Lady Chang’e, Goddess of the Moon
(Photos Courtesy of Sina Weibo)
Yu Zhu opened her eyes to the bright glare of starlights on a vast plain of moving grass. The rustles were echoes of whispers and howls, of screams and supplications, of laughter and horror.
Tied around her hands was a glowing, gold rope, she was shuffling in a long line of people, led by two figures. One white. One black. both wore long flowing robes and their long pink, fleshy tongues swayed with every step they took. Strangely, as Yu Zhu looked at them, they were shadowless. These were the legendary guardsmen of the underworld, Hei Bai Wu Chang. She had seen status of them in during the Ghost Festivals.
I’m dead, she realized suddenly as her consciousness returned. She was wearing the same clothes she died in but there was no blood. There were no tears. Her hands were whole and scarless, even though bound to the person in front of her. She peered at the other faces, all eyes were closed, as if they were sleeping and walking at the same time.
She looked around as the two leading her, they talked quietly, unaware that she was awake. It was a long, long road. How long has she been dead?
Three arrows flying through the air brought her attention back to the present.
A man wearing a iron vine decorated blood red masked on a ghostly iridescent horse had shot the black and white figures. The ropes shattered and pandemonium ensued. All of the people suddenly woke up, and they looked around as if in shock. Some started screaming that they needed to go back, others simply sat down. One woman screamed, “I’m not dead. My child, my child can’t live without me! I have to go back!”
Soon the hundred or so souls that had been chained together began to run like mad.
The masked man rode to her in a hard gallop, the dust flying like a thundercloud behind him.
“They’ll be up in a moment.” He said as he was close enough, “If you go with them, you will be imprisoned forever with the other Zhong Yin Shen. Come with me. “
She looked at him, “What?”
The two figures began to tremble, trying to reanimate themselves. Yu Zhu saw their long red tongue slide out, trying to grasp the arrows out of their paralyzed bodies.
She grabbed his arm. The man swung her up onto the horse and galloped back up the road. Behind them the roar of the furious Guardians shook the earth as they began to collect the souls up once more.
They rode in hard silence as the stars blazed in the sky, making it clear as day. Yu Zhu’s fingers gripped the saddle so tightly but she realized, she couldn’t feel her fingers. She realized that in this form, there was no pain.
Yu Zhu looked back. Three black hounds chased after them, their sharp teeth glistening in the starlight. The man cursed, “they must’ve sensed the horse.”
The man swung around. “Duck.” He said and shot two arrows. It pierced their eyes and both creatures tumbled into the dust.
“Where are we going?” She asked, the wind roared as the horse barreled down the road, it’s mouth foaming from the effort.”
“The Border of Souls.” He replied while scanning the sky, “It’s a lucky thing I was keeping an eye on you. Otherwise if you had crossed the Sea of Judgement, you wouldn’t have been able to go back. The King of the Underworld would definitely have reported your presence to the Emperor of Heaven. “
Yu Zhu was stunned, “Are you Wei Yun?”
The masked man laughed, “No. He’s so busy fighting all these wars that he didn’t even notice your soul slipping out of your body.”
Yu Zhu felt around for her accorn, “But he always knows.”
“Wei Yun only thought to protect you from demon attacks. His acorn would have warned him of great danger, if you were mortally wounded by a demon. He never thought a lowly human would dare touch you, with Lin Yu around.”
Yu Zhu felt angry, “I was doing fine.”
The man laughed, “You’re in the land of the dead, dear one. That’s not the definition of doing fine.”
“Then who are you?” She demanded, “Why do you know so much?”
The man looked back and smiled sadly, “Hundreds of thousands of years, I watched the Xi Yang Clan to make sure that my daughter is taken care of.” He removed his mask, “My name is Wu Kang.”
Yu Zhu looked at the man, her mouth was open in astonishment. “What?” She gasped.
The horse was tireless as they galloped towards a grey mist so thick it was impossible to tell what was behind it.
Wu Kang held up a box with a Citrine that was as large as a fist. It shone like the sun and cut through the mist, lighting a small, thin road on bigger than two feet wide, it stretched out for miles and miles . Around the road was dense, black soup where black shadows reached out hungrily. Hands covered in slick black stuff reached out and then sank back in.
“If anyone tried to cross the mist without this, they would get dragged into the waste.” Wu Kang explained as he jumped down. He gently grabbed Yu Zhu’s arms and helped her down, Yu Zhu felt like a child being carried by her father, in that one brief moment.
“As a ghost, you won’t feel physical pain anymore. But emotional pain is a different thing.” Where ever the citrine’s light touched, the black waste shrank from. He indicated for her to follow.
Yu Zhu grabbed his sleeve as they carefully walked , “How are you here?” Her mind whirling with a thousand questions. She looked at him. When Wei Yun had shown her her original father and mother, she had only seen a glimpse. Wu Kang still had the appearance of a young chief, excluding fearlessness and fire with his haughty face.
“When I died, I made a vow to your mother that I would wait for her until the end of time.” Wu Kang said as he led her carefully, testing each step to make sure his daughter could pass safely through.
“When humans die, they are led by the Guardians you just saw through the Plains of Regrets. Very, very rarely, a few of them with strong will and determination, and a wish so desperate that they are able to escape.”
Yu Zhu blinked, “But how?”
Wu Kang smiled to himself, “Like you I woke up when being led through the borderlands between the living and the dead. In my hand were three glowing white crystals, so fragile that I thought they would break if I held them too hard. But they were like the best iron. So I cut the golden rope and slipped away quietly.”
“They didn’t come for you?” Yu Zhu asked as she side stepped a reaching, gnarled hand. In front of her, Wu Kang smiled, “I was protected. The three white crystals hid me from the guardians.”
He walked and talked calmly, “For a hundred years, I wandered the plains, looking for a way out. Trying to find a way to come back to the side of the living. I had no way of getting past the midst, I had seen what happens when someone else had tried. But I needed to know what happened to your mother.”
Yu Zhu nodded.
“Then, as luck would have it, on the 100th year, on the night of the festival of the dead, Chang’E, the Goddess of the Moon, came to visit Yan Luo Wang, the King of the Underworld, beside her was a small white rabbit.” The fog grew thicker around them, Yu Zhu tightened her hold. Wu Kang continued his story.
“The Jade Rabbit had immediately sensed the crystals the moment she had appeared in the Realm of the Dead. She begged Chang’e to come and search for the source. For the past few decades, The Jade Rabbit had helped Chang’e regain her health and Chang’e could not refuse.”
When the Jade Rabbit had found me, I was weak. Yes. Spirits get weak.” He replied to her unspoken query, “I was the oldest living spirit I knew. The others who had escaped, began to fade away after a year or so, some are destroyed by the Guardians in punishment. Others had forgotten why they escaped, they become listless, depressed, and hopeless. Slowly the Winds of the plains tear away their soul until they become nothing.”
He sighed, “If I didn’t have those crystals, I might not have lived so long. They gave me hope.”
When the Jade Rabbit saw those tiny slivers, she knew what they were. Lady Chang’e began to cry as well. She gathered the pieces and transformed them before my very eyes. In her hands, they were pieces of floating light. Chang’e explained that these were the pieces of my wife’s soul.”
Wu Kang smiled sadly, “Gods can not die. It’s not in their very nature. So when they are irreparably hurt, their soul will shatter into a million pieces. A million shards of invisible consciousness, just floating around living and reliving the pain of every creature they pass.” Yu Zhu could feel a slight shudder emanated from him, “She suffered a fate worse than death because of me.”
“I asked Lady Chang’e if it was possible to gather my wife’s soul, to heal her. The Jade Rabbit and Chang’e were stunned at my request. They said that no one was insane enough to do it. To see someone’s soul is a power that requires sacrifice. I was allowed to see the three pieces because before I crossed over, it had become attached to me. But it had been 80 years, her soul would be spread across the earth and across the realms invisible to the living and the dead” Wu Kang’s voice was clear, but it was Yu Zhu’s turn to shudder. There was something about Wu Kang’s tone that her wonder the horrors her father had gone through to see her mother.
“What kind of sacrifice?” She asked once she could manage her voice. He did not answer her question. Instead, he told her,”In the northern mountains, in the Heavenly Lake of Chang Bai Shan – the Mountain of Eternal Winter is a single lotus, the earthly shrine of Guan Shi Yin Pu Sa, the Goddess of Mercy. A lotus that only blooms when the tides are low and the fog enshrouds the entire lake, making it near impossible to find. This is the one shrine that she pays attention to the most, since only the most devout will ever make it up the mountain. Chang’e told me that if I went to plead my case there with the Goddess of Mercy, she might agree.”
“How did you get there?” Yu Zhu wanted to know.
Wu Kang shook the box with encrusted with the Citrine. “Lady Chang’e was the wife of Hou Yi. When he had vanquished the Suns, he was give an immortal pill so that he can rise to the heavens to become a God. Hou Yi gave it to Chang’e, who was on her deathbed, it healed her but it separated the lovers forever. The pill that takes 99,999 years to make. The magical properties on the box alone were formidable. This is the very box in my hands. It allows me to cross into the realms.”
“And the Goddess of Mercy granted you the power to bring back mother?” Yu Zhu surmised.
Wu Kang smiled sadly, “Yes and no.”
Yu Zhu was confused, “What do you mean?”
“When I found the Lotus, the Goddess of Mercy appeared in front of me. She said she knew my wish, but that it was impossible for her to grant it. She may allow me to see the soul of Mei Yan, but to reassemble it, I would need immeasurable power. The kind that only comes from the creators of this world, the first and most powerful of the Gods.”
“She gave me the Sight and said that the box would help me keep store the pieces I find. I have traveled, as a spirit, invisible to the living to find all the pieces.” He sighed, “Yet, I still need the last piece.”
“And what happens when you find it?” Yu Zh wanted to know, “Will I see mother again?” There was painful hope. She had never met her parents, to see them, to know them, to be held by them was something she had wondered ever since Wei Yun had revealed the truth about her.
Wu Kang sighed again, his shoulders sagging, “I don’t know. I have wondered and dreamed about this on end. But to make Mei Yan whole, I need the last piece of her soul and I need the most powerful object in all these realms.”
“What is that?” Yu Zhu asked.
Wu Kang stopped, and looked back at her with a leveled gaze, “Pan Gu’s heart. The same Pan Gu’s heart that resides in Wei Yun.”
Yu Zhu’s fingers grew tighter and tighter around Wu Kang’s sleeve, she didn’t know what to say. Her mouth became dry and she felt like she needed to sit. Yet, in the encroaching darkness, she had no choice but to move foward.
They walked in silence until suddenly the grey mist dissipated. They stood underneath a vast, glass looking substance.
In it, Yu Zhu saw the whole human realm, she looked up into the glass but found herself looking down at the tops of roofs. They were not in Yue, but Dian. She looked at him in confusion, “But my body is in the Yue Kingdom.”
“Sometimes this Mirror, if you will, will show you places where you have unresolved businesses or regrets. It will not show you your home until you let go of such regret” He answer while looking up at the city.
“You’ve wondered a long time about that place” Wu Kang said as he gestured to her old home, the Dian Palace. He opened his hands and the picture magnified, “You’ve always wondered why your brother sent you away, didn’t you? They didn’t hate you, They were protecting you.”
Yu Zhu saw Xu Long Hui cough up blood, his sat, his head pressed into the unforgiving back of the Dragon Chair. “He’s dying.” Yu Zhu said softly.
“I have been privy to information that you were unaware of during that time.” Wu Kang told her as she watched, her eyes filling with tears. “I know why your brother, Hua Er, and the man you knew as your father, the Emperor of Dian, did what they did.”
He took her hand, “Before I can take you back to your body, it’s time you knew the truth. Only until you decide to let it go, will you be able to choose your path.”