The boy, and he was only a boy despite being three years past his responsibility ceremony, was an arrogant little prick. Chan Tsu who had been training him for five years knew that the kid had been fighting professionally, if you could call pit matches professional, behind his back for almost the entire time. He smoked like a chimney, not that that was unusual, drank like a fish when he wasn’t two days or less before a bout, and pushed the boundaries of social acceptability when it came to personal cleanliness. Chan Tsu suspected that elements of all of those behaviours were directed at himself. His own teachers had emphasized the benefits of a restrained, abstemious lifestyle and Chan Tsu had taken care to emulate them, even though their carefully cultivated obscurity hadn’t been necessary for him.
The boy, on the other hand, seemed only to think of indulging his physical pleasures and Chan Tsu had no idea why his parents or first gi teacher hadn’t reined him in.
Today Que had been spouting off with plans to win the professional national championship. The problem with that was that he didn’t have the required number of competition points to qualify for the final tournament. In fact, Chan Tsu had felt obliged to point out that he had no points at all, not having competed in the right bouts to gain them.
“I can pick those up easily,” Que had said, waving a cigarette pinching hand at nothing in particular.
“You can’t be sure of that,” Chan Tsu had told him repressively. “There are many fine fighters in this year’s competition.”
“I’m better,” Que had replied.
“You don’t have the wins to prove that.” Chan Tsu had thought that unanswerable.
“I’ll have to stop being nice then, won’t I?” Que had taken a long draw on his cigarette, before he knocked the ash off the end by tapping the cigarette with the fingers of the hand that held it. “Let’s find someone who deserves to be hurt. From what I’ve seen of tonight’s likely card, that shouldn’t be too hard.”
“Deserves to be hurt?” Chan Tsu hadn’t like the sound of that at all.
“Yeah,” Que had smiled crookedly. “If I’m going to start being tough on my opponents, let’s try using a few that don’t deserve to be liked. We could,” he’d dragged on the cigarette again, “look at giving Cao Chan Liu a taste of his own medicine.”
Thinking of the mess Cao Chan Liu had made of his last opponent, who happened to be the son of an old friend, Chan Tsu had admitted, “That’s a very tempting image, if you can do it.”
“Oh, I can.”
And he had. Seeing the mess Que had made of the other man made Chan Tsu feel sick. Then, in a quiet corner of the venue he’d seen Que hand the beaten man’s woman, her neck still red with the burn of a fiery hand print, most of his night’s winnings. “Get out while you can,” the boy had said to her. “You know that if you stay he’ll kill you sooner or later. There’s enough here for you to go somewhere else and be someone else. Let the kid grow up safe.”
“But he’ll find-,” she’d begun before Que had cut her off.
“Not if you go right now,” Chan Tsu had been lip reading so he’d missed the tone but something about it must have grabbed the woman’s attention that way. “You’ll be safely away and he’ll never catch you.”
She’d taken the heavy coin purse then and fled towards the door. Que had done something as she went, Chan Tsu hadn’t seen clearly what, and then he’d been nearly half asleep on his feet when Chan Tsu had gone up to him. Almost as if he’d almost overreached himself.
This is now followed by Master Que At Twnety.