It is impossible to speak of the Cataclysm without delving into the matters of the Second Dynasty. It is agreed among scholars that that by the time of Longshen’s rebellion, the Ao family already in its terminal decline. The Imperial family had long since begun to disregard their advisors and select successors to the throne purely based upon force of cultivation, or even worse, on mere seniority or sentiment. The result was a string of weak or ineffectual emperors whose Ways were unsuited to rulership, and a weakening of the bonds which grant us the peace and prosperity of unified rule.
The seeds of Longshen’s rebellion were born from this. Contemporary sources indicate that the Eldest son of Emperor Wen was a man of great pride, an unparalleled academic and scholar, he nonetheless had very poor relations with his fathers court due to an acerbic personality and a tendency to dismiss any accomplishments outside of his own fields of interest. He disdained military and civic matters in particular.
It was thus unsurprising to all but the man himself when even his own clan members chose one of the esteemed emperors younger sons to succeed him. It is said that Emperor Zhao was a man of great civic skill and compassion, and it is only thanks to this that the Second Dynasty continued beyond the Cataclysm. However, this document’s focus is on the rebellion, and not the final decline of the Second Dynasty.
Longshen was enraged at being passed over, and documentation indicated that he spent the final decades of his ailing Fathers reign furiously attempting to bully various individuals into supporting his claim, but despite his personal potency he found few sympathetic ears. It was at this point clear that he would not accept matters as they were, and (Now exalted) Mu family, then enforcers and executioners of Imperial will were contacted to arrest him. Unfortunately, despite the skill and integrity of the Mu family, Longshen escaped before he could be subdued.
It is unknown where the villain fled to, in the century that followed. While there are many wild rumors, there are no credible sources regarding where he took sanctuary. The next that any in the empire heard from him, was the beginning of the troubles in Golden Fields. In those days, the Golden Fields and their ruling Lu family were powerful voices at court. Being the largest province in the empire, and the center of agriculture were potent enough pieces, However, the region was also the most tamed. The rolling fertile plains and the great Sapphire River held few potent spirit beasts, and records indicate that the provinces population exceeded the next two highest combined. Only their comparatively lacking military might kept them from ascendance.
So, the rulers of Golden Fields were a prideful folk, and so when the first towns and villages in the east went dark, they said nothing to the court, attempting to deal with the matter themselves. It is now known that Longshen, returning from his exile had aligned himself with a separatist cult on the frontier of Golden Fields. The cult worshipped the Dark Sun, the Great Spirit of the Solar Eclipse, a creature of transgression, transformation and chaos. The cult was obviously proscribed by the rulers of the Golden Fields, even before these events.
However even these villains were but the first of Longshen’s victims. We must speak now of the methods which made Longshen the threat that he was. Manipulation of the Soul, in his exile Longshen had developed a method to parasitize the souls of others, installing a fragment of his own essence and binding the victims existence to his own. Those changed in this manner suffered from mental contamination, and could not defy him. They were also rendered immune to death while he himself still lived.
Even arts which reduced the body to dust or rent the soul merely allowed Longshen to rebuild them in his presence, though reports indicate that individuals who suffered death grew more and more damaged with rebirth, becoming little more than feral animals eventually.
However, the true horror of the foul villains arts lay in the fact that it did not require his direct intervention. The fragment of his soul his puppets contained ingrained in them a technique which through the sharing of blood, allowed them to pass the infection to others, man, beast or spirit.
Longshen proved cunning, and the Lu lax, by the time the phoenix lords began to take his threat seriously, Longshen was legion. When the first true punitive legion was raised and then crushed, Longshen began to take the offensive. It is difficult to convey the horror depicted within the primary sources which survived those days. The sky blackened by smoke and the scent of blood and rot ever on the air. The sight of those you had known and loved, twisted and transformed into bloodthirsty beasts.
When the first city fell, the Lu mobilized in force, a shining legion of celestial warriors. Before the might of the Lu, before the white fires of the sun, Longshen’s advance was halted. But only for a time. Each warrior that fell joined the enemy, and their number only ever grew. By this point, other provinces had taken notice, and for the first time since the strife, a Grand Muster was called across the empire. The armies of Bai marched alongside the warriors of Zheng and clans of Heavenly Peaks, and even the turmoil ridden clans of the south gathered for war. The fleets of Xuan and Jin sailed for the coasts to prevent the spread of the villains infection into the Alabaster Sea.
In the borderlands of the Golden Fields, the armies of the Empire held. However, what happened next is unclear. Lu Guanxi, patriarch of the Lu clan had twice faced Longshen himself, now styled the Twilight King, in battles that had lit second suns in the east. The first time, it seemed that he had slain the villain, but it proved a temporary reprieve. In the second, the patriarch and his elite were driven back by the Twilight King and his monsters.
What happened the third time we do not know. Only that Patriarch Lu Guanxi chose to awaken his clans ancestor, the great phoenix, the Purifying Sun. What can be said about the awakening of a Sublime? One could speak of the sky aflame and the earth charred to twisted glass and melting stone and metal, of a terrible heat that withered crops and started fires as far away as the Xiangmen in the south, of men whose blood flash boiled in their veins, reduced to ashen shadows on shattered walls. Sources from the period are universally nigh hysterical in their tone.
Then it was passed. And the Golden Fields was no more, a vast plain of ash, glass and cooling molten rock. The Sapphire River was gone, and the glittering coast was shrouded in lethal steam. The air itself was poisoned and no cloud could reach the land to pour down cooling water. The Twilight King was slain, but at a terrible cost, for even the Phoenix could not rise again from that poisoned land.
The effects of the destruction were beyond counting. The famines and shortages, the desperate efforts of the empires formations masters to contain the poisonous qi and the spread of the desert, the political upheaval as the fury of the provinces turned upon the throne. Even dead, the Twilight King continued to inflict horror upon the empire...
--Excerpt from a text written under the Empress Yin, second ruler of the third dynasty.