The cold only began to bite as his meditations ended, frost clung to the stubble that belied how long he had sat in lotus position, that, and the ache in his knees.
Once, he would have faced a day’s trek to the sacred spaces directly below. These days, he had a more direct route… stepping into the frigid void Kai fell. As the winds howled around him, whipping his yellow/orange robes about his body and face he brought a closed fist up across his body, 2 fingers, raised together passed through each of his chakras, drawing his Ki up from his center to his limbs. Through his Ki he reached out to the spirits of air, ceasing to fall and instead taking six graceful steps on the very wind itself. As he reached the ground he reached out to the stone and asked it to accept him gently as a visitor on their lands. They acquiesced.
The young man, for he was truly now a man, touched down with a thud in a closed kneel, one fist supporting him, the other arm extended out two fingers upturned to where he had fallen from.
It was warm on the lower slopes, he felt himself begin to thaw. The air was spiced with cherry blossom, indeed his direct descent had caused quite the swirl of petals to mark his arrival. They parted all the more suddenly as the young man called the mountain winds to his aid as he made all haste to the library caverns of the lower complex.
Kai arrived at a flat sprint, skidding to a halt that sent up a miniature eddy of dust. Master Kuàijì coughed and spluttered his way through it as he sought to be civil:
“Young Master Kai, What brings you back to the Libraries? There was a time in your youth I couldn’t keep you away, but I haven’t seen you this way in years. Some said you had joined Brother Kenco in seeking Mercantilism as a path to enlightenment?”
“No! I have been speaking with the Shunryu. He had a warning for brothers and masters alike! I must see the Foretelling scrolls of Grand Master Yosoku!”
Kai pushed past the master once again accelerating at the speed of the east wind.
With a resounding boom of ancient wood on ancient wood, and a accompanying clang of weathered iron on the same, the huge doors before him swung shut.
“Those stacks are sealed from all but Grand Masters, Master Kai you know this…”
The young man is for a moment humbled, he looks down, turns his head to look over his right shoulder at the older master, nods a bow. Then stamps his right foot down. The earth responds to his focused Ki, it rises up around the older Master’s feet and ankles, shackling him in the rock of the mountain side. It won’t hold for long.
Snapping his head back left to face the barrier to what he seeks, he also snaps his hands around, thrusting them outstretched toward the huge door palm-heels together, fingers outspread. Now it is the wind that answers his call, a howling gale thunders past the trapped Master and threatens to knock Kai over as it hammers open the ancient doors.
The youth flees inside. Moments later the older man is free and perseus.
Inside the cavern the light is subdued, the air is still and dry (this is why this place was chosen). Kai’s incursion into it with the east wind at his back stirs centuries of dust, ruffles pages of codexis, rattles scrolls in tubes. He passes the majority of the stacks but has to pause when he gets beyond the generally permitted shelves. Strictly speaking no knowledge is off limits here, but…
“You go to far Kai, you are not ready to read the foretellings!” Master Kuàijì confronts him from the end of a row.
He sits down into Neko no shisei, ready to challenge Kai in one of the elemental forms he has never truly mastered. In response Kai drops into Uma no shisei, his Ki burning on his fist and feet.
Kai stabs the air with a punch from his waist that emits a bolt of burning ki when it hammers into its apex. He follows up with his left leg, flicked round in a deadly arch from left to right, turning the fighter around and lashing off a second bolt of fiery ki.
Kuàijì sighs, and steps back, once, twice, each step accompanied by a sweeping wave of his arms, first one meets fire, then the other, each sweep pulling water from the air to wrieth his arms and extinguish the attacks. There is a hiss of steam.
“Really Kai, fire in the great library?”
“My apologies Master, I forget myself” Kai sags into a submissive bow.
At this the older man charges.
“So. You. Do!”
It is Kuàijì’s turn to be carried by the winds as he saws across the space between the stacks, left leg out in a fearsome Hikō kikku.
Kai flinches, left arm, out middle fingers pressed to thumb, the others extended skyward. Around his hand a golden inverted pentacle burns, surrounded by a binding circle, described in Tensar annotation script, from which radiates a golden arcanic energy plane. The Masters kick strikes the wholey not Ki force barrier, the resulting Thaumic discharge leaves him panting on the ground.
“So you learned all that you threatened to on your Pilgrims Walk, young master sorcerer? He spits venomously.
“No, but I learned some, and it is not incompatible with The Arts. Now if you will sit still a while wise Master, I need to do a little reading…
Kai rolled the scroll closed with more force than a three thousand year old document deserved. It rattled as he rammed it back in the rocky chamber from whence it had come.
“And they will carry amongst them a darkness amongst the ‘ones of hope’ that will stand in the way of the forces from the north, and from the far west, and so the middle-west is doomed by the forces enshadowed”
Kai spas back at the older Master that stood at the other side of his golden enconjured barrier.
He lets it drop. The master is smiling.
“And the Middle-west means so much to you, doesn’t it? Because they use magic, instead of Ki there?”
“No! The Middle West means much to me because I have friends there! I… had… friends there! They have an evil in their midsts, and I know what it is, there is a little man with them, he is from the far-west, he invests his power, his ki, his soul maybe, into the bodies of the blessed ancestors and plucks their rest to serve him unquestioning, He defiles the ancestors and courts hungry ghosts. He is the enemy in their midsts!”
Kuàijì thinks for a moment, then crosses the gap to the young master without fear of further assault, but at that moment the doors to the library are darkened by the last figure either man would expect to see here.
He throws his knee-length grey beard over his shoulder
“And what do you believe the Spring Dragon told you master Kai?”
Kai is prostrate on the ground, as is the older Master, for they are in the presence of the Saikō
“It told me there was a hidden evil amongst the people of hope that currently fight for the middle-west as named in the foretelling scrolls! I know that evil, it is a magi who seeks to power of the dead and would use it to poison the Hun and Po of the living and the dead around him….”
He would go on but Saikō holds up a hand
“You read the words, but you do not hear young Master. These were the teachings of the Spring Courts to our people when the Winter Courts preyed and feed upon we, mortal kind… “
“These warnings concern themselves only with the four courts. The Spring Court taught us to defend ourselves against the aggression of the Winter Queen, but foreseeing scrolls warn us against more than the motivations of one court. The courts have remained quiet for decades, they have grown tired of us, we can defend ourselves.”
He strokes his long grey eyebrows into place
“The courts do move in the middle-west, their motives are shady, but the Spring Court continues to protect us in the far-east”
“Then I must warn them!” the young man unintentionally shouts at the old Highest Master.
He starts by trying to describe a portal in the air, but when that doesn’t work he assumes a stance and through ritual punches attempts to make a hole in space and time.
“Kai, my son” Kuàijì voices, approaching the lad, putting an arm around his shoulders.
“It is a shame this revelation came to you now, a few months too late, but perhaps embrace the words of Master Bais Lai: this is no longer your Monastery, nor your Monkeys.