Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Two)
Chapter 2 Introducing the Doctors
If Fong was surprised to find his apprentice and daughter bringing in a group of foreigners, one of them having an infamously poisonous snake from the Middle East chewing on her hand, he did not show it. Stoic as always, he simply had Sparrow and the two boys carry the woman to the rest area while ordering Xiao Mei to gather a certain list of ingredients that was given verbally. As usual, Fong was dressed in a vest and tie beneath a freshly ironed lab coat. Hanging around his neck was a stethoscope whose main purpose was to make him look the part of his profession. He could just as easily checked a patient's heart rate by checking their pulse on their wrist and throat. Leaning against his aged tin cabinet desk was a long shock baton that, if standing upright, could reach up to the doctor's lower abdomen. He kept it with him whenever he went out for walks as a means of defending himself if necessary.
Once a handsome young man, he was now a tall, slim figure, slightly aged with streaks of gray raining from all over his hair. No one would have expected his regal manner to have come from having grown up as the Crown Prince of one of the vastest countries in the world. Xiao Mei didn't know herself, until her master's family came seeking asylum from a new regime. That was what started the girl's quest to the capital. All was quiet now after that ordeal with that mad woman who had been obsessed with Fong for decades. The new emperor of the supposed new regime was powerless now in face of the ministers who still adopted the ways of their old emperor, seeing no change as more beneficial for their country and their personal interests than whatever the treacherous old man who nearly brought the country to ruin had in mind.
"You're quite fortunate that my clinic was only a few feet away," he said as he mixed the ingredients that he had Xiao Mei gather in a large marble bowl. He has had years of practice, making traditional medicine for patients who came to his clinic. He did what he could with the training he had received. "You're even more fortunate that a shipment of fresh supplies from Zinzabar was just delivered this morning. We don't see a lot of ruby cobras around these parts. It must have stowed away on a ship from one of the desert country ports."
Dr. Green did not respond. The effects of the venom were finally starting to awaken and her vision began to blur. It was only delayed further by methods that both Xiao Mei and Sparrow had applied with what they had on hand. The stretcher that was used to carry the scholar was generously provided by a nearby store owner whose building was once a small hospital some fifty or so years ago.
Fighting against the burning and churning in her stomach, Dr. Green took the opportunity to explore with her eyes. The room was like any other doctor's office, clean and white. However, replacing the smell of alcohol and cleaning chemicals, there was the scent of herbs, roots, and an assortment of other plants that Dr. Green could not name, contrary to her name. Her eyes took in the fabric curtains that separated her bed and the doctor's desk from the rest of the room where the others were waiting. Some sheets of paper were neatly stacked atop one another in an open manila folder. The desk looked old, but strong with several more years in it left. Finally, Dr. Green's eyes stopped on Fong who was finishing his medicine. Although pressed for time, he was calmly and surely working in the creation of the concoction.
Dr. Green felt admiration as she watched him approach her. His demeanor was reassuring and he actually knew what he was doing. When he lifted her face close to his, she felt her cheeks burn. She wondered what he must be feeling, what he must be thinking. Did he notice at all? All she could do was wonder as Fong's eyes betrayed nothing.
Outside of the curtain barrier, Sparrow was pacing back and forth, biting his thumb through his glove with worry. Xiao Mei felt like doing the same, except she was a doctor's apprentice first before anything else, so fought hard to keep still while everyone else fidgeted like small children with short attention spans.
"Will Dr. Green really be alright?" asked the pointy-eared part homunculus.
Xiao Mei scowled at Harold, mad that he would question the abilities of her father who had proved to be a capable physician for nearly a decade. In Xiao Mei's personal opinion, Fong was probably the greatest doctor the world would ever come to know.
"By the way, where are Obaasan and Seto?" Sparrow asked, tactfully trying to get everyone's minds off the fact that someone had just been bitten by a fatally venomous serpent from a desert country. He placed the large jar that held the snake on the table beside him. The snake looked out blankly, blinking once or twice and sticking its forked tongue out for a scent.
"Obaasan went back to Nihon," Xiao Mei explained. "She said that there was some business that she had to see to its end. And as for Seto, he's out on errands just like I was."
"Shush!" went Diana, leaning her head as close as possible against the white curtain without disturbing it. "I want to hear what they're saying."
"And just how interesting is it to listen to Dr. Green get treated for a snake bite?" Duncan asked, looking up from his travelers' book with a photo of Zhang's tourist attractions on the cover.
"You idiot," Diana said with a bird scowl. "Didn't you notice how Dr. Green reacted when she looked at Dr. Fong? I think that she might be in love!"
She let out a girlish shriek while the other scholars rolled their eyes. Xiao Mei was horrified.
"But that can't be!" she cried out.
"Why not?" Harold asked, picking at the scab at the the tip of his ear.
"Because Fong is married to my mother!" Xiao Mei exclaimed, her face turned red after realizing fully what she had blurted out.
"Really?" Duncan said, incredulous. "Then, doesn't that make Fong your dad, not your master?"
"It's a pretty complicated situation," Sparrow cut in. He would know about complicated situations having taken a part in several complicated situations since he was first introduced to Inspector Leslie and made to solve cases for him while the detective received all the credit.
During the first time, Sparrow actually thought it would make for an exciting adventure. Oh, how naïve he was on that first case. Being in the middle of a gun fight, even with just yellow Stun Stone ammo, was not as exciting as he thought it was when he was just a little boy. In fact, it was just downright terrifying and actually made him cry his eyes out. Since then, all sorts of different forms of coercion was needed to rope Sparrow into a case. Sometimes, bad luck happens and he winds up a part of the dark side without meaning to. "For now, Diana, please stop with the eavesdropping. It's not proper."
Diana did not listen, (why would she?) and she was soon joined by her fellow scholar apprentices. Then Xiao Mei leaned with them. And finally, Sparrow joined, caving in to peer pressure from a group of kids three to six years younger than him.
"So, is there any special reason you've come to Zhang?" Fong asked over the sound of a scrawling pen, speaking in the monotone professional way of a professional doctor.
"We're supposed to be headed for this place called the Dragon's Temple," said the slurred voice of Dr. Green. "You know, doing scholar stuff."
"Slurred voice and drunken demeanor," Fong said as he wrote that down. "Looks like the medicine's working out fine. You know, I've trained at the Dragon's Temple some years ago, for about a year."
"Oh, really?" Dr. Green asked through her swollen tongue.
"Yes," Fong answered. "The Dragon's Temple is probably the greatest school of traditional healing in the country, with knowledge of herbs and the human body that surpasses most of today's medical databases. It is said that at the temple which is also a historical, archaeological treasure trove, secrets from the time of Atlantis' first alchemists, survivors of the city of which our world was named, are contained, hidden away for thousands of years."
"Yeah, that's it," Dr. Green agreed. Fabric shifted as she swayed side to side on the bed. "That's actually what we're here to do. The big head honcho of the temple let us do a thorough no bars research into the origins of the temple before it turned into a Kung Fu school.
"Say, are you married?"
Diana squeaked excitedly, while her fellow eavesdroppers shushed her, leaning so close that their ears were touching the curtains. Sparrow tossed his hat aside as its brim was getting in the way. Xiao Mei was biting down on a thumbnail.
"Yes," Fong replied without hesitation. "What of it?"
"Oh? You are?" Was it just Xiao Mei, or did it sound like Dr. Green was getting depressed?
"Well, I have to have been to have a daughter."
"Oh!" Suddenly, it seemed like Dr. Green's spirits soared for whatever strange reason. "What's she like? Your wife, I mean?"
"Well, I don't know what she's like now," Fong said. "She disappeared almost thirteen years ago. But I can tell you that she was once a clumsy, unbalanced girl with not a gram of common sense. I wouldn't have been surprised if she thought 'bloody libricide' meant some kind of delicious snack!"
Dr. Green felt a sharp pang in her heart. She actually felt like crying.
"I feel sorry for your mother," Duncan whispered to Xiao Mei who could only respond with a sigh. In the years she's known him, Fong never held back his sharp tongue for anyone. In Xiao Mei's head, the voice whispered: "Kinda sounds like someone else we know." Xiao Mei did not understand what her second constant companion meant by that.
Sparrow rubbed his chin like he was thinking.
"But," said Fong, not finished, "she's also one of the most kind, intelligent women that I have ever met. She was the one who inspired kindness in me. I love her very much and that will never change. If it means the end of the world, I will find her. We will meet again."
For some reason, Xiao Mei blushed. She didn't know it herself until Diana pointed it out.
"Quite the romantic, isn't he?" Harold remarked. "Even if he doesn't look the part." Sparrow and Xiao Mei completely agreed with him.
There were two rapid claps as Dr. Green's feet landed on the floor.
"Hey!" cried Fong. "You shouldn't be moving around like that while the medicine is still in the process of flushing the venom out of you!"
"Whoops!" went Dr. Green with the obvious rustling sound of someone losing balance and falling.
Xiao Mei heard a loud crash, and then a scream coming from her father.
"Master Fong!" Xiao Mei cried out when she burst in. Since she was five, she had no idea that Fong was actually her father. Circumstances surrounding her mother's disappearance made Xiao Mei ignorant of a lot of things. Until about four years ago, the little girl went on believing that Fong was simply her master, and she was the apprentice. Right now, even with the truth out, their relationship and lifestyle has not really changed. That's just the way reality worked. And the sad truth was, even if it wasn't a secret that Fong fathered Xiao Mei, the way they lived probably would have been the same regardless.
She gasped after throwing the curtains apart, finding Fong trapped beneath the large shelf full of books and files. And that wasn't the worst part. The impact of the shelf's fall caused a vibration strong enough to topple Fong's desk as well, and it fell on his leg. And if that wasn't bad enough, screws were jarred off, and the ceiling light added its weight to the weight on Fong's back. Dr. Green was hovering over Fong, repeatedly and tearfully apologizing.
Inaudible to others, Fong muttered to himself: "Ah, it's just like back then. Talk about deja vu."
"Fong?" Xiao Mei called out. "Fong!"
"Keep it together, old boy!" Sparrow shouted.
Seto, tall, tanned, and athletic, froze when he saw the crowd gathered around the apothecary. He pushed through, careful not to damage the contents of the paper bag he was hugging, apologizing repeatedly until he was in the eye of the storm. To his surprise and absolute horror, Fong was being lifted into a white ambulance in a stretcher by two men in white. Xiao Mei climbed in after the three, which was proper given that she is Fong's daughter, leaving behind a strange group of foreigners, one of whom could not stop looking extremely guilty. Among the foreigners was a boy his age wearing a familiar bowler hat.
"Just what in the world happened while I was gone?"
- Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter One)
A reunion takes place.
- Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Three)
What's to become of Xiao Mei now?