Kuan-ti entered the main chamber and found his pupil awake and examining the addition to his tattoo; a second, smaller ring inside the first. Still, he chose not to reveal its purpose.
Chen Shih looked up as the god approached and noticed he was carrying two swords. The young man was about to ask why when Kuan-ti leaped forward, extending the blade in his left hand, and spun past him. A thin line of crimson appeared across his chest.
In the initial shock of what had just happened, Chen failed to notice the lack of pain. He was even more surprised when the wound began to seal itself.
“Had it been wielded by a mortal,” Kuan-ti said, “there would have been no wound at all. Only my divinity allowed it to part your flesh.”
Before Chen could respond, his master spun again, this time driving the sword in his right hand point first through the center of the newest tattoo. He kept pushing until the hilt touched the young man’s chest, then withdrew it.
“No mortal who is just need ever fear this blade,” Kuan-ti told him.
As the sword slid free, Chen looked at his master. “Sifu, what if I was not a just man?”
“Then,” Kuan-ti said as he turned away and started down the hall, “you would be a dead man.”
Chen followed Kuan-ti to the training room, where he placed the sword from his left hand on a weapons rack. He turned to his student. “I shall not train you today.” With that proclamation, Kuan-ti left.
The young man just stood there for a moment, unsure of what he should do. One minute passed, then another, and suddenly, a grin appeared on his face.
“Sifu only said that he shall not train me today. He never said I should not continue training myself.”
Somewhere, unseen by Chen, Kuan-ti smiled.
Chen began to repeat the moves his sifu had shown him the previous day. As he practiced, he realized that in some of his moves his hand seemed strangely empty. He hadn’t noticed it yesterday, but now, for some reason, the absence of something was almost oppressing.
“Sifu,” he said softly, “you are a sly one.”
Walking to the weapons rack, he lifted the sword from its resting place. He repeated one of the moves and found that the addition of the weapon made it feel complete.
He returned to the practice mat and continued his training until Kuan-ti reappeared. Chen knew what was coming, so he took a seat at the feet of his master.
“Your mother has been raped and disemboweled. Tell me, which is more important: vengeance or justice?”
Chen’s heart broke. “Sifu, may I ask you a question before I give my answer?”
“Is it possible to take vengeance as long as it serves the cause of, and is tempered by, justice?”
Kuan-ti looked down at his student. “Rest.”
Kuan-ti was at his side when Chen awoke. He helped his student off the altar and gave him a smile. “You may inspect the tattoo, if you wish.”
“It’s a chariot wheel,” Chen said as he opened his shirt.
“It is part of my gift to you,” Kuan-ti told him. “Touch it with your right hand and ask that I judge you.”
Chen paused for only for a moment before doing as he was told. The skin beneath his hand began to tingle the moment he said, “Kuan-ti, judge me.”
Removing his hand from his chest, the young man watched in amazement as the wheel started to spin. Tendrils of green began to emanate from the edge of the tattoo and cover Chen’s body. As it flowed across him, the animated ink took on the substance and texture of armor. Beneath the armor, Chen felt his skin begin to tighten as his muscle mass increased. Once the metamorphosis was complete, the young man looked at his master.
“Sifu,” he said, “this is incredible. I feel like I have the strength of one hundred men coursing through my body.”
“It is closer to a quarter of that number,” the god told him.
Chen began to execute a few of his martial art moves to see how much the armor hampered him. There were no flaws.
Kuan-ti nodded his approval. With his right hand, he pulled something out of thin air and handed it to Chen. The young man smiled when he saw what it was.
The other sword.
Kuan-ti smiled at his pupil. “From this day forward, you shall be known as Shen Lu Kai, God’s Green Armor, and you shall protect our people.”
“Yes, sir,” the lone Japanese soldier said as he stood before his superiors. “Of my squad, I am the only survivor.”
Those who sat before him knew the soldier’s reputation as a fierce warrior. His many injuries and the condition of his uniform bore witness to the fact that he had only barely survived the battle.
“How many were in the party that ambushed you?” a captain asked.
The soldier had expected this question and had debated how he would answer when it was asked. In the end, he had decided on the truth, though it could cost him his life.
No one said anything, so he took it as a sign to elaborate. “He approached us in the middle of the street. We expected others to step out and surround us, but he was the only one we saw. He just stood there, looking at us. We thought he was crazy when he drew his sword. When he started toward us, we raised our rifles. He continued to approach, so we fired.
“Our bullets had no effect; they just bounced off of that damned green armor he wore.”
At the mention of the armor, the Japanese officers leaned in and started conferring with each other in quiet tones.
The soldier stood as straight as he could, considering his injuries, until they chose to address him.
The captain looked at the sergeant who had escorted the young man in. “Take him to the infirmary and see that he is given a place to rest.”
Both the sergeant and the soldier bowed and left.
Once they were gone, one of the other officers spoke. “Does the sergeant know what to do?”
“Yes,” the captain said. “It will be quick and painless.”
“Counting the men from this squad, how many have we lost?” another officer asked.
“Including the six we have… silenced to make certain that this news does not become common knowledge, over two hundred.”
The officers looked at the captain, their disbelief etched on their faces.
The captain continued. “Of the six, two of the men actually reported being stabbed through the heart, yet continued to live. They said that when this warrior saw that his weapon had no effect on them, he begged their forgiveness and bade them go.”
“What made these two so special?” someone asked.
“I made inquiries about them. It seems that, of all the men we have lost, these two were the only ones who had not committed any sort of atrocity toward the people of Nanking.”
There was a thoughtful silence among the rest of the officers. Finally, the captain broke the silence.
“I think it would be best if we put an end to the men’s extracurricular activities. We can say that the city has finally been brought into line, and there is no further need for their continued punishment. Anyone caught disobeying this command will face execution by the firing squad.”
One of the other officers, a major, nodded in agreement. “Hopefully, this will put an end to this green-armored assassin.” As an afterthought, he added, “No mention of this will be made in any reports. It must look like we took a stand and brought our men into line ourselves.”
“As for the citizens of Nanking, they are afraid to speak of the rebel openly for fear of being punished. None need ever know of this Shen Lu Kai.”