Published March 06, 2019 by

Khan and the Kingdom without Gods Chapter 4

Outside our world exists one of gods. A place where gods reign supreme and humans live like days of old.

Khan is a dashing thief who travels to a small kingdom without gods in the hope of seducing their beautiful princess. He is instead drawn to her unusual bodyguard who has a few secrets of her own. The battle between mortals and gods has only just begun. 

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.

Chapters: 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06

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