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Disclaimer

This is a work of fiction. I borrowed the idea of the Whatley Academy from the four who made it. There should be no way that these characters are like anyone else, but if that isn’t the case, it has definitely been unintentional. Also, if you happen to find that your life is represented in these pages, I’ll be impressed.

A Whateley Academy Tale

Destiny’s Wave

by Heather O’Malley

 

Tennessee, June 13th 2006

I think it all began with the sword.

Wait, let me back up a bit and clarify things a bit. There were things that happened before the sword, like the rest of my life. But those things have changed. My life is worlds different now and there is not much I can do about it.

I used to be Alexander Farshine. Now, I’m still working on that. Things changed massively in a short period of time and I am still in shock. But the school seems nice. Wait...let me try and start this again. I don’t think I am making much sense.

You see, I think it all began with the sword.

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Alex worked his way through the gun show, looking at all the neat guns and knives and swords there. His father had told him that good deals could easily be had at places like this. He stopped at another table that was covered with World War Two Nazi daggers and Japanese Officer’s Swords. He nodded and smiled. If only he could find something he liked.

He moved on and had to take a break. Alex had never really been in shape, he loved movies and reading and spent all his time doing that. He had recently gotten into swords after watching several films that had lots of good sword play. He already had about twenty-three blades of varying quality. He liked to swing them around in his backyard. It was fun. He got to pretend that he was like Conan or Aragorn. Sometimes he pretended to be other characters but not for long. He could only play with his swords like that for a few minutes before he got tired.

The hall was filled with people milling about . They were stopping at various tables, looking at firearms of all types. He finally saw something, farther down the hall that caught his interest.

An old Asian gentleman sat alone at a table that looked empty, but he also thought he saw a couple of things on the table. As Alex moved closer the old man turned and looked at him, smiling broadly. “Come, come. Look at my wares. Is there anything you like.?”

Alex looked over the table, following the man’s gesture. All he saw on the table were three objects: a bell, a bead necklace thing and a Chinese straight sword. It reminded him of that really cool sword everyone was fighting over in Crouching Tiger., Hidden Dragon. That might be cool. He didn’t have any Chinese style blades at all. This one looked nice and there was something about it that bugged him. He couldn’t seem to take his eyes off of it. Something inside seemed to resonate with the sword.

“Uh...sir...how much is the sword?”

“A good eye young man. This is an excellent weapon.” The man’s dark eyes scanned over Alex slowly. “For you I will charge 49.95.”

All Alex had was the fifty in his wallet. If he got the sword he wouldn’t have any more money for the rest of the week. And it was comic week as well. He would have to wait a week to get his comics if he bought the sword. He pondered this as he looked at the sword.

He nodded and pulled out his wallet. There was something about the sword and he had to have it. He could wait a week for his comics. He was sure that he could manage that. He handed over the bill.

“Thank you very much. I am sure you will enjoy the blade. It is very special.” With that he turned and pulled up a cloth covered box. Alex blinked and couldn’t see the sword any more. “Here you go. Please wait until you get home before you draw the blade. The way it is now is easy to transport. I am sure you do not want any awkward questions.”

Alex nodded and headed towards the entrance. He hoped Gene, his friend was ready to go and he could go home right now. He really wanted to see the blade.

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I really wanted to see that blade. There was also something keeping me from opening up the box and drawing the sword in the car. I guess I wanted my first moments with the sword to be special and personal, just me and the sword. Looking back I think it is just totally weird that I wanted some personal time with the sword. I usually wanted that time with my dad’s “borrowed” Playboys and Hustlers.

So I went home with the sword.  I was a little nervous, as I had spent all of my money on a sword that I had not really examined. I had no idea what it looked like.

Dad wasn’t home when I got there so I hurried to my room and locked the door.

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The door closed behind Alex and he moved the dead bolt over. He really did not want to be disturbed while he was looking at his new purchase. He barely remembered what it looked like, just that it was a Chinese style sword. He glanced around his room at all the swords on the wall and tried to figure out a good place for the blade. Maybe next to one of the replica blades from Lord Of The Rings?

“That would look good.” he thought to himself as he laid the box on his desk. He undid the two peg closures and lifted the lid. There it was, even better than when he saw it sitting there on the table at the gun show.

He looked it over closely. The scabbard was a rich chestnut brown, the grain of the wood clear. The bottom of the scabbard had an intricate cap of a silvery metal, it didn’t look like pewter and for what he paid it couldn’t be silver. There was a similar cap at the top of the scabbard. There was some sort of design in them, like waves or clouds. Alex wasn’t sure.

The hilt was wrapped in a deep jade green string, tight and it looked worn. The pommel nut was also of that silvery metal, the same design etched in that. From the end of it hung two tassels, with knot work strings of vibrant yellow. The guard looked like the classic lions head motif, with green stones of some kind in the eyes. They were catching the light in an interesting fashion, he  almost expected them to blink.

Alex reached out and grasped the sword, one hand on the scabbard and the other on the hilt. The hilt felt comfortable under his hand. Well worn and comfortable. What ever the history of the sword, Alex could tell it had been used. He slowly drew the sword, just a little, to glimpse the blade.

His eyes widened in surprise. The sword didn’t look to be metal. The first inch or so of the blade appeared to be some sort of milky jade. Alex couldn’t think of why anyone would make a blade out of stone and decorate the blade like this. He drew it out the rest of the way just to assure himself that the rest of the sword was not as messed up as the first bits of the blade.

As the blade cleared the scabbard he could tell that the whole blade was of the milky jade. His eyes narrowed in consternation as he looked at the sword in his hands.

He then felt a rush of energy flood into his body, speeding up his heart and stopping his breath. He closed his eyes as he felt his body felt all out of sorts. His head was spinning and he felt light headed. His heart was pounding furiously in his chest. Blood roared in his ears and he swayed a little. His muscles vibrated, as if they were clenching and relaxing rapidly. His lungs burned with the need for air. He couldn’t let go of the sword. His legs felt cold.

Then the sensation was gone, as fast as it had appeared.

Alex could tell that his pants had fallen around his ankles and his shoes felt too large for his feet. His shirt seemed to swim on him though there was a heaviness on his chest. Something was also tickling the back of his neck. His hand on the sword also looked different, smaller, and more delicate. Something was also different but he couldn’t pin point it.

When he glanced at his mirror he jumped in shock, dropping the sword on his dirty clothes covered floor. An Asian girl was looking at him. He spun and no one was there. He looked back and the girl had a look of surprise on her face, and just a hint of fear. Her eyes were a deep jade green.

Alex’s thoughts raced quickly and he glanced over himself. His legs were bare, mostly hairless and much thinner. They even seemed longer. Both of his hands were hairless and smaller, with thinner and more delicate fingers. He touched his face, which had changed shape, had no acne or its usual scruff of beard stubble. Alex shuddered in shock. He was that girl. Somehow he had been transformed. He sat heavily on his bed, feeling his underwear bunching up under him.

“Ni hau ma?” came a woman’s voice.

Alex looked about and then his eyes settled on the sword.

“Ni hau ma?” came again, the green stones looking more like eyes at the moment.

“What the fuck?” he scampered farther up the bed, accidentally hitting himself in his new breasts. “Ow, crap that hurt!”

Nothing moved in the room as Alex really began to panic. He had no idea what was going on. He plucked one of his swords off the wall, holding it in front of himself.

“Shemma? Jung gwo hwa ma?”

He felt something tickle his brain. He started to cry in fear.

“Hel-lo? You are there?” came the woman’s voice, now in broken English.

Alex yelped and ducked, expecting something to hit him. Nothing did.

“Hel-lo? You are there? The one to draw the sword.”

Alex was shaking heavily, tears burning his face. His heart was racing and he was sure he was going to die. “What the fuck are you?!”

There was a pause, as if the voice was thinking through his answer. “I am Destiny’s Wave. I am the sword.” the voice was calm. “You are the one to draw me?”

“Yes...”

“Sye sye. Thank you. What are you called?”

“Alex.”

“Yes. Alex. What can I do to serve?”

“Huh? What?”

“You have drawn me, thus you are my wielder. It is my task to help you.”

“First off, what is wrong with my body? Why am I a girl?”

There was another pause. “You were not a girl when you drew me?”

“No. Not even remotely.” Alex was starting to calm down, some.

“And, were are not in the Middle Kingdom?”

“The what?”

“Ah....I think I may understand. I am Destiny’s Wave, a Taoist sword made for Women who walked the path of the Sage and the Warrior. I have never been held by a man. One of my gifts is to make the woman’s body stronger, faster, more perfect. It could be that, in the hands of a man, the body shifts to match what I am used to.”

“A talking fucking sword....this is so crazy.”

“Shemma?” the woman’s voice sounded slightly confused.

“Nothing. It...this is just hard to deal with. Go on.” Alex sat uncomfortably and looked at the sword sitting on the floor.

“I guess that you might change back when I am sheathed or when I am back in the carrying box. I am not sure. This effect stayed until the wielder died or gave up the sword. The carrying box was used to sever the link between sword and wielder. If one does not work the other might.”

“Uh...should I try it now?” Alex was not sure he wanted to move, but if it meant being back to normal he might as well try it.

“Will doing that make you feel better?”

Alex sat there and thought. “Yes...yes it will.”

“Then do this. I wish to talk to you more but until you are reassured this cannot happen.”

Alex reached down and picked up the sword in his dainty fingers. He reached for the sheath as well and slid the blade into the scabbard. Nothing happened. He then but the sword back in the box and closed it. The same sensation rushed over him and he returned to his male body. He sat down heavily on the bed, the springs groaning under the weight.

Alex wondered if he should risk drawing the sword again. But in a way the body had felt so good. He was lighter, clear faced, his breathing wasn’t troubled and he had felt more...alive? He wasn’t used to feeling that way. It was definitely different and that was only after a few minutes, spent mostly panicking.

Alex wiped his sweaty palms on his sweatshirt and opened the box. The sword was still there. He took a deep breath and drew the blade. The sensation wasn’t so bad that time as he was expecting it. He also didn’t drop the sword.

“Ni hau ma?”

“Uh...what...” He felt the tickle again.

“Ah...you are back. You had to put the blade in the box then?”

“Yes...I changed back.”

“That is indeed something worth remembering. I am afraid that the benefits of wielding me are no longer in effect if I am shut away. Part of the magic of the box is to cut off my link. It is how I was made. Now where are we?”

“The U.S.”

“Shemma?”

“Huh...the United States of America.”

“I have never heard of that place. What is the Emperor’s name?”

“Emperor? We don’t have one.”

“Fine...when are we?”

“2004. Why?”

“These answers are not making sense. I guess I will not worry about them. Now then...what are your questions?”

“I get that you are a magic sword...but what are you here for?”

“It is my purpose to aid in the fight for balance.”

“Against good and evil?”

“What do you mean by good and evil? Sometimes people kill in the name of good and others are left to live in the name of evil. I serve the Tao. The balance is what is important. Good and evil are not important concerns.  I serve to protect, to heal, to care for others, to teach. There is no higher purpose than that. I save lives and I take them, when it serves the Tao. I help my wielder follow the Tao and strive to become one of the Immortals.”

Alex blinked in surprise again. “Okay, I now have more questions. I don’t think I followed more than half of that.”

“You do not know the Tao?”

“The what?”

Alex heard the front door open and his father call out. “Alex I’m home!”

“Gah...its my dad.” With that Alex resheathed the sword and returned it to the box. The rush flowed over his body and he returned to normal. He quickly pulled on his pants and headed downstairs.

Alex’s father was built much like Alex, only two inches taller and more muscular. The hair was thinning a little but the color was still dark. He was just getting his seat in the living room, with a beer in one hand and the remote in the other. He clicked on a football game as Alex came in. “How was the gun show?”

“It was really good. I enjoyed it.”

“Buy anything?” My dad actually liked my sword collection, though he liked guns better himself.

“Yes. I got a Chinese style sword. I thought some variety would be nice.” I smiled at the irony in the statement. Being a girl was certainly variety. Hopefully my dad would never learn about that.

“Nice. Oh...nice play! Did you see that?”

Alex nodded, though he hadn’t seen anything, since he was watching his father.

“Want to watch the game with me?” his Dad asked, then belched.

“No thanks. I was going to read some. I have some books I’ve been wanting to read, and now that classes are over I can start on them.”

He shrugged and went back to watching the game.

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My father was just like that. Not really distant, but we were interested in different things. I knew he loved me and we were close, we just had no real interests in common. For a while he had been worried about my being gay, until he caught me with some of his magazines that he kept under his mattress. That had been a nightmare. I had been so embarrassed. That is why I have a bolt on my door. No more of those surprises.

I went back to my room and started reading one of my fantasy adventure novels. I had gotten several over the weeks leading up to my finals but I had studied instead of read. But it really had been tough to do.

As I was reading I kept looking over at the box. There was something about how I felt when I was transformed. I felt healthy and good. I guess it was because the girls body had been so athletic, so in shape. I never really exercised so it was definitely a different sensation. I think I kind of liked it. I got to feel healthy and in shape merely by drawing a sword. What a great weight loss and exercise plan!

My eyes kept drifting towards the sword that night, but I had decided to wait. Tomorrow my father would be at work and I could spend the whole day getting used to this. I might even get some answers that made sense from the sword.

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Alex got up and went downstairs for breakfast. His father wasn’t there, as was usual. Today should be just fine. After he ate and showered he went into his room and opened the box. Destiny’s Wave was sitting there, just like he had left it. He lifted it out of the box and drew the sword. He was ready for the sensation that time. He was amused when his PJ bottoms fell to the ground. This female body was a lot smaller than his was.

“Ni hau ma?”

“Fine. And you?”

“I am a sword, I am usually the same.”

“So what can you tell me about what I can do with the sword?” Alex was interested. This sort of thing was just like the magical tales he read about in his True Adventure Comics. He loved superheroes and had been a little sad when he hadn’t turned out to be a mutant.

“Well, right now not much. I have looked through your mind and you know little to nothing about sword work. You also know nothing about combat. I can fix that a little.”

“Fix it how?”

“I can give you some access to skills that you do not have: the basics of sword work, kung fu, Chinese, chi gung and Taoism. To learn more would require you to work from that starting point. I was only equipped for helping the person take the first step or two, the rest of the journey is up to you.”

“Cool! Hey can we do that now? I want to spend the day getting used to this. I want to try you out and see how this body moves and feels.” Alex was bubbling with excitement. This had the potential to be just like his fantasies of being a superhero, except for the being a girl thing.

“Very well. Please sit down Alex.”

Alex sat on the edge of the bed. After he had gotten comfortable he felt that tickle again. This time it grew more intense, almost like an itch in his brain. His head swam and he grew dizzy. Finally the sensation stopped.

“Alex, are you alright?” the voice sounded a little concerned.

“I’m good.” his voice sounded a little weird but he knew what he said.

“Well, it looks like the language took. Let us go out side and check the rest.”

“Right.” Alex stood up and realized that he was naked, except for the t-shirt that hung like a short dress on him. “Uh...maybe I should get some clothes?”

“That might be prudent. You will be moving around quite a bit if this worked.”

Alex searched his room for anything that might work. He tossed aside a lot of his clothes as simply being too big. He finally found a pair of sweatpants he had from when he was nine that fit his new curves. However, he had no underwear that fit.

He pulled them on and felt the difference between his old body and his new. This new body did have curves. His hips had shape and his waist was smaller than he remembered having in a long time. He changed into an old black t-shirt that didn’t swim too much on him. Now all that was left was getting his long black hair out of his face.

He found one of his old bandanas, which he used to tie his hair back. He turned and looked at the mirror. His reflection looked back. He definitely looked all girl now, even in his old clothes. He looked like a girl ready to work out or do lots of housework. He found the look fascinating. The sword broke his concentration.

“Are we ready to practice with the sword and body?”

Alex nodded and the realized that the sword might not be able to see him. “Uh...sure. Let’s go.”

He picked up the sword and scabbard and headed through the house. It was still kind of messy but he and his father didn’t really mind. The dishes were mostly clean and their clothes were washed when needed, so there really was no problem with the clutter. Alex almost felt a little embarrassed but that passed.

The backyard was a well mowed area with a pool and a good sized lawn. There were also the remnants of a garden. The landscape people who watered and mowed things did a good job.

Alex laid the scabbard on a small outdoor table and stepped barefoot onto the grass. It felt cool and relaxing under his new feet. The sword spoke to him, “Why don’t you start by swinging the sword around and getting a feel for how it moves. Just have fun and play a while.”

Alex started out making circles in the air with the sword and then moved into performing cuts and thrusts, swinging the blade in huge arcs. It sped through the air. It felt like the moves were effortless for him. He had never felt this good as he moved, ever. He wasn’t breathing hard and his arms were not growing tired. In fact the action felt liberating. He began to smile and the joy of movement overtook him.

After what seemed like awhile Alex stopped and stood there. He wasn’t panting and there was only a light sheen of sweat on his new body. The day was warm and there wasn’t a lake of sweat coating his body. He was amazed. He was staring to like this new body.

The breeze tickled his arms and he felt his hair move with the air. He closed his eyes and lost himself to the sensations coming at him. His breathing deepened and slowed. As he just relaxed and enjoyed this new collection on feelings he felt something just outside what he could normally feel. It was like the current of a river or something that seemed to flow between things. As he deepened his breathing and relaxed his body more he could almost seem to touch the current, feel it move about him.

He could begin to sense the same current pulse and move within the female body he now had. He relaxed into that as well and could feel how that pulse was moving into the sword and out, almost as if the sword was a part of the body. He moved the sword and could feel that energy move with the blade. He could also feel the energy beginning to flow out past the end of the blade. This energy was entrancing. It felt natural and alive.

The sword’s voice interrupted his train of thoughts. “What you are feeling is your Chi and the Chi around you. It flows through all things. It is the energy that keeps things alive and in the forms they wear. This is something we can use to do different things. With this energy you can jump great distances, balance on top of plants, move objects or people, heal yourself and others, fly and many other things. These things all come with time. There more time you spend in this body the better your control of Chi will become.”

“Fly? Really?” Alex was excited by the prospect. “That would be so cool. I would be a superhero. Awesome.”

“Like I said it will take time. Since you keep taking me out and putting me back into the box, the development of these skills will take even longer. It is a matter of the body and the mind getting used to the flow. Without the body it does not work.” The sword passed the information calmly and without judgment. Alex thought it was a little odd.

“So, if I am a girl I can do all these cool things. If not, I won’t?”

“That is the basics of it, yes.”

Alex sheathed the blade and sat down to think. If he stayed in this body and became a girl he would be able to do all sorts of cool things. But then he would cease to be Alex. But if he went back to his life as Alex and left Destiny’s Wave he would miss out on all that fun. According to the sword, he would still gain the skills if he flipped flopped, it would just take longer. But what was longer to a sword?

Alex looked down at his body, at his breasts and the swell of his hips. This was certainly a different body and it would take time to get used to being shorter, lighter and more limber. He was so used to being larger that he wasn’t sure he could deal with the change full time. That and he would need new clothes.

He rubbed his breasts and his sternum. The moving put a strain on body pasts that he was not used to. His breasts hurt. “Man, I’m going to have to get a sports bra or something.”

“Pardon?” asked the sword.

“Nothing. I was talking to myself. So, if I didn’t turn back, how long would it take to use the chi fully.”

“At your level of skill, about two weeks.”

“And switching back and forth?”

“Possibly two months or more.”

Alex had his answer. If he was patient he could get those abilities before the end of summer break. All he would have to do is spend a lot of time changed and he would be able to do all sorts of superhero type things. He was excited at the prospects.

He stood and stretched. He was able to place his hands on the floor and bend back into a nice arch and then into a handstand. He could really get used to being in this kind of shape.

He tried all sorts of weird Yoga poses he had seen in books and his body could handle them easily. He then tried some gymnastics stuff, like flips and rolls. The girls body just flipped through those with ease. It was surely part of the basic information Destiny had given him. If this was what he could do with just that basic information he wondered what he would be able to do with training to enhance what he had. That thought made him giggle with glee.

The sound made him stop cold. He had just giggled and it freaked him out a little. Where had that sound come from?

“Uhm...Destiny....what was that?”

“I would say you giggled. It probably has to do with the fact that everything is female, including your chi. That could make some differences.”

Alex shuddered. Maybe the cool powers weren’t worth the whole being a girl thing. Another thought crossed his mind, if he were a girl would that mean he did girl things like periods and stuff? He had heard lots of jokes about that, like bleeding for five days and not dying. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

“What is it Alex?”

“Nothing. I’m just going to put you up and do some house work. It’s getting late.”

Alex put up the sword and headed inside. Once he shut the blade back in the box and returned to his body he shuddered and headed into the shower. He felt dirty and weird. He liked how he felt when transformed but he didn’t want to be a girl.

Alex tidied his room and got some of the dishes done. He even tidied the living room, collecting the most obvious trash and taking it out. He played video games to take his mind off of the sword.

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That first set of realizations creeped me out. I was happy being a boy. I liked standing to pee. I didn’t want to be a girl. But what I could do in that body was amazing. And that wasn’t even the cool stuff. I was just getting the basics.

After nearly a day of such free and light movement it was tough getting used to being heavy and uncoordinated. I almost hated it, except for the fact that this was me.

I didn’t want to use the sword again for a while but I had enjoyed it so much that two days later I used it again, all day practically. Sitting down to pee was weird but I got used to that. I soon found myself using the sword almost every day. In a way it was like drugs. I felt good in the lighter body, and could do things that were amazing.

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Alex opened the box and transformed with Destiny’s Wave. He was going to get some clothes that were easier to move in with his new body. He was getting tired of his smaller sweats and his chest hurt after his breasts were bouncing around all day. He had figured that some sort of bra would help.

Alex knew he would have to spend his own money on this so he had saved up. The plan was to change, take the bus to the strip mall with the Goodwill store and buy some clothes that would fit and be easier to move in.

The trip to the store went by easily enough. Alex figured he looked like a young Asian girl dressed in old sweats, which was the case. No one looked twice at him...her. He sat quietly, with a backpack slung over one shoulder, holding money and the like.

He got off at the stop and had no problems at the Goodwill. He had managed to find a few sports bras that fit him, some stretch pants and yoga pants that almost clung like a second skin, panties, shoes and some t-shirts that would work. Alex felt good that he would not have to wear the baggy clothes he had been making do with any longer.

After he made his purchases he went into the bathroom at Mancino’s, a local hot sandwich and pizza place. It was weird going into the girls bathroom. He was surprised to see that it was just like a men’s room, only with stalls. Alex did like the way the sports bra held his chest. Now maybe it would stop hurting. He put his sweats into the bag, tied up his Keds and went to get some lunch.

Something felt wrong. Alex stopped before he opened the door. Things felt... chaotic out there, wrong. He listened and could hear raised voices barking angrily. She opened the door a crack and looked out. There were two men out there with hoods on and holding guns. The girl at the register looked really scared and was busily stuffing cash into a to go bag. Alex could hide here until they were gone.

But that was wrong and this robbery was wrong. That feeling filled him. He dropped his backpack and stepped out of the bathroom. One of the gunmen turned to face him. “You, Girl, Freeze!!”

Alex felt like he was sliding on ice. He slid up alongside the robber and clotheslined him.  His body flipped through the air and slammed heavily into the ground. The other turned , trying to draw a bead on Alex. With a twist Alex disarmed him and flipped him onto his friend. They both lay there stunned and confused. Alex crouched in his female body and looked at them. “Don’t move or I’ll have to hurt you.”

The people in the place cheered. Alex blushed.

Soon the police came in with guns drawn to pick up the crooks. Alex backed off of the two when they entered. One of the officers came up to him. “Miss? Are you the one who stopped these two?”

“Yes Officer.” Alex thought quickly. He didn’t want the cops to know his real name as that would cause too many problems. He ran through the list of girls names from various anime series he had seen. The problem was that they were all Japanese, not Chinese.

“Could we get a statement from you?” The officer was taking out a pen and gesturing towards a table. Alex moved to sit down.

“First things first, what’s your name?”

Here it was, the moment of truth. He remembered a name of a character from one of the Hong Kong comics he liked. “My name is Chou Lee.”

The officer asked her how to spell that and went on, unaware that Alex had lied. Alex meanwhile sighed with relief. He might be able to pull this off.

“So why did you attack those two? You could have been hurt or killed.”

“I wasn’t too worried. I have had lots of Martial Arts training and it seemed like a valid time to use them. I also figured that I shouldn’t hurt them too much. In case you needed them for something.”

The cop chuckled at that. “Well, try not to do that again. We get paid the big bucks to get shot at. Teenage girls shouldn’t have to do our job for us. Its embarrassing.”

Alex blushed a little and felt that weird vibe whenever this body did something girly. “Uh...okay.”

The questioning went along fine for a while and then the police left. Alex went up to the counter to get some lunch and found it was free of charge. This was definitely a weird day.

The bus ride home was uneventful. Alex got home and hid the clothes so that his father wouldn’t be able to find them. He was a little nervous as to what his dad would say to finding girls clothes in his son’s room. He really didn’t want to have to go through that much interrogation.

He picked up Destiny’s Wave and told the sword about what had happened. Then he put the sword into the box. The rush of the transformation shook him. Then the realization of what had happened at lunch hit him. He had fought two guys with guns. He could have been hurt. He...could have been killed. He started shaking uncontrollably as the fear that had been delayed hit him. He started crying and curled up into a fetal position. He fell asleep hiding under his sheets, his door locked.

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I mean everyone tells you that they were just fine. I was too when the action took place. But I freaked out when I got back to safety. I had never had a reaction like that. I had gotten into fights as a kid but never on that sort of level. I was seriously scared.

When I woke the next day after several nightmares of me getting shot, I spent over an hour trying to get myself clean. I felt dirty inside and out. It also seemed as if no amount of scrubbing would fix it.

I also spent that day holed up in my room. I was afraid to go out, even downstairs to the kitchen. It was bad. But by evening I had calmed down and had dinner. Dad was still doing his beer and the game thing so again it was mostly me on my own. The food helped and my Dad being home made me feel safer. Which when you think about it is rather funny. I had all these swords in my room but I didn’t feel safe. Heh...

Though, about then things seemed to get odder.

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Alex was in the back practicing with Destiny’s Wave, leaping onto the roof and off. It was fun and made him glad no one could see the show. He had just leapt down with a flip when he heard some applause coming from the corner of his house. He spun and brought the blade into a ready position.

At the corner stood this Asian boy/girl. Alex couldn’t decide if it was a boy or a girl so stuck with both. He/she was dressed in a way that was also androgynous. “Nicely done. Good form by the way. Though with your reach you might want a different opening stance.”

Alex didn’t lower the blade or his guard. “Who are you?”

“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Lan Caihe Ho. I felt the sword awaken again and came to check it out, especially with it sleeping and waking in such an odd fashion.” S/He walked closer, keeping her arms open. The flow of her energy was calm and deep, making Alex aware of how much he had to learn. “By the way, Chou Lee, good choice.”

Alex blinked, “What?”

“The name you gave to the police? When you stopped the robbery? Remember?” S/He had gotten closer and stopped, looking perfectly calm with the sword aimed at her/his heart.

“Oh...yeah...how did you know?”

“My dear, I am an Immortal. When I felt the blade awaken I left Penglai Shan to find out what was going on. The blade was supposed to still be on the island.”

Alex blushed. “I didn’t steal it. Honest.”

Lan Caihe Ho smiled, voice smooth and genderless. “I know. I can also tell by the taste of your Chi that you are male, except when you have the blade out. This is an interesting development. So lets talk.”

Alex led him/her inside. They both sat at the table in the kitchen. “Uh...want some tea?”

“Sure.”

Alex got out the mugs and tea bags. He started heating the water. This Lan Caihe Ho was just sitting there content to say nothing and wait for the tea. It was starting to unnerve Alex. “Uh...so I bought this sword at a gun show from this old Asian guy. There were also a set of beads, I think it was a necklace.”

“I see. Anything interesting about the sale?”

“Now that you mention it there was. I think the sword disappeared when he got out the box.”

“Actually that is probably true. There was probably an illusion cast so someone who could feel the blade could see it without waking the blade up. Rather tricky. I wonder who it was who sold it to you? Master Lao?”

“You said you are Immortal?”

“Yes. I am a Taoist Immortal.”

“What is that?”

The laughter was unexpected. It had a nice musical quality. “It would take too long to explain. Suffice it to say I studied a long time and have never died. I live on an island no one else can find and go out into the world and have fun.”

“Like a superhero?”

“Almost but entirely unlike that. I and the others do things to keep the Balance, not to make one side stronger than another. I am sure Destiny’s Wave told you about that. The Balance is much more important than Good or Evil. Sometimes both need to be fought.”

“And I was chosen to do this?”

Another chuckle. “Not really. But sure, why not? If I knew who gave you the sword I could tell you the answers. I think you have been drafted into the fight.”

“Oh...” Alex felt a little down at that. It had made him happy to think that he could be a superhero now he was told that wasn’t really the plan.

“If you want to be a superhero, that’s fine. Chou, to do that you need to become this you forever. I am not sure the other you can keep up with the shocks of the change. Eventually the Chi will spiral out of balance and you will die.”

“What?!” Alex stood up quickly, the chair falling over.

“And there is also the fact that the Demon Lord of the Hell of Fiery Immersion wants the sword destroyed. He has been thwarted numerous times by its wielders.  Add the fact that the Monkey King wants to play with the wielder of the blade and the Tong of the Black Madonna wants the blade for themsleves.  So there is some real danger in owning Destiny’s Wave. If you are not the full wielder of her, if and when they show up, you might just die.” Lan Caihe Ho said this calmly and very straight forward.

“I am not surprised the Sword didn’t tell you. Most of these things she is unaware of, as she has been sleeping and out of the world. I however am trying to help you. Either way, things will follow the Tao.”

Alex started shaking a little. Demons? Death? What?

“Chou, have a seat. I am sure I got here before they did. I just needed you to understand the situation fully. If this experience is only for play, you will die. If not, then I figure you can live. If I take the sword, you’ll be fine. If not, then you will have to deal with it. All of it.”

Alex collapsed into another chair. “This is too much. I just thought I was buying a sword not getting involved in something bizarre. What the hell am I going to do?”

“Simple. Close your eyes and think about all of this. Then let it go. The answer will come to you in the span of seven breaths.” Caihe imparted the advice with the same voice as everything else.

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And so that is just what I did. I took a deep breath and thought about all of this and then let it go. As I kept breathing I recalled how good I felt that I had helped those people at Mancino’s. I kept thinking about how I could help people. As I exhaled the seventh breath I knew my old life was over.

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Alex exhaled and opened his eyes slowly. “I think I want to keep the sword and do what I can to help others. This sword lets me do that. I don’t really know what that means at the moment, but that is what I want.”

Caihe smiled brightly. “Well good. Now you just need to watch out for demons and assassins and you’ll be fine. You need training. I will go and find someone to help you. Watch out for things. And take care Chou. You have made a decision, be prepared to deal with the consequences.”

Alex smiled weakly. “I’ll try.”

Caihe stood up smoothly, as natural as breathing. “I will be in touch with you later. Some of my siblings may show as well. Rest assured, we will only have your best interests and that of the Balance at heart.”

With that the boy/girl left out the back. Alex just sat there in shock.

When he looked up and saw the time he cursed and ran up stairs. His dad would be home soon. He sheathed and stored the blade in the carrying box. He was a little light headed but by the time he had redressed he was fine. As he was coming downstairs he heard his dad come in.

“Hey Alex, let’s get some Pizza! The Yankees are playing tonight and we can watch them.”

Sounded good to Alex, so he called out. “Great.”

Alex poured himself a coke and got his dad a beer. When he took his seat his father was hanging up the phone. His father sat in his easy chair and took the beer. “Thanks kid. Food should be here in about forty-five.”

They watched the game happily. Alex was getting into the swing of things, like he usually did when he actually watched a game for more than twenty minutes. He wasn’t a fan of sports but they were interesting to watch with his dad. His dad seemed to know every fact and detail about every team in every sport. Alex had always been proud of the fact that his dad was a sports guru.

Alex got up and headed towards the bathroom. He heard the doorbell ring and his father getting up. It was sure to be the pizza. When he heard the question in response to his fathers hello, he knew it wasn’t. “Where are Chou and Destiny’s Wave?”

“What the hell? You have the wrong address! Now go away.” Alex heard the door slam shut. “Fucking weirdoes.”

Alex’s heart was racing. That hadn’t sounded like Caihe, or even something nice. Alex slowly started creeping up the stairs. As he heard his father sit back down there was also the terrible sound of the front door splintering. Alex started to run. His father began to scream. He could smell something burning, cooking.

As he got to the door of his room his father’s screams stopped suddenly, as if someone had flipped a switch. He stopped and yelled out, “Dad!”

He heard footsteps heading his way, heavy and filled with purpose. Alex grabbed the box and freed the blade. With a jerk, the blade cleared the scabbard and the box fell to the floor. Her body shuddered through the transformation. This one had not been as smooth as the others. The door to her room snapped open, breaking the frame.

A large figure with black skin stood there, lines of red ran through the skin. He was very obviously male and very obviously naked. Heat poured off of him in waves, choking the air. “Destiny’s Wave! It shall be mine!”

Alex slashed the blade back and forth, keeping the thing off of her. It glowered at her. “You think you can stop me, the Demon Lord of the Hell of Fiery Immersion? Foolish mortal, do you think I fear a mere blade. Give me the sword or burn.”

The floor boards began to smolder and smoke. Tongues of flame began to leap up from them, catching fire from the heat of the Demon Lord. It took a step into the room and stepped on the box with one foot, holding it in place. Alex cursed under his breath, he needed that box to turn back. The flames were starting to grow and spread. The heat was overwhelming and the smoke was making him cough. The smoke was hazing everything.

“I tire of this, mortal. Destiny’s Wave will be mine or I will make you suffer eternal torments. You will burn until the universe fades.”

Alex grabbed his backpack with his money and girl’s clothes, the scabbard in his other hand and threw himself out the window. He could hear the thing laughing, mocking him. He had to get away.

“Alex, run. We can not fight this thing and live. He is stronger than us at the moment.” Destiny’s Wave spurred Alex into action.

Using the skills the sword had taught him, Alex took great leaps, crossing thirty feet at a go. He hurried away from his house, which was glowing orange behind him, smoke pouring blackly out of it. He could still hear the laughter and the mocking sound of the Demon Lord screaming, “Run child!  It does not matter, I shall find you eventually!”

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I didn’t know what else to do so I just ran. I had never done that with this body, but there didn’t seem to be much of a limit. I ran quickly and for a long time. The sun was coming up when I collapsed in some farmers field. I was spent, physically and emotionally. After a few hours of troubled sleep on the ground I changed into more comfortable clothes. I went through my money and found I had thirty-two dollars and sixty-three cents. How was I going to live on that?

As I was shaking from that realization, I realized that with the box gone I was stuck in this body, forever. And my father was dead. And I was alone.

I cried for a few hours. I realized that the demon was probably still after me so I stood up and ran on. The next five days were like that, a haze of panic and running. When I got tired I collapsed and slept fitfully until the fear would wake me.

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Alex walked into the edge of the town. The sign said Taylor. The population wasn’t very large and she was hungry. Alex was realizing that Alex was dead and that Chou was all he had for a future. One that didn’t look all that good as things stood.

He trudged in and realized she was a she now. He shuddered again. He felt sick and dirty. He hadn’t bathed for six days while running and sleeping on the ground. He wanted to be someplace safe where he could rest, but the dreams of the Demon Lord kept waking him.

Chou headed for a diner that he could see about a half mile ahead. Food would be good. He had barely eaten anything since this whole ordeal had started and his stomach rumbled.

Alex walked in and headed for a booth. He could feel the eyes of everyone in there on her. It made his skin itch with the way their Chi touched his, trying to make a connection. An older waitress, looking to be about fifty came up, her eyebrow cocked up at the sight of the sword and the backpack. “Anything I can get you sweetie?”

Chou scanned the menu quickly. “Yes. Can I get a Cheeseburger plate?”

“Sure. Want a salad with that?”

“Please. Ranch dressing. And water.” Chou figured that this would cost about four dollars, according to the menu.

The woman went off. Chou smoothed out her/his matted black hair and took stock of things. He had ten dollars left and no plans. His father was dead, and she could no longer return to her male body. Alex had no identification that matched his body and no clue what to do. Caihe had been the one with the plan but Alex had no clue where he/she was. In a way he had no clue where he was either. He had never heard of this town.

The salad arrived with the water and Chou started eating. He was famished but took his time to avoid becoming sick. She finished the salad and was working on the burger when he felt a tickle on her Chi. She turned on his seat and watched a sheriff’s car pull up. Great. She continued eating, as that was slightly more important at this point.

Alex heard the door open and could feel the Sheriff moving towards her. His energy was strong and pulsed warmly.

“Excuse me miss, mind if I take a seat?” the voice was deep.

She looked up, and up. The sheriff was about six foot six and huge. Alex could plainly see muscle definition under a thin layer of fat padding, smoothing the lines. He slid into the seat without waiting for an answer, hitching his belt up to move in easier.

“Edith, two pieces of your apple pie if you please. Coffee and a tall glass of milk.” The elderly waitress nodded and set about that task. “So, you’re new here. Just walk in?”

Chou nodded.

“Family troubles?”

Again he nodded.

“So its onto the road eh?”

She blinked, and then nodded.

“If you don’t mind my asking, what’s with the sword? The backpack makes sense, but if you run away from home why take a sword?” The pieces of pie were set down along with the drinks. “Thankya Edith.”

“The sword is special. And in a way is part of why I had to leave.” Chou nibbled at the pie. She...he hadn’t had any apple pie in weeks. It was so sweet and tasty.

The man nodded. He sniffed. “Sweetie, when is the last time you had a shower?”

Chou blushed. “A...about a week ago.”

“I see...When did you last sleep in a bed? About the same time?”

He nodded.

“Hmmm...I guess this is where I take you with me. What we do after that depends on you. I’ll let you shower and get clean. Then you can tell me about things. I’ll see what I can do.” He seemed pleased with himself. They finished their pie in silence.

She meekly followed him out of the diner and into the squad car. It was nice to have someone who seemed to have Ideas. Alex was getting tired of running.

As the doors of the car closed the Sheriff started the engine. “So...is the sword a magical focus or something?”

Chou felt his jaw drop. “What?”

“The sword. It’s magical and part of the reason this all happened, right?”

“Uh...yeah. How do you know these things?” Chou was confused. How could a small town sheriff know these things?

“I used to be a hero, before I decided to become a sheriff. I found I wasn’t really cut out for the hero life. So I keep this town safe. No cape. No secret ID. Just me. Kind of nice really.” He turned the car onto the road and headed into town. “My apartment is above the office. You can shower there. Do you have anything clean?”

“No.”

“I’ll see what I can dig up. A t-shirt might do the job for now. Hang on you like a dress. Heh...”

Chou blushed again. Part of Alex rebelled at this but there was also the realization that he had a new life and needed to get on with it. He just didn’t know what that meant. “Thank you.”

The Sheriff chuckled and drove on. He gave her the penny tour of the town. Alex learned all about the town's life, more than she had ever wanted to. Finally they pulled up at the sheriff’s office. He tossed her a set of keys. “Go around to the side. The door is there.”

Chou found it easily enough. Finding the right key took a little bit of work though. He made her way upstairs and found the shower after a little searching. This would be the first time he had showered in her new body. She was not really looking forward to it.

The water was warm and it eased some of the tension. The shampoo barely lathered the first time in her hair but did the second time she washed. There was even a bottle of conditioner in the shower. She slicked that through her hair and then began to soap up her body.

It was one thing to know she had a female body, another to have it proven without a shadow of a doubt. Alex made sure to clean everywhere and felt uncomfortable the whole time. The contours of her body were different and what made her a girl was very different. It was a shock to learn what a girl felt like when touching herself. She wanted to be Alex again, but the box was gone, and his father was dead, and everything else he had known was gone.  She huddled under the warm water and cried.

After a while he felt the water turn off and felt herself being picked up in a big towel. It was warm and soft. She curled into the sheriff’s arms. He held her as she continued to weep.

Alex woke up in a strange bedroom, warm and comfortable. Some of her clothes were folded and put by the bed. They had obviously been washed. Chou got up and dressed in them awkwardly. When she left the room there was a plate on the table with a glass sitting next to it. There was a little sign made out of a three by five card.

“Eat. The plate will keep everything warm. Milk is in the fridge. Come on down when you are ready.”

Chou smiled at that. The eggs and bacon were good and the biscuits were light and fluffy. The milk was cold and tasted different from any milk she had ever had before. It was apparently some local brand. He helped herself to a second glass of it.

She looked around and found Destiny’s Wave in the living room. It was sitting where he had left it. She felt better when he knew where the blade was. He ran her hands over the scabbard and hilt. Her hand wrapped easily around the hilt.

She picked up his sword and headed downstairs. He made her way around the building to the front door. She opened the door to the sheriff’s office. There was another officer at a desk who smiled at her. “The Chief is back there, third door on the right. He said it was okay for you to go on in.”

Chou walked in to the office of the Sheriff. His wall was covered with pictures of several superhero groups and several diplomas. He smiled at her. “So why don’t you have a seat and tell me everything that’s happened and I’ll see what I can do for you.”

Destiny’s Wave was comforting in her hand. It made him feel strong and capable. She began his tale haltingly, crying at points. The Sheriff sat there listening patiently, taking a few notes. He handed her a Kleenex after a while.

“So, what do you want to be called, Alex or Chou? At this point you can do whatever you want.”

She looked at herself. She was both Alex and Chou. But Alex had no future, his life had been destroyed. Chou had become his future. Did he really have any other option? “Chou.”

He nodded. “Let me call around and see what I can do. I will see if I can get you into Whatley. It’s a private school for those of us with the Hero or Villain vibe. It is in New Hampshire. And for another thing, you certainly covered distance Chou. We are three hundred miles from your old home. Good job.”

She smiled at the compliment. “So what should I do between now and your calls being done?”

He looked at her and then smiled. “You need clothes. Real clothes, not just workout clothes. Take my business card and go shopping. Tell them to charge me and I’ll have Rob talk to them when they call. Get everything you need. I’ll try to keep you here until we figure out what needs to be done.”

“What about the Demon Lord?” Chou was actually worried. “What if he shows again?”

“Some of my calls will deal with that as well. Go along. You have the sword and if trouble starts they will call me. Don’t worry.”

Chou nodded and left, taking one of his business cards. Sheriff Joshua Tate. She smiled at the thought of being able to get some jeans and new shirts. Actually she wasn’t sure what she would need. She had a new body that felt very different and she didn’t know what to do with it. Alex had never been around girls much, so their rituals were a mystery to him. Now Alex was a girl. She would have to throw herself on the mercy of the sales ladies. She hoped they would be kind to her.

The first store seemed to have clothes for older women. Chou didn’t find anything there that interested her. She went across the street and found that the store had a wide variety of clothes for girls her age and older teens. She smiled when she looked at everything. She might be able to get some clothes after all. While she was looking over things a woman walked up to her. “Can I help you?”

“Uh...yes. My name is Chou Lee. The Sheriff is buying me some clothes and I liked your stuff and I could use some help.”

The woman smiled at that. “Alright. Do you know your sizes?”

“Uh...no. I have never really bought clothes for myself.” This wasn’t really a lie. Mostly Alex had held clothes up to his body to see if they were close enough in size to fit. He had rarely tried on any clothes.

“No problem. I think I can help you. We have some really nice things in here. There are even some Mandarin style tops. They seem to be catching on. I think they would look good on you.”

She led Chou over there. The Mandarin tops were nice. In red, blue, yellow and purple. Chou wanted one of each. She also got some black slacks that looked good with the tops. The saleslady offered her several skirts, but she refused. She had no interest in being too girly. This was hard enough as it was without having to look odd. In some ways she was still a boy.

After getting several bras and panties, Chou went over and looked at the shoes. There were several boots and sneakers that looked good. She got a pair of flats because she figured that those would go really well with the black slacks and Mandarin tops. There were a couple of cute backpacks for school available as well. Several of them seemed larger than the one her stuff was crammed into now. She added one of those to her pile as well. There was even a bag that could hold her sword and make it less obvious. She blanched a little when she saw the small mountain on the counter.

The woman began ringing it up and Chou began to get dizzy at the sheer amount of money that these clothes cost. Alex had never even seen that much money at one time. The woman called the Sheriff with the total and then began bagging it all up. He really had bought all this stuff for her.

Chou changed into her black slacks and the blue Mandarin top with the flats. These clothes felt softer than Alex’s clothes had. Chou looked into the mirror and was still stunned to see the Asian face looking back at him. The breasts were taking a while to get used to as well. The bra was holding them out, not in like the sports bra had. But there was no denying the fact that she looked like a cute Chinese girl. Definitely a girl. Which was weird.

Chou found she had little problem picking up all the bags. They seemed to weigh very little. She was a bit surprised at this. “Wow...I didn’t know I was this strong.”

“That is because your Chi is strengthening and your body is becoming more attuned to the Tao. You will become stronger still, faster and more flexible. This will become only more pronounced as you grow older. Eventually you will be stronger than anyone.”

“Destiny! I thought you weren’t talking to me?” Chou was surprised to find that she really had been worried. the sword had said nothing since the flight from the burning house.

“There was little to say. This is not my world. The stars have changed quite a bit, at least five hundred years have passed since I was out last.  I know nothing of this world and therefore cannot really guide you in some things. I do not know where any Taoist temples are. I do not know where to find the texts you need. I can only aid you in learning how to fight and move. So what reason is there to talk?”

“But you have been helping me. Without you I would not have been able to do this.”

“Without me this would not have happened.”

“I could have given you to Caihe, but I didn’t. I can do things with you that I couldn’t do before. I can help people in a way I never could before. Why would I want to be without you?”

Destiny’s Wave was silent.

Chou raised her head as she saw the Sheriff leave the office. “Chou, drop those bags over here and let’s get lunch. You’re too scrawny.”

She hurried over, smiling since things were looking up. He took her to the same diner where they had met. He made her order a good amount of food before he started talking to her. “I’ve got some good news and some bad news.”

“Can I have the bad news first?” Chou was a little nervous about what the bad could be.

“The bad is that the Demon Lord is still on the loose. My guess is its coming here. None of my contacts can really do anything since it is not destroying at random. Once it shows up and starts destroying things they can do something. They said you have two days lead on it right now. So you can’t stay here until classes start.”

Chou was shaking. “And the good news?”

He smiled at this. “I got you into Whateley. They said their defenses are strong enough to keep the demon out unless it is summoned directly onto the school grounds. They can test you there, see what you can do and help you reach your full potential.”

“Cool. I can go to Superheroes school?” Her eyes were big in surprise and the news almost balanced knowing the Demon Lord was still chasing her.

“Now the trick is to get there. I was told to keep you away from large groups of people, so busses, trains and planes are out. I can’t drive you and I won’t risk one of my deputies.”

“So I walk?” asked Chou, incredulous.

“Nope. I can get you either a bike or a horse. Which do you want?”

Chou blinked at him. What? Alex had never dealt with horses and the thought of riding a bike that far was horrible.  Destiny’s Wave spoke up. “The horse. I can tell her how to take care of a horse. I do not know what a bike is.”

The Sheriff didn’t even blink in surprise. It seemed that his claim to being an ex-superhero was true. “Sounds good. I can get the horse and maps ready in a few hours. I’ll help you pack. Trust me kid, it’ll be a fun trip. This should also extend your lead.”

Chou sat there stunned. The Sheriff reached over and closed her mouth. “Finish your pie and we’ll get going.”

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So that was how I found myself on a horse traveling about a thousand miles. It was cool. It took me a few days to get used to riding, but apparently it was in the burst of information Destiny gave me. In her day people rode horses all the time, apparently. So I knew how to feed them and care for them. Which made the trip here so much easier. I don’t think I could have walked the whole way.

So I got food, money, a map, directions, a compass and all sorts of other stuff that would be returned once I got hereto Whateley. We said good bye and I was on my way again. I knew it would take a while so I figured I could talk with Destiny and find out about Lan Caihe Ho, the Demon Lord and all sorts of other things. I should be able to reach the school in time for classes to start.

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Chou was enjoying the late summer trip. She was riding through some part of North east Pennsylvania. Ahead she could hear the faint sounds of a flute of some sort. She extended her Chi like she had been taught and felt two people with incredibly strong energy signatures. She reigned in her horse and felt for what the signatures told her. One was the mixed male and female of Lan Caihe Ho and the other had a strong Yin flavor, so a woman. She moved forward cautiously.

While Caihe was playing a flute that looked like a staff, the woman was sitting happily in the middle of the trail listening to the flute and the wind. They were both wearing what looked like robes with pants underneath. They both looked very peaceful. In a way it made her a little jealous. She stopped her horse and got down. Caihe finished the song after a few minutes.

“Hello again Chou.”

“Hello Caihe.”

“This is my sister He Xiangu. She wanted to meet you.”

Chou stood there patiently while the woman got up and bowed to her. Chou returned the gesture.

“So, you are the new wielder of Destiny’s Wave. Congratulations. Caihe has told me all about you.”

Chou looked at her nervously. The woman smiled. “There is nothing to be worried about. We are both here to help you. The others decided to stay and not inundate you with people. We are excited to see the return of one of our own after so long. So we thought to travel with you for a few days, answer your questions and see if we can help with the Demon Lord.”

Chou smiled brightly. “Really?”

Caihe got to his/her feet. “Really. Please, walk with us.”

Chou grabbed the reins and led the horse through the forest with the two Immortals. They walked along in silence for about an hour. Chou was having trouble with the silence. When riding she had talked to her horse for some sort of conversation. She was about to say something when Xiangu spoke up. “Mastering silence is a good way to master the blade. In silence you can hear the stirring of the wind, the animals scurry, the busy marching of the ants, the heart beat of the world. When you can do that, feeling the current of the Tao becomes easy. Those are the things that will make you stronger.”

Chou kept walking, thinking about what Xiangu said. She guessed it made sense. She was sure this was more of that mystical stuff that the sword talked about. She walked on with them, silent, trying to listen to the rest of the world and not her thoughts. As they walked on she could hear sounds she hadn’t noticed before. The forest seemed to be more alive than she had felt before. Now it wasn’t empty, it was full with life and wind and became even more wonderful. She smiled.

The day passed wonderfully, with a whole new world opening up to her when she was silent. Some of the things Destiny had said, about quieting the mind and just being were starting to make some sense. She could feel her Chi growing into the silence that was filling her.

As the sun was lowering itself in the sky, heading closer towards night Caihe stopped them and the three of them made camp. She broke out her food and they all shared in making the meal, gathering wood and water. As the flames were crackling Lan started playing the flute again. The sound was a little haunting. Xiangu started speaking in the spaces between the notes.

“Chou...this sword...Destiny’s Wave...is special, in many ways. This blade is a bit different...than others...as she is a teacher....who let herself be...placed in the blade. She has chosen you...despite being a boy. There is a ... potential depth...to you, if you can tap into it. To find it...you must find yourself. Right now the world seems bright... new ... wonderful, but it is both black and white, not just one or the other. The current of this nation likes things to be either or, one or the other. Balance is not something this nation cherishes. So you will be struggling...against the current...of this nation when the Tao wants you to only flow. We have been to this school...this Whateley. You should...be fine there. Classes have started...but you should be able to catch up. There are others whose Chi shines brightly. Find them. There are several in the building where you will be living. We will come by...occasionally. Guan Yu will be by as well, to see how you are doing.”

“Guan Yu? Like from the Three Kingdoms era?” Chou’s eyes went wide. She loved playing that character in her games. His pole arm was awesome. She called it the Big Broom.

“Yes. He will make sure your sword work is okay. Also I told you that Monkey wants to bother you. He is harmless but irritating. He may try to steal your underwear.”

Chou giggled. “Really?”

Both nodded. “He loves playing pranks. He is a God but an irritating one.”

“A God!!”

“Well, I guess you could classify him as an Immortal as well. Don’t worry about him. Even at his worst he will not harm you.” Caihe smiled and started playing again. She fell asleep to the sound of the flute and the wind in the trees.

The next morning Chou noticed that Caihe was not there. Xiangu seemed to be making tea. She smiled at Chou and handed a mug over. It smelled heavenly. The taste was tangy and stayed with her after drinking. “What is this?”

“It is a herbal tea I have made for you. It will help strengthen your Chi and balance your energies. I will make sure to leave you some. I also have several books for you to study. These are Taoist texts. Even one of the ‘Books of Sacred Forms.’ That should help your fighting ability.”

Chou smiled brighter. They seemed to be so nice to her. “Thank you. I really mean it. Learning some of this Taoist stuff might just help me cope with things.”

Xiangu smiled warmly at her. She brushed a strand of hair from her face as she poured herself a mug of tea. “That is part of the plan. You were chosen by a Taoist blade, we hoped you wouldn’t mind learning what that means.”

The smile they had held for a moment, before a tree crashed over. The Demon Lord strode into the campsite. “Xiangu...very touching. Nice of you to lie to the shemale. Give me the Blade girl and I may let you live!”

Chou spun to her feet, drawing the sword in one smooth motion. The weeks on the road had given her time to integrate the first amount of information completely. Her body flowed with the movement. The Demon flung a boulder at her. She spun the blade and turned her body so it glanced off of the pressure the blade was building. The Demon lurched towards her and she danced out of the way, feeling the attacks reach for her before the Demon moved. It made it easier for her to evade it.

Chou kept dodging and blocking whatever was thrown at her. She knew she was not good enough to fight back but she could tell she could avoid the attacks for a while. The battle continued, as she flung herself about the forest with the Demon tearing things up. She could feel the heat starting to rise up from him and she knew that fire was not far away.

“So Farshine...have they lied enough to you? Made you feel like you were their child...their kin?” The voice was smooth, but it burned.

Chou could smell that some of the underbrush was catching. The Demon Lord would have the advantage in the fire, since it didn’t seem to bother him at all. After all he was the Demon Lord of the Hell of Fiery Immersion, that was probably a hot place. She was starting to get worried. Was Xiangu alright? How was she going to stop this guy? She was running out of ideas. What was he saying...was it true?

Suddenly there was a bright flash of light and the roaring stopped. Chou turned and noticed that the Demon was no longer there. Xiangu was standing there with her hands folded, her fingers intertwined, red beads over her hands. Suddenly it started to rain. The small fires petered out and faded. The fire was gone.

The rain trickled down Chou’s face as she watched Xiangu. The air shimmered around her. Chou felt her heart racing in response to whatever Xiangu was doing. The amount of Chi the woman was pushing was amazing.

The rain trickled to a stop. Xiangu looked up at Chou and smiled again. “I see you have gotten fairly good at the basics. That is good to know.”

“How did you stop him? He just disappeared.” Chou was slightly confused and panicked. The Demon had disappeared as if by magic.

“Taoists have various ways to deal with Demons. I sent him back home. He’ll be stuck there for a while before he can come back. The basics of that are in one of the books I have for you.” Xiangu was dripping and didn’t seem to mind. She lead Chou back to the campsite. “Well, lets pack and head out. I am afraid the horse has run away.”

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That night, after a long walk, I made it to one of the stops I was told about. This was a farm run by an old Japanese couple. I stayed with them overnight and headed out the next day. Xiangu left me there with the books and the tea. The rest of the trip was rather quiet until I got here.

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Chou crested the hill and saw the town of Dunwich. That meant that the school would only be a few more miles away. It would be another hours walk at most. Then she could stop running and rest her tired feet. Soon she would be where she could eat and sleep and drink without having to be moving on every day. In a way she figured she would miss this.

She had grown up a lot on this trip. Being responsible for her own survival in the wilderness had been an experience. She had fought off wild dogs, drunk thugs and even a drug dealer who had gotten lost. She had also helped some animal families and a couple of lost kids younger than her. It had been very fulfilling. She figured she was starting to serve the Balance.

She walked down from the hill and followed the roads that were supposed to lead her to the school.  Several locals waved at her.  She waved happily back.  All in all the area seemed nice. She did wonder how cold it got in the winter.

She made her way closer to the school. Ahead she saw the gates. They were impressive. Chou wondered how they had managed to get wrought iron to do those things. She walked through the gate sedately.

She consulted the map of the school that she had been given and haded towards the administration building, Schuster Hall. She would have to find someone to check in with and start the whole process of moving in. Granted it would be easy but she was not looking forward to dealing with too many people. She had gotten used to the solitude that her ride and walk had offered her.

After a bit of looking she found Schuster Hall. It was an older building and the road led pretty much right up to it. There was a sign over the door reading, “Administration”. With Destiny’s Wave in her hand she walked into the building.

The secretary at the front desk smiled at her. It was a warm and welcoming smile that made her relax. “Yes, can I help you?”

“Yes ma’am. My name is Chou Lee and I am a student here. I am sorry I am a few weeks late. I had some trouble getting here.” Chou smirked a little at that. In a way it was a terrible understatement.

“Ah...yes...let me see. Yes, you will need to see Ms. Claire. She is down this hall and to the left.”

Chou thanked her and headed out on her way. The woman was on the phone when she reached the cubicle. She was a young woman with a head of auburn hair that brushed her shoulders. Chou was waved into a seat by the woman who was saying uh-huh a lot and typing furiously. Finally she got off the phone. “Gah...some peoples parents! How can I help you, Miss...”

“Lee. Chou Lee. I’m supposed to be a student here.”

The woman turned and typed in Chou’s name. “Yes. I am Ms. Elaine Claire. No pastry jokes please.”

“What?”

“Nothing.  I see you are three weeks late for classes. Any reason why?”

“I had to travel here on horseback for security reasons. At least that was what I was told. It took a while to get here. Especially after a Demon chased off my horse and I had to walk the rest of the way.”

“I see. I hear that one all the time. Well, so far you are in no classes and have no advisor. But you do have a place in Poe Hall. That is where you’ll be staying. It says here that you have secret sponsors. Not too uncommon. Let’s get you to the dorms. I can give you things to read over. I’ll get you an advisor and we can work on classes tomorrow. Okay?”

“Uh...sure. I could use a long shower and a bed.” Chou smiled broadly.

“If you rode a horse  and walked over a thousand miles, I am sure you need one. We can also see Miss Shugendo as well, she’s the Dean of Students.” Ms. Claire stood, grabbed her purse and headed out. Chou moved quickly to keep up with her. She had to jog a little to catch up.

“I will have the house mother find you a room. There is probably some space as you were scheduled to be here but weren’t. Don’t worry. We won’t have you sleeping in the Quad.” Ms. Claire seemed nice, but Chou felt something darker in her Chi and was wondering what it was. This sense of hers was new and she still didn’t know what it all meant.

She soon returned with an older woman. “Chou Lee, this is Mrs. Horton the house mother for Poe house. She will get you settled in. You have everything?”

“Yes. I carried everything with me.” Chou smiled.

Mrs. Horton was taller than her but seemed to give off a very maternal energy, as she looked down at Chou. “Well, let’s get you settled in, shall we?”

“Uh...sure.”

“You will be staying on the second floor. There was a spot held for you so one of the girls has a spot free in her room. That would be Ayla. If I remember my charts correctly she doesn’t have a roommate at the moment. Belle will be the one to show you around, later this evening. Is there anything you need right now?”

Chou thought about it. “Not really. I’m not that hungry, so I can wait for dinner and I guess I can wait to meet the girls before I get a room.”

“Good. Take a look around the house. The fourth floor is for seniors, so please stay off it. Laundry and exercise room is in the basement. I’ll get to work making sure you have everything you need for your room.”

Chou nodded and Mrs. Horton walked off. Chou wandered around and stopped before the bust of Edgar Allen Poe. It was a really good likeness and it made her smile. She felt something approaching however and turned.

In walked this slender black girl. Her Chi was burning powerfully. The girl stopped and looked at Chou. She seemed to be trying to figure something out. She shrugged and walked up to Chou. “Hey, I’m Toni. New here?”

Chou nodded. “Just got here a little while ago actually. I’m late I guess.”

Toni smiled brightly. “That’s cool. So what do you do?”

“What?”

“I do all sorts of cool martial arts stuff, like from the Matrix and Crouching Tiger. It has to do with Chi.”

“Really? Cool. I have this magical sword that lets me do, I guess, similar things. But I don’t really know too much about martial arts. All the stuff I have been learning about Chi is not about building the body. I can do the sort of flying thing though. That’s cool.”

“Neat! Hey, we can practice together. I can help you get better at the martial arts side of things and you can help me with the other stuff. I am a little shaky with my subtle work.”

Chou stuck her hand out. The girl seemed open and honest. Her Chi resonated a little with hers. Toni’s Chi though was a huge fire compared to hers. “Deal.”

“Oh...hey. Who are you rooming with?”

“I’m not sure. I was told Anya...I think.”

‘You aren’t an Energizer, are you?” asked Toni worriedly.

“A what? I just have a sword. I don’t speak superhero yet.” Chou smiled.

“You haven’t been tested yet or anything? Wow! So how do you know what you can do?” Toni seemed really energetic to Chou, who was much more sedate.

“The old fashioned way. I do something.” She giggled as Toni mock scowled.

“Hey, the other girls will be back soon. Let me introduce you round.”

“Shouldn’t I wait for Mrs. Horton? She was going to lead me to my room and stuff.” asked Chou, worried about offending the House Mother.

“Don’t worry. I’ll show you around and introduce you to everybody. Besides I am sure Belle will be forced to give you the tour of the place. But we can take you to dinner and help you get settled. Need a hand carrying anything?”

Chou held up her backpack and sword. “This is all I have.”

“Wow...you have like nothing. Not to worry...we can help you get what ever you need.”

“I should be fine for a little while. I have been living out of these things for a few months. Just to be able to hang things up will be a novelty.”

“What do you mean?” asked Toni, cocking her head.

“I rode on horseback and walked about a thousand miles to get here. That took quite a while.” Chou sighed at another realization of how far she had traveled. “At this point I don’t want to see another horse for a while.”

Toni led her down the hall to Mrs. Horton’s office. The black girl knocked on the door and opened it up. “Mrs. H, I can take Chou up to her room and at least get her to dinner. Is that okay?”

Mrs. Horton looked up from the paperwork she was going through and nodded. “That would be nice dear. I can finish getting all the paperwork finished for her. Make sure she sees Belle tonight. She needs the tour. Also Chou, please finish that paperwork Ms. Claire gave you tonight so we can get you into classes.”

Both girls replied, “Yes ma’am.”

They headed up the stairs. Toni broke the silence. “So I guess you must be a changeling as well, given that they are rooming you with us?”

“A what?” The term had Chou confused.

“Changeling. Like, were you a girl when this all started?”

Chou blushed as she realized what the term was implying. “Uh...no. I wasn’t.”

“No worries. Trust me, the group of us all have that in common. Now welcome to our floor. Over here is the bathroom and here is your room. Take a shower, change and relax. I’ll grab you when we are ready to head out.”

Chou smiled and thanked Toni. The bottom bunk seemed to be claimed already so Chou placed her bags on the floor. She put Destiny’s Wave on the emptier of the two desks. She unpacked her things and hung them up on one side of the closet. There still seemed to be plenty of room on what amounted to her half of the closet. She got out one of her Mandarin shirts and her Yoga pants. Now that she was here she was going to get comfortable.

She grabbed her towel and hygiene bag. It had everything she needed to get clean and stay that way, including tampons. The first time her period hit she had freaked out. Thankfully the sword talked her through things. The sword had not known what the tampon was though.

Chou blushed at the memory of going into a store and looking through the feminine hygiene isle until she got her courage up enough to buy something. That had been terrible. She turned on the water for the shower and adjusted the temperature before she undressed.

She stretched and felt the tight muscles from the long walk relax a little. It had been over a week since she had had a hot shower. She had mostly bathed in streams over the last week as she had pushed things to get here a little faster. Now she was here at Whateley and seemed to have made a friend. That would help things. And if Toni was right, she would have a number of people who would understand about being put into another body.

While the sword was great and the abilities were awesome, the cost of losing her real body to wield it was still something of a shock. She still occasionally freaked out cleaning the female body. There were times when she forgot her new body and expected to feel body parts that would never return.

The hot water helped her work out a number of kinks from her back and neck. This was now her new home. No father, no mother just this school. She started to cry again. The pain and cost was overwhelming her again. She crouched down on the bottom of the shower and cried for a little bit.

She felt better after a while. She rinsed in cold water. It invigorated her and she hoped it would hide the fact that she had been crying. She wasn’t sure she wanted to face new people crying.

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Chou headed towards the administration building. She had plenty of help to choose classes. And the girls were amazing. She liked them all, especially Jade and Fey. The flavors of their Chi were interesting and Chou really wanted to get to know them both better. Jade felt like a little sister, Jinn felt just like Jade, and she was sure she knew Fey from somewhere. There was this nagging feeling like she should be able to recognize the girl.

Tennyo was odd. Her Chi felt all sorts of mixed up. The fact that she looked like she had come straight out of one of Alex’s favorite animes didn’t help matters much either. Chou had to work hard to keep from staring.

Hank didn’t really feel all that odd all things considered. He felt like the Sheriff in many respects. She liked him.

Sara was another matter. The girl seemed to draw in Chi, as if she ate that energy. The girl seemed dark and gothic, haunted but friendly. Chou had shuddered when she had felt Sara consume her dinner. It had felt like she had ripped the life force from the animal.

Ayla wasn’t a bad roommate. The girl seemed preoccupied a bit, as if something was bothering her. But they split the room easily enough. The girl didn’t even stare when Chou was meditating like she had been taught. Ayla could do really cool things with her density, becoming intangible or as dense as stone. That was neat. Besides, she was cute.

Everyone on Team Kimba also seemed to like Destiny’s Wave. The sword told a few stories about life in ancient China. The descriptions of some of those battles were pretty intense. The point of view of the sword was fairly intimate. Tennyo and Chaka seemed really enthralled with the stories, which made sense. Sara did as well, especially the darker stories of demons.

Chou was beginning to feel like she might actually be able to do well here at Whateley. She hoped that they might ask her to join them on their team. She was also a little scared that they might not. She really wanted them to be her friends. Friends were something new to her and after the traveling, she discovered that though she could be alone comfortably she really wanted to have people around her. The hugs before heading off to bed were nice as well.

She entered into the administration building and made her way to Ms. Claire’s office/cubicle. The woman was on the phone again and waved her in. Chou sat down and lay the papers on the desk. She had chosen a number of classes that the others had so she could get some help in catching up. Destiny had suggested the magic classes since the sword had mentioned that Chou would be able to do some magic. They had been glad to hear that she wasn’t seeing someone named Hartford. Apparently the woman had caused them some trouble.

Ms. Clarie hung up the phone and turned to face her. Her smile was bright. Apparently she was something of a morning person. “Good Morning Chou. Have you finished the paperwork?”

“Yes I have ma’am. I chose classes and everything. Some of the other freshmen at Poe are going to be helping me catch up. So I have a lot of classes I share with them. I didn’t see any classes in sword work though. I was told that I have to have classes in that.” She had been a little sad to see there wasn’t going to be anything there to help her develop her sword skills. Destiny wasn’t worried but she was.

“Well, after you go to unarmed and get tested you might be able to schedule classes with either Mr. Ito or one of the other senior instructors. Though I am not sure if there are any instructors who use Chinese weapons. Mr. Ito would know if anyone would. Also your Guardians have set up your account and have left a letter for you. I will have your advisor give it to you when you get your card to draw on your account. Now, lets looks at this list of classes you have.”

She picked up the sheet and began glancing down it. She nodded her head as she went through the list. “Looks good. I can definitely get that set up for you. Now I need to get you an Advisor and get your powers tested. According to you, you don’t really know what you can do.”

Chou smiled. “That’s true. I can fight, use my Chi for some things and have a sword. If I can do anything else I am not aware of it yet. Destiny’s Wave has told me of some things I can do later when I learn them.”

Ms. Claire smiled. “Not to worry. Dr. Hewley will help you work on the powers. He is waiting on you in the lab. And then I will send someone to take you to your Advisor. They will be who you talk to about all other problems. Here are the directions to get to the lab. Have fun Chou.”

She dismissed Chou and got onto her computer. Chou took the slip of paper and followed the directions. When she got there, there was a lab tech sitting at a desk. His hair was tousled, as if he had been running his hands through it. “Can I help you?”

“Yes. My name is Chou Lee and I am here to have my powers tested by Dr. Hewley.”

“Ah...yes. We have been waiting for you. They mentioned that there was someone with a sword on their way. My name is Chris. I’m one of the techs here. Please follow me.”

He lead her deeper into the building, past all sorts of machines and computers. “Don’t worry about the tests. They aren’t that bad. They don’t hurt, except for the blood test.”

She smiled and didn’t get any less worried.

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Chou walked out of the area in a daze. The sheer range of tests she had been given caused her head to spin. She had been busy with them for over five hours. They had poked and prodded her, asked both her and Destiny’s Wave questions. The sword had talked a great deal, occasionally using Chinese to say things when she could not find the words in English. The sword had learned a great deal of things about the world and was still trying to come to grips with it.

They had explained to her that a Level 3 Exemplar was nothing more than a human body at the peak of perfection. She was stronger and faster than most humans, but was not too over the top.

They said she was a Level 2 Esper, since she could use her Chi to sense things with her eyes closed and feel other peoples emotions. She knew she could use her Chi to feel things but to have it measured was a bit odd.

Her Magic was at Level 2, but they expected it to get to 3 in a few years. Destiny’s Wave led her through some of the exercises for magic so they could measure that. The feeling was a little weird. But she enjoyed it. She guessed it would come in useful later. According to what Destiny was describing it sounded like fun.

She had been stunned by the revelation that she was a Level 2 Healer. That was another aspect of things that had surprised her. Those exercises made her feel warm and comfy. They also classified her as a Level 1 Devisor since the sword mentioned that she would be taught Alchemy at a later date.

It also freaked her out when she found out that Destiny’s Wave would cut through just about anything. If she tried to actually cut things, they cut. But if she didn’t want to do that, the blade was dull. Dr. Hewley was trying to figure if that meant telekinesis as he guessed her “flight” meant that as well. The sword called it Lightfoot Kung Fu. She could leap a long way and balance on almost anything. Chou thought it was cool but all the science talk confused her.

There were also various conjectures about the power of the sword. Chou had really gotten lost there when they were wondering if she were an Avatar and that was how the sword linked to its wielder or if it were something else. She had no idea and really didn’t want to worry about it. They tentatively classified her as a Level 1 Avatar.

She felt a tug at her from something. She looked around confused, trying to spot anything that could have caused the reaction.

Nothing.

In fact all she could see was a person coming down the stairs scanning the room for someone. When they spotted her they waved and hustled over. It was Belle. The girl headed over smiling. “Chou! Cool. They just called me to say they were done with you. I hope they weren’t too bad.”

“I don’t think so. I just couldn’t follow what they were saying most of the time.” Chou shrugged. “Though I learned about powers I didn’t know I had.”

“Hey, that’s cool. I had the basics figured out when I got here, but so far no real new ones have shown up in me. It’s like a surprise present.” Belle smiled. “I am here to take you to meet your advisor.”

“What about lunch? They wouldn’t feed me.”

Belles stopped and looked as if she was going to storm in and yell at some people. “They what? I should give those jerks a piece of my mind.”

“That won’t get me lunch.” pointed out Chou.

“Humph! I guess you could tell your advisor. Dr. Bellows is a nice guy.” Belle started to lead the way from the testing lab.

“Really? That would be good. I could use more help dealing with this place. It is so different from any school I have ever been to.”

“That’s so true. But at least you have a house full of people to look out for you.”

“There is that. Thanks Belle.” She hugged the older girl.

Belle hugged her back. “No problem. Now lets get going.”

Dr. Bellows was in his office going through a book. He smiled at both Belle and Chou when they came in. “Thanks Belle. You must be Chou. It is a pleasure to meet you. Please, have a seat.”

Chou sat and Belle left, closing the door quietly. Dr. Bellows looked at her quietly for a minute. Chou was nervous but simply sat there enjoying the silence. Dr. Bellows broke the quiet. “It is really interesting having a student who has been sponsored by two of the eight main Taoist Immortals.”

“What?”

“You didn’t know that you were sponsored by them? They paid your tuition and gave you drawing funds in pure gold. You have something like ten thousand dollars in your account at the moment, after tuition. They left a letter for you, in Chinese. So I doubt anyone else has looked at it.” He handed across a letter to Chou, who was sitting open mouthed.

She took it and read it quickly, the characters giving her no problem.

Chou, we left this to let you know we have not forgotten our little sister. We have paid for your school and made sure that the boundaries will keep out the Demon Lord. They will, for the most part. And if he gets through there are plenty of people to fight him. Lan Caihe Ho thought you should have some money to buy clothes and the like with. Enjoy it. Don’t worry, there is plenty more. Guan Yu said he would drop by later to make sure you are being taught well. He wants to check out your combat teachers and see if they are any good. Do not worry, it is just how he is. I will come by later as well. Have Fun. He Xiangu.

 

Chou blinked and then smiled. It looked like she still had a family. “It’s good news. Also He Xiangu and Guan Yu are going to be visiting me from time to time.”

Dr. Bellows nodded slowly. “I see. Well, this will be new for the school. Not too many Immortals come by for a chat. Should be fun. Now, here are the things you need to get access to your money. And I was wondering if you have any problems you might want to talk about? I was wondering if anything was bothering you since you lost your father and got transformed?”

Chou started to tear up again. She had managed to not think about that event too much. “I miss him and I miss being who I was. I have had some time to deal with things but it still hurts terribly and I never wanted to be a girl all the time. I liked being able to do some of these things but I liked being Alex. I wish I didn’t have this body, but I don’t have that option now do I?”

“It’s okay Chou. I got you since your joining us is linked to you going through quite a bit of trauma. I am also a Psychiatrist. So I can help you deal with these things. I can see you almost any time you need me.”

Chou sniffled. “Thank you. That would help. I find myself crying uncontrollably sometimes. I just wish things had been different. This body is nice and all but I was a boy. I was happy being a boy.”

“That was another reason for putting you in Poe. The group you are with is dealing with many of the same things. They can help you cope as well. As far as I can tell, there is no way to reverse what has been done to you. So I can also help you become more comfortable with this new you. Now, onto happier stuff. I think your class load looks good, especially taking classes with other people from Poe so they can help you catch up. Mr. Ito says he does know someone who is skilled with the type of sword you use. He and Mrs. Tolman want to see your skill before they set you up with a class schedule for that. Any way, that is all I had, since I figured that Dr. Hewley would have forgotten to feed you. So go get some food, and a school uniform. I’ll make an appointment for you next week, so we can talk.”

Chou nodded. “Thank you Dr. Bellows.”

Chou returned to Poe to see if anyone was in. Apparently everyone was still in classes. She sighed. Well, time to get things from the school store.

The school store was in a building all by itself, past the cafeteria. It was run by a group of enterprising locals from Dunwich who knew that the school regulations kept the kids on campus more than let them off. So, they found a way to offer the students things and help their economy in classic Capitalistic fashion.

Chou walked in and froze. She wasn’t expecting something like this. There were all sorts of items here. It was almost a Wal-Mart. There were sections for school clothing, men’s and women’s, causal clothes and exercise clothes, shoes, school supplies and normal things like towels, hygiene products and things to decorate the rooms. With the money she had been given by Lan and Xiangu she could buy almost anything she wanted. It was more than she had ever had. So she dove in and lost herself n the shopping.

In the end, she stopped due to her strength almost reaching critical mass. She had clothes, uniforms, underwear, two nightgowns, some Chinese stuff for decoration, a sword rack, shampoo, conditioner, soap and all sorts of good things. She had even seen a few stuffed animals that she liked, which was a little weird. Alex had liked them a little but Chou had to have the bear and the raccoon. She looked a bit abashed at the huge pile of things but smiled. It would be all right. She had even gotten something for Ayla. A thanks for letting me share your room kind of thing.

As she was on her way back, she noticed that classes seemed to have been let out. There were students everywhere. She knew it wasn’t a large school, with only 600 students, but she was wondering how many of those she would remember.

This one girl kept showing up as she was walking. She was this girl about her own height with mousy brown hair and glasses. Her hair was in two pony tails. Chou thought she looked cute. They both caught each other looking and turned away blushing. When Chou looked back, the girl was gone.

The pull was back, more insistent and she turned from her path and followed the pull into the woods just next to Poe. It seemed to be leading her somewhere. It reminded her a little of the energy that pulled her to those events on her way here.

Ahead she could feel someone with turbulent emotions. She narrowed her eyes in concentration. She could feel them ahead, through the trees. It was Jade. Jinn was nowhere in sight.

Chou sat down her bags and moved ahead slowly. Jade was sitting next to a tree, looking out into the forest. Chou cleared her throat and Jade jumped a little. The girls hand darted to her back but she stopped when she saw it was Chou. “Hey Jade. Are you okay?”

“Why do you ask?” Jade looked a bit confused.

“I don’t know. I felt something pulling me this way and here you are. So I ask.”

“Well, there is, but so far no one and nothing can help me.” Jade sounded forlorn.

“Are you sure? I mean, I can try.” Chou tried to sound as honest and as sincere as she could.

“Thanks Chou, but, I don’t really know you. This is my problem.”

Chou nodded. She felt a little down. She was only trying to help after all. Wasn’t this how you made friends? “Well, if you change your mind I guess you can find me. Take care Jade.”

Chou turned to go and started off. She then felt something else, like someone or thing was watching them. She turned and scanned the trees, drawing Destiny’s Wave slowly, the jade rasping against the sheath. Jade saw the action and spun, drawing her pistol. The air was quiet and heavy.

Chou moved a little forward to better cover Jade. Jade pulled something out of her pockets and charged it up. It looked like a little shield and it moved to protect her. A figure separated itself from the trees. Jade hissed but Chou had no idea who it could be. A middle aged man stepped out of the shadows and glared at Jade, his eyes glowed madly. “What the hell are you doing here!? I told you I would find you.”

Chou barely heard Jade whisper, “Dad?” She moved between them. Something felt wrong about this. The Chi that she was feeling was not that of a normal person. It reminded her of the Demon Lord, but not as deep or dark. “What are you? Stay back or we will fight!”

The thing paused and took a good look at Chou. The feel of the eyes on her was oily. Chou let out a breath, relaxed and was ready to fight. The thing in the shape of Jade’s father turned back to the smaller girl. “You! I know you can access the barrier. Take me there.”

At that Jade reacted. She started and furrowed her brows in concentration. The gun made an odd sound to Chou and electricity seemed to dance over the thing. It flinched back and moved forward. Chou slid forward and halted its progress with the blade. It stopped as Chou let her Chi flow out. It turned again to face her. “You would be wise to leave girl. The boy is mine. He can open the gate.”

“Gate? What Gate?”

Jade gasped in shock, remembering the cleaning and painting in that evil place. Jinn with the flamethrower and her with the rifle. She remembered the sense of evil that had crawled over her. This thing in front of them wanted to break that seal?

“Yes, boy...you know what it is I want. Come with me.”

With that it lunged. Chou swung the sword, not intending to cut the thing. It twisted away from the blade with inhuman speed. Its eyes glowed red and it laughed.

“Chou, lets get out of here.”

“Sure thing.”

The two of them left in a hurry, trying to get out of there. There was a blur of motion and suddenly it was before them. Jade fired her gun and the electricity hit it once again. It ignored her. The air shimmered around its left hand and a blade of fire stretched out.

The attack drove the two farther back into the trees. While Chou covered her Jade quickly charged up a pair of devices to help protect them. Bunny said they were energy shields. So far they hadn’t been tested. Now was not a good time for them to fail. Chou kept trying to change the momentum of the battle but the thing seemed to know more sword than she did. She was breathing hard at the flurry of blows the thing delivered. She cursed in Chinese.

The thing spun to the side and quickly grabbed Jade, who was not expecting the move. “Now boy, you will free my kin.”

With that it bounded off. Chou raced after it. Her lightfoot kung fu was enabling her to gain and even pass the thing. If only she could think of something to do. “What the hell am I going to do? How can I stop this thing?”

“You need to use your Chi more. Try pushing him with it or cutting his link to his energy source. That thing is a force inhabiting a body. Cut that binding cord and you release the body.” remarked Destiny.

“Easy enough to say, how do I do that?” Chou could see the figure swerving through the trees, heading rapidly somewhere. Chou would have to act soon.

“Use me. Aim for the line of energy and see me cutting through it. If I connect with it, it will sever.”

“You can do that?”

“Yes. Chi is energy. I can cut energy as easily as anything else. I just need to know what you want to cut.”

Chou had a plan forming. This might just work. She flung herself down in front of the thing. Jade was trying to change the shells in her gun as the thing ran, ignoring her. She took a deep breath in, pulling in all the Chi she could. She wanted to have all the energy she could. She closed her eyes and started feeling for the energy of the creature. There was a thin line of blood red coming from the navel of the creature, like a thread. That would be her target.

The thing raised its blade again and the two started fighting again. The shock of blade against blade was causing her arm to tremble. She was looking for a moment when she could strike. The air pressure was building from the speed of the blades. Leaves began to swirl.

Suddenly the things head rocked sideways and it dropped Jade. As it staggered back it’s arms went wide and Chou struck. The line snapped under the blade and the body collapsed, like a puppet with no strings. As the body collapsed it was obviously several days dead.

Chou headed over to Jade. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. It didn’t do anything but carry me. I had time to get some impact rounds out. The only deliver a non-lethal kinetic punch. I guess it worked. Thanks.” Jade looked down embarrassed. “And I guess you know my secret now.”

“Huh? The boy thing?” Jade was quiet and only nodded. “You mean you haven’t changed physically?”

Again Jade only nodded. “Well, Can I try and see if there is something I can do? It could simply be some sort of energy block. If so Destiny here might be able to show me how to release it, letting you change. If that doesn’t work we can always try something else. Your body isn’t who you are Jade.”

Chou felt a kind of connection then, a deep welling of energy that filled her. There was a resonance for herself to what she had said to Jade. That was true even for herself. So she was now female, in a lot of ways she hadn’t changed. She just hadn’t been able to see that.

She put her arm around the girls shoulder. “Come on Jade, let’s head back.”

linebreak shadow

Team Kimba was assembled in Poe when they got there. Everyone seemed to sense that there was some thing wrong. Ayla took the bags from Chou and tossed them in their room as they were both steered into Nikki’s room.

Fey’s eyes seemed to glow with power as she began. “I felt a flash of magical energy and I could feel that you two were in trouble. You got here just before we were going to leave to get you. What’s wrong?”

Jade answered slowly. “I don’t know. I thought it was my father until Chou hit it. What ever it is, it is evil and may be back. I have to tell people about this one. It is after something dangerous. Something frightening.”

Tennyo looked at Jade carefully. “Are you okay?”

“Yes. Chou was there. The bullets I hit it with did nothing. If she hadn’t been there it would have gotten me. She managed to figure out a way to stop it.” Jade shook a little. “It’s touch was nasty. When we’re done I need a shower.”

Tennyo turned to Chou. There was obvious relief in her eyes. She really seemed to care for her roommate. “Thank you for watching out for her. She can take care of herself usually, but this sounds like mystical stuff, which we are weak on, except for Nikki.”

“No problem. I felt like there was something wrong and I went to find out what it was. And there was Jade. Luck really.” Chou was a little embarrassed to be thanked for something she would have done anyway.

Jade turned and hugged Chou. “Thanks. I think I may just be able to trust you. I mean, you stepped in front of that thing to keep it from me. Thanks.”

Chou blushed. “You’re welcome Jade. I couldn’t just walk away.”

“So Chou, I heard that you were tested today. What did they rate you at?” asked Hank from the doorway.

“Uh...Exemplar 3, Esper 2, Magic 2, Healer 2, TK 2, Devisor 1, Avatar 1.” Everyone leaned in and stared at her. “What?”

“That is a really weird combination.” remarked Toni.

“Hey, it’s all the sword’s fault. I don’t really understand any of it. From what I got, I was an Avatar as Alex, keyed to the sword. The sword then keyed everything else. They were talking so fast I barely understood half of that.”

Jade leaned in. “Maybe you can help me with my problem. Thanks again Chou, I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t been there.”

“Hey, what are friends for?”

Chou was suddenly enveloped by a group hug. She was surprised but relaxed into it as there was no way she could get past Hank or Tennyo. Even Sara joined in on the hug. It was warm and comforting, even welcoming.

“Welcome to Whateley, Chou.”