Chapter Seven

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Chapter Seven – The Promise

The dragon flew. Joy coursed through her, fierce like the sun, fluid like the Yang Tze River. She flew over the cloud sea, laughing and tossing pearls of white light. Her scales shimmered, the best of mother-of-pearl, and her claws were the purest silver.

Something poignant, like sadness, tugged inside her mighty heart.

You are now me and I am now you, a feminine voice said. It sounded like her voice, a young girl’s voice.

Who are you? Xiao Xiao, in her new form, demanded, trying hard not to be afraid. What are you?

The feminine voice laughed, a gentle wave crashing. I am the daughter of the South dragon king. I protect your sister. You saw me before. In your dream.

She’s not really my sister, Xiao Xiao argued back. The feminine voice giggled. So, that was her. A dragon princess.

Sisters are sisters, no matter if they are blood or not. I protect your sister, because she’s worth protecting. She’s meant for a better life. You saved her, didn’t you? Now let me do my part.

Xiao Xiao guessed that the dragon princess must be similar in age. Imperious, passionate, honest – these emotions pulsed in her and they felt like hers, yet not really.

How? Xiao Xiao wondered.

You silly! We work together, you and I. I help you in times of need. You are in trouble. Your sister is in trouble. There are people who mean harm to you.

The dragon touched the ground. It was now edging towards late afternoon. In autumn, the sky darkened faster. The palace must be looking for her now. The moment the claws settled on the crunchy leaves, the dragon transformed back to Xiao Xiao.

She held the green pearl in her hand.

~*~

Mother scolded her loudly, before hugging her tightly. Xiao Xiao squeezed her eyes shut, hearing the soft sniffling next to her ear. She wanted to tell her mama about the dragon, the transformation, everything. Her entire body thrummed with electric energy. Instead, she told her the truth: she was pursued by a dark horseman.

Now extra guards watched their chambers. Xiao Xiao heard that her die die was furious. He was supposed to lead an army expedition to the border. Now he had delayed leaving.

When the emperor arrived to pay Mother a visit, Xiao Xiao was so relieved to see him. He was strong, resilient. It seemed that the wind would not bother him. He spoke to Xiao Xiao, nodding and smiling. The smile reassured her, his voice strong and comforting. He owed to find out the culprits behind the assassination attempts.

Mother had her cook make his favorite steamed dumplings filled with bamboo shoots. She had her personal bamboo grove and this late in autumn, a couple had produced new shoots. He liked his bamboo shoots sweet and crisp. Xiao Xiao sat demurely, her heart drumming, feeling the other twin heart too. The emperor ate with gusto, his chopsticks swift and agile, picking at the dumplings and dipping them into the black vinegar.

When dinner was over, Xiao Xiao was ushered back to her own chambers. She sat on the edge of her bed, trying to make sense of the swirling emotions inside her. She heard Spring playing with Xiao Xin, singing a Cantonese nursery rhyme.

Sleep, the dragon princess’s voice muttered, in her head and everywhere. It’s the best thing. I will keep watch.

Sleep eluded Xiao Xiao for a few hours.

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