From the Ashes: CATU Book 6 Ch. 04byJoeBarnosky©
ANGELA LED SPENCER DOWN INTO THE Bronx. As they traveled deeper into the borough Spencer cringed at the deterioration the further and further they traveled.
"Something the matter?" she asks when seeing his discomfort.
"I don't remember it being this bad out here," he says gloomy.
"Because it wasn't," she explains. "It's been at its steady decline until the last few years when the Consortium took on its new leadership. After that things have taken a big change."
"New York doesn't look like it's been affected," he remarks sounding skeptical.
"That's because it's too big to see the change right now, but it's coming and something big is coming Spencer," she says with a grim tone.
"Who is this new leader?" he asks changing the subject back.
"That's the problem," Angela sighs. "No one knows and no one is talking. We have no leads and no information."
"So what do we have to go on then?"
"Not a lot, but with you here maybe that will change," she answers with a warm smile. "We're here."
Spencer shifts his gaze from Angela out the window to a small rundown looking shop wedged between two other shops. It looks like if someone wasn't looking hard for it they would never find it. In the large window hang antique looking items, none particularly alluring.
"Doesn't look like business is booming," Spencer remarks dryly.
"Honestly, I don't think he sell much of the antique stuff," Angela informs him. "He is more into the other stuff that people come to him for."
"So it's more like a front for him."
"You can say that," she answers as they exit the car.
"And how exactly did you find this guy?" he asks.
"I didn't find him, he found me," Angela says to him as she passes. She gives him a don't ask look as she reaches for the door.
Spencer shrugs, but pushes the question to the back of his mind for another time and follows her in. The shop looks like a junk yard. Shelves line the walls and fill up almost every available inch of floor space and they themselves are filled with junk that Spencer can only guess is the antique part of the store. In the back of the unwell lit store sits an old man with a very bald head and very white Fu Manchu.
"Jianyu!" Angela shouts, suddenly breaking the silence.
The old man looks up as if for the first time, but Spencer somehow knows the old man already knew who they were.
"Ah, Angela my child," Jianyu says with a rusty voice. "How have you been?"
"I've been well," she answers with a warm smile. Before the old man can say anything more Angela wraps him in a hug which he kindly returns. Spencer, not sure what to do, just hangs back and leans against a rack with his arms crossed across his chest waiting.
After a moment the embrace is broken and Jianyu says, "I see you have brought a friend."
"Yes, this is Spencer. He—"
"I know who he is," Jianyu interrupts.
"You do?" Spencer and Angela ask simultaneously.
The old man laughs then answers in his rusty voice. "Of course I do. How else do you think I know so much about so much?"
Spencer looks to Angela and she returns a smile to him. "I told you he may know something."
"Come, come," the old man says waving them to follow him further back into the store. "Come sit, have tea, we have much to discuss."
"What about your store?" Spencer asks looking back toward the entrance. He isn't quite comfortable with being in unfamiliar territory or leaving his back unguarded.
"No worries, no worries," the old man chuckles. "No one comes."
Spencer doesn't move as he looks back to the entrance again. "Come on Spence," Angela urges. "I've never seen anyone come here whenever I've been here."
He sighs. "Alright, but I really dislike surprises."
"Don't we all?" she remarks as she grabs his hand.
They follow Jianyu into an even smaller room piled high with boxes. In the center sits a small wooden table with four wooden chairs and a tea set. The old man is already sitting at the table by the time Spencer and Angela enter the tiny room.
"Please have a seat. Drink some tea with me. We have much to talk about."
Spencer looks to Angela once again and she only has a smile to offer him, but this time he can see a hint of concern behind her eyes. He takes his eyes off of her and scans the room quickly before helping her to a chair before taking his own. When no one jumps out at them he visibly relaxes slightly.
"Yes, yes," the old man mutters. "Hot tea soothes the soul. And a troubled soul you have young man," he says looking to Spencer.
Spencer gives him a hard look which quickly softens when he sees Angela's reaction out of the corner of his eye. "My soul is just fine," he says.
"Is that right?" the old man asks.
Spencer continues to stare at the man trying hard to not stare as hard as he wanted to until finally he says, "What does it matter?"
"It matters a lot. Anger has its uses so long as you know how to channel that anger otherwise it can blind you."
"I know where my focus lies," Spencer bites back.
"Yes," he answers through gritted teeth.
"With whom then?" the old man asks after taking a sip of tea.
Spencer drops his gaze to his untouched cup. His plays his finger across the rim as his mind plays with the thought. He took revenge on Julie Branon, the one responsible for Sam's death and their unborn child. But who was ultimately responsible?
"The answer is elusive," the old man says. "As it has been for a long long time."
Spencer looks up for the cup to the old man. He breaks away for a second to look to Angela as she has her gaze locked with the old man. When he looks back he says, "Care to elaborate?"
Jianyu chuckles again and takes another sip of his tea. "I am quite old and have been on this planet for a very long time, much longer than I can say I really care to have been. As I am sure you have heard of the Esper and Magi?"
Spencer nods his head and Angela looks to him with a questioning look. "My boss," he says, "as it turns out was a Magi."
"Rather a descendent," Jianyu says. "Those like him are descendents born with the knowledge passed on from generation to generation, but not of the history. Those with Second Sight are descendents of the Espers. Those like you Spencer Reeds."
"So what does that mean to me?" he asks.
"Nothing really except that you have an exceptional gift that can be used to save this world from something that was caused by something entirely not of your fault."
"Jianyu," Angela interrupts. "We need help with what is happening now."
He looks at her with a kind look and places his hand on top of hers. "Patience my child, I am getting to that, everything come around full circle which is what brought you here together here."
Angela opens her mouth to say something in response then just as quickly closes it. Jianyu just smiles and looks back to Spencer.
"Many, many millennia ago we Esper and Magi were practically one race divided by only the color of our skin and our knowledge of science and keeping of knowledge. We were spread out across the universe inhabiting many worlds amongst many other cultures and races until we the Esper made a breakthrough in our science and developed leap in our own genetic code. We jumped into it. It was a chance to improve ourselves into something greater. At first it was marvelous and for any race to make such an improvement on itself is something special. But then something went terribly wrong. Those that volunteered for the genetic encoding changed into something evil and became the Asura.
We worked hard to eradicate our mistake. Many races lost their lives in the process and many worlds were destroyed. The Asura proved in the end to be too powerful for even us and all we were able to do was isolate them to the planets they were on and warn the civilizations we associated ourselves with. Now we ourselves were a race of few and outcasts. We created monsters that destroyed and killed millions, so we decided to isolate ourselves away from the rest of the universe. We fled to Mars, which was a lush and beautiful planet like Earth, and this planet.
We lived for many years peacefully trying to forget the mistakes we had made and became known as the Atlanteans. But here on Earth we found another enemy. Not our enemy, but the human's enemy, the demon race. We felt an obligation to help as a way to vindicate our past action. The tide was turned against the demons Vectivus, the Demon Lord leading them, was losing and almost in complete defeat. Then suddenly when everything was thought to be won it all changed. Our people on Mars suddenly disappeared. Our connection to them was severed and when we attempted to establish a doorway to the world our greatest fears came to life.
The first to have volunteered for our research and oldest of us all, Tancheres, stepped through the portal. We were devastated and were barely able to expel him from the city. We couldn't destroy him, though we tried and if he had an army we would have never survived. To our greatest fear, his expulsion of the city was a mistake. Within months all our hard work was lost and the fight was brought to our door step with both the Demon Lord Vectivus and Tancheres leading the fight.
Our city was destroyed and lost along with many of our people and knowledge. Those of us that escaped hid and survived and went on to influence other cultures even create some like the Egyptians, Mayans and Aztecs."
Jianyu goes silent as he pours another cup full of tea. Spencer and Angela sit back in their chairs trying to take what they just heard all in. Spencer himself was both skeptical but believing at the same time.
"So what you are saying is that the demon threat is really nothing?" Spencer asks unconvinced.
The old man grunts a soft chuckle. "Not at all my dear boy. They are a threat as they have always been, but a far greater threat than them lies in wait. The demon race has always been against each other, only controlled when a single Demon Lord arose, but even then it was defeated by an outside force or from the inside out. The Asura have always had rules in place and a common goal."
"Then why haven't they taken over?" Angela questions.
Jianyu looks up at the young woman and smiles. "Always observant and a good question too. The Asura have two things going against them which is of course good for us: they are few in number, as Tancheres has only been able to bring few here and they have consorted with the demons to aid them."
"If the Asura come from you then they aren't demons," Spencer says suddenly as the thought springs to mind.
Jianyu quickly shifts his gaze to him. "That's incorrect," he says with a heightened voice. "I wasn't part of the initial planning of our genetic experiments, but was rather brought in later. Where the genetic coding came from was never revealed to me, but I later found out many years ago that it came from the demon race."
"Just how old are you?" Angela asks.
The old man's lips shift to a sly smile. "Too old. I gave up keeping track long ago."
"Through a similar process we used when creating the Asura. Though we destroyed the research some of us decided it was imperative to keep it and use it."
"So how many are there of you?" Spencer asks.
"Only me," the old man answers solemnly. "All our history and secrets resides in me and only me. The rest have been hunted down throughout the ages."
"This is all crazy," Spencer says standing up, shaking his head. "You're deep in something you'll not be able to get out of if you stay Angela," he says with a bit of a warning.
"I ain't going anywhere Spencer," she answers defiantly.
"Besides," Jianyu says, "she is more important than you realize as is another."
Both Spencer and Angela draw blank looks and look toward the old man. "Excuse me?" Angela says.
"Yeah can we not start going into riddles?"
A smile begins to form on Jianyu's face then quickly fades. "We no longer have time. You must leave now if you hope to save this world."
"What? What going on?" Angela asks.
Spencer pulls out his gun and is already heading for the door when he feels the old man's hand wrap around his arm. "Please, this way. You have no chance to survive right now."
Spencer stops and looks at the frail old man. "I doubt you'll have better luck."
"Luck has never really been on my people side now has it or has it?" he says with another chuckle. "Do not worry about me young man. My future is insignificant in comparison to the race of mankind, besides I have lived far longer than I was intended to live."
Spencer stares at the old man for a moment taking in his warm, heartfelt smile before finally putting away his gun. "I hope you know what you are doing."
"I haven't lived this long not knowing," he answers.
"I still have questions," Spencer says.
"As humans always do," the old man says with a wink. "The young, blind woman that sought me out will seek you out when the time is right. She will have the answers you seek."
"Blind woman?" Spencer says. His mind races around the thought of the assassin Tsyr Ker. "Do you mean—"
"Go now there isn't much time for you to escape," Jianyu ushers Spencer toward Angela.
Spencer does as commanded even though he wants to fight the urge to stay or grab the old man and take him with them. He runs across the small room toward Angela and follows her into a hidden doorway behind a bookcase. Once inside, the door closes behind shutting them off from the room and leaving them in a long hallway with very little lighting.
"Come on," Angela urges as she begins running in the opposite direction.
A minute later Angela and Spencer are bathed in light several blocks away from the small antique shop and out of danger. "Give me a minute, I'll get some back up over here," she says to Spencer as she produces a cell phone from her pocket.
HELLO JIANYU. IT HAS BEEN A long time since we have crossed paths has it not?"
"It has been many years Delgrious, but I no longer keep track of such petty things as time."
"Yes, when you do have forever to live, time does get boring to worry about."
"Why are you here?"
"You do not wonder how I found you?"
"I do not care, but if you are here to kill me, then do so."
"I will kill you," Delgrious says with a smirk. "All in due time. But first I want a little information."
"I'm sorry," Jianyu says, "but I'm just a frail old man that runs an antique shop. I'm not sure I can provide you with much information."
Anger flares in Delgrious' eyes and he instantly transforms into his true form. His roar fills the entire girth of the store like a blast of air, shaking the shelves and their contents. Delgrious covers the distance between him and the old man in a blink of the eye and quickly lifts the frail old man up by his throat.
I am not here to play your game old man. I am here for information.
"Good luck," Jianyu says with a gasp, "trying to get some."
Delgrious squeezes harder forcing the old man to claw at the demon's hand. I want to know how to acquire the power of the Shakti.
He holds his grip for a few more seconds before slacking it to allow Jianyu some air. The old man takes in a couple full gulps before answering. "Only those with the knowledge of how it is done and the artifact of doing can do it."
I don't want riddles! Delgrious slings the frail body across the room into a shelf. Jianyu slams into the shelf and it collapses onto itself and onto him. The Greater Demon motions to his men toward the old man and they rush over to drag Jianyu from the wreckage. I'll only ask once more nicely old man. How do I acquire the power of the Shakti?
Jianyu look up as best as he can. The large burly men on either side holding up his arms offer him no help in lifting his head at all. "I thought all you demons had good hearing," he says with a chuckle. "I'm really not into repeating myself and besides even if I had the answer I surely would not reveal it to the like of you."
Very well then old man, have it your way. Delgrious looks to both the men and they tighten their grip of Jianyu, pulling his body taut. The Greater Demon smiles and drives his hand into the old man's chest. His hand sinks deep until it wraps around his heart. If only you would have been more corporative I just may have let you live, but as it is...
Delgrious squeezes the old man's heart causing Jianyu's body to react violently to the sudden attack. He tries to cry out from the pain but seems to not be able to find the air to do so. Within moments the life fades from Jianyu's eyes as his lifeless body falls to the floor.
"It's too bad we didn't get what we came for," Delgrious says as he straightens his suit. "Let's go before the police show up and start asking a bunch of unnecessary questions that will only waste my time."