Big Trouble in Little China: Fire and Fury
Chronicle 1: I Left My Heart in Little China
by Gary Chavez
Greetings Big Trouble in Little China Fans!
On this web site is a little pet project of mine called "Big Trouble in Little China: Fire and Fury" or just "BTLC: Fire and Fury" for short. I personally don’t see this work as a sequel to the 1986 film, although I’m sure it could be viewed as such. Actually my goal was to try expanding on the mythology of the film. I’ve always been interested in mythology and thought it would be fun to create an Asian-American themed mythology. Big Trouble in Little China seemed like a good jumping off point. It just so happens to be a cinematic masterpiece as well!
Influences to this work include "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", Wuxia films like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", and my Asian-American upbringing (my love for Asian food, in particular, seems to unintentionally pop up throughout the story).
The first story of Fire and Fury called "I Left my Heart in Little China" mostly takes place 17 years after the events in the movie. Little China is now a very different place. After the titanic battle between Egg Shen and Lo Pan, Chinatown has enacted a kind of "Magic Prohibition" intended to keep innocent people safe from dangerous magic. However, in reality, it means only the rich and powerful have access to magic now. Chinatown has prospered, becoming a financial powerhouse as economies in the Pacific continue to grow. The most powerful man in Chinatown is the mysterious General Chang who with his Tong Elite has great influence over the city’s politicians and even the police. Wang Chi and the Chang Sing take a vow to protect the innocent citizens of Chinatown. But even more important, the echoes of past events are beginning to influence the continuing struggle between good and evil in Little China.
Special thanks goes out to www.wingkong.net for allowing me to share this work with other BTLC fans.
I hope you enjoy this story. If you have any comments or feedback, feel free to contact me on the Wing Kong Exchange forums.
Chapter 1: Egg Shen and His Attorney
Let us begin with the ending.
"Mr. Shen, if I'm going to be your attorney, you need to give me a better story than that," shrugged the man behind the mahogany desk.
The man's name was Mr. George Camden and he just spent the last hour and a half listening to the eccentric Mr. Egg Shen. He told a tale of immortal sorcerers, secret fighting clans, green-eyed maidens in distress, and a plot to rule the universe. Camden looked at his watch and grew impatient. He had tee time in forty five minutes and needed to get the real truth out of Egg Shen.
"And you still haven't told me anything about the whereabouts of Jack Burton," sighed Camden.
"I told you to leave him alone!" scolded Shen.
Camden threw up his hands in surrender. He knew that he wasn't going to get anywhere if he aggravated his client. He toned down his approach slightly.
"Please, Mr. Shen, excuse me for being a little skeptical but Chinese black magic. C'mon..."
"You still don't believe. Do you, Mr. Camden?" asked Egg Shen.
"Your little green lightning between the palms is a nice parlor trick. I just caught a show last night where a magician stuck a needle through his hand." laughed Camden, "Very entertaining. But not worth the eight bucks I paid for admission"
The lawyer looked over at his stenographer, who joined him by throwing out a little smirk. Egg looked at a loss and appeared to be thinking very hard as one does when they are out of ideas. After a moment, he stood up slightly, patting his pockets.
"Perhaps, I have proof of our battle with the formidable Lo Pan."
Frustrated, Camden rubbed his forehead with his hands. He wondered what his loony client would throw at him next.
Egg Shen began to rifle through his pockets feverishly, emptying their contents onto Mr. Camden's desk. Next to the brass desk lamp, Egg Shen piled his bus keys, used tissue, some loose change, a diamond about the size of a quarter, crumpled receipts, and a couple of sticks of chewing gum. Egg Shen double-checked his pockets to make sure they were empty. Mr. Camden leaned forward slightly to look more closely at the large diamond on his desk.
"Is that real?" he asked.
"What?" replied Shen still checking his pockets.
Camden picked up the diamond for a closer look.
"Oh that. Yes, very real. It's been in my family for generations. It's beautiful, isn't it?"
Camden looked even closer at the diamond. It seemed to glow with its own light.
"It has absolutely no flaws," claimed Egg, "look closely at it, very closely..."
The diamond glowed brighter and brighter. It soon bathed the whole office in light. But Mr. Camden could not turn away from it.
With a flash, Camden and Shen found themselves in a foggy Chinatown alleyway. Mr. Camden looked around trying to figure out how he got there. Egg Shen paced slowly in front of Camden but continued to talk.
"I told you the truth, the whole truth, Mr. Camden. But it's not the past you should be interested in."
A dozen or so young Chinese men and women dressed in black outfits with red sashes and turbans ran from behind a corner towards Egg Shen. Mr. Camden knew Egg Shen could hear them coming but Egg didn't move from his position.
Egg Shen continued, "What you SHOULD be concerned about is what happens next."
Camden could see the young men were scared for their lives. They ran closer and closer to Egg Shen. It almost seemed like they didn't see him. Just when you thought the group would run down Egg Shen, with a woosh, they ran right through him instead. A few steps later they ran through Mr. Camden then stopped to catch their breath. The experience was a little jarring to the lawyer. He realized that he must be a kind of spirit looking in on current events like in "It's a Wonderful Life". But somehow he knew that this was not going to have a happy ending.
Camden took a closer look at the young men and women that just ran past him. They were still breathing very heavy. Mr. Camden realized they were close to exhaustion. He wondered why they were running and soon had his answer. From every corner of the alleyway dozens of other young men and women wearing black outfits but this time with gold sashes and turbans ran in with a battle cry. They paused, knowing they had the others surrounded.
"The Chang Sing are now hunting down all the Wing Kong," claimed Shen, "They are doing this partially in revenge for their assassinate leader, Lem Lee. And partially because without Lem Lee's wisdom...the Chang Sing aren't quite what they used to be. With Lo Pan and the other Wing Kong leaders dead, I fear the remaining Wing Kong will not live many more days."
One Chang Sing then let out a battle cry then a second followed by a third. Then they all joined in and pounced on the helpless Wing Kong. Camden shuddered at the shear wave of hatred and vengeance that swept past him.
With another flash, the two found themselves standing in a sparsely decorated bedroom. A young lady stood at a dresser mirror staring at herself. Egg Shen approached the young lady from the side. Camden could see that Shen made no reflection in the mirror.
"As for young Miao Yin", shrugged Shen, "She is beginning to realize that the great ordeal she has experienced has not left her totally unharmed."
Miao Yin stared at herself in the mirror as she intentionally blinked her eyes once then twice. On the third blink, Maio Yin opened her eyes, but instead of finding her beautiful green eyes, she found only menacing blank pupils. Shen turned back to Camden.
"No one has ever lived long past the Ritual of the Burning Blade. There's no telling what happens to a young lady who is exposed to that kind of dark powerful magic.
A voice from behind the bedroom door accompanied a knock, "Miao Yin?"
Maio Yin shook her head and her eyes were back to normal.
"One minute," she said.
With another flash, the two found themselves in a busy restaurant kitchen. A young man was at the sink washing dishes. The maitre'd approached him with a friendly smile as they began to chat. Their small talk was rudely interrupted by a fly buzzing the heads of both men. They were able to successfully ignore the flying pest for several seconds, swatting at it when it came too close. But after a while both became visibly irritated. The maitre'd attempted to resolve the situation by swatting ever more frantically at empty air. But the dish washer had a much more effective albeit more frightening solution. With a quickness that no one in the room had ever seen before (even the dish washer), he snatched a chef's knife from the sink and slammed the tip into the wall next to him. The maitre'd turned visibly white for the blade missed his face by mere fractions of an inch.
"What was that all about, Wang?" asked the maitre'd.
The dishwasher responded, "Oh, God, Eddie. I didn't mean anything. It's just..."
"Holy Crap!" shouted the Eddie.
Out of instinctual curiosity, Eddie turned to look where the knife has plunged into the wall. At the end of the blade was the fly, cut neatly in half from it'd mid-body down.
"How the hell did you do that, Wang?"
Unable to look away Wang whispered, "I have no idea."
The young man had a look of disbelief on his face. Egg Shen approached the young man from behind and smiled as only a proud mentor would. Then turned away and shook his head sadly.
"And my dear old friend, Wang Chi, is about to find out that I'm a selfish old man. In order to fight Lo Pan, I needed him to drink the elixir," claimed Egg Shen with conviction shaking his fist, "But I knew it would awaken something in him. Something that...that may have been better left undisturbed. But I did it anyway because I needed to fulfill my destiny."
In another flash, the two found themselves in a dark ominous cavern surrounded by fire, chains, and demons. Thousands upon thousands of people as far as the eye could see were tied up in chains as the demons cut them up piece by piece. The scene was horrifying and the screams of agony were deafening. The demons brought in a white faced man dressed in long robes. The man cursed at the demons in Chinese.
"And to my old enemy, Lo Pan. He is meeting his destiny. He has just arrived in the Hell of Being Cut to Pieces."
The demons hung Lo Pan with chains and began to cut him. One demon carved his chest open. Another slashed at Lo Pan's arms. A third took a knife to his back. Lo Pan's cries rose above the others.
Mr. Camden could look no more. He instinctively covered his eyes and was about to scream. But before he drew in a breath there was silence. He then heard a familiar sound. It was the typing of his stenographer. Camden was frightened but forced his hands off his eyes. He found himself back in the office as if he never left. He darted a look at the stenographer. She looked at the fear in his eyes and Camden could see she was confused by his expression. Camden wondered if he had left his chair at all. Egg Shen continued to talk from his chair.
"So you see, Mr Camden. I was most certainly telling you the truth. But as I said, you shouldn't be concerned with what happened in the past but with what happens next."
Egg Shen's Casio watch beeped in alarm. He pushed a button to turn it off.
"Hmmm. Thank you for your time, Mr. Camden," Egg Shen rose from his chair, "You must excuse me. I have a plane to catch."
Egg Shen rose from his chair, "I apologize for not being able to provide you with more convincing information."
Camden did not try to stop him. He was still frozen, the images of hell burned in his mind.
"And I apologize even more that I will not be available for further questions. There are many preparations to make. I fear that the final battle is yet to come," claimed Shen as he put his belongings back in his pocket.
He paused momentarily to unwrap one of the sticks of gum and put it in his mouth, "Perhaps the city will drop the matter altogether. I doubt they could make much sense of the situation either."
Egg Shen shuffled over towards the coat rack by the door, shaking slightly from old age.
"You asked how it began, Mr. Camden," claimed Egg Shen, "And I told you it began as all things do - very small."
Taking care not to disturb the other coats, Shen took his off the rack and slipped his arms through the sleeves.
"Then I told you how it ended. As it often does in Little China, in death."
Egg Shen took his hat. He then turned slightly to open the door and began to walk out. But Egg Shen paused and leaned over to see past the door and speak to the still shocked Mr. Camden who was frozen in his leather chair.
"The thing is, sometimes in Little China, death is merely..." Shen thought for a moment then nodded with a sly smile, "death is merely a new beginning."
Egg Shen walked out of Mr. Camden's office. With a creak and a soft thud, the door shut behind him.
Chapter 2: Wang Chi - 17 Years Later
The dinner rush was almost over at the Dragon of the Black Pool. Its owner and head chef, Wang Chi, stepped out back for a much-deserved break. The mild stench of garbage in the alleyway would offend most people. But Wang loved it. He loved everything about Chinatown. He turned his body to remove the lid off the small tray that sat on the counter behind him. The smell of the simple plate of chicken and vegetables enticed Wang's appetite. But the real prize revealed itself as the thick fog of steam dispersed. The perfectly round mound of rice, obviously methodically prepared by someone loved by his Asian mother, sat in its bowl in Buddha-like contentment. The creamy-white grains reflected the light from the kitchen like pearls. Wang Chi picked up the rice bowl in one hand then positioned chopsticks in the other. He brought the rice just under his nose and filled his lungs with the rising steam. The subtle scent of jasmine was the essence of Asian comfort food. The dish smelled even more enticing to Wang who had not yet eaten dinner. He looked up at the starry night sky and knew Chinatown is where his heart belonged.
A woman's scream interrupted his moment of indulgence. Wang knew the sound came from the dark alley around the corner. Wang rolled his eyes. He opened the back door and threw his hat and his coat inside. He eyed the dish and spoke to it apologetically, "Sorry, gonna have to cut our evening short. Duty calls."
Wang paused momentarily then popped a piece of chicken in his mouth then greedily filled the rest of the space between his cheeks with the gleaming rice. In moments, he was running to the source of the scream.
A young Chinese girl, no more than 17 or 18 years old, wearing the plaid skirt and white blouse of her school uniform cowered on the ground against the wall. She screamed between panicked breaths as several dark hulking figures surrounded her. Their skin was dark, almost crude oil black. A thin film of slime made their muscles shine in the little light that was in the alley. The empty eyes of the demons stared at the beautiful young girl hungrily. One grabbed the girl's arm. Another grabbed her leg. All of them growled as was traditional for them before feasting on girl-flesh.
"Wet hair coal!" Wang Chi interrupted.
The demons went silent and turned their heads to look at Wang. The young girl tried to crane her neck out from behind the demon that had her arm. They all had the same confused expression attempting to figure out what the man in the alley was talking about.
"WET HAIR COAL!" yelled Wang louder.
The demons darted looks at each other to see if any of them knew what he was talking about. One scratched his head while another shrugged his shoulders. One even looked at the girl to see if she could figure it out. The girl just shook her head.
"I think he said 'Wet hair coal,'" the young women told her attacker.
Wang rolled his eyes and sighed.
"Rod ram rice," commented Wang, his mouth still full of jasmine rice.
Wang put up his index finger, gesturing everyone to wait. He chewed the rest of his dinner then swallowed.
Wang clarified, "I said, 'Let her go.'"
Everyone nodded at the explanation. The demons then did as they were asked. The young girl dropped onto the cement with a thump.
"Ow...Mother f..." the girl stopped herself from swearing anymore in an attempt not to garner any more attention from the demons.
The demons surrounded Wang but were sure to keep the girl from escaping.
Wang spoke to the demons, "You know, seventeen years ago, this would have scared the crap out of me."
A demon approached Wang stealthily from his right.
"But I faced Lo Pan and his Three Storms and killed them ALL!"
Wang landed a surprise punch on the demon that tried to sneak up on him. Then he somersaulted over another that lunged in for an attack.
"Well actually, I didn't kill them all. One had a statue dropped on him."
Wang blocked a slashing claw then kicked another demon in the face.
"Another made himself explode and a friend of mine was the one who actually killed Lo Pan. But I killed someone I'm pretty sure."
Wang flipped a demon that charged him.
"I forget which Storm he was - Rain, Sleet, Drizzle, something like that."
One of the demons attacked. Wang evaded it but he came close to another who took a swipe at him. The demons claws ripped Wang's shirt but didn't cut him.
"Of course, I had to drink a magic potion to do so but."
The demons closed in on Wang, knowing of his vulnerability.
"But that potion also helped me realize exactly what I always was."
Wang reached behind him and drew out two swords out of the scabbards on his back. He looked at the demons' more cautious faces.
"Ah, you weren't expecting that were you?"
In one swift motion, Wang sliced the heads of the two demons closest to him. The young lady released a high-pitched scream before the heads hit the ground. The remaining demons pounced on Wang with abandon. The demons' assault was met quickly and precisely with Wang's blades.
Wang continued, "It turns out my ancestors were Dragon Servants. You've heard of the myth Dragon Servants, right?"
One demon saw that Wang had left his right hand opened to attack. He quickly moved to slice his arm with his razor-sharp claws. But just as he came within a breath of striking, Wang's left hand entangled his own arm.
"I guess not. Let me fill you in."
Before he was effortlessly spun around and thrown, the demon caught a glimpse of a smirk on Wang's face. The demon realized Wang had cunningly baited him.
"Dragon Servants were fierce legendary swordsmen who began as slaves to a Black Dragon"
Wang had thrown the demon at the legs of one of his demon brothers. Wang's sword through the shoulder of the thrown demon guided his trajectory precisely.
"But they had later tricked the Dragon into endowing them and future generations with potent Dragon Chi."
As the second demon began to trip, he extended his arm to break his fall.
"Everyone treated us as heroes once but now we're just hunted."
But just before the demon's hand touched the ground, Wang's blade sliced through his arm. The demon collapsed painfully onto his stump.
"My family trained me in the old ways for my own protection."
Wang continued his attack. He moved among the demons like water. He was calm but unstoppable.
"They told me to keep my powers a secret."
Wang pulled his sword out of the last demon who fell over with a dull thud.
"But I have other plans."
Wang checked behind him to make sure there were no more demons. Satisfied, he placed his swords back in their scabbards then began to approach the young girl who because of her screaming had trouble breathing.
"Don't worry miss, they're all dead," Wang tried to explain, "My name is Wang Chi. You're safe now. I'm one of the good guys. Just breathe slowly...deep breaths."
The young girl nodded and did as Wang asked. She began to calm.
"Are you OK, Miss?"
The young girl stood up and gawked at her knight in shining armor.
"Wow! You were just...with the swords and...Wow!"
She fixed her hair and straightened out her clothes hoping to impress Wang.
"I must look terrible to you."
Wang tried to avert his eyes as the young woman bent over to dust off her knee-high socks.
"No problem, ma'am. You'd better be on your way before more of those things show up."
"Yeah. You're right. Is there any way I can repay you. I mean, I have some money and..."
"No ma'am. Just get home safe. OK?"
The young girl looked upon Wang with dark beautiful eyes and smiled at him in a way that would make an old man feel young.
"You're very sweet, Mr. Wang Chi was it?"
"I'll never forget this. I owe you and your swords my life."
.She approached Wang like she was about to give him a well-deserved peck on the cheek.
"You know what they say about a Dragon Servant's swords, ma'am?" asked Wang.
Wang drew his swords in a smooth arc, thrusting one into the young woman's stomach as she approached.
"They say his swords are sharp enough to even cut through lies."
With her eyes glowing red like fire and fangs as sharp as daggers, the young woman hissed at Wang.
"Go home vampire," ordered Wang. He drew his sword out of her with a snap. The vampire doubled-over in pain, hissing once more at Wang.
"You will not feast on my blood tonight."
"So it is true," mocked the vampire, "There is a Dragon Servant in Chinatown. Your blood is a rare delicacy among my people."
Wang held his stance
"And a treasure to many others," she added.
"I think I'll keep mine for now," Wang rose his swords slightly higher, "Maybe you should try eBay."
The vampire stared at Wang intensely then smiled. She turned around and ran back into the alley disappearing in the darkness as the echo of her footsteps faded.
Wang yelled to her, "Yeah, and the whole slutty Catholic school-girl thing...SUBTLE!"
"You will not feast on my blood tonight?" asked a voice coming from behind Wang.
Wang turned to find another young woman. But this one was wearing sneakers, jeans, and an "Old Navy" T-shirt. She gently swung a garment bag that hung on her left index finger. A black bowtie against a crisp white shirt was visible beyond the partially opened zipper.
"Too far, huh?" Wang asked as he approached the girl and put the swords back into their scabbards.
"I told you - the swords are cool, your witty banter, however - not so much."
"I'll try to remember."
The young lady threw the garment bag at Wang.
"C'mon Dad," the girl smiled, "We're going to be late to the party."
Chapter 3: Gung Hay Fat Choy
Wang Chi felt like James Bond in his tuxedo. To westerners it was an uneventful February 11, 2002. But to the Chinese it was just hours before the year 4699. Wang loved to celebrate Chinese New Year and the San Francisco Mayor's Chinese New Year's Gala was THE place to be. But he had to remind himself that reconnaissance not partying was tonight's agenda.
"And who do we have here?" asked Lois Lee, a beautiful reporter from CNN, "It's Wang Chi- world-renowned chef and restaurant owner. What do you think of this year's Gala?"
Lois shoved a CNN microphone into Wang Chi's face. Wang Chi was blinded by the camera light at first. But he was used to it by now and he played it off with his usual charm. "Even better than last year, Lois."
"You've been a critic of recent Chinatown developments. It has been rumored that you will run for office in November. Is this the time when you'll make connections and begin a campaign?"
"Actually I'm just here for the fireworks, Lois."
"And to make sure everyone knows about the new season of 'Wang Chi's: Taste of Asia'," interrupted a voice from behind, "Thursdays 8 to 9 PM on the Food Network."
"And you are?" asked Lois.
With a big smile on his face the man put his arm around Wang Chi. Wang tried his best to look composed.
"Eddie Lee, Mr. Chi's agent and most trusted friend."
Eddie continued, "This promises to be a spectacular year even better than the first two seasons. This season he'll feature..."
"And who is this lovely young lady with you?" Lois interrupted scandalously.
Wang Chi knew he had Lois and took advantage of the opportunity to get the camera off of him and get back to spying.
"This is my lovely daughter Zhilan." Chi answered in a tone which exaggerated his offense to the accusation.
The sixteen year-old Zhilan, or Zhi for short, had her mother's cheeks, her mother's hair, her mother's smile, and her father's eyes. She was petite and walked with a tomboyish gait. She had yet to discover boys. She was more interested in school. Her father was grateful for that. But the way that the men at the gala stared at her in her long black dress made him uncomfortable.
With an awkward inflexion, Lois responded, "I see. Very well then. Enjoy the party."
Lois slinked away and found another unsuspecting attendee to shove the microphone into.
"Thanks, we'll talk more about the show later," waved Eddie as he grabbed his cell phone from his coat pocket.
"Good job, Pop!"
"I'm a professional Zhi"
Zhi squeezed his arm with loving awe. Eddie turned to Wang covering the cellphone mouthpiece with his hand, "Hey, Wang. I got William Shatner on the phone. He's asking about a walk on."
Before he could even grimace, Wang caught a glimpse of Ling Han, Chinatown's most prominent political figure. Wang looked around Han for the man who was never far from the Chinatown Leader and who was the real power in Chinatown. General Gonsung Chang stared directly at Wang who returned the steely eyed gaze. Wang found himself almost stepping forward to meet Chang face to face but his sensibilities stopped him. He broke his gaze to look over at his daughter. She needed to be kept safe. Wang had hoped Chang would not see them but realized that the General had been watching them since they entered the Gala.
"And enter the villain," sighed Eddie, "who's looking particularly dastardly today, I must say."
Zhi noticed Chang as well. "Oh my God. We're dead."
"Don't worry, Zhi. They can't touch me. They can't take the political gamble," responded Wang.
"Yeah," stated Eddie, "You can't exactly kill the biggest celebrity in Chinatown."
While Zhi accepted that her father was the biggest celebrity in Chinatown, she certainly didn't enjoy knowing that the most powerful man in Chinatown wanted to kill him.
Wang gave Eddie a cold stare, "How long you gonna keep Bill Shatner waiting?"
Eddie realized he still had a deal to make, "What was that, Bill? Which do I think would make a better segment? Wrath of Kahn-golian Beef or Kobayashi Maru Goo Gai Pan? Hmmm..tough choice. We should discuss details over lunch..."
Eddie rolled his eyes at Wang Chi then turned to find a quiet corner. Wang and Zhi left Eddie's side, trying to hide in the crowd but Chang followed their every move. Fortunately, someone stepped right in front of Chang.
"General Chang. Is there any particular Chinatown project that Mr. Han will focus on in the coming year?" asked Lois Lee as she shoved a microphone in Chang 's face. The hostile glare towards Wang remained until Chang realized the camera lights were on him.
"What...I'm sor..., " Chang composed himself as well as he could, "Please, Lois you can call me Mr. Chang or simply Gonsung. I have long since retired from the military."
Chang had left China about seventeen years ago and came to Chinatown just after Lo Pan was defeated. He had indeed retired from Chinese People's Liberation Army before he came to the U.S. However, he held himself in a way that only an authoritative communist could. He even threw in a menacing scowl for good measure. It felt unnatural to call him anything other than "General".
"Alright, Mr. Chang. As Mr. Han's right hand man, I'm sure you would have the inside scoop as to what his plans are for the coming year."
"Ah yes, Lois the coming year is important to us," Chang tried to stall, "It is the year of the ... you see and..."
"Yes, it will be a year of continued prosperity for the residents of Chinatown," interrupted Han who was much more the diplomat than his friend, "As China's economy begins to boom the Han Corporation will continue to act as liaisons for the American government in terms of trade and other economic endeavors. And at the request of the American government we've added a very honorable member to the team. May I introduce you to Leonard Meng of PACOPs Consultants? They have a long history of dealings with China."
Han gestured to his left. Leonard Meng (a.k.a. Lu Meng) was the CEO of Pacific Operations Consultants. The history of the company goes back to the gold rush. They were some of the first Chinese to come to the US. They understood the lore and culture of the Orient and believed profit could be made from their superstitious countrymen. They were the ones who spread the rumor in China about a mountain of gold in California. As soon as their fellow countrymen got off the boat, PACOPS brought them to the railroad companies building the Transcontinental Railroad. They made only a small commission per head. But with the number of Chinese coming to California those days, PACOPs founders soon became very wealthy. Many other profitable schemes followed all at their countrymen's expense. They have flourished for more than a hundred years. Currently, they advise US companies on how to get the upper hand against Chinese competitors in the growing Chinese economy. The majority of the company's officers are Chinese and most other Chinese consider them traitors and criminals. None of these officers could walk on a Chinatown street safely.
"Is this your first time at the Mayor's Gala? Mr. Meng?" asked Lois.
"Yes, this is the first time we've been invited," Meng was careful to say.
"And of course, we have Lady Jade, the star of the Chinatown theater."
Lois now focused onto the stunning and statuesque woman that approached General Chang and latched onto his outstreched arm. Along with Chinatown's recent prosperity came some old traditions especially those that favored the wealthy. In Imperial China, courtesans were companions of wealthy men much like Geishas in Japan. They were trained in many arts like conversation, entertainment, and intimacy. Lady Jade was such a courtesan. Indeed, Lady Jade was General Chang's favorite courtesan, accompanying him to the biggest social events. However, she was never politely referred to as a "courtesan" particularly in the press.
"Lady Jade, are you taking a break from your busy performance schedule?" asked Lois
"I wouldn't miss this, Lois, no matter how tired I am, especially since Chinatown's prosperity continues to grow," spoke Lady Jade confidently without a hint of an accent
Chang was always impressed by Jade's ability to deal with the press and be his advocate. The only thing that impressed him more about her was her flawless body and how she used it to please him. But Chang's sinful thoughts were interrupted by a bright camera light in his eyes.
"Now General Chang, you and Lady Jade have been spending much time together this year. Is there a possibility of..."
Lady Jade interrupted, "Oh my gosh. Is that Lucy Lui by the ice sculpture?"
"What?" exclaimed Lois, "c'mon Max"
Lois motioned to the camera man and they quickly departed.
Han, Meng, and Chang gave a thankful laugh to Lady Jade. Chang then realized he had lost track of Wang Chi. He scanned the room. Although many of Chang's colleagues believed Wang Chi was harmless, Chang had much experience with his kind before. He may have soundly beaten Wang once and the young man has since kept his distance. But Wang was slowly growing in power and, more importantly, courage. It was dangerous to lose track of such a man. He wondered why Wang would bring his fragile daughter to a place with so many enemies. Perhaps Wang believed he could protect her. Something told Chang that was not the reason.
Wang Chi and his daughter stood behind a pillar near the bar close to the kitchen. The lighting was poor in this area and it was busy with wait staff. It was a good place to hide for a few minutes.
"This is fun, Pop," smiled Zhi, "like a Jackie Chan movie."
"Don't have too much fun. We're going to need to keep on moving otherwise...wait a minute. What's going on?"
Wang spotted General Chang grab his cell phone then make a slight gesture with his hand. Immediately, a young aid came to his side. Wang immediately noticed his outfit. Even though it was a black tie affair, the young man wore a gold cummerbund and bow tie with his black tuxedo. Chang whispered something to the aid. The aid then bowed to General Chang and gave him the Chang Sing symbol with his hand. Chang nodded him off. The aid quickly walked outside followed by two other young men dressed similarly.
"Tong Elite," Wang mumbled, "I wonder where they're going?"
"The abandoned Wing Kong Exchange," replied Zhi, "and this is a big deal. He's really scared."
"There you two are," approached Eddie staring at the plate in his hand, "This Kung Pao shrimp is amazing. They marinated it in some sort of..."
Eddie caught a glimpse of Zhi, "Ah crap, 'Carrie' is at the prom again."
Wang turned his attention back to Zhi. She was staring off into space. Although her pupils no longer showed, her eyes glowed a bright green.
"Stop it before someone sees you," ordered Wang.
Zhi blinked and shook her head. Immediately her eyes went back to normal.
When Lo Pan died, Miao Yin and Wang Chi both believed that the magics that Lo Pan had exposed the beautiful woman to had no lasting effects. But Miao Yin had been forever changed. They had hoped that when their daughter was born that she would not have been affected. After many tests, it was found that she was indeed untouched by magic. But Wang Chi knew she had special abilities beyond magic. Even as a child she seemed to know what others were thinking. Her powers have been growing steady ever since. Wang knew that if he wanted to keep his daughter, he would need to keep her abilities a secret. But sometimes she just too tempted not to be discreet.
"But Pop, that's why you brought me here."
"Don't remind me," sighed Wang, "C'mon everyone let's tell the others."
Chapter 4: Specimen 39J at the Wing Kong Exchange
The Wing Kong Exchange had long since been abandoned. While Egg Shen had visited it in 1988 then subsequently destroyed the lower levels to kill the last of the Wu Shen wizards (that consequently set off an earthquake that damaged large portions of the city), it has stood largely untouched since Lo Pan's death. A real estate development company tried to take it over long ago and build condos but they abandoned the project stating that the collapse of the lower levels made the foundation unstable. However, it is rumored that the real reason they left is that the building is haunted by the minions of Lo Pan. Most Chinatown residents are too scared to go inside the old Wing Kong Exchange. In the end, the only construction has been a chainlink fence around the building.
"I hate this place," Wang Chi whispered.
"We should have burned it down long ago," said Qiang Bai.
Considered an outlaw by Chinatown police, Qiang Bai is the real leader of Chang Sing and one of the noble warriors who confronted Lo Pan and the Wing Kong alongside Egg Shen. As his reward, he received a large scar over his right eye. After Lem Lee died, the much less wise and much more ambitious Han Ling took over leadership of the Chang Shing. Han was not convinced by Egg Shen that Lo Pan was planing to marry and the ceremony needed to be stopped. Lo Pan used the Lords of Death as a distraction that Han Ling foolishly fell for and ordered the Chang Sing to another location. A few Chang Sing believed Egg Shen and followed him instead. Although Qiang disobeyed Han Ling and joined Egg Shen, he tried honorably to rejoin the Chang Sing. But he became increasingly dismayed with Han's decisions which seemed to benefit Han's bank account rather than the citizens of Chinatown. He initially set off on his own but has been slowly joined by other Chang Sing disappointed with Han's rule. He and the old Chang Sing continue to protect the citizens of Chinatown but they continually find themselves fighting against the Tong Elite, many of whom are Qiang's old friends. This fact, has made Qiang cynical and distrusting. However, he is still a valued friend and advisor to Wang Chi as well as the unquestioned leader of the Old Chang Sing
"Burn it?" Wang asked, "and have the whole block smell like Wing Kong?"
All the Chang Sing laughed quietly.
"What are we looking for, here?" asked Duyi Zeng.
Duyi Zeng was trained in the ancient art of Chang Sing Archery. Before the invention of modern firearms, the Chang Sing were handy with the bow. In addition to the bow, the Chang Sing Archers also specialized in throwing weapons such as daggers and shuriken. But as street gangs of Chinatown began to arm themselves with handguns, the Chang Sing found themselves outmatched and quickly adapted to using guns themselves. As the divide between the Tong Elite and Chang Sing widened, the Chang Sing often found themselves fighting against the Tong Elite who because of their background knew the tactics and styles. The Chang Sing leadership needed a new tactic to cancel the Tong Elite's edge. Renshu Zuang, one of the Chang Sing Elders, was one of the last to be trained in archery. He picked several of the young Chang Sing and began to train them in the old ways. Duyi was one of these original students. Like the other young Chang Sing, Duyi had a fascination with electronic gadgets and often tinkered in his spare time. After a few years, Duyi and a handful of his classmates invented specialty arrows, like high explosive and incendiary arrows. They developed specialty thrown weapons as well.
These high-tech arrows along with the forgotten art of archery confused the Tong Elite and evened the odds in Chang Sing and Tong Elite encounters. Seldom does a Chang Sing team go on a mission without at least one archer.
Duyi is small and short (even shorter than Wang Chi). He is often mistaken for someone younger. Consequently, Duyi tries to compensate for his dimunitive appearance by taking unnecessary risks in combat. Wang and Qiang trust Duyi's capabilities and have repeatedly told him that he has nothing to prove. Whether Duyi believes his mentors is questionable.
"I'm not sure," responded Wang, "all I know is Chang sent his men here in a hurry."
"Why? There's nothing here he would want. It's abandoned - nothing but dust and cobwebs," stated Jia Cao.
Jia was another talented young Chang Sing. She was one of the quickest and most acrobatic of the new recruits. Although well disciplined and averse to taking great risks, one can tell that Jia enjoys combat. She often makes jokes and insults her opponent in combat.
"Maybe there's more than dust and cobwebs inside. We'll find out soon."
"Tong Elite," Qiang pointed to the main gate entrance some distance away, "along with the cops. About 15 in all. We're going to need a diversion."
"Got it covered," responded Wang.
A moment later a CNN news van pulled up to the gate. The cameraman and Lois Lee jumped out of the van and into the group of cops like well-trained paratroopers. Wang could see the Tong Elite and the cops were busily fighting off the questions of the nosey reporter.
"Now," ordered Qiang.
Qiang, Jia, Duyi, and Wang dashed for the fence. They headed for a part of the fence next to a lamp post with a broken light. The low light made it ideal for a break in. The fence was a standard chainlink fence with razor wire on top. Those untrained in Chang Sing techniques would find the fence a daunting obstacle. These four, however, were never concerned with it. With the power of a tiger, Qiang jumped up over the fence pouncing off the razor wire to get more height. Jia and Duyi bounced off the fence then off the lamp post to get over the fence. Jia elegantly performed a somersault before she landed on the ground. With the grace of a gazelle, Wang jumped over the fence effortlessly, clearing the razor wire by over a foot. All continued to run toward the Wing Kong Exchange building without a pause.
Wang and his team reached a wall at the Wing Kong Exchange taking a moment to look around to see if they were spotted. Reasonably sure they were unnoticed, Wang began feel along the wall for a door in the darkness.
"There should be a door around here," remarked Wang, "OK here it is."
"Stand back Wang," ordered Qiang.
He stood back and drew his iron bo. Ready to hack the lock.
Wang stopped him, "Hold it. It's already opened."
The four took a closer look at the door. Someone had hacked it open with a weapon. The lock was in pieces on the ground. Even more disconcerting, the marks were made recently.
The four slinked into the abandoned building. It was cold, dark, and dusty. The four split into two pairs with Jia with Qiang and Duyi with Wang. The pair lead by Wang followed behind but not close to the pair lead by Qiang. Wang was far enough not to make all four of them one convenient target but close enough to come to Qiang quickly if he ran into trouble and vice versa. It was Qiang's and Wang's job to perform the search. Jia and Duyi were there to watch their backs. Each warrior walked with a sidestep. By leading with their side forward, they gave the smallest silhouette for someone to attack from the front. They turned often so as not to keep their back to any direction for any prolonged period of time.
Wang had the four run in with weapons holstered and sheathed. His mission was not to engage in combat but to search the warehouse quickly and quietly. Especially with the Tong Elite about to enter, speed was critical.
Qiang stopped to look around a corner and signaled Wang to stop himself then asked, "Wang, what are we looking for, again?"
Duyi and Jia also looked toward Wang having realized just how daunting their task was.
"Anything out of the ordinary that the Tong Elite would want," Wang responded.
Qiang shot him a look of confusion.
"Whoever broke into here before us would be a good thing to look for, too," added Wang.
Qiang nodded then looked around the corner again, motioned for the rest to follow then continued around the corner. The four skulked down a corridor that eventually lead to a storage room full of stacked crates. Before entering the room, the four looked at each other. They all realized this room was a great place for an ambush. But it was also a great place to hide for anybody that broke into the warehouse.
Qiang gave the hand signal for the four to split up individually but keep in visual contact. Although this method made each man a little more vulnerable to an attack from behind, this method was the quickest way to search the storeroom. Wang nodded in agreement.
The four entered the doorway and immediately split up. The way the boxes were stacked was disconcerting to Wang. At first, the boxes were stacked low, making visual contact between the three others easy to keep. But as they walked forward, the boxes were stacked higher and the others came in and out of visual contact. If an ambush would happen it would be soon. But nothing happened. As they continued to walk forward the box stacks became lower again.
Suddenly, Qiang, who was ahead of the others gave the hand signal to stop, duck down to hide themselves then regroup at his position. When the four were together, Qiang pointed past the boxes in front of him. At first, there was nothing to see. Then a figure popped up from behind the some boxes. It looked like the figure would attack at first but his movement made it apparent he was not aware of the four and was instead working on something. It was too dark to see what the figure looked like in any detail. But all four were sure that the silhouette did not match Tong Elite or any other group they knew of. The figure ducked back down behind the boxes.
Qiang gave the signal for pair lead by Wang to get into a position near the figure and wait. Wang nodded realizing that Qiang would come from the other direction and subdue the figure to be questioned.
A few moments later, Wang was in position and keeping an eye on the figure. Now Wang could see the figure was wearing a close fitting black and gray outfit. The figure moved easily and freely. Wang surmised the outfit was some sort of high tech armor - very expensive. Wang watched as the figure stood up, took a few steps back, then checked his backpack for more tools. Just as he turned around to go back to his work, Jia grabbed him from behind and threw him to Qiang. The figure landed perfectly into Qiang's iron embrace. With a swift motion, Qiang stuck his right thumb into a sensitive part of the figure's neck just below his left ear. The figure convulsed in pain but unable to speak above a whisper.
Wang and Duyi had already moved swiftly and quietly several feet from the position to stand just before the captured figure. Convinced the figure was under control, Wang's sword was still sheathed. Duyi had two throwing daggers ready.
"Who are you?" asked Wang sternly.
"Please you have to let me help him," the figure asked sincerely wincing through obvious pain..
Confused, Wang turned to the spot that the figure had been working. He then saw another figure in laying on the floor in the fetal position, his back to the group. Wang took a close look at the tools around the back pack. They were medical tools, syringes, bandages and the like.
"Please let me go," asked the figure caught by Qiang.
But as he tried to make his way back to the man on the floor, Qiang grasped him tighter.
"OK," the caught man responded, "maybe we need to do this differently. My name is Daniel Lee..."
"Shut up!" ordered Qiang as Daniel grimaced in pain that seemed to set all his nerves on fire, "Wang, check him out."
Wang approached the man on the floor slowly.
"Careful, he's got a weapon," Daniel grunted.
Wang saw a glint of metal in the man's right hand and began to talk to him, "We're here to help friend. What's wrong? Are you hurt?"
"I want to go home...I want to go home," whimpered the figure on the floor.
"We'll take you home. Don't worry, we're here to help."
"Nobody can help me," whispered the man on the floor.
"We're friends. We can help you," Wang assured.
"No. No. No," cried the man, "Nobody can help me."
He then rolled toward Wang slowly. Even in the dim light, Wang recognized him immediately. He had long wild hair with a bald area on top. His moustache was a Fu Man Chu style and the weapon in his right hand confirmed his suspicions like a brick hitting him in the face. The man was holding a meat cleaver.
"Oh my God!" exclaimed Wang. He's Wing Kong.
The Chang Sing gasped with doubt.
"What?" questioned Qiang as he shrugged in disbelief. Unfortunately, the shrug also inadvertently drove a wave of pain through Daniel's body. Tired of holding on to their hostage, Qinag pressed his thumb against Daniel's neck just below the left ear. With a twist, Daniel was no longer in pain. Qiang threw him to Duyi who put one dagger to his throat and another to his stomach.
"Impossible," remarked Qiang, "They're all dead."
"I know. I saw this one die with my own eyes," answered Wang.
Wang took a moment, "We have to help him."
"What!" said Qiang.
"We have to figure out what's going on."
"What's going on is he's Wing Kong scum who needs to die."
"Chang is after him. We have to find out what he wants..."
"Oh now you care about Chang ?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means that you never..."
Wang did not want to get into another argument about Chang . He composed himself and belted out an order, "Something is going on. This Wing Kong may know but he's sick or something and we have to help him..."
At that moment, the Wing Kong warrior jumped to his feet and screamed, "YOU CAN'T HELP ME!"
The Wing Kong warrior came into full view. While his right side was normal, his left side was horribly deformed with his face full of bulbous tumors and his left arm and leg horribly mangled.
He continued to scream, "YOU CAN'T HELP ME. YOU CAN'T HELP ME."
From the bowels of the warehouse the Chang Sing heard, "That way...it came from over there."
"Damn. Tong Elite," said Jia,
"What the hell is going on here, Wang.?" asked Qiang.
Wang looked at the deformed Wing Kong who continued to scream. Wang answered, "Hell if I know but were out of time. We're gone!"
"What about this guy," Qiang asked about Daniel.
"I'm going with you guys," Daniel said in a high pitched stutter.
Wang saw the fear in Daniel's eyes. He was not afraid of the deformed Wing Kong. He was afraid of the Tong Elite. Most people think they're saviors of Chinatown. This guy knew the truth about them. Wang grabbed Lee's backpack and ordered, "Now! Let's go."
Duyi and Jia were the first out the door sprinting for the fence. Qiang and Wang were several steps behind them grasping Daniel securely by both arms. Qiang realized that there was nothing by the fence that Duyi and Jia could jump off of. He shoved Daniel to Wang then ran ahead of the group, turned around, put his hands down palms up interlocking his fingers. Jia jumped gracefully, her right foot landing squarely in Qiang's hands. With a mighty heave Qiang boosted Jia over the fence then did the same with Duyi. From a standing position, Qiang jumped as high as he could. His hand grasped the top razor wire. The metal dug into his hand but did not pierce his skin. Then Qiang threw himself over the fence. As Qiang was making his way over the fence, Wang grabbed Daniel and tried to launch both of them over the fence. But Daniel was heavier than he thought and he misjudged the jump. To compensate, Wang somersaulted in the air and threw his weight back up giving him the boost he needed to get over. But Wang had forced Daniel to somersault with him. The maneuver made Daniel visibly nauseous. When he landed, he went directly to his knees unable to support himself. Qiang looked back to see if anyone was following them but found no one. He took a quick glance at the main gate and saw a van near the main gate. Several men pulled out a cage. Another man held a tranquilizer rifle.
"What the hell, Wang?" whispered Qiang.
Wang turned to see what Qiang had spotted. He couldn't make any more sense of it than Qiang could. He then turned his attention to Daniel Lee running ahead of him.
"Maybe our new friend can help us answer some questions," answered Wang as they both ran to catch up with their companions.
Fireworks that marked the coming of the new year boomed and crackled in the distance.
Chapter 5: General Chang and the Nameless Old Man
Daniel was in a holding cell in the basement of the Dragon of the Black Pool. He wondered what events had transpired that warranted the construction of a cage. The cell was about 10 feet by 10 feet. One side was made of 1 inch steel bars. The other three sides were the cement walls of the foundation. The room was about 10 feet by 25 feet. There was a door on the right wall and a table and some chairs a few feet in front of the cage. A single light bulb above the table lit the room. The door had a glazed window. Daniel tried to look through the window to see any activity behind the door. He could make out a figure guarding the door but no other activity.
Wang had taken all of his gear including his backpack, weapons, and boots. The cold of the cement floor made it through his socks. Daniel was tired and a little hungry. He comforted himself in the belief that this was part of his plan all along.
There was a stool in the cage. Daniel put the stool next to the wall. He sat in it, leaned up against the wall and closed his eyes.
The deadliest and most intelligent of the Tong Elite was a young man named Shunyaun Chin. Seventeen years ago he was an even younger Chang Sing recruit guarding their temple. The assassin that Lo Pan sent to kill Lem Lee was more than a match for the fledgling warrior. The assassin caught Shunyaun by surprise and knocked him unconscious. When he woke up, Lee was dead. He swore he would never allow anyone to harm his new leader Han Ling. Han took notice of Shunyaun's dedication and soon made him Tong Elite.
A Chang Sing becomes Tong Elite by first attending UC San Francisco's College of Asian Studies, a school founded and financed by the Chang Sing's leader Han Ling and the curriculum carefully controlled by General Gonsug Chang. Courses there include business administration, international relations, and finance. Many graduates find jobs at the most prestigious Asian companies. But those that show even greater dedication are additionally educated in martial arts, military science, and psychology. Thus, they become Tong Elite and are typically employed by the Han Corporation.
Chin was the most dedicated of all the students. He excelled in the training and shortly after graduation became General Chang's chief lieutenant. With broad shoulders, a shaved head, and standing more than 6 feet tall, Shunyaun was difficult to miss guarding the doorway of General Chang's office. Fresh from the New Year's Gala, he was still wearing his tuxedo.
Chin eyed everyone in the room paying particular attention to the old man wearing clothes that were just slightly better than rags. The old man sat in a chair by Chang's desk looking down at his shoes. Chin recognized him immediately. He always seemed to make an appearance when Chang needed to discipline his troops.
"Where is specimen 39J, now?" asked Chang.
"It's on sub-level 3. Under heavy guard," answered Dwight Huong. Mr. Huong was one of Chang's high-ranking Tong Elite. His quiet no-nonsense demeanor was sufficient for corporate work but he was more suited for more covert work. He was the head of the Han Corporation's retrieval unit. If anything was taken, or in this case, escaped from Han Corporation, it was Dwight's job to get it back.
"I told you to put it back in its holding cell," snapped Ying Tan, another high-ranking Tong Elite, and Chief of Security at the Han building.
"Mr. Huong and I still believe that the holding cell to be 'faulty'," defended Dr. Ling, Chief Scientist of Han Labs.
"Faulty!" cried Tan, "My people just fixed it."
"They REPLACED it," corrected Huong.
"Mr. Huong and I suspect that the cell was opened by a hacker on the outside," elaborated Dr. Ling to Chang.
"Impossible!" cried Tan, "Qiang and the other Chang Sing don't have that kind of knowledge."
"Then it's someone else," argued Huong.
"Like who?" questioned Tan, "Tell me just who..."
Tan's words trailed off. Huong was confused at first then he saw the distant expression on Tan's face as well as Chang's hand on the shoulder of the old man who was now chanting softly in Chinese. Huong kept silent.
"I don't have time for your idiotic behavior Tan," calmly interrupted Chang moving to stare out the window, "You have one last chance, understand? Or you will find yourself stuck in the Hell of Being Eaten Alive for an eternity."
The old man began to repeat everything Chang was saying but in Chinese. His voice never reached above a whisper but his words seemed to echo in the room.
The distant expression on Tan's face turned to absolute dread. Huong kept still and silent. Dr. Ling chose to turn away.
Chang continued to stare out the window, "It's much like when you were a young boy living in a slum and found rats gnawing on your crying baby brother, only a thousand times worse. You are drowning in an endless sea of rats, their teeth sinking into every inch of your flesh...fingers, cheeks, scalp, eyes..."
Tan went to his knees and screamed in agony. Chang waved his hand curtly and the old man spoke no more. A moment later Tan was silent but for the sound of his heavy breathing. He arose slowly and composed himself.
Chang turned around to face the group, speaking softly but clearly, "I want 39J locked up immediately...locked up tight, understand?"
The three men nodded. Shunyaun opened the door, dismissing the group.
The old man followed. He continued to look down at his shoes but Shunyaun caught a glimpse of the expression on his face. It was an odd combination of shame and relief. Shunyaun couldn't quite see it but he swore there was a tear in the wrinkle of the old man's eye.
General Chang gave a heartfelt pat on the old man's shoulder and announced with a booming voice, "Thank you for your assistance, my friend. Consider your rent paid in full...this month."
The old man nodded, bowed slightly to Chang, and quickened his pace out of the office.
After old man exited, Shunyaun asked, "Should I watch Tan, sir?"
"No, Shunyan," responded Chang, "Right now I need you to check on our Old Chang Sing friends. Houng might be right and someone hacked into our system. If they did that, there's no telling what other information they have. I doubt Wang Chi would have the knowledge or even the courage to do so we have to make sure he knows nothing."
"I'll see to it, sir," declared Shunyaun as he began to leave the office.
"Smile, Shunyaun," urged Chang, "In 24 hours, we'll have enough power to bring complete order to Chinatown."
Chapter 6: The Dragon of the Black Pool Serves the Best Tea in Chinatown
Qiang banged on the steel bars with a pair of nunchaku. The raucous woke Daniel with a shudder and he almost fell off the stool. Qiang was accompanied by Wang, Jia, Duyi, and Renshu. The presence of all five made an imposing presence and a part of Daniel was glad there were steel bars between him and the group.
"How do you open this?" Wang asked as he held up Daniel's backpack.
Wang had been trying to open Daniel Lee's backpack for the past twenty minutes to see what was inside. He was superbly unsuccessful.
Daniel answered Wang with a yawn, "It's a bio-metric lock. Only I can open it."
Daniel walked toward Wang and put his hands outside the bars. "Here, let me show you," he said.
Wang approached Daniel. As the backpack came within inches of Daniel's hands, Qiang and the other Chang Sing drew weapons and pointed them toward Daniel. Daniel tried not to look around as if he was worried. But he did notice a lovely variety of weapons in his proximity - a curved dagger, a katana, and a butcher's knife to name three. He wondered if his plan might not be going so well.
Daniel unzipped the main compartment of the back pack with ease. Wang took back the backpack with a flick of his wrist and poured out its contents on the table. He found a variety of medical tools and implements. It looked like what you would find in a well stocked first-aid kit. But among the items was a camera. The make and model was unknown to Wang.
"Is this bio, bio-met, metric, too." Wang stuttered as he tried to remember the phrase.
"No," responded Daniel, "It's voice activated."
Then without a pause Daniel spoke in a loud clear tone that could be heard by the camera's microphone, "Initiate holographic interface, Security code alpha niner bravo. Engage."
The group turned to the camera with great interest but nothing happened.
Daniel chuckled, "That cracks me up every time! The more 'Star Trekky' I sound, the more people expect something spectacular to happen with my gadgets."
Daniel realized no one else was laughing. He composed himself and claimed, "Personally, when it comes to voice activated tools, I prefer to use plain English."
"Good morning camera," Daniel spoke loudly, "Please show me the pictures."
The camera sprang to life with lights and mechanical noises. It then projected a 3-dimensional image of a computer screen in front of Wang Chi who noticed a folder titled "Wing Kong" in the corner. A voice in the camera responded, "Good morning, sir. Have a nice day!"
Daniel yawned and stretched and said, "Double tap the Wing Kong folder with your finger and it will open up."
Wang was cautious but curious not only of what was inside the folder but of this strange technology. He double tapped on the hologram with his index finger and several pictures of mutilated and decomposed bodies of Wing Kong appeared. Wang and the Chang Sing were mesmerized by the sight.
"Ewww gross," exclaimed Zhi.
Daniel stopped his yawning, straightened up, and took immediate notice of Zhi who in addition to the dress that she wore to the Gala, had on a denim jacket and had traded her high heels for a pair of flip flops.
"Go back upstairs, Zhi," ordered Wang.
"Who's the chump in the cage, Pops?" Zhi asked in a tone that demanded an answer.
"Daniel...Daniel Lee ma'am," Daniel answered with a traditional Chinese bow, "it is an honor to make your acquaintance."
Zhi smiled. She had never been treated with such respect by a handsome young man before. Zhi also found his light-heartedness refreshing. All the Chang Sing she knew were always so serious.
Duyi banged the bars with his bow with a loud clang that scared Daniel into standing straight up again. Wang handed the camera to Qiang and snaked his way through the Chang Sing to get to Zhi. He grabbed her hand and began to lead her out, "I said, 'back upstairs!'"
"You were right about the Wing Kong warrior at the Wing Kong Exchange," remarked Daniel sternly. He interrupted the tussle partially because he wanted to get out of the cage and partially because he wanted Zhi to stay.
"Impossible, all the Wing Kong are dead," scolded Jia.
"There hasn't been a Wing Kong in Chinatown or anywhere else for that matter for over 15 years," added Renshu as he found a seat at the table, "And the world is much better for it, if you ask me."
"The one you saw IS dead," stated Daniel.
Wang stopped and turned around. Zhi stood tippy toe to see over her father's shoulder to see Daniel speak, "He's a clone created by General Chang. He escaped from the Han labs and we think Chang's been experimenting on him and maybe others."
"We think?" Wang asked, "Who do you work for?"
Daniel realized he had slipped, "I can't tell you that. But we're on the same side. You have to trust me."
Wang shook his head and winced in disappointment.
"He's torturing the Wing Kong clones with scientific experiments in the sub-basement labs of Han tower" said Daniel.
"What do we care of one Wing Kong?" question Qiang, "Alive, dead, or cloned."
Wang realized he still held Zhi's hand. He loved her very much.
"This is over our heads...clones, labs, Han tower. Are you kidding me?"
"I've got the blueprints for Han tower," exclaimed Daniel, "I can defeat the electronic security. But I'd never get passed the guards or the Tong Elite. But you can. If we work together we can do this."
Wang thought for a moment.
"We have more pressing matters," stated Qiang,
"Matters weren't so pressing when the Chang Sing exterminated the Wing Kong," stated Daniel to Qiang,
"We didn't exterminate them," stated Duyi.
"After most of them died with Lo Pan, you corralled the rest in a Chinatown alley," reminded Daniel, "You had them outnumbered 10 to 1. They refused to surrender to you saying they would rather die. The Chang Sing happily obliged them."
"The Wing Kong chose their fate. They deserve what they got. They're animals," stated Wang.
Daniel could see he was not being convincing enough.
Daniel then added the cherry on the sundae, "The Han Corporation's central database is in Han Tower. All the information on his illegal activities is in it...insider trading, tax evasion, everything. They don't expect a cyberattack from inside the building. Once we reach a direct terminal to the main server, a decent hacker would only need a few minutes."
"I bet I could do it," claimed Duyi.
"I'd love to get my hands on that info but Han tower is way too dangerous. We'd never get out alive," offered Qiang.
"He's lying," stated Zhi simply. Wang had come to appreciate Zhi's mental powers. But Wang didn't need mental powers to see that Zhi feared for her father's life and would say anything if she thought it was too risky.
Wang paused and thought.
Then he looked at Daniel and said, "We got our own cause to fight for. We don't need to fight for someone else's."
"Wang! Get out here now!" screamed Eddie as he threw open the door to basement. Startled by Eddie, Wang threw the backpack to one of the Chang Sing who understood he was to remain and watch over the prisoner. Wang and the remaining Chang Sing ran up the stairs and through the kitchen. By the entrance of the restaurant, Wang saw one of the Tong elite. In addition to the gold cummerbund and bowtie, this Tong also had a long black overcoat and a gold scarf. Wang recognized him has Shunyuan Chin, an old friend. Accompanying him were two other Tong Elite and two cops.
Wang and Qiang navigated around the tables and made their way to the entrance.
"Long time no see, Qiang...Wang." Shunyaun said in a friendly but sarcastic tone as Wang and Qiang approached him .
"Kitchen is closed Shunyaun," responded Qiang as he reached his old friend, "Maybe you come back tomorrow."
"Closed, huh, it looks like all of the staff is still here."
Shunyaun was referring to the waiters, waitresses, and kitchen staff whom he recognized as Chang Sing. Each of them had placed themselves in a strategic area of the room, readying for a fight. Shunyaun spotted Renshu Zhuang behind the bar. Renshu was an elder of the Chang Sing who left the Tong with Qiang. Shunyaun gave him a slight bow in respect. Renshu waited a few moments then returned the gesture.
"What do you want, Shunyaun?" asked Wang.
Shunyaun turned to his companions and motioned them to wait outside. The tension in the room dropped but didn't disappear.
"I want a cup of tea, Wang." Shunyaun said as he walked past Wang and sat at the bar. The confused Renshu looked at Wang. Wang nodded and the Renshu poured some hot water in a teapot and placed the teapot and a couple of cups in front of Shunyaun. Shunyaun poured himself a cup without hesitation. Wang joined Shunyaun at the bar and poured himself some tea as well..
"You always had the best tea, Wang."
Shunyaun paused for a long while, enjoying his tea. Qiang made his way to the back of the bar replacing Renshu. He made eye contact with Wang and put his hand underneath the bar countertop where the 12 gauge shotgun was stored. Wang shook his head subtly. Qiang put his hand back onto the bar, pulling up a teacup. He then poured himself a cup of tea.
"Employing Chang Sing. Speaking in public against Chinatown leadership. Spying on Chang and Han at the Mayor's Gala. Are you trying to destroy Chinatown, Wang?"
Qiang snickered, "When was the last time you were in Chinatown?"
Qiang knew Shunyaun well. Both of their fathers were Chang Sing and they were indoctrinated into the gang together. They fought the Wing Kong side by side many times. They considered each other brothers. But that all changed when Shunyaun became Tong Elite. When Qiang left and took the rest of the Chang Sing (those that did not become Tong Elite) with him, Qiang and Shunyaun ceased to be brothers.
Shunyaun took a long sip of his tea then put down his cup.
"I'm here every day, brother," Shunyaun responded with a scowl.
Wang interrupted, "No, not the new Chinatown where all the rich and famous hang out."
Wang took a long sip of his tea then continued, "he means the old Chinatown where we grew up. The parts you're going to buy, demolish, and build your shopping malls and condos."
On the other hand, Wang and Shunyaun were civil to each other. Up until Qiang left Han's leadership, Wang often acted as referee between Qiang and Shunyaun during their many arguments. Wang even tried to keep Shunyaun and Qiang's friendship together. Although futile, Shunyaun appreciated the attempt.
"I think what General Chang did to your beautiful Miao Yin was terrible," Shunyaun sipped his tea, "but necessary for progress, if you think about it. You of all people should know the burden of leadership. You shouldn't let your hatred for the man's deeds cloud your judgment, Wang."
"Miao Yin has nothing to do with this," Wang spoke slowly and clearly, "This is about Han destroying Chinatown."
"The old Chinatown was nothing more than a tourist trap," responded Shunyaun.
"Tell that to the people that still live there," said Qiang.
"Can't you see we're building something great here? Han is making Chinatown a center for commerce. Chinatown will no longer be just a tour bus stop. It will be the new Wall Street. A few people like you and the Chang Sing are standing in the way."
Wang was furious, "You are the one who is blind. It's people, people like us and waiter and the cooks who ARE Chinatown. Chinatown is not a power, it is a community. You get rid of the people and you destroy Chinatown."
Shunyaun tipped his head and the teacup back, finishing all of his tea. In satisfaction, he smacked his lips and said, "Ahhh."
Without missing a beat he continued, "You would have made a good politician, Wang. You should have applied to Han's college when I did. Maybe by now you would have enough influence to do something and work within the system instead of being an annoying outsider. For your own sake, Wang, as well as your daughter's, it's time to stop. I'd hate to see you hurt."
The statement took both Wang and Shunyaun by surprise. Shunyaun may have once or twice been curt with Wang but never had he threatened him. Although as the divide between the Chang Sing and the Tong Elite grew wider, anything was possible.
Qiang decided to press the point, "Will you be the one to hurt him, Shunyaun?"
Shunyaun placed his empty cup by the teapot. He paused for a moment then spoke kindly, "You always had the best tea, Wang."
Shunyaun laid a crisp $20 bill onto the bar and walked out. His companions followed. As they left, the Chang Sing collectively let out a sigh of relief. Then the room fell silent. Everyone found a spot in the restaurant and turned their thoughts inward as they became engrossed in their own heavy concerns for their future. They all had doubts about what they were doing and what Chang was doing. Were they really standing in the way of progress? Would they pay for it with their lives? Shunyaun's appearance made it all too apparent who had the power in Chinatown and who didn't. Perhaps it would be best to forget about Chang and the Tong Elite and get on with their lives.
Eddie came out of hiding behind the kitchen door. "Phew!" he groaned, "that was pretty tense. I thought for sure someone was going to grab a sword, or a knife, or an axe start a fight. Thank goodness that didn't happen. The press would have been terrible."
Eddie came up behind Wang and patted him on the back. He grabbed a cup, poured some tea into it, and sat down next to Wang.
"Can you believe that guy?"
"What?" asked Wang only half listening his mind still on Shunyaun's words.
"Shunyaun... Mr. Tong Elite," Eddie replied mockingly pushing his chest out, "He was so obvious."
Eddie's words caught everyone off guard and they began to listen more intently. Unfortunately, Eddie was busily drinking tea and felt no need to finish his thought.
"Eddie, what are you talking about?" asked Wang.
Eddie put down his cup, "Damn that is good tea."
"Oh, sorry. I mean.., just all that threatening stuff and that bull about interfering with Chinatown's future. It was just obvious he didn't mean a word of it."
Eddie's cell phone vibrated. He quickly looked at it and put it back in his pocket. He picked up the tea cup again.
"He was obviously just trying to get under your skin just to see if you had something up your sleeve or something."
A confused Wang asked, "What do you mean?"
Eddie responded "Well, obviously a guy like that just doesn't go around thinking about the future of his community. He just goes wherever Chang tells him to go. Chang needed some information on you, it's that simple. I guess he must be concerned about something."
Eddie took another sip of tea, "I mean I'm no legendary swordsman of kung fu master. But as your agent I've been dealing with sharks and shysters in the entertainment biz for years, I know someone with a hidden motive when I see one. Like that soy burger guy we met in Fresno. Remember him?"
Wang was always amazed at how wise Eddie was when he really wasn't thinking about it. He needed Eddie to continue without conveying how good he was doing.
"What do you think he was concerned about?" Wang asked refilling Eddie's tea.
"Thanks. Who knows? Maybe he's got some big investors coming into town and wants to make a good impression. Or maybe something is brewing that he doesn't want you to know about."
"Really?" Wang asked encouraging Eddie to continue.
"Let's face it, the man is pure evil. He's always up to something. Or maybe he thinks you got a hold of his financial records, huh?"
A hint of a smile returned to Wang's face.
"A guy like that is probably pretty worried all the time - worried that good people like you will find the opportunity one day to get something good on him and bring his house of cards down. Although, I don't know why Chang would be so concerned, now. All his secrets are locked up tight in Han Tower. I mean, it's not like we have the keys to the building or anything."
Wang locked eyes at Qiang with a determined look that the Chang Sing leader hated.
"By the way," questioned Eddie, "who's the loser in the basement?"
"No way, Wang. Don't even think about it!" screamed Qiang.
"Think about what?" asked Eddie "What's going on?"
Wang grabbed Eddie by the lapels, pulling him out of his chair, and gave him an impassioned bear hug. The sudden display of affection caused Eddie to spill his tea. Wang let him go then straightened out his clothes with a grin then headed straight for the basement. A line of concerned Chang Sing followed him.
"Wang!" screamed Qiang.
"Chang's up to something and I'm going to help this guy find out," asserted Wang, "then he'll help me get all the info we need to finally bring him down. This may be our only shot"
Wang continued dismissively, "No one said you and the others had to come with me."
A confused Eddie watched everyone leave the room as he wiped up the spill with a rag. He took another sip of tea while trying to wrap his mind about exactly what transpired in the past few minutes. Then it hit him.
"Oh my God!" he thought in wide-eyed amazement, "This is some damn good tea."
Daniel was pacing in his cell in he heard the commotion of a gaggle of people rushing down the stairs. He knew this was the moment. His plan either worked or they were coming to kill him. The door swung open.
"I'll get you inside Han Tower and you help me get information on Chang to put him away?" asked Wang curtly.
"YOU will get me inside?" questioned Daniel wondering why only Wang was going to accompany him.
"WE will get you inside," interrupted Qiang, "Hey, someone has to watch your back. I still don't trust this guy."
Wang smiled at his friend and Qiang returned it.
Qiang continued, "But I'm not ordering anyone else to go. This is dangerous - volunteers only."
"I'm the best hacker you've got. I'm in." Duyi chimed.
"An assault on Han Tower? This is shear madness," spoke Renshu, "and something so unexpected it might work. I'm in as well."
The other Chang Sing nodded in agreement and gave the Chang Sing hand sign to each other.
Daniel spoke, "I don't mean to interrupt the inevitable group hug that accompanies moments like this but can I please get out of this cage now?"
"Let him out," ordered Wang, "Everyone get your gear together. We leave in 15."
Wang's words set up a flurry of activity among the Chang Sing.
"I'm calling Ernie," remarked Wang, "What do you think? Will two dozen eggrolls be enough?"
"Eggrolls?" Daniel exclaimed.
Wang whipped out his cell phone and began to dial wildly.
Renshu approached the door to the cell with the keys.
With a smile Daniel said, "Don't worry. I got it."
Daniel stuck his hand outside the cage and put his finger by the lock. The tip of his finger opened to reveal the bionic devices underneath. With a mechanical whir, a small tool popped out. He stuck it into the lock and a few moments later swung the door wide open effortlessly.
"OK," Daniel said wiggling his toes, "who the hell's got my boots?"
Chapter 7: The Secret of Han Tower
Brian Chan was the nightshift supervisor of security at the Han Tower. He walked out of elevator into the lobby yawning and carrying his walkie talkie. His uniform was a bit frumpy from a long night’s work of really doing nothing. He made his way to the front security desk where two guards were watching the early morning news.
He grabbed the night’s log and asked, “Ready to head home, guys.”
“Yup,” both men said in a muffled voice, their mouths full of food.
“Smells good,” Brian said, “What are you eating?”
The guard sitting in the chair responded, “Something a delivery boy dropped off. Eggrolls, I think.”
Brian put the logbook back and said, “Hmmm…OK, see you guys….wait a minute did you say eggrolls?”
“YOU IDIOTS!” Brian screamed as he grabbed the bag and tried to close it to prevent the smell from getting out.
But it was too late. With the sound of shattering glass, two Chinese Wild men charged into the lobby toward the desk. Moments later a third popped out of an air vent, roaring wildly and licking his lips. Then a fourth forced the elevator doors open, climbing out of the shaft. The guards began to shoot them as Brian called for backup.
“Wow, they sure do love Ernie’s eggrolls. Don’t they?” asked Daniel, “What kind of wizard is he again?”
“A summoner,” answered Wang, “A Grand Master Rehe Summoner to be exact. His ancestors made food that smelled and tasted so good that people from miles away would come. After several generations of perfecting these recipes, eventually even demons and supernatural beings found their food irresistible. Ernie likes to keep a low profile and only make a dish or two for ‘special occasions’.”
“Eggrolls summoning Chinese Wild Men? That’s a new one” asked Daniel.
Qiang responded, “You should see who shows up when he makes his Peking Duck.”
“Heh, This way while the guards are busy. We don’t have much time.”
Daniel lead the Chang Sing to a door by the loading dock. As expected, there was an electronic security lock by the door. Daniel used his knife to pry open the front panel exposing wires and circuit boards. Daniel had a PDA in his hand. Daniel punched a few buttons to initiate the security bypass program. After a series of beeps, the door opened. The group ran inside with Renshu going in last.
Lady Jade sat upright in her bed, her long hair flowing over her bare shoulders.
“Gonsung?” she whispered.
General Chang answered, “Please my dearest, go back to sleep.”
Chang was standing at the closet at end of the bedroom, straightening out his suit pant leg to prepare to put his shoes on. At the top of Han Tower, Chang’s apartment had a wonderful view of San Francisco, particularly at night. Lady Jade’s beautiful silhouette arguably overshadowed the city skyline at night.
“Where are you going?” Jade asked.
“There’s an incident in the lobby. Probably just something minor.”
“Can’t you get someone else to check?”
Chang snickered, “Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.”
“Are you honestly going to quote Sun Tzu to me at 3 in the morning?” Jade yawned.
Chang laughed as he approached the bedside. Jade’s intellect was astounding even when she was half asleep.
“I won’t be long my dear,” Chang gave Lady Jade a short passionate kiss, “Now go back to sleep. You have an interview with Channel 5 at 8”
“And Channel 7 at 8:30.”
“Go back to sleep.”
Lady Jade collapsed back into her bed as Chang left the room.
“And if you want to STAY Tong Elite, I suggest you stop asking so many questions,” scolded the veteran Tong Elite with the long hair to the two rookie Tong Elite following close behind him.
The three pairs of handmade Italian shoes echoed through sterile hallways of level 23 of Han Tower as the group hurried to fulfill their orders.
“I just don’t understand what we’re doing here,” whined one of the rookie Tong Elite.
“There’s no way that Chang Sing trash could bypass all the security and the guards,” agreed the other rookie, “They would have to be the most cunning sons of …”
The group turned the corner to find Wang Chi and the Chang Sing waiting for them. The last thing the rookies saw before they fell unconscious were the fists of Duyi and Jia. However, the long-haired Tong Elite proved a much more formidable foe. It was Qiang’s job to handle him.
Qiang did indeed catch the veteran Elite by surprise but his extensive combat training kicked in and he was able to avoid Qiang’s punch by a hair. The Tong Elite then entangled the Chang Sing’s outstretched arm then forced him to the wall using Qiang’s own momentum against him. Qiang didn’t resist but instead he lengthened his stride and ran up the wall to flip himself over. Unfortunately, the Tong Elite’s spinning back fist connected with Qiang’s jaw. The pain just made Qiang angrier. He grabbed both sides of the Tong Elite’s head threw his knee into the bridge of his foe’s nose. The Tong Elite slumped onto the floor.
“Thanks for the help,” grumbled Qiang as he massaged his jaw.
“Sorry, you were too close for a clear shot,” apologized Duyi.
“I knew you had a handle on it,” smiled Wang.
A creaking door caught everyone’s attention. A lone Tong Elite came out of the restroom down the hall. The Chang Sing gasped as they noticed the alarm button was right next to the door.
“My turn,” whispered Wang as he leaped over the bodies on the floor.
The Tong Elite spotted the intruders and leaned to push the alarm. But before his hand made contact, a sword pinned his sleeve to the wall. Wang Chi felt a wave of relief but realized he had overextended himself and was in perfect position for the Tong Elite to strike him with his free hand. Wang prepared himself for the pain. The punch hurt more than expected. Then Wang returned the favor wholeheartedly. The Tong Elite dropped to the floor, his hand still held up against the wall by Wang’s sword.
Wang rubbed the side of his head as the remaining Chang Sing approached.
“Thanks for the help,” joked Wang.
“I knew you had a handle on it,” responded Qiang.
“This should be it,” claimed Daniel referring to a nearby door.
Daniel held up his PDA to the door lock and ran the security bypass programming.
“You know what the ironic thing is about this?” asked Daniel.
“No, what?” answered Wang.
“Behind this door may be one of the greatest accomplishments in history – human cloning,” Daniel continued, “Dr. Wei would have received the Nobel Prize.”
“He’s a Genetic Engineer PhD from Yale. His father was a Taoist alchemist. He combined alchemy with Western science with much success. He disappeared about a year ago. I heard that Chang kidnapped him, forced him to make these clones, then killed him to keep him from talking.”
“Just one more heinous act by Chang.”
“Luckily, Dr Wei had many other successful experiments…”
Before Daniel could finish his sentence, the large doors opened to reveal a small room with large clear water tanks in each corner. Each tank held a floating and unconscious clone.
“By the gods,” whispered Renshu as he and the others inspected the cloning tanks.
Daniel found a door on the opposite side of the room.
“This is probably the door to the main lab,” stated Daniel, “It looks like it may take me a couple of minutes to get into it.
Duyi inspected a computer in the corner of the room.
“This looks like a direct terminal to the main server,” he announced, “I’ll see if I can get that information on Chang.”
“Good luck,” responded Daniel.
Everyone else took the remark to mean that hacking into a Han computer was not going to be easy but Wang noticed something else in the tone. It was almost as if Daniel was laughing at Duyi. Wang wondered what Daniel would find so funny. The answer was infuriatingly clear.
Wang grabbed Daniel and threw him against the wall so hard that some of his stored gadgets fell out of their pouches and onto the floor. Wang stood back and pointed his sword at Daniel. Everyone froze in shock.
“There is no information on Chang is there?”
“Damn, you Dragon Servants ARE smart.”
Wang rushed Daniel grabbed him again and threw him against another wall. Wang pressed his blade lightly onto Daniel’s throat.
“You’re right I don’t know if that information is here. I doubt a guy like Chang would even keep that kind of information on a computer”
“So it was all a lie.”
“Not everything. Chang is experimenting on Wing Kong clones. They’re planning something big. I didn’t think I’d even get close without running into Tong Elite. I needed you guys to help me get into the labs. This is something that could affect us all.”
“We’ve got our own war to fight. We’re not going to help you fight yours. We’re out of here.”
“That’s right leave and play it safe like you’ve always done. You think you can fight a war against Chang by running away at the first sign of a Tong Elite? Your guerilla tactics will slow them down but you’ll never stop them. You think you can play nice with Chang and Chinatown won’t be torn apart? Little China is falling apart right before you. But maybe you can save part of it. Don’t you think it’s time to pick a side and take a stand?”
The doors opened.
“I’m sorry,” apologized General Chang, “Did we interrupt anything?”
Duyi launched an explosive arrow at Chang. With an elegant quickness, the General stepped aside allowing the arrow to shoot past him. Even when the arrow exploded on the wall behind him, Chang didn’t flinch.
“That damn scar!” thought Wang.
Wang could not take his eye off of Wang’s scar.
“That was…” began Chang.
Wang could swear that Chang paused because he noticed Wang staring at his scar. Wang averted his eyes.
Chang composed himself and continued, “That was very rude young one. Have your mentors not taught you the meaning of hospitality? Very well, I will show you the meaning of the word.”
Chang gestured to someone behind the Chang Sings. The Chang Sings turned to look to see two Tong Elite approach them from behind. Both held handguns at the ready in each hand, their laser sights pointed at Duyi and Jia.
“Come in friends. Don’t be shy. Welcome to Han Labs.”
The two Tong ushered the Chang inside, closing the door behind them. General Chang stood on a catwalk on the opposite side of the room one floor up. The Chang Sing also noticed Shunyaun standing on a raised computer control panel to just underneath the catwalk to their right.
“Breaking and entering is a new low for you,” accused Chang, “and you have an accomplice this time.”
Chang notice Daniel Lee, “Please introduce yourself, young one.”
Daniel responded, “Hey, thought this place was a bank and I was applying for a car loan. Next thing you know I end up here.”
“Most interesting,” Chang smirked, “judging by your equipment, I’d say there’s a strong chance that you’re the hacker that’s been annoying us of late.”
Daniel just shrugged his shoulders.
“I would guess, too, that you don’t work alone. That PDA in your hand would probably hold a great deal of useful information.”
Chang gestured and one of the Tong Elite snatched the PDA from Daniel’s hand.
“This isn’t over, Chang.” announced Wang.
General Chang replied, “It would sadden Miao Yin to see you in jail.”
“Say her name again and I will kill you where you stand, Chang.”
If it was possible to bow sarcastically, Chang did so. He then continued, “You must understand that I did what needed to be done. In order to prosper, Chinatown needed to expel all the old superstition and magic. The deportation of Miao…uh…your lovely wife, so touched by black magic was not only necessary but beneficial to Chinatown.”
“Miao Yin was no threat to you or anyone else.” stated Wang.
“I’m sorry she died in such a tragic and sudden manor but fate is like that.”
Wang’s raw emotions were much more difficult to control than he liked to admit.
Chang continued, “You’ve made your choices Wang. You could have gone back to China with her…perhaps prevented her death. But you decided to stay.
“Yes unfortunately, you decided to stay in Chinatown, as well, to be Han Ling’s lackey.”
The remark angered Chang but the venerable General knew better than to respond unkindly.
You have impeccable timing Wang. Today we celebrate a momentous occasion. Now you will witness a new era of Chinatown prosperity. As you know, we still have many gangs and thugs in Chinatown other than yourself of course. When the Chang Sing left Han Ling, he was left without foot soldiers in his constant battle against crime. The Tong Elite were officers without an army. Now he shall have the fiercest warriors fighting for us. I present to you the new Wing Kong.”
General Chang flipped a switch and the lights in the chamber came up one by one to reveal hundreds of man-sized water tanks each occupied by a cloned Wing Kong warrior. The Chang Sing stared in awe at the tool of their eventual demise.
“There is no use resisting, Wang. You see, we not only recreated the Wing Kong. We improved them!”
Wang watched as a group of Wing Kong began to fill the catwalk. A few took positions to surround the Chang Sing. The new Wing Kong appeared to be half human and half animal. The variety of animals was immense – leopards, tigers, rhinos, and bears were just a few Wang could make out.
“Because it is such a historic day, I will give you a gift. I will spare your lives. Lay down your weapons and you will be allowed to leave.”
The Chang Sing looked at each other in confusion.
“This is not a trick my friends to attack you unarmed. The simple fact of the matter is you are beaten. You can not possibly stand against us now. We’ve also jammed your communications so you can’t even call for help.”
Daniel joked, “Can’t even call for help? You mean like, ‘Help, help, help. I’m in trouble. Help. Help. Help.”
“Yes that’s exactly what I…” Chang’s words were interrupted by Daniel’s PDA which sprang to life with internal mechanical noises.
Daniel looked at Wang and stated, “I told you, with my gadgets, I prefer to use plain English.”
Wang’s eyes widened. Daniel grabbed Duyi and Jia and pushed them to the floor. Wang grabbed Qiang and Renshu and followed Daniel’s example.
“Get rid of it you fool,” ordered Chang.
But the Tong Elite was too slow to react and the PDA exploded like a flash bang grenade. The two Tong Elite were down for the count. The Chang Sing took advantage of the situation. Qiang punched the nearest Wing Kong. Qiang withdrew his hand in pain. It was like punching a rhino. The Wing Kong just angrily snorted at Qiang but his eyes rolled to the back of his head and he fell over. At that point, the other nearby Wing Kong joined the fight. Duyi ran to the panel next to the door.
“It’s locked,” he cried.
“Don’t panic,” ordered Wang, “We just have to…”
Out of the corner of his eye, Wang noticed something come at him. He instinctively put his sword above his head and he heard a loud clang.
“I tried to warn you Wang,” claimed Shunyaun his eyes no longer showing friendship.
Wang noticed two figures rushing on his flanks.
“Yeah, thanks for that,” responded Wang sarcastically as he tangled Shunyaun’s right forearm and threw him at the figure approaching on him from his left. Wang continued his turn to attack the other figure. Shunyaun dove as his intended target jumped over him to continue rushing towards Wang. When Wang heard only silence when there should have been two bodies crashing into each other, he realized he needed a change in plan. A moment before attacking, Wang jumped and cartwheeled in the air, slashing at the figure that was on his right from above and dodging the attack from the other figure from behind. Wang’s swords were deflected with a shower of sparks. He landed to face all three of his attackers
The two figures were Wing Kong clones. One of them appeared to be a wolf, the other a tiger. Both wore clawed gauntlets that fit over their forearms. Wang realized the gauntlets were the things that blocked his swords. The Wing Kong closed for another attack. The wolf slashed at Wang. Wang blocked the attack then turned in time to block the attack from the tiger. The wolf took another swing. Wang cartwheeled over it, slicing a bit of the tiger’s bicep on the way down. The wolf took that moment to thrust his claws at Wang. Wang spun away from his attack slashing at the Wolf’s shins. To normal humans, the wounds that Wang inflicted would slow them down. The clones showed no sign of pain or hesitation.
The clones attacked again with the ferocity of wild animals and the accuracy of well-trained soldiers. He knew Shunyaun would not let loose such talent without a strategy. Wang restrained his attack allowing his foe’s intentions unfold.
Wang watched the tiger Wing Kong take an attack position and caught a glimpse of Shunyaun in the background. Wang saw Shunyaun raise his hand to fire a weapon. The Dragon Servant began to dodge the bullets from the Glock, bouncing off desks, walls, and other structures with the grace of a gazelle. At the same time, he had to contend with the Wing Kong. But Wang knew he couldn’t do much against three attackers. When he counted off the 19th shot, Wang knew it was his chance to attack. What Wang would soon realize is that Shunyaun did not intend to hit him. The Tong Elite warrior just needed to position him. Shunyaun threw his Glock at the computer monitor mounted on a pole next to Wang. The device exploded in a shower of sparks that blinded Wang. Shunyaun then kicked a desk chair that hit Wang squarely in the face, duly halting his attack. Blinded and in pain, Wang flopped onto the ground prone to all three foes
“Damn,” thought Wang.
He had heard of the Tong Elite developing some sort of anti-Chi fighting techniques but he never imagined they would be so effective. A lesser man would have given up right there. There was no way to defend against a combine attack from all three. But Wang refused to surrender. He searched for something that could help him. The trio advanced for the kill. Wang put his mind in order, as he was taught to when in combat. In moments, Wang saw the truth in it. Shunyaun alone would make the killing blow. His ego demanded no less. But Wang was still blind and had no idea from where Shunyaun would attack. As almost an answer to a prayer, as Shunyaun approached for the kill, he stepped in the glass from the exploded monitor. That was all Wang needed. He quickly figured out Shunyaun’s position and rolled away to avoid the strike. Wang figured Shunyaun would reposition himself to strike again rather than dodge the attack again, so Wang spun on his back and used his legs to sweep at Shunyaun who fell to the ground with a thump. Wang kicked him towards the Wing Kong hoping to knock both down. Wang managed to trip up the wolf but the tiger avoided Shunyaun to come in for a strike. Wang deflected his attack with one sword and focused on Shunyaun with the other. The surprised Shunyaun didn’t have a chance to defend himself and Wang’s sword came right at Shunyaun’s neck. But at the last second, Wang stopped his attack.
“Can’t do it, can you, Wang?” smiled Shunyaun, “You can kill demons but not a friend, even one that has tried to kill you.”
Shunyaun swatted Wang’s sword away with his own, “That’s why you’ll never win.”
Shunyaun gestured to Wang to take a closer look around him. Wang could see the room was filled with cloned animal Wing Kong. He realized Chang had only sent in a small group to confront him and the rest of the Chang Sing, probably to see how they would perform one on one. The rest of the Wing Kong were awaiting orders to attack and finish off the Chang Sing. Shunyaun used Wang’s moment of awe to come in for another attack adeptly aided by his two super-Wing Kong Clones. The three attacked almost as one, Wang could not find a way to get the upper hand.
“What’s the point, Wang?” Shunyaun asked, “You can’t bring yourself to kill me anyway. I just need to give the word and the Wing Kong will come in and tear you and your friends apart in seconds. You are hopelessly beaten.”
The trio began their final attack. Wang knew the battle belonged to Shunyaun. But for some strange reason, he found that invigorating. No one had tested Wang’s skills like Shunyaun and the Wing Kong. Wang began to understand more about himself. He could almost hear his ancestors whispering to him, telling him what it truly meant to be a Dragon Servant Warrior. A thought entered his head that surprised him – Chang’s scar. The picture of Chang’s scar filled his mind. He struggled to focus his thoughts.
But then Shunyaun interrupted, “I wanted to fight you to see your Dragon Servant skills for myself.”
Wang tried to ignore Shunyaun but something told him to listen carefully.
Shunyaun continued, “I’m going to order the Wing Kong to kill you now. It was an honor to fight a Dragon Servant and his swords.”
That was the answer he was looking for. Wang wondered how he could have been so blind.
“You know what they say about a Dragon Servant’s swords?” Wang asked with a smile.
Shunyaun could only respond with a look of confusion.
Wang smiled, “They say his swords are sharp enough to cut through lies!”
Shunyaun noticed Wang’s smile. Something was different and Shunyaun took a step back to brace himself. But Wang just turned his back on Shunyaun. He looked directly at General Chang. Shunyaun could see his master was just as confused as he was. Then with a speed that Shunyaun had never seen before, Wang threw his sword at General Chang.
Chang dodged it as easily as he did Duyi’s arrow earlier. After what happened next, Chang would never underestimate Wang Chi again. Chang had focused on Wang’s first sword, he didn’t see his second sword coming at him. He tried to dodge it but it was too late. The sword pierced Chang’s chest through his heart. Time froze. The Chang Sing, the Tong Elite, and the new Wing Kong stopped their fighting and stared at Chang. They stared not because he had a sword through his chest but because the sword through his chest didn’t seem to bother him at all. Chang didn’t collapse, he didn’t tense in pain, he didn’t even bleed. However, he did look plenty pissed off. He took a hankerchief from his coat pocket and wiped the sweat off his upper lip. He then reached back behind him and pulled the sword out. Again, he didn’t seem to be in pain.
“You fool!” a ghostly voice echoed through the room, “I told you not to underestimate the boy.”
Wang turned to Qiang and Daniel and asked, “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” responded both.
The voice sounded familiar. Wang tried hard but couldn’t quite place it. Wang would later realize that he absolutely knew whom the voice belonged to, he was just too frightened to admit to himself.
The voice continued, “Now they all know our little secret – not just the old Chang Sing but your precious Tong Elite as well, you pathetic moron. This really pisses me off to no end!”
Wang could no longer deny it, “That voice… It’s Lo Pan’s.”
Lo Pan continued, “Ching Dai may have given you my heart, and thus my immortality, but he should have given you some of my brains as well. Maybe you could have used them to…Wait…The boy”
Chang looked down at Wang who stared up with fright and amazement.
Lo Pan stated slowly in astonishment, “He can hear me.”
Wang could almost see the outline of Lo Pan’s spirit talking to Chang.
“Quickly you dim-witted fool,” Lo Pan ordered Chang, “Run before he discovers all your secrets. Must I always tell you everything?”
Chang was tired of the old dead wizard telling him what to do. He was tired of his ceremonial silk robes and his disgusting long painted fingernails. And his voice! His voice made him shiver to his core like nails on a chalkboard.
“I hope you’re enjoying Hell, wizard,” whispered Chang.
“Shut up and run you idiot. Run now. It’s that simple. Understand!” Lo Pan repeated.
Chang slammed his hand on the railing of the catwalk in frustration then turned around and ran back into the hallways of the Han Corporation. The Tong Elite were confused. All their lives they shunned the supernatural only to find out that their master may be a creature of magic himself. They instinctively followed him. At the very least, they had to ensure their master was safe. Shunyaun was the last to follow. He turned to the Wing Kong and old Chang Sing who were all just standing still in awe and confusion, replaying the scene of Chang laughing and pulling a sword out of his chest without a care. Shunyaun was angered by the arrogance of the obviously inferior Chang Sing.
“Kill them. Kill them all,” Shunyaun ordered the Wing Kong as the door shut behind him.
The Chang Sing found themselves alone with the Wing Kong for the first time in over 15 years. The two groups glared at each other across the would-be battlefield with the intensity of a feud that has lasted for centuries. There would be no mercy, no negotiation, just glorious death and honor. The stern warriors readied their weapons. Several moments passed.
“What’s going on?” whispered Daniel, “Why isn’t anyone moving?”
“Shhhh!” responded Duyi, “Chinese standoff.”
Daniel turned his head slightly raising an eyebrow in confusion.
“It’s just something we do, alright?” scolded Duyi, “Just be quite and look as mean as possible.”
Daniel’s pose stiffened and he tried several mean faces but all felt awkward. He was relieved when one Wing Kong roared a war cry followed by the other Wing Kong. The Chang Sing responded with their own battle cry and the melee began.
The room looked like a tidal wave of claws, fangs, and talons heading toward the Chang Sing as the Wing Kong pounced and jumped off walls to attack them. Renshu’s and Duyi’s explosive shuriken stopped the first few Wing Kong in their places. But many others pounced through the smoke undaunted. Qiang, Wang, and Daniel were the first to charge in, jumping over a dozen yards in one leap. Wang was surprised to see how easily Daniel kept up with him. Wang realized that Daniel had more than just cybernetic fingers.
As he landed, Qiang decapitated one then slashed another across the chest. A third Wing King tried to slash him from his right flank but he ducked and rolled to avoid it. During the roll, he picked up one of the Wing Kong’s swords and he threw it to Wang.
“Nice trick with the PDA,” praised Wang to Daniel.
Daniel responded, “Thanks.”
“By the way that PDA…” Wang asked as he slashed a rat-looking Wing Kong.
“What about it?”
“That’s the same one that allowed you to bypass the locks to get into the building, right?”
“And could be used to help us escape this locked room”
Daniel punched a pig-looking Wing Kong then added, “Of course.”
“So now it’s in a million pieces?”
“Looks like it.”
“Just checking,” Wang sarcastically replied, “Don’t suppose you got a spare?”
“I did but I think it fell on the floor in the other room when you threw me against the wall earlier.”
“Oh, sorry ‘bout that” apologized Wang.
“Bygones!” responded Daniel.
Wang thrust the sword to the Wing Kong in front of him. But the Wing Kong jumped up and over to avoid the attack. Quickly, Wang drew the sword back, spun around, the held up the sword to block the Wing Kong’s talons as they came down for an attack. The Wing Kong shrieked in pain as his talons dug into the sword’s edge. Then Wang realized that his back was to the attacking Wing Kong. He ducked under and to the right of the sword, avoiding the horns of Wing Kong that instead took out his taloned comrade. Then Wang slashed at the stomach of the horned Wing Kong then thrusted his sword into his next attacker. Wang then kicked him away so Renshu could get a clear shot at him. Renshu’s arrow went through his heart.
Renshu and Duyi positioned themselves on stairs on the sides of the chamber. The positions allowed both to attack from elevated positions and to cover each other. The two shot a series of arrows, each finding their target. Renshu nodded at Duyi and both knocked an arrow and shot into the middle of the crowd away from the Chang Sing. Several Wing Kong then froze in place forcing those charging behind them to fall over.
Jia used the fallen Wing Kong like stepping stones, jumping from one to the other, slashing and stabbing as many Wing Kong as she could as she crossed the room. But a small Wing Kong jumped on her back to slow her down. With the grace of a ballet dancer on crack, Jia spun around wildly until the Wing Kong flew off her back and into the crowd. However, Jia did not realize that the Wing Kong used his tail to entangle Jia’s arm and he tugged on her to bring her closer. Wang came in and cut off the tail, making the Wing Kong scream like a monkey.
“That’s a new one. Remind me to update our training,” Wang said to Jia.
Jia nodded and smiled.
DOWN!” Qiang screamed in mid jump as he approached Wang and Jia. The two ducked and Qiang flew over them to stab a large Wing Kong in the chest. The creature winced in pain for a second then continued his attack, lowering his head then using his horn to impale Qiang and throw him up in the air. Qaing landed with a thud. It began to charge again but several explosive arrows eventually stopped it. Wang went to Qiang’s side. He checked the wound hoping wound wasn’t as bad as he thought. But it was. Wang knew they would all soon meet the same fate.
“Wang Chi!” an unfamiliar but friendly voice yelled from behind him.
Wang glanced back to see the door they came through was now opened. The person waved him to come through.
“Wang Chi!” the figure yelled again.
Wang Chi thought the voice sounded like a woman’s. Wang didn’t have time to try to figure out who opened the door for them or why. He grabbed Qiang, put his arm around his friend and began to lead him out. Qiang was holding his stomach trying to stop the bleeding.
“Everyone out of here!” Wang ordered everyone.
Jia grabbed Renshu and they ran out together. Daniel was busy at a computer terminal as Duyi grabbed him firmly on the arm.
“Hold on!” Daniel ordered as he yanked out a thumb drive from the terminal, “This virus should slow down their plans.”
Daniel stuffed the thumb drive into his pocket and followed Duyi. Just before they got to the door, Daniel stopped. He removed his bandolier of grenades and looked at Duyi. Duyi nodded. Daniel threw the bandolier in the air. Duyi took aim then shot at it, sticking it to one of the catwalks. The two ran out after their companions. After a few moments the timed explosive on the arrow went off exploding the bandolier, sending flames throughout the lab. The Wing Kong went berserk trying to extinguish themselves. They were aided by the fire suppression system which turned on the sprinkler and closed all the doors to the lab to keep the fire from spreading.
“Follow me,” the figure said as she ran down the corridor. The Chang Sing followed her into the stairwell. The figure stood up on the stairs leading up and said, “Go to the bottom level. There’s a vent just outside the door. That’s the way out.”
Daniel caught up to the injured Qiang. He wrapped his torso quickly to stop the bleeding.
“This should hold for a while,” Daniel announced.
Assured that his friend was in good hands, Wang turned his attention back to their rescuer. She had long flowing hair and even with just a silhouette, Wang could tell she was beautiful. Wang eye’s finally adjusted to the low light level and he immediately recognized the woman. It was Lady Jade, General Chang’s courtesan.
“You?” he said, “why…”
“You don’t have much time,” Lady Jade whispered, “we both must go now.”
Lady Jade ran upstairs. Wang lead the others down. Once Wang found the air vent, he recognized the smell of the air coming from it. Even after seventeen years, it was something Wang did not forget.
Chapter 8: Return to the Bog of the Dead Trees
Duyi was the last to climb down the rope, hitting the ground with a subtle grunt. He scanned the tunnels taking note of the mangled architecture and unearthly mist on the ground.
“I never thought I would see this,” Duyi said.
“It’s kind of…beautiful,” stated Jia.
“Don’t think for a second we’re out of danger. It might have been better to stay inside Han Tower,” stated Wang.
Resnhu checked on Qiang’s bandage and claimed, “We need to get him to a Hospital.”
“The Tong Elite will be watching all the hospitals,” reminded Duyi
“We may need to take that chance,” stated Wang.
“Maybe not,” interrupted Daniel, “I know a place we could go.”
The group did not walk for more than 15 minutes but the twist and turns had everyone lost, except for Daniel. Suddenly Daniel turned to touch a rock wall and simply stated, “This is it.”
Daniel felt around the rock wall until he found a particular crack. He tugged at the rock and it flipped open to reveal a hidden panel. Daniel punched a few buttons in the panel. The rock shimmered like a mirage then faded away to reveal a metal door. It opened as Daniel approached. The rest remained in place with apprehension.
“C’mon,” Daniel said, “Do you want to stay here or get Qiang some help?”
When all squeezed in, Daniel said aloud, “Command Center.”
The elevator began to move up quickly with an unnatural “whoosh” as they past several levels. A few moments later the door opened up to an expansive room full of computer screens, catwalks, technicians, and guards. There was a platform above them with stairs that lead down on both sides close to the elevator. The floor in front of the group was made of glass which looked into a room below that housed a large and sophisticated computer mainframe. Guards were standing on both sides of the group near the stairs. One guard approached Daniel. But once the guard recognized him, he stopped and walked back to his post.
“Leonard!” screamed Daniel.
A man on the platform straightened up and turned around. He saw the group of Chang Sing and stated, “Oh my God, Daniel. What have you done?”
Wang didn’t recognize the man, at first, without his tuxedo. Something told him to look at the wall just above the elevator door. The big bold logo of PACOPS hung over the heads of the Chang Sing. Wang realized that Leonard was Leanard Meng, the C.E.O. of PACOPS the same one that accompanied Han Ling and Chang Sing to the Gala and was working closely with them.
“I had to bring them here,” stated Daniel as he made his way up the stairs toward Leonard, “we can’t do this alone. We need their help. One of them is hurt, too.”
The other Chang Sing realized where they were just moments after Wang did.
“PACOPS! We’re in PACOPS! It’s a trap!” screamed Jia.
Daniel turned around to look at the surprised Chang Sing as they raised their weapons for a fight. The guards raised theirs in return and more came running.
“NO!” Daniel screamed to the Chang Sing, “It’s not what you think. We can help. The Wing Kong are not the only successful genetic engineering experiments of Dr. Wei.”
But the brash Duyi would not hear of it. He quickly drew back his dagger and took a shot at Leonard Meng as any resident of Chinatown would do if given the chance.
The dagger flew true towards Leonard’s temple. But it stopped just inches in front of it. Another figure stepped forward with the dagger in hand. He was vaguely familiar although Wang was sure he had never met this one before. He looked half Chinese and half white, wearing jeans, boots, and a t-shirt. He could have been no more than 16 years old. Then Wang realized there were about a dozen other figures around him with the same familiar look walking toward him with an undeniable swagger and a flowing mullet.
“Heh,” shrugged the figure with the dagger in his hand “it’s all in the reflexes.”
Like a ragdoll, Qiang slumped onto the floor.
“Quickly, get him to medical,” ordered Daniel to the security guards.
Several guards approached the Chang Sing who held up their weapons in defense of their fallen friend. They each kept their gaze on the guards, hoping no one else noticed that they were in no shape for a fight.
“Please, let us help him,” begged Daniel, “You may accompany him if you wish.”
Wang nodded to the group. The Chang Sing lowered their weapons. The guards quickly but gently picked up Qiang and put him on a gurney, wheeling him into the elevator. The Chang Sing followed.
Daniel ran down the stairs with his brother Leonard in tow and grabbed Wang before he got into the elevator, “Wait,” he said, “Remember, I asked you if you thought it was time to take a side and pick a stand? Do you have an answer?”
Wang had many doubts and questions. But all the things he saw in the past 24 hours, he knew his fight was bigger than he had ever imagined. He also had the nagging suspicion that he had even more enemies than he had seen tonight. Wang knew to his core that to save Little China, he didn’t need friends, he needed allies.
Chapter 9: Striking a Deal in the Hell of Being Cut to Pieces
Now, we shall end with the beginning
Seventeen years ago, in the Hell of Being Cut to Pieces, thousands of sinners screamed as they were eviscerated over and over again. But one shriek in particular was distinguishable and unique.
“Ching Dai, I was your humble servant for centuries. Why have you placed me here?” questioned Lo Pan.
In mortal time, Lo Pan arrived here only a few days ago. But time moves faster in Hell. So Lo Pan feels like he’s been tortured here for decades. He had been sliced into small pieces, reformed, and chopped up again in an unending agonizing cycle. As with all the sinners here, Lo Pan had his own multi-armed demon attendant. In each hand, the demon held a different bizarre and unusual knife, some were used to cut bone, others were used to cut flesh, all caused great pain. Lo Pan was upright with his feet shackled to the ground and his arms held up by chains that seem to extend into the infinite blackness. Lo Pan’s torso was cut open from chin to belly button. His skin and rib cage were split and folded open like a baked potato.
Lo Pan had been calling to his master since he arrived without a response. He was pleased when he finally arrived.
Lo Pan cried, “Ching Dai!”
Ching Dai, with eyes of purple flame and robed in the blackest of black cloth accented with gold spun so fine that it was almost transparent, towered over the sinners and the knife demons. He enjoyed this Chamber of Hell. Not only were the greatest of sinners in wretched agony here but the fine mist of blood that filled the air was good for his sinuses. When Ching Dai found Lo Pan, he approached him. The demon that was hacking up Lo Pan stopped his work, took a step back and bowed respectfully to Ching Dai.
“Yes, my faithful servant.” answered Ching Dai.
“Please release me from here. I served you faithfully for centuries, spreading chaos in the mortal realm in your honor. Please let your most dedicated disciple leave this place.”
“Yes, you have served me well Lo Pan,” responded Ching Dai as he slowly stroked Lo Pan’s raw lungs with his long fingernail, “Thousands worshipped me because they feared you. Your enslaved enemies built many temples in my honor. You were the greatest of my great servants.”
Lo Pan took a breath to ease the pain, “Then why am I here, my Master?”
Ching Dai licked his finger, “Oh my humble servant, such is the price.”
“The price?” Lo Pan asked.
“Why, the price of failure, of course!” spoke a voice from behind Ching Dai.
Ching Dai and several nearby demons turned around to find a man of chiseled features and a well-pressed Armani suit staring up at Ching Dai. His presence was a surprise to all.
“Is there no greater sin than failure?” questioned the man.
Ching Dai shrieked, “A mortal? Here?”
The figure bowed slowly and respectfully, “My name is General Gonsung Chang, most Exalted One. It is quite an honor to meet you.”
He turned slightly to Lo Pan and bowed only somewhat, “And you as well my Lord.”
Ching Dai then noticed something hanging from Chang ’s neck.
“The Lost Medallion of Xichua,” grumbled Ching Dai, “Damn, I really hate that thing.”
As one could have guessed from Ching Dai’s reaction, The Lost Medallion of Xichua was a powerful magic artifact. Among other things it allowed the wearer to contact Ching Dai directly and even allow him to make a small request of the ancient Demon God.
Ching Dai gasped, “Where was the medallion found this time?”
Chang grinned, “It was hidden and protected in a small village for quite a while until one my loyal troops found it and gave it to me. It took me many years to find out what it is and how to use it. But only mere moments to figure what I wanted to do with it.”
“Fine. What do you ask of me mortal?” asked Ching Dai, “You best be quick. That thing won’t protect you for long down here.”
“Just a simple request Great One.”
General Chang pointed toward Lo Pan.
Ching Dai laughed heartily, “No naïve mortal one. You can not bring back Lo Pan to your world. He was killed through mortal means by a mortal – a rather stupid one even by mortal standards if you ask me but that is of no matter. My point is that there are rules that even I must abide.”
“Forgive me Great One,” asked Chang , “I did not mean ALL of Lo Pan.”
One eye flame became higher than the other on Ching Dai. Chang assumed that meant that Ching Dai was raising an eyebrow in confusion.
“JUST HIS HEART!” sneered Chang .
Ching Dai’s eyes widened and the purple flame intensified momentarily. Though still technically a man, Lo Pan had been granted powers from Ching Dai’s formidable magic to the point where even parts of him were potential magic artifacts in themselves, each containing an aspect of Lo Pan’s vast powers. Ching Dai smiled. He would never say it to the mortal but the request was indeed intriguing.
“So you wish to have Lo Pan’s immortality?” asked Ching Dai.
“Yes, Ching Dai” bowed Chang.
“You understand that to do so would mean that your own heart will need to removed and Lo Pan’s heart put in its place?”
“Yes, Ching Dai,” bowed Chang once more.
“You also understand you will feel unimaginable pain with each slice and stitch. “
“Yes, Ching Dai,” bowed Chang without hesitation.
Ching Dai paused for a moment. He thought that his last statement would surely set him running back to the world of man. But it didn’t. At the very least, Ching Dai thought, he had to look at him once more and commit his likeness to memory.
“Very well,” shrugged Ching Dai.
With a flourish of his robe, Ching Dai turned around and grabbed a knife from the demon next to Lo Pan. Ching Dai then proceeded to cut out Lo Pan’s heart. Lo Pan pulled on his chains and screamed in agony. Ching Dai turned back to General Chang and handed him Lo Pan’s still beating heart. Chang took it in his hands. Ching Dai gestured and the medallion floated then disappeared, transported back to a random location in the mortal realm.
“If a thousand years passes before someone finds that damn thing again and asks me for something it will be too soon,” complained Ching Dai.
He turned to the knife demon and continued, “These idiotic mortals. It’s always I want to have riches this or I want to conquer that, women, power, blah, blah, blah. At least this guy was half-way interesting,”
The demon shrugged his many shoulders and nodded in agreement. Ching Dai turned back toward Chang ,
“One more thing.” Ching Dai gestured at something to Chang’s right and he turned to see what it was. But before Chang could react, Ching Dai used his index finger to claw a small but nasty wound would under Chang’s left eye. Ching Dai knew it would leave a hellish scar on the mortal’s face.
“That,” bellowed Ching Dai, “was for interrupting me while I was talking.”
Ching Dai then turned and gave his back to Chang.
“Go now mortal. You have your request.”
Ching Dai gestured and Chang bowed, disappearing back to the mortal world. As Chang faded, Ching Dai lamented on the mortal’s request. He reveled in the fact that granting a man Lo Pan’s heart would be the cause of much chaos in the mortal world. Then a glorious thought dawned on Ching Dai: if giving one piece of Lo Pan to one mortal would create great chaos in the realm of man, then giving several pieces to several mortals would surely mean the utter destruction of their world!
Lo Pan interrupted, “Ching Dai, please Magnificent One, release me. I will not fail you again. ”
Ching Dai moved closely to Lo Pan, placing his fingers under Lo Pan’s chin to bring his face closer.
Lo Pan continued, “Please, let me go. My Great Master, I shall serve you well once more.”
Ching Dai’s sinister booming voice replied, “INDEED!”
Ching Dai took a step back then nodded to the knife demon who began to cut off pieces of Lo Pan that his master needed. Lo Pan convulsed in vile pain. Ching Dai then gestured and several other knife demons joined in.
Seventeen years ago, in the Hell of Being Cut to Pieces, thousands of sinners screamed as they were eviscerated over and over again. Lo Pan’s torturous shriek echoed over them all. But even that was soon drowned out by Ching Dai’s own laughter.