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Chàng Bo’s expression was so comical that Hypnos had to stop himself from laughing. His previous smugness was now frozen and his eyes were filled with doubt and confusion. Hypnos could practically hear the cogs turning in his brain.

“I…I made this happen.” As Chàng Bo said the words his chest heaved up and down, it didn’t make sense but for some reason, Chàng Bo couldn’t shake the feeling that Hypnos was telling him the truth.
“Was I also reincarnated into this world? Did I also volunteer in this project to be some type of Gatekeeper?” he muttered, thousands of questions popped up in his head.
Hypnos sighed, “As smart as you are you really don’t think. If you had really volunteered in this project to be a Gatekeeper do you believe Nyx, our Mother, would have had to go through the trouble of conceiving you in the 400 realms?”

Hypnos was right, their Mother wouldn’t have had to take such a risk. Plus, if he was a volunteer for the 400 realm project than Nyx would never have been involved with him, since she was an enemy to the project and its creators.

“You paid a heavy price and made quite the deal with Nyx to be born in this world. And everything I’ve done is because you instructed me to do it. As to why you wanted me to steal that artefact, have Mother give you that Gatekeeper key and instructed me to specifically give you Sweet Dream, that ‘poison’… I have no idea. Most of your intentions and actions so far have been a mystery to me and the rest of the resistance. So don’t ask me why you’re doing this.”

Hypnos reached into his cloak and brought out a long sword. The scabbard was made of clear crystal, and when Hypnos pulled out the blade the air filled with a sharp and dangerous energy. Chàng Bo tasted blood on the tip of his tongue. He could hear the lingering cries of the souls this sword had slain.
The blade was made of a material similar to pure gold, its surface crackled with blue electricity and sparks of lighting. Chàng Bo could see all kinds of essences whirling around inside the blade, some essences he didn’t even recognise. This truly wasn’t an ordinary weapon.
The hilt was made of pure diamond, and on that diamond hilt were small words engraved in gold. They read “To my dearest C, may our love be eternal and even reality be defeated against your blade. Love, M.”

Hypnos handed the sword over to Chàng Bo, “This belongs to you. Honestly if I could control a Quintessence weapon I would keep it all to myself, but I’m not strong enough for it and it only obeys you.” Hypnos said with a bitter tone.
“Th-this is mine” Chàng Bo gasped, he’d never seen a weapon so beautiful before.
Hypnos sighed, “You told me that if we ever meet I should give this back to you. So I’m doing just that.”
Chàng Bo stroked the sword and stared intently at the engraved words on the hilt. Could M be Mao Lu? Did his past self know the previous incarnation of Mao Lu, the Mao Lu that lived in the Endless Plains. Did he come to the 400 realms because Mao Lu had volunteered to be a Gatekeeper?
Had his past self loved the past Mao Lu so much that he decided to sacrifice his life and start a new one just to find him? Did he do all that, giving himself Sweet Dream just to meet him again….but some things didn’t add up. Maybe he did come here for Mao Lu, but he knew himself. He likely had another objective. Chàng Bo wondered what else he had come to the 400 realms for.

Hypnos saw the thoughtful expression on Chàng Bo’s face and reached into his pocket and gave Chàng Bo a blue pendant. “Wear this, it’s one of the tools I use to hide myself when I’m in the 400 realms, it completely masks your presence, no one, not even the Creators can find you whilst you’re wearing this unless you want them to. Heck even if you ran into a Creator on the street they would see right through you.”
Chàng Bo stared at the piece of jewellery in excitement, he wondered how this small thing worked and was curious about how it contained so much power.
“Thank you.” he said as he clipped it around his neck.
Hypnos smiled and nodded as he stood up. “Well I’m going to leave now, the next time we meet it will probably be in the Endless Plains, that’s what natives call the real realm by the way.”

Chàng Bo was startled, “You’re going, so fast? Aren’t you going to tell me more about my past self or what kind of agreement I made with Nyx and yourself? Did I come here looking for the ‘M’ mentioned on this sword, is ‘M’ the Gatekeeper I know? How do I know you?”

“I could explain that to you but Cahir….I mean Chàng Bo, we’re not friends. We may be brothers in this life and I may have owed you a few favours that I’m now delivering on, but I’m not going to go out of my way to make things easier for you. Actually I’m kind of enjoying you being all ignorant and weak in this situation. With that sovereign system I’m sure you won’t remain weak for long, so I’m going to enjoy teasing you while I can.” Hypnos laughed.

“You know about the Sovereign System?” Chàng Bo asked, immediately becoming guarded.
“We once fought nearly to the death over that thing, you made a fool out of me and my face is so ruined I can’t show my face in public.” he said moodily. Hypnos then noticed Chàng Bo’s guarded expression and sniggered, “Don’t worry I won’t take it, it only obeys you now, it wouldn’t work for me.”
“Anyway I’m leaving, I even saved your life earlier, I owe you no more favours.”

Chàng Bo scowled, “If you weren’t going to go into detail why bother even mentioning those things then!?”
Hypnos shrugged, “I thought that since you’re all innocent now I could use this chance to properly recruit you to the resistance by making you super sympathetic towards our Mother. But you’re too much of a pain and you question everything. Mother told me before I came here that there was no point trying to recruit you and that I’d only be doing you a favour by telling you some truths and I should have just listened to her. So I’ve given up on that. I’m just going to leave here with the satisfaction that the Evil Prince who hates being ignorant will have his head filled with unanswered questions, because of me.”

Chàng Bo glared at him, “I’m certain I hated you in my past life.”
Hypnos laughed, “Trust me, the feeling was pretty much mutual.”
Hypnos raised his skeletal hands and was about to clap them together, but then paused, “Treat him well in this life, don’t make him do unnecessary things again.” he said.
Chàng Bo was confused and was about to express his confusion at those words, but Hypnos clapped his hands.

By the time Chàng Bo blinked he was back in Realm 145.
He was standing in the porch of Mao Lu’s home. The sun shone bright in the sky. The air was warm.
It was Summer[1]


Mao Lu was now stark naked, sitting in the relaxing bath. He sighed, this was absolute bliss. He had never enjoyed a bath this good in his life. He felt like his entire body was being cleansed and all the weariness he’d felt before had now melted away.

Mao Lu looked up and he saw a large timer on the ceiling, the neon numbers were counting down.
“Where did the time go?” Mao Lu grumbled. His one hour of relaxation had gone so quickly and now he only had five minutes left.
He sighed and rose out of the bath. He looked at a mirror on the wall and squealed as he saw how good he looked, his skin was all dewy and rosy pink from the bath, all signs of tiredness, like the bags under his eyes and the his scraggly unshaved beard were now all gone. He looked filled with energy.
“Whoa I wish I could take this bath back home with me, this is amazing. Beats any earthly spa treatment.” He patted his cheeks and posed in front of the mirror, “If Chàng Bo saw me looking this good I wonder how he’d react, would he blush and be like wow you’re so gorgeous or would he act cool like he normally does. Hehehe I bet I’d make his heart race, I’m falling for myself haha.” Mao Lu laughed arrogantly in front of the mirror and then froze as he realised how embarrassing he was being.
His face turned red, he was so glad no one had seen that.

He found his clothes that he’d set down on a drying rack. They were all fresh, clean and warm. When Mao Lu put them on he felt comfortable and soft, the same way you feel when you put on freshly ironed socks.
As he strapped the golden sword onto his belt and hummed to himself, the timer went down to zero and a doorway was in front of Mao Lu.
“The resting period is over, it is now time to begin the trial.” Said the voice.

Mao Lu stretched his limbs as he walked through the doorway and back into the hall filled with rows upon rows of mirrors.

“Firstly, said the voice, “One thing you must understand is that a Gatekeeper’s abilities are only as limited as their imagination. From what you’ve told me I am aware that your understanding of everything is rather vague. So let me explain it simply.”
“As you know Essence is the blood of the universe, they are within everything and they make everything. For every material or organism there are several essences at work that are creating this material or organism. For every process an Essence is behind it. That’s why when you look at a living person you can see life essences, heat essences, flesh essences, and soul essences and so much more within them.”
“As you know, these essences are all around us but only those who are awakened can see and control them, and even then practitioners only have the ability to control certain essences. In the case of a Gatekeeper you have the ability to sense and control every essence including the core essences, of time, destruction and creation.”
“This means that you have no limit, your capabilities are as far as your creativity and your will can take you, your potential is limitless.”
Mao Lu heard the voice echoing inside his head.
“Because the Creator didn’t want Gatekeepers to be too overpowered, the creator made sure to set rules and limits. And one of those limits is the Paths, a Gatekeeper is limited by only having full control over one of the core essences. In your case this is Time.”

A mirror moved in front of Mao lu and he saw the same image that Obsidian had shown him the at the Flame Star Fortress. He saw the Destruction Essences, the Creation Essences and the Essences.
“The reason these are the core essences is because they are the essences at the core of every process. A single flame essences is useless but if the flame essence is coupled with creation essence than one can make fire. If someone uses that fire to burn paper than both creation, to make the fire, and destruction to destroy the paper, is at work whilst all these other essences are involved in the process. But the process doesn’t happen without the core essences.”
Mao Lu nodded, Obsidian had told him something similar.
“Time is considered the most important essence because it is the essence that is needed for the essences of creation and destruction to even work. Everything needs time. That is why your abilities and potential is far greater than 98% of existing Gatekeepers, the only thing stopping you is your imagination, your creativity, and your fear.”
“The purpose of the Tempering Heart Trial is to open your heart and tap into your potential. The better you understand yourself the better you understand your limits and your capabilities. Always remember that you will never lack power, you only tell yourself that you are powerless.”

Mao Lu felt like he’d been hit by the truck of realisation. It was so obvious, it had been explained to him so many times that essence was everything, that as a Gatekeeper he controlled essence, yet for some reason his brain had blocked this information. Mao Lu wanted to slap himself for being such an idiot. It was similar to how he had used to Time to fly, or when he had used it to prevent Chàng Bo’s poisoning. He’d only been capable of that because he’d imagined using his ability that way and simply willed it to happen. It had been such a simple concept to grasp when he’d first started yet he’d forgotten it.

The reason Gatekeepers were so feared wasn’t because they could expel or seal people from their realms it was because they controlled all essences within that realm, and as a result had absolute power.
It was the same as what he’d been told at the start. It had been so simple and he had been holding himself back this entire time because of his insecurities and lack of faith in himself. The Darkness stage of the trial had shown him all the weakness in his heart and the Light trial had shown him his strengths and because of that Mao Lu had found confidence in himself, he’d found a direction for his determination. He felt like his eyes were wide open now.

No longer would he hold himself back.

The voice continued, “This last and final trial will test your heart, it will test your will, your creativity and ultimately your potential. You will be placed in a pocket dimension, another realm filled with nothing, absolutely nothing. You are tasked with creating your own world by using your control of the essences. You will only pass this test after I evaluate that the world you have created has reached an acceptable standard. There is no time limit on this examination. During this task you will develop your skill in using essence and your understanding of Time will grow. You will not complete your soul weapon until you understand the nature of the Essence of Time and choose how you wish to use it.”

A large mirror swerved in front of Mao Lu.
“This is the doorway for the pocket dimension. Are you ready? Once you enter you are not allowed to leave until your world has been made.”

Mao Lu closed his eyes and calmed his mind, he remembered what Gates had told him, “I am in control.” he whispered.
He opened his eyes and smiled, “Let’s do this.”

He then stepped through the mirror.

[1] Reminder that when Mao Lu and Chàng Bo separated it was right after the christmas incident. Chàng Bo has come back in Summer, mid June. It’s been over 6 months.

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