The Eternal Promise is a Shang folktale about the tragedy of three lovers which symbolically depicts the rise of the Yamato Empire at the dawn of the Third Age, the fall of the Shang and the Bharata, and serves as a mythic explanation for the eerie reputation of Devilfish Strait. The story inspired the Remonian playwright William Veer to write a play titled Rusokan and Abseria about a similarly destructive romance.
Long ago, when a bright light illuminated the vast darkness, the Crimson Heaven was blinded by the beauty of the Jade Sea and fell in love with her. Heaven's love was so intense that he descended on the world with fiery passion and made love to the Jade Sea who gave birth to their children, the countless islands of what are now our homeland. Autumn turned to spring, and these children had children of their own. The grandchildren of Heaven and Earth were Zhu Que, the Vermilion Bird, and Xuan Wu, the Black Turtle, whose clans lived off the land, existing in harmony with nature.
The Vermilion Bird built her nest on the mountains so she could stay close to Grandfather Sky. However, she never forgot Grandmother Sea or the islands that were the everlasting reminder of their passion, so she kept watch over the land below while her clan multiplied during the warm summer that followed. Her people remained pale as the air high above was without filth, and they sang in joy in honour of their ancestors and to entertain their cousins down below.
The Black Turtle chose to stay below, creating many magnificent rice fields with hard work and dedication, using Grandmother Sea's watery gift to make the land flourish. But he could never forget Grandfather Sky, so he looked up to the mountains, yearning to see what lay beyond the stars. His people were covered in filth as they worked on the fields throughout summer which turned to autumn, and their skin turned dark, but their hearts remained pure. When they heard their cousins' songs, they danced with joy. And thus Song and Dance became inseparable from one another.
However, as autumn turned to winter, Zhu Que felt increasingly sad and spoke to Xuan Wu who felt a similar sadness in his heart. They were sad that everything would wither as leaves fell off trees and the nights became colder. Zhu Que sang of her feelings with the voice of a songbird, and her melody was so sad that it made Xuan Wu weep, and the heavens wept with him.
The Black Turtle's voice was no match for the Vermilion Bird and he could not fly to the heavens with wings like she could, but he had sturdy feet which he could command to do his bidding. He knew that if the heavens kept weeping, his harvest would be ruined, and his clan would starve. So he wished to make Zhu Que smile again so the sun would come out and bring the warmth of spring and life with it into the darkness once more.
Xuan Wu did the only thing he could: he commanded his feet to dance for the Vermilion Bird just like his people had danced in tune with the song of her people. The Black Turtle was clumsy but he poured all of his heart into this earnest dance. Zhu Que noticed his attempt, dried her tears and laughed heartily, not because she wished to mock him but because she was moved by how kind and caring Xuan Wu was not only for his people but for her as well to do this for all their sakes.
The sun came out, drawn by the beautiful sound of the Vermilion Bird's laughter, and winter turned to spring. It was then, as the first rays of blinding light filled the land, that Zhu Que and Xuan Wu finally met on eye level, neither gazing ponderously at the sky nor longingly down to earth. The passion that Grandfather Sky and Grandmother Sea had once had was now within their eyes as they stood there, neither saying a word, and for the first time they saw their very being complete in the other's eyes. They made an eternal promise to never be apart from that day onward.
The spring that followed was more beautiful than any before it, with flowers blooming everywhere. The Vermilion Bird's laughter echoed in the sky, accompanied by the beat which the Black Turtle's rhythmic dance provided, as spring turned to a warm summer. They were happy then, and so were their people, and the world around them rejoiced for it had been decided that the clans of Heaven and Earth would become one the next spring with the sacred marriage of Zhu Que and Xuan Wu.
But when the clans had enjoyed the warmest and happiest summer to ever grace the world, autumn came with chilly winds blowing from the east. The winds were accompanied by a roar that shook the islands themselves, announcing the coming of Qing Long, the Azure Dragon, and his seafaring people. The Azure Dragon's clan was weary for they had spent a long time aboard their mighty vessels, praying Grandmother Sea to guide them to safety. The Vermilion Bird saw their plight and felt sorry for them, so she descended on them, welcomed them to the land, and guided them towards the Black Turtle.
The Azure Dragon's people settled into the land and survived the harsh winter with help from their happy and welcoming hosts who sang and danced for them and lifted their spirits. As he was cared for by Zhu Que, Qing Long was blinded by her beauty and mistook her kindness for desiring a strong hunter like him as a mate. When spring came and the flowers blossomed in preparation for the wedding of the Vermilion Bird and the Black Turtle, so did the passion in the Azure Dragon's beating heart swell.
Qing Long desired Zhu Que and spoke to her. He told her that he had seen how rich the land was and how it was full of animals to hunt, and he promised to bring Zhu Que any beast she desired so he could win her heart. But the Vermilion Bird laughed heartily and told the Azure Dragon not to do so because she desired nothing more than the company of the Black Turtle whom she would wed to fulfill the eternal promise they had made and bind their hearts together as one.
Qing Long still desired Zhu Que and spoke to her again. He told her that not only was he a mighty hunter but he was also a strong warrior who would use his strength to protect her from any danger if she became his, and he promised to wrestle with the strongest warrior in the realm so he could win her heart. But the Vermilion Bird laughed heartily and told the Azure Dragon not to do so because she desired nothing more than the company of the Black Turtle whom she would wed to fulfill the eternal promise they had made and bind their hearts together as one.
Qing Long still desired Zhu Que and spoke to her again. He told her that not only was he a mighty hunter and a strong warrior but he was also a cunning wizard who could conjure up the sun to light up the darkness and keep the cold winter away so he could win her heart. The Vermilion Bird was amazed by the Azure Dragon's boldness, and she told him he was very gifted, but she reminded him that the four seasons were there for a reason and that just like the different seasons were destined to exist in an eternal cycle, so was the love between soulmates meant to exist as well. And the Vermilion Bird laughed heartily and told the Azure Dragon not to do so because she desired nothing more than the company of the Black Turtle whom she would wed to fulfill the eternal promise they had made and bind their hearts together as one.
Qing Long grew angry, mistaking Zhu Que's hearty laughter as her mocking him. He told her that someone of his stature had never been humiliated this much in his life before, having been rejected by her three times. He told her that these three rejections were born out of her desire to deceive him into loving him and that the fourth time would not lead to yet another deception but to death. He told her that he too had made an eternal promise just like she had. He would make his own destiny, and he would not only use his skills as a mighty hunter, a strong warrior and a cunning wizard but also the fury of his broken heart to take what he deemed to be his. Qing Long's clan would rule this land in his image, and he would make Zhu Que his mate for the strongest dragon deserved only the most beautiful songbird by his side.
The Vermilion Bird's laughter ended when the Azure Dragon had said his piece and tried to capture her, and she flew away into her nest on the mountain while the skies darkened for the first time in spring. The Azure Dragon roared in frustration and unleashed his fury as a strong warrior, scorching the very land he walked on and burning all the blooming flowers in his wake.
The Black Turtle, seeing his people killed, retreated into his shell for he was no warrior and hunter but a gentle farmer who only knew how to create life and not take it, and his grief over the loss of his people was too great for his body to overcome. The Azure Dragon used his sorcery as a cunning wizard to strip the strength from the Black Turtle, forcing him to stay within the safety of his shell where he would wither and die alone. Spring turned to summer which was colder and darker than any before it because no longer did the Black Turtle and his people dance to delight Heaven and no longer did songs respond joyfully because there was no dance on Earth to respond to.
The Azure Dragon then used his skills as a mighty hunter to track down the Vermilion Bird, climbed up the mountain to her nest and used his sorcery to clip her wings so she could not fly away again. Ready to claim her as his own at long last, Qing Long mocked Zhu Que for choosing such a weak mate as the Black Turtle who was not worthy of her love. The Azure Dragon told the Vermilion Bird how he had used his three skills of deception as a cunning sorcerer, strong warrior and mighty hunter to bring her back under his wing just like he had promised he would do.
Zhu Que was overcome with sadness after hearing the fate of her beloved Xuan Wu, and her melodic and warm voice turned dissonant and cold. She reminded Qing Long that his prophecy was not yet fulfilled. The Azure Dragon had indeed used his three skills of deception as he had bragged, but he had forgotten that his fourth act was yet to come and that it would not be born from deception but from death. The Vermilion Bird then spread her wings and jumped off the mountain, falling to her doom because her clipped wings could not carry her anymore.
Qing Long hurried down in an attempt to save Zhu Que, but it was too late. The Vermilion Bird lay dead, and none of the Azure Dragon's skills as a cunning wizard, strong warrior or mighty hunter could bring her back to life. Zhu Que's body immolated and turned into ashes in Qing Long's claws, and from her ashes was born Fenghuang, the Phoenix, a symbol of eternal recurrence and an unfulfilled promise, who flew away, never to return.
Qing Long cried out in sorrow which soon turned into a roar of rage, and he unleashed all his power on the land as revenge, to destroy everything that reminded him of the love he had lost because of his greed and selfishness. The roar of the Azure Dragon shook the islands just like it had when he had first arrived, but this time life withered away, leaving only a barely sustainable wasteland behind. There were no more songs to be heard, no more dances to be seen. All that remained was darkness and desolation for joy and love had died that day.
The Azure Dragon had fulfilled his promise. His fourth act had led to death as he had used the fury of his broken heart to claim what he deemed to be his: the land and its people. His clan would rule the land in his image, and the land now reflected his sorrow and pain as a shadow of what he had once been.
And so the Azure Dragon had a grand city built in the heart of the scorched land, and the city was covered in shadows as he could not bear to see the sun whose warmth reminded him of what he had lost. He rejected his name which he had heard the Vermilion Bird utter, and he told his people that henceforth they would no longer be known as the children of Qing Long the Dragon Sailor but as the children of Seiryuu the Dragon Emperor. He would sit on his throne and rule from within the Palace of Eternal Darkness which oversaw the City of Shadows until death would give him release from his pain.
The Black Turtle's clan withdrew into their shells, becoming one with the earth, to die a long death. They received a vision from Fenghuang the Phoenix who had flown past them, however, and in that vision they saw that one day the land would restore itself and the Azure Dragon's dark curse would be lifted through the coming of a champion, Bai Hu the White Tiger, who would bring an end to the Dragon Emperor's reign.
The clan of the Vermilion Bird despaired over the death of Zhu Que. Many fled from their crumbling nest but the most faithful remained to watch over the tomb of their beloved Matriarch Who Had Once Lived And Laughed, calling it Lian Yu, the Purgatory. Their sorrow turned into hatred against the ones who had wronged them and taken their mistress's happiness away, and they embraced the dark flames spread by the Azure Dragon's breath to numb their pain and to be born anew from the ashes just like their beloved Phoenix had. But their hearts were no longer pure so their new bodies became mishapen, dark reflections of the beauty which they had once held and which was now frightening to behold.
Many lifetimes have passed since those sad days, but it is said that the chilling cries of the Faithful still echo in the halls of Lian Yu which watch over the land and sea below. Anyone who hears these voices of the past will be overcome with great sorrow for a promise that was meant to be eternal but could not be kept.