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Authors: Kylie Chan

Hell to Heaven

BOOK: Hell to Heaven
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The Turtle raises its head above the water and watches the glittering coloured lights beneath the blazing stars of the Northern Heavens, wondering why it is there.

The Serpent chokes on the polluted water, drifting to the bottom amid the mud and oil, listening to the many engines moving overhead.

They cry. There is no answer.


was in my office, trying to ensure a fair allocation of funds from the increased Northern Heavens tax revenue, when the intercom on my desk buzzed.

‘There is someone here for you, ma’am,’ Yi Hao said. ‘She’s very upset and says she needs to see you right now.’


‘Zara. She says she knows you.’

‘Send her in.’

Yi Hao opened the door and escorted a young Chinese woman in, then left, closing the door behind her. The woman was about twenty-five, with long, snow-white hair and matching brows and lashes, incongruous against her golden skin.

‘Sit, Zara,’ I said, gesturing towards one of the visitors’ chairs. ‘What’s the problem?’

Zara opened her mouth to talk, but didn’t make it very far, instead collapsing into great racking sobs. I went around the desk and put my hands on her shoulders to comfort her, and she leaned into me, still weeping. I pulled a tissue from the box on my desk and handed it to her, and she blew her nose loudly.

The rest of the stones are accusing her of being complicit in Lady Rhonda’s destruction
, the stone in my ring said.
After what happened to Gold, and the activities of Demon Prince Six, we even suspect our own of treachery. It is a sad situation. The Tiger’s Retainers have been interrogating her, that is why she is distraught.

I sat in the other visitors’ chair and put my arms around her, and she clutched me.

‘Let it out,’ I said. ‘I can wait.’

She continued to yank tissues out of the box, and eventually ran out of steam.

‘My stone told me what you’re going through,’ I said. ‘It must be very tough. You can stay here as long as you like, Zara, we can look after you.’

‘I am a possession of the Emperor of the West, I must return,’ Zara said in a soft Putonghua accent.

‘If you want to stay here, I can ask him to release you. All I have to do is say the word.’

She looked up at me, her eyes red and her face full of hope. ‘If you could shelter me until this blows over, please, I would appreciate it.’

‘Done,’ I said, then to the stone: ‘Tell the Tiger.’

‘Ma’am,’ the stone said.

Good, take her for a while, see if you can get anything out of the stupid bitch
, the Tiger said.
We need to find the real Rhonda! My wife is out there somewhere and that stone doesn’t know anything, she’s fucking useless.

You made sure yourself that she was the real Rhonda
, I reminded the Tiger via the stone.

the Tiger said.
Not possible!

Tell the Tiger what Kwan Yin said to me
, I said to the stone.

The Lady said that Rhonda was a victim of her heritage, same as Lady Emma is, Lord Bai
, the stone said.
That wasn’t a demon copy of your lovely lady. It was really her. Please, sir, talk to Kwan Yin.

, the Tiger said, and went quiet.

I turned back to Zara. ‘I have the word of Kwan Yin that it was the real Lady Rhonda that was destroyed by the Elixir of Immortality,’ I said. ‘I didn’t realise anyone was giving you trouble about this, Zara; if I had known I would have told them.’

Zara let out a huge, shivering sigh. ‘I thank you, my Lady. You have saved my honour.’

‘Will you stay here with us?’

She glanced up at me. ‘May I switch off for a while in a corner somewhere?’

I nodded. ‘If that is what you wish.’

Zara addressed the stone in my ring. ‘Jade Building Block, will you tell the others what Kwan Yin said?’

‘I already have; it should be filtering back to you through the network already,’ the stone said.

She dropped her head. ‘I have been disconnected from the network for the last three days.’

The stone was silent for a moment, then: ‘Reconnect, dear one, hear what they have to say.’

Zara concentrated for a moment and her face cleared, then she collapsed weeping again.

The stone in my ring took human form and stood behind her, his hand on her shoulder. ‘Come to the armoury with me, Zara. The section for the Celestial Weapons is completely soundproofed and just what you need.’

She nodded and rose, then bowed her head to me. ‘Thank you, Lady Emma, my honour is yours.’ She
went out with the stone, who nodded to me as he closed the door behind them.

I turned back to my computer just as a body landed on the floor with an almighty thump. I jumped up and peered over the desk, then relaxed; it was Leo, prone on the floor. He floated into the air, came upright, then sat in the chair across from me and collapsed over my desk.

‘Keep trying, you’ll have it soon,’ I said.

‘That’s what Meredith keeps saying,’ he said, his voice muffled by the desk. He pulled himself upright. T thought I’d have it first time! I’ve spent enough goddamn time in here gossiping with you—I should have the image straight in my head.’

I waved one hand at him and turned back to the computer. ‘Just make less of a noise when you hit the floor, okay? I’m trying to get some work done here.’

‘Humph,’ he said, and disappeared with a rush of air that rustled my papers.

‘And less of a tornado when you leave,’ I said.

I’m working on it
, he said.

Without the stone, I couldn’t respond. I pressed the intercom button for Yi Hao.

‘Yes, ma’am?’

‘Pass on my congratulations to Lord Leo, please, he just learned telepathy.’

‘Oh, ma’am, that is good news. I will do it right away.’

Really? You heard me?

I pressed the button again.


‘Please tell Leo: Yes. And tell him that I don’t have my stone on me right now, so I can’t talk back to him.’

Can’t talk back to me, eh? Let me have a think

about all the things I could say to you while I have you like this.

‘Bastard,’ I said under my breath as I returned to my work.

I heard that.

Later that day, Leo dropped me off for my lunch meeting at the Mandarin Hotel with the planet Venus, the Jade Emperor’s emissary. He pulled up across the road from the Landmark in Central, blatantly illegally using the Pedder Street informal lay-by outside the Pedder Building. I hopped out and walked up to the corner to cross the road, pulling my scruffy silk jacket closer around me; the late winter wind off the harbour was cold. Every shopfront in this area housed a famous designer label and the window displays struggled to outdo each other in artistic extravagance. Some of them didn’t even show the products on sale; instead they focused on the ‘lifestyle’ they represented. Leo had been hounding me to go shopping with him along this strip to replace what he called my ‘gruesome’ wardrobe, but I’d managed to avoid it.

I entered the Landmark and took the escalators up to the pedestrian overpass across Queen’s Road into Alexandra House, an unremarkable office building with a plain, tiled lobby full of people like me who were just passing through. I walked across another enclosed pedestrian bridge over Ice House Street to the Prince’s Building, which was all shiny white tiles, glittering glass and jewellery shops displaying gemstones the size of pigeon eggs. Stern-looking Sikh security guards armed with sawn-off shotguns stood at the doors.

I passed a couple of tailor’s shops and took another pedestrian overpass to the Mandarin Hotel. A huge
crystal chandelier adorned the staircase that swept from the ground-floor lobby up to the second floor. The Mandarin’s coffee shop had been on the ground floor, with large windows looking out onto the street and providing a fascinating view of life in Central—the immaculately dressed tai-tais on their way to their daily salon visit, the couriers riding their heavy Chinese-made bicycles with full-sized gas bottles in the front basket, usually wearing nothing but a pair of filthy shorts and a grimy towel around their necks. Recently, however, the coffee shop had been moved up to the mezzanine floor and renamed something that sounded more upmarket—and was therefore unpronounceable. The cheesecake was the same though, which was why I’d arranged to meet Venus there.

Theoretically I had precedence over him as First Heavenly General (Acting), but it was politically sensible to arrive there first and do him the honour of waiting for him. The waiter guided me to a table next to the window overlooking the street, and went through the tedious rigmarole of spreading my napkin, offering me the over-priced bottled water of the day, filling my huge balloon wine glass with chilled water from a silver-plated jug, and handing me a menu that was mostly blank paper in an expensive leather folder. Finally he established that I was there to meet someone and left me to wait for Venus.

Venus arrived five minutes later, accompanied by a pair of Retainers who had taken the form of burly Chinese bodyguards. He was in the form of a mid-thirties Chinese, slim and elegant, wearing a tailored grey silk suit, his long hair held in a traditional topknot and flowing to his waist. The waiter escorted him to my table, did the napkin and water thing, then hurried
back to the entrance to take the bodyguards to another table nearby. A couple of diners noticed the bodyguards and took surreptitious photos of us with their mobile phones, probably hoping to catch a minor celebrity meeting with his foreign mistress to sell to a gossip magazine. Unfortunately for them, all they would get would be movement-blurred images no matter how still they held the phone.

Venus toasted me with his glass of water: ‘Lady Emma.’ It was a polite alternative to the traditional salute in a modern setting. I nodded and toasted him back, then we checked the menus. The options hadn’t changed much since we were last there so I just folded it and waited for him.

‘Lord Leo wasn’t able to join us?’

‘I asked him to come along, but he said he had some errands to attend to at the bank,’ I said. ‘He’s still establishing his identity, and the bank is giving him trouble about the new accounts.’

‘He doesn’t need to worry about these Earthly issues any more,’ Venus said. ‘Why hasn’t he taken up residence on the Celestial where he belongs?’

‘He says he belongs here with us, his family,’ I said.

Venus nodded his understanding. ‘He is unusual in his swift return to what he was doing before he was Raised. Do you think it has something to do with his Western heritage? Most Chinese are well aware of what lies in store for them should they attain Immortality. Westerners, however, seem to have little idea.’

BOOK: Hell to Heaven
9.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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