Atop Wudan each student had his own sleeping quarters.
A small stone room with a rug to sleep on.
A straw pillow.
And a tiny wooden table to place your perfectly folded uniform upon.
But I had one extra item…
An item I had earnt through one of the harshest tests a Wudan adept had yet to suffer in the history of trainings. A mission of mercy, delivering vital supplies to villagers trapped behind The Debarred Ridge.
The story of this journey and the people trapped there is to be told another time.
But know that the scars I bare and the pain I endured were significant enough to get a nod of approval from Master PO himself.
I heard from a senior priest it had been many thousands of years since that slight head movement, his nod, had been witnessed towards an adept who had yet to complete training.
It was a full 3 years of recovery from the physical pain, mainly spent unable to move, alone on my rug in the corner of my room.
And in Master Pos infinite mercy, he provided me with this extra item for my recovery.
A candle which never extinguished through flame. Never melted.
An endless source of heat and light.
An endless source of hope.
She simply burnt.
It is impossible for me to use something as primitive as language to explain how the light and heat gave me strength on the coldest of nights.
To say she was all I had, is not an understatement, it’s an insult to the adoration I had for this flame - consistent and never wavering.
She was everything to me.
As long as my candle was alight, I knew I would make it through the night.
I made it through every other night she had bore flame and although I would worry my body didnt have the strength to keep me breathing, I knew I will wake up and see her. I always did.
Years after the ordeal, with my recovery complete, Po had never taken her from me.
She remained in my room, leaving my quarters as the only one amongst thousands of adepts with an extra item.
When I would finish exercises, when the long days were complete, I would excitedly rush back to my room to admire her. To pay respect to her. I would sit and stare as a mark of appreciation.
She gave me so much, so I thought it was only fair that I gave back via adoration.
One cold and rainy morning I was practising my Tigers Claw in the court yard.
Po was observing the students from a seated position, as he always had, but something was different today.
He looked exactly the same, but everything just FELT different.
I can’t tell you if he was enraged or heart broken, but he was feeling something so strongly that every adept sensed it.
I assume it was this feeling that provoked him to stand.
He stood and began to perform the 4th Tiger Claw form with such speed and ferocity that a gust of wind erupted from his hands and knocked all adepts to the ground.
Like a shockwave, all of us flew straight backwards.
From the ground I heard him call an end to exercises.
Disorientated I stood and stumbled back to my room.
I was horrified to see that this very gust of wind, had extinguished my candle, and I couldn’t get her to light again.
I tried everything.
I destroyed the only comforts I had. I ripped my straw pillow apart. I scarred my hands for life generating friction, to create a fire, and used the straw in a fruitless attempt to relight the candle.
All night I sat, strand of straw by strand of straw to re light her, to no avail.
She was dead.
She would not hold flame no matter how much love or care or pain I dedicated.
This went on for weeks. I would finish training with a glimpse of hope, a new idea, a new dedication to do ANYTHING it takes to bring my flame back.
But no matter how many of my worldly treasures I destroyed, no matter how I scarred myself - she was gone.
Her body remained. But her flame had died.
And I had never felt such despair.
She was there for me through the worst times of my life. I would never have made it without her.
Even worse, I would never have the chance to replace my room with a forbidden item unless I suffered the indescribable pain I had endured before - another mission to The Debarred Ridge.
I didnt believe I was strong enough to do it again. I was afraid.
I would train as before, I would not disobey, I was a loyal and prudent adept but my heart was dead.
When my days ended, instead of feeling excited to rush into my room, I felt empty and sad.
My room was more barren than ever before as I had destroyed my only comforts in the desperate attempts to bring her back to life.
I would stare at her, lifeless.
I began to hate her.
What else should I feel?
How could I love the candle which has no flame? How could I love something which gives me nothing?
How could I love something which has taken my last comforts and through brutal stubbornness refuses to be warm.
I began considering the inconceivable.
To once again embark on a mission I will likely not survive, for the chance to get a new candle.
It’s very likely I won’t survive twice, but why live empty? Better to die. So I prepared myself to once again ask Po for a mission to The Debarred Ridge.
If I succeeded, I could get another candle and my life would be complete again.
If I died, I wouldn't be sad anymore.
In the middle of the nights, as I shivered on the floor, its the only thing that made sense.
Near sure I would never return, I prepared my final speech.
My final goodbyes.
And I began by reciting them to her.
The candle remained upright and attentive as I spoke and once I had finished the rendition, many hours long, I tried one final time to light her.
She did not light.
I already had no hope.
But I knew at this moment she would never light again. I went from no hope, to KNOWING.
I cried that night. All I did was cry.
The next day, I trained and finished my chores, the same as everyday atop Wudan.
As I walked back to my quarters I felt the familiar warmth of excitement. Knowing I would soon be going on a suicide mission had removed the feeling of emptiness I had been enduring for months.
Even though I knew she would never light again, I was excited to see her, even if she was cold.
Why not? Cold or warm, if I die, I will never see her again.
She was dark and cold but time was running out. There was no time for negativity.
I sat and stared at her for most of the night, I enjoyed her, just like the olden days. I would say, I loved her the same as when she would light for me.
The thought of losing her was enough for me to appreciate her once again.
The following day, exercises completed, I found myself running back to my room fully excited as I was before in the days when she would light.
I did not need her to give me heat for me to give her love.
I could love her just the same. I could be happy just the same.
My emptiness was gone. I had self generated the warmth she used to give to me and projected it onto her as an unwavering dedication. I loved her the same as I always had.
I was happy again.
And this left me not wanting to commit to the mission in The Debarred Ridge.
But I told myself I would.
And lying to myself would bare an internal shame that I wasn’t able to bare.
I needed guidance, so I decided to risk my life and approach Master Po directly.
The following day, head bowed, I approached him and asked for his time.
He did not reply, but he looked at me without killing me, which was the best I could have hoped for.
I told him the entire story.
The love the pain, the tears and smiles. I described every day I had loved her and how it felt when she had gone cold. I told him I loved her again, although it is a one sided love it is enough to excite my soul and satisfy me.
I said that I no longer wanted to die.
That I didn’t want to do the mission, but I had committed to it. I didnt want to break my bond to myself. I didn’t know what to do.
Po listened. From start to finish. He did not move, he did not blink. But he did listen.
He told me that I would not not be permitted to re enter The Debarred Ridge.
That my mission will not take place by his decree, and my promises to myself remain intact.
But he also said something else to me. Words I will not repeat.
But I knew what I had to do.
I still remember her.
I dream of her in the days she was the only light I had in the dark. The only warmth I had in the cold. She was my strength and my hope.
This is how I remember her.
I dont often think to the days she had gone cold, to my attempts to reignite her. To the times I would flood her with my dedication and receive nothing in return.
I have banished those thoughts from memory.
I only remember the days she was everything to me.
The days she gave everything to me.
I dont think of her any other way since I threw her away.
Such is the way of Wudan.