Xiao Xiao brought Barrel out from his stable. She needed the fresh air. Barrel snorted and stamped his hooves. He was already shedding his summer coat. She remembered to treat him with vegetable stems from the kitchen.
She cantered to the nearby stream, where she had recently found enough solitude.
The wind brushed through her hair. It bore hints of autumn: crisp, laced with the smell of burning fires. The stream gurgled. She could see small silver fish darting about.
Her hand reached into the pouch where she kept the green pearl. In her hand, it felt like a contained sun.
She inhaled sharply. Perhaps she had gone crazy. But she had made her decision.
Without hesitation, she swallowed the green pearl.
Then she was all silver scales, with a heart that beat the drum of the sun and the thunder of storms. She dove into the stream.
She would look for Ming Zhu.