Published March 26, 2018 by

Tales from a Land of Gods Part 1 Chapter 5

Story:  Outside our world exists one of gods. A place where the gods reign supreme and humans live like days of old.
Meng is a unique god who becomes lost in an endless forest. His only chance of escape is an old dying mortal who brings back memories of his past which he would prefer remain forgotten.

"Meng! Meng!"

The large god dressed in jade slowly disappeared as Meng regained consciousness. He opened his eyes to find Lucy shaking him awake before a dying campfire.

"Stop it," said a drowsy Meng as he pushed her away.

"You sleep, you talk," said Lucy with a shrug. She then backed away and returned to her place by the other side of the fire.

Meng brought his hands to his face, and flexed them just to confirm that he hadn't died that day. Luckily for him that was the moment when he awoke his latent godly powers and managed to avoid a terrible beating, but it still unnerved him how closely he came to death back then.

He glanced at Lucy who was staring at him with concern. One look at her deformed figure, and he realized that she wasn't far away from death herself. It wouldn't be long before Lucy would talk, dance, and laugh no-more.

The idea caused a profound feeling of sadness, but it was unsightly for a god of the Li household to feel empathy for a dying mortal, therefore Meng immediately crushed the emotion. He rolled over and attempted to go back to sleep, but whether it was the unease caused by his dream, or the stares of the strange mortal, sleep eluded him.

"Was it not good dream?" Lucy asked.

"It's no concern of yours mortal."

"I tell story?"

"Please, I've already heard enough of your delusional tales. The one about the pretty girl, the monster, and the singing, dancing kitchenware made absolutely no sense."

"Alright, I tell my story. I tell no-one before, and I think this last time I will tell any person," said Lucy with a crack of her hips as she sat herself down by Meng's side of the fire. He glanced over and noticed she was unnaturally solemn, and the shadows across her face made her appear decades older. He was puzzled as to what sort of tale could bring about such seriousness in the crazy lady, and he sat himself up to pay better attention.

"I come not from this place, but from," she paused for breath."Another world."

"Another world?" Asked Meng, who assumed it was another one of her foolish language mistakes. "Don't you mean another country?"

"No, another world," she said with dramatic hand motions. "Beyond this world, past setting sun, is world with no gods. It larger, vast, and very very beautiful. There we humans live happy and free without rule of cruel gods."

"A world with no gods?" Meng questioned. He had once heard a similar ideology. "You've obviously been talking to the god hunters."

"God hunters?"

"God hunters are..." He began to explain before he realized he was tired of explaining everything to her weak and deluded mind. "Forget it," he muttered. "Such a place couldn't possibly be. Everyone knows that mortals need the gods to survive. Without a higher power, humans are just mindless lemmings who squabble amongst themselves."

"No, no, no!" Lucy protested. "Sometimes we fight, and there is problem, but no god make you slave to build castle, or take food, or destroy house. You can live for a long, long time. It is world far better than this place."

Meng tried to imagine himself in Lucy's fantasy land. Maybe there he could walk anonymously amongst mortals without having to worry if he was conducting himself appropriately before other gods. Such a place wouldn't be so bad, he thought to himself, until he realized the forest was driving him crazy if he was beginning to believe the ranting of a crazy woman.

"That is where I go," continued Lucy. "There we build town as bright as day at night, wagon that fly in sky, and machine with strength of gods. There you no worry about bad god, or sickness, or disease," she said while staring at her deformed hands. "There I go to become beautiful again."

"Hey," said Meng as he looked at her diseased figure. He'd spent enough time around mortals to know that it was impossible for them to recover from Lucy's level of decay. "Do you honestly believe that there's a place that can cure you?"

"Yes," said Lucy. "They cure this!"

"You stupid, foolish.." He wanted to berate that she was doomed to die a painful mortal death, but for a reason he couldn't explain, the thought of doing such a thing caused a pang in his chest, and Meng couldn't bring himself to say something so cruel. "And just how are you going to get to this so called other world?" He asked instead.

"I know not," she said. "But I go west towards setting sun, and then maybe I find way."

"But if you're from this so called other world like you say you are, then can't you just go back the way you came?"

Lucy frowned. "I no remember, one day I there, next day here," she shrugged.

"That's convenient," muttered Meng, who was not convinced of her made-up-land.

"Long time ago, I very beautiful, but very stupid," she continued. "I do stupid things, make bad choice, trust bad people. I think person who I thought was friend sold me away and I wake up in this world," she said with a frown. "I was in west. West was bad place so I run to east. In east I meet monk who take me to temple. In temple I learn teachings of good god Shiba. There monk teach me talking, and reading, and story of this land."

"But they forgot about manners, I see."

"Hey, you don't have manner little boy! When I beautiful I crush soul of man like you," she sighed. "Monk very kind, but I get sick. Monk help but I get sick, and sick again, and more sick," she said while pointing to the bandages that covered her from head to toe. "Soon die, so I leave temple and find other world."

Another world which can solve all your problems? Meng thought to himself. How could anyone believe anything so stupid?

"Hey Lucy," he said. "Have you ever thought that maybe there are better ways to ease the pain instead of searching for a fantasy land."

"No! Go I must!" She said with the same amount of desperation as the day she clung to his ankle and refused to let go. "There they wait for me. Mother, sister, friend. I don't give up, I not ever, ever die in the land of gods!"

Meng sighed and began poking the fire with a stick. He could see it was another battle which he would lose, and he decided to give up trying to reason with her.

"What about you Meng Li, why you in forest?" She asked like it had just occurred to her that there was a reason why Meng was wondering alone. "Where you go?"

It was a good question. Why was he in the forest? If he was a god who finally had everything he could ever wish for, then why had he chosen to leave it all behind and travel with a mad woman?

The day he set out for a stroll, Kaien had been in a manic mood, and Meng hadn't wished to be in the presence of Kaien's scary grandfather, his snobby sister, and various relatives who treated Meng with cold indifference. To them he was just Kaien's pet project.

"I live with a friend, he likes to make...Plans for the future," said Meng. "The house where I live now the family is very rich," he paused to search for words which described the unease he felt about Kaien and his family. "I'm very grateful, but as hard as I try, I don't seem to belong there."

"Like me! Like me!" She said while manically pointing at herself. "That I also feel!"

"You clearly don't belong anywhere!"

"You come with me," said Lucy. "We go together to other world?"

"Don't involve me with your crazy delusions," said Meng, who was beginning to suspect that the so called other world was the place Lucy's mind went after eating too many strange mushrooms.

"You-" Lucy said before she was interrupted by a fit of coughing. Meng looked on in concern. It was a painful reminder that Lucy would soon pass away, and he would return to being alone again. As much as he disliked his crazy companion, the idea of wandering the dark forest by himself did not seem appealing.

"We should probably get going," said Meng as he noticed the darkness slowly lifting. "It's almost day, and we should go now if you intend to leave this forest alive."

Meng stood up and brushed himself off. He assumed Lucy was doing the same, but he looked over to see her struggling to her feet. Meng sighed and decided that he was already filthy, so a little more dirt wouldn't possibly hurt.

"Here," he said as he offered his hand to help her stand. "Let me help you."

Meng's adolescent life took a drastic turn on a spring afternoon many centuries ago. The thing he remembered most about that day was the eyes. They were blood red, and seemingly bored into his soul despite their owner's nonchalant gaze.

The eyes belonged to a young teenage god who could have been mistaken for a porcelain doll. He was neatly dressed in a red silk robe which matched his piercing stare. His pale hair was tied back with a golden clip, and Meng assumed his appearance was the work of the boy's mortal entourage. Several humans stood behind him carrying chests made of gold and bronze. They were dressed well from head to toe, which wasn't an easy feat unless the boy's family had plenty of gold.

In comparison, Meng's untidy hair and patched-up clothes made him look like a beggar. It wasn't unusual for him to be mistaken as a mortal, which was the reason behind his unfortunate situation.

"My apologies," said the young god before him. "I had no idea that the filthy mortal before me was actually a fellow god. I'm sorry I did not realize sooner, or I wouldn't have ordered my entourage to walk on you," his words were polite and well spoken, but they cut into Meng like a sharp blade.

Meng rubbed his back, which had been stepped on by several humans. "You snotty spoiled brat," said a teenage Meng as he glared at the other god in rage.

To him the other boy represented everything Meng should have been. Rich, well dressed, the child of a prestigious immortal family who was waited on hand in foot. Not the dirty destitute on the road who could only look upon wealth with zealous eyes. All Meng wanted to do was rip him from his pedestal, tear him apart, and shove his face in the mud.

It was definitely the eyes which irritated Meng the most. The never ending pools of red reminded him of battle carnage, and despite his best efforts, Meng couldn't help but squirm under their glare.

"Someone should rip those eyes out of your sockets," Meng spat.

"Is that a challenge?" The boy asked without an ounce of emotion. "But I must warn you, there's no way you can win."

"Bring it fool, I'll show you what real suffering is," said Meng with a smile and a crack of his fist. He'd beaten plenty of gods twice his age already (in order to survive) and he doubted that a pampered rich brat would pose much of a problem.

He expected the other god to show fear, but his face wasn't giving anything away. "If you insist," said the boy. "Weapons!" He yelled to the entourage of mortals behind him.

On command, several mortals dove into their luggage and began pulling out weapons of all shapes and sizes. Axes, swords, fans, spears and picks. Two mortals unlocked a giant chest to unveil that it was overflowing with various blades. The rich god flicked his eyes between them, as though calculating which would be most suitable for separating Meng's spine from his body.

Meng felt the bottom drop out of his stomach, and he realized the terrible situation he'd gotten himself into. He had the confidence to take down a god twice his size, but a well used sword or scythe was a different story.

"Your sword young master," said a mortal who presented the boy with a diamond encrusted blade sitting on a golden pillow. "Or would you prefer the battle ax or scythe," he said while indicating to a large chest behind him. "They have all been freshly sharpened this morning as to the young master's insistence."

"No, this will do nicely for cutting unsightly things in two," said the rich god as he picked up the sword and skillfully conducted practice slashes. He grinned (for the first time) at an anxious Meng, who was trying to hide his fear and appear as nonchalant as possible.

With unwavering confidence, the rich god dove towards him and they began exchanging blows. Meng did his best to avoid the sharp blade which threatened to cut him to pieces, but his already ragged clothes were sliced in several places to his own embarrassment. It was obvious that he was over his head, and Meng cursed his own arrogance. The other boy was faster, stronger, and fought with skills which eluded Meng, who had learned to fight purely for his own survival.

Meng had not survived in the wild by picking battles he could not win, and with a well aimed punch to the jaw, Meng utilized the shock on his opponent's face to duck past him and flee. After that, he ran until night fell, and he felt safe enough to rest.

That night, he sat by the fire repairing the holes in his tunic while lamenting over what cruel fate took away his opportunity to have a diamond sword and a hoard of mortal servants. Meng was engaged in cursing his despicable older brother, when a voice behind him said. "I didn't think it was possible for a god to know such a mundane human skill."

Meng turned to see the rich god from that afternoon. His mortal entourage and weapons collection were nowhere to be seen, but his appearance was still flawless except for a small bruise on his jaw. Meng dropped his needle and thread and readied himself for a continuation of their earlier fight, but his opponent didn't budge and inch.

"Relax," said the other god as he sat by the fire and warmed his hands against the flame."I don't want to fight, just talk that's all. It's been a long time since I've faced an opponent who could hit me," he said without a trace of his previous malice.

Meng stared at the other boy hesitantly while wondering if the sudden pleasantries were just another battle tactic. He was anxiously waiting for a sneaky assault, but the other youth just returned Meng's glare with a grin.

With a sigh, Meng returned to his place by the fire and continued mending his clothes. All was silent, and Meng suspected the other boy may have left, but he glanced over to see him watching Meng's sewing with bemusement.

"Where did you learn to do that?" He asked. "I've never met a god who could sew his own clothes."

"It's..It's..A hobby," said Meng, who cursed himself for doing such an obvious human habit before another god."I find it relaxes my mind."

"Do you do everything for yourself?" The rich god asked. "You remind me of the mortals who live around here."

His words were like a stab through the chest, and Meng had to avert his gaze as he felt his face go red.

"You don't have to look at me like that, I was complimenting you," he let out an exhausted sigh. "I have to rely on grandfather's mortals to do everything and you have no idea how incompetent they are. They're constantly moaning about food and water, not to mention how they can't walk more than a day without collapsing. It's taken us three days just to travel across the estate, can you believe that?"

"That sounds terrible," said Meng, who wasn't sure of the correct response, and could sympathize more with the god's mortal servants.

"You have no idea," said the rich boy with a huff. He freely helped himself to Meng's bag of apples which Meng had skillfully picked himself that morning. "But you seem different from the gods, I've met so far, what's your name?"

"Meng Ehruhan."

"Ehruhan?" Like that old god in the West who had loads of wives?"

"Perhaps," said Meng, who didn't wish to go into details about his rapid demise at age four.

"I'm Kaien Li," said the other boy between bites. "First name Kaien, family name Li, my family owns this land on which you willfully decided to trespass."

"Oh," muttered Meng as he bowed his head. "I'm sorry." It explained why the other boy had been so quick to draw his sword.

" Don't worry, it's not your fault. My family only recently acquired this land, so I don't blame someone like you for being easily mistaken. I'm only curious as to what brings you to a place like this."

"I," said Meng while trying to think of a good way to explain his current living circumstances. "My family met with an unfortunate accident," he said while attempting to mimic the other boy's politeness. "And since then I've been traveling on my own."

"How exciting," said the other boy with awe, and for the first time Meng could see a sparkle of light in his deep red eyes. "I've always wondered what it would be like to be free to do anything I want. My family is terribly strict and insufferably boring, and they never let me do anything exciting. I've always wondered what it would be like not to deal with them anymore."

"It's not that great," said Meng, who had never once considered his way of life as being fun. "It's a lot of hard work and terribly lonely. I would much rather have a family like yours who can provide for me."

"Is that so," said the boy while chewing on his apple. "Why don't you come back with me? My relatives are a bore, my sister is vain, and there's no one else my age. And besides," his voice trailed off while gazing into the flames. "You seem like someone who has the potential to be quite useful."

The rich god with a sharp tongue turned out to be unexpectedly kind, and Kaien brought Meng back to his estate and somehow convinced his grandfather to adopt him. In the years that followed Meng looked up to Kaien and used him as a template as to what a god should be. Meng's dress, his style, and way of speaking, were all copied from his friend who became his idol.

Thanks to the Li family, he was clothed in silk and given servants of his own. All his basic needs were met, he never had to forage again, and after years of suffering he'd finally become part of immortal society. But life still wasn't free of problems. Many of Kaien's relatives weren't as welcoming, and cold stares followed Meng everywhere. Not to mention Kaien's older sister who would look down at him from behind her gold plated fan and sigh in despair. "You really need to stop bringing trash home younger brother," were her words which continued to echo within Meng's mind.

Meng could not shake his growing unease that all the golden clothes couldn't hide how he used to live like a beggar. One slip of the tongue could expose him for what he was in front of everyone. His worries and concerns were beginning to crush him, which may have been the reason why he decided to take a stroll through the woods that day.

Being lost in the forest with Lucy had given him time to lament, and Meng thought he'd finally figured out the source of all his anxieties. What terrified him the most, what caused him the most unease, was a fear that one day all the grandeur would come to an end, and he would once again become a destitute god roaming the countryside in search of a home.