Monday, March 7, 2016

Free short story: The boys and the dragon - Part 4

Parts: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4

Copyright © 2015 by Cyci Cade

However, I was wrong. The light disappeared and we were in the darkness again. I couldn´t see what was going on. I only heard Wei´s screams and kicks.
Unsheathing my sword, I yelled, “Wei!”

“Run, Liu. Run!” Wei yelled back, his voice full of terror. “It grasped me.”

I stepped forward. I had to help my brother. I had to release him from that horrible creature. Tears filled up my eyes blurring my vision when it started to adjust to the dim light. I held my sword firmly with my right hand and wiped the tears away with the left one.

“I´m coming, Wei.” I stretched my arm, and I sensed that the blade hit something. I hoped it wasn´t my brother´s body.

I was near enough to see Wei kicking in the air and the tip of the blade buried in the corpse´s ribs. The corpse moved its free arm and hit me, throwing me on the ground—air escaped from my lungs. Its arm was hard like a log. Wei reached his sword, twirled it in the air, and hit the corpse´s head. The creature released Wei and screamed. It was terrible.

I got up and ran to Wei. We stepped back keeping our eyes on the corpse that seemed not to bother with its wound. It stepped toward us—its arms outstretched. It seemed faster now. I had to stop it. I was tired of running from those freak creatures. I was starving, and I wanted to go home.

Moved by a force that didn´t belong to me, I jogged toward the creature. I wielded my sword and the sharp blade brushed the fingertips of the creature, chopping them off. The tips flew away and fell on the ground. I mutilated the corpse, but I didn´t stop it. The corpse didn´t feel pain. It just screamed. It was calling its friends.

I turned my back to it and ran or I´d have run if a pack of corpses hadn´t blocked my way. I looked for Wei. My brother was a few feet from me—paralyzed. I joined him. If we would die today, we would die together, as we were born, together.

The corpses approached us. I closed my eyes. I didn´t want to see what would happen. I didn´t want to know if it would be painful. I never wondered if I´d feel pain when I died. I sensed Wei shuddering. Maybe, I was shuddering. I wasn´t sure.

A moment later—a minute or two or three—I just felt heat. I thought our body would become cold after death. I touched a dead man once and it was cold and hard, like the corpse. Why was my body so hot?

I opened one eye and peeped. The corpses were on fire, they moved back and forth like headless chickens. I opened another eye, grasped Wei´s forearm and pulled him from there before we burst into fire too.

The flames came from something huge, green, full of scales, and yellow eyes. “A dragon!” I screamed, or I thought. I was paralyzed, my fingers tightened around Wei´s forearm, but Wei was sweaty and slipped from my tight grip.

I looked to my side. Wei wasn´t there. I looked back. Wei was running to the opposite side and yelling something I didn´t understand. I darted toward him, but I wasn´t fast enough. Smoke burned my eyes and blurred my vision. I lost Wei. I turned around. I couldn´t see him. I couldn´t hear him. I was alone in a tomb full of corpses and dragons.

I tightened my fingers around the hilt of the sword—it hurt my palm. I didn´t care. I was scared because I was alone. I wanted to call Wei. I didn´t. It would call the corpses instead—and reveal my position. I moved forward.

The soldiers of the Imperial Guard wouldn´t be afraid, as prince, I shouldn´t be afraid.

I tried to convince myself that as prince and heir of the Dragon´s Empire, I was more courageous than my father´s soldiers were. I was not! I was only a disobedient child that looked for adventures.

I entered another chamber. It was empty. I leaned against a rock and wondered where my twin brother was, if he was still alive. How would I explain to my father what happened to Wei? My father would punish me. It´d be unfair because I had the idea to enter the mausoleum, but Wei insisted on going down.

Sighing, I darted out of the chamber or I´d have darted out of the chamber, if the corpses hadn´t blocked my way. I pointed the blade to the corpses and walked backward—my hand shook. I held the sword with both hands to steady it. My back hit something hard and cold, I was leaned against the wall—I was cornered. The chamber didn´t seem so small when I entered here. I didn´t have anywhere to go, so I moved forward.

I screamed at the top of my lungs and ran toward the first corpse like a barbarian. I saw it once—it worked. I hoped it worked with me too, even if I weren´t a barbarian. I buried my sword in the chest of the corpse—the blade crossed its body. Then I stepped back empty-handed. “Oh. Oh!” I was unarmed now.

The corpse didn´t die. How would it die if it were already dead? It was so confusing! The corpse studied the weapon in its chest, grasped the hilt and pulled it out. A kind of sticky substance covered the blade.

“Ugh!” It was disgusting, and I refused to touch that weapon again.

The ground shook. I lost balance and slumped to the ground. Something heavy was moving to the chamber. The thud became louder and louder, the corpses turned their attention to the beast that appeared at the entrance blocking their way too.

“Good! Now, I´m imprisoned in a chamber with a pack of corpses and a dragon will eat us,” I snorted.

The dragon spat fire and burned the corpses, it was the same scene I watched minutes ago. I crawled to my sword. I knew that I said that I wouldn´t touch it again, but I didn´t have a choice due to the circumstances.

Pushing myself to my feet, I pointed the weapon to the dragon that approached me as if I was able to inflict some damage to a beast covered by a thick leather and green scales.

“Stay away from me or I´ll stab you.” I felt ridiculous pointing a blade to that dragon and threatening the beast. I had to try.

The dragon stopped in front of me. “Don´t fear, little prince. Your brother is waiting for you upstairs. I´ll show you the way.”

What? Was the beast talking to me?

I thought those stories were legends, mythologies. Well, the jiangshi weren´t.

“Who are you?” I asked as if it made some difference.

The dragon lowered its head. “Your guardian.”

I scratched my head. A guardian? Did I have a guardian? “You are huge,” I babbled.

The dragon laughed. “Compared to the others of my species, I´m one of the smallest ones. Except for Xiaobai, but he doesn´t count. He is a freak dragon, an aberration. I´m young yet. Like you, I´ll grow up.” The dragon lifted its head. “Follow me. Your brother is waiting, and your father is looking for you.”

The huge dragon moved. So did I. We left those creatures burning. I wondered if fire could kill something that was already dead. I looked back as I walked until I couldn´t see the flames and feel the heat anymore, until the dragon called my attention.

“You and your brother have a duty. The dragons will protect you,” the beast said without making visual contact.

“Which duty?” I didn´t understand what he meant. “Only one of us will be the next Emperor. We´ve been prepared for this since we were born,” I added.

“Your duty is more important than an empire. Keep it in your mind. Soon, you will understand. A promise was made and must be kept. Don´t dishonor your family.” The dragon stopped.

I stopped next to the beast and recognized the stairs I used to get at the bottom of the tomb. I climbed two steps and turned to the dragon. I wanted to know more about this duty and promise.

“What do I have to do?” I asked.

“Be brave, Liu. Be kind. The legal one must be the next Dragon Emperor.” The dragon fanned its tail to the sides.

I climbed more three steps, the dragon´s words echoing in my mind. Who was the legal one? I turned to the dragon to ask him but the beast wasn´t there anymore. Maybe the beast was a figment of my imagination. Maybe he didn´t exist. I darted upstairs before it disappeared too, and I remained in the tomb.

As the dragon said, Wei was waiting for me. My brother ran toward me and stopped a few inches from me. I sensed his breath, and it wasn´t good; it reminded me that he threw up on those poor victims.

I stepped aside to gain some space. “Did you see a dragon?”

Wei nodded. “It guided me to the stairs. It said some nonsense things like duty, kindness…” He shrugged. “I didn´t understand a word.”

It wasn´t a dream—or my imagination. The dragon said to Wei the same things. I opened my mouth to tell my brother that the beast had also said to me the same things, but my father´s call interrupted me.

I stared at Wei. “Our father is looking for us. He must be angry.”

“Let´s get out of here.” Wei shut the passageway that guided downstairs, and we left the mausoleum.

We ran toward my father´s voice. I couldn´t contain my happiness when I saw him in the middle of the garden. He, the Dragon Emperor, was looking for his sons personally. He could have sent a soldier, one of his servants, anybody, but, no, he was there, and it meant so much to me. Out father loved us, he cared about us.

As I ran to my father, I sheathed that disgusting sword. I could say that I lost it, but a warrior never lost his weapon. It´d remind me this adventure and prevent me from invading tombs for the rest of my life. It´d remind me the dragon´s words too. Be brave. Be kind. Maybe I´d comprehend them one day. For now, I just ran to my father´s arms, to the arms of the great Dragon Emperor.