Bright lights. Flashes. The sound of swords clashing, armour pounded.
It was a battleground. A warzone.
Blood splashed onto the ground like rain. So much pain, so much suffering…
Volleys upon volleys of arrows.
A stray arrow was heading towards me.
I could feel the panic, the panic I should have felt when in this situation, run through my veins. I couldn't escape, I couldn't run.
It was heading straight towards me…
Piercing my stomach, I heard a heart-wrenching scream. I wondered what it was for only a second, before I realised it was me.
Collapsing to my knees, it took all I had to stay conscious but even then darkness was clawing at my vision.
However, through all the darkening masses, I saw two figures running towards me. I couldn't identify them, but I knew they were important…
I could hear vague shouting from them, but my hearing failed me. However, as the blackness swept in, I swear I heard them shout "Zh-!"
It was at that moment I passed out into their arms.
My head jerked up from the rest it was taking on the table to see an amused teenage girl standing there, obviously just having entered the classroom to see her history teacher dozing off.
Oh, the embarrassment.
"Tiffany, go sit down," I groused to her, only able to watch in agitation as she smirked.
"Just be grateful I'm the one who is early, Mister Z," She grinned and walked to her seat at the back. Sighing slightly, I looked at the silver watch on my wrist. My student was right; I had five minutes until the start of next lesson. The dreaded last lesson of the day.
We, as teachers, hated the last lessons. All the teens were rowdy and the ever so lucky me happened to get the fourteen and fifteen year olds. Instead of concentrating on studying for their GCSEs, like they should be doing, all of them were immature and noisy. I hate Friday last lessons. If it wasn't bad enough with eleven year olds…
My name is Jonathan Zhou-Bai. I am a teacher at Southbank International School in London, England. Let me tell you, it's no easy job. Although the place seems quite serene and normal, it really isn't. Because children from all over the world are accepted, the place is full of little brats running around. It's so bad we have to actually state on the website the place is "informal"! In my opinion, it's more like hell.
However, it's good to see such a diverse community amongst all the racist opinions in London. It's especially good for me after being a victim of racist remark all my life. I am half-Chinese, after all.
My late mother, Victoria, met my father many years ago when on a trip to China. My father at the time was studying medicine in Beijing. After meeting, the two became friends and quickly lovers. When I was born, we alternated between living in England for a few years to living in China for a few years. We mostly stayed near London or Beijing but sometimes we went to the ancestral home of the Zhou-Bai in Lujiang.
Mother died last year to unknown causes. My father and I were distraught, and no one knew the cause. Tai, my dad, decided to go back to Beijing and teach Medical Science to university students while I stayed in London to teach minors about the history of the world and Chinese.
My life was normal.
At least, I thought so.
The dreams started in 2006 on the night of my birthday.
At first, they were innocent; I was in the body of a teen being taught with another teen who called himself 'Ce'. He seemed to say a lot of things, but whenever my 'in dream' name is said, either by me or another, my hearing becomes foggy so I can't hear it or I'm thrown out of the dream entirely. The time when Tiffany Hwang, an American-Korean student in my history class, woke me up before a lesson was the closest I've ever heard the name being said. It starts with 'Zh' or its start sounds like 'Zh'. That could be Zhou-Bai, of course, but I get the feeling it isn't, since how in the dreams everything is in Chinese. Sometimes I slip up and say something English, but when I do the people around me just shake their head and say "Only –" And then my name. The name that I just can't grasp.
It was on September 23rd of 2008 that I finally had a dream that was, at first, deemed as disgusting.
It was with Ce again, and his father 'Jian' and brother 'Quan'. Starting off as simple chatter, the dream ended with a bloody battle that killed Jian and almost killed Ce. The bloodshed was… Horrifying. Although I was told I shouldn't dwell on all the pain, all the suffering, I couldn't resist and for the next year, in both the real world and my dream world, I was depressed. It was the death of Ce in 2009 that snapped me out of it. Quan took over the family, the last name of which I still didn't know, and took me as his advisor and trusted senior officer along with several others. The next few dreams after this were with trivial affairs and sometimes a bloodthirsty battle, but it was quiet.
This was the battle I'd ever gotten injured in. It was scary to even think about it. Those two figures running towards me, catching me at the last minute… While I couldn't see their facial features, their postures and voices suggested to me it was Quan and my friend and fellow political advisor 'Su'. I had no doubt when I returned to the dream world they would be fussing over me.
If I ever survived that shot to the stomach. For all I know, my dream self could have died. I would never know. Not until I fell asleep again…
At the moment though, that was impossible.
For a Friday last lesson, it was pretty quiet, I'll admit. But even so, the terrors of teenagers still prevail and I have a migraine. When I say pretty quiet, I mean as quiet as an elephant trying to chase a mouse. Not really that quiet…
I can't even bring myself to yell at them to shut up.
That's one of the reasons the students of Southbank literally love me.
I am one of the much more laid back teachers who take life like a game and just go with the flow. I hardly set any work, and I teach at a slow yet fun pace. Even if the teaching is slow, however, all the work in interlaced with each other and the students taught by me are the top in history and Chinese in the school. It often gets me unnecessary praise amongst the other teachers. Unwanted praise. They shouldn't have to praise me, after all. They should be keeping up with the pace! As it is, With my father being a Professor in Medical Science, a lot of students come to me with help for that as I can usually get the answer to their questions within seconds. They shouldn't have to do that…
Closing my eyes, I reflected on this. It was almost like the teachers in science weren't adequate… Were they even qualified? It was something if even top set science students come to me for help… The school only had four science teachers; a physics teacher, a biology teacher, a chemistry teacher and a general science teacher. A lot of the time, two of them were away at conventions and supply teachers had to come in. These teachers hardly know anything about the subject and they are just so strict and harsh towards the students. Many of us permanent teachers don't like this; our strictest like being the only ones to be strict to the children. If someone took that position, things got nasty.
As it was, the only science teacher who didn't go to conventions was the general science teacher, Tina de Riviere, a small French woman. She and the physics teacher were the only science teachers at Southbank to be somewhat friendly to anyone and everyone. Hera Chadwick is the physics teacher here. She's one of the oldest teachers, too, at fifty-three. However, she is ten years younger than the biology teacher, Aima Skliri, a Greek man who also taught Greek to those who wished to learn the language. The youngest of the science teachers, however, is a spiteful man who hates everyone, including me. His name is Nettregen Leuk and he's Dutch-German. He's very dark and ominous to everyone, but he seems to really dislike me. Hera told me it was because I was so young looking despite my age of thirty five, whereas he, at thirty, looked like he was in his forties. I simply thought it was because I was so relaxed with my students and hence my teaching, in contrast to his cruel and stern style.
It was also his students that came to me the most for help.
In my opinion, I think he only wanted the job of a teacher to rein terror over people's lives, especially helpless people's lives. After all, if any teachers or students stood up to him, he'd get us shipped out immediately. Why? Because his own father was the headmaster. They had a bond closer than anyone else in the school. It was because of that the headmaster also seemed to dislike me, but because he had no hard evidence against me, he couldn't do anything to remove me from my rightfully earned post.
I'll admit it; I smirked a little just then.
My eyes snapped open as a heard a sudden scream in the room.
The smirk was gone in seconds as I took in the stone flying towards my face.
Time seemed to slow down as my dark irises zeroed in on the projectile. It reminded me of the arrow, the arrow which had flown towards me in the dream and impaled my tender stomach…
Before I realised what I was doing, my hand shot up. One second the stone was in the air, still flying towards me and the next, it was in my tightly closed fist hovering in front of my face.
My eyes were wide as I took in what I had done.
It had happened frequently over the years. As I've gotten older, my reflexes have sharpened amazingly. However, nothing like this had happened before. I had only nanoseconds to react. How was it possible to get my hand up to my face in only nanoseconds?
I was knocked out of my confused stupor, however, with the sound of excited chatter. Looking away from my hand, I observed my student's awed faces as they whispered. One of the boys had his mouth wide open.
"But… but sir! How did you do that? What… how…?"
Opening my palm and looking at the small stone, I smirked once more.
"Skill, Tom. Skill." I told him smugly before throwing the stone up and catching it again, the smirk still on my gorgeous face.
x – x – x – x –x – x
I found out later one of my students had been throwing the stone around harmlessly, to practice his 'sleight of hand skills' and someone else had tried to hit it out of the air, but instead it had flown all the way to my desk and almost hit me, the beloved teacher. Let's just say, they were feeling very reproachful towards themselves.
Shaking my head, I calmly packed all my things into my nondescript bag; its five pm now, two hours since the students went home and I had finished all of my extra work I needed to do. All I had to do now was walk through the cold British weather to my flat in Temple, City of London. It was quite a walk away from the school, but exercise is always good for the body.
Double checking I had everything packed, though, I wondered if it was alright for someone to go walking through the backstreets of London during winter when it was dark earlier, even for an old man like me.
Old… The idea is preposterous.
I've always looked young. Not once in my life have I ever looked over twenty years old. My father had often told me how envious he was yet proud he and my mother had made the most perfect of sons.
Many people have been envious of my beautiful self.
I picked up my bag and made my way out of the classroom, my eyes not focused on anything around me. Hardly anyone would be around, now; the majority of the teachers leave at four opposed to five as they can get in the next school morning bright and early to finish the work. I, however, am not a morning person, so I like staying after school. I had nothing to do until even, anyway, so it was no inconvenience for me.
In ten minutes, I was already a quarter of my way home. Bride Lane, my street, was a little less than two miles away from the school. It was a cramped space, but it was peaceful for the most part and the neighbours were friendly.
I observed the passing scenery as I made my way through London. I always had a route when going through this crowded city. I knew the places that were gang ruled and the places that weren't. You had to be careful, especially in these days and ages. As it was, I also like going through Trafalgar Square. So, when I head out of school, I walk down the main roads where people can see you if you need help. In this case, I walk down Portland Place, Regent Street and Jermyn Street before I take to the backstreets of Haymarket and Pall Mall East which leads me straight to Trafalgar Square. I usually stay at Trafalgar for ten minutes before moving on, but due to the weather today, I think I might miss out on it…
That part of the trip usually takes around twenty minutes, depending on the traffic. I'm at Jermyn Street at the moment, though, so it should be quiet from now on… The backstreets are almost always empty during winter… It's too dark for people to see if they're about to be mugged or not. The thought has never scared me though. For some reason, I can see quite well in the dark. Not greatly, like a feline, but still good compared to other humans.
Looking to the side, at the off license shop on the Jermyn/Haymarket Junction, my attention was swept away from me at the title of a newspaper.
'NOTORIOUS GANGS BREAK OUT OF LONDON MENTAL HOSPITAL'
My eyes widened.
New gangs? This meant new areas in London previously unoccupied would be taken…
I bought the newspaper with the pound coin I had spare and made my way down Haymarket, opening the paper as I went. It was the Daily Mail, so I had a feeling it would be pretty biased…
'Capio Nightingale Hospital suffered a breakout last night of over fifty patients who belong in three different gangs. These gangs, Chinese in origin, used to wreck havoc across London twenty years ago with gang wars between each other. However, due to their claims of being reincarnates of past Chinese warriors, many of these gang members were thrown into Capio Nightingale. However, this seems to have been a mistake on the police's part.
'Doctor Thomas Jenkins from the hospital has told us how, after being thrown into the hospital, the three gangs had made a truce and collaborated to break out of the prestigious hospital. "Eventually, they did allow their gangs to combine into one big gang. They called it 'Shu Wei Wu', which they told me, meant 'Tree of Flavour Material'. They are completely crazy, and I warn people away from them."
'This gang is headed by the three notoriously crude and cruel Chinese men, Alexander Liu of the Shu gang, Isaac Cao of the Wei gang and Lucas Sun of the Wu gang. They claim themselves as the reincarnates of the famous Chinese leaders centuries ago, Liu Bei, Cao Cao and Sun Jian respectively. Each of them is amongst those that have escaped the hospital. Over a hundred gang members, however, still remain in the hospital. Doctors believe, due to the sense of loyalty within the gang, these gang members will be rescued by their fellows in the next few weeks or months, and as such they've been moved to a safer location.
'The doctors have also told us to tell you, the general public, that these gangs are cruel and will not hesitate to torture you, or even kill you, It's will this, we warn everyone to stay clear away from Shu Wei Wu and the areas they used to occupy. These areas include the West End, Soho, Mayfair, Charing Cross and Covent Garden in Westminster and Temple and Charterhouse in the City of London. Residents of these areas, please be careful and stay alert wherever you go.'
Gangs around the places I usually stay. Isn't this just perfect…?
This means I have to re-evaluate my routes, before it's too late… Maybe I should work on them tonight…
I folded the newspaper up and rammed it into my bag, a frown on my face. I was at Trafalgar Square already, my feet having automatically led me here. I wonder if this gang – Shu Wei Wu – had already started claiming their lands…
However, one thing stuck in my mind.
That name. Sun Jian. It sounded so familiar… Like the man from my dream… Wait. The man from my dream…
That family's last name… The family I have been serving…
But then, who's eyes were I seeing through during these dreams? I don't specialise in the Three Kingdoms history, so I know next to nothing about the subject… However, I could call my father later and find out from him. He'd be sure to know, and even if he didn't he had Chinese libraries all around him in Beijing.
To me, it sounded like a plan.
Smirking once again, I stepped into the junction of Charing Cross Road and Strand without checking for cars.
This was my mistake.
A sudden horn and sound of breaks made me turn me head to the left in horror, my eyes wide with fear as a car shot towards me at a speed that seemed like a bullet train. I tightly closed my eyelids, waiting for the impact of that stupid hunk of metal into my lanky frame.
There was no impact. Only the force of a body against mine, throwing me out of the path of the car.
There was screams all around me, and frantic yells… In Chinese.
"Liàng! Nǐ méishì ba? ! Nǐ wèishéme zhèyàng zuò, nǐ zhège báichī?" (Liang! Are you okay? Why did you do that, you idiot?) I heard a familiar loud voice exclaim. The person who had barrelled into me – Liang – groaned and moved to kneel beside me.
"Píng, jìde liúbèi shuō? Zhōngchéng hé tóngqíng. Nǐ zhīdào huì fāshēng shénme, rúguǒ wǒ méiyǒu zhèyàng zuò. Zhè jiāhuo yǐjīng sǐle. Wǒmen jiānchí wǒmen de yī zhǒng, hǎo ma?" (Ping, remember what Bei said? Loyalty and compassion. You know what would have happened if I hadn't done that. This guy would have died. We stick up for our kind, okay?) Liang said quietly and looked over me softly, looking for any kind of injury. "Any pain, mister?"
"Hardly our kind now, is he…" I heard a voice whisper and I could hear warning bells go off in my head.
I'd recognise that voice anywhere.
The hands hovering over me froze and I could hear the tense silence.
"How do you know my name?" I heard the angered tone and all I could think was escape. "Hey, look at me!"
I opened my eyes and looked towards my saviour and his friends.
My eyes widened dramatically, as did theirs.
"… Zhou Yu?"
My mind was made up.
Gasping lightly, I stumbled to my feet and back away from them. There was screaming from all over the place and I saw smoke coming from a crash car nearby. The car that had almost hit me.
I looked back towards the Chinese men, all of which were now staring at me in shock. There was around ten of them, and only one of me.
"Shì nǐ ma?" (Is that you?) Ce quietly muttered and I shook my head. "Dàn nǐ kàn kàn xǐhuan tā. Nǐ shì tā. Nǐ xiàng tā zhèyàng de shēngyīn." (But you look like him. You are him. You sound like him.) Ce took a step towards me and I took another step back. "Ó Yú... Gǎnxiè shàngdì, nǐ zài zhèlǐ... ... Nǐ hái huózhe... ..." (Oh Yu... Thank god, you're here... You're alive...)
"Wǒ bùshì Zhōu Yú, wǒ bù zhīdào yīgè Zhōu Yú." (I'm not Zhou Yu, I don't even know a Zhou Yu) I harshly told them, trying to look confused and fearsome at the same time.
I had no doubt it was failing miserably.
"It's definitely Zhou Yu," My head shot towards Ping who spoke in a whisper.
At that moment, someone's mobile went off.
My dark orbs narrowed in on Ce who fumbled with his pants, looking for the blasted device. Maybe I should run…
After all, I had already figured out who these guys were. How many guys was there that spoke with names from only history and still have Sun in the name?
These guys were from the Shu Wei Wu gang.
"Father?" Ce finally answered the phone, his eyes still on me.
Why must they stare?
I could hear Jian's voice – No, Lucas… - through the phone, it was so loud.
"Ce, where are you?"
"We're at Charing Cross,"
"We'll be there in a moment to pick you boys up."
The phone cut off and finally Ce looked away.
"Sorry about this Zhou Yu," Ce smiled sheepishly. "Father is still protective over me, as you should know,"
They seemed to have let their guards down…
Ce looked towards Liang, a relieved and joyful smile on his lips.
It was then I made my move.
Turning around swiftly, I ran down Strand like my life depended on it. I could hear the surprised gasps and sudden yells from my pursuers as they made their way behind me.
All I could do was run.
I was running for over fifteen minutes when I felt safe enough to stop. I had lost them a while back, after twining myself within the walls of London. I had an advantage; they had forgotten the layout of London. I have not.
I bent double and tried to get my breath on Whitefriars Street. It was a small street off Fleet Street which was near to my home. In front of me was a familiar restaurant I had told my colleagues I'd be at later for a meal. It was Japanese, and a hit within the teaching ranks at Southbank. We'd even recommended the place to students. Of course, we told them to avoid the pub across the road.
I knew the owner of the shop personally. Hirokou Takeshi. I'm sure he'll give me safe haven for a few hours until my colleagues get there at seven and then I can go home with one of them…
With this in mind and an exhausted look on my face, I made my way into the familiar place.
It was minutes later, while talking to Takeshi, did I realise I'd lost my bag.