(Liu Shi Shi as Yu Zhu) (Chen Xiao as Zhu Zhan Ye)
*All photos courtesy of Baidu
Hi hi! Thanks for your patience guys! I’ve been fighting jet lag and work’s been a bit busy. That being said, I meant to publish this chapter last week but then just kept writing, so it kind of became 2 chapters in one. Thank you guys for being such amazing readers!
Human Realms – Yue Kingdom
On a platform high above the grey towers of the city, in the blood red backdrop of the rising sun, Lin Yu in pure white silk danced the Dance of the Sparrows. Her movements invited the warm winds of spring, the delicate turn of her wrists seemed to chase away coldly bitter snows of winter. Each expression on her face could be its own work of art while her feet seemed to barely touch the platform as she floated like a carefree cloud, a child of the wind, a wisp of life giving breath that rushed into the city.
One man in particular looked up at the beautiful woman, his eyes drinking in every movement. His elegantly arched brows knitted together as he watched the waif on the platform. Around him the girls whispered as they looked at his handsome face, his striking figure in black silk, surrounded by a crowd of people yet utterly alone.
But the man seemed to have no eyes for anyone but the girl high on the platform, his sensuous mouth curved upwards as he watched Lin Yu take a bow. Two pins seemed to be sticking themselves in his hand. He glanced down at the bite marks she had left. He sighed.
“What an amazing dance.” A man next to him whispered appreciatively, “What I wouldn’t give to have a woman like that.”
“That’s why there’s a saying that there are rare beauties whose gaze can cause warlords to give up thrones to entire countries so to have them – a beauty for a country.” His friend said, and then shook his head, “Apparently the rumor is that even the Emperor’s son is in love with her.”
“Which one?” The man asked.
His friend shook his head, “I’m not sure, some third prince or fifth prince. Not one of the Emperor’s favorites.”
“But still royalty.” The man pointed out, “How can we compete with that?”
Huang Wu turned away from the talk, his mouth a tight line. It was none of his business, he was the disgraced, displaced son of a dead demon king. His powers were gone, and he had betrayed Wei Yun to the Heavens just as Yu Zhu died. Perhaps if he hadn’t, then Wei Yun would have been able come to the human realms to save the girl. But Lin Yu lost her sister, yet Huang Wu could not feel sorry for what he had done.
The memory of the God who killed his family burned at his soul. Huang Wu coughed, the metallic tang of blood rising from his throat. He still couldn’t say a word, he had no voice. Perhaps he never will. He looked up at Lin Yu’s retreating figure, the war in his heart raged hotter. What Wei Yun loved, he hated and so Yu Zhu’s death was another ounce of revenge against the God who massacred the demon realms.
But Lin Yu, what she loved… He shook his head trying to clear that thoughts that were like daggers.
He looked at her again, knowing that she would never dance for him, just for him again. She would never turn around and see him protecting her. How could she, when he couldn’t even make a sound to call her to him?
In the distance, Lin Yu gently came off the platform, her eyes sweeping the small group that had gathered at the foot of the high tower.
Magistrate Ke looked as if this was his luckiest day. And in some ways, it was. Lin Yu, had agreed to become his concubine. She had finally agreed to be his. And even if there are rumors that a prince was in love with her, Lin Yu had fallen for him, the Magistrate. And why shouldn’t she, he was the most powerful man in the city, any woman would love him. His beady eyes set deep on his wrinkled face roved up and down the young girl, such a pretty girl he though giddly.
Lin Yu worked hard to hide the disgust and distaste from her face as he gestured to the red wedding palanquin had had provided especially for today. Her eyes stared forward as she quickly walked to the red palanquin, her face bland.
“NO!” Came a roar as servants bowed to her to raised the curtains.
A face, handsome and almost wild with anger stared at her. She looked at his eyes and turned away almost immediately. Zhuo Hao’s face was almost red with anger. Behind him, a hand held him back.
“Young master.” The words were said through gritted teeth, “Young master, please, do not make any more of a scene. You are needed in the Palace, we must go back.” Pei grabbed his sleeve, her words were tinged with desperation, “The old Emperor is dying and if you don’t assert your dominance, your eldest brother will claim the crown. Prince Zhu Zhan Ye’s disappeared, only you can save the rest of the palace. Think of what the Eldest Prince will do to the rest of the young princes. Think of your people ”
Zhuo Hao shoved the hand away and walked quickly towards the palanquin. But Lin Yu had turned to look at him again, and this time, there was a look at polite strangeness. She was looking at a stranger. It was as if she didn’t recognize him. He took a step back, ice filling in his veins. He could endure hatred, accusation, bitterness but not this.
Guilt flooded through him. He looked away, fists clenched to his side. When he looked up, the red palaquin was moving away from him. He tried to follow but this time four hands gripped his arms
“Master, you agreed. To become the Emperor you must know what to put first. I will send people to rescue Lady Lin Yu” Pei’s words were fast and harsh, “Please, we must head for the capitol.”
ZHuo Hao’s eyes flashed, he turned to look at his subordinates, they froze and their hands left his robes like he was on fire. Zhuo Hao wasn’t a normal man, he was the son of an emperor, and waves of power emanated from him.
“We stay until I say we leave.” His voice held absolutely authority. Pei gritted her teeth, she glared after the red palanquin mutinously.
“Gather our people, we’re paying Minister Ke a visit tonight. Zhuo Hao turned around, “Contact the shadow guards.”
Pei shook her head and followed her master with a worried sigh, right now was not the time to have the wrong eyes on her prince. But what can she do if he wants to paint a target on his own back.
He wasn’t the only man who blanched at the sight of Lin Yu getting into the palanquin. Huang Wu’s eyes narrowed as he watched the red dot moving farther and farther away from him. Quietly he made a leap for the rooftops and followed Lin Yu. He may have lost his wings, but his kung fu remained.
Lin Yu took a deep breath, the dagger on her chest felt heavy and comforting. Zhuo Hao’s face flashed before her eyes, the hurt and guilt made her bite her lip. She wasn’t angry with him, but she didn’t want him to ruin her plans either. Zhuo Hao was a good friend but this was her fight, and she wanted no one’s help. Another face flashed before her eyes, there was so much haughty arrogance in those eyes that it always wanted to make her want to bite him. A strange fluttering happened in her heart, and she felt as if her insides were filed with sweets and vinegar at the same time. She pushed the feeling away without thinking with a frown, why was she thinking of that arrogant boy right now?
The slight jolt of the palanquin brought her back to reality, reminding her of what she was to do tonight. Tonight she would kill Magistrate Ke.
If Magistrate Ke’s demon bear minion hadn’t nearly killed Yu Zhu that night by the lake, then all of this wouldn’t have happened.
She took a deep breath, she had never taken a life before. Beaten up people, yes. But to take a life…she closed her eyes with a frown. A long time ago, a shadow in green had held her hand, she was so little then. Her mother, the Green Snake had once sat her down.
“Lin Yu, promise me, child.” Her mother looked at her keenly in the eyes, “Lin Yu, promise me, that you’ll never kill a human. You will be breaking heaven’s laws. Your auntie went against the heavens and drowned an entire city…she is now locked forever in the Lightening and Wind towers…And I too must pay for my actions.”
She kissed Lin Yu on her forehead, Lin Yu felt tears on her cheeks, her mother was crying. The woman in green stood up and left. Lin Yu ran and ran after that woman, “Mom, don’t leave me. Mom! Mom please, I’ll be good. I won’t cry, please please!” The child Lin Yu ran and ran but her mother never looked back, Lin Yu ran and ran trying to catch up to her, “Mom! Mom! I’ll be good, please come back please come back. Don’t leave me… please!”
But the woman in green had left her. Lin You would never see her again.
Lin Yu gripped the dagger beneath her robes, and shook the ghosts from her eyes. There was an exception to every rule, this was the man who had caused the death of her sister, had caused thousands to become homeless. She had made up her mind, be whatever punishment there was, she would kill the Magistrate.
(Ariel Lin as the Jade Rabbit)
Moon – Chang’e’s Palace
In the white palace of the moon, three women seemed to float down the glacial halls.
A woman who seemed to radiate power and lighting calmly survey her surroundings. Her black silk hair floated around her while as she took another step on air. Her face was the color of a creamy white rose, there was faint light that seemed come off of her. Though she did not have the complete aura of a God, her human looks having somewhat stayed the same, she was like the figure in the most perfect ink and water painting.
Chang’e looked at Yu Zhu, “Lady Yu Zhu…” She began, and Yu Zhu, turned to her. Chang’e felt the powers of a Creation God in Yu Zhu’s form, the human side of her was weaker, hidden under the immense powers she had been bestowed.
Yu Zhu nodded to her, “Lady Chang’e, speak.” Her voice seemed to echo and ring in Chang’e’s head, it sounded of fire and water rushing and battling each other.
Chang’e nearly knelt down, the pressure from the presence of a great god was more than she could bear. Chang’e lowered her head, “Lady, what do you plan to do now?”
Yu Zhu looked at her own hands, “How many earth days have I been away?” She asked.
“Six months.” The Jade Rabbit answered, she too felt the pressure, but she was a Celestial Being could understand the pressure, somewhat.
“I am going back the Mortal Realms.” Yu Zhu answered simply. The Jade Rabbit tensed, “Lady, I understand that you have people you need to help, but there are others…others that we hoped you may help as well.”
Yu Zhu nodded, “Yes, Lady Nu Wa asked me to help her defeat the Emperor of Heavens so that she and her people may once return to the realms. And I will, once I have saved my brother.”
The Jade Rabbit looked at Chang’e worriedly, “We should tell her.”
Chang’e sighed, “We have kept this from Lady Nu Wa, because it would cause more harm than good. But since she and the other creation gods have gone, a number of half-gods have been born. And once they were born, they are immediately taken to the Realms of the Dead, to be locked away for eternity.”
“Because of the prophecy.” Yu Zhu guessed.
Chang’e nodded, “The Emperor won’t allow any half-blood gods to become a threat to him. Even if one slips, that half-god may become the weapon to kill him.”
The Jade Rabbit looked troubled, “When we hid you, your mother and I, none of us knew the prophecy well. But in these years, I have done nothing but look for the reason why the Emperor of Heaven was scared. He has tried to destroy all traces of the Old Prophecy.”
Chang’e nodded, “But I was able to find it, when I was invited to the Palace long time ago.”
The Jade Rabbit patted her mistress’s arm, “The prophecy has foretold the coming of three powerful deities all born from the Creation Gods or the descendants of Creation Gods. They will battle for dominance of this earth and one will become the true ruler.”
Yu Zhu’s brain worked fast, “And the Emperor of heaven fears that I may be one of the three.”
“But why… if the prophecy says it has to be the progeny of a Creation God.” Yu Zhu’s hands were clenched, “Why lock away the other half-gods?”
“He fears that this strange mix will turn against him for a half-god, and that they will become a source of power for the half-god.” The Jade Rabbit answered.
“He can’t kill them, for fear of reprisals from the gods.” Chang’e said quietly, “So he locks them up, uses them to keep their God parents in check.”
“Help us free them, great one. There are a number of gods in heaven who will help you overthrow the Emperor.” The Jade Rabbit tired to kneel but found a white hand gripping her arm, “Jade Rabbit,” Yu Zhu said firmly, “You saved my life before I wasn’t even born, you never have to kneel in front of me.”
Yu Zhu gave them a slow nod, “Tell me how I can free them.”
Chang’e and the Jade Rabbit looked at her, “It is a special prison, an unbreakable one made from the blood of a creature that I have never seen before.”
Yu Zhu frowned, “What do you mean?”
The Jade Rabbit sighed, “Years ago, Chang’e and I went down the realms of the dead, where we found your father’s spirit. We saw the King of the Dead, who boasted that the blood that made the prison was made the blood of a powerful half-god, mixed with He Ding Hong, the red poison of the crane.”
“Another from the prophecy.” Yu Zhu mused, “So then, if this trap was the Emperor’s and this blood was from one of the three in the prophecy, is it Fu Xi’s son or Nu Wa’s daughter that the Emperor of Heaven is working with?”
The Jade Rabbit sighed, “We didn’t tell Lady Nu Wa because we feared she would tear the earth apart for the answer.”
“If you find the other Half-God, they created the spell, they will know how to undo it.”
Yu Zhu nodded, “I promise I will.” She felt eagerness rise, the long time she had spent training, this had been one of her goals, to destroy the God who caused all of this.
“We want to show you something,” The Jade rabbit said softly. She gave a worried look to Chang’e, this Yu Zhu seemed so much less human, will she destroy without mercy?
They walked to the forge and Chang’e opened one of the doors. Inside was a sword that shone with iridescent light, the curves of it’s hilt covered in dark blue sapphires while the scabbard was made of black, indestructible volcanic moon glass, taken from the heart of the largest and oldest crater. It was utter perfection.
“The moon was once the home of Lei Zhu, your ancestor who, herself was a powerful celestial being. This weapon… has been made so that it will never leave your side.” The Jade Rabbit remembered her promise to Mei Yan and Wu Kang, she didn’t tell Yu Zhu that the sword and scabbard held the souls of her parents.
The sword was in the air, hanging proudly, waiting for it’s owner to claim it.
Yu Zhu walked up to it, admiring it’s thin long form. The hilt seemed to be made perfectly for her hand, On the scabbard, two words shone in gold. “Tuan Yuan.” The sword that reunites.
Yu Zhu held out her hand the the sword flew into it, the hilt seemed to glow brighter.
Warmth that she hadn’t felt for a long time, flowed into her veins. She gasped involuntarily, pinkness returning to her icy cheeks. It felt as if someone, or someones held held her hand. In that grasp was love, and joy, tinged with bittersweetness. Yu Zhu closed her eyes, feeling for the first time in hundreds of years, slight wetness in her eyes.
She hadn’t every cried in that cold, barren place. When she was still on earth, she had cried when she felt sad or abandon, but ever since she turned truly into a half-god, she hadn’t ever felt the need to cry. Yu Zhu took a deep breath, she had goals in her life, but in the long time she had spent in that place, she’d forgotten why. She knew she had to go back, but the people she loved, had long since faded from her memories. She couldn’t remember what her brother looked like or why she need to see Lin Yu. But the touch of the hilt, it made her remember, just a little.
She turned to the two deities with a bow. “Nu Wa gave me something to mask my powers. Thank you for your help. I am going home.” The two bowed to her as they watched her descend from the moon, back to the mortal realms.
“Did Wu Kang and Mei Yan make the right choice? Asking us to never tell Yu Zhu about their spirits in the sword?” The Jade Rabbit wondered as she sat on the white balcony overlooking the realms.
“They were afraid that she would deny their protection. Afraid that she would refuse their help.” Chang’e took a seat next to the Jade Rabbit, ”
“Six months in that place is like sixty thousand years.” the Jade Rabbit said softly as she watch Yu Zhu leave. “Sixty thousand years of solitude will take the humanity out of any one. What if turns into another Wei Yun, killing for a cause, but forgetting herself in the process?”
Chang’e shook her head, “She has many who love her, they will remind her of who she use to be. She may become a great ruler one day.”
The Jade Rabbit nodded, “I hope so too.”
Bohai – Isle of the 8 Immortals
On the mountains of Peng Lai, a man stood gazing at the seas. His silk grey robes flapped in the wind, there was a crooked smile, pained, playing on his mouth. In his hands, he toyed with a piece of jade, it had belonged to this reincarnation of his human self. His thumb traced the words – Prince of the Yue Royal Palace on the jade.
His human memories were fast fading, once he’d woken up, it felt as if all he had been through was a hazy, long dream. He couldn’t remember his human name anymore. But here was always something that his human self seemed to want to keep holding on, it was giving him a headache. He couldn’t remember the last time he had a headache. He was a God after all.
But every once in a while a face was flash like lightening before his eyes, and he would feel as if his human reincarnation wanted to hold on to this one face more than anything. His heart would ache and he fought the urge to gasp. Gasp? An all powerful god like him never showed any weaknesses, whatever demon held on his human heart, he would be soon rid of it. And it wasn’t just the face either, he could smell falling rain on fresh bamboo leaves. Every sense in his body wanted him to remember the fragrance of rain falling gently on bamboo leaves.
Yet, with each waking moment, that face was fading faster and faster from his mind’s eye, like an imprint in the sand that the incoming tide was quickly wiping away. The God sighed with relief as he remembered less and less. He was glad, it made him uneasy to know someone could affect him so much.
He looked at his hands, they were pulsing with a golden light, it wouldn’t be long before he fully regain his powers. There was nothing his human self could do, soon that incarnation would fade, a shadow that disappeared in the light of the sun.
Behind him, the eight immortals looked at each other in consternation. One of them bowed to the young man.
“Master Jin. We need to keep the news of your current state from the Emperor of Heavens. If he knew that you had woken up…Perhaps we can try to renew…”
The handsome young man in grey silk shook his head, “But Honored Immortal, You know that my father would be quite eager to see me. That’s why I came to you when I first woke up, this is the only place I know where he wouldn’t be able to find me while I transformed back to my original self. I can hide well, once I’m in control. Besides, I’ve dreamed long enough.” His back was to the eight, he close his eyes, concentrating on forgetting that woman’s face which had been plaguing him ever since he woke up. Each time, there was less of her that he could see. He wanted to forget but his human self was trying so hard to remember.
Lady He smiled sadly, “I only wish to protect you. Your mother was a dear friend of mine. I want to protect her son. Let me try again.”
The man shook his head, “You know as well as me that nothing would wake me, unless I sense the rise of a half-god. Someone whose power was equal to mine.” The Eight immortals looked at each other in shock.
“But I felt nothing. No magical disturbance, are you sure?” Lord Cao, in his blunt way, asked. The other immortals paled, no one had dared to speak so to Master Jin.
The young man raised an eyebrow, his crooked smile seemed slightly condescending, “Lord Cao. I am one of the highest ranked gods in terms of magical power. I am also a half-god, which makes it easier for me to sense even the slightest disturbance, created by another half-god, once they wake up. Even my Father knows better than to question my powers.”
Lord Cao gulped, he felt the new Half-God’s powerful presence, one that caused cold sweat all over his body. The others looked at each other, Master Jin hasn’t even fully woken up but his powers were already so pronounced, “Do you doubt me?”
Lord Cao shook his head and answered gruffly, “We 8 are very powerful and belong to the first ranks of Gods. If we did not sense it, then no one is heaven would have. But I would never doubt you, my lord.”
The half-god nodded, “Good. Because gods who doubt me usually end up dead. Make sure that no one in heaven knows about the other half-god, please.”
His body shook slightly and the half-god frowned. His powers were slowly awakening and this outer shell wouldn’t last. With a sigh, he asked, “Perhaps I may borrow the Enchanted Mirror? I need a copy of this image, in case this face may be useful to me in the future.”
The Immortals nodded and the mirror was brought. The young man looked at the human face that stared back at him from the mirror, musing, “It’s been so long that I don’t remember what I use to look like as a God.”
Lady He’s eyes were full of conflict, “Are you sure you don’t want me to seal your God form again? I fear that the Emperor of Heaven will try and harm you again.”
Jin laughed and shook his head, “Hundreds of Thousands of years ago, I only wanted to escape. But now I have a purpose again, I don’t fear my father. He should fear me.”
The eight looked at each other in alarm.
“And what is that purpose?” Lady He asked hesitantly, “To destroy the new Half-God? Or your father?”
Jin shrugged, “Perhaps I will do nothing….Perhaps I will do both. I really haven’t thought about it.”
Lord Cao bit his blunt tongue, what he wanted to say was that this young lord has probably been plotting since he woke up. Maybe he’d been plotting even while asleep, since he wouldn’t put it past this half-god. But he and the 7 other immortals knew better than to anger Jin.
“Do you remember anything that has happened your time as a human? Anyone you don’t wish to forget?” Lord Zhong asked, his voice gentle.
There was a slight crease between Jin’s eyes . Again, a shadow that seemed to flit before his eyes, her smile was playing on the edge of his memory. And then she was gone, the last trace of her was the twinkle in her eye that made his heart itch. He shook his head impatiently, “No. I don’t remember.”
Lord Zhong shook his head, Jin may be more powerful than all the gods in heaven but he was still a man who had lost too much. He was still afraid to love.
Then half-god shrugged, “No matter, there are more important things I have to take care of. Perhaps it is best that I don’t remember at all.”
There was a reckless grin on his handsome face, “My father and I have much to discuss, once I return to my original form. But first, I want to see what half-god could wake me.” The immortals looked at each other worriedly, ” Perhaps you should see the Emperor at all, won’t he….”
Jin flapped a hand at them lazily, ” Don’t worry, I need some time to see these realms first, I am no hurry to see that old, decrepit man. Once I have regained my strength and powers, we naturally will meet.” His eyes flashed and suddenly the 8 immortals felt the hairs on their necks stand, “I know that i certainly can trust your silence, can’t I?” The 8 immortals looked at one another, slowly, they nodded.
With that he bowed slightly to the 8 immortals, and left the room, he wanted his transformation private.
“Are you worried about Master Jin?” Lady He asked her fellow immortals.
Lord Li sighed, “He may have been asleep but his powers… they have grown by leaps and bounds. I fear that the world will not remain at peace now that he is awake.”
Lord Cao snorted, “Why, what’s a little more chaos to add to Wei Yun’s handiwork.”
“Yes, but with the return of Lord Jin… This may well be the end of the little peace that we had left.”
Lady He sighed, “He is unpredictable, but he has a good heart. There is good in him”
“You forget to mention that he’s also calculative, secretive, and always three steps ahead of everyone else.” Lord Cao rolled his eyes, “You only see the good in him, you don’t even worry over his tainted lineage.”
“He could have been the ruler of heaven if he wanted” Lord Zhao reminded Lord Cao softly, “But he chose to withdrawal, he chose to give the realms true peace.”
Lady He nodded, she looked at the direction that the newly awakened young master had disappeared to, and said softly “He may well surprise us again.”