Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Twenty-Nine)
Chapter Twenty-Nine In Which A Trick Turns The Tides
On their way down the stone steps in the damp passageway, Sir Geoffrey saw scratching on the wall.
"These look like arrows," he said. "Someone, possibly Ms. Bai, must have scratched it onto this wall as a way of marking their path. Since this arrow is pointing toward the exit, we should reach my goal by following the opposite of the arrows."
"My goal?" Jane said, raising an eyebrow. "Don't you mean, 'our' goal?"
"Y-yes!" replied Sir Geoffrey. "That's what I meant. We should reach our goal if we go opposite of the arrows."
Xiao Mei could barely contain her impatience.
"Come on!" she urged. "We have to get to Dr. Green, I mean my mom, before something happens to her!"
"Right," Sparrow said. "We don't have time to waste with some chitchat. Let's hurry!"
"Huh?" went Jane. "Hey! Wait!"
But she was too late to stop them. Driven by love and a hero's spirit, the children and Sparrow charged onward, following Sir Geoffrey deeper into the darkness. Although she didn't really understand what was going on, Li Jiao joined, swept in by the mob mentality.y
Jane stood frozen with her hand slightly raised as she had tried to stop them from the reckless rush into the unknown. She straightened up and sighed while rubbing her temples. Elizabeth slowly walked by her, gave the other girl a sympathetic pat on the back, her expression non-changing, and strolled on.
Groaning in resignation, Jane waved to her loyal followers.
"Let's just go," she grumbled to them.
The two servants exchanged looks and together with their boss, followed after the group far ahead.
They made their way into what looked like a lobby with three paths to choose from. The moment they stepped inside, lights flashed open with loud shutter sounds echoing throughout the vast, square-shaped room. Glowing blue circuit-like veins lined and branched, spreading throughout the walls of the room. The way they hummed as they protested reminded Xiao Mei of when she walked by power lines. She thought that the humming from the veins sounded just like the humming from those electric lines.
"Three paths, but I'm guessing there's only one right way," said Sparrow. "The only question now is, which one is the right one?"
"And these chalk marks are useless," Seto grumbled staring at the drawings on the ground. "It looks like Xiao Mei's mom walked through all three paths. So, Mr. Detective, did you manage to deduce where we should go?"
"Don't rush me, Seto," said Sparrow, shooing him away. "Give me some space and time to think."
While the others gave him some space, he bent down and put one cheek on the ground, using his one open eye to examine the floor. Sparrow abruptly straightened up and sat cross-legged, held up his hands into the shape of a camera and peered through the gap, tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth.
"Hmm," he hummed as he did his thing. "Hmm. Mm-hmm. Uh-huh."
Jane rolled her eyes. As Sparrow continued to examine each and every entryway, she swiftly and confidently strolled past him, heading straight for the left path. After watching Jane walk away, Xiao Mei and the others exchanged looks before following after her.
"Eureka!" Sparrow exclaimed. "Judging from the faint footprints, specks of dirt, and scuff marks on the ground, this is the path to take."
He pointed toward the hall that Jane had just went through.
"Huh? Where did everyone go?"
Looking around, Sparrow realized that he was alone in the chamber with Elizabeth.
"Miss Mortimer already found the right path and went in," she explained to her cousin. "The others followed after her while you were examining the ground for footprints."
"What?" Sparrow cried out indignantly. "How did she find the path before I did?"
"It's the circuit veins," Jane answered to Xiao Mei's question. "If you look carefully, you can see balls of light flowing through them across the wall."
She was right, Xiao Mei realized as she stared intently at the lines that sharply bent, branched and spread throughout the four surfaces of the hall. Beads of light flashed and zipped down the hall, all headed the same way.
"I saw how all of those balls of light seemed to be headed through this path, so I thought it was safe to bet that what the Rowdy Rogues are after is through here."
"Wow, that's amazing!" Diana chirped. "You're like a master detective!"
"Oh, I'm not that amazing," Jane said, despite the grin of pride on her face.
"Yes you are," said Xiao Mei. "You figured out the right way before Sparrow did!"
Jane's prideful smile got bigger.
Speaking of Sparrow . . .
"Hey!" he called out as he ran to catch up. Elizabeth followed close behind him. "Wait up!"
"Hmph!" Jane sneered. "You really need to learn to pick up the pace, Hawkins."
Sparrow scowled. He opened his mouth to argue but then Sir Geoffrey cut in.
"Quiet!" the old adventurer sharply snapped.
The hiss from Sir Geoffrey startled everyone to silence.
No one dared say anything for a moment. But eventually, Xiao Mei couldn't take it anymore and tiptoed up to the old man who was extending his ear down the corridor.
"What is it?" she whispered.
Sir Geoffrey glanced back to the young girl, raising an eyebrow.
"Can't you hear it?" he whispered.
"Hear what?" asked Duncan.
"If you be quiet and really listen, you wouldn't need to ask," Jane said snidely.
"There's the sound of fighting up ahead," Jane continued.
Xiao Mei strained her ears toward deeper into the corridor. Just as the scientist had said, it sounded like a battle was going on. Metal rang against metal as the thumping of explosions drummed in the background. And above all that noise, there was shouting from at least two to three people. Upon reaching her ears, Xiao Mei recognized the voices at once.
"I know those shouts anywhere!" Sparrow said. "It's Master Wu and Lady Wu!"
"They must have reached the Rowdy Rogues," said Ai Hui. "Come on!"
"Huh? Wait! Don't go!"
Li Jiao's words fell to deaf ears. Ai Hui broke away from the group and ran toward the source of the noise. The others followed closely behind. It wasn't long before XIao Mei could see light at the end of the tunnel. They charged in and right into the middle of a battlefield.
Ai Hui stopped just as an armored Rogue landed in front of her. In each the Rogue's hands was a club that crackled with electricity.
A soft squeaking sound escaped Ai Hui's gaping mouth as she stared wide-eyed at the huge armored man with the menacing electric weapons. The Rogue bent his head down and stared at the children. He stared at them, and they stared at him. And then the Rogue was sent flying by a blast of pink energy. The children's eyes followed him as he spun in the air several times, crashed against the wall close to the ceiling, and then dropped to the ground.
"I'm okay!" a shaky, feeble, whiny voice called out.
The children stared at the fallen Rogue before turning to look at the source of that pink energy, Mei Ling who did not look happy to see them.
"What are you children doing here?" she shouted.
They backed away from the angry woman just as there was an explosion to the side of the room. Zhun leaped out of the expanding dust cloud and landed on his feet with a skid. He was followed by a streaking red staff that he batted away from striking his forehead.
The red glass staff spun up and down, making an arch in the air until it was caught by Jing. He leaped forward and swung his staff down. Zhun twisted over Jing's staff before lashing back with his batons. The metal batons rang against the glass staff.
Seeing the two men brought relief to Xiao Mei since it distracted Mei Ling from her anger at them.
"Zhun!" Mei Ling screamed before running toward the men she went to school with.
"Hey!" Sparrow called out as he came running into the chamber with Jane, Seto and Li Jiao.
Jing broke away from Zhun and retreated as Mei Ling lunged toward her old schoolmate with her folding sword. Pink energy clashed against black energy, sending shock waves throughout the chamber.
Distress was clear on Zhun's face and Mei Ling continued to push him back with her ferocious sword swings. Armored Rogues came in from all sides, their electric clubs and batons out. They went in to help Zhun, but Jing got in their way. He attacked, striking them down with his staff. None of them lasted more than a few second. Leaving the fallen Rogues on the ground, Jing hurried to his wife's side, and together, they continued to push Zhun back.
It was clear at this point who the winners would be. Mei Ling pulled a baton out of Zhun's hand with a twist of her sword. Jing swatted the other baton out of Zhun's other hand with his staff. Clearly outmatched and without weapons, Zhun raised his hands in surrender.
"It's over, Zhun," said Mei Ling, pointing her practice sword at his neck. "Surrender quietly and don't get in our way, and I won't have to hurt you."
"You say that like you would actually hurt me," Zhun remarked with a smirk.
"Let's face it," Mei Ling said. "We all know that I never show any mercy to an enemy."
"Eh," Zhun shrugged. "I suppose so. But it seems like you've forgotten one very important thing."
"Oh? And what's that?"
"I have friends, and they use hostages."
Hearing someone cough overhead, Xiao Mei twisted around and saw Terrance Knightly standing atop a staircase pointing a blaster to Dr. Green's head.
"No!" Xiao Mei cried out. Seto caught her by the arm before she could run to them.
"I knew that you lot would somehow save the hostages and find your way here," he said, looking at them all with cold eyes. "It really was a matter of time, if you stop to think about it. But this is where it stops. After all these years, I get to add another ancient secret to my collection. Now drop your weapons. You can always refuse and continue fighting, of course. But that's only if you don't care what happens to Miss Bai here."
Nobody moved for a moment.
"Well? I'm waiting."
Xiao Mei could hear a click from Knightly's weapon. She watched helplessly as the villain continued to hold her mother hostage. Silently, she prayed for someone, anyone, to do something.
Her prayers were answered.
Together, Jing and Mei Ling dropped their weapons and slowly backed alway from Zhun.
"Are you okay down there?" Knightly asked his underling.
"Feeling a bit bruised, but I think we'll all manage," Zhun said, speaking also for his recovering comrades.
"Very well," said Knightly. "Now then, one more room to go. That is what you said, isn't it, Dr. Green? Or do you prefer Miss Bai? Or Mrs. Fong?"
"Dr. Green is fine," Dr. Green said, giving her captor a defiant glare. "It's what I've been called as for over a decade, after all. And yes. The next room is where you'll find what you're looking for."
"Good!" Knightly said. "Well, since you're all here, you may as well come join us. I'm told that our destination is quite a sight to behold."
Knightly led everyone up the short flight of stairs into another vast chamber. This one seemed to hold the heart of the chamber. All the circuit lines on the walls and floors led to a giant metal arch that sat at the center of the room. Beside the arch there was a podium that had a single black orb sitting in some kind of indentation.
Under normal circumstances, Xiao Mei would have probably been at aw at the sight of the huge arch. The thing was a massive mechanical structure. Its circuit veins glowed dimly making it look like it was covered in a halo of blue light. But however impressive the structure was, Xiao Mei was focused only on Dr. Green and the man who held her hostage. Between them and Xiao Mei was a horde of Rowdy Rogues led by Zhun who kept wary eyes on his former schoolmates while keeping his batons drawn.
"We're here," said Dr. Green.
"My," went Knightly, staring up at the structure with sparkle in his eyes. "So this is the great secret hidden by the temple for thousands of years. Have you never seen anything so wonderful? Well, men?"
"No, Boss! Never in a million years did I lay eyes on something so amazing!" said the Rogues.
Three people, however, felt differently from the Rogues.
"That's it?" said a disappointed Jane. "What a letdown!"
"Well, to most people, I suppose it's an uncommon sight," said Jing.
"Meh, I've seen better stuff in Jing's lab," Mei Ling commented.
Zhun tore his eyes away from the impressive structure and spun around to Jing. He and his fellow Rogues gaped at the trio, puzzled by their reaction to the ancient creation of otherworldly wisdom. Then realization dawned on Zhun.
"Everyone! On guard, now! It's a trap!" he cried out. "She tricked us!"
But it was too late.
Suddenly, two shapes, one large shape and one small shape, leaped from behind the structure and zipped toward Knightly. Startled, Knightly relaxed his hold on Dr. Green long enough for her to slip out of his grasp and push him away before running away. Knightly lunged after her, but the two shapes got in his way.
"Is that . . . the Grand Master and Master Da?" Qiang Shi exclaimed.
Master Da bared his fangs and growled, but Knightly was not frightened by the towering ape man. He raised his blaster in defiance at the two temple masters and egged them to bring it on.
"Protect Knightly!" Zhun ordered the Rogues. He and the Rogues to protect their boss, but Jing and Mei Ling leaped into their path and attacked, their hands glowing red and pink respectively. Rogues were sent flying away leaving only Zhun to fight back. Qi energy of black clashed against red and pink. And even though Zhun was still armed while his opponents weren't, he was still being overwhelmed.
Some of the Rogues who lagged behind because they had been stunned by the surprise attack recovered and frantically looked around before their eyes fell on the children and servants. They probably thought they could get their enemies to stop fighting if they took hostages again. Hey, it worked the first time around, so why not? Unfortunately for them, they severely underestimated them.
Seto swiftly threw fireballs like he was tossing throwing stars at their feet, making the Rogues retreat. That was when Elizabeth sprang forward. She caught one Rogue by the wrist and threw him over her shoulder before unleashing a well-aimed kick to the second Rogue's leg, causing him to tip forward and fall. Suction darts flew over the maid and stuck onto the heads of three other Rogues. They screamed from the jolts of electricity to their heads and crumbled to the ground. Stun bolts from Tim and Tom's blasters felled others. One managed to sneak behind the children and made a grab for them but stopped when the tip of a round-pointed metal stick glinted at his forehead.
"Big mistake," said the wielder of that stick. Sparrow gently poked the Rogue in the forehead with his Thorian metal stick he normally kept hidden in his cane, and the electric force from the stick punched the Rogue, sending him flying backwards.
Knightly fired yellow energy bolts at the temple masters, but both swiftly dodged them all before lunging at Knightly. The Rogue leader managed to swerve around the Grand Master but he was caught by Master Da, who held the old man in a headlock.
"That is enough!" the gorilla barked. "It is over! Surrender now!"
"No!" Knightly cried. "Don't! We're so close! We can't give in now!"
Distracted by his leader's plight, Zhun made a mistake and ended up losing his weapons before being kicked to the ground. Jing pulled out a mini-cannon he snatched from a Rogue's utility belt and fired. A net burst from the muzzle and covered Zhun while latching onto the ground.
What remained of the Rowdy Rogues' fighting force dejectedly discarded their gear to the ground and raised their hands in surrender.
"Xiao Mei!" Dr. Green cried out as she ran toward the young girl and her friends.
At last, mother and daughter embraced.
Finally, the fight with the Rowdy Rogues was over.
- Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Twenty-Eight)
In Which A Path Is Found
- Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Thirty)
In Which Secrets Are Revealed