Caitlyn Baker

The Round Bead

The Round Bead
By Caitlyn Baker

Chapter 1 A cool breeze was the first thing Madi felt. Her short black hair was tied up in a ponytail and out of her face. The smell of the ocean turned her stomach, also making her face bright green. Madi was not the right type of girl that would care for the ocean. She wasn’t even the right type of girl who liked her own name. That’s why most people called her Madi instead of Madison. Madison was usually not the selfish type, but she sometimes thought of herself before others. Not until her outrageous adventure. “Are you okay, Madi?” A boy’s voice asked. Madi turned around in response to her nickname. She nodded. The boy stepped out of the little cabin he was resting in and walked toward his companion. “Steven, I’m okay, really I am,” Madi muttered. She looked down from the deck to see if she could take her mind of the waves and look for nearby dolphins in the purple and orange waters, reflecting the rising sun. “You look like you’re about to throw up,” Steven replied, standing next to Madi. Madi nodded again. “Don’t worry; we’re getting so close to Taiwan. You’ll be fine.” Steven and Madi were on their way to Taiwan for a mission trip with their church. Several other people were on board, of course. The captain of the ship, The Missionary, was very rich and skilled. His name wasn’t important, but he actually let on two fourteenyear-old kids on-board for the mission, since the trip was for adults only. 1

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So far, the day was starting out normally. The sun was rising beautifully, the two friends were talking together, but that was not how the day was going to be for the 24-hour deal. Two hours passed after Madi’s sickness and she noticed a shudder in her room. Passing into Steven’s room, she saw him under his desk. “Either it’s an earthquake or we’ve been shot by something!” Madi darted under his bed for safety. The captain came into the bedroom, clanging their doors with the head of his rifle, roaring out, “Get to your stations immediately! We’re under attack! This is not a drill!” Steven crawled to Madi, shivering with fright, not just, but water was seeping into the ship, cold from the night before. Steven pulled Madi out of the bed and tried to calm her down with his arm around her, walking out of the flooded room. “You're okay, Madi. Everything’s going to be alright.” Sure, that’s what he thought, not until the Japanese or whoever was attacking them blew up part of the ship. Several bodies – both dead and alive—flew out and landed in the ocean. Half of the ship was divided into smithereens, while the other was sinking. With Madi in his arms, Steven held onto a piece of steel that was floating on the surface. Madi pulled Steven onto the floating steel platform as she got onto it herself. Choking on salt water, she heaved until Steven’s arms and head were above water. “Steven, what happened? Did we…did we cross over an underwater mine field?” Madi asked, exhausted. Her throat began to hurt from dehydration. “I guess so…everyone else is dead.” Steven began to cry, since his other adult friends have passed. “It’s—it’s so—so cold…” Madi trembled with the cold air hitting on her dry skin. “I know, Madi. This may be a little tough, but we need to start moving carefully so we can find help and something to eat and drink, okay?” 2

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Madi nodded, knowing Steven was there to help her. Passing by the remains of the explosion, Madi closed her eyes to shield her sight from the bloody mess and said a prayer to keep her calm and to make sure that God brought her and Steven to a safe region quickly. An hour passed and Steven and Madi finally found land. Washing up onto the shore, Madi used her strong arms to drag Steven onto the sandy shore. God Almighty, this is so bad. We must be in Taiwan, yet it doesn’t seem like Taiwan. Madi thought. She scanned the contents of the beach she was laying on until something dreadful caught her eye. It was a piece of metal with a strange inscription on it, mostly characters of some sort. Madi picked up the metal and looked at the inscription carefully. Her skills in languages got her out of school and into the mission trip, so she was smart enough to know that the writing she found wasn’t from Japan or Taiwan. It was Chinese writing. Madi laid her head back in despair. “Oh no, we can’t be in China. That’s impossible…calm down girl, it could have washed up on the shore…” she whined. Steven opened his eyes from the knockout. “What washed up?” he groggily moaned. Madi told him about what she had found. “I can’t read it, but it seems like this isn’t Taiwan.” “Do you think we should explore, Madi?” he asked. Madi shrugged. Taking Steven’s hand, Madi stood up, trying to withstand the south winds. The sunlight was warm enough to be able to walk around in, even though the water was still not dry from their bodies. They both waked into a forest which was right behind them and began to eat some fruit that was growing. Suddenly, there was a noise. “What was that?” Madi asked. The snap of a twig was the sound she heard.

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“Get behind me, Madi. I feel that there’s someone here and I don’t like the feeling of it.” Steven said, nudging Madi behind him. Madi nodded and did what he said. A little gibbon was the noisemaker. He walked over to Madi and sniffed her wet clothes, then left. Steven’s heart was still pounding rapidly in his chest. He still knew someone was there, waiting to step out. Unexpectedly, Madi screamed. She was dragged away from Steven’s protection. “Madi!” he yelled. He was blocked by a huge Chinese soldier standing in his way. “Where’s Madi?” “You’ll see her again,” he said in Chinese. Steven was able to understand him because he had learned Chinese a long time ago, but he wasn’t able to read or write it. “But first, you will have to tell the emperor why you’re here.” Steven was taken on a ship and locked in a solitary room. It was red and gold all over. This is a very nice room, especially for this time. Someone royal in power must own this ship. Steven thought. Oh Madi, I hope you’re okay. “You’ll be taken from Xiamen, which is where you were with your girlfriend, to Fuzhou, which is where the emperor is.” The same soldier said. Steven’s face turned a tomato red and he tried to remember as much Chinese as possible. “One, she is not my girlfriend. Two, how long will it take us to get to Fuzhou?” he cried out. “It will take one and a half days. We will arrive tomorrow night.” “And Madi will be there too?” “Yes, young boy.” Steven ate scraps of duck and rice on his plate that night. This sure is better than tiger lily buds back in the woods. He thought. Shoving a piece of duck in his mouth, he forgot all about the trip to Fuzhou. Steven only wished that Madi was safe.

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Madi was chained up in her room, screaming at the top of her lungs in Chinese, “Let me out you heartless freaks!” she wouldn’t calm down; Madi had many bruises and cuts and slices all over herself as a result of being dragged all the way to the ship from the forest. “Please, or I’ll beg the emperor to kill you all!” “Shut up, Western girl.” The passengers would say back. Madi still didn’t understand what they meant by, ‘Western girl’, but she knew it must have been an insult. “When are you going to stop?” a voice said in plain English. “Steven?” Madi looked up. The door opened with a creak. The boy wasn’t Steven; it was just another teenager. He was only fifteen years old. “You—you can speak—English?” “Yes, I’ve been learning it since I was three years old when my aunt, Cixi was empress, just in case if you Westerners appeared here to explore or trade, I would be able to talk to them and learn new things.” The young boy said. “How on earth does the name ‘Westerner’ have to do with me?” Madi yelled. “It’s not an insult. It’s just another name for Americans.” “Then why can’t you just call me an American girl?” “Well, you can just say that we hate Americans.” “What?” Madi yelped. “You don’t even know my name!” “Your name is Madi,” the boy said. “Oh, so you knew who I was after all!” “Not at all,” he replied, laughing. Madi’s jaw dropped. “Your companion, Steven, called it out when I dragged you away.” “How did—well, shouldn’t you have friends to do that kind of work? And why did you abduct me? “I abducted you—by myself—because I wanted to, and…you were also coming here without permission and I didn’t want the 5

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emperor hurting you. I don’t want my tough friends hurting a poor girl like you,” the boy said, putting his hand under Madi’s chin. “You’re too late, because your ‘friends’ chained me up and cut my wrists,” Madi cried, showing him her red hands, not caring that his hand was under her face in a caring way, even though he seemed mean. The boy sighed and spoke in Chinese to the soldier standing outside the door. “What did you say?” Madi asked in the boy’s own language. “I said to him to get you something to eat. I must be on my way—the other ship with your companion is behind me and I need to reach Fuzhou before they do. They all think I’m there already, and you are alone on this ship with my servants, while I’m preparing your arrival.” “Well, can I at least have your name, since you know mine, sir?” Madi asked. The boy kneeled down in front of her instead of leaving her, their faces a foot apart. “Just to let you know, I am not old enough to rule China, even though I was appointed by my aunt, Cixi, when I was three years old. But, like you asked, my name is Zaitian, or if I do rule China someday, you shall call me Guangxu.” “Hey, I don’t believe you rule China! I want see the emperor in Fuzhou, so that I can get the truth next time!” “You’re looking at him!” Zaitian said angrily, standing up. “I am not, you phony!” she yelled back. “And what does that supposed to mean, Shorty?” “It means ‘fake’! Now get me the real emperor!” Madi began to cry, since she was offended so. She really was short. “Now, now, now, young Madi; you were doing fine, beginning to calm down, that was. Please, start some deep breathing exercises, and please, concentrate on thinking of your happy place. I’ll be happy to send you to your happy place if you cooperate, but only if you do. 6

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You’ll be staying at my place in the palace when we arrive, but only in a spare room, with it furnished and decorated, first. You will also have dinner there with your companion, Steven, and I.” “What am I supposed to do, though?” the gullible Madi asked with tears streaming down her dirty face. “First, help the emperor to begin the Boxer Rebellion, which I will tell you about at dinner.” “Ha, I knew you weren’t the emperor!” Madi laughed. “Enough. I’ll explain it later. Now, young Madi, tell me what your happy place is. It’s the only place I can send you, for the whole United States think you’re dead since the shipwreck.” “How do you know about the shipwreck?” Madi asked, surprised of the foreign news now known. “I got the news from the emperor. He told me his men sunk it themselves, since they were coming in too quickly and illegally.” “But, we weren’t on our way to China; we were really on our way to Taiwan.” “It was seriously a crashing, young Madi? You should really think of this as a vacation instead of a good-going mission trip and a happily-ever-after ending there, don’t you think so? Now, speaking of thinking, I would really appreciate it if you would tell me what your happy place is? Please tell me, there’s no one else who knows and I would dearly send you there.” Madi gulped as a result of looking into her own head involuntarily from the force of a boy. “It’s impossible; it’s just a thought.” “Do you want to be happy or not? I would like for you to be calmed down myself,” “Well, it’s a vast ocean, looking at it from a ship, on an orangish-purplish sunset reflecting onto the waters,” Madi swallowed. “Not just, Madi. There’s something else, isn’t there, since you said it was just a thought?”

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Zaitian asked, as if he knew she was forgetting something. “And…someone…kissing me…holding me… his arms around my waist.” “Who is it? Is it your companion, Steven?” Madi shook her head. “No, he’s taller than me,” “Who is it, then? Do you know him?” Zaitian tried to peer into her thoughts. Madi shrugged, tears coming to her eyes from the stress put on her hands from the tension of the chains. “I don’t know…I don’t know…” she muttered, choking on her tears. “Thank you, Madi. I’ll be able to send you to your happy place, but until you help the emperor with the task I have given you and if you figure out whom the boy in your world is…” Zaitian said, smirking indignantly. “But, young Madi, I think you know him.” “Oh God,” she whispered. Zaitian turned around quickly. Zaitian heard what she had said. He knew then that she knew who God was. This isn’t good, he thought to himself. She’s a Christian. “Bring the girl and some food and bring the ship’s speed to 21 knots.” Zaitian commanded. He walked out of the room, leaving poor Madi alone. Hours passed. Madi was still thinking of Zaitian still, because she hadn’t seen him since they met. She picked at the scraps. Zaitian was in her head, appearing and disappearing to her spontaneously. The jerk of the ship docking thrust Madi forward, breaking her thoughts about Zaitian. What happened? Are we in China yet? She immediately thought. Looking up, the door opened and Zaitian’s soldiers came in. “What happened?” Madi asked, showing that her skin was covered in sweat. “We found land in Fuzhou,” one of the soldiers replied. “The emperor told us to put you in handcuffs until you see him.” The other soldier 8

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said to Madi. He chained up Madi by the hands again and held her by the arms. “Is Steven with you?” she asked. The soldier who was holding her snorted. “Who?” The three walked on, exiting the ship and walking onto dry land, viewing the towers and palaces up ahead. Ignoring the wandering citizens, Zaitian’s soldiers dragged the sleepy Madi to the biggest palace in Fuzhou. Doors the size of elephants opened up to welcome Madi and the soldiers recovering her to the emperor. Why does the emperor need me anyway? Why can’t he just send me home…or just have Zaitian send me to my ‘happy place.’ How dare him! Assuming that I know my prince in my dream? Madi bit her lip in anger, thinking about Zaitian’s slippery attitude. He practically haunted her. “Is this really the emperor’s palace? I think he can do better than that!” Madi yelled at the top of her lungs in the foreign language. The soldier on her right hit her in the side. “Shut up, you vermin,” “No, I won’t!” she said in a rude tone. “I seriously think that the emperor should clean up about! I should just walk up to his bedroom door, bang on it five times, but no! He won’t hear me because he’ll be too busy with a prostitute, or so I’ve read! I’ll kick it open and screw his brains up for sinking my ship! Only if you could…OH MY GOD!” Madi looked ahead of her. Sitting on the throne to the north of her standing point was a boy on the throne dressed in silk robes and eating a plate of rice. He was looking at her very sternly, since he heard every word she had screamed out publicly. Above him was an inscription: Emperor Zaitian. “Oh God, he was right!” Madi wriggled out of the grasp of the soldiers and ran to Zaitian and kowtowed before him, rupturing one of her arms, since the pressure of the chains plus the slamming of her arms on the marble floor, practically pulled the 9

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arm muscle and damaged it. She cried out in a scream. “That was a rather stupid idea, young Madi.” Zaitian said. He didn’t welcome her. He heard Madi complain about how dreadful his palace was, so he practically decided that she deserved her bone shattered. That could have been her welcome and punishment. “Take her to the medical center, now!” Madi was once again dragged away and Zaitian just sat and watched. The elephant-sized doors burst open again. Four soldiers entered along with a boy about Zaitian and Madi’s age. “I have come to see Madi!” Steven cried out in a heroic tone, forgetting to bow to Zaitian. “My apologies, Steven; Madi shattered her arm.” “She did what?” Steven was guided to the medical center an hour after a long explanation from the emperor. He told Steven everything that had happened in the boat, but had kept her happy place a secret. Madi was sleeping on a silkworm bed, cozy and comfortable as she could be. Her arm was wrapped in a silk sling and opium was injected into her as a pain killer. A dress was put on her so when she woke up, she would be in time for dinner. She opened her eyes as soon as Steven touched her cheek. “Ugh…” she said. Her irises were swallowed up in black, showing that she was drugged to keep the pain from killing her arm. “You alright,” Steven asked, sitting on the bed. Madi nodded. “I’m fine, thank you. This Zaitian guy is,” “Crazy, I know.” “No, that’s not what I was going to say. What I was going to say was,” “You expect some Chinese emperor to take care of you for the rest of your life?” Steven raised his voice a bit. Madi sat up. “He told you what?” Madi’s eye twitched and she got up out of the bed and walked out.

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“Madi, get back over here! Madison!” Steven grabbed her free hand and pulled her back. “I know that we’re in a lot of trouble, but you should know, this guy is America’s enemy! You’ve been tricked; there’s no way that Zaitian can send you back to your home as soon as you do some little favor for him.” “You expect me to not listen to him?” Madi asked, sweeping Steven’s hand away. “Yes, and I expect you to get this idiot out of your head and help me find a way to get us both out of this mess.” “I need to tell you something, first, maybe even ask you, Steven.” Madi whispered to him. She pulled Steven into the closet, for she didn’t want the incoming soldiers hearing her. Steven closed the door behind him. “What is it?” “Steven, everyone knows about the shipwreck; Zaitian sent the news letter to every nation. He can even send a letter about me breaking my arm, speaking of which, it is not broken.” “It’s not?” “No, the doctor said that the bone is now bruised, or maybe she said that about my muscles and tissue.” “That’s one positive thing about this topsy-turvy mission trip. Now, what’s your question?” “Since America thinks we’re dead, where are we supposed to go?” “Wait, how do you know the whole United States think we’re gone?” Steven asked, putting a hand on Madi’s shoulder. Madi sighed and pulled out a paper. It had many Chinese characters on it. “You know I can’t read it.” “I can read some of it. It says that there were no survivors. What does that mean? No body lived! If it said two survivors, then the president would have sent something for us, but no! Zaitian is keeping us in secret, but why is he? He wants me to help him with some rebellion, but I don’t get it.” 11

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“I don’t either, Madi. You’re safe here anyway. Zaitian doesn’t really show harm. He did bring you here to heal your arm, he gave you a promise, and he’s giving us dinner. Me personally, I think something is wrong.” “Maybe we should just sail away.” “How can we? There are soldiers everywhere,” Steven raised his voice. “It’s 1899; there is no new technology here! The Chinese are getting rid of all our influence and we have the memory of all the technology we have in their state. Zaitian brought us here to help with this nonsense, but once we’re done, Zaitian will take you somewhere else to kill you!” “How do you know?” Madi asked, crying again. “There was a letter I found that has the Chinese symbol of death at the end of it. We need to stay calm and live through this and one day escape while we can.” “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, Steven!” “Good job, Madi. That’s the point that I have been trying to get you to see. Now all you have to do is listen to me.” Madi couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Steven just made her feel like an idiot, showing her the right way when she knew what it was. “You jerk!” she said. She shoved past Steven and walked out of the closet into the dining room. She dropped something on the way. Steven picked it up carefully; it was a book, tearing here and there. Reading it, he saw many things in Madi’s mind that he never knew about. It was her journal that he was reading. January of 1899 My hopes and dreams are coming closer to becoming true. Zaitian talked to me about many things that I long for, even though Zaitian could be mean, I can see a nice person in him, screaming for help to escape and be presented. I don’t care if I never get to do missionary work 12

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again; I’m just happy that my heart is pounding with joy every time I think of Zaitian. “She’s so happy here and I never even realized it. I am a jerk!” Steven said, throwing the journal. He sat on the bed and put his head in his hands. “Oh well. I’ll escape on my own. She doesn’t need me. She just needs that jerkoff, Zaitian. What a show-off, money is so important to him,” “Shut your big mouth up, Steven. You’re slandering has gone too far off its edge.” Madi said, hearing every word that he had sputtered out. Steven glared at Madi for the first time in his life. She picked up the diary, its spine tearing off from the force of Steven’s throw. “You can escape to America on your own, as I can see that you read my diary, or you can come to dinner and be pleasant about things, like me!” “You…you just say that because you are infatuated with him!” “I am not, you stupid fool! Is that what this fighting here is all about?” Madi screamed. A couple of soldiers passing by gave a strange look to Steven. Steven made a face at them, as if telling them that he was with a stupid girl. “I have the right to know if you are feeling something for this guy or not, but you don’t have the right to tell me what to do all the time!” Steven yelled back. Madi’s tough spirit kept her from crying. She had fought with Steven once before, but this fight was outrageous. “You know what? I was happy to see you when you came to me when I was sleeping! I was even missing you on the stupid ride here, you lazy moron!” “The name calling has to stop,” “No, I won’t. I will keep talking!” Madi shrieked, hurting her throat. Steven kept quiet. Madi’s face was red from the raised voice, but she lowered the volume a bit. “As long as I’m here, I don’t want you to interfere with my feelings and my wishes. Go find someone to talk 13

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to somewhere else. I was the only person you could talk to at church because everyone didn’t treat you right. I talked to you all the time and I felt compassionate, but now that’s over. I want to be alone, away from you. I can’t talk to you if you keep starting these stupid fights. I even saved your life and you never even thanked me. I guess you were my companion only…to have me be your play toy. I don’t care if Zaitian plans to kill me later on. This is the only time in my life that I’ve ever been this happy, and I don’t think things will be best if you stick around, Steven, if you just used me.” Madi said. Steven was trying to do his best to keep his anger in his heart, but he said nothing bad. “Fine, Madi. I’ll go, but don’t come crawling back to me when Zaitian is going to execute you for being a Christian!” “Don’t bother coming to the ceremony, then. You probably won’t—your ethnic color isn’t perfect enough for them!” “Why are you speaking this way? There were no problems when it was just the two of us!” Steven yelled finally. Madi squeezed her diary against her chest. Her eyes filled up with tears. “I’m out, Steven. I’m going to dinner.” She said. Walking out, Madi let her tears fall down her cheeks. She slammed the door in his face when Steven tried to walk out, but he didn’t care afterward. Zaitian saw Madi walk, but she wasn’t actually walking to dinner. She opened a door that led to a balcony, where outside, it was dark and cold. Madi was only wearing a dress with thin sleeves, so it was sort of chilly for her. Madi held onto the wall of the balcony. She was crying, but she wasn’t that mad to jump off the edge. “Are you not hungry?” Zaitian asked behind her. Madi jumped. She shook her head. “Oh…I heard the loud conversation between you and Steven.”

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“He’s an idiot.” Madi turned around to face Zaitian. “He called you a jerk-off.” Zaitian laughed. “It doesn’t really matter to me. Everyone used to call me that.” “Really,” “Yes, Madi; I never really liked my own identity and I hurt so many people in my kingdom. Aunt Cixi scolded me day after day.” “You know what, Zaitian? My real name is Madison, but I prefer being called Madi because I hate my own identity as well.” “I understand. I hate to stop talking with you, but we have to go back inside. Your food is getting cold.” “I know, Zaitian, thank you, but I’m seriously not hungry.” Zaitian went to her and put his hand on her cheek, wiping away her tears. “Why are you doing that? Please, let me go,” Madi said, pulling away. “I’m sorry,” Zaitian replied. Madi nodded and walked away. She started to run, rushing toward her room. She slammed the door and plopped herself on the bed and started bawling. (To let you know, it’s not the same room she and Steven were in before.) “Why am I living like this? Why is everything so confusing?” Those were the last words Madi had said before she fell asleep. Madi woke up on a different bed than she was before. It was very fancy and delicate and the sheets were silkworm sheets, like the other rooms contained. Her bed had scarlet curtains flowing down from the top. The sun peered in through windows in the room. Madi realized the room was huge and there was more than a bed. A wardrobe appeared on her left and a table with rice and noodles was on her right. The smell of tea filled the room and made Madi’s stomach rumble with hunger. She closed her eyes to see if it was a dream, but she opened them and she was in the same room she woke up in.

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“Like it?” a voice spoke. Madi screamed, jumped, and turned to face the speaker. “Relax,” he said. “I meant to put you in a different room when you got tired, but you fell asleep to soon for me, I guess.” The voice was Zaitian’s voice. “Morning, Zaitian. Thank you for the room, but, why did you set me here? I,” “I placed you here because I figured you needed to relax a bit after dealing with Steven. He had dinner with me quietly, but didn’t seem to enjoy it. He ate through the food with much gusto, but he didn’t do anything else. He seemed to be missing something,” “Or someone,” Madi interrupted. She smiled at the boy’s face. It was so smooth and he looked so calm when it was morning. “I never saw you smile once before,” Zaitian said, admiring the curviness of Madi’s grin. “I’m just thankful that I have someone to look after me,” Madi’s smile started to wear off, “But I’m worried about your throne and,” “You don’t need to worry about it, remember? I don’t rule China just yet. I still need to help my Aunt,” Zaitian took out a small box and opened it. Inside were glasses. Madi gazed inside. Zaitian put them on. “You look,” “Different? I don’t like being recognized as emperor.” “Why do you always interrupt me or finish my sentences?” Madi exclaimed. “I do not know, uh, may I call you ‘Madison’?” Zaitian asked. Madi noticed that Zaitian’s voice wasn’t like she expected. By hearing it, she could tell he seriously was a teen. Madi nodded. “Yes, please call me Madison.” Madison brushed her midnight hair and put it up in a bun. She outlined her eyes in black makeup. Putting on a blue robe, she tied it to look as thin as possible. Madison took out a matching parasol and held it above her shoulders. You see, Zaitian waned to take 16

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Madison on a tour of the whole palace. There were many rooms to see, which means several guards were on duty, and Madison didn’t want to be recognized as an American girl. Zaitian had short black hair. His skin was lighter than other Chinese, so he was sort of different. Some Chinese mistook him as a Korean, but he always said no. Zaitian combed his hair carefully so he would look nice for Madison. He put on a silk shirt and silk pants. Why is everything silk? He asked himself. Zaitian exited his dormitory and saw a beautiful sight. A girl dressed in a silk robe, beautiful outlined eyes, flowing hair, and a matching parasol was standing before him. “Madison, I presume?” he asked in English. Madison nodded. He took her arm and escorted her all over the palace. Madison giggled at statues, oohed and awed at gardens, and gazed up at chandeliers that seemed magical to her. Luncheon at last, and Madison and Zaitian weren’t recognized as foreigners once. There was a restaurant by the palace, serving the usual rice and noodles, but when Madison was served tofu, she took two pieces of bread and made a tofu sandwich. Biting into it, she claimed it tasted like tuna. Zaitian laughed. “Why are you treating me like this?” Madison asked, awed by his humbleness and times to take her out of the palace. “Well, I realized you have had a loss of friends on the ship, a friend that traveled with you, and I considered making you a new friend.” Zaitian pointed to himself. Madison laughed. “You became my friend whenever I first met you and you started talking to me,” Madison shoved a piece of tofu in her mouth and drank down a bit of tea. “Thank you, Madison.” “Hey, about that happy place of mine, what did you mean by ‘you’ll send me there’?” “Well, I had to do something to calm you down, to start thinking about it more, plus, I was 17

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curious in what you really want most.” Zaitian said, dumping out the noodles. “That was nasty stuff.” He whispered. “Zaitian, a beautiful view is not what I want most,” Madison chirped. “What is it?” Zaitian requested. A dramatic breeze blew in the scene, as if to make our readers feel something’s up, but we’ll get to that later. “Something I can’t have,” Madison responded. Zaitian nodded, trying to tell her he understood her, but he actually didn’t know what she wanted. He decided to stop asking her questions and continue the tour. Later that night, after the show-around, Madison scrambled to her desk and wrote a letter. There was an ink pad and no pencils, but she tried her best to write in cursive with the brush. Dear Mom and Dad, This is Madison. Yes, I am alive here in China with Steven. We survived the shipwreck, yet we managed to swim to China where we are safe now. I don’t want to go home just yet. I am happy and I made a new friend. The future emperor of China is very sweet and he showed me around the palace today. Mostly was because he was concerned. You see, I hurt my arm when I realized he was the emperor! Zaitian is only fifteen years old! I fell on the marble floors and I hurt my arm, but he took me to a medical center. Steven is being such an idiot! He says Zaitian is a jerk-off, just because he wants to help his Aunt Cixi do some project. I think he mentioned something like the Boxer Rebellion, but I have no clue. Steven doesn’t want to talk to me and I feel miserable. I don’t want anyone to rescue me! I feel joyful to have a new friend and I hope that I’ll fly back by next Christmas.

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Ciou, Madison Madison was happy that she got to write to her family. She sent it with Zaitian’s permission and continued to be ignored by Steven, whose jealousy had made his heart evil and dark. “Madison,” Zaitian’s voice said behind Madison. She appeared to be dressed in a pretty robe that had printings of fans on it, just like the Chinese custom. Her hair was put up in two pigtails that hung behind her head. “I’m worried about you,” Zaitian had his disguise on so no one around would know he was future emperor. “I’m fine, Zaitian. I’m just nervous about my parents’ response to my letter. They might want me to come home,” Madison said, playing with her fingers, looking at the despicable Zaitian, hiding his honor. “Why do you not want to go back?” “They don’t think I belong here, Zaitian,” tears fell down Madi’s face, but she pulled herself together to not cry anymore in front of the boy. “Nobody thinks I am able to survive the change…Steven is silent when I’m around…he thinks I’ve gone crazy…I’m so confused.” Zaitian stood there, speechless in front of Madison. He took her arm and led her outside to the balcony. “I’ll give you the right to stay here, if that’s what you want. Whatever path you choose, as long as it’s right, you will find whatever your heart has desired its whole lifespan,” Zaitian turned and looked at the many stars in the sky above. “Look, Madison. I want freedom; I don’t want to rule a whole country by myself. I even don’t want another person choosing my wife or choose where I go or who I see and don’t see. My father is so far from me and I want to see him.” “You can run away,”

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“I’ve considered a few times, but I’ve never left the borders of China, except for a small voyage a couple years ago…I’ve never really left home. The other countries could kill me if I don’t match with their ethnics.” “Oh, that’s just racial and cruel.” “Are you kidding, Madison? Steven rejects us for part of our ethnics. I’m pretty much used to it. Some explorers came to China and made fun of our skin color and eye shape. Aunt Cixi executed them on the spot.” “How many were there?” “At least four,” “Wow, I was thinking about two hundred.” “Yeah, but Cixi isn’t that powerful yet. To let you know, she doesn’t even rule in this palace. She lives in Beijing right now, so I never really get to see her.” “That’s sad. You have no family to see, no friends,” “I have you,” Zaitian said proudly. Madison turned toward him and smiled sweetly and placed her hand on his. Her fingers curled to hold it tight. Realizing what she had done, Madison blushed, ran inside, giggled, and ran to her room (the one she had woken up in) and found her journal. I have to write something…she thought. Dear Diary, My experiences here in China are magnificent! Zaitian had actually given me a tour of the whole palace! It was very gorgeous, indeed. One of the times I enjoyed most was holding Zaitian’s hand at the balcony. My stomach is still full of butterflies. Under the stars, staying by Zaitian’s side, it made me feel great to know I can trust someone other than Steven. I’ve got to get a letter from Mum and Dad soon!

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My thoughts bounce up and down. Have I actually created love for Zaitian within myself? I will think about those and settle the jumpiness of my mind whenever I see Zaitian again. January of 1898 Madison continued to sweat as she dotted her signature. She knew that she was starting to fall in love with him, even though she had to see him again to find out. She was certain love was blooming, but she had to keep it a secret…for now. She joined Zaitian at dinner. She ate silently, yet she thought during the complete session of supper. Her mind played jokes and games and replayed visions over and over again. Get over it, Madison. He probably has some girlfriend in Beijing. Madison thought about her and Zaitian on the balcony. “You have no family to see, no friends,” “I have you,” Yes…I’m probably his only friend. He’s probably keeping his girlfriend a secret to hide from me…Madison looked up at Zaitian. He was playing with the chopsticks and the rice. He looked up at her and smiled. No, maybe not. He would have told me a long time ago if he did. Steven paced in his room. He didn’t eat for days and his stomach grumbled loudly. “I have to get Madison out of here. She’s falling in love with Zaitian, I can just see it!” he yelled with a severe tone. He finally sat down on his bed. “I still love her,” he put his head in his hands and cried for a while. “She can’t marry into a different ethnic. She’s forbidden!” Madison heard his cry and entered the room. She quietly tiptoed to his bed and placed her arm on his shoulder. “Hey,” she said calmly and hugged him. “I’m sorry,” “No, I’m sorry. My words hurt you and I…” tears fell out of Steven’s eyes. “I thought you

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were in love with Zaitian, so I began to feel jealous.” “Oh…Steven, you don’t have to feel that way. I’m not in love with Zaitian. I’m…” Madison choked on her words. “I’m not choosing to be attracted to anyone.” “Your majesty,” a soldier said, barging into the room. “Cixi will be arriving tomorrow morning. Please be ready by then,” the soldier exited, leaving Madison and Steven bewildered. “Your Majesty?” Steven asked. “I don’t know what he met,” “Surely you aren’t appointed for Zaitian’s marriage?” “No way! I would have told you, otherwise. Let’s forget about what he said and good night!” Later that night, Madison wrote more in her diary. I’m choosing to deny my love for Zaitian. Steven is suspecting things and plus, his Aunt Cixi is coming over tomorrow! I feel that I’m stuck in a mud pit with a dilemma on my hands: either to choose Steven the Sorry or Zaitian the Zealous? Chapter 2 Madison dressed up as her usual American self to show Cixi that she came to China to help with her Boxer Rebellion, even though that was really not the reason she came, but still. Steven was glad he told Madison what he was feeling. His heart felt like he had lifted off a thousand tons of pressure. He slipped on his shoes, combed his hair, blew his nose, and walked out of his room to meet Madison. “All hail Cixi,” was the loud voice that interrupted all activity. Madison turned her head and saw a beautiful woman, dressed in what looked like gold almost. Her jet black hair was smooth and tied up in different knots. “Wow,” she muttered under her breath. “Madison, whatever happens, I have to do what my aunt says, okay?” Zaitian said behind 22

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Madison. He looked like what Madison would call ‘Guangxu’. He put his arms gently around Madison’s waist and slipped a round bead with a symbol in her hand. Madison carefully slipped the bead into her pocket. “Alright, Zaitian; I have your word.” She calmly responded. As soon as Cixi stepped down, Zaitian backed away from Madison and motioned them to sit down in the chairs next to the throne. Zaitian met his aunt Cixi and bowed to her.” “Young Guangxu,” she spoke aloud. “I have come to see what your concern is,” “Your majesty, I have help for you from two honorable visitors.” “Visitors? What about the prisoners you talked about?” “They are the prisoners,” Zaitian said. He pointed at Steven and Madison, nervous and shaking. “What? You let them go? That is why I cannot trust you to the throne, young Guangxu. If they are American, they should be in prison for trespassing!” Cixi yelled. “But your majesty, you don’t understand. Their ship was shot down and they were the survivors!” “Even if they crawl onto our land half dead, they are still trespassing. As for the girl and the boy, they shall be executed to begin our Boxer Rebellion,” Cixi said proudly. Zaitian looked toward the entrance of the palace; guards of some sort carrying some sort of weapons that seemed dangerous. Zaitian gasped and jumped in front of Madison and Steven. “No, don’t kill them. Any thing but that. You can banish them, but don’t kill them.” He begged. The tearful look on Zaitian’s face brought nothing but a smirk to Cixi. “Very well. They will be banished from China so long as they live,” Madison’s face went very white. “Each of their generations will be executed if they touch Chinese soil until no one 23

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remains,” Cixi laughed and stormed out of the palace. “Auntie,” Zaitian called, laughing so hard for calling her that in front of a bunch of soldiers, he had to blow his nose to hide it. “Can I at least go with them?” he asked. “No, Zaitian. They will be taken on a ship and left behind on an island. You don’t want to leave your throne, do you?” “I suppose I’ll have to die for them if you have another scheme, your majesty!” Zaitian yelled. “Oh?” she responded. “Take the two Americans onto the small ship. Make sure they take nothing. As for young Guangxu,” she turned toward Zaitian. “Your brother, Mao Dun, will join you with setting up the Boxer Rebellion.” Zaitian nodded and looked at Madison. “I’ll be fine, okay, Zaitian?” she said. Zaitian shook his head. “I’ll look for you,” “What did you say?” Cixi asked. She never learned English, so Zaitian was glad she didn’t know he worried. “I told her she was worthless.” He pretended to be proud. Cixi smiled and stroked his hair. “You will be a fine emperor.” Madison and Steven were both shoved onto a small boat with only four seats. There was two for them and two for two heavily armed soldiers. “Can you speak English?” Steven shouted in his own language. No one responded. “Good, Steven.” “When we’re dumped onto the island, we should make a raft out of something to ride back to China.” “Okay…if there are tropical palm trees.” Madison joked. Both teenagers laughed. The soldiers looked back and snarled at them. Madison and Steven felt cold afterward, but couldn’t keep back the laugh. 24

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“Steven, what did you mean by sailing back to China?” “It’s where you want to be most. I can tell.” He said. Madison smiled at him with a sweet glitter from her teeth. They both were dumped onto an unknown island which had a tropical forest, yet it wasn’t a rainforest. “Hey,” Steven said. “This looks like the island we crashed on!” “It could be,” Madison wondered. She stepped onto the shore, soaking wet, and sniffing the breeze. “How darn they!” she finally yelled. “Madison, I’m going to find a way to get you back to where you belong—with Zaitian.” “Steven,” she said. Then her face brightened up. “Well…I’ll help you.” “First of all, I had no breakfast at all, so I’m going to find something for us to eat.” “Whoa, whoa, whoa, backup! Find something for us?” she asked. Steven turned around, looked at her, and shrugged. “Uh…sure. If you don’t want anything, I won’t bother.” “I just don’t want to be treated like if I’m royal, Steven!” “I’m not acting like it,” he responded. Taking a deep breath, he put his hand on Madison’s shoulder. “I just want to make you happy.” Madison smiled again. “Thank you.” “Okay,” Steven clapped his hands and sat down. “Everything is going to be okay. We’re going to have food, we’re going to build a small boat to get us back to China, and we’re together so I don’t think anything will douse my spirit,” Steven said proudly. Madison looked to the west. “Those rain clouds might.” Rain poured down on the two an hour later. Wind screamed in their ears and sand seared their eyes.

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“Where are we going to sleep?” Madison yelled. “I don’t know,” Steven yelled back. The skies were blackened by the storm and lightning brightened up the atmosphere. It was hard for Madison to see Steven. “Here, I’ll find a cave or something. The trees in the woods won’t do much,” Madison hollered. Steven gave her a thumbs-up sign and continued to balance himself. Madison crawled on the ground and put her hands on the rocks, feeling for an entrance big enough for two and a fire. Madison kicked the earth and the ground shook. A hole was made and water was getting into it very quickly. Madison dug a tunnel above the ground inside the cavern so water wouldn’t flood in and the dirt would quickly absorb the incoming rain. “We’ll stay in here!” Madison shouted. Steven ran over to her and ducked his head in. It was nice and warm inside as soon as Steven got a fire going with his special tinder and flint always hidden inside his shoe in case of an emergency. “Ugh, it’s so tight-packed,” Steven muttered. “We’ll move on when the storm ceases,” Madison responded. Madison patted the ceiling of sand above her so there wouldn’t be a cavein. “I’m hungry,” she said finally. “I’ll go get some crab or something. Stay here in the sanctuary. You’ll be safer there,” Steven commanded. Madison shook her head. “I won’t let you go out alone. If something happens to you, then I’ll feel responsible.” She said, grabbing his hand before he slipped out. Steven gazed at her beautiful eyes. “Alright. Thank you,” He was interrupted by a shock in his body. “Oh sheesh!” he cried. “That water is freezing!” “I know, I know,” Madison said, squeezing tears of pain out of her eyes. She climbed out into the storm and searched the waters for crab

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or washed up fish. A pinch made Madison scream. “Found one!” Steven was pinched too. “Are you sure that’s a crab?” “No, that was my hand,” Madison replied. “My hand touched yours. That wasn’t a crab.” Steven laughed. Madison splashed water onto him and regained her balance. She and Steven were messing around for too long; the storm was getting much worse. “We waited too long,” Madison said. “Can you deal with a night without supper?” Steven asked. “I guess. It’ll be hard to sleep,” Madison muttered. “We’ll eat some fruit or something in the morning, okay?” “Fine,” Madison and Steven crawled back into their little hole with the fire welcoming them with a warm glow. “It’s getting colder,” Madison complained. She held onto Steven, even though he was all wet from the outdoors. He put his arm around her and Madison fell asleep. He gently shoved her to the other side of the cavern and he fell asleep himself. The lightning shattered a tree and the tree fell onto the sand near the cave. Sand started falling and spilling onto Steven, waking him up. “Ugh,” he muttered, blocking his eyes. Madison was still sleeping. Thunder-claps grew louder and louder by the minute. Eventually, Madison was awake. “What is the time?” she asked. “I have no idea. My pocket watch isn’t working. Salt water must have got into it,” he said. Madison nodded and held her stomach. “I’m famished,” she said. “Go back to sleep. Time will speed up if you dream of…” Steven took a deep breath. “Zaitian,”

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“What?” Madison asked. “I don’t dream of him!” “But you want to, you talk in your sleep with his name in it, I’m…I’m not accusing you of liking him, because you said you didn’t, but, just for something you should think of for comfort.” “I think of you for comfort,” Madison told Steven. He smiled. Steven received another matter of responsibility when Madison became ill with hunger. She caught a fever and didn’t seem she would live much longer. Steven held Madison in his arms, scooping up saltwater and giving it to her as her liquid. “You’re going to be okay; I’m here,” is what Steven always said to her. Madison kept her eyes half-way shut and let her tears wash off her Chinese makeup. Finally, the rain stopped, along with Madison’s fever. Steven and Madison gladly ran out of the hole and into the woods, eyeing the beautiful fruits growing on the trees around. They plucked off berries, picked and peeled bananas, and ate away until they swore they were never going to eat again, but their fears returned when the trees shook, the ground rumbled, and different people surround them…and they weren’t monkeys! “Hello?” Madison said in Chinese. “They certainly aren’t like us, but they speak like us. Take them in,” the leader seemed to say. Steven and Madison shrugged. “We aren’t from China, though. We come from America,” Steven said. “Then that makes it even worse…yet tastier,” “You guys are cannibals?” “She knows,” “Yes, we are. We’ve lived this way on our island for centuries. We never eat each other, but anyone who eats our sacred fruit,” the chief pointed at a bonfire with skeletons decorating

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the border. Steven and Madison held their throats. “Uh…we were supposed to get back to China for important business, okay? We need to find Zaitian or Cixi,” “Hmm…Zaitian…never really heard of him…except…he had sent two Americans here,” “I know, we just said that,” Steven impatiently said. “He worries for you, Madison.” The chief said to her, holding up his hand. “I will not kill you two…but only if you bring me and my people the sacred fruit every day of the rest of your life. If you don’t cooperate, then we will have to kill you!” “Hi, I’m Ashu-Bak,” a native girl said to them. She looked about eighteen and seemed very friendly. “I’ll take you to our beach house where you can stay the night, okay?” Madison and Steven nodded in agreement, bowed, and slept for the next three days, collecting fruit for the chief and secretly building a boat for escape, hoping for a way out of the mess. Chapter 3 Madison dragged her bag across the room, sliding down the stairs, and jumping into the kitchen. Steven eyed Madison’s cruddy landing in her cushiony seat. “Madison, those cannibals will probably eat us if we don’t hurry with their other food.” “I must hurry,” Madison spoke in her imagination. “Steven’s right! I should be hurrying. Those cannibals could do anything!” Madison stuffed her face with a hard-boiled egg and ran out of the sanctuary. She entered the rainforest, sweating with fear. She didn’t know if the leader wanted the bananas or the mangos tossed in the fruit salad. “Uh oh…” she whispered, cringing from the thought of her being eaten slowly over the years. Madison swallowed loudly and began 29

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picking every single piece of ripe fruit in the forest that she could reach. “You’re doing great, Madi,” her inner voice said. “Just keep going and think of Zaitian while you’re at it!” Madison smiled and continued picking the fruits, knowing everything was going to be alright. Madison remembered what she and Zaitian shared, ever though it was a short time. He had taken her around the whole palace; he had brought her to dinner, held her hand, and even hugged her around the waist. His words of encouragement echoed in her head. It was a sad memory, really, but Madison was able to see it over and over again in her mind. After Madison finished picking the fruit, she met Steven in the forest, who planned to take her to dinner. Madison left the basket of fruit at her own door and followed him. “Hi, Madison,” Steven said, taking her into the restaurant. Madison looked up; it was entitled, ‘The Restaurant’ in Chinese letters. Madison giggled and walked right in. “So, Steven, what brings you to stay here in the sanctuary?” Madison asked him, shuffling her thumbs around. “The culture is very nice, I should say,” he said. They were interrupted by a bang on the window. She turned her head and saw it was some sort of a person, banging his head on the window. Madison laughed quietly. “What the heck?” she asked herself. “He must be trying to scare us,” Steven replied. Madison looked closer, even though she didn’t get up from her seat. He was bleeding out of his head; it gushing out blood. It must of have been a native having some sort of seizure or just trying to scare the kids. “Whoever he is, he’s certainly doing a good job,” A moment passed and he disappeared. Madison walked to the rainforest, not having to worry about her fate. She kept her mind on no 30

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one but Zaitian and no one else. She sat down and picked a banana from a low branch of a tree and peeled it for herself. Madison bit into the soft texture and tasted the sweet flavor. All of a sudden, some one with a dark skin color began yelling and screaming and running in a different direction than Madison. He turned around when he spotted her and spoke in Chinese. “Little Girl,” he said. “You have to get out of here! There’s no time!” The stranger ran off and continued his alarm of screams. “Uh oh,” Madison said to herself. She sniffed the air. “There isn’t a fire nearby,” Madison climbed a high tree and examined the area; people were running about. There was blood covered on the ground. “Everyone on the beach must get away as fast as they can,” A voice rung through the trees. Madison shuddered. “There has to be a problem!” Madison thought. She ran out of her hiding spot to find Steven and get out of the region. Madison found the beach house where everyone who wasn’t bleeding on someone else was hidden from view inside. I hope Steven is in there, safe from all harm, Madison thought. She ran up to the attic where some of the friendly natives were. They were all looking through a window to see what was going on. “I don’t want Ashu-Bak to get hurt from whoever is attacking us, but where she?” Madison spoke in Chinese. The other girls shrugged. “There has been a death in the village,” the chief spoke. Madison gasped. “Who could it be? Who did this?” she shouted. “Ashu-Nak, one of our medicine sellers, has been brutally killed by some sort of creature. Beware of these creatures, for they are very dangerous! They have sharp teeth, blood, and craziness,” Madison gasped again. The creature in which the chief described so far was

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the same one Steven and I had seen at the restaurant! Looking out the window, I saw the demented people, browsing the village for more victims. One of the citizens was still outside. “Oh my God,” the chief said. The creature was devouring the person, but as seconds passed, the person’s wounds healed up and he walked on, as if the incident never happened. “What’s going on?” A girl asked. Madison shook her head. “That was one of Ashu-Bak’s friends,” she replied, hoping that Steven was okay. “If every single person who becomes infected can do that, then that means that anyone in this room could be dangerous!” Madison exclaimed. The chief started to cry. He pulled out a big sack. “I didn’t want to do this, but since we don’t know who is and who isn’t, we should have to drug everyone, monster or not. All of us will have to put everyone to death, even me.” Madison cried too. “Where’s Steven, Madison?” Ashu-Bak asked, running up to Madison. She shook her head again. “I don’t know. I hope that he is not out there, biting everyone.” A day passed and Madison wrote a letter to Zaitian and sent it by Ashu-Bak’s bird. “We are being brutally attacked by some sort of creatures, as if they climbed out of a book, are attacking schools around The Philippines, Japan, and other Asian countries... Palaces are being closed down and every person, creature or not, is being put to death, in other words, drugged. Please, Zaitian, do something about this.” Madison exited the attic unnoticed. She didn’t want to be drugged. Not that moment! She wanted to find Steven at that moment and get out as soon as possible. But she was interrupted by a hand on her shoulder. “Madison, the chief isn’t here yet. Everyone is going to spend the night at the 32

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beach house until he is prepared. Until I leave you, you need to get yourself out,” Ashu-Bak said. She was happy that he wasn’t there yet. “Do you think we might find a chance to find Steven?” Madison asked. Ashu-Bak stared into her eyes. Madison took that as a ‘yes’ “Okay Ashu-Bak. Let’s get going.” “Sure, we can find him! He could be in another room, looking for you!” “It’s possible,” Madison replied. Another hideous night passed and Madison was awoken by the sound of a scream. “Oh no,” she heard. “Not Ashu-Bak, please!” That was a woman’s voice. She came sliding into the hallway where Ashu-Bak was lying. “Madison, Ashu-Bak is about to be drugged!” Madison looked to her right; Ashu-Bak was being pulled upstairs by two men in robes, walking to the attic. “What could possibly be going on?” she asked herself. Madison snuck up to the attic, following the path the men took. A square in the ceiling was the entry to the school’s attic. She pushed it opened and screamed at what she saw. A bloody footprint was left on the floor! That was it; just a red footprint. She figured that it must have been one of those mutated werewolves that had left it. Madison saw some others leading to different passages, but she didn’t follow. Madison remembered Ashu-Bak’s voice, and it seemed helpful when she heard her scream. “I didn’t transform, I swear it!” her words echoed. Madison peered in through a small window, actually a hole in the wall. Ashu-Bak’s arm was outstretched, being held by her mother and one scientist. The other scientist held the vial, which had the toxinater! “A—Ashu-Bak…” I whispered. “Hi Madison,” she replied. She had stopped screaming. “I am afraid, but not enough to scream again. My words are useless.”

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“Stop saying crap like that,” Madison yelled. “Your death will not be in vain,” Tears filled up in her eyes until she had to let them go. Ashu-Bak nodded. “I know,” The drug was plunged into her vein. “I feel…dizzy, Madison. Please, hold me.” Madison held Ashu-Bak in her arms until life left her eyes. She cried quietly. She didn’t want uproar. After that moment, Madison went to find Steven. “Just stay alive until I get to you,” she whispered to herself, as if she were talking to Steven. “I’ll get you out of here in time,” Madison ran past creepy pathways and trees, breathing deeply, trying to keep calm. “Be strong,” she yelled. “Steven, where are you?” she screamed. Suddenly, Madison heard a noise, the sound of a person falling to the floor. She turned around, swinging her black hair with her. “M—Madison,” a voice called. “Don’t go near there.” She knew that voice. Her heart pounded in my chest from the excitement. Turning around, she faced Steven. She ran to him with her arms outstretched. “Steven! Are you infected?” “No. Madison, are you hurt?” “No, I am not,” “I finally got the ship finished. It’s this way and that way…” Steven stopped, panted, and pointed, “is danger,” “I lost Ashu-Bak. She was killed before my very eyes. You are my only companion left here before the creatures eat us alive.” “I’m sorry, Madison,” Steven said, about to hug her. He stopped when he heard another cry of a person. “We have to go.” “What?” “Let’s go, before we are eaten or poisoned next!” Madison ran with Steven, hand in hand, not letting go. They passed by open rooms filled with people waiting to die. Some married couples were kissing, saying their goodbyes. 34

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She felt really bad, but at least their loved one would die with them. They had nothing else to live for…how sad…she thought. They reached a dead end suddenly. “Dang it,” Steven yelled, kicking the tree to see if it would budge. “We can’t stay in here forever; there is a weird virus that natives get in here that we don’t even know about. All I know is that a passing of body fluid, such as saliva in a bite, can pass on the infection. One bite to a person can still turn them into the sick person they are, depending on where the person was bitten. The creature never knows he or she is one, ever. If the infection is permanent, the person cannot be killed unless he or she is burned alive or drugged. I’m sure that you are very scared; all of the cannibals here are either dead, infected with the fever, or waiting to be dead. We cannot get out. We either become one of the infected, or die.” “I don’t want to die; I want to see freedom…and Zaitian,” Madison whispered to Steven. She turned behind her and most of the kissing couples were both gone and dead. Steven held Madison. “I will die by your side, becoming a monster or no monster, drugs or no drugs. I will get you to Zaitian, no matter what happens to me. I will never see you become one of the infected, ever!” he said both strictly and devotedly. He cleared his throat. “Did—did any of the monsters bite you? You look a little yellow, Madison.” “No, not at all; I feel really sick, though,” she said. Madison was right; her stomach hurt so badly. Looking in a mirror would only reflect a yellow face. “Did any hurt you?” “I don’t think so. I feel sick as well. I know that whenever someone has the infection, they get sick, then later on, their body changes—and now look at what they become!” Steven pointed to a carcass of one of the creatures. Madison threw up next to him.

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“I must have not delivered the fruit to them in time. Maybe that’s why they want it so much. Instead, I went with you to the restaurant and that guy outside was freaking out because he was…” “Madison, get away,” Steven said, backing away quickly. “Steven, what’s the matter?” Madison asked, worried to heck. “There is something wrong with me—I’m" Steven held his head; I knew he was in pain. She felt pain herself from watching him. “I’m just dizzy, Madison,” “We have to get to your boat to have you live. It’s the only way,” Madison said, trying not to freak out. “I’m carrying you,” she said. Lifting Steven’s body onto her shoulders, Madison groaned and started to run. She finally saw light ahead—and there was the ship! “Ugh,” Steven muttered. “Just a little further, buddy,” she said to him. Madison heard a masculine voice behind her. “Oh no, the chief! He’s going to kill us if we don’t hurry!” Madison tried running faster, but she was too late. The chief held up a spear with pink stuff on it. He threw it as fast as he could… and it hit. Steven had heard the whoosh of the spear and he jumped off Madi, pushed her to the ground, and took it in him. Silence came after and Madison’s scream broke the silence. “STEVEN!” she yelled. The drug was officially in him. The chief looked foreword; Madison was holding Steven in her arms. He saw a vision of a beautiful woman holding a man with a stab wound in his side with holes in his hands and in his feet, both with angel’s haloes above their heads. Madison cried silently, holding her dying friend. The chief took his weapon and killed himself for what he had done. Madison took out her pocket knife and cut open one of Steven’s arms. She sucked out the drug as much as she could and spat it out and rinsed out her mouth. She took the spear out of 36

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Steven, but he was in so much pain already, he didn’t even notice it. Madison pushed Steven into the boat and ran in the water to get it going. Days passed and Madison had done nothing but to feed her and Steven fish, look after him, and throw up. Steven said his first words in days to Madison and he smiled a lot more often. Seeing land was scarce. “We must be lost,” Madison said. “No, I know we’re close, trust me,” Steven said. Madison thought he was speaking weird from his injury, but then she realized that trust was definitely the main leader to hope. Chapter 4 A ship docked in Hong Kong on a cloudy and misty day, more like afternoon. The door opened and Madison, walked out with Steven. Both were soaking wet from falling into the ocean from time to time. “Where are we? This isn’t Fuzhou. This is much more…” Madison put her hand above her forehead as if blocking the sun from her eyes. “Public,” “There must be some explanation for this, Madison.” He put his arm around her shoulder. “What are we going to do?” “I guess we can leave this place.” “Yes, I guess so. But then, we’ll end up in another mess, so I suggest we ask someone where to go and move on from there,” “Yes,” “We still can’t really live here, even if we successfully docked,” Steven proudly said, pointing to an almost broken-down boat. “But Steven,” “No, Madison. We were banished, remember?” Steven yelled. He then realized people heard in, and it was possible that they might have heard about their forbiddingness. “Never mind; let’s just get out of here.” He took her hand and ran out of the tiny docking area. 37

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“Why?” Madison asked as soon as they reached the rainy area outside. “I thought you said you were going to get me here,” “Well, I don’t feel right about this. I certainly didn’t give myself the time to think about how we’ll get our custody back. I don’t even know how we’ll tell Zaitian!” “If we find a place to stay quickly, we’ll think of an idea. Come on!” She took Steven’s hand, and walked toward a path leading to nowhere but grass and pasture. Two days later, Madison and Steven walked down a promising road leading to an old, used wooden house. “We’re in luck!” Madison squealed, excitingly running to the wooden sanctuary. She gasped at what she saw. There were two beds; both with quilts finely sewed. There was also a little stove for warmth in the cold weather (They were six hundred miles from the Himalayas.) an icebox, and lights. “Wow,” Steven said, entering the house. “I wonder who made this.” Madison opened the icebox. “Yes and whoever did this must have known we were coming.” She had said that for there was fresh food and drinks. “That can’t be…hey, can I ask you something?” Steven wondered. Madison nodded. She yawned and lay on her bed. Steven lay down on the same bed. “Are you nervous?” he asked. Madison threw a pillow at him. “Pervert!” she muttered. “No! No!” Steven yelled, waving his hands and blushing rather red. “I meant, how are we going to live here, I mean, I’m nervous! Someone can catch us and get us both killed. Speaking of which, I wonder what that whole Boxer Rebellion is about.” “You can find someone to talk to tomorrow after we get some shuteye.” “How about you do the talking,” Steven asked throwing the pillow to Madison. She threw it back to him. 38

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“Chicken…” “Hey! I’m just nervous if I talk to girls!” “Well I’m just as nervous if I talk to boys! Besides, you don’t seem nervous whenever you talk to me!” Madison said, sipping at Steven’s tea when he wasn’t looking. The room got colder at nightfall, so Steven had to turn on the oven. My job now is to protect Madison. She gave her life for me and now I have to do the same. He thought. The plants moving around in the windless night changed his feelings of bravery. “Hold still!” Madison yelled, holding Steven down. “You can’t touch my hair!” “If we’re gonna look like Chinese citizens, you’re gonna have to put it up somehow—and I’m gonna have to do it for you!” Madison fought Steven until she found a rope, tied him to a chair, and played with his head. “We still need the buns in our hair,” Madison said quietly. “I’ll have a nice hair-do later. I found a nice dress to go with it,” Steven smiled at the thought of his best friend all prettied up. “I found it under my bed,” “My hair is too short,” “It’s not! You are going to have enough hair to have a bun in it! You looked like…I don’t know…a girl or something!” Madison laughed. She pulled the whole lock of hair and twisted it and made a bun in Steven’s hair. “There, all done, now go take a bath. I’ll be in the house; I won’t peek. We also,” Madison tossed him some robes to try on. “Need to speak in the Chinese dialogue. No one here, except Zaitian, speaks English.” Twelve minutes later, Steven put his clothes back on and knocked on the door. “Madison,” he yelled. “We should go fishing tomorrow.” Madison walked out of the house with a long, silky dress. The color of ocean blue was splashed onto it with the brown 39

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of earth, decorated with lilies and lotuses painted on. Madison’s hair was tied up, not in a bun, but two bun pigtails were on the sides of her head while the rest of it flowed down over her shoulders. Chopsticks decorated the hair-do. Madison held a red fan over her ruby lips, outlined eyes, and pale, china-doll face. “I found the dress I was talking about earlier,” she said. Steven had totally forgotten about the fish thanks to Madison’s beauty. “How do I look?” “Um…” Steven blushed badly. “You mean you or the dress?” Madison giggled. “Both, I guess.” “It looks good, and it’s mine.” A voice called from the shadows. Madison jumped, but didn’t scream. Steven got into the house, holding Madison to protect her from whoever was out there. “The house is mine, along with the silkworm dress, and everything else you’ve used,” The voice said—it was a girl’s voice, which was deeper than Madison’s. It was coming from outside. “I think we should leave,” Steven whispered. Madison nodded. As they walked quietly toward the door on the wooden floor, the plants outside where the voice came from started to move. Finally, the girl stood up and presented herself to Steven and Madison. She was no older than Madison. She had the exact same hairstyle as Madison. Her dress was silky, but green. She had no makeup on, though. “Who…who are you?” Steven asked in her language. “I am the keeper of the house. I go by the name, Hwa Mai Min, but you can call me Min.” She said. Her eyes were a soft green and blue color. Min was very beautiful; her looks made Steven blush. “Hi, Min, I’m Madison, and this is my friend, Steven.” Madison said the names as if

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they were Chinese; she did it very badly, but Min didn’t seem to notice. “Boyfriend?” Min replied, raising an eyebrow. “Um…” Madison said in response, trying to find the perfect words. “Kind of…” Steven interrupted. “Not really.” Steven said this in order to make Madison feel more relived, but he was also feeling a little something for Min, but Madison also thought that Steven thought that Madison was still with Zaitian. Madison elbowed him in the ribs. “Ow,” “You are welcome to stay here. I’ve always wanted to meet Americans. What’s it like in America?” “Very beautiful…” Steven said. He was obviously talking about Min, causing Madison to feel angrier. Steven wasn’t supposed to fall in love with anyone, since he would let his secret slip, letting the trust bond fall. “It’s more of a dry land, but very green indeed—cough!” Madison snapped at Steven to embarrass him. Min chuckled. “I see, sorry to have bugged you while getting your clothes on.” She said. “Oh it’s fine. I was just about to get Steven to come to lunch with me. Do you know where we can find a restaurant?” “Yes, there’s one nearby. How about you two go, I’ll stay.” “You can come with us…” Steven started. Madison smacked him. “Shut up,” she whispered. “She might tell other Chinese!” After a fifteen minute’s walk, Madison and Steven finally reached a Chinese restaurant called the Tea Weevil. It was a tribute to the name of an idea of a tea shop in the Nickelodeon Television Series, Avatar the Last Airbender. It was a stupid idea, I should say. Madison wrote something like that in her journal, and I totally agree with her!

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“Steven, the last time we ate at a restaurant together, you were telling me how much you…wanted us safe.” “Uh huh,” “Well, now…since Min came, you’ve been all over her lately?” “Uh huh,” “Um…well…the people who worry about you, to see you like this, it’s very hurting to see you this way…because…getting an attachment to this world…they could find out…Min could be a spy!” “Uh huh,” “Are you even paying attention to me? Is that your favorite thing to say? Uh huh; well, since I’ve started talking to you, you’ve never taken the opportunity to get your head out of the clouds and into the same situation we’ve been dealing with since we’ve met Zaitian, saving us, that’s what!” “Yeah—huh, what did you say?” Madison couldn’t take it any longer; she slammed her hands on the table and left into the rain outside. “Oh geez, what did I say?” Steven asked. He ran out, but Madison was already gone. He decided to look for her. Min sat in front of the window. Steven is kind of cute. He is gentle and sweet; Madison, on the other hand, is very hard on him and seems jealous of me. She is pretty, and if they are together, I let them be together. Madison shows in her mood that Steven loved her and is starting to betray her. I should leave them for a while. No. I need to make sure they are safe and don’t kill each other. Min’s mind told her while she was meditating on a peculiar idea, but she didn’t understand the situation. Steven searched for Madison in the pouring rain. Madison was hiding behind the building of the restaurant. She was too upset to show herself. My life now is a soap opera! I can’t live like this! But her thoughts changed in one moment. Steven had found her and put his arms around her. Madison’s body was warmed up 42

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quickly from the cold while Steven embraced her, keeping her close to him. “I’m so sorry! I won’t ever make you feel that way ever again! Not while you’re here with me.” Steven said. Tears rolled down his face from the feeling of Madison’s sadness. Surprisingly, Min was watching from a corner. She saw the embrace. Min smiled at the sight, knowing Steven and Madison were happy, but in her heart, Min was alone. She had a feeling that the separation between the two would come to them too fast and that maybe she, Min, should step in, and Madison would have to deal with it. “So you guys are Christians?” Min asked. Steven nodded. “Yeah, we came here to China by accident. We were headed for somewhere else for a mission, but our ship was shot down and Madison and I were the only survivors. The nearest coast was the southern beach of China. We were then captured.” Steven said. “We ran into a guy named Zaitian,” Madison said, trying not to blush, since Zaitian was a handsome, young man. “You met Zaitian, the future emperor of China?” Min screamed. “Unfortunately, we did meet him! Worse than that, Madison fell in love with him, and that makes us banished!” Steven said angrily. Min couldn’t believe her ears. Madison blushed. She had just finished telling Steven to get his head out of the clouds and Madison couldn’t do the same. “See how it feels, now?” “Our mission trip turned into a ‘saving ourselves’ thingamajig! We brought hope to Zaitian to help him with his Aunt’s project, but we were…traveling on a short vacation, got lost, and captured again!” “Maybe I could get you to the palace in anyway I can!” Min suggested. “Perhaps,” Steven said. “But we have no money to pay you, let alone get us food and 43

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water. We could be home already, but Madison… I can’t explain.” “Besides, our parents think we’re dead, I don’t think our letter was reached, and I can’t read all 65,000 Chinese symbols, but we can speak most of the language, so there’s nothing we can do anymore except look for Zaitian if he’s not looking for me!” Madison yelped. “I guess we’ll have to get jobs here, Steven.” “I am happy to help you guys!” The three embraced together in excitement. “Just as long you don’t tell a living soul on this planet,” “I won’t I promise.” “Min, what’s your life story?” Steven asked. He was glad that Madison wasn’t getting at him for asking Min that kind of question. “Steven…well…I’m a full-bred Chinese citizen. I have had a rough life, though. My parents died in the war between the Chinese and Japanese long ago. They were patriots for our side. They were killed…um…four years ago. I was eleven when I built this house.” “It looks really good!” Madison said, examining the cupboards. “You did a good job.” “I didn’t do it by myself, but thanks. That’s why I have the other bed. She was my best friend. She gave me courage, strength,” “Who was she?” Steven asked with a worried expression. “Her name was Mrs. Pretty.” “Mrs. Pretty? Where is she now? Is she dead?” “No, Steven. You’re sitting on her,” Steven shot up off the bed the moment he heard he was sitting on a doll. “THAT’S MRS. PRETTY?” he asked, holding up the torn-up doll. “Yes,” Min replied, trying not to fall of the other bed (she was laughing so hard!). “Her bed is a little big,” Madison said, eyeing the bed.

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“I know. I keep it as storage for most of my possessions. Even so, Mrs. Pretty isn’t really pretty anymore.” Min laughed again. Her laugh was like the sound of a bell to Steven’s ears. “Another question,” Madison asked, “Is there anyone we can talk to for help?” “There’s a general store nearby this house.” “There’s a general store?” Steven asked. “We can get a job there!” “I already work there, Steven,” Min said. It would be kind of unfair to work at the same place. Take some time separately for each of you at your different job. “I’ll apply at the tea shop tomorrow, I guess. Steven could work at the school, and Min should still be working at the general store. Pretty soon, we’ll have the money to get out of here. We’re going to patch things us with Cixi, Steven!” This section of the story is now narrated by Madison. I extracted this from her Diary of Dreams. At night, I was walking through a dark area —a forest if you will; there were a lot of trees present in front of me. I ran instead of walked. I kept traveling until I saw a figure before me, stopping my tracks; a boy, I could tell because of the bun. He was tall and thin and had black hair, pale skin, and amber eyes—Zaitian! I choked on my words; I didn’t know what to say. “Oh!” That was all I could say, just a simple oh. “Madison, it’s me.” He said soothingly. “I know who you are; I’ve never forgotten you.” I blushed hard and red. “I’ve never forgotten you, either,” Zaitian replied to me. “I have come to you in your dreams to tell you that there will be danger for you and your friends on the night of a lunar eclipse. Thus, you must wake up now. I can reach you in your dreams by strict meditation 45

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lessons from my father. You are meditating as you sleep, are you not?” I was spooked by Zaitian’s vocabulary. “I can’t believe this is a dream,” I muttered. “Zaitian, I don’t want to wake up. I want to stay here and help you with your dream of saving me.” “There is more to what you need to do than to save yourself. I am still a young emperor, and I am still older than you, Madison, and I’m telling you to wake up,” Zaitian softly commanded while stroking my cheek. I rose slowly from sitting down. I felt heroic and brave. “Thank you,” Madison had quit writing in her diary, due to the fact her dream had ended, of course. Otherwise, she would have written more about her amusing vision. Madison woke up from her trance. The person stroking her cheek was Steven himself. Min was preparing scrambled eggs and tofu over a fire outside. “Are you alright, Madison? You were crying in your sleep,” Steven said calmly. He held Madison in his arms. “You must miss him, don’t you? I know, I understand. He helped China a whole lot and helped us. I forgive for what he did to us.” “How did you know that I was dreaming of him?” “You kept saying, ‘Zaitian!’ in your sleep. The first time you said it, your face was wet with tears.” “I’m sorry if I woke you guys up,” Madison said sadly. “No, you didn’t.” Min said, putting the plates of food on the wooden table. Madison imagined how sad it would be for her if she woke up Steven and Min by babbling out Zaitian’s name.

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“Steven, do you think I could make up a story about my dreams?” Madison asked Steven. Steven shrugged. “Sure, Madison. You might make yourself a scholar here in China, and then we can get loads of money!” “Um…Madison, I forgot to say something…” Min whispered. “What is it?” Steven asked for Madison, since Madison had noodles in her mouth. Min showed the two teenagers a flyer of a romantic dance at a ball in the restaurant that she and Steven went to. “A dance, tonight, you say?” Madison asked Min after she swallowed her food. Min nodded. “Yes, and you can present your book there as well if you get it done. Many citizens adore books written by Americans.” Madison could see herself holding her published book. Madison was dancing around with joy that something fell out of her pocket. It was the round bead with the weird symbol that Zaitian had given to her. Min picked it up with great curiosity. She and Steven didn’t know that Zaitian had given it to her. “Oh, Madison!” she squealed. “What is it, Min?” “You are a lucky girl, Madison. The man who gave this to you loves you with all his heart! It’s a tradition.” Min said. Madison caught herself blushing very badly. “Oh…I kind of found it floating in the ocean…and I…uh…thought it was pretty.” Madison lied. Steven didn’t recall Madison picking up a bead, but he decided to ignore it. “I can’t wait for the dance, Min.” Steven said, disrobing and putting on a different outfit. Madison washed her face and put on a beautiful makeup. Her heart beat with jealousy to be better than Min to win Steven back. I don’t really know if I do like him. Is it possible I still love Zaitian? No, it can’t be true. Madison’s mind rattled inside of her, giving her a headache of thoughts. Her hair was put up in curls, 47

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matching Min. Outlining her eyes and decorating her mask for the masquerade, Min noticed that Madison was up to something, but she didn’t talk to Madison. Finally, after fifteen minutes, both girls followed the directions on the brochure and followed Steven’s steps. Dragging her dress, Madison thought terrible thoughts about Min. Maybe she can become a Christian and be executed right in front of us! Or, I’ll hire a suicide bomber to blow up the dance party and me and Steven escape. In other words, Madison was thinking, I wish Min disappeared from our lives forever! After moment or two, Madison’s good conscience stepped into the problem. Why am I thinking terrible things about her? I probably have a very ugly look on my face. That wasn’t true, exactly. All the evil was hidden behind the face of Madison, whose face was round and cute. I’ll just forget I said anything and have a fun time. That thought was easier said than done. Dozens of people seemed scattered around the building, which was a restaurant, dedicated to the masquerade for partying. Steven walked out of the restroom to see the two baccalaureates (Madison and Min.). Blushing terribly, he couldn’t decide who to take to dance. Madison’s heart beat quickly, she was so mad. “You can take Min, Steven. I don’t mind.” She said. Steven shrugged and took Min’s hand. Madison put her full weight on a pillar, resting so eagerly with the thought of dancing with someone. Stupid Min. She has no right to be happy, Madison’s mind said to her again. An “Angel Madison” stood out of her, saying, be happy for Min. You still have Zaitian to worry about. Madison’s heart skipped a beat, literally skipped a beat—she couldn’t breathe well enough like she used to. Steven swung over to her. “Madison, are you alright? You look like if you’re about to cry,” he said this because she 48

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was breathing very deeply and very loudly, and some people do that when they begin to start bawling their heads off. Madison shook her head. Steven left Min’s hand and offered his hand to Madison. “May we have this dance, Madison?” he asked. Steven knew how bad she felt about not getting what she wanted. Madison placed her hand inside his, but as she did, one of the windows broke. A burglar dressed in all black dove into the building, interfering with the romantic dancers, and snatched up Min. “Yes, this is the one,” he seemed to say. Crashing through the door, the burglar disappeared. “I’m sorry, Madison, but I have to go after Min. She’s been abducted,” Steven said, trying to keep himself calm. “I’ll go with you,” Madison said, tugging on his silk robe. Steven shook her hands off him like breadcrumbs. “No, it’ll be best if I went alone,” he said. Madison’s eye twitched again in response to the decline of her offer. I’m going to have to go after him if that’s the case! He can get lost and then how on earth will I reach Zaitian? Steven began to run quickly through a dark forest, following the path of the kidnapper. Why would they want Min? He asked himself. She didn’t do anything wrong, did she? Do they just want her because she’s pretty? Steven stopped when an arrow wisped by him, barely missing his head, but cutting his hair a bit. He turned around quickly, his body uncomfortably turning to see the culprit. It was one of the burglars who had kidnapped Min. The masked man jumped and sprinted away to his hideout, hoping that Steven wouldn’t follow along, but Steven’s strong legs were able to take him to the destination and went after another path. “I’m sorry, Madison, but I seem to be in love with Min. I can’t help you anymore! I can’t 49

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hold you back from who you love anymore.” Steven journeyed into a forest near the school, following Min’s tracks. I’ll save you from those magicians! He thought. He had figured out they were magicians because of how fast the burglar went. It seemed faster than the speed of sound. Out of the blue, another arrow ran past Steven, cutting him on the cheek. “Whoa! That was close!” he muttered. Another arrow came, this time Steven wasn’t so lucky. The arrow went through his leg, sending him downward to the ground in pain. He looked at one of the magicians, who had obviously shot Steven; Steven couldn’t give up. He kept running until he reached a building. “Do the magicians take people for fun or do they experiment with them?” Blood trailed behind Steven as he thought deeply. A screech filled the chaotic night. “Min, I’m coming!” Steven’s heart pounded hard in his throat as he opened the door. Inside was Min tied to the wall! “For the safety of China, we must burn this spy alive!” one of the pedestrians shouted. “Spy? You mean,” Steven looked closer at Min. Her eyes were slanted differently than the other pedestrians. “She’s from Mongolia, I think, hey! Let Min go, she did no harm!” Steven yelled back. “Steven, yes I did. I organized these groups of magicians to disappear and re-appear to kidnap different people in China. When I slipped one day and told my secret by accident back at the ball, I was taken captive. You must not let me go,” Min said with tears traveling down her skin. “No, I can help you,” Steven broke the back of his arrow off so he could stand and get out of kowtowing position. He looked around him; five or six magicians filled the room. They were able to re-appear into different places, multiply, or cast a spell whenever they wanted. “Min, how do the magicians lose their power? What is their weakness?” Steven asked, 50

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cringing from the tyranny of the condition of his wounded leg. “Well, there is a, ah!” Min gasped as she looked out of a small window at the moon, “Jesus Christ, we’re lucky! Steven, a lunar eclipse! They lose their power during any eclipse. There’s a lunar eclipse tonight! It may be possible to run away from them while we still have a chance!” Min explained. Steven shook his head and untied Min from the wall. “I will fight them head on in a couple of minutes when the lunar eclipse starts. They will lose their power and I’ll defeat them. You leave and get to Madison for now,” Min nodded in agreement and ran. But before Min reached the door, Steven said one last thing, “And Min,” Min stopped in her tracks and looked into Steven’s blue eyes, “thanks for your help,” Min nodded again and ran down the same road Steven took through the woods. Meanwhile, Steven fought at the magicians surrounding him. There were no wands at all and there were no metamorphoses used, but many different techniques were used in the process: birds and bats would fly out of nowhere; the magicians would disappear and reappear into different spots, except one thing! They weren’t multiplying; one was already multiplied! Steven touched one ditto and it disappeared, leaving a poof of smoke. The others dissinigrated as well, revealing one dark figure standing near Steven. He vanished, trailing a red mist behind. The guy came back, floating in mid-air. “Who are you and why aren’t you attacking? Why are you running and being a coward? Quit hiding and face me!” Steven yelled. “My apologies. My name is Ikuzo. I am a trick master, longing to fulfill my promise in myself to become a powerful magician and fake out all. I dare not waste my energy on you, my boy,” Ikuzo said. Steven gaped at him. His hair was long and black and it nearly reached his 51

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waist. Ikuzo had pale eyes and an evil smile, making fear run down Steven’s trembling spine. Steven’s fear left him when he saw the red moon above him. Ikuzo came down unexpectedly, afraid that his own power was weakening. “You are no match for me, now. I have my friend’s knife in my pocket. As I pull it out, you will…huh?” Steven searched his pockets for Madison’s knife, and then looked, seeing the pocket-knife in Ikuzo’s hand. “Uh-oh,” Steven muttered. “That’s right, boy. Say your prayers, for I will,” Ikuzo was interrupted by a war cry and a sword going through his body. The sword was a long sword, dripping with blood. Its handle was carefully carved with care, and holding it was Min. “Min, I told you to get to Madison and run back to your house!” Steven said after Min pulled her sword out of Ikuzo. She dragged his body up a tree in the orchard nearby and left him there. “Min, you came back to me because you were worried about me?” “Sure, Steven. Of course that’s why I followed you back. Yes, I was thinking that Ikuzo would steal Madison’s knife from you before the lunar eclipse started, so I found my sword in my secret hiding place, and I decided to kill Ikuzo.” Min replied. Madison was hiding in one of the trees above them. You’re imaging things, Madi. Min wouldn’t fall in love with my friend. Madison thought. She didn’t want to interrupt the conversation; Madison watched closely to see what would happen. Min took Steven’s hand and put it in hers. “I’m glad that you are safe,” Min whispered. “I’m glad that you are, too,” Steven replied. He looked at Min; her makeup was still on, her dress was unharmed, but Min’s curls were messed up when she put them up in loops.

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“Here, let me help you with your hair,” he said, taking out the tie that held it together. “No, you don’t have to worry about it,” Min explained, seeing it was too late. Her curled hair flowed down her shoulders to her waist. Ugh, he’s taking out her hair! I’m going to throw up! Madison thought again. Jealousy grew in her heart as she saw the couple together; it would not soften. Steven is so dirty, betraying me in order to get to the prettier, Madison’s dark thoughts made her heart hate instead of love. Her beautiful face reflected solomness and anger, her dress was torn, and her curls came out. “You do realize…for a while…how much I’ve…kind of had feelings for you,” Min bashfully said, “I don’t want to take you from Madison, though,” “Don’t worry; Madison is already in love with Zaitian,” Steven replied, inching closer to Min. Min jumped. “Seriously?” she asked. “Madison is in love with Zaitian?’ “Yes, so we don’t have to worry about Madison’s feelings toward me,” Madison gaped down below her. How does Steven know I…I don’t love him! I’ve been falling for you, Steven, seriously! I want you to stop it now and think about why we’re here: to rescue me and to get me back with Zaitian. That’s what you said yourself. I would rather go home now without you! No, Madison, no! Think about Zaitian! Think about what you’ve done with him! You know you want to see him as much as he wants to see you! I’m afraid I don’t have much of a choice. Min has gotten too far with my feelings and now I’m…oh no! Oh no was the correct reaction, because Steven was being kissed by Min. Madison started to cry. Oh no! She’s kissing him! What did I do to cause this? It wasn’t supposed to be that I’m 53

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confused! It really wasn’t supposed to be this way! Steven kissed Min back, returning her feelings while Madison watched in sadness. She eventually stopped watching the moment and went to Min’s home. Madison quickly stripped off her jewelry, tearing her dress down and changing into a Chinese robe. She put on her Chinese disguise makeup and waited for Steven and Min to come home so she could finish what she had started. The door creaked open slowly, letting a couple of dust bunnies into the house. Steven poked his head in and stepped in, along with Min. Madison held her breath and also her inner fire. She had to say it, not to calm her inner fire, but also to put out her last tiny drops of love for Steven and to keep thinking of Zaitian forever. “Steven, I’m finally glad that you are in good condition with Min. You are no longer in danger and you are safe,” Madison said, hiding her falling tears. “You think that? Oh, good,” Steven replied with his back to Madison while watering a small lotus tree. “But I have made a decision tonight,” Madison added, her heart pounding in her head. “We no longer have anything to do with traveling together,” Madison slipped the pocket knife out of Steven’s pocket, threw her hood over her head, and left the house without saying goodbye to anyone. Madison limped down the road from the achiness of her shoes. She suffered from the bitterness of the cold December night, the cuts and bruises from the attack, and the anger deep within her heart. How did it come to this? It wasn’t supposed to be this way! Steven, I thought you were my best friend, I thought I loved you, but why did you leave me when you realized I loved you too? Now that I don’t know who to choose, I’m so confused! It started to rain, heavying Madison’s clothes and cooling the temperature even more. 54

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At dawn finally, Madison saw something that was dangerous to her, yet she seemed to have to deal with it and it also happened to be that thing that she was looking for. Madison dragged her cold, dirty body across the border of Fuzhou, leaving Beijing for good. Chapter 5 (This story took place while Steven and Madison were in Beijing with Min.) Zaitian’s Diary A cool breeze blew into my open window, cooling the skin on my body, calming my mind on this morning. I opened my eyes and looked out the window as I scan the contents on the pond below. Lily pads float upon the water hole, containing a frog, searching for food. Lotus flowers fall from the tree across from the pond. Another window opens; white silky curtains blow in the breeze as soft hands of a beautiful girl pulls them apart. The girl has long black hair, matching the invisible motion of the wind. A white dress covers her body and lace covers up the sleeves. Her eyes are a passionate amber color. I don’t know her name, yet, but she looks like the one I love already. Is she still in hiding? Has she finally come back for me? I stare through my window into hers. A smile covers her face as she walks into her backyard, which has the lily pad covered pond. A couple of koi fish swim about as I can see. The girl opens her mouth and sings a note, just a simple note…and then a few others. There are no words in her song, but her voice is wonderful and reminds me of a nightingale singing its midnight serenade. It is afternoon now, and the girl sits lotus style on her bed, reading a book, filling her mind with knowledge. Maybe her story is fiction? I wish to ask her, but I doubt that she would listen 55

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to me. I am too shy to utter a word to her. Love can be so strong that it can close our mouths. At night, she puts on music, Tai Chi, sweet sounding instruments playing as it clears her mind. The girl sits on her bed once more and stretches to strengthen her Chi. She is as swift as she is steady, smooth and gentle. Her soft skin helps her calm the human mind and makes it possible to make it through one luminous hour of Tai Chi. After the hour, the girl lies down on her bed and blows out the candles. Her candle lit room goes dark, and that’s when I go to sleep myself. Does the girl ever get bored? Does she know I am here? Watching her? Wanting to be her friend? I know she has no friends because no one visits her, ever. How dreadful it would be to live alone; of course, I think some guardians do live with her. I wish I would visit her one day and get to know her, if she is who I think she is. Just for one day… Just for one day…

Mei’s Diary I know one thing about my everyday life; it’s the same thing constantly. But there is a particular something in my life that started two short months ago. A boy about my age is always looking at me through his window. I don’t mind that too much, but it is constant. I would smile at him once in a while, although I don’t know his personality; yet it is obvious that he is in love with me; or is he? Every morning, singing for happiness, a prayer for friends and for my family to remember me, since they are always out of the apartment and working (my dad comes home sometimes). Whenever I sing, the boy would wake up and sit at his window…and stare. I

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don’t know how to respond to a boy I don’t even know, staring at me. He is kind of cute though… As gracious as the wind blowing on my lotus flower tree, I write in my diary that there is something inside me, something different, could it be change? Could it be feelings? Could it be love? End of the wonders Zaitian leaped out of his cotton-wool bed at the crack of dawn and sped into his bathroom and washed his face. “What a change I have gone through! I don’t know what is going on. Madison has been gone for at least half a year now, and I think she’s back. There’s another girl who looks just like her, yet, I’m not so sure! What is the matter with me? I think I’m scaring her!” Zaitian thought. He looked in the mirror and examined his clear, pale face and amber eyes. He ran out of the palace. “This is the first time outside in a while…” he said quietly. Zaitian scooted behind a moss-covered wall and peeked over at the other corner. A girl about fifteen (Zaitian’s age) was sitting quietly at a huge pond covered in lily pads. Her hand stroked the soft water like how Zaitian said in his diary. She looked up and her amber eyes met Zaitian’s. She jumped and blushed. “Sorry to have scared you. I…I thought you were…another friend of mine,” Zaitian said. The girl nodded in return. Zaitian decided to be a gentleman and introduce himself. “My name is Zaitian,” the girl looked up and smiled. “My name is Mei.” She said. Mei’s voice was clear and like the sound of a ringing bell. Zaitian kind of flushed red and rubbed his own back to hide it. Crap! That’s not Madison! Stop thinking about her, Zaitian, and walk away. But Zaitian’s mind couldn’t stop his raging hormones. “I like your pond,” he said.

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“You have been watching me,” Mei said. “I can tell…and I also see you at the window.” “I’m sorry. If it bugs you, I’ll stop.” “It doesn’t bug me.” “Than why did you mention it?” “There’s nothing to talk about.” “Well…you are kind of quiet, milady,” “True,” Mei said, closing her eyes. “Are you going to sing, milady?” Zaitian asked, stepping closer. “As long as you understand, I don’t like being called, ‘milady’.” “…I accept that…” “Although…I was wondering if you wanted to stay for dinner one night?” Mei asked. Zaitian’s eyes widened. “I would love to…I guess. I don’t think I’m one of those people you’d dine with.” Zaitian said sadly. Mei opened her eyes. “And why do you say that?” “Because it is true.” “Please tell me why, though.” “It’s complicated. I’ll tell you later.” Zaitian said. He walked back into the palace, quietly rapping his head on his hand. Why did I say that? He thought. He banged his head on his wooden sliding door but was interrupted by the sound of a singing nightingale. It was more of a different song. Not the usual happy tune. Instead, it was more of a sad hum. Zaitian sighed. She’s not like Madison…she’s totally the opposite and she’s boring, yet, she would look like her if she were an American. Mei stroked the water once more. She frowned at her reflection as she looked down deeper at the tadpoles below. Mei put a strand of her hair behind her and walked inside without singing happily that day. Zaitian sat down at his table. Steamed rice sat on his plate. The aroma of roast duck filled the room. Zaitian picked at his food for a while and looked out the window. He didn’t see Mei doing Tai Chi or reading. She was meditating on

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her bed. There was no music playing at all. There was only silence. Zaitian snuck quietly out of his window into the night, almost falling into the lily pond. He walked up to Mei’s window, trembling with anxiety. “Hey, Mei!” he whispered. “Meditating here!” Mei crossly snapped. “Are you mad at me?” Zaitian yelled. There was no answer. “C’mon, Mei!” “Umm…Umm…” she chanted. Zaitian groaned. “Will you…” he started. Mei opened one eye. “Will you…um…sit with me tomorrow? I would kind of like to…get to know you better.” Zaitian stammered. Mei smiled sweetly. “Sure, Zaitian.” She said. Mei closed her eyes and continued to chant. Zaitian nodded and ran back to the palace, climbed over the window, and sat down on the chair and ate his dinner. “What took you so long, Guangxu?” Cixi asked as Zaitian took out his clean plate. “Sorry, Aunt. I was writing in my journal.” Zaitian said, hanging his head low. “It’s not the book I’m worried about now. It is Mao Dun, your brother. He wanted you to talk with him about eating with him tomorrow morning.” “I’m sorry, Mao Dun. I wanted to sleep in tomorrow.” Zaitian said, pretending to yawn. Cixi looked at Zaitian’s fake, droopy eyes. “Very well,” Cixi and Mao Dun said. Zaitian bowed respectfully and strutted off to his room. Zaitian chuckled slightly. “I can’t believe I did that, but it is my only key to getting to know this girl.” Zaitian said. The teenage boy lay on his bed and stared up at the bamboo ceiling. He remembered Madison, his past crush. Do I still have feelings for Madi, or is Mei in my path? He thought to himself. He compared Madison’s look with Mei’s. Both had wavy black hair, but Madison had blue eyes and Mei was taller; about the same height 59

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as Zaitian. Madison had the same type of laugh as Mei. I believe Madison is hiding somewhere here in disguise to hide herself. I will find out sooner or later. Oh Madi, I hope Mei is you. My hormones are going crazy right now and I don’t want to be in love with Mei. Zaitian thought and shut his eyes. Mei read of book full of fiction at her desk. The wind blew in her bedroom, chilling her skin. Something weird is going on…yet, I can’t seem to figure it out. Mei’s mind went blank as her head hit her desk and fell asleep. Mei woke up quickly at the crack of dawn. She put up her hair and put on normal clothes. She didn’t want to let Zaitian down. Mei had a green shirt with long dark green pants. Almost tripping, Mei jumped out her window and landed on top of Zaitian. Her face flushed red as she stood up, brushing off grass. “Sorry! Oh my goodness! I am so sorry!” she squealed. Zaitian continued to sit, but held his bruised stomach. “No problem,” he said, smiling and hiding his trauma. Mei still blushed hard. “I was wondering…if you were going to sing today.” Mei looked into his amber-colored eyes matching hers. “I’m not sure, Zaitian. I’m so used to singing to myself, by myself,” she said. “With no one around me.” “Well, I usually listen to you through my window.” “Right,” “You shouldn’t mind, then.” Zaitian said. Mei stood up. “But I can’t! I’m too shy to do it!” She yelped. Zaitian put his hands on Mei’s shoulders to calm her down. Zaitian was totally starting to let his love for Madison go down. “You don’t have to sing if you don’t want to. I’m okay with that.” Zaitian said calmly. Mei nodded and sat down. She put her legs in lotus

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style and chanted. Zaitian shrugged and chanted along with her. Zaitian’s calmed mind filled up with thoughts of his precious Madison. He could never see her again because of her banishment, along with her boyfriend, Steven. Was Steven really her boyfriend? He was always jealous of me. Zaitian thought hard. Mei opened one eye and looked at him. “Zaitian, you’re meditating too hard. You need to be relaxed!” Mei whispered. Zaitian’s scrunched face relaxed, making him yawn. “Let’s drink some tea. Something’s bothering you.” “There is something bothering me.” Zaitian mumbled. Mei looked toward him with anxiety. “You don’t have to tell me…I wasn’t going to ask anyway…I’m going to get the water boiling.” Mei strutted off to the door, but Zaitian caught her hand. Mei felt her stomach flip as the boy pulled her to him. “You may know…but I’ll tell you later. I cannot tell you now. It’s too hard.” “I want to know, but I’m no mind reader. You will have to get it off of your chest sooner or later.” Mei said. Zaitian felt his stomach tighten. Butterflies existed in his nerve. Mei’s hair flowed prettily in the wind as he stared into her eyes. “I will tell you, and you will be the only person I tell. It’s a secret, Mei.” He said. Zaitian didn’t really notice he was still holding her hand. “Oops!” Zaitian backed up quickly. “I…uh…got to start the water.” Mei said, nervously blushing. “I left the oven on!” Zaitian replied. “See you in a minute with that tea!” “Bye!” Zaitian quickly ran to his window and jumped in. Unfortunately, if his stuffed platypus wasn’t in the way, he wouldn’t have fallen. He did and hit his head on the iron corner of his bed. No one was in the palace; Cixi had gone shopping; Mao Dun was visiting his girlfriend, Li61

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Hua; Zaitian was alone. Memories began to flash into Zaitian’s unconscious mind. He saw Madison’s smile; he felt her touch, he felt her body as if he were hugging her around her waist like the day she and Steven were banished. Memories struck him like lightning bolts. He felt cold and felt a wet thing on his forehead. Wait! I don’t remember anything cold on my head! Zaitian’s eyes opened to a clear, pale-faced, amber-eyed, black-haired, Chinese citizen…teenage girl. Madison? He thought. His eyes focused on the beautiful face. His eyes narrowed when his thoughts were wrong. No. It is only Mei. She held a damp cloth on his forehead. Incense surrounded Zaitian with a pot of tea near Mei’s knees. He looked around him; there were strands of lotus flowers hanging on the walls. A Chinese symbol that standed for ‘love’ was painted on the wall. A book by the name of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea lay on a desk. This isn’t my room! “You were unconscious.” Mei calmly said. I looked into your window fifteen minutes after you left. I took you to my room with incense, so it would be easier to regain consciousness.” “But…why your room?” And how did you get me here?” “My father picked you up. If I had you in your room with the incense, it would smell strange to your parents. It would also be a little suspicious for them.” Zaitian looked towards Mei. “Why?” “I don’t want your mother and father to know about me.” “Um…I don’t live with my parents. My mother is dead and my father is…somewhere in China.” Mei covered her mouth with her hand. “I’m so sorry!” “No problem. I never really knew them. Mum died in a boat crash when I was two years old on the way back to America. Mum was on a mission trip to here and met Dad here too. Mum 62

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was an American. She wanted to come back and talk about the Bible after I was born. I never really knew about Christians like Mum. I heard they are bad here.” “What is a Bible?” Mei asked. Zaitian shrugged. “I have no idea.” He reached for a cup and poured green Ginseng tea. The memories still lingered in him. He pulled up the covers on Mei’s bed. What? I didn’t know I was even on a bed! He thought. Thankfully, Mei was sitting on the floor and it would be best to leave Zaitian’s thoughts un-read, thank you. “My mother used to study the Bible. She was very young when she started. My father met her when he and Mum were our ages. They got married five years later. My father learned about the Bible while Mum was pregnant with me. But…father never told me whenever I was a boy…what was in the Bible. He always called it ‘The Good Book’.” “Wow. Has your father ever kept one of those ‘Bibles?’” “No, because if he did, my aunt would be very mad at him and I don’t want to go into details.” “Okay.” “I’ll ask her, thought,” “Not the now!” Mei shouted. “I don’t want you to go yet.” Zaitian thought about this for a moment and turned around to face the beauty. “…why? Why don’t you want me to leave?” Mei blushed hard. “Well…you are my only friend…” she said. Zaitian blinked twice. He was speechless. “You shouldn’t ask your aunt if she will get mad about it.” “Okay, then.” Zaitian jumped out the window and ran to his window avoiding the stuffed platypus. Mei looked outside, watching Zaitian climb in. Her cheeks flushed red again and butterflies started to form in her stomach. Chapter 6 63

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The next day, a bike rider rode past the evergreen forest. His legs pedaled faster to beat the birds on their flight. He threw a newspaper bundle on one yard. He passed Mei’s house and threw another; the bundle landed in the pond. The biker threw one last bundle, landing on poor Mao Dun’s head. The force of the hurled bundle threw him down on the start of his morning walk. “Thank you!” he yelled. “You’re welcome!” the biker replied. Mao Dun rubbed his sore head as he walked down the road, reading the newspaper. His eyes scanned the tiny words, looking for interesting events and entertainment. Finally, he spotted it! Annual Celebration of the Dragon! Come to dance and drink tea! No purchase necessary Celebration is held at Yangtze Park Starts at sunset Ends at sunrise Mao Dun couldn’t believe what he was reading. That event was his only chance to take Li-Hua out. He ran back into the house, almost tripping over his stuffed bison. “Auntie!” he screamed. Cixi jumped up from her small into snooze town and stared at her nephew. “Auntie, tonight is the annual celebration of the dragon! Can Zaitian and I go?” Mao Dun stammered. He was still shaken from the invitation. Cixi sighed and read the article. “Mao, you and Zaitian can go, but…it only starts in a week. You didn’t pay attention to the date!” Mao Dun looked at the article again. It said in big letters at the bottom: Date: December 24th, 2007

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Meanwhile, Zaitian was cleaning his room, picking up his stuffed animals and placing them in the trash. His bed was made neatly and the wooden floor had the reflection of it. Zaitian swept so the shiny floor had nothing on it except the furniture. He was putting his hair up into his usual bun when Mao Dun barged into his dormitory and tripped over the garbage, knocking over the stuffed animals, including the platypus. “Mao Dun, I just did that!” Zaitian groaned, picking up the toys. “I’m sorry, Zaitian. I have extraordinary news!” Mao Dun said without taking a breath. “Well then spit it out!” Zaitian demanded. Mao Dun was too excited to tell, so he shoved the paper close to Zaitian’s face, making it practically touch his nose. Zaitian took the article and read it. He jumped up in excitement. He and Mao Dun gave each other high-fives and yelled. Mei heard the noise from the other house and looked out the window. “Well, Zaitian’s optimistic today. I wonder what it’s about.” She said. Zaitian saw Mei moving about near her window. He decided to tell her the sheer joy. Zaitian jumped out his window and ran around the pond to Mei. “Did you get the paper?” Zaitian asked. “I don’t think so,” Mei said, jumping out of her window. Suddenly, Mei looked in the pond and saw the wet newspaper. She picked it up with one hand stained from black ink dripping from the mess. “Oh, gross!” she dropped the newspaper onto the ground and kicked it away. “What did it say?” Mei asked. Zaitian explained the article. “I was wondering…if you wanted to come with me…to the…dance…” Zaitian stuttered with his cheeks swollen with redness. “Oh, Zaitian! I’d love to!” Mei did something she had never done before and hugged Zaitian. She so likes me! Zaitian thought, smiling sweetly. 65

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Zaitian once again creeped out of the window at dawn. Mei sang beautifully and didn’t care if Zaitian watched. It had been six days since the article came and Mei was trembling with excitement. There was one day left to wait. Mao Dun received a newspaper about the day of the celebration. There would be a lunar eclipse during the dance. It was exciting because Mei had never seen one before. It was the day before the celebration. Cixi had decided for herself that she was not going to go as a result of having to sit on the throne for so long. Her weary legs wouldn’t move her, so she would feel lazy almost the whole day. Mao Dun was going with Zaitian only because he needed something to do. But Mao Dun had a secret meeting with his girlfriend, LiHua, who was about Mao Dun’s age, had beautiful, long black hair, straight teeth, and the most beautiful smile around. Mao Dun loved her…a lot. No one knew, except for his own diary, in which Zaitian had been stalking for the past two years. Mao Dun never knew if Li-Hua was going to the dance or not. He was too shy and too stupid to ask her. Mei was finally getting ready. Her dress was long and silky and red. She let her hair drop to a short length that curled at her jaw. Her face was white from the makeup and long earring dangled from her ears. She outlined her eyes with black eye-liner. Mei then left her house and ran to the grove in the woods. Zaitian didn’t dress much. He just took a shower. He walked out of the house, but he wasn’t looking and he fell into the lake. It was much deeper than he thought. Zaitian kept sinking. He tried swimming (in which he was really good at.), but something kept pulling him down. Zaitian kept trying and trying, but that thing wrapped around his waist and wouldn’t let go. Zaitian looked down and saw that it was Madison, almost dead, covered in blood.

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“Zaitian…why? Why did you leave me?” she yelled. Zaitian’s air ran out and he screamed at the top of his lungs in his bed. It was only a dream. Zaitian woke up in the afternoon, throwing off his covers and clothes and jumping into the living room, across the kitchen, through the bathroom, and into the tub. Water splashed everywhere. Mao Dun sat in the hot tub in front of Zaitian. “What are you doing in here?” Mao Dun asked. “Getting ready,” Zaitian replied, wringing out his long hair. Mao Dun shrugged. “You’d better shave your mustache, Mao Dun. Li-Hua won’t like it.” Zaitian giggled. Mao Dun splashed the water. “How do you know about Li-Hua?” The eighteen-year-old yelled in embarrassment. “Let’s just say…after I woke up from a nightmare last night, I needed something to put me back to sleep, so I finally found your diary after two long years!” Mao Dun jumped to Zaitian, steaming red, splashing water onto Zaitian. He lured Zaitian to the faucet and turned on the very cold water. Zaitian yelped like crazy. “What is going on in here? Mao Dun, did you bring another girl in here? Oh, it’s just you, Zaitian.” A soldier said, dodging the puddles. “Boys, it’s all wet in here!” “Sir, Zaitian! He…” Mao Dun started. Zaitian threw water on Mao Dun’s head. “Boys…um…boys…the dance will start in an hour.” Zaitian and Mao Dun looked at each other and ran to their rooms without any clothes on, pushing and shoving to get ready. The soldier laughed. Mei was getting ready just like she was in Zaitian’s dream, only her dress was blue. She sprayed perfume her mother made her two years earlier. She left her incense burning and left for the grove, putting on the rest of her makeup. 67

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Zaitian had just finished putting on his dress clothes. He laughed when his brother walked out with no mustache and his hair was goofed. Sausage, his pet ferret, licked his leg and crawled up his robe. Mario, his other ferret, joined Sausage. “Brother, help me!” “C’mon, Mario!” Zaitian gently said, picking up the ferret. He set Mario in the house and closed the door, along with little Sausage. Zaitian then turned to Mao Dun and fixed his hair. “You look…um…” Mao Dun looked in the mirror. “Stupid.” He muttered. Mao Dun looked worse. “Mao Dun, we need to get to the grove. Now. Madison—err—Mei is waiting for us.” Both boys ran to the edge of the forest to meet the beauty. “Whoa!” they both said. Mei was beautiful alright. She finally wore makeup and put her hair up differently. It wasn’t a plain bun anymore. Her dress looked long and silky and blue. Mei held a fan over her pale face. “Alright, let’s get going.” She happily chirped. She grabbed Zaitian’s hand and walked toward the music and smell of food. The dance was about to begin. The Chinese music started. Couples started to dance. Some were eating. Mao Dun stopped when he saw Li-Hua. “Li-Hua,” he started. “Yes?” she asked. “Do you want to dance with me?” “Oh, Mao Dun! That’s a stupid question. You don’t even have to ask!” she exclaimed. “I’d love to!” Li-Hua leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. Mao Dun’s whole face swelled up with red. Zaitian nudged Mao Dun. “Have fun you two!” he laughed with Mei after saying it. They walked to the table with the food to get some rice and egg rolls.

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“Hey, Mei,” Zaitian asked, blushing as red as his brother. “Let’s dance,” he said, taking her hand. “Okay,” she replied. The couple danced for a while. People dressed as dragons ran all over the place. Acrobats flipped and jumped everywhere like mentally retarded zombies. Zaitian and Mei stood out in the night. They danced as if they’ve practiced for years, as if they were professionals. Mao Dun looked with Li-Hua at Zaitian and Mei. “There is truly love in there,” Li-Hua said. “I agree,” Mao Dun replied. “He has loved her for a month or so. I have loved someone for that amount of time…you.” “Me?” Li-Hua was warm inside. She held his hand and leaned against him. “I may be just your girlfriend, but I’ve always loved you too.” Meanwhile, Mei and Zaitian were the only ones dancing (except for the dragons.) Everyone else had decided to watch. They clapped and cheered for the guidance and leadership of Zaitian and the graceful and quick twirls of Mei. They ended in one final dip. The crowd applauded like the sound of one thousand birds flapping their wings on their flight. Mei’s heart was beating fast as she stood up with Zaitian’s hands around her waist for support. Zaitian remembered the last day he had seen Madison. He had hugged her like that. He couldn’t get her out of his mind at all. The moment was interrupted by the few words: “Look to the skies!” Everybody turned to the sky and looked up. There was a lunar eclipse. The sun was completely over the moon. A reddish glow reflected over the pond nearby, the trees above, and on the people below. Mei’s eyes looked up at the unusual moon. Zaitian nudged her. “Don’t look up there too long. You’ll hurt your eyes.” He whispered.

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Unfortunately, Mei wouldn’t have to worry about that because the lunar eclipse was over in those two short minutes. Afterward, Zaitian led Mei to their secret grove after the gigantic feast of pie. It was dark, but reflecting light of the moon shone upon them. “I am so happy! I want to thank you for bringing me here!” Mei cried out. Zaitian and Mei stopped running. Zaitian took hold of her hands. “Before you do, I want you to understand something first. I am going to be the next ruler of China after my aunt dies. I have the power to choose these things, but it will be hard for me to look at you when I tell you this. I met a girl, an American girl. Here’s what you should understand,” Zaitian took a deep breath, “The reason I am always thinking of her is because,” “You…love her…” “I actually do. Madison was shortly banished from China, but I believe she came back in secret. But when I met you, you reminded me of her. I see her strength and personality in you. Madison came here first on her way to a mission trip. She survived her ship being blown up by Japanese troops…I think…I found her in the woods and took her to Fuzhou, here, to take care of her. I was an idiot to let her go; I did all I could to protect her, but my aunt banished her and her friend. A few weeks after she left and I heard you sing, you reminded me of Madison.” “So…I’m like Madison?” “In a way. I can’t get you and her out of my head…so…I think I’m in love with you…” he confessed. Mei gasped and pulled out a necklace. “You see this?” she asked. “It’s a cross. I’m a Christian. If you love me, I will be persecuted faster.” It was a sterling silver cross connected to a silver chain. “I don’t care,” he whispered. He leaned in toward her and kissed her. 70

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“I love you too,” she whispered back, finally finishing their kiss. Mao Dun came into the grove to meet Zaitian there, but when he noticed that he and Li-Hua had almost interrupted the moment, he and Li-Hua left. After Zaitian and Mei finished kissing, Mei said two final words before she left for home. “Thank you,” she kissed him one last time and ran to her house. Zaitian smiled and walked to Mao Dun, who was waiting outside Li-Hua’s house. “What’s the rating? I knew you were watching!” “Ten out of ten.” “Yes,” Zaitian screamed out and jumping into the air. “Did you guys like...kiss…like…the different way?” “Hm…maybe…” the two brothers laughed and went inside their own house. Zaitian took off his robe and lay on his bed. His head began to pound. A girl’s voice echoed in his head. It may have felt good then, but it will reflect off you as a regret later…what about Madison? What about the girl you search for? Is Mei really the same as Madison; the soft hands, the slim body, the smile like the gentle curve of an apple? Where is all that now? You are going insane because she is gone from your delicate hands! Zaitian thought more to himself. You’re right. Mei’s hands weren’t like Madison’s. She doesn’t stroke my fingers like Madison does. What have I done? My first kiss has already faded away! It was supposed to be with the girl who actually cared, not because I talked to her on a cloudy day. What have I done? Zaitian fell asleep shortly afterward. Zaitian woke up by a tap on the shoulder by Mao Dun. “What?” he jumped. “There’s somebody coming!” Mao Dun explained quickly. 71

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“What about Cixi?” Zaitian whined. “Can’t she deal with it?” “She’s out there. It’s about Mei. Apparently, it’s not good.” “Uh oh,” Zaitian leaped out of his bed and ran to the door where his aunt and Mei’s parents were standing. “Um, I know it was awkward to open-mouth-kiss Mei last night, but,” “The dance and the kiss are another matter, Zaitian,” Cixi sternly said. Zaitian noticed that Mei’s mother and father were crying. “Mei is going to be executed.” Zaitian’s heart skipped a beat. “What?” “The necklace she secretly wore, when she showed it to you, she accidentally left it out. The sign of the cross is the sign of Christianity… and your aunt is the ruler of China; she wants to kill our daughter!” “Auntie, this is like Madison leaving China! You can’t do this!” “Zaitian, I am sorry. It is for the best of our people.” Zaitian gave a dead glare toward his aunt. “The parents are to be executed as well.” “Then I shall be executed as well!” “No, Zaitian. You are to rule China when I am gone! Do as I say and go back indoors.” “I love her! I want her to live! I’ll do anything to have her spared!” “It was a foolish choice of her to say, ‘Yes, I am a Christian,’ when my soldiers asked her. It wasn’t your choice.” “May I at least see her? One last time?” Zaitian asked. Tears streamed down his face as Cixi nodded in a mean way. They traveled down into the city to the prison hall. In cell B7, Mei was suffering. “Mei!” Zaitian called when he saw her. “Oh Zaitian! I am so frightened! It was my fault I am in here! I should have hidden my secret, but I chose not to. I was too proud! Zaitian…I…” Zaitian interrupted her sobs by covering her mouth with his fingers. Poor Mei was beaten beyond recognition. She had scabs 72

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everywhere and her face was covered in blood and bruises. Her hair was messed up and her makeup smeared. Her eyes were red from crying. “You…don’t need…to worry…anymore… your parents are deciding to die with you. I would if I could, but I can’t. My aunt won’t let me. I would do anything to save you. I really tried.” He touched Mei’s scabbed chin and then hugged her, holding her close. “I look so disgusting! When I die in front of those people, my face…it’ll bring shame upon you, me, my family, and my ancestors.” Mei cried. “I love you, even if your face is a little wrecked. No matter how distorted you look, I will always love you,” Zaitian said, cradling the frightened Mei. He then whispered to her, “Don’t you ever think that you’re ugly!” He tried to kiss her, but she backed away to the back of the cell. He’s not looking at me. He’s looking through me at Madison. How dare him! Zaitian knew in a way what she was thinking. He walked away, holding her cross and weeping bitterly, knowing that he would never see her ever again. He couldn’t bear to watch her and her parents die. He went home as soon as he saw his aunt. Zaitian’s Diary It has been one day since the execution. I miss Mei so much, but she is in the Nirvana, I hope. My feelings for her are gone. I’ve learned to live on with my life in search of Madi. Mei didn’t love me yesterday because she figured out I only admired her for her look of Madison. I feel like a big idiot, but my brother helps me get over it. Speaking of which, Mao Dun and Li-Hua got engaged this morning! I am so excited about their wedding! They will probably have a lot of children in the future. I wonder what lays ahead for my future or Madison’s. I want to find her as soon as possible and have her and me live together one day, away from my aunt, away 73

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from the Boxer Rebellion that killed Mei, and out of China forever.

Chapter 7 After Mei’s death, Zaitian mostly forgot about Madison. He considered Madison and Mei to be the same girl some days because of his confusion and depression. If Madison seemed to be the same woman as Mei was, then he considered Madison to be dead. One day, his thoughts turned around. “I have to find her. I know she’s alive somewhere,” he said to himself. Zaitian dressed himself in his commoner clothes and started to walk out of the palace until his aunt caught him. “Zaitian, or Guangxu, the Boxer Rebellion is becoming a success! Christians and Americans in China will be executed, boats and bridges and skyscrapers shall be destroyed, and China shall be the Central Kingdom!” Zaitian seemed too unsure about her plan. “Oh, so that’s what the Boxer Rebellion was planned to be?” he asked, acting as if he was excited. “Yes, your Majesty. You don’t suppose the American visitors are alive by now, now that they must have figured out that they were dropped off on a cannibalistic island, probably like cat food now.” Zaitian gulped. “Oh yeah! I almost forgot about those two. Funny you’d mentioned that! I have to feed our feline now, uh, excuse me,” Zaitian nervously said, running to the outside of the palace. “I hope Madison is okay.” He said. Meanwhile, Zaitian’s older brother, Mao Dun, was working out in the garden. He had dark eyes like his brother, really long black hair, and a funny little mustache. He was significantly 74

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tall, yet he was clumsy whenever something unexpected would happen, like Zaitian running through the garden really fast. Mao was toppled over when he was spooked, but he eventually cut another weed down. “I have to find her as soon as I can. God Almighty, if Madison is anywhere safe, let her be okay until I find her,” Zaitian prayed. “Hey, Zaitian, what are you running for?” Mao Dun yelled. Zaitian had an idea and jogged back to his brother. “If you can keep a secret, there were two Americans who were dispatched from China and…and one of them happened to be a girl!” “Another girl? Like Mei?” “Pretty close to her, actually!” Zaitian smiled. “I think she’s alive. From the lessons Dad has been teaching me, I was able to get into one of her dreams and talk to her, but that was a couple weeks ago. I think she’s here in the country…” Zaitian said. “Oh…and why do you want me to keep it a secret?” “Well, Auntie kind of banished them…and if they’re back here, she can’t find out.” “Okay, Zaitian.” “If she happens to come on by the palace, tell her I’m looking for her.” “Okay. Where will you be, then?” “I’m running away, going into different cities.” “What if she’s on another island?” Mao seemed confused. “Then I’ll go from country to country over the seas until I reach her.” “Why are you so attached? She can get killed here because of Auntie Cixi,” Mao whispered, for he had seen some guards marching nearby. Zaitian looked around him and then whispered back, “I’m not sure. Part of me is telling me that she’s in trouble and it would be worth traveling everywhere to find her. I love her.”

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“Okay. I’ll look after the place for you. I’ll tell Cixi that you went to see Dad or something. I’ll keep your secret safe, okay?” Mao Dun waved to his departing brother and went back to his garden work. Li-Hua passed by the palace, smiling sweetly at him. Zaitian walked on foot, passing by different streets. He borrowed a bicycle from another friend and rode off. He knew bicycles would have to be compensated sooner or later, but getting a head start would be better than not getting ahead at all. Why am I thinking differently? He thought to himself, also pushing his glasses up his nose. Ever since Mei died, I have thought of nothing but her and Madison. Did God send Mei to me to comfort me while Madison was gone and in danger? I was suffering from her loss until I seemed to fall in love with her. Mei is not Madison, I know that. Stupid me, I’m so confused! Zaitian increased his velocity and sped on, scanning streets and roads of many kinds for the girl he set out to search for. Madison sat by herself in another restaurant by herself, chewing on a piece of egg roll. She noticed a boy riding a green bicycle, but she didn’t notice he had glasses on and he was the man she had set out to search for. She stirred her tea and laid her head down. Zaitian continued to ride in the city of Fuzhou, accelerating his speed off and on, until he saw a familiar black-suited man. He braked on the bike, giving it a massive screech and stopping, close to running over his feet. “Sir, I advise you to get off your bike and give it to us.” “Officer, I,” “I said, hand the bike over and please continue walking.” “But…there’s girl I need to find…” “Under the law of Cixi, you need to let go of your American influence and walk on the streets like the rest of us!”

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“Yes sir,” Zaitian finally said and lost the bike. The officer walked off and set the bike in a pile of others and burned the stack. “Oh no! The Boxer Rebellion is happening already! I’ve got to move faster after I get something to eat.” Zaitian entered the same restaurant Madison was in. Madison was too busy hiding her American face under a fan to notice, until he passed by. Madison quietly choked on her food and covered her mouth; Zaitian was really there! “Good afternoon, sir. I would like to have,” Zaitian started. He stopped when he turned around and saw Madison’s hidden face. He knew it was her. Madison slowly lowered her fan and gazed upon the boy she had longed to see. “Uh…an egg roll and tea…add some lemonglazed chicken and I’ll pay you now,” Zaitian spoke, not taking his eyes off of Madison. The cook nodded and got started while Zaitian still stared and took a seat across from Madison. “What are you doing here?” Madison asked. “What are you doing here?” Zaitian repeated. “I’ve been out searching for you.” “Same here!” Madison decided to spill out the basics. “Steven’s gone.” “What happened? Did he die?” “No,” Madison spat. “He fell in love with a Chinese commoner.” “Oh…” Zaitian said. “I’m sorry.” “Why did you come looking for me?” “Madison,” Zaitian whispered. “The Boxer Rebellion is starting. I just got my bike compensated and I just saw some people of our own getting arrested. I’m going to try to get you out of here and into a safe place.” “But we need to find Steven,” Madison pleaded. Zaitian nodded. “I’ll try, but I need to figure to get you out,” he was interrupted by the bang of a door hitting the wall and breaking a glass vase. “You’re under house arrest!” a voice arose. It was a Boxer, or a Chinese police officer. 77

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“Time to go,” Zaitian said to Madison. Random people dining in the restaurant started to scream. Zaitian ran toward the officer and brought him down with a swift kick and a punch in the gut. He grabbed Madison’s hand and ran down the streets. The weak officer balanced himself on part of the building and yelled, “Find them!” Several officers came out of the shadows and chased after them. Zaitian looked back, but he didn’t stop running. Madison did, though. She drew her pocket knife and made a position in which she could see all the soldiers. Zaitian put the knife down by lowering her hand. “Not the best thing to do,” he whispered in English. Madison nodded and started running, now aware she was considered an outlaw for being a Christian American and for pulling a knife out on a Boxer. Zaitian and Madison finally got away when they both dropped down into a sewer. The soldiers looked down, shook their heads, and held their noses. Zaitian pulled Madison away into an alley, covering his mouth as he ran. “Ugh, this is disgusting!” he laughed. Madison laughed too. “Did you see their faces as we jumped in? Did you see those guys’ faces?” Madison asked, still chuckling. “My aunt wouldn’t be happy to see me here.” “Neither would my relations either,” Madison replied. They both stopped to take a break. “We need to find a way out into another city. These tunnels would work,” Zaitian pointed north, revealing a deep, dark tunnel. “But it smells so bad,” Madison complained playfully. “We’ll find a way out, Meanwhile, Mao Dun pretended he didn’t know that his brother slipped out. He was still working on his garden until a guard ran to him. 78

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“Young sir, your aunt has left the palace to search for your missing brother, Zaitian and she wants you to take over while she’s gone.” “Thank you, officer. Should I be certain that Li-Hua may enter the dominion?” “…just take over…” “Yes sir…and what would you do?” “…guard the palace. What else do you think I do around here? Make sure if any Americans are found, they are exterminated; if there are any Christians, take them to the dungeon and slowly persecute them. Get rid of every thing Americans have in their home.” “How do I know what they have?” “Keep the Chinese, trash the Americans,” “Right,” I sure hope Zaitian is okay and that he found his girl. Mao Dun thought. Zaitian and Madison heard a strange noise. “They’re in the sewer!” Madison whispered in English. “Let’s go, then,” Zaitian said, taking her hand and running. “I think he went this way!” a voice said. “They’re catching up to us!” Madison screamed. “We’re catching up to them!” The masculine voice roared. Zaitian pulled Madison to the side and hid against a wall in another tunnel. He pressed his back against the wall and pushed against Madison’s torso to keep her from being spotted. He turned his head and saw another black-suited man. He started to look more and also saw a woman in black. Both were police. “Okay, Madison,” he whispered in English so the Boxers wouldn’t understand them. “On the count of three, we’re going to take both of them down. You take the girl, you understand?” “I don’t want to do this, Zaitian. I don’t want to do this,” “No, Madison, on the count of three, one, two,”

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“Three,” said the woman. , speaking with the perfect English accent. Madison recognized the woman. She was Min and the man was Steven. “What are you doing here?” Madison squealed, hugging Steven, almost knocking him over. Steven shot a glare at Zaitian. Zaitian scowled back. “Min,” “It’s so good to see you. As soon as you left us, we felt sorry and went looking for you,” she said in Chinese. She had only said three, since she learned the number set from Steven on their journey. “Oh,” Zaitian said. He stood out of the shadows and took off his glasses. “Tada, it’s me.” “Just you wait,” Steven said while standing up taller, realizing Zaitian was taller still. “You might have saved us from death and persecution, but I don’t trust that relationship between you and your aunt! You could even call the police and tell on us like a little child!” “If I were to risk my life to save Madison, would I really do that to you?” Zaitian asked. Steven shrugged. “I’m trying to save her, and you two must be in trouble for stealing the Boxer’s uniform and injuring one, I can see. We need to move on; Cixi will be looking for us.” “And so we have to stay in the sewer?” “We must have to,” Zaitian said. “I’ll lead us out of this ‘literal’ mess and we’ll be okay by then…and Steven” Zaitian looked toward Steven; “do not try to be jealous,” Steven gave another fierce look. “What’s he jealous about?” Madison asked while nudging Zaitian. Zaitian grasped her hand. “He doesn’t have you,” “But he’s already in love with Min. I’ve seen them kiss,” “Is that so?” Zaitian said, raising his head pridefully. Madison laughed. They walked on, sometimes popping their heads out of the tunnels to see if they were in a non-public area, but China was getting bigger 80

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and more secure with the Boxers. Zaitian would buy food by exiting the sewer and coming back to feed his crew. He never commanded and he never spoke in an ignorant way, nor was he boastful. He was protective and surpassingly was hiding his love. “As the setting sun rises, light and dark may come together,” Madison muttered. “It may not make any sense, but it’s a nice topic to discuss about on our travels. We can see how it can make sense.” “Seems like a good suggestion,” Min said cheerfully. Madison smiled back. Zaitian wouldn’t press on; he sat down most of the time Madison was conversing about her strange topic. I just don’t know anymore. Mei used to say stuff like that. Now that I’m not around her, I feel confused again. Is Madison really the right way to go? Yes, if I saved Madi…I think…I think that shows I am truly in love with her. I gave her the bead, he thought. “Zaitian, what’s the matter?” Madison asked, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Huh? Oh, I was just thinking to myself, trying to remember where we’re supposed to go now. China’s a big country, you know.” He smiled. Madison kneeled down, pressing both hands on his shoulders. “You can get us out of here. I just know it.” She said. She started to lean in to kiss him, but she was interrupted by a booming sound. “What was that?” Zaitian asked, standing up quickly. “I don’t know, ah!” a cannon ball flew down near them and exploded. “Did they find us?” Steven yelled. “I don’t know…where’s Madison?” Min replied. “Zaitian, Madison is gone!” Steven told Zaitian. Zaitian nodded and ran around to find her.

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“Madi?” he yelled. He saw a black haired girl waving her arms around. “Are you mad? We’ll be caught!” “Zaitian, these are my people,” she replied. “What are you talking about? These will be my people someday and you’ll be one of them too!” “Not your people, Americans! They’re attacking us!” “Not us,” “Your people! They must have heard about the Boxer Rebellion!” Madison shouted. “Nice going, then. You wrote the letter to your parents! They must have thought I kidnapped you!” “Great, now let’s get out of this area. We have to find Steven and Min! And why are you blaming me?” “It’s just a thought.” Zaitian replied. He took Madison by her arm and found Steven and Min. Min was on the ground, suffering from a broken arm. The cannon ball crushed her arm. Steven picked her up and began to run into the distance. “Follow them!” Smoke covered the path and the sights of men, women, and children. Screams of dying civilians filled the air. American soldiers were running around, shooting and killing at sight. Bullets hit buildings nearby, knocking off rubble and mud, blowing little parts to smithereens. A couple bullets hit some vehicles nearby Steven, Min, Madison, and Zaitian. They ran in zigzags so the Americans wouldn’t kill them by accident, but they couldn’t tell! “Keep running! Keep running!” Zaitian yelled. Everyone was in a panic, including the teenagers. American soldiers crashed through buildings with their tanks. A voice spoke in a roaring voice. “Surrender while you can, end the Boxer Rebellion, and you shall live!” the voice boomed. Madison screamed and Zaitian covered her mouth. Zaitian and Steven pulled their girls into a corner instead of dropping down a sewer. They 82

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crawled into a tunnel in a building and went underground. “That…was…really…close…” Steven panted. “Tell us what’s going on!” Steven yelled at Zaitian. “I have no idea! I went to rescue Madison and then we went under attack! It seems like the Americans just want us to stop persecuting Christians. They must think that Madison is dead. We can’t take her out there now. There is too much fighting going on now. “Is there any food here?” Madison asked. “No, apparently not,” Min said. “This is a tunnel for safety. People are here too. They have nothing with them.” Min was right. Starving families were huddling in corners. “What is going on? Where’s Daddy?” a little girl asked. Zaitian and Madison kneeled before her. “I don’t know,” Madison replied. The little girl began to cry and ran to her mother. “Okay…our options are one, die outside, two, die in the tunnels, or three, die here.” Steven said. “Is there any option that doesn’t have to do with dying?” Min asked. “Apparently not!” Zaitian replied, stomping his soiled feet. “We are stuck here!” “Zaitian, I know you’ll find a way out!” Madison said, keeping back her un-needed tears. “But I can’t, Madison!” he choked. “You don’t understand. There is no where else out!” “Maybe…maybe we can find a way.” Min said. “That isn’t going to happen,” Steven said. “All boys here are so negative…” Madison whispered to Min. Min nodded in agreement. “Please, Zaitian? Can’t you please try to find a way with us? You don’t want to die, do you?” Madison pleaded, taking hold of his arm and tugging at it. Zaitian looked into Madison’s beautiful eyes. He nodded. Madison squealed

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and hugged him. She took his hand and helped him up from the trashed ground. “Everyone, may we have your attention, please?” Madison yelled. Every face in the tunnel entrance faced her. “Our group is trying to find a way out of here. Is anyone up to the task to stand up and walk on their weary feet to find their freedom?” Some people spat, others laughed. “Little girl,” An old man said. “You know nothing about these tunnels. It’s dark down there and we will get lost, lose our faith, starve, and die like animals. We will not move until the fighting stops. Until the war ends.” Min took Steven by the arm. “We’ll go by ourselves.” She said. Madison wiped a tear from her eye from being called ‘little.’ Zaitian put his arm around her shoulder and slid his glasses up his nose with the other hand. “Are you sure about this, Min? It’s kind of dark in here,” Madison nudged Min. Her eyes made it seem the world was losing its blissful light. The four of them began to put their hands on the walls to feel around. The voice of the old man called to them. “Soot yourselves, you foolish kids! You’re going to find nothing but death!” “That old hag!” Madison muttered. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” “Hey, you! Shut up, retire with a bang, and think about hope for once!” Steven yelled back. They all chuckled a bit and walked on. Dirt lay under their feet. A few rats squeaked and moved around. “This is really gross,” Min muttered. Her arm felt like it was pounding against its inside. “There are rats everywhere…and worse…we can’t see them!” Min stepped on a cracking skeleton and screamed. “This is one way out, isn’t it?” Zaitian asked. Madison told him she didn’t know. “I’m scared,” Madison finally whispered to Zaitian. 84

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“You guys go on ahead,” Zaitian said to Min and Steven, struggling behind them. “We’ll catch up in a minute. Talk to each other so we can hear you, okay?” “You will be okay?” Min asked. “Yes,” The sound of their footsteps began to fade away. Zaitian’s hands were on Madison’s shoulders. “Are you alright?” “I’m…so…scared…” Madison sobbed. Zaitian pulled her to him. Her arms around him squeezed him for comfort. Zaitian felt bad for Madison for bringing her in the tunnel…but all he wanted to do was to protect her from whatever was going on above. “You know, Madison…” Zaitian took a deep breath. “I’ve…always thought…to myself…since we met…I’ve realized…I love you…” he said finally. Madison’s fear seemed to melt away. Her tear-streamed face looked up at Zaitian, even if she couldn’t see him. “You…you do?” “That’s why I looked for you, Madi. I can’t stand to think that you are alone and afraid like you are in the dark. That’s why I wanted you to be sent away to the island. I’m so sorry!” “Oh, Zaitian!” Madison exclaimed. She felt so happy for the first time in a long time. Steven began to cry because he had heard every word Zaitian had said. He then realized he wasn’t really in love with Min anymore; Steven walked on, not even holding onto Min’s hand anymore. “Will you…” Zaitian muttered, shoving his glasses up his nose again. “Will you…um…kiss me?” he asked. Madison’s teary eyes sparkled, even in the dark. “Of course,” she muttered back. She finally stood up on her toes, trying to find Zaitian’s face. It was her big moment, her part in life she had been waiting for. Their lips only touched a little bit, but they were both interrupted by Steven’s yell. He separated them both with a karate chop. “What the,” Zaitian yelled.

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“Steven, why did you do that?” Madison yelled. “I…LOVE…YOU…MORE, MADISON!” Steven yelled back. Min turned around. “What?” Everyone else asked. “I just couldn’t tell you. You had already fallen for Zaitian, so I couldn’t say it. I love you, Madison. You must understand that.” “You love Min!” Madison and Zaitian screeched. “No…I never did. I only kissed her because…because of other reasons.” “Steven, you’re such a jerk!” Min said. She turned around and walked more into the darkness. “Wait, Min,” Zaitian said, trying to catch her. He couldn’t see where he was going and he tripped over a rat. “Steven, you really are a jerk.” “But…but I can’t see Madison be with you. It’s just not right! What if you’ll turn us in?” “No, Zaitian wouldn’t. He gave us another chance. We weren’t persecuted because of him.” “Yeah. He sent us to an island with a bunch of cannibals!” Steven yelled at Madison. Zaitian stepped back. “Cannibals?” he asked. “I never knew that!” “Oh, yeah right!” “I went looking for her, right? She would have died in the war if I wouldn’t have found her!” Zaitian said. “I loved her since I first saw her.” Madison virtually looked at Zaitian and smiled, even if she couldn’t see his handsome face. She still felt angry about Min’s hurt feelings. “Steven, go home,” she said. “I can’t!” he said. “Well then, go find a way. Go wait with the other people in the chamber! Go now!” Madison yelled. “We don’t want you around anymore.” “Fine!” Steven shouted back. 86

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“Madison, don’t be so mean to Steven.” “But…Madison…I…I love you.” “Sorry, Steven. If you will hurt Min like that, I can’t trust you. Besides, I’ve loved Zaitian longer than you think,” Madison started crying. Fighting with Steven was hard to do for her tender heart. “Just…just…get on a ship and go home!” Zaitian took her by the waist. “You’re just making it worse!” “Madison, please. I want to stay with you.” “No,” “Madi,” “Please, Madison…and why do you call her Madi?” “Stop it!” BOOM! The three yelling-some looked up and rocks began to fall and the whole tunnel began to collapse. Madison couldn’t see anything at all. She fell over on top of somebody. Who is it? She thought. Whoever it was—he was kissing her. Oh, Zaitian. It’s just you. Let me just get up and figure out what’s going on. She thought. A light shone from the open hole in the ceiling. Madison opened her eyes and noticed she was accidentally kissing Steven. She had landed on top of him by accident and they must have locked lips by mistake. Madison was furious. “Steven? Was it you that whole time?” she asked. Steven groaned and looked into Madison’s blue eyes. He nodded. “Why could you?” she yelled. “My first kiss was supposed to be with Zaitian!” “What?” Zaitian’s voice rang. “Steven kissed me!” “Sorry, but, you…kind of fell…” “Yeah…” Madison laughed. “I kind of did!” Zaitian moved a stone over and helped Madison up. He also picked her up and carried her up the ‘stone steps’ to the opening. He reached for Steven’s hand, but then he gasped. “We can’t leave without Min!” Steven yelled.

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“You should have thought about making her cry.” Madison said, turning her head. “How about you go alone?” Steven couldn’t take it anymore. He stomped his foot on the rubble. “Fine,” He exited their presence and disappeared into the darkness. “Are you alright?” Zaitian asked. Madison turned away from him too. “Leave me alone. I’m fine. Let’s just get out of here.” Madison inhaled the pure oxygen outside and ran until she found a dock. One boat bobbed there like a cork in the teal waters. “We can’t leave without Steven. Even if he happened to kiss me like an idiot, he’s still my friend.” “But you can leave, Madison. This is your only chance to get out of here alive while you still can!” “Zaitian, I know how much you want to protect me, but I can’t leave Steven there! He’ll get killed. We need to go back.” “Okay, Madison. That sounds a little crazy.” “Why?” “Let’s demonstrate with a sinking ship. The ship is sinking and you decide to jump back on while it’s going down? I mean, how stupid is that?” “He saved me once from a raging cannibal who threw a spear at me. He stepped in front and took the spear with a powerful drug enough to kill him. I don’t want to repay him with this,” Madison pointed at the deep, dark hole. “Alright. We’ll save Steven…but you need to be near me. Don’t ever let go of my hand. American troops can attack anytime.” “He’ll be caught up to Min soon. She’s wounded, so she couldn’t have gone too far on foot.” “Okay. We should reach him by then, okay?” “And Zaitian?” Madison asked. Zaitian turned to face Madison. “I love you too.” He smiled and took her hand. Together, they jumped down into the tunnel to find Steven. 88

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“It’s getting darker by the second. Are you sure we’ll find him?” Zaitian wondered. “Trust me, Zaitian, like I have trusted you.” They walked on, hearing groaning and crying up ahead. “Steven?” Zaitian roared. “Help!” a girl’s voice screamed. “It’s Min,” Madison said. “We’re coming.” They ran on, tripping, slipping, and running into tunnel walls. Bleeding, they found Steven on his knees over Min, who was pinned to the ground by a huge boulder that fell from the top. “Oh no!” Zaitian whispered, kneeling down too. Madison put her hand on Min’s face. She was breathing fast and whimpering loudly. “You’re going to be okay, you’re going to be okay,” Steven chanted with his hand over Min’s stomach. Madison started to cry again. “I don’t care…if you love Madison… Steven…I just…wanted…you to know I…” Min’s mouth hung open and her head tilted to the side. She was dead. Madison sobbed and held her head. Steven walked away and covered his mouth. “I’m such an idiot,” “I’m so sorry, Steven!” “I’m such an idiot,” he kept saying. He climbed out of the hole and walked without them. “We have to catch him. Boxers are still out there!” Zaitian whispered to Madison. Madison nodded. “Steven, don’t go out there!” she hollered. Steven didn’t answer at all. Madison hoisted herself up and looked to the west. Steven ignored her call. Madison started to run until she saw the black uniform of a Boxer. Zaitian came up behind her and hid her behind a building. He covered Madison’s mouth with his hand so the Boxer wouldn’t hear her. The Boxer spotted Steven and caught him by the shirt and tied up his hands.

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Madison, you’re such a moron! Madison thought to herself. The Boxer took Steven away; Steven didn’t even budge. More tears traveled down Madison’s cheeks. She tried to run after him, but Zaitian wouldn’t let her. Madison, you were too hard on him! Zaitian covered her eyes from the sight of Steven being beaten to a pulp. Madison was dragged away to another building alley where Madison threw up from being scared too much. “We can’t go after him!” “We’re going to have to!” Madison wailed. “No, they’re going to kill him. There’s no hope.” “We can at least try,” Madison pulled on Zaitian and looked out the other alley. Steven and the Boxer were gone. “I need a disguise. You…you’re okay.” Madison was dressed in a red dress and a straw hat hung below her eyes. Her lips were outlined in a dark red powder and her face was covered in dirt so her skin tone would look a little different. Zaitian took her by the hand again and walked her down the street. He talked to her in Chinese again. “So, Min,” he had called her by Steven’s friend. “Are you glad that order in China will be restored as soon as the Boxers get rid of all the American junk?” “Oh, of course!” she said in a perfect accent. “The Boxers, who were appointed by Cixi, will fix this mess and the Middle Kingdom shall be restored.” She tried to sound cheerful, yet she was still choked up. How can this get any worse? “Min,” Zaitian whispered. “Everything is going to be fine. All we need to do is to follow the steps of the Boxer and,” Zaitian cleared his throat and walked to a pedestrian. “Have you seen a Boxer take a young boy away? My girlfriend and I want to see him die,” Zaitian said, blushing as a result of calling Madison his girlfriend. Madison squeezed his arm until the blood flow was blocked. She shortly let go. 90

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“Um…yes, sir. He went to the east. Follow them and then take a left. You will find an auditorium where they burn the victim alive,” the citizen replied. Madison’s eyes widened. “Thank you very much, sir. We’ll be leaving, now,” “Oh, but may I take a look at your girlfriend, first? She seems rather gorgeous,” the man said. Zaitian slowly pushed him away. “No, she’s quite shy…just…just leave the hat on,” but it was too late. The man lifted off Madison’s disguised hat and he saw her American eyes. “Hello,” she said. “AMERICAN!!!” the Chinese man squealed. Zaitian punched him in the jaw and ran toward the auditorium using the directions the man gave to him. “Okay, so when we get there, what will the plan be?” Madison asked in English. “Um…fight the soldiers and all we can, grab Steven, and go? Why?” “Just a wonder,” The huge auditorium doors opened and Madison and Zaitian, hand in hand, rushed inside. Steven was gagged with a brown rag and was being soaked with gasoline. “No!” Madison shouted. “Madison! You came!” Steven said through his gag. Madison couldn’t understand him. She ran up to the podium where he was tied up. She kicked at the Chinese soldiers pouring gasoline and punched a couple. She took out her pocket knife and cut one on his arm. She released Steven from his bind and took his hand, but she was stopped by another hand. Cixi was standing right there, glaring down at Madison. “Uh oh,” Madison muttered. Cixi swiped her hand at Madison, but Madison’s quick reflexes had her turn in an uncomfortable way, yet it saved her. “No, Auntie!” Zaitian yelled. “Guangxu?” Cixi asked.

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“No, I’m not Guangxu. If I was, I wouldn’t have this happen. Now let…her…go…” “No. She’s supposed to be banished from China, but she came back,” Cixi shouted. The crowd gasped. Cixi pulled out a knife and held it to Madison’s throat. “And now, not even your blood can save her, Zaitian.” “Auntie…please…I…I love Madison. Ever since I first saw her,” Zaitian confessed. The crowd gasped again. “What? You love this trespassing… worthless…filth?” she asked. Zaitian shrugged then nodded. “I’m sorry to disappoint you, Auntie,” he said. Zaitian quickly threw a knife that circled around and cut off one of Cixi’s fingers. Her grasp on Madison withdrew and she fell to the ground and sobbed over her lost finger. “Don’t look at that, Madison,” he whispered to her. The crowd once again gasped. “Oh, shut up!” Cixi yelled. Zaitian realized that he was too late to save Steven; Steven was tied to the pole and the Boxers pulled out the torches. Zaitian knew he couldn’t do anything about it, so he pulled out Madison’s pocket knife and threw it at Steven so he wouldn’t feel the burn of fire. The knife plunged into Steven’s heart and it stopped right there. He wasn’t a bit afraid; he was smiling. He knew Madison tried to save him, yet she couldn’t and that Zaitian ended his misery. Madison screamed, but Zaitian covered her mouth again and pulled her away. “Come on, Madi! We need to run!” Zaitian said, dragging Madison. Madison finally picked herself up when she saw Boxers running after her. They both kept running until they reached a pasture without any buildings at all. Zaitian looked behind them; there were no black uniformed men at all. Zaitian sat down and pulled Madison onto his lap. As a surprise, Madison wasn’t crying. She and Zaitian planned that Steven would end that way. Madison breathed deeply and knew he was okay and it was done. 92

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“I’m sorry, Zaitian. I was such a jerk in front of you,” she muttered. “You didn’t do it on purpose, you know,” he reminded. “We were all tired, hungry, and scared. Hope was lost in those tunnels. Don’t be foolish. Death will come to us too one day.” “I have a plan to stop this with the Americans,” Madison spoke up. “Remember those people in the chamber before the tunnels? Some people in there are strong enough to fight. We can join an army, get America’s attention by attacking the palace, and we’ll take Cixi down and you can become Emperor Guangxu.” “I don’t know,” Zaitian said with an unfortunate tone. “There are so many people who are dying in there; they might die like flies on the battle field. We aren’t even old enough to fight!” “We can take down those Boxer soldiers easily, though!” “…alright…but we have to be very careful, now. Those Boxers are still on the lookout for us!” Zaitian said. Madison clapped her hands. “But we have to be swift with our moves.” “We’re doing this for Steven and Min!” Zaitian and Madison crept down behind buildings, keeping their eyes peeled for anything suspicious. They found some sewer entrances and entered and exited at different times. Finally, holes in the ground became very visible. The town surrounding was as quiet as a graveyard. Madison hopped in and became surrounded by people. The old man squinted at Madison. “Hey, haven’t I seen you before?” he asked. “Yes, sir. You have. Two of our friends are dead now and we need your help. We’ve seen what the Boxers have done and we’ve fought them and Empress Cixi. Zaitian here has even cut off one of her fingers.” “What’s the point, kid?” he old man replied.

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“When the U.S. army arrived, they never knew I was here. I come from America and it is my duty to personally tell them that I’m here and that I want to help end the Boxer Rebellion by attacking the palace of Cixi. There are at least four hundred men here that are strong enough to fight. You may have no food here, but if we fight, you will get freedom and order back. Plus, if Cixi dies with the help of the American army, China will be saved, homes will be rebuilt, and supplies will be sent to you from my country. As a patriot of both American and Chinese counties, let us fight for our freedom!” Instead of laughter, the people applauded and men stood up to be counted in as warriors. They were all getting tired of a stinking tunnel with nothing but sewer rats to eat. It took about a day to organize the small army of troops. Madison tied her hair up in a warrior’s ponytail and found a sword lying around. She sharpened it and put it back inside its tattered and torn sheath. Zaitian found Madison preparing for battle. “Hi,” she said to him. She decided not to look at Zaitian at all for some reason. She seemed angry to him. “Is something the matter?” he asked, taking off his glasses and putting on ancient Chinese armor that was used in wars before. “Well…I’m not sure if you’re okay with Steven kissing me. I’m certainly not certain that you forgive him, but,” “He was the boy in your happy place, wasn’t he?” he asked. Madison still didn’t look at him. “I don’t think so. It wasn’t on a ship.” Madison laughed. Zaitian shrugged. “It wasn’t really the experience I’ve been dreaming about. Sometimes, I just wish that whoever is in my fantasies, I hope he is kind, protective, and… handsome.” She did it. She described Zaitian right there. “When you said you were going to take me to my happy place back then when we met, you meant that you were going to have me 94

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experience it with you?” she asked. Zaitian nodded. “We might not be on a ship though. This could be our last day, depending if we’re successful or not.” “You’re right.” “Madison,” a man asked her. “Where do I go now?” “Follow the rest of the men going south, stand in an empty part in the line, and command everyone to stay put where they are. I have a few words to say,” Madison left Zaitian’s presence and went to the waiting men, prepared for battle as much as she was. “Everyone, please, I want you to know, our freedom is at stake. Our lives are at stake. Your families are suffering and will continue to suffer if we don’t fight. America will join us as soon as they see us attacking the palace. I have a Chinese citizen with me who used to live in the palace, then saved me from attacking soldiers. He will join us in pointing out the weakest points in the palace. Now, here are your instructions:” Madison gave out a number of instructions for the men. Secrets and codes were given out, prayers and words of hope were said. The Americans flew by in aircrafts, but they didn’t attack. Finally, at dawn, the troops were ready to be set out on foot. Zaitian had picked a man to lead the march so he could talk to Madison about some stuff that needed to be talked about before they made the first blood. “Madi? What’s the matter?” he asked. Madison turned away for a moment, then turned back and showed him his journal. “I snuck it out when you were asleep. I know everything about Mei, how much she looked like me, and how she died. I know the story as if someone had written it in a book.” Madison gave the journal to Zaitian. He didn’t seem mad at all; he actually had a sorry look on his face, whereas Madi, she was deeply hurt. “I can’t believe that you would actually fall in love 95

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with someone who looks like me, but isn’t me. I’m…kind of surprised and disappointed.” “But she’s dead now.” “I know…still…” “Will you forgive me, though?” Zaitian asked. Madison nodded and walked forward. She was able to see the palace from very far away; it looked very small, of course. For some whacky reason, Madison didn’t feel happy about attacking. I just want Zaitian to be happy like everyone I made that wish to in the world. She thought. I don’t want to destroy his home. “Zaitian, if I destroy your home, you will have no place to go.” “Yes, I will. Remember when you said that homes would be rebuilt after the war? I would have my appointed soldiers rebuild my dominion for me once I’m seated on the throne of being emperor of China.” “I see,” Madison remarked. “I think you’ll make a great emperor,” she said. They kept talking about it, keeping their mind off of fighting and death. At last, the palace doors were only fifty feet away from the small army. Madison and Zaitian stepped forward. “Everyone,” Madison took a deep breath and continued. “Fight for your country, fight for your home, fight for your families. Most of all… let us fight for our freedom!” she yelled. The warriors and Zaitian gave a war cry. Madison threw her helmet cover down her face. “Let there be a red dawn tomorrow!” The weird Chinese horn sounded. Madison’s mind became boggled. The war was finally starting. The surprise was that many Chinese soldiers on the opposite side marched forward. Zaitian noticed a soldier up in front walking toward them. That soldier was missing a finger. Auntie Cixi is fighting against us? Zaitian wondered. Zaitian looked beyond the hill that the enemy was standing on and saw a familiar sight…and they looked just like Madison. Wait a mo! Those are Americans! Are they fighting against us too? He nudged Madison. 96

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“Hey, I don’t think the Americans are with us. I think they’re against us.” “That can’t be…” Madison muttered. She got up on Zaitian’s shoulders and began to wave her arms. “Over here!” she hollered in English. “Over here!” The Americans looked to the east and saw a girl waving her arms back and forth. “I’m alive! I’m okay!” she said. Cixi looked toward the American soldiers. “What are they doing?” she asked herself. She and the three hundred thousand other Boxers ignored them and began to march forward. “You left home, betrayed our family, and cut off one of my fingers, Zaitian,” she yelled. Finally, she called me by my own name. Zaitian happily thought. “Now, you shall die!” She began to run toward Madison and Zaitian both, drawing her own sword with her good hand. “Zaitian, what should we do? The palace isn’t available to attack now.” Madison asked. “This is a battle, now. We should not think, but attack for our lives. Whoever comes at us we kill, okay?” “What about the Americans? Are they our Allies?” “We shall wait and see,” Zaitian ducked when Cixi swung her sword at him. Madison shrieked and ran, cutting down people running at her. She kept going, making a path of bodies, until she reached a captain with a striped red and white helmet with a blue square on one side with a bunch of stars. “Sir, sir, did you get my call?” she asked in her own dialogue. “Yes, we did. Are you the only one here?” “I was…” Madison started to think of Steven. “They killed my friend who saved me when he and I were shot down in our boat near the Chinese coast.” “So you are really alive?” he asked, holding up a nasty looking letter. Madison recognized her handwriting.

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“Yes…do Mum and Dad know I’m here?” Madison asked. “I do not know your parents, Madison, but they sent this letter to the military as soon as they got it. We shall take you home, now.” “No,” Madison yelled, trying to dodge his will for a grasp on her. “No, I can’t. I love this place. I love someone here. I belong here. Besides, I have a battle to help lead. I can’t just leave them.” “Very well. We shall help you fight, and then we shall send you back to America. Right now, focus on packing whatever you got,” The captain looked at Madison’s clothing, which made it obvious she didn’t own anything at all except for those clothes. “Never mind. When we defeat whoever started this nonsense, we will take you back.” “Didn’t you hear a word I said? I said, leave me here, and help me fight!” Madison screamed. Zaitian heard her voice and tried to run, but he forgot he was fighting Cixi. Cixi took the opportunity to harm him while his head was in the clouds and she plunged her sword into his body. Madison heard his voice crack from nearby and saw what happened. Cixi had her sword in his shoulder, pinning him to the ground. Cixi then pulled her sword up, leaving Zaitian bleeding on the dirt. Madison drew her own sword and ran toward Cixi. She hit her with the base, knocking the empress over. Cixi got up and tried to stab Madison too, but Madison was too quick. She spun around and slit many different parts of Cixi’s legs very quickly. I’m sure glad I took ballet class, Madison thought to herself. Her heart pounded as she fought the empress of China, poking at air, trying to puncture the tall woman who injured Zaitian. Madison ducked, but the only thing cut was a part of her hair. The black clump fell to the ground and landed softly as if Madison got that part cut in a barber shop where the hair falls to the ground on the soft rubber mat below the person’s feet. 98

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Zaitian gasped when he saw what happened. He happened to be right below Cixi, so he turned her over with one hand. She fell to the ground and Madison was too stupid and too distracted to kill her right there. She went right to Zaitian. “Zaitian, are you okay?” she asked. “I’m fine…watch out!” Madison turned to the right, barely missing Cixi’s blade. The tip of the sword took a sample of skin right off her cheek, as if an arrow zipped passed. Zaitian got up and pulled out his own sword. He aimed it at Cixi, until he heard a booming noise. A sort of noise that would bust your ears if you were too close. Without being pierced by a sword, Cixi looked down to find a hole in her abdomen. Roaring of men filled the air as she gasped and fell down to the ground. The American captain was behind her. He took his pistol and blew in it to cool off the heat. “Will…will we have a victory?” Madison asked, ripping off a part of her silk armor to cover up Zaitian’s shoulder wound. “I am not sure. Cixi may be dead, but she raised up enough strong warriors enough to kill off Germany. That is how strong they are.” “What’s Germany?” Zaitian asked. “But your numbers are greater than ours. Can’t you put your military troops in too, like, drop a couple of potatoes (bombs) on the way with your crafty little airships, that sort of a thing?” Madison insisted. “No, because that would put more money on our list of reparations. We already have too much to pay.” “What about us?” “You consider yourself to be Chinese, Madison?” “Yes, I do, and I’m proud,” “Please, Madison, please don’t be so foolish,” Zaitian begged. “Do you support the Boxer Rebellion?” the captain asked. “No, of course not! Why do you think I…?” 99

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“I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to your friend.” “No, I don’t. I’m with Madison the whole step.” “Listen, Captain, Zaitian saved my life more than anyone in this world can be saved. That’s why he helps me.” “…okay. We’ll let you stay here among other conditions. The future emperor who takes her place,” the captain pointed at Cixi’s dead body. “Needs to let me know that they would love to take a young American girl into their country.” “I would totally let her stay,” Zaitian spoke up, looking as proud as possible, speaking perfect English, and making himself look tall. “You can’t be the future emperor. You’re too…” the captain thought for a minute. “Short…young…all that stuff.” “He was appointed,” Madison told the captain. “Sir,” the captain asked Zaitian, “Do you want Madison, this young lady, to go back home on a ship? Or do you want to keep her in your kingdom?” “I want her to be by my side for the rest of her life until she decides to leave.” “Very well. I won’t argue with that, your Majesty. I shall recruit my troops and leave for home as soon as the Germans get here and help. The whole Chinese country is full of the Boxer Rebellion’s stench.” “Germany’s helping?” Madison shrieked. “Not just Germany, but Japan, France, and Britain are coming too.” “That’s wonderful news. What do Zaitian and I do while we wait, sir…uh…” “My name is McKinley. August McKinley. I cannot tell you now all the details in which I came to fight for China’s freedom; it is way too much. Furthermore, I want you and Zaitian to stay in the palace and me and my troops, along with our other allies will lure the other Chinese soldiers, and their Boxers, away from the area. 100

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But you must promise me that you will not fight in the war and to not step outside Fuzhou. You would be injured if you do,” McKinley said. Zaitian rushed Madison into the palace, running from the sound of gunshots, swords, and yelling and screaming of pedestrians. “Brother, I’m back!” he hollered. A man with a mustache and a long red robe walked down some stairs slowly. “Zaitian, is that you?” “Yes, Auntie is dead.” “Darn her, yet!” he muttered. “Did you capture any Christians?” “No, not really. I hid them out of sight and simply invited them to dinner while Auntie was gone. No soldiers around here really noticed. If they did, I knocked them out and put them on a ship to…Timbuktu…” Mao Dun laughed. “This is your brother, Zaitian?” Madison asked. Zaitian nodded. “Oh, Zaitian, isn’t this sweet? You’ve brought an American doll from…America. Isn’t she lovely?” “Don’t interfere, Mao Dun. This isn’t the perfect time now…speaking of which,” Zaitian began to smile. “How are you and Li-Hua doing?” “She and I are fine. We married, however.” Mao Dun shrugged and gave off a dinky smile. “Sorry you didn’t make it!” he said weakly. “That’s okay…hey; can I borrow your ship?” Zaitian asked. “Sure, go ahead. Why?” “I have certain reasons why. I want to give Madison a present in private…and I think somewhere…on the sea…would be perfect.” Zaitian untied the ship from the small harbor stop as the sun was starting to set. He turned the expensive motor on and rode away for a couple of minutes until Fuzhou was out of sight. Although they were far, they could still hear the terrorizing sounds coming from the conflict.

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“Zaitian,” Madison asked, touching Zaitian’s shoulder as they looked out together at the purple and orange sky. Madison remembered whenever she and Steven first came there watching dolphins jump in and out of the water. “You liked Mei because…she looked like me, is that correct?” “Yes, Madison. That’s correct.” “Um…does that me you loved me the whole time?” “I want you to understand this, Madison. I wanted you to be safe so badly, that I took Mei to be you at first, yet she wasn’t. My inner self and me had a battle within…a cold war, you should say, arguing inside saying that Mei was my own kind or Madison was the one for me or Madison isn’t Mei. It just was confusing. When she died, my mind snapped into place like a rubber band.” He said to her. Madison pulled out the brown and green bead. Her heart began to beat fast. “Oh…so you must…” Madison couldn’t finish. Her feelings of admiration for Zaitian were uncontrollable. She sighed and looked into his deep brown eyes. “…love me…” She quickly closed her eyes and recalled her happy place: a boy who is kissing her on the edge of a ship, holding her by the waist. She placed the bead in Zaitian’s hands and placed them on her waist and kissed him. The ship slowly made its way into the horizon until Madison’s happy place was fulfilled. It was just as she wanted.

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