1. Log: relaunch-failure_error.log
The demoness lashed out with elongated claws, ooze coating shiny black nails.
Ming Fan grunted as he repelled the attack with his sword, sweat beginning to form from exhaustion. Before this it was an army of demons. Before that he had just woken up from the last night spent dealing with excess paperwork he had yet to finish before he slept on his desk like some sort of undignified new disciple. Yet it was a necessary evil since Shizun was still on his yearly anniversary vacation- so Ming Fan was left to deal with the work that didn’t need the Peak Lord.
Ming Fan planted his feet before pulling forward, slashing at the demoness with energy charged air.
It was supposed to be an easy mission.
A rebel demon terrorizing a small village.
Apparently their intelligence was flawed. Ming Fan cursed his empty stomach, he had woken up too late to fetch some sort of breakfast. It would be the last time he did such a thing.
“Where is he hm?” The demoness tilted her head, she looked a little like a pasty Sha Hualing if he were to draw a comparison. A strange tinge in her skin that wasn’t at all like the beauty of the demoness and second general of Luo Binghe’s demon army. The swaths the demoness called clothes didn’t even suit her complexion. What a waste, her paler form would have looked nicer in a pleasant vermillion instead of the deep sanguine. Such colors were better suited with people who could back up the danger implied in such a bloody color.
“That Shizun of yours? Ming Fan- First General of Qing Jing Peak?”
Ming Fan tilted his head, “This Ming Fan does not believe his Shizun would deign to meet Maiden Demoness without reason.”
“Oh- but I have a reason,” the Demoness’ grin grew feral. “I’m going to kill him and become Lord Binghe’s first wife.”
This again, Ming Fan thought with a sigh. Feeling every bit his forty-seven years despite being a cultivator, the ache in his bones, broken and repaired many times throughout his lifetime. “With respect Maiden Demoness, Lord Luo has repeatedly stated his lack of any interest in taking a marriage partner beyond Shizun.” Get the fucking message you daft beast. Apologies to Shizun and Shang-shishu for overhearing your talks.
“I’ll change his mind.”
Ming Fan sent his most “disappointed-in-you” Head Disciple look, “Many have said the same.”
“Well,” Maiden Demoness’ grin became wider. “I’ll just have to kill him don’t I?”
Shameless, Ming Fan thought with a wince as his sword arm throbbed with strain. Not one proper sentence out of this wrecker’s mouth.
The two enemies clashed a ways away from the sea-side village that had been plagued by the demoness’ machinations. The crashing waves becoming an annoying reminder of happier times. Useless memories.
Ming Fan mentally doubled down and threw his sword harder.
He swiftly turned as he jolted away from the demoness’ immediate vicinity, Shizun, slightly rumpled and Xiu Ya stained with blood.
Ming Fan frowned to himself, for Shizun was supposed to have been with Luo Binghe. Even with the repaired body, Shen Qingqiu’s cultivation was still catching up with Binghe’s due to the prolonged healing demanded by the search for the Fruit of Cleansing that took place nearly fifteen years ago.
Still, Ming Fan’s sword arm throbbed at the memory, that did not mean Shen Qingqiu had lightened any throughout those years. It was unprecedented for Peak Lords to stay for so long, but with the Cultivation world down by one Sect due to the revealed scandals of the former master of Huan Hua- it was left to Cang Qiong to take most of the weight of two territories while decades long investigations took place by the other Sects- effectively suspending Huan Hua until they finished and Luo Binghe came back from beating the Demon World into submission. Cang Qiong alone was one of the Sects that had hardly lost any resources in the war. A combination of Luo Binghe’s guilt and Tianlang-jun’s lack of personal vendetta against Cang Qiong specifically; supposedly due to a snake demon that happened to be the heavenly demon’s nephew. Even in the present, such rumors remained such.
“What is the situation.” Shen Qingqiu demanded immediately, back straight and in control.
“The Demoness has been plaguing this village for some time, this Ming Fan was sent to deal with the issue. The main hunting parties of Cang Qiong Sect had been split due to necessitating presence in three other towns. This Ming Fan apologizes for his incompetence, Ming Fan had thought he would be able to resolve the issue himself,” He bowed in apology, keeping his senses trained around the area before he straightened himself again. His blood singing a familiar song.
“Ming Fan may correct himself at a later date,” Shen Qingqiu dismissed with a grim expression. “This Shizun knows what the demoness wants.”
Ming Fan bit back a retort, “This Ming Fan understands. Begging pardon, where is Shizun’s Husband?”
“Dealing with other annoyances,” Shen Qingqiu’s expression came together to form an elegant look of annoyance. “These flies are becoming a nuisance.”
Ming Fan bowed his head in agreement, sizing up on the approaching mass of demonic energy as it made it’s fast approach. Flicking his sword seal into deflecting the demoness away from his Shizun.
“Shen Qingqiu,” The Maiden Demoness spat, eye twitching strangely. It was at this moment Ming Fan silenced his mind of present thought as he moved between the demoness and his Peak Lord. It was the same talk, she was going to kill his Shizun. Then take on the role of Luo Binghe’s Wife, treat him with glory and children, blah blah blah- One would think that such a thing would stop after twenty years of unsuccessful attempts to do exactly that- It was his Shizun! Of course Luo Binghe would rather cut his own pillar off than take on someone other than Shen Qingqiu. If he didn’t- the entirety of his martial siblings would come for it themselves! Ming Fan wouldn’t even be the one in the lead, Ning Yingying would be there- front and center. Beloved shidi of hers or not.
It was Ning Yingying after all, who started the riot in Huan Hua territory. If Ming Fan did not hold the title of Head Disciple, he would have thought Ning Yingying would be the one to take over Shizun’s position, sexist tongue wags be damned. She had become rather ruthless ever since the slandering of Shizun’s name, Ming Fan would have been surprised if he hadn’t been there bear witness to Ning Yingying’s vehement cursing that would have made a Bai Zhan Peak disciple blush.
Still, it seems he had overestimated himself as he felt his chest pang with pain. Grunting and kneeling at the sudden tightness around his golden core. Burning as if he was going through a bottle neck. Which shouldn’t have been possible since he just finished from the last one.
The Maiden Demoness grinned and sunk her claws in him.
He swung his arm instinctively, effectively separating her forearms from the rest of her body with a wet squelch. A powerful swing of energy offing the rest of her, clearly from Xiu Ya.
He fell to his knees, veins flaring and injury quickly taking on an unnatural hue. Vison blurring and body growing warm.
He wasn’t certain yet, but Ming Fan felt that he was at death’s door.
As much as didn’t quite want to go as far as to die, it wasn’t that much of a shock when one considered the newly developed situation at hand. He felt his blood turn sluggish, the poison burning his veins, the pain beginning to bloom into a demonic flower of pain and suffering; he took the time to silently curse the rogue demon who had dared to target his Shizun.
Though what was most infuriating was the fact that it wasn’t even by Binghe’s hand did he fall. No, he was felled by a no-name demon attempting to make a name for herself by killing off the Demon Lord’s husband, the audacity! The disrespect. He had not spent forty-seven years clawing his way year after year going through Shizun’s strange moods, later picking his way through paperwork, fighting demons, restraining Ning Yingying from tearing the palace princess to shreds, fighting a war with a heavenly demon’s army, fighting another demon army, and going through the…embarrassing shamelessness of Shizun and Binghe- to be felled by some sort of nobody. It would have made him happier to have been skewered by a demon general at least.
In Shizun’s words: Lame.
“Ming Fan? Ming Fan cease your movements.” His Shizun’s expression was pinched. The Peak Lord frowning as he sent qi through his veins. A pleasant warmth that beat back the burning pain somewhat- where was that useless puppy dog? All the times that Luo Binghe was attached to Shizun’s hip, surely he would be so close by. Where was Shizun’s fan? “Binghe. Binghe, here. Now.”
The aforementioned pup bounded in, his eyes fading from their bright crimson kneeling besides Shizun.
He grumbled at his heart for beating slightly faster – this was no lotus maiden, or even the heroic Liu Qingge, there was no reason to react to Luo Binghe of all people. In his increasing sluggish thoughts, he vaguely heard his title. A finger pressing into his lips with the burning heat of blood, the sheer power on the thing making his nose curl in disgust.
Nearly a decade of war and he still hated that iron taste. Ugh.
His veins still felt as if lava were poured into them, the pain beginning to wrench its roots into his muscles, his core twisted as it struggled to keep up with the poison and do something…else. The situation was very wrong, his core shouldn’t have flared like that mid-battle, and it certainly shouldn’t be acting as if he were going to gain another level in cultivation.
Ming Fan had a suspicion he was not going to get up from this injury this time. As fitting of one of his Peak, he wondered what sort of death he would have. Clearly not a peaceful one. Perhaps is core would tire itself and collapse? Or maybe he would qi deviate with the strain as the heat grew even more. This was certainly not a poison he had heard of, and the demoness had hardly been able to speak through the gurgle of her own blood.
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Hm? Ming Fan’s expression frowned at the strange voice that echoed over his pain. Who are-
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…What the fuck, Ming Fan’s body spasmed as the pain intensified. Oblivious to the cursed snarl as Luo Binghe’s sweat ran with the effort to work faster than the poison- Shen Qingqiu began to worry.
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“Binghe, what’s going on? Why isn’t he healing?”
“Shizun I- I don’t know, his body isn’t responding to my blood the way it should-“
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“What do you mean he isn’t healing- how could he-? Ming Fan? Ming Fan, can you hear me? We have to get him to Mu Qingfang, Binghe ,open a portal-“
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Re…quest? Ming Fan thought weakly, reality slipping away from him as if it were threads of silk between his fingers. What…do you mean? Who…are…you…?
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Re…quest. Ming Fan thought hard. Opening the doors to something he hadn’t thought about since coming to Cang Qiong Mountain, since digging the hole- A secret he kept close to his breast and vowed never to speak of. My…family… It would be nice…to see everyone…one…last….time.
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Shen Qingqiu’s eyes snapped his eyes as Ming Fan’s body convulsed again, Mu Qingfang muttering to a disciple as bottles and qi practically flew across the ward.
“Jie…” A quiet voice whispered. Luo Binghe’s eyes snapped from where he was hovering at Shen Qingqiu’s side. Ignoring the sudden curses Mu Qingfang let off as his patient spasmed again.
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Shen Qingqiu racked his brain, ‘Ying-er’? Ning Yingying? But why…?
“Shifu we’re losing him!” One of Mu Qingfang’s disciple’s stressed. “I can’t- he is fading!”
“Fan-ge,” Ming Fan looked down at his little brother- who looked so much like his own shi- former shidi that it hurt somewhat. Ming Xiying had a fearsome pout on his lips, puffing up his cheeks somewhat. “You should apologize to your Shidi.”
“Ying-di,” Ming Fan strained his muscles for a gentle smile. “I don’t think-“
“Ying-di has the right idea,” Ming Ninghua smiled gently. “We’ve been gone for a long time. Your pain should have never touched your Shidi. This fault is with you.”
Ming Fan pressed his lips together before sighing, weight slipping off his shoulders, “Fine. It is as Hua-jie says. This Fan-di will do as she commands.”
That gentle hand held his cheek with a smile, “Goodbye A-Fan.”
“Goodbye elder sister.”
The light engulfed his vision as soon as he finished forcing his apology through his strained body.
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Luo Binghe’s eyes snapped to his senior’s sweaty face, pinched slightly.
The Demon Lord’s eyes widened, mouth falling without his permission, “M-Ming-shixiong? What do you-?”
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“Get me the-!”
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The disciple collapsed as their knees gave from under them, pale-faced. “He’s…gone.”
Silence rained upon the Cang Qiong Mountain Sect as the head disciple of Qing Jing slipped away with his wounds.