You all asked for it
So I have finally gotten around to starting the sequel to "The Next Dragon Warrior."
I wasn't sure if I'd actually do a sequel but it only seemed right that I would.
I hope yall like it as much as the first.
So without further ado...
The Next Dragon Warrior
Making the Cut
Nothing can stop a person who desires to achieve. Every obstacle faced is simply a stepping stone that will strengthen ones powers of achievement.
- Hollis Conway
Making the Cut
The Big Step Up
Po was busying himself at the stove when I walked into the kitchen. What ever he was making was sizzling. I had grown to love his cooking even more than I did at camp. His breakfast was as good as his soup. Sometimes it was Po's or Zeng's cooking that was the only thing that got me started on mornings when I was too tired to think straight.
"Hey there, Jo."
I smiled trying my best to stifle a yawn as I sat down. "Good morning, Po."
He asked with his usual affable expression. "How's the Next Dragon Warrior feeling this morning?"
"Nervous." I answered with morning fatigue.
Po set a plate of eggs and toast in front of me. "I'm telling you, you're making a bigger deal out of this stuff than it is. Even if you don't do well today, don't beat yourself up over it."
"I've got Master Shifu for that." I said.
Shifu had turned much more critical now that I was an actual student of his and not one of many members of a training camp. What used to be simple blunders were now unaffordable mistakes in fighting. Truthfully I had expected this with him, but expecting didn't always mean being prepared.
When I first started training at the jade palace, Master Shifu introduced me to the training hall. I was thunderstruck upon seeing it. There were huge rings hung from the high ceiling, an obstacle course of spinning spiked clubs, and a floor of pipes that shot out jest of fire.
I was a little put out when he started me on the practice dummy. I couldn't help but feel insulted that I was being reintroduced to something I already knew how to do, but considering the next step up was the jade tortoise bowl, I figured it was safe to start slow. The tortoise bowl I could now maneuver with ease having started training on it a month after mastering the dummy. It was more a test of balance than actual fighting but soon harmless projectiles were hurled at me while training that I had to deflect while maintaining a shaky balance. My first time, I had more falls and bruises than I could keep track of. It wasn't as simple as just doing the crane balance on the wooden stakes.
But today, I was making a new step forward in the training hall. A Big step forward. Today I was having to face the spinning serpent logs. They were five separate logs each twisted into spiral shapes that you were supposed to maneuver across while they were turning. I had practiced a little on them before not spinning and once while they were, but today Master Shifu was adding the final installment. While I would be trying to keep my footing on these rolling logs I was also going to have to dodge seven clubs swinging from the ceiling. Each some 30 pounds, if hit by them, at best, they would reportedly knock you out for hours. Normally they were lined on one side with sharp spikes, but for my sake (and safety) they had been removed for today's procedure.
As he was spooning some eggs onto separate plates Po said "Just take what he says and run with it. He doesn't constantly criticize you just to drive you crazy… even though I know it feels like most of the time." He added chuckling.
I assumed it was safe to listen to Po. He had had similar experiences with Master Shifu.
I had taken a few bites of the eggs when Master Shifu and Tigress both sauntered into the kitchen closely followed by Master Crane. None of them seemed the least bit tired. How they managed to seemingly jump out of bed each morning with the vigor to run a marathon was beyond me. They knew about today too. They all knew what was expected of me.
No sooner had I thought it than...
"Today's a big day." Crane said sliding into the chair next to me.
That's an understatement
I looked over at Tigress.
Despite me having trained at the Jade Palace for nearly a year now, I could tell Tigress was still not entirely in agreement with me training here. Some times it was weird vibes I got from her, but I coccasionally just convinced myself I was imagining them. But other times it wasn't so subtle. She constantly dropped hints in her tone and choice of words. Some where in the back of my mind I knew she had wanted the Next Dragon Warrior to be someone different. Someone who "met her standards." I wouldn't have been surprised if the one who had met those standards was Park himself. I briefly forgot about Tigress in remembering Park. We had known each other for less than a few months but in that time we had become the archest of rivals. All starting with a simple insult in the street and it lead to the near extinction of the Valley. Early after the fight I had recurring nightmares that he returned, him and Tai Lung. It had taken alot to get over them. I hadn't thought about him much since his demise (I never felt comfortable calling it "death"), I had forgotten why I was even thinking of him…. Oh Tigress, that's what it was.
She of course was the most trained with the spinning logs, so she had been my instructor in preparing me for them.
One day during her explanation of navigating the logs, I had made the comment "This stuff isn't easy." I thought it had been a simple almost humorous saying, but apparently she didn't take it that way.
"If you haven't realized that by now, then I don't know why you're even here."
I wasn't exactly sure what to say to that. I just kept quiet for the rest of the lesson.
"Do you feel ready?" Tigress asked simply, barely glancing at me from her chair.
I looked at her almost suspiciously. I hadn't really expected her to care much. I assumed she figured if I looked bad today she, as my instructor, would look bad too.
"Yeah, I think so."
Tigress immediately gave me a look of disgusted questioning. "You 'think'?"
And I actually thought you were going to be nice to me this morning.
I started to say something, but Crane intervened.
"Tigress, can't you wait till he's even in the training hall to condemn something he does?"
Tigress half glared at Crane signaling she was caught off guard but wasn't going to admit it. She turned her attention to the breakfast Po had just set in front of her. I sighed. I was grateful Crane had stood up for me. He and I had come a long way since the first day of camp when he deserted me to let me find my own room. According to the rest of the Five he was seen as the "Mother Hen" of the group.
After Viper, Mantis, and Monkey had entered the kitchen and filled themselves, we all made our normal walk to the training hall, but of course it didn't feel normal.
Once the doors were opened Shifu said "Jo, take your position at one end of the logs."
I nodded and walked to spot he designated. Po followed behind me playfully massaging my shoulders. "You got this, J.C. It's all you"
I looked up and saw each member of the Furious Five standing at the opposite end of the logs about 30 feet away. My tongue suddenly felt too big for my mouth. "Are they all gonna watch me while I'm doing this?"
"Dont' worry about them." Po said. "Just 'Visualize the Cookie'."
I gave a deep sigh. "Thanks, Po."
Po patted me on the shoulder. "I'll see you on the other side." And he walked where the rest of the Masters were standing.
Shifu spoke from where he stood. "Now, Jo, your objective is to simply make it to the other side of the spinning logs while dodging the swinging clubs."
"Ready?" He shouted.
Not in the least.
The logs started turning. I stepped on the center log. It was a bit like walking into the rapids of a river. I had to work quick to keep my footing. I maneuvered carefully using the step/jump move that Tigress had taught me. I waited till the first club had swung past before I passed it. It hesitated at it's zenith before swinging back down behind me.
I passed the second club the same way. On the third I tried again but my foot slipped between two of the logs. As I yanked my self up, I looked up seeing the club making me it's target, with out enough time to get out of it's way.
I'm not exactly sure what I was thinking, I just did it.
I jumped grabbing hold of the club and my feet left the logs. It's momentum carried me into the air. My added weight kept it from going it's full height. Then it touched back down just long enough for me to jump back on the logs
I moved ahead before the same club had a chance to swing back at me.
The next two I tried to pass with one sprint which almost ended disastrously. I had only just ducked when the second club grazed my ear.
The last two clubs were all that separated me from firm motionless floor. The masters were just beyond the clubs but somehow they weren't in my vision. I stood in the same spot for too long and my body fell perpendicular to the logs. I decided to use to my advantage and rolled right underneath the swinging club. I jumped onto a separate log and shakily stood again. I dove under the last club and stood on solid ground.
The logs stopped spinning and the room was silent again.
"Well done!" Said Master Shifu beaming.
"Thank you, Master." I panted. My heart rate began to slow.
"Nice job." Tigress muttered, the slightest of smiles appearing on her face.
Po ran up and picked me up off the ground in one of his famous bear hugs (no pun intended). "Master Xanidor's done it again!"
I smiled. It had been a while since Po had referred to me by my birth name.
When he sat me back down, I looked back across the logs hardly believing I had just crossed them.
I was hoping this would be the last ridiculously hard challenge I'd have to face for a while.
Boy was I wrong
There's the first chapter for you.
And to celebrate…