It also contains what could be considered spoilers...
Xu Chi was the youngest in her family, the only girl after four boys. She was also the only one who took after their small boned, slender paternal grandfather, Xu Feng, the successful spice merchant. When she was little, she was universally described as ‘sweet’ and her mother put her hair up in dumpling buns and ponytails that emphasised that. Madam Xu put her in dance classes when she was three, and Xu Chi enjoyed them. She learnt to read early and was popular when she started school.
At six, of course, her parents arranged for her to begin gi lessons. Her paternal grandmother, the senior Madam Xu, had been a very successful competitor in amateur gi tournaments and, although disappointed that none of her other grandchildren had chosen to continue gi beyond a year or two of classes, she pressed for Xu Chi to enrol in her old gi school. Arrangements were made for Xu Chi to study with Master Wen, a Laosung teacher.
The morning she was to present herself to Master Wen, Xu Chi slipped out of the house early before anyone knew that she was up, and went straight to another gi school. The front door wasn’t open when she arrived, but the lights were on inside, and a middle-aged man answered her knock. The scents of tea and rice wafted through the open door and Xu Chi remembered that she hadn’t had breakfast yet. A woman’s voice from inside the school asked, “Who is it, dear?”
The man called back over his shoulder, “A child.” He turned back to Xu Chi and asked, “Who are you, little one, and what are you doing here at this hour?”
“My apologies for the early intrusion, Master Loong,” said Xu Chi as she bowed. “I am Xu Chi and I’ve come to ask if you’ll be my gi teacher.”
He sighed. “That’s something for your parents to arrange, little one. Do your parents know where you are?”
Xu Chi bowed again and held a supplicating pose. “Help me here, Li Ming Wu. They want to make me into a Laosung and, I just can’t.”
Master Loong rocked back from the surprisingly adult words and tone, then asked, “Should I know you?”
Xu Chi straightened. “The first time we fought, you broke my nose and I broke your wrist. My husband wasn’t pleased.”
In shock Master Loong looked down at the small girl in front of him and said, “I went to your funeral….”
“Thank you,” said Xu Chi simply. “But can you help me now? I have nothing against Master Wen, but it’s simply not going to work.”