AUTHOR'S NOTE: This fiction, and its characters, is all my own, original work. NO STEALING!!

Of Gods and Children

Chapter Nine: Sholin Temples

Veronica slowly parked into a space between two soot covered buildings in an alleyway in Chinatown. She glanced around before shutting off the engine and stepping out of the car. She glanced around again, then pulled a slip of paper out of her pocket. She looked at the entrance to another building at the end of the alley. Nodding in satisfaction, she walked down the alley and opened the door.

The scenery drastically changed from soot, dirt and garbage to white walls, candles and Aseem propped against the wall. He was whispering something in his cell phone, and hadn't noticed Veronica's arrival. Veronica waited patiently for him to finish. She glanced around her, wondering how the outside could look like such a dump but the inside look like heaven on earth. Large white pillows were scattered across the floor with low tables sporadically placed between them. Aseem finally glanced at her. Veronica smiled at his mouthed 'sorry' as he hung up the phone.

"Busy day?" she asked.

Aseem gave her a tired smile. "You don't know the half of it."

A small hooded monk came out of one of the doors in the lobby.

"We have been expecting you. Follow me, please."

Aseem and Veronica stared at him as they followed the small man down a hallway. He stopped at the last door at the end of the hallway, motioned for them to go inside, and shut the door behind them.

"Where did she go?" Aseem asked as he glanced around the red room. "Ronnie and I came in together, but where is she now?"

"Don't worry about her, detective. She is fine."

Aseem looked around for the voice, finally finding it in a bald monk sitting in the middle of the room on one of the many red pillows.

"How do you know?" he asked.

The monk shrugged. "This is a peaceful place. It is more likely she saw something that interested her. Come sit by me."

Aseem crossed the room and sat down in front of the monk.

"You have something to talk to me about?" the monk asked. Aseem nodded.

"Yeah. I'm investigating a murder-"

"I know what you seek."

Aseem blinked. "You do?"

The monk nodded. "All the answers you seek are in your Past, your Present, and your Future. Which do you want first?"

++++++++

Veronica looked around in amazement. The room was decorated in the same way as the lobby, except everything was in various shades of blue. On the far wall were two swords crossed over each other with a set of armor below them. Veronica stepped closer to them, reaching for one of the swords, when a deep voice called to her.

"Veronica."

She whirled around. In the middle of the room on one of the pillows sat a bald monk. His eyes were closed and his hands were clasped as if in prayer.

"Come sit by me."

Veronica obeyed, leaving the swords behind for the time being. The monk opened his eyes and smiled.

"How are you?"

Veronica returned the smile weakly. "As good as can be expected."

The monk nodded. "I see. Well, down to business, shall we?"

"Where is Aseem?"

The monk blinked. "He is not here? I didn't notice. Perhaps he decided to wait for you outside."

"Perhaps."

The monk lowered his hands. "Don't worry. I'm sure he's fine. Now what do you wish to know?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Then I will choose what I tell you. I will tell you three things: your Past, your Present, and your Future. Which do you want first?"

++++++++

"My Past," Aseem said. The monk nodded.

"When you were at your junior prom, something happened to you, didn't it?"

Aseem nodded.

"There was a fight. A group of young men were trying to take advantage of a young woman. Do you remember what happened next?"

Aseem nodded again, allowing the memory to wash over him.

*******

"Come here, cutie."

Aseem turned around, a feeling of dread coming over him as he followed the voice to one of the abandoned hallways of the school. A group of football players were crowded around something in the middle of the hallway, the center of them interesting them enough not to notice Aseem's presence. A small, feminine voice cried out.

"Leave me alone, Darryl! Take your boys and go bother someone else!"

Said Darryl sneered maliciously. "Now why should we do that? You're the only cheerleader we haven't had a little fun with. We just want to get to know you better."

"Keep your hands off me, pervert!"

SLAP!

A cry of pain and a whimper were all it took for Aseem to decide that he'd had enough. He shoved his way through the group to her. In the center was a small girl, dressed in a v-neck, light blue prom dress. Her dark hair was up in little pin curls. She held the side of her face as her eyes shimmered with tears. Aseem kneeled down, slowly reaching for her. She jumped back instinctively.

"I'm not going to hurt you," Aseem whispered. Darryl and the others started to laugh.

"You should be worried about who's gonna hurt you. Who told you to come and spoil our fun?"

Aseem stood up, shielding the young woman behind him. "I did. You guys are as good as kicked off the team when Coach Taylor finds out about this."

Darryl stepped closer to him. "He's not gonna know. We'll beat the shit out of you, do what we want with her and there isn't anything you can do to stop us."

Aseem finally looked around him. There were too many of them for him to fight, so he decided to try to talk the girl's way out. He could take the beating, but she looked just a little too innocent for what they planned to do to her.

"Why do you want to bother her anyway? Can't you guys find someone else?"

Darryl shook his head. "We've watched her all year, and we want to know something."

"What?" she asked meekly, standing behind Aseem and holding his hand.

"You look so much like caramel, we want to know if you taste like it too."

The young woman shuddered behind him, and Aseem started to get mad. He squeezed her hand protectively. "I won't let them hurt you," he whispered.

Darryl and the others laughed. "And just what are you gonna do?"

Aseem's fist connected with Darryl's jaw, effectively answering his question. Darryl countered with a punch in the ribs. Aseem stumbled back, into the girl's arms.

"Are you o. k.?"

Aseem nodded weakly. She hugged him tightly, refusing to release him even when he tried to get up. Aseem stared at her quizzically. "What's wrong?"

"You want to protect me, right?"

Aseem nodded.

"Then hold me."

Aseem hugged her back. The young woman started to shake and Aseem held her tighter. Suddenly the hallway was cast in a bright light and the others around them started screaming. Aseem tried to look behind him, but couldn't. He glanced at the girl again, and received the shock of a lifetime. Her eyes were glowing a silvery gray. She stared behind him, and Aseem forgot all about the men behind him.

He could only see her.

When he woke up, he was propped against the school flagpole outside. He looked around for the young woman, but she was gone. The next day he found out that the football players were found in the hallway, unconscious. They stayed in the hospital for weeks. When they woke up, they couldn't remember what happened to them. Aseem never saw the girl again.

******

"You've wondered about her since, haven't you Detective?"

Aseem nodded again, astounded and deeply disturbed. He never told anyone about that, yet somehow this total stranger knew.

"Now," the monk began. "What do you want to know next?"

+++++

"The Past," Veronica whispered.

The monk nodded. "When you were a little girl, you fell out of your window. What saved you?"

Veronica looked down. "I don't know."

"Yes, you do. Think, and remember."

*******

"My baby!" Veronica's mother cried. Little Veronica was being wheeled into the I. C. U. after falling from her window. Veronica turned her head toward her mother's voice, but couldn't for the brace around her neck.

"You're going to be fine, little one," a voice whispered. Veronica looked around.

"Who said that?" she asked. The doctor shook his head. "There might be more damage that we thought. She's hallucinating."

"Why, I did, little one," said a voice beside Veronica. Veronica glanced over and looked at what she thought was an angel.

"Am I going to die?" she whispered. The angel shook his head.

"No, my child. You are not going to die, though it's safe to say that it was a very bad idea to try to catch that bird."

Veronica groaned miserably.

"I'm sorry you hurt, little one. You will feel better soon," the angel said. It kneeled over her, smiling.

Veronica had never seen such intense blue eyes.

The doctors couldn't explain it. Veronica was supposed to have fractures in every bone in her body, but she only had a sprained ankle. They couldn't figure out how, or what the attending nurse was talking about when she said the little girl's eyes glowed.

******

"Mordecai…is an angel?" Veronica whispered.

The monk shook his head. "Mordecai is not exactly an angel. That was what you needed to see at the time."

"So he has been with me for that long?"

The monk nodded. "So, what do you want to know next?"

+++++

"The Present," Aseem said. He figured; since the monk knew so much, maybe he would be able to tell him who killed Victorie's family.

"You are investigating a murder that has you baffled. No witnesses, no clues and no hope for justice. Your dreams are haunting you. You are searching for the girl again, because you feel that she's in danger. It's driving you crazy. You are also correct. The girl needs you again, and you are closer to her that you think. The murder will not be solved."

"Isn't that the future?" Aseem asked.

"No, it is not. It is the murder's future. Yours is much different."
++++++

"The Present," said Veronica, removing her heels so she could cross her legs. She was glad she wore pants today, or she'd be embarrassed to no end to sit like this in a skirt.

"You are taking care of a very special girl, and there are suddenly three men in your life. One you are slowly growing to love. The little girl you are adopting as your own, and your business is successful. You are happy, but at night your dreams plague you. You dream of strange powers and the child dying, even as you struggle to save her. You should not worry about such things. You would give your life for her."

"I would."

"I said that. However, your future is leading you into hardship."

++++++

"What's my future then?" Aseem asked. The monk closed his eyes.

"The girl is your future. You have loved her for so long, it now is a part of your very soul. When she needs you, her soul will call you. Together, you two are to protect something very important."

The monk stood up and walked to the door. "It was nice talking to you, Detective. You may see me again, someday."

++++++

"Your future, Veronica, is dark indeed, but the light will seek and protect you. You will be betrayed by one you trust the most. Something inside you is waking up, and it scares you. Rely on it, for it will protect you and the ones you love."

The monk stood up and walked to the door. "Come back when you need to, my dear." He opened the door and Veronica gathered her shoes and left. Aseem stood outside, shaking his head.

"Where have you been?" Veronica asked. Aseem snapped out of his reverie.

"Where have I been? Where have YOU been?"

"In the room, where you were supposed to be! God! What kind of cop are you?!" Veronica winced at her own words. "Look, I'm sorry, o. k.? I'm having a weird day."

"You're not the only one." Aseem draped an arm over her shoulders. "Oh, don't be blue. I forgive you."

"I still feel bad. How about I buy you coffee?"

"Make it dim sum and you've got a deal."

"I thought cops liked coffee and doughnuts?" Veronica teased as they left the temple. Aseem shook his head.

"Have you been in a coffee shop recently? Too many cool people trying to look like they don't care how they look drives me nuts. Chinese food though, is the food of the gods."

"I agree," Veronica said as she opened her car door. "Get in. I'll bring you back to your car later."

Aseem agreed and hopped in. "Nice. So, what do you do?"

"Advertising. Aren't you supposed to know that?"

Aseem glanced at her. She was smiling, her gray eyes twinkling in the afternoon sun.

"Yeah," he said, now lost in the memory of what the monk said inside the temple. "I suppose I am."

----

SF: OK! I'm back! I'm really, really sorry for how screwed the chapters used to be. I don't know how I managed to loose count like that.

Silver Fox: Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it?

SF: Shut up, before I clock you one. Anyway, this story is now fixed, with a new chapter to boot. We kinda know who the bad guys are, and who the good guys are, but we don't know why they are what they are. Don't worry, that'll be told soon. Oh, and thanks to Tessa3, who's been rather persuasive about me getting back to this story. Silver, do you want to say anything?

Silver Fox: Um…Well, I'm working on a new chapter for 'Runner'. That's about it.

SF: Do you know when you'll get finished?

Silver Fox: Yeah…just as soon as you get off of my laptop!

SF: Hehe…sorry folks. He doesn't mean it. Don't forget to review!