Jang is a thief, living in the later part of the 19th century. When he’s thirty years old, he becomes so successful in his trade and so infamous in his native city–the capital of a small Asian kingdom–that a young struggling writer, Winsam, writes a book about him based on rumors and hearsay. Thievery is not a profession that enjoys publications, and Jang is not happy about this. He’s angry that the book gets a lot of facts wrong; he’s even angrier when the book gets a lot of facts right. And he’s most angry about himself–at one point two years prior, he agreed to an interview with Winsam, during which he revealed a lot about himself.
The book becomes quite popular and soon the ruling monarchy King Krungi gets a copy of it. He reads it as an entertainment and enjoys it until he comes to this quote that’s attributed to Jang, who said after one of his successful heists. “If one steals a kingdom, he’s called a king; if one steals a bowl of rice, he’s called a thief.” King Krungi is so furious that he smashes his favorite antique tea cup and spills a perfect cup of hot tea on the marble floor. Five years earlier when the old king died, the current king tampered with his father’s will and imprisoned his brother Kan, the widely acknowledged heir, in a bloody coup, which has caused repercussions that he still feels to this day.
King Krungi calls his servant Bansu and the writer Winsam to his little palace.
“Winsam, you wrote the book and now you are guilty of spreading the unwelcome rumor. You will be punished unless you help me capture and execute Jang, who should not be allowed to exist since he’s a public hazard. Bansu, you introduced this book to me and now you will be punished unless you help me capture and execute Jang. Find a way to get this done.”
Winsam and Bansu proclaim their innocence, but to no avail. They say they don’t know how to find Jang, who’s elusive and sly.
The King is surrounded by an advisor and several flatterers. The advisor gives advice on everything–including things he has no clue of; the flatterers flatter every advice the King agrees to accept no matter how stupid.
“Put out a public announcement to ask Jang to come to steal.. well…for example your cherished jewelry. When he comes, you just capture him.” The advisor says.
“Hmmm.. That’s an idea.” The King says and ponders.
The flatterers pause first to estimate if the King is likely to accept this. When the King seems to agree with it with a little smile on his face and a little nod of his head, they speak in unison,
“What a brilliant idea. Just brilliant beyond my words.”
“He can come to steal my most cherished ruby and jade, which are decorating my crown right now, within a week. The deadline is one week from now, which will be 8AM on next Monday. If he succeeds, I will forgive all his past crimes and everybody related in this. If he fails, he will go to jail.” The King dictates a poster to be posted around the capital city.
The posters are printed and posted all over the city and one week passes quickly.
(To Be Continued here)
I wrote the following paragraph when I couldn't come up with an ending. However now I have got an ending and have written the 2nd half of the story, I still don't want to delete this paragraph. Typical hoarder mentality. I realize that I am heading towards a conventional ending with a despot king and his eventual downfall or embarrassment. That is not what I really want, but at this point, I can't come up with an alternative. The conventional wisdom of kings being despotic is not really to my liking. Just think about the fact that country after country in Asia in the 20th century got rid of their kings, only to plunge themselves into dictatorships more despotic than monarchies, or oligarchies with democracy as a facade which is not too different from monarchies. I want a better ending...