It is a breezy afternoon, as Feng Li Long hurries home down the wooded path. This workout has been a long one; a month of ceaseless training and meditation, alone on the far side of Baiyun Mountain. It is dry and clear, good training weather. It will be good to see Grandfather again.
The path emerges the woods. From below the rim of your flat conical hat Li Long sees the mouth of the Pearl river emptying into the delta. The city of Guangzhou sits at the river mouth.
Guangzhou is burning.
It is November, 1938.
Ugly, grey warships sit in the bay. Iron vehicles surround the city. Black airplanes fly overhead. Between the city and the ring of vehicles, people seem to be milling, as if torn between remaining in the city and running the gauntlet of enemy troops. Pens have been erected, and are full of prisoners. Over it all, columns of smoke mark where huge uncontrolled fires burn most of the city. The city center itself is a huge, smoking crater.
A family—a young father, his wife, three children and a grandmother, carrying some meager household possessions—hurry in your direction. “Run!” the father says. “The Japanese! They’ve bombed everything! They’re taking everyone prisoner! Run!” The family hurries by, up into the mountain.
Below, the destruction of Guangzhou, the only place you’ve ever lived, continues…
Li Long gapes at the devastation, “Ancestors preserve us.”
He continues down the path, watching the city and trying to think of a good way to get past the siege to find his family and get them out.
The path winds down the mountain. Li turns a corner around a boulder, and there on the path ahead are four Japanese soldiers, armed with bayonetted rifles, walking up the path in a close group, probably looking for escapees or scouting out the mountain. They are about 20-30 yards away (10-15", -4 range modifier).
One of them looks up and sees you. He shouts something unintelligible; probably in Japanese or Mandarin. The rest look up.
“Halt! Be giving up now!” another shouts, in broken Cantonese.
Li Long immediately raises his hands in surrender and says in Cantonese, ’I give up!"
The four soldiers approach at a casual walk. As they near, one of them points his bayonet.
“You go with him!” one of the others orders; his insignia is different; maybe he’s their leader. The one with the bayonet gestures with it for Li to walk ahead of him down the mountain. The others keep walking up the hill, talking and chuckling to themselves.
Li Long goes along, willingly and weakly, with this for awhile then when they are out of sight from the other three and a little beyond, and if no one else is around he walks slower and slower. The soldier jabbers at Li when he slows down.
Li spins around, grabs the rifle by the barrel and yanks it away from the surprised soldier’s grasp. Li smashes the solder across the jaw with the butt of the rifle. He staggers. Li continues the momentum of his strike into a roundhouse kick, connecting squarely on the soldier’s head with a loud crack. The soldier spins around and drops to the ground on his face, unmoving and bleeding from his ears.
Li Long drags the soldier off the path and hides the body. He switches clothes with the soldier and pulls his hat down low over his face (trying to hide it). The soldier’s uniform fits adequately, though the helmet is a bit cracked from your roundhouse kick. He uses some of his “old” clothes and the blood to make a fake bandage around his head and ears (blood by the ears). He walks as soldierly as he can down the path while looking for one of the prisoner pens.
At the bottom of the path he sees two soldiers with rifles on guard, chatting with two other apparently unarmed soldiers sitting on a dangerous looking tracked vehicle.
Li Long leaves the path, crouches behind some rocks, and, summons the goodwill of his ancestors, causing the nearby air to blow and twist around the 4 soldiers. One of the soldiers notices Li Long, frowns when he sees him leaving the path, and shouts at him in a commanding voice. His eyes grow wide as the winds grow wilder and a miniature funnel cloud coalesces right above him. It touches down.
Tornado-like winds rip at the soldiers. The two with rifles are swept off their feet; one falls six feet away while the other slams into the side of the tank, collapses to the ground and drops his rifle. The two on the tank cling to it, buffeted by the winds, staying put but yelling in surprise.
As the winds die, the soldiers shake their heads to gather their senses, then come alert—all but the second soldier, who remains on the ground. The first soldier shouts at the others.
The tank motor suddenly roars to life. It turns, carrying its two riders, and bears down on your position until it’s almost close enough to touch—and doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
The second soldier sits up, seemingly in pain but alert.
Leaves flutter in the winds that envelop Li, and his body becomes indistinct, as if it were made of a cloud. He dives toward the oncoming tank, but his aery body divides and passes through the main gun and the view ports, reassembling itself on the inside. The soldiers riding on the tank looked shocked as you pass by them.
The inside is cramped and confining. Li feels panic rise at being denied the world’s wind—he has to get out! With an effort of will, he masters the panic for the job at hand.
It’s a wonder that three people can even fit in this thing. Li finds the gunner’s chair and positions himself in it before resuming solid form.
The driver sits just below and to the right. He turns and stares in terror, the winds whipping his hat away and roiling his hair. It’s hard to move in here but it’s also hard to dodge and he’s sitting right under Li’s foot. Li focuses his training and snap a kick at him. The driver is stunned but conscious—though his foot is still on the gas.
The soldiers on the outside of the tank yell and begin climbing to the top hatch of the tank. However, the tank continues its forward motion, slamming into the rocks where Li was hiding. The riders lose their grip and tumble down to the ground. You hear yelling and at least one pair of running footsteps outside.
The cramped quarters are too much for him; it’s time to make a run for the city. Li Long looks around for some way to disable the tank. He knows you probably have to pull some wires somewhere, but he’s in the gunner’s seat rather than the driver’s seat. He decides the best way to temporarily disable the tank is to knock out the driver and hope the cramped quarters make it difficult to remove him. A quick kick and the driver slumps over
Li Long decides it’s quicker to exit the tank in mist form than to figure out how to open the hatch from the inside. He filters out though the various cracks and slits and blows toward the city as fast as a race car. Behind he hears shouts. A couple shots are fired. One bullet tears harmlessly though him.
Leaving the soldiers far behind, Li Long approaches the city, dropping the mist form when reaches the limits of his endurance. He keeps low, and tries to avoid being noticed.
As he approaches Guangzhou, hoping to blend into a crowd, he notices two crowds; a crowd of Chinese prisoners in a makeshift barbed-wire pen the size of a soccer field, and a crowd of Japanese soldiers patrolling the fence and stationed at the entrance. The city is ahead. There are a few patrols, but Li feels he can dodge them…probably.
Li counts about 20 soldiers at the gate—maybe 10 on alert in a 10 yard area in front of the gate and 10 lounging around in a couple tents nearby—and maybe half that many clerk-types writing at camp desks or talking on radios. There are maybe 20 more soldiers patrolling in groups of 4 around the barbed wire fence (it’s pretty large; like a hastily build prison compound. Maybe the size of a football field). There is a manned machine gun next to the gate.
Li decides to try to free them from the inside, reasoning he can always escape himself. Winds flow as he calls upon them for defense. He takes off the Japanese army uniform, hide it, and walk toward the camp with hands in the air, “I surrender! No shoot! I good Cantonese! No Shoot! I give up see!”
The Japanese soldiers are not gentle as they march Li into the pen at gunpoint. They demanding his name and pitching them into the muddy compound on his face. They seem a bit puzzled about how breezy it’s gotten all of a sudden. The skittish Chinese prisoners slowly approach Li after the gate has been locked.
He gets up and brushes the mud from his eyes, nose, and mouth. Li asks if anyone has seen the Long family who own a restaurant. He looks around to see what the guards are doing.
“Long family? They own the fish place by the sea shrine?”
“No, it’s the noodle place by the municipal center.”
There’s a buzz of conversation, the hushed conversation of bored and frightened people desperate to get their minds off their circumstances and do something useful.
The guards return to their lounging and their guard posts and the clerks to their writing. You notice one of the clerks hang up his phone, then with a big grin chatter to the nearby guards. Then they all laugh as if they heard the funniest joke.
“Honored sir?” One of the prisoners, an older gentleman, is addressing you. “I am afraid none of us here know what happened to the Long family. Many of us think they perished when the city center was…when the battleship…” he breaks off. “A thousand apologies.” He wanders off.
A younger, hard-bitten man comes up. “The honored elder’s sons and grandsons were wealthy businessmen and lived in the center of town. Now there is only a smoking crater where there used to be many city blocks. Did you know the Long family? I am sorry. If they are alive, they are not here, and there are many prisoner compounds. I would not hope to see them again. Especially since now you are trapped with us. No one knows what they will do with us…but we’ve heard about Nanking.”
“What about Nanking?”
The man’s face grows bleak. “What not about Nanking? I didn’t think even the Japanese could imagine such atrocities. Casual murder of civilians on the street. Humiliation of the elderly. Indiscriminate rape. Looting. Torture. There are rumors of unnatural rites and perversions. They are not human, those Japanese, they are animals—or demons. I thought they’d never come this far south, but…I’m afraid those who died in the city center and in the fighting are the lucky ones.”
Li gathers the old men and anyone who looks like they have had military training.
“My name is Li Long. Let’s try to find a way to free as many of us from this camp as possible. The ancestors are strong in my family and I think I can help.” After hearing what the Japanese are doing to his China he secretly questions whether the Ancestors are right about not killing.
“What if we opened the fence away from the city, i took care of the machine gun causing a diversion, and we had a mass exodus? From what you say it seems that we are all dead if we stay here. Some of us will survive if we all make a break for it en masse. I would welcome all ideas. What do they have for food in here?”
“Are you crazy?” says an excitable prisoner. “There are 40 armed soldiers there, and a machine gun, and the clerks have radios. There’s no way to break down the fence. Many of us have women and children and elders; should we leave them behind, or more likely get ourselves shot? It’s impossible!”
“Hush, Ping,” says an older gentleman. "Let us hear him out. Death may be preferable to what awaits us. Or do you have something better to do?
“Li Long, we would all love to be free. I know the mountains well enough that if we reach them, we have a chance. We may be able to hook up with Chaing Kai-shek’s Nationalist Army. But we have to accomplish three things: Open the fence, neutralize the guards and radios, and move everyone fast enough to escape motorized pursuit. Now, how do you propose we do that?”
“Hey!” A tall, sharp-eyed man breaks in. “I might have an idea for the escape part.” He points to a distant caravan of supply trucks coming this way.
Li speaks to the tall, sharp eyed man,“What’s your idea? From what I have heard I agree that trying to escape and maybe dying is better than what will happen to you under these monsters. I should be able to stop the machine gun, open the fence, neutralize the radio, and distract the guards while as many of you can escape through the fence as possible.”
“Erm,” responds the tall man. “I thought we might get everybody on that convoy of trucks coming this way. You know, if we can actually get out of here without getting shot at too much. Women, kids, elders, everybody. And they probably have food or something in them, you know? ‘Cause I’m not leaving my six kids behind to have the ancestors know what happen to them. If you can do all you say, I’m with you.”
“If he can do all he says. More likely he’s a Japanese sympathizer looking for an excuse to get us all killed.”
“Hush, Ping,” says the elder. “Legends speak of men with astounding power appearing in desperate times past. Can you do it? Can you distract the guards, open the fence, and disable the gun and radios?”
Li swallowes hard saying a silent prayer to his ancestors, “I might be able to, yes. I think I can open the fence for sure and distract the guards… the radio and machine gun will be more dicey. Ok, here is what I am thinking: First priority is disabling the radio, I can do that. Taking out the machine gun next, I can probably do that before being shot. This in itself will be a distraction. Gather the people near the trucks, I will then break the fence and help with any guards near the trucks and loading the people on the trucks. Some may die but all will die if you stay here – I am certain.”
“How soon can we organize the people but make them not look organized?”
The elder says, “Leave the organizing to me. We will be ready by the time the trucks arrive. After you attack we will all go to the south fence, waiting for your hole. Wait for the trucks to come closer; they will likely stop to unload supplies for the guards.”
“I’ll work on a diversion on the west side,” says Ping, “if Li Long can do what he says. I know some of the men who don’t have families here and are itching to do something dangerous if there’s half a chance it will do some good.”
It looks like the trucks are approaching along a dirt road that goes along the south side of the compound (away from the city). The gate, radio, and machine gun are on the east side. The soldiers there are goofing off, glancing at the compound once in awhile but mostly playing cards and talking to each other.
The elder turns and talks with the nearby men, who nod and filter off into the camp. Ping heads to the west part of the camp. The trucks continue to approach.
Li Long takes a breath and thinks to himself, “If this goes wrong, if I screw up, many will die… it must be done… all will die if we do nothing.”
To himself as he strolls toward the east – calming himself with techniques learned through training with his ancestors, “Ok. Radio First, then machine gun, then barricade the gate, then fly over and blast the escape hole through the fence, then try to distract the guards.” Li Long walks into a tent on the east side of camp and turns into vapor.
Li Long mists through the tent and the fence to the radio table, ready to yank the wires out, rendering it inoperable.
Unfortunately, it’s battery operated, and it’s a radio, so there aren’t any wires coming out of it, except for the microphone.
Fortunately, it’s open in the back. There are lots of tubes and wires to smash. Li Long solidifies and puts a fist through the delicate electrical components.
Li Long quickly summons the winds, creating a vortex around the machine gun. Papers and leaves, twigs, and a fair amount of dirt fly everywhere. The machine gun flies into the air, much to the consternation of the gunners. It sails about 70 yards into a clump of bushes and lands with a clatter.
Fierce winds flip the hefty radio table into the air, scattering the radio equipment and what papers survived the previous vortex. The table ponderously crashes into the gate, tangling itself in the wire and blocking the entrance.
The soldiers shout and run around. A couple have their rifles ready and the presence of mind to fire! One shot is fired true—but the bullet is deflected by the local high speed winds! The nearby soldiers on patrol around the fence begin running toward the gate. The convoy has pulled up by the southeast corner of the compound.
Li Long pops up above the height of the gate to get a clear shot at the south fence. Hurricane-force straight-line winds rip at the chain-link fence and tear a platoon-sized gap in it. Chinese prisoners rush the gap—men first, with the elder herding them through, followed by the children and women. The vanguard heads toward the trucks. There’s noise of a ruckus over on the west side of the compound.
Li Long flies over the soldiers’ heads, and raises a Wall of Wind separating most of the troops from the trucks and the prisoners. There are 4 soldiers on the truck side of the wall; they begin trying to club the dozens of prisoners into submission. About 6 of the soldiers on the troop side rush the trucks, only to be turned back by the palpable force of the winds. 10 more get their rifles and form up for combat. 4 of them are running after the machine gun. Most of the radio men are running for the city. The soldiers appear frightened but are steeling their nerve under the discipline of their squad leaders.
Li yells will for the prisoners to flee far away and leave him behind. He does his best to delay the guards from interfering with the escape. He tries to tangle some guards up in the tents by blowing the tents down and slamming them against groups of guards.
The irresistible wind hurls an uprooted tent toward the group of soldiers lining up to fire. The soldiers yell as the tent covers their shoulder-to-shoulder formation. The wind wall dissipates as Li Long’s concentration goes elsewhere.
The wind whistles around a second tent, hurls it at the group of 6 soldiers nearest the prisoners, and manages to cover or impede four of them in the heavy canvas. The two free soldiers fire at the flying wind demon! But the bullets can’t seem to find their marks.
The four soldiers among the prisoners furiously club with their rifle butts, knocking two of the prisoners to the ground. The ten tentified soldiers throw off the tent canvas and look around. They look into the eyes of an enraged mob of prisoners.
The mob surges! The elder and some of the prisoners with military experience direct the attack. Some drag down the four soldiers among them and pummel them senseless. Some rush the trucks, dragging the drivers out or making them flee. The six guards where the wall used to be fall to the twenty or so lead prisoners. The leader of the six soldiers in formation, outnumbered and soon to be out-gunned, suddenly looks a lot less sure of himself. More prisoners, with a higher proportion of women and children, hurry out the gap in the fence. Gunshots can be heard from the far side of the compound.
There’s some kind of ruckus going on across the compound, but tents in the compound obscure the view. Some of the soldiers who were patrolling around the fence are coming but they won’t be here for a minute or so. The radio operators have begun running toward the city. Reinforcements could come in a matter of minutes.
Li Long yells, “Get in those trucks and get out of here!”
He flies toward the squad of 6. He will try to crash into as many as he can and fight hand to hand as a diversion until the mob arrives. He knocks another flat on his back, unconscious, kicks at another one and drops him, too. The remaining soldiers raise their weapons to give Li Long a good clubbing. Li dodges all but one, which is deflected by the local winds and the grace of his ancestors.
The mob rolls over the four standing soldiers, who go down yelling defiance. Li Long takes a break.
Prisoners begin seizing the trucks. Drivers and non-combatants flee for the city. From the far side of the compound, Ping and a dozen other prisoners are running and shouting, carrying captured rifles.
All the guards at this compound seem to be down or running. The prisoners let out a loud cheer. There is medicine, food, and ammunition on the trucks, and there is enough room for all the escapees, if some hang on to the sides and the running boards.
“Come!” says the elder to Li Long. “We must escape while we can. They will soon be back with more than a few rifles. We can head for the mountain, and then inland, and hopefully we can find Chiang Kai-Shek and his army.”
Li Long hesitates for a moment. Deciding to either go into the city to find his family and restaurant or help these people. He decides that helping these people outweigh the more selfish desire to see his family safe. He prays for forgiveness to the ancestors, hops on the side of a truck (or drives one since he knows how to do that) and says, “Lets go find Chiang Kai-Shek and his army.”; encouraging the group to leave as soon as possible.
The convoy heads toward the mountain, Li Long with the elder in the lead truck, with many passengers and people hanging off the side.
Before long the convoy is away from the city and on the road among the rocky hills near the mountain.
The truck rounds a corner.
In the middle of the road ahead, coming down hill, is a familiar Japanese tank. The hatches are open and the crew is at their posts but not particularly alert. Around it are maybe half a dozen soldiers, one of whom is leaning on another for support. In front of them a small Chinese family is being marched; a young father, his wife, three children and a grandmother.
Everyone shouts out in surprise.
Li Long looks at the soldiers and looks at the ex-prisoners, not wanted their new-found freedom to be short-lived. He tells the elder to stop the convoy.
Li Long flies toward the tank. The tank hatches are small; there are two, one for the driver (with head and shoulders outside the tank) and one for the commander (exposed waist and up). The gunner is encased inside the tank, peering out a slit.
Li decides a heavy blow would knock the commander down into the tank, preventing him from (gulp—it’s tight in there) getting at the gunner. Instead, Li Long lifts the commander out of his hatch and tosses him to the ground. The commander lays there stunned, for now.
The driver stops the tank and rotates it to get a better firing arc for the gunner, then drops below the driver’s hatch and closes it. The gunner loads the main cannon and begins to aim. The other six soldiers drop to one knee and aim their rifles at Li Long, hovering over the tank. The grace of Li Long’s ancestors and the swirling winds deflect every shot!
The captive family falls on their faces in terror. Some of the freed prisoners grab their rifles and dismount the trucks, heading for cover along the roadside. The trucks stop, and the elder stares ahead into the muzzle of the tank.
Li Long can see down into the open commander’s hatch at the top of the tank, where the gunner is aiming the loaded main gun. He shudders at the thought of the tight space, so instead he slams the hatch shut and send a burst of concussive air through one of the viewing slits, exploding the air inside the tank. He hears the driver bang his head against the closed lid of the driver’s hatch. The tank’s main armament is pointed at the first truck in the convoy…
Li Long opens the driver’s hatch, pulls the limp body of the driver out of the seat and drops
into the road.
Li Long gathers his courage, gulps, and drops into the driver’s seat, intending to drive the tank over the cliff. It’s cramped in here, even with the driver’s hatch open. And the dials and levers and pedals make absolutely no sense to him. Still, it’s already running. How hard could it be?
Pretty hard, turns out. Li Long fails to get it to budge.
The soldiers around the tank fire at Li Long, but, protected by the winds and the tank body, he is unaffected.
Li Long tries again, and the tank lurches to life! Pushing pedals and pulling levers at random, Li Long manages to move the tank…a couple feet, where it stops again. The gun is no longer pointed at the convoy, though.
A groan and a stir comes from the gunner inside the tank. Apparently he’s awake now.
Shouts and rifle fire erupt from the ex-prisoners. Several of them begin to charge as the Japanese soldiers hit the dirt. One of the soldier’s captives, a child, begins crying. More ex-prisoners jump off the trucks to get into the fray.
To get at the gunner Li Long manages to crouch down into the very cramped, closed-in tank, keeping his anxiety under control for the greater good. The gunner shakes himself back to alertness in the seat next to Li Long’s. Li Long snaps a punch at him and feels ribs snap under his blows. The gunner goes limp. With the commander and the driver out of the tank, none of the original crew remain in control of the tank.
Li Long judges that he’ll have to drag the gunner through the tight spaces of the tank to get him out but he determines to do it anyway to save the gunner’s life before he drives off into the ravine. He drags the unconscious gunner’s body across his lap and pushes him out the driver’s hatch.
Li Long sits with his head outside the driver’s hatch so he can see (and at least his head is in the open air). He tries the drive the tank off the nearby cliff. It lurches again, and Li Long manages to get it turned somewhat in the right direction before it conks out.
A firefight has developed around the tank, but the Japanese soldiers are soon badly outnumbered.
One of the soldiers steps on the captured child and holds his rifle to his head. “No move! No move!” he says in bad Chinese. The fighting stops. The soldier looks around, not sure what to do next, but he is sure that if anyone makes a move, he’ll shoot the boy.
Li Long tries to think of something he can do before the soldier pulls the trigger. The soldier is highly alert for any motion. The mouth of his rifle is against the boy’s head, and he is paying particular attention to the magic flying tornado man in the tank. “No move! No hide! I shoot boy! No move! No fight!”
Li Long says (without moving), “I no fight. Take me prisoner. Leave boy.”
The soldier looks around, wild-eyed. “Can no shoot you! You no hurt! No move! NO MOVE!!” His hand shakes ever so slightly.
A gunshot rings across the rocky terrain.
The soldier gasps, and looks down at the blood from the bullet wound. He touches his chest. He brings his hand up, looking at the blood on his fingertips. Then he slumps over and collapses.
Behind him, one of the other Japanese soldiers lowers a pistol. “He was no warrior,” he says, in accented but passable Chinese. “He shames us all.” Then he reverses his pistol and fires again. He drops to the ground.
After two seconds of silence, the other soldiers scream and charge the convoy. They fall in a hail of bullets.
The boy’s mother runs to him, but the boy turns and bows to Li Long.
“Thank you, sir.”
Men from the convoy begin clearing the area, hiding the bodies and recovering anything that might be useful. Ping, the loudmouth from the camp, commandeers the tank with a couple enthusiastic volunteers.
“Ha ha! I’ve been on the wrong end of one of these too many times! Now we’ll see what I can do with it!”
“Take it to the rear, Ping. Let’s get moving!”
“You got it, old man!”
“Li Long, are you coming?”
Li Long bows with respect to the mother and pats the child’s head.
He speaks to the leader of the ex-prisoners, "You have things well in hand. May the ancestors be with you. I will travel and see if anyone else needs help.”
“We all owe you our lives Feng Li Long,” says the elder. “Be careful. We wish you success, and to meet again in better times.”
Li Long bows and takes his leave without looking back. Eventually he finds a place to meditate and thanks the ancestors for luck and asks for guidance.
Li Long flies up the mountainside a hundred meters or so to a shady stand of trees. So much has happened and is still happening to so many. He calms his mind and seeks his ancestors guidance…
“Grandson!” the thought bursts into Li Long’s calmed mind. “Grandson! Come now! Hurry!”
LI Long zooms straight up to a height of about 1000 feet, then streaks toward Guangzhou and his family’s restaurant, the last place he knew his grandfather to be.