Chapter Twenty-Four

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She had to hide the scales. Frightened, shaken to the core, Xiao Xiao gathered them and ran out of the room. There were many of the scales, light and hard at the same time. Handfuls.

Xiao Xiao reached the carp pond, panting a little. Perspiration dripped down her back. The weather was gradually warming. The wetness caused by the typhoons had been absorbed back into the earth.

Squeezing her eyes close, she threw the scales into the water. Amazingly, they sank. Xiao Xiao watched the scales – silver and moon-bright – drift slowly like leaves down to the murky bottom of the pond. The carp swam in a swirling school, flame-colored.

Then Xiao Xiao froze. An old woman, one of the elderly servants who worked in the kitchen, watched her with bright avid eyes. She had white hair tied in a severe bun and gnarly arms.

The old woman only muttered one word that chilled Xiao Xiao to the bone:

“Long.”

 

 

Note: Long in Mandarin Chinese is ‘dragon’.

 

 

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