Nibbling on the end of some toast, Lychee watched as her mother berated Pan for her choice of clothing, stating that the seventeen-year-old didn’t need to be “flaunting” so much. Pan was, as usual, laughing it off. This served to only infuriate Daiyu, who would take out her anger on her students in the dojo later on in the day. Seeing as it was a Tuesday, Lychee made a mental note to go unlock the back portion of the home and bring out the wooden swords for the blade sparring that the advanced pupils would be learning later today.
Lychee, being only fifteen, had learned enough Wushu to make herself a formidable opponent should the need arise. Not that it ever did, as she was well-known in her age group due to her mother’s fiery temper and the town elder’s helping her with funding for reconstruction of parts of her home after Samuel, Lychee’s father, died. He’d been in the process of renovating the old dojo when he’d had the accident, and without his help it was proving difficult to finish what he started.
Daiyu turned to Lychee with a frown. “You should be getting ready for school. Go, I’ll clean up.”
Lychee signed her thanks and walked from the kitchen, instead heading towards the old dojo.
Sliding open the door leading to what most people would have used as a garage, the huge room was now lined with wooden boards and signs bearing the names of the locals who’d won tournaments using the families style of Wushu. Several belonged to Daiyu from when she was younger, and two belonged to Lychee from when she competed in the children’s brackets.
Smiling, she turned on the light so she could see the room better; she doubted that the students from yesterday had stayed on to clean like they were supposed to.
Instead of finding scattered equipment, she found the large black pads stacked neatly in the middle of the room, fifteen thick body shields rising from the floor to the ceiling. Sighing, Lychee walked over to the column and, with a twist of her hips, performed a spinning kick to knock the tower apart.
The specter that dwelled in their home enjoyed playing in the dojo, often resorting to such hijinks when it was in a mercurial mood. Grabbing the heavy pads two at a time, Lychee quickly moved them to the wall, stacking them in three piles of five in their designated spots. Checking the roster on the wall to make certain the sword class was today, she went to the closet and began sorting through the gathered equipment for the rolling sword rack. Pulling it free after moving a few kettlebells out of the way, she rolled the practice blades out to the small stage in near the door leading back into the house. Counting the swords, she smiled when she came up with the correct number.
Turning to leave, she frowned when she found the door closed. Heaving a sigh, she turned the lights off, knowing what was about to happen and how best to speed it up.
Fast as lightning, one of the wooden swords whipped free from the rack, twirling through air in a wicked arc aimed for Lychee’s face. Hopping to the side, she smiled as it clattered against the wooden wall harmlessly. Catching it before it could fall, she used it to block the next sword as it flew up before descending like a meteor from the heavens. The silent battle began as an ancient spirit began twirling and whirling the wooden blade about in an effort to strike Lychee. She could feel the anger bubbling off of the ghost, and could only smile in response.
This was the way she stayed in shape!
Wincing as the specter struck her knuckles, she lashed out at the sword in an attempt to knock it from the air. The battle was one waged at least once a month, always ending in either Lychee striking down the opposing sword or the contest being interrupted by Pan or Daiyu. Whenever one of them would make an appearance, the ghostly warrior would drop the blade to the floor, leaving only Lychee in a bruised and sweaty mess.
Sidestepping a lunge, Lychee snap kicked the blade at the hilt, knocking it a few feet away. The weapon rolled in the air, coming back around in a wide arc that forced Lychee to roll forward. Coming out of the roll facing away from the sword, Lychee brought her blade instinctively up behind her, smiling when she felt the vicious rattling of wood striking wood. Slicing up while spinning to face the opposing blade, Lychee celebrated a small victory when she noted that the spirit’s sword struck the ceiling before falling to the floor.
Once again, she’d bested the spirit of a past swordsmen.
Bowing from the hip, she thanked the spirit for it’s observance of the old ways. She could feel the anger growing stronger, a faint scent of rotted meat filling the air. Keeping her bow as stiff as possible, she fought back a shiver when she felt hot breath blow across the back of her neck. Next came the worst part of the ritual: when the ghost would try and teach her to fight.
Twirling her blade in her hand, she relaxed and allowed what felt like a dozen hands push and probe her body until she was in a specific stance, one that begged for an aggressive strike. It wasn’t Wushu in any sense, but it was an effective style that the ghost was slowly teaching her. Striking forward with the sword as if it were a spear, she pulled out of her lung with reversed slice, hopping into a spin so that she could strike the space where her imaginary opponents head was.
Stopping when she felt the hands on her once again, she quickly adopted the aggressive stance once more, smiling faintly as the hands left her body.
Repeating the exercise ten times, she found herself sweating despite the chill in the air. Finally, she lowered her weapon and bowed towards the middle of the room. She mouthed her thanks in Cantonese, a language she was learning as she found the spirit would become violent when she tried to sign at it, or mouth words in English.
The anger ebbed slightly, fading until Lychee felt she was alone in the dojo. Taking a moment to flip the discarded sword of the specter, she placed both weapons back on the rack before turning her head with a smile.
The door leading into the house was wide open.