T H E . W O R L D . T H A T . C R U M B L E S
l.c. li

He walks upon the platform, footsteps so light that I wonder if he has any weight to his bones. He is so thin; his anger, his loyalty, his nationalism must have stopped him from eating any Japanese food.

No; he must have eaten. He knows he must keep his strength up. Miura, he is a hard man. He is skilled as well as strong, with our conquerers on his side.

Be careful, my husband. Please, be careful.

Chow Ching-chuen sees the tension bearing down on my brow and places a gentle hand on my shoulder.

"We should not be here," he says softly.

I clench Ip Chun to my bosom, hiding his face from the imminent battle. "I would not have had it any other way."

Ching-chuen sighs, withdrawing his hand. "Your husband would kill me if he knew."

"My husband may yet be killed himself." I feel tears crawling up my throat, but shove them down. No good to cry. Not when he is alive. I cannot have anything deforming what may be my last sight of him.

Ip Man.

"Perhaps he has practiced. Perhaps he has practiced." I repeat the mantra beneath my breath, feeling my hope sinking down to my feet. He could not have practiced; he could not have possibly practiced, shut inside a dank and cramped cell until his doomsday, nothing to punch or palm save the hard walls and moldy ground.

"He has beaten ten Japanese black belts, all at once," Ching-chuen whispers. "One of the coal miners told me."

I feel my head whipping about. "Ten?"

"Ten." Ching-chuen turns his gaze upon the stage in front of us, arms folded across his chest. "He is the treasure of Canton, Wing-sing. You must have more faith in him."

Faith? It is not a question of faith. The scales are completely against my husband. He has hardly eaten, hardly slept, fueled on his love for China, for Wing Chun, for his friends. He has not practiced, and while I once believed he was the best in all of China, the Japanese invasion has taken a toll on all of us. I feel the low morale, the emptiness of the stomach and dryness of the throat, the pain and sorrow in the air. Indeed, he has an inner peace rare to any man, but inner peace can do little against good nourishment and the backing of a strong army.

I see Miura rise to his feet through his toes, and Ip Man cast a glance around the audience. He sees China; he sees those whom he must fight for. His gaze comes dangerously close to me, to Ip Chun, and I quickly turn my head. For one moment I feel his eyes might be on me, but then he is looking back to Miura.

Miura steps in front of him, his eyes hard. Ip Man raises his hands, as he always does, one hand fisted and the other resting upon it. I feel my heart pounding in my chest, Ip Chun fast asleep against my neck, and agony, the agony of a silence stretched to its limit.

Be careful. Be safe.

Then Miura moves, and Ip Man moves, and it is like lightning against fire in the dark. I can make little sense of what is happening, only that their bodies are a blur and neither seem to be winning. I feel a gasp against my throat as my husband comes dangerously close to falling over the edge, but he swiftly regains his balance and pushes Miura back.

He defeated ten men. He defeated ten well-trained men.

"I should have made him practice more." Perhaps then, the odds would have been better.

"You would have gone hungry," Ching-chuen says softly.

"He always protected me. He always protected us. He always protected everything." Water. Water is gathering in my eye. I quickly raise a hand and brush it away. "He told me he felt useless. He said I was good to him."

"He loves you dearly. You and Ip Chun."

"He is not useless. He is nothing close to useless." There; a hit against Miura. My heart catches. "He is wonderful. He is the one everyone goes to in times of need."

"A beacon," Ching-chuen agrees. "One of the brightest I have ever seen. And the brightest beacons, Wing-sing, are the hardest to extinguish."

He is so confident. He is so confident that my husband will win.

I see Ip Man trap Miura against the pole, hands and fists in a blur as he pounds his body, and I remember the countless hours he used to spend hitting that wooden post in the parlor. Blood drips from Miura's nose and lips, landing upon the stage in ragged scarlet pools; Ip Man stops right at the killing blow, the tips of his fingers inches away from Miura's throat.

He has won.

He is alive.

Miura sinks to the ground, barely conscious, the white fabric of his pants sponging his own blood.

The crowd erupts.

Ip Man turns, his face heavy with emotion, watching as we, as I scream and yell and heave our fists in the air, his name spilling from our lips. His eyes meet mine, and I feel a smile flowing across my cheeks at the look in his eyes: Displeased, but unsurprised. He knew, he always knew, that I would come back, that Ching-chuen would bring us back, and that fact is the one that makes me want to leap across the barriers and onto the stage and gather him in my arms.

"Ip Chun, look," I whisper. "Daddy's okay. Daddy's won."

Ip Chun only whimpers, clamping his ears in an attempt to shut out the din.

"He is the best," Ching-chuen says. "He is the treasure of Canton."

In a world that crumbles, I see my husband, my wonderful, strong, precious husband, a beacon that will not be easily extinguished, with unmatchable skill in the Wing Chun that I once detested so much.

In a world that crumbles, I see Ip Man.

(A/N: Okay, so, kinda meh at the ending... but endings are seriously my bane anyway. Overall I like this piece. It's kinda poetic, with an interesting rhythm. :) Please review?)