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Mystery

“When did you last see the rice? And who has access to the storage?”

“O stop Biyu. What does it matter? Whoever it was probably needed it more than the school kids. Everyone knows we are barely getting by as a community; someone must have felt they fell through the cracks and were forgotten.” her mother said

“But what if it was somebody else? What if they stole the rice so the kids would starve?”

“O Biyu you have a huge imagination. Why don’t you use it for something useful like pottery or carvings? Something we can sell at market. Stop trying to create puzzles and crimes to solve. We are too busy trying to survive to go around and blame everyone and punish them for every little thing.”

Biyu was frustrated. She really liked puzzles and she liked asking questions and finding clues and putting all the puzzle pieces together. It wasn’t so she could punish someone for being poor or anything like that. She just liked to know what was going on and why it happened. In case someone was trying to starve out the village. I mean there had been a lot of food thefts recently.

Biyu always wanted to be a detective, but what use is there for a detective in a small village in remote China to do. She wanted to be just like the ones she read about in books, but that would mean moving to the big city and away from her family. Biyu was always looking for a case to solve. It never worked though. There wasn’t any real interest to find the guilty person. The townspeople just figured someone really needed the food and was too proud to ask for help.

There was an old story the kids of the village are told, and it always stuck with Biyu. She was frustrated and wanted something to do, some puzzle she’d be allowed to solve. She figured since she was on break from school and there was nothing else to do, maybe she should visit the old village and see if there is any truth to the old story. There would be nobody to stop her or tell her no. Nobody would even care if she did find something.

The town didn’t always used to be where it is now. A few hundred years ago the small town of BaoZhai was located a few miles west in the hills. The reason the town had to relocate was a major drought had occurred and it had become impossible to defend their town and survive. The town moved down to the flat area along the riverbed and closer to trade routes to the city in order to improve their chances of survival. Since then, the town has managed to just barely get by and survive.

 The old story claims that the town used to be protected by a great dragon. Now dragons aren’t known to protect small villages and towns, they just bring rain and thunder. However, this dragon protected the small town of BaoZhai like it was her most precious treasure. The people treated the dragon with god like reverence and would always have piles of food and gifts for the dragon. There were many festivals to celebrate the dragon. The people of BaoZhai would give the dragon any precious gems or items traded for at far away markets and would leave all their gifts at the town’s main entrance every evening. The dragon would come in and sleep at the towns entrance every night to protect them from any attacks from other villages. The dragon would also bring rain and make the towns crops plentiful so that they didn’t need help from the far away markets and could live on their own. The emperor didn’t like this town because they did not share the treasures they found with the royal city and sought to destroy the dragon. The emperor had tried for years and years, but the dragon was too wise and strong.

One evening, the dragon did not show up to the main gates. The people were very scared and as the days went by, they piled more and more food and gems for the dragon at the entrance. The dragon never returned, and rain became scarce, killing the crops of the town. The people wondered if the emperor finally succeeded in slaying the dragon or if they had done something wrong that made the dragon leave their gates forever. They eventually had to move the whole village down to the flats in order to survive.

Biyu always liked this story and wondered if dragons really did exist at one time. She decided to venture into the hills where the village used to be and explore to see if she could find anything. She knew dragons were just part of old tales told to children, but wouldn’t it be cool if they really did exist? Anyway, it gave her something fun to do for the weekend.

Biyu reached the old village gates. They still stood strong and proud against the brown and green background of the old town. The gates were bright red and gold, like a royal entrance. Carved into the wood of the gates were various scenes depicting a dragon. Now how could she not believe the old story? Next to the gates was a big mound of earth, probably where the offerings were left behind when the town moved. Inside the town, you could still see the small street, the square where they bartered their food every day, and the small houses and shops around the tiny village. It was amazing to Biyu that all of this was still visible after hundreds of years. She went back to the gate to look at the different scenes of the dragon, to see if she could learn anything from them. In most of the scenes, the townspeople were praising the dragon for her beauty and generosity, but in one scene, the townspeople looked sad as the dragon walked away from the city. Biyu wondered if this scene was carved after the dragon disappeared. Right next to that one there was another scene that piqued Biyu’s curiosity. This scene depicted the dragon between two hills with the sun in the background. It was beautiful, but why include it on the main gates. She looked around and saw where there were two hills that could have been the same ones, so she decided to check them out and see if there was anything along the way that could add to the dragon’s story.

As Biyu approached the area between the two hills she noticed that there was a path through the woods that was wider than the rest. She wondered if this was the path the carts used to take to get to the cities for trade. She decided to follow the path to see if it led anywhere. The path led right between the two hills and in the middle was a very big, very dark space. Biyu approached it carefully trying to figure out what it was through the trees. It was a very large cave, the biggest she had ever seen. She was a little nervous, but she decided to enter the cave and see if there was anything to suggest a dragon had once lived there. Maybe this would lead her to finding out the truth about the dragon.

As she entered the cave, she noticed some shiny looking scales and claw marks on the wall. She wondered how they had lasted all these years. Biyu was excited because now she knew the dragon really existed and it wasn’t just a story. I wonder why she disappeared all those years ago. As she looked around the cave, she started to notice a shimmering coming from the back of the cave. She walked back and saw a pile of jewels; must be the treasures the townspeople gave to the dragon. She also noticed in the middle a large, black object that was cracked. What is that she wondered. And how did it get broken.

As she was searching around the rest of the cave, she was starting to feel warm. “Why is it getting so warm in here?” she thought. Then she heard a noise behind her like a snort, and then a scratching sound. Biyu was scared, but she realized she was also trapped because she was at the back of a cave. She slowly turned around and there in front of her was a big beautiful dragon, with blue scales, that shimmered like the jewels she had seen, underneath what she now realized must have been a dragon egg. Biyu didn’t know whether to be scared or impressed. Honestly, she was a bit of both.

“How did you find me?” the dragon asked.

“I just looked at the gates of the old town and saw the picture with the two hills, so I thought I’d see what was here.”

“Yes, but many people have come this way, and nobody can see me or my cave. Nobody believes in us anymore, so nobody sees us anymore.”

“So, there are more of you?”

“A few, but we stay hidden because we are unwanted, unlike the old days.”

“My village could really use you for protection and rain. Ever since the last dragon disappeared, it has been difficult to survive. The whole village moved down to the flat and we are barely holding on with the things we can trade from the big city.”

“The village of BaoZhai is no longer protected. The people did not protect their dragon, they expected too much and their dragon paid the ultimate price.”

“What happened to her? Nobody seems to know.”

“One night some kids snuck out of the village like they sometimes do. She kept an eye on them because she loved her village and the people that were good to her. She heard screaming. An army of men from another village happened to be camping in the woods unaware of the village and the dragon nearby. They snatched the kids intending to sell them in the city markets and get a good price. The dragon fought and freed the teenagers, but the army was massive, and they overwhelmed the dragon. In their village, they hunted dragons for sport and treasure. They would sell pieces of the dragons at market and make a good profit. The kids just sat on the hillside and watched. They didn’t help the dragon; they didn’t even return to town to get help for the dragon. They watched as the dragon was taken away, as she was dying, and they did nothing. The village of BaoZhai will never be protected by a dragon again because they no longer deserve that courtesy.”

Biyu was shocked by this story. So, the dragon was killed, but it wasn’t by the emperor or his men. Why did the kids not go for help? She wondered.

“Why can I see you?”

“Must be you possess a heart true to the dragons. But please protect our secret. It has been a long time since humans have believed in us and we are few, but we are living a peaceful life. I would like to keep it that way.”

“How can I when I know you exist? Can I visit you sometimes as long as I don’t tell anyone about you?”

“I wouldn’t mind some company. But not too often. I don’t need any trouble.”

Biyu was excited to learn that the dragon was real. She was mad at whoever the kids were for letting the dragon be killed and doing nothing to help her, especially after she saved their lives. She desperately wanted to let someone know what she had discovered, but she knew she couldn’t. Maybe she could do like her mother said and use the story of the dragon as inspiration for her woodwork. Maybe that would bring in more food to the village and bring back respect for the dragons.

“Wake up Biyu! You must get to carving! You slept all afternoon! Now go get something done before you go to bed for the night. You know your dad has to leave early to get to the market in the morning.” her mom said.

Biyu was confused. “But mom I wasn’t sleeping. I went into the hills and saw the old village and the beautiful gates.”

“I swear you could use that imagination of yours for better things Biyu! Money making things! There is nothing left of the old village. What wasn’t brought down here when the town moved was sold and traded for food. Come back to reality please! And get to work!” Biyu’s mom rolled her eyes as she left the room.

Biyu knew she wasn’t dreaming; she knew she saw the old village and she just knew she spoke to the dragon. She would have to wait until tomorrow to go back to the hills again just to make sure. How could she have been sleeping? It all felt so real. Biyu started on her woodwork. She decided to carve the beautiful blue dragon coming out of its shell. She saw the dragon so vividly in her mind that she had no doubt he was real. She just hoped she’d get to see him again one day. Until then, she would go back to finding out who was stealing the town’s rice every week.

January 17, 2020 23:39

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4 comments

Nivedita Shori
01:17 Jan 23, 2020

Very interesting ideas! I think I've seen the recurring theme of 'dreams' several times in this genre-blending contest. I feel that in moving forward with your great ideas, you sometimes left out some punctuation. For example: What is that she wondered. And how did it get broken. Also, this sentence was kinda sticking out as you had written the rest of the paragraph in the third person: I wonder why she disappeared all those years ago. Loved the idea of the story within the story, and the ending was so nice!

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Amanda Knapp
14:06 Jan 23, 2020

Thank you for the feedback. I usually edit my stories better before I post them. Thank you for reminding me to not get sloppy. :)

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Nivedita Shori
17:49 Jan 23, 2020

Ah! The monster of sloppiness versus the excitement of finishing the piece. Although, I have to say, I don't think we ever 'finish' a piece, we just give up in the end. The edits are always endless. :)

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Kaytlin Frazier
20:34 Jan 23, 2020

I feel those struggles. XD Other than what Nivedita mentioned, I don't have much to add, except that you put "O," instead of "Oh," which I guess could be correct and might be your style? It just seems a bit awkward to read, imo, but you do you! :D Oh, and I don't think the "Z" in Baozhai should be capitalized, unless there's a space and it's Bao Zhai? Regardless, hope any of this is helpful! I'm awful at critiquing. TwT

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