Friday, December 18, 2015

Great Merchant - Dao Ming (Chapter 2 - Cursed Child, Beloved Child 2)

“Ah! Master Monk is here!” One of the children resting on the side of the path spots the monk approaching from the desolate main road, immediately calling for others’ attention.

The children bow their head slightly to the monk before resuming their task, the ones that are currently resting look at the monk with hopeful eyes. The monk straightens his left hand vertically, resting his thumb over his heart, returning the greeting. The prayer beads in that hand didn’t sway one bit in the process.

“Master Green Wisteria.” An elderly man walks toward the monk, his back hunching slightly, his hands dyed in a brownish yellow hue, similar to his robe.

“Na Mo Em It Tuo Fo, well done, *well done.” The bald monk, with a contemplative look behind the muslin veil, bows slightly in greeting. The monk has done a mass burial for a different village more than a decade ago - that suffered the same epidemic, where it has only just started recovering. According to the records in his sect, the innumerable villagers would fall in despair each time this disease appeared. This is the first time he has seen villagers themselves trying something to combat the disease, this was something that was only previously done by Physicians, Sages, Saints and Immortals.

[T/N: 南無阿彌陀佛 善哉善哉 is the phrase often used in buddhism, where 善哉 is pretty much meaning “Very Good/Excellent/Well Done” praising or encouraging good karmas, deeds and so forth. But… he chose to use 善災 which sounds the same, but has a different meaning which translates into “Good\Kind\Charitable\Gentle Disaster”. I thought it was a typo at first since it was written as “南無阿彌陀佛, 善哉善災” as 哉 and 災 are homonyms. Then I remembered that the fucker is a cheeky bastard that makes offhanded puns like that even in email replies -.- So for all intent and purpose, everyone else aside from the monk hears it as “well done, well done”, when only he himself knows that he said “well done, (implying/hoping that this will be a) gentle disaster”. I can’t go with either literal translation nor a localized adaptation, hence this lengthy T/N to explain this T.T]

“The Village Chief isn’t here right now, but I will guide you to the guesthouse for the time being.”

“I will be troubling you then.”

The elderly man and the monk make their way to the guest-house silently, a tacit agreement has been passed down since time immemorial. Visiting monks with Monk’s Spades are undertakers for any villagers in their practice of charity through labour, thus must be treated with respect and provided with shelter and if possible, food. Aside from appearing twice a year, they will also appear when there’s a natural disaster or an epidemic, such as the case now. Either through the means of ‘Divine Protection’ or through ‘Arcane Knowledge’, there has never been a case where a monk suffered from nor contracted an illness through burying the dead, thus they are one of the few exceptions that are allowed to enter quarantined zones.

The children continue to carry the adults to the village square as the two figures fade, applying treatment for the adults whose children wanted it. The younger children who can’t bear the stretchers would take turns retrieving water and ceramic pots of the brownish yellow paste that are being made by the elderly within the houses. Ming continues to steep the concoction over a low flame as Tong controls the logistics of working shifts and the distribution of meals.

Two Weeks Later, Village Square

“““Thank the Heavens!”””

A large group of adults along with various children are kowtowing all at once, a soft, audible thud can be heard as their foreheads hit the earth.

“““Thank the Earth!”””

Their foreheads strike the ground once more.

“““Thank the Benefactors!”””

The group is made up of the vast majority of the surviving 136 adult villagers, leading them are the elders who are guiding everyone in the Rites of Thanksgiving to a pair of adults and a small, bright-eyed child. The adults smile sheepishly, with the mother hugging the boy and the father rustling his hair.

“Mother, why are they thanking us?”

The woman with scarlet tinged hair looks at the boy’s eyes speechlessly, turning her head to the husband for help.

“Because you helped them, Ming.”

“Oh.” Ming gently gets out of his mother’s embrace and bows at the waist, hands on the side, once to the front and once to the side, where the elderly are gathered. “Thank you as well, everyone that listened to me and helped out.”

The older children turn their heads away, trying not to look at him. Likewise, a number of the elderly look away guiltily. The reason they listened was due to the Chief’s second son’s persuasion and Ming’s next door neighbour, Old Grandma Shu; not because they believed what the boy had said. Even so, the result is indisputable, of those treated, only 1 out of 5 died. The ones that survived were merely weakened, some were able to walk on their own on the 3rd day while others took a little more time to recover their strength. Many had continued to look down on Ming previously, thinking it was a futile effort. As they continued to work as ordered, the momentum built, and hope appeared, none of them had the resolve to tell everyone else to stop and just wait for the adults to die. They realized their own hubris and ignorance, which squeezes their hearts, thus not having the face to be able to accept the boy’s gratitude.

“Little friend.” A slightly hoarse voice appears from the group of elderly standing to the side, he slowly makes his way forward until he’s in front of the trio.

““Master Monk.”” The parents greet him with a slight bow. Ming looks left and right, then imitates them. The monk closes his eyes and dips his head in acknowledgement, before turning his head downwards to look at the small boy.

“Who taught you the treatment for the Scarlet Hive?”

The boy looks up at the monk, unsure of the content of the question.

“Hm… who taught you how to make everyone better?” The monk, realizing that the child doesn’t even know the name of the disease, tries to ask again in a simpler way.

“Oh. Little White, Little Cloud and their mom did.”

“Ming! Stop playing around and answer Master Monk properly!” The father angrily rebukes the child while showing an apologetic face.

“But I am.” Ming pouts his little lip, slightly angry at the accusation.

“Why you…!”

The monk looks at the father, shaking his head and lifting his hand, gesturing for him to calm down. “Can you take me to them?”

“Sure thing, they should be at the field.” The boy starts walking to the field, guiding the monk.

The parents can only look on helplessly, making a complicated face. There’s no way for those two to have taught it to Ming, but his seriousness doesn’t seem to be a prank, thus they can only follow them curiously. Their son couldn’t be possessed by a demon… right?

The gathered villagers disperse as well, as many of them need to go foraging in the forest to bolster the village’s dwindled food supply. But some of them overheard the conversation, causing them to become curious, they too, decide to follow them to the field.

* * * * *

“Little White, Little Cloud! Come on, come on over! Someone wants to meet you!”

Ming’s father’s face starts twitching, a torrent of thoughts rushing into his head. He walks up from behind the monk to try and apologize, but the monk is mumbling as two figures approach from the field.

“Master Monk, here they are.”



The prayer beads that have never left the monk’s hand since his arrival fall onto the field, making a soft scattering sound. The father, seeing the reaction, seems scared and enraged, and grabs the boy by the arm.

“I’m so sorry, Master Monk. He’s normally never so mischievous, I will give him a good spanking when we get back, please don’t take this to heart. Ming! Apologize right now!”

Ming pouts once more, scrunching his eyebrow, clearly upset. Except that expression is not suited for someone his age and stature, making him look cute instead. “Why are you so stupid, dad?!”

“Just how far are you going to go with this prank of yours?!” The man roughly drags the boy’s arm, making him stand in front of the monk. With his large left hand, he forces Ming’s head to bow down in apology.

“…cognosy.” The monk’s unfocused eyes correct themselves, becoming bright. “Mister, please, he’s likely not playing a prank.” The monk bends down and picks up the prayer beads before looking at Ming in the eyes. “Well done, well done. Can you get them to show me the things used in the treatment?”

“No. But I can. It’s just over there.” The boy yanks his arm away from his father, running into a copse of trees. The monk bows slightly to the father before following with steady steps. The villagers keep their distance, but are stretching their necks to try and piece together the spectacle.

“Darling, don’t tell me… I am actually stupid…?”

“Why don’t we follow them as well, honey?” The woman dodges the question as she follows the monk as well.

““BAAAAAA!”” The two white goats likewise follow the woman, leaving the man standing with the villagers behind him.

At the copse, the trees are of uneven colour, as the wood near the bottom seems to be stripped of their bark.

“They took those dried up cow bitters over there, chew it for a long time and then spit it on the tree. The spring mustard here, do the same. And then they bite the top of some willow saplings and chew on them before eating them as they rub their bodies on the spot they spat the chewed up plants on the tree.” Ming is showing the monk all the plants the goat used, moving left and right, with his fingers excitedly dancing towards the different spots.

“Well done, well done. Little friend, how did you know about zoopharmacognosy?”

The boy stops his excited gestures and tilts his head. “Sofarmanose?”

The monk closes his eyes, patiently rephrasing the question. “How did you know the goats’ medicine would work?”

“Oh, because when they get sick, they go into the trees and eat the herbs that we eat when we get sick.”

The answer may seem incomplete, but the monk understood its implied meaning. “Well done, well done. Little friend, you might have just saved ten thousand people.”

“What is ten thousand people? Is it edible like steamed buns?”

[T/N: Monk said 萬人 (man yun), which means ten thousand people. Ming doesn’t know the word 萬, so he replaced it with a similar sounding word that he knows, which is 曼. 曼頭 (man tou) means Steamed Bun (manjou for the japanese pronouciation). Hence him wondering if it’s food, not that he’s a cannibal]

“Haha”. The monk smiles and laughs, charmed by the boy’s innocence as he shakes his head.

Ming’s parents faces become blank as the monk’s words sink in.

“Heavens… I really am stupid…” The father mumbles with a wry smirk.

“The Chief is back! The Chief is back!” A teenager runs up to the group of villagers gawking at the four of them, slightly out of breath.

The rubberneckers turn their heads towards the teenager. His voice also catches the attention of Ming and company, causing them to look at each other. The group then silently makes their way back to the Village Square, where the usual meeting will take place, a routine that occurs every time the Chief travels outside of the village and returns.


  1. i like this kind of story... smart kind of MC... hehe

  2. Thank you very much. I like a reincarnation story more focused on... philosophy, i suppose. And the references the author makes are really interesting. It must be hard to translate
    Thank you again.

  3. Yep, I really appreciate the effort you put into this Sumguy.

  4. I wish I can properly convey the Ming's innocence, it's so cute and funny (I know I failed when I had to T/N xD)


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