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Mao Lu’s heart was pumping, his chest rising up and down. His eyes squinted as he stared at Obsidian.

“You knew…” He muttered as he turned his sword towards Obsidian, “You knew! You knew what she was going to do to Chàng Bo! You have also been lying to me!!!”

Obsidian frowned and slowly approached Mao Lu with his arms wide, “You’re wrong, I only found what she did later, but I don’t disagree with her actions. Because it wasn’t for herself, it was for the Gatekeepers as a whole. It was to keep our community safe from a threat we perceived would be coming from him.”

Obsidian stopped right in front of Mao Lu, where he was only an inch from him, the tip of Mao Lu’s blade digging into the flesh of his chest. “If you want to, go ahead and stab me. But that won’t solve the issue, that won’t give you the answers you want and that won’t help you find Chàng Bo.” Obsidian’s pitch-black eyes looked straight at Mao Lu. “You’re smart enough not to let your anger consume you, be reasonable.”

Mao Lu’s hands shook with anger, but as he looked around the hall and saw the shocked faces of the other Gatekeepers, he calmed down. This wasn’t like him. He wasn’t this person. No good would come from killing Argenti.

From the look in her eyes, it seemed she now realised that Mao Lu wasn’t someone she could take advantage of anymore.

He put his sword down and sheathed it to his side. “Fine” he sighed, “No aggression, but I expect an explanation.”

_____________________________________

SOMEWHERE

Fei Bing Bing and Zhao Detong began to fall, one moment they had been in the ally and the next they found themselves in a storage room.

They landed with a “PLOP” on a peculiar sponge textured carpet. Both of them bounced for a while before they settled on top of each other.

“Owwww Detong your elbow is digging into my stomach!” Bing Bing complained.

“Sorry!” Detong quickly apologised as he scrambled to his feet, he outstretched his hand and pulled Bing Bing up, “are you okay?”

“Yeah I’m fine, are you alright?”

Detong stroked her face fondly, “don’t worry I’m fine…but where the hell are we? I could have sworn we were in that creepy ally a second ago.”

“Yeah.” Bing Bing agreed she looked around the room with confusion and fear. It seemed like they were in some type of warehouse.

There were rows upon rows of shelves and on these shelves seemed to be all kinds of items; some appeared like relatively normal ornaments while others were creepy misshaped skulls and weird-looking potions and elixirs.

“Wow look at that!” Detong gasped, his eyes wide. To one side there was a pile of gold, precious jewels and artefacts all on one row.

Detong was wealthy but he had never seen so much gold and treasures exposed like that before.

A large emerald necklace caught Bing Bing’s eye, there was something so very charming about it. She found herself instinctively walking towards it.

Just as she was about to grab it, someone held her wrist and stopped her.

“I wouldn’t touch that if I was you unless you want to be possessed by a 3,000-year-old voodoo witch.”

Fei Bing Bing gasped and was about to scream until she realised the person holding her wrist was Chàng Bo.

“It’s you!?” She exclaimed.

“Yes, it’s me.” Chàng Bo said in a matter of fact tone as he let go of Bing Bing’s wrist.

“Is Mao Lu with you, is Frank with you too?” Detong asked as he ran up to Chàng Bo his eyes bright.

Chàng Bo raised an eyebrow, “Mao Lu is elsewhere, and why would I know the location of Frank Wang?”

Zhao Detong paled, “So you don’t know, I had been hoping he had gotten caught up in whatever you and Mao Lu were involved in, and that he was safe with you two.”

“Why what happened to him?” Chàng Bo knew that Mao Lu would be devastated if anything had happened to his friends.

“Before we tell you that” Fei Bing Bing interrupted, “shouldn’t you tell us where we are and what’s going on. I have so many questions, and you said we were in danger, that was you writing on the glass earlier, right?

Chàng Bo nodded in answer to her, he had forgotten how annoying this woman could be. She was a loyal friend of Mao Lu but she asked so many questions and lacked the respect that a mortal should have.

“Before I get into any of that I need to retrieve your other friends, they’re also in danger.”

“Tanaka, Bei Lao and Fang Kai!” Bing Bing exclaimed, “Yes go rescue them if they’re in danger.”

Chàng Bo’s eyebrow twitched, “I literally just said I was going to do that, why are you repeating my words and ordering me around.” His tone became dark and irritable. After his earlier encounter with Four and Five, Chàng Bo wasn’t in the best of moods.

Fei Bing Bing stepped back and hugged Zhao Detong, she could sense Chàng Bo’s short temper, a dark aura had spread around him.

“Calm down” Zhao Detong intervened, “She wasn’t ordering you around she’s just excitable.”

Chàng Bo exhaled and calmed himself, he shouldn’t be taking out his frustration on Mao Lu’s friends.

“You will get your answers soon.” He said, “wait here patiently, there is a sitting area with food and refreshments at the far back, don’t touch anything other than that, for your own safety.” He warned.

Fei Bing Bing wanted to ask why, but she decided to hold her tongue. Chàng Bo was scary.

The next second before their very eyes Chàng Bo disappeared with a slight crackle of thunder.

Fei Bing Bing and Zhao Detong both gaped.

“I told you it might be magic, you owe me 1000 RMB Detong,” Bing Bing muttered.

Detong rummaged in his pockets as he found his wallet and handed her the money.

“I’m never doubting your crackpot theories again.”

…..

Tanaka rolled over in bed and cuddled with Bei Lao.

“I love lazy days like today when we both have time off and we can stay in bed for as long as we want,” Tanaka whispered into Lao’s ear teasingly.

Bei Lao turned over and stroked Tanaka’s face, “I love days like this too.”

Tanaka kissed Bei Lao’s forehead, “you know what would make this moment perfect?” he asked in-between kisses.

“What would make this moment perfect?” Bei Lao asked teasingly with a wide smile.

“Well,” Tanaka said with a wider smile as he was about to tell Bei Lao all the things that could improve the moment, but then he froze.

“Hmm, are you okay? What’s up?” Bei Lao asked with concern as Tanaka began to shake.

“G-g-ghost!!!!!” Tanaka screamed as he pointed at the wall behind Bei Lao.

“Huh” Bei Lao turned around and saw a floating pen and paper.

“WHAT THE F****??”

By the time Bei Lao had sworn, Tanaka had already sped out of the bed, pulling Bei Lao’s hand as he headed towards the bedroom door.

Tanaka had fast reflexes and a large sense of self-preservation, he wasn’t going to stay in a room with a Ghost.

Chàng Bo sighed as he saw them run, he didn’t want them to panic, that would make Five and Four notice. Now that they had he had to act swiftly.

The door swung closed in front of Tanaka’s face.

“Damn it” Tanaka swore!

Before he could say another word both Bei Lao and Tanaka felt a hand around their waist and heard a voice say “I will enter.” Before they disappeared.

The moment they vanished from the room Four appeared in the same instant. The snakes in her hair hissed and her silver eyes narrowed. They had just been here but now they were gone, she could no longer sense them. This had to be Chàng Bo’s doing, how was he avoiding their notice.

….

“AWWW!!!!!!!!!” Tanaka and Bei Lao shrieked as they fell naked through the air and landed on the sponge-textured black floor.

They landed right in front of Zhao Detong and Fei Bing Bing, who had been helping themselves to some tea as they sat on the silk sofa.

Seeing the butt naked Tanaka and Bei Lao appear out of nowhere, made both Bing Bing and Detong spit out their tea, their jaws went slack.

“WHAT THE SHIT IS HAPPENING!!!” Tanaka screamed and then he froze as he saw Fei Bing Bing and Zhao Detong.

They all looked at each other for a full second before Tanaka shrieked, his face turning red as he scrambled to cover his precious parts with his hands.

Bei Lao froze, he was so shocked that he didn’t know what to do with himself.

This was like one of those weird nightmares. “I hope this is a dream” Tanaka groaned.

“Sadly it’s not a dream.” Chàng Bo announced as he glided down from the ceiling. Celestial essence surrounded his body, to their mortal eyes, it appeared as if he was made out of the stars themselves.

Combined with his flowing ink-black hair and sparkling blue eyes, Bo appeared like one of those immortals straight out of a wuxia novel. In his hand, he held two robes.

He handed them to Bei Lao and Tanaka as his feet landed on the floor.

Tanaka and Bei Lao were so stunned by Chàng Bo’s entrance that they didn’t even register that they had received the robes.

“What are you?” Tanaka asked, his eyes wide with awe.

“A practitioner at the Dao stage.” Chàng Bo answered nonchalantly, inwardly though he was amused by their awestruck expressions. It had been a while since he’d received such shock from mortals, it felt good.

“Are you going to put on those robes or what? We have much to discuss” Chàng Bo announced as he sat down with his legs crossed on the opposite sofa.

Tanaka and Bei Lao turned red as they scrambled to put on the clothes.

Soon they were seated on the same sofa as Detong and Bing Bing, all facing Chàng Bo with the attentiveness that one would face a teacher in a classroom.

“You claim to be a Dao Practitioner”, Bei Lao gained his courage and spoke, “Are you a Daoist practitioner like those esteemed martial artists in games and movies?”

Chàng Bo quietly contemplated Bei Lao’s words before answering “I don’t know what games or movies you’re referring to, I haven’t spent enough time to learn about all the culture of this realm. But I know that this Mortal Realm hasn’t seen enough real Dao Practitioners so I doubt it.”

As he spoke the teapot on the crystal coffee table moved on its own as it poured tea. The cup it poured into became animated and flew into Chàng Bo’s hand. As if it were alive it wiggled and giggled as Chàng Bo held it.

“A Practitioner is someone who uses the essence of the realm to improve their physical or mental abilities to the pinnacle of power.” He explained.

“What’s the essence?” Asked Fei Bing Bing, her eyes shone at this new knowledge.

“It is the lifeblood of the universe. Everything you see is made of the essence, it is the energy of all things.”

“Wow, what does it look like, can we see it?” Bing Bing interrogated excitedly like a child.

“No you can’t,” Chàng Bo said curtly he was starting to feel irritable, he never usually had the patience for answering questions, “Only someone who is awakened can see or control essence. You aren’t awakened and you never will be in your lifetime.”

“Why?” Fei Bing Bing was aghast, to her finding out about such amazing power and realising she could never be able to experience it was akin to laying out food in front of a starving man that he couldn’t eat.

“You are mortals” Chàng Bo drank his tea, “If you don’t awaken by the age of 20 you are forever closed from that path unless you have a miracle. And miracles are hard to come across. Since you were never trained as a child that path is now closed to you.”

Fei Bing Bing slumped with disappointment, if she had found out a few years ago she might have had a chance but now there was none.

She was the only one who cared about it though, the others had more important questions.

“What is your real relation to Mao Lu, how is he involved with you. Have you put him in some kind of danger?” Zhao Detong asked, his eyes deadly, Practitioner or not if Chàng Bo had placed Mao Lu in a bad situation he wouldn’t forgive him.

Chàng Bo scoffed, Zhao Detong was a loyal friend, he was evidently outmatched yet he still barked.

“I would never hurt Mao Lu” his eyes gleamed with sincerity. “I love him” Chàng Bo’s face turned slightly pink, his heart thumping as he said those words, “He’s my…what you call a fiance. He’s the one I wish to spend my eternity with.”

It was evident from the expression on Chàng Bo’s face that he was being honest, he really appeared to be in love with Mao Lu. Zhao Detong felt relieved.

“WAIT A MINUTE!” Tanaka shrieked, “FIANCE!? SINCE WHEN, WHO PROPOSED TO WHO, WHAT?”
“Since several months ago, and proposal…Mao Lu proposed” Chàng Bo thought back to when Mao Lu had first told him about the fate companionship when they were on that date, that counted as a proposal, right?

Tanaka’s mouth was so wide a beehive could have been lodged inside. “Damn Mao Lu moves fast. When he wants something he puts a ring on it, respect.” He muttered solemnly.
Chàng Bo was confused at Tanaka’s words so he simply nodded.

“Then what is Mao Lu?” Bei Lao asked sharply, “I doubt you would be betrothed to a mortal like us.”

“Your questions are getting smarter” Chàng Bo smiled.

“Mao Lu is what you call a Gatekeeper.”

“A Gatekeeper,” they all said in surprise.

“What’s that?” Tanaka asked.

“Gatekeepers are a very secret race, they are above Practitioners like me. They rule the realms. Their powers over essence is undeniable. Where I come from I am considered a Prince and my family is considered royalty, but we are merely servants to the Gatekeeper of our Realm. Mao Lu could be called the emperor of this universe.”

They all gasped at this news.

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Alexia Barrett

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

January 2020
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