Advisor Zhen and Captain Yuen laughed…and laughed…and laughed. They were doubled over with tears in their eyes.
“Undead men,” the advisor said.
“Coming to eat the Emperor’s brain!” the captain added.
General Tsang stood silently, waiting for the guffaws to dissipate.
“Oh,” Advisor Zhen said as he wiped the tears away from his eyes. “I’m sorry, general. This sounds like a serious matter. Tell me who informed you of this impending attack again.”
“I have already told you,” the general said.
“No,” the advisor said as he put a hand up to his ear. “Please. I didn’t hear you the first time.”
The general sighed. “The ghost of the Nineteenth Infallible Master of the Clan of the Sacred Yet Inscrutable Tiger Claw.”
Advisor Zhen and Captain Yuen doubled over again. “The ghost…of the…BAH HA HA HA HA!”
General Tsang’s blood boiled. He lost his cool. “You know damn well this is all true. You have ignored my warnings about Dragonhand for twenty years and now your incompetence will cost this land greatly!”
The advisor’s mood changed for the worse. “Watch your tone, General.”
“Our previous Emperor was a good man,” the General said. “But he will was weak and he relied on you to take care of everything. For decades, I looked the other way as you plundered the countryside with your outrageous taxes, most of which go directly into your pocket. I have never interfered with your schemes, scams, and tricks and yet you have interfered with my position time and time again. This is all your fault, Zhen.”
“My fault?” Advisor Zhen said. “How exactly have you arrived at such an absurd conclusion?”
“Years ago, I proposed that the Imperial Army take Dragonhand on directly,” the general said. “You got in the way. You whispered in the previous Emperor’s ear and convinced him to order me to stand down.”
“That was the proper course of action then as it is now,” the advisor said.
“Bah,” the general said. “All that fat is choking your brain.”
The advisor slammed his fist down on the armrest of the Dragon Throne. “We do not get involved in matters of kung fu!”
“There are no matter of kung fu left to get involved in,” General Tsang said. “You sat back and did nothing. Now the last clan has been slaughtered.”
“And good riddance to it!” the advisor said. “The kung fu clans were old relics of a long forgotten era. Filthy drunkards and over zealous ne’er-do-wells who sat around all day practicing their fancy punches.”
“I never knew them to be anything but respectable,” the general said. “They came to the Imperial Army’s aid more times than I can remember.”
“If they actually cared about their country they would have abandoned their nonsensical ways and joined the Imperial Army,” Advisor Zhen said. “Back flips and high kicks are the past. Iron and steel are the future.”
“General,” the advisor said. “If Dragonhand’s clan had some sort of falling out with the rest of the clans, what business is it of ours?”
“The Clan of the Terrifyingly Unnatural Brain Bite was never officially recognized as a reputable clan by the other kung fu clans,” the general said. “Dragonhand is a criminal and now that his kung fu opponents have been destroyed, he has set his sights on the Dragon Throne.”
“Then let him come for it,” the advisor said. “This city has survived attacks before.”
“Never from an enemy like this,” General Tsang said. “Dragonhand has eaten the brains of every kung fu master in China and henow wields an unfathomable amount of fighting knowledge.”
“Will you listen to yourself?” Advisor Zhen asked. “‘Brain eating.’ Please. The man’s obviously just some kind of psychotic cannibal who spooked a bunch of backward thinking kung fu fighters and sadly, this hysteria has even invaded your mind, General.”
“I know how ridiculous this all sounds,” General Tsang said. “I wouldn’t have embarrassed myself so many times by imploring you to do something low these many years if I didn’t think the situation was critical.”
Advisor Zhen sighed. “Have you ever seen one of these brain eaters in person?”
“No,” General Tsang said.
“Of course you haven’t,” Advisor Zhen said.
“But I have seen heart eaters,” the general said.
Advisor Zhen raised an eyebrow. “I beg your pardon?”
“Vampires,” General Tsang said. “Japan is rife with them. They pose as ordinary humans, no different than you or I but in secret, they consume hearts and harbor an unquenchable thirst for blood. I encountered a group of them in my youth while conducting an espionage mission. I was captured by them. The things they did…the things I saw…I carry those horrific memories with me everywhere I go. I was lucky to escape with my life.”
Advisor Zhen shook his head. “These are the ravings of an opium fiend.”
“If the brain biters are even half as deadly as the heart eaters…”
The advisor cut the general off. “Captain Yuen.”
“Yes?” the captain asked.
“Please bring an end to this tedious conversation,” the advisor said. “As commander of the Imperial Guard, you have the final say in all matters of the Emperor’s security. You’ve heard the general’s concerns about a supposed invasion by a rogue kung fu clan which may or may not, but most likely is not…
“…it is,” the general interrupted.
“It most likely is not comprised of so-called undead brain biters,” the advisor said. “Do you believe any additional precautions are required to ensure the Emperor’s safety?”
Captain Yuen was a rugged yet good looking man in his late thirties. He stroked his chin and thought about the question for a moment, then answered, “No.”
“Come now,” General Tsang said. “Let me dispatch a unit and we will take the Emperor to the mountains, far away from here.”
“General,” Captain Yuen said. “Though I find your stories of brain biters and heart eaters to be incredible, I have always found your reputation to be nothing but credible. I am certain you believe Dragonhand to be a formidable enemy. I am sure he is and any plans he has for insurrection are to be taken seriously. However, there is no place safer for the Emperor to be than the Forbidden City. Our walls are high. Your men are battle tested. My men are rigorously trained.”
The general threw the captain a disgusted look, then gestured to the advisor. “So this pig has gotten to you too?”
Captain Yuen grew furious. “Your place is on the wall and everywhere beyond it. My place is anywhere within the Forbidden City. I will remain in my place, general. I suggest you return to yours.”
“Ungh,” the general grunted.
Advisor Zhen flicked his wrist towards the general, shooing him away. “You heard the man. Ta ta!”
General Tsang pointed a finger at the advisor. “Mark my words, Zhen. When that boy is old enough to understand all of the treacherous crimes you have committed, he will get an earful from me and I swear to you when that day comes, there will be a reckoning.”
Advisor Zhen smiled. “Yes, well…until that day…ta ta.”