I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to notifying an author has a single review on the big master list and it’s a bad review. In general I think the master list bookshelf to send out notifications is a good thing, but when it’s just a single review and it’s a bad review it feels like saying “hey, someone thinks your story sucks”. Aaaanyway, today is a non-review day. I’m going to inflict some of my writing on you. Due to spending most of the day at a cat show I’m cheating and instead of writing up something new, just going to copy something from my ideas folder.
It’s an idea I had years ago and never did anything with, but I think it’s still a good one. Basically the idea that demons are very predictable. That they will always react the same way to the same stimulus. So the order of monks has developed a precise martial art that’s more ritual than fighting style. Throw this punch and the demon counter-attacks like that, which you respond to like this, and so on. While the demon is fighting the monk it’s not out destroying the world or anything. Unable to do anything else in fact. Like most of my cool ideas it’s not quite enough to built an entire story on, but that’s what the idea fragments folder is for.
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Forward. Back. Block. Strike. Shift. Back. Strike.
The two figures moved with deceptive smoothness, even at the speeds they were both moving every movement could be seen by a watcher.
Parry. Block. Shift. Slide. Turn. Back. Forward. Strike.
It was a well worn dance for both of them. Both having been raised together and training with each other for as long as they could walk unassisted.
Strike. Parry. Counter. Shift. Forward. Strike.
During practice neither showed much emotion. As familiar as both of them were with the movements of the other it took all their concentration to keep up. It was a dance, but still a competitive one.
Strike. Block. Counter. Counter. Throw. Sweep. Jump. Kick.
The hall they were moving around was just the same as when they had first seen it on their tenth birthday. Then it was so very impressive with the hundred foot arching ceiling supported by rows of stone pillars so thick a fully grown adult’s arms could not even reach the fingertips of another fully grown adult standing on the other side. The rows of pillars arranged at the points of hexagons stretching into the darkness in every direction. The floors with painstakingly laid tiles held in place by nothing more than good intentions and the precisely fit edges of the tiles. Each hexagon a different animal sigil. The entirety of the world’s animals spread on the floor in masterwork pieces of art.
Block. Slide. Sweep. Forward. Forward. Strike.
Neither of them spared a single thought to the ten thousands years the temple had existed. The underground structure had existed for so long that the stone tiles have all been replaced more than once. Centuries of students practicing in each hexagon wearing down the tiles until they were mere slivers of colored dust. The patterns of the two martial artists as easy to see in the patterns of wear in the stones as watching them act through them. Each movement and shift of feet exactly as their teachers showed them.
Forward. Back. Block. Strike. Counter.
Both of them were breathing a little heavily now. Sweat was sliding down to soak into the thin practice outfits they both wore, identical to the point of causing confusion at first glance to outsiders. Not that many outsiders were ever allowed to watch the practice sessions. A few who watched came away either amused or disappointed. Every one mistaking the rigid forms of the movements as weakness. Each seeing the lack of flexibility as death on any real battlefield or in any fight against beast or person.
Back. Counter. Strike. Strike. Shift…
One finally falters. His slight movement to the side not as accurate as it needed to be. The dance-like back and forth of movements slithering to a stop as the fist that was to be easily pushed aside hits him squarely in the shoulder when his hand doesn’t sweep the right amount of air to block. In his exuasted state even that light blow is enough to take him off his feet and fall to the ground gasping for air. His sparring partner actually sliding back and doing the counter-move to the strike that should have been next before realizing what had happened. She pauses, wobbling on her feet, as she too gasps for breath now that the rhythm is broken and they are free to breath freely.
“Only lasted two days this time. You are getting sloppy brother.” She spoke raggedly when they both recovered enough of their strength and thoughts to speak. Neither of them having much practice speaking out loud.
“I got distracted thinking of the lack of new recruits. This hall should be filled with dozens of pairs like us practicing the forms.” His voice was smooth as velvet, but only because it was as quiet as a whisper. Each showing their own vocal eccentricities from their voice’s lack of use.
“It does not matter. As long as we survive to continue the teachings the order will be there when it is needed.”
“It does matter. If the outsiders don’t keep coming to join us, we will fall and the world will fall with us. You know it can only mean the time is coming.” Near-panic a faint undercurrent beneath his words as he tried (and failed) to raise his voice.
“Yes. When we fall the evil shall spread backwards as well as forwards. Erasing the temple from the beginning so we never existed.” Her voice was tired beyond the physical. It was a argument they had daily whenever the remaining teachers were not present.
Both cast their minds to the teachings. That the demons will come into the world and devour mankind. No weapon will be able to hurt them, no force of arms will be able to stop them. The only chance being that the demons are so rules-bound that their forms of attack are exactly the same for every demon and throughout all time. A demon only able to attack one person at a time despite all their strength and powers. So if you study the forms of the demonic arts you can practice the exact set of moves to counter and block them. The longer your body holds out performing the exact series of movements needed, the longer that demon is unable to destroy and kill.
Which would be fine if the temple was full of the thousands of students it once held. The last demon invasion nearly a thousand years ago was stopped before it could devour more than a few cities. The monks of the temple capturing all the demons in the back and forth dance of marital arts while the mages sealed the hole and banished them back.
But now there was only a few old teachers and the brother and sister that had been found on the mountainside above as infants. Demons had been remembered only as fairy tales and the stories of the monk’s prowess in battle had faded to nothing. No longer did scores of applicants hoping to learn the secrets of battle come to the small shrine on the mountain surface to become monks.
“If the demons come tomorrow.” He said in that same almost-panic. “The world ends a week later. The teachers won’t be able to hold back enough and we aren’t skilled enough to last more than a few days. I know I normally do better than two, but you don’t last much longer than four days at your best. The sealing rituals take two weeks when the mages have warning.”