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"I know nothing, but at least I know"
Sole

This morning I stepped out the door and immediately got a bit frustrated with the weather. The rain poured down since I've arrived in Xi'an (the apostrophe demarks that it's two syllables, I'll drop it from now on) and I just didn't want to waste time in my hotel. It wasn't much fun, everything turned into a puddle, I got soaked despite my precautions and returned to the hotel after an hour and a half to blow dry my shoes. Ooof.

Took a nappy nap, lo and behold: the rain had diminshed to a managable drizzle. So I went right out once again. Finally I got to really check out the city. Xian's center is a 4 by 3 or something km rectangle enclosed by a big ass chity wall. It's over 600 years old and the best preserved in all of China. If it had been dry I'd opted for a bike trip right on the wall, maybe I can squeeze that into one of the remaining days. Inside the walls there's an unnumerable amount of narrow alleyways waiting to be explored and get lost in. It feels way more intimate than the other cities I've been to so far. Everything is a store and since I've only got one train ride ahead of me I'm more than ready to bust out my last kuai and have the vendors grind down their teeth when hearing/reading my offers. At some point the rain completely stopped and that's when the day really began to take a turn for the better.

Shortly after a dream within a dream came true for me. I was just strolling about carelessly, taking some snaps when suddenly my whole body hair got teased by that old familiar sound I've already heard twice on this journey so far. It went like this:"Ping" – "Pong" – "Ping" – "Pong".
First time was when I witnessed two grannys playing in a Chengdu monastery, getting more exercise from picking up the ball than actually hitting it. Second time in the wetlands park south of Guiyang – two teenage boys who could've beaten the old ladies on a good day.
This time was different, though, the enormous frequency of the sound already gave it away. When I came past the corner I saw two senior men engaged in a fierce duel. Holy crap, they were fast! Intrigued by their playing style I planned on watching a bit, hoping to gain some insight as to what school it might've originated from and maybe find out about their secret techniques. Before I could even complete that thought one of them smiled and waved at me inviting me over. "Haa? Ja, ja ja, bin sofort dabei!". I just can't tell how excited I was, the masters really offered to teach me about their ways!! :O
So Master Badger Hermit handed me his Dragon Taming Racket to play with – outstandingly balanced, layered unusually thick, exellent grip – and I was to compete against Master Heron Hermit. After his first couple of serves I thought this was going to get very embarassing for I still am but an aspiring adept and overshot my returns by a great deal. But be that as it may, as the last remaining disciple of the School of the Raging Boar I had to stand my ground and strive with as much honor and skill as I possibly could. It took me awhile to get the hang of how the coated metal table and the racket worked together. Mind you, this was no amateur city park equipment, that stuff caused more friction than the American import tariffs and it was simply amazing how much curvature you could apply to the Snake Egg's path. A real joy! I got the knack of it and finally got to unleash my infamous Feinting Phantom Backspin. Everyone falls for that, as did my opponent. Master Heron Hermit snickered. Meanwhile the Young Master Hare Hermit appeared and went on to spar with Master Badger Hermit on the table next to us. What a turmoil, they seemed equally skilled and I swear I could sense the Nen-flares lashing out even over to our side! No one I've ever played against ever could seriously take on any of these three, straight up and down!

We continued to exchange some good shots for a good fifteen-twenty minutes and I was honestly quite satisfied that I landed some good hits even if I was clearly outmatched. All of us had real good fun there, I proceded to thank everyone at the tables for the great time and continued on my way.

This humbling sparring session alone just so much more than made up for all that stupid rain. I'll always remember this valuable lesson and hope that one day I've honed my skills enough to return and lose against one of the Masters in a real match.

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