Chapter Twenty-Seven

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Chapter Twenty-Seven – The Dumplings

Ming Zhu’s disappearance lasted until Duan Wu, or the Dumplings Festival. Xiao Xiao was already beset herself with panic. Where did she go? Even the green pearl had gone… dark. The light was gone.

Did she dream the whole thing? Was Ming Zhu just a figment of her imagination?

Was she going crazy?

Mother noticed her listlessness and lavished upon her delectable and nourishing tonic soups. She gave her choice bits during meal times. Yet Xiao Xiao had no appetite. She lay in her bed, curled around a silver scale she had saved. She muttered to herself: “Where did you go? Where are you, Ming Zhu? I was a dragon. I changed into a dragon.”

The chief physician was summoned. He scrutinized her, took her pulse, and shook his head. “Too much yang. She is burning up.”

More tonics. Xiao Xiao waved them away. She just wanted Ming Zhu to be back. The truth hurt within her, a ball of glass and thorns and sharp knives. She neglected her jian practice. She didn’t even laugh at Xiao Xin’s antics.

Meanwhile, the kitchen began to wrap dumplings for the dragonboat races. The air smelled of steamed leaves, moist and rich and fragrant. The cooks stirred glutinous rice, green beans and meats in separate big pots. In one corner, women wrapped dumplings in lotus leaf, ready to be steamed in the bamboo steamers.

Yet Xiao Xiao wasn’t even enticed by the fragrance wafting into her room. She had no desire to taste the dumplings, one of her favorite festival foods. She had unshed tears behind her eyelids, heavy, burning. She had nothing. She was nothing.

Without Ming Zhu, she was… just a human girl.

Xiao Xiao trembled as if she was exposed in a winter blizzard. Before she met Ming Zhu, she was a human girl. An ordinary girl who was good in calligraphy, bad in mathematics and a good learner at sword play. She reached out for her jian and held it against her shaking chest, a talisman against the dark terror trying to overwhelm her. She wanted to cry, but she couldn’t.

She was just a human girl.

What was a human girl going to go?

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