Chapter 1 Birthday present - ?· Chapter 1 Birthday present ... I stepped back from the display and…

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<ul><li><p>Chapter 1 Birthday present </p><p>Gosh, I almost forgot that I needed to buy a few school stuffs at a store near my home. I </p><p>entered the store and moved to the stationary aisle which was at a corner far end of the store. I </p><p>purposely passed through the gaming section to see if any new fancy items were released. Of </p><p>course, there were all sorts of attractive toys, dolls, and games of characters of new movies and </p><p>books. On the other side were various puzzles of the same characters displayed on a shelf. </p><p>Puzzles! </p><p>I could not just pass by the section now. Ever since my mother had brought a box of jigsaw </p><p>puzzle with twelve pieces when I was a toddler, I found fun in puzzle games of all kinds. Especially </p><p>I was taken with jigsaw piece puzzles. </p><p>Of all jigsaw piece puzzles on display there was a particular puzzle game which keenly </p><p>enchanted my eyes. I picked up the box in curiosity. It was a 3 dimensional jigsaw puzzle with a </p><p>thousand pieces. There was a cover picture of a brilliant silver castle. On top of the picture was a </p><p>title: Sand Castle. The castle on the picture was bright white and so pretty as if it was made up of </p><p>real silver. </p><p>Sand Castle? None sense! I cried in disbelief. </p><p>Obviously it was a silver castle. I briefly checked the area to see if any other boxes of the same </p><p>kind left, but that was the only one there. Then I decided to drop the interest of it. </p><p>Well, whats the big deal about it, anyway? </p><p>In fact I had never cared much about cover pictures when I did puzzles. But, the complexity </p><p>with a thousand pieces... I could not imagine doing it without a glimpse at an actual picture. And </p><p>that would be really a big deal for me. It may take hours, or maybe I can never make it... Moreover, </p><p>its three dimensional! Impossible. </p><p>My thought moved to the stationary section now. I should find all the items before too late. I </p><p>was already hearing my mother yelling at me. I placed the items in a basket and paced toward the </p><p>cashier. Then again, I walked through the gaming section. Maybe I wanted to see those games one </p><p>last time. I knew I would not have any other opportunity to visit any stores for a while. </p><p>For some reasons I automatically stopped by the corner of piece puzzles. I was not sure why, </p><p>but I was gazing at the puzzle, entitled Sand Castle absentmindedly until someone called. </p><p>Hello, there. </p><p>There stood an old man beside me with a peculiar smile. I could tell at once that he was one of </p></li><li><p>the staffs by looking at his blue uniform with a company logo on it. He looked pretty old for a sales </p><p>staff with short grey hairs and a mustache. </p><p>How may I help you, Mr. handsome? He asked, looking mildly at my eyes over his glasses. </p><p>Oh, I am OK. Thank you, sir. I said sincerely. I stepped back from the display and walked </p><p>out of the section. </p><p>Ah, I know what you are interested in, Mr. handsome, said the man joyfully. </p><p>I immobilized myself on the spot and looked back. Surely no one was around and he was </p><p>talking to me. He was holding a box of a puzzle game, and I spotted a silver castle on the cover. He </p><p>must have watched me over in the first place. </p><p>Tapping the box gently with a big smile, he said, Silver castle. </p><p>I had already dropped the matter, but it was still irking me. Obviously something was not </p><p>correct, either the title or the picture. </p><p>Thats Sand Castle, it says, I argued. Anyway, I was not interested in it, just a bit curious, </p><p>thats all. </p><p>After taking a look at the cover of the box, the old man declared friendly, Aha! Yes, you are </p><p>right. Yes, it indeed says Sand Castle. </p><p>The man shrugged with an uncoordinated smile. </p><p>People always make mistakes. Supposed to be Silver Castle, I believe. Well, in that case, he </p><p>paused for a moment, looking at my eyes straight as though the next words could be found only in </p><p>there. And finally he found words to follow. I can offer it to you, so you will figure out if it is </p><p>silver or sand? How does that sound? </p><p>That sounded perfectly good to me, and I would be delighted with that. </p><p>You mean its free? I asked. </p><p>Thats what meant. </p><p>He pushed the box toward me, his face full of happiness. </p><p>Well, thank you, but, are you sure? I questioned again with a shred of doubt. </p><p> Yes, of course, yes. I will be so glad if you accept it, he said with a broad grin. </p><p>He noticed that I was still hesitating, my eyes looking around. </p><p>No worries. You are not stealing anything, Mr. Hans . </p><p>Ryan, thats my name, sir. I interrupted to correct my name. </p><p>I was still not sure if I had to take it, but he forced me to take it. He already pulled out a plastic </p></li><li><p>bag, and placed the box in it. </p><p>Handing it over to me, he said, Oh, by the way, Ryan, for this game, there is an interesting </p><p>rule that I should tell you now for your information. </p><p>With this, he smiled mildly, but to me his words sounded more like a warning. </p><p>You like a challenging game, dont you? asked the man lightly. </p><p>Yes. I said, nodding at the same time. </p><p>Yes, yes, that is good then, said the man, breathing a negligible sigh of relief. Lets say, </p><p>you will complete this puzzle before the bed time tonight. He assumed tentatively, his eyes fixed </p><p>on my face as though trying to read any expression behind. </p><p>Of course, I will. As far as I remembered Id never stopped once I had started. Whatever rule </p><p>he talked about, this has been my rule. But, why is he saying that, anyway? Anything will happen if </p><p>undone by then? </p><p>He must have read my mind. </p><p>Nothing will happen to you, Ryan. However, if you have rules which you must follow, you </p><p>will try hard to make it on time, said the old man. Lets say, this is very important for everyone, </p><p>but no one could have done it. Imagine it all depends on you, Ryan, added the man, striving to be </p><p>convincing. </p><p>It made no sense to me. But, whatever he meant, no problem to me. </p><p>I will make it. I said confidently. It will be challenging, for sure. But whats the big deal with </p><p>some additional pieces. And I have a good cover picture as well. </p><p> I am so glad to see your confidence. I am sure you will be able to make it and I believe in </p><p>you, Ryan, he said, looking very delighted by my positive answer. </p><p>I was about to ask if there were any other rules, but he let me go and deal with it. With full of </p><p>satisfaction on his face he cheerfully marched away, his hand waving several times. That was a </p><p>strange man and a strange puzzle game with a strange rule. His voice echoed in my eardrums. </p><p>But, please think twice before opening the box! </p><p>There you are! exclaimed my mother the moment she saw me entering the house. </p><p>She was doing the dishes in the kitchen. </p><p>Hi, mom. I said merrily, putting the plastic bags on the sofa. </p><p>What took you so long? She complained, making a face worriedly. </p></li><li><p>Ask me about it, mom. The shop was jam packed with people all over the places Mom, </p><p>next time I should buy these stuffs earlier. I dont want to wait in queue just to buy a few items like </p><p>this. I uttered, trying to look as frustrated as possible. </p><p>Well, you ask me about it, she said, imitating my complaint. Now you get the point. Every </p><p>summer you are so busy doing nothing but playing around the beach. And every summer I recited a </p><p>hundred times to buy your stuff before the last week of summer vacation. See, you always say, </p><p>Later, mom, Still have a plenty of time, mom, or No need to hurry, mom. And now you are </p><p>complaining about it. It makes perfect sense, doesnt it? she yelled at me cheerfully, but her face </p><p>full of sarcastic expression. </p><p>I could not find any words to quarrel with her. That was only true. I still had loads of work to </p><p>be done before going back to school. At least I should have my homework done as soon as possible </p><p>before she asked me again. </p><p>Feeling guilty, I pulled out the note, listing the items that I had to buy. </p><p>I think I bought everything in the list. I said cautiously, my eyes following the list, my mind </p><p>hoping she would drop the matter. </p><p>Are you ready? asked my mother, casting a curious glance at me. </p><p>She seemed happy to leave it at that. </p><p>Yeah, I think so, mom. I have everything I need now. But I will double check tonight or </p><p>tomorrow to make sure. I replied, my voice slightly restless by the thought of meeting friends and </p><p>classmates again. </p><p>I noticed that my mother suddenly stopped doing the dishes, staring at me. I must have done </p><p>something wrong again or maybe forgotten, I guessed. And I was right. She breathed a sigh of </p><p>disappointment. </p><p>Have you already forgotten it, young man? She asked annoyingly. </p><p>I was asking if you were ready to go to your grandmas house, explained my mother calmly. </p><p>Didnt you tell me that you wanted to pick up some minerals for your project, young man? </p><p>Oops. I totally forgot about that. I did not know where to look. My eyes finally settled on her </p><p>furious eyes. I smiled awkwardly at her, expecting another heavy nagging from her. I had to </p><p>manage to say something before she began. </p><p>Yeah, the project Of course I am ready, mom. I was thinking later today or early morning </p><p>tomorrow. I said lightly, pretending to be perfectly normal. </p></li><li><p>Always like that. Always. You get to change it, Ryan. </p><p>Probably she wanted to say more, maybe about the homework, but she seemed to decide not to. </p><p>She shook her head, resuming her work. </p><p>Dont worry, mom. I have been there thousands times. And No need to be ready. </p><p>It was partially true because I have been there many times already on my own, and I knew well </p><p>how to get there. Luckily my grandma lived in a small village in countryside, not far away from my </p><p>home and I could get there easily by bus. My grandma lived by herself now, but I was told that she </p><p>became alone ever since my grandpa (along with his two horses and a little pet) had disappeared </p><p>when a great storm swiped Blue Forest near her home. I had asked grandma many times about it, </p><p>but she had never said a thing. </p><p>I used to visit my grandma every summer once or twice for a few days. It was very good for </p><p>me, firstly, to have a grandma like her who always treated me so well, and secondly, another home </p><p>in rural area was a superb advantage for me because I liked natural science. I could discover all </p><p>sorts of things which were only available in countryside. Thus it would be the most favorable part </p><p>of my summer vacation this year as well. And I planned to do the research project on minerals. </p><p>How could I have forgotten? I blamed myself. </p><p>If you are ready, Ryan, then I will . </p><p>Please, mom, dont! I cut off her words immediately, because I knew what she was going to </p><p>say. Please, skip that, mom. I am not going there for a month. I cried innocently. But I knew </p><p>nothing would convince her. </p><p>What are those hands for, Ryan? She sighed again. You lazy boy, you never want to carry a </p><p>thing. Soon or later you will feel sorry for that, and after all you will hate yourself when you have </p><p>to go on your own, I am telling you now. </p><p>What else I could expect from her other than that. I just hoped that she was wrong about it. </p><p>Your grandma is very old now, and dont you ever think that it is that easy for her to feed you </p><p>so well? I told you many times already, if you have already forgotten again, that she became </p><p>abnormally quiet ever since the great storm. Now, young man, this is your opportunity to help and </p><p>comfort her, not the other way around, OK? </p><p>She was right about it again. I knew she has always been. But I would never mind her nagging </p><p>if it was for my grandma. And I have never been as a bad grandson as my mother thought. </p><p>Ok, mom. I get your point. But not too much, though. It wont be long this time, and while I </p></li><li><p>am there, I will do my serving for her. Happy? I grinned clumsily, the shopping bags in my hand, </p><p>my steps already on their way moving toward the stairs. </p><p>And as soon as I saw a smile of her permission I raced toward my room. </p><p>It was the 30th of August, one day after my birthday when I had this puzzle game. Back in my </p><p>room, I placed the shopping items on the table straight away and removed the plastic bag to reveal </p><p>the puzzle box. With an attractive cover picture it was definitely an ordinary jigsaw puzzle. As long </p><p>as you keep track of cover picture on your work, you will never go wrong. You will soon or later </p><p>see the same picture out of your work. The old man must have treated me like a little child with a </p><p>stupid idea of Rule thing. Whatever the reasons, it did not matter for me now. I decided and I </p><p>speculated to see grandma in the afternoon. </p><p>When I undid the cover, to my surprise, there was a birthday card with it. I knew it was silly, </p><p>but I wanted to check inside first if there was anything like rules or warnings. I opened the puzzle </p><p>box and I saw what looked like millions of big fat worms hibernating in a square shelter for a </p><p>season. What else have I expected to reveal. Yes, it certainly was a jigsaw puzzle with a thousand </p><p>pieces in it. But, no rules or warnings. </p><p>In truth I was a little bit disappointed by this normality. I turned my interest to the birthday </p><p>card. Interestingly it showed a picture of a sand castle instead of a silver castle. It was composed of </p><p>simple sand, yet it was a magnificent art work. Then I noticed that there was a story under the </p><p>picture, entitled Sand Castle in silver letters. It was a story behind the castle. My eyes </p><p>instantaneously followed the lines silently. </p><p>Sand Castle </p><p>Long, long time ago far away in the ocean down came a Goddess called Neptess. She was so </p><p>happy to see beautiful sea creatures in the ocean. However, soon she saw the darkness in the deep </p><p>ocean floor. This made her feel so sad that she could not enjoy the journey anymore </p><p>Then the story continued over the page. </p><p>Eventually, she found a way to give lights to the deep ocean. Far underneath the ocean floor, </p><p>there were compact layers of various pressurized unusual minerals. It was the mineral layers that </p></li><li><p>kept substances with remarkable potentials to generate essential gases for living organisms. </p><p>However, they were hidden and had never been useful. </p><p>Finally, the power of the Goddess triggered them out, and a vast amount of gaseous substances </p><p>in huge-sized bubble balls were released from the minerals underneath the ocean floor. As bubble </p><p>balls were constantly produced for so long, the mineral layers of the ocean floor were pushed up at </p><p>once in one piece. Accordingly, a whole new land was appeared beneath the hemisphere mineral </p><p>layers. The layers of crystal-clear mineral films were well supported by countless bubble balls. </p><p>Then the sky was filled with gleaming bubble balls in groups and layers in a form of spire. </p><p>Now, from the world above the ocean, sun light touched the surface of the ocean, and invisible </p><p>rays passed through all the way down to the crystal-clear mineral layers and further, to millions of </p><p>bubble balls of the underwater land. As soon as the invisible rays touched the bubble balls, they </p><p>become brighter like recharged light bulbs. The lights were restored during days, and nights fell </p><p>along with dim lights until...</p></li></ul>