09. Sound Of The Stone
Mount Rokkon
On the right path, ignore all four stones of protection and defeat Shishio.
Given their function as a spiritual bulwark against the earthquakes that plague Hingashi, stones of protection are far from unique to Mount Rokkon. One tale connected to them, however, certainly reflects its unusual history.

Legend has it that a warrior of some renown once visited the mountain as a pilgrim. During his soul-cleansing climb up its slopes, he put his hands together to pray at a stone of protection. In that very moment, a twisted beast leapt from the shadows. It was injured, a pitchfork protruding from its belly, but regardless of circumstance, the warrior could hardly ignore its attempts to tear his head from his body. He plunged his trusty blade into the creature, which thrashed violently in response, colliding with the nearby stone. Ominous peals resounded from the earth below. In alarm, the warrior lost hold of his weapon, while the beast escaped into the foliage and out of sight. Fearing an earthquake was indeed imminent, he carefully wiped the beast's blood from the stone, and all was silent once more.

There are several variants of this legend: in one, the warrior slays the beast, while another insists that it was the creature's bloodcurdling cry that set the earth to rumbling. Still other tales present natural disasters themselves as divine─or at least preternatural─entities. All contain at least a grain of truth, for the fears of a population constantly under threat by events outside its control are very real.

If one theory out of the Studium is to be believed, the stones' protective power may also be more than superstition. The gist, I recall, is that stones of protection are a form of magical focus not dissimilar to nouliths, and thus can stabilize aetherial currents when placed at confluences. Alas, I remember naught of the finer details─beyond their being rather dull.