Chapter 3: My Incurable Disease


When I turned sixteen, I realized that I was dying of an incurable disease, called Boredom. Well, at least it was incurable while I was stuck living in my grandparents’ village in China. I did not fit in there – despite my family’s efforts to transform me into their idea of the perfect Chinese girl, complete with unstylish clothes and the World’s Worst Haircut.

I could not deal with the culture – the strict rules, the dull T’ai Chi Ch’uan meditative stuff my family was into, and the bizarre traditions, like visiting our ancestors’ graves to pay homage to them.


“This is stupid,” I would groan during those visits, rolling my eyes and checking the time every few minutes.

That always angered Nai Nai. “Be respectful, Xifeng,” she said. “Your negative attitude toward our ancestors may spread bad chi.”


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To pass the time, I practiced chess a lot, daydreamed about exploring outer space, and taught myself languages that I would probably never speak, like Russian and Norwegian. Okay, well, those are the things I did when I was being the Good Xifeng. But sometimes, I was the Naughty Xifeng. That’s when I relieved my dreadful boredom by sneaking around the village, playing pranks on people. Sometimes I played Ding-Dong-Ditch. That’s when you ring someone’s doorbell (if they had one, which a lot of people here didn’t) and run away. Other times, I threw eggs at houses, or, when I was feeling really mischievous, I would gather up cow poop from the countryside, stuff it into paper sacks, and leave a stinky, flaming surprise on the neighbors’ front porches.


Yeah, I was a brat. But what else was I supposed to do?

I know I deserved at least half of the scoldings and tongue-lashings I got from my parents and grandparents. But the other half were, in my opinion, an excessive waste of hot air. I quickly learned to tune them out, which only made everyone madder.

“Your parents should send you away to a discipline school,” said Huian, a sour-faced girl who I was forced to study with, because her mother and my mother were good friends. “Maybe one far away from here, like Korea or Japan.”

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I know she was just being nasty, but the truth is, Huian’s words had given me the best idea I had ever had.



Chapter 2: I Did Not Burn Down My Treehouse


When I was twelve years old, two things happened to me. The first is that I became a chess champion. Who would’ve thought? Back when we lived in the States, I had never even touched a chess board. I was a Girl Scout. I played rec volleyball and went roller skating with friends. Nobody I knew played chess – it was like something that old retired people did.

But one day in China, one of the girls at my school asked me if I wanted to learn. “My mom is great at chess,” she said. “Come on, she’ll teach you how to play.” And so I did. I listened to her explain the moves of the pieces. I savored the funny names – rook, knight, bishop. And I won my very first game. I won the second game, too. And the third.

“Your daughter has a gift,” the woman told my father. So he began to drag me around the countryside, and to big tournaments in the city, where I played against some of the toughest chess opponents and won match after match.


But that was not the most important thing that happened to me that year.

I had always suspected that there was life on other planets. No, not just microscopic life, like bacteria or amoeba. Real, intelligent living creatures, like humans. It’s why I wanted to become an astronaut. Someday, I wanted to travel to a distant planet and meet these other beings, and study them.

“That is a ridiculous goal,” my parents told me. “There is no intelligent life on other planets. That is only science fiction.”


But they were wrong. I found out that one summer day when I was twelve. I was pretending to be a real astronaut, climbing up into my spaceship.


But that day, something was different. As I sat down in my spaceship treehouse, the walls suddenly began to glow like stars. Strange lights danced around, and faint voices began to whisper in a language I had never heard. I sat very still, arms wrapped around my knees.


Suddenly, there was a loud sound, and a hot blast that roared past me and burned off my clothes. I screamed and screamed. And then it stopped. I was sitting alone and naked in the middle of my treehouse, which was now charred black from fire, snakes of smoke still rising into the air.


I climbed down the ladder so quickly that I nearly fell to the ground. Then I walked around the yard, which was filled with oddly shaped black rocks and puddles. I climbed on the biggest rock, which still felt hot beneath my bare feet. I splashed in the puddles.


“Aliens!” I called out as I jumped around from rock to puddle, rock to puddle. “Aliens? Where are you?”

But the only beings that appeared were Ye ye and Nai nai. And they did not look happy to see me.

“You terrible girl!” Ye Ye scolded. “You’ve burned down your lovely treehouse!”

“No!” I shook my head insistenly. “It wasn’t me, I swear! It was the aliens! I heard them! I saw—”

“Such a liar,” said Nai Nai, her face twisted into an angry scowl. “Go inside now and clean up. You shall be punished for this bad behavior.”

I hung my head and trudged toward the house, my heart heavy. That was the day that I realized that I hated China.

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Chapter 1: My Name is Xifeng, and I Am Not Chinese

My name is Xifeng Jin, and I do not like China. First of all, I am not even Chinese. My grandparents are Chinese. My Mom and Dad are Chinese. But I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. That is, until three months ago, when my parents dragged me off to live in China, in Ye Ye and Nai Nai’s big, creepy house.


Imagine! One minute, your life is all about watching cartoons, and playing with your friends, and Round Table pepperoni pizza. Then the next minute, you’re living in this strange place where no one speaks English, and there isn’t any such thing as Round Table Pizza. Or any kind of pizza. And forget about cartoons – Ye Ye and Nai Nai don’t even own a television. Blah!


The worst part about living in China is the D word. Discipline. Everybody keeps saying that word all the time (mostly in Chinese).

“Young lady, you need to be more disciplined,” everybody keeps saying. But I am not good at it. So every day, Mom and Dad and Ye Ye and Nai Nai and even my teacher keep yelling at me. “Xifeng! Do your homework! Xifeng! Study more! Xifeng! Xifeng! Xifeng!”


I am starting to hate my name almost as much as I hate living here. I wish my name were Mia, or Caitlin, or Sarah. With an H.

There were two good things about moving here, though. The first is the costume trunk that Mom and Dad surprised me with. I play dress-up all the time. My favorite thing is to pretend to be an astronaut, because one day, I’m going to be a real one. I’m going to blast off into space and explore far away planets.



“You will never be an astronaut if you don’t get better grades in school,” said Nai Nai.


Whatever. I’m going to be whatever I want to be. And for now, I at least get to practice being an astronaut in the cool spaceship treehouse Dad and Ye Ye built for me in the backyard. That is the second good thing about China, in case you didn’t guess. My spaceship, where there is no such thing as homework, or discipline, or angry grownups yelling Xifeng Xifeng! In my spaceship, there is just me, and a whole wide galaxy to explore.


Finding Phoenix


When you were a kid, did you ever dream of adventure? Did you wish that you could travel to a faraway place? New Zealand? Argentina? The moon?


Did you wish that you could be a different person, with a new name, new face, new identity? What if you could start all over again from scratch, with a whole new family?


That is what I did, and this is my story. My name is Xifeng Jin, and I am The Phoenix.


Finding Phoenix Chapter List

Chapter 1: My Name is Xifeng, and I am Not Chinese

Chapter 2: I Did Not Burn Down My Treehouse

Chapter 3: My Incurable Disease

Chapter 4: Far Far Away

Chapter 5: Love Times Three

Chapter 6: My Meet Cute Had an Unfair Twist

Chapter 7: Popularity Has a (Pretty Stupid) Price

Chapter 8: Phoenix Fails, Big Time

Chapter 9: Romance and Restlessness

Chapter 10: The Phoenix on Top of the World

Chapter 11: I Don’t Think We’re in Stjernelys Anymore

Chapter 12: The Real Arvid Bergfalk

Chapter 13: Close Encounters of the Ew Kind

Chapter 14: The Good in the Middle of the Not-So-Good

Chapter 15: Stuck in a Bizarre Love Triangle

Chapter 16: Something in the Water

Chapter 17: Who Knows What Lies Beneath?

Chapter 18: The Hiding Place

Chapter 19: The Runaways

Chapter 20: A Tale of Two Babies

Chapter 21: Xifeng the Gangsta

Chapter 22: The Place of the Sun and the Moon

Chapter 23: I Kind of Snapped

Chapter 24: Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come for You?

Chapter 25: The Fugitives

Chapter 26: George and Lennie, Alien-Style

Chapter 27: It’s Time to Get Ill

Chapter 28: The Sacrifice

Chapter 25: Consequences

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Puaura could not stop smiling as she looked back and forth from Ahohako to Ahio – her Ahio. The real Ahio, who had returned to his own body. He and Ahohako seemed overjoyed, laughing and hopping around in the sand like kids. She imagined that the way they felt was somewhat like her when she was finally able to walk again on her own legs. Summon Ahohako (28)

“But what do you think Maui meant when he said there would be consequences?” Puaura asked after the excitement had settled down. They didn’t have to wait long to find out. First, Puaura fell ill. Her skin stung, as though she were being attacked by jellyfish. “What’s wrong with me?” she asked, holding her stomach. Then, Ahio let out a groan and collapsed to the sand. Puaura rushed toward him, but was suddenly twisted into the air by a swirl of wind and water.

“Puaura!” cried Ahohako. But there was nothing he could do to stop it. When Puaura was released from the watery cyclone, she had changed. And so had Ahio.

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“I can’t believe it!” said Ahio, gaping at his and Puaura’s legs, which were now covered in colorful, glittering scales.

“No!” Ahohako stared in horror. “This is all my fault! I didn’t mean for this to happen!”

But Puaura began to laugh. “I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a mermaid,” she said. “It always looked like more fun than diving with scuba gear.” Before anyone could respond, she ran toward the sea and dived into the waves. Her scale-encrusted legs immediately transformed into a strong purple tail, which thumped against the water, propelling her forward. She twisted and glided through the water as easily as a fish. Soon, Ahio and Ahohako joined her. “This is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” said Puaura. “I was born and raised right here on the sea. This is where I belong.”

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Puaura and Ahio were more deeply in love than ever. And one day, for the second time, Ahio asked her to marry him. “Yes, I’ll marry you again,” she said, slipping on the ring.

“Well technically, you never married me,” said Ahio. “Just my body.”

“Then this time,” said Puaura, “I will marry your body, your mind, and your spirit.”

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And so she did. And after that, the three friends lived together, dividing their time between life on land, raising Tane, and life in the ocean. As Maui had lifted the decades-long ban on visitors, many tourists began to come to the islands, often making a stop at Meherio Inn, where Puaura, Ahio, and Ahohako treated them to world-class service and free magic shows. And every night, Puaura would gather a crowd around the bonfire and tell them the stories her parents had passed on to her, about Tangaroa, the Treasure of Rongo, and the mysterious mer-people of the Matahina Islands.

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“Are any of those stories true?” the guests would often ask, wide-eyed with wonder.

Puaura would smile. “Some would say they are nothing more than fish-tales. But others would say that if mana is strong in you, then you will believe. And when you do, you will feel the truth beating inside of you like the great Treasure of Rongo.” As it still beat within her. As it would always continue to beat.

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