Cosmic War II: The Celestial Court

Featured image art “Chang’e and Yixin” by Arute (@ast05water)

By SkyInk

‘The moon is that which lacks. It becomes full and wanes. It is the great Yin.’

Extracts for ‘moon’ from the Shiming (c. 200 CE) and Shuowen Jiezi (100-121 CE)

There was a war among the stars. A great conflict over the destiny of humanity and its worthiness to partake of the elixir of life. A goddess, full of regret, decided to hide it so that humankind would never be tempted by the irresistible allure of tyranny eternal. But her son believed that a select few – those that he chose, of course – would be worthy. And so there was war, and the son was cast down from the starships. Humanity wouldn’t know of the aftermath, but all would, in time, be revealed to Anna and Elsa, the Arendellian heirs to this starward odyssey…

*

It had not been two days since had she blasted her son to Earth when a delegate from the Celestial Court arrived.

“Keeper of the Moon Palace, Chang’e,

Receive this edict:

The Divine Superior is heartened to learn that thou art well, but is disappointed that thou hast not disciplined thy son well enough. The Divine Superior remindeth thee that thy outer defences are protected by a Heavenly Corps seconded to thy Lunar Guard. The expenses for their upkeep in the face of this calamitous rebellion by thine unfilial son shall be deducted from thy monthly stipend. The Divine Superior commandeth thee to speedily arrest thy son and present him before the Heavenly Court for trial.

Thusly proclaimed.”

“The unworthy official humbly receives the edict.” Eyes glittering, Chang’e takes the engraved tablet from the Jade Emperor’s messenger. She knows she will have to make a visit to plead before him, in light of what she has just done.

Three days later, she arrives before the gilded and jaded gates of the Celestial Palace. She walks through its labyrinthe marble halls and corridors, and is inducted into the grand hall. Prostrating herself nine times and thrice before the Jade Emperor, she reports her case in full, in front of the shocked heavenly ministers and a very unenthused Jade Emperor.

“Official Chang’e, I commend thy courage in challenging and besting thy son, but banishment to Earth is a punishment that must be meted out after a trial. Furthermore, thou hast not ensured that he reincarnate into a different body prior to banishment. His punishment is incomplete. The penalty for this is that thou shalt likewise have to undergo a reincarnated banishment, to hunt him down and finish him.”

The assembled deities murmur in consternation. The thought of forcing a spirit through the reincarnation cycle for what seemed like a minor transgression was disturbing. The last instance of this they remembered was the perky Weaving Fairy, who voluntarily fell to earth and had a relationship with a human. However, she was never punished beyond being forced back to the heavens, and no one else who was meant to be in charge of her was punished at all.

Nüwa, the shaper and nourisher of humans, speaks. Chang’e was one of her creations, and she had great pride in seeing her creation elevated to the level of spirit – it would be a disaster to see her thrown back down to the dust of mortality.

“Your Majesty, surely this punishment is too harsh. Why can we not simply send the Celestial armies down to Earth to finish the job? When the Weaving Fairy fled to Earth, it was the venerable Queen Mother of the West who personally went down to retrieve her.”

The Grand White and Gold Star, emissary of Venus, disagrees, “No, since the Keeper of the Moon Palace has removed his powers, he is no longer under the jurisdiction of the heavens. He is now, legally speaking, a human, or a monster. In contrast, Lady Weaving was still a spirit when she married that human. As you know, we do not intercede in mortal matters so lightly. It thus behooves a mortal to finish him – in this case, that is to be the Keeper of the Moon Palace’s responsibility, to finish what she has started. However…”

The Gold Star turns to the Jade Emperor, saying: “Your Majesty, I believe punishing Lady Chang’e is too extreme. This is not the first encounter we have had with this troublemaker – my own home, Venus, too, has seen his fury, and as Your Majesty will recall it was not even a close battle. Lady Chang’e nearly died in this recent battle, and possibly had no time to consider the consequences of her actions. I pray Your Majesty be lenient with her. The scoundrel is disarmed, anyway, and the land and river spirits will be watching his every move. We will know every time a hair falls from his head. He will not be a problem to us.”

The Jade Emperor considers this. Many other Celestial courtiers join Nüwa and The Gold Star, pleading on Chang’e’s behalf. The Celestial general Erlang chimes in, “At such time when the scoundrel regains powers, he will be a demon! At such point, Your Majesty’s unworthy general stands ready to smite him!”

“Then I am satisfied. Official Chang’e, I hereby reprimand thee for failing in thy parental
duties, and reaffirm that thy stipend will be used to cover the costs of my army’s upkeep. Please visit the Imperial Peach Gardens, and have the Tenders supply thee with a basket of Celestial peaches. Thou art free to return to thy palace.”

The palace resounds with the call, ‘Wise and judicious Emperor!’

*

Alone on the budding Terran planet, a dishevelled man stares up at the firmament, watching the moon crawl by in its orbit. It has been years since he was cast down from there, and a day in the Celestial plane is a year on Earth. The Celestial Palace has had days to act, but are no soldiers coming to arrest him? He is now so weak that even the slightest prod from a Heavenly soldier’s spear-shaft would send him flying – yet not even the smallest arresting force? He mutters a chant, trying to summon the local spirit – he can probably extort some information out of him. But his chanted command goes unanswered. No local spirit appears to be intimidated by his bluff.

At first, he is annoyed. “I know you can hear me, watcher! Come out!”

But he has no more power to summon them. No more power…and something clicks. He has no power. He is not a demon. He has his immortality, but that does not qualify – was not Mother a human when she drank the elixir, and later elevated to a spirit?

He is beyond the jurisdiction of the heavens now. And he is going to stay that way. He smiles, and roars in laughter at the nocturnal sky. Someday, he’ll be back. Rather, his empowered followers will be. He will stay on Earth, as a mere monster, and dictate terms to the deities.

*

Editor’s note: Thanks so much to SkyInk for contributing this amazing piece of rich lore to the Emerald Dragon arc! The royal sisters’ involvement with the Exalted was always going to be bigger than just controlling the world. The AG’s story has now moved into a comfortable yet epic space where Anna and Elsa, through Arendelle’s long connection to the Celestial Empire (which we laid the groundwork for way back during Viola Mundilfari’s villain arc), are now actors in a grand odyssey inspired by Chinese myth and legend.

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