JOURNEY TO THE EAST
At the end of the summer, David celebrated 20 years of work in the music industry.
Working as a Conductor now, he was one step closer to becoming the Hit Movie Composer.
David really loved his job. His boss, Eduardo GilsCarbo, liked him a lot and his co-workers adored him. All together they decided to give an anniversary present to David – a piano.
Eduardo was working on the soundtrack for Journey To The East, a new adventure movie inspired by the eastern cultures. He wasn’t really satisfied with the way it was coming out and thought David could help him with it. David suggested to him to study the traditional Chinese music and it was at that moment when Eduardo came up with an excellent idea – to sent David on a business trip to Shang Simla to study the ancient music theory.
When the trees changed color from fresh green to yellow and orange, the autumn announced its arrival. The day of Zac and Finn’s departure for college approached. Zac was going to study Communications while Finn decided to pursue a degree in Technology.
The morning of their departure, Kate decided to prepare waffles for breakfast. They were everybody’s favorite.
“When did you say you were leaving for China, David?” asked him Kate.
“Yes, I thought I told you, Kate.”
“You did. I just forgot.”
“I thought that maybe Liz would like to come with me. What do you say, Liz?”
“That would be amazing, Dad!”
“Great,” David smiled at Elisabeth.
“But what about Mom?” asked Elisabeth and looked at David and then at Kate.
“Someone has to stay home and take care of the animals,” said her mother.
“Right,” thought Elisabeth.
“Don’t worry sweetie. It’s good you get to spend some time with your Dad.”
“I heard that the Chinese cuisine is delicious!” Finn joined the conversation.
“It’s true, I’m looking forward to try it out for you, Finn,” said Elisabeth to her brother.
“Oh, you’re so funny, little sister,” sneered Finn.
“Come on, Finn. The English are not that bad either,” added Zac.
“I really hope,” sighed Finn as he realized there won’t be his mother cooking his favorite meals at college.
“Time to get your luggage, boys!” said Kate and started collecting the plates. Finn quickly shoved another waffle in his mouth.
“Safe trip to China, Liz,” told her Zac.
“Thanks, Zac. I’ll send you a postcard.”
“Don’t forget to call sometime,” Kate said to Finn.
“Don’t worry, Mom.”
“And let me know if things get serious with Malika.”
“Also, try to avoid the junk food and-”
“Yes, Mom, don’t worry.”
“OK then. Give me a hug,” she said and hugged her son. “Just take care of yourself, Finn.”
“Thanks, Mom. I will.”
After everybody exchanged hugs, Zac and Finn picked up their luggage and jumped in the van.
“When do you think we’ll see them again?” Elisabeth asked her parents.
“On Christmas,” told her Kate. “If they decide to come home,” she smiled.
“And if they decide to stay in England?”
“Then I guess we’ll pay them a visit,” said David and winked at his daughter.
The twins arrived to the Sims University the next day in the morning. They were staying at the Malan Hall Dormitory.
“Well, it doesn’t look so bad to me,” said Finn as he watched the building.
“Yeah, I thought worse,” agreed Zac.
“Let’s go to find our room,” suggested Finn. They picked up their luggage and headed inside.
“I just hope to get a double bed.”
“I don’t think so, Zac. It’s a double room, it’ll probably have two single beds… or worse, a bunk bed!”
They left the luggage downstairs and walked up the stairs to the first floor.
“Here, number 5. That’s us,” said Zac and opened the door of their room.
“So this is it I guess. Two single beds. Great.”
“Come on, Zac, stop complaining. I’ll go get the luggage.”
Zac looked deeply disappointed.
“You know, Zackie, you don’t need a double bed to get laid!” Finn called from the corridor.
What a smart ass, Zac thought to himself and looked out from the window.
Who knows if Mandy has already arrived? Zac asked himself when he saw a rainbow outside. The thought of seeing Amanda every day for the next three years made him suddenly feel better.
Maybe this is going to be fun after all. Even without the double bed. The next second, a message arrived to his cellphone.
Hey Zac! Are you already at the campus? I hope you like your room! I’m texting you, because I have a great news! I didn’t know how to tell you, cause you won’t probably like it… Yesterday, I got a call from Bridgeport! Do you remember the record I sent to the studio? Well… They loved it! They told me this is exactly what they were searching for. So… I’m moving there. Tomorrow. I know… I’m REALLY sorry baby. I’m not coming to England. Hope you understand. Singing is what I want to do… Miss you already! Kisses – Mandy
Zac read the message. Twice. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Amanda was not coming to the University. Not today. Not tomorrow. Never. Amanda Vanderburg was leaving for Bridgeport, the city that never sleeps. Zac was probably not going to sleep well tonight. Not because of the single bed, but because he knew he wouldn’t see his girlfriend for the whole semester. Zac kept on looking out from the window until Finn came back in the room.
Could this get any worse? he thought to himself. I guess it can, Zac answered his own question when he saw Finn’s girlfriend arrive to the campus.
Not only was she going to study at the same University as them, she was also staying in the same dormitory.
Hopefully the rest of the roommates arrives soon.
“Don’t worry, Mom. We’re going to be okay.”
“I know, sweetheart. Promise me you’ll stay close to your Dad.”
“Mom, I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself.”
“I know,” sighed Kate. “Just don’t do anything stupid. You’re my everything,” said Kate and looked at her daughter with a worried face.
“Come on, Mom. I’m telling you… There’s no need to worry about anything! Everything’s going to be just fine. Plus we’re back in a couple of days!”
“I know. Have a safe trip,” said Kate and hugged Elisabeth.
“Let’s go, Liz! The taxi is here!” David called from the porch.
“Is there anything you’d like me to bring you from China?” Elisabeth asked her mother.
“Maybe some traditional food recipes,” smiled Kate. “You know how much I love cooking!”
“Perfect. I’ll try to find a cookbook that is written in English,” laughed Elisabeth.
“Bye, Mom. Do something fun while we’re gone,” Elisabeth winked at her and then followed David to the car.
After they left, Kate went to do something fun – at least in her opinion. Elisabeth wouldn’t probably consider raking a fun activity.
David and Elisabeth arrived to Shang Simla the next day in the morning. As their plane left the clouds, the town appeared beneath them.
They were staying at the base camp, situated on a hill near the river.
It had an excellent view on the Dragon cave. Locals believe it is the resting place of the greatest enemies of the ancient Chinese Empire, Huang Loong and his family among others.
Later that day, David and Elisabeth decided to visit the Emperor’s Plaza, a park in the center of Shang Simla. It was nearly time for lunch, but the square was completely empty.
“Where are all the people?” Elisabeth asked her father.
“Boh,” David shook his shoulders.
“Are you sure this town isn’t abandoned or something?”
“Maybe everybody’s home for the lunch.”
I hope you’re right, Elisabeth thought to herself. Because the last city I want to visit is the city of ghosts.
“Do you actually know, where you have to search for this music teacher?”
“Well… Not really.”
“Dad! You’re just like Mom! That time we went to Moonlight Falls, she didn’t even know if that guy was still alive!”
“Bill, Mom’s old friend from Appaloosa Plains. You know, that one with the ranch.”
“Appaloosa Plains you say? What was he doing in Moonlight Falls?”
“He has the ranch there! Dad, are you actually listening to me?”
“Of course… Oh, look! People!” exclaimed happily David and headed towards the market.
“Great. Let’s ask there.”
“Hmm, that shop looks like a bookstore. Maybe asking that woman over there will lead us to your teacher,” said Elisabeth with the hope of not having to spend the entire afternoon searching for someone who could teach David the ancient music theory.
“Hello! I’m David. Do you speak English?”
“Good day, my name is Sima Zhi and as you can hear, I do,” smiled the woman.
“Great. I’m searching for someone to teach me the ancient Chinese music theory. Can you help?”
“Oh, I see. Maybe I could help you, but I warn you, it won’t be simple. The path is long and challenging. However, if you reach the end, you’ll be awarded greatly.”
“No, no, no. You don’t understand. I’m not here for an adventure. I just need to find a person who-”
“Please, follow me inside,” she interrupted him.
“Okay,” agreed David and followed her inside the bookstore. Elisabeth was already there, checking the titles of the books on the shelves.
She picked a book entitled The Dragon Ripple and headed outside leaving David with Sima discuss the music theory.
“You already are on an adventure. The decision to learn the ancient music theory mostly written in ancient Chinese language is indeed a difficult journey which only few are able to set for,” Sima Zhi explained to David. “So… I’m proud to welcome you, David. My first student,” she continued.
“Yes. It surprises me. I have never thought it would be a foreigner.”
“Oh, is there a problem?”
“You see, the ancient music theory isn’t very popular with the last generation of children living here in Shang Simla. I am 48 years old and the only living scholar of this long forgotten knowledge.”
“Wow… So, uh…where do we start? Lute lessons or ancient Chinese language?”
“I’d say patience, but I feel that I won’t be able to help you, David. It was nice to meet you,” Sima Zhi suddenly changed her decision, because David seemed to be thinking that he’d learn everything in one day.
“W-wait! What do you mean? I want to learn! Please!”
“You don’t seem to understand. It takes years of dedication to learn the ancient language. You are a foreigner. It would take you twice as longer. I’m afraid neither of us has enough time for this.”
“What do you mean? Didn’t you say that I would be your first student?”
“You still don’t understand, do you?”
“…,” David felt confused so he just blankly smiled at her.
“Meditation brings answers even to questions that are still unknown to us.”
“Meditation? I’m talking about music here. I’m… I’m composing music myself… I work as a conductor!”
“Have a nice stay in Shang Simla. Good day,” said the woman, bowed to him and left. David remained standing inside the bookstore with his mouth wide open. Excuse me? He looked around for Elisabeth, but didn’t see her anywhere inside. In fact, she was sitting at a table outside and reading The Dragon Ripple.
“There you are!” called David when he saw his daughter. “What are you reading, Liz?”
Elisabeth didn’t notice him at first, but when he repeated the question, she looked at him and quickly closed the book.
“You can read on, sweetheart. I was just wondering what is the book about,” chuckled David when he saw the surprised expression on Elisabeth’s face.
“It’s a history book.”
“Ah. Is it written in English?”
“Yes, it was translated from Chinese by Wen Zhi almost two hundred years ago.”
“He was my ancestor,” added Sima Zhi as she walked by and heard the name of her great great grandfather.
“This book hides a key to the past within its pages. I suggest a very careful and dedicated reading,” she said and looked at Elisabeth.
When Elisabeth heard those words, she immediately started begging her father to get it for her.
“Okay, okay. Just if you really dedicate yourself to it,” sneered David and looked at Sima who just stared at him with no reaction.
“Thank you, Daddy!” called happily Elisabeth and clapped her hands.
David stood up from the table, picked the book and went inside the bookstore.
“What did you mean by the key to the past?” Elisabeth asked the scholar.
“A light beneath and within. Have a good day.”
Hmm, this woman certainly loves riddles, Elisabeth thought to herself as she watched Sima Zhi disappear behind the corner. The moment David passed the book to Elisabeth, she quickly forgot Sima’s words.
They decided to have the lunch at the market, since there was also a shop selling Chinese food. Both Elisabeth and David tried ramen, a noodle soup dish with sliced pork.
“I don’t really know what to think of this woman.”
“What woman?” asked Elisabeth.
“The scholar, Sima Zhi.”
“Oh. Right. Why? She seems friendly.”
“First, she agreed on teaching me the music theory, but then she completely turned.”
“Maybe there was not enough time for it. I guess you would have to stay here for years, Dad.”
That moment, David realized that both his daughter and Sima were probably right. There was no way he could learn it in three days. “I guess. So, let’s do some sightseeing later?”
“That’d be great!”
“I’ll just give a look in the souvenir shop. Maybe I can find some tapes with Chinese music.”
After the lunch, David and Elisabeth walked up the hill to visit the Terracotta Army, a collection of horses and warriors, sculptures depicting the army of the first Emperor of China.
“These horses are magnificent!” said Elisabeth while she observed the statue. “Dad? Do you think I can climb on the horse?”
“If I were you, I wouldn’t want to awake the Emperor. I heard he wasn’t such a nice person when he was alive. Imagine what could happen if his ghost saw you dishonor his grave,” warned her David. Even though Elisabeth didn’t believe him, she quickly let go of the idea.
“Let’s go to see the Temple of Heaven?”
“Dad, you really want to walk until there? You know, it’s uphill.”
“Come on! A little bit of movement won’t kill you. If you were training with me, you would have more energy.”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Elisabeth casually and looked at her father.
“If we move, we might arrive in time for sunset.”
The Temple of Heaven was situated high above Shang Simla. The view from the tower was amazing… especially during the sunset.
“This was definitely worth it. The view is amazing. Thank you for bringing me along, Dad. I love you,” said Elisabeth and looked at her father.
David put his arm around her shoulder and kissed her in the hair. “You’ll always be my little girl,” he whispered.
It was already dark when they arrived back to the base camp.
“I hate stairs,” complained Elisabeth.
“Take it as a part of your training,” encouraged her David. “When we get back home, your training with me begins.”
“Great. Can’t wait to go back home.”
The moment David opened the door, he got surrounded by a group of Egyptian tourists.
“It’s him!” exclaimed the woman in the white tunic.
“David Loewe! Can you sign this card for me?” another woman asked for his autograph.
What’s going on, David thought to himself.
“Sima Zhi told us everything about you! May I take a picture of you?” said yet another woman.
“Really? May I know what she told you about me?”
“That you are a famous composer, or… uh… conductor! Well, simply… that you’re famous!”
“Okay, okay. Listen up people, I’m not that famous, really…”
“No. I just compose music. I came here to learn the ancient music theory, but Sima Zhi doesn’t want to help me,” sighed David.
“Why would you need to learn that?”
“I’m working on the soundtrack for a movie inspired by the eastern cultures.”
“Journey to The East?” asked him curiously one man.
“How did you know?”
“It’s the most anticipated movie of this year!”
“Oh. I didn’t know. I’m actually just kinda filling in.”
“When this movie comes out, these cards will be worth a fortune!”
“Can you sign one more for me, please?”
Right, I almost forgot. Merchants, David smiled to himself when he remembered the honeymoon with Kate in Al Simhara. After the crazy autograph session, David called it a night.
Elisabeth decided to stay awake some more time and read her new book.
The next day at the breakfast, Elisabeth passionately spoke about the Dragon Ripple to her father. She already got to the point, where the book speaks about a cave in the shape of a dragon’s head. Supposedly, it was the resting place of the enemies of the ancient Empire.
“I need to learn more about that place. It’s located here, in Chang Simla. I think I’ll return to the market. Maybe they have also a book about that.”
“I’m going to take a shower. I had a bad dream tonight and I woke up completely sweaty,” David told Elisabeth.
“A bad dream?”
“Yeah… I don’t remember it well, but you were in there…”
“I was in your dream?”
“Yes. It wasn’t a nice dream, Liz… There was a man I didn’t know… and a baby. Yeah… you were giving birth to a baby.”
“Why would that be a bad dream, Dad? Maybe the unknown man was my husband, and the baby your grandson or granddaughter.”
“I know… It wasn’t that… there was something wrong…”
“There was something wrong with the baby…”
“Dad, you’re scaring me. It was just a dream. Go to take the shower. It will bring you to different thoughts,” said Elisabeth, collected the empty plates and disappeared in the kitchen.
After the breakfast, Elisabeth dressed up and headed towards the market. She really hoped to find Sima there.
She was lucky. Sima Zhi was standing in front of the souvenir shop. It almost seemed as she would be expecting Elisabeth to come back. “Good day, young lady,” she called at Elisabeth as soon as she saw her.
“Hello!” Elisabeth waved at her. “I really like the book. Yesterday night I stayed pretty late reading it. I have a question though. About the Dragon cave. I read it is located here, in Shang Simla. Could you tell me where?”
“I thought you would discover its location by yourself.”
“It’s easier than it seems.”
“Please, could you tell me?”
“I see you are your father’s daughter,” Sima smiled at Elisabeth.
“Oh, really, I didn’t know that.”
“You should consider meditation. It helps to clear your mind and free your spirit.”
Why is it so hard with you woman, Elisabeth thought to herself.
“The Dragon’s Maw is located right above the base camp.”
“Where? It’s not possible. I would have seen it!”
“Look out from the terrace on the west side. It’s right there.”
“Thanks!” said happily Elisabeth and without saying good bye headed back to the base camp.
“Wait!” Sima called at her. Elisabeth turned around. “I think you might want to read this first!” she said and waved at her with a book in her hand. “When you don’t need it anymore, bring it back to me. This is the only copy.”
“And promise me, that if you manage to enter the Dragon’s Maw – well, you probably won’t – but in any case, don’t touch anything, don’t bring anything out and most of all, avoid the sarcophaguses. Don’t go near them, don’t touch them, don’t even think about opening them! If you want to take a walk around, be my guest, but please, don’t disrupt the peace. Do you understand?”
Sarcophaguses? “Yes, of course… don’t worry! As you say, I won’t even manage to enter… so… I guess, I’m just going to look at the cave from the outside,” assured her Elisabeth.
“Take care of yourself. Good day,” told her Sima Zhi, bowed to her and went inside the shop. Elisabeth returned straight to the base camp.
As soon as she arrived, she started reading. She was reading all day long, only when David got tired from practicing the martial arts and came back, they had a dinner together.
Later in the evening, Elisabeth pretended she was going to sleep. When she was sure that David was asleep, she went back to the terrace. Elisabeth was fascinated by the book so much, that she forgot to look out from the window.
Only when she finally finished reading the book, she’d remember to go to the terrace and search for the cave. It was really right there in front of her eyes. Elisabeth thought it was probably easier to spot during the night because of the red light.
Elisabeth didn’t want to wait anymore and quickly ran to her room to dress up. It was almost 5 AM. The dawn was approaching and she wanted to see the cave and be back in bed before her father woke up. This time around the uphill didn’t really bother her. She even decided to run! David would be certainly pleased about the running, less about sneaking out and hanging around a potentially dangerous place.
Elisabeth entered inside the Maw. What was written in the book? she asked herself as she placed the hands on the warm stone wall.
“Your mind free, the wall crashes. Your body weak, it turns to ashes,” Elisabeth remembered the phrase from the book Sima lent her. Although she said the words correctly, nothing happened. I think she was right, I’m never going to get through the wall. What was I thinking? Elisabeth sat on the ground and leaned her back on the wall. She closed her eyes and in a couple of minutes fell asleep…
Elisabeth was suddenly woken up by something moving behind her. She quickly stood up and saw that the wall was going down. What the hell?
By the time Elisabeth managed to pass the wall, David was already awake searching for her.
“Well… I guess I should go inside, right?” Elisabeth said aloud almost hoping someone would give her the answer. She did one step forward and found herself standing in front of a black hole in the ground. “Yeah, but how do I go inside?”
She looked around and bumped into old rusty railing. Hmm, I guess there must be stairs leading down. In fact, as she put her hand close to the edge of the hole, she touched a step made of stone. It was warm. Elisabeth took out her cellphone from the pocket of her jeans and opened the torch app. She pointed it at the stairs and they seemed to be intact. Why haven’t I thought of this earlier. If Finn saw me now, he’d make fun of me forever, she smiled to herself.
Elisabeth went down the stairs and found herself in a round room entirely made of stone. There were nine doors. All of them were sealed with chains and locks. So… unexpected, Elisabeth thought to herself as she walked towards the door facing the stairs. It was a little different from the rest. It was without any decoration and… there was no handle. How do you enter a door without a handle? Elisabeth thought to herself as she caressed the warm surface of the door. Why is everything warm around here? I thought caves were rather cold… Hmm… Her hand slid to the chain blocking the door and when she took it in her hand, the lock fell off it. This looks easier than it seems, however, the question remains: How do you open a door without a handle? Meditation. That’s what would Sima say. Wait a second… maybe this is a trap. If I try to break it, something bad will happen. Like in the movies… Elisabeth looked around, but the walls of the room were just big plain blocks of stone.
Then she suddenly remembered about a chapter in the book. Of course! The stairs! They lead to the heart of the dragon! Elisabeth quickly walked to the other side of the room and there were indeed more stairs leading deeper to the cave. She didn’t hesitate, and walked down the stairs. She lost the count of the steps after she reached number 100. How deep am I now?
Finally she reached the bottom of the cave. There were no more steps, only a long corridor with a little light at its end. This is… scary, maybe I should go back, Elisabeth thought to herself, but something was telling her she had to go and see what was at the end. She opened the torch app on the phone and headed towards the light.
Elisabeth found herself standing in a room with three sarcophaguses. Why are they so low below the surface? Elisabeth stared at one of them for a long moment. She knew very well what Sima Zhi told her about disrupting the peace. However, Elisabeth Loewe was a curious girl so she wanted to see what was inside.
She approached the middle one and opened it. The moment she lifted the lid, a bright yellow light came outside from within the sarcophagus followed by a deep male voice talking in ancient Chinese.
Elisabeth got scared and tried to close it, but before she managed, something sharp hit her chest.
When she finally closed the sarcophagus, Elisabeth panicked. Whatever has just happened wasn’t anything good. It wasn’t probably even bad. It was the worst of the worst. She disrupted the peace that entire dynasties have managed to conciliate for a thousand years. Now, some Elisabeth comes and screws up.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Please forgive the lack of images of the inside of Dragon’s Maw. It actually doesn’t look the way I described it above. I sincerely hope you enjoyed that part anyway since I believe all of you have a great imagination!