Sunk to the Bottom
Dee wandered upstairs like nothing just happened, apparently, he forgot about something significant. It would be minutes later when he suddenly realized. Dee reached inside his pocket for the folded letter. He carefully placed the letter on the surface of his table, using his arm to flatten the pleats made by the folds. Dee read line by line.
Dear Master Dee
I have successfully made it to the northern border, but some troubles may have occurred. As you are reading this letter I might already be captured or killed. If I somehow make it I’ll be back very soon. From my investigation, your suspicions are absolutely correct, usual things are happening. I can’t go into detail, but big events are bound to happen. -Rui
“No way,” Dee muttered again and again. He read the letter repeatedly, line by line. He can’t seem to accept the reality of Rui being in real danger. In Rui’s writing, he clearly stated he is experiencing some trouble, but there is still hope that he might overcome it.
Dee leaned back against his chair, blankly staring at the ceiling. He doesn’t know how to react, as he couldn’t properly process the information, still in utter shock. Dee’s heart beating faster than ever. He sensationally shook his head, as a scary sight of Rui’s corpse appeared in his mind. He scratched his hair with both hands, trying his best to get rid of the image. A droplet of tears formed, dangling around the corner of his eyes. “There is no way, it can’t…..” Dee interrupted himself and let out a long and deep sigh. He palmed his face with his hands, rubbing the tears to the side.
“It can’t happen,” Dee continued. “With his ability, Rui will survive, he can…..”
Dee tried everything to make himself feel more settled. Is not like Rui’s death is already a fact, but Dee is extremely worried. His breath is getting heavier as each minute goes by, each inhale feels like a rock pressing on him. Dee hopped out of his chair, walking back and forth. “Would it be too late to save Rui?” Dee thought. He can’t decide on an answer. If he were to rush over to the border as fast as possible, it would be an impossible mission for him to return back for the Lantern Festival. Dee would rather be killed than decide between Rui and the emperor. The room got extremely hot as Dee sweated from head to toe. The uncertainty in his mind sparked an inner flame that burnt up all his rational thinking.
Dee buried his head down, tangled around by his two arms. Every bit of sound distracted Dee away from ever finding an answer. He put his head up, reaching his arm to open the closed window. Fresh air would soon conquer the whole room. Dee took a big inhale, inviting the comfortable air into his lungs. The air got all the way to Dee’s throat before exhaling out. The strong breeze cooled Dee down. He reseated in his chair, with a fully calm mind. A fully throughout decision would soon be made. Rui probably encountered danger this morning, by the time help arrives, it would either be too later or Rui has gotten out himself. Sending people to save Rui won’t do much, only putting them more behind on catching the Yu’s. The only thing Dee can do is pray that Rui has escaped from danger. Until he hears from Rui, Dee’s worry might never fade away, he is eager to know whether Rui has survived. Half of Dee’s heart is convinced Rui will return soon, the other half are immersed in the sadness of a best friend’s funeral. The mixed feeling is almost driving Dee insane. He pounded his chest like a chimpanzee, trying to forget about Rui for a few seconds.
“It’s all my fault.” Dee cried out, letting his emotions fly. He punched the wooden table as hard as he could imagine, however, the feeling of his guiltiness overshadowed all of the pain. Dee looked over at the outside world, there are uninvited mists entering his room. Dee’s eyes are filled with tears of remorse, of guilt. It almost as everything that happened is his fault. All the passion is turned into a blank hollowness, his eyes have completely lost their light. In his mind, he should’ve never sent out Rui by himself, he exposed Rui to the enemy’s blades. Whether Rui would survive or not, Dee still felt sincerely sorry that he was not by his side. Dee formed punches with his hands, gripping his finger hard with his palms, leaving an obvious red marking. All of his moments with Rui flashed through, only a second passed in reality but Dee felt he has experienced it all over again. The corner of his bottom lip moved up, the past memories brought a half-smile on Dee’s face, with two waterfalls forming down his eyes. He whispered to himself, and to faraway Rui, “I’m truly sorry my friend, I have let you down.”
“Mater Dee, are you doing alright?” Yuchi’s sound appeared at the doorway. He must’ve heard the loud collision Dee made when in frustration.
“I’m good,” Dee lied.
“What did Rui say?”
“What?” Dee was certainly panicking when Yuchi asked this. His voice trembled as he answered. Dee still hasn’t made up his mind on whether the others should know this. The two had an unmeaningful conversation. Dee made up some answers to Yuchi’s questions, getting him to leave.
“Should they know…..” Dee whispered to himself. The conflicted thoughts troubled Dee for the entire afternoon before Yuchi had to call him down for dinner. At this point, a decision must be made. He wobbled down the stairs, grasping onto the smooth armrest. He felt the world spinning, his eyes suddenly went blacked out, before coming back normal. Despite his best attempt at hiding his worried face, one could easily tell Dee is in a state of sadness. His body language was obtuse, his eyes hollow and grey. His arms dangled around like two ropes, his senses not functioning.
“Mater Dee?” Yuchi called, however, Dee caught none of it. It had to be a second call that ultimately caught Dee’s attention. “What’s our dinner plan? Or our plan in general?”
“Don’t ask me.” Dee shrugged. Nobody would ever expect something so uncaring to come out of Dee’s mouth.
“Before we do anything, I would like to……’ Dee paused his own sentence, a moment of hesitation controlled Dee’s mind. After a second of intermission, Dee continued, “Before we do anything, I would like to show you all something.”
Dee walked directly to the round table where everyone is near. He reached for Rui’s letter, slapping it upside down on the table. Everyone poked their head, but only to view a blank piece of paper. Dee moved his head around, purposely avoiding everyone’s eyes of curiosity. With another word, he went straight upstairs. Dee is reluctant to see his crew’s reaction to this, he’s sure that everyone would be somewhat devastated like he is. Seeing their faces turn from colourful to grey would be very discouraging, although not much courage is still left.
The decision had to be made, as it would only be a matter of time when everyone learns about the tragedy that befell Rui. He senses that everyone is probably going to be in a down mood, this will put them behind on catching the Yu’s. Dee would just lay on his bedsheet, his hand behind his head. His eyes haven’t left the ceiling since he got in this room, it might be the only way he will feel comfortable. The remorseful feeling is agonizing, to say the least.
With a heavy heart, Dee slowly made his way downstairs again. The letter flipped over, visible, everyone must’ve seen it. The atmosphere completely differed from before, no one made eye contact, just dead silent. Dee pulled a chair out and seated down, the dragging of the chair pierced through one’s ears. All seated awkwardly, none knowing how to properly react. The annoying silence would continue for minutes, but this is no comparison to Dee’s guilt.
“So, we are just going to do nothing now?” Yuchi became the first to speak. He cleared his throat and stood up in the middle of the room like he is giving a real speech. “Rui could be still alive, we should never lose hope.”
“Well, he should already be back hours before,” One member said. “Do you think he will not obey Master Dee’s order?”
“He said he encountered some trouble,” Yuchi argued. “It’s reasonable that he can be late.”
Scanning across the room, no one seems to have any bit of interest in continuing the topic. “So we really are just going to give up?” Yuchi scolded, he furiously started at Dee. This is the first time Yuchi acted this aggressively toward him.
“I know nothing about the Yu’s right now,” Dee said. “We are not going to catch them in a two-day span. Just wait until the festival begins and we’ll figure it out.”
“Just do your part on that day. We let Dali and those bodyguards do all the rest.” Dee did not get offended any bit, his emotions are too steep down the cliff.
Shun did not want to hear the rest. He slapped his hand on the table, making a thunder-like sound, before leaving the chaotic scene. One after another, other members left too. Leaving Dee all alone in the freezing night. All he’s left with is his shadow. Deep down inside, Dee wants to regear up. A cup of drink might do the work.
“Sorry to bother you this late.”
“Not a problem,” A woman’s voice responded. On the dusky night of Chang’an, one building stands out amongst the rest. In it seated two people face to face. A bottle of booze was placed beside two beautifully crafted bowls. “I haven’t seen you drink in years, Dee.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t drink much. Just a bit to get my mood up,” Dee said. Ruyi carefully poured the liquid into both bowls. The two raised the bowl up in a toast, the bowls clinked together. Dee silently honored Rui while doing so.
“Then are you in a bad mood?” Ruyi asked.
“Not the best,” Dee responded. He chose to hide Rui’s encounters from Ruyi. Dee does not want to see any bit of grief in her eyes. “The disease is still presented around us, feeling a bit overwhelmed with the pressure.”
“I can sense it will be gone soon,” Ruyi comforted.
The two are having a great time, chatting and boozing. Laughter and cheers spread across the road. Dee started to feel a little drunk, his head got giddy as he drank the tenth bowl of booze. Both of their faces are painted like red apples. It might be the stimulation of alcohol, but Ruyi looks prettier than before. Her face dazzled in Dee’s blurred eyes, she shined like a precious gem, elegant and gorgeous. “Can I tell you something, Ruyi?” Dee stared down Ruyi, his eyes full of pink romances. Ruyi blushed and looked away, avoiding eye contact.
“Master Dee.” A sound came from behind, completely ruining the romantic atmosphere. For an unknown purpose, Yuchi stood by the entrance, hand on his knees.
“What’s the deal?” Dee asked.
“Just wondering where you went.” Yuchi pulled a chair and sat perpendicular to Dee. “Figured you would probably come here.”
“Would you like a drink?” Ruyi asked.
“Umm, that would be great.” Yuchi smiled. “Thank you.”
As Ruyi leaves, Dee and Yuchi are all alone. Yuchi noticed Dee’s face, clearly seeing that Dee is absolutely drunk. Yuchi watchfully took the half-empty bowl out of Dee’s sight. As Yuchi did so, Dee dropped headfirst on the table, his face kissing the surface. Yuchi had to reject drinking himself, dragging Dee back to his room. As the patternful snoring sound of Dee spread in Yuchi’s ears, he knew it’s fine of him to leave. And just like that, they are another day closer to the festival.
The next day, Dee found Yuchi in his room when he got up. The side effects of alcohol made his head spin, he squinted his eyes as his head ached. “So, are you going to do anything today, Master Dee?”
Dee didn’t give an immediate reply. He gazed down, rays of sunshine splattered on the ground. Dee hasn’t gained his motivation back just yet. Yuchi continued on with a clear rise in volume. “People from Dali are patrolling around 24/7, working their asses off, and we are just standing around? I’m not ordering you Master Dee, I just want to remind you that we are also responsible.”
“Like it would matter.” Dee shrugged before laying down face up.
“I’m not going to be upset if we can’t catch the Yu’s.” Yuchi moved closer towards Dee. “I’m going to be upset if we don’t even try.”
“Sometimes it would be better if we hand the work to more capable people.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I should’ve given the task to anyone but Rui.” Dee launched up, a ferocious facial expression scared Yuchi, as he tumbled backward. “I could’ve handled the task to Dali, or just find anybody to support Rui.”
The frightening fear rumbled in Yuchi’s head, his gut was sealed by it. Dee continued on his rampage, “I trust Rui, he is very capable. But his overwhelming amounts of courage and confidence can lead to some arrogant moves. Only If I send helpers to hold him back.”
“So you are saying it’s your own fault?”
“Who else could it be?” Dee shook his head. “I could’ve altered the whole outcome with my decision.”
“This is a tragedy. Nobody wanted to see this and nobody is at fault.” Yuchi tried to convince Dee, but he never heard any response. The conversation was forcefully put to an end. “If I can’t convince you, someone will.”
After a few minutes of waiting, a woman knocked on the door. Ruyi came with a basket full of delicious delicates. She sat on the other side of Dee, she and Yuchi sandwiching him.
“I’ve heard about it,” Ruyi said, she politely landed her hand on Dee’s shoulder. Unlike Yuchi, Ruyi took a calmer approach. Her gaze is like sunshine, warm and bright. “Don’t be so harsh, it’s really no one’s fault.”
“Who would’ve thought.” Yuchi joined in. “I’m sure Rui won’t blame you, and no one should.”
“Regretting the past will do nothing well,” Ruyi told Dee. “Let’s keep our eyes on the now, shall we?”
Dee started to calm down, leaving behind the troubling regrets. He cleared those misleading thoughts, it felt like his head is finally sober. It felt great not having all those guiltiness on him, releasing these pressures lessened the weight.
“I’m sure Rui wants us to catch the Yu’s,” Yuchi said. “So let’s stop these Yu’s in honor of Rui, let us fulfill his uncompleted mission.”
“Rui doesn’t want to see you like this. We all love the intelligent and courageous detective Dee.”
“Just remember, there will always be pain along the journey. Just learn how to cope with it.” Dee murmured. The advice Tianlan gave rose to the surface of his mind, she must’ve predicted the future and gave Dee her best advice.
“What?” Yuchi apparently did not hear what Dee had murmured.
“Just remember, there will always be pain along the journey. Just learn how to cope with it.” Dee repeated, this time in a higher volume. He swiftly jumped out of his soft bed, unlike before, he felt his body as light as feathers. Finally, a smile was put on. Not all of the guilt is gone, but most are. Dee was aggressively fighting back his uncomfortable feelings, but now he is dealing with it, coping with it just like an everyday problem.
“Are you finally recovered?” Ruyi asked.
“I can’t let sadness rule me,” Dee said, his smile remained. “The priority right now is to help the city.”
“This is the Master Dee I know.” Yuchi laughed.
“We are going to protect the city in honor of Rui.” Dee fisted into the air, launching his hand upwards to the ceiling.
“In honor of Rui,” Yuchi and Ruyi both cheered, imitating Dee’s behaviors.
Dee finished his morning routines and strolled down the stairs. He sincerely thanked Yuchi and Ruyi for supporting him out of the state of sorrow. Including today, there are still two full days left before the Lantern Festival, where anything could turn to the worst.
By the end of the staircase, Yuchi seemed to be waiting for Dee. “So, we are going to head out there today?” Yuchi asked Dee.
“Yeah,” Dee replied. “Hopefully Dali already found useful things. If nothing is found, then all we can do is defend.”
“Protect the emperor.”
“Yeah, but I’m afraid they will go for the civilians as well,” Dee said. “It will be hard to protect all innocents.”
“Isn’t their purpose to get revenge on the emperor?”
“Who knows what they want, I’m still not even sure why Doctor Li and General Sha were the targets.”
“Master Dee, can you do me a favor before we head out,” Yuchi begged.
“You know the book Master Tianlan gave us,” Yuchi said. “I haven’t gotten the chance to read it, maybe I can find some blind spots.”
“Yuchi, you know the book takes a long time to finish” Dee kind of wanted to head out, Yuchi’s request seems contrary to his plan.
“Just give me twenty minutes.”
The time Yuchi requested is not long. Dee could spare twenty minutes right now, thus Yuchi got what he wanted. “The book is in my room, on the third shelf,” Dee told Yuchi its exact location.
Dee casually picked the morning newspapers up at the doorway. Middle-aged man, Tang Tsusi fatally stabbed in an isolated hotel room. This was the headline of today. “Another murder it seems. Wonder if it has anything to do with the Yu’s.” Dee sighed.
Dee placed the newspaper into the trash bin, focusing his mind back on Yuchi. Dee wondered what Yuchi can accomplish in such a short time span. The curiosity pushed Dee to follow in Yuchi’s footsteps. Yuchi had just started reading as Dee caught up to him. He appeared to be surprised as Dee followed, a flash of fluster showed. Nothing was said between the two, Dee watched as Yuchi flipped through pages.
The air was getting thinner as minutes passed by, Yuchi seemed too focused to notice. Dee mindfully opened the window, loads of fresh air swarmed inside. “Huh.” Dee glanced back as Yuchi made a sound.
“What’s the deal?” Dee asked.
“I found something interesting,” Yuchi claimed. The whole twenty minutes isn’t even needed, the process took about five minutes.
Dee almost instantly teleported beside Yuchi. Looking over his shoulders, he reads. “Holy flower of YuXian.”
“Down over here,” Yuchi directed. “It claimed that this flower can cure any forms of sickness.”
Dee carefully checked the text written in the book, indeed it claimed so. “That means….” Dee realized what this could mean.
“Yes,” Yuchi said. “We can use this flower to cure this troubling disease.”
“True, but how do we find this magical flower?” Dee questioned.
“Look down here.” Yuchi pointed, and read the line out loud. “This flower is the treasure of Yu’s, a precious relic that is equivalent to their lives. The king of flowers and the hearts of the Yu’s.”
“Relic?” Dee seemed to have caught on to the useful information.
“Remember Master X….” Yuchi talked way too excitedly that he accidentally stuttered mid-way. “Umm, you told us that the emperor took this relic. This must mean that this flower is in the possession of the emperor.”
“Wow,” Dee exclaimed. “I almost couldn’t catch on to your thoughts, these are great findings Yuchi.”
“Thank you.” Yuchi proudly took the compliments. “We should communicate this to the emperor now.”
“You lead the charge.”
“So you are saying the holy flower can cure this situation?” The emperor asked.
“I believe so,” Yuchi confidently replied.
“I was worried about the progress of the cure.” The emperor smiled. “But it looks like everything is figured out. Good work you two.”
“Thank you, my emperor.” Dee didn’t take the praises lightly.
“I was actually carefully considering whether hosting the festival is a wise choice.” The emperor said. “I was thinking of moving it to a later day if the cure is still unfound.”
“The health and safety of civilians are very important,” Dee added on.
“Umm,” Yuchi interrupted. “Should we check on the holy flower first?”
“Of course.” The emperor seems to be in a great mood. “Lead them to the storage area, Master Yao.”
“Yes, your honour.”
Other members of the crew waited outside the palace patiently. Led by Master Yao they hiked to the storage area. Trailing behind is the emperor.
“May I ask for the others to step away,” Master Yao requested as the crowd gathered right in front of a building. The guards then opened up the door, a swarm of dazzling lights charged towards Dee’s eyes. “Please enter.”
The sight in front of Dee is never seen before. A tree-sized flower extended from the ground all the way up to the hollow ceiling. Its roots ruthlessly break through the grass. A total of four branches tangled around its main body, poking out on the top like four horns. On the tip of the branches are where the charming flower sits comfortably. Only three flowers seemed to have blossomed, one still growing. The flowers sent out an addicting fragrance, which can not be explained by simple languages. The red and white colour painted perfectly on the flower. Dee is convinced that this beauty is magical.
“Surprised?” The emperor said. “I was too when I first saw it.”
Dee scanned around, everyone is looking up at this giant. Jaws dropping to the ground. Only Yuchi seemed content about this once-in-a-lifetime sight. Dee watched as Yuchi walked up to the base of the flower, he gave it a gentle stroke.”Dying,” Yuchi whispered, however, Dee was close enough to hear a glimpse.
“What?” Dee wanted to confirm what he had heard.
“Oh, nothing.” Yuchi walked back, hand behind his neck. “I was shocked at how huge a flower can be grown.”
“Emm.” Dee stared at Yuchi for a few seconds before moving his vision back to the flower.
“We have the flower, but how do we make the cure out of it?” Master Yao pointed out.
“Let me check.” Dee opened up the book that he thankfully brought with him. “What page is it Yuchi?”
“Near the back,” Yuchi replied.
“Unfortunately it wasn’t mentioned.” Dee sighed. Even though the information was cut off here, something started to brew in Dee’s head.
“I guess we have to figure that out ourselves,” The emperor said.
Experts were brought into the building to examine this miracle. Dee was led upstairs where they can view the flower more clearly. There are thousands of petals in just one flower, densely packed with a beautiful pattern.
“We spent three days constructing this building for this flower,” The emperor introduced. “Since we got this thing, we still haven’t figured out how it really works.”
“I think it might be these petals,” Yuchi claimed. He pulled a petal out from the flower. Despite the colossal-sized flower, the petals are sized more towards a regular one. Yuchi gently squeezed on it using his nails, a splatter of liquid dripped out. He moved his hand to give the emperor and Dee a better view. “We can experiment on patients to know whether these juices would work as cures.”
“Bring a patient in,” The emperor ordered. Soon a man would be carried in by the guards. The man’s eyes are half-closed, his face colorless without any expressions. His lips and hands are pure white, looking like a man who is closed to death. Yuchi squeezed all of the juice from that one petal into a bowl and filled about a tenth of it.
“Would that be enough?” Master Yao questioned.
“We must test how much juice one needs to take in,” A doctor said.
Yuchi handed the bowl to the guards, who carefully fed the sick man. They helped the man get on his back, carefully pouring the juice into his throat. It wasn’t long before the man started to have a reaction. At first, he looks to be in pain. A series of coughs echoed loudly in the building. Then, the guy wrapped both of his hands on his neck, choking himself hard. The blood veins on his neck are about to pop out. At last, a pool of disgusting vomit spitted out of his mouth.
Some doctors went to check on him after the reaction. Dee could not tell whether the juice helped the man get better. “My emperor, the juice indeed can cure the disease.” One of them said.
While the conversation between the doctor and the emperor started the man got up himself without any external support. He stretched and stood up straight. The first few steps were wobbly, he seemed to be spinning around. Slowly but surely the man adapted and seemed very energetic.
“Again, thank you two you both,” The emperor said to Dee and Yuchi. “If there is nothing else, leave this cure work to me, you two can leave.”
They bowed to the emperor before exiting the Royal Palace in general. The layer’s mist apparently lasted from yesterday to even now. With no signs of going away. On the way back, Dee passed lots of Dali workers, who seemed to be working hard. From a distance, a singular man walked in Dee’s sight from the mist. The man and Yuchi greeted each other before walking off in another direction. Dee took a final glance at the man’s appearance before the mist completely covered him up.
“Who is he?” Dee curiously asked.
“Just a friend,” Yuchi replied. “He is a mailman.”
Dee went silent for a second, standing in place with no movements. “You guys return by yourselves. I need to check on something.” Dee told the crew.
“I’ll protect you,” Yuchi requested.
“Eh, I’ll take Shun instead,” Dee hesitated. “You have been working hard. All of you are free to wander around the city, I’ll join in on the search later.”
After waving them off, Dee and Shun disappeared into the mist where mysteries are hidden. For Dee, the mist is slowly diffusing away.