Long Ago, There was a Mountain (Part 1)
Ages ago, there was an ancient mountain range in the north that was always shrouded in charcoal clouds and a dark miasma. They called the nameless mountain riddled with natural dangers, extending across fifty thousand desolate square kilometres “Lifeless grounds, the genesis of miasma”. Only fierce beasts and poisonous snakes or wild deer, boars and the sort would venture to the mountain in herds.
Over time, the mountain became the den of wild beasts. Purportedly, feeding on the miasma triggered growth that had the normal animals grow several times their usual size and resemble flesh-eating monsters. Whenever they descended the mountain, they’d hunt on humans. It took dozens of people to catch a deer, and hundreds couldn’t hold a candle to a tiger.
Owing to the lack of sustenance from insufficient sunlight, the beasts had no choice but to hunt off the mountain. Once they had a taste of meat, they went wild, ransacking villages for food and always leaving every village a ghost village by the time they were done. The blood of humans fostered bigger and stronger bodies, rendering even acclaimed fighters nothing more than hopeless victims.
The beasts’ advent was no different to a nation-wide shockwave, compelling the monarch to dispatch the military. The military thought they were just dealing with exaggerated folk tales about ordinary beasts running amok. Little did they know they were facing fiends that their weapons didn’t scare. The soldiers made bets amongst each other, seeing who would be able to hunt down the most beasts, and the loser would have to sponsor their trip to the most lavish brothel in the capital.
The army only realised the severity of the situation when one of them had his head gnawed off upon contact. Alas, it was too late. Three thousand soldiers became snacks for the beasts in no time at all. Due to the lack of a commander, the only strategy the military could come up with was trying to make up for their weakness in numbers, costing hundreds of lives in exchange for one beast. Besides being an unsustainable plan, they didn’t account for the reproduction rate of the beasts.
A calamitous beast gives birth to four to five fledglings a year, and it only takes a year for them to grow into adults, not to mention their proficiency at conquering humans.
What was originally “Quell the superstitions” and “Monster hunt” decrees quickly became “Defend our homeland”.
As their available information grew, it dawned on the military that the fiends had a commander and even a sovereign.
Among the beasts, particular types were the most challenging to defeat owing to their inconceivable body shapes and strength. Unlike their same kin, their defensive and offensive abilities put the elements and weapons to shame. Some went as far as comparing them to a plague for they couldn’t fathom stopping the beasts if the latter were to raid cities or towns. Given they could also call for their kin or subordinates to fortify their ranks, those specific beasts were the core members.
People theorised that most terrifying beasts were never seen mating due to the lack of a partner that could handle their size. Nonetheless, it didn’t matter that they couldn’t mate as they outlived generations.
The six beasts leading the others could soar through the sky or tread across the earth would eventually be called “Six Evil Beasts”, often shortened to “Six Evils”.
The doors to the capital were once broken down – technically wolfed down – impelling the reigning Emperor to reach out to neighbouring states and his own people for support despite that denouncing the system his predecessors laid out. As a result, his vassals knelt outside his palace for three days to protest the decision. Livid, the Emperor had those objecting suspended from the city walls to parley with the six. Half of those who returned, who were also the sole survivors, changed their tone upon returning.
The young monarch, notwithstanding his near non-existent smithing knowledge, personally forged an iron arrow and offered it his blood for the sake of motivating people to join his cause. World Dragon Guardian arrow would go on to become a symbol and source of motivation for warriors across the Nine Provinces to enlist in his cause.
To the Emperor’s delight, one after another, regardless of orthodox or unorthodox affiliation, enlisted in no time at all. Even recluse scholars, blacksmiths, thieves, self-proclaimed golden children of Buddhism, deities, sword saints and so on signed up.
Years of tyranny later, after innumerable warriors had fallen, after the Emperor’s hair had gone from black to white, they finally slew the last of Six Evil Beasts.
The only viable strategy when they came up against Huohu, the mammoth that was impervious to blades, was to trap it inside a wall of eternal stone shields and set up an electrical conductor formation to zap it with natural lightning.
Huohu remained standing after ten shocks and decimated a third of the human forces when it turned into a melee battle. Had the best in the land not finished Huohu with a palm strike in time, more lives would’ve been lost.
The entire capital was used for a nation-wide banquet to celebrate their liberation, as well as to acknowledge and reward the brave souls who staked their lives on the frontlines. Some heroes decided to lay down their arms for good, while some decided to continue serving the imperial court in glory.
The nation gradually recovered from the anarchy and appeared to be on track to prosperity again when news of Six Evils terrorising the lands came after only a ten year respite.