Chapter Twenty-One

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Chapter Twenty-One – The Truth In Me


I have to tell the truth, Ming Zhu.

Xiao Xiao woke up with these words bright and shining in her mind. She was feeling much better now. The fever that made her limbs feel like stones had gone away. She was ready to move once more. Being asleep all the time bored her.

The truth in me needs to be out.

The dragon princess’s presence was a shadow in murky water. Please do, my friend.

You protected me, Ming Zhu. It is my turn to protect you.

With this new determination in her, Xiao Xiao changed into a new set of clothing, a sky blue pao and pants. She held the pouch in her hand, the pouch that never left her hand, and felt the warmth of the pearl.


She found Mother in the main chamber, embroidering a new top for the young prince of the East Palace. Xiao Xin played with a small red ball at her feet. Xiao Xiao stood for a while to take in this peaceful tableau. With die die gone again on another expedition, Xiao Xiao drew strength from the presence of her mother and adopted sister.

“Ma ma,” Xiao Xiao began and her words stuck to her throat. She inhaled and pushed on. “Ma ma, I would like to speak to you.”

Her mother placed the half-embroidered top on the marble table. “Yes, my daughter?”

Xiao Xiao stepped forward, trying to be braver than she felt inside. She had been a dragon twice. She was brave. She had been brave. Xiao Xin giggled and toddled towards her.

“I need to speak the truth in me, Ma ma,” Xiao Xiao closed her eyes and opened them again. “I have something… I have something that changes me into a dragon. With this something, I saved Xiao Xin…”

Ma ma looked at Xiao Xiao speculatively, her carefully painted eyebrow arched. “Are you feeling ill, little daughter?”

“No!” Xiao Xiao shook her head. “I am feeling very healthy, Ma ma. I am telling the truth. The typhoon that destroyed the coast… was done by a dragon too. Looking for his daughter.”

“Oh mine,” Mother smiled. “This story is captivating.”

“It’s not a story, Ma ma. It is a truth! It is real!” Xiao Xiao felt angry now. Her mother thought she was telling a story. A story!

“Why don’t you go back and rest? Physician Lee says not to exert too much energy. You need more yang now. Go rest.”

“Ma ma,” Xiao Xiao’s hot tears streamed down her cheeks, not because she was sad. Frustration burned inside her. “It is true. I am not lying! What I am saying is real!”

“Go rest,” Mother’s voice had the tone that said she would not tolerate Xiao Xiao’s impertinence.

Xiao Xiao turned sharply away. She would speak her truth, no matter.

This chapter is dedicated to the late Dr Philippa Maddern, my mentor and MA thesis supervisor. You have inspired me so much. I will keep on writing.

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