Published: September 26, 2018
Chapter 1 — Carpe Diem
"And now, introducing the Museum of Natural History's newest exhibit; the Qin Dynasty!" Mr. Santos, the curator for the Museum of Natural History, announced to the audience. He signaled at Jackie Chan, who nodded and cut the red ribbon at the exhibit's entrance with large scissors. The crowd of people erupted in applause and flashed their cameras, wanting to get their best shot of everything standing before them.
This evening party all started from an idea of a design by the Museum of Natural History's fellow employees, who felt like it was time to add something new to the museum to bring more visitors in. It had taken some time for thought, but then someone had come up with the idea of making an exhibit for the Qin Dynasty. For the plan to work, the museum sent a team of archaeologists out in China on a search for some artifacts so this day could be set up. It had taken about a year to gather as many valuable Chinese cultural finds and the funding necessary to make this project turn into reality. The funding was the least of the Mr. Santos' worries. He had Jackie Chan, one of the best affordable archaeologists that brought nothing but the best results from his archaeological digs, so what could possibly go wrong?
"Every man and woman who has worked with us deserve the proper recognition for their effort. But Jackie Chan... he has done everything for us and more. He has achieved impressive results, has gone to places where the common man did not have the courage to set foot and experience the age-old treasures that tell the story of one of the most powerful civilizations of the ancient world. Not all men on this earth can boast of this amazing ability," the director, Mr. Santos, announced into his microphone and gestured to Jackie. Chan made a dismissive wave of his compliments and tried to hide behind among his two other colleagues to the sides of him, but they pushed him on the front so everyone in the crowd would see the man Mr. Santos was giving his credits to and get good shots of him.
"Please Mr. Santos. I am just doing my job," the Chinese man blushed at his boss' comments "I am just happy that the new exhibit is up."
"So am I," Mr. Santos chuckled and slapped Jackie's back. He turned towards the audience. "Make sure you take good pictures of this guy right here because he always does a job well done."
On cue, more flashes from the press' cameras went off on the man. At this point, Jackie could only sheepishly wave again at the cameras (he wasn't too good with pictures).
"Hopefully, this exhibit will be one of the many that will benefit both the museum and its future visitors to eliminating a small step of the many racial misunderstandings of China and its ancient history," Mr. Santos opened up another part of his speech into a very long (and very boring, Jackie may add) one. After some time, finally, Mr. Santos was done and allowed everyone in. The awaiting guests dispersed to the large gallery admiring, chatting. and marveling before the artifacts of the Qin Dynasty. There were collections of pots, weapons, beautiful reserved tapestries, restored royal robes and jewels set in polished jade. It was like the exhibition had brought the first empire of China to life there in modern times.
"A magnificent Jackie collection. You did a great job," Andrea Turner, another one of Jackie archaeologist colleagues said and gave him a thumbs up. She wore a magenta top with blue jeans, a black jacket, and some Converses.
"I can't believe you were thinking to turn this project down!" another colleague by the name of Nikolai Skavinsky said. He wore a sharp black suit with a bow tie around his neck.
"Please, it's not all my doing. I had teamwork and help from you all," the Asian sheepishly smiled. He was wearing a blue suit and tie combo.
"Yes, but it was all because of your uncle donating those antiques from his sop to help us. Who knew your uncle had so many Qin Dynasty antiques?" Nikolai asked in amazement.
"Only my uncle does," replied Jackie. "But again, it was nothing."
"Ah come on Jackie, "nothing"? You should enjoy the fame for once," Andrea replied and waved to her coworkers before walking away. "I'll see you guys later."
"Ah, easier said than done for Jackie Chan. Always so humble," Nikolai said and at his work companion. Ever since Nikolai and Andrea had first met Jackie, they found that Chan had always humbled himself and seemed to dial down his success to something insignificant when it was the opposite.
Many people from all over the city came to attend the grand exhibit opening, for it was very well known and had been advertised for a couple of weeks. The mayor, VIPs, the press and other celebrities. Among them came the Chan family; Jade Chan, Uncle Chan, and Tohru Yamamoto dressed in their finest clothes. When they, in particular, had arrived, they were greeted like celebrities, as the press had flashed many photos of them (much to Uncle's chagrin). Uncle had generously donated some family heirlooms from his shop to help the museum set up for this day, and for that, the exhibit collection had been credited with their name on it: the Chan Family Exhibit of the Qin Dynasty.
It had been some months since Drago and Shen Du had been banished to the Demon Netherworld. Tohru had graduated from an apprentice to a full chi wizard, Uncle was still working at Uncle's Rare Finds and could worry about selling his antiques and Jade was still the hyperactive pre-teen as always. Life in the Chan Clan did begin to get a little boring (so says Jade) since Jackie had fully immersed himself in his archaeology work in the past couple of months, but she always had time to hang out with her friends from school and at Section 13. For this particular event, even though Jade wasn't a big fan of dressing up for a formal event, she decided that she wanted to go with Tohru and Uncle to cheer on her favorite butt-kicking uncle.
"Jackie!" Jade cried and ran into her uncle's arms.
"Jade! Uncle! Tohru! You made it!" Jackie exclaimed. Beside him was Mr. Santos, who reached out to shake all of the Chan family's hands.
"Ah, the Chan family! I'm glad you all could come!"
"There's no way we could miss Uncle Jackie's grand opening for anything!" Jade said and beamed at her uncle.
"To be involved in this project has been a real honor, Mr. Santos," Tohru bowed to the director, as followed by Jade and Uncle. "We hope that it raises awareness and increases the knowledge of Chinese culture to those who don't know and take the time to visit the exhibit."
"Of course. We couldn't have done this without you, Chans. The museum will forever be in your debt," Mr. Santos replied and walked off to talk to the press.
"This day would be so much better if Uncle would stop grumbling," Jade complained and nodded to her Great-Uncle, who wore his trademark frown on his face. He only huffed and crossed his arms, turning up his nose at the ceiling.
"He has not forgiven you for rejecting the project?" Tohru leaned over to whisper to Jackie. The Chinese man shook his head.
"I just wanted him to stay safe. I didn't mean to offend him," he whispered back. "I do not understand why Uncle came if he was mad at me."
Suddenly, Uncle turned back around and whacked his nephew's temple. "Jackiiiie! You owe Uncle biiiig time! You rejected an offer that would pay Uncle lots of money!" the elder man yelled and waved his index finger from side to side.
"Ow! I said I was sorry, Uncle," Jackie winced. Uncle was old, but his hits still hurt.
"Aw, don't worry about it, Jackie. Uncle's happy now. He's just trying to get your goat," Jade giggled and poked her uncle in the ribs.
"You call Uncle an old goat?!" the shopkeeper parroted his grand-niece.
"What?! No! 'Course not Uncle!" Jade babbled to correct herself nervously and held her hands up in defense. "I'lljustgrabsomefoodtoeatI'llberightback!" she said and took off to find the dessert table.
Jackie and Tohru couldn't help but laugh at the ever-growing craftiness of Jade. Jackie knew Uncle more than anyone else and he knew deep down, his elder was proud of him for his feat. 'A true, hardworking man always faces the benefits of his goal', a line Uncle had told Jackie ever since he was a boy.
Jackie Chan prided himself in being a hard worker from when he was a young boy. Over the years in his work in archaeology, he realized that even hard workers should take a break sometimes and go home to refresh their energy. That's why a week after the museum exhibit party, Jackie requested for a three-week long break and Mr. Santos had approved. The first thing Jackie arranged on his break was to fly to Hong Kong and Jade had the idea to visit Shin and Mei Chan, her parents. It had been a while since she had seen them again. When the Chans had arrived at the apartment where they stayed, the reunion was a happy one followed by hugs, kisses, and laughter for everyone.
Except for Jackie.
The archaeologist had so many questions pressed against his conscious but did his best to shield his face in front of the others. However, every once in a while his contemplating will show about on his face and his relatives would approach him to want to know what was troubling and he'd simply say, "I'm just homesick, that's all." Everyone in the room knew that Jackie was not telling the whole truth, but did not want to bother him too much about it.
During his time between working at the museum and being in Uncle's antique shop, Jackie did not always get the chance to have time to himself because it was always someone or something getting in his way. Since everyone was preoccupied with chatter and jovial conversation in the tiny apartment and Jackie was on break, the man took the time to slip out on his own, not telling anyone where he was going. If he did let someone know, everyone would know in a matter of seconds and would ask a million questions to which Jackie wouldn't feel like taking the time to answer them all.
It was late in the afternoon. The sun was still shining brightly in the sky with little clouds to cover it up. In half an hour's time, Jackie Chan had arrived at his destination; the local cemetery.
Jackie had preferred the way cemetery in Hong Kong were compared to American ones. In his opinion, American cemeteries were disorderly and often dirty and not touched up, like people did not take the time to clean it up often. In Hong Kong, the graveyards there were beautiful.
The gravestones were set up in rows and columns, leaving space for people to be able to walk in-between. The gravestones themselves were made of either polished black or gray marble. The names of the dead were written at the bottom in red and gold pinyin writing in plain view so their loved ones may recognize them. At the head of the graves carried their photos with their smiling, gone faces. Lying in the center of the graves held many grand bouquets of flowers. To their sides were incense sticks, some still smoking and leaving its scent all around from whoever had previously visited.
Jackie strolled down the corridors of the gravestones, taking a brief glance at all the headstones that passed him. Finally, he arrived at a familiar looking one; the side-by-side ones of his parents, Lili and Yongjin Chan. The archaeologist set two incense sticks for each of his parents and lit them up with a small lighter. When the incense began to burn, Chan recited his silent prayer with folded hands and closed eyes, the smell of the stick was so strong that for a moment, the smell was beginning to make his eyes tear up.
He recited this quiet prayer for an hour, even though he had told himself he would only be gone for "a while". But it was well needed. With all the work Jackie had to deal with in America, it left Jackie hardly any time to return to Hong Kong to be reunited with his family. If he had gotten lucky enough, the first thing he would have done would be to greet his loving parents. If only he didn't lose them those eight years ago...
Over his many years, many people had turned to Jackie and had referred to him as a hero. Even heroes had to be humble people, just as his parents were.
Jackie Chan had been born and raised into a poor family with only Lili, his mother, and Yongjin, his father, to care for him. He remembered how young he was seeing how hard it was for his mother and father to make enough money to barely get by the day. Jackie's parents would leave early in the morning to find a job and return in the late hours of the night exhausted with a little in hand. Throughout their hard day, they never wasted the opportunity to give their son some attention. No matter how exhausted they were, no matter how many times they wanted to drop to the floor and sleep, they always found and made time to play, tell stories, educate and spend time with Jackie. Albeit they were small moments, but still did their best. Jackie knew how hard his parents worked and did his best to live up to their expectations through hard work in school and finding little jobs around the town.
All the hard work had opened an opportunity in America.
Moving to America was a great opportunity to change and perhaps improve their poor way of living. More money, more clothes, more food, more room, more everything. In America, anything was possible. To emigrate to America it required signatures... and enough money for the three of them to move together. At that moment, the Chans didn't have enough.
A shrill squeal echoed throughout the graveyard and pulled Jackie from his melancholic memories. He snapped his attention to a plump little girl around four or five years with two little pigtails on her head. She wore a pink pastel coat that looked a size or two too big for her. In her hands held a stick of burning incense. When she walked closer, her red and white, yellow chick designed shoes made squeaking noises that were nearly impossible not to hear.
"Hello little one," Jackie said with a welcoming smile on his lips. The little girl hid behind the incense stick and shyly smiled back. She pulled out a Hello Kitty tissue from her pocket and handed it to the stranger. Jackie looked at the tissue in surprise but had taken it out of politeness.
"Thank you," the archaeologist bowed to the child.
The child eagerly nodded. "My mommy always gives me a tissue when I cry."
"Oh... " Jackie said and looked at the tissue with a raised brow. "But I was not crying."
"But you are sad. When people are sad, they cry," the girl explained with an innocent tilt of her head. The little girl could not see it, but Jackie's eyes were moist. Still, he had not used the tissue.
"I am here with my mommy and daddy to visit my grandmother. What about you?" the child asked and tilted her head.
The little girl wore a look of confusion at Jackie. He looked up at her parents, who stood some distance to the side of her daughter not paying them her much attention. "Mommies and daddies cannot die," she spoke, still confused by Jackie's revelation.
"They were... sick," he hesitated to answer, trying to find the words to explain to a small child like her. He was not too sure how to explain the concept of death to a four/ five-year-old. It was like telling Jade to stay away from trouble, that she didn't understand.
The little girl still kept on. "But mommies and daddies can't die. Mine's are over there," she said and pointed to them at another gravestone down the row from his, where they were praying in silence. They hadn't even noticed that their daughter was gone.
"I wish that were true for mine," Jackie frowned and downcast his eyes. He placed the incense sticks at the base of Jackie's parent's tombs and put his hands together in a prayer motion, hoping to whatever greater force out there to protect their souls and to rebuke them for leaving their son alone.
The girl tapped her chin in thought at the man and looked at his parent's gravestone. Her little mind didn't really know how to process this. "I'm sorry that your parents are dead, but I hope you will have a happy life. There are so many beautiful things in the world worth living for," the girl said in a happier tone and smiled.
Jackie gasped, the words hitting him like a strong wind. He didn't expect such wise words from a child's mouth. He let out a small chuckle. "Of course. Thank you."
"You're welcome!" the little girl gave another toothy grin up to Jackie and swayed her hips in a childlike manner. She bowed her head at the stranger. "Goodbye, sir."
"Goodbye, little one," Jackie smiled back at the girl and bowed also. The girl turned and sprinted back into his parent's open arms, not caring about her squeaking shoes that trailed her footsteps. As Jackie watched the girl run off, he felt small rivers of something wet run down his cheeks. When he touched them, he was surprised to find there were tears. With the girl's Hello Kitty napkin in hand, he wiped them away. Jackie found it odd that he was crying because his heart felt heavy with happiness as if the girl transferred some of her joyous spirits to him.
When Jackie felt like he had prayed and given enough respects to his parent's graves, he looked up to the sky and saw the sun was almost down. The sky was dyed in order of magenta, red, orange and a bright yellow. Time to go home.
When Jackie took his phone from his pocket, he found a thousand missed calls coming from Jade's parents, Jade, Uncle and Tohru; they probably called worried about his disappearance and how late it was getting. So much for slipping in and out undetected. "I will just take them out to eat and get some sweets to make up for it," he told himself.
Jackie dragged his feet towards the cemetery's exit, his heart still holding on to what the girl had told him. 'There are so many beautiful things in the world worth living for'." "She is right. I have my cousins, a good job, a roof over my head, food to eat, a loving family. Other than chasing dragons and bad wizards from taking over the world, I have a good life," the archaeologist said and exhaled in relief. He looked down at the Hello Kitty napkin he was still holding in his hand and couldn't resist cracking a small grin. Jackie felt ready to go home now.
He took a left to go down the long flight of steps when his eye caught something out of place. A mysterious, tall figure was standing not too far off from where he was on the stairs, almost like it was blocking Jackie's exit.
"Jackie Chan?" the mysterious person gruffed. His hands were folded neatly behind his back as he stared hard at the Chinese man.
"... Yes?" Jackie gulped. He was almost afraid to answer.
"You must come with me."
Jackie took two steps down to get a closer look at the man identifying him. The man had a European look to him, the strong Scottish accent gave it away. The man's eyes were the color of gold and had a harsh look to them. The man's square jaw was surrounded by a trimmed black beard. The setting sun reflected off his white hair and his black suit, giving off a glare that made Jackie shield his eyes with his forearm a bit. The archaeologist furrowed his brow in suspicion. It was weird of this man to show up just as he was about to go home and block his exit. He took another cautious step down and continued his hard gaze on the mystery man. "Who are you?"
"It does not matter now. I just want to follow me," the man replied and beckoned the Asian man with the 'come here' signal with his hands.
"But why should I?" Jackie persisted. From his years of battling bad sorts of magical creatures, this could either end up going well or really badly. He could feel his heart begin to pound in his chest a little louder.
"Allow me to put it this way; someone has caused me a lot of trouble and I want you to fix it," the man said, his voice without emotion.
"What the hell you talking about? I've never seen you before," Jackie said and frowned. He was beginning to become irritated that he had forgotten his rule to not curse at others. "Leave me alone." With that, Jackie ignored this man's warning and shoved past him, but the man gripped Chan's shoulder hard. Usually, Jackie's instinct would be to grab the man's shoulder and flip him over, but this grip was too strong for Jackie to do so. It felt like his shoulder was bitten by a shark that caused his body to be hit with an icy wave. The only thing Chan could do was the stand there frozen in shock.
"What have you done to me?" the archaeologist asked. He tried to budge left and right to rid him of this freeze, but he couldn't do it.
"Like it or not, you will do what I say. We have no time to lose," came the man's order.
"What are you—hey!"
The man took it upon himself to drag Jackie behind him as if he were a mother pulling her son by the ear. The two men walked through the cemetery to the opposite end, moving past the people silently mourning by their graves. The few people that were there to pray had ignored them like they were not there. But with Jackie's loud protests, it seemed impossible that no one was listening to what was going on.
"Let me go! Leave me alone! I don't want to go with you! Help! Help me!" Jackie yelled in his native tongue, hoping someone would turn around and help him. No one had moved, almost like they were frozen too.
"By Jove, this one loves to complain," the stranger complained and rolled his eyes. He could feel a headache forming listening to the archaeologist's pathetic cries for help.
"Let me go I said!" Jackie cried out, trying his best to wring his way out of the man's grasp.
The man sighed. "You will settle down soon enough." He waved his free hand and there in the ripples revealed a large golden door with a clock held by two winged cherubs at the top. The door opened and a bright light came forth, nearly blinding Jackie but not the man dragging him away.
"Hey, what are you—bwah!" Jackie said as he was taken through the open doors. His eyes turned longingly towards the exit hoping to make a quick escape, but the large doors shut audibly in front of him with a boom. Jackie could feel his butterflied-filled stomach drop. He was trapped.