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The Great Mustard Heist
Long Yuan sighed. “I’m hungry!”
“You’re always hungry…” a voice beside him mumbled.
Long Yuan heaved himself onto his stout four feet. “So?” As he turned to face his companion the warm afternoon sun gleamed across his golden scales. “You want to come with me Long Bao?”
“I guess…” Long Bao sighed. “It’s just so comfortable here…”
Long Yuan rolled his emerald eyes and slowly started to trek towards the delicious smell of food that he loved so well.
As Chinese dragons went, Long Yuan was pretty average. Well, other than his overly-large belly that is. He just couldn’t help himself when it came to food of any kind, especially his favorite, hot mustard. He lumbered as fast as he could towards the village center. Long Bao walked along next to him, sleepy eyed and yawning.
You wouldn’t meet two more unlikely friends in the whole of the Shi Village. Whereas Long Yuan was portly and round, with an insatiable love of food, Long Bao was the thinnest dragon in the village, more akin to books and learning than his friend’s pursuits.
“So did you eat any hot mustard today?” Long Yuan asked.
“No. I was too busy reading a good book this morning.” Long Bao replied.
“You’re kidding!” Long Yuan exclaimed. “You know that if you don’t eat any you won’t be able to breathe fire!”
“One day won’t hurt. It’s not like it’s permanent Long Yuan!” Long Bao said in exasperation.
They had arrived at the food storehouse. Long Bao continued talking as he opened the door.
“Besides, it’s not like we’re going to run out anytime soo…” He stopped midsentence as the door creaked completely open. The two dragons couldn’t believe their eyes.
The storehouse was empty. Bare shelves lined every wall, the only thing remaining was a small sheet of rice paper on the floor.
Long Yuan trundled over and delicately grasped the paper in his talons. Words were scrawled hastily on its surface.
It’s all mine! Have fun without your mustard-or fire! Heeheehee!
“Nooo!” Long Yuan wailed. “It’s all gone!”
“Calm down, there has to be an explanation…” Long Bao tried to reason. “It’s probably just a trick from those Jiehe twins! That has to be it…”
“They can’t write!”
Long Yuan puffed in anger, little streams of smoke curling from his nostrils. “Oh, this is from someone outside the village, that’s for sure! Just you wait till I get my claws on them…” He started to storm out of the building, but tripped on his feet and fell ungracefully onto his face.
“You wouldn’t even know where to look! You need some sort of lead before you go rampaging all over the place.” Long Bao walked around him and went outside.
Long Yuan clambered to his feet and followed. I’ll prove him wrong! he thought with a chuckle to himself. I do have a clue!
“The paper reeks of the sea! So, we’ll look along the coast. Can’t be far!” Long Yuan lumbered purposefully in the general direction of the beach.
“We? Where did ‘we’ come from?” Long Bao said.
“Well you have to help me! You know more areas of the coast than I do!”
“I didn’t even agree to…” Long Yuan was already out of earshot. Long Bao sighed. “Here we go again…”
“Um…Long Yuan…are you sure you want to keep going?”
“It’s close! I can smell it!”
“I can’t smell anything other than this musty stench…” Long Bao muttered.
They were walking through some undersea caves exposed by the tide. Slow dripping sounds echoed in their ears, and the cold smooth stone beneath them was still damp. Algae, shellfish, and seaweed coated the walls. Some long kelp even hung from the ceiling, making Long Yuan shudder as he walked through it. The wet slimy feeling wouldn’t leave his scales.
“Come on, we’ll just have to go and borrow some from another village. It’s creepy in here! Let’s just leave, please?” Long Bao looked around nervously.
Should we really just leave? Long Yuan wondered. It is pretty nasty in here…but the mustard is so close, I can feel it! And borrowing from another village is a pain… He stopped, unsure whether to follow his stomach or his head.
“Come on already! We’re not going to find it! Let’s go!” Long Bao started to turn around.
“No, we’ve come this far, we have to keep going!” Long Yuan made up his mind. “I will not go without my mustard! Ever!” He turned and forced his way through another leafy curtain with gritted teeth.
“I’m not going any further!” Long Bao called after him.
“Didn’t say you had to.” Long Yuan shot back forcefully. Fine then, abandon me! Mustard hater!
“But…but…oh fine!” Long Bao shouted. He ran to catch up, the loud patter of his feet and the rattle of his scales as his body undulated forward echoing through the cave.
“Glad you decided to join me.”
“Oh pipe down and look!”
The cave narrowed to a winding tunnel. It took a long time before Long Yuan picked up the scent of the quarry again. He followed his nose expectantly, running in his haste as he got closer and closer. That thief better watch its scales now! That mustard is going right back where it belongs!
The tunnel suddenly opened again, into a neat little circular room. Caught up in his frenzy, Long Yuan attempted to breathe fire, but only little sparks and a massive cloud of smoke came out. Coughing, he swished his tail to try and clear the haze. When he finally took the time to look around, the sight quelled the angry words on his lips.
Pots of mustard lined the walls, and huddled in the center of the room was a big eyed little blue dracling.
“Wh…What in the world?” Long Bao gasped from behind him.
The little dracling sniffed, and curled into a tight ball. “Wh…who are you?”
Long Yuan examined it carefully. It was a girl, judging by the long eyelashes and purple eyes. It was hard to feel angry when those eyes looked at him so pleadingly.
“Did you take all this?” he asked gently.
She nodded. “I was really hungry…I was out exploring and I got lost. Now I can’t make it back to my group…the whole village left on a trip to the mountains.” A large tear welled up in her eye. “You…you’re not really angry are you? I didn’t mean it…I was really starving, it just smelled so good…hot mustard is my favorite.”
Long Yuan laughed. “It’s ok.” All of his apprehension had vanished after hearing her story. “How about we bring all this back to our village, and you can stay with us until you can go home?” He gently drew her to his side. “I think we’ll get along really well!”
“Oh no…” Long Bao groaned. “Two food fanatics…”
All of the mustard was returned to the storehouse, and Long Yuan and the dracling became best friends. Such good friends in fact, that they tended to get into quite a bit of mischief…
A couple of days after the great mustard heist, Long Bao was looking for the pair.
“Long Yuan! Where are you? It’s almost dinnertime!”
A giggle from the storehouse caught his attention. Tossing the doors open, he stumbled back in shock.
Long Yuan was sprawled in the middle of the giant mess in the middle of the room, him and the dracling covered in hot mustard.
“Long Yuan! That’s for everyone!”
His only response was a satisfactory burp from the dracling.
All too soon however, it was time to say goodbye. The dracling’s entire village had rushed over after hearing that she was safe and sound.
“Long Hua! There you are!” A beautiful sapphire blue dragon ran up and scooped the dracling close. “Your father and I were so worried when you disappeared!”
“I’m just glad that you’re all back together!” Long Yuan smiled. “We had a lot of fun together!”
Long Hua looked up at him with tears welling up in her eyes. “Does this mean we’ll never see each other again?”
“No way!” Long Yuan exclaimed. “How about this; I promise I’ll come to see you at least once a month. Does that sound okay?” He choked up a little on the last words.
“Ok.” Long Hua smiled. “Talon promise?”
Long Yuan nodded. “Talon promise.”
Long Bao and Long Yuan stood side by side in the waning sunlight, waving goodbye to the family as they walked away.
“Well, I guess I’m going to miss the excitement.” Long Bao sighed. “It’s been interesting for sure.”
“Ya…” Long Yuan mimicked his sigh.
“Well.” Long Bao turned to his friend. “What do you say we pig out on mustard and have some fun tonight?”
At the mention of food Long Yuan perked up. “I guess that wouldn’t be too bad.”
“Like you would ever refuse food!” Long Bao laughed.
The two friends ran back to the village together, laughing all the way.