An Adventure With Nezha

哪吒大冒險


Released on April 30, 2022



"Lord Nezha!" I yelled out.

"Stay back!" he said, as he stood in front of me, protecting me from the demon beast that had found us in the forest.

The demon beast - some sort of... black lion with a horn on its head - roared and lunged at him.

Lord Nezha held firmly in front of me, even as the beast bit down on his forearm.

Without even flinching, Lord Nezha used his other hand to thrust his spear into the beast's belly.

"Fire-Tipped Spear, alight!" he yelled.

Suddenly, the demon beast's eyes widened in shock, as the blade in its belly lit up in flames.

Letting go of Lord Nezha's arm, the beast whimpered as it staggered back, pulling away from the spear.

Defiantly, the beast roared.

"Die, beast!" Lord Nezha yelled.

Then, he thrust his spear's flaming tip into the beast's mouth, piercing the back of the beast's throat.

The two stood still for a moment, as if frozen in place.

Then, suddenly, the beast's head burst into divine flames, and Lord Nezha pulled his spear out.

The beast fell down, dead.

Lord Nezha turned around and gave me a smile.

"Are you alright, my lord?!" I asked, as I hurriedly approached him.

"Hm? Oh, this?" he asked, holding out the arm that had been bitten, "No need to worry, it's just a scratch!"

And, indeed, except for the bite marks, the arm was perfectly fine - it wasn't even bleeding!

"See, all fine!" he said, cheerfully, "And the bite marks will heal away soon too."

"T-Thank goodness, my lord," I said, letting out a sigh of relief, "I was afraid that you would be bleeding badly, after taking a bite like that."

He laughed, "Don't worry! My immortal body is made out of lotus roots, after all - so it can't bleed!"

For a moment, all I could do was blink.

"L-Lotus roots?!"

***

I had been on a trek in the forest just outside of my village, when I happened upon the demon beasts' nest.

After realizing what I had stumbled onto, my frightened instincts screamed at me to run away, before any of the beasts could notice me.

Before I could do that though, whimpering from a familiar voice caught my attention.

Against my better judgement, I decided to sneak closer towards the nest.

When I reached the nest, I had to cover my mouth before a gasp could escape from it.

One of the larger beasts was dragging along a bloodied and battered person in its jaw.

It was someone who had grown up in the village with me!

The larger beast tossed its prey into the middle of the nest.

Weakly, my fellow villager began to say, "Please..."

But, before my fellow villager could say anything more, the demon beasts jumped in and began to tear their prey apart.

A scream escaped from me, as I stumbled backwards and hit the ground.

The demon beasts stopped.

They turned to look in my direction.

I stayed still, hoping that I had somehow escaped notice.

Moments passed.

And the demon beasts finally went back to their meal.

I scrambled away as fast as I could.

I ran and ran - hoping to get back to my village.

As I neared the forest's edge, my heart felt elated - soon, I would be saf-

A demon beast jumped out at me from the trees on my left.

I tripped and crashed into the ground, skidding across the grass.

Somehow, my clumsiness had just barely saved me from the beast's attack.

Quickly, I got up.

The beast was now slowly approaching me.

Afraid, I started to back up away from it.

The beast roared and lunged at me.

I held up my hands, as if that could somehow stop the demon beast.

Suddenly, a humanoid-shaped meteor crashed into the beast from the sky.

"Fire-Tipped Spear, burn!"

The beast roared as flames wreathed around it.

Before long, the beast fell, becoming a fiery mess of ashes.

Up in the air, floating atop wheels of fire, was my saviour.

His appearance was that of a young boy's. His hair was pulled up into two niujiaotou buns, and he wore a dudou with a skirt that was adorned with lotus petals. A gold ring decorated his wrist, and he was wielding a spear with a flaming blade. All this, and a red sash was floating in the air around him.

I stood in awe - could this be Nezha, the protector god who banishes demons and helps us mortals?

"Are you hurt?" he asked, floating down towards me.

"N-No," I replied, "Thank you for saving me. It must have followed me from its nest, after I-"

"Its nest?" he asked, suddenly interrupting me, "Do you know where it is?!"

"Y-Yes," I said, "It's-"

Suddenly, my saviour picked me up, and we flew into the air!

I yelled out in surprise.

"Sorry," he said, "I've been hunting these beasts for a while now. Could you tell me where their nest is?"

"A-Alright," I said, not used to being up in the air.

I looked down at the forest...

"Well?" he asked, getting impatient.

Nervously, I began to say, "I... I can't!"

***

"I'm so sorry again, Lord Nezha!" I said, apologizing profusely, "If only I had known how to get there from the skies, then you could have just flown us there!"

"Don't worry about it," he said, dismissing my concerns with a wave of his hand, "At least you know the way from down here."

His red sash, as if it had a mind of its own, danced around the fire that we had set up.

Night had fallen soon after Lord Nezha saved me yet again, and we had decided to set up camp.

As it had already been late when I first met Lord Nezha, we only managed to travel a little bit into the forest before sunlight began to fade.

By early tomorrow, though, we should be able to reach the nest - and Lord Nezha can then complete his mission, and my village would be safe from the demon beasts.

"Alright, all done!" Lord Nezha said, as he picked up some of the boar meat that had been roasting by the fire, "Let's eat!"

"Y-Yes, my lord," I said, as I picked up some of the boar that Lord Nezha had so graciously hunted for us, "Thank you."

Lord Nezha giggled, "Well, I wasn't going to let a mortal starve under my watch!"

I laughed along with him, and we began to eat.

As we ate, we began to converse.

"Thank you again for saving me," I said, "and for helping my village by hunting down the demon beasts."

Lord Nezha gave me a smile. Blushing a little, he said, "Aw, don't mention it! It's my duty, after all!"

"If only I was brave, like you...," I said.

"Well, you are guiding me to a nest full of demon beasts," he said, "I'd say that's pretty brave!"

This time, it was my turn to blush, "T-Thank you, my lord."

"But..." I said, solemnly, "I watched the beasts tear apart someone that I knew, and all I could do was run."

I stared at the fire, regretful of my cowardice.

I felt Lord Nezha's hand on my back, trying to comfort me.

"You couldn't have done anything," he said, "And by surviving, you can now lead me to them."

"I will slay the beasts," he said.

"Thank you, Lord Nezha," I replied.

"Now, eat up!" he said, "Your food's getting cold!"

***

Later into the night, I had finally worked up the courage to ask, "How did your body come to be made of lotus roots, my lord?"

Lord Nezha chuckled, "Well, it's kinda a long story."

"I don't mind, my lord," I said.

Lord Nezha chuckled again, "Well, to begin with, I was a human before I became a god."

I nodded as he began his story.

"Apparently, my mother had been pregnant with me for three and a half years before I was born," he said.

"Three and a half years?!" I exclaimed.

"Well, that's what they tell me," he said, "Anyways, when my mother finally gave birth to me, I apparently came out as a ball of flesh!"

I stared at him in shock, "W-What?"

Lord Nezha laughed, "My parents were shocked as well."

"So shocked," he said, "that my father thought that I was some sort of demon and attacked me."

"And that was my first memory," he said, his tone turning somber, "because I then jumped out of the ball of flesh, and the first thing that I saw was my father, pointing his blade at me, with the intent to murder me."

"You see," he continued, "I had come out of that ball of flesh as a boy instead of as a baby. And my father was convinced that I was a demon. I tried to tell him otherwi-"

I interrupted in disbelief, "You could talked already?"

"Yep," he said, "talk, walk - everything a fully grown boy could do and more!"

"Anyways...," he said, continuing with his story, "Luckily, my teacher-to-be - the immortal sage, Taiyi Zhenren - was there, and he managed to calm my parents down, convincing them that I was not a demon. Instead, I was apparently gifted with divine powers."

"My mother grew to love me," he said, "but my father never showed me any love - in fact, I'm pretty sure that he hated me."

"I'm sorry, my lord," I said, "That must have been awful."

Lord Nezha laughed, though this laugh was more bitter than his previous ones, "If you think that was awful, wait till you hear about our feud!"

"F-Feud?!"

"Yep," he said, "but we'll get to that later."

"I had been training with Taiyi shifu," he said, "and he had given me this Universe Ring..."

He took the ring that was around his wrist off, and began to twirl it around his index finger. As he did so, the ring began to expand!

"As you can see," he said, "it's a treasure filled with divine powers."

"And one day," he continued, "I was playing in the river with it."

"As a kid, I had no idea how powerful the ring was - or how powerful I was," he said, "Apparently, the ring and I were powerful enough that playing with it in the river caused a quake at the Dragon King of the East Sea's undersea palace!"

"I am... ashamed of what happened next, but...," he continued, "The Dragon King sent his third son, Ao Bing, to find out what was happening. And, during our confrontation, I accidentally killed him."

"Oh, no...," I said.

Lord Nezha nodded, "It gets worse."

"The Dragon King wanted revenge," he said, "and he threatened to flood the lands."

"And so, to stop him," Lord Nezha said, "I killed myself."

I gasped.

"Oh, don't worry," he said, with a sly smile, "Taiyi shifu eventually created a new body for my soul, and that's why my body is now made out of lotus roots!"

Lord Nezha laughed, "He even continued my training, and gave me all of my new weapons after that!"

I laughed along with him, though I did so reservedly.

"So," I asked, "did that end your feud with your father?"

Lord Nezha's expression grew somber again, "Oh, that."

"I-I'm sorry, my lord!" I said, "I-"

Lord Nezha waved his hand, "No, no, I was the one who mentioned it in the first place."

"But, no," he said, "Instead, that was the beginning of our feud."

"You see," he said, "when I died, my spirit could not rest."

"I visited my mother in her dreams," he explained, "and she built me a temple so that I could find peace."

"My father, however," he said, his tone growing bitter, "felt that I had shamed and dishonoured our family. So he went and personally burned down the temple himself."

"I was mad," he said, "Even after killing myself to atone for Ao Bing's death, my father still resented me. So, when Taiyi shifu made a new body for me, I vowed that I would get revenge."

"Over the next several years, my father and I would fight and fight," he said, "And I don't mean that we were arguing. No, these were fights to the death."

"I was finally going to win too," he continued, "but the other gods interfered."

"They gave my father a golden pagoda, and taught him how to use it," he explained, "And he was finally able to force me to submit to him."

Puzzled, I asked, "But, a pagoda...?"

"It's hard to explain," Lord Nezha said, "But he could do things with that damn pagoda - it being a divine weapon and all. I remember getting trapped in it, while he set the pagoda on fire."

"But, mostly," he said, "he just takes it out, makes it grow into a giant tower, and then slams it down on his enemies - which he did to me as well."

"After he could do that," he continued, "the other gods ordered us to make amends and end the feud."

"That's it?!" I asked, incredulous, "You just had to... forgive your father because he could trap you under a pagoda?!"

Stunned, Lord Nezha took a moment before he laughed and said, "You know, most - and even the other gods said this - would say that I should have obeyed my father in the first place, no matter what he did - all because I'm his son."

"But, he-!" I exclaimed.

Lord Nezha held up his hand, "You're not wrong, my friend."

"Even now that we're both gods," he said, "and we each have our own duties to carry out... Even though so much time has passed, I still find myself resenting him and what he did, sometimes."

"I'm not saying that I'm perfect and that I didn't do anything wrong," Lord Nezha said, "But my father hated me from the beginning, and he's never apologized for it."

We fell silent as the fire crackled.

"My lord," I said, "I'm sorry..."

Lord Nezha laughed, "Don't worry about it, my friend."

He looked over and smiled, "It was nice to have someone understand for a change."

***

Finally, we reached the demon beasts' nest.

"Stay hidden," Lord Nezha said to me, "I'll take care of this."

"Y-Yes, my lord," I said, "Please, be careful!"

He gave me a sly smile, "Don't worry, these demons are no match for me!"

And indeed, it was a quick battle.

I watched as he started by charging towards the nest.

Without a word, he threw his spear, along with his sash that was attached to it, at one of the demon beasts.

As his spear pierced into the side of the beast, he commanded, "Fire-Tipped Spear, alight!"

The beast that the spear had pierced burst into flames.

"Armillary Sash, return!"

I watched as his red sash pulled the spear out of the burning carcass and flew back to Lord Nezha.

Next, my lord jumped into the air and yelled, "Wind Fire Wheels, take off!"

Spinning wheels wreathed in flames appeared under his feet, and he flew into the air, picking up his sash and spear on the way.

Then, he began to dive back down, wheels aimed at one of the beasts.

With a fiery kick, he slammed down into the beast with one of his wheels. The flaming wheel spun ferociously, and the beast roared with pain.

The other beasts quickly charged at Lord Nezha.

Seeing this, my lord lifted his hand into the air and shouted, "Universe Ring, expand!"

And with that, his golden ring expanded around him. With a loud thud, the ring dropped onto the ground, crushing several of the demon beasts.

As the remaining beasts continued their charge, Lord Nezha yelled, "Armillary Sash, bind them!"

The red sash managed to grab two of the beasts, while Lord Nezha used his burning spear to fend off a third.

The fight continued like this, with Lord Nezha barely getting a scratch. And, before long, all of the demon beasts had been defeated.

"M-My lord!" I exclaimed, as I rushed over to him.

Lord Nezha turned and gave me a wide smile, proud of his work, "Hehee! All done!"

***

The fiery wheels disappeared from underneath my lord's feet, and he gently set me down.

Lord Nezha had dropped me off at the edge of my village.

"Thank you again, my lord!" I said, while giving him a bow.

He smiled back, "Not a problem at all!"

He jumped up, and his Wind Fire Wheels appeared under his feet again.

"I liked talking with you," he said, "Maybe I can visit you again sometime?"

Enthusiastically, I replied, "Please do, my lord!"

Lord Nezha turned to leave.

After floating up in the air a little, he turned back and asked, "Oh, before I forget - what's your name?"

I smiled and began to answer.



Commentary:
Just a fun, little adventure highlighting a popular figure in Chinese mythology.
Most of this adventure is made up, except for Nezha's backstory and how his weapons worked.
Nezha's origin story involving his father had (and has) been used to promote filial piety quite a bit.
I had to use this retelling to deconstruct the concept a little bit, especially because of my own experiences with it.
I'm not saying that it is completely wrong - I do believe that having love and respect for one's parents is important.
However, I've also seen this concept taken to dangerous and blind extremes - where parents think that they can do no wrong with regards to their children, where they refuse to listen to anything that their children have to say, and where they always think that they know better than their children. As a result, there are children who grow up to be quite distant with their parents, some even hating them.
And I don't think that I have to explain why parents who can never admit that they made a mistake or who think that they always know better than their children (to the degree of never actually listening to their kids) is a bad thing, right?
For Nezha's appearance, I chose to go with a more "traditional" depiction of his outfit and looks, but there have been a lot of different designs over the many, many years.
There are some traditional depictions that also give him a collar of lotus petals, but I omitted it here to keep things simpler.
Some later (though still very old) depictions also give him shorts under the lotus petals skirt.
In the story, I had Nezha call out his weapons and attacks - this is, somewhat, reminiscent of a lot of shonen battle manga/anime, magical girl manga/anime, super robot anime, and video games, as well as wuxia and martial arts movies/TV shows. This was so that I could introduce his arsenal somewhat more naturally.
Also, there is a lot of belief that special words can invoke special powers that can be found in Buddhist and Taoist practices, as well as the key phrases and/or noises that martial arts use.
So, it felt right to add it in.
The attack from the sky (from the second section) was inspired by Fate/Grand Order.
There are many different versions of why Nezha killed Ao Bing.
In Investiture of the Gods, the classic source of the Nezha story, Nezha accidentally causes a quake in the Dragon King's, Ao Guang's, undersea court, when he plays with his Universe Ring in the river (being a treasure of divine power, it had a strength unknown to Nezha at the time). Ao Guang sends his son, Ao Bing, to find out what was causing the quake. Nezha proceeds to kill Ao Bing during the confrontation.
Many retellings and adaptations since have given Nezha a more sympathetic reason for killing Ao Bing. These usually involve Ao Guang sending a scout to search for children to eat, only to have Nezha stop this. Ao Bing is then sent to confront Nezha, and then Ao Bing is killed by Nezha during the confrontation. So, they usually remove (or downplay) Nezha accidentally wrecking the Dragon King's palace, and outright make Ao Guang and Ao Bing evil.
And, of course, special mention goes to Nezha (2019) for completely changing the circumstances so that Nezha and Ao Bing were friends (the movie also completely changed Nezha's relationship with his father, so that his father was a loving parent instead).
For my version, I decided to go with something similar to the version from Investiture of the Gods, but I also wanted to have Nezha be more sympathetic. And so, I changed it so that Ao Bing's death was an accident, instead of an outright battle to the death.
Finally, Nezha asking for the narrator's name at the end doesn't really have any significance, besides poking a little fun at me for not naming the narrator, and it being a nice moment of friendship to end on.


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