Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Thirty-Four)
Chapter Thirty-Four In Which Heroes Are Called
Xiao Mei's first thought after seeing her double was "So that's what that strange poem Mei Ling mentioned meant."
Xiao Mei's sister, who had supposed to have passed when they were babies had her soul mixed into Xiao Mei's brain in the valley that had stones with special powers of souls. The plant that was growing on Xiao Mei's head apparently had the power to separate the souls of the would-be dead from their hosts and give them new bodies, just like it had done with this girl whose soul had been in Xiao Mei's head all these years.
"Does that about sums everything up?" asked Jane, who recounted everything from Xiao Mei's explanation.
"Yeah, pretty much," said the second Xiao Mei. "Oh! I suppose I should introduce myself. Hello, everyone. My name is Xiao Yang, Xiao Mei's twin sister, and would-be princess of the Zhang Empire."
Jane, still stunned with the turn of events, just gave Xiao Yang a wave back. She was still having a hard time digesting all this. It was clearly written on her face that this was all to surreal for her. But she couldn't deny what she was seeing with her own eyes.
"Wait," she said, realization dawning. "You said princess. What did you mean by that?"
"Their father's a former prince of the previous dynasty of the Zhang Empire."
The girls twisted around.
"Sparrow!" Jane exclaimed. "You're awake! Thank goodness!" It was as if a huge weight was lifted from her shoulders. She looked close to breaking out in tears while wearing a huge smile on her face.
Sparrow was startled to see Jane in such a state.
"How are you feeling?" Xiao Mei asked.
"Like I've fallen from a really high place," Sparrow replied. Then nodding up to Xiao Yang, he said: "So this is who you've been whispering to all this time."
"Did you really think no one would notice? I thought that what happened at the Imperial Palace made you lose a bit of your sanity. I could hardly blame you and thought it best to just keep quiet. I'm glad to see that I was wrong about your sanity."
"You're telling me," said Jane. "You were always a magnet for weirdos, Sparrow. I didn't say anything because I felt sorry for her."
Xiao Mei's cheeks warmed with embarrassment. All this time, she thought no one realized she was talking to herself. Now how was she going to face everyone?
"I don't believe I've properly been introduced," said Xiao Mei's twin. "I'm formerly the voice in Xiao Mei's head. According to Fong and that grave by our grandmother's, my name is Xiao Yang."
"Hawkins," said Sparrow. "Sparrow Hawkins. I do apologize for lying down on the floor like this, instead of giving you a proper hand shake. But I'm sure you'll understand, I can't seem to get up."
"Yeah, looks like a number was done on your leg," said Xiao Yang, wincing as she glanced at Sparrow's injury.
"Well, nothing a little ancient alchemy healing can't fix, right?" Sparrow said with a laugh.
But Master Da shook his head.
"I've done what I could with what's available, but I don't think that your leg will ever be the same," he said.
"You mean there's nothing that can be done?" Jane asked.
"Well, not unless you're willing to have it cut off and regrown," Master Da said, shrugging. "But the process will be a really painful one."
"Yeah," Sparrow said, grimacing. "I think I'll pass on that. I'll live with this, whatever it is. So, since you've had experience being the Dragon of Calamity thousands of years ago, do you have any plans on how to sort out the current one?"
"Hmph!" sniffed Master Da. "Plenty. However, all of them require time. And that's something we don't have. I can tell by the tremors that Geoffrey's already headed for the nearest village."
"Then call the police! Better yet, call the army!" said Jane. "Can't they do something about that?"
"The village isn't exactly like some big city," Master Da said. "The police there are more used to dealing with vandals than giant, world-ending monsters. And it'd take the military hours to get to them."
"Then we need to buy time for them to get here!" Jane said.
"And how do you propose we do that, Jane?" asked Sparrow. "The Rowdy Rogues will be in disarray above. The temple guardians will have their hands full looking after everyone else. And two people who might be able to do something about all this are separated and lost in a ruined labyrinth. Master Da is probably the only one here who can do something, but by the time he gets what he needs, it'll be too late for the nearby villages."
Sparrow was right, Xiao Mei thought. But there had to be something that they all could do. But what?
"What about us?" Xiao Yang suddenly cut in. Everyone looked up to her. "Me and Xiao Mei can do something."
Jane, Sparrow and Master Da exchanged looks before Master Da spoke.
"No offense, young lady, but - !"
"Mei Ling trusted us with something that Jing thought might be useful," Xiao Yang cut in again. "Ain't that right, Sis?"
"Huh?" Xiao Mei wondered what her sister was talking about. But then she remembered the tablet. She had placed it on a small woodwork table with ornate carvings of dragons that sat by the couch. "Yeah, she gave me this computer tablet. Now that I think about it, this is the tablet that Jing uses to look into his double in another universe."
"He has a computer tablet that can connect into another universe that houses an alternate reality?" Master Da said, his jaw dropping. "It took a team of master alchemists in the ancient days of Atlantis to come up with something like that!"
"Wait a minute," said Jane. "That tablet's supposed to be Master Wu's connection to another version of him, right?"
"Yes, that's right," replied Xiao Mei. "Mei Ling said that I need to take this to some arch thing, but . . . Oh! Now I understand! Master Wu and Mei Ling must have planned to call this other version of Master Wu for help!"
"And we could have him and other back up come to this world through the interdimensional portal sitting at that chamber we were in earlier," Jane said, reaching the same conclusion.
"Hmm," Master Da said, rubbing his chin. "I don't know how I feel getting more strangers mixed up in this mess. But I suppose we have no choice now. Hand me the tablet. I'll make sure to get it to the portal."
"Uh . . . Do you even know how to work that tablet?" Jane asked.
"Young lady, I've been working with ancient advanced technology created by the brightest of Atlantean alchemists of old. I think I will have no trouble using some time-wasting distraction for commoners of a technologically inferior era."
Jane scowled at the ape man.
"Now, you lot stay here where it's safe while I - !"
A door at the back of the room burst open and monsters poured in, fangs bared.
"What in the world?" Sparrow screamed.
"Impossible!" Master Da shouted. He grabbed the fallen door and swatted the monsters in the head one by one before pushing the rest back out the room with his ape strength. "That door leads to the chamber that houses the cloning machine! How did they get in there?"
"I don't know!" Jane yelled back, twisting around in a panic. She spotted a serving cart and threw out all the plates and tea cups to make room for Sparrow to be dragged in. "It's not like you punched an ape-shaped hole in the wall when you ran to our rescue!"
Master Da froze.
"Uh . . ."
Jane gaped at him.
"Oh, you have got to be kidding me!" screamed the scientist.
Master Da kicked up a book that was lying on the ground and kicked it toward a wall-mounted lamp. The lamp bent and beside it, an entryway opened.
"That tunnel leads straight to the portal chamber!" he shouted. "I'll hold them off while you lot get there. Go and call these people from another world over here! I can only hope that this plan of Wu's is a good one. Go!"
Xiao Mei and Xiao Yang ran out of the room, followed closely behind by Jane wheeling Sparrow on the serving cart. They could hear the monsters squeal over Master Da's mighty warrior bellows.
Just as he had promised, the tunnel lead straight into the chamber where the arch sat. But to everyone's horror, the arch had been destroyed. Falling rubble had crushed the giant machine. It had been split into two, with one side toppled on its side, while the other stood at an odd angle.
"No!" Jane said, her hands dropping to the side.
"Well, this is going to be a set back," said Xiao Yang, scratching her head. "Now what do we do?"
"What else can we do?" Sparrow said, shaking his head. "Now it's truly over for us."
This couldn't be the end, Xiao Mei thought as she stared at the wreckage. There had to be something that they could do. Something. Anything! What would Fong do? What would Jing or Mei Ling do?
"Wait," said Xiao Mei. "That's it!"
"Huh?" went her sister. "What's it?"
Xiao Mei didn't answer. She turned on Jing's tablet and started fiddling with it. It was hard navigating the device. Jing had added too many special features to it.
Behind them, there was a loud rumbling as dozens of monsters flooded through the tunnel. Their squealing got louder and louder as the seconds ticked by.
"Whatever it is you're doing, do it faster!" Sparrow cried out. "They've found us and they're closing in!"
The tablet flickered into a video feed of Jing wearing a silver gown, strolling through what looked like a green courtyard filled with children Xiao Mei's age wearing yellow blazers. Behind him, sparkling silver light lifted large white cardboard boxes with indiscernible labels on them.
"Here," Xiao Mei said, shoving the device into Jane's hands. "Can you make it so we can talk to him?"
Jane looked at her in surprise, but she quickly recovered.
"I guess," she said. "But I don't see how talking to him's going to do us any good."
"Just do it, Jane," said Sparrow. "At this point, it's better than doing nothing."
"Hmph!" she sniffed. "Is that any way for a useless bum like you to talk to your superior? At your condition, nothing is the best you're good for."
Then it was Sparrow's turn to scowl.
"Is now really the time to swell your own ego?" he said. "In a few minutes, we're going to be monster food!"
Jane opened her mouth to retort, but the twins cut in, shouting: "STOP ARGUING AND HURRY UP!"
Startled, Jane went to work, fiddling with the device for a bit, She shifted through all the complicated programs with quick and nimble fingers., her eyes rapidly scrolling every inch of the bright screen.
"There," she said. "This should do it."
On the screen, the Jing in the white blazer pulled out what looked like a pocket phone.
"Hello?" he said, stopping.
The light that lifted the boxes stopped with him. A boy who was on his own pocket phone walked right into a box. His face smacked against cardboard and he fell back. Jing glanced back, and then turned away.
"Hello?" he said again. "James Wu speaking."
"Hello!" Jane shouted. "Can you hear me?"
Jing, or James as he seems to be called, pulled the phone away from his ear with a grimace on his face. After picking his ear clean with a pinkie, he put the phone back to his ear.
"Who is this?" he said. "This ain't Jing."
His accent was different from the Jing of this world.
"W-we're friends of Jing!" Xiao Mei suddenly shouted. She looked toward the entrance. "Please! You have to help us!"
"I can see them!" Sparrow shouted. "They're here!"
"Who's here?" James asked.
"Monsters!" Xiao Yang screamed. "Monsters are here!"
"It's hopeless!" shouted Sparrow. "He's in a completely different world. We're doomed!"
The monsters were already in the chamber. They spotted the gang of four and ran toward them. Xiao Mei wanted to run, but it was already too late. Just as the thought to run came across her mind, they already had her and her friends surrounded. There was nowhere to run. And then the monsters lunged.
Xiao Mei flinched, closed her eyes and screamed "Help! Please!"
But even as she screamed, she knew that no help would come. She knew the moment she turned on the tablet. That was honestly just an act of thoughtless desperation on her part, an irrational thought that maybe, just maybe, the Jing of the other world could do something on his end, however small a chance that was. But the gate was destroyed, so there was no way to bring the other Jing, James into this world.
"Jeez! Just when I thought I'd got one day of peace for a change, I get this!"
That voice. It sounded familiar. Xiao Mei slowly opened one eye and saw Mei Ling standing before her. No. This person was not Mei Ling. Mei Ling wouldn't wear such an unflattering large t-shirt and baggy shorts. She unfurled a pink, decorated fan made up of glinting metal plates.
"Pfft!" went the Jing in the white blazer. "Says the lady who was complaining to me over the phone how boring her day off was."
All around them, monsters disappeared one after the other in explosions of black smoke after being pierced by blades of pink and silver light.
Coolly regarding their surroundings, James added: "Now what have we gotten into this time?"
- Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Thirty-Three)
In Which The Dead Revive
- Wisdom of the Dragon (Chapter Thirty-Five)
In Which Heroes Face Monsters