OMF V1C37 Might Be a Dragon

The next days passed without incidents and the Zhongs finally reached the forest at the foot of the Long mountain range. If any dark clouds dared to approach their path, a certain dragon king chased them away with an even darker expression. Those things shouldn’t even think of scaring his beloved! Well, at least not until he was old enough to run to him to be pacified.
Before they stepped into the forest, Mister Zhong excitedly turned to his son and pointed ahead. “Look there! Do you see there, behind the forest? That’s a dragon that rested there and fell asleep. Maybe it’ll wake up when we go there?”
Jing Yi froze. A dragon? He had never heard of dragons before but it sounded just as dangerous as a rabbit. He looked at his mother with wide eyes.
Madam Zhong shook her head exasperatedly. “It’s only a mountain, Jing’er. It’s not alive. No need to be afraid.” She regretted having tricked him into fearing animals. She had just wanted to keep him save back then but now her son didn’t dare to step outside alone. And she didn’t have a good way to let him believe otherwise now.
Sure, she could tell him that she had lied and that not all animals were dangerous. But what then? Wouldn’t her son lose trust in her? She selfishly didn’t want to risk that. She wasn’t any different from Qiu Ling in that regard. The best would probably be to slowly ease him into being near animals. She just needed a good idea how to do that.
“What are you saying? Afraid?” Mister Zhong didn’t like what his wife said. “Let me tell you, Jing’er: Dragons are good creatures! You know when our empire was founded the mighty dragon king helped our emperor.”
Qiu Ling raised his eyebrows. Did I? Why can’t I remember ever helping an emperor?
But Mister Zhong hadn’t even finished. “That is why other countries don’t dare invade. They are all afraid the dragon might wake up and help us defeat them.”
Jing Yi, too, wasn’t so sure about the story his father told. He looked at his mother for confirmation. Madam Zhong smiled and patted his head. “It’s been a long time since then. Who knows what really happened? But if there are Daoists, then there might be dragons, too.”
Qiu Ling nodded and smiled. Indeed. Why shouldn’t there be dragons? Pay them a little attention. Your future husband is one of them!
But unfortunately, Jing Yi didn’t seem that interested in dragons. He just nodded and then trailed along beside his parents.
The three of them entered the forest Qiu Ling right behind them. The foliage blocked the sun, shrouding them in hazy twilight. Jing Yi observed his surroundings. The trees stood so close that he couldn’t see anything but the trunks around him. There were no paths, except for the one they were walking on and compared to the forest near their village there was more underbrush that rustled as if wild animals would leap out at any moment. In short, this forest seemed even more dangerous than the one at home! Jing Yi grabbed his mother’s hand and walked closer to her.
Qiu Ling smiled indulgently. Ah, he certainly wouldn’t mind if Jing He was still like that when he came of age. He had always felt it to be regretful that nothing dangerous ever happened in the Nine Heavens. How was he supposed to show his might in front of his beloved if Jing He never needed his protection? So, if something happened in the mortal realm, then it would be just nice. Mn … There would be opportunities.
The Zhongs followed the forest track for several days, trying to go on for as long as they could while still finding a good place to rest for the night. They moved slower here compared to the plain but made way steadily.
After another four days, the path started to climb up and slope down. Again and again. The Zhongs advanced even slower and each day, it got harder to find a place to rest. It got even worse in the following days. The hills grew higher and higher until Madam Zhong and her son were out of breath when they reached the top. Mister Zhong wasn’t faring much better.
It wasn’t just the greater height. The path wasn’t as well defined anymore. Small stones littered the ground and weeds ran riot. The further they came, the harder it got to find places to put their feet. Mister and Madam Zhong took their son by the hands to help him along but the three of them still stumbled more than that they walked.
Finally, they reached the top of a hill that rose in the middle of a clearing and overlooked the forest in all directions. They hadn’t managed to make much progress this day. In fact, most of it had been spent with climbing this hill. Maybe it should even be called a small mountain. Looking from this spot in the western direction the mountains grew even higher, towering over the forest. The jugged stonewalls had indeed a lot in common with the scaly skin of a dragon. This was the real Long mountain range.
Thankfully, the Zhongs didn’t have to go that way. Their goal lay in the northern direction where the hills stayed more or less the same before growing smaller and finally giving way to the plain again.
Seeing this Mister Zhong sighed. “We’ll probably still need another week or so to get out of these hills and then half a week to pass the forest on that side.”
Madam Zhong looked at her son. Jing Yi hadn’t complained even once on their journey but he was still just a child of eight years and even one that hadn’t spent much of its time outside. This part of the journey wouldn’t be easy for him. “Let’s stop here for the day, alright?”
Her husband nodded. “Yes. It’s going to be dark soon anyway. We wouldn’t make it back down today.”
The Zhongs sat down. Madam Zhong retrieved the food they had brought in the last town while Mister Zhong took out the blankets he carried, passing one to his wife and son each.
The air around them grew colder as it got later but it still wasn’t as cold as it should have been. Of course, this was once again Qiu Ling’s doing. He just couldn’t stand the thought that his beloved would have to bear the cold. He wanted him to be as comfortable as possible on this journey.
Ah, if only he was able to show himself! He could have carried him for the whole journey and kept him warm at his chest. Wouldn’t his beloved feel even better then? Well, he’d keep that for later when Jing He had grown up again. Mn, hugging him would be even better then.
Under Qiu Ling’s watchful eyes, the Zhongs ate and when the last light of the day vanished they lay down to sleep. The next morning they would have to get up early to continue on their journey.
Unfortunately for them, before they had time to do so the trees at the foot of the hill rustled and soon steps could be heard. When Mister Zhong opened his eyes he found himself looking at a foreign man who had just reached the top of the hill. The man sneered and Mister Zhong’s gaze fell onto the sword that hung on his waist.
Fate had once again caught up to Zhong Jing Yi and his family.

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One thought on “OMF V1C37 Might Be a Dragon

  1. ‘He had never heard of dragons before, but it sounded just as dangerous as a rabbit.’

    Jing He is so cute he got me dead ❤ I’ll never forget this line lmao

    Liked by 1 person

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