Guardian of Godhood

Chapter 1

The smell of war was in the air. The different kingdoms of the Zhou Dynasty had been battling each other for years now, and troops and civilians alike had been putting all their might into swallowing others so they themselves are not destroyed. Even so, there was a naturalness to all this, a rugged wildness that Nature liked; the lands were fertile, happy to provide for the armies all the supplies they needed, and the winds sang of great victories and great heroes to come from this time of turmoil.

" This is China." Clow said to his guardians. " Of course, you cannot recognize it now. This is shortly before it will be China. Although, you come across this scenery often enough."

" Not too impressive." Kero glanced at the mountains.

" You were born here," Yue said to Kero, puzzled.

" Does not mean I have to be impressed!"

" No one asks you to be impressed, my dear," Clow turned back around. " We are here on business."

" I still do not understand why we must journey halfway across the world for a single card." Kero grumbled. " You have fifty-two cards already. That is the standard deck."

" Ah, yes, but standard decks have jokers, and I require one." Clow replied. " Not to mention, the people here know best the importance of balance, something that the Romans and Greeks lacked. I need a different style."

" Where are we headed?" Yue asked his master. " You mentioned there were people waiting for us."

" There are." Clow pointed. " Look."

Up on the hill, silhouettes appeared. The sun was behind them, casting their faces into shadow, but Clow and his guardians were well lit. They waved, recognizing the trio. Clow held up his hand in acknowledgment, and the two groups started making their way to each other.

" Well met, Master Li," The man who appeared to be the leader greeted. The name 'Reed' had translated to 'Li' despite the interpretation spell, which was fine by Clow. " I am Mian Teng."

" Well met, Master Mian." Clow greeted.

" Please, our village is this way." Mian gestured to invite Clow to follow. Clow nodded to acknowledge.

" I knew your mother well." Mian said as they walked. " She was one of the Qin. A very high-spirited girl as a child. She truly is the descendant of her forefathers–rode horses faster than any man."

Clow smiled a little. The Qin Dynasty will be thus named because that was exactly what the people were called; Qin. They were a racial group that used to keep the stables for the lords of the Zhou Dynasty. 

Later on, as payment for their good services, the sovereign gave them their own land, and thus set up a foundation for a Qin Kingdom, which will, if history is correct, gradually expand to unite all of China under one empire for the first time. It was interesting to know that his mother was one of these people, and that she carried in her blood their earlier legacy.

" She was the flower of her people." Mian continued. " It is sad that we are torn like this, but I hear it will ultimately be for the better."

" I have heard the same." Clow admitted.

" You come during unrestful times, Master Clow." Mian smiled good-naturedly. " Sadly, we may not be as good hosts as one could hope for."

" Not at all." Clow raised his hand. " I regret having to add trouble to your people."

" Good grief." Kero grumbled to Yue. " How come every time we visit someone they always have exchanges like that?"

" Something about courtesy." Yue was equally confused, but less out-spoken than Kero.

" I am afraid we are scheduled to defend against an attack today." Mian told Clow. " It should be no trouble for you, I hope, but we must attack, or the Qin will attack us."

Clow nodded. " I am sorry for our delayed arrival."

" Not at all." Mian laughed. " 'Tis merely our services would be wanting. There it is." He gestured. " We have set up a hut for you and your guardians."

Clow glanced at the hut. " Thank you." He said, a little surprised. " That will do very well. Thank you!"

" Ah," Mian laughed again.

Kero sniffed the air. " Someone's cooking something."

" Kerberus," Yue warned, " I doubt Master Clow will appreciate that right now."

" I was just saying!"

" Your guardians appear to be hungry." Mian grinned at the sun guardian.

Clow laughed bashfully. " I am afraid Kero has learned quite an appetite after his creation."

" Not a problem. We are scheduled to eat anyhow." Mian turned to the guardians. " Will you be joining us?"

" Of course." Kero pounced forward. Yue declined, a little more graciously.

Clow had, as he said, been delayed by matters of business in Rome. He had been scheduled to arrive a whole month ago, but he was forced to send a missive to Mian with apologies for his impending lateness. As such, now that he had arrived, the village was bustling with activity for the upcoming battle. They were to convene out in the fields where Clow had originally materialized with his guardians, and the village, formerly of only about sixty people, had crowded with soldiers and horses and carriages, men sharpening their swords made of iron, stringing their bows, cleaning their horses and picking at the horseshoes. Great wagons of supplies had arrived and huge fires were lit, with meals cooking over them. It was all incredibly loud and noisy.

The villagers and the troops paid no attention to Kero, for at this day and age magic was still widely public. The cook gave Kero a look of irritation before serving him some boar. Kero dug in with relish.

A little embarrassed, Clow said to Mian, " Perhaps I can be of service in this battle."

Mian raised his eyebrows, but smiled instantly. " Ah, Master Li, you have no idea how grateful we would be. Your cards are infamous for their power and might."

Clow smiled back, glancing at Kero. " Unfortunately I can only help so long as it does not interfere with my work."

" Of course, of course." Mian patted his shoulder. " You are a guest here, Master Li."

" Yue you should really try this." Kero said to his fellow guardian.

" No thank you." Yue declined. " I think you are eating enough for the both of us."

" Your loss." Kero turned his attention back to the meat.

" Their weapons are strangely superior, though they are made of copper, which is softer than iron." Mian was telling Clow. " And they have managed to construct devices very much like bows, but they fire arrows with greater strength and distance and greater accuracy. It was said they somehow invented a system where they can make many weapons of the same exact size and shape."

" Peculiar." Clow blinked. He remembered hearing stories of mass production in the east, but he had never believed them.

" In any case, they bested two kingdoms already, with the mix of strategy and technology." Mian said. " Right now, only magic is on our side."

" Magic, and will." Clow corrected.

" Aye." Mian agreed. " But if fate plays out, the best we can hope for is to avoid annihilation. Our lord will not surrender based on 'prophetic mutterings', as he calls them."

" To each his own then." Clow replied. " Your lord has his reasons. Far be it, for it to be known through the land and time that a lord surrendered because someone told him to. He would be laughingstock."

" True, dishonor is worse than death." Mian nodded. " And honor has a way of asserting itself in history." He then brightened. " Come have a drink with me, Master Li. The day is still light, and we do not attack until nightfall; there are hours yet."

" I will be delighted to." Clow inclined his head, leaving the guardians to their own devices.


Night brought snow, white and clear. The moon shone its rays on the crystals and made them sparkle like stardust. Though the ground was too warm for the snow to stick, the grasses were covered with light frost, and the air smelled of ice and the coming winter.

Yue took to the skies, sailing in lazy circles about the disbanding camp. He wanted to feel the Asian wind, and decided that it did not feel all that different from European wind, though the general atmosphere seemed strange to him. Below, Kero enjoyed the attentions of the more amiable soldiers, who found him fascinating.

" Clear air." Mian told Clow. " Not the best way to approach. However, to create fog would warn them, and perhaps this clear air is a good omen."

" The darkness should do." Clow replied. " It has done for most."

" Ah, but we are dealing with a superior army."

" Nevertheless." Clow smiled. " You never expected an easy battle."

" That is true."

It was a lovely night, and they marched. Clow called Yue down, so that the guardian would not alert the opposing army. Kero sniffed the air, not understanding why everyone seemed so tense and quiet, and grew uneasy. He scampered forward in the snow and watched the lines from the front. Clow decided to let him do that for now; the guardian wanted to learn about the world, just as Yue had. Kero spent most of the march running circles in the front and around the front lines. He sniffed at the banners and even took to the air at one point. Clow quickly called him down.

" Are we really going to fight with them, Master?" Yue asked, worried.

" If we have to." Clow replied. " I owe Master Mian that much."

" Do they have sorcerers too?"

" Perhaps."

Yue contemplated on this.

" Mostly, however, we attack from behind." Clow replied. " There is no need for us to head to the front. Those are for the soldiers. We attack from long range. Which means you do not race to the front."

" I shoot?" Yue asked, referring to his arrow.

" Yes." Clow nodded. " You may. And you may use your forcefield. But I do not want you acting further. You are still young and growing, as is Kerberus."

Kero ran back. " This is boring." The guardian complained. " All we're doing is walking."

The men chuckled at this.

" Behave, Kero." Clow told him.

" I am! What did I do?"

" Maybe you should stay close." Yue was very uneasy. " There might be killing involved."

" Killing?"

" There will be." Another reason why Clow did not want Yue to race in the front. " But this is what happens in war. People die."

" Wars are stupid then." Kero huffed, but kept close to Yue. He was nervous too.

Clow reached over and rubbed Kero's head in reassurance.

Hours later, the camp loomed. Soldiers were standing at the fences with diligent attention.

Mian fired the first spell, both to attack and to announce the start of the battle. Suddenly, everyone started yelling, a huge roar as they swept toward the camp. Kero darted behind Yue and Clow in panic, and Yue grabbed his master's arm, frightened. Clow stopped, as did the other sorcerers, as the warriors charge forward. From behind, the drummers began pounding on their drums. They were not to stop until either a retreating horn was blown or the battle was won.

The camp instantly sprang into action. Torches were lit, and arrows began flying, all within minutes of their arrival. Clow was impressed. Using the Shield, he created a barrier for all of the sorcerers who remained behind. Yue and Kero gazed, amazed, at the scene in front of them, dark hordes fighting each other, a mess of armor and metal blades. The sorcerers on their side began to fire spells.

Clow took his time examining the situation.

" I shoot?" Yue asked a few minutes later.

" No." Clow shook his head. " I doubt they need us." The shield was help enough, it seemed. He could not see very well, but it looked like the warriors were holding their own.

Suddenly, Mian appeared beside him.

" There!" He pointed, hurriedly. " That tent! There is someone there with great magic! Our soldiers are going in and not coming out!"

" Hm?" Clow looked in that direction. The tent was fairly remote and removed from the rest of the camp. " Yue, Kerberus!" He ordered, " Head over there and take a look. Be careful!"

The guardians, though nervous, obeyed readily. Clow watched anxiously as they disappeared into the tent. He sensed what Mian was talking about, now that his attention was drawn there. There was a strong magical aura, laced with desperation. He sensed spells being fired at Kero and Yue, and though neither took notable damage, he realized, to his chagrin, that neither was whoever owned the tent.

" If I leave the shields will drop!" He warned Mian.

" I will create a force field! Go tend to your guardians!" Mian shouted back. " Ready?"

Clow dropped the shield as Mian summoned his own. He took off on a run toward the tent. As he approached the entrance, Yue appeared at the front.

" Master!" The guardian cried, " There is a boy here!"

" What?" Not understanding, Clow rushed inside. Yue grabbed him and pulled him out of the way just as a spell nearly collided with him. Slightly dazed, Clow looked up to see who cast the spell.

It was a child, as Yue had said. He could not be more than ten years old, with eyes that gleamed a bright amber and long brown hair caked with dirt. The child was naked and bleeding–his inner thighs were coated with blood. He was barely standing; his legs trembled visibly under his weight and he looked like he would fall over any minute.

" Holy Zeus!" Clow exclaimed, before having to duck as the child shot another spell at him. The spell was brutally powerful, fueled by fear and desperation. It collided with the tent flap and set it on fire.

Choking at the sudden smoke, Clow stumbled on the bodies lying on the ground–he would not be surprised if the boy was responsible, given what he had just seen. " Put it out!" He ordered Yue, who obeyed, pouring water over the flap with the Rain card. Clow then turned his attention back to the child. The boy was shaking, but his face was a blank mask. He was no longer casting spells. Instead, he was poised in a ready position, his eyes staring straight ahead, through Clow, and he seemed to be waiting, to be listening.

Is the boy possessed? Clow wondered, checking the aura for any signs. It did not seem so. Following his investigation, he sensed the child doing the same in return, sensing him, then drawing back, distrusting. There was terror, bordering on hysteria, vibrating in the child's greenish aura, but the boy's composure was so perfect nothing gave it away except the trembling, which was also due to exhaustion.

The war drums seemed to increase in volume outside, but Clow focused on the blood coating the child's legs, wondering where it came from. As his eyes moved to the source, he physically gagged.

Kero began to charge, face contorting into a fearsome growl, but Clow held out a hand, instantly stopping the guardian. He held his other hand out to restrain Yue as well.

" Master?" Kero looked up, confused.

He was raped. Clow could barely stand to look. They shredded him. How could this child even stand, let alone cast spells?

" Young one," The sorcerer moved forward slowly. The boy's trembling increased, but all of his attention was focused on remaining upright–he could no longer move away. " Young one, can you understand me?"

Of course not. There was no time to cast an interpretation spell; Clow had not realized he would need one. The boy did not respond. Clow continued to approach. The boy cast a half-hearted spell, which Clow blocked easily, and then collapsed to the side. At this, Clow wasted no time hurrying to him.

The boy was in so much pain he was frothing at the mouth, but had uttered not a single sound. Nor did he ever make any noise during the entire meeting. His magic drained, he raised his hands in a defensive gesture as Clow knelt by him, and gasped shudderingly as the man lifted his bleeding body.

" Oh Zeus," Clow was afraid to turn the boy around and see just how damaged he was. " Yue, help me get my cloak off."

" What are you going to do?" Kero asked as Yue hurriedly obeyed.

Clow did not answer; he did not have to. With quick movements, knowing that gentleness would matter little at this point, he wrapped the boy's naked body up. Pale with pain, the boy passed out.

" He's not one of them." Clow told his guardians. " The Qin would not treat one of their own like this. Not during times like these."

Suddenly, Yue pointed. " Master, look!"

Clow glanced down. On the boy's forehead was some kind of birthmark, except it was in the shape of a strange symbol, and looked like a tattoo.

" What the..." The boy did not have that before, did he? " He must have been using a concealment spell. It must have undone itself when he fainted." At the moment, the child needed healing, as fast as possible. There was nothing to be done about the mark. To protect the boy in case there was a good reason for him to conceal it, Clow quickly cast a concealment spell of his own. He then carried the small body out into the snow.

Mian dropped the forcefield as Clow joined the group. " What's that?" He asked.

" Kid." Clow replied. " Had great magical power, but was wounded by the Qin. No doubt traumatized."

Mian blinked. " He was responsible for that?" He pointed at the tent.

" Hardly knew what he was doing, I expect." Clow replied. " They tortured him."

Mian clucked sympathetically. " I see."

Clow reactivated the Shield Card and sat down, cradling the boy in his lap. Yue and Kero crouched beside him.

" Who is he?" Yue asked.

" What are we going to do?" Kero asked.

Clow shook his head at both questions. He took the boy's head between his hands and focused on the child's rapidly fading aura. The boy had overexerted himself and Clow could feel the child slowly losing life. He had to stop the bleeding before the child dies on him.

The bleeding refused to stop for a long time, and by the time Clow did succeed in finally stabilizing the boy, it was when Mian tapped him on the shoulder and gestured at the battlefield, now calm. The first victory over the Qin in months.