Episode 2: Death lurking in the Darkness
I would like to thank KageMugen for doing an awesome job by editing the chapter!
Before the sword was even unsheathed from its scabbard, loud screaming was heard breaking the silence. A shadow figure was heard screaming and falling in the bottom of the cave.
“Aaaaahhhh! My eyes! My eyes!”
In a few seconds, the sound of thousands of bats flapping their wings with their well-known unique screeching was heard. My eyes were still close in my meditation, the truth is that my meditation has finished. I still kept still like a stone in the form of Dhyana mudra when I spit silently towards the invaders’ eyes that were pulling their swords above me. My spit contained a strong flavor of fruits that won’t be missed by the bats. They gauged what they thought were bloody fruits. The screaming hasn’t finished when almost all the eyes behind the covers were spat on by me in quick succession. This squad of assassins was very good in covering their presences, only their eyes reflected weak light, but still it was a light. I made various flavors with my saliva; Mango flavor, mangosteen flavor, durian flavor, and persimmon flavor. The screeching of the bats now was accompanied by the screaming of men who were rolling and groveling on the ground while covering their eyes.
“Help! My eyes! My eyes! Help!”
What kind of help that those men who were intended to kill me hoped for? Flapping sound of thousands of bats that kept screeching intermitted with the screaming of men in their desperation. They would all soon perish inside this cave, but I didn’t need to see them perish because I have flown outside the cave to hunt their leader whom I thought was waiting outside the cave. I have, indeed, have reached 100 years old, but why were they so impatient to await my death that was soon to come?
Even though I have become obsolete and have meditated a lot, blood still runs through my head. Outside the cave, I was welcomed by thousands of arrows that should have torn my body apart, leaving lumps of bloody meat on every arrowhead. Those arrows that were released from behind the trees inside the forest pierced through my body but didn’t tore my body with them, because I have used the shapeless technique that has deceived their minds.
Those cowards were hiding behind trees. I estimated that they have mobilized a whole army to catch me. Who was giving the orders to them and what the hell has happened in the world? I have disappeared for fifty years from the world of martial arts and in the last twenty-five years, I haven’t interacted with any humans, what business could my enemies who were twenty-five years at the most have with me?
I flew like a shadow inside the forest; taking their lives like a Grimm Reaper doing his job. The biggest mistake of those who fought against my Shapeless arts was to fight it with martial arts with a certain form. Whoever they were, they were trying to remember, taking notes and discussing a certain form and with that certain form as their basic, they tried to find a weakness in my technique. They were discussing the shape and remembering the order of my movements and with that creating a new kind of technique just to fight me. Of course, that kind of approach would only end in vain, because my Shapeless Martial Arts would always change adapting to the martial arts that I fought against. The Shapeless Martial Art didn’t have a form of its own but taking shape from the opponents that it fought. If martial arts have a body, then this Shapeless Martial Art is just emptiness, it made every deadly technique manifest its own weakness.
I was rushing like a shadow, but I felt as if my body flew lightly and slowly like cotton blown away by the wind. In a second, one hundred archers who were hiding behind trees were pinned to the trunks by me with their own arrows. Some were hugging trees; some were staring at the darkness of the jungle while I pinned them on the trees with their arrows. Well, they would not die so quickly. They were moaning, but none of them had enough stamina left to unpin the arrow. They were put so high, so even if they managed to free themselves, the bodies of the soldiers who didn’t even know me would still fall down and die.
I saw five of their leaders outside the cave and from their clothes I knew that they had high military ranks from a nation. Which kingdom on this earth has sent their army to catch or to kill me? I live in the world of martial arts and have never interfered with their politics.
Martial Artists indeed lived on the same earth with the common people who seek their own salvation, but the world of the martial artists would never be accepted by common people who saw them only as something that is not real – for those common people, the world of martial arts is just a myth, legend or literature.
Okay, that would mean that I only lived inside a literature or inside a language to be exact. What did I do so wrong that one of the countries in the real world actually wanted to kill a character of a fable? How could a fable become so dangerous?
Hmmm, those five leaders of the army took out their own weapons. Strange, instead of being afraid, I felt so happy instead. I have been drowned in my meditation for far too long because there’s nothing else for me to do. But now, I feel like I’m being reborn. They moved to surround me without a sound; I let myself be attacked as if it would be easy to kill me. In just one move, two of them stabbed each other with their Kelewang1.
Now, three remained. I could have handled them easily, but didn’t I need some kind of explanation from them? They attacked me with high speed. One of them brought exploding whipping sounds that deafened the ears. Perhaps this was the newest invention from the group who dedicated themselves to find the secret of my Shapeless Arts. Perhaps, they noticed that I fought with my eyes closed and it means that I focused on my hearing. Perhaps they thought the way to fight me is to find the weakness of my hearing. Then the whip let out a loud bang that made birds inside the forest fly and monkeys jump from branch to branch while shrieking, making the situation even noisier.
But the explosion from the whip is only one of its many functions. He jumped from one branch to the other with body lightening arts that were almost perfect. He seemed to try to confuse me with the explosion from his whip, but soon I followed every movement he made with an even a greater speed. I was always ahead of him, even without using my shapeless technique to hit his head so he lost his consciousness and never to awake again.
Now, just two of them were left standing against me while breathing heavily. Their level of martial arts seemed to be lower than the man’s who held the whip, and their ranks were also lower than his. Both of them put their weapon to the ground signaling that they have surrendered. One of the weapons was a big jagged sword and the other one was a war axe. Their faces were pale.
“Tell me your name, where did you come from, and why did you come to find me just to kill me inside this vast forest?”
They didn’t answer. They looked at each other. Suddenly their hands moved so quickly to put something inside their mouths.
One moment later their body fell and they were shaking as foam came out from their mouths.
If they just intended to catch me, I will let myself be caught by them, so that I can solve this mystery. But they came with the intention to kill me, even for someone in his 100 years with one foot has already inside the grave, I am not a priest who would let myself be killed without a fight.
I flew up to the tree, jumped from the cliff above the cave, and bounced from one stone to the other to reach the top. There I could see a vast land. As far as I can see I have been hiding in this place for twenty-five years and I knew that there would not be any better place to hide from the noisy world other than here.
Sometimes Eagles nested here on the cliff’s wall, leaving their newly hatched chicks to live there temporarily while the parents were searching for prey on below. Sometimes I saw them came holding squirrels with their claws or fish to feed their chicks. Really, the survival of one creature must be paid with the life of another creature.
I was still flying lightly through the stones that were sticking up here and there. The winds blew heavily with the afternoon light.
Near the peak, there is a cave that I have entered not too long time ago. The location is close enough to the peak that it is in the form of plain, so that anyone who is able to crawl down through the wall will be able to reach it, and that was the reason why I chose not to stay there. There were signs of people living in there in the past. Human bones, stone axe, flat stones that were used by ancient man scattered around. Did they do martial arts too?
Once I saw some moving pictures on the cave wall. I thought they were just pictures of people dancing. The stones were neatly arranged showing that they were touched by mankind. The cave was well hidden and perhaps those ancient people were also avoiding something, just like me. With that kind of reason and feelings, I chose not to stay in there and decided to find a steeper place down below. Who would think that twenty-five years later, someone would find my hiding place from down there too by a group of assassins who dared to enter the jungle?
I didn’t enter the cave anymore and I kept flying upwards. The air was cold up here and I needed to jump through the mist. The cold wind blew and its sounds were like a deathly whistle. So, even though I was alone the truth was I was never lonely because everything could mean something for me. I could even learn much from the wet leaves, for martial arts and for philosophy about life and the world, because for me, those who could get the meaning of the things that are existed in this world would be saved from the prison of this temporary life. Wasn’t the circle of night and day just a rotation of the globe?
But even then, we often forget to realize that and go along with this life that drags us around and before we realize, we have become old. In my life as a wanderer in this noisy world, I realized how humans have been swallowed by their own daily life needs to fill their stomach that would never stop to ask to be filled.
Life without awareness, how could we say to ourselves that we are still human?
And so, this old me flashed inside the mist to find my way up, just to be welcomed by poison needles. I heard their sharp whistling sound piercing through the mist, forcing me to leap three times in the air because the poison needle attack has not ceased.
When I landed on the ground, I was still shrouded by the mist. My feet could feel the flat rocks of that peak, but I could not see a thing. There was only mist around me that was slowly blown by the wind from across the continent.
I heard a mocking laugh.
“Heheheheheh! You have become an obsolete old man, heh? Why don’t you just die?”
The mist still hasn’t dispersed, but suddenly a flat sword with two sharp edges that seemed light and really sharp came from behind the mist towards my neck. I flashed and a figure of a shadow followed my movement. Using my palm hand, I slapped the side of the sword to deflect it. But the sword moved with amazing speed. I moved faster to keep my advantage, but that movement has been read. My enemy this time was a high-level martial artist.
We moved with amazing speed inside the mist that was thickened. I just saw that shadowy figure was wearing white clothes. He was moving so quickly that I could only see a white shadowy figure. The sound of the sword was whistling as if promising certain death.
I didn’t use my Shapeless technique because I wanted to warm up my muscles.
“Old fart! You are still quick eh!”
Who was that?
From the uttered sentenced, it seemed that the person knew me well. Even if we didn’t meet as enemies, at least that person has seen me fighting against my enemies. In my younger days, I was a fighter who would always find someone to fight, even challenge them in the public. Because of my pride in my youth, I always wanted to be watched as I defeated my enemies.
I threw some punches to paralyze that person. I felt my hand hit his chest. Ah! A woman! Why couldn’t I recognize it from the way she speaks? I jumped backward and tried to keep my distance. Now I understand why I smelled something pleasant all this time. She is a swordswoman who always used perfume.
I vaguely remembered from my memory, a swordswoman name who was famous of her fragrant scent, Pendekar Melati2. She was really beautiful. Was she wrinkled just as I am?
I heard a voice. Of course, it was the sound of her vomiting blood. She has been hit with the Bloody Palm technique, and if she survived it means that she has a high-level spiritual power. In my entire life, never once have my enemies survived for over 24 hours after been hit by the wind from my Bloody Palm technique.
The mist still hasn’t dispersed. She left, leaving a sweet scent of jasmine behind. I didn’t even see her face and body clearly. What reason made that famous swordswoman want to kill me?
She was from the free faction. She would not hunt someone whom she thought did not have a heavy sin.
It was different with the light faction who will eliminate people from the dark faction no matter who that person was. The martial artists from the free faction didn’t care too much about good and bad, right or wrong, or if that someone belongs to the light faction or dark faction.
They lived on their own. They lived their lives to search for knowledge and to increase their martial arts and also to fight for justice only when the people from the light faction could not do it. Even so, they often hid while doing it.
In the middle of the cold mist, I was standing still, brooding over the sudden and quick development. After twenty-five years, I need to decide whether to still keep my distance from the noisy world and silently die somewhere; or to return to it to find the answer? Why there were so many people who were hunting me?
After the mist was dispersed, the night fell. Nothing I could do in this place anymore but enter the cave of the ancient people just to seek warmth. I became obsolete, senile, and old. Even though I was still a martial artist, the cold night of the dry season always made me felt tortured.
Notes (sorry, i forgot to put it before)
- Pendekar means something like swordsman/woman