Halie was a normal twelve year old like all the other girls in her class. Or so she thought. Way back in her past something magical had happened. A mystery only she could solve.
She started feeling sick or something like it around noon.
“ Oooo, for some reason I feel nervous and sick,” she moaned to her best friends Stephanie and Rachel. They were at a religious summer camp that was a month long and was near an old abandoned church.
“ Maybe we should get her to the nurse” Stephanie replied nervously as Halie bent over in pain. Suddenly she sat upright, all better.
“ Maybe I’m just excited about this camp. But it was weird. It was like, like, you know in Harry Potter . . . with the Dementors . . . where you’d never be happy again” Halie stated staring off into space. She shook her head flipping her hair in her friend’s faces.
“Arg! Stop” they shouted laughing. They finished their lunch and then headed to their cabin to get dressed for swimming. Walking through the forest Halie caught a glimpse of a ghost-like figure beside a glowing object in the distance before her friends quickly pulled her away.
“You say it looked like a ghost lady beside a glowing cherry tree in bloom, like the ones they have in China? “ Rachel replied disbelieving, “Ya right. You were probably hallucinating after having the one minute flu.” Her friend’s laughed and slapped each other high-five. Maybe it was a hallucination Halie later thought glumly as they were heading back to camp, but it seemed so real.
That night as Halie was trying to sleep, she felt as if someone or something was watching her. There was also this cold wind. She noticed that the door was open. As she went to close it, she saw the ghost lady she had seen earlier. Quietly and desperately she tried to wake her friends. That having failed she decided to try and follow it. Deep, deep into the forest she followed it, until near the old church it disappeared. Creeping closer to the church she was started as tones of bats flew in front of her face. She frantically clawed through bushes running for the safety of her cabin. Once there she bolted the door tightly so it wouldn’t open again.
The next morning Halie told her friends about her midnight trip. They, of course, didn’t believe her. So she decided to ask a camp leader about the tree and the ghost lady.
“Well,” started Ray in a spooky voice, “a long time ago, back in Ancient China something happened.”
“What, what?” asked Halie excitedly.
“Well,” continued Ray, “there once was this lady named Ai Chunhua which translates to loving spring flower. And basically that’s what she was. She captured many men’s hearts, but her heart belonged to only one man: Ts̀ai Lun. But he had no time for love, no, because he was an inventor and inventors never have time for love because they are always so involved in their work. Well that made her very mad and one day she stormed in on him and messed up his office. Finally she stood there huffing and puffing when she sees his notes on his latest invention. It was something called paper. So she went and took the plans home and tried to figure them out. Meanwhile, Ts’ai Lun was searching frantically around his office for his invention. It was such a mess and he couldn’t find anything. Finally he just gave up and went to bed.”
“Ai Chunhua finally figured the invention out and went to work collecting all the materials she needed. Eventually she brought this invention to the emperor. He liked it and agreed to put it on the market. A couple of days later Ts’ai was walking along the shops when he spotted the invention, his invention to be exact. He went up to the merchant and demanded to know why he was selling this paper and where did he get it from. The merchant replied that almost a week ago now the emperor had agreed with this invention and put it on the market. Ts̀ai then started raving that it was his invention and how dare they sell it without his knowing. The merchant started screaming right back at him and soon a crowd had gathered. Eventually the bystanders were able break up the fight. The bystanders asked why they were fighting and Ts’ai replied that the merchant was selling his invention without his permission. The bystanders started laughing at him. He was humiliated. He gave up all his inventing because he was so humiliated.”
“Years later he found out that it was Ai who brought the humiliation on him all those years ago. He was close to death by then so he couldn’t do much but he told her “you have made a grave mistake, taking my invention and calling it yours. But I am an old man now and am on my death bed. But, if you ever feel guilty about what you have done, all you need to do is pluck a cherry blossom from this little tree here and you will be sent back, back to year 105 C.E., the year I was humiliated. You can choose to go on with your life forever a hero for coming up with the invention of paper, or, you could go back and put things the way they are supposed to be.” And with that, he died. Ai took her tree and fled. She fled here actually, to this very spot, built a house that is now the church and planted the cherry tree nearby. Or so they say,” finished Ray, “I don’t believe it, but if you do, then good for you.”
“Wow,” breathed Halie quietly.
One day during free time when they could do anything within camp boundaries, she went to explore the old church and find the glow she saw earlier that week. Along the way she got tangled in a bush.
“Help, help!” cried Halie frantically even though she knew no one was near enough to hear her. All of a sudden she heard a rustling in the bush beside her and the ghost lady’s head suddenly fazed through the bush.
“Oh hello” the ghost lady said in a pleasant voice, “what is a girl like you doing in the wild?” Halie replied that she had heard the story of the ever blooming cherry tree and Ai Chunhua and was looking for them.”
“Ah, so you’ve heard of me then. I’m Ai Chunhua,” she continued woefully at Halie’s confused expression, “yes, it was a terrible deed that I did, but unfortunately I can’t undo it now because I’m a ghost and I just pass through anything so now I can’t pick a blossom off that tree.”
“I might be able to help you,” Halie replied slowly, “see, I think that I may be related to you. We had to do a family history session in class and one of my ancestors had the last name Chunhua. So maybe I can go back for you and put things right.”
“Really, you would do that for me?” Ai asked excitedly, “I am unfortunately very guilty about what I did so I am forced to wander this earth until I am put to rest and I will only be put to rest knowing that Ts’ai got full credit for his invention. Oh, and by the way, when you want to come back to this time zone you must pluck all the petals off the blossom, only then can you return.” Halie quickly wrote down this information so she would remember it. Then, promising to return, she ran back to her cabin to gather some important supplies.
Finally she was ready. She was very nervous as well. She had to take quite a few soothing breaths before she delicately plucked a cherry blossom from the tree. Suddenly the ground seemed to lurch from beneath her feet. Then she was pitched forward into a dark pool of eternal blackness.
When Halie finally awoke, she was in a straw hut on a straw bed. Her head was pounding, but she decided that it must just be a side effect of time travel. Halie looked across the room and there was the ghost lady! Except, she had way more colour and looked more fleshy.
“Oh good,” Ai Chunhua said as she heard Halie move behind her, “you’re awake, you must’ve hit your head pretty badly because it is all banged up. What is a girl of your status doing all the way over here? Did you get lost? How old are you? Where are you from?” Ai was asking so many questions it made Haile’s head spin. She looked down at her clothes and wondered what Ai meant about ‘your status’. Then it hit her. She must look rich to Ai because of the quality of her clothes. Halie replied to Ai that she had no idea where she was from and that she was about twelve. Then she introduced herself and asked what Ai’s name was (even though she knew perfectly well who this lady was) and then Ai offered her some food; Halie gladly accepted. Ai then gave her some different clothes and gave her a tour around the city and, occasionally, introducing Halie to some of her friends. Eventually they reached the steppes, where Ts’ai Lun lived in his spare time. Ai told Halie she was going to marry him some day, he just didn’t know it yet.
They went inside and introduced each other. Halie suddenly remembered that she had a history report on the Han dynasty due at the end of summer in her time. So she asked Ts’ai to teach her about the Han dynasty, if he didn’t mind. He didn’t; Ai said she’d tag along as well. He gave her lots of information which she secretly wrote down on her notepad: it was year 105 C.E. of the Eastern Han dynasty; Guangwu was the emperor; Luoyang City was the capital; Confucianism was the main philosophy; the silk road was very prosperous; and many other very interesting facts. She carefully recorded it all on her handy notepad without Ai or Ts’ai noticing, not even once. Finally Ts’ai showed Halie his office where he came up with his inventions. None of them had gone very well yet, but that didn’t stop him from trying. Eventually it became dusk and Ai and Halie headed back to Ai’s house.
“My, isn’t that man amazing,” Ai said breathlessly to Halie, “tomorrow I’m going to ask him to marry me. Will you come with me Halie? Will you help me win his heart?” Halie replied that she would try but she wouldn’t grantee any positive results. Ai hugged her and thanked her very much. The next day they headed back to Ts’ai’s and Ai proposed to him. He declined saying that he had no time for love. Ai insisted that everyone had time for love. Then they really started yelling at each other, Ts’ai said Ai thought she was irresistible just because she had some good looks, there was more to a person than just good looks. Ai started screaming back that he thought he was soooo important just because he worked in the Chinese court.
Gosh, Halie thought miserably, it’s like watching a ping-pong match except there is a greater chance of a headache. Eventually she was able to get Ai away from there. Once Ai was in the village, she broke down into tears, screaming to the heavens: “Why did this happen to me!?! Why!?!” Halie brought her back to her house, trying not to get embarrassed that she was carrying this hysterically sobbing woman. Finally Ai calmed down and was just hiccupping softly. Halie suggested that they go to bed and forget about it until the morning. Ai agreed.
Halie overslept. Judging by how high the sun was in the sky, she figured it was mid-noon. Halie sleepily walked into the other room where Ai was. She seemed fairly pleasant and happy for someone who had just been turned down. Big time.
“Why good morning sleepy head. How was your sleep?” Ai asked in a pleasant voice. Halie replied that she slept quiet fitfully, thank you very much. A little bit later, Ai asked Halie’s help with something. After Halie swore to secrecy, Ai showed her the designs for the invention called “Paper.”
“Whatever that is,” Ai whispered to Halie, “anyway, whatever it is, I’m going to make it and present it to the emperor and call it mine. Ts’ai will learn no one says no to me and gets away with it.”
“But, but, that’s plagiarizing his work,” Halie stuttered, “he worked for months on that and you’re just going to go and call it yours? That’s mean, find some other way to get back at him just, please, don’t take his invention.” Ai would not be convinced.
“Do you really want to wander the earth forever as a ghost?” Ai shook her head, “well, if you don’t return his invention, you will. You will feel extremely guilty and forever roam the earth for you cannot find peace because you are so guilty.” Halie finished. Ai stared at Halie with wonder. “Who are you?” Ai asked softly. Halie replied that she was actually from the future and that she and Ai were related, very distantly, but still related. Ai didn’t believe Halie until she showed Ai her notepad. Ai was in awe.
“See, this is what Ts’ai was inventing. You will be regarded as a hero and Ts’ai, your love, an old fool. Do you really want that? To be regarded as a hero while your love withers away as an old fool? ,” Halie asked pleadingly. Ai shook her head no. “Good, hand me the invention and we will return it to Ts’ai,” Halie continued gently, “I’m sure he will be very happy.” In fact, Ts’ai was overjoyed to have his invention back. He showed it to the emperor right away. And during his speech to the emperor, he added: “And I couldn’t have done it without my two best friends, Ai and Halie.” After the emperor approved of his invention and set workers to start working on it right away. Finally Halie decided it was time for her to go. She said good-bye to everyone and then ran further into the steppes and then plucked all the petals off the cherry blossom and then was whisked home. She then asked someone nearby who invented paper. They replied “Ts’ai Lun, duh!” Halie smiled happily to herself, everything was the way it should be.
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