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)
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”.
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 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 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 Emperor.
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 himself took the young boy up as a ward and Hou Xin grew up next to the slightly older imperial sons, soon becoming the whole court´s ward as such. 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 of the country 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 in terms of resolving 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.
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.
It was always going to be a risk coming here, to subject himself in the eyes of these strangers who of course who perceive everything differently. For all the grand schemes Erra came up with, he could be narrow-minded in his obsessive march forward, blind-sided by perception and the way the world should be according to his whims. And for all the machinations set by his hand, his ultimate goal was in fact truly that simple. Freedom. From the shackles of this poisoned, deathly role he’d been cast into and from this very world. His path was one soaked in blood and much more would be spilled over time, but the goal remained ever the same. Because of the devastation already wrought by his hand, however, no one truly saw it. They saw a tyrant, attempting to wrest control from his Creator so he might claim control of this world. To rule it under his thumb, and perhaps to conquer more than this place, but those beyond as yet unknown.
Erra was a leader here, a god to many, a general to his armies, a great vacuum greedily consuming whatever power he could obtain and yet he had no desires to crown himself a king of all these peoples, beings and deities. Although he never corrected the majority that would claim his endeavors were for rule, because Erra preferred to keep his true wishes close to the heart. They were not for others to know, and even in admitting that he wanted his former nature restored was difficult for him. Alas, he knew he must give up something if he wanted anything for his time here.
His succinct statement opened the proverbial door, just a crack but one large enough for the Jade Emperor to push through to see things merely hinted at in his request. The aloof, smug nature he’d maintained since coming here, playful and threatening at once, faded away. There was, for a moment, a reflection of these things the Emperor spoke of, terrible and wicked -flashing across his expression like lightning. All the darkness contained within this shell...and yet beneath that, a pain that was meant to be his own. His burden to bear, hidden from all the world so they could not get in. Erra forced it down, his expression cold and still as he regarded the Jade Emperor, a vindictive sort of anger rising in his chest as he spoke truths Erra had known for so long, yet denied all the same.
“You want me to walk the paths a mortal would for ascension?” he asked, nose wrinkled for Erra’s contempt for humanity was too strong for him to hide it. He sighed, taking a breath so impulse did not have him scorn the offer further.
If he refused, that was it. He would either be escorted out of the Imperial City or they would attempt to lock him away. Either road would not give him what he wanted, and he’d come here with the knowledge he may indeed have to accompany the Guard and aid them against their enemies. Yet the whole plan was backed in deceit, just a means to get closer to the great being seated across from him now. And there was a part of him, beneath the indignation of this whole matter, that wanted to rise up to the challenge presented and overcome it. Not only to prove that he could to anyone else, but because if it did lead to his restoration...it would open a future he thought lost.
“There’s nothing beyond me,” he said through a grin. He was certain he could not fool the Jade Emperor by deflecting with levity, but it was an old habit by now. “I’ve already offered your guards my power. Let them accept it knowing I’ll take your offer, Imperial Majesty.” His posture, which had become more rigid in the emperor’s assessment of him, relaxed and his gaze shifted to Hou Xin again. “No tricks, no whispering to certain demons or adversaries, I will assist them in rescuing your daughter.” He paused for a moment, taking in those present with a more serious look. “But it must be known that this is not something that will occur overnight. Treat me not as if I’ll fail, as if I am your next enemy lest I decide to respond in kind. I am asking for patience, and a measure of leniency when I inevitably stumble along the way.”
After all these years of serving to different commanders and generals she was hard to surprise with their freak demands from the soldiers. However, it was always a surprise to meet the noble rulers. And Hou Xin was definitely one of them. And it became more bitter to realize that his way of seeing the world didn’t coincide with hers. The woman flinched a little when the general finished their talk, and she was thankful for it. Their way to the station went on. Madoka barely landed on the ground clinging at the knots and landing on its thick branches.
The rest of their way was in silence. A little awkward, Madoka would admit. But luckily that. Conversation was done. Was he disappointed? Furious? Maybe. The vampiric lieutenant was following the male figure on the stallion, but she didn’t pay attention on his face. And to be honest she didn’t want to read what was happening there. At least, she tried to be sincere with him that time if he wanted to know her opinion. If not - well, Madoka caused new troubles for herself by opening her mouth. One more time. Silence was a gold. Why did she always forget about it?
But she stayed quiet most of the time when they arrived and got met by the camp. The woman bowed when Hou Xin introduced her to his people. She stayed wordless when he was telling why they were late and he ordered to watch for other Japanese attackers. Even though in their unpleasant talk she mentioned them and their fate. But she was not very emotional. These orders were part of this world. Or how she saw it. Those newborns were cannon fodder for their own country. Why would anyone care of them here? Even Madoka herself barely stayed herself here. Whatever she called her true self. No, these thoughts were not a reproach toward the General, his army or toward the Chinese Empire. Someone must die in this game. Let it be one person, ten, a hundred or even more. It was not someone’s fault. That’s how the world she lived in worked. And she must accept it no matter how unfair it was.
Madoka hesitated a little to leave the general and follow the guards to her place to stay. But she didn’t have other choice. The lieutenant was cautious. When they arrived, she sensed there was one more vampire but it was not a newborn. Hou Xin told her there were many species in the rows of the Chinese army, so it must be at least one vampire here. He didn’t get her interest much as she didn’t wish to contact with him either. Actually, Madoka planned to stay away from him during their break.
They led her to the small tent. It was empty at that moment but there were clothes and armors of other female warriors. One guardian showed her a couch where she might leave her armors with weapons and rest. Madoka thanked though she didn’t rush to get off her katanas and fans. She didn’t do even when they left her alone. It was an odd feeling. She had never spent a night among comrades-in-arms. Needless to say, she had never had ones.
Erra felt the presence before the arrival of the Jade Emperor. While Hou Xin and his 2nd in Command knelt upon the floor, Erra did not. He remained in his seat, all the malevolent playfulness abandoning his expression as his eyes reflected an impossibly long existence of violence. It felt like power that matched He who cast Erra out, the Omega who deemed his curiosity a crime. His answer to a lonely call, to give form to the Darkness that came before everything else. It felt similar, but it was not that power - not entirely. It did answer his musings on whether it would match...the Jade Emperor was every bit as strong as the stories would have him believe. This was both a wondrous thing, Erra needed that power, and a tenebrous one, as he was not expecting to meet with this figure so soon. As he strode into view, he seemed the very picture of nobility, of strength and rigidity but also benevolence and tolerance. Those fair qualities that Erra once possessed that burned away when he fell, only brighter, more poignant. It was enough to cause mild discomfort in his heart, of a yearning for what he once was but could never truly be again. Unless…
That power felt as close to the Omega who created him to be the sun.
Erra may not have knelt upon the floor, but he did nod in both a greeting and an acknowledge of that immense power; a gesture of respect that was not another move upon the proverbial chess board set up between him and the Imperial Guard. “A threat?” he asked. “Must I lie and say I would leave here full of joy after the experiences I’ve had here? What would cause that feeling, Majesty? A continual rebuttal of my offer to help? A staunch refusal to give me that answer so that I may decide whether to take my leave or not? I suppose the tea was very good, but alas...not quite enough to make me skip out of the Jade Court with glee.”
Yet he could leave with that satisfaction of gaining more information. Just as Hou Xin did not know about the place Erra came from, he too did not know about the Imperial City, the Jade Court or the inner workings of this region. He knew upon his arrival that it was a spiritual place, one could feel it immediately and if that was not enough, spying the demons and the other preternatural beings would certainly tip off a visitor to these lands. “Ah,” the noise was soft, a sound of understanding. “Coexistence...a balance so serene that one could not say when they left the mortal realm behind to enter this divine court.” Erra felt the energy of the Guard, he felt the mysticism of the city despite the confusion of the attack, and in the presence of the Jade Emperor he could attest to that Heavenly space.
He may not show it, but there was a sense of awe. How could there not be? The Jade Emperor's presence demanded it even if he himself did not.
Despite that sensation, however, Erra could never be swayed from his course. His selfish path that would see him amass such strength he could destroy this world and dance in the ashes of his Creator when he finally destroyed Him. And then...then what he truly desired would be his, freedom. An endless frontier where he might once again become a pioneer, shining his light - corrupted or not - on the shadows of undiscovered realms.
“I could be petty...and point out that I’m hardly the only guilty party here when it comes to impertinence, threats and wicked games. Oh I won’t actually play at innocence, I’m sure you can feel who I am...what I am. You know innocence is far beyond me now.” For he imagined as much as he could feel the emperor’s goodness, he in turn must feel Erra’s corruption. Gods seldom needed words to explain their natures.
“And perhaps you see beyond what is now to what once was,” he continued, his voice distant. Erra came here to kill the Jade Emperor and consume his power, but as it stood now he could not be foolish enough to attack. His Second, Ishum, was beyond the Imperial City and thus could not aid him and it was as the emperor said, he was outnumbered here. “I want my power restored,” he said bluntly, eyes trained solely on the emperor though he was still acutely aware of Hou Xin and Ning Chen’s presence. “I was once the sun, light...life,” he smirked because Erra never wanted anyone to see the hurt coiling inside him like a great snake, vicelike around his heart. “I feel limited as I am now,” his power was higher when he was not consumed by the blight, though less inherently destructive. “If you are capable of undoing the curse of another God as powerful as yourself then I will pledge the strength I do have to help right the wrongs committed here earlier.”
His eyes narrowed. “No more drawing circles, no more avoiding the offer. Are we to help one another or not? There are others I may speak to, and I grow tired of repeating myself. Give me your answer, majesty.” A brief pause of silence and his lips curled up, though his eyes remained untouched. “Please.”