Stories written by Andrew Tate (Emory Andrew Tate III) with his father, Emory Andrew Tate II.
Atop Wudan, the nights were always especially cold.
We would sleep on concrete floors with straw pillows and blankets were forbidden. Many of the students would opt to do their chores in the middle of the night in an attempt to stay warm and then try to steal sleep during meditation in the warmer afternoons.
Of course Po was aware of this, and every so often would pluck a perpetrator from morning exercise and beat him severely.
It’s a risk many children took, for it is very difficult to sleep when you are cold. But I wanted to feel like a weapon.
Not to have a weapon or use a weapon - I wanted to BE and FEEL like a weapon. When I walk the streets, I feel a way most men can never feel.
And to do that, I have endured 10,000 cold nights. When I had graduated as a Master of Wudan I spent many years roaming from town to town. One day I fell in love.
She said she would stay with me forever, sickness and health, no matter what. That I am the sword and she is the sheath, and we need each other.
I believed her. She believed her. So I rented a small room. Concrete floor and straw pillow. I forbid us to touch - only body heat can be shared.
She asked how long we must do this for, and my answer was simple: “Until mastery is attained.” When I woke the following morning she was gone. I never saw her again.
I believe she loved me, I believe she wanted me. But there is a difference between the wants and needs of a normal person, and a Master such as myself.
When I hear others talk of love, I pity them. How can you be in love on expensive holidays and sharing takeaway?
None of you are in Love. Not to the standard of Wudan.
Doubt me? Place her on a concrete floor, with a straw pillow.
In a previous life, I lived 5000 human years atop Wudan mountain.
I remember every lived second. Life is competition. Competition is violence.
In many modern forms of competition we have attempted to water down the violent aspects, to replicate violence in the most sanitised way.
We have full grown men, growing as large and strong as possible - to put a ball in a net, as opposed to hurting each other. But the sentiment is the same. It’s a group of men at war with another - with one team being victors. And the other being losers.
The largest, strongest, most beautiful tree. Violently crushed the surrounding saplings, in the quest for resource.
Every time I see beauty, I see the struggle required to create it. When I see myself, I know the struggle lived to become who I am. To live as I do.
The more sophisticated my understanding of the universes state of constant war - the happier, more content and peaceful I feel.
You are MEANT to struggle. You are here to SUFFER.
If you do neither of these things, you are either dead or invisible. If you want people to care who you are - become familiar with pain. If you do not struggle to become an exceptional man. You are a nobody. And every female will prove to you - you may as well not exist.
Evolution requires PAIN. While others complain they do not feel happy enough, I’m happy I’m struggling. I don’t want to be happy. I want to be great. This is the beauty of life as a MAN.
We are born valueless. And you either build yourself into a King - or you fail. Atop Wudan, I told priest master Yan Hui, how at peace I felt amongst the trees. I could feel life all around me.
Sitting at the foot of the largest tree, I asked him. “When life is so beautiful, why do we fight?”
His reply was simple. “Do you think the largest tree you sit beneath, grew so tall amongst many, if it didn’t fight?”
On my 407th year atop Wudan began a period of terrible nightmares. Scenes of death and destruction.
I did not sleep for 20 human years. Despite embarrassment, I sought the council of Master Po.
“Master. You teach me the hidden styles of Wudan, in a bid to make me a great warrior. Yet I can not sleep due to the sight of death, of destruction. I feel uneasy. I simply lie awake.”
He replied in a whisper: “You feel awake... alive, at the sight of battle, and you doubt your skills as a warrior?”
Priest master Shi Yan Hui was teaching me in the garden.
"You must purify your thoughts. When you think of rain, you must only see rain. Not the trees it lands on or the clouds it comes from." He instructed.
I was sitting in lotus position, I nodded.
"I bet you have never had a pure thought in your life, have you!" He began to rant "How can you expect to master Wudan, if you cannot give your whole mind to anything?"
He stood up and pulled a thin flexible branch from underneath his robe.
"I will show you how to dedicate your mind to a single thought!" he said.
I heard it whistle through the air as it struck the top of my head. With the crack of a whip blood began to pour down my face — as the branch had broken the skin in a perfectly straight line, as if a knife had been run along the top of my skull.
The pain was unbearable, I couldn't retain focus. I grabbed my head and began to scream in agony.
"Hal Your first pure thought, pain!" he mused. "You are a Zen Master!"
In the year 456 atop Wudan mountain a fierce storm struck.
I was asleep alone in my room when I was awakened by a crack of lightning which tore a small storage room in half. The high winds whistled throughout the compound and although no one would dare leave their room for fear of Master Po's punishment, everybody was awake.
The following morning at 5am I left for exercise as usual. The rain had cleared and the devastation was obvious. The temple was damaged badly.
Master Po arose unusually cheerful and came out to greet us as we stood in Crane Position.
"Excuse my happy mood" he began.
"But I have no concern for the work you will have to do to repair this temple. I am very happy for all the water we now have to drink. Students can give me work, but they can not give me water" he mused.
He was standing on the stairs above us, looking straight ahead into empty sky, waiting for a reply of some kind, from someone.
The temple was many thousands of years old, and none of us were skilled craftsmen. So I began to speak. "But master, we don't know how to put the temple back together?"
I asked respectfully. He slowly descended the stairs still looking straight ahead. He stood in front of me for several seconds before leaning forward and whispering in my ear.
"Do you know my name?" he whispered. Slightly confused and very scared I answered.
"Yes" With his mouth still an inch from my ear, he continued.
"Do you know that I am a master of the 7 Shaolin styles…" he said as his voice escalated.
"DO YOU KNOW THAT I KILL AT WILL!" He screamed at the top of his voice. I began to cry. I nodded my head.
"Yes" I replied. He then turned around and claimed the stairs back to his original position.
He ordered us to begin morning exercise like any other day. 75 Years later the temple was as if never damaged. Every item repaired. Every student now a skilled craftsman.
Atop Wudan In the year 109, Master Po took me to the cliffs edge.
“The first lesson in Zen, is about mortality,” he said.
“When you reach my level of power, you know exactly when you will die.” He produced a handful of pink apple blossoms from his robe and threw them into the wind - they floated upon the breeze, scattering into the valley two miles below.
“Retrieve every last blossom. And when you have picked up the very last one, you will know that I have passed to the next life.”
I bowed and shed a tear. Then began my walk down the mountain. I found the first blossom two weeks later. Laying in a rock pool, bright pink contrasting violent blue.
I lived in the wilderness, hunting wolves with handmade weapons, and spent every waking hour searching for the blossoms.
I had no desire to hasten his passing, yet I understood to always obey. After 21 years, I had found 99 of the 100 blossoms. I had walked over 3000 miles through wilderness.
The mountain winds had blown them far and wide. I spent a another 60 years, looking for the final piece. I would meditate at night to keep frustration at bay and spend my days shifting through dirt, climbing trees and swimming lakes - knowing the blossom could be anywhere.
The final blossom eluded me. I dreamt of it. I hallucinated. I saw it permanently in my mind, but could never find it. And then... 81 years after first descending from the mountain, I came across a large flat rock.
Upon it was the perfect imprint of an apple blossom. The piece must have landed here many years ago, and the blistering sun had all but obliterated it - leaving nothing but the perfect print on hard stone.
I was furious.
So many years wasted. Elements endured. And it’s now clear, I could never complete the task. I returned to Wudan with 99 blossoms to find Po meditating.
I knelt before him and began to cry through frustration. “I have failed. I did not move quickly enough for the sun. I will never have all of the blossoms.”
He smiled and replied. “Then I will never die.”
In the year 606 I removed my top and walked into the tall grass of Wudan. It was amongst this grass, on these meadows, that Master Po learnt to fight many thousands of years before. The grass was blessed by 9,999 butterflies of varying colours and Master Po would pluck them from the sky before releasing them unharmed.
Their irreplicable flight patterns are what built Po's irreplicable style. Every few hundred years you would see him once again descend into the meadow and dance through the grass plucking and releasing many butterflies per second in a dizzying display.
The butterflies were not only unharmed, but invigorated by their momentary capture. Often fluttering particularly fast and high upon their release. As if in to the heavens above.
I decided to attempt the same.
I stood amongst the grass and began to move. Tiger's Claw failed, along with my Snake Fist. I spent 23 days moving, quickly and slowly, grasping at nothing but air.
The butterflies would land on me as if to taunt, but my hand touched nothing.
But on my 24th day my technique began to wane. My footwork was wrong and my stances irregular. Instead of correcting myself I let it happen, and 3 hours later I caught my first butterfly.
I didn't know it then, but these irregular movements of traditional style were the beginnings of Tateshinkai.
So excited, I held it in my hands as gently as I could and ran back to the temple to show Master Po what I had done. I ran up to him as he was drinking his tea.
"Master, Master, I have caught a butterfly!" I exclaimed.
He slowly placed his tea cup on the ground and a tear began to run down his face. Perplexed I continued "What's the matter? I have been very gentle, she is alive!" I said, still excited.
It was at this point that I opened my hands. And although I had been gentle, the many minutes in capture had saturated her wings with the natural oils found on the human hand.
Her cage was open, she attempted to fly, but she couldn't. She laid on my hand and died.
It was at this point I sat next to Po, and we cried together.
I never understood why there were exactly 9,999 butterflies in this meadow, and although Po never confirmed it, I fear there was once 10,000 before he made the very same mistake.
There are still 9,998 butterflies atop Wudan. I never returned to the Meadow.
On this day only 811 years ago, a respected Shotokan master named Arashi O ascended Wudan Mountain to confront Master Po.
“I have heard many rumors of your power. You say Wudan can surpass Shotokan. Demonstrate this to me at once, or face CERTAIN destruction.”
By the time his sentence had finished he was standing at Kokutsu Dachi, a stance he had mastered many millennia before.
He was to defend his art, his life’s work, he had every intention of fighting to the death.
Master Po was sitting in the garden, drinking Jasmine tea. From Lotus position, his eyes raised.
Looking over his cup, he slowly whispered: “Very well.” He stood. He began walking towards Arashi. Very... very slowly. His hands were in a surrender position, advertising that he was no threat.
Soon, Po and Arashi were face to face. At this Master Po began to move his hand out, slowly and very calmly. Arashi didn’t move, still holding stance and ready to fight.
He pointed his index finger against Arashi’s chest, softly, a landing as soft as the butterflies Po would catch.
The faintest kiss of skin against cloth, before Master Po returned his hand to surrender position. Master Po once again, very slowly, walked backward and sat back down. “There you are,” he said, before returning to his tea.
Still standing in perfect position and ready to fight, Arashi screamed angrily: “YOU CALL THAT A DEMONSTRATION?? YOU DID NOTHING!”
Master Po replied, without looking up from his teacup. “You stand in such perfect form, yet slowly and calmly, I struck you with ease.”
Master Po paused before his final sentence. “It is you, who did nothing.”
Arashi instantly bowed and changed his name to Shinpru. He remained a student of Wudan until his death in 1855.
In the year 644, as a young student of the Wudan style, it was my job to sweep the training area each morning.
I started this job at 3:45am - and, with vigor, would finish with a few minutes to spare before the 6am training.
There was an old man with no hands and no feet - the only man, to whom Master Po would bow - who would sit atop a tree trunk and watch me complete this task.
Every morning, he appeared and watched in admiration. It was a full 219 years, before I mustered the courage to speak with him. “Why do you watch me sweep?” I asked, puzzled.
“Ah, young Cobra, what better unison of the hands and the feet than sweeping a floor? If you were in my position, you would savour the task!” he replied.
I looked at the stumps where his hands and feet once were, then looked up at him. He knew what I wanted to ask... But I was afraid to appear disrespectful.
Truly, it was none of my business. Curiosity got the better of me. “What happened to you?” I said, looking towards the ground.
I was sure he was contemplating reprimanding me. I was pleased, when he began to speak.
“Wudan was not always such a peaceful place,” he began. “Warring tribes fought for this mountains power and strange creatures lurked in every corner. Before myself and a few brave others, including Master Po, banished them from the mountain.”
I placed my broom on the floor, sat down and continued to listen.
“While fighting bandits near the Yushu river, a water snake grabbed my right foot and began to pull me under. Fearing for my life, and unable to see the snake through the bloodied water, I removed my right foot with one slice of my sword. The only alternative was to drown.”
Still looking down, I raised my eyes to take a glimpse at his right stump. “What about your left foot?” I asked.
He placed his right leg under his robe and exposed his left before continuing his story.
“The next day, I was limping and slowing the group down. I asked to be left to die, but Po demanded that I fight. Soon, a daughter of a previously slain bandit had spotted us and fired an arrow from a ridge which landed squarely in my left foot. Fearing gangrene, I removed my left foot with one slice of my sword.”
“What happened to your hands?” I asked quickly.
“My left hand was snared by a Golden Dragon in that now empty cave you children enjoy, to avoid being pulled into darkness and killed. I removed my left hand with one slice of my sword...”
He paused. “My right hand was caught in a bear trap the same afternoon, fearing death, I removed it with my teeth.”
I looked at his right hands stump. It was ragged. Not a clean cut like the others. It still looked painful. He looked relieved when the story was over, it pained him to relive the events.
He took a sigh of relief and moved his gaze from me back over to the floor I was sweeping. I however was confused.
“How did you find the strength, to remove limb after limb in such gruesome fashion? I don’t think I could do that.”
He smiled. “Well then you would be dead. And you would never tell your story to anybody, would you? I didn’t find the strength to die.”
I bowed and returned to sweeping. The conversation made me minutes late for training. Master Po beat me severely.
The next morning when I rose to sweep, the man was not there. I never saw him again.
Master Po was near invincible. Immortal.
I say this as it was all he ever demonstrated. Supreme power. He did however carry a scar above his left eye, exactly an inch and a half long.
Considering I had seen him destroy armies without as much as a scratch, it confused every student as to what was powerful enough to mark him for life.
It was often a topic of conversation amongst the students, but never once discussed by the ruling priests and monks. There was one old priest with a more friendly demeanour than the others, his name was Zhang Tao.
One rainy afternoon, as I was sweeping the courtyard, he came out to enjoy some damp air. In the rare moment for secluded conversation, I decided to ask him what happened to Master Po. “Master Tao,” I started.
He continued to look off into the distance and breathe deeply. He did however acknowledge my words, with a slight smile I could identify from staring at the side of his face.
“What happened to Master Po? The mark? What on earth has the power to mark him so?” I asked.
There was no reason to explain which mark I meant, it was the only scar on his body. Zhang seemed to have no problem in answering me, which was surprising considering the topic had been taboo for all of my 800 years atop Wudan.
“Master Po was once young. Like you. And... very much like you, he was very curious,” he said. He then turned his back to me and continued to admire the grey sky.
The turning of his back was final. I knew from his action there was nothing else he would tell me.
Like me? I thought. Master Po? I don’t understand. I decided I had to know more, and as I was likely to be severely reprimanded for asking any of the monks in the temple, I may as well gather the courage to ask Master Po himself.
4 months later, I was practicing crane style. Master Po left his quarters to sit upon a log in the garden and watch me study.
He seemed pleased with my technique, a rarity. Considering this very rare positive mood, I decided to take this opportunity to ask him as respectfully as I could.
I completed my forms, walked over to him and bowed. “Master, forgive me. But tell me - what scarred you for life, above your left eye?” I said, while looking at the ground.
He paused for a few seconds... Produced a cane from under his robe and struck me. I felt blood begin to run down my face.
It left a scar exactly an inch and a half long above my left eye.
A scar I still carry to this day. “Curiosity.” he replied.
After mastering Wudan, I descended from the mountain.
The only way back to civilization was to cross the Xing Gou river. This river had a single bridge. A bottle neck. And this bridge had a small town surrounding it.
A town occupied solely by pirates, bandits and thieves, who would harass tax and rob anybody who had to use it. I had no choice but to walk through them.
By now, my abilities were well known. I was adept number 1. Although Wudan had very few visitors, stories of the adepts achievements somehow permeated the outside world.
Carried by the winds themselves. I intended to pass through the town peacefully, relying on my reputation.
Yet, as I approached the local tavern, a veteran warrior blocked my path. “I do not fear you! I have been to war 5000 times and I still stand.
I am ferocious, when I attack - and no matter how much you hurt me, I will keep coming forward!!” Eyes locked, in the center square - a crowd had now gathered around us.
“When you knock me down, I WILL GET UP!” he screamed.
“When you strike me, I will continue to FIGHT!” At this he drew his sword.
I raised my hand with a single finger pointing towards the sky - as Po had done many times before to command silence.
“Brother. Listen to your words. You have already said, I will hurt you. You have already said, I will strike you. You have already said, I will knock you down. You know the future. Apologize to me.”
He paused. His eyes twitched as he was thinking. He saw the crowd around him, jeering him on to attack a student of Wudan. His sword was already drawn, I was only a meter in front of him.
His eyes darted back and forth as he contemplated what to do - Attack? Apologize? By now the crowd was screaming. Urging him to fight.
After a second, he made a decision. He swung his sword. As his neck snapped, and his body fell lifelessly to the ground, there was a loud moan of disappointment amongst the onlookers.
“Awwwwww...” The show was over. Not a single bandit bothered to check or show care to his body, they simply left him in the square to be eaten by the birds.
They were so interested in the prospect of his success. And absolutely uninterested in his failure.
Of course, the remaining bandits hurriedly afforded me safe access to the bridge. This was the first life of many I would take on my journey.
Twice a year myself and Master Po would travel to a haunted field.
A field of broken dirt. Shallow graves. This place was reserved for those warriors which did not deserve rest. Murderers, cowards. Those, who killed without honor.
Eternal peace was stolen from them, and their spirits suffered the eternal damnation of consciousness - upon a muddy field, precisely 1000 footsteps from the Gates of Wudan.
They could not leave. They could not die. They could only live. Mortals did not visit this place. The spirits knew nothing but war their entire lives, they would engage instantly.
They aimed to kill you. Upon haunted ground. To force you to endure their fate alongside them.
However - twice a year, myself and Master Po would walk the 1000 steps and engage in combat. Lethal sparring, with eternal consequences.
They would not die. So the aim was simply to disable them, render them combat ineffective. Leave them in the cold to heal.
Ready for the next massacre. Master Po would disable them at will, abolishing hundreds with fast strikes and unorthodox technique.
I could hold my own against one or two, but my skills had not yet matured.
In the middle of combat, I grew frustrated and how difficult it was for me. Too many close calls. Too many mistakes. It simply took me too long for each victory.
I needed more power.
Hurriedly, as I ripped the throat from a spirit - I shouted: “Master!! Please. I need power. Show me the most devastating move you know!”
Po, while crushing the skull of a downed opponent, replied: “You could never execute it. You’re weak.”
This bothered me. I did not want my Master to think I was weak. As I continued to battle I attempted to show Master that I was strong. That I COULD execute any move he taught me.
Through anger, my Kagi Tsuki grew wild and inaccurate, my Kiai rushed. Suddenly, a Dragon kick knocked me to the ground. I spun and raised my hands to protect my face.
I saw the sword raised, my decapitation imminent. I froze. Masters flawlessly Shuto Uchi ripped the spirits arms from his body before he could take my life.
Armless, the spirit screamed. Feeling real pain. Then Pos fingers ripped his eyes from his skull. Blind and in agony, yet unable to die, he ran screaming into the darkness.
At this, I was dragged to my feet, and we fled the field. Leaving a trail of destruction behind us. The ghosts were in pieces.
The battle was over. The walk back to Wudan was embarrassing. I was adept number 1.
And yet, I failed. I died. And he saved me. To be saved by Po was an honor, he had a habit of simply letting people die for their mistakes, but I didn’t feel honor. I felt shame.
I expected more of myself. I was disappointed. I needed to learn more.
I asked: “Master, if I can not execute your most powerful move, will you at least show it to me?” Staring straight ahead.
He whispered... “I’ve shown you already. Using only my tongue, I broke your Zen.”
After arriving on Wudan mountain, Priest Master Shi Yan Hui instructed me to practice Ki-zami-zuki for 100 years.
Upon completion, I was ordered down the mountain and to stand in front of a large tree.
“Cobra,” Master started. “Demonstrate to me, what you have learned. Use your bare hands to cause as much damage to this tree as you can.”
I struck the tree three times, with perfect accuracy, producing a small dent in its bark and shattering the bones in my hand.
I returned to form and gathered chi, yet the pain was too much to bear. I told Yan Hui, that I could not strike any longer. He reached across and grabbed my broken fist. He began to squeeze. “You have learnt nothing!” he shouted.
He began to squeeze even harder... He smiled as I attempted to hide the pain. And then he let go. With tears in my eyes, I returned to stance.
I watched him reach up and pluck a leaf from the tree and let it float off into the wind. “That part of the tree will surely die.
The tree will not be the same without it. That’s damage, is it not? With my bare hands, no?”
He continued: “You sit with a broken hand, I will pluck a few more leaves. Maybe I will pluck them all, and enjoy my tea.”
That’s exactly what he did. Every single leaf. The odd tea broke, before walking back to his quarters. With his hands perfectly intact.
As punishment for my ignorance, Po ordered me to stand in front of the tree in a crane position until the leaves regrew the following year.
Rain. Snow. Cold. Wind. I did not move. For 365 days.
My hand healed. The leaves returned.
And so it happens that on this day, exactly 500 years ago, Master Po died.
At 5am, after morning exercises, Master Po addressed the adepts regarding a mission to eradicate the Hyarushi Clan. They were masters in the art of poisons, a cowardly, yet highly effective skill.
Death delivered in such sneaky ways, with no hope for the unaware targets angered Po. He decided to destroy their clan absolutely.
Po warned us that the mission was so dangerous, as to be deemed impossible with no hope of return.
Upon this announcement most students left the courtyard without shame. The concept of shame was not recognised atop Wudan, only action or inaction.
I’m not entirely sure why I raised my hand, but it was raised - and along with 1 other adept I agreed to accompany Master Po on a mission of murder.
Total annihilation was the only acceptable outcome.
I packed my things and said goodbye to everybody I had trained with, I bowed to each and every student. Po’s words were golden - if he deemed this a suicide mission; I believed him. The walk was many weeks, in silence.
Nobody spoke. We simply followed Po in a straight line. One behind the other. Through forest and across mountain ranges.
When we laid eyes on the Hyarushi encampment there was no pause for thought or tactics, we simply continued our march. Following Pos steps in perfect unison. Left. Right. Left. Met by over 500 warriors, the killing was very personal.
Avoiding blades and poison darts, I even had the bad fortune of staining my shirt with my dying enemies blood, not once but twice.
My finger techniques to the eye were lethal, but I had yet to make them bloodless as per Po’s command.
Atop Wudan we were taught to kill bloodlessly. Blood on my shirt was unacceptable. Even in the heat of battle, I feared Po would spot my stained shirt and later reprimand me, so I drifted slightly further from him and continued to fight.
As bodies fell the final hurdle drew closer, to penetrate the personal tent of the Hyarushi Master Yiho. Not only a master of 77 existing styles, from Tiger to Rat, he was also a poison expert.
Before the mission, Master Po had only one instruction. He made it clear - an adept stood no chance at all against Yiho. Yiho must be engaged by Po and Po alone.
As we fought our way toward the Masters tent, deep inside the encampment, I felt a twinge of emotion as I saw my fellow adept drop hard from a poison dart, never to rise again.
The dart entered his ankle as he retracted a head high kick - which had crushed the skull of his adversary. For my momentary emotion, empty handed, I felt the brush of a katana.
Afraid to once again lose focus, I did not look at the adepts body again. I heard them stabbing him ferociously as he laid unconscious on the ground - mocking Wudan with howls.
Besides those killed for disobedience by Po himself, this was the first known death of an adept. And as fate would have it, the howls are exactly what convinced Yiho, the Master of Poison, to leave his tent and join the battle. Yiho came without visible weapon, and walked slowly and calmly into the fray.
His back was turned to me as he walked into the battle field. Directly towards Po himself. I briefly considered killing my two hot opponents and charging to strike him by surprise, but I remembered Master Po’s command.
Do not engage Yiho.
Po had 8 clan members attacking him at once, and as if practicing Kata was striking them one by one, in a circle, in order. Over and over.
However, as soon as Po and Yiho locked eyes, he ended the lives of all 8 clansmen instantly. A single flash of his left hand, one movement, ripped all of their throats out simultaneously.
It seemed impossible - how one upward hand movement could disable 8 different warriors, yet I was wise enough to know that my eyes were not sophisticated enough to see the true nature of the movement.
The results spoke for themselves. Yiho came empty handed, yet his flowing robes and hooded face presented an unknown challenge. Legend held that he had single-handedly killed 600 spearmen from a Shogunate, sent with the sole purpose of eradicating him and his followers.
Upon the moment of contact, army vs army, he had summarily dismissed all his kind, and stood alone against the spearmen.
Details become vague, as there were no living witnesses, but Yiho had clearly prevailed. For the first time in my time atop Wudan, I was scared. I was scared for Po’s safety. I never before believed he might lose.
There were few clansmen left. I snapped necks, as Yiho and Po locked eyes. I didn’t want to repeat my mistake from before - so I focused on the task at hand. Staying alive. I only caught their showdown out of the corner of my eye.
Yihos flowing robes made it near impossible to see exactly what he was doing. How he was moving. Where his hands were.
Hidden pockets, throwing backwards over his shoulders as he spun in a whirlwind. Weapons revealed for a single strike, concealed and replaced.
Po used the same movements I had seen atop the meadow, darting between butterflies, to avoid strike after strike. Hidden projectile after another. And even as hidden darts flew past the cheek of Po, the distance had been closed.
Po landed the forbidden Hibiyashi, breaking his own collarbone to prevent spinal collapse. However it was not Po’s bone that made the loudest noise. Yiho dropped in a heap. Po had executed a perfect kill.
Cervical spine rupture, exploding all of today and all of his tomorrows.
And yet the story is not over, for on Master Po’s cheek was a red welt. A dart had punctured his skin. I had seen the dart damage the adept, the poison thinned the blood - and even from a tiny puncture, the fallen adept had squirted blood all over the battlefield.
However Po was not bleeding. Masters body had deflected all available blood from surface skin, deep into internal uses, for that last scintilla of strength, endurance and fortitude in the fight.
Only now, that the deed was done, and Yiho lie dead, did nature take its course, and Master Po began to bleed.
Po sat in lotus position and let himself bleed, making no attempt to address his wound. Silently I came to his aid, but he presented his palm suddenly, his last active movement... stopping me in my tracks.
He did not want me too close to the toxins coursing through his cut face, fearing that some might be airborne, and so he protected me with his last moment.
As an adept, I obeyed. I stood back, and took the herbal mixture from my pocket.
With a broken spear, I used the calloused portion of my hand to cause fire, scarring myself for a lifetime. I added water to the herbs and heated the mixture, all the while Po sat still. I was panicking.
This tea had been given to injured adepts for millennia. I had packed it for myself. I didn’t know what else to do. I focused on making the tea as quickly as I could. Po had died. In front of me.
He wasn’t moving. I disobeyed. I had to TRY and help him. I came in slowly, not wanting to startle him. I did not want to die by an accidental gesture of his hand.
Such things have happened, among adepts and Masters. When I was close, I realized that it was worse than I could have imagined.
His eyes had glazed over, and he wasn’t breathing. And so it happens that on this day, exactly 500 years ago, Master Po died. I could not be certain that he could hear, but I tested the air with my voice... and I said, “Master, I bring healing tea.”
I placed it in his open palm. He didn’t move. He did not reply. I stepped back and sat next to the fire. I stared at Po as the sun went down. And into the darkness.
All night I listened to the silence, but there was no movement. I stared into the stillness, but there was no movement of Master’s chest.
I suppressed a deep cry, the effort ripping an important abdominal muscle. What matter. The fight was over. I do not remember falling asleep - my handmade fire had gone dead, and the cold had awakened me.
The second I was conscious, I whipped my head to where Po had been sitting, he had not moved.
Frost upon his face. The cold night was enough to kill a man. With or without the poison.
I stood up. Suppressing tears. I understand that now it was time to say goodbye, to leave, to return to Wudan and tell the story of the Hyarushi clans eradication at the cost of Po’s life.
I picked a weapon for the long walk back. A sword. And as I admired it for strength, I noticed something in the reflection of the blade... The frost on Po’s brow had begun to melt.
At first, I thought it was the action of a rising sun - but all around the frost kept her grip. Water began to flow, like sweat, dripping down Po’s face.
I impulsively rushed to touch him, to embrace and share my bodily warmth, but, slowly and effectively he extended the same palm I knew well.
And he spoke one word. “Stop.”
The cup of herbal tea I prepared the night before was still sitting in his other palm. It had frozen to ice in the night, but his body was now so hot, the tea was melted and steaming hot.
He lifted the cup and finished it in one gulp.
He ushered for me to come close. I walked up. Crying tears of joy, and sat down in front of him.
In a full voice, if a bit hushed, he asked. “Why is there blood on your shirt?”
Upon return to Wudan, he punished me severely.
In the middle of the darkest night Wudan had seen for over 400 years, Po woke me with a sharp slap to my forehead.
He commanded me to meet him in the courtyard. The night was perfectly still. The air smelt of the moon. The blue light filled Wudan and Po seemed uneasy.
To call this uncharacteristic is an understatement. Nothing troubled him.
But something was tonight... Anything powerful enough to trouble PO was beyond my comprehension, so I asked no detail.
Master Po sat in lotus position and commanded me to do the same. Once I sat opposite him he began to speak. “I am going to tell you the story, of an argument had between a tiger and a fly.”
He took a short pause, and turned his head towards the sky, as if he was acknowledging the gods of his storytelling, commanding them to pay attention.
“The tiger argued, that he was king of the jungle and that no one took notice of the fly. The fly simply laughed and stated that tiger was no king, as he couldn’t catch him.”
“Did the tiger try to swipe him?” I asked. Po stared straight through me. The same look I had seen him give opponents before taking their lives. He ignored my question.
“Eventually,” Po continued. “The fly died a silent death, unknown to the world.” “The very same day the tiger was poached, and his fur hung on the wall of the regions richest warlord.”
Po stood up and began to walk back to his quarters. “I don’t understand?” I blurted out. “What is the lesson of this story?”
Po continued walking and answered me without turning around. “There is no point to this story. Everybody dies in the end.”
For the following 1000 years of my study atop Wudan mountain, I never saw Po uneasy like he was that night. I never knew the reason.
Master Po was very critical.
It is difficult to not be pessimistic, when you are eternally correct.
Of all my time atop Wudan, I struggle to think of a conversation that took place without him correcting someone, or something.
Po had a particular dislike for dreams, which always confused myself and the other adepts. Each morning he would line us up, and force us to tell him what we dreamt of the night before. He would often interrupt loudly and visibly angry.
On this particular morning he started with me. He pointed, and I began to speak. “In my dream, I saw three trees. Each different colors. You were there and ordered me to climb the red one, but when I approached it, it became blue...” I began.
He interrupted me. “Inaccurate and imprecise!” he screamed. He struck me hard in the face before pointing at the next adept.
This reprimand was particularly upsetting, as his accurate insults left me in a difficult position. I struggle to think of any dream, had by anyone, which was neither inaccurate or imprecise. The following morning he once again pointed at me to recite my dream.
Surrendering to further beating, I began to speak exactly as before. “Last night, I dreamt I was on a cloud, high atop the temple.
It was early morning, and as all of the other students stood exercising, I sat atop this cloud and simply watched.” Po’s expression did not change. “So you dream of mastery?” He ushered me over to the exercise floor. “Only practice breeds mastery, not dreams.”
I walked over, and began my forms. Atop Wudan we had 7 basic forms, a demonstration of the 7 Wudan styles. Po stood and watched me without moving.
A few hours later, after reciting every form, I looked over to Po for instruction, but he did not move or speak. Unsure what to do, I simply started again.
Hours passed. The Sun faded and the day finished.
The darkness came and went. I had practiced all throughout the night and was well into the afternoon of the following day. Po was still standing in the exact same position, even the wind which shook the trees did not dare ruffle the fabric of his robe.
He was perfect stillness. Resisting exhaustion, I continued to train. Until deep in the next night I heard Po shout: “Enough!”
I had not had a moments rest for two days. Not a sip of water. Reciting forms in the summer sun had left my mouth so dry I was unable to speak.
The only force which kept me going was the fear of Pos punishment for stopping before I was told. I drank a large cup of water and went straight to bed, I slept a full 3 hours before the 5am wakeup call. It felt as if only a minute had passed.
I was so tired, I remember only darkness. As we stood in a line, PO once again pointed at me to begin reciting the story of my dreams from the night before.
For the first time since my ascent to Wudan, I had not dreamed anything. “I did not dream last night, I was so tired. I don’t remember anything but black,” I said to Po.
He didn’t reply. Simply pointed at the next adept.
Po travelled alone through the forest in a harsh winter, he reached a snow covered clearing.
In the clearing stood the largest tiger in the known world, his name was Jin.
Through snarling teeth and frozen breath the tiger and Po held locked eyes. Bitter wind tore through the trees.
A few seconds passed, and silently, a mutual agreement was made. Both Jin and Po were hungry, yet food was not the most pressing concern.
They were smart enough to understand that the true enemy was cold. They would huddle together for warmth to survive the night - and fight the following day. When they awoke the next morning. Po said only two words before inviting Jin’s attack.
The words spoken have never been disclosed - yet they inspired peace. The tiger agreed to become Po’s pet, and they travelled the frozen wasteland together from there on out.
Sleeping together for warmth at night, and hunting together during the day.
When they returned to civilization, many people asked: “Do you not fear the tiger? What if he turns on you? Strikes your neck as you sleep? He doesn’t need you for warmth anymore...”
Po replied: “Why would he do that? Jin has no wish to die.”
On my last night atop Wudan, Master Po and I sat atop the largest rock.
We sat together with our eyes closed.
42 breaths per minute, in perfect sync. Such was the way of Wudan.
At 3am, when the night was darkest I opened my eyes and saw Master Po staring at the moon.
Tears streamed down his face. His breathing pattern hadn't broken. "Why are you crying?" I asked.
He didn't reply. I turned my head to look at the moon, and cried with him. It was at this point Tateshinkai was mastered.
For the first 1000 years atop Wudan mountain I was tasked with fetching the water from the stream at its base.
The walk would take many days, and occasionally Master Po would accompany me and ask me questions about Zen.
This particular night as we approached the stream stood the most beautiful girl I had ever seen.
She was standing unable to cross a puddle of mud in fear of staining her pearl silk robe.
I was always warned to stay away from beautiful women, they distract you from inner rage, they tame your soul with sparkling eyes and it is impossible to be completely lethal when indulging in their beauty.
Therefore for the next 4000 years of training, I would never feel a woman's touch. As supreme grandmaster of Wudan mountain — Master Po's desire for women died many thousand years before.
She screamed out to us for help, and without a smile or saying a word Master Po helped her across the mud and she was on her way.
I contemplated for many hours before I finally spoke out "Master! It was only mud, she could of crossed herself.
She was lazy and vain. Why did you carry her?"
He smiled and replied: "It has been nearly 6 hours while she has plagued your thoughts and you think you should have not carried her?"
Atop Wudan, Master Po snapped necks at will. Assessment was continuous, never ending.
Sometimes, mid morning exercise - he would snatch life from a training adept.
To us, the adepts technique looked as good as any of the students. Nobody knew exactly why.
All we could be certain of, is that death comes instantly. Quickly. We didn’t spend time admiring the body.
We refocused and continued training. Honing our skills. It was important we were always learning.... Because Master Po snapped necks at will.
During my training atop Wudan, I heard whispers about the story of THE JADE TIGER.
A story reserved for the graduation of Wudan.
After 500 years of training, after 500 years of absolute obedience, Po himself would sit and recite the story for the worthy adepts.
I had once witnessed it from afar, the mannerisms, the hand movements.
It would take one full day from sunrise to sunset.
THE JADE TIGER contained the final lessons needed to make a mark upon the world.
The final study and instruction to be indestructible, as was Po himself.
The finishing education for a fully formed Wudan adept to begin a new life as a master.
This story was sacred - and Master Po himself was the only person who knew it.
The other masters in the temple who once enjoyed a rendition had been commanded to forget the story of THE JADE TIGER instantly once it had been told.
The lessons remained, but as was their absolute obedience to Po, they had wiped the story itself from their memory.
It completed them, yet they no longer knew it, they could not tell it.
ONLY Master Po could tell it.
In the coldest darkest nights, the wonder of what could possibly be told in the story of THE JADE TIGER kept me warm.
Considering the harsh lessons Master Po would SHOW to us.
I found it interesting that the final, and most difficult lessons would be TOLD to us in a story.
Over many hundreds of years, rumours of the power of THE JADE TIGER leaked outside of the temple.
People of the town spoke of it.
The 500 years of work were uninteresting to the village folk. But the STORY. Many a drunken bandit dreamed of skipping the lifetime of dedication as a Wudan adept, but to hear the story and instantly gain Po’s powers.
Bravery and groups go hand in hand, and one day a group of 100 heavily armed bandits arrived at Wudans gates as us adepts swept the courtyard.
Po calmly walked out to confront them, alone.
“Tell us the story of THE JADE TIGER!” They commanded.
The 100 bandits roared and waved their swords in the air. A threat.
With his head perfectly still, Po’s eyes moved slowly from left to right, calculating the effort required to kill all single-handedly….
Then, he smiled.
“Very well, it’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed it myself. Please, take a seat.”
The bandits were surprised, and relieved, as they expected a fight. But Po was known as a man who does not lie.
Po is too honorable to trick an opponent into a state of unreadiness.
The bandits sat crossed-legged and like excited children, gave their FULL attention.
They were about to learn THE SECRETS OF WUDAN, and true to his word Po began his rendition of THE JADE TIGER.
We continued sweeping the already spotless floor from sunrise to sunset, afraid to stop without Po’s command and watched in awe as he told 100 unworthy bandits Wudan’s greatest secret.
I was angry. I couldn’t believe it. WHAT am I training for?
I swept the floor and stared into the field, watching Po’s rendition. I could see the mannerisms, the hand movements.
And exactly like the rendition I witnessed before, exactly as the sun set, Po bowed.
The story had been told.
The secret had been told.
I watched as the bandits stood up and began muttering, trying to identify the lessons in what they had just heard.
Scratching their heads. Confused. Disappointed.
The crowd slowly grew louder and angrier.
Eventually, a burly bandit drew his sword and pointed it at Po’s neck.
“THAT story was Wudan’s greatest secret?
I didn’t LEARN anything. I don’t FEEL anything! YOU TRICKED US!
TELL US THE REAL STORY”
Po, unwavering with the blade against his throat calmly replied.
“I do not lie. I told you the legend of THE JADE TIGER”
The bandit scowled and pressed the sword’s tip deeper into Po’s neck.
“WHY do students have to enslave themselves for 500 years, to hear THAT??”
Maybe I blinked at exactly the wrong time, or perhaps I was a little too far away to see Po’s arms move.
Although it seemed as if he remained perfectly still, I heard an audible gasp from the still sitting bandits.
The burly bandit’s sword was broken clear in two as he collapsed into a lifeless pile on the field.
In a final gracious act to an undeserving heathen, Po decided to answer his question.
Po slowly leaned down and whispered in the ear of the corpse.
“So they can understand”.
Atop Wudan each student had his own sleeping quarters.
A small stone room with a rug to sleep on.
A straw pillow.
And a tiny wooden table to place your perfectly folded uniform upon.
But I had one extra item…
An item I had earnt through one of the harshest tests a Wudan adept had yet to suffer in the history of trainings. A mission of mercy, delivering vital supplies to villagers trapped behind The Debarred Ridge.
The story of this journey and the people trapped there is to be told another time.
But know that the scars I bare and the pain I endured were significant enough to get a nod of approval from Master PO himself.
I heard from a senior priest it had been many thousands of years since that slight head movement, his nod, had been witnessed towards an adept who had yet to complete training.
It was a full 3 years of recovery from the physical pain, mainly spent unable to move, alone on my rug in the corner of my room.
And in Master Pos infinite mercy, he provided me with this extra item for my recovery.
A candle which never extinguished through flame. Never melted.
An endless source of heat and light.
An endless source of hope.
She simply burnt.
It is impossible for me to use something as primitive as language to explain how the light and heat gave me strength on the coldest of nights.
To say she was all I had, is not an understatement, it’s an insult to the adoration I had for this flame - consistent and never wavering.
She was everything to me.
As long as my candle was alight, I knew I would make it through the night.
I made it through every other night she had bore flame and although I would worry my body didnt have the strength to keep me breathing, I knew I will wake up and see her. I always did.
Years after the ordeal, with my recovery complete, Po had never taken her from me.
She remained in my room, leaving my quarters as the only one amongst thousands of adepts with an extra item.
When I would finish exercises, when the long days were complete, I would excitedly rush back to my room to admire her. To pay respect to her. I would sit and stare as a mark of appreciation.
She gave me so much, so I thought it was only fair that I gave back via adoration.
One cold and rainy morning I was practising my Tigers Claw in the court yard.
Po was observing the students from a seated position, as he always had, but something was different today.
He looked exactly the same, but everything just FELT different.
I can’t tell you if he was enraged or heart broken, but he was feeling something so strongly that every adept sensed it.
I assume it was this feeling that provoked him to stand.
He stood and began to perform the 4th Tiger Claw form with such speed and ferocity that a gust of wind erupted from his hands and knocked all adepts to the ground.
Like a shockwave, all of us flew straight backwards.
From the ground I heard him call an end to exercises.
Disorientated I stood and stumbled back to my room.
I was horrified to see that this very gust of wind, had extinguished my candle, and I couldn’t get her to light again.
I tried everything.
I destroyed the only comforts I had. I ripped my straw pillow apart. I scarred my hands for life generating friction, to create a fire, and used the straw in a fruitless attempt to relight the candle.
All night I sat, strand of straw by strand of straw to re light her, to no avail.
She was dead.
She would not hold flame no matter how much love or care or pain I dedicated.
This went on for weeks. I would finish training with a glimpse of hope, a new idea, a new dedication to do ANYTHING it takes to bring my flame back.
But no matter how many of my worldly treasures I destroyed, no matter how I scarred myself - she was gone.
Her body remained. But her flame had died.
And I had never felt such despair.
She was there for me through the worst times of my life. I would never have made it without her.
Even worse, I would never have the chance to replace my room with a forbidden item unless I suffered the indescribable pain I had endured before - another mission to The Debarred Ridge.
I didnt believe I was strong enough to do it again. I was afraid.
I would train as before, I would not disobey, I was a loyal and prudent adept but my heart was dead.
When my days ended, instead of feeling excited to rush into my room, I felt empty and sad.
My room was more barren than ever before as I had destroyed my only comforts in the desperate attempts to bring her back to life.
I would stare at her, lifeless.
I began to hate her.
What else should I feel?
How could I love the candle which has no flame? How could I love something which gives me nothing?
How could I love something which has taken my last comforts and through brutal stubbornness refuses to be warm.
I began considering the inconceivable.
To once again embark on a mission I will likely not survive, for the chance to get a new candle.
It’s very likely I won’t survive twice, but why live empty? Better to die. So I prepared myself to once again ask Po for a mission to The Debarred Ridge.
If I succeeded, I could get another candle and my life would be complete again.
If I died, I wouldn't be sad anymore.
In the middle of the nights, as I shivered on the floor, its the only thing that made sense.
Near sure I would never return, I prepared my final speech.
My final goodbyes.
And I began by reciting them to her.
The candle remained upright and attentive as I spoke and once I had finished the rendition, many hours long, I tried one final time to light her.
She did not light.
I already had no hope.
But I knew at this moment she would never light again. I went from no hope, to KNOWING.
I cried that night. All I did was cry.
The next day, I trained and finished my chores, the same as everyday atop Wudan.
As I walked back to my quarters I felt the familiar warmth of excitement. Knowing I would soon be going on a suicide mission had removed the feeling of emptiness I had been enduring for months.
Even though I knew she would never light again, I was excited to see her, even if she was cold.
Why not? Cold or warm, if I die, I will never see her again.
She was dark and cold but time was running out. There was no time for negativity.
I sat and stared at her for most of the night, I enjoyed her, just like the olden days. I would say, I loved her the same as when she would light for me.
The thought of losing her was enough for me to appreciate her once again.
The following day, exercises completed, I found myself running back to my room fully excited as I was before in the days when she would light.
I did not need her to give me heat for me to give her love.
I could love her just the same. I could be happy just the same.
My emptiness was gone. I had self generated the warmth she used to give to me and projected it onto her as an unwavering dedication. I loved her the same as I always had.
I was happy again.
And this left me not wanting to commit to the mission in The Debarred Ridge.
But I told myself I would.
And lying to myself would bare an internal shame that I wasn’t able to bare.
I needed guidance, so I decided to risk my life and approach Master Po directly.
The following day, head bowed, I approached him and asked for his time.
He did not reply, but he looked at me without killing me, which was the best I could have hoped for.
I told him the entire story.
The love the pain, the tears and smiles. I described every day I had loved her and how it felt when she had gone cold. I told him I loved her again, although it is a one sided love it is enough to excite my soul and satisfy me.
I said that I no longer wanted to die.
That I didn’t want to do the mission, but I had committed to it. I didnt want to break my bond to myself. I didn’t know what to do.
Po listened. From start to finish. He did not move, he did not blink. But he did listen.
He told me that I would not not be permitted to re enter The Debarred Ridge.
That my mission will not take place by his decree, and my promises to myself remain intact.
But he also said something else to me. Words I will not repeat.
But I knew what I had to do.
I still remember her.
I dream of her in the days she was the only light I had in the dark. The only warmth I had in the cold. She was my strength and my hope.
This is how I remember her.
I dont often think to the days she had gone cold, to my attempts to reignite her. To the times I would flood her with my dedication and receive nothing in return.
I have banished those thoughts from memory.
I only remember the days she was everything to me.
The days she gave everything to me.
I dont think of her any other way since I threw her away.