Chapter 3: Changing Myself
Wang Chong’s heart was filled with guilt.
Wang Chong saw the reactions of his own mother clearly. Just simple actions like apologizing and sitting properly by the dining table could make her so delighted. Through this, it was clear to him how much of a jerk he was in his previous life.
In his previous life, he was forced to transcend here from another world and thus, he rejected everything. Even though they had always treated him as their son, deep in Wang Chong’s heart, there was always a lingering thought that they weren’t his true parents.
Thus, Wang Chong always felt distant from them.
This was also why in his previous life, albeit the caning and lectures, he refused to listen to their teachings. Wang Chong had always thought that this wasn’t his world and that he was just a passer-by here.
Everyone and everything… felt just like fleeting bubbles in his life. However, reality had proven him wrong.
Only when one lost what they possessed will they learn to treasure it; only those who are left with nothing will know how precious everything is!
In his previous life, after that incident which caused his clan to fall, he thought that the behavior he had shown previously would cause his father, his mother and his relatives to give up on him.
Yet, it was them who, during his arduous and hardest moments, in those days that he lived fleetingly, stayed by his side and took care of him.
If there was a mouthful of rice, he would be the first to receive it.
Remembering his mother, who wasn’t even fifty yet then, with a head full of white hair as though a seventy year old elderly, Wang Chong was filled with guilt.
His mother spent the final moments of her life in his embrace. When that seemingly indomitable figure fell, Wang Chong was shocked to realize how fragile and weak her body was.
Wang Chong’s heart bled.
It was that moment that Wang Chong’s heart shattered and died. In the thirty years after that, the living Wang Chong was merely a walking zombie.
Mother! Why did you have to treat me that well?
At that moment, Wang Chong wept. In that heavy downpour, he roared in agony. That was his first time crying so painfully after coming to this world. At that moment, the entire world collapsed!
Wang Chong awoke, but it was all too late. Nothing could be changed anymore!
Perhaps, the heavens had heard his voice and decided to grant him a chance to start anew. Looking at his mother, Wang Chong felt his heart ache.
Mother, don’t worry. In this life, I will not make you sad. I will not allow anyone to hurt you, no one at all!
Beneath the table, Wang Chong’s fists were tightly clenched.
“Come, eat, eat! M0ve your chopsticks. We can talk after the meal.”
Madam Wang, Zhao Shu Hua, was in high spirits. Picking up her chopsticks, she placed a large piece of roasted chicken onto Wang Chong’s plate.
“Mother, you eat as well!”
Wang Chong grabbed his chopsticks and placed a large piece of meat onto his mother’s plate as well.
Madam Wang was overjoyed and relieved. Even for the steely-faced Father Wang, who was extremely dissatisfied with Wang Chong, his face toned down significantly upon seeing his actions. In the Three Cardinal Guides and the Five Constant Virtues, filial piety was the very first value. For this fellow to know to grab food for his mother, it was a huge improvement.
The big ruckus that had occurred this time probably awakened his senses. When he thought of this, Wang Yan nodded his head in approval.
“Father, mother. I would take to make use of this opportunity to inform you of something, and I hope that the both of you will able to agree to it.”
Just when everyone was about to dig in, Wang Chong put down his chopsticks. His eyes rippled and he seemed to be contemplating whether he should speak of the other matter he had in mind.
“What do you want this time?”
Upon saying those words, Father Wang’s complexion darkened and his gaze turned cold. This beast! After doing something like that, I thought that he would have changed for the better. Truly, a leopard never changes its spots.
After saying so much and behaving so obediently, it turned out that it was all in preparation to negotiate with them. He would like to see what this unfilial son of his was up to now.
“Chong-er, what is it that you would like to say?”
Unlike Father Wang, Mother Wang was greatly interested in what Wang Chong had to say and her tone carried a tinge of expectation. Perhaps it was within a mother’s nature to believe in her son unconditionally. On this point, Mother Wang did not think into the matter as deeply as Father Wang did.
“Father, mother, I have considered this matter for a very long time…”
With his head lowered, a look of contemplation appeared on Wang Chong’s face. This would be the key, as well as the only way to regain his parents’ trust. Wang Chong knew that what he was going to say would change his life.
“I want to join the army!”
Wang Chong said.
The moment his words rung out, the entire grand hall seemed to have tremored. At that split moment, everyone was dumbfounded. Even when putting everything Wang Chong had said earlier together, it still wasn’t as impactful as this one.
Madam Wang’s mouth quivered. She stared blankly at her son and words seemed to have jammed in her throat. This news was too shocking to her, she needed time to digest it.
Even Father Wang, who had been treating Wang Chong coldly all this while, not even viewing him straight in the eye, had an astonished expression on his previously steeled face.
He was a general of an army and he had led troops to war. He was someone who wouldn’t even blink an eye even if mountains were to collapse. However, this single matter that Wang Chong spoke of was simply too shocking to him.
This son of his was simply too mischievous. He had no motivation whatsoever and idled his time away. He even befriended bad company and the rape incident this time put the entire Wang Clan to shame, making it a laughingstock of the city.
After the ache in his heart had settled, he finally made up his mind to send Wang Chong to the military in advance. The military barracks challenged a person’s physical and mental limits. Perhaps it was the only place which could bring this unfilial son of his to the right path.
Even if Wang Chong did not speak of this matter, he was prepared to bring this up over the meal. His will was resolute and regardless of whether Mother Wang and Wang Chong were agreeable to it or not, this matter would be done by hook or by crook.
He never thought that Wang Chong would bring up the matter before he did.
It was precisely because he knew what kind of person this unfilial son of his was that Father Wang’s poker face crumbled. He knew that it was difficult for Wang Chong to garner such determination.
Joining the military wasn’t a joke. It was filled with dangers and threats. If he had thought of Wang Chong’s previous actions as an attempt to maneuver around them, then the matter of him joining the military crushed all doubts that he had. After all, this matter wasn’t one to be joked about.
A prodigal who returns is more precious than gold. Could it be that, after going through so much, this unfilial son of his had finally repented and decided to start anew?
At this instant, Father Wang was ecstatic. He started to believe that his son had truly changed.
Looking at their expressions, Wang Chong knew that his words had managed to move them.
Given his knowledge of his previous life, Wang Chong knew that even if he didn’t bring this matter up, his father would bring up the matter of enlisting him in the army over this meal as a punishment for his actions.
Back then, he protested for a very long time but it was all in vain. His father’s hardened determination and will would not be moved. Since he knew of it in advance in this life, he might as well bring it up himself.
This way, he could change the impression his father had of him and earn his trust!
Furthermore, thinking back on it, this wasn’t really anything bad. Just that, it was worth thinking how he should go about doing that.
“Chong-er, you are still a little too young to join the army. However, it isn’t really a huge problem. Have you thought about where you want to enlist at? I will go and greet them in advance.”
Father Wang said.
In the past, he often addressed Wang Chong as an unfilial son. However, this time, he chose to address him as ‘Chong-er’. From this fact itself, it was clear to see that Wang Chong’s decision had delighted him.
“Father, I have thought about the matter. I would like to start from the training camps. Before metal can be molded into a sword, it has to be sufficiently tough. I would like to enter Kunwu Training Camp to train up my martial arts first before joining a division.”
Wang Chong said the words that he had contemplated over for a long time.
“Kunwu Training Camp?”
This time, Father Wang was truly shocked. He had just received news from the royal court about the emperor’s decision to establish the Three Great Training Camps, Kunwu, Shenwei and Longwei. They would become the camps where the youths of Great Tang would train at.
This matter was just confirmed not long ago. Given how confidential the matter was, how did this unfilial son learn of it?
However, thinking about it again, this unfilial son had made quite a few bad company, so perhaps he might have heard the news from them.
“Why would you choose Kunwu Training Camp?”
Father Wang swiftly regained his composure and asked:
“There is Shenwei and Longwei Training Camps too. Kunwu was specially created for sons of ordinary military officers. On the other hand, Longwei and Shenwei are of much higher level than Kunwu. It is specially targeted to the sons of nobility and authoritative officials. The training that one will receive there should be much more complete and of a higher level than Kunwu.”
“Perhaps it will prove to be useful to your future if you go there. If you wish to, I can make use of your grandfather’s influence to enlist you into Shenwei or Longwei Training Camp.”
Father Wang was just a general by the borders and he wasn’t a member of nobility. As such, Wang Chong was just an ordinary son of a general.
However, Wang Chong’s grandfather was different. He was a meritorious subject who assisted the current emperor to the throne. After which, he was even promoted to become the Left Premier and his students and old buddies were throughout the entire Tang Dynasty.
Even though he had already retired, he still held considerable influence.
By using Wang Chong’s grandfather’s influence, there wasn’t any problem to enlist Wang Chong into Shenwei or Longwei Training Camp.
Wang Chong became silent. His father had good intentions in mind, but Wang Chong knew that the truth was opposite of what Father Wang said. Of the Three Great Training Camps, Kunwu was the best.
In his previous life, at this period, the wise emperor wanted to pick out capable personnel from the sons of nobility and officials so as to organize a juvenile army. As such, he established Kunwu, Shenwei and Longwei Training Camp.
At the very beginning, when everything was still at the primary phase yet, everyone thought that Shenwei and Longwei were of higher standing than Kunwu and they were better choices.
Afterward, for a long period of time, there would constantly be many people trying all means to squeeze their way into these two training camps. However, Wang Chong knew that time would eventually prove that Kunwu was the best of the three.
In the days that followed, when that catastrophe struck, the country plunged into chaos and all of the older generals fell one after another, nearly 90% of the highly capable generals that appeared in the Great Tang Empire afterward came from Kunwu Training Camp
However, it would be difficult to explain this to his father.
“Father, I have given some thought to the matter and I still think that Kunwu is more suitable for me. I know most of the scions in the capital. Father wants me to go to Longwei or Shenwei, but the others are definitely thinking of the same as well. If I were to enter Longwei or Shenwei Training Camp, wouldn’t I meet with Ma Zhou and the others?”
Wang Chong could only find other reasons to explain the situation to his father.
Initially, Father Wang was still opposed to Wang Chong’s decision. However, after giving it some thoughts, Wang Chong had just barely ended things with those bad company of his. It was hard for him to repent and change for the better. If he were to hang out with Ma Zhou and the others at this point and revert back to how he was at the start, wouldn’t he regret it for life? It would go against his intentions of sending him to the military.
“Since your mind is made up, then we’ll just do it your way.”
Father Wang said with a frown.
He didn’t agree with Wang Chong’s decision, but what Wang Chong said made sense as well. He could grudgingly accept Wang Chong’s explanation.
“Regardless of what you father and son have to say, say it after the meal. Chong-er, ignore your father. Come, eat!”
Madam Wang had heard everything clearly by the side as she was in exceptionally good moods.
Initially, when she heard that Wang Chong wanted to join the military, she got the scare of her life and her worry for her son gripped her heart. However, upon hearing that it was only the training camp, she heaved a sigh of relief.
The Wang Clan was a family of generals and Wang Chong was already fifteen-year-old. Going to a training camp first before officially joining an army was something Madam Wang could accept.
This was the case with most of the general clans in the capital. As progenies of such a family, they had to step onto the battlefield sooner or later.
This was something the madams in the capital had to comprehend and accept from the very start.
Wang Chong said no more. Picking up his chopsticks, he started to dig in.
“I wonder if father would be able to accept the words that I am going to say later on.”
Wang Chong was slightly anxious.
Even though he has successfully changed his parent’s impression of him, Wang Chong knew that this was only the first step. The next one was what was crucial!
Shenwei -> God Might
Longwei -> Dragon Might
However, as there isn’t really a translation for Kunwu, I decided to go with the hanyupinyin for all three.
“Father Wang was just a general by the borders and he wasn’t a member of nobility. As such, Wang Chong was just an ordinary son of a general.”
This may sound weird to some, so allow me to explain. General isn’t the highest rank there is in a military. A general is ranked by the military under their control, how well-valued they are by the emperor and where they are employed to. Also, even as fellow generals, some may be conferred titles like ‘Duke’, ‘Marquis’ etc, and they aren’t of the same standing as normal generals. Normally, the nobility can be passed down within the family. Otherwise, one has to make a big contribution (such as Wang Chong’s grandfather) to be conferred nobility. As for why Wang Chong’s father isn’t a noble, it could be that the title wasn’t passed down to him (Normally, the title is passed down to the oldest child, and the other children would remain as normal citizens) or his grandfather was still retaining the title (Usually, the nobility is only passed down when the person ‘retires’ or ‘departs’ from the world. It could only be passed down with the emperor’s edict).
This may not be true in all scenarios, but technically, those who have army near the capital are of higher standing. Unless the borders are volatile (If so, the emperor may send a trusted general over to stabilize the region), normally, generals by the borders are of lesser importance.
This is just some general knowledge I have on ancient China, and you have to note that China has many different dynasties which different cultures for each of them. These may be right or may not be right, but it gives you a rough idea about the cultures then.
-Imagine Prime Minister being split into two positions, Left and Right.
-According to a history expert (Tann), Left Premier seem to wield greater authority than the Right Premier. [Additional note: This was more toward the Ming Dynasty, which came after the Tang Dynasty]
Three Cardinal Guides and the Five Constant Virtues(三纲五常)
This is the official translation for it. This reflects the core human relationships in a society and the values one should treat others with as believed by Confucians. If you would like to know more of it, you can try googling the phrase.