Title: Embracing My Yin
Fandom: Dark Heavens/Journey to Wudang
Spoilers: General spoilers through to Book 4, Earth to Hell; specific spoilers for the end of Book 3 and parts of Book 4.
Summary: "I feel as if I'm living in a fairytale, where I've completed the three impossible tasks set for the prince."
Length: 4,376 words
Notes: Many thanks to ohginnyfan for the beta.
"I will give you my hand, on three conditions."
"Name them," the dragon said defiantly.
"One," Simone said, "You must defeat the Lady Emma in armed combat. Not to the death, as she is not Immortal."
..."Next, you must defeat me in battle," Simone said, perfectly calm. "Again, not to the death, as I also am not Immortal."
"And?" the dragon said.
"Then, after defeating Lady Emma, and defeating me, the suitor must embrace me." She summoned yin over her raised arms so that it floated around her pale hands and the blade of the sword. "Embrace me, and my nature. Embrace my yin."
Earth to Hell, Chapter 7.
Part I – aged 26/16
The Jade Emperor sent a message down to Earthly Wudang. The red lacquered box held a scroll of rice paper. The red characters on the scroll simply read "Congratulations and Best Wishes."
Part II - aged 16/6
Simone wouldn't come out for breakfast. Rhonda had been pleading with her to get up, from the doorway after Simone screamed and ordered everyone out of her room.
Michael, already in his school uniform, slammed the door open and walked over to the bed. Simone was curled in a ball, her sheets pulled over her head.
"Won't," said the bundle of blankets.
"My Lady, Princess Simone, only human daughter of the Dark Lord of the North Heavens, you will be late for school if you do not get up right now," Michael said sweetly.
"I'm pretty sure you will. School starts in an hour." Michael shrugged. "Of course, you can always get dressed in the car; that might save some time."
"So you want to go to school in your pyjamas?"
"No, I'm not getting up!" The sheets moved slightly, and brown eyes glared out at Michael. "I hate you."
Michael grinned, not trying to hide it from her. "I hate you, too. The only reason I'm still here is because I promised Leo I'd look after you. Otherwise, I wouldn't stay with such an insufferable brat."
Simone sat up, a look of outrage on her face. Her eyes were red and her face shiny. "You're here because you swore an oath to Daddy. You're my Retainer, and I can order you out of here." Her voice rose. "Go!"
"Actually, I'm Lord Xuan's Retainer. And he appointed me as your bodyguard, once Leo died. Which means you can't order me anywhere, since I have to protect you."
"Not in my ROOM!"
Michael grabbed a chair and dragged it over to her bed, then sat down. "I don't have rooms here connected to yours, like Leo did, so I'll simply have to stay here. In your rooms. For your own safety."
Simone crossed her arms. "Get. Out. Go and guard me from the door or something, but get out of my room!"
"No," said Michael smugly. "I can't see your window if I'm outside the door. Leo taught me that."
"Stop talking about Leo!"
"He was my teacher. And now he's dead. And since he's dead, just like your parents, and Lady Emma is in Hell just to keep the Demon King from attacking you, you have to put up with me. And if I have to go to school, you have to go to school."
"I hate school!"
"You hate the school that Leo especially picked for you?"
Simone's eyes went hard, and she started screaming.
Gold appeared in the doorway. "Michael, that's enough. Go pack your schoolbag." Michael stood up, smirked, and walked out of the room. Gold closed the door behind them.
Ten minutes later, as Michael was wolfing down a bowl of cereal in the kitchen, Simone appeared in the doorway, smoothing down her uniform. "Ramen please, Ah Yat."
Simone sat down at the table. Michael poured her a glass of apple juice and pushed it over to her.
Part III – aged 20/10
Michael was home from school holidays spent in the West, where he had been training as a Horseman. The first words out of his mouth upon reporting to her were "Emma, have you done any physical work while I've been gone?"
The tamed demon servant who was dropping off today's post gasped and Michael turned slightly pink.
Emma shook her head. "Is that a challenge, Michael?"
Michael tilted his head, considering. "Staves. Xuan Wu's training room. If I ask Meredith, I bet she'll tell me that you've only been out of your office to teach energy work classes the entire time I've been away."
Emma stood, stretching out her back and hearing small pops in her spine. "You're entirely too cheeky for your own good. Give me fifteen minutes to finish up here and I'll meet you next door to discuss the lack of respect you have for your elders and superiors."
Michael smirked and saluted. "Yes, Dark Lady of Wudang."
Twenty minutes later, Emma was sweaty and smiling, trading blows with Michael on the mats. Michael suddenly flipped over her head, getting inside her guard and deflecting her staff with a flick of his wrist. With a twist of his staff and a foot sweep, Emma found herself on her back. Michael stood over her, the end of his staff resting against her throat.
"I yield. New trick?"
"Avery taught it to me. Horsemen training isn't all astride." Michael spun the staff back to a guard and offered his hand to Emma. She clasped it and stood up.
"Want to show it to me again?"
Part IV – aged 26/16
"Greetings, Lady Emma Donohue, Regent of the North Heavens, Promised of the Dark Lord Xuan Wu and First Heavenly General." Emma looked up from her paperwork. Bai Hu stood in the doorway to Emma's office, offering a salute.
"Welcome Lord Bai Hu, Emperor of the Western Heavens. Why the formal visit?"
Bai Hu dropped into one of the chairs in the office, lounging casually. "I want Michael. Give him back to me."
Emma sighed. "And that's the Ah Bai I know. If you want Michael, you're going to have to convince him yourself. And if you'd forgotten, he's still pissed at you over what happened to his mother."
There was a dark look on Bai Hu's face. "I don't know what happened to Rhonda, but it's not my fault. I blame the Demon King."
"And Michael's blaming you. So, no, I don't think this is a good time for you to try and promote him again." Emma closed the folder she was looking at and set it aside.
"He'd make a great Number Three. Have you seen what he's been getting up to? If only all my sons had a tenth of the power he has."
"Did anything in particular trigger this visit, or are you so bored you've nothing better to do than have a screaming match with Michael?"
Bai Hu smirked. "Did you feel what happened three days ago?"
Emma looked puzzled. "No. Should I have?"
Bai Hu shook his head. "Sometimes I forget you're a mortal white chick. Especially when you glare at me like that, you look like Ah Wu. But three days ago, all of Celestial resounded with the sound of an oath being filled. And, as a father, I want to talk to my son and congratulate him."
"Your tail is in serious trouble, you know that? What oath?"
A self-satisfied grin settled back over Bai Hu's features. "Why don't you summon Michael and Simone and we can let them explain?"
A look of dawning horror appeared on Emma's face. "You're joking, right?" She asked her ring to call Michael and Simone to the office, even as she moved paper and scrolls around, trying to find the most recent missive from the Jade Emperor.
Bai Hu shrugged. "I told Missy Simone that challenge was a bad plan when she made it. And I felt what happened three days ago." He stretched, arching his spine then settling into a more comfortable sprawl. "What are you looking for?"
Simone and Michael appeared at the office doorway; Michael in his Mountain uniform, Simone in her school clothes. Michael looked straight past his father at Emma. "What do you want, my Lady?"
Emma found the red lacquer box under a pile of leave requests. "Come in and sit down, you two." She flipped open the box and passed the scroll over to Bai Hu. "That came three days ago."
Bai Hu opened the scroll, glanced over it, and laughed. He then grinned at Michael. "So, Number Three One Five. When were you planning on telling your old man that you can summon large amounts of yang, and what date should we arrange the Betrothal for?"
Michael had a look of outrage at his father's audacity while Simone looked stunned. Emma shook her head as she buried it within her hands.
Part V – aged 18/8
Michael, Emma and Simone entered the Science Museum. It was their first visit to England without John and Leo. Simone dashed from room to room, stopping at all her favourite displays, getting quieter and quieter. When they got to the top of the new wing, Simone saw the computers and her face suddenly fell.
"Can we go back downstairs, Emma?"
"Yes, sweetheart. We don't have to do anything you don't want to do."
Michael looked at the computers confused. "But you loved them last time, Simone."
Simone's eyes filled with tears. "I always used to beat Leo playing them. And Daddy wasn't allowed to play, cause he always won."
She turned to Emma, sobbing in earnest. "I don't want to come here any more, Emma!"
Emma stepped forward and reached out a hand to touch Simone, then stopped. They're in a public museum – they're lucky in that that there's no one else in the room, but the risk of transforming was too great. Emma looked over at Michael, pleadingly.
"Michael, can you...?"
Michael knelt down next to Simone and touched her arm. "It's all right, Simone."
Simone turned to Michael, looking as though her heart was breaking. Michael awkwardly wrapped his arms around her.
"Shhhhh. We're still here with you," he whispered quietly to her, patting her back as she sobbed into his shoulder.
Part VI – aged 22/12
Simone approached Michael in the summer after her 12th birthday. Michael was home from Harvard for the holidays, living with his mother and training at the Academy. (Bai Hu had tried to order Michael to spend his entire summer in the West, but Michael proceeded to laugh in his face and had gone straight over to the Peak. It had taken Emma and Rhonda a fortnight to calm the men down and to negotiate a ceasefire that involved Michael spending most of the summer at the Academy, with a single month in the Western Heavens.)
"Gold's taken you up to the Northern Heavens before, hasn't he? Do you think you know your way around on your own?"
Michael looked suspiciously at Simone, who was standing there, hands behind her back, with a completely calm expression, one she appeared to have copied off Kwan Yin. The resemblance was too uncanny for it to be a coincidence, although Simone was not nearly as good at it as the Goddess of Mercy.
"Yes, I know how to get to the Northern Heavens. I only know bits of Wudang up there, though. Where specifically is it you want to know about?"
Simone brought her right hand out from behind her back, showing Michael the map she held. She unrolled it on a nearby table, pointing to a building halfway up the Mountain.
"The Armoury." Michael stated, glaring at Simone. "You want me to sneak up to the Northern Heavens...."
"Very well, go to the Northern Heavens Iwithout telling anyone about it/i, get into the Armoury, presumably without alerting anyone, and steal what?"
Simone pursed her lips, but didn't protest the word 'steal' when Michael raised an eyebrow. "I want you to bring me Seven Stars."
"Seven Stars. Of course. You want me to get the most important weapon in the building and bring it down to Earthly for you. So, why shouldn't I tell Emma what you're up to?"
"Because you're my Retainer?" Simone smiled brightly at Michael.
"I'm not your Retainer, I'm officially sworn to Lady Emma."
Simone waved this aside. "You're still technically my bodyguard, and you're sworn to Emma since I'm underage." Her expression became serious again. "Michael, once I'm fourteen, I'll be expected to wield Seven Stars. I just want to handle it before I have to do it in front of Emma and Gold and Jade and all the Celestial Masters and probably half the Heavenly Generals."
Michael sighed. "You really want to get me into trouble, don't you?" Simone looked at him pleadingly. "All right. I'll bring you Seven Stars. But I'm going to be there the entire time you have it, and if you even think of trying to load the sword I'm calling Emma."
Two days later, Simone barricaded herself into the training room at the Peak, after telling Emma that she would be working on sword katas all afternoon. Michael appeared, pale and out of breath, but carrying Seven Stars. He set the sword in its black scabbard in the middle of the mats, then backed away to lean against a wall.
Simone crouched next to the sword, rocking on her toes; then she carefully placed her hand on the hilt. A smile crossed her face. "It feels like it's mine, just like Dark Heavens. It feels like it knows me."
Simone wrapped both hands around the hilt and stood up. She managed to raise the point to waist level, then bit her lip and let the point fall to the ground. "Ummm, it's a bit heavier than I was expecting."
"It iis/i two metres long, Simone. Try it without the scabbard."
After carefully removing Seven Stars from its scabbard (not an easy task, even for a well-grown twelve year old), Simone tried to lift it again and managed to bring it to a guard. With a look of fierce determination on her face, she started a basic long sword set, but abandoned it halfway through with disgust, pale and sweating.
"How ever did Daddy handle this outside of Celestial Form?"
Michael looked thoughtful. "I've got an idea. Since, one day, you're going to load your consciousness into that sword, do you think you can talk to it now? Ask it to be lighter?"
Simone glanced unbelievingly over at Michael. He raised an eyebrow. "It's that or give up until you can transform into a Celestial Form, and I've already dragged the sword down here today."
Simone looked down at the sword in her hand and swallowed. With a look of concentration on her face, she lifted the sword back to a guard and a smile broke over her face. She redid the long sword set, then moved on to the next in the series.
After three more sets Simone was sweating heavily again. She set Seven Stars down and peeked over at Michael, chewing on her lip. "Michael, can you keep a secret?"
Michael rolled his eyes. "Do you mean this one, or another special secret to go with me raiding Wudang?"
Simone sighed with exasperation. "I'm serious. Promise you won't tell Emma."
"Simone," said Michael, then rubbed his temples. "Look, I'm not going to say anything to Emma. I don't really need another lecture on my behaviour."
"Promise." Simone looked intently at Michael. "I need you to promise me."
Michael straightened from where he had been leaning against the wall, and looked Simone in the eye. "I promise I'll keep your secrets."
Simone grinned like a small child who had eaten the last piece of a cake and took a step back. She closed her eyes, concentrated, and changed.
"Whoa!" said Michael as he shied backwards.
Almost four metres tall and wrapped in robes of starlight, with her golden brown hair and pools of yin floating around her like a cloak, Simone looked down at Michael mischievously. She reached down and picked up Seven Stars.
"I think this will be easier."
Michael shook his head and took a few steps forward. "How long do you think you can keep this a secret? I won't tell, but you have to do something for me."
Simone narrowed her eyes. "What?"
Michael changed. Equally as tall as Simone, he wore golden armour with his blond hair tied in a topknot, with the silk robe under his armour white and patterned with golden tigers. He summoned White Tiger to his hand and smiled. "Spar with me. It's way more different than you think in Celestial Form."
Simone grinned. Despite the unearthly beauty of her adult face, she still looked twelve. "You're on."
Michael grinned back. "There can only be one." He moved into position as Simone groaned and shook her head.
They sparred for a while - with Michael easily dominating the fight from familiarity with his shorter blade and with Simone overextended due to the vast increase in her reach with Seven Stars. She slowly adapted to the new blade, scoring a few touches by the end. The bout ended when Michael disarmed Simone, sending Seven Stars sliding into a corner.
Simone returned Seven Stars to its sheath and handed it to Michael. "Thanks for this." She changed back to human form, brushing sweaty hair out of her face.
Michael followed suit, dismissing White Tiger, and leaning Seven Stars against the wall. He wrapped an arm around Simone's shoulder and squeezed her into his side. "Yeah, well, I can't let you embarrass yourself in front of everyone, especially not if the Winds come to watch too."
Simone gasped with horror and pushed him away. "Thanks for the extra nightmares!"
Michael grabbed Seven Stars, laughing brightly as he transported away.
Two years later, Michael watched as Simone lit Seven Stars for the first time, in front of the whole of the Northern Heavens. She handled the sword perfectly.
Part VII – aged 26/16
Simone was polite, even demure as she requested a private audience for herself, her guardian and her Retainers with the Jade Emperor. In full Celestial form, she managed to terrify half those present, and strike dumb the other half.
The Jade Emperor graciously granted Simone's request. The party adjourned to a private pavilion.
The Jade Emperor sat down, casually waving the others into seats. "So, Simone," he smiled at her, "are you here so Michael can present a request to me?"
Simone slumped in her seat, pouting. "It's not funny! I don't know why you're all making fun of us. It was an accident!
"Face it, Simone, it is funny," said Leo. "You set the conditions under which a man may seek your hand in marriage, and then Michael fulfilled them. Accidentally."
"What I think we'd all like to know," said Bai Hu, "is how ANYONE can 'accidentally' embrace yin. Michael? Would you like to explain to your old man and the other poor confused Shen?"
Michael studied his shoes. "We were out on a rescue mission. Simone tried to burn out a fake stone elemental with chi and overcommitted. She was about to drain herself when I pulled her away from the fake elemental, and yes, she'd called some yin at that point. It's not that big of a deal."
Leo raised an eyebrow. "I'm fairly certain I taught you better than that."
"You've had Horseman AND Academy training, boy. I need to check the curriculum they're teaching if you think charging in to grab hold of yin is the way to get someone out of trouble."
"Would you stop making it into such a big deal?" asked Michael plaintively. "I feel as if I'm living in a fairytale, where I've completed the three impossible tasks set for the prince."
"You are a prince, Michael," said Leo with a smirk. "And we're making a big deal out of it because Simone picked the tasks to be impossible, but you're both claiming it was all an accident. Actually," he added thoughtfully, "you even fit as the third son, since Bai Hu keeps trying to promote you...."
Emma interrupted. "That's enough. Look, what's done is done. I believe Simone and Michael. I believe that what happened was an accident. What we really need to discuss is what we're going to do about it."
"Can't we just pretend it never happened?" asked Simone hopefully. "I mean, Michael and I are happy to forget about it." Simone looked over at Michael. Michael nodded as Simone's voice dropped. "It's definitely easier than having to tell you all about it over and over again."
The Jade Emperor looked at Simone kindly. "The problem is that a challenge was set, and it has been met. Now, even if you two agree to do nothing about it, everyone already knows that the conditions were met. There is no way for us to hide this." He turned to Michael.
"Michael MacLaren, 315th son of Bai Hu, Emperor of the Western Heavens, do you wish at this time to make a formal request for Princess Simone's hand in marriage?"
Michael shook his head. "No, Celestial Majesty."
"Very well. Princess Simone, only human daughter of the Dark Lord of the Northern Heavens, the 315th son of the Tiger has expressed an interest in you, but has not yet formally requested your hand in marriage. Is this agreeable to you?"
Simone looked carefully at the Jade Emperor. "Does this mean nothing changes?"
"Michael becomes the obvious rival for anyone who wishes to sue for your hand. There may be a few less challenges offered to Emma; however, Michael will be challenged a great deal more often."
Michael and Simone glanced at each other. Michael raised a shoulder. Simone smiled back at him and mouthed "Thank you."
"Very well, Celestial Majesty, these terms are agreeable to me."
Part VIII – aged 24/14
Red to the knees with his mother's blood, Michael stopped running in Hunan Province. He collapsed to the ground atop one of the stone pillars in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, dropping White Tiger, still wet with blood, in front of him.
Blood stained everything. Red from his mother, red from his father.
Gritting his teeth, Michael sat up and pulled a cleaning cloth from his pocket. He needed to clean his sword. Wiping the worst stains off his hands and onto the grass, he began to clean and polish the blade, his hands working automatically as his thoughts grieved. His father would be back in a few days to devil him.
His mother was gone forever.
Even as he finished wiping down White Tiger, and returned his blade to its scabbard, Michael's view of the valley disappeared as the mist rose. His mother had loved the park the first time they'd visited it together; when fog filled the valley the mountains looked like they were floating. It was the perfect place to travel by cloud, as many of the best sights could only be reached by flying. Michael had taken her to see them, once he was strong enough to take her by cloud himself.
Michael dismissed White Tiger. As the sword disappeared there was the sound of footsteps behind Michael, and a hand was laid on his right arm. "I'm so sorry," said Simone quietly, from behind him.
Michael turned to face Simone. "He killed her. He made her his Empress, and it killed her. How could he let that happen?"
Simone's eyes were shiny with tears. "I don't know."
Michael looked past Simone, into the distance, his eyes unfocused. "She loved this place, did you know? She used to say it looked exactly like a painting."
"It's beautiful." Simone wrapped her arms around Michael, burying her face into his chest. With a sob, Michael clung to her, tears dripping into her hair.
Simone took a deep breath and drew slightly back. "I loved her, too."
Michael raised his left hand to Simone's cheek. He leaned in and kissed her.
Even as he felt Simone's eyelids flutter closed, Michael had pulled away. "Oh god. I'm so sorry, Simone."
Simone's eyes popped open, and she took a step back. "Sorry?"
"I don't know what came over me. You're my kid sister, you know that? I'm really sorry for doing that."
Simone stood there staring at Michael. Her right cheek was wet and shiny, with smudges of blood where his fingers had rested.
"You should probably go. I'm in no state for company." Michael's voice sounded half-choked, as he tried to laugh.
"Michael..." Simone reached up and gently touched her cheek. She sighed. "It's all right. But you shouldn't be alone up here."
"I'll go back to the Folly. Tell Emma to stay away, will you? I need some time alone."
"I can do that." Simone's voice was quiet.
"You're the best sister, you know that, right? I love you." Michael smiled as brightly as he could. It hurt even to try.
Simone acknowledged the painful smile with one of her own. "I know that, too."
They both disappeared.
Part IX – aged 26/16
Simone stood, almost completely drained of chi, locked in battle with an enormous stone elemental hybrid. She was so invested in the fight that she poured the last of her energy in, calling yin to supply her with more power to fight with.
Michael MacLaren, 315th son of Bai Hu, Emperor of the Western Heavens, charged forward at the stone elemental, White Tiger in his right hand, both blade and body glowing bright with yang. He drives his sword deep into the elemental and grabbed Simone, tearing her from the creature's grasp even as her hair and eyes went black with yin. They fell together, Michael's arms wrapped around his charge, rolling out of the way. They fetched up against the far wall, Michael's body covering Simone's, both glowing. The elemental exploded.