Chapter 30 – Hit the target by accident

As a sixth-grade official with real power, Zhou Zhubu wouldn’t write a preface even if a talented scholar asked him to, let alone a child scholar. But Fang Yun was different. If his work became famous, Zhou Zhubu would also gain some credit.

“Let me see first.”

Fang Yun handed Zhou Zhubu the manuscript he had written in the past few days.

Zhou Zhubu was surprised when he saw it and asked, “I heard that you almost lost your double-jointed title because of your poor handwriting. But your handwriting is not bad at all. Although it’s a bit childish, it has a style that others don’t have. If you keep practicing for a year, you won’t be worse than those who have been guided by famous calligraphers.”

“I realized my shortcomings after the county exam and worked hard to improve my handwriting. That’s why I can write decently now,” Fang Yun said.

Zhou Zhubu didn’t investigate further and continued to read Fang Yun’s original manuscript of “The Story of the Western Wing.”

“You improved the sentence structure? It’s easier to read. Not bad. It’s also very interesting to leave two spaces at the beginning of each paragraph. Your writing style is suitable for lazy people and leisure…”

Zhou Zhubu’s voice suddenly stopped, and he looked at Fang Yun with a strange look.

Zhou Zhubu didn’t pay much attention to Fang Yun’s new sentence structure or the new paragraph format. Even without fancy sentence structures, a talented scholar could quickly understand the text at this level. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be qualified to be a talented scholar. He was a presented scholar and didn’t care about sentence structures.

However, child scholars or ordinary people who knew how to read would find it difficult to read books without sentence structures.

Zhou Zhubu asked seriously, “Are you using this new sentence structure and paragraph format to popularize this novel? Do you want everyone who can read to be able to read your book smoothly and quickly? Is your real target the common people?”

Fang Yun said, “Sir is wise. I didn’t expect you not only to accept this way of writing but also to see my intention at a glance. I admire you!”

Zhou Zhubu smiled and said, “I am the head of the academy, and applying what we learn is the foundation of our Confucianism. Otherwise, how can we deal with the Demon Barbarians? Don’t mistake me for a few rotten Confucians. However, your idea is feasible, but you need a story that is popular and attractive enough. Since you dare to use this writing style, your story must be extraordinary. Let me take a look.”

Zhou Zhubu began to read “The Story of the Western Wing” carefully. After only three pages, he looked up and gave Fang Yun a deep look, saying, “The beginning is novel, the structure is tight, and the writing is beautiful. Most importantly, the story is very smooth, without showing off, without long speeches, and people can understand what it’s about at a glance. If the new sentence structure is strange, then your story is normal. The combination of the strange and the normal is unbeatable!”

“Thank you for your praise, Sir,” Fang Yun said.

Zhou Zhubu continued to read. Fang Yun thought he would gradually comment on “The Story of the Western Wing,” but he never spoke again and kept reading.

At first, Fang Yun was worried, but after looking carefully, he realized that Zhou Zhubu was fascinated by the book and had completely forgotten that there was someone next to him waiting for his evaluation. His facial expressions changed with the plot in the book.

Fang Yun secretly breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that the reason why “The Story of the Western Wing” and “The Story of Yingying” had been popular for thousands of years and were still praised by later generations was because they were truly praiseworthy. Even a genuine presented scholar like Zhou Zhubu, who despised popular novels, was fascinated by it, which meant that the new “The Story of the Western Wing” would be accepted by millions of readers in the Holy Origin Mainland, a desert of popular novels.

Zhou Zhubu turned to the last page of “The Story of Yingying” and looked at it for a while, with a satisfied smile on his face, but there was still a hint of reluctance, as if he didn’t want such a good article to end like this.”When I was young, I also enjoyed reading strange tales. I thought I wouldn’t be interested in such stories after passing the imperial examination, but after reading ‘The Story of the Western Wing’, I realized how wrong I was. It’s better to write about human emotions than strange tales, and better to write about relationships between men and women than about the court. This is the true popular novel that can be enjoyed by both the refined and the common people! You didn’t let me write this preface, but I still wanted to write it. Perhaps hundreds of years later, the only thing I can be remembered for is this preface to your ‘The Story of the Western Wing’.”

“You flatter me, sir,” Fang Yun said.

“Your ‘The Story of the Western Wing’ was probably written out of anger towards the Liu family, wasn’t it?” Zhou Zhubu sympathized with Fang Yun.

“Ah…” Fang Yun didn’t respond, keeping his head down to avoid being caught for not hiding his true feelings well enough. In fact, there was no connection between ‘The Story of the Western Wing’ and Fang Yun’s own experiences.

Zhou Zhubu became even more sympathetic towards Fang Yun.

“Is there another piece?” Zhou Zhubu asked.

“Yes. It was just a random idea I had before. I revised it these days, and although it’s not as good as ‘The Story of the Western Wing’, it still has some merits. Please correct it, sir.” Fang Yun said. He only regarded ‘The Dream Record of the Pillow’ as an add-on, and didn’t attach much importance to it as its literary status was far lower than that of ‘The Story of the Western Wing’.

Zhou Zhubu nodded and continued to read ‘The Dream Record of the Pillow’. When he saw the appearance of the Half-Sage, Zhou Zhubu laughed and said, “You are bold enough to even write about the Half-Sage.”

When he read about the scholar dreaming of entering the Jing Kingdom, he praised, “Wonderful! Simply wonderful!”

After finishing ‘The Dream Record of the Pillow’, Zhou Zhubu didn’t speak immediately. He pondered seriously, much more solemn than when he finished ‘The Story of the Western Wing’.

Fang Yun was surprised. Wasn’t it just a story about a scholar who dreamed and then gave up fame and fortune to pursue the Path of the Saints? Why was Zhou Zhubu’s reaction so intense?

“Great! The theme of this piece is lofty and thought-provoking! How can fame and fortune compare to the Path of the Saints? This is a truth that everyone understands, and has been repeatedly explained for thousands of years, either by quoting classics or using famous anecdotes. However, creating a novel to promote the Path of the Saints while also having a good story, using a dream to warn future generations, is unprecedented! Wealth and glory are like a dream, while the Path of the Saints is real. This is a profound truth! Although this piece may only be appreciated by those with great talent, its contribution to promoting the Path of the Saints is greater than that of the Half-Sages. This piece will surely spread throughout the world.”

Fang Yun was confused. He only slightly modified ‘The Dream Record of the Pillow’ to cater to the mainstream ideology of the Holy Origin Continent. How did it become “lofty and thought-provoking” in Zhou Zhubu’s eyes? Wasn’t ‘The Story of the Western Wing’ much better than ‘The Dream Record of the Pillow’ in terms of promoting the main theme? He spent three days writing the former, while the latter was only written in an afternoon to fill the pages.

Fang Yun recalled the famous works of fiction throughout the ages in the Holy Origin Continent, and found that there were very few with the theme of “promoting the Path of the Saints”. Even if there were, most of them were mediocre both in terms of theme and story, far inferior to the story of ‘The Dream Record of the Pillow’. The latter was not just a few streets ahead, but thousands of years ahead.

Fang Yun suddenly realized that it was not that ‘The Dream Record of the Pillow’ was so good, but that it happened to fill the gap in “politics, education, and ideology” during this era.

In contrast, although the literary status of ‘The Story of the Western Wing’ was far higher than that of ‘The Dream Record of the Pillow’, it could never compare to promoting the Path of the Saints in the eyes of Confucian scholars.

Fang Yun felt a bit embarrassed. The evaluation of “profound truth” was too heavy. These four words were originally used by a great scholar in the Han Dynasty to evaluate Confucius. Later, they were mostly used to evaluate all the Saints.

Zhou Zhubu said, “Leave your manuscript with me. I will personally present it to the Lord of the Academy tomorrow. The next issue of ‘The Path of the Saints’ has already been decided, and this piece will definitely be included in the issue after next month.”

Fang Yun was helpless. He really didn’t want to be in the limelight now, and just wanted to focus on making money. Why did he have to be in ‘The Path of the Saints’ again?”Are you overestimating this Dream Record of the Pillow?” Fang Yun asked tentatively.

Zhou Zhubu replied seriously, “I have read through all the Path of the Saints from past generations, and I know the value of the Dream Record of the Pillow very well. I can guarantee that within three years, a Semi-Saint will designate this work as a must-read for students in the Ten Kingdoms Academy. This Dream Record of the Pillow is more important than your previous War Poetry by at least ten times. For hundreds of years, novelists have been in decline, and the latest novel to appear in the Path of the Saints is the famous work “Lord Song’s Ghost Hunting” from Gan Bao, a Great Scholar from over two hundred years ago, in his book “In Search of the Supernatural.”

Fang Yun could only remain silent, but he was secretly delighted about his good fortune.

Publishing in the Path of the Saints not only brings fame and the ability to build a literary monument, but also the opportunity to obtain Saint Pages. The number of articles published in the Path of the Saints determines the chance to visit places like the Saint Stele Forest and the Saint Tower in the future. The highest reward is to visit the place where Confucius meditated or the place where the Saints fell, which not only holds great significance but also has great benefits.

This was the fundamental reason why Qu Zhengxiang, the Grand Academician of Qing Kingdom, tried to stop Fang Yun.

Zhou Zhubu said, “Wait here for a moment, I’ll get the gift that Cai He prepared for you.” He sounded envious.

Soon, Zhou Zhubu returned with a package made of cowhide, saying, “The Saint Page inside is the gift from Cai County Magistrate. Although your poetry has been published in the Path of the Saints, the two places are far apart, so it will take at least a month for your Saint Page to arrive.”

Fang Yun stood up in excitement and surprise, asking, “Did Cai give me a Saint Page? He doesn’t have many himself, does he?”

Zhou Zhubu replied enviously, “He only has two Saint Pages, which he received as a gift from Wen Xiang before coming to Ji County. Or rather, he begged Wen Xiang for them. But your original manuscript of War Poetry is worth more than a Saint Page.”

Fang Yun carefully took the cowhide bag and opened it, slowly pulling out a piece of paper.

The paper itself was as white as snow, but it emitted a faint orange halo, as if enveloped in orange light. Fang Yun gently touched the paper surface, feeling a peculiar texture, as if there were tiny waves rippling between his hand and the paper.

This piece of paper had an inexplicable attraction, naturally making Fang Yun feel close to it.

Zhou Zhubu explained, “This is the legendary Saint Page, which has the same effect as the legend says, doubling the power of War Poetry. If the poetry is exquisite and talented enough, it can even turn the imaginary into reality. The Saint Page is one of the strongest powers that our human race can use to resist the Demon Barbarians, and it is also the most precious treasure left by Sage Confucius for us.”

“How many Saint Pages are produced in a year?” Fang Yun asked.

“Officially, ten thousand Saint Pages are produced every year. Some are given to authors who publish poetry and literature in the Path of the Saints, some to living Semi-Saints, some to prominent families of the Saints, and the rest are distributed to the Ten Kingdoms. There have always been rumors that the Kong family secretly produces Saint Pages, and they can produce an additional two thousand Saint Pages every year, but I don’t know the specifics.”

“How many Saint Pages does Jing Kingdom get in a year?” Fang Yun asked.

Zhou Zhubu sighed and said, “The number of Saint Pages distributed to each nation is based on its area, population, number of Grand Academicians and Great Scholars. Jing Kingdom suffered a major defeat last year, losing three prefectures and a Grand Academician. As a result, they received fewer Saint Pages than usual. They claim to have four states and one capital, but in reality, they only have one capital and three and a half states. To ensure the safety of their borders, Chen Sheng has given up some of his own Saint Pages this year. I don’t know what will happen to Jing Kingdom…”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *