Chapter 1: The Return of Aquarius

Part 1: Backlog

The man stood on the mountain side, a strong breeze straightened his long pony tail against the wind. He sighed and looked at the symbol of the dragon and eagle cast on the large talisman he wore. "I meant nothing but good by teaching what I taught. Now look what it's done to everyone I've befriended."

He started to walk back to the village.

"We divide into eight flanks of 30 warriors each. When we walk, we walk as if we are not warriors. That way when the patrols see us on the way to the city they will not question us, for we have no weapons, we do not NEED weapons. They have weapons, but are powerless against our fists, whether it's a sword, bo, mace or even spear." The instructor stopped as he noticed the man standing by the door. He was about to walk up when he was motioned by him to continue what he was doing.

"We will walk into the city from its eight town gates." the instructor continued. "For each of your flanks you have a leader. The first patrol you each come to, the leader will ask them where the governor's house is and tell them you have been dispatched by his honor from the Western provinces to take part in his new militia against what's left of the rebels. This is of course merely a deceptive measure in order to kill suspicions the guards will have. This will leave us utterly free access to go into the city and take over the governor's house..."

The man walked away from the temple door and wearily walked down towards the training ground. "Go back to your training." The instructor said. The students immediately bowed and started their training drills.

The instructor walked up to the man and bowed lightly with a palm resting against his fist. "Master, we are awaiting your command to leave."
There was an awkward silence then the instructor spoke again: "Master Wan, up in the mountain... What did you learn from your meditation?"
"And who shall take care of the children while we are gone in this... Battle?" Master Wan suddenly asked as if he just woke up from a trance.
The other man blinked. "But Master Wan..."

Master Wan smiled and put a hand on his disciple's shoulder. "When a strong wave hits the shore, it destroys all that is in its path and the water sinks into the soil as if it was always part of it. Even though… Secretly, water is the arch-nemesis of soil."

A tear ran down his face as he finished: "The Ming Dynasty will never be restored. Let's cherish what we have. Let's welcome the Manchus, and turn the enemy into a friend. That's the only way we'll achieve the peace that we've always wanted."

The disciple looked at him and a fit of rage suddenly hit him. "What?! You act as if you've never learnt anything from the Wing Chun teachings! How can you speak as if you were mad?"
"I sought answers. My answers were to seek peace anyway possible. And there's only one way."

"That is to fight for our freedom!" Shouted the disciple.

Master Wan stood there and sighed. He then clasped his hands, taking that as a hostile move, the disciple automatically switched to the "horse" attack stance, an angry look was emblazoned on his face.

Master Wan smiled and bowed... The disciple relaxed and bowed back. "I am sorry Master..."
"No." Wan said as he sighed. "Don't call me Master anymore. It has seized to be in my blood."
The disciple had tears in his eyes: "Master, you CANNOT say that. You are the greatest warrior in Midwest China. Undefeated for over 23 years!"
Wan smiled as he took off his talisman. "Defeated by men, no. Rather, defeated by my own soul."
The two stood there in the middle of the temple. The students suddenly stopped training and stared. They looked at each other and mumbled in confusion.
"Master Wan. We NEED you in this. We have no contact to the other temples, we are literally alone, and the students. The students need you to be there for support. Without you, we will all be slaughtered!"

Master Wan took a deep breath: "Legend says that when the great Mistress Ng Mui was in exile, she saw a battle between a baby dragon and an eagle. The dragon had claws of Gold, and the eagle had claws of silver. As they attacked each other, their claws locked together, just then the sun spread its first rays of that day and formed a halo around the two great creatures. That is when Ng Mui woke up from her dream, and saw this talisman around her neck."

Wan secured the talisman on his disciple's neck.
"But... But... I don't understand..." He stuttered.

Wan nodded: "There is no such thing as strong and stronger. Only patient and more patient. Haven't you thought why? Since the first Shaolin Temple was founded and our ancestors were trained in the mystic arts of the Wing Chun, the stress was not quickness, not strength, not skill, but endurance? That is because no matter how much skill or speed you have over your enemy, it is only when the first one has no more willpower left, when that person loses his or her concentration and puts down their guard for that split second that they become defeated."

The disciple blinked as he studied the talisman and saw the intricate design of the dragon and eagle and the claws of gold and silver locked together.

"I'm defeated. That belongs to the one who still withholds the principles. That is you, Master. You are decided on your mission, so you shall be successful. I am not, so if I come with you, even just for support, I will turn your ranks into ruin."

He started to walk out, the door of the temple was still open as if it were waiting for the former master to walk out of it that one last time.
As he softly opened the temple door wide enough for him to pass, the bright rays of the sun made it almost hard for the man to be seen.
"Hope for the future*, that's what it means." He said, and slowly closed the door.

"Don't Go!" The man woke from his dream with a start. He was breathing fast. He relaxed as he looked around his room and flipped the switch on the lamp next to his bed.
He got up from his bed and crackled his knuckles then he walked to the washroom and washed his face.

He looked at his face and studied it as if he was looking at his own face for the first time.
He had a smooth dark face, slightly squinted eyes and a two-foot long silky pony-tail. He always thought he could've been Chinese, maybe that's why he was so fascinated with Chinese culture. But then again the Chinese are much lighter than him, insomuch that whenever he tried to mingle with chinese people, they'd always alienate him. What other races could he belong to? Black? No he wasn't dark enough. Latino? No he wasn't tanned enough. Caucasian? No he wasn't white enough. Even both East and Native Indian people wouldn't take him into the fold. He was the metaphorical "Ugly Duckling" whose only seclusion was diversity. That's because he didn't belong.
His eyes focused on the silver necklace that hung on the corner of the washroom's mirror. He grabbed it and stared at the hideously large pendant, according to his uncle the Jeweler, more than three hundred and fifty years old. It was engraved with the image of a dragon face to face with an eagle. Their claws locked together, intricate traces of Gold and Silver clasped together.
He suddenly remembered his dream and thought about how realistic it felt. But of course, it was all bullshit, just his mind's way of trying to make sense of that talisman that came along with him as he was placed –as a baby- on the doorstep of that rich Jewish family in Queens, "The Epsteins".

"No such thing as strong and stronger, only patient and more patient." Samuel snickered to himself, "How can my frickin brain create such bullshit?"

He was tempted to wear the talisman but was reluctant to. He never felt like himself when he wore it. It's as if the talisman transformed him into another ego... Someone that can only be explained as avid… Someone scary. His grandfather had told him before he died what he thought of the talisman: "It's a curse, my young boy, and a gift at the same time. In Hebrew, it is called a Ro'shah. It was passed on to you, because within it are ancient beliefs of great philosophers who were your original ancestors. "Those that should never leave your side". With it, you can never be defeated, and can never be outsmarted. But never wear it, unless it is necessary. For too much good, is evil."
That sounded a bit like old Chinese Ancestor Worship to him or something but still he was skeptical, after all, his mother had told him that he had died from madness....

He shrugged as he got dressed for work.
But somehow. Again, as in each of the once in a month occasion that he dreams that special dream, the words of the mysterious Master Wan rang in his head:
"Secretly, water is the arch-nemesis of soil."

(The Shadow of Truth...)

* Source: The History and Philosophy of Wing Chun Kung Fu, Andrew Nerlich