His re-birth is a furnace of flames and magma, it’s dark skies heavy with ashes and promises of calamity, his power is raw and scalding and almost foreign to him.
But this is what he wanted, wasn’t it? To be stronger.
A single dark eye takes in the world around him before his attention shifts to his hands. There’s power thrumming beneath the skin, he feels it coil in his veins and it’s a bit foreign, it feels too much like there’s too much of it but not enough space for it to coarse through his body properly. Maybe this will be enough though but first he needs to learn how to control it properly. He has many things to do. There are prices to pay and he will make sure they are properly and fully paid.
He builds a city and makes it his kingdom, it’s small when he starts but it gradually grows, at first, he’s regarded as fresh blood that others want to spill but they soon learn how much of a fatal mistake that is. E’Ming is still a powerful weapon carved out of his own blood sacrifice and in addition he can create an army of silvery butterflies that are as deadly as they are beautiful. He hopes His Highness will like the butterflies; he’s always liked pretty things after all. Maybe he can joke that since butterflies are attracted to flowers, doesn't him having butterflies and be attracted to the Flower Crowned Martial God funny? He thinks it is or maybe it isn't -he's unsure of many things at the moment.
Nowadays, he goes by the name of Hua Cheng.
Much to his delight, his name is whispered in awe and dismay, of course the Heaven’s wouldn’t forget him, and he will make sure that they never do. He made sure of it before he jumped back down after refusing to be a god and made sure of it, once more, when he challenged those 33 heavenly officials. The title of ‘Crimson Rain Sought Flower’ comes a bit later when he’s still making sure that people know how to respect him when they see him, he bears many grudges, after all, and when he recognizes a face he hadn’t seen in years, well, his cruelty might just rise a few levels because wasn’t this the little lord that beat him up and threw him into a gummy sack to be dragged across the royal capital once upon a time? Maybe, he would like to know what it’s like to be the weak one for a change. Hua Cheng will make sure that people know he’s no weak or small thing to be played with, his rage is an inferno that shall turn everything to ash, he’s a calamity that shall not be calmed so easily nor does he intend to.
He has a soft spot for flowers, especially white ones that remind him of His Highness which are one of his favorites. The sight of that flower being drenched by rain made of blood made Hua Cheng unconsciously reach for it with longing and yearning in equal measures -each of them ringing deep within his bones and soul. He still hasn’t found his beloved, but he will and when he does, he will make sure no harm shall ever befall him ever again.
For all the power that resides in him, for all the greatness that he has become, Hua Cheng still feels like a child (he is in a way) he might walk like he knows no fear and cares for nothing but, in reality, he’s still struggling with one too many things. He died young, he was a child much too young for the army, maybe the army offered him the food and the shelter he lacked at a younger age when he was still a feral child lurking in the shadows of the royal capital whenever he wasn’t getting beaten up. He fought tooth and nail to survive, sometimes surviving by the skin of his teeth, life as a soldier was just a bit easier than that…
He has everything now, doesn’t he? Minus the presence of his God.
Hua Cheng stares at his hands, at the red knot he now wears in memory of that one time, in that one cave, where His Highness had cut a lock of his hair to protect him, he stares at the hands that became soaked with blood while he lived and when he died. His gaze flickers to the city he built in a whim, it’s the lair of demons and ghosts, it’s a parade that never stops, a festival that never really ends and just grows in size. He wonders if His Highness would like it.
Everything is for him; his power, his wealth, his everything and anything.
He’s a king, a powerful being feared across all three realms, unlike when he was alive Hua Cheng has anything at his disposal: riches, money, propriety, fine silks, exquisite weapons…For once he doesn’t starve or suffers from the cold and he still feels bewildered by it when he finds himself alone.
Like now, as he stands alone in a room deep into the heart of Paradise Manor, a residence he’s built for himself (not a home, to him this isn’t a home) and in this room is where his devotion makes itself known. Paintings and statues of all sizes decorate the room and if he’s not making more then Hua Cheng just sits and stares at them, sometimes his dead heart trashes in his chest, sometimes he feels his throat close up with the urge to scream and cry but he’s not a helpless child anymore nor is he a weak ghost fire hanging on the brink of dispersing.
Cold slender fingers reach towards the face of a particular statue that stands closer to him, he traces lightly the edges of a gentle smile, knows he has yet to create something that makes justice to the Crown Prince, to The Flower Crown Martial God, one day he might manage to do it but he finds it unlikely because nothing can compare to the real one. Hua Cheng feels his heart swell with devotion and love, feels the weight of it settle deep into his bones, he let’s his head drop until his cold forehead is leaning against even colder stone and he let’s his one eye drift close.
“Are you well, Your Highness…?” He asks to no one in particular “Are you happy? Wait for me…I will find you and make sure you will never suffer again. Please believe me.”
Now, like any other time, silence is his only answer.
Well, maybe not absolute silence because E’Ming is shaking in its scabbard, it’s bright red eye wide and spinning madly as if weeping alongside his master. Hua Cheng spares it a look before reaching for the silver blade with a sigh that borders on a huff of laughter. Slipping away from the statue he slumps on a chair, red robes spilling around him as he does so, he stares at E’Ming who in turn stares at him while shaking in his hands which only stops when he runs his fingers over its spine. Hua Cheng is unsure for how long he sits there, surrounded by the face of his god, simmering in his emotions and thoughts while petting E’Ming until the scimitar stops quivering and its eye closes.
They keep missing each other, he and his beloved, but that’s alright because Hua Cheng has the tides of fortune on his side and nothing or no one will stop him from finding His Highness.
Maybe he will be stopped, though, if His Highness wants nothing to do with him and if that is what awaits him so be it. His devotion and love will continue to beat in his undead heart, it will echo in his soul, none of them shall wilt for as long as time keeps going.
A single butterfly flutters over, its silvery wings leaving bits of light like shining starlight in its wake, it comes to settle on the tip of Hua Cheng’s fingers as he overlooks the Gambler’s Den in all it’s madness and commotion. The ghosts are howling bets and dares, throwing their lives and unlives onto the tables, betting limbs and years of life away but the ghost king isn’t interested in that -not when he’s received such delightful news.
After 800 years of searching and longing he’s found him!
“Your Highness…” He finds himself whisper as a ghost of a smile tugs at his lips.
He rises from his throne because nothing else matters right now. Hua Cheng feels warm delight seeping into his bones, excitement ringing in his ears in tune to the bells on his boots as he walks, the child in him is crying out of relief and maybe he cries along with it as he grips the dice in his hand.
Fortune took his side once more and he will savor this chance and shall not lay it to waste.
The dice take him to a mountain, but the place could be anywhere for all he cares, all that matters is that he found him, after everything he finally found him and he’ll be damned if he lets him slip from his fingers again.
Hua Cheng finds himself near a red wedding sedan and a part of him wants to laugh while the other quivers with nerves. He’s inside, isn’t he? His god, his beloved, his reason to live. He’s unsure if it’s the butterflies fluttering in his stomach and chest or if he’s suddenly alive and feeling the weight of every emotion like it’s the first time but there’s no time for it, he’s too eager in his delight, too drunk on his love but he won’t make himself a fool.
With a serene expression that’s only betrayed by a faint smirk he can’t quite wipe away, Hua Cheng extends his hand beyond the thin red veil and into the sedan, he doesn’t speak a word nor does he make a sound and simply remains patient and collected. As collected as he can when he feels the weight of a guarded hand being placed upon his own. Hua Cheng stares at that hand, that beautiful porcelain hand that looks delicate despite having so much strength thrumming beneath the skin, he stares even as he very gently guides the holder of his affections out of the sedan.
Oh, maybe his dead heart skitters a bit too much when the god stumbles and collides with his chest.
Hua Cheng remains silent but makes sure to hold him with respect and care, maybe he’s being tested but he doesn’t care, he’s much too happy about this and the child in him is singing and laughing and he feels like he’ll burst. He won’t, though, oh no, not when he wants to savor this moment and bask in it for as long as possible. He’s dreamt of many things, found himself chasing daydreams more often than not, but nothing can compare to the solid weight of His Highness hand on his as he guides him through the forest and towards the place where he will be able to find all the answers he needs in order to quell Heaven’s nagging and whining.
They don’t speak but that’s fine. This is more than he could ever ask for. His Highness looks good in red and gold, his childish dead heart is much too amused and delighted because this looks like a wedding where both are dressed in red but Hua Cheng won’t let himself be carried away, he spent too much time training himself to be anything but a street urchin, to be worthy of His Highness: he taught himself manners befitting of nobles, he acquired every bit of knowledge about everything and anything, Hua Cheng has made such deep and grand efforts and he won’t lay them all to waste now.
But, oh, he hasn’t felt this alive not even when he was breathing and had a beating heart. He’s giddy, lightheaded in his delight, brimming with excitement like his veins might burst, his bones creak in relief and he’s so, so in love it’s like he’ll either ascend again or die again.
Hua Cheng comes to a halt and let’s go of his beloved’s hand to retrieve a red umbrella. He was once offered this umbrella to be sheltered from the rain on the same day he was given a reason to live, now he can return the favor, now he can use that same umbrella to shelter His Highness. They resume walking, a hand holding the umbrella which is slightly more tilted towards his beloved while his other hand is holding onto his hand to guide him the rest of the way. If he steps on a point of an array he doesn’t care, it doesn’t matter, it’s nothing but dust beneath his boots but he’s glad to know that it won’t hinder his love anymore just like those pesky wolves won’t be a problem.
Sadly, and almost too soon they reach the end of the road and Hua Cheng let’s that beautiful hand slip from his grasp even though it makes him feel colder than ever. It’s without much thought (or maybe too many thoughts) that Hua Cheng reaches a hand towards the thin red veil covering his beloved’s beautiful features but the moment his fingers brush it’s soft edge a white flash darts towards him with as much sharpness and speed as a poisonous snake that had been waiting for the right moment to attack.
And he smiles. Hua Cheng smiles because, naturally, His Highness was never a meek person to begin with and he loves him so much really. He let’s that white silk barely brush him before his whole-body bursts into a swarm of silver butterflies. His Highness seems taken aback by it, his hand still hovering in the air in front of him as he stares wide eyed at the several butterflies that disperse around him, a single one flutters over and remains for a moment before it too disappears.
After 800 years he’s found him, finally, his search has come to an end. From now on, no harm shall befall on his beloved, Hua Cheng will make sure of it.