Skyfire Avenue Chapter 871-880

Chapter 871: The Pontiff’s Epiphany!

Both the Violet Prince and Violet Princess had consumed vast amounts of human genetic material, even adopting the human form, so that they might grasp the potential of the species. So far it had worked very well for them. However, the familiar anatomy came with all the special characteristics of normal humans. Namely, acupuncture points.

The Prince and Princess could use their alien powers to cut off this internal system, but doing so would severely limit the potency of the human form. They would no longer really be human. As such they kept the meridians and acupuncture points intact.

There was an ocean of difference between the powers of the Gods of Wine and the Princess. However, they were still Paragons, old and wise. Both of them together, along with the pressure from the Bookworm and Keeper, made her organs feel like they were on fire. It was a sign the damage was running deep.

It was so intense that two streams of steaming qi seeped from her feet. At some point in the chaotic exchange two hands had appeared around her ankles, gripping tightly to her feet. Grey fires crept up her legs, simultaneously blocking her vessels and
draining her vital essence.

The power of the Infernal Vanguard was born from the blood of Hades. Devouring the essence of life was the gift of the Gourmet’s inheritance! But his power and those of the aliens was different in that he destroyed the essence of life for rebirth. It was completely opposed to the aliens’ abilities of consumption for the purpose of personal amplification. This was the perfect moment for the Gourmet to exploit that difference against the Princess.

Were these humans crazy, she thought. They continued to fight in spite of immanent destruction. Did they hope to simply shrug off the Prince’s attack? It would almost certainly mean their death.

She looked at them, three faces full of determination. But more than determination, there was sorrow and admiration.

Three? Where was the fourth?

She looked up, and for the first time there was utter disbelief in the Princess’ eyes. She saw that the Violet Prince’s attack would not come to save her, for in the midst of its all-consuming
destruction was a single figure – a bright silhouette against the darkness.

No, not a figure. A mountain. A golden mountain whose peak was populated with a host of angels chanting in unison. It was the holy mountain, glimmering with the white light of faith. Pure white light spewed from its crest, and from the base rippled a pool of golden splendor.

Reflection of Heaven and Earth!

One figure stood at the highest point of this mountain. It was the Pontiff, clad in his resplendent robes with his scepter held aloft. His face was ablaze with the light of pure faith, and from his mouth poured prayers to the on high. In those deep eyes was profound understanding.

As his life had come near its end the Pontiff had achieved an awakening. At last he understood why he’d been stuck at the cusp of advancement for years. He knew why it was he could never progress.

It was his own heart. The faith within him was not pure. Without pure faith how could he receive God’s love? Even with
the worship of so many devour followers.

In the face of all his failings, all his shortcoming, the Pontiff placed himself between his allies at the Violet Prince’s attack. Despite the knowledge that it would mean his end, he was willing to sacrifice himself. It was then he knew what he was missing.

Satan’s mad smile as he died came to mind. If such a creature could face death unflinchingly, why not a man of faith?

It wasn’t a decision that set him free, but instead instilled him with a sense of the sublime. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt this way, it’d been so many long years since he’d felt such a connection. He felt proud!

For the first time in who knew how long he was proud of himself. Faith had burned away the final obstacle to his advancement, and at last he arose to become a Reflection of Heaven and Earth. The golden mountain burned defiantly as the Prince’s black destruction bore down on it. They collided in a magnificent and terrible display of mutual destruction.

The Pontiff smiled contentedly. The truths he’d found
crystallized in his mind, imprinted themselves on his soul, and were imparted into his holy scepter. A single beam of light, a gleaming spear of faith amidst the darkness, shot toward Middle Heaven and the Prince’s power annihilated itself against the Pontiff. He would die, but in his final moments he imparted his legacy.

Constantine was the bearer of the Spear of Fate, but he was still young. Only Metatron was wise enough to accept the burden of this position. The Pontiff had faith that by virtue of the knowledge within the scepter Metatron would break the poisoned cycle they’d wrought and break through to become the next Paragon of the Citadel.

The Pontiff had spent his life in service to the Citadel. It was fitting that his last moments would be given to ensure its survival.

Just before the end the Pontiff closed his eyes. His heart was filled with a quiet joy. Death took him, and he went serenely.

If you are waiting for me in another world, Satan, then be ready to greet me.
The light of the Harmonious Swords collapsed upon the Princess just as the Pontiff drew his final breath. He’s given his life for this moment.

Boom—The weapon separating the Princess from the light shattered instantly. Cracks turned her skin to broken glass. Golden-purple energy shot from the fissures, concentrated rays of ruin that fired out toward the Paragons that entrapped her.

A toxic cloud of purple bellowed from between her pretty lips. Her gorgeous features were broken and twisted, more hellspawn than human. Right away the Paragons could tell their coordinated effort had really hit the mark.

The creeping hand of death was crawling up her spine. She needed to flee, she was desperate to escape. Monarch’s orders were forgotten as she fought for her life – a reaction all living creatures shared.

She struggled to get free but before she could another ray of light hit her. This one gleamed with a righteous, murderous white. The Harmonious Swords weren’t the only danger, as the Pharmacist proved.
Lan Jue feint had scattered the three she was fighting against. Now she was free to lend a hand and focused her Reflection powers through Occisus. The blade hummed with additional power from Captus and Demortus.

The Pharmacist hated these beasts. These monsters stole her husband from her in his prime. They were responsible for her daughter’s damaged eyes. That hate, and rage, and bloodlust crystallized within Occisus and she brought all of it to bear against the Princess.

The captured Princess could only lift her arms to protect herself.

Clang! A monster such as she would not so easily be brought down. The Princess was a reservoir of power far greater than any of theirs, and even Occisus couldn’t break her defense. But it did cut halfway through her lifted arms.

If only Ultus was with them. The keenest of the Banishing Blades would easily cut through the Princess’ empowered flesh. Without the fourth sword overcoming her defenses was a mighty undertaking.
And they did it anyway.

There was a flash of black and white before her eyes when suddenly the Princess discovered half her body had gone ashen grey. She watched in horror as pieces of her began to disintegrate.

Magnificent as she was she could not completely protect herself. Every last ounce of power she focused on keeping her core from ruin. Yet the skin on half her body was gone, revealing the sickness beneath.

Onlookers where shocked to see what lay below the Princess’ beautiful façade. All of her was made of worms, writhing and working to keep the meat sack moving.

One by one the maggots were destroyed by the Pharmacist’s sustained attack. The Princess’ life force was draining at a swift pace. The alien royalty couldn’t believe it, she had come to think there was almost nothing that could stand in her way. Nothing in the universe could harm her, especially not the humans.

Two figures appeared above her. Their two swords pointed
with perfect synchronicity and another kaleidoscope of light burst forth. She raged and bucked, desperate to force her way out. Geysers of golden power burst from within her.

But Lan Jue would not allow it.

“Bonds of Devotion!”

This expression of their Harmonious Swords was not a single unbroken beam. Instead it was threads of power formed into the shape of a net. They swallowed up the golden-purple light beaming from her.

Each ray that was cast from the Princess was a single maggot in the throes of death. They were atomized the moment they touched the net. Little by little the Violet Princess was being consumed.

The Pharmacist recovered after being deflected. She came again blade first, reaching out with her barbarity. Her Slaughter Discipline encased the Princess and cut her off from any hope of escape. Spears of white light slipped through the holes of Lan Jue’s net and proceeded to cut her enemy to pieces.

Chapter 872: Death and the Princess

By now the three Nirvana-level aliens scared away by Lan Jue’s attack had realized they were not his target. The Princess’ subordinates hurried back but were barred from helping her by the Bookworm, Keeper, the Gods of Wine, and the Gourmet.

Lan Jue had decided on his first target moments after coming back to his senses. With Qianlin’s help, he knew that they could kill at least one Nirvana-level monster. But was that enough to alter the outcome of this battle? He didn’t think so.

The combined power of the four Infinite-level aliens was beyond their abilities. What’s more, they were wise, informed, and by some means were able to protect themselves from the dangers of universal protogenia. While Lan Jue’s own side was not weak, they certainly didn’t have enough peak-level powerhouses to contend with their foes. Once they ran out of stamina more of them would die, then the battle would be lost.

So, in order to change this grim fate he had to kill one of their strongest. If he could create a space for his allies to take advantage of, they could fight back.

He chose the Princess. What he had not anticipated was the
Pontiff’s noble sacrifice.

When the Violet Prince shed Luo Xianni’s pressure and came to the Princess’ aid, Lan Jue thought the best they’d manage was to injure her severely. Worse, there was the potential for harming his own people who might get caught in the path of the Harmonious Swords. Instead the man Lan Jue had come to deeply despise, whose dark heart had plagued Lan Jue for years, chose the righteous path. He gave his life, the thing Lan Jue knew was most precious to the covetous old man.

For the first time he had a sense of admiration toward the Pontiff. His final act helped to wash away the many sins he’d committed through his life. In doing so the late Citadel ruler ensured his organization could rise from the ashes left behind by the alien attack.

The Violet Princess’ body gradually burned away. The Prince fought like a wild animal, trying to come to her aid. However, Luo Xianni fought back just as hard to keep him pinned down. He was forced to watch as his sister was slowly annihilated by the combined power of three Banishing Blades.

Lan Jue didn’t dare let up, for he knew how tenacious the life of an Infinite was. These monsters grew to prominence through
the consumption of outside life force. He knew that given even the slightest chance the Princess could claw her way back from death.

He had to keep it up. He had to continue to barrage the Princess with his full power until she was erased from reality.

As layers of the Princess were destroyed a translucent crystal appeared. It was perfectly formed and shimmered with a golden purple light. Little by little the octagonal crystal was revealed nestled in the muscle of her chest.

With no flesh to hide it, brilliant light radiated from the Princess’ core. Even the light of the three swords couldn’t cover it. But once the vital crystal was burned from the monster’s body the rest of the Princess exploded into a mess of flesh. This detritus, that had been the nightmare of humanity for years, was incinerated by the light of the Harmonious Swords.

But the crystal seemed to have a mind of its own. The glittering gem propelled itself with appalling speed at the net closing in around it. It struck with such force that it broke through and started back toward the alien home worlds.
It was trying to flee! Lan Jue and the others did not slacken their assault but it still did not seem to be enough. What was left of the Violet Princess took the opportunity.

Everyone knew that these crystals were the essence of the monsters. Destroying the Princess’ body had been a victory, but without her crystal there would remake her, and she would return to terrorize mankind.

But Lan Jue was prepared. The two of them had tangled many times, this was just the chance he’d been waiting for.

Thump! The crystal stopped dead in its desperate escape, like it’d been caught in a trap. Another net, this one blue. A figure appeared hovering nearby – none other than Hua Li.

He’d arrived on the scene a short time before. The moment combat broke out in Middle Heaven he’d started back, only to discover they were teleported outside of the armada. When he finally reached his friends he saw Lan Jue make his move and decided to wait and see where he would be needed.

In a flash Lan Jue and Zhou Qianlin were by Hua Li’s side. He said nothing, bringing his hand down upon Hua Li’s net of
power. Instantly the Princess’ crystal was encased in a shell of Lan Jue’s Domain. Captured in Boundless Starlight, the flash of the five thunders rumbled ominously.

Pure empyrean lightning, All-Heaven Lightning, and Primordial lightning blasted the crystal with alternating strikes. Eventually the crystal stopped, and struggled no more. There was a twinkle of light and the inert crystal appeared in Lan Jue’s hand.

The Violet Princess had fallen!

At last the incredibly powerful monster had been defeated, though it was but one of their elite. However it was one of only two that possessed a true inheritance from the home worlds themselves. Monarch’s remaining offspring, the Violet Prince, was shocked by what he saw. But it lasted only a moment, for now his reinforcements had arrived.

The Pharmacist did not pause to celebrate their victory over the Violet Princess. Once the threat was neutralized she turned around and returned to face the three alien elite that had entangled her before. Before the Keeper and Bookworm had struggled to keep the situation from spiraling out of control, but with the Pharmacist they managed to stabilize their section of
the battlefield.

Under Lan Jue’s direction Hua Li went to join the Driver. Lan Jue’s lightning-bearing friend, together with the Epochrion and Pauper, were facing an uphill battle. However the Wine Master had also come to their aid after the teleportation was complete. Altogether they were managing to keep the Infinite-level beast they faced from wreaking havoc. Now with Hua Li’s help their situation was even better – maybe even equal to their foe.

The rest was left up to Lan Jue and Qianlin. Together they would have to face the encroaching six aliens and protect their allies. Lan Jue’s eyes flashed with a clear and resolute light. Both sides had suffered, with the aliens losing the Princess and the Pontiff destroyed by the Prince. Humanity’s losses were worse, however, with the death of Xiuxiu.

It was far past time to exact vengeance on these beasts.

Once again Lan Jue released his Boundless Starlight and in response the light of distance stars shone brightly upon them. In contrast to before, though, this time the light of the stars covered a much larger area.
The incoming alien reinforcements were immediately swallowed up. Lan Jue and Qianlin followed up by releasing a prismatic spray from their Harmonious Swords to black their path forward.

At the same time Qianlin was stretching to spread the warmth of her Queen of Light Discipline ever farther. Primarily it had to reach Luo Xianni, so that she could use her full strength without fear of universal protogenia.

Lan Jue’s expression was as deep and inscrutable as the sea. He was cold, calculating, collected, and the calmer he was the most dangerous he became. The power summoned through him and Qianlin, channeled through their swords, stopped the aliens dead in their tracks. But it did not stop them from reacting.

Humanity wasn’t alone in adapting to the situation!

The six avatars of Monarch, Queen and Consort linked hands and created a circle. Together they released their Creation and Destruction Discipline and allowed it to spread its chaos. Meanwhile their bodies also began to change.

Threads of purple light appeared between them and twined
together. Quickly the light coalesced into a shape, a figure that swallowed up the rich aura of strength seeping from all the avatars around it.

Was there no end to what these beasts could do? Lan Jue was almost at a loss, for as he watched these six beasts combined into one. The three-headed, six-armed horror’s central head took the shape of Monarch’s ‘human’ features. On either side were Queen and Consort.

A nightmarish amalgamation of the three – a sort of humanoid hydra!

Once they combined into a single form, the strength of the new creation’s aura surged. All of a sudden it was stronger than the fallen Princess, even stronger than the Prince. It even seemed to surpass the mighty avatar Lan Jue had fought in the depths of Monarch.

“Humans, your species is destined for destruction. It is foolish to think you can resist your fate. Give in to the inevitable and we will grant you immortality.” The middle head, Monarch’s, spoke to them.
Lan Jue didn’t bother to reply. In lieu of words he thrust forward with Captus and released a stream of focused flow in its direction. Qianlin imitated and released her thousand blades as one style to join with Lan Jue’s, and together they melded into the versicolored ray of the Harmonious Swords. Together they wielded power as though they commanded the Infinite.

Lights flashed around all of the monster’s six arms. Weapons appeared in each one; knife, gun, sword, halberd, axe and spear.

Monarch’s arms bore the knife and sword. As Lan Jue and Qianlin’s attack came bearing down on it the aura of power surged.

All at once all six weapons were employed, producing six beams of golden-purple light that combined into one. The two columns of energy crashed into one another.

Boom- - - -! The Boundless Starlight shell they fought in shuddered from the impact. Qianlin and Lan Jue felt a wall of force strike them so hard it knocked them back.

Chapter 873: Fire With Fire

Such a powerful aura! Such powerful protogenia! Once the six avatars joined it wasn’t so simple as adding up the sum of their parts. This new creature was several orders of magnitude stronger.

This was undoubtedly a stalwart and deadly foe.

Once more they were faced with a stalemate. Lan Jue blanched to think that if the Princess were still alive they would be doomed. He and Qianlin fought back against this new monster, empowered by the Harmonious Swords and the Boundless Starlight Domain that surrounded them.

Pandemonium prevailed. Neither side could find an advantage yet. On the face of it humanity had the numbers, but each alien attacker was more than their match on an individual level. Whether numbers or strength would prevail, was as yet impossible to determine.

Chu Cheng arrived on the scene a short time after Hua Li. He came to the Terminator’s aid and helped equalize their footing.
ξ

Middle Heaven.

A strange sphere had been carved out of part of the bastion’s bridge. It was what was left after the Photographer teleported the enemy into space, a prompt decision that saved the ship from destruction.

The Prince and his monsters were after the swords, but they would not have given up an opportunity to destroy Middle Heaven. This ship, more than any other, was responsible for the deaths of countless alien warriors. Destroying it would make their battle against the humans far easier.

Flows of energy wafted around a room at the edge of the damaged section. Lan Qing knelt therein, surrounded by a turquoise light.

Li Ke had begun the process of transferring control of Ultus the moment they left the others. It was a  ceremony  of acceptance – first, of Lan Qing as the sword’s master, then for himself as the spirit of the weapon. In this way  he  would remain, his soul a part of the weapon so long as Lan Qing
wielded it.

In a way, he had to be the one to accept Lan Qing. But the process was not going smoothly.

Lan Qing’s qualifications were solid. He was strong, and his inheritance was a vestige of the old world. However, the root of his powers rested in Buddhism. The Banishing Blades were the tools of Daoist masters, and the benevolence inherent in Vairochana’s legacy did not meld well with Ultus’ keen and cutting nature.

Lan Qing sat cross-legged on the floor with hands folded before him. Resting in the center of his core was the figure of a miniature Buddha, none other than Vairochana. Ultus hovered in the air across from the admiral.

Some part of the Buddha was rejecting Ultus, nor was the power of Ultus respectful of the legacy it was faced against. As one of the greatest weapons in the Daoist arsenal, one could imagine the arrogance a Banishing Blade might possess.

Even after years as the weapon’s master, Li Ke never truly earned the weapon’s acceptance. The reason was simple – he
was never strong enough. Lan Qing did not face that problem, and instead it became a difference of ideals.

Buddhism also required the protection of its dharma! Lan Qing meditated on this as he looked past Ultus’ bloodthirst, past its cutting aura. But the blade struggled for it would accept the light of Vairochana. Neither side gave ground.

If Lan Qing had not already been a Paragon perhaps the process would have been easier. After all, he had not accepted the lineage of Vairochana until after his breakthrough. Yet it was lucky that he was already so strong, for the dangers of the sword were minimal to a Paragon.

All he needed was time to resolve their differences. After all, he just inherited the Buddha’s legacy, he wasn’t Vairochana himself.

Back in the days when Celestial Master Tongtian was bearer of the swords he was captured by Dipankara Buddha. Ever since the Banishing Blades – and especially Ultus – were suspicious of Buddhist faith.

Lan Qing and the will of the sword continued to clash,
working through their differences.

Li Ke stood to the side. His body ebbed and flowed with the energies that Ultus output, and anxiety was writ on his ghostly face. If this failed and Lan Qing was not accepted by Ultus, then his soul would be expelled. He would die a final death, and the seal that sustained him would burn away.

He had thought, while searching among the Paragons, that Lan Qing would be suitable. He hadn’t expected to encounter this problem. No matter how rushed or how desperate he was, though, he had to give them time. All that could be done was wait for Lan Qing to be accepted.

The minutes ticked by, and inch by inch the golden light from within him stretched out. Whatever conflict constricted his essence loosened its grip. Part of the test to become the master of Ultus was to suffer its essence. For what master could wield a weapon he could not control? Lan Qing began to understand the weapon the longer he struggled against it.

The Eastern admiral was aware of the sneak attack by the aliens even though he couldn’t help. He felt the danger but continued to meditate because he knew rushing would solve nothing. Breaking off this process before it was complete could
result in a backlash from Ultus that could threaten his life. It would at least injure him severely. Only once he had joined with Ultus and was accepted as its new master could he lend his strength to the fight.

So he focused all of his keen mind and willing spirit on becoming the next bearer of Ultus.

Lan Qing was not only wise but persistent, even stubborn. Tendrils of light reached out around him, crystalline cyan streamers of luminescence that seeped from his  every  pore. They were met with an equal number of threads from Ultus.

Once he saw this Li Ke finally heaved a sigh of relief. The Banishing Blade was beginning to compromise.

Eventually Ultus discovered it could not dissuade Lan Qing of his truth, and it's only option was to submit. It was a weapon of the gods and had the pride to prove it but even so the sword was possessed of only a rudimentary will. It may not agree with Lan Qing’s lineage, but it needed a strong arm to wield it.

Li Ke wondered whether this mighty weapon and Lan Qing coming together wasn’t the best of both worlds. Perhaps the
peace of Buddhist faith could allay the dangers of Ultus’ sharpness.

When Li Ke came to possess the sword he was already lauded as a once-in-a-generation Talent. He did not take precautions, accepted risks in order to gain quick success. How was Ultus any different? As he took and overcome these risks again and again, an abiding arrogance grew in his heart. His shortcuts were eventually his undoing.

He looked at Lan Qing, seated stoically like a bodhisattva. He knew, however, that the admiral’s body was enduring a world of suffering just below the surface.

The elder Lan had been caught in the chaos of war since breaking through to Paragon. He’d wracked his brain every day and night, using everything at his disposal to combat destruction at the hands of the aliens. He’d been blessed with a string of shining successes. Using only three bastions and twelve fleets he’d continued to punish the vastly superior enemy force. At every step he’d been pitted against a foe just as smart as he who had a sordid history of outmaneuvering human leaders.

It was to be expected that the speed of his cultivation would be affected by his change in focus. Since breaking through he’d
stayed more or less the same, a Reflection of Heaven and Earth. He hadn’t even had time to deeply explore the truths of his protogenia.

Lan Qing felt the power of Ultus enter him like a hundred thousand daggers. It was a universe of agony that assailed him body and mind, testing his will. Lan Qing resisted by sitting quietly in the light of Vairochana.

But the mightiest weapon under heaven was not so easily repelled. Ultus’ deadly power was focused not on Lan Qing’s body, but his very soul. He felt every excruciating incision carving him apart as Ultus continued to fill him with its power.

Lan Qing grit his teeth and bore it. At the same time he focused his beleaguered mind on the sword’s secrets.

What he discovered was that the sword did not disagree with him. On the contrary, it was Lan Qing who could not accept the method Ultus chose to join their minds. Domination, not submission… Ultus was trying to control him.

If Lan Qing had not been a Paragon he would not have sensed it, the feeling was faint and ambiguous. He realized Li Ke must
have experienced this, and was influenced by the creeping authority of the sword.

Lan Jue, Zhou Qianlin and the Pharmacist had not faced this trial when joining with their swords. This struggle was unique to Ultus. Submit? Lan Qing would not allow it!

Giving in was not part of the admiral’s nature. How could he give in to a tool? He knew that once he conceded to the will of the sword his spirit would begin to come under its rule. He would not have the means or right to summon Ultus’ true power.

So he endured, despite the pain. No matter how cruel or vicious Ultus’ attack on his soul he had to persevere. With Vairochana firmly set in the center of his Core, armed with his knowledge of protogenia, guided by the Buddhas of the Three Times, he did not retreat. He experienced, he understood, and he adapted.

Chapter 874: Joining With the Sword

If Li Ke was still master of the sword Lan Qing would be unable to break his connection and fuse with Ultus. However, with only the sword’s own will to contend against dominating it would be much easier. As resistance waned Lan Qing took in the tendrils of power from Ultus into himself where it began to join with the light around Vairochana.

The nimbus of orange light surrounding the Buddha took on a turquoise hue. Ultimately it was Lan Qing’s wind-element Discipline that connected him with fully with the sword. It was impossible to force Ultus to accept Vairochana entirely, instead he found common ground through wind.

Lan Qing was surprised by the result.

When it was time to break through to Paragon, Lan Qing forsook his natural Talent and took on the inheritance of Vairochana with his father’s guidance. His wind Discipline remained, but separate from the new powers of the Buddhist lineage. Upon rising to a Reflection he wanted to find a way to join the two and thus improve his protogenic potency. In doing so he would pave the way toward Nirvana. Only, he hadn’t had the time.
Instead by happy circumstance his forced delay ultimately facilitated his success in combining with Ultus. As it was without bias Lan Qing’s wind powers served as a bridge between his protogenia and the godblade.

A pale corona of light flickered around him, and a small smile touched Lan Qing’s lips. His hands slowly curled into the dharma mudra seal and mystical sigils appeared in his palm. As the turquoise light gradually withdraw a halo  of  orange encircled Lan Qing’s head. Vairochana’s radiance shined all around him.

Was it over? Li Ke’s eyes glimmered. As he watched Lan Qing opened his mouth and a beam of turquoise light burst forth. It was Ultus.

The sword’s light was the same, but for the fact that it seemed somehow softer. This was because any trace of its keen nature had been removed.

Now was Li Ke’s time. The spirit began to meditate and all of his experience, his will, dissolved into a beam of light that melded with that of Ultus.
The process was smoother than he’d thought it might  be. While soothing chants hung in the air Li Ke allowed himself to become one with the godblade. The power of the sword stabilized his ebbing spirit.

He’d prepared himself to suffer the bite of Ultus through this process. It was certain, Li Ke thought, that he would suffer injuries from the sword’s cutting essence that he might not recover from. Yet now that the time was upon him he was surprised to find his fears were for naught. None of the danger or pain he’d prepared for was present. He became the spirit of the sword without incident.

Lan Qing opened his eyes, and a faint flickering of turquoise light appeared and vanished within his orange halo. A wonderful sensation drew his attention to the sword, still before him.

He smiled. Ultus, first of the Banishing Blades – the greatest weapon of the gods!

Godblade was a worthy name. Even the faintest vestiges of its will was almost more than he could accept.
He opened his mouth and the sword, dissolving into a beam of light, vanished within. Immediately the light of his halo intensified. A moment later he was a streak of light flying into the distance.

ξ

On the outskirts of the armada, the battle between man and monster raged on.

The fight between the Violet Prince and the Photographer was evenly matched and they traded blows that shook the heavens. Had Luo Xianni been given more time to find the essence of her Infinite powers the fight would have been easier, for humanity’s potency was always more than what these aliens could achieve. But she was still freshly arisen, and unfamiliar with the nuances the Infinite contained. Were Jue Di alive the situation would have been very different. As it was the humans were beginning to lose steam.

Luo Xianni was managing to hold her own, but the others were flagging. Faced off against other Infinite-level monstrosities the Paragons were at an increasingly dangerous disadvantage. The Violet Princess was dead and the Prince was busy, but that left two peak-strength enemies still to deal with.
They were the avatars of Monarch and Queen.

Terminator and Chu Cheng were a team, facing the might of Queen’s avatar. Relying on his staggering strength, Terminator had so far been able to withstand Queen’s devastating attacks. She lashed at the two of them with tendrils of purple light more cutting than any sword save Ultus. Mighty as the Terminator’s defenses were his body was still soaked from the blood of several dozen wounds. None threatened his life, but they’d begun to take a toll on his abilities.

The Terminator had suffered some trauma before Chu Cheng arrived. Although he helped to take some of the focus off the Conclave’s leader, Chu Cheng was only a Reflection of Heaven and Earth. Against an enemy as puissant as the Queen there was little he could do. The Terminator had to shield Chu Cheng from the avatar’s attacks otherwise a single successful hit might end him.

With time Terminator was forced to expend more energy, and Chu Cheng’s stamina was also quickly being spent. As the pressure mounted both men knew a single misstep could mean their lives.

Things were somewhat less bleak in the fight against
Monarch’s avatar. The Wine Master and Epochrion were bringing the full might of space-time to bear against the terrifying alien. The Pauper and Driver backed them up. The Driver’s Primordial lightning was particularly effective in containing the avatar and was most lethal. So long as these Paragons continued to fight in unison they could defend themselves.

However the might of a creature of the Infinite was the stuff of legends. It crushed the waves of space-time protogenia as they came and shrugged off its debilitating effects. Each time the avatar fought back the four Paragons had to struggle mightily to respond.

Most importantly, the Wine Master and Epochrion were battling against someone several classes above them. They were managing to contain some measure of the avatar’ Infinite powers but it cost them greatly. Eventually they would tire.

Luckily the Driver’s cultivation was also nearly Reflection- level. Even without a breakthrough his Primordial Lightning was a threat to the monster and gave them an edge. Still, it was clear the only way they could hope to survive was to finish the fight quickly. Each passing minute inched their chances closer to zero.
This engagement teetered on a razor’s edge. If one side should fall all the rest would follow. This was especially true for the humans.

Things were no better for Lan Jue and Zhou Qianlin. Hand in hand they wielded the power of the Harmonious Blades masterfully, but the monster they faced was the strongest of them all. Once the avatars combined into this three headed, six armed abomination its power surpassed even the Infinite. Jue Di in his prime would have struggled.

Lan Jue and Qianlin fought with all of their strength. So far they were able to distract the creature. And indeed distract was their purpose. Captured within Lan Jue’s Boundless Starlight the hydra couldn’t influence the other fights, but that was all they could hope to achieve. Any attempt to kill the beast was futile, especially after expending so much energy in killing the Princess.

Fear began to worm its way into Lan Jue’s mind. If they were forced to continue the fight like this the only outcome would be defeat. If any flank collapsed everything would be lost.

The greatest hopes were placed on the Pharmacist, who faced the best odds. She was battling three Nirvana-level creatures
and had the Gods of Wine, the Keeper, and the Bookworm to aid her. But Lan Jue quickly found they had nowhere to go, for the simple reason that they were too tired. Some of them had taken injuries, in particular the Gods of Wine and the Gourmet. They’d pushed themselves to their limit in fighting the Violet Princess. She was now dead but their strength had quickly fallen off. Hua Li was fresh, but unfortunately was weaker in cultivation.

As a result most of the responsibility for the fight fell on the Pharmacist’s shoulders. While the fight looks like seven on three, it was hardly as easy as the math might suggest.

What’s more the Pharmacist had just experienced a deeply emotional event, one which was still affecting her.  Her Slaughter Domain was deadly, but only empowered her if she took life. Thus far she’d only managed to kill one. Strong as the Princess was a single victory didn’t catalyze the full might of the Pharmacist’s Domain. So it was that her battle was the only one that could put pressure on the enemy, but killing them seemed unlikely.

What could they do? Unless something drastic changed they were on losing footing.
A voice rang in Lan Jue’s ear. “Lan Jue, if things start to come apart you take Qianlin and the Pharmacist and return to the bastion. Its defenses should keep you safe. I know a way that will take me out and this bastard with me – or at least seriously wound it.”

Lan Jue felt his heart skip a beat. The plan was delivered calmly, but he could hear the solemn sadness in it.

Terminator! The Northern leader couldn’t hold out any more. He had one chance to go out together with his foe. If he waited any longer he couldn’t have the energy remaining to do it.

Chapter 875: The Terminator’s Undead Sorcery

The Terminator knew it’d come to the end, he’d prepared for it. If he hesitated any longer it would be too late. At least he wouldn’t let his failure become the end for his allies. He could die proud of that fact.

“Your Majesty, wait a moment.” Lan Jue pleaded.

From the outbreak of war they’d lost Satan, Xiuxiu, and most recently the Pontiff. There were so few of them left. If the Terminator… The realization was like a dagger to the heart, but he couldn’t think of a good excuse to give the Paragon.

“Take care of Chu Cheng, he is the North’s last hope. If you defeat the aliens, help him do what he must.” The Terminator’s voice was calm, with little emotion. It was Lan Jue who felt his heart sink with these final wishes.

He couldn’t summon the words to ask him to stop. Now was the time for action, or the chance to make the Terminator’s death mean something would pass.
The Conclave’s leader took a deep breath. Suddenly his body surged, and a crackling light like electricity radiated from his dark gold skin. The strange and unexpected scene caused the Queen’s avatar to shiver. She flicked her wrist and the threads of purple light she wielded gathered together to protect her. Chu Cheng’s attacks could not get through, and she hoped it would be the same for whatever Terminator was planning.

Golden light shone from the convert’s eyes. All of a sudden his aura burst out like a torrent and a burning shell of golden light sprang up. In horror they watched as his protogenia consumed him. The Terminator was his own Domain, and as it turned in on him his skin and muscles melted away. In the same moment the bones beneath grew, and in a few short breaths the Terminator had become an enormous golden skeleton.

“This is…” The Keeper, so wise and learned, gasped when he saw what was happening. He vaguely remembered seeing something like this in an ancient text.

“Undead Sorcery!” The Bookworm blurted out, completing the Keeper’s thought.

Yes, undeath! The Keeper recalled learning about it. But to his knowledge it was an ancient Discipline from the West. They
were called Necromancer, and their goal was to understand life through death. When a Necromancer reached the end of their natural lifespan they sought to become undead, and thus live forever to continue their dark studies.

A necromancer might also choose undeath if, in the course of their experiments, they suffered grave injuries. The process was irreversible, and the moment the Necromancer shed their body they were no longer human. They belonged to the ranks of the dead.

But in all his research the Keeper had never heard of someone becoming undead in the middle of a fight – much less seen it.

Relying on what he could sense the Keeper realized the Terminator was filtering all the energy of his body into his skeleton. It made the Terminator stronger, though beyond that the old researcher couldn’t tell how else it affected him. It went without saying this process made the Terminator a terrifying force on the battlefield. He now commanded the power of the Infinite.

Boom--! With one punch the shield Queen had created broke apart into a thousand pieces. The Terminator’s eyes were the only flesh of his to remain, and in their depths burned the
indomitable force of his soul. He reached forth with his bony hands to try and snatch up the avatar, and where they passed great fissured appeared in the fabric of space-time.

The Terminator also kicked a foot, but this was aimed at Chu Cheng. He knocked the young Paragon away from him and toward where the Pharmacist was fighting.

Queen’s avatar whipped the threads of purple to create another barrier. She channeled her Creation and Destruction Domain around her in total defense.

But to her shock and horror, the Terminator’s bony hands suffered nothing when they reached into her Domain. Neither the powers of creation nor destruction seemed to apply to this golden skeleton on any level.

Boom! Queen was flung away with the force of the punch leaving behind a caustic purple mist. He’d wounded her badly. However the Terminator also paused. He couldn’t maintain this unnatural form for long.

“AGGHH!!” The North’s ultimate Paragon, leader of the Great Conclave, heaved with a roar that threatened to deafen
everyone nearby. Once more his skeletal form blazed with golden light and became a thousand ghostly copies. All at once they swarmed Queen, cutting off any means of escape.

No one could have guessed the Terminator possessed such a ghastly and potent ability, not the aliens nor the other humans. It was a skill that would cost the man his life, but might also turn the tide of battle. The Queen’s avatar was currently lost beneath the myriad copies of Terminator assailing her.

Lan Jue was the only one who could sense that the Terminator’s life force was gone. It was the power of his spirit that sustained him, but only for this final onslaught.

If it could be said that the Pontiff’s sacrifice galvanized their fighting spirit, the Terminator’s downfall set their blood to boiling. The Keeper and Bookworm exchanged a silent look, and each saw the determination in the other’s eyes. The Avenue’s old scientist extended his right hand, and the Bookworm took it with his left.

“You old queer, what are you grabbing my hand for?!” His words were harsh, but he gripped his friend’s hand tightly.
Queer seemed the least offensive. In China the term for homosexual is ‘glass people’ – I’m not sure why.

Their bodies began to shine brightly – a clear and brilliant light like the sun shining through crystal.

Humanity couldn’t be allowed to lose this fight. If they did all of mankind would be lost. If the Terminator was willing to kill himself to slaughter his enemies, the other Paragons were unfaltering in their will to do the same.

ξ

“We ourselves are an ultimate weapon. I must admit, it feels good.” The Bookworm mused.

The Keeper chortled. “What’s this ‘we’, eh? I. You can’t do the sort of damage I can if you turn yourself into a weapon.”

The Bookworm’s famous temper flared. “You old coot. What’s the point in being so competitive at your age. I’ve already made up my mind, either we succeed or I’m going down fighting. I’ve lived long enough, I’ve experienced all I want to. To be as old as
us and not die in stealing from the young! What say you to that?”

The Keeper proudly answered. “I hope it does come to this, then we’ll see who dies in front of whom, eh?!”

Scornfully the Bookworm spat back. “How can you be such a coward? So afraid of death!”

He replied with a chilly laugh. “Fear of death, laughable. The youth of Skyfire Avenue have grown wise and strong. When the old hands like me die they’ll be around to support what we’ve built. Dying to give them an opportunity is a worthy cause. I just want to make sure I take at least a couple of those bastard aliens with me.”

The Bookworm waggled his hands together in front of the Keeper’s face, held together like a turtle. “Well the first one to chicken out is one of these!”

If you call someone a turtle it’s sort of like ‘bastard’, but used more specifically it can mean cuckold – ones wife is cheating on him. I guess ‘cuck’ is the modern Western equivalent, though I feel gross just writing it since it’s used largely by e-peen waving
trolls and morons.

ξ

“No!” Lan Jue screamed at them to stop but couldn’t free himself from his own fight.

The Keeper shot his young friend a look, paired with a haughty smirk. With a brazen wave of goodbye he took a step forward. Both he and the Bookworm were suddenly positioned above their section of the battlefield.

The three Nirvana-levels aliens they fought against had begun to win. However they stopped their attack in surprise once the two elder scientists appeared overhead. They had seen what was happening to the Queen’s avatar. Evidently these humans were capable of mad feats of destruction when on the brink of death, and it frightened them.

But these avatars were different from the Prince and Princess. They were copies of Monarch, Queen and Consort who demanded those Banishing Blades captured. They would not flee, not when their mission went unfulfilled.
Their Creation and Destruction Domain flared and swallowed up a portion of the space around them. They launched forward full bore, attacking the Pharmacist and her allies with abandon.

The eyes of every Avenue Paragon were wet. The Keeper and Bookworm were old, but no one could replace what they meant to Skyfire and the East as a whole. They were the top minds of their Alliance, who had given selflessly and enormously to all mankind. Insights into Middle Heaven’s molinite core were due to them. There was a long time they didn’t work together, but that didn’t mean either ever ceased working to uncover the secrets of the universe.

Now war had come to claim them, and no one could stop it.

The two mad scientists cackled as they embraced, despite a lifetime of bitter rivalry. The white light around them rose until it was too intense to look upon.

Two white dots appeared within two of the monsters below. The aliens felt themselves go numb, when suddenly a staggering sense of danger overwhelmed their senses. IT was so frightening they felt the urge to flee despite Monarch’s directive.
But the Pharmacist and other would not allow it. Thousands of copies of Occisus appeared in the space around them, coming in on all sides and preventing the aliens from going anywhere.

Chapter 876: Lan Qing Arrives!

“Unacceptable!” A rich and commanding voice boomed around them, and a golden light shone down from on high to encase the Keeper and Bookworm.

The two old men had primed all the remaining energy in their body. Through some means they’d targeted two of the enemy and were preparing a blast that’d erase their foes from existence. Yet when the golden light enveloped them they felt a sense of warmth and comfort and the raging tide of energy within them eased. The powers of both men returned harmlessly to their respective Cores.

“Leave them to me!” A figure raced passed the two stunned old researchers. A golden-turquoise light sparkled in their eyes as they watched a wondrous Buddha appear from  nowhere seated in the midst of the fighting.

“Great Spiritual Mantra!” The guttural chant rang out like a bell, and everything seemed to calm. All of the pain, anger and disquiet in the hearts of the Paragons was assuaged, and stopped the alien monsters in their tracks.

An enormous blue, green and gold hand came crashing down
from above to strike at the central avatar attacking the Pharmacist. It lifted its arms to try and ward it off.

Boom--! The figure that had come with the Buddha’s hand was knocked back. But the alien did not come away unscathed. A flicker of turquoise light burns in its palm before, suddenly, the beast’s whole arm cracked down the middle.

Excitement glinted in the Pharmacist’s eyes. She’d been waiting for this opportunity, and reacted by lashing out with Occisus. Guided by the turquoise light the copies of her sword wrapped together, became a single cohesive beam of energy and struck!

Thump! A pair of deep gashes appeared on the avatar’s shoulder, and a murderous aura ripped through it. Screaming in pain, the monster was blasted away.

Suddenly three enemies became two, and the remaining Paragons redoubled their attacks. What’s more, the Keeper and Bookworm had put a deep fear in them after nearly detonating themselves to achieve victory.

The figure that had so suddenly arrived returned to the two
old men. Lan Qing regarded them both.

He looked at each and gave them a nod of respect. Without saying a word he was off, descending to help the Pharmacist. At some point a shimmering blade had appeared in his hand. Ultus, the greatest weapon of the gods!

Lan Qing’s sudden arrival caused the humans’ morality to soar. In the distance the Terminator’s final strike was about to land.

The myriad golden skeletons eventually melded back into one and the Terminator’s form reappeared in its entirety. Queen’s avatar also reappeared, only not as she had been. Her upper half was securely caught in the Terminator’s bony maw. Her lower half floated through space in several pieces.

The golden light in the skeleton’s eyes had begun to dim. His mission accomplished, he raced off toward Chu Cheng.

“Your Majesty!” Chu Cheng cried out and rushed forward to meet the light. By the time they reached each other the Terminator had gone from the size of a starship to no larger than a hand. Chu Cheng caught him instinctively, now only a
skull. The light in its eyes had gone out, but clenched tight in its bony jaws was a twinkling gemstone. The avatar’s vital crystal.

The Terminator had put every ounce of his body and soul toward destroying that monster. He succeeded, but all that remained were his inert remains. Just as the Keeper and Bookworm had come to terms with dying, he’d prepared for this eventuality. Few knew that the Terminator was more than just the strongest Northern Adept, but also its foremost scientist. He’d done all his research under an assumed name to keep the secret. No one was more proficient in the art of conversion than he.

After achieving Nirvana the Terminator underwent a series of physical upgrades. He happily used the new powers available to him in order to improve upon his construction. Of course as his cultivation grew so did his abilities.

The Terminator’s final secret was one even Lan Jue was surprised to discover. The energy that had come from that golden skeleton was nothing short of stupefying. In reality the Terminator hadn’t even developed it for use against the aliens. The home worlds hadn’t even appeared when he had it installed.
At the time Skyfire Avenue’s Adept superiority had begun to be revealed. He needed an answer, especially since the North had a history of harassing the East. What would happen if war should break out, he thought? What if he were to face the strongest of Skyfire Avenue, or even Jue Di? This awful but effective result was what he came up with.

But the state of the universe had changed dramatically since then. In the end his secret weapon was turned against the enemies of mankind and not his fellows, though his mind was ever on the North and the Conclave he commanded. His skeletal form was a sort of god weapon, strange and unique, which was then bequeathed to Chu Cheng along with an Infinite-level vital crystal. The Terminator’s final message was clear. Protect the Great Conclave!

Another of the might Infinite-level aliens had fallen. As a result, things began to change rapidly on the field. Lan Qing’s arrival was the final straw to tip the balance  in  humanity’s favor.

Had the Terminator not used his life to earn them an advantage the Queen’s avatar would have been Lan Qing’s first target. Even then, there was no guarantee that they would have been able to take the alien down. The other flanks would still have been in danger of succumbing. But with one of their top
warriors dead, the balance of power shifted.

Xiuxiu. The Pontiff. The Terminator. Mankind had suffered terribly from this sneak attack. But the aliens had also lost two of their own, and two of their strongest along with the vital crystals that empowered them.

Lan Qing’s face was grim as he and the Pharmacist fought shoulder to shoulder. His understanding of Ultus was minimal at best, but he could still feel the blade reacting to Occisus. Whether it was the keen power of Lan Qing’s weapon or the bloodthirsty aura of Occisus, both godblades were stronger together than they were apart. Perhaps not as strong as the Harmonious Swords, but a mighty force nonetheless.

The Keeper and Bookworm still held one another above the fray. The Bookworm snorted. “That was quite the trick up the Terminator’s sleeves. That meathead really pulled it off! Certainly worthy of respect.”

The Keeper nodded in agreement. “Indeed! He died a hero. But we’re still alive, beyond all expectations. What was this young punk doing, stopping us!”
“Eh? Why the hell are you so close to me! Have you been eating garlic? Agh!” The Bookworm said through a scowl.

“Bullshit, you were the one eating garlic! You wrinkly bastard, get away from me!”

Both men released one another at the same time and separated by a handful of meters. Yet as though still of one mind the two of them lifted their hands and fired off shots of their Positron Canon at the nearby avatars.

The Bookworm and Keeper attacked from above, while the Gods of Wine helped from below. Nearby Hua Li lent his powers. Lan Qing and the Pharmacist fought within their midst.

Lan Qing was only a Reflection of Heaven and Earth, but one could not discount the might of his lineage. The dharmic image of Vairochana frightened the aliens. As the light of the Buddha blazed, and the aura of their godly weapons swelled, the pressure lain upon these monsters continued to grow. This went double for the Monarch avatar that was already injured.

The Terminator’s sacrifice also affected Lan Jue deeply.
He’d always been cautious of the Northern leader. There always existed the possibility that he would turn against the East, and he’d proven that. However, at the same time he admired the master of the Great Conclave. He was willing to do whatever it took to protect his people, up to and including giving his own life. The blood he gave didn’t only help his people, but all people. Was this not a gift to be cherished?

In addition, Lan Qing’s arrival meant the four Banishing Blades were finally together, with masters to wield them. Though they could not yet employ the Banishing Strategy just being in close proximity amplified them all. Three golden runes blazed on Captus and Demortus now, and their glow further strengthened the ones who wielded them. All of a sudden the tables had turned.

The change was not decisive, but things were beginning to turn in their favor. The Violet Prince’s face had grown dark and anxious. He knew that if things continued along this path they would fail, and likely face more losses.

Their aim was not to destroy the humans but to recover at least one of their weapons. He had to see it done, and quickly.

The Prince quickly cast his eyes around the battlefield, and
they eventually fell upon Lan Qing. He knew it at a glance; the sword that human wielded was the one stolen from Monarch!

When he realized it the Prince belched a roar. Space around him quivered as the powers of creation and destruction swapped. His body vanished.

Even the Photographer, with her mastery of space-time, was caught off guard. The method he used to transfer was completely different from hers. Somehow the monster used the gap between creation and destruction to leap small distances.

Chapter 877: A Radical Reversal

A flash of purple light appeared behind Lan Qing. The Prince appeared, reaching out for the admiral’s back. With all the power of Infinity behind it, if the strike landed Lan Qing would be done for.

Luo Xianni chased after the monster, right on his heels. Now the Violet Prince was in a difficult position, for if he chose to focus on Lan Qing and land his attack he left himself open to vengeance from Luo Xianni.

But he had no option. Getting the sword was paramount. No one was prepared for the sudden shift in battlefield dynamics.

Lan Qing felt something wasn’t right, even before the flood of Creation and Destruction Domain stopped him from moving. The difference in strength between them was too great, he couldn’t extricate himself from the trap.

It was during this life-threatening moment that Ultus reacted. The sword became a streak of light that arced backward behind Lan Qing to swipe at his enemy. Just a single reaction, but the keen power of the godblade forced the Violet Prince to react.
Lan Qing wasn’t the only one who could wield Ultus. It possessed the spirit of Li Ke, and the former master could also exact a measure of control.

Li Ke was different from Jun Yongye or Xuanyuan Shishi. The latter spirits were created by the sword and shared the will of the weapon. They were a part of the godblades, and were controlled rather than controllers. The sword was their master.

Li Ke, on the other hand, was once master. His unfortunate death forced him to emblazon his spirit within the weapon. With the mark of his soul in the blade he could manifest his will through it.

This independent will was exercised when Lan Qing was frozen. At the key moment Li Ke – through Ultus – struck back. Linked with Lan Qing’s will and the power he contained, he acted as an extension so that they were not defenseless.

The Violet Prince made a quick determination and broke off his attack. This time he would be denied.

Although he would have gravely injured or killed Lan Qing, the riposte from Ultus would have likely wounded him in
return. The sword would remain out of reach. Luo Xianni would have quickly followed, and with her strength she would have dealt a blow he might not be able to recover from. The tradeoff wasn’t worth it.

Lan Qing’s face was calm but a cold sweat had broken out along his back. He knew he’d been inches from death. But he was an admiral, and the shock of nearly losing his life was quickly pushed aside. His eyes flashed, and he began to give orders through targeted acoustics, delivered only to the target of his commands.

One could not forget that Lan Qing was more than an admiral. He was a preeminent warrior of the Eastern Alliance, and a Divine Monarch. He had led his brothers in the contest against Star Alliance guided by the Clairvoyant and nearly won, and he did it through control of the battlefield. His wisdom and talent of command could be applied wherever it was needed.

The flow of battle continued to change. The Driver and his eight companions broke off from trading blows with Monarch’s Infinite-level avatar. Two identical particle beams swept by and kept the beast from moving and allowed the Paragons to regroup.
Lan Qing ordered everyone together. This served to protect him, but also to set them up to be more effectively organized.

“Prajna-paramita!” Lan Qing muttered the mantra which summoned his dharmic image. The admiral’s body swelled while the power of the Buddha caused the Creation and Destruction Domain encasing him to grow translucent.

A clock appeared in Vairochana’s hand that shimmered with a rainbow of colors. Time began to act erratically.

Everyone focused on four enemies; Monarch’s  strongest avatar and the three Nirvana-level doppelgangers. One of them was already wounded.

Luo Xianni continued to grapple with the Prince. Their clash had only become more intense.

The four avatars gathered together and eyed their opponents warily. Their instinct told them to flee, but that was not an option. The home worlds demanded success or death.

Monarch’s strongest avatar lifted its arms toward the sky, and
a golden-purple light sprang up around it. The other three pressed close. Together, the aura of their power swelled in defiance.

The Paragons didn’t hesitate. First to react was not Lan Qing nor the Pharmacist. It was the Driver. He had chosen one of his previous names to adopt as his Paragon title – the Voltaic Wraith. He’d always liked it.

Flashes of purple Primordial Lightning lit up space, a marvelous and frightening display. Its power was palpable as it spread across the field. Pressure descended upon the four avatars, so intense it started to influence their own aura. Flashes of Primordial Lightning continued to ripple in the darkness but were not directed at the monsters yet. Their presence was intended to suppress.

Lan Qing and the Pharmacist shot forward to the head of the group of Paragons. They seemed determined to face the avatars two on four.

A beam of gentle blue light fell upon them. Their aura expanded as though full with water – Poseidon’s amplification. Another pool of blue light appeared after the Primordial Lightning began to flash, but this amalgamation of power
gathered around the feet of the avatars. It gripped them like a mire, preventing them from moving.

These monsters were powerful, and individually these attacks did not amount to much. However, as they came one upon the other their influence compounded. Uncertainty gripped them as they felt themselves slipping deeper into trouble. The strongest of them was forced to react.

Its attack was measured, a punch that released an orb of Creation and Destruction power about the size of a rice bowl. The punch was directed at Lan Qing, for he held the sword stolen from Monarch. The home world’s command was to direct their strength against the human admiral and recover the sword. Once it was in hand they were instructed to retreat.

Tactically they planned to weaken him with a  series  of attacks. Then once he couldn’t defend himself any longer they would attack all at once and claim their prize.

There was a flash of silver and then, without warning, all of the humans were simply gone. No trace remained of the humans, their swords, or the powers they employed.
On shaky footing and with the battle turning against them, the avatar was cautious. Lan Qing was its target, but it did not use its full strength. When that silver light flashed it felt its psychic lock erased. With no target in sight its attack sped off into space.

Then the light flashed again, and suddenly the avatars were surrounded.

Countless thorny vines reached from the darkness of space attempting to wrap up the avatars. Purple light flashed from around their leader and burned the creepers to ash.

The last thing the aliens wanted was to be surrounded. With nowhere to turn Monarchs avatar gathered the others and together they tried to break the encirclement. It was confident in success, for although the enemy was strong and in greater numbers they couldn’t contend against its overwhelming power.

Before they could reach an edge the interior of the encirclement became thickly populated with threads of red light. Suddenly their feet were caught, and when the avatars looked down they saw silver space-time fissures as the threads of red light tightly gripping their legs. Before they could react
an orb of marbled light surrounded them that slowed the passage of time to a crawl.

In less time than it took for fear to grip them, the avatars were weakened, captured and under enemy control. Despite their lofty powers these monsters were stuck. Their only option was to rely on their Domain, and hope they were strong enough to overpower the forces arrayed against them.

Their plan had been a good one, and likely effective if left unchecked. But their dramatic break had been brought to a standstill.

The Infinite-level Paragon’s eyes had gone from a deep purple to a brilliant gold. In this fight its cultivation was second to none, no human could contend against it. The monster pressed ahead with indomitable force to burst through the impediments.

At last the hindrances were breached, it was through. The avatar seared across the darkness of space as a beam of purple light, only stopping when it was time miles from the trap. A second followed close on his heels, then a third.
“Hm?” The avatar felt something was amiss and looked back to where the humans waited.

None of them gave chase, and in fact remained right where they’d been. Finally the monster noticed its three companions were now only two.

Chapter 878: Synchronicity

Moments after Monarch’s avatar realized something was amiss, a hailstorm of light descended on its absent companion. Before the beast could react, one of its allies was gone.

In the moments after the strongest of the avatars broke encirclement, its three companions also sought to follow. The first two succeeded, but the third was cut off by two searing lights that blocked its escape.

The first was turquoise – Ultus, the greatest of godblades. It was joined by the white and murderous blaze of Occisus. They were wielded by the Harbinger Faerie and the Peerless Light Emperor of Middle Heaven. What chance did this single Nirvana-level creature have?

The two columns of light closed out a vast swath of area. Next the almost pitiful beast was put down by the collective ire of the Paragons. None of the humans in that crowd had achieved Nirvana, but they were Paragons nonetheless! What’s more, the deadly power wielded by Lan Qing and the Pharmacist was no less than a Nirvana-level warrior.

Beneath the hail of protogenia, assailed by the cutting power
of Ultus and Occisus murderous will, the monster could only watch death come. It took no longer than a single breath and one of the alien elite was torn to pieces. Its vital crystal was extricated and captured.

Ten seconds had passed since Lan Qing joined in their battle. Already one Nirvana-level monster was dead. Could  the addition of a single Paragon really make such a dramatic difference? The answer, of course, was no. The difference was tactics.

Monarch’s Infinite-level avatar watched the scene unfold. It wanted to flee, but the will of Monarch was steadfast. Desperate for the sword, the distant home world forced its representative on, charging at Lan Qing.

Radiant golden-purple light burned around it. The beast was ready to risk its life for the cause, for recovering Ultus was worth all they’d lost and more. Its task would be complete.

But once the Paragons destroyed the avatar they scattered like leaves on an autumn wind. They fled in all different directions. On a planet their choices were limited, but out here in space they were given free range. The remaining three were each mighty in their own right, but in the end were but three against
many. They were limited in the area they could cover.

Lan Qing made his way toward Lan Jue and Zhou Qianlin. The Pharmacist chose a path that brought her toward the Violet Prince and Luo Xianni. The remaining Paragons had no readily discernible target.

Monarch’s avatar stuck to Lan Qing without thought. Its dogged pursuit for Ultus was an obsession.

Lan Qing arrived at La Jue’s side quickly, his brother’s Boundless Starlight Domain opened to let him in. In a blink of pink light the Pharmacist also appeared. She’d raced toward Luo Xianni and right into a portal of her making that conveyed the Harbinger Faerie here.

Turquoise, white, red and blue; incisive, savage, controlling and nimble. The four Banishing Blades were raised in unison. Each of them gleamed their tell-tale light and as they turned upon the three headed six armed abomination, the monster felt as though its soul was being torn asunder.

Lan Qing was only a Reflection of Heaven and Earth. However his appearance on the field was more than just the addition of
another Paragon, he brought with him the final piece of the Banishing Blades.

Back on Middle Heaven the four weapons were gathered, but Ultus did not have a living master. Even then the power they released shocked the whole fleet. Now the swords and their bearers were together to create a cacophonous rhapsody, calling forth tremendous power and supplementing one another’s strength.

This was not the Banishing Strategy, but a glimpse of what it could achieve. When these godblades were together the pillars of heaven shook and its denizens reduced to bones. This was not the Banishing Strategy, but they were frightening enough as it was.

For the first time the alien avatars could see what the blades were capable of. Time slowed to an ominous crawl as the hydra watched Lan Qing, Lan Jue, the Pharmacist, and Zhou Qianlin point at it with their swords. Pressure mounted as the lights collected at their tips.

Run! It was the only thought in the monster’s brain. It had to protect its life if it wanted to get those swords. This logic seemed to agree with it and the alien lurched backward to flee –
anything to get out of the blades’ path.

Much to the monster’s surprise it felt freed. The Boundless Starlight Domain and the ethereal lightning that had weakened it were gone. All the tension vanished and suddenly it was filled with a sense of comfort and confidence. Risking a moment to turn back and look, it saw that the swords’ lights had turned away. Captus’ red glare led them in an entirely different direction.

Captus’ power was turned through the power of Taiji’s Deflect and Punch technique. Its altered course brought the others in tow toward a new target – Monarch’s strongest avatar.

At Infinite-level the avatar was superior to its fellows. It was faster as well as stronger, and had reacted before any of the others in its pursuit of Lan Qing. The two remaining Nirvana- level companions were yet to catch up. As such this  single avatar was forced to stand alone against the Middle Heaven Great Emperor of the North Pole Star of Purple Subtlety, The Queen of Heaven Guanyin, the Harbinger Faerie and  the Peerless Light Emperor of Middle Heaven.

They were the apex of humanity’s next generation, wielding the power of the Banishing Blades. In addition Lan Jue and
Qianlin had already achieved Nirvana. The Violet Prince would struggle against the two of them. This avatar was racing headlong toward four.

As the four beams of light carved a path, Lan Jue and Qianlin’s attack combined. The brilliant light of the Harmonious Swords created a rainbow of light pointed at the chest of the avatar. The power of Ultus and Occisus passed on either side.

Lan Jue was shocked to find another secret revealed as they launched their attack. Working in unison something new appeared within each of them, something bestowed by the swords. It felt like an invisible vein connecting him to Captus. It created a network spreading through his entire body, guiding his energy and protogenia through the channels.

The sparkling light of the Harmonious Swords vanished as Captus became red once more. But this time it was different, for the blades’ red glow was strange and profound. It was as though the sword itself was the border of a thousand fissures in space- time. Layer upon layer of dimensional collapse was contained within, like a portal to the depths of reality.

His was not the only weapon to change. Qianlin sensed it too
as their link broke and Demortus’ blue light burst forth. Its diffused capacity coalesced into a single beam that stuck close to the light of Captus. Meanwhile the deep red trench it carved in space spat out errant gusts of power. These rings were like the event horizons of black holes, cast out in all directions.

Ultus and Occisus were slower, but only slightly. A murderous sense pervaded the air as Occisus’ itself became a gust of sword qi. It slipped into the guiding ray of Captus and was quickly spat out. Manifestations of Occisus’ power were different from those of Demortus. It made the whirling bands that were cast out all the more lethal. The Pharmacist’s Slaughter Discipline empowered the combined attack even further. The power Lan Jue sensed surpassed almost anything he’d felt before. Only Monarch’s avatar, encountered on the home world itself, was stronger.

The last to add its might was Ultus, delivered in several shafts of turquoise light. As it poured into the path cut by Captus it became a protective screen around Demortus’ orbs, a shell of impossibly sharp power.

The four Banishing Blades... combined?

All four of them had the same thought. It felt as though the
swords they bore were an inseparable part of themselves, an extension of their meridians. More than that, they were extensions of each other.

Chapter 879: Driving Off the Enemy

Monarch’s avatar saw a red light charging its way, and then suddenly found itself in a strange and terrifying new reality. The only colors were red, blue, white and turquoise and the quadra-chromatic universe shifted from one hue to another seamlessly. First the avatar’s Domain shattered under the mysterious force. Then its body followed.

The six-headed monster’s first instinct upon learning it’d been tricked was to charge back into the fight. However its brazen return was halted when it saw how completely the avatar was destroyed. From its vantage the light of the swords looked like an enormous tornado. It effortlessly swallowed Monarch’s representative and a moment later its companion’s aura was snuffed out.

The Creation and Destruction Domain of the aliens was unique, and all of these creatures shared a psychic link. The absence of the avatar’s aura was felt immediately and acutely. It was gone, like it never existed. There wasn’t even a sense of its vital crystal to be felt.

What a terrifying attack! Even Monarch himself would fear its lethality.
The tornado of light roared into the distance to where the remaining two Nirvana-level aliens had been trying to return to the fight. They were also devoured by the power of the swords. Nothing of them was left behind either.

Everything stopped once the power of the four swords ripped across the battlefield. The Violet Prince’s movements were sluggish, just enough for Luo Xianni to land a punch. Suddenly his body became a two-dimensional figure, transposed against the darkness of space. She followed up with a cruel barrage of blows. The Prince recovered but not without serious injury.

With a howl of rage and terror the hydra-beast turned to flee. Their mission was a failure. If it remained here any longer it would lose its life along with its companions. Two streaks of purple flashed across the area with shocking speed, and the creatures were gone. The roar of the four Banishing Blades combined continued for a short while before gradually lapsing into silence and darkness. Lan Jue and his four companions reappeared.

The four sword-bearers looked at one another, speechless. Their weapons had darkened, though three twinkling gems were affixed to Captus’ blade. Vital crystals.
How could this be?

The four of them shared the same thought. Lan Qing swayed but his brother was there to steady him. The Pharmacist was also visibly exhausted from their effort. Qianlin was by her side.

Lan Qing’s brow was furrowed as he thought back to what he felt. The Pharmacist’s eyes were brimming with awe. Yes, even she wasn’t entirely sure what had just happened.

The final act of their fight had been composed by Lan Qing on the fly. His aim was to weaken the enemy. Undermine their strength bit by bit until final victory could be achieved. He hadn’t anticipated that the fight would change so fast, so drastically. At best he thought they might destroy Monarch’s avatar, but the Banishing Blades achieved much more. What awesome power!

Of course, it didn’t come easy. Both Lan Qing and the Pharmacist were almost entirely drained of energy. Lan Jue and Qianlin had fared better, but not by much. Their victory was glorious, and forced introspection.

The Paragons regrouped.
If there was any doubt these four young masters could summon the Banishing Strategy, or that the swords could destroy the home worlds, that doubt was gone. What they just witnessed had overwhelmed their senses, and their sense of what was possible. And it wasn’t even the Banishing Strategy! If they succeeded in laying it out against the home worlds, humanity’s chances of survival were better than good.

It was like a weight lifted off of everyone’s chest. They breathed a little easier, though it could not be said any were excited. They’d won, but at the cost of Xiuxiu, the Terminator and the Pontiff.

Defeating the alien sneak attack had cost them dearly. One of their own Nirvana-level Paragons had given their life, but at least these beasts wouldn’t try such a maneuver again.

Lan Qing scowled. His mind worked quickly, and as such was not as at ease as his compatriots. His first thought was if using the Banishing Blades was this intensive, how much energy would they need to employ the Banishing Strategy? Indeed they’d fought back today, but it was by no means certain they could successfully use the Strategy. At least not yet.

After becoming Ultus’ master Lan Qing began to learn the
secret of the sword, with Li Ke’s help. In their synchronized attack each of the sword-bearers had become one with their weapons. If that was any indication it meant their own energies would be the catalyst for the Banishing Stance, and if so were they strong enough to sustain it?

“Let’s head back!” Luo Xianni urged. Since Jue Di’s sacrifice the joyful Photographer had become bitter.

Depression also lived in Lan Jue’s eyes. In a flash the storage device Xiuxiu had given him before she died appeared in his palm. He didn’t know what was on it, but something in him didn’t want to know.

She died because of me! If she hadn’t thrown herself between him and the Prince he would have been injured, maybe killed. Surely the result of this attack would have been worse than it already was. It would have been very unlikely they could hold out until Lan Qing arrived.

With heavy hearts the Paragons returned to Middle Heaven. Lan Qing set about explaining what had happened to the various commanders, easing their worries. He carefully gave them an account of the battle.
The rest of the Paragons rested to try and recover. Zhou Qianlin was busiest, for although she had spent a lot of energy in their fight she still went from one Paragon to another and helped heal them. Her Queen of Heaven Discipline was the only power that could do so. No one knew when the home worlds would complete their evolution, so although she was exhausted she had to make sure everyone was at their best.

Lan Jue sat by himself in a corner, looking despondently on the only thing he had left from Xiuxiu. She was gone – slain before his eyes. It’d happened so fast, he wasn’t ready.

Her easy smile and sweet voice had been with him for years, had followed him from youth to adulthood. Visions of what they experienced together flashed through his mind in a painful procession.

“Boss!” A cry laden with sorry called to him.

Lan Jue turned his head. From the tear streaked faces of Mika, Lin Guoguo and Ke’er he could see they knew what had happened. Lin Guoguo had told Mika about Xiuxiu’s sacrifice. They rushed to him as fast as they could.
Mika knelt in front of him but couldn’t find any words. She’d fought on Xiuxiu’s behalf more than once, hoping Lan Jue would accept her the way she wanted to be accepted. But Lan Jue always had an excuse. Now their friend and sister was gone, and she didn’t know what to say.

“Boss, you can’t let yourself get lost in the sadness. Our enemy is still out there. The one that killed Xiuxiu is still breathing!” Mika growled.

She was right. The Violet Prince still lived. Xiuxiu died by his hand.

Wordlessly Lan Jue nodded his head. He knew she was right but her words couldn’t shake the anger and sadness that threatened to drown him.

Lin Guoguo and Ke’er also huddled around. Ke’er couldn’t hold back her tears and sobbed upon Lin Guoguo’s shoulder. Of all the Amazons they had been closest.

“She was sad for a long time, boss. She never said it but I could tell. All four of us like you, but her feelings ran deepest.” Lin Guoguo muttered. “I lost count the number of times she
cried over you. Late at night when it was quiet and she thought we were asleep she would cry. I’m a psychic, I could feel what she was feeling. Her mood would soar every time she saw you – real, powerful love. We all saw it.”

“Enough, Guoguo!” Mika said harshly. She’d said enough, and every word was like a dagger to Lan Jue’s heart.

But Lan Jue just shook his head. He spoke words full of bitter agony. “Let her speak. I knew. I always knew, but I refused to deal with it. I told myself it’d change with time. In my heart she was always my dearest sister, but I was never a worthy older brother. I never paid enough attention to her. Blame me… blame it all on me!”

Chapter 880: Some Silence

Lin Guoguo sighed. “Xiuxiu never blamed you. She used to tell us that love isn’t something you can manage. She always loved you. You would protect her if she were bullied, and help keep her head high – no matter the cost. She remembered that. And the times she would dress up as your bride when you played as children. She said she was yours all the way back then.”

“Xiuxiu was in so much pain when you were together with Hera. Her mood was always off. When Hera was gone and we came to you, to help you recover, we all thought the two of you would come together in time. Instead you fell apart. Xiuxiu saw what it did to you and cried every night. But she never cried in front of you.”

“When you snapped out of your stupor no one was happier than Xiuxiu. Then another girl that looked exactly like Hera showed up in your life. When she found out Xiuxiu went out to get drunk. We stayed with her. We all drank. Boss, she really loved you. She loved you more than her own life.”

As Lin Guoguo’s words washed over him tears streamed down Lan Jue’s face.
Xiuxiu was gone, not even a body left to bury. She was just…

Lan Jue hung his head and his eyes swung to her storage device. The last thing she wanted him to have… but what was it?

He rose to his feet, and addressed the three of them firmly. “I need some silence.”

He left quickly, like he couldn’t wait to flee.

Zhou Qianlin watched from some distance away, but did not follow. Not this time. He needed to be alone.

ξ

“You must have felt it.” Li Ke’s spirit manifested standing next to Lan Qing. After joining with Ultus his ghostly appearance was almost indistinguishable from reality. He would never have a physical form of his own again, but this was a close facsimile.
He discovered that as Lan Qing’s power grew he became more substantial. Maybe one day he could hold his daughter for the first time.

Lan Qing nodded. “Ultus asks for far more than I thought. We need to improve our cultivation. I worry if we’d succeed even if we all reach Nirvana.”

Li Ke grinned. “Honestly, I don’t know either. All I see what I find in Ultus’ memories, and I’ve found nothing about what the Strategy will really do. After all, it’s been an uncountable number of years since Ultus has appeared in human hands.”

“If there a way for us to quickly improve our cultivation?” Lan Qing asked. “Surely the crystals we took today can help.”

Li Ke nodded. “Helpful, yes. Enough in fact to empower you to the Infinite, I’d think. But that’s not the way to do it. Your bodies wouldn’t be able to withstand the massive amount of pressure placed on them. Little Yue told me Lan Jue and Qianlin have broken through a series of grades very quickly. Pressing that process any further would be dangerous. But once they do break through to the Infinite, I don’t think they would be in any danger of a power backlash from the swords. Absorbing and assimilating protogenia takes time, and you’re already moving
quickly. Going too fast will have consequences, not least of which the universe itself. You won’t know what it is to suffer the pressure of universal protogenia until you become one with the Infinite. Under those conditions the power you could command wouldn’t be at the Infinite level. You’d be lucky to command the power of Nirvana. First, before we do anything, you all need to reach Nirvana. Once you do we can attempt the Strategy. Then we’ll see if anything else needs to be done.”

Lan Qing nodded. He agreed that it was the best path forward.

ξ

Lan Jue returned to his room and didn’t leave for some time. No one knew what he was doing. Once he shut the door no one had gone in.

Humanity’s armada and its three bastions slowly made their way back to Angel. They encountered no more aliens on the way. It wasn’t very long before they were back on solid ground.

Lan Qing and the Pharmacist locked themselves away as well.
They were trying to achieve Nirvana as soon as possible.
Middle Heaven’s remaining Paragons were recovered. Chu Cheng took the remains of the Terminator and the vital crystal left behind to Tyrannosaurus.

They were returning after a series of victories, but they were hollow. The looming threat of destruction remained.

When they got back to Angel they were met with good news. Another bastion had appeared in Angel’s orbit. It was Heron, the only bastion left that had experience fighting  the  alien horde.

The Northern Alliance had suffered a terrible defeat in the Shattered Starfields, and again shortly after. To try and offset this they threw all their resources into repairing their fastest ship. It packed a punch as well. As for other reinforcements it would be some time before they showed up. Luckily Angel’s food stores were well stocked, and there were no fear of the citizens revolting. They’d started building neighborhoods.

Of course they made announcements of their victories during the campaign. This boosted moral and gladdened the hearts of the people. Video of the clashes were spread far and wide, filling the humans with hope. Especially when believers saw their Queen of Heaven appear on screen. Seeing her fighting nimbly
by Lan Jue’s side only boosted her reputation.

Of course the inevitable question afterward was, who was this man who dared fight shoulder to shoulder with her?

Lan Jue soon became the focus of scrutiny. He was known as the champion of the Conclave’s Great Adept Tournament, and a hero who showed up to turn the tide on many tragedies. When they saw his pedigree they grudgingly accepted his relationship to Qianlin.

All over occupied space human eyes were trained on Angel, waiting for the verdict. Things had thankfully settled down, however, after word of the armada’s deeds spread. Their string of victories and saving their fellow man had given them hope and pride.

But this relative silence had its drawbacks. Some were already voicing skepticism, saying that there were too few soldiers to prevail. Why weren’t all of the North’s eight bastions out there fighting for mankind?

Why weren’t there reinforcements for these soldiers who’ve been battling on the front lines so long already? Were
politicians more concerned with their own interests than those of their species? The North and East both suffered chastisement, though the North got it worse.

All along the North had been known as humanity’s mightiest Alliance, with an invincible fighting worse. Yet in this decisive time it wasn’t the North was in charge. The Eastern Alliance and Poseidon Group were guiding the way.

Poseidon-class bastion’s praise was especially high when the word got out, after scenes from its remarkable fight appeared on civilian screens. It was especially shocking for everyone to see it fighting in mecha form. Needless to say it made an impression and suddenly the Poseidon Group’s reputation exploded.

Northern military news sources reported that in addition to Heron they were also sending two more bastions to the front line. They had to under pressure of public opinion. However the keen of eye knew that the war was coming to its end soon one way or another. Sending reinforcements now would make little difference in either case.

Heron’s sudden arrival boosted the Northern’s military capabilities significantly.
Since Lan Qing was working on his cultivation, Kang Hui had taken temporary control of the armada. He immediately recommended they prepare for another assault on the home worlds.

Kang Hui had no choice but to adhere to Lan Qing’s plan for the Banishing Blades, but he was still the commander of the Northern forces. There was still a lot of suspicion surrounding whether four swords could destroy three planets.

In fact they doubted that the alien home worlds were trying to create their own utopia. But they did know these monsters were changing, and whatever they changed into would be the stuff of nightmares.

Kang Hui proposed moving in now. The evolution had to be stopped, and both the monsters’ soldiers and generals were bloodied. With the addition of Heron they were sufficiently reinforced, according to him. The nimble bastion was ready for action.

He didn’t completely dismiss the possibility of the Banishing Blades being effective. What he proposed was a two-prong attack. If they could succeed with a purely military victory than that would be great, and the Banishing Swords could be kept as
a backup. If they fail at least they’ll have succeeded in weakening the enemy further. Perhaps that’d improve the Easterners’ chances.

His proposal passed unanimously. Even the commander representing the Eastern army in Lan Qing’s absence agreed. Poseidon Group didn’t share an opinion. Its bastion, and Middle Heaven as well, would not fight as well in future battles as they had been.

When the plan was ratified Kang Hui announced three days of rest and repairs. After three day they would attack the aliens again.

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