36 comments

Fantasy East Asian

The King of the Dead rose from his stone coffin with the tattered tangles of his once-royal robes hanging from his limbs. Bandages to cover up the damage of his ruined skin. He pushed his matted hair from his face, his crown nowhere in sight.

He walked on the snow-covered cave floor, ice crunching under his bare feet. He inhaled. Breath whistled into his cold lungs. The air was spiced with a faint flowery scent.

An insignificant sting punctured his chest. Wind snaked through the tears in his clothing. Humming faintly, he pinched the jagged shard of metal protruding from his flesh and pulled.

Left side. That was the heart, was it not?

He threw the blade fragment to the ground – the only kind of blade that could place the King of the Dead closest to the dead himself.

But not quite.

Ten generations of rulers in the Yin world whose thrones he had reared, and they had dared to stand by as a blade was stuck into his heart. The heart that had never beat since the moment he was born.

It was the way he was meant to be.

So, was he alive?

He emerged from the cave, able to feel the pinpricks of frigidity from the snowy mountain winds; he knew dead people couldn’t feel that.

He looked around at the wasteland for fallen gods. Was he a fallen god? He had been the most powerful and feared, struck down by the son born from a mere shadow in his dreams. He had never been fallen… just resting.

It must have been hundreds of years. How changed was the world? Could he still make flowers die? Here, the sign of the end of winter came when a single white rose pushed through the snow.

Why the one?

Because all the others never made it.

He found it on the edge of the mountainside, unwavering. If only I could be sorry, strongest one. Closing his palms over the thin petals, he felt it shrivel under his touch.

That’s right. Death belongs to me.

He had named his son Kalleian. It meant the dust before the storm. Because that was what he was. A tiny, insignificant thing that warned destruction.

But he had been wrong. Kalleian hadn’t been the dust before the storm. Nor had he been the storm. He had been the lightning that snapped through the sky at just the right moment.

He didn’t hate his son. Far from it. He was proud that Kalleian had the ability to send him into hibernation for hundreds of years. Not many regular folk were capable of that.

The King smiled at a momentary halt in the wind. So subtle of a shift that only the truly familiar would be akin to. See, son, you say I don’t love you, yet I always know when you are near.

“Come to greet your father?” the King said.

The winds howled in response.

*  

The child had manifested from shadows – gained physical form and grew into the size of a toddler in mere hours, able to speaks the languages of all creatures; humans, demons, anything in between.

If the King were to describe him, the spirits of the dead would think him a princess. Skin as white as snow. Hair as black as the darkest rose. It was the eyes that took him by surprise. Two pale sheets of faded blue – sharp, piercing and cold.

No human would be able to withstand that gaze.

He watched the Yin rulers who each had control of a realm – one dimension of torture for those who had committed that wrong. Only the truly saint-like could pass through all the trials without being tied to a realm – it was designed to be unfair.

Most people were not saints.

Eighteen realms of hell for the murderers, liars, the disrespectful, the foolish.

And he commanded it all.

A child had come before him, having passed the trials. The only thing she needed was the King’s blessing. He had bent down, stroked the child’s soft cheeks. “Kalleian,” he said, reaching for his son, who was watching from behind. “Touch her forehead, and give her the blessing.”

“What blessing?” Kalleian asked.

“The blessing to be reborn,” the King replied. He did as he was told, and the child disappeared with a burst of light. “See, son, it is not entirely darkness and suffering down here. I can sit on this throne, and tell you that light exists.”

“I want to see it, Father,” Kalleian said. “Where those humans live. I want to see their life.”

“You cannot, child,” the King said. “Down here, I can protect you. But up there, that place is the true hell. You have seen the torture these disgusting humans will spend eternity enduring for what they have done.” He gripped Kalleian’s shoulders. “So, no. I will not let you.”

Kalleian didn’t speak about it again until he reached twenty. Still a child. Nothing compared to the King’s thousands of years of existence.

“I hear you have been spending your time with the humans again,” the King said.

“You will not let me go to their world,” Kalleian said. “So I will hear stories from them. They tell me of flowers and birds, the stars in the sky, embraces they long to feel again. You only tell me of treachery and cruelty, as if you have treated me any different.”

“You doubt my love for you?” the King said. Not growling, not bellowing. “I warn you not to go because of my love. You truly want to know what flowers are made for – they are made to be looked at, and then die.” He faced his back to Kalleian. “Since you are so desperate to go, I can only lock the gates. You cannot see that world. Unless you would like to stick a blade in my heart.”

He understood his son’s desires. Long ago, he had walked the Yang world, curious of the human ways. He had even loved another. Once. He never could again.

He didn’t think Kalleian would actually pierce his heart, nor did he think the Yin rulers would help him. But humans surprised him all the time, so he shouldn’t deny his son credit.

However, that moment when Kalleian’s hand was still on the handle of the dagger, faced with the prospect of what he had done, his eyes remained cold.

Humans might have thought, goodness, what have I raised? But the King only thought, if you have the nerve to do this, you might just have the nerve to endure the trials of the living. However, I cannot promise you will be left unbroken.

*  

“You took me into the Yang world with you,” the King said. “Couldn’t part from your dear old father?” Kalleian’s footsteps were soft on the snow. He was no longer the smooth-faced, naïve little boy. There was a crease between his brows, a tightness in his mouth.

“It has been four hundred years,” Kalleian replied. “I have lived four hundred years without you.”

“What an achievement,” the King said. “How is this world you so longed to see?”

“Cruel, violent, revolting,” Kalleian said. “Just as you told me.” He glanced down at the white rose the King had killed. Brushing his fingers on the crumpled petals, the flower rose again, the petals bloomed to match the snow as if someone had wound back time.

Kalleian smiled – an action the King had never seen. “Yet it is only here that I have known happiness. Even if it never lasts.”

“You have been here,” the King said. “The throne has remained empty for four centuries.”

“I go back occasionally, bless a few souls,” Kalleian said. “The Yin world has no need for a king. Yanxalan.” No one had ever dared to speak his name. Then again, no one had dared to stab him through the heart.

He inhaled, turning his palm to encompass the swirling shadows. His crown materialised in his hands. Black, gleaming and beautiful. Yanxalan lifted it to his head, fitting it on his unruly hair.

“You see, Kalleian,” he said. “It is not about whether there is need for a king.” He smiled an eerie reflection of Kalleian’s previously. “Because, once a king. Always a king.”  

March 25, 2021 21:29

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36 comments

Bianka Nova
20:24 Apr 04, 2021

I love mythologies so thank you for giving us a glimpse of a Chinese one. Although this story felt somewhere in between mythology and a fantasy fairytale. Or maybe I read it like that influenced by international children's book day that was just a couple of days ago :) I wouldn't say the story was rushed, but the ending definitely was. Having less time to write myself, I totally understand though. Maybe Reedsy could introduce a monthly contest category for people with lots on their plate ;)

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Yolanda Wu
23:16 Apr 04, 2021

Yeah, I totally agree! Given one week to write a story in my current standing is so hard, so I've been skipping out on all the contests. I still classify the story as fantasy, with Chinese mythology as an influence, so you're right. Thank you so much for reading, Bianka!

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Shannon Ethel
08:03 Apr 01, 2021

Wow! Great world building and interesting premise. Loved this!

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Yolanda Wu
23:00 Apr 01, 2021

Thank you, Shannon!

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David Urquiola
18:21 May 17, 2021

Im new and would like someone who knows their stuff to review my story, please? Thanks

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Yolanda Wu
22:18 May 17, 2021

Sure thing, I'll get to it when I can. :)

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Jewel Robbins
19:05 May 13, 2021

Wow, phenomenal world building! I really enjoyed the suspense leading up to finding out who stabbed him.

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Yolanda Wu
21:20 May 13, 2021

Thank you, Jewel! World building is still something I need to improve on, but I'm glad you enjoyed the one in this story. :)

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Radhika Diksha
23:19 Apr 16, 2021

Hey Yolanda. Hope you are fine and healthy. I love you a lot. I may never be back here. You are my best supporter and friend ever. Thanks for always being at my side. I love you a lot. Please be happy in your life.

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Yolanda Wu
00:09 Apr 17, 2021

Aww, it'll be sad to see you go. Please email me if you ever want to talk.

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Radhika Diksha
17:05 Apr 12, 2021

New story out would love your feedback.

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Yolanda Wu
00:22 Apr 13, 2021

Of course!

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Maya W.
13:34 Mar 26, 2021

Yolanda! Okay, first of all, I'm sorry I only got to reading this now, I said I'd read it in a minute and waited a day. Anyways, on to the story. As always, I love your character and your world building, the East Asian mythology is always so prevalent and it's one of the best settings for high fantasy in my opinion. I do think it really reads less as a short story and more as a flashback in a novel, but that's basically what it is, right? It also felt just a tad bit rushed, maybe that's something to work on. Anyways, incredible, it was great...

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Yolanda Wu
22:53 Mar 26, 2021

Thank you for the feedback, Maya! The reason it might've felt rushed is because I just have no time recently. It's the last week of term one next week and I have three tests. And you're right, it is kinda more of a flashback then an actual short story. Thanks again for reading. :)

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Maya W.
22:55 Mar 26, 2021

Yeah, I've had barely any time lately, either. *Sigh.* Anyways, I just released a new story if you wanna check it out!

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Yolanda Wu
22:57 Mar 26, 2021

I will!

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Yolanda Wu
21:36 Apr 29, 2021

Hi Maya! I finally posted another story after forever. I would love to hear what you think. :)

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Maya W.
21:39 Apr 29, 2021

Oh, awesome! I haven't been doing any writing here in a while, haha. I'll check it out after dinner!

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22:42 Mar 25, 2021

Ahhhh!!! I haven’t seen u in forever, Yolanda! Once again, such a quirky, interesting look on fantasy. Honestly, I don’t really know anyone else who even does East Asian stuff. But you just blow it out of the water :)

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Yolanda Wu
23:47 Mar 25, 2021

Thank you so much, Ethan! I'm glad I'm able to offer a different perspective on fantasy. I love incorporating my culture into my stories and I'm so excited that people are interested by it. :)

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Kristin Neubauer
21:58 Mar 25, 2021

Magical! I’m so glad you’re back, Yolanda. I have missed your writing and worlds of the Four Moon Cycles. This story swept me right back into that world (although I didn’t realize it until I read your note). I absolutely loved how you handled the themes of birth, death and rebirth - very unique and mysterious. I also loved the relationships to nature - the wind and the snow and the lightning and the rose. This was another beautiful story from you that really made my afternoon. Thank you!!

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Kristin Neubauer
21:59 Mar 25, 2021

Oh, I forgot to mention - I have finally posted another story too. Would love to hear your thoughts whenever you have a chance!

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Yolanda Wu
23:46 Mar 25, 2021

Ahh! I'll check it out as soon as I can. Thank you for your lovely comment, since I haven't posted, I wasn't really receiving any feedback, so I wasn't sure about this story, because I wrote this on a Sunday afternoon when I had the slightly sliver of time. Kalleian does play a part in Rhyvahr's narrative in the novel, so I'm excited to write that!

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Kristin Neubauer
18:55 Apr 23, 2021

Hey Yolanda! I miss seeing your stories but totally understand about being busy and (hopefully) finishing your novel. I have finally managed a new story and would love your thoughts if you have a chance. But if not, no pressure at all! I hope you’re well!

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Yolanda Wu
23:03 Apr 23, 2021

I just saw that you posted another story! I was so excited! I will be on it as soon as I can. Maybe I can try and squeeze in a story next week, but no promises, *sigh*. The novel the coming along well, I haven't finished yet, but I've already rearranged some scenes and cut out ten thousand words, hopefully it'll be close to finishing soon.

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Yolanda Wu
21:35 Apr 29, 2021

Hi Kristin! I finally posted another story! I would love to hear your feedback on it. :)

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Kristin Neubauer
23:01 Apr 30, 2021

Hey Yolanda! I managed to sneak in a story just under the wire. It's a silly one, but it's done. Would love to hear your thoughts if you have a chance!

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Yay! New story of yours? I loved it! I started a hashtag, share it to ten friends! #StopDownvotingNow

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Yolanda Wu
23:47 Mar 25, 2021

Thank you!

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Yolanda Wu
21:34 Mar 25, 2021

Guess who's back from the dead? I finally wrote another story for Reedsy after the longest time. School has actually been crazy, but holidays are coming soon, so hopefully I'll be able to post more. Although I'm still writing the first draft of my novel, and brainstorming another novel. The 'hell' in this story is based off of Chinese mythology, hence the reference to Yin and Yang. This is actually still in the world of Four Moon Cycles. I don't think I did Kalleian justice in this story, but I hope you enjoy anyway!

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#StopDownvotingNow #SupportFellowAuthors Share this to ten friends! (Praying for the people in your bio, thank you for the names)

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Ryan Lm Colli
19:52 Apr 08, 2021

What a lovly story meaningful and intense!!! Follow and like mine Lump the trump!

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Shreshta Writer
16:16 May 15, 2021

Awesome job on this story! Please check out mine as well! :)

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Ryan Lm Colli
23:43 May 17, 2021

i will

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Ryan Lm Colli
23:43 May 17, 2021

i will

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