Jin AKA Zhu Zhan Ye My casting – Chen Xiao, Photos courtesy of Baidu. Also a book extra tidbit – conversation between author and characters at the end of the chapter.
Yue Kingdom Mortal Realms
In the vast expanse of green grass that boiled and seethed, a tiny dot of brown moved faster and faster. The horse’s mouth foamed as it snorted, its flanks covered in thick droplets of sweat.
On the horse was a man in silver and white robes, the clung to his powerful frame in the howling winds. He and the horse thundered through the long weaves of green, leaving holes of black earth in their path. Black blood oozed the youth’s shoulder, the poison spreading like a savage army towards his heart.
Behind him rode four figures in black cloth, their eyes on their prey. The man suddenly twisted, grabbing an arrow in swift motion and stringing it on onto the ivory bow that had been given to him from his father, the Emperor.
Zhu Zhan Ye gritted his teeth and let loose an arrow, the taunt string ripping the skin off his fingers as he let go.
It sang through the air, striking one of the black cloth men in the chest. With a garbled scream the man fell from the horse.
Two arrows flew at him the same time that his arrow left his hand. Grabbing his sword, Zhu Zhan Ye deflect the two arrows, gritting his teeth in frustration.
A sudden jolt threw him from the saddle, his horse screamed in agony as its legs were sheared off by a cold flash of silver.
Zhu Zhan Ye landed with a heavy thud but quickly rolled to his feet. Coppery blood welled up to his lips but he forcefully swallowed it down as he coldly stared at the scene behind him.
In front of him were twenty assassins. He heard the sound of the three assassins’ horses halting behind him, their breaths heavy after the long chase. Zhu Zhan Ye narrowed his eyes
“Little brother, why are you in such a hurry?”
A voice as cold as ice cut the air. A man in gold robes strolled from behind the people in black. Zhu Zhan Ye’s pupils tightened as he recognized the man. The Crown Prince Zhu Ming. But he wasn’t wearing the clothes of a crown prince. He wore the clothes of an emperor.
A bitter smile came to Zhu Zhan Ye’s dry cracked lips, thin slivers of blood ran from his mouth and stained his teeth to a hair raising red.
“So it’s true, Father is dead.” Zhu Zhan Ye’s voice was emotionless.
Zhu Ming couldn’t keep the triumphant gleam as he softly said, “Yes, and so is your mother.”
Zhu Zhan Ye’s heart fell as his face drained in color.
Zhu Ming took in the expression of the prince and shrugged, “The road to the throne has always been paved on the bodies of the weak. Don’t be so naive as to think any of our brothers would do any differently. Espcially, your closest brother, Zhu Zhuo Hao.”
Zhu Zhan Ye’s eyes flared angrily, “You are the only brother who would conspired with that Dian General, Hong Yan Su. He lost the war to for your glory. Did you promise to help him take the Dian throne?”
Zhu Ming nodded appreciatively, “You know, if it wasn’t for Hong Yan Su, my plans wouldn’t have gone through so smoothly.”
Zhu Zhan Ye let out a laugh, “So. Zhu Ming. You’ve killed your father for a chair, murdered his wives and children so you might sleep at night. What’s next? Will you sacrifice your sons to appease the heavens for your sins?”
Zhu Ming looked at Zhu Zhan Ye calmly, “If their deaths can bring me the world, then they have served their purpose.”
Zhu Zhan Ye looked at Zhu Ming as if he saw him for the first time. Zhu Ming smiled, the cold, slippery smile of a serpent playing with its food. “Of course, I will let you live, Zhan Ye, if you can prove useful to me.” Zhu Zhan Ye raised an eyebrow without speaking. Zhu Ming continued, his hand toying with the hilt of his saber, “You’ve traveled far and wide. Tell me, have you heard of anything of Zhuo Hao? Tell me where he is and you’ll live. I’ll even give you the antidote to that poison.”
Zhu Zhan Ye winced. He remembered Zhuo Hao’s betrayal.
His heart shuddered with pain as he thought of that girl, who even in death was inked into his mind. He had promised he would wait for her return. But as fate would have it, the death of his father and the worry for his mother made him leave the place where her ashes were spread.
Zhu Zhan Ye shook his head as if to rid of himself of Yu Zhu’s shadow.
Zhu Zhan Ye raised his sword and pointed at Zhu Ming, “You bastard. Today either you die or I will.”
Zhu Ming laughed, the excitement and bloodlust coming back into his voice and eyes. “I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.”
At the sound of his voice the twenty two assassins raised their weapons and ran for Zhu Zhan Ye. He fought like a lion, cutting down one man after another. Zhu Ming’s brows furrowed slightly as he looked at Zhu Zhan Ye. The poison should have started working by now.
Slowly, after Zhu Zhan Ye killed seven men, he began to feel the poison seep into his blood. With a second of broken concentration, a sword pierced his shoulder, cutting through bone.
Another sliced as his arm, Zhu Zhan Ye blocked but stabbed in the back. The men were gaining, after another hour, Zhu Zhan Ye’s body was covered in deep red gashes, his robes already the color of blood.
Zhu Ming raised a hand and his assassins backed away from Zhu Zhan Ye.
Zhu Ming came foward, Zhu Zhan Ye swayed on the ground.
“One more chance, brother. What do you choose, life or death?” The voice drawled.
Zhu Zhan Ye’s cold eyes met Zhu Ming’s and the Crown Prince shuddered inwardly. This was a man who knew he was near death. It was eyes that came straight from hell. The blood that matted the once immaculate face seemed like red scars that ran from forehead to chin. Blood dripped down his teeth as Zhu Zhan Ye spat out, “Death.”
He lunged at Zhu Ming with speed that made Zhu Ming back away in horror. But he wasn’t able to avoid the tip of the blade which sliced into his cheek. It was a scar he would wear for the rest of his life.
Three arrows thudded into Zhu Zhan Ye’s chest, he took a step back and tried to raise his sword again. Three more arrows shot through him. The sword clattered out of his hand as he fell, the bloody robes dragging him onto the wild green grass. He lay there, looking at the bright blue sky, blood clouding his vision.
Zhu Ming turned around, behind him a retinue of the Emperor’s Guard had arrived, they had shot the prince to death. The hundred men in the Guard came off their horses and knelt to their Emperor.
Zhu Ming walked quickly to the dying man, and with a smirk raised his boot slightly. “I win.”
With a vicious stomp, he crushed his boot between his brother’s eyes.
Then he grinned, “My kingdom grows.” The assassins knelt in unison and shouted, “Emperor, your reign will be long and prosperous!” Zhu Ming laughed, his high laugh soaring through the windy plains like the screams of an eagle.
On assassin looked at the body of the dead prince, “Should we bury him your imperial majesty?”
Zhu Ming scoffed, “Let the wolves tear him to pieces.” Then he thought for a moment, ” Fifty of you remain. In case his people have followed him. Kill them too.” Zhu Ming’s eyes flashed dangerously as he aproached the captain of his guard and spoke softly, “When you see fit, make sure that the assassins I brought are taken care of. I don’t want to ever see their faces again.” The guard captain nodded, glad that he had not come any sooner to hear what Zhu Zhan Ye had said to Zhu Ming. Otherwise he might be dead as well.
With that Zhu Ming, the New Emperor walked away, his boot trailing with the blood of his brother.
The tall grasses russeled as the fifty men set up camp a little farther from the body. None of them wanted to look at the dead prince, much less stay near him.
Zhu Zhan Ye’s body was like a bright bloom of flower in a sea of emerald. The grass around him rustled, unsure of what to make of the object that lay in their midst.
One of the men peered at body and sighed. He was an older soldier who had seen better days. Zhu Zhan Ye was a good prince who might have been an excellent ruler. But the Gods were not kind to those who were born in royal families. Slowly, quietly, he took a rough sack and covered the Prince’s face, those eyes still staring at the sky with anger. The solider walked away. He wasn’t able to see the pale spirit of Zhu Zhan Ye that sat beside the body.
If this was any other time, Zhu Zhan Ye’s spirit would have left the world to begin again as a mortal. But in this year, a powerful half god had awoke, and he could feel her presence, however feeble. For he had slept a very, very long time, waiting for the day that another half god would rise. Long ago, he had made a promise, that when another one like him woke, he would follow.
His half blood felt the stir of magic that called to him, a sound like flute music from far away, growing stronger and stronger by the minute.
Zhu Zhan Ye’s spirit felt as if he was slowly falling asleep, bits and pieces of his soul were breaking like craking ice. He didn’t know what was happening and he felt a strong sense that he was slipping into an eternal abysess, like the earth had lost its pull on him. He struggled to stay awake, to stay alive.
Suddenly a voice sounded in his consciousness, stop struggling fool.
Who are you? Asked Zhu Zhan Ye. The voice, clearly male seemed amused, I’m you. Well, I am whole, and a god. You’re just a piece of my shadow that I used to make my mortal self. And now I’m awake, you’ll slowly become a part of me again. Or part of my shadow anyway. It’s not that important. You’re dying. Concentrate on that.
Zhu Zhan Ye felt as if someone exploded a bomb on him. Why are you doing this? He asked as he struggled with the overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. What do you want?
Well, chaos and confusion, for starters. But I don’t know, depends on how I feel. the voice seemed nonchalant, You ask a lot of questions for someone who really doesn’t exist.
Zhu Zhan Ye felt a power, overwhelming like the rush of the tornado hit him. Suddenly all he could feel was darkness.
Jin sighed as the last bit of Zhu Zhan Ye’s soul broke into pieces, and he was free at last. His consciousness had been locked for so long in those pieces that he didn’t even think he would ever wake up. Gold light began to shine from the pieces of soul as they grew and grew. In that mere mortal shell the Half God who had been asleep awoke with a roar of delight.
The earth began to shake and the men on the grassy plain fell to their knees in fear. They were hardened men who believed in only luck and their swords but never in their lives had they felt such power.
In Heaven the Dragon Emperor looked at his mirror that showed him the mortal realms with a cold smile. “He’s awake at last.” He muttered to himself, conflict shone in his eyes.
Jin soul dove into the earth and quickly began to gather strength from every bit of life he found. In an instant, the sea of emerald grass turned brown. A gust of wind blew through and the plants turned to powder. The men looked at area in horror. What was a vibrant earth now was grey and cracked. It would not support life within a thousand years.
They looked at the body of the dead prince and with a terrible jolt in their hearts they saw that it was no longer laying down. Instead, the prince was alive again. Standing in the middle of the field, his eyes closed as if he had fallen asleep that way. The wounds on his face was healing in front of their eyes.
Jin opened his eyes and stretched lazily, like a cat after a nap. But his eyes were the color of molten gold, not the black of humans. He looked around, and saw that the men in front of him, not looking at him with the expression he had hoped for.
“What’s wrong. Do I have something on my face?” He patted his healed face, a look of clear puzzlement. Looking at his sleeves he frowned and flicked his finger. The blood began to disappear from his clothes. He looked at the group of soldiers and assassins apologetically, “sorry, new body. new year, working out the kinks. ” He folded his arms and looked at the group of men, “Where am I. Who am I. Also can someone give me a drink of wine? I’m parched and I’m craving the taste of a good white spirits.”
The crowd infront of him was still shocked and stood like wooden statues.
Jin raised an eyebrow, “If none of you will say anything, I will assume you are all dumb. I will have no use for any of you.” He stretched his neck lazily, “I am not often this kind. Nor this patient. Usually I step on ants. Not talk to them.” The men bristled at his lackadaisical tune.
One solider raised a shaking hand at him, “Monster, what demon are you?”
Jin gave him a look that meant he was an idiot, “I am a God, you backless worm. Have you ever seen a demon this handsome?”
Some of the men tried not to roll their eyes. It wasn’t that the Prince Zhu Zhan Ye wasn’t handsome, it was that they had never seen him so egotistical. Or self loving.
Jin continued, “So. Who can tell me where I am. If you do, I give you a prize.” His voice was a pleasant sound, “I’ll kill you last.”
Hearing this, the soldiers and assassins leapt into action, their pride offended at the man’s haughtiness and self importance. So what it seemed that this man just rose from the dead. So what that they had seen him die once. They’ll just kill him again. And if he keeps rising up from the dead, they’ll just continue killing him again and again until he could no longer laugh at them.
Jin looked at them in alarm, “Wait. But I haven’t gotten the information yet.” To his utter surprise, none of them stopped to explain why they were suddenly so intent on killing him.
Jin shook his head and pointed. Lightening crackled over his skin and split into a thousand fine hairs. It struck the men in their hearts, stealing their lives in an instant.
Dead bodies fell like leaves to the grey cracked earth. What was once a noise filled plain was silent and empty.
In the blink of an eye only one soldier was left alive. He was the one who had put a blanket on the face of the dead prince.
Jin waved a hand. Instantly from the ground rose a stone table and chair. On the table was a steaming pot of tea and two small, elegant cups. He looked at the man in the distance and waved his hand, “Come, friend. Sit and have a chat with me.”
The man considered running but Jin merely smiled, his gold eyes flashed dangerously. The man felt his legs shake as he slowly made his way across the bodies of dead compatriots, their faces still showing the utter horror and surprise. The old soldier sat down, his eyes downcast and his hands trembling.
A long silence ensued.
“Do you have children?” Jin asked curiously after taking a long, satisfied sip of his tea.
The old solider looked up in surprise, and that one look nearly stopped his heart then and there.
On the face of the dead and now alive prince, there was a thin golden crack. Like the cracks on walls. It was slowly spreading.
Jin saw his look of fear and felt his face. He rolled his eyes and pinched the skin together. “I’m breaking old man, this human skin won’t hold my powerful, beautiful body Godly body. I can’t waste too much of my time talking to you.” Jin took a sip of his tea, “As I asked before, do you have children?”
The old solider gulped and nodded, “A son.” There was a tint of pride in his voice, “He’s studying to become a civil servant.”
Jin raised his eyebrow slightly, “Ahhh. I see a father’s pride. How nice to be able to be proud of your son.” He leaned in closer with a slight curious look, “What if, one day. Your son asked for the most precious thing you hold dear.”
The old soldier spoke without a moment’s hesitation, ‘I would give it. He’s my son.”
Jin smiled, “What if your son wanted your life. Would you give it?” The old soldier was taken a back for a moment, and said nothing.
Jin sipped his tea and sat back. ” I asked the same question to the man I called father once. He gave his life to me without a question. He died with a smile on his lips.” Jin’s gold eyes looked into the old solider’s black ones, “And after it, I destroyed everything he built.”
The soldier’s face turned dead white. As Jin’s voice turned lighter, “Do you think he ever regretted giving me such a gift?”
A white hand reached towards the top of the old man’s head and he heard his skull crack under the enormous pressure of that hand. The old soldier’s eyes began to darken, he felt as if everything was concentrated where the hand lay.
Jin’s eyes narrowed, “So. That’s how the past owner of this body died.” The lips curled in a slight, cold smile, “What a sentimental fool.”
Suddenly the pressure was gone and the old soldier let out a long sigh of relief.
Jin stood up sudden and looked skywards. “I’m leaving now, old man. My new body needs rest and relaxation.” His eyes were thoughtful as he stared towards the rising moon, “After all, there is much to be done.”
Book Extra – Author’s note (This is what I imagine would happen if I could have a conversation with my characters, bolded=the unspoken bits)
Jin: You know, if you take any longer to write this book, we, your characters, would all be dead from old age. What kind of author are you?
Author: Wait. I just took the time to explain your backstory and now you’re turning your poisoned tongue at me? *looks at Yu Zhu for help, support, comfort…. etc.
Yu Zhu barely glances over from cleaning her sword: Don’t look at me, last time I checked I was still stuck on the moon. Because someone decided to take a hiatus. And don’t forget about Hua Er. I don’t even know what’s going on anymore. How long do you plan to drag things out?
Hua Er looks at the author with barely hidden distain: Hurry up or I will disown you. You left me to deal with all the guilt and worry, and trust me, this will have consequences on your well being.
Author: Wait… wait there’s good reason why I haven’t written, I wanted to let my ideas stew, you know, make it rich and meaty.
Huang Wu: I could make a stew out of you. I got a kiss from a completely drugged girl. Did you ask if I liked her?
Lin Yu *smiles and flips a dagger in her hand playful/threateningly at Huang Wu: Oh yeah? Well maybe I’ll ask the author to write a chapter where I yank off all your feathers and make it into a nice, feather down comforter. That’ll really give you something to complain about.
Author sidles up to Lin Yu, sense a hint of friendliness: Thanks Lin Yu, I know you got my back
Lin Yu shoves Author away: Don’t even get me started on you, missy. What kind of monster leaves my fate up to an idiot like Huang Wu. Even Tinder has better dating options.
Author: wait… but you’re in ancient China. you’re not allowed to know what tinder is!
Lin Yu: Then maybe you should have paid more attention to us. I’m allowed to activities outside of you too.
Zhuo Hao * quietly snorts in the background. Watching drama unfold without comment. Ignores Author’s plea for understanding.
Wei Yun looks at author with cold eyes, freezing her thoroughly into a popsicle of fear: Clearly you’ve forgotten me.
Jin chuckles: Or maybe she’s throwing you away for someone like me. Hot. Perfect. Has more than three facial expressions and can speak more than five words at a time.
Author feeling the pressure of her two male leads as they wordlessly murder her with their eyes.
Actually from all the character’s eyes.
Author, going pale with the realization that even literary characters commit violent crimes if pushed past a certain point: Ahem, I would like to announce that I am back on. Officially. Chapters every weekend. Now I have to go and hide from my own creations.