It all started when the moon disappeared.
Without the moon chariot lighting up the night sky, the world was thrown under a blanket of darkness from dusk ‘till dawn, making any midnight activities close to impossible. Nocturnal animals lost their ability to hunt and anything that used the lunar cycle to operate was now unable to do so.
People were at a loss.
“Is the Moon God alright? Is he sick? Injured? Dead?”
“Nonsense! Have you ever heard of a god getting sick?! I’m sure Lord WangJi is fine! Perhaps he is taking a break…”
“Come off it! A member of the Lan clan taking a break?! When’s the last time you heard of Lord QiRen taking a break?”
“But he’s the God of Order! He doesn’t have a schedule to stick to! Lord WangJi has to ride the Moon Chariot across the sky every night! Of course he’d want a break…”
“And the God of the Sun is but a child, and I don’t see him stopping.”
“Just because Lord SiZhui maintains the appearance of a child doesn’t mean he is one. He’s almost as ancient as Lord WangJi!”
“I say he’s dead.”
“I say he’s not.”
“Enough banter you fools! What’s the use in guessing? Let’s just wait for the gods to tell us what happened at the next discussion conference…”
“But we just had one a year ago! You expect us to wait nine more years for answers?!”
“What can we do but wait? Let’s just pray that the problem fixes itself…”
For a while, people were able to adapt. They shortened work hours, invested in an egregious amount of olive oil, and offered their prayers to the god Lan WangJi every night, hoping he would resume his duties.
However, things only got worse.
It wasn’t as immediately apparent as the moon vanishing, but people started to notice that no one was able to give birth to a live child. Because the actions of animals were unaffected by the whims of gods, animals were still able to birth healthy, living babies. However, humans now found themselves unable to create anything other than an empty, soulless shell. As parents everywhere mourned, the rest of the populous raged.
“First the moon and now this?! The gods must be raging a war up on Olympus!”
“But a ‘god of life’ doesn’t even exist yet! The Spirit of Life hasn’t ever chosen a host, so how could it participate in a war?”
“It has to be his fault, right?”
“You know, the ‘cursed god’.”
“Of course! It’s always that damned God of Death!”
“Careful what you say about him. Don’t you know of the atrocities he caused while he was human? He managed to even kill gods! While he was human!”
“Of course we know that you twat! Lord WuXian is the God of Death for a reason…”
“But why would he do such a thing? It’s not as if he’s trying to amass an army with the souls of children! He’s dangerous and destructive, but not evil …”
“Listen, who did what isn’t important. What is is the fact that we’re now losing an entire generation of people for who knows how long! And we still have over eight years until the next discussion conference! How are we supposed to survive if we can’t even give birth to the next generation?!”
“Mark my words, this is the end of humanity…”
Because of the significance of the second issue, no one was able to notice the third problem until close to three years had passed.
No one was falling in love.
It was as if the concept of love itself had died. People who had once experienced it were haunted by a ghost-like feeling of emptiness, while those who had never fallen in love were blind to its meaning. People were still attracted to each other, but there was no spark, no connection, no passion. However, since no one had ever heard of a ‘spirit of love’, much less a ‘god of love’, they all just assumed that this was a side-effect from the disappearance of the Spirit of Life.
All across the country, people were losing hope. Some had accepted their fate as the last generation of humans, while others were desperately holding out for the next discussion conference, hoping that the gods would have answers.
One such person was Mo YiJun.
Mo YiJun had been told tales of love by his mother his whole life, watching as her eyes lit up as she discussed the happiness that relationships could bring, or the marvellous things that a couple could accomplish together. He longed to experience these things for himself, but was now faced with the possibility that he never could.
It’s not like it would have mattered , Mo YiJun thought bitterly, Someone like me is destined to love alone anyway…
Mo YiJun was sweeping the stairs of the temple he served, lamenting how he, a Head Priest, could be diminished to such a chore.
“It’s ‘cause you’re the only disciple, idiot,” he mumbled to himself.
Realizing what he had done, Mo YiJun sighed, “That’s it, keep talking to yourself. It’s not like anyone can possibly find you more creepy…”
Mo YiJun looked around. His temple was located in a small town beside a lake. It didn’t have much to its name other than being the home of the temple for a major god. All around him were bored shop owners, all hoping that a traveller would pass by and purchase something. All of them were suspiciously looking at anything other than the massive temple in front of them.
Mo YiJun smirked sadly, “People finding me more creepy? They won’t even look at me. What could possibly be worse than not existing??”
As he said that, a rock was thrown at his head.
Thanks to years of practice, Mo YiJun was able to dodge the projectile without much effort, “Whoever threw that, you should know that there is a penalty to pay for assaulting a priest.”
A young voice—no older than eleven—responded, “Don’t care! Mommy says your god’s trash! She says you’re why I don’t have a baby sister! Go join your god in Hell!”
Mo YiJun felt the broom in his hands crack. He turned his face to the child, ready to reprimand him for his comments, when a woman ran up to the child and grabbed him, crying, “I’m so sorry Head Priest! If my son has offended you in any way, I will take responsibility! He didn’t mean any of the words he said! Please just spare him!”
Mo YiJun looked around and saw that all eyes were now on him now, waiting to see how he would deal with the woman. Some were betting on which of the two he would punish, while others were sure he would bring them both in and sacrifice them.
Typical, they think you’re a murderer…
Mo YiJun let out a chuckle, What else is new?
He waited long enough for money to exchange hands, watching as a server winked at him, then announced his decision, deepening his voice to sound more menacing, “Very well. Because I am feeling particularly generous today, and he seems to be a member of the last generation of humans, I will spare his life. And, seeing as a child needs a mother, you may live as well.” Mo YiJun stretched out his hands in a dramatic way, “On behalf of my Lord, Wei WuXian, I pardon your son’s disgraceful actions and your malicious words. Go and offer him your thanks.”
The woman got up, head still down, “Thank you sir! It won’t happen again!”
With that, the woman grabbed her son and ran away.
Mo YiJun let out a sigh, then spoke to the crowd, “Would anyone else like to offer any words to the God of Death? A human sacrifice perhaps?”
At those words, the crowd quickly scattered.
Mo YiJun shook his head, Honestly, when is the last time a human was sacrificed to a god? These people will believe anything I swear…
Just as he turned to continue maintaining the empty temple, the young server that had winked at him called to him, “Thanks a lot, YiJun-ge!”
Mo YiJun turned to him and sighed, “Tai Xia, must you always use these fights for material benefit?”
Tai Xia held up the money he had won and smiled, “Hey, I need to make a living somehow! Besides, I know you waited for me~”
Mo YiJun, “I waited so you could afford your mother’s medicine this week.”
Tai Xia let out a hollow laugh, “Yeah, for all the good that’s doing her… I swear she gets sick every other day. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that Wei WuXian was trying to claim her as a wife or something, haha…”
Mo YiJun looked down, “…Sorry.”
Realizing what he had said, Tai Xia waved his hands rapidly, “Nonononono, that’s not what I meant! Sorry, bad joke. I don’t blame you or Lord WuXian at all! In fact, I respect you both! Especially you, YiJun-ge. How can you put up with all this nonsense every day? Just because you serve the Lord of Death doesn’t mean you are evil or anything. I mean, Xue ChengMei was pretty bad when he was human, but hey, he’s the God of Darkness now, so let’s not mention that…”
Tai Xia rambled on for a while, trying to dig himself out of the hole he had found himself in. Suddenly, he stopped talking and broke into a massive fit of coughs. Mo YiJun went to help him. Tai Xia waved him off, then—acting as if nothing had happened—grabbed Mo YiJun’s shoulders, “Listen A-Jun, what I’m trying to say is that I’m on your team. I don’t think you’re a monster or a murderer, and I’m sure if people could still fall in love, girls would be swooning for you. Hell, I would be swooning for you!”
Mo YiJun turned away, shrugging Tai Xia’s hands off, “Don’t lie like that just to make someone feel better and don’t call me ‘A-Jun’. And buy medicine for yourself with that money.”
Tai Xia raised his hands in surrender, “Fine fine, Mother .” He then raised an eyebrow, “But I’m serious about that last bit. Mark my words, when the gods finally fix this little love problem, all the girls in town are going to fall for you.”
“I really couldn’t care less.”
“Fine, all the boys then.”
“TAI XIA!!!” Mo YiJun raged.
Tai Xia dodged as Mo YiJun threw his broom at him, “There we go, back to normal! Keep that energy, you’re going to need it tomorrow~”
And with that, Tai Xia skipped off to his job, hiding the cloth that now held the droplets of blood he had coughed up.
“Mother, I’m back!”
Mo YiJun walked through the doors of his mother’s small home, carrying a small sack of medicine.
His mother rounded the corner and went to embrace her son, “Welcome back A-Hong! Finished your duties for today?”
Mo YiJun nodded, passing the bag to her.
She spoke as she rummaged through the bag, “Nothing bad?”
Mo YiJun shook his head.
His mother smiled, “Did you get to talk to A-Xia today?”
Once again, Mo YiJun nodded.
His mother’s smile widened, “I could tell! He always seems to brighten your day, doesn’t he? Do you love him?”
Mo YiJun shook his head, “Mother, you know I can’t fall in love. Much less with a man.”
His mother shrugged, “I know I know, just teasing. Now come, I’ve prepared a surprise for you!”
Mo YiJun followed his mother to the dining room and saw that his mother had prepared a massive meal for him. There were samples of all different types of meat, all the vegetables that their small town could get a hold of, and a rather large bottle of wine.
Mo YiJun turned to his mother, “What is—?”
His mother smiled, “Surprise! You’ve got a big day tomorrow, I can’t have you travelling on an empty stomach.”
Mo YiJun’s eyes softened, “Mother…”
How much must this have cost?
Almost as if she could read his mind, his mother pushed him into the chair, “It doesn’t matter, just eat! You’re going to be representing a major god, so you shouldn’t look half-dead already! Hahahahaha! Oh dear me, bad joke?”
Mo YiJun shook his head, choosing to ignore his mother’s word choice, “Are you sure you can look after the temple? In your condition…”
“Nonsense! I can handle it! Now eat or I’m going to start force-feeding you.”
Knowing that his mother wasn’t actually joking about force-feeding him, Mo YiJun decided that it would be better for his health if he obeyed.
I promise I’ll make this up to you one day…
As he ate, his mother continued to question him, “Have you made sure to pack some food?”
“How about spare clothes?”
“Your ‘good-luck’ ring?”
Mo YiJun reached into his robes and pulled out a cord with a beautiful ring attached to it. It was decorated made with intertwining strands of white and black iron, a single red and blue jewel at the center, “I always have it, Mother.”
“Just checking,” his mother replied cheerily, “My boy, going off to save the world! I’m so proud!”
After finishing the meal, he helped his mother clean the dishes, double-checked his bags, then went to his old room in an attempt to get some sleep. However, his mind wouldn’t rest, occupied with too many thoughts and worries for the future of the world.
The long-awaited discussion conference was only a week away.
Every ten years, the gods would send down OuYang ZiZhen, the God of Messages, to alert the humans of anything the gods had deemed important enough to share. After his report was finished, Head Priests and Priestesses were allowed to ask him questions
As Wei WuXian’s representative, he had been invited to attend this upcoming discussion conference. He knew that he wasn’t the most well-respected out of all the priests and probably wouldn’t get a lot of time to talk, but he also knew that it was his duty to inquire about the sudden lack of life the world was experiencing. Perhaps he could even ask about why so many people were suddenly getting very sick.
Ha! Everyone knows why, idiot. Wei WuXian is trying to kill off humanity!
Mo YiJun shook the thoughts out of his head, Stop letting them get to you. You don’t know for sure…
A more aggressive voice replied, Then what else could it be? You just don’t want to admit that you serve an evil god!
“Shut up,” Mo YiJun said out loud.
It suits you. An evil god for an evil person, right? Even if you could love, you couldn’t actually love properly…
Mo YiJun rolled over, hoping that he could ignore the criticisms he was hurling at himself long enough to fall asleep.
Early the next day, he took off towards the Temple of Wealth—the location of the discussion conference—on his donkey.
The Temple of Wealth was owned by the Yu family. Their family served the God of Wealth—Jin ZiXun, but their biggest claim to fame was their relation to Yu ZiYuan, the former Goddess of Darkness. Despite the fact that she had been dead for thousands of years, the Yu family still attempted to use her name to inspire fear. Not that it worked that often. However, their connection to a former goddess was probably why they were picked to host the discussion conference. That and their abundance of riches.
When Mo YiJun finally arrived at the temple after a week of travel, he was greeted by a massive hall decorated in gold. There were dancers and musicians everywhere, all attempting to outshine each other. All around him were banquet tables filled to the brim with all the food anyone could ever ask for, making the feast that his mother had prepared for him seem like crumbs in comparison. At the center of the room stood the Yu family themselves, greeting all their guests and helpfully escorting them to their assigned seats.
Mo YiJun braced himself for what was to come, then approached them.
The madam of the house greeted him, “Hello Young Master! What temple do you serve?”
Mo YiJun, “The Temple of Death, servant to Lord Wei WuXian.”
The woman froze, fear suddenly overtaking her, “Ah… Yes. That temple. Ahm, my husband’s son will show you to your seat. Yu Fu!”
A young man came running up to them, nearly tripping over his robes as he did.
As the boy caught his breath, Mo YiJun allowed himself a moment to take in his outrageous outfit. His colourful robes were draped in far too much gold, a clear signal of both his wealth and ridiculous fashion sense. His pale, round face was decorated by shoulder-length curly hair pulled back into a ponytail, the strands of which also had gold decorations tangled in. When he looked up, crumbs of bread were visible around his clearly fake smile, “Yes, Mother?”
“Do not call me ‘Mother’. I do not wish to be confused with that woman. Now, do your job and show our guest to his seat. He is from the Temple of Death.”
The boy froze, then cautiously stole a glance at Mo YiJun, the slight flicker of fear and disgust in his eyes, “…Very well. Follow me Young Master—?”
Mo YiJun, “Mo Hong. Courtesy, YiJun.”
The boy attempting to widen his already strained smile, crumbs falling off as he did, “Yu Fu, Courtesy, BaoKai.”
Yu BaoKai guided him towards the back of the room, delivering a stale speech about ‘the greatness of his family’. Mo YiJun simply nodded whenever appropriate. When they got to Mo YiJun’s seat at the back of the room, they were greeted by a pitiful excuse for a seat.
It was a wooden stool crafted for children, meaning that he would have to fold his legs up to his chest to properly sit in it. It was poorly made and looked very uncomfortable, a clear sign of what the Yu family thought of him. He sighed, At least it’s clean…
Yu BaoKai also looked disappointed, “I’m sorry for this, Young Master Mo. We must not have had enough-”
“It’s fine,” Mo YiJun cut in, not wanting to waste his time listening to excuses.
He went to sit down, but Yu BaoKai stopped him, “No, it’s not. Young Master Mo, give me a minute, will you?”
With that, Yu BaoKai stormed off. A few minutes later, he came back carrying a crate with some fleece. He emptied the contents of the crate and flipped it upside down, placing the stool on top of it. He turned to Mo YiJun, “You should be able to sit properly now. Also, take this-” he picked up the fleece and handed it to Mo YiJun “-to make the seat more comfortable.”
Mo YiJun took the fleece and smiled, “Thank you.” Wanting to return his generosity in whatever small way he could, he gestured to his own face, “You have some food around your mouth. Might want to clean that.”
Yu BaoKai brought his hand to his own mouth, then quickly wiped away the crumbs. When he was done, a small, genuine smile appeared on his face, “Thanks.”
He turned and returned to the Yu family.
For the remainder of the day, Mo YiJun watched as other Head Priests and Priestesses piled in. He recognized some of them, but most were unfamiliar to him, so he dismissed them.
However, one of the priestesses did manage to hold his attention for longer than a minute—the Head Priestess of the Temple of the Moon.
She was dressed in beautiful robes of white, almost as if they held the world’s lost moonlight. Her dark skin contrasted them wonderfully, making her appear to be the night sky itself. Her hair was tied back, a veil resting on her head, covering her entire back in a sheet of white. Her expression was unreadable.
Her name was Xuan Shu, courtesy MeiLing. She was the adopted daughter of the Xuan family, evident by the contrasting skin colour of the man accompanying her, presumably her father. She had been quite well known even before the moon had disappeared, but now her fame had skyrocketed. Almost all eyes were on her as she approached the Yu family.
Mo YiJun wasn’t able to catch any of the words, but he saw the entire Yu family run up to her and personally guide her to a very spacious seat up front, chatting with her the whole way.
Xuan MeiLing looked around the room, locked eyes with Mo YiJun, then nodded.
Mo YiJun returned a small wave, then occupied himself with his own thoughts once again.
It was almost nightfall by the time all of the guests had arrived, the lifeless sky only combated by the obscene amount of oil lanterns the Yu Family had set up.
Now that they were all seated, all eyes were on the large platform at the front for the room, the place where the God of Messages, OuYang ZiZhen, was supposed to appear.
So they waited.
An hour passed.
By the time the third hour had rolled around and all the oil in the lanterns had been replenished way too many times, people began to worry.
Had the gods abandoned them?
Were they really trying to kill off humanity?
Just as people were starting to leave dejectedly, a massive beam of light struck the stage.
The people in the room were petrified, their hopes restored as they awaited the young God of Messages, excited to see him step out of the light and start the conference.
However, what they were greeted to instead was an army of major gods, all with grave expressions on their faces. Present among them was Jiang WanYin—the God of Water, Jiang YanLi—the Goddess of Earth, Jin ZiXuan—the God of Summer, Jin RuLan—the God of Spring, Lan XiChen—the God of Air, and Lan SiZhui—the God of the Sun.
Lan XiChen stepped forward, “Greeting mortals! As you can tell by our sudden arrival, we have something major to discuss with you all. I’m sure you have all noticed that, over these past few years, Olympus has been in peril. Since our best efforts have proven futile, we have come to request your assistance in this matter.”
Confused silence was the reply he got.
After shaking his head, Jiang WanYin stepped forward, “Basically, what he’s saying is ‘Olympus is fucked and you need to fix it.’”