Shanghai Sun – The Curse of the General; Chapter 47 (The dream at dawn)

An American Executive travels to China to solve the mystery of funds drainage from the company he works for.

Once in Shanghai, he finds himself tangled into a world of mysticism, into a world of traditions going back hundreds of years, into a world of philosophical meanings meant to close cosmological paths and previously set destinies.

Action, romance, drama, humor, History, Geography and Philosophy – they all come together in an attempt to blend the dynamic western way of life onto the rich Chinese culture and uncanny traditions.

 

Chapter 47

The dream at the dawn

When the dawn put a dent into the dark October night, John woke up. Yue Ying was still asleep. Her head was resting on his chest and the long black thick hair was freely flowing, covering his whole upper body and the shoulders. He was looking at the ceiling but his mind was still captured by the wild night of love making he had. From the moment he brought her into the room in his arms, to the present moment it was something magic, something he could not explain. The connection between them when the show at Black Swan was over, tickled John’s imagination in a way which he never thought it was possible, sparking untapped passion and desire. The incredible night he had with Yue Ying, made him ask questions at which he was not ready to answer yet: “Am I in love with her? Why is this happening? I have such a strong feeling that I know her, that we’ve been knowing each other for a long time, for an eternity perhaps, that we have so many things in common, that we belong to each other” These questions started tormenting John’s brain and imagination, but no matter how hard he was trying to find answers, he was digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself.

Methodically, he started rewinding the trail of the events: the trip to the Suzhou Gardens, the unusual Zhaohui’s meditation episode at the Humble Administrator’s Garden, the great interest showed by her into the books he purchased and then the whole Black Swan episode. However, there was one single piece of glue which held this whole succession of events together: the crazy taxi driver. John smiled and he almost cracked a small laughter. “If it wasn’t for that numb nut, I wouldn’t’ve known her, I would have never had the chance to watch her singing, to get connected and finally to make love to her”. Everything moved so fast, the events were so jam packed into each other that John was still trying to understand how he got to this point in less than a week…from a driven and well-focused (on his task) man, to somebody in love with a beautiful girl, the lead singer of a band which managed to impress him. Or so he thought he was in love…

All the thoughts he had since waking up, wore him out. He went to sleep again and shortly he had a dream:  John and another man were back horse riding. They were riding fast and John was only guessing that the person riding by his right was somebody he knew. The man’s face and head were covered by the hoodie of his cape while the black pants were tightened at the waist level with a large belt where two pistols, few throwing knives and a short and a long sword were quietly tucked into their scabbards.

John was desperately trying to open up a conversation with his riding partner. Every time he was doing so, he was shut down by a firm gesture of the mysterious man. A stretched left hand, pointing towards the direction they were heading to it was the answer. It was a sort of: “no time for discussions, just ride!” The gesture was authoritarian, firm and almost autocratic. The relationship between the two was crystal clear to an outside observer: the black dressed rider was the boss. However, in spite of the imperious gestures, the connection between the two of them was based on mutual respect. They were both warriors – as their whole attire was suggesting – but one would say that there was no master-servant relationship, that the men riding into the darkness of the night were possibly a father-son duo, trying to get somewhere, to a place John didn’t know, to a place he was desperately trying to find out its name. The horses were all covered in a white foam signaling the fact that the riders have been galloping for a long time. John took a deep breath…his nostrils were smelling the sour odor of the horses’ sweat, the fresh soil of the immense plain stretching ahead of them, the aroma of the wild flowers of the steppe opened only to release their divine scent and fragrance.

Eventually, the two warriors stopped to give the horses a break…it was the time when John realized that both he and his partner were carrying a precious cargo behind them: two little girls who were scarred to say the least. John realized that the girl he had strapped to his body, had the left hand cut between elbow wrist and a bandage was put in place to stop the bleeding. She was either sleeping or the wound and the blood loss were already taking a tool on her. John was holding her into his arms but the head was just hanging, motionless. Her beautiful big eyes were closed and into the light of the full moon her face was pale as the light itself. His partner came over to check on the girl…even now, his face was still covered and he wasted no time in spending all the efforts he could to hide his identity. John was trying to address him by the name, but his partner was skillfully avoiding any leads which could lead to his true identity. “She lost lots of blood. We have to get to the city as fast as we can” His voice was so familiar to John! However, he just couldn’t put a finger on his identity. The man pulled a flat wooden flask from underneath his coat and poured few drops of water on her lips. To John’s delight, the reaction was immediate: the little girl started moving her lips signaling that she was thirsty. Slowly she opened her beautiful eyes and started asking for help.

Her face was petrified by something she was showing with her right hand. Both men turned their heads towards that direction…there was nothing there but the majestic moon which was trying somehow to help out by throwing infinite rays of yellow light towards their direction. John’s riding partner placed the back of his palm on girl’s forehead…”She is hallucinating from fever. We have to strap her to your naked chest so she can draw heat from you. But in this case we cannot gallop anymore. We have no more than four maybe five hours ahead of them. Their horses will be tired too. Here you go princess, keep drinking…” The girl was thirsty as she started sipping the precious liquid.

The other girl was standing and was curiously looking at the two men trying to help (probably) her sister. She was holding the two horses by the bridles and from time to time was stroking their manes in an attempt to clean the white sweaty foam stuck into their majestic manes. Two big intelligent eyes were absorbing information on every move the two men were making, on every gesture meant to help the other girl. One would clearly observe that she was older as she was taller and her face was already showing up signs of adolescence. At this point, John took his shirt off showing a superb upper body which one would say it was used by Renaissance sculptures to bring marble to life. His fellow rider skillfully strapped the girl to his chest. Put the shirt back on and then the thicker coat on top, only to close it at the back. This time he was helped by his partner to get back into the saddle as he was now carrying a precious load into his arms. The mysterious man jumped straight into the saddle and stretched his hand towards the girl he was carrying. In a fraction of a second she was into the saddle too; It was clear that she was more than familiar with the business of horse riding, it was clear that she was taught from a young age to ride and love these majestic animals.

The two horses were probably puzzled by the fact that they were not galloping anymore…however, the light trapping was not too bad of a choice in their mind, as they were neighing of happiness.

John was now asking himself: “Is this a dream? It is a dream, who is riding horses anymore?” However, he was feeling a load, a weight on his chest…he was convinced that the weight is from the girl he was holding in front of him on his horse. In his mind, the load he was carrying was so fragile and precious that a simple blow of the wind would make it vanish, disappear.

All of a sudden, from the heights they reached they saw a spectacle which their eyes and their brains could have not had enough: the lights of the city into the dusk of a summer morning. It was a sign which made both riders sigh of happiness. Their eyes were expressing gratitude, joy and accomplishment. John’s partner unsaddled, put the right knee into the ground and with the voice of a stranded man who barely made it to the shore from a shipwreck, prayed and praised the God for helping them reach the city. At the end he made the cross sign and in no time he was back into the saddle while taking the lead heading towards the gates of the city. “How is she doing? She needs to be awake, so we can explain to her that she cannot make noises. The city is not into the rebels’ hands yet, but they may have overzealous supporters here”. The girl was sleeping and the two men didn’t want to wake her up…the other girl was instructed not to say a word and just stay tucked underneath the coat and cape. The next conversation between his partner and the guards at the gate was hazy, as John couldn’t hear what they were saying. His whole focus was to make sure he is not making sudden moves as he could’ve woken up the girl. The words exchanging became pretty heated as he saw his fella’ rider slowly pulling the left side of his coat and cape in order to uncover one of pistols. He tried the same, but his coat was buttoned backwards which made the use of his hands pretty useless. The look he had from his partner made him stop trying to reach for the weapons…”No. Make sure the girl is not waking up. I can handle this by myself”.

It seemed like an eternity before the captain who was inside of the booth came out and looked at the papers which were handed over to soldiers in the first place. He walked around the horses and asked: “So, you are the official traders of the Imperial Palace…you must be rich. Why are you traveling by horse? Where are your servants?” This time John heard the answer and he could only laugh when he heard his partner’s answer: “Yes, we are rich, but we are also very tight with the money, you know what I mean?” This was the time when all soldiers burst into laughing. It was the time when the old man weighed in even more: “We are tight with the money, but it doesn’t mean that we are not taking care of people who are good to us” This being said, he pulled a drawstring pouch from his large cape and handed it over to the man. The face of the captain brightened as he was already weighing in his palm the pouch in an attempt to count the amount of money that was inside. “Very well, sir! You can go. And let me stamp those papers you have, so nobody else will bother you in the city”. That being said, he went back into the booth and came out handing over the papers back to the old man. Both John and his riding partner tilted their heads in a sign of simulated respect and entered the city. The streets were not yet busy as the day was barely at the dusk. However, the foul smell of the dirty streets, full of rats which were freely patrolling, made John cover his mouth with a handkerchief and so did the old man. They were now heading towards the docks, as the typical sea smell hit their nostrils. The old man knew the city by heart as he had no hesitation whatsoever navigating through the small, narrow, dirty streets. It was not long before they pulled in front of an Inn: “Black Swan”. It was closed, but John’s partner had no problem unsaddling and then bang into the door with the butt of his short sword. Soon a servant showed up with a lamp in his hand and asked them what they want. “We want you to wake up your master. Tell him that the Imperial traders are looking for a place to stay” It didn’t take too long before the owner of the place showed up also with a lamp in his hand, deeply bowing in front of the two riders. “Of course that your highnesses will have a place to sleep”. A neutral observer would’ve realized that his eyes were searching the two men in a way which was not questionable, but rather familiar. Once inside, the two guests were taken into a private room into the back. It was the time when they took off their capes and coats and uncovered the precious cargo they were carrying. The owner was a short, bald man with eyes as intelligent as a fox’s eyes. He called for help. Immediately two women showed up and took the girl who was wounded into a different room. “We will take care of her. Then we will take both of them to the monastery. How was your journey?” It was the time when John didn’t pay attention anymore to the conversation between the inn’s owner and his fella rider…

A wind gust violently hit the sales which made the masts squeak and scream from the bottom of their lungs. “Storm is approaching. All hands on deck!” The order given by the old man was immediately followed and all the sailors were now on deck manipulating the sales and the ropes in order to brace for the storm to come. John was standing at the stern watching the preparations. Still, he was not able to see the face of the man who rode beside him. The man was down, on the deck giving orders, always with his back at John. When he finally turned around in an attempt to give orders to the helmsman, John woke up.

He was mad that he couldn’t see the face of the man in his dream! But on the other hand, he was delighted to see two beautiful black eyes looking and patiently waiting for him to wake up.

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