Any beings that had developed self-consciousness had always wondered and pondered about what would come next, with humanity being no exception to that statement. So when these beings first experienced "death", the thought that formed in many people's heads was one and one only... What next? What came after death? Was it the extermination of the soul? Reincarnation? Or was there a completely different world altogether? Well, people nowadays say that men create their own gods, and the best explanation is that, just like that, those thoughts turned into a place where rivers of souls and consciousnesses flowed incessantly. Countless souls of countless creatures, some would disappear, some would enter a new world while some would drink the old lady Meng's tea and forget everything about their past lives, allowing themselves another chance in the same world.
There was no ceiling and yet no sky could be seen. The ground was completely black; nothing would ever be able to grow in the black dirt, as it had been in the presence of Death for far too long to bear Life. Long rivers flowed. What flowed was not water however. After all Water, was also, in a way, the source of life, no water would be able to flow in a world of death. Countless bright ethereal bodies were what took the place of the water and formed those long rivers on the black dirt: souls. Countless souls passed every single moment on those yellow rivers of death...
It was such a place. Hell was. Indeed; those rivers... Were the infamous Yellow Springs, the rivers of the underworld!
In that hellish place though, 'He' was different. 'He' simply stood there, alone, in the dark, looking upwards towards where the sky should have been. 'He' was special. Souls had no bodies, thus of course they also shouldn't have eyes to see. And yet, 'He' could see, meaning that his existence was not that of a soul... 'He' was something else! At the same time though, 'He' also had no memories... No memories of himself or of any others. 'He''d just lay on his back and looked upwards, as the time flowed on, and on, and on.
When 'He' had first arrived in that place, a presence had appeared in his head, instantly wiping away everything else: this presence had then told him that 'He' simply... was not. 'He' did not and had never existed, nor would he ever, even in a far future. Although something should have made him suspicious then, as 'He' was clearly not 'Nothing', the same presence that had wiped away his memories had also took away his Logic and Intuition, leaving nothing left behind except for the one fact: 'He' was nothing. 'He'... was not.
And it remained that way for a long, long time... All was black and the darkness clouding in his mind showed no sign of going away. 'He' noticed the passage of time, but 'He' didn't give it a thought. 'He' couldn't. And indeed, all was the same for a full thousand years...
Until, Light finally reached 'His' eyes.
In the black dirt of this world of death, a crack appeared. From the crack, a pellet came out: completely golden in color, it couldn't be described as anything else but a Spark of Light for it was just so bright! It had appeared suddenly, a dazzling Light in the Dark... And it was such Light that would then proceed to dispel all the Shadows! With a flash, hazy memories that, according to the presence's claims, 'shouldn't have existed', memories that that same presence had wiped away and erased... those memories all suddenly reappeared as clear as the day!
After a full thousand years, 'He' finally remembered! 'He' knew where 'He' was!
'He' was in the world that came after Life, a World of Death, so to speak. 'He' was at the entrance of the Yellow Springs, cursed to never reincarnate nor pass on, cursed to watch the starless sky until the end of time... 'He' should have died back then, but such death had been sealed. Instead of death, 'He' had experienced the absence of life while still being very much alive.
He was alive, yes, but it was a life that was much more of a curse rather than a blessing.
But now! Through that spark of light, everything had changed!
Since his death was sealed meaning 'He' was very much alive, 'He' could had theoretically gone back in the world of the living, his world, any time 'He' wanted... Unfortunately, that darkness in his head had not allowed that, as it had taken away his consciousness, the knowledge that 'He' had once been, let alone that 'He' was. Then, that one Light had flashed and those shadows clouding his mind had been dispelled!
After a full thousand years, 'He' finally remembered! 'He' knew who 'He' was!
'He' was the one whom, one thousand years ago, had challenged the Heavens! 'He' was the one whom had brought chaos to the Nine Heavens of Tian!
Once again, golden flashes reached his figure as more and more shadows could only struggle for a while before they also finally disappeared!
A thousand years wasted, a thousand years stolen away...
A thousand years 'He' would pay back!
Because, right then, after all that time, 'He' finally remembered! 'He' knew what 'He' had to do!
'He' smiled with a mouth that his mind insisted wasn't there... Or was it?
'He' laughed even though 'He' should have long known that his vocal chords shouldn't exist... Because they didn't exist... rightjQuery21408685291972386021_1521025646230
'He' stood up on his legs when 'He' shouldn't have had any, and took the speck of golden light in his hands... And yet, back then, hadn't the presence insisted such hands had not existed Regardless, 'He' could hold that small spark.
Regardless of all, his 'nonexistent' mouth and throat had even just swallowed that same spark!
'He' didn't exist? 'He' clearly did! As for why, the Logic 'He' had just reacquired answered that for him!
If 'He' were nothing, 'He' would not be able to do anything. Thus, if 'He' did anything, 'He' wasn't 'nothing'.
'He' did, therefore 'He' was.
To be and to do, weren't they the exact same thing? After all, something couldn't be thought as existing unless it 'did' something, and the same worked the other way around! And 'He' did. Therefore 'He' was!
Reaching that conclusion, the deepest shadow in his mind also faded away and the invisible shackles that had bound him to that place broke down! It was then, at that moment, that this fake image of Death couldn't hold him anymore. After a full one thousand years of blankly staring at the starless sky, the stars reappeared and then 'He' knew. 'He' knew that they had been there all along! And that it had just been him that hadn't had the power to make the final step and really, truly... open his eyes!
The familiar black dirt beneath Him turned back into a cold ground, the grass even tickled his ears. The air, so still in the underworld, now even brushed in waves nonstop against his exposed skin. The sky... The earth... The wind... They were there. They were all there!
'He' lifted a small hand. At first 'He' was taken aback as the hand was really small and the skin covering it looked so soft it was as if water could be squeezed out with but a light pinch. 'He' frowned, as such a hand had clearly never held a farming tool, let alone a weapon, as it was simply that smooth. But then, 'He' smiled. 'He'?had always liked a challenge. And hadn't 'He' always been lowly anyways? The golden light pill that 'He' had swallowed let out a feeling of warmth from his stomach. The warmth comforted him as 'He' enjoyed the feeling of laying on the fresh ground instead of the harsh, black dirt. From his navel and stomach was an uneasy feeling, coupled with a burning pain, but?'He' could not care less... after all what was some pain, in the face of freedom?
'He' breathed in the 'cold' air of the night, except it was not cold at all. In fact, some smoke was actually mixed in. Wh
en that one breath reached his lungs it even burned a bit... off in the distance, the vague outline of a burning village could be discerned. Although 'He' felt pain from inhaling smoke, 'He' still laughed. Long black hair fluttered in the night wind and the gaze of the child focused on the beautiful starry sky above him before finally forcing himself to stand up. A small pair of golden eyes blinked ecstatically as a hint of reminiscence flashed by the pupils.
In the night lit up by the flames and the starry sky, a small mouth opened and a short string of words came out:
"I... have returned!"
The child threaded the small path to the burning village with a pleasant smile plastered on the face that still held some baby fat in it. Right now, the place where the 'past him' had lived for about eight years was being slowly eaten away by crimson flames. The few valuable things the villagers had managed to gather during their poor life had already been pillaged, and the cries of women and small children, plus the occasional house imploding, all contributed to break the silence of the night.
Roofs and walls came crashing down and slowly were turned into ashes as the fire burned the wooden buildings to the ground. The cold night had been heated up exactly thanks to those flames. The child smiled as he walked in between the flaming debris, as if the fire posed no threat to him. Step by step, he headed towards the only part in the village that had yet to burn down: here, the houses hadn't been built with wood; instead, all the buildings were made out of stone. Although this may have saved many villagers from the fire, it would not save them from the biggest threat: the bandits! At the moment, dozens of people clad in black were rushing down the paved roads, each of them holding a sack in one hand and a weapon in the other. Some had let go of the loot to grab women instead, but one thing didn't change: if you were not gold, silver, some precious ore or a beauty, you would get cut down on the spot!
In between all this chaos of people screaming and buildings falling, the child kept smiling as he headed towards the one place where the fuzzy memories from the 'past him' indicated the people of Stonewood Township would be able to defend themselves from the bandits' raid: the major's mansion. As for why he was heading there... it was definitely not to seek protection. He walked up to the town plaza and no one seemed to notice him. It didn't matter if it was a bandit looting a house, a rogue raping a woman or one of the criminals drinking stolen wine, they all didn't notice this shadow that swept by them. And, of course, they also didn't notice when one after the other, their heads fell on the ground, their visage still contorted into feral grins and sadistic smiles...
After some time had passed, the noise finally began to quiet down, leaving only the cracking sounds coming from the flames. The people that had hid themselves in the mansion were now even more scared: did the bandits leave? Or were they only preparing to attack them? Or did something even scarier come in their place? Finally, after a few minutes, one of the bravest hunters in the village stepped out of the safe haven that was the major's mansion. People waited the news anxiously and every second that passed seemed to last hours. After ten minutes, the man came back. There was no trace of the usual courage on his face. Instead, the only expression was terror, and pure terror alone. He was shaking from head to toe, and only after he drank some of the best whisky did he manage to tell everyone else of what had happened outside.
"Death. Outside there is only death. Pools of blood, countless dead bodies... and dozens of headless corpses, their heads are still grinning, as if they still haven't realized that they are dead..." Although he had managed to speak, the old hunter still felt a shiver run down his spine as he remembered the extremely graphic scenes he had bore witness to.
"But, " he exclaimed, "This is nothing! In the plaza, I found the cause to all of this, or at least, the one responsible for the many heads decorating our streets. It was..." the old hunter trailed off, shaking his head as if he couldn't believe those words he was about to speak himself. "It was... a boy. No more than eight years old. He was completely naked, without a single speck of clothing on his person, not even shoes. But that was no problem, because his body was so covered in a crimson liquid that it worked as a robe itself! As for what that liquid was... I hope you won't force me to say it out loud and will figure out on their own."
The old hunter took a sip from a flask of alcohol and sighed in disbelief. "When I stepped into the plaza, I didn't make any noise, you see? And yet... yet that thing turned towards me, as if he had somehow... Sensed me."
Gulp, another mouthful was swallowed with gusto. "He seemed to have recognized me as friendly, because he did not rush over or attack. 'Uncle, what is my name?' He had asked instead. When I heard the small voice, I edged closer and closer... Maybe it was a rush of adrenaline, but suddenly I wasn't so scared anymore. Anyways, when I got closer I was even more shocked..."
The man turned towards a couple holding each other close in a corner of the building. "Master Fen, please brace yourself! The child, that devilspawn... was Little Hao!" he exclaimed as the couple glanced at him with horror. "But his eyes were totally different! The warm and kind eyes of Little Hao were instead ruthless, cold, as if he hadn't just killed a hundred people by himself! Those were not the eyes of a child... They were the eyes of a demon that had fought countless battles and slaughtered millions! A devil!"
The man curled up in his chair as everyone patted on his back and poured him more alcohol. In the corner, the two people, a man and a woman, trembled. The man was called Cheng Fen, the woman Ning Rong and they were Little Hao's parents. Cheng Fen was also the small town's major.
"At that time, I couldn't help but answer truthfully, fearing for my life in the case that the demon could somehow discern lies from truth. 'Child, your name is Cheng Hao, you are this town major's son', I told him." The man shook his head "Little Hao seemed to ponder for a while. Of course, I did not dare interrupt him, since my instincts told me that if I did, I would most likely end up like those people on the ground..."
"After a short while, Little Hao had smiled and then nodded at me. 'Cheng Hao, uh? Sounds like a nice name... Since I have technically stolen his body, even though he was already dead and died a harsh death at that, I will still make sure to use his name to repay him! Oh, and thank you for telling me, Uncle! These dead bandits are my way to thank you and the village of everything you have done for the other me up to today!'" The old hunter fell silent as he downed more and more liquor. He had lost more than twenty years of his lifespan from that single encounter! Let alone boars and wild animals, the old hunter would not hunt anything ever again! He was pretty old anyways, and the temptation of a rocking chair sounded pretty alluring...
Hearing the dialogue the old hunter had reported, Cheng Fen was truly shocked: was that person that had been described to him truly the same foolish child of his that couldn't hurt a fly? How could he not be surprised when he found out that the one person that had cleared the village of the bandits... Was his very own kind and gentle son! He shook his head in disbelief but then he still asked "And then? What happened? Where is Little Hao now?"
The hunter shook his head "I'm sorry, I don't know..." He lifted his head towards Cheng Fen and his wife in an apologetic manner. "H-He just... disappeared!"