“ As you know, honourable lords”, he said (and his voice was behaving now), “ I did not know which of the guards would tell the truth. The only question I could ask would have to involve both of them. So I asked: ‘ If you were the other guardian, which door would you show me to save me?’
As soon as I had the answer, I went through the other door”.
While the Dragon King nodded, satisfied, the hall buzzed like an angry beehive, then one of the guests asked:
“ Why through the other one, human?”
“ I asked one guardian” answered Ming Li, “what he would have done if he was the other, remember?
The one who tells the truth would answer like the liar, showing me the wrong door, the liar would lie anyway, and show me the wrong door as well, so I had to take the door that wasn’t shown to me”.
In a moment the young scholar went from lucky criminal to known genius. While he was trying to politely disengage himself from all the guests wanting to congratulate him, the Dragon King of Dongting Lake drew him aside:
“ You want to go back to Meihuang’s court as soon as possible, I suppose” he said. “ Do not look so surprised, who else could have sent you? I do not spend my whole time changing people into something else! I shall come with you, my cousin is a bad loser, in a few days’ time he will be in a better temper”.
Ming Li just wished for a hot meal and some sleep, but he suspected that contradicting the King of the Lake too much would not have been a wise move, so, he bowed to the guests and, with a drawn smile, followed the Dragon King out of the hall , wishing that it was really the last time he did.
Once in the outer court Ming Li turned towards the stables, but his guide stopped him.
“I was thinking of a faster way” he said, “ one of my grooms will follow us with the mare, she will be brought back, do not worry. Let us go out”.
As they crossed the gate Ming Li saw the palace wasn’t anymore in the meadows, as he remembered, but on a rock shelf facing a ravine, on three sides it was sourrounded by thick forest. While the young man looked around, the Dragon King of Dongting Lake moved away a bit, then stopped and closed his eyes, centering himself.
After a moment, in the stead of the imposing King was a colossal silver dragon, with an iridescent blue crest, like a peacock’s feathers in colour.
The huge reptile’s head turned towards the young man who was now staring at him agape, totally oblivious of the decorum suitable of a scholar.
“ Are you coming, then, or must I go alone?”
Following the king’s suggestions, Ming Li climbed on his back, settling himself between two of the crest’s scales, all the while praying earnestly to all the Gods and Bodhisattvas he knew, then he said he was ready.
“ It would be better” suggested the dragon with an amused note in his voice” if you tie yourself to me with your belt. I am fast, and do not feel your weight, I could lose you and arrive before realising it; it would be a pity to miss a hero’s welcome, don’t you think?”.With these words the Dragon King of Dongting Lake walked to the ravine’s rim… and jumped.
To be continued
Ming Li and the Charmed Poenix part 1
Ming Li and the Charmed Poenix part 2
Ming Li and the Charmed Poenix part 3
Ming Li and the Charmed Poenix part 4
Ming Li and the Charmed Poenix part 5
Ming Li and the Charmed Poenix part 6
Ming Li and the Charmed Poenix part 7
Ming Li and the Charmed Phoenix part 8
Ming Li and the Charmed Phoenix part 9