- Chang Ping
Chang Ping didn’t know about the history his father had with Xue Yang. He wasn’t there to witness what happened, wasn’t there to try and save his clan. He was bitter and shaking with anger as he listened to Sect Leader Jin argue with Daozhang Xiao XingChen and Sect Leader Nie.
Then, Xue Yang himself was led into the room to be questioned again, and Chang Ping felt his blood boil. He was never an even-tempered man and seeing that self-satisfied face with no hint of remorse was too much for him. He could not bear to listen to the pointless arguments, could not bear looking at that smiling face. He drew his sword and before anyone could stop him, stabbed Xue Yang through the heart. He felt a crazed laughter bubble up in his throat as the body hit the ground, and barely even noticed when the sword was twisted from his hand and he was restrained by strong arms. He watched the blood pool under the dead body, and laughed.
- Nie MingJue
Nie MingJue was fuming. He started towards Koi Tower the moment he heard about the massacre of the Yueyang Chang clan. He never met the culprit before, or so he thought, but the messenger was clear: there was demonic cultivation at play and the Jin sect was reluctant to execute the perpetrator. Nie MingJue let out a curse as he strode up the stairs to Koi Tower. Originally, he had no intention of attending that particular discussion conference and sent a representative instead, but hearing of the massacre of almost an entire clan, and worse, the Jin sect not wanting to execute the killer, a demonic cultivator? Nie MingJue suspected that Jin GuangYao had his grimy fingers in that matter somehow. There was no way that slimy snake would not try to exploit a man so ruthless. But the messenger also told him that the culprit was apprehended and brought to Koi Tower by a disciple of the mysterious Baoshan Sanren, and Nie MingJue was curious.
He arrived in the middle of an argument between a tall, white-robed cultivator and Jin GuangShan. There were others in the room, but Nie MingJue paid them no attention. He strode up right to Jin GuangShan and looked down into that annoyingly coy face. “What’s the meaning of this, Sect Leader Jin?” He got no answer, but there was a sound of struggle from the side, and Nie MingJue turned to see a chained man fighting to get closer to them. Xue Yang, Nie MingJue thought, and felt the anger rise in his chest again. He forced it back down, and turned to the white-robed cultivator instead. “Respected cultivator, this one is Sect Leader Nie MingJue. I came to help bring justice to the murderer of Yueyang Chang clan.” The man let out a relieved sigh. “Thank you, Sect Leader Nie. This one is Xiao XingChen. Sect Leader Jin disagrees with the severity of punishment for that man.” Nie MingJue scoffed. Just as he was about to turn back and question Jin GuangShan, his eyes caught another man standing close behind Xiao XingChen. A priest and cultivator, by the black robes, as tall as Nie MingJue himself, surveying the scene before him with a stony face. Nie MingJue inclined his head towards him, and received a nod back. How Jin GuangShan did not waver when faced with such coldness and determination as these two strange cultivators radiated was a mystery to Nie MingJue, but then again, he didn’t care for riddles. He turned back to Jin GuangShan. “Tell me, Sect Leader Jin, how many of the Yueyang Chang clan did that man murder?”
“Almost all of them, save for those few who were out on a night hunt,“ Xiao XingChen answered from behind. Nie MingJue sneered and grabbed the hilt of Baxia. “And yet, the worst he deserves is imprisonment? Sect Leader Jin, you have sentenced others to death for less.” And with that, he drew his sabre with one quick motion, and stabbed Xue Yang through the chest. The moment he saw red on the blade, his blood sang.
- Xiao XingChen
Xiao XingChen was a peaceful, good-natured man. He liked people, and people liked him. He never, for a single moment, regretted leaving the mountain. He enjoyed travelling, even more so since he met Song Lan of Baixue Temple. The two of them grew inseparable in just a few weeks, and Xiao XingChen couldn’t imagine a life without dear quiet, respectful Song Lan by his side.
The two of the decided to visit Baixue Temple after they left Lanling behind, walking comfortably, spending days at villages they liked on the way. In the end, it took them several weeks before they reached the temple. Song Lan was in a good mood, telling stories about his childhood at the temple. Xiao XingChen laughed when Song Lan admitted to some of the mischief that he took part in, and looped his arm through Song Lan’s. “My dear ZiChen, I would have never thought that you would be the type! How is it that you are so aloof now?” Song Lan shrugged. “Elders have to show a good example.” Xiao XingChen flashed him a cheeky grin at that. “Elder? You?” The corner of Song Lan’s lips twitched upwards, and the next moment, his fingers jabbed into Xiao XingChen’s ribs, tickling mercilessly. Xiao XingChen yelped and tried to get away, but Song Lan grabbed his arm and held on tight. “ZiChen! ZiChen please stop! ZiChennnnnnn!” Xiao XingChen was squirming in Song Lan’s arms, tears spilling out from laughter. Finally, Song Lan relented. Xiao XingChen let out a shaky sight and leaned into Song Lan, resting his cheek on his shoulder. With one last jab at Xiao XingChen’s ribs, Song Lan settled his arms around Xiao XingChen’s waist. They stood still until Xiao XingChen calmed his breathing. “That was very underhanded of you, dear ZiChen.” Song Lan hummed and shifted one of his hands upwards towards Xiao XingChen’s side. “Was it?” he murmured, fingers dancing along Xiao XingChen’s ribs, not quite tickling yet.
Xiao XingChen raised his head, smiling softly and Song Lan’s breath caught in his throat at the adoration in his eyes. He pulled him closer, feeling the air shift around them, when a shrill scream pierced the air. They sprung apart, reaching for their swords as they both took off towards the source of the scream. “XingChen, that’s the direction of Baixue temple”, Song Lan gasped as they ran. Xiao XingChen nodded and jumped up on his sword, knowing that flying would get them there faster. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Song Lan do the same.
The sight that greeted them was shocking. A large group of walking corpses was closing in on the temple and its people, and there, ambling along comfortably a way behind them was Xue Yang, whistling a merry tune.
Xiao XingChen was a peaceful, good-natured man, but he had his limits – at that moment, he saw red. A wave of anger crashed into him: anger for the Jin sect for letting Xue Yang live despite their promises otherwise, and anger for Xue Yang for daring to attack a sanctuary of peace like Baixue temple. He noticed Song Lan turning towards the temple to help protect the people, but Xiao XingChen knew it was pointless to fight the corpses while the one controlling them was alive. He swooped in at Xue Yang, jumping from his sword mid-flight. He grabbed his horsetail whisk from his belt with his left hand and called Shuanghua to his right. Xue Yang stopped whistling and drew his black sword. Behind them, the corpses raged on. “Ah, Daozhang Xiao! You didn’t forget me, how touching!” He laughed and lunged forward, but Xiao XingChen parried easily. Xue Yang jumped back and narrowed his eyes. “You are early, Daozhang Xiao. I was planning to leave a little surprise for you and your friend, you know? But you had to arrive early and ruin it before it was even finished!” He charged at Xiao XingChen again, sparks flying as their blades crashed and locked. For a long moment, time seemed to slow down, and the rages cries of the corpses quieted. Xiao XingChen took a deep breath, and reminded himself that he was Baoshan Sanren’s disciple, that he was fighting for Baixue temple, for Song Lan. He swung his horsetail whisk at Xue Yang’s face, and used the moment of distraction to dislodge their blades and slice at the other’s chest. Blood bloomed a crimson line on Xue Yang’s robes, and he stumbled, hand flying to his chest, disbelief on his scowling face. Xiao XingChen swallowed. Killing was against everything he believed in, but he saw no point in leaving Xue Yang alive – he knew that it would only result in more death. He raised his sword and stabbed. The wet, gurgling sound of Xue Yang’s last, desperate attempt at breathing made his stomach turn, but he took a deep breath and withdrew Shuanghua, letting Xue Yang’s body fall forward. He turned around just in time to see the corpses falter and drop unmoving to the ground, like puppets when their strings are cut.
Xiao XingChen let out a shaky sigh, and closed his eyes against the tears that were threatening to fall. Almost half of the building surrounding the temple were damaged or destroyed, and he dared not think about the wounded and the dead.
Suddenly, a pair of strong arms embraced him and he raised his head to meet Song Lan’s tired, blood-stained face. Xiao XingChen buried his face in Song Lan’s robes, wrapping his arms around him in return. He felt Song Lan press a kiss to his hair, and Xiao XingChen looked up, a small “oh” leaving his lips when he suddenly remembered the moments before the scream that drew them to the temple. Still buzzing from the left-over adrenaline of the battle, he leaned up and kissed Song Lan, pressing in closer when he felt the other smile against his lips.
- Song Lan
Song Lan searched far and wide for Xiao XingChen after he left the mountain. He promised Baoshan Sanren that he would look after Xiao XingChen and that he would protect him, but he had to find him first. He wandered around aimlessly, asking after him, but nobody seemed to have seen him. Until one day, a young man finally gave him good news. “Tall and blind, in white robes? Yes, this humble servant has seen him, Daozhang! He helped this servant get rid of a few ghosts harassing his livestock just a couple of days ago. He headed north from here, and there was a young maiden with him, too.” Song Lan thanked the man and turned north, trying to ignore his heartbeat getting faster at the thought of seeing Xiao XingChen again. Anxious to catch up, he hopped up on his sword, deciding that flying would be both faster and provide him with a better vantage point.
He noticed a man dressed in black a while ahead, staggering along the road, looking grievously injured. Song Lan slowed down and descended, hopping off Fuxue only a few steps ahead of the man. When he saw his face, however, he grabbed for his sword again, pointing it at the man. “Xue Yang! What are you doing here? Should you not be rotting away in a cell?” The man cackled, laughter turning into wet coughing. His clothes were shining wet with blood, and there were bruises forming on his face and exposed lower arms. He looked like death warmed over, but still, Song Lan was wary. “Are you here to finish what others have started, Daozhang Song?” Xue Yang grinned at Song Lan, almost falling as he took a few steps forward. “Where did you leave Daozhang Xiao?”
Song Lan frowned. “His whereabouts are none of your business, and I’m not here to kill you.” Xue Yang staggered closer, and Song Lan instinctively took a step back, never letting Fuxue down. “Real shame, what happened to the two of you, don’t you think, Daozhang Song?” Song Lan grit his teeth and motioned for Xue Yang to continue on the road. “You’re coming with me to Yunmeng. I hear their sect leader is eager to round up demonic cultivators like you.” Song Lan knew that bringing Xue Yang to Sect Leader Jiang would be a death sentence, but at that moment, could not care less. With the extent of his injuries, he might even die on the way there. Xue Yang sneered, and took a few wavering steps. When he reached Song Lan, he stopped again, and grinned at him, madness glinting in his eyes. “I heard that nobody wanted Daozhang Xiao’s services as a cultivator, not trusting a blind man to be any good at cultivation. I heard that he had to resort to selling his body to survive” Xue Yang drawled. “Maybe, if you found him again, he would even let you fuck him. That’s what you’ve secretly wanted all this time, isn’t it?” Song Lan’s grip of Fuxue was so tight it hurt. “How dare you, you filthy rat!” he spat. “How dare you even think of such accusations, you rotten animal!”
Song Lan was shaking with anger and the sound of Xue Yang’s laughter ringing in his ears was only oil to the fire. With a swift flourish of his wrist, there was another bloom of blood on Xue Yang’s chest, trickling down Fuxue’s blade. Song Lan pushed the body into the tall grass lining the path without a hint of regret. He stood there for a few minutes, trying to calm his breath. He wiped the blood from Fuxue and almost stepped up on the blade again when he heard voices nearing him. The cheerful chatter of a young girl, interspersed by a smooth male voice he would recognise anywhere. Sheathing Fuxue, he ran to meet them, almost tripping over his own feet in his haste. He turned a bend, and there they were: a young, slim girl with a bamboo stick, and beautiful, perfect Xiao XingChen, with a soft smile on his face, as if there was nothing wrong in the world. Song Lan swallowed thickly, stumbling a few steps closer. Hearing him, the two stopped, the girl gripping Xiao XingChen’s sleeve, half hiding behind him. “Who’s there?” Xiao XingChen asked in a careful tone. Song Lan fought back his tears to croak out a reply. “XingChen… it’s me. Song ZiChen.”
The brilliant smile on Xiao XingChen’s face at that moment was the most beautiful thing Song Lan had ever seen.
A-Qing hated that strange man from the very first moment she set eyes on him. She hated that he survived, hated the way she spoke to her, hated how he spoke to Daozhang Xiao and hated his gravelly voice, his stupid face, the sound of him breathing.
Which is why, on that fateful day, she grabbed her small knife that Xiao XingChen had gifted her after she whined about feeling unsafe alone, and ran up to stab the man in the back as he was standing on the road, brazenly taunting the nice, tall cultivator looking for Daozhang Xiao. The man gasped and turned, grabbing for her, but A-Qing was nothing if not quick and nimble. She slid away just as fast as she got there, and thankfully, the nice cultivator snapped out of his stupor and helped finish the job. They stared at each other for a frozen moment, before the cultivator shook his head and smiled at her.
The two of them entered the coffin home together – although A-Qing sneaked out later, sensing that those two might appreciate some privacy.
+1. Xue Yang
Ever since he was set free from Lanling, Xue Yang was in a daze. He ambled around aimlessly, not even knowing where he was most of the time. He had money from the Jin sect, and people generally avoided him, whispering about madness and loss of mind. Xue Yang quietly laughed at them – he never felt so clear-headed before!
Sometimes, he would summon wisps of resentful energy and watch them twirl and whirl around his fingers like black snakes. He was mesmerised by the power, by the amount of raw energy that was otherwise just wasted by those idiotic sects. The black mist slowly became a permanent fixture around him, and he pretended to pet it affectionately as it curled around him. He thought of how he got to this point, and cackled. All those people, thinking they could beat him! Even a disciple of the great Baoshan Sanren failed! He twirled around, laughing as the resentful energy whirled with him. He was in the middle of nowhere, on a path leading to some pathetic little village, so he closed his eyes and let the energy roar around him.
When he opened his eyes, there was someone in front of him on the path. A tall, lean man with long, black hair fluttering in the light breeze, dressed all in black and red, a black bamboo flute with a red tassel tucked into his belt. Xue Yang stepped closer, bowing deeply. “Master Wei! This humble disciple is honoured to see you.” The man – the YiLing Patriarch – sneered. “Master? As if anyone would be worthy of becoming my disciple. Who do you think you are?” Xue Yang reared back, the resentful energy roiling around him. “But Master! Look, I even reconstructed your Tiger Seal, surely you must be proud of that!” The YiLing Patriarch snorted and waved a dismissing hand towards Xue Yang. “That piece of scrap metal? Even a toddler could have done a better job!” Xue Yang fell to his knees, desperately clutching at the man’s robes. “Master, please! How can you not recognise my hard work to keep your legacy alive! How could I ever come close to your greatness if you don’t approve of me?”
The YiLing Patriarch yanked his robes away and kicked at Xue Yang. “Hard work? This is what you call hard work?” he laughed cruelly. “You’ve done nothing aside from petty revenge! You are worthless, and I am ashamed that your name will be associated with mine, you useless scum!” Xue Yang whimpered and grabbed for the YiLing Patriarch’s robes again, but he was once more kicked away. The man turned to leave, and Xue Yang wailed, resentful energy whirling around him like a storm. He scrambled to his feet, yanking a small blade out of his belt. “You don’t get to disregard me like that! Without me, you would be forgotten!” He charged forward, slamming the blade into the YiLing Patriarch’s stomach to the hilt. The man gasped as he fell to his knees, and Xue Yang called forth a wave of resentful energy to consume the corpse.
He dropped down to the ground after that, crying with the pain of rejection and humiliation. He pulled the black mist closer to himself like a blanket and let the comforting darkness surround him and lull him to sleep.
His body was found by two farmers a day later. The men carefully turned the body on its back, pulling the blade from the stomach wound. “Isn’t this the madman who was crossing our village a few days ago?” one of them asked. The other shrugged. “The unfortunate thing must have been very far gone, to stab himself like that.”
“Why do you think it was him, and not someone else?”
The second man shrugged and pointed to the path around them. “There are no other footprints around. Come on, we should at least give him a proper burial. Don’t want a madman like that come back and haunt us.”
Bonus: Wen RuoHan
“What the fuck, how are you not dead” gurgled Xue Yang with a sword in his chest.
“Bitch” said Wen RuoHan, alive for plot reasons.