Within three settings of the sun, Junjie and the Infallible Master had made their way to the Camp of the Terrifyingly Unnatural Brain Bonk. Late in the evening, the camp fires burned as the Whirlwind’s men showed off their new moves. Some were skilled. Others were unsteady.
“You have made me proud, my son,” the master said.
“If only we had more time,” Niu replied.
“More time?” Junjie asked. “Master I fear every second we delay, the emperor’s brain is put in more peril.”
The master waved aside Junjie’s concern. “I have long studied Dragonhand’s ways. He will march on the Forbidden City soon, but not before replenishing the ranks he lost at our sanctuary with villagers that he will turn into undead warriors.”
“Speaking of,” Niu said as he popped a chrysanthemum into his mouth. “Your cure works, master. I no longer crave brain.”
Junjie looked about to see several members of the brain bonk clan chewing on chrysanthemums.
“Something I missed?” Junjie asked.
Niu slapped Junjie’s back. “Not all of us are inherently pure enough to be immune to brain lust, brother. Some of us require extra help.”
The Whirlwind sneered as he munched on a flower. “Just my luck that the cure isn’t a succulent duck.”
“Whirlwind,” the master said as he bowed. “The tiger claw clan thanks you for coming to our aid in our time of need.”
The Whirlwind bowed in return. “Yeah, well, it’s awfully big of me, seeing as how you lot never recognized us as an official kung fu clan.”
Niu shook his head. “Drunken, fornicating thieves.”
“Happy, free-spirited wealth distributors,” the Whirlwind said.
“Bonking a man over the head with a club does not a kung fu warrior make,” the master replied.
“That’s what I said,” Niu added.
“All kung fu clans must be fully adept in all basic moves,” the master said.
“We’re getting there,” the Whirlwind said.
“You’re nowhere near there,” Niu replied.
“And every clan must possess a signature move, one that no other clan can perform,” the master said.
Niu sighed. “Then it will be impossible for the clans to rise again.”
Junjie felt a great sadness overcome him. “If all of the masters have died…”
The big man finished the hero’s thought. “…then the knowledge of their signature moves has died with them.”
The master laughed. “Nonsense, my son. They live on in you.”
Junjie rolled his eyes. “Master, please do not toy with me.”
Moonlight passed through the old man’s ghost as it pointed to one of the practice dummies that the club bonk clan had been practicing on earlier.
“Show me the furious fox paw,” the master said.
Junjie raised an eyebrow.
“Go on,” the master said.
Clearly unsure of himself, Junjie timidly backed up several feet and lined his body up with the first straw dummy.
“Not sure what there is to gain by making me look like a fool master,” Junjie said.
“The only man who is a fool is the one who does not live up to his full potential,” the master said.
Junjie ran. He built up speed. Much to his surprise, he hurled himself up into the air and came down on the dummy’s face with a powerful punch, knocking the faux sparring partner’s head clean off.
The members of the club bonk clan appeared to be in awe of the feat. The Whirlwind sipped wine. “A lucky shot.”
“That,” the master said as he pointed to the Whirlwind’s wine skin, “Is a large part of why your clan has never been recognized.”
“I told him that too,” Niu said.
The Whirlwind blew a raspberry at Niu. “Pbbht! Teacher’s pet!”
The master turned to Junjie. “Show me the devastating crane smash.”
Junjie walked up to the second dummy. “I don’t understand.”
“Do not try to make sense of it,” the master said. “Just do.”
The hero closed his eyes and held his arms out to the left and right. He flapped them three times as if he were a bird, then on the fourth flap, he brought his open hands down to both sides of the wooden spindle that formed the dummy’s neck. Like its predecessor, this dummy was also decapitated.
“Impressive,” Niu said. “The fates smile upon you, brother.”
“The mystifying monkey slap,” the master said.
“Impossible,” Junjie said. “It is the one of the most difficult moves to master in all of kung fu, second only to the sacred yet inscrutable tiger claw.”
“The mystifying monkey slap,” the master said. “If you please…”
Junjie took his position before the third dummy. He breathed deeply and exhaled. Ten slaps to the chest. Ten more to the stomach. One final slap to the heart.
“Perfect formation,” the master said. “Had this dummy been alive, we’d all be covered with blood and guts.”
“How is this even possible?” Junjie asked.
“Long ago, people were simple and trusting. As such, man took a ‘more is better’ approach to knowledge. All kung fu students were taught all of the signature moves. Sadly, this led to a dark age where China was dominated by evil men who were experts at all of the signature moves of kung fu,” the master explained. “They warred amongst each other until only one kung fu artist remained. Thus, the wise and all-knowing First Infallible Master became the fount of all kung fu knowledge. He decided that no man should ever again be trusted with the knowledge of every signature move. So, he kept the tiger claw for the clan that he raised, then started clans all across the country, blessing each one with a move of their own.”
Niu looked down at the ghost. “Master, you’ve replaced the will of the First Infallible Master with your own.”
“If the First Infallible Master were here, he would agree,” the master replied.
The big man looked the hero over. “To place so much power in one man…”
“When Shaoshang threatened to drag the world into darkness, only the First Infallible Master was able to defeat him. Like Shaoshang, Dragonhand has mastered all of the signature moves. Only someone as powerful as the First Infallible Master will be able to defeat him.”
“This is not a path I wished for, brother,” Junjie said.
“I know,” Niu said as he rested his giant hands on Junjie’s shoulders. “And what I am about to say goes against everything that I, as a fatalist, hold dear. The master once told me that it is possible to write your own pages in the book of fate.”
Niu held up a chrysanthemum and chomped the head off. “Just as I have come to learn that I can fight the fate of becoming a brain addict, so too will you be able to fight the temptation that accompanies your newfound power.”
The master smiled. “I have trained my disciples well.”
A quiet moment passed, one where master and students gazed upon one another, sharing an unspoken yet mutual respect and understanding. Soon enough, it was ended with a wretched belch.
“BRRAAAP!” The Whirlwind chugged wine. “If you girls are going to stand around fawning over each other all night, do it somewhere else, will you? Some of us are trying to get one last bender on before we face potential death at the teeth of a bunch of smelly undead pricks, thank you very much.”