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A Different Path

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  Alternate episode's nine and ten, mostly canon before that

…Miss Jones POV: Croatia…Early in the morning

I sit smiling at the old, balding man sitting across from me. I’m still sitting in the same spot I have been for the past 13 hours or so, wearing nothing but my underwear, in order to distract my opponent. I hate this game now. I hate this horrible man I’ve been forced to share my entire evening with. I hate doing errands for another old man that won’t let me in all of the details concerning how the artifact he’s after is going to help me and my allies become gods (and a goddess) and overthrow the Earth. But I continue my charade with the disgusting man in front of me, because I believe in the future that Alec McCullough says he wants to help me build. And because the alternative to playing this long, monotonous game with the notorious “Duke” is to simply take the tablet he’s carrying by force. As much as I hate the man sitting across from me, I really don’t want to kill him if I can avoid it.

Deciding this game has gone on long enough, and having confidence that the Duke can’t beat my hand, any more than he’d been able to beat me ever since this horribly long poker game started, I push my remaining cash to the middle of the table. Then, and only then, does the Duke finally take out the box containing the item I came for, and explain to me that the tablet in the box is “A guide book to the afterlife”, that he won at an auction. Obviously, I already knew what the item I came for was, but I do not appreciate the Duke’s deception, because I know very well that the tablet is only one part of a larger collection. This is a fact that a self-proclaimed “expert in antiquities” such as the man in front of me should already know. But I humor the Duke anyway, when I smirk and ask him why he is trying to bet an item he only paid $1.5 million dollars for, against the over $2.3 million that I have on the table. But the Duke claims that, “I underpaid.”

Deciding that it would be nearly impossible for the Duke to beat my poker hand, especially when the old man has been on a 13 hour losing streak, I glibly remark that “It doesn’t matter.” So the Duke says, “Show me.” So I lay my cards down on the table. Then something impossible happens.

The Duke pulls out a hand that we both know is, statistically, virtually impossible, given the cards that were in my own hand. Considering how close the balding man held his cards to his sleeves when he put the box on the table, I’m certain that the old man cheated. It will be the last mistake the Duke will ever make.

Still, that’s no reason for me to be uncivil, so while the Duke is collecting the money, his watch, and the artifact I need, after saying something about having spent an enjoyable 13 hours with me (Tell that to my sore ass, I hate this chair!) I casually remark that the last item in question is “part of a set. The guidepost. The relic.” The Duke glibly replies that he “would imagine the trip to the afterlife would have a few twist and turns.”

I chuckle at the Duke’s words and reply that, “You’ll have to let me know.” Then, deciding that I’ll give the Duke one more chance to be spared my wrath, although god knows the cheater deserves it, I quickly add. “Or you could admit that you cheated, and give me the relic. You can even keep the money. All of it. I have lots more back home.”

But the Duke’s pride won’t let him accept my generous offer, as he replies, “Good night, Miss Jones.” In a conceited tone, then attempts to walk away. Okay, I correct myself. THAT is the last mistake this bastard is ever going to make. I put my hands on the table in front of me, and ignore the water that drips out of them as I gather up a tiny portion of my power for what I’m about to do next. Then I stretch my power out, inside the Duke’s throat, causing gallons of water to materialize in that location. As I stand up, I speak in the Duke’s native tongue, which, being Canadian myself, I am also familiar with: French. “After me, the flood, which shall cleanse evil men from the world, that the meek may finally inherit the Earth.”

“Starting with you.” I quickly add in English. After the Duke falls down, then drowns to death remarkable quickly for a man on dry land, water starts pouring out of his mouth, I check the man’s sleeve with shaking hands, to justify my assertion that the man I just killed was actually a cheat. I know this isn’t strictly necessary. I realize that the dead man in front of has committed many acts that would just justify his death, but I still find myself breathing a sigh of relief when I see a hidden card inside the Duke’s right sleeve. I then take thirty seconds to meditate, calm my rapid heartbeat, and will my hands to stop shaking, as I remind myself that the Duke had deserved to die before he ever set foot in this room, and that what I’m doing is for the greater good. But I still don’t feel very good about what I’ve just done.

Unlike some of my allies, I don’t enjoy killing. And even as put my clothes on, then take the relic, and my handbag, from the table, leaving the money I don’t need behind, and walk away from this place, I know I never will. But I’m still willing to get my hands dirty when I have to.

I then sigh and take a chocolate snack cake out of the handbag at my side and eat it. As I moan while eating the tasty treatment, I remind myself why I have to kill sometimes. For the greater good.

…Many hours later…Back in San Francisco…

I present my prize to Alec when I get to his office, soon after my arrival back to the States. The old (very old, if the life story he gave me is to be believed) man asks me if I had “Success?” Right after I open the door, and let myself in.

I smile smugly at him, set the box with the relic down on his desk, and remark that I’ve been through “A lot of trouble for an expensive paperweight.” Because I’m still not sure I believe Alec’s story about what this tablet, along with the others in its set, can do. But then, until five years ago, when I touched a stone that I was never supposed to touch, after opening a box I stole for a client, but was never supposed to open, I never believed people could have superpowers, either. Yet here I am now, the Water Wu. And if McCullough is to be believed, I’ll soon be one of the goddesses of the new world the Wu are going to create!

McCullough opens the box, and inspects the relic for several seconds, before he finally concedes that, “You’ve done well.”

I smugly point out that, “I never do otherwise.” Then add that, “You promised me a Wu Assassin. I hate those stuck up bastards…” When McCullough gives me a look, I quickly add, “Present company excluded, of course. You rejected that genocidal path. But the rest of that ilk think they have the right to kill people like us, just because we’ve been gifted with the power of the Wu. I’ve killed three of those self-righteous assholes already, in self-defense. I want to kill this one before he can try to kill me.”

After several seconds’ hesitation, McCullough nods. “Aye. I understand your anger…and I admire the instinct for self-preservation. There’s no greater fraud than a promise not kept. But be careful, he took out Baxter.”

I simply nod at that before McCullough adds, “Gideon is here.”

I shake my head and frown. “I don’t care. I told you a while ago that I want nothing to do with that man anymore, apart from whatever actions are necessary for our shared venture.”

McCullough chuckles. “It’s so sad to watch a first love go so sour. I know you don’t approve of your ex’s methods, but they are sometimes necessary. What is that modern expression? You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”

I shake my head and sigh. “And I’m fine with that…as long as the eggs we break are rotten ones. Gideon no longer cares if his victims are innocent or not. And for the record, I was never in love with him But the man he was, the man… I cared for, once, died the second he became the Metal Wu. I never should have let him touch the Metal Wu Xing after I became the Water Wu. I became something more than human that day, and he became something less. Something without a conscience. Without a soul. Now it’s my responsibility to rein him in. And yours as well, according to the terms of our deal.”

McCullough nods. “And we will do that, as soon as the ceremony is concluded. In the meantime, it may interest you to know that Gideon has got a new host. Someone useful.”

I sigh at my ex’s antics and reply sarcastically. “I can’t wait to meet him.”

“Her….you mean.”

Something about the way McCullough says this last sentence sends a shiver down my spine, so I ask the obvious question. “What’s her name?”

McCullough smiles. “Christine Gavin. She a cop, actually. A friend of the Wu Assassin. I hear her friends call her CG.”

That shiver becomes a full on panic, which I struggle to control under a stoic facade. As far as I know, there’s only one woman in the world with that name/ nickname combination. “You kidnapped a cop? Not smart. We should let her go before SFPD comes knocking on our door, looking for one of their one.”

McCullough looks at me with cold, calculating eyes. I hate that look. It reminds me how many years (supposedly centuries) of experience the older man has on me. Compared to McCullough, the rest of us Wu are amateurs. “CG is a valuable hostage, someone the Wu Assassin will not be willing to risk lightly. I can’t just let her go! Besides, her precinct has other problems, after Zan, Gideon, and I blew through it to get the Fire Wu into our possession. No one will come looking for CG anytime soon.”

“So…” I shrug, trying to act as uncaring as possible as I speak. “What is going to happen to her, then?”

McCullough frowns. “The same thing that’s going to happen to Jenny and Tommy Wah: nothing. I’m going to let them all go…as soon as Kai hands over the Earth Wu Xing, so that the ritual can be completed. And then we Wu can become the gods of the new world, of course.”

I force myself to smile. “Of course. Just out of curiosity...What will happen to CG if Kai refuses to hand over the Earth Wu Xing?”

McCullough shrugs. “Then…I’m afraid that I will have to kill Tommy…and the cop.”

“You will do no such thing!” I’m thinking before I’m acting now, as I slam my fist down onto the table between myself and my employer, causing a large puddle of water to instantly form on McCullough’s desk.

McCullough rises to his feet with anger in his eyes. “Watch what you’re doing! That table is an antique!”

I glare at Alec as I stand up to him for the first time since I met him. “I don’t give a shit! You are not going to harm one hair on CG’s head, you got that!?”

Alec glares at me, and then walks forward until his face is close enough to mine for me to smell his breath. “Who do you think you are to give me orders, Miss Jones?! I think you’re forgetting who’s in charge around here!”

I glare right back at Alec and snarl. “And I think you’re forgetting which Wu is really the strongest! You’ve got the rest of these clowns thinking the Wood Wu is the most powerful, but we both know that’s not true, don’t we?! Over a long enough period of time, water trumps everything. Water douses Fire, erodes Earth, and rusts Metal! And a flood…”

I calmly stretch out my right hand, summoning a large stream of water that knocks McCullough across the room, and onto his back. “Can break the mightiest Wood tree in any forest!”

I calmly walk toward McCullough, who quickly rises from the floor and tries to grab my arm, but my reflexes, well-honed from living on the streets for years as a thief and con-artist, are faster than his, and I grab onto his right hand with my left one first, as I add. “Or I could simply drain all the water from your body. Then no healing factor could save you. No living thing can survive without water,”

Alec’s hand shrivels up, just a little, and I attempt to move my hand away, satisfied that I have sufficiently demonstrated my superiority. But Alec holds fast to my hand instead, and I feel pain in my left hand as it starts to shrivel up, as McCullough’s right hand returns to normal, before the older man smirks. “Aye, the Water Wu Xing is the strongest! But you can’t access all that power; can ‘ya, Miss Jones? You’re too vain and greedy to do what is necessary to become stronger than me! And until that changes, the Wood Wu will always be able to soak up any punishment the Water Wu can devise, just like the wood in my body is soaking up the water in yours right now!”

Apparently satisfied that he has proven his point, McCullough lets go of my hand, which quickly returns to normal as my pain vanishes and the Water Wu Xing replenishes the H2O in my hand. Alec smirks at me as I glare at him while flexing my restored hand. McCullough chuckles and shows me his similarly rejuvenated hand. “There. See? No harm done. So I’ll let this little outburst of yours go, Miss Jones. This time. And because you seem to have a soft spot for this CG, I will even release her into your custody until the ritual is completed. Show her your horde, if you like. As long as you keep the cop out of trouble, no harm will come to her. But she must not be allowed to escape this compound, or interfere in any of our plans. Is that understood?”

I force myself to smile. “Yes.”

Alec smirks. “Good.”

Then I quickly add. “I’ll need Gideon to leave Miss Gavin’s body as well. Forever. I don’t want the Metal Wu to as much as touch CG ever again!”

Alec nods. “Of course. As I said, if you keep CG from interfering with our business, no harm will come to her. I will personally tell Gideon to leave Miss Gavin alone from now on, before she is handed over to you.”

I smile and nod. “Good.”

As I turn to walk away. Alec speaks to me in a condescending voice. “You were never this protective of Gideon, even when you two were still together. But I merely mention CG’s name, and you’re ready to fight me for her in a second. Miss Gavin is special to you, isn’t she?”

I nod without turning around. Because I know McCullough would probably be able to tell if I lie. “Yes.”

McCullough sighs. “It’s been so long since I’ve had someone I truly loved in my life. So long since I lost my wife, and my boy. A word of advice, Miss Jones? If you really love this CG, don’t let her get away, and don’t let any harm come to her, or you will regret if for the rest of your life! And keeping her safe means doing what I say!”

I nod again. “I understand.”

McCullough nods and replies to my words in a more cheerful voice. “Good! Now clean up this mess! You will be able to collect Miss Gavin shortly!”
I roll my eyes and stick my hand behind my back, allowing all the water in room that is not inside someone’s body, including the water in the vodka bottles on Alec’s side table, be drawn through that hand into my body. I then wordlessly take a large candy bar out of my bag and start to nibble on it as I leave McCullough’s office, which is now dry as a bone. And to think, this day started out so well.

…CG’s point of view…

I scream inside the mind prison that Gideon has trapped me in, helpless to do anything but watch as the Metal Wu tortures Tommy by moving a needle close to the Chinese man’s eyes, over and over again, using my body. Thankfully, Gideon’s “fun” is ended before Tommy can be physically injured…well, any worse than he is injured right now. McCullough quickly enters the warehouse all three of us are in. “Alright, you’ve had enough fun with that vessel, Gideon. Out you get!”

Gideon frowns with my mouth, and it is the weirdest thing when he speaks with my voice in a whiny tone. “But I just got this body! I haven’t even had time to play with her tits yet!”

Alec glares at me/Gideon. “You will have another body to have fun with soon enough, I’m sure. But I’m afraid Miss Gavin’s presence, and not your own, is required at the moment, if we are to maintain the delicate Wu alliance that we are currently enjoying. So let the cop go free and go somewhere, anywhere else in the compound, besides Miss Jones’ room. Now. I will call for you tomorrow, when you are needed for the ceremony.”

I feel like a great weight is lifted from me, even as I’m temporarily disoriented, as suddenly, I am out of Gideon’s “mind prison”, and seeing the world through my own eyes again. I stumble, and almost fall, as I adjust to standing on my own two feet again, but I still bat away Gideon’s outstretched arm as he offers to “help” me with a lecherous grin. “Get away from me, you monster!”

McCullough nods. “You heard the lady, Gideon. Time for you to go elsewhere. ”

Gideon glares at Alec, and then nods. “Fine.”

As Gideon walks out of the abandoned warehouse, McCullough laughs at me as I adopt a fighting pose. “Now, now. There’s no need for that, lass. I’m not here to hurt ‘ya. In fact, I’m going to release you.”

I frown in confusion. There’s no reason I can think of that someone like McCullough would release a valuable hostage without getting something in return. Has Kai given into McCullough’s demands already!? No, that seems unlikely. Kai isn’t the type to just roll over and give up this quickly, and it’s likely that McCullough would have already used the Wu to conquer the world somehow if he already had the Earth Wu Xing in his possession. So what the hell is going on? “You’re letting me go home?”

McCullough shakes his head. “Of course not! You’re a valuable hostage! I’m releasing you from this warehouse…and into the care of someone who risked a lot to defend ‘ya, and free ya from Gideon’s control. I hope you show Miss Jones some appreciation for that by not trying to escape the compound. Just keep in mind that, whatever you and the Water Wu were to each other in the past, she’s a killer now! In fact, she just killed a man for me in cold blood, to steal a special item he won at an auction. An item I needed. So don’t think she’ll go easy on you if you decide to do anything foolish…”

My eyes widen at the implications of McCullough’s words. Surely he can’t be talking about the Miss Jones I knew as I teenager? The young woman who took me into her gang of thieves in Calgary after I ran away when my dad got arrested, and who even became my girlfriend for a while before I decided to go live with my mom in LA?

But my fears/hopes are confirmed when I hear Gideon’s voice coming from somewhere close by. “Hey, baby! Long time, no see!” and an achingly familiar voice reply. “I’m not yours, anymore, Gideon! And I never will be again! Go pester someone else! I have someone more important to see at the moment!”

McCullough laughs at the shocked look on my face right now. “Ah, so you do remember Miss Jones, then? Good, because she certainly remembers you! I’ll give you two some time to get reacquainted, while I take care of some important business of my own.”

After speaking that last sentence, McCullough walks away from the warehouse I’m in, which has a section that is completely exposed to the outside world. And I want to run away right then, I really do. Every instinct I have is screaming at me to use this opportunity to take Tommy out of this warehouse, try to find Jenny Wah, and escape the compound. But both my intellect, which reminds me that there are snipers all over this compound who will shoot me and Tommy dead if we attempt to escape, and my heart, which has always hoped I would see my ex-girlfriend again, both force me to stay put. Which is why I’m still in the room when the girl turned woman whom I’ve never stopped loving, no matter how hard I’ve tried to, walks into the room with a smile on her face that still makes me feel weak in the knees.

My longtime ex frowns when she sees Tommy Wah, lying wounded on a table behind me, but she quickly shakes her head and smiles after I follow her gaze while she says. “Don’t worry, Alec promised he would keep the Wah siblings alive until Kai gives up the Earth Wu Xing, and that all three of your will be free to go as soon as the ritual is completed.”

I don’t really know what to say at the moment. What is there to say when you find out the love of your life has become one of the bad guys who are trying to take over the world?

My heavy heart is somewhat lightened by McCullough’s words, as I remind myself that, however far the woman I love has fallen, she still cares enough about me to want to see me, and to have me freed from Gideon’s control. But I know that doesn’t necessarily mean that she cares enough about me to side with me and my friends against Alec. She’s chosen a life of crime over me in the past, after all. Even so, my ex does seem to be concerned about Tommy’s state, so I don’t think it would hurt to ask one question. “Can you heal him?”

Miss Jones shakes her head, and her eyes do seem a bit sad when she replies. “I’m sorry. Only the Wood Wu has the power to heal. I’ll ask McCullough later if he’s willing to heal Tommy now, since this man is obviously one of your friends.” I ignore the way my ex’s voice drips with venom when she says the word “friends”, before she adds. “However, Alec has made it perfectly clear that I’m in no position to make demands of him at this time. But I can do this for Mr. Wah…”

My ex walks up to Tommy, who cringes in fear of the woman I knew so long ago, until I nod, and Tommy lets Miss Jones lay her hands on his wound. Nothing happens for several seconds. And then Miss Jones’ eyes go blue for a second, and a strange, greenish tinged water gushes out of my ex’s hands, causing Tommy to scream! “It burns!”

“You’re hurting him!” I take a step closer to Miss Jones, but my ex shakes her head and mouths “trust me!” And I don’t know why, but I do. So I stand still for several more seconds, ignoring Tommy’s screaming as I do so, before Miss Jones pulls her hands away from Tommy, and her eyes goes back to her usual hazel as the strange water retracts back into her hands.

Tommy breathes heavily for several seconds, then smiles at my ex, even though he is still clearly bleeding. “What just happened?! Whatever you did hurt like a motherfucker! But I actually feel a little bit better now.”

Miss Jones smirks at Tommy. “Of course you do. Water’s the universal solvent. I just used it to burn away all the bacteria that have been festering on your body since you were injured. I disinfected your wound, and blessed it with the power of the Water Wu to keep it from getting infected again.”

I half-smile at my ex. “Thank you. I always said you should have been a doctor. You were always so good with medicine and chemistry.”

Miss Jones smirks once again. I’d find that expression infuriating if it didn’t look so damn sexy on her face. “Speaking of chemistry….” My ex walks over to me and lays a kiss right on my lips, without any warning whatsoever! In this moment, logic, reason, conscience, all of it goes right out the window as I easily lose myself in the kiss, and open my mouth to receive Miss Jones’ tongue without even being prompted to do so. In that brief mad, magical moment, I’m no longer a cop working with the Wu Assassin, trying to save the world, and Miss Jones isn’t a Wu Warlord, trying to conquer it. In this moment, we’re just two crazy girls in love again, who shared one magical summer together before I went back to my mom, and real-world responsibilities forced me to become an adult. Right now, Miss Jones and I are sixteen again, sharing our first kiss in the rain after I let her borrow my only jacket when she started to shiver in the cold, as we were casing out a potential locations for a heist. My ex and I put everything we have into this kiss. A kiss that tastes like the thrill of stealing flashy jewelry and fast cars, the confidence that comes with knowing that your best friend in the world always has your back, no matter how bad a jam your get yourself in, and the euphoria that comes with friendship turning into firsts: my first love, my first kiss, and my first time.

But then the illusion is shattered when Tommy Wah groans and says. “Soo hot! Now I can die happy!”

Miss Jones and I both pull away from the kiss, but we still do our best to ignore Tommy as my ex looks right at me and speaks with an intense look in her l hazel eyes, which I know that I know I will always love, no matter how much I shouldn’t. “I missed you, Christine.”

I can’t help but smile while still looking at my ex’s beautiful eyes, and I reply without thinking. “I missed you too, Jenny.”

Miss Jones (when she’s trying to act grown up), also known as JJ to her friends, and Jenny only to me, at least when we were teens, smiles widely at that confession, and then says, “Nice nose ring! It looks great on you!” and takes me by the hand when I reply, “Thanks.” My heart beats fast from this simple action, because somehow, even though I know she’s the enemy, holding Jenny’s warm hand still feels right. Jenny leads me to an office area of the compound that I’m unfamiliar with, as Gideon never visited it when he was joyriding my body, then turns to me with a serious expression on her face. “Wait here. I won’t hurt you, but the snipers will kill you within seconds if you try to run. Christine…” Jenny waits for me to look her in the eye before she adds in a desperate tone of voice that seems to convey genuine concern. “Don’t run.”

I nod as Jenny lets go of my hand. “I won’t.”

JJ smiles at me. “Good. You always were a smart one. That’s why I know you’ll be joining the right side of this conflict, my side, before this day is done.”

Before I can reply to that, Miss Jones walks towards the office and says. “In the meantime, I’m going to have a talk with McCullough about healing your friend.”

I guess that talk doesn’t go well, because 30 seconds or so after JJ enters the office area, I can hear McCullough screaming. “I told you I’d keep the boy alive, but I’m not going to heal Tommy Wah completely until I’m good and ready! I left your cop friend in your custody as a courtesy, and that’s all you’ll be getting from me until the ritual is complete! Now, go have fun with your precious CG until morning, and leave me be until I call for you!”

When Jenny exits the old man’s office in a huff, I cross my arms and say, “Well, that didn’t go well.”

Jenny frowns and shakes her head. “No shit!” Then, “I’m sorry.”

I sigh. “Don’t be. It’s not your fault that your boss is a dick. Why do you work for that asshole anyway!?”

JJ glares at me as she starts walking to another part of the compound, beckoning me to follow her. “Be very careful with your words around here, CG. McCullough has eyes and ears all over this compound, and some of his hired guns are less forgiving of insults than I am. And for your information, I don’t work for McCullough, I work with him. And he’s not a dick. He’s just on edge because he’s so close to getting his family back centuries after he lost them!”

My eyes widen involuntarily as McCullough’s crazy plans start to make a little more sense to me. “Yeah. Too bad that if he succeeds, he’s going upset the balance of reality as we know it, and end the world!”

Miss Jones looks at me and rolls her eyes. “Wow. Kai really has you drinking the Kool-Aid with all of that bullshit about ‘balance’ and the Dao, doesn’t he!? Wake up, CG! The world is already in chaos! War, climate change, pollution, poverty, hunger, disease, illogical prejudice and hate…does all of that shit seem right to you!? You have always been so dreadfully nave, and maybe that’s why you became a cop, because you thought the system would start working for people if you became a part of it! But by now, you must have realized…there’s no balance in this world, no plan, no Dao making sure that the universe operates according to some cosmic order! I learned, years ago, that the world only makes sense if you force it to! And I and the other Wu are going to make that happen!”

I sigh as my ex steps in front of a closed door. “So, you really have thrown your lot in with these fuckers? You’re trying to conquer the whole damn world!?”

JJ sighs as she turns towards me. “I was afraid this would be hard for you to understand. Me and McCullough are trying to save the world, Christine! And if that means ruling over humanity to save people from themselves, that’s what we’re going to do! I’m glad I found you before that happened though. Now I’ll have a queen to rule by my side when I become one of the goddesses of the new world order!”

I shake my head at JJ’s ego, and presumption that I would abandon my friends, and every scruple I have, just to be with her again, even as I hate myself for being tempted to do so. “Jenny…I did miss you, but…I won’t be part of this madness you’re taking part in! I won’t help you hurt my friends!”

Jenny frowns at me. “We’ll see about that. We have a whole night before us Wu take our rightful place as the deities of this world, and I know that in that time, I’ll be able to convince you we’re right about what needs to be done. As for your friends, all of them except Kai will be just fine when this is all over, as long as the Wu Assassin hands over the Earth Wu Xing before we kill him. And we will kill him, CG. He and his ilk have been trying to hunt down my kind for centuries, and three of those fuckers have already tried to kill me, just for the crime of being gifted with a power I never asked for! So I had to kill them, instead. It’s his kind, or ours. It always has been! That’s why the last Wu Assassin cannot be allowed to live!”

I ponder Jenny’s words for several seconds as she opens the door to a huge, lavish room, where the walls, floors and carpet are all JJ’s favorite color: purple, And even as I look upon the room’s ridiculous contents, I can’t help but feel I’ve misjudged my ex. After all, if three Wu Assassins had already tried to kill her, for reasons she didn’t understand, why wouldn’t she think that the people who bore that title were evil, and that the Dao was a lie? True, that wouldn’t absolve her of killing other people, if McCullough’s words about my ex were true, but part of me hopes that there’s a logical explanation for those deaths as well. And that maybe, just maybe, I can convince Jenny to side with the good guys if I sweet talk her enough tonight.

But I push that thought aside for a second as I take in JJ’s opulent quarters, which look exactly like what she always said her bedroom would look like if she ever made a big enough score to become wealthy. Half of the room is filled with gold bars, jewelry, and large stacks of money, in various different world currencies. There is also a huge, golden wardrobe, filled with elegant clothes, a golden table set, and a king-sized bed with a golden headboard, silk, purple sheets, and sheer purple bed curtains. And the other side of Jenny’s room can only be described as a foodie’s paradise; stuffed to the brim with an ice cream dispenser with five different flavors of ice cream, complimented by nearby fudge and caramel pumps, as well as an adjoining container filled with various types of candy, sugar-covered nuts, and fruit toppings, two large refrigerators, a frozen shake machine, a large oven, and a huge, open cupboard filled with white bread, Nutella, peanut butter, and various types of chips, crackers, candy, and snack cakes.

JJ smirks at me. “Welcome to my humble abode.”

I shake my head. “It’s very nice, JJ. Looks like you finally got everything you ever wanted. Fancy clothes, tons of money, gold, jewels, and all the tasty food you could ever eat. All at the low, low cost of your soul.”

JJ frowns, ignoring my last statement as she replies to everything else I said. “What can I say? I’ve had two very profitable careers as a thief and card shark. Add in a few smart investments on my behalf by some high profile financial groups who handle the majority of my assets, and McCullough being a very generous employer, and yeah, I’ve done alright for myself. But there has always been one thing missing. Or there was, until today. You.”

Miss Jones forces a smile, and then says. “But now you’re here! I always thought I would have to wait until I became a goddess of this world before I found you again, but it looks like you and I found each other on the eve of my…our triumph, instead! Now that we’re together again, we can make up for lost time!”

I sigh deeply. “Jenny…we can’t just get back together, and pretend the last couple decades didn’t happen!”

JJ smirks. “I don’t see why not!” The brunette walks towards one of the refrigerators and pulls out a large chocolate cheesecake, with strawberries on top. She then lays the cheesecake, as well as a can full of whip cream, on her golden table, alongside some utensils and a napkin that had been placed there ahead of time. After the cheesecake is set, Jenny proceeds to get a large glass out from underneath the shake machine, fill it to the brim with chocolate shake mix, and place said chocolate shake on the table before adding whip cream and a cherry on top. Jenny then sits on a large, steel chair in front of the table, takes the top off the cheesecake plater, and starts to cut into the rich, decadent cheesecake with a fork with a large grin on her face. To her credit, Miss Jones seems to remember herself, puts her fork down, and turns to my just a second before the large bite of cheesecake reaches her lips. “I’m so sorry, CG! Where are my manners?! Please have a seat!” I reluctantly do so while saying, “Thanks”, after my ex gets up and offers me a chair on the opposite side of the table. After being upright all day, my feet are killing me! After I set down, Jenny smiles sweetly at me and asks, “Would you like something to eat as well, honey?!”

My eyes widen in surprise that Jenny intended to eat all of the food on the table herself, even as my stomach rumbles slightly at the sights and smells of the food in front of me. But I force myself to shake my head as I remember the strict diet I put myself on years ago, to insure I wouldn’t pack on the pounds…again, and become a cliché fat cop, like so many of my peers have since graduating from police academy. “That depends…Do you actually have anything healthy to eat around here?”

JJ smirks. “Not really. I do have some fruit next to the ice cream machine, but it’s all coated with sugary syrup.”

I shake my head and smile while gently patting my sides. “No, thanks. Processed foods go right to my hips!”

Miss Jones actually laughs at my concern as she takes her first bite of cheesecake. “Well, then you’re shit out of luck, CG! You know me! As far as I’m concerned, if a food isn’t deep fried, chocolate or high in fat, sodium, or sugar, it’s not worth eating!”

When I frown at JJ’s words though, the beautiful brunette smiles at me and takes my hand after finishing her first bite of food. “Hey, I didn’t mean anything by it! I just think it’s funny that you’re so hung up on your weight when there’s so much good food to eat right in front of you.”

I huff in annoyance as JJ resumes eating at a breakneck pace, moaning constantly with pleasure as she eats her decadent dessert. “That’s easy for you to say! You’ve always been an eating machine, but you never gain any weight! I mean, I always knew you had a freakishly fast metabolism, but damn!”

I point to the cheesecake Miss Jones is eating, which my ex has already consumed a quarter of. “Look at how much you’re eating! If I ate that much on a regular basis, I’d get enormously fat! “

Jenny daintily wipes off her chocolate stained lips with a napkin and gives me another wide grin which is ever so slightly tainted by chocolate stains on her usually flawless ivory teeth. Fuck! Even after all of these years, I still love watching my ex eat! The look of contentment and happiness in Jenny’s eyes at this moment would be more than enough to enough to get my blood boiling with love and desire for the supposed enemy in front of me…if her kissing me earlier today hadn’t already done that. But Jenny interrupts my naughty thoughts as she says. “So what if you did?! You can be fat if you want to be. I would love you at any size, Christine! And when you become the right hand woman of the goddess of the new world, nobody will care how big the ass sitting on your throne is!”

I blush as Jenny flicks a lock of wayward blonde hair behind my ear, like she used to do when we were girlfriends, and even though I know that it’s wrong, for so many reasons, I can’t help but voice what I’m feeling. “I really don’t agree with what you’re doing, but…I still love you too!”

Jenny smirks at me in that heart-stopping way that I love and hate at the same time. “I know. That kiss was proof enough of that!” My ex(?) girlfriend and I both smile as she eats the rest of the cheesecake, and I can’t help but stare in open wonder as she makes a spectacle of eating in a way that only she can, as Jenny moans and rubs her miraculously trim stomach, with a look of pure ecstasy on her face, after every bite! This moment reminds me of the first time I watched Jenny gorge herself, after we stole a cake from a bakery. A cake that was meant to be a surprise gift for our gang…but that Jenny, who had had gone days without food because she had been giving me all of hers after picking me fresh off the streets, had ended up eating all by herself in the alley behind the bakery. I never attempted to stop her though, nor did I tell a soul about the stolen cake later, because watching Jenny eat to her heart’s content until she was full and satisfied was one of the hottest experiences of my life! And I’ll be damned if watching Jenny gorging herself now isn’t just as sexy as it was the first time!

After Jenny finally finishes the cheesecake and wipes off her face with a napkin, she belches and farts and the same time. URP! POOT!’ These actions, of course, make the heat that has been building up between my legs since Jenny started eating grow even hotter!

Jenny smiles at me as she makes a show of rubbing her distended stomach. “I would say excuse me, but I know you love it when I make a pig of myself in front of you!”

I shrug and allow myself another half-smile. “True. Which is just as well, since you obviously still love making a pig of yourself!”

Jenny makes a show of pulling back her nose with her hand, until it slightly resembles a snout, and then rubs her stomach. “Oink!”

Jenny and I both laugh loudly for several seconds, and I desperately wish that this moment of levity between me and my enemy (?) could last forever. But of course, it can’t, and I accidentally bring the mood in the room down somewhat, when I ask an offhand question right as Jenny takes her first sip of chocolate shake. “Seriously?! Where do you put it all!?”

Jenny sighs. “Actually, for a little while…food went all over this!” Jenny vaguely gestures to her entire body, and then quietly adds. “Especially here…” My ex pats her belly, “Here…” Jenny stands up, turns around, and gently smacks her small, toned butt, “And here…”Jenny turns back around and touches both sides of her slim torso, and then her small breasts. My ex chooses that moment to laugh, but there is shame in her eyes when she adds. “Oh…and my cheeks used to look like this.” My ex closes her mouth and puffs out her cheeks for a moment, then points to her small chin and says. “And I had two of these, and the second one was really big!”

I shake my head in confusion. “What are you talking about, Jenny? Are you saying you used to be…a bigger woman?”

JJ rolls her eyes and looks down in shame. “I’m saying that I used to be fat, Christine! Really fat! After you left…I started eating even more than before and within a year, that lighting metabolism you were always so jealous of crapped out on me! Within a few years or so after that…I got fat! Over 300 pounds, in fact! I can’t tell you how much over, because my scale at the time didn’t go higher than that, but yeah, I was pretty damn fat!”

I shake my head and sigh. “Shit. I broke your heart, and you turned to food for comfort. I’m sorry.”

JJ shakes her head and speaks in a monotone voice, so I know she’s lying. “Don’t worry. I’m over it.” The she quickly adds. “Thankfully, corpulence wasn’t a permanent state for me. Stealing got harder after I got fat, because I couldn’t run nearly as well. Harder, but not impossible. With the right plans, and the right athletic partner, I was still able to pull off a number of highly lucrative heists. Me and an ex even managed to steal two of the Wu Xing from a Chinese museum!”

I frown at Miss Jones. “You and Gideon stole the Water and Metal Wu Xing, you mean?”

Miss Jones frowns right back at me and speaks between sips of her chocolate shake. “How did you know that?!”

I shrug. “I’m a good listener. I heard you two arguing in the hallway, when you said you would never be his again. What did you ever see in that monster?!”

JJ sighs. “Gideon wasn’t always a monster. He was a good man once. A good thief. Before he became the Metal Wu, and let the power go to his head…among other things. But honestly?”

JJ rolls her eyes and says. “I never loved him. I liked him once, sure. But I never loved him, you know? Not the way I love you! I think I only dated Gideon because he was the only person I knew who was willing to have sex with me when I was fat! Of course, I didn’t realize until later that was because he was a horn dog that would sleep with anybody, but…”

My heart aches at this confession, and I feel the need to interrupt Jenny and say. “I would have. Made love to you when you were fat, I mean. If I…if I could have been there for you.”

Jenny shakes her head. “You’re only saying that because you’ve never seen how enormously fat I used to be…”

I smile sadly, knowing that, although I’m trying to be sweeter than usual to swing my ex to my side of the upcoming Warlord/Assassin conflict, every word I’m saying right now is true. “I don’t care about that. I love you. No level of corpulence on your part could ever change that!”

Jenny’s eyes tear up for a second, but then Miss Jones’ eyes go blue as her tears are forcefully drawn up back into her tear ducts. JJ then forces a smile and shrugs. But there is venom in her voice when she replies. “I guess we’ll never know if that’s true now, will we!? Because you left me long before I got fat!”

Before I can reply to that remark, Miss Jones shakes her head and quickly adds. “But that’s all water under the bridge now. Literally.”

Miss Jones laughs at her own bud pun, and then explains herself while still chuckling. “Because…you see…it was the…Water Wu Xing…that…helped me…lose weight…and keeps…the pounds off…no matter how much…I eat! So water…under…bridge!”

I shake my head, not really seeing the logic in that statement. “How the fuck does that work?!”

JJ shrugs. “Not a clue! I just know that; shortly after I absorbed the Water Wu Xing, I wished really hard to be thin…which I did about 100 times a day back then….and poof!” Jenny stands up while smirking and proudly proclaims that, “Heifer Jenny went bye-bye, and thin, sexy Jenny…” My ex spins around to show off as she runs her hands down her face, neck, boobs, arms, torso, sides, ass, and legs, all the way down to her tiny toes, as I now discover that Jenny kicked her shoes off under the table. “Is back in business for good!”

I shake my head and smirk. “That easy, huh? You just wished to thin, and stay thin, and that’s what happened? Fuck! I’m even more jealous of your skinny ass than I was before!”

Jenny smirks as she sets down, then she quickly finishes her shake and replies to my words. “I think I’ll take that as a compliment! But no…it’s not that easy. Ever since I made that wish, I have to go to the bathroom ever couple hours or so for some reason, which let me tell you, makes international flights an absolute bitch! Speaking of which…nature calls!” Jenny then quickly goes behind one of the fridges and opens a door I hadn’t seen before; into a small bathroom (because I guess some sacrifices had to be made to fulfill the rest of my old flame’s ridiculous request for a luxurious room in the middle of a fucking abandoned warehouse). Two minutes later, I hear a toilet flush, then a faucet run for several seconds, before JJ runs back into the room and sits back down at the table with a smile on her face. “Sorry about that! Where were we? Oh yes! I was just about to tell you that the other downside of the Water Wu Xing keeping me thin is that a portion of my Wu energy is always being used for that purpose.”

I shake my head. “I still don’t get it. Are you saying that constantly using you’re…powers, for lack of a better term, to stay thin, physically exhausts you, or is it more like your…wish makes your Wu abilities run out of steam faster?”

JJ shakes her head. “No. It’s neither of those things. Consciously using my Wu abilities sometimes takes a lot of mental effort, but it doesn’t tax my body, because the power doesn’t come from my body, it comes from the Water Wu Xing. And my abilities don’t run out of power either, because as the Water Wu, I draw my power from the element of water, which constantly produces energy I can use, as long as any water exists in the universe, or until…unless I die, of course. And besides, I don’t have to constantly will myself to stay thin, it just sort of happens now that I’ve made that wish, so that little gift doesn’t tax my mind either. It’s more like…I can feel that there’s a certain portion of my Wu Xing’s power that I should have access to, at any given moment, but I don’t. I think that’s the portion of my abilities which is constantly dedicated to keeping me thin, because I’m hopelessly addicted to eating like a pig, and can’t diet to save my life. Believe me; I tried when I was fat. And since I didn’t purposely use my powers to make me thin in the first place…I have no idea how to turn that perk of being the Water Wu off, or exactly what would happen if I could consciously access that portion of my power.. Not that I would ever want to try, you understand.”

JJ shivers “I do not want to be a fat ass ever again!”

I shrug. “I guess that makes sense. I definitely wouldn’t want you to instantly become massively overweight; to the point it damaged your health. But I’m not sure artificially speeding up your metabolism with magic is good for you either.”

Miss Jones rolls her eyes. “The Wu aren’t magic! We just draw our power from natural elements, which just happen to be powerful enough to defy the laws of nature, as science currently understands them. My abilities only seem like magic to those who don’t understand how they work!”

I raise my eyebrow. “And you understand how the Wu work?”

JJ frowns, nods, then, after a moment’s hesitation, shakes her head. “Yes…mostly. I understand enough to know that my Wu Xing keeping me thin isn’t hurting me. And McCullough says that after we Wu complete a certain ritual tomorrow, we will be able to take our Wu abilities to such great heights, we’ll transcend life and death themselves, allowing us to become all powerful, immortal, capable of raising the dead, and…”

Jenny takes my right hand, which is resting on the table between us, and she smiles as I let her do this. “We will become capable of bestowing immortality on anyone we choose! And I’m going to pick you, Christine! Because I want you by my side for all of eternity!”

I angrily pull my hand away. “Why, so I can be your pet for all of eternity?!”

JJ shakes her head and frowns. “Of course not! I want you to rule by my side as an equal.”

I shake my head. “Uh-huh. And what if we disagree about something, in this new world you’re trying to create? Something important?”

Miss Jones sighs. “If you and I disagree about something concerning policy in Europe, or parts of Africa and Asia, the portion of the world that the Wu have agreed I will rule after tomorrow’s ceremony, then we will talk about it, and try to come to a compromise. If we can’t compromise that day, we will sleep on it, and try to come to a decision in the morning. But on the rare occasions that we disagree for a whole week, or if we can’t agree on a decision we need to make quickly…then yes, I will get the final say on decision concerning my designated territories.”

I huff and cross my arms. “Because you’re the Water Wu, right?”

Miss Jones nods. “That’s right.”

I shake my head and sigh. “You know, JJ, for all your talk of trying to make the world a better place, you sound exactly like all of the tyrants you’re trying to replace. If you keep going down this road, you’re going to become just like them!”

Miss Jones scowls at me. “And what do you know about it, huh!? Nothing! You don’t know the burden that comes with the power I wield! Every waking moment, of every day, I feel tons of plastics and other pollutants being unceremoniously dumped into oceans, rivers and streams, doing incalculable damage to underwater ecosystems! Every night, I have nightmares about turtles and dolphins dying in fishing nets, or fish being overharvested from the seas until they go extinct! And every morning, I wake up crying, because I know my nightmares are real, and they are constantly coming true, all the time! And they will keep on coming true until every living thing, in every body of water, and eventually, every creature on this planet, including humans, is dead!”

Jenny is crying now, and this time, it is me who reaches out to hold her hand as she sobs while continuing to scowl at me. “So don’t ask me to leave the world as it, to turn my back on every living thing on this planet, because I won’t, I can’t! I’m not trying to conquer the world because I want to! I’m doing this because I have to! Because If do nothing, I will slowly go insane as humanity rapidly tears the Earth apart!”

Despite her angry words, I continue to hold Jenny’s hand. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know…”

Jenny shakes her head and looks at me accusingly. “You would have if you had stayed with me! Then you would have been there, instead of Gideon, when I stole those Wu Xing, and you would have become the Metal Wu the same day I became the Water Wu. Then you would have felt the strip mining of metals from this Earth that Gideon feels every second, of every day. That’s why; as much as I dislike the man Gideon has become…I can’t hate him, not really. He became the monster he is today because his attachment to his Wu Xing means he’s constantly suffering…just like I’m always suffering! The only difference is that I’m strong enough to handle it and stay sane. Gideon clearly wasn’t.”

Jenny smiles sadly at me. “But I know you would have been! You’ve always been strong, just like me! That’s one of the reasons that, despite everything, I know I will always love you. Even though you left me, years ago, without even saying goodbye!”

Jenny pulls her hand away from me and resumes crying as I shake my head. “Jenny, we talked about this when we were teens! I didn’t want to leave you, but I had to! My mom quit her job in LA and moved to Calgary for three months, surviving off of almost nothing, just to try to find me! You saw all the missing child poster she put up all over town, there were hundreds of them! How could I not go back to a mother that loved me enough to do all that, who risked becoming homeless and destitute as she used every waking moment to find me, instead of working? My mom did all that for me, even after I selfishly run away, in hopes of waiting until my dad got out of prison, so that I could stay with him?! My mom needed me!”

“So did I!” JJ puts her hand to her mouth, shakes her head, and then dries her tears with her free hand as she shakes her head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell at you. It just…it hurt me…so badly, when I woke up that cold September morning alone, with nothing on your side of the cot but a farewell letter.”

I shake my head and point at Jenny. “That’s bullshit! That is not fair, and you know it! It didn’t have to be like that! When I found out my mom was in town, and was looking for me, when I discovered she did still give a damn about me, I asked you, begged you, pleaded with you, countless times, to come with us! To let my mother take you into our home, which we both know she would have, if I had made that a condition for going back to LA with her, so that you could live in a home, a real home, and have a better life! But you loved stealing; you loved crime, too much to abandon that life! And as soon as I realized that you loved your dreams off ill-gotten wealth and power more than you loved me…I knew that I had to leave you, even if it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

JJ glares at me for several seconds, then laughs. But there is no joy in her laughter as she says. “Wow! And you called me a bullshitter!? If you really believe that enormous load of manure you just dumped on me, you really don’t know me at all!”

I sigh and shake my head as my head starts to pound. This has already been an exhausting enough day without the love of my life putting me through an emotional ringer. “What are you talking about?”

Jenny’s eyes widen. “You mean, you really don’t know?! Christine…I do love this life I’ve built for myself…” JJ waves her hand around the opulent room around us, representing the lifestyle she had always dreamed off as a teenager, and had finally attained in her 30’s. Then Jenny shakes her head and said. “But I love you so much more! I always have! I didn’t choose crime over a life with you. I chose us, our relationship, over a comfy, suburban life, living in your mom’s house as your SIBLING!”

My eyes widen at the implication of this revelation as Jenny continues speaking. “Think about it! Even IF you could have talked your mom into adopting me, even if she could have learned to love me like a second daughter, which is better than my real parents ever did, do you really think that your mom would have let us continue our relationship under her roof!? I don’t think so!”

I shake my head as I am forced to confront a truth I had never suspected, that Jenny had a good, not entirely selfish reason for not wanting to come live with me and my mom in LA. “But…we could have kept our relationship a secret from her.”

Jenny shakes her head. “No, we couldn’t. Not for long. Not if your mom’s house was as small as you told me it was. And then we all would have ended up fighting about your mom’s two “daughters” having a sexual relationship, and you would have been forced to run away with me again, or to stay with your mom, without me. So you see it was always inevitable that you would have to choose between living with me, and living with your mom. I guess I figured there was no point in delaying that choice. And you choose your mom, and a comfortable little life in the suburbs, over me.”

I put my head in my hands. “I didn’t know…all of that.”

Jenny sighs. “If you had…would it have changed your decision, or just made the same decision harder?”

I can’t meet my ex’s eyes as I softly whisper, so quietly that Jenny has to bend her ear towards my side of the table to hear me. “The second one.”

Jenny smiles sadly. “I figured that. That’s why I didn’t tell you why I wouldn’t go to LA with you and your mom.”

I shake my head as I say. “You don’t understand. I would have still picked my mom because I knew something you didn’t. Something I found out about my mother when I was spying on her in her one-room shack she was renting in Calgary. My mother was sick. Really sick. She had cancer. And she was risking her already precarious health by living in such squalor while she was trying to look for me. That’s why I chose to go back to L.A. with her, instead of staying with you. That choice tore me apart! But as much as I regret leaving you, I know I would have regretted abandoning my sick mother more. Because you may have needed me back then, but she needed me even more.”

Jenny leans back in her chair and closes her eyes while running her right hand across her head. “Fuck! I didn’t know that! Damn! I guess we both badly misjudged each other, all those years ago!”

We both can’t help but let out a strained laugh at that realization, even though it’s not remotely funny that we’ve both suffered two decades of heartache and emotional scarring due to a massive misunderstanding. Finally, once our nonsensical laughter stops, Jenny takes my hand again. “What happened? After you and your mom went to LA?”

Since Jenny has already told me a lot of her post-breakup life story with me, I figure it’s only fair I return the favor. I sigh deeply, and then reply. “Well, my mom and I didn’t get to have a cushy little life in the suburbs. My dad was in prison, so he couldn’t pay much in the way of child or spousal support, and when he died in the pen, what little money he was contributing dried up, because almost all of his assets had already been seized by the feds. So my mom and I had to move to an apartment in downtown LA, since she could no longer afford the mortgage on her house and pay her medical bills at the same time. And even then, I still had to get an after school job as a waitress to keep a roof over our head, because my mom was now too sick to work, and her health insurance benefits from her last job went away when she quit to look for me. My mom wasn’t even supposed to live another six month, by the time she and I got back to LA, but she fought on for two years. Long enough to watch me graduate high school from her wheelchair. Long enough to see me enroll myself in police academy, so she would know I was going to keep my promise to her, that I wouldn’t grow up to be a criminal, and die in prison like my father did.”

Jenny shakes her head, then briefly squeezes my hand , and says, with true sorrow in her eyes. “I’m truly sorry for your losses.”

I reward Jenny with a small smile. “Thank you.”

Jenny sighs heavily. “Your recent history explains a lot. About your motives. About why you’ve chosen to side with the Wu Assassin and so-called cosmic balance. Now you know my story, and I know yours. Our paths crossed for a while, and then diverged, and now our paths have crossed again. But our lives, our choices, have put us on opposite sides of the biggest chessboard, in the most important conflict of all time. What are we going to do about that, Christine?”

I shake my head and frown. “I don’t know, Jenny. I still care about you, and you still care about me, and I don’t want to hurt you. And I believe... I know that you don’t want to hurt me, either. But you’ve made it clear that you won’t stop helping the other Wu warlords take over the world, and I’ve made it clear that I can’t help cold-blooded killers like you and your friends do that.”

JJ crosses her arms in front of her torso and frowns. “I’m not a cold-blooded killer, Christine! I kill when I have to in order to achieve my goals, to save the world. But I don’t enjoy killing. And when I do kill, I only kill truly bad people, and even then, only when there’s not another way.”

I want to retort there is always another way, but I know from my experience as a cop that sometimes, the only way to save an innocent person from being killed is to kill a guilty person. So I’m almost inclined to give Miss Jones the benefit of a doubt, and take her words about her kills at face value, except…” McCullough told me that you recently killed a man who had acquired an item he needed at an auction. What was he guilty off? Besides having something your employer wanted, I mean?

To my surprise, Jenny takes my accusations in stride. “What was the Duke guilty of? Where to begin? Tax evasion, using various white collar schemes to steal money from the taxpayer’s of Croatia, political bribery, funding, and profiting from, various drug trafficking, illegal arms dealing, and human trafficking rings, and paying to have political rivals, the ones who wouldn’t accept bribes to look the other way, assassinated. And that’s just the shit that’s illegal! When he was still alive, the Duke was also a philanderer who cheated on his wife constantly, and he lavished money on his six known mistresses, instead of using his ill-gotten wealth to make his wife and six children’s lives better. Oh, and he cheats at cards. This is all public knowledge in Croatia, by the way. Well, maybe not the card part. But everyone in that part of the world was too scared of the scumbag, or too powerless, to do anything about it all. I was neither of those things.”

I nod my head and bite my lip. “Okay. So this Duke was a bastard. And he probably deserved whatever you did to him. But that didn’t give you the right to become his judge, jury and executioner!”

JJ shrugs. “If not me, then who? The government in that country was too corrupt to stop him, and like I said, the common people were too afraid. And yet, for all that old man’s sins, I didn’t want to kill him. I just needed the relic in his possession to save the world! I even gave him an out, after he tried to cheat me out of the relic I had rightfully won! I offered that corrupt old man a lot of money for that item, but his pride wouldn’t let him admit that he had tried to cheat me, and he wouldn’t give the relic up. So I had to kill him, as quickly and painlessly as I knew how, in order to get the relic me and the other Wu need to save the world. It was for the greater good. Just like when I killed that one guy, the night before you left me alone in Calgary,”

I glare at Jenny. I hate the moment she is referring to. And I hate myself a little for being grateful that my ex did what she did that night. “That guy’ was a security guard, who was just doing his job, trying to prevent us from stealing jewelry from his store! How could killing him, with that gun you never told me you had, be for the greater good?!”

Jenny scowls. “As far as I’m concerned, that so-called “security guard’s” life became worth less than the plastic rent-a-cop badge on his chest the moment he tried to shoot you! He had already tackled you to the ground by that point, and recovered the jewelry, remember? All he should have done then was try to detain you, and then call the cops! But no, that bastard decided he needed to be a motherfucking vigilante and, how did he put it, ‘teach hoodlums like you a lesson’ by killing an unarmed teenage girl, execution style, when you were already on the ground, and clearly not a threat to that 300 pound asshole! So yeah, I killed someone to save your life. And if I had to, I’d do it again! Because I love you CG, and I know you are a good person! I know it’s better for the world…” Jenny lowers her voice and squeezes my hand with an earnest look in her eyes that makes my heart melt. “Better for me, that you live. I couldn’t let you die back then, and I don’t want you to die trying to stop something that needs to happen now! So please, Christine, help me do what I need to do tomorrow to make this world a better place for everyone. Because if you try to stop us Wu…I’m afraid you might die tomorrow!”

I scowl at Miss Jones. “Is that a threat!?”

Jenny sighs deeply, retracts her hand, and then starts holding her head in her hands while closing her eyes. “No. As much as I really believe that we Wu need to take the reins of this world, to get humanity back on track…I could never bring myself to hurt you, for any reason. But I’m warning you, if you try to stop us tomorrow, some of the other Wu might kill you, and I’m not sure I would be able to stop them. I’m just one of the four current Wu after all, and McCullough is, at least for the moment, stronger than I am. If you get yourself in trouble tomorrow, I may not be able to save you! And if you’re killed by a Wu, I won’t be able to resurrect you after we Wu ascend to godhood.”

The expression on my face softens as I give Jenny a sad smile. “I’m sorry. I should have known that you would never hurt me.” I sigh and shake my head. “Just like I know I could never bring myself to harm you, even now, when the whole world is at stake! And I am grateful that you saved me that day in the jewelry store, even If I do still carry a lot of guilt for that security guard’s death, and have nightmares about it, sometimes..”

Jenny frowns. “I’m sorry…”

I shake my head. “Don’t be. You’re right. If you hadn’t done what you did, that muscular oaf would have killed me. There was no other way for me to get out of that situation alive, I see that now. It doesn’t mean I have to like it. Look, I know that you’re a good person, Jenny. That you have a good heart. But I still believe that you have fallen in with some bad people, and that what you and the other Wu are trying to do is wrong. Because Kai Jin, a man I trust, the man who saved my life when Uncle Six tried to kill me, told me that the Wu setting foot inside the Path to conquer the world will upset the balance of the entire universe! So as much as I still love you, even after all these years, and I know that, as little sense as it makes, even with the whole damn world in the balance, I could never bring myself to hurt you,…I can’t side with you and your allies tomorrow against my friends.”

JJ shakes her head and sighs. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Jenny and I are at an impasse now, and we both know it. Both of us think we’re right, and that the other is wrong. And although we both clearly love each other, neither of us is willing to turn their back on their allies in order to help the other’s side of tomorrow’s conflict win. In short, our situation seems tragically hopeless. Because whichever side wins tomorrow, Wu warlords, or the Wu Assassin, Jenny and I will both lose. Whoever wins tomorrow, one of us will die, and the other one will mourn the other for the rest of her life.

Eventually, though, after Miss Jones and I have sat staring at each other for several awkward minutes, I get an idea that give me hope. There’s just one problem. “Damn it! I don’t have a phone! If I had that, there’s a way we could both get out of this mess alive, no matter which side wins tomorrow!”

Jenny allows herself a half-smile. “Really? How?!”

I shake my head. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t have my phone, so…”

Jenny smiles at me as she hands me my phone from her handbag. “I swiped this from McCullough’s office, when I was talking to him about Tommy. Once a thief, always a thief, right? Anyway, I was hoping that I could convince you to tell Kai to give up the Earth Wu Xing. But I’m guessing you have a different plan?”

I nod and smile. “Different plan, involving the same man. But you’re going to have to trust me for this to work. Do you trust me?”

Jenny smiles at me. “Always!”