Authors: Jeff Stone
Book 1: Tiger
Book 2: Monkey
Book 3: Snake
Book 4: Crane
Book 5: Eagle
Book 6: Mouse
Book 7: Dragon
OUT OF THE ASHES
Book 1: Phoenix
Book 2: Lion
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2013 by Jeffrey S. Stone
Jacket art copyright © 2013 by Richard Cowdrey
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Random House and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
The Five Ancestors is a registered trademark of Jeffrey S. Stone.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lion / Jeff Stone. — 1st ed.
p. cm. — (Five ancestors: out of the ashes; bk. 2)
Summary: Betrayed by his uncle, Dr. V., Ryan must rely on his friends to help him recover and rebuild his life but Dr. V’s confederates think the four friends still know too much and follow them to California to silence them.
[1. Bicycles and bicycling—Fiction. 2. Bicycle racing—Fiction. 3. Adventure and adventurers—Fiction. 4. Supernatural—Fiction. 5. Chinese Americans—Fiction. 6. California—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.S87783Lio 2013 [Fic]—dc23 2013004945
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.
For Keith Boggs
“You can do
it, Ryan!” Phoenix Collins shouted from above me.
I gritted my teeth. Of course I could do it. If Phoenix could do it, so could I.
I shifted my mountain bike into an easier gear and inched up the muddy slope. Two feet forward, one foot back. Two more feet forward, one and a half feet back. It was quickly becoming an impossible climb. The already heavy rain was getting worse, sending rivers of brown water down the troughs that the other three bikes had gouged into the hillside ahead of me. Strange-smelling sweat poured from beneath my helmet, mixing with the warm July rain.
“Dig deep, bro!” Jake called down.
“Push yourself!” Hú Dié shouted.
My thighs burned and my calves ached, but I continued to hammer, my legs pumping like pistons. My riding shoes were connected to my pedals, and my quads bulged on the upstroke, my large hamstrings working the downstroke.
I roared like the lion on my Vanderhausen family’s Belgian coat of arms.
“Whoo-hoo!” Hú Dié called out. “That is the spirit!”
I looked up to see that I was nearing the top of the hill, where Phoenix, Jake, and Hú Dié were waiting for me on this training ride.
“Almost there!” Phoenix called out. “You’re doing great!”
I frowned. I knew Phoenix was only trying to help, trying to motivate me to sweat a dangerous substance called dragon bone from my system. But some of his comments were beginning to get on my nerves. The last thing a guy in last place wants to hear is how great he’s doing.
“Come on, Ryan!” Phoenix shouted. “If you manage to catch me, I’ll—”
“Arrr!” I growled, and I drove my legs even harder.
My bike began to fishtail, the rear tire swinging wildly from side to side. I rose out of the saddle and shifted my weight back over the rear tire. Mud and trail debris sprayed up around me while massive raindrops pelted my helmet. I couldn’t see a thing.
I felt an unexpected jolt as my front tire bumped over a gnarled tree root, and my slipping rear tire found an instant of traction. There was a sudden increase in torque against my drive sprocket and—
My bike chain broke in half.
My legs began to free-spin wildly. I started to slide backward, and I cut my wheel to one side. The bike spun around as I’d hoped, but it went too far. I’d only wanted it to turn
ninety degrees so that I could ditch the bike on a downhill angle. Instead, it did a complete one-eighty.
I found myself barreling straight down the muddy slope, my legs still whirling. I tapped the brake levers, but it was no use. There was too much mud and gunk lodged in the calipers.
I slowed my spinning legs and saw rows of gnarled scrub pine waiting for me at the bottom of the hill, their dagger-like arms outstretched. I disconnected one foot and cut the wheel again, jamming my mountain bike shoe into the hillside. The bike began to slow, but then my foot skittered across a slick rocky shelf and I lost control.
I dropped onto my side, quickly disconnecting my other foot and kicking the bike away from me as my leg, hip, and rib cage scraped over the exposed rock like raw meat across a cheese grater. I opened my mouth to cry out in pain, but my torso collided with the base of a large oak tree and all the air was forced out of my lungs.
My momentum continued to push me around the tree, and I rolled a few more feet before finally coming to a stop. I closed my eyes, struggling to catch my breath. The muscles of my abdomen began to cramp, but they relaxed a moment later, to my great relief. When I opened my eyes again, I saw that I was at the bottom of the hill, just a few feet in front of the wicked scrub pines. My bike was about ten feet away, half buried in mud and pine needles.
From the top of the hill, Phoenix called out, “We’ll be right down, Ryan! Sit tight!”
I didn’t feel like sitting around for anybody. I stood on
wobbly legs and checked myself over. My rib cage and one of my legs were sore and scraped up, and my riding jersey was mud-streaked and torn. Otherwise, I seemed to be okay.
I couldn’t say the same about my bike. I walked over to it and saw that it was trashed. It was a prototype frame made of sturdy lightweight magnesium. Apparently, it wasn’t sturdy enough. The frame was cracked in at least three spots. Also, the rear stays were bent and the handlebars were twisted. My rich uncle, the recently deceased Dr. V, had paid twelve grand for this thing, and it was unrideable after one wreck. What a piece of junk. A horrible bike from a horrible man.
Phoenix, Jake, and Hú Dié slid down to me. They’d left their bikes and helmets at the top of the hill. Phoenix’s freaky green Chinese eyes shone brightly in the gloom, his weird reddish hair glistening in the rain.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” I replied.
“Bro, you don’t look fine,” Jake said.
I shook my head. Jake had a habit of blurting out whatever popped into his head. Sometimes it was amusing. Other times, not so much.
I glared at him.
Jake took a step back, flipping a clump of wet, shaggy blond hair out of his face. He raised his hands. “Easy, man. I’m just joking. Don’t Hulk out on me or anything.”
,” I said.
“No? You roared and snapped your chain like it was a rubber band.”
“I guess I don’t know my own strength.” I shrugged and turned away.
“Ryan!” Hú Dié said suddenly. “Your side! You are bleeding badly.”
I twisted and looked at my left side—the side that had absorbed the impact as I slid over the rocks. My torn jersey was still coated with mud, but the mud was now mixed with a deep red.
Phoenix stepped close to me and peered through the rip in my riding jersey. He grimaced. “Doesn’t it hurt?”
I shrugged. “It hurt when it happened, but not anymore.”
“Maybe you are in shock,” Hú Dié said. “We should go.”
“Hang on,” I said. “I want to see. I thought it was just some minor scrapes.” I took off my shirt and let the rain wash over my wounds. It stung a little, causing my chest and back muscles to ripple.
Hú Dié looked away, apparently embarrassed.
I grinned. I’d tried to get her to look at my fine physique once before, but she’d laughed at me. She was one of the prettiest girls I’d ever seen.
Jake smacked my arm. “That’s enough, Beefcake. You’d better cover up. Those cuts won’t coagulate with water pouring all over them. Let the rain rinse some of the mud off your shirt, then wring it out and tie it around yourself.”
“Look,” Phoenix said, staring at my side.
I followed Phoenix’s gaze to a cut that seemed much deeper than the rest. It was like watching time-lapse photography. It appeared to be healing from the inside amazingly fast.
“Whoa!” Jake said. “What was in your cornflakes this morning?”
I didn’t reply. The rapid healing must have had
something to do with the dragon bone in my system—this ancient Chinese herb my uncle had given me as a performance enhancer. Phoenix and Hú Dié knew all about it, but Jake didn’t. We wanted to keep it that way.
Hú Dié glanced at my healing wound but said nothing.