Locked and Loaded

Joint Post by Nim and AquariAge

Armed with a bit of knowledge, a plan, and bulky phone thingies, Linh and Sally eventually made it back to the Community Center. On the way back, they had agreed that Linh would drive Sally to her father's house, where they would ask him for directions to the Panther's to see what the vigilante gang knew of the Los Diablos.

After getting dropped off, Linh led Sally to her van. Painted in yellow and blue and emblazoned with the name and emblem of her school, Nguyen Martial Arts Academy, the van acted both as a business vehicle in which she drove her students and equipment to events as well as her personal vehicle. Hopping in the driver’s seat, Linh waited until Sally was buckled in and had provided directions toward where her father's place was before she pulled out of her parking place and onto the bustling streets.

The smell of greasy chinese food quickly filled the van. Seeking to distract herself from her subsequent cravings, she awkwardly inquired, "So... how is Master Tang doing? I haven't seen your venerable master in awhile. He's still teaching, right?"

“He is,” Salvation responded, giving Master Linh her full attention. “Though he doesn’t have as many students now. Very picky ‘bout who he trains. ‘Not any little kitten will do,’ he says…”

She snorted a laugh. “Where we call people ‘cats’ he calls ‘em ‘kittens,’ count of his age and all. He’s a weird, sweet, tough ol’ man. And a great teacher.”

The vigilante paused a moment and remembered his advice after the tournament where she faced Master Linh’s students.

“Master Linh? I never had a chance to tell you, but… your students fought good. You taught ‘em good. If ya don’t mind my askin’, how old were you when you learned kung fu?”

Linh was rather surprised by the compliments and question. "Well, I suppose that depends on your definition of 'Kung Fu'. I don't tell my student's this, but I do not consider what I teach to be 'Kung Fu', as that is a very Chinese art… However, Americans seem rather obsessed with the term, so I don't generally deny that what I'm teaching may or may not be Kung Fu. That aside, I started learning the art of the fist when I was a little girl from my father. My father was captain of our village's militia, as was his father, his father's father, and so on. My family had a tradition of being warriors for our village, and as I was the only child my parents were able to produce, I was expected and trained to carry on that tradition despite being a girl."

Salvation listened intently. Her father, though a police captain, was not as strict or as militant as Master Linh’s seemed to be. When the martial arts instructor finished answering Salvation’s query, she volunteered her own beginnings in the art of the fist.

“I started in my teens. Would you believe I took up kung fu to learn how to be a better drummer? True story! Pops got me a drum set for my birthday years ago; drove him and the neighborhood up the wall with all my clangin’ and bangin’. Used ta joke that was part of the reason we moved to the city. More noise ta drown out my playin’ but I wasn’t gettin’ any better. Then one night we see this kung fu flick with this awesome cat swinging these tied drumsticks around, knockin’ out punks left and right. Just ownin’ th’ place! ‘Those are nunchucks, Sally,’ he told me. ‘Maybe if you can learn ta swing those sticks around, you might be able ta play betta!’ I figured if I can learn ta fight like that and play betta, I’m down wit it! So Pops signed me up at one o’ th local gyms. Hooked up with Master Tang years later when Pops… had to retire. Had a score to settle and he helped me get payback. And I’ve been swinging some mean sticks eva since…”

Salvation patted the holstered nunchucks at her sides, then shrugged. “Funny, though. Don’t even play drums anymore.”

"A fan of nunchucks? Interesting. I usually let students of mine who wish to learn nunchucks try to start with a few basic techniques, and after they hit themselves hard a few times with them, move on to easier weapons. I can respect the power and relative reach of the nunchuck, but they are tricky weapons, as I am sure you know, what with the business end coming back at you if you miss. It takes a particularly durable and tenacious person to figure that weapon out."

Salvation unconsciously rubbed her forehead and neck. “I heard that. It was Master Tang that helped me finally get th’ hang o’them. Before that I was more ‘a danger to myself than to my opponents’ My instructors' exact words. So what’s your weapon o’choice? Or you just go at ‘em wit your bare hands?”

Linh grimaced as someone blared their horn at her when she switched lanes in preparation to take a left. She loved her van, but the blind spots were pretty bad… "Sorry, weapons? Yes, I have learned a lot of weapons, particularly the sword, dagger, staff, and spear, although I have been trying to learn escrima techniques lately as well. However, I mostly practice open handed techniques and I encourage my students to as well. I don't think the police take kindly to people carrying swords and such at their hip, so open hand techniques are usually the only option we have available. However, those same police likely won't do anything to people carrying guns, because those are apparently protected by the second amendment, but swords aren't." Taking the left, Linh took a deep breath as she soon got held up at another light. "Americans really do have some strange, inconsistent sensibilities."

“Mmm-hmm. Not crazy ‘bout guns, either,” Salvation said. “Don’t take much skill ta pull a trigger. And I ain’t for killin’ nobody. If it came down to it, I could fight all right with bare hands. But most times just hearin’ n’ seein’ those ‘chucks spinnin’ is nuff to send most punks runnin’... ‘cept the dumb ones with somethin’ ta prove.”

Linh nodded. She hadn't considered the utility of nunchucks as intimidation weapons before. A dagger served just as well in that regard, but the dagger also had a tendency to do terrible things to people on the receiving end of it, while the nunchucks were better able to subdue people without turning them into a bloody mess. "Good points."

They rode in relative silence after that, with Sally providing a few directions, and soon they were pulling up to the curb of an apartment complex. "Is this the place?"

Salvation gathered up the bags of restaurant takeout and her issued mobile phone from David Chan’s inventor friend.

“Yeah, that’s it. We’re up on the third floor. Place’s a lil’ rickety but it’s home.” She felt along the sides of the takeout bag. “Still warm; we made pretty good time. Pops’ a good man, was a good cop. One thing, though: he’s a lil’ peculiar with space stuff. Spaceships, ray guns, lil’ green men with bug eyes. He’d love Chan Man’s friend with the gadgets. But don’t let it throw ya - everybody’s got a hobby, right? We got kung-fu, my ol’ man’s a space cadet. Just how he has fun these days…”

"I won't begrudge a person their idiosyncrasies," Linh affirmed, parking the van, hopping out, and locking the vehicle once Sally had gotten out. As the pair made their way toward the building, Linh added. "I will let you do the talking, as you seem to have more knowledge of the criminal elements of this city than I do and you probably know which questions to ask."

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