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The Fading Light: A Tale of Zan

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The Fading Light: A Tale of Zan is the third and final collaborative writing project on the Animanga website.  Initiated by Gcheung28, it is based on the ideas and character designs of Yoshitaka Amano (Vampire Hunter D, Final Fantasy), with Kazuo Koike (Lone Wolf and Cub, Lady Snowblood) as executive producer.  Unlike the other two projects, however, Zan is an already existing character, appearing in Amano's graphic novel Deva Zan.  Over twenty users have collaborated on this story, with about four regular contributors.  

PlotEdit

Victorian LondonEdit

Zan dreams of hunting down his sensei's killer, only to be surrounded by shadow clan warriors.  Knowing that there are too many for him to fight, he escapes on Panther, his cat companion, and vanishes.

He wakes up to find himself in Victorian London, surrounded by denizens staring at him.  Hoping to avoid creating any more of a disturbance than he already has, Zan flees the scene, being chased by police officers, but manages to elude them, disguising himself with a large rag while Panther takes on the form of a small cat.

Elsewhere, Lord Amadeus Chataway, a servant of the demon fish Mar'riana, is informed by his master that the 'hero of ages' has arrived, sending Tengu warriors after him.  After this conversation, Chataway takes a carriage ride throughout the city accompanied by his daughter, Virginia, who expresses boredom over her life and place in society.  Before she can argue with her father, however, she over hears people talking about a man riding on a giant cat, and that one man swore they disappeared down an alleyway that he was pointing at.  Intrigued, and wanting to get away from her father, Virginia gets out of the carriage and investigates the alley, being followed by her father.

Zan, encountering the tengu, fights them off, and as he does sees a vision of a Japanese villager aiding him.  Having an instinct of where to go next, Zan and Panther flee from the tengu as they prepare to leave this place and time period before reaching the end of the alleyway.  Virginia, having spotted the man riding the giant cat, calls after them, and as she catches up her hand brushes Panther's tail, being pulled into the time vortex with them along with her father, who had just grapped her arm.

Feudal JapanEdit

Elsewhere, during Feudal Japan (More specifically the Sengoku period), a young farmer named Ryuunosuke, who dreams of being a samurai, encounters Virginia, who, after an argument with her father, says that she needs to find Zan before passing out.  She wakes up in Ryuunosuke's house, who tends to her.  She explains that she needs to find Zan, who her father is intending to kill, and attempts to leave, with Ryuunosuke offering her services.  He asks her what was going on and why she was here.  After confirming the time period she was in with the young farmer finding it odd why she was confirming such well known information (Even though 'feudal Japan' is a modern western concept that would have meant nothing to a Japanese person from that time period), Virginia explains that she is from the future and that a man call Zan brought her here, and that she fears he may kill Oda Nobunaga before he starts the unification of Japan.  Ryuunosuke wonders how such a beautiful woman could be so insane, nevertheless decides to help her anyway.  

After arriving in the same time period, Zan finds the boy he saw in his vision standing right in front of him, who turns into a large red fox with a sword sheathed behind his back.  The fox, introducing himself as Shokuro, seemingly knows Zan and declares to fight him.  

Elsewhere, the Virginia who accidentally came with Zan looks at her surroundings, baffled over where she is.  The older Virginia and Ryuunosuke journey to the village where Zan and Shokuro were duelling.  Ryuunosuke is shocked that the man who taught him how to use a sword is Zan, while Virginia, panicking, takes out an origami panther which transforms into a real life one and they disappear.

Paradoxes and Other SelvesEdit

Transporting to Victorian London, Virginia explains to Ryuunosuke that that was the point in time when she first met Zan, and had she met her younger self it would have created a paradox.  Meanwhile in the Chataway mansion, his daughers Dakota and Carolina ask where Virginia, to which he replies he doesn't know (despite the fact that he got pulled into the time vortex with her earlier), and is also worried about her finding out his secret.  Worrying over her whereabouts, Chataway summons his Royal Unit in order to find Virginia.

After explaining time travel and paradoxes to Ryuunosuke, Virginia is spotted by soldiers, but thanks to the young farmer's help is able to escape them. While she and Ryuunosuke run from the authorities, Virginia notices similarities between him and Zan, even bearing the same scar across their back.  Realizing that he is in fact a younger Zan, Virginia uses her origami panther to send Ryuunosuke away to the point in time that will help him become Zan, while going with Shokuro. 

Back in Feudal Japan, Zan is exhausted after is duel with Shokoro.  After he disappears, Zan calls to the slightly younger Virginia that she can come out of the tall grass that she was hiding in.  As they introduce themselves, the twelve year-old Virginia warns Zan of an oncoming arrow, which he manages to grab.  The archer, Yumoa, as it turns out is an old friend, who jokes over how Zan was beaten by the fox, but offers his assistance to Zan.  Just then, Virginia's father, who got pulled into the same time vortex as his daughter, tracks her down and demanded that Zan returns them both to their time period.  Zan, however, having a feeling not to trust the man, as well as feeling protective over Virginia hearing the words duty over and over again in his head, instead grabs Virginia and vanishes from that place.  

It is explained that after Zan took Virginia, thanks to the help of the Order of Mar'riana Chataway was able to return to England while he hibernated for the next few centuries before returning to his current time.  His 'wife', Lady Chataway, chides him for losing the 'star', but Chataway is confident that they can reclaim her, planning to explain everything to their brethren that day.

The Origin of ZanEdit

Alarmed at the sudden disappearance of Virginia, a voice tells Ryuunosuke that he must walk the path of his destiny.  After this he finds himself confronted by a samurai warlord and his army.  After explaining who he is, Ryuunosuke finds out that this army belongs to Oda Nobunaga, who offers to make Ryuunosuke a samurai after he explains his dream.  Ryuunosuke explains that he wishes to find his own path to become a samurai.  One of Nobunaga's subordinates does not take this rejection of his lord's offer lightly and orders troops to attack him, which Ryuunosuke fends off, impressing Nobunaga.  Nobunaga is then informed that the demon fox Shokuro had been sighted three weeks ago near Zan's home village fighting him.  Nobunaga laments how his son who should have joined him is fighting against him. 

Back in Victorian London, the Order of Mar'riana have gathered, with Chataway explaining that the 'star' had been taken but if they scatter throughout the world and wait for Zan to show up then they can find him.

Meanwhile, Zan and Yumoa take Virginia to the latter's house.  When Yumoa questions Zan's action to take the girl away from her father, Zan can only reply it was instinct.  Just then Mar'riana sends a robotic soldier called 'slashed Dragon' to kill Zan.  Virginia however uses an origami panther she has which becomes a real life panther that sends the robot away, to where Ryuunosuke is.  The young farmer fights the soldier while it is revealed that he is Nobunaga's son.  Shokuro watches from afar, holding a device that holds the consciousness of the friend's sibling, telling it that it will have to share the body of a servant.  After disabling Slashed Dragon, Ryuunosuke and the samurai celebrate, before it activates again and hits Ryuunosuke in the head, giving him amnesia before he disarms it.  Seeing the character on its body, 'Zan' (Meaning 'Slash'), Ryuunosuke adopts the name.  Shokuro uses his device to merge the consciousness and the dying servant with the origami panther Ryuunosuke had, becoming Panther, before the young Zan vanishes.

Rescuing VirginiaEdit

After putting Virginia to bed, Zan decides to track down her father and find out what's so important about her.  He finds out that he went to a nearby city in an apparently abandoned building that no one comes across.  Although at first blocked by a couple of intimidating men, Zan is able to overpower them, and when entering the building comes across another one of Mar'riana's minions, the Black Knight, but is able to defeat him.  Yumoa enters the scene, along with Shokuro.  Zan angrily demands why the archer is here when the girl needs to be protected, but Yumoa thinks she is safe as no one knows where Zan's house is.  Virginia, however escapes, only to be caught by agents of the Order of Mar'riana.  At that point, the black knight revives himself and attacks Zan again.  Panther however comes to his aid, who devours the beacon that allows the knight to exist in this time period and they send him back.  Shokuro then informs Zan that Virginia had been kidnapped, and gives the location to Panther.  Zan teleports to where they have Virginia, only to confront his earlier self.

After travelling through the seas of time, Ryuunosuke returns to where he left, and regains his identity.  Meanwhile Mar'riana informs Chataway that he and the order will have to deal with Zan, while manipulating the young Zan into believing that Virginia is in danger, leading him to Chataway, who had gone through a ritual in order to rejuvenate himself.  Chataway leads him to the point in time where Virginia is being held, telling him that Zan had kidnapped her.  Zan, realising that he is facing his younger self, knows that he cannot risk killing him without disrupting the flow of time.  As they fight, Zan attempts to reason with his younger self, but Ryuunosuke will not listen, convinced that he is holding Virginia against her will.  Zan uses Panther to transport them to Meiji Japan, where soldiers in the name of modernisation attempt to confiscate their weapons.  A hooded man and agent of Mar'riana is sent to deal with the two Zans, and dispatches a few of the soldiers.  Yumoa arrives and interrupts the fight between Zan and Ryuunosuke, making them agree to a truce in order to help Virginia.  Ryuunosuke attacks Zan again, who tries to make him agree to the truce.  Yumoa asks them why they aren't baffled as to how he came to this time period, and it turns out that the older Virginia brought him there.

Virginia had been training with her father's butler Charles, who had saved her from being sacrificed earlier.  There in the scottish wilderness, she also learns his true identity; a wolf yokai named Yushin and ally of Shokuro (Whose real name is Yako), who took the real Charles place after he died of heart failure rescuing Virginia in order to train her. Transporting to where the Zans and Yumoa are, she convinces Ryuunosuke to stop fighting, while the Hooded man is called back by Mar'riana.  Zan asks Virginia what exactly the 'star' is, and tells them what her father (or more specifically 'that thing serving Mar'riana that's possessing my father') told her: that the star is an infant goddess princess that was snatched from heaven and taken to earth, where it was given new life as a human, to be sacrificed to Mar'riana as the child of both heaven and earth to give him the power of heaven and earth in order to drag both into 'the primeval waters from which they came'.  She also explains that Chataway had already extracted the gem from her, and that Mar'riana is not satisfied until he has taken the star from Virginia in multiple time periods (contradicting everything she just said about the star and its purpose).  The heroes then decide to go back to young Virginia and rescue her from Chataway.

Battling Chataway and Mar'rianaEdit

Back at the hideout where Young Virginia is being kept, the rejuvenated Chataway attempted to convince her that he was a friend and relative of her father's, who had come to take her home.  Virginia, although having enough of adventure, does not trust the man, and draws a knife against him, only to feel her body moving against her will and dropping the knife.  The elder Virginia however knocks Chataway out with her sheathed sword, while Yako slices Mar'riana into a thousand pieces, causing the star that gave him his power to fall on Chataway, turning him into a giant, multi-headed, multi-tailed snake monster.  At the same time the ground starts to rumble and a tear in time and space opens up in the sky.  While the heroes battle the monster, Chataway declares that he no longer needs Virginia, and seemingly devours her along with Ryuunosuke who stepped in to save her (Actually sending them to another reality).  He also tells the elder Virginia that once he devours her he will be able to drag all of creation into the abyss.  Virginia confused, tries to remind him that he already extracted the star from her, only to be told that that was just a stone, and that the real star is her.  Yako and Yushin, watching the battle from a ship, decide to join the battle.  After explaining to Chataway information about the star, the fox fractures the star gem he already has and tells Zan to finish him off. 

Mar'riana revives himself, and absorbs Chataway, eventually becoming a hybrid with green scales along with the Chataway monster's heads and tails, with the two fighting for control.  Amaterasu gives Zan the power to defeat the Mar'riana-Chataway hybrid, cutting off the snake heads as well as slicing Mar'riana into pieces.  Chataway, refusing to be defeated by what he considers to be 'a mere insect', unleashes his 'breath of the void' attack that simulates the same effect as a black hole, threatening to engulf the world.  Zan is enveloped, and is almost crushed but thanks to the power Amaterasu gave him he is able to cut through the darkness and finish off what he considered to be the main Chataway head, the one that 'fought the least, and talked the most'.  Whereas Chataway was gone, however, Mar'riana continued to exist.  Virginia that they decided that they needed to trap him in a vessel, deciding on his statue.  She and Zan imprison him in this, which is in fact his petrified future self because of Amaterasu, a fate that the fish saw when entering the seas of time that he sought to change by using Virginia to revive his future self.

Paradox BiteEdit

Chataway and Mar'riana are defeated, however the rifts in space and time still exist.  Zan realises that these were not caused by either Chataway or Mar'riana, but by a paradox, a contradiction in the timeline (such as an older version of oneself killing his younger version, as opposed to the popular belief of two versions of oneself meeting each other).  Yako tells Zan and Virginia that Mar'riana is the source of the paradoxes, and that they need to erase him from space and time in order to resolve them.  Virginia decides on placing the statue in a black hole, which exists outside of time and space, and she and Zan do so.

In order to avoid creating another paradox by the older version killing the younger one, Zan and Ryuunosuke decide to go their separate ways, with the latter taking the younger Virginia with him while the former and older version go out to resolve more paradoxes,  Ryuunosuke, remembering the oath he made to the older Virginia, changes his mind and goes after them.  Yumoa, meanwhile, back at his house, is approached by an old man who gives him an artifact, causing him to go after Zan.  Zan and Virginia are perplexed as to why the rift hasn't closed, but instead has gotten bigger.  An inter-dimensional being calling himself the Overseer appears, laughing and mocking them for failing to resolve the paradox, pointing out that since they erased the reason for their own existence, they have made the paradox worse not resolved it.  Ryuunosuke then appears, who claims that the Overseer doesn't know what he's talking about, telling Zan that it was his destiny given by Amaterasu to erase Mar'riana from existence and that time travellers are immune to changes in the timeline, even those that affect their own history.  He explains that he knows this because the sun goddess had already informed him that she had already sent Virginia to the mortal plane by the time he met her, and that she had already sent the star gem to an alternate Ryuunosuke in case of failure.  He explains that the real cause of the paradox is himself and Virginia's father, himself because he failed to become a Zan due to the oath of loyalty he made to Virginia and Virginia's father for inheriting his future self's memories, intending to along with his wife to exploit the younger Virginia further.  The older Virginia however tells him that she never meant to abandon him, as becoming a Zan herself (that is a time traveller dedicated to preserving order in the timeline) means that she is trapped in that position for all eternity and tells Ryuunosuke to 'be less like a samurai and more like a person' in order to protect to protect her younger self.  Ryuunosuke, however, takes offence at this remark and walks off. 

Yumoa arrives on the scene, and gives Zan the artifact that the old man gave him, which turns out to be (or would have been) Mar'riana's special stone.  They also learn that the hooded man, Fuzen, is actually the Chataway from the younger Virginia's point in time that was repelled by her immense power along with his current wife, ending up in Mar'riana's realm, and that with Mar'riana gone Fuzen had taken his place, feeding on the despair of time to give him his power.  Fuzen, watching this, reveals that the paradoxes were not just cause by 'the older self killing the younger version' or two versions of the same person meeting each other, but by the Order as well, who intend to continue creating paradoxes in order to rip time and space. 

Zan, intending to stop Fuzen and the Order of Mar'riana, travels to their fortress. Around this time he also learns, after being concerned with what his younger self told him due to contradicting what he already knew as well as his knowledge of temporal physics, with the help of the Overseer that prior to him ending up in Victorian London that reality had been shattered by an unknown phenomenon into different timelines, and that Zan had in fact been jumping in a different one every minute or so.  However, the inter-dimensional being assures him that the timeline should become unified again that day, and also helps to heal the paradoxes causes by Mar'riana being erased by existence as well as Chataway dying before he had attempted to sacrifice the older Virginia.  While the paradoxes were resolved, however the Order still proved to be a threat, with Zan and Panther storming the fortress.

Battling FuzenEdit

While Zan and his companions fight Fuzen's minions, including Lady Chataway, Yako faces off the hooded man himself, only to get critically injured by him.  Fuzen reveals that he's not actually Chataway, but the result of the chaos created when Mar'riana attempted to possess Chataway in the original timeline.  Yumoa attempts to shoot him, but Fuzen catches the arrow, while the old man whom the archer encountered earlier rescues him and fights Fuzen.  Zan is at first almost beaten by Lady Chataway, but Virginia and Ryuunosuke fight and kill her while Zan goes off to fight Fuzen.  Fuzen over powers the old man and is about to kill him when Zan steps in.  The two men fight before channeling the power of time and space for the final blow.  A huge flash appears when their swords meet, with Zan being able to slice through Fuzen's sword as well as Fuzen himself, who screams as his particles disintegrate.

EpilogueEdit

Suddenly Zan starts to disappear.  This is revealed due to Fuzen damaging the star gem, the only thing that prevented the time traveller from disappearing due to the acts of the Order.  Shoko, however, who had actually been using a puppet during the battle, informs them that the only way he can survive is if he merges with his younger self, which he does.  Zan and Virginia grow closer, at the same time hunting down the remants of the Order of Mar'riana.  Yumoa returns to his time, saving a woman his age from thugs.  The younger Virginia is sent to a timeline where her father never became the man he was and that they can be happy.  As the fighting with the Order cools down, Zan proposes to Virginia with the pieces of the Star gem, which she accepts.  While taking Zan out shopping for a new outfit before going to the opera, they meet up with Yumoa.  A masked man and a familiar figure attempt to kill them, only to be stopped by the Overseer, who smashes a giant mallet over their heads before trapping them in a rift in space and time, later leaving the universe forever. 

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