30(第三十章) The Clarions of Heaven

Fenfang closed her eyes.

The whoosh of displaced air above her face was followed by a wet crunch. 

How could a blow of steel feel like the wind?

Startled she could open her eyes, Fenfang watched storm clouds churn in the sky above; a sky come alive with raging bolts of crisscrossing lightning.

I’m still alive.

The Mushroom Fairy dragged herself up on her elbows. She spied the first demon who’d attacked her and her sprites. He was writhing in his final death throes on the ground, suffocating from airways blocked by her spores that continued to multiply. 

Then she glimpsed what lay beyond him.

Her glass-like black eyes blinked. Fenfang’s would-be executioner was now a tangled, bloody heap. Where his head should have been was a massive iron mace embedded in the dirt with blood, bone, and brain matter splattered around it.

Both demons disintegrated in dark mist.

Wiping the blood from her mouth, Fenfang struggled to rise. The ground shook with bone-jarring booms. Once again she blinked, this time at the incredible sight of a tattooed, bare-armed giant of a man clad in leather and armour whose running footfalls caused the earth to quake. The roaring Giant charged down the lane, swinging an iron mace identical to the one on the ground from side to side.  Demons that fled before him were crushed and hurled into the air whereupon they burst into clouds of black mist. 

Dashing and darting nimbly alongside his colossal companion was a smaller, lithe man in a blue tunic. The man spun, whirled, and lashed out with a rope dart, making quick work of those demons who managed to avoid the Giant’s bludgeoning strikes.

The clarions of the Celestial army sounded throughout the Market and Fenfang’s long held-back tears began to stream down her face.


Aid had come.


Mo Yuan’s blade entered flesh then arced its way out through evaporating dark mist. Once again, when struck by Celestial weapons or cornered helplessly, the demons were quick to disintegrate from a black spell that had been incanted upon them.

All had been chaos when the God of War had arrived moments after his men. The demons had focused their attack on the Mushroom Market no doubt for the concentrated number of Qing Qiu’s inhabitants all together in one place. 

Mo Yuan’s disciples had been swift to split up and lead companies of Celestial soldiers to chase down demon soldiers and protect those inhabitants that remained alive. Of the lively, vibrant people Mo Yuan had walked among, many now lay injured or dead in the alleys.

Crossing swords now with a demon who had some skill with a blade, Mo Yuan dodged laterally then swung in a raised backhand, sending the demon toppling backwards over a smashed crate. Mo Yuan growled his frustration when that demon went up in mist too, killing itself rather than be captured. 

A trio of demons rushed Mo Yuan from behind. Pivoting in a semi-circle, he leapt into a back spin mid-air, his blade cleanly cutting through the chests of all three in one powerful swipe.

This demon attack was no more than an obscene spectacle, like that of Zhong Yi’s severed head. No military stratagem justified mounting an attack against simple, innocent woodland spirits. What gains of war could be had from such atrocity? Qing Cang was a ruthless butcher. The Demon Emperor held no code of honour. Rules of warfare did not exist to the likes of him. 

Yet not all the woodland spirits were as helpless as Qing Cang may have believed. Mo Yuan turned toward the source of a fierce displacement of current in the air.

A Boar spirit came squealing furiously down a pathway, a demon impaled upon its tusks and another running to escape it. When the impaled demon burst into black mist, the Boar never slowed as it eviscerated the other with a vicious side-swipe of its snout.

A pair of squirrels clinging to the top of a wooden mast chittered wildly as they whipped broken shards of nutshells at the demon soldiers’ faces. A demon whose face had been cut tried to shake them off their pole, only to meet his demise when the Boar careened into him making a tight turn around a fallen awning.

Another change of current and Mo Yuan watched as a large Bear spirit barreled down another side path, snarling with jaws and claws dripping with demon blood. The daggers and a sword sticking out its thick side did not seem to slow it in its rage, perhaps spurred on by the screeching Monkey spirit atop its back yanking the daggers out to hurl at any demon within range.

Then came a current that gave Mo Yuan pause. A surging, breathing buzzing grew into a roar as it approached from behind. Spinning about, Mo Yuan dove to the ground when a twisting, coiling swarm of enraged bees zoomed over him to engulf a troop of demon soldiers. The demons’ screams choked off in a thrashing of limbs as hundreds of stinging bees crawled into their ears, mouths, and noses. Lifting his head, Mo Yuan spied the market’s beekeeper propped against a wall, clutching her bloodied arm to her side as the weaving antennae on her forehead directed her bees where to go.

Bai Qian could be proud of the fighting strength of her people.

Qian Qian, if I’d had the time to explain, would you forgive me for leaving you behind?

Leaping to his feet, Mo Yuan battled a demon general stronger than most. The God of War disarmed him in four swift moves earning him the latter’s sneer before he went up in mist.

As the fighting raged on, Mo Yuan spared a glance toward the Phoenix who was engaged in a battle of his own –fighting to save those injured that he could with his healing powers.

A bolt of lightning reflected off a charging demon’s blade, preventing Mo Yuan from seeing the flicker of silver that flashed in Zhe Yan’s eyes when the Phoenix glanced back at him in turn.


Zhe Yan gently closed the eyelids of the Deer whom he’d found staring sightlessly at the sky. The pooled blood from her slashed neck ran a deeper shade of red than that of her torn roses clustered about her.

Prepared to fight if he had no choice when he’d arrived alongside Mo Yuan, Zhe Yan had stood frozen instead at the sight of the blood spattered market. Amongst the smashed tables and broken racks with their fruits and vegetables strewn everywhere lay many of the fallen; some moving, some not. 

Zhe Yan’s fight thus became one of reaching as many of the wounded and dying as he could to try and save them. But for many it was too late, Zhe Yan only arriving in time to see the light in their eyes go out as they succumbed to their injuries. Butchery… the Phoenix was overwhelmed with a mix of sadness and rage. All he could do for the dead was close their eyes and continue to try and get to those whom he could still help.

Sealing the wound on the unconscious Badger’s side, Zhe Yan had to pause a moment as another wave of dizziness washed over him. From the corner of his eye, he saw Mo Yuan take down a dozen attacking demons with his sword. The Dragon was a master swordsman indeed.

Zhe Yan flinched when his vision blazed silver for a moment then back to normal. Luckily the Dragon wasn’t paying attention to him. Good, he didn’t notice.

Last night, Mo Yuan’s 2nd Disciple, Chang Shan, had been the one to bring Zhe Yan his dinner in the garden. The disciple had stayed a few minutes to chat with the Phoenix. 

“Shifu told us you are studying the orchid to see if it has any properties that can be used to cure Lady Bai’s blindness. I must say I was surprised. Whenever I or my Tenth Brother tend to the flowers here, neither one of us ever feels anything from the orchid.  It only glows.”

“Oh? You and your Tenth Brother have touched this flower before?” Zhe Yan had asked with raised brows.

Nodding distractedly as he rubbed his hands together against the cold, the 2nd Disciple replied that there were also apprentices that helped them with the maintenance of the gardens and flowers. “Many have touched the orchid during its lunar cycle and all it has ever done is glow the way it does now.”

When Chang Shan had bid him goodnight and left, Zhe Yan had stared at the glowing orchid for a long time. Warmly engulfed in his orange and cobalt blue flames afterwards, he contemplated Chang Shan’s words. Whenever Zhe Yan touched the orchid, the glow would softly caress his skin as if trying to seduce its way into him. He easily absorbed its light whenever he drew upon it. What did that mean? The orchid behaved differently only for him?

“Why do you share your light with me?” he spoke to the flower. “Is it because you happen to love such an attractive phoenix like myself?” The smile that played on his lips quickly faded.

“Or did Heavenly Mother tell you to because of who this phoenix happens to love?”

Zhe Yan’s breath hitched when the sense of urgency that had been growing within him suddenly surged.  With a hardened gaze and a deep inhale, he reached out his hands to the orchid and proceeded to draw in a much larger amount of its light than he ever had before.

The only thing he remembered after that was coming awake to the morning sun… and the urgent tolling of Kunlun’s Bell.

The orchid beside him no longer glowed.

Qian Qian!! 

The Phoenix had followed the energy trace of his tail feather straight to where his friend was, sealed within the Dragon’s chamber.

Zhe Yan glanced again at Mo Yuan who was now issuing commands to a troop of Celestial soldiers. He was ordering them to circle the perimeter of the Market and funnel down the side paths to herd the demon soldiers to the main lane where they could be struck down. 

“What of capturing some?” one of the Celestial captains asked. “Tianjun ordered we bring demons back to interrogate.”

Mo Yuan gave the officer a look that made the soldier blanch. “You will funnel them down the paths so we may lock them in as I ordered. If any can be captured, I will do so myself.”


Mo Yuan had locked Bai Qian in his chamber and sealed it off with a most powerful barrier. Why? Zhe Yan hadn’t been certain he could break it when he told Bai Qian to back away. 

The Phoenix shuddered now, recalling the shock he experienced when the chamber door had not only buckled but blown apart in a shower of wooden shards… and silver sparks. Luckily for Zhe Yan, none had been there to witness what happened, at least none who could see. The Dragon’s seal had shattered for him as easily as if he’d been throwing a tickling jinx at one of Qian Qian’s tails like he did sometimes to get her up faster in the morning when he was waiting for her.

The silver sparks that had exploded outwards froze in the air before converging into a ball that whipped back at him. It entered his chest as he ran to grasp BQ’s hand. Had it been odd for him to think all of that was normal?

Given what happened here today, Zhe Yan swore that when this was done, he would reveal all about what he’d been doing to Bai Qian.

“Master Zhe Yan…” 

The weak whisper came from behind a toppled rack. Zhe Yan peered at an empty spot behind it which he sensed was camouflaged by a reflective spell. With a wave of his hand, the spell lifted and he saw a small hand underneath a pile of straw reaching out to him.


The Phoenix shoved the rack over and swept aside the clumps of straw. The rabbit boy lay there pale and shaking. There were deep gashes across the boy’s face. Zhe Yan’s eyes widened. Gashes made by animal claws?

“He t-t-took Jia.” The boy’s teeth chattered as he feebly tried to get up. Zhe Yan gently held him down with one hand while his other hovered over the boy’s face to seal the gashes shut. Someone else’s magic had already staunched the flow of blood, a magic Zhe Yan was most familiar with. Qian Qian, tell me you didn’t cloud-jump here on your own.

“Easy, Delun, easy. Who took your sister?”

“The G-Grey Wolf,” the boy choked out.

“What?!” Zhe Yan needn’t turn to know Mo Yuan stood directly behind him.  Delun’s glazed eyes reflected the gold flash of Mo Yuan’s looking down at him.

“The Wolf took Jia, sir… and Gu Gu chased after him.”

Mo Yuan and Zhe Yan met each other’s shocked gazes. I was right, Zhe Yan thought. Bai Qian had in fact risked cloud-jumping here by herself. You could have gotten yourself killed, Qian Qian!

“She still might get herself killed.” The fury in Mo Yuan’s voice showed he’d  surmised the same.

Both men realized their mistake of not sealing Bai Qian back inside the temple before they’d left.


“Da Bao! Watch out!” Zi Lan yelled. 

The Giant spun around to face the demon who’d sprung out from behind a wall with an axe. But before he could swing his mace, the demon’s body seized before collapsing forward, a quivering pitchfork embedded in its back. The pitchfork fell to the ground a moment after when the demon evaporated.

Da Bao eyed the magnificent and fierce looking fairy with blood on her face who glared at him with her hands on her hips. “Well don’t just stand there! Help me get these parasites out of my Market!”

The Giant yanked his first mace out of the ground. “Yes, ma’am.” Slinging both maces over one shoulder, he reached for Fenfang and tucked her under his arm without breaking his stride as he and Zi Lan continued down the lane.

Da Bao cracked a grin when the Fairy began flinging exploding spores at the fleeing demons before them from the safety of his side.


The moss-covered mound with the three exposed roots! And next was the small flat outcrop of rock and cluster of forsythia bushes five paces from it.

I’m at the easternmost edge of the Grove where Qing Qiu’s forest begins.

Bai Qian recognized the landmarks she’d memorized as a child. She knew exactly where she was. 

Lightning sizzled overhead as it had back on Kunlun. Dragon essence electrified the air. She could feel her fur lift on end from it.

“GU GU!! GU GU!!” came a pair of terrified cries from ahead. They were  the voices of Fenfang’s two sprites.

Then came a heavy-booted crashing through the underbrush, a scream, followed by a sickening thud.

“Gu Gu! Help!!!!” cried but one sprite’s voice now.

“Get down on the ground!” Bai Qian shouted, having shifted to her human form but keeping her tails. The demon aura ahead of her fouled the air but made it easy for her to know where to strike. Gathering her magic, Bai Qian crouched down to shoot a blast of it forward from her tails over her head.

“It’s the Blind Fox! Retreat!”

Bai Qian fell to her knees beside the sobbing sprite. Her searching hands felt along the ground until they touched something sticky wet. The smell of blood assailed her. There was no heartbeat from the little chest she lay her wet palm upon. The fallen sprite was dead.

Seething with rage, Bai Qian told the surviving sprite to hide in the forest.

More running through the trees. “Gu Gu! Gu Gu!” cried the woodland spirits being chased by demons.

With her magic, Bai Qian was able to sense where demons soldiers were amongst the trees. She’d never taken a life before. But killing demons who were slaughtering her people left her no choice. This was not about defence. It was kill or have her people killed.

Leaping into the air over and over, her foxtails splayed in all directions, breaking those demon necks they could hook around,  flinging demon bodies against trees, rocks, or ground to the satisfying crunch of breaking spines. Her tails got nicked and fur hacked off by demon swords but she was always able to whip her tails out of the way before a blade caused real damage.

“Stop your attack! It’s the Blind Fox!” more demons shouted. Should Bai Qian have been grateful rather than grow more enraged when they broke off their attacks once they recognized who she was?

Why did they do that? Was it some cruel insult? A twisted sense of mercy for the blind fox when they slaughtered defenceless sprites? Well, the Blind Fox would show no such mercy in return.

She told all the fleeing inhabitants of Qing Qiu she encountered to hide in the forest.

Then came a point when it was no longer demons chasing her people but the demons themselves being chased…


Bai Qian recognized the voice of Mo Yuan’s 7th Disciple, Gao Fushuai, along with the sound of armour and shields clanging with the shouts and footfalls of many men in the background.

“Lady! What are you doing here?!” Mo Yuan’s 5th and 12th Disciples’ voices joined alongside that of their Seventh Brother.

“7th Disciple! Tell me what’s going on!” Bai Qian demanded.

“We are leading Celestial troops through the forest to pursue those remaining demons that are chasing civilians. Shifu and our other brothers are leading our forces at the marketplace where the demons centred their attack and–“

“Lady!! Wait!”

Bai Qian had changed back to her Fox and ran full tilt to the Mushroom Market.



The first wave of demon soldiers to bear down upon the Market did not discriminate.

“Wait! I serve the Shaman Diao Wu!” the Wolf shouted but he was ignored.

The demons made no exception with him as they attacked shoppers and vendors alike. Only the self-preservation instincts of surviving as a rogue in his youth saved him, the Wolf shifting to his beast in a flash to slink off toward the back alley passage. He had to skirt around the dying Deer whose throat had just been slashed and was spurting blood. He paid but a passing glance at the squealing Boar who shifted and smashed through his mud pot stand to charge at the demons. The Wolf did not stick around.

If he could make it to the outskirts of the forest, the Wolf could maybe make his escape. If the wizard had betrayed him, Diao Wu would be too busy to pursue him, wouldn’t he?

Run to live another day.

But first…

The Wolf’s jaws began drooling at what he saw just ahead.

If this was to be his end, he would go with a full stomach he thought as he glimpsed the rabbit girl and her brother hiding behind bales of straw at the opening to the back passage.

With a ravenous growl, the Grey Wolf leapt onto a bale.

The rabbit girl screamed when his jaws clamped down upon her middle. 

“What are you doing?! Let go of my sister!” The boy punched the wolf’s flanks, earning him a swipe of claws across the face which sent the boy flying backwards in an explosion of hay.

“DELUN!” the girl screamed. The sweet taste of her warm blood trickling down the Wolf’s gullet was like ambrosia but the girl’s squirming was a nuisance. Swinging his muzzle to the side, he struck her head against a table leg which silenced the rabbit who went limp between his jaws.

The Wolf tore off through the back passage with his reward.


Fighting her way through the choked market alleys, Bai Qian kept crashing into obstacles blocking the paths. Her muzzle was bruised and cut as well as her body.

Nonetheless, the demons’ stench and auras were easy to track. The Fox raced passed battling Celestial soldiers, some of whom she saved from being killed as she continued to break necks and shatter spines of demons she seized with her tails.

Relying on her hearing, Bai Qian did her best to filter out the battle cries from the cries of the wounded. The dead whom she could neither help, nor hinder, were silent of course.


Jia! That was Jia who screamed!  Bai Qian stopped short, her fox ears pivoting forwards. The scream came from the vicinity of the back passage entry which she dashed towards now.

“Gu Gu…” 

Bai Qian zeroed in on Delun’s weak call. Shifting to her human form, she felt along the ground till she found him, sprawled on his back on what felt like straw.

The smell of blood assailed her again.

Her fingertips found the boy’s face and traced the bleeding lines cut into his skin. Delun winced and gasped when she opened her palm over them to staunch the flow of blood with her magic as best she could.

“She tried to tell me but I wouldn’t listen…”

Bai Qian felt the boy’s heart. It beat steadily enough. “Delun, where’s Jia?!” She couldn’t sense the little girl.

“The Wolf took her, Gu Gu. He took Jia away. She tried to tell me before that he was bad… I wouldn’t listen.”

There was no time.

Bai Qian grabbed clumps of straw and flung them onto the boy to camouflage him as best she could. “Which way did he go, Delun?!!”

“The back passage. He ran off through there.”

Throwing a spell that would reflect light away from the boy, Bai Qian made the spot where he lay invisible.

The Fox once again dashed off, this time through the back passage and back out into the forest, chasing after perhaps the worst demon of all.


The rabbit girl regained consciousness and began to squirm in his grip. But the Wolf dare not stop to tend to it again, the rapidly approaching wave of Fox essence behind him spurred him to run even faster.

Bai Qian.

The Fox Goddess was here and on his trail! The Wolf veered to the left to head for the Lake of Pearls.

The Wolf crashed into roots and bushes, stumbling upon rocks as he ran. The Fox wove her way above and through these, knowing exactly where each was before she got to them. Rapidly did she gain upon him.

Dirt and torn grass flew forward when the Wolf came to a skidding halt at the edge of the lake. The Fox was almost upon him. He needed to stop Bai Qian somehow. Leaving the rabbit behind would slow her down but she would likely use her magic to shelter the girl and then continue the chase. He needed to do something that would keep Bai Qian in place long enough for him to escape.

The lake shimmered from both the pearls beneath its surface and the lightning overhead. The Wolf’s pupils narrowed. As the rabbit whimpered and squirmed harder, he swallowed down one last sweet gulp of blood.  Then rising onto his hindlegs, he flung the rabbit as hard as he could into the lake. Her shrill scream abruptly cut off when she struck the surface of the lake and sank.

The Wolf took off as fast as he could down the shoreline.

The Fox burst through the treeline in time to hear Jia’s scream cut short with a splash. The thumping of the Wolf’s paws receded down the shore.

“JIA!!” Bai Qian shifted to her human form and ran into the water.

Diving in, she headed for the bottom. But when she went to sweep it with her magic, the energy given off by the luminous pearls made it impossible to sense anything. Bai Qian desperately ran her hands along the lake bed. Jagged rocks cut her palms but she didn’t care.


With a thrust of her tails, she shot to the surface.

“Jia?!” Bai Qian cried. Could the little girl have swum out by herself? There was no response. Diving back down, Bai Qian continued her search with time slowing to a crawl.

Over and over, a frantic Bai Qian dove to feel out the bottom as best she could with her hands, then bobbed back to the surface to gulp air and call out. The lapping of waves was always the only reply.

Then a familiar pair of strong arms circled around her while she was under and pulled her to the surface.  

“No! Let me go, Mo Yuan! Let me go! I have to find her!! Jia’s in the water, Mo Yuan! The Wolf threw her into the lake!”


Mo Yuan dragged Bai Qian to shore and into Zhe Yan’s hands.

Racing back to the water, he dove without causing a single ripple; the water melding to his body as a dragon’s elemental force.

The luminous pearls on the lake bed made it easy to see and it took but a moment for Mo Yuan to spot the rabbit girl. She lay motionless on a sandy patch of silt. Taking her into his arms, Mo Yuan propelled them up and out of the water to land on the shore.

“Give her to me!” Zhe Yan ordered. Taking the child and laying her upon the ground, the Phoenix placed one hand over her still heart and the other over her lungs.

Dry with her hands no longer in shreds thanks to Zhe Yan’s magic, Bai Qian sat on the shore with her head hung low. “I am pathetic and useless, blind as I am,” she whispered.

“The Wolf!” Mo Yuan gripped her shoulders, hauling Bai Qian to her feet. “Which way did the Wolf go?” 

If the wolf served Qing Cang as Mo Yuan was wont to believe now, then capturing the beast could be the means to finally discover the Demon’s hideaway. Not being a demon soldier likely meant the Wolf did not have the same suicide curse upon him either. 

A pale and shaken Bai Qian didn’t respond.

“Bai Qian!” Mo Yuan shouted, snapping her out of her despair. He could not quite keep his anger at her, and his fear for her, out of his voice. “The Wolf! He could lead us to Qing Cang! Which way did you hear him go?!”

Zhe Yan let out a breath of relief when he was able to restart Jia’s heart. “She’ll be alright, Qian Qian. Go with Mo Yuan. I’ve got this. Jia will be ok.”

Mo Yuan was forced to let go when Bai Qian’s shoulders disappeared from his grasp and her snarling Fox charged down the shore of the lake. In an explosion of golden scales, the Gold Dragon took to the air to follow after her.

Zhe Yan carefully expelled the water from the little rabbit girl’s lungs by gently tilting her to her side. Laying her back down, he ignored how dizzy he felt when he sent another healing wave of energy through her little body and the child began to breathe on her own now. He smiled softly as he watched the colour return to the girl’s face.

As such, Zhe Yan never noticed the tall shadow that fell upon him from behind. A burst of green flame struck the back of his head.

The Phoenix collapsed forward unconscious.

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