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The Third Tale of Yun Tianming “Prince Deep Water”

Novel:Death's Endauthor:liu pubdate:2019-03-10 11:48

The next time Princess Dewdrop awakened, it was light out. The sea had turned from black to blue, but the princess still thought it looked completely different from pictures she had seen. The vastness that had been hidden by night now lay bare. Under the morning sun, the surface of the sea was completely empty. But in the princess’s imagination, the glutton fish didn’t cause this emptiness; rather, the sea was empty for her, just as her suites in the palace were empty, waiting for her. The yearning she had spoken of to Long-Sail during the night now became more intense. She imagined a white sail belonging to her appearing on the sea, drifting away with the wind until it disappeared.
Auntie Wide now held the umbrella up for her. The captain called for them from the beach ahead. When they came to his side, he pointed to the ocean. “Look, that’s Tomb Island.”
What the princess saw first wasn’t the island, but the giant standing on the island. It was clearly Prince Deep Water. He stood on the island like a lonesome mountain: his skin bronzed by the sun, his muscles rippling and bulging like folds of rock, his hair drifting in the wind like trees near the peak. He looked like Ice Sand, but wasn’t gloomy or dismal; rather, his gaze and expression all gave the viewer the feeling that he was open like the sea. The sun hadn’t completely risen yet, but the giant’s head was already bathed in the golden light, as though he were on fire. He shaded his eyes with a huge hand, and for a moment, the princess thought her gaze met his, and she cried out:
“Big brother! I’m Dewdrop, your little sister! I’m your baby sister Dewdrop! We’re here!”
The giant gave no indication that he heard. His gaze swept past where they stood and moved elsewhere.
Then he put his hand down, shook his head thoughtfully, and turned away. “Why isn’t he paying attention to us?” asked the anxious princess.
“Who would notice three ants in the distance?” The captain turned to Auntie Wide. “I told you Prince Deep Water is a giant.”
“But when I held him he really was just a tiny baby! How did he get so big? But it’s a good thing he’s a giant. No one can stop him. He can punish those evildoers and retrieve the princess’s portrait.”
“We still have to let him know what’s happened first,” said the captain.
“We must go over there! Let’s go to Tomb Island!” The princess clutched at Long-Sail.
“We can’t. In all these years, no one has been able to get on Tomb Island. And no one there can come here.”
“Is there really no way?” Tears escaped the princess’s eyes. “We came here to look for him! You must
know what to do.”
Watching the tearful princess, Long-Sail seemed helpless. “I really don’t know of a way. Coming here was the right decision, because you had to get away from the palace—otherwise you’d just be waiting to die. But I knew from the start that we wouldn’t be able to get to Tomb Island. Maybe … we can send him a message by messenger pigeon.”
“Great idea! Let’s go find a messenger pigeon right away.”
“But what good would it do? Even if he got the message, he still wouldn’t be able to come here. He might be a giant, but even he would be torn apart by the glutton fish in the sea.… Let’s have breakfast before we decide what to do. I’ll go prepare.”
“Oh no, my basin!” Auntie Wide cried out. It was high tide, and the rising waves had reached the wooden basin the princess had used the night before to wash her face. The basin had already floated some distance into the sea. It was upside down, and the soapy water inside had thrown white foam across a patch of the sea. They could see a few glutton fish swimming toward the basin, their sharp fins cutting through the surface like knives. The basin was going to turn into woodchips in their teeth in a second.
But something incredible happened: The glutton fish didn’t get to the basin. As soon as they reached the foam, they stopped swimming and floated to the surface. The fierce fish seemed to lose their drive, and became listless. A few slowly swung their tails back and forth—not to swim, but to display their relaxation. Others even decided to float with their white bellies up.
The three observed the sight in silence, stunned. Then the princess said, “I … think I know how they feel.
You’re so comfortable in the foam that it’s like you’ve gone boneless. They don’t want to move.”
Auntie Wide said, “The bath soap from He’ershingenmosiken really is wonderful. Too bad there are only two bars left.”
“Even in He’ershingenmosiken, this kind of soap is very precious,” said Captain Long-Sail. “Do you know how it is made? There’s a magical forest in He’ershingenmosiken made up of thousand-year-old bubble trees, all very tall. Normally, there’s nothing special about the bubble trees, but whenever there’s a strong wind, soap bubbles come out of the trees. The stronger the wind, the more bubbles emerge. The He’ershingenmosiken bath soap is made from those bubbles, but collecting the bubbles is no easy matter. The bubbles drift very fast in the wind, and since they are transparent, it’s very hard to see them. Only if someone were running as fast as the bubbles, such that they’re at rest relative to the bubbles, would they be able to see them. This is possible only by riding the fastest horses, of which there are no more than ten in all of He’ershingenmosiken. Whenever the bubble trees begin to blow bubbles, the soap-makers ride these horses to chase after the wind and try to collect the bubbles with a thin gauze net. The bubbles come in different sizes, but even the largest bubble, once it’s in the net, will burst and end up smaller than the eye could see. Hundreds of thousands of such bubbles have to be collected—sometimes millions—to make one bar of soap.
“But once the soap is in the water, each bubble from the bubble tree turns into millions of new bubbles. This is why this kind of bath soap generates so much foam. The bubbles have no weight, which is why pure, authentic He’ershingenmosiken bath soap also has no weight. It’s the lightest substance in the world, but extremely precious. The bars that Auntie Wide has were probably given as gifts by the He’ershingenmosiken ambassador at the king’s coronation. After that—”
Long-Sail abruptly stopped talking and stared at the sea, deep in thought. The few glutton fish continued to float lazily in the white foam. In front of them was the wooden basin, undamaged.
“I think there may be a way to get to Tomb Island!” Long-Sail pointed to the basin. “What if that’s a little boat?”
“Absolutely not!” said Auntie Wide. “How can the princess take such a risk?” “I wasn’t talking about the princess.”
The princess could tell by his determined gaze that the captain had already made up his mind.
“If you go alone, how can you make Prince Deep Water believe you?” The princess’s excited face was flushed. “I’ll go, too. I have to!”
“Even if you get to the island, how can you prove you are who you say you are?” The captain looked meaningfully at the commoner’s garb on the princess.
Auntie Wide said nothing. She knew there was a way.
“My brother and I can prove our relationship by testing our blood,” said the princess.
“Even so, the princess cannot go. It’s too frightening!” But Auntie Wide’s tone was no longer so nonnegotiable.
“Do you think I’m going to be safe staying here?” The princess pointed to the spinning black umbrella in Auntie Wide’s hand. “We’ll attract too much attention, and Ice Sand is going to follow us here. If I remain here, Ice Sand’s army will catch me even if I don’t end up in a painting. I’ll be safer on Tomb Island.”
And so they decided to go for it.
The captain found the smallest boat on the beach and used the horses to drag it to where the waves could just lick it. He couldn’t find a working sail, but was able to retrieve a pair of old oars from other ships. He had the princess and Auntie Wide, who held the umbrella, board the boat first. Then he skewered the bar of He’ershingenmosiken bath soap with his sword and handed the sword to the princess.
“As soon as the boat is in the water, stick the soap in.” The princess nodded.
He pushed the boat into the sea and waded until the water had risen to his waist before jumping into the boat himself. He rowed with all his strength, and the boat headed for Tomb Island.
The black fins of the glutton fish began to appear around them and to approach. The princess sat at the stern, and submerged the soap on the sword into the water. Foam instantly swelled out of the sea until the bubbles were as high as a man before spreading out in the wake of the ship. As the glutton fish swam into the bubbles, they began to drift, as though they were enjoying the incomparable sensation of cozying up on a soft, white, plush blanket. This was the first time the princess had been able to get such a close look at the glutton fish: Except for their white bellies, they were entirely black, like machines made of steel and iron—and now they were lazy and docile in the foam.
The boat proceeded over the serene sea, dragging a long foamy wake like a wisp of cloud fallen to the sea. Innumerable glutton fish approached from both sides and swam into the foam like pilgrims congregating at a river of clouds. Once in a while, a few glutton fish approached from the front of the boat and managed to get a few bites in on the bottom—one even managed to bite off a chunk of the oar in the captain’s hand. But soon, even these fish were lured away by the foam behind the boat, and not much damage was done. As the princess
took in the pure white cloud-river of bubbles behind the boat and the intoxicated multitude of glutton fish, she was reminded of Heaven as described by the priests.
The shore receded and the boat approached Tomb Island.
Auntie Wide cried out, “Look! Prince Deep Water seems to be growing shorter.”
The princess looked. Auntie Wide was right. The prince was still a giant, but he was clearly smaller than he had been when seen from the shore. He still stood with his back to them and looked out in another direction.
The princess pulled her gaze back to Long-Sail, who was propelling the boat. He looked even more the embodiment of strength: his muscles bulging everywhere, the two oars in his hands swinging rhythmically like a pair of wings, pushing the boat ahead steadily. The man seemed born for the sea; his movements were freer and more confident than when he had been on land.
“The prince sees us!” Auntie Wide called out. On Tomb Island, Prince Deep Water turned in their direction. One of his hands pointed at them, and his eyes gave a look of surprise. His mouth moved as though shouting something. It was no wonder that he was surprised. Theirs was the only boat on this sea of death, the farther back it was from the boat, the wider the foamy wake grew. From his vantage point, the sea seemed to suddenly be inhabited by a long-tailed comet.
They soon realized that the prince wasn’t shouting at them. A few normal-sized individuals appeared at the prince’s feet. At this distance, the men looked tiny, and their faces couldn’t be clearly seen. But they were all looking in the direction of the boat, and a few waved.
Tomb Island had once been uninhabited. Twenty years ago, when Deep Water had gone to the island for fishing, he had brought with him a palace guardian, a royal tutor, and a few guards and servants. As soon as they came onto the island, schools of glutton fish came into the nearby shallows and sealed off the way home.
The princess and the others noticed that the prince looked shorter still. The closer they approached the island, the shorter the prince grew.
The boat was almost at the island. They could see eight or so normal-height people, most of them dressed in rough clothing made of canvas. like the prince himself. Two of them wore ceremonial robes from the palace, though they were very old and worn. Most also had swords. They ran onto the beach, leaving the prince behind them. By now he looked only about twice as tall as the others, no longer a giant.
The captain rowed harder and the boat dashed forward. The waves pushed the boat like a giant’s hands, and the hull jolted as the bottom came to rest against the sand, almost toppling the princess out. The people onshore hesitated, apparently worried about the glutton fish, but four of them did come forward into the water to help stabilize the boat and support the princess as she disembarked.
“Careful! The princess has to be under the umbrella,” Auntie Wide shouted. She was now very skilled with the umbrella, and managed to keep it spinning above the princess even with only one hand.
The welcoming party did not bother to disguise their surprise. They looked from the spinning black umbrella to the wake of the ship: The white foam from the He’ershingenmosiken bath soap and the countless floating glutton fish formed a speckled path of black and white across the sea, connecting the kingdom with Tomb Island.
Prince Deep Water came forward. Now he looked no taller than an ordinary man—in fact, he was shorter than two of his followers. He smiled at the newcomers like a kindhearted fisherman, but the princess could see
shades of their father in his movements. With eyes full of hot tears, she called out, “Brother! I’m your sister, Dewdrop.”
“You do look like my sister.” The prince smiled and held out his arms for her. But a few of his guards stopped the princess and separated the newcomers from the prince. Some had unsheathed their swords and watched the captain with suspicion. Long-Sail ignored them, but he picked up the sword the princess had dropped to examine it. In order to put the prince’s jittery guards at ease, he held the sword by the tip. He saw that the trip to Tomb Island had consumed only about one-third of the He’ershingenmosiken bath soap skewered on the sword.
“You must prove the princess’s identity,” an old man said. His uniform, though worn and patched, was still neat. His face showed the trials of many years, but his beard was neatly trimmed. Even on this desolate island, he had clearly tried to maintain the dignity of his position as an official of the palace.
“Don’t you recognize me?” Auntie Wide said. “You’re Guardian Shaded-Forest, and that, over there, is Royal Tutor Open-Field.”
Both of them nodded. Open-Field said, “Auntie Wide, you’re looking hale and hearty, despite the years.” “And you two have aged, as well.” Auntie Wide wiped her eyes with her free hand.
Guardian Shaded-Forest kept his expression grim. “It’s been twenty years, and we have no idea what has happened back home. We must request that the princess prove her identity.” He turned to the princess. “Are you willing to have your blood tested?”
The princess nodded.
“I don’t think this is necessary,” said the prince. “I know she’s my sister.” “Your Royal Highness,” said the guardian. “This must be done.”
Someone brought over two tiny daggers and handed one each to Guardian Shaded-Forest and Royal Tutor Open-Field. Unlike the rusty swords worn by the prince’s men, these daggers still gleamed like new. The princess held out a hand, and Shaded-Forest lightly pricked her index finger with the dagger and picked up a drop of blood with the tip of the dagger. Open-Field did the same with the prince. Then Shaded-Forest took both daggers and carefully touched the drops of blood together. The red blood instantly turned blue.
“She is indeed Princess Dewdrop,” the guardian said solemnly. Then, together with the royal tutor, they both bowed to the princess. The prince’s other followers also knelt on one knee. Then they stood up and backed away, giving the royal siblings a chance to embrace.
“I held you when you were little,” said the prince. “Back then, you were only about this big.”
A sobbing princess told the prince all that had happened in the Storyless Kingdom. The prince held her hand and listened without interrupting. His face, marked by the tribulations of twenty years, but still youthful, remained calm and steady throughout.
Everyone gathered around the prince and the princess to listen to the story, but Captain Long-Sail engaged in some odd antics. He ran some distance away on the beach to look at the prince, and then came back, before dashing away again. Finally, Aunt Wide pulled him aside.
“I told you: Prince Deep Water is not a giant,” whispered Auntie Wide.
“He is and he isn’t,” whispered the captain. “When you look at a regular person, the farther away he is, the smaller he appears in our eyes, right? But the prince is not like this. No matter how far away he is, he looks the
same size in our eyes. This is why from far away he appears to be a giant.” Auntie Wide nodded. “I’ve noticed the same thing.”
After the princess finished her story, Prince Deep Water simply said, “Let’s go back.”
They took two boats. The prince joined the princess’s party on the small boat; the other eight took a larger boat, the same one that had carried the prince and his followers to Tomb Island twenty years ago. The larger boat leaked, but was safe enough for a short trip. They took care to retrace the wake of the princess’s boat. Although the foam had dissipated somewhat, the glutton fish remained adrift without moving much. Once in a while, one of the boats or oars would strike a floating glutton fish, but the fish only wriggled lazily out of the way without a more strenuous response. The big boat’s sail was still somewhat functional, and so it sailed in front, opening up a path through the floating schools of glutton fish for the small boat.
“I think it’s best if you dip the soap back into the sea for insurance. What if they wake up?” Auntie Wide nervously surveyed the drifting mass of glutton fish.
“They’ve remained awake—they’re not moving much because they’re too comfortable. We don’t have much of the soap left, and I don’t want to waste any. I won’t be bathing with it in the future, either.”
Someone in the big boat ahead called out, “The army!”
A detachment of cavalry appeared on the shores of the kingdom. They rushed onto the beach like a dark tide. The armor and weapons of the mounted warriors gleamed in the sun.
“Keep on going,” said Prince Deep Water.
“They’re here to kill us!” Blood drained from the princess’s face. “Don’t be afraid,” said the prince, and lightly patted her hand.
Dewdrop looked at her older brother. She knew now that he was even better suited to the throne than she. As the wind was at their backs, the return trip took much less time despite the floating glutton fish bumping into the boats along the way. As both boats came onto the beach, the cavalry surrounded them like a solid wall. Both the princess and Auntie Wide were terrified, but Captain Long-Sail, who was more experienced, relaxed a bit. He saw that the soldiers all kept their swords sheathed and their lances vertical. More important, he noticed the eyes of the men: They wore heavy armor so that only their eyes were visible, but the eyes were focused beyond the fugitives at the foamy path over the sea filled with glutton fish. Long-Sail saw only awe in
those eyes.
An officer dismounted and jogged over to the beached boats. The people on the boats disembarked, and the prince’s followers unsheathed their swords and stepped between the officer and the prince and princess.
“This is Prince Deep Water and Princess Dewdrop. Watch your words and acts!” Guardian Shaded-Forest shouted at the officer.
The officer knelt down on one knee and bowed his head. “We know. But our orders are to pursue and kill the princess.”
“Princess Dewdrop is the heir to the throne by law! But Ice Sand is a traitor, guilty of regicide and patricide! How can you follow his orders?”
“We know this as well, which is why we will not carry out this order. But Prince Ice Sand ascended to the throne yesterday afternoon. We … are uncertain whose orders we should obey.”
Shaded-Forest was about to say more, but Prince Deep Water stepped forward and stopped him. The
prince turned to the officer. “Why don’t the princess and I return to the palace with you? We’ll confront Ice Sand there and resolve this once and for all.”
*    *    *
The newly crowned King Ice Sand was celebrating in the most luxurious hall in the palace with those ministers who had sworn fealty to him, when messengers arrived to report that Prince Deep Water and Princess Dewdrop were speeding toward the palace at the head of an army. They would arrive in an hour. The hall instantly became silent.
“Deep Water? How did he cross the sea? Did he grow wings?” Ice Sand muttered to himself, but his face didn’t show the terror and surprise evident on others’. “Don’t worry. The army will not obey those two, unless I’m dead.… Needle-Eye!”
Needle-Eye emerged from the shadows. He was still dressed in his gray cloak, and appeared even frailer than before.
“Take snow-wave paper and your brushes and ride toward Deep Water. When you see him, paint him. It will be easy. You won’t need to get too close. As soon as he appears over the horizon, you’ll get a good look at him.”
“Yes, my king.” Needle-Eye departed noiselessly like a rat.
“As for Dewdrop, what can a mere girl do? I’ll tear that umbrella away from her.” Ice Sand lifted his flagon.
The celebratory feast ended in a subdued atmosphere. The ministers left with worried expressions, and only Ice Sand remained in the empty hall.
After an unknown amount of time, Ice Sand saw Needle-Eye return. Ice Sand’s heart sped up—it wasn’t because Needle-Eye’s hands were empty, and it wasn’t because of Needle-Eye’s appearance: He looked as sensitive and careful as before. Rather, it was because Ice Sand heard Needle-Eye’s footsteps. Before, the painter had always moved in complete silence, like a squirrel gliding across the floor, but now, Ice Sand heard the echoes of his loud steps, like a heartbeat that couldn’t be suppressed.
“I saw Prince Deep Water,” said Needle-Eye, his eyes lowered. “But I couldn’t paint him.” “Did he have wings?” Ice Sand’s voice was chilly.
“Even if he did, I could still capture him. I could paint each feather in his wing and make it lifelike. But, my king, the truth is more frightening than if he had sprouted wings: He does not obey the laws of perspective.”
“What is perspective?”
“The principles of perspective dictate that objects farther away appear smaller than those up close. I am a painter trained in Western traditions, and Western painting follows the rules of perspective. I cannot paint him.”
“Are there schools of painting that do not follow the rules of perspective?”
“Indeed. My king, look at those Eastern paintings.” Needle-Eye pointed to a brush-painting landscape scroll hanging on one of the walls in the hall. The scroll showed an elegant, ethereal landscape where the negative space, the emptiness, resembled water and fog. The style contrasted sharply with the colorful, solid
oil paintings nearby. “You can tell that the scroll does not obey the laws of perspective. But I never studied Eastern painting. Master Ethereal refused to teach me—perhaps he had foreseen today.”
“You may leave.” Ice Sand’s face was impassive.
“Of course. Deep Water will arrive at the palace soon. He will kill me, and he will kill you. But I won’t wait helplessly for death. I will take my own life by painting a masterpiece with it.” Needle-Eye left, again moving noiselessly.
Ice Sand summoned his guards. “Bring me my sword.”
Dense hoofbeats came into the hall from the outside: at first barely audible, then growing to resemble a thunderstorm. The sounds abruptly ceased right outside the palace.
Ice Sand stood up and exited the hall with his sword. He saw that Deep Water was ascending the stairs in front of the palace, and Dewdrop was behind him, with Auntie Wide next to her, holding up the umbrella. In the plaza below the stairs, the army stood in dense array. The soldiers waited quietly, not clearly showing their support for either side. When Ice Sand saw Deep Water for the first time, he seemed twice as tall as an ordinary man. But as he came closer, he seemed to shrink to a more normal size.
Ice Sand’s thoughts returned in a flash to his childhood more than twenty years ago. He had known that the glutton fish were amassing around Tomb Island, but he nonetheless lured Deep Water to go fishing there. Back then, their father had been in the grip of some disease, and he told Deep Water that Tomb Island was the home to a special kind of fish whose liver oil could cure the king’s illness. Deep Water, normally so careful, believed him, and, as Ice Sand had wanted, left without coming back. That had always been one of Ice Sand’s proudest plots, and no one in the kingdom knew the truth.
Ice Sand’s thoughts returned to the present. Deep Water was now on the dais at the top of the stairs, before the door to the palace. He looked as tall as a regular person.
“My brother,” said Ice Sand. “I’m glad to see you and Dewdrop. But you must understand that this is my kingdom, and I am the king. You must immediately pledge fealty to me.”
One of Deep Water’s hands was on the grip of his rusty sword, and the other hand pointed at Ice Sand. “You have committed unforgivable crimes.”
Ice Sand chuckled. “Needle-Eye may not be able to paint you, but I can pierce your  heart.”  He unsheathed his sword.
Ice Sand and Deep Water were equally skilled swordsmen, but since Deep Water didn’t obey the laws of perspective, it was very hard for Ice Sand to judge accurately how far away his opponent was. The fight quickly came to an end when Deep Water’s sword stabbed through Ice Sand’s chest. Ice Sand tumbled down the stairs and left a long trail of blood on the stone steps.
The army cheered and declared their fealty to Prince Deep Water and Princess Dewdrop.
While Deep Water and Ice Sand struggled, Captain Long-Sail had been searching for Needle-Eye in the palace. Someone informed him that the painter had gone to his own studio, which was in a distant corner of the palace. The captain saw that only one sentry stood at the door. He had served under Long-Sail.
“He came here an hour ago,” said the sentry. “He’s been inside since.” The captain broke down the door and stepped in.
The studio was windowless. The candles on the two silver candelabras had mostly burnt out, and the studio
was as dim as an underground bunker. The place was empty.
But Long-Sail saw a painting on the easel. It had just been completed, and the paint wasn’t even dry: a self- portrait of Needle-Eye. The painting truly was a masterpiece. It was like a window to another world, and Needle-Eye stood there gazing at this world. Although an uplifted corner of the snow-white paper showed that this was but a painting, the captain felt compelled to avoid the piercing gaze of the man in the painting.
Long-Sail looked around and saw other portraits hanging on the wall: the king, the queen, and the ministers loyal to them. He saw the painting of Princess Dewdrop, and the beautiful princess in the painting seemed to make this dim studio as bright as heaven. The eyes in the picture seized his soul, and he felt himself growing intoxicated. But in the end, Long-Sail came to his senses. He took down the painting, tossed away the frame, and lit the rolled-up scroll with one of the candles.
Just as the flames consumed the painting, the door to the studio opened and the real Princess Dewdrop came in. She was still dressed in the garb of a commoner, and she held up the spinning black umbrella by herself.
“Where’s Auntie Wide?”
“I told her to stay outside; I have some things I want to say … just to you.”
“Your portrait is gone.” Long-Sail pointed to the still-glowing ashes on the ground. “You don’t need the umbrella anymore.”
The princess slowed down the spinning, and the umbrella began to cry like a nightingale. As the canopy fell, the cries grew louder and faster, until they resembled the screams of jackdaws—the final warning before the advent of Death. Then the umbrella closed and the stone spheres at the rim collided together in a series of sharp snaps.
The princess was unharmed.
The captain looked at the princess and let out a long sigh of relief. He turned to the ashes. “It’s too bad. The portrait was lovely, and I would have liked you to see it. But I dared not delay … it was really, really beautiful.”
“Prettier than me?” “It was you.”
The princess retrieved the two bars of He’ershingenmosiken bath soap. She let go, and the weightless, white bars floated in the air like feathers.
“I’m going to leave the kingdom and sail the seas. Will you come with me?” asked the princess.
“What? But Prince Deep Water already announced that your coronation is tomorrow. He pledged to aid you with all his heart.”
The princess shook her head. “My brother is more suited to be king than I. And if he hadn’t been imprisoned on Tomb Island, he ought to have inherited the throne. When he’s the king, he can stand somewhere high in the palace, and the entire kingdom can see him. But I don’t want to be a queen. I like the outside more than the palace. I don’t want to live the rest of my life in the Storyless Kingdom. I want to go where there are stories.”
“That life is full of danger and hardship.”
“I’m not afraid.” The princess’s eyes glowed with the spark of life in the candlelight. Long-Sail felt
everything around him growing brighter again.
“I’m not afraid, either. Princess, I will follow you to the end of the sea, to the end of the world.”
“Then we’ll be the last two to leave the kingdom.” The princess reached out and grabbed the two floating bars of soap.
“We’ll take a sailboat.”
“Yes, with snow-white sails.”
The next morning, on a beach somewhere in the kingdom, people saw a white sail appear in the sea. Behind the sail was a long wake of cloudlike foam. It headed away from the kingdom by the light of the rising sun.
Thereafter, no one in the kingdom knew what happened to Princess Dewdrop and Long-Sail. As a matter of fact, the kingdom never received any information of the outside world. The princess had taken away the last bars of He’ershingenmosiken bath soap, and no one could break through the barriers formed by the schools of glutton fish. But no one complained. The people were used to their serene lives. After this story, there were never any other stories in the Storyless Kingdom.
But sometimes, late at night, some would tell stories that were not stories: imagined lives of Princess Dewdrop and Long-Sail. Everyone imagined different things, but all agreed that they journeyed to many exotic, mysterious kingdoms, including continents as vast as the sea. They lived ever after in wandering and trekking, and no matter where they went, they were happily together.


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