The Awakening Of The Earth Dragon


Patricia Shannon

A mysterious sound emerges from a dimly lit room early one morning. An ancient wooden box engraved with Chinese characters starts shaking on a counter. Under the battered and scratched surface, centuries of secrets lie waiting. Its hinges creak as it reveals a book inside, a brown leather cover engraved with strange symbols. The cover flips open, and one by one, pages of thin papyrus fold over.

Trembling fills the room, warning of what lies ahead. Letters dance from the pages into the air, weaving the words: The Dilong Awakens. A cold mist engulfs the space. Seconds later, a golden key emerges and floats in the air. A sudden whirlwind of snow closes the book with a bang. The lid of the wooden box follows and catches the golden key on its surface.

All that remains in the room is silence.

An hour later, a young couple explores the streets of Chinatown, Washington DC. This town section lies within the small, historic district of the awe-inspiring United States capital, which seats the government and bears the name of the first President, George Washington. The city was founded in the year 1791.

The pair enters the borough through the Friendship Arch. A colorful work of art with seven roofs up to 60 feet high, 7000 tiles, and 272 painted dragons in the style of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Mystery and the fear of the Triads evoke them.

Maggie Clearwater, twenty-two and third-generation American was born and raised in the city. Her fiancee, Aarav Patel, is a young man, twenty-four years of age and of Indian origin. His parents immigrated to America when he turned five years old. Hand in hand, they stroll past the restaurants and shops. The scent of the Asian cuisine enters their nostrils.

Chinese lanterns hang across the streets, and flags and signs with Chinese characters give the buildings a colorful addition. The smell of Asian food is abundant, and here and there, Chinese music sounds from speakers. There’s a hustle and bustle around in the area.

Amidst the labyrinthine alleyways, nestled in a secluded corner, a shop window captures their attention. Their gaze lingers on the eclectic blend of Chinese characters and curiosities before them.

Presented in golden, cursive letters at the window’s pinnacle is the name ‘Mr. Chi’s Coffee Shop’, while just below, the words ‘Master Magician’ beckon.

Aarav’s grin widens. “A Chinese magician! How intriguing.”

Maggie muses aloud. “I wonder if they also serve Chinese tea?”

“There’s only one way to find out,” Aarav decides, “let’s see what’s inside.”

When they step through the door, a high-pitched tone announces their entry.

The interior of the shop takes their breath away.

Mr. Chi’s Coffee Shop has an ambiance that takes visitors back to ancient China. Full of artifacts and bric-a-brac. We serve tea in high-fired and low-fired teapots, a sign explains. It shows pictures of green, white, black, red, and Oolong teas. But it also caters to the coffee drinker, with unique blends in store. They can smell the coffee aroma.

The ancient atmosphere, the black wooden chairs, and tables with Chinese motives treat the visitors to a magical experience. The place honors the owners’ skills.

You see, Mr. Chi is a well-respected and exceptional magician. Always friendly and polite, but looks can be deceiving. He is a wise, intriguing man with an extraordinary gift.

Two weeks ago, a historical piece arrived on a container ship from China - a mythical sorcerers' book, one of its kind, once thought to be lost forever.

The treasure and unique tool can take his magic to the next level. To create performances that involve ancient wizardry. He left it on the shop’s counter to entertain his guests.

Mr. Chi is cleaning the antique Chinese tables in his coffee shop when Aarav and Maggie, the newly engaged couple, enter. They are among the first customers to enter the cafe this morning. He throws them a polite smile. A small gathering of people from different ages, ethnicities, and genders follow suit.

The young pair sits down at a table near one of the windows.

“This place is amazing!” Maggie comments.

“Yes, mystifying. Different to any Indian place,” Aarav adds. “Those antique vases! I wonder if they’re from the Ming Dynasty. They’re worth a fortune!”

“No, I can’t imagine they keep them in the shop. Those are probably fake,” Maggie concludes.

The elderly Chinese man approaches their table. His weathered face gives away his life’s experiences.

“Good morning, young people, my name is Mr. Chi.” He bows. “What can I bring you? Tea, coffee, or something else?”

“Oh, you are the owner of this unique spot! Are you a real magician?”

“Yes, I am, Miss. Welcome to you both.”

“Thank you, Mr. Chi. We’d like to try an Oolong tea, please,” Maggie says.

“A great choice, lovely lady. We serve it in a high-fired teapot made from Yixing clay. I am sure you will enjoy the rich, sweet aftertaste.”

When he returns with the tea, he places an original Chinese tea set on the table. A delicate painting of red flowers and Chinese characters adorns the cups and pots.

“We use this at wedding ceremonies,” he explains. “I’m guessing you are getting married soon?”

“Next month,” Maggie’s face glows. The sun’s rays add sparkle to her blond hair.

“Congratulations! May you remember this occasion. Please let the tea sit in the pot for two minutes before you pour it,” Mr. Chi advises.

“And when you have finished, please call me. I have an unusual treat for you today to thank you for visiting my cafe.”

“We will,” Aarav nods, “you made us curious.”

“I bet he’s going to perform one of his masterful tricks,” Maggie whispers.

Mr. Chi takes a slight bow and leaves the table. He straightens his traditional Hanfu clothing - a narrow-cuffed, knee-length tunic tied with a sash and a narrow, ankle-length skirt. It is made from silk in the colors green, red, and black, hand-embroidered, in keeping with the theme of the coffee shop.

He lights ten bamboo incense sticks and places them in a dragon’s bowl on a wooden stand. Within minutes, a strong cedar wood fragrance fills the space.

The aroma matches the mood.

“He’s watching us from behind the counter.” Maggie alerts Aarav.


“The owner, Mr. Chi.”

“I’m sure that doesn’t mean anything,” Aarav assures her. “He watches in case someone wishes his services.”

“How did he know we’re engaged? Do you see that?” Maggie asks.

“Now what?” Aarav looks up from his cell phone.

“He puts something in a wooden box and behaves nervous. And now he opens an iron door and disappears. That’s odd.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure, and if you stop texting on your phone, you’ll see it. Can we please enjoy the moment? Switch off your phone for once!”

“I’m sorry honey, you are right.”

Aarav pushes the power button and slides the phone into his pocket.

“Done,” he chuckles, “where did you say he went?”

“There, at the back,” she points.

At the same time, a door opens, and Mr. Chi steps out with a carved wooden stick.

“Oh, he’s fetched his tools to show us some magic,” Aarav concludes. “Have you finished your tea? He said we should call him over.”

“Yep,” Maggie nods.

Aarav winks at Mr. Chi. The cafe owner shuffles to their table.

“Has the tea been to your liking?”

“Yes, thank you, a perfect aroma. I’ve never tasted such a tea blend before.”

“Thank you, Sir, that pleases me. You deserve to watch me perform some of my magical tricks. One moment, I will be back.”

Maggie follows every move as he takes the wooden box from the counter. When he returns to their table, he opens the lid. Inside is a deck of cards, coins, and a scarf.

Aarav frowns his forehead in disappointment. He expected more sophisticated magic from the so-called master magician.

“I will start with a couple of simple, old-fashioned tricks,” Mr. Chi begins.

He lets Maggie pick a card from the deck, remember it, and then has her put it back at random. He lays a row of cards on the table, chooses one, and shows it to her.

“Is this the card you took before, Miss?”

“It is!” Maggie gloats. “That’s astonishing!”

Next, the magician takes a couple of coins out of the box, runs them through his fingers, and makes them disappear. Seconds later, he recovers the coins from behind Aarav’s ears.

“This is boring,” he whispers to Maggie. “Nothing masterful about these tricks.”

“Patience, young man, patience,” the magician reprimands Aarav.

“Before I show you a masterpiece, I will teach you about Chinese mythology.”

He folds his hands and scrutinizes the shop as if he’s afraid.

“There are several Yaoguai or demons,” he speaks in a soft tone. “The E gui or Di fu ling, are spirits of dead people with a strong attachment to where they lived. And then there is Jiangshi, a kind of Zombie. They are the ones to watch out for. They kill human beings to gain their energy.”

“I hope there aren’t any of those in your store,” Aarav smirks.

Mr. Chi remains unresponsive and continues.

“The Wutou gui are headless ghosts, spirits of decapitated people. But we also know mythological creatures. One of them is the Dilong.” The small Chinese’s eyes shoot fire.

They peer into Maggie’s for an uncomfortable split second.

“Let me introduce you to my masterpiece!” he announces with an unusually high-pitched voice.

Heads turn at the other tables in the room. People wonder what will happen next.

The magician holds the carved wand and touches the wooden box. The sides of the box fold open and transform the deck of cards into a thick book with an engraved leather cover. A second later, the cover opens and sheets of thin papyrus appear with symbols and letters. Mr. Chi takes a golden key out of his pocket and places it on one of the pages.

He sways the stick and utters weird Chinese words, followed by an apparent translation; “Oh destroyer, giver of light, great friend and fearsome enemy, your master calls!”

He touches the book with the wand. Straight away, the key glows and lifts into the air. Maggie, Aarav, and other remaining visitors watch in awe as it flies towards the large iron door at the back of the cafe. The key enters the keyhole, and the heavy door opens.

Everyone in the room turns their head to the opening.

Within seconds, a general panic sets in. People flee out the door when a monstrous worm-like creature with a dragon’s head slides out. It blows fire and shrieks, showing a row of enormous claws on each side of its slippery, green and yellow body. It raises itself upwards, and the head sways.

Maggie jumps out of her chair.

“Eek! What’s that? Let’s get out of here!”

Aarav pulls her back into her seat.

“This is what I call real magic! Wow!” he cheers and grabs his phone.

“I’m glad you appreciate my art,” Mr. Chi chuckles.

“Perhaps we should leave,” Maggie urges her fiancee. “That beast scares me.”

“No way, this is fantastic! I’m sure nothing happens to us. It’s a trick, this isn’t real.”

He switches on his phone and takes several pictures.

“This is a Dilong,” the magician beams. “His name is Gang, and he performs amazing tricks. Let the fun begin!”

Right then, a new visitor enters the cafe. The man freezes to the spot when he stands eye- to-eye with the monster. In a state of shock, he leaves the door wide open.

The creature turns to the opening.

Before Mr. Chi can stop it, Gang speeds towards the exit.

Without paying attention to the man, he glides away onto the pavement. The passersby scream out in terror.

“No, no, no,” the magician panics. “This cannot happen. Dear, oh dear, awful, awful!”

He stumbles after the beast, but it’s already out of sight. The distant sound of screaming comes from terrified people.

“Can’t you make it vanish with your magic?” Aarav gasps after he catches up with him.

“No, not from this far. What am I going to do?”

“I guess we have to find it,” Aarav suggests. “Is it going to hurt people?”

“That’s a good question, and I do not know the answer,” Mr. Chi admits.

Meanwhile, Maggie joined them.

“Ready for a chase through the city, my love?” Aarav suppresses a laugh.

“What? You’re joking, right?” She stares at him. “Right?”

“No, this is serious. We have to find this worm, dragon, or whatever it is before it does any harm. And Mr. Chi will help us. He needs to be close to make it disappear again.”

A few blocks of streets further on, Gang, having seized its newfound freedom, digs beneath buildings, undermining their foundations until they crumble. Cobblestones and asphalt get torn apart, making the streets impassable. Cars get flipped as the creature slithers beneath them, propelling them skyward.

Chaos takes hold of the town, and the rampage of Gang leaves widespread destruction. “We must halt this menace before it destroys our precious monuments,” Maggie insists.

Aarav’s voice resonates. “Agreed! What are we waiting for? Come on, Mr. Chi, let’s hasten!”

The short Chinese magician, clutching his magic wand, struggles to match the pace of the determined young couple—his tiny feet a hindrance in their race against time.

Mr. Chi stops and clicks his heels, murmuring three cryptic, unintelligible words, and defies gravity, soaring upward. In mere seconds, he overtakes Aarav and Maggie, who gaze at him in astonishment.

Hello, you two!” he cheerfully waves, his departure leaving them bewildered. Aarav’s mind races: “How on earth does he do it?

Maggie, more practical, calls after him: “Mr. Chi, wait for us!” But he recedes, a mere speck in the sky.

Keep running, Maggie,” Aarav urges, gripping her hand. “I hear people scream and the sound of destruction. We’re closing in on the monster.” Although out of breath, they press forward, determined to confront the chaos threatening their world.

They hurry along the streets, turning corner after corner. After the fourth turn, their hunt comes to an abrupt end. A horrific scene unfolds in front.

The creature crawls underneath a truck with beer bottles. The Dilong turns the lorry over, and glass crashes on the asphalt, breaking into small pieces. A strong smell of alcohol enters their nostrils.

The truck driver escapes unharmed.

“Run for your life!” he shouts when he rushes past them.

The worm-like beast continues his frenzy.

“Where is Mr. Chi?”

“There!” Aarav points out. “He’s hovering over the truck, closing in on Gang. I hope he can use his powers to stop him.”

But when Mr. Chi wants to swing his magic wand, Gang sways with his backside and hits the magician with a blunt force. The impact launches him like a missile and throws him against a wall.

Maggie and Aarav hide behind cars to remain unseen by the creature. They move ahead to reach the older man. When they do, he sits on the pavement, dazed by the smash.

Aarav gently slaps his cheeks. “Mr. Chi, stand up, Mr. Chi! We need you. The city needs you! Please, Mr. Chi!”

“Gang moves toward the Lincoln Memorial!” Maggie panics. “He can’t destroy the statue of the 16th President of the United States! Mr. Chi! Come on!”

With eyes as flames of fire, he awakens.

“Ah, yes, he can, and he must destroy the monument,” he utters.

“What? You are talking gibberish.”

“You don’t understand, young lady. My ancestors’ home once stood on the spot of that statue. And it’s most important to stand on the grounds without the sculpture blocking the access.”

“Why? I mean, what’s the point?”

“Well, I haven’t been honest with you. You see....”

They lose Mr. Chi’s words in the noise of a military convoy. The army vehicles and a tank roar through the street.

“At last, the government forces respond!” Maggie cheers. “About time!”

“Yes, quick, let’s run after them. I don’t want to miss what’s happening next,” Aarav suggests.

“No, no, we need to stop them!” Mr. Chi jumps up from the footpath. “They cannot hurt the Dilong. It must finish his task!”

“But he tried to kill you!” Maggie reminds him.

“He mistook me for something else. An unfortunate error.”

“The smash against the wall affected his brains,” Aarav concludes. “He’s talking nonsense. Come, let’s go.”

The three of them hastened to the Memorial.

When they arrive at the statue, the Army tank stands in position, and soldiers holding combat rifles form a wall around the creature.

Gang spits fire at them and sweeps his hind side. He tries to grab the soldiers with his claws, but they shoot at him. The beast shrieks and knows it’s trapped.

“Please do not hurt the Dilong!” Mr. Chi shouts in the distance. “I can handle this. It will soon go away!”

“Halt! Citizens are not allowed up close! Who are you?” An Army Officer demands to know.

“I am a Master Magician from China. I created this creature and can make it vanish if only I can get close enough.”

“Ha, you want me to believe that?”

“It’s true,” Aarav interferes, “what he says. But he wants it to destroy the monument. Something’s wrong with this guy.”

Straight away, the officer points a rifle at them.

“I’ve heard enough. Stay here, move no further.”

Within seconds, the tiny Chinese clicks his heels and flies over the assembly.

“What the f….” The officer cannot finish his sentence. The monster shoots fire.

Mr. Chi lands a meter away from the monster and grabs the magic wand from his pocket.

“Don’t come closer. Or you will regret it!” He yells.

From a distance, a young man hurries toward them. He holds the thick magic book in his hands.

“Wait! He’s right! Great grandfather, what have you done? I cannot allow you to perform such sorcery!” He turns his head to the others. “I am Chen, Mr. Chi’s great-grandson. He used his wizardry to remain on earth as a è guî, a hungry ghost!”

“No way!” Aarav blurts out.

“That can’t be true!” Maggie exclaims.

“Yes, it is. With the help of the Dilong, he wants to disappear into the ground to find his final resting place. He must therefore let the Dilong destroy the statue!”

A tall, overwhelming man in army uniform steps forward and raises his voice toward the magician.

“This is Colonel Rogers speaking. We cannot allow you to level the sculpture to the ground, sir. I order you to surrender before it’s too late!”

“I will never surrender. I have to do this in the name of my ancestors!”

“This guy is nuts,” the Colonel concludes. “Soldiers, stand ready to fire on my mark!”

“No, no!” Maggie cries. “You can’t kill them. There must be another way. Can’t you use a net or something?”

“I’m sorry, Miss, we cannot take the risk. Who knows what tricks he has up his sleeves? Please step aside, and that’s an order!”

Aarav and Maggie are helpless. There’s nothing they can do to stop the assault.

“I give you one more chance, sir,” the Colonel shouts. “Will you surrender?”

No response.

“Great grandfather, please! Do not let me use the book!” Chen begs him.

But Mr. Chi swings his wand at the Dilong, who then moves to push over the statue. The army stands ready to fire.

Chen has no choice but to counteract the spell.

Without further hesitation, he opens the ancient sorcerer’s book, points his index finger, and speaks words in Chinese. A fireball swirls toward his great-grandfather and the monster. To everyone’s amazement, they shatter into tiny pieces and vanish from sight.

“Chen spoke the truth. Mr. Chi was a spirit, and so was Gang,” Maggie utters, overcome with emotions. Tears flow along her cheeks. “His soul will never be at peace.”

Aarav puts his arm around her waist and pulls her close.

“Who would have ever thought?” he comforts her. “Still, we could not allow them to ruin the monument.”

“Mr. Chen, a word, please,” the Colonel barks.

The men step aside, and a hefty discussion follows.

Maggie and Aarav wait in eager anticipation of the outcome.

After half an hour, the two men shake hands. Chen takes a deep bow, waves at the young couple, and walks away.

The Colonel orders his troops to retreat and the two youngsters remain behind, wondering what occurred. None the wiser.

Weeks later they stand in front of Mr. Chi’s Coffee Shop in Chinatown. Reluctant to enter. The words ‘Master Magician’ are nowhere to be seen.

When they peak through the window, Chen serves the customers inside the small restaurant.

“I wonder if he masters the magic and resurrected his great-grandpa?” Maggie whispers.

“Or his great grandfather reincarnated. There’s only one way to find out,” Aarav grins.

“Oh no, we’re not,” she pulls him away. “I’ve had enough adventure for now.”

A sad-looking, ghostly appearance, an older man wearing a Hanfu stares from behind the glass when the young couple leaves.