Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Thirty)
Chapter Thirty In Which Secrets Are Revealed
All of the Rogues, including Zhun and Knightly were bound in handcuffs that Jing had fashioned from parts of the criminals' armor and gear. He was swift and skillful in melting the metal down with his powers and shaping them into what they were now with his hands, and all the strange tech gear he fished out of his cape. The Rogues were all left together at the base of the massive arch.
"Just where did he pull all that stuff from?" Seto whispered to Mei Ling.
"I've asked myself that same question for over ten years now," she would grumble.
"Why?" Xiao Mei kept asking her mother. "Why didn't you say anything? Why did you leave us behind all those years ago?"
"I'm sorry," Dr. Green would always answer. "I'm sorry."
Everyone held back to give them some space and went to mind their own business.
"So what is this thing, anyway?" asked Qiang Shi, looking up at the arch. "It can't be the secret the temple's been guarding for centuries, can it?"
"Of course not," Jane said with a sigh. "Weren't you paying attention? Dr. Green just led the Rogues here because she and the Grand Master, and Master Da set up a trap. That is just an interdimensional portal. Basically, it's a gateway into other worlds, universes, and realities. There's at least one in each of this world's nations."
"And you're not impressed with something like that?" Ai Hui exclaimed, baffled.
"I'm someone more interested in what she could do for her home than messing around in someone else's," Jane explained.
"I and Mei LIng spent quite a bit of time around a gateway so the technology is quite familiar to us," said Jing.
"A bit too familiar if you ask me," Mei Ling grumbled. Her face soured at remembering something she wished she forgot.
Hesitant, Li Jiao approached the Grand Master and Master Da. After mustering her courage, she spoke.
"Grand Master, forgive my rudeness, but have you and Master Da known about this chamber beneath the temple this entire time?"
The two masters exchanged looks.
Master Da sighed.
"I suppose there's no use keeping it from you now that you're all here," he said. "Yes, Li Jiao. We've known about this chamber. After all, I was the one who made this place a long, long time ago."
"Wait, that can't be right," Sparrow said. "However well-kept this place is, it still can't hide its true age. There is evidence all over this place that it has been here for centuries! If it's true that you made this chamber and all the other rooms connected to it, that would make you over hundreds of years old!"
"Oh, I'm a lot older than that, young scholar," said Master Da. "My age should be in the thousands by now."
"B-but how?" Sparrow asked. "There's no possible way anyone could live that long. Not unless . . ."
"Unless one had the power of ancient alchemy," Master Da finished. "Yes, young scholar. I have such power. Da is my family name, but you might know me by my given name. I am Wei Sheng, the last student of the dragon, Ai Long."
Sparrow's jaw dropped. So did everybody else's. No one said anything for a moment. And then Seto broke the silence.
"No, seriously," he said. "Who are you?"
Then it was his turn to be gaped at.
"I am serious," Master Da said. "I am Wei Sheng."
"Wasn't Wei Sheng the guy that turned into a horrible monster dragon thousands of years ago, but was defeated?" Diana asked.
"Yes, that was me," Master Da said, sighing tiredly.
"The guy that shamelessly went against the wishes of the master he had sworn loyalty to and whose thousands of years worth of work he distorted?"
"Yes, that guy."
"The guy that - !"
"Okay, that's enough!" Master Da snapped. Then he took a deep breath. "I did turn into a monster, and I was defeated, in a sense. But I think it would be better to say that I had been 'rescued' rather than I was 'defeated'."
"What do you mean, Master Da?" asked Qiang Shi.
"During that horrific day all those years ago, I had lost control of myself and went on a devastating rampage. The Maiden of the Sheathed Sword, may Heaven bless her soul, used the power she gained from Ai Long to cure me, freeing me from the curse I had inflicted on myself. However, it came at a terrible cost.
"Like with my formula, the formula that she had used was imperfect. She could not handle the power and her essence started to break down and disperse as sparks of light. Before everyone's very eyes, she started to disappear. When I realized what I had done, destroying both my master and my home, I could not just stand by and allow the woman who saved me to just die. I pooled all my knowledge and whatever resources I had left to stop her from disappearing. I gathered all the scattered essence and brought them here, where Ai Long's Alchemy workshop resides."
"Wait, so this place here underneath the temple is an Alchemy workshop?" Jane cut in. "Is that what you've been hiding from the world for thousands of years, an Alchemy workshop?"
"Well, we always figured that the big secret of this place had something to do with alchemy," Seto said. "I mean, it's right there in the legend about Ai Long and Wei Sheng."
Master Da nodded.
"Since gathering the Maiden's essence and finding Ai Long's workshop, I have been working here, night and day, in order to cure her. And it's not just her. I've been working to help Ai Long as well."
"Wait, I thought Ai Long was destroyed," Sparrow cut in. "At least, that's what the legends say."
"So did I and everyone else," said Master Da. "But it turned out he survived, albeit, suffering the same fate that the Maiden was suffering. It was a close call, but I was able to gather up all of Ai Long's essence and brought them here in order to put him back together too."
"And naturally, during your nights and days, researching a way to help the two you nearly destroyed, you found a way to have something like eternal youth," Jane said as she rolled her eyes up.
Master Da glared at her.
"It was necessary," he said. "I was nowhere near healing them completely, and it had been many years. So yes, when I came across the formula to make a youth granting elixir during my time finding a way to help Ai Long and the Maiden, I made an elixir and used it on myself."
"Does this mean that you are also an immortal, Grand Master?" Qiang Shi asked the Grand Master.
The old man chuckled.
"No, I'm afraid not," he replied. "I, like many of my predecessors before me, declined the offer by Master Wei Sheng. There are people in the Next Life who are waiting for me. And I have no intention of making them wait long."
"I . . . see," said Qiang Shi. He clearly didn't understand.
The Grand Master chuckled again.
"Maybe when you get older, you'll understand."
"But what happened all those years ago?" Xiao Mei asked. "I read in the diary that someone made a mess of your room. You got scared and ran away. But why? You could have gone to someone for help. They could have handled things just like Master Da and the Grand Master did just now."
Dr. Green smiled sadly at her daughter.
"I just couldn't take the risk," she said. "Master Da and the Grand Master are indeed powerful and strong. And if it was just I, then I would have gone to them. But it wasn't just I. There was you. I was pregnant then. If happened to me, it would have happened to you too. I couldn't risk it. When I realized that villain had their eyes on me, I had to leave and go into hiding.
"But I knew that life on the run wouldn't be good for you. You needed a place where you could live, a place that you could call home. Thinking that whoever was after the secret of the temple would only be after me for my research into the temple, I decided to leave you with my mother. I also knew that your father would eventually follow after me and make his way to my childhood home. I mean, this is your father, we're talking about. I knew that when I left, you would be in good hands, that Dai Hong, Fong, would be there to keep you safe and give you the home that you needed."
Sparrow approached them, sheepishly bent down, hands clasped in front of him.
"Dr. Green, forgive me for interrupting you, but I was curious about your time in this temple," he said. "Particularly, I wanted to know what went on after you discovered the entrance to here, and how you came to be such close friends with Master Da and the Grand Master. You left out that bit in the - "
"In the diary," Dr. Green finished. She suddenly turned very cross. "Yes, I know. You all obviously managed to get it open, otherwise you wouldn't be here right now."
Sparrow lowered his eyes.
"You're right," Dr. Green said. "I left out what happened after I found the entrance behind the missing Huang Zhi statue in the diary because I didn't want to make it easier than I already had for other people to find the secret of this temple or know anything about it. The knowledge of what lies in this ancient labyrinth cannot reach the light of day. At least not yet."
She walked towards the passage to the left.
"I believe it was in this very room that Master Da and the Grand Master caught up to me," she recounted. "I wasn't surprised to see them. They're the two most powerful figures of the Dragon's Temple. If there were any secrets to this ancient place, they were surely the ones who would know anything about them.
"To be honest, I was a bit scared when they showed up. I thought that they were going to kill me or do something to make sure I never reveal the secret to anyone. Thankfully, they did not do anything as scary."
"Hmph!" Master Da sniffed. "Of course not. This is a temple run by an order dedicated to protecting the peace, harmony and happiness of the world."
"Instead, they showed me through the labyrinth," Dr. Green continued. "And they showed me what it is that the temple has been protecting for all these years. What they have been protecting was this labyrinth, which is also the alchemy workshop of the dragon, Ai Long."
"I can see why they would want to keep this place a secret," Jane said, craning her neck as she looked around. "This place alone has some next level stuff in here."
"I don't get it," Henry said. "I thought you weren't impressed by this. You said yourself that there are portal gateways all over the world."
"I did," Jane said. "But while the machine, itself, isn't all that rare, the bits and pieces used to make it are far more advanced than what went into the portals the governments of the world have in their hands, right down to the casing. You can tell just by looking at it. If I, for example, used these bits and pieces to make whatever I wanted, I could even take over the entire world."
Everyone stared at her.
"It's just an example," she said, all flustered. "I wouldn't actually do something like that."
"And yet, it's not hard for me to imagine you actually making a machine to take over the world with," Sparrow said with a smirk.
"I suppose by today's standards, the machinery here would seem otherworldly," said Master Da, looking up at the arch. "I honestly don't care. Even Ai Long didn't find it too important. All that mattered to me was that I undid the damage I had done and revive the people that I had hurt."
"A true disciple of Ai Long, through and through," the Grand Master remarked.
Master Da glowered at the old man and then sighed.
"I'll never understand how you went from an upstanding young child to such a cheeky old man," the ancient gorilla man said.
"Old age is a mysterious thing," the Grand Master said back.
"And as for you guys, you're going to pay for scaring Dr. Green like that all those years ago," said Diana, glaring at the Rowdy Rogues. "Messing up a lady's room to steal her work. You have no shame."
The leader of the Rogues, Knightly, looked up to the parrot girl with a confused look on his face.
"What are you talking about?" he said.
"Don't play dumb," said Qiang Shi. "Several years ago, someone broke into Miss Bai's room and messed it up, searching for clues about the secret of this temple. That's the reason why she ran away into hiding in the first place!"
"Not only that, you were the ones who set up the robots of the temple to run wild and wreck havoc everywhere since we first got here," said Henry. "It could only be you guys who're so desperate to take the secret of this temple for yourselves for whatever evil plans you have afterwards."
"What?" Zhun shouted in outrage. "That's just ridiculous!"
"It's a bit too late for you to play innocent," said Sparrow. "The Rowdy Rogues have been officially criminals for the past thirty years. Finally, you'll all pay for your crimes."
"You brat!" Zhun spat. "You don't know a thing!"
"That's enough, Zhun!" Knightly cut in. "I warned you when you decided to join us. Regardless of our goals, ours is the path of criminals."
"But sir!" Zhun protested.
"It matters not!" Knightly snapped. "At least we've accomplished what we've set out to do."
"And what is that?" Master Da asked. "Did you send someone ahead to ransack the laboratory while you had us all distracted here? I'll tell you now that it's useless. Once I sensed there was trouble afoot, I immediately started up the laboratory's defense systems and locked everything down. Now no one but I can access everything."
"Really? Well, that explains everything then."
Sir Geoffrey walked out of the shadow of a tunnel that branched left of the chamber. The gloves of his hands were blackened and smoked from burns.
"Quite a nasty trick you set up, Master Da," he said, glancing at his hands with very little interest. It was as if he couldn't feel a thing on his hands, even though they were clearly not okay.
"Sir Geoffrey!" Dr. Green exclaimed. "What are you doing over there? And what happened to your hands? They look terrible!"
"It's nothing," said Sir Geoffrey. "I lost the feeling of pain decades ago. One of the prices I've had to pay during my life of adventures."
"That's still not good!" Dr. Green said. "We need to have a doctor seem them right away!"
"Stop!" Jane shouted. "Stay away from him!"
Dr. Green and others looked at Jane, shocked to see her point her weapon at the old adventurer.
"What are you doing, Jane?" Sparrow said. "Put that down! That's Sir Geoffrey!"
"I know," Jane replied grimly.
"My my," Sir Geoffrey said, calmly staring down at Jane's toy blaster. "When did you notice?"
"Notice what?" Dr. Green said, turning from Sir Geoffrey to Jane. "Can someone please tell me what's going on!"
"The Rowdy Rogues weren't the ones who made those automatons that attacked us all those times out of control," said Jane. "It was Sir Geoffrey!"
- Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Twenty-Nine)
In Which A Trick Turns The Tides
- Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Thirty-One)
In Which A Villain Confesses