“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” ― Elbert Hubbard
The Chambermaid brought in tea and breakfast. Domi ignored her and continued to look out the window. Jasmine set the tray down on a small table in the corner of the room and walked to the window. Domi sat in the window frame in a repose of resignation. The fingers of her hand touched the glass trying to connect with something in the distance or past.
“Domi, Come eat.”
There was no response. Jasmine was not indifferent to Domi’s sorrow. She could see the girl suffered some unspeakable pain. Her trauma’s and the mind-bending stress of transition at her age seemed to kill the spirit of the girl who clung to the Dragon. Jasmine knew she had to proceed with care.
“Domi, you should eat. Come, you’ll feel better.”
Domi turned her head like one accustomed to the darkest corners of an opium den. Jasmine held her breath and composed herself. She peered into the cold eyes that looked and saw nothing. The dragon was coming on quicker than she thought. The girl could go mad and with her power, do great harm to herself and others. Jasmine knew she had to act fast. The rage and lust of the dragon required attention before it attacked to sate its hunger.
Jasmine put her arm around Domi and tried to comfort her.
“Do you miss Jade and Eo-Jin?” She asked.
“Don’t worry little sister. They will return and stay with you for a while before the next job comes along. You can spend time with your friends. Just understand their work takes them far away and for long periods. You must learn to carry them in your heart and love the memories until you see them again.”
Domi responded to Jasmine. “I can’t control myself. I feel ashamed of what I’ve done with Eo-Jin. I’m ashamed of what I am.” Domi’s voice sounded distant and disconnected.
Jasmine hugged Domi to no effect. “Don’t feel ashamed. The love you feel for Jade and especially Eo-Jin is not shameful. That kind of love is beautiful, pure, and the love we all seek.”
Jasmine spoke in a cheerful and reassuring voice as she showed kindness to Domi. Domi responded by hugging Jasmine in return, but she remained distant. Domi wanted to stop her wayward emotions once and for all. She wanted to feel normal, not like some living battery, recharging her friends while her heart breaks to feel love.
“Come, let’s eat and talk. Your life is changing, and it’s stressful,” Jasmine encouraged Domi and tugged at her sleeve.
Domi followed Jasmine to the table. She looked in Jasmine’s face as the Dragon Sister made small talk about the schedule of events she’d set for Domi to acquaint her with the Black Dragons. Jasmine spoke of their belief in sharing their love with one another through lifelong bonds, fealty to the Masters, and their code of honor. The words swirled around Domi, but she couldn’t grasp them or make any meaning of it.
“Come, after you get dressed, I have someone special I want you to meet. It will ease your mind and make these anxious thoughts go away.”
Jasmine cleared the tray from the table and encouraged Domi to bathe and wear something comfortable. She had a busy day ahead of her. There would be no lounging in the window sill after this morning. The Dragon Sister paused and made sure Domi looked in her eyes and held her chin up. She watched as the hint hidden in her smile of good things to come caught hold, and Domi smiled back.
* * *
Domi walked down the corridor with Jasmine at her side. The outside wall was a line of windows that afforded a panorama of the rolling hills covered with red tile roofs and the distant mountains. Domi loved how the Han River snaked through the city with bridges giving the impression of stripes on the snake’s back as it shimmered in the light of the sun on its endless journey to the sea.
On the opposite wall were paintings in ornate gold leaf frames. Each painting was a scene of the past Emperors, their ancient castles, and scenes of life on the Korean peninsula. Domi thought how different the swept tile roofs and painted timbers of the Asian castles looked compared to those in her native Russia. It reminded her that she belonged in neither world. She only belonged in the vastness of her mind, she thought.
Jasmine slowed her pace then stopped. A young girl a few years younger than Domi turned around from the window and when she recognized Jasmine, her eyes opened wide. She bowed and kept her eyes down and her hands clasped in front of her. Jasmine spoke with her in the quick cadence of their native language. The girl gave short replies, never lifting her face.
“Domi, this is Lee, Kwan Che. She is your roommate and will go with you to the island in a few days where you both will train to become Praetorian Guards for the Emperor. It is the highest honor the Dragons can bestow on those not part of the royalty.” Jasmine paused to see if her words had an effect. Her two students stared at each other as if one thought the other an alien from some unpronounceable solar system.
When Jasmine finished her introduction, Lee lifted her head and looked at her older Dragon Sister. Domi smiled a politely and approached Lee to shake her hand. Lee accepted her hand but never dropped her gaze. The girl’s eyes enervated Domi. She exuded confidence and strength in a quiet way. Lee did not smile, but the corners of her mouth turned up in a minuscule way hinting at her satisfaction with Domi.
“Come girls; we have lots to do. Domi, since you are the older sister, Lee will follow your lead. Don’t abuse her. She will not complain, but resentment is not an emotion that builds strong bonds between sisters. The more respect you develop between you, the easier your training.”
Lee walked several paces behind Domi with her chin up and those piercing eyes burning holes in her back. Domi could sense her. The Dragon’s blood called to them and pulled them to each other. Domi slowed her pace and turned to reach out her hand like she’d seen the girls on the island do when she and Eo-Jin spent the evening there. Lee instinctively reached up and took Domi’s hand. The instant their hands clasped each other, Lee broke out in a broad smile.
The two young Dragon Sisters walked hand-in-hand down the hall as Jasmine continued to explain the day’s activities to them. At one point, Jasmine stopped and turned to the girls. “Domi, Lee is an orphan just like yourself. Her older brother is Eo-Jin. He is all the family she has in the world. She keeps close contact with him, and he visits her as often as he can. Lee’s brother is already a Sentinel in the Praetorian Guard. Lee will do anything to join her brother in the ranks. As her older sister, it is your duty and honor to ensure she makes it.” Jasmine paused for effect, then turned on her heels and continued. “Come, girls, no lollygagging around.”
Domi was dumbfounded. She looked at Lee and noticed the resemblance to her older brother. She instantly loved Lee. Though she couldn’t explain it nor understand it, she felt Eo-Jin’s presence as long as Lee was near her. The two sisters, the little one, tucked neatly under the older one’s wing, continued down the hall after Jasmine at a brisk pace. Their bond formed that moment in the corridor, lasted to the end of their days.
Image source: pinterest.com