The Boy and the Sea Dragon
Chapter Twenty Six
Meet the Gang
The dragons arrived at Kulathra. Ciyonaung followed behind Xianjeng. They flew over the city. It was a sprawling city. A river running into the ocean split the city. The river’s mouth was lined with docks and ships. The ocean’s shores were sandy. There were people on the shore and in the water. Men worked on the docks.
They landed in the river near some empty docks. Xianjeng said, “I expect it will be days before the Serikua will arrive. I don’t know what you expect to be doing during that time.”
Ciyonaung admitted, “I’m not sure myself. I’ll manage somehow.”
“Do not reveal your ability to transform,” Xianjeng advised. He watched Ciyonaung turn back to Zuangeng.
Zuangeng swam left to the nearest dock. He reached a ladder. He climbed it. Water ran off him. He stood on the dock. He was dripping water. He waved to Xianjeng. Xianjeng waved his wing back. Zuangeng watched him. Xianjeng took off. He flew toward the ocean. He disappeared.
Zuangeng turned around. He walked along the dock inland. No people were around. He turned right. He walked down the road. He ran across some dockworkers working. They had darker skin than him. Their black hair were in tight curls. His sandy blond hair was straight. They wore work clothes. He was naked. They watched him as they worked.
He had been around the harbor with Captain Esiada. He had heard Captain Esiada talk Jalapean with people. He never bothered to learn it. He heard some of the conversations.
He left the docks. He walked into the business district. Clothed people walked around. The children wore clothes, too.
He walked the streets. He came to an alley. He looked down it. Close by, stood three boys and two girls. Two boys wore shorts. One girl wore shorts and a short sleeved shirt. The other two were like him, naked. All of them were bare foot.
The tallest boy sighted Zuangeng first. He had a deep voice, obviously, a teenager. He spoke street Jalapean, “Tazuma guni sisi wana hapa. Hey, mitato, ja hapa!”
“Eh?’ Zuangeng said. He looked at the boy. He turned away. He continued to walk.
The five kids ran after him. They ran in front of him. They turned around to face him. The teen boy put his left hand out, palm outward. He said, “Simama, mitato! Guniwa wa kowa fanya hapa?”
Zuangeng stopped. He looked at the boy. Apparently, he must be the leader. He seemed to want something. Zuangeng said, “Ikala donaka kinala lenagi amia aita lakang.”
The teen boy looked at Zuangeng. He said, “Guni namna mjadala wa ambaye?”
Zuangeng stared at him. He cocked his head to his right. The teen’s shorts legs were torn. His short black hair was tightly curled. His skin was like the dockworkers, dark brown. Zuangeng looked at the other kids. Their clothes were torn as well. Their skins were like the teen’s. One girl was darker than the others. The girls’ black, tightly curled hairs were bushy.
The teen walked to Zuangeng’s right side. He put his left arm around Zuangeng’s shoulders. He turned his head to look at Zuangeng. Zuangeng turned his head to look at the teen. He wondered what the teen was up to. The boy said, “Hey, mitato. Kuwa sharti kowa pya karibu hapa. Kuwa ganda kwa sisitu. Sisiwa onyesha kuwa likamba.”
He put his right hand on his bare chest. He said, “Licha ya haya mamiwa Emelabad. Guniwa kajena?”
Zuangeng could not quite understand what Emelabad had said. By what Emelabad did, he thought the teen had just introduced himself. He put his left hand on his own chest. He merely said, “Zuangeng.”
Emelabad said, not pronouncing his name right, “Haya, Zuangeng. Sisiwa enda kwo pita kita kwala. Fuata etu risasi.”
They walked off. Emelabad kept his arm around Zuangeng’s shoulders. Zuangeng hesitated. He did not know what was happening. The pressure Emelabad was exerting on his shoulders indicated to Zuangeng that Emelabad wanted him to come, too. He walked with them.
They came to a grocery store. They walked around it to an alley. Emelabad steered Zuangeng. They entered it. They walked to the store’s back door. Emelabad made a face of hunger and pleading. He told Zuangeng, “Lini limta funyua limlango, ke haja kwo tazama namna hayu.”
Zuangeng just looked at him, not comprehending. He repeated, “Ikala donaka kinala lenagi amia aita lakang!”
Emelabad stared at him. Zuangeng tried, “I don’t know what you are saying!”
Emelabad said, “Guni emamoja wazimu mjadala kowa ambaye?”
Zuangeng stared back at him. Emelabad continued, “Usijabi. Ke ambia limtu, ‘Weza mami wana kita kwo la?’ ”
Zuangeng continued staring. He cocked his head to the right. Emelabad removed his arm from Zuangeng’s shoulders. He walked around to Zuangeng’s front. He reached up. He raised the inside corners of Zuangeng’s eyebrows. He lowered the corners of Zuangeng’s mouth. He took Zuangeng’s right arm. He put the arm across Zuangeng’s stomach. He said, “Hapo! Weka ambaye sura nu kewa pita kiasi chakula.”
Zuangeng dropped his arm when Emelabad released it. He lost the facial expression. Emelabad sighed. He said, “Ndiokwonza fuata etu risasi.”
The kids walked to the door. Emelabad knocked on it. Zuangeng stood aside. He watched them. Emelabad and his companions struck the pose.
The door opened. A burly man stood in the doorway. He had dark brown skin. His black hair was tightly curled. This was the typical Jalapean look. Zuangeng kept silent. All the other kids spoke Jalapean, “Can I have somethin’ to eat?”
The man looked them over. He saw Zuangeng. He spoke Jalapean, “I see you recruited somebody new.”
Emelabad said, “We discovered him today. He talk funny. Now, there is six of us.”
“I’ll be back with some food,” the man said. He disappeared. He came back with some bread, slices of meat, cheese and raw carrots. He handed them to the kids. He walked back in. He closed the door.
They walked off. Zuangeng followed on his own. They found a clear place. They sat down. Zuangeng followed suit. They ate the food. They shared it with Zuangeng.
Zuangeng decided to hang out with them. He learned the names of the other four. He picked up on some of the words they spoke. He followed their leads.
One day, they went to the ocean beach. The one boy took his shorts off. He became naked. Emelabad and the older girl retained their clothes. Zuangeng stood in the sand, looking out over the ocean. He had picked up enough Jalapean to hold a small conversation with Emelabad.
Emelabad walked up to him. He looked at Zuangeng. Zuangeng had a look of longing about him. Emelabad said, still mispronouncing the name, “What’s a matter, Zuangeng?”
Zuangeng said, “I wish I was home.”
Emelabad said, “Where is your home?”
Zuangeng pointed toward the ocean. He said, “Out there.”
Emelabad said, “Well. You’ll kinda be out there. We’re going out to swim.”
They waded out in the water. They swam. Emelabad, the older girl and Zuangeng went out further than the rest.