The Grand Master led the way through the Dragon Gate and into the temple compound where the snow fell, laying its powdery white carpet. Kang had been at the order's temple monastery in the Drakespine since he was a child. An affinity with earth magic resulted in a journey to the temple where he was offered to the monks, as is tradition. Through the many years of training, he demonstrated both great skill and patience and an expert mastery over the element of earth. When it became time for the old Grand Master to stand down, Kang was uncontested to take his place and unanimously welcomed by his fellow monks.
Incredulously inside, situated at all corners and growing out from the stone floor, were trees full of spring's pink cherry blossom. The juxtaposition of the pink blossom falling on the white snow was both beautiful and alien to Abel's senses.
Here in this compound, the Order of the Golden Lotus trained a minimum of three times a day, often more. Abel looked behind him as he heard the large entrance gate clang shut, "there is no point in thinking of leaving now. After today's snowfall, the gate will not open again until spring."
"What, wait!" Abel cried, "you mean I am trapped here until then?"
"We are all trapped here until the snow breaks and thaws, you, me and Cedric. We must use this time wisely to help your friend."
Kang pointed across the courtyard with a long, precise finger at the man Abel had known most of his life. He was relieved to see his friend alive. Drawing closer Abel could see the conflict written all over Cedric's face as though he was wrestling demons of his own.
"Gentlemen, you are required to attend each of my classes, including after-class training, you will partner with each other. In addition, you are expected to complete duties to contribute to the upkeep of the monastery. Your lives will be difficult, both physically and mentally, but the efforts that each of you puts in will be matched by the rewards you will gain. This is the traditional way of our order, and you have an excellent opportunity to learn by immersion in an environment that fosters this learning."
"Your first lesson starts now, follow my form, copy my moves." The master began to weave a complex pattern in front of both men, his hands and feet moving together, blocking, kicking and punching. When both men could imitate Kang's movements, he turned the men to face one another. "The kata I have taught you underpins everything we teach here, and you will both practise it every day. I have introduced you to how we attack and defend against an opponent simultaneously, and you will practice this. To my count, 1...2...3...4...5...and back to start again."
"Move, strike, throw, get up, reset, go. We are training without thought, without thinking and without feeling. Turn, repeat, move and strike."
"We must remove the darkness inside you, Cedric...2...3...4...You can not be driven by the darkness move out from underneath it."
"Your skills and ability are yours and not the darkness within you. It is using you to deliver what it desires. Strike Cedric down Abel, beat him into submission, make his anger rise up and let the darkness consume him. 1...2...3...4..and back to start again. Let us bring him to the light."
As the master of the temple counted out the timings through his physical form interjected with his wisdom, his chanting meditation projected his astral form onto the transdimensional plane as he needed to seek further advice from the Dragon King.
All the while, the snow continued to fall in the courtyard laying its powdery white carpet.
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