It was when the sun had made its mark over the horizon, beckoning the continuity of the banal life that had been led by the village. My life varied from them. My brother, an adventurous hungry soul, brought me up on the mountain which became our commonplace, and our favourite place, doing music, orchestrated by the wondrous sounds of Mother Nature. He paused as he sat firmly to relish the breaking of dawn, the start of a new day, an unerring hope.

Gorr… Why does the sun always rise?” I asked him inquisitively.

“I don’t know… This is how things works…” he pointed up to the sky, “God has His way of doing His miraculous acts, like how the moon comes after the sun, the fruits that bare after some season, the river that flows from the mountains… All of these are still an enigma to us….”

“Then… why did the villagers always say bad things about me?” I interjected in an innocent tone, tears had mirrored my eyes.

“Don’t let them get into your head, you are a good girl…”

“Good girl?” I was at the brink of tears, “No! I am a bad girl! This is how they said about me when you are out to hunt. They treat me like I was nothing. Just because I am borned as a female, as if all the blame is on me… on me being a girl!” I broke into tears and he wrapped himself around me, lending me his shoulder to cry upon.

The warmth of his brotherly love surged my body, it was not the word that came into my mind, it was in his presence stead. I thought it was my imagination as my mind was drifted to a past memory, but there he was, cuddling me in his embrace from the back, putting all of my shattered pieces back into place.

“There. There… I’m here… Stop crying…” his voice, his embrace, his presence was suffice to enlighten me from inside out, my wistful cry turned into sobs, eventually into a grateful smile to his return. He was out for years, and his abrupt reappearance, flickered the joy in me. “Look at the bright side, you saved the entire village, single-handedly, even the strongest, the boldest fighters were injured and knocked out during the encounter of the creature. No one in the village acknowledges you, I will indeed exalt you in your transcendent effort and wits.” He patted my head, I was elated by his plaudit, but mostly by his brotherly presence.

“Where had you been?” It was the most sensible question to ask him.

“Oh! I had made a discovery, an eminent one, and…” his facial expression immediately turned morose, “I have a very, very bad news. Something affiliated with the destruction that happened just now.”

“So, the good news first, I have found the ‘black powder’ as I had cited in my previous findings with you, it was a gruesome one, but this ‘black powder’ is crucial in facing the bad news that I am about to tell you.”

He clasped his hands together as if wanting to preach something bad, I was listening attentively, “the bad news is… our village is going to be damned, reduce to rubble, wiping out our existence indelibly.” he choked, his voice was quivered with fear, “I had encountered the same thing in my expedition for the past years, I was making acquaintance in a few other villagers. There is going to be three monsters in total. What you had come across today was superficial, merely the infancy of destruction that is going to be wrought upon this village.”

“Your move was scintillating, I observed what you had done with the wok, the marks were gnarled. As you can recall, the Chinese zodiac consists of twelve animals, each beast is a combination of four animals which form the massacre trio. The first was made up of the peculiarities of the first four animals of the Chinese zodiac. The swiftness and the astuteness of the hare and the rodent, the ferocity of the tiger, and the might of the ox, which is why it has a chaotic nature.”

“The second one is going to consist of the next four animals, and the final one is going to be the last four animals in the Chinese zodiac. I know how to beat the second one, but the third is a hassle. However, there is one major issue, the defeated beasts would make a comeback in the next attack which means we would need to defeat all three of the beasts in the final combat, it’s going to be us or them.”

“They had demolished two villages. I barely scraped through, surviving the inexorable onslaught. They would come during the harvesting season. I still could not figure out how to annihilate the final wave of terror. The ‘black powder’ will be essential…” he remarked. His voice trailed of into pianissimo. I fainted due to lassitude.

Nian (Part 4)

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