The Ming Dynasty’s Prodigal Son - Chapter 1
Fang Jifan rubbed his eyes. Dazed, he looked beyond the crimson curtains. From afar, he could see a zither stand, rosewood stools, and other similar pieces of furniture.
A young lad donning a hat and green robe stood in front of the curtains and stared fixedly at him. He then broke into an irksome, smug smile with a hint of sycophancy. “Young Master, you are awake.”
Fang Jifan’s heart thumped. I… I must’ve…. trans… transmigrated! This was because he had recognized the hat-wearing, green-robed person’s Fengyang court dialect. As a history expert on the Ming Dynasty, Fang Jifan was one-hundred percent positive that the entire set-up of this place and the strange person in front of him could not be the product of some movie set. Even if this was the century of his era, no amount of investments thrown into the movie could result in this.
He was neither frightened nor shocked. Rather, he tingled with ripples of excitement. Despite his years of academic research, he had never once imagined he could one day be an ancient as well!
An ancient! After taking a long, good look at the guy creepily beaming at him, Fang Jifan couldn’t help but wonder. So…. This is an ancient?
“Is this the year of Emperor Hongzhi?” Fang Jifan noticed a calligraphy painting hung on the wall. The signature inscribed at the end was a well-known calligrapher from the years of Emperor Zhengtong.
Beside the bed was the zither stand which had also caught Fang Jifan’s attention. Its style was indicative of the mid-imperial era. After Hongzhi’s reign, it had gone out of fashion. The zither stand appeared new. Thus, he had deduced that this was no doubt the year of Hongzhi.
The hat-wearing, green-robed boy nodded but continued to eye Fang Jifan.
After he had received confirmation, Fang Jifan suddenly sat up from the bed, slapped his thigh, and excitedly babbled, “Is Prince Ning here then? There should be a princeling’s rebellion up in the north, and the south’s silk industry should be on the rise….” Fang Jifan’s face lit up as he continued, “The current emperor is a brilliant one! What great potential!”
Fang Jifan grew exhilarated. What a wonderful era! As a man who had revolved his past life around historical researches and scholarly papers, he had regretted not taking bigger steps to accomplish something great. Finally, here was his chance to put his skills to use!
Fang Jifan wanted to burst with hearty laughter. Because of his job as a librarian and one who specialized in Ming history, he was not only well-versed in its chronicle but also its chorography. He didn’t want to brag, but he could recollect how many bandits had appeared in X county on X date of X month with that superb memory of his.
His previous life had been one of solitude. Things didn’t seem so bad now that he had transmigrated to this era.
Fang Jifan was quite impressed that his level of adaptability could be this…. impressive.
The hat-wearing, green-robed lad’s complexion consequently turned ashen. He slowly stuttered, “Young Master…. You…. You said…. Great potential?”
“That’s right.” Fang Jifan composed himself. He was a master after all. The person before him must either be a servant or his scholar attendant. Fang Jifan’s excitement had not diminished. He proceeded, “As a man of great potential, I must aim to pass the imperial examination and embark on my meritocratic journey!”
As soon as he had finished his grand speech, the hat-wearing, green-robed lad’s expression turned from that of suspicion to despair. He yowled, “Young Master! He’s…. He’s sick again! Someone! Someone, come over now!”
Fang Jifan was stupefied by the sudden turn of events. What… What just happened?
The doors had been flung open by a group of burly men who, like wolves and tigers, came crashing in.
The sunlight outside was bright and rays shined in, but the large bodies blocked most of them out.
Afterward, an elderly man with a goatee and donning loose scholarly robes stepped into his room. With a medicine box slung over his back, he strode up to Fang Jifan and shouted, “Young Master…. Young Master’s illness…. It has returned! Quick! Quick! Prepare the needles!”
In an instant, the burly men lunged towards Fang Jifan and held him down.
Fang Jifan narrowed his eyes and cursed inwardly. What the fuck! He had just seen the old man retrieve an inch-long silver needle from his medicine box. With a painful look on the old man’s face, he said to Fang Jifan, “Young Master’s illness is that of the brain. You must not shy away from medical treatment. Come, come, come. Don’t be afraid. There’s no need for that. Just one prick and everything will be alright.”
Fang Jifan’s jaw dropped to the floor. Horrified, he replied, “I… I’m not sick.”
As the doctor prepared to insert the needle, he shook his head and dissuaded him, “There’s no mistake about it. This is a recurring symptom of your illness. Young Master, just bear with it. My acupuncture skills have been passed on from many generations above. It can cure all sicknesses, and if you’re not sick, it’ll strengthen your body. Young Master, you lay still now!”
After what had sounded like the squeal of a pig getting slaughtered, Fang Jifan elicited no sound after that.
With his limbs pressed down, the old man had directly shoved the needle into the back of his head. Fang Jifan had no longer screamed but instead had clenched his jaw and laid immobile. He feared that if he moved just a bit, the doctor’s inserted needle would shift.
Most importantly, he had been afraid of needles ever since he was young!
With such a long needle into the head, how is this a cure?! It’s murder! You bastard!
Before the needle had been withdrawn, the old man brushed his goatee and sighed, “There is no permanent fix for those with brain damage. I’m only applying what I know from the ancients. This method can temporarily alleviate your situation. As to whether you’ll be completely cured or not, that depends on your luck, Young Master.”
The hat-wearing, green-robed lad who had cowered by the bedside whimpered and sniffled, “Young Master, Young Master. Doctor Fang is a renowned doctor hired by the Count. Do not be daunted. A few more months of acupuncture, and you will be better. The Count’s written letters state that as long as Young Master’s health takes a turn for the better, no matter what steps are taken…. Anyway, you absolutely cannot refuse the doctor and his methods of treatment. After all, you are the Count’s sole heir. Young Master, just bear with it…. Please.”
Fang Jifan’s complexion paled considerably. His body trembled.
The scenery outside the window was pleasing to the eyes, but Fang Jifan was in no mood to enjoy it!
This was his twenty-seventh day in this world. He couldn’t recall how many times he had been pricked by needles. Each time, at least to him, was like a trip through hell.
Every time that Fang Jifan thought of the renowned “doctor” from this world inserting the needle into the back of his head and slightly twirl it into place, he would shiver and get the goosebumps.
Twenty-seven days was enough for Fang Jifan to learn everything.
The original owner of this body was Count Nanhe’s, Fang Jinglong’s, only son.
This hereditary title had been earned during the Jingnan Campaign. His ancestors had followed the King of Yan, Zhu Di, and fought with him from Beiping down to Nanjing. Quite benevolent of him, Zhu Di bestowed upon the family an iron rice bowl.
As for the owner of this body….
Fine. It’s no wonder why people have mistaken me for being brain-damaged when I mentioned about being a man of great potential. That’s because this punk is an absolute scourge on society. He is known as the meanest of the mean and the most prodigal of the prodigal. He is the devil reincarnate!
Days ago, the punk had fallen ill. As a result, the doctor had been hired to diagnose him. He had appeared to have an either neurological or psychological problem which explained why the doctor had not given up treatment on him. The reason why everyone had mistaken that his illness had not taken a turn for the better was simply that the transmigrated Fang Jifan’s personality was the complete opposite of the original’s. This, therefore, had led to the continuation of the treatment.
Fang Jifan had reflected upon himself. He was still too young, and he had just arrived in this world not long ago. Why had he talked about meritocracy, the glory of the nation, etc.? It merely invited trouble.
A normally black-hearted, prodigal person who had erratically acted out of character would, no doubt, be considered a psycho in the eyes of others.
Alright then. To give up the treatment, I must act more Fang Jifan than the old Fang Jifan!
At this time, the doors to his bedchamber had been opened. A fair-looking young maid walked in. Following her was Fang Jifan’s long-time servant, that hat-wearing, green-robed lad, Deng Jian.
A new day had begun….
He took a deep breath. During these past twenty days, he had grasped the rules of the game around here and had a general understanding of his family clan’s situation. Likewise, he had long known of what the original Fang Jifan had been like the back of his hand.
The young maid stepped up to his bedside, bowed, and greeted, “Young Master, it is time to rise.”
Fang Jifan opened his eyes and revealed a look of annoyance. He reminded himself, “Act prodigal. Act prodigal! I’m the prodigal son of the family! Don’t trip up!”
Fang Jifan then berated her, “What time is it?! It’s still early! What the hell you going on about?!”
Startled, the young maid stammered, “The sun…. The sun has been up for a while now.”
“So it’s still morning, “Fang Jifan bared his teeth and snapped, “Do I look like someone who wakes up in the morning?! 2 more hours!”
The hat-wearing, green-robed Deng Jian strode up, bowed, and chimed in, “Young Master, it is indeed too early. However, I’m just afraid that you’ll be hungry soon.”
“Fine, fine!” Fang Jifan rolled over to get up. Under the young maid’s tendance, she assisted him with changing clothes.
Naturally, Fang Jifan had to keep up his act. Putting on a lecherous expression, he leered at the young maid’s chest and snickered, “Little Xiang Xiang, you’ve grown. Come now. Let me inspect you.”
Fang Jifan’s hands then snaked to her back and lightly pinched her bum. Terrified, her eyes reddened and brimmed with tears.
Fang Jifan inwardly sighed. He felt guilty but upon seeing Deng Jian standing to the side, he rubbed his hands and prodded her, “Hahahahaha! Lassie’s still shy. Don’t be afraid. I’ll treat you gently.”
Seeing that Little Xiang Xiang was busily dodging left and right, Fang Jifan used this as a chance to let the situation defuse and no longer harassed her. Deng Jian, on the other hand, cackled, “Young Master, amazing! Young Master, brilliant! You haven’t changed at all! You are worthy of all my praises!”
“Fuck off!” Fang Jifan raised his leg and kicked Deng Jian to the floor. He barked, “Other than handsome and unfettered, I am nothing else! How dare you say that I am amazing and brilliant! Are amazing and brilliant skills that can put food on the table, huh?! You piece of shit.”
Deng Jian tumbled and then wept silently.
Fang Jifan’s heart skipped a beat. What? Did I kick him too hard? Oh gosh, forgive me. I’m truly, truly sorry. But I don’t have it easy either. If I am to be gentlemanly, how am I supposed to stop the treatment?
Out of the blue, Deng Jian rolled to his side, stood to his feet, raised his head high to look at Fang Jifan, and driveled, “Young Master’s health has finally improved! I…. I…. am so happy for you! These are tears of joy! Tears of joy!”
Fang Jifan froze in astonishment. Is this even possible?
Years in imperial China are usually calculated according to the reign of the Emperor since enthronement, e.g. Year 35 of Qianlong.
Jingnan Campaign – A civil war in the early years of the Ming dynasty of China between the Jianwen Emperor and his uncle Zhu Di, the Prince of Yan. It started in 1399 and lasted for three years. The campaign ended after the forces of the Prince of Yan captured the imperial capital Nanjing. The fall of Nanjing was followed by the demise of Jianwen Emperor, and Zhu Di was crowned the Yongle Emperor, the very one who ordered the construction of the Forbidden City.
Beiping – one of the many old names of Beijing
Iron rice bowl – a secure job, an unbreakable rice bowl