Monday, December 23, 2013

Generation 1: Kim Chong Shin Yi

It is always a sad thing when an influential family loses its respect and becomes an object of ridicule, and everyone, perhaps, in all of Shang Simla knew the sad tale of the decline of the Hua clan. 

Since ancient times, the Huas had been the primary adherents of a school of martial arts that had boasted three thousand training students in its prime. That number was sadly diminished in the modern age, but Zhang Hua was the only son of the school's previous master and he had proudly continued the tradition, raising his two boys to follow The Path of the Wind. His wife Lin and his daughter Xie had lived quietly at home, at least until the day that Lin had taken an unshakeable notion to earn a college degree.
From that day forward he never knew another moment of peace. His students piously lowered their heads to meditate and laughed at him when they thought he wasn't looking. His neighbors rolled their eyes at him as he passed. His peers regarded him with sickening pity.

And one by one the children went rotten.

In the end two of the brats ran away with their mother to America. Wang was the only one who stayed, and even he was different afterwards—he eschewed training to hang out with tourists, and more than once Zhang awoke in the night to hear his son trying to escape the house through a window, on a mission to see a girl, doubtless.
A noble family corrupted beyond repair by one woman's selfishness. At least that was always the way Zhang had seen it. And since he was all that remained, who was to say he was wrong?


The boy knew little to nothing of these unhappy matters. He had lived with Grandfather Zhang all of his life. He had gone to training daily and had learned what he could of The Path of the Wind, but it was really quite hard for him. He was a dreamy-eyed child who loved music and painting, and he would have no opportunity to learn either if he became a martial artist. 

But he had no choice in the decision. Two potential heirs had been lost in ten years, and Grandfather was determined to raise up his last remaining relative to become a master. If that meant lugging a sleepy seventeen-year-old boy from country to country while he participated in international matches, so be it. 

While they sat in an airport terminal, waiting for a long-delayed flight home to begin boarding, Grandfather asked his grandson to watch the bags while he went to the bathroom. 

He never returned. 

The boy waited anxiously as the passengers began to file through the loading zone, decided not to board the plane, looking through every bathroom in the terminal, even enlisted airport security to help him search. It was all for nothing. He waited at the empty gate all alone as the final flights of the evening took off without him. 

He spent a terrible night in the lobby, waking up at every noise, before rising with the sun and wandering away on his own. Thanks to the rigorous training he had undergone for years, he was well-equipped to walk long distances without even really being aware of it. 

He walked. He had no idea where he was, nor what town he was in, nor even what part of the world they had flown to. He passed sign after sign that he could not read and walked past full, lush fields. If nothing else was apparent, at least he could tell that the people in this part of the world were farmers. That was good. He had helped the other disciples at the dojo grow the food used for their communal meals. He wouldn't starve. It was a small comfort in the midst of so much confusion and sorrow.

He finally came to a halt at the edge of a vast field. The presence of a mailbox and municipal trash bin told him that this was an empty lot, without even a hint of development to mar its grassy surface.

Could he just … stay here for the night?

 He lowered his small duffle bag to the ground and removed his sleeping bag, and slept somehow. 


The following day he searched the borders of the environs until he found sturdy fencing. Foreigner though he was, he still understood that he was not to cross there.  He noted that there was a house next to him, actively inhabited. He found strange rocks, which he slipped into his pocket. He found more seeds and planted them.  He walked back the way he came until a truck stopped for him and the driver gestured to the flatbed, somehow aware that they would not understand each other's language. He got in, not without misgivings.

But the truck took him to the center of town, where he got out and looked at these strange buildings. There was one with several bright items arranged neatly in front of its picture window—fruit, he guessed. Music wafted from open doors and windows. A young woman wheeled a cart full of dusty books through a door and began to stack them in rows.

So this was the town center, perhaps. He lingered by the café and smelled the unfamiliar aroma of coffee. He listened to the measured tinkle of a fountain near the day spa. He walked over to the bookstore and looked through a book, understood nothing, set it down. His stomach clenched, painfully. He needed to eat, but what? Nothing looked familiar.

He finally made his way over to the Water Hole, drawn by the smell of grilled shrimp. These he recognized. He ate the three shrimp from the smoky skewer and went inside, where there was the promise of more. Although he could not understand what the other guests were saying, he became uncomfortably aware that they were certainly discussing him, and probably not very nicely. His face felt hot with shame. 

The bartender came over to him with a menu, which of course he couldn't read. After several moments of pointing (from her) and negation (from him), she finally put her hand on a bottle that made him smile. She poured out a glass of Coke and offered it to him.

"Thank you," he said in a hesitant voice.

She nodded. "I'm Cherry."

"Chelly," he repeated.

"No no, Cherry."


"You ain't from 'round here, are ya?" When he neither shook his head nor nodded, she pursed her lips. "Can you understand me?" No response. "… didn't think so."

He pushed the glass back. It was empty. "Thank you, Chelly."

She smiled and nodded. "What's your name?"

No response. She sighed, pointed to herself. "Cherry."

He pointed to himself and said something that sounded like "Kenshomgchenyip." It would take Cherry Kanto a few days to realize that her nervous new customer's name was "Kim Chong Shin Yi." But after she learned his name, she didn't forget.

For days and weeks afterwards, Kim Chong carefully weeded and watered his small garden in the morning and sat by the road for an hour or two before heading back into town. The same truck that had given him a ride on that first day continued to stop for him, and he always left some money on the seat, which the driver always returned to him immediately. He wandered through the park day after day, until one day he saw a woman in a formal cheongsam exiting the market. He rushed up to her, apologizing for the intrusion, begging for some news of his grandfather Zhang. She explained that she was only a local reporter, but referred him to the City Hall building some distance away.

To his surprise, Kim Chong found an employee in the building who spoke his language. The clerk listened to his story in silence before informing him that an elderly Chinese man had been found in the 'employees only' section of the regional airport two months earlier. "From what we could gather, he wandered back there by mistake and collapsed."

"My grandfather has been dead for two months?" Kim Chong said, despondently. "I have been waiting all this time for news of him. How do I get home without him?"

"This is your home," the clerk said, matter-of-factly. 

That evening when Kim Chong returned to the empty field, he looked over the land with tears in his eyes. He had been waiting for his grandfather to find him and take him home. But no one was going to find him here now. He would just have to make the best of it. 



  1. I am very happy you continued your legacy again, April. Although I know this story already a bit, it always is a pleasure to read your stories. Thank you.

    1. Sorry for taking so long to respond (but you know me)! I know I've been terribly slack in getting this going. But I should have the original posts all online by the end of February, and I know where I'm headed once we reach the end of the first part of the legacy. It'll be like a whole new story! :D