The Dragon's Question

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The Passage of Time

The dragon taught for many years. The woman missed a few days because she was too sick to leave her bed, and one day because she gave birth to her daughter. The dragon never taught on those days.

Then, something happened that had never happened before. The woman was sick for two days. The dragon was very worried, and he read every book he had about medicine to try to help her. However, he did not find any answers.

The next morning, the woman's daughter came to his cave. "My mother cannot come to your lesson today, great teacher," she said.

The dragon looked very worried. "Your mother has been sick for three days," he said. "Tell me what the problem is, and I will find a way to help her."

The woman's daughter looked very sad. "You cannot help her, great teacher," she replied. "Her sickness is old age."

"Impossible!" the dragon said. "She was young when we first met!"

The woman's daughter shook her head. "Many years have passed since then. You were at my birth, and now I am married. I have my own daughter now, and soon she will be married." She put a hand on the dragon's paw. "Go to her," she said quietly. "She does not have much time left."

The dragon nodded, feeling scared for the first time in his life. Together, they flew to the woman's house. She was not waiting for him under the olive tree. The dragon used magic to make himself small, then went inside her house. He found her in her bed, and she was very, very old.

The woman smiled when she saw him, but she did not sit up. "I am happy that you are here," she said. "I did not want to leave without saying goodbye to you." She sounded very, very tired.

The dragon looked at her with wide eyes. He only now understood how much time had passed. "How did I not see this before?" he asked. "How did I not know you were growing old?"

"We do not look carefully at things we think we know," she answered, "and time is not the same for dragons and humans. It is the same with humans and animals. I loved my pets very much, but I knew that I would have to say goodbye to them someday."

Tears fell from the dragon's eyes. "You were no pet to me," he said. "You were my teacher...and my best friend."

The woman smiled at him. "And you were my best friend. We did many good things together, and we helped many people."

"Tell me how I can help you," the dragon begged. "I will read every book, speak to every doctor and wizard! There must be something I can do!"

The woman shook her head very slowly. "There is no cure for old age," she said softly. "I lived a long life, and a good life. Now I am very tired, and I am ready for it to end. You have already helped me, my friend, more than you know." She closed her eyes for a minute, and the dragon held his breath. Then she opened her eyes and asked, "Will you eat me today, great dragon?"

"No," the dragon cried, "I will never hurt another human again as long as I live."

The woman smiled. "That's not what you're supposed to say," she said quietly. Then she closed her eyes and was gone.

They buried the woman under the olive tree. Her family asked the dragon to speak at her funeral, but he shook his head. He could not say a word. When it was over, he flew back to his cave and cried for three months. He would not talk to anyone, and he did not leave his cave even to eat.

One day, the woman's daughter came to his cave. "Please come out, great teacher," she said. "You are very thin, and everyone is worried about you."

"Go away," the dragon answered. He did not look at her. "I am very tired, and I do not want to talk to anyone."

"I know you miss my mother very much," the woman's daughter said softly. "We all do."

"I can never talk to her again," the dragon cried. "I can never see her smile again. I will feel this pain forever."

"Yes," the woman's daughter replied, "but time will make it hurt less. Time heals all pain." The dragon turned to look at her, and she smiled at him. She looked very much like her mother then. "You know my mother's heart. She would not want you to hurt yourself like this."

The dragon wiped away his tears. "What should I do?" he asked.

The woman's daughter tapped her chin and thought. "My daughter is getting married today," she said. "Come to her wedding. You do not have to say anything, but she will be very happy to see you."

The dragon gave her a small smile. "That is a good idea," he said. "I will come."

Together they flew back to the town. The woman's granddaughter stood under the olive tree with her husband, and they were very happy. The wedding was very beautiful, and the dragon cried again. This time, however, he cried because he was happy.

After the wedding, the guests gave their gifts to the newly married couple and wished them a happy life together. The dragon was the last one to talk to them. "I have no gift for you two today," he said, "but I will make a promise. I promise that I will stay with your family, and I will watch over and protect your children's children's children for as long as I live."

And so it was. The dragon's children grew up with their children's children's children, and they were like one big family. The dragon still taught every day, and many of his students became great men and women. In time, even the dragon grew old, and one day he, too, was ready for his life to end. All his children and grandchildren and everyone from the woman's family came to say goodbye, and they were all very sad. However, he was not sad as he closed his eyes to sleep. He had lived a long life, and a good life. He had not learned everything, but he was happy because he had learned the most important thing of all: that he had loved greatly, and because of that, he was loved in return.

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