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The Colour Purple
Early Saturday morning I hiked my usual route up the Altai Mountains close to my village in Xinjiang, China. I was going to visit my most unusual friend who lived at the summit of the mountains. It was quite a walk and usually took me to early afternoon, and I left as early as I could in the mornings. Today, I will bring him strawberries. He has quite a fondness for the small, sweet fruit despite his size.
I tightened my quiver around my shoulders and moved my bow to a more secure crook in my shoulder. With my sandals tight around my feet, I set off to meet my friend. The trek is long and winding, my route different every time, careful not to attract unwanted poachers to our meeting site.
A little after the sun has reached early afternoon, I make it to our meeting spot. I pull out my hand crafted purple glass whistle, and blow. I am almost nervous when I hear the bushes rattling, fear that it will not be Zhao when he presents himself, but relieved when I see the beautiful man come forth from the bushes. I run up and envelope him in my arms. I take a step back as he surveys the woods around us and cocks his head to the side. A silent question asking of safety, I nod and step back awaiting the beautiful transformation.
I watch as Zhao is being covered in a light mist a smile reaches his full lips and he looks to the sky, closing his eyes. And before I know it, I am standing in front of my best friend's true form.
Huge, amethyst, majestic, and beautiful. Purple being the colour of royalty makes him seem so much more marvelous. I stare at the only purple dragon left for the next millennia or possibly longer. Poachers have been violently hunting dragons lately. One was killed and when it was skinned, they found draconites in the skull, a gem said to only be a myth and worth lifetimes of yen. I promised the first day that I met Zhao I would protect him.
"I brought you strawberries this morning," I say and open the lid of my basket showing the bright red fruit. Zhao exhales from his nostrils showing his pleasure. I sat down in the opening and he laid his head down, which is about as big as I am, next to me open for a handful of strawberries. I had just given him a few when I heard a twig snap. The little sound put me on edge; I had my bow readied to shoot in about a second.
"Rakilla, put the bow down." Whoever it is they know my name. This worries me deeper. I raise my bow higher still. "Rakilla, da**it, put the bow down."
"Show yourself!" I yell into the darkness of the trees. I hear more rustling and a poor boy from my village, Shiroda, emerges from the bushes. "Why are you here?" he was unsuccessfully hiding a small crossbow, most likely poison darts, behind his back.
"I wanted your strawberries, they're so expensive. But now I see you have something so much more valuable," his eyes shifted to Zhao. "The last purple, no doubt. I wonder how much his draconite would be worth." Greed flashed though his eyes thinking of the treasures he could win. "Couldn't I have him, Rakilla?" he licked his lips and took a step forward.
"Back off, Shiroda. I'm not afraid to shoot, I can make it in your neck before you can load your crossbow." I tightened my bow ready to shoot. Zhao blew fire from his mouth, warming my back, but also as a warning saying that the poison could barely kill a human and would not have any effect on him. He also gave me a quick and simple plan.
Before Shiroda knew what had happened he had been pinned to a large tree by four of my arrows, which were clearly stronger than him. His crossbow fell to the ground and he struggled to break free. Unable, he looked at Zhao and I with a fear-stricken look.
"Y-you won't k-k-kill me, will you?" His voice cracked as he stuttered out his plea.
"You know too much." Zhao takes two large steps towards Shiroda and pressed a single talon, the size of my head, to Shiroda's throat. He squeaked and began to try to squirm away, still held by my arrows.
"Please," It comes out barely a whisper, sad and broken, on the verge of tears.
"A fool, begging for his life." Zhao says and digs his claw deeper into Shiroda's throat drawing a thin steady stream of blood. Tears begin to fall and Zhao snorts in disgust.
"Slow and painful, or quick and painless?" Zhao asks, raising his old, wise eyes at Shiroda.
"Quickly," Shiroda says. And the second the word leaves his lips, Zhao has made a deep laceration and he quickly bleeds to death.
I turn to Zhao, my eyes filling with tears. Not because of Shiroda, but of what must now happen.
"Zhao, you know what this means. You must leave now. People will be suspicious and come searching and there is the possibility that they will find you." And in a flash, I am standing in front of Zhao as a man. "I don't even think your shape-shifting can save you. Your eyes are the purple of your scales." I say and look down. He pulls my head up and kisses my forehead.
"Tu vas me manqué." He says, promising visits during strawberry season. He then transforms and his huge wings carry him away.