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The Song of the Cicadas


Prologue

The guns finally fell silent.
We had survived, for another day.
I allowed my exhausted body slide down against the inner wall of the barbican. My helmet with its white plume on
top had been blown off in an explosion. My ears rang and then there was absolute silence. I panicked and
thought I had lost my hearing. It came back after a while though and the sound of distant cannons once again
roared, hurling destructive missiles against our much shattered walls. My long hair, once smooth and shiny but
now covered with ash from flying debris, hanged loosely on my back. I knew it was improper, that I should, as a
good Moslem woman, had it concealed from view, or at least covered. But I was too tired to attend to that. Every
once of my strength was spent. The bombardment and the repeated attacks by the forces of the oppressors
had drawn out everything inside my body and made a hollow with nothing to refill. I had witnessed bloodsheds
and killings, heard cries of agony and cries for mercy to put an end to miseries; I had stepped on bodies
covered in blood as I led our men and women to plug bleaches in our defense: bodies of people I had known
since I was a child, people I had worked with, shared food with, fought with, wept with. So many had died, so
many would die. The stench of death and decay filled the air.

"Merciful Allah, when will this end? Have we not fought in your name? Have we not taken up arms with pure
hearts, wanting nothing but freedom from fear and oppression? Have we not treat all, regardless of faith,
brothers and sisters so long that we face a common foe? How much more suffering before Your will be done?"
I prostrated myself on the rampart, facing west, my palms turned upwards to signify my acceptance of whatever
you allotted me. " Allah is merciful! And I am but your handmaid." A peace descended upon me, the fatigue
became more tolerable, despair slowly replaced by trust. "Guide me, True Lord of Light. Give me strength to do
what I must do, courage to face what must face. I am your daughter. I know You will not forsake me. I am ready."

1.


It was the season of the cicadas, their songs filled the valleys among the lush woods.
She always loved to hear their songs, low buzzing, making her drowsy sometimes and dream of things she
missed. Once, when she was small, her father told her stories about the cicadas, how they remained sleeping in
wet earth before emerging to this chorus, without sorrow, without regret, though they should know life was
ebbing away with every single sound they made.

She was holding one in her hands now: little green thing, fragile and yet, so full of life. She could crush it if she
decided to, easily. But she would not of course. All life forms were creation of Allah and equally sacred.

"Go!" she put her hands near the trunk of a tree and the cicada inched its back up the branch, to hide, and to
sing.

"Feng-yang"

She could hear her father calling at the top of his voice from the top of the knoll that overlooked valley and the
terraced paddies. Her father, Du Wen-xiu, being the respected scholar of the village, had such a powerful voice
that was pleasing to the ear. Du Feng-yang loved especially the way her father pronounced the second
character of her name. He always lengthened the last syllable so that the "yang" had a higher pitch as if a bird
was soaring into the light blue Yunnan sky. It was even more apt as her name actually meant "a phoenix in
flight" and she treasured it as the only thing left by her mother, who had passed away. Usually, the father had
the prerogative to name the children, but since she was a baby-girl and Du Wan-xiu had great affection for his
wife, he granted her the honor to name their first child.

Du Wan-xiu was not so much different from the thousands of scholars who studied the classics said to have
been handed down by Confucius and his disciples. These had been the core of learning based on which young
men would be tested if they wished to rise to distinction through a series of public examinations held by the
government every few years. To succeed in such examination would lead to the path of being appointed as
magistrates around the country, an honor and the surest way to improve the living condition of the extended
family.

Du had worked hard and distinguished himself in the foundation examinations and if events took the usual path,
he would before long became one of the bureaucrats working for the imperial governing structure that was to
ensure peace and prosperity for the Qing, or Manchu, dynasty.

There was one thing which was a bit unusual though. Du was born a Hui, a Moslem, a devout one and one filled
with sense of justice for his clan. In the twenty-sixth year of the Emperor Doro Eldengge Hūwangdi (Daoguang)
(AD1846) , he personally went to Peking to petition against local Han landlords for oppressing and murdering
his Moslem brothers. He was imprisoned on the charge of disturbing the peace and spent several years in jail
before he was released and driven back to his native village. It was this incident that open up his eyes on the
corruption and injustice throughout the empire: the ruling Manchu looked down on the conquered Hans, who in
turn oppressed the minority such as the Hui who were predominantly Moslems. To the Han landlords, the Hui
were people whom they could afford to exploit without fear of rebuke and punishment from the ruling class.

After he returned from the imperial capital, Du had decided to spend his life studying both the Qur'an and the
classics for the rest of his life, the former due to his piety and the latter for understanding how to be a good
person. These, he also taught his daughter Feng-yang, who was intelligent and diligent. She also had a strong
physique as she would help in the village farming and learned to ride and hunt with her father and kins.

"Ah, too bad you are born a girl, "Du Wan-xiu had more than once lamented quietly, putting his hand on the
smooth hair of his daughter in deep thoughts.

"Why was a daughter inferior to a son, father?" The little girl would look up at the face of her father and asked.

"Yes, why indeed?" Du Wan Xiu would mused. But deep in his heart, he knew that there was indeed differences.
A son would continue the family line, be able to sit in public examinations though Du had lost interest in that
himself, and protect the clan if there would be trouble with the oppressive Hans. "We are all the same in the
eyes of Allah, though our roles are different." He had tried to comfort his daughter.

Fang-yang did not argue with her father. Being an obedient child, she accepted his authority and paid him
respect as a daughter should. But in her heart, she could hear a voice that promised her to become someone
very different than just a filial daughter.
She worked harder, both for her study and her training. She went along well with neighbors, giving them more
and more help as she grew and winning their hearts with compassion and kindness. She also observed the
world around her, listening to the heated discussion between her father and the other elders when they had
meeting in their house and she had to serve tea.

Emperor Daoguang had died and the throne had passed onto a new emperor, Xianfeng. He was remembered
by three things in particular during his reign of eleven years: he took as a concubine a maiden from the
Yehenara, a rival clan whose ancestors had cast a curse when defeated and before they took their own lives:
that one day a descendant from the Yehennara would cause the downfall of the Qing Empire. As a rule, no
Yehenara maidens were allowed to be taken into the palace as royal consorts. But Xianfeng was young and
when he saw the beauty of Cixi, lust got the better of the warnings of his fathers. She was later to become the
much cursed Empress Dowager who would be instrumental to the decline and collapse of the empire. It was also
during his reign that the Taiping rebellion broke out, bring devastation to half of the land and millions of death.
Finally, the western devils came in force and made war with the Middle Kingdom, the Opium War as they called
it, and the imperial court was forced to cede Hong Kong, a tiny island of "little practical value" to the British.

Trouble was fermenting all over the empire which had once been strong and feared. Local magistrates and
landlords unleashed their greed upon those unprotected and the Huis were favorite victims.

When Du Fang-yang heard his father calling out to her from the top of the knoll, she knew something drastic
had happened. There was such an urgency in his voice that through intuition, she knew her days of waiting, or
working as a peasant girl, was over.

There was a rolling thunder in the distance.

Fang-yang could not help but to associate it with war-drums.

2.

In the first year of the new Emperor Xianfeng, the Taiping Rebellion erupted from the south-western province of
Guangxi and spread across the empire. The rebel army attacked and captured many cities and rolled down the
Yangtze River, finally storming Nanking where they established their own court. The following years saw fierce
fighting along the Yangtze and around the coastal cities. Things were not better off in the more remote areas.
The break-down of effective government led to the rise of armed groups which terrorized the common people. In
1856, Hans landlords attacked Hui communities, killing many, and with the support of Qing generals, boasted to
exterminate all Hui within the month. Du Wan-xiu was elected as the Marshal by the Hui people and gathered
around him an army to fight for survival.

"Father, let me go on your behalf."

"No. Feng-yang, you are a woman. It is not proper." Du Wan-xiu eyed his daughter who had put on white riding
attire and a silver plated cuirassier, a curved sword at her side. She had just turned nineteen.

" Did you not say we are all equal in the eyes of Allah? And when they come to massacre our people, are we
females spared? Do we not suffer the same fate as our brothers? I can outride any warrior in your army and I
can fight just as well."

"There are enough men to do the job. Trust in your people. They are good warriors." Du Wan-xiu was not
moved.

"I know they are brave warriors of the True Lord. But they do not have war experience and our people lead
someone to lead them. They need you at their head, to give them confidence and encouragement to win."

"I cannot be spared from Dalit. There is some many things I need to organize." The father sighed.

"I know. And that is why you must send someone to represent you, to announce your presence. It is the only
way we can hope to win, father. And my brothers are all too young." Fang-yang was relentless. Her brothers
were offsprings from another woman who Wan-xiu took as wife after the mother of Fang-yang died.

"You know what it can mean, daughter? The battlefield is not a game ground. You can be killed." The father
eyed her seriously. "How can I face your dead mother if something happens to you?"

"Allah's will be done. If I am to die, I will not die in disgrace of my people's name. I will fight courageously so that
those who come after us will say: the daughter of Marshal Du was brave and did her duty. And I know my mother
will be proud of me."

Du Wan-xiu sighed. He knew his own daughter being a strong-willed child who always had her way for things
deemed important to her. How fast she had grown? It seemed yesterday that she was just a child running round
the village school.

"Then go, with Allah's blessing. I will make you Inspector General, to represent my authority at the front. I know
you will do our people honor." He kissed the forehead of his daughter and fought hard to suppress the feeling
that it was the last time he would see her charming face.

3.

The two armies of the Hui people converged on the fortified city of Kunming and confronted the governement
troops sent by the Emperor to suppress them. These included troops from the battle-hardened Xiang Army from
Wunan province under General Liu Shao-yue. The Hui warriors of the advance guards were very brave but they
lacked experience and their equipment was vastly inferior to the government troops. Totally confused, they were
soon surrounded by the enemy.

"We will wipe them out tomorrow morning!" General Liu declared and his superior, Governor Ce, took the same
view.

"I will write my victory report to the Emperor tonight to let him know of the inevitable victory tomorrow!" He was
jubilant, as a smashing victory would guarantee his swift promotion to more senior rank. The emperor was in
such desperate needs for a boost in the form of a victory.

They were jubilant too early.

From the top of the headland overlooking the surrounded forts, Du Fang-yang scanned the situation of the
coming battlefield.

"Inspector-General, we arrive too late. We must retreat now." Ma Ru-long, one of the senior war-chiefs paled at
the sight of the array of men and guns on the plain. They looked formidable indeed, especially with those
cannons like dragons spitting out fire of destruction.

"And leave our brothers to their fate? Never!" Du Fang-yang refused even to consider the idea.

"But there is no hope. Look at those guns. They could destroy us before we reach their lines of infantry. I
cannot let you put our forces to destruction."

"Cannot? Did you say? I hope you remember that I am put in position by y father to ensure we fight, and fight to
win. Retreating without even trying is a disgrace and a betrayal to our brothers-in-arms. The enemy is strong
but we have our advantages in having more mounted men than they do. The Xiang Army are mainly foot
soldiers and we can run them down. We will attack!"

"Ha!" scoffed the old war chief. "And what does a silly girl like you know about war? Do you know those guns are
now positioned in a way that they are waiting for us to fall into their traps? We will be wiped out if we charge into
them? "

"I have no intention to charge into them. We will go round, and cut in from the other side. The guns are heavy.
They cannot reposition them in time if we surprise them. And their infantry has placed too much reliance on the
firepower of the cannons. Once they discover they have lost the protection, they would lose heart as well."

"Easier said than done! Do you know how long it will take to go around their position? It will take all day and by
that time, the forts will have fallen!" Ma did not give up. To him, it was sheer folly and this girl-inspector-general
was just an amateur.

"It will not take ALL day. We march, now! We will go round with the cover of darkness and the woods. By
morning, the enemy will find themselves surprised from the rear!" Du Fang-yang starred at the old warrior in the
eye.

Ma's face grew pale. He kept on shifting his sight from the female warrior to the battlefield under the setting sun.

"I will have no part of it. My men has better things to do than to be sacrificed for such folly!"

"As you wish, Uncle. We will march without your command then." She held her ground. Without Ma's men, she
might not have enough force to envelop the enemy and bring in a complete victory. But to give in to Ma would
mean certain defeat, without even trying.

Ma's face turned from white to red with rage. Without saying a word, he turned his horse around and rode back
to his men.

"General Cai," Fang-yang called the officer next to her. Cai Ting-dong was several years her senior but she
knew she could trust him. "Stay behind and keep a close eye on Uncle Ma and his men."

Cai was a little taken in surprise, but after a while, he nodded his head. She had reason to be suspicious.

"I will make sure there is no stab in the back, Inspector-general."

She smiled to show gratitude for his promise.

Then, quietly, the relief army of the Hui began their night march.

4.

The attack was launched at the break of dawn.

Twenty thousand horsemen galloped across the plain in three directions. The land trembled with thundering of
horse-hooves and the cries of "Allah is Great!" At the head of one of the columns was a young female warrior
riding a dark steed. She was dressed in white with silver breastplate, her white plume flying on her helmet and a
curved sword that glittered in the morning light.

"Alarm! Alarm! Enemy from the north!"

War-drums thundered. Men rushed to arms and arrayed themselves to face the onslaught. The gunners worked
feverishly to turn the cannons around to face the totally unexpected assault. They never had the time needed to
do that.

The Hui army cut into the ranks like knife into soft butter. The Qing infantry line broke, and the men ran. The
gunners, before they knew what was happening, were cut down mercilessly.

"Stop them! Stop them at all cost. They are led by only a woman!" The governor yelled.

A battalion of heavy cavalry surged towards the mass of white clad riders. The lines clashed. Fang-yang
evaded the tip of a spear and brought her blade across the neck of a Qing horsemen. The head rolled as the
headless rider kept on charging until corpse and horse were brought down by those behind. Fang-yang did not
look back to see what had happened. She worked her mount to full speed, cut down three more who dared
oppose her.

"To their camps! Burn the camps!" She yelled at the top of her voice. Men darted away from the path she was
taking. A few unfortunate ones were tramped to pulp and the rest were scattering like driven ducks.

Now the sound of guns could be heard. While most of the cannons had been destroyed, there were still some
positioned in the right direction and these began to hiss in murderous fire. A shell exploded just behind Fang-
yang and the blast took two of her female comrades off their horses. Qing infantrymen who were still around
quickly rushed up and planted spears into the breasts of the fallen riders while two other raised their halberds
and had the stabbed maidens beheaded. They were quickly avenged as more female riders came up and
butchered the infantrymen, who were drunk with easy victory and dancing with the heads of the two slain women
stuck at the tips of their spears.

Fang-yang ran into severe resistance. The heavy cavalry had been turned back, scattered to the winds, but the
core of the Xiang Army units had lined up, their arrows notched and spears leveled at the ready. Besides these,
there were two lines of musket-holding men, weapons at the ready.

"Dismount and fight! Shields ready!" Fang-yang made an example by jumping off her horse and sending it back.
A round shield on her left arm to ward of arrows, she made quick advances, ducking low to reduce the chance
of being hit by the murderous musket fire. Shots whistled past her. She could feel the impact of arrows hitting
her shield and hear the cries of agony as some of her followers were downed by the shots. She felt so close to
the grip of Death. Sweat ran down her spine, making the white shirt sticking to her bare skin beneath. She had
put her life in the hands of the Almighty and was not afraid to give up her life but even so, she did not wish to fall
that early, that easily. They enemy fired a second volley and more of her warriors fell. Miraculously, she
remained unhurt. "Allah be praised." She silently prayed, without stopping the rush forward. The muskets killed
a large number of her men but it also caused problem for the Xiang. The smoke they generated was so thick
and stinging to the eyes that the men lost their focus.

"Charge now!" Fang-yang shouted and the whole mass of warriors clad in white and silver surged forward. The
shields crashed against each other, limbs flew from bodies, heads rolled and cries of men and women in death
throes concerted a deafening roar of living hell.

Then, the enemy line broke.

Battle horns blared. The besieged had sallied out and were attacking the enemy from the inner circle and the
confused Xiang men were massacred. The surviving few of the enemy officers fled to the east on horsebacks. If
Ma's men had joined the attack now, the whole Qing army would be wiped out to the last men. As it was, they
would come back and fight another day.

The Hui army were overjoyed at the great victory. Prayers were offered to Allah. Then Fang-yang saw General
Cai rode up. His sword was out of his scabbard and it had blood on the blade.

"What happens, General?" Fang-yang asked.

"You were right, Inspector-General. Ma has defected and he was going to attack you from the rear."

"You killed him?" Fang-yang asked.

"Regretfully no. It was only his lieutenants who fell under my sword. He has led the rest to join the enemy in
flight."

Fang-yang nodded understandingly. It would take much more to net the old fox.
In any case, they had won the day.
Allah be praised.

5.

They won many victories, some big, some small.

For two years, they held the enemy in check. The name of Du Fang-yang was respected by friends and feared
by foes.

In the year after the big battle, her father arranged her to marry General Cai. It was a marriage of mutual
admiration. Cai was instrumental in many hard-won battles. The men cheered and danced on their wedding
night, outside a special tent set up as a bridal chamber. No longer in her armor, Du Fang-yang became a shy
bride blushing all over when Cai removed her robe and underwear.

"You are a master-piece by Allah," he exclaimed as he pulled her body against his, showering her face with
kisses.

"I am but His humble maid and you are the generous gift He sent me." She answered.

The love-making went on throughout the night. Her moans were drowned in the sea of sound of merry-making
outside the tent.

"Allah, please halt the flow of time and make this moment eternal." She prayed.

This time, Allah did not grant her wish, but she was content and grateful.

6.

The Hui warriors were brave.

But there were not many leaders who understood the higher art of command. Even worse, imperial gold could
sometimes buy greedy hearts. Du Fang-yang had proposed immediate attack on the city of Kunming but there
were discord among the war-chiefs, some out of consideration for resting the men, some, for less honorable
reason. Time slipped through their fingers and so did the fortune of war.

Finally, they lay siege to Kunming but the walls were too strong to break. Casualties mounted, a plague
descended upon the battlefield, cutting down thousands from both sides. All the while, Governor Cai massed a
new army to counter-attack. General Liu was not there. He was held responsible for the earlier defeat and
robbed of his rank.

Cai and Fang-yang desperately gathered what force available to meet the new threat. This time, the fate did not
smile on them and they suffered defeat. They withdrew into the fort outside the besieged Kunming. The
besiegers now became the besieged.

There was the daily duels of cannons. Fang-yang and her husband fought off repeated waves of enemies trying
to take the fort by storm. Corpses littered the open ground outside and on the ramparts. The few unfortunate
women warriors captured were taken before the walls just beyond arrow range to be raped repeatedly, before
their decapitation. Fung-yang shot a few so that they would not suffer such humiliation but soon, it was obvious
that they could no longer spare the low stock of ammunition. Heads with flowing hair decorated the branches of
trees in the nearby woods while bodies of young maidens, stripped naked of their armor, were left exposed to
the hot sun and hungry birds of prey. The enemy had succeeded in cutting off food supply though deep wells
inside the fort ensured the defenders would not be lack of water.

"A relief force will soon come," Cai kept on encouraging his men.

But it never did arrive. An ambush on a hilly pass resulted in a rout and the attempt was never repeated.

Despair breed disagreement. Suspicion of treason was found in many eyes, each guarding himself from being
betrayed by former comrades. Men began to desert, a few women, driven to the limit, cut their own throats on
the ramparts with their swords. Each day brought more reinforcement to the enemy camp; each day, more fell,
thinning the defenders' lines.

Some suggested giving up, some proposed false surrender to lure the enemies in before slaughtering them. It
was one of the latter groups that brought the fort into disaster. The plan misfired and instead of only allowing a
small troop of enemy in, the gates were pulled open and the waiting mass of Qing men rushed in.

"Stop them! Fire the cannons!"

Fang-Yang was the first to be aware of the danger. Waiting no more, she took the lead to fire off a captured
cannon on the rampart. The explosion was deafening and a small mount of enemies soldiers lay in a heap,
blocking the incoming path. More guns roared. The enemy was put into confusion and for a short while, it
seemed the breach was plugged. But then, the stock of shells were exhausted.

The defenders turned to arrows, throwing spears, rocks and finally fighting with swords and daggers. Du Fang-
yang and Cai fought side by side, a small pool of enemy fallen around their feet.

"Let us die together, fighting." Cai said.

Fang-yang nodded. She was fighting without a helmet now, her hair sweeping left and right as she parried
thrusting spears and cutting swords. So, it was the end and she was proud to go down as a warrior. But it did
not happen the way she wanted.

Strong arms grab her, arms from other Hui war-chiefs!

"Treason!" she shouted in warning to her husband.

But it was too late, or may be it would not make any difference.

Both husband and wife were overcome and offered bound to the victorious governor Cen.

7.

They thought they would be executed quickly.

But nothing happened.

Governor Cen was more than being civil. They were kept in his big residence and treated kindly, the only
condition was that they would not be allowed to leave the house.

Captivity was more insufferable than being killed in combat. Fang-yang grew restless and paced the small area
boxed in by the four walls. She knew Governor Cen was not having pleasant thoughts in his mind as she was
the one who had soundly defeated him previously and made him lose face. Being Moslems, they could not take
their own lives and had to entrust themselves to the divine plan of the Almighty Lord.

Then, the fox showed its tail.

Governor Cen finally revealed what was on his mind. As he knew Fang-yang was the daughter of Du Wan-xiu
who was still holding Dalit out against the Qing army, he had asked the permission of the emperor to use her as
bait to lure her father into surrender.

She was asked to write a letter to her father for that purpose.

After thinking for a while, she did write that letter. But she had worded that letter so cleverly that though it was a
letter persuading her father to give up on the surface, she knew her father would read the meaning between her
lines: that he should keep on fighting even though she was to be killed.

Three days after Cen sent the letter out by a special messenger to Dalit, Feng-yang and her husband stole out
of the house in darkness.

"We must try to flee separately so that at least one of us can get back to Dalit and warn father." She said.

Cai had to agree. The chance of successfully escaping together was slim at best. The couple embraced,
knowing it might be the last chance for them to see each other.

"Go!" She finally said.

He tried the east gate while she slipped through wounding alleys to the south. There were patrols all over the
city as their absence had been discovered and alarm was raised. She was right. The south of the city was even
more heavily guarded than the eastern approach and she had chosen the more dangerous route. She had
thought to give herself up so that Cen would be busy interrogating her through torture that Cai would have
better chance to make good his escape. But she decided to linger on for a while more, to draw more attention to
the southern part of the city. She deliberately let patrols to discover her whereabouts and played a game of cat
and mouse in the winding alleys. When she was finally boxed in, she sneaked into a common lodging in Dou-cai
Alley. An old woman in the house spotted her immediately.

"Come hide this way," she indicated a hollow cavity which should be the part where firewood was to be burnt.

"Thank you, but do you know who I am? I may cause you grave trouble if they find out."

The old woman nodded. "I know." She said simply. "We are all grateful for what you have done for us."

She stayed there for the night. She could not sleep but spent her time thinking about her twenty-two years of life.

Outside, a pale round moon was on the rise.

8.

She drowsed off during the small hours. When she open her eyes, the first light of dawn was breaking.

She knew she could not stay. If the soldiers found her here, the old woman would be implicated.

Without making a sound, she slipped out and taking a deep breath, walked into the morning light.

She was immediately identified and apprehended.

This time, Cen was no longer that courteous.

"Take her to the Crane's Bridge. She will meet her end there, as a traitor!"

Her outer garment was stripped off her, leaving her with only the moon-white dudou, the simple lingerie that
covered the front part of her body and had her wrists secured behind her back with strong ropes.

"See the traitor Du Fang-yang going to her execution!" The soldier leading the possession to the execution
ground beat a gong to announce her final march to demise.

People walked out of their houses, stared.

No one cheered. Some even wept.

The possession snaked through narrow alleys and wider avenues and finally reached the prepared ground.

A pole was erected where she would be tied and beside it, an executioner who was skilled at performing the
execution by a thousand cuts stood with his tools ready. It was the stipulated punishment for those who dared
trying to overthrow the dynasty.

Du Fang-yang took a deep breadth when she realized what was waiting her. But she walked on, proudly, her
head held high.

"I will not bring shame to my father's name. I would not cry out in pain, or in pleading for mercy."

More people had gathered. It was an unusual place to hold executions as by tradition, executions should take
place in the north-west corner of Kunming. Governor Cen, fearing that the people were sympathetic to the
condemned, might hold a riot and had ordered she be put to death at the more remote Crane'Bridge.

"Allah be praised." Fang-yang whispered. "And may He lead Cai to safety."

They tied her onto the pole, her arms extended and secured on the horizontal beam.

"I will first cut off your nipples, then your breasts, the flesh off your shoulders, your back, your bums and work all
the way down to your cunt, thighs, and limbs. Then, I will cut open your belly to draw out your entrails, make a
direct slice through the cleft and exposed your rib cage which I will saw open. The last cut will be to separate
your heart and it will still be beating. The whole process will take three hundred sixty one small cuts and it is a
painful way to go. Then your beautiful head will be cut off and hanged high for all to see what happens to a
traitor." The executioner explained in a low voice next to her ear.

Fang-yang's face remained expressionless.

"Or, if you ask me, I will secretly cut your throat first, a little hole which no one will notice. You will be dead and
be spared the pain. Just tell me where your husband is." The man said.

Fang-yang smiled. He was a bit too obvious as it must be Cen who had put those words into his mouth to coax
her into cooperation. But even if the offer was good, her lips would still be sealed.

"Do it the long way, executioner. Do your duty."

The man spat. "As you wish then." And he took up one of the sharp knives on the wooden platter.

She saw him approach, knife in hand, a cruel smile on his face, as if a beautiful toy was awaiting him to fondle
and then disfigure.

She made a low groan when he jerked her moon-white dudou off her, revealing her proud breasts, the rosy
buds of nipples quivering in the morning sun. It was a warm autumn day and the sound of cicadas could still be
heard from the surrounding hills.

"How beautiful their songs? " she thought. Once, when she was small, her father told her stories about cicadas,
how they lived under ground for years before breaking earth to sing, just for one night. Then, they would die,
without sorrow, without regret, knowing their purpose done, according to the will of Allah.

They were singing now, and there was no bitterness in their song. Death was just a transition, a step to make, a
threshold to cross.

Before the full glory of true and everlasting Life!

(End)

Postscript

Du Fang-yang was a real historical figure.

When she led his father's army into battle against the Qing host, she was barely nineteen, a remarkable young
age to be a general, and a woman-general at that.

Even her enemies commented that "she knew the art of war and fought bravely."

Her name was little known to the current Han population but she was remembered in Hui legends and
specialized histories dedicated to honor the Moslem minority in China.

The uprising failed and the Du family was nearly all wiped out, save a little daughter of three, who was smuggled
out and lived her life in adject poverty.

Victory may not go to the righteous all the time but evil can never escape the judgment of history.

The Qing dynasty became even more oppressive as it near its death throes, thinking that violence and cruel
punishment could save the dynasty from collapse.

They were wrong. It only hastened the process.

May Justice always have the last say.
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Comment from: Hitomi
Date: September 3, 2012

Thanks, Othello, for putting this up and the very captivating picture.


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Comment from: Othello
Date: September 3, 2012

My pleasure, Hitomi. This story is really fascinating, a setting and time period
that I know very little about, but which I found captivating when brought to life
in your hands. And as you so sagely say, "May justice always have the last say".

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