Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Twenty-Five)
Chapter Twenty-Five In Which Another Personality Takes Over
After Dr. Green's confession, everyone looked at her in dumbfounded stupor. Although, none of them were as shocked by the revelation that she was actually Xiao Mei's mother in disguise than by Xiao Mei herself.
She was beside her this whole time. All this time, Xiao Mei, with help and encouragement from her friends, had been searching for the truth behind what drove her mother into hiding. And all this time, the one she had been searching for had been with her all along.
Her heart was in such a cocktail mix of emotions that Xiao Mei didn't know what she was feeling. Was she happy that her mother really was alive and well? Was she happy to finally find her? Maybe. Was she scared because her mother just showed herself to the enemy? Probably. But there was one feeling she was sure was present. And that was anger.
Anger stewed in her as Knightly's minions herded her and her friends out of the greenhouse. There was anger at her mother for hiding from her for all this time. Anger for her leaving her father alone for all this time. Anger for her not showing herself sooner when Xiao Mei had to go from one frustrating moment to another in her quest to find the truth. But above all else, there was anger that she failed to stop her mother from walking into danger once more.
It was the first time that Xiao Mei had ever felt this way. She never even felt such anger three years ago when she, Fong, and the rest of their family had to go on the run from the Imperial Government.
Knightly was the first to recover from the initial shock. He cleared his throat, bringing everyone's attention back to him.
"Well, since the woman, herself, is volunteering to take me to where the secrets of the dragon Ai Long is being kept, I can't refuse," he said. "You have a deal, Miss Bai. You will take me to where the secret of the Dragon's Temple is being kept."
"What? No!" cried Xiao Mei. But she was ignored.
Terrance Knightly ordered his followers to take the others back to the temple, but separate from the other captives.
"They're all special, after all," he said.
"Right, come on, you lot," barked one of the men.
They herded almost everyone out of the greenhouse. Still in shock from the reveal of Dr. Green's true identity and the betrayal of someone they knew, the children, Sir Geoffrey, Sparrow, Seto, and Jane numbly obeyed and shuffled after the leader. Phoenix was left behind in the net.
The bird pecked at the netting, hoping to cut free with his beak. When that didn't seem to work, probably because the wires were made of steel, he tried breathing fire instead. That didn't work either.
Meanwhile, Zhun ordered the Rowdy Rogues to have Jing and Mei Ling stay and be led into one of the cages. Zhun wouldn't hear any arguments about that from the others who felt that locking the young couple in a cage of plant monsters was a bit too much. Even Knightly thought so.
"I've seen those two in action," he said. "Believe me. Locking them in that cage isn't even close to enough. But we have no time to build some kind of inescapable cosmic death trap dungeon, so it'll have to do."
"Uh . . . you do know escaping some kind of inescapable cosmic death trap dungeon's actually one of the reasons me and Jing are so famous, right?" Mei Ling said just as she was about to step into the cage.
"It is not an experience I would like to relive," Jing added.
Zhun scowled. Even though they've clearly lost, they were still able to rub it in his face how amazing they became since their school days with him.
"Hmm," went Knightly as he stroked his beard. "Well, if you insist. You know these two the best, after all. And you're right that it's better to be safe than sorry with heroes like them with a rather . . . interesting reputation."
"Wu, the genius alchemist, who could turn anything into anything else," said Zhun. "And by his side, the ever radiant warrior, Lady Wong."
"Do I hear a hint of envy in your voice?" Mei Ling asked.
Zhun didn't answer her. Instead, he turned to a nearby soldier and ordered him to triple security around the greenhouse, adding that should spare as many tanks as possible to stand guard.
Xiao Mei and the others were separated and locked into different rooms that served as sleeping quarters for the temple's residents. Seto and the others tried to protest, of course, but they quieted down when one of the rogues serving Knightly pulled out a disk that looked just like the one Knightly had with him, and waved it threateningly at their faces.
"Calm down," Sir Geoffrey told the youths. "Let's all just do as they say."
"Smart," said the person in charge of the escort.
"This will be your room," one man told Xiao Mei as he opened the way for her. "Please. Go in."
The room was almost identical to the one she had been staying in, minus the empty space beneath the bed and the lack of books on the writing desk. In her own room, she had kept her luggage case beneath the bed, and she always left her books neatly stacked on the writing desk for when it was time to study. This room also had a definitive layer of dust over the wood flooring, the wardrobe, and the desk, a telltale sign that the room had not been used for a long time.
Xiao Mei wasn't really paying attention to where she was going. Her mind was just so chaotic. She barely had any room to worry about Phoenix, or Jing and Mei Ling.
All that struggling was for nothing. Her mother had been with her this whole time, but never revealed herself until after the bad guys showed up. And now, because of Xiao Mei, her mother was going to lead those bad guys to the very thing she went into hiding in order to protect.
The anger she had felt earlier at her mother and at herself transformed into an urge to just cry.
"So, what now?" asked the voice in her head, her constant companion.
"What do you mean, what now?" said Xiao Mei.
"We can't just let it end this way," said the voice. "If the bad guys get their hands on the secret of the dragon, what happened thousands of years ago is going to happen again. And maybe it'll be worse than before. Not to mention, our mom's with them."
"And what do you expect us to do about it?"
"Well, for starters, we should try to find a way out of this room. Maybe we can sneak out of the window?"
"We're five to six stories high, and unlike Mei Ling, we're not exactly the athletic type, so using the sheets as a rope down, or shimmying to the next room on the ledge is out of the question."
"Then we use the door."
"Yeah, but maybe we can pretend to be sick or something and get them in here. Then we make a run for it."
"Even if that works, where would we go?"
"Jing and Mei Ling can-!"
"With the people of this temple as captives, those two can't do anything."
"Then when we rescue those two, we go for the hostages."
"How?" Xiao Mei snapped. "How are we going to rescue them? Jing and Mei Ling, I mean. Face it, we're just one girl with two personalities in our head, and with a flower growing on top of it, whose only special power is healing, and knowledge of herbs for medicine. Even if we manage to sneak out, we'll be spotted right away and recaptured. You heard about the kind of security they're leaving at that greenhouse. And after seeing that man outside having a device like Terrance Knightly's, I think the others guarding the greenhouse must have one too. All those guards would have to do is show off one of those things, and Jing and Mei Ling will have no choice but to listen to what they have to say just like earlier. Face it. Anything we try would be useless."
"So, you're just going to give up?"
"Let's just leave it up to Jing and Mei Ling. If the stories about them are true, they'll think of something."
"But what if they don't make it in time? No matter how otherworldly amazing they can be, with superpowers and super genius, they're still humans. They can't be relied on for everything. They might even slip up!"
"This isn't going anywhere," Xiao Mei said. "I'm not going to argue with you right now. Just leave me alone."
"Hmph!" the voice sniffed. "That's kinda hard to do when I'm a personality inside your head."
Xiao Mei said nothing and just sat down on the bed, hugging her legs.
"Ugh! I can't watch this."
"Huh?" Xiao Mei exclaimed in surprise. Her hand suddenly moved up, but she wasn't the one moving it. One foot went forward over the edge of the bed. And then the other. Again, she wasn't the one moving them. "Hey! What's going on?"
"Can't you tell?" asked the voice. "Mama's taking the wheel. This time, we do things my way!"
Like a machine, Xiao Mei stiffly moved off the bed. She almost immediately lost balance and fell face first onto the floor.
"Ow!" both personalities cried.
"Man, I guess I need a little more practice," the other Xiao Mei spoke aloud. "Huh?"
Her hand was grasping for the bed's leg.
"So, you've still got some fight in you, after all," the other Xiao Mei said with a sneer. "And here I thought you'd finally become just a regular old crybaby. Well, you were our dear old dad's apprentice. And that hasn't been really easy. But that stubborn streak of yours ins't going to be enough!"
The merman that had been standing guard outside Xiao Mei's room burst in, shouting: "Just what in the world is going on here?"
He came across the sight of the thirteen-year-old girl rolling around on the floor seemingly fighting with her left hand while mumbling to herself. Slowly, he backed away from the crazy kid, hoping that she wouldn't realize he was there.
The current dominant personality of Xiao Mei looked up and saw the merman at the door. She looked at him. And he looked at her. Xiao Mei could tell by the way the fish was gaping at her that he thought that there was something wrong with her in the head. Well, there were two personalities in there, so he would be right. Adrenaline kicked in, giving her the power she needed to burst to her feet and charge at the merman, screaming.
Obviously, the reason she screamed was because she wanted to take advantage of the blue fish man thinking she was crazy. And just like she hoped, the merman retreated out the door. She pushed past him and ran full speed down the hall before making a right. The merman's partner, stunned with astonishment, gaped as the girl disappeared at the corner.
"After her!" the merman shouted.
The other Xiao Mei didn't stop running. She randomly turned right or left.
"What in the world?"
Those shouts came from the guards she passed by. They tried to catch her, but she was already going so fast that they all missed. With no destination in mind, she just continued to run in random directions. Behind her, guards gave chase. Thankfully, because of the weight and bulkiness of their armor and equipment, Xiao Mei's pursuers were slower and clumsier than she was.
But then she ran right into a pair of guards as they walked by.
"Oof!" the one she crashed into grunted.
"Oh, shoot!" the other Xiao Mei shouted.
She turned to run the other way, but the man caught her wrist.
"Let go!" the girl cried out. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see guards marching towards her. She frantically tried to fight free. "Let me go!"
Her captor cupped his hand over her mouth and pulled her into a room that his partner opened the door to. Together, they scrambled inside, closing the door behind them.
"Quiet down!" the man hissed. "Do you want us all to get caught?"
The other Xiao Mei stopped struggling. She rolled her eyes up to her captors in surprise. As they waited quietly with ears pressed against the door, footsteps marched up to them. There was confused shouting outside, and then someone took the lead and barked orders. Once all that quieted down and the footsteps faded, the two guards collapsed to the ground, sighing in relief.
"Geez, that gave me a fright!" one of them said. "Hey! Why didn't you just let them take her? That would have been the perfect opportunity to mix in with them!"
"Well, excuse me for being a Good Samaritan," said the other, letting go of Xiao Mei. "Besides, isn't she one of the princess' friends?"
"It's 'professor' now. Not 'princess'."
"The point is, I don't think the 'professor' would appreciate us letting something happen to one of her friends. I mean, it's not like she has a lot of those, after all."
"Okay, I admit that you got a point there."
The other Xiao Mei was unable to stand the banter much more and cut in.
"Alright," she said, "who are you guys?"
Her captors/saviors exchanged looks.
"She doesn't remember us!" the tall one exclaimed. "Now that's hurtful!"
"Hmph!" went the short and fatter one. "Of course she doesn't remember us. We're servants! We're not meant to be remembered. Besides, we only met that one day when we all came here. And we're wearing helmets right now, so no one would recognize us, which is kind of the point of us wearing this getup."
"Oh. Oh yeah."
"I know those voices!" shouted a voice. It was the original Xiao Mei in Xiao Mei's head.
"Man, it's hot in this thing!" said the short one. He pulled off his helmet revealing his true face. His partner followed suit.
Both Xiao Meis recognized those two faces from their first day at the temple. Those two were the servants of Professor Jane Mortimer.
- Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Twenty-Four)
In which there is betrayal.
- Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Twenty-Six)
In Which Servants Show They're More Than Meets The Eye