Another one for the Epic Collection. I wrote this one as a sort of part 2 to The Rogue, and honestly, I like this one a little better: It’s got a kick-ass monk in it. Can you blame me?
Either way, it works well as a 2-parter which means I can put these stories together into one epic timeline and story. It’s just going to take some work – sigh.
Anyway, here’s the story. Enjoy:
He focused his Ki and ignored his brother’s tirade. He was going on and on about how the Monk was not a proper warrior yet, how he was still an apprentice and how by trying to deal with the burglar himself, he allowed her to escape with their most prized treasure: the Shinato scroll.
He ignored him, instead focusing all of his internal power on healing his wound and purge the paralyzing toxin from his body.
“I will go after her,” he said. “And I shall bring the scroll back.”
“Pah! You are barely qualified to wear your robes,” retorted the other monk. “Defeated by an outsider.”
“The first virtue of a monk is humility,” came a frail yet steady voice from behind the Monk. The temple’s Abbott hobbled in sight, gently resting on his cane. He peered up to the other monk who shrunk away.
“Perhaps it is time you showed some.”
Then he turned to the Monk. “Courage, on the other hand, is also necessary. But courage without wisdom is merely foolishness.”
“Yes, Grandmaster,” replied the Monk.
“How is your leg?”
“I have purged most of the poison, Grandmaster.”
The Abbott grunted and knelt, grasping the Monk’s leg firmly. “Impressive. Your training is nearly complete if your skills with Ki have come this far.”
The Monk felt a warm spike of energy, like multiple pinpricks canvasing his leg where the Abbott held it. The latter stood up, slowly, and the Monk felt better than ever.
“Are you certain you wish to follow the burglar, my young boy?” asked the Abbott.
The Monk nodded.
“Very well.” The Abbott straightened up as much as his old age would allow. “As Grandmaster of this temple I grant you the title of Shinato Monk. You are now a brother to us, a beacon of light and a blade of shadow. The Brotherhood has been robbed of its most dangerous and most prized treasure. It is your duty to bring it back and prevent it from falling into outside hands.”
The Monk bowed. “Yes, Grandmaster.”
“Go now, brother.”
The Monk sprung immediately into action.
“Might I borrow your weapons?” he asked the other senior monks. There was no time to go to the armory and arm himself – he had to follow the thief now.
The monks presented their arms: hand-held sickles called kamas, shuriken throwing stars, chains and ropes, a few darts.
He grabbed a fistful of shuriken and tucked them in his robes. A pair of kamas went into his belt. Then he tied two chains together, followed by another set of two chains tied together. He tied one end to a second set of sickles, one to each double long chain. The free ends of the chains were wrapped around his forearms. Finally he pulled down a curtain and folded it, tucking it inside his robe.
“Wish me luck,” he said as he dove headfirst out of the window and the cliff below.
Steeling his mind was easy due to this training. He swung one sickle towards the cliff, using his Ki to enhance the power of his throw. The sickle’s tip buried like an ice pick inside the rock and the chair became taut, tightening around the Monk’s forearm.
He swung around like a monkey on a vine, before the sickle’s tip gave away. But he threw the other one, repeating the same process. His feat lasted four times before one of the interlocking chains snapped under pressure. He threw the remaining sickle into the cliff-side and saw the hill. With a snap the sickle’s blade broke off and the Monk began plummeting to his death. Discarding the now-useless chains, he pulled out the torn curtain. He grabbed a corner with each hand and wrapped a leg around the other two corners. After a tense second, his fall slowed and he merely floated towards the hill.
But still his speed was too fast.
He made a rapid calculation and began a countdown. When he got to three he pulled the curtain close and flared his body out. His descent jarred to a stop before one corner tore off and he was plummeting down again. He flipped widely and saw he had approximately the length of the monastery’s height left to fall – enough height to kill a man.
He met the ground with his feet, with enough force to shatter them. But his training, his Ki, had hardened his body beyond that of a mere mortal and whilst he was sent sprawling and tumbling, he avoided major damage. As he got up, he laughed with exhilaration. Monks were taught caution and wisdom – and he had celebrated his first minute as a full-fledged Shinato Monk by taking a dive off a cliff. Perhaps that sort of foolishness was exactly what was needed for him to complete his task.
The city was a cornucopia of strange sounds and smells. Everyone seemed so concerned with themselves, walking in a hurried rush, unaware of so many relevant little details that can affect their lives. What surprised the Monk was the sheer amount of weapons he saw. Everyone carried a sword or at least a knife, as if wearing it was some form of warding. In the monastery he had been taught to hide his weapons and to use only the tools that were necessary – usually his bare body was enough to accomplish any task. People gave him strange looks as he passed by but none lingered for too long.
He wandered around, getting a feel of the city. In this maze of mortar the thief could be anywhere and he had to –
His thoughts were interrupted by a loud crashing sound and a scream. He followed the sound as people paused and lowered their heads, resuming their tasks.
They wouldn’t even help their neighbors, thought the Monk, disgust rising like bile. But then he remembered the vow he took and how he was a beacon of light and a blade of shadows. One cannot exist without the other and it was up to him to show them the correct path by setting an example: by helping out.
He found a group of three thugs kicking a man and taking his purse.
At the Monk’s words all three spun, weapons in hand.
“My apologies for interrupting,” he continued with a slight bow, “but I am looking for a thief – just like you. A female, with brown hair and a very disrespectful attitude.”
They grunted. “You got any money?” asked one of them.
This one carried a large gutting knife, which he promptly stuck in the Monk’s face.
“Money?” echoed the Monk. “No, I’m afraid not. You see, we are taught to eschew any earthly possessions and seek-”
The thug thrust the blade forwards, stabbing the Monk but the strike never made it. Even at that short distance the Monk’s hand struck the hand holding the knife, sending it flying. At first the thug felt nothing but after a stunned second pain flared. The hand was deformed and bent at a bizarre angle.
The Monk struck him again in the throat – not enough to kill him but merely rend him unconscious.
The other two rushed in with a string of curses. The nearest carried a large club with a series of nails on the side. He swung downwards – the Monk stepped in and flipped him over, breaking both of his arms.
“Stop right there.” The Monk turned to see the last of the thugs pointing a sword at the beaten man.
“Stand by that wall or I will kill him,” snarled the thug. Sheepishly the Monk raised his hands and pressed his back against the wall.
“Stay there and die.” The man swung his sword and the Monk shifted. The sword met the wall and got stuck. The Monk struck the sword, bending the metal like a piece of paper and focused his Ki.
He struck the man in the chest, crushing his cheap breastplate, his rib cage and his heart with one blow.
“Be on your way,” he told the beaten victim gently, tossing him his purse back.
Then he grabbed the first thug, the one with the crushed hand. A sharp blow to the neck revived him.
“I have a few questions and I would really appreciate it if you could help me,” he said sweetly with a genuine smile.
“The scroll.” A short man, neatly dressed and accompanied by a dozen mercenaries, formed half a circle around a woman.
The thief, thought the Monk, recognizing her.
“My money first, Jarec,” she replied. “And what’s with the welcoming party?”
“Just a precaution,” said the man. “Just in case you decide to double-cross me.”
“Pay me and we won’t have a problem,” she replied.
Jarec cocked his head to one side. “There might be a problem with that.”
She sighed. “Why am I not surprised.”
“There is no client,” said Jarec as if he hadn’t heard her. “I want that scroll. That’s the key to a lot of power – power only I can wield. It’s mine.”
She pulled out a dagger. “Not yet it isn’t.”
Jarec snarled at her. “That can be easily rectified. Attack her.”
The mercenaries moved forwards and the Monk sprung into action.
A pair of shuriken throwing stars glinted as they flew in the air, catching two mercenaries in the throat. The mercenaries halted their assault, surprised, and watched as the Monk appeared from the shadows, throwing more shuriken.
The Rogue dove into a mercenaries and slashed his arm whilst another method her into the ground. The Monk appeared amidst the group, kama sickles twirling. Their shape was perfect to penetrate armor and entrap weapons. He blocked a sword and kicked it’s owner in his head, instantly knocking him out. Another was disarmed – literally – as the Monk cut his arm off. The skirmish took less than five minutes, whilst the Rogue was still wrestling with that one mercenary, finally stabbing him in the neck.
But Jarec used his mage powers to steal the Shinato scroll, levitating it and causing it to fly towards him.
“Finally,” he exclaimed.
The Rogue launched a throwing knife at him but he sent a blast of air and deflected it. The Monk launched the last of his throwing stars and the mage deflected it as well – although it still nicked his thigh.
The Monk was immediately on him, sickles whistling in the air. Jarec threw a beam of green light, catching one of the Monk’s weapons. Both curved blade and wooden shaft melted away. The second kama sliced the mage’s chest and as he fell Jarec cast a fire lance and avoided a lethal blow.
“Hold him off,” he yelled.
Four mercenaries charged at the Monk who was left with no choice but to avoid sword blows and focus on the new threats.
“I’ll get him,” called out the Rogue.
“No,” yelled the Monk. He knew the power of the Shinato scroll – she was no match for it.
But the Rogue ignored him and he had to watch as the mage opened the scroll and began reading. A wave of Ki threw everyone on the ground, knocking out the few mercenaries left.
The Monk sprung to his feet and watched as Jarec’s form darkened like living shadows: dusky skin with intricate lines of living Ki covering every inch of his body. His form swelled in size and his eyes reddened – just like a demon’s.
Jarec threw the scroll on the ground and smiled. Fire swirled around the Rogue. The Monk ran towards her, through the flames. His body was hardened by Ki, countering the flames, and pulled the Rogue to safety. She stirred.
“The scroll,” she muttered. “What happened?”
“He has absorbed the scroll’s potent Ki,” replied the Monk. “We have to stop him.”
“Or we can run.”
“He will kill innocents.”
She shrugged. “Not my problem.”
“You have caused this,” he replied sternly. “And I have now saved your life. You owe me.”
She scowled. “Great. I got stuck with the monk, out of all types.”
“Get the scroll and read the very last incantation,” he said.
The Monk sprinted towards Jarec. He had no weapons but they would have been useless anyways. Only Ki can defeat Ki: this would be a hand to hand match with the Monk putting his life on the line.
Jarec punched at the Monk and missed, shattering a column.
“Look at my newfound power,” he exclaimed. “I am undefeatable.”
Light engulfed him and he shot beam after beam at the Monk’s direction but the latter was far too agile. Getting in close, he delivered a couple of mighty blows, shattering the man’s shoulder and sending Jarec sprawling onto the ground.
Screaming ferally Jarec drew a symbol on the ground and summoned a sword. The tip touched the ground, instantly blowing a large hole on the ground.
“The jewel on the sword’s hilt is a powerful magical relic imbued with forbidden blasting magic,” said Jarec. As he stood up his wounds began healing.
He attacked, forcing the Monk to evade wildly.
“Now,” the Monk heard the Rogue call out. She was holding the Shinato scroll and began mumbling something undertone.
Almost immediately Jarec’s form exploded in waves of light and shadow and he screamed bloody murder. His sword was discarded and he rolled on the ground in agony.
The Rogue finished the incantation and the scroll snapped shut. The Monk felt a large build-up of Ki from the scroll – the Rogue dropped it as if it held the plague.
“No. My power,” moaned Jarec. He made a run towards the scroll but found the Monk in his path.
The Monk focused the last of his Ki into his fist and punched Jarec, tearing a hole through his chest.
Jarec fell dead.
“The scroll,” screamed the Rogue, throwing herself away from the Shinato relic. But it was too late for the Monk to take cover. The large build-up of Ki went off and the Monk was thrown off his feet and fell unconscious.
When he came to, the Monk found the dead mage and the Shinato scroll where he had left them. He picked up the sacred treasure and tucked it inside his robes – it was safe once again.
The Rogue was nowhere to be found. Upon examination he found that Jarec’s magic sword was missing it’s jewel – no doubt taken by the thief as some form of compensation.
He sighed. Sometimes you cannot change the nature of people. But something inside him told him that his journey was not yet over, that destiny had more in store for him and that she would be part of it.
He felt it – he knew it. His journey had just begun.
Anyway, that’s all folks. Hope you enjoyed that. Don’t forget to hit the subscribe button for more stories and more stiff to come.