| The Stones Of Five Colors And The Empress Jokwa |
ONG, LONG AGO there lived a great Chinese Empress who succeeded her brother the Emperor Fuki. It was the age of giants, and the Empress Jokwa, for that was her name, was twenty-five feet high, nearly as tall as her brother. She was a wonderful woman, and an able ruler. There is an interesting story of how she mended a part of the broken heavens and one of the terrestrial pillars which upheld the sky, both of which were damaged during a rebellion raised by one of King Fuki's subjects.
The rebel's name was Kokai. He was twenty-six feet high. His body was entirely covered with hair, and his face was as black as iron. He was a wizard and a very terrible character indeed. When the Emperor Fuki died, Kokai was bitten with the ambition to be Emperor of China, but his plan failed, and Jokwa, the dead Emperor's sister, mounted the throne. Kokai was so angry at being thwarted in his desire that he raised a revolt. His first act was to employ the Water Devil, who caused a great flood to rush over the country. This swamped the poor people out of their homes, and when the Empress Jokwa saw the plight of her subjects, and knew it was Kokai's fault, she declared war against him.
Now Jokwa, the Empress, had two young warriors called Hako and Eiko, and the former she made General of the front forces. Hako was delighted that the Empress's choice should fall on him, and he prepared himself for battle. He took up the longest lance he could find and mounted a red horse, and was just about to set out when he heard some one galloping hard behind him and shouting:
"Hako! Stop! The general of the front forces must be I!"
He looked back and saw Eiko his comrade, riding on a white horse, in the act of unsheathing a large sword to draw upon him. Hako's anger was kindled, and as he turned to face his rival he cried:
"Insolent wretch! I have been appointed by the Empress to lead the front forces to battle. Do you dare to stop me?"
"Yes," answered Eiko. "I ought to lead the army. It is you who should follow me."
At this bold reply Hako's anger burst from a spark into a flame.
"Dare you answer me thus? Take that," and he lunged at him with his lance.
But Eiko moved quickly aside, and at the same time, raising his sword, he wounded the head of the General's horse. Obliged to dismount, Hako was about to rush at his antagonist, when Eiko, as quick as lightning, tore from his breast the badge of commandership and galloped away. The action was so quick that Hako stood dazed, not knowing what to do.
The Empress had been a spectator of the scene, and she could not but admire the quickness of the ambitious Eiko, and in order to pacify the rivals she determined to appoint them both to the Generalship of the front army.
So Hako was made commander of the left wing of the front army, and Eiko of the right. One hundred thousand soldiers followed them and marched to put down the rebel Kokai.
Within a short time the two Generals reached the castle where Kokai had fortified himself. When aware of their approach, the wizard said:
"I will blow these two poor children away with one breath." (He little thought how hard he would find the fight.)
With these words Kokai seized an iron rod and mounted a black horse, and rushed forth like an angry tiger to meet his two foes.
As the two young warriors saw him tearing down upon them, they said to each other: "We must not let him escape alive," and they attacked him from the right and from the left with sword and with lance. But the all-powerful Kokai was not to be easily beaten--he whirled his iron rod round like a great water-wheel, and for a long time they fought thus, neither side gaining nor losing. At last, to avoid the wizard's iron rod, Hako turned his horse too quickly; the animal's hoofs struck against a large stone, and in a fright the horse reared as straight on end as a screen, throwing his master to the ground.
Thereupon Kokai drew his three-edged sword and was about to kill the prostrate Hako, but before the wizard could work his wicked will the brave Eiko had wheeled his horse in front of Kokai and dared him to try his strength with him, and not to kill a fallen man. But Kokai was tired, and he did not feel inclined to face this fresh and dauntless young soldier, so suddenly wheeling his horse round, he fled from the fray.
Hako, who had been only slightly stunned, had by this time got upon his feet, and he and his comrade rushed after the retreating enemy, the one on foot and the other on horseback.
Kokai, seeing that he was pursued, turned upon his nearest assailant, who was, of course, the mounted Eiko, and drawing forth an arrow from the quiver at his back, fitted it to his bow and drew upon Eiko.
As quick as lightning the wary Eiko avoided the shaft, which only touched his helmet strings, and glancing off, fell harmless against Hako's coat of armor.
The wizard saw that both his enemies remained unscathed. He also knew that there was no time to pull a second arrow before they would be upon him, so to save himself he resorted to magic. He stretched forth his wand, and immediately a great flood arose, and Jokwa's army and her brave young Generals were swept away like a falling of autumn leaves on a stream.
Hako and Eiko found themselves struggling neck deep in water, and looking round they saw the ferocious Kokai making towards them through the water with his iron rod on high. They thought every moment that they would be cut down, but they bravely struck out to swim as far as they could from Kokai's reach. All of a sudden they found themselves in front of what seemed to be an island rising straight out of the water. They looked up, and there stood an old man with hair as white as snow, smiling at them. They cried to him to help them. The old man nodded his head and came down to the edge of the water. As soon as his feet touched the flood it divided, and a good road appeared, to the amazement of the drowning men, who now found themselves safe.
Kokai had by this time reached the island which had risen as if by a miracle out of the water, and seeing his enemies thus saved he was furious. He rushed through the water upon the old man, and it seemed as if he would surely be killed. But the old man appeared not in the least dismayed, and calmly awaited the wizard's onslaught.
As Kokai drew near, the old man laughed aloud merrily, and turning into a large and beautiful white crane, flapped his wings and flew upwards into the heavens.
When Hako and Eiko saw this, they knew that their deliverer was no mere human being--was perhaps a god in disguise--and they hoped later on to find out who the venerable old man was.
In the meantime they had retreated, and it being now the close of day, for the sun was setting, both Kokai and the young warriors gave up the idea of fighting more that day.
That night Hako and Eiko decided that it was useless to fight against the wizard Kokai, for he had supernatural powers, while they were only human. So they presented themselves before the Empress Jokwa. After a long consultation, the Empress decided to ask the Fire King, Shikuyu, to help her against the rebel wizard and to lead her army against him.
Now Shikuyu, the Fire King, lived at the South Pole. It was the only safe place for him to be in, for he burnt up everything around him anywhere else, but it was impossible to burn up ice and snow. To look at he was a giant, and stood thirty feet high. His face was just like marble, and his hair and beard long and as white as snow. His strength was stupendous, and he was master of all fire just as Kokai was of water.
"Surely," thought the Empress, "Shikuyu can conquer Kokai." So she sent Eiko to the South Pole to beg Shikuyu to take the war against Kokai into his own hands and conquer him once for all.
The Fire King, on hearing the Empress's request, smiled and said:
"That is an easy matter, to be sure! It was none other than I who came to your rescue when you and your companion were drowning in the flood raised by Kokai!"
Eiko was surprised at learning this. He thanked the Fire King for coming to the rescue in their dire need, and then besought him to return with him and lead the war and defeat the wicked Kokai.
Shikuyu did as he was asked, and returned with Eiko to the Empress. She welcomed the Fire King cordially, and at once told him why she had sent for him--to ask him to be the Generalissimo of her army. His reply was very reassuring:
"Do not have any anxiety. I will certainly kill Kokai."