Veronica Simmons, the Administrative Secretary for Director Gopal Thacker, Director of Video Content at Yahoo
June 10, 2003
Veronica Simmons, a skinny brunette, sat in her small apartment and pondered her future as an administrative secretary at Yahoo.
She was fascinated with all that was happening in the valley, and with the new video content that her boss, Director Gopal Thacker, was working on. She saw it as the future of things to come. What little savings she had, she invested it into various Silicon Valley startups and Yahoo itself. She might not become super rich, but she wanted something of that pie.
It was then that reddish-purple smoke swirled about the small “dining area” of the apartment where Veronica was sitting. It congealed into the form of a nearly seven tall women.
Bowing slightly towards Veronica, “Master, I am yours to command.”
Veronica coughed as she choked slightly from the cup of tea. She was sipping at the time from seeing all this.
Clearing her throat, “Who and what are you?”
“I’m a Jinn. We’ve met several times before at parties in the valley. My name is Asil.”
“The name is familiar, but you don’t look like that woman at all. She was shorter than you and didn’t arrive in a puff of magical smoke.”
“I apologize.” Asil transformed herself into the woman Veronica was used to seeing. A petite mousey middle eastern woman with glasses. “Is this better, master?”
A glazed look came over Veronica now staring at the transformed Asil. Veronica put down her cup of tea and rubbed her eyes. Pointing at Asil, “How did you just do that?”
“I told you I’m a Jinn. Specifically, the Jinn of Endless Wishes.”
“But you said you worked with RealPlayer in the valley as a technician. I looked you up on the new service LinkedIn.”
“That’s true. RealPlayer has me on their payroll. I guess there will come a time when I should appear at my workplace.”
“I’m totally confused.” Veronica got up and headed to the bedroom. “I have to lie down.”
“Is there anything I can do for you, master? Are you feeling any discomfort or pain in your head? Do you want me to get you something?”
As Veronic was about to enter the bedroom, “What? No, my head doesn’t hurt, and why do you keep calling me master?”
“Because you are my master now. I told you I’m a Jinn. I grant wishes.”
With a gentle push, Veronica opened the door to the bedroom and stepped inside. “I really need to lie down.”
Veronica turned to her left side and opened her eyes, where she immediately saw the mousey face of Asil staring back at her.
“Did you sleep well, master?”
Veronica sat up and rubbed her eyes. “Were you here the whole time?”
“Of course. I have nowhere else to go. Well, I suppose I could go to work.”
Getting off the bed, Veronica looked at the digital clock on the dresser. “Look, there’s this all-night function I must be at in an hour and a half. That’s why I was off from work today. My boss and several other senior staff will be there. I don’t have time for all this…” Veronica waved her arms about. “Whatever this stuff is. Just go to your work.”
“Is that a wish, master?”
“Sure. I wish you’d go to work for the day.”
In a puff of reddish-purple smoke, Asil disappeared from the bedroom.
“I can’t believe that worked. She’s gone. I have my life back.” Veronica got ready for the all-night function and, as she did, she thought about Asil, the mousey little Middle Eastern technician. It was not even a week ago that the two met at a gathering, not unlike what Veronica was getting ready for. The two talked for hours that night. Asil seemed to know so much of history despite being an electronics technician. “But all this time she was this mystical creature that grants wishes? How old was she in reality? And how did I become her master? And why did I just send her away?”
It was a long night and tiring night, with various drunk executives being inappropriate with their hands. But this was normal for these functions: lots of food and booze. Occasionally there were some drugs in a backroom. The administrative secretaries were expected to be there to take any notes on deals made, but the reality was they were there for other reasons. Veronica had a strong distaste for the all-boys culture she experienced while growing up, as she had been taught feminist values at an all-women’s college. Therefore, she found Asil so interesting when they first met. A young woman technician from the Middle East. It was the ultimate in empowerment statements, and Asil didn’t even realize it. But now that Veronica knows the truth about Asil, things make more sense. Asil was fulfilling her wish desires for woman equality by being a person who embodied such desires. “Was she my master then? Is it possible that I unconsciously wished for that? Can you make an unconscious wish?”
“No, master, you cannot make an unconscious wish.”
There were three things that Veronica came to realize. First, she said the last thing out loud; two, Asil, in her mousey human form, was in her apartment again; and three, it was about three o’clock in the morning the next day.
“How long have you been in my apartment?”
“A couple of hours after you wished me to work, they fired me for poor work attendance. I suppose that wish didn’t work out for me or you. Do you have a more ambitious wish? Like the stuff we talked about before at that dinner?”
Asil stared over the rim of her glasses at Veronica. A nervousness swept over Veronica that she hadn’t felt in a long while. She pursed her lips and fidgeted, as she couldn’t remember their conversation. It was like she was back in high school, standing in front of the classroom, reading off her poem. Her stupid crazy poem she wrote about penguins.
“You don’t recall, do you, master? You said you were investing in the internet to become wealthier than Liliane Bettencourt, the L’Oréal heiress. Why don’t you make a wish about holding significant portions of stock in all the internet businesses of the valley?”
Owning a significant portion of the valley’s internet businesses, even the private ones? Can all of this really come true from just a single wish? In what way would this be possible? Veronica kept wondering about the downside of the risk of such a wish. Asil was fired because she didn’t come to work, even though she had magical abilities to alter that. But the problem was she was sent to work because of a wish. Which meant Asil’s wishes had real-world consequences. If Veronica became a major shareholder in multiple businesses, the SEC might investigate her for insider trading. She had to spread out the purchases to make them more normal looking. Then there’s the problem with all the cash needed for the purchases, and the fact it’s going to look like she’s doing some sort of money laundering scheme. Then the answer came to her- wish her eighty something rich New York aunt dead with her being the sole heir to her fortunes. She’d have to make sure there’s no contesting the will. So that will couldn’t be too recent, but more recent than her last will and supported by attorney records. The inheritance would act as seed money, and then if she worded the stock wish just so, trades could be made to increase the fortune through clever options trading. Once that’s done, then begins the acquisition of the internet companies’ stock, both public and private.
“I can’t help but notice, master, that you’re scheming. I can see it all over your face.”
“How specific can wishes be?”
“As specific or not as specific as the words said. But there are two rules you must obey for my wishes. One, you cannot make a wish that harms me directly or indirectly, like wishing me back into a bottle. And two, you cannot wish to stop or reverse any negative side effects because of a wish. This second rule I can make exceptions for, but to do so will cause things to get worse.”
“Could it be a written wish?”
“Sure, so long as it’s something I can understand. The gibberish symbols are of no interest to me, so I don’t bother reading them. One master attempted for me to decode some piece of ancient text, and it turned out to be human gibberish. He didn’t believe me.”
“Can you read shorthand?”
“Yes, I picked it up during World War II when I was a private secretary to my master, Adolf.”
“So, at one time, Adolf Hitler was your master?”
“Yes, he was.”
“Well, that explains a lot. But I assume you can read English shorthand.”
“I am fluent in English, German, and French. I had to because Adolf demanded my notes to be a mixture of all three to be coded later with a machine he wished for. Now that was one shrewd master, unlike the idiot I just left. He’s the one who allowed me to be your master.”
“Did he really do that? Maybe I should send him something later as a thank-you.”
Veronica went to the dining area and started writing her wish to own a significant portion of internet companies in the valley. The first part was straightforward for her because she never liked her aunt in New York, so her death didn’t matter to her. The rest was much more complex, and she realized that she’d still have to work for a time as an administrative secretary as the wish unfolded. But now that she had a basic understanding of how Asil’s wishes worked, she could make more minor wishes that shouldn’t have too much downside to them. Stuff like knowing the winning lottery numbers for a certain week. By knowing the numbers, she reckoned she couldn’t be accused of cheating. Gambling at Reno was out because it would be too obvious that it would look like cheating. Better to stick to periodic lottery tickets, including low value wins.
June 24, 2003
Back at Ebennau in Scotland, Lai Xinya had put Jayden down in an alley near the hotel and transformed back to her human form.
“Jayden, you reek, and I had to touch you. I’m going to need a bath.”
With his body stretched out, he was lying flat on his back. “I wholeheartedly agree with you, mighty Celestial Dragon. While I can use magic to clean my clothing, I could use a bath as well.” While Jayden would prefer to go by himself to a bathhouse, he knew he couldn’t with Lai Xinya in tow. “I say we go to my favorite onsen (a Japanese hot spring bath house).”
“Right now, I am feeling like I could really benefit from a relaxing onsen experience. I’m so stiff from holding that woman for so long. I’m not used to curling up my body like that. Besides, you owe me for calling me your familiar.”
Jayden got up and bowed slightly. “I deeply apologize, mighty Celestial Dragon. But it was the best fit for the part I was playing.”
“Your apology will be accepted more once we are at the onsen. We can then discuss our next moves. For example, are we going to bother to see Lewis Meyer?”
Jayden opened a portal, and the two entered and walked into the courtyard of a mountain onsen in the Akaishi Mountains of southern Japan, where the two were greeted by two young women dressed in the traditional black attendant kimonos.
Bowing deeply to Jayden and Lai Xinya, one of them said, “Master Hall, you honor us by being here and bringing a Celestial Dragon as your guest.”
Leaning towards Jayden. “How do they know I’m a Celestial Dragon? These are mere humans.”
Whispering back to her. “This is not an ordinary onsen. Its clients are unique, and the human workers can see their true nature.”
“How can they see our true nature?”
“Special people can see the true nature of creatures from the various planes of existence. Normal humans treat these people as if they are suffering from some mental illness and seeing things. Now let’s go in and start taking advantage of the hot springs and the services they offer.”
“Very well. But in all my years, I’ve never come across this place. It intrigues me and disturbs me at the same time. Revealing my true self was one reason I stopped doing it in China long ago. It became too problematic with humans either trying to hunt me for my magical properties or worship me. How do I know these humans are safe for me?”
“Lai Xinya, you must trust me. They want nothing more than to give you a bath. There is nothing else to add, it’s just that and nothing further. Maybe some tea, and a massage as well.”
“It would be quite pleasant to have some soothing tea. And I could use a traditional massage. You better be right about all this, Jayden.”
Jayden had finished being scrubbed clean by one attendant when he was led to the private hot spring pool. The aromatic smell of sulfur hit him as he entered the room. He disrobed and entered the milky water of the stone-lined pool, only to discover Lai Xinya, inhuman form, was in the pool resting with her eyes shut. Realizing the attendants must have thought the two were a couple, they placed them together, and there was no way to change this arrangement. So, he sat down with a towel on his head and lowered his head, enjoying the soothing waters.
Jayden was then rudely awakened by a splash of water against his face, followed by Lai Xinya saying, “Jayden, this was your entire plan all along, wasn’t it? Are you curious about the prospect of viewing my naked body? You’re far worse than your great uncle, Edward Hall. He would never have dared to bathe with a woman without her permission. This doesn’t bode well for you.”
Keeping his eyes and head down. “Oh, mighty Celestial Dragon, no, it was not my plan. The attendants thought we were a couple and placed us together. There is no way of getting out of such things here. It’s all a misunderstanding of cultural customs.”
“And you simply went along with it out of respect for their customs?!” Her eyes flashed a golden yellow light. She then turned her head away from him. “I don’t know about this place. These humans make so many assumptions. Did you know they wanted me to transform into my dragon form to give me a massage?”
He continued to keep his head down, showing no signs of lifting it. “Makes sense. After all, they could do a better job if you were in your true form.”
“And risk one of them trying to pull off a scale? I’ve been there before, you know.”
“You need to trust them more. They will not harm you.”
Turning her face back towards Jayden. “Fine. Shift your eyes in my direction. It’s not like you haven’t seen a naked woman before.”
“Excuse me, how would you know that?”
“Jayden, it’s time to face reality. What about that case involving that female elf, Vaeri Phiralei? She was all naked lying in a bed making obvious propositions at you with that come hither look.”
Jayden choked as the towel on his head nearly fell off. “That involved a sensitive trade matter, and how do you know about it?”
“Come on, such things get around. Like no doubt this bath we are having together. Now everyone will think we are a dating couple. Worse is others will think of me as some sort of…” She paused, then continued, “Oh, yes, the humans call it a cougar, being that I’m way older than you.”
“Look, we’re just two friends who are sharing a bath together. And you are an ancient, so of course you’re older than me. Also, I can’t help it if your shop is in the same city as Maxwell’s. Besides, you’re the one who keeps dropping in all the time with this problem or that problem that needs to be fixed or all the planes of existence will be destroyed.”
“First, opposite sexed friends don’t take baths together except little kids, and we are adults. Second, where did you two go when you came back sunburned? Also, what should we do with Asil? We still need to find her, and Lewis Meyer is stuck in a Scottish jail.”
“Okay, so the bath is probably adding an extra dimension to our friendship. Now we can say we truly have nothing to hide from each other.” Jayden gave Lai Xinya a crooked smile while she glared at him with his attempt at a joke. Continuing as he cleared his throat, “So I tried to teleport without a portal, and my mind slipped. We ended up on a planet with four suns on the plane of Jaeweajan. I was lucky that there was a fissure between our two planes there. I arrived back by using that approach. I still think Lewis Meyer might still be the best resource we have in locating Asil at this point. Clearly, he’s no longer her master, otherwise he wouldn’t be in jail.”
“Jaeweajan, no one dares to go there. The power of magic is ineffective in that location. You’re damn lucky to have made it back. As for Lewis, Asil’s wishes don’t turn out the way people think they will. There’s always some catch to them. So, if he wished himself out of jail, he’d just become a wanted man.”
“If that’s true, and he’s figured out her wishes are bad news to the wisher, then maybe he’s simply staying in jail and letting things play out. Then he’s still her master and we could easily snare her at the police station.”
“Based on what you’ve described, it seems like capturing her would be quite challenging. There’s a chance of having human police entering the scene. I’m visible on cameras as much as you are.”
“Cameras would demand some shielding magic. That would also help us from any human eyes.”
“And how will Lewis see us, then?”
“Point taken.” Jayden closed his eyes and sank down into the water up to his chin. “Let me think some more about this. Right now, I want to enjoy this spring water. Why don’t you get that massage?”
Getting up from the pool, Lai Xinya wrapped herself in a towel. “Very well. I’ll do as the attendants ask and get the massage in my true form. My true form is rather large. I hope it’s worth all the trouble. As for figuring out what to do with Lewis, we’ll talk more at dinner.”
Over several courses of sushi at dinner, the two continued their conversation they had started in the pool.
“So, how was the massage?”
“The outcome was better than what I had initially expected. So, you are winning back my favor. And the sushi here is delightful. It reminds me of the Night Fall Café.”
“I’ve never been to the Night Fall Café.”
“I’ll have to take you there some day. It’s a magical café in its own pocket universe operated by a gargoyle named Garron. It serves dishes from multiple planes. Its hydra mooncake is to die for.”
“I’ll have to take your word for it. But we should get back to the topic at hand with Asil and Lewis.”
The consensus between them was that they would have to visit Lewis while in jail but make the visit legit so as not to tip off the police. Jayden thought maybe some traveling Christian missionaries might work. Lai Xinya was pleased with the idea but saw no other way that made any other sense.
As the last plates were cleared, one attendant said, “Master, your room for the night has been prepared for you and your mistress. If you follow me, I’ll take you both there.”
Upon hearing the statement from the attendant, Lai Xinya’s eyes flashed a golden yellow as they narrowed in anger at Jayden.
Jayden gave back a sheepish, dumbfounded face of “I didn’t do this” look.
As the two got up, Lai Xinya pulled on Jayden’s yukata, drawing herself closer to him as she whispered to him, “A dagger can be concealed in a smile.” She then gave a sweet smile to Jayden to impress the attendants.
An apprehensive look overcame Jayden’s face as the two walked, arms locked together, giving the appearance they were a couple to the staff.
Around June 15, 2003
The Republican-led campaign to recall Governor Gray Davis was ending on June 15th, 2003. Veronica thought about using her newfound power for something bigger. Maybe like getting elected to the Sunnyvale City Council? A steppingstone into the realm of politics, where she could eventually ascend to being the first female president.
But she knew she couldn’t simply wish herself on to the council. There are election laws and rules that could come into play. So, she’d have to make a wish that looked like a normal campaign, and one not flooded with a bunch of mysterious cash out of nowhere. One thing people wouldn’t question would wish for her campaign to be popular with the voters. The only downside would be the opposition smear campaign and any potential skeletons she had. She’d also have to quit her job to run the campaign as a write-in candidate, considering how late things were in the election cycle. Initial funding would have to come from her personal investments, maybe through some clever option trades. She could also cash out the 401(k) and take the tax hit. “That would look like a normal move for someone entering politics. This is going to be one of the most complex wishes yet.” Veronica continued to sip her tea while Asil looked on across from her.
“Master, you’re scheming again, aren’t you?”
Veronica realized as she crafted her political wish in her mind that she would need an escape wish. A wish that would allow her to escape the immediate downside effects of Asil’s wish, should things go wrong. Her best option is to go forward into the future and become U.S. president during a more favorable time. To do this, she’d have to put her investments into a trust that she’d have to access despite being declared dead in the past. She came to the opinion that it would be better that this wish to be the one where she separated herself from Asil, so that Asil wouldn’t follow her. Yes, it would mean she’d have no more access to wishes, but if crafted correctly, it shouldn’t matter.
Visiting Lewis- June 25, 2003
Jayden and Lai Xinya once more appeared in Ebennau in Scotland, a block away from the police station and jail. Using his cane and uttering the phrase, “decipere” Jayden changed both of their appearance to match the Billy Grahm Evangelistic Association.
“A skirt and blouse? This is so plain.”
“At least you’re not in khakis with a button-down shirt.”
The two entered through the double doors of the station into the lobby, where they were greeted by an officer.
In a direct manner, Jayden said, “We are with the BGEA here to visit Mr. Meyer. His sister was concerned.”
“Certainly. If you don’t mind signing in, and then we’ll have to check for any contraband and brief you on the rules.”
Lai Xinya tugged at Jayden and in a low whisper said to him, “I’m concerned. There’s a lot of cameras and procedures. They will not leave us alone with Lewis.”
“I got this. I’ve done this stuff before.”
After the briefing on the rules, the two were led through a locked door and into a 77 square foot room with three chairs and a table. Lai Xinya noticed the CTV camera in the upper corner of the room and squinted back at Jayden in discomfort.
The two were told to wait while Lewis was being fetched from his cell.
Jayden relied on timing to use a charm spell and distract the police, causing their disguises to melt away. That’s when Lewis would freak out and would have to quickly calm him down in order to prevent him from breaking the charm spell on any nearby police officers.
The police officer led Lewis, who was handcuffed with his feet chained to his hands, to one of the chairs, then left the room.
“Who are you two? I don’t have a sister. What’s this about?”
“Please be calm. We are here to help you.” Jayden told Lewis as he mumbled the word “Fascinum” under his breath.
As soon as he did, both Jayden and Lai Xinya were transformed before Lewis into their normal appearance. A look of utter amazement and fear overcame Lewis, and he was just about to scream for the guard when Jayden placed his hand over his mouth.
“I said remain calm. I need you to tell us about the Jinn Asil.” Jayden slowly removed his hand from Lewis’ mouth.
With a shaky voice, Lewis said, “Are you with her?”
“No. You might say we are hunting her down. Do you know where she is now?”
“I don’t. She made me wish her to someone else.”
“Can you provide a name?”
“And where was the copper flask she was in originally?”
“I was cleaning it in our lab, which was an old warehouse.”
“Thank you for your time. You’ll find in that jumper’s pocket a penny. It will bring you some luck.”
Lewis fished around as best he could and pulled out a U.S. 1943 copper wheat penny.
“I wouldn’t lose it. It should help you. With that, we’ll be leaving you now.”
“But the guards?”
“Don’t worry about them. We were never here, and they’ll tell you soon enough why you’re in this room.”
Jayden and Lai Xinya got up and calmly left the police station.
“Jayden, you realize that charm spells are a highly risky proposition. It doesn’t take much to disrupt them.”
“I know, but it’s the only way to distract everyone once we were in. Like I said, I’ve done this sort of thing before. Let’s see if we can find that warehouse and if there is a piece left of the flask.”
“You realize once a Jinn is released, the container holding the Jinn shatters and vaporizes, right?”
“I know, but maybe one or two pieces survived. The elves taught me there’s always a chance of such events in magic.”
“Elves and their ideas about magic. You’d put your faith in such a fickle creature?”
“At this point, yes.”
Lewis was still waiting in the visitation room when a prison officer came into the room.
“Mr. Meyer, the judge issued a release order so we can start processing your release.”
The Warehouse- June 25, 2003
“Jayden, it appears they’ve cleared out since Lewis was arrested.” Lai Xinya comments echoed in the space as she took a long draw on her pipe.
Jayden’s head sank down in a gesture of disappointment. The odds were worse than low that they would find any bit of the original flask, but he still had to look. So, he walked about the floor, looking for any bit of a copper flask. All the while, Lai Xinya stood smirking at Jayden’s foolishness as she continued to smoke on her pipe.
After ten minutes of pacing back and forth, with a gleeful “ah-ha” Jayden picked up a small metal bit from the floor.
“So, you found a piece, after all. Now, what do you plan to do?”
“This.” Jayden pulled from his jacket pocket a small mirror and placed it on the floor. While holding the copper piece in his right hand, he chanted a spell aloud.
Lai Xinya disposed of her pipe by tossing it in the air, and as it disappeared, she began to quickly move toward Jayden.
But before Lai Xinya could reach him, an image was shown before Jayden in the mirror of a mousey looking woman in glasses, her eyes narrowed in anger. The mirror began to shake, then exploded into thousands of shards as Jayden leapt backwards, using his cane to cast a shield.
Lai Xinya snatched the copper bit from Jayden, furious at his foolishness with such a powerful Jinn like Asil. You’re lucky she didn’t come through the mirror and choke you. We’re doing this my way now.”
“I suppose so, but now we know she’s still linked to the flask.”
“Your actions are displaying recklessness, which is a cause for concern. That is something I cannot tolerate or permit. The shop can’t have that.”
“So, the almighty Celestial Dragon cares about mortals.”
“Yes, but only a few of certain importance. But enough of this foolish banter, prepare yourself. If we surround her with myrrh censers, she’ll be trapped long enough to seal her into a fresh bottle.”
“And what about the others I saw in the background?”
“I’ll take care of that while you’re dealing with Asil.”
Lai Xinya’s hand transformed into a dragon claw, pinching the flask piece with two talons to create a portal to the Jinn’s location. She then drew the portal’s slit wider into a rectangle by drawing a rectangle in the air with her talons.
“Explain to me why I’ve had to use my cane to transport us around when you could have simply unzipped time and space with your claws?”
“I have my reasons. Now let’s go before someone notices the portal.”
Veronica Simmons’ Announcement Party, August 1, 2003
Asil, as a petite mousey woman in glasses, walked up to Veronica, who was sipping on some wine. Next to Asil was a man from the Sunnyvale Sun and his cameraman, capturing shots of Silicon Valley middle management.
“Veronica, this is Gregory Reeves. He’s a reporter from the Sunnyvale Sun.”
“Ms. Simmons, I have some questions about your entry into this race. Do you have a moment right now?”
“Certainly. Should we go to a table and sit down?”
Chaos erupted as Jayden and Lai Xinya entered the room through a portal, joining the three at a nearby circular table.
Immediately, the Sunnyvale Sun’s cameraman began snapping pictures.
The reporter stood up and said, “You’re getting all this, Keith?”
“You know it.”
Upon entering the room, Lai Xinya transformed into her dragon form, closed the portal with her back claw, and touched two of her left front talons together. From them issued a flash, and instantly all the people in the room froze, except Asil and Veronica.
“Now, Jayden, before she has time to react.”
Using his dragon headed cane, Jayden held it high over his head saying “Turibulum!” With that, four censers appeared near the table Asil was located. Myrrh smoke poured out at each censer. He then reached into his pocket and tossed towards Asil a multicolored glass bottle that shattered upon hitting the floor.
Asil immediately turned into her seven-foot-tall Jinn form as the smell of myrrh filled the room. Amidst a swirling cloud of myrrh smoke, the Asil’s face contorted into a mask of fury, her eyes glowing like embers and she bared fangs in a menacing snarl.
Veronica tugged at part of Asil’s clothing to get her attention, and Asil, still agitated with myrrh smoke, turned, and barked out, “What?!”
With a cold and unflinching stare into the face of what was now a menacing mystical creature, Veronica commanded, “Execute my final wish now as I’ve written it!”
“Done!” Asil said, snapping her razor clawed fingers. “Now leave me to these pretenders of power, children playing with fire.”
Lai Xinya swiftly darted through the smoke trails and coiled around Asil, poised to strike with her claws. At that moment, Jayden saw what was on the Celestial Dragon’s claws, the Mysterious Iron Claws of Da Teng.
“Celestial Dragon, don’t do it!” Screamed Jayden.
Unfortunately, by the time he realized it, it was already too late. Lai Xinya had plunged the iron claws deep into Asil’s chest and ripped out her heart of flame, snuffing it out.
As the Jinn’s heart was snuffed out, a burst of incredible magical energy issued forth, destroying the Asil’s body, shattering the four censers, along with sending frozen people, tables, and chairs to the four corners of the room. All Jayden could do was use his cane to contain the blast to the room at significant difficulty.
Lai Xinya uncoiled herself and transformed back into her human form.
Jayden stood up, as wisps of smoke came from his jacket. He was kneeling as he held on to his cane to contain the blast.
“I can’t believe you used the Mysterious Iron Claws of Da Teng. Those are forbidden to dragons. Their power is far too great.”
“Jayden, I’ve been doing these battles way before you, your uncle, or even the shop. Don’t tell me how to deal with a magical creature like a jinn.”
“But this wasn’t the plan! I was going to seal her up again. And now where’s the other lady?”
“I don’t know. She made some sort of wish just before I killed Asil.”
“My god this place is a mess. Tables and chairs strewn with frozen people. I suppose we should… Oh crap!” Jayden noticed through a torn curtain the double-breasted white long duster coat of Group 67 coming to the doors. “We gotta go. Group 67 is about to enter this place. We can let them deal with the cleanup.” With that, Jayden opened a portal using his cane.
Kio Oni Shabu-Shabu Sakaba
Jayden and Lai Xinya exited the portal as it closed behind them into a dimly lit and narrow alley of Tokyo’s bustling cityscape. Before them is an unassuming façade blending seamlessly into the surrounding buildings draped with wires and pipes. A sign flickers above, lighting up the words, “Kio Oni Shabu-Shabu Sakaba.”
“Shall we go in? I thought we could use a meal, and I like this place.”
“I don’t know. It smells odd to me.”
“Oh, you’ll enjoy it. Trust me.”
Lai Xinya snorted in potential displeasure.
As Jayden entered the sakaba he said, “O-jama shimasu (Excuse me for intruding)” and gave a slight bow.
A woman dressed in a server’s uniform responded, “Irasshai-mase (Come in)” and showed Jayden and Lai Xinya to a table.
A large yellow ogre was behind the kitchen counter and waved at Jayden. Next to the ogre were a couple of nekomatas helping with dishes. Scattered about where various Japanese yokai eating meats and vegetables they swirled in pots at their tables.
“Jayden, what is this place? What’s shabu-shabu? And the servers are young kitsune.”
“Yes, the place is owned by a yellow ogre, and he has two-tailed cats as helpers. Your point? It serves great beer, and I love the fact you get to cook your own food right at your table.”
“What?! Cooking food is not something that I do. I have others do it for me.”
“How did you eat back in D.C.? Just sit around in your shop starving at day?”
“No. I either have something delivered or I’ll go out to eat. Being a Celestial Dragon, I’ve never cooked a meal.”
“I suppose I could do it for you.”
The server brought them a menu, two small cups of green tea, and sat down the shabu-shabu pot on their table. She waited with pen and pad in hand for their order.
“Jayden, they have ground kasa-bake as a dipping sauce. And thinly sliced baku meat.”
“Yeah, you gotta be careful with some meats and dipping sauces. Most of the vegetables are normal, though. I’m partial to the tanuki and kappa meats, with kintoki carrots, myoga, enoki mushrooms, and phoenix tear sauce, with a side of rice.”
“Fine. I’ll have that, and this Kirin beer.”
“Good choice in beers. I’ll have that as well.” Jayden looked at the server. “So, did you get all that?”
“Kashikomarimashita (I understand).” Responded the young woman after repeating the order.
Once the server had left, Lai Xinya said, “Jayden, honestly, with all these side trips to bars and hot springs, I think you’re trying to date me.”
Choking down his tea. “Me, date the Celestial Dragon. What would give you that impression?”
“You realize your great uncle was just like you, except he would treat me without all these adventures.”
“Are you saying you and my great uncle dated?”
“I have a personal rule of not dating those who are mortal. But one can open the back door.”
“Wait? Are you saying you did, after all?”
The Celestial Dragon coyly changed the subject. “I believe our meats, vegetables, and sauces are here. I’m famished and can’t wait for you to serve me.”
“Sure. Wait, a minute now. What about you and my great uncle?”
A smile played on the Celestial Dragon’s lips; a lingering ghost of a love long past. Leaving Jayden with a clueless look as he swished the meats into a shabu-shabu pot filled with a spicy Oni horn shavings broth.
Jayden Hall’s Journal Entry for the Shop
Transaction 463468- Asil, the Jinn
Journal Entry 13 In Ledger Book 342467
I can tell the shop isn’t happy with my return. There is neither any treasury nor any captured Jinn. I don’t even have a fragment of the Jinn’s bottle. The only good thing is Asil is no more, or at least I hope so. I suppose there’s a chance she was sent back to the plane where Jinn lives. I still don’t know what the wish Veronica Simmons made. All I know is she’s no longer in our present time and place. I hope she wasn’t someone of importance to the established timeline, like a would be POTUS or is going to cause someone else who shouldn’t be POTUS to get elected. Well, not much I can do about it now. I also still can’t believe that the Celestial Dragon owns the Mysterious Iron Claws of Da Teng. I tried to see if she’d trade them for something else in the shop, but she refused. It’s such a powerful item to be in the possession of an ancient dragon such as her.
Veronica Simmons found herself atop what was a skyscraper surrounded by water lapping up against what appeared to be maybe two-thirds of the way up.
The heat of the day blasted her face, causing instant sweat to run off and mess with her makeup. It was clearly warmer in the future, so evidently global warming happened after all. She suspected she was still in what was Sunnyvale, but it was clearly flooded from rising waters. The spray was salty, so the ice caps must have melted, raising the oceans, and flooding more of the bay area.
She saw in the air odd creatures that looked like flying dragons diving into the ocean, catching fish.
This wasn’t the world she knew, but her immediate problem was getting off the roof of this building.
By a stroke of luck, she spotted a small boat filled with scrap. She yelled for help, and the boat came over.
“Oh, man, I’m so thankful you were out here.”
The crusty old scavenger replied, “How did you get atop that old building?”
“I have a story to tell, and I must warn you, it is rather lengthy. Do you have some clean drinking water? It’s hot.”
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