Duryodan returned with Li Linfu to the same spot where he had summoned him, high atop the mountain overlooking the massive army camped below. Though the moon hung high overhead, Li Linfu could see that the army still reveled and feasted below, and for a brief moment, the old resentments returned. The Prince felt that he should be down there and not up here among the dying, on the wrong side of history.

As though sensing his passing thoughts, Duryodan, my warrior, chided him, saying, “Do not falter now. You are almost close to the end.”

“I know my duty, my lord,” Duryodan answered with a hint of resentment in his voice, his youthful face a sharp contrast to his harsh tone. “I will fight and die along with my warriors, inadequate though I may be, impious and insufficient though my skills are.”

“Now, is not the time for scholarly piety, prince,” Duryodan chided. “You and your soldiers will perish tomorrow. Will you spend their lives miserly, or will you cast them about like your empire’s overvalued copper coins?”

“We will fight with valor and courage.”

“You did not answer my question.”

Li Linfu’s eyes flashed with anger and answered, “We will hold this mountain until the bitter end. Li Bei will want a bloody battle to cement his political ambitions. He will send his political enemies—many of whom are also my relatives—to kill me, and if they are killed, to prove that I am a kinslayer. He will send out the emperor’s own Imperial Guard to certain death so that he can paint me as a traitor. And he will send out peasant conscripts to die, so that he can prove that I am the enemy of the commoners. Yes, he will do many of these things, and when he’s finished, he will paint me and my men as traitors. That is why he waits. That is why he did not attack us today, even though he should. He wants to put on a show.”

“Do you know what will happen tomorrow, my lord?” Li Linfu spoke with great sadness. “I can already see it in my mind. Massed formations, catapults, crossbow bolts so thick that they will blot out the sky. The sun will be hot, and the desert wind will cover my warriors and theirs with dust. We will fight them off for an hour, perhaps even two, but they will eventually break through, and they will hunt my men in the caves, and we will fight them with rocks, fists, and teeth. Should I spend my men’s lives miserly? That is my answer.”

“Why do you worry about the future, oh prince? Would you have fate dictate your future? Would you have me or the Lord Dao dictate it? You are here by fate and force of will. Do not falter now and ask not the Heavens to carry your burden for you.”

And then Duryodan gave the Prince a wan smile. “I have one last gift to give you, oh prince, and then I must depart.” With the force of his will, Duryodan compelled the flesh on his thumb to part and yield a drop of blood. This he placed between the prince’s eyes and muttered a prayer in a language that had died out many centuries ago.

Li Linfu remained quiet, as though in a trance, his face still and almost lifeless in the moonlight. And his body began to grow heavy, and he began to lie down upon the stony ground

“A mantra to summon the Lord Atman, or Lord Dao, as you know him,” Duryodan explained. “He said that he will come to whomever summons him, in whatever age, amidst deluge and flames.” Then a terrible sadness filled my warrior’s voice, and bitterness, too. “I have prayed to him many times, but he no longer answers…”

I have always answered. It is men who have lost ears to hear and eyes to see. I am here always and everywhere.

“Perhaps he will come to you,” Duryodan said sadly and with finality. “Farewell, young prince. Die well.”


The prince dreamed.

Li Linfu dreamt of a beautiful garden, at the center of which lay a beautiful palace covered in gold, jade, and all manner of precious gems. Then a torch appeared on the prince’s hand, a putrid thing that stank of evil smoke. Slowly and deliberately, the Prince walked towards a wooden portion of the palace and lit them with his torch.

And soon, the palace caught fire. Consumed by flame were its golden walls and beautiful, artistic works, and its jade and precious gems began to bleed with human blood. The palace began to stink, and from within the walls, women and children screamed. A great sorrow filled Li Linfu because of his most terrible sin, and he wept at the ashes and rubble.

But then from the rubble grew a green sprout, small though hearty, and it stood there, defiant of the destruction which had been wrought around it. Then other plants began to spring up, and some of them began to bloom with bright colors, and a blessed rain fell from the sky, as though to wash away the tears and sorrows of the world.

There, Li Linfu knelt, and the warm rain cleansed him of despair. In the death of the garden, he saw the fate of the Qin Empire and his bitter role in the war to come. Time ceased its movements, and the universe unveiled past and future to him. At one point, he saw the world; he saw clarity and wholeness, and he saw chaos illusion. At the same time, he was both wide as the deepest oceans and smaller than the tiniest mote of dust. In this glimpsing of eternity, of the Dao, the Prince achieved his apotheosis, and he was freed from the fear of death and the despair of failure.

There is only the Dao. Life is just its mask. Humanity is a cloak hiding a secret glory.

In the midst of these tumultuous miracles, I appeared before the prince, an old man with a snow white beard, and a face that can only smile.

I knelt beside him and held his hand, as a father may hold the hand of his weeping son.

“This battle must take place, young prince,” I said to Li Linfu, “if your realm is to survive.”

“Did you not say that war is evil?” he asked. “That it should be avoided at all costs?”

“I have also said that ‘it must only be taken as a last resort.’ Your war, oh prince, is absolute. You fight for the survival and continuation of your people.”

“But this battle will not change anything!” Li Linfu answered back. “Even now, the people of the empire see me as a conniving prince who used the death of his father to seize power. When I am dead, Li Bei will return to the capital and he will use my rebellion as an excuse to kill even more of his political enemies. It seems to me, oh lord, that my rebellion, rather than save or help my people, will only damn them to further tyranny.”

“Have you not seen the truth of your visions, oh prince? That future will only happen if you do not act, if you bear your throat to the executioner’s blade. Your people and your ancestors call you to act, so act without fear of the outcome. Act only out of love for your people and of all peoples who must suffer from the greed and madness of tyrants.

“But that path leads to war, to death! How can you ask me to plunge my empire into war? Is not hope in peace better?”

“Young prince, you are your people’s hope. Peace and war exist in the world, but the Dao rules over all. It is not your place to control either, but to serve the Higher. Your Dao calls you to right what is wrong, to become the Destroyer of Destroyers, just as I am. Let peace and war follow their Dao. You have yours, and it is calling you to great deeds.”

And I continued, “Oh, prince! The world is waiting with baited breath. There is a time to live and a time to die, but never to reject either moments. The time for you to act for your people and your nation is at hand. Do not reject it. Let the Dao, Dharma unfold, bitter though it may seem, for all actions come from the same source and are in accord with the Deepest Being. So rise up, oh prince. Find yourself in clarity. Reject doubt and act!”

And the Prince fell into sweet dreamlessness, his mind silent, his deepest being alight with power. In this dream within a dream, he beheld one of my later incarnations: the Jade Emperor, founder of the Qin Empire.

I spoke to him as the Jade Emperor and as the sage of the Dao. I spoke to him across time and space, beyond flesh and mortal reckonings. I spoke to him as the universe that he may know the deepest forces that has brought him here to the fulcrum of destiny.

There is only the Dao. Life is just its mask. Humanity is a cloak hiding a secret glory.

There is only Dharma. Life is just its mask. Humanity is a cloak hiding a secret glory.

There is only Satori. Life is just its mask. Humanity is a cloak hiding a secret glory.

There is only Gnosis. Life is just its mask. Humanity is a cloak hiding a secret glory.

There is only Apotheosis. Life is just its mask. Humanity is a cloak hiding a secret glory.

Now rise up, and fear no more.


Li Linfu awoke to find his officers around him, fully armored and ready for war. He remembered no dream or apotheosis. His had been a dreamless sleep, and yet he was filled with renewed purpose.

Ynaguinid the Imtiri was nowhere to be seen, and it seemed to the rebel army that he had been a dream. And yet their bones were strong and their sinews invigorated. Though their bellies were empty, they felt full and neither sickness nor despair haunted them.

Silently and without orders, they divided what little rations they had left and had their meager meal. They then bowed one last time to their ancestors, and with glad hearts armed themselves for battle.

As though driven by an unseen force, they assembled themselves near the rust-covered iron gates of their mountain fortress, and there they awaited the coming of their general, Li Linfu.

And Li Linfu came to them. His face was gaunt and thin, just like all of them, but it seemed to all who saw him that he burned with an inner fire that was ready to explode. Wordlessly, he regarded his men, as though to make a speech but it never came.

There can be no words for what they had just experienced, and in the next few hours, only deeds—not words—will be remembered by history.

“Zunwang Rangyi!” Li Linfu roared, suddenly breaking the silence. “Zunwang Rangyi!”

“Zunwang Rangyi!” his army answered back, and from the darkness of the caves, they surged forth into the annals of history.


On the 12th year of the reign of the most gracious and pious Emperor Xing He, the Son of Heaven, a vast fog surrounded the Imperial camp at the base of Mount Yongqui. Taking advantage of the cover provided by the fog, the rebel Prince Li Linfu emerged from the caves of the mountains to attack the Imperial Host.

Outnumbered and desperate, Li Linfu and his generals used surprise to break through the sentries and keep their enemies off balance. They charged madly, straight at the center of the camp, leaving their flanks exposed and their entire force vulnerable to envelopment.

For Li Linfu and his men, death was already a certainty. The only question is whether they would be able to take Li Bei with them.

The rebels rushed through the Imperial camp, killing sleeping and intoxicated warriors by the hundreds. Soon, alarms sounded throughout the camps, and with them confusion and surprise, and both the Imperial troops and their Sokudai auxiliaries became helpless amidst the swirling melee.

In the midst of this chaos, Li Bei sent out orders to his Sokudai General An Lushan to come to his aid. He ordered him to rally the entire army and smash the rebels, who were now pressing closer and closer to his tent.

By the time An Lushan received Li Bei’s message, a long dormant seed of ambition bloomed in his heart, and he ordered his men to stand down, but to be ready to move once he gave the order. Understanding his intent, the other Sokudai commanders heeded their lord’s message and ordered their men to stand down, leaving the Qin soldiers to fight off the rebels alone.

Soon, dawn gave way to morning, and carrion birds gathered above the battlefield to wait for the feast prepared for them.

Little by little, Li Linfu’s army dwindled, and they were now surrounded on all sides, but that mattered little, for at the height of the battle, Li Linfu and his lieutenants found Li Bei and his court eunuchs, their corpulent bodies covered in ostentatious robes and rare jewelry. Li Bei spoke nothing, but glared at Li Linfu, as though willing the very heavens to strike down the rebel prince, who dared to rise against him.

With a swift stroke, Li Linfu hacked off Li Bei’s head, and with a roar that seemed to echo through the barren wastes, Li Linfu raised the head for all to see.  

“Zunwang Rangyi!” Li Linfu yelled.

“Zunwang Rangyi!” his remaining men answered, and with wrathful vengeance, they slaughtered the politicians, merchants, money lenders, eunuchs, whores, and charlatans of Li Bei’s entourage.

When news of Li Bei’s death reached An Lushan, he was filled with joy, and he immediately ordered his Sokudai forces to reinforce the Imperial army units currently locked in combat with the remaining rebels.

With their aid, the rebel forces were quickly crushed and annihilated. Li Linfu and his chief lieutenants fell an hour before noon; their heads were placed atop pikes and their bodies hacked apart and thrown into cesspools.

News of the battle quickly spread all throughout the Empire. Li Bei was proclaimed a martyr by the Imperial Government and his general An Lushan an avenging hero, a loyal Sokudai vassal who fought and bled for his slain master and for the honor of the Qin Emperor.

A grand celebration was prepared in the Imperial Capital for An Lushan and the so-called heroes of Yongqui, but it would never come to pass. Rather than return to the Capital, An Lushan returned to his base of power in the coastal city of Erlitou. He then sent messengers to the non-Qin commanders scattered throughout the empire, calling them to his banner, and many answered his call.

Li Bei and his cronies had appointed these foreign generals to positions of power as part of his agenda to usurp all power for himself. Though technically slaves, and members of conquered peoples, these non-Qin military commanders had been protected and enriched by Li Linfu, and they tendered loyalty to him in exchange.

Now that Li Bei was dead, his foreign vassals knew that they may soon follow their master. The new Chief Minister will surely want to appoint his own pawns in the military, and as members of the old regime, they are a threat to the new power. An Lushan and the hundred or so foreign commanders scattered all throughout the empire knew what they must do next.

And so less than a month after the battle at Yongqui, An Lushan raised his banner and proclaimed himself as the patriarch of a new Dynasty, and with over a hundred thousand (mostly Sokudai and Uytii) soldiers behind him, he made war against the Qin armies of the Jade Empire.

A terrible war soon erupted all across the land, devastating and depopulating numerous cities. At the height of the fighting, the Imperial Capital was sacked, and the Emperor fled to the mountains with his weeping eunuchs, concubines and sycophants.

The rebel armies—remembering the injustices of the past, and conveniently forgetting their own culpability in the power structure—turned on the Qin populace, enslaving them just as they had been enslaved and slaughtering those who resisted.

Amidst this destruction, millions prayed for salvation. They prayed to their gods, their ancestors, and then to me, the one whom they call Dao. They prayed to me for peace, and peace I soon delivered to them.

During the third year of rebellion, in the midst of a harsh winter, An Lushan—Lord of the new Dynasty—became severely ill and died. Seeing their master dead, his men turned upon one another. Many chose to return to their lands, which had long since been freed and liberated from the control of the Qin Empire, while the rest chose to continue to fight for power.

In the midst of this confusion, thousands of Qin militia rose among the people, and they went before the exiled Emperor Xing He and petitioned him for his support. And the Emperor—now contrite of his past sins—gave it to them.

Immediately, the militia leaders arrested the court eunuchs and mandarins whose policies of expansionism had spilled the blood of Qin soldiers on the foreign lands, and whose schemes have led to the An Lushan’s rebellion. They seized also the magnates and financiers, whose usury and foreign slaves had destroyed the Qin farmers and workers. And finally, they seized the reprobates, the schemers, and the lying scholars, whose actions have degraded the nobility of the Imperial Court and have led the people astray with their degeneracy.  

Then the people of Qin executed all these traitors and mounted their heads atop gruesome battle standards for all men to see. Upon seeing the source of their misery punished and their bodies desecrated, the peasants of the Jade Empire flocked to the Emperor’s banner, and with shouts of “Zunwang Rangyi,” they took the battle to remaining rebel armies, driving them away from the borders of the Qin Empire.

After three years of fighting and several millions dead, the An Lushan rebellion finally ended. The Dynasty would never recover from its wounds, and the people of the Empire will suffer much in the years to come, but a greater evil had been averted.

The Qin will persist as a proud and distinct people upon the living world, her culture and legacy intact, undiminished by corruption. And all because Li Linfu and his soldiers chose to sally forth from darkness and into the light of history.


Duryodan stood in front of the giant stone tablet that stood proudly at the base of Mount Yongqui. Upon its surface were the names of thousands of warriors who had laid down their lives for their people.

A terrible sadness filled his heart as he remembered that night when he walked among Li Linfu’s men, blessing them and healing their wounds, and he wished with all of his heart that he could have saved their lives.

He could have easily done it. He could have slain Li Bei himself, but such actions were against the Great Law, My Law. Man must strive to become himself. He must give himself to a higher purpose, and thus overcome the entropy of Time and the tyranny of History.

Duryodan remembered these lessons, and found solace in them. It had been Li Linfu’s dharma to fight and it was his dharma to die, and he did both.

He then gazed upon the tablet, and a strange, subtle joy filled him. And he, Duryodan—a warrior of my Narayani Sena, a creature who fought against demonic Asuras in the earliest age of man and whose powers had burned away wicked cities—solemnly and respectfully bowed before the names of the Heroes of Glorious Yongqui.


For all installments of “The Age of Crows: Glorious Yongqui,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2


“Glorious Yongqui” is part of Jed J. Del Rosario’s Age of Crows universe. If you would like to read another story set in the same universe, you can purchase Death Dealers and Diabolists here.