Thursday, November 19, 2015

Great Merchant - 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.

[T/N: ‘Being Drunk, you are still 30% awake.’ is transliteral since… we can’t think of an equivalent. It’s pretty much means even if you are drunk/dreaming, you are still somewhat aware. It reads really smooth in Chinese, sadly, only in Chinese >.>]

The young man did as asked and drinks the so called Mapo Soup, which smells faintly of alcohol. As he walks into the portal, his world turns blank.


  1. Twas easy-ish to translate... and then the realization that your readers probably won't get the numerous cultural references and shit. Ishman helped with his broken _ and made me cry tears of blood adding those T/Ns T.T

  2. Great story so far. I didn't quite get all the other stories references though (except the obvious ones like CD I guess XD).

    1. Three Thousand world -> Maouyuu (hero be mine!)
      Thousand Sun -> 40k Warhammer (or as ishman puts it "FOR THE EMPRAH!")
      Azure Dream -> I've no fucking clue and I keep forgetting to ask.

  3. ah, all i could think about when he was explaining the domains is the story of Coiling Dragon for the sovereign one, and Desolate era for the 3000 worlds.

  4. also artifacts... the cheat items i assume that every MC tends to get....


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