Chapter LXXV: Piercing the Heart of Darkness
The taxi driver had let me out at the gates of the temple, totally ignoring the pedestrian-only nature of the Chinatown district. Ming Xiao obviously knew something was coming for her. Guards patrolled the temple grounds, dressed in the liverie of the Temple. With katana sheathed and crossbow in hand, it felt like being back in the Middle Ages. How had the Kuei Jin posed such a threat to L.A?
I crept forward, slitting the throat of the guard. Brought his body to the floor silently, leaving the second guard unawares. I stalked him then, followed him over the bridge. As he proceeded to turn, the katana blade slid easily under his ribs, stopping his heart. The body was dropped, and I walked into the meeting room where I had first met Ming Xiao. I walked to the door on the right, and opened it slightly, looking out of the crack.
I could see the main temple building, behind another wall. Another guard patrolled by the gate, who was as easily dispatched as the first. Ming Xiao seemed lax, employing human guards when her situation was so dire. If the Anarchs had attacked en masse, or LaCroix had come to clear his smeared name, they would have walked over them. I shrugged, continuing my messy work. The guard's body was thrown under the the stairs of the building he patrolled by, and quickly looking around, I climbed over the wall.
And there it was. Ming Xiao's temple. Several guards stood at the main door, a black-clad guard walking back and forth in front. It wouldn't be possible to take them out without one raising the alarm, and the less notice Ming Xiao had of my presence, the better. The temple had a side door, unbelievably unattended. Slipping down the side of the wall, and stepping lightly through the wet grass, I moved to the door, my lock pick opening the door without difficulty. Arriving in a small storeroom, I waited for the sound of footsteps to pass, and opened the door.
As the guard walked past, his booted feet echoing loudly on the wooden floor, drowning out the noise I made as I crept to the door across the hall. This led to a small altar, and beyond it, a small staircase, leading down towards a deeper level of the building.
'Curious', I murmured, snapping the neck of the guard that stood in front of those stairs, hiding his body behind some large pots in the corner. 'Usually the stairs in a temple like this would lead up...'
Feeling slight trepidation, I walked down the stairs, being careful to avoid making them creak. I'd got to the temple without being discovered, and I so wanted my visit to be a surprise!
This level had floors of polished stone, and walls decorated with Chinese designs, the most noticeable being those of dragons, ocean waves and cranes. To my right, I could hear the distant sound of water, and on a whim, proceeded in that direction.
I moved quietly through several rooms, following the sound of water, avoiding the regular patrols. My dark clothing, accompanied by the low-level lighting in the temple aided me greatly. I was able to avoid most trouble, and where it was impossible to get past a guard without being seen, then to use Ming Xiao's words, their paths were cut disastrously short.
Closing the door to the room I had left, I looked towards the sound of water, strong now. I moved closer.
The walkway surrounded a large water wheel. I couldn't tell whether it was purely decorative, wasn't sure what it was supposed to power. Waiting for the guard to walk by, I vaulted over the edge. Like a worm fearing the light of day, I had a feeling that Ming Xiao had hidden away in the deepest, darkest part of the temple, fearing what had come for her, about the one her path would cross with.
Opposite the water wheel was a large door, barred from this side. That makes no sense... I shrugged, pulling the large wooden beam out of the way.
'Hey you! What are you doing?'
Well, my good luck couldn't last forever. I turned my head, seeing the black-clad guard approaching, sword drawn. He closed in.
'You're that Vampire', he spat, taking a practice swing. 'Ming Xiao will honour me greatly when I offer her your head.'
'If you wanted me dead', I replied, not turning my head, 'you should have done it before I realised you were there.'
As he stepped forward, raising the sword, I finished sliding the beam out of the bars over the door. My muscles bulging, I quickly lifted the heavy block of wood, and spun around, using the momentum to send the beam hurtling towards the man. It hit him in the centre of the chest, the bones cracking in the impact. He fell backwards, blood flecking his lips, the beam landing on top of him. He struggled weakly, tried to push the beam off his broken body, and then lay still, eyes open, water sent spinning from the wheel splashing his face. I turned, and opened the large doors.
Proceeding through more corridors, I spied another altar through the window in a large door. I knew I was getting close.
A large Buddha was at the end of the room. I walked towards it, rested a hand on it. A dead-end. I paused, sure that I had come the right way. Stopped, noticed the two large plates in the centre of the room, slightly raised above the level of the rest of the floor tiles. Weight sensors. And some statues.
'There he is!'
'Protect the Priestess!'
I span around. They'd found the dead body, and knew I was approaching. That they had come running straight to this point confirmed my suspicions. I ran back to the door, closing it with my shoulder. The men tried to open it, but I flicked the locking mechanism. As they tried to force the door down, I took one of the large statues, and dragged it towards the door, toppling it over in a way that blocked their access. They hammered on the door furiously, trying to knock it down.
'You won't get out alive! The Priestess will destroy you!'
I waved through the small window, and walked back unhurriedly. Moved the remaining statues over the pressure-sensors, and watched as the Buddha slid back slowly, the sound of stone grinding on stone.
Like a worm fearing the light of day, Ming Xiao had buried herself deep. I intended to make sure she stayed that way.