Banner credit to Nitemare Shape. Thanks Boss!
Alex would be waiting in his dojo, the red mats were out and the crowd was gone. There was a decent group of about 10 people who were practicing their movements on wooden dummies that looked like large wooden boxing bags with pegs sticking out of them. Alex sat there observing his students, they were all going full speed with sounds of grunts and hands against wood echoing throughout the area. His eyes would keep watch over every student it seemed.
The place was still a cement building besides the red mats that had been placed down all over the place, so there was not much change to how it looked. There was a door to the backroom as well off to the far right of Alex. Indented into the wall would be what almost looked like a shrine, but wasn’t it was simply wooden stairs up to a chair, which was where Alex had been sitting when Nicky had entered into the tournament. He sat in the back close to the spot where his chair was but still in front of the steps he seemed completely at peace and calm with everything that was going on. To his left there was a janitor who was cleaning the cement floors with a pressure washer which was hopefully going to make the place smell better.
Nicky’s bare feet slapped down the hallway. She stopped momentarily right at the door and tapped her left foot, listening, then bent down and plucked a piece of glass from between the toes. She examined it for a second, then shrugged, tossed the offending debris over her shoulder, and kicked the door open. Entering the dojo, her nose crinkled at the stench of effort and sweat, and she glanced about until she spotted Alex across a pair of students.“What’s shakin’, old man? Ready to teach me how to kick ass better, or are all these kids gonna have to make me prove myself or something?”
She glared around her as she almost stampeded
through the practising customers. There were several grumbles, but no one seemed ready to attack her, which she expected after the display she had made at the tournament.“Or, even worse!”
She cupped her hands in front of her mouth in mock horror. “Are you too injured from the druggie to stand up? Did he break a foot or something?”
Alex’s eyes would watch this little girl walk into his dojo, barefooted and with a loud mouth. It made him laugh almost. He wouldn’t even hesitate but to stand up from his sitting position. “No, I’m not hurt, thanks for your concern.”
Crossing his arms as he looked around at the student before saying to them. “Take a 10 minute break. Come back and continue where you left off, remember, as hard and as fast as you can.”
he would start stepping towards Nicky with a grin on his face, “You have seen way too many movies little girl. I am not going to test you, as I already have come to the conclusion that you can become the best Martial Artist this world has ever seen.”
Chuckling at himself and shaking his head he thought about why he would ever give such praise to a girl who already had a hard time shutting her mouth.”Who do you belong to Nicky? Who is in charge of you? I would like to talk with them.“
Alex would say this as he got a medicine ball out of a chest close by the medicine ball weighed about 15 pounds; but he would give it to Nicky anyway. “Hold this, and do this.
he would show her that both of his hands were on opposite sides of the ball as he began to move his hands where one would guid that side of the ball to the top and the other would guid it to the bottom, his hands would then switch roles, where the one that went to the bottom would go to the top. After he showed her he would hold the ball out, if her hands went out to grab it he would simply drop it in her hands.”Uh, first off, fuck you no one owns me, old man. But as to who’s in charge of me, that’s...up for debate? I mean, first it was the cops, then it was the lady at the halfway house, then that place got shot up and I was back with the cops, and now it’s the weird-ass pair of doctors who wanna try and figure out my ‘gift’ or whatever. You can talk with ‘em, I ain’t gonna stop you, but they’re kooky as fuck with all their feel good messages and shit.”
She glanced down at the ball being offered. ”What, you wanna play basketball or something? I don’t see any hoops, Mister Miyagi.” “Just do what I showed you Nicky.”
Alex would say in reference to the ball, it was odd he had really no care for her insults or her childlike behavior, but the way he was acting made it seem like he could care less. Walking over to the janitor he would whisper something into the man’s ear. The man nodded as he walked away and passed the red mats and into the back.
Alex would walk back over to Nicky and correct her form with his own hands, if she was actually doing the exercise. “Listen. I need you to tell whoever is supposed to take care of you, that you are going to china for a few weeks.”
he would pause as he chuckled and looked at Nicky, “Oh yeah, surprise you are coming with me to china for a few weeks, I could train you here. But nothing against the talent and abnormal things here, but in China, there is a plethora of harder people to fight.”
he would say it as it was almost a matter-of-fact. A grin across his face as he stood in front of her and waited for her response.”Wait wait wait. First you tell me I have some hidden potential or some shit like out of a cartoon, and now you want to go to China? Like, Chinese China?”
She took the ball and started doing the motions he had demonstrated. ”You want to take me, a fifteen year old girl, with you, an adult stranger, to China. You don’t think that’s...a little fucking weird, old man? Like, the cops are gonna think you’re a slaver or something.”
Her eyes narrowed slightly and she stopped moving the ball. ”You’re not, like, a kiddie diddler, are you? Cause I could wreck your shit if you try some bullshit. Ain’t no rings in justice.” “Listen Nicky, if that’s what you think, feel free to not come along. But that’s where I am going regardless if you join me or not. I am simply offering you to join, if you’d like we can invite one of your...”
he would pause as he thought of the word before raising a finger in the air, “Over positive doctors.”
He would say as he watched her roll the ball in her hands and nodded. “Quit going so fast, it needs to be a fluid motion. Don’t let your arms raise up and down, you are controlling the ball.”
he would say a few of the trainees would start to talk about when they had to first do that but would shut up the second Alex looked at them. “Here’s the deal. You don’t think you are learning anything or you think I’m going to try something, feel free to yell and scream and walk away, I won’t go after you, but if you think for even one moment, that what you are learning will be useful, I would ask of you to stick with it until the end, and if you do. I promise you, very few people will be able to beat you.”
The teenager continued to scowl at the man for a beat more, then shrugged. ”Whatever. It’s not like you could do much to me anyway. And I am not the scream and runaway type. And I really don’t give a crap what the cops think of anything. You should probably talk to the docs, though. As annoying as they are, I don’t think they need to be worrying about me.”
The ball’s motion smoothed out, but quickly went to jerking motions again. ”So, in the interests of what you just said, oh Wise and Powerful Oz, what the fuck is the point of this thing?”
Her tongue stuck out just a bit as she tried to keep her motions smooth, and it was obviously having no effect in tiring out her arms even slightly. If anything, she was moving it faster now that she was getting used to the motion, even if it was still sloppy. ”And how long do I have to keep doing this? This isn’t some wax on bullshit, is it? I’m not looking for some deep, philosophical knowledge in the surface of the ball, am I? Because I am not equipped do deal with hippy shit.” “Yes, let me take care of the doctors. Okay? I will call them and take full responsibility, I am sure that they would be happy to have you out of their care.”
He would walk back over to her and sigh, “Keep the ball in a fluid motion. No, this isn’t a wax on wax off thing. This is how you know what your opponent will do before you do it.”
He would say this as he sighed with a grin as he watched her get sloppier than before.
He would walk up to her and take the ball and put his hands underneath her wrists and forearms, he would begin to do a circular motion which basically forced her arms to go with it. “Go ahead try and hit me with one of your arms.”
he would say nodding, whatever arm she would try to use, his goal was that he would shoot his arm forward and flick her nose, blocking whatever arm was suppose to punch him by using his arm as well as showing that he could go on the offensive at the same time.
She paused for a moment. If she tried to hit him, he’d know she was going to punch because his hands were on his arms. And he was tricky, she remember that. Well, two can play at this game,
she thought. Instead of using either arm to punch, she thrust the ball forward with both hands as hard as she could.
He would feel both of her arms tensing up he instantly shot both of his arms at her face. Those arms would push Nicky’s arms upwards which would in turn push the medicine ball to skid off the top of his head since he ducked just barely. His hands going towards her face would stop before flicking her nose with both of his hands. “Do you see what I mean?”
he would say before standing up and taking a breath as he walked over and nudged the ball in her direction. “It’s not about speed, it’s about learning the movement, when you control your opponent’s movements, you have won the fight even if you are only 5 seconds into it.””This is like in that Art of War stuff, right? The coach made us read it, but I didn’t get through the first chapter before everything...went to shit.”
She stopped the ball with her foot, then passed her foot around it twice, keeping one edge of the appendage on the surface of the ball at all times. She then slipped her toes underneath it and tried to flick it up, but sent it flying off into a wall instead.”That thing’s pretty heavy, huh? Got a soccer ball in here somewhere? I am way better with my legs than I ever was with my hands. Maybe I should be kicking. I’ve seen some of those movies where dudes keep kicking the other guys legs to keep him from moving around. Looks pretty fuckin’ cool, and I bet I could do that easier than with punches and shit.”
Alex chuckled at the idea of it being from the ‘Art of War’. “Not quite from that but it has a similar message, you are right.”
he would say as he watched her play with the ball. He would watch the ball fly into the wall. Alex still smiled at her, even at her incessant talking, berating, and language, he never faltered to give her a smile. “No, we don’t have a soccer ball here, we will get to kicks when we get there; for now this is to help you with two things..”
He would walk over to the ball pick it up and walk back over to Nicky dropping it in front of her. “It works on, patience, and proper form. You could have seen every martial art movie in the world and know how each move works. But if you don’t have proper form; it will all fall apart..”
Alex would walk over to a stone pillar where he would stand in front of it that grin still plastered on his face as he looked at Nicky. “The patience, is one of the keys to your chi. There are many people who fight, but few who can fight with their whole being. If you don’t have patience, you will give up before you are done. You will give up before you can do this.”
He would look back to the pillar and take a deep breath, throwing a single punch the entire cement pillar would crack from where his fist was, but the back of the pillar seemed to explode into shrapnel of cement flying against the wall while the front remained intact. “What I want to teach you will not be what I teach my ordinary students. I believe you can perfect your form and everything. As you see, the front remains only cracked. The back however, is shattered, we do not fight for real to look cool, or because we feel we want to fight; when we fight, we fight to protect ourselves and the ones we care about. When we fight for real...”
Alex walked back over and knelt down to look at Nicky in the eye. “We fight to deal massive internal damage, because if I have to fight to protect myself or the ones I care about. I won’t hold back.”
Nicky stopped in her motions with the ball when the punch landed into the concrete. Her eyes went wide. ”Holy crap, dude! Oh! You should try that on me! I wanna see what happens!”
She was almost hopping up and down in excitement, bouncing on the balls of her bare feet. ”I bet you I can take it! Some dude tried to stab me in the eye and it didn’t do anything!”
Alex chuckled and nodded, he figured that she wanted to see ‘cool’ things and of course, without fail she wanted him to try on her. “Sure. I’ll try it on you.”
he’d still have that same grin on his face as he walked up to her. He took a breath as he got into a stance. His punch was fast, faster than when she had been fighting him in the tournament. If it hit, it would hit her in the solar plexus. Any normal person would have either been dead, winded, or on the ground from the pain.
Nicky felt the wind go out of her lungs, but without the spasms that would normally effect the diaphragm, she easily refilled them. Otherwise, except for having to take two steps back for balance, she felt completely fine. ”See? Told ya I’d be fine. So when do I get to crack concrete? Also, aren’t you gonna need to get that fixed?”
She glanced past him at the still settling dust from his blow to the pillar.
Alex would look at Nicky who seemed to be just fine a chuckle came from him. “This is why I said you’ll become the best martial artist. But you have a lot to learn before you can.”
He would look back at the pillar his eyebrows raising before he shrugged. “It will get fixed, don’t worry. As for when you get to break concrete. That depends on how well you do in your training, and if we can get you to connect to your chi.”
He would kneel down as he handed the ball back to her. “Like I said, first comes patience though. Without it, there’s no way you will survive this training before quitting, no matter how much your body can take. If your will and your mind are weak you are as well.”
The girl rolled her eyes with a groan, but, surprisingly, actually followed the instruction, ignoring the stares from the other students and focusing on trying to get her movements correct. Within a few minutes, however, she growled in impatience and looked back up at him. ”How long do I have to do this? It’s been hours already.”
Alex smiled at that, “It has only been a few minutes.”
he’d say as he walked over to a chest and got out an hourglass. He would sit it down in front of her as the sands would begin to fall. “Go until the time here runs out, I will be still watching you. But I am going to call the people you placed as a contact on your registration form, get the process of you going to China ready. Oh… and don’t worry about a passport. That will be taken care of. Now focus on keeping the ball in the same location. Don’t let it move up or down!”
He would almost sound like he was enjoying the fact that she was hating it. In fact, he was, he loved to hear the complaints of new students. It reminded him of when he had to do the exercise for 24 hours as a punishment by one of the monks when he stopped doing it only 10 minutes in. ”Ugh. Fiiiine.”
She stopped for a second, fishing something out of her tanktop, and held out a card to Alex. ”Here. That should patch you directly to Crawford, he’s the psych guy. Say something like I seem to be doing really well with physical exercise or something, he’ll probably be fuckin’ overjoyed that I’m-”
here she held out her hands and changed her voice to a mocking imitation, ”making progress in my adaptation and treatment of my issues.”
She rolled her eyes again and went back to rolling the ball around.
Alex would take the card and nod to her, walking away with it in his hand as he pulled out a cellphone to call Doctor Crawford he would dial the number as he walked into the back room while Nicky worked on the ball.
(The next day)
Alex would park the car outside of a completely different airport than the one that is usually used, Nicky would hear him on the phone. “Yes, Aunty, it is important. I promise you I’m not just taking a trip to sight see, I have business there…….. Yes…...Yes… Don’t worry I will advertise your brand for you when I win a tournament. Yes I know that they are going to be a pain in the ass. I’ll take your pilot out to eat sometime in return, sound good?”
he would nod to the phone, “Okay. Love you, bye.
he’d roll his eyes as he looked to Nicky, “Ever been on a plane before? Or even better, a private one?”.
he’d grin at her as he grabbed his suitcase from the trunk.
Nicky could barely contain her laughter during the phone call, pressing her hands over her mouth. She finally exploded as he hung up. ”Pfffft hahahahhaaaa! You call her ‘Auntie’? What are you, five? And no, I have never been on a plane before. We drove when we moved to Philly, before that fuckwad gave a buncha stupid morons superpowers.”
She clambered out of the car and stared around. ”You must be loaded, huh? Flying around in private jets, wrecking your own place with punches an’ shit. What are you, some sorta billionaire? You just fight for kicks?”
Nicky would see it was a small airport and waiting for them was a plane already started with a man in front of the stairs.All around them was a forested area, the very runway looked decent, not as well kept as an international airport but it didn’t matter much it was still very smooth. “Yes of course I call her Aunty, that’s what she is afterall. Whether I’m 5 or 29, I need to respect the people who helped me get to where I am, even if that means swallowing my pride for the sake of what they enjoy hearing.”
As they reached the pilot, the pilot would bow and take his bags as he walked away and Alex started up the steps of the plane he began to speak. “I am not rich, I am well off, indeed. But my Aunt is the rich one. I simply have money from my job and the countless tournaments I win. She is the actual owner of all of this.”
he’d throw his hands out towards the plane as he entered there would be leather seats and a leather sofa. A TV, a bar and a fridge in the back. It’s going to be a long flight.” Said the copilot as he looked back into the plane. “Get comfortable, it might take us awhile to get cleared to go off the ground.”
Nicky found a seat she deemed comfortable and flopped into it, kicking her feet up onto the one in front of her. She was wearing a buttoned white blouse over her grey tanktop, and a basic pair of jeans. For once, she was actually wearing shoes, although they were just basic black sneakers and looked fairly new. She stared out the window for a few moments, then looked over to Alex. ”So do you go to China often, old man? Speak the language and shit?”
Alex would sit across from her on the sofa as he grinned, “是的，我经常去中国。”
he would nod to her after he got done speaking before saying, “That means, yes, I do go to China often. I know Chinese, Japanese, and of course English.”
He seemed rather relaxed as they would be able to hear constant arguing from the cockpit, something about air clearance and needing to have proper identification outside of their plane number. Alex seemed to shrug it off before looking back to Nicky, “Are you hungry? Thirsty? We have food and drink here, and of course, you might also want to take a nap it might be a bit to get us off the ground, and then even longer to get to China.”
The teenager squinted at him for a moment. ”I’m surprised the docs at Happy Skippy Shithole didn’t tell you. I don’t eat, drink, or sleep. I mean, I can eat and drink, but it doesn’t taste like anything and it does nothin’ for me. And I can’t sleep. At all. Ever, apparently. I think I’m halfway through month four, now.”
She stared out of the window for a few moments, muttering something to herself, then seemed to remember her manners and said, ”Thanks, though.”
Her mood had shifted, suddenly. Where before she was cheerfully antagonistic, now she seemed to sink into herself, not reacting to any outside stimulus at all, just staring out of the window.
A hum of thought would come from Alex. “Interesting.”
would be the word he chose as he listened to her before shrugging. He reached behind the bar grabbing some gum. He would grab a piece for himself and then throw the pack towards Nicky. “Well, if you can’t eat, drink or sleep. Let’s just keep your ears from popping from the altitude adjustment, also this gum is trash anyway, so it’s only really good for chewing to keep your mind off of things. So go ahead, take a piece.”
Alex would point to the packet of gum next to Nicky, if she looked at him, she would see that same grin on his face, except this time it was way more warming and kind, despite everything she had called him he didn’t seem to care at all. Was it empathy? Maybe, Alex felt it was best at the time for him to just give her a smile. “And fuck those doctors by the way, you are going to get very far away from them, at any moment.”
They would hear the pilot yelling getting louder now as the plane engines seemed to start to rev while they started to move.
She reached out and grabbed the gum, popping it in her mouth and chewing thoughtfully for a moment before making a face. ”What, do rich people not know what good gum is? Jesus.”
Despite her protest, she kept chewing, huffing out a sigh around the piece. ”Nah, I mean, they’re annoying, but they seem alright. They’re good people, just...not what I need. The other people in that support group seem to be doing good with ‘em, so I guess it’s fine.”
She sat quietly for a bit, flexing her hands from clenched fists into flat open palms, then back again. She knew she should feel the strain, as she flexed her fingers as far open as they would go, but like always, there was nothing.”I dunno, man. They said it’s a super power, but I don’t feel super. I feel like I’ve been cursed. I can’t feel anything any more. No pain, but no tickling sensations. Can’t feel the breeze. I used to love running, it’s why I got into soccer. But all the great feelings in my legs, feeling the wind in my hair, the exhaustion after a long game? All of that’s gone, and it fucking sucks. Add on no taste, and this weird thing where I can’t tell how long something’s going on, and it feels like I’m being punished or something.”
She again stared out the window, chewing like she was trying to kill the piece of rubbery sugar in her mouth.”Anyway, how come you go to China all the time? Just for fights and shit?”
He would listen to her his hands on his chin as he nodded to show he was following along. “Well, I don’t stock this plane, so I couldn’t tell you why they choose the gum that they choose.”
He would continue to listen to her before speaking again with a soft and yet firm tone. “Yes, I imagine that it doesn’t feel like something that is a good thing for you.I understand that your doctors are good people, but maybe their techniques are just wrong.”
he would simply shrug at that. “Have they ever tried to just sit and listen to you? I can understand the want to feel something, if I couldn’t feel I’m not sure how i’d react. But you see the thing we are going to find out for you, is if it’s just physical. Because chi…”
he would pause and point at his heart. “As corny as it sounds, it comes from your spirit, from within… This does all explain why you were complaining about the ball rotation exercise so much as well.”
Alex would rub at his chin in thought for a moment. “Well regardless of all of that, you obviously can still feel emotions. So we are going to have fun while in China. I do not always go there to fight, sometimes to do archaeological digs, sometimes to study. Other times to train and fight. But there is plenty to do there. But I need you to promise me one thing, if I am going to train you.”
his voice would get serious almost stern as they would feel the plane beginning to leave the ground and hear the pilots yelling, “Finally!” “I will teach you how to fight, I have 10 different martial arts at my disposal, I will teach you all of them. But you do not ever fight for real unless people are at risk, or you are. But I don’t think you will have much of a problem with the latter. I have gotten into plenty of bar fights, broken noses, broken arms, all of that. But I would never unleash myself upon someone who is not threatening mine, or someone else’s life; because, it is when we unleash ourselves, that we will kill. The last thing you want, is to have the thought of you accidentally punching someone because you got angry and you end up killing an innocent. That is why I also must ask you to refrain from fighting anyone that is not me until you have mastered complete control of your chi.”
Nicky had glanced over at him as he said the word ‘promise’, and had had all intentions of at least listening. But then the plane shook, and the engines whined up to speed, and suddenly she was back in the apartment, people shouting outside, the green glow everywhere. But she hadn’t been in the apartment when it happened! She ran up the hall, shouting for her sister, her father, anyone she could find. Turning, she found herself in the kitchen, and there they all were, sitting at the table, stiff and awkward. And then she realised they were already dead. As one, they turned towards her, staring accusingly at her. “Why didn’t you save us, Nicole?” All of their voices echoed and reverberated in her skull, endlessly repeating, with a high pitch screaming tone behind it, except it was her screaming. The explosion ripped through the apartment, flinging her through the air alongside the pieces of her family. She landed with a thud, and the rubble and faces piled into her, with a maniacal laughter from someone else and
she was back in the plane, curled into a ball, screaming endlessly and kicking at the back of the seat legs from her position on the floor.
Alex shot to the ground after her watching her fall and scream, he wouldn’t be sure if it was the healthiest thing to hold her, but in a plane it was better than her accidentally breaking something that might cause a problem. He would try to wrap his arms around her, he wouldn’t seem to care if she started to hit him he would hold his ground. “Nicky, Nicky, listen to me. You are here in the plane. You are with me, I am not going to hurt you, I am not going to do anything. Feel the ground if you can, feel the texture, fuck the temperature, just feel the texture, you are here in the plane; on the way to China.” he would say, he was trying to use grounding techniques he had learned from a book once, he recognized what was having as a sort of PTSD flashback. He had one goal, get her back to the present and away from wherever her mind went.
At first, with arms around her, she kicked and bit, but as the voice caught in her ears, she settled. It took almost twenty minutes for her breathing to steady, during which time she could only sob and curse sporadically. Finally, she slapped at his arms and dug her elbow into his ribs, growling out, ”I’m fine, I’m back, fucking let me go!”
After securing her freedom, without a word, she fled into the onboard lavatory, unsteady on her feet both from her flashback and the motion of the plane. The door slammed behind her and locked with a loud click. Shortly thereafter, Alex would be able to hear water running.
He would grunt at the pain from being elbowed and slapped but would hold tight until she was finally back to herself. Alex would easily let her go, he wasn’t about to force her to do anything that she wasn’t wanting at that point. Her running into the bathroom, he figured it was just her way of trying to escape. He would simply sit back onto the couch and pull out a cigarette. Lighting it he would take a deep inhale and look at the ceiling of the plane. Thinking about what he had gotten himself into this time.
Nicole leaned over the sink and dry heaved, hacking and coughing even though she had no stomach contents. Her brain was trying to get something out that wasn’t there
, panic still gripping her mind. She steadied herself slowly, breathing in deep and shakily through her nose and holding it for as long as she could. When she realised she could just hold it forever, she let it out as slowly as she could, then did the next breath for a thirty count. After her body stopped shaking, she finally looked herself in the mirror. Her eyes weren’t red like they should be, but her face was tear-streaked and her skin sagged slightly, and her eyes were still wide and alert. She was thankful there was a bright light in the room. She wasn’t sure at all she would deal well with shadows for a while. Still, after she got used to it and her world stopped spinning, the rocking of the plane was almost soothing, in a way. She knew it had been that initial jerk of motion that had thrown her, and made a note to avoid or prepare for that in the future.
Finally feeling some semblance of her usual self, she washed her face in the still running water, swished some in her mouth out of habit, then shut the faucet off and left the bathroom. She resumed her seat, but staunchly refused to look Alex in the eye. Instead, she folded her arms tight against her stomach and stared out of the window at the passing countryside.
Alex would continue to smoke the cigarette as Nicky came out of the bathroom, not looking at him. His eyebrows raising at her while she turned to look at the countryside, he would’ve let a chuckle out but he decided it was not the best choice. He would stand up and start to head to the bathroom, but without a word he would drop something in the seat next to Nicky. It would be a ball that would squish easily, it had multiple grooves on it. It looked like it was slightly old, but it was still in good condition. He’d simply walk into the bathroom and let her do whatever she wanted with that.
She waited until after he had gone into the bathroom before even looking at what he had dropped. She recognised the general purpose of the item, having seen many in the facility and at the police station. Snarling, she snatched it up, twisted in her seat, and hurled it after him uselessly. ”I don’t need your fucking stress ball, you condescending fuckface!”
she screamed at him, then twisted back to normal posture and began drumming her feet against the back of the seat in irritation.
He would simply continue to walk, the ball would bounce off the wall and would seem to bounce back towards her slightly before it would fall flat on the floor. It felt like a stress ball but when thrown it obviously seemed to harden slightly. He would be in the bathroom for a bit before coming out his hands wet. “Did you know that everyone can use chi?”
he would say this as if he had not even heard what she said to him. He picked up the ball as he balanced it in his hand. “Technically we all use it every day, but if you aren’t trained to use it then you are stuck at your set base:we all have a set base that we use, when we get emotional; when we train, work out, all of that. This ball isn’t for your stress, it is for your training. This ball reacts to Chi, if you can fill it with chi when you throw it, it will become harder until it is bouncing around. Or, if you are really good at it, it will become as hard as a rock. Now all you have to do is focus on the ball, focus your energy, imagine yourself pushing a mist onto the ball when you throw it.”
he’d say this without his voice changing from earlier but there was a grin on his face, almost as if he knew something he wasn’t telling her but he was going to let her try and figure it out.”Okay, hold on old man.”
The teen’s head snapped around to stare at him. ”You said the movies were a buncha bullshit and whatever, but now you’re talking about magic? Like? First I’m the chosen one and now there’s chi? I know I signed on to train, and I will, but that is….Sure, you can punch that pillar. It exploded, I saw it. But that’s just physics, right? There’s no fuckin’ actual, real life Chinese magic.”
Despite herself, she looked back along the aisle to where the ball had landed, staring at it for a few beats before looking back at Alex. Almost all of the fear and anger was gone from her face, now. In its place, there was a hint of what she might have been: Childlike wonderment and hope, but tempered with a healthy skepticism from having to grow up too fast.
Alex grinned taking another inhale of his cigarette. “There is no magic in what I do. Chi comes from the soul, it comes from within you. Magic would be only a select few people could use it. Chi, anyone can.”
He would give her a grin as he walked over and grabbed the ball. He would throw it at the back of the plane. Unlike hers she would see it bounced off the back and went and bounced on the ceiling and back to the ground and would start to bounce almost as if it was actually a bouncy ball. Alex would walk over to it pick it up and squeeze it to show Nicky that it indeed was squishy. “Your chi, is literally your will, your soul, everything in you. Channeling into action. When it is balanced, you can do amazing things… like punching through cement. It wasn’t just my form that I did that. It was my chi that allowed me to do that. I never said you were the chosen one by the way Nicky, that is up for you to decide. Because if you don’t put in the effort, then you will not change.”
he put the last part in there with an almost as-matter-of-fact, type of voice that seemed slightly harsh, but was obviously nurturing at the same time.
She waved her hand dismissively at him. ”You said the ‘Best martial artist in the world’ or something. Sounds like chosen one bullshit to me, old man. But,”
she leaned forward, ”If China is as interesting and challenging as you say, Miyagi, I’ll work harder than you’ve ever seen. Cause I don’t gotta sleep, I can only spend more time training, right?”
Alex would nod at that and hand her the ball as he sat down at the couch to sleep as they were already well on their way.
They would land in Beijing capital international airport. It seemed Alex was prepared with everything, even with somehow having gotten Nicky a passport. Everything seemed to run smoothly as they got through security without a hitch. Nicky would be able to walk past all of the stores in the airport as they walked past it. Alex would seem to have a one track mind, get to the planned area as fast as he could. He would call a cab and Nicky would be able to see the absolute shock on the cab driver’s face as Alex spoke to him in fluent and unfaltering Mandarin. The cab driver would begin to drive, eventually out of the city, and towards the mountains.
Nicole was fascinated
by her surroundings as they left the airport. The main highway out was lined in thick foliage, that gave way suddenly to the urban sprawl as they entered the city. She pressed her nose to the window as, on the left, she could see the downtown capital of another country
. Depressingly, it looked quite a bit like any other city she had seen, but she supposed that was because she had grown up in two of the greatest cities in the world. Still, she hadn’t seen the glitz in a while, and she loved it. Soon enough, though, they started the steady climb up into the mountains. The glass fogged up, and her view faded into darkness as night descended. They had chased daylight almost the whole way, but they seemed to drive forever. Finally, she gave up trying to secretly see a panda and looked at Alex again. ”So, old man, am I gonna be learning the language while I am here, or am I forever gonna be thinking people are insulting me?”
Alex would seem to not move when he was sitting in the cab, he would talk for a moment here or there with the cab driver in chinese but never anything too long. His eyes would continue to look outside as if he was remembering something, or remembering someone. His eyes shot to the girl as she spoke. “Well Nicky, if you want to learn the language I sure can teach you. But you are going to have to study hard, it is not an easy language to learn at all. And you are going to have to practice your martial arts. Even with staying up 24 hours a day. Do you think you can handle all that work and balance it? “
he would ask his head tilting slightly as he spoke, his brown hair just barely getting in the way of his eyes.”Can’t know until I try, right? I’ve never tried to learn another language. But I bet I can practise words while working on my form at the same time. Make it harder, and I dunno, ingrain the words into my muscle movement or something?”
She shrugged, then looked at the driver. ”Hey, would you say your language is any harder than English?”
The driver seemed to look back with a confused look as he turned to Alex. Alex spoke to him in Chinese as a short exchange between the two would happen in the language as Alex turned to Nicky and said, “He says he’s never had to learn English, so he wouldn’t know.. Now as far as you doing them while you are practising, that could work. But it also might completely distract you from your form.”
As he would speak they’d see a massive temple come into view while they rounded the top of a hill as Alex nodded with a grin on his face. “We are here.””Holy shit, old man. I didn’t know this was gonna be like the actual fuckin’ movies.”
She climbed out of the vehicle and stared up the mountainside at the ancient stones. ”These places are actually fucking real?”
They would step out of the car and Alex would grab his bag. As they looked up they would see stone stairs with what looked like they went up into the heavens. Those were off to the right, but in front of them was probably about 100 steps of stairs as Alex would nod. “Welcome to your home for the next few days, and no. It’s not quite like the movies.. But it’s close. “
he would give her a wink as they looked up at the massive temple, it was red with the traditional roof that hung bright gold banners with what looked like golden pillars. The cement all the way up to it was covered in cracks that had bits of moss coming out of it, and the doors were two massive dark brown wooden doors. Next to the doors was a massive gong with a picture of a monk on it meditating. Around the front they would see multiple different monks training and sparring with each other. If Nicky could see, out on the right hand side, she would see these monks punching a massive boulder. One of them obviously an instructor would punch it and the entire boulder crumbled in one hit.
Nicky stared around her in wonderment. It had taken all night to get here, but now she realised that this was a completely foreign land. Nothing like this would’ve ever
existed in Philly or New York. She had never seen mountains like this, nor buildings so old. She watched the monks training for a moment, and showed the first sign of trepidation she had had in a very long time, stepping back slightly to stand just behind and to the side of Alex. ”So, am I gonna have to, like, sweep the yard or clean the toilets or something? And how the f-”
She actually choked back the curse, the atmosphere of the place getting to her. ”How am I gonna know what they’re telling me? And aren’t you supposed to spend, like, ten years at one of these places to learn all the cool stuff?”
She stopped babbling finally and clamped her mouth shut as one monk threw another what looked like ten meters, only for the thrown man to land lightly on his feet and laugh.
Alex would smile at Nicky and pat her on the head if she allowed him to., “Normally, yes it would take you years to learn. But the great thing is you don’t have to sleep, and you don’t have to take breaks for your body to recover.”
He would say as he waved to a monk who bowed to him. “You shouldn’t worry about what you are going to have to do. I will be the one personally training you, if one of the other masters do, they know english well enough to tell you what you are doing wrong or not. Also, no. You won’t be scrubbing toilets or mopping floors. You really are influenced by TV aren’t you? We don’t have time to make you do that when you are needing training.”
He would walk up to the doors as he opened them they would see hundreds of people all meditating, or practicing on a wooden man. Each monk’s movements were smooth and quick, if Nicky looked around she would see that there were still monks sparring in here, some with swords, some with poles, some with Kendo Sticks. A man would be front and center he looked ancient almost with his long beard as he was walking around and speaking in chinese to everyone and correcting their form and such. Alex would bow to him and say something in Chinese to the man, the title he gave him would sound like see-fu.
The teen stayed unusually quiet. If she had thought the atmosphere outside was impressive, in here she could almost feel
centuries of warriors pressing down on her with their attention. It gave her the creeps, but also a sense of...Was it unease? Impression? She couldn’t tell, really. But the clacking of wood and thudding of fist to flesh kept her grounded here. She vaguely remembered something about politeness and began taking off her shoes awkwardly, before noticing other were wearing slippers inside, and sheepishly stood back up to watch Alex talking to this See Foo man, who she gathered was the grandmaster or general or whatever these guys called the one in charge.
Alex and the man would talk constantly back and forth before the man would simply hug Alex and then kiss his cheek. “And so then this is the little girl?” The older man would say in an almost normal english accent. The only difference was that he still had a lingering sound of a chinese man behind his syllables as if they were foreign to him. “I see, well welcome to the temple. Please, make yourself at home. Just try not to upset anyone. If what Alexander says is true you won’t get hurt. But better to not have to crawl back up a mountain from getting tossed. Though I’m sure Alexander will keep you plenty busy.” he would stop his attention drawn to the clanking of swords as he shook his head, “I have to take care of some students. Please excuse me.” He would bow to the two and walk off.
Alex would motion for her to follow him down a stone corridor, she would see hundreds of doors all over the place and Alex would eventually come up to one at the very end of the long hall. Opening it she would see she had her own stove oven, a mattress, a small dresser fan, heater, and a small window that let her see over the cliff and see the jungle of China. Alex opened his hand towards it as if to motion for her to go ahead and go in.
She peeked around the room cautiously, then nodded. ”Okay, so this is way too much space for me. I don’t even have spare clothes, man. I guess I can leave my shoes in here or something. What’s below the window?”
Not bothering to wait for an answer she moved over to it, pushing her head out so she could see down the side. After a moment she pulled back in and grinned at her teacher. ”Betcha I could jump out of this pretty easy. I’ve never fallen that far before, looks like fun.”
She pulled her shoes and socks off, setting them in the corner, then bouncing on the balls of her feet as if she was stretching them. After a moment she caught herself and stopped. Even after four months, exercise habits were proving difficult to break. She guess it was probably fine, but at the same time, it did nothing for her and just wasted time. She clapped her hands to shake herself out of the spiral she could feel coming on and forced a cheery face. ”Alright, Mister Miyagi, what are we waxing first?”
Alex would smile at her eagerness he motioned for her to follow him. As they walked down a few more halls and down some stairs they would find themselves in a small room with massive stone lions around it. “This… is where you will find your burst… this is where you will learn to let your Chi go… these walls have withstood thousands, if not millions of years of chi and damage. And you… are going to be their next victim.”
he would say with a grin. “In here you are free to go wild, for as long as you want. In here, you will release your chi. Once you realize how to let it come out of you, you can start to learn how to harness it and control it inside and outside of your body. How has the progress with the ball been?”
Nicky fumbled the little ball out of her pocket, held it up and stared at it. ”I might have gotten it slightly less squishy? I could’ve been imagining that, too.”
She held it between her two palms, finger interlaced above it, and positioned in next to her solar plexus. Her face screwed up with effort, and like when she had been concentrating on her movements with the medicine ball, her tongue stuck out of the corner of her mouth. Slowly, inexorably, her hands began to press inwards, until she noticed it and relaxed them. This process repeated a few times before she looked up at him. ”Yeah, I don’t get it, old man. You said imagine pushing a mist into it, but you can’t push mist, right? Your hand just passes through it.” “You must let your energy flow into it. You must stop focusing on the ball, focus on your mind, your spirit. We use chi daily, find that chi and push it. Mist can be pushed, but not by our hands. It is pushed by the wind, just how you must let your body naturally push your chi into that ball.”
Nicky rolled her eyes, but bent to to the task, thinking to herself that this was going to be a long couple of days.