The Boy, The Curse, and The Maiden.
Once upon a time, there was a young boy who lived in China. He a prince, but he was a selfish one; he was a spoiled boy, asking for things he wanted while giving nothing in return, it was this very reason that he never made friends. No one wanted to be friends with someone as selfish as the boy, but upon learning this for himself he screamed into the skies, "Who needs friends, I can have anything I want!"
The boy became more selfish as he aged, now as full grown man he was about to be crowned the new emperor of China's imperial until that fateful day. An old woman wandered in the cold rain at night without an umbrella, she was drenched but continued onward to the imperial palace; as she reached the palace doors and knocked, the guards stood before her with spears and swords at the ready. She asked wearily. "Please, may I ask for a room to stay?"
"Follow me, the prince will listen to your plea." One of the guards led the old woman inside to the Prince's throne, he watched as the two came in and the guard bowed to him. "My prince, you have a guest asking for help."
"Fine, what do you want old woman?" He called.
"Please young prince, could you please give me a room to stay for the night?" She asked.
"Hm... guard leave us." The guard did as told, leaving the two alone in the throne room. "Why should I give shelter to some old women I don't even know? Do you have something for me in return, I doubt an old lady like you has any valuable treasures for me." The old woman stared at the boy in silence, it irritated him how she looked at him with cold empty eyes. "Answer me old woman!"
"You are a lonely boy, aren't you?" The woman said unexpectantly. "I can tell from your voice, you can't hide it."
"W-What are you talking about you old hag?" He said shocked by the sudden response.
"You had no one in your life to call a friend, you bury your weakness of being alone with useless things like money and jewels." She continued. "You try so hard to fill that void in your heart, but even now you feel alone... you poor boy."
"SILENCE!" The boy in rage struck the old woman to the ground. "How dare you act like you know me, why would I need friends when I can have everything I want! You stupid old hag!" The boy kicked her while she was down. "Don't ever act like you know me, I should have you locked up and left to die!"
The boy kicked one more time only to have his foot stop before contact, the old woman stared at him before her eyes glowed brightly throwing him to the wall. The boy looked as the old woman began to transform into a beautiful young sorceress. With a wave of her hand she brought him closer to touch. "Arrogant prince, a lonely heart with the ferocity of a dragon. Until you find what your heart truely desires, you will be cursed into taking the shape of becoming the ferocious dragon you pretend to be."
In a brief flash of light the sorceress disappeared, the boy fell to the ground as he began to writhe in sudden pain. He looked as his hands as they began to change, scales began to take the place of his skin and two fingers began to shrink until they disappeared while his remaining three began to grow sharp black claws. His eyes turned into golden catlike slits as his teeth grew into a sharp row of fangs, a tail began to sprout from under him growing longer and covered in scales. "RRRgh, what's happening to me?"
The boy's body grew, his clothes beginning to tear away while his legs began to disappear. The guards could hear the sound of screaming coming of the throne room and hurried inside to see what was happening, but they were shocked to see the terror that appeared before them; a large red chinese dragon was standing before them, when they saw the clothes of the prince ripped on the floor they screamed, "The prince has been killed, kill the dragon!"
The boy turned dragon roared out in help, but the soilders charged and began to attack him; without any other alternative the boy escaped the palace and flew into the sky, he flew to the nearby mountains and found a cave to hide in. It was cold and dark inside, there was nothing there for him, and now he had nothing. No family, no wealth... he was all alone.
Three months had passed since then, the solitary life had made the boy more ferocious now than he was as a human. Because people had thought the boy had died, his father the emperor had ordered his soilders to kill the dragon that was once his son but no one could get near him; whenever an group would attack would be pushed away by a breath of fire. The boy never once let anyone get close to him until that fateful day. After noticing that someone had entered his cave while asleep, the boy growled and yelled. "Who dares come into my cave! Get out before its too late!" There was no answer or sound, but the boy's hearing was heightened as a dragon and able to hear the breathing of the person inside his cave. "I said get out!" He moved out of his makeshift bed and roared a few flames to scare whoever came inside his cave, but what he saw something he didn't expect;looking out into the cave the boy was surprised to see a girl staring back at him, the young maiden was the same age as him, she had long chestnut hair that reached to her waist the same color of her eyes, the floral pattern dress was a bit ripped probably from traversing up the mountain. "What are you doing here, get out!"
"..." The girl did not answer, she looked at the boy with her deep brown eyes.
"Are you scared girl?" She shook her head in reply. "Speak up, answer me straight this instant!" The young maiden winced at his loud voice, she tried to speak up but only made the sounds a baby would make. Though a bit surprised, the boy knew exactly why she responded like that; the girl couldn't speak, until he learned to speak like a human again he would make the same sounds when trying to say words. "You don't have to be afraid, I won't hurt you."
The maiden watched him intently before walking forward, she held her hand to touch the boy's cheek. He didn't know why he let her do that, or even why she would want to touch his scally face but it was something he hadn't felt in a long while; a soft gentle touch was something he missed, though he couldn't understand why this girl would get so close to him. The boy watched girl for several days, she would pass by again and again bringing fish for him to eat. He would cook them in front of her with his fire and leave whatever fish was left he didn't want he'd let her have. The maiden was strange to keep coming to him like this, why would someone come to see a dragon? "You should stop coming here."
"..." She looked up at him confused.
"It's not right for you to be here, so go away and don't come back." The young maiden continued to stare at him, as if questioning decision in asking her to leave. "Why exactly are you even coming here in the first place, you have no reason to."
The maiden shook her head and opened her mouth to speak but only the sounds of a child would come out as always, the boy huffed as he turned around to return further in cave before she reached out and pulled on one of the whiskers on his nose. He turned to see the maiden, but in her eyes he could tell what she wanted to say; she wanted to stay with him, but why would she want to when he's a dragon? "Do you want to know something, I wasn't always like this. I used to be a human just like you. I was the prince of the imperial palace, but I must admit I was a selfish prince. Because of my selfishness I angered a sorceress who cursed me into this form. After these last months I realized that I deserved this, I was a horrible person as the prince not caring about others but myself. The sorceress said that in order for me to return to my normal form I must find what heart truely wants, if only I knew what that was."
The young maiden stepped forward until she was face to face with the boy, her arms opened up until she hugged his dragon face. This was something he never felt before, to feel the touch of someone's hand was one thing but he had never recieved a hug before; it felt so warm, his heart began to pound faster like he was about to breathe fire, he moved his head away before anything happened. "W-What was that for, you shouldn't do something like that out of nowhere. I could've breathed fire and burned you alive."
She smiled making a happy giggle, and though it was hard to tell as a dragon the boy began to smile as well. "T-Thank you though, it was... nice of you."
The two chuckled together for the first time ever, it was impossible to understand but the boy began to feel that the maiden was close to her. As days went on she began to smile more as she visited, bringing small gifts like flowers to the boy. Gifts were so common to the boy as a prince, but to get them from the young maiden made it even more special to him; the boy began to feel closer to the maiden, after so many gifts he felt as if he should do something in return for her. Using the flowers she had given to him, the boy began to twist them together and made a little crown for her. It was rather difficult with his large claws but he finally managed to do it, now all he needed to do was wait for the maiden to return. "I wonder if she'll like this gift?"
As he waited the hours seem to pass more and more, but the maiden would not come. The boy felt saddened until he began to hear the sound of someone screaming, it was the maiden's voice that was screaming. Scared, the boy flew out of his cave but was taken down by a large net that was waiting for him; he looked around hims to see his father, the emperor's soilders around him trying to hold him down. "Sir we got him, he's trapped."
"Good, now just wait until his majes-guh!" The maiden who had escaped from other soldiers pushed the captain away, she ran to the boy before the captain grabbed her wrist and pinned her to the ground. "Hold still, don't you know you're in danger?"
Seeing the maiden screaming for help enraged the boy, he roared flames that burned through the net to escape. He swung his tail at the captain who released his grip from the maiden as he was thrown back, the boy circled around her to keep her safe while breathing more fire at the soldiers. "Are you alright?"
The maiden nodded nervously, the boy kept her close as more soldiers came but was shocked to see who was leading them; the emperor was leading the men, his own father had come to kill him, knowing this made the boy's heart sink. "So we finally meet you vile beast, you will pay for the death of my son!"
What could hey say to make his father believe that he was his son, the boy was at a lost for words but before he could do anything the young maiden stood in front of him to protect him; he was just as surprised as his father was, the emperor calmed his anger and stood before the girl. "Please move this instant, I do not wish to hurt you." The girl shook her head and stomped her foot to say she would not move, this irritated the emperor. "Do you not know what this beast has done, he killed my son the prince. Why are you protecting him?"
'Why is she protecting me?' The boy thought as he watched the two. 'Is it pity? Do I just look pathetic to her?'
"He's my friend." That word "Friend" hit the boy like a fist to his face as it was something he never expected to hear from anyone, and what made more surprising was that it came from the young maiden herself.
"Your friend, how absurd!" The emperor retorted.
"You're absurd sir, please listen. That's not just a dragon, he's your son the prince." She stated. "Just look and listen to him please."
"Listen to him, how can I listen to a dragon!" He shouted irritated.
"You're... my friend?" The soldiers and emperor grew silent in awe as the boy turned dragon spoke in front of all of them. "Are you really... my friend."
"It speaks?" A soldier said shocked.
"Did you not believe we were friends, even after all the time we had together?" The maiden smiled and touched his snout. "You're my friend, I care about you."
"I actually have... a friend." The boy's once cold heart began to melt completely by an unbelievable wamrth, he began to feel a burning sensation inside of his body. "Rrragh, what's happening to me? My body it's... it's burning!"
They boy breathed fire into the sky, the flames falling down and enveloping him in a sphere of fire. Inside he began to experience a transformation, his body began to shrink down and his tail started to disappear; legs began to grow under him as his hands began to transform into a more human form. Everyone watched as the sphere of flames grew smaller and smaller until it finally exploded, from the smoke of the explosion a dark silhouette showed the body of a young boy. The boy looking over himself was at total awe, he had returned to his human form once again. "I-I'm human again... I'm human again!"
"Son..." The emperor was at a lost for words, but tears of joy began to fall from his face without even knowing it. "Quickly men cover him with something." The soldiers did as they were told, they grabbed a pair of sheets used for camping and wrapped the young prince with them. The emperor came over and hugged his son for all he was worth. "My son, you were alive this whole time. I'm so glad."
"I can't believe I'm actually back to normal, b-but how?" He asked.
"You told me the only way to break the sorceress' curse was to find what your heart truely wants isn't that right?" The maiden asked. "I think all your heart really wanted, was a friend to be close with."
"And you're... you're my friend." The boy remembered something at that moment and quickly ran to the cave only to come back with the crown of flowers he made for the maiden, he placed it on her head and smiled. "Thank you so much, you really are my friend."
The maiden smiled, giggling as the emperor said to his men, "Let us return home and celebrate this joyous moment, my son is alive!"
The soldiers cheered and headed down the mountain, the boy followed his father holding hands with the young maiden. He had finally found what his heart desired... he found his one true friend.