[Edit 05/06/12- Going back and doing some editing to this before I get going on the next chapter. None of them are major or plot-altering, they mostly concern either small writing style things or trying to make it more historically accurate (somehow I failed to realize that "books" as we know them today did not exist in 500 A.D. *punches self*]

This is definitely going to be my longest project to date. It will encompass the entirety of the lives of these four during their time together, 1500 years ago. Rating will be PG13 to soft R overall, though this chapter is G. There will be het, and there will be slash, although more than that you'll just have to wait for.

Enjoy the beginning of an era.


The Beginning of the End

Prologue


The year was 499 A.D. A steady hiss of rain assaulted the simple bamboo roof of a small, secluded temple nestled in the mountains of China. Despite the late hour and weather conditions, the indoor lanterns could still be seen shining through the windows. A young boy sat curled up just inside the doorway. He wore a simple robe of red cotton, and a black sash adorned his slender waist. As the light from the lantern that hung from the wall just above him flickered in the wind, it cast quivering shadows on his clean-shaven head. He shivered- the night air was cold in the mountains- and struggled not to nod off to sleep. All fatigue vanished, however, as a faint, animated shadow appeared in the distance through the rain.

As it drew rapidly closer, the single shadow became four, one tall and three small. A huge grin spread across the bald boy's face and he nimbly hopped to his feet and out of the doorway as the people hurried inside to get out of the downpour. The boy, Dashi, would never forget this first impression of his lifelong friends- out of breath, mud-spattered, and sopping wet- and years later, it still would make him laugh.

The tallest of the newly arrived children had a square jaw and oddly prominent cheekbones for someone so young, with sharp features that stood out particularly when the lantern light cast his face into semi-shadow. His garb revealed him to be an average, sturdy village boy, or perhaps a farmer's son, and like Dashi, his head was shaven, save for a shoulder-length black braid that fell from the very back. Immediately upon arriving, he collapsed against the wall with an exhausted sigh.

The second child, also a boy, looked to be the polar opposite of the first. He was thin and clearly underfed, and his long, matted dark hair clung to an olive-toned face with gentle features and eyes that were just a bit too large. He wore only a ripped tunic, and even the hard sheets of rain had not quite managed to cleanse him of what appeared to be months' worth of caked-on dirt. When he realized that Dashi was looking at him, he turned red in embarrassment and produced a tattered, folded-up scroll from inside his tunic, immediately opening it and burying his nose in it.

Despite the sorry state the newcomers were in, the final child still stood out from the other two, if only because she was the strangest looking person that Dashi had ever seen. Her skin was an exotic shade of bronze, with unusual black stripes starting at the bottom of her eyes and streaking down her cheeks. Since they had not smudged or run because of the rain, the young monk could only guess that they were some sort of tattoos, not painted on. She wore tribal clothing in a style that Dashi did not recognize- brightly colored and intricately wrapped- and the beaded ornaments that hung from her ears and wove through her long, shockingly red hair shimmered in the lantern's flickering light. She looked supremely unconcerned with the entire affair, and began absently twirling one of the longer strings of beads around her finger.

No matter what they looked like, Dashi was grateful for any company his own age. Although he had only been training at the temple for two months, it got lonely very quickly for an eleven-year-old when he discovered that that the only other person currently living there was the old temple master, Master Chang. So naturally, he had been ecstatic when the Master Chang had told him that he was leaving for a short time and promised to return with new students. Now, Dashi approached the elderly master, still wearing his exuberant grin and forgetting to bow in his excitement, and said, "I'm so glad you're back, Master! Did you have to run all the way here in the rain?"

The master shook his head and laughed, answering, "Thankfully, no, young monk. It began only a few minutes ago." He gestured to the other children. "Allow me to introduce you to our new students. Guan, the future Dragon of Fire." The sharp-featured boy looked up when he heard his name, offering a small nod and a weary smile. Master Chang continued, inclining his head to the smallest boy. "Chase Young, Dragon of Water." This didn't surprise Dashi in the least, as this boy appeared to be the only one not bothered at all by the fact that he was soaking wet. However, even when his name was called, he made no move to acknowledge it, still mostly hidden behind his scroll. Chuckling, Master Chang indicated the strangely clothed young girl and said, "And the Dragon of Earth, Wuya." She smirked, making a small 'hmph' noise and tossing her hair, which showered everyone else with droplets of water.

Still smiling, Master Chang moved quietly to the doorway of the temple hall. "I will leave you children to get to know one another," he said, then left the room.

The awkward silence left in the room was alleviated only slightly by the continual hiss of the rain outside, and for several long moments, no one spoke. In a slightly desperate attempt to make conversation, Dashi approached Chase, leaning over his shoulder and asking, "So...what are you reading about?"

Without looking up, Chase answered, "I don't know."

At this point, the other children were also listening, and with a confused glance, Guan inquired, "You don't know? Is it that hard to understand?"

The olive-skinned boy laughed lightly and shook his head. "No, it's nothing like that. It's just that I don't know how to read." When he noticed the taken-aback looks on the other children's faces, he gave an honest smile and added, "I just like looking at the pictures." Finally looking up from the worn paper, he exclaimed suddenly, "Oh! By the way, I'm Chase." The others chuckled; clearly, he had been too absorbed in his pictures to hear a word that had been exchanged so far.

It was Wuya who sat down next to him, extremely close, and teased in slightly broken accents, "We know." He tried to scoot away from her, but she had latched rather firmly onto his arm while he hadn't been paying attention.

Stifling another laugh, Dashi said, "Come on, let's go to bed. You guys look tired." He based this mostly on the fact that Guan had settled back down against the wall and was quietly nodding off. "We have to get up really early every morning here, but it's not that bad once you get used to it." Again, no one responded, and he pouted for a moment at the lack of attention being paid to him- particularly by the intriguing red-haired girl- but brightened back up quickly. "Oh, and I'm Dashi. I'm going to be the Dragon of Wind someday!" He grinned enthusiastically and motioned for the other children to follow him out of the hall to the sleeping quarters, which after some mumbled protestations from the barely conscious Guan, they eventually did.

When Dashi finally fell asleep, the only reason was to make the next day come faster. He couldn't wait.


In a back room of the temple, Master Chang bent over a roaring fire, returning a moment later to a table in the center of the room carrying a red, oval-shaped object. He laid the egg on the table and watched, and for a moment all it did was smoke gently. Then, a faint tapping sound could be heard, and a single ivory-colored claw poked its way through the shell. More claws followed, then a larger crack appeared and the end of a snout pushed through. Finally, the shell split cleanly down the middle and a tiny creature plopped out onto the table. It was shaped something like a ribbon, with fine green scales and a crest and beard of red fur. Smiling, the temple master gently picked it up and scratched its belly. The little dragon cooed happily and began to chew on his finger.

"Welcome to the world, Dojo."


End Prologue


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