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Hey all! I’ve been going through some of my old writing for new story ideas and I rediscovered something I wrote five years ago that I felt like sharing with you. I created this in a twenty-minute sprint based on the sentence prompt “And you thought dragons didn’t exist”. The way it turned out, it read less like a short story and more like a chapter pulled from a preexisting book. For a time I constructed a plot to go around it, but eventually dropped it in pursuit of other projects. Having read it again, I felt inspired to return to work on it. I re-edited what I originally wrote, and that’s what I’d like to present to you today.

The plot, as of posting this, goes thusly: In modern-day China, a great-grandmother gives a young girl the location of the last dragon egg with her dying breath. The girl raises the dragon while keeping it a secret from her family. After she befriends her former bully, the son of the American ambassador, they must work together to learn its secrets before one of their respective governments can capture it. Think How To Train Your Dragon meets E.T. or The Iron Giant. The ideal age group for this book would be middle grade (about 8-12 years old) so keep that in mind. And now, I take you to a wooded park in the middle of China, where our story is already in progress:

“And you thought dragons didn’t exist,” she said.

Barry couldn’t believe his eyes.

Curled around the tree protectively, hissing at him and spitting sparks, was a long, scaly red dragon. Golden spikes stood upright along its back like a frightened cat. Its long whiskers whipped in the wind. It glared down at Barry with blazing yellow eyes. Barry backed away slowly.

“Okay, Yún, he’s real. Now call him off.”

Yún grinned. She was going to enjoy this.

“Why? Afraid he’ll eat you?”

“N-no,” stammered Barry, his eyes darting between the gleaming teeth, the sharp claws digging into the tree bark, and those horrible eyes.

“Oh, I think you are.”

Yún approached the gigantic creature. It relaxed as she drew near. As she lay a hand on its muzzle, it closed its eyes and purred in contentment.

“I saved him. He only listens to me. So if you know what’s good for you, you’ll listen.”

Barry gulped.

“You’re going to give back everything you stole. Then you’re going to apologize to Miki. And if you don’t start being nicer to everyone in school, I’ll have Zuìhòu find you and swallow you whole.”

“Zee-ho? That’s his name?” gasped Barry.

Yún shrugged. “Yeah, it’s weird, but it fits him.”

Zuìhòu snorted in Barry’s direction. Sparks fizzled from his snout.

“All right, all right! I’ll do it! I’m sorry,” Barry cried.

Yún smiled wickedly. “Good. Get cracking.”

Barry emptied his pockets. In seconds, his ill-gotten valuables lay scattered at his feet. Yún raised an eyebrow. “Where’s the rest?” “They’re in my room. I’ll give them back to you tomorrow at school, I promise.”

Zuìhòu bared his teeth and growled. Yún whipped around and looked the dragon square in the eyes. “Ānjìng!” she scolded, and he relaxed. “It’s okay, Zuìhòu. He’s scared enough,” she said, jerking her head back to Barry.

Barry kicked at a patch of dirt. “You know, I only took those things because Jerry dared me too.” Yún glowered at him. “I don’t believe you.” “It’s true!” Barry shouted back. “It really…”

He grunted and kicked the ground so a chunk of dirt and grass went flying. Barry sighed. His eyes never left his feet.

“Look, everything’s sucked since we moved here. I don’t have any friends, I can’t talk to anyone at home because the time’s all screwed up. When I’m ready to play some games here, they’re sleeping back there. And Dad used to just ignore me, but now he’s constantly asking me what I’m doing and gets mad if I’m not as big a jerk as my brothers. Being like them…it’s the only way to feel like I belong somewhere.”

Yún’s steely gaze softened. “You don’t have to fit in with them. Why try to be like people who make you miserable? You’re not like them.” Barry tilted his head. “How?” “Well for one thing, you didn’t pee yourself like Jerry and Junior would have if they saw Zuìhòu.” A laugh burst from Barry’s throat, and Yún couldn’t help but join in. Even Zuìhòu’s growls turned into something resembling a chuckle.

“And,” Yún continued, “I know about you helping Mrs. Yeung. Name one time Jerry went out of his way to do something that didn’t benefit him.” Barry looked away, embarrassed. “Well, she was the first person to welcome us here when we moved, even though she doesn’t speak a lick of English.”

His eyes widened. “Crap, I’m supposed to be home by now! If Mom and Dad get back before me, they’ll freak out!”

Yún looked from Barry to Zuìhòu. The dragon lowered its thick eyebrows as if to say “Don’t even think about it.”

“Come on, don’t make me beg,” whined Yún. Zuìhòu shook his head and snorted again.

“There’s a nice breeze and enough clouds to hide you. I know you’ve been itching to fly again after last time.”

The dragon paused, then let out a very human-like sigh. He reluctantly unwound himself from the tree. Barry stared in awe and terror. “No, you’re not seriously -”

“You want to get home before dark, or not?” Yún straddled herself behind Zuìhòu’s head and grasped his horns. Barry stepped forward hesitantly, stopping only to touch the beast’s blood-red scales. Zuìhòu shuddered; the sunlit scales flashed as they rippled down his back. “He’s a little ticklish,” said Yún. She reached out a hand and pulled Barry on to Zuìhòu’s back. “Hold tight now.”

In the seconds it took for Barry to throw his arms around Yún, Zuìhòu had already bolted from the ground like a rocket.

A strong wind caught Zuìhòu, and his tail whipped the tops of passing clouds as he writhed with pleasure. He dove headfirst into a thick cumulus nimbus and spun around until it formed a thick cocoon around him and his passengers. It also did a good job in covering up Barry’s screams for his mother. Anyone looking up would have only seen an unusually quick and quiet little cloud speeding through the sky.

After a minute of flying, Yún carefully brushed aside some of the cloud layer in front of her. “Barry, Barry! Look at this!” Barry had his face buried in Yún’s back. He shook his head vigorously. “You’re missing out, Mr. I’ve-Been-To-Disney-World-Twice,” she continued. “Mickey Mouse doesn’t have a view like this at his castle.”

Barry carefully inched up to Yún’s shoulder and dared to open his eyes. They were soaring above vast green hills and fields with muddy yellow rivers criss-crossing through them. A flock of elegant cranes flew past them, leaving their song behind on the wind. In the distance he could see pure white mountain peaks, and the Great Wall winding along the horizon like a massive stone snake.

Barry’s grip on Yún loosened. “Wow,” he whispered. Yún simply smiled.

It took Zuìhòu some careful maneuvering to land right outside Barry’s bedroom window. “There, now if anyone asks, you were up here doing homework the whole time,” Yún said as he climbed through. “No one’s gonna buy that,” replied Barry. “Me doing homework? Come on.” Yún laughed. “See you tomorrow.”

“Wait! Not yet!” Barry knelt under his bed and pulled out a wonderfully familiar shoebox. “Here,” he said, handing it to her reverently. “I’m sorry.” Yún blinked back tears. “Thank you.”

Barry looked away bashfully. “Nah, thank you for the awesome ride. And, uh, for not letting Falkor here eat me.”

“His name’s not Falkor,” Yún said. Zìhòu snorted, and nodded in agreement.

“I know, it’s just – oh, forget it. I’ll see you at school.” Barry shut the window and waved one last time as Yún and Zuìhòu flew back up into the sky, shrinking until they were indiscernible from the pink-edged clouds reaching past the sunset.

Thanks for reading! Please let me know what you think and if you’d be interested in reading more of my original writing, I’m open to any feedback you may have. Be sure to check out my Patreon if you’d like to support me and get some pretty cool perks in return.