Junjie screamed as he came to his senses. He looked around. He was back in the Emperor’s throne room. The ghostly apparition of the Infallible Master stood before him.
“He…he killed my parents?”
The master looked away. “Yes, my son.”
“You knew!” Junjie shouted.
“I did,” the master said.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Junjie asked.
“Because a mind locked in rage can never be truly focused on a higher purpose,” the master said. “You already despised Dragonhand for turning your beloved Mei-Ling into stone. You would have lost control had you learned that he killed your parents as well. You would have fought with fury, rather than skill…with anger, rather than cunning. You would have…”
“I would have known the truth,” Junjie said.
“You would have died,” Junjie said. “Dragonhand would have defeated you. Of that, I am certain.”
Junjie stood up.
“I intended to tell you,” the master said. “After…all of this.”
Junjie wiped a tear from his eye. He leaned in to hug the master, put his arms passed through.
“I forgot,” Junjie said.
“I know,” the master said.
“Dragonhand never realized I was the child?” Junjie asked.
“An undead man’s brain is a swirl of confusion,” the master said. “Most of the time, Dragonhand believed he was his own man, separate from Longwei. That is true, for Longwei’s soul resides in Diyu. However, Dragonhand possessed Longwei’s brain and with it, his memories. At times, the creature was perplexed and puzzled, confident that he was a champion, free from a sense of right and wrong that a soul provides and yet, burdened by all the petty jealousy and aggrieved feelings that were stored away in Longwei’s mind. He claimed he was better than Longwei and yet, a part of him longed to prove to me that he was my best student.”
“Am I your best student?” Junjie asked.
“Well,” the master said. “I’ve never had a student who defeated a foe such as Dragonhand, so I’d say yes.”
A few seconds of silence passed.
“Don’t let it go to your head,” the master said.
“I won’t,” Junjie replied.
“And now you know my great shame,” the master said. “I could have destroyed Dragonhand all those years ago, at the very instant he became one of the undead. I could have saved everyone – the kung fu clans, the masters, the soldiers, so many innocent villagers – I could have spared so many so much pain had I just brought myself to extinguish him but I could not.”
“Why couldn’t you?” Junjie asked.
“Because every member of the Clan of the Sacred Yet Inscrutable Tiger Claw is my child,” the master said. “Their pain is my pain. Their suffering is my suffering. A father doesn’t stop loving a child just because he has done wrong. I loved Longwei too much to snuff out Dragonhand, but I realize now that I selfishly put my own emotions over the lives of so many.”
“I don’t know that I can blame you,” Junjie said.
“We all make mistakes,” the master said. “For centuries, the master of our clan has been called, ‘the Infallible Master,’ but I assure you, your master is very much fallible.”
The conversation between master and student was cut short by the sounds of the Whirlwind, struggling under the strain of a massive weight. He entered the room. Niu had come to and he was in his feet, but resting most of his bulk on the Whirlwind’s shoulder.
“Hergh!” cried the Whirlwind as he eased his hefty charge down onto the steps.
Once free of Niu, the Whirlwind choked and wheezed as he caught his breath. “It’s nothing but vegetables from hereon out for you, baldy!”
The Whirlwind collapsed on the steps next to Niu. “I will hurl myself from the highest cliff in all the world before I carry your giant ass around, that I can guarantee!”
Junjie and the master rushed to Niu’s side.
“My son!’ the master said.
Niu was speechless.
“That bag of filth took his peepers,” the Whirlwind said. “But I bravely carried his carcass all the way here, putting myself…and my back…in great danger.”
No one appeared to be all that concerned with Niu’s well-being. Junjie ripped a strip off of Dragonhand’s robe and handed it Niu. The big man held it over his eyes to sop up all the blood.
“Niu?” Junjie asked. “Can you hear me?”
Slowly, Niu nodded his head up and down. His voice was hoarse. “Yes.”
The master turned around. “Watch over my son, Whirlwind. Junjie, come, we must save the Clan of the Mediocre Yet Effective Club Bonk.”
As master and student walked towards the door, they were met by Rage Dog. His hair and clothing were sopping wet from rain. He held up a big, brown sack. Inside, a little boy wiggled around and whimpered.
Rage Dog gazed upon Dragonhand’s corpse. He thought about this development for a moment, then laughed hysterically.
“I suppose I should thank you for dispatching my master,” Rage Dog said to Junjie. “Now the Emperor’s brain will be mine!”