Ben is dreading the next communication from the mirror so much that when it finally happens he is completely taken aback by the question’s tone:
“Have you ever met a dragon?” The paint on stone asks, almost innocently.
Ben hesitates, “No,” he says, hoping this doesn’t turn into some other disheartening quest for a disheartening truth. Or worse, an automatic failure–yet another blue petal falling off the rose.
The letters change:
“Ask them what they love the most,” it demands, bizarrely, and refuses to clarify when Ben asks the mirror to do so.
How is supposed to ask a creature he’s never met a question which, even to him, seems awfully personal?
But, well, he supposes it could be worse. All he has to do is find a dragon, befriend it, and ask them a question–how hard could that be?
Here’s hoping he hasn’t jinxed himself.
Actually, surprisingly, it’s rather easy; the first step anyway. While there are no dragons in Auradon–for obvious reasons beyond the dwindling of magic in the world–Ben at least paid attention enough to know that dragons have very different reputations in other kingdoms. And although Ben wasn’t close friends with her, he was friendly enough with Lonnie in school that he doesn’t need an official appointment with the Chinese ambassador in order meet up for lunch.
“You want to meet Mushu?” Lonnie asks, incredulous laughter in her voice, an additional pleasure on top of her amusement at the flock of paparazzi trying to get a good shot of their table.
He hopes the tabloids won’t print something about an engagement–his public relations team still has to put down the occasional story about his and Audrey’s supposed on again off again romance, or his secret unrequited love for Princess Melody, or even random people claiming to be pregnant with his child.
“Yes?” Ben asks in response, because he doesn’t know why that would be funny.
“Really?” she says, starting to become honestly confused, and this is getting ridiculous. It’s not like they’re playing Questions. Why doesn’t she think he’s serious?
“Sorry,” she says sheepishly, “It’s just that given Auradon’s… thing… about dragons, I figured…” she ends with a shrug.
During political negotiations, she is a far more eloquent speaker, but right now she is not the ambassador of China. She is the woman who was his chemistry lab partner in high school. The girl who he once ate an entire batch of cookies with in the middle of the night because she was feeling homesick and and he realized he’d never know what that was like. The girl who offered to punch Audrey on his behalf when he found out she was cheating on him with Chad Charming in senior year and didn’t know what to do–he declined the offer, but he did go to prom with her that year as friends and she spent the entire time talking about her little cousins while he confessed that he was afraid he was going to end up being a terrible king.
He doesn’t quite know how to explain to her that him meeting Mushu will help him not be a terrible king.
“Please,” he says, because being reminded of yet another one of his kingdom’s failings–and how far off is a cultural fear of dragons from being bigotry against a sentient species?–has keenly reminded him of why they are having this lunch in the first place.
“Well, I suppose don’t see why not,” Lonnie says with an entirely different sort of shrug, “We can go after this,” she adds, before resuming to eat her meal.
Ben pauses, confused, “Go… to China?”
She looks up at him, brow raised, incredulously amused again, “No… go to the embassy,” you idiot, she doesn’t say, “Now let me enjoy this very expensive steak you are paying for.”
Costly, yes, but still–surprisingly easy.
Ben has been to the Chinese embassy before, but always in his official capacity as king of Auradon and mostly for various galas where the name of the game was Dont Start A War And Don’t Get Engaged. Somehow he’s more nervous now, following after Lonnie as she leads him to a dragon.
It’s not fear–while he’s not completely free of cultural bias against dragons–he at least knows that this particular dragon isn’t going to try to kill him. He really doesn’t want to mess this up, for a lot of reasons, really. Lonnie is his doing him a favor, letting him meet Mushu, and he doesn’t want to offend either of them by saying something awful. And there is the whole matter of this being another one of the magic mirror’s strange quests–none of which he’s managed to answer or solve correctly. Yet.
“Mushu!” Lonnie calls out, after directing Ben to take a seat in one of the conference rooms and waving one of the embassy staff for some refreshments. Apparently the dragon has free reign of the embassy–at least when galas aren’t being hosted–because Lonnie just takes a seat as well and waits for him to arrive.
Ben hears Mushu before he sees him, a light staccato of claws against the floor, and a beleaguered voice from about ankle high complaining, “Xiao Lon! Girl, I know you did not just raise your voice as if that would summon me like that old cow!” And then a darting stripe of red winds it’s way up the table leg to stand in front of Lonnie.
“It worked, didn’t it?” she says, flippant, but brushing a finger down his back apologetically, nonetheless.
“Hmph, I am unappreciated around here,” he says, still beleaguered, but allowing her petting. Until the dragon sets eyes on Ben, “Now who’s this? You didn’t say anything about company. I would have put on a little show–a little smoke, a little fire. Some pizazz! Instant crowd pleaser,” he says, his claws tap tap tapping against the wood of the table as he makes his way towards Ben. He tries not to tense up too much, because no matter how small or friendly Mushu may be, he is still a fire breathing creature with claws and fangs.
Then again, for a good chunk of his life, Ben’s father was also a creature with claws and fangs–and while he couldn’t literally breathe fire, he was neither small or friendly.
“I’m Ben, Lonnie and I went to school together,” Ben introduces himself, because right now that’s who he is and his title doesn’t matter.
“Oh, oh I see,” Mushu says slyly, massive grin showing off his relatively massive teeth, “Someone’s trying to get my blessings. I don’t know, Xiao Lon, this one doesn’t look like he can take on Cri-Kee much less an entire army of Huns. But I guess, since you’re asking, unlike Xiao Lon’s dad who just went off and proposed and wouldn’t even let me plan her wedding…”
“No! Mushu, that’s not what he’s here for,” Lonnie says, embarrassed, because it’s one thing for tabloids to speculate about possible engagements, it’s an entirely different thing for family to do so.
Ben’s pretty sure he knows the answer to the question he came here to ask. But he still asks anyway.
Mushu looks at him, the expression of incredulous amusement on his reptilian face somehow the same as Lonnie’s, “What do I love the most? Boy, that is the strangest ice breaker I have ever heard. And, frankly, stupid. The answer’s obvious, even a cross eyed, blind folded, dumb hat wearing bureaucrat can see it,” the dragon says, dashing over to Lonnie to give her a hug, “I love baby girl and baby girl’s baby girl the most.”
He goes back to the castle after an additional three hours of talking to Lonnie and Mushu and heads straight for the magic mirror. The same sentence is there, not a question but a demand… or maybe a suggestion.
He tells the mirror about his day, about his meeting with dragons who love each other because that’s what family does. He’s not sure if he succeeded but he’s grateful for the experience regardless, so when the image changes from paint and stone to glowing rose he’s calm.
But instead of a petal falling, marking another failure, something strange happens: a pair of hands, one of them holding a knife, reaches into the frame and carefully cuts off a thorn.
A/N: Whoaaaaa, I bet you thought I forgot about this. Well guess what? I didn’t! I just hella procrastinated. 😛
Anyway, most of my Lonnie / Xiao Lon feels can be found here, but basically: I headcanon that Lonnie’s real name is Xiao Lon aka Little Dragon and the westernization would just to make Lon cutesy. Hence Lonnie.