Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Thirty-Two)
Chapter Thirty-Two In Which A Child Is Reborn And Heroes Are Summoned
Xiao Mei wasn't sure how long she had been out. When she came to, she found herself on the cold stone ground surrounded by rubble. She tried to get up, but stopped. It was as if someone put a giant stone atop of her. Xiao Mei couldn't move, and she ached fiercely.
I don't understand, she thought. Where is everyone? Where am I? What happened?
She probably didn't look it, but she was really frantic, scared out of her wits. And the more the memories started to return, the worse she felt.
How could he? How could Sir Geoffrey do this? Even now, she could still hear the rumbling above, and feel the tremors against her back on the floor. It wasn't hard to guess what, rather who, was causing them. Louder than the rumbling, louder than the destruction he caused, Sir Geoffrey laughed. Mad laughter filled Xiao Mei's ears. He sounded like he was enjoying all the chaos and misery he was causing.
Xiao Mei wanted to clap her hands over her ears to close out that laughter. She would have if she still had the strength.
"It's my fault," she thought, crying. "All fault."
If only she hadn't found that diary. If only she hadn't stubbornly looked into the mystery to find her mother, none of this would have happened. Master Da's friends would still be safe. The secret wisdom of Ai Long would have been safe in the Rowdy Rogues' hands. And Sir Geoffrey wouldn't have gotten his hands on that dreadful power.
Even if she regained the strength, Xiao Mei no longer had the view. All she wanted to do was to lay down on this hard, cold floor and stare at the darkness above. It was a miracle she managed to survive after falling from so high.
"Man, doesn't he ever be quiet?"
Huh? That voice - !
"Probably not. Now quit complaining and help and hold still."
"I don't know what is more unbelievable: an old man transforming into a horrendous demon dragon, or you using some kind of machine that could turn rocks into silk clothes."
"Says the girl who popped out of a flower that was growing on another girl's head. And . . . done. Well, it looks like Auntie Liu was right. Those sewing skills really did come in handy."
Xiao Mei finally managed to muster enough strength to turn her head to the left where the voices were coming from. She was just in time to see a girl who looked just like her hop off a slab of stone that looked like it had been sliced.
"Not bad," her double said, coolly looking over the sleeve of the splendid tunic. "Not bad at all. But pink, really? And what's with the lotus pattern?"
"Quit complaining," Mei Ling said as a large machine beside her shrank beneath the ray of light shining from her wristband. "You know those clothes are made of silk that would put even the best silk worms to shame. If Jing wanted to, he could have used that machine to become richer than all the kings of the world."
"Why doesn't he?" the girl asked.
"The trouble's not worth it," was Mei Ling's reply. "At least not for him. And to begin with, there's not a lot that interests him that would require a lot of money. If it's for his research, he could easily get what he needed from digging in the trash. And while his workshop's small, it's doing well enough that he could just leave it to his younger sister and friends to run it while he's away. Oh! Look who's up."
"Hey," said the Xiao Mei look-a-like. "How're you feeling?"
"I-I'm okay," Xiao Mei replied. "Where are we? And who are you?"
"Huh?" went the Xiao Mei look-a-like. "What? Isn't it obvious? I'm the voice in your head."
"Oh, okay," said Xiao Mei. "Who are you?"
"She's really the voice in your head," Mei Ling said. "What? Why are you looking at me like that? You think me and Jing wouldn't notice? We realized a while ago that something was up with you, so we kept a close eye. Jing noticed on a scanner that you had two souls inside of you."
"Wait, what? How?"
"Apparently, while our mother was headed to Grandmother's, there was a lightning storm, and that lightning storm caused my soul to move into your head."
Okay. It was official. Either everyone around her was insane, or she was losing her mind.
"It's happened before, according to Jing," said Mei Ling. "It was something he found out while researching more about the plant that was growing on your head. It's gone now, by the way."
Xiao Mei reached the top of her head. Just as Mei Ling had said, the flower was gone.
"He found out that there were special stones all around the valley your hometown was in that had weird cosmic effects. The storm must have supercharged those stones that day. Most people wouldn't notice it since it wouldn't effect them. But you and this girl here are different"
"How so?" Xiao Mei asked.
"Well, you're a twin," said Mei Ling. "I'm not so sure myself, but according to Jing, a long time ago, there was a guy with two souls in him. At first, we just thought he just had a split personality disorder, but then another person showed up on the records that had the same exact condition. Soon more and more people showed up. They all had only a few things in common. 1) They were in the valley when they were born. 2) They were born during lightning storm season. And 3) they had a twin who didn't survive."
"Wait," said Xiao Mei. "All those things sound like . . ."
"Like what happened to you when you were born," Mei Ling finished. "That's right. It's still just a theory, but what if your twin didn't die? Instead, what if her soul had just been living inside the head of her sister?"
"Then that means . . ."
"Yep," said the Xiao Mei look-a-like. "I'm not just some voice in the head that appeared because what happened four years ago made you snap. I'm your bona fide twin sister who's been living in your head for years. But now I'm out. Happy birthday to me! Hello, dear sister, I'm Xiao Yang."
"Remember, Jing and I were researching about that plant on your head when we came across that info," said Mei Ling. "Apparently, the alchemists in ancient times realized what was going on with twins and their souls and invented that plant to deal with the problem. You can see for yourself how it was supposed to do that."
"If you knew this, why are you only telling me this now?" Xiao Mei asked.
Unbelievable. She had a sister. She has a sister. Xiao Mei was having a hard time grasping everything. But little by little, it was starting to sink in.
"In thousands of years, there have only been about a hundred cases, so we didn't connect the dots until around a couple of days ago," Mei Ling explained. "We would have told you sooner, but then all this mess with the Rowdy Rogues happened. And now we have another mess to deal with."
It was obvious what mess Mei Ling was referring to. Even now, that mess was still laughing. The elation Xiao Mei had of gaining a sister wanted, taken over by a returning depression.
"And as for where we are, I'd say we're back in Ai Long's lair," said Mei Ling. "You were lucky that I was close by to catch you when we fell."
"You mean, you protected me when we fell?" Xiao Mei said. She noticed Mei Ling's clothes were stained all over and there were scratches on her face and hands. One more item was added to Xiao Mei's list of things to be guilty about.
"Don't worry about me," Mei Ling said, seeing the concern in the girl's eyes. "I've been through much worse before. I'll be okay."
"So what are we going to do?" Xiao Yang asked.
"What is there that we CAN do?" Xiao Mei asked with a heavy heart.
"We're not going to do anything," said Mei Ling. "We're going to find you two a place to hide and be safe. Then, I'm going to try find the others who might have been caught in the collapse."
"The others," Xiao Mei whispered, remembering the sight of Jane and Sparrow falling into the abyss. Her stomach knotted.
"After that, I'll try and figure out what Jing wanted me to do with this."
She held up an electronic notebook.
"That's-!" Xiao Yang exclaimed.
"Huh? You know what that is?"
"Jing uses that to watch some clone of him in another world," Xiao Yang explained. "He told Xiao Mei about it one time."
"Oh, so it's that thing," Mei Ling said, carelessly handling the device. "But why would he give this to . . . ? Oh. Oh, great."
"What's wrong?" Xiao Mei asked when Mei Ling's face soured.
"I just realized what Jing had planned," Mei Ling said. "And I seriously don't like it."
"Why?" asked Xiao Yang.
"Remember when I said that I've been through worse than that fall?"
"Jing's double in another world is why," she said. "And it looks like he and his friends are our only hope left."
"How?" Xiao Mei asked. "Like you said, they're in another world!"
"They are, but isn't there something here that can access other worlds?"
The girls paused to think, and then a light bulb lit above Xiao Mei's head.
"That gate thing Dr. Gre- Mother led the Rogues to," she exclaimed.
"Exactly," said Mei Ling. "The chamber it's in might also be a good place for you girls to hide in."
"If it's still intact," Xiao Mei said gloomily.
"You know, Xiao Mei, you can be surprisingly negative sometimes," Mei Ling said. "But given the situation, I can't really blame you. But we can't really stay in here forever, so it's off to the gate chamber."
"How?" asked Xiao Mei. "All I see is rocks, rocks, and more rocks. It doesn't look like there are any openings we can get through."
"Who do you take me for?" Mei Ling said with a grin. She drew out her folding sword and lit it pink with her qi. "I can just make an opening. After all, I'm Mei Ling, a legendary hero!"
As she spoke, she unleashed the burst of energy from the sword. Turbines popped out at the sword's guard and spun, weaving the energy into a cone. The cone of energy grew bigger and bigger until it was as long as Mei Ling was tall. Mei Ling released the energy, firing at one spot of rubble. A tunnel was formed from the destructive strike.
"Come on!" she said, pulling the twins to their feet. "We better get out of here before this place collapses."
"Wait, what?" Xiao Yang exclaimed.
Mei Ling sprang with enough force to cause a sonic boom at her heels. Xiao Mei felt her stomach lurch from the launch forward. In a count to ten, they were already in the chamber where the gateway was stored. Not surprised, the trio found the place full of rubble. The metal surface areas were riddled with dents and exposed wiring.
"Looks like I was wrong," said Mei Ling looking at the electric sparks flashing from the broken wires. "This room's no place for kids like you. We'll have to find some other place for you girls to hide in."
"What about the gate?" Xiao Yang said. "Weren't you going to get help through it?"
"The gate, itself, looks okay with just a few dents here and there, but I don't think we're going to be able to turn it on anytime soon," Mei Ling replied before she rubbed her temples. "If only Jing were here, he could probably do something about all this damage."
"You can't do anything about it yourself?"
"Jing's specialty is alchemy tech," Mei Ling said. "Mine is combat. I might be able to use some of this stuff around here, but I'd be useless trying to fix it all back up."
"Maybe the other Jing can help?" Xiao Mei suggested.
Mei Ling paused.
"You know what, I think you're on to something," she said after some thought. "The guy's no alchemist, that's for sure. But he and his buddies can do some pretty unrealistic things, even more than what Jing can do."
"That's all well and good, but aren't you two forgetting something?" said Xiao Yang. "The other Jing is in another world. How can he help fix up the very thing we need to get him here in the first place?"
"We give him a call," said Mei Ling. "That device that Jing made to monitor the other world can't just be a one-way thing. Knowing Jing, I'm sure he put in some extra features like a call button or something. Let me check."
"That still doesn't explain-!"
"Found it!" Mei Ling exclaimed. She pushed a button and a phone line rang.
"Hello?" went someone on the other side of the line.
"Hey, James," said Mei Ling.
"May? What's up? Did you forget something on the way to the office?"
"It's not May, James," said Mei Ling. "It's Mei Ling."
"Yeah, I know your name's Mei Ling, but what does that have to do with anything?"
"Oh for the love of . . . !"
Xiao Mei and her sister exchanged looks. Was this really a good idea? They wondered as Mei Ling started pulling on her hair.
It took a long time of explaining, but eventually, the man on the phone line name James understood the situation.
"I got it," he said. "Let me give you a call back. This sounds like something that we're going to need as much help as we can get."
"Please hurry," Mei Ling said.
They waited for only a few minutes before the notebook rang. Mei Ling answered.
"Can you point the tablet at the gate?" the man requested.
"Like this?" Mei Ling said as she held the device up.
"Now hold it steady," said James. "The connection's not enough for me to get through myself, but I should be able to cast one spell through it."
"Spell?" said Xiao Yang.
"Okay, here goes!"
The device in Mei Ling's hands lit up and writing characters flew out. The ribbons of silver light coiled around the gate before splitting and branching. They spread across the chamber, bathing everything in a silver glow.
"What is this?" Xiao Mei cried out. She stared in awe as rubble moved away on its own, cracks sealed up, and the entire chamber was being repaired when there was no one doing the repairing. "Is this some kind of psychic power? But what kind of psychic power could do this?"
"It's not psychic power, kid," said James. "This is magic. I've done my part. Now's your turn."
"Got it," said Mei Ling, hurrying towards the newly fixed control panel.
"B-but magic can't be real!" Xiao Mei said. "It doesn't exist!"
"Over here, it does," said James. "Different worlds means different laws of physics. Magic might not be real in your world, but it's definitely real in mine."
"Alright!" Mei Ling said. "Everything's set. Launching the gate in three . . . two . . . one!"
She pulled the lever on the control panel beside the arch. Energy gathered in the space beneath it, creating a radiant wall of blue that swirled into a vortex.
"It's open!" the gate's operator shouted into the electronic notebook. "Go! Go! Go!"
Two figures emerged from the vortex. Other than the clothes they wore, the pair looked like exact copies of Jing and Mei Ling. The man who looked like Jing wore a silver scholar's gown over a white suit and tie. Mei Ling's twin was dressed in denim pants and some kind of puffy pink tunic over a turtleneck sweater. The tunic she wore gave an impression of something for winter.
"Ah, the world of Atlantis!" Jing's twin said. He was the man on the phone line. "It's been a while."
"This isn't a game, James," snapped Mei Ling's twin. She flashed a deep-line scowl of disapproval at her partner.
"I know, I know," said James. Then, turning to the girls, he said this: "Why, hello there! The name's Wu. James Jing Wu. And I'm probably the most powerful sorcerer you're ever going to meet."
- Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Thirty-One)
In Which A Villain Confesses
- Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Thirty-Three)
In Which A Scholar And A Scientist Find Monsters