The Ninth Dragon

Chui – Province of the Qin Empire, summer of 219, BC.

Upon the conquer Qin, the largest and the last reminiscent of the Warring States, King Zhen Zhao proclaimed himself as Qin Shi Huangdi – the First Emperor of Everything Beneath the Skies.

The new Supreme ruler had finally unified the battling kingdoms under his power, and in order to enforce his Law as the prevailing Truth, the First Emperor would mercilessly crush anyone who dared to oppose his decisions, not even the elder advisors were spared, Huangdi coldheartedly sentenced 460 Scholars to be buried alive under the foundations of the Wall he was building to protect his domains from invading forces. Such extreme act against the carriers of their ancestral wisdom was considered not only an act of cruelty, but also disrespect to tradition and the Elder’s spirits.

Not even his firstborn, Crown Prince Fu Su could convince the tyrant father to spare the scholar’s lives. Although the Prince tried to reason that the country still needed the wisdom of those men, Huangdi only feared his truth would be challenged by their books and scrolls. In addition, for objecting the Emperor’s will, the firstborn was sent to guard the frontiers of the new Qin State, which was actually an exile, a dishonor for who, according to tradition, was supposed to rule when the First Emperor was dead.

Truth to be told, the 38 year old conqueror did not care for tradition, he believed to be the founder of a new era, the First of a 10,000 generation rulers.

Thus, the Emperor, his royal entourage and the merciless Qin armies parted in a journey around his reigns to assure that the local generals and the civilian governors were under his complete trust. Everything now needed to be according to his celestial will, so against all tradition, Huangdi visited every single city within his domains in order to attest if his governors and generals were truly loyal, for he was to be the solely carrier of truth.

However, that was not the only reason for his expedition.

Secretly, Huangdi searched for methods to prolong his own life, an obsession that started around the same time the bad omen rumors spread around the Empire. People told stories about a fallen star in which was written a curse cast upon the Emperor and his ten thousand generation dynasty.

Such superstition added to the many failed assassination attempts triggered Huangdi’s paranoia; he suddenly believed that his patrons, the 8 Immortals, legendary divine Kings who ruled at the Dawn of Times, no longer supported him.

The 8 immortals were believed to be the Three Kings of Dawn (King of Skies, King of Earth and King of Men) and the Five Divine Beings who created the Elements of Nature: Earth, Wood, Metal, Fire and Water. Together those eight entities have found a mystical way to achieve ultimate power and strength, so they ruled the universe and became so powerful they were told to have changed into 8 Ancient Dragons, the Celestial Supreme Rulers.

In each new town they arrived Shi’s soldiers searched the houses of all citizens in the search of “forbidden documents”, which would then be given to the living God, so he would search voraciously for any clue that lead towards the 8 Immortals.

Inside a secretive room of the local govern palace, surrounded by the many scrolls and books which had been confiscated, the weary man continuously took notes. Another man entered the room, and he was the only one allowed to share a chamber with his divine presence, he was indeed the only man the First of the Ten Thousand Divine Rulers actually trusted.

“Li Si, here…look at these! It’s here…the information is here!!!” The voice tone displayed his excitement, but the Chancellor was more than used to deal with the unexpected mood swings of the Emperor.

Li Si nodded, ignoring another hallucination of the sick man; he actually wanted to get back to the capital, for the Royal Advisor feared that all that time they’ve been traveling would weaken the delicate balance of powers in Xianyang.

Although the First Emperor was the solely figure of Power ever since the end of the age of Warring States, Li Si has truly been the responsible for the idiom unification, as well as the weight and measures, not to mention the currency. The Qin Empire stood proud and powerful thanks to the actions of the Chancellor and not the delusional dreams of grandeur of his Emperor.

“You are indeed gifted from Heavens, my liege, since we’ve already found what you searched shall we come back to the capital by the morning?”

The emperor grinned ignoring the advice of his second in command “You’ve doubted of my word, but I’ve proved you wrong once again, you mortal imbecile! These scrolls, they keep the records of the 3 Huang, rulers of the Dawn, and the 5 Di, sovereigns of the Legends – the 8 Immortals from whom I descend – these scrolls will tell me how to find them, they’ll see I'm an equal to them…and I’ll ascend as the God of the World I’ve unified!” The man said in a loud excited tone, but right then he regretted his actions.

“Be quiet, Li Si, my enemies have ears in all the walls, you might ruin all my plans!” The paranoid man hit the back of his chancellor’s head with the scrolls, but the second-in-command was more than used with such behavior.

“I am sorry, August One, I promise to keep my discretion.” Li Si bowed before he could continue on his speech “Divine Ruler of the World, where are the 8 Immortals to be found by you?”

The emperor smiled “Last night, I was visited by the ancient Sorcerer Anqi Sheng, who told me he is older 1000 years old! And you should have seen him, Li Si, he was taller than my tallest soldier and stronger than dozens of my brawniest warriors altogether! He had come to invite me to see him at his house, where he will teach me the ancient secrets of the Elixir!” The Emperor announced with a very high tone, his eyes were wide opened, his mouth was so dry, and his breathing was hard.

Li Si was more than used to Huangdi’s hallucinations, but he knew that his king was not to be aggravated. “And where are you going to find this enormous sorcerer, my liege?”

“At Mount Penglai, in Zihfu Islands, the Immortals now live there, Anqi Sheng told me to go visit him there, and he will give me the Elixir. With such power I will be huge and strong enough to become the Ultimate Emperor and they will soon share their power with me, the Eight Dragons will finally be one with me!”

“He-who-rules-beneath-the-skies, Mount Penglai is indeed a legendary place, no one has never found it, and since the Zihfu Islands are tremendously vast, the search for the 8 Immortals might take longer than you’ve first estimated…” Li Si insinuated, trying to dissuade the mind of his supreme leader of such ridiculous plans.

“You are right my friend, you are indeed right, my enemies might try to assassinate me once again…I need to be prepared…”

“What do you mean, Huangdi?” Li Si asked already fearing for the answer.

However, the Fist Emperor proved to be also very clever “I am not risking to lose my empire just because I didn’t see a rebel spot right under my nose, I will look in the very eyes of those who claim to be my servants to feel if those are loyal or fake allies, meanwhile, you will find me this…” The Supreme Leader of the Empire searched for some scrolls and tossed them to his Chancellor.

“What are these, milord?” Suddenly, Li Si realized the emperor could still be the clever strategist he met years ago; however, his goals now were unclear and tainted by so many times his life had at stake.

“The Elixir, Li Si, you will find the Elixir for me… these scrolls were taken from a sorcerer, they contain an old description of the legendary formula, the 8 Immortals themselves have taken that formula to become the superior beings they are today, and you will send for the alchemists, Li Si, I want all of them working right at my side, meanwhile the soldiers will keep looking for more information that lead to my ascension and burning everything that taints this divine truth, I want every sorcerer to be brought at my presence.”

“Noble Emperor of Everything I see, let me help you with your divine quest, for the search of the 8 immortals might be very hard, fortunately back at the capital we have archived the most important medical books from all the Empire, not to mention the best herbalists to study these scrolls.” The Chancellor grinned gently as the emperor stood at his side, enchanted by his words like an innocent boy, and then a sudden rage took Huangdi’s mind by assault.

“What are you talking about, miserable loon? We can’t come back now, there are enemies in the very Palace, it is not safe, besides I have a mission to accomplish, we’ll find more clues about the 8 immortals in Zihfu, I want you to summon anyone who had been born in that region. Meanwhile, gather as many as people as possible, dozens, no…make that hundreds, I want every man and woman, old or new to go search for Mount Penglai, anyone who dares to comes back without the precise location will be killed!”

“Milord? Why are you sending hundreds of simple civilians, we have the troopers for this purpose, we could send a few to go ahead and carry the mission…” Li Si once tried to avoid people to become even more scared at the horrible desires of their supreme leader.

“We can’t afford to lose anymore soldiers, you said yourself Zihfu Islands are enormous, the more people we send to look for Mt. Penglai and the heavenly location of the 8 immortals, the faster the results will be, besides, the Immortals might be angered if I send my army to go after them, but if I only send my subjects, they will understand I only mean to assembly with them as an equal.”

Li Si just sighed; it was useless to argue with the Emperor when he had that weird look in his face, because his mind had already left his body in the search of its dreams of grandeur.

“As you wish, milord, we will gather the volunteers and have them ready to part to Zihfu as soon as possible” The Emperor noticed the unenthusiastic expression in the face of his advisor, so he tried to convince his main ally of the coherence of his plans.

“Can’t you see what this means? It’s the secret for eternal life and infinite power, the Elixir my men will find contains the secret to achieve the ultimate strength, I’ll no longer run the risk to be assassinated, the sharpest sword won’t even scratch my skin, the strongest soldier won’t be a match for my strength.” Huangdi’s eyes widened as he envisioned the power he would achieve, and Li Si also knew that look pretty well.

“With your permission, Huangdi, I shall start the preparations for your Noble Quest.” The Chancellor exited the room, his sharp mind already worked with the new details which had just been revealed, the paranoid emperor now hallucinated about finding the legendary Elixir, and he wouldn’t rest until he had accomplished his will.

California, USA, fall of 2008, AD.

“Dude, you gotta be shitting me!” I knew my friend meant no offense; he just had that look on his face, the same one I’ve seen whenever a friend of mine discovered the peculiarity of my lineage.

“Yeah, Jack, I'm serious, why would I want to fool you?” I gently picked my family picture from the hands of my roommate and placed back at my nightstand.

Don’t get me wrong, I was happy with the start of my second year at college, my grades were very good, my spot at the swimming team was assured thanks to the greats results I’ve got last season; besides, this year I could move out from the University dorms to a small apartment in the nearby area, sure the building was old, there was no elevator and whole place needed a lot of work, but on the bright side, the rent was within our budget and I would be able to share it with the best friend I had made in campus, Jack Fillmore.

“Well, it’s just…you don’t LOOK Chinese man…” Jack tilted his head to the side – displaying that he couldn’t find any Asian features on my looks, maybe it was because they were indeed very mixed, or perhaps my “all American” roommate was just too shocked to notice them. In any case, the truth was out now and I felt anxious because deep down I feared Jack would see me differently, like some exotic creature.

“It’s because I am not one, I was born here just like you, it was my grandfather who was born in China, in fact he spent most of his life there, he only came to America at the age of 45, in the early 70’s.”

“Oh, I see…but…” Judging by the look of curiosity printed in Jack’s face, I felt he wouldn’t settle with just that piece of information, so I just inhaled and started the whole explanation again.

“Grandpa was a political refugee, not just a regular man, he was very educated, a doctor, versed in both western and eastern traditions, a professor in Chinese universities, he actually was running from Chinese Cultural Revolution, but soon he was quite adapted to the life in the US, got his license to practice in the country and married my grandmother, a cute American girl who worked as librarian at the University in which he lectured. Their wedding was indeed peculiar, after all my grandma’s family always bragged they had come to this country in the Mayflower, not to mention the fact she was quite a bit younger than my grandfather…”

“Wow…that’s so cool, man…but wait…it still doesn’t explain…” Jack was indeed a very smart man. I usually felt weird about having to justify my looks by telling people the story of my family tree, but Jack was really a good friend, and for a whole year he had never mentioned the subject, so I just grinned and continued.

“Grandpa and grandma had 4 girls, who were obviously Chinese-American, and they gave my mom and aunts an open-minded education, so when she told them she would marry a Cuban volleyball player they were just thrilled.” I waved my head, because I knew the questions weren’t over yet.

Jack just stood up and looked at me, like it was the first time we ever met “Man…you’re the antithesis of Cold War in the flesh!”

“Gee…thanks…I guess” we both laughed as he punched my shoulder.

“Oh come on dude, you have to admit we don’t meet a Chinese-Cuban-American dude! Besides, you’ve hit the lottery in the gene pool; you’ve got the best of all these different people running in your veins!”

“Well, dude, I'm sorry if I seemed to doubt you, it’s just…well you look at me and pretty much figures from where I came, but you…hehe you’ve keep this aura of mystery around you.” Jack said as he returned to arrange his own things, just to reassure his point, he showed me the picture of his own family. They were all like him, a beautiful family with the proud brown haired Dad, the beautiful blond blue eyed Mom and their three handsome boys, mixing the best features of them, there was even a puppy golden Labrador retriever. You couldn’t get anything which looked more catalogue than the Fillmore family picture.

“It’s not an aura of mystery it’s just to avoid embarrassment, I am just an American man like millions in this country, it doesn’t matter the color of my skin or the shape of my eyes…”

“You are right, they shouldn’t matter, but in your case…they don’t just count, they are the very reasons of your success, so you only should be proud of yourself.” Jack commented as he went outside to pick another load of his techno-paraphernalia.

I suddenly looked at my reflection at the bathroom mirror. Jack was right, I was a human cauldron of bubbling gene soup, and my looks really showed it, my skin was indeed a dark cinnamon shade, taking after my father and his African and Latin ascendance; although I didn’t inherit his beautiful green eyes, mine irises had a rich hazel tone, which actually looked pretty cool in the almond shape of my eyes, even after two generations of Western miscegenation, they still looked very Asian to most of people (who are not Asians themselves of course).

My nose and cheekbones followed the lines of my grandmother, although my lips were much thicker and fuller than hers, most of my ancestors seemed to be above average height, and I’ve also taken after the tall side of my family, at 19 years old I am 6’7” tall with pretty broad shoulders, narrow waist and great muscular built, which were great for swimming.

My hair was perhaps the most impacting feature on me, it is strong, luscious in a rich dark brown, with a natural shine and perfect locks, I’d love to let it grow longer, but unfortunately, I have to keep my hair very short, and during the most important swimming competitions, I just shave it, since it is much more comfortable competing with a naked skull than wearing those caps.

“You wanna hear something funny?” Jack commented as he continued on his moving process. “Your name finally made sense to me; I used to think your parents were just high when they baptized you…” We both busted into laughter, most of the time Jack is the only who laughs about his jokes, although this time I had to give in, after all, my name is Shan Li Villaverde for heaven’s sake!

“Yeah…I'm named after my grandfather; but you have no idea how many jokes I’ve had to put up with during my school life!”

We were still feeling the joyful buzz that a good laughter leaves in the body, when we heard someone knocking at our door, even though it was opened. Jack arched his eyebrows and pointed at something on my back so I glanced over, expecting to see one of the neighbors stopping by to greet us, but I was so wrong.

“Grandpa!” I’ve said in a high tone, like a boy who had been caught doing something naughty. “What are you doing here?” I asked in a defensive mode, totally shocked with the coincidence of the moment.

“Hello, Shan, I'm very happy to see you too…” Grandpa replied in his polite yet mysterious tone, I never knew when he was being serious or just making fun of me.

“Hello, sir…I'm Jack Fillmore, pleased to meet you!” Jack ceased the opportunity of my clumsy greeting and decided to introduce himself, which only made me even more nervous. It was a good thing my roommate had already seen the picture of my family, because my grandpa was not like the stereotyped figure of the Chinese men.

“The pleasure is all mine, Mr. Fillmore, I am Shan Li Liang.” For starters, grandpa was even taller than me, reaching just a nail short of 7 feet, and albeit his 83 year old age, he was an impressively built fellow, even his wrinkles seemed different from most of men of his age, they didn’t give him a tired, fragile look, quite the contrary, it was like they actually empowered his unearthed strong physique, dressed in impeccable white dress shirt and custom made suit that fit his body perfectly, his long white neatly braded. Although he could be scary sometimes, grandpa really had a contagious smile, it not only seemed sincere, and it was indeed soothing.

“It’s an honor to meet you in person; Professor Li…Shan was just telling me the incredible story of your family…” I suddenly wanted to punch the mouth on Jack, for a soon-to-be new Stephen Hawkins, he was sometimes pretty clueless.

“Oh…he was, wasn’t him?” Grandpa looked at me with his very smart eyes; he pretty much knew how much I hated to explain my origins, so he could tell that Jack was indeed a friend to be trusted. “I know my daughter and her husband only meant to homage me, but we have to recognize a name like his won’t pass unnoticed.”

Jack just grinned, rubbing the back of his neck, his 5’9” height was indeed within average, but right now he was by far the shortest person in that room, he was over a foot shorter than Grandpa Liang, only then I realized how uncomfortable it must be for Jack.

“erm…Grandpa, I’d invite you to sit, but as you can see, we are still arranging things, the chairs are all boxed, why don’t we go outside and get some coffee?”

“Oh…of course…I’d love to, do you want to join us, Jack?” Grandpa asked politely, but I hope this time Jack finally got a clue.

“Gee, sir, I’d love to, but I’ve got to finish this moving, but you are welcome to come back once we have chairs and all…” My friend excused and proceeded on his moving, so Grandpa and I went to the store downstairs to talk for a while.



Xianyang – Capital of the Qin Empire, 215, BC.

The Royal Palace was overtaken by fear and despair, every concubine, eunuch and servant tried to hide from the fury of the First Emperor – once again he had trusted an alleged alchemist to give him the secret of eternal life, the precious Elixir, and just like the previous time he had been fooled, for the potion he was given was indeed poison. The Qin Emperor was indeed blind with rage.

“You dare to disrespect the orders of your GOD? I will have you all killed you miserable worms!” Huangdi cursed the old man who had tried to poison him. Li Si and Zhao Gao, the main advisors of the First Emperor tried to calm him.

“Milord, the traitor will be punished, trust me, we will have him killed…” Li Si announced as the scared old man noticed the bulky figure of General Gao coming closer.

“No…I didn’t want to do this, they have forced me…they…” The alchemist’s words echoed as Zhao’s sword cut his throat, the eunuch General of the Qin army looked at his master and bowed “Long lives the August One” he said as he carried the body of the traitor away from his celestial presence.

“I am sorry, Huangdi, I promise it won’t happen again…” Li Si tried to calm the Emperor.

“It already repeated, you fool, my enemies’ attempts are growing bolder, now they send their assassins disguised as decent old men!” Huangdi screamed as he kicked the alchemist’s materials. “I need to be immortal soon, otherwise the 8 Immortals will never accept me!”

Li Si took a deep breath “Xu Fu still hasn’t returned from the Quest, he-who tamed-the Yellow-River, but we won’t stop searching for the Elixir, we have the best medicine men working at our side.”

“But Anqi Sheng is there, waiting for them, he appeared to me in my visions and asked why I had never showed to accept his offer! Why…my friend, why these people can’t find the powerful sorcerer? Do they really want to see me dead? I am their God; I am the one who came from the Yellow River? Why can’t they see I am the first of Ten Thousand generations?”

“Milord, it’s like I’ve told you before, most of people doesn’t understand your glory because the School of One Hundred Thoughts. These unholy scholars testify against your unified truth, although you’ve condemned those foul lairs to be buried in the foundations of your Great Wall, each time a man reads the despicable lies written in their books, they forget about your kindness and courage, their minds are filled with the lies that have been told for too long…it is time to end these crimes!” Li Si explained, using the Emperor’s anger to foster his own totalitarian ambitions.

“Yes…yes…the crimes against my celestial condition…what do you suggest, Li Si?”

“None of the past lies can ever be told again, when men no longer can find the lies told in the past, they will never be repeated, and your truth will finally prevail.”

“Yes…you are right my friend, burn the lies, like those who have questioned my authority, I shall burn them all!” Huangdi screamed at the top of his lungs.



California, Fall of 2008, a few minutes later

We always had a great relationship, I’ve lived all my life near my maternal grandparents, but only when grandma died a couple of years ago, I realized how much lonely he must have felt, so I started visiting him at least once a day after school, which was great because we talked about all kinds of stuff, not to mention that he took the opportunity to pass some of his vast knowledge about Chinese medicine, his herbal studies, and even some deep eastern philosophical concepts, which I’ve greatly enjoyed; eventually when it was time for me to go to college, grandpa did tell me he would visit me at campus, but the first year passed by and he never came, so I guessed I would only see him during holidays.

I ordered us something to drink, noticing that people stared at the two incredibly tall exotic looking men sitting at the tiny aluminum tables, but I wouldn’t bother with that right now “Gee, grandpa I wish you had called first, we are still in a whole mess, I can’t even find my clothes…”

“Can’t a grandfather miss his only grandson?” Although I had several female cousins, I was indeed his only male grandchild, which meant a lot to the Chinese culture, I knew it was seen as something chauvinist and despicable in the views of modern-day society, but that was the way my grandpa was educated, and I'm sure this kind of bondage is common in all cultures.

I chuckled “Well, you’ve certainly waited a whole year to come see me huh? I thought I’d see you at the last season finals, but you never showed up!” I said not realizing his absence really bugged me, until now. Grandpa just smiled and gently cupped my left shoulder.

“You have to understand that an old cat like me does not enjoy leaving his home”

“What are you talking about, gramps?” I waited for his answer as the attendant brought our beverages.

Grandpa savored his tea, and finally addressed back to me “I do not regret my age, I just wish I had more time to teach you all that is necessary…” that same mysterious tone, which once again could be just a practical joke, but still sounded creepy.

“Come on, Grandpa! Don’t give me the age talk; you’re much healthier than me, not to mention that you can totally kick the ass of anyone who dares to mess with you…” I replied knowing that despite his age, Shan Li Liang was indeed an extraordinary fit man.

He smiled “You’re not wrong there, but it still doesn’t mean I don’t have an obligation towards our clan, my child, for I am Shan Li Liang the name my Father chose matches his legacy to me, for only the males of our clan are allowed to know the Secret.”

All my life I knew that Shan Li meant “Blessed Strength” or something alike, since Liang could mean both “bright” and “open” my grandpa’s name would mean something like “Blessed with enormous strength’, but I really didn’t time to go deep into the meaning of names now.

“Grandpa, what secret are you talking about?” I definitely did not like the tone of that conversation.

“I can’t tell you right now, it’s something you have to find out for yourself, but don’t worry I have everything prepared when your time comes, just promise me one thing, when my time comes, you will travel to China and have my ashes thrown from the top of Mount Penglai.”

“Come on grandpa, you’re creeping me out here…I don’t want talk about this anymore, you’re still full of life!”

“It is the duty of the son to honor the last wish of his forefathers, and I want you to do it, my grandson, please promise this to settle my heart.” The look on my grandpa’s face was so intense that I knew I couldn’t avoid that conversation.

“Fine, I will do it for you grandpa, but I want you to know that before that we will go to China again, so you will show me all the things we’ve seen back when we went there in the first time, I was too young to fully understand all the mystery and the charm of your homeland…’ I really felt that I should change the mood of our current talk, frankly my grandpa and I had very different visions about death.

“Then, it’s settled, you will go back to China and follow the exact instructions I left for you in the right time, don’t worry you will finally have the answers for your questions.”

Grandpa finished his tea and reached for something inside his pocket, I was about to ask what the hell he meant with that creepy talk, all of a sudden I recognized the hexagonal box made out of green jade, craved with the name of my grandpa’s clan; although the box has always been displayed in the shelf of the living room of his house, grandpa always felt very protective about it.

Meanwhile, for the rest of the family it was just a souvenir from China, but for him, it was “the greatest honor ever bestowed upon someone”.

“I want you to have it, Shan Li, nothing would make me more proud.” He said in a sincere tone, suddenly my hands were shaking, things didn’t make sense any longer.

“Grandpa, I can’t have this…it’s so important for you…I can’t take care of it right now…what if it breaks or something…”

“I trust your responsibility, my child, I thank the Heavens for honoring me with such a dedicated, loyal and responsible grandson, I can see myself and my forefathers alive in your chi, and that’s what makes me realize my task is finally done, for you have proved that it is now your time to carry the honor.” Grandpa gave me the tiny jade box and held it on my hands firmly, with a strength that I could swear surpassed anything I’ve felt before.

“Thanks, grandpa. I feel much honored.” I realized the words coming out of my mouth, I felt they were sincere, still I couldn’t quite understand the reason for such commotion.

“Good, you just wait for the right time and everything will be explained…” He stood up, reached for two one-hundred-dollar bills, left one over the table and tucked the other inside my pocket “Make sure to keep the change for you…” I knew it would be useless trying to hold grandpa, he already said what he drove nearly 3 hours to say, now he wanted to get back to his home, so I just reached him and hugged him tightly, not bothering about the onlookers.

“You take care okay?” I tried to smile even under such weird circumstances.

“I’ll always take care, especially of you” He said and kissed my forehead, he was the only one in my family who needed to lean down in order to do so. I had to admit it made me feel good, like he was there to watch over me.



Xianyang – Capital of the Qin Empire, winter of 213, BC.

The tower of smoke produced by the enormous flaming pile of books reached the heights of the cloudless skies on that summer night. Outside the Governor’s palace, clerics, medicine men, herbalists, philosophers, and all kind of wise men protested in agony as their precious knowledge, passed onto them by their honorable ancestors, now served as combustible for the secret purposes of Shi Huangdi, who had recently self-proclaimed First Emperor of Everything underneath the heavens. However, that had to be a very quiet protest, because anyone who dared to publically question the authority of his law was sure to be imprisoned and tortured for such despicable crime.

The Emperor wandered through the tiny room, he never slept two nights in a row in the same room, he actually preferred the smallest and most likely places for a divine being to spend the night, but after so many assassination attempts, truth was that the Emperor seldom slept at night, his phobia grew stronger with the passing time.

Suddenly, a rhythmic knock at the door, Huangdi took his hand to his sword and proceeded “Who is it?” there was no answer, the knock was repeated twice again, and finally the emperor opened to door to let Li Si join him.

“What took you so long?” The Emperor asked as he looked carefully before closing the door. “An assassin could have spotted you…”

“I am sure no one had followed me, Emperor.” Li Si announced in a low voice, following the orders of his commander “Besides…I’ve got great news, milord, the alchemists have found ancient scrolls with the recipe to prolong life!”

Huangdi’s eyes sparkled. “And what is it? I will do anything to keep alive until they bring me the Elixir to become the 9th Immortal!”

“The alchemists have found the key to extend life, my liege, and it’s quite simple actually: mercury pills” Li Si exulted in a very low tone, knowing that his commander’s deviant mind already dwelled in a world where he was indeed immortal.

“Mercury…” Huangdi pondered “it is a poison, you fool!” The delusional man suddenly seemed to have recovered his mind for a brief moment.

“No, Supreme Commander, I’d never mean that, the royal herbalists have assured me the information we’ve acquired, according to them, mercury has proved to be the most powerful of the elements because it absorbs Gold, which is the eternal one, so if it has the ability to absorb eternity outside the body, once inside the body it will just absorb any diseases and weaknesses, you will be healthy and strong for all time, August one. All you have to do is to ingest especial mercury pills…”

“The metal that tames Gold…I tamed the holly waters of the Yellow River, so it just makes sense, Li Si. Now you just need to bring me back Xu Fu and the other men who were sent to Mount Penglai, to find Anqi Sheng and the Elixir…”

Li Si noticed the emperor was not so easy to manipulate as he had previously considered, nonetheless he still had an advantage over the paranoid ruler.

“Anqi Sheng? Why do you still care about the Elixir, August One? We have the key for making you permanently healthy. Don’t you think that it will be proper for you to reach for the 8 Immortals already touched by such benefits? They might just be so glad to grant you the Power you claim…” Shi Huangdi’s thirst for power needed to be provoked to make him more susceptible.

“The doctors and medicine men don’t have the answer for my quest, you ignorant peasant! You have to bring me back the ancient sorcerer that Xu Fu was sent to find! Anqi Sheng will give me the mixture to infuse my body with the Strength of a Ten Thousand Warriors, he’ll give it to me in a perfect hexagonal box made out of the purest jade, the mixture is made out of the scales of the Eight Dragons and they have a token of the Power than will be mine, to make my body strong enough to go to Mount Penglai and claim what is rightfully mine! It is the only way I will join my brothers!”

Suddenly, Li Si’s eyes displayed his fear “Why do you need that sorcerer, milord, the medical reports already gave us the answers…”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Li Si, the immortality and the endless Power are not to be found in the medical reports, it is a magical knowledge, and Anqi Sheng has it ready for me, he just need to be escorted back to me, with his magic I will become undefeatable, until then, I’ll take this medicine prepared by the sages to keep me healthy with mercury pills but I still need to find the magical means to unite with the Dragons!”

Li Si bowed “I’ll do as you tell me, Huangdi, we’ll do anything to find those who were sent to find your Elixir, but in the meantime, wouldn’t you want to have the pills?”

“Oh yes, yes, yes, YES! Bring me the pills, my friend, you will cleanse my body and make me strong to wait for my true destiny!” The First Emperor ordered his advisor. Li Si exited the room with the slightest grin in his lips, because he knew that his plan was now set in motion, nothing could stop him from making sure the reign didn’t fall apart.



California, Fall of 2008 AD (the following days).

When I returned home, Jack of course had a lot of questions, especially about the tiny box he saw me carrying, I eventually let him touch it, and just like I’ve expected, no matter what he did, the lid didn’t open.

I didn’t even know that was inside the thing for instance, and to be honest, I’ve tried to open it many times during my childhood, and no matter how hard I tried, the thing never opened. I considered putting the box in the coffee table but knowing myself, I figured out it would be safer if I just kept it with me the whole time, so I kept it inside my own knapsack.

I phoned home to tell my parents what had happened and my mother just laughed, she was much more used to Grandpa’s eccentric manners, in her opinion he was just feeling bad about not coming to see me at the last tournament, so he wanted to make up for his stubbornness, after a while mom called me back to tell me grandpa had just got back home, and just like she foretold, it relieved me

As days went by, we finally got installed in the new apartment, although we never actually finished moving, there were still lots of boxes and cases around the place, but we were just two busy college students already swamped in studying, reports, extracurricular activities and all kind of distraction to pay attention to such mundane things. It took me a while, but I was beginning to get over that weird visit from my grandpa, until that weird night.

I had stayed at the library to catch up in my Economics report, leaving the campus around midnight, I knew it was late, but I lived just around the area, and since I was not a tiny person, there was not any greater dangerous in taking a nocturnal walk back home.

It happened right when I crossed the park around the main campus, the night was very dark, clouds were covering the moon, the road was poorly illuminated, still I casually walked, when something or someone approached me; I could hear it only when the intruder was just close enough to attack me, still I used my enormous body reach and managed to dodge the attacker at the last possible minute, throwing his body at the bushes. I couldn’t believe someone was trying to rob a 2 meters tall hooded man, still there was a body in those bushes, but when I tried to approach it, the body actually vanished in blue smoke!

“What the fuck?” I looked at my sides and there were no signs of the attacker, not even his footprints. I gulped and reached for my wallet, my cell and everything was where it was supposed to be. I just ran back home as fast as I could; when I was finally got at the apartment Jack almost hit me with a baseball bat.

“Dude…it’s me…”I said easily grabbing the bat from his shaking hands.

“Shan…I'm sorry, but…I could just swear there was someone in here besides me…” Jack said looking at his sides.

“Well…duh! It was me” I said trying to catch my breath.

“No, Shan, I'm serious, there was someone, or…something here…I just know that.”

“Have you been drinking? The door was locked from the inside and the windows are closed, we are at the 6th floor, there is no way someone could have entered here, you are just imagining things.

Jack realized how weird that feeling was, and since he also felt so nervous I decided not telling him about my own weird encounter at the park, we just needed a good night of sleep – and right then, the phone rang. I’ve never liked late night phone calls, but until then I had no reason to feel that way.

I answered the phone, noticing the nervous voice at the other side. It was mom, she had a grave tone in her voice, and I already guessed what happened.

Grandpa was dead.

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