What Do I Learn Martial Arts For?
“Okay, since you’ve promised to not lie to me” – Shen Yiren crossed one leg over the other and slouched to the side in the stone chair, lips clad in victory – “sit up straight and answer what you should answer.”
What happened to my bashful superior?! Women. Women. Women! Always changing their tone so darn fast!
I sat on the ground, yet I wasn’t much shorter than her.
Annoyed with my height, Shen Yiren blew her cheeks for a fleeting moment. “Night Fortress’ Master.”
I felt my spine shiver. “Wait. Try something else.”
“Hmph, Master Ming, you are speaking more than necessary.”
“You will answer only what I ask.”
“The six evil b-”
“All of it is true!”
“I know. Telling such an elaborate lie is beyond your story-telling skills. What I want to ask is, you will tell me more if I ask, correct?”
“I’ve heard numerous versions of the legend growing up, but yours is the most detailed version. I want a testimony that can prove the authenticity of the story. I’ll cut to the case: I don’t want hearsay. I want your interpretation. Do they really exist?”
“It’s not my interpretation.” I pointed to my eyes. “I saw it with my own eyes.”
“I believe you are implying they have been sighted on Mount Daluo before?”
“Yes, once according to my memories.”
“… Based on your understanding and experience, how much truth do you think there is to Mount Daluo’s legend?”
The question proved to me that Shen Yiren could draw independent conclusions even if I were her source of information. In other words, she didn’t take my recount or opinion as objective facts.
“Half,” I answered post-thinking.
“The six evil beasts aren’t mythical monsters with magical powers, capable of flying, digging underground, you get my drift. If you want to compare, humans are far superior at voodoo and ‘magic’. My guess is that my ancestors came up with tales of them spitting fire, toxins, breaking down cities to deter fools from trying to challenge the six evil beasts or manipulate them as the young Emperor once did. I believe ‘Six Evil Beasts Chronicles’ is intended to serve the same purpose.
“Speaking from experience, the six are still classified as ‘beasts’, not fiends, demons, devils or what have you. With that said, they shouldn’t be categorised as common beasts. Their physiques are significantly larger, and their lifespan is extensively longer. They’re more accurately described as unique creatures of nature. I don’t know how much the miasma contributes. What I do know for certain is that they pack a serious punch.
“I came across one fifteen years ago. Everyone at Mount Daluo, including my shifu and grandmaster, convened to subdue it, yet we still barely edged out a victory. Many of my uncles died or were left with debilitating injuries. And they were only dealing with a child.”
Noticing Boss show pity for me and almost voice it, I smiled bitterly. “Though it was a tragic win, a win is a win. While you shouldn’t view them as undefeatable monsters, you shouldn’t underestimate them, either. The correct attitude is to treat them as mammoths that can’t be dealt with using common sense.”
“Mm, in that case, stories of them being the children of natural essence, wood, grass and rocks are unfounded. In Six Evil Beasts Chronicles, it states that they are born in evil grounds from a thousand infant sacrifices. I’ve always thought those are claims that later generations have blown out of proportion.”
“It is horse feathers. There’s nobody who has researched them as extensively as Mount Daluo. All those wild rituals are hearsay from morons in later generations. The six evil beasts hatch from eggs as per the story. I’ve seen an egg before, and it corroborates with the legend our predecessors passed down.”
“You’ve seen one? You said you saw one of the beasts, which means it had already hatched.”
“Boss, what do you think our guarding process entails? You think we camp on the mountain. Wait for one of them to spawn in some unknown location and then hurry over to it when it hatches? We always know where they will hatch and even have rough estimates of when they hatch. We always know where the egg is.
“At Mount Daluo, there is an uncovered cavern that is impossible to climb out of unless your qinggong is up to standard – Six Evil Beasts’ Genesis. That’s where they absorb the natural miasma and hatch.
“My shifu showed me the tiger-sized egg when I was seven. When I saw it a year later, it was bigger than a bull, and it only ever continued to grow until hatching.”
“Why don’t you prepare to destroy the egg beforehand since you know its location? As well, given you know where they come from, why do you…”
“Because it’s not easy to purge them permanently. Once there’s an egg, there’s a slumbering evil beast inside. Breaking out is taxing, which is why it’s at its weakest when it first hatches. Should you break the egg prior to its due date, you’ll be facing a stronger and more aggressive beast. As for their genesis…
“My grandmaster often said, ‘How can humans beat nature?’ How can we get rid of natural miasma even if we can erase the miasma on Mount Daluo? If we destroy their breeding ground, they’ll just give birth elsewhere. Sure, it might take them some years to set up, but it’s an inexorable outcome. Who can guarantee we’ll know where they come from if they move? For all we know, the first calamity might repeat itself. If we don’t know where they come from, we won’t have any means of stopping them. As long as there’s a chance, we will have a means of dealing with them. Why the long face?”
“Doesn’t that mean… Mount Daluo will have to sacrifice lives whenever an egg hatches, then? You’re all guarding Mount Daluo despite knowing it’s a trap you can’t avoid or escape?”
“… Prior to being allowed off the mountain, all our disciples must take a test that is our ticket to leave the mountain. My brothers and I were no exception. I was tested at fourteen, when I was still brimming with the ambition of being a young hero, but… I failed.”
Though not surprised, Shen Yiren had that look telling me that she didn’t understand where I was going with it.
“All my siblings left the mountain one after another, while I was twenty-two by the time I was allowed off the mountain legitimately, so I was an old hero by then. The test that kept me stuck there for all those years is the reason Mount Daluo has persisted over all these generations.”
“What’s the test?”
“Nothing special. My shifu just asked me a question.”
“What did he ask?”
“He asked…” I shifted my gaze to the ceiling, where I projected memories of the old bugger’s grin when he asked me a question that was dark in a bright tone, and smiled to myself. “For what reason do we learn martial arts?”