Lord Kunlun asked, “Little Ghost King, why aren’t you with your people?”
The young boy lowered his head in silence for a moment, and then said softly, “They’re dirty.”
Lord Kunlun hesitated for a while, and asked with enthusiasm, “Dirty how?”
The youngster did not dare to look at him, but instead stared at Lord Kunlun’s reflection in the water. He said with a serious tone, “All they do is slaughter and eat. Is there anything else that they can do? I don’t want to be near them.”
Lord Kunlun pointed out solemnly, “The Ghost Tribe is like that.”
The young Ghost King looked down with glaring eyes of gloom. But when he looked back up towards Lord Kunlun, he successfully restrained his savagery, perhaps out of habit. In a while, he lowered his voice, and asked softly, “Must I be the same as them, purely because I was born of the Ghost Tribe?”
Lord Kunlun did not reply. The teen stood up in the water, probably having lost his appetite. He stowed away the corpse of the spirit beast, and hurled it aside. Then, he washed his face with the water that is now clean, and wrung his clothes out as he bent down. He rolled up his trousers, got up from the water, and looked at Lord Kunlun.* His eyes were like raven feathers on a field of white snow. Then, he said with utmost nonchalance, “I don’t like it. I’d rather not live.”
After that, he did not sit near the boulder he sat on moments ago, which was now occupied by Lord Kunlun. Instead, he sat beside the water, his bare feet wet on the
ground, as he gazed upon the peach woods, and the mountain ranges behind the woods, and the fog and snow atop the mountains, and the thundering skies in perpetual rain.
Lord Kunlun couldn’t help but ask, “What are you looking at?”
The teen pointed towards where he was looking, “What’s nice to look at.”
“What’s so nice about rain?” Lord Kunlun said, as he sat beside the youngster against the boulder. “When it’s sunny, Mount Kunlun is truly magnificent. The golden beams of the sun shine downwards, sending gleams on the snow, like blossoms . And when it is summer, a thin layer of green will grow on the craggy layer of rocks beneath the snow. And flowers too… those small blossoms, we call them galsang flowers.”
The youngster was mesmerized for a moment, staring at Lord Kunlun intently.
Lord Kunlun then said, all of a sudden, “Ah, none can be seen anymore.”
“I punctured a hole in the sky to set your people free.” Lord Kunlun couldn’t help but caress his head. The young Ghost King’s hair looked so soft; his neck froze in place, and tamely let him touch his head. It was unbelievable; just a moment ago he was gnawing at a spirit beast’s throat, and on a closer look he hadn’t even wiped his mouth clean.
This reminded Lord Kunlun of his pet kitten.
“Why puncture the sky?” The young Ghost King asked.
“It was a promise.” Lord Kunlun pressed lightly on his head, “You wouldn’t understand, kid.”
The youngster looked up with utmost seriousness, “I do understand. I never knew what was outside. If I had known sooner how beautiful the world beyond the Great Seal was, I would have punctured a hole in it too.”
Lord Kunlun shook his head, and laughed. The youngster looked at him with unblinking eyes. After some time, Lord Kunlun said gently, “If one has no choice in life, one would rather not live. Looks like I’ve met my soulmate.”
Lord Kunlun stood up, and was about to leave, as Nuwa’s figure emerged in mid-air. Hurriedly scrambling, she must have been desperately searching for the stone to repair the Heavens. Lord Kunlun let out a low chuckle; life had plunged into darkness and chaos, and he felt a strange surge of ecstasy.
The young Ghost King stood up after a moment of hesitation, and followed after Lord Kunlun.
Lord Kunlun didn’t stop him. He held up one hand, and a hefty mountain sprung up from the Earth: Mount Penglai. The fairy and witch tribes went to Mount Penglai to hide from the storm, which caused a humongous flood that had devoured the lands with a sweeping surge to the East.
The flood took away countless lives on Earth. Zhuanxu knelt and beseeched the Heavens.
Yet the Heavens never heeded his pleas.
Young Ghost King followed Kunlun on their way to the peak of Mount Penglai. The endless mountain ranges of the Earth rumbled amidst the chaos, which sent waves all the way to Mount Penglai. All were shaken; the witches brought Chiyou’s descendants, and Houyi led his people in the footsteps of his ancestor, ascending Mount Penglai with one kowtow every step. Infants would cry amidst the crowd, and for fear of disturbing the gods, these infants were suffocated to death.
On their way up, the monstrous flood caught up to them and swept away a large group of people. The God of Mountain sitting atop the peak closed his eyes, like Nuwa, and acted like a statue.
Then, from the West came another group of people led by an old man with a medicine basket. Zhuanxu followed after the old man reverently. Lord Kunlun finally opened his eyes, and said, “Shennong.”
Shennong felt something, and suddenly look up from amongst the crowd. Thunder and lightning in the sky seemed to flash within his murky eyes.
Kunlun said he would destroy Zhuanxu’s people, and destroy all of humanity, but he never did. He simply would not yield to fate, and he did not bother slaughter these living beings with his own hands. He watched as Shennong brought the people up to Mount Penglai. Zhuanxu knelt and worshiped Lord Kunlun, thanking him for creating Mount Penglai as a refuge. Shennong said nothing.
When the humans stepped aside, Kunlun stood up, and before he could greet Shennong, the withering old man slapped him across the face.
The young Ghost King shone his manacing claws; roaring, he was about to pounce towards Shennong, but Lord Kunlun stopped him.
Lord Kunlun looked at the senile god, and saif softly, “You’re no longer a god. You’re on the verge of death.”
Shennong looked at him with yellow eyes, “My sacrifice is worth it, as I have achieved what I set out to do. You were born of the mountains of the Earth; naturally, you were connected with the chaos and menace of Hell. And you carried with you the three souls of Pangu’s axe. I always said that you were born of violence, and you would one day become the bringer of destruction; the never-ending snow atop Mount Kunlun was one such omen. And now here we are.”
Kunlun stood in silence.
“You fail to look beyond forever. You fail to tell right from wrong, good from evil, life from death. How dare you defy the Heavens?” Shennong slowly uttered one word after another, “Can’t believe you had the gall, you will suffer the consequences! You… sigh!”
What Shennong foresaw had unfortunately came true.
On the third day, stars in the sky shattered into chaos, and ghouls terrorized the lands.
On the fourth day, the flood rose, and the people fled towards the peak. Witches and fairies had began warring again.
On the seventh day, the war continued, and half of each tribe had perished. Descendants of the Flame and Yellow Emperors allied with the descendants of Chiyou, and they struggled to survive.
On the tenth day, Shennong preached words of wisdom amidst catastrophe and eulogies, beginning with the dawn of the universe.
On the twelfth day, Nuwa finally repaired the skies, and took the four limbs of the great Ao as the new sky pillars; she had exhausted herself to the extreme.
On the thirteenth day, the Heavens were collapsing. The Ghost Tribe plagued the lands. The four pillars trembled. The sky slanted downwards in the Northwest; mountains crumbled and the Earth cracked.
The ignorant deities had brought destruction upon themselves after defying Heavenly fate time and time again.
Heaven and Earth were merging, and the Ghost Tribe was on its way to devouring the entire world into chaos.
Lord Kunlun sat atop Mount Penglai like a statue, without a movement or a word.
“Nuwa wrote in a letter that she had sealed the four pillars to secure them. She plans on sacrificing herself to stabilise Fuxi’s Great Seal.” Shennong said, “You did no wrong, Kunlun. Pangu did no wrong. All of us did no wrong. But there are countless sufferings in the world, all of which are destined. Whether silent as Fuxi, rebellious as you, death is inevitable. I will soon perish like an ordinary human, and this is also fate. No-one can resist that. The problem is you know too much.”
Kunlun opened his eyes calmly, and asked, “Chiyou asked me to protect the witches and the fairies, and now fate has me decide which to save, or else they shall both perish, is that it?”
Shennong stared at him in silence.
“Save the fairies.” Kunlun finally said.
Shennong let out a long sigh, knowing that he already compromised.
The great flood finally subsided. Nuwa greatly injured the evil Ghost King who wielded a great axe like Pangu. She then turned into Houtu, and repaired the opening in the Great Seal, forcing the Ghost Tribe back under the four pillars. Yet, Nuwa had used up too much of her energy repairing the sky, and she had suffered injuries from the Ghost King’s axe. The Great Seal was barely repaired, but was unstable still.
Shennong sat at Kunlun’s temple, not uttering a word.
“I thought I would have died by Heavenly Thunder.” Lord Kunlun suddenly said, “Who would have thought that my death had been determined when I stabbed the dragon in its eye, and destroy Mount Buzhou.”
Shennong lifted his weathered eyes, and silently looked at the final one remaining of the four great saints of the primordial lands… perhaps Lord Kunlun could have went into hiding, he could have forced the doors of Mount Kunlun close with his primal magic. Even if the universe returned to chaos, he could have survived.
Yet, Lord Kunlun was born of Pangu’s great axe, and he was the only one who would never go against what Pangu had hoped for the world.
Lord Kunlun was Pangu’s legacy.
“I want to… see my cat one more time.”
Shennong carried his medicine basket and trod towards the deep mountains. Nuwa was nowhere to be seen.
All seemed lost. Lord Kunlun returned to his empty temple, and found only a dark- haired, dark-eyed, slender and feeble-looking teen.
The young Ghost King asked softly, “Are you sending me back under the Great Seal?”
“No. There is nothing I can do, except… I can at least protect you.” Lord Kunlun grinned, as his body trembled strangely, and his voice quivered subtly, “You don’t want to be one of the Ghost Tribe, so I will grant you that wish.”
The young Ghost King was greatly shocked. He turned Lord Kunlun around by the shoulder, only to find the mountain god with an almost translucent body, and a face white as snow. Lord Kunlun held up his hand with a gust of wind, and a ball of fire shone bright like a star in his palm, “Take it.”
The young boy received it with both hands.
“This is the soul flame on my left shoulder,” Lord Kunlun was sweating on his forehead, but he kept a gentle smile, “and I… I will give you another thing.”
His body trembled vigorously, as he pulled out a silver tendon from his body… there is no pain greater than that of peeling off one’s skin and pulling out one’s tendon. The young Ghost King teared up, but Lord Kunlun looked as though nothing had happened, “With this, you’ll be able to… escape from the Land of Great Blasphemy, and become a god…”
“You… you have to help me protect the four pillars.” Kunlun smiled, “With Nuwa’s Sundial of Reincarnation, Fuxi’s Pillar of Nature, and… the Ink Brush of Virtue from the primeval tree of virtue. I will add one last thing to that…”
Lord Kunlun held up the young boy’s face with his thumb, and said softly, “Rock, not yet old but ravaged; water, not yet cold but frozen; body, not yet lived but dead… If Shennong was willing to give up godhood and become a human, I will give him one last thing to complete his dying wish…”
He coughed up a mouthful of blood in his palm, which transformed into a crimson candle wick. The mountain god standing before the Ghost King was becoming more and more transparent, more and more feeble. As he dispersed, a snow-white lamp remained, with just one word engraved at a corner: “Guardian”.
Soul, not yet burnt but dispersed. The Lantern of the Guardian.
From then on, the Four Mystical Artifacts were complete, and the four pillars were saved. The young Ghost King was somehow tasked with the tremendous responsibility of protecting the pillars that held up Heaven… it was Lord Kunlun’s final ridicule of Heavenly fate.
And thus began some 5000 years of such responsibility.
Zhao Yunlan thought something had exploded in his brain. He must have experienced the pain of being skinned, of being crushed by all the mountains of the Earth, and of being bound by the Heavens all over again.
Years flashed before his eyes, as an undated sigh came from within the holy tree… a voice saying, “Why did you have to…”
Zhao opens his eyes to glaring white light. He feels heavy on the head and light on the feet. As he opens his eyes yet again, he is back in Dragon City during the New Year. Lights are out at No. 4 Bright Avenue; lush trees cover the courtyard even in the cold.
He feels a bit cold on his face. With his hand, he wipes off a face full of tears.
Part Four: Primordial’s Past was a lot to take in. I know some of you might be confused by all the references to Chinese mythos. Bear in mind that the author took a lot of liberties in creating her own story, only loosely basing some parts on the Classic of Mountains and Seas.
I hope the following summary of key events helps. We’ll start from the beginning of the universe.
1. Pangu died separating Heaven and Earth, thus paving way for life; the head of his axe became Mount Kunlun, and Lord Kunlun was the manifestation of the soul of the mountain.
2. Kunlun was a naughty teenager, so Nuwa gave him Da Qing to distract him.
3. Nuwa created humans.
4. Realising humans were born of the evil of Hell, Nuwa sought help from Fuxi to create the Great Seal to seal away the evil; Fuxi died to make the seal.
5. Nuwa went in hiding, Kunlun grew up, and humans began to war.
6. Kunlun witnessed the war for countless years, and finally put an end to it by breaking the Great Seal, awakening Hell with his left shoulder flame, and destroying the pathway to Heaven.
7. Kunlun wanted a world free from Heavenly fate, he wanted to create the Ink Brush and let every living being write their own destiny. But his plan ultimately caused greater chaos.
8. Kunlun met the young Ghost King for the first time.
9. Nuwa repaired the sky and restored the sky pillars, then sacrificed herself to restore the Great Seal; Shennong died too.
10.. Kunlun gave young Ghost King his left soul flame and his tendon so that the Ghost King could become a god, the four mystical artifacts so that he could protect the four sky pillars; Kunlun then died.