|Holding high the lantern to illuminate the three traveler’s faces, while keeping it’s own identity in shadow the tall silent figure surveyed the scene. Xing Ren had stopped pulling at his burnt beard, his hands hung at his sides, still holding a handful each. The children were dusty, pale and slightly burnt. Second Sister sported a cut over her eye and Little Fish had straw in his hair from the bag that been over his head. It seemed to Little Fish that they stood in the dark outside the gate for an hour, it was in fact but two breaths.|
“What have you done to these children, Xing Ren?” asked a woman’s voice from behind the lantern.
“Well, don’t you know? I had to take a short cut. We were attacked by bandits.”
“I did know about the bandits, but I didn’t know you took them through there, I can’t watch everything.
As the lantern lowered the children saw green eyes flashing from a face cut diagonally in half by a white scar.
“Let’s get them to the kitchen.”
Though a small, half-size door a short way from the main gate and across a courtyard, the children and Xing Ren followed the lantern. Second Sister and Little Fish felt as if they were walking through honey, all was sticky and difficult. Left, right, another right turn and then a left, the lantern’s light lead through a maze of buildings. Second Sister began to stagger, she grabbed Little Fish’s hand for security, but he was already falling. “Sifu!” she called as her lags gave way and all was dark.
Little Fish awoke to kitchen sounds and that gave way to low voices. Feeling Second Sister near he opened his left eye a slit to see if he could see her. She, too, seemed awake, but was pretending to be asleep and Little Fish realized why. The conversation was very curious.
“This is your fault,” hissed the woman’s voice, then sounds of chopping and rustlings.
“It seemed the best choice to spend less time, rather than more.” This was Xing Ren’s voice. Sounds of stirring and moving about.
“Yes, then more later on and we’ll have to watch them carefully.”
“Better than them getting too familiar there.”
“Sifu won’t be happy you got yourself into that situation in the first place.”
“I know, I believe there is something else going on. They’ll be alright won’t they?” Xing Ren sounded truly concerned.
“Of course, they’re young and you’ve been making them walk all day.”
Footsteps towards the children and away.
The woman’s voice said, “They are already awake, are they always so devious?”
“We are not devious!” cried Second Sister, sitting up and dragging Little Fish with her, “We want to know what’s going on. We have a right to know what happened. Why can’t…” but she stopped. For even stranger that the woman with the scar was Xing Ren. He had pulled his entire beard off and the face beneath was not old. His skin glowed and barely a wrinkle marred his countenance, until he burst into laughter.
“I think” said the woman “we’d better give these children some soup.”