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Skin that shined like Gold yet had the texture of a boiled egg, limbs that were far too long and some that were far too short, eyes that were as black as the pits of hell, and features that were blurred and shifting. This was the thing that was walking up to Mao Lu.

“So what makes you so special that you think you can cut down my pets, hmmm?” it’s voice had the weight of lead yet it droned like a ship horn.
The moment its voice met his ears Mao Lu felt as if his mind had been ripped open. His body trembled uncontrollably. And when his eyes met its eyes, he felt like his flesh was beginning to melt.

Three seemed unaware of the agony its very presence was putting Mao Lu in. One of its extremely long limbs pulled out a notepad from somewhere. It began reading it intensely before glancing up at Mao Lu again.
“Recently instated Gatekeeper Lu….ahhhh so you’re that person. You have been a Gatekeeper for less than a year, and you’re the one that’s having romantic relations with Chàng Bo the believed intruder into this project. I see.” Three smirked but Its face was lopsided so the smile came out as a frown, “I know a Four and a Five that would love to get their hands on you, but lucky for you my sponsors are different from theirs, and mine don’t care what Cahir does in the 400 realms, they actually think it’s good for the project. Marketing and product testing are all I care about.”

Three was rather chatty and it’s breath smelled of rotting corpses. Every time it opened its mouth the putrid smell made Mao Lu gag. The toxic fumes made him unable to comment even though his mind was going crazy after hearing the names ‘Chàng Bo’ and ‘Cahir’ in the same sentence.

Three’s leg buzzed and its eyes went hazy for a second, “Well it seems that my sponsors don’t want you harmed…well I guess enough Gatekeepers have been killed for the seeds to be sewn and the Gates have gotten rid of most rotting fruits in this crop and are being recalibrated to await the new Director. Hmmm, so it’s best to leave it alone.”

Three whistled and all the black mist creatures vanished instantly.
“Big changes are coming to the four-hundred realms, they’re coming soon,” It said excitedly before disappearing like the Creatures before it.

The moment it disappeared, the melting and burning sensations began to fade. Mao Lu was left shaken and fearful. How had all his abilities just stopped? It was as if all the laws of essence and reality in the 400 realms simply didn’t apply to that thing.
What had it even been talking about?

With so many questions, Mao Lu knew that there was only one person that could answer them.

He walked up to the large doors and knocked, “Hello, it’s Gatekeeper Lu, Can you let me in?”

….
[Realm 145, BEIJING]

Fei Bing Bing and Zhao Detong stopped jogging around the city and decided to take a break at their favourite Starbucks. Bing Bing looked through the store window as she cradled her coffee and could see the construction work that was still being done on the busy tourist streets.
“To think they’re still doing repairs, you’d think they’d be done by now?” she mused out loud.
“That earthquake caused a lot of damage to the city, there are many places that haven’t received the repairs they need yet.” Zhao Detong calmly explained.
“It feels like just yesterday, that earthquake happened and Frank nearly died in that sinkhole and we were all watching it on the news, but it’s been months, more than a half a year.”
“Yh.” Detong agreed.
“Is it just me or has this city gotten so much calmer, in the months leading up to Frank and Mao Lu’s disappearance there was so much going on. There was the large earthquake that pretty much sunk Tiananmen, and then there was that terrorist attack.”
“The city hasn’t got that much calmer” Detong argued, “why this morning there was that news about that flying car, now that was pretty crazy.”
“Do you think it’s all linked?” Bing Bing asked
“What’s linked?”
“All these weird events, Mao Lu and Frank’s disappearance, the earthquakes, the terrorist attack heck even the flying car.” Bing Bing theorised.
“Do you hear yourself, I know you are upset about them going missing, I am too, but haven’t we talked about this. It’s not healthy to keep thinking about this. And you can’t blame natural disasters on people. You’re making connections out of nothing_.”

“Shhh!!!” Bing Bing interrupted “Look!”
“Look at what?” Detong asked in exasperation, but his mouth hung open at what he saw.

On the window in front of them, the previously clear glass had suddenly gotten foggy, as if someone was breathing on it.
Then words appeared on it as if someone was writing on the foggy glass with their fingers, but… there was no one there!
What the hell?

In a few seconds, a sentence appeared.

“Don’t make any sudden movements, you’re being watched and you’re in danger. Follow my instructions.”

Zhao Detong was staring at this message with a flabbergasted expression, he couldn’t make any sense of this. In contrast, Fei Bing Bing was on the edge of her seat in excitement, this was what she waiting for, something, anything to happen. This might lead to the answers that she was seeking.
The message disappeared as if an invisible man had rubbed it out with their hands and soon a new message appeared.

“Casually get out of your seats, walk out of this place and head to the alleyway next to it. There is a ring on the ground there. Both of you must touch the ring at the same time and say ‘I will enter’. Do this in the next five minutes, any later and they will notice.”

A few moments after the message had appeared it was rubbed away.

Immediately Fei Bing Bing got out of her seat. Zhao Detong grabbed her arm, “what are you doing?” he whispered.
“I’m following the instructions,” she whispered back.
“Are you crazy!?” he whispered
“We have no time we only have a five-minute window, save your complaints about this for later” Bing Bing muttered stubbornly before pulling her arm away from his and strolling out of the store like a runway model.
Zhao Detong stared after her, and sighed, “This is crazy, what the hell. Is she actually going to do this?”
After a few seconds, he gave in and hurried after her. After exiting the store he turned around into the shady looking alleyway next to it. If the sun hadn’t been high in the sky Detong would have never of entered this place or even looked at it.

He saw Bing Bing leaning against a wall near the large trash bins, holding a green jade ring in her hand. She was staring at with blatant fascination.
“Come here now, we need to do this together!” she snapped at him, “Hurry!”
Detong hesitated, “Bing Bing do you really want to do this, this could be some elaborate mugging or a prank, I don’t think we should be following the instructions from some scribbling on a window.”
“What if this is the only way to learn about the fates of our friends? What if this gives us answers, do you seriously want to throw all of that chance away? Do you!?”

Detong could see the desperate look on her face, there was no arguing with Bing Bing when she got like this. He sighed and put all his reservations behind him. He walked up to Bing Bing and held the ring.

At the same time, they both said: “I will enter.”

If anyone had been looking into that alleyway at that point, they would have seen two people suddenly vanish and a purple ring clatter to the ground. And a second later they would see the purple ring disappear from the ground as if an invisible person had picked it up.

……..

[GRAND HALL]

Many Gatekeepers were mumbling amongst themselves when Argenti’s eyes narrowed and she tapped the ground with her staff. The following shockwaves caused everyone to become quiet and focus on her.

Her white pupils dilated as she used her senses to see into her Fortress. She watched as Mao Lu killed the Creatures and witnessed his encounter with Three.

As she listened to Three’s words her fists shook in anger, especially when she heard the words ‘ Marketing and Product testing’ now she understood what this was all about. But her blood went cold when she heard ‘new Director’…this changed everything. Her fingers clenched in worry.

“Is something wrong Argenti?” Obsidian asked in confusion.
“It seems your student has obtained something interesting?” She slowly answered.

Before Obsidian could comment, a knock came at the door followed with “Hello, it’s Gatekeeper Lu, Can you let me in?”

Zither’s eyes widened and everyone froze as they heard the familiar voice.

Argenti’s lips curled in amusement, this was certainly unexpected.
“OPEN” she yelled

“What are you doing!!” Zither cried as the large doors creaked open, but any further complaints she had were caught in her throat, as she saw Mao Lu standing there, alone.
He was wearing a peculiar flowing bodysuit that had runes across it, and in his hand was a golden sword, and in the other was a bow, a flurry of arrows hung within a holder on his back.

“It seems that the Creatures have gone back to where they came from, for now, this crisis has been averted. We have young Gatekeeper Lu to thank.”
Argenti slowly came down from her throne and approached Mao Lu, “Mao Lu how did you obtain a Quintessence sword” she was practically drooling as she looked at the golden blade, “None should exist within the 400 realms, other than the material in this hall. You shouldn’t have such a blade you’re not at the level to control it, it can’t reach its full potential in your hands.”
She reached to grab it, but Mao Lu moved the sword away, “It’s mine.” he curtly said.

As he said this Argenti noticed that the silver binding ring she’d given him was missing, she frowned, did he already know that Creed had taken Chàng Bo? Creed had already informed her that Bo had escaped, but from the angry look on Mao Lu’s face, she was certain he probably didn’t know that and regardless he was most likely very angry.
She could already feel a headache coming on and that headache only grew as she saw him point the golden sword at her.

“What do you know about all of this, about Chàng Bo, about these creatures, about what exists beyond the 400 realms, all of it. If anyone knows all these secrets it is you! Start explaining!!”

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Alexia

August 2019
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