The Dragon Princess

The Dragon Princess

A Story by Amanda
"

This is a popular Japanese legend as retold by me.

"

In the northern mountainous countryside of Japan, there is a lake. Towada Lake is home to a small number of popular legends and myths, the most famous being that of the Towada Princess and the Towada Lake Dragon. According to the story, the gods punish a vain princess by turning her into a Dragon. She then falls in love with the Dragon of Tozawa, a lake closeby, and it is said that from their love-making, the valley and river between the two lakes is formed. This is my own version...

 

Sakura was blonde. For the first seven years of her life, this was the most unusual thing about her. Her hair was her trophy, blonde and brilliant as quicksilver, in sharp contrast with her father’s famously ginger locks. The two of them had always received uncommon amounts of attention for their hair and their eyes, all blue, like water.

As a Dutch merchant in East Asia, Sakura’s father drew attention wherever he went, mostly good, but often quite negative. Superstitions and stereotypes about invaders from the West had not lifted with trade barriers. The Dutch, those lucky cusses, were still the only foreigners allowed to trade on Japanese soil, much to the resentment of the Brits and Spaniards.  

Franz Leopoldine was an honest but shrewd trader, which brought him both respect and mild resentment from both his Dutch comrades and the people of Yokohama. After the birth of his daughter, Sakura, Franz had sought and received special permission from the emperor to plant roots in Yokohama and set up a permanent trading post. For a few years, business was good, but all of that changed when a deal with a rival Dutch convoy went sour. The aftermath was irreparable, with casualties from both sides. In the end, five were left dead, two Japanese, three Dutch, one of which was Franz’s wife, Kira, mother of Sakura.

With the emperor’s blessing, Franz picked up his newfound roots and moved his inventory and young daughter north, away from the city, its politics, and its dangers. They made their new home in a small lakeside village that lay on the border of three separate prefectures. Towada, they called it.

For the next four years, life was peaceful. Franz’s business made a killing, bringing in customers from wealthy families all over northern Honshu, all looking for rare marvels from the West, all willing to pay a king’s ransom for such treasures. As Franz was both shrewd and fair, he did not charge them overly much, but was nevertheless able to make for himself a fine living and a fine home.

The locals treated them with neither resentment nor admiration. Most were grateful for the business Franz brought to the previously small and struggling village, and no one could help but adore the young girl with hair like harvest rice. She quickly became a pet to the older women of the village, the obaachyan, who were always willing to entertain her when her father was busy in town. They taught her everything that local children would have learned, from household tasks and chores, to cultural expectancies and local religion.

In this manner, Sakura was raised as any other village child, with one exception: she had no friends. While the obaachyan petted and praised her strange hair and strange eyes, the children of the village were less receptive. Some feared her for her strangeness, as young children are wont to do, while others resented her the attention she received from the elders. Whatever the reason, she was an outcast in their midst.

Often, about once a week, a small group of women would make the short trek to the local shrine. It was tucked in the forest about a mile from the village. Sakura was always delighted to be invited along, and soon made friends with the priests who lived there, just as she had made friends with the obaachyan. She would play among the shrines and statues, making friends with every stone effigy she found. She would talk to them as children sometimes do, and strongly insisted to anyone who would listen that they spoke back. No one discouraged this behavior. To some degree, they understood the need for Sakura to behave as she did, and who knew? Sometimes the gods chose the strangest vessels to appear to, and who were they to question? So they chuckled to themselves, said their prayers, and watched her play with bemused patience.

On just such a summer day, Sakura was sitting on the steps to the main shrine, speaking casually to a statue of a dragon she had affectionately named Pochi, like a dog. The women were saying their prayers at the top of the steps, facing inward towards the ropes, bells, boxes, and incense that adorned the large, wooden shrine. Every few seconds, their hands would clap in unison, or they would tug the ropes to ring the bells. “It gets their attention,” a priest had explained to her once.

Sakura heard a small rustle close by. She was shocked to look away from Pochi to see an animal, a fox, sitting at the bottom of the steps. Its fur was brilliant white, like snow, and its eyes were as green as summer leaves. It stared at her. For a long moment, Sakura stared back. She had encountered many white foxes, but none quite so big, she thought, and none with eyes so strange. As the moments dwindled past, neither flinching, the old women still chanting and clapping, Sakura considered the creature and wondered whether this fox was also an outcast, if the other foxes refused to play with him, too, because of his unusual size and pretty green eyes. She liked this fox, she decided. Sakura smiled, and for a moment, she imagined that he smiled back. Perhaps he liked her, too.

Sakura was afraid that if she stirred, the fox might be frightened and run away, as all the other foxes did. But maybe not. Maybe it wanted to be friends.

Sakura took a chance and stood. The fox didn’t move. Slowly, she began to tiptoe down the stone steps. The fox continued to sit and stare. Its bushy white tail twitched slightly, padding the ground. When Sakura was within three easy paces of it, the fox fled. Sakura jumped, startled and then immediately disappointed. It was such a pretty fox. She watched it trod steadily towards the tree line, but then it stopped. Just as it was about to bound through the brush and out of her life forever, it looked back at her. Sakura raised her eyebrows inquisitively. Did it want her to follow him? For a brief moment, Sakura was reminded of stories the obaachyan had told her of forest monsters who seduced travelers into following them deep into the woods, where they were either became lost, were eaten, or simply never heard from again. Sakura looked back at the old women, still crouched on their knees before the shrine, then at the fox, its eyes locked on her, tail twitching impatiently. She smiled at her new friend, and followed.

The fox took off at a brisk, but easily followable run through the trees. It wasn’t trying to get her lost, as she ran obediently in its wake. It made no sharp turns, but cut a straight, direct path through the forest. Every so often, Sakura looked back to make sure the shrine was still in view, but before long, it wasn’t. It had disappeared into the maze of trees. Still, the fox trotted onward. Becoming somewhat worried about the punishment she might incur should the obaachyan notice her absence, Sakura yelled to the fox, “Wait!” She was only mildly surprised when the fox actually stopped and looked back at her with an inquisitive expression, almost like a human might. The expression didn’t linger, though. A moment’s pause, and then the fox’s face turned blank. Sakura watched as the unusual fox suddenly collapsed. Shocked, she ran to where he had fallen, and then screamed when she found, not a fox, but a shapeless pile of fluffy white snow. It had been a spirit, she realized, just like the stories. And now it had tricked her, too. Fear welled up within her as she looked around at all the unfamiliar scenery. She couldn’t see a path, couldn’t find a clearing in the distance, just trees and brush from every angle.

Hot tears began to prick her eyes. What would she do? Should she try to find her way back or wait for someone to come and find her? Her tiny knees faltered, and she collapsed in the dirt and began weeping.

“Sakura,” a voice whispered. Sakura looked up, hoping beyond hope to see one of the obaachyan, but finding instead, another woman, a stranger. She was crouched in front of Sakura, on eye level with the child. Her features were stunning: Large black eyes, long black hair that cascaded freely around her young, beautiful face. She wore a white kimono, and her feet were bare, from what Sakura could tell.

“Who-“ Sakura sniffled. “Who are you?”

The woman reached out and lightly touched Sakura’s face, wiping away a stream of tears with her thumb. Instantly, Sakura grew calm. Her tears stopped, her fear receded, her pulse resumed its slow, steady pace. “You may call me,” the woman said in a soothing, melodic voice, “Kitsune.”

“Fox?” Sakura confirmed.

The woman nodded and smiled, revealing flawless white teeth. “Do you know who I am?”

“Kitsune,” Sakura replied thoughtlessly.

Kitsune giggled at this wonderfully child-like answer, and responded “Yes, but do you know me?”

“No,” Sakura mumbled, embarrassed. “Are we friends?” she asked.

“Yes, Sakura,” Kitsune smiled. “We’re friends.”

Sakura’s face lit up. Kitsune was young. Not as young as Sakura, but still the youngest friend she had ever had. “And,” Kitsune continued, “I’m going to give you a gift.”

“Really?” Sakura asked, suddenly growing fidgety with excitement. “What kind of gift?”

“A very valuable gift, Sakura,” Kitsune explained kindly. “A gift I have never given before. Something very special, unlike anything else on earth.”

Instinctively, Sakura’s gaze flicked to Kitsune’s hands. They were empty.

“Where is it?” Sakura asked expectantly.

Giggling, Kitsune reached into her kimono and withdrew a small, round object. She handed it carefully to Sakura.

After a quick examination of the object, Sakura asked, confused, “A rock?”

Kitsune nodded and watched with amusement as Sakura’s face fell. “But this gift has two parts, Sakura. “

Thank goodness, Sakura thought to herself. Kitsune seemed to sense her childlike thoughts, because she giggled and then said, “Are you ready?”

Sakura nodded excitedly.

“Close your eyes,” Kitsune whispered.

Sakura obeyed.

 

The next ten years were the worst of Sakura’s life. Everything she had, everyone she knew was gone. The only exception was her father. Each day was slow torture, as more and more people began leaving the village, and it was all because of her.

No one understood, not even Sakura. The gift that Kitsune had given her was no gift at all, but rather a terrible curse. What she had become that day was nothing short of a monster. For a long time, the first three or four years, she had no control at all. She would be eating dinner, or walking along the beach, and the pain would suddenly seize her. Minutes later, she would no longer be human, but a beast. She had claws, as well as a tail. Scales the color of polished gold covered her entire body, and the top of her head was crowned with a shaggy blonde mane, not unlike a lion.

As a child, in her beastly form, she would remain small, like a housecat. But the locals, all of them, were still terrified. Her father was the only one who would come near her, and even he did so with caution, never failing to note her sharp claws and even sharper fangs.

She would stay in this form anywhere between a few hours to a few weeks. Then, as suddenly as she had initially transformed, she would transform again and be back to her human self. It was utterly unpredictable.

In her new life, she had only two comforts: her father, and the knowledge that she was not alone.

On the day her life had changed, the fateful day she met Kitsune, the obaachyan had found her unconscious in a pile of slowly melting snow. The priests were immediately summoned and one had been employed to carry her back to the village while the rest had followed in a worried tizzy.

They never made it past the shrine grounds.

While in the priests arms, the transformation had begun for the first time. Horrified, the priest had dropped her in the dirt and watched dumbfounded as the small blonde girl had transformed to become a small, scaly monster. Then, they all had fled.

When Sakura had regained consciousness, her whole body was sore, and she didn’t know why. She remembered thinking, as she gazed at the treetops overhead, that the world had gotten bigger. It hadn’t immediately occurred to her that she had simply gotten smaller. It all felt new, different.

Sakura’s head lolled to one side, her cheek pressed against the dirt. Through the shadows of early evening, Sakura noticed a glimmer of yellow. Her eyes narrowed, straining through the darkness until she was able to make out a figure. From her stunted perspective, it looked like a horse, but was actually the approximate size of a large dog. At first glimpse, Sakura thought it might be a wolf. A flash of terror washed over her, but she was so paralyzed with fear that all she could do was lie at the foot of the shrine’s steps, small and helpless. Get up, she told herself. Get up, get up!”

The wolf-like figure moved. The terror heightened. From between two trees, it stepped out of the darkness. This was no wolf, Sakura immediately realized. The creature was reptilian, its tail thick and powerful, scales red as rubies, gleaming like blood in the fading light. Its mane was black, bushy like a lion’s.

Through trembling lips, Sakura whispered, “Pochi.” The dragon cocked its head curiously. It stared at her with a very human-like expression of confusion and wonder.

“Sure,” the dragon had whispered. “Call me Pochi.”

Then, the pain had seized her. She remembered screaming, seeing the dragon flee into the forest, and then blackness.

When Sakura had awoken, she was human again, but her world was upside-down. Word had spread quickly through the village that something was amiss with the little blonde girl. Her transformations were spurratic, uncontrollable, and seemed to be triggered by nothing. Franz protected her from those fearful enough to wish her harm, keeping her close indoors when he was able. His business suffered considerably as the rumors spread beyond the village. Many villagers began to abandon their homes and flee to neighboring towns. Even the priests had abandoned the shrine, which Sakura found ironic.

Four years of chaos passed before Sakura encountered Kitsune again. Every day that she was able to escape from under her father’s watchful gaze, Sakura would sneak to the abandoned shrine. There, she prayed relentlessly for her curse to be lifted, and then waited for the reappearance of the woman in white. Sakura no longer spoke to the statues.

After four years, her prayers were answered. Somewhat.

She had been kneeling in prayer at the shrine’s entrance atop the steps. A rustle in the bushes caught her attention, and she looked up to find the same snow-white fox she had chased into the woods four miserable years prior. “Kitsune,” she whispered.

A sudden rage welled within the eleven-year-old. This spirit, this monster, had taken her life, cursed her beyond help or understanding. As she took in the fox’s familiar appearance, venom boiling in her gaze, she noticed that the fox’s eyes were somewhat sad. Sympathy? Remorse? Sakura didn’t care. She leapt up, but before she could take a step toward the spirit, it collapsed.

Sakura screamed, enraged, as once again, the fox collapsed into a pile of snow. Sakura sprinted down the steps and fell to her knees before the patch of snow. She plunged her hands into the ice, as though to confirm to herself that the fox had, indeed, been there. Her hand clutched around hard, smooth stone. Shocked, Sakura withdrew the stone from the snow and found that it was the exact same stone, marked with the exact same illegible inscriptions, that Kitsune had given her four years prior.

Stone and owner united, life began to improve slightly. With the stone in her possession, Sakura found that she was better able to control her transformations, changing when she chose. She also discovered many other powerful gifts. Sakura found that she now had power over the elements: water, earth, air, wood, and fire. She was perhaps the most beautiful, most powerful being to be found among the mortals of Japan, but all of this amounted to nothing. She was still alone.

Then, one day, Pochi came to her, as he often did, to sit and listen and play with Sakura at the shrine. On this day, Sakura was quite melancholy, lonely and craving the company of humans like herself. As she willed this internally, she reached out to pet Pochi, her large Dragon comrade. When her fingers grazed his scales, Pochi transformed into a man, a human like her. It was in this way that Sakura found she had the ability to grant her own wishes, for now she had a companion who could change from Dragon to human in the same way that she could.

Sakura and Pochi fell madly in love and lived together in the valley of Towada for three hundred years. Together, the two went on to give the ability to turn into humans to every Dragon in the world, delivering Dragons out of an age of darkness and hiding.

 

This story coincides with my book, tentatively called The Race of Kings: The Dragon Heir.

© 2010 Amanda


Author's Note

Amanda
I wrote this after receiving a prompt to write a fairytale. It just so happens that the book I've been working on is loosely based off of a Japanese fairytale, and I thought it would be fun to tell that back story. Enjoy. Like it? Read my book! *shameless self-promotion*

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Reviews

I thought your story was very well done, but as a writer I sure you could appreciate the concept of self-improvement. Never settle for good enough. I don't find anything wrong with your story, but it is a natal work, to say the least. Someone smarter than me might give you some advice on your story, and you would do well to consider it respectfully. Other than that, good job! ;)

Posted 8 Years Ago


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Pam
Great story.

Posted 8 Years Ago


I LOVED IT!

Posted 8 Years Ago


You are an excellent writer. Very articulate and extremely creative. Keep writing!

Posted 8 Years Ago


It was awesome! Great writing!

Posted 8 Years Ago


Yay for shameless self promotion! My parents used to teach English in Japan, and this was an epic throughback to the stories they used to tell me. It had me captivated from the word go. Renfieldians unite!

Posted 8 Years Ago



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Added on November 8, 2010
Last Updated on December 14, 2010
Tags: dragon, dragonlore, princess, fantasy, myth, legend

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Amanda
Amanda

About
I'm a small-town business student who loves to write. I have just recently completed the final draft of my first-ever manuscript, most of which can be found on my page under "The Race of Kings: The Dr.. more..

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