Flames danced all over Junjie’s hands.
“How do you feel, my son?” the master asked.
“Better than ever,” Junjie replied.
The hero scrambled up a tree, swung from a branch, then popped a few fireballs out of his hands and into the sky before landing on his feet like a cat.
“And I know a lot of things I never knew before,” Junjie said. “In my mind, I can see images of what the world looked like long ago, when men lived in caves and acted as animals.”
“Shaoshang’s arrival on earth predates recorded history,” the master said. “You see what he saw.”
Junjie frowned. “He delighted in pain and misery. I can see…the faces of his victims.”
“And yet, you are still you,” the master said.
“Of course,” Junjie said as the flames around his hands died down. “I would never want to be him.”
The master wagged a finger toward his student. “But you could.”
“I could?” Junjie asked.
“You could and yet you could not,” the master said. “A happy conundrum. In theory, you posses the physical power necessary to conquer the world but you lack the desire to do so. You could be like Shaoshang, but then again, you could not.”
Junjie shadowboxed for awhile, throwing his fists into the air against a non-existent opponent. “Dragonhand won’t know what’s coming for him.”
The master sighed. “You still have much to learn.”
Junjie stopped boxing. “What?”
“Two opponents now have been able to exploit your weakness,” the master said. “Dragonhand and Shaoshang both sized you up and instantly realized that you feel inferior for having never known your parents.”
Junjie leaned up against a tree. “Did you know them, master?”
“I did,” the master said.
“Why did they not love me?” Junjie asked.
“Oh, young one,” the master said. “Do not believe the lies that others cook up in order to seal your doom. You were very much loved.”
“I wish I could believe that,” Junjie said.
“You doubt your master?”
“I doubt myself,” Junjie said.
“Very well,” the master said. The ghost turned into a fine mist and swirled through the air for a while before burrowing into Junjie’s ear.
Shocked, the hero fell to the ground. There he laid, twitching and convulsing until his eyes closed.
The master’s voice filled Junjie’s brain. “If you will not believe me, then see the truth through my eyes.”
Junjie’s eyes popped open. He was on his feet now, but he wasn’t in the forest. He was at the tiger claw clan’s sanctuary, during a time long before its destruction. He felt smaller and shorter. He looked at his hands, only to notice they were boney and wrinkly.
“Huh?” Junjie asked, only to instantly realize he was speaking in the master’s voice.
A young man that looked like a bit like Junjie approached with a wrapped up bundle in his arms.
Junjie’s spirit remained silent as the master did all the talking. “Honghui.”
Honghui dropped to his knees and held the bundle up towards the master.
“I have failed you, Infallible Master,” Honghui said. “I have failed my love, my clan, myself. Please, take this little one before I fail him as well.”
Junjie watched through the master’s eyes as the old man’s hands moved the blanket to one side to reveal a wiggly, black haired, wide-eyed baby.
“You are much too hard on yourself, Honghui,” the master said.
“It is deserved,” Honghui said. “But Junjie deserves better.”
Suddenly, everything went black. When Junjie woke up, he was back in the forest, still lying in the dirt. He looked up to see the master’s ghost standing over him.
“What was the meaning of that?” Junjie asked.
“I will explain when the time is right,” the master said. “But for now, the meaning for you is that you must not doubt yourself, for your father certainly did not.”