The Grand Library of the Clan of the Sacred Yet Inscrutable Tiger Claw was old, dusty and in a state of disrepair. The reading tables were rickety. The floor was dirty. Cobwebs grew over the thousands upon thousands of scrolls stored in cubby holes along the walls.
“You’ve appointed me as a janitor, master?” Niu asked.
The master laughed as he leaned on a desk. “No, my son. It has been three years since Scholar Jing succumbed to his advanced age and I have yet to find a replacement.”
Niu looked around the room. “I can see why. No one wants to get their hands dirty?”
“No,” the old man said. “No one realizes the honor of this great position.”
Scholar Jing’s desk was decorated with a gold inlay that was in desperate need of polishing. Curious as to what it contained, Niu opened a drawer only to step back as a bat flew out. It squeaked menacingly, then flapped its wings until it was out of the library.
“I can’t say I’m feeling the honor as of yet, master,” Niu said.
“Kung fu is the way of peace,” the master said. “The way of tranquility. Defense over offense is our way yet many young students fill their minds with thoughts of adventure and daring do. No one wants to be a kung fu librarian.”
“And I should?” Niu asked.
“Of course,” the master said as he pointed to the cubby hole lined walls. “These scrolls contain the history of our clan. Each scholar records the events of his time and passes it down to the next scholar. It is an essential role, for if we lose our past, then our grip on the future becomes tenuous at best.”
Niu folded his giant muscular arms and looked down at the old man. “And when you look at me, a librarian is what you see?”
“No,” the master said. “I see an ox capable of crashing through enemy lines and destroying opponents two at a time. But there is what you look like on the outside and who you are on the inside.”
Niu sat down at Scholar Jing’s desk. The chair creaked and cracked apart, leaving Niu’s backside on the floor.
“And who am I on the inside?” Niu asked as he stood up.
“Someone who realizes this is a job that needs to be done and…”
Niu dusted himself off and sighed. “Someone who realizes if I wasn’t meant for this job, I wouldn’t be here.”
“You are free to turn it down,” the master said.
“No,” Niu said. “Though I’m going to need a bigger chair.”
“The library is yours to furnish as you see fit,” the master said as he led the big man out of the library and down a hallway.
“As our scholar, you will keep the library in superb condition, maintain the scrolls of past scholars, and advise those who seek information,” the master said.
“I understand,” Niu said.
“Naturally, I expect you to keep a full training schedule, as you are still a member of China’s most revered kung fu clan,” the master said.
“Naturally,” Niu said.
“But you must also devote your free time to reading the scrolls and absorbing their wisdom,” the master said. “You must start with the tale of how the Staff of Ages was constructed in Heaven and gifted to the First Infallible Master so that he would be inspired to raise the first kung fu clan and call upon others to raise clans in service of the Emperor.”
“That sounds like a lot of reading, master,” Niu said.
“Yes,” the master said, “But it is knowledge you will need to perform a scholar’s most important task.”
“An important task?” Niu asked. “Is it dangerous?”
When Niu and the master reached the end of the hallway, the old man opened up a pair of double doors. The pair stepped into a room where fifty children, ranging in ages from five to twelve, sat at tables and ate breakfast.
“Very,” the master said. “All scholars must educate the next generation, and don’t expect them to go easy on you.”
The master clapped his hands. “Children!”
Like a swarm energetic locusts, the kids jumped out of their seats and surrounded the visitors.
“Master, master!” the little ones cried.
“Hello, young ones,” the master said. “Behold, Scholar Niu, your new teacher.”
Niu grimaced as the kids swarmed around him.
“Wow, he is huge!” one child said.
“Like a mountain with eyeballs,” another child added.
“Master,” Niu said. “Why are the fates punishing me?”
The master laughed. “It may seem that way now, but in time, you will recognize this duty as a blessing, just as Scholar Jing did.”
“I am the greatest kung fu champion!” a little boy shouted as he kicked Niu square in the groin.
Timber. Like a mighty tree severed from its base, the clan’s newest scholar came crashing down to the floor with a tremendous thud.
“I think Scholar Jing was a better man than I,” Niu said as he stared up at the ceiling.