Chapter Twenty-Three

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Chapter Twenty-Three – The Love of a Daughter

The dragon rose, a pillar of sea water and typhoon wind, and confronted the slight figure on the cliff. The cliff trembled, a resonant response to the presence of the dragon king. It was an ancient cliff, embedded with an ancient sea forest, complete with spiral shells and stone skeletons of long-gone fish. When it was not shaking out of fear, it was home to oysters and women from the nearby village would come and harvest the bounty from the sea.

“Father,” the slight figure said. “Father, I am sorry.”

Lamp-like eyes shone down, the dragon shifting his immense body to regard the  figure – a girl, a human girl dressed in imperial clothing.

“You are not my daughter,” the dragon king rumbled, thunder in his bearded throat.

“Father, I speak with her voice,” the girl said and the air shimmered. Where the girl was curled another dragon, smaller and sleeker in form and shape. While the dragon king’s scales were a dark vermillion, the smaller dragon’s were silver like a carp. As he watched, tears hot in his dragon eyes, he was reminded of her mother, so beautiful and so like her.

“Please come back,” the dragon king’s voice gentled. “Please. I miss you. Forget when I said to you.”

“I am not going back, fu wang,” the smaller dragon said, shaking her head. “I made a promise. I vowed to protect a little human girl, a baby.”

The dragon king’s sorrow rattled the sea and caused parts of the cliff to flake off in shards. The shards dropped into the water, causing waves to splash against the cliff and its surroundings.  “You are so like her, you know. Your mother.”

The smaller dragon lowered her head. “I know. I miss her too.”

“Then come back,” the dragon king said, his words crawling out of his throat, words so deep, so tender and so sharp that they hurt. “Please.”

“I am staying,” the smaller dragon said, her voice firmer now, like deep-compacted earth, like rock.

The dragon king sighed now, a deep and soft wind that blew across the cliff and nearby villagers shivered at its sound. “I will never understand you – but – another sigh – I will honor your wish.”

“Father…”

“On one condition,” the dragon king said heavily. “You will return to the palace on Mid-Autumn Festival’s night, when the moon is full and the sea swells.”

The smaller dragon bowed her head.

And Xiao Xiao sat up on the bed, her head pounding, her heart squeezing tightly. It was midnight. She couldn’t breathe. She felt as if she had gone a long journey.

Through the pouch, the green glow of the pearl could be seen.

Xiao Xiao’s hands trembled, brushing the bed sheets. Silver scales, like a carp and not, as large as her palm, scattered off the bed. They were light like scallop shells.

Now your turn, Ming Zhu’s voice said sleepily. Your turn to speak the truth.

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