Mo-Qian was not sure how long they had drifted over a dense bamboo forest when they came upon a hidden lake. Qu-Kai left him in a small clearing at the edge of the lake while he looked around carefully to make sure they were alone. “It’s safe for you to go bathe in the lake now and after a little while you will feel much better. The lake is hidden in the mountain in a secret place that only ghosts know how to find. It absorbs the energy from the sun, moon and stars and healing minerals from the mountain soil. That’s what can replenish your energy.” They stayed there until dawn when they once again were forced to recede to the shadows to avoid exposure to the sun’s intense rays.
The next day, despite the fact that Mo-Qian still looked very fragile, Qu-Kai asked him a question that might be a sensitive issue. “So, do you have any money?”
Mo-Qian became instantly hostile. The thing he hated most when he was alive was people that mentioned money to him because they usually didn’t have enough and were trying to get some of his. And now he was stuck, helpless in a strange place without any money himself thanks to his negligent relatives. “I thought we were going to look for my souls? Why are you suddenly asking about money?”
“It’s not much different here than in the human world. If you want a service, you have to spend money to get it.”
“I am weak and feel sick; barely even a ghost and you ask me about money? That isn’t even humane!”
“Don’t get so agitated, I am here to help you. If you have no money, I have to know in case we need a favor from another ghost. I don’t have a job, only the money my family provides through offerings. I don’t have enough to support you as well.”
“OK, let’s not fight about it, the first thing we need to do is to find my souls. Where can we go to look for them?”
“First we go to your shrine at the temple and then to the cemetery to see if your two shadow souls can be found.”
They found both shadow souls intact but they were too fractured for Mo-Qian to rejoin them to his primary soul; the essence of his being.
“We need the help of the landlord god of the district to reintegrate your souls. Whether or not he will assist you depends on your good fortune.”
“How can we find this landlord god of the district?”
“Take me to the place where you regain consciousness each day and we will see if there is a god there that can help you.”
When they arrived, Qu-Kai looked around and finally stopped by a large banyan tree. He took a branch and began beating on the tree trunk crying out in a loud voice. “Oh honorable and gracious god of this district, a poor spirit urgently needs your help to reunite his fractured souls to make himself strong and whole again.” He continued to beat the tree, repeating his supplication until an old bearded man appeared on the road.
“Why are you disturbing me? Ghosts are not my business. I am just a minor god and cannot help you. You must go to the underworld and seek out Ye Lou-Wang (Yeh Low-Wong). He has the power to do what you ask.”
Mo-Qian cried out in desperation, “Honorable god, we are ghosts trapped here by the fate of unexpected death and can’t go anywhere. Not only can I not go to the underworld, I am so broken that I am not even a complete ghost!”
The Earth god surveyed the two innocent spirits standing before him and comprehended how serious Mo-Qian’s problem was and how helpless he was to resolve the situation. In a moment of compassion, he offered his help and advised Mo-Qian about how to proceed.
“I can see that it is written in your plan of fate to lose the soul energy of your life experiences. He paused for a moment considering Mo-Qian’s predicament and then continued. “I feel that you are a loyal man and deserve my help so I will give you a special hulu gourd which you will need to regain your soul’s energy. You must collect all seven of your souls in this hulu and return them to me in 49 days or you will vaporize and have no chance for reincarnation. Remember 49 days is all you have, now go.”
“Well, I guess you are the only one now that can help yourself.” Qu-Kai’s expression was relaxed for the first time since his death.
“How do I know where to search? You have been a ghost a lot longer than me and should have some clue about what I need to do. I don’t understand anything and have no ghost skills.” Mo-Qian’s gaze fixated on the wooden gourd in his hand with a look of bewilderment on his face.
“Hey, don’t try to push the responsibility back on me. I can leave any time you know!” Do you think I have nothing better to do than help you all day long? Besides that, I haven’t gained any compensation for my efforts.” His face was suddenly filled with loathing as he thought about people that only cared about wealth. “Are you one of those ruthless miserly people that values riches above anything else? Those are the people I hated most when I was alive.”
Mo-Qian was silent for a long time before he replied. “Damn it, if I had money I wouldn’t be in such bad shape now.” He thought of all the wealth he had lavishly spent when he was alive, never imagining there would be a time when he would desperately need it but would not have it. He had vowed that he would never want for money and devoted his entire life to ensuring that he did not break the vow. Although, he supposed, somewhere deep in his sub-consciousness he always knew that money is only temporal but had never consciously given thought of its importance in the afterlife. You are born naked without any money and when you die everything you have accumulated remains behind to be consumed by mostly undeserving relatives.
“You will have to find your relatives and influence their dreams to motivate them to perform rituals and burn paper money for you to use here. Money talks you know!”
Mo-Qian could only bow his head forlornly thinking about his hopeless situation. The only asset he had was his new friend and at times it seemed as if that relationship was in a precarious state.
“When I see you this way, I can tell that you have nobody to worship for you. Otherwise your spirit would not be so frail. Ancestors can only be stable and find peace if their descendants are diligent about performing all the rituals necessary to support their journey in the afterlife.”
Mo-Qian finally broke the silence . “To be an ancestor, you have to have children!”
“You are over fifty years old. You can’t be a virgin like me!” Qu-Kai began laughing with devilish glee.
“What are you laughing at? I don’t find that funny at all.”
“My God, I was just kidding you. Do you really believe that I am so degenerate that I couldn’t get even one girl to have sex with me?” Qu-Kai continued the boisterous laughter.
“I have no heirs so why don’t you go to your descendants in a dream and tell them you need more money to help a poor old man?” Mo-Qian had enough of Qu’s chiding and decided to give him a little taste of it. He was pleased to see that his remark had wiped the smile from Qu’s face but the atmosphere became very tense. He wondered if he had been a little too severe with his retort and was worried that he might alienate his new benefactor and thus dash any hope of finding his lost souls.
“I should have known you were an ungrateful bastard! I shouldn’t have rescued you.”
“Come on, good buddy, can’t you take a joke? I was just playing along with your kidding mood. How can you be so heartless to say you shouldn’t have rescued me?” Mo-Qian gave him an ingratiating smile in an attempt to repair any damage he had done by lashing out.
“You’re so full of shit! But anyway, let’s get serious about your problem. Don’t you have any living relatives?”
“I have two brothers. My older brother is married and my younger brother was married but is now divorced and single. From what I can recall, they only performed the farewell ceremony.”
“They didn’t pay the monks to chant the rituals for 7 days before the farewell ceremony?”
“A few days after I died, they had my funeral and burned my body. They didn’t even chant to call me back to my home after 7 days. That’s why I wasn’t sure if I was really dead.” Mo-Qian shook his head in disgust.
“God damn them, what ruthless people! No wonder your spirit is so transparent! Go back to them and ask them in their dreams to do the rituals. If they won’t do it, just haunt them to teach them a lesson until they figure out what to do.”
“There are no direct descendants and by tradition they are not obligated to do the rituals for me.”
“Then go to your closest brother and give him a dream suggestion to prepare all the proper food offerings and to burn paper money for you. Be sure to give him the thought that this is very urgent for your reincarnation. He will do this for you?”
“Yes, I think my younger brother will do this.”
“Then go to him tonight and give him the dream.”
“Why are you so anxious? What’s the hurry?”
“Have you forgotten? You need to find your souls and you only have 49 days to do it. You have no money, and don’t know how to find them or where to go. At most, I can only accompany you and help when I can.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t ask you for money. By the way, I forgot to ask how you died. You are so young. And why are you stuck here?”
At that, Qu-Kai became pensive. “I’ll tell you in time. But, right now, your problems are more important than mine. Your funeral happened so fast. Don’t you have any friends or relatives you want to see?”
“How can I do it by myself in this condition?”
“I guess that is true but I can go with you. Besides, I am interested to see your brother and find out how he could be so cruel and heartless.”