MASTERNEVER AND THE FLOW OF DEATH

A young master in Chinatown, New York City, goes on a quest to add his style to an ancient legacy known as the Neverending Masters.

Art by Ed Watson @edWatsonart

Chapter 1 — Bullets in Chinatown

There is a block in Chinatown, were people get got. Word on the street is, that if you happened to get found on this street, at the wrong hour, someone might get at you. No matter who you are.

Away from the Canal street hustlers, pork dumplings, bootleg DVDs and the gentrifiers, blocks away from everything that felt like Manhattan, this is a street where children don’t venture. This is the place where men and women are carried into tunnels during twilight hours, and never heard from again.
This is the street where silhouetted characters sit in doorways, smoking something other than cigarettes. This is the block without streetlights. Here, even though spring is in the air, there always seems to be men in trench coats, who dip into shadows.

It’s on this very street, at a restaurant that is only open to private customers, that Mr. Lo is expected. As a black luxury sedan turns the corner, Mr. Lo sits with his head on his hand, leaning against the armrest. Mr. Lo is somewhere in his late 50s, with a face that doesn’t really age. You could say it’s an Asian thing, but whatever.

The driver announces that they’re nearing the restaurant. Mr. Lo sighs and runs his hands through his mane, managing a few grey streaks. He brushes some crumbs off his silk shirt. It’s the third time he’s worn this black designer suit. It’s the same color as his armed bodyguard, but his threads are something from Paris and probably the equivalent of your salary.
Mr. Lo’s plane landed two hours ago. Since that time, he’s replayed conversations with family bosses.

“Go here… Do this… Take care of this… Why isn’t this done?”
Truthfully, those conversations have been on repeat for the last several years, ever he realized that he’s plateaued. Despite his efficiency and loyalty, he wasn’t a blood member of the Jai family.

Now he’s is in New York City and he’s here to clean up Tony Jai’s mess — again. This is the same Tony, the spoiled punk, who’s abused his family’s power and was frequently in trouble with the law. Tony’s father, Mr. Lo or other Jai family member was always there to bribe police officers, prosecutors, judges and if that didn’t work, they got real Corleone on people, making offers that could not be refused.

Three black sedans, full of goons, stop in front of the restaurant that has large dingy tinted windows and a wooden dragon, with a broken tail, hanging over the entrance door.

Mr. Lo’s bodyguards, exit the vehicle first and survey the area. At that very moment, Tony Jai appears at the entrance of the restaurant. Tony smiles.
Despite how much work Mr. Lo has put in, his dedication and the number of family businesses ventures Tony had ruined — Mr. Lo knew he would eventually take orders from him. This plagued Mr. Lo. He was unsure of his future. He had squandered his earnings on side business ventures and expensive clothing. Truthfully, he knew that he was running out of time. Soon he’d be useless. Tony’s smile and his confidence, it was Mr. Lo’s demise.

Mr. Lo and his men frequently speak Cantonese amongst themselves as they did on the streets of Hong Kong and at times, they went back to their Hong Kong Chinglish. For this build, I will provide their conversations in a language that you can understand.A stocky guard with a bald head pokes his head inside of the car.

“Mr. Lo. We’re ready sir.”
Mr. Lo does not answer.

The guard repeats himself.“Mr. Lo.”
Mr. Lo gets out of his thoughts and exits the vehicle. Tony’s confidence slightly recedes as Mr. Lo emerges and walks towards him. He knows that Mr. Lo still has clout in the family, even though he is not blood. He’s one of the old guard and, more importantly, he’s a friend of his father.

A bad report from Mr. Lo can cause him discomfort. His father always found ways, perhaps withholding his allowance or another form of humiliation. In Tony’s mind, he was going to get this visit over with as soon as possible. He’d escort Mr. Lo around town over the next few days and then make sure that Mr. Lo’s dusty ass was on the first Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong.

Tony extends his hand to shake. He withdraws upon seeing Mr. Lo’s scowl.
“Big brother. I’m glad you’re here. Your input will be valuable. I’ve taken the time to — “

“Save it, Tony. You know that I don’t want to be here. I’m here because of your recklessness. And now, the loss of, Mr. Shi, to this — place. I don’t know what is going on, but it smells.” says Mr. Lo. “You don’t understand.“

Mr. Lo pushes Tony’s shoulder aside. He and his crew enter the dark corridor of the restaurant, which was vaguely illuminated by lamps disguised and lanterns. Mr. Lo is halfway greeted by Mr. Wen, the so- called owner of the establishment, who still wears traditional garb. On other days, even in the rain, Mr. Wen could be seen in front of the restaurant murmuring and talking shit to himself, reminiscing on when the restaurant catered to tourists when he had master plans of getting paid, but whatever.

Mr. Wen escorts Mr. Lo to the dining area, a fairly spacious and well- lit room, with a bright green stained carpet, and several large round tables — the kind that gangsters like to sit at with their crew, to front and make toasts to their dead homies. Although irritated, Mr. Lo is impressed by the lingering aroma of food. His stomach growls. He reaches into his jacket for his cigarette box and comes to an immediate halt.

At the center table, there is an unrecognizable hooded figure in black, whose back is towards Mr. Lo and his crew. He eats the meal before him with chopsticks, smacking and sucking the scrumptious meat with disrespect.
Tony’s nostril’s flare. He pushes through the men and stands next to Mr. Lo. This is the second time that he had actually seen Masternever. Their first encounter was two months ago when Masternever rushed one of the family’s KTV spots a few blocks away. That incident provoked Tony to reach out to the assassin Mr. Shi — without his father’s knowledge.

Masternever belches. He had heard about Mr. Lo’s arrival a few days ago, while on a rooftop, listening to Tony’s men run their mouths. Masternever understood Cantonese better than Mandarin, but he was able to make out the conversation from the mainlanders. Some shit about a big fish coming into town from Hong Kong.

On some Three Evil Masters shit, Masternever keeps his back to the men, real disrespectful like he says “Well, well, you’re here on time.” Mr. Lo removes his glasses and places his glasses in his jacket pocket. As Tony steps forward, Mr. Lo places a hand on Tony’s chest to stop him.

“I despise your killings, raping and most importantly I despise your killers, ” says Masternever who reveals a handkerchief from his pocket and tosses it on the floor. The platinum fronts that were the calling card of Mr. Shi came tumbling out onto the rug.

Mr. Lo’s eye’s widened. He composes a snarl, which turns into a grin. Mr. Lo had been bedding Mr. Shi’s wife for years. Although he despised Mr. Shi, he respects the bold intruder for having the skill to kill him.

Mr. Lo steps down into the dining area floor. His men try to follow him, but he waves them off. He’s walking cautiously towards the center table where Masternever sits.

“What a shame. A pity actually. Mr. Shi was one of our best men. This was truly a great loss for our family. I’ll have to report this to my superiors. Who should I say is responsible?” asks Mr. Lo, who leans near the table, trying to get a better look at the bold intruder. Masternever turns around and wipes his mouth on his sleeve.

“You may tell your superiors, and anyone else that asks, that Masternever was in the building.”

Mr. Lo’s eyes widen and mouth drops open.
“I’m gonna chop off your arms. So you ready?” asks Masternever.

Mr. Lo did not expect the intruder to have a black face. Tony is enraged. He barks at his men, saying “Kill him!”

art by Chema Cuellar

Mr. Wen almost pisses himself and takes flight. Tony and his crew pull out their weapons and let the bullets fly. The bullets tear through the air, but they could not make their mark. They were in the presence of a Neverending Master, one who knew how to use the Fury of The Rain technique.

Masternever saw the horizontal raindrops tear past his face. Then his arm. Near his back. his face again. A bullet grazes the surface of a muscle on his thigh. He clenches his fists. He vanishes and reappears again with speed. He looks at the facial expression of the men who want to end him.

Mr. Lo looks on from behind a column. He’s never seen the intruder before, but as he watches the superhuman movements, the speed, the precision, he’s almost certain that he had seen someone move like him before.

As a bullet pierces Masternever’s thigh, he clenches his fists and then reappears before Tony, striking him in the chest with a palm strike that sends the young gangster crashing into one of his men, causing them both to fall.
He vanishes. He materializes and grabs someone’s gun. He kick smashes an eye socket. He’s punched in the face. He responds by breaking a nose. The so-called gangsters keep falling.

Mr. Lo watches the intruder who cuts through his men with fury. He is almost certain, that years ago, in Hong Kong, he had seen someone move with similar precision, vanishing and reappearing.

Masternever appears behind the last henchman and snaps the man’s neck. There is a moment of silence, which is disturbed by grunts and grimaces from the men on the floor. Tony attempts to leave the room and Masternever grabs him by his shirt. He looks into Tony’s eyes. He sees fear, which turns to anger. His concentration is disrupted by the sound of sirens. Masternever looks towards the entrance and then back at Tony.

He pushes Tony to the floor and then looks across the room at Mr. Lo who stands, looking on with a wide-eyed glare. Masternever turns back towards the entrance. He can hear a commotion. It’s time to leave.

As Masternever runs past Mr. Lo, he grins and pats him on his shoulder. He heads towards a hallway in the rear of the restaurant. A second later, Mr. Wen enters the restaurant with several police officers who have their weapons drawn. The officers look at Mr. Lo with confusion as he stands amidst broken furniture, glass, and men who’ve somehow been incapacitated.

As Mr. Wen follows the officers, he falls to the ground, when he comprehends the damage. He weeps. A tall pale female officer approaches Mr. Lo with her gun pointed at the ground.

“Are you okay? Hey, are you okay? Which way did the guy go? Do you know?”
Mr. Lo says nothing. The officer sucks her teeth and then heads to the rear of the restaurant. As he looks at her, his mind is still trying to process what has taken place. The intruder’s movements were reminiscent of something he’d seen years before when he was full of youth, violence, and opium.

The officers keep questioning him and but he’s unable to speak. They make calls for medical assistance.

At that moment, Masternever skates down an alleyway. As he thinks about what has just transpired, he laughs. He couldn’t have planned it any better. He veers into a street and swerves past a truck. The driver honks his horn and curses him. Masternever keeps skating until he reaches another alley. Here, he uses a fence to climb on top of a garage. As he escalates a fire escape, pain in his leg pulsates. The adrenaline is wearing off. He looks at his leg. He isn’t bleeding badly.

He continues until he’s on top of the building. He heads towards a room on the roof that had once been used for elevator maintenance. He opens the combination lock and heads in, closing the door behind him and then using the lock inside. He turns on a utility light with electricity that he hijacked from somewhere in the building. He heads towards a shelf where he has a rice mattress and sleeping bag. He lays down.

Rest will take care of the bullet wound and the other bruises. He thinks again on Mr. Lo’s facial expressions. He grins and pumps his fist. Moments later, he’s in a superhero la-la land.

Chapter 2 — Who is Masternever?

The block is hot. The police try to keep the onlookers away from the restaurant, but this was their only opportunity to be nosy. They look, they whisper. With the protection of the police, they could get a glimpse of the place they had been told to avoid for so long.

There is a tight barricade near the entrance of the restaurant where a number of uniformed officers hold onlookers back. A grey late-model sedan, they type that all DT undercover use, makes an abrupt stop at the restaurant. Judi Long exits the ride and looks at the entrance.

She scans the crowd. Her partner, Gavin Brown, exits the ride, orange-red hair first, followed by a trail of smoke. Judi places her cup of coffee on the top of the car while putting on her leather jacket.

“This place always gave me a bad vibe,” says Gavin. “Yeah, you give me a bad vibe,” says Judi.

“Makes sense. I shine, the haters hate.”

Judi gives him a, what-you-talking-about-Willis and tosses her cup in the ride, and closes the door. Gavin gets a last pull on his smoke and flicks it towards the ground.

Judi walks ahead of Gavin, the plainclothes officers nod towards Gavin, while one or two of them smirk at Judi and steal a glance at her while she walks. Judi was used to it but never tolerated the disrespect.

She became a detective at the age of 27, after completing a special program sponsored by the mayor’s office. She was chosen after singlehandedly stopping a sex trafficking operation, running from the mainland.

Gavin was a transfer from a precinct in Flushing. Straight out of college, he lived in China for 5 years and returned with a wife, some kung fu and joined the force. He was pushing 35 and his hairline is receding. He’s planning on cutting it low.

The two weren’t readily accepted into the Manhattan precinct, and as outcasts, when they were paired 6 months ago, they instantly became friends. Judi nods at an officer with shades, and as they reach the doorway, a plainclothes officer starts running down his report.

Gavin is speaking to him and for Judi, their conversation gets fuzzy like when Charlie Brown’s teacher goes on a rant. She’s tuned them out, she’s looking at the broken glass and the stained carpet, broken furniture, splattered blood and bullet holes.
 
 In a far corner of the restaurant, she can see a well dressed older male and she immediately locks eyes with Tony Jai. He grins. She curses him silently. Gavin walks near.

“Same old shit, our mystery man strikes again.”
The mystery man has been the talk of the precinct. A Chinatown Batman. Every time someone spoke about him, the story grew with complexity. Like everyone else, Judi had been interested. A vigilante in Chinatown. Had there ever been one? Well, whatever.

As they neared Tony, she could see a bruise on his cheek. As Tony turns his attention toward Gavin, his grin turns into a scowl. Gavin goes over the report and Judi is looking at the well-groomed man who doesn’t say much. He stands in front slightly in front of Tony.

“This guy is important” She thinks to herself.

“That’s right, I didn’t need to go to no fucking hospital” says Tony “You’re wasting your fucking time here when you can be out there trying to catch this fucker.”

“We’re going to. That’s what we do. We get things done and we’ll catch this guy, even if you and your crew couldn’t” says Gavin.

Judi looks at the report briefly.

“How about you sir?” asks Judi.

In Cantonese, Mr. Lo says “Why is she bothering me? Get her out of here.”
“Because it’s my job sir. I need to know what is going on so I can help” responds Judi.

Gavin chuckles and joins in with the Cantonese he learned from his wife “Now we can stop the bullshit. Want to explain what happened here? We want to help. We can’t help if you don’t let us know what happened.”

“Yes that’s right, we were robbed. Some fucking black bastard with a weapon, came in and attacked my men!” says Tony “Instead of fucking around here, you should be out — “

Mr. Lo raises a hand and Tony is quiet. He switches to English. “Officers, I did not see the intruder. As soon as I heard the shots I hid under a table.”

“I saw that nigger!” shouts Tony.

Gavin and Tony get into a shouting match. Mr. Lo says nothing. Judi looks at the black frames and then glances over his weathered face and his scarred hands. His clothes try and provide a faux dignity.

Possibly family muscle at one time, Judi thinks to herself.

“Fine, okay fine asshole,” says Tony who storms out of the restaurant. Judi looks at Gavin’s flush face, continually shaking his head. Gavin waves Mr. Lo away and reaches for a cigarette.

“Have you finished asking me what you need to ask? Can I go now?” asks Mr. Lo.

Judi nods her head. Ms. Lo walks by and as he exits, Mr. Wen approaches him, but Mr. Lo does not stop and continues out, followed by his men who did not need medical attention. Mr. Wen sits back down on a chair.

A number of plainclothes officers are looking at the two detectives. A short black officer, steps forward “Detective Long, should I call — “

“Don’t call anyone. Get the fuck out. We’re done here” says Judi. “What? But we…”

“GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!”

The officers start clearing out, slowly walking over the debris and past Mr. Wen who has a steady stream of tears running down his face.
Gavin pulls hard on the cigarette. “I’m fine leaving this be. They don’t want to be bothered.”

“That’s not the point Gavin. They’re hiding something and this is going to keep happening.”

“Yeah, and maybe our black friend will rid us of Tony, the Jai family and keep this fucking place clean!”

“That’s not how things work here and you know it. They’ve been humiliated and they’re going to find a way to make the community pay” says Judi.

Mr. Wen approaches them. Gavin stand and Judi reaches for her firearm. She disengages, remembering him on the way in.

“Can I help you, sir?” Asks Judi.

Mr. Wen wipes his face using his sleeve. “I — I, I heard his name,” said Mr. Wen somberly.

Gavin becomes wide-eyed and looks at Judi.

“He spoke to the men. He — He, was angry. He said his name was Masternever.” Mr. Wen silently looks at them, and turns back around and grabs a broom from the corner.

Judi turns toward Gavin and asks “Who the fuck is Masternever?

Chapter 3 — The Scroll of the Masters

The repetitive thumping didn’t bother Meng anymore. He got used to the constant murmuring thump sound after a while. He’d been living in his apartment under the Manhattan bridge for over thirty years. Even though his place vibrated occasionally, he was oblivious to the repetitive noise from the vehicles above.

There was no need to be picky. He had gotten a deal on the place from the landlord due to a favor from back in the day. People didn’t know for sure, but they always thought there was something different or odd about him. He was supposed to work in the dry cleaners downstairs, but it was frequently closed. How could someone afford to keep a business operating when they’re only open twice a week?

People talked. They said that Meng ran a special kind of dry cleaners. A place where people came if they needed special assistance. People who needed protection. They went here when they were tired of extortion. When they could not turn to the police. At first, the people only came from within Chinatown in Manhattan, but after a while, they came from Flushing
and Sunset Park. People talked. Soon, others came to see the man who supposedly worked in dry cleaners that was never really open.

People thought Meng was weird. You could spot his silhouette during midnight or twilight hours, at a nearby schoolyard practicing what looked like kung fu.

There were others who said that he often walked in train tunnels, writing on walls and that was the reason why he always had stained hands. Then, there were other evenings, when he could be seen stumbling through the streets, yelling at the sky, drinking a bottle of something.

On this evening, there was no paint on Meng’s hands, only the scent of onions as he washes a few dishes in the sink. Meng was not imposing. He was not a tall man.

There was noticeable strength in his arms. He had cut his hair off years ago, not due to any fad. His spectacles, goatee and delicate mustache would cause you to believe he did some type of technical work. But if you got closer, if you studied his face, you could see the scars on his lip, neck, eyelids, and hands.

Meng stops washing. He looks towards his living room window and his attention rests on a blinking sign that illuminated his apartment in the evenings. He thinks on his pupil. He had put this day off for some time. He couldn’t prolong the assignment any longer. The knock at the door was familiar.

“Perfect timing,” Meng thought to himself.

Arious has a key, but he rarely uses it. The door was usually unlocked and he often made uninvited visits to Meng’s apartment. Meng looks towards the door as Arious makes his way to the kitchen and flicks on a light. The two greet each other with a dap. Meng returns his attention towards his dishes.
“There was a disturbance this afternoon. Many police officers” says Meng. Arious smiles and takes a bottle of water from the fridge.

“Your confidence is growing. This is good. But keep in mind, your confidence may cause you trouble. Remember, move in silence. How do you think things went this afternoon?”

“Okay, I guess. Trust, those motherfuckers didn’t see me coming. I was everywhere. I smothered the shit out of them.”

Meng turns toward Masternever while drying his hands.

“Oh really. Your performance overall?”

“If I had to grade myself, I’d say, an ‘A’ minus.”

Meng smiles. He looks Masternever up and down. He leans close and sees a hole in his pants, with trickles of dried blood.

“You were shot.”

Meng leans back and shakes his head. “I think you barely passed the test.”
“There were like eleven guys. All of them had guns!”

“When a Neverending Master utilizes the Wind of the Rain technique correctly, he — should — not — be — touched,” says Meng, pointing a finger in the air.

Masternever leans back against the wall and shakes his head. “Okay then, a ‘B+’” says Masternever.

Meng smiles and tosses his towel into the sink. He reaches for a bottle of water on counter and drinks.

“How long did it take you?”

“Couldn’t have been more than one minute.”

Meng nodded in approval. “Did you use any other styles?”

“Fist of the Wind! And then I used the Bronze Mirror Technique briefly. You should have seen this guy, I know that guy broke his arm trying to hit me.”

“What else? Any other styles?”

Arious sighed, hunching his shoulder.

“I can get so much done with Fist of the Wind.”

Meng gave him an inquisitive glare and places his bottle on the counter. He takes a plate off the counter and motions for Arious to follow him.

“We eating? What did you make?”

“Come with me” replies Meng.

Meng’s living room is simple. There’s a reupholstered couch, a small television mounted on a table, and near the window, a wooden altar of our beloved master, Guan Yu.

Meng places his plate on the coffee table and proceeds to sit in front of the altar. Arious joins him, kneeling near the statue. The fluorescent red light illuminates Meng’s face, which bears regret. He reveals a long wooden box, which had been aged. Arious’s eyes light up. He recognizes the carvings, on the box — he realizes that he was looking at The Scroll of The Masters.

In the past, the two had many discussion about the great scroll, listing the masters and their styles. It was the first time that Arious had actually seen it.
Meng unravels and places it on the floor gently. Although Arious had learned basic forms of Forgotten Hand, he still could not the document in its entirety. It was written in the mystical style known as Forgotten Hand. Arious traces the writing with his fingertips. He recognizes the section of writing that indicates Meng’s style Wind of the Rain.

All of the masters who have carried on the tradition of the Neverending Masters are listed here” explains Meng “Each master is listed along with the fighting style they have mastered. Each master, including myself, has made a contribution to this legacy.

You have yet to contribute. It is time for you to contribute your style to the scroll.”

“My style? I haven’t given it much thought. You mentioned this in the past, but I thought this was years away. I don’t even think that I’m ready. I don’t even have anything to add.”

“That is where you are wrong my friend. You, like every other Neverending Master, has something to pass onto the next. When it was my time, I was unsure of myself to a degree.”

Arious looks intently at the scroll. “Will you teach me how to read this?”
“If you need help deciphering the Scroll of the Masters, you should find the creator!”

“You didn’t write this?” asks Arious.

“The creator of the Scroll of the Masters is the one who helped me develop my style and helped all of the masters before me. He is known as the Style Master. His name is Majid.”

“Majid. Majid…”

Arious repeats the name several more time and conjures images of visiting distant land to find me. Meng stands and Arious does the same. “So, I have to go to China to find him?”

“No.”

Meng walks towards the window and he thinks on the night when he received a similar task years ago. “It is your job to find Majid. He is here in New York City.”

Arious’s eyes widen and he steps towards Meng.

“Majid will help you read and write the scroll text. He will also work with you to develop your style. For this has already been written. You will find him as I did, years ago. My master gave me a similar task. This is a journey that you will make alone. Without my guidance. I say this to you as a friend and teacher — know that this journey, to add your style to the great scroll, it will not be easy. It will be one filled with difficulties, disappointments and heartaches. However, it is a necessary journey. One that every
Neverending Master must make” says Meng.

“Where do I find Majid?”

Meng smirks, walks towards the coffee table and removes the lid from his plate. He gazes at Arious briefly and then sits on his couch. He says nothing for over a minute, while he sits and eats.

Arious starts to ask a question, but Meng responds by turning on the television.

Arious looks down at the scroll and holds it in his hands. He feels a sudden surge of energy well within him. Arious walks towards the door and looks back at Meng once more. He turns off the kitchen light and exits. Meng sighs and turns off the television. He sits thinking in the intermittent darkness. He’s hopeful, just as his master was hopeful for him, years ago.

Get your copy instagram.com/masternever

Chapter 4 — The Soul Stealer

A car angrily honks at Arious as he swerves out of the way. After you spent the previous day dodging bullets, dodging cars on your skateboard isn’t a big deal. He skates past an electronic store, almost knocking over some workers. They swear at him, like they do whenever he passes.

He stops at an alley. A man practices Tai Chi and nods at Arious who does the same. As he walks, there is a symphony of dogs who bark. He can’t hear it because he’s listening to music on his iPhone.

He stops at a metal gate, facing the rear of the connected buildings.
There is a lingering odor associated with the restaurant, and depending on who you are, it might be pleasant. He finally manages to locate his key and opens the gate. Chickens caw from a cage and he reaches into his pocket and tosses something inside. The chickens scramble and peck at their new meal. Arious stands near a grated metal door. He takes a deep breath and then opens his book bag. He removes the scroll, opens and looks at it.
 
The Forgotten Hand style is mesmerizing. Although he can’t understand the text, visually it looks like poetry. While studying the document, he does see four characters that represent each Neverending Master. He has an idea and places the scroll back into his bag.

He enters a kitchen, where there are two men working. They nod and he does the same. He places his bag on a counter and grabs an apron, from an area there are several crates full of fresh vegetables as well as several large sacks of rice.

His father Yung, enters the kitchen. As his name suggests, he looks younger. He’s beginning to gray but has always maintained a slim build thanks to Tai Chi.

“What’s up Arious?” says Yung. “Hey Yung,” says Arious.“I need you to wash and cut the celery. After that, please unpack the forks and cups.”
Arious nods.

“I also need you work a double. Is that okay?”

Arious nods and Yung looks at him skeptically.

“I also can’t pay you this week and next week too. Okay?” Arious nods. Yung stands in front of him.

“Arious, what happened to you?”

Arious glances at Yung and can’t make eye contact. He focuses on removing vegetables from the crates. Yung checks in on the other two workers. He tastes something and they nod in approval. The phone rings and as Yung walks out of the kitchen, and looks at Arious briefly.

The workers look at Arious and then one another. One of them hunches his shoulders and then they start to speak in their native tongue. Arious unpacks the vegetables, and normally, he would place them in neat piles, but today, the onions, cucumbers and celery, they’ve all been unpacked and placed in one unorganized pile.

Sue walks into the rear of the restaurant and jokes with one of the workers. She turns her attention towards Arious. She’s somewhere in her late thirties and could pass and often passes for a decade younger. She sees the pile and looks at her adopted son, knowing that someone he wrong.

“Arious. Arious”

Arious snaps out of his waking vision of scroll text movement. She looks into his eyes. There is confusion, anger, fear, and doubt. Sue places and hand on his shoulder.

“Arious, please wash the dishes. You can separate the vegetables later.”

Arious nods.

“Arious, what is wrong?” asks Sue, rubbing his arm.

“Nothing really, I’m fine. I’m okay.”

Sue playfully gives him a condescending look. The two laugh and she continues in front. Arious makes his way to the sink where a pile of pots awaits him. He turns on a small television that sits above the sink. He keeps changing until he reaches a channel.
 
David: Buenas tardes Nueva York! I’m David Alverado.

Nora: And I’m Nora Ortiz!

Both: Welcome to the Subway City News!

David: New York City was ravaged by the crack epidemic in the eighties, now the city deals with the emergence of a drug known as Ying Yang.

Arious watches, and on the screen, he can see a police officer holding a small plastic package with a mixture of white and black crystals. The officer turns over the package and on the screen, there is a Ying Yang symbol.

David: The high potency drug, delivers and addictive high has proven to be fatal when taken in large quantities.

On the screen, there are people lying in the street and then later, placed in an ambulance.

David: Mayor Maynard has appointed a special task force to stop the epidemic before it spreads.

Nora: In other news, police in Chinatown have been baffled by another report of grave robbing. For a reported third time, a corpse has been
removed from a grave. Locals in the community have suggested that the theft is related to witchcraft and sorcery, an ancient practice known as Soul Stealing.

David: Soul Stealing huh? I wish someone would
give the Knicks a soul!

Both of the anchors laugh.
At that very instant, in another section of Chinatown, a television is turned off. Meng sighs heavily.

“How can this be? Why now?” Meng thinks to himself. But as he thought on the matter, he knew it was no coincidence.

Meng stands and looks towards his window. He pounds his hand and slips a curse.

“Why now?” he thinks to himself.

Chapter 5 — The Soul Stealer

It’s raining. This part of the city, hustles, and bustles. China women and men getting money. Mr. Lo watches from a large window. Light creeps in through the vertical blinds. Mr. Lo checks his watch. It’s the 2nd time he’s done so in the last ten minutes.

There are dark ominous clouds in the distance. Mr. Lo sees lighting. Moments later there is thunder. Fitting, Mr. Lo thinks to himself. There’s a chime from a wall clock. Mr. Lo is slightly startled. He frowns as he looks at a clock. His gaze turns to the rest of Tony Jai’s office. A large room that has consumed by darkness. There’s a chair, desk, and grey carpet that vanishes into the blackness. All the furniture is foreign and extremely expensive. The office smells like a pair of Jordans that you stood in line waiting for, possibly even better.

The door opens. Tony Jai walks into the room.

“Mr. Lo. I want to apologize for being late” says Tony as he adjusts his jacket. Tony looks around the room as if he is lost. He isn’t used to the darkness. Tony fixes his shirt collar. There is perspiration on his brow. A tinge of perfume lingers in the air. He was with a woman, Mr. Lo thinks to himself.
“Mr. Lo, about yesterday…” says Tony. “How does he know me?” asks Mr. Lo.

“I’m not sure.”

“You’re not sure? He said my name!”

Mr. Lo walks closer.

“Enough with your lies! Your recklessness has cost your family. And now, the loss of Mr. Shi! Who is he? I want to know about him. I want to know who he is. Don’t lie to me!”

Tony sighs and sits on a bench near the window.

“I first heard about him, months ago. Some of my men said that someone had hit one of our places. I suspected someone else. But, when they told me that no money was taken. I was confused. When they told me that this person, was a black guy, I knew it was something else. He wouldn’t stop. He kept going. I didn’t know what to do. He never took any money. Seemed like he was trying to shut me down.”

“And he did! And then you reached out to Mr. Shi without speaking to your father. How does this scoundrel know who you are?”

“That’s the thing. I don’t know. I don’t know who he is. I keep wondering if I knew him. I hired a few black guys to do security before, but that’s it.”

“So how does he know about me? How did he know that I’d be here?”

“I really don’t know. But there is something else about him.” Tony hesitates.

“Go on, tell me!” says Mr. Lo as he pounds his fist into his hands.

“Sometimes he writes his name on the wall.”

“WHAT?”

“Yeah, he actually writes his name on the wall, like some sort of joke. He would write MASTERNEVER ” explains Tony, lowering his head.

Mr. Lo turns towards the window. The rain beats hard.

“Did you hear him yesterday? That’s what he calls himself. He calls himself Masternever” says Tony.

Mr. Lo looks at Tony momentarily. “Masternever. Masternever. Never… I’m wondering,” says Mr. Lo. Tony shrugs his shoulders.

“His name concerns me.”“Why?” asks Tony.

Mr. Lo’s mind reflect on a time, years ago, when he saw a man who moved like Masternever. It was in Shanghai, this was a time when Mr. Lo, was run by opium, women, drugs. It was then that he saw a man who dodged bullets. Who vanished and struck like lightning.

“His name concerns me,” repeats Mr. Lo.

“AND IT SHOULD!” bellows an ominous voice.

Tony draws his firearm in an attempts to turn on a light switch. There is no response. Only the sound of thunder. The two men look into the darkness, wondering who lurks in the darkness. There is a faint smell, like something rotten, a mixture of garbage and a decomposing dog, or a hot New York City street night in the summer, but whatever.

“THE PERSON YOU SEEK, THIS IS NO ORDINARY MAN!” hisses the voice.
Tony points his weapon.

“Show yourself or you’re dead!” says Tony.Mr. Lo walks to Tony’s side, lowering his weapon.

“Show yourself immediately” demands Mr. Lo. From the darkness, a short figure emerges. As he comes closer, the stench increases. This is not the intruder from the restaurant. This is a man of the Han people, with withered flesh, almost rotting. He’s adorned in a long black robe that attempts to conceal his wretched skin.

Tony covers his nose. With each step, the new intruder’s stench grows stronger. Mr. Lo can make out more of his features. There are long nails. Although he is old, his hair is jet black and his skin is filled with boils and rashes.

“THE ONE YOU SEEK, IS NO MERE MORTAL. HE IS A LEGEND OF OLD!”

“Do you speak of the myth of the Neverending Masters?” asks Mr. Lo.

The intruder smiles and reveals a ghastly set of ravenous teeth.

“INDEED! HE IS HERE. WHAT YOU SEEK IS NO MYTH! THE NEVERENDING MASTER IS HERE IN THIS VERY CITY!”

Tony steps backward and bumps into a wall. He’s studying the intruder and Mr. Lo, wondering if a sick game is being played on him.

“THE NEVERENDING MASTER IS HERE AND I SHALL HELP RID YOURSELF OF THIS PROBLEM.”

“What do you want?” asks Mr. Lo.

The frail creature raises his hands, clasps them together and laughs. His demonic cackle echoes throughout the room, complemented by the sound of thunder.

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