"Oh God, no
"Oh God, no!" Raimundo moaned as the warlord stepped into the Temple courtyard.
Chase Young regarded the Wind Dragon coolly, then gathered a small bundle he held in his arms. Rai whimpered again when he saw the bloodstains on the fine cloth.
"Oh no . . . ." He moaned.
Inside the swaddle of brocade, bloody bones had been carefully gathered along with a few scraps of red and black fabric. They still bore the teeth and claw marks of Chase's warrior cats.
Chase Young lowered the tatters remains reverentially to the Temple's front step.
"No, no, no . . . . Omi!" Rai wailed, tears coursing down his cheeks. "Why didn't you stop him?!"
Chase raised an eyebrow at the abrupt tone.
"The ghost of Jack Spicer enacted revenge on you monks for killing him. What makes you think I would have interfered?"
"You LIKED Omi!" Rai protested, kneeling by the pathetic scraps of flesh and bone that had been his friend up until a few hours ago. "Why didn't you save him?!"
Chase sighed and looked down at the mortal remains at his feet.
"A challenge was answered. As a matter of honor, I could not interfere."
A raw sound of pure pain tore from Raimundo's throat.
"Two of my friends are dead!" He wailed. "And Clay's in a coma!"
"Two of my students are dead," Chase returned. "Though our relationship was rocky, Jack Spicer was still my apprentice. If I were you, young monk, I would save my grief."
Rai blinked up at the warlord as Chase Young turned away.
"After all, there is still one Xiaolin monk Spicer hasn't attacked."
The Brazilian monk's eyes grew wide as Chase let out a wicked laugh.
"Have a care, Dragon of the Wind!" he chuckled.
In the next instant, the Heylin lord was gone.
Omi's funeral pyre was a brief thing.
The warrior cats hadn't left much.
Afterwards, Raimundo had been tense, stressed and jumping at every shadow and creak in the floor.
Against all expectation, the ghostly noises had stopped.
No more footsteps haunted Rai's bedroom. Small objects stopped moving around on their own. Dark shapes ceased flitting across his peripheral vision. Despite all of this, Raimundo knew he wasn't alone.
He could feel Jack's presence.
The ghostly youth was still there, still watching, still waiting.
The only time Rai got any relief from this feeling was when he left the Temple grounds to gather supplies. After a few days, he leapt at the chance to run every stupid, pointless errand he could just to get relief from the heavy, oppressive feeling.
Unfortunately, he always had to return.
Nearly a week after Omi had died, Dojo slunk up to the one remaining Xiaolin Dragon.
"Um," the dragon began eloquently. "A Shen Gong Wu just went active. You think you're up for this?"
"A Shen Gong Wu?" Rai echoed. Somehow, in the horrors of the previous month, he had forgotten about the existence of the Shen Gong Wu. How completely shitty would it feel to hunt for one alone?
He looked away as he wrestled with his feelings.
And saw Jack standing at the end of the hall.
By the time Rai blinked, the apparition was gone.
"Uh . . . yes! I am up for a Shen Gong Wu hunt! Definitely! Let's get out of here!" Raimundo declared with unseemly haste.
Without waiting for an explanation of the Shen Gong Wu, the Brazilian snatched up the dragon and bolted out into the courtyard.
"It's called the Helmet of Mercury; it's a teleportation Wu, like the Golden Tiger Claws. Just put it on, think where you want to go and you're there!" Dojo announced.
"Cool," Rai muttered without feeling.
"You sure you're okay?" Dojo asked.
"No," Rai answered.
"All right, fair enough," the dragon sighed. He was snaking through the sky towards the new Wu.
"All my friends are dead and there's a vengeful ghost after me," Rai elaborated. "How are you not okay?! Everybody's dead!!"
"Raimundo; I've lived for fifteen hundred years. I've had more human friends die than you can even imagine."
The young monk blinked in shock at the statement. It made perfect sense, of course, but it was something he had never even thought about.
"But . . . you were always snuggling up to Omi . . ." Rai murmured weakly.
"I did. I've cuddled Master Fung every day of his life, too. I'll never forget the sweet smell of Kimiko's perfume, or the cozy warmth under Clay's hat. Just like I'll never forget how Clay reminded me so much of Jun Shan who lived four hundred years ago I suspect he was a reincarnation of that other monk. Dragons live a long, long time, Raimundo. We are travelers across time. Always have been, always will be."
Rai considered this.
"Some human philosopher said that a person still lives while they are remembered. In that sense, those who are loved by dragons live forever in our hearts. We may forget the piddling things, like where we left a magical sword a couple of thousand years ago, but we remember the important stuff; like how Ravi used to braid me into his hair while I was sleeping. Or how Omi sucked his thumb in his sleep until he was nine years old. Whenever and however you die, Raimundo, I'll always remember you, too."
"Thank you," Rai said quietly.
"Don't mention it. We're here." Dojo circled down to land outside of a steel mill. "The Helmet of Mercury is in there."
"Okay. I'll get it." Rai slid off of Dojo's back and started to enter the factory. Then, he turned back and hugged the dragon's head. "Thanks. Thanks for everything."
Then the last remaining Xiaolin Dragon walked into the steel mill to retrieve the Shen Gong Wu.
Five minutes into the search, Rai realized his brief reprieve from haunting was over.
Footsteps echoed along the corridors. Dark shapes flitted through the shadows cast by the molten steel. Metal rattled without any visible help.
The state of semi-calm Raimundo had experienced while riding Dojo was completely gone. He did his best to try to search for the missing Wu. His natural inclination was to head for high ground. Wind powers aside, he had grown up on the trapeze; heights were absolutely no problem for him. Every time Marcello the Strong Man had gotten drunk and gone on one of his rampages, his parents had sent him and all his brothers and sisters up to the tightrope to wait it out. In Raimundo's mind, height equaled safety.
This was probably why he found himself up on the catwalks above the molten vats of steel.
When he heard music, Rai about suffered a heart attack. Clinging to the railing tightly, the Brazilian monk forced himself to calm long enough to realize it was coming from a radio secreted among the pipes for the enjoyment of the steel workers. It was most certainly not playing anything by My Chemical Romance.
He found the tiny clock radio on top of a large cooling pipe and gave it a cold glare.
It was 7:31 p.m.
For some reason, this chilled him to the bone.
Rai yanked the plug out of the extension cord. In an instant, the music stopped and the clock went off.
Flinging the cord down, Rai turned away to continue his search.
Behind him, the radio clicked on again.
The Brazilian monk slowly turned.
The radio was innocently playing popular music while the clock proudly proclaimed it 7:31 p.m. the cord dangling loose and free.
Some part of the monk's mind screamed in terror, but Rai shook his head.
"Batteries," he growled. "It just switched over to battery power."
Fear transformed itself into anger. Rai grabbed the radio, flipped it upside down and tore open the battery cavity.
It was empty.
Green eyes grew wide.
Rai flipped the radio back over.
The clock switched over to 7:32 p.m.
The popular music fuzzed into static and angry, emo goth music pumped through the tinny speakers.
"'All together now!
Teenagers scare the livin' shit outta me!
They could care less as long as someone'll bleed!
So darken your clothes or strike a violent pose,
Maybe they'll leave you alone,
But not me!'"
Raimundo yelped and flung the radio away. It bounced down the catwalk, shedding bits of cheap plastic before finally coming to a rest in the middle of the corrugated steel floor of the catwalk. In the next moment, a fifty-foot section of catwalk sheared off as neatly as if it had been snipped out by a pair of giant scissors.
The noise echoed through the factory as the walkway crashed to the ground level, part of it falling into the vat of molten steel below.
Rai hunkered back against the railing.
Oh God . . . this was it . . . . Jack was going to kill him now!
Boots clunked against the steel walkway behind him. Raimundo whirled again. There was something on the shining steel; something dark and shining.
A bootprint in what looked like blood.
Another footstep echoed on the metal and another bootprint filled in. It was odd how it worked; as though the invisible boots were filled with blood and every step forced the fluid out to coat the soles of his boots.
Raimundo backed away quickly, realizing the footsteps were quickly closing in on him. Behind him, the broken catwalk hung over the empty space, the boiling molten steel waiting to engulf whatever fell into it. Rai glanced across the hole to the othe side of the catwalk. Fifty feet; too far to jump, but he could fly.
Could he harness his Wudai powers when he was scared out of his mind? Had Kimiko tried to summon fire to banish the darkness? Had Clay thought to surround his body with stone to protect him from crushing? Had Omi tried to summon water to blast away the cats?
If they had, they had all failed.
Rai backed up to the edge of the broken walkway, his heels hanging over the edge.
The footsteps continued their relentless march forward, until they finally paused mere inches from Rai.
Slowly, color and depth filled in the footsteps, until the shade of Jack Spicer stood in the bloody footprints. Jack was still bloody and light flashed through the gaping hole in his chest. His previously bright eyes were now dull, dead, and lifeless.
"'M – 'm –'m sorry," Raimundo whimpered. "'M sorry I forgot to tell your Mom about the song! I'm sorry we were mean to you! I'm sorry you're dead!"
Tears started to pour down the Brazilian's cheeks.
"I'm sorry," he whispered hoarsely.
Jack took a step forward.
Rai screamed out loud and a sudden warmth down his legs let him know he'd pissed himself from sheer terror. Unable to jump, unable to back away, the Dragon of the Wind screwed his eyes tight shut and stepped forward.
There was a moment of unbearable, bone-chilling cold.
A chill he felt straight down to his marrow; the cold of death, the freezing pit of endless night. Rai would never be able to forget that cold, especially in the dark of the night years later, after drinking too much. From now on, in Raimundo Pedrosa's mind, Hell was a cold place.
The Brazilian monk tripped and fell across the catwalk. For a moment, he flailed on the corrugated iron before he remembered to open his eyes. Flinging himself onto his back, Rai stared up at the ghost of Jack Spicer in terror.
Jack stood at the edge of the broken catwalk, one semi-transparent foot actually standing on air. The ghost stared down at the terrified boy for a moment, then grinned. His shoulders shook lightly and after a moment, as if the electronics weren't quite hooked up right, the sound of a laugh.
Jack Spicer laughed loud and long before disappearing.
"He left Raimundo alone?" Bao asked, her dark eyes wide. "B-but if Jack Spicer killed Kimiko and Omi, why did he let Raimundo and Clay live?"
"Ah, but you see, little one, all of the monks had the chance to live. Kimiko could have left the Vault, Omi could have remained in the Temple instead of walking into a literal lion's den. Clay and Raimundo were truly penitent and they showed it. Jack accepted their apologies." Master Yaoh answered.
"Clay ended up in a coma! That's not exactly what I call accepting an apology!" Mike insisted.
"Clay came out of his coma eight months later. He remained in a wheelchair for four years before he refined his elemental powers enough to be able to heal his spine. He married his high school sweetheart and his daughter trained as a Dragon before you came."
Yaoh paused to take a sip of the strong brandy that he held in one hand.
"Jack has been seen in the Temple many times since then, but he has never offered to hurt anyone else. I do not believe he would have been able to hurt the warriors who killed him if he hadn't been invited to do so. So the next time you battle Jin Spicer, remember what happened to her grandmother's cousin. If you don't – something like that might happen to you!" Yaoh whirled and flung his brandy into the fire pit, causing the flame to roar up nearly to ceiling.
The screams of the Dragons in training echoed across the peaceful Chinese countryside.
Dojo looked up from his newspaper.
"I hate Halloween," he muttered to no one in particular.
Yaoh laughed wickedly.
The young monks were curled up in a tight ball, clinging to each other tightly. Mike blinked first, then glared at his teacher.
"That wasn't funny!" he bellowed.
"Yes it was!" Yaoh corrected, snickering.
"I think I may have wet my pants," Bao whimpered, her cheeks burning.
"Ah . . . no, Greta spilled her drink on you," Ali corrected, pointing to the discarded cup.
"Oh, come now; Halloween isn't Halloween without a good scare. Tell your own stories now and don't stay up too late," Yaoh murmured. "Good night, my young Dragons."
The teaching monk ran his finger around the rim of his brandy glass and licked the appendage appreciatively before strolling casually out of the room.
A sour scowl on her face, Bao stood up and wiped at her sodden pants.
"Not funny," she agreed.
"Well . . . . maybe it was a little," Mike conceded, grinning ruefully.
"Uh . . ." Ali whimpered.
Greta had her arms wrapped tightly around the Dragon of Fire and was starting to sob. The Morrocan boy's eyes were wide open and a hot blush was burning on his cheeks.
"It – it was only a story," he offered.
Greta whimpered and shook her head, burying her face in the curve of Ali's neck.
"I've zeen him!" she shrilled.
"What? Seen who?" Mike asked.
"Jack Zpicer! I've zeen him!"
"What?!" Bao's eyes went wide again. Wet pants forgotten, she flopped down next to Greta and Ali. "You've seen Jack Spicer?! When? Where?!"
"W-when I firzt arrived at zhe Temple! I waz wandering around, looking at thingz and they were having a feazt in the dining room! I zaw a boy with red hair and white zkin standing juzt outside zhe door. I waved to him to come in, but he wouldn't! I looked around to zee if anyone else waz around, but when I looked back he waz gone!" Greta wailed.
"I've seen him, too," Bao whispered.
The other three Dragons looked at her.
"Last year, when Mike and Ali were being mean to me, I went down to the reflecting pool to pout. I was kicking at the water lilies and I fell in. I can't swim. I couldn't yell for help. I felt someone pulling me up and I saw a boy with white skin and red hair looking back at me. When I climbed out of the water, he was gone."
Mike looked at the empty glass Greta had spilled thoughtfully.
"Time for another Halloween activity," he announced.
Fifteen minutes later, the four Dragons were seated around the dinner table. The empty glass was upside down in the middle of the table, while a circle of white cards with every letter of the alphabet surrounded it. On one side of the circle, a card bearing the word 'Yes' interrupted the letter cards, while on the opposite side, the word 'No' broke the flow.
"Easy peasy," Mike announced. "We each put a finger on the glass and ask questions. If the ghost of Jack Spicer is around, he'll spell out his answers."
"Thiz iz a Ouija board!" Greta announced, horror in her voice.
"You know a better way to talk to a dead boy?" Mike asked.
The Dragon of the Earth whimpered. Under the table, she groped for Ali's hand in a desperate attempt to connect with someone who was also against this craziness. Ali flinched and looked down at his hand in shock. He flinched even harder when Mike grabbed his other hand.
"Come on; everybody has to do it," the British youth instructed.
"I don't want to!" Greta whimpered.
"For a German, you sure are a pansy," Mike observed, dragging Ali's free hand up to touch the glass.
Greta's mouth dropped open in offended horror as Bao grabbed her hand and forced it up to the glass.
"Come! Jack Spicer has been trapped in the Temple for one hundred years! If we can help release his spirit; think of how wonderful that would be!"
When all four Dragons were touching the glass, Mike cleared his throat.
"All right; here we go. Is there a spirit present who would like to talk with us?"
The shadows in the corners of the room seemed to deepen, but nothing else changed.
"If you want to speak with us, please move the glass," Mike said.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then, the glass scooted sideways an inch or so. Greta instantly keened in distress. The glass picked up momentum and slid in a wide, powerful circle around the table.
"You are moving it!" Ali declared, his eyes wide open.
"Am not. Is this the ghost of Jack Spicer?" Mike asked.
The glass circled and came to rest next to the 'Yes' card.
"Wow. Um . . . are you trapped here? Is that why you're still here?" Bao asked.
Another circle and the glass came to rest next to 'No'.
"Are you . . . . waiting for something?" Mike asked.
Bao gasped, her eyes going wide.
"I know! You're sorry for being evil and you're not going to cross over until you've made up for all the bad things you've done, right?!"
The glass scooted sideways for a second, then slid towards the 'A' card. After it touched that, it slid towards 'S'.
"Az if?" Greta echoed.
"Uh . . . ok-ay. Is there something we can do to release you?" Mike asked.
"And your spirit will be released and you'll be free!?" Bao asked with a grin.
"What do we need to do to release you?" Mike asked.
'S-E-R-P-E-N-T-S T-A-I-L R-E-V-E-R-S-I-N-G M-I-R-R-O-R.'