Disclaimer: I do not own Jackie Chan Adventures.
Betaed by: Zim'smostloyalservant
Update: "Horray!" An Interlude: "Not Yay!"
Yes, hello. Been awhile. RL I would attribute to the lack of updates. When stress mounts it can be easier to start new work than get just the right balance for an ongoing work with its established feel. So when I wanted to write to relive stress this story ad other long time projects did not help matters.
Did not help that I left it on a trouble spot. Hebi working with Jade is easy, that dynamic I got a god grip on way back. No, wait I failed to appreciate was Viper not being on the J Team. Those guys suffer without a lady to keep them on track, I failed to appreciate it would carry over to writing them.
With no Jade or Jade substitute the J-Team dynamic changes, they need to also bounce back from another team member being lost. Jackie in particular gave me trouble here.
But with help, I have gotten it. It is slow going but at least a third maybe half the chapter is already done, and I feel once this hump is done we can just follow this arc to the Finales front door. There is still a good deal of story to tell but matters are escalating on all sides, and it will have to come to an epic head, as I planned years ago with Nocturne.
But for now you get only an interlude I am afraid. Partly because I want to update this story period, to show the faithful readers it is not forgotten. Also wanting to advance the story somewhat. And that if not here where would I put the scenes from this interlude.
I warn you now, a lot of the stuff here deals with backstory and the planned sequel in the AU J2 era. So expect to get more questions than answers.
So this lives, yay. And hopefully you will soon have something far more substantial to sink your teeth into.
Good to be back to this.
"Queen of All Oni"
Past, Present, Future
What Am I reading about Again?
1947, France, Somewhere in the Massif Central:
"Beware the Jabberwock, my son. The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!" the man recited. He stood before the altar of stone, worn by the years spent under the shadows of the trees. A stone table; he recalled the book he had read on a lark, but this not meant for lions. But it was long stained with the blood of lambs, such as the boy bound here, bare but for his ropes. The light of the moon exposed his terror, only his eyes permitted movement.
The captor was himself clothed, jacket cast aside despite the chill night air, the buckles of belt and suspenders catching the silvery light. A saber sheathed at his belt and pistols at chest and the other side of the belt. White sleeves were rolled up, exposing the tattoos that he now placed a hand on reverently.
"He took his vorpal sword in hand: Long time the manxome foe he sought – so rested he by the Tumtum tree. And stood awhile in thought," the man recited. Lifting his hand from flesh, he observed the golden Cross of Lorraine and the emblems of Armee and the FFI. Above it all, laying claims was wrought in black on pale skin, 39-45.
His hair had begun to thin, and his eyes already hid behind round glasses, yet the sleeves revealed power in his arms. His pacing was full of anticipation rather than anxiety.
"Come, come, come, last time pays for all. Come along, come along," he whispered. He starred into the dark, the shadows of leaf, branch and hill.
When it came, he raised his palms and stepped from its path. As from his memory, it was terrifying in simplicity, or perhaps his senses simply could grasp its truth despite whatever foul illusion cloaked it. He retreated as it advanced.
"And, as in uffish thought he stood, the Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, came whiffling through the tulgey wood, and burbled as it came!" he whispered as it neared the altar.
Within the brush he knelt, as a pale, slender hand brushed the boy's cheek. Spells unraveled as purple smoke, wire-bound leaves and cloth revealed. The detonator was depressed home with a click. The stone table exploded in fire and thunder.
With silent fury, it came at him though the smoke, and silver flew in greeting. Though pained it was, on it came, finery sacrificed for limbs aplenty to grapple.
It was not to be allowed, retreating as he slashed away what would seize him.
"Do you remember me?" he asked as it took his sword, and paused to snap it into scrap. Stumbling to the ground, he reached into the grass and pulled a wire.
Thunder and fire once more; now it cried, in anger if not agony. How he recalled the terror. The guilt of counting the screams – ten would fail, to pass you must merely be not one of the ten. Only luck, cunning, hiding, and swift feet ensured survival. A test from the teacher, another nightmare before the war.
When it caught up, he greeted it with both barrels of a shotgun. Silver once more, of course. The ax head had cost more, but better suited for chopping.
"One, two! One, two! And through and through, the vorpal blade went snicker-snack!"
Head fell from its shoulders, but it still closed a tendril about his neck, lifting him from the ground. With mocking delicacy, it took his father's gun. Training had made him flexible, and it only seemed to note the hand prying at its grip, as the other drew from his boot.
'The dagger of old, magic strong, magic bold,' he thought. The strike was a serpent's envy, he was certain; else it would not have landed so. Through the headless hole, to the blackheart below.
It passed with no mutter, or gasp. Like a nightmare instead, ended at last. Leaving him to fall to the dirt, leaf, and root, amidst the rotting cloth left in its stead.
'Was that all it was, cloth stuffed with malevolence? The nightmare man, only such a small thing to prey on children?
"He left it dead, and with its head. He went galumphing back," the man managed, rubbing his throat. The dagger first, kiss given to it in gratitude. Then his father's gun replaced in its holster, and lastly, the ax for his shoulder.
"'And, has thou slain the Jabberwock? Come to my arms, my beamish boy! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!' He chortled in his joy," the man muttered, the aches of battle catching up to him. Magic had its price, including when it was not used against those who would use it against you, he remarked to himself.
"Well done. You had me going for a moment. But it seems you are indeed the worthy student to reach so far," applause came from the dark. They came in their numbers, their numbers reduced or increased by the darkness they mantled themselves in. Cowards behind cowls, save for the teacher.
As pleased looking when he offered congratulations, as he had been that day with the dog and the hammer. Despite himself, the man flinched, the pained howl still reaching him over the years and beyond the war.
"Now you only need claim your prize," his teacher smiled, pointing beyond the man.
And he saw it was so. The souls rose like will o wisps, seeming at once untouchable, and fragile, as they abandoned the rags to orbit him. Names and faces rose to mind at the sights, screams from across more than a decade. Further than that, how long? The question deepened his scowl as he reached.
The touch was light, but stilled the souls in flight. The dark ones held their breath in anticipation of a wizard's dark ascension.
"Enough. You're done. Go, rest in peace or whatever. Its over, it is done!" he shouted, eyes wide behind the cracked lenses.
"NO!" his teacher screamed, lunging into the flaring light.
The man blinked the flash from his eyes and saw he was surrounded. They stood about; the entire order, it seemed, had come. His teacher glowered, close enough to be seen but not so close to peril as some. Their rage at the power gone forever beyond their reach closed in about him heavy in the night air.
"Why? Why throw away that power? You won, it was yours. And we can't forgive you, whatever your talent, for costing the Order such an asset in souls."
"Power, at the price of becoming something inhuman? You fail, teacher, my father was right about me. Your strength is a lie, more rags over malevolent nothing. Revenge even would mean nothing if it meant being a man like you, a creature like it," the man chuckled.
"…Boorish as ever. You have no more tricks, only the weapons you carry and subpar magic. As for your skills, you're exhausted and battered, while we are fresh and many. You have no advantage. We will take your soul first to start anew."
Smiling, the man lifted the ax and extended one finger from its handle.
"One advantage. I came here tonight ready to die. Did you?" he asked. Ax and revolver in hand, he charged into battle.
Windsor Mansion, Present Day:
Blankman sat at his desk, polishing the ancient family dagger with a square of red silk. Pausing, he inspected his labors, and contemplated the sliver of his reflection caught in the flat of the blade.
Survival was the one thing he had not planned on that night. Moved in part by the old tale of Masada, and the best moments of his other ancestors, he had opted for a final stand with meaning. Only unsolicited blessings had allowed him to prevail, had denied him a worthy death to escape his guilt.
He recalled how he had killed his teacher, in the end dismissing every speech and word he had intended to give to that monster that walked like a man. No, he had realized as he crushed the dark man's throat in his grip that any word was wasted on the likes of him. His teacher had been afraid in the end – nothingness wrapped in darkness and pomp after all.
How long had it taken him to accept the blessing he had been given? All those years wasted in the Legion, seeking death in Indochina by the hands of a worthy foe, before he awoke to the purpose he had lost on the way.
Sheathing the blade and replacing it in his drawer, he reached into a coat pocket and unfolded the simplified Diagram. Erasing the pencil marking for plus, he wrote in a question mark with a flourish.
Laying the diagram on the table, he furrowed his brow, watching how the equations changed as Jade Chan went from a certain plus to enigma.
He would have to report the continued need for observation. Roy would not be pleased with that answer.
A change had come. Brother Light knew this as clearly as a man under the open sky can discern the change of day to night. There was no dread in his soul, or elation at the realization. It simply was.
Though he did allow himself a thought in reference as he rose from his lotus position.
'Finally', he thought, 'It has happened after all. But then, every age has its beginning, and in turn must end.'
He descended the stairs from the shrine where he had fought the Heir of Shadows, and the amusing warrior. Dark had doe a magnificent job repairing it since the battle.
By the time his feet touched the courtyard tiles about the hill, his brothers had emerged from their own places of solitude. They did not look to him, their courses set to their common goal. But he could see the troubled thoughts through Dark's scowl and the unease of Grey's smile.
He joined them as they made their way to 'that' spot on the hillside. There was no doubt, but in such matters certainty was key; and the end of an era demanded the respect of tradition and ceremony.
Light shifted a rock with his sandaled foot, Dark shifted his weight to rest on a particular tile, and Grey struck that particular patch of grass with the butt of his staff. For the first time in decades, the hidden door opened.
He led them in, and it was like stepping into a memory; the passage was unchanging, and made him feel his three centuries and the loss of the many who had once followed him down this same passage. A long life, much of it spent waiting for a day he had hoped somehow would never come, he admitted.
Stepping into the chamber, they looked to the murals painted on the stone by men long dead. Their story preserved here, in its tragedy and triumph, and the knowledge that the end was not yet written in the book that held the truths of this world.
His eyes drifted to the image most illuminated by the candle. The Oni King, the Usurper of Two Thrones, enrobed in power and bringing forth his wrath. And between him and the world, a small band lead by a giant, raising a shining staff against the overwhelming darkness.
His eyes lingered on the Sage, and then sought out the other face from amidst the dance of the shadows. 'The conflicts may be cyclical, but we are not guaranteed the victories of those who came before. But we are also free to not make the mistakes of those who came before.'
The Light had faith enough in them to allow them the freedom to make mistakes.
At last, he looked to the golden scales – it always surprised him that so much was reflected by something so small. On one end sat a candle of purest white, its flame bright and fierce. Opposite it sat a black candle, its flame a dancing darkness, that still cast light regardless upon the wall. The scales had shifted, the balance had been lost, and the base of the black candle touched the living stone.
It was done then. There was no going back.
The preparations were carried out with silence. Cleaning, and closing, lingering moments of farewell. Lingering over the garden, of harvests that would not be.
The flock was the hardest, though they could convey their meaning at least. The flock understood, but the parting was harder than he expected. Attachment was painful, but in many ways it was what gave life meaning, he had found to his surprise. So long as you understood what truly mattered.
Finally, each task was done, and as the sun set, they closed the gates behind them, packs light on their backs. The shrine faded from sight, and with it their long watch of serenity. Though they had yet to turn away, the world spread ahead of them now.
"We should have moved sooner. Time is against us," the black-browed brother stated.
"True, but we are bound by the Dictates. To be unbound is to fall to the dark forces sooner or later. And they are rising too high as it is," Grey remarked. White stroked his chin and spoke his own piece.
"There is little point in thinking on what should be or could have been. We have our duty to guide us, a blessing and a curse as redemption for our sins. We protected the tablet and scroll until the heirs of the joined legacies came to collect them. It was not our place to judge the worth or lack of worth in those heirs.
"And now the dark gathers. The Ben Shui have failed, and the Grand Design has decayed beyond hope of repair. But it must stand for a time yet. The Darkness long sealed has survived, to awaken anew, brothers. But the Light does not linger to meddle when its task is done.
"We must prepare for the day of the battle. For the Light will require time. Time for the Spirit Walkers to remember their songs. For the Knights of the West and the King beneath the Hill to remember what they were and must be again. The spirit men and the women of leafy bough and soil to grow strong once again.
"The chi wizards will not be enough for what is to come. Time must be bought, though our order shall perish to buy it.
"You have trained well – return to the world now, for it needs our kind once more. We will meet again for the last time, in the twilight of the battle," Brother Light said sadly.
Grey nodded sadly shifting weight onto his staff. Brother Dark frowned and made to say something, but stopped, words seeming to fail him. Closing his mouth the black clad sage resumed his scowl, and nodded. Light smiled at them, adjusting his pack on on his back.
The wind blew through the trees, a mournful tune. The three men were gone, as if the wind had carried them away to the corners of the Earth.
Perhaps it had.
Denver, USA, 20?:
Lee pushed the door open casually, stepping into the reception room. The men and women lay on the ground or were pinned to the wall in their smart suits. Bound and gagged, as the half-masked shinobi bowed to the Jonin.
The uninvited guests had only occupied this place two days ago, but already it had their feel to it. It was not right, not in the heart of Shadow Territory. As he watched, one of his shinobi took one of the reproduction paintings off the wall and snapped it in half.
"He is in there?" Lee asked the Chunin commanding.
"Someone is," the Chunin answered. The young officer scratched at his bare cheeks in a nervous gesture. He had performed well, for his green horns.
There was a spell on the door leading into the office, scratched freshly beneath sight on the wood. But the spell was deactivated, an invitation.
Pulling the door open, he stepped in. The occupant had not opted to decorate beyond the large desk and chair set against the window opposite the door. Blank, of course it was.
"We need to talk," he addressed the occupant of the chair facing away from him.
"Then you should make an appointment, instead of harassing the Pages," a man spoke with a clear accent that hardly touched his words regardless.
"But I suppose even with higher Inhumans, manners are too much to expect. I am E. E. Binkman," the chair turned, revealing its occupant. He was tall for a human, trim and broad shouldered, powerful even in the black and dark red sports coat. His head was shaved, but the face over the square jaw betrayed the middle age creeping in on him.
He had those same eyes, Lee noted.
"The presence of a Knight here violates the Pact of Powers," Lee remarked. He stepped closer, a slight twitch of his wrist dropping a shuriken into his palm out of sight.
"I am here on behalf of the Pact – the others are not pleased with your Matriarch. Among the rules and restrictions the Pact established for all parties, the time travel taboo was surpassed only by direct reality warping.
"And yet we know full well that your people have used not one but three time travel spells."
"We were fulfilling the taboo, preventing the Renegade Drago from altering the past, as required," Lee objected.
"Drago was your vassal. His actions either indicate treachery on the Matriarch's part, or incompetence," Binkman scowled.
The human caught the shuriken as he sprang over the table. He deflected the dagger with it, then seized Lee's shoulder and flung him into the wall. The scarred shinobi caught himself before the bare bricks. An elbow struck his spine, sending him into the masonry, cracking it.
Pulling his foe from the wall, Binkman gave a cry and hurled him up head first into the ceiling. The head struck clear through. Before the shinobi's feet touched the ground, the human backhanded him viciously, sending him rolling onto the floor.
"Bastard," Lee cursed, pushing himself up. The full weight of the man struck his back via the descending knee, knocking the air out of his lungs.
With a gloved hand Binkman seized Lee's hair, pulled his head back, and slammed it into the floorboards. The boards gave before his face.
"Enough, Inhuman. I am here as a messenger, because my father convinced everyone your wife is a fool and not a greater threat than expected. Since the matter of Drago was handled in-house, the others will consider the matter settled. However, do not expect such generosity in the future.
"This is our world Inhuman, you just happen to be in it. Remember that and you might not live to see your kind back where you belong."
"Now get out of my office, I need to call a contractor before we fly back," Binkman stated, getting up off the angry ninja.
Binkman's intro was inspired by Tombstone, the Spiderman villain, I admit. There is a ot of stuff yet to be nailed don in the sequel, but may bits like him I like enough to nail in advance. I also feel this preview provides some motive to give you the bigger picture after the peek. And some of you may have liked a little update on the future you glimpsed during the Drago incident.
I hope you were not too disappointed by what you found when you realized this had updated.
Long days and pleasant nights to you all.