Poof! The Infallible Master’s ghost materialized in the middle of a well-worn road, startling Niu.
“Master,” Niu said. “Am I in exile?”
“Exile?” the master asked. “Why would you think such a thing?”
“My brain addiction,” Niu said. “I’ve been walking alone down this road for so long that I thought your goal was to get rid of me.”
“Never, my son,” the master said as he floated through a tree and headed into the forest. “Come, follow me.”
Niu abided. Soon he was in a clearing, surrounded by puffy white flowers.
“Perhaps I should be in exile,” Niu said. “I am useless in this fight. If I see a brain I’ll…”
“…eat,” the master said.
“Exactly,” Niu replied. “I’ll eat my weight in brains and keep coming back for more. No one will be safe.”
“No,” the master said as he pointed at one of the flowers. “Eat.”
Curious, Niu plucked a flower out of the ground and looked it over. “Chrysanthemums?”
“Long have they been considered an exquisite dish,” the master said. “Not too mention, perfect for making tea.”
Niu looked at the master with a skeptical eye. “I eat this…and I’m cured?”
“Not cured,” the master said. “But contained. Chrysanthemums possess properties that revitalize the body, mind and spirit. Gather as many as you carry. Consume them on a steady basis and they will give you the focus you need to fight your brain addiction.”
The big man sniffed the flower. It gave off a pleasant aroma. “I don’t know about this…”
“Well,” the master said. “It’s either this or stay out of the fight.”
Niu sighed. “The fates have never conspired to keep me out of a fight.”
The fatalist opened his mouth, shoved the flower inside, then munched on it. His jaws went up and down. His eyes began to water as the leaves tickled his throat and got stuck in his teeth.
“Seems like an acquired taste,” Niu said.
“Eat them non-stop and you’ll acquire it quickly,” the master said.
“Non-stop?” Niu asked.
“Whenever you aren’t doing anything, there should be a chrysanthemum in your mouth,” the master said.
“Exile is starting to sound like the better option,” Niu said as he pulled another flower out of the ground. He stuck it into his mouth and chewed.
“Nonsense,” the master said. “Your mission is vital to our cause.”
“This mission will ruin my stomach,” Niu said as he chomped on his third chrysanthemum.
“Flower eating is not your mission,” the master said. “My son, we are not alone. You must secure the assistance of the last kung fu clan.”
“The last kung fu clan?” Niu said. “I thought that was ours.”
“Technically, it was,” the master said. “However, there is a band of, how should I put it? ‘Eccentric kung fu enthusiasts’ who must be promoted to kung fu clan status if we are to defeat Dragonhand.”
“Where will I find them?” Niu asked as he stuffed his pockets with flowers.
Poof! The master disappeared, but his voice remained in the ear. “Keep following the road.”
“That’s a rather vague answer,” In said.
“And don’t stop eating those chrysanthemums,” the master said.
Niu bit into his fourth chrysanthemum of the day. “I wish I knew what I did to offend the fates so.”