|“||I will pray for peace.||”|
A young lady that used to be very popular among the people. At one point in time, she was the symbol of harvest and fortune. However, it seems she has lost that symbol now.
Laba Congee is a type of congee enjoyed during the Laba festival in China. It is often served during family gatherings and have become a symbol of unity and peace.
How to Acquire
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|Contract||Ah, I didn't expect anyone to remember me... Yes, I'm Laba Congee, and I am awesome!|
|Log In||Every day when Master Attendant comes here, I feel like my life is full~|
|Ice Arena||It doesn't matter if it's a bit cold. I've been this way for thousands of years~|
|Skills||Get back, evil demons!|
|Ascend||Will my fame also increase as a result?|
|Fatigue||I'm sorry... Perhaps I took too many risks...|
|Recovering||No problem, just wait a moment.|
|Team Formation||This time I'll make a memorable impression!|
|Knockout||They haven't... come back...|
|Notice||Master Attendant, the food is ready. Do you want to eat some laba congee with me? It's very tasty!|
|Idle 1||Alone for so long... but I'm used to it.|
|Idle 2||They still haven't returned? Then... I'll use this opportunity to prepare supplies for the ritual.|
|Interaction 1||Eh? Did you notice my new hair accessory? Well, does it... does it suit me...?|
|Interaction 2||I'm quite unpopular. You can't judge a book by its cover, right?|
|Interaction 3||Oh, this is not a hat.|
|Pledge||Compared to being cherished by you, what'd forgotten years matter? There is nothing that I treasure more. Please, let me be by your side.|
|Intimacy 1||Today, the neighbors asked me to help them drive up ghosts. What an interesting day!|
|Intimacy 2||Are you coming to help with the housework? That's great! I'm a little busy so I can't!|
|Intimacy 3||Of course, I'll listen to you. You're important to me. I never want to make you worry.|
|Beach Party event, Doll Adventure event.|
- The Laba Festival is held on the eighth day of the twelfth month of the Chinese calendar, corresponding to January of the Gregorian calendar.
The ritual bell swayed gently as its crisp ringing echoed through the evening’s waning sunlight. The breeze of the late afternoon scattered the clouds as the dance was completed, I stood still on the altar as my Master Attendant behind the altar nodded at me. I caught my breath, gently wiping off the drops of sweat across my brow.
Master Attendant drew his sleeves, informing the audience below the altar of the conclusion of the sacrificial ritual. The silent crowd exploded in a display of applause and cheers.
I accompanied Master Attendant in stepping down from the altar as people carrying baskets laden with all sorts of fruits and vegetables gathered around.
“High Priest, these fruits were freshly picked by our family! They’re really sweet!” “High Priest, these cabbages are from our farm, fresh as can be!” “High Priest…” “High Priest.”
Shoved into the center of the crowd, Master Attendant put on an extremely reassuring smile, patting the hair of a child who squeezed his way through the crowd.
“Thank you! You’re too kind! Your happiness and peace is the best gift you could give!”
I braced my Master Attendant, exhausted from the ritual processes, against myself and returned to our residence, offering him a pot of freshly brewed tea. Master Attendant gently patted the back of my hand, gesturing for me to take a seat beside him.
“Laba Congee, take a break, come here and drink a cup with this old man.”
I nodded and seated myself by Master Attendant’s side. Holding the cup of tea with steam slowly rising from its surface, I let out a long sigh. Master Attendant gave me a kind smile, his bony hand tucking my tousled hair behind my ear.
“It’s all thanks to you, Laba Congee, this old bag of bones would never be able to keep this up otherwise.” “That can’t be true Master Attendant, you pray every day, sincerely presenting offerings to the heavens, of course you’d be granted good health!” “You and your sweet talk, hurry up, it’s about time to distribute alms, can’t be late for that.” “Right, I’ll take my leave now. Rest well, Master Attendant.”
I dashed out of the house, carrying the pots of porridge prepared by the kitchen with the helpers to the shed at the front of the residence, where the poor and homeless have queued up and were waiting patiently.
I filled bowls with porridge from the pots and handed them out to whoever came up, and our neighbors who were free put aside their idle work and came by to help distribute too.
A girl whose hair was tied up neatly with a pretty string came to my side, picked up a bowl and somewhat unsteadily handed it to a hunched-over elderly citizen.
I patted the top of her head and thanked her, but she said something unexpected. “Thank you, Miss Laba Congee, isn’t that just how it is! Miss Laba Congee and Grandpa High Priest are such good samaritans and since you have such faith in Gods, God must be good too, anyone who doesn’t have faith must be a bad person!”
I was taken aback slightly, but seeing the clarity in the expression of her eyes, I couldn’t help patting her head.
“Does Aoi have faith in God?” “Yup! He granted us a good harvest, put the clothes on our backs and the food on our plates.” “That’s great, you gotta give your thanks to God, but those who don’t have faith in him aren’t necessarily bad people, you know.” “Eh… Why is that?” “Uh… Anyway, they’re not all bad people. That’s why, when Aoi meets people whose faith is in other gods, you have to respect them too.” “... Okay. Aoi understands.”
The turn of the dynasty passed like any other dawn and dusk. The old emperor abdicated, and the first thing the new generation did once enthroned was deprive the religion officials and teachers of the state entrusted by the previous generation of their political rights.
Even though this was quite saddening to me, it was understandable. After all, it’d be childish to leave everything up to the “voice of God”. However, what followed was the people’s contempt towards religions.
The once highly-regarded high priest was now treated as a scam. This was cruel to my master attendant, having spent his life praying for the prosperity of the country, of the people
With the passing of the devout elderly believers, the youths who once would have been chided into praying obediently had been released of their bindings and decided it was now their source of entertainment.
“Hahaha! Look at that old geezer! Playing house with those spells he’s chanting!” “Haha! Yeah! Come on! We don’t respect those gods of yours, what of it! Get your gods to smite me! Bet you won’t!”
As the youths’ provoking increased, I braced my Master Attendant who was about to pass out and glared angrily at them.
“Religious or not, please do not make light of others’ beliefs and have some basic respect for the gods held in their hearts.”
The youths shrunk under my glare and the leader hummed and hawed as if to puff out his feathers.
“You… What are you glaring for! You’re frauds anyway! Scammed yourselves years and years worth of offerings! Our harvests are fine with or without you!” “Th-That's right!” “Fraud!” “Fraud!”
I clenched my fist, glaring at the people spitting on the altar, making faces, showing not a penny of respect, and my brows knit in rage.
“Shoo off!” Came a familiar voice.
Once a little girl all those years ago, Aoi, with her hair in a neat bun, had become a young woman taller than me. With her hands on her hips, she chased away the people before me, then turned around to help me pick Master Attendant up and looked at us with worry.
“Miss Laba Congee… Pay them no mind, we know how much High Priest and Miss Laba Congee has done for us, I’ll escort you back.”
I braced Master Attendant on me all the way back to our residence, its past good condition gone.
“Miss Laba Congee… Why, why don’t they understand that, even if they don’t have faith, they shouldn’t make light of those that do?” Aoi looked at my master attendant, still yet to have regained strength, with concern. “They treat you like frauds, make fun of the gods and your beliefs. And to think everyone was so pious before…” “They’ve… gone too far… Why can’t God just, help you… Weren’t those who made fun of God supposed to receive divine retribution… Why isn’t there retribution……”
Back then, I didn’t notice the pair of eyes of the ones on the bed behind me opening slowly, filled with rage and despair.
The gods were everything to Master Attendant, he couldn’t accept change and stayed home every day as if in a trance. I didn’t know how to advise him and ended up just repeating the same procedures we always had day in, day out, like nothing ever changed.
III. Divine Retribution
Suddenly, one day, a mysterious disease made its way through the town, and doctors from all over were dumbfounded. The illness spread fast, yet it took no lives, only leaving its victims in pain.
The disease was first found on two youths and had soon spread to everyone in the area. Nobody was spared, be it children, the elderly, or the fit and healthy.
The few exceptions were Aoi, whose body wasn’t as strong as most men, and my aged master attendant.
Someone must have brought it up, and soon there were people who, just to give it a try, brought their children to Master Attendant’s residence.
Master Attendant wasn’t gentle like he’d always been, instead chided them and told them to kneel before the door an entire night, to atone to the gods they made light of.
Once the small pill was swallowed by the pale, sickly children, the effect was immediate. The unconscious children threw up mouthfuls and mouthfuls of a black liquid, and life returned to their cheeks immediately afterward.
Soon, the rumor was spread all throughout the town. Everyone suddenly “remembered” their respect towards the gods, and kneeled before Master Attendant’s residence in flocks.
The two fit youths turned out to be in the worst condition, and over the many days and nights under the sun and in the rain, they became incredibly frail.
Seeing my master attendant’s smug expression, I couldn’t help but frown.
Master Attendant was gentle and kind. Even to those who had no faith, he sent his blessings. He’d never have put on such an evil smirk before someone in pain.
The next moment, Master Attendant seemed to have noticed his change in demeanor as well and withdrew his hand with a flinch. Receiving gazes of gratitude from those who humiliated him previously, he handed them the divine medicine.
“Even though you’ve hurt others and disrespected God, you’re still young, you have the chance to change for the better. I hope that you’ll show basic respect to others’ beliefs even if you don’t have faith yourself in the future. May God protect you, my poor children…”
I could tell, as the youths hurriedly gulped down the medicine, they seemed to have been moved by Master Attendant’s speech…
In our eyes, God had always been benevolent and forgiving. Previously, he would never have dealt out punishment over such petty matters. I couldn’t find a cure in the medicinal books, and I didn’t know how Master Attendant managed to cure them.
As more and more people were cured, those of the town who lost faith reignited their loyalty and respect for God. Even those who weren’t religious before now lowered their heads and became devotees to the heavens above.
An increase in followers should have been a good thing, but for some reason, I couldn’t shake the strange feeling of unease.
The people regained their faith as they had personally seen the work of God. To them, whenever they were in trouble, the gods will come to their aid if they pray earnestly.
Soon after, the town showed signs of deterioration.
Master Attendant, however, returned to the peaceful and kind demeanor he had before. Though he often left his quarters late at night for a basement that was built some time I knew not.
In the dead of night, when not a star was visible. Even the moon was obscured by thick clouds and not a ray of light passed through; it was as if a curtain was drawn on the town.
Aged and feeble, he left his room carefully and quietly as I looked on, hidden behind a pillar, finally getting the chance to see the basement he had been hiding from me.
Taking my first steps underground, I could smell the scent of strong, pungent drugs, as well as the faint bitterness of various herbs, enough to make one uncomfortable and agitated.
My brows creased as I headed deeper in as quietly as I could, to see my master attendant, who should have been sleeping at this hour, up and mixing something diligently at a desk.
My eyes couldn’t help but widen at the sight of the herbs outlawed long ago before him. The next moment, I couldn’t control myself and dashed forward.
I gripped his hands tightly, but what was trembling wasn’t his hands, rather mine. I lifted my head to see my master attendant, shocked at my sudden appearance.
“... Why are you here?”
Scrutinizing the basement, the various drugs, the strange recipes, I understood.
My master attendant, having calmed down, let out a sigh.
“Laba Congee, you knew, right?”
I nodded silently. Between the pills he sneaked into the medicine box, the hidden mechanisms that started appearing in the temple, and the many other things, I couldn’t come up with an excuse for Master Attendant’s behavior anymore.
All that divine retribution, divine forgiveness stuff was no more than a show orchestrated by Master Attendant to accrue belief for the gods.
“Master Attendant, please stop this, it’s not too late.”
Master Attendant’s hand trembled as he fidgeted to escape my grasp, but I only gripped harder.
“Master Attendant, you haven’t killed anyone yet, so, let’s stop this before it’s too late, alright?” “But, if I stopped, they’ll just forget about the gods again, forget their faith, they’ll just humiliate us, humiliate the gods again. What should I… what do I do…” “Master Attendant, can faith cultivated like this really be called faith? Do you desire their respect for the gods, or yourself?”
Before long, tears were streaming down my face. Through tear-filled eyes, I saw Master Attendant’s shoulders droop as he nodded, his entire body seeming to collapse.
“You… go back out… I need some space…”
The next day, Master Attendant straightened his back, stood before the unknowing people, and confessed to everything he’d done with brutal honesty.
The devout crowds fell apart instantly as the people went dead silent. The following burst of shouting and cursing caused me, standing by Master Attendant’s side, to let out an unexpected sigh.
The people weren’t able to forgive my Master Attendant who poisoned everyone in the name of the gods. Just as I thought we’d receive our well-deserved punishment for our mistakes, the two youths who once cursed at the gods stood between the crowd and us with arms spread out.
“Live and let live, if we weren’t so disrespectful back then, if we hadn’t made fun of their beliefs, why would High Priest have ended up in such a state. He’s willing to tell us the truth, and that’s enough, he’s an old man, just let him leave this place in peace.”
Seeing the youths who had once humiliated us before us now, my eyes brimmed with tears.
Thank you…… Thank you for keeping Master Attendant’s words with you all this time……
Aoi and the two youths escorted us out of the town. On the horse carriage, I looked back at their silhouettes waving at us, slowly disappearing on the horizon.
V. Laba Congee
Laba Congee’s master attendant was a highly regarded old priest. Who had made a huge mistake.
With the dynasty’s turnover and the new emperor’s distaste for religion, the people stopped honoring gods. This was still bearable for the old priest, but others’ humiliation of the gods was unacceptable.
He never forced others to have the same faith he did and would pray for their safety all the same, would send them his blessings all the same, but why couldn’t his god receive the same respect?
The resentment took root in him, and with the last straw, the dam broke.
The mysterious poison caused a plague to break out in the town and with the wool of panic pulled over the people’s eyes, being their savior, the old priest succeeded in having everyone kneeled before him in atonement towards the gods.
The old priest’s strange behavior was soon noticed by the clever Laba Congee, who used enlightening words to ignite his guilt. Then, the old priest confessed to his sins before the people.
Unexpectedly, the enraged crowds remembered their disrespect towards the gods and their humiliation towards the old priest and settled down.
In the end, the old priest and Laba Congee left the town together. After they left, the altars in the town that had been defaced were cleaned up and renovated.
Laba Congee and the old priest settled down in a small town extremely similar to their hometown. Laba Congee was the same as always, using the little money she had to open up a soup kitchen, bringing bowls of sweet and fragrant porridge to the hungry.
After finishing a bowl of porridge, a hungry child wiped his mouth with a dirty sleeve and, with wide and bright eyes, asked.
“Miss, are you a god?”
Laba Congee blinked in confusion and squatted down.
“Why do you say that?” “If you’re not a god, why would you be so kind as to give me food?” “... We’re not gods, but we’re sent by God, he wanted us to share this food with you.” “I want to thank this god! Where is he? Is it that old man?” “No, God is always watching over us from above.” “Then I’ll give him lots of offerings! Thank you, god!”
Seated by the soup kitchen, seeing the genuine earnest in the child’s eyes, a tear dripped from the old priest’s eye. He seemed to have come to an understanding and put on a satisfied smile, but tears flowed down his cheeks non-stop.
Laba Congee stumbled over herself to wipe away the old priest’s tears and looked at her master attendant, who was suddenly crying, in confusion. All the knots jumbled up in the old priest’s heart had been untied in a moment by the words of one child.
When the old priest passed away, he had lived a life considered long for humans. At his deathbed, all around him were the followers he had gathered over years of good deeds, along with the child who had once earnestly given thanks to the heavens for just one bowl of porridge, who had become a father.
With a gratified look around, he sent them outside.
Sobbing softly as the old priest’s life flickered away, Laba Congee held the hand he stretched out to her.
“I once thought that just having faith was fine, but, they told me that a genuine belief meant so much more than a forced one. Being adamant in my beliefs, gave them an opening…”
With trembling hands, the old priest retrieved a letter from his pocket, enclosed in a black envelope.
“It’s them, that night, they found me.”
Laba Congee learned from him who he was bewitched by, and given the recipes. It was a group of people in black cloaks, none of their faces discernable in the night.
Like devils, they bewitched the old priest, sending him down the wrong path. Even knowing he was soon to leave this world, he spent much of his time after he realized his mistake to find their traces, to no avail. His unfinished business laid in the letterーsealed in the envelope of their “country”, that he didn’t get to deliver.
Taking on her last task from the old priest, Laba Congee denied his loved ones’ offers to stay around longer and set off on her own.
She knew not what she’d do once she found them, but she had a strong belief. That she would not let those people bewitch others onto the wrong path.
She told many of her story so that they’d know the truth and prevent a rehash of the old priest’s mistake.
In her journey, Laba Congee encountered someone covered in blood and grime being overwhelmed by a flock of fallen angels. As the food soul was about to fall over, she reached out to pull them out from the constant barrage of fallen angels and ran.
Only when they were a long distance away did the person she escaped with talk.
“Why are you running, I can still fight them off.”
A slightly chilling female voice said, and Laba Congee stared at the slender and tall figure before her with shock, hand covering her mouth.
“You’re a g-girl!” “...And I’m so sorry that my chest is so flat you couldn’t tell.” “No no no no no I didn’t say anything about your chest!”
Laba Congee couldn’t hold in her laughter and handed her handkerchief to the other food soul, who was currently wiping her face with the back of her hand. Toso sat before the bonfire with her jar of wine, eyes on the soft and gentle girl, and listened to her story of the group of people who brought with them misfortune.
Toso muttered under her breath a bit, before putting down her wine jar.
“They must be a group of ruthless people, let me accompany you on your journey.” “Huh?” “What ‘huh’, just take it as my repayment for you saving me. If you went alone, you’d be eaten alive by the fallen angels. Alright, that’s that, let’s sleep, long day ahead of us tomorrow.”
Seeing Toso lie down back facing her and falling fast asleep quickly, Laba Congee was at a lost for a moment, before a soft giggle escaped her lips.
Unbeknownst to her, as she enjoyed a hard-earned moment of peace by the bonfire, the “country” she was looking for was on its way to destruction in a catastrophic disaster……