Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Thirty-Two)
Chapter Thirty-Two In Which There Is Hope And Monsters
Xiao Mei awoke surrounded by rubble. From above, she could hear rumbling through the stone ceiling. At first, she was confused and didn't understand what was going on. But as the seconds trickled by, she remembered everything.
Tears welled from her eyes. How could Sir Geoffrey do this? Xiao Mei wondered as she stared up. How could he be innocent souls as hostages? Xiao Mei, everyone, trusted him. How could he betray everyone for some dragon's secret to power?
Even now, she could hear the villain laughing and destroying everything around him. What else could all that noise mean?
All of this, she felt was her own fault. After all, wasn't she the one who led Sir Geoffrey to the lair of the dragon? If she hadn't pursued the mystery behind her mother's disappearance and that secret behind the Dragon's Temple, maybe none of this wouldn't have happened. Maybe Sparrow, Jane, and Jing wouldn't have been there to fall.
Remembering how those three disappeared into the darkness below made her stomach knot. It was painful to remember, and it wasn't something she couldn't forget.
Xiao Mei didn't feel like getting up. She was alone, buried beneath a lot of rubble (for the second time, actually), and for all she knew, her friends were dead. The world was in trouble, and there was nothing she could do about it. So what would be the point?
Then footsteps echoed from not too far away. Hearing them, Xiao Mei gingerly got up. It was then she realized she had been laying her head on a pink jacket.
Mei Ling walked in from a gap at the side. A ray of light held strong from her wrist watch.
"Xiao Mei? You're awake! Thank goodness!"
She smiled, relieved to see the young girl well. But that smile soon faded when she saw the look on Xiao Mei's face.
"What's wrong?" she asked with undeniable concern. "Are you okay?"
"No, I'm not," Xiao Mei replied, furiously wiping tears from her eyes. "After all that hard work, I finally find out that my mother has been with me this whole time. But then it turns out, while looking for her, I ended up helping a bad guy find ultimate power! And now a monster's been unleashed, ready to take over the world or something, and my friends could be hurt somewhere or worse!"
"Hey, hey," Mei Ling said, placing a hand on the girl's shoulder as she sat next to her. "Everything will be okay. I'm here. And I'm sure Jing's fine. It'd take a lot more than a fall like that to hurt a guy like him. After all, he's the genius Alcheist, Wu!"
"How can you say that everything will be okay, when we're stuck in here, and that monster is out there, probably hurting more people?" Xiao Mei demanded.
Mei Ling looked at Xiao Mei straight in the eyes.
"It's because that monster is out there probably hurting more people that I have to say it," she said. "Everything will be better, because I'm going to make it better. Jing's going to make it better. Everything will be better, but that's only as long as we don't give up. Don't lose hope. Think about your father. When there are more people around him getting hurt or sick no matter how many he helps, does he just give up?"
"No," Xiao Mei answered. "He'd keep on helping others, no matter how exhausted he was. And he'd keep learning as many new ways to help them as he could."
"And what would someone like that do in a situation like this, when people are getting hurt?"
"He'd probably go and try to find a way out of here so he could go help them."
Glancing sideways, Xiao Mei could see that Mei Ling had been injured. There was swelling at Mei Ling's left wrist, and judging from the way she walked earlier, Mei Ling must have also hurt her foot. Could that have happened when they fell? Did it happen because Mei Ling saved her? That was the only possible reason Xiao Mei wasn't hurt, despite the fall.
Xiao Mei could feel the new guilt add to the turmoil in her heart, but she swallowed it all down. Mei Ling was right. Everything won't get better as long as she just sat around sulking. She was Fong's daughter and apprentice. And since was partly her fault, she had to make things right, and in the only way she knew how.
"Hey, what are you doing?" Mei Ling asked.
Xiao Mei took a deep breath before reaching out. She willed the energy within and around her to move as she commanded. Fong had her practice controlling qi, psychic powers everyday, so using her healing power was no different than moving her limbs. Mei Ling stared in awe as the swelling on her ankle and the thin scratches she sustained from the fall all disappeared.
"Thanks," she said, drawing circles in the air with her foot.
"It's the least I could do," said Xiao Mei.
"Come on," Mei Ling said, pulling Xiao Mei to her feet. "We better get going."
"Going? Where to?" asked Xiao Mei.
"There's something that Jing left me to do, and I think that it's probably our best hope of turning this whole situation around. But before that, what do you think we should do with this?"
The "this" that Mei Ling was referring to was what looked like a giant flower bud leaning against the stone wall. It was as tall as Xiao Mei, maybe taller, and throbbed like a beating heart.
"What is that?" Xiao Mei shouted, stepping back in surprise. How could she not have noticed that this whole time?
"You don't recognize it?" Mei Ling said, scratching behind her head. "It's the flower that was on your head. After we landed here, the thing suddenly had a growth spurt, grew this big and fell off your head."
"B-but why? How?"
"You're guess is as good as mine." Mei Ling shrugged. "Me and Jing did a lot of research on the plant, but we couldn't find out any more than we already knew about it. Although, I did find some weird poem in one of the few books that talked about it."
"A weird poem?"
"In the land where Two are One, they become Two again. And the dead is reborn."
"Uh . . . "
"It's weird and doesn't make sense, I know," said Mei Ling. "Even Jing got a headache over it. But never mind that now. It'd be bothersome if we brought it with us. With the way things are now, I wouldn't be surprised if we end up finding danger. If it comes to a fight, this thing'll definitely get in the way. But . . ."
Mei Ling approached the large flower bud, placing a hand on its smooth surface.
"I can sense life in this thing, a soul," she said. "Did you know even though they're alive, most plants don't have souls? The few that do end up being worshiped as gods by locals. But the soul in this thing feels more human than any plant god I've met before. And I've met at least three."
"How can you tell?" asked Xiao Mei. It was obvious that the flower bud thing was alive, but outside of that, she couldn't sense anything special about it. Although, when she placed her hand on it too, it felt warm to the touch. To her, it felt like touching a warmed silk cloth.
"My country's called a land of peace, but it's also a land of warriors," said Mei Ling. "Everyone there, including myself and Jing have had basic warrior training, which included using psychic powers to sense enemies or find friends in a pinch. That's how. So, what do you think we should do with it?"
"Huh? Why are you asking me?" Xiao Mei asked.
"Well, it's your flower," said Mei Ling. "I'll leave it to you to decide."
Xiao Mei stared back at the large flower bud. Mei Ling wasn't wrong when she said that it could get in the way if they end up getting in danger. Anyone could tell just by looking that the plant must be really heavy to move. However, according to Mei Ling, this thing had a soul close to like a human's. It was alive. That fact alone, made it easy for Xiao Mei to decide.
"We're taking it with us," Xiao Mei said. "It should be fine as long as we don't have to fight, right?"
"Ha!" Mei Ling laughed, startling Xiao Mei. "You may be a small kid, but you've got the heart of a true hero in you!"
For some reason, Mei Ling ruffled Xiao Mei's hair before strolling over the huge plant. And after turning a dial on her second wristwatch, Mei Ling easily lifted the plant up with one hand.
"Come on," Mei Ling said as she started down the hall. "There's not a lot of time for us left. Judging by all that thrashing, Geoffrey's still getting used to his new powers. But he'll get it eventually. We have to act before then."
Xiao Mei ran to catch up.
"Where are we going?" she asked. "Do you have some kind of plan?"
"Nope," Mei Ling replied. "But Jing did. I'm just acting on that."
Before Xiao Mei could ask Mei Ling what she was talking about, a strange sound reached her ear. That nearly startled her out of her skin. What was it? She wondered as she looked around. It almost sounded like pigs. Could farm animals have fallen in here as well? That wasn't good.
"Hey, Mei Ling, I think - !"
"Shush!" hissed the hero. "Don't make a sound."
Mei Ling scoured everywhere with her sharp gaze. She kept her hand cupped over the light from her watch, dimming the hall enough that Mei Ling was the only thing that Xiao Mei could see.
They just stood still. The animal squealing grew louder by the second. Slowly, Mei Ling reached for the sword hilt hanging at her side. The Yin-Yang emblem on the guard lit pink with the psychic energy Mei Ling fed it.
Then they appeared. Hideous creatures with eight insect legs and five eyes swarmed in. Their mouths split four diagonal ways revealing a spiral of fangs leading deep into their throats. They also had what looked like a lion's mane around their necks just like the sort that dragons had.
Xiao Mei's jaw dropped. She had seen them before in a mural. These were the spawn of the Dragon of Calamity.
"Come on," Mei Ling whispered. "I don't think they noticed us yet. There's another path we can take, just a feet ahead. But we have to go quietly."
Together, the two women tiptoed into the entryway that Mei Ling spoke of. The path stretched not too far into a place with light. Once they were in the path, Mei Ling pushed Xiao Mei forward.
And they ran as fast as they could toward the light, and right into a chamber filled with those horrific monsters squirming and crawling everywhere. They all stopped what they were doing and looked up at the two newcomers. Xiao Mei and Mei Ling froze and stared back.
"Yeah," said Mei Ling, shoulders slumped. "Ha ha! That figures."
Xiao Mei turned and gaped at Mei Ling. How could she be laughing at a time like this?
Then the monsters burst into a roaring frenzy.
"RUN!" Mei Ling screamed. "AGAIN!"
And they ran again down the hall they came from. Xiao Mei tripped on a pebble and fell face flat on the ground. She lifted herself up and twisted back to see one of the monsters right above her with its four jaws wide open.
Just when she thought this was the end, a torrent of pink energy blasted the creature away. Mei Ling ran past her, dropping a pair of gloves and an electronic notepad next to the young girl. With each swing of her glowing folding sword, shock waves of energy sent the monsters flying back. Sensing danger, the rest of the monsters backed away. But they didn't fully retreat and instead, waited for an opening to strike.
"Put on the gloves!" Mei Ling shouted before sending another volley of energy blasts at the monsters with her sword. "Just put them on!"
Xiao Mei quickly put on the gloves without question. As soon as she did, the gloves lit up in a brilliant green color.
"Those are special gloves that Jing made giving its wearers super strength!" Mei Ling explained while reducing one monster to dust. "With those, you'll have no problem carrying that thing away."
That thing Mei Ling was talking about was the plant that had been growing on Xiao Mei's head.
"Take that plant and the tablet, and head for the gate chamber!"
"The gate chamber?" Xiao Mei said.
"You know, the chamber where that arch thing is! You know what that tablet's for, right?"
Xiao Mei didn't understand what Mei Ling was talking about, nor how to get to the gate chamber she was talking about. And she wasn't given an opportunity to ask.
"Hurry!" Mei Ling shouted. "It's all up to you now! I'll bye you as much time as I can. So run!"
One monster made it past her and lunged toward Xiao Mei.
The monster was kicked aside by Mei Ling.
Xiao Mei snatched the tablet off the ground and easily lifted the huge plant with her other hand. With the gloves on, the plant weighed no more than a feather to Xiao Mei. She turned and ran as something exploded behind her. Her back was hit with heat as she fled.
As she ran, she could make out the receding form of Mei Ling as she fought against the monsters. She was still fighting when she disappeared from view.
More monsters appeared as Xiao Mei ran. She could hear them right behind her. Each snap of their jaws sent a jolt up her heart. But she didn't stop running. She couldn't. Like Mei Ling said, it was all up to her now.
- Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Thirty-One)
In Which A Villain Confesses
- Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Thirty-Three)
In Which The Dead Revive