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"The future emperor shall bear five black moles under each foot," the monk Atami read reverently from the sacred ancient scriptures. He would look up at the innocent boy that Luka still was and continue. "This rare emperor descends upon our holy land only once every five hundred years."
"What does that mean?" Luka would ask.
"It means that you are destined to be the next Holy Emperor and the living god of all the Chinese people. Even among all the emperors before or after, you will stand out like a giant and bring the greatest blessings to this Central Kingdom called China." There was more to that passage but Atami didn't mention it, at least not yet. Then, the monk would always bow and pray and offer a short admonishment. "Don't ever let others know who you are."
"Why?" Luka would ask.
"Because the Mogoes are afraid of you."
"Because I'm so big?" Luka stood up and pushed out his chest.
"No." Atami smiled. "Because when you are enthroned, all the Chinese will rise up against the Mogo invaders, who have taken our land. These mountains, these rivers, our people, our cattle, our grain, those maddeningly beautiful flowers . . . all await your coming." Tears would roll down the monk's cheeks as Luka listened quietly.
For as long as Luka could remember, Atami had carried him on his back while they traveled from one tribe to another, carefully avoiding any sign of the Mogo forces and pretending they were just two of the many wandering beggars. Atami never explained why they were avoiding the Mogoes. He would only say they were "dangerous." The first few steps Luka had taken had been on the rocky face of the Liao-Shan Mountains, balancing like a mountain goat. He learned from the mountains which ledges were the sharpest and how much weight they could hold. The first few words he uttered had been "Please spare some food," Atami's usual opening line. They had journeyed a thousand miles and had crossed a hundred rivers. It had made them tired, but it had also made Luka strong, like charcoal being pressured into a diamond.
They lived like father and son and loved each other so, but when they were alone, it was always "Your Holiness" this and "Your Holiness" that. Atami carried China's sacred treasure on his back and did not intend to dent it in any way.
At the age of three, Luka one day called Atami Baba. Father.
"I am not your baba," Atami corrected him, disturbed. "I am your servant. You are the Chosen One, Your Holiness."
"But I don't want to be the Chosen. I want you to be my father. Why aren't you my father?"
"Your Holiness, one day I will tell you who your baba is. But for now we have to go on begging so that we can live."
They would have food one day and go hungry for three, roaming the lonely mountain roads and deserted windy tribes. They ate frozen bugs, tree bark, and snakes. They fought for prey with wild animals, and were often chased by the vultures themselves.