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Ever since Tom became the apprentice to Mr. Hu, the Guardian of the phoenix egg, his life has been a whirlwind. Now Mr. Hu is weak after saving Tom's life in a battle, and the two must flee with their motley crew of friends to the dragon kingdom, far below the ocean's surface. While Tom waits for Mr. Hu to recover, he realizes that even the dragons ...
Ever since Tom became the apprentice to Mr. Hu, the Guardian of the phoenix egg, his life has been a whirlwind. Now Mr. Hu is weak after saving Tom's life in a battle, and the two must flee with their motley crew of friends to the dragon kingdom, far below the ocean's surface. While Tom waits for Mr. Hu to recover, he realizes that even the dragons cannot promise safety. And as an unstoppable evil advances, Tom must find the strength within to protect the egg by himself.
A Chinese American boy and his friends--a monkey, a dragon, a rat, and a tiger--must ensure that a magical phoenix egg does not fall into evil hands in the underwater dragon kingdom.
If Mistral the dragon and Monkey could have had their way, they would have left San Francisco the next instant for the dragon kingdom, but Mr. Hu would not be hurried with his packing.
So, while an impatient Mistral kept watch in the front of the store, the elderly tiger had the rest of them -- Tom, Monkey, and the flying rat, Sidney -- hopping about the apartment at the rear of his antique store as they gathered what Mr. Hu considered necessities.
Tom was surprised when he found they were taking few clothes but a good many books and magical apparatus. "Why are we taking so much gear?"
"Because you are to continue your studies in the Lore while you are in the dragon kingdom," Mr. Hu replied.
"But it's summer," the boy protested. "I'm supposed to be on vacation." The promised drudgery was already making Tom rethink staying on as Mr. Hu's apprentice.
The tiger's whiskers twitched. "I can't believe Mistress Lee didn't make you study every spare moment." Mistress Lee was Tom's grandmother and the Guardian before Mr. Hu. "When I was her apprentice, I had lessons year-round."
"Well," the boy admitted, "it's not like she didn't try."
Monkey looked around the stack of books he wascarrying. "Tom was also her grandson. I bet he managed to charm his way out of them. Unlike a certain tiger I know who doesn't have enough charm to fill a tea bag."
Mr. Hu gave a harrumph. "Well, there will be no slacking off as my apprentice, I can tell you that!"
Monkey shuffled over to a suitcase and began to pile the books inside. "He's a human cub, Hu. You can't expect blind obedience."
The tiger's nostrils and mouth wriggled in interesting ways as he fought to control his temper. "Yes, yes, I suppose so," he finally conceded. "Just keep this in mind, Master Thomas: Evil takes no holidays. You will need every bit of magic if you're to protect yourself the next time we meet Vatten and the Clan of the Nine." The Clan of the Nine were Vatten's monstrous followers.
Vatten had been seeking the egg of the fabulous phoenix for thousands of years, for the phoenix would allow him to change people's wills. His spies, led by his henchmen Loo and a girl named Ray, had even managed to steal it for a while; Mr. Hu, the latest Guardian of the egg, had managed to take it back but only at great cost.
As he remembered some of the monsters they had already faced, Tom realized the one thing worse than the boredom of an apprenticeship -- the terror-filled periods when something finally did occur.
"He won't have a chance to learn more magic if we don't leave soon," Mistral called impatiently from the store. "The Clan of the Nine could be here any moment."
"What would happen if Vatten got hold of the egg?" Tom asked. "I mean, I know he'll hatch the egg and use it to control people. So would he make himself the king of the world?"
Around Mr. Hu's neck hung the pouch with the phoenix egg, and he touched it now. "If he were to rule, people would welcome death. He hates humans even more than his master, Kung Kung, who first tried to take the phoenix. Kung Kung found humans distressingly 'disorderly,' so he would have changed them into mindless creatures."
"Like zombies?" Tom gulped.
"I was going to say like automata," Mr. Hu said after thinking for a moment, "but yes, that might be another way to put it. However, Vatten has seen humans overrun the earth and almost ruin it."
"So he'd destroy all humans?" Tom asked.
"His tastes are far crueler," Mr. Hu said. "No, he would make humanity suffer a living nightmare."
Excerpted from Tiger's Blood by Laurence Yep Copyright © 2006 by Laurence Yep. Excerpted by permission.
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