It was on the six hundredth and ninety-ninth year that Luo Binghe let him go free.
It was a day like any other, cold and unworthy of his gaze. Shen Jiu stepped angry feet and felt no ropes bind him. The very stone shivered beneath his anger, warm as if he was something to be treasured and owned.
It was a day like any other, in the palace of Luo Binghe.
Except sunlight kissed his skin, gentle as the demon’s hands were on the cruelest nights. It was a day like any other, except golden chains did not bind his neck and leave him furious.
It was a day like any other, except Shen Jiu stood outside the palace walls, and Luo Binghe leaned inside them. A broad body lounged against gilded stone, all coiled muscle and lazy force. The demon looked like a hunting cat, come to stare down running prey.
Shen Jiu was no prey to be caught and toyed with, though Luo Binghe had kept him caged for almost seven hundred years.
What a turn of fate was this, he thought, with a snarl like the frosts of winter.
“Well, little bird? Aren’t you supposed to fly?”
The demon smirked as he spoke, red eyes brighter than a spring sun and burning through Shen Jiu’s skin. They looked hot to the touch, and Shen Jiu wanted to feel them against his fingers so he could carve them out.
A scratch for every touch Luo Binghe had laid on his skin. Angry fingers for every time Luo Binghe had fucked him breathless and moaning. A bone ripped out for every moan the man had pulled from Shen Jiu with thick cock and unwanted touch.
Shen Jiu would kill this man, if it took him a thousand years.
“I am no bird, filth. I don’t fly for you.” His words were dry with dust and fury, but they held an angry truth. Shen Jiu was no bird but a sleeping serpent. His fangs may have been gilded and his poison dulled, but he would strike with coiled strength.
A flash of darkness crossed the eyes of Luo Binghe, made of shadowed pride and the promise of a challenge. For a hundred years, Shen Jiu had seen that challenge every night, and it had cut his skin and made him snarl. It had made him gasp too, under the skill of a demon lord and determined hands.
It made him wrap golden chain around Luo Binghe’s neck, murder lining his fingers. But gold had no power over a man made of heavenly demon blood. Luo Binghe had just laughed at murder, bright and smug. Broad hands curled around his hips, gold breaking on a demonic throat and teeth biting into Shen Jiu’s skin.
The man had fucked him harder that night, like Shen Jiu had not taken enough of that damned cock, like it had not filled and stained him enough.
He would cut it off someday, for Luo Binghe’s crimes. Shen Jiu would make that demon pay.
But the challenge faded from red eyes with the darkness, leaving them light and pale. Boredom settled in again, and the man who had once been a conqueror laughed with the voice of the uncaring.
“Fly or don’t, little bird. It doesn’t matter to me. This is goodbye.”
With that, Luo Binghe turned and walked away, the palace of a king greeting every step. The sun shone on black robes, painting lines of silver down the stretch of a broad back.
A beast prowled back to its den, but it left behind a snake. Shen Jiu felt his hate build with every step, felt his fury rise like a tide of bubbling poison.
How dare Luo Binghe ignore him? How dare the man move like Shen Jiu was no threat?
He lunged forward, rage making him quick and hate making him quicker. No gold cord bound him now, and the energy thrumming under his skin was his and his alone. He would kill this man, with every scrap of poison in his stained blood.
But his fingers caught on empty air, for Luo Binghe twisted to avoid them. Red eyes glimmered again with life and all the stars in the sky, for a breathless heartbeat.
Then the demon sighed.
Shen Jiu was thrown a thousand steps, through trees and breaking pieces of rock. His body cracked on impact, cataclysmic in gasping pain. He stood anyway, ready to fight tooth and nail against the broad hands that were sure to grip him.
But Luo Binghe did not chase, and Luo Binghe did not laugh.
The greatest demon king the world had ever seen walked slow steps away, and Shen Jiu did not know him.
Shen Jiu spent a year plotting his revenge. He walked the forests and cored out their energy, cultivating a path of bitter revenge as he always had. Grass quaked before his steps, and leaves trembled at his breath.
He was the snake of the forest, and here he stood.
Shen Jiu remembered the touch of bruising hands and invasive fingers, of a thick cock and mocking laugh. He remembered being used for the pleasure of Luo Binghe and gleaming red eyes.
He remembered enjoying it.
He snarled into the silence, and the roots below his feet trembled too. This snake slithered with poisoned fangs, and not even the demon king could stop his revenge.
Luo Binghe died on the seven hundredth year.
It was like a great pillar had fallen and shaken loose the foundations of the world. A kingdom rumbled with the echoes of death, a beast frantic without its head. The king had fallen to Xin Mo, the whispered the rumors of whetstones and blade oil. Power fell, and demons spilled their worries into weapons and anger.
Who would take the seat of the great king, they said, over gilded tables and icy thrones? Who would rise victorious from the war brewing on the horizon? Who would claim the throne of a man who had ruled them for longer than time had a heartbeat?
Would anyone dare to raise Xin Mo again? There would have been some, eager for the power the sword commanded in every piece of blackened steel. But the blade vanished with Luo Binghe’s life, disappearing from calloused hands and into mist.
A king died, and with him died the power of the abyss.
In the cracks and dark corners of poverty, humans rejoiced, free from the reign of a fickle god for the first time in living memory. Now they would rise anew, they said, quiet and cautious.
The world shook, but Shen Jiu trembled.
He stood in his forest and felt the death in spill through his bones, deep and resonant. It seemed to echo through each piece of him, coring him out until the revenge had no target and the anger no victim.
Who was he, without Luo Binghe? What soul lingered in his skin, when Luo Binghe was dead and gone to a damned sword?
Shen Jiu was alone with his hate, and there was no one to understand it.
Shen Jiu ascended on the seven hundredth year.
The heavens shook with his steps, gilded clouds dancing beneath him. Every palace was beautiful, lined with gold and fine jade, made of silver and the perfect hand of a master carver.
Shen Jiu sneered at them all, eyes cold as dead iron. He had seen what lay beneath the mask of beauty, and he knew the beasts that swam in painted oceans. These were the homes of a thousand pathetic officials, and each one deserved none of his attention.
None of these petty gods held a candle to Luo Binghe’s terror.
What god are you, a hundred heavenly officials asked, with polite smiles and curious eyes. They looked like vultures gathered around a kill, and Shen Jiu wanted to laugh at their stupidity.
These gods had never fought a demon lord until they bled. They had never warmed the bed of a man they hated. They had never used a gilded chain to throttle guards and make a point.
They had never lived seven hundred years beside Luo Binghe.
Six hundred and ninety-nine, a poisonous voice in the back of his mind whispered. It sounded like the fury of the damned, like the touch of broad hands against his spine and over bruised and marked skin.
It sounded pathetic as the heavenly officials before him, and he ignored it as he ignored them. A restless anger boiled across his chest as Luo Binghe had once mouthed across it, hungry teeth biting Shen Jiu into furious pleasure.
But the man was dead, and revenge could not be his.
That would not do.
What god are you, a woman with regal robes and cold eyes asked him. She stood bathed in specks of black ink, but she governed the heavens like they were a peak and she was its lord.
Shen Jiu liked her, for as much as he could like anyone. He could see spite in her eyes, and a fury to match his own, cast in scrolls and polite words.
Ling Wen had suffered at the hands of the weak, as he had. She had the strength and mettle to fight back, as he had.
He was the god of revenge, and he tasted her satisfied hate lingering in the air. Ling Wen was a woman who had killed those that stepped across her skilled hands.
He liked her. He liked her more when she told him the tales of Mount Tonglu and the ghosts it birthed, of the violent creation of the cruelest demons. They emerged bathed in lava and the blood of thousands, she said, and her voice was as unaffected as his.
Shen Jiu thought it sounded the perfect place for Luo Binghe.
He walked angry feet into the mausoleum of a king, and each step rung over cold stone. The walls did not want him here, marble screaming the silence of dead guards. The corpses didn’t care for his steps either, the creak of bone and rustling of still silk loud and angry.
The Holy Mausoleum did not welcome him, but Shen Jiu didn’t care. He was a god, and this body had the blood of a demon running through it like poison.
Even now, Luo Binghe marked him from the inside, staining him red as he had once been stained white.
Shen Jiu hated the demon king as he hated nothing else. He loathed the broad set of demonic shoulders, the way the man knew how to make him moan with fingers and tongue alone. He hated the chains that had bound him to a gilded bed, wearing bruises into the skin of his neck. He hated centuries of captivity with only a pathetic beast for company and that damned harem. He loathed that Luo Binghe had died too, let life slip from red eyes and glimmering robes.
Luo Binghe would die a thousand deaths, but each would be at Shen Jiu’s hands alone.
The bones of a demon king felt no different from any other man’s. They were dry with dust, clothed in royal robes and made regal, even in death.
Shen Jiu threw them in a tattered bag and dragged them across the ground. They scraped the dirt and rocks of filth for days, through the countryside and across hills and mountains.
Shen Jiu did not lift the bag for a moment, and each bump and tear made him smirk.
Luo Binghe deserved so much worse, for dying.
The bag tumbled across the ground as it tumbled into the gaping maw of Mount Tonglu, drenched in the blood of a thousand ghosts. Shen Jiu dragged his bruised body down through lava and muck, standing with shaking fingers in the kiln of a volcano.
It had taken him so much to win his way here. There was no martial god strength in his body, though he had the training of a skilled cultivator. He had spent centuries as the bed pet of a demon king, bound to whims of Luo Binghe. Long days were lost to fucking and fighting, to games of skill and the cruelty of the royal harem.
Shen Jiu was not a warrior, not anymore. But he was a survivor, from the miseries of his youth to the tortures of his life. And oh, with each step through this cursed place had he survived. He killed too, driven by the fury of unfulfilled revenge.
Nothing could stop him now. He would have Luo Binghe’s throat in his hands, or he was no god. No paltry demons and no pathetic threads of fate would keep him from this.
Shen Jiu had the bones of a king at his side, and he would not rest until they were made ghost.
He stood now, on the edge of a volcano, as a god. He stood, with a body made immortal by heaven and a fury made unstoppable by rage.
He was the god of revenge, and he would take his revenge here.
The Kiln closed around him in a rumbling of molten fury. It was dark, for a hopeless moment, made of shadowed rock and glimmering hints of lava.
It was a place for a supreme to be born.
Shen Jiu picked up the skull and stared into dead eyes. White bone felt dry beneath his fingers, but it turned bloody and red soon enough. He was stained by his kills, but he was not broken.
“Trash,” he said, and the word was scraped free of an angry throat.
“Demon,” he said again, and felt the weight of the Kiln’s power begin to press across his shoulders. It would crush him soon, beneath the weight not meant for a god.
Shen Jiu didn’t care.
“Luo Binghe,” he said at last, fingers clenched across the skull in his hands. “Drag your spirit here, or I will drag it myself. I will kill you if it takes me a thousand years.”
There was no response. Bone stared forward with empty eyes, and Shen Jiu remembered the miasma of boredom that had lingered in the demon’s smirk.
He snarled, made rage and ruin.
“Return,” he commanded, with the Kiln closing harsh fingers across his heart. He could not breathe, lungs gasping for air and legs trembling.
He fell to his knees, and the skull fell too, tumbling down into rock and dust. He bled, from a thousand cuts.
Blood dropped across the ground, leaking over white bones and staining them red and beautiful. It made them tremble too, shake and glow. Shen Jiu took only a moment to understand.
Luo Binghe had forced demonic blood down his throat and into his veins. The man had laughed, while Shen Jiu choked on it. Then he had fucked him into silk sheets for hours beyond count, until words were moans and spite was pleasure.
The demon lived on, in Shen Jiu. There was no time for thought.
Fingers steady and ribs cracking, he slammed a knife into his palm, and bled for his revenge.
The Kiln broke open as a hurricane had pressed against its walls. Fragments of rock shattered across the sky like the breaking body of a mountain. A man walked free, and in his wake was lava and blood. Before him lay the broken remains of a sword like no other, pulled from his bones as mist made steel.
The ground shook for the Silver Star Ruling the Abyss. The world trembled for a new Supreme. The heavens shook for a new enemy.
Shen Jiu trembled for Luo Binghe.
Rock and rubble rained down around them, made dust by the force of Luo Binghe’s power. Shen Jiu paid no attention, staring with bleeding hands and fury at the man before him.
Luo Binghe looked beautiful.
Silver dripped from broad shoulders like broken stars, bright and glimmering. It stained black robes lovely, in lines of cascading light. The silver dripped down to coat the pieces of Xin Mo too, scattered and broken at the feet of a ghostly supreme.
The man was a painting of black and silver, but Shen Jiu didn’t look away from red eyes. They glimmered with life, in the shadows of a breaking mountain.
They looked so bright.
“And here I thought I set a little bird free,” came the words he had waited to hear, in a voice he hated like no other.
Relief was a feeling he had felt rarely, in centuries of captivity and depraved torture. It was something he hadn’t expected to feel at the sight of Luo Binghe.
But revenge was only sweet when it came on his own blade.
Shen Jiu stood, shaky from the power that had pressed his lungs to dust. Blood dripped to the ground, falling as snowfall to dot white bones. He paid no attention to it, walking forward with a snarl like a cat sinking angry teeth into prey.
He would sink his fangs into this man if it cost him eternity. White teeth would bite in, and this hunter would not let go.
Let the pathetic beast laugh, let him smirk; Shen Jiu would taste his blood and revenge.
Quick steps took him to Luo Binghe. Quicker motions had a blade out and ready. That handsome face only smirked as he approached, lips painted crimson and carved perfect from jade. Shen Jiu remembered them kissing across his skin, merciless and filthy.
With every piece of hate dotting his bones, he rammed the tip of a long dagger through ghostly bone.
He stabbed a knife through Luo Binghe’s heart, but he did not crush the skull behind him.
“Do not call me little bird,” he said, through blood and the pain of lost revenge. The ghost only laughed, but the sound was coated by eerie surprise.
Red eyes fixed on him, bright as the very moon. They did not look away, and they did not turn and walk to a slow and bored death.
They would never do that again.
“Last I checked, you weren’t the one who gave orders, little bird.”
Strong fingers curled around his wrist, bruising godly skin with the marks of possession. A gentle thumb brushed across the cuts on his hands until they closed, demon blood boiling through his veins.
Hunger was clear in Luo Binghe’s face, chasing the hints of unease across smug lips. So was a ghostly life, pale skin glimmering in the rubble of a volcano.
Shen Jiu sneered, through satisfaction and a bitter rage.
“You will not leave again,” he said, as Luo Binghe pulled him in close. The dagger stayed in a broad chest, but strong palms pressed him down to the ground.
Rock met his back and clever fingers slipped into his robes, merciless and cold. Those hands had made him moan so many times before, a lifetime ago when they were both mortal. Those hands would make him moan now.
Lava flaked over them, but Luo Binghe didn’t seem to notice. Red eyes were fixed on him, as they should be.
“Why would I leave when you are so desperate for me, little bird? You brought me back,” the demon said, like it mattered, like Shen Jiu had done this for a reason other than burning revenge.
He snarled into red lips and hungry kisses, bit his way into Luo Binghe’s mouth. Shen Jiu would rip the heart from undead skin and throw it into lava, if the man left again.
Revenge was his to have, and oh would he claim it.
The demon just laughed, merciless and smug as spun silver. Strong hands stripped him bare, bruising across his chest and marking him. Silver was still dripping down Luo Binghe’s shoulders, and stray drops caught on Shen Jiu’s skin.
It burned, but not as metal should have. This was the tingling of Luo Binghe’s fingers tracing across his hips, of smug laughter pressed into his spine and dancing across golden chains.
This was the fire of ownership, come to mark him in pretty silver. Shen Jiu shoved the dagger harder into the chest above him, left his own mark.
Luo Binghe only laughed.
Blood fell with silver to decorate him, and Shen Jiu hissed as it stung. He hissed more when Luo Binghe fucked into him, demon blood opening him up easy as breathing.
Shen Jiu hated it, hands coming to claw marks down ghostly skin. He was taken apart and fucked, but he would not leave this beast unmarked.
It had been long years since Luo Binghe had died for the first time. They had passed in a haze of pointed fury, in quiet decades where Shen Jiu had not spoken a word.
He had raged. He had planned. He had ascended, and stepped among the gods to find them lacking.
He had not cried, for he would not shed tears over the bones of Luo Binghe. But he had killed a thousand ghosts, for his revenge.
He would kill more, just as soon as he had air to breathe. Shen Jiu had forgotten the press of thick cock, the way Luo Binghe could own him with quick and merciless thrusts. Silver dyed his skin shimmering, and blood stained it, but Shen Jiu only held on and clenched down, anger making him quick.
Luo Binghe laughed, smug and low above him. Red eyes did not look bored, glimmering like jewels carved from dead mountains. They did not look away either, fixed on his every panting breath and snarl.
For the first time in a century, Shen Jiu looked up at the man who marked him and did not see cold boredom.
Luo Binghe looked alive.
“You are pathetic,” he snapped out, with ribs caught by moans and a neck pressed with bites. Luo Binghe just laughed into his skin, ghostly breath cold but molten silver warm.
“Feisty as always, my little bird.”
Shen Jiu twisted the knife, hard and fast. Luo Binghe coughed into a smirk, blood bright and beautiful at the corner of perfect lips. The man did not look angry, but pleased.
Shen Jiu didn’t know what to think of that. A sharp thrust had him gasping, but a cold hand just curled around his.
It held the dagger firm, blood coating their bound fingers crimson as the sunset. Luo Binghe didn’t seem to care about the mess, eyes coring into him.
They still looked so bright.
It was too much, but Shen Jiu would never let them look away. No, he would rip those eyes out himself before he allowed that, vicious as he had ever been.
Luo Binghe had held him captive for six hundred and ninety-nine years, and owed him six hundred and ninety-nine deaths.
Shen Jiu planned to collect each and every one, by his own hands.