Wengchan Liang grew up in the farmlands of southern China. Born in 1935, he lived a rural, peaceful existence until the Chinese civil war entered his village and radically altered China’s course and his outlook on life. After communist insurgents forced him to witness the senseless slaughter of his innocent, agrarian parents in 1945, the Kuomintang National Revolutionary Army (KMT) rescued, recruited, and trained him in weapons of war and hand-to-hand combat to help them stand against the surging communists. Broken emotionally, he was ripe for his involuntary escort to the training center, and there he discovered he could vent his grief and anger. However, his chances for long-term survival dropped immeasurably when the communists defeated the KMT in 1949. His army’s loss and the installment of the PRC’s (Peoples’ Republic of China) new governance under communist rule made Wengchan’s potential to survive past more than a few months look slim. Numbed by what he had seen and done, he almost didn’t care if he lived or died. The bloodshed he witnessed and the atrocities he committed under orders had taken a severe emotional toll on him. He was almost gone, despite his young age.
Suddenly, through a stroke of luck, a reed of a chance to exit China in the dead of night aboard a freight ship that would slip away without navigation lights opened to him.
His daring dash for salvation, unfortunately, came with a heavy price: a duel to the death, a saber fight, against another youthful refugee for the last open position on the vessel, which almost cost Wengchan an eye and did attach a permanent scar to his right cheek, which, later, he would cover with makeup.
His opponent fared less well.
Victorious, Wengchan humbly boarded the ship while his body still breathed precious warm air and life. But his soul was barely alive, for the deliberate act of killing one more man surfaced in him a ruthless, cold-blooded outlook that would propel him toward a lonely, solitary existence devoid of many pleasures.
The heavily laden freighter bound for Naples, Italy, steamed westward through the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Suez Canal, Mediterranean Ocean, and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
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