The tiger claw clan’s sanctuary was surrounded by high walls. The main gates served as the only point of entry or exit and as the sun rose, Bohai headed for them with Junjie in tow.
Bohai ignored Junjie and kept walking forward with his head held high and his nose in the air.
“Brother,” Junjie. “Will you stop?”
Bohai refused. He walked even faster.
Junjie put his hand on Bohai’s shoulder. “Can we talk about this?”
Bohai slapped Junjie’s hand away. “There is nothing to talk about.”
“Stay,” Junjie said.
“Not a chance,” Bohai said. “I am the greatest of all the up and coming young kung fu warriors.”
“Which is precisely why I need you here to help me lead the clan when the master is gone,” Junjie said.
Bohai stopped and smirked. “Do you have any idea how ignorant you sound?”
“No,” Junjie said. “But since we were small you’ve never missed an opportunity to tell me, so let’s hear it.”
Bohai poked his finger into Junjie’s chest. “A leader doesn’t need help leading. A leader leads.”
“All leaders have advisors,” Junjie said. “Even the Emperor has counselors.”
“Ha,” Bohai said. “You are no Emperor. Now leave me be so I can go where my genius will be appreciated.”
Bohai started walking. Junjie followed.
“Bohai,” Junjie said. “You are appreciated.”
Bohai flicked his hand, waving off the sentiment as though it meant little to him.
“You are loved,”Junjie said.
“Drivel,” Bohai replied.
“Bohai,” Junjie said. “You may be an arrogant, egotistical, stubborn, self-centered horse’s ass, but damn it, you are our arrogant, egotistical, stubborn, self-centered horse’s ass. I know you didn’t mean what you said about being willing to kill us all and walk over our graves just to get the Staff of Ages.”
“I did mean it,” Bohai said. “Every word of it.”
“You didn’t,” Junjie replied.
The two warriors locked eyes and stared at each other.
“And what makes you so sure of that?” Bohai asked.
“Because you aren’t doing it right now,” Junjie answered.
Bohai looked away. “You speak the gibberish of a child.”
“I speak the truth,” Junjie said. “I have no doubt you could overpower me, Mei-Ling, Niu, the Master, even the rest of the disciples and take the Staff of Ages by force if you really wanted to.”
“That is the truth,” Bohai said.
“So why are you running way instead of doing just that?” Junjie asked.
“Bah,” Bohai said as he walked onward. “Drivel.”
Junjie remained in place but shouted after his longtime friend. “Because you love us, Bohai!”
Bohai waved his hand behind him as if he were trying to shoo away an annoying dog.
“One day you will wake up alone and regretful for abandoning your clan,” Junjie said.
“Nonsense!” Bohai cried.
“And when that day comes, I hope you will return!” Junjie shouted.
“Never!” Bohai replied.
“You know you will be welcome,” Junjie said.
“Don’t wait for me, imbecile,” Bohai said as he reached the gate.
Feeling defeated, Junjie turned and walked back to the temple.
A burly man wearing steel plated body armor and a helmet shouted down from the top of the wall.
“Behold and hear me, for I am Kang the Magnificent, Guardian of the Gate of the Clan of the Sacred Yet Inscrutable Tiger Claw. I have vanquished scores of evildoers in my day and all are well advised to stay on the good side of my humble nature. Bask in my…”
Bohai scoffed. “Kang. Come now. I’ve heard this litany a million times.”
“Then you shall hear it a million and one times!” Kang shouted. “Bask in my glory and recognize that I will not be swayed in my duty to protect the walls that keep my illustrious clan safe. Identify yourself immediately!”
“Are you kidding me?” Bohai asked. “We’ve known each other for years.”
“You will identify yourself or be turned away,” Kang said.
Bohai sighed. “Bohai.”
“Hmm,” Kang said. “Yes. You do appear to be Bohai.”
“Right,” Bohai said. “Let’s move this along.”
“State your business for approaching the gate,” Kang said.
“To locate the nearest brothel, where I will fornicate with your mother in exchange for my pocket change,” Bohai replied.
Kang looked to his left and right. Upon seeing that no one else was watching, the mighty gatekeeper broke character.
“Come on, man. I told you about my mother in confidence.”
“I approach the gates in order to abandon this clan,” Bohai said.
“Yeah, right,” Kang said.
“I do not lie,” Bohai said.
“Why would you want to do a dumb thing like that?” Kang asked.
“The Staff of Ages has been promised to Junjie, even though I am far more worthy,” Bohai answered.
“Oh,” Kang said. “Dick measuring contest. Say no more.”
Kang yanked a lever and a series of gears turned round and round, culminating in the iron gate opening.
Bohai stepped outside of the sanctuary’s walls.
“Is this a permanent thing or are you just going to hide in the woods until everyone comes crying to you and telling you they’re sorry and shit?” Kang asked.
“It is permanent,” Bohai said.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Kang replied.
“I am not,” Bohai said.