This is the tale of Ying Zhen, the hero of the demons, who set out for the Netherworld, to save his comrades and prevent his people from demise. It is also the tale of Laryana, who provided the souls at the river of forgetfulness with lanterns and waited for her creator's return, only to find another source of happiness. It is the tale of a love, that nearly plunged the world into pandemonium. It happened after the High gods were banished and when the war between the Lower gods and the demons rampaged in Kishin.
Lightning cleaved the sky above Kishin and doused the battleground in glaring light. Lifeless bodies covered the ground, laced with wounds, dressed in tattered robes and not few of them depraved of limbs. The weapons, those men had once borne, were scattered between them. The metal glinted in the glow of the fires, that had devoured parts of the battleground. The smoke rising from them and the fog enshrouding the battleground let them appear as ghostlike flames, that tried to illuminate a white sea, but had to fail miserably.
The world plunged into darkness once more. Thunder rumbled in the clouds, that crackled electrically. The sparks sufficed to spot a figure floating up there.
»Surrender, demon!« The god's white robe flapped in the wind, the sword in his hands reflected the glow of the arising lightnings.
»Surrender?«, a dark voice sounded from the ground. It was so low, that the rumbling of thunder nearly drowned it out. »We'll never rest, as long as even a single slave of the High gods lives. Only when accomplishing that, we'll lay down arms.«
»Look around you, Ying Zhen! Nobody but you is standing. The demons lost! Return home and report to your master!«
A low laugh sounded. »Only me?« The fog shrouding the ground was blown aside and uncovered the voice's owner: Blood covered the demon's armor, blood soaked his hair and blood decorated his visage as well. Even the ground beneath his feet was saturated with blood, as if he was a monster, that rose out of a deep red sea. »Chi You, as long as I stand, this war isn't lost.«
The demon pushed off and soared into the sky. Silver light encircled his body as if the stars had fallen from the sky to guard him. He lifted his arms and poised his weapon in front of his chest. Bright light broke out of the blade.
The god opposite him narrowed his eyes. He lifted his own sword towards the sky. It rumbled above him and a lightning bolt struck down. In thousand little fingers it bounced around the blade. Chi You shouted and jumped into the fight.
Ying Zhen's eyelids drooped. The wind swooshed by his ears and gripped his hair. It danced in the current, while Ying Zhen seemed to be frozen. Then, his eyes opened. He whirled around, light shot out of the blade of his sword and threw Chi You back. The demon laughed.
»For Heidan and Xingula!«
He pursued the god. The wind carried him past the blow of Chi You's weapon. His own blade resiled and struck the god's sleeve. Smiling, the demon withdrew, spun around again and stretched his hand up high. Cold, blue flames blossomed to live therein and shot towards Chi You. A blow of his sword parted the flames, before the god flew towards the demon.
»For Kaashuang and the just life!«, Chi You hissed. He rotated around his own axis. The wind whirled around him, detached from his body and rushed towards Ying Zhen.
The demon fell back, but a dangerous smile played on his lips. As if he wanted to leap to his death, he flew towards the maelstrom, passed the cutting edge and paused in the storm's eye. Together with the storm he moved back from the fight with Chi You. The silver light, that encompassed his body, receded and made way for deep shadows. Like ink they expanded from his body, felt their way through the vicinity and blended with the storm. Bit by bit they concealed Ying Zhen's form, until Chi You couldn't see him any longer.
»The just life?«, the demon murmured and extended his sword. »Just is, whoever proves to be stronger.« Wasn't that, what the gods had done time after time? Who knew, what had lost Heidan, the demons' ancestor, his life?
The cold fire flared up again. Ying Zhen lifted both hands into the air. Brighter and brighter the flames blazed, until their light penetrated the shadow-like whirlwind's darkness and threatened to blind Chi You.
At the brightest point of their life, the twisting flames solidified and formed ice crystals. Ying Zhen shattered them into a thousand shards and threw them carelessly into the whirlwind. Faster and faster they swirled inside. The demon unsheathed his sword again, held the handle with both hands in front of his body and the blade in front of his face. He closed his eyes and his lips moved silently. I'll be damned, if I can't manage to avenge my brothers today and bring Chi You down!
Black symbols stretched along the blade and pulsed in the rhythm of Ying Zhen's heartbeat. The demon slid his fingers over the sharp edge and added his own blood to that of his enemies. His eyes opened, the iris as red as the blood.
With a yelp, an enormous force burst out of his body, dissipated the storm in the directions of all cardinal points and hurled the ice shards after it. Chi You cursed. He lifted his weapon and tried to parry them, but there were too many: One struck his shoulder, another one his thigh and the last one blinded his right eye.
The god screamed and covered it with his hand. With his remaining eye he scowled furiously at Ying Zhen, who already flew towards him. Chi You lifted his weapon. The blades collided. The clinking of metal drowned out the thunder.
Ying Zhen smiled. The black symbols on his sword blurred and under Chi You's panic-stricken gaze a ghost weapon detached itself from Ying Zhen's sword and drove into his heart.
The god looked into the demon's red eyes. Blood trickled out of the corner of his mouth. He couldn't even produce the name of his enemy, as he plummeted towards the ground under Ying Zhen's gaze.
The demon sighed. The red of his iris faded and turned into a brown, that seemed almost black in front of the murky sky. He brandished his weapon. The blood still clinging to it fell and vanished in the white sea of mist. Ying Zhen followed the drops with his eyes, his face, coated in the dried blood of his enemies, motionless.
It was over. The fight was past. The war … won?
Ying Zhen motioned carelessly with his hand. The mist at the ground dissolved and revealed the battleground underneath. Ying Zhen floated down and paced between the lifeless bodies of the demons and gods. He stopped next to one of them and looked down. »Wu Rong.« He sheathed his sword and sighed. »The cost was too high.«
His gaze slid to the sky. The thunder had faded away, the lightning couldn't be seen anymore, only the dark clouds still hovered above him. A raindrop fell and landed on his cheek. Like a tear it trickled down and left a clear trace in the blood on Ying Zhen's skin.
He had survived. He was the only demon, of those who had participated in the battle, who had survived. But he didn't feel happy at this thought. What should he report, when he came home? What would happen to his people, when all the others didn't return? The gods were numerous. Without fail they could mobilize a new army soon enough and then … The demons would fall. And if they didn't fall, then they'd at least lose their freedom.
»Heidan, Xingula, Chaayin …«, he called out to his peoples' ancestors. »Was that, what you wanted for your heirs?«
The next drops fell and washed the blood away. Soon, they pattered on the remaining demon as if heaven cried for them.
Ying Zhen looked back onto the dead. »No. I won't allow it. Isn't it your realm, Heidan, we enter after our death? So where is the difference in living there or living in our home land? It should be all the same to you.«
Ying Zhen pushed off the ground. He flew over the bloodstained land, over the ocean, whose borders had been dyed red through the war, and followed the river until he reached a stony gate. Ying Zhen landed and knelt at the river bank. He lifted his arms, folded his hands and bowed three times.
»Pardon me, Heidan, that I trespass your realm unasked. But surely you wouldn't wish for so many of your heirs to lose their lives. Certainly, you wouldn't condone your heirs' demise.« With those words he rose to his feet and entered the path to the Netherworld, which once was the realm of the High god Heidan many years ago. The realm of the demons' ancestor, who had fallen by the hands of the other gods.
Here comes the second tale »Light up the Netherworld« concerning Ying Zhen and Laryana. I hope it's clear that the protagonists of the different tales won't be the same people. But I don't exclude the possibility that they'll show up as supporting characters later on. :D
This tale is a little (but only a little ;) ) darker than »The snake king's wife«. I'm curious about your thoughts, so please comment and let me know which one you like more. ;)
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