Monday, February 22, 2016

Free short story: The boys and the dragon - Part 2

Parts: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4

Copyright © 2015 by Cyci Cade

We reached a chamber—a putrefied odor hit my nose. I shut my mouth and pressed my nostrils with my fingers so as not to vomit and prevent the polluted air from reaching my lungs. But I had to breathe and when I inhaled the air… Oh, my God! I looked around; there were many, uncountable corpses on the ground. I hoped they didn´t gain life and start to pursue us.
I couldn´t breathe! I couldn´t breathe! But. I. Had. To!

“It is repulsive. Is it a type of cemetery?” Wei covered his mouth and nose with his hand. It didn´t help much. Seconds later, he leaned forward and the content of his stomach—a yellow goo—gushed from his mouth and covered the corpses.

Ugh! It was disgusting. My stomach lurched, and I turned my face to the side. Now, I really hoped that they didn´t gain life. They wouldn´t like to wake up covered by that yellow and stinky thing. What did Wei have for breakfast?

A noise called my attention. I clutched Wei´s forearm and dragged my brother behind some rocks in the corner of the chamber. Wei looked terrible, the color of his face disappeared and drops of sweat rolled down his face.

“Don´t breathe, Wei,” I ordered as if it was possible.

One by one, the creatures entered the chamber through another path on the opposite side—many of them. Too many. If I thought that it was impossible to fight and defeat one creature, how would we kill more than ten already dead creatures? I stared at Wei. My brother wasn´t good, the color of his face was changing and now he was green.

“I believe I know what these creatures are,” I whispered. Maybe if I told him a story, he would get better.

Wei babbled something I didn´t understand. I hoped he didn´t throw up on me.

I continued, “Our master always tells us stories about mythological creatures during our classes. One day, while he talked to our father—who had interrupted our class—I read in one of his books that there are corpses that kill living creatures to absorb their lives. During the day they stay in dark places, like this tomb. They are called jiangshi.”

“How do we kill them?” Wei whispered in my ear. He was too close, and a terrible breath came from his mouth.

I turned my face to the other side. Wei was stinking more than those corpses. I faced him again or he wouldn´t hear my voice. “I´m not sure. I read something about mirrors, a piece of wood from a peach tree, a rooster´s call, hoofs of a black donkey, vinegar, broom…”

“Shut up, Liu!” Wei cut me off. “Don´t be ridiculous! Where will we find any of these items? Hoofs of a black donkey? Seriously?” He rolled his eyes.

I shrugged. He asked me, I answered. I didn´t write the stories.

“I don´t want to die here,” Wei muttered, his eyes locked on the creatures that wobbled across the chamber.

They were checking if there was somebody alive, I assumed. Where did they get those people? This land was very strange. It was. I had never heard that something like this happened in our kingdom. My father wouldn´t permit it. I knew it because he was the Dragon Emperor, the most powerful man in China.

“We don´t have other choice, I guess.” I dropped my gaze.

I tried to pray. I tried to remember how to pray. Our mother taught us once, but we didn´t pay attention to her words. I wished I had to. My mom! Her image came to my mind. She said that we were too young to accompany my father in this trip. But he insisted, he had strong points—irrefutable ones. He always had.

She kissed us before we left. She kissed us in front of everybody, in front of the soldiers. It was embarrassing. Didn´t she know that she couldn´t kiss us in public? Many soldiers giggled, and I wished I were grown enough to punish them.

They couldn´t laugh at me! It was disrespectful! I was a prince of the Dragon Empire! Nobody made fun of a prince!

Our journey started a week ago. That was the first time we left the kingdom. The Imperial Guard escorted us and my father´s entourage. I wish I had an entourage one day! We traveled four days to arrive in this realm. My father—Emperor Shun Xiang—wanted to make an alliance with the owner of this land. He said to us that this man was powerful and rich, and it would improve our kingdom. He warned us during the trip that we had to behave like two princes raised to rule an empire, not like two disobedient, impolite, and inconsequent children. Wei and I promised many times that he wouldn´t regret taking us with him. We broke our promise, and it would have consequences. I was very excited because I would spend some time with my father, with Wei too.

Okay, anything was perfect. I liked my brother, but we were together all day. We studied together, practiced together, spied my mother´s servants together…

We didn´t have any incident during the trip. It was rare because we crossed dangerous territories, traveled during the day, and camped at night. I heard the soldiers´ stories. To confess, when I arrived here I was a little disappointed because I hadn´t had any adventure. We would leave tomorrow and this was the first exciting day in this distant land. It wasn´t what I expected because I didn´t want to be cornered by corpses in a chamber full of dead people.

Wei and I attended the first meetings. I didn´t understand all they said and discussed. I just comprehended that it wasn´t an easy job. The powerful and rich man was a little reluctant to accept my father´s offer.

I thought I´d be too. It didn´t sound good. However, I was only an eleven-year-old boy who didn´t understand anything about deals, alliances, and diplomacy. My father seemed satisfied.

This morning my father said that we couldn´t attend the meeting and he would join us for dinner, it was a kind of celebration. He and two councils entered the meeting room. Wei and I tried to hear what they were saying but their voices were too low. If they weren´t screaming it was a signal that everything was okay, was I right? I guessed so.

Frustrated, Wei and I grasped our swords and got out. We practiced for hours in the garden until our sire arms couldn´t wield the swords anymore.

We always practiced three hours per day, at least. And the chief of the guard supervised us personally—he was very bossy. Maybe he just followed my father´s orders. No matter.

Tired of practicing, we sheathed our swords, strolled through the garden, and found a kind of mausoleum. We stared at each other, and with a nonverbal agreement, we entered the mausoleum. The place looked like any ordinary mausoleum. I didn´t know many mausoleums, but it just seemed… common until we found a passageway to the underground. We climbed down the stairs and reached the bottom of the tomb. We also reached those creatures that wanted to absorb our lives and kill us.