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    It took well over half an hour for Ryo and Sage to explain their situation to their hosts. And when they finished everyone remained silent. Fa Zhou pondered their tale in his head. Granny, shocked, could only look to Zhou. Shang had his arms crossed over his chest, and donned a skeptical expression on his face.
    It was Mulan who broke the silence. "So you think the Dynasty is connect to this somehow?"
    "Just speculation, of course," Sage replied as he stood up, "but that's the best we can come up with at the moment."
    "Our three other friends should be in China somewhere too," Ryo added, "but we have no idea yet how to find them."
    "I'm sure the emperor could help you find them," Mulan enthusiastically got up from her seat. "Father, we should leave for Xi An right away."
    Shang's eyes swept over Sage and Ryo's preliminary body armors one more time. "So they are coming with us?"
    Fa Zhou nodded his head. "Indeed, this matter is urgent. Set out to see the emperor immediately. And in the meantime, for their sake and ours, no one else must know of this."
    "We got it!" Mia cried out in joy as she threw her arms around Dais to give him a hug. "We finally got the password!"
    "Should I wake the others?" Dais questioned.
    The computer screen blinked and the password panel was replaced with a database of information. Information that soon proved useless, and rendered their triumph to be short lived.
    "What in the name of..." Dais whispered as he stared at the monitor.
    Meaningless and incoherent sequences of numbers, letters, and symbols littered the screen. There was not a single readable word much less an intelligible sentence.
    "No," Dais repeated as he scrolled through the panel of data. Balling up his fist he threatened to smash it through the screen.
    "Dais wait, don't overreact." Mia stopped him.
    "Mia!" Dais yelled. "You've spent all day attempting to access a database of gibberish! Look at it! It's all nonsense."
    "Maybe it's not just nonsense," Mia sat down at the chair and typed in a command. "It looks like it's just coded."
    "Yeah, I think I have a few programs that might be able to convert it into readable Japanese."
    With the push of a few more keys she brought up another directory.
    "So it might work?"
    "It might."
    In her room, Mulan carefully opened the delicate wooden box, the surface of which was carved their family's emblem dragon. She gingerly lifted out the resting crest of the emperor from within.
    Quickly she placed it around her neck and prepared to rush out and join the others, but she paused as she approached the door.
    Mulan paced back inside and walked uncertainly to a big chest at the foot of her bed. Kneeling down before it, she opened the lid. There, inside, was Shan Yu's cruelly twisted metal sword. Mulan's slightly trembling finger reached out to run across the sharp blade, as if trying to draw some amount courage from it.
    It has been so long since she has felt this kind of fear.
    Is China in danger again? Will I be able to do anything to help the Middle Kingdom?
    "Mulan!" That little cry startled her and she let the lid of the chest slam down, just narrowly missing her fingers.
    Mulan looked behind her. Mushu and Cri-Kee stood beaming, each carried their share of luggage. "Come on girl, we don't want to be late do we?"
    "We?" Her questioning look was emphasized with the crossing of her arms. "What do you mean we? Don't think for a moment I'm taking you two anywhere..."
    Mushu dropped the suitcases in his hands and marched up to her. "And why, may I inquire, not Missy?"
    Cri-Kee followed the his example.
    "Mushu, you're staying, that's that." She started towards the door, but the feisty little dragon grabbed on to the tail of her skirt and pulled at it will all his might, which he soon discovered was not enough.
    "Mulan, listen to me. You'll need us. We're your guardians."
    "I'll be your friend."
    "I won't tell the ancestors that you broke the statue of the great dragon."
    "What are...NO!"
    "Wait, that was me..." Mushu stopped to think. "Oh come on!! The ancestors will skin me alive if anything happens to you. Besides," Mushu resolvedly put one hand on his hip and used the other to wag a reprimanding finger at her, "travelling alone with three guys and no chauffeuring? You'll bring dishonor to your family. Dishonor, dishonor, dishonor..."
    "Okay, okay!"
    Mushu smirked as Mulan frantically tried to silence him by covering his mouth.
    "Alright, you guys can come. But don't get in any trouble."
    "Trust me babe!"
    Mulan muttered something indiscernible about praying to the ancestors.
    The stillness of night was broken by the rhythmic beat of hoofs against the ground. The elegant waning crescent in the sky cast its faint glow on the world below. And in the pale illumination, 4 horses, driven by 4 young riders, galloped East in their course for Xi An.
    Heading up in the front was a young woman. She was enshrouded in a dark cloak, the hood of which shielded a perturbed expression of worry and concentration. In the pocket of that cloak held another secret. A small guardian dragon and cricket made a temporary cozy residence there. They, too, were awaiting their arrival that the desired destination.
    Behind the first were two horsemen. One wore a cloak also. The hood was drawn tightly around his face, covering his otherwise conspicuous golden hair.
    Strangers to this world, they were. Strangers and yet now they might be the only hope to defeat a malfeasance which threatens to crush all goodness, and all life.
    But strangers...they are still just strangers.
    The last horseman bringing up the back narrowed his eyes as he thought of that.
    Just what did they know about those two? Nothing, except for what they have told them. And who is to tell if what they say is true?
    While riding, one of his hands left the reins to moved to the sword by his side. He'll be watching those two very, very carefully. Especially the one who calls himself Ryo. If they make one wrong move...he's ready to take them out.