The gi fighter known professionally as Chung Man Fu had spent weeks in hospital and then months in rehabilitation. Both his legs had been comprehensively and deliberately broken so he couldn’t walk, even with crutches, until the bones had healed. Even with the gi exercises they’d taught him it had been six weeks before they’d been prepared to remove the external fixation.
He’d watched the national titles on television from his rehabilitation hospital and seen the fighter who’d knocked his last opponent out of the ring like he wasn’t worth her time become the national champion in his division. She’d treated Bing Lu Ming like he was nothing, and the girl had never spoken to him, but the student of Shui Tzu Dan had left him money from her winner’s purse that day to help him recover.
It had been a bonus that Bing hadn’t been allowed to return to the competition while he was still unfit and the girl’s almost casual generosity had allowed him to follow his doctors’ instructions and stay out of the ring as long as he needed. He was sure that Bing and his manager were unhappy about that.
Chung Man Fu had done his rehabilitation, read a little, and consulted Masters of his gi school recommended by his old teacher.
When he walked back into the ring for the first time since his bout with Bing Lu Ming he did so, deliberately, in Changzhu, and he did it to the cheers of the crowd. He did it knowing himself not to be a different fighter, but a more mature one.
Bing was in the same tournament, but he wasn’t cheered and only received polite clapping for his wins in the first two rounds. He was behaving himself but when he entered the ring to face Chung Man Fu in the third round the cockiness oozed through his body language.
It took just a tiny half smile as they bowed for Chung to chase the larger smile from Bing’s face.