Yilling has always been likened to a widow, enshrouded in white mist and grieving under the weight of loss.
The sun was wan, the moon was dim. The days full of strife and the nights glutted with horrors. Under the heavy blanket of death and the cool disdain-filled eyes of the Burial Mounds, the people of Yiling had never truly known rest.
And how could they?
When as the sun left sky, shadows clung to their homes like wraiths.
Nights, were a time for fear to slither its way into the people’s hearts and grow within their lungs like thorns, turning their breathing ragged. When the moon started ascending on the night’s sky, the people knew to return to their homes in haste. They knew to hug their children close and whisper prayers in their hair, they knew to kiss their spouses and hold them close. They knew to place talismans over their windows and doors. But most of all, they knew to beseech Guanyin for clemency for mercy.
The Burial Mounds with all its innumerable tragedies, had always cloaked the city in an aura of death, thick enough to seep into Yiling’s residents’ bones like ice and hang onto their lives like a particularly obsessive lover.
Resentful energy had a sentience to it, the older it was, the more malicious it would become. When a land was wreathed in so much resentment, it would only call for more and more. Adding fear upon fear, misery upon misery, death upon death and tragedy upon tragedy.
The Burial Mounds were gorged with resentment, so much so, that screams of horror and cries of pain
whywhyWHywhatdidIdoIdon’twanttoDIEpLeaSEpleasehelpME resounded day and night throughout the mountain.
Not that anyone could hear them.
The Resentful energy had always been so plentiful, so strong that it didn’t take long for it to reach the city and thread itself into its very foundations. It would stay dormant in the day, giving the people a false sense of respite, only to creep out the moment the sun went down.
And oh how the resentment did spread around the city at night, in living shadows, climbing across walls and enshrouding homes and shops alike hunting for prey to quench its ever growing hunger.
Malignant and bubbling with enmity, the shadows would invite into the city pitiful, woeful creatures, so very broken yet never knowing rest.
The people of Yiling weren’t cultivators, they didn’t know how to protect themselves beyond hiding in their homes, using the flimsy talismans they had on hand and praying to the gods.
But, on one of the dreariest nights the city had ever lived through, everything changed.
On that night, the wind was howling at the doors of every home in Yiling, the talismans keeping the people safe were withering away under the continued onslaught of resentful energy.
The people had already resigned themselves their deaths.
And then, like it came from the heavens themselves the sound of a dizi rang pure and clear spinning a melody that was the mercy of Guanyin.
The music stopped the demons tormenting the whole of Yiling in their tracks, and to the awe of the people they disappeared into the shadows as if banished by some deity. Those same shadows that had always smothered their nights had simmered down, as if all the resentment they held was being pacified and lulled to sleep under the song that was so skillfully played.
The darkness that had even choked the moonlight and dimmed it enough to be nearly nonexistent had finally been driven away.
For once in their lives, the people of Yiling felt that they could go to sleep and truly rest without fear. For the first time in their lives, they didn’t feel that the moment they closed their eyes the darkness would swallow them whole.
And they owed it all to a young man with red-edged sliver eyes and a smile so bright it could outshine the sun.
Wei Wuxian had entered the city while spinning a song of protection to its people, and they in turn, had welcomed him and his with open arms.
Under his protection Yiling had thrived, the widow had finally began recuperating from her loss, she had son who brought life back into her eyes.
As the time went on the songs so skillfully played on Chenqing had even seemed to temper the Burial Mounds.
The people of Yiling were in awe of Wei Wuxian, but mostly they were grateful to him. And while they couldn’t do much for their savior and protector, they made sure that the wares sold into the markets would always be cheaper for him and the Wen remnants. They made sure that he and his always had clothes to wear. And if any of the inns or restaurants had any ‘leftovers’, a brave soul was sent to the foot of the Burial Mounds to holler for their Patriarch.
As they got to know him, the people of Yiling grew to love Wei Wuxian.
His laughter bright and cheerful would often resound around the streets, drawing smiles out even from the wearier. His kindness towards all the children, especially the homeless ones, humbled them. His liveliness as he spun stories and played songs on the Ghost Flute for the children’s enjoyment, often made them pause and gaze at him in fondness. His red ribbon had become a symbol of safety and protection, for the people of Yiling.
However, Wei Wuxian was wrenched away from them.
Had they known what the righteous Cultivation Sects were planning, then maybe they could have tried to help, to land a hand to their beloved Patriarch. However little their help could have meant, they would have still fought for him and the people he saw as family.
They would have done anything to preserve their lives.
But the Cultivation Sects had bypassed Yiling and didn’t go through the city on their way to the Burial Mounds, they had only passed by it after their deed was done. Proud grins on their faces as they spouted vitriol about their protector and the people he loved most after having taken their lives.
The people of Yiling had seethed, raged and felt sorrow weigh over their shoulders like lead, as they chased away cultivators from their shops and inns with over expensive wares and poisonous words.
For seven days and nights, they wore white in grief, in mourning, for the young man they loved and lost. And in remembrance, they wrapped around their right arms ribbons in the color as red as freshly spilled blood.
As the days went on, the nights at Yiling started getting darker and darker. The shadows that had been chased away night after night at the hands of their Patriarch were returning with even more vigor.
The nightmares Yiling had just escaped from were once more enveloping the city whole.
While before the intervention of Wei Wuxian, the Resentful energy had seemed like serpents ready to pounce on the city’s people, now it looked more like open maws ready to ravage the city, maws which would soon gorge themselves on their souls.
The oh so just Cultivation Sects had only added to the tragedies of the Burial Mounds, had only added to its resentment. The senseless killings that had once more happened on its ground were going to be paid for by the people of Yiling.
On the third week following the death of Wei Wuxian, the shadows that clung to Yiling spit out Red Tongue Ghosts.
That night, the pitter patter of the rain as it fell heavily from the sky sounded like mourning bells, some people idly wondered if the heavens were crying out in grief at the faith that would soon await the people of Yiling.
The talismans they used as protection were burning up, soon to become ashes to be blown away by ruthless winds. And as they burned, so did the people’s despair alight even stronger in their hearts.
There would be no Chenqing spinning a song of protection for them, there was no ribbon stark red against the darkness and as bright as heavenly light to bring them hope.
There would, however, soon be blood running down the streets of Yiling.
The ghosts crawled down on ground on greying, elongated limbs. Long dark hair hid pasty faces marked by death. The sound they made as they moved was that of bones breaking over and over again. And their long, long, long tongues dragged beneath their bodies as they crept over the ground and onto the buildings.
As their homes became overrun, people fled to the streets clutching their children to them. They knew that they had no chance of fighting the ghosts, but maybe they could run away or hide the children.
Lightning flashed in the sky, making the apparitions more visible.
And any little hope that the people were still holding onto, was immediately crushed the moment they saw how many ghosts were roaming freely in the city.
A little girl held in her mother’s arms started shouting as tears ran down her face “Xian-gege! Xian-gege! Help A-Feng, Xian-gege!” The mother only held onto her tighter and sobbed into her daughter’s hair.
The whole of Yiling was shrouded in anguish, the people were already resigned to their death. They could only pray for a miracle to happen and curse the Cultivation Sects in tandem.
The voice that echoed throughout the city was childlike, yet the very air seemed to still at the command. The ghosts screeched in unison and turned as one towards where the voice was coming from.
Their ghastly, wretched forms almost outraged at the interruption.
“I said enough!”
The command, this time, made the ghosts cower as they bowed their heads down, their foreheads’ touching the ground
To the people’s awe and fear, the Red Tongue Ghosts immediately started retreating towards the nearest shadows.
Said shadows looked like they were bubbling, as they swallowed down what they had spit out beforehand.
Lightning flashed once more, showing clearly how the resentful energy that had clung to their city started rising like smoke and heading towards the direction the voice came from.
“Xian-gege!” the little girl cried out once more dashing out of her mother’s arms.
“A-Feng!” screamed the woman and ran out after her.
A moment later, a few people lit lanterns and followed after them.
They found the mother hugging her daughter to her chest once more, as they stared at the small figure of a child completely surrounded by resentful energy.
Said child had startling white hair long enough to reach slightly past his knees. He was dressed in too big robes as dark as the shadows that churned and whirled around him as if they were seeking his attention and praise. His red-edged silver eyes were narrowed in concentration as he gathered the resentful energy in a swirling ball between his hands. They watched spellbound as he closed his hands tightly, smothering the shadows between them until they were no more.
Lighting pierced the sky once more, and the people’s gazes zeroed on the bright red ribbon, wrapped loosely around the child’s neck.
How weird was it? that the moment they set their eyes on that ribbon their hearts were so much more at ease, yet were still filled with such sorrow.
“You’re not my Xian-gege”
The silence that had settled on everyone present as the resentful energy was dispersed, was suddenly broken by little A-Feng who was staring at their savior with curious, if still tearful, eyes.
The child smiled soft and sad, he looked down at himself and let out a short bitter laugh.
“I suppose I’m not” he stated before wavering in place and falling limply to the ground eyes closed.