Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Thirty-One)
Chapter Thirty-One In Which A Villain Confesses
They all gasped in shock. Sir Geoffrey was the one who caused those wild automatons from back then to attack them? Xiao Mei couldn't believe her ears. Sir Geoffrey had been helping her this whole time to get to the bottom of the mystery behind her mother's disappearance and those robot attacks. How could he be the one who caused them? There was a part of Xiao Mei who didn't want to believe it. But then, Sir Geoffrey said this:
"You are correct, Professor Montgomery. I was the one who had the machines attack you. But I must ask again, when did you notice?"
"Back when we finished reading that diary," said Jane. "It was just too much coincidence that one of those infernal machines would pop out just as we realized where the entrance could be, and giving us the perfect opportunity and excuse to stick around instead of evacuating with the others."
"Wait!" Qiang Shi cried out. "Sir Geoffrey was the one who caused those automaton attacks? That can't be! Why would he - ?"
"To get to the temple's secret, of course," Jane cut in. She glanced at Sparrow who looked like he was struggling with reality. "Come now, Sparrow. Don't tell me you've never suspected it."
"I never realized Sir Geoffrey could do something like this," he said. "But you're right, Jane. When that automaton came, the timing did strike me as strange. And now that I think about it, almost all of Sir Geoffrey's adventures for the past thirty years had one thing in common: they all involved places where ancient, but powerful alchemy was said to have been hidden."
Sir Geoffrey slowly clapped.
"I must say, you are impressive," he said. "Really, that's wonderful detective work. I had learned a bit about machinery studying at a school for mechanics, knowing that mechanics' skills would come in handy on my adventures. I used those skills the first time around to make that automaton attack young Wu over there to see if the rumors about you were true. I never expected you to actually take it on with your bare hands, though. That really made me fear for my goals.
"But I couldn't let a little fear get to me. After all, what is an adventure without a little risk? And besides, I knew the Rowdy Rogues would come to get in my way again. I could just have them become scapegoats if things ever got awry."
"And the library?" Jane said. "I assume you were the one who vandalized it?"
"Why?" Sparrow asked. "For what reason could you possibly have to do such a horrible thing as that?"
"Well, I needed some way for Xiao Mei to find the diary, didn't I?" Sir Geoffrey said. "During one of my many visits to this temple after Miss Bai first disappeared, I found the diary while I was searching for clues about the temple's secret. Obviously, I was never able to open the diary. That glue she used was incredibly effective. But when I realized that Xiao Mei was Miss Bai's daughter, after a little digging, I thought that maybe if I had her look into the diary's mystery, she would lead me to the temple's secret. It was easy enough to manipulate the temple masters to get Xiao Mei involved with the clean up. Many of them probably wondered what the child raised by the famously workaholic Fong would do. After that, all I had to do was hide in the shadows waiting for the perfect opportunity to drop the diary onto the girl's lap without raising any suspicions."
"And you've been using the automaton attacks as a way to push Xiao Mei and us forward in solving the mystery, didn't you?" Seto said.
"My, my," said Sir Geoffrey. "So we have three young detectives instead of just two. You're right. After considering all of your personalities, I figured that if I gave you all a real sense of danger, you'd be inspired to work even harder in solving the mystery. And it paid off. Despite all the pit falls, Xiao Mei, you and your friends were finally able to make it this far, and I have finally found what I had been looking for after all these years of searching!"
"So you were the one who had my room ransacked all those years ago," Dr. Green said.
"Yes," said Sir Geoffrey. "I grew suspicious after you said in your last report there was no progress in your search for the temple's secret. And it became obvious from the way you talked to me that you were hiding something. I had the bodyguard who accompanied you on your mission to search your room. When you fled after that, I knew that you had found what the secret was and where it was hidden. Since then, I had tried searching for you, but you somehow managed to elude me all these years."
"I had resourceful friends among the scholars who I could trust," said Dr. Green. "Master Taught among others. After I explained to them what had happened while I worked for you at the Dragon's Temple, leaving out anything I found out of the secret, they wasted no time in forging me a new identity. I changed my looks and embraced a new life as Dr. Green. I couldn't let what I knew get into anyone's hands. The lives of those two who sacrificed so much for our world thousands of years ago depended on Master Da working undisturbed, which was why I could tell no one about it."
"But why, Master Geoffrey?" Li Jiao cried. "Why would you go so far?"
"Why you ask?" said Sir Geoffrey. "Because I wanted power, that's why!"
His shout sent a jolt to Xiao Mei's heart.
"I wanted power to change the very foundation of this world! That's what all the adventures I've had my entire life had been about! When I learned about the legend of Ai Long and the Dragon of Calamity, I knew that I had to come here and dig for the secret alchemy recipes that was protected by Ai Long and the generations of leaders after him. If I used those recipes on myself I could become more powerful than anyone on this planet! And I would have found such power long ago if it weren't for you, Knightly, and your wretched band of misfits!
"We were friends! We could have found the power of titans together and used it to correct this horrible mistake of a world!"
"I see," said Sparrow. "So the Rowdy Rogues weren't after the temple's secret for themselves. They were just trying to stop Sir Geoffrey from getting his hands on it!"
"That's not what Martha would have wanted, Bartholomew!" Knightly cried.
"ENOUGH!" Sir Geoffrey shouted. "I will waste no more time. Wei Sheng! You will give me the power that could defeat even the legendary dragon Ai Long!"
"And why would I do that?" Master Da scoffed. "If you've heard of the legend, then you know that the power I sought led only to destruction to everything I held dear! You are a fool if you think I would allow that to happen again!"
"Then you will watch as I destroy the very thing you hold dear!"
Sir Geoffrey reached into his pocket and pulled out a thin tube with a big, glowing red button. He pressed it once, and a loud rumble followed.
"What in the world?" Dr. Green cried out as she looked up while embracing her daughter.
"That sounded like an explosion!" said Seto.
"And it won't be the first," said Sir Geoffrey. "I have placed bombs throughout the entire temple grounds. If you do not do as I say within the next one minute, all will be destroyed!"
"Ha!" Master Da scoffed. "By now, all the people of the temple will have escaped to safety. Even if the entire temple were obliterated, there won't be anyone to be hurt by the explosions."
"No, I can think of two people who would be hurt by the destruction," Sir Geoffrey said. He had a sinister sneer on his face.
"Two people?" Master Da said, puzzled. But then realization dawned. "No! You wouldn't!"
"Yes, I would," said Sir Geoffrey. "While exploring the laboratory, I placed more bombs there. I'm sure I'll figure something out from the wreckage. But I cannot guarantee what happens to Ai Long and the heroic Maiden of the Sheathed Sword."
There was another loud explosion.
"That's one minute up," said Sir Geoffrey after a casual glance up. "I've set the bombs on a timer that started the moment I pushed this button, and only by pressing another button will that timer stop. Just so you know, only my fingerprint can get that other button to work, and I've hidden that button somewhere only I know. So, I suggest you stop trying to sneak up behind me, Mrs. Wu."
Mei Ling stopped just a few steps away from Sir Geoffrey. She glared daggers at the old man but didn't move any closer.
After checking the time on his pocket watch, Sir Geoffrey turned to the others and added: "One more minute before the next one goes off, Master Da. I would hurry up and make up your mind. It won't be long before it's the laboratory bombs' turn."
Master Da clenched his teeth and growled his frustration. Xiao Mei could see the battle raging in his eyes. No one could blame him for the hesitation. He knew better than anyone what would happen if he let Sir Geoffrey get access to everything in the alchemy workshop. But if he refused to give Sir Geoffrey anything, then the two people he had been trying to save for thousands of years would be doomed.
Everything rumbled as another explosion drummed above everyone's heads. Small pebbles drifted down and lightly rattled the ground.
Is there really nothing that anyone could do? Xiao Mei wondered as she glanced towards the others.
"Not long now," said Sir Geoffrey. "I suppose I'll be digging through rubble, after all."
"Wait!" Master Da cried. "Alright. I'll lift the defense system. Just stop the bombs!"
"Good," said Sir Geoffrey, stepping aside from the hallway. "Well, hurry up. There are two souls who haven't got all day. I'd say any minute now."
"Grr," growled Master Da.
"It seems like you're not about to give us any room to work with," said the Grand Master.
"Of course not," said Sir Geoffrey as Master Da brushed past him. "I've been working towards something like this for years. I'm not going to let some small mistake get in the way of that again. Oh, there goes another one. Better hurry."
Master Da clenched his teeth and ran with all his might into the darkness.
"You're all welcome to come, too," Sir Geoffrey told the others beneath him. "I'll allow that much, at least. In fact, I insist on it. But don't try anything funny. I'll remind you again that there are two souls whose lives are in my hand."
"Bartholomew, wait!" Knightly cried. "Don't do this! Please!"
"I'm sorry, Terrance," said Sir Geoffrey, looking coldly at his old enemy. "But you made it come to this. We could have changed the world for the better by now if you hadn't interfered. Now stay here with the rest of your misguided minions and wait for my rise to greatness!"
And Sir Geoffrey disappeared after the gorilla man.
After walking through the dimly lit hall, Xiao Mei found herself in a circular chamber that housed a series of giant glass tubes at the center. Two of the tubes glowed a bright green as shimmering particles condensed together before splitting. The tubes were surrounded by rings of computers and monitoring panels all blinking with electronic life.
Radio background noise bounced off the chamber's stone walls while Master Da set to work behind one of those monitors. As he worked, he would glance up towards the two glowing tubes, both of home had boxes attached to the glass with blinking red lights.
"Welcome!" Sir Geoffrey shouted as everyone piled in. "Welcome to the alchemy workshop of the dragon, Ai Long, where all his secrets and wisdom are preserved. Well, it's more like a laboratory by the looks of it, rather than a workshop. Here lies recipes for immortality and power with which one could become a titan!"
"It's done," Master Da said as he backed away from the monitor. "Now stop those bombs."
"In a moment," said Sir Geoffrey.
"But you said - !"
"Do you take me for a fool? The moment I deactivate the explosives, you and those heroes will pounce before I ever get my hands on the formula that gave Ai Long and you your powers. You would turn around and trick me just as Dr. Green had done with Knightly. I will not flip the off switch until I am certain that I have what I came for. If you're off even by a little with the recipe, then prepare for Ai Long's funeral! Now step aside!"
Master Da growled, but Sir Geoffrey didn't care. He brushed past Master Da and started messing around with the controls on the metal panel. His eyes were wide with madness, and spittle dripped down the corner of his mouth.
"Do you even know how to use that?" Master Da asked as he watched the villainous adventurer work.
"I've traveled to many ancient alchemy workshops over the years," said Sir Geoffrey. "I've worked alongside premier scholars and experts in the field of alchemy. All of them were eager to teach this famous, rich adventurer a thing or two. Even more so when the rich man genuinely wanted to learn. I was the best student they ever had. Now hush! You're ruining my concentration. Here it is. Now I just have to . . . And . . . done!"
There was a loud chime noise and beside the old man, a panel popped open. Steam poured out as a vial was slowly carried out of the machine by a lift.
"At last!" Sir Geoffrey said. He pushed Master Da away and snatched the glass vial from its stand. The vial of pinkish, glowing water steamed purple gas that drifted down to the floor.
There was no waiting, no hesitating, and no grandiose speech. He tilted the vial over his lips and drank all that glowing, pink water with its purple steam in one gulp. The water was gulped down his throat before Sparrow uttered his indignant cry.
And then, Sir Geoffrey began to glow.
"Oh!" he said, looking at his glowing hands. "I can feel the power. It is as if I am one with the cosmos!"
"You have what you want," Master Da said. "Now remove those explosives."
Sir Geoffrey glanced coldly at him.
"As you wish," he said. Then, with a wave of his hand, the explosives stuck onto the tubes at the center of the room exploded into blue sparks.
Master Da cried out in horror.
"Whoops!" went Sir Geoffrey. "Sorry. I'm going to have to practice more to control this new power better."
As he laughed giddily, the unnatural light around him began to brighten more and more.
Master Da didn't hear him and simply ran toward the glass tubes. Relief washed over his face when he found the glass simply scratched, but otherwise intact.
"This is bad," said Jing. "This is really bad. We need to get out of here!"
"What?" exclaimed Seto. "Why? What's wrong?"
"Can't you tell by looking?" Jane exclaimed. "The energy from that formula, whatever it is, is building up! He's going to blow!"
The whole chamber began to shake. And the brighter Sir Geoffrey got, the more intense the quake got.
"Master Da!" Dr. Green shouted. "We have to leave!"
"No!" the gorilla man shouted. "I cannot abandon Ai Long and the Maiden! You lot go ahead! Don't worry! I'll be fine!"
"Come on!" Tim shouted, grabbing Dr. Green's arm. "We have to leave!"
"We can't leave Master Da there!" Xiao Mei cried out. Mei Ling placed a hand on her shoulder and gave her a sad, but firm look.
"We have to," she said. "Now go!"
Xiao Mei was pushed to the others and herded with them out of the chamber just as blinding light overtook everything. A loud clap of thunder was followed by a turbulent gust that lifted everyone off of their feet as they just reached the end of the hall. It threw Xiao Mei up in the air. She flipped once before landing painfully on her bottom.
Knightly looked up and saw the children emerge from the dust cloud, out of breath.
"What's happening?" he shouted. "Where's Bartholomew?"
"Jing, Mei Ling!" Zhun cried out. "Come on. Tell us what's going on!"
The two heroes exchanged looks before Mei Ling responded: "It's Geoffrey's victory. He got what he wanted."
The Rowdy Rogues stared. Knightly sadly cast his eyes down.
"I see," he said.
"Come on," Mei Ling said to Jing, Tim, and Tom. "We better hurry up and get these cuffs off of them. There's no reason for us to keep them bound."
"I'll help," Sparrow volunteered.
Jing pulled together some junk that was lying around to fashion with his powers some bolt cutters for the others to use to break all the Rogues free. Just as the last of the Rogues were free, there was a loud bang.
"What was that?" asked Qiang Shi. There was dread in his voice.
There was another bang. Echoing laughter followed after.
"The other bombs!" he shouted. "Sir Geoffrey didn't turn them off!"
"That's not all," said Ai Hui, looking sick with fear. "If that formula is anything like the one Wei Sheng used in the legends, then we've got a giant monster-size problem on our hands."
And then the chamber quaked like never before. The children screamed in terror while the adults barked orders at each other.
"Everything's collapsing!" Jing cried out. "Everyone! Hurry and run!"
"Jing, above you!" Mei Ling shouted.
Jing looked up just as a large slab of stone dropped over him. He jumped away just in time, but he was quickly swallowed by the hole that formed as a result. As he fell, Jing reached into his cape and pulled something out.
"Mei Ling!" he screamed as he tossed the item with all his might. "Protect them! Save everyone!" Then darkness swallowed him.
Mei Ling caught the item and kicked off of the floor just as it crumbled away. She leaped toward more sturdy ground and ran. After a moment's hesitation, she turned.
"Run!" she shouted. "Just run! Get the kids out of here!"
"You heard the lady!" Zhun barked to the Rowdy Rogues. "Get those kids to safety!"
Everyone ran towards the exit. Sparrow and Jane were the last to go through. But just as Jane stepped onto the staircase, she stepped on a round pebble that made her slip and fall.
Seeing her fall, Sparrow stopped and rushed back down the stairs to help her.
"No, you fool!" Jane shouted. "Don't!"
Xiao Mei turned around. The stairs gave way beneath Sparrow and Jane, and they fell into the abyss together.
"Young Miss!" Tim and Tom both shouted.
"No!" Xiao Mei cried. She felt someone grab hold of her. Xiao Mei tried to resist, but this person was just too strong and pulled her away.
"It won't hold!" she heard someone behind her shout. "We won't make it in time!"
"Curse it all!" Knightly swore. "We must save the children. Protect them with your lives!"
There was chaos everywhere. Debris rained down. Cracks spread across the stone surface of the walls. And the rumbling deafened Xiao Mei's ears.
Suddenly, Xiao Mei lost feeling of what was beneath her feet. She felt her stomach and heart lift. Despite that feeling, she knew what was actually happening. Xiao Mei wasn't floating. She was falling.
- Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Thirty)
In Which Secrets Are Revealed
- Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Thirty-Two)
In Which There Is Hope