Whiz: Jade Dragon
Jade is a young Chinese girl living at the Temple of the Dragon who, though forbidden to learn from the masters, has schooled herself by hiding herself in the temple during the lessons. But when she becomes the last survivor of a slaughter, Jade learns that she has a great destiny to fulfill through the use of an emerald sword and two rings. With the help of the eldest master’s spirit, she sets out to become the champion known as Jade Dragon, arch-enemy of the Darkness.
The young girl watched from the window as the men and boys worked on their martial arts disciplines. The Temple of the Dragon had stood since the ancient days when China was still a young nation. It was said that the temple had been founded where a meteor had fallen from the sky. (*) The young girl cared nothing about the ancient tales and only wished to learn as the others did.
[(*) Editor’s note: This meteor, the Earth-S counterpart of the Earth-Two Starheart that gave Green Lantern his ring and battery, appeared in “From Fear to Eternity,” All-Star Squadron #52 (December, 1985).]
She was an orphan found in front of the temple gates seventeen seasons ago. The eldest master had ruled that she must stay, even though it had long been forbidden for a mere female to learn at Temple of the Dragon. The name given to her was that of the jade rings found hidden within the blankets she was swaddled in. Jade did not care if it was forbidden for her to learn the techniques as her hunger grew ever sharper. She practiced in secret after watching the lessons from various vantage points about the temple.
Jade possessed several great gifts that included a truly prodigious memory, little need for sleep, natural athletic talent, a gift for keeping a blank face, and a high threshold for pain. All of these allowed her to observe, then train her body in the martial disciplines.
It was during one of her hidden training sessions that the soldiers came from the city demanding that the masters hand over a powerful mystical weapon. The masters refused, saying that they did not know of what the soldiers spoke. The soldiers grew angry and sent their mighty tanks into the temple, slaughtering every person inside.
Jade watched in frozen horror as the tanks rolled through the temple walls. The sounds of crushing bodies and bullets overwhelmed her. Scattered memories of another slaughter resounded through her head as she slumped to the ground, crying silently for fear the soldiers would come for her. Finally, after many hours of searching, the soldiers left the ruined temple behind.
She waited for another hour before running down to the temple. The bodies of people she had known all her life lay scattered around as she entered farther and farther into the temple’s inner sanctum. Numb with shock, she searched for survivors, finding none until she reached the center of the temple.
There in the very center of the room sat the eldest master, wearing the two jade rings on his fingers and holding an emerald-hued sword. A small pool of blood flowed from the where the master sat as he opened his closed eyes to stare at the approaching Jade. A soft smile crossed the old man’s face as he watched the young girl he had raised rush toward him with the tears flowing freely from her eyes.
“Jade of the Temple of the Dragon, this day was foretold long ago. My time is short here on this plane of existence, so ask no questions but listen to my words. The ancient legend is true about the meteor falling to earth, but it was decided to keep the prophecy hidden.
“One will be born of man who will forge a wondrous blade with enormous power, and he will found a great temple devoted to the dragons and the principles of peace through strength. One will be born to protect the world from a great evil but will die slaying it, and the blade will be hidden from the eyes of mortals.
“And one will be born who will come bearing two tokens forged with the sword who prophesied the end of the temple and a new rebirth from the ashes of the old.”
The old man spoke with great strength as the puddle of blood increased around him. He beckoned Jade to come closer as his strength began to fail him, and the sword dipped lower and lower to the ground.
“The others thought that if we kept you from learning our discipline, the prophecy would not be fulfilled, but only I knew that our destiny demanded that you learn the path of the dragon. So I arranged for you to watch from your hiding places and was glad of the skills you have learned.
“This blade and these rings are your ancient birthright, which evil beings have tried to deny you. You are a child of the founder of our order and my great-granddaughter. Your mother brought you here after her own family was slain by the agents of evil and then left to draw the evil away from you. She and your father loved you so much, my dear Jade, that they gave up their own lives to protect yours.
“Take the sword from my hand and don the rings that will allow you to access the full powers of the sword. Then leave this place after taking the gold coins hidden in your place of training.” The old man put the blade in the shocked Jade’s hands after slipping the two rings onto her left and right hands. He kissed her on the forehead and then slowly fell back, dead.
Jade wept as the blade and rings began to glow ever brighter. The glow swept out and spread across the temple, touching everything with its green light as Jade wept with her eyes closed. The destruction and corpses began to fade away as the full power of the blade was awakened, leaving behind flowers of every shade and description in its wake.
She opened her eyes to see the explosion of color from the blade and gasped with awe at the sight of the flowers where once death and mayhem lay. The blade seemed to softly whisper to her with the voice of her great-grandfather.
“It is time to leave this place, Jade Dragon, for you still have much to learn before you can face the evil behind our destruction.”
Jade heard this as the glow of the blade and the rings lessened. Leaving the temple, she dug out the hidden gold coins. The blade in her hand shimmered, becoming a small knife, and the two rings seemingly disappeared from sight as Jade walked toward her destiny.
A day later, Jade had walked far from the only home she had ever known. Occasionally she caught a whisper of voice sounding a great deal like the man she had known only as the eldest master, but she considered that just a symptom of her grief.
The sound of a gunshot rang through the air, drawing Jade’s attention. Her hand instinctively reached for the blade hidden within her sash. As soon as one of the rings touched the blade, the voice of the eldest master became much louder and clearer.
“You must touch the blade with one of the rings. You must touch the blade with one of the rings…” the eldest master’s voice droned on with considerable irritation.
Jade snatched her hand away from the blade with a feeling of shock and surprise. Only her curiosity compelled her to once more touch the blade.
“Stupid girl! I have spent all this time trying to reach her, and what does she do as soon as touches the blade but jerks her hand away!” The eldest master’s voice was now full of anger.
“I do not understand. I saw you die, but now I hear your voice.” Jade controlled her fear, telling herself it was only a voice.
“If you touch the blade with both hands, I can perhaps explain even better,” the eldest master said, his irritation and anger fading away.
Jade reached down with her other hand, touching the blade with both rings. Now she could almost see the man she only knew as the eldest master standing before her, but instead of looking old and frail, this was a younger man.
“That’s better… much better. Now you must picture in your mind time slowing down around you, so we have time to converse before the man with a rifle comes and tries to kill you,” the eldest master said in a clear voice.
“Why is he coming to kill me?” Jade felt her heartbeat accelerate as she struggled to control her fear.
“No time for questions until you do what I tell you, unless you wish to end your journey before it even starts,” the eldest master instructed her.
Jade focused her mind, and the memory of one of the lessons she observed at the temple came back. The rings and blade began to glow with a green light that enfolded her in its embrace. Time seemed to stop around her.
“Excellent, little dragon. Your spying has served you well this day. You have many questions for me, so I will start first at how I come to be haunting you. In the secret knowledge, it is often hinted that the true wielder will be advised, but it was not clear how this would be achieved. When my body drew its final breath, I saw a vision, and this vision offered me a choice. I could let the blade have my knowledge and pass onto the heavens, or my spirit would be infused with the blade to better advise you. I chose the latter.
“I can only advise you, though. It’s your strength and spirit that determine what will happen to you and how you deal with this world. To converse with me, you must be touching the blade with at least one of the rings, or else I am just a whisper in your mind.” The eldest master smiled at Jade with great pride.
“But what of this man who comes to kill me? How am I to deal with him, and why does he want me dead?” Jade asked as she felt the pressure building inside her head from holding this moment between breaths.
“Your body, spirit, and mind must be as one. You cannot move between breaths and affect the real world with the power giving to you as of yet, though. This man is an agent of the Darkness, who wishes to slay you. He has been promised great power if he succeeds. Just remember the lessons you have learned as my student to deal with him, but do not use the blade to strike at him.” The eldest master waved at Jade before disappearing.
Jade let go of the power, and time began to move again. All of her senses seemed to be more refined, as if polished to their brightest from using the rings and blade. Her sense of smell could detect the harsh abrasion of the cordite from the rifle. Her sense of hearing could hear the rustle of the garments of the man moving stealthily toward her. Her sense of sight could see the reflection of the man’s sunglasses glittering in the light of the sun. The cold shiver of fear mixed with excitement made her skin break out in goosebumps. Her heartbeat pumped faster as adrenaline flooded her body. All she had seen and learned over the years played through her mind’s eye rushing toward this moment. This was the moment when she would choose her destiny: life or death.
At this moment, the man raised his rifle and aimed it at the girl. His thoughts were of the reward he would get from killing this girl and bringing back whatever trinkets she was carrying. The peasant he had just killed was not even on his mind, as easily dismissed as another man would dismiss killing an annoying insect. He sighted his rifle and slowly squeezed the trigger. A loud bang was heard as the bullet whistled through the air, heading toward its target.
The man watched with amusement as the girl threw up her hands as if to somehow magically stop the bullet before she fell backward to the ground. A feeling of satisfaction filled the man as he stepped to where the girl’s body lay. He looked down, expecting blood, but saw nothing except the hands folded together and the girl’s eyes, which were still filled with life.
He tried to bring the rifle up again to fire, even as the girl’s eyes blazed with purpose. Her foot came up smacking the rifle out of position before she leaped to her feet. She opened her hands and let the bullet she’d caught between them fall to the ground. Another kick sent the rifle flying out the man’s hands.
“Devil! You are a devil!” the man cried as he pulled a sharp knife.
“I am Jade of the Temple of the Dragon. I am the last of my order, destroyed by servants of the Darkness. My destiny is to defend the good, rebuild my order, and defeat the Darkness in whatever form it might appear.”
Jade slipped into a defensive posture as her body, mind, and spirit were as one. Several gaps in the knife-wielder’s defense had already been noted as she let him swing at her futilely. It would be so easy for her to kill him, but in the end that would make her just like him, she thought as she dodged another swipe.
A half-step forward, and Jade’s left hand reached out and smacked a pressure point, temporarily numbing the man’s hand. Her right hand reached out and snatched the knife away. A simple leg sweep knocked the man to the ground as Jade stepped back.
“If I was like you, I would kill you now. Fortunately for you, I am not,” Jade said as she moved back out of range of any kicks. The knife was in her hand, held in what was obviously a throwing position to the man on the ground.
“Now you are going to tell me where you get your orders,” Jade said in a level voice.
The man looked up in fear at the brightly shining knife. He knew that asking for mercy would be futile, but still, any chance was better than death. His lips opened to speak, but a dark cloud appeared from nowhere to surround him, transporting him away. A single scream, cut off in mid-cry, echoed through the air.
Jade looked with no fear at the cloud of darkness as it faded away. She went over to the dead body slain by the man and offered her prayers to his spirit. Then she begin to walk in the same direction she had started out on. A ringed hand reached down and touched the blade, and the voice of the eldest master could be heard again.
“Well done, little dragon. Using one of our most advanced techniques to catch the bullet proved to me that my decision was wise. Your mercy to a killer was also very impressive,” the eldest master said with pride.
“Thank you, eldest master, for your praise. I wish I could know what happened to that man. I had thought that I could learn where my enemy was, and also that I could take him to the nearest village where he could face the judgment of the family of the man he killed,” Jade explained as she walked.
“The Darkness will punish him far more terribly than either you or I would, little dragon. And instead of eldest master, I wish for you to call me Grandfather,” the eldest master said to Jade.
A brief smile crossed Jade’s face as she whispered the word grandfather to herself. “Yes, Grandfather.”
Elsewhere, the killer of men screamed in the greatest of agony as his body was stripped away by the Darkness he had served with other peoples’ lives. Now his life was over as the Darkness reforged him into something else. An eternity passed by as the dark evil process neared completion. The Darkness spoke in a whisper to its new servant.
“Arise, my faithful servant. You have been remade from the yin of your dark spirit into something glorious. Your old name is gone, so I dub thee Kuei. I have several tasks for you, Kuei, and the first is to infiltrate the soon-to-be-reborn Monster Society of Evil,” the Darkness whispered to its servant
“What of the girl?” Kuei asked with a hint of emotion in his voice.
“The girl is of no real importance at the moment, my faithful servant,” the Darkness said in its whisper of a voice.
“Then I will go to seek out this Society for you, master.” Kuei bowed humbly in the direction of the Darkness before stepping forth from the place where he was tortured into a dimly lit street.
Kuei looked down briefly at the ground and saw that his body cast no shadow upon the earth. Then his eyes looked at the many dim red lights that seemed to be in the streets. A surge of will, and the dim red lights flickered into human beings.
A woman gasped as the man seemed to appear from nowhere and then disappear again. Kuei laughed as he followed the dim red light of the woman who saw him. Several times she seemed to stop and look nervously around before moving on. Kuei finally grew tired of playing with his prey and appeared next to the woman. His hands grabbed her throat and strangled the life from her body. Her fear was a fine feast for the reforged killer now known as Kuei, but her death came too soon.
Kuei dropped the woman’s corpse to the ground before disappearing again. After all, his master had entrusted him with a task — a task that Kuei thought would bring him even more chances to inflict fear, suffering, and death upon others.