Nanjiang’s Uprising (Part 2)
Even though there was no shortage of pugilists worthy of praise in Nanjiang, Martial Paragon was the only man among them worthy of standing at their pinnacle.
Martial Paragon, a man born in a backwater village nobody besides its residents knew of, learnt to fight without a mentor and figured out all of the intricacies to rise above his competitors. In an environment where lineage was given the most weight, he managed to establish himself against the odds.
“He” didn’t get to enter the colosseum as competitor when Four States’ Alliance hosted a tournament to crown their guya. Instead, he had to stand there for other warriors to attack so that they could offer the sun (bird) his blood. To everyone’s surprise, the peasant conquered all the warriors running for the crown of guya.
“The tribute” accepted challenges from an endless line of challengers, with each challenger being superior to the next. In the end, they became the stepping stones that elevated him to the peak.
He was devoid of anger or vexation in battle. He didn’t walk away from defeat with bitterness; as opposed to calling it defeat, defeats were lessons for him.
During his time at the top, Martial Paragon was the guya for all eleven states and led all forces of Nanjiang. All the current generals of the eleven states were once his subordinate or disciple. His presence maintained order in Nanjiang’s martial arts community without requiring enforcers, and, by extension, they didn’t clash with the Central Plain’s martial arts community.
Ten years ago, Martial Paragon lost an arm and retired, leaving the rest of the martial arts community with his legacy and the question of how he lost his arm.
I had no idea who I amputated until I heard his story long after the fact.
I had no excuses for losing both times I met him. The first time I lost, I was still in training, so it was tantamount to a kid versus an adult. The second time, I lost control of my bloodlust. Everything in my vision appeared as tiny ants for me to stomp, and I couldn’t stop myself. Among the inorganic wreckage was an arm separated from its owner’s torso. I lost the second fight, but he lost an arm.
“D-don’t lie…” Ah Su couldn’t think of anything else to say; it was though he was terrified to be in the same room with me.
“Care to verify for yourself?”
“Feizhen.” Though Young Shiyi only enunciated my name, I could hear her authoritative tone.
“I know,” I responded.
I closed the gap and put Ah Su’s lights out in a flash. I stared straight back at the soldiers, who came in and took aim at us, shutting them down with my mere presence. In truth, I was peering pass them.
“His skills… remind me of the past.” Young Shiyi took my hand.
“Why are you holding my hand?”
“I don’t like the cold.”
The fog in my mind took a while to clear out, but it eventually did thanks to the warmth coming in from my hand. “I apologise for letting myself be distracted at an inappropriate time.”
“Glad you know your faults. I see you’re still a magnet for trouble. You’ve drawn a crowd.”
“I guess I should see our guests off, then… There are a few people in the room to the east who share the same internal energy as the girl. They must be her clansmen.”
Heisina Duohua snapped back to reality upon hearing me mention her clansmen, “Ar-are we going to rescue them now?”
“You sound as though you don’t know how dangerous the bows and arrows you use to hunt tigons are. You realise you have twenty something of them aimed at you right now, yeah? One reckless move and you’ll be a pin cushion before you know it.”
Several soldiers dragged in three of Heisina Duohua’s clansmen in, evoking joy for finally finding her tribesmen and fear for putting their lives at risk.
You lot really are elites, huh, using them as hostages as soon as I point out their location?
“Miss, they are my clansmen!”
Young Shiyi glared daggers at me: “Someone said they were going to see them out.”
I tapped my nose: “That someone can only be me.”
“I haven’t seen you use any of your skills in three years. You keep recycling the same old moves again and again. I reckon I’ll surpass you in a few years.”
“I was never your match, Young Shiyi. That said, I have come up with some new goodies in the last three years. I just haven’t had the chance to use them.”
Young Shiyi draped her arm over Heisina Duohua’s shoulder prior to backing up a step: “Such as?”
“Such as…” I strode forward unthinkingly.
One of the archers, detecting danger, threatened, “Stop or we will kill them!”
“Don’t go!” Duohua cried. “They’ll kill them! They’re not playing!”
“Stop!” The captain drew his broadsword to hold Duohua’s clansman at blade point. “One more step and his neck goes!”
Step, step, step.
“Fire!” commanded the captain, as he raised his blade to execute his hostage.
“Don’t!” cried Duohua.
Despite the rambunctious crowd, his voice stood out with its clarity. As if his voice was a magic chant, every soldier dropped onto his knees uniformly.