Chapter 7: The Huli Jing

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I slouched in the seat of Jia-Li's tiny hybrid car, crossed my arms and closed my eyes. Why couldn't I have gotten a cool vampire power? Absorbing other people's powers--big deal. I'd only gotten a couple of mouthfuls of that other dragon's blood, so many the ghost-sight would wear off soon.

"So where next?" I asked, afraid of the answer. "Another graveyard?"

"Home," said Jia-li. "The sacred must be summoned at a sacred site. But the profane may be summoned anywhere."

Wow, that was reassuring.

I kept my eyes shut until Jia-Li pulled into her driveway. I dragged myself behind her into the house, and threw myself on the sofa in the living room on my face. If there were ghosts running around her house, I didn't want to see them.

Jia-Li rustled around her house, and closet doors opened and shut. Gathering things to summon that Daji fox spirit person. And guess who'd get to speak to the most evil, bloodthirsty spirit in all of history? That's right, me.

Maybe I could drop some garlic until I bled out. That'd get the dragon blood out of me in a hurry. It'd be interesting to get high off garlic. Weird vampire physiology.

But before I could even reach the kitchen door, Jia-Li said, "Dalton, assist me."

I turned around and she dumped a ton of crap into my arms. A heavy pewter bowl, more candles, packages of spices and tea and cookies. Ooo, there was some Pocky in there. Maybe I could steal a stick while she was busy.

"Take it behind the house to the sacred stone," said Jia-Li. She shot me a critical look, her dark eyes hard and still as a frozen pond in midwinter. "You have been a good tool this far, Dalton. Do not fail me now."

Was I supposed to be flattered by that remark? Good boy, Dalton, you're such a tool.

I hauled her ritual junk into the back where she'd shoved me through the world portal. I set everything on the gravel and studied the magic stone suspiciously. No shimmers in midair. I waved a hand over it, but there was nothing there.

Of course, I didn't have the power to see magic anymore, did I? Only ghosts. No ghosts here. That would change, though.

I sat on the back porch step and watched Jia-Li arrange everything just so. It was past noon, and had I been a normal human being, I'd have been thinking of a burger and fries, maybe a chocolate shake. Heck, even thinking about the things I should have been thinking about made me hungry for real food. But the vampire digestive tract could no longer handle solid food. Internally, I was dead and my bowels didn't move anymore. Anything I drank fed straight into my circulatory system instead. No Pocky for me.

Jia-Li lit the candles. She picked up a long, thin knife and pressed it into the palm of her hand. I winced. Dark blood trickled into the pewter bowl. After a few minutes she breathed fire on her palm, and the wound healed.

I caught a whiff of her blood's chemical smell. It simultaneously made me hungry and made me want to gag.

She began to chant in Chinese. Almost from the first word the foxes came. I sat on the step and watched them, and the hairs on my neck stood up. The hair on my scalp tried to stand up, too.

Some of them looked like actual foxes. Little four-legged things with fluffy tails and little pixy faces. But other ones came with them--things like werewolves on two legs, with slavering jaws and dagger-like claws on their hands. Still more came, horse-sized things with long pointed faces, snake eyes and wavering, flaming coats. Tails waved behind them like hydra heads. All of them had a little ball of light floating over its head or burning on its chest.

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