Long ago in Pandaria, far before the Sundering has torn Old Kalimdor apart, old Emperors ruled the land. Although the first emperor was the tyrant Lei Shen, a hopeless horror who enslaved every living thing in Pandaria, slain gods and defeated ancient Keepers, once he died and his original Empire crumbled, the people of Pandaria saw the need for stability one powerful ruler will provide. Thus, the first of the Pandaren Emperors was crowned and his dynasty ruled for centuries to come, as gentle and just rulers.
In time, the first Pandaren Emperor’s descendant, Huizong, ruled on the Jade Throne in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. He had no sons, which troubled his court greatly, for at this time, only a son could succeed his father on the Imperial Throne. However, he had one daughter, who he had great care and respect for. His daughter, Yaochi, was trained to be all his possible successor could be. Trained like a boy, she resented her father, claiming he only ever wanted a son, not her. But despite this resentment, young Yaochi still loved her father and did what he commanded.
One day Princess Yaochi was being driven in a carriage to the Peak of Serenity, to get her lessons from the wise, old monks that resided there. As the carriage was driving through the snowed mountains of Kun-Lai, she was looking out of the window and thinking of everything she could see all across Pandaria, if only her father didn’t take up all of her free time with exercises and lessons in the palace. She didn’t even pay attention to Master Chang, her father’s court advisor and monk, who was trying to prepare her for her lessons, instructing her about everything awaiting her.
As she was looking off into the distance, the carriage suddenly stopped. Even Master Chang stopped talking and looked out. Before Yaochi could ask what was happening, a loud, booming voice shouted from several yards away.
“Stand down, pandaren, and your lives shall be spared,” the voice proclaimed. “Hand over the girl and we may even let you leave unscathed.” The tone and growl of the voice left no doubt in the mind of the young princess – they were attacked by mogu, at the time petty highwaymen bandits who lived off of stealing, killing and kidnapping. Undoubtedly, they wanted to extort her father for a hefty price, lest her live would be forfeit. But she did not fear – she knew old Master Chang was a great fighter, perhaps the greatest one there ever was. She saw him handle ten Shado-Pan and win with barely few bruises.
As she suspected, Master Chang left the carriage and stood in front of it. As the driver was cowering in his seat and yaks shuffled uncomfortably, the old Master fearlessly confronted the mogu and bowed before them in courtesy.
“Who am I speaking to?” Master Chang asked. There were six mogu standing before him, with weapons draw and ready for combat. Behind them stood a particularly large and vicious looking mogu, with a blue, metallic skin and a long curly beard that looked as if carved from stone.
“I am Kun Yomi, servant of Lei Shen, slayer of the Great Azure Serpent Ao Guang. I have no equals in combat and magic but Lei Shen himself. You would be foolish to oppose me, pandaren.”
Master Chang did not budge at the arrogant proclamations of the ancient tyrant. “I am Master Chang, advisor to Emperor Huizong and one of the greatest fighters Chun Tian Monastery has ever produced. I think you will find me a fitting opponent.”
The arrogant mogu only laughed so loud his voice echoed across the mountains. “Emperor Huizong? Pathetic. Your weak kind still dares to bear the title of an Emperor? Look at yourself, you are just a gluttonous animal with delusions of grandeur. I could crush your body into fine powder and spread it on the winds without lifting my good hand,” the mogu said, waving his left hand around.
“In my lands,” Chang responded to the taunts, “we bow before each other before battle, not spew insults. I thought you were the ones who claimed to create our civilization, yet now you seem little more than arrogant brutes.”
The mogu snarled. Master Chang knew where to hit a mogu to cause pain, in combat or in words. “I spew insults because you are not worthy of anything more. Zhanshi, gongji!” The six towering mogu warriors charged towards the old master, with Kun’s last words clearly being an order to attack. But as they pressed on, the monk did not budge even an inch. He stood there calmly, smiling at the oncoming attackers. Finally, first of the mogu raised his weapon above his head and quickly lowered it to hit the old man. In the blink of an eye, Chang moved away from the falling blade and just stood aside, still smiling. The enraged mogu then tried to slash him sideways, but he only bowed down, dodging the blade just in the nick of time again, before finally striking back and disarming the mogu with one hit. Then, he swept his legs and with one kick to the face, disabled the opponent completely.
The other mogu only grew more restless, increasing the strength and speed of their attacks. But Master Chang remained unscathed – none of the blades or hammers could so much as touch him, and yet one mogu after another fell to his blows. Second mogu quickly found himself smashed against the cliff-face. Third mogu lied battered with his own hammer. Fourth mogu was sprawled on the ground, with his head bleeding profusely from landing the wrong way up. The fifth mogu continued his assaults, but he could not catch up with an elderly pandaren monk.
“What is the matter with you?” Kun Yomi yelled at his remaining minions. “You can’t hit an old, fat panda? And you were the best warriors your clan could provide? Pathetic.” The scolding of his overlord was enough to distract him, and Master Chang knew how to use a distraction. Within a second, the fifth mogu was pinned to a tree with his own blade and within another second, a punch blacked him out. The sixth mogu just looked at the battlefield, his five beaten comrades and one pandaren who seemed as healthy as he was before the assault started. With some common sense growing in his head, he quickly dropped the blade and run off.
“Coward!” Kun Yomi shouted. “They were not worthy to serve under my command!” he said as he unsheathed his long, double-edged blade. The mogu bared his fangs, bloodied with poor game he must have hunted down earlier in the day, and shouted his final taunt. “Let’s see what you’re really made of.”
Master Chang bowed again, smiling. “I’m afraid I’m made out of a lot of fur and fat. That does not make me any less of a formidable opponent.”
The mogu did not want to waste any more time. He simply charged with a loud roar, and swung his blade high up, intending to plunge it into Chang’s back before he could rise from his bow. But it turns out, the old monk was not above some dirty tricks himself – without straightening his back, he swung his fist right into Kun’s belly and the bandit yelled out in pain. Kun Yomi took two steps back and bent over, trying to compose himself after the punch.
“What’s the matter?” Master Chang asked, straightening up. “Something you ate disagreed with you? Because clearly, I can’t believe an old, fat panda could put you in so much pain.” As the warlord started to straighten up, Chang grasped his back. “Oh,” he said, “Can you give me a bit of a break? My back is not quite the same as it used to be.” The mogu only charged on, and swung his polearm from the left side – but again, before it could hit the monk, he stepped backwards just in time. “Thank you,” Chang said, smiling again, “a good exercise is just what I needed.”
Kun Yomi could not control his anger. Each hit was met with more dodges. Each dodge meant another snarky comment from the old monk. “STOP. TALKING!” he finally yelled.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the pandaren said, “I just wanted to entertain you with some conversation. You did not like it, I take it?”
“No, I did not,” the mogu warlord snarled at his opponent. “When I’m done with you, I will gut you. I will carve your skin into a fine rug I will hang in my abode like a trophy from the animal you are. And then, I will take whatever’s left of your miserable little body and feed it to the quilen.”
“Hmm,” Master Chang said, gazing off into the distance and fingering his beard, “So are you crushing me into fine powder or gutting me? I lost track.”
Then, Kun Yomi left out a bellowing roar unlike any he produced before. “I SAID. STOP. TALKING!” Finally, rising from surprise and with great speed, the polearm managed to hit Master Chang and knock him away. The sudden hit shocked the old monk, with the mogu’s voice still ringing in his ears. He tried to collect himself, but for the first time, he had trouble with it. He thought the years must be catching up to him after all. Then he heard another loud clang.
The mogu dropped his weapon and looked straight at the pandaren. His vision still blurred from the sudden blow, Chang could barely understand what he was seeing. It seemed the mogu was waving his hands around, as if he was preparing to cast something big. Master Chang realized what was happening, but could still barely move. Kun Yomi then started laughing. “Did you think steel was my only weapon? I have slain Ao Guang, and I wrung unspeakable powers from his squamous body. The power of water and storms courses through my veins. And you WILL sumbit!”
Meanwhile, poor Yaochi was cowering inside her carriage, listening to on to the sounds of battle and counting how many mogu Master Chang could defeat without taking a sweat. Only in the very end she started doubting everything is going well. As Kun Yomi started boasting about his magic, she began to wonder if her Master can defeat him. Shaking in fear, she looked out of the window and gasped at what she saw. Master Chang was kneeling, stunned by his adversary’s attacks, and the mogu was about to unleash his spell. Then, a wave of water and electricity appeared out of nowhere and swept the old monk aside with a loud scream. As Chang’s body slid down the mountainside limp, she had no doubt – the undefeated was now defeated, and Master Chang was dead. Then her eyes met the mogu’s eyes.
“Get up and get the girl,” he said, “Or is a child too much for you, fools, too?”
As some of the defeated mogu started to shift around and murmur curses silently, she knew she could no longer remain here. “Driver!” she shouted “Leave, now!” The cowering driver did not wait – he quickly grabbed the reins and urged the yaks to move.
As the carriage moved on, Kun Yomi looked after it, snarling again. “Get the dogs.”
The carriage continued to ride across the mountains. Yaochi looked out and back, and as she saw no mogu, she hoped they had lost them. A thought crossed her mind briefly, wondering how would she explain to her father, or to the monks, that Master Chang is dead. But before she could get really worried about that, she heard another concerning noise – the unmistakable snarls and howls of quilen, favorite pets of the mogu. And they weren’t just any wild quilen, this band of monsters was clearly running after the carriage, trying to catch up with it.
“Faster!” Yaochi shouted to the driver, knowing the peril they’re back in.
“I’m going as fast as the yaks can go!” the driver responded. “I can try to push-“ Before he could finish his sentence, he suddenly fell silent and the reins fell out of his hands. Yaochi could not see what happened to him from inside the carriage, but she could see a mogu archer perched above them on a ridge. As quilen were catching up to her and yaks started to lose control out of fear, she cowered in the corner, waiting for her captors. But it was never to happen – suddenly she felt very light. Yaks gave out a long roar that echoed across the mountains and she was tumbling across the inside of the carriage. She realized what was happening. The carriage fell off a ridge and she was now falling to her death.
Meanwhile, Kun Yomi rode on his quilen to the ridge she fell off. After he unseated himself, he looked down and saw the carriage still falling. He smiled and laughed maliciously. “One way or another, the girl is dead. Our task here is done.”
But the mogu did not know how mistaken he was. Hours later, and hundreds of feet beneath him, Yaochi was slowly regaining consciousness. Somehow, miraculously, she survived the fall. She tried to get up, but everything pained her. She did not know if she didn’t break every bone in her body, but it certainly felt like it. In all the pain and confusion, she managed to only look around and see the splintered remains of the carriage. The driver’s body was lying close by, unmistakably dead, killed by a bolt to the chest. And then, there was a turtle.
A large, green turtle walked up to her slowly and looked straight into her eyes. Then she realized it was carrying a leaf in its mouth – a leaf full of water, a welcome respite from what just happened to her. Pulling all her strength, Yaochi managed to get her head and one arm up, enough to grab the leaf and drink at least some of the water in it. The turtle didn’t make a sound, but just kept looking at her.
“I guess we’re all alone here, turtle,” she said, before looking up, towards the ridge she fell from, wondering what, or who, could have saved her from that kind of fall.
TO BE CONTINUED
In reality, written by the author of the Arakkoa Chronicles.