Of Ground and Sky
The sun blazed across the hills in of Shang Ti village and little children happily running and playing while their mothers looked whilst doing some chores. The village itself has been built along the side of a mountainbthat often cast a long shadow across the village in the afternoon and evening hours. It was said that some eagles had made a nest on the other side of the mountain and and sometimes, the eagles could be seen flying on a moon lit night.
Young Pan Si Hung, had recently arrived in the village. He was dressed in clothes of the finest silk and his hat had a jewel of jade in the center. He had originally lived in Shang Ti but since his parents had died in a recent war, he had been taken in by a rather wealthy uncle and his family. He was being carried aloft on a litter held by four burly looking men.
The other children stopped playing and gaped at the spectacle of his arrival. The woman had also dropped what they were doing and quickly collected all of the children and formed a line in honor and respect for someone of Pan's status. They knew that not doing so was to invite death. The children knew this too.
The only person not in attendance was Lo Si Han, who was an orphaned teen who stayed with an old wushu master in a hut in the valley. Si Han usually came to the village once a week around the afternoon hours but no one had seen him today.
The litter stopped in the middle of the village and young Pan stood up as if to make an announcement. The pepof the village seemed to hold their breath at once. Pan looked upwards towards the mountain and then looked to the villagers.
He paced slowly in front of them and spoke. " I bring you greetings from the capital!". He paused for a moment while the people bowed again.
" I know that you were not expecting a visit from anyone today and certainly not from someone of high authority. I know that this might seem alarming to you. I do want to reassure you, that I mean you know harm and I have not come to impose taxes, collect taxes or force any conscripted labor. I too, am a child of Shang Ti and remember the days when soldiers would come and plunder our village and, and ,and....."
He took a deep breath. Even with all of his training, this was hard.
"And and..._" still he couldn't force himself to say it. The memory was so clear now. He felt the screams of his father and mother as the sword was plunged into their bodies. He tried to control his breathing as his master had taught him but, he still couldn't get the words out. The heat of the sun seemed inconsequential compared to the roaring demon that was threatening overtake him and lash out at the offensive memory in an attempt to banish it from his mind.
A quiet voice brought him back suddenly.
" I was there too.". The burly men drew their swords in preparation to deliver instant death to the owner of the voice, but Pan held his hand up. He looked the person. He was a child about his own age dressed in rags.
" Who are you?" Pan said.
"Forgive me for speaking my Lord. My name is Lo Si Han. I was there the night you described. " He also paused... " I lost my parents too. "
Pan turned his head away for a moment. He had intended to give a speech to the people of his village but he knew that this young ragman had saved him from making a complete fool of himself.
No on spoke a word for they dared not. The villagers held their breath. Some of them glared at Lo Si Han for even speaking. " That beggar child" they had sometimes called him; others seemed to just pity him.
" Mr. Lo." He began, " Would you do me the honor of having tea with me?"
Lo bowed his head,." The honor is mine, my Lord "
The people were shocked but, some of the women rushed to prepare the tea for the two of them.
Within a few minutes, the two young men were both sitting at a small table drinking the finest tea in the village. They made an interesting pair, with one of them in lordly clothes of silk and the other in rags.
"Brother Lo". I am so grateful to have found someone with whom I can relate. Someone who can understand my pain. My aunt and uncle, they are good people and they do love me, but..... they don't understand what I am feeling. They can't.
"My Lord, " Lo began, " I also am grateful for you. Since that night, I have been living alone with the exception of my master. He knows what happened but, even he has not experienced it. Still he is good man."
" Brother Lo, I must be leaving soon but I would offer you a place to stay at our estate. There's plenty of room. You can even train with me in heights so that we can protect our old village." He took Lo's hand, pleading with him. " It would mean so much to me!"
Lo took his other hand and placed it on top of Pan's. "My Lord, I am so deeply honored by your offer and anyone would be a fool to not take such an offer; but I must stay with my master. I gave my word that I would learn from him so that I can protect the people of the village as well . Unlike the eagle that soars above the village, the snake stays on the ground, and close to their eggs. We each protect the village in our own ways."
Pan smiled slowly and a tear slid down his cheek. "Very well, the Brother Lo. I do understand. I have enjoyed our talk and I hope to see you again when I return"
Lo rose and bowed his head as Pan left the table and mounted the litter and left.
That night, as Pan slept, he remembered his uncle's words.
"Forget that old village. You are here now and you are part of the ruling class. Remember that. ". As hard as he tried though, he just couldn't keep that night out of his mind. He broke out in a cold sweat every night and woke up in rage the next morning.
It seemed for Pan, there was only one solution
About a month went by, then one night when the moon was full, a group of soldiers came and burned the village of Shang Ti to the ground leaving no survivors. Lo So Han was still training with his master when it happened.
Lo Si Han wept at the remains of the village but even more for his friend. The eagle, it seemed could not be a friend to the snake.