Chapter 16 - Bravery
Rai held the sword of the storm in both hands. He closed his eyes as he allowed his muscles to relax and prepare. Then he prepared to practise his formations. He spun into action, practising his forms. His movements were fluid as he swung, flipped, stabbed and sliced at invisible opponents.
"Hey Rai!" Kimiko called, "What form is that?"Rai turned to see the Dragons watching him from a safe distance.
"Obviously it is the famed 'Demon Monkey' that Rai was most famous for," Omi said in his know it all voice.
"'Demon Monkey'? Is that what they called it?" Rai asked as he returned to practising.
"Of course," Omi replied, "what do you call it?"
"Uh, 'fighting to stay alive'"
Clay whistled as he watched Rai practise.
"I reckon yer not too bad wit dat der blade."
"Thanks," Rai replied, "the sword of the storm had been built in attempts to combat me so it was modelled after my Nexus Blade."
"My weapon of choice back in the old days," Rai explained, "lost it when I got turned to stone."
"How did you get beaten anyway?" Kimiko asked, "The records we've found about you never covered it."
"Obviously it was a great and noble battle between good and evil," Omi said proudly.
"Great and noble? They cornered me while I was recovering in a cave."
"Well then they used cunning and skill to locate the cave."
"A two-bit dragon ratted me out."
"Uh...They were not dumb enough to mess up an easy capture."
"Ok, I'll give you that one."
There was a moment of silence before Kimiko decided to ask the next question that came to her.
"Alright so why are you training without Master Fung asking you to?"
"Well since I'm now going to be helping you guys find Wu, I'd just thought I'd make sure that I'm in tip top shape," Rai explained, "I mean you guys already have one chubby Earth Dragon, you don't need a chubby Wind Demon as well."
"Hey!" Clay said, "Who're ya calling a chubby Earth Dragon?!"
"The guy with the weird accent and the stupid hat."
At that Clay went red faced and blew steam out of his nose.
"Alright," Clay said as he put on the Fist of Tebigong, "now yer asking for it."
Rai just smirked as he prepared the sword of the storm.
The two fighters were about to charge at each other when an ominous figure towered over them.
"Rai," Master Fung said in a stern and inquiring voice, "might I ask why you are antagonizing your team mate?"
"Well, nothing like a good fight to help get you into shape," Rai quickly covered.
"If you are so eager to spar I would be willing to be your sparring partner," Master Fung offered.
Rai put the Sword of the Storm away.
"No offence but I prefer to keep confronting Master's to a minimum."
"Even when ice cream is involved?"
That got Rai's attention.
Master Fung held up a bowl of chocolate ice cream.
"If you can get this bowl from me, it's yours."
Rai casually walked up to Master Fung.
"So are there any rules?"
"Just one; there are no..."
Before Master Fung finish, Rai hit the bottom of the hand that was holding the bowl, causing it to fly upwards. Rai leapt after it only to have his ankle grabbed by Master Fung. Next thing Rai knew he was skidding across the ground. He lifted his head from the ground in time for him to see the bowl land back in Master Fung's hand.
"That trick was old even when I was your age," Master Fung said, "you'll have to be a bit more original."
Rai growled slightly and leapt back in to action again.
And each time Master Fung dodged and repelled him with ease. After the third or forth try Rai realised that this would work. Suddenly with a new idea, Rai charged straight on at Master Fung. In the last second flipped over Master Fung, letting noose made out of the fabric of his robe. When Rai landed he then pulled on the rope, pulling the bowl out of Master Fungs hand and sending it flying towards Rai.
As the bowl went flying towards Rai. Master Fung pulled a rock out from his robe and threw it. It head the bowl dead on, shattering it and sending ice cream everywhere.
"What gives?!" Rai demanded.
"Your goal had been to win," Master Fung said, "mine had simply been not to lose. Take from this lesson what you can."
Rai gave a shrug as merged the rope back with his robe.
"Well in that case, I think I'll take this."
Rai pulled out a tub of chocolate ice cream. Master Fung almost went bug eyed before checking his robe where he had stored the tub of ice cream and finding it was empty.
"Swiped it from you while you did what felt like 'snake unravelling rope'," Rai explained, "now I believe that in this kind of situation it is customary to say this; WOOT!"
Rai then ran off, holding the ice cream triumphantly over his head. Master Fung just stood there, a slight twitch in his eye.
Dojo jumped onto Master Fung.
"Well I guess you can't win 'em all"
"So we're looking for the Shadow Slicer?" Omi asked, "I would most enjoy possessing such a Wu."
"Yeah 'so you can make a copy of yourself to confuse you enemies and admire it'," Kimiko said, "we know. Lets just find the thing."
The Dragons looked round, currently they were at one of the largest zoos in this part of the world with no real idea of where to start and both of their Wu detectors hadn't decided to bring their A-game to this particular hunt.
"Well partners I guess its da old split up and look for Wu routine," Clay said.
"Indeed," Omi said, trying to take control of the situation, "Clay and I shall go this way, meanwhile Rai and Kimiko will go that way."
Both Clay and Kimiko gave quick nod to let Omi know they had heard him. He and Clay then headed off in the designated direction.
"Ok Rai," Kimiko said, "time to get to work."
She turned to Rai who was leaning against a tree, breathing into a paper bag.
"Come on Rai, calm down," Kimiko ordered, "it wasn't that bad."
Rai, after a bit of effort was able to remove the bag from his mouth.
"I just spent two hours over a thousand feet in the air at the mercy of a lizard that still holds on to the belief that I'm trying to eat it! It was that bad and I am never going on that thing again!"
"You mean after the next time right?" Kimiko asked.
"Well we still need to make the return trip back to temple."
Realisation soon dawned on Rai, causing him to return to breathing into the bag, this time at twice the speed.
Kimiko let out a frustrated groan before walking up to Rai and clapping the paper bag with both hands, causing it to pop in Rai's faces.
"Feel better?" Kimiko asked.
Rai paused for a moment before answering.
"yeah I do actually."
"Good so how bout we actually try to find that Wu now?"
"Alright, Rai is in the game and ready for action,' Rai said, "what are we looking for again?"
"The shadow slicer," Kimiko offered with strained patience.
"Oh right, OK, just give me a moment to fire up the demon mojo...yeah, I got nothing."
"Yeah, apparently hyperventilating for two hours straight causes my Wu sensing abilities to malfunction. Who knew?"
He then sweet dropped when he saw Kimiko's fist clench slightly.
"Wait I think I sense something," Rai said quickly, "Ok so I'm pretty sure the Wu is this way; so either the tiger's den or monkey island."
"Tiger's Den," Kimiko said quickly.
"Are you sure? It could just as likely be at the..."
"Tigers Den Rai!"
"Tiger's Den it is," Rai said with a sigh
Nearby and unseen, an old lady was watching them.
"Perfect," She mutter with a satisfied smile.
"Ok, Kimiko," Rai said, "We've looked and I'm not seeing the shadow slicer, maybe if we try monkey island..."
"No monkeys!" Kimiko snapped.
Rai just looked at Kimiko slightly perplexed.
"Uh Kimi," Rai asked as diplomatically as he could manage, "Is this one of those "21st century girl" things."
"No this is one of those "drop it or die" things," Kimiko warned.
Rai rolled his eyes at but decided not to push the matter.
A loud scream suddenly pierced the air. Rai and Kimiko ran to the Tiger enclosure and saw that a small girl had fallen in. Nearby was a woman frantically calling for help. One of bystanders ran off, probably to get help while another one was trying to calm the woman down.
"We will get her out but we must be quiet otherwise we may alert the..."
A roar filled the air. Out from a from the hole that probably led to its den came the tiger. It prowled with a primal confidence and that only a pure predator would have been capable of. It seemed to know, as if by pure instinct, that there was a trespasser in its domain. It headed straight towards where the little girl was clamouring at the walls in attempts to get out of the enclosure. At about twenty feet away the tiger stopped and let out a low growl, alerting the little girl to its presence. The little girl froze and slowly turned her head. She let out a frightened gasp and pinned her back against the side of the enclosure. The tiger started moving again, slowly closing the distance between them. The girl let out a frightened whimper as soon the tiger was with in ten feet. Not knowing what else to do, the girl crouched into a ball and tried to cover her vitals. She closed her eyes and tears streamed down her face.
When she heard a soft thud, she opened her eyes and saw figure standing between her and the tiger.
There Rai stood, crouching. To his back was a girl that until 60 seconds ago he hadn't even known about her existence and to his front stood about 400 pounds of killer kitty cat.
Rai had removed his glasses mid jump when he had leapt into the enclosure so now his bare eyes stared straight into the tiger's with a steely determination.
Despite the determined look Rai had, inside his head he was screaming.
RAI YOU LUNATIC! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! WHY WOULD YOU WILLING JUMP INTO THE FACE OF ONE OF NATURES KILLING MACHINES?
Rai then felt the little girl press herself against Rai's back.
"I'm scared," She whispered.
"It's going to be ok," Rai assured her, never taking his eyes of the tiger, "stay behind me and I won't let you get hurt."
DAMN IT RAI! NOW YOU'VE MADE A PROMISE THAT YOU MAY HAVE TO GET YOUR SELF MAIMED TO KEEP!
Look, the shouting isn't helping matters so would you please zip it so I can focus on the tiger.
FINE! JUST DON'T COME CRYING TO ME WHEN ITS BUSY DEVOURING YOUR LIVER!
With that out of the way, Rai gave his full focus to the tiger. Neither moved in this stand off of beasts. The tiger started to lifted it's paw, as if it was about to take another step forward. In reply Rai lifted his right hand and made it mimic a claw.
"Don't even think it, stripy."
The tiger paused. It's head tilted slightly. A moment passed as the two just stared before something passed between them; understanding. With what appeared to be the slightest bow of the head, the tiger turned and walked off. Rai let out a sigh of relief. He turned his head to look at the little girl.
The little girl nodded her head.
"Ok that's good, now you're going to have to hold on so that I can get us out of here."
At that the girl rapped her arms around Rai's neck. Rai then used one hand to secure the girl's leg round his waist. Rai toook in a deep breath and took a few steps away from the enclosure wall. He then sprinted and wind-jumped into the air. He grabbed the safety rail and climbed out. Once safely out Rai crouched down again so that the girl could climb off.
A woman ran in and pulled the little girl into a hug.
"I was so scared," the woman said.
"I'm alright, mommy " Stacy assured her mother, "the nice boy saved me."
The mother took the moment to look Rai in the eye. Rai tensed when he realised that he hadn't put his glasses back on. He tried to back away when the mother expectantly pull Rai into a hug.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you..." she constantly repeated.
This exchanged last for a while. When the mother let go, Rai ran for it before someone could stop him. Kimiko was about to go after him when she heard someone calling her.
Kimiko turned and saw Clay and Omi walked up, covered head to toe in filth.
"What happened to you?" Kimiko asked.
"Well ya see, we found the Wu but we had a run in with Jack and some of his friends," Clay explained.
"Oh," Kimiko said nervously, "so where was the Wu?"
"On monkey island," Omi explained, "why do you ask?"
The tiger walked back into the den. Inside was the old lady, stroking the belly of the actual zoo tiger. Meanwhile, the Tiger from the confrontation morphed back into its kitten form.
"Nicely done Hu," the old woman praised.
Hu jumped in the old lady's lap and started purring.
"You're right," the old lady said, "Rai has most certainly proved himself as brave. That means two tests down and two to go."
"Rai!" Kimko called, "the Wu's been found, its time to go home."
She looked round for Rai until she saw him sitting on a bench, rubbing his arm thoughtfully.
Kimiko walked up to Rai tentatively. She opened her mouth to speak but Rai beat her to it.
"She hugged me," Rai said, disbelief evident in his voice, "that woman looked me right in the eye, saw me for what I was and still hugged me."
"Well you had just saved her child, of course she would be grateful," Kimiko said, "people don't really believe in demons so...
Rai turned and looked at Kimiko; cutting off what she was saying.
"Grateful? You mean people hug complete strangers out gratitude nowadays?"
Kimiko stopped and stared.
"Of course they would if the stranger had done something like saving their kid."
Rai suddenly started closing the gap between them.
"So theoretically, if someone had done something for me that I am extremely grateful for, it would be all right for me to hug them?"
Kimiko nodded briefly, not sure where Rai was going with this. She soon got her answer when Rai pulled her into a hug. She tensed at first but then found herself gradually relaxing, allowing her self for a moment to enjoy the sensation of being held like this by Rai. After a short while, Rai slowly and comfortably pulled away. He took a moment to gaze into Kimiko's eyes.
"Thank you," He said softly, his voice filled with sincerity.
At that he start to walk off.
"Wait!" Kimiko called, finally out of a daze, "what are you thanking me for."
Rai turned his head back and gave a small smirk as he put on a pair of sun glasses.
"I'll leave it for you to figure out," he said, "you only said I had to be grateful, you never said I had to be specific."