II/ The Origin of the Seven Races
Legend has it that, when the seven dragons fell from the endless sky, their bodies, blood, and dust from their inherently immortal bodies turned into mountains, forests, vast grasslands, shores deep enough to drown everything all over again, into treasures and into human races that had never appeared in this universe.
Why did this transformation happen? Weren’t they all descendants of dragons? Why are the Chi so unpredictable, the Finx full of sorcery, the Ragna powerful yet unruly, the Mogo famous for their fighting spirit, the Sho known for their complex strategy, and the Viet fast and nimble?
For there was more than one species of dragon that ruled the sky!
Over the years, the Wise Men of Remus with cloudy eyes recounted that the Tenebraes had turned into thorny high mountains that were impossible to conquer, the Infernos transformed into the grim desert, and the Nautikos brought all the treasures in the world down and buried themselves into the deep sea, the gentle Veridesceres transformed into mankind and the fertile land of the central highlands. Among the dragons, the Ophidians and Quietuses had become something so out of reach of human hands. Legend had it that, as monstrous as their selves, the Ophidian left a curse on all forms of life under this sky, that in every person would lie a part of darkness. Where the Ophidian fell, life there would be gloomy, the land barren and nothing could ever thrive. Quietus – the rejected child of God – manifested into discord, dark magic, hatred, and greed all over the land. Places where Quietus fell would always be immersed in injustice, hardships, and could only get one rare sunny day in ten years of fog.
But the Wise Men of Remus also said that down under where Quietus’ heart fell, it was a fairyland with a fresh stream flowing flawlessly, people who had arrived could never bring themselves to leave: the only choice left was to leave their old life behind, stay and live their final days on this land in peace. So contradictory: Why in the heart of the evil beast can be so halcyon, could this all be the most dangerous trap? Was this a place where, once entering, people would lose all ambition, all fighting spirit, all curiosity and just want to… stop?
Having said that, the Viet territory must have had many parts of Quietus’ flesh.
On the map of the seven kingdoms, it was not difficult to realize that Viet was a land with terrain so rugged that foreigners could not hide deep inside the kingdom. The countless mountains, interspersed with rivers that were both deep and wide, the humid and misty climate covered the forests that spread out throughout its land, making Viet one of the most difficult countries to penetrate. However, thanks to the difficult living conditions, the Viet had learned to adapt and become nimble and extremely good at hiding. They lived scattered in clusters of villages across the mountain slopes and riverbanks, so it was not easy to know where the Viet generals and queens reigned.
Don't forget that, even the legendary Magus Leo Mountain was also in Viet Quoc territory, so that was more than enough to tell what kind of land Viet was.
“Sir Luo Co, today upon leaving the palace, you shall meet four people. A handsome stranger, a brute lad, and a couple of… I can't see clearly, they seem to know that I'm looking at them.”
Wei Liu brushed his robe sleeve, regained his usual politeness, and was about to walk towards the boat.
A cold wind grazed the back of his neck, out of nowhere appeared a slender man and woman with pale skin and visible blue veins, dressed in pitch black robes, long swords at the waist, just like two black shadows merging, nimbly crossing through to get to the boat before Liu and the Ragna man.
The Ragna man was clearly crossed, immediately letting out strings of heavy words – Wei Liu didn't understand them but was also vaguely guessing those were swear words by the tone of his voice and the anger burning in his eyes. “Savage!” Liu thought scornfully, his face remained unchanged. Wei Liu let the cursing Ragna climb into the boat first, the fragile boat wobbled under his massive weight, causing the beautiful ferrywoman to hastily put down one of the oars to keep balance.
Wei Liu gently stepped onto the boat; he was last but he was in no hurry. He chose a position not too close, not too far from the rest of the guests, just enough distance to watch the beautiful ferrywoman. As soon as he passed by, he smelled the lotus scent mixed with lily of the valley in the air. She may just reach sixteen, with porcelain pale skin, jet-black hair, long slender fingers that never knew suffering. “This is not an ordinary ferrywoman! But there's no one normal on this boat anyway!" – he thought to himself – an ordinary girl would only have the monotonous and gentle scent of chrysanthemum or jasmine, blended with the smell of harvested fruits common in Viet.
Although her clothes were not of luxury, they were ironed straight and still bright in colors. This lady was not only beautiful but hidden under her gentleness was an extraordinary aura. He stole a glance at her no less than three times, and was about to open his mouth when she spoke, still as clear and enchanting as when she sang:
"Do thee wait at the dragon’s head cliff every day, at this hour, to reach Magus Leo Mountain?”
Not missing a chance to chat with the rare beauty, Wei Liu replied:
"That's right, how do you know that, little sister?"
The ferrywoman covered her mouth while blooming a smile, her eyes curved into half-moons, teasing him while maintaining her loveliness. Wei Liu thought it was due to his somewhat inappropriate way of addressing her, he raised an eyebrow and smiled at her with no hesitation in looking at her directly. Not sure whether she was used to talking to men this way, but then she lifted her long fingers to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, revealing her slender long neck, her other hand fixed the folds of her blouse, her cheeks flushed for a moment.
"For years, many heroic spirits have flocked to Viet in search of the Sanguis Turturis Sword, so I also venture to guess that all of you want to find Magus Leo Mountain for this treasure, I have guided hundreds of boat trips already.”
Upon finishing the sentence, Wei Liu saw the couple's bodies move. Liu showed no expression, nodding at her words. He had been here for 180 days without seeing this ferry once, she might have just turned sixteen, so those hundreds of boat trips and those heroes must have been a lie.
"So, do you know the way to Magus Leo Mountain?" – He inquired.
"You had made up your mind to come here, surely in this lifetime you shall no longer carry anyone across the mountains, no longer pine for anyone, nor wanting to spend the rest of your life with anyone?”
Wasn’t that what people still rumored about Magus Leo? Wei Liu still wanted to ask more questions, but inside, the belligerent Ragna man with one hand fidgeted with his giant ax like a child's toy, the other waving towards the couple’s direction, provoked:
“You two are not very pleasing to my eyes! Y’all are not male, nor female, all weak and pale! Y’all don’t watch where y’all going and even dared crossing my path and get on this damn boat first! Are you doing this to challenge the Great Rokin!?”
The couple didn't even bother to glance at him. They had small, black pupils with long, narrow, and bloodshot eyes.
What a face full of death: Even when they don’t move, you can’t help but feel chills just by looking at them. The Ragna who called himself Rokin the Great, seeing that they did not answer, was both angry and embarrassed, and exploded:
“Are you deaf and mute, or do you not know human language?! Trust me, I will…”
Not yet finished his scolding, the Ragna stopped to look up at the changing scene before his eyes. In front of their eyes was a long vacant riverbank, behind a dense and obscure forest, and in the distance, there was a mountain in the mist, signaling bad omens. The beautiful ferrywoman shook her head, carried a smile that was barely there, then got up to guide the boat to shore. Wei Lui was engrossed in looking at the beauty, realizing that they had crossed the mist and burgundy sky, reached the other shore, and touched the territory of Viet land.
Rokin buckled his leather belt, strutting down the first step, tossing five distorted coins on the boat. The beauty was slightly stunned by this action, her face showed an unfamiliar expression with a hint of anger and shame. Wei Liu glanced at her eyes now he was even more convinced that she was not used to this ferry guiding job. He quickly bent down to pick up the coins and enthusiastically dusted them, putting them back in her lovely palm. When their hands touched, she was startled for a moment but did not pull away.
"Impolite pieces of trash!"
It was the first time Wei Liu heard the mysterious man’s voice, which sounded like a hiss, very harsh and difficult to listen to. The man, who had already shed his weak facade, swooped down in front of Rokin, one hand resting on the hilt of his sword. The other woman quickly got the idea and rushed to the side of her teammates. Left and right, the couple actively suppressed Rokin’s both sides.
“Prepare to die!” She shouted – a scream that showed her extraordinary strength. In contrast to the man’s lamentable voice, in battle, this woman seemed strong and formidable like a lioness. They drew their swords decisively, chest facing the opponent, chin retracted, legs placed neatly front and back to form the perfect defensive posture. Wei Liu narrowed his eyes, this distance, those long swords…
Wei Liu had heard a lot about the Sheidos: They lived divided into regions and served different lords, fighting for centuries over land and titles. When a lord died in battle or the palace fell, all his followers would commit suicide. They were symbols of loyalty, famous for their complicated fighting style with long thin swords. When he was still practicing martial arts, Wei Liu was taught that the Sheidos would finish off their opponents within six moves. "Six Moves To Death". The long sword was their great advantage, they were in complete control of every inch on that sword – no leaf could fall through cleanly; no ant could crawl through and survive.
Rokin raised his face to the sky laughing as if he had been waiting for this for a long time, swinging his ax.
"COME HERE! YOU PEST!
Here came the fight. If they were any other mediocre opponents, the fight probably wouldn't have lasted that long. During the first few moves, all attacks were equally lethal with the desire to kill the opponent swiftly. The Sheidos’ fighting method was extremely complicated and unpredictable – the most dangerous thing was that even though they carried such a long sword, they had the ability to get close in a split second with their nimble and agile limbs. Every time the opponent got close, a loud BOOM like an earthquake was heard all around! The long sword looked fragile, but it was able to block Rokin's downward axe attacks and quickly counterattacked. Due to their short stature, the Sheido pair kept aiming at Rokin's flanks and throat. He shielded himself while getting all excited, laughing hysterically. As if the more the couple hit him, the angrier and crazier he became, gloating immensely. Although he was at a disadvantage of two against one, his huge body could throw an ax so powerful it could cut off a dragon's head!
Wei Liu watched silently for a while, he turned to the side wanting to give a few words of comfort to the beauty since she must have been scared, but he was dumbfounded. She disappeared! No trace, light as falling petals. Did she run away when she saw the guests starting to fight? Having no time to think, he pulled out from his sleeve a weapon that at first glance seemed small, but with a few skillful movements one end turned into a spear, the other turned into a sharp halberd. With weapons in both hands, he rushed to assist in the battle.
Rokin quickly realized Wei Liu's intentions, baring his teeth:
"Look at that rat running!"
Although somewhat taller than the Sheidos, Wei Liu was still two heads shorter than Rokin. The slashing attacks of the Sheidos were so dangerous that it was not convenient for him to jump in the middle, so the most useful strategy currently was to use the spear to break Rokin's pillars, aiming for his crotch and knees. Planning is doing, Wei Liu sped around while continuously using his spear to hit dangerous spots on Rokin’s body.
Suddenly the Sheido man changed his position, jumped up and aimed at Rokin's head! During the fight, they had only targeted the lower body, but suddenly the move changed, causing Rokin to be somewhat unaware. He clasped his wrist guards in an X shape, warding off the most dangerous blows. Wei Liu took this golden opportunity and immediately stabbed the spear into his knee, breaking his pillar. Rokin let out a scream of terror and fell backwards. However, he did not flinch, quickly grabbed the sand from the riverbank and threw it at the enemy while swinging his ax. His big hand was like a fan, immediately making the two Sheidos lose sight, the man was also hit in the eye by Rokin’s hand, quickly took three steps back, shouting:
Rokin did not give up the opportunity to escape, laughed and hobbled with the ax and ran deep into the forest. It seemed that he was not a stubborn lad – he still wanted to live. The Sheido woman self-assessed, not unilaterally chasing Rokin but running to her teammate.
“Hattori! Are you okay…?!”
She froze, looking down as a sharp spear pierced her chest from behind. Blood seeped down. The proud Sheido never hit from behind. What happened?
Wei Liu forcefully pulled the spear out of the victim's chest, splashed a long line of blood on the ground, pretending to be startled, and then laughed:
“Oy! I was gonna finish off that Ragna guy! But hey, one more death means less competition later!”