Crunch, crunch, crunch. Junjie’s teeth chewed through veins and gray matter, then swallowed. The taste was abhorrent, yet the anticipation of the knowledge to come took his mind off it. Something had drawn him to this brain and he had to know what.
Junjie closed his eyes. When he opened them, he felt big, bold, strong…and angry…oh, so very angry. He was in the sanctuary of the Clan of the Sacred Yet Inscrutable Tiger Claw, walking hurriedly toward the courtyard. Honghui stood up ahead, next to the Infallible Master, who was holding a baby.
“Junjie?” the master said as he looked down at the infant. “That means ‘handsome hero,’ you know. An awful lot of pressure to put on one so small.”
“Yes,” Honghui said. “But I have no doubt he will live up to the name, master. Ling felt the same way.”
“And where is Ling?” the master asked.
Honghui looked down, sullenly. “Gone.”
The master frowned. “How?”
“Longwei,” Honghui said. “When he learned that Ling and I were leaving the clan so that we could be married, he went mad. He somehow saw it as offense to him, that he was your greatest student and that we could not leave until he’d bested us in a fight.”
The master sighed. “That sounds like Longwei.”
“I declined,” Honghui said. “As did Ling. But Longwei’s words were so cruel that I lost control and called him a fool. That enraged him so much that he laid in wait and as soon as I left, he…he…”
Honghui’s eyes teared up. “…took the brain of the woman I loved.”
The master gasped. “Took her brain?”
Longwei finally reached the courtyard. “Yes! And it was delicious!”
The master pointed the Staff of Ages at Longwei. “Longwei! What has come over you?”
Longwei chuckled. “Destiny,” Longwei said. “That is what has come over me.”
“Away with you,” the master said. “You’ve gone insane.”
“No, master,” Longwei said. “I assure you, I’ve never had a better understanding of the world.”
“I will hear no more of your drivel,” the master said. “You’ve already taken one member of our clan today. You will not take another. Look at what you have become!”
“You have always resented the fact that I was better than you, old man,” Longwei said. “My feet were faster than cheetahs. My muscles were stronger than those of an ox and my hands?”
“Enough,” the master said.
“My hands are swift and dance through my opponents like a graceful dragon twirling through the air,” Longwei said.
The master pulled the baby close to his chest and held the staff high in the air. Clouds formed in the sky. “Enough.”
“You always favored Hongui and Ling over me,” Longwei said.
“A lie you told yourself over and over until you believed it to be true,” the master replied. “I love all my students equally, even you Longwei…even after the evil you have done.”
Longwei drew closer. He gazed upon the baby.
“Give me that child, so that I might snuff it out and spare it a life of knowing what a pathetic weakling its father was.”
Honghui lost control. He charged at Longwei…only to have his brain ripped out by Longwei’s tiger claw.
The master’s heart sunk, but he wasn’t just a master of kung fu. He was a master of his own emotions and buried them down, refusing to cry as Honghui’s lifeless corpse hit the ground.
Longwei bit into Honghui’s brain as if it were an apple. He swallowed, then tossed the rest over his shoulder. He returned his attention to the master.
“Give that child here.”
A lightning bolt shot out of the sky and into the staff. Thunder rolled as the staff glowed bright.
“Do not make me do this, my son,” the master said.
“No one is making you do anything, old man,” Longwei said. “You do what you wish. I know from hereon out, I will do as I wish. I will never be held back by you ever again.”
“I was never holding you back,” the master said. “I was trying to contain your boundless ego, to get it under control before you did…something like what you have just done.”
Longwei reached for the baby. “And I’m just getting started.”
Thok! The master kicked Longwei with such force that he was launched into the air. The old man then took aim with the staff and sent the lightning bolt into Longwei’s body, killing him instantly, even before he hit the ground.
Darkness. Longwei saw nothing but darkness. Seconds later, he opened his eyes. He looked up at the master, who was standing over him, still holding the baby.
“Longwei?” the master asked.
Longwei looked into the master’s eyes, and caught the reflection of his face in them. In that reflection, Longwei was able to see that his own eyes had gone blank – pure white, devoid of anything else.
“There…there is no Longwei….there is only…Dragonhand.”
The master pointed the staff at Dragonhand’s face. “Leave here at once, creature. Do not darken this sanctuary’s doorstep again, or that will be the end of you.”