Chapter 93

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written by kakashi
edited by Panda

"I would not want to experience mortal suffering, you are right. But at least, it ends. Immortal grief is much worse. It doesn't."

She had been right. Immortal grief was like a taste of hell while one was damned to live, like an ocean of the blackest sorrow threatening to drown one's every sense and purpose.

Fate disapproved of immortals and that was why she sent tribulations their way, threatening to destroy their cultivation, even trying to kill them for defying death. And yet, every immortal knew that those trials were limited in time. Lightning strikes were extremely painful, yet never lasted for long. It made them bearable. Mortal trials tested one's weaknesses in brutal ways, but mortal death ended the suffering. Since no lasting damage was done, they were soon forgotten.

To lose someone highly cherished was the worst of all trials - for it only had a beginning but never came to an end. The loved ones were forever gone. Long immortal lives kept filling up with memories of the dead, a growing parade of loss and guilt with no reprieve. With every new memorial tablet that was added to a shrine, the old losses became vivid again, and the people he had failed to protect stared at the God who lived with accusing eyes through the mist of time, silent tears glistening on their pale, drawn faces.

His disciples were his children. As their father, he had vowed to protect them with his life. It was not right to live on after he had broken his promise. And yet, he was. Forever punished.

Losing Ninth during the Ghost War had been the beginning of the calamity that war had become for him. Never would he forget the blotches of bright red sullying Ling Yu's white armor as he lay lifeless in his command tent, never the expression of hurt surprise on the still face. He had known it was surprise that death would come so early for someone as young as him; surprise his Shifu had cruelly sent him to his untimely demise as part of a doomed vanguard.

Today, Si Yin's sobbed words rang in his ears again: "Shifu! Not even you can save Ninth?" No, he could do absolutely nothing; one of the most powerful Gods alive was completely powerless when cruel Fate struck someone dead. But much, much worse, it had all been his fault. Back then, his fault for not putting an unbreakable spell on his valuable battle plans. His fault for breaking his rules and letting a woman stay with them, only because he had wanted Si Yin to be happy. His fault for being too arrogant, believing a victory over the Ghosts would be easy.

It was always his fault.

This time, where had he been when 4th's future was crushed by the Yellow Demon King? Occupied with his selfish, reckless need to find out how far he could test his luck with Fate. Where had he been when the little Ghost Princess, such an innocent soul, had been kidnapped? Sitting in his Command Tent in his battle armor, nervously waiting for Shao Wan to come back to him. And, the by far biggest failing, where had he been when Zi Lan had given his life to defend an innocent? Lost. Lost in a sea of feelings.

He had forgotten his duties. He had thrown his natural caution to the wind, he had thought he would get away with spending some time in the mortal realm with the woman he could no longer be without. He had thought that it was possible to be deliriously happy, he had believed that they could make it work, end this war early, be at peace for the rest of their lives. He had even dared to want a family with her, children of their own, four or five little versions of Shao Wan running around, just as brave and beautiful and alive as her. He had been gathering courage to ask her to live with him. He wanted to marry her for real, to show the Realms what she meant to him. He wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

Of course that wasn't possible. Of course he was not meant to find happiness in this lifetime. He had known, yet had forgotten. And now, his failing had cost another one of his children his life. There would be no happiness from now on, never again.

***

He was still feeling very weak, yet he was definitely strong enough to scold the child Fong Hung had grown into, even if being naked underneath the blankets robbed him of authority rather considerably.

"How did you manage to break my wards?" he asked sharply.

"Me strong!" Fong Hung boasted, "wards no problem for me. I touch, they disappear."

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