In the Forbidden Courtyard of the Xue* family's home, a young man silently stood to gaze at a dead tree. He could not remember whether the plant had been a fruit-bearing tree or a regular green tree. Looking past the dead tree, he could see flowering peach trees with light pink flowers, maple trees donning red leaves, golden ginkgo trees and lively birds perched upon the thinnest branches.
He could hear the sweet melodies of the winged creatures mixed with the whistle of a soft breeze and the rustling leaves. He treasured these sounds because only in them could he find peace amidst the constant shouting in his home. This home was like a prison, keeping him locked away from the large world for committing his sins.
His sins? Being a worthless child who was uninterested in cultivation. On top of that, the was the only son of the strongest cultivators. Two strong parents produced a child who cannot cultivate properly, a disgrace to the family name. He is still considered an invalid even by children half his age, years after losing his original surname.
His name is Wu Yong*. It was Xue Yong until his seventh birthday, the year boys normally start practicing sword fighting and the year they choose their lifetime weapon. In a way, Wu Yong had been disowned by his family for years but his parents thought it was better to lock him in the house instead of kicking him onto the streets. The lunatic* boy would surely cause trouble and bring disgrace to the Xue family.
Wu Yong had brought out his old guqin* to join nature in creating music. It was also the only thing he could think of doing. His instrument is missing three strings out of seven but he still plays the broken guqin happily just like a lunatic. He slid his right hand down the long wooden body of the instrument, touching it tenderly. The ruined instrument must be the most expensive item he owned and even then, it was not worth more than six bronze coins. His parents do not bother with treating him like a young master.
They realized that there is no hope for their only son, so he was immediately cast aside to make space for a new son. Shortly after being disowned, Wu Yong had to attend the adoption ceremony of the next son, an orphan boy who was three years his senior. This boy was also familiar with the cultivation world, easily outshining the former child of the Xue family. Xue Liang* became the sole young master of the house and he proved this in front of his predecessor time and time again. He enjoys a lavish lifestyle and many families beg him to join theirs.
Wu Yong sat on a brittle chair and placed the guqin on his lap due to the lack of an outdoor table. The young man sighed as he plucked the fine strings, struggling to create a beautiful tune with four strings. The brief moment of peace ended when the doors to the courtyard were kicked open. Through the portal, Wu Yong saw his biggest nemesis, Xue Liang. He could see the man smirking at him.
Xue Liang invited himself into the courtyard while turning his nose up in disgust, "Is the trash attempting to play the guqin? How feminine! Little lunatic, why bother us with your irritating music? My mother and father told me to shut you up but I will do more than that." He slid his sword out of its sheath, holding it horizontally in front of his face. For dramatic effect, Xue Liang wiped the sword with his palm.
Yu Wong saw what is to come so he quickly tucked his instrument under the chair, trying to cover it with his ragged robes. Xue Liang knew the guqin was the only thing Yu Wong loved and the younger man would protect it like it is his life. Yu Wong got up from his seat to lead Xue Liang to the center of the courtyard, hoping to turn the man away from his prized possession.
In a mere second, the younger man is thrown to the ground with a sword pointing at his neck and a foot on his chest. Xue Liang pressed his foot harder the more Yu Wong struggled under him. It felt as if his lungs are collapsing inside his chest. This cultivator is like the others who enjoy sitting on top of weaker people and use their level of refinement to justify their wrongdoings. Wu Yong has experienced this for years living in the Forbidden Courtyard.
"Look at you, how weak! If you took up the sword when you were younger, you could be in my place today. Ah, Mother told me you were hopeless since you cannot reach the Sword Stage*. I take back my words, you were worthless since your birth. I pity Mother and Father but I must thank you again. You were weak last year, last month and yesterday. Will you ever stop being an invalid?" Xue Liang dismounted the younger man, a triumphant smile shining on his face.
Xue Liang walked over to the chair guarding the guqin. Yu Wong got up from his dusty resting place to stumble frantically toward the chair. Xia Liang turned to glance at the younger man, smiling as he cut a string with his sword. He placed the blade above the next one when Yu Wong screamed for the cultivator, begging him not to cut more. Playing with three strings is already impossible.
"What can you do if I cut this? All you can do is beg and even then, I want to destroy this insignificant instrument." The cultivator laughed loudly as his blade sunk into the body of the guqin. Not only did he cut the strings but he also cut the instrument in half. He walked out of the courtyard, leaving Wu Yong wailing in pain on the ground. "Shut up! If you do not want my parents to discipline you, shut your mouth."
Wu Yong swallowed his voice as he crawled to the broken instrument. Xue Liang has long disappeared but his actions left a sting on his heart and mind. Wu Yong clutched the two pieces of wood with trembling hands, his whole body shook with rage but he knows that he cannot touch Xue Liang even if he wanted to.
The young man shuffles back into his quarters, shutting the thin door behind him. He stared at the almost empty room that he called his chambers. Instead of a bed a thin straw mat was given to him. Over the years the mat became ragged and grey. Other than that piece of furniture there is nothing else a person can use in the room.
The Forbidden Courtyard housed a mistress the Xue Sect leader brought decades ago and when she died, it was also the year Wu Yong was disowned. His biological parents kept him locked away in a private prison for months before transferring the boy to this abandoned house. The fine furniture had been cleared from the house as soon as the boy stepped into the house.
Wu Yong forgot the feeling of sitting on smooth, mahogany benches. He forgot the taste of salt, meats and vegetables. He even forgot how to smile or laugh. He cannot sing as he pleases or he would be punched by the patriarch of the house. He cannot do anything in this house except eat a single bowl of plain rice a day and stare at cracked walls.
When the guqin was still functional he could challenge himself by making music with the few strings left but now, he cannot even strum the instrument once. Wu Yong picked up a wooden bowl he does not recall placing on the windowsill. His blood boiled and once his top was blown, he throws the bowl at the door.
The bowl broke through the door and landed in the center of the courtyard. Wu Yong could only stare at the gap in the door because he never had such strength. Suddenly, a person appeared in front of the startled man. This person wore pure white clothes that seemed to glow using the rays from the sun. She looked ethereal, almost like an immortal.
"Xue Yong, lunatic of the Xue family and the disgrace of the phoenix cultivators! I am a messenger sent from the heavens to fulfill the wishes of the deceased Demon King." The woman puts a finger on her lips to tell Wu Yong to listen to her before speaking. The silver ornaments in her hair chimed as she moved her head. The young mortal obeyed her immediately. "You are the new Demon King and I will give you his accumulated powers in a short moment. It will not hurt much but you must be quiet to avoid suspicion."
Wu Yong struggled against the woman to realize his attempts to escape her celestial hands were futile. As the immortal placed her hand on his forehead, he felt his insides burn painfully. He tried to let out a shout, but the immortal slapped her left hand onto his mouth, preventing any noise from escaping him. He obeyed her order to stay quiet, yet it felt like his body would tear from the inside.
"The Demon King chose you to be his successor, which I think is ridiculous. He should have chosen a strong cultivator, but he chose a sheltered boy like you. Despite all that, I must fulfill his death wish so he may rest well in the Netherworld. Once you receive his full power, you will feel extremely sick for up to a year, but when you are better, you must use your new powers to protect his people. Protect the Demons from the so-called righteous cultivators!" Her hand lifts from his forehead which meant the transfer of power is finished. She knows the next half of his life would be littered with tribulations but she felt he will come out on top.
"Wait!" Wu Yong called after the immortal when she starts dissolving into the air. He has so many questions to ask but that single yell made his throat feel sore. His legs gave under him as if his body is suddenly shutting down but Wu Yong felt stronger than before. Falling to the ground no longer hurt him which raised his anxiety. The immortal must not be an illusion because he feels sick and powerful. He weakly reached out, watching helplessly as his guide vanished right in front of his eyes.
"Demon King? I have never heard of anyone using this title when I was still outside. I do know of a song about the first Demon King though. Did someone finally rise to call himself Demon King? The dead man chose me to protect his people, Demons whom I do not know personally?" Wu Yong could not believe his life at this point and he concluded that he truly is a madman. It was a wonder how he did not receive illusions during the past eleven years of being trapped in this small house.
Wu Yong lay on the straw mat, suddenly feeling feverish. It would be lunchtime soon and someone will come to deliver his daily bowl of rice. Wu Yong hoped the person would not come before his fever breaks because if he is found sick, Lady Xue will make him take testing pills. In the past, he was sick often due to lack of heat during bitter winters and lack of liquids during scorching summers.
He would take pills that were not proven to work. Many medicines were still in the process of being developed and refined by the Xue pharmacies. For a bit, he believed the medicine would heal him but he soon realized that each pill was different from the previous. Some had side effects, some were effective and others did not affect his body at all. Wu Yong wished he could refuse the medicine and use the time to heal but he also feared his illnesses worsening. Xue people truly knew how to control him.
Just when Wu Yong feels something like a hard kick to the abdomen, the door opened. A servant walked over to the straw mat and kicked Wu Yong in the leg. Looking down at him distastefully, the servant placed the bowl of rice beside the face of the crazy man. The rice deliverer rushed out of the house and Wu Yong could guess the gender of the servant without looking.
Male servants are afraid of him more than females as a result of a strange rumour that spread years ago. The story goes that one night Wu Yong was found behind his house flirting with an older boy. This false information spread life wildfire days before the poor boy got disowned and locked up. The males delivering his food feared the lunatic would make a move on them.
Wu Yong used to admire handsome men, that is true but he would never hold hands with a male. He always found the most beautiful things the best to look at, which may have caused the rumour to spread. He stared at the men he thought looked like gods and often times he would stare for too long. It was his fault the rumour started. Can anyone blame him for liking aesthetic sights?
Wu Yong was and still is an introverted person. When he was still able to roam outside he preferred to read books under the shade or practice playing all sorts of instruments on the rooftops. He was always forced to join the older boys during training but he would always find his face being shoved in the ground or mud. He would always hide in his room when the other sects visit for feasts or meetings. Listening to cultivators flatter each other did not seem to attract the boy so he hid.
Such a timid and passive person would never be able to stick up for himself and even today, Wu Yong allowed his image to be hacked to pieces. The biological son of the Xue family was reduced to the mentally disturbed homosexual sitting in a dusty corner. Outside people slandered him and praised the Xue family for guarding shielding sick monster from society.
Wu Yong could not shed any tears for they dried out since he was ten. During the first years of life in the Forbidden Courtyard, he underwent great waves of stress and trauma. This caused him to forget many things related to human emotions. Wu Yong also wished each day that he could start cultivating but he knew it was already too late. All he knows now is to suppress his shouts and obey whoever visits him.
The next chapter is an explanation of certain words I have starred. This is a cultivation novel and names are translated so I need to explain things slowly.