Skyfire Avenue Chapter 711-720

Chapter 711: Don’t Be Naïve

After candidly explaining their problems and suggesting solutions, Lan Jue returned to his seat.

Suddenly encountering the Violet Princess during their last mission had shaken Lan Jue deeply. At his level of power, and with the Pharmacist’s help, they only managed to survive by luck. In reality perhaps the only person who was sure to survive a scouting mission was his father. However, his father had long been under threat by universal protogenia and couldn’t use his powers over long periods. Every time he used his abilities it was like taking years off his life.

So Lan Jue’s greatest hope was that humanity find some way to use technology to solve this problem. If they could, it would be a huge weight off mankind’s collective shoulders.

After Lan Jue’s short speech, military leaders and researchers alike sat in contemplative silence.

The morning portion of the conference was done. For the afternoon the delegates would be separated into their respective specialties. Military leaders would gather to discuss how to direct their armed forces while scientists would ponder how to
bring technology up to the task.

Lan Jue and his brother left the hall, when suddenly they were stopped.

“Commander Lan Jue, Admiral Lan Qing. Can I invite you out to dinner?” Kang Hui’s earnest voice called.

Lan Jue shot his brother a glance. “Of course.”

A pleasant smile split the Northern admiral’s face, “Excellent.
Please come with me, gentlemen.”

The cafeteria was a plain place, as was the fare. A fourth person had joined them for the mean along the way – Yan Yuan, Admiral of Heron.

Yan Yuan, unlike Kang Hui, had had his command stripped and not returned. Although Heron had managed to escape without loss of life, returning it to full functionality would be painfully expensive for the North. But at least he’d lived.
“Commander Lan, Yan Yuan and I would like to propose a toast to you. Since we still have meetings in the afternoon tea will have to take the place of wine.” Kang Hui lifted his glass, followed soon after by Yan Yuan.

Lan Jue, a smile on his face, lifted his glass in salute and took a sip.

Kang Hui went on. “It feels like the old world has passed, things are different now. When First Fleet sacrificed itself I will confess, I thought it was in vain. I didn’t think we would come back from that doomed mission. We did, thanks to you and your Star Division. I am ashamed for what happened after. Although I can’t go into details, I can tell you that none of it was at my command.”

Lan Jue waved a hand. “What is done is done. We all answer to someone, it’s nothing to fret over. But if we want to have any chance against the aliens, the only way we can do it is together. Otherwise it’s a slow march toward destruction.”

Kang Hui nodded sagely. “Indeed! Our internal leadership finally realized the truth of that sentiment, that’s why we’re holding this conference. Only when we stand together and fight hard against our foreign enemy will be succeed. Commander
Lan, do you plan to lead your army on another scouting mission?”

Lan Jue’s heart jumped. Kang Hui had called it an army, not a scout team. The meaning was clear.

After thinking for a moment, he responded. “In scouting the enemy, especially if you plan to harass them, you must first consider safety. Of course we won’t stop trying to learn more about what we face, but we must choose the best people for the job. As I told the conference what we need is technology that can meet our needs, anything that can assure our safety. If all we’re doing is courting death, then even if our people can handle it psychologically the losses we’ve suffered are pointless.

Kang Hui nodded his head. “I understand. Take heart, Commander Lan. We will do everything within our power.”

Lan Qing never spoke a work. He sad by his brother’s side and quietly ate his food.

Finally, Yan Yuan tried to engage him in conversation. “I’ve heard so much about you, Admiral Lan. What do you think about our situation? Do you have any suggestions for what we
should do?”

Lan Qing raised his head and regarded the two Northerners. “I have nothing to say. Show your strongest hand and hide your weaknesses.”

It was a sweeping phrase with no specific meaning, but when it came from the super soldier of An Lun it filled them with confidence. Even though they were commanders as well, Kang Hui and Yan Yuan looked at the young admiral in surprise. No wonder he was the East’s youngest, most lauded leader. Beneath that calm was a stealing determination to show what he was made of.

“You seem confident,” Yan Yuan couldn’t help but say.

“Confidence isn’t in the things you say,” Lan Qing replied. “It’s in the things you do. I am confident that I will meet these aliens one day, and when I do I will fight with the full extent of my abilities.”

Lunch ended, and the four men returned to the conference hall were delegates had broken into their groups. Lan Jue and Lan Qing separated as well, Lan Qing sitting with military
leaders and Lan Jue meeting with researchers. He did so for two reasons. First, he was a powerful Adept in his own right, and second was his scouts would lean heavily on technology to do their jobs in the future.

Talk continued until dusk. By the time it ended tired representatives dragged themselves from the conference hall.

“Come with me.” A deep voice stopped Lan Qing and Lan Jue as they were preparing to leave.

Lan Jue’s eyes sparkled, and surprise alit Lan Qing’s features. Both of them turned their heads in one fluid motion, searching for the origin of the voice.

Large and imposing, the Terminator stood nearby. Everyone who passed bowed and scraped in their passage.

ζ

Qiu Xiaochen was leaving the hall when she spied Lan Jue and Lan Qing out of the corner of her eye. Her steps quickened and she tried to catch up, but not because of some mission given to
her by the West. In fact, it was because she was honestly interested in these two young stars of the East.

Young, handsome, similar in appearance but very different in nature, they were outstanding members of their generation. Who wouldn’t be interested in getting closer to people such as them?

However, as she neared she was surprised to see them stride off in another direction. They were headed toward a man who always made her feel like it was harder to breathe.

The Terminator! The strongest man in the North, and the second most powerful Paragon on the Paragon List.

They wanted to speak with the Paragon?

Ah, but of course, Lan Qing was also a Paragon. Lan Qing’s recent ascension was no secret. Nor was his title; Peerless Light Emperor of Middle Heaven. But subconsciously it was easy to forget and simply see him as Admiral of An Lun, or super soldier, or Prometheus. She had to remind herself that he was now a Paragon, and a Reflection of Heaven and Earth at that.
Why are they speaking to the Terminator? Something about Adepts?

Qiu Xiaochen stopped in her tracks. She couldn’t just walk over, she was in no position to trouble people of their stature.

The Western general’s voice interrupted her thoughts from behind. “Never mind.”

She looked back. “Oh, general.”

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he sighed.

This seemed to surprise the Colonel. “You mean you don’t know how the war with the aliens will go?”

He answered with a small smile. “No, I mean I don’t know what will happen to the West. The North is on the cutting edge of technology, and has a powerful army. The East has the most powerful Adept organization in history. Both of them will fare well against the alien threat, and the East seems poised to become the next super power. But us? Although the West is the leader in genetic research we’re nonetheless a step behind in
understanding the exuvium process. Our military is not much stronger than the East’s. We have two Adept organizations at odds with one another, whose leaders have deigned not to show their faces for some time. The future of our alliance troubles me.”

Qiu Xiaochen was unsettled by his words. “But we have the Poseidon Group!”

When she thought about Hua Li’s beautiful face her face adopted a tinge of red. Like many young women Poseidon was a secret crush.

“Do you really think Gobi Entertainment or the Poseidon group are part of the West?” He asked. “Xiaochen, you’re old enough to know better.”

ζ

Not far away a man smiled – an easy, simple smile that drew near every eye his way. As a Paragon he could hear every conversation that was happening in the room. He had planned to speak with Lan Jue, but like Xiaochen was stopped when he saw him and his brother move toward the Terminator. In truth
there was no need for Hua Li to come to this conference in person. He’d come because he knew Lan Jue would be here.

It was as the Western general said, Gobi Entertainment and Poseidon Group were not officially part of the West. They didn’t accept nor exert any direct influence on Western affairs. Poseidon Group belonged to Poseidon Group.

Hua Li was the sole leader and representative of Poseidon Corps. With the aliens on their doorstep, how the Corps and Group reacted was important, where they pointed their power was significant. He wanted to discuss this with Lan Qing and Lan Jue, and see where he could offer his help. The foundation of such a cooperative was trust, and they trusted Hua Li more than they did the West.

Outside of the conference hall a large bus was waiting. It had been arranged for the military leadership, chief among whom was the Terminator. To the North he was more than just a man, he was a symbol. To the North he was like a god among men.

Lan Jue followed the Terminator onto the bus. Much to his surprise, while the bus looked luxurious on the outside the interior was anything but. Rows of plain but wide seats stretched to the back and that was all.
The Terminator sat, and although the bus was wide he made it seem cramped. His dark features were calm and solemn.

“I’m bringing you to a place where you and I can spar, Lan Qing. You should begin to prepare.”

Chapter 712: The Trial

“Alright.” Lan Qing’s reply was simple. He shut his eyes and proceeded to meditate.

A faint smile painted the Terminator’s face, then he turned his eyes toward Lan Jue. “Do you have an interest in participating?”

The Jewelry Master smiled back. “Absolutely, the more the merrier right? But it wouldn’t be just me, I have a partner.”

“Fine, both of you together are fine,” the Terminator assured him.

But Lan Jue chuckled. “No, you misunderstand. Lan Qing is Lan Qing, I am me. My partner is not him. You can have your spar with Lan Qing first, then we can test our skills.”

Lan Jue wouldn’t dare pass up an opportunity to test himself against the strongest Adept in the North. He knew it would be an interesting match, and beneficial to feel how the flows of protogenia changed around such a powerful adversary.
He and Lan Qing were brothers, and thus were prone to pulling punches. What’s more, Lan Jue knew his brother’s abilities almost as well as his own. The pressure of not knowing didn’t exist. However, it was different with the Terminator. The pressure from a famed Paragon would be great, which in turn would deepen his protogenic understanding even further. He was also reasonably sure the Terminator wouldn’t do anything untoward after approaching them in public.

In the end Lan Jue trusted Jun’er’s assessment of the man – he was a good person. He believed it without a shadow of a doubt. Maybe she wasn’t as adept in her prognostications as the Clairvoyant, but she had a natural acuity which he trusted. In fact the Wine Master had told him that the natural visions that came to Jun’er before she began cultivating would be clearer than a focused try, and truer. What she gained from the Clairvoyant was the ability to see farther.

Lan Jue shut his eyes and began to meditate as well, modulating his Discipline for the fight ahead. In a spar against the Terminator he wouldn’t dare to overestimate his chances.

The Terminator looked at these two brothers who looked so similar. A small smile spread across his face, then he shut his eyes as well. These two men were more important to the Terminator than they would imagine.
After half an hour the bus began to slow and descend to the ground. The roof of a building below slowly separated, just wide enough for the bus to pass through.

Lan Jue and Lan Qing opened their eyes. In Lan Qing’s there was a crystal clear light, and a strange sense of kindness. Lan Jue’s eyes were sharp, and a crackling blue power flickered intermittently.

The Terminator opened his eyes only once the bus touched down.

“Come.” He disembarked and began to walk.

He led them through a set of large doors and into a long metallic hallway. For reasons unknown, Lan Jue felt somehow repressed in here. Although he couldn’t pinpoint where it came from, for this sense to pervade it had to be from something strong.

Lan Qing also seemed to sense something, judging by the slight surprise in his eyes. His sights darted to the walls slipping past them.
The Terminator’s deep voice reverberated of those walls. “This place is part of the Great Conclave. In a way it is an extension of myself. About twenty years ago I came across a strange metal that was derived from the collision of two comets. In the vastness of the universe it’s common for asteroids to collide, but an event like two comets crashing into each other is exceptionally rare. Complicated influences from gravitational fields must line up perfectly for this to occur.”

“We can’t know what the original composition of those comets were, but after their collision this metal was left behind. It was strangely complex and incomplete. When the Northern patrols found it they brought it to me because of the strange power it emitted. I was shocked to discover pulses of protogenic energy coming from it.”

Protogenia? Lan Jue looked at the Terminator in shock.

He went on. “I was startled, there had never been a case of inanimate metal possessing protogenia. Certainly the power couldn’t have come from the metal itself, but was somehow injected into it after their impact. No one knew how, precisely, but I could feel it. I began to study it in depth.”

“As time went on I discovered that the protogenia was in a
constant state of flux, becoming stronger by the day. I was a Paragon by then, ascended through the transformation of my body. I always knew that life and protogenia were inexorably tied together, but I never expected a lump of metal to change my future. The more I understood the material, the faster my cultivation became. As it changed, so too did I. After ten years I became a Reflection of Heaven and Earth.

“I thought it might continue to assist my perfection. However, I discovered its pulses weakening shortly after breaking through. Its protogenia was coalescing, stratifying, strengthening. As it began to settle the changes in it stabilized and its benefit to me diminished. I have had people scouring the sky for another chunk of metal like this, but to this day I’ve had no luck.”

“I took the heart of this metal and turned it into my Astrum. The remaining impurities were mixed with other metals and used to create this building. It was constructed as a place for Paragons to cultivate, as well as a place for Paragons to spar.”

Every Paragon had their own origin story, Lan Jue and Lan Qing knew. Such power never came easily to anyone. In all the history of mankind no one had been born a Paragon. However, they didn’t expect the Terminator to be so forthcoming with his tory. It was frankly unbelievable considering the strained
relationship between their two Alliances, not to mention the Conclave’s contention with Skyfire Avenue.

Over the course of his story the three of them had traversed the hall and passed through a set of thick metal doors. They entered into a spacious empty room.

Here the pressure was even clearer. After the Terminator’s explanation and careful concentration, Lan Jue could feel the flows of protogenia flooding this place. All of this using only the impure shell of metal, while the core had lifted the Terminator from the Realm of Protogenia. Its strength was undisputable.

“Welcome, guests.” An electronic voice greeted them, followed by the appearance of a flickering image.

Lan Jue’s keen perception had noted that the Terminator seemed much more relaxed after they’d entered. Like returning home. Clearly this was an important room for the Terminator, like his secret place.

“Ah, Noah. Raise the shields to full strength.” The Terminator said.
The projected image was a large man, who after careful examination looked remarkably like the Terminator only younger.

“I have no children, nor am I capable of producing any. So, I had Noah created. I had models created using how I looked in my youth with the image of the woman I liked the most. I sort of tribute, I suppose.” The Terminator grinningly described Noah’s history.

“We’re going to fight here, Your Majesty?” Lan Jue asked.

“Indeed,” he replied. “Then we’ll talk after. Are you sure you won’t be fighting together?”

Lan Jue nodded his head without hesitation. “So long as you don’t mind fighting a war of attrition.”

A booming chuckle issued from the Paragon. “You know good opponents are hard to find. When Huan Xue was here we sparred often. Though if I’m being honest, I didn’t like her fighting style. Changing the flow of time was very uncomfortable for me. Really, my greatest honor would be to one day face off against Jue Di.”
Lan Jue shrugged. “That shouldn’t be too hard. Beat Lan Qing bad enough and I’m fairly sure Jue Di will make an appearance.”

The Terminator’s eyes lit up. “Really?”

“You’d have to beat us both pretty bad, more like.” Lan Qing chimed in.

The Terminator grinned. “Let’s give it a try. Peerless Light Emperor of Middle Heaven… that’s quite a long name, but I won’t hold it against you. Shall we begin?”

When he heard his Paragon title Lan Qing’s face twitched. It was only a passing moment, though.

Lan Jue swayed for a moment, then disappeared in a bolt of lightning. He was conveyed to a far corner where his body was surrounded by a shell of blue energy that his everything within. A figure joined him within the orb.

After cultivating for so long with Zhou Qianlin, both of their Disciplines had grown exponentially. He’d been long eager to
find someone to really test his skills against, and see just how much he’d improved. Things had been so busy he hadn’t found the opportunity, so the Terminator’s offer and this special ring of his couldn’t have come at a better time.

With a smile on his dusky features, the Terminator looked at Lan Qing. “After you!”

Without standing on any further ceremony, the battle begun!

Chapter 713: Destructive Protogenia

Lan Qing’s air underwent a sudden and dramatic change. A flood of light shot from his every pore, even filling his aura. Looking upon him, the Terminator was filled with an unconscious sense of peace. That harmonious light painted everything around them.

Lan Qing’s palm slowly extended outward. As the younger generation, he would be given the chance to strike first.

As Lan Qing thrust out his hand the action seemed plain, as though there was nothing to expect. But when his arm reached out the furthest it could go his harmonious aura suddenly flared and filled the whole arena with light.

It was in that moment the Terminator struck. Compared to Lan Qing’s slow movements, the Terminator’s fist was fast as a rocket. For Lan Qing it felt like he was slammed face first with a planet. There was nothing beyond pure force.

No wonder he was called the God of Might!

Bang! The whole arena shook.
The Terminator’s punch looked wild, but it was actually cleverly employed to counteract Lan Qing’s peaceful aura and interrupt his rhythm.

However, the moment before the Terminator’s fist and Lan Qing’s palm met the Northern Paragon felt the harmonious light begin to burn. It was like the Peerless Light Emperor had become a small sun.

A flower corona of flame surrounded his fist like it was trying to push through an atmosphere. Its force was shed by the effort until, by the time it eventually did reach Lan Qing’s palm, only about a third of the strike’s power remained. The Terminator’s hand glowed like it’d punched through magma.

A blast ripped through the air. Although both men were holding back, the result of their clash was strong enough to shudder the foundations of the arena. A pale yellow light sprang up that stabilized the area, melding with the protogenic energy of the metallic walls to keep them safe.

Lan Qing was knocked back seven steps before he could regain his footing. The Terminator’s fist continued to seethe an angry red for a few moments before returning to normal.
“Very good!” The Terminator roared. He launched forward, suddenly seeming less a man and more a raging beast. Appearing to swell even larger, the man’s meaty fist came tumbling down upon Lan Qing once more.

Everything around them seemed drawn toward the Terminator, sucked inexorably toward that destructive fist. Even Lan Jue and Zhou Qianlin on the far side of the arena struggled not to be dragged off balance.

Lan Qing stretched out his arms, one hand up and the other down. At the same time his body began to spin like a top. Behind him, the ethereal image of a Buddha emerged with a blazing sun behind its head.

The light of Buddha illuminates all, piercing the heavens and painting the earth!

Boom–!

The Terminator’s fist was knocked aside with the blast, and the man himself was thrust backward a couple paces. The vortex that Lan Jue had become constricted as the image behind it shimmered in response to the strike.
If someone familiar with the Terminator were here to witness the fight, they would have been shocked the scene. Lan Qing blocking his attack – was a feat!

Lan Qing was no match for the Terminator in terms of sheer attack power. Still he was able to withstand the Paragon’s overwhelming forte and not fall behind.

Lan Qing reacted. He flung himself at the Terminator like a cyan tempest. The Buddha behind him solidified and countless hands spread out around it. As Lan Qing closed in one his target the Buddha thrust those palms forward to coincide with the attack, and they came crashing toward the Terminator in unison.

The Terminator faced the dramatic assault with an imposing air that thickened reality around him. With a grunt he planted his feet, and an angry red light sprang up around him like a cocoon.

Lan Qing’s palm strikes hit that cocoon, and each one made it flash brighter.

Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang! The pummeling
blows rang like the chimes of an enormous bell, reverberating over and over again through the arena. Lan Qing fell into a harmonious rhythm of palm strikes, each one hitting with the weight of the Buddhist faith.

Suddenly the myriad shadows converged into a single point, and Lan Qing lashed out with a punch. The  ten  thousand become one, focused in a single punch.

The Great Spiritual Mantra!

Boom– –!

The shell of red light around the Terminator trembled, then began to crack under the terrible force of the mantra. They spread quickly like cracks through thin ice, threatening to shatter at any moment.

Surprise was clear in the Terminator’s eyes. He pushed his two hands out and as he did, a host of glowing orbs appeared behind him.

The arena grew dark, and a strange scene revealed itself.
What appeared behind the Terminator was an enormous black orb, so massive as to blot out everything else. A radiant light burned around the orb, outlining its contours.

A palpable fury filled the Terminator. Lan Qing felt it as a dark tempest on the horizon, ready to swallow him up.

Until today neither Lan Qing nor Lan Jue knew what sort of protogenia the Great Conclave’s leader possessed. Now they finally understood. Originally Lan Jue thought the Terminator’s powers were related to metal in some fashion, but what he saw proved him wrong.

The Terminator’s protogenia was pure destruction!

The pitch-black orb behind him was a comet, and within it burned the promise of obliteration. Everything within its path was destined to be atomized. Now, a deep rage replaced his typical composure, so thick and fierce as to bring a lesser man to his knees. Lan Qing’s pressing attack had forced him to reveal his inner nature.

The Admiral seemed unconcerned. He pressed his right hand skyward, a motion mimicked by the golden Buddha at his back.
A glorious golden light erupted from Lan Qing – Buddha’s Revelation! Lan Qing’s Domain!

When the Terminator’s Domain appeared everything around him – the air, molecules, atoms – all of it was ripped apart and cast into disorder. All of that destruction seemed to feed that terrifying black orb.

In the same moment that golden light, so soothing and comforting, returned life to that which the Terminator’s Domain tried to destroy.

For a tense and breathtaking moment everything was destroyed and remade. The light of Buddha and the darkness of extermination warred, colliding and intertwining. For a time neither gained the upper hand.

The manifestation of their Domains were constrained to an area ten meters around both men, in order to protect the weaves of space-time within the arena. If they truly let loose, the resulting force would undoubtedly tear the building down to its foundation.

Lan Qing threw both hands toward the heavens. Great Mantra
of Clarity!

The golden light brightened as the image of a Buddha hung in the air overhead. Its eyes were full of compassion, and it seemed to take over everything. There was no self, no other – no fear. It seemed like it was the center of the universe, all-encompassing and timeless.

The Terminator heaved a great, bestial roar. His body swelled another ten meters and the comet at his back gained in ominous power. His arm swung forward to deliver another punch while the radiant light around the comet became a shimmering red – like boiling blood, like the pain of a thousand angry souls.

Boom–! Reality shuddered, and the force shield that protected the outside world from their ferocious contest flickered dangerously.

Lan Jue looked on with fervent eyes. He pressed his hands together before his chest to maintain the shell of electric energy that protected him and Zhou Qianlin. He was relying on the power of his All-Heaven lightning to protect them from the aftermath of their clash.
Lan Jue watched every moment with sharp focus, drinking in the ebb and flow of protogenia as the two Paragons manipulated it. An opportunity like this – two Reflections of Heaven and Earth locked in battle – was a rare and wonderful thing to witness. What’s more their powers were diametrically opposed. The constant change between death and rebirth caused the surrounding protogenic energies to flurry erratically – revealing its truest nature.

The dark comet was pushed back, but grew in size. Everything behind the Terminator seemed separate.

Lan Qing was pushed back, but the image of Vairochana became clearer. With his hands pressed together before him as though in prayer, the aura of Buddhist tranquility poured from him. His whole body was painted in golden light, as though he were a statue composed of flowing gold.

The Terminator grunted. “Alright. See how you fare against my Termination. The first Apocalypse descends, ending the world!”

He punched again, only this time he vanished. Lan Qing watched as the comet came tearing his way like a global extinction event.
He felt besieged by an incomparable sense of finality, like a planet was about to descended upon his head. He felt the ruin of ten thousand souls bearing down on him.

Lan Qing’s response was to press forward with both hands. His body disappeared into the image of Vairochana. What followed was a chorus of deep chanting, and blossoming flowers of golden light sprang to life in the air. As they appeared the sense of destruction melted away.

“Prajna-paramita!” Three low words, spoken in Sanskrit, galvanized the vitality of all living things.

Countless beams of golden light burst forth, lancing through the darkness and into that dark comet. A great golden hand pressed down upon it, stopping its disastrous charge. A golden seal blazed against its surface.

“Ban ruo bo ruo mi duo!” The guttural chants became louder and louder, as a host of silhouettes appeared in the sky. Waves of energy continued to pour forth, eventually overcoming the blood-red light of the comet.

“The second Apocalypse descends, bringing quiet to the
universe!” The burning red light was extinguished, but immediately in its place a vacuous power sucked everything toward the dark comet.

The nearest equivalent sensation was the creation of a white dwarf. Its gravitational pull was so great it couldn’t even protect itself, and so began to collapse bringing everything around it closer in its destruction.

This was even more terrifying than its previous form, for now the comet was speeding up its own demise to bring about the obliteration of everything around them. Everything was sucked into its collapsing center, toward an inevitable demise – until nothing remained.

Chinese phonetic interpretation of Sanskrit.

Chapter 714: Pressure Battle

This was the Terminator’s power – his true, terrifying power.

Lan Jue felt that this man, the one they said was second on the Paragon List, earned his fame. The Epochrion was also a Reflection of Heaven and Earth, but she could not compare to his sheer destructive power. More notable was his protogenic understanding. The Terminator was intimately aware of the secrets of his ruinous abilities and the mighty source it came from.

Even Luo Xianni, having arisen to Nirvana, would struggle. Her space-time abilities were undermined by the Terminator’s protogenia, and if the two fought tooth and nail it wasn’t impossible to imagine Luo Xianni being defeated.

What incredible power! Lan Jue inwardly praised the Northern leader.

“Buddha’s Wisdom!” The soft voice was not a chant, but Lan Qing’s own voice. It was full of tranquility, benevolence, and a quiet self-confidence.
The light of Buddha’s Revelation dimmed, and the image of Vairochana dissipated into the darkness. Only Lan Qing remained.

He stood alone against the ravenous vacuum of the dark comet. He spread his arms, and a pure white lotus bloomed from the center of his chest. It lazily drifted forward, vanishing into the infinite destruction of the Terminator’s Domain.

But with each petal destroyed, that fearful power diminished. It was like each white petal it devoured pulled the comet from the brink of annihilation. Somehow it was healing its collapse, stunting its destruction.

It wasn’t a collision, it was a rescue. Lan Qing was saving the dark comet from itself like a doctor curing a patient of their ailments.

“I did not imagine you could use such a method to counteract my Domain.” Surprise was thick in the Terminator’s words. His dark comet dispersed. The world around them returned to normal, and the two men stood in the center of the arena as though nothing had happened. The Terminator looked at Lan Qing in shock, and the Eastern Admiral looked back with compassion and joy.
“His Majesty has a third phase, I’m sure.” Lan Qing’s eyes twinkled as he stared at the Terminator.

He sighed. “The third phase is different from the first two. I can’t use it unless as a last resort. Even though we didn’t release the full scope of our powers, facing my second phase means you’ve attained power equal to my own. I would never have imagined your rise would be so quick. I’ll admit I’m a little jealous.”

But Lan Qing shook his head. “I could sense that you were holding back. It was my honor to spar with you. And unless I’m mistaken you should be near your next breakthrough.”

The Terminator nodded. “I won’t lie, I’m close – I can feel the pull of Nirvana on my spirit. But it feels more like a curse. I need outside stimulation to propel me forward, to catalyze the potential I haven’t yet tapped into. The strength you’ve shown isn’t enough, but I can try and see if your younger brother has the capability. Who knows, with his assistance perhaps the two of you can help.”

“Don’t worry, I don’t have any untoward intentions. In fact there was a little of that metal I told you about left over after I constructed my Astrum. Whether I break through or not, I’d
like to give it to the two of you. It’s only enough to make one Astrum, but I’m certain you’ll find it useful. Especially your brother who has yet to break through. Perhaps he can gain some insight from it.”

Lan Qing’s eyes sparkled. Of course the Terminator didn’t know that Lan Jue possessed one of the Banishing Blades, or the thunder essence that allowed for their merger. His younger brother already had his Astrum. It was, in fact, Lan Qing who needed a weapon through which he could focus his power.

“So is it our turn?” Lan Jue piped up with a smirk. He arrived floating through the air with Zhou Qianlin’s hand in his own.

“I imagine you heard what we were discussing,” the Terminator said. “I promise nothing bad will come upon you while you’re here. At any time you can tell me, and I’ll bring you safely to the exit.”

Lan Jue smiled pleasantly. “I have no problems with this. Improving humanity’s strength is good for the species. Allow me to congratulate you on your success beforehand.”

The Terminator’s eyes were bright. “Despite your kind words
don’t expect me to go easy on you. I intend to meet Jue Di, and if causing you a little hurt is how to accomplish that then you can expect it. That old man is my idol.”

Lan Jue’s face twitched for just a moment. If there was anything his father despised, it was being called old.

Of course, the Terminator couldn’t know what he was thinking. By this time Lan Qing had moved to the side and was kneeling comfortably away from the other two. He was meditating, in part to recover but also to contemplate the flows of protogenia he’d experienced during their fight. Although he was already a Reflection of Heaven and Earth, there was no time when a Paragon finished increasing their knowledge or comprehension of the universe.

The Terminator grinned at the young couple that faced him now. “Whenever you’re ready, you can start.”

Lan Jue glanced at Qianlin then released her hand. She still had recovered consciousness, but that didn’t impeded the connected they had heart to heart.

They were connected through the Arrow of Compassion and
their joined blood. One silver lining surrounding Qianlin’s unfortunate mental state was it helped her easily slip into a position of spiritual receptiveness.

The longer he looked, the more surprised the Terminator became. Although he couldn’t quite place it, the two of them didn’t seem to fit in the reality they occupied. They were somehow separate from the world, like everything around them was making way.

No matter how close he looked, he couldn’t figure out why that was.

Strange!

The Terminator couldn’t shake it, and all he could guess was that they must have discovered some special way of cultivating. That must be why they seemed so odd.

Meanwhile Lan Jue smirked at him with a quiet arrogance.

What was up this guy’s sleeve, the Terminator wondered?
Lan Jue’s expression became serious, almost solemn. He’d clashed with the Terminator before, as well as the Violet Prince and Princess, but they had always had back-up. A one-on-fight was rare, and it was his first time facing someone so close to Nirvana.

He didn’t rush to action. Instead Lan Jue shut his eyes, and Qianlin seeming to sense the change, did so as well. The surprises continued to assail the Terminator as he sensed an enigmatic link grow between his two young challengers.

It started with their breath; even, long, and coordinated. It quickly extended to their hearts, which beat in unison. They ceased to be two separate people, and more like a single fractured entity.

Clang! The sound snapped him from his thoughts. The fine hairs on his body stood on end, galvanizing his focus. It was a heavy and uncomfortable sensation, like the judgement of the universe was leveled on his shoulders.

Only once since becoming a Paragon had he felt that way. Although it only lasted a moment, it was enough to make his heart skip a beat.
Lan Jue and Qianlin lifted their hands, and as if in response haloes of red and blue appeared around their heads. Two swords descended from on high, playing off one another and enhancing their brilliance as though they were alive. They supplemented one another, depended on one another, and entangled one another. The Terminator was left flabbergasted.

What swords were these? How could their power be so incredible? As a second-degree Paragon he sense Captus and Demortus differently than others. The waves  of  influence within them were frightening to him, so frightening in fact that he didn’t dare look into them too deeply. The closest he could describe them was like active volcanoes that could rain fiery destruction on everything around them at a moment’s notice.

“I am looking forward to His Majesty’s instruction.” Lan Jue’s soft-spoken words were delivered, and then he made his move. The Jewelry Master stepped forward, and almost laughably slowly pressed his sword forward.

The mysterious blade was imposing as a mountain, mighty as a tidal wave. It was both turbulent and magnificent!

It was as though the Terminator could hear the roar of the sea. In that roar he felt as though he would be swallowed up.
In the same instant Lan Jue stepped forward, Qianlin made her first move. With a sweep of her sword countless slashes of the sword’s energy were spat out in all directions. They felt full, sometimes with vitality and strength, sometimes with the consistency of rain on a tin roof. All the while they blotted out the sky as they raced for the Terminator.

“Excellent, a fine sword style!” The Terminator barked his praise with drawing a circle in the air in front of him. A pitch- black orb appeared in that spot that was  surrounded  by  a blazing yellow disk.

It was a pocket dimension of his Domain. He didn’t need to begin with the full gamut of his abilities against two Adepts yet to achieve Paragon. However, the Terminator soon discovered that he may have underestimated them.

The first strikes to reach him were from Captus. They defied nature by tearing through the sky in erratic fashion. Light as feathers, they were nonetheless impossibly sharp.

The Terminator sensed the manifestation of his Domain become punctured and stabbed. Somehow his protogenia was unable to deflect Lan Jue’s weapon, and on the contrary was actively severed by it.
The text is a little more complicated. This is a concept from a Sanskrit translation of the ‘Classic of the Heart’, a chant or spell meant to dissolves things that blocked the heart’s powers.

Chapter 715: Majesty, Beware!

It wasn’t power – it was the weapon. Inconceivably sharp!
Even an Astrum couldn’t cut apart Domain like that!

Once the surprise was passed the Terminator responded by pressing both hands downward. The corona of golden light around the dark orb turned blood red. His Domain expanded. The injection of growth and energy fought back against the flood of sword energy Qianlin had cast his way.

Then Lan Jue’s sword strikes arrived.

He first saw a red light, then felt it as a tug that threatened to pitch him forward. Like his own powers, Lan Jue’s sword had the power of traction. What was different was where the strike landed it left behind a gaping tear that acted like a rip in spacetime. That tear sat in the midst of the Terminator’s Domain, at its weakest point.

It was quickly plugged by the Terminator’s overwhelming strength. However, before he knew it swipes from Qianlin’s sword burst through the former breach and wreaked chaos in his Domain like a tempest.
Incredible! How are these young fighters so formidable?

He was forced back a step, compelled to retreat as his Domain shrank. It was as though his Domain was trying to flee from those terrible swords.

But Lan Jue wouldn’t be denied. He thrust a second time with Captus, but strangely the vortex it created was made where the sword waved. As Lan Jue moved so too did his weapon, expanding the scope of the vortex as he launched his attack on the Terminator.

The myriad slices of Qianlin’s sword coalesced into a single flood. It swung wildly through the air until it centered toward the Terminator’s head.

The unspoken cooperation between his two opponents was one thing, but what was truly frightening were those weapons. More specifically the power these mystical swords bore, for all protogenia seemed not to exist where they passed. It gave the Terminator pause, fearing real injury.

He also held back for fear of hurting them.
Staggering back another step, he had no recourse but to lash out with a punch.

Qianlin nimbly leapt away like a fairy. Meanwhile, Lan Jue lashed out with Captus in a horizontal swipe to his side.

The vortex created in its wake leached the Terminator’s force. But the Terminator was a Paragon, and the attack served only to slow the punch not stop it.

Lan Jue traced out a circle. Where Captus flowed a shadow of its passage remained behind. When the Terminator’s fist passed through all of its strength was speed was bled away.

With the Terminator caught, Qianlin chopped with her sword again, producing another flood of feral sword swipes that attack his body’s key areas.

These two are hard to deal with! He thought. It seems I have no choice but to use some real power.

He looked at the two with new eyes, realizing they were more of a threat than he originally anticipated. As far as he could
sense, the two of them together were as strong as a first-degree Paragon.

All at once the aura around the Terminator changed. The small pocket of his Domain swelled in response. For Lan Jue, he felt like the universe in front of his was collapsing into discord, and a terrible promise of obliteration washed over him. Pressure descending from where, threatening to crush the life out of him. Suddenly, he and Qianlin where in a black and empty void.

Here they were specks of dust in an infinite expanse of nothing – except for a single, monumental comet that burned blood red. It was roaring through the darkness right for them, intent on destroying them outright.

This was the real Domain of the Terminator, the Apocalyptic Comet. Suffocating pressure continued to pile on them from all directions. The Terminator had vanished, leaving Lan Jue and Qianlin’s swords to hit nothing but empty space.

Domain was the greatest difference between an Adept and a Paragon.

Lan Jue was not alarmed. Crystal blue light filled his eyes as
he lifted Captus. It seemed as though his body swelled as his right hand lead Captus to cut through the blackness.

Red light flickered as Captus carved out a swirling vortex. It dispersed through the black, clearly not enough to cut away the Paragon’s Domain. However, in the center of that disseminating vortex appeared a spark of purple light. The moment it appeared, the whole of the Apocalyptic Comet Domain seemed to shudder.

Br-r-r-uummm— Thunder rolled, issued from Lan Jue’s own body. As it radiated outward it cast the Domain into turmoil.

“Ah?!” The Terminator’s voice rippled through the area, but it was the blood comet that reacted. It swelled even larger, closing the distance between itself and its targets.

A bolt of crystal blue lightning shot out and struck the comet’s surface. The world-ending orb slowed ever so slightly, but the lightning bolt was rapidly devoured by its destructive intent.

However, a moment later the Terminator discovered that his two opponents were no longer within the scope of his Domain. Instead from the roiling borders of this Apocalypse two sword
slashes sword screamed his way.

A golden force field appeared around him, but the swords were simply too sharp. They carved through his defenses and forced him to dodge. Lan Jue and Qianlin reappeared as the Terminator’s shield was cut away.

“You’re able to escape my Domain?” The Terminator gasped in shock, but didn’t let up. He wailed at them with another full- armed punch. He held nothing back.

Lan Jue never uttered a word. He moved with Captus in the Taiji sword style to deflect the Terminator’s blows. Although he was forced to retreat Lan Jue was able to avoid injury under his own power. Qianlin took advantage of the moment, employing the greatest utility of her ten-thousand swords as one technique. A hundred thousand diffused strikes covered the Terminator from all directions.

The Terminator’s shock only grew with each passing moment. He couldn’t use his full power for fear he’d injure Lan Jue or Qianlin, but the two of them were a chore with their different but harmonious sword techniques.
Lan Jue’s style was focused and forceful. Sometimes it surged like an unstoppable river headed for the ocean, sometimes so integrated he couldn’t find a gap. All the punches the Terminator threw at Lan Jue were dispersed and deflected. Incredible, considering the protogenia that filled every strike.

By contrast, Qianlin’s style was elegant and almost gentle, but deceptively lethal. Infinitely variable and maddeningly pervasive, making the impossible possible. It was that variability that made her a threat. The two styles together made a marvelous – and dangerous – unified front. Without the use of his full power he wouldn’t be able to face up to the two of them.

No wonder the Clairvoyant chose him to inherit the Avenue!

The Terminator inwardly praised this young couple’s limitless potential. With these weapons in hand, they would become truly spectacular Paragons. Who knew how far that potential would bring them. No Northerner had the prospects they did.

“Majesty, beware.” Lan Jue’s voice brought him back to the present.

He froze and watched as Lan Jue and Qianlin reeled back,
shoulder to shoulder. Lan Jue’s face hardened in concentration as the two of them thrust forward with their swords.

The styles were the same, still focused flow and thousand swords as one. Only this time, it was completely different.

Lan Jue’s eyes fell upon Qianlin, filled with love and affection. She looked back, and though hidden behind a fog there was the faintest light of infatuation in her gaze. Her face bore the faintest ghost of a smile.

An incredible scene revealed itself. The light around Captus and Demortus flared, and the full force of the blades’ deadly intent pulsed out like a wave.

The first thought that crossed the Terminator’s mind was that it was some kind of protogenia, a kind he’d never experienced before. What’s more, within it he felt a strange and inexplicable power.

In this moment focused flow and ten-thousand swords became one. At some point even they couldn’t pinpoint, Lan Jue and Qianlin had joined together but their two weapons were still lashing out.
Red and blue disappeared replaced with a pure aurora of light. It simultaneously flickered with all the colors of the rainbow, but strangely somehow was also formless and colorless. All of a sudden the Terminator felt like he stood on the cusp of disaster.

What is this…

Again he was shocked, and again he pressed down with his hands. The power around the dark comet expanded still further as he called upon his second phase, Bringing Quiet to the Universe. Still the vacuous power didn’t affect the sword’s power at all.

The might they bore was created in the first moments of the universe, from the stuff that underpinned reality. Time, space, everything warped around the will of the godblades. Shields protecting the arena were shattered and the Terminator was flooded with the crushing sense of immanent destruction.

The earth began to shake, rattling the secret arena and in fact the whole building. The roof exploded as the crystalline power soared toward the heavens. The earthshaking, dazzling power surged; red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue and purple flashed like a technicolored lightning storm. Among them and containing them were infinitely plain streaks of black and
white.

Chinese onomatopoeias are very humorously expressive, the same with their grunts. For instance the word 嗯, ‘en’, is like a grunt. But the one by which you use it can mean all kinds of things. Pitch the tone upward and its shocked surprise. Higher pitched but consistent and it a challenging affirmation. Down and curt, simple affirmation, warble the tone up and down and it becomes a cutesy whine. My students used to love to have me practice my Chinese tones using 嗯. Here the Terminator is expressing surprise with 咦, ‘yi?!’ – which is not a sound you might imagine a herculean man would make.

If some of these translations seem a little strange, it’s because TJSS is leaning very heavily on a concept we simply don’t have in English. You’ve seen it a million times in anime and Eastern fantasy media; someone swings a sword and a slash of energy is thrown out like Guile’s sonic boom (dating myself with that reference). They call it 剑芒 or 剑意which literally has no English equivalent that makes sense. If you’ve seen a good translation of this somewhere let me know and I’ll shamelessly steal  it, because I hate that word so much you guys.

Chapter 716: Harmonious Swords

A multitude of colors, a dazzling rainbow that connected the heavens to the earth.

Where it met the clouds they parted. Where it encountered rain the droplets broke – a stairway to heaven built on a shimmering rainbow lane.

The darkness was destroyed as the primordial essence borne by the swords swept through. The rainbow aurora hung in the air for what felt like a long time before finally dissipating.

Lan Qing had awoken from his meditations long before and gaped at the scene with unabashed surprise. Almost incapable of believing what he saw, he watched as the boundless destruction of the Terminator’’ Domain fractured into dust. The ultimate convert employed nearly all of his power to keep himself from being swallowed up by the prismatic aurora, and that was when it curved up – piercing the comet-casted ceiling and into the sky.

The Terminator kneeled on the ground, covered in a hundred tiny wounds. Droplets of blood coated him like a sheen of sweat. His wide eyes stared in disbelief at the two figures appearing in the distance.
He hadn’t used his full strength, and in fact the Terminator had held back. But he could feel it clearly, even the totality of his abilities wouldn’t have been capable of saving him from that power.

Harrowing… the memory of that power was seared into his mind. The sense of uncaring finality he’d felt lingered in his heart. What in the world was that sword technique that resulted in such staggering power? How could two Adepts produce an attack like that?

Qianlin’s sword had vanished. She leaned into Lan Jue’s protective embrace. Lan Jue’s face was pale as he fell to his knees, still managing to support his beloved. Both were soaked with sweat.

The Terminator had questions, but Lan Jue didn’t have answers. He didn’t know such awesome intensity could be summoned from their efforts. All he knew was that in that moment, it felt as though he and Qianlin were one inexorably tied entity.

It went beyond the body. The connection through blood and the Arrow of Compassion fused their very souls. Sharing every bit of each other also caused their swords to combine, and in
their fusion the marvelous supernova had been produced. To Lan Jue it felt like a dam had burst, a great door had opened somewhere inside Captus. Although it had closed once the strike was delivered he could feel that it had fundamentally changed the godblade.

Was that… the Harmonious Swords technique?

He recalled the tales of Jun Yongye, telling him of the ancient days when the Harmonious Swords were an invincible reality. Through his and Qianlin’s efforts it was a reality once again. Jun Yongye had called it the strongest force besides the Banishing Strategy.

At the time Lan Jue thought the sword-spirit was exaggerating. But just then, that wild animus channeled all of their energy, even their psyche into the strike. Like the Terminator, that sensation had left a profound impression.

At last they’d succeeded. At last they had achieved the Harmonious Swords. It had just been a moment, but a truly marvelous moment. If he had not used all his strength to divert the flow at the last minute Lan Jue feared it would have swallowed the Terminator. The only thing Lan Jue could compare it to was the attack Jue Di delivered to the aliens out in
the Starfields, Upender. That was the only other attack he’d seen that could overturn reality, blot out the sun and moon.

But could Lan Jue really use such a potent ability already?

In that moment his comprehension of protogenia had also changed. This would have a significant impact on his future breakthrough. More and more he sensed the time approaching. More and more he found it hard to hold the power back. He prevailed only through the blood-connection with Qianlin and the Arrow of Compassion.

When the two of them joined he could also sense Qianlin’s spirit. Her soul pulsed with intensity, and in that brief moment of total fusion he felt his own power pull Qianlin along. Like he had dragged her Discipline to a higher level.

He needed to experience it again to learn more, but Lan Jue already knew that this enigmatic power would play an important role in the growth of their Disciplines.

Lan Jue hadn’t anticipated something like this would happen. Lan Jue’s focused flow and Qianlin’s ten thousand swords as one were techniques they’d employed for a while already.
Through the help of their respective sword-spirits they had grown well versed in the styles.

The strength of their cultivation, their understanding of the Banishing Blades, deeper protogenic comprehension, and the flood of immortal qi between them all coalesced to their benefit. Jun Yongye had told them it was time to attempt the Harmonious Swords technique, and he’d been right.

Although technically not a Paragon, the immortal qi and All- Heaven lightning empowered Lan Jue’s attacks. He fought with no less force than a first-degree Paragon, maybe stronger. Qianlin was not quite as strong, but also benefited greatly from the immortal qi they shared. That is what allowed them to attempt this legendary sword technique.

Lan Jue’s interest in this fight had been to give the style a try. The foundation of the Harmonious Swords was the binding of a man and woman soul to soul, shared devotion and unequivocal love. Beyond that they needed a deep familiarity with their respective styles. Both prerequisites they’d met.

Still, it shocked Lan Jue how smoothly it’d happened. More shocking was just how indomitable the attack had been.
Only once he’d used it himself did he understand the power of the Harmonious Swords. Everything within him had focused to a single burning thought. His love for Qianlin.

Through that love their souls combined, closer than ever before. Captus and Demortus follows suit, being as much a part of them as their spirits were. Together they rose to a sublime place of perfect union.

In that union Captus and Demortus had awakened. He remembered a similar feeling from Occisus when the Pharmacist had ascended to Paragon. He and Qianlin’s swords pulsed with it as they joined, it the source of their staggering power.

Lan Jue’s uncertainty lay in whether he could call upon that state again. He felt so weak that even moving his fingers was a herculean task. It felt like the sword had drained him to his core.

The Terminator’s muscles chest heaved. The shock in his eyes refused to abate.

“What… what the hell was that?” He could help but ask.
Lan Qing had come to Lan Jue’s side. Although he didn’t expect the Terminator to take advantage of their weakness he nonetheless was there to protect them. However, the look in his eyes was no less dumbfounded than the Terminator’s. The only thing he could deduce from what he’d witnessed was it was not something taught by their father. Jue Di hadn’t taught his younger brother whatever that had been.

Lan Jue fought to steady his breathing and racing heart. He dropped his head and placed a tender kiss on Qianlin’s lips. She vanished.

He felt strange, for it was the first time they’d joined and he felt no increase in Discipline. It wasn’t a blockage, rather there was no higher place for them to reach.

Lan Jue coughed weakly. “Your Majesty, do you happen…. To have something here to eat? I think… I need sustenance. Something to give me strength.” He struggled mightily to get to his feet. He could only manage by leaning heavily on his brother.

The Terminator’s face twitched. “Yes, wait a moment.” The host of cuts along his body had, over time, healed and left no trace. Harming a Paragon was no easy feat, and through his
constant upgrades the man had tougher skin than a Bastion ship.

The Terminator left with long strides. Once he was gone Lan Qing helped his brother back to the ground. He looked at him with a curious expression.

“That technique…”

Lan Jue responded with a wry smirk. “I couldn’t tell you. It’s something we were taught from Demortus and Captus. Jun Yongye and Xuanyuan Shishi told us this was an elite style handed down from ancient times. Weaker than your Prajna style and my Taiji, but joined together it creates an incredible force. What you witnessed was called the Harmonious Swords technique.”

“But at our level of cultivation, calling on the technique was only just manageable. The swords we use are too potent. We’ll only be able to command the full breadth of the swords’ abilities when we break through to Paragon. Although, if this accident revealed anything it’s that we may not be able to command it even when that happens. It’s strong, but incredibly draining.”
He calmly described what had happened, but he did not let the potency get to his head. There was always a great cost for the use of great power. Without a doubt, however, the Harmonious Swords would make a wonderful ace in the hole.

A flood of energy flowed from his chest to enervate the rest of his body. It supplemented what he lost and made him stronger. The immortal qi that filled him, that made his Discipline more than a common power, pulled him from the cusp of collapse. Its subtle influence strengthened him, transforming him into something greater.

By the time the Terminator returned with some food, Lan Jue was back to normal. At least, he looked completely recovered.

Chapter 717: The Monarchs Gather

Suppressing the surprise he felt the Terminator handed Lan Jue some food. Steak, bread, water. Simple but nutritious fare.

He looked on with a conflicted gaze as Lan Jue ate ravenously. Though he clearly didn‘t possess the strength of his older brother, his marvelous display of skill had left a deep impression. What’s more, experiencing this sword style had cleaved a fissure in the barrier between him and Nirvana. It was clear with each chop of the sword, as though cut into his own heart.

It felt boundless! As boundless as the potential of this young couple.

The Terminator couldn’t help but feel jealous of the East’s good fortune. If only his own alliance had this kind of talent. But hopes and wishes was all he had.

After eating, Lan Jue tenderly wiped his mouth. “Your majesty, I think it’s time we got going.”

“Forgive me if I don’t send you off,” the terminator said. “I
learned a lot from this exchange and must meditate on what I learned. Someone else will see you out. On behalf of the Northern Alliance I hope we can continue to work closely.”

Lan Jue and Lan Qing exchanged a happy glance. These words coming from the Terminator meant more than from any politician.

The two brothers returned to their hotel.

“How likely do you think it is that everyone will cooperate after this conference?” Lan Jue asked as they arrive back at their room.

Land Qing thought for a moment. “30%.”

30%?“Lan Jue said in astonishment.

Lan Qing smiled softly. “How much do you think? They are all looking out for their own benefit. Believing politicians is like believing Hua Li has gotten more reliable.”
As though to punctuate his brother’s remarks, Lan Jue communicator started to buzz. “Speak of the devil. A-Li.”

“A-Li.“ Lan Jue connected the call.

“Hey are you guys back? Is it alright if I come over?” Friends didn’t need to rely on small talk.

“Come on over.” Lan Jue sent him the address.

Ten minutes later, Hua Li appeared at their door. Another person they hadn’t seen in a long while arrived with him, Chu Cheng.

After ascending to Paragon, the air around Hua Li was completely different. His stunning appearance never changed, but the vibrant aura was gone, replaced with something deeper and more mysterious. In a word, he seemed more manly.

Chu Cheng, on the other hand, was just as coquettish and free-spirited as he’d always been. However, closer inspection revealed a constant eruption of fire behind his eyes while he himself was surrounded by a sense of deathly stillness.
The four Divine Monarchs were together for the first time since the Clairvoyant’s departure.

They sat, and Chu Cheng flicked his wrist. A bottle of whisky appeared in his hand. “This calls for a good drink, don’t you think?”

Hua Li lifted a finger and four crystal blue glasses materialized. They weren’t real glasses, of course, but constructed by Hua Li from elemental manipulation. They were thin and chilled, perfect for a good scotch.

Chu Cheng poured them each a glass. For a time they simply sat, smiling and enjoying each others’ company. No words were necessary.

No matter what transpires in the world, the bonds of friendship never changed.

Lan Jue swung his eyes toward Chu Cheng. “You’re close to a breakthrough, right?” He was sensitive to the flows of protogenia now, and could clearly sense the aura from his friend. It felt like a volcano on the cusp of eruption, like he could take the plunge at any moment.
Chu Cheng nodded. “I’m under constant guard lately, do you know how hard it was to leave? If you Easterners assassinated me the North would be deprived a great Paragon!”

Lan Jue couldn’t help but laugh at Chu Cheng’s exaggerated expression. The guy was cracking jokes, so it seemed his future breakthrough wasn’t going to encounter any problems.

But then the Hades heir put away his smile and sighed. “Now that I’m here I finally understand what you told me. It’s hard to hold back, I was too eager and the pressure is becoming more than I can withstand. I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out, although I know the longer I can withstand the further I’ll ultimately get. I can see my road, but this revelation came too late.”

“Before I used to think simply breaking through was enough, but now I’ve come to my senses. If I’m sure to break through, what’s to stop me from getting stronger? Do you have any methods that can help, A-Jue? Some sort of seal or block maybe?”

Lan Jue rolled his eyes. “If only it were that easy. Short of taking your life you’re just going to have to let nature take its course. Now that you’re here you shouldn’t get in your own
way. What’s most important is capturing your path and walking it without hesitation. Wandering will only delay growth.”

Hua Li chuckled. “You sound like an old wise man. When did you become a spokesmen for the sages, eh?”

Lan Jue shot his brother a glance. Lan Qing sat stony faced and didn’t utter a word.

Hua Li was the next to heave a sigh. “I thought I would have been the first. I’d clear the way for the rest of you to follow, but the Big Brother blazed the trail. That’s some real talent! You shouldn’t be depressed, A-Cheng – you’re in a better spot than I am. I’ve known my path since birth, and the potency of the Poseidon bloodline is inexhaustible. Still it seems there are barriers I can’t pass. There hasn’t been a Reflection of Heaven and Earth in my family for over a century. If it weren’t for these aliens I would have taken more time, but I wasn’t left with a choice.”

His three companions knew what he meant. A Paragon was a treasure to a family, and this was especially true for Hua Li. He not only represented the next generation of leadership, he was the new leader of the Poseidon Group.
“Ah, by the way, I’m getting married.” Hua Li casually dropped the bombshell.

The other three gaped at him

“Married?” Lan Jue and Chu Cheng cried in one voice.

Hua Li’s face was calm, bearing only a small smile. “Yeah!
What, you think I shouldn’t?”

Lan Jue gave him a strange look. “Is it that girl you told me about? If it is you sure screwed up never bringing her by for us to meet.”

Hua Li shook his head. “No, not her. Mo Xiao.”

“So you finally came around,” Lan Jue teased. “She’s an excellent choice. That girl would die for you. Seems becoming a Paragon made you grow up.”

Hua Li’s face changed, bearing something that seemed very unnatural for him. Disappointment. “Yeah, I guess I did.”
“So when’s the wedding?” Lan Jue asked.

Hua Li took a sip of his drink. “A month.”

“Mnh. If I can’t make it I’ll send my gift with A-Jue.
Congratulations.” A rare smile touched Lan Qing’s lips.

Hua Li nodded. “Thank you.”

Chu Cheng looked at him with skepticism. “You say you’re getting married but I don’t see any of that newlywed joy! Mo Xiao’s one hell of a woman! Ach, what a shame. Who knows when I’ll find the love of my life.”

Contempt was thick in Lan Jue’s voice. “Are you capable? I’d be careful, with as many women as you’ve scorned hell will come calling one day.”

Chu Cheng snorted. “I am chasing the realm of the stars! No woman can stop me.”

Lan Jue looked at his brother and scowled.
Lan Qing replied. “A-Cheng, you’re about to break through. Restraining yourself won’t be as effective as letting us help you. It’ll galvanize your potential and improve your end result.”

Chu Cheng’s face fell. He knew what he meant. “Look man I didn’t offend you. Why are you threatening to beat me up?” He knew Lan Qing well enough to be very wary of his calm façade.

Lan Jue chortled darkly. “Because that’s the exact same sentiment he has.”

Suddenly Chu Cheng was all flattery prose. “Honored brother, forgive me. I’m just looking for a special woman. When I find her what’s ambition by comparison? Right?”

Lan Qing cast him a withering glance. “I’m not kidding.
Prepare yourself – tomorrow I help you break through.”

“Damn… are you for real?” Chu Cheng looked back warily.

Hua Li shamelessly gloated at Chu Cheng’s fate. “When have you ever known Big Brother to kid? Congratulations in advance, Hades.”
Chu Cheng seemed unwilling. “Big Brother.. I mean, look… your own brother hasn’t broken through yet you know? You shouldn’t bother with me – you should be helping him! Playing favorites isn’t in your nature!”

“He doesn’t need my help,” Lan Qing calmly replied. “You do.
If you keep whining we’ll start right now.”

“I –“ Chu Cheng looked to Lan Jue to save him.

Lan Jue, meanwhile, fluttered his lashes innocently at his beleaguered friend. “A-Cheng, are you familiar with the phrase ‘you reap what you sow?’ I think you should go and get ready. This is a great opportunity! I trust my brother, and if he says he can help you then I’m sure he will.”

“I knew I shouldn’t have come,” he griped indignantly.

Hua Li chimed in. “Let’s focus on the positive. Big Brother, the Poseidon Group is thinking about joining the East.”

“How do you intend to help?” Lan Qing inquired.
Hua Li explained. “We’ve recovered the Poseidon-class Bastion from the West and are in the process of refitting it. We’ve also got two interstellar fleets and enough resources to keep ourselves going for a hundred years.”

“We’ve transferring everything we can from our home planet to the Bastion – including Poseidon’s Palace.”

Lan Jue’s heart skipped a beat. “It sounds like you’re getting ready to evacuate.”

Chapter 718: Poseidon’s Plans for Cooperation

Hua Li was unperturbed. “We’ve considered the possibility. The alien threat is real, and if humanity is destroyed than there’s no reason for us to stay. The universe is a vast place, and no matter how strong those creatures become they can’t rule the whole thing – no species could. From everything we’ve learned, universal protogenia will descend upon the aliens when they’ve passed a certain threshold of strength. We know they’re facing this problem now – that’s why they’re after us. Constant evolution is their eternal goal, but even evolution has its end. We’ll go out and search for a suitable planet away from danger. I suspect it’ll take about a hundred years.”

Lan Qing pressed. “So in what way do you plan to ‘join’ the East?”

Hua Li leaned back in his chair. “When the fighting starts we’ll leave the West and fight with Eastern forces. So long as there is a species to fight for we’ll stay. We don’t want to see the destruction of humanity as much as anyone else. After all, Poseidon Group has enjoyed a great deal from the love and respect of the people. We have a responsibility, and we’ll contribute as much as we’re able. We won’t be leaving until the last moment.”
“Why not stay with the West? Poseidon Group is powerful and respected there – are they not giving enough?” Chu Cheng inquired.

Hua Li shook his head before responding. “No, it’s not about ‘enough.’ I simply don’t like how the Alliance is run. My own organization’s intelligence and the analyses presented at the conference came to similar determinations; the best weapon in the war against these creatures is the Adept. The West has a host of inherent issues that look impossible to overcome. The Pontiff’s Citadel and the Dark Citadel will never work together, their mutual enmity runs too deep. Their hierarchical system is also a problem, their military is too fractures. The West has its good parts but the bad have begun to outweigh them. Our evacuation plan was actually suggested by the Western military.”

Once they heart that Lan Jue, Lan Qing, and Chu Cheng understood. Was the West planning to flee?

Hua Li sighed. “Such is the nature of our disappointment with the West. Part of their scheme was the assertion that we don’t go to war and instead cover their retreat. If they decided the situation was too dire, they want us to flee with them. How are we supposed to feel about that? If you plan to run at least make the enemy howl in pain before you do. I suspect if the aliens
show up in Western territory first, they won’t hold out long. Their first inclination will be to scatter.”

Lan Jue glowered at the prognosis. He knew his alliance, and the East was ready to face this crisis as one people. Perhaps it had been foolish optimism to think the other alliances felt the same. Hua Li awakened him to the possibility that  things weren’t as unified as he’d like, and at least out there problems were mounting.

“So, after many discussions, we decided that once we’ve gathered all the resources we can that we’ll leave the West. We will fight the aliens, but we don’t want our future generations to be saddled with an unreliable partner. We’ll fight with the East.”

Lan Qing didn’t rush to elation. His burning eyes fixed Hua Li. “What are your demands?”

There were no free meals in this universe. Hua Li was their close friend, but he also represented a powerful family. This wasn’t a question if friendship, he had his own people to consider.
Hua Li nodded. “We’re hoping for deeper tied to the East. Specifically, we want to be a part of the alliance. Assuming victory over the aliens we have one request; that you let us purchase Taihua or Lyr for our own use.”

Chu Cheng whistled. “You guys sure have a healthy appetite!
Out to buy another planet!”

Hua Li sighed. “We really have no other option. We can’t see any future in the West, and although the North is mighty it doesn’t measure up to the East in the ways that matter. We chose the East because of its potential and Paragon presence. And, of course, because of you!” Hua Li looked between Lan Qing and Lan Jue.

Lan Qing’s brows furrowed and he muttered inaudibly to himself. This was no trivial matter to consider. Poseidon Group was phenomenally rich, with more money and resources than the East would know what to do with. An extra Bastion and a couple fleets would be very useful in the coming war and may even turn the tide. Accepting would mean making the East safer.

But it would cost them a whole planet…
Both Taihua and Lyr were important strategic resources!

“I’ll need to bring this up with the leadership and wait for an official reply. Speaking personally I hope you do join us, but selling a planet is bigger than me.” Lan Qing made his position clear.

Hua Li smiled. “So long as I have your support, Big Brother, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. At any rate buying Taihua may not be necessary. If the West really does leave then all those planets will be up for grabs. Perhaps the East can capture Poseidon for us. We’d of course prefer our native homeland to someplace new.”

Lan Qing nodded. He understood Hua Li’s position and recognized it as an important possibility for the East.

“How capable is the Poseidon-class Bastion?” He asked.

Hua Li responded. “I can’t tell you exactly, but in many ways it’s not inferior to the Terminator-class Bastion.”

Lan Jue’s eyes nearly popped out of his skull.
Terminator-class Bastion was the North’s flagship. It had roughly two times the destructive capability of Tyrannosaurus. It had been given its name to commemorate the ascension of the Terminator to Paragon. It was lauded as humanity’s single greatest weapon.

Tyrannosaurus, Heron and Arachnid together were no match for Terminator. The Terminator himself was its commanding officer. If Terminator was dispatched in the war ahead, Lan Jue was certain its namesake Paragon would be at the helm.

The West had always been loathe to talk about the Poseidon- class Bastion as a matter of national security, so there was no information about its capabilities. However, Hua Li had no reason to deceive them. More than anyone he grasped the truth of his family’s holdings.

Lan Qing nodded. “Alright, I understand.”

“Alright, that’s all I got. I have to trouble you to act as a go- between,” Hua Li said. “But I will reiterate that if the East can’t hold we’ll have no choice but to flee. My family must survive.”

Lan Qing’s face never changed. “I understand. But I hope that
if this cooperation is approved you don’t leave my An Lun soldiers to fend for themselves on the battlefield. An Lun is the tip of the spear. If the East falls they will be the first to give their lives. After that if you need to go then so be it.”

Hua Li paused. He stared in silence for a moment at Lan Qing, then at Lan Jue. “This is for your ears alone, but Poseidon’s doors will always be open to you. If the time comes know you have safe harbor. I’ll come for you, no matter the cost.”

But Lan Qing shook his head. “No need for that. As Admiral, if I’m not willing to die with my soldiers then our cause is doomed from the start. If the East’s final moments do come, take A-Jue and go.”

“Brother!” Lan Jue’s eyes hardened. “If you stay how can you expect me to go anywhere? You represent the East, but I represent Skyfire Avenue. It’s as true for me as it is for you; a leader dies with his people or there’s no point in fighting.”

Chu Cheng chuckled. “Alright, alright. Drink, gentlemen. We get together so rarely, let’s not spoil it with such depressing talk. Hell, after what happened to those three Bastions we probably don’t have a chance anyway! Far as I see it they’ve got the upper hand. But anyway – tomorrow, big brother! I’ll face
the difficulties head on!”

As he spoke Chu Cheng lifted his glass, and the other three followed suit. They threw their glasses back and drained their contents.

Lan Qing was the first to leave. He had to deliver Hua Li’s proposal to the leadership for consideration. The East’s Chairman and chiefs of the armed forces were all on Luo and it was a matter best discussed face to face.

Chu Cheng left a short time later to begin preparations. Lan Qing hadn’t been kidding, so Chu Cheng had to be ready to go all out.

Only Hua Li and Lan Jue remained, seated across from one another. Lan Jue sighed. “This crisis happened too fast. In a blink it swallowed up everyone.”

Hua Li nodded but changed the subject. “Are you going to participate in my wedding?”

“I can’t make any promises,” Lan Jue replied. “Star Division is
gathering its strength in preparation to face the enemy. I need to stay on Skyfire.”

“If we move to the East this won’t be a problem. Our Poseidon-class Bastion will be stationed near Skyfire.” Hua Li announced.

Lan Jue answered with a smile. “In that case I’d be happy to.”

Hua Li went on. “I don’t really want to get married but I can’t deny Mo Xiao a life of affluence. I feel I’ve wronged her.”

“Eh?” Lan Jue looked at him in surprise. “If you don’t want to marry her then why go ahead with it? This is a life-altering decision. You still don’t like her?”

A bitter grin touched Hua Li’s lips. “She was groomed for this from a young age. She was raised to be my wife. Ever since she could grasp the concept she knew she would be my partner for the rest of her life. You know, my family had more than a hundred prospects, but she distinguished herself. To her I’m more of a goal. If your future wife saw you as a mission to accomplish, would you like her?”
Arguably one of the most important issues in China is the idea of sovereignty. It’s the impetus behind most if not all of their international disputes. Conflicts in Tibet are due to disagreements over what constitutes independence. Taiwan as well. They have a constant simmering disagreement with India about land ownership near the border. Similar gripes are maintained with Korea, Japan, and Russia. Not to mention their claim to the entire South China Sea. There is also a history of selling/leasing territory to the British (Hong Kong) and the Portuguese (Macau). This gives important context to the struggle Lan Qing faces is selling sovereign Eastern territory to a foreign entity.

A practice that purportedly still goes on in China, though it’s super illegal.

Chapter 719: Forced Marriage

Lan Jue furrowed his brows. “As far as I can tell Mo Xiao likes you a lot.”

Hua Li shook his head. “It’s different… it feels different. She’s a good friend, a great partner. But not a wife. I never liked her like that.”

“So why marry? I figure an unhappy marriage isn’t any good for the family. Besides you told me you have someone you love, and it looked like you meant it. What will happen to your love then?”

A laugh bubbled from Hua Li’s lips. The bitterness in it paired with the young man’s good looks tugged at Lan Jue’s heart. Even he couldn’t help but be smitten by him.

“Marriage is not a choice for me. Mo Xiao is destined to be the mother of Poseidon’s next generation. It’s our duty to  the family, and one I must adhere to. We’ll employ technological methods to conceive an heir to carry on the family legacy. Our wedding is just a formality.”
He paused for a moment before continuing. “The one I love doesn’t know I love her. I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of unrequited love.”

Lan Jue was stunned. “You? Unrequited love? Hell all you have to do is profess your feelings and I’m sure you could have any girl you want right?” As far as Lan Jue was concerned there was no better candidate for a husband than Hua Li.

But the entertainer and Paragon shook his head with a bitter grin.” You don’t understand.”

“Then help me understand,” Lan Jue said. “What is going on?
I can help you figure it out.”

Hua Li was still reticent. “I’m afraid of hurting her, and if it doesn’t work out we can’t keep a friendship. She has someone she loves so it isn’t my place to say anything. This love will have to remain buried in my heart and go with me to the grave. But, you know, holding love for someone is a nice feeling. All I can do is make sure I don’t betray her.”

Lan Jue openly gaped at him. “I never would have pegged you for a hopeless romantic.”
Hua Li chuckled. “There’s a lot you don’t know. Alright, it’s time for me to head back. But before I do how are you doing? When are you going to break through?”

“Soon I suspect,” he answered. “You keep working, don’t wait for me. You aren’t my competition.”

Hua Li shrugged. “Maybe we should spar tomorrow, my last shot at kicking you around before you become a Paragon.”

Lan Jue chortled. “Alright, I’m not afraid of you. Don’t think you’re going to wail on me just because you’re a Paragon now. Tomorrow we’ll see who beats on who.”

“No doubt, better than sitting idle though. We’ll be the pre- show for A-Qing and A-Cheng,” he said.

Lan Jue wasn’t being cocky. After seeing what the Harmonious Swords did against the Terminator, how would Hua Li be any different? He also sensed that Qianlin had slipped into a quietude, the sort of quietude an Adept enters when they were ready to break through. What that meant was she had also reached the peak of ninth rank. Now that they had reached the threshold together, it was only a matter of time before they
were Paragons.

ζ

As rays of early morning light filtered into his hotel room, Lan Jue stirred from his meditations.

His eyes were warm and soft, without a hint of sharpness. Anyone who did not know him would say he looked like any normal person.

The deeper Lan Jue’s comprehension of Taiji became, the calmer and more potent his All-Heaven Lightning became. But in that calm was a mystifying aura.

The sensation wasn’t merely protogenia, but essence – the essence of All-Heaven Lightning. Or to put it another way, more like universal protogenia.

The thunder essence he’d consumed was almost gone, only a third remained to be absorbed. At this point the rate of absorption had quickened considerably. Part of that was the immortal qi, and his Discipline had been entirely evolved
through the pure lightning element.

Lan Jue was at his peak, stronger than he’d ever been. It could be said he had one foot in the Realm of Protogenia. With the addition of Captus, his arrogance with Hua Li last night was especially warranted.

Ding-dong. His doorbell rang.

Lan Jue sensed the presence outside. He knew who it was. When he pulled open the door he saw the stoic face of the Pharmacist looking back at him.

“You’re up? I’m sorry to bother you so early.” Her stony visage cracked into a gentle smile as she walked into Lan Jue’s room. She looked like she was back to her old self.

“How do you feel after your rest?” Lan Jue inquired with a smile of his own.

“Very well, thank you,” she said. “There’s something I wish to speak with you about. Currently, the three alliances are urging their people to gather on the largest planets. The result has been
a severe lack of resources. I’d like to use this opportunity to purchase some herbs to ensure the Hall of Supreme Harmony can survive the war. I also plan to concoct a batch of medicine for Star Division troops to carry with them. This should keep casualties to a minimum.”

Lan Jue beamed at her. “Excellent idea! Where will you go gather the materials?”

She replied calmly. “Several Northern planets possess excellent herbs, but Luo seems to have run out. I plan to make a trip to see if I can’t discover some on my own.”

“I have to be here for another couple of days. If you want to wait I can go with you when I’m finished,” Lan Jue offered.

She shook her head. “We don’t have the luxury of time. Handle your business, and I’ll deal with the shopping myself. I’ve already arranged transportation. When I find what I need I’ll head back to Skyfire directly.”

The Avenue’s chairman nodded. “Alright, just be careful.”
She smirked as she ruffled his hair with her hand. She cooed teasingly at him. “Brat, I’m a Paragon now, with a legendary godblade at my command. What danger will I encounter that I can’t overcome? Relax. I’ll see you.”

She patted his shoulder to punctuate her words, then turned to go. However, after only a few steps she stopped and turned her head to look back at Lan Jue. It seemed as though she wanted to say something but in the end reconsidered. She offered a small, friendly smile then swept away down the hall.

A sense of disappointment filled Lan Jue’s chest as he watched her leave. He understood the pain she carried with her. Scars like those only got better with time.

He left to find his brother and the two went for breakfast. Chu Cheng and Hua Li met up with them then.

“A-Li, I’ve spoken with the Eastern leaders. The Chairman has gone back to convene a secret session of the national congress and discuss your offer. Seeing how important it is, you should send some of your people over right away to take part in the discussions. We must also consider how this will affect the East’s relationship with the West.”
Hua Li nodded in understanding. “It’s not a problem, we’ve already come up with a plan that involves a few ways for us to deal with the West. I’ll have Mo Xiao go and participate in the deliberations herself. As my fiancé she fully represents the wishes of Poseidon Group.”

“Very well,” he replied. “When you go back she can fill you in on the details.”

Hua Li, smiling, nodded his head. Then his attention turned to Lan Jue. “Today is a good day! Not only will our dear friend break through, but I have an ass to kick! I’ve never won in all the time I’ve known him but I think today that’ll change.”

Lan Jue’s dark laughter was ominous and pride filled  his voice. “Don’t assume victory yet. We’ll see how things end up!”

Hua Li regarded him with surprise. “Well aren’t you full of self-confidence! Even with such a big gap.”

On paper the different between an Adept and a Paragon was a few letters, but it was a gap about as wide as earth was to heaven. Hua Li was assured in his superiority.
Chu Cheng, meanwhile, no longer seemed dejected by his encroaching public humiliation. On the contrary he was calm and did not speak. However, a flickering gray light shimmered in his eyes. Clearly he had worked hard to prepare for today.

“A-Cheng, I have a problem. Is there anywhere here with an arena that can handle our power?” Hua Li asked.

Chu Cheng’s answer betrayed a note of pride. “Of course there is, I’ve already found the place. It belongs to the boss, Terminator. We’re in luck because he’d disappeared somewhere and gave me special approval to use it.”

Suddenly his voice dropped and he leaned in conspiratorially. “You guys didn’t see it, but yesterday there was this strange light over Luo. It pierced the clouds and shot out into the atmosphere. I think it was the Terminator, he’s going to break through.”

Lan Qing and Lan Jue shared a quick look. He wasn’t wrong about the Terminator’s impending breakthrough, but that light hadn’t come from him.

They took a high-altitude verticar to a familiar location.
As expected, it was the arena where the Terminator had taken the Lan brothers just the day before. The ceiling had since been repaired, like nothing had happened.

“We’re up first!” Itching to get started, Hua Li threw his arm around Lan Jue’s shoulder while a nasty light smoldered in his eyes. He spoke eagerly as he tugged him forward. “I have waited so long for this day. But I’ll be gentle, don’t worry.”

Lan Jue gave him a flat stare while Chu Cheng laughed behind them. “I tell you I’d be down, too! You should take a load off big brother, you can judge the ass-whoopin’ I’ll give your little brother.”

Lan Jue swung his eyes between the two of them. “It looks like you two are invested in being bullies.”

Hua Li grinned at him, and Chu Cheng stood his shoulders back and chest puffed out. They didn’t respond, but their body language said all they needed to say.

“Bring it, A-Li. A-Cheng, watch and learn.” He gave the order without irritation and walked to the center of the ring.
Hua Li watched him go with some small measure of curiosity. He glanced at Chu Cheng. “I’m suddenly filled with a sense of foreboding. He didn’t become a Paragon and not tell anyone, right? Something doesn’t feel right.”

“He hasn’t. Go on.” Lan Qing quietly replied.

Chapter 720: Lan Jue vs. Poseidon

“Ah, then it’s fine.” Hua Li trotted after Lan Jue.

Chu Cheng moseyed over to Lan Qing’s side. “So how long you think Lan Jue will last?”

Lan Qing fixed him with a long, uncomfortable look. “What makes you think it won’t be the other way around?”

“Ah? Hey big guy, since when did you become such a favoritist? It’s not like you.” Chu Cheng was honestly surprised.

Lan Qing placidly responded. “If it were you instead of Lan Jue it would absolutely be a loss. Not a chance. Lan Jue isn’t a Paragon, he’s better.”

Lan Qing had come to understand Lan Jue’s strength, little by little, over the last few days. He had displayed an incredible talent, and even without the Banishing Blades he would be an exceptional fighter – no normal peak-ranked Adept.

Lan Jue stood in the center of the arena, watching Hua Li
approach with calm expression.

Hua Li stopped a few yards away. Where he stepped the floor seemed to ripple like the surface of a lake. As he looked at his opponent, surprise twinkled in the Paragon’s eyes.

His surprise came from how Lan Jue interacted with the environment Somehow he was both a part and separate, like an immortal surveying the lands of humans – and just as arrogant.

That arrogance wasn’t in his look or posture. Instead, it poured from him like an invisible wind. He was separate from everything because he was superior to it. It surrounded him with a palpable sense of danger.

“Begin.” Lan Jue nodded at Hua Li.

His opponent smirked and waggled a finger at him. Hua Li made no attempt to hide the contempt in his gaze.

Further discussion was pointless, so Lan Jue made his move. In a blink he appeared in front of Hua Li driving his palm toward his chest.
Hua Li watched him come, standing with his hands clasped at the small of his back like a haughty lord. Just as it seemed Lan Jue’s palm strike would land, the area before Poseidon ripples with a pale blue light.

Everything took on an aqua hue, and the fighters found themselves in something like an underwater world. It filled everyone with a strange and fantastical sensation.

Lan Jue felt like he’d been caught in a quagmire. His arm – in fact his whole body felt sluggish. The pull of dark undercurrents tugged at him.

A strange scene followed. Lan Jue slowly curled his outstretched hand into a fist and hammered it forward.

His entire body was enveloped in a hazy black and white aureole. Tides of yin-yang energy dispersed the dark currents and caused the world of blue before his fist to ripple.

Hua Li’s eyes widened as he watched. Lan Jue’s fist became a shimmering resplendent cobalt as it smashed into the Paragon’s protective shield.
Surprises continued, for the rippled of protogenic power that surrounded them were dispersed like water cast from a basin. All of a sudden it was like gravity returned and everything around Poseidon came splashing down. Lan Jue pressed ahead in his attack.

For a moment Hua Li was stunned. What he felt in that punch filled him with fear. However he was a Paragon, with a Paragon’s speed. The moment Lan Jue broke his defenses Hua Li became a beam of blue light and vanished. Lan Jue’s fist tore through thin air.

Hua Li reappeared ten meters away, far enough – he thought – to avoid Lan Jue’s attack. But just as he was getting comfortable the world of water around him rippled and bolts of crackling lightning appeared all around. As they struck him he felt the power penetrate down into his bones. Numbness crept into his limbs and through his trunk. The vast cache of energy at his command evaporated like snow in a bonfire.

What was this power? He was a Paragon but somehow his energy had been dispersed. It was inconceivable.

Lan Jue never stopped. When his punching arm extended as far as it would go his index finger shot out. A burst of sapphire
power surged out, flat at the front like a set hammer.

Nine Taiji Hammers!

Hua Li was numb from head to toe. Dodging was impossible.

All at once Hua Li unleashed his true strength. Swells of elemental power undulated around them, and a grand figure appeared from nowhere before him. A beam of metallic blue light erupted force and crashed into the sapphire hammer.

Poof! Lan Jue’s Taiji hammer was gone, but so was the metallic beam.

Hua Li grunted in momentary effort. He’d bought himself enough time to shed the numb sensation stifling him.

On the sidelines Chu Cheng was watching in open shock. What was happening? Hua Li was on the defensive? His Majesty Poseidon was making a fool of himself!

Lan Jue didn’t waste his advantage. He launched himself
forward surrounded by lightning, his body disappearing into the crackling power. Although the arena was filled with the manifestation of Hua Li’s power, the rippling power was dispersed wherever it came into contact with Lan Jue’s electric shell. Lan Jue passed through like there was no resistance at all, without an ounce of speed lost.

Neither Chu Cheng nor the unfortunate Hua Li had anticipated Lan Jue commanded such dominance.

With a low growl Hua Li’s eyes took on a metallic blue light. His body vanished into the warped and quivering sea of power. If before it’d been a sea of calm, now it was the ocean in a tempest.

Thick waters solidified and pressed in on Lan Jue to try and crush the life out of him.

The lightning froze and Lan Jue was revealed again. Only now, his body was enclosed in an orb of glittering translucent sapphire energy. No matter how much of the electric blue energy collapsed upon it, the shield around him broke it apart.

Even protogenia seemed to have no effect on his defense. Hua
Li’s power had no way through. A Paragon’s greatest advantage over Adepts was their control of protogenia. Against Lan Jue, however, that did not appear to be the case.

Hua Li reappeared, his face dark with doubt and anxiety. “What is this power, A-Jue? How are you able to unravel protogenia?”

Lan Jue answered with a grin. “It’s been too long since we’ve sparred. You still think you can beat me?”

Hua Li grunted at him. “I haven’t showed you my real strength yet. Don’t gloat just yet.”

As he spoke he reached out and beckoned with his right hand. A halo of blue light radiated from him replete with divine supremacy. A golden rune in the shape of a trident shimmered into existence upon his forehead and his aura swelled.

Pressure like the crushing depths of the ocean strengthened around Lan Jue. The metallic blue light which was so easily dispersed before still could not penetrate Lan Jue defensive shield, but was less quickly defeated.
Lan Jue’s eyes lit up in excitement. “Divine rite – the power given to you by your family. You’ve only achieved the Realm of Protogenia but this inheritance lets you command the power of a Reflection of Heaven and Earth. Am I right?”

Hua Li gave an imperatorial laugh. A flash of light deposited a metallic blue trident in his hand. “Don’t worry, I won’t give you a chance to surrender.” He drew the trident through the air as he spoke, each stroke releasing a wave of golden light. They rippled through the water-like environment, reflecting and refracting off of one another but relentlessly toward a single target.

When the first wave of golden light struck Lan Jue’s shield, it shimmered queerly. Poseidon’s new power was also dispersed, but the power protecting Lan Jue was noticeably weaker.

Such power! As the pressure continued to increase Lan Jue knew he had to act.

A flash of red light briefly lit the arena, and Captus appeared in his grip. When it did the space around him seemed to on the verge of collapsing in on itself. Poseidon’s Domain was drawn to it, into the gloomy red light like water through a drain. The pressure began to ease.
A corona of red light sprang up around Lan Jue, wide enough to allow half a step in each direction. In that small space he swung the sword around and carved out circles in the air that left behind crimson orbs.

The golden light issued from Hua Li’s trident fell into the red orbs and vanished like clay statues in a stream.

He can do that, too?

Through his Divine Rite Hua Li was pressing his opponent with the full range of his strength. Lan Jue had protected himself with tricks and techniques, but the difference had to be more than his non-Paragon companion could bear!

But the truth was laid bare, and he could hardly believe it.

Lan Jue was also in a unique position. Although the pressure put upon him by Hua Li didn’t match the Terminator’s, he also didn’t have Qianlin by his side. The skill of his Taiji sword melded with Captus’ power and his All-Heaven lightning. Through their perfect accord he continued to diffuse Hua Li’s assault.
Poseidon’s Trident was a mighty Astrum, but even it could not contend against a legendary Banishing Blade. Ever since fusing with the sword yesterday, he sensed his ties to Captus had reached new heights. It felt like a natural extension of himself. He flowed through the Taiji sword stances like a fish in water, and Captus’ powers of space-time manipulation has infused Lan Jue’s heart.

With each swipe Lan Jue’s grasp of Captus’ nature deepened. He poured his Discipline into the blade and felt it amplify. The immortal qi within his All-Heaven lightning resonated with the Banishing Blade, though only a true immortal would be capable of summoning its full strength.

Control was Captus’ eminency. It was complemented perfectly by the Taiji style. As he swung around tracing circles through the air, they did more than disperse Hua Li’s onslaught. They expanded, joined, and swelled until they formed a net of inexplicable force that covered everything.

A play on words. TJSS uses 太水了 to describe foolish. Directly translated it mean ‘too water.’ Poseidon… water… you get it.

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