Moving Blocks

From the Story Arc: Grandmaster in Name

Previous Story in the Arc: Blade Shuai's Lesson by Grandmaster Te (Wednesday, September 08, 2004)

Next Story in the Arc: Raking Leaves by Grandmaster Te (Friday, October 08, 2004)

(posted Sunday, September 26, 2004)

People's Blade walked slowly around the compact compound of Red Brigade. "I have assigned you patrols, comrade, but you are no Grandmaster and will not survive long on the streets of Paragon City. Red Brigade is not a charity for the discarded failures of the homeland. Therefore I have decided to make you at least a little useful by assigning you chores around the compound."

At her side, Te walked silently and nodded.

"Comrade ICBM recently ordered this massive pile of concrete blocks to be dumped in our yard, I think for the purpose of building a security wall. But that will not be completed, and the pile is unsightly." She gestured to a barren spot twenty feet away, "I think it will look better neatly piled over there. Call me when you are done." She marched back into the grungy King's Row headquarters.

Te looked at the pile and raised his eyebrows. It was about the size of a garbage truck probably weighed many times more. Still, moving the pile had the dual benefit of cleaning up the Red Brigade compound and building his strength. And so, with enthusiasm, he launched into the work. After half an hour he was feeling the fatigue of hard work, and had stripped of his shirt to feel cooler. His hands had developed several blisters where they rubbed against the 25lb blocks and he was covered with a gritty grey dust.

An hour later he was failing. His fingers were bleeding in four places, and he could barely keep the fingers bent long enough to pick up a block. He had resorted to carrying the blocks on his head to preserve his hand strength, but now his neck muscles were cramping up due to the strain. He had barely moved a fifth of the pile.

The door opened and People's Blade approached. She glanced disapprovingly at the pile and turned to Grandmaster Te, "You have made insufficient progress. However, I cannot have you injuring yourself so that you cannot patrol. You will stop now, and take tomorrow off to heal, and then continue the following day."

"As you command," answered Te exhaustedly. He made a weak attempt to stand at attention, but weariness dragged at him as if he was still carrying blocks.

After a two days, his blisters had healed up nicely and he was starting to develop tough callouses on his fingertips. He woke before dawn, meditated, and began working again on the pile. He paid close attention to his form when lifting and dropping the blocks, and with periodic meditation breaks the work went more efficiently. By mid morning he had cleared half the pile, though his strength was fading. "Better," was Blade's only comment.

By the third day he had moved all the blocks, and they were stacked in an attractive pyramid near the ash tree. People's Blade gazed at the yard and they pyramid and walked quickly around the yard from different directions, sometimes looking towards the headquarters and sometimes towards the horizon. "I'm sorry Te, on second thought I think I like them better where they were. Their currrent position disturbs the whole flow of energy through the compound. Though I like your arrangement of them. Oh," she said in afterthought, "this time when you move them, try to keep your arms held away from your body." A quick smile rose on her lips, then she turned and briskly marched back into the headquarters.

Te shook his head, remembered his oath, and said 'the first Noble Truth is that the world is full of pain and suffering'. He began to work. Though his hand strength could handle the blocks, his shoulders were unequal to the task of holding his block-laden arms away from his body long, and he made even slower progress than he had on his first day. After an hour he couldn't even move his elbows away from his side, block or no block.

But after a week of work, Te's shoulder strength had grown tremendously, and he could easily move the blocks with his body forming a perfect "T", a block in each hand. "Superb! Hen Hao!" congratulated People's Blade the next day, as she inspected the new pile. "You've exceeded my expectations. But I again have changed my mind. I want them arranged in a short, curving retaining wall around this section of the compound," she pointed vaguely. "Use no mortar. And here is the catch - it must be done in two hours."

Te stared at her dumbfounded. Two hours? A forklift couldn't move them all in two hours. "You will find a way," she reassured as she departed.

Insanity. What did she expect of him? He was no superhero with strength to crush a car. In frustration, he picked up a block and threw it towards the headquarters. It landed not far from where she had pointed, rolled twice, and broke in half. He turned to pick up another.. and paused. He hadn't really worked that hard to throw the first one, and with meditation breaks occasionally, he just might have the strength to throw them all.

His first few blocks flew clumsily and landed in a haphazard pile, but he concentrated on accurate throws and paid close attention to his body position, sometimes throwing left handed, sometimes right; sometimes underhanded, sometimes like a shot put. After an hour the blocks were usually landing perfectly on target, requiring only a gentle nudge here and there to straighten them. Still, he was only half way through the pile with forty minutes to go.

When there were only ten minutes left, People's Blade came forth from the building and inspected his work. "You are doing well, but you will never finish in time. However..", she paused purposefully, "I did not say that you could not accept help on this task". She bent and hoisted a block, lobbing it twenty feet through the air and landing it with only a slight twist where the wall continued. "Let's hurry."

Te and his commander worked quickly and purposefully, the bricks landing alternately every second or two with percussions like a railroad team pounding in an iron spike. The last block landed a full minute before the time had run out, and they laughed laughed, shook hands, and congratulated each other.

"You are probably weary of concrete blocks, Grandmaster Te", chuckled PB. "I think tomorrow I shall start you on raking the leaves. Well done!"