Lin and Zhen Zhen saw less than a dozen people during their training within the Shào Temple of the Sang-La Mountains. One of those people was Tangseng, a young, compassionate monk who asked endless questions about where Lin and Zhen Zhen came from, who and what they prayed to, what their families were like, even what they ate for breakfast.
Lin knew there was no malice in these questions; Tangseng simply had an insatiable curiosity for the world around him and those he had not yet visited. When Tangseng told Lin’s master, the wise warrior-monk Pandamonium, that he wished to travel over the Sang-La Mountains into the realm where the Legion and Hellbourne fought most viciously, Pandamonium believed it a naive desire fueled only by this curiosity.
He sat with Tangseng within a prayer room and told him what he had seen during his time with the Legion. The carnage, the brutality, the complete absence of divinity.
“But you will go back?” Tangseng said.
“Of course. The survival of our very world depends on defeating the Hellbourne.”
“Then I must go as well.” The young monk pulled a bundle of tattered scrolls from his robes and spread them on the stone floor. Pandamonium recognized some of them—others, those covered in dust and nearly faded to illegibility, he had never seen before.
“I must go west,” Tangseng said. “These writings reveal the existence, and possibly the locations, of ancient scriptures that may be the key to defeating the Hellbourne. The Jade Scriptures.”
As he told Pandamonium more, the warrior-monk realized the young Tangseng was right. He must travel to the land of the Legion and Hellbourne. And he would need protection.
There are many versions of Hell in Newerth. Any veteran Legion soldier will tell you to look upon a battalion on the eve before a battle. Count the warriors sharpening their swords and testing their armor, and within each is a private Hell against personal demons. Then look upon the battlefield in its full fury, when man and beast and daemon clash with steel, tooth, claw, and magic, and there you will see thousands of private Hells, growing and dying in the span of seconds.
But there are also permanent Hells, those remembered and forgotten, prayed to and against for ages. Compared to the suffering and terror within these, the fleeting personal Hell of a warrior in battle is laughable.
East of the Sang-La Mountains, most humans prayed to their gods and led good lives to avoid being sent to Diyu, the endless underworld maze with its courts of judgement and torture chambers ruled by Yanluo Wang. The very thought of Yanluo Wang and his critical scowl was enough to fill the temples and prayer rooms with promises of atonement.
Within the Hell of Diyu, Yanluo Wang judges every soul who enters. If the soul has sinned, he declares the type and duration of punishment necessary to repay the debt accrued in life. When the sentence is complete, sometimes after centuries, Yanluo Wang releases the soul for reincarnation. While all souls are joyous upon leaving Diyu, those who led particularly sinful lives are condemned by Yanluo Wang into miserable existences when they are reborn.
When the Second Corruption began and murder, betrayal, and greed exploded across Newerth, Yanluo Wang reveled in the endless stream of souls who filled his torture chambers.
One such soul, a rough, lean man with darting eyes was brought before Yanluo Wang by the brutal guardians of Diyu.
Yanluo Wang examined the man and the life he had led. “Your misdeeds are many. You will be here for many years. I am pleased by this, but that will not help you.”
“I was only following orders,” the man said.
“Oh?” Yanluo Wang gestured to one of his minions, who took note of every soul and its punishment. “Who gave you these orders?”
The man stared at the base of Yanluo Wang’s throne and would not meet his burning gaze. “I do not know her name. I know she was beautiful, and carried two fans which she held to my throat while she issued her command. Which I obeyed.”
“And what was this command?” Yanluo Wang asked.
“To travel to the Sang-La Mountains and kill Tangseng.”
“To prevent him from finding the ancient Jade Scriptures.”
A twinge of doubt lashed through Yanluo Wang’s thoughts. “The Jade Scriptures?”
Yanluo Wang took a closer look at the man’s life. “You failed to kill Tangseng.”
“Yes. One of his guardians killed me before I could reach Tangseng. He was a fierce warrior with the head of a dragon. I never saw him until it was too late.”
“Too late for you,” Yanluo Wang said. He was distracted now, thinking of Tangseng and the Jade Scriptures, what harm they could bring to his rule over Diyu. He sentenced the failed assassin to five hundred years of being carved into pieces and crushed by heavy boulders, then dismissed him.
To his minions, Yanluo Wang said, “Prepare my carriage. This Tangseng and his guardians may be able to defeat a lowly cutthroat, but they will stand before my judgement. Even if I must send them myself.”