Inside Ma Chao's Camp
His mind was focused, every stroke was precise, quick, and it appeared to have purpose as his blows landed in different spots. His face appeared composed but seemed to be masking fury at the same time. The wooden training pole did not stand a chance. Yao Jun was sweating profusely. Drops of sweat slid down his body and dripped to the ground with each strike. Jun was a man of honor, duty, and family, in that order.
His feet moved with astonishing swiftness. To the untrained eye, it appeared as if they were random movements but to a man that has dedicated his life to combat, that individual would see a man on the path of mastery. Yao Jun side stepped to the left and performed a backhand slash to the bottom of the pole. Immediately after he spun his body to the right with amazing grace. His strong arm cocked back in the process looking completely natural as if nothing was forced in his motions. The momentum of his spin carried his swinging arm all the way to the pole. *THUD*. The sword lodged itself in the wooden pole, deep. It was stuck. Yao Jun pulled at it softly, then realizing the sword was in there deeper than he thought, he began using more might. At one point he put his foot against the pole hoping to increase the force at which he was pulling the sword. With one last hmph, he tried again but could not seem to pull his sword free. Defeated he removed his pony tail and walked to a nearby tree and flung himself to the ground taking a moments rest.
He could recall his father telling him stories of his ancestors prowess on the field of battle. They had a long history serving in military capacities. Growing up he felt like he was destined to be a soldier on the battlefield, after all, the stories of his ancestors told tales of soldiers, not merchants. He chuckled as he thought of how incompetent he would be trading wares. His father served and as soon as he was able he enlisted at a young age.
He moved up the ranks as quickly as any other individual would as long as they stayed alive. The secret to where he was now was his ability to avoid death. He became renowned among the Qiang people as a man that was competent with a weapon, who was skilled on horseback. As a result, he was typically reassigned to accompany any military officer that deployed out of Jin Cheng or Wu Wei, depending on where he was stationed at the time, on reputation alone.
That was how he was selected as a personal retainer for Ma Chao, although this time his sword would truly be tested. Sure, he had engaged another man and had experienced the bittersweet feeling of striking down a man and watching him take his last breath but this time he would be facing an enemy that was not merely bandits running amok in the countryside. He welcomed the challenge but despised what the outcome would be, for better or worse. Death is not something to rejoice about and killing someone is not something to be celebrated despite what these youth may think, his son in particular. The true honor in killing someone is fulfilling your duty, the act of killing itself is despicable unless done with a purpose.
Jun felt refreshed, he decided to leave the sword lodged in the wooden pole. He retreated to his tent where he could dress himself in more heavy battle garb. He was still awaiting his orders and unlike most other soldiers, despised the down time. So, he waited in his tent where he was somewhat close to his commanding officers tent, the youthful Ma Chao.
Yao Jun (34)