Zui Long: Origins

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nowhereman26
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Mar 19, 2020 9:33 pm

Zui Long: Origins

Postby nowhereman26 » Sat Apr 04, 2020 3:59 pm

Part I

Face is a very important concept in Shou culture. Ideas such as saving face and losing face carry much greater weight than they do in lands farther west. Many of the region’s stories and dramas often involve people from backgrounds, both big and small, going to great lengths to keep up appearances. To many in the land, to appear good and just was to be good and just.

One such man, whether he knew it or not, was a highborn known as Xu Hailong. His father, Xu Dalong was the magistrate of a large town, He’An, in Southern Shou Lung. The Xu’s of He’An were a well-regarded family who would often entertain members of the Emperor’s court, and even the Emperor himself at one time. As Xu Dalong was growing old, he left more and more of his work to Hailong and his younger brother Xu Zhenlong.

Hailong and his brother were very busy as of late as the crown prince would be stopping in He’An later that week during a royal tour. Their father rarely spoke too directly, but he had sat up in bed and grabbed both young men by the hands and explicitly said to them, everything must be perfect. Thus, everything had to be. Everyone’ house had to be in order, all the towns people had been ordered to wear their finest clothes in the week leading up to the visit. It was as of yet unspoken, but well known: No one was to embarrass the Xu Family of He’An, or there would be consequences for all. Some women were even seen brushing dirt off of their chickens’ feathers.

The two brothers had stolen a few moments to practice their pugilism that morning when all the trouble began. The two had just finished a friendly spar when they had noticed a crowd gathering on the main road through town. As they pushed through the masses, they quickly realized why everyone was so panicked. A beggar had wandered into town, filthy and reeking of alcohol and feces, the man shamelessly asked all those gathered around him for spare coin.

“Please...spare a coin for an old timer!" He would implore as he held his cup up for any to donate. Most had the good sense to say nothing, but a few started to reach into their pockets.

“Wait.” Hailong commanded, walking up to the beggar. “Old man, you cannot be here…we are expecting dignified company in the coming days.”

“Eh?” The beggar looked to him. Hailong could tell that man was not of sound mind.

“I said...” He began, louder and slower this time. “You need to move on- “

Hailong didn’t get a chance to finish as the transient leaped forward and grabbed his clothing tightly. The man’s weathered, pock-marked face. Hailong’s lips curled in disgust and hatred. How could this man be so shameless? How could he carry on living as such a disgusting lout?

"Please my lord! Have mercy on me! A bed! A bit of coin to survive is all I ask!" The man's spittle flew everywhere as he yelled.

“Unhand me! I am of the Magistrate’s house!” Hailong pushed at the man, but to no avail, perhaps it was his desperation, perhaps it was his madness, but the beggar’s grip was like iron. Hailong sank low in his stance and pushed forward and out, like he had been trained. The beggar howled as he went flying, some shrieks emerged from the crowd as well, as he slammed onto the ground, there was a cracking sound when he hit and blood pooled quickly under his head.

Hailong, his brother, and the crowd all were silent. A familiar face pushed through the crowd. Lao Shan, as he was called, who had been a sturdy warrior in his youth, had been the primary servant and tutor to the two brothers for most of their lives. His large, bearded face scowled as he inspected the beggar.

“He is gone, milords.” He said solemnly.

It was improper for a gentleman to show too much emotion, but Hailong’s eyes widened a moment in terror as everyone turned to look at him.

“Brother, you killed that man!” Zhenlong rasped quietly.

“The prince will be here tomorrow…” Was all that Hailong could muster. “Lao Shan, I need you to deal with this.”

The older veteran bowed. “As you wish.” He knelt down and picked up the deceased beggar, the blood staining his clothes deeply as he carried him off.

Hailong stood in silence for a moment, before looking to the crowd. “Everyone get back to your business! Say nothing! Everything needs to be perfect for tomorrow!” The crowd, lowering their gazes, obliged, a heaviness in their steps that was not there before.

“Brother…I…” Zhenlong began, his voice quivering.

“Nothing!” Hailong, still panicked, snarled to his younger brother. He turned and began walking back to their family home. “Everything needs to be perfect for tomorrow.”

nowhereman26
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Mar 19, 2020 9:33 pm

Re: Zui Long: Origins

Postby nowhereman26 » Sun Apr 12, 2020 4:05 pm

Part II

That evening the entire Xu clan had dinner, as they often did. Hailong sat in silence as he ate, his posture perfect and his face as tranquil as an empty meadow. Inside, however, his chest felt numb and cold. Hailong felt like he should feel something, but all he could feel was the glacial void. His younger brother, Zhenlong stared with a mix of fury, sorry and confusion at him from across the table, at times like this he was embarrassment really, his heart was always on his sleeve. As their father, wives and uncles all ate and spoke in merry tones around them, the two brothers felt, at the same time, both miles away from the spirited dinner and locked together in a psychological maelstrom.

"Eat, Zhenlong." Hailong was the first to move, gesturing calmly to the spread on the table encouraging him to take some food. His younger brother huffed and stood up.

"I am not hungry!" He hissed as he walked off. The entire family was silent for a moment, doubtlessly, some of them must have heard what had happened earlier that day, but no one had dared to bring up the topic. After a moment, Xu Dalong rose, his hands shaking some due to his advanced age, the rest of the family raised their glasses.

"A toast.." He half grumbled, half rasped. "To family, and doing what must be done, to protect your family... and your name. Stand up, boy."

Even in his advanced age, his stare held a certain weight that always made Hailong somewhat uncomfortable. Hailong rose as modestly as he could and lifted his glass.

"Hear, hear!" Second Uncle and third Uncle both rose and offered their glasses to Hailong as well. The whole family drank then, and the issue was settled. Hailong managed to finish his meal that evening, but the coldness grew sharper as he sat there. So quickly, he thought, somewhat incredulously, this issue had been resolved. Perhaps, he had let his younger brother's naivete affect him too much. Hailong exhaled, he still felt a pit in his chest, but he continued to smile and converse merrily with his family that night, despite how he felt inside.

Zhenlong lurked just outside the family home, listening with disgust at their merriment and apathy. Tears of anger would well, occasionally, and he would wipe them away. He felt anger, he felt hate. He had always looked up to his brother, but now he was unsure of so much. Was Hailong so truly so heartless? Was he going to do something to rectify this heinous crime? The lad exhaled sharply, he was only sure of one thing: Something had to be done, and if his family wasn't going to do it, then he would have to. Xu Zhenlong rose with a newfound determination, and slipped into the darkness of the night.

nowhereman26
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Mar 19, 2020 9:33 pm

Re: Zui Long: Origins

Postby nowhereman26 » Wed Apr 15, 2020 4:26 pm

Part III

The chill in Xu Hailong's chest grew into a dull ache over the night, but any anxiety or guilt was quickly overshadowed the next day by the Prince's arrival. Overshadowed, but not eliminated, to be sure. Everyone in the township was rushing around, making last minute preparations. Even their father, who usually remained in bed or in his chair was up and about, moving as best as he could. His brother Zhenlong had been unusually quiet that morning as the two prepared their best outfits and their servants fix their hair. Hailong was just about to carefully mention the previous night's drama when their father limped inside in a hurry.

"Begone!" Xu Dalong barked at the servants, who bowed their heads quickly and backed away as gracefully and as efficiently as they could.

"He is here! His highness has arrived! Get ready!" Their father was rarely this animated.

Hailong rose and adjusted his outfit some before turning to follow their father. Zhenlong sighed softly, quelling some sort of anxiety, before rising. At the time, Hailong thought nothing of it.

The Crown Prince Chin Wuwei's sedan was escorted by twenty spear men and carried by two bulky, servants. It was greeted by the brothers, their father and their two uncles as it entered the town square. The five men sank to their knees and kowtowed as the the Prince was announced by his crier, and exited the sedan.

"Rise.." The prince looked to be no older than the brothers, Hailong and Zhenlong, but he carried himself with a pride typical of royals that made him seem much older, and taller than he really was. As the men rose, introductions were given by Dalong. While each of the Xu men greeted the prince individually, another man emerged from the sedan. Donning a straw hat painted red and blue robes marking him as a royal guard, he crossed his arms and appraised the situation with cold, calculating eyes. The man presented a stark juxtaposition the Prince; while the monarch was fire, he was ice.

"A favored servant of the throne, Inspector Ma." The prince explained calmly as he noticed Hailong's glance to the man. "He is serving as an additional bodyguard for this royal tour. "

The Xu men exchanged glances. Inspector Ma needed no introduction; The famous detective and lawman's name was known throughout the kingdom for his intellect, wisdom, and even brutal tenacity when dealing justice.

nowhereman26
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Mar 19, 2020 9:33 pm

Re: Zui Long: Origins

Postby nowhereman26 » Thu Apr 23, 2020 4:01 pm

Part IV

After a brief respite the Prince and most of his men had sat down to dinner with the Xu family. The dinner went surprisingly well. Not a single dish was misplaced, nor did a wayward drop of wine find its way onto the tablecloth. The prince was very satisfied, and offered not a single word of complaint. Hailong’s father could barely contain his smile. Only one member of the Prince’s entourage was missing. The infamous Inspector Ma was absent, instead leaving two royal guards in his place to guard his highness.

In fact, by the time dinner had finished, Hailong and his brother had nearly forgotten the issues hanging heavy on their hearts. This brief hiatus was cut very short, however. As the Xu men escorted the Prince to his accommodations for the evening, another Imperial guard waited for them solemnly just outside the entrance of the dining hall. The Prince and Xu men’s mirth faded as they noticed the man.

The guardsman prostrated before the prince. “Your highness…Inspector Ma humbly requests your presence…there is a problem.”
Xu Dalong exchanged a worried glance with his two sons as they followed the Prince out to the courtyard. When they arrived, Hailong felt his heart sink. Lao Shan was on his knees in front of Inspector Ma, several guardsmen had their blades held against him.

“Inspector, explain this.” The prince demanded calmly.

Inspector Ma kowtowed as the prince arrived, and quickly rose to explain. “As we arrived here, an anonymous source revealed to me that I should investigate this servant’s home. This man, Lao Shan, had a freshly killed corpse hidden in his garden.” He offered the note he had received to the Prince respectfully.

“How terrible.” The prince said with a frown, examining the anonymous letter.

Hailong and his family were silent. Lao Shan, a bit bloodied at this point, looked to Zhenlong and Hailong, he had taken care of them since they were small, and he would never besmirch their name.

“We will punish him appropriately your highness!” Their father announced as he hobbled before the prince, and prostrated before him.

“Please forgive this embarrassment.”

“Your highness, this is an insult to you, you cannot let it stand.” The inspector countered with an eerie coldness.

Zhenlong gave a pleading look to his brother. Hailong looked back, frozen in time. They both knew that Lao Shan would be executed on the spot, being a commoner. If the son of a favored noble admitted to the crime, they would likely only receive a dressing down and of course, a major loss of face for their entire family. It was clear what Zhenlong wanted him to do, but Hailong found he couldn’t move. Yes, he was scared, but there was something else. Something dark and reptilian came over him as he realized couldn’t ruin his family’s name! After all, Lao Shan was just a servant. He exhaled, both relieved and disappointed in himself.

The prince looked down at Lao Shan for what seemed an eternity.

“Very well, Make it quick.” The prince and his entourage began to move past the scene. Hailong and Zhenlong lingered a moment, unable to peel themselves away.

“For casting a bad omen on the Prince’s royal tour, and for the slaying of another, you are sentenced to death.” Inspector Ma said as he raised Lao Shan to his feet and flexed the fingers of his free hand into a shape like that of a claw. “As is your family, in accordance with the law.” He added as the Prince was out of ear shot. Lao Shan’s eyes widened, no longer content to lay down his life for the two sons of his master, but it was too late. There was a crunching sound as the famed Iron Wyvern Claw technique of Inspector Ma sunk into his chest and squeezed, crushing the area around his heart, and then finally the heart itself.

Lao Shan collapsed, blood streaming from his nose and mouth. The large man grasped futilely at the inspector’s boots.
“My lords...” he gurgled at the two Xu boys just as he faded away, his tone was ambiguous. Was it anger? Was he pleading with them? The question would haunt the pair for the rest of their days.

Inspector Ma nodded to the guards who remained with him. “Clean this mess, and take care of the wife and son.” They bowed their heads and filed off into the village with their grim order, dragging Lao Shan’s body with them.

The cold in Hailong’s chest ripped through him again. He looked over to his right and realized that he had been holding his brother’s arm, keeping him from interfering. Zhenlong tugged and tugged and finally broke free, the pleading look in his eyes had turned into something else.

“Boys!” Their father called from the far end of the street, waiting with the entourage. “Come along now! We must escort the prince back to his chambers!”

Hailong and Zhenlong stared at each other for a moment. Hailong was as composed as ever on the outside, while Zhenlong’s legs shook with anger. The moment passed and they both turned and began to follow their father and the entourage once again.
Inspector Ma watched the two of them curiously as they walked on either side of him, giving him a wide berth. He had suspected their was more to this murder, and these two young nobles knew something.

“Hmph!” He flicked the blood from his fingers and crossed his arms behind his back, turning to follow as well. He would be expected to rejoin the Prince’s side after all. How fortuitous. The faintest ghost of a smile tugged at his lips.


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