The TARDIS was in temporal orbit and everyone was relaxing quietly around the console room, even Chrístõ who was on the sofa reading the manual for his sonic screwdriver and testing some settings he didn't know. Bo sat beside him. She was never far from him. Cassie and Terry were reading together, lying on the bed Bo slept on at night. Chrístõ saw them occasionally kiss each other and smile lovingly. Bo was affectionate to him, too, rubbing his neck and kissing him.

They were disturbed by the sound of the communications console announcing that it had a text message. Chrístõ stood and went to look. He smiled.

"Bo, precious… it's for you." Bo looked alarmed. WHO knew she lived with Chrístõ on board the TARDIS? She came to the console nervously, but Chrístõ was smiling and he held her as she read the message. She was surprised to find it written in Mandarin but smiled as she translated it to her friends.

"Mai Li Tuo wants us to come join him for Chinese New Year," she said and positively beamed. She turned to Chrístõ. "We can go, can't we? Say we can go."

"Of course we can go," he said. "As if I would say no. Li Tuo is about my oldest friend on Earth. And besides, you should have a chance to experience your own culture."

"I'll need a red envelope to bring to him," she said. "To do honour."

"I'll sort that out, precious. Why don't you go look and see if the wardrobe has a nice dress for you to wear. Cassie, you too. You can be an honorary Chinese girl for the day."

The two girls ran off, smiling. Terry took the navigation control as Chrístõ took the flight console. This was NOT a preset and he needed help with it. But Terry was well practiced by now and there were no problems.

"Who is Li Tuo?" he asked. "I know he's the guy you took Bo to see in Liverpool, but I assumed he was a Human friend. But… well, he knows how to contact a TARDIS."

"Smart thinking, Terry," Chrístõ smiled. "Li Tuo is a Time Lord."

"One of your own. But… a Chinese Time Lord?"

“The most skilled of us, can sometimes CHOOSE their appearance. I think Li Tuo in his last incarnation chose to belong to the culture he admired. He’s a very old man. Over 7,000 years old. Very wise.”

"Li Tuo? Not his real name, I presume."

"No. But I don't know what his real name is. Li Tuo…is a kind of mystery. He is an old friend of my father's. He asked me to look him up when I was on Earth and I did. But I don't really know who he is, except that my father trusts him. And that's enough for me."

"I see… but…" Terry looked at Chrístõ. He looked uneasy.

"I think he's a Renegade," he said after a long pause. "Renegade… is a bad thing. It means he's disgraced and disowned by his House. It means that he had committed a crime against our society. And can never return to Gallifrey."

"So Li Tuo…."

"…Must have done something very bad in his life. But… But my father trusts him. I trust him. He is a good man. And I don't understand it. I don't know how a good man can be a Renegade."

"Perhaps he was wrongly accused. If you say he's a good man, I believe you, Chrístõ. And your father trusts him. He ought to know. You said he was Lord High whatsit and everything."

"Yes," Chrístõ said. "You're right." He smiled. He DID like Li Tuo. He trusted him. He ADMIRED him. He had a wisdom Chrístõ aspired to emulate. But it DID worry him that Li Tuo's life was so shrouded in mystery. He wished he knew what had made him a Renegade. If Renegade he was. He wasn't sure. If he WAS a criminal, then why did his father trust him so much?

Chrístõ landed the TARDIS just as the girls returned from the wardrobe. He and Terry smiled as they took in Bo's stunning Cheongsam dress, red, with a golden dragon across it, starting with its fiery head across the top and curving around her body in a spiral all the way to its tail that snaked around the ankle length hem. It was tight fitting, and slit one side to allow her to walk. Cassie was in a Cheongsam dress of plain green satin, equally stunning.

"Chrístõ," Bo said sharply and then spoke to him in mandarin.

"You are right, precious." He answered in English. "Terry, you and I must both change, too. Bo reminded me, quite rightly, that black and white are both associated with mourning, and I cannot be the man in black on this occasion. And your t. shirt will not do either.

Terry stuck with western clothes but with a Chinese motif. A pair of blue slacks with a green t-shirt with a Chinese pattern in red. But Chrístõ had to outdo them. He appeared in dark green silk pants with a red mandarin shirt with high collar and dragons breathing fire at each other over his two hearts.

"Dracœfire…" Cassie said, looking at him. "Dragon Fire."

"Yes." He reached for Bo's hand, and Terry and Cassie both thought what a beautiful couple they made, dressed so alike.

They stepped out of the TARDIS and looked around to see what it had become today. Chrístõ smiled and wondered if people would realise there was a closed down shop front where there ought to be a blank wall. He smiled again as the TARDIS seemed to shimmer momentarily and acquire red and yellow Chinese lanterns hanging from its faded fascia.

It was a dark early evening in Liverpool's Chinatown on January 28th, 2006, and far too cold for dressing in silk and satin. The companions hurried through the street, lit by strings of Chinese lanterns instead of the ordinary street lamps. They found Mai Li Tuo's Chinese herbalist shop and knocked. The door was opened presently by Li Tuo himself who bowed to his old and new friends. Chrístõ and Bo bowed in return, Cassie and Terry looked uncertainly at the formal greetings. Li Tuo smiled at them and offered his hand in a more English greeting and told them that any friend of Liu Shang Hui was a friend of his before formally inviting them into his home.

"Who?" Terry whispered as they were brought into the private part of the building above the shop

"That's me," Chrístõ replied. "My Shaolin name."

"Theta Sigma has many names," Li Tuo said. "In Chinatown he is Shang Hui - the Intelligent One." The old man turned and smiled at Terry. "And if you have been in his company for long, you surely know that Time Lords can hear whispers from much further away than I am to you, young man."

"My apologies for my rudeness," Terry said.

"Come, our New Year's Eve dinner is ready."

"This meal is customarily eaten among family," Li Tuo said as he invited them to sit around a low table on silk cushions. "I have no family, and the girl who serves in the shop is celebrating with friends of her own age tonight. So I have Shang Hui, who is of my true race and can be called kin as we are both so far from home, and Hui Ying Bo Juan, who is of my adopted race, and who I hope shall look on me as an elder, and two good friends of Shang Hui who I can see are open minded and willing to learn." He paused. "Bo Juan will tell you that we should begin with a prayer for our ancestors. Shang Hui and I, of course, come from a world where we do not pray, but we DO respect our ancestors, so we should begin by a quiet moment of contemplation of those who have gone before us." And the old man bowed his head with his palms pressed together, the fingertips against his forehead. Bo and Chrístõ did the same. Terry and Cassie emulated them quickly.

"Now, my friends," Li Tuo said after a respectful pause. "Let us eat our New Year repast." He removed the covers from the dishes and invited them to help themselves of the different delicacies. Fish was a key feature of it, from king prawns and oysters in a sweet and sour sauce to the yu sheng that was a specially prepared raw fish salad, each part of the meal representing a good omen - life and happiness, good luck and prosperity and so on.

"So," Terry said to Li Tuo as they ate. "You are a Time Lord, too? The same as Chrístõ… Shang Hui I mean."

"I am," the old man said and did not venture any further information. Terry didn't want to embarrass the old man, but he was curious about the things Chrístõ had said earlier.

"Do many of your kind live on Earth?" he asked. "Chr… Shang Hui gave us the impression he was the only one."

"Shang Hui does not live here. He is a traveller, a wanderer. Learning of life's great diversity and wonder. I am, I believe, the only Time Lord on Earth. If there was another, I think I would know." He tapped his head. "We all share a telepathic link. I would know of him, and he would know of me." The old man drank from a glass of Shaoxing, the Chinese rice wine and seemed to consider his words carefully. "I prefer a solitary life. I would not wish them to seek me out."

"But Shang Hui did," Bo said.

"Shang Hui is an exception. His father is a man I respect very greatly and I was delighted to renew acquaintance with him. I don't think Shang Hui remembers me as a visitor to their home when he was very young."

"Yes, I do," he said. "You…. You came to see my father not long after my mother died. I remember." Until he said that, he HADN'T remembered. But the image came to his mind now. He was six years old. And he was a sad, grieving child. He remembered the old man who had come to the house, who had treated him kindly. He had shown him how to project his thoughts into a three dimensional shape. For many years after that he always projected his mother's face smiling on him as he lay down to rest at night. Only when he was old enough to replace a night's sleep with short periods of renewing meditation had he stopped the habit.

"My mother," he said, sadly, and without thinking he had projected her face, tired, lined, but beautiful, with soft grey eyes and lips forming his name. Bo put her hand on his shoulder as he dismissed the vision with a wave of his hand.

"The Eve of the New Year is about remembrances, Shang Hui," Li Tuo told him gently. "But not in sadness. That is why we never wear the colours of mourning."

"Yes," he said with a smile. "Thank you for reminding me."

"Chrístõ gave me to understand that you had not visited Gallifrey for a long time." Terry said.

"I have not set foot on the soil of my homeworld for more than one thousand years. But Shang Hui and his father were not living on Gallifrey at that time in his childhood. Shang Hui was the son of the honourable ambassador to the Ventura quadrant."

"I forgot that, too," Chrístõ said. "Father took the post not long after I was born. Mother liked Ventura. She said it was like Earth. She told me about Earth when she put me to bed at night. I thought it sounded beautiful. I wanted to go to that blue and green planet nearly as much as I wanted to go to red Gallifrey of my birth."

"Your mother was equally divided in her loyalties, Shang Hui," Li Tuo told him. "You do not know, I think. You were far too young. But your mother made a request of your father before she died. She wanted her heart to be buried on Earth and her body to lie in Gallifrey's soil. It was I who fulfilled that first part of her request."

"I did not know that. Li Tuo, I thank you for your kindness to my father and for your duty to my mother."

"It was no burden. I owed your father more than he or I have leave to tell you, Shang Hui. But… your young friends are wondering about me. They wonder am I some kind of criminal. Whispers, young man, are not the only thing Time Lords can hear. You must also realise from knowing my friend Shang Hui that we can also read minds."

Terry blushed and admitted he had been thinking some suspicious thoughts.

"I am an old, old man," Li Tuo continued. "Older than you can contemplate. If my age could be measured in Human time I was born before the Pyramids you are so interested in were built. There are things I have done in that time that I regret. There are things I do not regret that others - even Shang Hui, whose loyalty and friendship I can count on - might be shocked by. I have my reasons for choosing exile, for choosing to live out my life far from my home-world, knowing I should almost certainly die here. My friends - I count you as friends - I ask you to judge me - if judge me you must - with the compassion of the Human race, not the logic of Gallifrey."

"We have no other way," Terry said. "We ARE Human. All but Chrístõ… and even he is part Human."

"Sir," Cassie said. "You have offered us hospitality. We have returned it with suspicion and treated you as a curiosity. We apologise. Chrístõ trusts you. His father, who Chrístõ has spoken of as a wise and powerful man, trusts you. Who are we to question their judgement."

Bo nodded and spoke in Mandarin. Li Tuo answered her. She smiled. Chrístõ could have translated for the others, but there was no need. The slight uneasiness was dispelled and they enjoyed the meal in Li Tuo's company.

Afterwards, Li Tuo brought out a beautiful, ornately carved ivory Mah-jongg set and asked Bo if she knew how to play. Of course she did and Chrístõ sat with Cassie and Terry to watch their challenge before he took over from her against the master and beat him. Li Tuo found a less elaborate wooden set and as Chrístõ played against Bo he taught Cassie and Terry to play the ancient Chinese game. Cassie took to it very quickly and held Li Tuo to a hard fought draw after a while, but Terry gave up, admitting he was useless. He let the two challenge matches alone and his eyes fell upon a musical instrument propped in the corner of the room. He picked it up and plucked the strings. It made a pleasant sound. Li Tuo looked up from his game long enough to say it was called a 'Pipa' a Chinese lute and was held upright in the arms and plucked. Terry sat cross legged by the table and tuned the instrument and coaxed a tune from it. He didn't KNOW any Chinese tunes, of course, but he managed to play some of the songs he knew and produced a pleasant hybrid of traditional Chinese instrument and late 60s flower power. It provided a background sound as the Mah-jongg challenge continued apace, tiles clicking in their own rhythm.

That was the way of it as the evening wore on. As midnight approached, though, they put away Mah-jongg and Pipa and went out into the garden behind the shop where they set off their own share of fireworks that joined with others all around the small Liverpool Chinatown community and filled the sky with more constellations of coloured stars than even the two Time Lords could hope to see. Then another glass of Shaoxing to warm them before they returned to the TARDIS for the night.

Just down the road, though, they found one place where the New Year was not so joyfully welcomed. An ambulance was waiting and a small huddle of neighbours waited as two bodies were brought out of a house. Just life's pattern, Chrístõ thought. People live, people die. Nothing to do with them. But his Time Lord hearing picked up a word that startled him.

Yaoguai!

He stopped. The others stopped and looked at him

"Yaoguai?" he repeated. Bo gave a soft gasp.

"Yaoguai?" she echoed, and held his arm all the tighter.

"That's the word I heard," he said "Somebody over there said it."

"And it means?" Terry asked.

"Demon. Bo called it to me the first time she saw a wound repair itself. Though she knows better now." He looked at the group of people. "Bo, precious, can you see if you can find out anything? They look frightened, and one of their own…. Rather than any of us…"

Bo, though frightened, nodded and slipped away, mingling with the crowd. When she returned she looked ashen faced.

"Tell me when we're inside," Christo said. And he brought them all quickly to the warmth and safety of the TARDIS. They went to the kitchen and Cassie made cocoa while Bo told what she knew - little enough as it was.

"A lot of old people have been dying," she said. "The two tonight make seven this week. The doctors say it's the flu and cold weather. But the people say Yaoguai!"

"What IS a Yaoguai?" Terry asked. "You two obviously seem to know about it."

"It is a demon," Bo said. "And when one fixes on a village, that village dies. It comes first for the most vulnerable - the old or the very young. But as it grows in strength -through the lives it feeds upon - soon even the most vigorous and strong succumb."

"How many people are there in Liverpool's Chinatown?" Terry asked as he realised the impact of such a thing.

"How many people in LIVERPOOL," Cassie said. "It surely does not stick to Chinese lives? Chrístõ…." She looked fearful. So did Bo. Chrístõ shook his head.

"The people are probably over-reacting," he said. "It most likely IS cold weather and flu. It's rather a shame on British society that it happens, but the winter always takes its toll on the elderly."

Bo broke out in mandarin and Chrístõ half-smiled and agreed.

"You know, I don't know why it is that the TARDIS never translates for us when Bo does that. It SHOULD. I think it likes listening to her. But she has eloquently and correctly pointed out that in HER country the elderly are honoured and cared for by their children."

"So should they be in this Chinese community in England, then," Terry said. "Could it be a Yaoguai then?"

"I don't know." He looked at his three friends. "You expect me to find out, don't you."

"If anyone can, you can," Cassie told him.

"You ARE, aren't you?" Terry asked him.

"Li Tuo is the resident super-being around here," he said. "I'll ask him if he knows anything tomorrow."

"Li Tuo is the oldest person here," Bo said. "If the Yaoguai seeks old souls then he may be in danger."

"On the other hand, if it IS flu he is quite safe since Time Lords don't GET flu." Chrístõ touched her hand reassuringly. "Li Tuo can look after himself."

"Well, there's not much to be done at night in January," Terry said taking Cassie and saying goodnight to Bo and Chrístõ as they headed for their bed. Bo went to get ready for bed and Chrístõ changed from his elaborate but not very warm oriental clothes to his familiar black leather.

Bo settled to sleep in the console room. She refused to have any bedroom on board the TARDIS except near him. Usually he stayed close to her, but tonight he had something else in mind. He came to the bed and pulled the blankets around her and kissed her tenderly and told her not to worry if he was not there for a little while.

"Where are you going, my Chrístõ?" she asked a little fearfully.

"I'm just taking a walk," he said. "Need to clear my head of all that Shaoxing."

"You told me Time Lords cannot be drunk. And you never just take walks."

"Yes, all right, I am going to see if there is anything in the Yaoguai thing," he admitted. "I won't be far away. I promise."

"I won't sleep until you are returned," she said. He kissed her again and then slipped out into the cold January night, slightly better protected now than he was in the satin mandarin shirt, but he noticed the cold even so. It was bitter. It stung his cheeks and although his Time Lord blood prevented him from feeling any ill effects from the cold he was fully aware of how unpleasant it was and how it would affect the most vulnerable of Humans.

Yaoguai…. His first instinct was to dismiss it as an overreaction to a series of natural deaths during a cold winter. But his second was less sceptical.

He climbed up onto the roof of his disguised TARDIS and knelt upright as he let his mind reach out around the neighbourhood. People were going to bed. Most of them were happy and looking forward to the New Year celebrations tomorrow. But there were several for whom the celebration was bitter sweet. And Bo was right. Few of the elderly who had died were of the pattern to be found in British society. They were not lonely people huddled by an inadequate fire dying of hypothermia in the winter. These were honoured elders of the family and their deaths came as a shock. He found the house where two people were mourned especially today. He focussed closely on the emotions being expressed there. Grief was overwhelming. But also anger and fear. Because they REALLY did believe that the cause of death of the great grandparents of the house were supernatural.

And then something else overwhelmed his psychic nerves and he knew where it came from. The brain patterns of another Time Lord were like a familiar signature to any of his race. It was their surest way of knowing each other when they had regenerated. Li Tuo's signature was sharp in his head, and he knew the old man was in trouble. And the word Yaoguai rang through it like an alarm bell. He jumped down from the roof and ran to Mai Li Tuo's house.

The door was locked, but Chrístõ dealt with that easily with his trusty sonic screwdriver. It was extremely good at melting locks, but it also had a more subtle setting that unlocked them very quickly.

He took the stairs three at a time and reached Li Tuo's room. The old man was lying on top of the bed, fully dressed. Like Chrístõ, he did not sleep at night, but rather put himself into deep meditation. He was in such a meditation now, but it - and he - was under attack by a presence that Chrístõ unmistakeably felt now that he was within a few feet of it. And he felt the hatred of all life that emanated from it.

He went to Li Tuo and put his hands on the old man's shoulders and slipped his mind into his.

He was jolted for a moment as he found himself suddenly on a desolate plain with a stormy sky above and thunder and lightning punctuating the darkness. It was, he knew, a dimensional representation of the struggle going on in Li Tuo's mind.

He looked around and saw the old man at once. He was fighting for his life against the Yaoguai. The demon was at least seven feet in height and glowed red against the darkness like a hand put against a torch It had four limbs and at the end of each of what had to pass for a hand, but looked more like a claw, was a long sword-like talon which it slashed viciously with. Li Tuo, even in his subconscious was a Shaolin master, but even in his subconscious he was an old man and although he was holding his own, that was ALL he could do.

Chrístõ drew his sword before he realised he wasn't CARRYING a sword. Subconscious representations did strange things like that. He didn't worry too much about causality. He crossed the space between him and his mentor and parried a devastating attack. He glanced at Li Tuo and he glanced back and nodded acknowledgement of his presence but no words were said. They needed none. Chrístõ stood shoulder to shoulder with him as their combined strength was pitted against the demon. Chrístõ was young and relatively inexperienced, but he had strength and vigour. Li Tuo was experienced beyond anything even Chrístõ could hope to emulate but he was weaker in body. Between them, though, like the ying and yang of Tai Chi they formed a perfect whole, age and youth, experience and strength, complementing each other and overriding the weaknesses either might have. The demon knew it, and though it fought as fiercely against them as ever, Chrístõ thought he felt a shift in the balance of the fight. Where before Li Tuo was holding his own but knowing that he must at some point give, now it was the demon that must yield eventually.

And yield it did. With a snarl that would freeze the hearts of lesser men than they, it withdrew. Chrístõ breathed a sigh of relief and looked about as he saw himself back in Li Tuo's bedroom. He looked at Li Tuo. He was struggling to wake himself from his trance. Chrístõ put his hand upon him and sensed how weak he was.

"I must…." Li Tuo murmured. "I must…" he opened his eyes slowly and focussed on Chrístõ. "Bo Juan," he said. "She knows…. She has the knowledge of Chinese medicine. She can restore me."

"But I can't leave you to fetch her," he said. "It may attack again. You are too weak to fight it alone." He could have brought the TARDIS on autopilot, but he knew Li Tuo had his own TARDIS somewhere on the premises and it was never a good idea to have two of them in the same area. Their interior dimensions tended to overlap and cause serious distortions of the time vortex.

"Project yourself," Li Tuo told him.

"I can't. My projections are worse than my telekinesis."

"Self-doubt is not something I would have thought afflicted you," Li Tuo whispered.

"Don't talk," Chrístõ told him. "Save your strength. Let me try." He closed his eyes and concentrated. It was a painful thing to do, taking a great deal of his mental powers, and he didn't do it often. If he held it for too long, his head ached for hours afterwards. But this was too important.

"Bo, precious…" His lips moved as he made his projected image speak to her. He saw her jump up from the bed in fear and back away, murmuring frightened words in Mandarin. "Bo, please, my precious, I am not a ghost. I am NOT the Yaoguai. This is just one of the smart things I can do with my mind. Bo, I need you to come to Li Tuo's house quickly. HE needs your help."

She stopped shaking and trying to run, but the thought of going out there in the cold, dark night, with a demon stalking the streets petrified her. "For me, for Li Tuo, please have courage, my Bo. We depend on you."

He couldn't keep it up any longer. He had to let the projection fail. He rubbed his temples and blinked away the dizzy spots of light that came before his eyes. He could only hope she did as he asked. He was sorry he had to frighten her that way. His projection would have been insubstantial, ghostlike, and she came from the kind of background where Yaoguai and the like were firmly believed in. Why wouldn't they be? They existed after all.

There were anxious minutes until he heard running feet in the street and then the door he had left unlocked crashing open and the pounding of feet on the stairs. Bo ran into the room, followed by Cassie and Terry.

"She was scared to come out on her own," Terry said. "What happened?"

Bo went straight to Li Tuo and examined him and then turned to Cassie and asked her to come downstairs with her to the shop, where the things she would need would be. Chrístõ sat on the edge of the bed holding Li Tuo's limp hand as the old Time Lord slipped in and out of lucidity, his short amount of speech before having drained the last of his strength. He filled Terry in on what had happened. Bo and Cassie were back as he related the details of the mental fight that he and Li Tuo had fought side by side against the creature.

"It's invisible to anyone who can't get into that mental plain though?" Terry said. "So the people out there are defenceless?"

Bo lifted Li Tuo's head and made him drink the medicine she had prepared. Chrístõ, with all his knowledge, could not say how she knew what he needed, but even as he swallowed the pungent liquid he seemed to recover a little. He had clearly heard what Terry had said.

"The people are safe now," he said. "The Yaoguai feeds on the lifeforce of the very old not because they are vulnerable, or expendable, but because…. Because it values the wisdom of age. And now it knows I am here… And it sees a banquet where before it merely snacked."

"Oooh!" Cassie said. "But…. Oh…." Terry looked at her and even without any powers of telepathy he understood what she was thinking.

"Li Tuo is not the only person here with the wisdom of age…."

"Chrístõ…" Bo said, looking at him.

"He looks like a teenager…But he's been at school for nearly 200 years." Terry put what they were all thinking into words.

Li Tuo reached out his hand and touched Chrístõ's shoulder. "Your friends may not be aged, but they, too, have some wisdom. They are correct. If the Yaoguai takes me… You, my boy, would be next." He paused. "And consider this…" He looked at Bo as she prodded him, apparently at random, but in fact in the manner of one skilled in the traditional Chinese methods of whole body healing. "This little girl was born in 1826. To the Yaoguai she is one hundred and eighty years old. And besides Shang Hui and myself she is by far the wisest person in this room."

"180!" Terry laughed. "Bo, you look beautiful for your age." Cassie pinched his arm and asked him how long he had been into older women. Even Li Tuo smiled momentarily.

"Laughter… the gift of the young to those of us who are not so young." But he was still weak and he fell silent after that.

"HOW can we defeat it?" Chrístõ asked aloud. His friends looked at him and at each other.

"We thought YOU would know," Cassie said, speaking for them. For Chrístõ not to have a plan was disturbing.

"It must be fought to the death," Bo said. And they all turned to her. "In legend, there was a great hero who fought the Yaoguai. He was young and vigorous, but the wisdom of his ancestors sat upon him and gave him the courage to face the demon. He fought long and hard for three days and nights and suffered many injuries but at last he killed it with a single stroke that took the demon's head off."

"Young and vigorous, but with the wisdom of his ancestors," Cassie said. "Sounds like Chrístõ."

"Sounds like me, but it isn't. Li Tuo and I between us only just managed to make it retreat temporarily."

"You must believe in yourself, Shang Hui," Li Tuo said, suddenly. Chrístõ was surprised. He thought the old man was unconscious again. He seemed to be lucid for short times. "Self-doubt is the greatest weakness in a psychic battle."

"Self-doubt is the greatest weakness any of us can have," Chrístõ told him. "You are right, Li Tuo. If… if I am to be the one who fights this thing…. I must believe in myself."

"WE believe in you, Chrístõ," Cassie said, taking his hand.

"I never, ever doubted you, man," Terry said, putting a hand on his shoulder. Bo looked at him and said nothing. There were no words needed. Her faith in him was unshakeable.

"I must do it," he said with a sigh. "It's my duty. To protect all of you, and all the innocent."

"Duty…" Li Tuo said. "That is a strong word with you, Shang Hui. Your sense of duty IS one of your strengths. Fighting the Yaoguai - you must have a perfect balance of your strengths."

"I…." Chrístõ began to speak but then he gave a cry and fell to the floor. Bo reached him first, but Terry lifted him and placed him on the bed next to Li Tuo. The old man reached out and touched his forehead.

"He's in the plain," he said, simply. "The Yaoguai has come for him."

Chrístõ fell forward on his hands and knees, disorientated. As he looked up the creature snarled at him. But it stood off until he was on his feet. It raised two of its taloned limbs and Chrístõ reached instinctively and pulled a Shaolin double sword from his belt, splitting it and taking the two parts in either hand. The Yaoguai, to his utter astonishment, bowed its head. Apparently this fight to the death would observe certain rules. Chrístõ bowed in return, but even as he raised his head the Yaoguai lunged forward in attack. He immediately raised his swords in defence and fought back the doubts that came from knowing that he was fighting a creature with four blades to his two and unlimited strength.

"Don't doubt yourself," he told himself as he fought, parrying its attacks, pressing his own offence. "You CAN do this. You ARE a Shaolin Master. You ARE a Master of Sun Ko Du. You ARE a Time Lord. You have strengths beyond the Humans this creature expects to challenge. You can defeat it."

"He can't do it on his own," Li Tuo said. "And I have not the strength to stand with him a second time."

"You can see what is happening?" Terry asked.

"He's fighting the Yaoguai on the plain," Li Tuo said. "Yes, I can see him. But that is ALL I can do."

"My Chrístõ," Bo said, taking his hand in hers and kissing his strangely cool cheek. His skin felt clammy and his eyes - open and unseeing - were glassy. He looked frighteningly like a dead man. He didn't even seem to be breathing. Only the beat of his two hearts told them he was alive.

"Love," Li Tuo said.

"What?"

"Love… is the strength this one has." He touched Bo's arm gently. "Child, do you love him enough?"

"I love Chrístõ with all my heart," Bo said. "I would die for him - as he would die for me."

"Then go to him," Li Tuo grasped her hand and to the two Human observers in the room it seemed as if electricity passed between them. Bo's body became rigid and she collapsed over Chrístõ's still form, quickly becoming as cool and clammy and unresponsive as he was. Li Tuo, weak though he was, raised himself from the bed and told Cassie to make Bo comfortable beside Chrístõ. He knelt and took both their hands in his, as if completing a link between the three of them.

Chrístõ was aware he was no longer alone, but when he glanced around he was shocked to see Bo at his side. He began to speak but she shook her head imperceptibly and raised her double swords to block an attack from the Yaoguai that could have killed him outright in the moment he had been distracted by her arrival.

"Love completes our perfect whole," she said as she turned her defence into an offence and forced the creature to step back. "Love and duty, and the wisdom of Li Tuo, the greatest of us." Chrístõ understood. Between the two of them they WERE a perfect Ying Yang whole. He wasn't sure at first how Li Tuo fitted into the equation. Not until he saw her perform a manoeuvre that was known only to the highest masters of Malvoria, one even he was uncertain about, and had certainly not taught her.

Li Tuo had put himself into her. All his knowledge was at her disposal. Chrístõ smiled. NOW, they truly WERE capable of defeating the creature. It was, again, fighting two Time Lords, and this time both had the strength and vigour of youth as well as the experience and wisdom of age.

It was a hard fight, all the same. The creature did not fight like a creature - it was not mere rage and murderous intent. It fought as if it had as much training in the disciplines as they did. They were equally matched. Except that even Time Lords could tire, sooner or later, whereas he didn't know if the demon EVER would.

The Yaoguai slashed two of its blade-like talons towards Bo. She parried it skilfully and pressed forward in attack but it slashed a third blade towards her, while still fighting Chrístõ on its other flank with its fourth limb. Out of the corner of his eye Chrístõ thought he saw her fall. His hearts sank. The slash of that blade would have cut her in half. He forced himself to look around while not losing any of his concentration in the fight against the creature. To his relief he saw her standing a little back from him, where she had landed from a back flip that had taken her out of reach of the deadly blade.

Bo stood looking at him, her two sword blades crossed horizontally in front of her. He needed only a split second to understand her meaning. He turned away from the creature and crossed his swords in emulation of her gesture. Bo lowered her arms, her swords by her side and ran towards Chrístõ. She leapt onto his crossed swords and as he felt her weight upon them he thrust them upwards, propelling her high into the air. He span around to block the attack that came in the split second that followed their surprising change of tactic. He looked up as he did so. So did the Yaoguai, startled as she arced gracefully in the air, as smoothly as a heron diving towards its water-born prey. As her descent brought her level with the back of the creature's head she crossed the swords around its neck and pulled them apart, slicing the head clean off. Even Chrístõ barely saw the quick mid-air somersault that brought her to land in a crouch, swords still at the ready. But there was no need of them. She stood up, a smile of triumph on her face, as the dust of the disintegrating Yaoguai settled in the space between her and Chrístõ.

 

Bo raised her head. She looked at Chrístõ. He was still unconscious. So was Li Tuo, though he was still in a kneeling position, Terry supporting him. She felt weak herself. "Cassie… the medicine… all of us," she managed before her strength failed. Cassie understood. She ran downstairs to where they had prepared the potion that had revived Li Tuo before. She began to pour a cup of it, then grabbed the whole deep basin and ran upstairs with it. She dipped a cup into the liquid and put it first to Bo's lips, gently coaxing her to swallow it down, then Chrístõ, then Li Tuo. Then there was nothing for her and Terry to do but wait. She stood and looked at their friends, Chrístõ, who had changed their life utterly, Bo, who loved him and, she suspected, had saved the day, and the enigmatic old man who Chrístõ trusted despite the mystery that surrounded him. She felt helpless. And for several long minutes she waited fearfully.

Bo stirred again and raised herself off the bed. She went to Chrístõ first and was reassured. He would be all right in a few minutes. Terry laid Li Tuo on the bed now and turned to hold Cassie. He, too, Bo was assured, would also recover soon. She turned back as Chrístõ reached out his arm to her.

Love… was our greatest strength," he said, and pulled her towards him to kiss her.

"Is it over?" Terry asked.

"It is," Li Tuo said, sitting up, still looking worn out in his body but with his eyes bright. "Shang Hui the intelligent one, and Bo Juan, the precious one, defeated the Yaoguai by working in harmony with each other. Duty and honour hand in hand with love and loyalty."

"I couldn't have done it without you," Bo told him as she sat beside Chrístõ, holding his hand tightly. "You…. gave me your knowledge… your memories. Oh…" Her eyes widened as she stared at him. "YOU… YOU were the hero of the legend who fought for many days and defeated the Yaoguai. It WAS you."

"You know everything I know," Li Tuo said. "But a Time Lord's memories won't remain long in a Human head. They will fade in a little time." Li Tuo stood up from the bed, hiding the slight unsteadiness he felt from his friends. He looked at Bo, and at Chrístõ who lay quite still as if the struggle still wearied him. "I will seek a quiet place to meditate. You stay here with Shang Hui for the rest of the night." He looked at Cassie and Terry. "There is a bed in the other room. You, too, should rest." And he left them. Terry looked at Bo as she pulled the bed covers around Chrístõ and lay beside him.

"You have all his memories? Then… you know why he…."

"Yes, I have his memories." Bo said. "But I also have my own honour. Do not ask. I cannot tell you. Except… Chrístõ's father is a man of good judgement in his friends. That is all I shall say. EVER." And with that she embraced Chrístõ in her arms. She needed no telepathy to know that he was more tired than he had ever been since she had known him. "Goodnight," she said as Cassie took Terry by the hand out of the room, and turned out the light.

 

Chrístõ woke alone in the bed, though he DID remember that Bo had been with him most of the night. He ached in every bone, every muscle, but he felt good. He got up and slipped on his shoes that were beside the bed and his jacket, folded on a chair next to it and went downstairs.

He listened at the kitchen door as Bo instructed Cassie on the correct way to perform the Chinese tea ceremony. He smiled and went to the room where they had dined last night. Terry and Li Tuo both sat cross legged at the low table which had been set for breakfast. Four of the place settings had red envelopes beside them. Li Tuo's was the only one not graced with the traditional Hong Bao.

Chrístõ reached in his inside pocket and found the envelope he had prepared yesterday when Bo mentioned the need and placed it reverently in front of Li Tuo. He heard Bo's soft sigh of relief as she came through with a dish of rice and fish in a light sauce that was a traditional meal eaten for breakfast while Cassie brought the tea and its accoutrements on a tray. Bo put the dish in the centre of the table and then she and Cassie both knelt and performed the tea ceremony. Cassie did it for Terry, who she loved, and for whom she willingly suppressed her 1960s feminist principles that told her a woman need not be subservient to a man. Bo prepared tea for the grand master, Li Tuo, whom she honoured, and for Shang Hui, her saviour and her sweetheart and much more besides. That done, and before they ate, they each took the red envelope by their side and opened them. The companions all found a token, made of gold with Chinese characters and a square hole through the centre. I-Ching coins, Chrístõ said. For good luck and prosperity. Li Tuo opened his and found four such coins. One from each of them, Chrístõ explained, though there was no need.

"Well, I hope good luck will follow, now," Terry said. "What are our plans for the day?"

"Celebration," Chrístõ said. "After breakfast we need to go back to the TARDIS and put our celebratory clothes on again. I am in the black of mourning again and it will not do on such a day. As Li Tuo's adopted family we shall join him in visiting and greeting his neighbours as is the custom, then there is the Dragon parade this afternoon, and tonight the Festival of Lanterns to celebrate the joy of the New Year. And I shall be very cross if even the smallest house demon or sprite tries to interfere with our enjoyment of this special day which I intend to spend with ALL of my friends from Earth and my kinsman of my own world."