Private Tales The 36th Chamber of Sung Chei

Ederick Stone

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"Get outta the Cart ya' free-loading roach!"

That's what he had screamed at him, as the foot of the man came slamming into Ederick's stomach, kicking him off the back of the cart he had stowed away on.

Ever since his meeting with the sword master, he had travelled far and wide in search for anyone who'd teach him. He'd knocked on every door, begged every merchant he'd come across for information, but to no avail. Every master he'd met either asked for an insurmountable fee to be trained, or simply pushed him out for having no previous experience or heritage.

He had one more lead; an eastern martial arts master, who fought off raiders and criminals in the mountain villages of the Spine. Considering he was in Vel Anir at the time, he had a long, long trek ahead of him.

A three month trek.

He'd sneaked onto any sort of cart or carriage he could find, taking a beating every now and then to get to where he needed to be. This was his last chance to find someone who would teach him. If the information he was given turned out to be a dead end, he'd have to go back to working at a blacksmith. He didn't look forward to that.

He wanted to become a warrior.

He was lucky enough to hear fantastic stories whilst he travelled. Many mercenaries had heard of these 'Eastern Masters', capable of breaking through hard-wood with their bare hands, slicing through bone with well honed steel, jumping great heights and with finesse greater than any warrior. It excited him to hear such stories. Then again, he'd never actually seen any of these masters. Every teacher he'd seen thus far wouldn't even let him get a word in edge-ways before they booted him out of their temple.


__________________________________________
Finally, he'd reached a village.

He was hungry, under-fed, tired, in ragged, thread-bare clothes, with a backpack full of mushrooms and plants he'd foraged on his journey, most of which he was sure were dangerous to eat. He hadn't bathed in the longest time, and could smell himself, like a reeking mud-soaked rag. His hair had over-grown, falling onto his shoulders, more ash than brown. He'd gotten odd looks from the villagers as he passed by, all probably wondering where his parents were, and why he'd ran away.

The only thing that was contrary to this image was the sword hanging from his waist. Such a beautiful thing, and the only item his father had left him. It's slightly curved blade hidden by a long black sheathe, covered in markings, the hilt tied with some sort of rope. He certainly didn't know, but the warrior he'd met in Vel Anir said it was of value, so he wasn't going to argue.

Until he was approached by three men.

They were large, unkempt brutes, clad in leather armour, their hair unusually long and braided. They all carried short swords on their side, and were almost double the height of Ederick.


"Excuse me... I'm trying to-"

"Awful nice piece of steel you've got there. Mind I take a look?" The middle-man said, taking a step closer.

"I-I'd rather you didn't." Ed said, a hint of fear threaded in his clumsy words. His hand resting on the hilt.


"Oh- you tryna threaten me Boy?" The man's hand rested on his short sword also, giving Ed a cold, hard stare.

"N-No-"

But before Ederick could get another word, the man sweeped his legs out, and kicked Ed away with his other, sending him rolling across the floor, the air spat out of Ed's lungs, a spat of blood on the floor. The hilt moved from his sword, the gorgeous steel gleaming in the sun, it's edge never tested, perfectly maintained.

Someone... help...


Sung Chei
 

Sung Chei

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A blur of motion, barely visible as the armored man suddenly appeared. He was a foreigner, one from the far east, and for that he was more dangerous than most warriors as they were unsure of how he fought. His armour was of shining but dented and scratched steel plates, small rectangular ones held together by a mail base. This armour skirted his thighs, splitting in front and behind just below the crotch to allow for riding and the deeper stances of his martial art. In his hand was a polearm just taller than he was, it had a spearhead and two crescent shaped blades on either side to allow for cutting and chopping, it was called Ji. At each hip was a straight, double edged sword, jian they were called. His long black hair was bound in a bun above his head, and about his forehead was a red strip of cloth, emblazoned with the white tiger of his father's house.

He had swiftly, effectively and effortlessly disarmed the man, and held his face into the dirt by his wrist. “Attacking someone who is armed is often unwise, regardless of skill. A mistake I doubt you will repeat in the future.”

He released the man’s arm, and turned to face the boy. “It isn’t not often that one carries a blade they don’t know how to use. Who are you boy, and how is it you have such a weapon when the rest of your appearance is clearly that of a beggar?”

His gaze wasn’t unkind, but it was always scrutinizing and calculating everything. He was going to judge the boy on his next few words.
 
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Ederick Stone

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"I-I..."

He was lost for words.

He'd just seen this man, emblazoned in fine, foreign armour, disarm and fell the man who'd kicked him with almost zero effort. He'd done it as if it was as easy as breathing. And strangely enough, he looked a lot like his father. Even his armour carried a similar culture to it.

"Crazy bastard..." The man who fell in the mud began to push himself away, picking himself up from the floor, embarrassed at his very visible defeat.

"I- I'm looking for... I..." He couldn't seem to construct the words, the fluid movements and power of the man still shocking him. He picked himself up from the floor, flicking bits of muck from his torn clothes.

"I think i'm looking for you."
 

Sung Chei

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Chei cocked an eyebrow. “For me? Why would you be looking for me?”

He had not changed his tone, a tone of unshakable calm that was sharp and dangerous as it was serene and patient. He was clearly someone of wisdom, despite being young compared to most monks from his home of similar age and skill. He stood there, waiting for him to tell him what he wanted from him.
 
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Ederick Stone

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He tried to straighten his back and pat himself down, showing some sign of modesty. But his efforts were mostly fruitless; at least with all the other masters, he was fairly well dressed and cleaned. Here, he looked like he was about to ask the man for a place to stay for the night.

"I was uh... looking to become someone's pupil. I want to-" His eyes took on a more serious tone, as he looked at the man.

"I want to learn to fight."
 

Sung Chei

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"To fight, you seem to be in dire straits as it is, are you certain that this is what you wish to do with yourself. This is a commitment, a big one, and it will not be easy. Are you absolutely certain that this is the path you wish to tread." He says, his face darkening in solemn seriousness. This boy was young to be making such a choice, but it was his choice to make, and if he decided to train with him, the hardship he would face would be far more trying than the journey he took to get there.

Sung didn't move, still as stone.
 

Ederick Stone

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The man's eyes were serious and experienced. Unlike many of the masters he'd met on his long trek to his village, they seemed to hold true experience, tried experience.

His words made Ed a little nervous, afraid even. He truly had no idea what lay in store for him should he begin training. Thus far the only real fighting he'd done was hitting foxes with a cane back on the farm. Was he ready for this kind of commitment? A commitment not easily broken?

"I'm ready. I- I'm sure." A hint of doubt in his voice, but sureness in his eyes.
 

Sung Chei

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"I'm ready. I- I'm sure." A hint of doubt in his voice, but sureness in his eyes.
Chei looked him square in the eyes. "No, not ready. As soon as you believe yourself to be ready, you are not. Come with me, and I will teach you."

He lead the boy up into the mountains of the Spine, the pace steady but long and unforgiving for those not used to it. Until at last they came to a small clearing in the woods, with a simple but foreign house built in the far side. Its roof was at an obtuse angle at the top with the corners curving upward, and the wood painted red. It was small, but it would be a suitable living space for the teacher and apprentice.



"Your first lesson begins tomorrow, there is a stream behind the house, get cleaned up, and when you are done we will eat."
 

Ederick Stone

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"No, not ready. As soon as you believe yourself to be ready, you are not. Come with me, and I will teach you."
The warrior's words were strange and foreign to him, but he knew that some sort of deep wisdom lie within them. He knew nothing, and this man knew so much more than he, all he hoped is that his words would begin to make more sense in time.

The walk was long and treacherous once again, walking along cliff sides and streams, working their way up the mountain, the man's pace steady, Ed's tired legs struggled to keep up with him. He could feel the blisters on his feet rub and pop as his muscles ached. He had become so tired of hiking. Though, he supposed he'd be doing a whole lot more of it before his training was at an end.

Once they'd finally reached their destination, Ed was gasping for air, his legs shaking. The site he was presented with was ever more foreign to him however, as the building greeting him was painted red, with strange architecture he'd never seen before. Apart from, perhaps, the hut his father had built for them to live in. He didn't dwell on that thought however.

"Your first lesson begins tomorrow, there is a stream behind the house, get cleaned up, and when you are done we will eat."
"Oh, sure." He said, jovially, knowing he'd finally be afforded some time to wash, and - best of all - eat.

He walked past the building, its boards cracking with age, the red it was stained with faded and old. There was a certain beauty to it though, with the sound of the stream floating through the air, the stalks and leaves being pushed and pulled by breeze. There was a calm he struggled to put his finger on. But as he reached the water, he dropped his bag, let his belt and sword fall to the ground, and collapsed by it. His hands sunk into the cool, refreshing water, splashing it onto his face, dirt and grime coming away with it.

Almost made the whole walk worth it, he thought.

Once he'd cleaned himself up, he lugged his equipment over to the strange looking building, and left it on the terrace, just outside the door. When he walked in, he was greeted with a mostly plain looking interior, with some perhaps strange pictures on the wall, in a language he did not comprehend or recognise.

"Uh, hello?" He called.
 

Sung Chei

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Inside he’d find that only the lower half of the interior walls were wood, and pretty thin wood at that, the rest were made from some kind of paper, on which the foreign artwork and writing were portrayed. The doors were much the same. In the middle of the smooth wooden floor was a low table at which Sung Chei sat on a mat of tightly woven grass. Two wooden trays were set at the table, each with a bowl of some white grain-like substance that looked boiled to softness, and some fish as well as smaller bowls of water, presumably to replace cups. Most of these were well made but clearly not the work of a master carpenter, and all presumably homemade. For eating there were two long sticks, which Chei would demonstrate how to use.

Chei gestured for him to sit across from him on an identical grass mat. “Sit and eat, this is what your diet will look like for the duration of your training.”
 

Ederick Stone

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Ed had never been so confused.

He looked down at his brand new master, sitting on some strange mats, with a table that was unusually close to the ground, the bowls filled with a substance he wasn't familiar with. The smell of fish however, brought him much comfort, and reminded him of home. There was no cutlery; two long sticks sat beside the water bowl that had been placed there.

“Sit and eat, this is what your diet will look like for the duration of your training.”
"Oh, it looks very... nice!" The fish rather, looked very nice. The grains that sat in the larger bowl didn't look so appetising.

He awkwardly lowered himself to the ground, his knees falling under him. It was incredibly uncomfortable.

He began to pick up the sticks, looking at them unusually, trying to fit them inside of his hand. As he did, he looked at the man, puzzled.

"I'm sorry, but what do I call you? I haven't even asked your name..." He said, shyly.

Did he make a bad first impression? He hoped not.
 

Sung Chei

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"Sung Chei is my name, my given name is Chei." He says, "this is how the chopsticks are held in case you were wondering."

He demonstrated how to use them. "It will take you some time to get used to, which is a lesson in and of itself. If you had to guess, what would you suppose that learning to use this is meant to teach you, and no, it isn't how to eat at another culture's dining table."

Chei didn't mess around, nearly everything he did was meant to teach him or someone else, or remind him of lessons already learned. The kneeling was meant to indicate a few things, one of which being humility, the other endurance and the ability to adapt, as it would be less and less uncomfortable the more he did it. The copsticks were used in his home country to teach patience in learning, and to remain focused on a task throughout one's life. There was more that he would use to teach him. He ate with practiced ease, and appeared to be perfectly comfortable sitting the way he did.
 

Ederick Stone

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His last name comes first? That's odd.

He watched Chei demonstrating how to use the eating utensils he was expected to eat with. The movements were strange and awkward, and completely foreign to Ed, as were many things he was being introduced to today. He just about managed to create some sort of scissor movement with them, and dug into the bowl of grains, managing to keep about 10 of them on the sticks and into his mouth. It tasted extremely plain, and didn't remind him much of anything.

He managed to stab himself some fish however, which was far more appetising. The whole time, awkwardly shifting around on his knees, trying to find some relief from the awkward sitting position he was in.

"Mhy name ish Ed, Ed Shtone." He said through mouthfuls of fish.
 

Sung Chei

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"Mhy name ish Ed, Ed Shtone." He said through mouthfuls of fish.
He looked up, basic manners didn't seem to be taught to this kid, but he'd let it slide for now, as he had been starving for quite a while it seems. "Ed Stone, Edward or just Ed?"

He had been eating the rice and the fish without any visisble distaste for any of it. He sat still, where Ed shifted. He was calm, unreadable and still. "And why is it that one so young is looking for someone like me, when one's father should be arranging such an apprenticeship?"
 

Ederick Stone

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"Oh.. uh, Ed I guess." He said after swallowing a mouthful of rice and fish.

"And why is it that one so young is looking for someone like me, when one's father should be arranging such an apprenticeship?"
"We-" He hesitated.

That was a good question. He wasn't even entirely sure why he'd come to become a pupil.

"Well, my father died passed not long ago. When I looked through his things..." Once again, he hesitated.

"There's a lot about my father that I didn't know. He was a warrior of some kind, I think. That's his sword. I've got nowhere else to go."
That was true. He had no home, no title, no money. This seemed like the most viable option.

"I want to better myself."
 

Sung Chei

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"I want to better myself."
He looked at him square in the eyes, "to better yourself. Well then, you've come to the right place. You see, what I intend to teach you is called wanseong, which means completion or perfection of self, through constant practice. It does not mean to fight specifically, though that is what it is usually associated with. You will find yourself honed and molded into a different person, a person of your choosing, should you keep with this training. But let me be clear, this will not be easy, nor will it be quick."
 

Ederick Stone

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It was intense.

The look Chei gave him was stern and serious, each word he uttered carried heavy weight along with them, each syllable articulated to make Ed understand the scale of this undertaking. It would be hard. It would be long. But, he'd come out the other end the man he hoped himself to become.

He'd heard stories of ancient Eastern masters, capable of punching through panels of varnished wood, crushing stone, leaping to great heights, and taking on groups of men without using weapons. He could never dream of reaching such mastery. But if he could train himself to survive in this harsh world, to become the self he wishes to become, he would do anything.

"I understand. I'll learn whatever you're willing to teach me."
 

Sung Chei

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"I understand. I'll learn whatever you're willing to teach me."
"Good, now answer my question, what is it that you think these chospsticks are meant to teach you?" He says with a clear look of approval for his determination, but not quite so approving as to be impressed just yet. He had yet to truly test the boy.
 

Ederick Stone

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"Oh, these." He didn't immediately recognise the wooden sticks he'd been using as 'chopsticks'.

That was a good question. What was it teaching him? They were definitely difficult to use, he'd never used them before. They were awkward and clunky, but got easier to use as time passed by. He was adapting to their use, but what did this all mean?

"Well, I guess i'm adapting to a new situation, I've definitely never used these before..." That was the only thing he could think of. It may not of been the perfect answer, but it seemed to make sense to him.
 

Sung Chei

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"Well, I guess i'm adapting to a new situation, I've definitely never used these before..." That was the only thing he could think of. It may not of been the perfect answer, but it seemed to make sense to him.
"A good answer. While you are here you will find that almost everything you do will be a lesson of one kind or another, regardless of the task or exercise. It is my hope that you will learn these lessons thoroughly, and that you will grow not only in physical skill but also in wisdom and understanding. The answer that I was looking for in particular was Patience, they are largely meant to teach you Patience, which is essential for anyone to master, and will be one of the many things you never stop learning and improving upon." He says, before continuing to eat in silence, not to speak again unless he needed to.
 

Ederick Stone

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Patience...

Chei didn't need to tell him for Ed to realise that to get anything substantial out of this training, he'd certainly need a lot of patience; to understand the lessons he was trying to teach, to 'find meaning' in every thing he did.

He'd need to find that patience somewhere.

He nodded, and carried on eating his food. He didn't expect the rice and fish to be so filling, even if his hand was cramping slightly using the chop-sticks. He thought back to when the master quickly dispatched the bandit that harassed him earlier that day. He wanted that.

"
Uh, Mr Chei, who taught you?" He asked out of mild curiosity, nearing the end of his meal.
 

Sung Chei

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"Uh, Mr Chei, who taught you?" He asked out of mild curiosity, nearing the end of his meal.
"My father, he was my teacher." He said calmly, though with the most subtle hint of sadness. "He was trained by his father. A family tradition."

Once the food was gone he stood, "Follow me, I'll show you where you will be sleeping."

He brought him into one of the rooms, it had a small groundmat with a woven pillow on the top and a thin blanket over it. It was simple, and not entirely comfortable, but it wouldn't be unbearably uncomfortable. Other than that, there was a simple low table much like that in the dining hall, and it had a singly stone bowl in the center, for incense.

"Sleep well, you have a long day ahead of you."

(Hey, I'll be gone for four days, maybe more.)
 
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Ederick Stone

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He'd spent all night thinking about what he was doing there. Strangely enough, he was quite used to the room he had been allocated, his bed at home being very similar, although the oddly low table was still an oddity.

He'd dreamt of the journey there, the thousands upon thousands of steps he'd taken to get this far. He just hoped he'd make the most of this opportunity. If his father were still around, he wouldn't want to disappoint him.

That would be the last thing he'd want.

The morning came, the sun shining through the thin, woven window that peaked out into the greenery, filling the room with it's light. It wasn't long before he dressed himself once more in his mostly tattered clothes, and made his way outside of his room. Walking into the room where he'd been seated for his evening meal, he sat on the mat, and awaited his instructor.
 

Sung Chei

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His instructor was already there, the same type of meal as they had had the night before was on the table. But his instructor was no longer wearing his armor, but was clad in a vest and bracers of tiger skin, and with loose pants and boots. It was simple and flexible, and wouldn't hinder any movement. Once the meal was finished he lead Ederick out into the training yard, the stone courtyard out behind the hut, just past the stream where Ederick had bathed the previous evening.

"The first thing one must master is the balance between flexibility, strength, speed, enduranc and accuracy. Now, I will show you the most basic stance." So he entered mabu, horse stance, with his legs at perfect right angles from his body, one hundred eighty degrees from each other, and his knees bent at ninety degrees. "Assume this, and hold it until you cannot continue."

This was basically what the first month or two of training would be, conditioning him to be strong, flexible and durable. Horse stance, splits and various other positions that were very difficult to do, and he was expected to make substantial progress very quickly, and was basically forced into a physical condition that allowed him to withstand great physical trial. It wasn't until the third month of training that he was actually tought how to fight, and even then only with his hands.

He was given a new set of clothes, a simple white vest and loose pants with wraparound boots as well as a tie on belt. The morning that he was to be begin training in actual combat, Sung had set out the food for him but wasn't there for breakfast, he was in the courtyard.