"The perfect lotus, is a complex construct. It needs all its elements to rise to its full glory. The mud, the roots, the bulb and the flower itself, each part, ascending from the former one, and yet, unable to part from it. The beauty of the flower would never be, without the close-to-ground approach of the roots, so to speak."
The young man sighed, his arms straying from their usual nimbleness to hang by his side. He turned his head towards the perpetrator of that sentance, an old yet dynamic man, caressing his long and smooth white beard, without ever letting the long sleeves of his white monk's robe messing with it. After a few seconds of silence to find the right words, he said: "I know that Sifu... Uh, I'll never get used to that name of yours. Anyway, I'm used to that whole "blah blah, little scarab must start from the beggining" thing... But seriously, the Five Dragon style ?!"
The old man named Sifu, after a new stroke of his beard, answered: "Rising star, my young and impetuous charge. We are on a journey across creation, mainly for your sake, and following what the stars told us, will only cease it once you will have met masters of at least fifty martial arts and understood their substance. That brings me to two important points. First, we have to start from somewhere and a style as balanced and as widespread as the Five Dragon style seems like a perfect way to begin our journey now we gathered all the necessary companions..."
"Where are they anyway ?" answered Rising Star quickly, in a somewhat more relaxed tone.
"Well. I do not think I know all their agendas. I know Meherii is taking a closer look at the traveling pagoda, to operate it and maintain it properly. Considering his current mindset, Strong Arm must be meditating in wild lands, not too far away, or trying to flee from us. As for um... ah, I am not sure of her name anymore, it wasn't the part that... Struck me the most, so to speak, but, I think she went to get some personal supplies at the market... And um... Hm, I'm forgetting someone, am i not ?"
"Oddly enough Sifu, it seems your rampant senility didn't made you forget someone... Or, talking about it, what was the second "important point" you wanted to tell me about, just to get this over with ?"
Sifu scratches his head for a moment. His gray eyes looked around for a moment, and pointing up with his index, he said: "Ah, right ! My second important point is that you should at least keep your voice low when talking ill about a style, if you're near one of the dojos teaching it. A fist connects so quickly to the faces of the boisterous ones..."
To this claim, Rising Star answered without words, but with moves, standing up from the bench he was sitting on. Reflexively, he patted a bit his dark blue outfit, before putting a hand just over his blue eyes, looking around at the place, a finely paved large walkway circling an immaculate temple of the most traditional design, with a pagoda-style top. Behind them, grass, some trees, and a squirrel that quickly left. Once he thought he made his point, the young man brushed away the one short and ornamented strand sticking out of his otherwise short black hair, and sat back on the bench, as Sifu mumbled, more for himself than for the unsatisfied one: "And to think one such as yourself mastered the form of the violet bier of sorrow... But remember..."
"I know Sifu" interrupted Rising star "I should use it only to defend myself if I cannot do it with my personal mundane skills to avoid onlookers to take glimpse of that secret style... Geez, your lack of confidence and your paranoÃ¯a are a pain in the... "
"Here they are" said Sifu, interrupting him as well, and standing up, as the large, circle-shaped red gates of the temple opened. In perfect ranks, a series of monks then started running out of it, turned right, and kept on running before the eyes of the two onlookers, carrying a spear with their two hands, and wearing white monk outfits with a sash representing the colors of the five jades, representing the five dragon's elements. After the thirty or so of them have turned around a corner, an older man, devoid of any trace of hair, in the same clothes than the trainees but with a larger sash, saluted the two visitors with a bow theygave back immediatly and respectuously.
"Master Oshone I take it. I am honored to be in your presence." said Sifu at first.
The master of the temple answered with a smile, and turned his head a bit to ther other man, saying:
"And I suppose this is Rising Star then ? Perfect. We usually do not take visitors, but for such a respectable water-aspected dynast as you, young master, it will be a great pleasure to tell you a bit more about the one and only human-accessible martial art sanctionned by the immaculate order. Follow me please" he said, turning his back with a large motion of his hand, before walking back to the temple's gate. Behind him, Rising star followed, throwing an interrogative glance at Sifu, who just stroked his beard, a malicious smile on his face. Apparently, he knew that to be accepted by an immaculate monk of the Realm, a lie or two would be needed. Like making a chosen of serenity pass as a terrestrial dynast...
Once they passed the gates, the three men could hear the trotting footsteps of the students the other side of it, continuing to circle the temple. They continued, beyond a garden, towards a small building, and entering the room, sat on small cushions, around a small table where three cups and a steaming teapot were laying. Once the liquid poured, the man thanked, and a first sip taken, he started to say to the youngest: "The five-dragon style is the perfect style. It encompasses all the elemental influences of the dragons, without opposing them, in a harmonious blend, honed by centuries of practice. Of course, other styles are more powerful in their own, little area. But power comes at a price, and it is that price that must be found, that weakness that must be exploited, to subdue any foe. The earth dragon may be powerful, but it is slow. The water dragon might be flexible, but it needs time to build up its power. The fire dragon may be sudden, unexpected, and painful, but it is reckless. Only a truly balanced style, and a martial artist's mind honed to find weaknesses quickly, may beat a foe, greater than them, on any terrain, because their terrain are many."
Rising Star remained thoughtful at these words. Of course, these words weren't completely wrong, and the man had a point. But, the immaculate religion imposed limits he couldn't really point. After all, a water-aspected dynast, as he was supposed to be, couldn't point that these points are made void by superior styles like the one he learned, that could not simply exploit the weaknesses of a foe, but also anticipate them, create them, and amplify them. However, probably feeling his own internal questionings, Sifu said:
"Yes. After all, the martial arts, though many, are best taught to the many is they follow one and the same method, doesn't it ? It prevents unexpected branches to stem out of it, renegade martial artists to come out with powerful, unknown styles, and, maybe even more importantly, it is accessible to anyone willing to put enough efforts in it, right ?"
The master nodded, and commented: "A sword brotherhood might have different specialists, allowing them to have the right tool for the right job so to speak, but, when alone, or with people you do not know. You would be well-advised to go with any tool you can have. The best hammer in the world is of no help when you have to dig a hole. Besides, as it encompasses the five dragon in one style, many roles of martial arts, in one coherent series of teachings, it can be an excellent stepping stone, for any other style, or for personal enlightement of people willing to know how to control their body and mind. I have yet to meet anyone that came back to me, filled with regrets and feelings of uselessness. And i have been teaching for over twenty years..."
Twenty minutes later, Rising Star and Sifu were on their way to leave. Having already thanked the master, for the enlightement and the tea, the old one asked, as the monks ran before them: "So. What have you learned, from this "useless generic style" young one ?"
As he marched forward, the apprentice shook his index, and answered: "I never said it was useless Sifu. But face it, when anyone think of a martial art, they think of this one. It's just so generic..."
"When anyone think of a champion, they think of the greatest amongst them. Are you saying success is a bad thing ?" quickly replied Sifu, as if he expected that line. Somewhat more disarmed, Rising star simply shrugged. Seeing his position, Sifu added, all while caressing his beard: "There is no best style, or worst style in Creation or above. And our goal, by these travels, will not be to determine which style is the most powerful. That would be a fool's quest. No, young one. The goal is to have an all-encompassing sight upon the extent of the martial arts. That is why we took some atypical companions with us. That is why we do not simply read about these styles from scrolls. And that is why we started with the five-dragons style. By taking the best of all the dragons, by accepting to humbly tone it down, it became the face of the martial arts as a whole. Such a success should not be one thing that a true adept could settle for it is true. But it is not something that much be looked at with defiance, but with humility. Besides, to know the variations, you have to know the standard. Could someone truly say the horse is quick, if cheetah were abundant everywhere in Creation ?.. As much as the Immaculate philosophy is... Dubious sometimes, it endorsed the role of the line each style wishes to cross, by stating that style as the one and only. That, is a hard role to bear, sometimes."
Remaining without any wity answer for the moment, the two travelers walked down the long serpenting stairway that led to the immaculate temple, heading back to where the traveling pagoda, and their barely-known companions were. Probably.