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Khan And The Kingdom Without Gods

Khan And The Kingdom Without Gods

Tales From A Land Of Gods Part Two

By M.C.Queen

Shakespir Edition

Copyright 2016  M.C.Queen

http://mcqueenwrites.blogspot.com

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Prologue

 

Back again aren’t you? I knew you wouldn’t stay away for long. The Land of Gods is too mysterious and intriguing to be easily ignored.

What is the Land of Gods? You ask. Well, obviously you’re another one of those naive souls who have no idea about the world so close to your own, so allow me to enlighten you.

Millenniums ago our world was ruled by gods. A smart looking person like you has of course heard the stories of ancient Greek and Egyptian gods. These countless legends have been passed down through the ages and even a child can name at least one. You may have brushed these stories off as make believe fairytales, but I’m here to tell you that the gods are real.

Now, now, there’s no need to make a face like that. Of course there aren’t any gods bossing you around, but your ancestors suffered for centuries under the god’s merciless rule. These gods may have been majestic and powerful, but just like us humans they bickered and fought until they descended into a civil war. Those were dark days, but the fighting finally ceased when the older gods trapped their younger adversaries on one continent and sealed the land away forever. Just imagine a giant island the size of Australia suddenly disappearing into thin air. This place still exists of course, but in a dimension far removed from our own. Some call it an impenetrable prison from which there is no escape, and you can count yourself fortunate that none of these gods will ever come looking for you.

As the centuries past, the old gods on our earth withered and died while the young ones thrived in their sealed away land. So much so that it’s become a great land of gods. Great for them, but terrible for all mortals who are forced to endure their existence. Unfortunately for us the seal on this world is gradually weakening, and like aging paint, cracks are slowly forming around the edges of their world and our own. Believe it or not, it’s now possible to fall through a crack and find yourself in this mysterious land. Such is the case for many mortals who foolishly fall through, or are escorted there by untrustworthy men.

In my last tale I introduced you to a unique god named Meng Li who resides in this exotic land. Meng may have been born an all powerful god, but he quickly lost his status and was forced to survive like a mortal for most of his young years. He eventually managed to join a family of gods and turn his back on his youth, until he encountered a dying mortal from our world named Lucy who was desperately trying to return. Meng threw away his godly pride to carry this fragile mortal through an endless forest, only to watch her die before they could escape.

Some may view Meng as a kind and merciful god who exists amongst a land of monsters, but don’t be so quick to judge. There is still much about Meng Li that I haven’t told you yet.

Meng’s story is far from over but I can see from that look on your face that you’d rather hear a more exciting tale, and I have just the story for you. It stars a dashing thief, a beautiful bodyguard to a princess, and a kingdom full of brave mortals who rose up against their god. Welcome to the tale of Khan and the Kingdom without Gods.

Part Two: Khan and the Kingdom without Gods

Six years have passed since Meng’s journey through the forest, and after all this time something wonderful has occurred. In a southern kingdom by the sea, a group of extraordinary mortals rose up and defeated their local god. Free from the restrictive rule of an evil overlord these people have created an oasis for humans at the end of a barren desert.

A kingdom without gods? Impossible!” Scoff mortals throughout the land. “Without a god the rain can not fall, and the crops will not grow,” they argue. But against everyone’s expectations this kingdom continued to thrive beyond belief. Those who traveled there brought back stories of a large city by the sea with an elegant castle that is home to a kind king and a beautiful princess. These rumours brought countless mortals wanting to join it, and angry gods who tried to crush the kingdom into oblivion.

This is the story of one man, a thief, who travelled far across the continent in search of the beautiful princess from all the tales. His name was Khan.

Despite what you may be thinking he was no relation to the great Genghis Khan who once ruled inner Mongolia, and he was originally named Little Timi before deciding that Khan was a more fitting name for a great thief such as himself. He was a man in his mid twenties with shoulder length brown hair, plenty of muscles, and a stylish small beard. There was also a scar on his cheek from when he cut himself shaving at thirteen, but he recently liked to brag that he got it in a life and death battle with a sinister god.

Khan stole mostly from gods, along with whatever caught his attention, but he’d discovered that his fellow mortals were more supportive of his questionable work when he stole from unpopular immortals. He’d also discovered that there was less competition for the title of Theif King if he took the stolen items, deposited them into the hands of his enemies, and then told the previous owners where to find them.

Yes, Khan was a genius indeed. A genius who had single handedly navigated his way across a treacherous desert to the only godless oasis on the continent.

Accompanying him were his two underlings Gono and Graceful Daisy. Gono was a tall thin man who was losing his teeth and hair. He’d lived as a humble eggplant farmer who’d only dreamed of adventure until he ran into Khan stealing watermelons at the local farmer’s market. Graceful Daisy, or just Daisy for short, was a large hairy man who was anything but graceful. His mother wanted him to join a traveling dance group, but Daisy soon realised that he was far better at stealing things and beating up men. Both of them were nothing but loyal to Khan, and were willing to do (almost) anything for their boss.

“By the gods! I never thought we’d get out of that desert alive!” Cried a very sandy and sunburnt Khan as they finally stumbled into the grassy outskirts of the kingdom. After walking through the desert for days, never in his life did he think he’d be so happy to see weeds. Khan hadn’t eaten for days, so he immediately plucked a weed from the ground and began to munch on the furry foliage. It tasted bitter and disgusting, but Khan wouldn’t have survived this long if he had high gourmet standards.

“Give us a bite boss,” asked Gono, but Khan turned his head away and quickly gulped it down. This act alone may have made Khan look like a cruel uncaring man, but he’d already spotted another weed in the distance which he quickly pointed out to his underling. Gono pounced on the weed and devoured it more furiously than Khan had with his own.

“So this is the great Kingdom without gods,” said Daisy as he squinted at the buildings in the distance.

The kingdom without gods was great by mortal standards, but all the technology we take for granted has not made it into this land of gods, so the town resembled something out of an ancient Chinese painting. The streets were dirt and gravel, the buildings were made from wood and mud, and the fastest way to travel anywhere was by horse if you were fortunate to own (or steal) one. Khan and his minions dodged merchants pushing large carts full of fruit and seafood as they made their way through the town.

The one thing which set this kingdom apart from others throughout the land, was how confident and relaxed people were as they walked down the streets. Most mortals were terrified of running into malicious gods, so they always moved nervously with their heads down, but these people strolled through the streets without a care in the world.

Khan’s well tuned thief senses told him that the giant stone castle was obviously the first place to look for a beautiful princess. The large intimidating wall was also no challenge for him and his two men, but Khan decided to check and see if the princess actually dwelled there before he wasted his evening clambering over. He could be enjoying himself at the local tavern instead.

He approached the guard who was standing before the closed castle entrance. He was a young man dressed head to foot in chainmail with a sword and shield in his hands.

“Greetings friend,” said Khan with a smile as he waved and strolled towards the young man.

The guard glared warily at Khan. His name was Jun and it was his first day on guard duty. He wasn’t the smartest guy in the castle, but even he could tell that Khan was up to no good.

“What business do you have here?” Asked Jun stiffly.

“Why, we’re just here to admire your magnificent castle,” said Khan. “Fantastic brickwork,” he said while indicating to a gray flaking stone which was in need of repair.

“You have no business here,” said Jun. “Now on your way.”

“Hey, hey, there’s no need to be so cold my friend,” said Khan and he casually rested one elbow on Jun’s shoulder. “My acquaintances and I are big fans of your work. I even heard rumours that you might have a princess locked away in this castle here.”

“Perhaps. But the princesses’ location is a secret I swore never to mention to anyone who lives outside these walls,” said Jun. “Especially not to the likes of you.”

“I see, if that’s the way things are then I guess we have no choice,” Khan dived his hand into his pocket and Jun (thinking that the thief was going to draw some terrible weapon) nervously placed his hand on his sword. To Jun’s surprise Khan pulled out a chunky golden necklace and held it before the young man.

“Fantastic weather we’re having,” said Khan. He turned away and pretended to look casual while he shoved the necklace towards Jun who refused to take it.

“Come on,” hissed Khan. “Hurry up already!”

“How dare you!” Jun protested. “I’m a royal guard. No amount of petty jewellery or gold will ever sway me!”

“Looks like he’s one of those people boss,” said Daisy. He was referring to people with morals.

Khan sighed in despair. He thought he’d have to resort to more drastic action when suddenly the large doors swung open before them. A group of guards pushed a man dressed in sparkly green silk out of the castle and onto the street.

“Out with you!” One guard cried as they shoved him to the ground.

“How dare you!” Cried the man in green silk, who shall be referred to as The Green Silky Man for the sake of this story. “The gods will never stand for this! No mortal can live like the holy ones. It goes against the balance of the universe!”

“Balance? I’ll show you balance!” Said one guard and he tossed a bucket of what looked like mud over the man, but it smelt like something far worse.

“This is an abomination!” Yelled The Green Silky Man. “Just wait until the gods in the eastern lands here of this!” He jumped to his feet and rushed out of sight. Khan could hear the guards laugh as they shut the door and bolted it tight.

“So, this is how you treat all your guests?” Asked Khan.

“No, that was a messenger from a neighbouring god,” said Jun nervously. “Different ones come in every week. They want us to donate resources to their gods and become a tribute state in return for safety, but everyone knows that those shitty gods are just looking for ways to control us and make things go back to the way they were. If I had my way I wouldn’t even allow those cowards into the palace.”

“So you’re saying that all these guys sent by gods are allowed into your castle?” Asked Khan.

“Of course,” said Jun. “All messengers from foreign lands are granted an audience with our great king.”

“Well, it’s your lucky day my friend,” said Khan. “It just so happens that me and my associates are also messengers from a great god seeking an audience with the king.”

“Really?” Asked Jun who had a hard time believing Khan due to his scruffy appearance and how he suddenly wanted to be friends. “And which god do you represent?”

“Well, can’t you tell from looking at us that we represent the great and all powerful Lord,” Khan paused while thinking of a name. “You tell him Daisy.”

“Lord Gody Gody,” said Daisy and Khan cursed him for coming up with such a terrible name. He’d forgotten that despite his strength Daisy was the minion who was terrible at improvisation.

“Yes,” said Khan. “As my fellow messenger just pointed out, we represent his holiness Lord Gody Gody.”

“Is that so?” Asked Jun. “And where does his holiness Lord Gody Gody reside?”

“Why even the commonest of common people know that his holiness Lord Gody Gody resides in the great kingdom of-” Khan paused while thinking of a spectacular and godlike name.

“The kingdom without grapes!” Interrupted Daisy.

Yeeees,” said Khan and he made a mental note to kick Daisy later. “Our kind and gracious holiness unfortunately has a dislike for any fruit which is small, round, green, or red. And has banned them all from our splendid kingdom.”

“And a super splendid kingdom it is!” Cried Gono.

“Rivers that flow with gold,” said Daisy.

“Women more beautiful than flowers,” said Gono.

“Cows that poop diamonds,” said Daisy.

“Vineyards that stretch for as far as the eye can see,” said Khan.

“Hey, wait a moment,” said Jun. “You just said that there were no grapes in this kingdom.”

“By the gods young man, everyone knows that you don’t need grapes to have a vineyard,” said Khan.

“Do you take me for a fool!” Cried Jun. “I can tell just from looking at you that you’re obviously a pack of vagabonds who have wandered in through the desert.”

Most people would have given up at this point, but Khan strongly believed that he could still salvage the situation until Gono ruined everything.

“Oh no we’ve been exposed!” Gono dramatically cried.

Jun reached for his sword and was prepared to draw it on the three thieves until an old man with a walking stick frantically hobbled past them on the street.

“The princess is in the square!” The old man yelled. “If we all go together we may finally be able to overpower that meddlesome bodyguard once and for all!”

“Catch you later!” Said Khan as he waved goodbye to Jun and dashed after the old man.

“Stop you fiend!” Cried Jun. “Don’t you dare lay your filthy hands on our pure and innocent princess!” He took a step forward and looked conflicted between remaining at his post or pursuing Khan. “I’ll be coming for you after my shift ends!”

Khan, Daisy and Gono dashed after the old man, who was surprisingly quick despite his age. The crowd became thicker as they walked into the center of town and everyone seemed to be flocking to the same place. They turned the corner to see a splendid town square with a group of people standing on a small wooden platform in the middle.

Khan pushed through the crowd of onlookers who were mostly old men and young girls who’d dressed themselves in the same green dress with little wooden tiaras on top of their heads.

In the center of the platform stood a beautiful sixteen year old girl with long black hair and several gold ornaments holding it in place. She was wearing a long green and gold dress, and a small gold crown on her head. Khan was willing to bet his stolen cash that she was the famous princess, and her grace and beauty seemed to live up to their reputation. Her name was Lili and she was the only mortal princess in this land who hadn’t been struck down by a savage god. She was overwhelmingly popular and had hundreds of fans, even if she was a little selfish and had a strange habit of talking about herself in third person.

Beside her stood a young woman with long auburn hair, brilliant blue eyes, and far too much make-up which made her resemble a stern clown. She was the princess’ bodyguard and went by the name Mei Fhan. The gods had forbidden mortals from having family names, so everyone assumed that she made it up to go against them all. Mei’s dislike for gods was well renown, and there were few people who despised them more than her. She was dressed in a short blue dress with matching blue pants and brown boots. There was also a bronze plate strapped to her chest to protect her against knives and sneaky attacks.

Mei was deadly serious about her job as a bodyguard, and she was currently doing her best to hold back a pack of crazy fans who were desperately pushing themselves towards the princess.

“Come on you stingy cow, just let us through already!” Protested one young man who was also wearing a green dress and tiara to match the princess. Nobody knew his real name, and he demanded that everyone address him as Mr. Princess Lili Forever. “We’ve been waiting for hours!”

“You’re just going to have to wait your turn to talk to the princess just like everyone else,” said Mei as she struggled to hold them back.

“That’s what you said last time hag!” Yelled a girl no older than ten. “And then you whisked her away before we could even get our autographs!”

“The princess’ safety is my number one concern!” Said Mei.

Next to them stood a long line of people who were waiting to meet Lili. It began on the platform and then snaked its way down the stairs and across the street. Most regular men would have joined the line and patiently waited their turn, but Khan was not like most normal men and a plan was already forming within his mind. It took every ounce of energy to suppress the wicked smile that was threatening to break out across his face.

The first person in line was an elderly man who walked over and kneeled before the princess. He held a small wooden box in his hands which he politely presented to Lili.

“Princess Lili,” he said. “For you I have crafted a beautiful unicorn from the rare and exotic pine nut tree. I pray that you gaze upon it every day and think of the kind old man who spent hours crafting it for you.”

“Oh nice, thanks grandps,” said the princess with a smile and she tossed the wrapped box to an eleven year old boy who was struggling under the weight of her gifts. His name was Nawaki and he was Mei’s only apprentice and ward. He’d always been a thoughtful and considerate child, but he’d recently developed an attitude problem with the onset of puberty.

Mei,” he hissed. “Help….me.

Just a little longer,” Mei hissed back. “Weren’t you the one who spent the entire morning bragging to Lili about how strong you are.”

The boy groaned and his arms began to tremble. The next present the princess tossed him added more weight than he could take, and the child comically fell backwards and dropped the gifts all over the stage. Mei turned to help him which created the opening that Princess Lili’s fan club had been desperately waiting for.

“Here’s our chance men! Attack!” Yelled Mr. Princess Lili Forever as he attempted to dash past Mei.

“Your reign of terror is at an end Mei Fahn!” Yelled another man (a.k.a Princess Lili’s Future Husband Number Eighty Two) as he charged at the bodyguard while brandishing his shoe as a weapon. “Nothing can stand in the way of the Princess Lili Sparkling Love Fanclub!”

“Again!” Yelled an exasperated Mei. “Why the hell do we have to go through this every day!”

“Stop fighting!” Cried the princess. “Lili loves you all! But Lili can only talk to you one by one!”

While the crowd was preoccupied with watching Mei single handedly beat off the crazy fans, Khan snatched a bunch of roses from a woman who was looking in another direction and cut through the line until he was first. The woman behind him let out a squeal of protest, but Khan reached back and passed her a handful of gold coins which she joyfully accepted. Khan may have originally snatched the gold coins from the woman’s very pocket seconds earlier, but she didn’t seem to notice so there was no harm done.

“Dearest princess,” said Khan. He gracefully bowed before Lili and presented her with the stolen flowers. “Please take this humble gift, but I’m afraid to say that no matter how far and wide I searched the continent, I failed to find a flower which could possibly match your unrivalled beauty.”

“Thank you strange sandy man,” said the princess breathlessly and he could already tell that she’d fallen for his charms. “Lili thinks they’re beautiful.”

Khan smiled and turned to leave, but this was when his ingenious plan finally began.

“Hey wait there a moment!” Called Daisy who was pretending to be a regular townsman in the crowd. “But you wouldn’t happen to be the great Khan by any chance?”

“By the gods!” Yelled Gono who was standing on the other side of the stage. “I was also thinking the same thing but I was too embarrassed to ask.”

“It is him!” Yelled Daisy.

“It’s The Great Khan!” Gono yelled so dramatically that tears began running down his face. Khan had interviewed hundreds of men to be in his gang, before deciding on Gono and Daisy due to their superb acting skills. They’d spent the whole journey through the desert rehearsing, and now he was certain that they could pull the entire act off without fail.

“He’s who?” Asked a confused man at the front of the stage.

“By the gods dear sir!” Cried Daisy. “You can’t possibly be saying that you’ve never heard of The Great Khan?”

“He’s a legend throughout the land!” Said Gono.

“Why he beat the great god Isis in the north!” Yelled Daisy and he lept onto the stage.

“Defeated twenty pirates in the south!” Said Gono.

“Fixed the great famine in the east,” said Daisy.

“Saved sixty poor starving orphans from drowning,” said Gono.

“Wow,” said Lili and her eyes began to sparkle. “Lili didn’t know that someone so cool had come to meet her.”

“There’s no need for this men,” said Khan. “I am nothing more than a humble man who does what he can for the sake of others.”

“Please sir, don’t put yourself down like this,” said Gono. He walked over and shook Khan’s hand.

“Wow! It’s the great Khan!” Yelled one woman who’d obviously never heard of Khan before but wanted to get in on the action.

“Can I have your autograph?” Asked Daisy and Khan scribbled his name onto a piece of parchment that Daisy held out before him. Khan was illiterate and couldn’t write anything beyond his name, but girls usually didn’t know him long enough to find out. A bunch of small children also approached him with paper and paint, and Khan merrily signed his name for them as well.

“Wow! Did you hear that Mei?” Exclaimed Nawaki with his mouth open in awe. “This guy is famous!”

“There’s something strange about this,” said Mei and she glared at Khan like she didn’t believe a word.

Khan and his men had also prepared a musical number which bragged about his greatness, but the last town they went to had a hard time believing that three men who didn’t know each other could pull of such a well coordinated singing and dancing routine, so they decided to just yell out the lyrics instead.

“He turned cow urine into gold,” said Daisy.

“He can speak to birds and serpents,” said Gono.

“He bed one hundred virgin girls!” Said Daisy.

Shhhh,” hushed Khan. “I thought we talked about how we weren’t going to add that part anymore!”

“One hundred girls?” Said Mei and her eyebrow began to twitch in anger. Unfortunately for Khan she had a personal grudge against playboys. “There’s no way that I can allow scum like you to lay one hand on the princess!”

“Please, please, it’s all a mistake!” Protested Khan, but it was already too late.

Mei dived her hand into her pocket, but Khan doubted that she was trying to bribe him. That was his secret move. He was wondering what sort of weapon the woman would use when she pulled out a single blue and gold cloth fan. It was a little humid that day, so Khan assumed that Mei wanted to fan herself before the make-up began melting off her face. He’d seen it happen before and it wasn’t pretty.

Mei stepped forward, and with one dramatic swooping motion Khan was hit by a large gust of wind that was powerful enough to send him flying across the crowd and into a cart of vegetables.

“That’s Mei Fhan’s dancing wind strike!” Cried Mr. Princess Lili Forever.

“She hit the Great Khan!” Yelled a voice from across the stage.

“Cheater!” Screamed a small child.

Khan lay on the vegetables in pain as he tried to process what had happened. He was positive that the fan had to be a god instrument. God instruments were powerful weapons made by the gods for gods, but it wasn’t uncommon for them to fall into the hands of mortals. Khan was familiar enough with godly weapons to know that it was best to avoid them if possible. He’d even grabbed himself a holy knife that was capable of injuring even the toughest of gods, but it was hardly an appropriate weapon to use against a young maiden such as Mei Fhan, no matter how monstrous or strong she happened to be.

Khan pulled himself to his feet. He’d never been so mercilessly beaten by a woman before, and he had to admit that he kind of liked it.

“Come on!” He yelled to edge Mei on. “I expected more from someone who calls themself a bodyguard!”

Mei screwed her face up in rage. “Nawaki cover Lili!” She ordered and Nawaki dashed in front of the princess to protect her from any crazy fans.

“No Mei Mei!” Protested Lili dramatically. “Lili likes this one!”

Mei waved the fan again and sent another gust of wind towards Khan but this time the thief was ready. He dodged the wind and rolled underneath the vegetable cart. He then crawled on his hands and knees through the crowd to put some distance between himself and Mei.

“Khan! Khan! Khan!” The crowd around them cheered.

“What the hell are you doing!” Cried Mei at the townspeople. “You’re supposed to be on my side not his!”

“But he’s The Great Khan!” Yelled Mr. Princess Lili Forever.

“But he’s lying to you all!” Yelled Mei.

“How do you know that?” Asked someone else.

“Didn’t you listen to anything they just said!” Yelled Mei. “Everyone knows that it’s impossible to turn cow pee into gold!”

“You’re just jealous because there’s no way that you can beat The Great Khan! He’s the strongest man throughout the land!”

“How can anyone be stupid enough to believe that crap!” Cried Mei.

The crowd fell silent.

“Mei Fhan just called us stupid!” Yelled Lili’s fan club.

“Boooooooo!” Cried the townspeople and they began throwing things at Mei.

“Stop it!” She cried. “I didn’t say that!”

Mei covered her face with her hands to protect herself from incoming shoes and garbage. As strong as Mei was she’d never mastered how to get along well with the townspeople. Khan took this opportunity to race past and snatch the fan from her hand.

“Look what happens when you underestimate The Great Khan!” Cried the thief as he dashed away with her only weapon.

“You bastard!” Cried Mei and she ran after him. People in the crowd tried to hold her back, but she pushed them all away and continued to advance on Khan.

Khan spun around and waved the fan at Mei to create the same giant gust of wind that knocked him into the food cart (he assumed that was how the god instrument worked) but to his disappointment nothing happened and it didn’t do a thing.

“Shit,” swore Khan. He stood there and continued frantically waving the fan in case it suddenly started working, but all he did was create a tiny draft.

Mei took a running leap and attempted to roundhouse kick Khan, but he hit the ground and dodged her assault. Khan then kicked her in the ankle and Mei fell forward, but she caught herself before losing her balance.

“Just give it up,” said Khan with his fists out ready to defend himself. “A girl like you is probably useless without her little magic fan.”

“It’s guys like you that I hate the most!” Cried Mei and she punched Khan with enough force to send him flying into a stone wall.

  • * *

Khan awoke hours later to find himself alone in the empty square with a throbbing headache. There were also bruises on his chest and the magic fan had mysteriously disappeared from his hand. He sat up to find Gono and Daisy looking at wooden dolls of Princess Lili at a nearby store. Most minions would have exhibited more concern for their injured boss, but Khan passed out at least twice a week so they started shopping to pass the time.

“Are you gonna get one too boss?” Asked Gono as he cradled a doll of the princess to his chest like a human child.

Khan sat up and glanced inside. There were wooden tiaras, long green dresses, and small figurines of Lili that nodded their heads up and down. Even the elderly store owner had dressed himself up in the merchandise. The entire store looked like a shrine to the young princess and it was freaking him out.

“What’s the next plan boss?” Asked Daisy. “We could always try that act where you get cursed by an evil god and fall into a never ending slumber that can only be ended by the kiss of a princess.”

“Nah, I think I’ll pass,” said Khan as he rubbed his head.

“Are you just gonna give up boss?” Asked Gono. “That’s not like you.”

“But in the desert you said that you always wanted to do a prince-” Said Daisy before Khan cut him off.

Shhh,” said Khan. “That was two days ago, the plan has changed. That woman in the blue dress,” he said with his eyes glazed over. “The way she angrily beat me into the wall, felt the way that I’ve never been beaten before.”

“Boss, don’t do this to yourself again!” Cried Daisy. Khan had a habit of falling for crazy women who only brought him pain. The last girl he chased ended up stomping on his hands. What Daisy still couldn’t understand was why Khan looked so happy when it happened. Daisy suspected that all the beatings Khan received from women had driven his boss insane.

Daisy and Gono even made up their own nickname to refer to the man when he was out of earshot, The Great Masochist.

“Right, it’s settled,” said Khan and he ignored his minions’ tears of anguish. “Our new target is the woman in the blue dress!”

Of course Khan wouldn’t directly approach Mei, that was insane, instead he planned to ask around town (maybe stalk her a little) and then research all her weaknesses before coming up with the best way to appeal to the young woman. You may view this as a terrible plan, but Khan was a little strange in the head, so to him it seemed like a great idea.

The closest person to Mei seemed to be the princess, but with her locked away in the castle the next best option was the boy he saw in the square. Khan was certain that the fastest way to Mei’s heart would be through manipulating the people closest to her.

“Hey old man?” Asked Khan to the man selling dolls. “Where can we find that little kid who was with the princess?”

  • * *

Nawaki always trained outside the palace with Mei in the afternoon. Mei may have been hired to keep the princess safe, but Lili’s public appearances had drastically decreased since Mei showed up, so the doll seller and Lili’s Sparkling Fanclub secretly plotted to get rid of the bodyguard for months. Khan was their only hope, so the merchant happily drew the thief a map and sent him on his way.

Khan and his men easily found the place, but the gate was so tall that Khan had to stand on Daisy’s shoulders to get a better view. It appeared to be a training ground for soldiers and guards. There were rows of wooden targets along with blades, arrows, swords, and a group of palace guards who were wearily watching Mei and Nawaki train.

“I don’t get why you had to beat that guy up today Mei,” said Nawaki as he threw small knives at a target. His aim was terrible so they all bounced off and landed in the bushes. “He seemed like a nice guy.”

“A nice guy?” Questioned Mei. “That man was obviously a con artist. He probably makes his living off stealing things and then bragging about it.”

“But you didn’t even let him explain himself,” said Nawaki. “Maybe he’s actually a really nice con artist or something.”

“That’s just what they want you to think, and then once you finally let them into your life they destroy it and crush your heart into a thousand pieces!” Yelled Mei and she threw a knife with enough force to make the target crack in the middle. “There’s no way that I can allow trash like that to get anywhere near the princess.”

The more Nawaki kept talking about Khan the more Mei began imagining the thief’s face on the target. She threw another knife and pictured it slicing off his nose. Although Mei was kind and reasonable to her friends, she had difficulty getting along with others and had a reputation throughout the kingdom for being angry and mean. Which was probably the reason why she had few male admirers, except for the few rare guys like Khan who seemed to enjoy that sort of thing.

“That’s all for today,” huffed Mei and she walked over and began pulling the small blades out of the wood. “You can go practice your calligraphy for a few hours.”

“Again!” Huffed Nawaki. “But I want to practice throwing more knives, I’m finally getting good at it!”

“Being able to fight is all well and good,” said Mei. “But once you learn to read and write properly it’s like-”

“Opening up a whole new door, ” said Nawaki and he turned to leave. “You’ve only told me that like a trillion times already.”

“And make sure that you take your bath!”

“I get it, I get it. I’m not a little kid anymore, you don’t have to tell me what to do.”

“And he used to be so cute,” Mei muttered to herself as she watched Nawaki walk away. She secretly missed the days when Nawaki followed her like a puppy and did whatever she said.

Khan jumped down from Daisy’s shoulders and casually leaned against the wall beside the gate while trying to act natural. He wasn’t certain if Nawaki would notice him on his way out, so Khan went out of his way to speak especially loud.

“And then I pulled that poor little orphan boy out from the river,” said Khan as Nawaki walked past. “Along with his mother, father, pet duck, and stinky tofu cart.”

Just like Khan planned Nawaki immediately glanced over his shoulder and noticed the three thieves standing there.

“Hey! You’re that guy from the square!” Said Nawaki.

“Who, me?” Asked Khan while looking around and pretending that he didn’t know if Nawaki was speaking directly to him.

“It is you! Is it true that you did all those great things like talk to animals and stuff?” Asked Nawaki.

“My fans may have an unfortunate habit of exaggerating my brave deeds,” said Khan. “But I would never lie to you my friend,” technically he hadn’t directly lied to Nawaki yet so he was still in the clear. “How would you like to hear more amazing tales of my adventures?”

“Wow!” Said Nawaki and his eyes seemed to sparkle. “That would be awesome!”

All thoughts of studying suddenly evaporated from the young boy’s brain.

“And I know just the place,” said Khan.

In his defence Khan didn’t know much about children, so he just took Nawaki to the same place where he conducted all his business meetings, the local tavern. He naturally gravitated to the most suspicious one in the lower town which was hidden behind a knife shop that was hidden behind a fried chicken stand. Like most of Khan’s favourite places it was dark, dusty, and had a strange smell. The bar was mostly empty, but the customers sat there silently sipping their drinks like they were working out the best way to run off with Khan’s gold.

“Your strongest alcoholic beverage for me and my young friend,” smiled Khan to the owner as he and Nawaki took seats at the bar.

“Can’t serve drinks to children,” said the barman. He was a large man affectionately named Stingy Lu by his customers for reasons which are easy to guess.

“Then anything else you have,” requested Khan and Stingy Lu handed him a glass of potato wine and a cup of water to Nawaki.

“Wow, this place is great,” said Nawaki while looking around the room in awe. “Mei never lets me come to this part of town, let alone drink at a bar.”

“Sisters,” huffed Khan. “I had seven of them, and they always ordered me around like they owned the hut.”

“Mei isn’t my sister,” said Nawaki. “We’re not even related, she just looks after me. For now anyway.”

“What about your parents kid?”

“I don’t have parents.”

“Oh,” said Khan and he awkwardly sipped his drink. “Well, if it makes you feel better my parents were so shitty that I was better off without them. How did you end up shacking up with that chick?”

“It’s a long story,” said Nawaki. “And I mean it’s a really really really long story.”

“I have time,” said Khan. “Why not share a few stories with your new best buddy Khan?”

“I don’t know. Mei doesn’t seem to like you, so maybe she’ll get mad if I tell you stuff about her.”

“Well, I understand how she may feel, but I might just be able to sneak you some of this stuff if you tell me all her deepest darkest secrets,” said Khan while subtly indicating to his drink.

“Done!” Said Nawaki without a hint of remorse. “It all started about two years ago.”

  • * *

I know that I promised you the exciting adventure of a theif king and his crew, but young Nawaki’s story is also vital to help understand Mei Fhan, and Khan wanted to know as much as he could about the mysterious young woman who guarded the princess.

Nawaki grew up in a mountainous village far away from the sea. He lived with his two parents who diligently farmed their fields and sold their grain at the local market. The local god was not especially kind, but he kept them safe in return for their monthly donations of grain.

Sure Nawaki’s family had been quite poor and they often went to bed hungry, but Nawaki was sure that those peaceful days together with his parents would never end.

Until one day when his mother and father didn’t come home.

A nine year old Nawaki stood on the tips of his toes and stared out the window of his parent’s wooden shack. He hoped to see his parents strolling up the mountain road with their arms full of goods that they bought at the market, but that day, like everyday that week, he could see nothing but trees and birds.

Nawaki pulled himself away from the window and began to pace around the room. He had watered the plants, played with his toys, and now there was nothing which could distract him from the anxiety which was growing larger and larger in the pit of his stomach.

He refused to accept that they wouldn’t come back. Just a week ago his father ruffled his hair and promised to be back within a day. Nawaki’s father had been a good man, and his only son refused to believe that he would break his word.

Nawaki instead began to imagine all the reasons why his parents had been delayed. Maybe the path was damaged and they had to go the long way, or maybe they were abducted by pirates who were after their grain. Perhaps they were now being held captive while desperately waiting for Nawaki to come pay the ransom money.

Nawaki decided that he couldn’t take waiting any longer and he had to go find them. He knew travelling alone was dangerous and that the road was often used by bandits or lower gods, but the thought of seeing his parents again outweighed his common sense.

Nawaki clambered down the steep mountain path for hours until he finally reached the nearest town. He’d been there several times with his parents before, but this time it looked completely different like something dreadful had occurred. The buildings were damaged and burnt, the streets were empty, and all the market stores had been abandoned with their wares scattered throughout the street. There was also black smoke rising up from a large stone mansion on the hill. It was the weekend home of their local god Lord Sekiha who had been greatly respected and feared, so Nawaki couldn’t understand why no one was attempting to put out the blaze.

“Mama! Papa!” Cried Nawaki as he ran around the town searching for his missing parents, but the streets were silent and not a soul emerged from their homes. “Where are you?”

“Hey kid!” Hissed a voice from behind him, and Nawaki turned to see a dirty man with an inch long beard hiding in a basket on the side of the road. “Get out of here before they find you!”

“Come in here!” Hissed an elderly woman from behind a crack in her door. “I’ll hide you good and well where no one will ever find you boy.”

Nawaki’s life would have turned out differently if he’d listened to their advice, but instead he screamed and ran away in terror. He continued to run around the town in a panic until something grabbed the back of his shirt and yanked him off his feet.

“Looks like another brat those lazy shits forgot to clean off the street,” said the voice of whatever was holding him, and Nawaki glanced over his shoulder to see three almost identical male gods with long hair and silk clothes staring back. Nawaki felt the bottom drop out of his stomach and he nervously gulped.

It was the first time he’d ever seen a god and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Nawaki assumed that all gods were graceful and immaculate so he was surprised at how rugged these gods were. Their clothes were worn, the seams were loose, and their hair was messy like they couldn’t afford a proper comb. If it wasn’t for their complection and godly glow, Nawaki would have mistaken them for regular bandits who roamed the mountainside. They were the Numero brothers, but they happened to look so girly that it would have made more sense to call themselves the Numero sisters instead. After years of famine and malnourishment most of the mortals in their mountain village had perished and left them alone. Fed up with having to feed themselves and wash their own clothes, the Numero brothers had decided to descend from their mountain home and take over Lord Sekiha’s land. Unfortunately they were terrible at managing people and were already running the town into the ground.

“Let go of me!” Cried Nawaki as he attempted to struggle and get away.

“Check this out,” said Yi, the oldest Numero brother who was holding his shirt. He poked Nawaki in the stomach and the young boy screamed in pain. “This little sqwirt actually thinks he can get away.”

“What do you expect,” said Arh, the next brother who was not any kinder. “These bumpkins have never felt the terror of a real god before.”

“Maybe we should teach this little guy a lesson he’ll never forget,” said Yi.

“Let’s just get going,” sighed San. He was the only brother who disliked violence and would rather be at home reading a book. “Sister is going to worry if we don’t get back there soon.”

“Guess this guy might make a nice present for Sis,” said Yi with a laugh. “She’s always moaning about wanting more pets.”

“Just as long as she takes care of this one’s feces,” said San.

With a laugh Yi threw Nawaki over his shoulder with enough force to knock the wind out of the boy’s lungs. A trembling Nawaki could do nothing but gaze over the remains of the market as the Numero brothers strolled through the town. Many buildings had been smashed, and a large group of adults were tiredly farming a large field on the outskirts of town.

“Quit slacking mortals!” Yelled Arh and the humans picked up their pace. “We want our food ready by the end of the week or it’ll be your heads on sticks!”

Arh picked up a rock and casually tossed it at a man who fell down from the impact. Nawaki couldn’t tell if he was alive or dead, but both Yi and Arh just laughed as the poor man lay there twitching. Nawaki had never encountered a being as cruel as these gods, and he finally began to realise that all the terrible tales he’d heard about evil immortals were very much true.

At last the brothers reached a large mansion which had once belonged to Lord Sekiha. The front door was missing like they’d smashed it to pieces, and Yi, Arh, and San, confidently waltzed in like they owned the place. The mansion was full of young children who were cleaning the walls and floors. Most of them looked no older than Nawaki, and several of them were frantically scrubbing while tears ran down their faces.

We’re home darling sister,” sang Yi and he hauled Nawaki into the front sitting room.

In the center of the room, amongst the expensive furniture and glittering works of art, sat a young female god on a red leather couch. She lethargically leaned back as a small child nervously fed her grapes. Her name was Su and she was the only girl amongst the terrible Numero siblings, but despite her fondness for cute things she didn’t have an ounce of empathy for humans.

“We have a present for you Sis!” Said Yi and he tossed Nawaki onto the floor with a thud. The boy cried out in pain, but Yi and Arh only laughed.

“Thank you dear brothers,” said Su with a lethargic yawn. “He’ll make a great addition to the ones we already have.”

“Start scrubbing pipsqueak!” Said Arh and he tossed a cloth at Nawaki’s head. Yi, Arh, and San took their seats in the room and leaned back to relax. San pulled a small book from his pocket and began to flip through the pages. Nawaki couldn’t read the title because his parents had never taught him how to read symbols.

Nawaki sadly took the cloth and began nervously scrubbing the white ceramic tile floor. He could recognise some of the captives around him as children he’d seen in the market. Nawaki was not in town often enough to remember their names, but he could remember their parents’ occupations.

“Hey, veggie guy’s son,” whispered Nawaki to the small boy scrubbing beside him. “Have you seen my parents?”

Veggie guy’s son nervously shook his head and continued scrubbing the floor in a frenzy.

“How about you, guy whose father sells meat on sticks?” Asked Nawaki to another boy, but the child turned away and continued cleaning.

“I saw them in the market just before those gods came,” whispered candy seller’s daughter. “But I haven’t seen them since, there were lots of adults who got hurt when those gods came.”

“Yeah, those gods probably killed them or something,” said horse dung man’s grandson.

Nawaki froze. As much as he wanted to keep cleaning to avoid getting punished, he found that his hand would not move, and only one thought rotated through his head in a never ending circle.

His parents were dead.

The shock hit him like a tidal wave and Nawaki soon slipped into despair. He was old enough to understand that his mother and father who’d always treated him so kindly would never come home. He would never taste his mother’s food, listen to his father’s terrible jokes, or speak with either of them again.

He was suddenly alone in the world and he was already a slave to a gang of malicious gods.

Nawaki’s face felt numb and tears began to spill from his eyes. His body began to shake and there was no way to stop it.

Hey! Don’t cry!” Hissed candy seller’s daughter. “They’ll only hit you if you cry.”

Nawaki tried his best to muffle his sobs, but the thought of never meeting his parents again, and his terrible situation, was enough to send him over the edge.

“I thought I told you little shits to be quiet!” Said Arh and he walked over and kicked Nawaki in the stomach. “How’s a guy supposed to relax around here if you brats keep sobbing.”

“I told you we should have rounded up the older ones to take care of the house,” said San.

“It’s all Su’s fault!” Said Yi. “She only wanted the cute ones but they’re completely useless!”

“Don’t say that,” said Su and she hugged the child beside her who almost wet himself in fear. “They’re all so adorable!”

“I suppose that there’s no helping it,” said Arh with a sigh. “You’re always going to end up with at least one useless mortal no matter what you do,” he rolled his sleeves up and walked towards Nawaki. “It’s probably best to put this one down.”

Nawaki squealed and backed away until he hit the wall. He looked to the other children in desperation and hoped that someone would come to his aid, but they all quickly moved away and began scrubbing like crazy.

“Sometimes I wonder why mortals even exist,” said Arh as he looked down at Nawaki in disgust. “Why would anyone create something so weak and pathetic in a god’s image.”

“Mortals exist to serve the gods,” said San as he glanced up from his book. “Even a child knows that.”

“They were put on this earth to serve our every wim,” smiled Su.

“How right you are dear brother and sister,” said Arh. “And their pitiful fates are ours alone to decide!”

Arh raised his fist to strike Nawaki and the young boy cried and covered his face with his hands. He would have definitely gone to the same place as his parents if it wasn’t for what happened next.

White smoke began to waft in through the open door. It snaked itself around the corners of the room, and then rose up until the entire room was filled with a mysterious white fog.

“What is this?” Yi cried, but he soon disappeared from Nawaki’s view.

“Today is the last day that you’ll treat mortals like dogs!” Said a strange man’s voice from within the smoke.

“Mankind has no obligation to serve you as slaves,” said a woman’s voice which echoed throughout the room.

“The time of gods is at an end!” Said another man.

Arh stopped his advance towards Nawaki and anxiously glanced around the room. He’d been confident and smug moments earlier, but now he looked anxious and afraid. Nawaki was close enough to see a young human man with dark skin and dirty blonde hair emerge from the smoke and slice Arh’s head clean off in one swipe with a golden scythe. The god’s head went flying across the room and his body lifelessly collapsed to the ground.

Nawaki sat there trembling in shock, and couldn’t pull his eyes away from Arh’s terrifying headless corpse. He’d always believed that gods were invincible, so he found it difficult to comprehend that one could be defeated so easily. If the weapon hadn’t been a god instrument it wouldn’t have done anything. The human man holding the scythe was a god hunter by the name of Malik, and Nawaki would never forget his serious and focused expression. He offered one hand towards Nawaki and pulled the trembling boy to his feet.

“Don’t worry kid,” Malik quietly whispered in his ear. “It will all be over soon.”

Malik was not alone, and the other members of his group quickly attacked the remaining Numero siblings. It was impossible to see anything through the thick fog, but there was the sound of weapons clashing, and the children around them began screaming and crying.

“How dare you! This is blasphemy!” He heard Yi cry before the god suddenly when silent.

When the smoke finally cleared Nawaki could see three human men and one woman standing amongst the bloody remains. There was a large middle aged man named Jinro, two brothers named Seven and Eight, and a much tattier Mei who was dressed in men’s clothes with her hair cut short to just above her shoulders. She was carrying a long sword and her face was expressionless like she didn’t care that her clothes were covered in Yi’s blood. Luckily for Nawaki they’d heard rumors of the Numero siblings enslaving the town and rushed to free them all, but many often wondered if Malik’s group attacked gods for the sake of saving humanity, or to act out their own morbid desire to cut gods to pieces.

The white flawless room had been turned into a bloodbath, so the children all dashed away crying until only Nawaki remained. He should have been glad that the monsters who killed his parents were sliced to pieces, but it didn’t bring him an ounce of happiness and he only felt empty. He considered going back to his family’s home on the mountain top, but all that awaited him there was an empty shack and painful memories of his mother and father who weren’t coming back.

“Hey, don’t you want to go home little boy?” Kindly asked Malik and he crouched down before Nawaki so that they were both on the same level. “This isn’t really the sort of place a little kid like you should be in.”

“My parents are dead!” Cried Nawaki, and the tears began flowing down his face twice as hard.

“Hey, did those nasty gods kill them?” Malik asked and rubbed the boy’s back.

Nawaki didn’t know the exact details of his parents’ unfortunate downfall, and the crying was making it difficult to speak, so he just nodded his head and assumed that’s what happened.

Before he knew it the grown man before him was sobbing as well. Malik grabbed Nawaki and pulled him into a tight hug. “It’s okay! You can come with us and we’ll look after you kid!”

The two of them stood there sobbing together, and Nawaki frantically cried out something about not wanting to be alone. He looked over Malik’s shoulder to see Mei looking at them with disapproval but she didn’t say anything and turned away. If someone had told him that Mei was to become his future guardian Nawaki would have assumed they were messing with him.

  • * *

“So she was a god hunter, that makes sense,” said Khan. God hunters were small groups of people who travelled the countryside attacking gods. They usually consisted of young people with strong grudges against immortals. They tended to live very short and painful lives which were usually ended by the hands of a god who they couldn’t defeat.

The gods despised anyone who attempted to challenge them, so harbouring or providing for god hunters was forbidden throughout the land and was punishable by death. Most god hunters were shunned and cast out by mortals, but so were thieves, so Khan and Mei had something in common.

“Yeah, after that I travelled with them as they hunted down gods who were being mean to people,” said Nawaki sadly. “But they always made me stay behind and look after camp so I didn’t get to see much fighting. Mei was always busy following that Malik guy around so I didn’t really talk to her back then. She always agreed with everything he said like they were dating or something.”

“So is this Malik guy her ex-boyfriend?” Casually asked Khan, but he felt his heart skip a beat.

“I dunno, I tried asking her a few times but she keeps changing the subject. She’s stingy like that, and she won’t tell me anything about what she was like when she was my age. Mei and Malik looked like best friends until that happened a few months later.”

“Until what happened?”

“Ah, this might take a while to explain.”

  • * *

Despite insisting that he was old enough to battle bloodthirsty gods, Nawaki had been left to watch the camp along with Oku. Oku was Seven’s girlfriend. She was a petite young woman with long black hair, soft facial features, and she was far nicer to him than Mei. Oku never got angry and let Nawaki do almost anything he wanted. Mei always forced him to study and learn new things, while Oku would get sheets of paper and teach Nawaki how to make origami cranes.

Nawaki missed Oku. He wished that he could go back to that quiet afternoon and convince Malik not to go after those dangerous gods.

“Hey Malik! Wait up!” Echoed Seven’s voice in the distance from somwhere behind the trees. “Goddamn it! Just listen to what I’m saying Malik!”

Malik stormed into the camp followed by Seven, Eight and Jinro. All four of them were dirty and scratched like they’d been in a tough fight. Mei, who was usually by Malik’s side, was nowhere to be seen.

“What happened? Where’s Mei?” Asked Oku.

Malik’s usually kind face screwed up into a scowl. “Don’t you dare mention that name again!” He spat and stormed into his tent.

“What happened?” Oku whispered to Seven.

“It’s Mei, she,” Seven began to say until he noticed Nawaki sitting there. “I’ll tell you later.”

Seven led Oku away from the campfire and both he, Eight and Jinro, walked into Seven’s tent and began talking in hushed voices.

It was difficult for Nawaki to hear what they were saying. He knew that it was wrong to spy on adult conversations, but he was also part of their group, so he thought he had a right to know if the woman with the short hair named Mei was alive or dead. Nawaki crept across the camp and quietly pressed one ear to their tent.

“I can’t believe that she was like that all along,” said Oku. “She always seemed so normal.”

“She lied to us all and we believed her,” said Eight.

“Does something like that really matter though?” Asked Seven. “I mean, she helped us until now, so doesn’t that make her our friend?”

“Friend or not Malik’s already made up his mind,” said Eight. “You should know that it’s impossible to reason with him when he becomes like this.”

“Still, it does seem a little harsh,” said Seven.

“Harsh! Do you know what’s harsh? How about the time when a god-” Eight paused when he finally noticed Nawaki’s shadow outside the tent.

“Nawaki!” Called Jinro. “Come here.”

Nawaki knew that he was in trouble and sadly walked around to the front of the tent.

“Didn’t anyone tell you that it’s rude to eavesdrop on other’s conversations?” Asked Jinro.

“I was worried about Malik,” said Nawaki. “Why is he so angry?”

“Don’t worry about Malik, he just gets this way sometimes,” said Jinro.

“You know, Malik also lost his parents to gods just like you,” said Seven.

“Seven,” said Jinro. “I don’t know if Malik would want you telling hi-”

“Why not?” Asked Seven. “It’s not like its some deep dark secret that we’re not allowed to talk about anymore like a certain someone,” he snapped.

“Fine, but I’ll tell him,” said Jinro. “You’ve always been useless at telling stories. Come here kid,” he said and beckoned for Nawaki to come closer.

Nawaki entered the tent and sat down beside Jinro. He could see deep scratches on his arms and also dried blood. Seven and Eight also looked more bruised than when they set out that morning.

“When Malik was a little younger than you he was walking along a road holding hands with his parents,” said Jinro. “They were both good people and neither of them deserved what happened. Two young gods emerged from the opposite side of the road and began walking towards them. Malik and his parents did the right thing and bowed when the gods walked past. Except when Malik looked down he saw his parents’ heads hit the ground. Those gods decapitated them for no reason and just did it for fun. Malik was still a kid, so he could only stand there and watch as those bastards walked away laughing like it was hilarious. He never forgot that moment, and from that day forth Malik despised all gods and swore to kill as many as he could for what they did to his beloved parents.”

“That’s why he started this group,” said Eight. “That’s why he recruited us all.”

“We’ve all lost loved ones to gods just like you kid,” said Jinro. “What do you think happened to Seven and Eight’s other siblings?”

“I lost my mother and sister,” said Oku. “What they did to them was terrible. People say that gods have to be respected, but I just couldn’t do it anymore.”

“If people don’t do anything then nothing will ever change and the gods will keep treating us like trash,” said Jinro. “That’s why we need to keep fighting and change this world.”

“There’s not many of us now,” said Seven. “But if we convince enough people to join us then maybe one day mankind will stand a real chance against those shitty immortals.”

“But what about that other woman Mei?” Asked Nawaki. “What happened to he-”

He was cut off by Oku clamping her hand over his mouth. Her eyes were nervously fixated on something behind him and he turned to see Malik with a sword and scythe in his hands. There was still blood dripping from a cut on his arm, but Malik looked like he was ready to go out into battle again.

“That’s a marvelous speech Jinro,” said Malik and he passed the large man the sword. “I’m eternally thankful that I found loyal friends like you. Now it’s time to go out and put an end to those gods who got away this afternoon.”

“You want to go back there already!” Protested Seven. “But we barely survived fighting them last time. If it wasn’t for Me-”

“Don’t you dare say that name again,” snarled Malik. “We killed plenty of gods before we met that person, and we can do the same without her. It’s best to strike now while those filthy immortals least expect it.”

“You should rethink this,” said Eight. “Maybe we should wait until-”

“Are you questioning my authority Eight?” Said Malik. His voice was low and dangerous and Nawaki couldn’t believe that it was the same Malik who cried and asked him to join them.

“No,” said Eight and his gaze fell to the ground. “Let’s just go get this over with.”

“Seven,” hissed Oku to her boyfriend, but Seven just lowered his head in defeat and went to get his things.

The atmosphere in the camp was grim and Nawaki watched the god hunters slowly prepare their weapons before they turned to set out again. Malik also demanded that Oku had to join them to replace that person.

“Don’t worry kid, we’ll be back before you know it,” said Jinro and he ruffled Nawaki’s hair before turning to leave. Nawaki stood there in silence and waved as Jinro, Malik, Seven, Eight and Oku all walked out of sight.

Nawaki returned to camp and attempted to distract himself for the next few hours by doing small chores, but his thoughts continuously drifted back to Malik and his unusual behaviour.

Nawaki touched the spot where Jinro had ruffled his hair. If he used his imagination he could almost see the large man attempting to reassure him.

And that’s when the dread hit him.

Nawaki remembered his father saying goodbye like that when his parents left for the market and never came back. He could recall them both smiling and promising to return within a day, but now they were gone and he could never see them again.

The overwhelming anxiety that Nawaki felt while waiting for his parents suddenly returned with full force, and he couldn’t ease the heart stopping fear that Malik and his group had also disappeared forever.

He dropped the pot he was scrubbing and dashed after the god hunters. Hours had passed since they left, but he could still see their faint footprints amongst the dirt and leaves. He easily followed their tracks like Jinro had once taught him. Malik was usually very cautious and moved with utmost stealth, but this time their footprints were rushed and obvious like the god hunter didn’t care.

Gradually small spots of blood began to appear on the ground like red dots of rain. Nawaki didn’t think much of it, but the blood slowly began to increase until the entire clearing before him was red.

Perhaps part of him already knew what it meant, but he didn’t comprehend the truth until he spotted Seven’s foot lying discarded on the path. His arm was also lying nearby, along with his other limbs and his head. The wounds looked messy and jagard, like someone had grabbed onto his limbs and ripped him apart.

But the horror didn’t end there, and Nawaki soon found his other comrades, or what was left of them, scattered around the clearing. Eight’s body didn’t look any better and Jinro’s limbs were covered in scratches like he put up a fight. Oku had been cut clean in half. Her white porcelain face was contorted in terror like it was the last emotion she felt before they ended her life. Malik was there too, only Nawaki couldn’t see his body. He’d been reduced to just a head lying on the ground staring into space. If Nawaki focused hard enough it almost looked as though the head was watching him.

The young boy fought the urge to throw up and kneeled down to look into the eyes of the man who promised to take care of him forever. Only now Malik could never fulfil that promise, and whatever it was that made him human was now long gone.

They were gone.

They were all gone.

It was all too much for Nawaki to take, and he fainted head first to the ground.

In his dreams they were all still alive. His mother, father, Malik, Jinro, Seven and Oku. They all smiled and promised to look after him, but when he awoke there was nothing but smoke and bloodshed.

He opened his eyes to see a large cloud of black smoke rising up into the sky. He sat up to see a large fire burning close by and his friend’s bodies had all been cleared away. Someone had placed a bunch of clothes under his head to make a pillow, and there was a tattered blanket covering his stomach and legs. Nawaki squinted through the smoke to see one living person kneeling down before the fire.

He nervously got up and hesitantly walked over to find a young woman fanning the flames with a blue and gold fan. There was a scarf covering the lower half of her face, so it was difficult to recognise her at first, but as he examined her more closely he finally realised that she was the mysterious young woman Mei who Malik threw out of his group.

“Hey,” she said and glanced behind her. “How are you feeling?”

Nawaki didn’t answer and instead found that his eyes were glued to the blaze. He could spot the remnants of human limbs and bones, and it was difficult to believe that he was looking at all that remained of Malik, Jinro, Seven, Eight, and Oku.

“I’m sorry Nawaki,” said Mei. “If I’d gotten here earlier I may have been able to save them, but I promise that I’ll hunt down the gods who did this and make them pay.”

Her words didn’t comfort him and Nawaki stood there and watched as all his human connections slowly burned away. It was just like the day when he was enslaved by the Numero siblings and he’d lost everything again. Nawaki felt numb, and he couldn’t stop the tears which quickly spilled out of his eyes and ran down his cheeks.

“Here,” said Mei and she passed him a tattered cloth that he used to wipe his face.

“Aren’t you sad?” Sobbed Nawaki. He couldn’t understand how Mei could stand there fanning the fire so emotionlessly like it was the most normal thing in the world. He thought she had loved Malik and adored his friends, but maybe there was something bad about her after all.

Mei sat there silently for a moment like she was considering his question. “They were like family,” she said sadly. “Perhaps I’ve already cried so much in this lifetime, that it’s impossible for me to shed tears anymore.”

“Will I be like you too someday? If lots more bad things keep happening to me?” Nawaki thought it might not be so bad if it meant that the tears would finally stop.

Mei bit her lower lip and placed her fan into her pocket. “Hey Nawaki, I know that I’m not Malik, but I can keep that promise he made you. If you want you can come travel with me and I’ll look out for you. You’ll be a lot safer that way than on your own.”

Nawaki didn’t know Mei well or if he could trust her (Malik certainly didn’t) but all he knew was that he didn’t want to be left alone on that battlefield so he sadly nodded and accepted her offer. Luckily for him Mei turned out to be a very loyal and caring guardian, but he couldn’t help but wonder what she did to loose Malik’s trust.

Nawaki wasn’t sure if it was the shock from losing his friends, but as he looked into Mei’s bright blue eyes across the fire he was certain that a day earlier they’d been brown not blue.

  • * *

“And that’s when Mei and I started travelling together,” said Nawaki. He quickly turned away and wiped his face so that Khan wouldn’t see his tears. “A year later we met some guy who works for the king, and we then came here and Mei became the princess’ bodyguard.”

“I’m sorry about your friends kid,” said Khan as he gave Nawaki a pat on the back. “I’ve unfortunately lost many precious comrades over the years as well.”

What Khan didn’t mention was that most of them had attempted to backstab or betray the thief so he abandoned them in dangerous locations. Such as the side of crumbling cliffs or in the lairs of angry gods. There was one minion who stole a girl Khan had been pursuing for months, but it wasn’t Khan’s fault that the bridge collapsed beneath him.

“Mei was a lot more serious back then, and she’d go off hunting gods alone too,” said Nawaki. “I thought that she might die like Malik, but she always came back alive, sometimes pretty beaten up but alive. I used to get super mad at her, but she said that it was just something she had to do to get stronger and I suppose it worked since Mei’s pretty strong, even for a girl.”

“Yes, yes,” said Khan. It was all well and good to know what Mei liked to do on the weekend, but her relationship with the Malik guy was something he couldn’t overlook. “Why did they kick her out of their gang?”

“Mei refuses to tell me why, but after two years I think I’ve finally worked out the answer.”

“Really? Do tell,” said Khan and he passed Nawaki his glass of potato wine. The boy took a small sip before screwing up his face in disgust.

“Mei was obviously super in love with Malik, but when she finally confessed her feelings to him he turned her down because he was still super messed up about what happened to him as a kid. This drove Mei nuts, because Mei’s just always angry, and then she completely freaked out. Malik then decided that he couldn’t handle her so he kicked her out of his gang and told her not to come back.”

Khan had a feeling that there had to be more to the story, but given Mei’s personality he was unlikely to hear it from her any time soon.

“Now it’s your turn,” said Nawaki. “I told you all about the bad stuff that happened to me and Mei, so it’s time for you to tell me a story.”

Khan didn’t usually share his tragic childhood tales with anyone, but he had one story that could hopefully gain Mei’s sympathy, so he decided to share it with Nawaki.

“Well,” said Khan. “There was this one time.”

  • * *

When Khan was eight his father decided that his family didn’t have enough money to feed them all, so he decided to take Khan out into the woods and leave him there. Maybe he hoped that his son could somehow survive off nuts and berries, or maybe he just wanted Khan to slowly starve and pass away where no one could see. Either way, he still attempted to justify his actions to Khan before he left him alone in the dark forest.

“I’m sorry that it’s come to this Little Timi,” said Khan’s father grimly. “But your mother and I just don’t have the money to feed all you children, and out of you and your sisters we decided that you were the most trouble so we’re gonna have to let you go.”

This would have been a shock for most children, but Khan didn’t say anything and just stared at his father blankly.

“You understand right?” His father asked but Khan didn’t respond.

The man found it puzzling that his son didn’t protest or complain. He’d already been forced to abandon two of his children and they both quickly descended into a fit of tears, but this kid didn’t look like he cared at all. On the contrary, he looked kind of bored. Maybe he’d overestimated his son and Khan was too stupid to comprehend his tragic fate.

“Farewell my son,” said Khan’s father and he turned to leave.

Khan said nothing as he watched his father disappear behind the trees. He didn’t think it was worth saying goodbye because he’d already memorised the way home and was back there within an hour. He even discovered a handy shortcut and arrived home first. His father was shocked to walk through the door and find Khan already warming himself by the fire. Khan’s family unsuccessfully tried to abandon him another several times but they never succeeded.

No matter where he was in this world Khan could always find his way.

  • * *

“Wow, I’m sorry that your parents tried to ditch you all the time,” said Nawaki. “But it’s really cool that you found your way back even though you were just a little kid.”

“It may have been easy to outsmart my shitty parents,” said Khan. “But eventually I got tired of living in poverty so I joined a gang and left when I was about your age.”

“That’s so cool, Mei would never let me join a gang. She’s super lame when it comes to stuff like that.”

“I would have given anything to have a chick with boobs that big look after me when I was your age,” said Khan. His eyes glazed over like he’d entered his own fantasyland. “Have her cook meals for me and wash my clothes, smack me if I misbehaved.”

“Ha!” Laughed Nawaki. “Mei doesn’t do anything nice for me at all. She’s angry and mean and won’t let me do anything cool. I’m already eleven and she still treats me like I’m a little kid.”

“Who are you calling angry?” Said the voice of Mei and Nawaki almost fell out of his chair in shock. He turned to see her furiously standing behind him with her arms crossed. If Mei’s anger could give off heat he would have been burnt to a crisp.

“H..H..H..How did you find me here?” Asked Nawaki nervously.

“I came to patrol the lower town and I could hear your voice from miles away, and what’s this?” Asked Mei as she ripped the glass of potato wine out of Nawaki’s hand and sniffed it. “Have you been drinking?” She glared at the bartender who immediately pointed at Khan.

“It was him!” Said Stingy Lu.

“You!” Said Mei and she slammed the glass down on the counter with enough force to shatter it. She ripped her fan from her pocket and furiously pointed it at Khan. “Didn’t I beat you up enough the last time we met?”

“By all means, please do it again,” said Khan with a smile. He even undid his shirt and exposed his chest for her to beat.

“Are you drunk?” Asked Mei.

“Just a little,” said Khan. “I only had one, or two, or possibly three.”

“You drank four,” said Nawaki.

“Come on Nawaki, you shouldn’t hang out with this guy!” Said Mei as she grabbed Nawaki’s arm and tried to drag him away.

“But I don’t want to go!” Said Nawaki. “I like it here.”

“Come on!” Said an exasperated Mei as she glanced around the bar. It was full of suspicious men, criminals, Princess Lili Sparkling Fan Club members, and one guy who was smoking something in the corner which gave off a terrible smell. “This is hardly the place for children.”

“But I’m not a little kid anymore, and he’s my friend!”

“But he’s a criminal,” said Mei.

“But that just makes him cooler!” Said Nawaki.

“If the kid wants to stay then why not let him?” Said Khan. “He’s obviously old enough to make his own decisions.”

“You stay out of this!” Said Mei.

“Or what?” Asked Khan. “You’re going to hit me?”

Mei growled and pointed her fan at Khan. “Fine! Let’s just get this over with.”

Khan stood up and readied himself to fight. Sure he was a little intoxicated and the room was spinning, but he was certain he could take her. Khan had faced plenty of dangerous situations after three or four drinks. Five was a different story and he wasn’t going to count the time that he went to steal a diamond necklace, blacked out, and then woke up on a beach naked the next morning.

Mei thrust her fan at Khan’s chest and pushed the thief backwards into a set of tables and chairs. Mei was banned from using her wind attack inside ever since the incident at the knife store (most of the staff went on to make full recoveries) so she had no choice but to use her other techniques. Khan quickly jumped to his feet and then skillfully dodged her next attack.

Nawaki sat back and watched the fight while sipping on Khan’s remaining drink. He thought it tasted revolting, but he naively thought that drinking would make him look older and cooler.

Of course it didn’t.

Nawaki was impressed at how the thief could hold his own against Mei as they exchanged blows, but Nawaki could have sworn that Khan almost looked happy every time that Mei managed to land a small hit. Mei was strong enough to knock the thief unconscious once, so Khan had no choice but to dodge most of her punches until he found himself backed into a corner with no hope of escape.

His situation may have looked grim, but the thief had a super special move that he’d prepared for situations such as these.

“Look it’s a god!” Cried Khan and he pointed to something behind Mei.

“What! Where?” Yelled Mei and she turned to look behind her.

In under a second Khan slipped his arms around her waist and kissed her on the lips when she moved her head back. Khan knew it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do (considering how Mei despised him) but he knew she would never fall for that move a second time so it was his only chance. He also attempted to slip his tongue in, but Mei had already pulled away and punched him in the stomach.

Khan collapsed to the floor in agony. He wished that Mei would beat him more, but a very red faced Mei Fhan had already grabbed Nawaki’s wrist and was dragging him out of the bar and onto the street.

“Come on we’re going,” she said.

“It’s no fair! You never let me have any fun!” Nawaki protested but Mei refused to let go.

A trembling Khan slowly picked himself up off the floor. His stomach was throbbing and it was difficult to stand, so he rested his elbow on the bar counter to steady himself.

“Great isn’t she?” He said to the bartender with a grin.

Stingy Lu blankly stared back at him while cleaning out a glass with a dirty rag. “You’re a funny one aren’t you?” He muttered.

After staying for a few more drinks (and quietly slipping out when the bartender wasn’t looking) Khan limped out of the tavern and went to rejoin Gono and Daisy who were watching the castle. His conversation with Nawaki spun around his head as he thought of Malik and his group of god hunters who suffered a violent and tragic end.

“So that’s the type of guy she likes huh?” Said Khan to himself. “My parents were killed in front of me as a child,” said Khan dramatically as he tried to impersonate Nawaki’s description of Malik. “Please help me ease my pain,” he said with a laugh. “Just you wait Mei Fhan, you’ll be begging for my attention before the week is over!”

What Khan didn’t know about were the events taking place at that moment which would threaten the kingdom’s existence, and his chances of getting together with Mei Fhan. Far away across the desert there was another kingdom run by a family of merciless gods. The head of this family was an elderly god with long white hair and a beard five inches long. He was dressed in enough gold and silk to support one mortal family for a lifetime, and he resided in a large mansion made of white marble on the top of a large hill. It was also home to a dozen of his relatives and a hundred mortal servants who tended to their every wim.

His family considered this god as barely tolerable in a good mood, but terrifying when things weren’t going his way. Which is why everyone flinched when he lost his temper that afternoon.

“What do you mean they rejected our offer!” Bellowed the elderly god as he slammed his fist down on a glass table which instantly shattered from the impact.

“They said that they refuse to become a tribute state your holiness,” trembled the mortal man before him who was dressed in blue silk. It was rare for mortals to be given such expensive clothes, but it would make this family of gods look weak if their messengers were dressed in rags. The messenger fell to his knees and raised his hands to shield himself from the attack which was certain to come. “That disrespectful king across the desert refused to acknowledge your greatness devine one. He said that the kingdom without gods, will, and will always be a kingdom without gods.”

The old god picked up his mug of wine and threw it at the messenger who fell backwards from the impact. Gods were far stronger than humans so it would most definitely leave a terrible bruise. “How dare you refer to that swine as a king! No mortal can bestow themselves with that title!” The old god raised his hand to strike the messenger, but he was interrupted by his granddaughter Song. She was wearing a red dress and equally red lipstick while lethargically leaning against the wall watching the scene unfold. Her long white hair was tied back with an assortment of gold pins, and her pale face was covered in even paler white powder.

“What did you expect grandfather,” she said as she lazily played with a golden silk fan. “This is what you get for listening to uncle Luchao’s advice and sending a trembling mortal to do a god’s work.”

“You must understand!” Said a god from the other side of the room named Luchao who looked like a younger version of the old man. “That desert is not a suitable place for my entourage, it’s impossible for them to carry all my things through the sand. Last time over half of them perished and I was forced to walk. My clothing became terribly soiled and I don’t wish to repeat the experience.”

“Silence the both of you!” Shouted the old god. He leaned back in his golden chair which resembled a throne, and examined the room before him while considering his next move. There were ten gods dressed in expensive clothes watching him nervously while trying their best to remain completely calm. Several human servants circled the room with platters of fruit and wine which they handed to their masters before quickly ducking back into the shadows to avoid the old man’s wrath.

“We will gather mortal men from the villages and send an army to conquer their little play kingdom,” said the old god. “If they adore their fellow mortals so much then they can watch in horror as they’re crushed by their own kind. And the one to lead the campaign will be,” he paused while looking around the faces in the room.

“Please not me, please not me,” quietly begged Luchao and Song glared at him with disgust.

“Meng!” Said the god.

At the sound of his name a young god with long white hair and brilliant blue eyes stepped forward and bowed before the elderly god. His appearance was flawless and clean, but his clothing was more humble compared to the other gods.

“You’re sending him?” Said Luchao and he crossed his arms. “Well, I suppose it’s below the rest of us, but it’s probably appropriate work for Meng.”

“Meng,” said the old god. “Prove to me that Kaien was right when he convinced me to allow you into this family.”

“You have nothing to worry about honourable grandfather,” said Meng. “I will crush this insubordination and bring a great victory in the Li family name.”

To be continued…..

Did you enjoy Khan and the Kingdom with no Gods? Find out all about Meng and his story in the first ebook “Tales From A Land of Gods” by M.C.Queen.

 

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Earnest Young is Forever Young

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How I Was Murdered by a Fox Monster

They say your life flashes before you in that moment before death. I could see it all reflected back at me in the cold merciless blade. I was standing under the cherry blossoms at my elementary school entrance ceremony, eating cake at my sister’s wedding, standing outside praying the monster wouldn’t come tonight. I might not be dead yet but I can see what’s coming, this is the story of how I was murdered by a fox monster. 
In a surprisingly funny way.

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How I Was Murdered by a Monster King

a.k.a How I Was Murdered by a Fox Monster Two

Daisuke here. Last time we met I joined a secret organization of exorcists who hunt down evil monsters which are disguised as regular animals. My training was going great until a super powerful fox monster attacked and my teacher tried to kill me. Now my friends and the organization are accusing me of being a monster in human form, but that can’t be possible, can it?

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Page 47


Khan And The Kingdom Without Gods

  • ISBN: 9781311571359
  • Author: M.C Queen
  • Published: 2016-05-21 08:35:09
  • Words: 15228
Khan And The Kingdom Without Gods Khan And The Kingdom Without Gods