He woke up in complete darkness with no sense of how long he had blacked out. His only perception was the pain wracking his ghostly body. Suddenly, a pair of eyes appeared in the darkness and stared directly into his with a piercing intensity. Any fear he had previously experienced was miniscule compared to the utter fright he now felt and for a moment he was oblivious to his pain.
A young ghost floating in front of him was intently staring at him, his face only inches away. From the look in his eye, he had been staring for quite some time and had come to a decision to take some action. Mo-Qian could not subdue his fright as he had no expectation that this stranger would treat him any differently than the previous one. He remained frozen, motionless, holding his breath, waiting for what would come next.
Sensing his trepidation the young ghost asked, “Why do you think I will hurt you?”
Mo-Qian considered the unexpected query for a moment and factored in his impression that he was imprisoned in a dungeon before responding. “Then why are you here?”
“This is ghost road. There are always many spirits passing through here. God, don’t you know that?” It appeared that the stranger had a faint smile on his lips but Mo-Qian couldn’t be sure because it was difficult to focus clearly on the transparent undulating visage so close to his face. He wasn’t sure whether the stranger was serious or mocking him.
He suddenly became aware that his consciousness was slowly being infused with innate knowledge of just how the ghost realm works and guessed that this process of cognition was itself part of the initiation process for a newly departed soul. I could have possibly been spared this pain If only it had happened sooner he thought.
Now he understood that the ghost road was dark because each ghost has a unique aura that provides them with their own source of light so they have no need of any external light source. They also are given knowledge of where to go and what to do so most won’t linger on ghost road, except for this stranger hovering around him for no reason
“Why are you here? Don’t you have any important spirit business to do?
“I’m just curious about what heinous crime you committed for you to deserve to be hung up in public.”
“Can you get me down?”
“Are you begging me?”
Mo-Qian was saddened by the strangers mocking laughter as he answered. Just like in the real world, everyone in the ghost world is selfish, not caring about a suffering soul. Apathy was never unexpected in the living world but he had never expected that after death, he would have to beg for help and on top of that be ridiculed for asking!
“Mo-Qian, you are so superior to me and so proud! Why do you ask this insignificant soul for help? You can do it yourself!”
“How do you know my name?” He was sure they had never met and was confused by the obvious derogatory contempt in his voice.
“I communed with your spirit a long time before you became aware of my presence and I know that while you were alive, you were a self centered opportunistic person and only valued people that could benefit your career or increase your business. Common people like me could not have been your friend when we were alive. And now that you need my help you want to be my friend?”
The stranger assumed an unapproachable posture with arms crossed defiantly across his chest, gloating with nearly sadistic enjoyment. Mo-Qian had little hope of getting any help from this ghost and was not accustomed to humbly begging. But, he was desperate and helpless so he mustered up as much humility as possible and again implored the stranger to get him down from the nail.
“I humbly beg you to help me!”
“Tell me what happened and I will consider whether or not I will help.”
The stranger was incredulous when he heard the account of the events that resulted in Mo-Qian being savagely assaulted and hung up on a telephone pole. “Did I hear right? You robbed another soul of a chance to escape? That’s a worse crime than stealing someone’s money! How could you even dare to do that?”
Mo-Qian looked back at him with bewilderment, speechless. How different the ghost world is from the human world. Mercy and goodness become unspeakable transgressions!
“Don’t look at me for sympathy, you did this to yourself! No wonder you are hung out here on a pole. Even that is too small a penalty for what you did. I don’t know the poor bastard you did this to, but I feel damn sorry for him. You just don’t understand how to act in the ghost world!”
Even though the stranger was staring at Mo-Qian with disdain and contempt, he finally was able to speak. “I only had the best intentions when I saved the girl from death, why do I deserve to be punished?”
“You finally expose your true character! You save a life to accumulate good deeds to keep out of hell. Ironically you are dead and will eventually go to hell anyway. You appear to be doing good deeds but you only want to mitigate your sins. A good intention does not expect reciprocation. If you are truly nice, you won’t wait until you are dead to do good deeds.” The stranger ghost turned away to leave.
Mo-Qian summoned up all the energy he had left to blurt out one last desperate mournful plea. “Wait, I can’t stand the pain! I don’t even know how long I have been here. Please help me!”
This pitiable supplication was more than the ghost could resist. His disdain subsided, replaced by an urge to help this old hopeless bewildered man crying in anguish. Maybe he really had been trying to do a good deed. That is no reason to punish him regardless of what he was like in the human world. If his ghost powers were fully developed, he could not have been hung on this post anyway. Obviously, his family had not performed all the traditional rituals or given sufficient offerings and prayers to prepare his soul for the spirit world. In the end we are all trapped here in the same condition so why not just help him.
He unhooked him from the nail and set him down but Mo-Qian did not have enough energy to move. He was totally helpless, wavering like a rag doll. He had been beaten so savagely that his ghost energy had been extricated from him. His aura was dim and fragmented; not even a complete ghost anymore. This condition was worse then death and if left on the road, Mo-Qian’s remaining energy would be robbed and he would not have any chance for reincarnation.
“I am eternally grateful to you! I owe you my life!”
“Don’t thank me yet. Your energy is so low that your aura is almost invisible. You need to find the souls that were separated from your spirit or you’ll soon disappear. Do you know how long you were hooked here? With this energy, there is no way to go too far. Can you really take care of yourself?”
“I feel so weak and confused. I don’t know where to start. I don’t think I can survive by myself.”
Mo-Qian just shook his head and sighed. He had no way to fully comprehend the difficult task ahead of him.
“I will help you complete your mission to find your missing souls. Otherwise my saving you would be a senseless waste.”
For the first time, Mo-Qian realized how important it is to have help from others. Ironically, when he was alive, he had never wanted or asked for help from anyone but now in death, fate had delivered a benefactor in his time of greatest need. Suddenly his attention focused on the pain in his shoulder that he had been unconsciously rubbing while contemplating his newest revelation. He wasn’t really sure if the pain was residual from dying or from the harrowing ordeal he had just experienced.
“What is your name big brother?”
“Big brother? I am much younger than you. My name is Qu-Kai (Chee-Ky).
“By the way, how did you know my name when you first met me?”
Qu-Kai’s eyes momentarily widened in surprise. “Every spirit has a label marking their name. Some even have a banner declaring their purpose if they have a special mission to complete. You should be able to see them. I’m surprised that you were so unprepared that you arrived in the ghost realm without even possessing this simple ability!”
“I can’t do it. Even before I was attacked and lost most of my energy I did not have this skill. I have no understanding of what I can do in this world or what I am supposed to do. Can you tell me how you acquired these capabilities?”
Qu-Kai began to laugh uncontrollably. “You mean tell you how I know how to be a ghost?”
Although he felt awkward and embarrassed Mo-Qian knew he must gain this knowledge and nodded affirmatively.
“Each ghost will know instinctively how to be a ghost. The only difference is in the strength of the skills. The longer you are a ghost, the more you understand about it and your skills increase in strength when your family performs the rituals and chants the prayers for the departed that keep them safe and strong. Each spirit must register according to their life plan of fate and are met after death by an escort to complete the process so they can proceed to their final destination. But, spirits like us that have unexpectedly died before their planned time have no escort and are stuck in this nether world of endless night and day cycles. We are not happy here and all are compelled to escape and move on. We are forced to find our own path to the completion of our fate.”
Mo-Qian finally began to understand the reason for this confusing and frustrating existence. He became saddened at the thought that his family was so negligent and uncaring about the welfare of his soul that they had not performed any of the rituals to ensure his safe passage to reincarnation. Tears began welling up in his eyes at the thought that even his younger brother, his favorite of all the family members, had not done anything to help him.
“Your family didn’t hire the monks to chant the ceremonies for you?” Qu-Kai sensed this must be the reason for his soul to be so weak and confused.
Mo-Qian just stood there silently.
“Come with me and I will show you a place where you can restore your lost energy and then we can go look for your souls. Put your hand on my shoulder and don’t let go.” Qu-Kai knew there must be a long story behind the deep sadness of his newly found companion but thought it best to attend to the more urgent matter of getting Mo-Qian healthy before delving into his past life.
Qu-Kai looked back to make sure Mo-Qian was firmly attached to him and together they departed from ghost road.