Li Bai stood upon a hilltop gazing at a vista of landscapes that lay scattered before his eyes, They resembled a figment of his imagination. To one side in the distance stood the lofty karst mountains, crowned with verdant vegetation that pierced through the ocean of clouds, to look like islands hovering in the azure blue sky. A turn of the head, rice terraces, linked together, like emerald green ribbons hung out to adorn the hillside. Li Bai could imagine them in the spring, water logged and sparkling in the sunlight. Then turning a golden yellow, autumns end. Or covered in a blanket of snow come winter. Another turn of the head and farmers leading their water buffalo away from the river, as wading birds enjoyed the shallows. Fishermen in flat boats, letting their cormorants dive into the depths.
Li Bai stood in the sun, which was high in the sky, giving nourishment to the land. After drinking in the beauty of the countryside, he took out his magic bottle, poured himself a tot and toasted to the wonders of nature. Carrying on down the steep hill, Li Bai came to a small village, nestled in its shadow.
It was a typical small farmer’s community, of about forty homes. It had a communal well, a communal washing area and a communal area to grow crops. The houses were made of mud bricks, and wood, with thatched roofs. Each house consisted of two large rooms, which could be divided by screens for privacy. There was a communal hall where people could gather and a small temple, that was it. No tavern, in which he could hire a bed.
Li Bai considered walking on. For a market town would only be a couple of hours trek away, but such was the beauty of the place, he decided to stay and write. So, settling by a lake, he got out pen and paper and his magic bottle. He was lost to daydreams when the dragon disrupted his thoughts.
‘This time tomorrow, those houses will be destroyed.’ It said.
‘What do you mean.’ asked a startled Li Bai
‘A liuxing will fall from the sky, into the village’ answered the dragon.
‘A meteorite, destroy the village. How do you know?’ asked a worried Li Bai.
‘ I have seen it. It will sound as if thunder has struck, but the sky will be bright with no clouds. The earth will quake and rattle, the winds will be strong enough to blow down houses and flatten trees. Both trees and houses will burn, the sky will glow bright, as if there was a second sun.’ added the dragon.
‘I must warn the people.’ said Li Bai hurriedly putting pen and paper away, he gathered his belongings and headed for the village. Where he sought out the village elders. Who just laughed at what he told them.
Going back to the lake, he told the dragon, bat and fenghuang of his frustration. ‘How can I get them to listen.’ he asked.
‘Greed.’ said the bat
‘Greed! I don’t understand, what you mean?’ exclaimed Li Bai
‘Men are greedy, What can you offer them, to make them want to leave their homes.’ continued the bat.
‘I have nothing of value to offer.’ said Li Bai rather wearily.
‘They don’t know that, tell them you have lost a precious heirloom on the other side of the hill, and you will give a years pay to whoever finds it. As you have not lost one, therefore no one can find it. So you won’t have to pay, but it will empty the village.’
‘Yes, you are right, I will go into the village at sunrise and spread the word. Come midday the village will be empty.’ said a smiling Li Bai.
‘That is rather cruel.’ said the fenghuang. ‘They are poor farmers who are about to lose everything they possess,’
‘But it will save their lives.’ pointed out Li Bai.
‘There must be a better way.’ insisted the fenghuang.
‘I have an idea.’ piped in the dragon ‘I shall go and see the fuzanglong.’
‘The treasure dragon! Whatever for.’ asked a surprised Li Bai.
‘I will tell him what is going to happen and ask for his help.’ said the dragon.
‘Why?’ asked Li Bai.
‘I will explain when I get back.’ With that the dragon blew into the sky and a vortex of wind descended and carried him away.
‘I thought he could only do that at dawn.’ said Li Bai.
‘When he is taking someone else, but for himself, he can come and go as he pleases.’ answered the fenghaung.
Li Bai poured himself a drink from the magic bottle and was contemplating on the catastrophe that was in the making, when the dragon appeared. ‘Well’ said Li Bai ‘That was quick.’
‘I told the treasure dragon what was about to happen and that I needed an incentive for the farmers to leave their village. He delved amongst his treasure and came up with a bag of gold nuggets and he kindly gave them to me. So here’s what you do, you go to the other side of the hill, which will be safe enough from the impact when the meteorite strikes. There you will hide the gold nuggets. Come dawn, you will rush into the village and show them a nugget, telling them you found it and there must be more. Their greed will do the rest.’ concluded the dragon.
Li Bai gathered his belongings and climbed the hill to the opposite side. Where he began hiding gold nuggets and drinking from his magic bottle.
Dawn appeared as a glint on the horizon when Li Bai entered the village. There was a group of people on their way to the fields. Li Bai showed them the gold nugget and told them he had found it. Word spread like wildfire, soon the entire village had gathered around listening to his story, they were all eager to know where it had come from. Li Bai said he would show them, but first they must promise to share whatever was found evenly amongst all family’s in the village. Upon getting their promise, he led them over the hill.
The villagers soon set about hunting for gold, with the older ones sitting on rocks telling the younger ones where to search, Soon there was excited cries of ‘I have found one.’ ‘So have I.’ and so it went on until someone pointed upwards.
A pillar of bluish white light, nearly as bright as the sun its self, was moving through the sky. A short time later, there was a searing flash and a series of explosions, then a shock wave shook the ground, throwing people off their feet. The air became hot and stifling, making it hard to breath. Above the hill rose billowing clouds of black smoke and dust. The villagers were filled with panic, not knowing what was going on. Some even thought it was the end of the world.
When they eventually calmed down a little, Li Bai explained what had happened. The people nervously ventured over the hill, and they could see their homes destroyed and burning. Some were crying about their misfortune until one of the elders stood up.
‘We have lost a few possessions and personal items, but through this stranger’s kindness, we are alive, with enough gold to build a new life, so be thankful that we can start again. A new beginning and a new village.’
With these heartening words, everyone was wanting to shake Li Bai’s hand and thank him for being a saviour, but Li Bai said ‘Don’t thank me, thank the yellow dragon, the treasure dragon, the fenghuang and the bat.’ With that he left the villagers to contemplate upon their future and continued his journey.
After walking for a couple of hours, Li Bai stopped for a rest. He could still see the smoke rising in the distance behind him. Taking out his magic bottle of V.I.P Jiu 8 he took a drink and said ‘What have I learned today.’ “Nature can be beautiful and bountiful, but it can also be hideous and hostile.” So taking out pen and paper he began to write.
Sometimes the gods in heaven wait
Before they meddle with natures fate
Then in the sky an omen placed
With the outcome man is graced