Even before he'd heard the news, Lan Zhan's heart had been pounding. Jiang disciples would not have hunted him down in Gusu for anything less than a disaster. Wei Ying was missing. Lan Zhan had left immediately for Yunmeng. The disciples had offered to accompany him, but Lan Zhan had turned them down. How could he depend on them after they'd lost Wei Ying?

The village was not hard to find. Both Wei Ying and Sect Leader Jiang had gone missing. The news was drawing a crowd. Lan Zhan dropped off his sword just outside of the village and thought about where he should start. Wei Ying had often gathered information at inns. Lan Zhan would start there. He drew silent stares as he walked through the village but stopped just outside the inn, struck by the gossip he could hear from inside.

"The Yiling Patriarch kidnapped Sect Leader Jiang."

"No, no, Sect Leader Jiang and the Yiling Patriarch fought, killing each other. The bodies are still missing."

"Idiot, how can you know they're dead if there are no bodies? Isn't the Yiling Patriarch a necromancer? They're reviving the corpses of the Wen traitors."

"You're the idiot. Sect Leader Jiang kills demonic cultivators. He'd never do such a thing. The Yiling Patriarch murdered him and is hiding out in the Burial Mounds."

Lan Zhan's fingers clenched tightly around his sword's hilt. Wei Ying had been back for almost a decade. How could they still believe he was evil? As Lan Zhan stepped into the inn, he heard his title whispered around the room: Hanguang-Jun. The conversations stopped. No one would catch his eye. He would not get any information here but it did not matter. They did not know what had happened to Wei Ying.

He found the home of the village headman. The man dropped to the floor, bowing and trembling. "Please have mercy. It's not my fault. They asked about the creature and I told them. I had no idea they would vanish, experienced cultivators like that."

The man told him to take the north road. That was direction enough. The carrion birds circling overhead led him to the farmhouse. Lan Zhan wondered why no one in the village had cleared away the corpses. He played a chord on his guqin, scattering the carrion birds, and learned why. There were no corpses to bury. The bodies had been shredded, all but one.

Around the side of the farmhouse, he found a corpse, a man. He'd been beheaded and his flesh had been eaten away but his feet were trapped. Lan Zhan squatted down to examine the substance. He'd seen it before. It was the phlegm of a Fyarl, a creature from Sunnydale.

Lan Zhan walked away from the farmhouse to where the carrion birds were thickest. He found a corpse. Much of the skin had been eaten away but what was left did not look human. Wei Ying had killed the Fyarl but had not returned. Lan Zhan played a set of chords. There was no answering echo. It was as he'd feared. There was no portal nearby. Wei Ying must have gone to the land where resentment does not flow and closed the portal behind him. Lan Zhan knew he must follow but he did not know where in that realm Wei Ying would be. If Lan Zhan created a portal and anchored it on the Fyarl, he should come out near where Wei Ying had crossed over. There would probably be other Fyarl near the portal. Perhaps Wei Ying had already killed them. He did not like to think of Wei Ying fighting them without proper backup. What if he'd been hurt?

Lan Zhan could not delay. Wei Ying might be hurt. He had to leave immediately but his brother needed to know that a portal had been created between the two realms. Lan Zhan sent a butterfly messenger to tell his brother of the portal, adding that the creature that had come through the portal was dead.

Lan Zhan did not apologize for following Wei Ying although he knew his brother would be upset. His brother would also understand it was something he had to do.

Lan Zhan had never created a portal before but he'd helped Wei Ying and Rosenberg Willow work out the theory. He had also documented the process in a text that had been stored in the Lan's secret library. It was not difficult to modify the process to use the Fyarl as an anchor. The resulting tear in the world opened into darkness. Lan Zhan stepped through and then closed the portal.

He found himself in a tunnel. The weight of the earth hung over him. Ahead torches lit up a wider space, a large cavern. He thought back to Sunnydale. Torches had never been a good sign. He could hear creatures growling. It would not take them long to notice him.