Zimmler training addressed fear; the Trial of Thorns, pain. Most Hynerian recruits saw pain as static, something solid, something to avoid, as something that happened to them. They were wrong on all accounts. Zing Tao indoctrination sought as much to untrain false view, to uproot years of deception, as it did to plant and water right view. Weed and plant, weed and plant. For Ji, pain provided the perfect place to start the weeding.

To say the Trial of Thorns was about pain really missed the point. According to Ji, pain equaled data, no more no less. Data used skillfully aided the warrior and data used unskillfully hindered. Dropping false ideas, simplifying view, seeking flow within the dynamic made Zing Tao warriors different from the rest. Many felt they had simply mastered skills and techniques. Ji didn’t see it that way. For him, training meant dropping, not picking up, it meant doing less, not learning more, it mean seeing pain for the friend it was, not the enemy loathed.

Those recruits who embraced pain and dropped their static, solid views of something out there graduated to advanced training. As a small token of remembrance, each graduating recruit was given a small mosaic plague depicting The Trial. No Zing Tao ever was far from this memento. Placing his right hand on the identification pad to enter Ji’s chamber, Zeke unconsciously ran the fingers of his left hand over the cobble like tiles on his plaque. Felt it gave him good luck.

With a familiar soothing whoosh, the door opened and Zeke walked in.