When Jealousy Rears Her Lovely Head
The Adventures of Wu Hsing Jade
© 2014 by Richard Messer
The small island was bathed in the bright light of a full moon that hung like a jewel in the cloudless sky. Below, the foliage of the trees shown like silver, where the branches hung down to the glittering water around the island’s circumference.
Across these waters, a trio of native canoes worked their way from the east end of South Island towards this smaller one known to all as ‘Sacred’. Figures in the boats dipped their paddles silently together as the small procession made towards the green fastness that hung like a curtain to the sea. As the first canoe reached the branches, the paddlers in front lifted their paddles to part that curtain, allowing them to pass through. Those next repeated the same procedure until the canoe vanished within the leafy wall. Then the following boats did the same.
Small torches flared ahead where the stony wall of the island itself bore a broad opening above the lapping waters. It was towards this opening the canoes headed to. Acolytes caught the prows and helped the occupants ashore. And when they were empty, the canoes were drawn up out of the water and dragged to rest with the others.
Priestesses and their guests, who had arrived, were led up a tunnel that had been a lava tube when this small island had once been a volcano many millennia ago. Roughhewn steps had been cut into the rock, affording some help in their ascent. Occasionally someone would glance down a dark side passage where the remains of high priestesses past had been interred. The torches guttered a little in the breeze that worked its way up from the cavern mouth, and glittered off the veins of quartz that wove itself through the granite.
The party soon stepped out of an archway that had been carved into a rock wall and onto a broad plaza of stone paving. Around the rim of the plaza stood an array of priestesses from the archipelagos; some from the Spontoon Islands itself, while others traveled far from the distant islands surrounding this point on the ocean. There sounded a conch horn from somewhere on the far side of the plaza. This brought all the gaily-clad femmes into a rough circle around the moon-lit plaza. Soon a break occurred in the line opposite the wall as a small group of priestesses entered to halt near the center of the gathering. In the forefront stood a tall, stately feline with dark fur and long black hair, wrapped in a blue sarong. Spreading her arms in supplication beneath the opening of the leafy canopy, Saimmi Hoele’toemi, the high priestess, spoke with a deep, resonating voice.
“Sisters, we are gathered here, in the presence of our sister moon, to welcome into our fold a new member, who had been recruited by two of our kind for the work she had performed over a week ago. Will this new sister come forth?”
From the newest arrivals a lone figure stepped hesitantly forward into the light. Ming Xue was feeling mixed emotions twisting her stomach into a thousand knots. It was a week ago that the fight on Kami Island had occurred, with much blood shed and lives lost. For a long time the young rat femme knelt with the lifeless body of Cong Zhoma in her arms, rocking back and forth, sobbing to herself for the loss of this poor creature who was nothing more than a pawn in a power struggle. When Wu Hsing Jade had finished treating the constables she came over to where her friend was. One glance at the bloody end of a slender rat’s tail wrenched the doe’s heart. Without a word, the tall Eurasian had taken that wounded appendage softly into her hand and muttered a healing spell under her breath. The bleeding stopped as the wound scabbed over. Jade, in turn, held onto her friend briefly before returning to look after the boxer detective once more. It wasn’t long before a boatload of extra constables arrived to gather the dead and wounded to take to the hospital on Meeting Island. It was a long time before rat and rabbit joined the last boatload off of the island, after making sure that the body of Cong Zhoma was wrapped in a blanket and brought along.
Now Ming Xue stood in the center of the plaza, resplendent in a long white silken jacket embroidered with colorful patterns, dark green trousers, and black slippers. Her black hair had been drawn up into a high ponytail on her crown. She clasped her hands before her and bowed her head.
The dark feline spoke again. “Will those who had nominated this candidate to the sisterhood, please step forward.”
From the side of the plaza there approached two mares, one chestnut and the other gray. They had foregone the grass skirts and hats, wrapping their thick bodies with colorful sarongs. They approached the rodent femme to stand on either side of her.
Saimmi Hoele’toemi spoke once more. “Why is this furson deemed worthy of joining our ranks?”
“At great personal risk she has aided our sisterhood in defeating a great danger to the islands!” Sari Aha and Missy Pohovic intoned together. “She has displayed courage, wisdom, and foresight in solving the nature of this danger, and ending it in a timely manner.”
A dark face swept the gathering with a steady gaze, dark fingers intertwined at the waist, as the feline high priestess studied each face in turn.
“Is there any here who challenges this nomination?” Saimmi Hoele’toemi reversed the sweep of her gaze. “Anyone?”
There were a few of the femmes who glances at one another, but none raised a voice in objection. After a minute of silence the high priestess smiled, giving a small nod of satisfaction.
“Then let those chosen to prepare this candidate for entry into our fold, come forth.”
Two other femmes, a mouse and fox, approached the small group, bearing a sarong and sandals. Before the gathering, the two equine femmes began undressing the rat woman, including removing the ribbon that held up the ponytail. After the Chinese clothing was neatly folded, Sari Aha and Missy Pohovic took them and stood back. But before the other pair could step forward an event occurred that would be talked about among the priestesses present for years to come.
From out of the cave mouth, from the surrounding trees, even from out of the stone paving, there appeared long strings of glowing lights that converged and encircled the naked rodent femme. Ming Xue stood quietly within the bright sphere of lights, her head still bowed and eyes closed, as the sphere slowly rotated around her. Then a single light separated to halt before a surprised Saimmi Hoele’toemi. The light elongated into a vague humanoid shape with a dot of light at head and chest.
*This one has done much for Kami! This one helped Kami in dispelling evil from island that is gate to our world!*
The Kami drifted in towards the dark feline until it stopped about a foot from her black nose pad.
*We are pleased with this one! We will seek this one for help of such dire nature again!*
The figure vanished in a pop like a soap bubble, as did its kindred surrounding the young rat femme. For several seconds the gathering rubbed at their eyes and glanced, questioningly, at one another. A murmuring ran through the femmes until Saimmi Hoele’toemi raised a hand and the sound died away.
“We seem to have a consensus from the Kami in bringing this sister into our fold!”
The dark-furred femme smiled to the rest. And there arose a soft agreement from the others. Turning her attention back to single naked figure in the middle of the plaza the high priestess intoned: “Then let us complete this enrollment of Ming Xue into our sisterhood!”
The mouse and fox femmes stepped up to their new sister. They unfolded a bright sarong of earthly colors and carefully wrapped the slender body in it, being careful of the injured tail. Then woven grass sandals were fitted to her slender feet. The final act was to insert an orchid into her loose hair by the left ear. The two bowed before stepping back. Once again the dark feline leader of the priestesses raised her arms, but towards Ming Xue this time.
“Now let us greet our newest sister into this blessed body!”
There arose an applause that could have been heard all the way to Casino Island. Saimmi Hoele’toemi stepped forward with her entourage, to embrace an embarrassed rodent femme and planting a kiss on each cheek. The others did the same, as the surrounding ring of femmes gathered in to congratulate Ming Xue’s induction in much the same way. It was several minutes before a familiar fursonage made her presence known.
“Congratulations, kid, you made the big time!”
Sue turned at the familiar voice. Wu Hsing Jade was resplendent in a Chinese robe of dark green, worked with colorful patterns, and billowing sleeves with folded cuffs that reached passed her wrists. The Eurasian’s dark hair had been gathered up into an elaborate braided snood, with two spiral curls gracing either side of her tawny face. Jade took her friend and lover into her arms, planting a kiss on the cheeks, as was custom, before diving into a deeper kiss on the mouth. It was almost a minute before they came up for air.
“Thank you, Jade,” Sue said in a flustered voice. “It feels like the big time. I know Master Tang would have been proud.”
The lepine cocked an eyebrow. “What makes you think he isn’t proud right now?”
This caused the rodent to dip her head. “That is true; he would be watching from the heavens and smiling.”
A figure stepped up to the pair. “Forgive my interruption, Miss Ming, but I want to take the time to say how much we in the police department appreciated your efforts in solving this dreadful event.”
Rat and rabbit turned to face the mouse femme standing before them. To Ming Xue this one seemed familiar.
“Have we met?”
Incisors flashed in the moonlight as the smaller femme smiled. “We have, twice, in the constabulary on Meeting Island. I was the first to come to Detective Inspector Hix’ office after that incident with the box. Later, I was the stenographer taking the minutes of the meeting with Commissioner Stafford.”
“Stenographer?” asked a confused rat femme.
“She’s a scribe, Sue,” whispered the lepine doe into the other’s round ear.
The memory came to Ming Xue; the young femme with the armful of papers peeking in around the door, followed by the demon hunter sitting next to her in the conference room. That was why she embarrassed the young police mouse with staring at her far longer than she should of. And in that moment Sue noted how beautiful this dark-haired mouse femme was.
The rat smiled. “And what is your name?”
“Beverly Ann Joseph, ma’am, though my friends call me ‘Banjo”.
Ming Xue cocked her head.
The inside of the large round ears redden as Beverly ducked her head in embarrassment. “It’s the way my name kinda worked out: B, Ann, Joe. Banjo!”
That elicited a small bark of a laugh from the tall Eurasian doe. “It is cute, in a familial sort of way.”
The other nodded, then remembered something else. “Oh, by the way, Detective Sergeant Hargreave wanted me to give you this, when I visited him at the hospital this afternoon.”
Wu Hsing Jade frowned. “But, I healed his broken ribs after the fight.”
Beverly nodded. “That’s true, but the doctors wanted to check on the bruising, to see if there was any swelling from a ruptured blood vessel.”
The lepine’s frown grew deeper. “But the spell would have taken care of that, as well.”
The mouse priestess shrugged. “They just wanted to make sure.” Then she dipped a hand into the folds of her sarong, pulling out a flat leather case. “And he said you are to have this, and enjoy!”
Surprised, the young demon hunter took the case and studied it. She noticed it separated into two parts; carefully Ming Xue pulled it apart. Inside were five small cigars like the ones the boxer smoked. The rat femme took one out then fitted the leather case back together. This caused the rabbit doe to cock an eyebrow again.
“Changing your smoking habit?”
Ming Xue shook her head, black hair brushing her shoulders. “Just adding to it.”
She muttered a few words under her breath. A wisp of smoke appeared on the end of the cheroot as she set the other cut end to her lips. With a deep draw a coal appeared as Sue tilted her head back and blew a streamer of smoke into the air. She turned her attention to Beverly, slipping her arm through the other’s arm and guiding her away.
“So, tell me how you are both a constable and priestess?”
Amazed, Wu Hsing Jade watched as her friend wandered off with another femme, heading towards a group that was smoking, far from the main crowd.
“Thought you had her for the night?”
The tall Eurasian doe turned to find Xin Xue standing next to her. The middle-aged panda had her white hair hanging free down her back. She wore a robe of white silk trimmed in silver, with the same billowy sleeves as Jade’s.
“What are you doing here?” Jade asked.
Xin Xue smiled as she looked up at the taller femme. “I have a special standing with the priestesses on the islands. Some I’ve had spirited away from troubled regions in South-East Asia; some have assisted in certain operations concerning certain items that needed to be removed from danger. All in all, we help each other when the need arises. And I heard that our little Ming Xue was going to be a member of such an illustrious organization. So I asked if I could be present for the ceremony.”
Jade nodded, her attention turning to the subject of discussion. She was mildly surprised when the rat femme offered the cigar to the mouse girl, who accepted without hesitation. Turning back to the leader of the wako the doe asked, “How did Cong Zhoma get ahold of that necklace of Vlantongu, anyway?”
Taking the rabbit femme by the arm, the panda led her away from the crowd, speaking softly. “Somehow Cong Qin Po learned of the theft, having tortured his second wife into revealing when it was stolen, and when it was to be shipped to the Spontoon Islands. He had sent his daughter here earlier, in the event it was to have been sent this way. But the girl fell in love with someone who didn’t return that love.
“So when she obtained the necklace from Jeneeni Datchurio, Cong Zhoma decided to use it for her own purposes, rather than hold on to it for her father’s arrival. Having only learned very little of the means to summon and control the demon god, proved to her that she had entered dangerous waters. But the demon proved to be capricious in turn, and seemed to have enjoyed this unique experience with a femme and not a male. At least that is my understanding of this nasty affair.”
The taller femme nodded as they reached the edge of the forest. “And so Cong Qin Po, and Zhoma, arrived at Kami Island, after having read the flyers scattered around the islands. The father wanted the necklace back, as his daughter wasn’t about to give it up once she learned of its capabilities. Thus was the confrontation between these two before the constables stepped into the fray. I later found out that Cong Qin Po was shot by Detective Hargreave at the start of the battle after the priest threw that fireball at his daughter.” She gave a sigh. “Well, that ‘nasty affair’ is behind us now. For the time being.”
Slender black fingers reached out to take in a tawny hand. “For the time being,” repeated the panda. “And as Ming Xue is occupied with other, ah, ‘matters’, we can have the night to ourselves.” The panda woman smiled up at Jade, who smiled back.
“I had sent my car home after I was dropped off with a previous group of priestesses. So I don’t know how we’re going to get home. Do you?” There was a sly grin on a black muzzle.
There were murmured some words under the lepine’s breath as Jade took a turn to the left into the panda’s arms, and both women vanished from sight!