The Dragon from Guangzhou

Other submissions by Dacia Weist:
If you want to read their other submissions, please click the links.
Trial of Reality (Sci-Fi, Writing Award 2023)
Trials & Tribulations of Modesty Greene (Historical Fiction, Book Award 2023)
Glue (Women's Fiction, Book Award 2023)
The Sinners' Club (Contemporary Fiction, Book Award 2023)
The Dragon from Guangzhou (Historical Fiction, Screenplay Award 2023)
Trials & Tribulations of Modesty Greene (Historical Fiction, Screenplay Award 2023)
Glue (Women's Fiction, Screenplay Award 2023)
The Sinners' Club (Contemporary Fiction, Screenplay Award 2023)
Trial of Reality (Sci-Fi, Screenplay Award 2023)
Bek (True Stories, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
The Original Zodiac or Philo and Pater (Historical Fiction, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
Letters to the Bottom of Elephant Butte (Women's Fiction, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
In the Interim (Drama, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
Lori; my favorite four-letter word (LGBT, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
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Mógū's rough start as a discarded daughter raised by nuns worsened after puberty when she was sold to work on a flower boat. Shrewd & determined to come out on top of a bad situation, she prospered from a golden opportunity the pirates who kidnapped her provided. Based on the pirate, Ching Shih.
First 10 Pages

The Dragon from Guangzhou by DW Plato

Chapter One - A Girl Named Mógū

1801 - Off the shore of Guangzhou, South China

The stiff leather hood had been cinched firm around her neck. Danger danced on her flesh. She felt the fumbling of the knot being undone below her chin. The fear thick in her throat caused her heart rate to flare. Who were these people who had kidnapped her?

Fresh air, tinged with incense, filled her nostrils as the hood was pulled off. Mógū (Mushroom) breathed deep. Her eyes were already adjusted to the dim light. Candles flickered and danced creating a warm comforting atmosphere. A bed chamber?

Large, colorful silk pillows were piled high on an oversized bed. Ornate wood carvings adorned each piece of furniture. Everything she saw screamed wealth. The furnishings were luxurious, the art on the walls, even the rug under her bare feet was plush and expensive. From the corner of her eye, she saw a figure sitting at a little table on the far end of the room. She squinted in the dim trying to make out facial features. The man rose and leisurely moved into her line of vision.

“It was you?” she questioned as recognition settled. Her face knotted in confusion and she felt as if she may get sick. The incense suddenly seemed to choke her as the memories of the day before crashed into her thoughts, the carnage on the flower boat, the terror, the blood. Chuntao. She shook her head blocking the images still fresh in her mind.

The man smiled with confidence and reached out to stroke her cheek. His voice was calm, “Hello, my dear.”

Twelve hours earlier ~

Shrill screams, high pitched and pained, startled Mógū. It was dawn and the young woman had been looking forward to getting some sleep. She had taken most of her work garb off and stood stock-still in her undergarments. Her twelve-hour shift on the floating brothel ended when the sun came up. It would start again at dusk. She preferred being available to their clients at night; evening trysts were much more fun and often included booze, and opium. Another shriek from a different location on the upper deck sent a shiver down her spine.

Moving with the stealth and quickness of a cat, she retrieved her ten-inch dagger and, for good measure, took the broom handle she used to blockade her door in her other hand. Silently, she tip-toed into the hallway of the flower boat, all of her senses on high alert.

As Mógū crept up the narrow treads to the upper deck she heard the unmistakable grunts of a man engaged in intercourse. There was also a muffled, thin mewling of a woman in pain. Sunlight blinded her momentarily.

Sex was expected on the flower boat, it was a floating whorehouse after all, but what she saw was surprising. One of the prostitutes was being accosted against her will. The man had the woman pinned to the wooden planks of the deck. He had her head bent to one side while covering her mouth with his beefy hand. Her feet kicked and she twisted under his heft. Mógū noticed the woman’s lotus feet and knew which of the young women it was. Fury flared in her chest.

Without thinking she stuck her dagger with force into the tender fold of the man’s buttock and withdrew it quickly. He gave a sharp yip then moved from the woman confused and pained. His and Mógū’s eyes met. Fast and with force, she plunged the dagger deep into his neck, twisted it and pulled it out. Blood squirted at an odd angle, up and out. Pale faced, he staggered towards her in a last attempt to do her harm. She brought the broom handle down on the back of his skull. Crack! The noise was sickening and satisfying at the same time. Yu Yan crawled to the stairwell and disappeared.

It took Mógū only a moment to realize their boat was under attack. Who would do such a thing?she wondered on the run. Prostitution was illegal in Guangzhou but the government had made an exception for the flower boats since technically they were in the harbor. All the men who visited loved the service and attention the flower boats offered. Many came back time and time again. Most government officials made regular visits. They all treasured the flower boats from professionals to laymen.

They were just a bunch of women working to make ends meet. This attack didn’t make any sense.

Mógū had to find her best friend, Chuntao (Spring Peach). She knew her lifelong pal wouldn’t protect or defend herself. Where could she be? Mógū raced to the kitchen on impulse. Sure enough, Chuntao was there huddled behind a barrel of rice. Her eyes were wider than normal, and her face was completely drained of color. Relief overcame Mógū as she approached. She and Chuntao had been through so much together, their bond was as strong as steel. Even though they weren’t blood related they were the only family each of them had. Chuntao stood.

“What’s happening?” she sniveled.

Mógū shrugged and offered her friend a comforting smile.

“Why would you think I would know?”

“You like turmoil, admit it,” Chuntao mocked and moved towards her friend.

“No, I don’t,” Mógū said a little perturbed.

Suddenly, one of the attackers stepped from the doorway. He drove his sword blade through Chuntao’s back. It tore through her gown and poked out of her chest. Her round face froze in an expression of surprise as she fell forward off the man’s blade.

“NO!” Mógū wailed. The man swung his sword at her but she was quicker. She ducked under the deadly swipe. Crouched down, she ran towards her assailant. She rammed the top of her head into the man’s groin full force. The bellow from him let her know she had hit the mark. Mógū scooped up his dropped weapon. In one fluid motion, she stood and beheaded the man. The razor-sharp sword had hesitated only slightly as it went through his spine. She heard a dull thunk when his skull hit the deck. The body fell a moment after.

Mógū turned her attention to Chuntao. Blood oozed through the front of her garments. She was trembling and very pale.

“No, no, no,” Mógū chanted and knelt beside her wounded friend.

“This is not good,” Chuntao whispered, “not good at all.”

“Sshhh, it’ll be alright,” Mógū answered with more confidence than she felt.

“Easy for you to say, you’re not hemorrhaging-”

“Be quiet,” Mógū said with authority, “seriously, sshhh…”

With force, she tore the woman’s bodice open. She made two strips of fabric with the front and with delicacy, she cinched it tight to stop the bleeding.

“Can you breathe?” she asked. Chuntao’s eyes were closed but she nodded. The color had completely drained from the young woman’s face, her lips had turned a light shade of blue.

Mógū glanced between Chuntao and the melee. Panic washed over her as a sickening feeling settled into her gut. Why? Who? How? So many questions tumbled through her mind as she tried to piece together the scene taking place around her.

A lithe figure caught Mógū’s attention. A painted face in a traditional white, black and red concubine style smiled at her. The figure moved with fluidity, swaying as if it were dancing. Confusion disarmed her brain. How had she not met this woman before? Was she a call girl? A new addition to the flower boat? Or part of the raid? Concubines raiding a brothel boat? None of this made sense.

Their eyes were locked as Mógū stood and studied the pretty face. She found herself returning a slight smile a split second before the black leather hood appeared from the folds of the woman’s dress and descended over her face.

Mógū fought and struggled. She clawed at her captor’s arms. This was man strength she realized with a sense of hopelessness, as she felt the rope being securely fastened around her neck. Like a sack of potatoes, she was heaved over the shoulder of her abductor and carried off the burning boat.

Although it had only been hours, it seemed like days before the dreadful hood was taken off her face.

“Hello, my dear,” Zheng Yi said to her as he gently stroked her cheek.

Chapter Two - Somewhere in the South Seas

Mógū lay in the bed re-playing the day’s events in her head. Zheng Yi’s proposal was bizarre. Last night she had been expecting him, he was a regular. Her favorite regular. They had a relationship that went beyond the bed. She would have called Zheng Yi a friend or at the least, a business partner. Over the years, he had given her plenty of extra money to whisper information from some of her other powerful clients. It had become a game to her, a well-paid and well-played game.

When the government official, Gen Gui, visited her chamber, she played the simple girl he desired. Being a successful mole came with a certain amount of acting. It’s what her bed romping escapades had turned into, a charade where she became who the paying patron craved. This tactic had created quite a reputation. Mógū was the busiest and best paid whore on the flower boat.

With Gui she asked simple questions about what he did and then pumped his frail male ego.

“You chase pirates?” she asked him, looking up through her makeup caked lashes. She would slowly take her clothes off and sit on his lap naked. “Aren’t you scared?” she would coo as her hips slowly began to rotate on Gui’s lap and she would feel his manhood grow under her bottom.

“You’ve got to think like a pirate and stay one step ahead of them,” Gui said as he lifted her from him, and undid his pants, but he always kept talking. “To be a successful law enforcer, one must have some streak of being a criminal.”

“So true, you’re so smart” she would usually encourage the conversation with flattery, “so brave.”

Mógū smiled and thought of the other men in power she had gotten lip-locked information from. She knew the information wasn’t all for Zheng Yi but his family too, specifically his brother, Zheng Qi. The Zheng family were the most notorious pirates of the South Seas and the most powerful family she knew. Little brother, Qi, had been a customer on the flower boat too. She noted she had never had sex with him and wondered which girl he had preferred. She pondered whether Zheng Yi had laid claim to her and perhaps that’s why Qi had never requested her bed specifically.

A light rap on the door brought Mógū back to the present. The slender young woman she now recognized from the flower boat seemed to float in and settled herself on a chair opposite Mógū. She tinkered with something she held in her long, slender fingers. Mógū kept her eyes on the woman’s perfectly painted face as she continued to turn it over and over.

The woman stopped playing with the object and set it on the little table next to her. Mógū now recognized what it was, the little doll of her likeness from the brothel boat. Each working woman had one of these little dolls fashioned to resemble her. The madam would lay the dolls down while the girls were with a client. If the doll stood, the woman was available for an appointment. With Mógū, her doll rarely, if ever, stood. Sometimes, the madam would place flat green soy beans in front of Mógū’s doll as the men would line up to be with her and each bean represented the next patron.

On average, Mógū would service four men an hour. In her mind, she approached each man as a business exchange. Most time, she would come across forceful, in charge. Powerful men seemed to like domination. Often fifteen minutes was too long. The nights that Zheng Yi visited were her favorite. He would pay for the remainder of her shift and they would indulge in the fine opium and rum he brought. She would tell him the secrets she got from her powerful, government connected clients and he would trade them for the bitter, tar-like substance she loved to smoke.

“Isn’t it time you thought about a career where you can stand on your own two feet instead of working from between your legs?” the visitor’s voice was low, smoky and direct. Mógū’s eyes flickered to the little doll standing on the bedside table.

“I’m not going to be second wife,” she said defiantly.

“Of course not,” the woman cooed, “first wife.”

Mógū’s face knitted into confusion, “Who are you?”

“Cheung Po Tsai of Sheng Jing. Lovely to make your acquaintance,” she smiled.

Something wasn’t right, “Cheung Po Tsai?” Mógū’s eyes dropped to the woman’s feet, “Sheng Jing?” The young lady slid her feet under the chair and allowed the long dress to cover them. “When I saw you on the flower boat, you certainly didn’t appear like a proper lady from Sheng Jing?” Mógū knew high ranked women from that area would certainly have bound feet.

“You’re a clever girl,” Cheung Po said. “You got me, I’m not really from Sheng Jing-”

“And you’re not really a woman,” Mógū guessed remembering the strength of her abductor. “I would have just come with you,” Mógū continued, “why did you have to kill Chuntao?”

Cheung Po coyly dipped his head, “I didn’t kill your friend,” he said feigning innocence, “you know what they say, boys will be-”

“Stop!” Mógū interrupted, she shook her head and lay back on the bed, “What do you want from me?”

“Zheng Yi was pretty clear with his proposal, was he not?”

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