Little more than a week later, Clay Bailey left the Xiaolin Temple. The gentle cowboy simply hadn't been the same since Jack's death. And now he was headed back to Texas.
"Clay! No! Do not leave!" Omi wailed, wrapped around Clay's knee.
"I got to, partner." The blonde drawled sadly. "I killed a man. Not just that, but I killed a weak man that was just tryin' t' get away. If'n Jack and I had been fightin' face t' face, it would have been different. It would've been two warriors facin' off and one dyin' in battle. Not murder. But we weren't and it isn't and it is. I gotta go, Omi."
"Clay, it was just Jack Spicer! Don't run away for him!" Kimiko pleaded.
The Texan paused to give the Dragon of Fire a disbelieving look.
"I ain't runnin' away, Kimiko. I just need t' get things right in my head before I could ever think about fightin' again. The way I feel right now, I don't think I'd have the heart t' raise my hand against anyone."
"Hey, I gotcha, man." Rai said. "But you come back if you feel any better! Dojo'll always be ready to pick you up! Right, Dojo?"
"Of course," The mystical dragon whimpered, growing to his flying size. "Anything for my friends." A five gallon tear slammed into the cobblestones, causing Rai and Kimiko to leap back in alarm.
"No! Do not leave!" Omi reiterated, burying his face in Clay's pant leg. The Dragon of Earth let the smaller boy weep for a minute, then pried him off as gently as possible and climbed aboard Dojo.
They managed to reach cruising altitude before Clay burst into tears.
A few days later, the three remaining Xiaolin Dragons rode the Crouching Cougar back to the Temple.
"Chase Young is a formidable opponent!" Omi announced. "I was surprised we were able to retrieve the Serpent's Tail without Clay."
"Knowing Chase, it's probably Step #30 in some twisted plot," Raimundo sighed. He patted the now saddened Omi on the shoulder. "Don't worry, little guy. Clay will be back; he just needs to figure a few things. You'd feel screwed up to if – if that had happened to you."
"I can't believe he's this upset over Jack Spicer." Kimiko said flatly.
Raimundo stiffened. The Brazilian twisted to look over his shoulder at his fellow warrior in disbelief.
"What?! We hated the guy when he was alive and now that he's dead we're supposed to be all broken up?"
"Jack Spicer wasn't truly evil! Only weak and pathetic!" Omi protested.
"Don't speak ill of the dead, yo!" Rai cried, unsure exactly which one to scream at first. "He died right on this road! If you go bad mouthing him around here, something bad'll happen!"
"Something bad?" Omi echoed, his eyes going wide. "L-like what?"
"Yeah, Omi, Jack Spicer will come back and haunt us!" Kimiko snorted, waving a hand.
Raimundo felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck.
"Don't say that!" The Brazilian yelled.
"What? Don't say Jack's ghost will come back from beyond the grave to take revenge?" Kimiko taunted. "You're so superstitious!"
Rai scooted a little farther forward on the Crouching Cougar, trying to distance himself from the girl who was painting the occult 'Kick Me' sign on her own forehead.
"D-do you think Jack Spicer ate before he came to the temple?" Omi asked.
Wind and Fire stopped and looked at Water.
"Huh?" Rai asked.
"D-do you think he died hungry?" The Chinese boy asked, tears welling up in his eyes. "If he died on an empty stomach, he became a hungry ghost! Now he'll roam forever!"
"Really?" Rai asked, his voice rising in horror.
"Omi, that's a Chinese legend. Jack was American." Kimiko said flatly.
"He was born in China! He told me so!"
"These hungry ghosts; can they hurt you?" Rai asked.
"Oh yes! That is why a bowl of rice is always offered at funerals!" Omi gasped out loud. "There was no rice at Jack's funeral!"
"You guys are ridiculous!" Kimiko snarled. "Jack is not going to come back and haunt us! In fact," The Japanese girl threw her arms out as if addressing the entire universe. "I hereby invite the ghost of Jack Spicer to come seek his revenge on us!"
"No!" Raimundo and Omi howled in the same breath, clutching each other tightly.
Against all odds, nothing happened. The sun continued to shine, birds kept singing, and no big black things came up to snatch them away.
"See?" Kimiko offered.
"You just cursed us!" Raimundo wailed, pointing an accusing finger at her.
"Oh stop it! The odds of Jack haunting us are about as likely as this hitchhiker getting a ride all the way out here!" The Dragon of Fire yelled, gesturing to a lonely figure standing by the side of the dirt track, one thumb upraised.
Omi was crying at this point. Rai hugged the smaller boy, turning away from Kimiko pointedly.
"Fine." Kimi growled, folding her arms across her chest.
The Dragon of Wind paused before he continued, as if he really didn't want to know the answer.
Kimiko managed to stop herself from looking around. Rai was just trying to freak her out. If she looked, that meant she believed Jack was coming back.
"You aren't funny, Rai." She snapped.
A few hours later, a local farmer delivering a load of pigs to the Xiaolin Temple passed along the same stretch of road. The man happened to look in his rear view mirror. He started to look away again, but his eyes snapped back to the mirror.
A pale youth in a ragged black coat was sitting in the back of the truck with the pigs. His red hair hung wild down over his eyes and a pair of yellow goggles were hung around his neck, the left lens cracked. The farmer could see where the strap had been torn and a new one tied on.
The man twisted to look out the back window of the pickup truck. How had the kid gotten on board? He hadn't stopped since he left his farm and – there were nothing but pigs in the back of the truck. The farmer looked back to the mirror, but it confirmed what his eyes had just told him.
Shaking his head, the farmer turned his attention back to the road. He must have just not been paying close attention; it was a trick of the shadows under the trees or something.
It was very astute of the farmer to think this.
Because if he had really been paying attention, he would have noticed all of his pigs had plastered themselves against the back of the truck and, to a swine, were determined not to go within a foot of the tailgate.
Kimiko sat in the meditation garden by herself, stewing quietly. It wasn't that she didn't believe in ghosts; she did. She had to, after all the things she had seen.
But the fact was, Wuya had been an incredibly powerful witch who had terrorized the ancient world and her ghostly form was incapable of anything other than annoying Jack. What could Jack do? Nothing, that's what! Jack could never do anything! He was always nothing, he simply hadn't realized it when he was alive.
"I'm glad he's dead." She said petulantly. "There: I said it."
There were footsteps on the paving stones behind her. Kimiko whirled, mortified at being caught saying what even she would admit was a horrible thing.
There was no one there.
The Japanese girl frowned, then shrugged. Clay must have been practicing his Seismic Kicks. From a distance, the dull thumps sounded a bit like footsteps.
A musical tone caught her attention. Kimiko's PDA was beeping for attention. Kimi cheered up instantly. It was too early for her friend Keiko to be out of school, but maybe she had ditched.
NotthePoet1925: Thanks for the invite.
Kimiko frowned. She hadn't invited this guy to chat. But, sure enough, the top of the screen read:
KajiOnna357 has invited NotthePoet1925
KajiOnna357: Sorry, we must have gotten a wire crossed. I didn't actually invite you.
NotthePoet1925: Yes you did.
Kimiko frowned again. There was something odd about the way the messages were coming up, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. At least he hadn't asked for pictures of her naked yet.
NotthePoet1925: Could have given me a lift, though.
KajiOnna357: What are you talking about?
NotthePoet1925: I was hitching a ride, but nobody saw me but you
Kimiko got a cold chill.
Kimiko just managed to stop herself from slamming the PDA against the stone bench she sat on.
"Damn it, Raimundo!" She screamed. Without another thought, the Dragon of Fire leapt to her feet and tore off in search of the Brazilian monk. When she heard his voice through a window, Kimiko ran in to berate him immediately.
"You aren't funny, Raimundo!" Kimiko howled. "How dumb do you think I am?! You make up a fake screen name and pretend to be Jack and I bet you think you're a genius!"
The Japanese girl was so intent on screaming at Rai she didn't seem to notice certain things. Like how Rai screeched and curled up into a small a ball as possible.
"Like I wouldn't instantly know it was you?! You're such an immature idiot, Rai! All I have to do is check the ISP and trace it back to the computer . . .you're . . . us-ing . . ."
Kimiko slowly trailed off. It suddenly dawned on her that Raimundo was curled up into a small ball trying to hide behind a washcloth because he was, in fact, naked. He was naked because he was in the shower. In the men's bathhouse, to be exact.
Kimiko felt her cheeks burn with a sudden furious blush.
Rai got himself together enough to scream at his teammate.
"Dios Mio, what's wrong with you?! Get out get out get out get out!"
Kimiko whirled, her face as red as a tomato. She dashed back outside, keeping her eyes riveted to the floor. There were other monks bathing and a flash of yellow let her know Omi was in the there, too. She was so going to hear about this from Master Fung.
The Dragon of Fire ran back out into the courtyard and hid behind a tree. Her PDA chirped for attention.
NotthePoet1925: Don't think Rai showers with a computer.
It dawned on her. The messages weren't popping onto the screen; they were scrawling across the window one letter at a time, like they were being typed directly into the message window. Instant messaging didn't work like that.
NotthePoet1925: You were in the boys' room. Ha. Ha. Ha.
The PDA's MP3 player suddenly kicked on.
'Teenagers scare the living shit outta me
They could care less
As long as someone will bleed
So darken your clothes
Or strike a violent pose
Maybe they'll leave you alone, but not me!'
Kimiko quickly shut the device down. The digital clock flashed at her before the LCD screen went dark.
It was 7:32 pm.