Fast and dumb, or slow and smart?
That's whatalways asks me. Well, I say 'asks', but it's not really a question. Not up for discussion. Not really. You can be impulsive and quick and improvisational and have fun... or you can do things Yi's way. The right way. Slow. Patient. Strategic. With a gruff, determined expression on his face, like he stepped in crap. Because he did. Because I shoved some inside his boot, thinking he'd find it funny.
(I did, though, so it all kinda worked out in the end)
The really irritating thing, though: he's usually right. Through the years we've trained together, I've beaten him in combat something like... twelve times? Versus the hundreds of times he's walloped me. And every time - every single time I ate a mouthful of dirt - I knew it was because I'd gotten impatient. Took a swing I wasn't sure would land. Lunged for an opening that ended up being a trap.
And I'm not being humble. I'm good. Really good. Yi, humorless as he is, just happens to be one of the best warriors I've ever met. It's not like the guy is slow, either: he's fast. Faster than anyone I've ever seen. As in: he unsheathes his blade, then there's a, then three guys are bleeding on the ground. That fast.
So when he tells me to choose slow and smart over fast and dumb, I try to listen most of the time.
Keyword being 'try'.
And 'most of the time'.
We were wandering through a forest of man-high mushrooms when we heard the shouting.
In addition to cutting off the punchline of an incredible joke I'd been telling, Yi made me dive into the thick of a thistleshrub to avoid detection.
There were six of them: five bandits and their rope-bound captive, an elderly farmer with anxious eyes.
I felt this situation called for a liberal application of hitting people in the head with my, but Yi held me back. He put a finger to his lips, then pointed at his eyes. Observe. Strategize. Fast and dumb, or slow and smart?
I sighed and looked over the group with a discerning eye.
Raggedy clothes hung off their hunched backs, taut with stress. They seemed to take far better care of their blades than themselves. Their eyes scanned their surroundings as they marched, on the lookout for any potential ambush. One shoved a gag into the old farmer's mouth, presumably to stop the shouting we'd just heard.
The old farmer collapsed to the ground. The tumble was intentional: anyone could tell that. His captors certainly did.
The leader stopped and faced the old man. "Well, that tears it", he said. "You're old, my friend, but you're not that old. Falling over every few hundred steps to stall for time? Give yourself a second to think about how you're gonna get out of this? That's an old trick. Older than you."
He squatted to the farmer's level.
"You don't really have a chestful of precious stones at home, do you?"
The old man stared at the bandit, terror slowly replacing itself with resignation.
He shook his head.
"That's a shame", the bandit said, a genial smile on his face. The kind of smile that usually leads to somebody pulling out a dagger.
"I'm gonna go save him now", I whispered to Yi.
Yi shook his head as hard as he could without rattling his goggles. I didn't have to ask why. He likely wanted one of us to sneak around them and attack from the other side of the pass, trapping them in a pincer. Or something equally cunning and time-consuming. Slow and smart.
Yi's big problem - apart from not finding me funny, and the fact that his goggles make him look like a man-sized bug - is that he spent the last handful of years sitting alone in a field of flowers. His patience is infinite. He thinks everything can be thought through. Planned for.
Still, Yi had said to go slow. We'd try it his way. I nodded at him, then at the path behind the thugs. You get behind them. I'll attack on your signal.
Yi circled back through the brush. He darted to the other side of the trail, too quick to notice, even if they had been looking in his direction. Classic ambush setup: he'd get their attention, and while their backs were turned, I'd hit them from my side of the path.
That's when the lead bandit pulled a blade out of his right pocket. A small little thing, not good for much more than peeling fruit. Or slicing the throat of a tired old farmer.
I couldn't see Yi in the brush on the other side of the road, but I knew he couldn't see the blade. He didn't know what was about to happen.
They were about to kill the old man, no matter how safe Yi wanted to play it. We had no time to go slow.
Thankfully, I had a secret weapon up my sleeve: I'm really, really, really good at fighting.
The leader grabbed the old man's scalp and put a knife to his throat. I leapt out of the brush, staff held high, and smacked the blade out of his hand. Then we got to my favorite part.
Whenever I get the drop on somebody, I usually get about a two to three second window as they try to make sense of me. Most people have never seen a vastaya, much less a Shimon. They stand there slack-jawed, which typically gives me a chance to hit 'em before they realize what's going on.
I drove my knee into the lead bandit's chin, and his teeth clacked together so hard, even I winced at the sound.
"Stay where you are, Yi!" I shouted into the brush where he waited, unseen. "I got this."
That's when a knife hit me in the shoulder.
Apparently, one of those jerks had been wearing a bandolier of throwing daggers across his chest, and I hadn't noticed. I tried not to imagine Yi smirking to himself.
"Still 'got this', do you?" he yelled from the brush. Likely staying out of the fight just long enough for me to get my teeth kicked in, so he could leap in, save me, and shout that he told me to slow down.
"Completely!" I shouted as I tossed a handful of smokepoppies to the ground (I always keep a few on me: they're useful in combat, and even more useful for irritating Yi when I'm bored)
Then I beat the hell outta the rest of them. I won't trouble you with the details---
Wait, yes I will, because they're great.
I held my staff out andaround, aiming high so as to avoid the prone old man. My arms shuddered with every impact of wood against skull. I dodged blows, parried strikes, and only got punched in the face, like, twice.
By the time the smoke cleared, I was the only one still standing. Well, me and the old man, once I got him to his feet.
Yi stepped out of the brush, sighing.
"Oh, come on", I said. "What are you sighing for? I saved the grungy old man---"
"Hey!" the old man said.
"And my shoulder will probably heal in a couple of days. Ow", I said, touching the wound. "What's disappointed you this time?"
Yi cut the man's bindings. "I'm not disappointed", Yi said. "I'm irritated."
"I don't like admitting I'm wrong. You were impatient, reckless, and you absolutely made the right call."
"Fast and dumb."
He patted me on my non-bleeding shoulder.
"Fast and dumb", he said.