Authors: Jeff Stone
“How did you get over here?” I asked.
“I crawled,” Peter muttered. “I couldn’t stand the sight of DuSow on the dock. Where did you go?”
“Hok developed an antidote for the dragon bone,” I said, trying to catch my breath. “At least, it works with real dragon bone. No one has tried it with the manufactured version.”
“Who is Hok?”
“YeeYee.” I took off the backpack and removed a small
container of liquid. I unscrewed the cap and lifted Peter’s head as I’d seen Hok do with Lin Tan. “Drink only one mouthful.”
Peter wrinkled his nose. “What’s that smell?”
“Dehydrated flying lizard. Just drink it.”
Peter looked at me sideways, then swallowed a mouthful. I had to jerk the container away to prevent his convulsing body from knocking it out of my hands. I hung on to his head until the convulsing stopped and his upper body and arms curled into a tight ball.
Peter’s body relaxed, and I heard him sigh.
“Peter?” I asked.
“Ryan … I think it worked.” He smiled.
I smiled back.
A van suddenly rushed into the parking lot and skidded to a stop. My mother jumped out.
“Ryan! There you are! And Peter!”
She ran to my side as Phoenix, Hú Dié, and Jake jumped out of the van, followed by Lucas, Philippe, and SaYui.
My mother glanced at DuSow’s lifeless body, then back at me. “What on earth happened? I was looking everywhere for you!”
“I saved Peter,” I said, standing. “Sorry I didn’t give you a heads-up.”
“Peter!” Hú Dié shouted. She knelt down and gave him a huge hug, while Jake and Phoenix leaned down and bumped fists with him.
Lucas looked at me, then nodded at DuSow, who was barely visible on the dock. “You?” he asked.
I shook my head, raindrops flying off my nose. “No. DaXing.”
Lucas nodded again and turned to Philippe and SaYui. “Now we can die in peace.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Heart palpitations,” my mom answered. “All three of them. While I was frantically looking for you, I overheard them talking about it. They recalled your saying something once about them possibly dying from the dragon bone, and together we concluded that you might have come here to try to rescue Peter. They are terrified. They’ve apologized to Phoenix, Hú Dié, and Jake.”
“And now to you,” Lucas said. “I am sorry about that kick earlier. You deserve better. I apologize.”
“As do I,” Philippe said.
“And I,” SaYui said.
Lucas turned to my mother. “Thank you for the ride. We should go inside and call the authorities about this before it is too late for us.”
I tried to remember how much dragon bone antidote Hok had told me was left.
Four doses? Five? Peter has already taken one dose.…
I decided it didn’t matter. “Wait!” I said, holding out the container. “I have an antidote.”
Philippe asked. “Is this true?”
“It is,” Peter said. “I experienced heart palpitations, too, and I just took the antidote. The dragon bone inside me is dead. I am certain.”
“May we?” Lucas asked.
“Of course,” I said. “There should be enough for all three of you.”
Lucas said. “Thank you!” He reached out for the container.
“You guys better lie down first,” I said.
All three of them lay down in the rain-soaked parking lot.
“Only drink one swallow,” I said, “Lucas, you’ll go first. Mom, hold his head? He’s going to shake.”
“Sure,” my mom said, and she knelt next to Lucas.
I handed him the container, and he took a drink. I snatched it back from him, though, as he began to tremble and go through the same sequence Peter had. When it was over, he passed out. However, his breathing was regular. He appeared to be fine.
I turned to Philippe and SaYui.
“Do you still want it?” I asked.
They both nodded.
“Phoenix, Hú Dié,” I said. “Could you please hold their heads like my mom did?”
Phoenix and Hú Dié knelt down, and I gave one dose each to Philippe and SaYui. As their bodies went through the traumatic routine and Phoenix and Hú Dié held them, I glanced into the container.
There was still one dose left.
I looked over at my mom and saw that she was staring at me. She knew what I was thinking.
“Go ahead, if you want,” she said. “I’ll hold you.”
I didn’t know what to do. I wanted dragon bone out of my life, but drinking poison was a huge risk.
I could wait and take it some other time …
, I thought.
Suddenly, as if taunting me, my
That did it.
I walked over to my mom and lay down next to her in the rain.
She kissed my cheek. “Are you sure?”
“Positive,” I said.
“I am proud of you, Ryan.”
I smiled. “I’m proud of me, too.”
She took my head in her hands, and I lifted the container to my lips, downing the last of the antidote.
I remember twitching and shaking and feeling as though my insides were being ripped apart. I also remember my mom holding me tightly, telling me everything was going to be all right.
But more than anything, I remember Jake’s voice saying, “Crap! I forgot to tell him that I won!”
is the author of the hugely successful Five Ancestors books. When that series concluded, he wanted to write something different from another tale set in seventeenth-century China. However, he was reluctant to completely let go of kung fu or the characters he had grown to love, so he created a new series to update them to his own time. Jeff lives in Indiana with his wife and two children, and while he’s active in several forms of bike racing, mountain biking is his favorite. Jeff has been to San Francisco’s Chinatown many times, but he has yet to meet any four-hundred-year-old apothecaries. (At least, that’s what he tells people.)