"We can deny our angels exist, convince ourselves they can't be real, but they show up anyway - at strange places and at strange times. They can speak through any character we can imagine. They'll shout through demons if they have to... daring us... challenging us to fight."
-Suckerpunch: Zach Snyder
Hello, my readers. I tried to get this one out quicker than the last one.
Ok here's the big one people. Be prepared for a lot of explanation. I hope most of it comes as a surprise to you.
The Eyes of the Wolverine
Eye to Eyes
Not long after, the authorities arrived, too little too late obviously. They took the still seemingly-lifeless form of Severin locked him in chains and carted him away in a barred carriage. It's destination was Chor Gom prison. The guards said he'd be put under the same fortitude that Tai Lung had been. I was hoping it was stronger than that.
Once I had time to think I was able to take note of my body which had faired better than I would have hoped for. Other than my slight limp, my injuries consisted of a round of bruises and a pain in my stomach that I knew would subside.
The onlookers from the crowds that had seen the whole thing were enraptured, acting like it was the best show they had ever seen. They obviously had never seen Po or the Furious Five in action before. I got more back-pats than I could count, mostly from people who didn't know me. Even Tigress gave me a deferential smile. Somehow without words spoken I knew it was good between us again. Saxon had taken Jada back to the house for her to rest some, obviously overcome by the ordeal.
Finally Po presented me with my obsidian dagger again, not a single nick or blemish on it as always. As I placed it on my hip again Po said "Well look at that, Severin's gone and the Festival is still young in the evening. Now this night feels like a celebration."
"If you don't mind, Po, I'd like to try and walk off this limp," I said. "just for a bit." I added.
"In that case," Po said didgging into his pocket and pulling out Severin's medal "Would you mind taking this to the boarding house. Since Severin is now taken in, Shifu thought it was only right to leave his medal with the people where he lost it. Maybe it IS worth something. Speaking of Shifu, you know he's gonna wanna ask you more about the Pentad strike later."
"Of Course," I said, still not sure what I would tell Master Shifu later. I took the medal from Po's hand and said "I'll take this to the boarding house and meet you back by the spiced bun hut in about 30 minutes."
Po nodded and I was off on a slow trot to the boarding house receiving a few curious looks from passersby who had seen the fight on the way.
I walked up to the stoop of the building, wondering if it would be Miss Shea or her husband I would give the good news to, but when the door opened I was face to face with the Wolverine.
Like facing a distorted mirror both our eyes widened and we simultaneously said "You!?"
He paused looking me over before saying "Xanidor? It is you isn't it."
"Yes," I answered peculiarly having only heard his voice for the second time.
"How do you remember me?" he asked.
"I've seen you, everywhere, for the past several months." I blurted out not caring how incredibly insane I sounded. "And I saw you the last night I saw my parents. Who are you?"
"Zarek Alvarez," he answered firmly. "I'm the owner of this boarding house." he glanced back into the home and said to me "Would you mind coming inside?"
I walked inside and he lead me to the sitting room I had been in a week or two before with the Masters.
As I sat down in an easy chair he sat down opposite me saying "Can you elaborate a little. You've 'been seeing me everywhere'?"
Not feeling any other way, I dove right in. I proceeded to tell him about the last several months. The night last June when I saw him in the darkness, I went on to explain that I was a student of Master Shifu and that we were in Rem Hai on a mission where I continued to see him more frequently. I finally came to the glowing circles he would draw on his stomach that turned out to be directions to the pentad strike that eventually saved my life.
By the time I got all that out, I was out of breath and beginning to wonder if the wolverine, that I now knew as Zarek, thought I was from a mental establishment.
But he just smiled tautly and said "It was Master Oogway."
"You knew Master Oogway?" I asked amazed.
"Yes, I met Master Oogway long ago. He didn't teach me kung fu though. He taught me peace, a large part of kung fu." With a look of pained recollection he disclosed more. "For a good portion of my early life, I had suffered from a restless spirit within me. It took hold of me constantly, bedeviling me like a cold fever. My parents had heard of Oogway and his amazing feats of body and mind. They suggested I seek his guidance. When I was about 20 I ventured to the Valley of Peace and told him my predicament. I can't explain everything but, what ever he did worked. I went on living my life. I was able to become more sociable again as a result, and that was when I met... your parents."
"You knew them too?" I asked.
"We were neighbors, friends for quite some time. But then your parents became mixed up in a rather nasty business. A business that they liked a little too much and realized they could make quite a profit with. My house at the time was next door to yours. At nights I would hear shouting and screaming. Once or twice I would hear a child's cries... yours. I knew a child wasn't safe in that house. I had actually fully planned on telling your parents that I would take you in and look after you, but before I could they were...
"You were there that night. The night they were arrested." I also couldn't help but think, he wanted to take me in? I nearly ended up having a whole different foster home than what I had.
He nodded. "Yes, as they were taking them away, I saw them bring you out of the house. You were so small then, so fragile looking." I could tell he was looking at me still trying to connect that I was the same person he saw then. "I almost went up to the guards but I overheard them talking about taking you to the Valley of Peace. I knew you'd be safer there than anywhere else."
"But then how did you start showing up to me. Why did you suddenly want to make contact with me?" I asked.
"To let you know that you were in danger. That you were being sought out by Severin Cai."
My eyes widened. "How did you know that?" I asked leaning forward in my seat on the couch.
He chuckled again. "To tell you that, I must again go back a ways."
I settled back down in my seat again. This is a lot of explanation. Though I suppose I should have suspected it after the amount of information I gave him at the beginning.
"In spring of this year I met a woman. She showed a lot of interest in me and I have to say, I was quite smitten with her as well. We spent alot of time together and I was very happy with her. She often talked about the idea of us moving to a bigger city, with more opportunities. For a while it seemed like wishful thinking, but the idea began to grow on me. It wasn't until the summer that she informed me that she had been married the entire time during our encounters, and that earlier that day, she had walked out on her husband. I was astounded. The entire time we had been together I had no idea. I told her I couldn't be part of something that split apart a family. She was angry didn't care what I said. She said she'd been unhappy for a while, feeling held back by her own family and that if I wouldn't go with her she'd move on to another city by herself. I haven't seen Liann since."
I had to fight the urge to show any shock at recognizing the name.
So that's why Liann left. Zarek was 'the other man,' that Jada and Saxon had heard about.
He's been at the center of my story the entire time, even when I didn't know it.
"Once she left, I felt as though the restless spirit was returning to me. My anxiety began to build. I was responsible for the break up of this family I didn't even know and I could only imagine how it was affecting them. I had to seek Master Oogway's council again. I knew he was passed on but I thought there might be another way. I knew of his students, Master Lee and Montenegro though. I thought maybe one of them might be able to help me. I traveled to the Black Mountains hoping to find Valko, but what I found was that mere hours before I arrived he had been killed and his apprentice had been placed in custody. Desperate at this point for information I visited the apprentice, a crane named Quiang, in jail. He told of all that happened in the weeks prior. How they had captured Master Shifu and his students, and how a pupil taught under the guide of of Shifu had killed both Lee and Montenegro. When he told me that this warrior was a badger, I couldn't help but think 'Was this the badger that I saw 10 years ago? Was the child reared by these drug dealers the same one that was now a kung fu student known as the second Dragon Warrior?' After all, I have never met any other badgers. He told me the badger was in his early teens. The timing would have worked out perfectly.
"He then told me that there was another student of the two masters that was not present at either school at the time their deaths who was bound to find out about it and even more likely to hunt down the murderer of his masters. Then I was worried but for a different reason entirely. That very same night, before I went to sleep I wondered if Oogway would speak to me from... his place now. He somehow conveyed to me that I was to reach you through him."
His words about Oogway's nocturnal messages echoed what I'd heard the Masters say of his conveyance; He was never specific but you always got the gist in the end. I knew it must really be hard to explain. I myself still couldn't explain how I knew right then and there to perform the pentad strike. I didn't even know that's what I was being subconsciously taught."
"It worked." I said. "That touch technique that eventually stopped Severin was the Pentad Strike."
He chuckled humbly in his seat. "Forgive me, my kung fu knowledge is a bit rusty. Is that a move I should know?"
"It's the move that Master Oogway used to defeat Tai Lung, the snow leopard that that turned against him. Oogway was the only one who knew it though. The strike has been lost... until now." I said suddenly realizing, The pentad strike is known again. It can live on.
"That must be it." Zarek said. "I wanted you to be safe. Oogway's spirit did the rest. I see. Oogway was somehow able to convey his own thought through my image."
"He visits all he shared knowledge with in their dreams," I said remembering this to be the very method at how Oogway conveyed to the Masters that I was the next Dragon Warrior."
Zarek continued "Every so often I would close my eyes and try to speak to you through Oogway. You may think it rather stupid of me, but early on when I wasn't sure if I was reaching you or not, I actually went to a fortune teller down the street and told her of my dilemma to see if she could help me reach you. As I should have anticipated, she was of no help to me."
THAT'S how she knew there was a wolverine who sought a connection with me. It wasn't her prediction, he had told her. No doubt, she had never met another badger besides me and only assumed I was the same badger he mentioned to her.
"If you don't mind me saying, your fur is darker than I would have thought for a badger."
"It's dyed." I said looking at the faded results of my original disguise. "We dyed it brown so Severin wouldn't know it was me as a bearcat. I washed half of it off once he found out who I was though. That's why it looks like this."
"That makes sense." Zarek said. "Two of the residents said there was a bearcat when Master Shifu and his students came by for the questioning. I assume that was you. I suppose even if I had been here I wouldn't have recognized you in your fur job.
That WAS him I saw on the sidewalk that day I came back from the stone shop with Jada. He didn't react to me because he didn't recognize me.
I was beginning to be overwhelmed with how much sense had been made of the past several weeks in just a short amount of time, but there was one piece of knowledge I hadn't heard him draw upon.
I fidgeted "There is something I wanted to ask."
"What is it that you want to know?" he said resting his elbows on his knees.
"I'm not sure if it's something I want to know." I admitted he looked at me strangely. "Where are my parents now?" I said barely able to get the words out
Zarek sighed heavily. "I wish I knew. They could still be in prison. They could have gotten out and reformed. They could still be selling. I haven't seen them since that night."
I eased down into my seat not realizing I had tensed up in anticipation to his answer. "I guess it's for the best. I don't know that I'd want to see them." I looked down at the floor while Zarek still looked me over.
After a brief moment he cleared his throat and said "Xanidor, I don't know that you even think about your parents often. They may barely cross your mind for all I know. But I want you to understand something. Your parents used to be upright, civilized people. They just got misguided along the way."
"I remember their 'misguidedness'." I said flatly as looked back at him.
"I was wondering how much you remembered." he said. "You were of course very young. I don't think they had expected you."
I fiddled with a frayed edge of the sofa's fabric to counter my strangely numb state of self. "I figured. why would two decently successful drug dealers suddenly decide 'Let's have a kid and then treat him like crap.'" I sighed looking away from him. "I was just an accident."
"Xanidor, there are no accidents."
I recognized what I often thought of as Master Oogway's trademark words. He really was taught by him, wasn't he?
"You can't be mad at them forever." Zarek said.
"I can sure try." I said remembering Tigress and me having the same exchange of words just this morning.
"I understand." Zarek said perceptively. "It's hard to let go of something that's become almost an innate trait, especially if you've had years of it boiling up inside you, but you can't start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one. Holding on to anger is like holding on to a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at the person you're angry at; you are the one who gets burned." He looked me over again thoughtfully. "Maybe there's another reason we were brought together."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Sometimes focusing on others is what we need to solve our own problems. I went to see Valko to relieve my restlessness, but haven't felt it since then, since I started trying to help you. Thank you, Xanidor. Maybe it really is gone. Maybe Master Oogway helped me again. But will you promise me you will try to forgive your parents."
I sighed thinking it over. I looked him in the eyes, the eyes I had at first feared and then came know as a watchful guardian. The eyes that had followed me through this entire ordeal. "For you I'll try, but not for them. I mean you did save me after all."
Suddenly remembering the reason I came here, I pulled Severin's medal out of my pocket. "This is the medal one of your residents pulled off Severin when he broke in here. Master Shifu saw it best that I return it here. Where he lost it."
I handed it over to him and he looked it over in his paw. "I suppose that seems about right. Not much use he'll have of it in prison."
"Thank you again, Mr. Alvarez." I said.
"Thank you too, Xanidor." he said.
We both stood and he followed me to the door to walk me out but once I reached the doorway I turned back around facing him and he seemed slightly surprised by my sudden motion. "Just so you know, I go by another name now. It's Jo." I don't know why I said this to him. But for some reason it felt important to me that I let him know this one last thing about me.
Zarek, simply smiled and said "It suits you." before I walked out and he closed the door.
I stood there on the stoup while partakers in the festival roamed the street, not taking notice of any of them, not fully realizing where I was or even how I was feeling. All I felt was... light. A feeling of lightness. And I didn't even know how to respond to it.
"Hey, Jo! How'd the exchange go?" I looked up seeing Po on the sidewalk walking toward the boarding house. Something on my face must have read unusually to him because he asked "Hey, what's up?"
I grinned. "Are you ready this story, Po?"
Does that satisfy you? I hope it does. A lot fo it was planned from the very beginning.
One last chapter!
Stay tuned for the final conclusion soon.
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Tell me what you think of this chapter.