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Leg Post 127 continues from Leg Post 125, with Prince Neferkaptah setting off to find the mysterious mage who his brother alleged to have stolen the Book of Thoth and went to forgotten lands to the far east. He left with nothing but Sphinx-Heart and used mind-magic to convince the sailors to sail straight through the dangerous Indian Ocean to southern China. From there, he heard of the Kingdom of Shu somewhere to the north. Along his long journey, he struggled to pass a jungle where he was confronted by someone named Lǜsè, whose people claimed the jungle as their own and control plant-creatures. When pressed on passages of others, Lǜsè claims that none have travelled through the jungle recently, save Neferkaptah. They then discuss lost continents, which Lǜsè then claims are all at the bottom of the ocean. However, he also reveals that Antediluvia lies to the east, between Japan and Europe, which Neferkaptah assumes must be the lost continent he seeks. Lǜsè advised that Neferkaptah visit Shu for possible means to reach Antediluvia, but also warned the prince never to enter the jungle again. Neferkaptah took this as a threat and started to fight with Lǜsè and his magical-plants. After using up great amounts of aether to blast the whole area, the plants had defended the jungle and Neferkaptah proposed a truce. He tried to demand compensation for sparing their lives, but is ultimately forced to leave empty-handed when Lǜsè asks how many battles might be ahead of him with this violent tendency. He would eventually reach lands to the north where people lived and came across a sleeping cat-girl. He kicked her to get her to tell him where the city was, but she hid in the tree and refused to answer him because he hurt her. Another woman arrives at the sound of Li Shou, the nekomimi, wailing and finds Neferkaptah is filled with darkness. She explains that she is known as The Mother and that she is part of the World Tree, Ygdrassil, the connection between Realms. However, she wishes to discuss the matter of Neferkaptah unbalanced soul, as he is in a constant state of evil and darkness. She tells the story of the nekomimi as the first species designed to rule the world by the Earth's creators, but they relinquished the role so that they could enjoy simple lives and, instead, humans were created. They were not the superior beings that many believed themselves to be, they are the workers, the caretakers, the gardeners of the world. But she believes the soul is a unique and special thing that needs to be balanced. Neferkaptah is affected by her words and The Mother asks Li Shou to guide him to the city. He holds himself back from hurting the nekomimi, even when she proves to be exasperating, trying to apply the tenants of The Mother to his actions. Finally, they reached the city of Shu.

Post

Chinese Jungle

Neferkaptah had wasted no time in starting his journey. He never even took the time to gather his belongings, departing from all of his old wands and magical materials and objects. The only possession he had now was Sphinx-Heart. But it was all he truly needed.


Long ago he had learnt to subtly influence minds. It wasn’t mind-control, but he was able to implant suggestions into the minds of people to encourage certain behaviours. This meant he was able to get free food and passage from Egypt to the distant lands of the eastern known-world. The ship travelled down the Gulf of Suez, a gulf that was part of the Red Sea, and finally into the immense Indian Ocean. The ship sailed around the Indian coast, stopping for food, supplies, trade; the whole while with Neferkaptah onboard as an honest guest and diplomat. Not that he ever did any diplomacy, but his mind-magic meant that he crew believed this was just the excuse for a prince to do some sight-seeing and went on with things.


Past India, few had ventured. Trade went from those distant shores to India and then onto Egypt and Arabia from there. Goods passed from hands-to-hands, accumulating value costs along the way. But the crew of this ship were determined to get their illustrious diplomat ever further. The ship, not designed for such rough waters, never seemed to sink or have issue, even with the great storms and aggressive, cold waves of this ocean, compared to the warm waters of the Mediterranean and even the Red Sea.


Finally, the ship settled onto a shore of the eastern-most landmass before the proceedings islands gave way to the great, endless ocean. Some called this land China, Neferkaptah called it wet.


It was as hot as his Egyptian home, but much wetter. Water hung upon the very trees and when the storms came, it was like being under the ocean waves themselves.


And yet, he knew that there was some kind of human civilisation here. There were humans everywhere, Neferkaptah had been surprised to learn. He always thought as human civilisation starting and ending with Egypt, but actually people were found upon every patch of land in the world. Where there was water and food, there were humans. Even when there wasn’t water or food, there were probably humans too. In India, he had found some signs of true civilisation, beyond the hunter-gathers and fishers, but nothing that would compare with the majesty of Egypt. He may not have explored the lands enough to discover greater settlements, but he hadn’t expected to find much in this land of China either.


Yet the people of this southern-most region spoke of a great and powerful kingdom to the north, a place that they called Shu. And so, to Shu he went. He hoped that the elusive mage would gravitate to a centre of civilisation, where there may be magic practitioners.


He departed the Egyptian ship, which was suddenly expected to take care of itself and, somehow, get back half-way around the world. He used magic to fabricate a magical navigational tool he called a compass. It was engineered, through clever spellwork, to always point north. As he knew Shu was north with a slight tilt to the west, he set out across fields and forests and jungles.


When storms struck, as he found they were regularly prone to do during these summer months, he was forced to create a weather shield. It wasn’t so much to protect him, but to keep himself comfortable. He had never thought of such a need before. Whenever it rained in Egypt, he didn’t go outside. Life away from the ease of a city was a new, unusual change of lifestyle that he wasn’t very happy about. There were no comfortable beds out here in the jungle. No prepared meats to sample. No bread. No beer. Nobody to bully.


One night, as the bats left their roosts on the fringe of the jungle, where Neferkaptah was trying to sleep on a bed of leaves he had dried with his wand, the mage became aware of a presence. He had originally created an aura of awareness to protect himself from wild animals in the night, but he was certain that this presence was no animal that he could sense. He leapt to his feet and pulled out his wand. He was afraid, but also partially happy, that he might finally see another human face.


But as his eyes scanned the trees for the human, his awareness shifted to encompass the trees themselves and he suddenly realised that they were watching him back. Eyes, hundreds of them, were winking from the leaves.


The foliage shifted to allow the figure of a man to emerge from the dark depths of the jungle. He wasn’t very tall and his skin had an unusual colour, different from his own North African hue, but his hair was the most striking as it was bright green.


Lǜsè: “I am Lǜsè. Who are you?”


Neferkaptah: “None of your business.”


Lǜsè: “You travel through our home. That makes it my business.”


Neferkaptah considered his options and came to the conclusion that it would be better to be cautiously nice.


Neferkaptah: “Prince Neferkaptah, Prince of Egypt.”


Lǜsè: “The name of your lands is unimportant. We know of very few countries here. But why is a prince of Egypt here? We have watched you for some distance, you bring no armies with you.”


Neferkaptah: “I am in search of a thief. He may have come this way. Has anyone else passed through before me?”


As the prince spoke, he looked at the plants, whose eyes were glaring at him, and noted the way they moved, swaying most animated like animals. He suspected these plant-creatures were obedient to this Lǜsè and he would need to be careful of them as much as of their master.


Lǜsè: “Few go through this jungle. The people who live in the neighbouring lands know not to come here.”


Neferkaptah: “I don’t believe the thief if a local.”


He had to admit, he didn’t know that for certain. He had thought the mage an Egyptian, but as they travelled so far, they could well be from anywhere on the planet.


Lǜsè: “No one has come this way.”


Neferkaptah: “Then it seems I came all this way for nothing. I was told they were travelling to an unknown, lost continent to the east. But, except for a few small islands, I know of no further eastern lands where people dwell. I hoped the thief came this way on their journey, wherever they were headed.”


Lǜsè: “A lost continent, you say? The only lost continents lie at the bottom of the ocean.”


Neferkaptah: “What do you mean?”


Lǜsè: “There were other continents once. Now there are not.”


Neferkaptah: “So there is nothing beyond China and Japan?”


Lǜsè: “Of course there is.”


Neferkaptah: “So there is land to the east?”


Lǜsè: “The world is round, you realise that? If you travel far enough, eventually you will end where you began.”


Neferkaptah: “A trick answer then. Yes, we know the world is round. So if I leave for the east, I would eventually reach Europe and Africa.”


Lǜsè strained, as though trying to remember what the words ‘Europe’ and ‘Africa’ meant.


Lǜsè: “You would reach Antediluvia.”


Neferkaptah: “What? I have never heard of this land.”


Lǜsè shrugged.


Lǜsè: “I have never heard of many lands.”


Neferkaptah: “That must be it! The lost continent!”


Lǜsè: “It isn’t lost. It’s right there, where it always has been. It didn’t go anywhere.”


Neferkaptah: “I mean, lost to knowledge, you idiot.”


Lǜsè: “Idiot? I thought you were the one who didn’t know of Antediluvia?”


Neferkaptah: “That’s besides the point. How do I get there?”


Lǜsè: “To Antediluvia? I have no idea. Once it would have been an easy thing to do, but now it is impossible. So far as I know. At least for humans, it is.”


Neferkaptah: “Yes, well, when I sprout wings and become a bird, maybe that statement would be useful. Until then, you’re wasting my time.”


Lǜsè: “You might travel to the kingdom of Shu. Perhaps the people there will know of a way to reach Antediluvia.”


Neferkaptah: “Excellent.”


He turned to leave.


Lǜsè: “Not even a thank you? Humans today. Just remember, when you leave the jungle, do not return.”


Neferkaptah stopped. He knew he shouldn’t… but he couldn’t stop himself;


Neferkaptah: “Are you threatening me?”


Lǜsè: “Not so much a threat. Just a fair warning. We do not want outsiders to come here. It’s clear you didn’t know this before. Now you do.”


The Egyptian turned.


Neferkaptah: “I go where I like, maggot. If I wish to come to this wretched place again, I shall do so. If I wish to harvest these damned eye-trees I shall do so. You make no demands of me, you idiot!”


Neferkaptah held his wand at Lǜsè, which throbbed ever faster as the heartbeat increased with the tension.


Lǜsè: “I assume that is some kind of weapon? I’ll take that from you now.”


The plants around Neferkaptah sprang into action. All of them at once. It wasn’t just the ones with eyes, it was the bushes, the flowers, the grass even. The mage realised his folly too late but he wasn’t going to allow anyone, or anything, take his wand from him.


Fire exploded from the wand and raged into the air like a screeching phoenix. The plants shrank from the flames and Neferkaptah was pleased with his intimidation of these green-creatures. But then, from the ground, erupted plant-like limbs that were dripping with water, helping the vegetation withstand the heat of the magical fires that circled the Egyptian. These plants appeared like strong, muscular arms, yet they were made from leafy matter and sprouted up from roots tethered into the earth. The arms grasped at Neferkaptah, but he flicked the wand at the ground to blast apart the aether there, creating both a miniature explosion upon his foes and add acceleration to himself. He was propelled backwards, away from the attackers, able to get a better view of the situation. He then realised that the plants weren’t limited to the vicinity of this jungle’s guardian. The trees around him sudden swung at him with rage, their branches thick with spikes and sharp twigs. Neferkaptah was struck and battered several times before he was able to raise a flaming shield. The trees continued to wail upon the shield, despite settings themselves alight. In that moment, he understood that these creatures were not true creatures at all. Rather they were constructs. He need not slay them all, just their master and creator.


Having a sphinx heart for its core, the wand had a particular affinity for hearts. A single, solid arrow strike that would aim straight for the enemy’s heart was a classic but devastating spell and Neferkaptah cast it against this tree-dweller. The magic arrow shot from the tip of the wand with great speed and accuracy. While most magic blasted from wands or fingers was wide-reaching, it tended to be slower. This narrow beam of magic was fired in an instant.


But even as the arrow struck true, the unusual armour that the man wore absorbed the hit by expanded outwards in a sudden flurry of leaves and flowers. He had realised that the very clothing the stranger wore was also part of his cadre of vegetable-monsters. It bloomed so rapidly that it expanded outwards in a sudden puff. The plant matter where the arrow hit was extinguished and blasted apart, but the man remained alive. Only the force of the hit against the armour knocked Lǜsè backwards a few steps. Neferkaptah grit his teeth.


Lǜsè: “You should have gone for the head.”


He then clicked his fingers.


All Hell broke loose.


The trees roared upwards into the sky, like bark pillars of a monstrous size. The leaves narrowed and twisted in the air and then whipped straight at Neferkaptah like razorblades. They lashed against his shield and exploded upon contact, but he could well imagine they would have taken his head off if they hit his bare skin. Thousands of leaves whirled around his shield, blinding his view and whittling down his protective shield.


Neferkaptah was most impressed with this new and exciting display of power. He wasn’t sure if it was true magic, but it was the most invigorating experience he had had since his battle with the NeSorcerer he slew. That had been no simple feat and he had not lost his touch. He wouldn’t take this onslaught lightly.


He was unable to manipulate the plants with his own magic. They could only be controlled by their creator, but he was able to manipulate the aether that filled this jungle land. He propelled himself into the air and bounced off of the newly towering trees. The leaves whirled, as though on a supernatural breeze, and followed after him as he ascended. When they struck the bark of the trees, they sliced straight through it.


Neferkaptah became less interested in killing his adversary, and more interested in wreaking havoc. He blasted apart the trees, smashing through their trunks, causing the humongous pillars to come toppling down across the canopy of the smaller trees. He hoped at least one would come close to squishing the plant master somewhere below. With clearer air, he was able to see the sky. It was coated in clouds, so he went higher still, bouncing from tree to tree, until he felt he would be able to spent sufficient energy to clear those clouds. They dissipated as he thrust his wand at them, to reveal the bright reflected light of the moon. For those able to use it, moonlight was a common catalyst for magicians who sought to bolster the potency of their spellcraft.


Aether, that was now bathed in moonlight, drew into Sphinx-Heart and he aimed straight down and from the wand was expelled a massive concussive beam of white-hot energy. It slammed down into the Earth with such a devastating blast that over a half-mile of the forest was sudden engulfed in this intense dome of white death.


As the spell began to subside after a few minutes of intense power, through the cracks in his white dome he could see falling, dead leaves. As the dome finally disappeared, the last of those leaves gently floated down to the ground, showing that the jungle remained mostly undamaged save a few singed trees here and there.


Neferkaptah: “The plant grower defended against even that?”


He landed on one of the remaining pillar-trees and from this vantage point he could see more people coming into the clearing at the base of the tree, looking up at him. All green-haired plant-lovers. They must have all created their shield of leaves together, allowing them to continuously create new leaves to add to the barrier as the top leaves were obliterated. He wondered how long they could have held up under that onslaught, but he had to admit that his own strength was waning and there were a lot more of them than he and his own none-existent army.


Neferkaptah: “A truce then?”


A flower next to him burst into words, much to the surprise of Neferkaptah, and he had to wonder if the man had ever truly spoken with his own voice, or through the voices of these plants.


Lǜsè (through flower): “There was never any need to battle in the first place.”


Neferkaptah: “You tried to take my wand.”


Lǜsè (through flower): “You pointed it at me. You are never to return to these lands.”


Neferkaptah: “And what do I get in return for agreeing to this?”


Lǜsè (through flower): “Asking you to not do something is not a trade.”


Neferkaptah: “Let me put it another way. What will you give me if I spare your lives?”


Lǜsè (through flower): “Is this truly the shape of humanity? We were right to keep ourselves separated from you. If you wish to resume combat, so be it. It is you who called the truce. We will give you nothing. You will leave. Consider this… how many more battles lie ahead for you? You would attack at the merest provocation. I expect you will have a great many fights in the future and will have exhausted yourself here. You will not overcome us all, that I assure you.”


Neferkaptah gave a sneer before he leapt from the tree. He manipulated the aether to allow him to now glide across the treetops, with a slow downward curve, towards the edge of the forest. He had no interest in conceding to the words of Lǜsè. When he finally touched solid earth beneath his feet, he looked back at the forest. There, again, were the eyes. Watching him.


He didn’t know if he would ever return or not, as he knew not where his journey would take him. But he would not be refused entry should he wish it.


He travelled further north, where he met humans who had created farms for a vegetable called rice. It was plain tasting, but filling. They pointed him in the direction that they claimed was a mighty kingdom and he ventured on. But a little ways outside of the village he came across an unusual girl. He couldn’t tell her age accurately, she seemed childlike but also a woman. She was lying on her back, with her bare stomach facing the sun, and he hands in the air. Except her hands weren’t quite hands as he would recognise. The wrist and back of the hand was furry and he saw a similar patten upon her ankles and top of the feet. On her head were two large cat-like ears and, more disturbing still, she had a tail that extended from the bottom of her spine. Her hair was long and appeared luxuriously soft. Both fur and hair were bright white, except for a small patch of black on one of her ears and a streak through the length of her hair. As she slept, she seemed to be purring.


Neferkaptah: “What is this-? A, what? A cat-girl?”


As she slept, she giggled and kicked at something in her dream.


Neferkaptah: “This is land is filled with bizarre human-like creatures. First the plant-people and now cat-people.”


He gave her a swift kick.


She cried out in surprise and pain and, with inhuman reflexes, she leapt high into the air and land on a tree branch. She hissed at him.


Neferkaptah: “You, stupid girl, tell me where the city is.”


Cat-girl: “You hurt me!”


Neferkaptah: “So?”


She blinked at him in confusion. That wasn’t a normal answer, she was sure. She pouted at him.


Cat-girl: “I’m not telling you anything. Go away, human.”


Neferkaptah: “So you say you are not human?”


She rolled her eyes.


Cat-girl: “Do I look human?”


He shrugged.


Neferkaptah: “Yes.”


Cat-girl: “I do!? Oh no!”


She tugged at her ears, and then her tail, as though to make sure they were still there.


Neferkaptah: “Just tell me where the city is, you freaky cat-thing.”


She just hissed at him again and climbed higher into the tree. He wasn’t sure how she could be such a nimble climber, as she did not possess cat-like paws but normal human hands. When she was higher, she crouched, tail straight up in the air, and glared at him. Her eyes were bright yellow and seemed to glitter. As a breeze blew through the tree, her ears bobbed and twitched in reaction.


Neferkaptah: “If you don’t tell me, I shall come up there and throw you from the tree.”


Cat-girl: “Why are you so mean!!?”


In a very sudden change of emotion, tears well up in her eyes and she started wailing. Neferkaptah ground his teeth together at the ear-splitting racket. He never liked children, and seeing an adult woman bawl like a five-year-old was grating on his nerves enough he might kill her just to rid the world of her menace.


Woman: “Ara ara~! Li Shou, what are you doing up there?”


The cat-girl thrust a finger at Neferkaptah;


Li Shou: “Him!”


This new woman, who seemed to have appeared from nowhere, was a mature woman with grace and beauty that seemed almost unnatural to Neferkaptah. She, like everyone else he had met in this land, had a white-yellow complexion and the almond-shaped eyes with very narrow eyebrows. Her eyes were lidless and her irises were such dark brown they were almost black. Her nose was small and button-like and her lips were coloured light pink. Her black hair was long, but fastened into two loose buns on either side of the top of her head. A series of loose locks were carefully engineered into intricate loops and gold sequins were attached for decoration. Her clothes were made of the same exquisite material as Neferkaptah had seen traded to Egypt from China; silk. It was thin, loose and beautiful to both the touch and vision. She wore jade jewellery around her neck. Her garment was long and finely detailed with delicate needlework of patterned lines. The silk ran from a woody green, downwards to an ocean blue. Unlike the more reserved dresses that he had seen traded, her dress was far more revealing. There was a slit down the side to reveal her long legs, which ended with strapped sandals like those of the Greeks. The cut at the bust was also low, showing that this woman was a figurehead of ‘womanhood’.


As she slowly sauntered over to the tree, blossoms appeared whenever her feet touched the ground. He might have thought her one of the green-people, except she didn’t share their unique coloured hair. When she reached the tree, her warm gaze turned to Neferkaptah and, for a brief moment, he felt something like yearning for this female. He admitted that she was beautiful and there was something about her that created the desire to please and impress her. It didn’t last long.


Neferkaptah: “Tell me, woman, where is the city?”


Woman: “Why would you want to go to such an unnatural place?”


Neferkaptah: “What do you mean?”


Woman: “Buildings and gold and metalworks and cesspits. Here you can see the beauty of the natural world. There, you cannot.”


Neferkaptah rolled his eyes. She was one of those naturists! Or was that naturalists?


Neferkaptah: “You can spend your time with the plants, I spend my time in civilisation.”


She tilted her head at him.


Woman: “So much darkness within you.”


Neferkaptah: “My patience wears thin. Just tell me where the Kingdom of Shu is so I can leave you and your—”


He looked up into the tree. Li Shou hissed at him again.


Neferkaptah: “Pet alone.”


Instead, the woman approached him. She carried herself with such confidence, he thought it arrogance. But as she neared him she moved her hands into a circle and within that circle appeared a glowing circular symbol, half of which was black and the other half was white. Within each half was a small blob of the opposite colour[Ext 1].


Woman: “Man from a strange land, you are out of balance. Your soul if filled with too much darkness that you are doomed to a negative existence. You are missing out on the greatest joy’s of mortal existence.”


Li Shou: “Mama! Just tell him to go away!”


Neferkaptah looked from the woman to the cat-girl, not seeing the resemblance.


Woman: “She doesn’t mean literally. I am The Mother. I am the balance between men and women, right and wrong, good and evil, light and dark, morning and night, black and white, Apple[Ext 2] and Microsoft[Ext 3].”


Neferkaptah: “What?”


Li Shou: “Ha! I use Linux[Ext 4]!”


The Mother snapped her fingers. Li Shou instantly fell out of the tree and landed with a thud on the ground.


The Mother: “I am part of the World Tree. Some call it Ygdrassil. I am the Earthly connection between Realms.”


Neferkaptah: “You claim to be a god?”


The Mother: “Call me whatever you wish. I am what I am. But, I have introduced myself to you enough. We must talk about you.”


Neferkaptah: “I am not interested.”


The Mother: “I did not ask for your interest, Prince of Egypt.”


Neferkaptah: “How--?”


The Mother: “I am informing you of your imminent spiritual demise. Without balance, you will incapable of reaching Nirvana.”


Neferkaptah: “I don’t like music anyway[Ext 5].”


The Mother snapped her fingers and Neferkaptah felt a whack on the back of his head, like a mother scolding her naughty son.


The Mother: “Equality in everything, male and female, rich and poor. You consider yourself superior for attributes that are meaningless and culturally derived. They are not the true natural balance of the souls that you all have.”


Neferkaptah: “Do I have to listen to this whole speech before you tell me where I need to go?”


The Mother shook her head with disappointment.


The Mother: “I am not here to save human souls, only to provide access for those souls to their afterlives. Do you believe in an afterlife?”


That was the first moment that the prince felt a sting in his conscience. He did believe that there must be something after death and he tried his best not to consider what would happen to his soul. He knew he might, as a prince of Egypt, be able to have a grand burial chamber with all of the necessary utilities after his death, but he wasn’t certain if it would be enough to spare him from a dark fate. He didn’t need to speak for The Mother to know.


The Mother: “You are not expected to be all good. You are expected to equal out the bad with the good.”


Neferkaptah: “So you condone evil?”


The Mother: “What is evil? That word does not mean bad. It does not mean selfish or mean or greedy. Evil means irredeemable acts. If you commit evil, you are far, far from balance. So, no. I do not condone evil. Then again, I do not condone anything. I simply understand that to err is human.”


Neferkaptah: “I will manage. I do not need your words.”


Li Shou: “Such a bad guy!”


The Mother smiled sweetly.


The Mother: “Did you know that, long before humans became rulers of the planet, there was originally another chosen race?”


Neferkaptah: “There was?”


The Mother: “Indeed. The creators of this planet experimented with various rulers of the planet, but none were ever good enough. The last governors of the world were known as nekomimi.”


Neferkaptah: “That very word makes me feel nauseous.”


The Mother: “But, they were inadequate.”


Li Shou: “We were not! We just didn’t want to do it!”


The Mother: “Indeed, Li Shou. They could not rise to the task. They basked in the sun. They chased the butterflies. They slept for hours. They neglected all duties to govern the world.”


Neferkaptah: “And so Ra created humans?”


The Mother chuckled.


The Mother: “Ra? You believe Ra created humanity? That is quite… jovial.”


Neferkaptah: “You claim otherwise?”


The Mother: “I do. Before he became a human deity, Ra was also a deity for the Naacal people. A species that existed before even humans did.”


Neferkaptah: “Another proto-governor race, you’re saying?”


The Mother: “No. They were never meant for that role, nor created by the planet’s sponsors. Yet, they were a grand people. You met them. You fought with them. That is the kind of pointless negativity you could have easily avoided.”


Neferkaptah: “So you’re saying the afterlife is like a points system?”


The Mother: “Isn’t it?”


Neferkaptah wasn’t going to play that game and sneered at her.


Neferkaptah:Is it?”


She leaned forward with a mischievous grin.


The Mother:Isn’t it?”


Neferkaptah: “You’re annoying.”


The Mother: “Am I?”


Neferkaptah rolled his eyes.


Neferkaptah: “Why tell me of these neko…”


He cringed at using the very word.


Neferkaptah: “Nekomimi?”


The Mother: “They understood their limitations. They relinquished their role and even gave advice on how to create the correct species that could serve as the Earth’s ambassadors.”


Neferkaptah: “Humans?”


She nodded slowly.


The Mother: “Humans. You are not above or separate from the world. You are part of the system. Your position as rulers of the world does not mean you are superior beings, it means you are workers. You are gardeners. You are caretakers. Do you think that the cosmos, the universe, believes that you are superior to the dogs? The mice? The carrot?”


Neferkaptah: “Carrot!?”


The Mother: “Indeed. The universe makes no distinction between a human and a carrot. Your sense of superiority is perceived, not actual.”


Neferkaptah: “Ah. Now I see where this spiel is going. I am not a unique, special snowflake.”


The Mother: “You are not a unique, special snowflake, no. You are a unique, special soul.”


Neferkaptah: “Oh…”


The Mother: “But being a special soul does not instil importance or superiority.”


Neferkaptah: “I grow tired of hearing this.”


The Mother: “Are you?”


Neferkaptah: “Yes!”


The Mother: “Did you know--”


Neferkaptah: “Grrr!”


The Mother: “There are multiple realities? In many of those realities, you exist in various states. In one you were born a peasant—”


Neferkaptah scoffed, but it was a little nervous.


The Mother: “Another you were a woman. Another you became an artist, another a craftsman, another a father…”


He tried to imagine himself as those things and he found himself oddly conflicted on the images he saw.


The Mother: “Another you were stillborn.”


He jarred.


Neferkaptah: “Hey!”


The Mother: “You could easily have not survived infancy, Prince of Egypt. So why do you abuse yourself?”


Neferkaptah grew sour and glum. He didn’t like to hear this but he also grew weary of hearing it.


Neferkaptah: “All this to stop me going to a city?”


The Mother: “All of this is to encourage you to be better henceforth. You are not deserving of your privileged status and you have done nothing but abuse it and others. I wish you luck in balancing your soul.”


She clapped her hands together to wake up Li Shou, who had dozed off again.


Li Shou: “Nya?”


The Mother: “I want you to take this prince to the Kingdom of Shu, Li Shou.”


Li Shou: “Ayaaaaaa. I didn’t finish my nap!”


The Mother: “Ara ara~! Such a lazy kitty! Come, come!”


Li Shou got to her feet and pouted at Neferkaptah.


Li Shou: “No kicking the kitty!”


He glowered at her.


Neferkaptah: “Show me where the city is and I won’t have to.”


The Mother: “Play nice, prince…”


He turned to face her, but she was gone. Yet he felt the image of the yin-yang upon his mind.


Li Shou: “This way, Mr Asshat!”


Neferkaptah: “Watch how you address me, child.”


Li Shou: “I did! I was very, very careful to choose just the right word to describe you!”


He looked at her swaying tail and thought about shooting a fire straight along it to her backside. That would teach the little sod a lesson! But he paused. He didn’t need to do that, there was no real reason to do that except to be cruel. Usually that was motivation enough, but he had to wonder… why not try to stop being cruel? It came at no cost to himself, after all, and if the annoying woman was right, he might just balance something within him.


He sighed and held back his aggression. The cat-girl kept on walking, unaware of the danger that had almost struck her arse.


As they went for some time, Li Shou suddenly stopped and fell to her knees. Neferkaptah couldn’t see, or even sense, any danger around them, but he assumed she knew the terrain better than he did so he imitated her. He watched, keenly, for trouble. He wondered if the Naacal had followed him from the jungles. He found it hard to believe that his own god was once their god too.


Li Shou’s ears pricked and she became tense. Her bum even started to waggle as she focused on something and was ready to pounce. He strained his eyes. He couldn’t see anything at all, except for one yellow butterfly…


He then grit his teeth as realisation hit him.


Neferkaptah: “You better not--!”


She leapt from the grass and chased the butterfly down the hill. In a rage, Neferkaptah snatched Sphinx-Heart and aimed it straight at the stupid nekomimi girl as she finally caught the insect. He closed his eyes and forcibly eased calm on himself. He could feel the anger and hatred and need for violence swimming about his chest but he tried to cool it, like ocean waves crashing against a rocky shore.


He opened his eyes. There was a yellow wing flapping between Li Shou’s lips.


Neferkaptah: “Did… did you eat it!?”


She stared at him as though he just caught her stealing cookies. She slurped the wing into her mouth with her tongue.


Li Shou: “No?”


Neferkaptah: “No wonder you were unfit to rule the world. Who eats butterflies!?”


Li Shou: “You eat things you dig out of the ground! You have to clean and cook stuff! You can’t complain.”


She flipped her hair at him and strode off.


She wore a simple loincloth from her waist and a boob tube. They were made of thin leather and gave her the look of a primitive hunter-gatherer. But from her hair were two long strips of fine, blue silk that blew in the breeze. Around the tip of her tail was a little bell that jangled about. Initially he wanted to grab her stupid, jangling tail and yank the damn ornament from her but over time it had a strange calming effect on him as it jangled gently in the wind.


Eventually she stopped again and he worried there was another bloody butterfly. However, it was, at last, the city. He could see the outlying huts, and behind them the distinct impressions of a large city. As he looked he could see the buildings were not as large or grandiose as those in Egypt, but they were well formed and statues and pots were beautifying the district. Civilisation, at last. Let The Mother have her trees and fields. He would have his buildings and art.


Li Shou: “Let’s go.”


Neferkaptah: “You’re going in too?”


Li Shou: “Yes! I can usually get someone to give me fish!”


Neferkaptah: “What must it be like to be so simple?”


Li Shou: “It’s great!”


Neferkaptah looked at her in disbelief but decided to just get into Shu. He wasn’t sure his mood could take much more of this. At least her tail kept jangling.


Here, he was certain he was finally amongst his own kind. The humans looked much like The Mother, but their skin varied in hue from very pale to very tanned. Nobody was as white as the Europeans, and nobody was as black as the southern Africans. But they still had the almond eyes that gave this race a unique appearance amongst all the peoples he had met.

Notes

Britt's Commentary

"When Neferkaptah states he doesn't like music after The Mother claims he could not reach Nirvana, he is referring to the band called Nirvana[Ext 5]. The Mother talks of the creators of the Earth, meaning the Three Fates, Runekeeper and Aeon.

"Lǜsè is Chinese for "Green", which is the running theme for names of the Naacal people, including Green and Sir Greene.

"Li Shou and the backstory of her people is based on a Chinese legend[Ext 6] that follows the narrative expressed here, except in the original tale of Li Shou[Ext 7], they are just cats and the cats lose the ability to speak because of their relinquishing of the mantle. The term "nekomimi"[Ext 8] is taken from the anime[Ext 9] culture, meaning 'cat ears', and is a term used to refer to cat-girls. Also within the anime sphere, the "ara ara~"[Ext 10] expression used most commonly in hentai[Ext 11] material by an older female character (often a mother figure), often with some sexual overtures. The term generally translates as "my, my" or "oh dear". It has become a running meme. The Mother herself is the shortened form of Queen Mother of the West[Ext 12], from Chinese mythology. As she is associated with Kunlun[Ext 13], by extension she is a representative of the axis mundi[Ext 14], or "world tree". Expanding on that, I connected her to Ygdrassil, based on the Ygdrassil[Ext 15] of Norse mythology[Ext 16]. She speaks of concepts of Taoism[Ext 17], including the balancing of yin and yang[Ext 18] for the soul, and Nirvana[Ext 19].

"As past Writers for the Never-ending Story incorporated heavy amounts of Christian[Ext 20] religion, I sought to bring in alternate religions as part of the world. However, I am not religious myself and have felt awkward and clumsy in any attempts to reimagine religious concepts into a 'real' world, especially with vying religious motifs at work already." ~ Britt the Writer

References

External References

  1. Yin and Yang article, Wikipedia.
  2. Apple Inc. article, Wikipedia.
  3. Microsoft article, Wikipedia.
  4. Linux article, Wikipedia.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Nirvana (band) article, Wikipedia.
  6. Chinese Mythology article, Wikipedia.
  7. The Wonderful Myth of Chinese Cat Goddess Li Shou article, Kitteh Kats account, Tumblr.
  8. Catgirl article, Wikipedia.
  9. Anime article, Wikipedia.
  10. Ara Ara article, Know Your Meme.
  11. Hentai article, Wikipedia.
  12. Queen Mother of the West article, Wikipedia.
  13. Kunlun (mythology) article, Wikipedia.
  14. Axis Mundi article, Wikipedia.
  15. Ygdrassil article, Wikipedia.
  16. Norse Mythology article, Wikipedia.
  17. Taoism article, Wikipedia.
  18. Yin and yang article, Wikipedia.
  19. Nirvana article, Wikipedia.
  20. Christianity article, Wikipedia.
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