BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS: 26. "Sacrifice"
Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"Sarah tries to explain her actions to Mal. The crew reunites and tells the Captain about Niska."


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2073    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "SACRIFICE" AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL FANDOM: "FIREFLY" PAIRING: Mal/Sarah. RATING: PG-13 STATUS: SEQUEL to "LIES AND JUSTICE" ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Welcomed. EMAIL: AlisonMDobell@aol.com WEBSITE: http://carlajane.50megs.com/Ali00.html

SUMMARY: "Sarah tries to explain her actions to Mal. The crew reunites and tells the Captain about Niska." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.

"SACRIFICE"

A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

She woke in the warm cradle of his arms, more content than a body had a right to be. Sarah did not think, did not move, did not question. Minutes passed as her languid senses soaked up the latent pleasure of his presence. Gradually awareness shattered the anaethetised bubble with memories sharp and painful, bitter ashes in her mouth where the echo of a smile became something out of reach. Her senses flooded with regret, sorrow and shame. Carefully she opened her eyes not wanting to wake him. To hold on to this image of perfection for as long as she was able. Mal was out for the count, his body folded around hers so protectively. His face relaxed in sleep but still bruised from worry and lack of sleep. Sarah reached out a hand to touch him, her fingers tracing the planes of his face. Lightly trailing ghosts of the passion that ruled her every time she looked into his eyes. Her sigh held heartbreak as much as love.

She moved him carefully, a treasured limb at a time until she had eased him onto his back. Surprised when he did not wake but relieved also because it meant she could watch over him, love him without being observed. Let her heart reach out to him one last time, perhaps to meet in his dreams.

Mal was dreaming. Lying by some sun kissed ocean from Earth-that-was. In truth he had never known such a paradise on any world he had yet visited. Rim or Core they all had their good points and bad but this place had no downside, not that he could see or feel. The sand was a dazzling white powder of warmth sifting between toes and fingers and moving like silk as he walked. He was barefoot, barechested, wearing some kind of cut-down trousers so that he could paddle in the cool water as gentle little waves washed the pristine shoreline and laughed at him. Blue water rocked in breaking wavelets beneath a ceruleun sky. Just the one sun shone down on him but it held warmth and promise. He turned his head and saw Sarah smiling at him, her smile fading as she started to approach. An apology in her look and on her tongue until he raised a hand to still her confession. Not wanting or needing her self flagellation. Desiring only for her to let go of the past and embrace the future. The one he offered along with his heart.

Her words bore through his ears like a hot poker branding him. "There is only the present, Mal. I have nothin' else to give you."

His words sounded like tears bleeding from his mouth. "Hush now, that's *fei hua, xin gan*. We belong together an' you know it."

Their lips met, hearts compromised in mutual adoration if only for a heartbeat. "I can't stay, Mal. You know it."

"What's past is past, no need to dwell on it."

"Mal, I'm tryin' to say goodbye. I don't wanna hurt you."

His lips tangled in her tears. His gentle hands trembling. "Then no more such talk, *dong ma*?"

"I love you..."

"Love you too, *bao bei*." "That's why we can't do this."

He awoke with a start. Shocked to see tears in her eyes bringing back the aching sadness of his dream. Mal shuddered. He wouldn't let it happen, not while he lived and breathed. "Sarah, *shenme shi*?"

"*Yiwusuoyou*, Mal. *Duibuqi* for what I did. I was weak, afraid..."

Mal sat up and cradled her face in one hand then gently kissed the tears from her face as they rolled silently down her cheeks. "Hush, no need for any of this. You're safe now."

"I killed the baby..."

A lump lodged in his throat. Fighting back his own tears he tried to comfort her. "You weren't yourself, *bao bei*." She shook her head and forced him to look at her. Really look. "You don't know me, Mal."

"Do so."

Another firmer headshake this time. "No, you don't."

He froze, eyes searching hers for answers to questions he was afraid to ask. "What you tryin' to tell me?" He whispered.

She kissed him tenderly, her warm lips trying to soften the impact of her harsh words. "I can't love you back, Mal. I have to go."

"Thought you said you loved me?" "I do but it's not enough."

"It is for me."

"Mal," Sarah paused and put a hand to his lips when he would have kissed her more ardently. "Not for me."

Now he was confused. What the *diyu* did she mean? "You toyin' with me?"

Her heart and soul ached. "*Bu qu*, how could you think..." Her voice trailed off as reason filled in the blanks. Of course. How could he not? "I don't want you to grow to hate me."

"Not gonna happen."

"Not now but it will."

"Why you so sure that only bad things can happen, *xin gan*?"

"Because of what I've done. What I am."

He pulled back enough to get a good look at her face, both of them now sitting facing each other. He fixed her with a firm look. "You are the girl I will love for the rest of my gorram life. Not nothin' gonna change that." Fresh tears glittered in her eyes alarming him. Sarah kissed his fingertips, her eyes seeking understanding. "No, I just look like her."

It broke his heart to hear the denials. The way she was turning away from him. Making their love something to be regretted not cherished. "Sarah, what in the nine hells is wrong? I want this, you want this, so why not be honest about it? I won't fail you, *bao bei*, an' if livin' in the Black is what troubles you mayhap we can think on that."

"What are you sayin', Mal?"

"I'm sayin' if you wanna settle down someplace we can do that."

The enormity of what he was saying was a shock to the system. Her voice came out low and trembling, her ears had surely misheard him? "You would do that for me?"

A smile quirked his lips, his arms wrapped tenderly around her. She thought her heart would break for love of him. "Said I loved you, how many times I gotta tell you?"

"But if you gave up Serenity..."

"I can be adaptable."

"What about the others?"

His look gentled. A hand brushing the hair from her face. His long dark lashes fanning his cheek as he blinked. "I got me a good crew, Sarah. They'll be able to take care of themselves. Zoe'll keep 'em in line I'm thinkin'. Won't be so much of a difference with me not there."

The palm of her hand settled over his heart. Tears spilling down her face. "Oh Mal, I couldn't ask you to do that for me."

"Wouldn't need to ask." He kissed her and Sarah allowed herself to melt into both the kiss and the embrace that went with it. A slight tug on her stitches reminded her that she still had some healing to go. It also reminded her that this could not happen. Not again.

"Mal?"

"Mmm hmm?"

"Do you believe in free will?"

Her question stumped him. "What do you mean?"

"Do you believe in people havin' the right to decide what they want to do for themselves?"

He nodded. "I surely do."

Her voice dropped, more tentative now as she cradled the side of his face with one hand. "Even if it's somethin' you don't agree with or don't wanna hear?"

She felt his sigh soul-deep. Knew he understood where this was coming from and hated it. But she also knew he would give her an honest answer. "Ain't gonna force you to do nothin' you don't wanna do, *dong ma*?"

Sarah trailed salt-tinged kisses along his jaw to his mouth. As gentle with him as if he were made of spun glass despite the fact that she had been the one under the doctor's knife. "Let me go, Mal. *Qing*."

"Sarah, I..." His voice broke. Her kiss deepened, savouring and memorising the touch and feel of him. The taste of him on her tongue, the warmth of him in her arms. Wanting each memory to last forever.

"*Qing*."

"I love you."

"*Wo zhidao*, Mal. That's why you have to do this."

He was hugging her now. "Don't wanna lose you."

"We don't always get to keep what we want, *ai ren*." She said gently.

His voice cracked. "Why not? Why the good gorram you gotta leave? Said you loved me an' you know I love you."

"Because, Mal, I would keep on hurtin' you - can't you see? I can't fit into your life, I can't do this. I know you would give up everythin' for me an' that's the problem. I don't want you to have to give up a thing, *dong ma*? You need to be free an' so... so, do I."

They fell silent. Mal trying to hold back the tears as he held her close to his heart. She wanted to comfort him, use reason to make him understand it could end no other way. But she knew he couldn't see it. The romantic inside of him not understanding why love couldn't conquer everything. Or why, if she loved him so gorram much, she could bear to leave him. He had so many questions but not one passed his lips. She was breaking his heart and he had no way to form words and keep the pieces inside from tumbling out. All he could do was hold her for as long as she would let him.

* * * * *

The body dropped without ceremony. All around it the ruins of the house lay charred and scattered. The ground around the house scorched. Nothing left more than two bricks high. No one ventured our to look until long after the men had gone. Mrs Parfitt felt her heart ache but cried no tears. She waited until the next day to make sure the men did not return then went to the ruins with some of the local townsfolk from the outskirts of the main town. In silence they gathered up the broken body of Becky Trent, wrapped her in a sheet and carried her down to the common cemetery. The local preacher was a man named Philip Caine. A good man as far as the description went but with a backbone of straw. He was all very brave and loyal and holier-than-thou in the pulpit but when it came to walking among his congregation he seemed to fade into the background. No one looked to him to lead, to offer guidance, but giving solace to them as had lost loved ones and such - that, he could do.

They laid her in the simple grave. No coffin for there was no money to pay for one and no headstone neither. Not even a wooden marker. In years gone by they would have called it a pauper's grave but this was something else. This was a kindness to one who had been their own but whose lifestyle had held her on the periphery of life on Boros. After her violent death none dared to do anything to draw attention to her passing thus leaving the grave unmarked. It would protect her last resting place and ensure the townsfolk did not pay the price for their small act of compassion. Everybody knew she had not died in the fire that consumed the house. Killed elsewhere her body had been brought back and dumped in the family home to add credence, however poor, to the report that an unfortunate fire in the home had taken her life. Accidental death. No one's fault. No one alive to point fingers at the guilty therefore no crime. No one wondered where her husband Alex had disappeared to and most were pleased he was gone. But as night fell after the funeral folks were a little more frightened than they had been the day before. No. Boros would not be making any waves. None at all.

* * * * *

Morning came harsh and bright on Carousel. Jayne was feeling mighty happy and looking forward to bringing the Captain up to date. Zoe met Simon coming out of the Frye's house as the crew made their way over to the house to report a successful mission. She frowned at the expression on Simon's face. "How's Sarah?"

He paused. Mrs Frye was in the house getting a fix on breakfast, her husband out with Frank Reynolds and a couple of the cousins feeding the animals and setting small chores for the children who had already washed and eaten. Simon stood with his silk vest open and looking more than a mite dishevelled. Kaylee smiled at him, tempted to eat him up he looked so tasty in his half awake state. Only the fact that everyone else was present made her pull in her horns and be patient. Simon didn't like showing his feelings in public and no way did she want to upset him at the start of the day. "Um, fine. In fact better than fine. Apart from the mental trauma the operation went well and the stitches are healing nicely." He paused as if to choose his words with care. "Emotionally and mentally speaking, it's going to take a lot longer."

Zoe frowned not liking the sound of that. "But she will get better, *dui*?"

He nodded. "Oh yes."

Wash could not understand why Simon didn't look happier but then he was a Tam. Since when did everything they do make sense? River gave him a sharp angry look and Wash flushed slightly. Was Jayne right? Could she read his mind? Now that was a creepifying thought. Then Inara was speaking and he forgot about being uneasy. "Where's the Captain?"

"He's with Sarah."

The Shepherd was watching Simon carefully. "Did something happen while we were gone, Simon?"

Simon stared at the Preacher as if his question opened a great yawning chasm in front of him. One wrong move and he would be lost in the abyss. Besides, he couldn't say he knew anything exactly. It was more the tension and distress he was picking up from Sarah and the Captain. If Mal wanted to say anything it was up to him. "We should go inside. Mrs Frye is making breakfast."

Jayne smirked. "Don't tell me those two *baichi* have been arguin'?"

Instead of Simon answering it was River who spoke. "Hard to argue with absolutes. Even black and white are simply shades of grey."

The mercenary scowled at her. What the gorram was the crazy girl on about now?

"It's just a game." She said sweetly. The look on her face saying this should make her meaning obvious. "Except to those that never wake up. For them it's all too real."

"Huh? Crazy gorram girl, don't have a clue what ya got for brains. If this is a game I ain't playin'."

River tilted her head and gave him an intent look. "Not even when you carry the weight of worlds on your shoulders?"

Jayne stopped walked and turned to River, getting more than a little annoyed with her nonsensical ramblings. "Ain't carryin' nothin'. We live in the Black little girl."

She shrugged. Simon moved alongside her in case Jayne got out of hand. "It's just a figure of speech. Doesn't mean what you think."

The mercenary leaned in close. "Well I prefer figures that don't speak, *dong ma*? 'Specially crazy girls talkin' *fei hua*."

"River doesn't mean any harm..." Said Simon.

Kaylee and the Preacher began to back him up but Jayne wasn't listening any more, lengthening his strides he just wanted to get inside the house. Unless he was much mistaken he could smell bacon and not nobody was worth passing up good food for. Zoe paused to let Monty and John-Jo catch up, giving Wash a nod for him to go on inside with the others. Monty waited until it was just him, Zoe and John-Jo out the front of the house. "We'll be headin' out today, Zoe."

She nodded. "I'm obliged you stayed this long, Monty."

He flashed her a grin through his thickening chin whiskers and made her smile with the familiarity of it. She had always been right fond of Monty. "Couldn't not turn my hand to help." He paused and began to look a mite uncomfortable.

"You got somethin' on your mind?"

He squinted at her even though there was no sun in his eyes. "Ya really think that *tamade hundan* Niska is dead?"

"You saw the complex blow."

"Yeah, but we don't know he was still on it."

Zoe's eyes narrowed. "You know somethin' I don't best spit it out."

"Nothin' like that, just seems too *rongyi*. Wash told me the ins an' outs of what happened at the Skyplex. Mal never let on but ya know how he is." Zoe nodded. She knew. None better. Hadn't spent half a lifetime protecting that man's back not to know him as well as she knew herself. "Keep your eyes peeled, Zoe, just in case."

She nodded then cracked a little smile. "Always do but he's gone, Monty, an' that's one *wangba dan* less to worry about."

When they entered the house it was bedlam. Organised chaos would have been an improvement. It took Zoe a moment or two to figure out why then she caught sight of her gentle, beautiful and possibly deranged *zhangfu* trying to juggle eggs. Kaylee was laughing, her mother was trying to retrieve said eggs from Serenity's pilot before they ended up on the floor, the Shepherd was batting Jayne away from the frying pan so that the food could finish cooking before he rammed the lot in his ever hungry mouth. Simon looked bemused and dipped his head as River whispered something in his ear then suddenly silence fell and Wash went bright red.

"Oh uh, *duibuqi* Mrs Frye..."

Kaylee's mother rescued the last two eggs and gave him a stern level look. "Best clean up them as you dropped, Wash Warren. In case you're feelin' slow that's your breakfast on the floor!" The mercenary guffawed and slapped Wash on the back. Good natured banter flying back and forth along with a washcloth and chairs scraping into place around the table. Zoe craned her neck and began to frown. When she got close enough to Mrs Frye she stage whispered in the woman's ear. "Where's the Cap'n?"

"He an' Sarah are in the back room."

Wash wanted to tell her not to fuss but one look at her face decided him that cleaning up the egg mess on the floor was the better part of valor. Shepherd Book was not watching the exchange though, he was looking at Simon Tam's sad face.

Zoe was not surprised to see Mal and Sarah sharing a bed. What did surprise her was how distressed they looked. She noticed the girl would not look her in the eye and the Captain looked as if he had been through every one of the Preacher's special hells. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. "What the *diyu* is goin' on here?"

The Captain was sitting up, his arms around Sarah who dipped her head against his shoulder when Zoe walked in. The knock had been brief and perfunctory. She had not waited for either of them to say 'come in' just in case they didn't. "We're just sittin', Zoe."

"That's not what I meant, sir." She paused and forced more calm into her voice. "You look upset an' with neither of you comin' to table I was hopin' to find out the why of it."

"Sarah's recoverin'."

"Uh huh." Her eyes were stone cold. "An' you, Cap'n? You recoverin' too?"

Something flickered in his eyes. A deep pain. Zoe felt her stomach flip over. What was this?

"Sir?"

"Just give us a few minutes Zoe an' I'll be out. Best if Sarah rests a mite longer."

Her eyes said *what the good gorram is wrong*? Only she did not say it out loud. Her lips tightening she gave an abrupt nod. "We'll make a place at the table for you."

"I'm obliged."

Mal waited until the door closed behind her and lifted Sarah's face so he could look into her eyes. "Tell me you're gonna change your mind, *bao bei*?"

She shook her head and gave him a light kiss. "I won't, Mal."

He blinked then got up, wordlessly dressing. She lay back and watched him as he leaned down and gave her a kiss, his fingers gently caressing her cheek before he straightened. "Don't know if I can do this, *xin gan*."

"You will, *ai ren*, because I need you to be strong for both of us. Besides, don't know if I could stand it if it was easy." He could not answer, his throat constricting with emotion. Instead he nodded, turned and put on his stone face. Feelings locked away where they could not betray him. She did not speak again, her eyes watching him until the door shut softly behind him and she could let the tears fall. This would have been so much easier if she hadn't fallen in love. Shara-li was right. Men were dumb, they didn't know a thing unless you spelt it out for them. But every now and then you came across a smart one. An honourable man. When that happened your heart was done for.

* * * * *

Simon had wanted to protest. It was too soon for Sarah to be moved but the woman was adamant and the Captain made no effort to stop her. Monty and Mr Frye helped her board the Kingfisher and Mal had Jayne take her few bits of precious onto the ship for her. They had already said their goodbyes and repeating them in public would just have made the whole thing a damn sight harder. Kaylee was confused, could not see why Sarah was leaving. Nor why the Captain was letting her. Zoe was as tightly wound as a watch spring. Inara looked thoughtful and Wash troubled. River looked calm but sad. Jayne thought they were making too much fuss over too litte. Woman had chased after the Captain, got what she wanted out of him and now was leaving. Simple. Even breaking the news about Niska had not cheered the Captain up. Jayne moved to stand next to him as the Kingfisher took off and rose up into the atmo. Frank Reynolds going with Monty and his crew. Mal had not asked him where he was going nor offered to keep in touch.

"That's why I never kiss 'em on the mouth."

Mal looked at him. "*Shenme*?"

"Women. Kiss 'em on the mouth an' they expect all kinds of things from a man. Ain't natural."

The look on the Captain's face would have been funny if the man wasn't so obviously hurting. Fortunately Jayne didn't notice, he was already moving back to the house. Long after everyone else had gone back into the house River came looking for the Captain. She paused and watched his solitary figure then reached out and put her tiny hand in his. He did not look down or make any comment. River squeezed his hand and leaned in to him, the Captain automatically opening his arm to put it around her. A breeze was getting up and clouds were scooting across the sky as if a change in weather was on the way. "To every thing there is a season, Captain."

The Captain sighed then looked down at her. He could not be mad at her nor send her away just because he felt *goushi buru*. "I'm gonna miss her, *bao bei*." He whispered as his voice cracked.

She nodded, a thousand years of wisdom shining in the eyes of a child. She shook her head. "Not a child." He almost smiled. Not at all surprised that she could pluck thoughts out of his head. "Nope, guess you're not."

"You have family here." She watched him swallow hard. "We love you even when you're a mean old man."

He opened his mouth to protest but she was smiling at him now and something sharp and painful in his chest found ease. "Not mean all the time."

She raised his hand to her lips and kissed the knuckles. "No, not all the time."

The Captain tilted his head and gave a fey little smile. "You know you ain't quite right?"

"It's the popular theory but it's wrong."

"Is it now?"

"As wrong as you being a crazy Captain with a death wish."

He blinked at her in surprise. "That what they say?"

Now she laughed up at him. "No, but made you look."

He glanced away, his eyes trying to pierce the thickening cloud cover as if he would be able to glimpse Monty's ship one last time. "Still don't know why she left." "Had to. Only those who love know the true cost of sacrifice."

That jolted him out of his reverie. He looked at her more intently now. "You know why she left?"

River put a hand over his heart. "Her season has come and gone."

"What the good gorram does that mean?"

"Time to go inside."

He frowned, not inclined to move even though the wind was getting up and making him cold. She tugged his hand.

"Come on or you'll miss the surprise."

"What surprise?"

"Time to see what Santa left under the tree."

He shook his head, wanted to tell her Christmas was months ago but she was so gorram insistent and he didn't have the heart to dig his heels in. So rutting hard to refuse the girl anything especially when she looked like an angel and wore the innocence of one long taken from him. Even though his heart ached and sadness dragged him down he found a smile for her and with a little sigh let her coax him back to the house. Just so long as she didn't expect him to burst into song.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*fei hua* = nonsense/garbage talk *xin gan*/*ai ren* = sweetheart *diyu* = hell *dong ma* = understand *bao bei* = treasure/precious *yiwusuoyou* = nothing *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *duibuqi* = sorry *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *qing* = please *wo zhidao* = I know *dui* = correct *baichi* = idiot *tamade hundan*/*wangba dan* = fucking bastard *rongyi* = easy *zhangfu* = husband *goushi buru* = lower than dogshit/lowest of the low *shenme* = what

COMMENTS

Tuesday, March 29, 2005 5:43 PM

KAYSKY


The scene between Mal and Sarah, gosh, that really tugged on my heart strings. It brought a tear to my eye. I was very thankful for the following bit of comic releif --> "Women. Kiss 'em on the mouth an' they expect all kinds of things from a man. Ain't natural." --> I laughed my ass off. And that brought some more tears to my eyes. The 'good god, that was so gorram funny I think I just might bust a gut' kind of tears. That line was just typical Jayne and I picture him saying it. It was a hilarious little bit playing in my head. Once again, Ali, WELL DONE!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005 8:01 AM

ARTSHIPS


A good episode that ended even better. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005 10:31 PM

KISPEXI2


What the good gorram is up with that Sarah? There's something else going on with her, isn't there? Something from way back when we first met her ...

Poor Mal. That was a really heart-breaking scene, and an echo of his relationship with Inara I think. Only more intense. Loved "I just look like her".

How in the 'verse is this going to end? I'm hoping for a touch of happy, but I just don't see it happening. But then, you constantly surprise me!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 8:32 PM

SHINYZOEKAYLEE


Aaaaa Mal and Sarah<\3


"You have family here." She watched him swallow hard. "We love you even when you're a mean old man."
^^^ awwww that was so sweet!!!!

I'm getting the "Niska's not dead vibe" here...


POST YOUR COMMENTS

You must log in to post comments.

YOUR OPTIONS

OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: 5. "THE WAY IT WAS"
His head still ached from the rutting probe but after the men had satisfied themselves that his story was true a thousand questions peppered the air like machine gun fire.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: 4. "MEANS TO AN END"
The vessel was shiny, sleek and black with nowhere near the bulk of an Alliance ship. Something about the way it moved through the Black was more than a little creepifying.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: 3 "Hell Hath No Fury"
Personally she didn't care if Serenity was towed off to a junk yard and stripped into spare parts. She had promised the ship to Jer and his crew as a bonus but it looked like scavengers had beaten them to it.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: 2. "Counting Chickens"
The fact that her eyes were hard and sharp with intelligence kind of chilled him. Smart women always made him uneasy, it just weren't natural.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: 1. "Gift Horse"
What in the nine hells were they so afraid of? Then he remembered Tracy. The body mailed to them by their old war buddy and all the trouble that had brought down on them.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 11. "Inside Out"
If it was too gorram wet to hunt for rabbits what in the nine hells was his son really hunting? And was it something on four legs or two?

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 10. "Masks"
The man was in a terrible condition, his pulse weak, and for some reason he was soaking wet which did nothing to staunch the blood soaking through his clothing and seeping from the poorly tended wound where he had been shot.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 9. "All The King's Men"
The man sighed like the weight of the of the 'Verse was on his shoulders but unlike anyone else he looked like he could carry the weight.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 8. "All The King's Horses"
Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 7. "Friend or Foe"
Then he found himself falling, the whole world silent as in slow motion the hordes of *diyu* came to swallow him up and everything disintegrated in fire, blood and pain.