CHAPTER FIVE: RED ROSE TOKYO
- [PART 1] -

Welcome to Chapter Five!
I bet you guys'll never guess who the gang decided to seek out next.
Title? ...What title?


"Omi..." A familiar voice called out from that of the great abyss. "Omi..."

In a fantastic, white expanse of nothingness stood not a soul but Omi as he curiously looked around.

"Master Fung?" The young monk questioned, recognizing the distant voice. "Is that you?"

"Omi... There isn't much time..." The slightly inverted, waning voice again spoke. "You must hurry..." The voice began to fade, as did the essence of the great, white void altogether.

"Master Fung, please wait!" Omi cried out, running ahead towards nothingness before stopping. "Where are you? What do you mean?!"

But Master Fung's voice had vanished, and the guiding light of the great, white abyss suddenly turned to a blackened void.

"Master Fung!" Omi again cried, before all around him was concealed in darkness.

"Omi..." A new, deeper voice called out.

"Master Fung?"

The voice seeped ominous vein. "Omi...!"

Expression and tone lowered to cautious distrust. "Who are you?"

"Omi!"

Omi covered his ears. "Leave me alone!"

"Omi, wake up for crying out loud!"

"Ahh!" Omi sat up straight in a rather large, cozy bed. He looked around the room, recognizing it as Clay's guestroom.

Dojo, the only other being in the room, stood by his side on the bed, eying him with a raised brow, hands perched on his hips. "Have a good night's sleep?"

Omi looked down at the covers, most disturbed. "I... had a dream."

"Oh yeah?" Dojo had to wonder. "What kind of dream?"

"I am not so sure." Omi answered, crossing his arms over his chest in contemplation. "But it felt veeery real."

"Uh-huh," An unimpressed Dojo idly replied, hopping off the bed and crawling to the inn table. "Well you can figure it out later, kid. Right now, you've gotta get up-n-movin'!" He tossed Omi his white and blue Xiaolin monk robes lying on said table. "Now c'mon, everyone's waiting!"

Omi perked up, looking to Dojo as his clothes landed in front of him. "Waiting? For me?" As Omi would look around the room, he noticed that even the non-present Jack's bed was vacant.

"Well sure," Dojo answered. "It's eight A.M. - Clay and Jack are already up and ready to go. Even Clay's family's ready to see us off!"

"I see...! It seems that I have slept for far too long!" Omi hurriedly hopped out of bed and dressed himself, as if the notion had just hit him. "Hurry, Dojo - we have much to do and cannot miss even a single minute of today!"

"Oh, well. Sorry for being so slow." A sarcastic Dojo slid out as Omi excitedly ran out of the room without so much as looking back. "Sheesh. Ya spend a lifetime as an alarm clock, and ya don't get so much as a 'thank you'."

But alas, such was the life of a Xiaolin guardian, and said guardian couldn't help but smile anyway. He followed without further complaint.

x x x

Super-amazing 'save the world' mission or not, eight in the morning was SO not his thing. But he supposed he could thank Wuya for the entirety of his morning's misery, her having incessantly nagged at him until he's crawled his way out of bed.

The peaceful morning atmosphere was cooler than what would've been expected of Texas from its exceedingly hot reputation, the sun just starting to peak over the distant horizon. While Clay's family was busy tending to the typical morning's chores - repair work mostly - on the front porch of the Bailey house itself stood Clay, Jack, and Wuya, conversation of the next step of the overall plan having circulated through the small group.

According to Dojo before he took off to find Omi, Kimiko would be the easiest to recruit next, considering they knew her exact location and what she'd been doing for the past two in a half years. Clay and Jack had little to argue about anyway, Wuya bent on nothing short of just doing something instead of uselessly standing about.

Jack had to admit, he wasn't too keen on seeking out Kimiko. Not that he was real 'keen' on seeking out any of the Xiaolin losers to begin with, sure, but going off of memory from the past, out of all four Xiaolin Dragons Kimiko was the one who he remembered hitting the hardest. And man could she land a wicked kick. His jaw hurt just thinking about it.

He was pretty sure out of all his past mortal enemies, Kimiko was also the one who hated him the most. Overall, it really just reminded him how difficult this mission actually was. Omi and Clay were too dense to hate him to the point of refusing to work with him for some great, noble, heroic good-guy cause. But Kimiko? That girl actually had some sense. And dignity. She wasn't going to be as easy to convince.

But hey, at least he had chedderhead, hat for brains, and their flying pet dragon to back him up now. Because yeah, if it were just him and Wuya, Kimiko would be a complete lost cause and he knew it.

...Still wouldn't make it suck any less. But it wasn't like he had a choice.

While Wuya was hovering on the other side of the porch, examining some random southern object with interest - probably just to avoid him because man, she'd been totally cranky since this morning, like cranky as in crankier than usual, what was stuck up her butt - Jack looked to Clay, who was just standing there, leaning against the wooden railing across from him and looking at the wooden floorboards of the porch, not seeming too enthused about the whole situation himself. In fact, he looked kindda bummed. What was this, 'everybody be weirder than usual day'?

"Gonna miss this place?" Jack idly wondered as he leaned against the outer wall of the house. From what he gathered, Clay was just bummed about leaving the ranch and his crazy family to go get himself killed in rural China while fighting some stupid random evil shadow monster, leaving behind a smokin' hot fiancé and life as a boring cattle rancher. Totally understandable.

"Huh? Oh..." Snapping out of his own thoughts and looking up, Clay shook his head. "Naw, ain't that so much as..." He cut himself off, looking back down. "It ain't nothin'."

Jack gave a skeptical look. "Riiight." Kung-fu cowboy was seriously hitting a new level of mope here. What a downer. He only shrugged. "You know, that girl you're gonna get hitched to, you could always just bring her with you."

Clay looked up again, pale blue eyes setting on Jack with a sort of curious look to them. "Ya mean Annabelle?"

"Who else would I mean?" Jack threw back. "What, you have more than one girl you're getting hitched to?"

Of course his snarky remark was only in defense of him not remembering Clay's fiancé's name... Yeah, he was that terrible. Rotten to the core and all that.

But Clay only gave a light chuckle, a humored smile crossing him that was already making Jack cringe with regret. "Aw, if I didn't know no better," The cowboy teased. "I'd say you were tryin' t' make me feel better, Jack."

And there went ever taking Buffalo Bill seriously again.

"Oh. Ohhh. I see what you're trying to do." Jack immediately accused, narrowing his eyes with broody grievance. "And it's NOT working. I was just pointing out the obvious, that's all." Him? Trying to make someone feel better? HA! Last time he'll ever try to give some lazy, half-baked advice.

Seriously. This freaking guy.

The front porch's screen door suddenly burst open, Omi quick to arrive in all of his self-motivated haste... and not a moment too soon as far as Jack was concerned. The kid stopped upon seeing his friend and temporary allies standing there, Dojo slithering out after him with the wooden-frame screen door shutting behind them with a loud, clapping sound.

"And where have YOU been?" Wuya immediately hassled, floating towards them from her end of the porch while glaring at the late-arriving monk.

"I... overslept." Omi answered as he and Dojo approached the group, his pace lessened in arrival, ultimately deciding not to mention his peculiar dream.

"Pfft," Jack snorted from his end. "Maybe next time you won't stay up babbling all night."

"Yes..." Omi agreed, rubbing his round head as he drifted amongst his own thoughts, again recalling the uncanny dream. "Never again shall I remain awake beyond diligent Xiaolin monk sleeping hours. It is not good for one's mind."

Jack raised a brow to that. Jeez, it wasn't like he was being serious. Guess that was mark three for 'everyone act like a weirdo and weird Jack out day'.

"Have we decided who we should seek out next?" Omi questioned the group with sudden eagerness, frame of mind having completely altered course.

Clay and Jack exchanged glances. Jack gave an uncaring shrug of his shoulders before looking off in some random direction while Clay looked back to Omi. "Well, after talkin' some, Dojo thought it best we go after Kimiko." The Texan informed. "We know exactly where she is, so she'd be a hair easier t' find than Rai. Don't rightly know where he's run off to."

"Kimiko..." Omi tested the name in his mouth, then nodded. "Yes, this makes sense... I agree with your wise judgment!" Visions of the fierce Dragon of Fire swarmed through his mind, excitement beginning to bubble within him, his eagerness only growing. "When do we leave?"

"Now that you're up," Dojo said, poking Omi in the chest. "We're ready to leave now." He looked to the burly cowboy. "How about it, Clay? Ready to get this show on the road?"

Clay turned to gaze off in the distance and into the vastness of his beloved Texan ranch, his family already hard at work on repairs, spread throughout the expanse in groups. A twinge of guilt couldn't help but hit with him knowing he'd be leaving his family with such a mess, especially on his own behalf... But his father had set him straight. He was a man, and he had responsibilities not just with marrying a beautiful, proper southern woman and raising an all-Texan family on a cattle ranch, but with saving the entire world so that these things - and so much more - could happen.

With that, he turned back to Dojo and the others with a smile and tip of his hat. "Ready as I'll ever be, I reckon."

x x x

It didn't take long for the entirety of the Bailey family to assemble, of whom had all gathered to see Clay and his friends off, Clay himself offering his final goodbyes to the lot of them. A tearful mother and fiancé, a proud father, teasing cousins, a relentlessly nagging grandmother...

Omi and Dojo were also saying their own goodbyes to certain members of Clay's family, talk of the Minotaur battle, the late-night party, and future possibilities tossed throughout conversation. Even Wuya was busy being hassled by Jimmy the Kid, alongside other family members, her entity as a whole on par with Dojo's in being a rather strange phenomenon worthy of consistent pestering.

Jack, on the other hand, wasn't much for goodbyes and was content with hanging back from the boisterous crowd, leaning against the side of a pioneer wagon - yeah, they actually had one of those, this was that crazy of a place - the shade from such providing shelter from the progressively warming sun... and attention from the horribly fluffy farewells. So much hugging and hand-shaking... it was making him sick, impatience blaring within him to finally leave the one place in the world he'd sworn he'd never come back to.

But in all of Jack's anti-social grace, he still wasn't alone...

Throughout the loud, dramatic final farewells stood one member of the Bailey family who'd separated herself from the commotion just as Jack had, already having said her peace with Clay and now ready to expand her thoughts further.

"So. Y'all goin' back ta China once ya round th' rest a yer friends up," A thick-accented voice spoke beside Jack. "So y'all can do in that nasty shadow monster fer good. That th' story?"

Jack peered around the corner of the wagon to find none other than Jessie leaning on the backside, her gaze settled on the rest of the family even though her words were to him, her watching as they said their farewells; something she wasn't too terribly keen on herself.

Giving a small scoff, Jack followed Jessie's gaze in looking back to the others, laughter and mirth surrounding their tight group and Clay's family alike. "Psh, yeah right. First of all, these aren't my friends." He was sure to correct. "I'm just here to get the Xiaolin losers back together. After that, I go home, they take care of the 'evil shadow monster', the world's saved yet again, everyone's happy, the end."

"Hm." Was all Jessie replied for the moment, seeming to muse over such claims. She finally turned, looking to Jack directly. "So what yer tellin' me is, you ain't gonna fight."

Jack returned a rather inquisitorial, though ultimately indifferent look. Funny how that was all she got from his uplifting amendment. "Yeah," He laid in with shameless mockery. "I 'ain't gonna fight'."

"Yer gonna tuck tail n' run."

"I'm gonna have a life."

"An' abandon everyone fer it?"

"What!" His voice couldn't help but raise in pitch. "Okay, whoaa," He halted the quickly intensifying train before it derailed completely. "Let's get one thing straight here. I don't owe these losers anything. I don't owe anyone anything. Got it, cowgirl?"

"Oh, I'm hearin' ya alright." Jessie said with little fazing, her voice matching the set tone. "But you jus' remember this, Slick," Her face scrunched ever-so-slightly, finger now pointed towards him in all accusation. "My big bro's got a life too. A real fine one waitin' fer him here. An' since yer th' one moseyin' down here, squallin' fer him ta come ta China with ya, it'll be YOU that I come after if somethin' happens ta him."

Jack could only stare at the overbearing biker queen, both an irritated and puzzled look on his face, as if trying to piece the world's most complex puzzle together and failing miserably at it, during which he had to wonder - why wasn't she bothering someone else with this? Why did everyone have to pick on him?

He ultimately gave a scoff with a good roll of the eyes. "Whatever," His crass self finally gave up, looking off in a different direction, more than done with this ridiculous conversation. "Bottom line is, it's not my problem. Which automatically makes me not responsible for anything. So there." Because yeah, that's exactly how that worked.

"Hmph." Jessie grunted herself. "You better watch yerself, Slick." She warned, coming off the wagon's edge and walking off in taking leave. "A hard head makes a soft behind."

Still looking off in his random direction with Jessie's parting words, Jack blinked a few times as his brain attempted to absorb such a deeply intricate, thought-provoking statement of ground-breaking profoundness. "That doesn't even make any sense!" He finally broke with calling after her. "...There's nothing wrong with my behind!"

But Jessie was already gone, her large form sitting on her Black Viper motorbike, goggles pulled down and engine revved as she peeled out of the homestead, disappearing into the vastness of the great Texan desert without so much as a second glance back.

Jack grumbled to himself, completely unsatisfied with everything about that conversation. "Soft behind... no way." He sulked in typical whine, arms folded across his chest in overly-defensive defiance.

And then to make the morning that much better, Wuya of all evil witch spirits - yeah, just what he needed right now - quickly hovered his way, by the old-timey wagon. Oh hey, was she done blatantly ignoring him now?

"Bah! I thought I'd never get away from that nauseating little cretan!" The witch complained. "He's been following me all morning! Like a little lost puppy!"

Despite her bitter-spat words, even Jack knew that some sick, twisted part of Wuya actually liked the attention Clay's family - or more specifically, Jimmy the Kid - gave her. And yet he was too tired and in too poor of a mood to call her out on it.

"Yeah-yeah, good for you." Jack dismissed. "Can we please go now? These people are giving my brain ulcers."

With the sudden departing of his little sister, finally it seemed Clay was ready to wrap up his farewells and take leave. He again offered his uncle and cousins firm handshakes and burly hugs, encouraged yet again to kick shadow monster butt for them, and to tell said shadow monster that if it ever shows up in Texas again, they'll be ready for it.

Aunt Hilda and Mrs. Bailey offered hugs as well, topped with proper advice to stay true to his southern heritage while on the other side of the world.

Clay Senior gave Clay a proper manly handshake. "You ain't no boy no more, hoss, that's fer sure." The large man said with swelling pride. "Ya make me proud, son. Just remember, don't be goin' back on yer raisin'."

"Don't worry, Daddy." Clay assured with a smile, firm in handshake. "Y' can take me outta Texas, but y' can't take Texas outta me." And with declaration came a final, beefy hug.

"Really wears the pride of the south on his back, doesn't he?" Dojo said, wiping away a tear as he slithered his way towards Jack and Wuya, an excited Omi in his wake. "Clay's dad must be so proud. It brings a tear to my eye!"

Jack gave a wondering look to Wuya. "Why don't we have-"

"-Because I'm not your mommy!"

And with that came a swirling gust of wind, Dojo having super-sized himself. "Hop on, kids!" He announced. "The Dojo Express is about to leave the station!"

Omi was the first to gleefully hop on the 'Dojo Express', a contrasting Jack already dreading having to again ride upon the undulating mystic dragon. But alas, he climbed aboard all the same, for when having to choose between undulating dragons and the clearly insane state of Texas... he'd effortlessly choose undulating dragons every time.

Seeing his friends ready to depart, Clay turned lastly to the blond-haired, brown-eyed damsel who was currently dotting her eye with her embroidered handkerchief. The cowbow rubbed the back of his neck with a stab of uncertainty. Perhaps with Annabelle lied the most guilt for leaving. Though they'd naturally talked just last night when everything had quieted down, Annabelle voicing her concerns of his leaving and even wanting to join him on his journey - prior to Jack's own point that morning, of course - Clay had to stand ground and assert that she stay there in Texas, if only for her own safety.

And with that memory, he made way over to his tearful fiancé.

It didn't take much for Annabelle to throw herself upon Clay, embracing him with all emotion, proper composure long forgotten. "Oh, honey-bear, must you truly go?" She lamented. "I'll miss you terribly! It'll be just awful!"

"I know..." Clay admitted, holding his future wife, who'd been decently accepting of his departure just yesterday. "An' I'm sorry fer leavin' like this. But I don't got a choice. My friends need my help, n' I can't just turn my back on th' world. I couldn't live with myself if I went n' did that."

Annabelle gave a sniffle, wiping away a tear. "Aw, fiddlesticks... I know that." She said. "I just can't hardly stand it is all. Are you good n' certain you don't fancy company?"

"I know it ain't fair... but your place is here, Annabelle." Clay affirmed once more to the disheartened woman. "I ain't gonna get anyone else involved; this's just somethin' I gotta do alone." Sensing still-dissatisfaction, he lifted a finger under Annabelle's chin, tilting her head up slightly to look him in the eye. "An' besides. I need somethin' t' come home to."

And that was all it took for Annabelle to fluster in romantic gush, a final parting kiss now taking place between her and Clay that made even Jack turn away with a blush, Omi alternatively soaking in every ounce of the ever-curious 'girl-kiss'.

Still looking away in all of his romantically-inclined awkwardness, Jack no sooner felt a shifting behind him, only to find Clay now boarding their mystical, flying ride.

"Woo-dogie!" Clay said, adjusting his cowboy hat with a grin, a big smooch-mark on his face. "What a woman."

And Jack couldn't have been more ready to leave. "Finally!" He aimlessly tossed out. "Totally over the land of insane Texans here." He gave a begrudging glare back to Clay, who still wore a cheeky grin. "...One's bad enough."

"Giddy-up, Dojo!" Clay shouted to their dragon companion, newly invigorated. "Th' sun ain't gonna shine all day long, ya know!"

Dojo pulled his long neck back and gave a steamy snort. "Do I look like a horse to you?" He couldn't help but complain. "You kids sometimes!" And with that, the flying dragon took to the sky, swirling upwards in a spiral formation, the rest of the team clinging to his elongated backside.

"Y'all come back now, ya hear!" Came Clay's mother's voice, along with the accompanying shouted goodbyes from the rest of the Bailey family, until they were officially out of sight and range of sound.

"What a wild bunch." Dojo mused as he flew through the morning Texan sky. He decided to keep the part that he was actually going to miss Clay's family to himself. "So Kimiko, huh? To Tokyo it is then!"

Omi slipped the Golden Tiger Claws onto his arm with a growing grin. "I cannot wait to see Kimiko again!" He couldn't hold back. "I am very much looking forward to seeing how a girl might have changed over such a long period of time!" Obviously, Omi was still mesmerized by that 'girl-kiss'.

"Yeaaah," Even Jack had to agree, his own mind drifting off to accompany Omi's, visions of how Kimiko might have matured beginning to form as a wondering smile washed over. "She'll probably be taller."

Omi's grin persisted. "And wear a new style of girl-hair!"

"And have bigger-"

"Stay focused!" Wuya rudely interrupted, floating her way beside the pair. "We're going to Tokyo to convince the Dragon of Fire to come back to China with us, NOT chum around like you two imbeciles did here for days on end!"

"Nag-nag-nag," Jack motioned with his hands for emphasis. "Chill, Wuya. This is in the bag." He pointed a thumb back. "We got Clay to come back with us, didn't we?"

Wuya only folded her ghostly arms over her chest. "Hmph! Indeed. And because of your utter slowness in doing so, an entire day was wasted here! Least you forget, that's one more day that wretched shadow has to grow in power!"

"Hey now, we got it." Clay reassured the evil witch from his end. "We'll be sure t' get Kimiko t' come back with us real quick-like. We still got Rai t' find, after all."

"Clay is right." Omi agreed. "We will be sure that time is made at a quickened pace with finding Kimiko!"

"Think he means, 'make good time'." Dojo offered.

Vigor blazing, Omi fearlessly ran along Dojo's backside, now standing on the dragon's head as he gave a good slash to the air. "Golden Tiger Claws!" He shouted, a portal ripping through space. "...I wonder if Kimiko will give me a girl-kiss too?"

And with that, again the large, flying dragon and its passengers disappeared within the mystical portal...

x x x

"What do you mean you can't find him?" A seething, bitter voice scolded from the shadows.

Back on the other side of the world, at Chase's citadel in China, new developments were also taking place. Developments that Chase Young was hardly pleased with.

"He not in citadel." Vlad explained to Chase with a shrug. "We look all over. No bean or bird-bird to be found."

Le Mime nodded beside Vlad in vigilant agreement, Cyclops alternatively drooling in the background with a dopey smile.

The oh-so-bitter one turned from the three irritable minions he'd been forced to deal with for months now, pacing towards the back end of the room. "If that traitorous bean thinks he can just disappear without word..." He stopped at an altar of sorts, a rooted, black expanse suddenly emerging from the ground to display a rather large eyeball, similar to that of a magical crystal ball.

Jabbing a finger at the eye, the image within it began to swirl with delirium. A picture began to form - that of a large, flying bird watching over a distant setting - until the picture faded into a void of darkness, cutting off entirely.

"Useless!" Chase swatted the cylindrical looking-glass with a sharp cry of frustration, it swinging back and fourth amongst its flexible roots, this hardly being the first time this infuriating affair had occurred. He then stormed down the chamber's staircase towards a different cause entirely, leaving Vlad, Le Mime, and Cyclops to all sink into each other with fearful cringes.

Chase Young was not happy...

x x x

So, as it turns out with the world being a spinning, round ball and everything, eight in the morning in Texas just happened to equate to ten o'clock at night in Tokyo, as the team soon learned with now finding themselves flying through the night-life of a thriving, neon-lit city.

"Well, Clay... you were right about the sun anyway." Was all Dojo had to offer.

"Gosh," Clay looked around at the cybernetic city. "So much fer gettin' t' Tokyo plenty early."

"It was morning just a moment ago!" Omi exclaimed, absorbing the new, technologically-advanced atmosphere in all its wonder. "And now it is night?"

"Welcome back to the other side of the world, kid." Dojo offered before taking a steep dive down from the darkened sky into the depths of the illuminating metropolis below. "Huh. You'd think we wouldn't have overlooked something kinda big like this..."

"These time zones are outrageous!" Wuya complained. "How are we ever supposed to get anything done!"

"Okay but for real though..." Jack too whined on his end, clinging to the steep-diving Dojo full-body style with a rather paled look, even for him. "...Seriously not used to this undulating stuff!"

Clay was sure to pull his beloved cowboy hat down tight...

"But where is Kimiko?" Omi questioned, looking around as if she'd be easy to spot in the middle of one of the most populated cities in the world.

"Tohomiko Electronics, remember?" Dojo answered, looking around himself. "Hmm... Should be around here somewhere."

Jack pulled out his phone from his back pocket, looking to the time. "Great, it's ten already." He said, holding back another urge to hurl. "Ughh- we're too late; Kimiko's probably already asleep." He was about to beg for them to just land somewhere, anywhere, but then the cowboy started rambling on about something or another.

"Don't go underestimatin' Kimiko now." Clay warned from a ways behind Jack. "Back when we were all Xiaolin monks, Kimiko could stay up later than any of us, even with Master Fung's strict sleepin' schedule."

"Oh, this is true." Omi agreed with ominous tone. "Kimiko would win maaany stay-awake games. Her eyelids would never put on weight!"

"Get heavy?" Jack had to indolently wonder.

"That too!" Omi indulged.

"Ah! There it is!" Dojo picked up pace, flying towards one of the tallest buildings in the area.

The building was steep, at least a hundred stories high, and structured with an intimidating sort of black and silver material, making it a cold sort of dark in nature. As Dojo flew to the cool, paved ground before the towering skyscraper, Jack was the first to flounder his way off the mystical dragon, not exactly landing on his feet, but again grateful for solid ground. Omi and Clay hopping off after Jack with much more dignity, Dojo shrunk back to his normal lizard-like size.

The lot of them looked up at the towering building before them, suddenly feeling incredibly small. Had to admit, it seemed a lot bigger from the ground-up...

The striking red neon lights from the towering building above, as well as other buildings with other such colors surrounding them, provided light in illuminating the group and their surroundings in a series of bright, eccentric tints. Needless to say, it was a vastly different atmosphere from the natural desert setting of rural Texas.

"Huh... think they're open?" Dojo wondered, observing the many lights within in the abundant windows of the looming skyscraper. "It is almost midnight."

"Man, do you guys know anything about urban business?" Jack mocked as he pulled himself together with what dignity he had left. "Of course they're open - they never close. That's the way these multimillion-dollar industrial corporations work." He nodded to himself with pompons pride in his fruitful knowledge of business an industry. But alas, whether Kimiko was actually still awake or not was another matter entirely... Which still really sucked.

"Good!" Wuya barked with a pleased smile. "Then there's no time to waste; let's go!" She eagerly floated ahead of everyone toward the main entrance before sensing a severe lack of followers. She turned around to find a hesitant Clay and Omi unmoving in pace. "What's wrong now?!"

Clay looked away, giving that same distanced look as before, memories of the past suddenly flooding back.

"I wasn't too far away!" Kimiko's voice echoed through Clay's mind. "I knew you were closer to the field so I branched out a little!"

"I thought that you had things covered!" The voice continued still.

The spite in the voice was piercing. "Then you should have called for help!"

Omi was no better off, him too plagued by the distant past.

"Just be quiet, Omi!" Kimiko's voice circulated around him. "You can drop the high and mighty act already!"

"It was a tad different when I up n' left, but... well, when Kimiko took off back then," Clay started, gaze lowered. "We didn't exactly part ways on th' best a terms."

"I wonder if she will even wish to see us again..." Omi lowly wondered.

A calm city breeze blew by, techno music blaring somewhere in the distance amidst their silence.

...And Jack was only able to stand there with his mouth agape, simply and utterly appalled.

He couldn't believe this! After everything they'd been through since having first visited Omi back at the monk refugee camp, not once was this... THIS... mentioned! Not from Chase or Wuya after being forced to return, not after Omi's super-depressing spill or the attack at the camp, not after the stupid hick family dinner or the Minotaur attack, not even during the so-called sleepover - all the while listening to Wuya's incessant ranting about completing their grand mission and Omi's obnoxious rambling about seeing his friends again the entire time - did he ever hear the first thing about the losers having some epic falling out and supposedly hating each other. These guys were unbelievable!

"Whoa-whoa-whoaaa, time out!" Jack put his hands together to form a T-shape. "You mean to tell me that after all this time," He turned to Clay "After having to fight some freaky shadow-bull on YOUR ranch and put up with YOUR crazy family," he turned to Omi with the same disheveled look, "and sleep through YOUR annoying rambling about seeing your stupid friends again - you're just now telling me that oh wow, by the way, there's kind of a strained relationship problem here between you guys?"

Omi poked his two index fingers together and looked away as any guilty child would. Clay was just as unwilling to respond, hat shading his eyes.

Wuya quickly backpedaled in floating towards them. "Who cares!" She so sensibly reasoned. "It doesn't matter how things ended between you imbeciles, or what Kimiko thinks of you now! All that matters is that that Dragon of Fire comes back with us to help us defeat Persaeus!"

"Hey - cool it, would'ya?" Dojo came to the defense. "Look, 'ol Dojo's saw it all. It wasn't pretty, alright? It'll take a delicate touch to get Kimiko to come back with us."

"Bah!" Wuya spat. "How can she possibly turn down the offer of preventing the world from being destroyed! She'll have no choice but to say yes!"

"Or," Jack offered, still clearly incensed. "She could be just like Clay and say no, and have us stay for forever and do manual labor in some stupid old barn as we desperately try to convince her to join us."

No. No, he wasn't going to let that one go.

"I doubt we're gonna find a barn here in Tokyo, Jack." Clay pointed out.

Jack threw his arms up. "It's like I'm talking to a gorilla!"

"Guys, guys!" Dojo again tried to settle within the growing tension. He turned to the two Xiaolin dragons. "Listen, I know you're a little antsy about the whole seeing Kimiko again thing," He said, having actually foreseen this possible setback. "But the old hag's right. We don't really have much choice here!"

"Who are you calling old hag, lizard!"

"We need Kimiko and besides," Dojo continued without falter. "It's been years. You'll never know how she really feels unless you go and talk to her, right?"

Clay and Omi looked to each other in all of their united uncertainty.

"I do admit..." Omi was the one to offer. "I very much wish to see Kimiko again."

Clay nodded. "Same here, pardner. We at least gotta try t' explain what's all happened... Set things right."

And so it was. It wasn't exactly without flaw, but with everyone on the same page again, the group of five finally entered the great expanse of the Tohomiko Electronics building...

x x x

The tension and boundless drama from before had simmered down a fair degree. Clay and Omi still harbored insecurity, no doubt, and Jack was similarly still harboring what he harbored best: broody whining. It seemed like every other moment he was being fed some new bit of information that he hadn't known before, and would have been totally helpful to have known before. You know, before he set out on this magnificent, fairly impossible mission.

In any case, here they were now, in a ridiculously huge electronic software corporation's skyscraper-high headquarters searching for the third component of an ever-complex equation.

The receptionist had been helpful enough, directing them to the 87th floor... after having demanded identification and state of purpose. Somehow they'd managed to get by with the quick-thinking of Dojo, who convinced said receptionist that they were distant relatives of Kimiko, twice removed, and were there to inform her that her great, half-step-aunt was on her death bed. It was only right that her relatives be the ones to break the news, naturally.

And thus, soon enough the gang had found themselves in a glass elevator, watching as the world below became smaller and smaller, the landscape of the neon-lit city accompanying them on the ride upward.

Omi's entire body was pressed against the glass as he gazed out at what all Tokyo had to offer, a sight far removed from the simple, peaceful lifestyle at the Xiaolin Temple in rural China.

"Tokyo sure is a big city, ain't it?" Clay observed as he too looked out at the scenery, also far from his natural element.

"Oh, yes!" Omi agreed. "Perhaps it is even bigger than all of China!"

"...Jus' not as big as Texas." Clay was sure to underline.

"Yes, well. Not to put a damper on things, but..." Dojo looked around the elevator. "We got a game plan here?"

Omi pulled his face from the glass, looking back to the dragon. "We are playing a game?"

The elevator was crawling upwards, escalating numbers flashing by on the virtual screen above them. The 87th floor would be reached soon.

Game plan? All Jack could think was wow, they were sunk. So the losers all left on bad terms or whatever, huh? Great. With Kimiko already hating his guts and now this with the cheezeball and Deadwood Dick totally having screwed things up, was there even a chance that Kimiko would come back with them?

"The game plan is simple!" Wuya tossed out. "With the Shen Gong Wu at our disposal, we cannot fail!" She turned to Jack. "You still have it, don't you?"

Jack shrugged. "Have what?"

"The Indigo Pyramid, you buffoon!"

Oh, right. That thing.

"Must you yell?" Jack twisted a finger in his ear from such vocal assault right next to him, only gaining a cantankerous leer from Wuya. "Yeah, the thing's still here." He reassured, pulling said 'thing' out of his jacket pocket and examining it with all contempt. He poked at it some. "...Not that I'll ever use it again. Thing's seriously defective."

"Argh!" Wuya let out a frustrated cry. "If you aren't going to use it, then give it to someone who will! ...And can."

"What! No way!" Jack immediately rebelled, turning the Wu away from Wuya defensively. "Clay already took the Bullhorn Blazer, Omi has all the cool Shen Gong Wu like the Golden Tiger Claws," Both Clay and Omi looked to each other and shrugged. "And if I lose the Indigo Pyramid, Chase'll kill me!"

"Hmm, that's funny," Wuya swayed with probing eye. "You didn't seem too worried about that when you handed over the Falcon's Eye to Omi! Twice!"

"Uh... Those were totally different situations." Jack threw out in losing defense. "Besides, weren't YOU the one who was all, 'Blaaah, don't use the Shen Gong Wu because they're unpredictable and Chase will be maaaad and ooooh." His mocking went unmatched, satirizing around with dramatic flair.

"Ah, well..." Wuya was then the one to fluster. "Different situations."

A pause came over the two, each having lost in their own respective battles, both now just standing there dumbly.

"Gee," Clay offered with observation amidst their relatively small confinement. "Looks like even th' Heylin side got some skeletons sittin' in th' closet."

Indeed. It seemed that after everything overall, the situation with the Shen Gong Wu, alongside interpersonal motives, was still something of a mystery. It really just proved Clay's point that despite the shadow monster primarily attacking the Xiaolin side, the Heylin side was just as clueless and at a loss of where things stood and what to do with what little they knew. So much was unknown, uncertain, or just plain sketchy, and really, they were all pretty much in the same creaky boat here, good and evil alike.

"Do not fear, my faithful companions," Omi was sure to encourage the team, sensing doubt. "For although our ordeal is troublesome, together with our combined wisdom and strength we-"

And he must have tuned the cheezeball and his heroic evangelizing spill out, because all he heard now was "blah blah good guy stuff blah". Meanwhile, as everyone was desperately looking up to the slowly-passing floor numbers in hopes of it saving them from Omi's tireless encouragement, Jack was busy wondering if he'd actually have to resort to using the Indigo Pyramid again, like Wuya suggested...

x x x

Not too long had passed before a dinging sound suddenly interrupted all word and thought within the large elevator, the 87th floor having finally been reached. And as the elevator's luxurious doors slid open, a room befitting of a cybertronic business-warrior now stood before them.

The group coming to exit the elevator and slowly enter the large room, all were left gawking. The huge expanse of a room had shiny, glass floors with blue neon lights constructed underneath, the walls littered with equally decorative touch. Strange, technological mechanisms sat about the area from place to place, promotional posters stood tall and proud, the atmosphere overall a cold and distant one with a highly-advanced industrial air. In the distance and within one's own mind, one could possibly hear the estranged sound of techno-rock blaring, the syncing beats wild and free...

So high-tech. So advanced. So sophisticated and modern.

Clay gave a whistle as Omi ran up to the first advanced object he could find, walking around it with examining wonder. "Whew, sure is..." The cowboy paused in both word and motion, vocabulary unable to pinpoint a worthy adjective. "Well, it's rightly impressive anyway."

"I'm in Heaven." Jack dreamily swayed, on the verge of tears after having spent the past two days in uncivilized hell. As everyone spread out in observation, Jack wonderingly paced up to a large, flat-screen computer monitor, promotional commercial images dancing across it, Kanji text excitedly gliding across the bottom. He pressed himself against the huge screen, a distanced, desperate look on his face. "I didn't think I'd ever see civilization again!" He wailed. "Please let me stay here!"

"You are SUCH a whiner." Wuya predictably hassled, continuing to float beside him.

"Ahem. And just who might you be?"

Snapping back to reality, the group stopped their individual investigations around the room and came to look upon a tall, formally suited Asian man with short, black hair and thin-rimmed glasses standing in the center of the room, his arms held studiously behind his back, expression less than pleased as the blue neon lights below the glass floors illuminated his sharp features with an equally sharp hue.

Around the room a good dozen formally-suited men now stood as well, sunglasses covering their eyes despite the indoor, blue-toned atmosphere, their expressions blank as they stood still like statues in guarding the sealed doorways leading to other supposedly restricted areas of the facility.

"Hey, those uniforms are pretty sweet." Jack had to admire, breaking away from the monitor before looking back towards the rather imperious-seeming man standing in the center of the room.

It was as if the man's cold and distant aura hit them like a brick wall with paralyzing effect, his hawk-like eyes alone able to pierce through one's soul and terminate everything about them. It sent a chill up everyone's spine... But luckily they had one member of their group who drove on through pure goal-orientation alone.

"Hello, strange and scary man." Omi bowed before said man, having abandoned his self-given tour. "We are looking for Kimiko. Might you direct your finger towards this path?"

"'Point us in the right direction', I'm guessin'." Clay offered, making his way towards the two more evil-inspired members of their group.

Jack had nothing. "He's even worse than before!" He gestured to Omi with outstretched arms. "How'd that even happen!"

The man narrowed his sharp eyes with thorough evaluation as he looked upon the bizarre, small boy before him. "Do you have an appointment with Miss Tohomiko?" He curtly asked, ignoring Omi's strange lingo, for better or worse.

"Appointment?" Omi questioned with tilted head, blinking in utter confusion.

Jack slapped a hand to his face. "Okay look, uhm... sir?" He finally stepped forward to join Omi, seeing just how well this formal exchange was going, pushing the clueless monk to the side to take center-stage. "It's a kinda long story, but we're Kimiko's friends and came all the way from China-"

"Texas." Omi corrected, peeking from behind Jack.

"Texas." Jack mockingly corrected with dramatic pause. "-To see her. We just need like, ten minutes here tops."

Going off of instinct alone, it seemed the group was content with not rolling with the 'bed-ridden auntie' routine. Unlike the ditzy receptionist on the first floor, this man seemed a little more... aware, perhaps?

The man stood there, narrow eyes seeming to sum up the entirety of the group in all his vocation. "Friends of Miss Tohomiko, you say?" The suspicion in his voice was more than evident.

Clay was the one to return questioning disposition, stepping forward himself now. "We've done said who we are... so if y' don't mind my askin', Mister," He began with polite touch, stopping in pace and tilting his hat upwards to get a better look at the 'strange and scary man'. "Who're you?"

The man raised a hand to adjust his glasses, eyes closing. "Hm. You may call me Mr. Kandori." He finally introduced himself, as directed. "I am President of Tohomiko Electronics, under none other than CEO Kimiko Tohomiko."

"Whoaaa, really?" Jack was taken aback. "Kimiko's CEO of the company now? The whole company?"

"What is a C-E-O?" Omi again questioned, still peeking behind Jack and still very much out of his natural Xiaolin monk element.

"It stands for 'Chief Executive Officer'." Dojo tried to explain, curling himself around Omi's shoulder. "It's like a boss of a company... Top boss."

Mr. Kandori took a small moment to examine Dojo as he explained the big, wide world to Omi, before turning to look to Wuya, yet another strange entity in this... equally strange group.

"But what about Kimiko's Papa?" Clay was quick to question. "I thought he was th' one that ran this here business?"

Mr. Kandori turned his attention to the questioning cowboy. "Indeed," He answered. "Mr. Tohomiko has recently retired and left his thriving company in the care of his one and only daughter, Miss Tohomiko."

Clay rubbed the back of his neck. "Oh, well uh... that's fair, I reckon."

And Jack was somewhere else entirely. So Kimiko was in charge now, huh? And this guy was second-in-command...

"Heheh, sweet," The teen genius rubbed his hands together, deep within his own world of mischief, before coming back to reality, looking to Mr. Kandori. "So hey, how about this - I'm a man of law myself. Maybe me and you could sort something out and-"

"I don't think so." Mr. Kandori prematurely answered before turning away.

"Jack. You're horrible at making deals." A suddenly-appearing Wuya badgered, floating up beside him. "You should stop now before you hurt yourself."

"No fair!" Jack whined. "...I didn't even get to finish!"

"But, as a pres-i-dent," Omi again spoke, newly informed via Dojo and stepping towards the mysterious man. "What is it that you do?"

Kandori's gaze snapped back to the young monk. "I have been a dedicated employee of Tohomiko Electronics for four years now," The man had no problem clarifying, indulging that information at least. "And it is MY job to see this company rise to the top electronic software company in the industry." His eyes narrowed to the group. "It is also my job to deal with lesser matters regarding the company, such as seeing that insignificant problems like annoying children don't bother Miss Tohomiko."

"Annoying children?" Omi questioned.

With a sudden, crisp snap of his fingers, the assorted suited men around the room amassed behind Mr. Kandori. "In other words, you should leave." The man advised. "Immediately."

"Ohoho - I like this one!" Wuya gushed, floating ahead. "Such conviction! Such force!"

Jack, on the other hand, was quick to take pace backwards, hands held in front of him with a nervous laugh. "Ooookay, sure, no problem!" He easily gave in. "Leaving, you got it!"

"We will not leave," Omi persisted, standing ground as his determined look challenging that of Mr. Kandori's. "We came to see Kimiko. No, we MUST see Kimiko! The fate of the world depends on it!"

"Guards," Was all Mr. Kandori said.

The suited, sunglasses-toting men had surrounded them, and like an unforgiving wall of a raging ocean, crashed against their group as they were forced back towards the elevator from which they'd come.

"Okay, so maybe we could, I dunno, talk about this first-" Jack tried to reason... before he was hit by the wave of suits and promptly manhandled back towards the elevator. "Hey-hey-hey, watch the hair!"

Omi fought back with a somewhat restrained touch as he too was forcefully evicted. "No, wait! You do not understand!" He tried to reason, words only falling on deaf ears. "We must speak with Kimiko as soon as possible!"

"Friends of Miss Tohomiko..." Mr. Kandori scoffed to himself with all indignation. "As if Miss Tohomiko had time for such absurdities."

"So, Kandori, was it?" Wuya effortlessly instigated with her turn to forge a deal, floating beside the exacting man as his army of suits curtly jostled the rest of the rag-tag group towards the assumed exit. "You seem like a smart man of discipline. One worthy to be my underling! We should join forces, you and I!"

The icy man turned to the ghostly apparition floating before him, evidently unfazed by the unnatural phenomenon. "You're transparent, it seems." He observed, her words irrelevant towards his own goals. "How problematic."

Meanwhile, the rest of team 'why can't we do anything right' was still being forced to retreat.

"Clay, DO something!" Dojo so desperately insisted to the biggest, strongest member of their group whilst trying to worm his way out of a single suited man's grip.

But Clay gave no effort to such cause. "Sorry, Dojo." The cowboy apologized, instead allowing himself to be shoved towards the elevator. "It's a policy a mine t' not stay where I'm not wanted, an' it sure don't look like we're wanted here."

"What! Since when do cowboys have policies!" Jack threw out. By now he was willingly backing up, hardly the type to challenge such force himself. He turned to their last hope. "Hey, cueball, feel like doing one of your water attack things any time soon? Like now?"

Omi only shook his head. "I... cannot."

Indeed. Even Omi was adamant about outright attacking normal human beings. As a Xiaolin monk, he too had a policy to not attack civilians - a strictly forbidden action. It was only evil that he could raise his hand to and fight without mercy. Even if these guys were total jerks, they were not evil... and he could not fight them, even a little.

And thus, it seemed all hope was lost. After warping through space, flying through the great expanse of Tokyo, and climbing the ridiculously high corporate tower, it seems their journey to recruit Kimiko was to end in utter and complete failure before it had even begun.

So then perhaps it was the ever-persistent fate that spared that moment alone with what came next.

Across the large, formal room two metallic doors slid open with an electrical whoosh, a figure now standing in its midst. Long and lean in frame, silky black hair winding to the waist, striking cerulean-blue eyes...

"What in the world's going on in here?" The figure questioned, that familiar voice cutting through the unruly room, blue neon lights illuminating the new and obvious presence.

Everything stopped. Silent, still moments passed.

"Ah. Miss Tohomiko." Mr. Kandori was the one to speak, turning to the figure in the doorway, blue tint reflecting off his thin glasses to hide sharp eyes. "Sorry to have disturbed you. We seem to have had a bit of a... intrusion, if you will."

The curvy figure placed a hand to the hip, suspicion making pace forward. "What? What kind of intrusion?" But as cerulean eyes scanned the static area, the back of the room suddenly revealing its contents, all was soon answered of its own accord. Well, generally. Body stopped and eyes suddenly widened after a few hard, disbelieving blinks. "I... Guys?"

"Kimiko!" Omi burst with sheer glee, still in an 'I'm about to be hurled like a bowling ball into an elevator' position within one of the suited men's grips.

Everyone else was left stiff or dumbstruck. The suited men were still in awaiting order, and the group that consisted of semi-heroic dealings was frozen in surprise.

It seemed that they'd found Kimiko after all, and perhaps - just perhaps - it was a start.


Wow. Kandori's kind of a douche, huh.
I totally see the suited men all MIB or Matrix style.
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