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Great Merchant – Dao Ming - Chapter Prologue

Published at 19th of April 2016 10:49:16 AM

Chapter Prologue

 Dao Ming (Prologue 1)


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Remember how I said I was going to be working on something with a friend months ago and then he disappeared on me? Well, he's back, sorta, he's still stuck in the boonies somewhere in China-Not-China, but he finally got internet and is alive, so I'll be doing this original series on the side with EC as the main . This seems to be a LOT easier to deal with since it's strictly traditional chinese unlike the triple whammy that is EC, also a lot less headache and way less research required (at least I hope so, everything I read so far I knew right away without needing to look it up, so \o\ \o/ /o/ huzzah!) . Now if only I can somehow get him to do the web design with his potato over there > . >

Without further ado, here's 財神 - 道明 / Great Merchant - Dao Ming 

“No! Let me go! I’m innocent, it’s all those peasants’ fault! I’M INNNOOOCCCEEEEEENNNNNTTTTTT!” 

A deep voice screams for an appeal, to no avail as it’s dragged into one of the numerous passages to the left of the stern-looking man sitting cross-legged on an elevated pedestal behind a low-rising table . On top of the pedestal sat a man with eyes closed, his headpiece standing erect, with its two rounded rectangle winglets in perfect position .

“““Huuuooooooooo”””
 

[T/N: The “elevated pedestal” is referring to that raise platform where the judge sits at with his table and is above everyone else in the court .  It LITERALLY doesn’t have an English word to describe it despite our efforts in trying to search for one .  The English Architectural term is Chancel, sadly, it’s only used in religious (namely, Christian churches) floor plans . Just think of it as a little stage with steps where the judge works on, for those that watched Bao Zheng or period dramas that features magistrates, it’s that part where the servants step up onto to give something to the judge . ]


Dadadada

Amidst the droning hum of the guards and the rhythmic pounding of their rods against the ancient stone floor court, a scholar holding a golden scroll and an elegant brush pen calls out “Next!”, bringing in the next person to be judged .

A handsome figure dressed in an immaculate green and gold robe is pushed into the court, just before the pedestal where the steel-faced judge sits - who finally opens his eyes to stare down at the new arrival .

“Name?” The scholar asks without looking up from the scroll as he crosses out the previous name .

“High King Illanis (Ye’lan’lik’si) . ” The tall man with long, pointed ears answers in an aloof tone .

“Name?”

“Are you deaf? I said I’m High King Illanis, Leader of the Great Elves of Plamor’an (Pa’lam’or’an), Protector of the Hundred Million Li Forest . ” The man extrudes a domineering demeanor at the judge-secretary before him .

The judge-secretary sighs softly while shaking his head, slowly lifting his right hand before dropping it . Immediately, four guards armed with lacquered rods step forward from the side of the court, their space immediately filled in by their comrades . Without the need for further command, one strikes the tall man in the guts, the second strikes him behind the knees, the last two cross their rods from behind the man’s head and pin him to the floor in a kowtow position . The entire series of action took less than two seconds as though it’s routine to them .

“Alika’na Mosa (A’lai’ca’na Mo’Sa), is that correct?” The judge-secretary reads from the scroll indifferently, causing the man to scowl .

“How do you know my name?! Is this some sort of human sorcery?!” The man’s scowl turns into suspicion as he struggles to get up, only to be mercilessly pinned by the guards .

“This is the Afterlife, you’ve died and are awaiting judgment by King Yanlou . ” The judge-secretary folds the scroll before placing it into the same hand that’s grasping the brush pen, cupping his hands and bowing slightly towards the man sitting silently on the pedestal .

“Afterlife…? But I was… my bedroom… isn’t the Afterlife in the Ethereal Forest?” The man stammers while his eyes shift back and forth .

“Ah, the Ethereal Forest, amazing place, I went there for a work-vacation, that place is nothing short of a paradise . If you qualify, I’m sure King Yanlou,” he cups his hands and bows once more, “will surely accommodate you . ” Shifting his shoulder a bit, the man unfurls the scroll once more before reading from it .

“Alika’na Mosa, lifespan eight hundred seventy nine years plus fifty seven years… Ruled his people impartially, allowing for unprecedented expansion of the Plamor’an Duchy into an unrivaled Empire that controls 3/5th of the Osiris (Ao’sai’li’si) star . Oh my… this doesn’t look good . ” The judge-secretary shakes his head slowly . “Responsible for the death of 129,788,877,183 souls… oops, make that seven hundred and fourteen . ”
 

[T/N: Since it isn’t quite clear and people have asked, and even our editor didn’t know, I’ll make a note here . The XXX year +/- YYY years means . XXX = actually lived years, YYY = years different from the pre-ordained date of natural death . ]


King Yanlou’s facial expression turns even more stern, questioning the elf without saying a word .

“There’s no way I… wait… you mean you include those damned humans and lizard savages?!”

The judge-secretary nods once, “those are included in the figure . ”

“I killed the humans in the name of justice! They enslaved our kind and treat them as livestocks!”

“Even those that came to offer your people succour while being hunted? Including the allies that fought with you and your men shoulder-to-shoulder?”

“They are traitors to their own kind, it’s merely a matter of time before they stab us in the bah-!” The elf’s words slurs near the end, as his tongue feels numb all of a sudden .
 

[T/N: This is a two part reference to King Yanlou, in folklores within the CJK region, King Yanlou hate liars . Children are told that King Yanlou will come remove their tongue if they keep lying .


“You know that wasn’t the case, you were just too lazy to deal with an Allied Kingdom and wanted a Vassal State after the war . ”

“Pah! So what if I did, they would do the same as me given the same position!” The elf shifts his eyes away and looks to the side .

King Yanlou closes his eyes without saying a word .

“Then what about the Lizardmen?”

“What about them?! They are just savages wrecking our precious forest! Their overpopulation was turning the forests back into filthy swamps, wetlands and plains . ” The kneeling man turns his head and stares at the unmoving judge with hatred in his eyes . “By what right do you judge me by, huh?! You lot should be thanking me for saving you additional work! I saved millions of lives by annexing those lands and reforesting them!”

King Yanlou’s hand picks up the commandment tablet and slams it onto the table, his stern face turning into a scowl . Soon after, trails of blood drip from the elf’s mouth .
 

[T/N: And here’s part two of that reference . ]


“Oh, by the way, King Yanlou rreeeeeeeaaaaaaalllllllllllyyy hates liars, especially unrepentant ones . Those lizardmen were simply returning the landscape to its natural state as was determined by their shamans . You, on the other hand, just wanted increased living space and food production at the cost of everything else . You know that hundred billion plus number? A third of that is elves that are dead and dying because of the ecological disasters your willful policy has made . Aside from your ongoing massacre against the landkeepers, you are killing your own people . ”
 

[T/N: This is why I need an editor, seems like this part needs a T/N since it gave him a wtf moment . Forcefully converting land into forests can indeed cause ecological disasters . You are literally changing the water cycle, the biomass make up, providing fuel for uncontrollable fires, etc… When a disaster strike, it will strike HARD . You don’t have the natural barriers that would otherwise be there . Ie . With swamps, wetland and barren plains, they act as natural fire buffering zones . Natural watersheds and so forth .


“Wait, what?” The anger in the man’s face is replaced by confusion, then shock as he recalls the numerous reports that were trickling in . His eyes are shifting left and right, panic starts to seep in as he looks at King Yanlou’s face . “That isn’t my fault, how was I to know this would happen?!”

“WILLFUL IGNORANCE DOES NOT EXCUSE YOU FROM YOUR ACTIONS, BEGONE! 14TH CYCLE, 3 DEMERITS . ” King Yanlou’s booming voice reverberates within the hall of the court .  


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“Wait! 3 demerits? What did I do wrong?! What’s the 14th cycle?!” The man struggles and asks while the guards are dragging him up .

“You should have asked yourself what you did wrong before . You could’ve also asked when I asked for your name and read out your deeds . Here’s a hint, not that it would help you, King Yanlou hates liars, especially ones that can even lie to themselves to justify their actions . ” The judge-secretary shakes his head softly . “The 14th cycle is the samsara of domestic beasts, you will either be a beast of burden or something raised to be consumed . Complete your lot in the next life, I hope you can achieve some merits in the life after that . ” The man tilts his head forward slightly to the side .

The four guards starts dragging the once mighty elf king toward the 14th passage on King Yanlou’s left, the elf’s screaming appeal echoing continuously before finally fading away .

The court resets itself as though nothing has happened .

“““Huuuooooooooo”””

Dadadada

“Next!”

A scrawny, yet scholarly white-haired man steps forward into the court, his lean figure is obvious as his rough, hempen robe dangles off of him . He cups his hands and bows to both the sitting judge and the judge-secretary respectively, his demeanor neither servile or arrogant, just a sincere, unadulterated respect to one’s equal . His body emits a sort of quiet dignity .

“Name?”

“Surname Li, secular name, Fang Sing . ”

“Li Fang Sing, lifespan… Nineteen minus eighty-two…? Responsible for…” The judge-secretary’s voice drops off as he quickly expands the scroll endlessly, wordlessly reading the text in a trancelike state .

“Ah… this must be the Afterlife then . Guess I failed…" The young man gives a wry, bitter smile as he looks slightly downcast . "I will lessen the trouble for you various magistrates . You can just send me straight to Hell . ” He cups his hands once more, resignedly bowing his head in deference .  

 

 Dao Ming (Prologue 2)

“THAT IS FOR THIS COURT TO DECIDE, WE WILL BE FAIR AND IMPARTIAL TO EVERYONE, FROM THE LOWEST SCUM TO THE GREATEST JADE EMPEROR . ” King Yanlou’s voice booms out once more, as he turns his head slightly towards the man reading the scroll .

“Heh, if only we had your kind of judge back home . ” The young man’s bitter smile deepens, mocking the corrupted officials from his country in his heart .

“Silence, you may talk when you defend yourself or have anything to add . ” The judge-secretary walks up the steps to the pedestal, scroll in hand as he places it onto the low-rising table in front of King Yanlou and whispers into his ears . The secretary’s brush pen hovering above the scroll, moving to different parts every now and then .

“LI FANG SING, YOU CRIPPLED YOUR NEIGHBOUR’S ARM AS A CHILD OVER A MERE DOG, WHY?” The booming voice rattles the table, his face stern .

“It wasn’t intentional, but I did it nonetheless . I can’t remember the exact details, but he was torturing the dog for no reason whatsoever, then it somehow ended up with me breaking his left arm . ”

“YOU ENDED UP KILLING THE SAME DOG THREE YEARS LATER, YOU CRIPPLED SOMEONE IN THE NAME OF PROTECTING THIS DOG, YET YOU KILLED IT WITH YOUR OWN HAND, ISN’T THAT RIGHT?”

The young man’s eyes go vacant as though he can see the past event playing before his very eyes, a silence follows as he nods his head . “I killed it to feed my family and myself, the village was going through a famine, yet the officials still wanted the regular tax on the crops . I won’t say that what I did was right, but I don’t regret it, otherwise someone in my family would’ve surely died . ”

The judge questions no further, the judge-secretary walks down from the pedestal and takes over . “Then why did you kill your benefactor, who lifted you up from serfdom and into his household?”

The young man stares at the man, an incredulous look on his face . “Shouldn’t you people know all this already? Why do you need to ask?”

The judge-secretary gently lifts his brush pen up before dropping it softly into his other hand . “Just answer the question . ”

“The man is a two-faced shrew, I was groomed by him to be a sacrificial lamb for his corrupt dealings . After finding out the truth unexpectedly, I simply did what I had too to stay alive . ” The young man answers with an even voice, as though it had no impact on him then, and has no impact on him now .

Before the judge-secretary can continue his questioning, the young man continues onto something else . “I took over the post held by that beast that wasn’t fit to be either a pig nor dog . Afterwards when I became of age at 16, I worked tirelessly to enrich the country’s coffers, make the citizens’ lives easier, making my way into the Royal Inner Circle within 2 years . ”

The young man takes a few steps, looking at nowhere in particular, yet having a look as though he’s staring into the distance . The two magistrates look on patiently, waiting for him to continue . “I thought the Heavens is just, that the man with the Mandate of Heaven would rule righteously . Then I saw the truth . That dog-king seeks only pleasure, increasing his harem whenever possible . It doesn’t matter if the woman is a girl, or that she’s already married, he will have his way . The Queen is no different, ever jealous -using other womenfolks to vent her anger-, she enacts policies in the name of equality . Men and women are fundamentally different! Even those women with the same body types as the men simply can’t keep up! But does she care? No! Women get sent to the mines with the men, same with conscription! And when quotas aren’t met, or the army fails, the womenfolk get flogged until they are crippled!” A disdainful look appears in the young man’s eyes .

“That doesn’t give you the right to usurp the Decree of Heavens and end the Royal line . ” The judge-secretary inserts flatly .

“The sons and daughters are no better! Treating the commoners as toys, having their pets ‘play’ them to death . If this is the Decree of the Heavens, then PAI!” The young man spits with disgust . “The Heavens is a sham!”
 

[T/N: You will notice the use of Heaven and Heavens, they are both one and the same, but this is due to remaining artifact from older translators . In all cases, they are singular when used like this (different from the Judeo-Christian-Islam Heaven . ]


The young man’s resolute declaration stuns the magistrates and completely floors some of the guards .

Sensing the silence, the young man continues . “I know my crimes, given the choices, I will do the same things all over again! Let’s just end this charade and send me to Hell already!”

King Yanlou picks up the commandment tablet, lifting it up in the air . “WE NEED TO DISCUSS PRIVATELY, BRING HIM TO THE ROOM OF MEDITATION IN THE MEAN TIME . ”

SLAM

“““Huuuooooooooo”””

Dadadada

The guards hum while hitting their rods rhythmically onto the ancient stone floor once more . A pair of guards stands to the left and right of Li Fang Sing, guiding him into a crystalline room filled with light before leaving him there .

The numerous guards in the courtroom file out in an orderly manner, leaving only the two magistrates inside, as a ghostly film of light swirls across the exits and surfaces of the room, isolating the two from the rest of the universe .

King Yanlou picks up the scroll laid out on the table, staring at the numerous lines written on it . With a wave, he pushes one end of the scroll off the low-rising table, causing it to bounce off the pedestal and onto the floor . The scroll continues endlessly into the distance, the size of the wounded part at the end never seems to shrink .  

“Your Excellency . ” The judge-secretary cups his hands and bows slightly before offering his advice . “Since this man defies the Decree of Heavens, he should be dropped into the lowest level of Hell… I know he’s unrepentant, but look at all these pleas for leniency on his behalf…” The man walks up to the exposed scroll laying on the floor .

“Even the dog he killed pleas for him… it was mutilated with a crippled leg as a pup, yet the young man kept it alive, gave it a home, companionship, a purpose and even brotherhood . It was fated to die young, yet it had a life span of one plus four years . It can be said that it gained fourfolds its life! This is almost unheard of for a soul in the realm of the beasts!”

“YOU CAN STOP PLEADING FOR HIM . ” King Yanlou closes his eyes and stroke his long beard in contemplation .


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“But surely we can be lenient! Look at all these souls, Realm of Beast, Realm of Men, and even Realm of Seekers, all of them advanced in their karmic cycle because of him!”

“YOU ARE MISUNDERSTANDING ME, LIN BAI . ” The judge opens his eye slowly, trying to find the words to convey his thoughts properly .

The judge-secretary has a questioning look as he fiddles with the brush pen in his hand .

“HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED HERE?” 

The man frowns slightly at the unexpected change of topic, but answers it nonetheless . “I’ve worked for Your Excellency for 1,344,971 years . ”

“DO YOU KNOW THE PURPOSE OF OUR JOB HERE?”

Lin Bai’s face drops as he goes into deep contemplation . “I thought we judge the souls that pass through here, and then send them to their next incarnation… But since you are bringing it up, it shouldn’t be just that…”

King Yanlou gives a firm smile, nodding slowly a few times . “SAMSARA, THE ENDLESS CYCLE OF LIFE AND DEATH, IF IT’S JUST AN ENDLESS CYCLE, THEN WE WOULDN’T NEED TO BE HERE . ”

The judge-secretary’s eyes widen like that of a cow’s, as though he’s on the edge of enlightenment .

“WE DON’T JUDGE THE SOULS THAT ARRIVE HERE, WE MERELY GUIDE THEM . ” King Yanlou’s booming voice seems to completely fill the man’s mind, which is already working in overdrive in anticipation . “SAMSARA, ISN’T AN ENDLESS CYCLE . IT’S THE METHOD USED TO CULTIVATE THE SOUL . THE CEASELESS CYCLE BRINGS EXPERIENCES FROM THEIR NUMEROUS LIVES, REFINING THEIR CORE SOUL . BE IT THE MOST BENEVOLENT GODS OR THE CRUELEST OF DEMONS, THEY ALL HAVE TO GO THROUGH THIS PROCESS . ”

“Then…” Hope fills Lin Bai’s eyes, as he truly doesn’t want that young man to be removed from Samsara and thrown into one of the Hells .

“BUT, EVEN I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO MAKE OF THIS . ” King Yanlou stretches his right hand out, causing the end of the scroll far into the distance to fly into his hand . “A MERE 999 REINCARNATIONS AND HIS SOUL ALREADY REACHED ENLIGHTENMENT IN A PATH OF THE ENDLESS GREAT DAO . YET, THE SOUL DOES NOT YEARN FOR IMMORTALITY, TELL ME, WHAT REALM CAN WE SEND THIS SOUL TO?”

“So that’s why you…” The man can only shake his head as his understanding catches up with him . “Ah! We can do this instead!” Lin Bai makes a bright smile at King Yanlou as he flourishes his brush pen, with a clear proposal in mind .  

 

Dao Ming (Prologue 3)

Inside the Room of Meditation

“Please wait here, General . ” A pair of guards respectfully guides a fat, bald, ruddy old man into the crystalline room . “We will prepare your carriage right away . ” They cup their hands and bow deeply before leaving the room .

“There’s plenty of time, take it slowly, take it slowly . ” The old man waves his right hand lazily as he struts into the room . “Eh? There’s already someone here?” He looks over at the other side of the large room, spotting a white-haired man sitting cross-legged in the corner, spots of glistening light trailing from his eyes, down his face . The old man swings the rake he’s holding over his left shoulder, causing the few possessions he has dangling off the rake to jingle, making his way over .

“What are you in here for, sonny?” The old man jokingly asks .

The young man opens his eyes, giving them a quick wipe with his sleeve before getting up . He cups his hands and bows slightly, “Greetings, elder . ”

“Hoho, dispense with all the useless formalities, life is too short for that! Oh, wait, we are already dead, so it doesn’t matter anyways . Hahahaha!” The old man lazily waves it off, makes a joke and starts laughing by himself . The young man smiles politely at him, nodding once before sitting back down .

“Why the long face lad? Ah… I know!” The old man sits down across from the young man, laying his rake and bundle of things carefully on the ground . He clumsily reaches into his sleeves, retrieving two wine cups . “Hmm… I guess Hui Mong Wine would be good right about now . ” The old man reaches into the bundle at the head of his rake, retrieves a gourd with practiced motion, then he fills the two cups from up high, without splashing a drop .
 

[T/N: The wine name is Returning (to) Dream 回夢]


“Here lad, help yourself . ” He slides the small wine cup expertly to the young man, it stops perfectly in front of him, with the surface of the wine completely tranquil the entire way . The old man takes a long sip of the wine in his hand, inhaling deeply . Seeing that the young man is looking at the cup with a neutral expression, the old man slaps his knee .

“Drink, drink! Wine only tastes better when there are others to drink it with you!” The old man stops drinking for a moment and thinks . “Ah! You are afraid of drinking without foundation eh, don’t worry, this old geezer’s got you covered . ” He puts the wine cup on the floor, flicking his sleeves before bringing his hands together before moving expertly while humming a mantra . Multiple beads of light with various scenes in them float in the air . “Hmm… let’s go with, this, this, oooh, roasted swan leg, definitely that . ” The old man would say this and that out loud, sometimes with the name of food thrown in, each time he does so, he will reach towards one of the beads, which would grow larger into the size of his head when he reaches into it, before grabbing out some food .
 

[T/N: “Foundation” is my take on 打底 . It’s a common folk-belief that you ought to eat something before you drink, as to enjoy it more without getting dead drunk right away . ]


The young man looks on in astonishment, his previous thoughts vanishing like smoke .

“Eat, eat, better to be a satisfied ghost than a hungry ghost . Hahahaha!” The old man grabs a roasted piece of large swan leg and starts taking big, delightful bites out of it after his hearty laugh .

“Then I won’t be polite . ” The young man nods at the old man, a small smile creeping into his face as he partakes in the unexpected feast before his eyes .





“Aiyah! What the hell is the Heavens doing? Don’t worry lad, you won’t be going to Hell, I will drag you back out myself if I have to! Well, maybe let me take a nap or something before hand . Hahahaha!” The old man laughs heartily once more, his face red from the alcohol, with bits of food and grease on his face . His face turns serious all of the sudden, his eyes opening wide . “I mean it, you might have to stay there for a few days, but I will come get you! If I don’t show up, one of my brothers will!”

The pair started talking while they were eating, as the alcohol flowed, the atmosphere changed . Small talk turns into arguments about food and wine, then onto women, and then onto more serious topics . The two feel like old friends that haven’t seen each other in a long time, despite the obvious age gap in their appearances .

“You might not believe me, but big brother used to be a prankster when he was young, he didn’t grow up until we ended our pilgrimage with our master!” The old man looks around to make sure no one overhears . “Well, I say that, but none of us really grew up if you know what I mean! Hahahaha!”

The young man had experienced the ruthless power struggles of the Royal Court . Despite his short lifespan, his insight into people’s character has been honed and sharpened to an unbelievable degree . In addition, he innately sharp mind and clear, unclouded, unbiased observation skill allows him to see through most people . But the jolly old man in front of him completely baffles him . He forcefully suppresses the hope in his heart and accepts his fate .

“I thank senior for his kind intentions, but you don’t have to exert yourself for this criminal . ” The young man places his wine cup onto the floor before respectfully bowing to the old man with cupped hands .

Slam

Unexpectedly, the old man slams his wine cup heavily onto the crystalline floor, pouting like a child, with the red cheeks to match . “There are crimes, and then there are ‘crimes’ . If what you did is a crime, then Heavens is a sham!”

The old man then quickly fills his cup up once more before angrily biting into a piece of mutton . The young man sits stunned, never expecting the same words he said to King Yanlou to be repeated by someone else . His heart fills with warmth and gratitude, even if the old man is merely humouring him, he’s already extremely happy to have someone like this to accompany him on this last leg of his journey .

“You know, if you want, I can bring you to another Domain for a few incarnations . It only started a few thousand years ago, so some of the recent souls that came through here have been diverted there as well . ” The old man puts down his hands for a while before sighing . “I always thought there was something wrong with Heavens, but I didn’t know how to put it into words . But some recent friends I made gave me some new insights after all these years . ”

“Heh, if there’s something wrong with Heavens, then who would want to stay? One lifetime of facing off the darkest of corruption is enough . ” The young man laments .

“Good!” The old man lifts his hand that’s now holding a drumstick before stuffing it into his mouth, his hands making numerous incantation gestures, causing the space to ripple . “I will be sending you to Star Number 5354 . ” The old man says with gusto, the drumstick no longer in his mouth, the bone has been placed on the floor at some point in time . “I bid you good journey!” The entire space seems to shake, blurry, ghostly images of the old man seem to overlap upon themselves . The various food on the floor, the gourd, and a dull, copper bracelet intended for a child, are wrapped up in a giant fan made out of banana leaves before shrinking in size, flying straight into the young man’s dantian .

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[T/N: I loled for a bit and people were giving me weird looks xD 星號 五三五四 is literally translated to Star Number 5354, but it is also the homonym for “Nonsense” . ]


“Senior! Wait! What is your name?!” The young man shouts as he feels himself being pulled to… somewhere .

“Just call me the ‘Heavenly…’ no, call me the ‘Earthly Tumbleweed’! Hahahaha!” The old man laughs once more as the world goes black for the young man . The old man’s figure distorts, like a mirage, the appearance melts away, revealing a hideous thing with the body of a man and the head of a pig . Unperturbed, the figure grabs more food from the beads of light, grabbing another wine cup and wine gourd from somewhere, before enjoying himself with a smile on his face .

“General! Your carriage is ready . ” The pair of guards from before returns, with their ever respectful gesture .

““Eh?!”” The two of them look at the hideous figure walking toward them .

“Good! Lead the way!”

The guards give each other a questioning look, wondering why the General stopped using his transformation ability . They didn’t hesitate for long however, before they quickly guide the pigheaded General down the hall .


Back in King Yanlou’s Court

“Terrible news! Terrible news!” A pair of guards runs back into the ancient court room after going to retrieve the soul that was sent to the Room of Meditation . The pair runs to the center of the court, kneeling in front of King Yanlou, shaking like tree leaves in a typhoon .

“Calm yourself!” The judge-secretary shouts at the two . “What happened?!”

“The… the… Li Fang Sing is gone!”

“But… that’s impossible!”

“It’s true!”

The pair of guards and Lin Bai turn to look at King Yanlou, who slowly closes his eyes . After a few moments, he picks up the commandment tablet . “FATE BEYOND FATE, DAO WITHIN DAO . THE COURT IS ADJOURNED!”

SLAM

Everyone else in the room opens their eyes wide in shock, some even pick at their ears, wondering if they heard right .

“I SAID, ‘THE COURT IS ADJOURNED!’”

The judge-secretary is the first to recover . “Next!”

His voice acts like cold water, splashing onto the still dreaming guards . They all recovered with a few hiccups, resuming their duties .

“““Huuuooooooooo”””

Dadadada

 

Dao Ming (Prologue 4)

Prologue 4

A spiraling black hole appears thousands of meters up in the violet, swirling sky, shortly after, a young man with white hair drops out of it .

The young man opens his eyes at the sudden scenery, realizing his predicament .

“Oh shit! AHHH!!” The man can only scream and flail as he starts to fall .

“Oh, would you just shut up?” A figure appears next to the young man from nowhere, plucking him up by the neck and stops his descent . It releases its hand after the young man stops struggling .

“Eh… what the?” The young man looks left and right as he floats in the air . “Um… Thanks . ” He turns and cups his hands to the figure, which turns out to be a guard dressed in ceremonial armour .

“Didn’t they explain you can fly at the Dispatch Counter? Damn bastards must be slacking off again . ” The guard rolls his eyes in exasperation . “Alright, just get in your line and wait your turn . ”

“Um… what line?”

“Huh?! The line for the Domain and World you will be reincarnating into! Where’s your registration paper?”

The young man starts looking around, unsure of what’s going on .

“Don’t tell me you lost it?!”

“Umm… I don’t know the name of the Domain, but I was told it was made in the last few thousand years and I was supposed to head to something called Star Number 5354?” The young man offers sheepishly .

“That’s probably the Domain of the Endless Seekers then… 5354 eh…” The guard pulls out an ornate clipboard before flicking his fingers on it . “What is your name?”

“Li Fang Sing . ” 

“There you are… What the hell?! They didn’t even fill in which office was responsible for you!” The guard snaps his head away from the clipboard and stares into space in a particular direction, gnashing his teeth . “Alright, follow me, just walk normally . ” Without waiting, the guard turns around and walks toward the floor . Countless lines sprawl across the barren, twisted landscape, like the grain on an ancient piece of lumber . Wordlessly, the pair approaches a comparatively short line in the distance, the people in line can be vaguely distinguished, like ants harvesting nectar . Many were the same size, with the odd few that are bigger, smaller, some with wings, some with horns, others with different features .  

“Delivery! Delivery for Li Fang Sing!” A large, translucent kite chirps while pulling a cart stall with a lantern hanging with the word “Deliver” on it . Hearing that, the guard turns around and waits patiently for the bird to pull up next to them .

“Li Fang Sing?” The bird’s head stares at the young man, its head jerking and stopping at different angles .

“Yes? That’s me…?”

“Good, good, press thumb here . ” The kite waves its right wing, a clipboard appears out of nowhere in a shower of light . The young man presses his thumb onto it as asked . The kite waves it left wing shortly after, whereupon the clipboard is replaced by 3 satchels . “Thank you, thank you . ” The kite coos before grabbing the satchel labeled ‘For the Netherworld Deliverymen’ with its beak as it starts running off into the distance, chirping ‘Delivery! Delivery!’ .
 

[T/N: The references are SO HEAVY, that I’ll be adding T/N quite a bit, especially for our western audience . When buddhists in the CJK region burn their offering to the dead, they often burn a small bundle of spirit money for the delivery as ‘tip’ . As for the kite, it’s a symbol of Garuda, this ‘might’ relate to the fact that whenever an offering is burnt, a wild gust of air would come and scatter the ashes to ‘collect the offering’ and bring them to the dead . I’m not that big of a buddha scholar, so forgive me if I get this reference wrong .


“Woah, looks like you aren’t going to be a Yamaduta anytime soon . ” The guard comments before starting to walk again .
 

[T/N: Yamaduta are the Messengers of Yanlou/Yama/Enma, they are spirits that no longer receive offerings thus getting no spirit monies, having to work it off ya know, no freeloaders!


Fang Sing puts one of the satchels into the breastpocket inside his hempen robe while inspecting the other satchel as he walks . The satchel is made with rough cloth, obviously intended to be durable as opposed to being cheap . There’s a small strip of silken cloth on it with the name ‘Li Fang Sing’ on it along with his thumbprint, the words ‘Letters and Offerings’ printed along its side . He lightly pulls on the string of the satchel, wondering what it’s about . A sudden deluge of mental images filled with the entire inventory of the satchel floods his mind . Fang Sing quickly closes the satchel, with the images fading right away . He tucks the satchel away and takes out the other one, inspecting it . It look identical to the earlier satchel, save for the words ‘Spirit Money’ replacing the text next to his name instead .

“Oy, oy, come on, look at that when you get in line, it isn’t like you won’t have time for it . ” The guard calls towards the young man as he noticed Fang Sing slowing down behind him .

“Ah, sorry, coming!” The two make their way to the end of a line after a while without incident .

“Alright, get in line, wait for your Mapo Soup and you will be reborn after drinking it . This line is really short with the Domain being new and all, but most people normally read the stuff sent by the living to pass the time . Good luck . ” The guard turns to fly away after giving a curt comment .

“Brother hell-warden! Wait!”

“Eh, what now?!” The man turns back with a slightly irritated tone of voice .

Fang Sing reaches into his robe and then pulls out a Spirit Coin, offering it toward the guard with both hands . “This little gesture is to thank you for helping me . ”

“Hahaha!” The guard laughs before taking the coin and slaps the young man on his shoulder . “I like you! You have some manners!” He looks back and forth a bit, as though he’s making sure of his surroundings . “Alright, here’s some advice, the Domain you are going to is a convergence of all the other Domains, so I recommend you buy some Karmic Enhancement for Physicality with your Spirit Money if you have any . But even if you don’t, don’t ever sell your own Karma for Spirit Money, those merchants are rip-offs . Same with any artifacts, currency is actually pretty common since the living often send them down, but artifacts from offerings are really limited, so they are priceless . ”

“Domain? Karma Enhancement? Artifact?” The young man tilts his head, not completely understanding what has been said .

“Um… Domain is eh…” The guard brings out the clipboard again, flicking his fingers once more . “Okay, you are from the Green Jade domain . So it’s like this, a Domain is like a Kingdom, it rules a certain area . Each Domain has numerous worlds, think of it like your cities . The various Domains make up ‘All of Existence’, with each Domain having certain features . You, for example, came from the Domain of Green Jade, which is ruled by a Jade Emperor who focused more on enlightenment than technology . There are many strange Domains like the Domain of Three Thousand Worlds which has been ruled by a weird twine of a demon lord and hero pair, Domain of the Sovereign Planes where the Overgod rulers merely maintain their realm and their worlds are flat, Domain of the Thousand Suns where technology reigns, with space-faring in metal behemoths as the norm, Domain of the Azure Dream where you’ve got souls that come in many different forms and can utilize energy in the form of magic and so forth . ”
 

[E/N: huehuehue T/N: these references to other series]


The young man listens carefully, as these different concepts of worlds completely overwhelm his mind . Magic? Spacefarers? Demon Lord? Overgods? His mind feels numb, but he has to listen and try to retain it nevertheless . One never knows when a seemingly trivial piece of information can affect one’s life .

“As for Karmic Enhancement… well, it’s something you can buy with Spirit Money to alter your next reincarnation, making you stronger, smarter and so forth . But these Enhancements are only temporary and won’t be carried with your soul to your incarnation, so it’s just something to make your next life easier . Your Karma on the other hand is permanent, it’s what you had gained throughout your lives, if you sell that, you will be losing the connections you made and experiences you lived, in short, you will be literally selling yourself . ” The guard makes a serious face, “I repeat, don’t sell it . ”

Fang Sing nods showing that he’s taking that advice to heart .

“As for Artifacts… well, since you only got what… only 999 incarnations, you probably haven’t even seen one . Don’t worry about it, you will know when you get one anyways . ” The man looks up, spotting something in the sky . “This is all I can tell you, good luck!” The guard flicks the coin into a rapid spin before catching it in his hands as he walks away .
 

[T/N: Blame Ishman for all these T/N T . T . “Catching it in his hands” is referring to a trope used in asian media for a trait of someone slightly greedy happy to earn a small profit where they toss it up and claps the coin in their hands . E/N: I’mHelping . jpg It’sallonfire . jpg]


The young man cups his hand and bows to the retreating figure, before turning and joining the line in front of him . The line moves very slowly, as it crawls ever so lazily closer to the front, some of the Souls in the line start talking to each other out of boredom . Others would read letters in their hands with various expressions . Likewise, Fang Sing has also been reading the individual letters he received .

A faint smile appears on his face, it seems his old friends and allies succeeded after he died while hiding in the wagon . The coup was a success and the country was stabilized before the other kingdoms caught wind of it and attempted an invasion . The ones that move him the most were the numerous letters with weird, nonuniform lines and symbols mixed in with a few simple words that came with offerings of common wildflowers and plain steamed buns . These were obviously from the peasants, the fact they can even offer steamed buns to him and attempt to write is a sign that the country is improving . While in deep thought, a singing voice caught his attention .

“One single life, two attachment, three eight twenty four, four sour dough . ” A short, pockfaced man pushes a stall cart along the line, singing a nonsensical, lamenting song . “Karma! Get your Karma here!”
 

[T/N: This is… IIIIIIMMMMMMMMMPPPPPPPPOOOOOOSSSSSSSSSSSSSSIIIBBBBBLLLEEEE to translate right . It’s a funny rhyme thing based on numbers . One (counter) Life, Two (counter) Attachment (like husband and wife, or dependants), Three Eight is slang for “nosy”/”stupid”, Twenty Four is nonsense, but 3x8 is 24 from the 9x9 timetable song, so . . . yeah . Four Sour Dough is 4 dead corpse or similar . Just think of it as a funny, nonsensical singalong .


“Oy! Merchant! You sell any food?!” A pig-faced creature five spaces ahead of Fang Sing asks .

“Eh, why the hell would you need food as a ghost? Piss off!” The short man keeps pushing the stall as no one seems to be interested .

“Um… If you don’t mind, I can trade you some?” The young man sticks his head out and asks .

“Eh? Really?”

“Yep, hm… how does some White Cut Chicken on Rice sound?”

“Don’t know what that is, is it good?” The creature tilts its head to the side .

“Oh, ah, here . ” The young man pulls out a large bowl of white rice topped with poached chicken, the bright yellow skin of the chicken glistens with a luster with some garnishing on top . “It’s this . ” The creature snorts and takes a deep breath as he walks out of the line, quickly patting himself, reaching for something .

“You’ve got a deal!” The creature hands over a battleaxe before quickly grabbing the bowl and starts stuffing his snout into it . The young man looks at the heavy axe in his hand before putting it into his satchel with a shrug . The trade itself isn’t really important, since his benefactor had also said that a ‘Satisfied Ghost is better than a Hungry Ghost’ and he certainly agrees with that statement after eating his fill .

“Hey, buddy, you’ve got any more of those weird food of yours?” A man with a horse body inquires as he watches his friend eating the food like a bear after hibernation .
 

[T/N: The original for “” is “like he hadn’t eaten anything in his life” which is a common idiom/slang… but it doesn’t carry well in english considering they are dead and ppl not familiar with it will get the wrong impression . ]


“Sure, how about a Buddha’s Delight?” Fang Sing pulls out a vegetarian dish with mushroom and tofu .

“Yoink!” The horseman swaps for the dish and replaces it with a bow and starts pigging out next to his friend .

It didn’t take long before others in line started requesting things, and as though it caused a chain reaction, other Souls from Domains that have a practice of sending food offerings to their dead also started trading with their neighbours . In the process, Fang Sing learns that these creatures are from different Domains or different parts of the same Domain of Green Jade where he originated . There are Orcs, Minotaurs, Centaurs, Elves, Dwarves, Squidmen and numerous other creatures, which greatly broaden his horizon .  

As the line had gotten lively, the wait didn’t seem as long . One group after another soon disappears, as they reach the old woman stirring a pot and scooping out the fluid into a bowl . Soon, it was Fang Sing’s turn .

“‘Being Drunk, you are still 30% awake . ’ The next time you wake up, you will be as a babe . Drink it and walk into the portal there . ” The woman’s eyes are pure white as though she’s blind, yet, she gives the feeling that she can see more clearly than anyone here . Her gnarly finger points toward a swirling black hole directly behind her .

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