pay you a visit today instead.”
Zhang Munian said.
“Haha, so mister was here yesterday. If you had reported your arrival, I would have surely welcomed you in personally.”
Wang Chong’s eyes lit up upon hearing Zhang Munian’s words.
“May I know where mister is staying at the moment?”
“This… In a tunnel near the maple tree in the city’s west.”
Zhang Munian did not expect Wang Chong to ask such a question. Thus, he hesitated for a moment before answering softly.
Wang Chong was taken aback. Didn’t this mean that Zhang Munian had been roaming around aimlessly in the past three months? “Didn’t Gao gonggong give you some silver?”
“He didn’t Rather, it was an Imperial Army member under him that gave me some loose change.”
Zhang Munian said.
Wang Chong was taken aback. On top of possessing great power, the emperor’s trust and favor, Gao gonggong was also extremely affluent. Wang Chong thought that the other party would at least give Zhang Munian some silver taels upon his release for his livelihood.
“A busy person like him probably has many things to tend to. Given that person’s standing, it isn’t surprising for him to overlook such an insignificant matter. He probably thought that Zhang Munian is an old acquaintance of mine and that I have already made arrangements for him. ——I was negligent.”
It didn’t take long for Wang Chong to make sense of the matter.
Given that person’s identity, standing, and influence, he wouldn’t fuss over a few hundred gold taels. It was more likely that he had overlooked or misunderstood the matter.
“Then, what future plans does mister has?”
Wang Chong asked.
Zhang Munian fell silent. He found Wang Chong’s question extremely hard to answer. After all, what kind of future could a prisoner who was just freed from the imperial prison possibly have?
Initially, Zhang Munian intended to return to his hometown. However, putting aside the long distance and his lack of money, even if he did return, given his current reputation, would the villagers accept him?
Besides, what was he going to do for a living?
“I haven’t thought that far yet. I’ll count my steps as I take them.”
Zhang Munian sighed. Even in the prison, he had never felt so frightened before. He had no idea where he could go, what he could do, and what to look forward to.
“Mister, if you’ve nowhere to go, why don’t you follow me?”
Wang Chong suddenly asked.
“Is gongzi jesting with me?”
Zhang Munian was taken aback. He chuckled self-deprecatingly and said, “I am just an old man now, what kind of value can I possess?”
Wang Chong chuckled. He realized that his offer was too abrupt for Zhang Munian to take seriously, but even so, he had no intention of giving up.
He lifted the cup of tea on the table beside him and sipped on it.
“I heard that mister once worked in the agriculture department, and you were imprisoned for embezzling twenty thousand gold taels!”
Putting down the cup of tea, Wang Chong spoke casually.
Upon hearing those words, Zhang Munian’s face immediately changed and his head began to spin. This was the deepest secret he hid in the depths of his mind.
Back then, even when he was viciously beaten up, he didn’t reveal a single word of this matter. He didn’t expect Wang Chong to know of it.
“You… you… How did you know?”
Zhang Munian stared at Wang Chong with eyes widened in fear as sweat rained down his forehead. He was unnerved.
“Don’t worry, I have no intentions of coercing you to do anything.”
Wang Chong said calmly.
Despite being a small agriculture official, he dared to embezzle twenty thousand gold taels. This was a huge sum even for the Wang Clan before Wang Chong struck it rich.
For those who didn’t understand the insides of the matter, they would think that Zhang Munian had no regard for the law. However, to Wang Chong, the meaning behind his action was totally different.
“If I’m not mistaken, the twenty thousand gold taels… is used to compensate farmers, right?”
Even though Wang Chong had spoken with a casual tone, his words struck Zhang Munian like a bolt of lightning.
“How did you know?”
Those words subconsciously escaped from Zhang Munian’s mouth. At this moment, he felt utmost fear, as if someone had dug up the deepest secret hidden within his heart.
If Wang Chong exposing the fact that he was imprisoned due to embezzling twenty thousand gold taels had caused him to feel embarrassed, the current situation had left him in disbelief.
Even the Bureau of Punishments was unable to trace down the location of the money.
Yet, the young man before him was able to point it out accurately!!
If it was at night, Zhang Munian might have thought that something sinister and supernatural was at work.
“That’s indeed the case!”
Wang Chong ignored the stunned Zhang Munian and sighed deeply instead. It was impossible for Zhang Munian to spend so much money himself.
In truth, Wang Chong had already deduced the entire proceedings as soon as he looked at the scroll detailing his crimes. It was impossible for one to embezzle so much money without leaving behind any traces.
And if any traces were left behind, the experts in the Bureau of Punishments would lock onto them in an instant.
Thus, the only possibility was that… this person didn’t embezzle any money at all!
To spark a revolution in any industry, a huge amount of resources had to be devoted for research and development!
The route to revolution was winding, and intermittent failures in the midst of searching the correct path was unavoidable. As such, huge investments were required.
In this world, with the exception of Wang Chong, no one, not even Zhang Munian himself, knew the significance behind the Zhang Munian’s several decades of private experiments!
In Wang Chong’s plans, Zhang Munian played a crucial role. The importance of his role was even far above that of the Hyderabad ores and the iron meteorite overseas.
Even the 《Great Yinyang Heaven Creation Art》 and 《Art of God and Demon Obliteration》 couldn’t compare up to it!
Food was the foundation of all civilizations!
In this world where martial arts reigned supreme, everyone was too busy pursuing strength, standing, affluence, prestige, and power. In the midst of doing so, they neglected a single basic resource which value far exceeded all of those.
It was unimpressive but it formed the very foundation of this world.
In this powerful and prosperous empire, how long would it take for the filled granaries to empty such that the civilians would be forced to chew on grass and tree barks?
Ten years? Twenty years? Fifty years? A hundred years?
The true answer was ‘two years’!
This was a fact that Wang Chong had witnessed with his own eyes. He had seen Great Tang in its greatest glory, but he had also seen it in its decrepit and fallen state.
Any civilian of Great Tang who had seen the vast contrast between the two would surely feel deep sorrow and lamentation.
After the Wang Clan’s fall from grace, the members of the Wang Clan was forced to wander aimlessly for a period of time. Back then, Wang Chong often starved for two to three days straight, sometimes even longer.
During that period of wandering, Wang Chong had seen innumerable emaciated corpses piled up everywhere. Eventually, even Wang Chong’s mother fell before the famine. Wang Chong held her in his hands in her last moments, and even until now, he could still picture her sunken cheeks and gaunt body. It was a sight he could never erase from his mind.
Food was the foundation of all civilizations; this was a fact that would never change regardless of which time-space continuum one was in.
When Wang Shichong fought with Li Shimin, the Luoyang Palace had silk piled up into a mountain. However, due to lack of food in the city, his army eventually lost to Li Shimin.
(Silk was an extremely valuable possession then. The emperor often used silk to reward meritorious subjects)
Based on Wang Chong’s memories from another time-space continuum, in Year 755, the Great Tang was still peaceful. Emperor Ming of Tang had done a storage check then, and the treasures, weapons, and rations were still piled up into mountains, and it was impossible to see its entirety in a single glance.
(Emperor Ming of Tang is the Sage Emperor’s title)
But in 759, Du Fu wrote the ‘Three Officials Three Farewell’!
‘Bitterly apologizing for the bland alcohol, regretfully pointing to unmanned millet fields’. When war arrived and there was no one to man the fields, rations became a problem. Emperor Wu of Han had accomplished much during his time; destroying the Xiongnu and thus stabilizing the Western Regions, and expanding the Central Plains territories to Jiaozhi. However, due to the massive death toll from the war, there was no one left to man the fields, causing the Great Han to fall into decline.
As such, the annals of history had indicted him with the crime of ‘recklessly using one’s soldiers to wage wars’!
War wasn’t just a competition between the military might, equipment, and formations of both parties—ration played a vital role as well. Wang Chong felt that the greatest mistake of Emperor Wu of Han was his lack of foresight to retain sufficient manpower for agricultural activities.
Only with sufficient rations could the population grow to sustain or enhance a country’s military might, especially after a war.
Emperor Wu of Han had failed to see through this, and thus, he was indicted for the crime of ‘recklessly using one’s soldiers to wage wars’.
Great Tang was facing enemies all around; the Eastern and Western Turkic Khaganate, the Ü-Tsang empire, the Goguryeon empire, Abbasid Caliphate, Erhai’s Mengshe Zhao… All of these enemies had already grown powerful throughout the years.
No one knew how commonplace would war become in the future for Great Tang.
And in this prolonged war, only the factions with sufficient ‘ration’ would possess a ‘future’.
On the topic of rations, no one held greater weight than Zhang Munian! There would be no one who would contribute as greatly to the empire as Zhang Munian!
‘This person will contribute greatly to the empire’. The words that Wang Chong said before Gao Lishi were not gibberish.
This man held the empire’s ‘future’ in his hands!
——Even though he was unaware of it at this point!
These thoughts flashed through Wang Chong’s mind, and soon, he calmed down.
“Mister Zhang, if I were to say that I can provide you sufficient funds and support for your experiments, what would be your decision?”
Staring at Zhang Munian intently, Wang Chong suddenly said.
His words immediately left Zhang Munian dumbstruck.
Zhang Munian isn’t the governor of some small village.
He’s a small official in the agriculture department. I’ve changed the various chapters before to reflect it already.
Wang Shichong was the final emperor of Sui Dynasty.
Li Shimin is Emperor Taizong.
Emperor Ming of Tang is the Sage Emperor’s main title.
Jiaozhi is North Vietnam.
Three Officials Three Farewell from Du Fu
This refers to the six poems Du Fu wrote regarding war.
The three official poems:
Shihao Governor -> Spoke about the sorrows of the elderly upon seeing their children die
Xin’an Governor -> Spoke about the sorrows of a parent upon conscription
The three farewell poems:
Farewell of Newlyweds
Farewell to a Home
Farewell from the Elderly
‘Bitterly apologizing for the bland alcohol, regretfully pointing to unmanned millet fields’
Du Fu often used his real world experiences within his poem.
This verse of the poem was referring to when one returned to his home for a celebration, and the relatives took out a wine for the occasion. Yet, the wine turned out to be bland and tasteless. Apologetic, they pointed to the fields millet fields which were uncared for.
As for why they were uncared for, it was because the farmers had been conscripted into the army.
I’ve read a little of the translation works above and honestly, I’ll take them with a pinch of salt. :X
It’s hard to bring out the equivalent flair within the poem while translating it, and some of the contents are edited so as to make the context clear (but you lose the elegance and emotions in exchange).
Coughed blood translating this chapter.