“Here?” I looked around the dungeon. “Where?”
“Down that way,” the Sharkwoman said. I wasn’t really impressed. It was the only way we could have gone. We were in a hallway. The only other choice was back the way we had come. “We have to find him!”
“How can you be so sure he’s here?” Tilly asked. She was even more doubtful than I was.
“I can taste him. His scent is in the air.”
“The air? The smoky, diseased-filled, repugnant air? The horrible air that only moves one way? The air that was so bad that you had to strangle Frank to identify him? That air?”
The Sharkwoman glared at her, showing off her very human-looking teeth. “Are you saying that I am mistaken? I don’t make mistakes. Never. Not when Lu Wu is involved. He’s here and I know this!”
“Sure. He’s here. But how reliable can you be? You just woke up from being experimented on for the past week. You might not be in the right state of mind. Who knows what drugs you’ve still got in your system.”
“You doubt me?” The Sharkwoman snarled as she began to transform. Her hair disappeared. Her skin went gray. Her eyes went black. Her teeth began to grow! She had changed her upper body into that of a shark!
“Relax, Shayu!” I said, fearing the worst. The last thing we needed was for us to start fighting amongst ourselves. “There’s no need to do anything hasty. Tilly didn’t mean anything by what she said. She was just concerned for you.”
The Sharkwoman gave me a look that I feared at first meant that she was getting ready to attack me. It was real easy to misinterpret the look given to you by a shark. They pretty much all looked like she was preparing to snack.
“You think I am going to attack her?” she asked, incredulously. “I didn’t change into this to attack the little human. I don’t care about her. All I care about is finding Lu Wu! But this time, at least, the little human was right. With this rotten human air, it is difficult to catch a scent. And I am still a bit…‘groggy’, as you say. Wu is too important to me to deny that. He is more important than my pride. If I want to find my love then I must be honest. And I’ll need to be in the best shape to find him. Only with my true skin can I find Wu. Only this way can I get a good enough taste of the air and find my love.”
“All right, you changed into your fancy new form,” Tilly replied, “so then where is he?”
“Follow me.” The Sharkwoman began to lead the way, but she stumbled and almost collapsed. It was clear the transformation had taken a lot out of her.
I rushed to catch her before she fell to the floor. I was really worried about her. She as already overtaxed. If we ran into any other surprises, I didn’t know if she’d be able to handle it. “Maybe we should get you out of here.”
“No!” she protested. “I must find Wu! I must save my love!”
She was being stubborn. She wasn’t thinking. I felt there was a good chance that I was going to have to put my foot down. I wasn’t looking forward to that. Even during recovery, the Sharkwoman was not to be thought of lightly. “But, Shayu, you’re too weak…”
“I am not weak! I am strong!”
“Let her just go find him,” Tilly said before I could speak. “It’s not like we’re not going to be able to get her out of here anyway.”
“Fine,” I said because I knew Tilly was right. The Sharkwoman would bite and claw to stay here. If Tilly wasn’t going to be helpful, I didn’t know if I could do it. Maybe with Na Fru’s help, but I didn’t want to be trapped inside our heat shield with an angry sharkwoman. “Go ahead, Shayu. Lead the way.” I helped her back to her feet and supported her as she led us down the hallway, hoping to god that no one saw us. After a few twists and turns, we came to a sudden stop. “What’s wrong, Shayu? Are you all right?
“I am fine,” she replied. “In fact, I am better than fine. I have found it! This is it. This is where he is.”
I looked around. There was no one here. We were in the middle of the hallway. There weren’t even any doors. Was there some kind of secret passageway I wasn’t seeing? “Where?”
Shayu pointed toward an air vent above us. “There! Lu Wu is in there!”
to be continued…