Yīng Kingdom ..... Around 400 CE ..... Between Central and Eastern China
White booted feet splashed through large puddles as the young girl ran down the hidden trail. The sun hung low and she knew the lanterns in the village outside the capital would soon be released.
She clutched the black butterfly mask in one hand while she held up her skirts with the other, fearing her robes would be ruined. She had worked for weeks to embroider the perfect design to match her mask in the shape of a white crane. The silver silk had to glisten in the light against the bright white robes to compliment the shimmering white beaded beak.
As she neared the gates of the village, she slowed her pace to a fast walk and examined the mask in her hand. The black ink of the wings was sleek and captured the fading sunlight. Clear glass beads gave the butterfly its veins. The meaning behind the mask was special to her, so she hoped her friend would be willing to sell it with his own creations. She didn’t care about profit. Her intention was to have an adventure on the last day of the lantern festival.
The celebration was still drawing a crowd, so she had to be careful to avoid trouble. If her father and brothers discovered she snuck out and traveled so far alone, they would be angry. She had to make it home before it was too late.
Her flowing skirts and cascading sleeves fluttered behind her as she hurried around tourists to reach a certain vendor.
“I have this for you to sell,” she announced with a smile.
The young girl skipped along the storefront road brightly lit by rows of colorful lanterns, some that were hanging and others on posts tied to buildings and shops. The air was still cool in the early spring, and the occasional breeze blew the smell of local dishes and fragrant flower pouches all around her.