This is Ming Mu Sung for Ming and Sons Lucky Happy Dragon No. 777 Chi Mechanics, and I’m here to ask you a question. Is your life energy flowing properly? Have you consulted with geomancers and chigong instructors to maximize the flow of mystical life energy through your body and environment yet still lack harmony? Have acupuncturists jamming stainless steel needles into your body somehow failed to stop your aches and pains?

It may be that your flow of chi is crooked, stopped, or blocked. People don’t realize it, but the natural channels of life-giving but clinically inconclusive chi are like plumbing: they can be stopped up, leaky, or simply out of order. That’s where Ming and Sons Lucky Happy Dragon No. 777 Chi Mechanics come in.

We offer a full suite of services, from a simple chi system flush to full chi line replacement and aftermarket modification. Late-model people, foreign people, classic people…our highly qualified chi mechanics can work on them all! We also rebuild chi transmissions, manual or automatic, and have a 10-minute guaranteed chi change. Ming and Sons uses only high-quality premium Mencius-brand replacement chi, the same used in Olympic sprinters, so you know you’re getting premium quality.

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Claymen weren’t really clay and they weren’t really men.

They “clay” in question was any old material that could be worked and shaped–clay in the poetic, the Biblical sense. In practice, just about anything could be modified to serve as a Clayman: battered old refrigerators, rocks, thatch. Attending Claymen would usually modify the raw materials, adding arms or legs or eyeholes for the animated chi within. But sometimes they would animate a single rock or a handful of pebbles or even a tree; those “ambusher Claymen” tended to be created rather sparingly, as it required much more chi to fashion them.

No one could say for sure how the Claymen had come to be, as they did not deign to speak to mankind or its allies–their communication seemed to be on a much more primal, perhaps telepathic, level. But they were certainly driven, as any other being would be, to reproduce themselves. People had observed Claymen, singly or in small groups, loving crafting “children” from the same materials as themselves and passing a portion of their own chi onto them; there were others that slapped together “offspring” out of whatever parts that could be found and gave no gift of their own chi.

In that respect, one must admit, they were not so different from humans.

One major difference, though, was chi. Humans are born with some innate chi and the ability to generate more from their environment, but Claymen completely lacked that. Chi was imbued in them at “birth” and lost at “death” but did not otherwise change. They were immune to the energy-sapping of negative chi that could come about through poor decisions or inauspicious events, but a rather large pool of chi had to be gathered before one could be imbued with the spark that turned it from a pile of refuse into a genuine Clayman.

Some Claymen carefully gathered chi from the natural world, cultivating zen gardens and practicing careful feng shui to direct positive chi into a soul jar. Since they had no need to eat or drink, chi farming was the key use of Clayman lands.

Others, though, were impatient and wary of what could happen were a chi farm disrupted. It was these Claymen reavers that were terrors unto mankind and its allies, leading groups of raiders to slay all they encountered and steal their chi. In areas where Claymen had been sighted, travelers tended to be vastly paranoid, for the very rocks and trees about them might be ambusher Claymen with a mind to steal their life energy from the source.

“I’m afraid that I won’t be able to make it to tomorrow’s meeting,” Whittaker said. “I’ve got a funeral to go to. It’s at the Catholic church on 5th downtown if you need to look it up.”

“Oh, I believe you,” Markson said. “But I’m afraid that’s no excuse.”

“No excuse?” Whittaker reddened. “Why not? What’s wrong with wanting to give my great uncle a proper burial?”

“My dear, if you want to cling to your silly and superstitious rituals in the hope that some imaginary great bearded man in the sky will give your distant relative better treatment, that’s your problem. But this is a business; if you indulge in private superstition, you must be prepared to deal with the consequences.”

“I…” Whittaker stammered.

Markson checked a nearby wall clock. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a feng shui appointment with my geomancer. We’re going to rearrange my office to generate the maximum positive chi.”