“Quick! Get him! He's getting away!”, yelled the subperfect to his partner, as Qun Icros disappeared around the corner of the pagoda.
Huff huff pant pant, “I'm going to make it to the forest. Yes! I made it now and can climb a tree and get away!”, Qun thought as he took a deep breath and wiped the sweat off his forehead.
The subperfects rounded the pagoda and saw nothing but the thick bamboo forest. “Dang, he got away!”, yelled the subperfect to his partner. He continued to lament, “I don’t want to tell the Perfect we lost him again. It is like he turns into a cloud and floats away. How does he do it?”. The other subperfect agreed, “Yes! We must keep looking. I don’t want to go back empty handed again. Soon, we will be the ones in trouble!”. They quietly slipped into the bamboo forest, looking for any sign of the elusive boy.
High up in the tree, Qun Icros stayed as still as the ceramic Buddha statue in the temple. Far below, he could see the subperfects creeping along the forest floor. He dared not move a muscle. He was afraid they would see the movement or hear some noise. He was surprised they did not hear his heart beating since it was beating so loudly. Qun stayed in the tree long after the subperfects were out of sight.
Taking care to remain as quiet as possible, Qun started climbing down the tree, looked around to make sure they were gone. Slowly he descended until he reached the forest floor. He made way to a hiding place he knew about and checked his loot. He had stolen some rice from the market place. He knew this was against the Tao philosophy. He was required to follow the ethical and religious tradition of Chinese culture that emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao. He had broken the Second Tao Precept of “No Stealing”. But, he was responsible for his little sister, Mei, since their parents had disappeared a few months ago. Qun needed to feed her and he was hungry, too. He was upset that he needed to go against Taoism by stealing the rice, but Qun felt he had no choice because he needed to survive and Mei needed him. He put the rice back in his bag and quietly started to make his way to his hut. While walking, Qun checked the traps he had set along the way. He and Mei had made several traps. Some were holes in the ground with sticks and leaves that a small animal might fall into. Some were snares made with tree bark and a bent limb or bamboo piece. Qun was hoping there would be a mouse, rat or rabbit that he could cook with the rice. His heart leapt when he heard some scratching in one of the holes. Qun carefully opened the top and saw a rat. He quickly killed the rat and then headed toward home. He knew that Mei would be excited about the rice. The rat was an added bonus. They would have a feast tonight!
Qun burst into the hut hoping to see the excitement in Mei’s eyes. But, no one was home. Qun was a little disappointed, but Mei often went out looking for food as well. He hoped she would be home soon. While waiting for Mei, Qun started to prepare the food and build a fire. When the rice was cooked and the rat roasted, Qun set out two bowls of rice and arranged the meat on top. By now, however, it was starting to get dark and Qun was getting worried. Mei was usually home by now. He forgot his hunger and decided to go out and look for his sister.
He walked back to town and to his surprise, he saw Mei in the bamboo jail at the Perfect’s base. He pretended not to know her as he walked by. Mei was looking down and did not see her brother. Qun realized that she must have been caught stealing and would now face punishment. The usual punishment for stealing would be death! Oh, how he wished that he had been able to keep her safe and provide for her so that Mei would not be hungry and have to steal. It was his job, his duty, to take care of Mei and he knew that he had failed.
Qun knew that he had to come up with a plan to save Mei. Qun saw a subperfect standing guard outside the bamboo jail. He thought, “I have to fix this! My sister is the only thing I have left”. By this time, it was dark. He knew he had to get her out this night because her punishment would occur at first light.
In the morning, before dawn, he returned to find that his beloved sister, Mei, was still alive. Since no light was yet showing, he still had a few hours until the execution. There was time! He unsheathed his katana and rushed into the base. He found Mei sleeping and used all his strength using the katana and slashed her bamboo cage open. This made so much noise that he was heard all over the base.
A subperfect yelled, “Hey! There's the boy from yesterday. Get him!”. A group of subperfects converged on Qun throwing him to the ground, causing him to drop his katana in the commotion. Unarmed, he tried to reach for his katana, but it was out of reach. Trying to get up, he was knocked to the ground again and the fight continued.
The subperfects were distracted by the fight, allowing Mei an opportunity to escape the broken bamboo cage. Mei ran into the adjacent bamboo forest and to safety. Qun looked up from where he was surrounded by subperfects with swords and sees that his sister has successfully fled. Moments later, Qun is struck by a subperfect’s dao and dies instantly.
Mei did not see the murder of her brother, but she knows what happened when he does not return to their small wooden hut within a few hours. She sees the table Qun had made when he was 7. It still had that bite mark I had made when I was 4. Than she notices the rice with the cooked rat ready to eat and bows her head and cries.