“Do you have any food?”

Jin turned around and looked down. The child’s eyes were big, she had to be eight. There was simply something about her that was familiar. That familiarity was years gone – he couldn’t recall exactly what it was.

“As a man of the cloth, you believe I carry food on me?” he asked.

The girl shrugged. “Isn’t helping the needy a tenet or something?”

“Wrong religion, kid.”

She wasn’t technically wrong, but she wasn’t technically right. Fortunately, Jin wasn’t an average member of his establishment. He pulled out some coin. “Try to be careful with these. They’ll last you longer if you spend them wisely.”

Then she smiled. She might have said something, but Jin missed it. It was the smile that was so familiar.

She was soulless.

“Hey? Were you listening?”

He pushed away the confusion. “What?”

“What’s wisely? Food is food.”

Jin closed his hand around the coin. Sounds of protest nearly erupted from the girl’s lips, as her mouth opened and closed.

“We’re going to lunch.” That said, he turned and walked away. He didn’t have to look behind to know that the girl was following him.

What to do now

Children of the earth had no souls.

Jin considered this, now in the cloth of his order. The body he had buried in a place he visited every day.

This shouldn’t have affected him so much. He shouldn’t have cared. If he hadn’t in the first place, this wouldn’t have happened. This wouldn’t have happened to either of them.

Jin considered his belief and what it would accomplish. Nothing of importance, he decided.

He had done this for nothing.

Lost everything for nothing.

That in mind, Jin went to work.


Ling inhaled the best he could and coughed out the blood that the action brought into his lungs. “Jin?”

The push he felt against the side of his face wasn’t Jin’s hand, but the side of the dragon’s face. Ling brought his hand up, placing it on the nose.

Was this it? Jin said children of the earth didn’t have anything after death. “Jin… can’t worry ‘bout me. Tell ‘im that? Please?”

He could see the look in the dragon’s eyes, despite how dark everything was. The shine, as the marks which made the pupils swirled counterclockwise. Shèn.

Ling couldn’t blink. “Shèn? ’s your name?”

The swirling slowed down. Ling tried to keep his hand there, but it fell off Shèn’s face.

“Thanks, Shèn. For everythin’. Keep th’ others… ‘kay?”

Until you return, Ling.

By the time Jin could make it to where the dragon stood guard, Ling was gone.

Behind the silence

Beating his head against the sounds, Shui
realized that the only thing he’d accomplished truly
entertained the dismal creatures which had long hounded him.
“Accept my help, you fucking prick,” Jin snarled,
keeping a firm grip around the handle of the unbarreled
tequila, a drink he hadn’t even heard of. He watched the rim
hover too close to the edge of the table.
“Even if I thought you were able,
screw that. You couldn’t help me even if you really wanted to.”
“I am fucking tired of your bullshit.” Jin ignored his lie,
lingering on the true fact of the matter. An eye
expecting such refusal, Jin once again saw through
nothing Shui had expected, only for
casted light to remind the two that the door
erased                     all                     escape

What one doesn’t do without

“Don’t you do without with your fellow students?” Kun asked, obviously in reference to the very soft bed Jin decided to avail himself of.

Jin stretched out over the sheets before folding his arms over his chest. “I know the difference between having a lack and having excess. Just like I know I’m not with my dumb fellows right now.”

Kun chuckled. “Well, I suppose I’ll leave you to it.”

“I wasn’t chasing you out. Just don’t interrupt me.”

“Meditation, is it?”

Jin didn’t bother to respond about the thing he really wasn’t doing. Eventually Kun sat on the other side of the bed with his book. He began to read out loud, without comment from Jin. Jin’s arms relaxed, hands falling back to his side.

His fellow students might go without, but Jin would take advantage of the luxuries afforded to him by the people who refused to leave him alone.

Teaching a child

“You don’t walk under ladders.”

Jin scolding Ling was nothing new. “Why not? There’s space.”

“Because something will drop on your head and you’ll die.”

“Now, now.” As per usual, Kun stepped into the conversation a little too late. “Ling, people are usually on ladders.”

Ling watched him and waited. “…yeah?”

“What happens if you jostle a ladder while someone is on it?”

Ling put the scenario through his head. “They… fall off?”

“And on you,” Jin ended. “If you’re lucky, because otherwise I’m not stepping in for you when someone complains about what you’re doing.”

“It’s like why you don’t put your hand in the fireplace,” Kun added. “Safety measures.”

Ling nodded, then glared at Jin. “I’m gonna ask Kun things from now on. He makes sense.”

Jin rolled his eyes. “Finally. I’ll have more time in my day.”

The center of the Flood

Shui tried to keep his distance from Jin, when allowed. The man was like one of those desert trees with the spines on them. Shui didn’t know what they were called. Kun would, but hey, what didn’t Kun know? Sometimes though, they didn’t really have a choice.

“Where the fuck is Kun?” Shui hissed, the water up to his knees. The flood had made it to the second level. The desert was a dream right now, that’s for sure. “He has to have found the brat by now!”

Jin didn’t bother to respond, opening the window. Shui nearly yelled at him again, he was letting more water in, but when Jin pulled himself out and up to the roof Shui’s irritation changed subject.

“Where are you going?”

Shui knew Jin couldn’t hear him then, so he went after him. As if he hadn’t been soaked already, he certain was the moment he neared the window. The roof might have been a physical respite from the water below, but between the torrent coming down on him and seeing the expanse of water beneath them.

Catching up with Jin, Shui stared out at what looked like the oncoming ocean. “What is that?”

The silhouette in the distance dwarfed everything in the vicinity. A tall thin tower, serpentine? Shui couldn’t tell, the overcast skies, the deluge, it was all too much.

Jin didn’t respond. Shui ground his teeth together. “Hello? You have any idea what’s going on, or what?”

It didn’t seem so. Shui pushed his wet hair out of his eyes and looked around again. Kun wasn’t here. The kid wasn’t here.

The creature was coming.

It seemed up to them, this time.


The first time it happened, Jin almost kicked him off. He lit a candle beforehand though, enough to wake himself up and consider the situation.

“You’re not a dog,” he said to Ling. “Go back to bed.”

However, despite the fact Ling had just gotten there, the boy was asleep at the foot of Jin’s bed without any preamble. Jin considered shoving him off. He considered picking him up and moving him back to his own bed, then decided both took more effort than he wanted to bother with.

With a sigh, Jin extinguished the candle and went back to sleep.

The next day, they would thank the dragon for it.

“It appears that my shoes are missing.”

Shui rubbed his eyes. “Not just you, buddy. Mine aren’t here either. What the hell.” He was too tired for the absurdity to hit him yet.

Kun searched their room for any pairs of their shoes, still quiet as to not wake up Jin. Ling was nowhere to be seen.

“I bet it was the kid.”

“My, aren’t you quick to accuse,” Kun teased.

Shui rolled his eyes, rising to his feet. “Well he’s not here.”

Jin grumbled. Both of them quietened. Shui gestured that he would check for Ling. Kun nodded. Shui left his friend alone with the non-early bird and tracked down Ling. It didn’t take long to find him, he was outside with the dragon.

“Where are our shoes?” he asked Ling without any preamble. Ling glared back at him, then pointed at the dragon. “Why did you give the dragon our shoes?”

“I didn’t!” Ling scowled. “I woke up and they were gone!”

“Then why are you blaming the dragon?”

“Because I saw it eat them!”

Shui and Ling stared at each other for a few moments. Then they both looked at the dragon. Shui sighed. “You’re serious.”

Ling nodded.

“I’ll get Kun.”

Time and Energy

Jin looked at the stairs that led up to the pinnacle of the temple and decided he didn’t want to climb them. It would take too long and too much endurance, when both time and energy weren’t things he wanted to spare.

“How fast could you get to the top?” he asked the dragon.

What Jin had been thinking was nothing like the dragon offered, as he watched the larger form lower to the ground beside him. It wasn’t the first time any of them had ridden the dragon, but without Kun… Jin didn’t recall there being an offer without Kun around. The dragon had a preference and all of them knew it.

Jin grunted. “Just between you and me.” That said, he climbed up on the dragon and made it up the mountainside in record time.