The Middle Kingdom. A world that is small to some and large to others, with borders that span distances unknown to humans.
To the South of the Kingdom exist the Gaoping mountains, where the Flame Emperor rules from the City of Eternal Fire. The city is always glowing due to the smokeless fires, giving the city an ethereal glow. Across from the Gaoping Mountains are the Luo and Jialing Rivers, where the Yellow Emperor has created a sprawling city known as You Xiang.
The Flame Emperor's Yan Tribe and the Yellow Emperor's Huang Tribe have been locked in a tireless struggle for supremacy, with the Yan coveting the fertile land of the Huang and the Huang desiring the valuable metals and herbs of the Yan.
Wedged between the two territories are a smattering of towns and villages where inhabitants live in constant fear of wild demons and animals. One such town would be the city of Little Moon. Contrary to its name, the city was rather large in population. The name of the city came from the large lake that surrounded it, acting almost as a natural moat. At the end of each lunar month, the moonlight would shine down upon the lake, transforming the city into a reflection of the moon. The city was also connected to the Luo River through a network of various smaller rivers.
Little Moon was famous for its exports of freshwater seafood from the lake, as well as the river channels that would allow for transport to bigger cities such as You Xiang. The Yellow Emperor saw great value in such a city and sent one of his generals and a dispatch of soldiers to guard it. The result was that the industry of the city was composed of mainly fisherman, boatmen, and dock workers.
Before the Sun had even rose, these workers would wake and eat a simple meal of pickled fish and gruel that would sustain them until supper. Slowly making their way to the lake docks, they would toil for hours until the sunset, where they would wearily return to their families until the day began anew.
This day was a bit different however, as when a young fisherman did his morning rounds of the fishing nets, he had discovered a body!
The body was that of a short man with choppy black hair. The body possessed a blue tinge and was rigid, the implication being that his death was recent.
After the shock had passed, the young fisherman immediately panicked and called for his fellow fishermen to help. One of the more older fishermen began running to alert one of the city guards, his long life having taught him what to do in such a scenario.
When the old fisherman returned with the guard, a small crowd had already begun to form. The guard pushed his way to the front of the crowd, drawing looks of ire before they realized who it was and quickly scattered.
This was a very strange corpse.
While at first glance the cause of death appeared to be drowning, the faint dark marks around the neck told a different story. The marks resemble those left by a whip or rope. Upon deeper examination, the guard noticed that the nose of the deceased had numerous whiskers jutting out. This was no man; this was a demon!
The guard immediately removed a bell from his waist, which he shook with great vigor. A few seconds later there was a loud cracking sound, and then a man with a large beard appeared before the body. The size of the man was enormous, his back broad like mountain ranges. His height was enormous, standing easily at 3 meters tall. He was clad in a rough cotton robe with a faded color, as if it had been washed and worn for a long time.
"How long has it been since the body was discovered?" Asked a soft voice, as the man in rough robes turned around. Looking at his face, he resembled a common farmer you could find anywhere. He had a square face and small eyes, with large ears that were slightly sharp at their ends. If you ignored his size, the man looked as ordinary as can be. Yet he was far from common, as the man in rough robes was in fact one of the Huang Tribe's 5 Great Totem Generals, the Pixiu.
The guard immediately dropped to one knee and replied, "General Sir, a fisherman found the body at the fourth hour of the day, just before the sun had risen…" The guard explained the occurrence in great detail, explaining both his observations as well as his thoughts.
The General took in the information in silence while turning back to further observe the body. After the guard had finished his recount the General began to speak, his back still turned to the guard.
"You were correct in assuming that the demon was strangled, however it is unlikely that this was the cause of their death. This demon has already gained the ability to shapeshift, making it at least an Awakened. For these types of beings, strangulation is too slow of a method to kill him. If he was killed through this method, he would have transformed into his animal form. Its likely he was caught by surprise."
The General paused for a moment, picking his next few words carefully.
"Make sure that these fishermen remain silent and enforce a curfew. Anyone caught outside after sundown will be imprisoned immediately. With the Yan Tribe's diplomatic envoy heading towards this city, we cannot afford to show any weakness in our territory."
The guard immediately signaled his agreement, then took off to pass his orders to the others. The General stared at the sky for a moment, taking in the faint outline of the moon that had yet to be phased out by the Sun.
Although the General had told no lies to the guard, he had failed to mention that he recognized the demon. The demon's name was Old Rat, who was famous for his information gathering skills. The General had asked him to keep his ear to the ground for any movements in relation to the arrival of the Yan envoy, and he had not heard from him for weeks. The next time they had met, the rat demon had already become a corpse.
"Chi You, Chi You, what secrets are you hiding?"
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