Wrath of Heaven

“I must have it,” Xiang Heng told the broken man. “And you will tell me where it has gone.”

They were in the shadow of a five-story pagoda adorned with fire and smoke. Shattered roofing tiles lay all around the broken man. The air smelled of blood and burned things. The haft of the broken man’s qiang lay just out of reach, useless without its leaf-shaped blade and tassel made of red-dyed horse hair. The broken man’s turtle-shell armor was likewise smashed, though Xiang Heng carried no weapons and wore no protection besides his zhiju.

Xiang Heng was not a human; there were a dozen others like the broken man, inside and outside the pagoda, but they were all dead by Xiang Heng’s bare hands.

The broken man’s lips were dry. His tongue felt shriveled. It hurt to speak. “It is gone,” he managed to say.

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