The Immortal Realm
Jue Di sat upon the throne within the Heavenly Court, lost in quiet contemplation.
“Chi Bupang, what are you thinking about?” Luo Xianni sat by his side, plucking grapes from a bunch in her hand and lazily popping them into her mouth.
Jue Di cast her an irritated glance. “I am Jade Emperor, master of the immortal realm. Can we not use my real name?”
She answered his onerous request with a snort. “Well hello there Master No-one. There’s only a handful of us in this place. The Keeper and Bookworm have returned to Skyfire Avenue to continue their research since they weren’t at all interested in staying here. Li Ke and the Pharmacist, that sweet couple, never come our way. Bize and Aubert are growing grapes, and if they’re successful will create a wine without equal in all the universe. Sadly it loses its taste without the addition of immortal qi. If that wasn’t the case they’d be millionaires in the East. So to put it bluntly, about the only person you can boss around is me so I don’t know who you’re trying to impress, Your Majesty!”
Jue Di scowled. “Those sons of… they pile everything on my shoulders and just run off. I’m tired of this crap.”
Luo Xianni chortled back at him. “Everyone has their own aims, just like us no? With the Pharmacist here at least there’s enough faith flowing through that the realm is stable. What do you need to fret over? Now you behave yourself, you’re almost a Golden immortal already and you’re thinking of leaving? If you think you can go on then! I won’t stop you.”
“You! You’ll be the death of me, woman!”
Luo Xianni just shrugged. “I think it’d be pretty absurd if I could irritate a god to death, I’d like to see it happen. Should we give it a try?”
He denied her the pleasure with a dramatic ‘harumph’ and proudly shot to his feet. “I was thinking that with how slow time passes here those boys should have visited at least once already. Ahh, idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Perhaps we should have a child of our own to keep us busy, at leasr you won’t be lonely. What do you think?”
Luo Xianni was suddenly bashful. “This is no good… not at our age.”
“Time doesn’t pass in the heavens,” Jue Di said with serious countenance. “Besides, you said yourself that you’re the only one here I can boss around. There’s no escape, heh heh!”
Planet Skyfire, Skyfire City, Skyfire Avenue.
This famous lane didn’t permit any vehicles or any robots to cross it, much less mecha. Even the patrolling police must patrol on foot, the most ancient of methods. That’s because this is a street for pedestrians, a lane for nobles, hidden away within this high technology world.
Fresh yet uniform stones covered this 2048 meter long lane. The buildings on each side of the lane were of completely different types, but every single building had its own unique aspects and history. There was ancient French gothic-style pointed buildings, the sprawling and majestic jade-carved buildings of ancient China, and were even Roman-style buildings.
This street, which seemingly had no high technology present, was set within the most central, most developed area within Skyfire City. Supposedly, here, every single square meter of earth was worth as much as one of the newest, top-tier Michaely P12-class high atmosphere hovercar.
Three years had passed since the disaster. Things were back to normal and humanity had prospered, free from alien threat. The dark days were behind them.
After the battle was done Lan Qing – The East’s super soldier, the youngest admiral in history, backbone of the Eastern army, Peerless Light emperor of Middle Heaven and commander of An Lun – announced his retirement. However, he was sure to let everyone know that he would not be leaving the Eastern Alliance. If he was ever needed he would appear. He also mentioned he would be looking for a spouse.
I didn’t take long for the news to spread, and soon woman all throughout the human worlds – as young as eight and as old as eighty – were expressing their desire to be Mrs. Lan Qing. The lucky girl was never publicly revealed.
The ones known as the Middle Heaven Great Emperor of the North Pole Star of Purple Subtlety, Guanyin the Queen of Mercy, and the Pharmacist later known as Queen Yama, vanished from the public eye. Legends claimed they still used their powers to protect humanity.
As many anticipated, Skyfire Avenue became the strongest Adept organization in all the Alliances. The Wine Master continued to serve as chairman of the council, though it was only the others councilors who knew that he cursed the post every day. He was constantly heard to mutter his displeasure about how a certain someone was shirking their responsibilities.
In the North, master of the Hades bloodline Chu Chng took up the position vacated by the late Terminator as leader of the Great Conclave. The North remained as the largest Alliance, though two thirds of those planets that had once belonged to the West chose to join the Eastern Alliance. The ones that chose the North were those that were nearest to its borders. Angel and its sister planets, of course, decided to join with the East.
Over the three years these seven planets had recovered well. Only one system of faith prevailed through the whole system, loyal to the Goddess of Mercy Guanyin. As far as they were concerned she was the only one responsible for pulling them back from the brink of extinction.
The East’s total power and influence grew significantly after the conflict. Poseidon Group officially announced that they would be basing their operation out of the Eastern Alliance. Their family would continue operate out of their home planet. The East was more than happy to accept.
Poseidon Group retained its title as the richest organization in all of human space, although they kept a low profile after the human-alien war. More surprising, after the fighting was done the group agreed to hand over control of their sole bastion to the Eastern army.
The Eastern armed forces still controlled far fewer than the North, and likely would never be able to compete on that front. However, the two bastions universally accepted as the strongest in human space were under their command.
The North had spent the last three years restoring order to the people. Because the East had enjoyed unity through the crisis it was able to prosper more quickly, ultimately catching up to the North.
Right now it was spring. Cool winds blew down the Avenue and rattled shuttered shop windows.
A young girl, perhaps ten, wandered down the lane clad in a pretty white dress. Her hair was pulled into a simple pony tail and though young she was as pretty as the mythical faeries of old. She was destined to be a beautiful woman when she grew up.
She wasn’t alone. Two young boys walked with her on either side.
The child on her left looked just barely old enough to walk on his own. The one on her right was a little older. They were perhaps three and four, respectively.
“Sister Jun’er, I’m hungry!” The boy on the right complained. He looked up at her and pouted.
“I know! We’re on our way to the Gourmet’s house to have a meal. Uncle said he was going to cook us something nice today.” Jun’er said, placating the child.
He swallowed a mouthful of saliva in anticipation. “Great! I want some chocolate!”
Jun’er crinkled her cute little nose and shook her head. “If you eat too much chocolate you’ll rot your teeth. Daddy spoils you, he lets you do whatever you want. When you’re with me you have to do what I say.”
The young boy was strangely compliant. “Okay – I’ll listen to sister Jun’er. But see how good I am? You have to promise to marry me!”
“Absolutely not,” Jun’er replied. “I already have a fiancé. I can’t agree to marry you. Any you’re only four years old. Do you even know what it means to get married?”
The young boy refused to give in. “Of course I know, it means two people stay together forever. Daddy told me once, he said if I like a girl I have to bravely go after her. He said going after what you want is half the battle. The girl I like the most is sister Jun’er, and I want to make you my wife. Say you’ll marry me, Jun’er.”
She snipped back at him. “No, of course not. We have the same daddy, how can we get married? That’s wrong.”
The child petulantly pursed his lips. “An adopted daddy and a real daddy are different. What do think I’m still a baby? Your fiancé is daddy’s real son.”
As the young boy spoke he flashed a jealous glance at the boy on her left, who was also carefully picking his way along the road by their side.
The other boy gave a fierce look back. He pressed himself against Jun’er and flung his arms around leg. “Sister, give me a hug!”
She did as he asked and wrapped him in an embrace. “Don’t be scared, Lan Zhou. I’ll protect you. I won’t let anyone bully you.”
The boy on the right kicked up an even louder fuss. “That’s not fair, sister, you like him better!”
Jun’er stared at him with her dim eyes. “What’s unfair? He’s my fiancé, I’m going to marry him when we get older. Of course I’m going to treat my husband differently. Isn’t daddy nicer to you? Let me tell you, Hua Yun, if you keep teasing Lan Zhou I’m not going to play with you anymore.”
“Me!” He whined. “He’s so small, how can he be your fiancé? Even mommy and daddy say you’re too old for him.”
Jun’er paid him no mind. “Age isn’t a problem. You’re still a kid, you don’t understand. Anyway you should be glad, when I was your age I wasn’t even allowed to leave my house. I spent every day lonely by myself. You get to stay on Skyfire Avenue and everyone treats you so well. What do you have to complain about?”
There was a flash recall behind her eyes when she said it. She remembered those days clearly, when she was lonely, all by herself. Then that warm voice had appeared.
Daddy, for me to be your real daughter I just have to marry your son. Right?
Lan Zhou happily snuggled against her, perfectly content. He puckered his lips and planted tiny kisses on her cheek. As she held him he began to get drowsy.
Hua Yun looked at Jun’er and then at Lan Zhou. He huffed in irritation. “I’m gunna get strong, you’ll see. One day I’ll steal you away and make you my wife!”
“Ow! Why’d you hit me in the head?!”
“Stop daydreaming! Do you want to go eat at Uncle Gourmet’s or do you want to marry me?”
“I… I wanna eat! I’m so hungry, let’ hurry.”
On a humble street there sat a set of storefronts.
On this early morning the doors were pushed open and a men issued forth. He pulled up the metal grating to protect against theft and set up his display.
The showcase was stocked with decorations for advertisement. Most of them were carvings made out of olive pits, simple artistic pieces.
They weren’t exquisite works of art and the store itself was nothing special. On this small and narrow street it hardly inspired a second glance.
The tall man settled on a stool by the front door with a smile on his face. His eyes settled on the store across the street.
A gentle fragrance wafted over from the shop. Over its door was a board upon which was written ‘Brimstone Bao Zi Shop.’ It was evident by the state of the shop that business wasn’t booming.
The door opened and a silver-haired women exited with a table she set up outside. She flicked her wrist and cast a cigarette across the street.
The large man caught it out of the air and placed it in his mouth. He lit it with a lighter in his right hand.
The silver haired woman produced another cigarette which she kept for herself. But in a blink the stick disappeared.
“What are you doing?” The silver-haired woman complained to the man.
He smirked at her. “Smoking too much is bad for a woman.”
She snorted derisively at him, spun on her heels, and disappeared into her shop. She came back out a few minutes later bearing a tray.
Six bao zi [1. These are delicious steamed buns with fillings. You can get them with all kinds of stuff inside, from porn to red beans. I used to eat them so much my bao zi guy would have a pack ready when I swung by after classes.] were arrayed on the plate. They didn’t look too appetizing with their yellowed skin. There was also a bowl of congee, two eggs and a small dish of pickles. [2. Xian Cai – salted pickled veggies. I hate it but my wife goes wild for the stuff. All of this is a very traditional Chinese breakfast.]
With a pleased look in his eye the man placed himself on a stool by the table she set out and dug into the meal. He ate like it was the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted.
The silver haired woman stood by his side with a napkin in her hand. She quietly watched him eat.
“I hear you have a nickname, ‘Everyone’s Favorite Husband.’ I told everyone you were mine, but no one believed me. What should I do?”
“Pugh!” Congee spewed all over the table.
Northern Alliance. The Great Conclave.
His coal-black suit set off the young man’s fiery red hair. Chu Cheng frowned as he mulled over several pieces of business held in his hands. The Conclave was a large and influential organization, and there was much that required his direct input. Often he was busy from morning to night.
Knock knock! Someone rapped their knuckles against the door.
“Didn’t I say I wasn’t holding audiences today?” Chu Cheng answered impatiently.
“Mr. Big Shot! I can’t come say hello?” The door swung open and someone entered.
When he saw her, Chu Cheng’s sharp glare turned to shock.
She wore leather thigh-high boots that covered most of her legs, leaving only a few inches of lily-white flesh visible between their tops and the bottom of her leather short-shorts. Her torso was hugged by a tight fitting vest that left her arms bare and dipped low in the front.
“Lina Lee. What are you doing here?” It was none other than the Vampire Princess who had disturbed his work.
Lina shrugged. “No reason. I thought I’d come and find something fun to do. Take me out to a nightclub or something.”
Chu Cheng’s face fell. “Can’t you see I’m busy? Does the Dark Citadel’s Succubus know you’re here?”
Lina responded flippantly. “Her Majesty the Queen and I get along wonderfully. What does she care? I’m not here to stir up trouble. Besides, she’s busy with her immanent breakthrough and doesn’t have time to worry about what I’m up to. Ugh, ever since we established the Citadel on Skyfire it’s been a total bore. There’s no chaos you know? But the Queen insists on it, and she likes to dress up and play shopkeeper with those two friends of hers. I need to get out and have some fun from time to time!”
Chu Cheng sniffed. “I’m busy, I don’t have time for you either. Feel free to go stag.”
In a few swings of her long legs Lina was in front of him. She fixed him with her smoldering eyes, full of dark promise. “You really don’t have time for me? I was gunna let you do whatever you wanted.”
Chu Cheng squared his shoulder and adopted a righteous air. “What kind of man do you take me for?” He shot to his feet and declared: “Of course I have time!”
Waves of crystalline blue rippled through the area. Down in these depths, the Poseidon bloodline was the uncontested master of the world.
Two men stood shoulder to shoulder, watching the lights play through the ripples. They looked remarkably similar in appearance, most of the differences due to age.
The older man sighed. “Are you sure you don’t want to gout and have a look? Even if we don’t tell anyone you’re still alive?”
The younger man shook his head. “That’s all done, now. I’ve done all I needed to do. The rest of my days belong to her. The Heart of Poseidon brought me back but it can’t bring back what I’ve decided to let go.”
He turned and looked at the beautiful woman, frozen in time within an icy coffin.
Eastern Alliance. National Eastern University.
An antique bicycle trundled along the road toward the university gates. It stopped a dozen or feet back and a man in a meticulously tailored suit hopped off. He pushed the bike the rest of the way.
He looked exceedingly normal except for his fine clothes. He was around thirty, with black frame glasses perched on the bridge of his nose [3. This is Tang Jia San Shao. Writers tend to put themselves in their works.]. As he entered the school and pushed his bike down the lanes, he was occasionally greeted by passing students.
After a little while he hopped back up on his bike and made his way toward the university’s electives building. When he arrived he dismounted and placed the bike thoughtlessly to one side. He didn’t enter the offices and instead made his way to one of the lecture halls. He was a little late today, and if he didn’t hurry he feared me might be tardy for the start of class.
He pushed open the doors to a pitched lecture theatre and was met by a full house. Everyone’s eyes swung his way.
“Good morning, Professor!” [4. Traditional start to every class, depending on how strict the teacher is. Everyone rises and greets the teacher then are told to sit. In university we did this at the start of every semester, but were usually told by the teacher that it wasn’t necessary.]
“Hello everyone, please sit.” The young instructor took up his position behind the podium and smiled at everyone.
“We have an interesting class planned for today. If I recall, last time I told you that I would be handling lunch today. I see we have quite a few students who brought their appetite! I’m not sure to make of your unusually eager participation.”
A student quipped. “What’s on the menu, Professor Lei Feng?”
Lei Feng smirked. “Ma La Tang, spicy soup. I don’t know if anyone here is familiar with the dish. For today’s Etiquette class we’re going to learn what real Ma La Tang tastes like. That will be our lunch.”
A fiery woman – clearly not a student – sat in a far corner. She was dressed in smart black business attire and also wore black-rimmed glasses. A strange expression flitted across her face and she muttered: “Lei Feng!” She said it with a wry grin as she thought back to a time not long ago…