Published June 29, 2015 by

Tales From a Land of Gods P1 Ch3

Meng had reached his limit. He felt like the trees were closing in on him, and he suspected that the mortal's internal compass was a trick to prevent him from leaving. He found the strange woman's presence irritating, and he could no longer deal with her slow pace and painful attempts at conversation.
It was time to part ways with his new traveling companion, and he wanted to do so as soon as possible.
Meng had everything prepared when they stopped to rest for the night. He even made a fire in the hope that it would cause the woman to feel drowsy and nod off sooner. Unfortunately, Lucy mistook his actions as kindness, and proceeded to talk even more. She was telling him all about her favorite variety of mushroom, when she finally removed her bamboo hat to unveil a bald head (which was also partially covered in bandages) and placed it on top of her bags.
Meng sat with his chin resting on his hands, and watched her across the fire. He was waiting in anticipation for the moment when she would lose consciousness, but to his dismay, she merrily clapped her hands instead of lying down to sleep.
I tell sleepy time story,” she said with a bright smile.
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“Do you possibly mean bed time story?” Yawned a drowsy Meng. “I'm not a child.”
Ah, but this special story,” she said with a wink. “You no heard.”
“What honestly makes you think I want to hear any more of the ridiculous gibberish that comes out of your decaying mou-”
“Long ago, in a place far far far away,” interrupted Lucy.“There was...There was..,” She paused while searching for words. “What is word?..That thing, of metal, carry you can, with black water?”  
A perplexed and impatient Meng squinted at the strange shape she was making with her hands in an attempt to explain. “A bucket?” He asked.
“Yes, that! A long time ago, in place far far away, there was.......... Bucket.”
Through her broken words, bad grammar, and exaggerated hand motions, Meng listened to her tale of a magic bucket which when rubbed, would grant the user three wishes. She finally reached the part where the protagonist Aladdin was about to save the beautiful princess from the evil Jafar, when Lucy went silent and let out a yawn.
“Then what happened?” Asked Meng, who had finally become interested in her strange and confusing tale.
Tomorrow I tell you,” and with that Lucy suddenly fell down backwards and began making exaggerated snoring noises.
Meng walked over and poked her in the ribs with a nearby stick. “Hey woman, wake up!”
He was curious to hear if Aladdin would use his last wish to set the magic bucket free, and whether or not the said bucket would sprout arms and legs, but despite all his jabbing Lucy remained immobile.
“Intolerable hag,” muttered Meng as he gave up and sat down beside the fire. He assured himself that there was no need to be irritated when his long awaited moment had finally arrived, but when he looked at Lucy through the smoke and flames, he saw a resemblance to another human he'd known long ago.
 He could taste the bread in his mouth again, and memories of his childhood began floating back to the surface of his mind.
When Meng was four his father died. Four god years, this would be ten times as many to the average mortal. He never knew his father well, and he could remember nothing but a wrinkled old god who sat behind a golden desk and read books for days on end. Occasionally Meng would be brought to see his father, who would ask him questions and feed Meng sweet cake.
He had a wife who was almost as old, but she wasn't Meng's mother. Meng's mother was the youngest of his father's five concubines. She was also the prettiest, which was probably the reason why his older brother claimed her as his own when his father died. Meng's only memory of her was a gentle woman who would hold his hand and take him on walks around the estate.
Originally his oldest brother was to succeed, but a battle royal broke out amongst his older brothers, one in which his seventh older brother Feng stood victorious.
To Feng, Meng was his mother's unwanted baggage and a nuisance he didn't want. In a mere few days after the death of his father, Meng found himself at age four being thrown out of the family estate and cast out into the world.
And so the death of his father was also the loss of the only home he ever knew.
Meng remembered aimlessly wandering through the countryside until his young self collapsed from dehydration.
What luck! How fortunate I am to find a young god on the road, finally the drought may end,” said the voice which awoke him.
Meng forced open his exhausted eyes to find a dirty middle aged mortal with thick dark hair, and a beard so unbelievably bushy that Meng assumed he'd died and landed in the afterlife. Meng was therefore shocked to discover that the afterlife looked like a mortal's hut, with only one strange eccentric human to attend to him.
“You can be my worshiper,” were the first words Meng spoke once he'd be nursed back to full health.
Meng and the mortal would engage in games where Meng would sit in a high chair like a king, and order the man to bring him food, water, and household items which they pretended were foreign treasures.
“All pray and worship the great three foot Meng, supreme ruler of this hut and the vegetable patch,” said the old man as he fanned Meng with an oversized pine leaf.
Sometimes the man would also pretend to be a poor beggar who Meng would graciously grant a miracle for. Meng's mother was never physically strong, but she had the rare gift of curing mortal ailments.
Compared to the rich household Meng was born into, the man lived like a hermit. His hut was made of sticks with only one room, and all their food was grown in a vegetable patch which the mortal maintained every day. The constant planting was of great irritation to Meng, who always wanted to play.
I order you to play with me!” Demanded a young Meng with a stamp of his foot, but to his surprise the old man chuckled and continued his planting.
“But these seeds need planting so we can have food. But if you were to help, it could be done much faster.”
Whaaaaat!” Said Meng in surprise and he turned his nose up. As young as he was, Meng knew that gods did not do manual work, let alone grow their own food. “No way old man!” He protested before running off to climb a tree.
But playing alone was dull, and Meng soon lost interest. He went back to watch the old man who'd been working all day, and was curious as to what was more interesting than showering Meng with attention.
“How do you do it?” Meng asked awkwardly while staring at the ground. The old man handed him a shovel before eagerly showing Meng how to plant crops.
Despite making Meng help plant vegetables, clean the house, and cook, the old man looked after his every need. He even had a small collection of children's clothes which were only a little too big.
“Wow, it's lucky that you have clothes in my size old man,” said Meng as he danced around the kitchen in a girl's flower print dress.
But a decade later Meng had worn them all out, and the old man stared sadly at Meng's tunic which was patched with holes. He looked like he was going to cry, but he instead bit his lip before breaking out into a smile.
“We'll just have to make some more,” said the man before ripping out a needle and thread, and showing Meng how to sew clothes.
  That wasn't the only time Meng saw a hint of sadness in the old man's perpetual glee. There were times when Meng noticed him staring at two mounds past the vegetable patch, or holding a child's dress to his face as he wept to himself. Sometimes he would talk in his sleep, or curse a drought, which didn't end soon enough.
Meng was certain their days together would never end, but eventually the old man became bedridden, and Meng was forced to care for him and do all the daily chores. Cooking, sewing, and planting, came to Meng with ease, and he spent years waiting on the mortal while naively believing he would become well again.
One day, Meng discovered a plum tree in the woods, which had begun to fruit. Meng was certain the old man would enjoy something sweet to eat, and he quickly piled up the fruit in his arms and ran straight for home.  
"Old man, old man, look what I found!" He yelled as he burst into the hut, only to find the mortal fast asleep.
Old man?” Asked Meng once more, but there was no response from his sleeping companion. 
Meng dropped his fruit, went to the man's bedside, and felt his forehead which was ice cold. The mortal's face was pale, his lips blue, and there was no response when Meng attempted to shake him back to consciousness.
“Hey! Wake up old man!” He yelled defiantly.
Meng suddenly realized how much the man had changed since their first encounter. It seemed like yesterday that the man's hair had been dark and radiant, but it was now white and brittle. His face was hollow, his skin wrinkled, and the shriveled old mortal before him was almost unrecognizable from the man who saved Meng from death.
“Please wake up,” Meng begged once more while shaking his friend who wasn't breathing. He continued to shake, poke, and even dumped a bucket of water over his head, but after what felt like a lifetime, Meng finally accepted that his friend would never wake up again.
"That's right, it's the same as when father died,” Meng muttered bitterly. He gripped the old man's blanket, and screwed his hands into fists as his face went numb. He couldn't help but wonder why the death of an insignificant mortal felt more heart-wrenching than the day his father passed away. He knew it was ungodly to feel empathy over a deceased human, and he felt disgraced at his own emotions.
 "He's just a stupid mortal,” hissed Meng as he attempted to fight back tears. “I won't cry over a stupid mortal! I'm a god, I'm far above him. I don't care! I'll just find another old man who will do everything better, and will wait on me every moment, and won't make me work in the fields, or sew, or cook, or make me look after him!"
Meng felt something wet on his face, and he looked down to see what looked like a droplet of water, but to his own shame he found himself sobbing uncontrollably. He cursed the fate which caused mortals to lead such short lives, and leave him alone again when he hadn't even grown an inch taller.
Thinking back on it now, he didn't even know the old man's real name.......
Meng couldn't help but see a resemblance between that mortal and the old woman who sat across the fire. Meng very much wanted to leave Lucy to rot, but when he thought of the old man who lived in his hut without any visitors, he found his legs incapable of moving.
“Stupid mortals,” cursed Meng as he poked the dying embers with a stick. “Why is it that they can't look after themselves?”

Maybe if the tides ever turned, and he was forced to tell Lucy a story, perhaps he would tell her that one.

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