Lóng er woke up suddenly to see herself snuggled on Zhu's lap, with the mottled faces of 2 dozen warriors and townfolk staring down at her.
"This dragon. I assume it is your's, Zhu?" A large man with a deep voice beamed at him.
"No, it is Lóng er's dragon." The man stopped smiling.
"A woman? A Gōngzhǔ, riding a dragon? No. You're lying, sir."
"Look at her clothes. She wears her father's, Ānxí (rest in peace), armour."
"You're lying to us! A woman is too delicate to ride a dragon." A man at the back reached out a foot to kick the dead dragon.
"STOP! Do you not see he is peaceful?" Lóng er shouted hysterically.
"Peaceful?" The man asked. "He is dead?"
"Regretably so." Zhu said.
"I'm sorry Zhu." Two men behind Zhu grabbed his arms and pulled him to the floor. The large man sighed and looked at the floor. "You are sentenced to death for the murder of a Zhànzhēng yīngxióng (war hero)."
"This dragon was a Yīngxióng (hero) and you killed him. We know, because dragons do not fly and the next hour die. They die so very slowly. So, you must have killed him."
Lóng er cried out a small incoherent sound. It was something like "No!" and "Tell him!". It was a very small sound, starved of breath, filled with emotion.
"And you, Gōngzhǔ, are sentenced to death for the crime of wearing men's clothes. Please, someone hold her down."
She was pulled to the floor next to Zhu. A knife was held to Zhu's throat. He counted:
"Sān..." under his breath. 3 animals together, himself, Huǒ qìxí, and his beloved Lóng er, that had created safety for these people. 3 animals that did not deserve to die.
"Èr..." 2 people that were meant to spend more than one day truly together.
"Yī.." 1 person he had to save at all costs.
Lóng er watched blearily as Zhu broke free of his captors grasp, took her hand and forced her to stumble to her feet. She ran with him through the trees. He ran very fast and very sure. They ran until they were very much free.
At one point, Zhu's 1 person he had to save had been himself. But now, there was someone much more important to him.