The first time the twenty-four-year-old Xu Wenwu encountered Merlin was on his first conquest of China. He had founded the Ten Rings a few years earlier, his army, while organized and powerful was still not as skilled and powerful as it would be in the future. At the moment the warlord was personally leading ten battalions of his army's most skilled warriors atop a legion of the fastest and strongest horses found in all of China.

The Warlord had one final city to conquer before he completed his goal. Xu Wenwu arrived outside of Bianjing, the capital city of the Song Dynasty. The Emperor had refused his generous terms of surrender and instead had decided to barricade himself in his grand city. The Song army stood mobilised outside the city, their meagre skills and lack of skill could be seen even from the several kilometres separating the two rivalling armies

Leading them was a general, a young fellow younger than Xu Wenwu himself. It didn't surprise the Warlord, he had after all slaughtered all of the Song Dynasty's leadership, this young general was probably the son of one of the officials loyal to the emperor. Xu Wenwu was confident that he would defeat the army in no time.

Just as he urged his forces to battle another young man suddenly appeared in the middle of the battlefield. He was different, with white skin and an angular face. He wasn't from China, he was dressed in unfamiliar clothing and held a gnarled wooden staff in his hand.

Some kind of charlatan? Xu Wenwu thought to himself, never mind he would die soon.

The foreigner opened his mouth and declared "You shall fight another day, where no innocents may die!" His voice resounded throughout the plains even though he didn't raise his voice, what witchcraft was this?

The Lord of the Ten Rings halted his army's march with a raised fist. "I refuse, Bianjing shall fall today!" Xu Wenwu roared back at the strangely dressed man.

"Very well." The foreigner muttered softly yet somehow Xu Wenwu heard him. "I promised Arthur that I would protect the innocent. I fear today many families will lose thier loved ones." A pained look appeared on the young man's face.

"Die!" The Warlord bellowed as he launched himself off the horse with the help of his rings. As he approached the man, he simply waved his staff, as if swatting a fly and Wenwu felt himself flying.

A powerful gust of air had seized the Leader of the Ten Rings and had sent him flying. He had braced himself with his Rings and when he turned around for another attempt the Ten Rings had vanished into a newly created chasm so large it stretched infinitely into the horizon.

The Song Army merely stood like gaping fish, thier mouths permanently left open. With a tap of his staff, the chasm closed in on itself as if it was never there. He addressed the fallen Wenwu, "You should have listened."

Wenwu defeated and beaten, his prized battalions gone and pride in tatters mounted his horse and escaped.

The next time they met was a hundred years later, Xu Wenwu had conquered China and planted a puppet emperor. He was currently on a campaign in Aisa, planning on replacing the current kings with his own puppets. Xu Wenwu found that battle was the one constant that never changed, the hum of the blood rushing through his veins, the adrenaline coursing constantly. This was his reason for living.

He was currently in a rural and remote village in India accompanied by a few lone loyal and skilled soldiers. They were part of a newly improved army. His original army was dead, their descendants had taken their grandfathers' places as his loyal and exceptionally trained secret operatives.

The village itself was of no consequence to Xu Wenwu, it had no value and was worthless in the long run. So why was he gracing it with his presence you might ask? Because it had an incredibly valuable resource, a rare herb that when used in a secret formula would heal a life-threatening wound in a matter of minutes.

Xu Wenwu had only heard of it by sheer luck while going undercover while scouting for more information on the country. His horse trotted through the village, his unique armour and exotic clothes aroused the villagers' attention. But once they saw the Ten Rings adorning his wrists their looks of curiosity turned to fear. For all recognized the Ten Rings, the Chinese Conquerer's symbol. Those caught wearing it would be swiftly executed.

"Where is the Moon Tear herb?" Xu Wenwu asked his tone of voice promising violent retribution if the answer to his question wasn't given. A blanket of silence as the villagers all fell silent looking at each other with feared glances.

Just as Xu Wenwu was getting impatient an old man (at least to the most people) spoke up. "It is located in the mountains," he gestured to the mountainous scenery behind with a withered hand. "I can take you if you promise to leave the village alone."

Xu Wenwu felt a wave of anger wash over him, how dare a puny villager lay out terms to Xu Wenwu, conqueror of China, Immortal Warlord and future ruler of the world. Nevertheless, should the elder lead him to the herb without issues then he would agree to his request for now

"Of course," Xu Wenwu said. "If I am satisfied with the herb I promise to never set foot in this place for the rest of my life."

For whatever reason, the elder seemed to have gained momentary courage, "Then swear it by your gods."

"Fine," Xu Wenwu felt another wave of fury overcome him. "By my gods, I swear that I shall not set foot in this village for the rest of my life." Xu Wenwu conveniently left out his men in his oath. For he would order for the village to be burned down to a crip.

The elder while wise was dwarfed by Xu Wenwu's experience and cunning and thus was satisfied with the loophole-riddled oath and led them out of the village.

The location where the herb was located was in a small clearing, the herbs, coloured silver and took on the appearance of a raindrop were spread out across a small grove. It was a truly magical sight, the warlord could understand why the herb had received its name.

Xu Wenwu waved his hand and his rings shot the old man, piercing his chest and returned back to their rightful place on his wrist. The elder had died swiftly and painlessly, let no man say that Xu Wenwu wasn't a merciful ruler.

"After all these years you are still as evil and arrogant as you were a century ago." A youthful voice lectured sadly.

Wenwu turned around and there in all of his simple glory stood the only being that had successfully beaten him. Dressed in plain white linen robes and holding a staff, the only thing that had changed with the stranger was his odd choice of clothes. He was still as youthful as he was a hundred years ago.

"Name yourself stranger." Wenwu ordered angrily, "So I may know who I will be slaying."

"Slaying me, oh my, you sure are a confident one." The stranger mocked. "Many have tried to kill me but none have succeeded."

"Then know that I Xu Wenwu shall slay you where others have failed." And the warlord rocketed off the ground shooting ring after ring at the sorcerer.

A forcefield made up of many tiny shimmering octagons appeared in front of the stranger and blocked every projectile, which flew back to its master. The stranger's eyes glowed a deep gold and all of a sudden Wenwu felt himself falling asleep. He tried to fight the sensation but couldn't resist.

As he closed his eyes the stranger whispered only for him, "You asked for my name, it's Merlin."

When he awoke he lay by an empty clearing, his men told him that when the foreigner, no Merlin, left the whole Moon Tear grove had vanished along with him.

Over the centuries they had clashed multiple times, sometimes Xu Wenwu would bring his soldiers, sometimes he would stumble on the wizard alone. But never could he best Merlin. Of course, he had done his best to track the enigmatic sorcerer, sometimes he would find him sometimes he wouldn't.

His vast spy network helped in that regard. Merlin was baffling, sometimes he would show up for no reason and tell him that he refused to let him kill innocents, other times he would turn a blind eye and let him do as he pleased. Xu Wenwu couldn't for the life of himself get a grasp on the sorcerer's character.

But somewhere in the nineteenth century, he had managed to track the sorcerer to the British isles, the English Capital- London. The city had experienced a great revolution, where it had once been a relatively small city made up of straw and mud huts, now stood a large city made up of stone and iron buildings. Large funnels constantly released smoke that made the city appear to be in a state of constant darkness.

There the immortal sorcerer sat in a small dinghy pub on the corner of one of the sidestreets. He appeared unassuming, a young man dressed in workers clothing his staff thrown away centuries ago after it became too much of an oddity.

"I've come to talk." Wenwu quickly stated before their interaction began. Where Merlin once stood out to him for his foreign features, in the English Capital Xu Wenwu was the one that stood out. He hadn't come unarmed of course, his rings were hidden beneath an oversized workers tunic and trousers, for he too understood the importance of Merlin's need to blend in.

"I propose that we stop warring." The head of the Ten Rings suggested. "It has been an exhausting few centuries and I wish to direct my attention to better… prospects." The warlord searched for the appropriate word.

"I too think we should stop bickering like a pair of immature children." Merlin agreed, "But to be fair you always have a tendency to start fights."

"I disagree, you were always the one that interfered in my business," Wenwu replied.

"Your business was harming innocents. That automatically makes it my business." Merlin looked at Wenwu for a few seconds before they both abruptly burst into laughter.

"This is ridiculous," Wenwu said after managing to compose himself. "We are both immortals there is no need for us to fight."

"Then let's lay out our terms," Merlin suggested, his tone shifting from a mischievous laugh to a serious and focused one. "What I want is very simple, I've told you this from the beginning. No harming innocents."

The sorcerer had refused to budge on the subject for as long as Wenwu knew him.

"Very well." Wenwu agreed to his terms, for it was not worth making Merlin an enemy. "My main term is no meddling on your part in my organization's jobs."

"I can't promise to not interfere if I don't know they're your men. But if I know then so long as they aren't harming innocents then I shall not interfere." Merlin acquiesced to Wenwu's terms.

"Then we can go over the rest of the details later." Wenwu said happily, "To new beginnings!" He toasted raising a cheap mug of ale, which Merlin mirrored.

"To new beginnings!"

"Come to my wedding."

"What?" Merlin asked, holding the telephone receiver close to ear.

"You heard me, Merlin, you're my oldest friend. I want you to come as my best man."

"What, I don't think I heard you." The ancient sorcerer repeated again while rubbing his ears in shock.

"You heard me. I'm leaving the life of crime as you put it, behind, for happiness."

"That's great, I told you that it'd happen eventually."

"Yeah yeah." Wenwu brushed off his comment. "So I assume you're coming."

"Of course I wouldn't miss it for the world."

"We are gathered here for the joyous union between lovers from two unlikely backgrounds. When Xu Wenwu met Yang Li in the forest he had no idea that he would fall in love with the woman who kicked his ass." Merlin orated, at his good friend's wedding.

"Why it was almost like my own relationship with him only far quicker and less falling in love. You know I told him, one-day old dog, one day you'll fall in love and put all of your sordid past behind you." The small number of guests that were invited were enraptured by the story. Xu Wenwu was a reclusive man and a large number didn't know many details about his personal life.

"He dismissed me obviously because that's the man Wenwu is. When I first met Wenwu, we didn't get along. In fact, we hated each other with a burning passion." He let a small smile appear on his face as he reminisced over the memories.

"He would damage my business so I would strike back and so forth. Eventually, we decided to stop being so childish and met up. With time we became friends and soon enough I trusted him with my life. Xu Wenwu is loyal, hardworking, earnest, loving... Well, you get the point. I could preach about all his positive qualities but we would be here all week.

"What I'm saying is Yang Li you are a lucky woman and Wenwu I'm glad you've finally achieved your happiness. Let's give them a round of applause." Merlin finished his speech with a small bow, a cheeky grin painted on his face.

"What do you mean Li is dead?" Merlin asked, shocked. "What happened?"

"I see," he murmured sadly. "She will be missed."

As Wenwu continued to speak on the telephone, Merlin could only shake his head in empathy and sadness. "I'm sorry old friend, but I can't help you. Revenge isn't the answer, it'll only lead to a path of suffering."

Wenwu's answer pierced the wizard's heart.

"I see, if that is what you want then I won't contact you anymore. Tell the kids that I love them."

With that Xu Wenwu hung up.

He had never phoned since.

Xu Wenwu looked in horror as the eldritch monstrosity burst out of the Dark Gate. The gate he opened. It swivelled its terrifying head and peered right at his dear son, without a second thought Wenwu leapt towards Shang Chi and pushed him to the ground as the flying horror dove past them.

"I love you." He told his son as he felt a tendril grab ahold of him. It tore him away from his son and held him close. He felt his life pass, Wenwu saw his past, his highs, his lows, his mistakes. God so many mistakes.

Faces of those he wronged appeared, his teachers who had taught him everything they knew and he spat on their kindness, his soldiers who he had sacrificed so casually, his friends whom he rejected- Merlin, his children, Shang Chi and Xialing who he had abandoned and treated so callously and finally Yang Li, his precious wife whom he had wronged by not protecting her. So many regrets.

Just as he felt his life-giving out, a massive shockwave impacted the creature. It promptly let him go. Wenwu fell to the ground, weakened but not dead. He turned around and there dressed in his garish robes, stood Merlin. A concentrated look was painted on the sorcerer's friend. The friend he rejected, one of his greatest regrets. But despite it all, he couldn't help but feel a spark of hope appear.

If there was one person who could fix his mistake it was Merlin.

"I'm sorry," Wenwu muttered apologetically, the decades worth of pain and regret carried by those two simple words.

"It's fine old friend, Water under the bridge."

Wenwu stood up and entered his stance.

"Now let's show this monster what two old-timers can do eh?" Merlin said, his familiar cheeky grin adorning his face.

"Of course old friend."

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A simple one-shot that I wrote after watching Shang Chi and The Ten Rings. It really was a magnificent movie and I gained a couple of plot bunnies from the movie. This was one of them, a simple tale depicting the two immortals encounters over the centuries. This wasn't meant to be anything major, so don't overthink it. If I got any details wrong feel free to comment about it.

I hope you enjoyed the story!