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Toshiya Kamei is a fiction writer whose short stories have appeared in Bending Genres, New World Writing, and SmokeLong en Espanol, among others.‚
Toshiya Kamei's translations have appeared in Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Strange Horizons. His translations have also appeared in 4 Star Stories and the Short Short Story Issue 3.
The love of a little girl saved the vllage and tamed the dragon.
By Toshiya Kamei
Under the trees, dry, fallen leaves stirred with a death rattle. Dark clouds gathered overhead and hid the moon and the stars. As the whole village scrambled to higher ground, autumn rain lashed down. In no time, the river increased its flow, threatening to swallow the whole village. Drenched from head to toe, the villagers remained huddled on the hill. Thunder rolled and small children whimpered, hanging onto their mother’s legs. Orphaned in the previous flood, Ai attached herself to her big brother, Genzo.
“Here comes the demon!” an old man gasped, gazing up as bolts of lightning streaked across the sky.
“The river’s gonna swallow the rice paddies!” a middle-aged woman with a bun of hair lamented. “How are we gonna survive without rice?” She covered her face with her hands and crouched down.
The previous year, Ai and Genzo’s parents were swept away in their futile attempt to build a levee to protect their rice paddy.
“Damn demon!” Genzo cried. “You took my parents away! What else do you want?”
He grabbed Aia’s hand and set off toward the mountain.
“Where are we going, Genzo?” Ai asked, her face scrunching up with worry.
“Don’t worry. Come!” Genzo said, gritting his teeth. “ I want to be strong! I want to save the village!”
The two children stumbled toward the peak. Genzo gazed up into the dark sky, but there was no sign of the storm abating.
“Gods, give me strength!” he cried, raising his fist skyward.
Just then, the clouds parted, and a dragon rose in the air. It snaked across the sky and headed toward Genzo and Ai.
“Oh no!” Ai cried and tightened her grip on Genzo’s hand.
The dragon landed before the siblings. Its gem-like eyes flickered in the gloom. A musty odor wafted from its scaled body. Genzo put his body between Ai and the monster. The dragon lowered itself to the children’s eye level. Ai was the first one to step closer and pet it. The dragon’s kind eyes reminded her of her mother. Emboldened, Ai climbed onto the dragon’s back and sat down. Genzo hesitated for a brief moment, but scrambled up behind her. With the siblings on its back, the dragon spread its wings and flew into the sky.
The dragon landed on a hill and lowered itself to the ground, and Ai and Kenzo slid off its back. The dragon soared away again and circled over the river threatening to overflow. Then the dragon descended, charged toward a small mountain nearby, and struck against it. As the children watched from a safe distance, the dragon repeatedly hurled itself against the mountain, tore it down, and eventually leveled it. The dragon carried the dirt and dropped it between the violent flow of the river and the village. As it flew back and forth, a levee slowly formed along the river. Noticing what was happening, the villagers on the hill cheered in the rain.
By the time the eastern sky started to gather light, the storm had subsided. The rice paddies remained intact. Relieved, the villagers waved at the dragon, crying out their gratitude. It made a few circles in the morning sky and flew away. Some villagers spotted Genzo and Ai on its back as the dragon melted into the clouds.