Chapter 861: Forget Me
Li Ke had thought the universe had treated him cruelly, but now he saw how much his wife had had to endure. At least he was given the mercy of sleep within Ultus, allowed to wait until his opportunity was presented. Though he missed her most of the time had been spent in darkness as he maintained his spirit within the Banishing Blade.
Time passed quickly as he slept, and moments where pain and regret gnawed at him were relatively brief. But her? Not only was the pain with her every single day, but she had to bear the hardships of raising a crippled child by herself.
“Little Yue, blame me. I’m so sorry about what was happened to the two of you. It’s all my fault.” Li Ke’s body shook.
“Don’t… you shouldn’t upset yourself. Your body is dimming.
Li Ke!” She cried out as Li Ke’s body began to fade.
Suddenly Li Ke scowled, focused. His body solidified. “My greatest wish has been to see you again. But seeing you like this, seeing our daughter, it brings me no joy. I don’t want to have to leave you in such pain. I wish I would be with the both of you until the end.”
The Pharmacist’s face went white. “What… what do you mean?”
Li Ke dropped his face, biting back the pain of reality. He knew he couldn’t avoid it any longer. “When I was taken by the planets I tried to fight, but they were too strong. In order to gain the most from my DNA they didn’t kill me immediately. I was first imprisoned and slowly decomposed. Before they could take my soul I funneled it into Ultus.”
“I thought – hoped – that Ultus would recognize me as its master. As master the sword’s power would sustain me. It did know me, once, but with the loss of my body it became almost impossible to control the incredible power locked within the sword. When we merged my spirit couldn’t bear the strength of its influence. I was successful in transferring my spirit, but there was a problem. It was always only temporary, and I would never be able to exist without the help of Ultus. The power of my soul has been slowly draining away – eventually I will pass into nothing.”
“I tried to mitigate the loss as much as I could. Although I knew the chances of seeing you again were slim, I had to keep myself going no matter how remote the opportunity. Seeing you one more time was all I needed.”
“The heavens eventually worked in my favor and one day you came. As you attacked Monarch I was as happy as I was frightened for you. Thankfully you were rescued, and I was able to use the connection between our blades to deliver a message.”
“You came back, stronger than last time. Monarch never expected my will remained in the weapon, capable of fighting back. Together we eliminated his strongest avatar, but in galvanizing Ultus’ power I had to spend what remained of my spirit’s essence. I will not be able to remain for long.” His final words were heavy with grief.
“No, it can’t be. How could heaven bring us back together under these circumstances? How could the universe have the heart to bring you back only to take you away again? No… No!” Her voice broke as she staggered backwards. It was like she was trying to distance herself from this place, this cruel circumstance.
“If there was even the smallest chance I would never leave you, but I can’t hold off much longer. For all my pride and arrogance all I have remaining is this broken spirit. But death is not a bad thing for me now. If I am given another life after this one I will strive to be by your side. Whatever shape I take, I will be with you, protect you, forever. Until the last stars burn out.”
“I can only imagine the pain you’ve suffered through the years, little Yue. But can you see? Our daughter, she’s so grown. So beautiful. She’ll grow to be as stunning as her mother. She is the treasure of our union, and she bears within her parts of both of us. You’ve struggled, and now before I go I need you to make me a promise. Promise that you will live fully, that you will live well. For our daughter, alright?” Li Ke’s voice was soft and charming, but laden with woe.
“Take me with you.” The Pharmacist shut her eyes tightly. “I don’t want it to end like this. I want to sleep, long and deep, where there is no pain or memory. Li Ke, please take me with you. Please?”
“No!” Anger rang in his spectral voice. “Wake up, little Yue! I cannot take you with me. Who am I to end your life? Your life is your own, it doesn’t belong to me. I am not even worthy of being your husband, I’ve failed to protect my wife. What right do I have to be with you? You’ve weathered all these years without me and have since become one of humanity’s best. Why can’t you snap out of this madness? My spirit was go but a part of me will remain locked within Ultus. Who is to say, if one day you become immortal, that I might be brought back? So, for the distant chance that I might be returned to the world you have to live and get stronger.”
The Pharmacist was quiet for a moment, then muttered her reply. “There is still a chance? Really? Li Ke, is this true?”
He nodded. “Of course. If Jue Di can be returned, why can’t I? I believe it. Only, to bring me back I think it will require more energy than to return Jue Di to life. You have to grow stronger. I will remain in Ultus and wait.”
The Pharmacist stared deeply into his eyes and nodded. “I will get stronger. For you.”
Li Ke smiled softly at her. “Good, that is the right choice. My destiny is in your hands, only you can bring me back.”
“I’ll call Jun’er in,” the Pharmacist then said. “She hasn’t met her father yet.”
Li Ke hesitated a moment, but ultimately shook his head. “No, I don’t want her to.”
“Why?” She asked, looking at him.
He smirked a sad, bitter smirk. “How can I face my daughter in this state? If she wanted a hug from her father I couldn’t provide her one. I am not worthy of being her dad, not anymore. When you bring me back she can call me her father and I’ll make up for all that lost time. For now the Jewelry Master is filling that roll, and she is happy. This is enough. I don’t want that little girl to suffer any more than she already has. I can watch her from afar and be content.”
She looked at him strangely for a moment, but after a moment nodded in reply. “Alright.”
Gradually the pained expression fled from his face. He spoke again in low tones. “What do you think about this Lan Qing?”
She paused before answering. “He’s an excellent man, an outstanding leader in this generation. He and his younger brother, the Jewelry Master, are good men. If you were alive you’d all be shoulder to shoulder.”
Li Ke sighed. “I envy him, to be an admiral so young and a Paragon to boot. Now Ultus has chosen him, his dharma and Domain are most suitable. His foundation is solid and his dharma is well cultivated. He is a good choice to lead the Banishing Blades. He may be weaker than the others, but we can
likely remedy that. Do you see a problem if I pass Ultus’ lineage onto him?”
Her response was quick. “There shouldn’t be a problem. Without commander Lan Qing we wouldn’t be where we are now. He’s the best choice.”
“Very well.” Li Ke nodded his head. “With your blessing I am satisfied. Ultus is the most potent of the blades and holds a close connection to Occisus. Besides me you are the best choice to bear it, but he will suffice. One I impart the sword to him I will no longer be able to manifest, but the mark of my spirit will remain within Ultus. Help him to learn how to bear the sword and summon its power. He’s a brilliant and talented man, he should have no problem.”
“Alright.” She nodded resolutely. However, for some reason she couldn’t shake the sense of disquiet within her.
Li Ke sighed again. “Little Yue, the greatest fortune I had in life was meeting you. I just wish I could have known the pain I would bring. If you don’t become an immortal, or if a man comes who moves you… forget me.”
Chapter 862: No Going Back
“What are you saying?” The Pharmacist’s eyes grew sharp and accusatory.
Pain flashed across Li Ke’s face. “There are some things I can no longer give you. I just want you to be happy. If a good man comes along I will happily give my blessing from the darkness. All I want is for you to be happy, like you were in the early years. You always had a smile on your face. Seeing you like that again would bring me joy.”
Seeing the look on his face, the anger quickly faded from the Pharmacist. Her eyes reddened again as she fought tears. “Don’t even say it, Li Ke. I know you’re trying to do right, but there are some things that can never be replaced. Never.”
Li Ke didn’t press the issue. He knew his wife’s heart, how stubborn she was. He could only nod.
“Let’s look out at space together. I remember how we used to like finding the highest places and stare at the sky.”
As he spoke Li Ke’s spirit floated to a nearby window and
looked out. Although they could only see the landscape of An Lun, it was real.
The Pharmacist walked to his side, her pretty eyes wet with tears though they did not fall.
“Yes! We used to love to watch the stars together. You used to tell me you would become the commander of a fleet and lead your ships across the galaxies. Conquering planets and experiencing the beauty of the universe.”
He followed the line of her memory. “I also said I would take you across the stars, and when we both became Paragons we would harness the power of our blades to travel far and wide. Now you are a Paragon. Even if I cannot be brought back, will you promise me you’ll fulfil that dream? What you see, I will see.”
“Alright,” she softly replied. She tilted her head toward Li Ke’s shoulder. There was no body for her to rest her head upon, but the motion gave her stability.
Li Ke lifted his hand and brought it to her waist. For a moment the two of them immersed themselves in this hard-win
tranquility. What Li Ke could not see were the tears that had begun to stream down the Pharmacist’s face anew, like pearls from a broken necklace.
The twinkling light from the stars outside bathed Lan Qing’s face in an ethereal glow. His hands were pressed together before his chest. Li Ke’s request had struck him deeply, not the sword but the pain the spirit felt.
In many ways he and Li Ke were the same. When he was younger, he had doggedly pursued Li Ke’s every step, desperate to meet and surpass him.
Now, though, Li Ke was a shadow of who he’d been, even envying Lan Qing for what he’d achieved. He’d only known this Harbinger Faerie for a short while but he could already see her obstinate nature, going so far as to choose death for her love even after so many years. It went beyond persistence into the realm of obsession. He could look after her, but Lan Qing knew he would never supplant Li Ke in her heart.
The human armada rendezvoused, slowly retreating from the
field. They gathered what dead they could and set about repairing damage to their ships. In truth there were few ships to repair – typically when the aliens reached a vessel it and everyone on board were lost. Few were those who survived an alien strike.
Fighter drones were the hardest hit. The East lost many stellar pilots in the last attack. But such was the cost of war. When would it be over? When would there be peace?
Lan Qing let his mind wander, recalling the fantasies nestled therein. When there were no more enemies to fight, he and his brother would find a small city few people knew about. They would open stores selling things that interested them and every day would be peaceful, boring, and quiet. At least that was the future he strove for.
“What are you thinking about?” Lan Jue wandered over to his side.
Lan Qing gave his a sidelong glance. “Nothing.”
A slight surprise crossed Lan Jue’s expression. “You mean there’s actually a time you aren’t furiously ruminating over
something? It feels good to leave your mind blank for a while, doesn’t it?”
Lan Jue could see exhaustion writ clear on his brother’s face. Not just his body, but his heart as well. Though it was Lan Jue who was sent on a dangerous mission, the weight on Lan Qing’s heart was crushing and had been for a long while.
When Lan Jue returned from Monarch he knew his brother wanted to rush forward and embrace him. He didn’t, but it was the first time he’d had that sense from his brother. Blood, it turned out, was thicker than water.
“Now that we’re here, there’s no going back.” Lan Jue said with a sigh.
Lan Qing quietly nodded his head. He knew what his brother meant. They couldn’t turn back the clock on the aliens’ evolution, and the armada had suffered significant losses despite their victory. If they charged in again the fleets would be hard pressed to break the enemy’s lines, much less destroy the home worlds. Lan Jue, Qianlin, and the Pharmacist had seen how difficult it was. The planets were distracted but they weren’t defenseless.
Meanwhile their three bastions had depleted their energy stores. They would need time to recuperate before they could fight again. Time they didn’t have. This left them with only one choice; the Banishing Strategy. If they could enact the strategy – summon even a fraction of its power – their enemy would be destroyed and peace would come. It was the only way.
“There are benefits to having only one option. We know where to focus our resources.” Lan Qing turned toward his younger brother. The fatigue in his gaze was gone, leaving only determination.
“Alright, we give it our all – together.” Lan Jue lifted his hand.
The two brother shook, and through their clasped hands they could feel each other’s puissant energies. Li Ke would direct their next steps.
Ten minutes later.
Li Ke and the Pharmacist returned. They seemed calmer and more collected than when they left. The Pharmacist’s face was even graced by a small smile. The Paragons all turned their eyes toward them as they reappeared.
Li Ke looked over the crowd, nodded, then spoke. “I apologize for making you wait.” As he spoke his eyes inadvertently moved to Qianlin. Jun’er was cradled in her arms, listening with a calm beyond her years.
A quick flash of emotion crossed over Li Ke’s eyes but was quickly gone. He’d made the decision to keep his distance from the child, and though he was destined to vanish from the universe he didn’t want to impact the sense of family that’d been so difficult for her to find. What purpose was there in telling her about her father? He had given her nothing, and telling her would only bring pain.
Steeling his heart, Li Ke floated toward Lan Qing. His low voice continued. “Lan Qing, Ultus has consented to taking you as its master. However, before you can use the Banishing Stance the four of you must find a way to improve your cultivation. Best would be to break through to the Infinite, then you might be able to manage its awesome power.”
“Each of you have a lineage that resonates with the essence of the swords. Relatively speaking Lan Jue and Zhuo Qianlin are capable of summoning some measure of the Blades’ powers because they have achieved Nirvana. You and little Yue, however, are not yet powerful enough. You must also reach Nirvana, then when the four of you are similar in cultivation
you can begin to study the Strategy. It must be quick, for time will not wait.”
Lan Qing frowned. He had exploded onto the Paragon scene as a Reflection of Heaven and Earth, but he had since been kept busy with the war. He’d hardly had any time to cultivate. Even with all his talent and his mighty lineage, without special circumstance progress was still one step at a time. At present if he could achieve Nirvana in five years it would be miraculous. Breaking through within the prescribed time seemed impossible.
The Pharmacist was in a similar situation. She’d broken through to Reflection of Heaven and Earth, and through her Slaughter Domain and Qianlin’s Queen of Heaven abilities her breakthrough was stabilized. However, taking the next step to Nirvana seemed almost insurmountably difficult.
Lan Jue and Qianlin’s circumstances were marginally better. Due to the faith Qianlin’s Guanyin dharma commanded from the masses, both of them were enjoying a boost to their cultivation. What’s more spreading that faith would not be hard, requiring only that the two Alliance lift their blockade of information.
Of course their path wasn’t without problems. Their meteoric rise was quick and successive, from breaking through to Reflection immediately, then days later achieving Nirvana. This was dangerously fast, and once they entered into the Infinite they would have to suffer the ire of universal protogenia. For now, remaining at their current level was the best option.
For now, the main concern was figuring out how to get Lan Qing and the Pharmacist to Nirvana.
Chapter 863: Vital Crystal Transmutation
‘As fast as possible’ didn’t mean a year or two. They had to find a way to make these Paragons stronger within a matter of days. The Banishing Strategy, as one of the strongest powers in the ancient world of immortals, also needed time to understand and employ. All the while the threat of alien evolution loomed, for the moment their process was complete the humans knew those monsters would be coming for them.
Their days were quite urgently numbered.
When he saw Lan Qing’s concerned visage, Li Ke laughed. “Be at ease, I have a solution that can help you improve your cultivation. I’m not sure how effective it will ultimately be, but the chances are good it will help you ascend to Nirvana.”
“The years I was trapped with these monsters I studied them as they studied me. I watched how their energies were converted and used. After all, Ultus was kept within Monarch’s heart. I learned how they converted vital energy into power they used for themselves. If you have enough Paragon-level vital crystals we can attempt it ourselves.”
Suddenly everyone’s eyes were alight with the possibility Li Ke suggested.
It was true that vital crystals of that level were exceedingly rare, but they had come to possess a few. As this war waged many human lives were lost, but the same could be said for the alien horde as well – including their elite. At this point there were ten or so vital crystals Li Ke might find acceptable.
With serious countenance, Li Ke continued. “What worked for those creatures may not necessarily be suitable for us, and it isn’t without hurdles. First, this energy is far from pure – even at the highest levels it has been tainted by poisonous energies exclusive to these monsters. It is incompatible with our human bodies and thus may cause problems as it is absorbed. I cannot tell what those problems may be, but you must be ready with a solution.”
Lan Qing replied. “This shouldn’t be a problem. We have Tears of Neptune that can be used to filter the vital energy before we use it. We didn’t bring many, but it should be enough for what we need.”
“We have enough.” Hua Li, seated nearby, rose to his feet with a smile on his face. “Poseidon Group purchased them in
bulk. The East is likely the only alliance who has more than we do. And we brought them all with us. I suspect that will be enough to do what you need to do.”
Lan Qing looked at his fellow Monarch and shot him a thumbs-up. More than an S-ranked power gem, the Tears of Neptune were now an integral resource for filtering vital energy. Hua Li graciously offered them without precondition, something your typical rich man would not do.
Poseidon Group had spent a lot in defense of humanity, and have had to pay a high cost in lives and resources. They’d earned many vital crystals through the war but it did not offset the price they paid. Lan Qing said nothing, but Hua Li’s generosity was offered before everyone’s eyes. So long as they were successful the East would repay his kindness in spades.
The Terminator had to hold back a sigh of admiration. Although this generation’s Poseidon was young and inexperienced, he didn’t shy from his duties.
Hua Li left to retrieve the Tears of Neptune from Poseidon.
Li Ke went on. “If this solves our problem, then wonderful.
The transmutation has a high chance of success. However, I do have one condition.”
Li Ke’s spectral face grew serious.
“What is it,” Lan Qing inquired.
“This process must remain a secret,” he said. “Only you and little Yue can know how it works. You must keep this information hidden, and take it with you to your graves.”
Of course, the secrecy of it instantly piqued the other Paragons’ interest. The Terminator scowled. “Why? Isn’t this a good thing?”
Li Ke sighed. “A good thing. Be you man or monster, greed is a vice that impinges on the virtue of every soul. What you think is a good thing may not be, in many regards. This method is exactly the kind these aliens use to strengthen themselves. This means that if the knowledge becomes widespread we humans could be just as the aliens are. I ask you honestly, honored Paragons… if you knew this method, would you refrain from using it?”
“Yes, from the start we were capable of taking these crystals and using them to improve ourselves. But our supply of these crystals are limited. What happens once those crystals are used up? Where will the powerful turn their sights next? I am fairly certain, in the end, we would end up just like the monsters we seek to destroy. We would seek out the lives of lesser creatures to consume for our own benefit, and eventually even our own kind. I do not know if any more creatures like these aliens will appear, but our destructive thirst will encapsulate the whole universe.”
“We have suffered, but I do not wish to see our suffering turn us into monsters. Moreover, the universe is a place governed by rules. If the powers of the universe see what we’re doing we will be marked a threat. From that point on the enemy we face will be reality as a whole. Even the Banishing Blades wouldn’t be able to save us then. For these reasons it is my sincerest hope that the secrets of this method do not get out. It will stop with these two, and only employed because we face the direst of circumstances. Lan Qing, little Yue… this knowledge must never be shared.”
After listening to the spirit’s prognostications, the Paragons were silent.
Yes. None of them denied that they would use all the vital
crystals in their power to create mighty human Adepts the likes of which had never been seen. Even that was not terrible in and of itself. But what about when the crystals were spent?
These wizened Paragons had seen the greed of humanity first hand. In more ways than they’d like to admit humans and aliens had their similarities. Life was about growth – expansion. Both species were always striving for better and greater things. Both wanted to be stronger, and their efforts could influence all life throughout the universe.
With this dark knowledge humanity would be unable to resist. A portion would succumb to the poison allure of power and would not be able to control the hunger.
The Pontiff rose to his feet, his deep voice reverberating through the bridge. “What if it is kept to a small coterie? Methods can be used to protect this secret.”
Li Ke smiled. “Your Majesty the Pontiff, do you truly believe that would be successful? It isn’t that I am lacking in trust, but it is undeniably true that the only way to keep a secret is if the knowledge passes into history.”
Lan Qing spoke. “I agree with his assessment. Speaking for myself, I’m not even sure I can reliably keep this secret. Everyone has their moment of weakness. Sometimes disaster only needs the smallest opportunity. These vital crystals present our species with awesome opportunities, but that shouldn’t require the wanton consumption of life. Instead it should be used for our exuvium process, to extend our lives. I feel this is a suitable use of the treasures we’ve fought for. Constant evolution is simply hastening the path toward destruction.”
“That’s why, once the transmutation is complete, I will allow an Adept of suitable strength to enter into my mind and destroy any trace of that knowledge. I would like all of to bear witness. Li Ke is right – the only way to keep a secret is to erase it completely.”
Most of the Paragons nodded their head, only a few of them disapproved. However they were powerless against the majority.
Li Ke looked upon Lan Qing with an expression of satisfaction. “Then my mind is at ease. What we do, we do to save mankind – not lay the groundwork for its future destruction. As we perform the transmutation the others must not watch. Two protectors is all that is needed – I suggest Lan Jue and Zhou Qianlin.”
Lan Jue nodded. “That’s no problem.”
Lan Qing swept his eyes over the rest of the Paragons. “Your Majesties have fought valiantly. You’ve earned your rest and then some. The plan now is to return to Angel. There we will strive to complete the Banishing Strategy as quickly as possible and ultimately destroy our enemy.”
The Pontiff was particularly displeased with the turn of events. When he heard Li Ke reveal the possibility of absorbing energy like the aliens, the deepest recesses of his heart was stirred. That knowledge could lead the Pontiff’s Citadel into a new renaissance of prosperity. However, he was alone in this hope – the other Paragons were in agreement with Li Ke.
One by one the Paragons left. They remained on Middle Heaven but retired to their personal chambers to rest. They would need their strength, for the enemy could attack at any moment. Lan Qing and the others – bearers of the Banishing Blades – needed to be protected. They were humanity’s last hope.
Li Ke told them what needed to be prepared. Lan Qing gave the order to see it done. The sooner they finished this business the better, time was of the essence.
Once the others were gone, Li Ke asked Lan Jue, Lan Qing, Zhou Qianlin and the Pharmacist to follow him into the nearby sitting room.
Chapter 864: The Four Banishing Blades
Jun’er left with the Wine Master. Li Ke’s eyes never left her small frame as she disappeared.
Lan Jue wanted to ask him why he didn’t want to meet his daughter, but a look from the Pharmacist kept him quiet. He wouldn’t press the issue – this was, after all, a matter between a husband and wife.
“Before we begin, I will explain the principle behind the Banishing Strategy. These years I’ve been locked within Ultus I was able to learn its secrets.”
“The Banishing Stance is known as the single greatest destructive power in the universe. Back in the ancient days the Grand Master of Heaven battled against the four great sages. They were as strong as he, and you can imagine the power at their fingertips. Even so the Banishing Blades were called the most lethal of the Grand Master’s weapons. Because of how powerful and dangerous it is, the Strategy has been hidden within Ultus ever since.”
“Not copper, nor iron, nor steel, the sword was hidden beneath the crushing weight of Mount Meru. What flame or
fluid could quench its keen edge? Ultus – sharp, Occisus – death, Captus – universal red light, Demortus – the ever changing. The blood of the immortals stained their robes.” Li Ke’s eyes burned as he recounted the old tale of the Banishing Blades.
Turquoise light sprang up from Li Ke’s ghostly body and painted the room in its colors. A sharp and oppressive aura filled every corner of the room. Suddenly ‘the most lethal of the Grand Master’s weapons’ seemed more than apt to describe the power of these blades.
Suddenly the Pharmacist’s body reacted, releasing an aura of white light. A thirst of slaughter swelled and joined with Ultus’ cutting eminence. The two together were murder given form.
Next to react was Lan Jue and Captus. Its red light reached out and where it touched reality was rife with tears. Reality collapsed where the sword’s power prevailed.
Last was Demortus, a blue light which radiated around Zhou Qianlin as a tapestry of ever-changing power.
As the light of the four Banishing Blades intermingled they all rang with an ethereal hum. The resonance of it spread far and
wide. More than just the residents of Middle Heaven, the whole fleet could hear the near-deafening ring.
Lan Qing was not protected by the power of a sword. He felt the tides of power most acutely. As the sonorous ring of the swords crashed around him he felt his spirit leave his body. It was like his body would break apart at any moment, caught in the joyous reunion of the godblades. He was not the target of their song, but he felt it may destroy him anyway.
What incredible power!
Lan Qing pressed his palms together before his chest, and a radiant golden Buddha appeared seated in the center of his heart. It quietly meditated, humming the Diamond Sutra, encased in the light of Variochana. A golden light, starting from the crown of his head, quickly spread down his entire body fusing body and soul. Blessings of the Buddhas of past, present and future filled him, protecting him from the deadly aura of the Banishing Blades.
As the song of the blades rang out Li Ke’s eyes were wide and fervent. This was the day he had hoped so desperately to see! As a bearer of Ultus – the unparalleled weapon of the Grand Master of Heaven – even universal protogenia couldn’t stand against
him once the Banishing Strategy was enacted.
Now the swords were reunited, but he was no longer Ultus’ master. He had become a guide, despite the pain of regret that filled him. He steeled himself against the sadness, for now was the time for strength.
The turquoise light faded. As the deadly power of Ultus was restrained the other swords followed its lead.
The Pharmacist, Lan Jue, and Zhou Qianlin could faintly sense the stirring power within. The gathered swords supplemented one another and awakened something inside them.
Lan Jue’s understanding of his weapon ran deep, but in that moment he sensed something change completely. Its surge of power was so quick and intense it frightened him.
BANG! A bone-jarring shock shuddered through the realm of violet light. The Violet Prince, Princess, and the twelve
remaining avatars knelt in this hollow place. In addition were two more Infinite-level figures, the remaining doppelgangers of the home worlds.
All of them had been deep in meditation, but the sudden impact forced them all to awaken. One of Monarch’s avatars, seated beside the Prince, shot to his feet. A surge of purple light gushed from it.
“I have felt something, a terrible danger that can impact our future. A rapid, destructive force.”
This wasn’t the avatar itself, but rather Monarch speaking through this echo of its power.
The Violet Prince looked upon the avatar in shock. “From those humans?”
Monarch’s deep voice answered. “No. The sword they stole. So thi is why they were so willing to put themselves in danger, so determined to abscond with that weapon. My first impression was incorrect, there is something more contained within it. The human who brought it to me was not dead, his spirit remained inside – otherwise we would not have suffered
at the hands of the interlopers. All of you must recover that sword, no matter the cost.”
The Violet Princess answered, unconvinced. “The humans have proven strong, but your merger with Queen and Consort is nearly complete. Soon you will create what the humans call an immortal realm and a Domain for us to survive in. Then we will be able to travel through the universe at a whim, destroying any vestige of humanity without effort. Even if that weapon is dangerous, would it mean anything in the face of your future supremacy?”
Monarch’s avatar sniffed derisively. “You understand nothing. The mysteries of their species are revealed to me the more of their essence I consume. Many years ago humans had an immortal realm, stronger and more prosperous than what we will achieve. I suspect that sword is a relic of those times, conveyed to the humans from the gods they once served. The ones who came and took it from me also bore swords of similar caliber. I heard their song, and in the depths of my mind I sensed the danger they present. This danger is such that our power would mean nothing. Your task is to interrupt this power before it can be brought to bear against us. It must be thoroughly destroyed.”
The Violet Prince nodded. “As you wish!”
A cold light passed over the avatar’s face. “Remember – at any cost!”
“Of course,” the Prince replied.
Suddenly, the Princess felt a strange sensation trill through her. Such feelings had plagued her since they consumed human genetics for their own benefit. Monarch was unaffected by the Prince and Princess were more human-like as time went on. They even preferred to converse in human language.
She did not find these human weapons as dangerous as Monarch claimed. More dangerous was the assimilatory power of human genetics. They may have taken this genetic material from the humans, but it was changing them as much as they were using it to empower their abilities.
Once this immortal realm was established they would become more and more like the creatures they consumed. Maybe the human essence would completely replace what they used to be. What would happen then, she wondered?
The Violet Princess knew that much of this evolutionary process was derived from the latent memories of the humans,
locked within their DNA. Monarch was trying to mimic what the humans had achieved thousands of years before.
“In ancient times but one bearer established the Banishing Stance, the Grand Master of Heaven Ling Bao. Beore his overwhelming power even the likes of Heavenly Sovereign Taishang and Celestial Master Yuanshi, along with two others, were at a loss as to what to do. But as the four clashed against the Grand Master they managed to defeat him. Thus the swords earned their titles as the most lethal under heaven. The Strategy, with the four swords as its pivotal center, directed this unfathomable power. From what we can understanding the Strategy focuses and guides a portion of universal protogenia.”
Li Ke shared all he knew of the Banishing Strategy with the four new bearers. As they listened intently it was as though gates hiding these secrets from them were opened before their eyes – especially for the three who were already familiar with their swords. Suddenly their knowledge and connection with these godblades was deeper than ever.
“Now we cannot rely on a single person’s power to establish the Strategy, of course. Nor can any of you fully command the
power it contains. What you must do is approach the home worlds, establish the Strategy, then entice them forward. The enemy will react to you once the trap is in place.”
The sword contained profound knowledge, and even though Li Ke had been trapped within it for years he had only scratched the surface of its mysteries. Without the other three weapons parts of those mysteries had been locked away.
Knowledge of the Strategy had always been kept in Ultus, but many specifics of it were contained in the other swords. Only once all four of them were together was the entirety of the Strategy laid bare.
Lan Qing, Lan Jue, Zhou Qianlin, and the Pharmacist were all brilliant people. They could follow Li Ke’s information to its logical conclusion, comprehending the substance of his point and asking poignant questions.
Because they lacked the strength to control the swords’ power, they had only one chance to lay out the Strategy. Whether or not they could eliminate the enemy was a question too difficult to answer now.
After all, the full strength of these swords – the most lethal weapons under heaven – was unknown. No one knew what would happen once the Strategy was enacted. All they knew came from old legends and whispered tales. They had to rely on faith that these stories were true.
Chapter 865: Daddy… Come!
Right now the only thing they could take faith from was the ringing son of the Banishing Blades. The sound of their long- awaited union rang with such ferocity that the strength within them was evident.
All preparations for the transmutation process were completed. Li Ke addressed them once again. “Now we will use the alien methods to increase your strength. Once you have achieved Nirvana I will pass on Ultus’ lineage to Lan Qing. From that point you can begin to practice the Strategy.”
Lan Qing nodded slightly. The Pharmacist looked on with sorrowful eyes. Li Ke said the words lightly, but she knew that once he passed the inheritance to Lan Qing her husband would be gone. Already it was clear to everyone that Li Ke’s spirit had begun to fade. It seemed he could vanish at any moment.
Lan Jue looked between the two. “We will watch over you.
Qianlin’s Domain in particular will help keep you safe.”
Both Lan Qing and the Pharmacist nodded.
“Lan Jue. Thank you,” Li Ke said suddenly.
Lan Jue shrugged. “Just doing my duty,” he replied.
“I mean, about Jun’er.” A bitter pain crossed Li Ke’s ghostly face. “I was never able to fulfil by obligation as her father. You’ve helped remedy that. Thank you. I chose not to reveal myself to Jun’er because she already has a father – you. Don’t misunderstand, my meaning is that you are far more qualified to guider her as a father than I. I have already failed her too much, and I don’t wish to negatively influence her life any more than I have.”
Lan Jue’s surprise was palpable. Inwardly he lamented these star-crossed parents and the agony they’d suffered! Were it not for the misfortunes they’d suffered this man would have lived to be a modern luminary.
“However…” Li Ke hesitated, then dropped his head. “I have to trouble you with a request. Bring Jun’er. I’ll just watch from afar, I won’t say anything. Is this alright?”
His voice shook. The fluctuations of his emotional state was reflected in his translucent body, which began to flicker.
Lan Jue nodded. “Alright, I’ll bring her here.” He left to do as he’d been asked.
However, after just a few steps he stopped and turned back to look at him.
“Brother Li,” he began. “Or… perhaps brother in law. I must ask, do you really believe Jun’er doesn’t understand what’s happening? She may be young, but that girl has more wisdom than most adults. That’s even before you consider her inheritance from the Clairvoyant. She knows, she just hasn’t said anything. She doesn’t want to heart you… or perhaps it’s to protect herself.”
Both Li Ke and the Pharmacist shook at his words. They looked at him, shocked.
Jun’er knew? She already knew?
Li Ke stared in surprise, the Pharmacist couldn’t help but stare. She couldn’t help but feel like she’d been neglectful of the girl lately. Lan Jue seemed to know her better.
Lan Jue looked from one to the other. “I feel sorry for Jun’er, but she’s more mature than you give her credit for. You’ve been living in your own world, but I think you need to ask her what she thinks. Brother, you don’t want to speak with her because you’re afraid to cause her pain. But if she knows her father’s back, and you say nothing, what sort of damage do you think that will cause? I hope you both speak with her. It may hurt, but at the very least she’ll have the memory of her real dad. She’ll remember that her father really did come back. At least for a moment your family was whole.”
“Of course I’ll always be a father to her, that won’t ever change. I’ll protect her with my life and I promise that nothing will harm her so long as I draw breath.”
Li Ke felt like he’d been struck by lightning. His mind was muddled, he didn’t know what to say.
“I think A-Jue is right. Some things have to be faced, no matter how unpleasant. Maybe for her, what you think is the right decision may not be the best one.” Lan Qing added his opinion.
Li Ke floated silently in the sitting room. He wasn’t sure what to say, didn’t know what to do. He was entirely at a loss.
Lan Jue didn’t wait for him to answer. He simply turned and left to fetch Jun’er. Whatever Li Ke’s decision he would bring her here so they could be face to face. They were, after all, family.
When Lan Jue returned, holding Jun’er in his arms, there were several more people in the sitting room. Lin Guoguo, Ke’er, and Xiuxiu were in attendance.
Lin Guoguo had come at Lan Jue’s request. She would be the one to strip Lan Qing and the Pharmacist of their memories, so the secrets of the transmutation technique would be lost forever. There was no stronger Adept than Lin Guoguo in the realm of psychic power.
Xiuxiu and Ke’er had come with her. They had not had an opportunity to see their boss in some time so they aimed to advantage of this opportunity.
Mika was gone. Zeus’ Amazons were now only three.
Jun’er was dressed in a white fluffy princess’ skirt, with her hair combed and pulled into a pony tail. Her big eyes were dull and sightless, but beautiful nonetheless. They were like
windows into an endless universe. In her hands she bore the Eye of Tomorrow, the crystal ball the Clairvoyant once used to influence the flows of human destiny.
When he saw her Li Ke’s spirit floated forward, but stopped ten meters from where Lan Jue stood. The three amazons jumped when he did, unaware of what was happening. They looked at each other in surprise and alarm.
Lan Jue looked at Li Ke, but spoke to Jun’er. “Mommy’s here, little one. How about you play in here for a little while?” He knelt and put her on the floor before taking her hand and leading her to the Pharmacist.
Li Ke watched as Lan Jue and Jun’er passed him by. He remained silent as Lan Jue placed Jun’ers tiny hand in her mother’s. Jun’er held tight to her mother, blinking her sightless eyes.
The Pharmacist looked down at her, then at Li Ke floating nearby. She fought to keep her emotions under control so that they wouldn’t burst out. Her lips quivered from the effort of keeping tears from her eyes.
Jun’ers expression was calm and sweet, appearing blissfully unaware of what was happening. She lifted her hand, bearing the Eye of Tomorrow, and pointed it at Lan Jue. “Daddy, can you hold this for me, please?”
“Ok.” He said. Lan Jue took it from her, and in his hands it looked like a perfectly normal glass bauble.
“Daddy… come!” Jun’er called out again, but when Lan Jue looked toward her, the young girl’s hand wasn’t stretched toward him. One hand held tightly to the Pharmacist’s, while the other reached for Li Ke.
This touching moment struck everyone, filling their hearts.
Li Ke looked at his daughter, not daring to believe. He rubbed his spectral eyes then looked again to make sure she was pointing his way.
The Pharmacist, in her shock, looked at Lan Jue, but he shook his head. He didn’t tell Jun’er anything. What he said had been true – Jun’er knew.
Of course! She was the Clairvoyant of the new generation, bearer of the Eye of Tomorrow. How could she not know her own blood was present?
“Jun-… Jun’er.” At last Li Ke spoke, and he hurried to her side. He knew he was a spirit and could not touch his daughter, but he threw open his arms anyway and tried to hug her. Everyone’s eyes were wet with tears. For a father to be unable to hold his daughter, the sorrow of it was unspeakable.
Jun’er’s placid face bore a faint smile and she opened her own arms to accept him. She moved in perfect time with her ghostly father, though she could not see!
“I can feel you, daddy. Don’t feel bad, it’ll be ok when you come back.” Jun’er comforted him through her tiny smile.
The Pharmacist couldn’t contain herself any longer. She pressed herself into Qianlin’s arms and cried against her shoulder.
Li Ke’s body shook. He felt like his whole body was on fire, and nothing was important except this little life in front of him. The worry over aliens, the swords… all of it melted away when
that little girl called him daddy. The pain and sadness that had consumed him for so long disappeared. She’d called him daddy.
Li Ke, choked with sobs, kept his arms around his daughter though the effort was fruitless. Jun’er stood happily within his supernatural embrace, smiling contently.
“Daddy, don’t cry. Having the whole family together is a happy thing! Now you don’t worry, I’m going to look after mommy. You have to be good, too.”
Jun’er’s sweet voice was like crystal bells in his ears. He hated himself. He hated that he’d decided to leave his wife for that cursed mission. If he’d refused he’d have been with her all along. Maybe she wouldn’t have been blind.
But in all the universe there was no cure to take back regrets.
Jun’er lifted her arms and rested them around his phantom neck.
Chapter 866: Li Ke’s Decision
“Alright… okay!” At last Li Ke was able to fight through his emotion to get the words out. Just seeing his daughter pushed all other thoughts out of his head. With a sharp sigh he appeared to come to a decision. Standing, he turned back toward Lan Qing.
“I’d like to ask for your help.”
Lan Qing nodded. “Of course, upperclassman. I’ll do whatever I can.”
Li Ke spoke with quiet determination. “I want you to help me become the true sword spirit of Ultus.”
Lan Qing paused, and the Pharmacist stopped her crying to turn back around and look at them. Neither quite understood what Li Ke wanted.
Li KE turned to the Pharmacist. “I’m sorry, little Yue. I can’t hold it back anymore. I need to be selfish.”
She looked back, her tear-soaked eyes confused.
Li Ke pulled his spectral face in to a tight, bitter smile. “I’m sorry, I lied to you. The mark of my spirit can’t stay locked in Ultus. It is a legendary weapon, incomparably sharp, and it will carve away the last vestige of my soul once my will vanishes. Reincarnation teaches that when our life force passes it is born again in a new body, but I don’t want that. Being born again is a fantasy, and even if it were real it would mean I’d forget all that has happened this life. I lied and told you there was a chance to bring me back because I wanted you to seek happiness for yourself. As I am now, an errant soul in a sword, I cannot perform the duties and responsibilities of a husband. I know you, more than you’d probably like to admit. You’ll be by my side so long as my spirit remains. But if you tie yourself to the dead you can’t leave a real life. So I chose the possibility of reincarnation, and chose to hope you might find a way to be happy.”
“But now that I see my daughter I don’t want to. I may not have the qualifications to be a real father, but at least I may be able to see her every day. I can watch my treasure flourish. Even just watching would fill my heart with contentment. If I become a sword spirit I can remain here with her.”
“You fool.” The Pharmacist spat the word, her voice bitter.
“Do you think I didn’t know you were lying to me? I just wanted you to have your lie because it comforted you. Your face becomes so serious every time you lie. You haven’t changed in all the time we’ve been together. If your spirit vanishes I refuse to live without you.”
“No!” Li Ke’s anger flared. “Jun’er is already missing a father.
How could she go one without you?”
The Pharmacist shot back with cool conviction. “How can you be selfish, but I can’t?”
Li Ke stopped. He glanced at Jun’er nearby, still bearing the small smile on her face. “I’ve made my decision, to become the spirit of Ultus and remain. I’ll live so long as the current master of the sword draws breath. I’ll be able to watch my little girl. But little Yue you must promise me that you won’t throw away your life.”
The Pharmacist walked over to Jun’er’s side, knelt, and picked her up. She hugged the small girl tightly against her. Li Ke’s dedication to his choice was firm and fervent. He floated over to Lan Qing, then nodded that he was ready.
“Come with me.” He turned and left the room. Lan Jue, Qianlin, the Pharmacist, Jun’er, and the three amazons remained behind.
Ke’er, Xiuxiu and Lin Guoguo’s eyes were red. They were not immune to the emotional scene they’d witnessed.
“Mommy, you should go look after daddy. Daddy Lan Jue is here with me.” Jun’er cutely offered.
She nodded, ran her hand along her hair, and gave her small cheek a kiss. She put her down and left to join the two men.
After she was gone, Jun’er lifted her face toward Lan Jue. “Am I a good girl, daddy?”
Lan Jue knelt and wrapped her in a hug. “You little thing. It’s okay to cry if you want to.”
She wrapped her tiny arms around Lan Jue. Then, with tiny sobs, she cried into his shoulder.
No matter how much wisdom she possessed or how mature she was, Jun’er was still a child!
Lan Jue gently stroked her silk-like hair, eyes heavy with a sad and tender love. She really was a good girl. She’d told her mom to leave for a reason, so that she could let her pain out. To understand this at six years old was incredible.
Xiuxiu, Ke’er and Lin Guoguo quickly gathered round to comfort the little girl.
She didn’t cry for long. After a minute or so her tears stopped falling and her sobs ceased. She slowly lifted her head.
As Lan Jue wiped away her tears, Jun’er muttered at him. “Daddy, I’m scared. I’ve seen some really scary things… that daddy, dead. Mommy, dead. They don’t want me.”
He gently patted her back. “Impossible, they both love you more than anything. How could they not want their little Jun’er? And you have me! Daddy Lan Jue will be with you forever.”
“Ok.” Jun’er’s tiny voice replied. She hugged him tighter. He kissed her forehead.
Suddenly Jun’ers head shot up. She looked off in a seemingly random direction. “Daddy, be careful.”
Lan Jue had quick reaction times and no reason to doubt the little girl. The moment she spoke the words. He took her and the three amazons and hurled themselves toward Zhou Qianlin.
A beam of purple light struck where they’d been kneeling half a breath before.
An aura of creation and destruction raged around them, fluctuating chaotically. Even though Lan Jue had the perception of a Nirvana-level Paragon he had not felt any indication this power was coming.
Jun’er lifted her hand and a sparkling light filled the room. A dimness then overcame them as a twinkling backdrop enveloped everyone like a blanket of stars. The ship disappeared. Suddenly everyone found themselves in a boundless universe.
They could see four twinkling violet dots in the distance, but they closed in quickly to surround Lan Jue and the others.
The twinkling starlight gave their attackers pause before they were engulfed. Lan Jue responded quickly by holding tight to Jun’er and reaching out with his other hand. In a flash fo red, Captus appeared in his grip.
The violet light subsided as a vortex of red light appeared and began to drink it up.
Chapter 867: Life for a Monarch
Recently Lan Jue’s battles had been quick, fierce, and against foes much stronger than he. Under these stifling odds his cultivation and combat experience had grown by leaps and bounds. His comprehension of his sword and his own abilities was deeper than it’d ever been, and though he had only been a Paragon a short while he could still command with flows of protogenia with confidence.
The moment Lan Jue summoned Captus, Zhou Qianlin reacted in kind. Demortus appeared in her hand, ready to join Captus in battle. Flows of blue light surged from her blade and entered into Captus’ vortex like bolts of silk. Suddenly it was a whirlpool of red and blue.
The light gathered into a flickering nimbus. Then, in a burst of energy, it shot forth in every direction and battered back the four alien monsters that’d come for them. In the same instant Lan Jue released the dazzling power of his Domain and allowed Boundless Starlight to spread.
Lan Jue’s heart was heavy with fear, he knew how dangerous the situation they found themselves in was. These monsters were undoubtedly Infinite-level!
He berated himself for forgetting one very important thing; these aliens were adept at interdimensional travel. Their understanding of how to cross large distances undetected was unparalleled. However in all his battles with these aliens they had never used transference offensively. Humans had forgotten they could do it.
The Violet Prince and his coterie must have appeared through teleportation. It helped that Middle Heaven was relatively empty now, but nonetheless their extraordinary prowess was on full display. What’s more, they could hide their aura so well that even the Photographer would be ashamed.
These thoughts flashed through Lan Jue’s mind. But right now his top concern was finding out how to stay alive.
As Lan Jue’s Domain expanded the aliens began to swirl in a clockwise formation around him. The power of their birth and destruction Domain accelerated sharply, forcing it to change a hundred times a second. It overwhelmed the rules of reality and everything around them seemed to break apart.
A dizziness overcame Lan Jue, and before he knew it his Domain was overcome and destroyed. Even Qianlin’s Queen of Heaven powers couldn’t sustain it.
The Violet Prince grunted. His eyes flared purple-gold, and the monsters that accompanied him stopped their predatory circling. However the purple light did not stop, and became a tornado of deadly power that came crashing down on Lan Jue and the others.
“Our hearts beat as one!” Lan Jue yelled into the buffeting tides of power.
Captus flared red. Under the crushing weight of the aliens’ Domain he would have been unable to summon his protogenia as a Reflection of Heaven and Earth. Luckily he had risen to Nirvana, and with Li Ke’s direction he had a new comprehension of Captus’ true essence.
As he lashed out with the Banishing Blade golden runes burned bright, stamped in the metal. All of a sudden Lan Jue’s body became illusory, like there were a hundred thousand copies of him overlaid one on top of the other.
Nirvana the omnipresent, gathered as one!
Faced with the oppressive and deadly power of the Violet Prince, Lan Jue reacted with one of the secret powers of Nirvana.
The sudden amplification of its powers made the golden runes along Captus burn with blinding light. Though Qianlin did not possess the same level of comprehension she shared his through their linked souls. Floating around them the blue light of Demortus coalesced into a haze and settled over Captus.
The power of the two swords mingled, and created a rainbow- hued halo of light. It bloomed outward like the petals of a lotus, spreading out around them. These mysterious petals protected the humans from the rage and chaos of the purple cyclone.
Lan Jue channeled the Harmonious Swords to defend them from the storm. He couldn’t retract the sword for fear of exposing him and his companions, even though the Violet Prince was closing in on him.
His other hand still held tightly to Jun’er, protecting her with his body. Lan Jue’s Domain remained staunchly denied, and
unable to fight off the encroaching power of the alien’s creation and destruction abilities.
They were finished! Lan Jue’s heart sank. Four Infinite-level monsters joined against him was as terrifying as it was insurmountable. He was effectively powerless, locked down by his enemies’ overwhelming strength.
Adding insult to injury the Violet Prince did not attack Lan Jue directly. The monster’s pale hand reached out, but toward Jun’er. The other was aimed at Lan Jue’s chest.
Lan Jue and Zhou Qianlin were focusing their powers on keeping the cyclone from tearing them apart. Qianlin could only watch, forced to cling to Demortus.
In the final moment, just before the Prince’s hand could reach them, Lan Jue reacted. He spun around her blocking Jun’er from the Prince with his own body.
He had to protect her, even if it meant his death! This was the only thought going through his mind. He tried to position himself as best he could to block access to Zhou Qianlin as well. Maybe he could buy her some time.
“Agh!” There was a pained grunt and suddenly Lan Jue felt Captus grow lighter. A series of intense explosions followed, and then the combined power of he and Qianlin surged to dispel the tornado raging around them.
Reinforcements! Ln Jue turned around to see what had happened.
However, instead of the Violet Prince’s grim and murderous expression he was met with a familiar face.
Her face – as always traditionally beautiful and stunning to behold – was pale. She looked back at him with her big, soft, emotive eyes. All the feelings she’d held back for so long seemed to pour out of those eyes.
He was reflected in them, only him. For a moment her delicate, pretty face was filled serenity. Up until the moment she collapsed to the floor.
Chapter 868: I’m Sorry, Boss
Lan Jue cried out and lurched forward. The press of enemy protogenia had eased enough for some measure of his power to spread out. He dropped Jun’er’s hand and reached out for Xiuxiu.
His heart sank the moment he touched her. There was hardly any trace of vitality left.
Reinforcements had arrived, only a moment too late. The pale pink light that surrounded them was from the Photographer, fighting against the pressure of the aliens’ Domain.
She did not come alone. The Terminator had placed his enormous girth between them and their attackers while the Epochrion and the Wine Master manipulated the flows of space- time. All of humanity’s Paragons were here in a unified defense.
Lan Jue could sense a hideous, murderous aura wash over them. The Pharmacist – they must have sensed something was amiss.
“Boss…” Xiuxiu’s soft voice cut through the din. She sounded weak, different. Her eyes never left Lan Jue’s face.
He held onto her limp body, kneeling beside her. “Xiuxiu, why would you do something so stupid…” He still wasn’t sure what had happened.
The Violet Prince had been on him, inches from landing a blow. He couldn’t have simply given up his chance to cut Lan Jue down. Xiuxiu was closest – she must have used her piercing Discipline to cut through the Prince’s Domain and use her own body to block the attack.
She was a ninth level Adept, powerful and talented. However, in the face of an Infinite-level beast like the Prince she was no more dangerous than a normal human. Were it not for the timely intervention of the other Paragons, Xiuxiu would have been utterly destroyed.
“How could you be so stupid?!” Lan Jue’s eyes were filling with tears. He knew how potent the Creation and Destruction Domain was. There was no way to save Xiuxiu’s rapidly fleeting life. Even the mighty immortals of old couldn’t rescue her.
Tears carved two glittering rivulets down Xiuxiu’s cheeks. Her eyes were cloudy and unfocused but were kept trained on Lan Jue.
“Why is it so dark? Boss? It’s dark. I can’t see you… I want to see you.” She gripped his arm with what little strength was left to her.
Lan Jue took her hand and squeezed it tight. She squeezed back. “Boss, don’t feel bad. I don’t deserve it. Maybe this is for the best, it’s worth it to die for you. I’m sorry boss, I have to ask your forgiveness. I’ll repent in the next world, I’ll pray for you. Boss… live happily…”
She gasped the last sentence, and suddenly Lan Jue felt her hand grow heavy. Her body went stiff as a faint violet light began to emerge from her skin. Gradually her form dissolved into motes of violet light, and then she was gone.
Lan Jue tried desperately to gather the motes as they floated away, to no avail. He wanted to force her body to stay. Instead her life force was devoured by these heartless monsters, and nothing remained of his childhood friend. Nothing but a faint sense of sentiment, sorrow, and regret.
Lan Jue’s whole body shook.
Xiuxiu had been by his side since they were small. They’d grown up together. No one – not Hera, not Qianlin, not even Lan Qing – no one was with him longer. He’d turned her affections down more than once, but not because he didn’t like her. She was like a sister to him!
As he struggled to figure out how to urge the Amazons to lead their own lives, he knew Xiuxiu would be the biggest worry. Her mannerisms were always soft, but inside Xiuxiu was more stubborn than any of the others. No one could change her mind of she firmly believed something.
He’d struggled to find a solution ever since Xiuxiu began to show signs of attachment. Never was an answer forthcoming. The other girls were fond of him, too, but none were around as long as Xiuxiu. She’d been raised by Jue Di as Lan Jue’s maidservant, to stay by his side always but not necessarily as his wife.
Xiuxiu was younger than Lan Jue by a few years. They grew up and trained together. Ever since then Lan Jue had developed a familial kinship with her. So, although he knew it was wrong to not flatly refuse her advances, he couldn’t bear to hurt the
girl – woman – who had dedicated her life to him
He never thought it would end this way, it was the only thing he could think about. Xiuxiu was dead. She died saving his life. He couldn’t shake the image of her eyes as she looked at him. She’d loved him until the light faded away and the darkness took her.
An indescribable pain tore through every fiber of his being. It was his heart breaking, no less devastating than the day Hera died.
Xiuxiu was dead. Dead!
“A-Jue, snap out of it!” A pleading shout pulled him from the state of shock. His head shot up, and his red eyes narrowed into angry slits.
“Bastard!” He roared. Like a feral beast he hurled himself at the Violent Prince.
Chaos prevailed. Jun’er had had the forethought to use one of her most potent abilities to separate the fighters from Middle
Heaven. The ferocity of their exchange could easily rip the bastion apart from the inside. But she was just a child, and even with the help of the Eye of Tomorrow she couldn’t protect them for long.
Ten Paragons were desperately fighting for their lives. Nearby, the Pharmacist was guarding the door and blocking two more Nirvana-level aliens from entering.
Lan Qing had not appeared. He was likely busy absorbing Ultus’ inheritance.
The aliens had chosen the perfect time to attack – besieging the stronghold to destroy the reinforcements. The humans were short Lan Qing’s might and guidance, and were forced to protect him and the ship.
A military tactic wherein the attacker lays siege to an important positions defenders are unwilling to give up. The defenders are forced to call for reinforcements, who thus fall into ambushes laid by the attackers. Now the defenders are without reinforcements against a powerfully positioned enemy force. Here the humans can’t give up Middle Heaven so all the Paragons have to join in to defend it. The aliens can then pick off the Paragons and leave the humans weak.
If Xiuxiu had not taken the blow meant for Lan Jue, he would have been seriously injured or even killed. Without the Harmonious Swords humanity’s ability to fight back would be severely impaired.
Captus exploded with an intense red light as Lan Jue rushed forward, bringing Captus down on his enemy like a hammer. Qianlin remained by his side, but no matter how much she tried she found she couldn’t combine her powers to his. In this moment there was no love in his heart, only hatred.
Pink light flickered around Luo Xianni throughout the fight. She was the sole Infinite-level Paragon defending the humans, and the only one with a clear mind. She knew how precarious their position was, and the moment the aliens’ Domain broke past hers it would destroy Jun’er’s protective shell. Exposed to the raging protogenia of so many Paragons, Middle Heaven would be torn apart from the inside. The results would be catastrophic.
They had to find another battlefield.
“Quickly!” Luo Xianni shouted toward the Wine Master.
The old Avenue leader knew what was needed without being told. He appeared in front of her in a flash of silver light. Holding his scepter high, archaic runes appeared floating in the air around them and the gem in its center flared. As waves of light poured from him Luo Xianni brandished her small pink camera.
Combined power from the two interspatial powerhouses caused reality to lurch uncomfortably. The aliens’ Domain shook under the pressure.
All four of the Infinite-level aliens were locked in combat. The Violet Prince was entangled by Lan Jue’s rabid onslaught. With the addition of Zhou Qianlin and the Prince’s fear of their Harmonious Swords he was on his back foot.
The Violet Princess was squared off against the two Gods of Wine, the Pontiff, and the Gourmet. All four of them were far inferior to the Princess in cultivation, but the Pontiff’s light- based powers had a restrictive effect on her and he was nearly a Reflection of Heaven and Earth. Likewise the Gods of Wine were adept at battlefield control and were keeping her tangled up. Indeed the Princess had the upper hand, but for now they weren’t letting her employ her full powers.
The Terminator elected to face iron with iron. He faced off against one of the planet’s avatars alone, relying on his overwhelming strength to keep his target locked down. The final alien was left to the Epochrion and the rest of the Avenue’ Paragons.
For the time being the Epochrion’s powers, paired with attacks by the Pauper and the Driver, were enough to keep the avatar distracted. What frightened their enemy the most was the Driver’s Primordial Lightning, for even with its superior cultivation it didn’t dare risk a direct blow.
Chapter 869: Sobering Kiss
The Keeper and Bookworm were helping the Pharmacist, working hard to keep enemy reinforcements at bay.
Chu Cheng had returned to Tyrannosaurus, because each bastion required a Paragon commander. Hua Li had left to gather the Tears of Neptune, as requested by Li Ke. Other than them, all the rest of mankind’s Paragons were here, at war. However, not all of the alien leadership had come.
Including the Prince and the other three Infinite-level attackers, only seven alien elite were here. Perhaps that was the limit they could teleport with their abilities. Still, it was more than enough to destroy Middle Heaven. Losing the East’s last hope was unacceptable, so this fight had to quickly be moved elsewhere.
Ka-cha! For a moment everything froze, went silent, and was overlaid with a pink light. Then everything began to quake and ripple.
Lan Jue’s pain and rage came crashing down on the Prince. Monster though he was, he was still a living thing and the fear that gripped him was real. His defense stuttered from the
His hesitation lasted only a moment before everything returned to normal. In that moment Luo Xianni cast her hand toward Jun’er, emitting a beam of light that hung over the small girl. She disappeared, and with her the shell of protective power she’d created. The Photographer’s Domain shattered as well.
But as the tides of protogenia burst out, obliterating everything in the room, the aliens were shocked to find what lay behind the metal walls. They weren’t in Middle Heaven any longer. They were out in space, separate from the armada.
Luo Xianni’s reaction had been a clever one. She didn’t try to teleport everyone directly for she knew it was likely to be blocked by the aliens’ power. After all, their enemy had the power advantage.
Instead she called upon the Wine Master to conceal their plans, releasing his Domain as though he were there to support their defenses. While he did so she spread her power out and
carved a pocket of reality around the whole room. She moved them, and in fact that whole cabin out into space.
Since the Violet Prince was distracted by Lan Jue’s attack, he hadn’t noticed nor had time to prevent it. Thus Luo Xianni was able to succeed with her ploy. In fact even Luo Xianni was surprised it worked.
A harsh roar bellowed from the Prince. He was calling for others.
“Grab A-Jue, get him to snap out of it.” Luo Xianni grunted, and a pink light surrounded Lan Jue and Zhou Qianlin. Both were pulled back from the Prince, and Luo Xianni took their place.
He had a healthy fear of the Photographer as well. Though she was not as powerful as that human with the staff, she was the only other creature who could stand toe to toe with him. Aside from her only Lan Jue and Qianlin’s Harmonious Swords could defeat him.
Lan Jue swiped with Captus but struck empty space. His red, angry eyes were cast all around to search for something to kill
but were met with only the twinkling stars.
It was him. He killed Xiuxiu – he killed her!
The only thought running through his addled mind was vengeance for Xiuxiu. His rage, his need for blood, had thrust him into a berserker frenzy.
“A-Jue, you have to calm down!” Zhou Qianlin hugged him tightly from behind to try and stop him from racing off. He was not himself, and the torrent of emotion he felt was preventing him from summoning his full power. The only way they might defeat these creatures is through the Harmonious Swords.
As she held onto him Qianlin released her Domain. The Light of Guanyin fell over the battlefield and the two of them. Its calming nature soothed the erratic flows of protogenia radiating from Lan Jue.
One of the most dangerous situations for a Paragon was to lose control of their protogenia. These powers belonged to the universe, and were borrowed by the Paragon. They were conduits, and if they lost control of this flow the power of the universe could backfire. A rebound like that could destroy the
The Queen of Heaven’s powers were magnificent for just this situation. Almost instantly the dangerously regular pulses of protogenia were calmed. To Lan Jue it felt like a gust of warm wind blowing through him, soothing his heart and easing his pain.
He stopped, struck dumb in the moment of his anger. He began to shake as tears rolled down his face.
“Xiuxiu… Xiuxiu’s dead. She’s dead!” He lifted is left hand, and held tightly in his palm was a small storage device she’d given him just before she died. Somehow she’d managed to protect it from being destroyed by the Violet Prince’s attack.
He didn’t know what it was she gave him. He almost didn’t want to know, but it was the only thing of hers he had left. He felt the sorrow and guilt growing in his heart.
Lan Jue slowly turned and faced Zhou Qianlin. She looked hazy through his tears. “Xiuxiu is dead. The Violet Prince killed her.”
Qianlin didn’t answer him. With pain in her own eyes she flung her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply.
Her lips were warm. The essence of her – of her compassion and her love – was conveyed through that kiss into his body. It nourished him, nourished his soul. No words were needed now. Through that kiss Zhou Qianlin told him that he still had her. She was still here.
The blood-shot color drained from his eyes. Gradually the haze of rage and anguish drained away.
Qianlin put her hands on his shoulders and gently pushed him away. She looked depply into his eyes. “We can’t be sad now. We have to kill our enemies, and make them sacrifices to the memory of Xiuxiu.”
He nodded firmly, causing the tears to be cast from his face. They floated in the nothingness around them. He took her hand in one of his gripped tightly to Captus with the other.
Zhou Qianlin’s kiss had calmed enough to where he didn’t rush back into the fight. He stood at a distance, surveying what was going on.
Seven enemies. Among them were the Violet Prince and three other Infinite-level aliens. On his side, other than his brothers all other Paragons were in combat.
Luo Xianni was trading blows with the Prince. Luckily she didn’t have to worry about universal protogenia while under the protection of Qianlin’s Domain. The Terminator also had one of the elite locked down, and for the time being he needn’t worry for his life.
But the situation was more precarious for the Gods of Wine. It was four on one, but the four humans were only part of the Realm of Protogenia. Luckily for them the Pontiff’s abilities were opposed to the monster’s, and the Gods of Wine were expertly keeping her on her back feet. If any of them slip up, however, it could mean their death.
Things also looked dire for the Pharmacist. She was strong enough to handle a Nirvana-level foe on her own, but she was currently facing three. The Keeper and Bookworm could only help from the sidelines, and their powerful attacks were barely able to penetrate the enemy’s Domain. None of the three aliens focused on them, because doing so might expose the other two to the Harbinger Faerie’s deadly abilities.
Clearly these beasts’ target was the Pharmacist herself. Under their fierce onslaught Occisus’ light was squeezed into the area just around her, the only thing standing between her and disaster. Things weren’t good anywhere Lan Jue looked.
His observation lasted only a moment, then he made his decision. He threw back his head and let loose a booming cry toward the heavens. His deep, booming shout shuddered through the battlefield, summoned from the depths of his soul, and everyone could feel it. He released his Domain and let it flow from him at full force.
In the distance at least six more Nirvana-level aliens were quickly approaching. Once they arrived, even if Chu Cheng and Hua Li joined the fight, all hope was lost.
If they wanted to survive, they would have to punish the alien attackers dearly right this moment.
His crystal-clear eyes reflected the light of Captus as Lan Jue held the legendary sword aloft. His Boundless Starlight Domain surged forth.
However it did not spread out far. In fact it expanded only
three meters around Lan Jue and Qianlin before stopping. Stars in the distance dimmed once his Domain emerged, as though his power drank their light into itself. He and Qianlin let their powers flow, and they amplified each other to a shocking degree.
The Violet Prince narrowed his eyes as he glared their way. Monarch had ordered them to spare nothing to bring that sword back, but the sword wasn’t here. It was back on Middle Heaven.
Chapter 870: Disadvantages
Moments after the Photographer teleported them away from Middle Heaven the bastion powered on its shields. It was no longer possible for the aliens to simply transfer themselves aboard. Even at the level of Nirvana the creatures couldn’t master the Creation and Destruction Domain enough to teleport themselves.
In fact even the three home worlds couldn’t transfer. Only the Violet Prince and Princess had the innate energy and depth of knowledge of their Domain to do so. Even still the requirement in energy was immense. It was for that reason the Prince didn’t immediately destroy Lan Jue upon appearing within Middle Heaven. If he hadn’t already been drained by the transference, even Xiuxiu’s interruption wouldn’t have saved Lan Jue from him.
As the fight stretched on both the Prince and Princess were recovering their stored of energy. He looked across the battlefield to get his bearings.
Monarch had told him that there were three other weapons like the one they’d lost. At least one needed to be brought back, though the more he could capture the better. Best was if the Prince could wrest all four from the hands of their enemy.
Three were brought to bear against him now, but his first order of business was to kill one human in particular.
For the time being he was unreachable. Luo Xianni was strong, and had both Lan Jue and Qianlin protected. Until the rest of his elite warriors came, he would have to stall.
Of all the humans this woman was the only one who could stand toe to toe against him. The other human defenders could collapse at any moment, and the situation could quickly turn bad for his prey. Lan Jue and Qianlin could only help defend one group, possibly killing one of his own. But if the two could be separated the danger to his side would be mitigated. The rest of his elite fighters would arrive and this war would end.
Ten seconds at most, then six more Nirvana-level aliens would reach them. Both sides were in a race against time. These ten seconds would determine who had the upper hand.
Lan Jue was on the move. He raced forward with the deadly point of Captus aimed in the Pharmacist’s direction. Her situation was the most precarious as three Nirvana-level elite had surrounded her. It was the best decision, for Lan Jue and Qianlin’s Harmonious Blades could kill one or two of them before the others arrived.
The tell-tale flash of rainbow color appeared. Lan Jue had cleared the haze of anger from his mind and thus the connection between him and Qianlin was renewed. The simple yet forceful beam of light pierced the darkness as it reached for a target.
In the same moment Lan Jue attacked the three aliens assailing the Pharmacist scattered like snow on the breeze.
Through his psionic connection the Violet Prince controlled his side throughout the battlefield. He had been watching and waiting for Lan Jue to make his decision, with the aim to stretch out the battle. Buying time was far easier when he only needed a few seconds.
From where he battled with the Photographer it looked like the Harmonious Sword strike missed. What’s more, it was headed right for the Pharmacist.
Friendly fire? The Violet Prince paused, surprised at how poorly organized the humans’ defenses were. He didn’t believe it, something suddenly didn’t feel right.
From the corner of his eye he saw the Pharmacist thrust forward with Occisus, aiming for the precise center of the
multicolor beam. Suddenly she vanished and the spot she’d occupied was swallowed up by Lan Jue’s attack.
No, that wasn’t right. The sparkling light of Lan Jue’s Boundless Starlight Domain was the backdrop that surrounded them, and as the power of the Harmonious Swords cut through it the light suddenly changed direction. The Prince spied a faint figure that seemed to guide it – toward the three fleeing avatars and the Violet Princess.
Everything happened in the space of an instant.
The Violet Princess had her battle firmly in hand. The energy she’d spent in the transportation was gradually returning, and with each passing moment she was coming closer to overpowering the Paragons. Even the Pontiff’s pure light of faith had begun to be contaminated by her violet powers.
In the face of her dominance, the light of the Harmonious Swords came crashing down from on high. It wasn’t the fight time she’d faced Lan Jue and Qianlin, and the power they bore frightened her. It’d taken her and her ‘brother’ to defeat Lan Jue and the Pharmacist last time. Qianlin hadn’t been part of that battle.
Although Lan Jue and Qianlin were but Paragons of Nirvana, she knew what they could accomplish when they fought together. Hand in hand, neither the Prince or Princess dared try to face down the Harmonious Swords straight on. It was an attack nearly as devastating as the ones they’d faced from the staff-bearing man.
She tried to dodge, but before she could two more blasts of power came from either side. Neither one of those were strong enough to threaten her life, but they were enough to cut off her escape. She was pinned by the Arcane Magnate and the Karmic Scholar.
Lan Jue’s attack changed everyone’s tactics. The Bookworm and Keeper were not considered powerhouses among the Paragons, but they were among the most experienced. Their wisdom manifested in perfectly timed cooperation, and they didn’t hesitate in the slightest.
The Violet Princess was facing four Paragons. As her options for defense were stripped away all of them came at her, throwing caution to the wind in return for a chance to end her life. Lan Jue and Qianlin’s deadly ray was blocking her only route. Suddenly she found herself in a fatal predicament with no option. She had to try and defend against a direct hit from the Harmonious Swords.
The Violet Prince’s pupils had contracted to pinpricks. He recognized the danger to his sister’s life.
Where before they could have relied on the home worlds to protect them, he knew such succor would not be coming. Monarch had made it clear they were to stop at nothing to get the godblades, everything else was secondary. Even their lives.
With a hideous, beastial roar the Prince released the full might of his Domain around him. Creation and Destruction reigned in the depths of his Domain, a hundred thousand beginnings and endings flashing by in an instant. He focused all of it into a punch and thrust his fist in the direction of the Violet Princess.
His attack came with a cost, for in the moment after shifting his focus Luo Xianni was on him. She took advantage of his distraction to land a blow on his back, and caused him to go reeling far from the Princess’ location.
Still his attack was on its way and likely to be effective. An attack of such strength, once it arrived, would tear through the Paragons like paper. At the Princess’ cultivation, she only needed a smallest opportunity to escape their trap.
Lan Jue scowled as he and Qianlin raced toward her. However, in order to deceive the enemy that had had to first fly in the direction of the Pharmacist. It would be a few moments before they could join their friends.
All the while the punch from the Prince was tearing through space. Pregnant with the full brunt of his Creation and Destruction discipline it coalesced and collapsed in on itself like a black hole in the midst of tearing itself apart.
The violet light around the Princess flared brightly, and scales appeared along the length of her back. She used them to protect against the Keeper and Bookworm’s attack. Her body bowed forward slightly and she raised her arms high, disregarding all the other Paragons and focusing all of her strength on defending against Lan Jue and Qianlin’s attack.
She had faith in her brother’s strength. The humans she tangled with were capable but in the face of the Prince’s full power they could only run or be destroyed. For the Princess his power would serve to amplify her abilities and neutralize the Harmonious Swords attack.
The Prince’s desperate attack was exactly the right call. By the time she warded off the Harmonious Swords the six other alien
elite would arrive, and together they would kill all the humans who oppose them.
Her hands were raised and a wicked looking sword had appeared in her grip to help her deflect the blow. But the look on her face was one of fear and surprise.
They weren’t running. All four Paragons were ignoring the Prince’s attack and keeping her pinned.
Scores of thick vines poured from Aubert de Villain and wrapped her tight. They bristled with thorns that dug into her porcelain flesh and drank her blood. He burned with a ghastly red light, and all the while his vines tugged at her sword arm making it unstable.
Bess had moved in, and ten blood-red, dagger like fingernails were swiping at the Princess. Every strike plunged deep into sensitive pressure points on her body.