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Posted 20 March 2013
The Sea Devils
The Adventures of Wu Hsing Jade
by Richard Messer
Chapter 11

The Sea Devils
by Richard Messer

Chapter 11

The rain that morning had tapered off to a steady shower and the atmosphere on the streets was a soft gray. A police vehicle made its way through axle-deep waters to the far side of the Chinese section of town. Inside, the macaque was seated behind the wheel as his senior partner occupied the passenger seat. In back, Wu Hsing Jade and Ming Xue sat in silence, ignoring the splashing waters outside the vehicle and the steady drumming of rain on the canvas roof.

Staring out the panel of celluloid that was the window, Jade was lost in thought. She and Ming Xue hadn’t been in Bangkok for 24 hours and much had happened within that narrow sliver of time. Now her grandmother, the only member of her family outside of Aunt Yun, lay in a hospital bed, badly wounded and whose prognosis didn’t look good.

A choking sob was hiccupped out of the lepine doe’s throat. She buried her face in her left hand and turned towards the car door, her body shaking with uncontrollable crying. The sun bear police fur glanced over his shoulder but didn’t offer any condolence. He felt that there was nothing he could offer that would ease her stress. But the young rat woman beside her companion and employer could.

Ming Xue took Jade’s right hand into both of hers. Then she brought it up to her lips and kissed the gloved fingertips. That brought the rabbit femme around, a questioning look on tear-stained face. Before she could speak, her companion and secretary softly took her head in hand and brought it towards her shoulder. For a long time Wu Hsing Jade rested her head there; Sue keeping it there with her right hand while holding a tawny hand with her own gray-brown one.

Presently the police car pulled into a broad lane that fronted a modern looking building. The sign over the door read WU HSING HOSPITAL in English, Chinese, and Thai. They stopped under an awning out of the rain and got out. Jade was too lost in grief to pay attention. It was her rodent femme companion that gave the police furs a questioning look.

The sergeant spoke up. <The family always had a concern for us Chinese going back over a century when your ancestors first arrived in Siam. They saw how the other families here were treated and neglected in proper health care. So with monies from their apothecary business, as well as profits from their positions in the wako of the Sea Devils, they paid the doctors for those who couldn’t afford to. And this hospital is the culmination of that caring. Now, we take you in and wait out in the lobby for you. >

The small party entered, with Jade and Sue heading for the reception desk while the bear and macaque waited by the door. There were several other furs and feathers waiting on the wooden benches. What appeared to be doctors and nurses were speaking with them, noting answers to their questions on clipboards. Rabbit and rat ignored them and went to the figure in white behind the counter. The young Asian Jackal femme bowed and inquired as to their business.

Giving a small cough and swallowing back the lump in her throat Jade announced to the canine that she was the granddaughter of Wu Hsing Tang and had come to see her grandmother. The young femme’s eyes widened and she nearly battered her forehead against the edge of the counter as she repeatedly bowed and offered her most profound apologies for keeping her in the lobby. She turned to an arriving squirrel femme and hastily explained to her who the visitors were. This femme dashed out to bow with that maddening pivotal action of someone of inferior status to another far above them. She then turned to lead the pair down the corridor she had just left.

Jade and Sue followed the flustered nurse, passing rooms with open doors. The Eurasian lepine gave a shudder as the scene from her nightmare came back to taunt her. It was at the last door, and it was on the left, that she stopped. Sue looked up to see dark eyes wide open and her friend breathing heavily. The rodent femme paused to lay a hand on the other’s arm.

<We must continue, mistress, to see your grandmother and overcome your fears. >

The doe nodded mutely, allowing the smaller woman to lead her in. It was a private room with only one bed. There were two chairs by the bed as well as a small nightstand with a single lamp on it. The figure in the bed seemed lost in the bedding as it swathed her small form. But there were three other fursons present. One was the Siamese taxi driver who brought them to Wu Hsing Tang’s shop, another was an Asian Wild Dog from the gathering yesterday. The third figure was Ling-Ling, the mouse femme who helped in running the apothecary. She was seated at the head of the bed while the other two stood on the other side. They looked up as Jade and Sue walked in. The two males bowed respectively while Ling-Ling merely inclined her head. And as bandaged as she was that was all she could do. Lepine and rat bowed in returned.

<How is she? > asked Jade as she came to stand by the bed and looked down on the older femme sleeping there. Tang’s left eye was swollen shut and a large bandage was tied over her left cheek. Numerous wrappings were on the arms lying above the bedding, as the fingers of the left hand were splinted and taped together.

<We fought as best we could, > said Ling-Ling, answering the unspoken question. Jade looked to her. The poor creature had swollen lips and one round ear wrapped in gauge and tape. Her right arm was splinted as well, hanging from a sling around her neck.

<How many were there? > Ming Xue asked while Jade continued to stare at the mouse woman.

There was a shrug that brought a wince of pain. <I’m not sure. Six, eight maybe, I don’t know. >

<The police said that the kitchen help gave a good accounting of herself in the end, > the lepine doe said. That brought a dry chuckle from an unexpected quarter. All eyes turned to the slight figure on the bed. A ghost of a smile lay on those pale lips.

< Sung Xi was always territorial when it came to her kitchen. I’ve seen her throw out males who were twice her size and half her age when one offered up one complaint of her cooking. She was the Empress of Cuisine whenever she set to work on the next meal, and brooked no interference in her work. >

Carefully Wu Hsing Jade knelt by the bed to take a frail hand into her own. And at that moment her grandmother looked frail, spent as she was in defending home and hearth from those black-clad intruders. The hand came up, lightly touching the younger lepine’s face, to trail down over the soft fur from temple to chin, lingering a little by the glass eye behind which lurked a very powerful talisman.

<What time is it? >

<Midmorning, grandmother. >

The elder’s features were drawn, pinched even, as she tried to gather her thoughts. < Hmm, I seem to have missed my morning tea and the first pipe of the day. >

That brought a weak chuckle from those gathered there, but it soon faded away. A sorrowful air hung over the little gathering, and it brought a slight protest from the occupant of the bed.

< I am not ready to die just yet so stop treating this as my wake. > There was a bite in the words that caused the males to stare at the floor, scuff their shoes in embarrassment, and spin the hats in their hands. The dark eye that a minute before was dull now had the shine of fierceness to it. They swiveled to the feline and canine. <You two will proceed to Zhou Yi’s riverboat and find out what she has learned about Japanese movements on the river, if there were any. >

<Yes, Grandmother! > they said in unison, bowed, and left the room.

Wu Hsing Tang turned her head slightly to take in the mouse femme seated beside the bed.

<And you, young lady, will go onto your own bed this minute. I need you in better shape than I, to see about getting the shop back into business! Understood? >

<Yes, Grandmother, > came the murmured reply as Ling-Ling sought to stand up. Wu Hsing Jade looked to Ming Xue and the rat femme understood. She went to help the injured mouse woman to her feet, then out of the room to her own bed. Jade settled into the chair in turn.

For a couple of minutes it was quiet in the room, save for a ceiling fan slowly stirring the air overhead and the rain on the windows. Two generations of rabbit does stared at each other with nothing to say, until Grandmother Tang blinked her one good eye and offered up a faint smile and soft words.

I shouldn’t be too hard on you for not having a prospect for marriage. I was nearly thirty years of age myself before I met and settled down with your grandfather. Our time together was cherished above any treasure we acquired, because of what we were. He died while battling Burmese pirates when your mother and her sister were not much older than you, that day you received this.” Her right hand came up to lightly tap the side of Jade’s face. The younger doe took that hand into her own and kissed it, each fingertip as well as the palm. She looked up with tears rimming her eyes.

Now, now, we’ll have none of that,” chided the injured doe, softly. “There’ll be time enough for tears after this sad affair is over. You were sent here on a mission and you will complete it, as your father would expect you to, yes?”

Jade nodded, spilling some of the tears down tawny cheeks

And your mother, my youngest daughter, knew the dangers of being a wako, especially with the Sea Devils. You have an honor and a heritage to fulfill to us Chinese. And we are expecting you, Wu Hsing Jade, to discover what the Japanese are doing in our country and for what reason. This knowledge must be brought forth and acted upon, for I fear that whatever collaboration between the Siamese government and the Japanese army is, bodes ill, not just for us here in Siam, but also for all of China herself. And maybe the world as well.”

Yes, Grandmother,” answered Jade with a slight bow from the chair.

The small hand took a tighter hold on her granddaughter’s. Merriment twinkled in that one open eye.

And should something develop between you and Ming Xue - or Sue, as you call her – then I shall not complain. Seeing as how Sung Xi was a willing bed companion as well as an excellent cook!”

That brought wide-eyed disbelief to dark rabbit eyes, as Jade drew back from this revelation. It even worked up a chuckle from her grandmother until a spasm of coughing brought the younger femme to her knees. She reached for a glass of water on the nightstand and helped her grandmother in drinking it down. A heavy sigh came from thin lips as the elder lepine was settled back against her pillows.

I think I’ll take a nap now. And you have your task cut out for you, child.” With those words Wu Hsing Tang closed her eyes and settled herself into slumber.

Setting the glass back on the stand, Jade eased herself out of the room and headed back up the corridor towards the lobby. A great weight seemed to have settled on her shoulders. Xin Xue had sent her here to find out what was going on between the Siamese government - well, certain elements of it - and this Japanese medical mission here in Siam. The lepine rubbed at her temples, for a headache was coming on. Within the space of one day, she and Ming Xue had to deal with unruly customs agents, an attack on the streets, an invasion of their hotel room, and the eavesdropping by a summoned imp. Gods, she should have said no to the panda femme back on South Island instead of accepting. But Xin Xue would not have taken any refusal, this Jade knew, especially if it would allow the young lepine doe the opportunity to dig up any answers to the disappearance of her parents.

At the reception desk Jade noticed the two police furs had taken seats in the lobby by the front doors. There was no sign of her rat companion, and Jade wasn’t feeling like sitting out here with the patients and staff. A sign that read CHAPEL and pointing the way to her right somehow promised some relief. She headed that way until she arrived at a set of double doors.

The room was plain in its furnishings of wooden benches facing a simple podium. No religious emblem or icon adorned the walls. There was nothing to give an indication of one religion being honored over all others. Choosing a bench close to the doors, Wu Hsing Jade dropped heavily into it, her head bowed in fatigue, fear, and helplessness.

Oh, gods, she thought, what am I to do! She wasn’t ready for this maelstrom of events, and trying to sort out what was required of her was turning into a quagmire. All she had been instructed to do was gather the information of recent events and bring them back to Mistress Xin Xue and she was to act on them. Now it seemed that the Eurasian doe was caught up in it like a branch in a flood and could do nothing but go along with the flow.

<Oh, Guan Yin, goddess of mercy, please show me what I have to do?> The cry was more of a wail, the last desperate supplication for some form of divine intervention. Jade leaned forward to rest her forehead on her crossed arms, set on the back of the bench before her.

<Hong Shen, lord of the seas, please her my call. I am lost and have no rudder to guide me to where I need to be. Foreigners have come to our land and are meddling with my people’s affairs. What am I to do? Where am I to go, to seek the answers in dealing with these interlopers? >

The room remained silent, save for the ceiling fans overhead, the muffled bustle of the hospital outside the door, and the sob-laced breathing of the room’s sole occupant.

[Wu Hsing Jade?]

The lepine doe didn’t seem to register the voice, as she expected one of the gods she called upon to respond.

[Wu Hsing Jade!]

The rabbit femme sat up, startled at her name. She looked around, confused. She had expected Ming Xue or someone else to have entered the chapel quietly and called out softly so as not to disturb her supplication. Then she frowned. The voice had used Mandarin to address her, which seemed odd. Anyone else would have used Cantonese or English. There was no one else in the room.

[Who calls?] she asked, not sure how she was to reply.

There was a soft chuckle in her ear; no - in her mind! It was as if whoever had been addressing her was putting the words straight into her brain. And the chuckle was heavy with amusement, as if the issuer was finding this exchange very humorous.

[Someone who can be of great assistant in this time of need.] The voice sounded young and spoke in a matter-of-fact kind of way. As if the speaker was quite familiar with the young doe.

Wu Hsing Jade stood and turned around. She was utterly alone, but it was as if the person was standing next to her having a friendly conversation.

[Who are you?] Jade was feeling desperate in settling this, and a little unnerved by it.

There came a deep sigh in her mind, as if the speaker was feeling exasperated over not being having his identity discovered.

[Sun Wukong!]

The rabbit doe was floored by the answer. Sun Wukong, whose black pearl of power she bore in her eye socket? A giddiness dropped like a blanket over her, such that she sat down heavily in her chair.

[My lord!] Jade announced as she bowed her head and brought right fist up into left palm.

That elicited another chuckle that spoke of youth and merriment. Sun Wukong, the monkey trickster, the stealer of the black bead from Huang Di’s rosary, the Monkey King with his lovely bride, Li Ling.

[There is no need for that, since we’ve known each other for nearly thirteen years. You could say that we’re very close to each other.] There was another chuckle. [And, please, just call me Sun, okay?]

Jade nodded. [Yes, my lo-; I mean, Sun.] Somehow it didn’t seem right to be so familiar with such a deity. But if that’s how he wanted it . . .

[Now then,] Sun said in a matter-of-fact sort of way, [I’ve been following the recent events that you and your friend, Ming Xue, have encountered since you’ve arrived in Siam. In fact, I can trace this problem all the way back to your Spontoon Islands and that meeting with Xin Xue. By the way, she has some body on her, don’t you think?]

Jade thought this was an odd intimation to include in this conversation but she couldn’t help but smile over it. [Yes, she does.] She sensed the Monkey King nodding while smirking. Then he became serious in tone and brusqueness.

[But back to your problem at hand. It would appear that these Japanese have made inroads into the affairs of China and here in Siam. And your task is to gather the information needed to put an end to this collaboration between the Japanese and Siamese people, am I right?]

{Yes, sir!]

{So, your first task is to find where these Japanese are lurking, is that correct?]

[Yes, sir!]

In her mind Jade thought she heard the sound of someone muttering to himself. She could imagine the Monkey King seated on his throne, rubbing his chin while deep in thought.]

[And your grandmother said that a Zhou Yi lived on the river here and was to keep an eye on the movements of the Japanese?]

[Yes, sir!]

The lepine doe sensed satisfaction at the simian deity reaching a decision.

[Well, then, I suggest that you see this Zhou Yi and learn what she has gathered. And be ready to gather your forces to strike at the heart of the Japanese enclave; for the sooner you bring the wraith of your people down on them, the sooner they will learn that their presence is no longer tolerated here.]

The Eurasian agreed with what the monkey deity had said. Still, she wasn’t sure that it was prudent to make an armed strike against these Sons of Nippon. But then she remembered the incident at the customs office and how Ming Xue reacted to the agent’s words. And how that young Japanese naval officer treated the hotel help. Then the attack outside of her grandmother’s apothecary and the presence of that creature summoned from the dark pits to keep watch over them. But there was one nagging thorn that was still in her side. How did they know, whoever there were, that Jade Bannon was Wu Hsing Jade and the granddaughter of the head of the wako cell in Siam?

[You seem distressed?] Sun Wukong intruded on her thoughts.

With a nod the young lepine doe related to all that had occurred since their arrival yesterday.

She imagined the simian nodding in a sage-like way as he digested this information.

[All the more for haste to reach your grandmother’s people. Time is of the essence so you had best meet with these people and draw your plans together quickly.]

It was as she rose from the bench that Jade sensed the Monkey King had something else to say.

[How much of the Tear do you know? Of its powers, that is?]

She frowned. [I’ve used the means of moving from one place to another. The ability to see in the dark, and to cause others to trip up. Why?]

There was a soft chuckle in the back of her head. [Then let me give you the full capabilities of what this ‘pearl’, as you call it, is capable of performing.]

Jade frowned again. [Is there any special preparations I should make for receiving these powers?]

[I strongly suggest that you be seated as I open the gates to this knowledge.]

Not sure what was going to happen Wu Hsing Jade sat on the bench once more. Sun Wukong did not say what kind of gates he was opening, but to Jade it felt as if massive flood gates were releasing a vast amount of information into her mind. Overwhelmed by this surge of energy, she felt that her brain could not contain all of spells, cantrips, and charms that washed over her consciousness. She gave a whimpering cry as she fell sideways onto the bench, hands thrust up and out in what was a vain attempt to stem this overflow of her psychic being. In what seemed like a long time but was only a matter of seconds, the outpouring of thaumaturgical energy slowed and faded, every iota of magical knowledge seemed to be filing itself into specific compartments of her mind, ready for access.

A minute passed as the lepine lay on the bench, her breath coming in gasps as she stared dumbly up at a ceiling fan.

[Use your gifts well, Wu Hsing Jade, as you are now the worthy recipient of my efforts of obtaining the greatest magic in this world. As I had directed your father to place this pearl into your face, now it will be the cornerstone from which you will direct your climb to greatness. I will be in touch should you have a question or need my help. Farewell for now, Jade.]

The voice was gone and her mind ached at receiving Sun Wukong’s powers. A stray thought came to mind. Did Li Ling ever had to go through this? Then the pain was gone, replaced with a sense of fulfillment, as though what was to be had come about. A calm settled over her being as the lepine sat up on the bench. She wasn’t surprised that her worries were gone, probably washed away by the flood of this vast power into her mind. In fact, whatever worries she had were no longer lingering on the edge of her consciousness.

Rising, with the sense of purpose anchoring her to the present, Wu Hsing Jade strode from the chapel with the sense that her destiny was laid before her and that her future was complete and assured.

Ming Xue was in the lobby talking to the police furs when she sensed the Eurasian doe before seeing her. She turned in time to see the tall rabbit woman walking towards them with an air of confidence she hadn’t seen before. There was something in the way that Wu Hsing Jade carried herself, how her head was up and face calm. The rat femme smiled. Things were about to happen!

When Jade stopped by Sue, the lepine bent her head down to give her companion a kiss. And there was promise of something more to come. Then Jade looked to the officers.

<We need to see Zhou Yi, now. It is time to draw up our plans to strike back at the Japanese here in Siam. >

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