Flash Fiction: Old Man Lang (Jadepunk)

From the Fate-based roleplaying game: Jadepunk: Tales from Kausao City

“Laddies – that’s Aerish for ‘friend’ by the way – I visited the Kaiyumi islands for the first time when I was your age.” The children rolled their eyes at Old Man Lang, always sitting on the same corner telling anyone who would listen some fantastic tale of his supposed past. He was a bum, not worth anyone’s time. The children listened only to poke fun at him.

“The islands, riiiight…” one of the older children mocked.

Old Man Lang smacked the child upside the head with his cane. “It’s true, you insolent brat! When I was your age, I was already traveling the world, learning the martial arts of faraway lands so that I could better defend myself and the people of this fair city.”

The insolent brat rubbed the top of his head, angry but mindful of who might be watching. “You don’t know martial arts, you old fool, and we’ve got the city guard to protect us. What could you do?”

“You think the city guard is…” Old Man Lang began before being interrupted.

“What are you doing?” A woman wearing a fine dress yelled as she walked up and coddled her son’s head, carefully inspecting where Lang’s cane had struck it. “Hitting children, are you?”

“I wouldn’t have to if parents these days would teach children to respect their elders.”

“Maybe their ‘elders’ should give a reason to be worthy of respect,” she chided the old man. “Let’s go, dear.”

The mother and her son turned to walk away but their path was blocked by two large men. Behind Old Man Lang stood another, all three grinning at the woman.

“That dress is a little too nice for this neighborhood, lady,” one of the men in front of her said. She gasped as he grabbed her purse. “What else ya’ got?”

The child gaped at the large man taking his mother’s things. If only dad were… His thought was cut off by a dull thud, like the sound of something soft hitting stone. He turned to see Old Man Lang standing over the crumpled form of one of their assailants.

“I think it’s best you were on your way,” Lang said to the men in a calm, demanding voice. He was standing straighter than usual. The child suddenly felt guilty for making fun of him.

“Old man,” one of the thugs said as he pushed past the mother and her child, the other following close behind, “you’re gonna regret that.”

He reached for the old man, but was too slow. Lang’s cane was a blur. In less than a second the man’s hand was broken. Then, with well-practiced footwork, the old man side-stepped a blow from the other thug and spun to strike the ruffian behind the knee with his cane, sending him to the ground.

Old Man Lang rested his cane on the thug’s throat, ignoring his gurgled cries. “I learned that move from a Naramel nomad,” he said while giving a wink to the awestruck children watching nearby.

They never made fun of Old Man Lang again.

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