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Do you believe the dragon and run to the dojo to search for the relic?
You allow the dragon to take you to the dojo. A weird blue light surrounds the house, and your knees shake when you pass it. Nothing happens. Inside, you find Sensei on the ground in a fetal position. He snores gently. Gingerly, you step over him and walk into his office. You close the door. Somehow, it doesn’t feel right to search his belongings while he’s sleeping so close.
You are thorough in your search but you don’t find anything resembling a toothpick. On the other side of the wall, the dragon’s deep rumbling voice hollers.
"See the picture of the woman at the wall? There is a secret compartment behind it. Maybe, it’s there."
You turn to the picture. It showed a beautiful young woman in traditional garb in a zen garden. The snoring in the neighboring room increases in volume as you reach out for the picture. Wasn’t it a portrait of Sensei’s wife? You remember he told you she left him years ago.
Your fingers touch the bamboo frame. It swings sideways, and everything goes black. When your senses return, the dragon is calling.
"Oh, come on. Hurry up. We’ve only got a few minutes left."
Feeling dizzy, you kneel. Breathing the way Sensei had taught you, you manage to stand up. There must have been a protective spell on the picture. You focus your gaze on where the picture had been before. The compartment was hardly an inch deep and lined with black velvet. Two toothpicks hung in loops – one as long as your arm, the other shorter than your index finger. Why two? You wonder why the dragon hadn’t told you about the second one. For a moment, you ponder which one to take when you realize the snoring had stopped.
"Hurry up, he’s waking." The dragon says.
You pull the big toothpick from its hold. What would a dragon do with a pick the right size for a human anyway? In a few strides, you’re out of the room, hurry past Sensei, and leave the dojo. The dragon is waiting outside.
"Stop!" Sensei comes running after you. The blue light that surrounded the dojo wraps around you and holds you prisoner.
"Throw me the relic," the dragon calls.
You look at the toothpick with the carving of a beautiful woman curled around the top. Then, your gaze travels to Sensei who’s approaching fast, and to the dragon eagerly reaching out for the relic. Now is your last chance to reconsider. Should you believe the dragon or Sensei?
Your resolve hardens; your arm draws back and flings forward in a flash. The toothpick sails through the air and lands in the dragon’s outstretched hands.
"No!" It screams as blue mist swirls around it.
"No!" Sensei cries and drops to the ground beside him.
The blue mist falls in on itself, leaving a human figure spread face down on the ground. The blue light that captured you dissolves setting you free. You hurry over to the unconscious person. The woman is naked. Sensei steps beside you with a blanket.
"Cover her with this. She’ll be furious when she wakes." He’s smiling at you. "I didn’t think you had it in you."
Not grasping the meaning of his words, you stutter, "I thought it was a man. The voice was so deep."
"Don’t you know a thing about physics? The longer a cord, the deeper the sound. And a dragon’s vocal cords are much longer than a human’s. Even in mind-speech." Sensei picked up the naked woman and wrapped her gently into the blanket. When he turns her, you gasp with surprise. It’s the woman from the picture – Sensei’s wife.
"I’m really glad to have her back, but she won’t like it one bit," he says. "How come you took the pick that would turn her back into a human? I’m sure she showed you the one with the dragon curled around the top. It would have sealed her in dragon form for good."
You remember the tiny toothpick. Laughter bubbles up inside of you. Well, it was the woman’s own fault for putting so much pressure on you. With more time, you’d have picked the right one. You watch Sensei carry his wife into the dojo. It’s so hard to stifle your laughter.
Go Back: Dedicate Yourself to the Dragon’s Cause
Go Back: Run to tell sensei about the dragon instead
Start Over: Begin a new story