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Luck of the Dragon
by Walter Reimer
Luck of the Dragon
© 2004 by Walter Reimer
(Songmark and Songmark characters by permission of Simon Barber. Thanks!)
Shin threw her arms around Fang’s neck and sighed as he kissed her. “It’s a shame that I have to leave so soon,” she said ruefully as she ran her paws over his arms. Fang had slimmed down slightly and his stripes were a vivid contrast to the white Shanghai suit he wore.
“Yeah, but you might have a whole weekend next week,” her husband observed. “They can’t keep you stuck in there forever, you know.”
“I know – but it does feel like it at times.” Shin’s dorm was restricted to Eastern Island for this weekend, the result of another fight in the dorm she shared. However, Fang was not far away by water taxi. While Songmark was strictly off limits to him, other parts of the island were not. Mahanish’s bar, for example, was quite close, the drinks and food were good – and they rented rooms by the hour. Shin hugged Fang again, snuggling up against his chest as he kissed her. “I need to go, and so do you,” he reminded her.
She nodded and stepped back from him as he smiled and headed toward the waiting water taxi. Shin waved, a wistful smile on her face as he got aboard, and as the small motorboat started to pull away from the dock she turned back toward Songmark. As she did, she saw a somewhat flustered ginger-furred feline step off a taxi that had just pulled up to the dock. “Hello, Amelia,” Shin said.
“Hm? Oh, hello, Shin,” Amelia said, as if suddenly recalling her manners. “Was that your husband?”
“Yes, that was Fang,” Shin said happily. As the two girls walked to the gate Amelia said, “I thought your dorm was on restriction.”
“We are,” Shin replied. “We’re not allowed to leave the island, so Fang met me here.”
“I see.” The English girl’s ears dipped, and Shin stifled a giggle. She’d heard stories about this girl, including a rather odd story about a series of strange happenings on Krupmark the previous year. “Who was fighting this time?” Amelia asked. “Liberty and who else?”
Shin growled, her sunny humor evaporating like spilled water on the Rainbow Bridge’s pavement. “It was all four of us,” she grumbled. “She started it by calling Tatiana a revisionist, and then she called Brigit and I – well, I won’t repeat what she said,” she remarked, aiming a kick at a stone in the path. The rock sailed into the bushes as Amelia said, “Remember, Shin, you are all responsible – “
“For each other. I know, Amelia. I’ve almost memorized the rule book,” Shin sighed. “Liberty’s problem is she’s on a mission and convinced that she’s going to be a martyr.” She brightened, the white patches on her face adding to her amused expression. “Of course, I might think of ways to help it along.” She laughed as the feline rolled her eyes.
As she walked into her room, Brigit turned from her usual seat by the window and sniffed. “An’ what might you be talking about with that so-English hussy?” she asked.
“Not much,” Shin replied, “and nothing about you. Why?” She sat down on her bed, looking at the Irish girl. Tatiana and Liberty sat at opposite ends of the room, studying for an upcoming test and actually silent for a change.
Brigit said, “She’s no good, one of those bloody English who’ve had Ireland under heel for far too long. If I had my rifle just then, you’d be talking a corpse you would, so.”
“And we’d all get expelled, and probably arrested,” Shin said quietly. “I wouldn’t like that at all. And I might not like whoever caused it to happen.” Her pointed gaze caused Brigit’s ears to go down as her lips curled back from her teeth. “But,” Shin added briskly, “let’s not dwell on what might be. I could use a drink.” She reached under the bed and shifted aside a strip of loose wainscoting, emerging with a bottle labeled Old Bog-Mould. “Care for a drink, Brigit?”
At the sight of the whisky bottle, the Irish girl’s eyes lit up and her tail started to wag. “Now where would ye be getting that, Shin?” she gasped in awe. “I’ve not had a drink since leavin’ Ireland, and a drop of whisky would go down nice. The bars here won’t sell me any,” she grumbled, adding, “an’ there’s no time nor fixings here for potheen.”
Shin pulled the cork and took a healthy swallow of the liquor before passing the bottle to Brigit, who drank thirstily. Wiping her muzzle with the back of a paw she exclaimed, “Ah! That’s the right stuff, that is.” She took another swallow and passed it back to Shin, who asked, “Tatiana? Liberty? Do you want a drink?”
Tatiana smirked. “I do not drink capitalist brew,” she declared. “Vodka only.”
Shin glanced at Liberty. “How about you, Liberty?”
The New Haven girl looked at the bottle, then held out her paw. “Sure.” She took a drink of it, then closed her eyes and shuddered. “Wow,” she breathed, handing the bottle back, “where did you get that, Shin? It tastes like kerosene, but not in a bad way.” She smiled, something she didn’t usually do.
Shin chuckled, stoppering the bottle and tucking it back into its hiding place. “I just had to have a drink,” she explained, “and didn’t want to wait until the weekends to get it.”
“I thought Chinese preferred rice wine,” Tatiana observed.
“May be,” Shin said, “but that’s hard to get here and on Krupmark, apart from locally-distilled stuff that I wouldn’t use for stripping paint. I started drinking whisky about two years ago.”
“When ye met Fang?” Brigit asked.
Shin nodded. “He and Hao were playing cards, and I sneaked his drink. It felt like my eyes were going to fall out of my head, and everyone had a good laugh.” She grinned, and the others laughed.
Liberty suddenly laid her textbook aside and asked, “What’d you want to read about the Revolution for, Shin? I thought you were a confirmed bourgeois.”
“I was wondering when you’d ask me that again,” Shin said as she leaned forward slightly. “Look, we all responsible for each other’s conduct here, right?” The others nodded, knowing the rulebook as well as she did. “Well, if we keep fighting all the time like we have been, we’re going to get in trouble, and maybe kicked out of here. I learned a few things from this,” and she picked up the John Reed book and tossed it back to Liberty, “mainly that we have a common cause – to graduate from this school. Right?” she looked around at her roommates.
The other three girls nodded, and Shin said, “The other girls are calling us the ‘Red’ dorm, which certainly applies to me and Brigit’s fur, and you and Tatiana’s politics,” and Liberty’s hackles rose. “So I say we try, really hard, to get along with each other and get through the next few years. A united, a collective, effort? Okay?” She looked at the other three girls expectantly.
The resulting fight brought all of the second-year girls running to stop it and prevent anyone from being injured.
* * * * * * * * *
Groups of swimmers and small fishing boats moved out of the way as the Keystone flying boat swooped overhead then banked around for a landing in the bay at the western end of Main Island. Inhabitants of the village of Pangai watched as the single-engine plane settled onto the water, and several of the villagers who recognized the plane’s markings yelled greetings and swam out to meet it.
Peng-wum and Nailani anchored the plane in the bay and swam to meet her relatives and neighbors, then headed ashore. When they reached the beach Jason and Nelli Mahoku were waiting. “Peng-wum, Daughter, this is unexpected,” the large rabbit said, “but very welcome. How are you both?”
Nailani hugged and kissed her mother before saying to her father, “We’re just fine, Grandfather.”
A silence fell over the beach, broken only by the sound of water hitting the sand as Peng-wum squeezed water from his tail. Nelli suddenly gave a shout of delight and hugged her son-in-law as Jason hugged his daughter and the assembled villagers cheered.
* * * * * * * * *
“Wait just a minute, Shin,” and the red panda stopped just inside the Songmark gate as a brown-furred rabbit stepped forward. Adele Beasley scowled at her and gestured as she said, “Hold your arms up and hold still, please.”
Shin complied, sighing to herself. For several weeks the second and third-year students watching the main gate had been searching the members of her dorm and a few other first-years. So far, they had found nothing, but Shin braced herself and her ears went down as Adele said “Aha!” and pulled a pint bottle of whisky from a hidden pocket of her blazer. “And what is this, young lady?” the lepine asked in a stern tone.
“A bottle of whisky,” Shin replied. The two were about the same age, but Adele had adopted a patronizing tone that made her tail start twitching. “Smuggling whisky in,” Adele said, shaking her head but smiling as she added, “You’re going to be on restriction for a while.” With that, she turned, nearly tripping over her feet as she did so, and walked off to show the bottle to the staff.
Brigit, Tatiana and Liberty looked up as Shin slammed the door behind her, cursing in Chinese. The swear words reached a crescendo as she threw herself on her bed and hammered her fists on the mattress in frustration. “What’s wrong, Shin?” Tatiana asked.
“Adele caught me at the gate,” Shin growled.
“She found it?” Brigit asked, looking crestfallen as Shin nodded. “I swear if we were on Krupmark, I’d cheerfully throw her off Traitor’s Ridge,” Shin remarked. She sat up and smoothed her tail fur down, composing herself.
“Traitor’s Ridge?” Liberty asked. “Sounds like the kind of place one throws counter- revolutionaries. I never saw that on any of the Spontoon maps.”
“It’s not around here. It’s on Krupmark. A beautifully sheer drop, maybe five hundred feet straight down to the sea,” Shin replied almost wistfully, rolling over onto her back with her eyes closed. She rolled over again and felt under the bed for the hidden bottle and pulled it into the light. “Who – wait a minute,” Shin declared, looking critically at the bottle. She had scribed a pencil mark on the label to note the level of liquid still in it, and now the whisky was below the line. “Who’s been drinking out of turn?” she asked, giving the others a suspicious glance.
Brigit looked scandalized. “Ye’d be knowing now, Shin, I’d never touch it unless ye knew.”
Tatiana looked up from her textbook as her tail swished. “I drink vodka,” she reminded Shin quietly.
“Liberty?” Shin asked, and her ears stood up as the half-breed coyote flinched, eartips flushing bright red.
Students passing by the Red dorm could hear nothing but laughter and jibes in three languages for several minutes as the other girls teased the New Havenite for being a backslider.
* * * * * * * * *
Firecrackers exploded in the dirt road between the Lucky Dragon and the Ni & Sons building shortly after Peng-wum and Nailani returned from Pangai with the news that the elder Nis were soon to be grandparents. As the news spread, some scattered gunfire as rifles or pistols were shot into the sky joined the fireworks in adding to the racket.