|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.”
Friday, September 30, 2005
Saturday, September 03, 2005
|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.