Blade Shuai's Lesson

From the Story Arc: Grandmaster in Name

Previous Story in the Arc: You're a Hero Now by Grandmaster Te (Tuesday, September 07, 2004)

Next Story in the Arc: Moving Blocks by Grandmaster Te (Sunday, September 26, 2004)

(posted Wednesday, September 08, 2004)

The E.L.I.T.E. Heroic Dormatories sounded luxurious, but in truth it was little more than a flop house for new heroes that had not established themselves.  Grandmaster Te sat in lotus position on a folding cot in the corner, meditating.  In the cot next door Spandex Man snored loudly, challenging Te's ability to concentrate.


He thought back on the last week, since he had arrived in Paragon City.  He had taken well to the hero business because at its foundation it was well-aligned with the Eightfold Path.   There was no problem justifying the saving of innocents.  He practiced daily in the Freedom Corps dojo and had learned another type of kick from and instructor there.  He had convinced several criminals to run away rather than fight, hopefully renouncing their career of violence and depravity. 


And he had made new friends.  At the hospital he was a frequent visitor, and knew most of the nurses and technicians by name.  And he had been taken on fighting tours of some more frightening parts of the city by his superhero friends Sickle Cell and Caprine, who he had met while fighting Vahzilok nightmares.


But still, his inquires at CCCP-Red Brigade had not been answered and he had been unsuccessful in contacting their leader, who was known as "People's Blade".  In the CCCP waiting room he had read all the literature on the CCCP and Red Brigade heroes.  He had even gone to the library and researched their backgrounds in the old newspaper articles, in an effort to get to know his potential comrades.  But no call came, and no appointment could be made. 


One day as Te sat in the waiting room, the renowned hero Kostyak had met briefly with Te, probably just in an effort to get him to leave.   "Look, Grandmaster Te.  I don't know you.  I don't trust you.  You ain't one of my people, so I don't owe you anything.  I've been told to give you one of our Red Brigade radio-phones, so I'll do it.   But don't go thinking that that makes you one of us.  Because it doesn't.  Unless you make a bad name for us... then I'll make it my business.  Now, in the words of one of my team, 'Begone!'  I've got work to do."


Te returned to the Dormatories disheartened.  Only his years of training in the Way guarded him from despair.  "In each experience is a lesson", he told himself.


Finally, two days later, he got the call he'd been waiting for.  His Red Brigade cell phone buzzed.  It was Kostyak.  "Get over to King's Row; the General wants to see you."  Te turned and ran from the Skull he had been fighting and hurried to the King's Row station.  He found Kostyak waiting nearby.   "Com'on", he said, "it's best to get there before she does."


The famous hero pointed to the roof of a four-story building.   Te had been practicing jumping in the dojo, but had never tried scaling a building before.  Kostyak, however, had no problems, and zoomed to the top.  "Come'on!" he yelled down.  Te climbed carefully, using the window ledges for temporary respite, slipping only once but catching a handhold, and he made the rooftop.  He sat next to a silent Kostyak and waited for People's Blade.


"Kostyak, the city is beautiful this time of night.", remarked Te.


"Yes, yes it is.  I've always found it peaceful up here."


"Do you mediate here?", asked Te.
 
"Not that you'd call it that.  I like to collect my thoughts up here.  Look down on the city.  Imagine what the normal people do in all those lit apartments.  Imagine how things might be...different."


"That is a form of meditation."  He paused before continuing, "Kostyak, can I ask a favor of you?"


"Shoot."


"You grew up here, right?  Can you teach me of Paragon City?  Can you show me your home?"


"How'd you know that?   That I grew up on the streets here?"


"It was in something I read."


"It ain't in the file back at headquarters!  I don't know what kind of game you're playing, Te.", stormed Kostyak.


"No game.  I humbly ask only for this favor."


"Hmmpf.  OK, here's a deal:  I'll teach you about the city if you tell me how you know so much about me."


"It is a good...," began Te, but he was cut off by the sudden appearance of People's Blade from the shadows.  She had arrived silently and had stepped forth dramatically in the moonlit night.  "Commissar Kostyak and Grandmaster Te, thank you for meeting me here."


Te bowed deeply, as did Kostyak.  People's Blade was aptly named:  she was all business.  Her gaze was as sharp as any katana; her manner was pure steel.   Though feminine and beautiful, she betrayed no hint of softness, like a cast-bronze statue.


"Grandmaster Te, you honor us with your presence here.", she bowed, "It is rare that one of such stature would visit us here."


"The honor is all mine, fabled leader," replied Te.  "I have heard much about you even back in China, at Shaolin."


"I did not even know the Shaolin Temple had been rebuilt.", she said.


"Uh, yes, it is rejuvenated, and I am here to touch up my skills in the martial arts," replied Te shakily.


People's Blade squinted and frowned.  "I see."  She stepped closer to Te, studied him closely, paused in thought, then turned away.  She spoke quietly to Kostyak, "Kostyak, do not react to what is to happen here."  Kostyak nodded.


Suddenly People's Blade whirled and closed the distance to Te impossibly fast.  Her fingers were rigid like a living blade and they stopped a fraction of an inch from crushing Te's larynx.  Te reacted in surprise, far too late, and stepped backwards.   People's Blade furthered his momentum with a foot to the sternum and Grandmaster Te was sent sprawling on the tarpaper of the rooftop.


"You are no Grandmaster!" she spat.  "You are a fraud.  A spinner of lies.   A pretender.  I should throw you to the street below."


"But, honored.." sputtered Te.


"Silence!" screamed Blade, "I need to think."  Even the city streets seemed to acquiesce to her demand for quiet, and the city was as silent as a hidden tomb.   She paced, and at length she spoke.  "Fei Li does not like you.  More importantly, Shen Xue finds you deplorable."


Te was amazed to find an follower of the ancient Chinese general Shen Xue among the people here.   Shen Xue's writings had always been overshadowed by Sun Tzu, and the strict military leader had few followers in modern times.


"I will not teach you.  You will go back to China," concluded People's Blade.


"No," answered Grandmaster Te.  "I have a duty to fulfill here.   I would rather learn at your feet, but I will not stray from my path."  He reached to his belt and handed his cell phone, the badge of Red Brigade, to People's Blade, signifying his resignation from her group.


"You will not leave?", she asked incredulously.


"I shall not fail.  I will find my own way."


"You are willful.  How will you survive in the streets of Paragon City?"


"I have survived thus far.  I have learned a few ways of defending myself," he answered.


"Pah.  Your clumsy moves might suffice against Hellions and Skulls, but you will find more difficult opponents.  They will steal your life essense.  They will lock you away in darkness.  They may even make you die the Real Death.  Does that scare you?" she inquired pointedly.


"I have died many deaths already, People's Blade, all throughout history.  But I am reborn to try again and to work off my karma from previous mistakes.   There are lessons in every experience."


"You may not be a stupid as you appear, Te.   All right.  I have enough blood on my hands already without the death of another monk.  I will instruct you.  But you must surrender."


"Surrender to what, noble leader?" asked Te.


"My authority.   My absolute will.  Can you do that?", she asked imperiously.


"I cannot violate the Eightfold Path or ignore the Noble Truths.", he answered.


"I will not ask you to do that."


"Then I do surrender, teacher."


"Good.  My anger with this deception will have an outlet.  Your first lesson will be in the use of pain to correct the incorrect behaviour of a subordinate."  She lashed out with her left foot and connected with Grandmaster Te's cheek, so fast he could only begin to raise a hand in his defense.  She struck out with her right fist with a powerful strike to the solar plexus.  "That was for Fei Li.  When you can breathe again, tell me."   On the side, Kostyak was taken aback, but he knew it was better to say nothing.


After a minute Te could breathe again.  "I think I have learned, teacher," he gasped.


"No.  Surrender your left hand.", she commanded.  Te held his hand forward weakly.


"We will continue to call you Grandmaster, in order to not break your deception.  This is not all your fault.  But, you need a constant reminder."  She reached forward and grabbed his pinky finger and twisted violently, tearing connecting tissues and breaking the first bone.  "That was for Shen Xue, who is inclined to even more severe punishment."  Kostyak gasped.  Grandmaster Te used every bit of his training in self control not to scream in pain. 


"Now leave us.   Seek medical attention," she concluded imperiously.


Slowly, Grandmaster Te held his hands together except for the broken pinky.  Through labored breath he said slowly, "As you command."  He climbed down the building, falling as he reached the last story, and plummetted to the street.   This time he did not try to hold back the scream.


He made his way back towards Galaxy City.  His throbbing pinky seemed to flair up in pain when he passed the familiar hospital without entering.  "No," he thought to himself, "I will mediate first.   I must know the meaning behind this."    In Galaxy City is a forested park untroubled by gang activities, and as the sun rose Grandmaster Te made his way to a quiet glade he had adopted as his own.  Beside the glade a small pond bubbled, full of goldfish, reminding him of home.  He folded his legs into the familiar lotus position and thought upon his encounter with Red Brigade's leader.


"'The use of pain to correct behavior', she said, can this be a true lesson?"  No, it ran counter to everything he knew.  By using pain and even cruelty to enforce her will on subordinates, or to maintain order in the organization, People's Blade only increased her own karmic burden.  Shen Xue was no Siddhartha, though his iron will had united a nation.  Fei Li was a follower of Shen Xue...perhaps she had even inherited some of his karmic burden?  Heavenly Buddha help her if that were the case.


Suddenly, Grandmaster Te was amused.  'Well,' he thought, 'whether intentional or not, she is teaching me to fight with my legs and not rely on my punches.'   The very thought of hitting anything with his crippled left hand made him cringe.  He closed his eyes and again tried to concentrate. 


He thought deeply of his own feelings.  He was terribly angry with People's Blade -- a burning rage he could feel, throbbing in sync with the pain in his hand.   She was supposed to be the honored example!   The wise leader!  But no!  He wanted to surpass her in the martial arts.  He wanted to defeat her and humiliate her, as she had done to him.  "Now who is the teacher!", he would triumph.  "Submit your left hand!", he would demand, then he would...


--- No.   He would not. 


Right Motive:  Action should never be motivated by anger or revenge.  All his years of studies told him that.  But those books seemed so far away right now...how much more difficult is the task when the pain is throbbing within you.  How much more difficult to hold to the path when it is personal. 


'But I must', he thought.  'Let go.  The cycle of karma ends with me.  I will not continue the cycle.  It ends with this dawn.'


'That is the lesson.'