He doesn’t remember death, not really. There had been shouting, a symphony of screams of all magnitudes and coming from all directions, they echoed to the heaven’s above and shook the earth below. Something or someone killed him, maybe, he just doesn’t remember it. All he knows is that he’s drifting, the world is nothing but a blur of colors and shapes, he’s floating somewhere for some reason, but he can’t recall why either.
He’s inside a lantern, that’s his first lucid thought after who knows how long.
The world suddenly focuses and he’s staring at the face he has been thinking and dreaming about for years now, his reason to live, the devotion that has willed his bruised heart to believe and his beaten-up body to keep going. The world is cold and violent, but this person is anything but. He’s still floating but now memories come to him like the unrushed flow of a river. That’s right, he died for His Highness and that’s his biggest honor. His prince, his god now stands before him trying to coax him to find peace but, how can he? How can peace be found when his beloved is looking so miserable like this?
“I still have a beloved in this world…” He confesses.
His beloved is a beautiful and strong person, even when Heaven has kicked him down and even when the common people he vowed to protect have turned their back on him, if he has to fight the whole world to keep His Highness safe then so be it.
“Please forget me.” His Highness says and he sounds so tired and hollow.
But he won’t, never, he will never forget the being bathed in golden light that saved his wretched life or the kind person that gave him a reason to live when the rest of the world just wished him dead. He doesn’t want to forget and he never will. For him, for the sake of his beloved, he will be invincible.
He’s a ghost fire floating around, weak, unable to do anything but he’s always been persistent.
He might be a ball of flames but those flames are cold, he’s weak and useless like he’s always been and felt, even now when his beloved is weeping while clutching a jar of wine as he lays on a cold and desolated graveyard by himself he can’t do a thing because he can’t comfort him nor can he warm his shivering body. It feels like he's dying all over again but this time it feels more painful. No screams can compare to the agony and despair that shows on His Highness’s face, how hollow his eyes look, no war wound can sting as much as this sight.
Maybe he’s a little bit stronger, just the tiniest bit, but he needs to be stronger to protect his beloved -strong enough to burn the world who wronged him.
But really…What’s the use of manipulating a few ghost fire’s that are weaker than him if His Highness is still walking the path that will only bring him pain? He just wants to be stronger, someone worthy of him, he just wants to keep him safe. Why can’t he? What does he have to do? He’ll do anything!
A war is a gruesome sight, the battlefield is always a sight taken out of a nightmare, it’s the symphony of screams and wails of those who are dying and those who have died, it’s the sight of rivers of blood flowing and of the sting of pain that never stops or dulls, he died there, didn’t he? He knows he did, he’s not sure how but he knows his dying place had been on a battlefield, on the side that lost, driven to the limits of the body and mind for the sake of His Highness but he had failed him there and he’s failing him now.
His Highness wanted to save the common people but aren’t they unworthy? Look at them, wielding a sword and stabbing the one who wishes to save them the most!
Anger flares and so does his flames but what can he do? What can be done when he’s nothing more than a ghost fire encased in the hands of the monster that brings his beloved the heaviest of despairs and the most painful of wounds?
Please, he pleas and begs even if his voice is soundless, please don’t hurt him!
No! Please don’t hurt him! Stop! Stopstopstostopstop! Please don’t do this! Please! Not him, please not him!
Blood flows like a river, it spills down the altar and clings to white robes, there’s laughter ringing inside the temple but it’s overpowered by a blood curling scream. Who’s screaming? Is it him or His Highness? It doesn’t matter, not really.
All that matters is that he wants the whole world to pay for the sins they have committed against His Highness.
He’s a ghost, he’s weak and unable to do anything, he can’t warm up His Highness body or give him the comfort he craves and needs just like he can’t save him from a sword impaling him again and again and again. In the delirium of his despair and anger, he screams, he screams and screams while the whole world around them burns everything to black smoke and even blacker ashes. He screams and the earth shakes, he screams and the heavens cover their ears, he screams and vows to bring calamity and devastation to those who have wronged His Highness.
He screams but, really, he’s crying in his delirium. Crying for his beloved, weeping for how cruel the world has treated him when he’s been kind, sobs for all the times his beloved didn’t scream his own despair and he cries because he’s so weak and has failed him again.
He has a body now which means he can be of use. His Highness doesn’t look like himself but that’s alright, he still loves him, even if he yells at him for bringing him flowers but he’s still in love and incredibly devoted. He’s named Wu Ming because His Highness is kind enough to give him a name, he’s still kind after everything and the world will burn to ashes before he allows him to crumble again by its weight.
If killing the king will bring him peace, so be it, those who have wronged him have no right to breathe nor should they be allowed to live. But he still prefers to kill them himself so as not to stain His Highness hands with such filth.
He has a body yet he’s weak still. He’s still lacking too much. But he can still be of use, he can bear the curse in his stead, even if the expression of pure despair twists the face of his beloved, he’ll still do it for his sake.
He’s screaming again and His Highness screams along with him.
Don’t weep for me, Your Highness. For you, I’ll become invincible. I’ll come back stronger, next time for sure, I will protect you. I will never forget you.
He’s drifting again only this time he has a body and maybe he’s carrying a sword. He’s not very sure. He’s heard of a place where he can be stronger, where only the strongest survive, if he goes there maybe he can become worthy of protecting him.
Monsters, demons, ghosts and every other grotesque being roam the land bathing in each other’s blood and howling laughter laced with madness. The weak will be the stepping stone of the strong and the faint of heart have no place here.
What is a petty war among humans compared to this?
He’s a child, he was too young for war, a life that was cut short. He’s scared. He’s scared and alone and he doesn’t know what to do but he knows this: he needs to be strong, has to become strong. All he has is a dull sword and his persistence to serve as weapons and to shield him, his devotion shall be the light that guides him through. He prays, quietly, for His Highness to bless him on this madness paved road that’s painted with the blood of the fallen and of the weak.
He’s a child but he’s not dumb, he’s fought in a war before, he watches bigger demons kill each other and let’s them when he knows it will be a fight he can’t win. Brute strength won’t be his saving grace and so he has to be smart. He cut’s down enemies and sends an apology to His Highness for every life that's cut by his sword. His beloved hated fights and would never spill blood but he needs to be strong, but it’s alright, he’ll emerge victorious for him -this time he won’t fail.
There’s a group of humans caught in the madness of spilt blood and howled screams of the undead. He takes them in even though he’s probably too weak to protect them and himself but he’ll do it.
He’s spurred on by anger so hot it scalds him, he’s still weak though, the strongest thing about him are the roaring emotions that trash within him as he clings to the thin threads of a soul that refuses to find peace. He still has a beloved in this world, someone who he wants to protect, he has to be strong for him and he will. Even when he’s drowning in the flames of his rage, choking on the heavy demonic energy that swirls all around, he’s sinking beneath the weight of his own madness that’s coaxing him to lose himself. It’s so easy to give in, to give up, a beast within him is demanding blood and howling for violence but his human heart, the one filled with devotion and love is weeping for him to hang on -don’t give in just yet!
But he’s cornered. He’s scared and weak and feeling so small…He’s a cornered animal, a small thing that can easily be broken, he’s a laughingstock among demons and monsters because he’s weak and yet he’s earnestly trying to protect a group of humans that cower behind him searching for safety.
A part of him wants to tear them apart, wants to spill their blood, but he can’t. His Highness always spoke of kindness, of how much he wished to protect the common people, spilling the blood of innocents would just upset him.
In the throes of madness and pain and rage, hanging onto the last thread of sanity, he sacrifices his own right eye. The dull sword in his hand hisses and rings loudly with the blood sacrifice that was infused within the blade, it calls for blood and calamity, and so he gives it what it wishes for. Every demon and monster and grotesque being falls victim to the blade in his hand that trembles in a foreboding sense of life.
There’s a clash of lightening above, a sound so loud it makes his ears ring and his whole-body tremble from the strength of it. He’s worn down at the edges, clothes tattered and dirty, he’s huffing and panting like an animal on the brick of death that’s hanging on by the skin of its teeth. He’s a blood painted menace and he stands on the floor of Heaven with its glorious golden palaces and luxuries as far as the eye can reach.
And he laughs at them. He laughs and curses every heavenly official he sees and even those he doesn’t, he bares teeth in a vicious snarl and spouts curses of all types.
Heaven? The only Heaven he knows is within the presence of his one and only God. If he’s not there, then it isn’t Heaven and he wants nothing to do with it.
He stares at the Heavenly Emperor in the eye for he curses him the most, hates him the most, he makes his hatred roar itself known until it won’t be easily forgotten before he jumps back down. Promises of calamity are left in that gold bathed realm, when he's strong, those 33 officials shall suffer in his hands for hurting His Highness -he shall soon bask in their downfall- he makes sure they know that his hatred isn't an easy thing to dismiss. He returns to that blood painted place, that furnace of madness, he returns to it for he will emerge victorious for the sake of his beloved.
For him, he will be invincible.
Mountain Tong’Lu is a new sort of Hell. Crafted out of rage and madness and every negative emotion known to man, its weight is so heavy and thick that one seems to be able to feel it beneath their tongue and swallow it like thick syrup that erodes everything from the inside out.
He’s lost notion of time, actually, there are times he’s lost notion of himself.
All he knows is rage and pain and exhaustion. He also knows loneliness and maybe that’s the heaviest of them all. The myriad of emotions that rage inside his battered body is what’s driving him to the brick of madness, if he doesn’t fight it he’ll be consumed by it, if he lets it win then he’ll be failing all over again and he’s failed one too many times -failure isn’t an option.
There’s a demonic weapon bathed in his own blood sacrifice on his hand, it feels alive in the most eerie of ways but it’s been a comfort every now and again, it grows stronger with each drop of blood it spills and maybe he grows stronger as well -he hopes he does. In the moments of lucidity, he prays, he leans against the harsh rocks in the dark and prays for His Highness.
Please wait for me, Your Highness. I’ll be strong, I’ll grow strong for you…For you I’ll be invincible.
He loses the notion of time just like he loses bits of himself, it slips from between his fingers, with each bit a new fear grows in the bottom of his dead heart. If he forgets himself won’t he forget His Highness as well?
Drowning in fear and loneliness, he uses that blood bathed sword to carve stone into a face he knows, one stone soon turns into five and ten until that fear simmers down. This becomes a routine each time he feels like he’ll lose himself, each time he feels much too lonely to bear, each time his soul feels like it will tear apart.
“Your Highness…” He finds himself murmuring as he looks at the beautiful being carved in stone “…Please wait for me…I’ll become strong.”
The blade in his hand sings as if echoing his desire and devotion, maybe it also weeps of exhaustion like him. He wobbles forth into the cold arms of the stone statue and he feels like he’s being caught in that divine gold light again, cradled in the safety of his god. No statue does him justice, he knows, he’s carved so many…They are all different from each other aside from the face, they all have different poses and robes, because he doesn’t care if his beloved is a divinity or a calamity or he’s bathing in riches or in misery -he only cares for him as he is- he loves him either way, in any way, in any life.
He carves many stone statues in that cave, some are delicate and realistic, and others are rough and a bit clumsy, but what all of them have in common is the love and devotion poured into every single detail. In this space dedicated to his love, to the meaning of his life, he will paint as many murals as possible and carve as many statues until his fingers turn to bone and his hands no longer move.
For the Crown Prince of Xian Le he will remain a faithful follower. For the Flower Crowned Martial God he shall remain a devoted believer. For Xie Lian he shall remain a fool in love who adores every single thing about him. He will be invincible.