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POTENTIAL STAGE

Unaware of the danger that Chàng Bo was facing, Mao Lu calmly floated in his River of Stars. There was something very relaxing about having absolute control over a world. There was no fear of death, there was no feeling of incompleteness and no questions. Mao Lu already had all the answers, there was this endless feeling of security and satisfaction, it was an addictively relaxing sensation.

His mind and body felt light and soothed, the essences obeyed his every command, there were no restrictions.

As he lazily floated, Mao Lu playfully interacted with the Time Essences around him. He learnt so much new information about them, for example, Time was like the synapses in the nervous system and all the other Essences were impulses and instructions and nerves that travelled through these synapses. Without Time all the other Essences would simply fall apart and their functions would become futile. The same way impulses, memories and the instructions within a body can’t be realised without the synapses.

Using Time to reverse processes or forward them was only a fundamental skill. He could use Time to make entirely new processes. Time was the bridge the foundation of all reactions, with Time he could rebuild it and shape it into new processes. It was a shame that he was restricted to using Time in only one specific way, there were endless possibilities in how he could use Time, endless skills. It was wrong for such power to be restricted in such a way, but then again if it wasn’t than Time Gatekeepers would be far too powerful.

Mao Lu wondered how Argenti used Time. He remembered the barrier Argenti had made when she and Obsidian had come to his house that one time. She had made a mini-realm within his realm, a separate space. Perhaps that was her specific way of using time.
That skill had seemed so amazing to Mao Lu when he’d seen it, but he realised it was simply a parlour trick. If Argenti had full control Time and albeit overall essences, such a thing as creating barriers or separate spaces could be done with simply a thought.
As this thought occurred to him, several small bubbles appeared around him, within these bubbles were miniature versions of his universe. Mao Lu watched as they floated off into the distance.

Time was manipulation, time was order, time holds precedence over reality and form. With Time, Mao Lu could make limitless dimensions and split this reality into various fragments and possibilities. Time was the beginning and the end, for reality only ceased when Time stopped. Time was the foundation.

Mao Lu felt giddy with the power and the unlimited potential he had at his fingertips, no wonder Gatekeepers had such rules and restrictions. This power was so terrifying, there were endless possibilities to what he could do.
If he had this power and he went back to Realm 145, he could change the very nature of his realm on a whim.

Thinking of changing Realm 145 filled his head which led Mao Lu to think about Chàng Bo. With his consciousness having this collective mind with the Essences, he found his thoughts to be much clearer.

“My attraction to Chàng Bo isn’t simply physical there really is something about us, something connecting us.” He mumbled.

He stroked the gold sword which was still strapped to his belt. The sword sparked the moment he touched it, it caused the space around Mao Lu to crackle and all the essences to flinch and quiver.

“Time isn’t the ultimate Essence, above Time Quintessence and even above that there is more.” Came a voice.

Mao Lu was startled, he felt his control over his world slipping, and then suddenly he was no longer in his universe. He was in a separate space. Sitting on a velvet red cushion in a room filled with draping red linen curtains and silk fabrics.

A man was sitting opposite him. He had vibrant blonde hair that was every shade of lightning, it sparked and crackled with blue electricity. His skin appeared smooth and whiter than snow. His plump lips were as red as blood and his big blue eyes were like a Cold star.

As Mao Lu looked at him felt a strange feeling of familiarity. This man, something about him, resembled Chàng Bo.

“You look different, but not in a bad way.” Said the mysterious man. Mao Lu didn’t know how to respond, he was extremely confused. “Who are you?” he asked.

The man gave a helpless grin and answered, “My name is Cahir, Cahir Alerian. Well only a small piece of Cahir, a fragment of his soul that lives in your sword.”
Mao Lu thought about the engraved words on the sword, “So you’re C?”

“And you’re M” he replied calmly

Mao Lu blinked, “How could I be? We only just met…” Mao Lu trailed off, he remembered how the Light Trial had mentioned that the sword was connected to him as if it was a remnant from his previous life, not to mention Cahir eerily resembled Chàng Bo.

“You’re from my previous life, you’re the previous Chàng Bo!” He exclaimed.

Cahir smiled at him, a warm toothy grin, “So we’ve already met, good. Chàng Bo, is that my new name? I’m not sure if I like it or not.

Mao Lu was excited and starred at Cahir with a starry-eyed expression, so his love for Chàng Bo really went beyond lifetimes. They were meant to be! He was so excited, he wanted to know everything.

He fidgeted on his red cushion as he asked, “How did we meet? What gender was I in your lifetime? Did we ever get married, do we have cute nicknames? Where did we go on our honeymoon!!?”
Cahir starred at him blankly for a few seconds before bursting into laughter. “You’re absolutely adorable, you still have that naive innocence. I love it.” Cahir sniggered a few times before answering.

“We met when I crash landed on your planet, I was an outsider and you were planning to execute me, but then we became friends and I told you about how amazing the Endless Plains were. So you threw your throne aside and we set out on an adventure together.”

This answer caused all kinds of new questions to pop up in Mao Lu’s head, such as what were the Endless Plains?

Before he could answer Cahir continued, “You were male. Marriage? If you mean confirming our relationship through a special ceremony that we have done that, and I have no idea what a honeymoon is, never heard of such a thing. And as for cute nicknames, I call you Jungle boy sometimes and you call me Sparky.”

“Wow, I really need the story behind those nicknames!” Mao Lu yelled in excitement.

Cahir laughed for a bit before his face turned serious, “Honestly I’d love to give all my time to you and enjoy this small chit chat, but I’m only a soul fragment. I only have mere moments before I cease existing. So I need to get to the point now. This is a warning.” Mao Lu felt the room grow colder… “Only trust me, the current me and this version of me. I know myself, I may be rude, self-interested, narrow-minded and manipulative. But you must trust me and if I haven’t yet, I promise you I will fall deeply in love with you, it is a fact.” Cahir looked at Mao Lu sternly, “This world, the 400 realms, do not trust it. Do not listen to their rules, they are trying to confine you and use you. Do not let yourself become a tool for them.”
“A tool for who? What do you mean? Why can’t I trust the 400 realms?”

“Just trust me! The sooner you leave this place the better. When you meet the version of me in your lifetime, make plans to go to the Endless Plains as soon as possible. This place is a ticking bomb, an ungodly experiment that should have never been allowed to exist. Your Chàng Bo should know what I mean.” Cahir’s eyes sparked with a cold graveness, he was not joking.

“Okay, I understand. When I meet Chàng Bo I’ll ask him about the Endless Plains and we’ll go there. I promise.”

Cahir visibly relaxed when he heard that answer, “Good. And I want you to remember the ultimate Essence is not time, it is not even Quintessence. Don’t limit yourself or your abilities by believing Time is the ultimate power. There is always higher levels to be reached if you limit yourself and feed into the restrictions and the rules they give you, you’re nothing better than their puppet.” Cahir sighed, “My love, we have now run out of time. Be safe.” He said.

Mao Lu’s eyes widened he had so many questions, but suddenly Cahir and the room of red velvet and silk turned to smoke around him. When he blinked he was yet again drifting in the River of Stars, the golden sword quietly humming at his side.

Mao Lu felt so many questions bubbling up inside of him, but he knew he wasn’t going to get an answer until he met Chàng Bo again. He needed to finish this trial, now.

He had already created his own universe, a world unique to his own design. He also now understood essence at a far deeper level than he ever had before. The reason he hadn’t passed yet was that he hadn’t chosen how to use his path. He was restricted to using time in only one way, but that didn’t sit well with Mao Lu. Why should he only be able to use it in one way?

Mao Lu’s mind was clear. He beckoned all the Time Essences towards him. Soon he was surrounded by the large, fluorescent blue, eyeless-eel-like creatures.
Mao Lu wanted to have an ability that outranked every Gatekeeper of Time. Mao Lu wanted a power that would make even Argenti powerless next to him.

“If that’s the case…I want to control.”
Time, as he understood it, was control. Why should he settle for one small aspect of Time when he could have control. The flow of time, the processes of the universe, the essences. He wasn’t going to be restricted. He wanted to control everything.
“Grant me control!”

All the Time Essences began to glow brightly. They changed from their bright blue to a dark purple. They began merging together, becoming bigger and bigger.

Soon, a Time Essence the size of a Cruise Ship flew around him. Its translucent purple scales glistened with gold, silver, and platinum lights. Hiding under its skin were the creation and destruction essences, swimming about inside of it.

“I control Time and through my control of Time, I control reality. I will name you Reality Control.” Mao Lu said as he stroked the Gigantic Time Essence. As he touched it, he sensed that they shared the same mind, it’s a will was his will.

It breathed out hot sparkling dust which surrounded Mao Lu, that dust turned into several purple arrows. These arrows hummed and made the very fabric of his universe tremble.

When the arrows appeared, his Soul weapon emerged from his body. The complete longbow hummed and it’s original black colour took on a purple hue.
The bow fell into his hands. He felt unlimited power as he grabbed one of the arrows floating next to him and held it against the bowstring.

He pulled his arm back and then shot the arrow. As the arrow flew the sound of glass shattering could be heard and the next second Mao Lu was standing inside the hall of mirrors again.

“I have passed your trial.” He said calmly, “Now take me home.”

“Y-You broke the mirror? How is this possible? Control, how could you be capable of taking control and making that your specific attribute, that shouldn’t be possible. Gatekeepers have restrictions, you should only be allowed to have dominion purely over one Essence, this is a cheat. You shouldn’t be allowed to have absolute control. Where is your Gates? I need to contact the Creator’s something is wrong in the system.”

“If you won’t take me back, I can go myself” Mao Lu ignored the babbling voice. Reality Control swished its large tail and all the mirrors in the hall smashed and broke around him, except for one.
“So that’s the doorway.” Mao Lu commented as we walked towards the remaining mirror.

He calmly stepped through it. Emerging into the training room in Argenti’s Flame Fortress. The one he’d been before the Trial had begun.

The doorway to the Tempering Heart Trial broke into several pieces behind him.

He looked around, the room was empty, “Where is Argenti?”

All the essences in the area began speaking to him all at once, information flowing into his head.

Mao Lu pulled the silver ring off his finger, tossing it aside, anger in his eyes as he headed towards the meeting room.

More is coming soon. 

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Alexia Barrett

Journalism student at Cardiff University. Aspiring Broadcast Journalist, Foreign Correspondent, and Novelist.

November 2019
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