The Dragon Cave

Jared Baxa

There once lived, in the high Huangshan mountains in the southern anhui province in eastern China, a Yang family who was considered to be part of the high class in the region. This family lived in Huangshan City and consisted of an elderly couple with their young son who was growing up so quickly. The son's name was Jia yuan because of the fact that he was the first-born child of his elderly parents. As he continued to grow, his parents taught him the traditions of their Chinese culture and started to push the idea of finding a wife so that he could settle down and have children of his own. Jia yuan did not like this idea, as he was a very independent and quiet male who just enjoyed teaching martial arts.

 photo 01_zpse3294510.pngJia yuan was very skilled at martial arts, and at a very young age, began to teach younger children the basics of this difficult art. One sunny and warm summer morning, Jia yuan walked to his little shop not expecting much from the new day, as everyday seemed to be the same activities and teachings over and over again. However, at midday, a very fine young woman named Ai, walked into the store hoping to get martial arts lessons so that she could better defend herself if anything were to happen. Jia yuan found this young lady very attracted and gladly accepted her into his lessons.

After a couple of lessons, the two became very close to one another and decided to start seeing each other outside of the martial arts lessons. After some time, Jia yuan found out that Ai was from a peasant family, and came to the realization that the relationship may not work out due to the differences in wealth. Despite the differences, Jia yuan had very strong feelings for Ai and the two ultimately fell in love and decided that they wanted to get married. Ai's family, of course accepted the marriage, but the Yang family had a harder time, as Jia yuan's father did not accept the differences in class.

"Father, Ai is extremely kind, determined, and loving," Jia yuan said, trying to convice his father, "and I do not care about the differences in our status, as I know that they will not affect our love for each other. So will you please accept the marriage contract?"

"No, Jia yuan," the father stated, "We have talked enough about the matter and I do not want to talk about it any longer. I will not let this marriage take place."

Although Jia yuan and Ai felt as the worst of their problems had just hit them, they had no idea what the near future was holding for them and how it would affect their lives together. The high and powerful ruler of the province, named Feng, was not happy with the power that Jia yuan was giving the people through his martial arts lessons, and decided that he must come up with a plan to end the trouble that Jia yuan had created. 

Not wanting to resort to violence, Feng decided that he would dress up as a visitor and try to tempt Jia yuan into selling his store for a large sum of money. Showing up to the store the early the very next morning, Feng entered the store and began his plan.

"Say, this is a very nice store and location you have yourself" Feng stated while looking around the store. "I have been looking everywhere for a store like this, and now I have finally found it! Would you be interested in selling it to me for a large amount of money by chance?"

Jia yuan thought about the offer for quite some time, and eventually his customers heard about the possibility of no longer having lessons, and began to ask him questions such as, "Who will continue our lessons on the martial arts?" or, "How am I supposed to keep my skills up to par with the other provinces?" Eventually Jia yuan came to the conclusion, after thinking about the affect on his loyal customers and the community that he could not give up the shop to this random visitor.

Feng was not happy with this decision, but had no other choice at the time but to retreat back to his castle and wait for the next opportunity. Meanwhile, Jia yuan's father was quickly making plans to marry his son to another woman before Jia yuan decided to disobey his father and leave with Ai forever. He was looking high and low for a woman that fit within his standards while staying within his own wealthy class.

"I cannot find anyone who is suitable for our son, Jia yuan!" the father said to his wife after ending up empty handed.

"Have you ever thought that maybe the only one suitable for him is Ai?" she asked in response to her husband's frustration.

The father responded, angered by her comment, "I will marry him to any girl within our class before I marry him to Ai!"

So the father had it set that Jia yuan was to get married to a girl he had never met, nor had any interest in. The marriage was set for a week from that day, and there was nothing Jia yuan or Ai could do about it besides mope about how their time together was coming to a close.

Back up in the mountains where Feng's castle was located, Feng and his soldiers were attempting to come up with a plan to put an end to the defense system that Jia yuan was teaching the people of Huangshan city. Nothing was getting accomplished until a lower ranked soldier came up with the idea that would be carried out.

"Why don't you throw a festival that day, and when the couple comes along to join in on the festivities, snatch the girl away from him" began the soldier, "and when he comes chasing after her, capture him also and put them in captivity so that you can destroy the store and never have to worry about the power he is spreading to the people of Huangshan city."

"That sounds like the perfect plan!" yelled Feng to all of the soldiers. "Get to work all of you measly soldiers! We have a lot of work to do!"

And so the following week, a day before Jia yuan's wedding was scheduled for, the festival was expected to take place. Jia yuan refused to go with his bride to be, and instead went with his only love, Ai. It was a perfectly sunny day that was neither hot nor too cold. The couple was having the time of their life at the festival eating the many different kinds of food present, and participating in the activities. They had forgot about the wedding that was expected to happen the next day, and just thought about having the best time they could on their last day together.

Feng was planning his actions from the shadows of a tall tree as he was watching the couple having a grand time throughout the entire festival that he so deviously planned out so that he could get back at Jia yuan and his martial art store. When the festival seemed to be coming to and end, Feng ordered his men to begin the set plan.

"Go get the lady as secretively as you can" stated Feng to his soldiers, "And make as little ruckus as you can so that you do not ruin the festival!"

So while Jia yuan was waiting in line for some food that the couple had ordered, the soldiers came up behind Ai and grabbed her. Jia yuan heard some yelling and screaming, but he thought nothing of it as there was a lot of yelling going on around him during the festival. He therefore, did not notice that she had been taken until he brought the food back to where they were sitting and she was no longer there. He quickly looked around for her but could not find her anywhere until he looked far off into the distance and saw her being carried up into the mountains by the many soldiers. Jia yuan tried as hard as he could to catch up to the soldiers but they were to far ahead, and the mountains were too dangerous to travel alone at night, so he eventually gave up and retired back to his home for the night.

Jia yuan was devastated. Never in his life had he felt so hopeless and lonely, and could think of only one thing to do. He must go after her to try to free her from the evil Feng and his soldiers. Although he knew that the mission would be nearly impossible, he decided that it he would rather die than live the rest of his life without her. The thought of the wedding the next day urged him even further to go on the mission to save the love of his life. The next morning, Jia yuan talked about what he should do about the situation with the one person who would tell him their most honest opinion.

"You should chase after what makes you happy, and if it is Ai that brings you happiness, you should chase after her until you find her" the mother responded to her sad and lonely son.

And with that, Jia yuan began packing the items he would need for the treacherous adventure to find Ai. It was not long before he had everything together, as he was very eager to leave the city and search for what he had lost. Soon after he had eaten breakfast, Jia yuan set off for the Huangshan Mountains.

"Good luck, and safe travels" his mother said as he was leaving, "I will tell your father that you had to take care of some important business."

"Thank you so much, mother" Jia yuan started, "I will come back soon."

 photo 02_zpscfc5b81c.pngThe first couple of hours hiking up the mountain were easy for Jia yuan as he was very fit with all of his martial art practicing. Although he didn't know which direction he should be going, Jia yuan felt confident that he was going the right way as if someone were telling him where to go. He traveled for days and days through the mountain, eating plants when he found them, and melting the snow and ice to make water to drink. His moral was soaring when he started on his mission, but it began to dwindle, as he was not able to find where the castle of Feng was located.

Just as Jia yuan was about to give up on his mission and turn back for home, a rumbling came from the mountains. Slowly but surely, the rumbling made its way closer to Jia yuan and soon it was in the rock wall right next to him. Jia yuan was scared for his life, as he was standing on the edge of the cliff and the rumbling was causing him to lose his balance so he decided to turn back. Just as he was about leave, he heard something. From the deep rumblings of the mountain, Jia yuan could barely make out the sound.

"Wait!" the mountain said, as Jia yuan was about to leave.

Jia yuan could not believe his ears! "Was the mountain really talking to him?" he thought. He turned around to where the sound emanated, and could not believe his eyes! From the edge of the cliff, it appeared as if the rock was breaking off into the form of a human! Eventually the entire form was broken off, and headed in the direction of Jia yuan.

"My name is Xiao," the figure began, "I am the mountain spirit, and felt pity on your situation. I am here to help you find your love."

"D....do you kn..know where she is?" responded Jia yuan, in complete disbelief of what he was seeing.

"Yes, I know where she is." Xiao began, "She is located in a dragon cave below Feng's castle. If you do make the treacherous climb up there, there is little chance that you will be able to defeat the dragon."

Jia yuan was heartbroken, but knew he had to continue on his mission to save Ai. "Will you show me the way?" Jia yuan asked.

"Yes, let us start now" Xiao started, "We have a long trip ahead of us."

The trip was extremely perilous, and there were multiple instances in which Jia yuan thought he would not make it. He constantly tripped over rocks, was starving, thirsty, and had multiple near death experiences when large boulders fell from above nearly crushing him to death. This continued on for for seven days and seven nights until the two finally reached the outskirts of the castle. Jia yuan was never more relieved in his life. He had finally made it to where his love was being held captive. But the trouble was not over yet. The dragon still had to be defeated, or death would surely be the outcome of the dangerous situation.

"I must leave you here Jia yuan" Xiao began as he was rejoining himself with the mountain wall, "There is a secret tunnel into the cave just up ahead. You should use this if you want to avoid the numerous soldiers. Good luck with the rest of your conquest. I will be watching over you."

"I cannot thank you enough for your kind acts and deeds. I could have never done it without you, and with that I am eternally grateful." Jia yuan stated as the last part of the mountain man melted into the mountain.

And with that, Jia yuan began on the next step of his journey: rescuing Ai from the dragon's cave. It was not a hard task finding the secret entryway, as it was only a light layer of stones that were built up into a wall that covered the entrance. Once Jia yuan had broken this wall down, he began his descent into the long winding tunnel that led to the dragon's lair. On his way to the cave, Jia yuan ran into numerous soldiers, none of which were a challenge to him as he always prevailed with ease with his excellent martial arts skills.

After a couple of hours, Jia yuan finally made it to the enormous cave. On the far side, he saw the gigantic dragon sleeping next to his small and beautiful Ai. It took every ounce of his control to keep from running to her. He was extraordinarily lucky to have the dragon sleeping, and he must not ruin this for himself. Jia yuan knew he would have only one chance at saving her, so he must be extremely careful and perfect in his ways. Not waiting a second longer, Jia yuan began his way over to the opposite side of the cave. Using the skills he learned with his martial arts tactics, he crossed the cave in a matter of moments not making a single noise.

When he reached Ai, she happened to be sleeping along with the dragon. When he tried waking her, something went entirely wrong. Ai let out a terrifying scream thinking that Jia yuan had been a soldier coming to take her. This commotion woke the dragon, which let out an ear-ringing roar. Jia yuan realized he had to act quickly or else lose his life, so he immediately picked up his princess and proceeded to sprint towards the tunnel. Jia yuan had a good head start on the dragon, but that didn't matter, as the dragon was much too quick for him.

 photo 03_zpsb054f74b.pngJust when all seemed hopeless, the walls began to rumble. The rumbling continuously grew until the ceiling of the cave and the castle above it came crashing down on the dragon. The mountain spirit, Xiao had come to the rescue. The large boulders fell just behind Jia yuan and Ai and they were able to escape safely into the secret tunnel.

Jia yuan and Ai embraced for what seemed like eternity. They were once again reunited, and neither of them could have been more pleased. After a couple moments of catching up, the two left on their journey back to their hometown of Huangshan City. The trip went by very quick as they had each other to spend it with, so before they knew it, they were back in their busy little town. When Jia yuan's parents first saw them, they came running to greet him back home. They butchered a pig for his and her safe return home, and celebrated like they never have before. During the night when the party was coming to an end, they all prayed their thanks to the very generous mountain spirit.

After they were finished, Jia yuan went up to his parents, and asked once again for their permission to marry the wonderful Ai. His mother readily consented, and this time, his father could see that their love was real. 

"After going through all you have," his father began, "I can see that your love is true for Ai. You have my permission to marry her."

And so the loving couple got married the very next day, and lived happily ever after, praying everyday their thanks to Xiao, the mountain spirit, for without him, their marriage would not have been possible.