As Ming became fully immersed in this memory, she forgot the fight with the Kindred, the Kuei-Jin, the sarcophagus and even that this was a vision of her past. She and Cheng Liu cut the lilies into different shapes. Ming had been sent out to play with her friend in the garden because both their parents were seeing very important guests.
As they cut the lilies Ming and Liu talked. They talked about the upcoming festivals and news from their families.
The upcoming Ching Ming festival was mentioned. Ching Ming being the Remembrance of Ancestors Day, discussions of death and afterlife arose between them. Liu turned to her "Ming, what do you think happens when we die? My parents say that we are reborn when we die". Ming answered this best she could "I think we are reborn too, I hear that what you do in life can affect what we are reborn as". "What would you want to be reborn as?" Ming asked Liu
"I what to be reborn as a hawk" Liu replied her arms out stretched mimicking the bird "so I can fly over everyone". "I would want to be reborn as dragon" Ming said "Then nobody would be able to tell me what to do". Ming pondered for a moment and then remembered something she had heard, something quite scary. She liked to tease Liu with that sort of thing.
"I also hear that if you are really evil in life or if you die in nasty way you can't be reborn" she said to Liu "then you are never allowed to be reborn or age or die and you have to spend forever feeding of people's souls, until someone finally kills you for good". Liu laughed "Stop it Ming, you're scaring me!", "It's true, I heard once someone ran into one" she told Liu, "Ming!" Liu protested "They later found his body strapped to a bamboo tree, his eyes were white and empty and his mouth was open were his soul had been sucked out" Ming said putting on a scary voice. "Ming, please I don't want to have nightmares!" Liu said laughing.
Before she could say anymore they were both called indoors, they promised to see each other the next day and said their farewells. When Ming arrived home she saw that there were presents laid out for her and her family. She was allowed to open some; she found that most were thing like cookery books, a wok and some hair pins. Ming was just about to open another one when...
In a flash she was in her sanctuary again, the memory had ended. Ming found herself hovering above her corpse again disoriented from her recollection. She then continued trying to re-enter her body.
After three hours of vain and frustrating attempts, Ming entered another memory of her past. She found that she was being carried in chair and she couldn't see in front of her as a red cloth was blocking her vision. She also smelt of grapefruit for some reason. But then she realised that this must have been the day of her arranged marriage to Chao Xun Yu.
She was now thinking about how unhappy she was with this; she didn't want to marry anyone and this was against her will. Most of the friends she knew ended up becoming full time house wives and mothers. Although not all of them were slaves to their husbands. In fact some of them treated their husbands like slaves.
As she was carried towards Xun Yu's house she could hear seeds, which were signs of fertility, being scattered in front of her. When she arrived in the house her chair was placed on a red mat. Then she guided over a saddle and lit stove. She was walk beside Xun Yu and they both paid homage to Heaven and Earth, the family ancestors and the Kitchen God, Tsao-Chün.
After this the cloth covering her face was removed slowly by a pair of trembling hands. The she finally saw the face of her husband; he was pale and looked even more nervous than how Ming felt. "Is this who I've been arranged to marry" he's pathetic Ming thought to herself "why couldn't I have a warrior or at least someone half brave". Xun and Ming were then led up to the bridal chamber.
Were they both given a warm goblet of rice wine which they took sipped and then exchanged cups and downed them. Then for rest of the day she was to sit on the bed while people would come in and take glances at her. Then at night they were to lie next to each other, while people came and teased them. While this was going on they were perform acts of intimacy in front of them.
At midnight the guests finally left and Ming and Xun were left alone together. A book was also left with them; Ming opened the book and saw that demonstrated many sexual acts a couple would perform together. They took the hint and just when Ming was going to make the first move the vision ended and Ming was back in her sanctuary.
These remembrances were going to drive Ming to the brink of her sanity; it was no wonder to her that so many Kuei-Jin lost their way after going through the little death.
Ming made more attempts at trying to resurrect her corpse but before she could have a chance she experienced yet another memory.
Ming was talking to Xun's mother who was concerned about their relationship. "It has been over a year since the two of you got married and you yet to bear him any children" Xun's mother said to Ming "maybe you are incapable of having children". "I conceived once" Ming protested "so I'm not infertile". "You did, but you lost it in the middle of your third month" she said again to Ming "so there is something wrong with you that is stopping you bearing him an heir".
"You also treat Xun like a slave giving him orders and making him do the house work" Misses Chao continued "Didn't Confucius say that a woman should serve her husband". "With all due respect, if Xun was a real man he would stand up for himself" Ming replied "I should not have to bear the children of a coward; I should have been married to a warrior". To Ming's surprise Misses Chao sighed and said "You're right on this. Xun was always a coward; he was afraid of the dark, water, lightning and would never stick up for himself".
"However, I have to urge you to make an effort to give me a son, before it's too late" Miss Chao said. "Too late? We have plenty of time" Ming replied,
"Do you? I get older by the day and Xun has done something very foolish" Miss Chao said "he has joined the emperor's army, to prove that he is a real man".
"Perhaps they'll finally make a warrior of him".
"No, He'll get himself killed, Japan is making moves to invade Korea and we will be dragged into this war. He won't last a second against those Japanese devils" Miss Chao answered.
The vision then skipped forward to when Xun was leaving, He was enthusiastic about it "We'll beat those Japanese dogs out and return as heroes". He then held Ming "When I return I'll be a warrior, I'll take of your feet and you will bear my sons". For once Ming did not discourage him in his ambitions and let him go. She was happy to see him go and did not look forward to his return. With Xun gone she could spend more time with Liu as they much preferred each other company to their husbands. But Xun never returned from Korea.
The memory ended and after a few more attempts to restore her corpse Ming was plunged into another one. This one, however, was of happier times. Ming was in her bedroom with Cheng Liu, they both reading through each other's books. Cheng Liu husband was also away in Korea, he had never been interested in her in anyway, so like Ming they had had no children. Ming was seeing Liu practically every day, they would play games, read books and end the day with a trip to the public bath house. Miss Chao had died shortly after Xun had left, thus making Ming by default the mistress of the household.
These happy times ended when Ming received a letter from Xun.
My dearest Ming
It is with deepest regret that, I say that I will not return to China. I have met a beautiful Korean lady Ran Ji Sang. Whist fighting the siege of Pyongyang to free it from Japanese occupation, I was knocked unconscious. I awoke to find myself her house, there she nursed me back to health and soon after we fell in love.
She may not have your beauty, but beauty is only as deep as the skin and you have treated me as a slave.
If I ever said anything you would either shout me down or seduce me in thinking otherwise. Ran Ji Sang is kind to me and we generally love each over, which is more than can be said for our forced marriage. There is no going back, she already bears my child. The reason we couldn't conceive was obviously due to you, which comes as no surprise as I doubt anything could have grown in your poisonous womb.
I will remain with here in P'yŏngan Province, with Ran Ji Sang who I hope to one day marry. But I will never return to China. You will most likely have to remarry and with your beauty I'm sure you'll find many suitors but I feel sorry for anyone that finds themselves stuck with you.
Yours Chao Xun Yu
Ming felt both saddened and furious that he had betrayed her. But then she considered what she had to do: hiding the letter so that no-one would find it. Her life was perfect already: she was safe and provided for, and the idea of remarrying didn't attract her. With the help of Liu, she wrote forged letters from her husband, to prolong the illusion of their marriage.
She had one concern, which was as strong in her memory as it had been back then: she knew Xu wrote a diary and she was certain it would detail his affair and his decision of leaving her. For days she shivered in fear, wondering how she could retrieve it and what would happen to her should her scheme be discovered.
As she returned to the present time in the chamber of her sanctuary, Ming remembered that the diary of her late husband was, in fact, in her possession; it was later given to her by Kuei-Jin ancestor Lee Young Hyun, one of the heads of the North Korean Choson Courts. It had been found in an old house outside Pyongyang, Ming had never knew how she had tracked it down but was grateful to receive a part of her mortal life.
After long and blurred scenes of her life with Liu, her vision slipped forward to the news that Xun had died in one of the last battles of the war with Japan. She had acted like she was deeply upset by this, but by that time her feelings for his had long since vanished. Liu had also lost her husband but she was just as indifferent.
Ming knew that she and Liu would not have to remarry as they were now considered chaste widows, a status which granted them control over their husband's estates.
Ming's brother in law Wen Gang didn't like the idea of Ming taking of the family estate. In order to revoke Ming's chaste status He tried several times to spread rumours about Ming saying that she was having affairs. However, the fame of her love letters to his husband had spread so much no one would doubt her virtue.
The feud with her brother in law protracted, as a painful memory which rushed towards her death and the event that led to her rebirth. She was walking by herself in her garden thinking about her upcoming arrangements. She stood by the pond in her garden, when she felt a sharp burning feeling in her chest. She looked down to see a wodao piecing through her chest. The shock was so great that she felt no pain, in fact she actually laughed. Then the blade was removed as quickly as it had come, and she was thrown to the floor. Blood pouring out her mouth and her gaping wound, Ming lay dying, until a final blow was struck and she met her death.
Ming the experienced the Yomi and the torture that the Yarma Kings had installed for her. The hells of boiling fat were she fried in her own flesh like a piece of raw meat being cooked. The hells of burring maggots were she could only watch as her body was consumed buy worms, insects and disease and has soon as she had fully rotted in nothing her form would regenerate. The hells of freezing were she frozen naked trapped in an arctic wasteland. She cried for mercy but the malevolent Yarma Kings gave none. Eventually after a mouth of suffering she could take it no longer and her soul broke free of the confines of the Yomi and she returned to life.
When she awoke she found herself buried underground after clawing out of own grave she felt nothing but a desperate hunger, Then everything else became a blur. She had no idea what happed from then on and she could feel was hunger, desperate hunger. She kept eating to relive this hunger but she did not know what she was eating. She devoured her meal until her hunger was quelled and replaced by numbness. A familiar scream filled her head, as she closed her eyes and lost consciousness
Ming awoke to find herself alone in a field in the middle of the night. She was covered in blood, her hair was matted and torn and stained with blood. Her Ruqun was torn to such an extent that her left breast was hanging out. She didn't understand, had she been attacked? Her body showed no sign of wounds, and she was in no pain. In fact, she felt utterly satisfied and well.
As she pieced together her memory, she realized Liu was lying on the ground beside her, her mouth open in a silent scream. A hole had been ripped in her stomach and parts of her flesh had been eaten.
For a few seconds, Ming couldn't look away, too shocked to even think about what was before her.
Then it hit her that there was but one, simple explanation. She had killed her closest friend.
Grief overcame her, but before she could fully grasp the horror of her actions, she was approached by a man and a woman.
They resembled prefects. Stricken with guilt she immediately handed herself over to them confessing to everything and said that she would take any punishment they would impose on her.
But they weren't prefects. They were Kuei Jin.
What Ming remembered of the following days was a confused alternation of lessons in the ways of the undead and an overwhelming feeling of guilt for her friend. But as she learned to stay away from the light she fought her grief as well.
Short after, Ming was taken into her home town, the ground was thick with snow.
Ming found her house and knocked on the door. Her mother answered but she did not get the response she had expected.
"Who are you?" she asked,
"It's me, Ming, you daughter, don't you recognize me?" Ming replied.
"My daughter is dead" The mother replied coldly
"But I'm here standing here right in front of you!"
"The body of my daughter stands in front of me but you are no longer her, you are no longer my daughter. You may take her things but never darken this community with you presence again demon".
Ming gathered her things and left. Distraught and now rejected by everybody she knew from her pass life, she headed off to begin her training for her new life as a Kuei-Jin.
The memories ended and Ming felt herself re-entering her body.
Every cell her reorganized and moulded into a human shape, like water taking the shape of a container.
She had survived the dreaded little death.
Bringing herself up, she spoke her first words in three days "I live again".