“Back when I was a soldier on Kinmen, around 1975, the water demons still sometimes killed people,” Xu Shifu (Master Xu) said. The laugh-lines at the corners of his eyes were not visible now, even in the white fluorescent light shining down from the ceiling. “When it was my turn for guard duty at night and everyone else went down into the bunkers, I was scared. I would turn my cap backwards . . . I knew the water demons would approach from behind. But in the darkness, all they could see was a person’s silhouette. I thought that would fool them into coming at me head on.”

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