Black Iron's Glory - prologue
Black Iron's Glory prologue
The silver moon hung high in the sky and cast its clear, silver light down on the world in bright waves. Opposite it, the crimson moon clung bloodily onto the blue veils of the night sky.
“Claude, it’s ten already! Why are you still awake?! You have school tomorrow! We’ve already spent six riyases on oil this month!” a woody male voice boomed into the room.
A youthful face lifted its gaze from its desk, gazing at the competing grey and crimson night sky hemispheres. The face turned to the oil lamp, whose little flame licked lazily at the darkness in the room, and blew it out, letting a thin trail of smoke drift out of the window into the night. The figure to which the face was attached slowly rose from its hard, wooden seat. It drifted over the wooden floor to a bed nearby and descended onto it silently. The bed creaked like a heavy skeleton as it settled under the figure’s weight. The same woody voice continued to echo complaints from the bottom of the stairs. The figure’s gaze shifted once again to the desk, staring at the grey-brown surface, now lit solely by the pale moonlight.
Half a year, the figure thought, half a year since I came to this world.
Half a year, and for the first time he had thought of himself as his new self, rather than an unwelcome guest in this body.
Claude. Such was his new name. The previous consciousness that had called this body home had put it in bed, sick, for a whole month. The new consciousness, the current Claude, had to spend his first month in bed as well, as a result, while the body slowly recovered. He didn’t complain much, though, because it was a good excuse to keep people from talking too much while he sorted through years of foreign memories. He only started to interact again once he felt somewhat familiar with the tale of this body’s life until his intrusion. No one suspected the occupant had changed.
“I… I was Chen Xi… Chinese. I lived in the magic city. But… But now I’m Claude Ferd. I live in a small town called Whitestag in a prefecture called Balivia, a part of the kingdom of Aueras, on a continent called Freia. I’m 16 years old and I’m currently attending middle-school.” Claude half-muttered half-sighed to himself.
The idea of ‘transmigration’ was not foreign to the soul once known as Chen Xi. His old life had countless television dramas, webserials and webnovels that depicted numerous renditions of such events. Until his own transmigration, however, it was only a fanciful delusion, a tale of myth and fantasy that no one really believed was real. He’d resigned himself to a normal, boring life by the age of 30. Born to a middle-of-the-road worker’s class family, he lived a very middle-of-the-road life in a middle-of-the-road town. He was average in every way. He was not athletic, nor very intelligent, nor particularly adept at any specific skill. He worked hard to get through primary and secondary education, as did most of his peers, and eventually went to a middle-of-the-road university. There, too, he toiled day and night to graduation with average marks for an average degree. From there he searched for a job. A search that took him to the magic city. Where he eventually settled in a small suburb-town known as Wencheng.
His years passed him by uneventfully. The boredom of normal life was broken up only by his family’s anxious introductions of females with whom they hoped he’d tie the knot. His only outstanding characteristic, however, was his complete lack of outstanding characteristics, something few, if any, women appreciated.
It took several years, but his third aunt eventually found him a girl that moved him, and was, in turn similarly inclined. She was seven years his junior. A fair-skinned, slender figure that sat well on the eyes. She was his junior in age only, however. She’d graduated from a good university and worked as a public servant of decent stature. Her family ran their own business. Nothing major, but an endeavour of greater-than-average success. They weren’t upper class, but sat firmly in the middle-class.
Chen Xi was not as well-off. He stood just 1.76 meters tall. His looks were passable at best. His parents were farmers and owned only their small farm and house, the latter of which they’d bought on loan and had to pay back over 18 years. Chen Xi himself was a technician in a small private business in the town. He did occasionally fill in as a salesman or in customer service when his boss needed an extra hand of a substitute, though.
Chen Xi, at least, came to understand the game of wooing, now that he had someone he wanted to pursue. Patience was paramount. He worked the girl for eight months before the finally agreed to be his wife. He’d wanted to start a family on the very evening of their wedding, but she was unwilling. She did not want to give up on her career or student-like social life when she was still just 26.
Chen Xi, however, was already 31. If his wife remained stubborn, he’d be 35 by the time he had his first child. She even insisted they use ‘harmonious devices’ during their ‘peaceful interactions’. He did not like having to bathe wearing a raincoat. His love for her made him accept her conditions, but his pride would not let him accept her parent’s dowry: a car. He scraped together the money for the car on his own. His wife became the driver of course, she was even the one that picked out the car.
His married life was just as plain as everything before. He embodied all the qualities of a good house-husband. It kept him busy, but he enjoyed feeling fulfilled. It helped that his wife didn’t expect too much from him. Perhaps the secret to happiness was knowing when to be content?
His plain, contented life lasted one year. He took the day of their anniversary off from work to surprise his wife with a romantic candle-lit dinner and wine, but his wife called and said she had to work overtime so she would be late.
He went through the trouble to get good imported wine while he waited for his wife. He eventually decided to meet her at the office, but found it closed and completely dark when he arrived. The guard also told him his wife had left at the usual time. His heart strung suspicion so he called to find out where she was, but she did not answer.
He wandered around the neighbourhood on his way home, and found her car parked by a small park near their home. As he got closer, he noticed it was swaying unnaturally.
He closed in and took out the spare set of keys for the car he happened to have with him. Most people’s hearts might have been racing at the thought of what they might find, but he was serene. He’d never really been one to get excited and anxious easily.
He walked up to the rear door casually and opened it. Inside was his wife, and on top of her was her boss, Secretary-General Liu. The two were in the midst of the final throes of intense, romantic activity, the naked variety.
Chen Xi looked at the expensive bottle of wine in his hand and considered smashing it on the man’s head, but thought it would be a waste. He supposed he should be happy that he’d caught them red-handed, at least his wife could not deny what she’d done, but he felt nothing. His gaze shifted to the pair as he slipped his phone out of his pocket and started filming, mimicking a certain Mr. Chen Edison.
“I’m so sorry to interrupt your activities. I’ll leave in a moment, so please ignore me,” he said, smiling at the terrified pair.
“Oh, wifey, dear, meet me at the civil affairs bureau tomorrow for the divorce proceedings. I’ll text you the time later. If you miss it…” Chen Xi waved the phone, his calm smile still plastered on his face. “It would be such a shame.”
His wife didn’t return that night.
The two signed their divorce the next morning. His wife forfeited all claims to any of their assets without complaint. The two didn’t speak or look at one another throughout the proceedings. The only time his wife spoke to him was as they left the building.
“Please… Please delete the photos.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t leak them,” Chen Xi nodded, not looking at her.
He stopped by a real estate agent on the way home and stopped by his work to resign. It took just three days to sell his home and everything in it. He at first considered using some of the money to pay back the share his former in-laws had paid on the house, but then he decided it was compensation for what their daughter did to him.
“You bumbling fool! How could you let those cheating animals off so easily?!” his old friend complained.
The man had been his roommate during his university days. Yang Dazhi.
Chen Xi rolled his eyes.
“What would you suggest I do then? Should I make a big fuss of it and leak the pictures on the internet? I’d be dragged to court and have to split everything with her.”
Both were now divorcees. In this matter Yang Dazhi was six years Chen Xi’s senior. The man, the heir to a family business, had dated his school’s idol for two years before marrying soon after their graduation. The two had a child. The business didn’t do very well, however, and he was forced to go overseas for two years to save his company. When he returned, he found his wife having an affair with a trainer in a gym she frequented.
He’d pretended to not know anything for a while and hired a private eye to collect evidence of his wife’s indiscretion. He finally confronted the two once his case was solid and pummeled the trainer into the hospital. He served his wife divorce papers as she cried over the man in the emergency room.
His wife didn’t want a divorce, but when he refused to take her back, she took him to court. Enraged by her audacity, he leaked the photos on the internet, only to be sued. He lost half his assets and much of the rest had to be sold to cover the fine for leaking the pictures. He was forced to pay the gym trainer’s medical bills but managed to avoid court.
The story taught Chen Xi he could criticise affairs morally, but the law saw no problem. It certainly didn’t care when the reaction was to spread indecent pictures about the person in question all over the internet and beating up the playboy.
“Ugh…” Yang Dazhi grunted. He hated being reminded of the whole affair.
“Whatever, I won’t pursue this. That whole business is behind me, yours behind you, let’s move on. We’ve still got some youth left in us, at least.”
Yang Dazhi opened a bottle of red wine as he consoled his friend. He was conflicted. On the one hand he didn’t wish this on his friend, but on the other he was happy that he finally had someone else who knew his suffering first hand. They were now no longer just friends, they were brothers in suffering.
“That’s the thing with women,” he continued, “You can’t hold her up to a pedestal and worship her for a goddess. Even if you give her roses and swear to love her for the rest of your life, she’ll just give you a stretch of desert and demand you turn it into a forest for her…
“Who’d be willing to put on a grass-green cap?! I think I’ve finally touched the truth of this world. Women, apart from our mothers, are all frauds! Married or not, they’re all the same! I’ll take you to the bar tonight. You can see for yourself. Those neatly dressed white-collar ladies are all ravenous wolves. They want to bed you the moment you suit their taste…”
“You aren’t dressed for the occasion though,” he said, sizing up his friend, “We’ll have to get you a makeover first. The soldier must wear the right camouflage for the right terrain. Those women have sharp eyes, if you don’t wear something fashionable, they won’t come after you.”
Chen Xi didn’t know how to react.
“I came here to come work for you and make a living, not to go look for women.”
“You’re my brother. I want to share the things I enjoy with you. There’s nothing we can’t talk about,” Yang Dazhi said with a casual wave of his hand, “I offered you a job when we graduated. You’re the one that wanted to build your own career. Ah, if only we hadn’t lost contact we might both have avoided our messes. But it’s better now. Let’s go have some fun! If we stick together, both in our careers and relationships, nothing will stop us! Come, I’ll go arrange a good car for you. Join me for a good time tonight.”
And so the magic capital, Shanghai, had a new experienced ‘player’.
“You must be very sad right now, brother,” the youth murmured through teary eyes.
Most of the stories of transmigration were filled with wonder, but none were as ludicrous and his.
He’d been on his way to a meeting to sign a multi-million dollar contract. His boss, Yang, was very happy about everything and dragged Chen Xi along to two pairs of girls in a bar. Chen Xi had always considered himself a vigorous man, but the two women were a bit more than he could handle. In the end he had to resort to the ever-faithful Mr. Blue. The girls were crooked-legged by the time he was done. He passed out from the exercise, but woke to find himself in this new world.
Chinese nickname for Shanghai.
 This is the author jokingly self-censoring and putting blame on China’s censorship policy, which is detailed in the ‘Harmonious Society’ socioeconomic vision of the country. Colloquially, it’s known as ‘river crab’ given how similar it sounds to ‘harmonious’ in Chinese.
 This is a reference to the Edison Chen photo scandal. More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edison_Chen_photo_scandal
 Wearing a green cap is a popular Chinese saying of being cheated on. It’s a reference to people losing their lovers to other men during their time in the military, hence the green cap.