Disclaimer: THE SHOW'S NOT MINE. This particular story is, BUT THAT'S ABOUT IT.
A/N: So… It's been a long, long time since I updated. But instead of giving some long, rambling explanation and apologizing about fifty-billion times (by the way, I'M SORRY,) I'll just get to the story. HOWEVER: I would suggest that you go to my profile for a very important announcement, please. Thank you.
It's a short chapter? Horrors! (My only explanation: My writing style changed. Sorry.)
unknown: Oh, they'll find out about him...eventually. ;)
Independent.C.: I haven't given up just yet. Thank you for your support!
(Because the page-cuts aren't working...)
A Xiaolin Showdown fanfiction
Written by blue-eyes2014
Chapter Thirteen: Talking it Out
Mist was common at this elevation. From far off, it would appear as a sea of cloud, broken only by the taller peaks of the mountains. But with a closer look, one would see that they were, in fact, separate, puffs of gray gliding along silently and peacefully. It had a dreary beauty to it, and the tone was marvelous for Wuya when she needed some air away from Chase's fortress.
The Heylin witch sat on a precipice, watching as clouds glided by, and once in a while turned her head. She did this casually, as though simply cracking a stiff part, but her eyes roved around her, keeping careful watch for crows…among other things.
Wuya knew this place quite well; she often came here when the grandeur of the fortress became too garish for her or Chase was particularly disagreeable. She had stumbled upon it rather quickly and, pleased to find that it was a safe distance from Chase, she visited it to think of things in private. Upon occasion, it served as a nice place to meet and plan with persons who Chase found disagreeable to his taste.
Tonight was no exception.
"You have been given the allotted time, Wuya."
Although she stiffened, it was more from the quietness of the speaker's approach than shock. Calmly, she turned her head to see two figures standing behind her, a large feline with flaming green eyes and a flame-tufted tail, and a young man in black, the hood of his long coat slightly hiding his face. She nodded to them in greeting.
"Hello yourself," said the man. "It's time for an answer, Wuya."
"Oh, come now, Brant," said Wuya in a mock-pout as she rose to her feet, walking over to stand before the pair. "Why so formal? Aren't we friends?"
Brant raised an eyebrow. "Isn't that what we're all here to find out?"
"Our offer will terminate by dawn tomorrow should you not answer, Wuya," said Wraith reminded her matter-of-factly; "you know this very well."
"Of course, I remember," Wuya sighed, waving her hand dismissively. Wraith's eyes narrowed, but otherwise showed no reaction to the witch's flippancy. "I've given this a lot of thought, and have a decision..." Here she paused, as though choosing her next words carefully. "...But what will I get out of this?"
The duo's faces were impassive. "Whatever do you mean?" asked Wraith calmly. "Shouldn't such a noble cause be reward enough?"
"Oh, of course!" exclaimed Wuya, as though shocked by such a notion. The corners of Brant's mouth twitched ever-so-slightly into a knowing smirk, but when the witch's suspicious eyes darted to him, it had vanished. She cleared her throat, and said, "I was just asking, perhaps..."
"If we could restore your rightful powers to you," finished Brant; it was not a question.
Wuya tried her hardest not to look too pleased that the young man had caught on. "Well, of course that's been on my mind...," she chuckled airily, as though it were of little importance to her.
"Cut the act, Wuya. We're both very aware that you want your powers back more than anything."
The Heylin witch hesitated for a moment, as though briefly considering if it was worth risking such a selfish question, and then blurted, "Can you?"
Wraith and Brant looked at each other, communing silently. Wraith gave an imperceptible nod, and Brant turned back to the witch.
"It's certainly possible," he replied coolly; an evasive note tickled his tone.
Wuya looked at the two as the words processed. Then the witch's eyes narrowed. "'Possible'...?" she murmured, the seeds of doubt slowly beginning to blossom.
"The matter depends upon what seals you," Wraith explained with enviable calm.
"You think I don't know that?" Wuya spat. "Can you, or can't you? I think it's a simple enough question."
Quietly, Wraith and Brant exchanged another glance. Then the feline slipped forward to the witch, and started to pad his way around her, tail flicking side-to-side and he looked her up and down. He slowly circled her three times, and then sat, tail settling smoothly across his forepaws. His green eyes studied the ground, flames dancing in thought.
"...Well?" Wuya grunted.
A contemplative "Hmm..." rumbled in the cat's throat. Then he said, "Young has been a bit cleverer than I would have given him credit for in this regard."
Brant walked forward to stand beside his partner. An eyebrow rose. "What, no life-bind sort of thing?"
"I am afraid not."
"So, we can't get my powers back by killing him," said Wuya dryly. "Marvelous." She sighed heavily – a hopeless sigh – and eyed the cat. "Anything else that might work?"
Once again, Wraith hummed to himself contemplatively. Then he cast a sidelong glance to Brant, and the same thought seemed to pass through their minds. After a moment, they turned their gazes back to Wuya, faces unreadable.
"Come," said Wraith, motioning to her that she should stand beside them. "We have something to show you."
"It was your own fault, y'know," Aderyn sighed, dabbing at Jack's head once again with the icepack.
Jack waved her off again with a less-than-manly squeal. "How many times do I have to tell you, don't touch it!"
Kimiko snorted. "She wouldn't have to if you two hadn't been snooping around just outside the door!"
(The six youths were sitting in a semi-circle on the floor, Raimundo stretched out on his back. Once the Dragons had processed Master Fung's revelation, they had exited, unaware that Jack and Aderyn were snooping outside. As such, Jack had received a deft blow to the head by the opening door.)
"It was her idea," Jack whined, gingerly touching the goose-egg atop his skull. He grimaced.
Aderyn rolled her eyes. "Yes," she said exasperatedly. "Yes, that was exactly what happened. You never said anything about it being the only way we'll learn anything about what's going on; nope, it was all me." She swiftly seized Jack, placing the icepack on the bump and sighing when the redhead screeched, causing the four Dragons to wince. "Oh, quit whining!"
"What were you thinking?" said Kimiko exasperatedly. "We would've told you if you needed to know anything!"
"Yeah right!" snorted Jack, wriggling away from Aderyn's attempts at first-aid. "There's no way you'd be sharing ultra-secret prophecy thingies with us!"
"If it had anything to do with you, we would have!" retorted Kimiko hotly.
"Let it go, Kim," Raimundo sighed. "You're not getting anywhere."
Kimiko bit down on the next few sentences directed at Jack, hands clenched on her knees and quivering with restrained irritation. The eyebrows of her fellow Dragons rose with surprise at her compliancy, but they silently decided that it would be better not to comment on it.
"Anyway," said Clay, "now that we all know about it, what do we do? What does it mean?"
"It's obvious, isn't it?" said Jack, wincing slightly. "You guys will do your magical, Power of Friendship stuff, make some sort of all-powerful goody-goody sword, and kick peoples' butts. It was pretty straight-forward; you didn't catch it?"
"We caught that part," said Raimundo exasperatedly.
"And it's probably not that simple," said Aderyn. "Nothing ever is, especially in this line of work." She seized Jack in a vice-like grip, and placed the icepack against Jack's injury, this time keeping it there. "The sun and moon joining together? What is that, an eclipse?"
"Get real," snorted Jack, trying (and failing) to get away from Aderyn. "You checked your astrology chart lately? There aren't any eclipses due right now." When Aderyn continued to refuse to relinquish her grip, he stopped wriggling, slouching in defeat.
"And what's this about another element?" asked Kimiko, resting her chin on her palm.
"It is most unusual," said Omi. "There have only ever been four Dragon Warriors, as there have only been four elements: Water, Earth, Fire, Wind. There is no room for a fifth."
"The prophecy didn't say there would be another warrior," said Raimundo. "It just said that a fifth element would be revealed."
"Which in of itself is impossible," Omi muttered.
"And who would the new warrior be, anyway?" wondered Kimiko.
As one, the four Dragons' heads turned to look at Aderyn. Her mouth fell open.
"It is kinda suspicious," Clay admitted. "You turn up right when we're about to learn all this? It's a mighty fine coincidence."
Aderyn put up her free hand. "Now wait a minute: I'm here because Jermaine's in trouble. I mean, I'm flattered that you'd consider me for your group, and, yeah, I'd love to fly around and shoot fireballs or whatever, but you guys already got all of those, so I really don't want the job!"
"You think the position would be beneath you?" inquired Omi, stone-faced.
"I don't want to get stuck with something lame," she corrected, matching his expression.
Jack snickered. "Yeah, like shooting little pink hearts at people. I can see that."
"You're gonna be seeing stars in a minute."
"Yeah, okay, stop," said Kimiko, cutting off Jack's retort. "We're getting off topic."
Huffing, Jack went back to a sullen slump while Aderyn continued to hold the icepack to his head. But instead of restarting the conversation, no one seemed to want to touch the subject again. They simply sat, not looking at each other, waiting for someone to revive the meeting.
Then Raimundo sat up.
"You know what I just realized? So much has been going on the past few days, we never really got around to checking out the Pendant of Light."
Everyone looked at him. "Uh…," ventured Clay, "if you don't mind my asking, what does that have to do with anything?"
For a very brief moment, Raimundo looked stumped, but he quickly recovered. "Well, y'know… It revealed itself just a few days ago, and you were talking about how coincidental it was that we met Aderyn right when we learned about the prophecy…"
"Not to mention your little fainting spell and outright weirdness over the past few days?" asked Kimiko, eyebrow rising.
There was a strangled noise, and everyone turned to see Jack with a hand covering his mouth to stifle his laughing. "You fainted?" Saying it aloud only seemed to add to the apparent hilarity, because he started laughing even harder.
"Great; thanks, Kimiko," said Raimundo dryly to the Dragon of Fire, who had frozen where she sat. "'Cause I really needed him to know about that."
The girl gave a quiet nod, a faint blush coloring her cheeks.
"But regardless of the context, Raimundo is correct," said Omi over Jack's uproarious laughter as Kimiko began to compose herself. "There has not been much time to examine our newest Wu. We should remedy that very soon."
"You never know how it might come in handy," Clay added. "And it was the last Shen Gong Wu to activate when all this stuff started. It's a good place to look for clues on the situation."
"Yeah, actually, that sounds pretty good-" Kimiko stopped abruptly, cradling her head in her hands. "Okay, I'm sorry, but JACK," she roared, "SHUT UP."
Startled out of his hysterics, Jack cowered under the Dragon of Fire's ferocious glare, suddenly trying to look very small as he shifted closer to Aderyn for protection.
"Thank you," the Japanese girl growled.
Jack squeaked in response, and Aderyn smirked at him. "Regret being here now?"
"...Why are you here?" asked Omi, looking at him quizzically. Jack jumped at being addressed, and blinked at the small monk.
"After I overheard that conversation, the house was way too spooky, y'know? And I figured that since my would-be murderers- yeah, murderers!" he added to Aderyn, who had huffed and rolled her eyes at the word. "You didn't know people wanted to kill me, did you?" ("Oh, I knew," she muttered darkly. Jack waved the comment away with a hand.) "Anyway, since I figured my would-be murderers-" Aderyn groaned loudly. "-would be coming for me soon, I decided to come here, with you guys!"
He grinned brightly, but it withered under the Dragons' identical cold stares.
"Why didn't you try to hole yourself up with Chase Young?" asked Clay.
"Oh…" Suddenly, Jack's cheeks became tainted very faintly with pink. "Well, I…"
The Dragons watched silently as Jack fumbled for an answer.
"…He wouldn't let you in, would he?"
The redhead slumped despondently.
The night was dark, which did not make traipsing around some jungle any easier for Wuya. She had to rely on Wraith's flame-tufted tail for guidance, and that did not prevent her from stumbling. She scowled inwardly, not for the first time wistfully thinking of being intangible, in which you couldn't trip over things. But she kept her complaints to herself: Curiosity kept her tongue glued to the roof of her mouth, no matter how irritable she felt.
She was aware of Brant's eyes on her, and he said, "Are you having trouble?"
Wuya shot a glare back at him. "I'm fine," she snapped.
Her irritated words seemed to bounce right off of him, and Brant smiled. "It's not much farther; you'll live."
The witch muttered darkly under her breath, but was forced to stop abruptly when she nearly stepped on Wraith's tail. "What? What's wrong? Why are we stopping?"
Wraith's head turned slightly to her. "We have arrived."
Wuya's brow furrowed in confusion. Silently, Wraith stepped to the side and, seeing the witch's quizzical expression, motioned her to go forward; still confused, Wuya complied, and in just a few more steps she was out of the undergrowth and into a large clearing.
It wasn't much upon first glance. The moon illuminated everything there was to see, and all that was immediately apparent was a very large stone situated on the opposite side. Not noticing the sounds of Wraith and Brant entering the clearing after her, Wuya walked towards the rock, not feeling any clearer on the situation. As she came closer, she saw that on the front of the rock was carved a circle, almost like a large door leading inside; within this circle were other carvings as well, marks that stood out blackly in the moonlight. Her eyes widened.
She closed the remaining distance with slow reverence, hands moving to touch the stone. "In all my years…I never thought…"
"Here is where our mission resides," said Wraith, eyes fixed on the rock, "and perhaps, the answer to your restoration."
Wuya turned, staring. "This is neutral territory. Everyone who's anyone knows that."
"So, no act of foul play of any kind is permitted here. If anyone, Xiaolin or Heylin, makes any sort of attack on this spot…" She trailed off. "Well, who knows what happens to them."
"Wuya, you make it sound like there's going to be some sort of fight here," Brant chuckled.
"Well how else are we going to get through?"
Wraith smiled. "With a key, of course."
The witch looked at the both of them. "Key? What…" She frowned in thought. Then it dawned on her, and she looked back up. Looking at them, she could tell they were thinking the same thing she was.
"So, that's your plan, is it?"
"We knew we'd have to bring you here if we wanted you in," Brant shrugged. "They say honesty is the best policy, and all that."
"So, O witch," said Wraith, a smile playing around his mouth, "is this plan to your liking? What is your decision?"
The moonlight briefly hid behind a cloud, and something still and quiet whispered into the world in the few seconds it took the Heylin witch to answer.
"I'm in," she said, turning back around to face the rock again. "It would be unwise to pass up such an opportunity."
As one, Brant and Wraith smiled quietly. "Good."
Deep in his gut, Raimundo felt a jolt that did not belong to him. He glanced around at his friends; he really didn't feel like acting strange in front of them right now, especially with Jack and Aderyn in the room. Instead, he quickly excused himself and exited, hurrying out into the cool night air.
Haruki? Something wrong, pal?
Haruki did not answer. Although Raimundo knew Haruki did not have anything that could be considered a tangible body, he thought he sensed a rapid heartbeat, the thrumming of someone who knew something was wrong.
'Huh? No, it's nothing. Just…'
He sounded distracted, Raimundo thought. He'd been sounding more and more distracted as time went on. What this meant, the Wind Dragon didn't exactly know, but for some reason it made him uneasy.
'It must've just been my imagination…'
Right, the Brazilian responded, trying to stay nonchalant. In that case, now we can both be crazy.
Haruki chuckled weakly. 'Sounds like a plan.'
Startled, Raimundo turned to see Aderyn walking towards him, a silhouette against the light coming from the building until his eyes adjusted to the moonlight. She stopped a few feet from him, a hand on her hip and a smile on her lips. "You okay?" she asked. "You kinda just got up and left."
"Oh, totally fine," he shrugged. "Just needed a little night air?" He breathed deep and stretched for emphasis. Peeking at her, he saw that she didn't seem too convinced, so he dropped his arms and changed tactics. "What about you? Off babysitting duty?"
"What? Oh, yeah." She laughed. "I left Jack to the tender mercies of your pals. Just thought I'd head off to bed, y'know? We've got a long day tomorrow." Seeing the look Raimundo was giving her, she said, "That's right, you left. Jack's dad is back in town, and apparently you guys wanted to talk to him…?"
'Mr. Frederick Spicer, acquaintance of toy-tycoon Toshiro Tohomiko, father of your dearest Kimiko,' supplied Haruki, still sounding a little distracted.
I know who the guy is, thanks. "Right, right. Guess you'd better rest up then." And quit referring to Kimiko as my dearest!
'Whatever you say.'
"Yeah, I'll do that." But instead of leaving, Aderyn remained where she was, head tilting to the side as she studied Raimundo thoughtfully. She stood like that long enough for the Brazilian to feel a little uncomfortable, and said, "Are you always this distracted?"
Raimundo blinked. "Huh?"
"You seem like you're somewhere else when you're talking." After a moment, she smirked. "Some would think you're being rude, but I'll let you off the hook this time."
So saying, she turned around and walked away with a parting, "Goodnight, Raimundo." The Wind Dragon had enough sense to mumble out a "Goodnight" in response, still a little confused by what just happened.
Raimundo started a little, and blinked quizzically. Yeah, I guess so… Seems nice, though.
'I bet she'd be a pretty good wind element.'
Raimundo didn't answer right away. He thought about her smile, how her eyes looked when she smirked, and the easiness of her walk.
"Yeah," he said pensively. "Maybe."
"Oh, I think I'm gonna be sick!"
"Jack, you lay one finger on my hat and you're being thrown off the dragon!"
"Hey, hey! Cool it back there! Don't make me turn this thing around!"
The group situated on Dojo's back slouched uncomfortably to themselves, Jack clutching his stomach and looking slightly green as Clay and Aderyn eyed him apprehensively, readying themselves for when he motioned towards their hat or lap, respectively, and preparing to scoot as far away from the motion-sick redhead as possible. Kimiko had been nice enough to buy Aderyn a new set of clothes, and she was not quite ready to ruin her new jeans (which she had the slightest inkling cost a small fortune alone.)
"Why are you coming along again, anyway?" Jack managed to croak out, glancing back at Aderyn. "It's not like you've got anything to contribute."
"I'm not completely helpless, you know," she growled; suddenly, she became a little self-conscious. "Jermaine taught me a few moves. I'm not great, but I can take care of myself."
"You will have to show us!" exclaimed Omi through the Dragons' mildly surprised murmurs. "Perhaps you could train alongside us as well?"
"I'm not that good."
"I'll bet," muttered Jack. Aderyn flicked his ear, and he yelped.
"Ladies and gentlemen, strap yourselves in," crooned Dojo smoothly as a familiar building came into view on the horizon, "as we come in sight of our destination: the humble abode of Jack Spicer and family."
The conversation quieted, and the group said nothing else as they drew closer to their destination. When the Spicer mansion came within proper viewing distance, Aderyn gave a low whistle.
"Not bad, Spicer," she commented, impressed. Jack looked back, briefly looking surprised, then put on a sly expression and puffed out his chest, sitting up importantly, causing the girl's eyes to roll again.
"So, which way are we entering?" asked Kimiko as they landed and hopped off Dojo. "Lair, or front?"
"They're both on the front, does it really matter?"
"If we go through the front door, maybe we should knock?"
"Knock?" Jack snorted disbelievingly. "It's my house; we can just walk right in!"
"We are simply confused as how to approach entering your home in a non-violent manner." Omi shrugged. "It is not the normal procedure, you understand."
"Whatever. Let's just go inside, alright? The sooner we get this over with, the better."
Jack reached for the door, but just as his fingers were about to touch the knob, the door swung open of its own accord, and Jack recoiled with a startled shriek.
"Jack? Jack! You're home!"
The Dragons blinked. In the doorway was a thin, attractive woman, a white apron bedecked in pink flowers in strange contrast to the stylish clothes and pearls. Her short hair was reddish-blonde, and a pair of big brown eyes sparkled in a pretty face. Peeking at her, Jack relaxed and looked up, surprised.
"Mom?" he blinked, only to release a lungful of air when Aliza Spicer threw her arms around him in a bone-crushing hug. The others looked on in mute wonderment.
"And here I thought you weren't getting enough social interaction! Oh, Jackie, I never thought you'd have so many friends!"
Jack wriggled away from her, but Mrs. Spicer seemed to caught up in her own euphoria to mind. "Whoah, hey," he wheezed, "these guys aren't-"
"When she arrived and told me you two had hit it off so quickly, I was so happy, you have no idea!" Mrs. Spicer prattled over Jack's protest.
"-and you shouldn't- Wait, 'she'?" Jack stared up at his mother, eyes very wide. "Who's she?"
"She's in the house right now!" said Jack's mother cheerfully. "And wouldn't you know it, she said you'd be coming home today-"
"Mom, just who is in our house?"
For the first time, the smile left Aliza's face, replaced by an expression of confusion. She looked like she was about to say something, but was cut off by an extremely familiar voice.
"Oh, come on, Jackie, I'm insulted you haven't guessed!"
The group looked around the woman in the doorway to see a familiar girl with short blonde hair and dark eyes walking out of the shadowy hallway. In a disorienting moment of backwardness, they noticed that she was dressed in white instead of her usual black, with a motif of gold loops as a bracelet, hoop earrings, and belt, completed by a simple gold cat dangling on a chain around her neck.
The sudden appearance by this person caused a stunned, unblinking silence to ensue, broken only by Jack's screech of horror: