Xu covered his ears as the giant mouth that split across the floor in front of him continued to open wider and wider. Kui pointed at it while Xu grabbed onto his arm.
The mouth began sucking the air out of the room, drawing in a deep breath. Shun felt himself pulled toward it, when Kui grabbed him. The three pulled each other along and walked toward the hall at the far end of the room. A group of monks with their eyes sewn shut blocked their exit. Each one held a sword and were fighting to keep their balance as the air surrounding them was drawn into the giant mouth.
The lead monk stepped forward and put up his hand. “You are to be consumed by the great god Venara.”
Xu shook his head. “Your god is getting ready to scream so loud our heads are gonna explode.”
The monks could not see each other through their stitched eyes, but they turned their heads to listen. Xu couldn't wait. He grabbed the sword handle, and kicked a monk back. Xu drew the sword up high, ready to block an attack. The other monks moved to attack, but the giant mouth growled so loud that they all dropped to the ground and covered their ears. Shun's super-sensitive hearing took it the worst. Kui grabbed his arm, and kept him moving along. They followed Xu out into the hall.
“Why is there a god in the floor?” Kui asked as they ran down the hall.
“It's not a god, you idiot.” Xu ran into the darkness, having no idea what they would find.
“Then what is it?”
Xu stopped and looked back. “I think it's a monster.”
Shun, who was still fighting to get his breath back, said, “It's a good thing we have experts like you on this mission. It's a big, angry monster.”
Xu laughed. He had never heard Shun be sarcastic before.
Shun shook his head. “There is nothing funny about this.”
Xu was seconds from disagreeing, when they heard a scream--Tian's scream. Xu took off in its direction.
Tian screamed out in pain as Horatius hit her with a third ball of the blue flame. Tian rolled onto the floor in an attempt to put it out. The wraiths behind her laughed and flapped their wings in joy at her pain. The ground shook under them as an even louder scream emerged. Tian felt the glass shake against her face as she laid in the center of the star on the throne room floor. She could hear Horatius stepping slowly toward her. Tian could not gather the strength to stand. She just looked at the glass floor, and wished for a second wind.
“You are a brave woman. I could use a warrior like you. You see, we have armies to crush, and when that is done, the real struggle begins.”
Horatius leaned over her. Through the glass, she could see the floor clearly. She saw the giant mouth licking its lips. Tian thought she imagined it, then the giant mouth opened and let out a horrendous growl. She felt cracks breaking out in the glass against her face.
“After the dynasties fall, we will have to travel the world, finding the last warriors and rebels. Crushing them one at a time.”
Horatius flipped her over. He smiled down at her. She could tell from the look on his face that he believed his offer was irresistable. Tian felt the glass continue cracking under her.
“My dear, have you ever heard the word vampire?”
“No.” Tian knew the word, but played dumb.
Horatius opened his mouth. “Do you want to live forever?” Four canines were visible.
“It's tempting,” Tian smiled back. She wanted him to let his guard down. She ran a finger through his hair. “Would we be together?”
Horatius took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He meant to savor the feeling of her hand on his skin.
Tian reached behind his head and pulled him down. He puckered his lips for a kiss, but Tian rolled and shoved his face into the glass, instead. The glass around the star shattered, spider-webbing out across the room in an instant. Horatius screamed, but he was still recovering from the shock when he fell through toward the giant mouth.
Tian kicked at Horatius's back, and raced across the room. The wraiths behind her fell for an instant, then continued beating their wings. Horatius crashed down onto the mouth floor with a shower of broken glass. Tian landed safely on the throne stage, and turned to see Horatius swallowed.
Xu led Kui and Shun into the throne room. They almost fell into the gaping hole, but Xu stopped at the last second. The wraiths hissed as they floated over the room. Xu swung his sword, and the closest wraith backed off.
“Tian, we came back to save you!”
Tian rolled her eyes. “Perfect timing. As you can see, I killed Horatius without your help.”
“He is not dead!” The four hovering wraiths spoke in unison.
Tian pointed at the giant mouth that was still spitting out piece after piece of broken glass.
“He can only we killed one way,” one of the wraiths said as it flew by Tian. “A wooden stake to the heart,” added a wraith who flew over Xu. He swatted at it with his sword.
A wraith landed on the throne stage in front of Tian.
“Not just any stake, but one taken from the underforest.”
Tian kicked the wraith off the edge, and it flapped its wings until it hung in the air over her.
“He'll return, and he'll kill you.”
The ground shook, the mouth opened.
“The game is over,” the giant mouth said.
The wraiths whimpered and flew away quickly. Tian and Xu both stared down at the mouth from opposite sides. Shun shook his head and pulled at Xu's arm.
“No longer will I hide.”
The building shook. The earth shook.
Xu reached up and grabbed one of the wraiths by its ankle, and swung it onto the ground. He then pointed his sword inches from the creature's neck.
“What is that thing down there? And don't tell me it's a god.”
The wraith laughed as its voicebox was stung at the end of Xu's blade.
“It's a Geungsi too, but Venara doesn't drink blood.”
Xu looked at Shun and silently expressed disbelief.
“Venara has been here thousands of years and no one has ever left.”
“That is why I have no scrolls about it.” Shun smiled that he'd at least solved one mystery.
The ground shook again, as Venara opened its mouth, and another growl set off an earth-rattling quake. Xu looked wide-eyed across the open gap in the floor.
“Go that way! We'll meet you out front! We're getting out of here.”
“Try monk, you'll die here. Venara will forever feed off our pleasure.”
Xu ran the best he could, considering how hard the building shook. The guards ran for exits, and ignored them. They knew something was wrong. Kui and Shun followed, but they all fell and tumbled like they were in a basket going over a waterfall. Venara seemed to spin. Outside they could hear the screams of thousands out in the streets.
A chorus of wraiths screamed and broke through the madness of other sounds.
Xu ran to the balcony that was over the front gate to the palace. Venara was turned on its side. Thousands fell out into a black hole under the city. Xu held on to the wall, and looked around. Some were holding on to buildings, others still lost their grip, sliding off of the city like fleas off a shaking dog.
“Well, they're escaping, but I'm not sure that is the way to go. Shun, give me one of your eyes!”
Shun struggled to get close enough to hand the eyeball to Xu without losing his hold of Kui, who held on to a bannister. Shun put the eye in Xu's hand and Xu was surprised by how wet and squishy it was. Xu held it out around the corner.
“Be careful Xu, that is my best eye.”
“What do you see?” Xu asked
Shun could tell the city was turned on its side, he could see the bamboo forest that led up to the city far below them.
“We're high above the ground.”
There was silence and stillness. Xu scanned the scene outside with the eyeball. Suddenly the building shook again. A huge crash followed by another, in a rhythm. Shun could see that they were moving.
“We're moving. The whole city, I mean.”
That is when Shun saw the legs. The left one looked like the front street of the city emptied and turned on it's side. The giant right leg looked like the parallel street that was behind it. Shun reached up for Xu's arm.
“Give me my eye back before you drop it.”
Tian ran up the hallway.
“What the hell is happening?”
Xu rolled away from the open window, and handed Shun his eyeball.
“Yeah Shun, what is happening?”
“You were right. Venara is not city...it's a monster!”
They all shook as the city monster took another step, and the earth trembled in angry response.
“...and it's on the run.”
Click Here For Chapter 14