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REALM 10, MORTAL REALM, PLANET ACER, KARNE FOREST

Sea Karne’s booming voice spread far and wide across Karne Village, “I’m sure information of a new guest has spread by now. I wish to clarify with all of you that our guest Mao Lu is a practitioner who is injured and will be staying with us until he is recovered. He is friendly and poses no threat to Karne Village. I expect him to be treated with hospitality.”

The orange worm like sound essence in Sea Karne’s hand crumpled into the dust when he finished making his announcement.

“Hopefully the villagers won’t be wary now that they know you have my backing, I’ll make sure you settle in quite comfortably here.” Sea Karne said as he turned to Mao Lu.

Mao Lu scratched the back of his head, “I’m not so sure if that will stop them being wary of me, but at least with your word they know I mean no harm then they shouldn’t be too hostile or scared of me.” He shrugged.

“There shouldn’t be any hostility.” Sea Karne reassured him. “They’re only scared of outsiders and Practitioners because of these tales of the past but I promise you that the people of Karne are mostly peacekeeping.”

Mao Lu nodded in acknowledgement.

“I will make sure to set up a house for you on the outskirts of Karne which will give you a bit more privacy. If you have any requirements than don’t hesitate to tell me.” Sea Karne added eagerly.

If Sea Karne was a dog, Mao Lu was sure his tail would be wagging between his legs, he was like a puppy trying to please it’s master.

Mao Lu patted Sea Karne on the shoulder, “Honestly you’ve done enough for me. I’m the one that’s imposing on you and staying in your land, to be fair I should be doing something in return.”

Sea Karne vigorously shook his head, “I wouldn’t dare make you do anything in return for staying here, you are a guest and as a host I should treat my guest well.”

“Well I’m not really comfortable with staying here for free. So how about this, if ever Karne village is in trouble I’ll help, although I’m not sure how helpful I’ll be I’ll do my best.” Mao Lu promised.

Sea Karne fell to his knees and bowed deeply to Mao Lu, “I don’t know what I did to receive such a blessing. You have my sincerest thanks.”

“I told you before you don’t need to bow to me” Mao Lu said quickly as he pulled Sea Karne to his feet.

Sea Karne was over the moon though, and insisted on bowing several more times to Mao Lu.

Outside the waterfall barrier all the Elders, Mero, and General Xander stood. They were all surprised when they heard the voice of the Chief resounding around the Village.

One of the oldest Elders glanced at Mero, “The Chief calls the young man you brought here a guest, we have never accepted outsiders or guests before in the history of Karne Village. Is this boy really just some practitioner, dose he have some connection or influence over the Chief?”

Mero bowed to the small wrinkled woman, “I am just as in the dark as you are about this entire matter Elder.”

“You’re so in the dark yet you bring this possibly dangerous and unknown man into the very heart of our very home.” General Xander sneered.

Mero stiffened as she heard Xander’s words, she wanted to yell at him. She hated how he always looked down on her and acted as if he’d never made a mistake before. They weren’t even that much different in age.

“You’re right I was wrong in bringing him here, and he is an unknown factor but I don’t think he’s dangerous. I feel safe around him and secure, my instincts tell me that he’s a good person.” She argued.

General Xander let out a soft snort, “So we’re betting our lives on your instincts, how wonderful.”

“General Xander you are entitled to your opinion but you shouldn’t speak so rudely to Lady Mero, she is the Chief’s daughter and your fiance.” the Oldest Elder who had spoken earlier, scolded Xander.

Xander went a slight pink and he bowed to the Elder, “I apologise Grandmother I meant no disrespect.”

The Elder kissed her teeth, “You shouldn’t be apologising to me.”

General Xander swiftly turned to Mero and bowed towards her, “I was out of turn Lady Mero, please forgive me.”

Mero inwardly grinned, she enjoyed Xander’s apology, she could only imagine how much discomfort this was putting him through. They both harboured a mutual dislike for each other.

Outwardly she remained composed and nodded towards Xander, “It’s fine the points you made were valid, I forgive you.”

She flashed him a sweet wide smile and she could see his eyes glimmer with rage that was quickly hidden.

It was at this moment that both Sea Karne and Mao Lu emerged from the waterfall barrier doorway.

General Xander immediately turned, and along with everyone else he bowed towards Sea Karne.

They were all surprised by the friendly and warm atmosphere between Mao Lu and Sea Karne, they were even walking side by side and chatting like old friends.

“Xander I am giving Mao Lu the largest house on the outskirts of the city, I would like you to make sure it is as presentable and as comfortable as possible for him.”

Xander found this request strange, why should a general like himself be doing a servants job and making a house comfortable, but he didn’t argue. Instead he nodded and said, “Yes Chief” before turning and swiftly leaving.

“Elders you can all go back to your business, today’s meeting is over.” Sea said to them.

The Elders looked amongst themselves in surprise but didn’t argue. They bowed towards Sea Karne and quickly took their leave.

Now only Mero, Sea Karne and Mao Lu were left.

Sea Karne smiled warmly at his daughter. “Mero, Mao Lu is a very important individual. I would like you to treat him well and give him a tour of the Village. I would take him on this tour myself but he insisted that it wasn’t appropriate for me to do it. When you’re done showing him around Mero make sure to invite him back to our home, we shall have dinner together.”

With that Sea Karne bowed his head to Mao Lu once more before heading back through the waterfall barrier. The moment he disappeared into the waterfall the running water froze, turning into a solid sheet of ice.

Mero was so shocked she almost turned to stone. Had her father just bowed to Mao Lu????

It was no real secret that her Father was a practitioner, he’d lived for a very long time and even though people rarely spoke of it, it was common knowledge.

Even though logically she knew her Father couldn’t be the most powerful man in existence, in her heart she had always believed him to be above many others. She had even heard stories of how her Father had negotiated with practitioners on the border before, and he’d never bowed before them, yet now he was bowing to Mao Lu.

Just who on earth could Mao Lu really be?

Mao Lu smiled at Mero, “Your Father is a good man.” He said.

Mero stared at Mao Lu blankly for a few minutes before she realised what she was doing.

“Um” she coughed, “Yes he is.”

An awkward silence fell on the two.

“Um I’ll take you on that tour now then.” Mero said, “Follow me.”

Mao Lu nodded and began following Mero.

They took a route that was different than the one they had used to first come to the waterfall barrier.

Soon they had passed the residential area filled with huts and they were standing next to a large river. It sparkled and glittered like it was filled with thousands of jewels.

From Mao Lu’s perspective he could see a large amount of life essences in the river. These life essences were white, bigger and brighter than any he had seen before.

It reminded Mao Lu of the River Styx, as if it had come straight from those myths and legends.

“This is one of the great landmarks of Karne. it is called the River of blessings. You’ve see the glowing runes on our armour and bodysuits. When we make our garments we carve those runes in them and let them soak in the river for a week. The blessings of the River gets sucked into the runes and make the clothes much stronger. When wearing clothes soaked in the river of blessings one becomes much healthier as well.” Mero explained.

Mao Lu’s eyes were wide, these clothes were magic tools using essence. Magic outfits like those gear used in games that could raise a characters stats or their hp just by equipping it.

“Would I be able to get some clothes which have been blessed?” He asked excitedly.

Mero hesitated, “Well from the way my father treated you I doubt he’d be against it.” She said slowly, but in her heart Mero didn’t like the idea, some of the Elders and villagers would probably oppose it, giving such sacred gifts to an outsider seemed wrong.

“Let me take you to some other places.” Mero changed the subject, pulling Mao Lu back into the city and into the maze of huts.

Yet again Mao Lu was by amazed by the sheer size of Karne Village, it was definitely the size of a city rather than a village.

“Just how many people live in Karne?” Mao Lu asked as they emerged into a wide busy strip. It was like a long retail street, filled with all kinds of stores. The signs were in a language Mao Lu couldn’t read, but he could guess what they meant from what he saw. One place was obviously a butchers, another was selling books, others weaponry.

The street was bustling with people.

“The population of Karne Village is just over 2 million people.” Mero replied in a matter of fact tone.

Mao Lu gaped, “You can’t call this a bloody village than, I guessed this place was huge but to think their were so many people living in this underground nation. This is practically a city why call it a village?”

“When Karne was first created it was about the size of a village and despite the population increasing our people are just used to calling it that. There’s no real reason.” Mero answered as she dragged Mao Lu through the busy street.

As they walked they heard various ‘ahhhs’, ‘oohs’ and other gasps. Mao Lu was the centre of attention in seconds. It was obvious why, he didn’t look like them. His ears weren’t long and pointy and his skin lacked scales.

The people only had to look at him once and know straight away that he was practitioner the Chief had mentioned in his earlier announcement.

People had stopped in their tracks to stare at Mao Lu. The entire street had paused causing their path to be blocked. Mero and Mao Lu could neither move back or go forwards.

The people stared at Mao Lu with a variety of emotions. Some being curiosity, others fear, and some sheer hostility.

Mao Lu had thought that Sea Karne’s previous announcement would have made the people slightly more accepting towards him but it seemed that both he and Sea Karne had been wrong. Actually the announcement had put the people on edge.

Besides the chief they had never been exposed to Practitioners before, additionally most had grown up hearing scary stories about practitioners and outsiders. Even though they were aware of the existence of good practitioners, they still found the idea of practitioners overall extremely taboo.

As they all glared at him in apprehension, Mao Lu was reminded of when he’d first met Mero and she wouldn’t stop crying at the sight of him. It was bizarre to Mao Lu that these people could have so much fear and anger just because he was different from them, but that was how it was.

“TAKE THAT YOU MONSTER!!! GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM WE DON’T WANT SCARY PRACTITIONERS HERE!!!” a squeaky voice yelled, breaking the eerie silence.

A coaster sized crystal rock flew at Mao Lu and smacked him straight in the face.

Mao Lu was momentarily stunned, he’d seen the rock coming but he’d been so surprised that someone even threw one at him that he didn’t react in time.

As the rock clattered to the floor he stared in the direction it was thrown and saw a little boy. He had short green hair, brown scales across his patchy skin, pointed ears and greenish yellow eyes.

The moment he’d thrown the rock at Mao Lu the faces of the watching adults began to turn pale.

A loud yell filled the street. “OH MY!!!! LUCA WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!!!?”

A woman wearing a fussy long fur coat ran up to the boy and grabbed him.

“LUCA WHY WOULD YOU THROW A ROCK AT THE PRACTITIONER!!!” She yelled.

She then turned to Mao Lu and fell to her knees, “Please ‘o’ great one, please forgive my son he didn’t know what he was doing!!!!”

The little boy looked bewildered, “Mummy why are you bowing to him, you told me that all Practitioners are bad people and that they aren’t welcome in Karne. You said they kill people. This man is a Practitioner, I heard the other adults say so, why are you bowing?” His voice grew increasingly soft.

His mother slapped him hard across the cheek. “Do have any idea what you’ve done, he’s a guest of the Chief, he’s a good practitioner, you might be severely punished for this, now apologise!!!!!”

Luca began to cry, “But you said there were no good practitioners!!!!” He wailed.

Just as the mother raised her hand to slap her son again Mao Lu caught her wrist.

“Now there’s no reason to do that, he didn’t know any better.” Mao Lu said gently.

He patted the boy’s head softly, “Now don’t cry.” he said, which only caused the boy to cry more. Mao Lu’s tone became much sterner as he continued, “That rock you threw could have hurt me really badly, how would you have felt if someone threw a rock at you? It would have hurt, right?”

Luca paused and nodded, “Yeah it would have hurt.”

“If you knew it would hurt why did you throw a rock at me?”

“B-because you’re a bad Practitioner and the adults were scared and I heard Practitioners are scary and kill people… Are you going to kill me?” Luca’s voice became very small. He trembled slightly.

“You’re wrong, I’m not bad. I don’t kill people.” Mao Lu said softly, “I won’t hurt you…just like there are bad mortals there are also bad Practitioners and the same can be said about good mortals and good practitioners… Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, I may look different from you but that doesn’t make me a bad person. Judge me on my actions, only when I do something bad should you strike against me. Understand?”

The entire street was silent except for the hiccups and tears of Luca.

“I…I…I understand… I’m sorry….I shouldn’t have thrown that rock when you didn’t do anything bad. I’m sorry…I’m sorry!” Luca cried loudly.

“It’s fine little one, I forgive you.” Mao Lu said, he smiled warmly at the child before turning to the Mother.

“Don’t worry, I won’t harm either of you, but for future advice I hope you educate your child a bit better. I’m sure you’re aware that not all Practitioners are bad, I understand the history behind your fear of Practitioners but you shouldn’t poison your child’s mind with such prejudice.” Mao Lu’s gentle gaze now glowered with anger.

He glared at the Mother and then he calmly looked in the eyes of all the people watching.

When he was done he grabbed Mero’s arm and he pulled her away with him.

The crowd parted for them.

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Alexia

September 2019
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