Disclaimer: I do not own Jade Empire or anything related to it
Author's note: This story doesn't really have a big, enormous plot, it's just an idea I had while playing Jade Empire. My character was CF, and I thought, "Hmm…it might be cool to write something dealing with this philosophy." And from there came this oneshot, told from the point of view of Jian the Iron Fist, the CF master who teaches you Tempest. It takes place during the events of the game, around the time that the player infiltrates the Lotus Assassin fortress. Hope you like it. Rated T for some gore at the end.
Way of the Closed Fist
The massive gates of the Imperial City slowly gaped wide, adding the sound of creaking wood and the scream of rusting iron hinges to the usual hustle and bustle of the capital. High above, birds flew overhead across the cloudless blue sky, and a light wind blew through the air, bathing the innumerable citizens of the city in a pleasantly cool breeze that brought a moment's respite from the warm summer climate. Jian allowed himself a brief moment to let the wind blow across him, ruffling his clothes and upsetting his hair and beard. He took a deep breath, inhaling the wind, and a rare smile came to his face, a smile that did nothing to diminish the cold light that shone darkly in his eyes. And then the breeze died down, the moment passed, and Jian walked on towards the city gates, the smile fading from his features, replaced by his usual angry frown.
Nevertheless, there was a grim happiness in his heart as he came upon the walls of the Jade Empire's capital. It had nothing to do with the weather; Jian could fight just as well in the dead of winter as he could in the heat of summer, and so cared little about the outside environment. A cool breeze meant nothing to him, but this was different. Discord was in the air; he had smelled it when the wind blew. The aura of the city was thick with chaos, chaos that gave strength to his aged and travel-weary limbs, gave him the strength to keep fighting, old a warrior as he was. His right hand curled into a fist, the symbol of aggression, the symbol of the philosophy that was his life.
Jian wondered briefly what the cause of the upsurge of discord in the city was. Normally he was not a man given to useless surmise, but this warranted some thinking. This was not the normal chaos that usually plagued any major city, but something more, a dark atmosphere that Jian couldn't quite find the source of. Perhaps it has something to do with that young man, he thought to himself. He was going to the Imperial City, wasn't he?
Jian pondered for a moment as he walked towards the city, which was drawing ever closer. He bowed his head, deep in thought, trying to remember the young man's name. Damn it, what was it? Daotang…no, no that wasn't it. Shao Lang? Maybe. Ah! I have it. Taolang!
He gave another grim smile, remembering the young man with the intricate dragon tattoo on his back that he had educated in the ways of Tempest. Now there had been a warrior who had truly walked the path of the Closed Fist. In his many years of wandering, Jian had met few people who followed the ruthless tenets of his philosophy better than Taolang the Inferno. He was the most cold, pitiless, uncaring, person Jian had ever known, save himself. And strong, too. Taolang's Dire Flame had met Jian's Tempest blow for blow; there were still burn marks on his skin from that encounter. That young man would go far.
The shadow of the walls of the Imperial City looming above him jerked the old master out of his thoughts. Loose rock crunched under his boots as he walked through the city gates. He kicked it aside irritably. The greatest city in the Empire, he thought contemptuously. Looks more like a crumbling ruin to me.
"You there! Halt!"
Jian looked up, muscles tensing, ready for a fight. Two Imperial Guards, presumably the guardians of the city gates, were heading towards him, their faces grim and hard. He swore under his breath. He hadn't been in the city for five seconds and already he had guards questioning him. He relaxed a hair as the guards reached him, but still remained alert.
"What do you want?"
"By order of Emperor Sun Hai, give us your name and your reason for coming to the Imperial City, stranger," one said. Jian glared at him.
"Why should I tell you?" he snapped, angry at the inconvenience.
The guard's eyes narrowed. "Watch your tongue, peasant, before you lose it. We are questioning all new arrivals to the Imperial City, due to the recent problem with the Scourge of the South. Now, tell us your name and business here before we give you over to the Lotus Assassins." Their hands moved towards their weapons.
Had it been any other time, Jian would have simply killed these striplings and went on his way. The Imperial City was big enough for him to get lost in, and he could easily deal with any guards that were sent after him. But he'd just traveled all the way from Tien's Landing on foot, and he was simply too damn tired to deal with these fools right now. Swallowing his pride, he addressed the two guards.
"I am Jian the Iron Fist. I have come to the Imperial City to study the writings of Bladed Thesis in the Scholar's Garden. Now move aside."
"Bladed Thesis?" The voice had come from somewhere off to Jian's right. He turned and saw another guard, this one wearing the rank insignia of a captain. "Let him pass, men," the man said. "He's not the one we're looking for."
"But Captain, how can you be sure?" the second guard asked.
The captain's eyes narrowed. "Are you questioning my orders? This old man is nothing but a philosopher, obviously not the Scourge of the South. Now be silent and let him pass."
"Yes, Captain Sen," the guard replied grudgingly. The two moved aside to let Jian through. He made to hurry on, but the captain laid a hand on his arm.
"What?" Jian asked irritably, before the captain could open his mouth. "If you want to ask for thanks, save your breath. I'm not in the habit of being grateful."
Sen laughed aloud. "I would expect nothing less from the great Jian the Iron Fist. I'm a great admirer of you and your teachings." Jian acknowledged this with a cold nod.
"Take care, Master Jian, and good luck in your research." Jian grunted and wrenched away from the captain, turning his back on him and heading into the city. The man Sen was acting as if their shared philosophy made them next to brothers. Some people were such fools. Jian pushed the idiotic ass out of his mind. He had no time to waste his thoughts on moronic flatterers.
The entrance to the Scholar's Garden was in the Golden Way, he remembered. He crossed the bridge leading there, and was heading towards the large double doors when he heard rapid footsteps off to his right. He turned just in time to see a young man hurtling in his direction, heedless to where he was going. He tried to move out of the way, but the man barreled headlong into him, knocking them both to the ground. Jian cursed angrily as he got up, but the man was already on his feet, a livid expression on his face.
"Are you blind, you old ruin?" the man yelled. "Couldn't you see I was going to hit you? Next time get out of my way!" He spat on the ground. "You're lucky I'm in a hurry, or I'd teach you a lesson."
Jian's face darkened with anger. "Who do you think you are, you little bastard? It was you who wasn't paying attention! Teach me a lesson, indeed…hah!"
The man's face twisted up in rage. "How dare you talk to me like that! I am Gaoshan, a Brother of the Black Leopard School! I will not be reprimanded by you!"
"You just were," Jian said coldly.
"Why you…" Gaoshan sputtered, evidently too incensed to speak. "I believe I will teach you that lesson after all, old man."
The fool thought himself a warrior. It was amusing, but Jian would have to disabuse him of that notion. As Gaoshan threw a punch at him, Jian caught his wrist in mid-strike and twisted it, smiling inwardly as Gaoshan cried out in pain at Jian's vice-like grip.
The young man twisted and writhed, trying to get free. Really, Jian thought, what a truly pathetic creature. He doesn't even attempt to strike me again. The old warrior brought his foot up and kicked Gaoshan in the side of the knee, bringing a scream from his lips that made passerby stare.
"Alright," the young man pleaded, "alright! I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Just let me go!"
With a contemptuous scowl on his face, Jian threw the wretch from him, where he collapsed on the ground, cradling his wrist. Jian said nothing, just turned on his heel and walked off.
He pushed open the double doors that led to the Golden Way and walked through them, making his way towards the Scholar's Garden. He reached the stairs and started to climb them, his boots clacking on the cobblestones. Passing through the storeroom entrance, he walked on into the garden proper.
Jian held little regard for beauty. Beauty was an empty vanity that always, despite the best efforts of man, eventually faded, as did everything in life. Beauty was pointless. However, he had to admit that the Scholar's Garden made a compelling case for beauty being worth something. Jian couldn't quite place it, but something about the trees and flowers, about the birds that flew above, something about that cleared the mind, let him relax a little more. In the Scholar's Garden was the only time Jian ever felt this way. He dwelt briefly on the moment, then moved his mind back to the present. Looking around, he spotted Philosopher Shendao, the foremost authority on texts pertaining to the Way of the Closed Fist, his head bowed, deep in concentration. He walked over to him, and the sound of his steps brought the old philosopher out of whatever musings he was entertaining. He nodded curtly as Jian approached.
"You've come for the manuscripts on the Closed Fist, I presume?"
"One in particular. Bladed Thesis's A Discourse on Chaos."
Shendao disappeared for a moment, returning with a dry, dusty old scroll. "Here. Mind you're careful with it."
"Yes, yes," Jian said irritably. Shendao cared more about those scrolls than he did his own life. He took the scroll and went to his preferred place, a spot near the debating ground. The arguments and high tempers that raged there were the perfect backdrop to studying the Closed Fist. Seating himself cross-legged on the ground, he began to read, immersing his mind in Bladed Thesis's writing. The sheer genius of the long dead scholar was almost incomprehensible to him. How anyone could come up with such a perfect philosophy on life was mesmerizing. People said that Jian was a master of the Closed Fist, but next to Bladed Thesis, he was nothing. This man was nothing short of amazing.
He didn't know how long he sat there reading. When reading a product of the Empire's most brilliant mind, time meant little. Finally, he set aside the scroll and closed his eyes. His breathing slowed to a deep, regular pace as he concentrated on the discord within his soul, his mind and body filled with what he had just read. He began to focus all his thoughts on his aggression, letting it flow through him, letting his body become a conduit for the power of the Closed Fist. All life disappeared, there was nothing else in existence except him and the chaos that was his very core. His mind focused on only one thing, he began to meditate.
Strength is the ultimate virtue. Only the strong survive. The weak perish.
I must not give aid to the weak, they must find the strength to help themselves.
I must focus only on myself, and ignore the worthless needs of others. They are only impediments to hold me back and keep me weak.
I must live with purpose. I must know what I want, and what is necessary to attain it.
A victory gained with ease is worthless. Every meaningful goal is achieved by struggle.
The object of every fight is dominance. I must assert my strength over others, and I will find the mastery to change my own fate.
I must embrace my anger, but not let it consume me. I must focus my rage and use it as a tool to achieve my goals.
I must spread chaos and discord wherever I go. Adversity helps those around me grow stronger.
I must take my destiny and twist it to comply with my own ends. I must seize the world and make it mine.
Jian's eyes snapped open. He leapt to his feet, furious that someone had dared interrupt him. Whirling around, he saw a man standing there, a man with clothes similar to that fool Gaoshan's. The man stepped back, looking alarmed at the expression on Jian's face. "Who are you?" Jian yelled.
The man still looked uneasy, but composed himself quickly. "My name is Shangjin. I have come from the Black Leopard School."
Jian sneered. "Here to take vengeance for that idiot I beat earlier? You don't look much more capable than he did."
Shangjin shook his head. "I am not here for revenge, Master Jian. Our own master wishes to speak with you."
"Yes. Master Smiling Hawk, the leader of our school. He seeks an audience with you."
"Why can't he come down here himself?"
"I did not ask. He does not like to be kept waiting, so follow me, please."
Jian scowled. "I'll come, but not because you told me to. I take orders from no one." Shangjin did not reply.
Jian followed him out of the Scholar's Garden, pausing only to return A Discourse on Chaos to Shendao. They walked through the Golden Way and back to the Market District, weaving in and out groups of people thronging the crowded streets until they came to a gap in the city walls situated the foot of a large hill. Shangjin led Jian through the gap and up the hill.
"We are here," he said, as they arrived at the top. It wasn't a small school, but Jian had seen better. Shangjin pushed open the doors and they walked through.
The courtyard was empty except for two students dueling off to the left, and one meditating on a small mat. Off to the right, Jian could see a patch of earth lined with small headstones. The graves were clearly fresh.
Shangjin saw him looking. "We have had a…slight change in the way things are run here, recently," he said, answering Jian's unspoken question. "A number disagreed with it, and were killed." There was sadness in his voice.
"The weak fall as they should," Jian told him, repeating a common Closed Fist proverb.
Shangjin gave a mirthless laugh. "You and Master Smiling Hawk should get along well."
"Was it your master who killed those men?"
"Only one of them. Our former leader, Radiant. The rest were slain by a stranger who aided him, a young man with a tattoo of a dragon on his back, who also dispelled Radiant's ghost when it came back for revenge."
So…I was right. Taolang has been here, Jian thought, but said nothing. He let Shangjin lead him inside the main building, and down a right-hand corridor. Shangjin knocked on a door when they reached the end of the corridor.
"Enter," a voice called from within. Shangjin opened the door and walked inside.
Seated in the room was a man in his mid-forties, dressed in red robes, with jet-black hair and a goatee. His lips were twisted up in a polite smile, but his dark eyes glinted with a cruel shine. He nodded to Jian respectfully.
"You may leave now, Shangjin." Shangjin bowed and left the room. The man gestured, indicating the empty patch of floor in front of him. "Be seated, Master Jian." Jian sat down and waited for the man to speak. He didn't have to wait long.
"Jian the Iron Fist," the man said. "What an honor. You are an inspiration to all those who follow the path of discord. I am Master Smiling Hawk, of the Black Leopard School." Smiling Hawk gave a slight bow.
"What do you want?" Jian asked brusquely. He was irritated at the man's foolish flattery; it reminded him of that captain at the city gates. Smiling Hawk laughed.
"You are very blunt, Master Jian. That is a trait I admire." He fixed Jian with a piercing gaze. "I have an offer for you. After seeing how easily you defeated Gaoshan, I took an interest in you. He is one of our finest fighters, and it takes some measure of skill to best him."
Jian snorted. "If that was one of your finest warriors, I'd hate to see your worst. I hope you punished that fool severely for his weakness."
Smiling Hawk gave a grim smile. "Don't worry, Master Jian. He has been…disciplined. But enough of him. It is you that I wish to talk about." He rose, and Jian did the same. "As I said earlier, I have an offer for you. The defeat of Gaoshan made me realize that I may have not been as diligent as I should have in training my students."
"That's your own fault," Jian remarked. "It has nothing to do with me."
Smiling Hawk ignored that. "I was wondering if you would consent to lend some aid in teaching those who train here. The Heavens know we could benefit from your teachings."
"Why should I?" Jian asked. "Your student Shangjin told me the fate of the last master you taught with. How do I know you won't betray me as you did him?"
If Smiling Hawk was taken aback, no hint of it marred his face. "Radiant was holding me back, holding the entire school back. His ridiculous adherence to the Way of the Open Palm held down all those who wished for the kind of power that only the Closed Fist can grant. You are different. You would educate students like Gaoshan in the low path, sharpen them, hone their skills, not bog them down with useless lectures on harmony and other such rubbish. What would I gain in killing you?"
"Nothing except death. If you tried, it would be the last act you would ever undertake in this world. You couldn't kill me."
Smiling Hawk's lips twisted upwards into an evil grin. "That's exactly what Radiant said before he died. You'd be surprised at how vulnerable even the greatest masters are when they're asleep."
"You killed Radiant in his sleep?" Jian asked incredulously. Such an act was unheard of, incomprehensible. No self-respecting warrior ever stooped so low as to kill a man while sleeping. Such an act represented the utmost cowardice. You took life in a fight. If you were strong, you won, if you were weak, you died.
Master Smiling nodded in response to Jian's shocked question. "I did. I waited until he was asleep, then tore his life from him."
Jian's lip curled up into a sneer. "You spineless dog," he spat at Smiling Hawk. "How dare you call yourself a warrior of the Closed Fist." He stood up, glaring at the vermin in front of him. "You're all the same, all you pretenders who preach the way of discord, but balk at practicing what it teaches. Bladed Thesis would vomit if he saw you." Jian's scowl deepened as he talked, the very sight of the man making him angrier and angrier. "You're not worth helping, and neither are the worms you call students. I'm amazed that Taolang the Inferno disgraced himself by aiding you. You're pathetic." He turned away, towards the door. "Find some other toady to do you work for you. You disgust me." He started to walk away, ignoring the sound of Smiling Hawk getting to his feet. Suddenly, the hairs on his neck stood up, the tingle of magic in the air brushing across his mind. He whirled around, sensing danger, and a giant chunk of ice slammed into his chest, sending him crashing through the wall of the room and out into the courtyard.
Regaining his senses quickly, he leapt to his feet, crystals of ice falling from his tunic to scatter on the ground. Smiling Hawk was walking towards him through the hole in the building, kicking aside shattered debris as he went. His hands shone with a cold, blue light, the remnants of the Ice Shard spell he'd just cast on Jian.
"You will regret your decision, old man," Smiling Hawk growled, the former politeness gone from his voice. "The last thing you hear will be the drip of your blood on the cobblestones and my laughter in your ears! The legacy of Jian the Iron Fist ends here!" He raised his arms high, his voice rising. "Students of the Black Leopard School!" he roared, calling all his novices and brothers. "Attack! Kill this man!"
The men in the courtyard, who had been watching the exchange, interrupted in their training by Jian crashing through the wall, rushed at him, fists raised. A quick glance told Jian that more were coming out of the main building. You are scum, Smiling Hawk. Too fearful to fight your own battles.
The first student had reached him, yelling wildly, fist cocked back. Jian ducked as it flew forward and slammed his own fist into the man's gut. Winded, he fell back. Jian turned to deal with the next opponent, grabbing his leg as the man kicked at him. He twisted, and the man spun to the ground. Before he could get up, Jian raised his foot and brought it down on the fool's throat. His victim gave a gurgling cry, his face turning purple as his hands clutched at his crushed windpipe.
Jian backflipped as more men came at him, giving himself some breathing room. Men had stopped coming out of the building; they were all out in the courtyard now. Irritated at the nuisance these flies were causing, Jian racked his brains to think of a way to dispose of them quickly and deal with Smiling Hawk. He smiled as he lighted on a solution, barely registering the men surrounding him.
Letting his mind go blank, he began to concentrate on the power of the harsh, brutal wind that dwelled within him, letting the tearing gusts fill him up. He squared his shoulders, set his feet, muscles tensing in preparation for the expenditure of magic. The enemies surrounding him realized what he was doing, rushed to stop him, but it was too late.
Jian raised his arms skyward, and a massive whirlwind erupted from him, expanding in all directions until it enveloped all his foes. They were raised from the ground, powerless in the spell's grip. In their midst, Jian saw Shangjin, helpless, unable to move as the gusts swirled around him. He wouldn't have lasted long anyway. Too soft by half. Jian focused for a moment, then thrust his arms outward.
The winds intensified a hundredfold, tearing Jian's victims apart. Blood rained against the stones of the courtyard as limbs were ripped out of sockets, bones were snapped, heads torn from necks. Body parts smacked against the ground as Jian lowered his arms, quelling the raging wind. Smiling grimly, he walked towards Smiling Hawk, stepping over Shangjin's head as he did so.
"Just you and me, Smiling Hawk," Jian said, menace in his voice. "No pathetic novices to help you now."
Smiling Hawk's face twisted up in rage. "I don't need those rats to kill you! I'll finish you myself!" He sent another blast of ice at Jian, who, ready for it this time, diverted its course with a gust of wind, sending it back at its caster, who was forced to dive out of the way to avoid it. In a flash, Jian was on top of him, his fist flashing out to connect with Smiling Hawk's head as he straightened up from his dive, sending him reeling back. Somehow, he blocked the second strike Jian sent his way, and retaliated with one of his own, which Jian easily sidestepped.
Smiling Hawk punched at him again, but Jian knocked the blow aside and slammed his fist into his foe's exposed chest, an audible crack reaching his ears as a couple of ribs shattered. Jian followed up with a backfist to the temple that had his enemy stumbling back, dazed and confused. Jian hit him again, this time in the stomach, bringing Smiling Hawk to his knees. The wretch coughed and brought up blood, his eyes glazed and unfocused. Jian walked around behind him, chuckling softly to himself. Stopping directly behind his foe, Jian gripped the man's head with both hands.
"If you're not strong enough to fight your own battles, you don't deserve to live, Smiling Hawk. Let your death be a lesson to all false followers of the Closed Fist."
Jian twisted his hands sharply. Smiling Hawk jerked once, and then his limp body fell to the ground, his broken neck hanging at an unnatural angle. Jian gazed down at the dead master with a look of disgust, then spat on his corpse. Laughing callously, he began to walk towards the door.
Suddenly, he heard shouting, accompanied by the sound of many booted feet running up the stone steps that led to the school. A dozen guardsmen ran into view, dashing through the double doors, and stopping dead in their tracks as they surveyed the carnage before them, gaping at it with wide eyes. They must have heard the battle, Jian thought to himself.
Their leader was the first to regain his senses. "Arrest that man!" he yelled, pointing at Jian. Jian smiled grimly as the guards rushed forward. Well, I've just killed the entire Black Leopard School, he thought. A few more dead fools won't make much difference.
Letting out a warrior's cry, he jumped forward to meet them…
A few weeks later, Mistress Vo was walking through the Imperial City, heading for the Scholar's Garden. She reached the double doors leading to the Golden Way, and was about to push them open when something caught her eye. A wanted poster was tacked to the enormous doors, and on it was a face she knew well.
A reward of 1,000 pieces of silver is being offered for Jian the Iron Fist. Wanted for the murder of Master Smiling Hawk of the Black Leopard School, his students, and twelve city guards. Acceptable dead or alive.
Mistress Vo shook her head. "You old goat," she said, chuckling softly. With a slight smile on her face, she pushed open the double doors and walked into the Golden Way.