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Charles J.




First published by Charles J. Lee, December 2009

All rights reserved.
Copyright © Charles J. Lee 2009

Charles J. Lee

‘Kung-fu’ means ‘Skill’ or ‘Ability’.

It applies to all life experiences.

Charles J. Lee


Hai’s School

Dharmi and Ace lived together as master and disciple, guardian and
charge, teacher and student for several years. During this time Ace obtained
kung-fu documentaries and historical re-enactments. These demonstrated
many secret techniques, so Ace had to get them from underground sources.
When Ace showed Dharmi his first kung-fu film, Dharmi was puzzled.
“Ace, the film seems to be taking place in a different realm,” Dharmi
“Of course,” Ace replied. “Most kung-fu documentaries are from the
Middle Realm. A few are filmed in the Fantasy World.”
“Where are these places?”
Ace took out a map in response.
“This map shows the Known World.” Ace then pointed to the middle of
the map. “That’s the Middle Realm.”
“What about us?” Dharmi asked.
“The Real World is here, on the right or east of the Middle Realm,” Ace
pointed. “And the Fantasy World is there, on the left or west of the Middle
“Uh…” Dharmi thought about what Ace had taught him. “So the Middle
Realm is to our west and the Fantasy World is to our extreme west?”

Charles J. Lee

“No, no. Don’t forget, the world is round. The Middle Realm is to our
West, but if you cross this ocean here, going east, you will get to the
Fantasy World. That’s how you get Western kung-fu and Eastern fantasies.”
Ace paused a while to let Dharmi absorb the new information.
“So we call ourselves The Real World, but we’re not the whole world,”
Dharmi observed.
“Oh, we may call ourselves The Real World. But there are other realms
that lie outside our land. As the saying goes,” Ace explained, “no land is an
“We are not a big island?” Dharmi pointed at the Real World part of
the map, which was flanked by oceans.
“Oh, this is a continent. Our Real World does not occupy the entire
continent. We have Borders.”
Ace now drew his finger in a straight line. “This is our northern border.
North of this border is the Land of Maple Leaves. There isn’t anything there
but maple leaves most of the time, so you rarely hear of trouble. Unless
some grouchy bear who lives further up north goes amok and raids a village.
Then they will be forced to ask for our help.”
Dharmi nodded.
Ace now drew his finger in a crooked line.
“That is our southern border. Many of our fellow fruit pickers come
from South of this border. But the Eleven Evil Entities also dwell South of the
Border. As well as various kung-fu cults and sects that use dangerous drugs
and poisons. Our newspapers and radios are always saying that aliens sneak
in from there.”
Dharmi raised a hand eagerly. “Ace, aren’t aliens green creatures that
can abduct people and conduct aynerproabs?”
Ace’s face changed slightly. “Ahem, where did you get that from?”
“I’ve been watching the TV too!” Dharmi said proudly.

Charles J. Lee

“H’m!” Ace grunted. “Just don’t believe everything the TV says. Not all
is true.”
Dharmi’s enthusiasm did not stop there. “So what is this thing called
an aynerproab?”
“H’M!” Ace grunted even more loudly. “You’re still a child, no need to
know! Not every kung-fu secret should be revealed!”
Ace restarted the film, and soon had another question from Dharmi.
“Why are they getting on their knees and putting their foreheads to
the ground?”
“That? It’s called a kowtow. It shows a great deal of respect,” Ace
“But the person they’re kowtowing to is a wicked man!”
“Wicked or not, if he’s the head of their clan or sect or cult, they will
“I wouldn’t like to kowtow,” Dharmi said innocently. “Luckily it is not
our custom to kowtow.”
Ace laughed out loud.
“Dharmi my boy, you are still a child. You really do not know The Real
World! People here grovel and kowtow all the time to the Chief Executors
who lead their companies!”
“Why? Are they forced to?”
“We are a free land. No one is ever forced to kowtow,” Ace replied
genially. “These people are just trying to please their Chief Executors. They
need to stay on his good side because companies offer something called a
Healthcare Plan.”
“It cares for your health?”
“Oh yes,” Ace said and pointed to his kung-fu encyclopedias. “As you
have read from all those histories of mine, the best way to get a lot of gold
is to form a team - a company - with other people and go on adventures.”

Charles J. Lee

“Treasure hunting, conveying valuable items, slaying monsters, and

more!” Dharmi enthused.
Ace smiled. “All quests involve some risk or conflict. So healers are
essential. People spend a lot of time in bars and chat rooms looking for the
right healers for their mission. Unfortunately, healers are not always
available. You may die of your injuries if you lose a fight.”
“So a healthcare plan protects you by planning for a healer to be
“Exactly. If you’re questing on your own, you are very vulnerable. But
if you join a company or any organization with a good healthcare plan, you
are safe. But not completely. If you are badly injured and your company
decides that it is too costly to heal you, they may abandon you. It’s called
cutting costs.”
“Ace, honorable kung-fu sects and factions shouldn’t leave their people
to die!” Dharmi protested.
“Well, that was how things used to be in the Middle Realm,” Ace
shrugged. “But we are The Real World and things are different here.”
Dharmi frowned. “So to be totally safe, you want your Chief Executor
to like you. Then your company won’t abandon you if it becomes costly to
heal you?”
“Exactly. That’s why many people kowtow in The Real World.”
After the documentary concluded in a big and exciting battle, Dharmi
started dancing about, waving his hands and legs in dramatic moves.
“Ace, when am I going to learn some kung-fu?” Dharmi asked eagerly.
“I am already teaching you the kung-fu of writing, reading and
arithmetic,” Ace smiled.
“I want to learn really great kung-fu! How to fight!”

Charles J. Lee

Ace smiled again. “You don’t need to know fighting kung-fu at your
“Ace!” Dharmi begged. “Come on, Ace!”
“Can’t do that. I made a promise to myself.”
“Ace! Please!” Dharmi pulled on Ace’s arm.
“Well,” Ace thought for a moment. “I could teach you the basics.”
“Can I fight? Can I fly? I want to do what those kung-fu experts do!”
Dharmi exclaimed. He was thinking of leaping from building to building.
Ace smiled and patted Dharmi on his shoulder. “Dharmi, fantastic
kung-fu like that takes many years to train. But if you want, I’ll teach you
some stretching exercises.”
“I don’t want to stretch! I want to go...” And here Dharmi struck a
pose. “Heiyaaaaa!”
Using some crates as props, Dharmi made a show of jumping from one
tree to another.
Ace laughed out loud.
“Dharmi, all fighting kung-fu starts with a healthy body. That means
eating right and exercising right. And stretching exercises are the most
important. You cannot even begin to learn how to fight if you don’t learn
how to stretch first.”
And so Ace taught Dharmi yoga.
At first the boy was impatient. Ace had to keep promising Dharmi that
yoga would give him a flexible and agile body for combat kung-fu. But after
a month, Dharmi found that stretching exercises, especially when done in
the morning, could be quite challenging. Dharmi gradually stopped
demanding that Ace teach him fighting kung-fu. He continued with his
stretching routines.

Charles J. Lee

All was quiet for a few more months. But Dharmi was a young boy in a
rural area. He played outdoors with other young boys, so fights were
inevitable. One day Dharmi came back with bruises all over. After blabbing
incoherently about a frog and pebbles and fishing rods and blueberries and
whatever trivial reason it was that led to a fight, Dharmi loudly and clearly
demanded that Ace teach him combat kung-fu.
Ace sighed. He lowered his large shaved head and closed his huge
Should I teach him that? It should be the right time. He’s old enough
to start...
Opening his eyes, Ace said simply: “Dharmi, I’ll teach you defensive
“I’m going to learn Teacher’s kung-fu!” Dharmi jumped up and down
with delight. “Now I’ll be tougher, stronger, better than them!”
“Oh no,” Ace wagged a finger. “I’m not going to teach you any kung-fu
that involves fighting.”
Dharmi froze just as he was about to jump off a stool. He teetered on
the edge of the stool for a moment and fell off in shock.
“How can there be defensive kung-fu without fighting?”
“Dharmi, have I not taught you that kung-fu comes in many forms?
You don’t need to fight to have defensive kung-fu!” Ace reprimanded.
“But... but... Ace, if you don’t teach me how to fight, how can I defend
“It is very simple. I will teach you how to defend yourself without
fighting,” Ace replied. “This is called the Compassion Shield.”
“Com-pas-sion shield,” Dharmi repeated the words carefully. “Ace,
how does a Compassion Shield work?”

Charles J. Lee

“When you are filled with the desire to protect somebody else, a
certain strength rises from within you. I will teach you to channel this
strength all over your body, so that you are stronger and tougher all over.”
“Yay!” Dharmi exclaimed. “Me tough! Not skinny boy anymore! I’ll
Ace raised a hand abruptly and silenced Dharmi.
“Dharmi, haven’t I told you the Compassion Shield works without you
“Uh... but if I’m tough...”
“My shield can be very tough. But it doesn’t protect you when you
attack other people.”
“Mmm...” Dharmi made a face. “But at least it protects me? By how
“I can’t quite say,” Ace said thoughtfully and lapsed into silence for a
while. “You see, the Compassion Shield gets more effective when you get
more compassionate. There is no known limit...”
“So I can be invincible after all!” Dharmi enthused.
Ace laughed. “There is no invincible fighting technique. But my
Compassion Shield can make you much less vulnerable.”
Dharmi noticed Ace’s qualification. “You mean it might still hurt?”
“Of course it will hurt. It will hurt less.”
“That’s not what I want!” The boy cried out in frustration. “Teacher,
you are telling me that you want me to feel pain for others!”
“You will feel pain, of course. But it won’t hurt as much once you have
compassion for others.”
“Then why do you say there is no known limit?”
“The highest lamas and monks are famous for the depth of their
compassion. But since they don’t seek battle, their Shields have never been
fully tested,” Ace replied.

Charles J. Lee

Now Ace raised his head and spoke in a chant:

The slings and arrows of injustice; the stones and sticks of the cruel;
none of them can hurt a man shielded by his own compassion.

When Ace looked down again, Dharmi quickly asked: “How many
“Will it take for me to learn?”
Ace smiled. “My boy, compassion is not learned in days.”
Dharmi’s face fell. “But Ace! I need to know how to use this soon! I
might get in a fight again! I must defend myself!”
Ace laughed and rubbed Dharmi’s head tenderly. “My boy, have I not
told you that the Compassion Shield works when you want to defend
someone else?”
It took Dharmi several seconds to realize what Ace was saying.
“The Compassion Shield doesn’t work to protect me?”
“It protects you. But only when you protect others. Or when you are
filled with concern for others.”
“It doesn’t protect me when I only want to defend myself?” Dharmi
“Of course the Compassion Shield won’t work if you only want to
protect yourself! That’s not how compassion works!” Ace replied.
“Then what if somebody only wants to attack me? He will hurt me!”
Dharmi stamped his foot and made a face.
“Think about others when he attacks you,” Ace replied. “As long as you
are feeling compassionate about someone, even your enemy, the shield will

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Charles J. Lee

“Tea... cher...” Dharmi was so disappointed that tears almost started

rolling down his cheeks.
Ace wanted to be firm and impose his will on Dharmi, but then he
remembered his own youth. So he took his adopted pupil and hugged him
“Dharmi, a Compassion Shield is the best thing you can have against
bad people who want to harm the weak.”
“No it isn’t! No it isn’t! I want to be tough! I want to be tough!” Dharmi
cried out as he pressed his face against the broad chest of his teacher.
“Please teach me how to fight!”
Ace stooped down and took Dharmi by his arms. Looking into Dharmi’s
eyes, he said firmly: “Now listen here, Dharmi. A Compassion Shield has its
advantages over combat kung-fu. For example, if you depend on combat
kung-fu, you have to fight back every time. But what if you don’t want to
fight back?”
“No! I always want to fight back! I don’t want to let anyone bully me!”
Dharmi insisted.
“No, there will be times in the future when someone attacks you and
you don’t want to fight back,” Ace said. “Like somebody you love, who
doesn’t understand what she is doing.”
“That can’t be true!”
The young boy did not understand what the older man knew, so Ace
just stood to his full height and smiled.
“Dharmi, do you have faith in me?”
“You’ve taught me everything I know, Ace!” Dharmi replied. “I have
faith in you!”
“Then have faith in my decision,” Ace replied.
“I believe in you, teacher,” Dharmi answered. But he did not look or
sound convinced, so Ace continued:

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Charles J. Lee

“Dharmi, all people grow old and weak. Or they become careless. Or
maybe they fall sick and cannot fight. If they have relied on combat kung-fu
to protect them, when they are old, sick, weak or just not paying attention,
they can get hurt.”
Ace lifted a hand to his chest and tapped it lightly with his fingertips.
“If you are always compassionate, the shield will always work for you.”
Young as he was, Dharmi struggled to think about the advantages of a
kung-fu that was always working all the time.
“What does it mean?” Dharmi asked at last.
“A Compassion Shield is a passive ability,” Ace explained. “Once you
have cultivated Compassion, you don’t need to make conscious efforts to
maintain your Compassion Shield.”
Being only a boy, Dharmi could not imagine having compassion all the
“Ace, I don’t think I can be always nice to people,” Dharmi scratched
the back of his head. “It takes too much thinking.”
Ace smiled and tapped his chest lightly again. “Compassion is
something you nurture deep within yourself. You can be compassionate
without thinking.”
Dharmi thought back about invulnerability.
“If I train like these lamas and monks...” Dharmi began, but was
silenced by a hand gesture from Ace.
“My boy, you can’t train compassion. You can cultivate it via
meditation and daily practice.”
“I’ll start cultivating it!”
Ace smiled. “When you start as a child, your shield will be weak. But if
you keep on cultivating feelings of compassion towards others, your shield
will get stronger.”

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Charles J. Lee

Ace had taught Dharmi how to read and write. He now began teaching
Dharmi the secret language of the Middle Realm, so that Dharmi could read
more kung-fu histories in the original language. But Dharmi had difficulty
reading so many difficult and complicated glyphs...
“I can’t read this,” Dharmi pointed to two glyphs. “But I keep seeing
“That is pronounced lihai, meaning formidable.” Ace said. “It originates
from a man called Lee Hai. He valued education a lot, so he taught many
people kung-fu. In honor of Mr. Lee Hai, all the lower-level academies are
now called Hai’s Schools.”
“Shouldn’t it be Lee’s Schools?” Dharmi asked.
“Mr. Lee lived in the Middle Realm where people put their family
names first. But people here don’t realize that. So they call him Hai,” came
the explanation. “But in the Fantasy World, a low-level kung-fu academy is
known as Le High School.”
“Oh,” Dharmi said. He thought for a moment, then asked: “If lihai
means formidable, why don’t they call the highest level kung-fu schools
Pleased that he had such a curious disciple, Ace stroked his chin and
smiled. “In the past people attained lower levels of education. Many were
satisfied with learning Elementary Level kung-fu, so anything above that was
lihai. However, inventive people keep developing new and more powerful
kung-fu. What was lihai in the past is no longer lihai in our modern age.”
“I see,” Dharmi said.
“Speaking of which...” Ace looked at Dharmi thoughtfully. “You should
have turned twelve this year. It is time that you enrolled at Hai’s school to
learn with people from your age group.”

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Charles J. Lee

Dharmi remembered watching documentaries about novice Shaolin

monks and Tai-Chi initiates. Lots of kids the same age trained together.
“Oh yes, that would be fun!” Dharmi exclaimed.
Ace smiled. “There is no Hai’s School here. So I’ll enroll you at the
Hai’s School over in neighboring Similar Valley.”
Similar Valley Hai’s School turned out to be a disappointment. Dharmi
was not accepted by the other kids.
There was a group that dressed very nicely and they proclaimed
themselves Preppies. There was another group where all the boys had long
hair; it was called the Rockers. Some people dressed like ghosts and wore
black shirts with skulls on it; they called themselves Goths. All these groups
rejected people who did not dress like them.
There was one group that dressed like Dharmi: the Grunges. But the
Grunges refused to let Dharmi join them. They said they didn’t take fruit
pickers from a poor and backward place like Oranges Country.
Dharmi also had problems getting used to the school timetable. He
was often late for classes, and ordered to go to the principal’s office.
“You dummy!” The principal roared when Dharmi was sent to his office
for the third time. “Are you purposely trying to annoy me?”
“No, sir.”
“Why don’t you keep to our schedules?”
“I’m trying to, sir. I can’t tell the time.”
“Are you that stupid?”
“Um... sir, back in Oranges Country, we timed themselves by the sun.
Here in school, there is no sun. And even if I went outside to look at the sun,
it won’t tell me exactly what time it is.”
“Then get a watch!” The principal’s glare fell on Dharmi’s bare wrists.
“Oh let me guess, you can’t afford one. So ask somebody for the time!”

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Charles J. Lee

“I tried,” Dharmi sighed. “But the boys refuse to talk to me. Whenever
I approach them, they will stand up and wave their fists threateningly.”
“Then try asking the girls for the time!”
“They won’t give me the time either.”
Although Ace’s films showed students sparring in kung-fu academies,
fighting was disallowed in Hai’s School. Only the Jocks were allowed to fight.
The Jocks were tasked with representing Similar Valley in kung-fu
competitions against other Hai’s Schools. Their fights usually took place on
football fields, baseball diamonds or basketball courts, group battles that
reminded Dharmi of a documentary film on Shaolin Soccer. Another kung-fu
clan, the Cheerleaders, often supported the Jocks during their battles.
Jocks would greet Dharmi by holding up their clenched fists with the
middle finger pointing straight up. At first he thought the Jocks were
greeting each other. But they would be grinning and laughing at Dharmi
when they made that sign, so it was obviously meant for him.
Puzzled, Dharmi consulted Ace when he went home.
“I know what you’re talking about,” Ace said and took out a book on
kung-fu history. “Many years ago, an old monk wandered the world. He
carried a lamp with him to help enlighten people everywhere, so they called
him Reverend One Lamp.”
Ace now showed Dharmi a picture of the monk with his middle finger
stuck out.
“That’s what the Jocks showed me!” Dharmi exclaimed.
Ace smiled. “That’s the famous Mighty Finger. Reverend One Lamp
developed this kung-fu to deal with robbers and bandits while traveling.
Whenever anyone threatened him, he would deploy his Mighty Finger. Soon
all the bad men were afraid of his kung-fu and would run whenever he
showed them ‘The Finger’.”

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Charles J. Lee

“Is it very dangerous?” Dharmi asked. “What if the Jocks attack me?”
“Oh no, the actual kung-fu has been lost for many years,” Ace laughed.
“But remember, showing people ‘The Finger’ is considered provocative or
threatening. Never show anybody ‘The Finger’ unless you want to get into a
As Ace put away the book, he noticed Dharmi had a sour expression
on his face.
“How do you find Hai’s School?” Ace asked.
“I’m disappointed. We don’t learn any fighting kung-fu. We just have
boring textbooks that dwell on theory,” Dharmi grouched.
“Of course,” Ace laughed. “Hai’s School in The Real World works
differently from kung-fu academies in the Middle Realm.”
Dharmi frowned. “The teachers only teach from the books. We get no
real practice. Battles are encouraged only between different Hai’s Schools.
And only the Jocks are allowed to fight. So when can I learn some real kung-
Ace hemmed and hawed, searching for a good response.
“Can’t I learn the kung-fu myself? At home?” Dharmi pleaded. “After
all, I can learn the moves by just watching your videos.”
“The boring textbooks teach you the valuable theory,” Ace warned.
“The movies apply the theory. But without knowing the theory, you won’t
know what to do in a situation.”
Dharmi was not all that convinced, so he continued arguing that he
could learn more from Ace and Ace’s books and films.
Ace eventually put his foot down. “No. Dharmi my boy, you are going
to Hai’s School. You must learn the basic theories behind modern kung-fu.”
Dharmi sounded rebellious. “Maybe I can be an apprentice to others
and learn kung-fu from them over time. I see this from your documentaries
and instruction videos!”

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Charles J. Lee

Ace sighed. “Dharmi, these documentaries show a world long gone.

Nowadays you need certification. You cannot do much without certificates.
They are needed to open doors.”
“They are just paper,” Dharmi protested. “If I knew kung-fu, I could
chop open the door. Haiya!” And Dharmi made a show of knocking doors
Ace smiled. “There are formidable doormen who guard the most
important doors. You can’t defeat them. But they will happily open the door
if you have certification. You must at least pass through Hai’s School if you
are to go anywhere.”
“So I can’t get anywhere unless I go to Hai’s School?”
“That’s right. Without a diploma from Hai’s School, no one will employ
you,” Ace said sagely. “Not even as a waiter or a supermarket check-out
“But why? Is it that hard to serve food?”
“They fear that if a food fight breaks out between children or if some
low-level nobody tries to shoplift, your kung-fu will be too low to handle the
“I don’t want to stop at being a waiter! I want to become more lihai!”
Dharmi said exuberantly, remembering all those wonderful and exciting
scenes he had seen in Ace’s kung-fu documentaries.
“You can’t go to a more advanced kung-fu academy without a diploma
from Hai’s School,” Ace said. “And without advanced kung-fu, you will
always be bullied. The bullies in school are nothing compared to the bullies
out there. Some of these bullies will even force you to kowtow to them, lick
their boots or kiss their rear ends. Now surely you don’t want that, my boy?”
“All right,” Dharmi said. He wasn’t happy about it, but he continued
going to Hai’s School everyday. He tried his best to read all those boring
textbooks and learn these boring theories.

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Charles J. Lee

One day, Dharmi came to school and noticed something odd in the
atmosphere. Some students were cutting shapes with red paper and others
were making collages with flowers. Everyone was whispering to each other.
The girls were giggling together and the boys were joking and slapping each
other on their backs.
“It seems as though something is going on,” Dharmi said innocently to
another boy.
“An important date is coming up,” the boy replied and made a sign
with his index and middle fingers pointing up, spread open in a triangular
Dharmi did not recognize the sign that boy was displaying, so he
assumed it was a battle sign.
“Is there a kung-fu tournament taking place at the Diamond?” Dharmi
referred to the favorite clandestine dueling spot for students.
“Don’t you know?” The boy stared at his own hand as though it was
displaying a weird symbol.
Dharmi shook his head innocently.
“I...” The boy opened his mouth wide. Then he closed it again. No
wonder everyone calls him Dummy, the boy thought.
“Haven’t you heard of Valentine’s Day?”
“You are really a yokel!”
“No, I’m Dharmi,” Dharmi sighed. “And you’re not the first one who
has mistaken me for somebody called Ayoka.”
“Yeah, yeah, Dummy you are,” the boy responded. “Well, all right. I’ll
explain it to you, dummy. The fourteenth of February is Valentine’s Day.”
“What’s so special?”

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The boy paused for a moment. Should I tell him that boys are
encouraged to stick cockroaches inside girls’ clothes on V-day? But he
changed his mind quickly. This poor ignorant dummy is too pitiful! I can’t
play such a trick on him.
“You’re supposed to give nice things to girls you like on Valentine’s
Day,” the boy explained.
“Oh, I see,” Dharmi replied.
Dharmi had been secretly liking one of his classmates, Jerilee. She was
pretty and seemed fairly nice. Dharmi made up his mind to give Jerilee
something. But what could he give her? Living with Ace, Dharmi didn’t have
anything special to eat or wear or play with. After much thinking, Dharmi
decided to pick a few good oranges for Jerilee.
On Valentine’s Day, boys and girls exchanged gifts before classes.
After some hesitation, Dharmi approached Jerilee and offered his oranges.
A cloud passed over Jerilee’s face.
“Um... I like you,” Dharmi said shyly. He didn’t know what else to say.
“Boys are giving girls flowers, and you are giving me oranges?”
The girls around Jerilee giggled, and Jerilee turned red.
Despite his general ignorance of how things functioned in Similar
Valley, Dharmi was at least capable of figuring out that Jerilee was angry at
him. When he saw her take a step back and lift her arm as though she was
trying to fling a baseball, he reacted automatically, ducking behind other
An orange sailed over Dharmi’s head and hit the blackboard with a
mighty splat that could be heard all over the school.

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“You moron! Come back here!” Jerilee shouted. She picked up the two
remaining oranges, one in each hand.
“I’m sorry, no offense meant!”
“No offense? You’ve made a fool out of me!” Jerilee called. She raised
one hand, trying to take aim at Dharmi despite the many students milling
“Sorry sorry sorry...” Dharmi managed to mumble as he took to his
“Dummy! Come here and take your medicine like a man!” Someone
taunted, imitating Jerilee’s voice. The entire school laughed as Jerilee chased
Dharmi all over the school, trying to fling her two remaining oranges at him.

Chapter 5: Fibsters

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