The dinner rush was almost over at the Dragon of the Black Pool. Its owner and head chef, Wang Chi, stepped out back for a much-deserved break. The mild stench of garbage in the alleyway would offend most people. But Wang loved it. He loved everything about Chinatown. He turned his body to remove the lid off the small tray that sat on the counter behind him. The smell of the simple plate of chicken and vegetables enticed Wang’s appetite. But the real prize revealed itself as the thick fog of steam dispersed. The perfectly round mound of rice, obviously methodically prepared by someone loved by his Asian mother, sat in its bowl in Buddha-like contentment. The creamy-white grains reflected the light from the kitchen like pearls. Wang Chi picked up the rice bowl in one hand then positioned chopsticks in the other. He brought the rice just under his nose and filled his lungs with the rising steam. The subtle scent of jasmine was the essence of Asian comfort food. The dish smelled even more enticing to Wang who had not yet eaten dinner. He looked up at the starry night sky and knew Chinatown is where his heart belonged.
A woman’s scream interrupted his moment of indulgence. Wang knew the sound came from the dark alley around the corner. Wang rolled his eyes. He opened the back door and threw his hat and his coat inside. He eyed the dish and spoke to it apologetically, “Sorry, gonna have to cut our evening short. Duty calls.”
Wang paused momentarily then popped a piece of chicken in his mouth then greedily filled the rest of the space between his cheeks with the gleaming rice. In moments, he was running to the source of the scream.
A young Chinese girl, no more than 17 or 18 years old, wearing the plaid skirt and white blouse of her school uniform cowered on the ground against the wall. She screamed between panicked breaths as several dark hulking figures surrounded her. Their skin was dark, almost crude oil black. A thin film of slime made their muscles shine in the little light that was in the alley. The empty eyes of the demons stared at the beautiful young girl hungrily. One grabbed the girl’s arm. Another grabbed her leg. All of them growled as was traditional for them before feasting on girl-flesh.
“Wet hair coal!” Wang Chi interrupted.
The demons went silent and turned their heads to look at Wang. The young girl tried to crane her neck out from behind the demon that had her arm. They all had the same confused expression attempting to figure out what the man in the alley was talking about.
“WET HAIR COAL!” yelled Wang louder.
The demons darted looks at each other to see if any of them knew what he was talking about. One scratched his head while another shrugged his shoulders. One even looked at the girl to see if she could figure it out. The girl just shook her head.
“I think he said ‘Wet hair coal,’” the young women told her attacker.
Wang rolled his eyes and sighed.
“Rod ram rice,” commented Wang, his mouth still full of jasmine rice.
Wang put up his index finger, gesturing everyone to wait. He chewed the rest of his dinner then swallowed.
Wang clarified, “I said, ‘Let her go.’”
Everyone nodded at the explanation. The demons then did as they were asked. The young girl dropped onto the cement with a thump.
"Ow…Mother f…” the girl stopped herself from swearing anymore in an attempt not to garner any more attention from the demons.
The demons surrounded Wang but were sure to keep the girl from escaping.
Wang spoke to the demons, “You know, seventeen years ago, this would have scared the crap out of me.”
A demon approached Wang stealthily from his right.
“But I faced Lo Pan and his Three Storms and killed them ALL!”
Wang landed a surprise punch on the demon that tried to sneak up on him. Then he somersaulted over another that lunged in for an attack.
“Well actually, I didn’t kill them all. One had a statue dropped on him.”
Wang blocked a slashing claw then kicked another demon in the face.
“Another made himself explode and a friend of mine was the one who actually killed Lo Pan. But I killed someone I’m pretty sure.”
Wang flipped a demon that charged him.
“I forget which Storm he was – Rain, Sleet, Drizzle, something like that.”
One of the demons attacked. Wang evaded it but he came close to another who took a swipe at him. The demons claws ripped Wang’s shirt but didn’t cut him.
“Of course, I had to drink a magic potion to do so but.”
The demons closed in on Wang, knowing of his vulnerability.
“But that potion also helped me realize exactly what I always was.”
Wang reached behind him and drew out two swords out of the scabbards on his back. He looked at the demons’ more cautious faces.
“Ah, you weren’t expecting that were you?”