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Title: Phantasm (幻世)
Series: Key to the Sunken Moon (沉月之鑰)
Author: Shui Quan (水泉 - click here for the author's blog + novel previews)
Media type: Novel
Disclaimers: I don't own this series, but please don't distribute without asking me beforehand (e.g. copy/paste to journals, forums etc.). Just link directly to my journal. Also, please do NOT post on any pay-to-view websites. Only Shui Quan and publishers deserve to make any money from this. Thanks :)

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Essential notes:

Fan Tong:
The character’s name (
范統) is a homonyn to ‘worthless trash’ (飯桶), and is commonly used in scolding someone for being useless

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Prologue – A New Life

“To be precise, this should be called the transition between my old life and my new…” – Fan Tong
 
 

The time was the middle of the night. The location was just outside the Sunken Moon’s passageway. The situation was that, after chasing away a group of people, another group of people were now gathered around a dying person, unsure of what to do.

That dying person was called Fan Tong, a new citizen who had just arrived in this world. Normally, he should have been whisked safely away to either the Eastern City or the Western City, but unfortunately for him, he had run into the crossfire between the two parties, and had been struck head-on by a giant fireball thrown out by the Western City folks. The result was that the people from the Eastern City were now still lingering around the passageway, after having chased off the Westerners, and were fretting about this unique situation.
 
“Lord Luo Shi! His soul’s ready to leave his body at any moment!”


“Lord Luo Shi! What should we do? Do we heal him? Or put him out of his suffering?” 

Being questioned by the throng of people was a beautiful, young boy, who was displaying a rare uncertainty as compared to his usual solemnity.

Even though he was the leader of these people, he seemed unable to make up his mind.

If Luo Shi’s difficulty were of a mental sort, then Fan Tong’s was physical. Ever since he had entered this world, he hadn’t a clue what was going on. First he’d thought it was a dream, then he was told he was already dead, and now it seemed he was going to die again?

Even though he didn’t want to die, he felt that getting healed or just dying straight away would feel infinitely better than staying in this sorry, bloody state of absolute agony that bordered, but did not result in, death.
 
“Which pool will his soul get transported to if he dies here…?”

Luo Shi asked with a stony face. He had never encountered a new citizen dying just on arrival on this world, before he’d even been processed. He didn’t know whether the citizen would emerge from the pool like ordinary citizens after dying, and if the citizen was transported over to Western City, wouldn’t that mean gifting them with extra manpower? They’d come here to snatch people, so this was an extremely serious matter.

Although Fan Tong could understand their language, but without any necessary knowledge about the situation, he still didn’t understand what they were talking about.

“Kill me…”

After managing to squeeze out this one sentence, Fan Tong realised with a sinking heart that he’d been betrayed yet again by his own mouth.

He’d meant to say don’t kill me, but its meaning got inverted. If he really were to die because of this, he would definitely go back and wreck his revenge on the woman who cursed him…

But second thoughts, he was already dead, and the idea of having to travel thousands of miles to find someone seemed fairly troublesome, so he reconsidered his plan. 

“Are you…”

Luo Shi hesitated, looking doubtful as he asked,

“…In a lot of pain?”

No shit! Only a spoilt brat who’d never been hit by a fireball would ask a question like this!

Fan Tong shouted in the depths of his heart. Though, if anyone who’d never been hit by a fireball was called a spoilt brat, then an awful lot of people in the world would be spoilt brats- but he didn’t have the energy to question his own reasoning.

“Not in the slightest!”

He wasn’t putting on a strong face. It was just his curse acting up.

Can you stop forcing me to talk at times like this? Because then, I can’t talk, but I can’t not talk either. Fan Tong felt immensely helpless and woeful.

Luo Shi’s expression as he stared at him became a little funny, probably because he looked like he was in great pain, yet at the same time he was demanding to be killed and insisting that it didn’t hurt. This contradictory behaviour was not something he could understand.

Fan Tong wanted to ask them, if they weren’t going to kill or save him, whether they could administer some pain-killers. Just as he was considering how he could express himself clearly, he suddenly noticed that everyone had adopted a respective stance, and even shuffled amongst themselves to clear a path. It appeared someone was coming.

“Lord Ling Shi.”

After that person arrived by Luo Shi’s side, he was able to make out their features under the light spilling from the passageway, and the sight of it made Fan Tong goggle.

Is… is she a goddess? So this might be heaven after all?

“Ling Shi, how should we proceed…?”

Luo Shi chewed on his lip, and made his request a little reluctantly. He was also the one who had used the talismanic transmitter to call Ling Shi over, and he felt a little dejected at having to rely on others when he didn’t know how to handle a situation.
 
As for Ling Shi, she only considered the matter for a moment before issuing her order.

“Throw him back into the passageway and kill him, he’ll be reborn.” 

Fan Tong went from heaven to hell in an instant. 

So she wasn’t a goddess, but a demon?

“So the passageway has the power of rebirth too.”

Luo Shi sighed with relief, revealing an expression of ‘it's that simple’, and held up a paper talisman on one hand.

W-wait… Fan Tong’s eyes widened, wanting very much to ask them to stop, but nine out of ten times it would probably come out as “hurry up”, “bring it on” and the like. Although he stood a one in ten chance of expressing himself clearly, would these people even care about what he said?

“Seeing as you say your existing injuries don’t hurt, this shouldn’t hurt either.”  

Luo Shi probably saw his terrified expression, so he gave a little explanation to reassure him. 

But to begin with, the whole ‘it doesn’t hurt’ business was a misunderstanding.  

The subordinates picked up Fan Tong’s body and threw him into the passageway, not taking ‘no’ for an answer. Fan Tong felt that they were tossing him away like he was a corpse, and the last thing he saw before ‘this’ death was Luo Shi holding a paper talisman, leaping forward, then throwing the talisman that ignited by itself in one beautiful move.
 
“Fire Seal!”
 
The sight and searing sensation were more or less the same as the giant fireball, but it was only later that Fan Tong learned that the fire seal was the most basic attack in seal arts…

Although it seemed a little strange, but Fan Tong hoped that he would die his first, commemorative death in this world by being killed by a grand finishing move! This would surely be the envy of all those who had no choice but to die!

Being finished off by this kind of petty seal art was like a proclamation that he’d be nothing but an insignificant nobody, forever unable to make it big in the world--

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