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“You could largely say that our Mother was an existence akin to a miracle. The fact that she was born in the first place…was a miraculous feat. I say this because her existence went against the interests of many truly powerful people.” Hypnos’s voice became heavy.

To Chàng Bo the air on the boat turned much colder and a slight shiver ran down his spine. He felt a chill from the depths of his very being and the hairs on his arms arose. He felt uneasy and unsure, and what made him feel even more uneasy was that he couldn’t identify where this uneasiness was stemming from.

Hypnos seemed to be none-the-wiser about the sudden change in Chàng Bo’s temperament, or if he did notice he didn’t show it. The black cloaked figure didn’t stir but his voice still echoed.

“Our Mother’s Father, our Grandfather, was a Gatekeeper named Dawn. Dawn was one of the first Gatekeepers, he was the first made by One. And as a result he was One’s favourite, he was privy to secrets that other Gatekeepers would not know, he was special to One. Their relationship was beyond that of the Creator and the creation. Or at least that’s what I’ve heard…”

Hypnos paused for a while. Chàng Bo felt the sudden silence consuming him.
When Hypnos eventually spoke again his tone had shifted, becoming significantly less sombre and more playful,
“Ah… That’s right… little Bo has been raised in that Star Realm as ignorant as a newborn babe. I doubt you know the first thing about Gatekeepers or even the Realms themselves. The knowledge you have now is superficial or non-existent at best, right?”

Chàng Bo felt like a fish out of water. His mouth opened and closed again. For some reason words wouldn’t come out.

“Then I shall explain it to you simply. All of this, the Four hundred realms, is just one big experiment. And everyone which lives within it are mice in a cage.”

Suddenly the boat began to tremor and soon it was travelling quickly down the black river. As it did this the darkness around them twisted. It happened so quickly that Chàng Bo didn’t have time to feel surprised.
When space had stopped shifting Hypnos and Chàng Bo were travelling through a scene of war.
The sun was high in a blue sky.
Buildings lay half buried in wastes of sand.
Skeletons lay across this wasteland like dirt and amidst all this the cries of fighting could be heard, blood spilled under the heat. Tears were birthed from grief. Death was in every breath as these people hacked at each other.

All the while Hypnos and Chàng Bo drifted past this scene, the boat effortlessly rolling over the corpses, being ignored by the two opposing armies.

“When you are young there is always curiosity, hope, ambition etcetera.
At what point does this thinking change, at what point do we succumb to this realism? The ideas that people are cruel and self-interested, that we live in a state of anarchy where war is inevitable and conflict is constant. At what point do we begin accepting these ideas, at what point are these ideas even born? When and how does such ideologies take prominence in a world? Is it when some philosopher or theorist or someone simply puts this concept to pen and paper? Surely the concept preexists the ones that explain it.
War and conflict they seem to be things that only affect more intelligent beings, not to say that the common animal isn’t intelligent, but they are less likely to kill for ambition and for reasons beyond survival, but why is this? Do you understand what I mean?” Hypnos asked as they witnessed a large snout faced soldier holding the body of another soldier. She wept bloody tears as several spears penetrated her body.

“I…I understand the issues you speak of but I don’t understand your meaning?” Chàng Bo replied slowly his gaze fixed on the snout faced soldier who’s beady red eyes faded into a smoky black as death descended upon her.

“My meaning is that since existence began we have been questioning. Why this and why that. Why do we act this way, why do we love, why do we live this way, why do we feel this way? This idea that there has to be some greater meaning in life some greater answer that we don’t know about. There has to be some reason that no matter the species, the race, the circumstances or the place that we as living creatures are basically all the same. That we feel, that we experience, that we learn, and that we adapt. There has to be a reason, right? And to find that reason the 400 realms were created.”

Chàng Bo’s eyes widened, his thoughts formed quickly, and he understood the situation far faster than his heart could accept it. His blue star filled eyes shook and twitched.
As if in tempo with his growing shock the boat quickly moved across the sandy wastes. Space shifted and soon an unfamiliar scene met Chàng Bo’s eyes.

The boat sat in a dark space and in front of them were 400 large spheres all chained up together like a pearl necklace. Each sphere was a different size and slightly different colours than the other. They appeared like bubbles and the surface looked fragile and moist, like a mixture of liquid and gas.

“These are the 400 realms. Within each of these bubbles sit a wide universe with a variety of different species, histories, cultures and lifestyles. Within each of these bubbles are different environments, different people, and different opportunities.” Hypnos suddenly laughed, “You can even see your home from here Chàng Bo, look it’s the one with the slightly orange tinge.”
Hypnos’s skeletal hand emerged from his cloak and his white bone index finger pointed at a spherical orange bubble.
Chàng Bo was in a slight daze as he looked at his realm, it looked so small from where he was, it looked like he could almost pick it up with his hand.
Usually when someone got a pass to another realm it created an instant doorway to that realm, travelling practitioners never saw the 400 realms like this. Any normal practitioner would have been overwhelmed by such a view yet this sight was somewhat underwhelming for Chàng Bo.
When he was young he made it his goal to become the most powerful practitioner in the 400 realms and in his heart this ambition still burned. Yet for some reason seeing the realms like this made him feel somehow…disappointed. A thought stirred in his heart. ‘Isn’t this too small’.
He had always desired for power and to become a figure worthy of such power. In his stubbornness and arrogance Chàng Bo was determined to conquer the 400 realms but now a bitter taste of dissatisfaction clung to his tongue.
He desired for more.

Hypnos noticed this burning desire in Chàng Bo’s eyes with slight amusement, but he didn’t comment on it. Instead he silently watched as Chàng Bo observed the 400 realms before asking again,
“Do you understand my meaning now?”

Chàng Bo looked towards Hypnos and there was no hesitation in his gaze as he nodded and said, “Yes. The 400 Realms are an experiment created by the real realm, the real people. They created the 400 realms to observe life, to observe societies and civilisations and find out why we live the way we do.”

Hypnos nodded, “You’re on the right track. Beyond the 400 realms, through a doorway far behind us is the real Realm. It is several times bigger than the 400 realms combined, the variety of species and races and people which live there are also many times more immense, and the power they wield there is also much greater.
The leaders, the scientists, the philosophers wanted answers to a variety of different questions. So they developed a secret project named the 400 realms. The leader of this project was One.
Each realm is different, each with a different species, civilizations, histories, and power yet all ultimately the same. Watching these worlds develop from scratch allows the academics, the thinkers, the politicians, the scientists and others to answer questions on why the mind develops the way that it does, why peace treaties fail, how to make the perfect nation or how to prevent civilisations from failing. Leaders in the real Realm could use places in the 400 realms to simulate wars or test their policies, that way they could get a good estimate of the reactions that would occur in the Real realm. Businesses would use it to test their products and so on. Like I said the 400 realms is just one big experiment.”

Chàng Bo breathed in sharply, he had come to such a conclusion earlier, but hearing it said out loud made the reality of the situation fully sink in.

Hypnos patted Chàng Bo’s shoulder, his bone hands were cold.
“….ahhhh…..but I’m going off tangent. I need to tell you about Mothe-”

“Wait.” Chàng Bo interrupted, “The Gatekeepers preside over each Realm, do they know about this?” Chàng Bo couldn’t help but think of Mao Lu, he knew that Mao Lu had secrets, he wondered if this was one of them.

“In some ways they are aware and in other ways they’re not. There are rules that constrain Gatekeepers and keep them preoccupied. They play a key role in controlling the environment of each realm, but I doubt many of them are even aware of that, they’re just as much a victim of this experiment perhaps even more so than others.” Hypnos sighed, “But I’ll explain that in a bit. I was going to tell you about our Mother first.”

As Hypnos said this the scene around them shifted yet again and they were back on that black river, drifting, surrounded by darkness. The only light coming from the glowing boards of the boat itself.

“As I was saying previously, our Grandfather Dawn was a gatekeeper. Gatekeepers have the role of protecting their realm from outsiders and from each other. Gatekeepers were created largely in part to protect the experiment and keep the results of the experiment from being corrupted by outside interference.”

Chàng Bo’s eyes narrowed, “Why create Gatekeepers, why not just protect the realms themselves?”
Hypnos giggled, “You were using your brain earlier but now you’re just asking the simplest of questions. I mean think about it, if the creators protected the 400 realms themselves than that in itself is outside interference that could warp the experiment. Gatekeepers are people that are from the realm they’re protecting, they’re mostly ignorant about the creator and the purpose of the 400 realms and they are restricted by rules that ensures that they focus on protecting their realm and getting stronger. They have extremely powerful abilities, they are stronger than all other existences in the 400 realms, but there are limits on how they can use these abilities and they even have watchdogs that keep them in check in case they break these rules.”

“But surely if someone’s a Gatekeeper long enough they’ll notice something strange, they’ll question these rules and their existence. Especially if they’re being monitored by some kind of watchdog all the time.”
Hypnos’s slight smile was hidden under his cloak, “Of course they’re not idiots, I’m sure many of them suspect something which is why I said they’re aware in some ways and in other ways they’re not. But mostly even if they do suspect something they won’t normally express it. The first reason for this is because they’re satisfied. Becoming a Gatekeeper means you’re given power and status beyond everyone, you’re treated like a God. When someone becomes a Gatekeeper they’re probably told something like…’you were chosen because you were special and pure and in some way better than everyone else’. It’s a large ego boost, many may suspect the situation but they won’t go against it because that goes against their self interest and others may just fear the consequences of their curiosity.”

Chàng Bo’s mind was stirring with questions, “Then what requires someone to be chosen as a Gatekeeper, what makes them more special than everyone else in their realm?”

“Their souls and the fact that they volunteered, I guess.” Hypnos said rather nonchalantly.
“Volunteered? What do you mean?”
“I mean usually it’s because they were previously from the Real realm and they volunteered for their souls to be used in the 400 realm experiment, technically they’re not natives of the 400 realms. Whether they remember the choice or not, they made that kind of deal. But well I don’t know all the specifics for crying out loud. If you want every single nitty gritty detail than I suggest you go to the Real Realm and find One or some of the other creators and ask them…ha actually don’t do that, that would be a bad idea for a lot of reasons. I’m just saying that you should chill with the questions. Let me explain about Mother.”

Chàng Bo nodded, “I’ll stop.”
“Good.” Hypnos nodded, he looked over at Chàng Bo who was sitting there expectantly waiting to be told more. “Do you not doubt anything I’m saying? You’re accepting all of this a lot more easily than I imagined you would.” Hypnos hesitated, he was perturbed by Chàng Bo’s calm.

Chàng Bo’s star filled eyes were unclouded as he said simply, “Even if you are lying to me it doesn’t make a difference. One day I’ll be strong enough to see the truth on my own, and if I discover your lies then, than you are the one who will regret it.”
Chàng Bo’s words were stated, there was no hesitation in them, they were filled with certainty and the threat in them was clear as day.

Underneath his cloak Hypnos’s smile widened in delight. Out loud he said mockingly “wahhh I’d hate to be your enemy, how scary.”
Chàng Bo ignored him, his gaze focused on the distance, he now had a new goal that lay beyond conquering the 400 realms, he would make the Real Realm tremble at his name. The very thought excited him.
Together, with Mao Lu by his side, he’d discover the truths, the mysteries and the conspiracies. All of them.

As that thought crossed his mind the Sovereign system pinged in front of his face.
NOTIFICATION
– New Feature added to the system.
– Feature: Unlimited Celestial Sovereign Update
– Description: The Sovereign system will update when you meet the required conditions. This update contains new features that will aid you in conquering the Real Realm and becoming a true Celestial Sovereign. Update feature details will become available after update.
– Conditions required for update:
1) Complete mission on Changing your fate and improve your bond with the Gatekeeper.
2) Become the Celestial Sovereign of the 400 Realms.
– No time limit on update availability…

As this notification went by his eyes excitement bubbled up inside Chàng Bo.

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Alexia

September 2019
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