Tale of the Blue Dragon
The previous Seiryuu had died just the day before it happened.
Like most villages, the news spread fast. Usually, we didn’t bother to keep quiet about such gossip. We were small, everyone knew everything. But when it concerned the Seiryuu, rambunctious rumors turned into rushed gestures and whispered conversations. They moved like the wind, swift and silent, winding around, creeping up on you, tugging and threatening to push you over if you weren’t careful.
I am always careful when the rumors concern the Seiryuu. I learned that the hard way.
As it was, the previous Seiryuu, Ao, had just died, leaving his successor, little Seiryuu as I called him, alone. In a normal situation, this may have been sad. Tragic, even. But this is the Seiryuu we are talking about. A cursed human with the blood of a dragon running through his veins. Someone with the power to turn you to stone just by looking you in the eyes. Forced to wear a mask his whole life, the Seiryuu is isolated and hated by the village he protects.
Sometimes, I wonder why he protects us. If we hate him so much, why does he stay? If he has so much power, why doesn’t he move and find someone who appreciates him? Why does he have such an odd sense of duty?
On the other hand, if we hate him so much, why don’t we move away from him?
My father, Man-Shik, is one of the elders of our village, so I asked him this question once, and his reply was: “You do not understand yet, Ae-Sun, but you will. We, the village of the Seiryuu, have a duty to stay and protect the world from the knowledge of the blue dragon and his dangerous power. He, in turn, must stay hidden.”
I wasn’t satisfied with the answer and said as much, but my father only patted my head and said, “You are too young to understand. You will later.”
I trusted him then. He was wise, he was an elder. I was young, with much to experience.
Anyway, little Seiryuu was all alone now, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t curious about him. In fact, most of the children around my age would be lying if they said they wanted nothing to do with him. We all watched him, with his eyes hidden behind his curious mask, and wondered. We feared him, yes, and we definitely didn’t want to be friends with him, that’s true, but perhaps a small part of us just wanted to see . . . what was under that mask? What great power did those eyes hold?
To this day, I wonder if I am the only one to have seen them and to have lived.
I remember it clearly: on the night after the late Seiryuu had passed, rain had begun to fall. Lightning illuminated the world, thunder shook the ground, and gusts of wind hurled at the walls, threatening to blow the house away. I woke up and out of instinct, the first words out of my mouth were, “Mother?”
She was not there, of course. She had died three months ago.
She used to hold me during the storms.
I curled deeper into my bed, hugging my pillow, and wishing for the thunder to stop crashing. A deep cold coursed through my bones, aching — not only from the fear of the storm, but from loss. I wished for my father to wake, to realize I was scared, to come to my room and climb into my bed with me, and comfort me like Mother used to.
Father was not that type of person.
So I stayed in my own bed, eyes squeezed shut, heart pounding, waiting for the storm to stop. I could not go back to sleep, even if I tried.
And then . . . I heard something. It sounded like cries. Something clashing. Not like the thunder or the lightning, not like the rain. Not like a storm.
It sounded like . . . fighting? Despair and . . . ?
I shifted and opened my eyes. It was still dark, but something felt wrong deep inside me. Quietly, so as to not wake my father in his room, I uncovered myself and sat up. Listening as hard as I could, I heard the strange noises again.
Something told me they were sounds of anguish.
Daring came over me and I hurried to find my shoes. I threw on a threadbare coat to protect myself from the rain and I raced outside. Almost immediately, I was soaked — not only by the slippery wet sheen of rain, but also by the darkness and that strange sense that had been pervading the air. For a moment, I hesitated at my house’s doorstep, but then I stepped forward, and began to run. I didn’t know where I was going and the rain was so thick I could barely see, but my feet led me to the edge of the village and —
The noises stopped.
I skidded and nearly fell, the slick mud pulling at my feet. The rain slashed through the sky, harder, harder. Lightning flashed and thunder sounded once again. The air felt heavy against my shoulders.
The clearing before me smelled of blood and tasted like fear.
Bodies were strewn across the ground, some fallen over each other, like they were in a hurry to get away before they collapsed. I recognized them to be soldiers by the weapons they carried. Some of their swords had impaled themselves and blood was now flooding out of their wounds, bathing the ground. All of them lay on the ground, in some way or another, motionless, their eyes dull, lifeless, yet still with a haunted look to them.
And there was the little Seiryuu, standing in the middle of the destruction. He looked exhausted, drained, and full of grief himself . . .
I remember staring at the scene for a few moments before I gasped, loud and clear, even over the rain.
The Seiryuu turned to look at me and I froze.
This is it, I thought. I’m going to live the rest of my life as a gaping stone statue.
But instead of feeling my skin turn to rock, my blood boil, crack, and harden, the Seiryuu and I simply stared at each other for a few moments and I . . .
I saw his face.
I saw his eyes.
And they were beautiful.
The Seiryuu collapsed right after that, his small body falling onto the blood-streaked mud, as whatever little energy he’d had left in him disappeared. I felt a strange urge to go to him, but before I could help him, my father and several of the other villagers appeared, awakened by the same commotion I heard. If they saw me out, I would surely be punished, so I escaped from the area, and ran back to my room (hoping that Father had not checked to see if I was gone).
I shed my wet clothes and dried my hair as best I could before I climbed back in bed. I knew it was futile to try and go to sleep. I would not sleep, perhaps not for a while. And if I did, I knew I would dream of only one thing.
A few days later, the decision had been finalized. The Seiryuu had made a terrible mistake, and now the whole village was going to pay for it.
We were moving to the mountains. We were escaping, we were hiding. None of the soldiers had survived — little Seiryuu had completely wiped them out — but word would soon get out that something strange had happened. And we had no power to make the small army of dead soldiers in front of our village vanish. So we were running. To a new place, with no knowledge of the Seiryuu, a place where we could hopefully have a semi-normal life, a place that was not colored by the blue dragon’s curse.
That was what the elders wanted us to believe.
I myself didn’t have any particular fondness for our current village, but as I packed, I saw outside my window several of the older women crying as they disposed of their precious belongings. They openly blamed the Seiryuu as they decided which of their items to leave behind and which were necessary for the long trek to the mountains.
It wasn’t his fault. I knew that. Everyone knew that. He’d saved us from certain destruction. We weren’t a town of warriors. If the little Seiryuu hadn’t defeated the soldiers, we would never have seen another day.
Everyone knew that.
But the hatred and fear of the Seiryuu ran deep. It did not disappear just because he had saved our lives.
Even though it should’ve.
I, for one, do not believe the Seiryuu is evil. I do not believe he is cursed. Or that he’s out to get us. Why would he protect us if that’s the case?
The Seiryuu had beautiful eyes.
To this day, I remember them. I haven’t told anyone about them. How when he looked at me, I didn’t feel as if I was being turned to stone — but that I was being made alive, my soul leaping out of its bounds, yearning to be free. I hold that memory, that feeling, against my heart, a precious secret that is mine and mine only.
The Seiryuu has beautiful eyes.
I want to see them again . . . because I don’t believe that anything so beautiful can be cursed.