|Two days from Wu Dan Mountain the three camped as usual and Xing Ren retreated into the forest. Second Sister and Little Fish feasted on wild yams cooked on the fire and the last of the sesame cookies from the farm. A twig snapped and Second Sister glanced up, hoping to see Xing Ren. Six men with great swords at their sides crashed into the clearing and looked expectantly around.|
“Where are your parents?” the one with the biggest sword roughly demanded.
“Not here” said Second Sister, realizing these must be bandits.
“Hey, Boss, here are their packs” called one with a bandage on his forehead.
“Take ‘em” growled Big Sword, “and the kids, too.”
“I’ll do this little job, Boss,” rasped a bandit with only one ear. Little Fish began whimpering.
“Ah, don’t pee in your pants” hissed Second Sister, because she was scared too. Jumping to her feet she faced her attacker. At the Iron Rabbit School the girls had specialized in a Kung Fu style called Wing Chun, a method of fighting designed especially for the female body. Second Sister took on her fighting stance; goat stance with feet at shoulder width, toes turned and fists at her hips.
“Oh, ha, ha, ha, heh, heh” laughed the bandit “the little missy is showing off her stance.” He shook out a rope with which he intended to tie her up. The other bandits retreated, ready for a bit of a show. Little Fish put his back against a tree and started shouting for Xing Ren. A bandit circled behind the tree.
“Come on, missy, nice and quiet and I won’t hurt you… much”
Second Sister stood watching without blinking, ready without seeming to be. One Ear came closer, then lunged for her arm, but she was faster and did a snap kick that caught him under the chin. Stumbling backward the bandit slumped into the arms of his fellows, who dropped him to the ground and advanced on Second Sister en masse. She heard scuffling sounds behind and the calls for Xing Ren ceased as Little Fish was trussed up with a sack over his head. Second Sister kicked her foot sending a dust cloud into the faces of the four advancing bandits. Pausing for a few seconds only, then they were on her. She held her ground with lightening fast Wing Chun punching and low shin kicks, more than one bandit was bleeding, and so were her knuckles. Big Sword drew his weapon.
“I’ve had enough” he spat.
Then, as Second Sister would tell later, Xing Ren leapt backwards out of the fire, beard and robes aflame. He swung his robes at the bandits, flames spun off, hitting the bandits who scattered like cockroaches. Grabbing Second Sister by the wrist, he swooped Little Fish up, tucked him under his arm and stepped backward into the fire. Too surprised to object to being dragged into the fire, Second Sister was additionally surprised to find she felt as if she was being turned inside out, flattened, then popped back into shape again.
“Well, here we are” announced Xing Ren in a matter of fact tone.
“Where?” asked Second Sister.
“At my teacher’s temple” replied the Taoist hermit as he drew the sack from Little Fish’s head.
The two children looked around. It was dark, but they could see an immense red, closed, double gate with stone walls to either side. Behind them was a steep path up which they had not come. Standing next to them was a scorched Xing Ren, who was pulling his once long and luxuriant beard out by burnt handfuls. A shaft of light fell across the scene and a figure glided toward them holding high a lantern.