Hey, readers! This is my first JL fic (though I've used characters in other stories). Hope you like it, and if you do, I may do more with it in the future...
Juniper Kim Lee awoke one morning, wishing she hadn't.
The mild, annoying nausea from last night was now severe and crippling illness. Sweat beaded on the young te Xuan ze's forehead as her nose felt like Buicks were crammed inside. Her muscles moaned in agony, and her body felt at once cold and burning. Put simply, she was really, really sick.
"Oh, man," she groaned, her voice a pained rasp. Her throat scratched at her as if to punish her decision to talk, and she fell quiet again.
"June, honey! Time for school!" a voice called out.
"Mom, I'm sick," June wheezed. Of course, her mother couldn't hear her.
"I'm sick!" she tried again. Her attempt was rewarded by a wave of revulsion, and only a last minute lunge to her trash can prevented the contents of her stomach from being deposited all over her bed. There was a beat, then the sound of footsteps rushing up the stairs. Nice to know she can hear puking, the small Asian girl thought to herself. A form poked her head in, frowning.
"Oh, my poor baby's sick! This is not good. This is not good at all," Ruth Lee cooed, pulling June up from her trash can. "Basil!" she cried.
"June is sick," Ruth replied.
"Oh, dear..." Basil replied as he came in to see for himself. "She certainly can't go to school like this!"
"No, she can't, Basil..." Ruth frowned again. "I can't watch her, can you?""No dear, I can't, I have that big meeting with the Germans about the hotel, remember? Can't we get someone? Say, maybe that nice man from Barcelona..."
"No, he won't do," Ruth said with a head shake. "I doubt he's had this sort of thing on his hands before..."
"Well, there's always Mom..." Basil offered as he tightened his tie.
"Jasmine? I don't know, Basil, she's sixty-eight..."
"She can handle herself very well, thank you..." Basil replied.
"Well, I suppose..." Ruth sighed. She looked back at her ailing daughter. "June, would you mind if you went over to Ah Mah's for a while?"
"Sounds like a plan to me..." June managed as she smiled weakly.
"Good. I'll get the car ready, and Basil, you get Ray-Ray and Dennis to the bus stop for school."
"Oh, yes, I'm doing that then, am I dear?" the man murmured as he walked off.
"Now, is there anything you need to bring with you, sweetie?" Ruth cooed again as she swept her child's sweaty hair back.
"Last rites would be nice," she wheezed. Ruth sighed with a small smile, placed June gently back on the bed, and walked for the car.
"This is not good. This is not good at all."
Jasmine Lee, the former keeper of the magical peace, frowned uneasily as she studied the old, yellowed parchment before her. It was something that had been passed down through the ages, from te Xuan ze to te Xuan ze, ever since the position of a bridge between humanity and magic had been established. The paper was a list of prophecies, rules, warnings, and all that other stuff the supernatural loves to hate or hates to love. The particular passage under the current te Xuan ze, her own granddaughter no less, was less than encouraging:
Sickness comes before the Awakening,
But hope will come answering a ring.
Where there was one, there must be three,
Or humanity's end is Fate's decree.
The old woman sighed and rubbed her forehead. She'd been thinking about this for hours now, and she had no idea what to do or what it meant. If only she had a clue... some sort of idea or--
Jasmine jerked her head up, shocked out of her train of thought. She frowned, then got to her feet and began to waddle for the door. "I'm coming, I'm coming!" she called. Opening the door revealed her daughter-in-law and her family's dog, Monroe, the former carrying some sort of odd bundle.
"Ah Mah? I'm really sorry about this, but June is REALLY sick..."
"...sick?" the old woman blinked.
"Hi, Ah Mah," a weak, stuffed-up voice came from the bundle, accompanied by the very slight wave of a hand.
"Yes, she's sick. Basil and I have things we can't get out of, so we were wondering if you could watch her while we're gone?"
"What? Oh, of course, of course..." Jasmine said with an abrupt series of nods. She opened her arms for the small girl, and Ruth handed her over.
"I don't know what she has," the younger woman sighed. "She's just really, really ill. I'm hoping some of your soup and rest could help..."
"Oh, I'm sure dear. Now, you go and get some work done, okay? Oh, and leave Monroe here with me, please?"
"Sure," Ruth smiled. "He seemed to insist on coming anyway. I'll pick her up as soon as I can when I'm out of work. See you then, sweetie," she added as she gave June a peck on the forehead. A gurgle passed as the girl's response as her mother waved goodbye and shut the door. A moment passed, then Ah Mah carried her ill granddaughter to a nearby couch.
"Aye, this is it, lass," Monroe nodded in his Scottish brogue.
"I was afraid of that," Ah Mah said with a frown as she made the girl comfortable.
"What's it, Ah Mah?" June rasped.
"The San She," the woman said as she fluffed pillows. "Every te Xuan ze gets it with a year of their first manifesting abilities. You don't want to know how mine was..."
"If you're saying that compared to how I feel now..." June grumbled.
"It will pass in time, a few days probably," Ah Mah shrugged.
"A few d-- Ah Mah!" June whined. "Can't you, like, cast a spell or something? I'm dying here!"
"I'm sorry, dear, but this is your body trying to adapt to what's happening," Ah Mah said with a sympathetic smile. "I'm afraid nothing can be done about this except waiting for it to run its course."
"Oh, great," June mumbled, flopping her head back. "How can I kick butt when I can barely get off mine?"
"That's the thing. You're not going to be kicking any butt, young lady," Ah Mah admonished. "I'm taking over."
"What? You?" June rasped.
"Of course!" Ah Mah sniffed. "I'm perfectly fine!" As if to demonstrate, she jumped upright, causing her back to crack. "You didn't hear that."
"No, June, it's for the best. Trust me," Ah Mah urged. "Now, you stay put while I make you some soup, then take a trip beyond the Veil. I need to do some brushing up." With that, the silver haired maiden turned and waddled towards the kitchen. June groaned.
"Ye heard 'er, lass," Monroe clucked. "Until ye can stand up without pukin' your guts up, you're in dry dock."
"I know, I know..."
"Well, good. Now, I'll see if I can get you some reading material. Don't go anywhere, lass."
"Oh, ha ha."
"This... is reading material. I have this darn thing memorized!"
June sighed as she sipped at the immense pot of steaming egg drop soup Ah Mah had left her. The woman had promised she and Monroe would be back soon enough, that her trip shouldn't take much longer than a few hours. In the meantime, the pug had suggested, June should use her downtime more effectively and review the "Code of the Te Xuan Ze" again. All eight bazillion parts of it.
"This bites," June mumbled. She was just reaching for her soup again when her cell phone rang. She picked it up and answered.
"Yeah?" she wheezed.
"Monroe? What is it?"
"We've got a wee problem. Ah Mah's... well..."
"She's what, Monroe..."
"She's kinda, well, unconscious. Nothing ta worry 'bout, though."
"WHAT!" the small Asian spat, sitting up. "My grandmother's been conked out, and you're telling me it's no big deal!"
"Lass, calm down! She said she was rusty... she just blocked when she should've dodged is all!"
"...oh is that all..."
"June, what ya need ta do is when your mom drops by, tell her that Ah Mah's in the back, and that you want to stay here to not cause any trouble. I'll be there as soon as I can, lass. See you soon." With that, the connection closed. June grumbled.
"Great. I'm deathly ill, Ah Mah's out of it... who's gonna keep the world from exploding or whatever NOW?" the girl moaned. As she lolled her head to the side, her eyes fell again on the Code. She frowned in confusion.
"Huh... I don't recall that part at all," the girl mumbled as she picked up the piece of paper. She read it:
Item 4747: Should the te Xuan ze at any time be unable to carry out his or her own duties, a trustworthy substitute of their choice may be allowed to serve in their capacities until they are fit to retake them.
"Huh..." June said to herself. "I didn't know we could do that. But, who could I possibly hope to--" Her musing was cut off by her phone once again. Sighing, she reached over and answered the ring.
"June!" a painfully cheerful voice squeaked. June's face calmed for a moment.
"Oh, Jody! Hi..."
"Are you okay? You sound terrible..."
"Been better," June rasped before launching into a coughing fit. "What's up?"
"Well, I have today's classwork for you..."
"Oh? That's good. I guess you can bring it over when you..." June trailed off as her eyes fell again on the Code. An odd idea formed in her head, clashing with the guilt gnawing at her ever since the mall fiasco when, for a brief time, her "day job" had been exposed to her friends. She smiled and nodded slightly.
"...June? You were saying something?" Jody urged.
"Yeah. Uh, you know where Ah Mah lives, right? Bring the stuff over, ASAP. And make sure you bring Ophelia with you."
"Uh, sure thing. See ya soon!" Jody trilled before hanging up. For her part, June turned her phone off and laid back with a contented smile for a brief moment, then proceeded to cough up a lung.
"Coming," June moaned as she hobbled off of the sofa and to the door. She was so full of egg drops, ginger ale and cold syrup, the almost agonizing feeling of San She was effectively numbed. Staggering the last few feet, she opened the door to find her friends waiting on the step.
"Hey," Ophelia Ramirez nodded.
"Hello, June!" Jody Irwin chimed, a stack of papers under the crook of her arm, and a germ mask over her face.
"Hey," June snuffled. She frowned. "Uh, Jody? What's with the..."
"Well, you sounded really sick..." the blonde replied.
"It's not smallpox or something," the ailing Asian spat.
"I know, but, if I miss one day of classes... it's all over! Harvard is gone!" Jody yelped, hugging her cargo to her bosom. "I'd be stuck with something second rate! Bennington! UMaine!... Susquehanna!"
"Okay, seriously, take it off..." Ophelia croaked, pawing for Jody's mask. The blonde batted her hand away.
"Yes," Ophelia nodded as an evil smile crept over her face. "In fact, after that... give June, a nice big hug."
"But she's sick!" Jody whined.
"Exactly!" Ophelia grinned as she ripped Jody's mask off and began pushing her towards June. "Get your hands dirty!" Jody cried out in utter horror and began to run around the room, squeaking in terror, flailing her arms as her distinct pigtails bounced against her head.
"...good one, Ophelia..." June sniffed, rubbing under her nose.
"Did I say 'hug?' I meant grabbing her tight and breathing all over her..."
"You're so mean sometimes, Ophelia!" Jody yelped, cowering behind a chair.
"And... I love it," Ophelia beamed.
"Are you two done yet?" June sighed. "Ophelia, leave Jody alone. Jody, you can't get what I have. NO one else gets the joy of having this. In fact, it's... kinda why I asked you to come over here."
"You mean, it's not to do schoolwork!" Jody asked in horror. "June! You must
be going into shock!"
"No, Jody... well, come on and sit down..." the Asian wheezed, nodding towards two chairs near the couch she had been crashed out on. Hesitantly, Jody tip-toed out from behind the chair as Ophelia strode over and plopped down in a seat.
"So, what's up?" the Goth asked before her eyes fell on a bucket June had been using for throwing up. "Okay, ew."
"I'm gonna be sick..." Jody whined, her cheeks puffing as her face took on a distinctive shade of green.
"Okay, guys, we're talking about why I'm puking my guts up, not the puke," June groaned. "Now, listen... this is gonna be a little... odd."
"What is it, June?" Jody asked, her bile stabilized.
"Okay. Well, how should I put this... You know how... uh... ever notice that... um... Okay, well, do you think there's anything... odd about me?"
"Besides being insane, not really..." Ophelia shrugged.
"Well, Ophelia's kinda got a point," Jody nodded with an ashamed blush. "You keep talking to yourself and running off and stuff..."
"Well, I'm getting to that," June promised. "Okay, I'll be blunt. There's a lot more to me than you'd think. In short, you could kinda think of me as, well... a super hero."
"...okay, like, back-up here," Ophelia demanded, holding up her hand. "You? A super hero? Seriously, June, I think that illness has damaged your brain."
"No. I am, in a way. I'm what's known as, well... the te Xuan ze."
"The 'Tur Shaw Zat?'"
"...sure, Jody," June shrugged, turning her head to give into a coughing fit. She cleared her throat. "Anyway, you know all those creatures you grew up hearing about? Dragons, unicorns, Tooth Fairy, leprechauns, all that jazz? They're all real, and then some."
"Uh, leprechauns?" Ophelia asked, eyebrow arched in confusion and skepticism.
"Yeah, there's one right there, actually..." June shrugged as she pointed. Jody and Ophelia glanced, then looked at each other, worried.
"Um, June..." Jody begged, finger raised in urging.
"And, that right there can open a portal where trolls can come out..." June added, pointing to a red gem.
"Okay, June, we're gonna, like, go to the hospital now..." Ophelia said as she rose from her chair, concern on her face.
"Oh, right, right... sorry, guys, this thing is really messing up my head..." June rasped. "Anyway, all those things exist... and I fight them. I try to keep magic and humanity apart and the whole thing running smoothly. I can run fast, jump high, beat the crap outta huge monsters, and do some magic. So... that's the role of the te Xuan ze."
"So, is that why you've been acting like a loony bin patient all this time?" Jody asked with a shrug.
"...um, sure," June sighed. Ophelia frowned.
"Okay, seriously, do you think we're dumb or something, June?" the Hispanic scoffed. "If all that's true... why haven't we noticed it, or picked up on it?"
"Uh, funny story, you actually did... once," June mumbled.
"Once?" Jody asked.
"Yeah, a witch tried to eat you..."
"Okay, like, I think I'd know if that happened..." Ophelia sniffed.
"It did," June nodded. "Also, you were enslaved by the Sandman and nearly possessed for all time by Viking ghosts. Jody sounded like the governor."
"...are you SURE you're feeling okay," Jody asked again, eye twitching slightly.
"Yes, stop asking!" June groaned, punching the seat cushion with both fists. She cleared her throat once more. "Look, point is, you found out because of the witch, and, well... I had to blank you... I made you forget," she finished softly, hanging her head.
"You... didn't trust us?" Ophelia blinked, a tone of hurt in her voice.
"June, I... I..." Jody sputtered, equally offended.
"Guys, please! I've wanted to tell you so much, b--"
"June! What in the name a Loch Ness are ye doin', lass!" a Scottish voice cried. June whirled to see an aghast and angry Monroe glaring at her.
"Oh, uh, hey Monroe..." she gulped.
"Did ye just tell 'em everything!" her furry adviser growled. "Ye know that's not allowed, and what ye have ta do..."
"Not this time, Monroe," June spat. "Not only am I not wiping their minds again, but I'm evoking Item 4747 of the Code."
"'4747?' June, I don't even know what that one is, lass!" Monroe whined.
"Well, too bad, it's right here!" the small Asian replied, tossing her 'pet' the Code. Curious and annoyed, Monroe read.
"...why is June arguing with her dog?" Jody asked. Ophelia shrugged. Monroe scowled, looking up.
"I see what ye're up to here, lass, but it's daft! They have no idea what they're doing! There must be someone else!"
"...like Ray-Ray?" June asked with a slight smirk.
"...okay, ye got me. But, I really don't like this..." Monroe sighed.
"Too bad," June sniffed before turning back to her friends. "I suppose you wanna know what 4747 of the Code is..."
"It'd be nice, yeah," Ophelia scoffed.
"It's a part of the 'Code of the te Xuan ze,' tells me what I can and can't do. Anyway, 4747 gives me the right to appoint substitutes that I trust to take my place until I'm back on my feet."
"Okay, so?" Jody asked, cocking her head.
"Well... I'm looking at them," June said with a smile. A beat passed.
"Oh. Oh, seriously, no," Ophelia replied.
"June, we can't do that!" Jody yelped.
"Why not?" June asked.
"We can't even see this stuff, let alone fight it..." Ophelia said defensively.
"That's where Ah Mah's cabinet comes in," June smiled again. "Follow me." Confused and some what curious, Jody and Ophelia shrugged to each other and followed.
"...June, lass, I don't like this,"
"Well, what else can I do Monroe?" June grumbled as she eased open the massive oak doors of the cabinet. Within were rows upon rows of all manners of trinkets, bottles, stones, and other object.
"She likes her collector's stuff, huh," Ophelia observed wryly.
"You could say that," June shrugged as she opened a smaller drawer and reached inside. She held her prizes aloft: two silver-chained amulets with green gems. She grabbed a ring before she nudged the drawer shut with her thigh. "C'mere, guys," she added as she nodded towards a large window that offered an impressive vista of Orchid Bay City. She handed the ring to Jody. "Put this on."
"Uh, what is it?" the pigtailed blonde asked, cocking her head.
"Just put it on, you'll find out in a sec," June urged. Shrugging, Jody complied. Noting she had, June held aloft the amulets. "Okay, now put these on."
"Okay, like, no way," Ophelia scoffed.
"Ophelia, c'mon, please?" June begged.
"I don't do 'bling,' June. It's capitalism at its 'finest,'" the young Hispanic rasped, sticking her tongue out in disgust.
"Look, do you wanna help me, or not?" the Asian sighed. "If you do... you're just gonna have to put up with this for a while."
"Well... fine," Ophelia barked, grabbing an amulet. "So, I just put the stupid thing on, is that it?"
"Yeah, pretty much," June shrugged. "Okay, you both got one now? Now, what I want you to do is put them on, very slowly, as you're looking out the window. I'll warn you now... what you're about to see is going to surprise you. Big time."
"Oh, what?" Ophelia scoffed as she did so. "Are we gonna see in 3D or some-- woah." The Goth could hardly believe her eyes. The streets were almost crowded with... things. Things of all sizes, shapes, colors, and types, from furry midgets to scaly giants. And, indeed, there were leprechauns down there. And a unicorn. ...and was that a dragon that just flew by? "No. And way," she finally said. A quick glance to her right showed Jody also gaping at what she was seeing.
"Toldja," June smiled slyly.
"So, uh, why didn't Jody explode or something?" Ophelia drawled. "She should have jumped out of her skin over this."
"Stop being mean!" Jody huffed, crossing her small arms.
"The ring," June asked, leaning against the wall now. "Reinforces courage in whoever wears it."
"Uh, are you okay, June?" Jody asked, steading her friend.
"Yeah, Jody, I'm fine, but I've been better..." June sniffled. "The 'San She' is acting up again... that's why I've been puking up my guts everywhere. So, we better continue," she added as she again turned to the cabinet. "Now, basically the amulet is letting you see behind the Veil."
"...the Veil?" Ophelia asked skeptically.
"Yeah, that's what we call the thing that prevents humans from seeing monsters."
"Why is that, June?" Jody asked.
"I'm tellin' ya, I don't like this," Monroe growled. Jody and Ophelia's eyes bulged before they slowly turned and looked back at their friend.
"And... hear Monroe talk. Long story," June assured them as she rummaged again. She turned once more with amulets, locking eyes with a scowling Ophelia She'd already started to shake the shock off. Considering what they'd already SEEN...
"Seriously!" she spat. "No more bling!"
"Please, Ophelia?" June begged. "For me? You're not going to be able to help me if you don't do this..."
"C'mon, Ophelia, be nice..." Jody singsonged, hugging and shaking her friend back and forth slightly. The Goth's eye twitched.
"If you value your pigtails," she rasped, "you will let me go right now."
"Grump," Jody huffed as withdrew from her friend.
"Uh, anyway... these amulets will let you do almost all the stuff I can do. You know, fighting, jumping really high, endurance, stuff like that."
"Oooh, that sounds fun..." Jody grinned as she put hers on.
"Eh," Ophelia shrugged as she put hers on reluctantly.
"Now, the only thing you can't do is magic. You'll be able to use banishment items, stuff like that, but your blood doesn't have the make-up mine does, so it's not conductive to magic casting."
"Aw," Jody pouted.
"So," June continued, "we'll give you something else..."
"I swear, June, if it's another amulet..." Ophelia rasped with an accusing finger.
"How about a belt?" June called over her shoulder.
"Belt? Uh, I guess..." the Goth mumbled.
"Good," the ailing girl replied as she suffered another coughing fit. She came back holding aloft a strange belt. "The Belt of Achilles. Grants immunity from virtually all magic-related injuries and some human injuries."
"Seriously?" Ophelia asked, eyes brightening.
"Seriously," June nodded as she handed it over.
"Okay, like, now you're talking," the girl grinned as she put it on. "Say, June, if it's called the 'Belt of Achilles'..."
"Yep. Watch your heels," her sick friend warned. Ophelia nodded.
"What about me, June?" Jody begged.
"Got just the thing," the te Xuan ze replied as she rummaged once more and pulled out a set of sandals. "Sandals of Hermes. Grants the wearer super speed. Like, cartoonish type of super speed."
"Neato!" Jody giggled as she slipped them on over her boots.
"You guys should be all set..." June mused with a nod. "Now just let the stuff take effect as it adapts to your bodies..." The girl had no sooner said this when Jody and Ophelia felt an odd buzzing sensation. The magic items vanished.
"Ack!" Jody boggled. "What happened!"
"It's okay," June insisted. "I guess Ah Mah wanted some of this stuff to blend in if I ever needed it. Oh. Almost forgot. You'll need this," she continued as she held aloft two gold bracelets with large purple runes.
"Ooh, it's so pretty!" Jody smiled as she clipped hers on.
"I hate bling so much," Ophelia mumbled as she put on her own.
"Sorry, Ophelia," June grinned, weaker now as her endurance was starting to fade. "Let's give you two some test trials before I pass out."
"You want us to do what, June?"
"You heard me, I want you two to jump."
"Uh, what kind of jump," Ophelia asked with a cocked eyebrow. "Jumping jacks, jump kick, skipping...?"
"Ew, we're gonna get sweaty, aren't we..." Jody shivered.
"Sorry, Jody," June shrugged. "Anyway, just jump as high as you can."
"Okay, here goes..." Ophelia shrugged as she bent her knees in preparation to jump. The Goth did so, and soon found herself rocketing much higher than she expected. She let out an uncharacteristic, strangled shock of surprise as she did. June could help but giggle as Jody's jaw dropped. Ophelia landed on her feet, dazed.
"...woah," she finally said, blinking.
"Okay, Jody... your turn!" June asked, turning to her blonde friend.
"Um, is it safe?"
"No, it's horrifying and I thought I was gonna die!" Ophelia suddenly cried, an evil grin on her face. Jody gulped.
"Ophelia!" June scolded.
"Hey, at least she isn't running around in circles like an utter idiot anymore," her friend sniffed defensively.
"Um, okay, here we go..." Jody replied as she launched herself upwards and forwards. The girl landed on the roof of Ah Mah's house. She grunted briefly in stunned pain, but scrambled to her feet and steadied herself.
"Gee, that was... actually kind of fun!" Jody smiled with a slight note of unease.
"Then get down, stupid," Ophelia rasped. Jody landed next to her, face a mixture of annoyance and disappointment.
"You really should lighten up, Ophelia..."
"I can do that when I'm dead," the Goth replied.
"...uh, anyway," June urged, "let's keep going. Jody, get me a New York style bagel, please. Plain with cream cheese."
"Er, June, is your stomach gonna be able to handle that?" Jody asked.
"Probably not, but it's part of your tryout," June replied. "So, like I said, New York style bagel, if you will."
"Um, okay, June... be right back!" Jody promised. She then broke into a run that gradually got faster and faster until she suddenly turned into a blur of gold, purple and pink before disappearing over the hill.
"Huh," Ophelia blinked.
"Well, we know that works," June shrugged as she collapsed into a chair. "I'm glad we're almost done, because I'm about ready to pass out. Now, we wait for Jody." After about ten minutes, Jody returned, a bag in hand, slightly panting.
"Here you are, June," she said as she handed it to her friend.
"Thanks," June nodded. "Was it busy? Seemed to take a while..."
"No, I was just kinda looking... Central Park is really pretty."
"Uh, beg pardon?" Ophelia blinked.
"Central Park is pretty," Jody repeated.
"Okay, like, no way. You got all the way to New York City, on foot, and back, in less than ten minutes?" the Goth insisted.
"Gee, I guess so..." Jody shrugged. "That was neato!"
"I bet..." Ophelia nodded. "So, like, June... how do we test if my thing's working?"
"Well, gee, I dunno," June confessed. Ophelia opened her mouth to reply when a dull pain suddenly shot through her heel. "Ow!" she yelped.
"Oops, sorry," Jody said with a slight note of sarcasm.
"What the heck was THAT for!" Ophelia spat.
"Well, does it hurt?" Jody urged.
"Uh, yeah! A lot!"
"More than it should?" June said with a dawning realization.
"Actually, yeah, kinda..." Ophelia replied, trailing off. "I, uh, guess it works then?"
"Sure seems it to me," June smiled weakly, face starting to pale again.
"Are you okay, June?" Jody urged.
"Just queasy is all..." June said groggily.
"Well, okay..." the blonde shrugged. She frowned suddenly. "What's that sound? It sounds like 'ah, ah, ah' or something..."
"That sound... means you're on," June replied, pointing to their bracelets. Her friends looked at them to see the embedded jewels glowing.
"Midget trolls in the park?" Ophelia asked with some skepticism.
"Oh, good," June rasped. "You should be able to deal with that by talking..."
"Um, should?" Jody asked with a note of worrying.
"Yeah, so you should be o..." The small Asian girl trailed off as her face started to turn green. "Oh, great, here comes Ah Mah's soup..." she mumbled as she staggered for the bathroom.
"But, June, like, what if we have to fight?" Ophelia called.
"Remember cardio from gym? Just do that!" June cried as she ran inside. After a moment, unpleasant sounds began leaking through the walls.
"Um, ew," Jody frowned.
"Seriously," Ophelia nodded. "Well, uh, let's get to the park..."
"You did not!"
"I did too, Sal. Me and the boys reserved the park for today."
Sal the troll glared his opponent down, wagging a piece of paper in front of him. A few feet away, a human family was blissfully enjoying a picnic, unaware of what was going on.
"Face it, Mitch," Sal continued. "We reserved the park fair and square. Get over it and get lost."
"No way, pal," Mitch spat. "My family and I... all two hundred and fifty-two of us... want to play glergsball today."
"Yeah? Well, you can go ahead and--"
"What seems to be the problem, gentlemen?" a throaty voice asked behind them. The assembled mass turned to see two little girls standing there.
"The heck?" someone on Mitch's side said.
"Yeah, how come they see us? Only June can!"
"June is a bit busying puking up her spleen among other things," the girl who had just spoken replied. "So, we're filling in. I'm Ophelia. This is Jody."
"Hi!" Jody chirped.
"...yeah..." Mitch responded. "Anyway, why are you girls here?"
"Well, we heard you were gonna get into a fight..." Jody shrugged.
"Yeah, so what?" Sal sniffed defensively.
"So... don't?" Ophelia said as if they were missing something obvious.
"But, we reserved the park..." Sal whined.
"They did not," Mitch spat.
"Yeah, well, we wanted to come here first!" Sal countered.
"We wanted to before you were born!" Mitch barked.
"Okay! Like, seriously!" Ophelia cried, holding her hands out as if to stop the growing fight. "Now, what exactly are you guys trying to do?"
"We wanted to play glergsball," Mitch answered.
"Yeah, well, we want to play hikstaz," Sal whined.
"Okay. So... how do we solve this like grown, uh, trolls and not like violent idiots?" Ophelia asked rhetorically.
"Uh..." Sal and Mitch said, confused and a touch offended.
"Ooh, I know!" Jody chirped.
"Dare I ask?" a friend of Sal asked.
"You could both play! Instead of between yourselves, you could do both games against each other!" the blonde said proudly.
"You know... that ain't such a bad idea," Mitch smiled.
"Yeah, sure, why not..." Sal nodded. "And, tell ya what... we can play glergsball first. Whattya say?"
"I say it's on," Mitch smiled. "Thanks, girls!" he called over his shoulders as the two groups set up their game.
"Not too shabby if I do say so myself," Ophelia said proudly, wiping her hands together. "Not too shabby."
"Yeah, we did really well," Jody beamed.
"...are you girls okay?" a voice asked. The two turned to see the family staring at them in a mixture of shock and humor.
"Oh, uh, we're fine, thanks..." Jody blushed.
"Yeah, bye now," Ophelia nodded. The two waved nervously, then ran away.
Deep beneath the streets of Orchid Bay, a form stirred. A form dormant since its imprisonment... how long ago was it? In human years, probably somewhere close to a thousand. At least.
But, he was awake now. Fully alert. The binding spell had worn off, and his strength was slowly returning. All he needed was time. He could already feel the magic beings around him being affected by his resurrection. With a human day, he would have enough energy to break free of his prison and return to the surface.
Of course, after that, there would be no more days. Because, by the time he would done, there would be no more humans.
"So? How'd your first mission go?"
"It was... interesting," Ophelia said musingly.
"Well, that's good," June nodded. "What exactly was wrong, if I may ask?"
"Oh, just some really short trolls getting really angry with each other about not being able to play a game," Jody replied. She cocked her head, seeing June frown. "What's wrong, June?"
"Did you say they were really angry?"
"Yeah, like, okay, they were about to attack each other," Ophelia nodded.
"That's odd," June muttered to herself. "Midget trolls are usually so peaceful." She cleared her throat. "Did one of them have, say, a really weird green mullet and the other a bowler hat and cigar?"
"Yeah, they were the leaders," Jody nodded.
"Something's not right... Mitch and Sal are really good, easy going guys..." June said with a head shake. She looked up. "Did you do anything to aggravate them?"
"Ophelia called them 'violent idiots,'" Jody tattled.
"...and you did that WHY, Ophelia..." June sighed.
"I did not, I warned them not to be," Ophelia sniffed.
"All right, all right, fine," June rasped. "Who knows what happened. We'll sort it out later, okay?"
"Okay," the two nodded.
"Good. Well, it sounds like you did pretty well, but this was more a diplomacy mission, and not everything I do is..." She trailed off again as their bracelets went off. Weakly, June brought hers up and frowned.
"Oh, jeez. Fire demon in the forest... you're gonna have to use force on this one for sure," the laid up te Xuan ze sighed.
"I don't wanna beat someone up..." Jody huffed.
"Well, this guy will. Remember, go in fast, and hard. Keep him off guard and you should be able to knock some sense into him. Good luck, guys..."
"What is THIS?"
"You're looking at the substitute tie Swan sets!" Jody beamed.
"...te Xuan ze," Ophelia croaked in correction.
"Oh," the blonde mumbled distantly.
"Whatever," the huge fire-breathing beast rasped. With a quick flip of his huge tail, he slammed Jody and Ophelia against a cliff face. "This'll be even more of a pushover than the other one." The girls managed to shake it off, albeit numbed.
"Okay, like, baptism of fire time," Ophelia said, cricking fingers before she formed them into a fist.
"Fire? You wish to be baptized in fire? I'll be more than happy to oblige, small one," the fire demon grinned. He hocked back, then let loose a searing blast of blue colored magic flame against the Hispanic. His sneer disintegrated when he saw his "prey" was not only still standing, but completely uninjured. There wasn't even so much as grain of soot on her. "But, you, I, it..."
"Okay, like, are we done here?" Ophelia yawned. "'Cause, I either wanna kick your butt or just go home."
"Impudent..." the demon growled. "I shall teach you what happens when you are arrogant to your superior." With that, he grasped his massive hands together and prepared to bring them down, full force, upon the small girl. He froze in mid-swing. "Hey... where's the other o--"
"Surprise, you meanie!" Jody cried as she flew in from behind, delivering a devastating uppercut to the monster's jaw. The beast roared in pain, recoiling from the surprise blow.
"No fair, no fair!" he cried.
"Okay, like, you tried to deep fry me," Ophelia accused with a jabbing finger. "THAT, my friend, is not fair."
"You asked to be baptized with fire!" the demon sniffed defensively.
"Not literally, you dope! It's a saying!" Ophelia rasped.
"Ergh, is she always like this!" the demon moaned to Jody.
"She's usually worse," the pigtailed girl said with a nod.
"I pity you," he said. He paused. "However, you did just punch me in the jaw, and I'm rather annoyed about that." With that, he smashed Jody over the head with his fist.
"No!" Ophelia roared, murder in her eyes.
"Oh, I rather thought you'd be okay with this, girl..." the demon replied. "You didn't exactly seem happy with her, now, did you?"
"She was still my best friend! You're going to pay for this!" the Goth shot back winding her fist back. It trailed off in mid-swing as, to both fighters' surprise, the fist smashed against the ground trembled. To their further shock, Jody emerged from underneath, clothes in tatters and dirty, but seemingly otherwise unharmed.
"No. Way," Ophelia breathed.
"This is impossible!" the demon cried.
"...little help, Ophelia!" Jody grunted, straining against the weight and strength of the massive fist.
"Pleasure," Ophelia croaked. She leaped up and drove her fist into his jaw. The demon rolled over and moaned in frustrated pain.
"This is humiliating..."
"Get up and say that," Ophelia replied, panting, motioning with a hand.
"Yeah, you jerk!" Jody added, rubbing a bruise on her arm.
"Oh, I'll gladly get up," he replied. "I'll most certainly get..." The demon trailed off, eyes darting back and forth as if he were realizing something. His eyes widened in terror. "...he's coming," he muttered.
"Uh, what?" Ophelia asked.
"He's coming!" the demon said, at normal volume.
"Who? Who is coming?" Jody asked, a touch annoyed and curious.
"He's coming, he's coming!" the demon wailed before suddenly getting up. He took wing and flew away. Silence finally came to the forest.
"Um, okay, weird," Ophelia blinked.
"Yeah. We should talk to June about this... hopefully, she'll know what the heck is going on..."
"I don't know what the heck is going on, Jody."
"Lovely," Ophelia grumbled.
"Now, you're saying he just... suddenly took off?" June asked.
"Yeah, like a rocket, June... he kept saying the same thing over and over, too..."
"What did he say?" June urged.
"'He's coming,'" Ophelia answered. "At least three times. What's even creepier? You know how, like, the streets are usually choked with monsters and stuff? Deserted. Just... empty. We only saw a few, and they looked really nervous."
"Man, something's up... I just wish I knew what," June sighed.
"Well, yeah, me too," Jody shrugged. "Anyone else that might know?"
"Yeah, but one's out cold, and the other one's trotting off to visit her."
"Ah Mah?" Ophelia asked.
"Ah Mah. Monroe's kinda like... my adviser, to put it one way."
"That still must be kinda odd, even if he is utterly adorable..." Jody cooed.
"Yeah, well, you should see him when he's hungry..." the Asian mumbled. "He ain't very adorable then. At least he's not Ray Ray. But, really, sometimes, he is so annoying, I could just..."
"Aye, lass?" a voice asked from the edge of the room. The trio turned to see Monroe, sitting with a knowing eyebrow raised. June blushed.
"Oh, uh, hi, Monroe!" she sputtered.
"June," the pug nodded.
"Um, what's up?"
"Well, ta tell ya the truth, it seems someone is a wee bit tougher than the lads at the magics hospital thought." Before any of the girls could open their mouths, the door opened to reveal Ah Mah, bandages on her face.
And a frown as a well.
"June... is it true?" she rasped.
"Is, uh, was true?" June asked, coughing. Whether or not she was coughing or just covering, even she didn't know.
"Don't play dumb with me young lady," Ah Mah replied with an icy edge. "You've breached the secret of the te Xuan ze, haven't you? Not only that, but that you have given your friends items from my cabinet, and they have gone into battle with only vague clues of how to conduct themselves!"
"Well, uh, yeah..." she blushed. Ah Mah closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"I told you this was a bad idea, lass," Monroe scolded in singsong.
"Why, June... WHY."
"Because I'm really ill, and I could. They rang up, and I answered, and I thought that was our best hope..."
"What do you mean, you could, June."
"Part 4747 of the Code," June sniffled, pointing to the paper. Ah Mah grabbed and read it, mumbling to herself. She nodded slightly.
"Yes, okay, I can see that now, and I know Jody and Ophelia can be trusted."
"Good," June smiled.
"That's why I'll wait until your better to scrub their memories," Ah Mah added.
"WHAT!" the three girls cried.
"But, Mrs. Ah Mah..." Jody stammered.
"Jody," Ah Mah interrupted, "the te Xuan ze is a very, very important secret. We simply cannot risk--"
"Oh, we? We?" June spat. "I don't recall giving my approval of this!"
"June, you're young, and have only been te Xuan ze for a few months. In time, you will understand."
"Understand? Understand what? That I'm a sellout to my friends? That you're deciding for me that I can't trust them? Because you can't figure out it's the freakin' twenty-first century, and that things need to adapt? Is that it!"
"It is just the way it is, June," Ah Mah replied. She looked to Jody and Ophelia. "It's a slow day, girls. Your services are probably no longer required. June should be over the San She by the morning, it's a twenty-four bug. Come here around nine to return those items and so I can scrub your minds. Understood?"
"You have to be kidding us," Jody blinked. "Coming back to wipe our brains? No thanks, Mrs. Ah Mah."
"Seriously," Ophelia muttered. Ah Mah sighed.
"Girls, do not make this any harder than it has to be, please," she begged. "Or make me come to you. Thank you." Jody and Ophelia opened their mouths, but just slumped their shoulders and plodded for the door.
"See ya, June," Jody said, misty eyed.
"Yeah," Ophelia added softly before shutting the door behind her. June looked at the door sadly for a moment, then clenched her eyes and fists in rage.
"Darnit, Ah Mah!"
"June, please listen to me..."
"NO. YOU listen to ME," the small Asian girl spat. "Jody and Ophelia deserve to know. Why can't you see?"
"Perhaps, but it is quite dangerous."
"Dangerous? For what, our little club?"
"No, your friends," Ah Mah said softly.
"Huh?" June boggled.
"Yes... your enemies now know a way to get to you. They'll be in danger. We must redo what has been done for their sake."
"Ah Mah, I can't... I know they'd be willing to take the risk..."
"Perhaps. But, how could they defend themselves?"
"I don't want to zap them again... I still feel morbid about the first time... and, I swear, keeping it locked up from everyone that I'm some kinda... super hero is driving me bananas!" June cried.
"I know, June, I know," Ah Mah urged.
"No you don't," her granddaughter growled.
"I didn't tell you of all the friends I had to hide my identity from? Oh, many, many people, June. And it bothered me greatly. But, I accepted that it was the way it had to be. In time, you will too."
"I doubt it," June mumbled. "I mean, you honestly mean to tell me that no one, NO ONE, outside of the te Xuan ze and their predecessor, knows about it in its entire existence? I mean, everyone has the San She, you said, and there HAD to be sick days..."
"Yes, but usually they made due or had the previous te Xuan ze do it until they recovered," Ah Mah replied. "Also, again, it was usually erased from their minds if it was someone outside of the family."
"Ah Mah, please don't make me do this..." June whispered.
"Again, June," Ah Mah replied, "I am sorry." She rested a hand on her ailing replacement. She smacked it away.
"Don't touch me."
"I said don't touch me!" June snapped before she rolled over and put her face to the couch. Ah Mah frowned helplessly, then nodded.
"Very well, June. I will be in the next room if you need me going over some old prophecies."
"I won't need you," June replied, voice muffled slightly.
"You should be well again in a few hours..."
"Very well," Ah Mah sighed as she went to the next room and began to pour once more over the prophecy she had been tackling earlier, before June contracted San She. She sat down and read over it again:
Sickness comes before the Awakening,
But hope will come answering a ring.
Where there was one, there must be three,
Or humanity's end is Fate's decree.
"What the devil can this mean," Ah Mah said to herself. "Sickness? What 'Awakening?' And what hope, what ring? And three what?" Ah Mah struggled to think.
"Okay, Jasmine, let's start with the sickness... I'll go with it being the San She. Now, what kind of hope could be rung... a phone call? Yes, June said something about her little friends calling her, and that she answered it... and that there's three of them. That's it... where there was just June, now there's the three of them. So, what great Awakening could be happening?" she continued to herself, picking up a nearby book and starting to leaf through it. "What could be awakening at this day and..." She trailed off as her eyes fell upon the entry.
"Oh, no. It's... him."
The next day came, the sun rising over Orchid Bay and casting its somewhat oppressive heat upon the city. June squirmed in her sleep as something began to shake her out of it. She grumbled.
"June, wake up."
"Don't wanna," the little girl whined, pawing.
"June, WAKE UP!"
"All right, all right!" June rasped, sitting up. Her eyes locked with those of her grandmother, causing her to frown.
"Oh. It's you, Ah Mah."
"June, please, there is no time..." the old woman begged.
"Oh, yeah. You're just itchin' to screw up my best friends' minds a--" She trailed off, taking a few breaths. "I'm actually better now?"
"Yes, and none too soon," Ah Mah nodded. A shy knock came at the door. "Come in, quickly!" she barked. On cue, a moping Jody and Ophelia walked in.
"Hi, Mrs. Ah Mah..." Jody sighed.
"Yeah," Ophelia mumbled.
"Girls, please, there is no time. You must go to the intersection of Black and Lewis Streets, immediately."
"Uh, why?" June asked. "They out of sugar for your brain drain stuff?"
"There's no time! You must go, now! HURRY!" Ah Mah pleaded, yanking June off the couch.
"Ah Mah, what the heck is wrong with you!" June blurted.
"Please, June, Jody, Ophelia... we can talk later!" Ah Mah cried, pushing them out the door. "Now!"
"Not until you tell us what's wrong!" Jody snapped.
"Seriously!" added Ophelia.
"Very well... you need to fight a creature that is about to emerge at that location. A creature of such power and evil, he has no name. And, what ever you do, you. Must. Win!"
"Why, why is it so important?" June asked.
"If he is not stopped... the world of humans is doomed. It was only by a miracle he was stopped the first time." The three gaped.
"...okay, like, no pressure," Ophelia mumbled grimly.
"Quite," Ah Mah nodded. She paused, then swept all three girls into a tight hug. "Be safe, girls. Please. And good luck."
"Um, okay Ah Mah, we promise..." June promised as the three stumbled, then bolted for Black and Lewis. Behind them, Ah Mah closed her door, sat on the couch, clasped her hands, and prayed for the best.
"I don't see anything..." Jody called as her friends caught up with her.
"Okay, like, June, did your grandmother screw up or something?" Ophelia asked.
"I... I don't think so," she stammered. "Ah Mah's pretty good about these kinds of things... maybe we just got here a little--" She was stopped as their bracelets went off.
"I guess you were right, June," Jody nodded. "Whatever it is, it's coming." As the girls readied themselves for battle, they couldn't help but notice something odd going on with the bracelets, something even June hadn't seen before. The blinking began to come faster and faster, the sound louder every time.
"What in the...?" June managed just as the gems reached something like a crescendo. Without any warning, the gems exploded, showering the young girls with chunks of rock and dust.
"What'd it do that for!" Ophelia coughed.
"I dunno!" June answered. "There must be something big co--" June was cut off once more as the ground beneath them began to shake.
"What, an earthquake now!" Jody groaned, trying to stabilize herself.
"Well, this is California!" Ophelia cried over the tumult.
"No..." June replied grimly. "This is no earthquake. This is something else..." No sooner had she said that then the very intersection began to writhe, the center of it cracking and shattering. Before the three could react, it lunged up, then collapsed in on itself, sucking anything unlucky enough to be at the spot into a sinkhole. The girls barely managed to escape.
"Yeah, like, no earthquake," Ophelia nodded uneasily. As she spoke, two massive objects erupted out of the hole, taking position on either side of the crater. The girls gaped.
"What the heck are those things...?" Jody gulped.
"They look like... hands," June stammered. Before a second opinion could be reached, the hands bent upwards, and an immense form began to pull free of the ground.
It was... monstrous to say the least. Skin blood red, twisting horns the height of a two story building, and three searing yellow eyes stared down at them. Massive bat wings flapped debris away as a long, spike-tipped tail pulled out of the ground. Claws unsheathed as the monster, looking like a hybrid of a minotaur, a bat, and a dragon unfurled to its full height; nearly twenty stories tall.
"...snackerdoodles," Ophelia managed, head craned to see the entire beast. As if acknowledging he had heard, the demon looked down.
"Hello, inferiors," he sneered.
"And, uh, you are?" June finally stammered.
"Your judgement," the beast replied simply before unleashing sheets of fire upon them below. The girls yelped in terror.
"Scatter!" Ophelia cried as she took the blast for her friends. The monster frowned as the smoke cleared from the uninjured Hispanic.
"Hmmm. So, you are tougher than you appear, tiny human," he nodded. "I can sense it on you, some sort of invulnerability to magic attack. Of course, there's a reason that belt is named that." Before Ophelia could respond, the demon cracked his tail against her heels. The girl collapsed, howling in pain.
"No!" Jody squeaked, rushing out to grab her friend before he could strike again.
"Are you all right?" June asked, helping Ophelia to her feet.
"Not... really, no," the wounded Ophelia hissed, shifting her weight back and forth. "That jerk seriously creamed me."
"I should teach him for being so mean," Jody huffed as she cricked her knuckles. June held her back.
"No, what you should do is help us come up with a plan..." the Asian replied.
"Okay, okay," Jody sighed.
"So... we got one?" Ophelia asked, her face slowly starting to relax.
"Not yet," June confessed. The three found themselves in sudden darkness. They cast worried eyes skyward.
"Peek-a-boo," the monster smirked as he flicked them with his mighty talons. The three girls were sent sprawling several blocks into a reinforced brick wall.
"Ow... he can hit..." Jody managed.
"Paging Captain Obvious..." Ophelia replied as she picked herself free. She cricked her back with a wince.
"I'm tired of being knocked around," June spat, her distinctive shirt slightly torn. "I say we give him an uppercut he won't forget."
"Worth a shot..." Ophelia shrugged. Jody, one of her pigtails undone, nodded.
"Hey! Big and Ugly!" June yelled up at the massive beast looming above.
"Hello. And goodbye," he replied as he raised his massive foot above them. The trio of fighters hefted themselves up with a mighty leap and delivered a triple punch to the jaw. There was a sickening crack... unfortunately, the wrong one.
"Ow, ow, ow, ow!" Jody cried, clutching her hand, hopping up and down.
"Seriously... I feel like I just punched a cinder block wall," Ophelia groaned, sucking on her fist. June cursed in Chinese for a moment as she shook her own appendage to dull the pain.
"This... is the great threat to me? Pathetic," the beast chuckled. "The te Xuan ze is hardly the threat it was when I was imprisoned."
"Just you wait, buster..." June warned.
"Oh, I'm sure, I'm sure," the creature scoffed. "Now, could we hurry along and destroy you? I have a planet to annihilate here."
"We'll stop you," Jody panted.
"Yes, well, I'll STOMP you," the monster smiled. With that, he brought his massive foot down upon them. He lifted it to find the three girls, clothes in bloodied tatters, embedded at least a foot in the street. "I can see we're done here. Nice try, ladies. If it's any consolation... no one will be around to curse your names for your defeat." He sneered once more, and turned around. He was about to bring his brute strength to bear against an office block when the sound of rock being moved aside reached his ears. He turned to see June, Jody and Ophelia staggering to their feet. "Oh, COME ON..." he rasped, annoyed.
"You're really a jerk..." Jody panted, clutching her arm.
"Oh, I'm so hurt..." he retorted. "You are, I see..."
"Like, I've been better," Ophelia replied, wiping blood from her lips.
"Quite. Tell you what, I'm a good sport... I'll let you little ones have a freebie shot. Then, I will make SURE your suffering ends. Fair?"
"Fair," June rasped before turning back to her friends. "Guys, I got an idea... but, it all depends on how much we got left... you think you can run, Jody?"
"I can try..." she rasped. "I just wanna lie down."
"Seriously..." Ophelia choked.
"I know, but you gotta stay with me... and, Ophelia, you think you can take a magic
"I guess..." the Hispanic shrugged.
"Okay..." June nodded weakly as she reached into her pocket. "I'm gonna shoot this at Ophelia," she continued as she pulled out an odd trinket. "When it bounces off of her, Jody, I want you to run around it, then direct it towards Puff here as fast as you can. Okay, you got that?"
"I... guess," Jody said.
"Sure, why not..." Ophelia replied, leaning on a badly hurt leg.
"I'm waiting!" the monster scoffed. The girls glared.
"Ready?" June whispered.
"Ready," her friends nodded.
"Good," June said as she turned the item on the battered Goth. Jody proceeded to run in a circle rapidly. The monster roared with laughter.
"Running in circles? Shooting each other? You're clearly mad!" he cried.
"See ya, Godzilla," June rasped, firing as she keeled over. Ophelia's chest reflected the shot as she toppled over, and a tornado formed by Jody's running concentrated and focused the blast, flinging it directly into the beast's chest as the blonde collapsed. The monster's eyes widened as the blast consumed his body from the center out, enveloping his entire body. A strangled roar was muffled by the attack.
"Defeated by little girls... I waited an eternity to be destroyed by little girls..." he managed to think before he finally exploded. The girls smiled weakly as the flash faded.
"Hey... we did it," Ophelia croaked as she went limp.
"We sure did," Jody coughed, eyes fluttering
"Yeah... we saved the world," June smiled as she faded out. "We sure..."
"June... JUNE! Can you hear me!"
June opened her eyes wearily, blinking them to focus. The blur above her focused and solidified into something familiar.
"No, of course not," the old woman mocked as she smiled. "How you feeling?"
"Like a rocket landed on my head..." she sighed. Her eyes widened. "Oh jeez... Jody! Ophelia!"
"Right beside you," she replied. "One whopper of a healing spell later. It's a good thing I reached you when I did. If I was later than that... well, it gets kind of messy."
"How'd you know?"
"Wasn't too hard. I knew where the fight was..."
"Aye," Monroe nodded. "And we've dealt with the possibility that anyone might have seen a giant lizard burstin' out of the ground like some kinda sci-fi movie."
"Well, almost everyone," Ah Mah corrected as two groans came from either side of the younger Asian.
"What happened?" Jody asked.
"Seriously... I'm not in excruciating pain anymore," Ophelia croaked.
"I think Ah Mah's to thank," June said. "Although, I don't like where this is going right now..."
"June, please, you have to understand..."
"No, YOU have to understand!" June spat as she jumped out of bed. "They just saved the world! If it was for him, Rodan Jr. would be starting to tear apart San Francisco about now!"
"Yes, but, we can't allow those who are not te Xuan ze to see behind the Veil and remember it..."
"Ray Ray isn't the te Xuan ze," June said with a bitterness that turned the air to an icy frost.
"True, but he's family..." Ah Mah insisted.
"Too bad. Jody and Ophelia have earned the right to remember. You can take back the special stuff, but they deserve to know the truth!"
"I kinda liked running that fast..." Jody mumbled shyly.
"Yeah, being all Superman was fun..." Ophelia added.
"Yes, I would imagine, but... it has to be done," Ah Mah replied.
"She's right, lass, you know that..." Monroe chided. June hemmed.
"I, I guess..." June stammered. Her eyes darted as if something had come to mind. A tiny smile flickered unseen on her face before she sighed. "Fine. I'll do it."
"June, no!" Jody and Ophelia cried as one.
"She's right, guys," June sighed. "I really can't let it happen..."
"June, I thought we were friends..." Jody sniffled.
"Yeah," Ophelia glared.
"You are... I mean, you won't remember this even happened soon..."
"Exactly," Ah Mah nodded as she handed her a set of bottles. "Just have them drink this, and they'll be wiped. Then you just have to pick the stuff up when it falls off."
"Okay," June mumbled as she turned towards them.
"No way!" Jody spat, arms crossed.
"Seriously!" Ophelia added.
"You're right guys..." June nodded. She paused. "You always were." Ah Mah was opening her mouth in confusion when it turned to horror: June was bringing the bottles to her own lips.
"June! What are you doing!" the old woman cried.
"What does it look like?" June replied. "I'm wiping a mind."
"Are ya daft, woman!" Monroe yelped. "That much potion..."
"Yep," June nodded. "Negates all magic in my body. So... either the te Xuan ze gets confidants... or it's all over."
"June, put those bottles down, please!" Ah Mah pleaded.
"No!" June shot back.
"If you do... the line of te Xuan ze will be gone forever!"
"How could ya be so selfish, lass?" Monroe scolded.
"Because things needs to change. Ah Mah, it's been what, thousands of years?"
"Yes," the old woman nodded. "That is why--"
"Things gotta change! Cripes, we're not still using abacuses and sitting in caves!"
"But this is different, June! The te Xuan ze is a lone responsibility."
"Exactly," June said, her voice wavering. "And I'm so sick of it..."
"Are you okay, June?" Jody urged, placing a hand in her friend's shoulder.
"No, I'm not. I'm not okay. How can I be okay when I have to lie to my friends everyday, eschew a normal life, and get beaten up when I had no choice in the matter. See this?" she continued, holding up the bottles. "This is my way back. This how I can have a life again."
"Okay, like, June," Ophelia urged as she took the Asian's other side. "Seriously, it sounds like you're kinda... needed."
"Yeah, well... too bad. Not anymore. I'm done." Straightening, June brought the first bottle to her lips...
"What was that?" June asked, bringing the bottles down slightly.
"You heard me, June," Ah Mah croaked. "You win. I won't wipe Jody and Ophelia's minds." June beamed and almost tackled her grandmother in a bear hug.
"Thanks, Ah Mah..." she whispered.
"Are ye daft, woman!" Monroe barked. "What if they tell!"
"Hey, my lips are sealed," Ophelia smiled.
"What's a te Xuan ze? Never heard of it," Jody beamed.
"Oh, fine..." Monroe huffed. He suddenly yelped as the blonde scooped him up.
"You're so cute when you're annoyed!" Jody squealed, snuggling the small pug.
"Put me down, ye nut job!" Monroe whined, flailing his small limbs.
"Jody, put down the hundreds of years old Scottish advising dog down," Ophelia scolded. Jody didn't answer, so the Goth smacked her in the back of the head. Jody dropped Monroe in reflex.
"Ow," Jody complained.
"Oh, yes, this is much better now," Monroe sniffed, lying on his back. "Besides, how are ye going to explain this to the Elders?"
"Well, it'll take some doing," Ah Mah shrugged, "but, I think they'd understand in time. A morbidly depressed te Xuan ze is a bad te Xuan ze."
"Pretty much, yeah," June nodded.
"But, they'll be sitting ducks!" Monroe cried flailing his legs in an attempt to get up. "Uh, could someone kinda..." he asked before Ophelia nudged him with her boot. He rolled over and stood up. "Uh, thanks," he nodded. "But still, after that fight, and the fire demon, everyone will know it's June's weakness! They'll be defenseless!"
"Yes... after those fights," Ah Mah nodded as an idea formed in her head. "I shall be right back..." she added as she walked out of the room.
"So... we're not gonna be erased?" Jody squeaked.
"No, doesn't look like," June replied. "But, just in case..." she added, putting the bottles in her pocket.
"Okay, so like, June, you were gonna seriously recant everything for us?" Ophelia asked. "I mean, seriously?"
"Yes," June nodded. "Because I'm sick of the lies. You guys are my best friends. I shouldn't have to hide from you I'm in mortal danger every week. And, I'm sorry about the mall. I really am. I'm so sorry..."
"It's okay," Jody smiled as she glomped June tight.
"Yeah," Ophelia added. She hesitated, then slowly hugged her friends.
"You guys are the best," June whispered.
"Ach, I'm gonna be sick..." Monroe moaned.
"Stop it," Jody muttered.
"No, really, I had some of the soup, I'm gonna be sick..." Monroe managed before running out of the house.
"You're life is really screwed up, June," Ophelia observed.
"Heh. Tell me about," the Asian shrugged as the girls separated. After a few more moments, Ah Mah returned with two mugs, causing June to glare.
"Allow me to explain, June," the old woman said, cutting her granddaughter off. "I was just talking to the Elders..."
"Oh, great," June groaned.
"Again, June, allow me to explain. The Elders are very impressed with you. Not only have you shown competence in battle and diplomacy but you saved the world and all in a mere twenty-four hours. They have given us their blessing to not erase them, and well... they'd like them to stay on."
"Stay... on?" Ophelia asked.
"Yes," Ah Mah nodded before clearing her throat. "Jody Irwin. Ophelia Ramirez. I give you a choice. You may, if you wish, relinquish the items on your persons and return to your normal life. Or, you may continue by drinking this."
"Uh... what is it?" Jody asked, eying the odd pink mixture.
"By drinking this, you will acquire the abilities of the objects you wear. Permanently. Which is why you need to weigh this very, very carefully, girls. If you say yes... there will be no going back for you."
"Okay, like, that's heavy..." Ophelia mumbled. "But, okay, I'm in."
"Me too," Jody nodded.
"Are you SURE, guys?" June pleaded. "I mean, I'd love the help, but... this is gonna be pretty dangerous..."
"June... seriously... we're with you," Ophelia replied.
"BFF!" Jody squeaked.
"Very well," Ah Mah nodded as she extended her hands. "Drink up."
"Uh, cheers," Jody replied as she tapped her mug with Ophelia's, then drank. The Goth also gulped hers down, finishing at roughly the same time.
"Okay, so, like, when do we feel it?" Ophelia asked.
"Right about... now," Ah Mah replied. As she said 'now,' a tingle ran through the small girls. It started at their center, then started to spread outwards, flowing along their veins and nerves until it reached their skin. A slight glow shimmered like the Northern Lights just under their clothes and exposed skin.
"It's kinda pretty," Jody said in awe.
"And, uh, seriously freaky..." Ophelia croaked. "Feels like my... everything is falling asleep."
"Then it's working," Ah Mah replied. The tingling began to abate and to fade away in the same direction, from their center outwards. A moment more passed, then all of the trinkets June had given the day before appeared and fell off.
"Uh, huh," Ophelia observed, eyebrow raised.
"Aw, I thought you said we'd be able to help June..." Jody huffed.
"Oh, give it a rest, Blondie," Monroe sighed.
"I can understand him! Yay!" Jody squeaked, embracing the dog once more. And, once again, a dull smack to the back of her head came, forcing her to drop him.
"No," Ophelia said with a wagging finger to her friend. "No."
"I've about had it with this," Monroe growled, having landed on his head. His body plopped down, and he lolled onto his side.
"Okay then, kids, welcome to the team," Ah Mah smiled as she scooped up the goods. "I have great faith in you, considering what you did today..."
"Thanks," the two new te Xuan zes replied shyly.
"You're welcome," the old woman nodded. She paused. "So, I'll see you at six in the morning Saturday."
"Yeah, o-- wait, what!" Jody yelped.
"Well, I can't have you two running off into battle all willy nilly without an idea of what you're doing!" Ah Mah scoffed. "By the time I'm done with you, you three will only have to glare at someone!" she added before waddling away. The three slumped slightly.
"...would this be a bad time to mention you're probably going to get the San She now?" June asked.
"A very, very, VERY bad time, June," Jody said as she closed her eyes. "A very bad time."
Several Days Later
"Hurry up with that stuff, Marty!" the bizarre horse-lizard hybrid hissed to his partner. "C'mon!"
"Oh, relax," the cat-turtle replied. "We gots plenty of muscle in case we run into trouble, Sean. They're called Bill and Larry," he added, pointing to the minotaurs flanking the two magical creatures.
"Yeah, well... I guess."
"We're gonna be rollin' in fungus with this stuff," Marty smirked, running his hand through the fine sand. "We can retire."
"With a broken jaw, if you ask me," a familiar voice called out. The beasts whirled towards the entrance of the alley.
"Ack! The te Xuan ze!" Sean cried.
"Oh, relax," Marty scoffed. "There's only one of 'em?"
"Oh, you haven't heard the news?" the small Asian girl replied with mock shock. "I'm really surprised!"
"And, uh, what news could THAT be, squirt?" Marty sniffed.
"Please don't make her mad..." Sean whimpered.
"Shut up. Now, as I was saying... what news did I miss?"
"Oh, nothing special..." the girl smirked. Before Marty could retort, a form landed in a crouch on the fighter's right hand side.
"There's more than one now," the bizarrely dressed figure grinned in a dry, throaty voice as she got up.
"Try three," added a blur that slowed to form a blonde girl in a painfully sweet voice with a cheesy grin. The mob became uneasy.
"Um, Marty, you didn't say anything about THREE of them!" Bill gulped.
"Yeah, you said there was only one! A squirt!" Larry cried.
"...squirt?" the Asian said. She turned to her friends. "Jody? Ophelia? Shall we?"
"Absolutely," the blonde grinned, cricking her knuckles.
"Seriously," the other girl added.
With that, the three young warriors charged headlong into battle.