Coming out of the portal, I found myself in front of a mansion. The mansion in question wasn’t big, but it wasn’t small either. It had that old Asian look that gave it a pleasing foreign experience to my eyes. Made of wood with red paint and black tiled roof.
At the front of the big gate that marked the entrance, there was a big sign that used calligraphy to identify the owners. Unfortunately for me, even if Mobius was still around my neck as we had not gone through learning the Chinese language, I would still be clueless as to what that sign said.
A second later, Marcus came through the portal. Turning to him immediately, I spoke. “ I am assuming you can speak Chinese if you so readily know and visit this place? ”
“ Umm, not exactly. ” He coughed but replied. “ I know enough about it here and there, but they can speak English, so don’t worry. ”
“ I see. So where are we and to whom are you taking me? ”
“ This is the residence of the Long clan. ” He said. “ They are one of the oldest clans and still they are a long way from what they used to be. Remember, that being a cultivator is taking the path of tribulations in the current World. Because of that, it’s hard for them to rise to the glory they once used to have. The person we are about to meet is Long Meixiang. She is the current head of the clan and one of the few that have achieved the 7 rank. The name of that stage once translated is Bodily Integration or something along those lines. ”
“ Oh, isn’t that the stage where you guys create your mana network? ” I said. “ Interesting how the paths coincide and the similarities in the stages. Anyway, why are you so intent on including her? ”
“ You’ll see. Lets go. ” He replied and took the lead towards that mansion. Once we were near the gate and the guards, a badge appeared in his hand and we were let inside without even a question.
“ So, seeing how readily they let you in with that thing, is it right to assume that you visit her often? ” I ask him in my curiosity.
“ Not as often as you imagine, but I visit at least once a year. ” Said Marcus as we walked through the entryway and the garden it employed. “ I probably should mention that Cultivators have a longer lifespan than normal people so I knew Miss Mei for quite a long time. In fact, her grandfather had taken part in the Great War before the Divide was in place and during that time our ancestors met and became friends. Over the time, both our families grew apart since that bond was not as strong anymore and I met Miss Mei when I was 10. Out of our long friendship, her family came to witness my initiation as, umm I had been called a genius from a young age. She was a young girl too, although still older than me. Seeing her that first time left an impression, so when I became older, I tried my best to keep that friendship going. ”
“ You know, the way you explain that, it sounds a lot like love at first sight. ” I gave him my opinion. “ I hope that it’s not just hormones that are talking. ”
“ Please, Mira. I have no such feelings for her. ” Denied Marcus. “ I may admit that I had at some point, but that is long gone. No, what I have now is respect for her. ”
“ Respect? ” Now that I did not expect. “ So what part of her do you respect? Tell me, as it may sway my decision. ”
“ Ugh, you’ll notice it once you have spoken to her. ” Was all he replied with.
Soon we reached the main housing area and a few people were waiting for us there. One man and two women. They wore modern clothes with a design that made me think of the servants I saw in some movies depicting ancient China.
Once we were in front of them, the man gave a slight bow and spoke in English, of course. “ Mr. Vyllt, although your visit is unexpected, it is good to see you. May I assume that your visit this time alongside your associate is of a business nature, instead of private? ”
“ A bit of both, but business is the major reason. ” Replied Marcus.
The servant nodded and spoke. “ Then I am afraid I will have to disappoint you, as the Mistress is not currently available. ”
“ Oh, why? Is she not here? If so, when can I expect her to return? ” Asked Marcus with a slight disappointment in his voice.
“ I am afraid I can not say. The mistress has been away for quite a few days. All I can tell you that a few days ago she received an important visit and had to visit the Mortal plane. ” Replied the servant.
` Mortal plane? Really? Sigh, they sure know to spruce the World in interesting ways. `
“ I see. I am not wrong in assuming you don’t know where, either? ” The servant shook his head to confirm it.
“ Sigh, fine Plan B it is then. ” With that said, Marcus took out his phone.
Seeing that I had no choice but to comment. “ Are you sure there are no embers somewhere hidden that spurred your actions? You know you could have called first, right? ”
Hearing me, Marcus glared at me for a second and taped his phone. Placing the phone beside his ear, it rang for a few times before the call was answered. I could hear a gentle voice from the phone. Thanks to being near him and my Sphere still active, I could hear her without a problem. “ Marcus, it’s so nice of you to call, but explain your reason for the call, as I am quite busy as is. ”
“ Haha, it’s nice to hear your voice too, Mei. As for the call, it’s simple. I am here at your house and I was told you were not at home, so I am calling to acquire your current location. ” Marcus said.
“ My location? Are you that intent on meeting me? Is there something important that needs to be discussed? ” Came a flurry of questions back at him.
“ Well, yes, but it can be left for a later date if it’s cumbersome right now. So what do you think? ” Asked Marcus again.
With a slight pause, as if thinking about it, the answer came. “ Hmm, ok I will tell you my coordinates so you can come. Hear me out first. Although I doubt it would affect someone of your Power but just in case, prepare a biohazard spell. ”
“ B, b, biohazard? ” Stunned by what he heard, he barely let out his thoughts. ” I didn’t hear it incorrectly did I? You just said biohazard? ”
“ Yes, I am in a declared biohazard area right now. Everything else is normal but prepare for it just in case. ” I heard Miss Mei say.
“ Umm, can I hear more about it, before I jump into a situation like that? ” Asked Marcus.
“ I will tell you if you decide to come, and not over the phone. ” She replied.
“ Umm, hearing biohazard does straighten up my priorities, but wait a second? ” This time Marcus turned to me. “ You won’t have any problems, I hope? ”
Shaking my head, I replied. “ As long as it’s breathable, I don’t think so. ”
Nodding his head, he turned his attention to the phone and the women on the other end of it. “ Ok, I will come, but just in case, let me ask again. All I have to prepare for is a biohazard spell and nothing else? ”
“ Yes. ” Was the answer. “ Ok, send me the coordinates. ” With that he stopped the call and a few seconds later they arrived too.
“ Ok, I got them. You sure about this. You are new to your powers and probably don’t know how they will react to it? ” Turning to me he asked me.
“ Dont worry about me, although before we go, let me do something first. ” With that I vanished to them and came to the Dreamscape, specifically in the gate room. Behind the gate room I made a small room in which I stored my stuff for now. Once there, I changed my gender back to male and switched my clothes to the male version too. Done with it, I appeared in front of Marcus again.
“ Even if there are no embers hidden somewhere, best I don’t make sparks appear either. ” I said to him with a smile. This was the first time I appeared to him in this original form.
“ Oh, ok, this is a bit weird, seeing that face all of a sudden, but one thing stands out in my perception. ” He said. “ The contrast in your forms is quite big. I mean, before you appeared to be a goddess and now you kind of look mediocre. At least if compared. ”
“ Haha. ” I laughed at that comment. “ That’s because this is my original look, as for the female version. That one I have based on my little sister and how she would look once she grows up. ”
“ Little sister? You say. ” Hearing that, I gave him a glare alongside a warning, since they would meet in the future. “ Don’t even think about it. ”
Hearing I meant what I said, he just nodded and generated a portal for us. Again I was the first to go through, although this time there was no ladies first gesture from him. Once I passed it, I arrived in a small garden area with trees and a small lake with fish inside it, yet it was not the area that piqued my interest. No, it was the women that stood in front of me.
While she too wore old style clothes, these were modern and simple versions that would allow for ease of movement. At least compared to some that I have seen in movies. This Miss Mei looked quite young, between 25 and 30. She had a bit of a pale complexion because of the black hair that gave that impression. The hair was braided on the side and tied into something like a topknot on top, with hair flowing off it like a waterfall. All in all, with the black eyes and a cute face, she portrayed a gentle demeanor. Yet still, all that portrayed was the physical side of things and the only thing it explained was why Marcus had a more mellow approach for my female form and nothing else.
On the other side of things was what my Sphere was telling me. One peculiarity of the portal that Marcus generated was that it cut my perception of the other side it connected to. So the moment I arrived at the destination the half powered Sphere instantly jumped to a 30 meter radius to tell me of the surroundings. It was at that moment that I noticed her.
To me she glowed like a beacon in the World. Like that, we stared at each other for a few seconds before Marcus came through and that contact broke. Immediately, the glow subsided and concentrated around her form. Once she was done, I barely noticed it there without paying attention to it, at least.
“ Mei, you look stunning, as usual. ” Said Marcus as he walked up to her to give her a hug, all while ignoring that their culture probably never did that.
` I have heard and read that one usually keeps one’s distance if men and women of standing are involved. Anyway, I am guessing since he’s a mana user he can’t notice her aura at all or he can but is ignoring it. Still, this is the first time I have noticed something like this. `
“ Thank you, Marcus. ” She replied once their greeting was over. The hug gave her time to compose herself as she went on. “ Although you should have said you’d be bringing somebody along, much less if that someone is a Cultivator. ” This time she turned to me. “ And said Cultivator should follow proper Social standards and stop using Divine Sense like he is currently. ”
“ Haha. ” Laughing a bit, I reply. “ I am sorry if my Social standards are not up to code but as I am neither a cultivator nor a member of your Society, I will not oblige to your obligations. ”
Hearing my reply, she narrowed her gorgeous black eyes, and this time her aura spiked. No longer hiding it, it examined me as best as possible but aside from the natural skin tight barrier I had around my body, nothing else could be examined. Noticing her attention on me, Marcus said nothing.
Seconds later, her aura retreated, and she spoke. “ I am unsure as to why you deny yourself being a Cultivator since you can use Divine Sense. Even if it was of a unique form compared to what I have met so far, since you have come to my country, you should follow the proper decorum. ”
Ignoring the fact that she also used it before I came through, I follow her advice. Retracting my Sphere I address her. “ Since you are the person Marcus has brought me to, I will follow your advice for now, there. Let me introduce myself as well. I am Mir and if Marcus’s idea works soon, we will be business partners. ”
Blinking at that declaration, she looked at Marcus and shook her head. “ We can talk about that later. First, we should talk about the situation here. ”
“ Of course, Mei. Do tell us what is going on. ” Replied Marcus. Motioning with her hand, we follow her.
“ About a week ago a bio hazard was declared in Wuhan in which we find ourselves in. ” She explained. “ From what I know, for some time now, there was a rumor that there was a hidden abode that was discovered near here. It probably belongs to a cultivator of old. Not that it matters who it belonged to. No, what matters is that it was found and explored. A few treasures here and there were found, but that was all. It wasn’t after people started getting sick that a problem was discovered. Due to the incubation period for the sickness it was noticed too late and has since spread to the entire city. ”
“ Oh, that sounds terrible. What are the symptoms and what is the current death toll? ” Asked Marcus?
“ The death toll is not as big as was assumed at first because of the fast response from the government but they are rising and the worst part is that they are having a hard time to estimate how far it has spread. ” Explained Miss Mei. “ Already quarantines are being established in the nearest cities to isolate all the people that had visited this one in the past, but I am afraid that it’s too late, anyway. ”
“ Why do you say that, Miss Mei? ” This time it was me that asked.
She glanced at me as I asked, but answered. “ When all this came to my attention first and my expertise was required, I agreed immediately and after examining the site of the origin it was quite clear to me that the origin of this disease is malicious in nature. ”
“ Oh. ” Came from both Marcus’s and mine mouths.
“ Hmm, that forebodes a few things. ” I said. “ But I hope you don’t mind me asking this, Miss Mei. But Marcus never told me why he wants me to make you an offer. What is your expertise that he thinks I might need aside from you being a high level Cultivator? ”
“ I study Medicine, Mr. Mir. ” Was what came out of her mouth but a second later Marcus added to it. “ No need to humble yourself, Mei. You see Mir, Mei here is the foremost expert when it comes to the interactions of Power and Medicine for the human body. Whether Magical, or mundane, she has studied both the Western and Eastern version of Medicine alongside everything else. ”
Shaking her head, Miss Mei spoke. “ Marcus, you are exaggerating it. ” Stopping there, she gave a glance at me “ I am not sure about your offer, but it’s true that I have studied medicine to quite a high degree. It is also the reason as to why I have been called here. The disease is not of a mortal origin. It functions by eating the Qi in people. Once it has spread enough, it goes for the lungs. It causes coughing in the patient and that way it spreads itself alongside a plethora of other problems it causes in the body. Which makes it an airborne disease and if it goes on for long enough, the patient will die of lung failure if something else had not killed them before. ”
“ I see. Aside from the nature of the disease, how sure are you about the involvement of nefarious intentions. ” I ask her. Hearing my question, she stopped walking and looked at me harder as if to infer my reason for asking this.
“ Everybody that has examined the events, and the aftermath came to the same conclusion. The reason is simple. The more Qi a person has in their body, the faster it spreads. ” She told us, but then added on. “ And if one considers the fact that the Chinese people have the greater capacities for Qi then anybody else, it makes sense that the disease was spread here first. ”
Blinking at that revelation, I spoke. “ I am a bit confused here. As far as I know, the Qi and what I call Life Essence is the same thing. Considering my experience so far, I have come to the conclusion that the generation of Life Essence or Qi is the same amongst all Humans. So why do you say that your people have a greater amount of Qi than anybody else? ” Saying that I looked at both of them to give me the answer I seek.
“ Don’t look at me. Mei here is the expert, it’s the reason as to why I brought you to her and the reason why I want her to join us. ” Marcus said and looked at Mei to explain it.
Glancing between us for a second, he spoke. “ The reason is simple and yet complex. Why I say it's simple, it is because it’s similar to the Magical bloodlines in the West where it can be passed. The Meridians that only we of the Asian descent have are the reason. While the generated amount of Qi is similar to every human, because of the Meridians, the efficiency at which it is collected and stored is greater. ”
“ Ah, that explains it, then. ” Finally noticing what she meant. “ Indeed, that explains the physical differences of Humans in the West and East. You know, Marcus, that was easy to explain why you said nothing about it beforehand I don’t understand. Or could it be you wanted a situation like this to happen in the first place? ”
“ Yes, ” Was all that came from him. “ Sigh, I would have found that out the first time I placed a foot into China, you know. So why was it important that I hear this from her? ” I asked him.
“ Maybe, maybe not. Do remember that while the Meridians can be passed on, due to the enormous population they possess, the bloodlines for them have been diluted among the general population. ” He explained his reasoning. “ And let’s not mention that Mei is much more informed about that subject than anybody I know. I am sure you won’t complain about it in the future. ”
` True, but best I say nothing on that subject. Still, something has been grating on my mind the moment Miss Mei said that the disease eats Life Essence. Hmm, wait a second! `
“ Miss Mei, please confirm something for me again. ” Once I said that she nodded. “ You said the disease eats Qi? ” Again she nodded. “ Since your people have more Qi than anybody else, it’s natural for a disease like that to be targeting your people? ” Again she nodded. “ Does that mean that even though the Meridians are more efficient in gathering Qi, all that Qi is still stored in the Soul and not something else? Am I right? ”
“ Yes, but that is only for those uninitiated in the usage of Qi, since we store our Qi in the Dantian. ” That said, she pointed at her stomach.
“ By uninitiated you mean the general population, though? ” Nodding to that I finally had my answer, and they immediately saw on my face that I didn’t like it one bit.
“ What did you ask all that for? ” Asked me Marcus.
“ Marcus, remember when I told you about the relation of the Soul with the Heaven/Hell factions. ” He nodded. “ Then also remember who will stand to gain the most if an enormous amount of the population is culled and harvested for said Souls? ”
“ Oh. ” Was all that came from him, but Miss Mei had a confused face. I could see she followed my and his thoughts to a degree, but without the general knowledge of Soul and my situation, she could not envision what we have.
“ Ha. ” I could only sigh when it all came to me. “ Whether this was all done by nefarious intentions no longer matters. It seems, I was doomed to be involved. ”
“ Come, let’s go, stem the worst-case scenario. ” I said to both of them, but Marcus spoke first.
“ Mir, what is your best-case scenario? ” He asked.
Looking at him, I told him. “ The worst-case scenario is that we fail and lots of people die. The best-case scenario is that even if we fail, and the people still die, the Souls do not go towards Heaven/Hell but somewhere else. ”
“ Wait, Mir. Are you saying they should go to your Realm? ” Hearing Marcus mention Realm, Miss Mei’s attention snapped at me, but I shook my head.
“ No, I have little use for the Soul and even if the Life Essence is useful for me, there is a different place that has not been getting its tithe for quite a long time. ” With that said I gave him a smirk and with my right hand pointed down.