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Posted 18 February 2015
Jerry Collins art added 18 June 2015
When Jealousy Rears Her Lovely Head

The Adventures of Wu Hsing Jade

By Richard Messer

Chapter 12

"Battle Before" by Jerry Collins - Cong Zhoma & Ming Xiu begin their confrontation. Based on characters from "When Jealousy Rears Her Lovely Head," a serial story by Richard Messer (set on Spontoon Island)
"Battle Before" by Jerry Collins
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A serial story

When Jealousy Rears Her Lovely Head
The Adventures of Wu Hsing Jade
© 2014 by Richard Messer

Chapter 12

From beyond their hiding place the two women heard the sound of gunfire. To the femmes it would seem that Detective Sergeant Graeme Hargreave was taking a desperate chance in subduing Cong Zhoma, and maybe her father as well. That metallic scream was cut short by another cry; one of pain as some of the rounds fired seemed to have hit their mark. There also came the sound of something heavy thrashing about beyond the stone barrier, followed by other screams and curses that could only come from the hidden constables.

Peaking over their cover, Xue and Jade were startled and horrified by the scene being played out. Of Cong Qin Po there was no visible evidence of his presence. But of his mad daughter, the wretched creature was playing with some of the constables as if they were dolls. A few lay broken and bleeding on the ground, while two others were held tight in her grip. One gave a scream as that reptilian head snapped forward to bite the poor fellow’s head off. Ming Xue turned away as the soda she had drunken earlier was vomited out. Heaving and gasping, the young rat femme sought to quell her nausea and fear that had quickly gripped her being.

Wu Hsing Jade took the quaking rodent into her arms, trying to calm her down. Gray-brown hands gripped in return, telling of a desperate need for assurance.

Jade, I don’t know if I’m up to this!” The cry was of a young child to her mother, fearing something far beyond her capabilities to face.

The Eurasian femme took that rodent’s dark head between her hands, studying the terror that caused those large black eyes to shimmer in their tears. Then rabbit lips were pressed hard against Sue’s, the promise of loving and caring for her working against the fear. The demon hunter reacted in kind; black-clad arms wrapping themselves tight around the full-bodied figure of her lepine lover. They were like that for a minute before Ming Xue broke away, relief having suppressed the terror that threatened to dissolve her resolve.

Thank you, Jade,” came the words that rushed out of her lips. “It was something I needed!” With a quick glance over the rocks at the carnage being played out, the demon hunter pulled her fans out of the shoulder bag as she dropped it to the ground. Then she scrambled over the rocks to face the lamia.

<Cong Zhoma! Face me, foul creature of darkness!> The words were bellowed with the forced resolution that Ming Xue was not feeling at the moment. But deep in her soul she knew that the moment of destiny was at hand, and that she had to face it, or forever be thought of as a useless coward.

The chimera turned, its muzzle smeared with blood and flesh, two lifeless bodies without heads held in its grip. Without a second thought, Cong Zhoma cast aside the corpses to face the diminutive demon hunter. The small figure in black took a stance sideways to the lamia, fans held up and out at the ready.

<Do you think those toys will stop me?> The words rumbled like tumbling stones as the creature slowly inched its way forward.

Grinding the toe of her left foot into the pathway Ming Xue bounced a little at the knees. <It’s not the toys you should worry about, Zhoma, but what they can direct!>

Quickly, the young rat woman began to weave a pattern before her as ancient words spilled from her lips. Energy began to glow around the fans, becoming brighter as the pattern grew faster in the casting. Black eyes flared wide in recognition of what was being created, and the lamia reacted. With a bellow the creature lunged forward, its maw gaping wide, a growling hiss issuing from it like leaking steam.

Sue cut short the casting as Vlantongu was on her before the spell could be completed. With a frantic twist of her lithe form the demon hunter dove away from the creature for safety..., but not fast enough!

Fire, like a lightning bolt, shot up the young femme’s spine to impact the base of her skull. With an agonizing scream the black-clad figure tumbled down a narrow ravine, to come up against a tangle of bushes. Pain blurred her eyes as the gasping, crying young rodent slowly rolled to her side. There was something wrong with her tail! With a shaky hand Ming Xue trailed it down the length of that appendage until she felt a warm stickiness with her fingers, and intense pain at the touch. Through swimming vision the rat woman stared at her tail, and realized with a shock that she was missing the last foot of it!

Overhead came the sound of something large and heavy moving along the pathway. A great black snake’s head, with a white patch over the left eye, stared down with grim satisfaction lighting the black depths of those eyes. But before Vlantongu/Cong Zhoma could make its final lunge for this hapless prey, there came the rapid barks of pistol fire! A roaring cry of pain erupted from the lamia’s mouth as the clawed right hand came up to slap at the back its left shoulder. This was followed by the barking of orders from a familiar deep voice.

Detective, no!” called out Ming Xue in a weak voice as the impending doom turned away to confront this new threat. With feeble attempts the demon hunter tried to rouse herself from the bottom of the ravine; trying to get her feet under her battered body so she could get back into the fight. But the flesh was weak compared to the willingness of the spirit.

Sue? Sue?” Overhead, the tall figure of Wu Hsing Jade was kneeling by the edge, looking down and ready to jump for cover from the fight going on behind her. But what she saw caused a brown right eye to grow wide as a hand came up to cover a mouth open in horror. “By the gods!”

What energy she had left fled Ming Xue’s body at the realization that she had failed. She failed Jade; she failed Detective Hargreave; she failed the priestesses who had pinned their hopes on an unknown demon hunter; she failed Jade’s aunt who took in a battered rat femme from the grimy streets of an unknown dock. But most of all, she failed her master and all the lessons he had taught her in fighting demons and monsters. Now this beaten and bruised little rat girl laid at the bottom of a rocky defile, missing the tip of her tail, waiting for death to reach down with ugly fangs set in a great black maw to snatch her up as a snack.

*You help us; we help you!*

A small voice sounded in her head as Ming Xue blinked up at the Eurasian lepine doe working her way down the slope of the ravine.

*Leave her to us!*

Jade came to a quick stop, a hand going up to her head. “Wha, what was that? Someone speaking in my head?” She looked around, not sure if the voice was real or a hallucination. Then she froze to stare down at the dusty figure in black lying sprawled against some shrubs.

From the earth arose a line of glimmering spheres of light that curled and wrapped around the rat femme. They encircled the reclining figure, working their way from foot to head, their light bathing her. After a minute of this Ming Xue gave a soft moan as she stirred and refocused her attention on the frighten doe at her feet.

Sue, what are these?” The words were soft and filled with a mixture of fear and wonder.

Kami, from this island,” Ming Xue croaked through lips gone dry. “This place is their gate from our world to theirs. I came to help them in ridding Cong Zhoma for the murder of Teng Ningfu. Now it seems they have come to help me.”

The light grew brighter as the spheres increased their rotation around the woman. Warmth bathed Sue’s form, filling her slowly with energy that was chasing away the aches and pains she had just experienced in her tumble. The throbbing in the stump of her tail eased but was still there. Presently she struggled to her feet, feeling a little woozy but otherwise fine. And with the help from her tall lover, managed to work her way up the ravine. The light spheres drew back to allow them to reach the top, then resumed their orbiting of the demon hunter.

Looking about, the demon hunter sought her fans, but couldn’t find them. Far away, the great sinewy form of the lamia was working its way through the boulders and underbrush, chasing the few constables left on the island.

My fans! Where are my fans?” Distress filled her voice as Ming Xue looked about for them. It was then that words filled her mind.

*They are here!*

Turning about, both femmes watched in wonder as more of the bright spheres appeared up from the ravine. And they carried the two fans between them as they approached the pair! Sue held out her hands and the objects of her desire were dropped into them. Then these Kami joined the others in their circular procession.

Both femmes stared at each other. Tears filled three eyes as they gazed at each other, the bright Kami passing unconcerned between them.

Well, wish me luck,” said the young rat femme to the older lepine doe with a lopsided grin.

And the Eurasian replied by taking the dark-furred rat into her arms. The circling spheres gave way to the two in their embrace, the orbit surrounding both. When the kiss was broken, the Kami resumed their pattern. Wu Hsing Jade didn’t answer; the wide toothy grin said it all. And with that, Ming Xue, the demon hunter from Shanghai, turned to face the greatest challenge in her solo career.

<CONG ZHOMA!> the rodent femme bellowed as she strode further towards the lamia. <FACE ME!>

Vlantongu turned at the call of its summoner’s name. Black eyes widen in surprise at the figure facing it. The demon hunter had assumed her stance, but now a line of bright lights encircled the gray-brown woman clad in dusty and torn black clothing. Another of those metal-ripping roars issued forth as the creature of mammal and reptile leaped forward to finish off its foe.

Sue began her dance, but was mildly surprised at how rapidly it was occurring. A thought in the back of her mind hinted at the assistance of the Kami in the rapidity of the casting. Not only that, but there grew in the center of her being a flowering of energy Sue had never felt before. The Kami was backing her up in providing extra power they knew the rodent femme would need.

With clawed hands outstretched and mouth opened wide, Vlantongu reached for this problem that wouldn’t leave it alone. And that was the last conscious thought it held in this world! A great lance of silvery light lashed out from between the fans to strike the lamia hard in its furry chest. A cry of pain rang out across the island of the spirits as the creature was, in turn, bathed with the energy from both Kami and demon hunter. The serpentine form quickly shrank, crumpling in on itself, until only the naked figure of Cong Zhoma fell down at Ming Xue’s feet.

The lance faded away as the fans were dropped to the ground. The rodent femme staggered over to supine form, dropping to her knees. Gathering up the young feline, Ming Xue noted how ghastly the burn was on her chest, the necklace of the demon god nothing but a molten lump on a misshapen chain. Gray-brown fingers stroked the black face with loving care until dark eyes fluttered open. The gaze was vacant as Cong Zhoma tried to discern Ming Xue’s face. The mouth was working slowly, the words faint.

<I, I, only wanted to be loved!>

Tears worked their way up in brown eyes, to spill over and dampen the white patch around a black eye.

<I know,> Sue sobbed softly, <I know!> Then she leaned down to kiss lips growing cold. When she felt them grow slack, the rodent femme threw back her head and cried aloud the pain that she knew the dead feline bore within her own heart and soul.

From a distance Wu Hsing Jade could only watch as her friend and lover vented herself to the sky. The Kami slowly vanished back into the earth, leaving the two figures alone on the rough trail.

Miss, we could use your help, please!”

The tall lepine spin in surprise at the call. Among the rocks north of the trail stood a constable. He was bleeding from a wound on the side of his face, his uniform in tatters. Jade made her towards him as he led the way through the jumble of boulders and tangle of brush. In an open area the doe pulled up in surprise. Several constables were scattered about in various displays of injuries.

The constable that led her mentioned that they had sent someone to the telephone box to call for aid. However, Jade barely heard him as her attention was drawn to the unconscious boxer in a brown suit. She dashed over to him, dropping down to her knees. Hargreave’s breathing was ragged, and he moaned when he took in a breath.

What happened?”

Another constable, a fox with his left arm in a makeshift sling made from his shirt, answered her.

When the detective saw your friend going over the edge he fired a couple of shots at the monster before he ran out. It was while he was reloading, and calling out for us to look after the others, that that thing whipped its tail around and caught him in the chest. I think he broke some ribs.”

With thoughts in a jumble Jade tried to calm her mind and make an effort over what needed to be done. An idea blossomed quickly, as she remembered the repository of the spells given to her by the Monkey King, Sun Wukong! Delving into those cantrips covering medical aid, the femme laid her hands lightly on the detective’s chest. Closing her eyes, Jade called up the spell on knitting bones and directed the power into the boxer. She heard a gasp from the fox but didn’t open her eyes as she ‘saw’ the ribs, through the Tear, begin to mend. There was a vague feeling of energy encasing her hands where they lay on the wounded area. Soon the ragged breathing faded to the sound of deep slumber.

Opening her eyes the doe felt a little lightheaded but was satisfied that the healing was a success. She glanced at the fox and noted his wide-eyed stare at her.

Your, your hands! They just, ah, glowed, where you had them on the sergeant’s chest!”

Jade smiled. “I know. It comes with being a friend with a god. Now, give me your arm.”

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 "Battle After" Ming Xiu mourns the death of Cong Zhoma - based on characters by Richard Messer, from "When Jealousy Rears Her Lovely Head", a serial story set on the Spontoon Islands.
"Battle After" by Jerry Collins
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