Chapter 100

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written by kakashi & Panda

When the rain began to fall, people around him started dying.

Progressively, the world had gone dark around him. It had lost its color shortly after the Shaman cursed him, until he only saw lights and shadows - now, it was like the light had disappeared, leaving only the shadows behind.

His soldiers clutched their throats, tumbled to the ground, twitching and gasping for air, perishing miserably in the dirt. Feeling a piercing pain in his own lungs, Mo Yuan conjured a thick piece of cloth to tie around his mouth and then erected a protective shield around himself. He pushed the boundaries outwards, further and further, to envelop his troops. But the limits of his power were reached too soon: when he tried to extend it further, the shield flickered and almost went out under the relentless onslaught of the thick, heavy drops.

It was not going to be enough. He could save a few hundreds, but thousands more would die.

Cheng Yin had released his poison, to destroy everything.

It fell to the ground from the clouds above, seeped into the earth and suffocated all life with its destructive power, until only inanimate matter was left in its wake. The fumes hung in the air like misty tendrils, waiting to bring agonizing destruction to those who inhaled them.

He knew, it was all meant to be. It was the end of a long road, one that inevitably led to this point and nowhere else.

Previously, it seemed a long time ago, he had been confused about his purpose in the larger scheme of things. He had believed his return was inauspicious from the moment he had woken up after 70,000 years and found the world changed. He recalled the sense of dread hanging over him ever since learning of his brother's birth. Two sons of Fuxi was one too many - what destructive power would emerge to balance them out? He had tread so carefully, trying to slip through time without leaving any noticeable imprint - all pointless, since his existence was intertwined with another ancient life form, one that was the yin to his yang, the yang to his yin.

Now he knew, she had returned because of him and she shook the foundation of the universe from the very first moment she came back, demanding Fate's utmost attention with every breath she took. It was her whose existence was tied to the destruction happening around him. It was her who was born to make him whole, it was her who existed to balance him out.

Shao Wan was the only thing that shone in a fiery red in his dark grey world. In her hand she held a tool of power, a tool of destruction, which was howling its hunger for death into the air.

It was very clear: one of them would have to perish today to restore balance. One - or both of them.

***

Mo Yuan looked so handsome in his shimmering bubble, with his borrowed black armor, his shortened hair in a loose ponytail, with wisps blowing into his half-covered face. He wore no helmet for their last battle - a show of defiance, strangely typical of him. His strength was indestructible, his power like that of a mountain, rooted deeply in the earth and extending up to the skies. That she had come back from the ashes to discover her love for this man was a source of never ending amazement for Shao Wan. The bane of her existence. Her enemy. Her lover, her other half, the light of her life. It was a gift she had not dared dream of, to feel whole with someone else. A gift she wanted so much, but could not yet have.

Her whip sang in her gloved hand, overly eager for blood, starved for much too long. Part of her had always feared Demon Tongue, she knew this now, ever since the day she had made the weapon. There was something too willful, too bloodthirsty, too powerful about it, but when she had been younger, she had not wanted to admit it to herself - or rather, it had served her too well, in her quest to reunite the tribes.

"The Celestial will use you now," she whispered to her weapon, "guide him well, he is worthy."

With a feeling of slight regret, she hurled Demon Tongue across the battlefield. In an elegant arc, it flew through the air at high speed. Mo Yuan saw it, he allowed it to pass through the protective field and caught it in midair. A faint black mist enveloped the Celestial's figure upon impact - his buried soul reacting to the pull of the hungry weapon.

When Cheng Yin had learned she had gotten Demon Tongue back, he had known she meant to punish him with it - and so, he had decided to destroy as much of the realms as he could before his demise. It was not unexpected: A man so warped by his need to dominate, he would rather kill everything than risk defeat. Even if she had tried to prevent it, a part of her had known that getting her hands on the tool of his destruction would push him over the edge.

But she also knew him well enough to be sure he would show his face. If this was to be his victory, he needed to witness it in person for it to count.

Slowly, she took off her armor, piece by piece. Not long now.

Qilin and Dragon scales from the Heavens' Dragon shrine, given to Cheng Yin by an unknown Celestial traitor. She was deaf to their song now, but she had felt their eerie power before, reacting to the dragon lives in her belly. The armor's prime reason was to weaken Mo Yuan, its secondary reason to make her invulnerable. Invulnerable because Cheng Yin needed her powers for his conquest of the Heavens.

But he would not get them. Not a single speck of it.

She had given her whole cultivation and much of her soul essence when she had gone to see the soul swappers, sacrificing a willing Fong Hung as next of kin. All she had left now was her sky power. A gift bestowed upon her by the Heavens when she had made Demon Tongue. It was the only power that could destroy her weapon. It had been very difficult, but she had managed to keep her plan from her Whip until the end.

She had never liked planning and strategizing. But now that she had, and now that things worked the way she had wanted them to work, she felt elated. To be in control of one's fate like this, it was very rewarding.

***

His blood sang in his ears as he witnessed the men perishing in their own filth, their faces frozen in a macabre sneer as they lost control over all bodily functions and their life force leached out of them. He held out his fingers to collect the rain, brought the liquid to his lips and tenderly licked it. Eagerly, the poison entered his bloodstream and found a home there amongst the others.

Nothing can harm me, he smiled at this knowledge. Nothing at all. Power coursed through his veins as he narrowed his eyes and searched for the last piece that would bring his plan to fruition and would make his victory complete.

He sighted her not too far away and started to leisurely stroll towards her. Stepping nimbly over dying bodies, he helped some that suffered the most to hasten their passage by stabbing them directly in the heart. Nobody could say he was not benevolent. He briefly surveyed the battlefield, wondering where he was - but no rush, he told himself with a smile, his turn would come. Later. Later, when he would relish the look of horror on the Celestial's face when he saw the destruction of all he held dear.

That thought reminded him of his dear sister. I will keep her in the palace and train and release her to hunt. I will capture that Water Prince she so foolishly lost her heart to. I will starve her, then watch her tear him limb from limb in frenzied hunger. Maybe I will even make her briefly assume human form to see what destruction she wrought before I change her again. It will teach her. It will teach her how wrong she was to betray me.

Thinking too much of her hurt his head so he stopped and concentrated his anger on the woman standing in front of him, a shield hovering above her head against the rain.

"Wan Wan," he whispered, his voice silky smooth. "You have finally played your hand. I thought you were going to keep pretending till the end."

Defiant, she raised her chin in an unmistakable gesture of scorn and his anger boiled over.

"Do you think you are better than me?" he growled and unleashed a massive wave of power at her. She managed to dodge and roll to safety but he saw her wince when the tail end of the spell left an angry welt on her left leg.

"Fool, you do not even have your armor anymore. Do you think I still need you? If you beg me now, I might consider saving your treacherous life. I will keep you chained to the wall to make use of you whenever I feel like violating you."

Her silence annoyed him like no word of her had ever managed to. She gazed steadily at him with burning eyes, deftly maneuvering her steps as she walked backwards, keeping always the same distance between them. He blasted energy waves at her but she had formed a barrier that repealed them. He kept blasting as they walked and a crack in her shield made him redouble his efforts - until suddenly, she stopped and the barrier faded off.

Chuckling, he stalked towards her. "An-cest-or, have you decided to give up? Even with your whip have you now realized you are no match-"

His words cut off abruptly as he realized she was not with her whip. Approaching her a little more cautiously, he was about to lunge at her when the hairs at the back of his neck stood up. He whipped his head around to see him.

"You have also come to meet your doom. It is about time, Celestial."

He was about to fly and decimate the Celestial when he realized he couldn't move. His feet and body were frozen to the ground.

Eyes red with fury, he turned back to Shao Wan. "What have you done?!!!" He shouted in rage, the cords of his neck straining as he expended massive amounts of power to break the spell. It was futile and it seemed the more he struggled, the more the spell bound him.

Blood magic. They were using a blood bond against him, just like he had used one to capture the Celestial. He was standing immobilized exactly between them, in a collapsed triangle that had become a fetter of power running from her, through him, to the cursed Celestial. How?

Looking at him with a face devoid of all emotion, Mo Yuan spoke. "It is over Cheng Yin. You have lost. Stop the poison."

"Stop it?" Cheng Yin laughed. "There is only one way to stop it. A massive discharge of power. If you want to save your home and your tribe, Celestial, then give up your powers."

***

The Yellow Wolf spawn was entirely paralyzed between them - the Demon Queen must have fed him their combined blood, somehow, because she was the one controlling the link - and yet, he still had the gall to continue yapping, hurling toothless threats at him when it was so clear that Mo Yuan was going to end his miserable life now. His lips moved into a satisfied smile as he stepped closer. Shao Wan's weapon hummed in anticipation, sending its vibrations into his body, making their blood link sing in triumph.

The wolf screeched "you are all going to die!" but Mo Yuan die not care. He might die, but this man, he would suffer eternally.

He swung and cracked the whip a few times, to test it out. It felt perfect in his hand, as if it had always belonged there. A memory drifted passed him - Will you undress? - You are scandalous! - as quickly gone as it had come. He had not held a whip in quite some time, but with this weapon, no practice was needed. It had a mind of its own and it tried to force it on to its holder. It was the kind of challenge Mo Yuan had always welcomed and he pressed against the whip's power, slowly forcing it into submission.

Careful not to break the blood link, he stepped ever closer to his prey until he could see the fear in his eyes.

"I remember you," he told the Wolf, "I remember you because of your palpable fear on that last day in the first Demon War. It is normal to be afraid when stepping onto a battlefield, but your fear was special. You weren't afraid of dying. You were afraid of living."

"My father should have ended you when he had the chance," the Wolf growled, "but he was too craven to strike when you were preoccupied with trying to save Shao Wan."

"I should have paid more attention," Mo Yuan said, looking this man up and down, as if he were seeing him for the first time, "I should have known that you would grow into a new enemy. But no matter. I get to correct my mistake from so long ago today. I..."

Had she not wanted to do it herself? Promise me, Mo Yuan. He hurt what's dearest to me. He took what's most valuable to me. I want to crush the life out of him and destroy his soul. I want to make it the most horrible death possible.

He craned his neck to get a glimpse of her. There she stood, with outstretched hands, controlling the bloodlink. She looked fragile. Why had she shed her armor? It lay in a heap to the side, useless, robbed of a soul to draw power from. He looked at the whip in his hand. Should he ask her whether she wanted to do it herself? The diversion had worked, the wolf was trapped now.

But no. Trusting somebody else with finishing off the enemy was not a good idea.

"You will live the rest of your life looking at a wasteland," the Wolf yapped, "all of your father's creation, it is dying. It will spread, my poison, until only death will be left."

Mo Yuan bent forward a little. "All life comes from death. I do not fear it. But you...fear will be your constant companion. But enough words wasted. Begone, scum."

Mo Yuan cracked the whip. Once, twice...he used the spell on the third crack. There was a loud boom, a cry...and the Demon Spawn had been removed from the realms forever.

***

The pain that passed through his body was the most excruciating he had ever felt in his life. Getting his body accustomed to poisons was nothing compared to it. It felt like his nerve bundles were being shredded by a whip and then lit ablaze, over and over and over.

Cheng Yin fell down in agony in a blur of colors and screamed...but no sound escaped his mouth. He felt weak and powerless. There was pain, never ending pain and he screamed soundlessly until he suddenly felt himself being transported somewhere else.

He was in water in a place so dark he couldn't see a thing. He tried to swim but he couldn't feel any of his limbs and had to be content with being dragged along like a puppet by the currents. The water carried him for an eternity, throwing him hither and thither and the crushing darkness around him instilled a fear in him that made him limb body shake.

Finally, the water dumped him out of what seemed to be a system of caves and onto a shore of a lake...or an ocean? He was not sure, but it looked like it was in the early morning hours, the bleak landscape around him was in that dusky grey that came before sunrise. He lay on some sharp stones shivering uncontrollably, trying to get blood circulating in his extremities, to get some control back.

"I will make them pay," he thought grimly, his teeth chattering violently. "By the heavens, they will pay. I will slaughter their young and throw them to my beasts," he vowed as he was finally able to take stock of where he was. It was clearly an unfamiliar place, but there was a mat nearby, seemingly set up for someone.

Upon registering that fact, he heard footsteps approach. They...sounded vaguely familiar. He looked around nervously, but he couldn't see anyone. And yet, the sound drew closer. And the closer the person got, the more familiar it sounded...until with a sick feeling of dread, he realized who the mat was meant for.

No.

Frantically, he tried to get back into the water, to swim away, it didn't matter where, just away, but try as he might, he couldn't move an inch.

His father stepped into sight.

"You were always a stupid, useless boy. How did it escape you that you have no limbs?" his tormentor said and gave him a resounding slap.

As much as Cheng Yin tried to deny it, it was the truth. The reason why he couldn't get his limbs to swim or stand at the shore was because he had none.

In horror, he watched his dad take out his whip. "One," his father started to count, "two, three, four...". By the 40th stroke, Cheng Yin was just a mass of bloody meat with a head. It was a terrified head that only knew one thing: how to cry.

Satisfied, his father stopped the bodily punishment and went to sit on the mat.

"I am so glad we meet again. There are so many things I have always wanted to do to you. Fortunately, we are going to be together for an eternity."

"No!" Cheng Yin moaned, but he had no tongue. Noooooooooooooooooo. Please kill me, anything but him, he pleaded. But there was nobody here to hear him.

"Save your breath, son, you are stuck with me forever," his father said with a horrible sneer and Cheng Yin's limbless body healed to be ready for whatever else this man had in store for him.

***

Mo Yuan fell to his knees with a surprised gasp when his back lit up with incredible pain and fiery swords pierced his brain. The Whip demanded its due payment: It tried to suck soul essence out of Mo Yuan, but found the access to it barred. Furious, it battered against the curse seal with all its fury.

As the whip's powers shredded their way through the curse's defenses, colors came back to his vision and he tasted blood in his mouth. This is a mistake, Mo Yuan thought in horror.

Mo Yuan felt his energies surge - he was transforming. He knew he had to stop it, he had no control at all, but ... he... could.....not....his protective shield lit up in the brightest gold and expanded, across the entire battlefield and beyond. He realized, he was going to save so many more like this. Mo Yuan stopped resisting. The pain was excruciating as every bone in his body shattered and was newly assembled, but Mo Yuan the Dragon did not mind trifling pain. There was only one thing that mattered to him.

"Fenghuang!" Golden Dragon roared as soon as he found his voice.

Golden Dragon thrashed in pain as the Whip took what it could get, sucking Dragon essence into the dark vortex at its tip. So greedy, so cruel, it could not get enough. Everything smelled like death. Around them, underneath them, life was being ripped apart. The beautiful, golden world, it was dying. Golden Dragon cried in anguish. So many dead. So many.

She rushed towards him, a frail human on tiny legs, so vulnerable.

"Transform, transform!" he urged her, fearing for her life, trying to form a protective circle around her with his body.

"Give it to me," his Fenghuang said, her voice very soft and gentle - but he saw how afraid she was. She gripped the whip in his paw and pulled. It went to her, willingly and she staggered as the weapon's greedy love hit her.

"What has happened to you?" Golden Dragon yelled, "why are you so weak? Where are your powers?"

"Listen to me," she urged him, breathing rapidly, struggling against the Whip's wild need to destroy souls, "take me up into the clouds before the curse reestablishes control. Can you do that? We will stop the rain together, alright? You and me. You must hurry."

He took her into his right paw, as gently as he could. He felt her heart flutter in dread and gripped a little harder to reassure her that he would hold onto her and on an impulse licked her, once, twice. She smelled different, his Fenghuang. Like something very delicious had been recently with her. He thought he saw a faint thread flutter tightly in the wind, a thread that came out of her and stretched outward into the infinity beyond. But when he looked again, he was not sure it had not just been a piece of string tied to her robe.

Forming a bubble around himself and her he flew up into the skies. The poisoned rain still fell and he hissed at it angrily. A sudden onslaught of pain from his back made him veer to the side with a roar.

"Hurry," she shouted in alarm.

Black mist was forming around him. He puffed it away, but it returned. It pulled at him, pulled him down. It was earth magic, strong and dangerous, tethers anchored deep in the land. He redoubled his efforts but he already felt himself sink down inevitably like a stone in water.

"Here. Put me here!" she said struggling against his grip.

He sat her down on the cloud she had indicated and hastily build a little throne for her to sit on with a protective dome around it against the poison in the air. He moaned sadly when she looked at him with large, wet eyes as he began to sink and could do nothing against it.

"Farewell, my beautiful Dragon," she whispered as he disappeared from view. "Just know: We will meet again."

***

Sitting on her chair of clouds like a lonely queen without a people and palace, Shao Wan opened up her sky power. The skies starting howling as the powers of the universe streamed into her and out of her again, a fire more powerful than anything that had ever existed.

She lifted Demon Tongue. "Goodbye to you too," she whispered.

The moment the weapon realized what she was about to do, it tried to make her change her mind, but even though it was like a part of herself, it had to be done. And the whip itself seemed to understand: It ceased its struggles and yielded. It called out to the Heavens itself and it was heard. Thunder roared.

The light changed as the clouds above her formed a vortex, turning in a circle at ever greater speed, sucking up a pillar of energy from Demon Tongue. The thong shot upwards. She followed it with her eyes to watch the maelstrom. She had once laughed at Celestials, thinking they were weak. Of course, they were not. To survive the fury of the skies was no easy feat.

There were many things that tied her to this world. A man. Her unborn children. A future that could be theirs. She knew...hoped... she knew she would find a way to come back. And she hoped he would be able to forgive her.

The first lightning bolt shot through the whip with a furious hiss. The weapon glowed as bright as the sun as it fully absorbed the power. The second strike followed quickly. Again, the weapon lit up, now humming loudly. She felt the piece of her soul she had entrapped within return to her. It felt good.

And then, Demon Tongue exploded.

The power release from her scattering Whip ripped across the sky like a firestorm, drawing sky power after it, through her. Everything burned. It was a cleansing fire, fire that brought life - but when unchecked, it killed. She had no way to stop it.

Underneath her, the cloud dissipated and she fell.

***

The curse was furious.

Golden Dragon was forced to the ground, thrashing and clawing, but resistance was futile. The seal went back up, burying the beast with cold efficiency. The earth power seeped into him, grew over him and paralyzed him completely. One moment, Golden Dragon howled for his Fenghuang, the next, he was silenced and gone. Mo Yuan transformed back to his human form with a shout of pain.

In the tent, Mo Yuan's soul had been locked in a subtle, almost gentle transition helped along by the intoxicating fumes and the ancient spells. This time, there was nothing gentle about it.

The curse slammed his body to the ground. It felt like the weight of Mount Kunlun was thrown on top of him. In an instant, the world was back to colorless black. And then, the curse began to erase his memories. It did it to punish him for trying to break the pact, with brutal viciousness.

"Stop," Mo Yuan whispered, "stop."

He did not want to forget everything. He...wanted...

Images rushed passed him, faster and faster. It had been a long life with many memories. He knew they were what defined him. Emotions had already been taken from him again, but something stirred nonetheless: Defiance. He would not yield to a mere curse. He was a God above immortals. He would...not...yield. He grabbed onto the images he could catch and fought with all he had to at least remember...something...anything.

A massive explosion in the sky above him shook the world. He felt himself be lifted off the ground, drawn towards a vortex of power before a wave of energy slammed him back to the earth. It ripped across the sky, a stormwind of fire and energy.

All the clouds were instantly pulverized. The rain ceased completely. The poison was gone.

But the world burned.

Mo Yuan staggered up to his feet, shielding his eyes from the blaze. It was so bright he thought he would go blind. Sky power cleansed the earth as it burned it but if it continued for much longer, everything would turn to ash. He walked forward with an effort to find the source of destruction: a pillar of raging fire from the sky.

In the middle of the firestorm stood a naked woman, the source of this life/death power, her face turned in his direction. She was waiting for him? He knew her.

"You must kill me," she said when he was close enough to hear her voice. "I cannot control my powers anymore. If you don't, I will rip apart this world."

Mo Yuan conjured his sword. She spoke the truth, he felt it all around him, it was too much power, highly unstable. Life/death, death/life. And yet, he hesitated. He knew her. Had he waited for her?

"Please," she said, "nobody else can."

The powers of the universe flowed through her. She was life itself. He saw her true form shine through her. Her head was the sky, her eyes were the sun, her back was the moon, her wings were the wind, her feet were the earth, and her the tail was the planets.

How could he kill life?

She took a step in his direction, her eyes pleading. He looked at her, the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. She was the only light in a world that had gone entirely dark. And yet...it seemed to him he existed to balance her out. Yes, he remembered. He was here to restore balance.

When the first tremors started to shake the earth, he lifted his sword and pointed it at her heart. She made no move to defend herself but opened her arms wide as if to hug him. It would restore balance and it would save the realms. How strange that he didn't want to do it. When he still hesitated, she walked forward.

He stabbed her, clean and straight through the heart.

With an eardrum shattering roar, the pillar of fire was sucked upwards. Her fire stopped, like a candle that was snuffed out. The fabric of time shuddered, the universe took a deep breath. It was over.

"Ah," she breathed and closed her eyes.

Mo Yuan pulled out his sword and stepped back as the woman slowly fell over.

It was what he had come here to achieve. To win. He had won.

So why did it not feel like a victory at all?

Slowly, Mo Yuan fell to his knees next to the woman's lifeless body. The world around him was dark, so dark. Not a single light was left.

Mo Yuan and Shao Wan (三生三世十里桃花) - Vol. 1 [COMPLETED]Read this story for FREE!