Nianzu was weary. The negotiations tired him. He leaned against the door to the little boy’s room.
“Your Majesty,” Nianzu said. “Please. I beg of you. Open the door for your most humble servant.”
A few moments passed before the boy threw his ball at the door, making a tiny thud. “Ball!”
“This is of no use,” Nianzu said.
Nianzu slumped down on the floor next to Weiyuan and Tengfei.
“Do you two have any bright ideas?” Nianzu asked.
“Nope,” Weiyuan replied.
“Not a one,” Tengfei said.
Nianzu sighed. “Bested by a toddler.”
“Don’t feel bad,” Weiyuan said. “He’s not just any toddler.”
“He’s a toddler with the mandate of heaven,” Tengfei added.
“He doesn’t know the mandate of heaven from his elbow,” Nianzu said.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Weiyuan said. “Of course he does.”
Tengfei tapped the door with his foot. “Your majesty. You know you’ve been selected by forces above to rule us all don’t you?”
A brief pause. A quick thud. “Ball! Hee hee hee.”
The trio turned their heads as they heard General Tsang’s boots scuffle down the hall.
“You three were bested by a toddler?” General Tsang asked.
“A very obstinate toddler,” Nianzu said as he and his compatriots stood up.
General Tsang knocked on the door. “Your majesty?”
“I’m afraid that won’t work,” Nianzu said. “We’ve already tried that and…”
“Your majesty,” General Tsang said. “I have candy.”
Click. The little boy unlocked the doors and General Tsang swung them open.
“Tsang!” the boy said as he smiled and clapped his hands together.
“Yes,” General Tsang said as he scooped the boy up in his arms. “My goodness, little Emperor, you’re getting so big I can hardly lift you.”
“Candy?” the boy asked.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Your Majesty,” the general said. “Tsang has gone and told a fib. I don’t have any.”
The boy frowned.
“But I know where we can find some,” General Tsang said as he tapped the boy on the nose. “We must hurry quickly though as there are some bad men who want to take it away.”
The boy shook his head. “Not my candy!”
“Fear not, Emperor,” General Tsang said as he poked his head out the door. “My men and I will never allow your candy to be stolen.”
General Tsang’s heart sank as he saw Rage Dog coming down the hall with a contingent of undead warriors behind him. The general closed the door and locked it.
Nianzu knew his cousin well. He knew what was going on by the look on the general’s face.
“That bad?” Nianzu asked as he drew his sword. Weiyuan and Tengfei followed suit.
“Indeed,” General Tsang said.
The general put the boy down and knelt down in front of him. “Let’s play a game.”
“I like games,” the boy said.
General Tsang took the Emperor by the hand and led him to the bed. “Now, Tsang wants you to hide under here and close your eyes and put your fingers in your ears.”
“Why?” the boy asked.
The general took a second to ponder the question. “Because it will be fun?”
The boy shrugged his shoulders, then crawled underneath the bed.
General Tsang leaned down to take a look at the boy. “Now whatever you do, don’t come out until Tsang tells you to, OK?”
“OK,” the boy replied.
The general returned to his men. Fists furiously pounded on the door.
“I’ve come to claim the Emperor in the name of Dragonhand!” Rage Dog shouted.
General Tsang drew his sword.
“Cousin,” Nianzu said. “If I die…”
Rage Dog interrupted with a maniacal scream. “You will obey the orders of the Master of the Clan of the Terrifyingly Unnatural Brain Bite!”
“Strike that,” Nianzu said. “When I die, do find my wife and tell her I love her, will you?”
General Tsang patted Nianzu on the shoulder. “You’ll tell her yourself.”
“Hopefully,” Nianzu said. “But unlikely. Either way, I’ll fight better knowing you’ll tell her. We had an awful fight last night.”
“Her cooking?” Weiyuan asked.
“Your slow libido?” Tengfei added.
Nianzu cleared his throat. “Both issues were involved. Shut up, nitwits, I’m trying to have a moment with my kinsman, here.”
Rage Dog’s fist punched a hole through the wooden door. “I will feast on the brain of any man who opposes me!”
The quartet took up fighting positions and pointed their swords at the door.
“It was a lovely moment, Nianzu,” General Tsang said.
“Was it?” Nianzu asked. “Maybe you’re softer than I thought.”
Another undead fist punched through the door. Then another.
“Don’t tell anyone,” General Tsang said. “I have a reputation to uphold.”