Chapter 1

He lived a small condominium in Beijing, located in what Americans would call a "yuppie" neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. It was a somewhat unlikely place to find a martial arts master as most chose to withdraw from the world, but he had apparently chosen to live among the masses. This accessibility meant that, among other things, Long San Qiang was going to be in for a very interesting visit this afternoon.

Shego adjusted her dress - a departure from her usual wardrobe, but a vital necessity in the hot Chinese summer - and knocked on the door, going over Mandarin phrases in her head. After a few minutes of reviewing, the door opened revealing a young man in his early thirties dressed in a business suit.

"Can I help you, Ma'am?" He asked politely, in impeccable British English. minutes

"Long San Qiang?" He was definitely not the kind of person Shego had in mind.

"Biosyntheic engineer, at your service." He did not invite her in, which resulted in the two staring at each other through the doorway.

"I was expecting someone older," Shego finally articulated. "And with a beard. May long white eyebrows."

"Oh, I see. This isn't about business, is it? Did Lin tell you where I was?"

Abbot Lin was the current head of the Shaolin monastery. He had in fact told Shego to seek out Long San Qiang in Beijing for training; she was beginning to suspect that he had said so to get rid of her.

"He told me that there was no one better to learn Tai Chi from," Shego replied cautiously. "Though to be honest, you're not what I expected."

"And you're not exactly a typical student." He frowned as he studied her form. "You're that supervillain I keep seeing on the news, aren't you?"

Well, the cat was out of the bag now. There was only one thing to do; flaunt it.

"Villainess, actually," Shego declared proudly, placing her hands on her hips.

"And you're here because you want to...?"

"Well, after getting my ass handed to fighting a teenager for the past few years, I felt I could use some more training."

Shego fidgeted nervously as his frown deepened. After what seemed like an eternity, he opened the door all the way and motioned for her to come in.

"Full marks for honesty, but I think some clarifications are in order," he explained, closing the door behind her. She stood awkwardly in his living room while he sat down on the couch. "One: Most people who can speak English call me Victor, since I was born in Hong Kong while it was still a British colony. Two: I'm a master of meditation and other mental techniques, not any martial art in particular, though I guess I'm also good for some Tai Chi. Three: Didn't you just get pardoned for saving the world?"

The abrupt transition of topic from him to her caught Shego off guard. "I, er, yes."

Victor raised an eyebrow, clear interested in hearing more.

"Just because I did something good doesn't make me a good person," Shego explained defensively. "Drakken may have gone soft, but me? No way. I haven't been good since I left my brothers. Not counting instances of mind control."

"Does the phrase 'bad to the bone' apply to this situation?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

"You're not motivating me to teach you, you know."

"You're not exactly a martial artist, so I take it we're even?"

They stared at each other, each sizing the other up. Victor was clearly irritated by her attitude.

"The martial arts are more about self-discipline than beating people up," he explained, as if talking to a very stupid child. Shego forced herself to restrain her Fist of Death and hear him out. "Judging by your tone, I'd guess that you either never had a competent instructor, or if you had, never paid attention to anything other than combat?"

Memories of her time as a member of Team Go came to mind, with Hego at the front and dressed for karate class.

"Both," Shego replied. "He was a hack and I learned to take what I could from him and move on. Quickly. Haven't had one since; few people want to train villains."

"Or villainesses, apparently." Victor added. "So you're mostly self taught?"

Shego nodded, affirming his guess.

"Alright, then you'd better take a seat while I explain some things to you." He waited until she sat down on the other end of the couch before continuing. "The martial arts have a long history in China, stretching back thousands of years, but the modern martial arts that people hear about today are a more recent phenomenon. They are more than just a way of fighting, incorporating spiritual elements as well. It is important to take in the entire spectrum of - you're not listening, are you?"

Shego's eyes widened like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. At least he was more attentive than Drakken.

"Sure I was," she lied. "Long history, spiritual elements, holistic understanding."

"Bloody Yanks, they're always the same," Victor muttered. "Look, I've spent most of my life doing kung fu, two decades studying Tai Chi, and have been working on and off on researching the path of enlightenment though asskicking for a book I am trying to write, so when I say something you might want to listen."

"Sorry, I'll pay attention. Scout's honor." Shego made the Pixie Scout sign with her fingers; though the meteor had cut her fledgling career short she really did meant it this time.

"As I was saying," Victor continued, keeping his eye on Shego, "It's not just about fighting; spirituality and morality are an important part of the modern martial arts. Your opponent probably knows this, one of the benefits of formal training and actually paying attention to her instructor."

Shego ignored the dig at her. "Why, though?"

"Offhand, it makes you a better person and prevents the misuse of martial arts."

"Like in the original Karate Kid?"

"Yes... something like that. It also teaches you discipline so your emotions do not become an obstacle - something that I'm guessing is a problem?"

"Only... yeah."

"Finally, it expands your awareness. It allows you to get in touch with yourself, and with your enemy so you can respond naturally and instinctively to the pace of battle. Sound good?"

Shego nodded again. "So, you'll teach me?"

"If you're willing to learn."

"And if I use your teachings for evil instead of good?" Shego asked playfully, relieved that he had accepted her.

"I'm pretty sure you don't need my help for that," Victor frowned.

"But I could become an unstoppable force, steamrolling over the forces of good with my newfound martial prowess and take over the world!" Shego quickly assumed a dramatic stance and set her hands alight to emphasize her point.

"Any bloke with a sniper rifle has a good chance of taking you out no matter how good you became at beating people up with your bare hands," Victor pointed out. "You don't warrant that kind of attention now, but if you ever overdid it I'm sure you'd find yourself in the cross-hairs pretty quickly."

"Joykill," Shego muttered, extinguishing her flames and sitting back down. "So why are you doing this if you know I'm up to know good?"

"I suppose I might as well; 'The master accepts both saints and sinners', after all. On the more practical side, it's something of a dying art since everyone wants to learn the flashy parts and ignore the fundamentals. I blame movies, personally."

"I'm willing to learn," Shego hastily replied, before he could remember that she referenced The Karate Kid. "When do I start?"

"After dinner. I've been stuck in conferences all day."

Dinner that night consisted of Chinese takeout. Shego found it very amusing.