Xu, the household registration secretary of Shanyin County, fell ill and in a daze saw his deceased brother come to him and say, “I’ve bought an official vacancy for you in the underworld. After you die, you’ll still be the secretary in the underworld, so there’s nothing to worry about.” Shortly after, another deceased local constable named Zhu came and said, “You don’t have to die, but you have to give me a large sum of money. I can grease the wheels for you in the underworld.” Xu agreed.
As soon as Zhu left, Xu’s brother returned and said, “Just now, Zhu was only trying to plot for your vacancy and make money off you. Your lifespan is predetermined, seeking immortality is futile, you’re just wasting the opportunity for this official position.” Xu said, “I’ve already promised Zhu, what should I do now?” His brother said, “Matters in the underworld are similar to those in the mortal world. This vacancy will take some time to obtain; it’s just a preliminary registration. You can still go back on your agreement with Zhu, there’s still time.” Xu said, “But where can I find Zhu to go back on my agreement with him?” His brother said, “I can go.”
The next day, Xu’s brother and Zhu came together to discuss the matter of buying the vacancy. Zhu had indeed devised this plan to buy the vacancy. Zhu and Xu’s brother argued about who should go first, and another ghost who arrived earlier intervened to mediate, settling the dispute. It was proposed that after five years, Xu would fill the vacancy first, and when Xu’s five-year term was complete, Zhu would take over. Zhu agreed. Shortly after, Zhu came back and said, “I can’t wait; I’m going to find another way to get a different vacancy.” After this, Xu’s illness gradually improved. This occurred during the 56th year of the Qianlong era.
Now, Xu is still healthy and without illness. Officials in Shanyin County can clearly recount this incident, so it seems to be a true story.
Translated from《鬼買缺》in 《子不語》: