"Are you ready to set out the jack-o-lanterns and the pudding, Bao?" Master Yaoh asked. The small, bubbly Chinese girl nodded eagerly. A Dragon of the Wind in training, the small girl showed amazing talent with her elemental power. Bao grabbed a jack-o-lantern nearly as big as she was and headed for the Xiaolin temple's front gate.
"Mike, Greta, Ali, come help us set out the pumpkins!" She called, waddling through the grounds.
The other Dragons in training gathered around slowly. They picked up jack-o-lanterns and followed the small girl, except for the Dragon of the Earth.
"Why zhe pudding?" Greta asked, her words tinted with a distinct German accent. "It iz Halloveen, zo I understand zhe pumpkinz, but why zhe pudding?" The other three dragons stopped and stared at her.
"Oh Greta, you don't know?! The pudding is to keep the ghost satisfied!" Bao announced.
"Yes, haven't you heard?" Mike's crisp English accent rolled across the courtyard. "The Xiaolin Temple is haunted by the ghost of Jack Spicer." The Dragon of Water grinned wickedly at the blond girl.
"Do not tell me you have never heard of the legend of Jack Spicer?" Ali asked.
"Oh, we must have a telling of ghost stories!" Bao cried. "After we set out the jack-o-lanterns and the pudding, we should retire to the sleeping chamber and tell the story!"
"How foolish," Ali grumbled. "It is simply a frightening tale for children."
Master Yaoh raised an eyebrow at the Moroccan boy. The teaching monk was still relatively young. In his early thirties, he should have been calm and mature and wise, but he still felt a guilty thrill when he got to knock the Dragon of Fire down a peg or two.
"I assure you, Ali, the story of Jack Spicer's untimely death and haunting of the temple is nothing but the truth."
"If it is the truth, why does Dojo not tell it?" Ali asked, setting his pumpkin down by the temple gates. "He was alive one hundred years ago; if it happened, he should be the one to tell it. He was there."
"Yes, he was there, Ali. That is why he cannot tell it; Dojo knew Jack Spicer and those Xiaolin Dragons personally. It is too painful for him." Master Yaoh smiled. "Set down your jack-o-lanterns, then come into the sleeping chambers." The monk turned and walked back into the temple proper.
Greta placed the cup of pudding between the two largest pumpkins, balancing a spoon on the top.
"Doez it have to be banana pudding?" She asked no one in particular.
The four monks gathered around the central fire pit in the sleeping chamber. The electric lights were off, so that only light was given off by the low fire. The Xiaolin Dragons in training dragged their pillows and blankets out and settled in for a good ghost story. Mike had fortified himself with a bowl of toffee-covered popcorn, which he dealt out generously.
"I am so excited!" Bao exclaimed. "This will be the first time I have heard the whole story of Jack Spicer! Master Yaoh always said I was too young and it was too scary before!"
"I've only heard bits and pieces," Mike said. "This will be the first time I've heard the authorized version."
"Foolish," Ali muttered.
Master Yaoh turned to the assembled Dragons. The fire behind him cast the monk in a disturbing shadow. His voice was cold when he spoke and for a moment, he looked less like Master Yaoh and more like the dangerous warrior he could be.
"Heed my words, young Dragons; not only is this a ghost story, it is a cautionary tale as well. Everything that happened to the Xiaolin Dragons of a hundred years ago was caused by their own carelessness. And their callowness. It all began a week before Halloween . . . ."
"Chase Young, you're going down!" Raimundo cried, pointing a finger at the evil everlord.
"Big words, young monk. Do you truly think the four of you can defeat me?" Chase Young sneered. A few big cats were arrayed behind him, but this was mostly for show. The great Chase Young didn't need help defeating the monks. He knew it and they knew it. The only reason he didn't teleport into the vault and take the Serpent's Tail out from under their very noses was that this way was more entertaining.
"With our Wudai powers and the strength of our bond, we can defeat anything!" Omi declared, puffing out his yellow chest.
"Yeah! So get going before we send you packing!" Kimiko added.
"That's right; mosey on outta here!" Clay piped up.
"I think not; at least, not until I get what I came for."
"Then you should place it upon your skull!" Omi bellowed. There was a long pause. Omi always mangled slang, but this time it was beyond all recognition.
"Oh! I know! He means: be it on your own head!" A new voice cried.
The four monks and Chase Young turned to see Jack Spicer standing in the courtyard of the Xiaolin Temple. The self-proclaimed evil boy genius was either taking advantage of Chase's presence to raid the monk's vault or he had incredible timing. His arms were filled with pilfered Shen-Gong-Wu.
"Jack Spicer?" Omi identified the sometimes-villain by his full name, as was his habit.
"Dude! You're stealing all our wu!" Rai squawked in protest.
"Oh, like you've never raided my house!"
"Spicer? Do you have the Serpent's Tail?" Chase asked.
Jack looked down at the swag in his arms. He was using the Shroud of Shadows as a sort of sling. The Golden Tiger Claws, Orb of Tornami, the Thorn of Thunderbolt and the Shard of Lightning were all on display, with smaller and less obvious wu packed in around them. The distinctive handle of the Serpent's Tail was in plain sight.
"Um . . . . . I don't think so," he tried.
Moments later, Jack was flying across the courtyard from the force of Chase Young's strike. The Serpent's Tail was firmly in the dragon lord's grasp. The stolen wu were scattered across the grounds. Jack rolled upright and started scrabbling around on all fours, grabbing up what Shen-Gong-Wu he could find.
"Well now, that was even easier than I had anticipated," Chase announced with a wicked grin. "I'll take my leave of you now. Try to play nice, children." The Heylin dragon teleported away, taking his jungle cat servants with him. For a minute or so, no one moved. Then, as one, the four Wudai warriors turned to face Jack Spicer.
"Jack!! You waste of oxygen!" Kimiko screamed.
"Because of you, Chase Young will be able to complete his nefarious plan! Er, whatever it is." Omi announced, deflating slightly.
"Spicer, you're about as welcome as a skunk at a garden party!"
"Dude, stop stealing our wu while we insult you!" Raimundo cried.
"Maybe I'm not very popular, but I do have the Shadow Slicer!" Jack raised the wu over his head. "Shadow Slicer! Shadow Slicer! Shadow Slicer! Shadow Slicer!" Spicer continued to activate the wu, filling the courtyard with Jack Spicer copies.
"See you later, Xiaolin losers!" They laughed in unison.
"Not quite! Sword of the Nebula!" Raimundo brought his elemental wu around in a sharp sweep. Typhoon force winds tore through a dozen Jack copies like they were paper dolls.
"Shimo Staff!" Omi extended his ice staff to an unbelievable length, smashing his way through Jack shadows and anything else that happened to be in the way.
"Arrow Sparrow!" Flaming missiles covered the courtyard, setting a few trees on fire, as well as a few Jack shadows.
"Big Bang Meteorang!" The burly cowboy sent his wu tearing through the last of the Jack copies. The boomerang swept back into his hand. "Woo-wee! I guess that's one way to-" Clay suddenly gasped. The Dragon of the Earth stared at his weapon in shock.
"What is it, Clay? Did you - oh my god!" Kimiko threw her hands over her mouth. The Big Bang Meteorang was covered in blood. The monks stared, then looked across the courtyard.
Jack was still upright for the moment. The goth teen was staggering towards the gate, blood gushing down from under his trench coat. He didn't seem to realize what had hit him yet and was simply responding to his instinctive urge to flee. Then his knees buckled as if his strings had been cut.
"Oh mah God . . . Jack!" Clay dropped his bloodstained wu and ran towards the stricken villain. The other monks followed.
Jack Spicer lay in a rapidly spreading pool of blood, limbs twitching restlessly as he tried to figure out what had happened to him. From somewhere, the injured youth found the strength to roll onto his back. Blood was trickling out of the goth teen's mouth. Jack held one blood-stained hand up in front of his face, confusion writ large on his features.
"Jack! Don't try to move, dude, just stay still!" Raimundo cried, pulling open the teenager's trench coat to survey the damage. "Dios mio!"
The Big Bang Meteorang had torn straight through Jack's body. The albino youth's spine had been spared, but there was no way the gaping hole had missed his lungs and stomach. Blood was gushing out of the wound in a torrent. The teen started breathing in a ragged gurgle.
"Oh Gawd, Jack, I'm so sorry!" Clay cried, tears starting to flow from his blue eyes. The cowboy knelt on Jack's other side, trying to see to help around his tears.
"Hello? Emergency? I need an ambulance at the Xiaolin Temple right away!" Kimiko had her cell phone out and was putting it to good use. "Our friend is hurt bad; he's lost a lot of blood!"
Rai tore off his cherished leader's robe and pressed it over the wound. It was like pouring a glass of water on a forest fire. Tears starting to pool in his own eyes, the Brazilian boy shook Spicer by the shoulder.
"Stay awake, Jack! Stay with me!"
Clay added his own robes to the sodden mass on Jack's chest and belly. The large Texan applied as much pressure as he dared, trying to stymie the lake of blood spreading across the white stones of the courtyard.
"'m c-cold," Jack whispered, blowing bubbles of blood with his breath.
"The ambulance is on the way, Jack! Just stay with us!" Rai yelled, trying to stay in the line of the dazed red eyes.
"Rai?" Jack asked.
"Yeah? What is it, dude?"
"D-Do you . . . like . . . M-My Chemical Romance?"
"You want to talk about music now?" Raimundo almost laughed. Almost.
"They - they have . . . a song . . . c-called 'Teenagers'. . ."
"I haven't heard that one." The Brazilian looked up. The wail of an ambulance was echoing off of the hills surrounding the Temple.
"Love that s-song . . ." The blood bubbles were coming out of Jack's nose now. Clay was still applying pressure and it seemed to be helping. The cowboy was still sobbing uncontrollably, but he didn't let that stop him from being useful. Kimiko was still on the phone with emergency services and Omi . . . Omi was just standing, staring at the unimaginable horror before him.
"Well, when you get better, we'll listen to it together, okay?" Rai said. The ambulance was pulling onto the temple grounds now. Two paramedics in crisp white uniforms piled out of the back, medical equipment at the ready.
"Huh." Jack snorted, spraying blood across Rai's cheek. "J-just make sure . . . make sure they play it . . . at my f-funeral."
"No! No, you're not going to die!" Raimundo yelled.
Then the paramedics were shoving him out of the way, applying pressure, putting a respirator over Jack's mouth and bundling him onto a stretcher.
"You're going to be okay, Jack! We're going to listen to that song together!" Raimundo called out. The paramedics loaded the unresponsive goth into the back of the vehicle and tore off down the road towards the hospital.
The four dragons watched in silence as the ambulance sped away, lights flashing and sirens wailing. Not a word was spoken between them as they tracked the vehicle's progress. Just before it passed out of sight between the hills, the lights and siren were turned off.
Kimiko choked, whirling to dash back into the temple. Clay hit his knees, curling up with his forehead on the earth. Raimundo lowered his head.
"Why did they turn off the lights?" Omi asked quietly. Tears were trickling down his cheeks, but he wasn't sobbing outright. Not yet. "Why did they turn off the siren? How will people know to get out of the way?" The Dragon of the Water approached his leader, tugging on Rai's pantleg. "Raimundo? Why did they turn off the lights and the siren?"
"Because there's no hurry now, Omi." Rai whispered, not raising his head.
"But Jack needs to get to the hospital right away! How can there be no hurry now? Why-"
"Jack's dead, Omi."
The little yellow monk's eyes widened. He stared up at Raimundo in shock. Behind him, Clay was starting to sob; broken, wracking sobs that shook his whole body.
"Dead? B-but, that cannot be! It was an accident! Clay did not mean to-we did not mean to! Jack cannot be dead!"
"Omi . . . he is. Go ahead and cry." Raimundo whispered, kneeling down. The Brazilian wrapped one arm around Omi's shoulders and pulled him close. After a moment, the little monk started to cry. "Clay! Clay! Clay!" The cowboy looked up. Rai grabbed him by the arm and pulled him into a tight embrace.
Together, the three boys rocked and cried in the half-destroyed, blood drenched yard. They mourned for the death of a boy who had been an enemy at his best and an annoying friend at his worst. It was 7:32 p.m.