A breathtaking tale of a teenage warrior struggling against warmongering nations and secret societies. Yuna, the Kingdom of the Moon, pits itself against Kolari, the Kingdom of the Sun, in a near eternal conflict. Honor, righteousness, evil, and sin fight over the future of these two large empires, and the sword of the chosen brave warrior.
The following story is my original work, meaning I did not translate it from anywhere nor did I copy anyone else. But, it does have its fair share of inspiration.
Growing up, I loved watching my favorite martial arts heroes deck it out for the future of China, whether it was on the big screen or in a dense book. I can still remember all of the Red Flower Heroes from Jin Yong's The Book and The Sword, and the outrageous morality of the Chinese classic Shui Hu Zhuan, or The Water Margin. But, being in America, I also grew up loving many fantasy novels as well, such as The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan and of course, The Lord of the Rings trilogy. These vibrant and surprisingly realistic worlds were a form of escapism, and helped me be creative in ways I never thought possible.
This book is essentially my personal love letter to these stories. I will attempt to blend the two very different but often similar realms of Eastern and Western fantasy together, to create an epic tale.
It will be divided up like a Chinese wuxia (martial heroes) novel: not in a traditional chapter form, but instead more like a serialization. It'll all be clear once you start reading. Additionally, these sections will not be extremely edited. This makes it easier for me to publish material faster, so that you, the reader, can enjoy it as I write. I also want to make one more thing clear: this is my first attempt at writing something of this scale and length. I understand that the quality may not be the greatest as a result, since I'm still ironing out my skills. I'm also going to be making many revisions as I write, but I hope that you can enjoy this story nonetheless.
That's all I have to say. I hope you enjoy my writing, and I hope you can live in the characters and world I've created, much like I have for the fantasy greats.
A New Moon
Three nomads are crossing a valley,
not knowing that Heaven’s eyes were watching.
They talk joyously among themselves, passing time,
oblivious that truth and falsity can disappear in the blink of an eye.
They gaze upon the rugged mountains, smelling the fresh dew,
stepping on the ground which remembers days past.
How sweet it is, that only Heaven and Earth last.
The road ahead was uncertain, at best.
The merchant couldn’t help but feel uneasy. Peace was promised today, sure, but it was filled with omens. The night before he couldn’t sleep well, a feeling of dread overwhelming his senses. In the morning he felt cold, almost freezing, even though the sun was as bright as ever. When he got to the pickup destination, the hermit shared with him a vision of a lightning storm. And now, as he trudged ahead toward his liege’s castle in Domara and stared at the bright, blazing sun, he couldn’t feel its protection. Its warmth escaped him.
Maybe I’m just being superstitious, he thought. It’s The Eternal Dawn. Nothing can possibly happen today.
The more he reflected, the heavier his sack felt. It drew him in. This scroll. This prophecy. My liege had me travel all this way, under the burning sun, but doesn’t let me see the message? Nonsense.
His feet baked in his leather boots as he walked along the road. When he finally saw the sun set and the night begin to appear, he couldn’t be happier. Funnily enough, the moon seemed to be comforting tonight. He could finally rest.
The merchant set up his tent by the side of the road, started a fire and reheated his packed oats. While shoveling the gruel into his mouth, he couldn’t help but look at his sack next to him. It tempted him. It called to him. It needed him. He broke into a cold sweat. What if I just take a peek, he thought. How would my liege ever know?
He set his bowl on the ground and reached into his sack. The scroll felt thin, had no wax seal, and was slightly unrolled by the time he got it out. He opened it swiftly, the curiosity gnawing at his mind. He read the first few words: “On the eighth day of -”.
A rustle. Just as quickly as he turned around, blood spewed from his neck, spraying all over the ground. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t scream. His ears rang. His eyes began to blur. As he slumped to the floor, he could make out two things: the blood moon above, and the crescent on the robe of the dark figure standing over him.
A Man Meets a Flower
Kulin was born twice: first as a boy, second as a man.
As a boy, he never really knew where he was or where he was going. But he could remember two things: his father’s face, and the vast, speckled red moon above. His father’s face was clear as day; boxy, rugged, unshaved, and with eyes that looked through him. And the red moon appeared every night, fading in from the deep velvet horizon and slowly filling the empty twilight of the night sky. He felt at his strongest when it watched over him.
As a man, he always knew where he was, who he was, and why he was. He was Kulin, a 17-year-old man born from simple parents from a simple land. But, his real parents weren’t the ones who gave birth to him, no, his real parents were the ones that knew him, the ones who came out and fed a grimy, starving boy, the ones who gave him a warm roll to sleep on instead of a freezing, rigid wood floor. He was also Kulin, the blacksmith’s apprentice. But, most importantly, he was Kulin, the Murai.
As he lounged on the roof of the emerald decorated, curved entry gate of the estate, he watched the city below. The capital, Tenmun. Short, plain, wooden pagodas dotted the landscape, but the narrow streets and alleys were decorated with vibrant red ribbons and paper lanterns. Cheering people wearing long, elegant robes of all colors packed the streets, enjoying the festivities of The Eternal Dusk by throwing coins and fishing in the river which ran through the center of the city. The Eternal Dusk was the annual celebration of the birth of the kingdom. On that day, every year, no battles were fought. No lives lost.
The liveliness reminded him of his hometown. He wondered how many years had passed since he last saw it. The farms. The fields. The bright market filled with fresh livestock, and fresh whores. A tinge of nostalgia went through him but was quickly replaced by a burning resentment. They left me here, he thought. They left me here to die. He felt his blood boil over.
As he scowled at the red moon above, cursing its name, he heard a slight rustle in the bushes below. He snatched his wooden sword and jumped down to see what it was, landing with an incredible force. If it was an animal, he could kill it and eat it the next day. If it was a human, he could kill them for trespassing and bring honor to his name. He stood tall and pointed his sword at a bush, shouting:
“Whoever’s in this bush, I know you’re in there. Come out now and face me.”
He repeated himself, this time more annoyed: “Whoever’s in this bush, by Yuna, come out. There’s no use in hiding, I know you’re in there. If you don’t surrender immediately, you will be struck with a blow greater than Her Grace’s mercy.”
Still no response.
He began jabbing wildly at the bush, ripping it apart and sending pieces of it flying in all directions. He couldn’t find anything. Angered, he went into a frenzy, taking out most of the bush when he suddenly heard a loud thump and an annoyed “Ow!” coming from underneath the end of his sword. He leaned in over the closer edge of the bush and saw a curved, delicate figure in a fetal position, rubbing its head. It was Fa.
Fa was a plain-looking girl, though the more he looked the more he realized that today she had an air of beauty around her. She wore a long, ornamented, pink lotus-colored robe, and her hair was curled and braided, with a gold hairpin in the shape of the butterfly. A fitting look for an unmarried young woman.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, in shock. She came to see him often, but he didn’t expect her to come around today. He thought she was down in the city, celebrating with her family.
“The same could be said for you, idiot.” Fa snapped back, still in pain. “You should be down there,” she said, pointing at the city below. “Enjoying what the Eternal Dusk has to offer.”
Kulin groaned. He was never really fond of festivities, preferring to stay inside to practice his swordsmanship, write poetry, or even practice smithing with his master. After all, Yuna, both the kingdom and god, needed warriors, artists, and weapons.
But he did enjoy Fa’s company. They were best friends ever since he was brought to his current family, his real family, and her company brought him warmth, no matter how he was feeling. She was the only person who could move him. She was the only person who understood.
“Fine,” he grumbled. “But only if you get me one of those fried squid balls.”
She smiled for a second, then quickly punched him on the arm. “That’s for hitting me with your stupid sword.” She ran off, stopped a few feet ahead, turned around and said with her signature cheeriness, “I’ll meet you at the shrine where we used to play!”
He watched her head off, her graceful robe dancing in the air behind her. Her hair’s braided today, he thought. Celebrations were meaningless, but they were alright with her.
The Eternal Dusk
Kulin climbed his way back up the estate’s entry gate, grabbed his straw sandals, and jumped down again with gusto. He felt filled with the moon’s energy, invigorated by its watchful eye.
He went through the entry gate and strode across to the west wing of the estate, then opened the sliding paper door that led to his bedroom. Though it was spacious it felt cramped; there was a bamboo sheet mattress, a desk filled with paper, brushes, and an inkstick in the shape of weaving orchid blooms, a drawer filled with clothes of all styles, a tall mirror, his current smithing project, and a few wooden swords - all lying on a plain hay-colored straw floor.
On the walls were many of his poems. He liked to write at night, when his thoughts, memories, and reflections were as clear as the moon above.
He walked up to his drawer and began shuffling through it, eventually settling on a dark green robe with an eagle sewn on the front. It was made of the finest quality silk. He then tied one of his wooden swords to his blue sash belt, admired himself in the mirror, threw on his straw sandals, and ran out, excited for the fried squid balls. At least that’s what he told himself.
Making it through the neighborhood’s entry gate and into the main city, he admired the lights, his thoughts turning to the night ahead. There were paper lanterns on every house, on every storefront, on every candle-lit lamp post. Vendors were selling all types of little trinkets, holiday clothing, and food. Sweet, savory, and umami scents filled his nose, and his mouth was watering in anticipation. But he had to meet up with Fa first.
An idea abruptly came into his mind. If I am lucky, he thought crudely, I can slip away after meeting up with Fa and visit the brothels father is always talking about. After all, Kolari won’t try something today. Listening to Fa and coming down here for once was actually a good idea.
He smiled to himself as he walked for about half a mile, his thoughts occupied with satisfying his human desires. As he neared the temple which housed the shrine, he realized he needed to more pious and tried unsuccessfully to refocus. Excited yet ashamed of his thoughts, he finally reached the east side, where he would meet up with Fa. The temple was the tallest of all the buildings in the city, including the emperor’s palace which was directly behind it. On its roof was an immense crescent moon which always watched the people. Its curved pagoda tops were lavishly decorated with gold lining, and brilliant shades of green, blue, and red were covering its walls. Right above the double door entrance was a plaque of engraved gold that said: “All under Heaven are one.”
All under Heaven are one, he repeated to himself. Of course, Yuna is Heaven. And all heathens that worship the Sun deserve Her Mercy.
Kulin struggled to get into the temple, bumping into and pushing people who were lining up to pay their respects to the central shrine of Her Grace. He forced himself to the shrine where he and Fa were going to meet, the ancestral shrine of his adopted family, all of which were Murai. He looked in himself, feeling the moon’s energy from the temple. The Murai. The ones who serve Yuna, and the ones who serve the people. My blessed duty. I must go into battle so that I will be on this shrine.
As he stood there, both reflecting and praying, he was interrupted with a light poke to his side. He opened his eyes and turned around. It was Fa, along with her mother and brother. They were all dressed elegantly, despite their lack of wealth. It was that time of year - everyone, regardless of class, came down and celebrated. All were equal in Yuna’s eyes.
“What were you praying so hard about?” she asked.
“Oh, nothing, just giving Yuna the usual thanks,” he replied.
“No special questions?” she asked, probing him further.
“You sure you weren’t praying about fighting in a battle someday?” she pressed.
He felt a mix of embarrassment and annoyance, then replied:
“Well, maybe I was. But what’s so bad about that? I’d rather charge into battle than be stuck helping Mr. Rin make swords all day,” he said, much more irritatedly.
“Well, making swords is much better than wasting all the years you have ahead of you. Please, for the love of Heaven, slow down! If you love Yuna so much, be thankful she saved you from your old life and enjoy the one you have right now!”
That pushed him over the edge. No one, absolutely no one mentioned his old family like that in front of him. He was teeming with rage. She of all people should understand how much he hated them. Why would she mention them at all? Why did she have to say anything? Who was she to remind him?
He immediately went for the door. As he walked past, he apologized to her mom and brother for the inconvenience and said that he would be celebrating the night alone. He glared at Fa, and she responded with a scowl of her own. Rushing out of the temple, his mind was half occupied with anger and half occupied with trying to maintain control. Then, he remembered that today he could go to a brothel. After all, that’s what he really looked forward to.
While Kulin strode toward the red-light district on the west side of the city, he couldn’t help but think about Fa’s attitude. She was usually great. He told her about everything in his life over the years, and she not only listened, but also supported him. That was the side of her that he liked. That was the side of her he most often saw. But every once in a while, whenever he mentioned how he needed to fulfill his duty as a warrior, she became almost a completely different person. He never understood that part of her. And now, more than ever, it was getting on his nerves.
After what seemed like seconds of thought but was really minutes of walking, he was in the red-light district. He glanced at the moon, slowly calming himself. I should make up with her tomorrow, he thought. She’s someone I –
His thought was interrupted by the sweet, alluring smell of perfume. He turned to his right. A vivid purple sign on a small building advertised “The Fragrant Princess”, a local prostitute said to be the bastard child of the previous emperor. While reading it, the perfume overwhelmed him. He needed to forget about Fa. His lust piqued. He couldn’t help himself. He had to do it.
He pushed aside the ornamented doorway curtains and went in. An old brothel-keeper greeted him, and he asked about the Fragrant Princess. She told him that at the moment, luckily, she was free.
“Is she really of royal blood?” he asked.
“Of course,” the brothel-keeper said. “And I have the documents right here to prove that she is the daughter of the previous Son of the Moon, conceived shortly before his death.”
Kulin examined the papers. They had the Imperial Seal, so they were official government documents. He was satisfied.
He reached into his pocket, held his money tightly, and handed it all to her. The old woman counted it, nodded, and called out “Hua!”. Hua appeared from behind a pink curtain.
She was heavenly, as expected of someone with royal blood. Her sable black hair looked like the world’s finest silk, not a single strand out of place. It was held together by an emerald, lotus-shaped hairpin which complemented her pale, innocent face with perfect, accented almond-shaped eyes. Her figure was like a cherry blossom – thin, gentle, and intensely alluring. As she approached, the perfume grew stronger. It was much more concentrated, but it was also incredibly delicate. She grabbed his hand and led him into her bedroom.
Fully clothed, she was stunning. Completely naked, she was as bright as Yuna above. He couldn’t hold himself back. He needed to forget. As he ravished her and embraced her warmth in the cold chill of night, he could stop thinking about the world. He thought only of her scent and his own content.
He woke up as the sun rose. She was lying next to him, still asleep, still as delicate as ever. As he got up and reached for his pants, he heard four bells in succession. The signal of death. Finally, a chance for real battle.
The Sun’s Demons had come.