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Chapter 7 - My Second Journey to Kish
The road to Sumer is a bit long. Riding on the white camel’s back, I went through it in my mind as to how I got here.
That day, I finished evening prayers and walked out of the temple. I looked up and saw the malefic falling star, dragging two long blue tails across the sphinx's head. It was as bright as Sirius, our god of the dynasty in charge of droughts and floods of Nile, carved on silver coins. Under the blue light, I could almost see the undulating sand dunes in the distance.
I suddenly lost my magician’s peace, and the grief in my heart was overwhelmed. I could only stand there and watch it traverse the desert’s night sky. This is the first time I have witnessed a falling star, but our family has long recorded it. I understand what it means when it appears in the sky - it's not just that it appeared on the dome of the gods, but fate made me, an Egyptian vizier, see it. In the near future, I will see the fall of a certain king or dynasty.
At that time, I was no longer dedicated to Pharaoh Pepi II. Whatever he and Bali wanted, I let go of it. I only poured my heart and spirit to Nasrin.
Over the past few years, Pharaoh has listened to the bewitching of evil gods and built something like a spire with four corners. I remembered that since then, the sorrow sentiments of the slaves began. I am discouraged, and this is one of the reasons.
I also don't believe that building that kind of thing is my god Ptah’s will. Our dynasty has lasted more than 20,000 years. Since Menes unified the North and South of the Nile, Upper and Lower Egypt, although the gods we believe in have many faces, they are all gods who created the cosmos. They are all on the same family tree, as many facets of the One. There is no division nor separation. Pharaoh Akhnatun destroying all the temples and solemnly honoring the sun god, can also be regarded as the sun god was organizing the housework of the family. And now a monster with a spider body and three heads crawled out of the tomb, saying that it came from the east, (specifically, from Sumer), calling itself Bali.
In order to gain the trust of Pharaoh Pepi II, it turned into the golden cicada most admired by Egypt and emerged from the ground. Only I can see its true form.
It promised Pepi boundless treasures, but Pepi already has it.
It then promised that Nile will never overflow or dry up, but we have already worshiped Sirius to tame Nile.
It also promised that the pharaoh’s reign will go on for thousands of generations. The most important thing is that the pharaoh has a place in the underworld, and he can return as the golden cicada, and Pharaoh again.
These are wild discourses that are unheard of, and unthinkable. Naturally, life and death are destined and so is wealth. Reincarnation has its own script to follow and meaning to fulfill. Why do you want to come back to be a pharaoh again? The spirit and soul are hereditary? This bug wants to change the gears of cosmic karma. Pharaoh didn't care about it to begin with, but suddenly he was frightened by the idea, and he began to fear death. It is because the bug thinks that Pepi II is rich and satisfied and need nothing from it, it conjured this fear. Pharaoh was frightened first, and then smothered in its honey well, which made it difficult for me to speak up. The voice in my heart is, "To go or to come back, being a pharaoh or a beggar is just flowing with the cosmic orchestra. There is nothing to fear from the death of the body and the end of a dynasty. After crossing the river of Styx, there are worlds beyond for traveling. Since we should not fear, why do you abuse the slaves?"
This inner voice made me a little scared. How should I put it? Fear can be dispelled, but when I wipe away the honey, there will be a fissure between the monarch and the minister. Now Bali used golden honey to glue Pepi II's heart, and Pharaoh was already thinking about his future thousand-generations. My family once said that to come out as a vizier and high priest is to observe and tackle the fissure in the court and in the country. When there is a gap, do everything possible to fill it up. If the gap is too wide, let it collapse. I was wondering if there is any way to make this demon show up without creating a gap with the king.
It wants a lot, and Pharaoh couldn't see it. It does not compete with Pharaoh for gold, but the structure of Egypt has never been the same. Although I do seven rituals a day and don’t leave the temple very much, the servant Moses next to me is from the lowest tribe in the city. I can see the wretched expressions of those slaves under the scorching sun every day, reflecting on his face. If you have to ask me why I chose a lower-level slave as a servant. The magical talent does not depend on whether you are of noble blood. I see the two horns of wisdom on his head that no one can see, and I am willing to take him with me. I can see that for his tribe, he is burying pains in his heart, trying not to show it in front of me. I also know that his fellow tribe members are now dragging the boulders in the scorching sun, with a whip on their bodies. Resentment is spiking in their hearts.
A rift appeared between Pharaoh and his people, Bali blocked his eyes, and he couldn't see it. Bali even made him feel that slaves were not part of the people because they were their own tribe. I have a foreboding that it will gradually split people into hundreds of pieces, like a broken clay jar, one by one expelled from the kingdom of God. I can feel its energy of endless division and enslavement, its endless desires to control all life.
When I say endless, it is really endless. The duty of a high priest transcends the realm of the mortals. This spider is an immortal, it is a stream of neediness. Now the statue of Pharaoh stands magnificent in the sun and Pepi is in his prime time, but if I don’t remove Bali now, after Pepi’s children and grandchildren, after the statue of Pharaoh is gone, Bali will still be there. I didn't want to be sorry for god Ptah who gave me the power to bless the dynasty, so I petitioned to the pharaoh to allow me organize a polemic between Bali and I.
As a high priest, to fill the rift is my destiny. But there is a voice from the bottom of my heart. I haven’t told anyone in the courtroom. I think Moses might be able to sense it. In fact, I don’t care about Egypt’s future survival, or whether Egypt will be called Egypt in the future, or who is sitting on the throne. Pepi cares. I am a priest with a shaved head, clothed in linen: Pharaoh has come and gone, the dynasty has risen and withered, like a jug is broken and the wine flows into the new jug. God’s light does not dim, the light of magic is eternal; spirits never die. What is there to fear? Whether or not to preserve Egypt depends on whether Ptah is still willing to, and it doesn’t matter much to the cosmos. When my heart is not occupied by Nasrin, I am one with the universe. I look inward, this heart is the heart of the universe, but sometimes it belongs to Nasrin.
Strange, and only when she called my name, I felt this pumping, little man of me. What made up this little man was the rushing blood and emotions, spewing, red, and flowing. It was a strange feeling. Let's put it this way, I don't have a name at all. My name is Ptahhotep, meaning "Ptah is satisfied". In all the magic diaries and court records I wrote since my childhood, I was forbid to use the word "I". This is the rule of the Vizier and high priest family. In writing this diary, I used the word "me" for the most times in 30 years.
During the 30 years, I started from the first lesson, temperance. I performed a daily practice called "clearing the mirror". By the fifth year, my emotions were completely like a flat mirror, without turbulence, without desire or reaction to the exterior. The self disappeared, and the clean sun, moon and stars, heaven and earth, and Ptah, reflected in the mirror. Then my family began to teach me the real magic.
But when she whispered "Ptahhotep" in the pavilion, for a while, the little man of me made out of blood came back. His head was heated, golden light exploding in his head and radiating out from his eyes. She puts on me the crown of the king of the world, and the light was brilliant. I felt that I was riding a war elephant, holding a khopesh, and was about to level the world. Cutting down the savages of Lagash that made her frown was like cutting melons. Izduba could stand by on the side.
Ptah, why do I have this stupid idea? I understood the kings on the earth instantly. That's really a small me, but shining with gushing power. That kind of light, is the light that shoots out like arrows, not the mellow light of the divine. I do not lust for beauty. My wife looks plain and that is my choice. I constraint my small worldly life and never leave the divine light for a moment. I don’t need much gold either. If one day the court expels me, we serve in any temple, or lay on the desert as the bed and night dome as the cover, the light of Ptah leaves me not. I would still be reading the trajectory of lives in the aspects of the stars, forming the wind and causing rains. I am still a great magus between sky and dessert. But a beauty like Nasrin - I don't know where does this zeal come from or how to describe it. Except for calling her a beauty, I don't know where to attribute my madness - a beauty like her has contributed to the battles between the kings and made legends on earth. She created the kings, by creating their desire. If it weren't because we felt driven by the blood, we probably wouldn't want to conquer the world. I have only met her once, ten years ago.
This may be the god’s will, there are priests, there are beauties, there are kings, stupidity has its purpose. Izduba was prone to have his lower desire rushing to his head. This impulse made him fight from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean sea in two years. After the last war, he also engaged in a ceremony to wash his spear and arrows in both the East Sea and the West Sea. He became the second hero who unified the land between the two oceans. Gods need such a hero to be the king of the world, just as a noble spirit needs an ego made out of selfish desire to walk this flesh in the world; a person like me, no matter how impulsive, I hesitate to cut off a man’s head. I was at the helm of the dynasty, with gods’ vision and gods’ time as the ruler; in her short life, I might not be able to build a palace for her in the world--the Sumerian kind of three-story high palace built with baked clay tablets, overlooking the whole city. All I can give her is the eternal magic free of money, which is also the unique connection between us. As long as she doesn't commit the kind of stupidity I mentioned above, as long as her heart is like a clean mirror, no matter what happens to Sumer, she will live under the wings of God, absolutely safe.
By the way, there is also Bali, an alien destroyer, who is not a mortal nor a celestial being. Why was it created? Is Ptah impatient with Egypt's longevity?
Going back to the polemic, I was in the court at the time, thinking that in order for my words to be appealing to Pharaoh’s ears, they must be a little selfish. It should be for Pharaoh and Egypt. It cannot be completely boundless. At that time, more than a dozen officials were listed in the temple. In the most solemn pantheon, a setting sun obliquely shone across the pillars, cast on the beards of the Pharaoh's colossal statue, and illuminated the ground to the east.
What I said was, "There is a rebellious son in the family. Will you expel him from the ancestral temple? Love encompasses all. It is boundless. The whole world is the kingdom of gods. Where do you want to get rid of the rebellious slaves? This is the basic idea that every authentic Egyptian priest understands."
Bali said, "You said that love is boundless, and the territory of God is endless, but you also said that only Egyptian priests can understand. Isn't this a contradiction?"
As soon as I said the last sentence, I already regretted it and was biting my tongue. I had been used to being peerless in Egyptian court for 30 years, during a debate, I clearly knew that there was a loophole in your logic, but thought that the other party was not so smart to catch it. I hurriedly said it. The opponent was also a smart ass. I told Moses that’s how regretful I am.
At that time, I replied: “I’m not saying that only Egyptian priests understand. I meant, anyone who can hear the voice of the gods will understand. You, a spider with three heads on its body. From where do you come? Do you dare to spell out your dubious origin?"
Bali said, "Pharaoh, why do you allow a demon monk spread rumors? I am obviously a golden cicada, whose wings reflect the glory of Ra, the sun god. Look." It shook the non-existent cicada wings.
I asked the Pharaoh for instructions to smite it back to its original form. Pharaoh stroked his beard and wanted to watch me perform. The sun moved a pillar westward and was shining on my eyes.
I chanted the spell and prayed to Ptah, asking Ptah to let this evil spirit to show its form quickly. Sure enough, after a short waiting period, it moved left and right on the ground with eight legs, and moved sideways on the wall. I checked the look on Pharaoh’s face that he saw clearly that this guy is not a six-legged cicada -- it has no wings -- but an eight-legged spider, and there are three heads on its body: one is an old man’s head, wearing a crown, and the other is a cat’s head. There is also a frog head. Someone near it who could saw clearly immediately vomited.
I yelled to summon the guards to get rid of the demon. As long as they come, I cast spells on their weapons, and an ordinary khopesh can do it. While waiting, I figured out why it always talks in three paragraphs, and I think they can see it too. This thing has three heads, one head says one sentence.
At this time, it was running again, and the toad said, "This is not me, this is not me. Kek bless." Kek it is our frog god.
The cat head said, "At least there is the lovely me. I thought you worship cats? Bastet bless." Bastet is our cat god.
The old man is the wordiest one. He said, "You Egyptians do tricks, turning the scepter into a snake, and then turning the snake into a scepter. This is just a blindfold of this demon monk, Your Majesty. Your Majesty, have you really seen the scene on the other side of death? Has anyone come back to tell you? There is no sun god in the sky over there, only a prison of ice, and the sun god Ra has no control over there. This monk doesn't tell the truth. He didn't tell you the pharaohs of the previous generations are now having their hearts dug out of their open chest again and again by monsters? The prison gate is made of black iron, which is higher than all the gates here, and the spikes on it stick straight into the gray sky dome. Souls who want to escape, climb up on the wall and slid down again like a slug. My subordinate Charon rows a wooden boat all the year round to ferry spirits there. The boat ever just send spirits in, and never has been seen sending spirits out from prison. If you want to avoid going there, you can only go by me. I help you bypass Charon, let you be born again as the king of a country. Only I can give you what these gods can’t give you -- what they do not care to give you. I can open a new era for you."
I hurriedly said, "You may not go there, as long as you follow Ptah's path." The hell scene depicted by Bali is too horrible, and an impression has been printed on Pharaoh's heart. He doesn't want anything now. He only wants to avoid the heart-digging prison.
Everyone watched it dance with eight legs, running from left to right on the wall engraved with our incantation. The runes representing the gods in the incantations were all portraits of the gods themselves, and its legs crawled on them, up and down. . My heart was like been scratched by a cat and crawled by a spider. I was going crazy. Why haven't the guards come yet? I drew a khopesh from the guard beside me and flung at it. I didn't know that this thing crawled so fast. While my khopesh was flying, it suddenly disappeared out of the sunlight and into a vast dark corner of the palace.
The flying khopesh crashed on the wall and smashed off a piece of brick surface engraved with scriptures.
From the shadows came the harmony of its three mouths, "Blasphemy! Traitor! Blasphemy! Cut his bald head!"
I couldn’t kill it. Pharaoh was stunned and did not speak. The sunlight has completely gone out, this is before the lamp-lit time, a blue light flashed outside the hall before the torch was raised. This is the "long tail" I saw in the night sky that I mentioned earlier. Yes, I was not in evening prayer that day, but in this embarrassing debate in the temple, which turned into a fight. If it wasn't for this blue light, I didn't know how to end it.
The light came timely and dazzling. People were thinking silently. The face of the Pharaoh's colossus suddenly turned blue and gleaming, and the officials screamed, thinking that the ancestors couldn't stand it anymore and they had something to say. My political opponents were ready to pounce on me. I felt they were brewing to pronounce this ominous phenomenon as my offense. They thought it was because I threw a knife and offended the gods. After discovering that it was not a god’s materialization, and the light had another source, people rushed out of the temple. We saw the blue celestial body illuminating the night sky. It cut a wound in the night sky like a sword, venting light a hundred times brighter than lightning, the stars and moon are invisible, and even the sphinx turns blue. People around me kneel on the ground and trembled with fear. This scene lasted for a full 18 months later. At that moment I discovered that I was not worried about Pepi, but Nasrin in Sumer, and I never confessed it to myself before. I immediately decided to withdraw from the fight that didn't matter to me.
I immediately reported to Pharaoh Pipi II, "There is an ominous sign in the sky, and the disaster will land on the East." Let him allow my second trip to Sumer.
My heart is clear, unless Pepi II wakes up, I can only wait; if Bali’s emergence is part of Ptah’s will, it means that Ptah has abandoned Egypt. I took Moses and embarked on the eastward road under the blue star. I rode on the road during the day and told Moses about the anxiety and sorrow in my heart, how Nasrin and I met, why I went to Sumer ten years ago, why I couldn’t bring her back to Egypt, and left her with Izduba. Now her country is in a warring period facing two other states; I sleep in the desert with my lute at night, a lion kisses my face while I dream, and I see my wild rose in the kingdom by the sea, Nasrin.
"We met in her father's palace. Pepi II asked me to settle the trade hiccup. Nasrin’s father started importing gold from India, and trade with us was less." Although Moses is not my blood relative, not a nobleman, many Egyptians still regarded him as a foreigner, but I see him as my apprentice and told him everything. "Have you seen the Dilmun Valley at the mouth of the Persian Gulf? If there is a fairyland in the world, it is there. Her ancestors came from there."
So I started to tell Moses the story between me and her, one story a day. I guess, I will be at Kish after I tell the whole story. This is so pleasant, happiness brims out the cornucopia of my heart. I will be seeing Kish’s city gates in no time. The first encounter ten years ago lingers in my mind like yesterday.