Chapter 30 - Decision
A wolf demon scurried up to Wuya and Hannibal. It stood on his hind legs to give a salute before giving its report. "We have searched the whole temple; there is no sign of the demon you mentioned. All we found was this..."
of the demon's comrades scurried in, dragging along Rai's outer robe.
Wuya picked it up, testing the feel of the fabric in her hands.
"It's his alright. But it still doesn't explain where he is." Wuya turned to the warriors, who an ogre carrying a set of keys had finished chaining up. "Care to shed some light about the location of my troublesome apprentice?"
"He is not your apprentice anymore." Omi said venomously, "and no doubt he will find a way to kick all your demonic backsides 36 ways TO CHINESE NEW YEAR!."
Wuya eyed the young warrior for a moment before punching him in the gut, hard. "Anyone else care to share?"
The captive warriors remained silent but defiant. Hannibal jumped onto Kimiko right shoulder and then testingly jumped up and down on it. "Hm...this shoulder seems mighty healthy considering I shot a arrow into it not too long ago."
"That was you?"
Hannibal turned to Chiyoko. "It most certainly was, which leads me to my next question. What are you doing here? When I left, Rai was just about to give you a new breathing hole. Why would you be back here, helping the temple."
"Well you see, it turns out we had a lot in common," Chiyoko replied, "namely hating scum like you."
Wuya rolled her eyes until something caught her eye. Without warning, Wuya ripped off Kimiko's sash. As Wuya inspected it, everyone else finally noticed the blood that had been smeared on the aqua cloth.
"Now why would the warrior that charbroils her opponents have blood on her?" Wuya asked thoughtfully before holding the sash out for a wolf demon to sniff.
"It has a demonic essence." The wolf demon confirmed. "But it's not from any demon here."
Kimiko and Chiyoko shared a nervous glance. Wuya placed a glowing hand on the blood smear."
"HEYLIN BLOOD RECALL."
Black and blue energy floated out of sash and swirled in the air until an image appeared. There wasn't any sound but it showed Rai attacking Kimiko and Chiyoko. Then, when Kimiko had gotten hold Rai, it showed Chiyoko charging in with glowing hands. As the attack collided with Rai and blood burst out of him, the image vanished in a bright light.
"Does that mean what I think it means?" Hannibal asked.
"Yes," Wuya said, slightly stunned. "My former apprentice is dead."
Rai repeatedly opened and closed the treasure, getting increasingly frantic each time. "no, no. NO! YOU CAN'T DO THIS TO ME! AFTER CREATING THE FRICKENING ARMY OF DEMONS YOU CAN'T TELL ME YOU DON'T HAVE ENOUGH POWER TO CREATE JUST ONE MORE!"
"The spirit still has enough power to create a million more such armies," a voice said. "If you wanted it to."
Rai turned his slightly to see the old lady he had met in the forest a while ago. "Look, strange cat person that may or may not actually be real, I don't have time for this right now." He said in exasperation. "Right now people I care about are in deep trouble and the only hope I have of saving them has decided to stop working!"
"You know how the treasure of the blind swordsman works." The old lady said in her gentle voice. "It will grant what the user wants it to do, not what the user asks it to do."
"Alright, Treasure of the blind swordsman, I want to be a demon again." Rai tried opening the chest again and still got nothing. "I want it! I want it! I WANT IT!"
"Shouting a lie doesn't make it anymore true."
"Of course I don't want to be a demon again!" Rai snapped. "I never thought I'd get to feel human again. But my friends need me and human me just isn't strong enough."
"It was strong enough a few moments ago." The old lady replied
"Those were just five Ogres and I still almost got killed." Rai argued, "We're talking about a whole army of creatures just as nasty. The way I'll stand a chance is if I demon back up. "
"But if you do that, there's no turning back." She explained. "Chiyo's virtue was only strong enough to be used once."
Rai paused and looked down at the necklace. He then quickly shook his head. "I lasted this long as a demon, what's a lifetime more?"
"And what if you lose your soul in the process?" The old woman asked. "What happened to you was a unique occurrence that not even the treasure may be able to replicate. If you ask the treasure to make you a demon so that you can save the temple, you'll no longer be you anymore. You'll have an unexplainable urge to destroy the army invading the temple but when that is done there'll be nothing left but for you to finally become the creature everyone always thought you were."
Rai's hands fell limply to his side as the true gravity of what he was asking for hit. If he became a demon, his friends would eventually have to hunt and distroy him. There would be no other way. Regardless of what he chose he would still lose evertything.
Rai's fist clenched. "You seem to know a lot about everything that's going on." Rai muttered, never really looking at the strange old lady. "So tell me this, if I become demon again, will I save the temple."
"Yes." The lady calmly replied.
"Then it's enough. My friends need me and I'm not going to let them down." Rai grabbed the lids of the chest again, with a renewed certainty. "And if costs me my soul, so be it."
As Rai opened the chest, he saw energy glowing underneath it. Before he could fully open it a massive paw slammed it shut. Rai's gaze followed up the leg that was attached to the paw until he came face to face with a tiger. Before the former demon could he heard the sound of clapping. Rai turned to see the old lady had developed a divine glow.
"Well done Rai." She said. "By your act of loyalty you have passed the final test and proven yourself worthy."
Rai stared in amazement as he tried to processs what he was seeing before the pieces finally fell into to place. A divine being, in the form of a an old woman, with a pet tiger.
"Feng Po Po," Rai said in awe. "Goddess of the breeze."
"It is one of my forms," Feng Po Po answered, "Your friends know me as this..." She then changed into the bird of paradise.
"Whoa." Rai said
"Always having to show off," The tiger said then noticed Rai was gapping at him, "that's right, I can talk." His ears perked up. "Wanna see me do my John Wayne impression? It's really good."
"Hu!" Feng Po Po had returned to her old lady form but still maintained her divine glow, "Now really isn't the time."
Hu relented but not before muttering to Rai, "She prefers Clint Eastwood."
"Rai, in the time between now and when you had first been restored to flesh you have faced numerous tests and despite this have shown kindness, courage, strength and loyalty. These gifts, more than anything else, prove that you are worthy of what I want to give you."
She held out her hand. As Rai cautiously took it she pulled him to his feet. She then turned back to the tiger and signalled him with a nod. Using his fore-paws Hu flung open the chest.
There was a bright light and when it faded, floating above the chest was the spirit of Grandmaster Dashi, the first ever Xiaolin Dragon.
"Hi Rai, long time no see." The spirit said. "Though I've got say that you're looking good, ditching the demon eyes is a step forward though I'd definitely suggest a bit more effort on the wardrobe."
Rai raised an eyebrow as he turned to the goddess. "Not that I don't like getting fashion advice from a dead man. Is there a reason he's here?"
"Firstly, I'm not dead, I'm transcended," Dashi corrected. "Big difference. Secondly, why do you think I'm here?"
Feng Po Po affectionately put an arm over Rai's shoulders as she pulled him close. "You want to save your home but mere human is insufficient and full demon is unacceptable." An almost mischievous smile appeared on her face. "So how about we try option number three?"
Rai paused but as he started to catch on developed a mischievous smile of his own. "Alright," he looked at what remained of his clothing and his sword. "But if we're gonna do this; I'll need a few things."
"Well what to do?" Wuya asked thoughtfully. "Though you did save me time killing Rai for, he was still my apprentice so there has got to be retribution."
"Would ya mind moving this along," Hannibal said, having grown to human size and wearing Clay's cowboy hat as a spoil of war. "We do have a world to conquer."
"Now who isn't taking the time to enjoy themselves?" Wuya mocked. "Though It's hard to think straight on an empty stomach." The witch picked up Dojo and threw him to the ogre that had been chaining everyone up. "Thing you can whip something up?"
Ogre nodded and started to walk off, holding onto Dojo.
"I'm warning you," The dragon shrieked. "try to eat me and you'll regret it!
Wuya chuckled, "I'll take my chances."
Dojo squirmed as he tried to get out of the ogre's grip as it carried the dragon off down a hallway to the kitchen. "You don't want to eat me; 1500 year old dragon meat is tough and stringy. It'll give you heart burn."
Before dojo could protest anymore there was a loud crash and the ogre suddenly fell to the ground, unconscious. As Dojo escaped from the now loosened grip, he turned and saw his rescuer.
"Well that was unexpected."
"Oh screw it," Wuya pulled out a knife. "Let's keep it simple." Using her strength she firmly kept Kimiko's head in place as she slowly brought the blade closer the young warrior's flesh.
"Wuya, you really don't want to do that."
The Heylin witch let out a frustrated huff as she lowered turned to the source of the voice. "And why is tha..." She trailed off when she saw Rai standing there, wearing Xiaolin training robes with a red jacket, white pants and a black sash, as well as his trademark sunglasses.
"Well aside from the obvious mess, if that blade is as sharp as it looks and you went in from that angle, chances are you'll go straight through the Carotid artery, meaning she probably bleed out in two minutes or less so while unpleasant, it's by far not the most agonising way to die." Rai paused as he realised what he had just said. "What I meant to say is, 'no Wuya. Killing is wrong. Bad Wuya, bad bad Wuya'."
Wuya gapped at Rai "What are you doing here? And what are you wearing?"
"You like it?" Rai asked, gesturing to the Xiaolin temple robes he was now wearing. "I figured it was time for a change."
Hannibal turned to Wuya. "You told me that sorry excuse for a demon was dead!"
Rai let out a chuckle. "You know that's what I love about the Heylin side," he removed his sunglasses. "Never taking the time to consider the loopholes."
Everyone did a double take. Rai's human eyes seemed to sparkle as he enjoyed the looks of shock he was receiving. "That's right, Homo Sapien and proud of it."
"Impossible!" Wuya hissed
Rai shrugged in reply.
"The impossble happens. Now I know we aren't on the best of terms." Rai said sympathetically. "You feel me no longer wanting to work for the Heylin side was a break of trust but honestly I just felt you were enabling my negative behaviour." Rai then put his hands together as if in prayer. "However, finding my humanity has given me a new appreciation for all life and the place of everything in the cosmic balance. So instead resorting to violence and malice can we not find a peaceful solution?"
There was a moment of silence where everyone present just stared at him blankly. Rai sighed as he cracked his knuckles. "Yeah I didn't think so but at least I now have karma on my side."
Wuya snapped her fingers and suddenly Rai was swarmed by demons.
"WUDAI STAR WIND!"
The mound of demons erupted outwards, pushed away by a giant gust of wind. All that remained was Rai on one knee, arms pointed out to the sides, wearing his trademark smirk. "Just came with that move, what do you think?"
"A little stiff on the execution," Master Fung commented, "but you'll loosen up with practise."
Wuya and Hannibal stared at Rai in shock. This just caused the former demon to shake his head in amusement. "You didn't honestly think that I wouldn't have a few tricks up my sleeve?"
Wuya quickly regained her composure. "Well unless you want to see us slaughter the hostages I suggest you surrender."
Rai paused and looked meaningfully past the Heylin Witch. "What hostages?"
Wuya and Hannibal turned to the sound of chains hitting the ground and saw everyone from the temple out of their restraints and Dojo sitting on Master Fungs shoulder, twirling a key around his finger. "Told ya you'd regret trying to eat me."
Before Wuya could react she heard Rai's voice beside her ear. "Yeah, turning you back to me wasn't that smart either."
Next thing Wuya knew, she went crashing into a nearby wall.
Hannibal growled. "Why you..."
"WUDAI IRON PALM!"
Hannibal was hit by a three super palm strikes and was sent crashing into the same wall, landing right on top of Wuya. When the Heylin witch was able to get the giant bean of of her she realised she had dropped the Emperor Scorpion. Before she could react, she saw it floating up into the air until Zhanchi swooped down and swallowed it.
Wuya and Hannibal were quickly surrounded demons with Zhanchi looming over them. Wuya nervously chuckled as the demons growl. The duo then ran screaming as a good part of the army gave chase.
"Well dat was un expected." Clay remarked.
"Now that Zhanchi Fenui is no longer being controlled, perhaps they will leave in peace." Omi said hopefully.
"BURN THIS TEMPLE AND ALL WHO DWELL HERE!"
Clay gave Omi a raised eye brow. The young monk soberly replied. "Yes I realise that was being overly optimistic."
"Hey guys, sorry I'm late," Rai said sheepishly, "had to pick up a few things."
Clay dusted off his hat and put it back on as the young warriors went into a four sided attack formation. "Better late than never pal but if you have another cool trick to show us, we'll let it slide."
Rai smirked as he pulled out a glowing ball of energy out from his robes. "Funny you should say that." As he tossed the ball into the air, it split into four parts. A part landed squarely in the chest of each warrior. As the energy dissolved into their bodies, not only did it restore the energy that they had lost but it also created a bond between the three original Wudai warriors and their newest recruit.
What had once been three had now become four.
"WUDAI ORION FORMATION!"
As they performed their new formation, their bodies turned black but their uniquely coloured shown through outlining their bodies. Kimiko had a red aura, Omi had a white aura, Rai's aura was blue and he was floating few inches off the ground while Clay not only got a green aura but giant pairs of rock boots and gloves.
The temple monks stared on in awe. Dojo meanwhile had put on a pair of sunglasses to be able to see through the glow. "That's new."
The Wudai Warriors turned towards the demon hordes and spoke in unison.
"Get out of our temple."
Clay stomped hard onto the ground. The ground under every demon that was there shot upwards, sending them flying into air.
Rai starting flying around the demons at break neck speed, soon trapping them within a massive hurricane.
Kimiko let out a stream of fire that started to engulf the entire hurricane. Rai quickly got out of the way before the entire thing became a flaming vortex.
Omi then rose up a massive column of water that caused the vortex to erupt in a burst of steam. All that remained of the demon army was ash.
"Is that all of them?" Kimiko asked, before she remembered Zhanchi was still standing there. "Oh, right."
Zhanchi stretched out his wings and flapped them, silently issuing a challenge. Clay, Omi and Kimiko readied themselves.
"No," Rai held out his arm, stopping his team as he reverted to his normal form. "He's mine."
Three other warriors stepped back, conceding Rai the chance to face his old foe alone.
Rai took to the air, with Zhanchi following right behind. Soon they were high above temple, in deadly dance of aerial combat high above the clouds.
"BLADE OF THE NEBULA!"
Rai's sword turned into a pair of nunchuks with a wind chain. The chain then started to stretch out as it become a long wind whip. Rai swung the whip at Zhanchi. The end wrapped around the snakes neck and tightened. Before Zhanchi could react Rai twisted sharply and with unexpected force was able to pull hard enough to send Zhanchi flying straight down.
Zhanchi crashed into to the ground, hard. When the dust settled, Zhanchi was still writhing on the ground trying to refocus.
As his vision started to refocus, Zhanchi looked and saw Rai in freefall, Blade of the Nebula held in both hands over head, heading straight for the demon serpent.
The sword pierced right where the demon's heart should be. Rai then twisted the sword and pulled it out. Rai looked into the gaping hole he created and found what he was looking for. "Nothing up my sleeve," Rai thrust is hand into the hole and pulled out the Rio Reverser. "And for my next, I'll make a group of demons disappear."
Without the Rio Reverser in his body, Zhanchi started to turn back into dust, he let out a deadly hiss that soon turned in to a death rattle until all that remained was pile of dust and the temple's Wu & weapons. Scanning the surroundings, Rai saw his old dagger on the ground. Rai picked up the Eye of Dashi and pointed it at the dagger. "Never again. EYE OF DASHI!" There was a strike of lightning and the dagger was completely, removing everything that had remained of the demon king Zhanchi Fenhui.
"Well that was fun," Rai commented. "Who wants to go get some ice cream?"
He then noticed Kimiko staring nervously at him. "What?"
"You're still human, right?" Kimiko asked. "you didn't just change back to...?"
Not sure of a better way to prove it, Rai opened his robe slightly, showing an unmarked chest. "I'm human alright," he assured, "In fact I even better than mere human because ladies and gentlemen there are now four Wudai Warriors."
Omi tilted his head slightly. "Isn't the four unlucky?"
Rai closed up his robes "We'll worry about technicalities like that later."
Master Fung cleared his throat.
"You do realise that, abilities or not, the title of Wudai Warrior is something that is awarded by the temple, not something that can simply be claimed." Master Fung informed Rai.
There was a moment of awkward silence until a smile appeared on Master Fung's face as he surveyed what remained of the demon snake. "Though I must admit you do have an impressive resume. So if there are not objections from my fellow monks..." Master Fung glanced at said monks who simply shook their heads dumbly replied. "...I welcome to our ranks Rai..." The sash around Rai's waist glowed as it turned Aqua blue. "Wudai Warror and Future Xiaolin Dragon of the Winds."
What followed next Rai being on the receiving end of an ambush group hug from both Clay and Kimiko.
"Way to go Rai!"
"Welcome aboard buddy."
Omi cleared his throat to get Rai's attention. "While you obviously will not be as great a Wudai warrior as I am..." He then smiled sincerely as he gave Rai a respectful bow. "I am honoured to have you join us in the fight against evil."
Rai bowed in returned, "Likewise Omi."
The warriors then noticed the Heylin Eclipse had at long last ended.
"And that is game." Master Monk Guan said with a hint of satisfaction
Chase Young glared at the monk. The two immortal warriors then sensed the shift in power as the eclipse ended. Guan sighed slightly.
"I suppose now that you have your powers back you want to go back to being enemies straight away."
Chase looked down at the board for a moment. The pieces glowed slightly as they moved back in place. "Best out of three."
Guan smiled warmly. "Very well, old friend, but this time I get to be red."
"We have to do clean up already?" Rai asked in dismay.
"Yes," Master Fung said. "It is better to get it done sooner rather than later."
"But we just had a massive full on invasion from the Heylin side," Rai argued, "doesn't that warrant a little time to recuperate?"
Master Fung said thoughtfully, "You do have a point. In fact you four can have a week off." Rai perked up. "As soon as the temple has been restored."
Everyone chuckled as the new Wudai warrior's groan.
Chiyoko cleared her throat. "I'm not much of a housemaid so I think now is a good time to take my leave."
"Ok," Rai said quickly, "I'll show you out."
Clay and Omi were about to follow Kimiko stopped them with a shake of his head.
Once Rai and the priestess were some distance away from the others, Chiyoko chuckled slightly, "this certainly wasn't what I expected to happen after turning you human."
Rai quirked an eyebrow. "Not happy with how things turned out?"
"More surprised than everything."
"Surprises are good, it stops the world from getting boring," Rai took out Chiyo's necklace and handed it back to Chiyoko. "Thank you...for everything."
Chiyoko looked down at the necklace for a moment before she put it back on. "It was an honour to be the one that ended your curse."
"So what will you do now?" Rai asked
Chiyoko paused. "I've always wanted to visit Venice. When I get back I'll probably go on with doing what I was always doing. One less demon in the world is a good start but it's still just a start." She started to leave. "Take care Rai."
Rai watched the priestess leave. As she walked down to When she was a reasonable distance away Rai's gaze naturally drifted upwards. It was then he saw Feng Po Po on top of a fully grown Hu sitting on a cloud, smiling as she waved to him. Beside her appeared the spirit of Dashi who gave Rai a wink and the big thumbs up. Hu even seemed to be smiling. Rai grinned as he waved back.
"Who are ya waving to, partner?"
Rai turned to see Clay standing there holding as two brooms.
Rai gave a shrug, "Just a wind goddess, a shape shifting tiger and the spirit of an ancient martial arts master, sitting on a cloud."
"Is that so?" Clay looked in the direction Rai had been looking but couldn't see anything. "Well that certainly would be a sight worth waving to."
Rai paused. "Wait. You believe me?"
"Does it make a difference either way?" The cowboy asked.
Rai gave one last glance towards the now empty sky. "I guess not." He then caught the broom Clay tossed to him.
"Well in that case, come on." The Texan replied. "I want to get this clean up done quickly so that we can have a break cause frankly these last few days have left me bushed."
Clay started to walk off. Rai smiled again as he followed. As strange as the last few days had been, to Rai it had been entirely worth it for two reasons.
At long last he was human again.
And at long last, he was home.
Author's Note: The number four is infact considered an unlucky number in Chinese culture because it is nearly homophonous to the word "death".
The game Chase and Guan were playing (Xiangqi) is an chinese game similar to chess. Thought to have descended from the Indian chess game of Chaturanga, there are indications that it was played all the way back to the Warring States Period (475 BC - 221BC)