Qin Shi Huang bowed low before the Jade Emperor in Shangdi, marveling that he'd reached the pinnacle of his life's achievement. Beside him knelt his first and most treasured son Fu Su and on his other side, his most trusted general, Meng Tian. They had never been within the gates of Heaven before and were quite overwhelmed, but this was not Qin Shi Huang's first time here.
Years before he had boldly presented himself before the Jade Emperor and was gifted with the Mandate of Heaven. Since then, he had more than proven himself worthy. He had toppled the failing and broken Zhou Dynasty, united all of China and completely changed the way his people were governed. After what he'd done the world would never be the same again.
More than that, he had exposed the corruption of Fenghuang, the sacred bird and Shenlong, the spiritual dragon of storms. Their treachery had been the downfall of the Zhou and he had proudly stepped in, toppled them and saved his people.
The Jade Emperor's voice echoed throughout the space around him and within his head, although it was addressing the bound deities, off to the side of him and his companions.
"For your betrayal, you shall be punished! No longer are you Fenghuang and Shenlong. The souls of the most virtuous among human mortals shall take your places in that honor."
Fenghuang, a beautiful conglomeration of all birds, and Shenlong, with his fierce claws and azure scales, screamed and burned to ash, releasing their souls into the air. The lights of their spirits were dim and tainted.
Within the ashes of their bodies, two bright new souls manifested. All Qin could tell was that one was male and one was female. He couldn't help but wonder who they had once been. In a burst of light and energy, the ashes swirled around the souls, growing and reforming until Fenghuang and Shenlong were reborn in all their glory. The Jade Emperor now addressed the ruined souls.
"You shall not even have the comfort of being together in your punishment. He who was Shenlong, I will imprison in the spirit world between life and death. There you will remain for eternity, alone, neither alive nor dead."
An ornate mirror formed out of thin air behind one of the souls and it shrieked as it was drawn in, hitting the surface of the mirror as though it were water. The surface became living mercury with tendrils of fluid, reflective metal snaking out, entangling the soul and dragging it inside before the source became solid once more. The Jade Emperor switched his attention back to his human guests.
"Emperor Qin, for your service, your most worthy son and all his descendants will have the honor of guarding this soul, keeping him imprisoned and protecting all humanity from his evil. Approach Fu Su."
Qin was taken aback at the announcement and remained stunned as his son and heir approached the Jade Emperor. The Jade Emperor touched Fu Su's head and Qin could feel the divine power flow into his son and almost sense the gift of secret knowledge his child was receiving. He was deeply proud, but at the same time concerned for his people.
Fu Su was to be emperor after him and maintain the mighty dynasty that he had begun. While his son's tendency towards compassion had caused him to wonder if Fu Su would have the will of steel necessary to protect and guide the people of their new country, he had never doubted his son's honor, intelligence or strength. He had been training Fu Su to be a warrior king and could think of no better future emperor to take his place when the time came.
But that path was gone. Who could he entrust China to now? As he considered his remaining children, he decided that his son Hu Hai would be the next most reasonable candidate, but was so flawed compared to Fu Su. No matter, he could teach Hu Hai, train him to rule. Until Hu Hai was ready, he simply could not afford to die.
Fu Su turned back to Meng Tian.
"I cannot do this alone. I will need disciples to aid me." Meng Tian bowed to him.
"It would be an honor to be your first disciple." The Jade Emperor nodded and turned to the newly reborn deities.
"Shenlong. You will carry the mirror to a safe place and create a temple to protect it. Fenghuang. You will guide them to the mirror temple, so that they and whomever they deem worthy will alone know its location." Shenlong and Fenghuang bowed their heads to him.
Finally, the Jade Emperor returned his attention to the last remaining soul.
"She who was Fenghuang. You are banished from Shangdi and China, forever humbled and in exile." In a blinding burst of light and a cry of agony, she was gone.