Battles between the Gods and Demons did not cease with the collapse of the Enochian Tower, with skirmishes occurring throughout the realm. One of the involved soldiers deserted during battle and hid himself in the towering mountain ranges. To capture the deserter, the Gods sent spies to probe for his whereabouts. Hence, the man and his family, concerned with concealing themselves, were unable to settle down, and instead caught brief moments of rest in abandoned homes and deserted temples.
Being unable to farm due to their vagrant lifestyle, they were forced to subsist with plant roots and stems they identified as edible using a military book about herbs. The child of the couple remained young. Whenever they needed to cross through dangerous territory, the child would need to be piggybacked by the mother while the father helped by pulling along with finding their way. Otherwise, they would be unable to scale the soaring mountains.
Ever since the husband had joined the Gods’ army, his wife had stuck with him. Now, with the army collapsing, she followed her husband into the mountains without a word of complaint. Because of this, the husband was ridden with guilt and remorse.
Husband: Your have had a hard life since we got married.
Wife: Don’t say that. You could have been killed by now if you kept on fighting.
Wife: That would mean I would have a hard life forever.
Husband: The life of me alone would be a fair price if it means that the war would end.
Husband: Yet, it is just that it has gone on uninterrupted since the ancient times.
Husband: Regardless of whether the Gods’ army wins or loses...
Husband: ...the ones who truly suffer are the people.
Since their child has yet to eat, and was very weak, the couple left him in the deserted temple to rest while they went out for food. The temple was built against a cliff. Standing at the edge, they could see the cloud level below them and the mountain winding down below. They spotted dense smoke rising through the clouds and at the foot of the mountain. The reflected the flashes of red. Cupping his ear, he could hear the furious cries of Gods and Demons. He could not but help sigh as there was yet another hard-fought battle below.
Husband: When would the wars end? When can we leave the mountains?
Husband: I fear that it will never...
Wife: Even if wars never end, we can still find a remote area on the mountains.
Wife: Then we can settle there together.
The two could not find any food and disappointedly returned. Yet, they could not find their child in the temple where they had left him.
Walking into the inner-depths of the temple, they spotted their child in one of the side rooms but found the child completely rejuvenated. The expression of hunger from before was gone. In his hand, he held a clear jade plate. Stepping forward to take a look, he can see that there was a totem of Qinglong. On the back side, there was a prayer to Qinglong. The inscription stated “Qinglong, the Stellar Essence of the Seven Positions of the East, holder of the azure treasure. His azure rain can assuage all adversity in the realm of Humans.”
Questions to their child as to where the plate was found led to no answers. Although the couple was not superstitious, misfortunes in fate had left them praying to the jade plate. Although they could not remember the prayer to Qinglong, they lightly chanted:
Husband: Oh Qinglong, if you have any mercy upon the pain and suffering of humanity,
Husband: ...please shower your azure rain down and soothe the wounds of the earth.
Aqua Solitary: The reason Gods have taken away Qinglong’s powers...
Aqua Solitary: ...was its constant aid to humans without permission.
Aqua Solitary: Defeat the Gods’ minions.
Aqua Solitary: Answer the prayers of the Hermit of Dainty Rivers’ father.
Aqua Solitary: Qinglong has lost its powers and its ability to launch powerful attacks.
At this time, the man was compelled to pray within the confines of the temple when a long slithering shadow appeared in the mist. Then, a baby dragon, with a jewel in its claw fell from the clouds and landed on his head. Although Qinglong has lost its pneuma, it was still able to draw in heavenly clouds to mask the temple. With some effort from the man, the mountainous region was transformed into a scene worthy of the angels. With the Gods’ spies unable to penetrate the cloud’s cover, the man terraced the land and farmed.
In his spare time, the man studied the texts left in the temple by their forebears. He learnt that Qinglong was created by the Gods from the blood of the Primordial Dragon. Their original intention was to have it control the weather to foil the Demons. But Qinglong proved uninterested in conflict and rather, was interested in helping mankind escape the ravages of war. Because of this, the Gods took back the dragon’s pneuma, leaving it only to wind in the skies, unable to answer the prayers of mankind. The temple had become a ruin primarily because people stopped worshipping there.
Husband: The reason Qinglong has descended from above...
Husband: ...must be that it is touched by our shared fate.
Wife: Unfortunately, while this would help us survive in this chaotic world...
Wife: ...we remain trapped here — helpless to the plight of all life.
Husband: Perhaps the power of Qinglong can be restored.
Husband: His pneuma can be re-cultivated by channeling moisture in the human realm.
Wife: In the ancient texts at the temple, I have read...
Wife: The only way to revitalize the dragon jewel in its claw to its previous purity...
Wife: ...is with the power of the Dragon King.
Husband: Since we cannot leave the mountains, why don’t we wait out winter here?
Husband: After all, with spring, comes the cascade of life.
Husband: At the time, we can follow instructions laid out in the ancient texts...
Husband: ...help Qinglong re-cultivate its pneuma. We can decide what to do later.
When spring arrived, the man trained in the temple. In the past year, he had andragogically learnt basic taoist spells from ancient books. His child was playing in the pool with Qinglong, who did not resist despite seemingly less than willing. As the man watched his son playing with the mythological beast in the lake, he could not help remembering a phrase from the books:
Husband: This is what’s called “A dragon stranded in shallow water...
Husband: “...becomes an object of ridicule for shrimps.”
Wife: Don’t get in your father’s way.
His wife approached and carried the child away. Although there was no way to communicate with Qinglong, he thought he saw it sigh in relief. As they stared into each other’s eyes, Qinglong seemed to be telling him: ‘we can start now.’
Prime Aqua Ascetic: Collecting water elements can help Qinglong restore his pneuma.
Prime Aqua Ascetic: Defeat them, and receive the blessing of the elements.
Prime Aqua Ascetic: Try to control more water elements all at once.
Prime Aqua Ascetic: Allow the pneuma to flow through your body.
The man endeavored his whole life to help Qinglong restore its pneuma. After several years, Qinglong had regained its ability to fly, dominion over water, and strength over fire. However, the dragon jewel remained tainted and unable to sustain pneuma. Unfortunately, the man was already over sixty in age, and simply did not possess the strength to descend from the mountains in search of the Dragon Palace. Meanwhile the child who grew up with Qinglong has grown into a valiant young man.
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: Dragon head protected by dragon feet...
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: Dragon tail supporting at the back...
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: Following the path of the mountain... Qinglong, over there.
Using the ancient texts, the Hermit of Dainty Rivers searched for direction to the Dragon. Although the pair’s communication has become wordless since their youth, the Hermit continued talking about the scenery around to dissuade the worries about the future lying within their heart.
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: A dragon descended to earth would condense into a constellation.
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: With spread shoulders and a protruding chest...
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: ...the descended one would be one of immense power.
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: ——Look! That’s the right place.
Half-human guards appeared from the river valley with their weapons raised and their furious stares upon Qinglong and the the Hermit of Dainty Rivers. The silent Qinglong suddenly roared simultaneously, driving the soldiers back in fear and invigorating the Hermit with the war cry. The Hermit pointed his spear at the enemy; yet, before he could yell out his battle cry, the soldiers scattered as the glittering river swirled.
A water spiral was formed which gradually began taking the shape of a man. The man, with horns on his head, roared a war cry that shook the mountains and rivers and with this, the soldiers charged at Qinglong.
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: We can only go forward. After the effort in getting here, we cannot give up.
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: This must be a manifested double of the Dragon King’s power.
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: This test would not be an easy one.
To restore the azure dragon jewel’s pneuma, Qinglong and the Hermit of Dainty Rivers had searched far and wide, in texts and otherwise, for the Dragon Palace. Finally, they found it in the deep mountain. Dragon King sought to test their power with a battle and while the Hermit and Qinglong defeated his servants and double, they were exhausted by the time Dragon King appeared before them.
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: Qinglong has lost his heavenly powers after taking mercy of life in the realm.
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: We have come in hopes of seeking assistance from you, Dragon King.
Ao Guang, Dragon King of the Sea: If you are alleviating the suffering of mankind,
Ao Guang, Dragon King of the Sea: your heavenly powers would naturally be taken back by the Gods.
Ao Guang, Dragon King of the Sea: So, this does not concern me.
Ao Guang, Dragon King of the Sea: Moreover, the Gods are more powerful than what our clan can go up against.
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: We journeying here down the mountain.
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: If Dragon King does not bestow help,
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: Qinglong and I would be killed by the Gods.
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: Since Dragon King is wary of collateral damage,
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: Qinglong and I might as well die here...
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: ...allowing dragon blood to spray onto the realm of man.
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: All the deities would see the dragon blood flowing out of the Dragon Palace.
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: They will learn of Dragon King’s heartlessness...
Hermit of Dainty Rivers: ...even towards the pain and suffering of his clan.
The Hermit picked up his lance to impale himself only to be stopped by the Dragon King. He made a condition: Qinglong has to train on his own, separated from the Hermit, to ensure that he obeys solely Dragon King. Qinglong whirled away to leave; the Hermit of Dainty Rivers comprehended the reason but he was unwilling to forfeit the opportunity. He was determined to help Qinglong and therefore, he drained his essence, joining into Qinglong’s body and merged with the dragon so they would live and die as one.
As Qinglong rested in the lake, its silvery scales reflected in the darkness, reminding one of an elderly person.
Qinglong the Sage of the East: Gods overvalue victory.
Qinglong the Sage of the East: They understand how to solely achieve victory in battle.
Qinglong the Sage of the East: But they lack the knowledge to maintain their gains.
Qinglong the Sage of the East: They only know to charge and capture grounds.
Qinglong the Sage of the East: They have no regard for the wellbeing of men.
Qinglong the Sage of the East: They are neither Human, nor do they belong in the realm of man.
Qinglong straightened out its body and looked down from above the mountain. The fires on the ground outshone the stars in the sky. The armies’ campfires and the burning villages...Qinglong can distinguish them merely from the flames.
The Gods’ armies had garrisoned themselves mid way up a mountain on the shore where they relied upon the higher ground to control the battle. Yet, the Demons would not fight during the day, and only rampaged around at night. The Gods dared not fight in the night, and left the fishermen by the shore alone to be victimized by the Demons.
Qinglong the Sage of the East: Do you see that?
Qinglong the Sage of the East: The Gods only garrison their soldiers at strategic strong points.
Qinglong the Sage of the East: But they have left the shores to the Demons.
Qinglong the Sage of the East: This allows the Demons to travel unopposed—cough!
Qinglong the Sage of the East: We cannot win the war like this.
Qinglong the Sage of the East: Unless we destroy both Gods and Demons—cough!
Droplets of blood were mixed in with the old man’s cough. Qinglong raised its claw and the jewel it held radiated.
Qinglong the Sage of the East: No, conserve your energy.
Qinglong the Sage of the East: That is collected after much endeavor by my father and I.
Qinglong the Sage of the East: Let’s just help the Gods drive out the Demons that have occupied the shore.
Qinglong the Sage of the East: Hopefully, they can win.
Qinglong the Sage of the East: They are just grunts; why would the Gods be this afraid?
The Pawn of Darkness: Dare to call us grunts, huh? Get the general to counter this enemy.
The Unjust Soldier: Who can defeat me in night combat.
Qinglong the Sage of the East: Don’t underestimate Qinglong.
The Demons retreated from the shore and finally, the fishermen can sleep in tranquility. As the commotion of war resided, only the old man’s cough remained and blood seeped from the corners of his mouth. Qinglong thought back of the old man’s father and how the old man himself confronted the Dragon King.
The two had spent their own lives restoring its power, and their clan will forever answer to these ancestors’ call. “Clouds follow the dragon, and as such, it is the summoner of clouds. To ascend, it shall ride the clouds; to descend, it dwells under the watery depths...” The old man read out the prayers of the past. Qinglong slowly walked to the lakeside as it felt part of its companion’s body cool.