The World’s Evil Beasts (Part 2)
“In ancient times, six dangerous beasts existed, with one in heaven, six on earth, three in the south, four in the north, two in the west and five in the east. They are the ancestors of beast kin, mythical beasts of mythical beasts, evil among evil.” – First paragraph in Six Evil Beasts Chronicles.
Even though there are many stories, poems and what have you pertaining to the mayhem involving them, “… mythical beasts of mythical beasts, evil among evil” remained the line that left the deepest impression on me.
Six Evil Beasts Chronicles is an ancient book that speaks on the six evil, ferocious ancient beasts that have wandered the Nine Provinces since ancient times as the incarnations of evil, embodiments of immortality that assert catastrophe unto the human realm at certain points in time. The book had been around for so long that there was no means of tracing back when it was first authored, but many claimed it was a millennium ago – if not longer back. Though it wasn’t a hot commodity, there was guaranteed to be buyers every once in a while, which was why every book shop would keep copies of it even though it’d be collecting dust for some time before it was picked up.
Up until now, no soul has provided a convincing argument to attach a genre to it. Unlike mythical stories, it failed to deliver a story that enthralled. Its language and contents didn’t fit an encyclopedia or monster story, and it was misplaced in time.
“Isn’t that Six Evil Beasts Chronicles?” Boss queried.
“You also into this sort of stuff?”
“No. I used to scare my brother with monster stories when he was younger because he was naughty. It worked a treat every time.” Boss treated the book the same way pretty much everyone else in this era did – as reading material for children. Besides its writing style being more complex and over ten times longer than a children’s book, yeah, there was nothing else to say about it in this era. “This one is a tad different, though. It’s a lot thicker than the version I used to read to him, and the writing style is more archaic. Judging from these pages… this must be an antique.”
“That’s because this is the edition from before the current dynasty.”
“You mean… this is a taboo book?”
“Ten out of ten. This is as illegal as it gets. You won’t find this edition anywhere on the market. There’s never been an era where the book has been as obscured as the current era. No bookshops have sold the original edition for the last thirty years. Every copy on the market right now is a simplified version for children.”
Boss tugged up an eyebrow at my stern visage, while I laughed to myself.
“This is a valuable commodity. You can find hand-copied, fragment versions of it being traded on the black market. I recognised it because Mount Daluo has an identical copy.”
“Even though you’re an orthodox sect?”
“Mount Daluo is made up of individuals. My grandmaster is a legit, ancient man of the previous dynasty through and through. Don’t you think it’s perfectly normal for him to have the book, then?”
Boss chuckled and lifted a hand to hit me: “Is that any way to talk about your grandmaster? I’d love to punish you on his behalf.”
“Hehe.” I shut the book. “It’s not surprising for children to read it. Is Luo Ming a child?”
“You have a point.” Boss got what I was insinuating.
As far as we knew, Luo Ming was straightforward and pragmatic. Why would he keep this sort of book around? Luo Ming hiding fictional books in his secret training room? What would he be training, how to imitate animals?
“He must have his reasons for researching these topics. I’ll share what I know first, and then we can discuss. We, after all, don’t have much time to talk these days…”
Noticing the pink tinge come to Boss’ cheeks when she remembered our spat, this old one chuckled: “Boss, never mind it. I don’t resent you. It’s not your fault alone, after all.”
“Exactly. It’s all your fault. I’m deducting half a month of your salary.”
Stop practicing your Salary Deduction Technique! When did I ever mention a word about money, let alone my salary?!
Boss ignored my pleas and shared everything she suspected about Luo Ming and her deductions of his agenda. For Boss to draw a conclusion close to mine despite me possessing far more intelligence and knowledge went to show how far behind she left me when it came to analysis abilities.
When I provided a brief summary of my knowledge, I purposely slipped in details of my first scrimmage with “Abels”. Yes, mentioning Master Ming’s involvement would give Boss something to suspect, but it wasn’t as if she wouldn’t find out later via someone else. Why not let me tell her my version? You know, a bit of pepper here, a bit of soy sauce there and a tad of something else in the mix.
“According to your description, there’s something odd about that Abels. Everyone knows Abels punches are a force to be reckoned with, yet he got stomped? Moreover, Evil Eminence Scripture is supposed to be a Orthodox Realm style, so his Enlightenment should be azure, not blood red. I wasn’t good enough to push the Abels I fought to his limit, though that now raises other questions.”
In reality, most people describe fights between Divine Realm elites as flashes of light, gusts of winds and all those fancy, verbose descriptions. Those who witness what actually took place usually just happen to be at the right angle.
Neither Boss nor I could extrapolate reliably from any of the information we had available.
“Given this is Luo Ming’s secret training location, there might be some trap… Try sitting on his futon.”
When I cautiously sat down, mist burst forth – Boss told me.
“It’s a formation!”
“What?!” I was honestly surprised because I didn’t see any changes. The futon was still a futon, and the room was still the same room… By the way, did I ever mention formations don’t work on me?
Mythical stories – This should be considered as a genre itself in Chinese literature. We have xuanhuan for a broad range of fantasy genres. The mythical genre in Chinese literature refers to stories such as Journey to the West, Nezha, Investiture of the Gods, Fuxi… because they actually explore Chinese myths and so forth as opposed to conjuring new fictional characters or throwing terms in to sound mystical. It’s been a long time since anyone added to the genre.
Language of Six Evil Beasts Chronicles – This is a reference to writing styles such as conventional Chinese now versus gufeng and even back longer. It’s hard to put this into perspective correctly. Think of it this way: conventional Chinese now is understandable to everyone (most webnovels now). Gufeng would be something senior high school students or higher (in China) would be comfortable with since some of the language is no longer used, breaks a lot of convention and requires a degree of knowledge in past literature. The style dated back even longer would carry traces of gufeng but likely break even more conventional Chinese grammar than gufeng. Have you tried reading RotTK’s early Chinese editions (not the internet abridged versions) or Confucius’ analects? You’ll see how much conventional Chinese (current paradigm) it breaks. This is why Shen Yiren says Luo Ming’s edition of Six Evil Beasts Chronicles is more archaic style.