Hou Xin on RolePlayer.me -
www.roleplayer.me/blindwarrior Hou Xin
Original Character since 2015 - looking for creative, mature, literate RP-partners dedicated to go for "the long run" - no Yaoi, no sm*tt - Crossovers and/or other OCs highly desired // Writer is no rookie but around and RPing for 10years+
Hou Xin is a totally original character though heavily inspired by several characters from Chinese/Japanese Fantasy/Action Movies like General Huo Xin (Movie Painted Skin2) who also is responsible for the charactername, Prince Ning Yi (TV Show the Rise of Phoenixes), General Wentai (Movie Huan Mulan), Hyakkimaru (Manga/Anime Dororo.
Other sources which provide inspiration are diverse, historical (Chinese/Japanese) figures, spiritual teachings but also fictional verses like the Shadowhunter or The Untamed, Word of Honor and the Yin-Yang Master verse.
He is a mix of all of these plus my own ideas, and I focus on different aspects and characteristics depending on the era and verse I set him up in.
In order to make Hou Xin adjustable to as many verses as possible his background and biography are not set in stone and can and will be adjusted in order to fit the individual setting.
Creativity is a huge, endlessly streaming source if you allow it to flow and run freely.
Possible verses may range from classical High Fantasy to Urban Fantasy (including equally European and Chinese/Asian myths and legends) to settings in a more strictly historical context...
And he also can be fit into a lot of contemporary settings like monster/demon hunting, adventure stories,etc...
... whatever seems at least the tiniest bit plausible, bring it on.
Further - I am a multible SL RPer.
Meaning: all my storylines are individual adventures and stories - none are interlinked. No action or relationship happening in one SL is influencing any other.
NAME: 侯心 Hou Xin
NICKNAMES: Ah Xin, Lao Hou
ALIASES: Wentai, Wang Sheng
PLACE OF BIRTH: depending on plot and setting
CURRENT RESIDENCE: depending on plot and setting
HAIR COLOR: ebony
EYE COLOR: dark hazle
HEIGHT: 1,78m / 5ft9
BUILT: slender, athletic
SCARS: plenty - faint facial ones across the bridge of his nose and left and right to his self-blinded eyes
OCCUPATION: depending on verse, plot and setting: Qi-Warrior, YinYang Master, Jade Guard...
JOB DESCRIPTION: guess that´s rather self-explanatory
EMPLOYER: depending on verse, plot and setting: self-employed/emperor/government.
“The best fighter is never angry.”
FATHER:Hou Wei (deceased)
BROTHER(S): Ning Chen, not a brother by blood but by fate
Other Family: none
SEXUAL ORIENTATION: straight
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: single
CURRENT RELATIONSHIP(S): married to his work
PAST RELATIONSHIP(S): none of your business
Skills and Abilities
Having been born into a century old family-line of Qi-Warriors/Yin Yang-Masters Hou Xin`s education to follow their footsteps started early.
Weapons Training, ranging from long range weapons to close combat and hand to hand martial arts and utilizing the Power of Qui were as well on the schedule as theoretical lessons in ethics, the art of war, strategy and tactics, and the code and conduct of a warrior.
Highly intelligent, quick witted, determined, tough and eager to study, train and to surpass himself over and over again Hou Xin proved to be a fast learner and swiftly started to rise through the ranks.
Besides his outstanding fighting skills Hou Xin also turned out to be an excellent strategist, advisor and orator capable of spinning eloquence or humor into an offhand comment and prone to render grand, moving speeches off the top of his head.
While maintaining his cool, Hou Xin is rather adept at philosophical and strategical arguments, swiftly seeing the cracks in any opponent's logic without missing a beat in conversation.
“Silence is a source of Great Strength.”
After his forced act of self-blinding Hou Xin worked hard to develop a way to make up for his lost vision in order to maintain his post.
Without eyesight Hou Xin relies mostly on sound and the Power of Qi to create his own kind of “vision”.
His skills to utilize Qi-Powers are above average and make him an exceptional warrior and fighter against evil beings, like malicious spirits and demons (in the Chinese believe system not all demons or spirits are automatically malificent).
Hou Xin is able to “detect” auras and thus distinguish non-human/magical beings from each other and of course also from other humans.
(I left room for two ideas how that happened to be reason for this trait:)
– This is either a trait passed down in his family from father to son and he was able to do that even before his blinding.
- Or, second scenario: This happened during the breaking of the course, as some sort of “magical remnant”.
Tolkien Verse: Daughter of his late best friends, his beloved ward and disciple. He will do everything in his powers to protect her, to keep her save and see her become the wonderful woman she is meant to be.
Original Verse and NPC: Hou Xin´s brother-like friend he grew up with. His 2nd hand man and the person he trusts the most. Cheeky, upbeat, smart and equiped with unwavering optims he provides a healthy counterpart to his best friend. His loyalty towards Hou Xin is unconditionally and goes as far as that he´d give his life for the man he affectionatelly calls Gēgē (older Brother).
侯心 HOU XIN
"The only thing worse than being blind
is having sight but no vision"
Hou Xin was born into a family connected to the imperial palace for generations. Already his grandfather and father served in the Imperial Guard and were high ranking Qi Warriors of the Jade Dragon Guard, directly assigned to the Emperor.
As a young boy however he had to face a fierce blow of fate which left him orphaned within one night when some of the Emperor´s foes took out an act revenge on his father due to being the highest ranking General and right hand military consultant of the Court.
Both of his parents lost their lives – his father as the main target, his mother in a selfless attempt to save her husband.
After this devastating loss the Emperor made sure to officially claim wardship for the young boy, and Hou Xin soon would become the whole court´s ward as such, sharing a special bond with the slightly younger Ning Chen, son of the stable master, who would become a friend as close as a little brother to Hou Xin.
From an early age his soft-spoken, humble and most of the time unintentionally charming way secured him the likes of those he grew up with and those who raised him – also causing them to forgive the one or the other slyness and prank easily.
As soon as he was old enough Hou Xin joined the training of the Qi Warriors, following in the footsteps of his ancestors and rose through the ranks quickly thanks to his quick mind, his discipline and hard work which eventually gained him the rank of the youngest Commander to be known; implicitly loved and respected by his men.
"Fighting against evil is not a choice"
And yet fate seemed not willing to let Hou Xin off the hook so easily coming back to him with a blow when due to his high rank among the court and faithful, brotherly relationship with the Emperor a Fox Demon, eager to claim imperial power, put him under his spell.
The female demon attempted to gain easy access to the imperial court and thus to the Emperor himself by seducing the young Commander. -
Huo Xin however noticed the trickery and danger in the nick of time, yet the only way to break the hex he had been put under was to blind himself… a desperate deed done in faithful pursuit of his duties.
Yet this display of loyalty did not go unrewarded – especially as Hou Xin was determined to not allow himself to be doomed to helplessness caused by his blindness.
Instead he trained and worked even harder to overcome this obstacle, honing his other senses and training his Qui Powers in a way that in the end he proved himself capbale and managed to maintain his status as a exceptional warrior, outstanding strategist and dedicated leader and even was promoted to the rank of General as a Qi-Warrior of the Imperial Jade Dragon Guard.
OoC: ALSO: this biography is just a basic idea, if the individual setting or the plot idea we have requires a different take, I´ll happily change things to make them fit - nothing is set in stone!
Generally soft-spoken, serene and humble, Hou Xin's usual demeanor does nothing to give away his ranking and reputation among the Martial Art World/World of the Qi-Warriors.
He was raised by the Warriors' Code, demanding candor, devotion, bravery and loyalty towards his Emperor but even more and especially important to him, towards his soldiers and the people he swore to serve and protect.
Hou Xin is always ready and willing to put others before himself, both in terms of well-being and social standing and doesn't hesitate to put himself in the path of harm to shield those in need, no matter whether known or unknown to him.
Before reverting to violence Hou Xin always attempts to diffuse contentious situations with understanding, calming words, wise actions and if possible the sincere readiness to strike a pleasing compromise for all factions involved
These traits tend to tempt those unfamiliar with him to view him as oversoft or easily exploitable particularly in terms of his position.
Yet perceptive people will notice in the shortest of time that his gift for placatory, defusing eloquence during disagreeable and difficult situations suggests a deep wisdom belied by his youthful look.
“Act without expectation.”
Also Hou Xin´s life alone and the fact that he was able to maintain his status as exceptional warrior despite his blindness bring to proof that behind his seemingly diffident manner and boylike appearance lies an adamant will to pull through even the most dire situations and an uncompromising readiness to go to tremendous lengths and subject himself even to suffering.
All the while making sure to have the back of his men, those close to him and those under his watch.
Hou Xin´s exceptional success as warrior, leader and strategist is not at least based on the unyielding believe that wielding weapons in order to gain results must be the very least means to resolve conflicts and not utilized light-mindedly.
However, when forced to draw his weapons and to make use of his outstanding fighting skills against those who abuse their power, threaten and undervalue the lives of others, Hou Xin's calm temperament gives way to a marked intensity capable of intimidating even other skilled warriors and can go so far as to become a powerful fury.
He always puts the wellbeing of others before his own, harbors a tendendcy of almost self-desturctive need for selflessness, claims little for himself and strictly lives by the creed that it his role to protect and serve.
Any bits of her interest in this dialogue were demolished when Lieutenant expressed his judgmental argument about her behavior. A villain? A victim? It would have boiled her blood if she cared for her reputation in the eyes of others. But for her his statement only proved she was right — there was no chance she would ever become one of these soldiers. Her country took a good care to make her get used to serving alone. Madoka tried to connect herself with the legions of newborns night creatures which the government was giving birth to, as she saw this plan as a madness. Young people willingly gave up themselves to this terrifying curse in order to sacrifice themselves to the native land. They were the real victims, and how was it possible for her to believe in the unity?
The female vampire didn’t notice how she dived in her thoughts and started ignoring the whole presence of Alexander. She caught only the warning and the bitter disappointment which made the woman expose the sharp smirk.
«If you want to kill me, Lieutenant, get in line,» — she replied before standing up, — «Once I crossed my sword with The General’s one, and he defended me — do you believe he won’t kill me if it happens again? Or do you doubt in Hou Jiàng juān’s decision of leaving me alive as well as I do?»
What could be more annoying than her behavior — the tone of her voice. It was calm. Almost emotionless. The way she understood Alexander’s reaction, but she didn’t see its value. She was almost mocking his treatment of the general.
«Good night, Alexander Xiǎo,» — the woman bowed and left him alone. The cup of blood was empty.
Despite the lack of showing the affection from her dialogue with the vampire, her head became full of thoughts, questions, and even indignation. She agreed to any role they wanted to see her as but the victim! Madoka felt the bloody lump crawling along her throat as she wanted to belch the amount of bile caused by that conversation. If only she could… No! She must kept living, as her life was her punishment for the existence. She couldn’t give it up, otherwise they, the others, would appear right, and she really saw herself as a victim. No! She didn’t need their worthless pity.
The woman opened her eyes and glanced at the narrow line of space to the outside from the tent. It was a foggy morning, there was time for her to last the nap, but her mind was weak for the disturbing dreams. Quietly, Madoka sat up and looked around — everyone was sleeping. She could hear the grumps and inhaling of human and werewolves. The vampire reached her swords and fans and stood up to go out from the tent. Her armor was left. Before her figure vanished in the morning mist, one of the soldiers seemed to suffer from sleep talking. He sat up, but his eyes were closed. Mumbled something like a warning to stop moving and raised his hands as he was holding the sword, but they were empty. This incident made Madoka flinch, but she sighed, noticing the figure. Putting her weapons outside the tent, the woman reached the soldier and carefully lulled him back. Her cold palms landed on the back of his neck and on his forehead, the softness, and the scent of dew on her long hair immediately sent him back out of the consciousness.
This was shaping up to be an interesting group already. Between Hou Xin’s quiet nature, Ishum’s serious disposition and now Ning Chen’s bright grins there was no concern of this journey being boring. Erra’s gaze shifted from the Guards to the extra horses secured for travel. While Erra held a certain disdain for humanity, it did not extend to animals. For the most part he was indifferent to other lifeforms, but there were a few he felt an affinity towards - horses being one. Something about the powerful creatures resonated with him and as he approached the chestnut mare she wickered quietly as if in greeting. Erra lifted a hand to trail it from muzzle to forehead with a level of care and affection that was otherwise wholly rare.
With their time in the Imperial City now at its end, Erra and Ishum mounted their horses and joined their temporary companions in setting off at a measured trot.
“A swamp? Lovely,” Erra replied, sarcasm creeping back into his tone. He did not disagree with the idea of gathering better information, and wouldn’t actually turn down a source strictly for a less than desirable sort of location, but he was a creature spoiled in luxury. Not afraid to get his hands dirty, but not so keen to go trudging about in muck.
“What is the...nature of this...Xuánwǔ?” Ishum asked, speech slow as he was still assimilating to this foreign tongue. “Will there be...danger in seeking...its council?”
“It’s in the name, isn’t it?” Erra teased. Ishum gave him a flat look that Erra countered with a sharp smile.
As they rode away from the city, it became clear that Ning Chen seemed to have no problems whatsoever in conversing with the foreign dignitaries. Erra saw no reason not to respond about what they knew of this place, their long journey east that brought them here and their rather limited experiences with the region’s civilization. Both Erra and Ishum stayed away from large populations since arriving, keeping their presence discreet. He mentioned it was to observe unhindered, rather than going into those initial plans of chaos and violence. No talk of the Fox Demon, no sharing about some of the smaller villages he crossed through in a blaze of destruction.
But none of those villages were close to where they were now, so, after an hour of easy riding when the smoke became visible in the sky, Erra knew he wasn’t to blame. “Do your people burn fields?” Ishum asked, also noticing the smoke.
From the nearby rice field, the sound of water thrashing suddenly filled the air. Erra’s gaze fell quickly to the source, ascertaining it was no enemy. The farmer stumbled towards them, stuttering and reaching...not just reaching, trying to find his way. Upon closer scrutiny, Erra saw the man had been blinded, the blood on his cheeks indicating it was a very recent injury.
“W-who’s there? H-help me please,” the man cried out.
“What happened?” Erra asked curtly, making no move to dismount.
“Great force came through...burned the village as an example to their captive. Her people...on the line if she didn’t...might be other survivors, please...help.”
Now Erra understood the reason their enemies blinded the man. They could confirm the princess was taken in this direction up until this point, but going forward they had no leads save for the Dark Tortoise Hou Xin mentioned. And if that great spirit had no answers, well they may have to rely on luck; something Erra would be loathed to count on going forward.
“We’re not out here to play heroes,” Erra said, unsure if the Guards would be distracted from their main task by the man’s pleas for aid. “And don’t really have the time to delay what is already setting up to be a long journey. We need to get to the swamp, yes? Preferably before Shi An and his yaomo disappear even from our great spirit’s gaze.”
Not that Erra was overly concerned about the princess, but the sooner they retrieved her the sooner he could expect his dues for pledging himself to her safe return. At least that was his initial thought, although his conversation with the Jade Emperor would continue to repeat itself in the back of his mind, and that rare feeling of considering change had not been extinguished even if he wished that it would.
The reaction toward her question about the general woke her up. Alexander’s laugh was loud and vivid. This made her bow down a little for several seconds and then sat up straightening her back as she was observing the new male figure. And even with that posture Madoka looked much smaller than the other vampire. Not very pleasant feeling. A soft frown appeared on her forehead and she looked away. Mostly her eyes were directed to the ground while the head was poured with different thoughts. And still she didn’t have a chance to zone out for a long time. It seemed Alexander was curious about her. What Madoka was not going to accept friendly. She reminded the small wild cat from the local woods whose nap was brought up. She threw the harp gaze at the blonde man but stayed quiet since her question appeared to be clueless. The unusual atmosphere made the woman perceive everything and react to it very sharply. At his questions Alexander collected only silence. But her fingers were giving her out. They were drumming against her knee weakly.
«Your power of observation needs a lot of improvement Alexander Xiǎo,» - she replied with the obvious scoff, - «Or your memory serves you wrong. Did you forget where I am from and what I attempted to do?»
Realizing her voice became louder (actually, the vampire spoke cautiously and even this time her voice was low) Madoka became silent and glanced around. She took the cup and sipped a little.
«With due respect to Hou Jiàng juān it was not one of his best ideas,» - she hissed guessing the general asked the western to interrogate her, - «I know deserving the real forgiveness is barely possible for me. I don’t ask for understanding either. But do you all really expect me to behave warm and fuzzy? Even though we are both blood-cursed, this fact doesn’t make us similar. I believe it only distances us both. It’s them, wolves, whose nature demands to create groups but we…we ought to spend the eternity alone.»
Her fingers stopped moving and she hid palms by crossing the arms on the stomach.
«I realize that Hou Jiàng juān may do one of the biggest mistakes in his life by letting me out of the cage and that’s why I am never able to join you,» - she suddenly added after the long pause.
There was hope for this journey yet, evident in the low chuckle from the general which hinted towards a sense of humor after all. Erra had to wonder for a while there, although his coming here had not presented many opportunities for laughter. Regardless, the god grinned even if it went unseen, a brief moment of camaraderie or, in the very least, a sign that things might go smoothly enough going forward. “Indeed,” he agreed. “In fact I am experiencing many firsts in this empire, what a trip it’s been.”
Curious as to what it could be that would have them linger, Erra made no complaint about the detour Hou Xin mentioned. Every moment in the city was another moment to learn, to observe more, to consume it as he would a meal. There was also the very personal and very simple aspect that Erra liked the layout of this place and did not mind seeing more of it. Going up the stairs and entering the large room, spying the items that were here, it all gave a subtle picture of life here among the guards. Erra could quite easily assume that everything in here, from the scrolls to the china, had its purpose. Nothing frivolous, nothing here for the sake of taking space. Practical, yet there was a level of care to it all as well, instilling in him a sense of a proud people.
Erra was also privy to understanding the relationship between the Guard as well, although it might be better to count it a mark of Hou Xin’s character. The general obviously took the time to get to know names, and if the exchange of banter between the trio said anything, it said that he also got to know them. How exhausting, the deity thought. Just the mere thought of learning half his forces' names and taking the time to speak with them made him frown inwardly. Perhaps some of this was showing on his features, for he noticed the one Hou Xin referred to as Feng Hao looking at him studiously. Erra met the look with a smile that may have been more a smirk, but they pressed on before one or the other could ask questions.
The most interesting thing in the office they stepped into was the scholar perusing a book. Some people radiated a sense of learning, of possessing a deep well of knowledge...this was one such man, and Erra felt remiss that he could not take a day to pick at that brain and discover exactly what he knew.
Instead, he bowed his head -- unable to bring himself to fully bow to a mere human, but at least making some sort of effort, painful as it might still have been. “Divinity demands it,” he replied. Not that he felt a connection to his fellow deities, there were only a few he counted allies and less he counted friends, but if he would like his former glories restored then he would have to see this through. No need to be blatantly selfish, however, especially in the face of Hou Xin’s actions. It wasn’t often that a single gesture could make him feel...slightly askew. Perhaps it came with centuries of being met with fear, of others trying to be rid of him, succumbing after his horrendous campaigns but never truly welcoming him into the fold. Although it was temporary, obviously...as he had no intention to remain here forever, the fact Hou Xin would offer this symbol of the Guard to him went against everything Erra truly knew.
He took the offered jade pendant and slipped it into place. “I think it suits me,” he decided after a brief pause. “That’s fortunate, I can’t stand feeling uncoordinated in appearance you know.” Again it wasn’t serious, although Erra was indeed a vain creature. “To return the topic to reputation you needn’t worry, I shan’t destroy the Guards’ in my time here.”
With their detour completed, Erra followed Hou Xin away from the refurbished quarters and back the way they came for a while, until they exited the Guards’ wing entirely and returned to the streets. There was still the sense of adrenaline coursing through the city, no doubt that alarm would remain for quite a few days yet. Indeed, the people they passed had harried expressions, as if all were in a great rush but unsure exactly where they were rushing to. Save for the guards, who held the same impervious measure of calm that irked Erra so much upon his arrival here.
There was much activity at the main gates, no doubt security measures were being increased to ensure there were no more surprise attacks. Doubtful, the perpetrator got what he wanted when he abducted the princess. There was, however, a familiar face loitering about and Erra grinned upon seeing Ishum. Erra’s attendant and herald, Ishum was a lesser deity of fire -- capable of conjuring flame from nothing. Far more benevolent than Erra could ever be, Ishum was equated with the ‘calm before battle’ and was one of the few beings who dared to stand up to Erra. He was a buffer between Erra’s destructive tendencies and the rest of the world. A heavy role to burden, but one he did so without complaint.
“Sayidi, marhaba (sir, hello),” Ishum said once they were near.
“Marhaba. Ishum, this is General Hou Xin,” Erra gestured towards his current companion.
Ishum, not having the same issues with pride that Erra did, bowed to the general - the clink of his armor signaling the gesture. “Tasharafat bimuqabalatik.”
“He says it’s nice to meet you,” Erra replied. “Don’t worry, he’s like me and will adapt linguistically soon enough.”
Missive to Ishum taken care of, Erra departed the pavilion with Hou Xin. In truth he could have simply requested to go to the main gate and wait for him there, it would give him a chance to divy up the supplies Ishum would have with him and save them from having to do so later. He could, but he thought it better to remain with the general for the time being, not for any suspicion that Hou Xin might plot against him if he were out of sight, Erra suspected the human too noble for that, but because it may grant Erra more knowledge both of the Imperial City and its layout, and of the general himself. Not much, not yet, but something.
Whatever else may follow down the road - whether it be a long, tumultuous journey or one with a swift and abrupt end, Erra could say with all sincerity that he did get to experience a certain beauty that would otherwise have been missed. In walking with Hou Xin, he was able to see more of the inner city. Perhaps it was merely the surface of what else lay within its walls, but it was something and while Erra held little love for this world and those who populated it - he could always find it in his heart to appreciate the marvels of architecture. Here was a unique style he had yet to truly come across in his journeys and seeing something which felt new always stirred that pioneer spirit of his heart. Erra made no comment about it to Hou Xin, theirs was not the sort of alliance that relied on such things and while one might argue a sharing of interests might solidify trust during this harrowing mission, Erra did not think his time with Hou Xin would linger once the princess was secured and he got what he sought. Sentimentality was burned away with his mercy a long time ago.
So while silence passed as Hou Xin considered the question, Erra took note of the way they travelled, attention returning to the general when he addressed him once more. "I see," he replied simply, less scathing than he might have said only moments before and more assessing. From what he'd seen of Hou Xin, the general was insufferably responsible - for his duties, for his men, for the city and its emperor. He did not expect this reply and the evident guilt the man bore, nor did he make derisive comments on it or brush it off as something Hou Xin could not possibly have known. Arrogant as he may be, Erra wouldn't presume to know the inner workings of the Imperial Guard, its connections or conflicts, well enough to say so.
Nor did he press the issue. Erra was a perceptive creature, he did not need Hou Xin to continue to understand there was more that could be said on the subject. Deeper troubles, perhaps, that naturally wouldn’t be shared with someone like him. Why would Hou Xin trust him with anything of that nature? It was not as though Erra would divulge those things beneath the surface either. Theirs was a new truce, not even an hour old and expecting anything so soon would be preposterous. No, that was something to extract over time...and only if it was something that would prove beneficial to him. Erra would hardly describe himself as an attentive listener, one to turn to for advice and comfort. On the contrary, such a notion was liable to make him laugh; the worries and whims of others rarely piqued his interest whatsoever. With silence falling between them again, Erra resumed observing his surroundings. Everything had taken a rather practical turn in terms of decor and layout once they reached the Guards’ Chambers and why not? What need did a warrior have of luxury? The two continued down the hall, and Erra saw the way Hou Xin’s fingers trailed along the wall to mark their progress. Thus far, Erra hadn’t seen a blatant example of how he was hindered, he carried himself surprisingly well for one who’d been blinded, but his affliction carried those difficulties even if he made it hard to detect any troubles at all. The god might just feel a begrudging sense of admiration for Hou Xin’s fortitude.
Erra turned into the room Hou Xin invited him into, eyes scanning it and taking it all in - there wasn’t much to see, so it was not an exerting endeavor by any means. “This is practical,” he said and there the hint of a jocular remark returned, although he maintained his more amiable tone. He would assume someone of his position would have better accommodations, in the very least his own space rather than one shared with another. But he did not pry, thinking an incessant stream of questions would both show Erra’s lingering ignorance of these people or else make the general too weary to answer anything down the line.
He walked over to one of the chairs and sat, leaving Hou Xin to get ready without interruption of speech. The general emerged again soon enough, the obvious trappings of a guard were gone, replaced with more practicality. The better to avoid attention, although his and Ishum’s presence might make that more difficult. They could always don hoods to cover foreign features, however. “Hm, I’m not that impatient you know, well...perhaps you don’t.” The smile was obvious in his voice, but his expression remained scrutinizing. He was looking at the items Hou Xin was choosing to bring, from what looked like ornate coins to more weapons. Always learning, always consuming every detail he could. Including those about Shi An, indeed especially those since he was the one they would be facing in the end.
Erra chuckled, a mirthless sound that juxtaposed the general’s sadness. “Ah, now that is something I understand very well,” he replied. “But those who seek power for the sake of power are often crushed by it. Had it been something personal, I would count it a harder task to free the princess, for a personal grudge inspires the greatest convictions, it can spread sympathy and justifications even if the methods leave behind destruction and bloodshed. Greed, however, corrupts and that is something that can be used to our advantage if needs be.”
He stood again now the other was finishing his preparations. “Ishum will have my things, so once we leave the city we can set out without any detours.” Grinning, he walked back towards the door. “I can’t boast of having rescued a princess before, I swear...I shall leave your region with a reputation the rest of the world will never believe.”
There seemed to be a sensation of renewal that rushed in like a gust of wind, taking the hostility and tension with it as a more amiable atmosphere took its place. Scheming and mischievous as Erra could be, it was not all he was. Upon making up his mind to help them retrieve the princess, he set aside those devious machinations that would otherwise occupy his mind for a more affable - although still distant - disposition. These men were to be his allies for the foreseeable future, after all, and while he may keep an eye open for opportunities to further himself and his cause, at the moment the best thing he could do for himself was to treat these allies without deceit.
He paid close attention to those details given in Ning Chen’s report. Prideful to a fault, Erra veered on the fault of underestimating his opponents - as he’d done with the Jade Guards and his assumption he would be able to treat them as mere puppets - but it was that very pride that made him listen to every word, so he might avoid such failures again when facing this Shi An and the Yaomo. Motivation was as yet unknown, but they knew to seek the painting the princess was trapped within. A clever bit of magic, Erra thought, one that would see it impossible for the prisoner to escape and something that would be due caution when they caught up - for he was certain they would. A prisoner such as this would likely be too valuable to harm, but desperation could move men to do whatever it took to survive. Without knowing more on Shi An, it was difficult to ascertain and something he would ask about while they followed their quarry.
“It is a good plan,” he said. “Four of us won’t draw so much attention, but I’m confident we’ll have enough power between us to be able to find the princess.”
In those more ethereal realms, Erra’s power tended to be stronger, near enough that he could possibly shed his human form and walk as he once did at the beginning of everything, a colossal figure unmistakable as a god. It was not something he would attempt unless absolutely necessary, believing that a more tactful and quiet approach would serve them much better in the beginning. Either way, it was a way forward and Erra always felt at his best with clear purpose laid ahead. Otherwise, the madness tended to creep in.
Direction decided, it seemed as if the Jade Emperor's time with them came to a close. In a rare show of respect, Erra stood when the emperor did and even bowed slightly in return. Perhaps it was the magnanimous presence of the other deity, but despite Erra’s desires to take that power himself he still could not help but admire the other.
Admire...and envy, a feeling stirred at the sound of great wings indicating that for the Jade Emperor, taking his true form was no issue no matter the circumstances.
“I’m rested well enough,” he replied to Hou Xin after his 2nd in command headed off to do his task. “As for my companion...hold a second.”
Water was prevalent here, but not fire. The closest flames were those that beset the walls from the attack and might have already been extinguished. Erra always travelled with flint, however, having used the last of his inherent fire centuries ago -- he could not conjure flame from nothing, but he could still use it to communicate once ignited. He extracted the flint and a small, yet durable, piece of wood from a little bundle and struck it to bring flame to life.
“Ishum, tisma’ni? (can you hear me)” he spoke towards the flame.
“Sayidi (sir),” a voice sounded, small and spoken from afar but still clear.
Erra briefly summarized the plan, concluding that Ishum would meet them at the main gate in half an hour to which the lesser deity gave his affirmation before Erra closed his fist over the flame and snuffed it out. “All set,” he said to Hou Xin. “He’ll meet us at the gate, he wasn’t far.” He gestured, indicating he’d follow the general to get his gear before they headed out.
“Did you know him well, the warlock Shi An?” Erra asked as they moved on from the pavilion. “Any indication that he was disgruntled with the way of things here?” While Erra noted the good relationship between Hou Xin and the Jade Emperor, that did not mean there was peace throughout the Imperial City. It took all sorts, and ambition could twist the mind and cultivate bitterness even in a place that seemed so balanced. “Because there’s usually two reasons to choose such a high-profile target; one seeks riches and knows they will get well rewarded for the trouble...or it’s personal.”
After all, that applied to Erra’s first attempt to fell Hou Xin, before he even knew him but when he condoned the Fox Demon and her choice in singling out Hou Xin from the Guards. Personal, because of his ties to Erra’s true target. He was a resilient sort though, Erra thought. Thwarting the demoness and then swaying things in a direction Erra wouldn’t have chosen as his first course of action.
“Is it so bad to demand patience while going against the tide of my nature? To acknowledge I may stumble? I would think it a reflection of letting go of one's conceit to admit such things.”
This he did believe, and yet Erra knew very well that words were only that until truly acted on. He could wax poetic about all the ways he could be a great ally to them, but it would mean little until such grand promises were fulfilled. And while it was difficult, for he was prone to countering much, Erra forced himself to fall silent again and listen to what the other had to say about the cup.
Given what he was and how long he'd been in the world, it was not often that any would presume to mentor him on anything. Yet that is what the Jade Emperor did, and for the first time since he'd been in the presence of his Creator, Erra felt akin to the unruly student; his certainty inspired by that blind pride of youth which would say he could do no wrong. That he knew better.
And part of him, deep within, wanted to admit to his failings and take the lesson to heart. Not to view the Emperor as a creature full of gall, as someone to scorn for his assumptions about Erra and his infuriating patience on the matter. Rather, there was a spark, a flame, of sudden yearning to embrace the idea of learning. Of philosophies that went against everything he knew and lived by, and yet a way of life that might grant fulfillment in ways he never thought possible before. Then he thought of his Creator, the Father of his people, and the cruel indifference when he stripped Erra of his light and the idea of letting go of that, to become the unformed clay the Jade Emperor demonstrated his lesson with, seemed laughable. How could he lay down his weapons? How could he walk away from the great war he meticulously and obsessively prepared for?
Yet he could not deny the idea of truly learning was still appealing. Enough so that compulsions to spread ruin and chaos could be set aside during this venture. Honesty was required for this covenant, a will to do good. Erra wasn’t sure he had the capacity for that, but he could try and see where it got him.
Dark hues shifted from the Emperor to Ning Yi and then to Hou Xin before they returned to the deity sitting across from him. Their near camaraderie gave truth to words spoken. There was obviously deference given to the Emperor, of course, a near visible respect from the guards and yet, there was a level of...comfort, he supposed, between them. Showing the balance spoken of, of mortals and immortals united in a shared life. It was peculiar to him, as Erra always treated his human soldiers as little more than canon fodder, expecting their worship and devotion, demanding it in fact.
He looked at the clay again, feeling quite put off from his original intent in coming here. So much for weaving the proverbial web, it would seem he got tripped up instead. This bothered him, as this sort of thing always bothered him, but he gave no indication of it.
“Yes, I believe we do, Imperial Majesty. And with that understanding...shall we proceed? Let us track down these aggressors and save her royal highness. Although, in the interest of transparency and all, I should tell you now we’ll be swiftly joined by an ally of mine once we leave the city. He’ll help us.”
It wouldn’t do for Ishum to appear and the Imperial Guard think him some vanguard of an ambush, not that Erra gave much of an impression in being trustworthy - he wouldn’t fault that line of thinking, but he would rather avoid it now that this allegiance seemed to be settled.
“So until your daughter is returned to the city, I’ll use my power only to help the Guard...and be open about change through it all. After all, it’d be such a pity to shatter just for the sake of stubbornness.”
As the wild cat the vampire was straining her ears while she was staying inside the tent. It seemed other inhabitants were still enjoying the dinner outside as the weather was inviting to watch the clear dark sky freckled with bright stars. They could be seen even if you were surrounded with the flambeaux like the ones surrounding the territory of the station. However, Madoka didn’t hurry to see them. Used to being accompanied by the night she found her spot for sleeping and took both fans out. She exposed them and suddenly the drawings attracted her attention. It was like she was hypnotized by them. Her paranoid deliberation of her current situation lost strength. Knelt on the ground she even touched the drawing. The sudden wave of nostalgia poured her body. The gentle wave of the warm sea. Far away home place. The invisible and the enchanting place. The walk in her memory took all free minutes she had. That was where her life belonged to. She always knew about how to feel, how to be human. She was afraid to forget it.
Suddenly the lieutenant heard the crinkle behind. Flinched she folded the fan and stood up on her feet before turned to see what the source of the noise was. Her eyes caught the male figure but it was not the general. The strong familiar but not very pleasant scent attacked her sensitive nostrils. Frown appeared on her forehead. Another vampire. He was standing by the entry of the tent when he invited her to join to the dinner. Then after the short minute of silence (as the woman stayed silent piercing him with the confused dark eyes) he added that for their kind there were supplies to consume. With a quick move she hid the fan - and it made him strain as the fan was obviously not for the winding - and she bowed to him thanking for the offer. Wishing to be able to decline but experiencing the soft thirst the lieutenant assumed her transporting with the general promised to be long and barely easier than that short way they had already passed, so it would be better if she would achieve extra energy for their mission.
Following Alexander, she tried not to look around in order to avoid all unnecessary clashes. It might surprise how peaceful she was trying to be. And at the same time the new face was indeed causing the tension. So, at the common table Madoka sat on the edge by the side of Alexander. He offered her a cup with the familiar wine-like color liquid. There was no need to sniff. She immediately recognized the scent. It was so strong. Sure even the human soldiers felt it. Before taking several good gulps the woman got curious how others reacted to such exotic meal. Did they know it belonged to their kind? No, she didn’t ask the male vampire how they extracted human blood. So pure and thick. After consuming the half of the cup she put it down and wiped some drops away from her chin with the sleeve of her uniform. While her eyes were scanning the audience. They seemed unbothered. Only now she noticed the absence of the general.
«…Is Hou Jiàng juān not going to dinner?» - she asked out loud.