“Do you know what temperature blood freezes at?”
The moon bobbed heavily in the sky, its bone-white light trickling down onto the mountains below. A young man stood alone on the forest path, a specter in the night fog. He was comfortable there, at ease even. His eyes were as cold as the morning frost. He slowly extended
his hand in front of him. The air crackled with his touch. Wind, water, earth. Fire. He smiled.
“I’m asking you out of courtesy,” he said, before hurling a spear of flames through the forest. It shrieked through the night like a banshee, before it split upon a tree and erupted in a column of flame and smoke. Three men emerged from the burning wreckage. They were tall, wellmuscled, and masked. It was an ambush, and it had failed. The young man had been waiting for them. The Sages of Xiangbala.
“I know that in Xiangbala you have Four Great Temples–” The Sages didn’t wait for him to finish. One rushed left, the other right. A pincer attack. Predictable. Boring.
“The Temple of Fire,” the young man continued. The Sage on the his left launched a fire attack, a blinding burst of flames that ripped through the night air. He was experienced – trained – but he was slow. The young man pivoted on his foot and danced around the blast. He was fluid. Precise. And then he countered.
“The Temple of Wind.” He focused his Qi and sent a blade of wind hurdling towards the Sage. The blast took out his knees before gravity ripped the man downwards. His skull met ground with a wet crack.
“The Temple of Water.” Without stopping, the young man turned and whipped a stream of water towards the other Sage. But this Sage was smarter, faster, and dug his hands deep into earth to create a stone wall. A mistake. As the water crashed against the wall, the young man raised a wall of his own behind the Sage and with a clap of his hands, crushed the man between the two.
“And the Temple of Earth.” The young man turned to the remaining sage and in instant closed the distance between them. The Sage sprung back, but the young man grabbed his arm, and using his own body as the fulcrum, slammed the Sage to the ground.
“But none of them can answer my question. But I’ve heard there are other temples,” said the young man. He had pinned the Sage’s arm to his back. “Hidden Temples.” He twisted the arm slowly as the Sage screamed into the unfeeling night. Then, with a final, muted crack and a piercing scream, the arm hung limp by the Sage’s side.
“Maybe a Hidden Temple can answer my question,” the young man whispered into the Sage’s ear. “But I thought I’d be polite and ask you first, shifu11.” A trail of hoarfrost began to spread across the Sage.
“What temperature does blood freeze at?”
1 A term meaning roughly master or teacher, used largely for skilled trades and religious practices.
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