Friday, February 24, 2006

Kungfu Stories II

The Kitchen Helper's Knives


There was a very arrogant trainer in a kungfu school.  He had a bad temper and used to verbally abuse his students and treat them very roughly.  The grand-master knew about his arrogance and his rough tactics, but he kept quiet because he was such a good fighter and he trained his students well.  Weaker students who could not tolerate the abuse went away after a while.  That was good, because that's what a kungfu school was for.  Train people to be strong and fight back and not be bullied.  Too bad for those wimps.  Let them go back to be farmers and fishermen.  The tough ones who learn to fight back and be strong can then be the champions of the school when they go out and meet contestants from other schools.  Our opponents will fear us.  Those who hear about how tough our training is will want to join our kungfu school.  So the grand-master thought, and began to count the future achievements of his school.


But then the arrogant one became more and more arrogant and abusive.  Students were beaten mercilessly if they made slight mistakes.  Some were denied food and drinks for the whole day.  Those who couldn’t take it anymore ran away and never came back.  Soon the number of students became lesser and lesser.   Then one day he killed a student during free sparring training.  He could have restrained himself and spared the student's life, but he didn't.  Then the grand-master realized that he'd gone too far.  But it was too late.  The trainer had tasted the strange and sinister feeling of power of taking a life with his own hands.  It was now difficult to stop him.  The grand-master became afraid.


There was a kitchen helper working in the kitchen preparing food for the kungfu students.  He worked all morning just chopping meat on a block with a pair of knives.  He was once young and eager to learn kungfu too, but since he was very poor, he had to work instead.  So he got a job in the kitchen of this kungfu school.  It so happened that his workplace was a table near a window over-looking the training ground.  So everyday while he worked, he watched the students practice their skills. 


He had another chopping block which he hanged against the wall at the end of the table.  Each time he finished chopping some meat he would throw his knives at the block and they'd stick in it.  He did that all the time everyday until he did not even have to look.  He'd just toss the knives at the block with a quick flick of his hands.  He realized in time that the knives seemed to be stuck deeper and deeper into the block, but he didn't think too much about it.  "The block must be getting softer as it aged or maybe I sharpened the knife points too much", he said to himself.


He just kept chopping his meat each day and watched.  Year after year after year, he worked in that kitchen.  One day, while the grand-master was away, he saw the trainer beating a student almost half to death.  The other students were so afraid; they kept silent and didn't do anything.  The kitchen helper ran out and told him to stop.


The trainer turned on him and said, "Who are you to stop me?  You are only a kitchen helper!"


"But you are killing him!  He's only a student!" said the kitchen helper.


"So, you want to stop me?  Are you challenging me?" asked the Trainer.


Without thinking, the kitchen helper said, "Yes.  Someone has to stop you.  Otherwise you will go on killing more people."


"Ha ha ha ha!" the Trainer laughed sarcastically.  "You, a kitchen helper challenge me?  With what?  With your chopping knife?"


"Yes" said the kitchen helper.


"Alright then.  I'll wait right here for you with my sword.  Got and get your weapon."


The kitchen helper ran into his kitchen and came out with his chopping knives, one in each hand. 

"Get ready to die, you kitchen helper!  I'm not a piece of dead meat for you to chop.  You'll have to put me on your block first!"  The Trainer kept taunting the kitchen helper with such sneering remarks and laughter which sounded like those of someone near to madness. 


The kitchen helper followed tradition.  He bowed at the Trainer like they always did before each training or sparring session.  As soon he finished his bow, he threw both knives at the Trainer, faster than the eye could see. 


The Trainer's sword was still in his hand, but he wondered why the kitchen helper wasn't holding his knives anymore.  And his sword suddenly grew heavy, too heavy for him to lift up.  His chest felt heavy too.  There were some objects stuck to his chest, which were never there before.  Something's wrong here, he thought.  The kitchen helper is still standing there, but he seemed to be tilting.  No, I'm the one tilting.  I'm falling, but why me?  I'm the best fighter here.  My students, my grand-master, my kungfu school... I'm going to be grand-master soon... But this kitchen helper, what does he know?  What can he do to me?  He's even lost his knives....


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