made up words:

adger- An upward nod to show greeting

Not since "Tai and I" have I spent so much time, effort and thought on a single chapter. I can't tell whether this is my best or my worst.

I guess thats for you to decide.


Making the Cut
Chapter 9
The Face-Off at Keen Lee Academy

As I made my first steps onto the academy's grounds I felt a difference. There was something unwelcoming in the air. It was a challenging something. For some reason the words "lockdown" kept coming to mind.

I passed by a large black iron fountain trickling water from its over-flowing bowls. A few kids I took to be students were sitting around it casually talking. As I walked by their talking ceased and each of their sights fell on me. Weighed down by their gazes, I slowed to a stop. I wasn't sure if it was because they didn't recognize me as a regular denizen or if it was because I was a badger or maybe it was something else they saw in me that didn't set right with them. Kinda like how this school didn't set right with me

"Hello." I said.

None of them spoke. They simply gave adgers of silence. Deciding they weren't the type to start a conversation I said "I'm looking for Master Keen Lee."

A goose rolled his eyes. "Well, you're in the right place." he said sarcastically. The few others snickered.

"Where is he?" I asked getting annoyed.

A she-wolf pointed desultorily. "Follow the walkway till you find a stone building. Through the door you'll come to a large atrium. He'll probably be there right now."

"Thank you." I said hoping it would break some of the tension. It didn't.

As I followed the walkway I started to see how large this school was. It was styled like a boarding school of some sort.

This was a kung fu training school. Were all of those kids that I had the displeasure of meeting each experts in fighting? I suddenly felt boxed in by my surroundings.

I couldn't be distracted. I needed to find this Keen Lee guy and find out what his demands were. If I found the Masters first I might not even have to find him. They were here somewhere. But where?

I found the building like the girl had said and passed through where I entered a gigantic courtyard. A straight flight of stairs led up to a terrace walkway on inner walls of the courtyard. At the top of the stairs was a gong hanging in a framework mounted to the wall. As if on cue one of the doors on the second story terrace opened and a well-dressed yellow-bellied weasel walked out.

"Master Keen Lee?"

The weasel turned at my sound and looked down at me. His fur was a chestnut brown with a pale yellow underside. His nose jutted forward which might have looked humorous but it somehow had prominence to it. He was tall but looking up at him on the balcony made it hard to tell how tall. His robes were bronze with a brown trim that matched his fur.

As he eyed me suspiciously he stroked his chin in muse. I could only wonder what he was thinking. "I know each and every student of my school and I can't say I know any of them to be a badger. So I may infer that you are an outsider. Am I right?"

"Uh... yes." I answered uneasily.

He placed both his hands behind his back. "Then that would make you a trespasser. Wouldn't it?"

"I... No... I mean... You're students saw me come in." I had suddenly gotten nervous but as the moment passed, I could tell by the smile on his face that was exactly his intention. I stood up straighter and said "I came from the Valley of Peace to speak-"

"The Valley of Peace? You've come quite a ways. In that case you're probably here wondering about Shifu and his students."

Before I could stop myself, my eyes widened with shock. Was I that easily read? I was grateful in a weird way. I wasn't exactly sure how to just come out and ask the question.

"...Yes. I wanna know where they are."
'I wanna know where they are'? That's the best you could word it?

Keen Lee snickered to himself which I had feared. "What makes you think I would want to talk to you about business with them. I don't get my hands dirty." he said sinisterly. "I've got others for that."

He made a fist with his hand and struck the gong in its frame work letting out a long ominous clang.
Well that was random?
Had he expected the gong to intimidate me?

Then I heard it.
At first I'd mistaken it for a low roll of thunder from a distant storm.
Off in the distance outside I heard the sound of running feet. ALOT of running feet.
Suddenly through the door I had just come through came who I took to be one of his students. Followed by another and another and another. Masses of students cascaded in to the atrium that seemed so vast a moment ago filling the inside.
I turned around seeing more coming through a separate door. All of them filing in as quick as a person could blink. For a second I thought the mob of students would literally never end. I stared amazed as they swarmed like a flood while I was barely able to stay afloat.
When the last of them entered they were still.

Dead silence.

Not a soul moved. I didn't even hear them breathe. Even without hearing though, I knew their heart beats were one with their master.
The calm before the storm

I stood there in the midst of their swarm. No less than 40 of them had made human circle nearly 30 feet in diameter surrounding me, and there were still many others to spare around it. They all ranged in ages from 10 to 16. Wolves, pigs, rabbits, geese, tigers, coyotes, sheep, gibbons, martins, leopards and more. Each poised and ready to strike. I scanned the entire perimeter of the circle. I looked back up at Keen Lee who was looking perfectly content.

"My students, we have an uninvited guest." I could literally hear the quotation marks around the word "uninvited guest" when he said it. I realized it wasn't merely a statement. It was a coded order.
As he walked for the door he stopped and turned his head and said without a hint of emotion "No Mercy." The door closed behind him.

The students closest to the center stood leaning forward impatiently like starved wolves before a fresh kill. Some of the others seemed more hesitant but no less experienced. I wondered if they could smell fear. My stomach had dropped several inches and my heart was now pounding into my throat.

Uninvited guest

Just like a Christian thrown to the lions among the spectators of the Colosseum, except it was the spectators that would rip me to pieces instead of the lions.

No! I'm better than that
Better than what? An army of kung fu students?
Well… no, but… I don't know
You better know in the next few seconds

I could barely make out any of the entrances or exits anymore. I knew it was futile to make a beeline for any of them. They would all be on me before I had gone 10 feet. So what did that leave me with?

Why am I asking? I already know what has to happen.

I didn't flash them a look of uncertainty for a second. I kept my gaze firm as a rock.

I knew as each of them stood there, they were aware they were driving me insane with their stillness. They were daring me with their eyes to make a move. I had been told by Master Shifu that making the first move in fighting was a risky action. Not that a person couldn't be victorious but it made it that much more difficult. If what I was standing among was about to be a brawl I didn't need any extra difficulty added to it.

I don't know how long we stayed locked in position like this. Some of them kept rocking in position shifting their weight from foot to foot. Each second was a minute and each minute was a century.

I knew it was coming. They knew it was coming. They knew I knew it was coming, but still they remained in place.
Tai Lung: "No sense in delaying the inevitable."
It was becoming too great to bear. I needed some movement, any movement. I couldn't stand the motionless of the crowd knowing full well they were each constraining more energy than they could hold. The space we were in was overflowing with energy. I could sense it. It wasn't all my own. I knew from the looks on their faces they were restless with anticipation. They were all ready and raring to fight.

And so am I

In one quick motion I lunged forward and landed a phoenix eye to the closest student, a goose I think.

Like a giant vicious domino effect, the battle had begun.

The second the goose was thrown back I whipped back around only just in time to block a punch from a leopard and send a blow back to his left cheek.

While I was watching a pig quickly approach me a rabbit grabbed my arms from behind. The pig took this as a "take a shot" moment from his friend trying to hold me back. Before he could, I launched my foot up kicking him in the face. The sole of my sandals skidded up across his snout sending his head staring at the sky.
I swung the foot back down colliding with the shin of the rabbit still holding on to me. While he gasped in pain letting go of me, I took the moment to throw a punch at him.

I dropped down and performed a full leg sweep knocking down three others behind me. A tiger pushed aside some others and slashed at me. I went to block but I was too slow. His claw dug deep into my flesh and left a thick scarlet streak across my chest. I quickly made another punch but he dodged it and landed an excruciating kick against the fresh cut, pushing me through a gap in the crowd. I fell against a chair next to an outdoor table on the edge of the courtyard.
I jumped on to the chair then stood on the table which gave me a split second to catch a fraction of a breath.

I stared out at the still brewing battle across the courtyard. The goose, pig and few others were still on the ground and out for the count. The swarm was still alive. It wasn't possible. My fight so far had only made a small dent in their army.

The split second was over.

I jumped down from the table knocking down another one of them. I picked up the wooden chair and swung it at another rabbit hitting him across the head and sent him tumbling over a sheep. Fragments of the chair flew in all directions clattering to the ground. Before a wolf could land a blow I picked up the seat of the broken chair and blocked his punch with it. He howled in pain of his bruised knuckles. I turned around in time to see a weasel swing a broken chair leg at my head. I grabbed the end before it hit me, twisted it out of his hold and threw it behind me (which hit a sheep that was coming from behind me that I hadn't noticed).

Another goose jumped me from behind and held on to my back. Before I knew it, a gibbon and martin had latched on as well. The strength of my legs dissipated and I was on the ground. They all crowded tightly around, a few taking their opportunity to strike back. The slightest move was impossible. I wriggled beneath their weight until finally a foot slipped free. I pulled myself up and with as much force as I could, I leapt between a gap between the students and was liberated from the suffocation of the mob.

I jumped back in at the edge of the horde punching and kicking anything within reach and a lot of things that weren't. With every hit or kick there was a turn-around for the next to come. With every strike there were two blocks. My blocks didn't hold up the entire time though. I received several blows to the back and chest and arms, but I clenched my teeth through it as the horde thrived tighter than a Chinese puzzle. I kept the strikes to pinpoint the weak spots. The faster enough of them were down the faster I could make a break for it.

As I panted I noticed the stairs to the terrace. Maybe it was my Panda style instinct but I instantly got an idea.

I darted up the stairs. as I did the horde of them quickly followed me lead by a large overweight boar, which couldn't have worked out more perfectly. Once I was at the top I spun around and kicked the boar square in the chest. He made a grab for my leg but only held for a second. When his grasp failed, he fell backwards sending all the students behind him that had followed him up the stairs toppling over one another down the steps.

I slid down the stair's banister and leapt over the mound of the fallen. A few aggressively pulled themselves out of the moaning heap and leapt toward me as before.

A coyote swung a kick at me. I grabbed hold of his ankle and jabbed his knee with my elbow collapsing him.
Two separate rabbits came at me from opposite directions a quickly ducked as they struck each other before landing a few well placed kicks to add to their self-inflicted injury.
Without even looking I reached behind me grabbing the tiger as he attacked from behind. Grabbing his arm and chest I lifted with the strength I had left and flung him over my shoulder slamming him to ground with a loud bam.

I immediately turned around to punch…

Nothing

I glanced around in all directions, still on the balls of my feet, ready for the next attack, ready for something else, but nothing else came.

Was it over then?

I gazed across the courtyard at the students that all lay in shambles. Other than the heap at the bottom of the stairs, the quad was littered with what really looked like the outcome of a battle. Most of them were groaning in pain or finding it too much effort to move.

I guess so.

"Well…. Ok then."

I gingerly walked back across the courtyard when a student, a female sat up from her sprawling position. She stared at me with confused terror. I looked her in the eye. In a low voice I breathed "I'm sorry this had to happen."

As I walked on past, her look of terror was gone but the confusion was still on her face.

Side-stepping the pile of bruised bodies at the bottom of the steps I walked up to the terrace level coming to the door Keen Lee had gone into. I pushed open the door.

I walked into what was a dimly lit room. I was sure it must have been his private quarters. An ornately carved desk was in the far corner of the room. The floor had a large fur rug in the middle of the room and there were kung fu charts on several sections of the walls which were darkly colored bearing the similarity of stone. Candles lined the circumferential shelves. I couldn't help but notice they were quite evenly spaced between each other. Keen Lee stood with his back to me at a granite counter that looked to be an improvised wet bar. He was pouring oddly colored liquids into a glass.

I was wondering if he had heard me come in when, for the first time since the skirmish, he spoke. "Quite a striking feat you performed."

I stared at him strangely.

He turned around to face me holding the glass. "Take it as a compliment. I'm not easily impressed." He gently shook his cup letting the ice mix in with the drink.

"Does this fighting badger have a name?"

"What?" This guy who just sicked an army of students on me was now asking me my name like we were some kind of casual acquaintances.

He looked at me as if to ask what there was that wasn't understandable. "You can't expect to come here without me asking your name. It just isn't right."

"Xanidor." I said curtly.

Keen Lee nodded reflectively while looking at his drink. "I like it. It's unique. I must ask, very few in this field are self taught, who'm do you owe your skill too?"

I answered plainly. "Master Shifu."

"YOU LIAR!" I half expected him to bash his glass onto my head.

"Why else would I be here?" I said.

He regained his composure. "Oh I see. You're looking for your Master Shifu. I don't see why you waist your time with him. His teachings are pathetic."

"Yall had the same teacher." I said.

"That hardly means-" He paused. "How did you know-"

"Oogway's three? Isn't that what people called you?"

"Please." he said sarcastically. "Giving it a title makes it sound like it was something of worth. But, yes. Master Oogway began our training when the three of us were only 15 years of age. As years progressed our skills grew. But when we wanted to do more with it Oogway kept feeding us the same crap over and over, about how kung fu was about confidence, non-violence and "harmony with one's self" and other junk like that. Shifu may have persisted but the rest of us felt cheated. Here we were, the 4 most powerful beings in the whole Valley, and still he wanted to do nothing with it. We could have had them by the throats if we wanted.

"When we brought this matter before Master Oogway, he insisted that kung fu was for protection only. Shifu went on with Oogway's teaching, but we two were adamant in it being our key to supremacy. So we left."

"You didn't leave." I said. "He dismissed you from his teachings."

"And who did you hear that from?" he asked crossing his arms.

"You. I read your letter you two left in the Valley, 'In-sincerely Keen Lee & The Wolf of the Black Mountains'"

He grimaced. "Very well," he conceded. "True, the two of us plotted one night to overthrow Oogway, but Shifu found out and of course he told Mast er Oogway. He then banished the two of us from the Palace. But we knew better. Once I was on my own I formed my own Academy, because I knew my method of teaching would withstand his."

"Doesn't look like it helped your students much."

His next glare was look of gargantuan execration. If I was struck dead by his glare right then and there I wouldn't have been the least bit surprised.
He decided to switch the subject. "Oogway must be getting old if he decided to send some amateur adolescent to do this task for him."

"Oogway is dead."

"What do you mean dead?" He asked

"Just dead. He died last year."

He stared at me strangely. "You're lying."

"Why would I lie about that?" I said.

He frowned rather like a pouting child. "Well, that rather ruins the rest of this. I'll have to send word to their captors."

"Send word?" I asked getting confused.

Keen looked at me peculiarly. "You thought they were here? What? You thought I'd just lock them in a classroom? You don't think well do you? If Oogway really is dead then there's no sense in letting Shifu and his students live a moment longer. Thanks for the information." he added with a leer.

My heart sank as I realized what I had stupidly told him. "Where are they!"

He laughed to himself shaking the cup making the ice jingle again. My eyes locked on his grin. I hated that laugh. It was a condescending laugh. I knew it. It took me a second but I remembered where it sounded familiar from. It was the same kind Park used to have. A long-ridden hatred swelled up from my stomach up through my chest till I felt it fuming behind my eyes.

"You thought it was going to be that easy? You just knock out each of my students and I'm so overcome that I tell you what ever you want?"

EASY?

"Young Xanidor, I saw you down there. Every move, every emotion, every time you held back. You only fight to defend. What you did to my students is nothing they won't completely heal from in a week or so."

He approached closer still with a piercing glare.

He thrusted his hand at me and picked me off the ground by the fur of my chest. I'm not that big but it was the first time I saw him do anything remotely kung fu. It was the first time I was actually really afraid of what he could do. With that same powerful arm he threw me against the wall. My legs lost all strength as my back slid down the wall. There was no mistaking now. It was stone. As cold and hard as his gaze.

He grabbed me again, at the throat this time. He lifted me pressing my body against the wall till my feet were suspended off the ground.

He kept smiling that sadistic smile of his as he watched me squirm for air as he applied more pressure to my throat. "You don't have the balls to kill. Your search for your precious masters was in vain. As soon as I give them the word they'll be gone. And even if I didn't, there's nothing some amateur streak-faced-"

With the strength being fueled by the wisps of breath I could take in, I gripped the jade handle of the knife, yanked it out of its concealed sheath and thrusted the full length into his chest.

His grip on me evaporated and I fell from his hand to the hard floor. The glass in his hand fell a second later shattering on the ground next to me. His eyes bloated with a jolt of utter shock. His teeth were clenching together like his life depended on them staying closed, but it looked like he was trying with great force to open them. In a twisted way I found that I liked that look. It was a quenching in a weird manner. He fell to his knees. When he finally pried his teeth apart he gurgly rasped "You… Had a knife… during that whole fight! Why didn't you use it?"

Without even thinking I said "None of them deserved to die."

My eyes held his gaze for a moment more. Then his eyes rolled back to nothing but white. He teetered to one side before keeling over onto his back.

Dead

I stared at his still body, the obsidian knife protruding quite noticeably from his chest. His wicked smile was gone.

But it wasn't enough.

I wrenched the bloody knife out of his chest. In a flash of steely blackness I plunged it into him again till hilt met flesh, and again. Slicing through the robe and flesh like it was nothing. Unseen beneath robes and skin the blade was jamming wedges in between rib bones if it wasn't cutting straight through them. Puncturing internal organs causing them to leak bodily fluids throughout the inner cavities of the body.

When I wore myself out, I fell on top of his unmoving body in exhaustion. His bronze robe was covered in red-stained holes and the fur rug was now matted with a puddle of blood. Completely without warning, my eyes overflowed with tears.

I had performed a bloody murder.
Viciously bloody

But there was a bigger upset that I didn't even want to think about but stared me in the face till I finally couldn't ignore it any longer.

I just killed the only person who knew the whereabouts of the Masters.


Wow that was a long one for me to write

Thanks a million for reading

Feedback would be greatly appreciated