-Translated by BluePhoenix
“This sounds like a horror movie where I am the main character. Am I the kind of person who is good at acting in horror movies? Actually, am I really the main character?”—Fan Tong
In the dark night, the enormous, calm, and quiet East City was illuminated by the light from lamps at the tops of the walls. The light enabled one to clearly see the entire city gate as well as the architecture of the outer walls.
Above the city gate, there was a majestic and imposing plaque with the two words, East City, inscribed on it. The outer wall of the city was made of stone bricks, and it looked very solid and strong. Probably because it was maintained regularly, even if it had been around for a very long time, it still appeared very clean and gave one a sense of stability, instead of being a ruin that could go out anytime like a candle in the wind.
As the door opened to welcome them, he caught a glimpse of the neat and orderly streets and houses. The design of these civilian and merchants’ houses were largely plain and unadorned, just like the simple appearance of East City’s outer walls.
Some of the merchants had not closed shop even though it was this late at night. In stark contrast to the silent civilian residential area, streets with many of these shops were brightly lit and bustling with activity.
On the road back, a lot of knowledge about this world had been imparted to Fan Tong.
According to them, there was a treasure called the ‘Sunken Moon’ in this world. As for what this thing really was, they did not explain very clearly. Fan Tong thought that it was something like an artificial satellite, but from the design of the clothes and the buildings, this world was medieval. They probably wouldn’t even know what an artificial satellite was, so he couldn’t ask them whether it was something similar.
They said that the Sunken Moon was discovered jointly by the Empress of East City and the King of West City a very, very long time ago. Only after listening for quite some time did Fan Tong realize that the term ‘Fallen Moon’ actually referred to West City. This was so named because the moon set in the west. Also, the people of West City mostly referred to East City as ‘Night’s End’ because the sun rose from the east.
The Sunken Moon had an enormous amount of magical power, which was used to summon dead souls from parallel universes to this world by creating a passage. It would also give these souls a new physical body so that they could live in this world. However, only souls that fulfilled certain conditions could be summoned. These included the souls of people who had either died in an accident, died with regrets, or were still children when they passed away.
Fan Tong highly doubted the accuracy of this theory. He wondered whether that thing called the Sunken Moon could even summon the souls of the living, because otherwise, how could he have been sucked into this world even though he did not remember dying?
In addition, to make it easier for people from other worlds that had come here though the passage to learn new things about this world and become new citizens, part of their memories would be sealed with a spell. This was what Lord Ling had done to Fan Tong, and Fan Tong had only fallen unconscious for a little while after the spell had been used on him.
In that little while, Lord Ling had gone back by himself first, while Lord Luo followed them back. Fan Tong heard that they had a magic circle which could teleport them to the entrance of the city in an instant, but because they had no reason to hurry, and it was very wasteful to use the magic circle, they decided to walk home. On the way, they told him some basic information about this world.
After joining East City and becoming one of them, he could recover a part of his memory as a reward if he worked very hard to become stronger and raise his rank. However, Fan Tong was not very concerned about his sealed memories. Since they were sealed, he could not remember anything, so there were no questions he could raise or mysteries he needed to solve. Thus, he had no motivation to recover his memories at all.
He did not know what memories Lord Ling had sealed, but the main point was that he felt okay, so he had no problem with it.
“After returning to the city, we will arrange your temporary living quarters for you. The rest will be done tomorrow, and someone will go over to your place to explain everything to you.”
They had set out in the evening and been in a fight. Now that it was late at night, they were visibly exhausted. Fan Tong also felt very tired, but this was because of the long walk to the city.
Up until now, when they were at the city gates of East City, Lord Luo had not said anything more to him. Fan Tong wanted to ask him some questions, but in this uncertain circumstance, saying nothing was the smarter thing to do.
Listening to other people explain was an easy task, for all Fan Tong had to do was go “oh”, “mm”, and “uh huh” all the time. There was almost no way to reverse these words, except for the occasional “eh?”. Still, this did not cause any problems, because at worst the person explaining would just repeat what he said. After that, he would just resume going “oh”, “oh”, “oh”, so it was very simple.
When they saw that their home was right ahead, the members of this group were very happy. Everyone wanted to hurry back to their homes and rest. However, an unexpected problem arose.
Suddenly, they heard the sound of chaotic footsteps from far away, (No, it was far at first, but now it was not at all far anymore. That meant that it was coming closer at a very high speed) everyone couldn’t help but turn around to see what was going on. The moment they saw the magical beast and its rider hurtling toward the gates at top speed, everyone’s expression froze and as if they had an unspoken agreement, everyone stepped aside to make way for the incoming beast. All except for Fan Tong.
Fan Tong admitted that his reaction was a little slow, and that his eyesight wasn’t exactly very good either, but…
“AHHHHHHHHHH! Why is there someone in the middle of the road!?”
But…Is this world actually a dangerous place where someone could die anytime if their reaction was a little slow and their eyesight a little bad?
This thought surfaced in Fan Tong’s mind as he heard that person’s shout and was trampled by the magic beast without hesitation immediately after. At the same time, he wanted to ask whether this should be called unlicensed driving.
As for that thing called pain, maybe I will get used to it in time? Actually, should I say ‘getting used to it’ or ‘stop caring about it’?
“Fan Tong! How could you die again?” Lord Luo shouted at him in disbelief before his soul had left his body completely.
The one who killed me last time doesn’t have right to say this—!
No matter how much Fan Tong wanted to shout that out, he had to wait until he had been reborn.
Some people say that, instead of just listening to theory, why not experience something for yourself? Once you have experienced something, you will have greater understanding of it, and you will also remember it better. Therefore, learning by experience is the most effective method, as it is difficult to forget something that has happened to you. New employees of this company hence have to experience training for one month to get used to the working environment before they can get paid… To sum it up, this speech roughly means: Nobody knows whether you understand, and you yourself might not know whether you understand. So once you experience it personally, you will understand—
And Fan Tong was currently putting this theory into practice—by dying in order to experience East City’s new citizens’ life support system that was influenced by the great power of the Sunken Moon—the Pool.
When new citizens who had the mark of East City on their bodies died, their souls would be sent to the bottom of East City’s Pool. The power of the Sunken Moon would then create a new body for them that was guaranteed to be exactly the same as the one they had before. Nothing would be missing, including their skills and memories.
However, the Pool’s life support system was not as considerate as the passage between worlds, so his clothes were not regenerated. This made him want to dispute the ‘nothing will be missing’ advertisement.
Also, this pool was unreasonably deep and wide, so he nearly became a fresh floating corpse simply because he didn’t know how to swim. Luckily, Lord Luo had a conscience and brought some people on a boat to fish him out of the water. Otherwise, he would have repeatedly experienced the feeling of drowning and reviving over and over again until someone discovered him.
Fan Tong felt that this plan to turn people into expert swimmers was rather inhumane. If something like that really happened, a lot of my corpses would be floating in the water! Also, the extent of swelling caused by water retention would be different for each corpse! That would be an extremely disgusting sight, right? Has no one ever died like that before? Did other people who were revived here receive a similar shock?
Fan Tong had a feeling that this kind of conversation would take place:
“Ah, this is our first meeting. Hello!”
“No it’s not, I’ve seen your corpse before! What on earth did you do to fill the pool with your corpses? I counted very carefully, you died a total of thirty-eight times! This is environmental pollution! Couldn’t you have cleaned up a bit after you went ashore?”
“Erm…But…It feels really weird to dispose of my own corpse…”
“Then how do you think people like us, who have to swim ashore while constantly crashing into your corpses, feel!? That day, a total of a hundred and eight people died and were reborn. All of them will remember your face!”
“I’m really sorry, but the faces of the corpses were already swollen beyond recognition. How could you tell that the corpse was mine?”
Perhaps I will become famous if I leave a lot of corpses in the pool. Just the thought of that was scary!
Although he should be grateful that someone came to save him, it was very hard to be happy about being lifted out of the water by a fishing net…
After changing into a new set of clothes on the ship, Lord Luo spoke to him sternly, making him feel worse.
“I guess that by now, you should have understood that new citizens will be reborn here when they die, so it can be said that they cannot be eliminated. However, don’t you go thinking that it is okay to keep dying at random. Let me first warn you about a few things.”
At this point, Fan Tong really wanted to rebut, How can it ever be okay to keep dying at random? I am very scared of pain!
“Normally, the bodies you guys use can last for ten years. When you die in less than ten years, a lot of resources are wasted, so you have to pay a compensation fee. Don’t think that no one will know about you dying, because the Pool keeps records of every death. However, we understand that newly arrived citizens might not have adapted to this unfamiliar environment yet, so the first three deaths within your first year are free. After that, it will no longer be free. You have already used up two of your chances, so please be careful.”
“What!? Why!? I haven’t even stepped into West City yet, why should this be counted?”
“THIS IS EAST CITY! Has your brain not finished regenerating?”
Against Lord Luo’s sharp words and stern face, it was hard for Fan Tong to voice his difficulties. Of course he knew that this was East City. He had said ‘West City’ simply because he knew this was East City.
“A new body is not cheap, so it is very easy for new citizens to fall into debt. If you cannot pay the money, we will still let you be reborn. However, we have to prevent anyone’s debt from getting so large that they cannot ever pay it back. These people could give up on working to earn money, or stop caring about their own lives, so they keep dying without fear of repercussions. Thus, as punishment, debtors will feel a lot of pain when they are being reborn in the water, and this pain increases with the size of the debt.”
For every line that Lord Luo said, Fan Tong’s face darkened a shade. When he had finished speaking, Fan Tong’s face could only be described as miserable.
Just dying repeatedly is bad enough, but incurring a huge debt in addition to that? Being heavily in debt is also already horrible enough, but I still have to face the fact that being reborn could be more painful than dying?
This place is indeed hell, not heaven. What on earth did I do to wind up in hell? Did I tell too many lies when fortune-telling?
Riding a boat on this lake, he felt like he was crossing the River Styx. If that were the case, then Lord Luo and the rest of them would be demons1…Fan Tong shook off this random thought and decided to keep his mind blank until after they were on the shore.
The life-support pool of East City was not located inside a closed space. Even though it was enclosed by stone walls on all four sides with only one exit to the city, there was no roof and it was open to the heavens. One could see the boundless blue sky, the clouds, and the silver-white moon.
At this point of time, the moon could no longer be seen. This was because the moon had almost set beyond the western horizon, where West City was. From this one could deduce how long it had taken them to get this far; it had taken the entire night.
Breathing a different air, feeling the different atmosphere, looking at another sky, and puffing out the cold wind, only now did Fan Tong feel his body relax. He was also finally starting to calm down.
…Perhaps everything would have felt better if he had not died twice this night.
“This is the first time I’ve seen someone die so quickly. I’m afraid that he has already broken the record,” said Passerby A on the boat.
“That’s right! I thought that last time, when someone was killed because he happened to be under the falling plaque at the wrong time, was as fast a death as it could get. I never thought that someone would die even before entering the city!” Passerby B exclaimed.
Taking pleasure from others’ misfortune is not the right thing to do, is it? Even though I am the record-holder, this doesn’t make me the least bit happy! …Fan Tong’s eye twitched.
“Shut up and row the boat properly!” said Lord Luo, as he coldly brought this conversation to an abrupt halt. Passerby A and B immediately shut their mouths and resumed doing what they were supposed to be doing.
There were quite a number of boats of about the same size docked at the shore. Oars and fishing nets were already prepared on the boats, and it looked like anyone could use them to save their resurrected family and friends.
At long last, after walking through a winding underground alley, Fan Tong officially entered East City and got a chance to look at its scenery. Walking on the road paved with white-grey stone, Fan Tong finally felt like he was back in reality. He looked everywhere, taking in the new and exciting sights.
The sun had already begun to rise in the east. Naturally, there would not be many people walking on the streets at this time. When Fan Tong looked toward the north, his attention was suddenly drawn to a majestic and imposing building far away.
The color of the building was a dream-like ice blue. The feeling that the walls were transparent was perhaps an illusion caused by the reflection of light, and the slightly raised terrain it sat on also seemed to show how important it was. That kind of serene majesty would undoubtedly give one a feeling of admiration just from looking at it.
“That is…” said Fan Tong to a person beside him as he pointed toward the building. That person yawned and replied sleepily, “That is the Palace of the God Emperor. It’s where the Empress and the Five Lords stay.”
Put simply, it’s the place where East City’s government stays? Fan Tong finally understood.
However, the Five Lords…?
Fan Tong shot a glance at Lord Luo, who was beside him. When Lord Luo noticed that Fan Tong was looking at him, he furrowed his brows unhappily and said, “That is my home. You got a problem with that?”
I’m really not doing this on purpose…
“What problem do you have with it?”
A shadow seemed to have fallen over Lord Luo’s child-like face. Fan Tong’s memory was not so bad that he could not even remember what had happened less than a day ago—the circumstances of his first death in this world. He also remembered the feeling of being burst to ashes by Fire Seal…
What should I do? Fan Tong was a little afraid. Even if he had wanted to say something like “I just didn’t know that the person sent to receive me was actually a big shot who was second only to the empress”, there was a very high probability that he would end up insulting either the empress or Lord Luo. Even if he had wanted to seek death, this was definitely not the way to go about doing that.
He tried very hard to come up with a sentence that would not sound too weird even if the meaning was reversed. Actually, all I had to do just now was shake my head! Maybe I was possessed by a ghost? Otherwise, why would I even think about replying to the question by speaking?
“My lord, we have arrived at our destination,” said Passerby B suddenly, causing the tense atmosphere to settle down a little. Only then did Lord Luo move his gaze away from Fan Tong, who immediately felt that his life had been saved. After that, he too looked at the house he would temporarily be staying in during his time in East City.
It was one of the units in a row of terrace houses. The house looked simple and undecorated, but otherwise it was rather ordinary. There was nothing dissatisfactory about it, so it was quite acceptable.
“Before the person who is responsible for giving you the relevant information arrives, do not leave this place on your own,” said Lord Luo with a cold expression. He also reminded, “This is a temporary house that we are lending to you. Although no one stays here, it is still East City’s property. Thus, if any part of it is damaged, with will demand compensation from you.”
Compensation, compensation, and more compensation. Fan Tong felt that East City was really petty. Resurrection required compensation, and even the property rights of the provided residence had to be announced beforehand. Or was he receiving this horrible treatment only because he hadn’t received his citizenship documents yet?
“Do you understand?”
“DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?”
This time, Fan Tong remembered to nod.
Fan Tong had only fallen asleep at dawn, but his tour guide who came to tell him about life here had not. Therefore, not long after he had fallen asleep, and just as he was about to go into deep sleep, he was woken up by his tour guide, causing sleep deprivation.
This is the life of a worthless person; I don’t even have the right to get a good night’s sleep… A hand supporting his drowsy head, Fan Tong looked at this man with a professional career smile on his face.
“Hello there, my name is Mi Chong. I am in charge of telling you everything you need to know about Fantasia and East City. You can just call me by name.”
Rice weevil?2 Fan Tong thought.
“What a good name.”
No, what I actually wanted to say was, “What a weird name.” Who would give their child such a name? This world is really full of extraordinary things.
While thinking that, Fan Tong completely ignored the fact that his own name was also very weird. Not only was it very weird, is also matched Mi Chong’s name perfectly.3
“Thank you for your praise. Then before I take you to visit some important locations, let me first tell you what you need to know.”
As Mi Chong talked, he fished out a white thing from his pocket. Fan Tong had seen this thing before. It was an accessory that was often hung on one’s clothes, and seemed to be known as ‘tassel’.
“This white tassel is yours. Now, let me explain the meaning of this thing.”
Mi Chong cleared his throat and began to explain in a precise and professional voice, “In East City, the color of one’s tassel is used as a measure of one’s strength. From strong to weak, the colors are: black, purple, red, blue, green, and white. People who have just arrived in this world receive a white tassel, which means that they have not yet completed any examinations to raise their rank. Base salaries in East City depend on the color of one’s tassel; the higher one’s rank, the higher one’s monthly salary. Also, within each color, there are different shades. For example, a dark blue tassel warrants a higher salary than a light blue one. Also, those with white tassels do not receive any salary. Everyone starts from zero, so please work hard to raise your rank.”
It seemed like wealth was a very important thing in East City. Fan Tong unhappily received the white tassel that symbolized his worthlessness.
The tassel that hung at Mi Chong’s waist was a light green color. Also, according to his impression, Lord Luo’s tassel was a bright red. Among the people that he had brought along, some had red tassels and some had blue ones. Fan Tong had not noticed the color of Lord Ling’s tassel, as he had only appeared for a little while.
“Stop staring, the monthly salary of someone with a light green tassel is really low. Luckily, a new person showed up, so I can take up a job as a guide. Otherwise, I really would not have enough money to repay my debt caused by accidentally dying…”
Looking at Mi Chong’s depressed face, Fan Tong didn’t know what he should say to comfort him. After all, Fan Tong’s current situation was even worse. He had only just come to this world, but he had already used up two free rebirths, so he really didn’t have any extra energy left to sympathize with others.
“Now, since you’ve already come to East City, then you should also learn who the important people are, in case you accidentally offend any one of them…”
I have already accidentally offended one of them yesterday, thought a miserable Fan Tong.
“The most revered person in East City is our ruler, Empress Xi Ying.4 Her age is not important, as long as she looks young and beautiful. However, you will probably only get the opportunity to see her from far away, as Her Majesty normally only appears during public occasions. However, Sunken Moon Day, which commemorates the starting of the Sunken Moon system, occurs in half a month. The Empress and a few other important people will ride a carriage to the altar of the Sunken Moon to pay their respects. When that time comes, you can follow the escort and admire the brilliance of these important people.”
Fan Tong nodded. Mi Chong then continued, “The people whose status is second only to Her Majesty are the five lords. Of the five lords, you should have already met Lord Ling. He is in charge of sealing and unsealing the memories of migrants. When people who have just come here experience his personal memory sealing ceremony, they will henceforth be captivated by Lord Ling’s great beauty. Lord Ling is also the person in charge of unsealing a part of the memories as a reward when one’s rank increases. Sigh, why can’t I raise my rank faster? I really want to meet Lord Ling…”
So in the end, you’re just voicing your personal feelings and complaints? Is it okay for a professional tour guide to be like this?
Fan Tong could not deny that Lord Ling was indeed very beautiful, but dying because of Lord Ling’s orders had left too big a scar on him.
“Lord Ling is the Empress’s personal servant. I’ve heard that he does all her chores for her, including doing her makeup, combing her hair, and helping her bathe. Ah, I really envy the Empress—”
Why hasn’t he finished talking yet? Also, wouldn’t people normally envy the person who can serve the empress personally? Why is it the opposite now? Since Lord Ling already does her makeup, combs her hair, and helps her bathe, would he also sleep with her?
“As for Lord Yin, how should I say this…He is straightforward, humble, and is an extraordinary person. Perhaps because he is too extraordinary, even though he is talented, handsome, and elegant, he still has no girlfriend. This situation is really unbelievable.”
“That’s right. I heard that after leaving the city because of work for one month, last night Lord Yin finally returned riding on a magical beast that he caught for fun. However, it was completely out of control, and after charging through the city gates, it trampled quite a few merchant stalls. In the end, even the Empress was alarmed, so it looks like Lord Yin received a scolding from her…”
…Fan Tong finally knew who the unlicensed driver who murdered him was. Looks like I have no hope of getting revenge for the rest of my life.
“The person who went to bring you back last night is Lord Luo. Lord Luo is the youngest of the five Lords, as he is only fourteen this year. He’s not an easy person to get along with…That’s right, Lord Luo is the Empress’s son, so when you add his social status, the distance between a normal person and him seems to increase further.”
Fan Tong’s face paled. Damn it! Of all people, why did I have to offend a prince!
“Your face looks really horrible. Is something the matter?”
Dejected, Fan Tong shook his head. This was a real example of “a slip of the tongue causes eternal regret; by the time one redeems oneself, one has already died a hundred times”.5
“Lord Wei6 does not leave the palace very often. Besides the fact that he should be over thirty years old, not much is known about him. However, the Empress seems to value his advice a lot. Many of the orders she gives are suggested by Lord Wei. Also, Lord Wei is very biased and always supports the natives in favor of the migrants. He often suggests rules that are unfair to migrants, so all migrants hate him.”
Fan Tong committed this person’s characteristics to memory. After that, he looked at Mi Chong and waited for him to continue the introduction.
“Last but not least is Lord Hui…Err, I guess I shouldn’t talk about this right now. Let me tell you about Fallen Moon instead.”
“Eh?” There were five lords, but Mi Chong had only introduced four of them. Also, he was obviously trying to change the topic. This made Fan Tong very curious and confused.
“Could this Lord Hui be even more hateful than Lord Wei?” asked Fan Tong. But right after that, he nearly wanted to cry. Why does the 10% chance have to be wasted on such an unimportant statement?!
“Not at all! Lord Hui is a very good person, and everyone likes him! It’s just that…” Mi Chong denied desperately, and then suddenly sighed sadly.
“Forget it, I suppose there’s nothing wrong with telling you about this. Lord Hui has been missing for two years. Until now, there is still no news of him. When he went missing, he was only seventeen, but he already had a gray tassel7 as proof of his strength. It can be said that he is a genius with many talents, and that was also the reason why the Empress adopted him as her stepson. Right now, some people say that he is dead and some even say that he has turned traitor. It’s rather sad…You must never let Her Majesty or Lord Luo hear about this, it’s a taboo topic.”
Fan Tong had not been living here for a long time, and also didn’t know Lord Hui, so these words did not stir his emotions at all. He was only a little curious about it.
“When natives live, will they be given a new death by the Pool?” Fan Tong finally started to speak in reverse again, for after all, blessings never come in pairs. Also, this curse really had an artificial intelligence and automatic learning function. It had actually learnt that the opposite of “migrant” was “native” so quickly…
“What on earth are you saying? Are you talking about how migrants keep resurrecting? The Empress and her Five Lords are all natives. Once they die, they are permanently dead; they will not be resurrected. The reason why migrants can keep being resurrected is because we arrive in this world as souls. We are dead souls that borrow a shell from the Sunken Moon to move. However, the Sunken Moon does not bestow the same treatment on the natives. It’s rather ironic, as the Sunken Moon is a thing of this world.”
Fan Tong felt that the ironic thing was that until now, he still did not know how he died and came to this world. Every time he thought about it, he felt very depressed.
“Of course, these circumstances are not absolute. Our Empress and the young King of Fallen Moon have inherited the power of the royal blood. One drop of it can resurrect a native that has been dead for less than six hours. This power can only be used once a month, but after using it, they will be in a weakened state for one whole day, which seems to be the reason why our Empress does not like using this ability. Every native can only be resurrected once in his entire lifetime, so Lord Wei values the lives of natives much more than those of migrants.”
Is the power of the royal blood the reason why they can become monarchs? Since they can only use the power once a month, then they must choose the person to resurrect very carefully. It would be terrible if they resurrected an unimportant person, only to have an important person die within a month, thought Fan Tong. Because Mi Chong started talking again, Fan Tong had to stop thinking and listen attentively.
“Also, migrants are not undying. There are two types of weapons in Fantasia, normal weapons and soul slayers.8 If a migrant is killed by a soul slayer, his soul will be shattered and cannot be resurrected. Lord Wei thinks that since migrants have the advantage of being resurrected, then in order to prevent the migrants from killing or hurting the natives, every native must be armed with a soul slayer. He even ruled that if a migrant murders a native without good reason, then the migrant must be killed by a soul slayer. Therefore, because East City is very protective of its natives, you must be careful not to offend any of them.”
Too bad Fan Tong had already offended one of them, and one of the big fishes at that. He hoped that Lord Luo would not be so petty as to bother with such a small thing.
“All the weapons here can talk, so don’t be too shocked when you meet one. Also, weapons need to first acknowledge you as their owner before they can be used, although this excludes tools such as vegetable knives. Weapons that do not need to acknowledge owners are typically weak. Later when we are on the road, I will teach you how to differentiate between natives and migrants…That’s right, I almost forgot. Just now, I said that I would tell about Fallen Moon.”
At this moment, Mi Chong put the bag he was carrying on his back down, saying that it was filled with clothes and daily necessities distributed by East City. Once again, Fan Tong said “you’re welcome” instead of “thank you”. Mi Chong was speechless for a while, but then continued talking.
“Fallen Moon refers to West City, and everyone calls it such. You should already know that, right? The young King of West City is named Engelaer.9 His current age is unknown; some say that he is eighteen, and some say that he is not even ten yet. Anyway, he is definitely below twenty, as according to Fallen Moon’s laws, kings below the age of twenty are not allowed to show themselves in public. I heard that a body double replaces him during public occasions, while the king himself hides his face, so I’m afraid that before he reaches maturity, no one will know what he looks like. The situation over there is very complicated…You must remember that the people from Fallen Moon are our enemies. If ever you meet them when you leave the city, you must attack them mercilessly.”
After saying so much in one breath, Mi Chong swallowed his saliva and breathed deeply as he rested for a moment. He then continued, “Their strength is determined by the color and number of bars sewn on their belts. The colors, from weak to strong, are bronze, silver, and gold. There are a maximum of five bars each for bronze and silver and three bars for gold. The strength of a person with three golden bars is equal to one with a pure black tassel, so very few people have those. Okay, that’s all. My mouth is tired already, let’s go.”
Fan Tong didn’t really have any objection to this, besides the fact that he wanted to sleep. However, when Mi Chong saw him put on the white tassel, he added another paragraph to his long speech.
“There’s one more thing I have to tell you. A person with a lower rank can request a duel with someone of a higher rank, and winning means that they can raise their rank. There is no penalty if the lower-ranked person loses. However, if the higher-ranked person loses, he will be demoted by one rank. For example, someone with a dark green tassel would be demoted to a green tassel. You are now a white tassel, so you don’t have to worry about this yet, but duels cannot be refused. Thus, in order to avoid trouble, you must have good relationships with everyone… Please don’t fight me!”
I’m not that cruel and competitive, you bastard.
After leaving Fan Tong’s house, Mi Chong said that he wanted to take him to the Academy first. Only then did Fan Tong know that he had to go to school and study. On the road, whenever they walked past an important place, Mi Chong would point it out to him and begin describing the place.
“Look, the life-support pool is to the east. If you’re not careful and die, that’s where you will be resurrected.
I know that, I was resurrected there yesterday. Fan Tong grieved in silence.
“Do you see that striking building over there? That is the Palace of the God Emperor, where Empress Xi Ying and the Five Lords stay.”
I know that already. Yesterday, I made someone hate me because of this building.
“The main gates are at the southernmost side of the city. It’s very majestic and magnificent!”
I know that too, I died once there yesterday.
As he replied to Mi Chong’s statements in his mind, Fan Tong recalled all the horrible things he had experienced since he had come to this world. He did not remember anything good at all.
There were many more people on the streets in the day than at night. The many different activities taking place, as well as the large crowd created an atmosphere befitting a large city. Fan Tong also took this opportunity to observe everyone’s tassels. He discovered that most people had blue or green tassels, and that red tassels were rarely seen, but still could be found if one looked hard enough. On the other hand, he did not see anyone with a purple or black tassel at all.
“Look over there, those people are natives.” Mi Chong suddenly pulled Fan Tong over and pointed at a group of people standing at a corner of the street. Fan Tong stared at those people for quite some time, but could not tell the difference between them and the migrants.
“Can’t you tell? There is no marking on the natives’ bodies.”
“Oh!” Fan Tong had an epiphany.
The reason East City made a marking on the body of every newly arrived migrant, was to ensure that migrants would be sent to the pool in East City when they died. West City also did the same thing. Natives would not be resurrected in the pool when they died, so naturally, there was no need for any marking.
This so-called marking was actually planted inside the body. People with the same kind of marking would radiate the same sort of wave; natives did not radiate any waves; and migrants from West City radiated a different kind of wave, making it rather easy to differentiate between all these types of people.10
“The Academy is right ahead, so let’s go there.”
By that time, Fan Tong had already felt like walking and sleeping at the same time. However, when he heard Mi Chong’s statement, he had no choice but to perk up and move forward.
“That’s right, what was your biggest regret or obsession when you died? I’m really curious about it.” Fan Tong felt a little troubled when Mi Chong suddenly asked him this question. He said, “I don’t know how I lived, and I don’t think that I lived either.”
“Eh? So you want to start your life all over again? What a bright and positive desire you have!”
I think that you have misunderstood me. I meant to say “died”, but it was reversed to “lived”. Even so, it’s amazing that the statement still has meaning, although it’s different from what I meant.
“Logically, only people with a deep regret or strong obsession can be attracted to this place. Some people are so obsessed with their past lives that they are unable to begin anew. Sigh, just look at that person over there for an example.”
Fan Tong looked in the direction that Mi Chong was pointing. He saw a man lying on the ground, repeating the meaningless phrase “I am the god of the new world!” over and over again with a twisted expression on his face.
“How did he die?” asked Fan Tong.
“I heard that he was shot dead by over two thousand bullets,” replied Mi Chong.
Wow, two thousand bullets! Is he Superman?
“The people who have come to this world die in all sorts of unexpected ways. I’ve heard that there is a woman in Fallen Moon who choked to death while eating an apple. However, after a few days, she disappeared. It seemed that she went back to life after spitting out the apple. Isn’t that amazing?”
Of course, this was a rather extreme example. After hearing this example, Fan Tong tried his best to remember whether he was eating something that would cause him to choke before coming to this world. If it was like that, he might have a chance at revival…
Unfortunately, he simply could not recall what he had for his Last Supper. Sigh.
The Academy was in the eastern part of East City. The important locations in East City were actually quite easy to remember; the Academy in the east, the Pool in the west, the main gates in the south, and the Palace of the God King in the north. Everything just happened to be in the north, south, east and west.
Because the city was huge, it would take quite a long time for one to walk from the westernmost part to the easternmost part. Thus, they used several teleporters during their journey. Fan Tong did not have the ability to remember a route he had only walked once, so he would have no choice but to depend on Mi Chong to take him back later.
I hope that Mi Chong can draw a map for me after I return home, Fan Tong prayed.
Since it was the place that trained all the talented people in East City, the Academy was naturally also immense and beautiful. After entering though the towering Academy doors, one could see three main structures: the School of Sorcery, the School of Charms, and the School of Martial Arts. The outdoor scenery and buildings of each school had their own unique design, and the décor was extremely intricate. Mi Chong took Fan Tong to the general affairs department for registration and to collect a new set of clothes. After that, he explained, “Usually, new students will study in all three schools. If they show talent in one particular school, they can begin to specialize. By the way, migrants and natives attend separate classes. Also, the head of the School of Sorcery is Lord Yin, the head of the School of Charms is Lord Ling, and the head of the School of Martial Arts is Lord Hui… although Lord Wei is temporarily taking his place.”
Fan Tong was rather confident in his calligraphy skills, so he might be pretty good at writing charms. Sorcery was something he had never come across before, so it would be nice to learn about it. However, he had absolutely no interest in martial arts. He was the type of idiot who could even trip over his own feet, so he didn’t think that he would do well in martial arts.
“Also, regarding the place you currently stay in…” said Mi Chong quickly, as he suddenly remembered about something that he hadn’t told Fan Tong yet. “You are staying there because you haven’t been assigned a bed yet. Basically, all white and green tassels live in three person rooms. The room will be much smaller than the one you have now, so you should be mentally prepared for that.”
He really could not look forward to hearing any good news in this world.
After the school registration procedure was complete, Mi Chong handed Fan Tong a class timetable. He nagged at Fan Tong, telling him not to be late for class, and then took him home.
“When your bed has been assigned, I will come and help you move over. This is my contact; if you have any problems, you can ask me. However, you have to learn some basic charms before you can use this… Ah, found it, here it is.”
Watching Mi Chong search for something so desperately, Fan Tong thought that Mi Chong had a present for him. However, all Mi Chong handed to him was a feedback form. “My guidance is rather thorough and detailed, isn’t it? So please write down your comments on this feedback form; I can get a bonus from this. Please give me a good rating and fill in ‘extremely satisfied’ for all the options.”
“…” Fan Tong was speechless. Just as he was struggling to fill the feedback form, the door next to his opened and someone came out.
“Yo, Mi Chong. Are you guiding a new person?”
“Yeah, you too? Is there anyone living here?”
“Err, there’s always been someone living here. It’s just that the person who was in charge of guiding him quit without telling anyone else, so everyone forgot about his existence. He hasn’t been going to the Academy for classes either. Luckily, a new person came yesterday, and someone noticed his situation while looking at the list of names. Thus, I was sent here to find out what was going on.” After that person had finished speaking, he mumbled, “But that person seems quite different from the description…”
“Oh, Fan Tong, you actually have a neighbor. There’s a good chance you two will be assigned to the same room, so you should get to know him.” Mi Chong patted Fan Tong’s shoulder. Coincidentally, Fan Tong also finished filling up the feedback form, so Mi Chong took it back and looked at it. He said, “… Fan Tong, you wrote my name wrongly. My name is Mi Chong, not Rice Weevil…”
By the time he had waved Mi Chong goodbye, it was already noon, so Fan Tong immediately went back to bed to catch up on sleep. When he woke up, it was already midnight and the moon had risen high up in the sky.
He did not want to, and also could not become a nocturnal animal. The classes at the Academy took place in the daytime, and there were no night lessons. He had to change this abnormal resting time, or else his future in East City would be bleak.
He suddenly realized that he was very hungry. After all, he hadn’t eaten anything for a day. Mi Chong had told him that state-provided “horrible-tasting nutritionless” basic food would he handed out at a fixed time on the streets, and that if he wanted to eat some better food, he would have to go to a restaurant. Of course, he would have to pay for the restaurant food.
Fan Tong had only been here for a day, so naturally, he did not have any money. Even if he waited for pay day, someone with a white tassel would not receive any money.
However, being hungry made him feel very sad. Being hungry while staring blankly in his house also made him feel very sad. Therefore, although shopping on the streets with an empty pocket was a very meaningless thing to do, Fan Tong still went out and walked towards the shops that did business at night.
After that, he quickly realized that although being hungry made him feel very sad, and being hungry while staring blankly in his house also made him feel very sad, being hungry while standing in front of a restaurant drooling at food made him even sadder…
A string of coin was equal to one hundred coins, and the cheapest food in this place cost three strings of coin… Mi Chong had told him that a person with a light green tassel could receive two strings of coin a month. Since the compensation for dying once was one hundred strings of coin, low-ranked people fell into debt very easily when they died. Also, only when one obtained a blue tassel could one receive more than ten strings of coin a month, so it was not good to depend on the monthly payout to cope with living expenses. Most people would look for another job so that they could earn more money—being a tour guide was one of the easiest jobs.
However, with this mouth of his, it was impossible for Fan Tong to become a tour guide. If he really took up the job, he could even be fined when people complained about him giving newcomers the wrong information.
Even if he continued standing here, no one would give him any food. Reluctantly, Fan Tong started to walk away. He decided to wander around randomly and take a walk, hoping he could temporarily forget about his hunger.
As Fan Tong wandered around without any destination in mind, he found himself walking past the main city gates. Also, the gates were open. This generosity was unusual for East City, so he examined the situation more closely. Then, he saw the silhouette of a person standing next to the city gates.
That silhouette looked rather familiar, so Fan Tong moved nearer to that person.
It was Lord Luo.
After recognizing that person as Lord Luo, Fan Tong wanted to turn around and run. However, he was curious why Lord Luo would go to the main city gates in the middle of the night instead of sleeping, so he stopped his feet from turning to face the opposite direction.
Under the faint and gentle moonlight, the young man’s silhouette looked a little like a floating illusion. It could even be said to look a little fragile.
He gazed at the scenery outside the city, unmoving, as if he was waiting for someone. The grey colors of sorrow stained his youthful and beautiful face.
It was rather cold at night during this season. Although Mi Chong had said that migrants’ bodies were rather good at resisting the cold, when the freezing wind blew upon his face, Fan Tong still felt the pain. One could tell how cold it was from just that.
Still, Lord Luo stood there like he didn’t feel the cold at all. He didn’t even look like he wanted to cover himself and make himself feel more comfortable.
That kind of silhouette looked extremely lonesome.
At that moment, Fan Tong suddenly wanted to ask Lord Luo for a random word, so that he could do some fortune-telling for him. He wondered whether this counted as a kind of career sickness.
It was just that, worrying over a problem was never healthy. Regardless of whether his fortune-telling was accurate or not, being able to untie a knot in another’s heart was always good.
“Who is it?”
When Lord Luo sensed someone behind him and turned around, he was wary and unfriendly. However, when he realized that the person was Fan Tong, he froze for a moment and then raised an eyebrow. “Fan Tong, why is it you again?”
“I was just passing by…”
“If you’re just passing by, then why did you stop here?” said Lord Luo. It seemed that Lord Luo was forcing him to speak. Fan Tong resigned himself to fate miserably and decided to explain himself. Suddenly, a string of growling sounds echoed, disrupting the silence of their surroundings. The source: Fan Tong’s stomach.
The expression Lord Luo gave him was extremely subtle. After a long pause, Fan Tong finally said, “I was just wondering if I could borrow three strings of coin from you to buy food with…”
The cold wind blew past.
Fan Tong felt that at this point, even if a crow flew past and cawed a few times, he would not find it weird at all.
Fan Tong’s Afterword:
Although the road was filled with many twists and turns, and I experienced some unimaginable things, I finally managed to settle down in my temporary house in East City. I settled down and yet I said that it was temporary, it’s temporary and yet I said I settled down, I know that this is very hard to understand, but I was hungry and tired at the same time. If you don’t understand, then just forget it.
Speaking of unimaginable things, I’d really never imagined that I would ever be trampled to death by a magical beast. I had already imagined being trampled to death by a horse, a cow, a cat, and a dog… What, you think that cats and dogs cannot trample people to death? Let me tell you, people who underestimate cats and dogs will be trampled to death by them one day. If you’re scared now, you can look for me and I will ease your distress and prevent any calamities happening to you. It’s just five hundred dollars for one consultation, the price is very reasonable… I’ve been a fortune-teller for way to long, and forgot that I’m not doing that anymore, so pretend I never said that. What!? It’s extremely weird for a fortune-teller to ease people’s distress and protect them from calamities? I’m a genius Jack of all trades, don’t be so finicky!
What’s worse, after my stomach was empty, my brain also became empty. I’ve already completely forgotten the things that Rice Weevil showed me today. It’s very hard to squeeze so many things into my brain in one go. If only I had a voice recorder, I could record what he said and revise them. However, looking at this place, such technology probably doesn’t exist. I could only rely on my unreliable brain. This really made me feel very uneasy.
…? What? I got his name wrong? Rice Weevil is so much easier to remember. Anyway, both sound the same, so he wouldn’t know what I was calling him. Calling him rice weevil helps me to remember his name, so it doesn’t matter! You ask me why I don’t call myself Rice Barrel? Quit joking! Which normal person would forget his/her own name after living for so many years? If you can find one… hundred and twenty people, I will write my name backwards!
Does the number one hundred and twenty have any special significance? Of course it doesn’t. The number one hundred and twenty doesn’t sound very sincere? So be it. My name sounds better when it’s written backwards? … Don’t go overboard bullying a person.
Okay, I’m going to eat now. Although I had thought about starving to death before when I opened my fortune-telling shop, I think that starving to death and then having to pay compensation for being resurrected is way too stupid. After all, there happens to be a kind and rich man nearby, so it’s okay to be a rice barrel11 once in a while.
… No, I guess I should eat less. I still have to return the money I borrow.
1 Demons: The literal translation is ‘ghost minions’, but that just sounds weird, doesn’t it?
2 Rice weevil: Mi Chong’s name sounds exactly the same as “rice weevil”.
3 matched Mi Chong’s name perfectly: Fan Tong sounds like “rice barrel”, and rice weevils are often found in rice barrels.
4 Empress Xi Ying: Xi Ying (矽櫻, pronounced see-ing) is the Empress’s name. The first word, Xi, means “silicon”, and Ying means “cherry blossom”.
5 “a slip of the tongue causes eternal regret; by the time one redeems oneself, one has already died a hundred times”: A word play on the Chinese idiom “一失足成千古恨，再回头已百年身” (yì shī zú chéng qiān gǔ hèn, zài huí tóu yǐ bǎi nián shēn) which means “one misstep causes eternal regret; by the time one redeems oneself, one is already a hundred years old”.
6 Lord Wei: The word “wei” (违) by itself hardly has any meaning unless it is paired with another word. It can mean both “disobey/against” or “separation”.
7 Gray tassel: A gray tassel is the second highest rank, just one rank below black. It is considered as the lowest of the black tassel ranks.
8 Soul slayers: 噬魂武器 (shì hún wǔ qì) in Chinese, which literally means “soul-devouring weapon”.
9 Engelaer: 恩格赖尔 (ēn gé lài ěr), pronounced urn-ger-lie-er. I simply can’t think of a better name, this name is supposed to be in English or some other Western language.
10 Radiate waves: The author actually says “emit a certain wavelength”.
11 Rice barrel: Besides being used to refer to a worthless person, rice barrel can also refer to a person who eats a lot.