Chapter 831: Transforming Poseidon
Kang Hui wasn’t the only one with his mouth open. Lan Qing was just as surprised. Suddenly Poseidon looked like a mecha suit the likes of which the universe had never seen. Even the titanic aliens – which before had been terrifying to look upon – were like worms beside the Group’s flagship. It was easily ten times the size of the largest aliens, enormous even in the backdrop of space!
Especially dazzling was the trident it bore, a sparkling gold weapon that stretched almost its whole length. Soft water bombs could be seen strapped to either side of its chest, and the whole ship radiated with a gentle blue light.
Just being able to change the way it did must have cost Poseidon Group twice what it cost to transform An Lun into a bastion.
Lan Qing, as the highest military commander of the armada, knew that plans for a mecha-style bastion had been proposed before. The benefits of such a creation were obvious, first among them the variable fighting style a human-like body could afford. Deeper study into bionics could improve both its offense and defense.
He knew the mecha proposal had undergone a lot of debate and analysis, but in the end it was deemed impractical. The cost was astronomical, and getting the thing to maintain equilibrium out in space was a significant challenge. A circular construction simply made more sense. Gravity, for example, was easier to manage for a sphere. A planet-like structure was most suitable.
Because it was the path of least resistance, science and technology had kept to those standards. Gravity was far more complicated to control in a human –shaped ship, both technologically and in terms of resources.
In the end nothing concrete came out of the discussions. Even the North, with all their wealth and technology, abandoned the thought. They kept the idea of bionics but went in a different direction.
In this moment, however, Poseidon Group announced to the universe that not only did they complete a transforming bastion, but a mecha-style one. It had the myriad benefits of a traditional spherical bastion, but also a mecha. ‘Shocking’ did not give it justice! Its creation heralded a new era in research and technology.
Now Lan Qing understood why Hua Li had such confidence in the bastion. It was nothing short of extraordinary. He could also appreciate his friend’s secrecy. This was privileged information that gave the Group an upper hand. Mo Xiao wouldn’t have revealed it unless as a last resort.
Poseidon swung its golden trident, sprightly despite its size. A golden light spilled from its tri-pointed head and pierced a group of aliens like a pillar from heaven. With both hands firmly gripping the trident’s shaft it swung the weapon all around whilst its primary and secondary weapons exploded into action. In an instant its offensive capabilities swelled to twice its former levels.
By the time it swung into action, Middle Heaven had also completed its own transformation.
Piercing beams of saffron light spat out in every direction, turning Middle Heaven into blazing hedgehog. Every column of light was like a blade three kilometers long, and they covered the bastion’s surface in a dense and bristling coat. The ship began to rotate.
It started slowly, but before long Middle Heaven was spinning fast as a top. When it seemed like spinning any faster would rip
it apart, the warplanet launched into the midst of enemy forces. Aliens began to fall like meat in a grinder as the bastion abandoned the need to maintain distance.
Whether Poseidon or Middle Heaven, both bastions’ fighting styles relied on their overwhelming size. It went without saying that their new tactics drained far more energy than normal. Middle Heaven had the molinite to support it, but only Poseidon’s leaders knew what kept their bastion going. The Group’s history and supremacy were long, their secrets profound. Even now there was much the rest of humanity didn’t know about the secretive organization.
Situations on the battlefield changed as the two bastions tipped their hand. The stalemate that had developed was reversed. Middle Heaven crashed through the alien forces at blinding speed, churning through them like a scythe through dry weeds.
Poseidon crushed its enemies just as easily. The giant copy of Triton pummeled the aliens with its weapon system, but it was the trident that caused the greatest turmoil. Whatever material was used in its construction was a mystery. Though witnesses had seen it’s construction in multiple stages through the transformation, it seemed as sturdy as a single piece. Whatever its golden light passed the aliens were disintegrated. Even the
strongest were struck down.
Lan Qing watched his screens as the systems analysis flickered by. All he could learn from the data was that antimatter energy surrounded the transformer-bastion’s weapon. What sort of energy was needed to keep a machine like that operational during a battle?
Changes in the main battle were also influencing matters in another section of space. So far the human Paragons could only describe their situation as hanging on by the skin of their teeth.
Jue Di was actually able to hold his own against three aliens, alternating seamlessly between attack and defense. Although he had lost the upper hand, he was still able to keep his opponents fully engaged. Relying on the versatility and power of his golden staff, he kept the three Infinite-level avatars from harassing the other Paragons.
But circumstances were less favorable for the others.
Lan Jue and Qianlin continued to wage war against three of the aliens. Though they were in a dominating position to start, Lan Jue’s Boundless Starlight Domain was incredibly draining.
Even with Qianlin’s help it was exhausting to maintain his Domain at full strength while simultaneously fighting off three Nirvana-level monsters!
As strong as the Harmonious Swords were, their enemies were not run-of-the-mill. Two avatars and a titan, with their Creation-Destruction Domains combined, were the equivalent of a Paragon who’d reached the Infinite. For now both sides refused to give in, but Lan Jue and Qianlin were inferior in cultivation. They were beginning to feel the pressure.
It was a dramatic display. Heterochromatic blasts of lightning filled the blackness of space, glaring off of the Emperor of the North Star’s sow-white robes. The aliens were vortices of purple-black madness that swirled chaotically, eroding the Boundless Starlight Domain. As the Five Lightnings continued to roar and crash, reality collapsed in on itself all around them.
When beings of such total power clashed, technique was less important than force. Besides styles like the Harmonious Swords, which amplified ability, their war was one of direct protogenic superiority.
As exhaustion began to set in, Lan Jue found it increasingly difficult to maintain his dharmic image. Qianlin’s Domain was
stretched to its limit, but she had more than just Lan Jue to consider. She was responsible for the breadth of where her power touched and all the Paragons within it. Beneath the mad rage of these monsters, they were only just managing to hold back destruction.
Their one spot of luck was Qianlin’s skills, which allowed Jue Di and Luo Xianni to express the totality of their strength while the aliens had to hold back for fear of universal protogenia. Were it not for the Queen of Heaven, they would have been crushed under the might of the alien avatars and their titans.
Yet the weight on her shoulders was an enormous load to bear, and Qianlin was tiring. Faith from the people she’d saved was how she persevered.
The shifting dynamics of the main battle worried the alien generals. But contrary to Lan Qing’s assumptions they did not move in to support their failing army. On the contrary they fought harder against the Paragons, proving that they saw the Adepts as their greatest threat. Saving their soldiers but leaving the mighty humans alive was pointless.
Chapter 832: Forced Advancement
Lan Jue and the others felt the pressure mounting when suddenly the alien offensive reached a wild crescendo.
“Hmph!” The Pontiff lurched with a grunt, and the staff clutched in his hands cracked. The holy light that enveloped him dimmed visibly as a trickle of blood exited the corner of his mouth.
The loss of his perennial adversary lingered in his mind, a sadness that ate away at him. After all, what was light without darkness?
He fought with everything left in him, especially after witnessing the hell that had descended upon Europa. His heart broke to look upon the carnage, to know that the Pontiff’s bloodline would likely end now with him.
The power of his holy light was strong against the heathen alien force, especially under the empowering light of the Queen of Heaven. But his enemies were too strong. A momentary dip in defenses had left him open to a blast from one of the titans. This half beat of exhaustion made his protogenia unstable, it felt like his organs were on fire. Qianlin’s Queen of Heaven
Domain had, thankfully, prevented his loss of control from consuming him entirely.
However the Paragons were only just holding their foes back. A single chink in their armor could spell disaster. Luo Xianni reacted quickly, tricking the enemy and sending several of the aliens into deep space. For the moment they were removed from play, but even then the Paragons were on the precipice of losing control.
This wasn’t the first fight these valiant men and women had fought, even within the last few hours. Each of them had fought hard against the Violet Prince and his coterie mere hours before. They had leapt from the frying pan to the proverbial fire the moment they returned to Middle Heaven.
After the Pontiff began to falter, the Bookworm and Keeper began to show signs of fatigue. It was enough for the enemy’s Domain to prosper. Both were blasted away, bleeding from serious injuries.
All seemed lost.
A terrible howl shuddered through everyone. Their eyes were
stabbed by a light so bright and resplendent they winced against the intensity. A crystalline, purple blaze spread out all around them that was quickly followed by an incomparably powerful aura.
Purple. A purple that swallowed the entirety of the universe. A noble, terrible purple spreading through the whole battlefield. Even the mighty warriors of the Infinite stopped to stare in wide-eyed wonderment.
Lan Jue’s heart sank, his face stern. The image of his dharma, the Middle Heaven Great Emperor of the North Star of Purple Subtlety, was clearer than ever. The myriad stars the twinkled in the distance dimmed. Even Europa and the three alien planets were less visible.
The aura that enveloped him inflated with stunning speed and intensity, so intense that an entirely new consciousness seemed to spring up in the universe around them. Even the stars submitted themselves to it.
This ubiquitous awareness appeared as Lan Jue’s aura exploded outward by orders of magnitude. His dharma loomed large, golden runes blazing into existence upon the blade of Captus gripped in its hand.
In the same instant a change overcome the image of Quanyin. The outline of an arrow was etched in her forehead and moments later Qianlin’s image was painted a pale shade of gold. So intense was her light that it could be seen burning from the surface of human planets in the far distance. Not only was her dharmic image clearer, but ghost-like copies spread out behind her. Instantly the influence of her light surged and the Paragons each felt no less than ten percent more capable. Those that had been injured felt their protogenia quickly recover.
Did they break through?
The aliens stared in shock, but it was a state mirrored by their human enemies.
Lan Jue’s face vanished, replaced with one very similar but far more imposing. The golden runes etched into Captus flared and as their light spread out the tint of purple was washed away. A beautiful, starry expanse took its place.
It was like the entirety of the universe was being pressed into this small space. The countless stars clustered around the
powerful beings present, man and alien alike.
The vibrations from the explosion reverberated through the souls of everyone present. The Emperor of Heaven expanded to a hundred times its size, making Poseidon look like a child’s toy.
It slowly carved a path with its weapon, leaving behind a curtain of red that covered everything.
Weaker alien monsters felt their vitality vanish, burned away in an instant before the eternity of death overtook them. In the midst of everyone appeared a great portal of light. Three words hovered above it: Gate of Cataclysm
Blood-red light flickered from the portal like a giant vortex. It drank up the souls of the monsters from every corner of the battlefield.
The three Infinite-level alien generals were the first to react before being destroyed. They released the entirety of their power without reservation, spreading their Domain out to its
limits to ward off the deadly glare of the gate. They were thousands of kilometers away before the gates was fully open.
Other aliens also attempted to flee, but the hunger of the gate was more than they could contend against. The first to be consumed by its light – one of the titans – didn’t even have time to scream before death came for it. One was quickly followed by two, then a third as the slower monsters were swallowed up. Three Nirvana-level generals lost their life to the Gate of Cataclysm.
However in the midst of this terrifying display, the three alien home worlds suddenly grew brighter. Violet light erupted from their surfaces like a haze. It stretched all the way out to the beleaguered alien generals, and when it crested over them they were swept away. Vanished.
The burning words above the portal began to weaken, the majestic image of the Emperor started to fade. Though it shrunk back to its former size the strange consciousness it had birthed remained all around them, omnipotent and eternal.
Lan Jue reappeared among the others, kneeling in the vacuum of space hand in hand with Qianlin. Both of their faces were oddly flushed, eyes closed.
Jue Di looked at them with furrowed brows. He swung his golden staff and a golden light surrounded the human Paragons. In a flash they were gone.
The violet light from the alien home worlds dissolved and suddenly everything was back to normal. And yet it wasn’t, for the aura of those planets was still palpable. Who could say if they were now capable of fighting back?
A few breaths later the alien generals returned, though they weren’t alone. This time they were joined by the Violet Prince and Princess, and their horde. They started for the main battlefield.
Poseidon and Middle Heaven gave the enemy creatures no quarter. With the aid of their drones, the aliens were on the verge of destruction. Poseidon’s trident was particularly devastating, obliterating anything unfortunate enough to be in the path of its light.
Hummmmm! The buzzing sound came over them like a wave. Finally the aliens, until now indomitable in their will to fight, broke off their attack and retreated. The Violent Prince, riding his giant monstrosity, came bearing down upon the armada with his generals at his side. Their eyes burned with lust for
The fighting stopped. Middle Heaven and Poseidon paused, waiting. The allied fleet had suffered significant losses over the last few hours, but the aliens had suffered far worse. In terms of sheer numbers the humans had come out of the battle victorious. But whether that would remain true if the fight continued was hard to say. After all, for all their strength the Paragons had proved incapable of defeating the alien commanders.
The alien horde fell back behind the Prince, falling into formation. The two armies kept their distance, staring.
Drones from the various bastions returned to their ships to charge. Once more, they found themselves in a stalemate. Their war shook the heavens, both sides needed a moment to catch their breath.
Lan Jue and Qianlin were teleported back aboard Middle Heaven with the Photographer’s help, though they themselves remained unchanged. They knelt across from one another as flows of protogenia whipped around them erratically.
Qianlin’s Domain appeared and disappeared in maddening flickers of power. From time to time her pretty face would twist into expressions of pain.
In those last moments their situation had become critical. To save the lives of his compatriots, Lan Jue had decided to force a breakthrough.
His cultivation had already been at the border of Reflection of Heaven and Earth, as had Zhou Qianlin’s. Both of them had been trying to repress the draw of Nirvana.
They had no choice. The only way to free themselves from the alien onslaught was to take drastic measures. They were in danger of being overrun, and the creatures had left them no opportunity to flee.
They couldn’t afford to die. If they did, if the Paragons were lost, then humanity was lost. Lan Jue was forced to decide, and he chose to break through.
Rising to new heights of power galvanized his protogenia. It also solidified the disparate pieces of his inheritance and summoned the consciousness of the Emperor of the North Star.
As Lan Jue had hoped, gathering the spirit of the emperor had temporarily catapulted him into incredible levels of power. The power and influence of his Boundless Starlight Domain soared, to the point where it unlocked the profound truths hidden with Captus and summoned the Gates of Cataclysm. Three of the mighty alien creatures were swallowed up by its terrible power.
But this time his breakthrough was different. He was rising to a new level of Paragon, whereas before he was transforming from an Adept. Crossing the threshold to a new understanding of protogenia and the changes it wrought were distinct.
Before he rose sharply as a result of accumulated learning. This time he forced a breakthrough. Power summoned from the vestiges of the Emperor of the North Star was less potent.
The name of Lan Jue’s sword in Chinese is directly translated as ‘collapsing immortal sword’ or ‘trapping immortal sword’. The portal shares the same name, but I changed it to cataclysm due to the manifestation of the sword’s power. You can see it in action when parts of reality collapse after its use.
Chapter 833: Collapsing Crisis
An important distinction was control. Although Lan Jue managed to regulate the flows of protogenia to some degree, management of it was difficult. If he and Qianlin had been on more solid ground, their Harmonious Swords technique would have slain a third of the alien hierarchy.
He saved the lives of his friends by breaking through early.
But now there were after effects to contend with.
The couple were struggling against a sea of raging protogenia that threatened to swallow them up or shatter altogether. The pain of it was unimaginable.
For Lan Jue the situation was slightly better because of a solid foundation. The problem was more serious for Zhou Qianlin.
Their connection meant his breakthrough catalyzed hers. In many ways they were one entity, and one couldn’t cross the threshold to another level without the other.
Qianlin’s foundation was less stable than Lan Jue’s, and her protogenia sputtered as she struggled to keep it under control. If
not for the Queen of Heaven’s inherent ability to soothe these energies she would already have been consumed by the raw power.
Lan Jue helped as much as he could, absorbing the excess energies and protogenia from her. He fought to help her assimilate these powers, taking on the pressure of two peoples’ breakthrough. He would be able to stabilize his own ascension, but Qianlin needed his help.
The alien horde was not aware of Lan Jue’s precarious situation. All they witnessed was the breakthrough of the two young lovers. Fear of what they could do was part of what stayed their hand.
“What can we do?” Luo Xianni asked of Jue Di.
Lan Jue’s father shook his head. “There is nothing we can do, only they have the power to get through it. Their breakthrough isn’t complete until they’ve learned to control it. Their condition is dire, but they’re managing for the time being. The more time we give them to sort it out, the more likely they are to succeed.”
Instead of being at ease from his determination, Luo Xianni was shocked. “Are you saying they could collapse?”
Jui Di nodded solemnly. “He did it to save us all.”
At the time it was necessary. Lan Jue knew there was a risk he could lose control, but the aliens were too strong.
His decision was well timed. The Violet Prince and Princess arrived only moments after their escape. If they had delayed any longer there was a good chance many Paragons would have died. Breaking through then would have been too late. Lan Jue’s rash decision had saved their lives and given them a chance to keep fighting.
“Is there nothing? No technique we can try?” Luo Xianni asked. “We can’t help them bear the pressure?”
Jue Di categorically refuted. “No, it would only add to the chaos of their protogenia…”
He trailed off as Lan Jue and Zhou Qianlin’s features changed. Thin cracks appeared in space-time around them and
frightening gusts of errant protogenia surged.
“No!” Luo Xianni gasped. Without hesitation she released her interdimensional powers, transferring her children and Jue, as well as herself, out into space behind Middle Heaven.
She had no choice. Unrestricted power from two Nirvana- level Paragons could tear the Eastern bastion apart from the inside.
Lan Qing had been given the news and stood within the control center with his hands clenched into fists. The screen in front of him flickered as it changed to the scene outside, focused on his little brother and future sister in law.
Flickers of lightning snaked around Lan Jue. Qianlin, too, was surrounded by a blinding white light like a thousand thunderclaps. Both of them were on the verge of total protogenic collapse.
Breakthrough’s were a tricky thing. Too slow and you hampered development, but too fast and you risked losing control of the powers that used you as a conduit. That was the problem they faced now.
Luo Xianni’s chest heaved as she battled her fear. Jue Di’s hands had curled into white-knuckled fists.
Both of them could do nothing but fear for the lives of their children.
Something he’d heard from the Clairvoyant suddenly sprang up in Lan Qing’s mind. Lan Jue was the key to surviving disaster. So long as he lived there was hope. But if he died…
The admiral shut his eyes tight. He fought the dread that roiled within him so fiercely he didn’t notice his fingernails digging into his palms, drawing blood.
He was trying, but the intensity of his breakthrough with Qianlin was tremendous. Nirvana, vast and pervasive. It felt like his protogenia was fragmenting. All the different kinds of it, everywhere all at once. He could feel it spread out through the universe like an inseparable part of the fabric of reality.
He knew so little of this truth, a knowledge that only
scratched the surface. Qianlin was altogether unfamiliar with it. Neither of them knew what they faced or how to control it!
The cultivation process was about deepening one’s understanding. Through exploring one’s own protogenia a Paragon uncovered the secrets of the universe as they pertained to them. Reaching milestones of knowledge was how one rose to higher levels.
Lan Jue and Qianlin had reached Nirvana from being Adepts in the space of a few days. Their outstanding success in breaking through catapulted them to Reflections of Heaven and Earth. Then, through the power of faith they were ascended to the border of Nirvana. Climbing so fast was not just unthinkable, it was dangerous.
Before them, there were only three other Paragons of comparable strength. The Terminator was an old master, one who had used many years of studious learning to achieve his strength. Lan Jue and Qianlin achieved the same realizations in a fraction of the time!
Fissures in reality continued to appear around them as wild protogenia began to snowball out of control. Pain and pressure mounted as time stretched on.
Protogenic collapse inevitably lead to mental breakdown.
When their will collapsed, so would the rest of them.
Despair crept into Lan Jue’s heart. Although he’d been a Paragon only a short time, he’d experienced the world of protogenia through his Zeus ascension for years. He knew what collapse meant, knew what it felt like when it crossed the line into chaos. He’d reached a point of no return.
If he was concerned for himself alone, he could prevail. But focusing on himself would abandon Qianlin to destruction. Could he give up the woman who so selflessly sacrificed herself for him? Of course not.
Had the time come for the two of them to pass into history, as he promised they would, together? Lan Jue was unwilling to accept it, not because he feared death -crossing into the spirit realm with his love was not such a bad thing – but because he couldn’t free humanity from the scourge of alien covetousness. Not even his death would give humanity a chance to survive.
His body began to grow translucent. Cracks and fractures that had appeared around him were absorbed into his ethereal form to make him seem… incomplete.
Jue Di could stand it no more and shut his eyes against the pain. He, too, knew there was no going back. Lan Jue had lost control of his protogenia.
Qianlin was better off, but only slightly.
It was done. Everything, lost.
Luo Xianni’s eyes were wet with tears. Why… why didn’t she decide to sacrifice herself in his place? If she hadn’t been so selfish with her own life perhaps these two could have lived. Why did she hesitate?
Something began to flicker in the center of Lan Jue’s chest. A sound like shards of shattered glass colliding hung over him. It was followed by a golden light which, though it was not brilliant, quickly spread out around him like a star’s corona.
It spread farther, encompassing both Lan Jue and Qianlin and painting both of them gold. The waves of erratic protogenia they released slowed, their figures becoming more substantive.
Suddenly the universe around them seemed to light up. For a
moment it was like all the stars in view burned brighter to bear witness. The alien forces, on the verge of continuing their assault, were taken aback by the unexpected change. They fell back for fear of reprisal at the command of their Prince and Princess, returning to the home worlds.
As the starlight rose constellations were marked out on Lan Jue’s body. Sensing something, Jue Di opened his eyes.
He witnessed beams of starlight converging on the beleaguered body of his son and coiling around him. Like glue they fixed the fractures of reality around him and forced them shut and soothed his form.
Lan Jue’s ethereal form stabilized. Behind him the image of the Middle Heaven Great Emperor of the North Pole Star of Purple Subtlety emerged.
Stars gleamed brighter as his dharmic image revealed itself, enhancing each other’s beauty. The power of the stars concentrated upon Lan Jue and stabilized his protogenia – consolidating his ascension. Beneath the sublime starlight he was remolded, body and soul.
Little by little his body started to glow. The light came from acupuncture points, where within each one seemed to burn a miniature star. All of a sudden Lan Jue’s body was almost indistinguishable from the backdrop of glittering celestial bodies. Likewise Lan Jue’s image was reflected in the light of every distant star.
Nirvana, vast and pervasive!
Jue Di stared with his mouth agape, the pain in his expression replaced with shock. It was inconceivable that his son should be saved in the moment of his destruction. Something had pulled Lan Jue back from imminent collapse.
What he could not know was the pendant Lan Jue had on his chest, given to him by the Clairvoyant, had shattered and disappeared into the cosmos.
An interesting phenomenon in human health occurs sometimes in the moments before death. I believe it usually happens more to people who’ve been sick for a long time. Suddenly there will be a moment of clarity, of perfect lucidity when for no discernable reason the things that ail them seem to melt away. Then they die. In Chinese medicine we call it the last light of a dying flame. The body stops struggling and releases
the final stores of vital qi, granting a final few moments of life before yin and yang separate and the spirit leaves. It’s infinitely cruel for people who aren’t prepared for it, but an absolute gift for those who are.
Chapter 834: Jue Di’s Esteem
It was years ago when the Clairvoyant had given the Four Divine Monarchs his pendants. For the others the charms had been used up upon their breakthroughs. Only Lan Jue’s remained, even after becoming a Paragon.
The Clairvoyant’s gift, Lumina, wasn’t made to heal Lan Jue.
In fact, its purpose was to provoke the stars.
Lan Jue’s inheritance was the Master of Stars, the Emperor of the North Star. The namesake of this inheritance controlled the myriad burning bodies, but control worked both ways. The stars also possessed a direct line to their master. At the moment of his destruction Lan Jue received the nourishing power of the stars, thoroughly remaking his body. With the help of his cosmic brethren his protogenia was stilled and his breakthrough completed.
Once Lan Jue was out of danger, Qianlin’s condition improved as well. Under the light of the stars Lan Jue understood the intricacies of his protogenia and shared his epiphanies through their connection. In this way he helped her to stabilize her own protogenia.
Qianlin’s Queen of Heaven abilities were stable by nature. So long as the initial steps of her breakthrough where completed, the rest would take care of itself. Now that the threads of protogenia within her were disentangled her aura calmed and her Domain spread out. Her familiar, soothing white light enveloped them both. Through it their protogenia was steadied and the power of starlight united with it. Not only were they out of danger, but their cultivation even strengthened some small degree.
With a sigh, Jue Di shook his head.
Luo Xianni also relaxed, and when she spoke her voice was thick with relief. “They’re fine. Why do you sigh like that?”
Jue Di never took his eyes from his son. “I never respected the old shyster. I only ever saw him as a charlatan who liked to show off his skills. In the face of true power, prophecies were an illusion. I see now that the old me was wrong. The reach of his divinations are long and their influence vast. Hi power saved my son. His vision could see past his own demise to what humanity needed in its hour of need. Eye of Tomorrow… he couldn’t have had a more fitting name.”
Luo Xianni smiled, a small smile that lit up her face. But when
she spoke she sounded disappointed. “Yes! If he were alive, perhaps we’d be better equipped to face these beasts.”
Jue Di sniffed. “What is dead is dead. What worth is there in lamenting?”
Luo Xianni rolled her eyes at him. “Aren’t you the little green- eyed monster.”
His lips curled into a scowl. “I prefer killing the purple ones. It looks like the aliens have retreated. I suspect they’ve fled to defend the planets. We’ve got serious troubles ahead.”
Luo Xianni followed his eyes to where the alien home worlds hovered. Her teasing expression gave way to solemnity.
The aliens were too strong. They weren’t going to win a direct confrontation, as the last battle proved. Even if they defeated the monsters, what would be the cost? Both sides would be decimated.
Most importantly, they discovered the planets still had some means of influencing the fight. Monarch had exerted its
strength in the perfect moment to safe its generals, even strengthening them. They weren’t even sure whether or not the planets could fight back directly. How much time was left before their evolution was complete?
Mankind’s allied forces didn’t have the strength to rout its enemy!
“We must make the best of what we have. If we really aren’t strong enough, there’s nothing to be done.” Luo Xianni muttered.
Jue Di’s voice was cold. “Don’t rush to conclusions. Monarch and the others are not invincible. Their auras are strong, but they have no way to enter the battle directly. If they did our fight would have been ended long ago. Lan Qing has a plan, something that will solve our problem. Perhaps there’s still a chance, but we can only know it by probing the enemy’s defense. If our sacrifice means the destruction of these monsters, then it’s worth it. When it comes to the pivotal moment, who can say…”
His voice trailed off, his face stern.
Lan Qing watched the situation unfold from his screens. He sighed in relief as his brother, by some miracle, was saved from destruction. So long as Lan Jue and Qianlin escaped unscathed, he could call their battle a success.
“Do we have statistics on battle damage?” Lan Qing returned his attention to the matters at hand.
“They’re here now.”
A report appeared before the admiral.
Allied forces losses could not be described as light. Over five thousand drones had been destroyed, as well as three hundred warships of various types. Six hundred more were damaged, among them a capital ship that could no longer participate in the fight.
All three bastions had expended tremendous energy in the clash, especially Poseidon. At least for a while they would not be capable of transforming as they needed time to recharge.
Tyrannosaurus spent the least. It’d only fired its main cannon twice throughout the conflict.
Middle Heaven appeared to have spent the most in energy stores, but thanks to its molinite core those stores were being quickly replenished. Of course, the drawback came in that core’s instability.
The allied forces had suffered losses, but thanks to the tenacity of their defenses those losses were kept as low as could be expected. Casualties were kept within the boundaries of Lan Qing’s expectations.
Star Division lost thirty of their soldiers in the attack, the first time they’d lost a single person since their inception. But in a fight for the future of humanity, against some of the strongest creatures they’d ever faced, how could they expect to emerge unscathed?
War with the alien menace was horrifying for humans, but the losses for the enemy were astronomical. At least sixty thousand beasts were put down between the battles on Angel and the front lines. These were monsters capable of fighting in space, not the mutated copies created by a progenitor. Among the enemy’s dead were no less than five generals, though
unfortunately only two of their vital crystals had been recovered. What happened to the three beasts slain by Lan Jue’s Gate of Cataclysm, no one knew.
Best estimates posited that these battles cost the alien horde a fourth of their total numbers. Stunning, when one considered how inferior humanity’s numbers were. With the aliens in full retreat the allies were cheering their victory, but also going about the business of recovery. The burden of time was on them, for no one knew how long it would be before the alien planets completed their evolution. Once repairs were complete, another attack would be initiated immediately.
What’s more, although the home worlds themselves were incapable of fighting directly, most of the alien power structure was still intact. The Violet Prince and Princess had returned from afield, doubling the number of Infinite-level aliens protecting their leaders. When it came to direct force humanity was in the weeds, even with Lan Jue and Qianlin now crossing over into Nirvana.
The situation required careful thought. Only the perfect plan could give the humans a chance at survival.
After this fight, Europa and the alien planets were within
sight. Regardless of how dire their position had become, this was the closes the allies had ever come to their target. Kang Hui had already sent requests to the Northern government for reinforcements. If by some stroke of luck the alien evolutionary process was still a ways off, reinforcements might be useful.
The North agreed. However, no one knew for certain how long it would take to mobilize and dispatch these reserves.
The surviving soldiers stood in orderly formation, hats off and heads bowed. They stood in silent respect for their fallen brothers and sisters.
Fighting out in space, the chance of recovering corpses was almost zero. Finally, death had come to claim their brave compatriots. Although they had lost the fewest of any military division, the pain was no less biting.
“Vigil is over.” Su Xiaosu’s voice was solemn, but stern. The
soldiers lifted their heads.
Xiaosu addressed the company. “The heroism of our fallen compatriots will forever be recorded in the annals of our organization. Whatever honors and spoils they earned will be given to their families to help them through this difficult time. After this victory all of our families have earned a run through the exuvium process. This is true for their families as well.”
“They can rest, but our fight isn’t over. We must continue to fight for our brothers and sisters who still live, for every man, woman and child of our species. If we lose, none of our spoils will save us. The exuvium process will means nothing if our people are made extinct by an apocalypse of purple. So it is - soldiers, fellows - that we mustn’t mourn. In honor of those we’ve lost, and those remain, we must fight even harder.”
“Now I’m sure you’ve all learned much after these two glorious battles. Rest and meditate on what you’ve learned, then return in twelve hours. We’ve got more training to do!”
Star Division was dismissed, soldiers departing to their
quarters to recover after the fights. A few moments of peace were a luxury in war.
Without a doubt the soldiers were fatigued after their two concurrent campaigns. Especially with the loss of their fellows, their hearts had taken a blow.
When her charges left Su Xiaosu fell exhausted to the floor and curled her legs beneath her. Her chest and fell as she fought for breath.
How could she not be drained? Star Division had been under her command since Angel, and she was responsible for every one of them. Her careful command, her orders to look out for each other, were what kept them alive.
At last, Star Division had shown their worth, emerging as an integral part of this battle’s success. It was their back line defense that ensured the allied ships weren’t destroyed, and kept their guns firing. Finally, Star Division had found their proper place in the allied forces. The first battle was over, but there would be more to come. Would the alien home worlds be destroyed quickly?
Xiaosu was so tired all she wanted to do was curl up in bed. But then a warm, comforting sensation washed over her. She lifted her head and spied Skyfire Avenue’s doctor headed her way.
“What’s wrong? Are you alright?” He asked.
In Chinese, being jealous is called ‘eating vinegar.’ In this exchange, literally translating, Luo Xianni says ‘you’re jealous (eat vinegar), to which Jue Di responds ‘I prefer soy sauce’.
Chapter 835: Queen of Devils
Su Xiaosu shook her head. “I’m fine, just a little tired. Would you help me up?”
The Doctor offered a hand to help pull her up off the ground. “You should go rest. I fear we’re going to be facing stronger monsters in the fights to come.”
“Yeah. I also wonder how the commander is doing. He’s in a dangerous state.” Xiaosu replied. Anxiety was clear in her voice.
He smiled reassuringly. “It’ll be fine. If it were serious we would have lost the war already.”
Xiaosu smiled back. “Yeah! The boss is invincible.”
Invincible. Kang Hui might use a similar phrase to describe Lan Qing. When he led Tyrannosaurus from the North, he was ready to become a martyr for their cause. Yet so far they had turned back the deadly alien tide at every turn – they were even
beginning to gain ground.
Since the beginning of their campaign the allied forces had recovered seven human planets, saved and healed millions of victims, and pushed ahead with a plan for every eventuality. They had simultaneously defended Angel and dealt a crushing blow to the enemy’s main force, resulting in a better position than ever for humanity.
Kang Hui had absolute faith in the Eastern Admiral. This young man was worthy of being lauded as the greatest soldier of their generation. Without him, he feared the war would have been lost already.
Their final goal was within reach. Despite the odds, Kang Hui felt a strange sense of ease. Now that they were here there was only one thing left to do. Fight – fight with everything they had left!
His mind went back to the allies they’d lost; the commanders of the Arachnid and Terminator, comrades in the fleets that were destroyed in the Shattered Starfields. He swore on their sacrifice that he would fight to the last man. Retreat was not an option, and the war would not end until those alien planets were destroyed.
Despite his treasonous actions in taking Tyrannosaurus away from the North in its time of fear, now he had their full support.
But that was now. If they lost Kang Hui knew he would be demonized back home. If they won the North would claim it was the plan from the beginning. Victory would clear his name, and even if he died they would name him a hero of his people. The thought didn’t bring him any cheer. Hero… victory or defeat, every last soldier who fought with him against these aliens were heroes!
Middle Heaven conference room.
Lan Qing was given no repose. After the battle he had busily passed down orders for repairs and preparations, then invited the Paragons to meet with him.
Lan Jue and Qianlin remained in space, stabilizing their new levels of power. Luo Xianni had remained behind as well to look after them. The remaining Paragons had answered his summons.
Lan Qing stood at the head of the table, but did not sit. Instead he greeted all of them with a deep and sustained bow.
“Thank you, all of you. Your actions, in spite of considerable risk to your own lives, saved out armada from destruction.” He spoke solemnly and straightened.
The Wine Master replied. “No thanks are required, Admiral Lan. Without your expert command even our strength would have meant nothing.”
Lan Qing finally took his seat. “I’ve invited you here to discuss the next step in our plan to combat the enemy. Let me begin by saying Star Division’s display during the last battle was nothing short of remarkable. Their ability to combat these monsters in close range offset the deficiencies of our fleets. As such I would like to request that the North reinforce their numbers with mecha pilots of their own. In this way we can protect ourselves if the aliens break our lines and get close enough to fight back.”
The Terminator nodded without reservation. “Not a problem. I’ll see to it personally once we’ve finished our meeting. And not just Northerners, I’ll make sure we tap any resources available to us. This is likely to be our final stand, every advantage must be employed.”
The Pontiff nodded in agreement. “My Citadel’s strength is all but destroyed, but we will lend whatever power remains to fight for you. The Dark Citadel –“
A voice interrupted from the doorway. “The Dark Citadel will also join you in defending humanity.”
Mika strode across the threshold into the conference room.
Although the table was surrounded by the greatest leaders and strongest warriors in all of human space, Mika was not cowed. She stood tall, with a confidence and commanding air that rivaled all of theirs. She took up a seat at the foot of the table.
Her red hair seemed a deeper hue of crimson now, and a dangerous fire burned in her eyes. Her body was surrounded by flows of power. Although she was not yet a Paragon, she was close – the peak of ninth level.
Although only a few days had passed since the death of her father, Mika was like a different person. There was a coldness in her, even as the devilish power of her blood surged around her like a tide.
Such a rapid successions of breakthroughs could only mean one thing. She’d accepted her devilish lineage, and released the power she had so long fought to contain.
Chu Cheng and the Gourmet exchanged a glance. The Gourmet’s expression was questioning, perhaps seeking guidance. Although he was older, Chu Cheng had taken the mantle of Hades and thus the role of patriarch for their family.
Chu Cheng answered his uncle’s unspoken question with a shake of his head. Humanity was in crisis, this was not the time for infighting.
In taking command of what remained of her father’s organization, Mika had proven her strength. The Gourmet feared she would prove to be a formidable Queen of Devils in the future.
Lan Qing regarded Mika with an even stare. After a small moment of surprise he nodded. It was in Lan Qing’s nature to be repelled by the forces of evil. His Vairochana lineage was diametrically opposed to what she stood for. However, even though he could sense the darkness that had taken root in her, he saw in her eyes that it had not yet influenced her righteous spirit.
His nod was a signal that she was welcome, and her command was accepted. She nodded back. Expressionless her eyes swept around the table and took in the faces of the others but did not find the one she was looking for. She couldn’t hide the surprise she felt from showing in her face.
The crisis Lan Jue and Qianlin had encountered was top secret, kept hidden from the rest of the armada. Only the Paragons knew, for they had been there to witness it.
Lan Qing went on. “Now that we’re all on the same page, we will share resources. Our efforts together will be unequivocal and unified.”
They proceeded to discuss how Adepts would be used in the fight to come. Humanity’s war had reached a decisive moment – they had one foot in heaven, and one foot in hell. The final step in either direction would be determined by their efforts.
“Alien resistance is stronger than we anticipated, with more higher-tiered beasts than we thought. It is my hope that your Majesties might coordinate with me while we consider ways to deal with their superior strength. Alone, traditional war is unlikely to win us the victory we need. Together we may prevail.”
At present humanity’s total strength was inferior to the alien horde, even before considering the influence of their home worlds. However, despite their weaker position humans had still managed to strike a stinging blow to the alien power structure. Poseidon and Middle Heaven’s transformation had been instrumental in making them pay.
As a result the aliens’ superiority in numbers was reduced. Allied forces still didn’t have enough soldiers, but the three bastions made up for what they lacked. Bastions were large enough that they could produce what an army lacked, especially resources the bastion’s needed to be most effective.
As he listened, the Terminator nodded in agreement. There were significantly more top-tier aliens than they had thought. Facing them would be difficult. In fact, were it not for Lan Jue and Qianlin’s sudden breakthrough their losses would have been catastrophic. Thankfully they were able to tap into the essence of the Emperor of the North Star and summon the Gates of Cataclysm.
In the coming battle, sacrifice might be necessary even if they fought their hardest. Final victory was more important than keeping everyone alive.
The meeting continued without conflict. All of the Paragons were more than willing to cooperate with Lan Qing’s plans.
One of mankind’s advantages was Adepts’ natural ability to restrain the power of alien Discipline. Between the Paragons and the three bastions, they had a chance of defending themselves even against a force superior in strength and numbers. In the end, though, which side would emerge triumphant would not be known until the fight concluded. To have any chance of winning at all, the alien planets could not be allowed to take the field.
When the meeting was concluded the Paragons left to handle their individual tasks. Lan Qing rose with them and caught up with Mika.
“Admiral Lan,” she said, “where’s the boss? Why didn’t he attend the war council?” When she didn’t see him at the meeting, Mika had tried to reach Lan Jue through her communicator. When he didn’t answer she’d begun to worry.
Satan’s death had wounded her deeply. If something happened to her boss, a man she respected and relied upon, it would break her. She could sense the stress from it galvanizing her demonic blood.
Something flashed in Lan Qing’s eyes. He placed a hand gently upon her shoulder.
Mika felt a power flush through her like a torrent of fire, draining through her shoulder and into her heart. The urge to react, the sense of something terrible just beneath the surface, suddenly eased as her strength of will was reinforced.
Lan Qing’s voice was low but tough. “You’ve made your choice, now you must learn to control yourself. You can’t afford to make careless mistakes. A-Jue is fine, he’s meditating. Soon he will have another mission and won’t be participating in the main attack. That’s why we didn’t need him to participate in our meeting.”
With this said, his arm dropped and he left down the corridor.
Once she knew Lan Jue was fine the pressure in Mika’s chest was released. Lan Qing’s words were simple, but they were precisely what she needed. From now on, she was the only one she could rely on.
Chapter 836: The Breakthrough is Complete
When Mika made the decision to take over her father’s legacy she removed the seal holding her powers back. Her poisonous inheritance filled her blood and caused her Discipline to surge. Through the struggle of controlling her demonic blood she rose to the height of ninth level in only two days.
Certainly, Satan asking his daughter to succeed him was not a decision made of desperation. The fallen leader of the Dark Citadel had made that decision when his daughter was still young.
Mika’s talents were storied, much greater than her older sister’s. She had even more potential than her father did at her age. After the tragedy that befell her family Mika fled, and with Lan Jue’s help sealed off the darkness within her. Still her power rose quickly, eventually reaching ninth level sixth rank.
For her to rise so high without the help of her bloodline spoke to her natural abilities. With willpower this intense, she might have become a Paragon with nothing but her own willpower, completely avoiding the corruption of her inheritance.
However things did not always go according to plan. Satan was dead, and Mika now had to shoulder the stress and responsibilities he left behind. To perform this job she needed to awaken the demon within her – a demon which granted her great power, but at tremendous cost.
The corruption of her blood lived in the back of her mind, a poison consciousness that gnawed her will at all hours. She struggled mightily against it, warring for her soul in a way she thought she would never have to suffer again. For now it was under her control, but she feared the next time the demon would rear its head.
After her breakthrough, Mika scoured Tyrannosaurus for the remaining members of the Dark Citadel. Luckily the core power of her father’s legacy remained; the vampire bloodline and werewolf bloodline were intact, as well as their powerful warlocks.
Naturally these monsters did not easily pledge themselves to Mika’s service. Although Mika had risen in prominence, commanding their respect would not be a matter of simply asking. However, she was surprised to discover that the man she thought would be her fiercest opponent – Lucifer – chose to stand by her side. With his help she convinced the others to follow her lead.
Europa’s plight did not just pain the Pontiff. Spirits were crushed and emotions flared through all levels of the Dark Citadel at the destruction of their dark playground. Denizens of the dark underbelly of humanity were known for solving their problems with violence. When Mika came to them, promising an opportunity to exact revenge on the monsters that wronged them, no one resisted.
Her efforts over the last few days had been a struggle, fighting not only against the remnants of the Dark Citadel but also herself. When she didn’t find Lan Jue in the war council meeting, the demon within her had started to stir.
Lan Qing’s words helped her force the beast down, even marking her heart with a Buddha’s calm. It helped her contain the monster’s rage. She knew that, at least until she broke through to Paragon, she needn’t worry about the corruption in her blood taking control.
“Boss, you better live through this!” Mika muttered to herself.
Lan Jue’s condition had improved considerably. Since
benefiting from the power of the stars, he and Qianlin’s protogenia had stabilized and the two of them were cultivating normally. Thanks in part to Lan Jue’s reckless absorption of Qianlin’s erratic protogenia, she was also recovering well and found her powers on firmer ground.
Now her Domain could be released without fear, and its calming properties once more benefited them both.
Once their condition was no longer critical Lan Jue began to reinject the protogenia he bore for Qianlin back into her Domain. Bit by bit he let her reabsorb what he took in a way that was secure, so that she might complete her breakthrough into Nirvana.
After experiencing the nourishment provided by the cosmos, Lan Jue’s understanding of his own Boundless Starlight Domain had grown more profound. He had learned the premise of relying on the strength of the stars.
Now he could truly see he was employing the power of his inheritance. Out in space the light of the stars was everywhere, their influence omnipotent. The essence of this power’s founder, the Emperor of the North Star, energized the might within him and sped up his cultivation.
Even just at the cusp of Nirvana, Lan Jue had begun to experience the pressure of universal protogenia. It was a strange, ever-present feeling like he was being constrained. It was almost imperceptible when he didn’t use his powers, but when the energies within him stirred so did the ire of the universe.
It was a profoundly uncomfortable feeling, like his soul was being choked. His heart raced like a normal man in the midst of a heart attack. As Paragon his body fought to keep up to ease the load, but he could feel the increased metabolic processes aging him. It also undermined the stability of his protogenia.
Only once he’d felt it himself did Lan Jue understand how frightening universal protogenia was. Finally he understood why his father would choose to seclude himself, and be so cautious with his powers.
If it was so acute for him, after only just entering Nirvana, how terrifying it must be for his father! Jue Di’s rapid loss of vital energy could only be the result of universal protogenia.
And yet it wasn’t all bad. The pressure of universal protogenia stimulated his Domain to create a protective screen around him that kept the harshest consequences at bay. It was like being
protected by a thousand stars.
He wasn’t the only one stunned by the revelation. Even Jue Di, who conveyed this inheritance unto him, did not know such a thing was possible. Indeed the Emperor of the North Star was worthy of the title Master of Stars! It was the power to create an entirely new universe.
Lan Jue’s comprehension of these mysteries had only scratched the surface, but the benefits were more pronounced day by day. What he knew of his inheritance and the Domain it granted him was advancing by leaps and bounds.
The power of starlight was his to command, and it was a power pure and malleable. He could mold it into whatever he pleased, whether it was to his benefit or to groom Qianlin’s abilities.
The Queen of Heaven was a strange and wondrous lineage. Protogenia was calmed within its sphere of influence, which served to promote her own cultivation to surprising levels. Of course, where it benefited her it also helped Lan Jue in much the same way.
Neither of them knew how long they were lost in meditation. They awoke only after their powers had stabilized and they felt replete with the energies they’d consumed.
Lan Jue’s first reaction was to smile as he looked at Qianlin kneeling across from him. She smiled back with the ease of someone who was relieved of a heavy load.
“I thought I’d only have the opportunity to be your wife in another universe.” Qianlin said teasingly.
Lan Jue chuckled. “To live through tragedy means we haven’t yet fulfilled our destiny. No matter what and no matter where, I will always be with you.”
“Yes,” she answered. “So long as you’re near I don’t feel afraid. Even death seems trivial. Now that we’ve lived through it everything seems clear.”
Lan Jue took her hand and the two of them rose to their feet.
He took her into his arms, and felt at peace.
“Alright, I’m sure there are many people watching.” Qianlin
said, gently pushing away.
The two of them turned their eyes toward the nearby bastion. There was no doubt that several cameras had been trained on them this whole time, and now that they were awake news was being spread.
The thought caused Lan Jue to laugh. “Let them watch. Are you afraid to let them see we love each other? We’re man and wife, after all.”
Qianlin pursed her lips. “I don’t remember us ever being married. And don’t forget, I’m a goddess now. Would you dare take me as your wife?”
Lan Jue answered without hesitation. “In a heartbeat. You could be queen of all humanity and you would still be my queen. You always have been. Now let’s head back.”
Although Lan Jue wanted nothing more than to spend his time with Qianlin, Middle Heaven’s presence meant the final offensive was yet to begin. He and Lan Qing had an appointment, and there was critical business still to tend to.
After a few moments the two of them were back aboard the bastion. As they anticipated, there were people waiting for them.
“Are you alright?” Lan Qing’s voice called to Lan Jue from the communicator on his wrist.
“I’m fine,” he answered. “We’ve secured our Domains. The breakthrough is complete. You know, finally surpassing you almost killed me! I’ve waited for this day for a long, long time.”
Lan Qing’s answer was indifferent. “Congratulations. But I’m afraid you’re likely to face harder challenges soon.”
A chill crossed Lan Jue’s heart. He knew what his brother was talking about. “I know. How long has it been since the last battle?”
Chapter 837: Before the Final Conflict
Lan Jue was shocked when he heard his brother say it. Five days? Had he been gone so long?
“Already? That means you’ve been waiting for me, so…” Lan Jue realized he and Qianlin had probably delayed the whole army while recovering.
“We weren’t just waiting for you. Victory and defeat are determined by a large number of factors. However, it is nearly time. Come see me, we’ll go over the plan.”
“Alright!” Lan Jue’s response was resolute. He and Zhou Qianlin left for Lan Qing’s office immediately.
The army had not been idle the past five days. Soldiers busy collected the dead, repaired ships and recovered energy stores. When they weren’t doing that they were training. Humanity’s war machine never stopped.
Over by the three alien planets, the creatures were preparing for anything but made no overtures to attack. After all, time was on their side. Humans were the ones racing against the clock.
Indeed Lan Qing had been honest when he said he wasn’t only waiting on Lan Jue and Zhou Qianlin. There were many things he needed to prepare before the final assault. For instance, Poseidon needed time to recover the energy it’d spent during transformation.
The bastion’ fantastic transformation had been an integral part of their victory over the aliens in the last fight. However, it had been draining and the Poseidon Group needed time to recover. It went without saying that their impressive strength would be needed in the fight to come.
That was merely one example of dozens Lan Qing had to manage, each one another piece in the puzzle needed to win victory over his enemy. Five days had been enough to handle nearly all of them.
Although they were closer now than ever, it was still difficult to tell precisely what situation Europa and the alien home worlds were in. All they had managed to record were the flows
of energy from that direction, gathered by long distance radar.
Part of the failure in learning more specifics was the alien army. They were so thickly spread across space that they blocked vision of what lay behind. They were specifically arrayed to keep the human armada blind.
Lan Qing and his brother spoke privately for about an hour. Afterwards, Lan Qing called together the leaders of the human resistance for another meeting before their assault began.
Twelve hours later, everyone was gathered in the conference room.
Everyone was under the assumption this would be their final push. Under Lan Qing instruction every soldier was given an electronic document. In it they could say whatever they wished, and address it to whomever they pleased. These documents would then be given to the Northern and Eastern governments for safe keeping. For those who died on the field in the fight to come, their final words would be delivered as requested.
No one had any illusions that these documents were anything but their last wishes. Lan Qing didn’t want any lingering doubts
to hide in the hearts of his soldiers. It was a way for them to come to peace with the possibility of their death.
Everyone – from Lan Qing down to the lowest private – prepared to meet their end. Fear of death was prevalent in everyone’s heart, but behind it was the hot-blooded determination of these warriors.
After three hours all of the documents had been gathered and sent off. Then, starting with Middle Heaven, all contact with the outside world was cut off.
Nothing that might affect morale could be allowed to reach them for the next nine hours. Until the fight was done they had to maintain a singular focus. The ban would be lifted once the operation was complete.
All training ceased, and weapons were readied. All preparations were nearing their end. The drums of war were beating, and the soldiers were moving frantically to their pace.
The nervous atmosphere was palpable, even the aliens were agitated.
The room was a large, semicircular area with a ceiling that stretched a hundred meters high. Its walls and floor were covered in metallic casing. An intricate and archaic pattern scrawled across the floor, ultimately coming together in a complicated diagram. There was something scientific about its perfection, and the placement of the nodes painstakingly set within the pattern.
A power gem sparkled within each node, making the whole room seem strangely mystical.
This room was the most important location on all of Middle Heaven. No one – not even admirals – were permitted to enter without express permission. Right now five people were standing within.
“Have you really thought about this? This mission is especially dangerous. You also aren’t bringing enough power to make it back if things go wrong. I should go with you.” Luo Xianni fussed over Lan Jue.
Lan Jue answered with a shake of his head. “No, mom, this
time you’ll be staying here. Once the final battle starts you and dad will need to be in the center of it. Without you the main force will be at a massive disadvantage and will likely fail. It’s fine, even if we can’t destroy the enemy we have a chance to protect ourselves.”
Luo Xianni scowled at his assurances. She couldn’t understand why Lan Qing would choose now to dispatch his younger brother on a scouting mission. What in the world was he scouting for?
But Lan Qing had his father’s support, and Lan Jue was more than willing to do his part for the cause. Luo Xianni could only go along with their foolish plan.
The room they stood in was Middle Heaven’s teleportation array, created by Luo Xianni’s own hand. It was constructed to transfer people over long distance – like from Angel. It was also capable of casting people over vast distances without a landing pad, though with reduced accuracy. Still, with Luo Xianni’s interdimensional Discipline at the level of the Infinite, accuracy was not a concern.
Besides Luo Xianni and Lan Jue, there were three others in attendance. Lan Qing, the Pharmacist, and Jue Di stood around
him with stony expressions.
Qianlin was not with them.
Jue Di looked upon his son with burning eyes. “You’re sure about this?”
Lan Jue resolutely nodded his head. “It’s our best chance. The risk is worth it if it means we can end this war.”
“Good, then we await your triumphant return.” Jue Di said nothing more than these final words of encouragement.
Lan Jue turned to the Pharmacist. With a shared nod, they stepped forward into the center of the teleportation array.
Lan Qing followed him with his eyes. “You may have reached Nirvana first, but that doesn’t mean you’ve beat me. You better come back to prove it. You said it – it’s an opportunity you’ve long been waiting for. Right?”
Lan Jue smirked at him. “Of course. Relax, I’ll make it back.”
Lan Qing sighed, and the two brothers shared a quiet look. A thousand words were shared in that gaze alone.
“Mother, it’s time.” Lan Jue knelt upon the ground.
Luo Xianni’s eyes had reddened at the edges, but the pink light came regardless of her fear.
Jue Di stared at his youngest son, trying to commit his face to memory.
Suddenly the power gems sparkled to life. Reality around the two Paragons shifted uncomfortably as beams of light shot upward from the array.
Luo Xianni’s expression was one of unspoken pain. She turned to look at Lan Qing. “Why must Lan Jue go on this scouting mission now?”
Lan Jue grew solemn. “I’m sorry, mother. I can’t go into detail. You’ll find out soon, but for now I must return to work.” The final battle was upon them, and as Admiral there was still a lot for him to do. With all that responsibility came no small
measure of stress.
His answer wasn’t good enough, but when she moved to say more Jue Di held her back.
Lan Qing turned and left the teleportation array with a quick and purposeful stride. The decision was made. Now, for his brother’s safety, he had to make sure everything was perfect.
“What are you grabbing me for? Aren’t they brothers? Why is he always sending A-Jue off for these dangerous missions? Especially now, isn’t this a suicide mission he’s sent him on? Sending them behind Europa to spy on the planets… if they’re caught you know what will happen to them.”
Jue Di was silent for a moment before answering. “I know, and they told me why it must be done. When they first came to me with the idea I wanted to say no, but I knew I couldn’t. It really is our best chance. Don’t fret over their relationship as brothers – remember that I am not their real father. In all the universe they only have each other. They’re blood. If there was any other choice do you think Lan Qing would let his brother risk his life? Have you noticed that Lan Qing’s hair has begun to go white at the temples? No one has borne more for humanity than he has – no one has had to shoulder the pressure he carries
every day. Right now the only thing you and I can do is support our sons with everything we have.”
Luo Xianni was speechless. Eventually she turned and pressed herself against Jue Di’s strong chest. “Perhaps I’m biased,” she muttered to herself.
Chapter 838: Intercepted
Jue Di smiled. “Every parent has their favorite, you’re already better than most. After all you met A-Jue first, and first impressions are important. You’ve spent the most time with him. And don’t worry, this sort of thing doesn’t trouble A-Qing. Come, we have preparations of our own to make. It isn’t certain our old bones will make it through this, but if we do I’ll lead you to humanity’s next immortal realm. I can assure you it’ll be an interesting journey, I’ve been preparing for it for ten years.”
Jue Di looked at her with eyes full of vigor and excitement. A golden-red power flickered in their depths.
A pocket of space began to ripple, growing in intensity until a cleft of pink light split it apart. Two figures emerged into the emptiness of space, lit by twinkling rays from the stars.
Lan Jue and the Pharmacist stood shoulder to shoulder. They took a minute to modulate their protogenia and recover from the uncomfortable sensation of being thrown across such a distance.
The Pharmacist fixed Lan Jue with a deep and serious look. “I should be doing this alone. Why did you insist on coming?”
Lan Jue grinned back at her. “How could I let my sister go alone? How do you not grasp that your problems are mine as well?”
She smiled in response. “It’s rare for you to be so relaxed. It eases my worries, too. You know I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for so long, I almost couldn’t wait anymore. But now as we’re starting out, I can’t help but feel troubled. Not for myself, but for you. I don’t want to put you in danger. You’ve helped me so much, ever since you agreed to be Jun’er’s adopted father. Now you’re here risking your life with me.”
“Stop speaking like we’re strangers,” Lan Jue told her. “You’ll have a chance to pay me back when we’ve finished our mission. I’d like you to be godmother when Qianlin and I have our child. I can’t think of anyone else with better experience.”
She chuckled. “Sure! I lived in bitterness for years as Jun’er grew. So long as we survive I’ll help you and your family face life with peace and positivity.”
Her words were a joy for Lan Jue to hear. Ever since he’d known her the Pharmacist lived her life in despair. Breaking her out of that shell had been very difficult.
The two of them cast their eyes into the distance. Pleasant smiles melted away before grave expressions.
From behind, Europa was even more hideous. It was wrapped in pulsing veins thick as mountains, like a diseased uterus. Beneath the writhing tubules one could hardly call Europa a planet anymore. A sick consciousness lived within it, ready to break free of its shell at any moment.
Lan Jue took a deep breath and set his jaw.
“Let’s go!” The two of them began their approach. Their mission wasn’t as simple as scouting out enemy positions. Luo Xianni was right to consider it strange.
Monarch, Queen, and Consort hugged Europa closely. Each of them were surrounded by a violet haze that seemed only partially real. Like cancerous tumors they clung to the beleaguered human planet. If one looked closely they could see minuscule changes occurring in the alien home worlds.
Lan Jue’s first impression was they looked like enormous gelatinous orbs. As Europa continued to squirm the three worlds seemed determined to press into it.
The sight made Lan Jue’s heart skip a beat.
Jue Di’s assertion that the planets would need a core of tremendous energy to achieve their goal was spot on. Europa was that core… did that mean they were trying to transformation the Western capital into their own immortal realm?
From where he was standing it looked as though they were pouring their energies into the planet to transform it. Was this their evolutionary process?
He couldn’t know, but it seemed the most likely explanation. If that were true their process would be complete once the planets were completely absorbed into Europa.
But how much time before they were finished?
A cursory glance revealed the home worlds were about the
same size as they’d always been. However, they were oddly transparent. A closer look revealed that their outer shell was maintained to keep up appearances of size, but the energies within them were being funneled into Europa. Though he couldn’t tell exactly, Lan Jue suspected it wouldn’t be long before they achieved their goal.
Europa drew ever closer as he pondered the scene before him. The modulated communicator on his wrist was recording everything he witnessed – including his analysis – and was beaming it to Middle Heaven.
If their only aim was to take a peek and leave the dangers were limited. Most of the aliens were on the other side of the planet, and the two humans were fast enough to make a fast escape if necessary. However they were sensitive to energy waves and immediately recognized it when Lan Jue sent his communique to Middle Heaven. He and the Pharmacist turned and fled once the information was delivered.
From here they were at least two hours away from the armada. With the Pharmacist riding the burning light of her sword and Lan Jue a streak of blue lightning, the two of them shot into the distance. None of the three planets appeared to react, and the two sped away unmolested.
They couldn’t return to the armada directly, it was too far through enemy territory. Now they had to wait. Carefully positioned behind the main force, their chances for succeeding in their true mission were good.
As they made their escape a beam of light shot passed. It stored before them, revealing a foreboding orb of light ten meters across. It flickered as two figures emerged from its depths.
Lan Jue and the Pharmacist gaped in fear, their pupils contracting. The two who met them were old acquaintances by this point; the Violet Prince and Princess.
Lan Jue had suspected they would be found by the planets, but he didn’t think they would dispatch the two royals so quickly. Fleeing now that they were faced with two Infinite- levels enemies was out of the question. Lan Jue and the Pharmacist exchanged a look, then released their dharmic images.
The Harbinger Faerie was clearer than ever before. The slaughter she perpetrated against these monsters had strengthened her Domain and empowered her abilities. Her status as a Reflection of Heaven and Earth was not only solid,
but steadily rising. All the while the Pharmacist’s connection to her Banishing Blade grew closer.
With the appearance of Occisus, a bloodthirsty aura sprang up around them. The expanse of white it exuded was entirely different from the soothing glow of the Queen of Heaven. Qianlin’s powers brought deliverance and healing. The Pharmacist’s Domain promised only death.
Lan Jue also summoned his Boundless Starlight Domain without hesitation. The stern visage of the Emperor of the North Star glared at his enemies.
Captus shimmered with angry red light, and golden runes danced along the length of the blade – a sign that more than ten percent of the weapon’s potential was being drawn upon.
Lan Jue was a different man than he was before – a Paragon who was one with Nirvana. Where he any less of an Adept he would not have agreed to this mission. If they hoped to flee with their lives, they would need to rely on their strength to carve a path.
A stern grunt was issued from the Violet Prince. Without a
word he thrust a fist toward Lan Jue, initiating the attack.
Meanwhile the Violet Princess only watched him, head tilted, with a curious and hungry light in her eyes.
The Harbinger Faerie was first to react. Stern of countenance the dharmic image lifted Occisus high. Instantly the image crystallized into reality, sword and bearer as one.
Pale light arose through the space between them. Not the crushing power of before, but something intangible and enigmatic. Still this strange power gave the Prince and Princess pause. The target of this evil human weapon wasn’t their bodies, it was their souls.
Occisus was the most savage of the four Banishing Blades, the death it promised didn’t stop with the body. After rising to the status of Reflection of Heaven and Earth, the Harbinger Faerie could call upon Occisus’ ‘Beheading the Three’ technique to sear an enemy’s spirit.
Without counting Jue Di, the only other Domain capable of rivaling the Pharmacist’s pure destruction was Lan Jue’s Boundless Starlight Domain. Though there were only two of
them, they commanded more power than a coterie of Paragons.
As the influence of her aura impacted the Violet Prince, the power of his attack was greatly diminished. Lan Jue focused his Domain to meet what remained and they clashed.
Poof! The Boundless Starlight Domain was ripped apart and dissipated. Lan Jue himself was gone without a trace, as though the Prince’s attack had atomized him.
A thick reddish-black aura sprang up around the two alien luminaries, thick with the essence of their strength. Behind them appeared their own images, two reptilian monstrosities identical to the titans they’d faced in the last battle – only larger.
The Violet Prince’s eyes burned as he groped out with a pale hand. His overpowering will stretched out, reflected in his eyes as a nightmarish violet-gold.
During the process of Taoist cultivation, it is said that humans are possessed of three evils, they use the character for ‘worm.’ They represent our base desires that keep us from the immortal, and must be ‘destroyed at the root’ if we desire to transcend
mortality. They are: peng hou, ignorance (I think willful ignorance), located in the head; peng zhi, worry and vain delusion preventing peace, located in the chest; peng jiao, covetousness and gluttony, located in the abdomen.
Chapter 839: Deadlocked
The Pharmacist’s ethereal sword was set in stark contrast against bleak aura of the aliens. Two opposing beams of light issued forth and collided in space with a blinding flare.
The Pharmacist grunted. Her eyes dulled as she focused on defense, and her dharmic image appeared less corporeal. However, their clash also forced the Violet Prince to be pushed back and set him off balance. The simple fact she wasn’t instantly destroyed was an incredible circumstance when one considered the vast gulf in power between them.
The Violet Princess joined the fight. She splayed her arms wide, and her fingers wiggled in a strange rhythmic motion. Strands of light, thin as spider silk, appeared in space around her. They coalesced into a net of light.
Lan Jue appeared within the net, but he seemed unperturbed by the situation. Slowly and without concern he lifted Captus and drew it through the air. Its blade was an unsettling void that flashed with color – the light of five lightnings.
His Boundless Starlight Domain reemerged, cutting a stark boundary between himself and the radiance of the Princess’
power. Bolts of lightning fired in quick succession to blast away the net of light that contained him, all while Lan Jue was manipulating the arc of his Banishing Blade.
Pockets of existence began to collapse, creating barren fields that stood out against the starry backdrop. The Princess’ net was devoured into nothingness – as well as Lan Jue and the Pharmacist.
They’re trying to flee!” The Prince hissed. With a grunt he thrust reached out, and a hand a thousand meters long groped for his prey. Lan Jue and the Pharmacist leapt from the obfuscating fissure in disarray.
A sinister laugh rattled from the Princess’ throat. The radius of her domain surged as she attempted to swallow the humans within it.
Lan Jue spun around and lashed out with Captus. In a flare of red light, dozens of images of himself appeared splayed throughout space. Once more his Domain reached out, but instead of lightning its interior was dotted with brilliantly shining stars. Beneath their light each of Lan Jue’s mirror images became more real.
Thousands of Lan Jue’s sliced the air with thousands of Captus’. Their myriad beams of power coalesced into a single column of light that smashed into the Princess’ expanding Domain.
A ripple tore across space and time as the conflicting energies destroyed one another.
Surprise once more revealed itself upon the aliens’ faces. Both of them were interested in this human’s potential, but until now they didn’t consider him a match for their power.
The first time the Princess encountered Lan Jue she thought him weak. Her interest in him came when he tried to diffuse the conflict they found themselves in. She found his approach novel and curious. Through the traits she inherited in consuming human DNA she knew of human emotion, including affection.
Of all the humans she’d encountered Lan Jue was the only one to catch her eye in a way that pleased her. He would be very suitable as a mate, she thought, and from that point forward she was loathe to kill him. At least, not until they had an opportunity to couple.
No matter what creature she devoured, the desire to mate was strong, and came with many pleasant sensations. She found herself fascinated by the concept.
All of the aliens were fragments of the home worlds, but the Prince and Princess were special. They were the only creatures to receive a true inheritance of genetic material. In a way they were the planets’ only true children.
The Violet Prince was the result of genetic material from Monarch and Queen. The Princess, on the other hand, was borne from the Queen and Consort. They were the true commanders of the alien army while the home worlds underwent evolution.
His last attack proved Lan Jue as an equal, a fact almost inconceivable in the mind of the Violet Princess. It had taken her millenia to cultivate herself to this point, but it had taken this man only a few short years. If this trend continued he would soon rival Monarch!
The potential of humanity truly was something to behold.
It served to only deepen the Princess’ desire to couple with
this extraordinary man. She spread her hands and once more the flood of purple light was born, thicker than before. It surged like a flood toward Lan Jue.
A pallor had come over his face. After all, Lan Jue had only just stepped over the threshold into Nirvana and it’d taken his full strength to deflect the Princess’ attack. He could feel it already, the pressure of her influence was more than he could contend against.
He flicked his wrist and Captus carved a circle in the air in front of him. Its edges were red but its interior was infinitely black, as though the sword had birthed a miniature black hole. Somehow, small though it was, it forced the wave of violet power to break off.
Lan Jue heaved a sigh of relief, but did not stop. One after the other he drew out circles of all sizes around him, crackling with motley colors. His many copies followed suit and they combined to create layer upon layer of circles.
Captus and the secrets of Taiji sword melded well. Without Qianlin by his side this was Lan Jue’s strongest defense. In combination with his Domain, he managed to ward off the Violet Princess’ violent attacks once after the other.
As they fought the Princess wracked her mind for whatever human knowledge she’d accumulated. Suddenly a sentence crossed her mind, one that she felt suited this situation.
Every dog had its day!
It felt not so long ago when she first met him, so frail. To have grown to where he can repel her attacks so quickly was more than impressive. How strong would he grow, given more time? If there was a next time they met, she was unsure she’d be his superior. The only option was to capture him now and make him her mate.
As the thought roared in her head the Princess’ eyes took on the same violet red as her brother. Her crushing will came at Lan Jue like a deluge, all purple fury.
Nearby the Harbinger Faerie was under fire.
He was too strong. He’d been shaken by the Beheading of Three technique but the gulf in power between them was too great. She valiantly fought against the onslaught of his domain, but she could feel her sword getting heavier. It was like she was caught in a mire that was growing sticker by the minute. Her
dharmic image was less effective in defense.
The poison golden light in his eyes darkened, like he saw all.
He was always a step ahead of her sword.
She bit her tongue, and her face flushed with an unnatural red. Occisus flared with intense light. As the golden etched into the metal began to flicker a murderous will burst forth, and she was thrust forward.
The Harbinger Faerie’s target was the Prince and she launched herself forward with abandon. Her image shrunk, but also became more material. In the moment before she reached the Prince her image was about the size of a normal person.
She, along with Occisus, shrunk so acutely that they slipped passed the enormous hand. Her timing was impeccable. She released the condensed power of her image and allowed its energy to pour into the Prince.
All of a sudden Occisus expanded to twice its size and channeled a beam of golden light from the tip. It was aimed right between the Violet Prince’s eyebrows.
Ting! Just as it seemed her attack would land his middle finger knocked the golden ray away. It shattered majestically, hiding the Pharmacist as she followed through. Suddenly she was right in front of him.
The Violet Prince’s hands came up with a bestial sort of instinct. He clapped them together in front of his chest as though in prayer. Caught between his palms was the cutting edge of Occisus.
Her murderous qi fought against his control, pushing hard to bring that blade even closer. Yet she failed, the power of the Prince traveled through the black back toward the Pharmacist.
Occisus flickered as it struggle against the invasion. It fought to rid itself of the corrosive power of the Birth and Destruction domain but to no avail. The Prince was more than the Pharmacist could handle. She could only watch as her blade was swallowed up by the cancerous power.
Her ruddy expression drained to pale white. She’d given it all she had but the difference between them was insurmountable.
Lan Ju was fairing slightly better, but not by much.
The Violet Princess’ full strength was nothing short of terrifying. After absorbing so much human genetic material she was more like her prey than any other alien. Her crudeness was gone, as was displayed in her alluring form as she fought. Then her body changed.
Lan Jue’s transformation summoned pieces of himself in many places to diffuse her attacks and empower his own, yet it proved no use. The pressure of her strength began to close the circles of Taiji energy he’d created. There were few styles more suited for disarming overwhelming strength, but this was almost more than he could deflect.
The Violet Prince grunted. Suddenly the Pharmacist felt a jolt of psychic energy rock through her head like a hammer, strong enough to knock her head back.
Everything went white.
Chapter 840: Captured
The alien’s purple-black Domain rebounded and swallowed the sword gripped in the Pharmacist’s hand, and with it the Pharmacist herself.
“Sister!” Lan Jue cried. Captus burned with crimson light but there was little Lan Jue could do. He was barely managing to defend himself. A blue light sprang up around his body, strange and monstrous. As it coiled around him Lan Jue’s aura surged in strength, so much that the Princess was struggling to keep him contained.
Lan Jue brought his sword down like a hammer, and a fissure of power shot out with a thunderous roar. The power of Captus raced for the Violet Prince, pregnant with All-Heaven lightning. Red and blue light coiled around each other and caused space to ripple uncomfortably around them. A stretch of space a thousand square meters long collapsed into a void.
The Violet Prince snapped his eyes toward Lan Jue’s attack. Moments later his head stretched and bulged, twisting into the nightmarish visage of a crocodile. He spat an orb of purple-black energy that collided with Lan Jue’s attack.
The Prince's Birth and Destruction Domain swallowed everything in came in contact with. Even All-Heaven lightning, for all its strength, was quickly castrated.
Next, tendrils of the corrupt energy splayed out like tendrils and wrapped up Skyfire Avenue’s leader. The Violet Princess took advantage of his distracted and appeared at his back. She reached out to grab him.
But he stumbled forward seven quick steps and lashed out with his left hand. Seven Star Hammer!
Boom! The difference between Nirvana and the Infinite was highlighted in close-combat. Suddenly Lan Jue felt a pressure crushing him from everywhere at once, so intense he could hardly breathe. He felt like every bone in his body was going to shatter.
His Seven-Star Hammer fist was formidable, but the power that enveloped him caused him to stagger. The Prince had risen overhead while he struggled, and thrust a palm down toward the top of Lan Jue’s skull.
He was already at the limit of his capabilities. The might of his
Boundless Starlight Domain kept the influence of the aliens’ power from him, but had shrunk to where it only barely covered him. No strength remained to force his territory wider.
Points on his body began to twinkle with starlight, like an inseparable fragment of the Milky Way. A storm of All-Heaven Lightning erupted around Lan Jue as he thrust Captus at the Prince in a last-ditch effort.
The radiance that surrounded him was born of his intrinsic protogenia, a power he was taping into to temporarily swell his powers to the Infinite. However, this was akin to quenching thirst with poison. He was injuring his body’s flows of energy. If they survived the effects might actually decrease his cultivation
– maybe even his lifespan. It was a desperate attempt against two enemies that surpassed him in strength.
The Prince and Princess didn’t confront Lan Jue directly, and instead retreated under his self-destructive advance. His attacks hit nothing. Though he’d managed to free himself from the clutches of their Domains, it wasn’t enough to open a path of escape.
The golden runes etched into Captus’ blade had begun to dim as Lan Jue weakened. The burning energy around him was
showing signs of collapse.
“Aaaagghrrr!” The Violet Prince roared and attacked with the same method he’d used against the Pharmacist. The Princess answered him with a shriek.
The two sounds combined to create a strange sort of incantation. It reverberated into his soul. He felt something deep within him quiver and his mind became muddled. The blue light that encased him dissolved away.
Both violet figures attacked. The Prince approached from behind and struck Lan Jue in the back. Where he hit, Lan Jue’s clothes were burned away to ash. Captus tried to protect its master with a shell of red power but the Prince broke through.
A handprint appeared where the Prince had struck, black and purple and full of evil intention. Immediately lines of dark veins began to spread from the wound as the aliens’ poison spread.
“Aahh!” Lan Jue screamed. His body began to twist, plagued by unendurable spasms. He felt like he was being pulled apart, while at the same time a maddening energy was worming its way through him. It was headed for his Core.
The pain didn’t persist for long, then Lan Jue felt himself lose control of his body. Pain was replaced by absolutely numbness – he couldn’t move a finger.
This was the end!
A singular thought crept up to Lan Jue through the haze that was consuming him. Then, everything went dark.
The Prince watched as Lan Jue floated in the vacuum of space, unconscious. He scowled at the human as though in thought.
The Princess, on the other hand, was elated. She pulled Lan Jue to her side and pinched his face in her hand.
“In the human way, I should thank you. I will bring him back with to mate with.” Her words were full of a dark satisfaction.
The Prince continued to look thoughtfully at the two of them. “His Core has not been completely overcome. There’s
something left, something that rejects my genetic invasion. Be cautious, there’s something different about this human.”
“This is as it should be,” she replied. “If he were a typical male why would I choose him as a mate? Our progeny will inherent strength from both he and I. Whatever power he possesses that locks us out will become a part of us.”
The Violet Prince nodded. “That is likely. I will also bring this female back with us, I can feel a connection between her weapon and the one Monarch possesses. He also told us the weapon your male bears is the same. You shall have his.”
As he spoke he produced Captus from the clutches of his Domain and handed it to the Violet Princess. He kept Occisus for himself.
Both of the Banishing Blades quivered as though unwilling to yield to these monsters’ control. But their struggle was to no avail, not against bearers who could call upon the powers of the Infinite.
The victorious alien royals shot back toward the home worlds as dual beams of light. They penetrated the strange, gelatinous
exterior of Monarch and penetrated deep within.
Truly controlling the potency of the godblades was no easy feat. Both the Prince and Princess had felt the danger hidden within Ultus. They knew nothing of the creation of human weapons, but they could guess that these were the product of that bygone immortal realm.
Commanding these weapons would undoubtedly bolster their strength and aid with the evolution. Once the process was complete and an alien immortal realm created, they could quickly increase their cultivation without fear of universal reprisal. This was the home worlds’ plan, to propagate more powerful aliens to join them, and thus strengthen their fledgling reality. Over time they would have enough power to threaten the universe itself.
Lan Jue and the Pharmacist appeared with them in the depths of Monarch. They were placed in orbs of some jelly-like material.
“You first, or shall I?” The Princess cast an eye at her ‘brother,’ clearly eager to begin.
The Prince looked over the ethereal sword cradled in his hand. “You go on,” he said. “I’m in no rush. Besides, the humans are on the move.”
“Very well! Then I will begin.” She wasted no further time. The clothing that concealed her melted away to reveal her too- perfect figure. Her alluring frame would have toppled mountains in the world of man, but here the Prince paid her no mind.
She lazily lifted her right hand to motion at Lan Jue, and in response the thick slime that encased him peeled away. Lan Jue was revealed, also without clothing.
Tendrils of cancerous veins crept out from the mark left by the Prince and anchored Lan Jue to the ground. He hovered there as though he were weightless.
A strange light burned in the depths of the Princess’ eyes. She ran her long fingers along her face. “I feel… hot. Is this the influence of human genes?”
“We’ve evolved to assimilate many human qualities,” the Prince replied. “There are likely to be side-effects. Couple with
him, see if this catalyzes some change in you.”
She grinned. “Yes. Now let me think, how do these creatures reproduce?” She knelt by Lan Jue’s side as though admiring a piece of art. Her eyes ran up and down her perfect human specimen.
The Violet Prince’s body had been designed to be perfect, but for some reason the Princess wasn’t the least bit interested in his carefully crafted appearance. She knew his true form, and that was the image that stuck in her mind.
This human male was different. He’d left her with an abiding impression from the moment she met him. She had assimilated human DNA into her own just a short time before their first encounter, getting accustomed to her new skin.
Human emotion was also new – vibrant and novel. Alien society was focused solely on growth. Consume, adapt, strengthen, repeat. Nothing else was important.
She was different. After remolding herself in the image of these humans, she had begun to change mentally as well. Though her emotions could not rightfully be described as
human, they were alike enough. She was curious to learn more.