Featured image art by Arute (@ast05water)
It was time to evacuate.
The queen of Arendelle’s strategy was simple: she, Elsa, and the other Exalted members needed to get out of Hong Kong as quickly as possible. The British island colony was commonly used as the first port of call by foreign visitors into the Celestial Empire, but the group’s sense of urgency was even higher than before, now that everyone knew that Harrison had them in his crosshairs. The drug lord and tai-pan wanted to stop Anna from reaching the Forbidden City at all costs. Anna had expelled Harrison from membership of the Exalted after ascending to its leadership, and Harrison would be damned if he let his Arendellian enemy humiliate him further by becoming the Exalted’s number one.
It was midnight, when the city was theoretically asleep and done with business. But Hong Kong is never done with business. Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Colisa, and Kristoff were standing on the esplanade by Victoria Harbour, where there were docked several ships. There was a boat waiting for the group, which would take them to Pride of Elsa, which was anchored a short distance away in the deep waters of the colony. Lady Kam had disappeared to “make preparations” – it was an enigmatic statement that even her boss, Kristoff, couldn’t understand. After spending a single night in the ransacked and ruined Sinclair Mansion, Peony had warned them that they needed to board Pride of Elsa and get to the Chinese mainland as soon as they could. Another assault by the Floodgate triads wasn’t only inevitable, but imminent.
The salty, green waters were ominously quiet and the night air stiflingly, forbiddingly humid.
Anna gazed at Peony nervously. “So let me get this straight: we cross the border, and we don’t look back. We keep moving.”
“With as few stops as possible. We can stop maybe at Ningbo, but even then I’d advise against it,” affirmed Peony. “I don’t think I need to impress upon you more the need to reach my master so that you can finally speak to him face to face, as his heir. As our leader.”
Her silver eyes glimmered. “Case in point,” she said, coolly glancing at both sides of the group. Something ominous was happening. Two amassed crowds were approaching the Exalted and Elsa from both sides of the esplanade, and Anna felt a pit open in her stomach as she recognized members of Lady Kam’s triads glaring at their approaching opposites. The women and men staring each other down were ropy, muscular, clad in black but also sailor’s outfits. A disorganized range of weapons like swords, spears, muskets, and rifles bristled from both throngs.
The port of Hong Kong was about to erupt into open gang warfare.
Harrison versus Anna. Winner take all.
“Anna, let’s go,” said Kristoff nervously.
“It’s the Floodgate triads!” cried the queen. “Hurry up! Get into the boat so we can board Pride of Elsa!”
“Anna, let me stay behind – I can help you hold them off!” offered Elsa, raising her hand, which was shimmering with ice magic –
“Like heck that’s happening. This is the whole point why Lady Kam has those scary guys watching over us,” snapped Anna, grabbing Elsa’s hand and pushing her into Kristoff’s arms. “Babe, get her on board!” Kristoff promptly held a surprised Elsa closely and chastely, gently plonking her onto the slightly rocking boat.
“Get comfy,” he said, winking down at her. “Boss’s orders.”
The seated Elsa beamed up at him. “At least we both know who we get our marching orders from,” she joked.
“Peony!” barked Anna. “I’ll need your help.”
“It’s time to go,” cried Peony, jumping onto the boat with Kristoff and taking the oars. “Let’s row,” said Yixin’s agent calmly, as the boat left the dock and glided straight for the queen’s waiting flagship. Underneath her elegant equestrian getup, Peony was at least as strong as Kristoff, and they rowed in tandem, calmly but briskly, trying not to panic at the imminent deadly brawl. They’d left just in time. Anna, Elsa, and Colisa couldn’t help but watch at the two receding gangs jeering and screaming at each other.
The members of the Lotus and Crocus gang bellowed their support for Kam and the Princely House amidst the jangling of metal blades and battle-cries. The Floodgates roared and spat their own hateful slogans. “Stand aside! The queen is ours.”
“Oh, no,” whispered Kristoff, rowing with his burly oaken arms, the arms that Anna loved to be held in. “They’re really going to fight and kill each other. Right out in public, even if it’s the middle of the night. Where are the police?”
“The British governor daren’t move. What Kam and I feared has come to pass,” said Peony grimly, as their boat retreated. “Aren’t you glad we’ll soon be aboard Pride of Elsa?”
From the baying throng of the Floodgate triads emerged a muscular woman with a buzz cut. “Move aside, animals,” cried Sister Hu, pointing a Chinese broadsword with a tassel at the Lotus and Crocus. “We’re here for Anna and her entourage. She’s got it coming from Will Harrison.”
“You’re not getting anywhere near them,” barked a voice from the opposite side. Brother Zeng burst from the cheering crowd, bashing his two maces together. “You opium smugglers and your gweilo boss can sod off.”
“Say the traitorous fools that stupidly serve a Western queen from a faraway northern land that we’ll never even see!” cried Hu. “Go down with your sinking ship of Bjorgman!”
The mutual, hateful roars and taunts from both assembled mobs grew louder, each triad faction trying to outdo each other in volume and venom. Before long, one of the Floodgates threw a knife that spun at Anna’s throng, a thick blade burying itself into the arm of a screaming gangster. The tension broke, and the Lotus and Crocus triads bayed for blood, rushing forward as the Floodgate crew also charged. Victoria Harbour exploded into an orgy of clashing swords, deafening gunshots from pistols and rifles, and the sickening crunches of bone and flesh as the opposing triads fought for the fate of Pride of Elsa. A Floodgate member screamed as multiple blades stabbed into his body, gore spraying in multiple directions. A Lotus and Crocus warrior parried a punch from his opponent, only to be struck in his throat with a panther strike, and he folded, blood spraying from his ruined windpipe. It was total bedlam on the promenade. Zeng blocked a slash from an attacker with his maces and mangled his arm with a heavy crushing blow, before pivoting and thrusting his mace’s spikes into someone’s stomach. Meanwhile, Hu cut across a poor man’s chest and blocked an incoming spear with her gloved hand, before quickly drawing her pistol and blasting several bullets into the wielder’s abdomen, who fell to the ground screaming. Bloody and sweat-drenched men and women punched, kicked, bit, stabbed, and sliced at everyone they saw that didn’t wear the insignia of their gang. The underground mobs were trampling over one another, bashing and hacking against each other, and just butchering one another on the whole. The cacophony of fighting and martial arts could be heard across the port.
Aboard Pride of Elsa, Anna and the others watched the gruesome and violent spectacle, transfixed in a slightly morbid way. “I can’t believe it,” whispered Colisa, her warm brown eyes wide in horror. “So much death over this feud between Anna and Harrison.”
Kristoff crossed his arms, grimacing. “This is unreal,” was all he quietly said.
“They’re fighting for me,” muttered Anna, shaking her head and looking away. “I can’t let them down. Their sacrifices can’t be in vain.”
Peony neared Anna, putting a hand on her shoulder. The queen jumped slightly. “Oh. Sorry, Peony. My nerves are a bit frazzled tonight.”
“It’s okay,” said Peony. “I just wanted to say that you’re finally getting it, Anna. That’s the mindset you need as the Exalted’s leader if we’re to fend of Harrison and get down to the real business of finding the elixir of life, as Yixin tasked us to.”
Anna shivered. “I’m not going to be forgetting Hong Kong for a while. But you were right in warning us from dawdling here for too long.”
“The Lotus and Crocus have held them off here at the harbour, but the Floodgate will strike again,” warned Peony. “If you wanted to reinforce our team with someone from Arendelle, now’s the chance, since no matter how fast we move we’ll still have some time before we arrive in the Forbidden City.”
“Send for Alan, then,” said Anna, nodding. “I’m sure you’d like that,” she added, winking at Elsa, “and I welcome anyone else he wants to bring along. The Exalted needs protection so that I can protect Elsa.”
Elsa looked up at the night sky, sighing. They were at the far side of the world, where only Arendellian merchants had sailed. And now they were about to go where even they hadn’t been, to the very heart of the Celestial Empire.
Where Elsa and Anna’s legacies were inseparably entwined with the Moonborn that they knew as Yixin.
ANNA’S JOURNEY UP NORTH INTO THE CELESTIAL EMPIRE CONTINUES!
LORD YIXIN AWAITS HER…