Previously: Yi Fan attacked the Cobalt Czar to keep him from entering the cave and finding Twain and Digger. And now…
Cole floated through the palace entryway, attracting startled stares from the work crews putting the finishing touches on the reconstructed palace. For a nasty, inhospitable speck of a country situated firmly in the ass crack between Mongolia and Siberia, the palace was actually pretty nice.
A woman in a semi-official uniform of white blouse and blue vest, probably an administrative assistant or house madam or something, came running. Her high heels and tight pencil skirt made her move with tiny mincing steps. The clack of her heels echoed off the marble floors and vaulted ceiling. â€œYou canâ€™t be here,â€ she said in Mandarin.
Cole descended to the floor and considered for a moment. â€œThatâ€™s strange,â€ he said. â€œIt feels like I am.â€
The womanâ€™s eyelids fluttered like the light on an overtaxed hard drive. â€œNo, I mean…â€
â€œDoesnâ€™t matter what you meant,â€ Cole said. â€œIâ€™m looking for the Czarâ€™s chambers.â€
â€œYou canâ€™t go in there!â€ the woman said.
â€œWe had this conversation already,â€ Cole said as he lifted off and floated past her. â€œI think weâ€™ll discover that I can.â€
He flew into the heart of the palace, the womanâ€™s heels trip-trapping on the marble floor behind like the personal secretary to the Three Billy Goats Gruff.
[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”left”]The Ghost was not a physical being, not in the sense of having flesh and nerves. Punching him did no good…[/blockquote]The Czar surged up from the ground against the force of the Ghost pressing down on him. One of the Ghostâ€™s more frustrating qualities was that he could grow and warp every part of himself from moment to moment. You could never be sure of his angle of attack, nor could you easily step out of his range to gather your wits before wading back in again.
The Czar punched up against the force holding him down, even as he reminded himself of the futility of it. The Ghost was not a physical being, not in the sense of having flesh and nerves. Punching him did no good.
In order to hurt the Ghost, you had to hurt his host. The last time they had fought, the Czar had nearly killed Yi Fan before he had managed to convince the Ghost that his appetite for revenge against the living would be better served by joining forces with the Czar and becoming his enforcer.
Something had obviously changed, and that something could obviously not be solved with a simple bargain the way it had before. The Ghost betraying their pact could only be a signal that he had some endgame in mind. He must believe he had found some way to defeat the Czar. He would go to his eternal damnation bitterly disappointed.
The Czar prepared to unleash his blue beam against Yi Fan when gigantic clawed hands picked him up and flung him into the sky. He tried to turn in the air and fire down at Yi Fan, but he was not a flyer. Aerial maneuvers didnâ€™t come naturally to him. He reached apogee and fell back to earth, slammed hard into it and felt the hands pressing him down again.
Had a lot more planned until the cliffhanger, but 500 words runs out fast. Be here for the next exciting episode to see what happens next.
To read from the beginning, click here…