Chapter 611: Jue Di’s Fear
Lan Jue chuckled. “Do I look discouraged? I’m thrilled that my older brother is breaking through, it’s only a higher target for me to reach. I’ll keep working hard, don’t worry.”
Jue Di fixed him with a stare. “So long as you mean it. We’ll see how much you’ve improved later.”
“Heh, dad, you can feel how strong I am now?” Lan Jue said through a smirk. He was the only person who would dare talk about strength to the likes of Jue Di.
His father growled in irritation. “Stop your bullshit. You think I don’t already know where you got that power?”
Lan Jue shrugged and paid no more attention to his dad. He leaned close to Luo Xianni and muttered “Did you put him in his place?”
She gave Jue Di a flat stare, who groaned dramatically in response. Of course he heard what Lan Jue asked.
“You know it.” She gave a resolute nod with a face full of satisfaction, though a bit of pink had crept into her cheeks.
Lan Jue gave her a thumbs-up. “Impressive!”
Even with as few scruples as Jue Di had, even he couldn’t help from blushing slightly. “You shitty little brat, screw off!” he barked. He waved a meaty hand and an invisible force came tearing through the air toward Lan Jue.
The power that was released was as breathtaking as a mountain vista, but also bore an enigmatic sense of oppression. It was as though the universe had decided Lan Jue was no longer wanted. He needed to be removed.
Lan Jue’s face lit up, eager to see how far he could push himself and his new powers. A sparkling golden-blue light flashed in his eyes. His right hand shot up and a red aura hovered over him as he traced a circle in the air. Immediately the interior of the circles collapsed in on itself, leaving behind a clear golden-blue plane.
Under Captus’ guidance, Jue Di’s blast of force was drawn into the circle and vanished. Then, a moment later, the hole in
reality belched a one-meter thick ray of golden-blue light right for Lan Jue’s father. A peal of thunder shook the whole field.
For a moment shock shone in Jue Di’s eyes, and then his whole face changed. It was like he’d seen a ghost. He vanished.
The ray of light burned a path one hundred meters through the air before it stopped. Not vanish or explode, just stop like it was frozen in place. It eventually faded away, but there remained sparkling pockets of silver light that hung in the air for a long time afterwards.
Jue Di wasn’t the only one effected. Luo Xianni hadn’t been the target of Lan Jue’s repost, but her face was deathly pale. She was hiding behind the Wine Master.
“You moron, are you trying to kill your parents?!” Jue Di’s voice roared. There was another flash of light and the Paragon’s furious face appeared in front of Lan Jue’s. He was obviously keeping well away from the flecks of silver light.
Lan Jue gaped at the two of them and their reaction. What was going on? Was that attack actually capable of hurting them? Why did he run so fast?
He wasn’t the only one to find it strange, the three Avenue Paragons were equally confused. Jue Di’s reaction certainly was not in line with what the legends said of him! He was a man of inconceivable power, who turned tail and fled at the attack of a mere Adept. It certainly wasn’t the image ‘living legend’ brought to mind.
Jue Di still looked shocked as he regarded his son. Shock, and a little fear.
“Dad, what is it?” Lan Jue asked.
His father was a little breathless. “What has happened to you?
Why is your lightning like this?”
“I’ve been practicing yin-yang lightning with the Driver!” He replied. “That’s what you wanted me to do, wasn’t it? We’re trying to integrate it into our Cores to evolve our Disciplines.”
“No, that isn’t what I’m talking about. Its within your thunderbolt Discipline – when did it adopt the force of empyreal lightning?” Jue Di’s voice was low, urgent.
“Empyreal Lightning?” Suddenly he knew what his father meant. “Oh, I stumbled across some thunder essence. Ever since I’ve been slowly absorbing it, and it’s had some effect on my Discipline.”
“Thunder essence?” Jue Di was even more surprised, but also less afraid. A wry grin spread his lips. “I’m going to need to keep my distance from this damn kid. No wonder the Clairvoyant chose you if you’re just ‘running into’ things like thunder essence. That’s unnatural good luck, there.”
“What is thunder essence?” Luo Xianni asked. She had been just as afraid as he’d been a moment ago. The other three Paragons were baffled by the whole scene.
Jue Di explained. “In the ancient days, when the great beasts reached incredible heights of power, they had to undergo nine strikes of mystical empyreal lightning. When the beasts and the immortal qi from the lightning combine, they leave behind a special metal – a treasure among treasures. I’d only ever read about it in old books, I never thought they could be found. Absorbing it has put some of the power of empyreal lightning in your attacks. I thought tribulation lightning had come for me, you nearly scared me to death.”
Lan Jue looked back at his father with wide eyes. “Father, are you hoping to cross over?”
Jue Di snorted derisively. “To immortality? Idiot, no human can cross over.” He seemed both irritated and despondent over that fact. “If I was still on the mother planet and she had the vigor of her youth, then maybe there would have been a chance. Do you have any idea how much preparation was needed, how many rare treasures were required to cross over? Be they man or beast. They even had their magic items we call Astrum these days, and after all of this they still needed a lot of luck. These days there is no way for man to ride the lightning up to the heavens. The realm of immortals has passed, empyreal lightning no longer exists and so there is no way to cross over to something that isn’t there. At the level I have attained, you can only increase in the quantity of power, not the quality of it. Celestial Master Qian was my contemporary and reached the same state. He committed himself to uncover traces of the immortal realm, searching for a way to cross over. Up to today no proof of its existence has been found. Those time seem passed.”
This information was given quietly to Lan Jue alone, though the Paragons could hear if they listened carefully.
“Father,” Lan Jue then asked, “if I manage to completely
absorb the thunder essence and change my Discipline into empyreal lightning, if I blast you with it could you cross over?”
“Moron!” Was his father’s response. “You think that trifling bit you’ve found can match up to empyreal lightning? Do you have any idea? A blast of empyreal lightning can erase something from existence. A few blasts could obliterate a planet, let alone nine. The only thing that kept Earth intact was its natural surplus of energy.”
Lan Jue stuck out his tongue. “That strong eh? Will absorbing the thunder essence cause you trouble?”
Jue Di shook his head. “No, chalk that up to good fortune. Master it to the best of your ability. That immortal qi within it is incredibly special, a piece of their strength. If you study on it I’m sure you can glean some insight. As for what will happen once it’s all absorbed, who can say. At that time you can show me the immortal qi you’ve gathered.”
Lan Jue nodded. “Alright.”
Jue Di rolled his eyes, and then suddenly his face changed, like something was suddenly clear. “Oh, I finally realized!”
The sudden change from solemn to smiling took Lan Jue off guard. He narrowed his eyes at him. “What did you think up that’s made you so happy?”
“I have always known the dharma A-Qing was suited for,” Jue Di said, “but with you I could never find what fit. There’s something missing between you two. Lan Qing inherited some special power, but you did not. However it seems the thunder essence has made up for that deficiency. I just realized what you’re in for. Heh.. hehe…hehehe.” He couldn’t help but snicker to himself, a laugh full of meaning and peril.
“Chi Bupang, what’s with that sinister cackling? You’re thinking of something nasty, aren’t you?” Luo Xianni accused.
He smirked back at her. “The kid’ll find out soon enough.”
Jue Di nodded. “First, this is Lan Qing’s day. You’ll know what I’m talking about when the time comes. If this were the old days I would love to see their faces, hahahaha, hahahahaha!”
Everyone else exchanged uncomfortable glances as the world- destroying super human cackled, seemingly for no reason.
The crunch of boots met their ears. A contingent of troops were approaching quickly from the distance. They formation was tight, precise, ready for battle at any moment. Altogether there were maybe a thousand of them, with Lan Qing leading the way.
All of them bore the insignia of the Bloodiron Khans. The aura of their Disciplines flickered around them – Adepts! All one thousand soldiers were Adepts. Lan Jue remembered hearing his brother talk about the Bloodiron Khans, and how their top Adepts would be formed into their own division. They were hand-picked, the best from all the East’s armed forces. It seemed as though that’s who he brought with him, in the hopes they could gain some insight too.
This was the first time Star Division was greeted with the sight of the Bloodiron Khans. Both sets of troops were Adept armed forces, but there were significant differences.
The faces of the Bloodiron Kahns were all the same, still and emotionless. Footfalls were almost perfectly in-step and they raced ahead like a single entity. There were no wasted
movements of frivolous acts. It was a level of Discipline Star Division couldn’t match.
Their single-minded actions and purpose were amplified by their conformity. One thousand men and women breathed with one breath, and moved like an unstoppable force. They descended upon Star Division like a majestic tide of war, like a disciplined inferno.
Chapter 612: Lan Qing Ascends To Paragon
This was the An Lun army? A fervent light shone in the eyes of the Star Division soldiers.
“Halt!” An officer called the command and his soldiers froze instantly in place, still perfectly in position.
“Sit!” They dropped to the floor, cross-legged with straight backs.
Everyone who watched them was impressed by how precise and disciplined they were. Even the Paragons had to nod in appreciation. Turning soldiers into to warriors like this may just be a matter of time, but it was different for Adepts. To turn these talented men and women into a singular force, a singular mind, was a herculean task.
“Indeed worthy of the An Lun army name!” the Wine Master praised.
“Yeah! Incredible. If I didn’t broke through so early I would have loved to test myself against them,” the Pauper lamented.
Lan Jue laughed. “You’ll have your chance. We didn’t only come here for some insight, this is a joint military exercise. We’ll check each other out and see how we do things differently. At least in terms of individual strength I think we have them beat, but level of training and military experience it’s hard to say.”
The Pauper replied, “Won’t know till you try.”
As he spoke the Pauper twitched the side of his mouth surreptitiously toward Jue Di. Lan Jue smirked at his friend, a signal for him to hold on.
Lan Qing came running over their way. “I’m sorry to keep our honored guests waiting.”
An Lun’s admirable was different today. The waves of protogenic energy they’d sensed the day before were gone. He seemed perfectly calm and in control. His face bore a small, easy smile however every movement he made felt peculiar.
He almost seemed to glow with an internal light. Naturally he drew everyone’s attention.
The Pauper looked at him with surprise. “Admiral Lan, suddenly the strength of your aura feels so close to mine.”
Lan Qing smiled at him. “The Taming Dragon Arhat is being polite, we’ll find out the truth at the height of the show.”
Lan Jue also felt like his brother had somehow changed significantly. His typically severe countenance was gone. He seemed calm, dare he say relaxed.
Jue Di’s deep voice intruded. “It’s time, prepare to begin.”
“Yes!” Lan Qing nodded his head, resolute.
Lan Jue concentrated his attention on his brother. He’d witnessed the rise of Paragons before, but his brother was a different story. They were blood, grew up together. It was deeply affecting for Lan Jue to watch someone so close achieve their dream. If he were to gain insight it would undoubtedly be very beneficial because of their connection.
Ln Qing took a step forward and immediately lifted into the air. He slowly rose over their heads while a pale cyan light
radiated out around him. Set in the center of his chest, the vibrant green light of the Clairvoyant’s pendant flickered.
The field they were in was underground like all the rest of the An Lun military base, but it was the air strip their ships launched from. High overhead the rocky ceiling split into a yawning fissure that gave them a glimpse of the sky. Powerful shields kept the inhospitable alien atmosphere out.
The higher he rose, the brighter Lan Qing’s cyan Discipline flared. However bright as the light was it did not stab the eyes. It fell gentle on their vision like a comfortable glow. All the soldiers no matter their banner stared at the scene, trying to remember every moment.
Star Division soldiers recognized him, Prometheus the God of Wisdom, An Lun super soldier. This was the man about to become the East’s newest Paragon. It was a spectacular happening for their Alliance, one that would catapult their army into a whole new realm of might.
The East had never enjoyed a Paragon acting in their military in an official capacity. They were overjoyed, and were prepared to immediately grant the title of Fleet Admiral to their super soldier once he succeeded.
Tendrils of cyan light interwoven with protogenia coiled around him. Lan Qing’s eyes were closed and he bore a contented smile. His palms were pressed together in front of him and he sat cross-legged in mid-air.
Lan Jue stared raptly at his older brother. It’d been years since he’d cultivated with his brother, so he had no idea the path he’d chosen. The process of breaking through was more important for a Paragon than for any previous breakthrough an Adept underwent. It solidified their powers, and there was no way to change them when the process was complete. You had to be sure of yourself before taking that final step, otherwise you would be fighting yourself forever.
A measure of a Paragon’s dominance ceased to be about their Disciplines. The depth of their knowledge of the universe was what defined them, their ability to sense the tangled weave of protogenia in all things. It was a quest for absolute perfection of oneself and their connection to everything – to be a part of everything.
And so, when a man became a Paragon he was no longer completely a man any longer. He became a conduit of protogenia, an inexorable part of that realm. Becoming a Paragon was not the end, either. The end was something no longer within the grasp of their species. He knew it from Jun
Yongye as enlightenment, as the old immortals experienced.
So, as Lan Qing took this step the choices he made for his final form of protogenia was incredibly important.
Jue Di stepped forward, the small movement bringing him dozens of meters through the air to arrive at his son’s side in mid-air. He placed his calloused hands upon Lan Qing’s back and fixed his eyes upon him.
The other Paragons did not move. With Jue Di present, what could they offer to the process?
Lan Qing sat still, but waves of protogenia radiated out from him and shone down upon the people below. They could all feel the subtle change it wrought on reality around them.
Lan Jue folded his knees beneath him and sat with eyes closed, quietly reflecting on the sensations. His brother’s process was important to himself as well, for soon he would be taking his own plunge. The smoother he could make it, the better.
For the two brothers it was never really a question of whether they could become Paragons. The question was always how far as Paragons could they go. But the journey of a thousand miles required a single, solid first step.
Dad was laughing because he saw my future. He couldn’t go into it because of Lan Qing’s breakthrough, but he also said I would learn something from this.
The corona of light around Lan Qing grew ever brighter. Every corner of the base was illuminated by it. Strange, though, was the change that came over it. As everyone watched that cyan color change from pale yellow, to bright yellow, to resplendent gold.
The light washed over them like a searing wave, undeniably comforting. It sizzled on their skin like the pleasant light of the summer sun. The soldiers’ bodies and souls felt refreshed, their energies moving smoother within them.
“Well done, impressive!” The Pauper couldn’t help but voice his acclaim. He had benefited from the Taming Dragon Arhat lineage, it had given him a structure to help him on his path to Paragon. IT wasn’t a codified dharma, and it wasn’t as stable as others, but his insights of the process were deeper at the time of
his breakthrough than any Paragon in recent memory.
The Photographer, Clockmaker, and Wine Master had broken through long ago, the act was dim in their memories. This was not so for the Pauper. He could sense the protogenia infused in his aura were guided by an underlying structure.
It was usually said that Adepts, as they broke through, released the floodgates of their protogenia. It surrounded and immersed them, completely altering every fiber of their being. However, controlling this fundamental powers was much more difficult. It took years of careful cultivation, searching for the rules that governed this new realm. Is these are revealed a Paragon defined their own dharma, the ultimate extension of their Path. When a Paragon became a Reflection of Heaven and Earth, that was when their powers were said to wholly form.
One could be fooled with the simplicity of the phrase, to collate one’s dharma, however you only need to look at the Wine Master to know the truth. He’d been searching for twenty years but had yet rise to the next level. Uncovering the secrets of the universe as they applied to oneself was tough work.
The Pauper’s inherited dharma played a major role in his breakthrough. The Taming Dragon Arhat was itself a system of
rules, so they came naturally to the Pauper as he crossed the threshold to Paragon and served to prop him up as he did so. These truths were not uncovered by the Pauper through grueling years of self-reflection. He merely had to understand what he’d been taught and he would rise to the next level.
Lan Qing’s Discipline was Wind, as everyone knew. What showered them now did not have the characteristics of Wind as they expected. Instead they saw the close-knit strands of protogenia covering everything.
This meant one of only two possibilities. The first was that he had immediately become a Reflection of Heaven and Earth, the second degree of Paragon. Second, it could mean that – like the Pauper – he had been blessed with an inherited power.
Taking into account what Jue Di had told him, Lan Jue suspected the second possibility was more likely the case. But he couldn’t know for sure.
The look of surprise on the Clockmaker’s face was even more evident than the Pauper’s. She had already achieved Reflection, and could sense that those weaves were in fact the result of dharma.
It’d taken her seven whole years to uncover the rules that governed her perception of the universe. Now this young soldier, in the moment of his breakthrough, was starting with such incredible insight. Could it mean he would… ?
People couldn’t tear their eyes from the dazzling golden light pouring from Prometheus. As the waves of protogenic power pulsed, the light seemed to flow with it and eventually coagulate around him. When he’d started it was just a golden light, but it condensed and brightened until it became a searing nimbus behind his head.
Ding! After a moment of rattling the pendent set within Lan Qing’s chest shattered, dissolving into motes of light that floated on the wind. They rode the eddies and gusts until they flitted into the space between Lan Qing’s eyebrows. Suddenly, his aura changed. The energies he used as an Adept ceased altogether while the surge of protogenia rose. The tidal wave of energy filled them sensation that was difficult to put into words. A image slowly began to take shape.
Chapter 613: Codifying The Dharma
When the Pauper broke through, the image everyone saw was encoded in his bloodline, the icon of the Taming Dragon Arhat. It was the manifestation everything he had been taught.
For Lan Qing it was different. When his protogenia coalesced around him it revealed a solitary, illusory figure.
By now Lan Qing had already crossed the threshold and was a Paragon. He had achieved the dream of countless Adepts. From outside it looked effortless, but it was just beginning.
The soldiers below, cross-legged and silent, drank in the powers as they washed over them. The light was like a guide, opening a door to countless possibilities. Things that were faint and unclear before were suddenly brought into sharp clarity.
The God of Wisdom was bestowing his namesake upon them, it seemed. No matter the Adept, they all enjoyed stunning insight into their nature. At least in this way, Lan Qing’s rise to Paragon was more beneficial than any that had come before.
Absolution! That was how Lan Jue described the
breakthrough his brother had undergone. His powers were no longer wind or even wisdom as they had been when he was an Adept. That Lan Qing was gone.
It was prajna! Lan Jue was sure that was the basis of his brother’s breakthrough, wind was a vestigial power. Prajna was an underpinning facet of the Buddhist faith, which would explain the energies that flooded out of him. The gentle sense of connection with the universe was unparalleled.
Quick layman’s explanation is insight into the fundamental truths of Buddhism; emptiness, impermanence, suffering and non-self.
So that’s the road you’ve chosen, brother? Keep it up!
The golden aura around Lan Qing began to subside, and in fact his whole figure gradually became transparent. He looked like a crystal carving. Meanwhile the silhouette behind him was clearer.
Like him, it sat cross-legged in mid-air. A halo of light blazed in a circle behind its head, and the image of a lotus flower bloomed beneath it. A Buddha! It wasn’t clear yet, but at this
point they could guess that Lan Qing was condensing his protogenia into the image of a Buddha.
Jue Di let his hands fall from his son’s back. He looked on him with obvious surprise. It was coming to the most crucial moment, but Jue Di’s assistance wasn’t needed. It spoke to how deep Lan Qing’s comprehension of protogenia was.
The ethereal chanting grew louder, sharper in their ears. Lan Qing’s mouth moved with the guttural hum like he was reciting a mantra. He was as majesty and as lofty as a mountain, seated in the sky. His transparent form glittered as protogenia continued to gather around him.
The Clockmaker gasped. Beside her, the Wine Master’s face wore a wry grin.
“I’ve been trying my whole life to achieve what he might succeed in doing right now,” he said to her with a shake of his head.
The Clockmaker glanced his way. “I’ve never in my life seen anyone with more grasp of protogenia than this An Lun super soldier. And the dharma he’s weaving already… terrific! The
most comprehensive I’ve witnessed. If you put mine and Davis’ together it still wouldn’t be this complicated. Our paths were flawed from the beginning. At the moment you rise to Paragon the protogenia is enormous, pure. We didn’t have the control necessary to take advantage of it. He was wise enough to use this flood of power to solidify his dharma. Frankly speaking, we may very well have another Jue Di in the making. What else could expected from the man’s son!”
A sigh caused the Wine Master to heave his shoulders. “Who would have thought we’d stumble upon it all the way out here? The ones to benefit the most aren’t the Adepts. It’s me and the Pauper. Lan Qing is showing up how to take the next step.”
Yes indeed, Lan Qing was solidifying the image of his protogenia immediately, crafting his dogma. Disbelieving eyes were fixed on him, and every change in the environment around him.
The Wine Master had been stuck for many years, and this was precisely what he longed to see. In truth he wasn’t far from reaching Reflection of Heaven and Earth, he’d already figured out the characteristics of his protogenia. What did not have was a goal, or any thought of where he wanted to go. Originally simply breaking through to Paragon had been his goal. Back then the Photographer hadn’t been around to provide guidance,
and to this day he still struggled to make progress.
Witnessing this transformation with his own eyes was priceless. He watched the energies coalesce and solidify, the boundlessness of it. And yet it was commanded by principles, that much was clear. Although these truths were different for every Paragon, there were elements of similarity.
Of course, coming to insights oneself was much more effective and impactful than having them taught. By seeing the process in person it was sure to save the Wine Master a great deal of time and effort in continuing his own journey.
At present the only humans with a codified dharma were Jue Di, the Photographer, the Terminator, and the Epochrion. If Lan Qing succeeded in his attempts, he would immediately join the list higher than Satan or the Pontiff. Acquiring a dharma shot up a Paragon’s strength dramatically.
For the Pauper, this was even more magical an opportunity. Having just broken through, he was still at his most sensitive to the flows of protogenia. It appeared as though Lan Qing’s chosen dharma was similar to his as well. All of this could be applied to his process with very little modification. His first thought was his appreciation for Lan Jue. If the Jewelry Master
hadn’t had pressed him so hard to come, would he ever have found another opportunity like this? Even before considering the possibility of personal instruction by the great Jue Di, witnessing the birth of one’s protogenic image was a once in a century chance.
Lan Qing’s figure seemed less and less a part of their reality, even his shadow flickered on the verge of disappearing. When an Adept broke through their bodies became joined with protogenia, it filled every fiber of their being. In the creation of his dharma he was knitting the protogenia in specific patterns and then taking them back into himself.
The sheer amount of energy he was releasing was overwhelming, and it was beginning to destabilize his body. If Lan Qing failed to fully weave the protogenia it could grow catastrophically unstable and cause him tremendous harm. It was a risk, but the rewards were undeniable.
Just then, a pale turquoise light began to radiate from the center of Lan Qing’s forehead. It was the light of Aerius. It swirled in front of him like a vortex, and by its light he changed. Everything slowed way down. His translucent form became a little clearer, more stable. The figure at his back continued to take shape.
Throughout the process, the ethereal hum of singing came from Lan Qing’s lips. “Om – nan mo ba he wa de, sa er wa, duo er ga da, ba lie shao da na, luo zha, da ta he da ya, a er ha de, san mu ya san bu da ya, die ya ta. Om – shao da na, shao da na, sa er wa, ba bang, bi shao da na, xu die, bi xu die, sa er wa, ga er ma, bi shao da na, ye suo ha.”
There seems to be a few different versions of Maha Vairocana Mantra. I will list two of them.
1. Om Namo Bhagavate Sarvate Gate, Varsuddhani Rajaya, Ta Tha Ga Ta Ya
Arahate Sam Yak Sam Buddhaya, Ta Dya Tha Om Sodhani Sodhani
Sarva Papam, Vishodani Suddhe Visuddhe, Sarwa Karma Avarana
Visudhani Ya Soha.
2. OM NAMO BHAGAVATE / SARVA DURGATE PARI SHODHANI RAJAYA / TATHAGATAYA / ARHATE
SAMYAKSAM BUDDHAYA / TADYATHA / OM SHODHANI SHODHANI / SARVA PAPAM VISHODHANI / SHUDHE VISHUDHE / SARVA KARMA AVARANA VISHODHANI SVAHA
Maha Vairocana (Kunrig) Mantra meaning:
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of bias, attachment, and anger.
The strange sounds, the mystical vocalizing, although they couldn’t understand the words they were thick with a sense of harmony. Fear, sorrow, pain and all other negative emotions were washed away. Everyone’s soul was laid bare to themselves, revealing its purity and inclusion. A few couldn’t help but prostrate themselves before the image of their commander.
“This is…” The Pauper stared wide-eyes, trailing off into silence.
The Wine Master shot him a reproachful glance. He feared the interruption might impact Lan Qing’s process.
But the Pauper seemed nearly out of control. He immediately dropped to the floor and began to mutter. “The world purifying chant… that was the world purifying chant! His Dharma is… it’s.. by the heavens! It’s unbelievable!”
World Purifying Chant? What was that?
The Photographer, Clockmaker, and Wine Master were Paragons just as the Pauper. However, when it came to Buddhist ritual they didn’t have the knowledge he possessed. However, by the Pauper’s reaction alone they could tell this was a special chant. Somehow, it had to do with the creation of his dharma.
There was a glint of uncertainty in the Photographer’s eyes. She was at the level of Nirvana, but even so the waves of power from her adopted son had a clearly restrictive effect on her. Not suppression really, just a sort of separation.
The protogenia around Lan Qing blazed with light, streaking clearly through the air as they weaved intricate patterns. More protogenia was absorbed from the environment, purified and made part of the weave.
Jue Di smiled. He didn’t laugh, or make a sound, but there was incredible pride in his eyes. He looked on as Lan Qing’s form continued to solidify, along with the image of his dharma.
It was a Buddha, as expected, seated in full lotus posture. Upon its head shone the crown of five wisdoms. Half of its body was covered in bracelets and armlets of metal and jade, and its hands extended in a mudra of instruction. The index finger of its left hand was pointed up, while the palm of the right gripped it. The whole of its body was a resplendent white.
A rotating wheel of light appeared behind the Buddha’s head. It flashed, and the light it emitted illuminated all things. A golden light gleamed brightly to meet and surpass it, landing upon the soldiers below then quickly painting the whole of An Lun’s military base a heavenly gold.
Every eye on the base in all corners turned toward the light. It washed over them like a cleansing rain. Their various ailments and discomforts vanished. Soldiers watching the probes were
shocked to note a pale golden light embracing the entire planet!
You could be sure they weren’t the only ones to see the satellite images. The North constantly had their long-distance telescopes trained on An Lun. They knew everything that happened on the surface. This was sure to turn some heads.
However, no one cared. No efforts were made to hide it. The soldiers were all facing the source of that incredible light with hands pressed together in worship.
Lan Jue slowly opened his eyes and turned them to his brother and the glorious Buddha at his back.
Chapter 614: Vairocana!
Obviously the giant Buddha was the image of Lan Qing’s dharma. Suddenly, Lan Jue’s eyes filled with shock. He had also suffered Jue Di’s edification, and it’d prepared him with a working knowledge of the ancient Buddhist faith.
“This is… Vairocana dharmakaya! How is this possible?” Jun Yongye’s voice was in Lan Jue’s ear, absent his usual calm. His audible shock confirmed Lan Jue’s suspicions.
Vairocana was one of the primary buddhas of the ancient faith. He bore a status higher than any other. He was the dharmakaya, the true body of the Buddha. As a primordial Buddha he was a founding pillar upon which the faith rested, and sat at the center of the five wisdoms.
The Pauper remained cross-legged on the floor, and a golden aura flickered around his body. Everything about him seemed to change as the image of the Taming Dragon Arhat revealed itself. He pressed his hands together in respect toward the image of Vairocana.
Lan Jue looked up at his brother with a tight smile. Brother, is it wise to play at such great power? How am I supposed to catch
Lan Qing had been paused at the peak of ninth level for a long while, three years so far as Lan Jue could remember. In that time he had purified himself, perfected himself to reveal the scene they witnessed now. His brother leapt passed the first degree of Paragon to immediately become a Reflection of Heaven and Earth. And most amazing of all, his dharma followed Vairocana Buddha!
“How… how is this possible?” Jun Yongye’s startled voice continued to demand.
Lan Jue replied. “Why shouldn’t it be possible? What’s the problem?”
A bitter mirth crept into Jun Yongye’s voice. “Problem? There’s a big problem. Do you know what it meant in the old days to coalesce the image of the dharmkaya?”
“What does it mean?” He asked.
“It’s the reincarnation of the Budda.”
“Wha…” Lan Jue’s eyes went wide. “That… isn’t real, is it? You’re saying my brother is the reincarnation of the Buddha? What about me?”
“Its impossibility is precisely why I find it strange!” Jun Yongye blithely commented. “The ancient faith has its roots in the oldest days. They hold that a Buddha has three kayas – bodies. All together they are nirmanakaya, or the physical body; sambhogakaya, their limitless spirit; and dharmakaya, the fundamental truth and our connection to it. Vairocana represents the last, and the most powerful. However, to my knowledge the Pure Lands of the buddhas disappeared when the realm of immortals did. How can we have a reincarnation if they no longer exist? It must have been latent in his blood, awakened once his cultivation was strong enough. It makes sense, but never would I have imagined that bloodline would be Vairocana dharmakaya. He has summoned the might of the greatest of buddhas. If he can step into the Womb Realm, then he will be as indomitable as the immortals who came before.”
Lan Jue’s own smirk spread wider. “So what sort of dharma do I need if I want to surpass my brother?”
Jun Yongye flatly began to list his options. “Celestial Master Yuan Shi, Celestial Master Lingbao, or Celestial Master Daode. No less than one of the three Pure Ones, or perhaps one of the
Great Emperors. Enough of that nonsense. I return to sleep. I require silence.”
The sword-spirit’s reaction spoke volumes as to what Lan Qing was accomplishing. The other Paragons also looked on in stunned silence.
Suspended in air, Lan Qing slowly opened his eyes. They shimmered with a warm golden light. Through a small smile, the super soldier continued to deliver chants and charms. Gradually he slipped backward into the image of the Buddha behind him.
Vairocana’s eye’s opened, and his hands opened in a sign of acceptance. The whole base shook with a deep, throaty hum. Everyone below was awakened from their insights just as the great Buddha became a column of golden light. Its ubiquitous glow hung over all of them for a long time before fading away.
When it did, Lan Qing appeared seated on the field among them. Only an hour had passed, but he seemed like an entirely different person. The chilly exterior was gone, replaced with an ineffable kindness.
“Ah-hahaha! Ahh Gautama, Gautama… I bet you didn’t guess my son would create your dharmakaya! It’s too much, oh it’s hilarious!” Jue Di’s booming laughter would be heard by the Pure Ones themselves if they still existed. He looked like he was on the verge of dancing.
Lan Qing simply smiled. He arose, only to turn toward Jue Di and bow. “I thank you father, for my success.”
Jue Di waved away the appreciation. “This had nothing to do with me, only your own hard work. You still need to stabilize your dharma, continue to gain insight into the nature of protogenia.”
“Yes,” Lan Qing replied respectfully.
The other Paragons gathered round. The Wine Master full of praise and admiration. “Congratulations, Fleet Admiral Lan.”
The Photographer made no effort to hide the beaming pride in her face. She lunged forward and wrapped him in a hug. “Good boy, you have a lot of promise. Right to the dharma, heh. That’s really something.”
The Clockmaker and Pauper in turn offered their congratulations to the new Paragon. Lan Jue met him with a helpless expression. “You’re not leaving me with a lot of opportunity here,” he complained.
His brother smiled softly. “You speak of opportunities. Everyone had their own path to follow. Do you know why I always work so hard?”
“Because when we were young, father always said my Talent was inferior to yours,” Lan Qing revealed. “If I didn’t always work hard, you would quickly get better than me.”
Lan Jue turned shocked eyes to Jue Di. “Is that true?”
Jue Di shrugged. “Of course. If you put forth half the effort your brother did we wouldn’t still be waiting for you to make your own breakthrough.”
The Clockmaker, Wine Master and Pauper felt uncomfortable being privy to the conversation. Was this man incapable of
simply having a nice chat? How old was he…
Of course, none of them dared open their mouth in protest. The results of his parenting were right in front of them – Lan Qing was the youngest Paragon ever known, much less the youngest to become a Reflection of Heaven and Earth.
The Pauper looked around. “I’m afraid they’re really going to need to reorder the Paragon list. Admiral Lan, how shall we address you?”
Lan Qing shook his head and looked at his father. “I haven’t been able to pick one. I was hoping father could help me decide.”
“How about Siddhartha,” Jue Di offered.
Everyone looked at him in abashed powerlessness…
Lan Qing forced a smile.
Lan Jue chuckled and interjected. “Dad, let’s settle on
something a little more standard, you know…”
Jue Di grunted. “How is this not up to standard? We’ve got the Pope, Satan even. Why shouldn’t he be called Siddhartha?”
Lan Jue was quickly losing ground. “Do you ever want grandchildren? What woman will sleep with him if he’s got a name like Siddhartha?”
Jue Di clearly had less than savory reasons for choosing the name, but he stuck to them. “There’s a reason. But remember kid, you’ve created the image of the Buddha, you aren’t really his reincarnation. Don’t let it influence our next generation!”
A tinge of embarrassment crept into Lan Qing’s face. “Father, I’ve barely had time to deal with my own things. It’s been so busy, I can’t even –“
“Sooner or later.” Jue Di didn’t frame it as an option. “Now that you’re a Paragon you’ll notice difference. Thirty years will pass and you’ll hardly seem different at all, but that doesn’t give you license to keep me waiting! If you come across a good opportunity you grab it kid, you hear me? A-Jue, you’ve got all those pretty girls around you, find one suitable for your
Lan Jue shrunk under the instruction. “I am a pure man, alright! Anyway it’s easy to find the right match for him. Any girl that can run three circuits around the planet has what it takes.”
Lan Qing chuckled. “Stop your nonsense.”
Jue Di interrupted. “Alright, A-Qing go rest. Stabilize your dharma as quickly as you can. You skipped a grade so you’re bound to have weaknesses in your foundation. You’ll need to discover what you’re lacking quickly.”
“Yes,” he answered.
Lan Jue slithered up to Jue Di’s side. “Now that you’ve taught my brother the dharma of Vairocana what am I supposed to do? Don’t let him go yet, he still hasn’t decided on a name.”
Jue Di slapped a hand against his forehead. “It’s age, I’m getting amnesia.” Both Lan Jue and Lan Qing looked at their father with sharp eyes.
Luo Xianni tittered. “Alright, you two don’t worry over nothing. He’s as strong as a dragon and as nasty-tempered as a tiger. He’s never dying.”
Jue Di’s face went slightly red. “Woman, have you never learned the word restraint?”
Sne sniffed derisively. “This old lady was plenty restrained when she was younger. It was a waste of time. Now pick a name for your son, alright? If you don’t then I will.”
Jue Di pondered for a moment. “Vairocana separates the darkness from the light. He gives rise to the beasts of the earth. His light neither gives life nor takes it away, and his brilliance blazes brighter than the sun. Thus he is also named the Light of Wisdom or the Radiant Light. This light covers and embraces all things through time and space, through morality it binds them. It is as inseparable as day is to night, and its bounty is delivered to all the myriad sentient and non-sentient things of the universe. As the foundation of Buddhist faith, it is beautiful. The ‘Commentaries of the Mahavairocana Tantra’ states, ‘When the Light of Wisdom shines on the realms, the roots of virtue will grow and all endeavors shall succeed.’”
He paused for a moment, then continued. “If you insist that A-
Qing’s name cannot surpass the Buddha’s, then we shall call him the Peerless Light.”
The Peerless Light? The thought it strange at first, but the name instantly called to mind the luminescence that had poured from Lan Qing during his breakthrough, and the bounty he delivered unto An Lun.
“No, that doesn’t sound any good.” Luo Xianni complained. “Peerless Light, might as well be ‘I am Awesome.’ That’s not suitable at all, can’t you think of something that sounds better?”
Jue Di narrowed his eyes. “Sounds better? You think of one, then.”
“It at least has to do with his dharma,” she snapped. “I don’t know, how about the Warrior Buddha? Or maybe ‘Great Sage, the Equal of Heaven.’ How do those sound, Jue Di.”
Jue Di grunted. “Not my ideas.”
Warrior Monk? Great Sage, Equal to Heaven? When they
heard the names the other Paragons froze. For the first time they were beginning to get a glimpse into Jue Di’s dharma.
The Buddha who represents the true form, present in all things. The ‘dharma body’.
The human name of the founder of Buddhiasm, later to become Gautama Buddha.
This is a snide joke – or maybe not. The warrior Buddha was one of the trials faced by the Monkey King in the Journey to the West. The second title, ‘Great Sage, Equal to Heaven’ was the title the Monkey King gave himself to piss off all the immortals.
As a bonus, here’s a trailer for a movie called Winning Monk (same characters as warrior monk) that looks flippin awesome.
Chapter 615: Commander Of The Eastern Forces
Even Lan Jue and Lan Qing, as Jue Di’s children, didn’t know what their father’s dharma was. A strange look overcame the younger Lan. It would explain why his father had been so happy a moment ago. Wasn’t the warrior Monk that one who was so long oppressed by the Buddhas? If that was Jue Di’s dharma than his son’s name and protogenic image was a sort of spite.
All signs pointed to this being the case. Jue Di was a master in the ways of Buddhism and the Dao. He was good at everything.
Luo Xianni thought for a moment. “Vairocana is the image of the Buddha’s true self. We can call him the Emperor of Middle Heaven. It’s more aggressive.”
“No good! I still like the Peerless Light!” Jue Di grumbled.
Luo Xianni didn’t care. “Emperor of Middle Heaven! What do you think A-Qing?”
“It’s…” He was caught between a rock and a hard place. He didn’t want to offend either.
Lan Jue was struck by inspiration. “There aren’t any rules for a Paragon’s name. How about this – we use both. His name will be: The Peerless Light Emperor of Middle Heaven. Pretty good! It shows how strong my brother is.”
Lan Qing looked at his brother as though betrayed. “Brat,” he whined, “is this you helping me?”
“It’s got an aggressive sound to it,” the Pauper said approvingly.
Jue Di and Luo Xianni exchanged a sideways glance. Neither one wanted to give ground to the other.
Jue Di eventually broke down. “Fine! So it is.”
Another sniff was earned from Luo Xianni. “It’ll serve. At least my half of the name makes up for your lack of creativity.”
Jue Di looked to Lan Qing. “Little Qing, what’s with that face?
You don’t like the name we picked for you?”
“No, it’s great.” Lan Qing forced a smile but they could almost hear his teeth grinding.
It was true there weren’t any rules for Paragons names, but they at least tried to keep to brevity; Cosmagus, Terminator, Jue Di. Meanwhile, his name…
Thanks to the unreliable decision making of his parents, the mighty new Paragon was given a name – the Peerless Light Emperor of Middle Heaven. Lan Jue quietly affirmed to himself that it was integral he had his own name ready when the time came. He absolutely did not want to go poking around in his parents’ brains.
Lan Qing then broke into a smile as he thought of something. “Father, mother, I really think this lengthy name is exceptional. When A-Jue breaks through I think he needs something along the same lines. Something to designate us as brothers, strong and unified.”
Lan Jue’s eyes nearly rolled out of his head. When did his brother get so good at scheming?!
Jue Di chortled darkly. “Oh I’ve already thought of his. I
agreed with yours because his name is just as long!”
Kill me! Lan Jue’s heart lamented. He was going to side like a moron.
Lan Qing never took his eyes from his brother, and never let the smile slip from his face. “I should go cultivate, honored Paragons. I take my leave.” He bid farewell to them all and left.
When Jue Di say Lan Jue’s beleaguered face he spoke up. “Come with me, brat. Did you see how well your brother did? Relax, your dad’s thought up a good dharma for you as well. In the future you’ll fare just as well.”
Lan Jue’s eye sparkled. “You’ve thought of one for me? It can’t be any worse than Lan Qing’s!”
“Of course not,” Jue Di replied proudly. “You think I’d be cheap with my own son? I figured it out last night.”
Lan Jue’s excited face suddenly seized. Last night? Are dharmas just picked out of the air like that?
Jue Di saw his face, reached out, and gave him a firm smack on the back of the head. “You dare doubt your father? Once I knew you had the thunder essence I was able to pick out your most suitable path. But if you want to succeed with this dharma, you need to start absorbing it now. That’s the only way to get the most out of the thunder essence. Come with me.”
Jue Di took Lan Jue from the field, and others also went their separate ways. The wine Master and Pauper were especially quick to return to their quarters. They were eager to meditate on what they’d learned from watching Lan Qing. The soldiers from both companies were meditating quietly, reaping the tremendous benefits from the light of Vairocana and the creation of a dharma. Overall, much more helpful for them all than the Pauper’s breakthrough.
There were only a few soldiers who were granted epiphanies. All of them, though, had their souls washed clean by the purifying light. Their body’s energies were cleansed by it, preparing them for future advancement.
“What? A change on An Lun?” The Terminator’s face drew tight when he got the news from his subordinates.
“That golden light didn’t release any form of energy we could read. For a light like that to appear without any sort of readable signature is very strange. So congress wanted your assurances. They wanted to know if you could determine what that was, and if it had to do with Adepts in some way.”
“Let me look at the data,” he replied.
The holographic projectors hummed as they came online. The barren rock that was An Lun appeared in the air before him. After a moment the whole planet was covered in a soothing golden glow. It’s peaceful bearing was evident even through the video.
“Protogenia!” The Terminator gasped. Surprise was clear in his face. “This is the protogenia released by a Paragon, and if it can cover a whole planet it means they’ve reached Reflection of Heaven and Earth. There are two known Paragons of that level – me and the Epochrion, and the Epochrion’s dharma does not look like that. It wouldn’t be that color. Could it mean one of the Skyfire Paragons has risen a degree? That’s the only determination I can make without more information. We can assume one of the Paragons has assumed personal command of An Lun. We must be careful. Bring them my recommendations.”
“Yes, sir.” The subordinate snapped to attention then rushed off to deliver the message.
The Terminator glowered at the slowly turning holograph. The Clockmaker’s departure had been a deeply wounding blow for the Great Conclave. However, she had always warned him that the day may come when she would leave. Now she was gone, and how could he have stopped her? He couldn’t have. Although he commanded more destructive power, her specialty was time. If she wanted to leave, he was powerless to stop her.
The unprecedented rise of Skyfire Avenue continued. Now they were welcoming another Paragon to new heights of power, though he didn’t know the specifics. They had also been the ones to provide the worlds of humanity with integral information on the aliens. The North was constantly sending patrols to gather what they could, but they always failed to return. Their disappearances only proved the Avenue’s information true. The three alien planets were on their doorstep.
Planets that could move through space at will and swallow whole worlds. The concept was almost more terrifying than he could put into words. As the leader of the North, all of that fear and pressure landed squarely on his shoulders.
Lan Qing’s prestigious ascension made confidential by the East. Only the highest members of government were away of the details. They had prepared to make him Fleet Admiral, but in a break from tradition they canceled that ceremony.
Now, Lan Qing bore the title of standing member of the War Committee, Four-Star General and Commander of the Eastern Armed Forces. There was no higher military rank.
There were relatively few Adepts who promised their lives in military service. These men and women were blessed with abilities that outstripped their normal human counterparts, and the military imposed restrictions on that. Thus, the stronger the Adept the less likely they were to suffer someone else’s commands. The thousand or so Adepts of the Bloodiron Khans were painstakingly sought out from the entire Eastern army. Even for all this, though, they still didn’t have the individual strength of Star Division’s fighters.
‘Happy’ didn’t even begin to describe how Lan Qing’s breakthrough made the Eastern military feel. Lan Qing had already been their God of Wisdom, their super soldier. Now as a Paragon, his prestige and subsequently his followers were sure
to grow. It was impossible to say how much this would ultimately benefit the Eastern Alliance. Moreover, he skipped the beginning stage of Paragon. What could this mean for them?
Few Adepts chose a life of politics, but lawmakers were well- versed in their world. They knew that if Lan Qing was a Reflection of Heaven and Earth, he rivaled the Great Conclave’s leader, the Terminator. Perhaps not quite as strong, but at least on the same level.
Just as the golden light spread all over An Lun, the implications of it sent shockwaves through the Eastern government. Lan Qing’s meteoric rise to military dominance was quickly decided by the government once word got to them.
However whether it was Lan Qing’s breakthrough or his new title, all of it was kept a strict military secret. They would only reveal it at the perfect moment, when the truth was for their benefit.
Three days and three nights after Jue Di took Lan Jue away, the boy’s father emerged. He told them Lan Jue would be sequestered away for cultivation, though it would not be for long. Jue Di estimated another three days.
Lan Qing also shut himself away in order to solidify the foundation of his power. He would need time to make sure he was on stable footing.
The Pauper found time to get instruction from Jue Di, along with the Driver. The mighty Paragon was not prudent with his knowledge, and the two benefited greatly from his help.
As for the Clockmaker and Wine Master, Luo Xianni served as their instructor. As the strongest Dimensional Adept in human history, she was better suited to teach them the mysteries of space-time.
Chapter 616: What Is Lan Jue’s Dharma?
The Wine Master learned the most from his experience. At last he saw how the creation of a dharma was performed, he just needed time to let it sink in. Once they returned to Skyfire Avenue, he was determined to give it a try.
The Adepts of the Bloodiron Khans and Star Division completed their meditations after seven days. Star Division’s soldiers were particularly helped, since an Adept’s ability to comprehend protogenia was directly related to their individual strength. Their depth of understanding depended on how much they could control.
Fourth level was the minimum the Bloodiron Khans would accept. Comparatively Skyfire Avenue demanded sixth level. Based on that alone there was a significant difference in quality. However, the nature of Vairocana’s light was enlightening for everyone.
Lan Jue sat in meditation for three entire days. His father’s instruction had opened a door to a new world of understanding.
Dharma was a reflection of one’s own protogenia. Understanding a Paragon’s dharma gave insight into their
underpinning truths, the trend in their protogenia. Lan Jue had never considered these matters, he assumed being a Paragon was a straight path up. He was waiting to deal with it until after he broke through.
Lan Qing’s display was a motivating force, however. He hadn’t known that this pure protogenia could be coalesced in a situation like that.
One step strides the sky – his brother cast a very long shadow! He commanded every ounce of natal protogenia, wasting none of it. Easy street to the next level of Paragon.
But what dharma? That was the most important factor.
Lan Qing’s Vairocana dharma was clearly a middle finger to the old gods from Jue Di, but it was already inherent in his brother’s blood. He succeeded because the truths had been passed down in his DNA. Dharma was the single most important factor of a Paragon’s ultimate strength, so one could imagine what awaited Lan Qing.
Traditionally, Paragons took the protogenic energies of their breakthrough and channeled them into themselves. This
remoulded and evolved their Disciplines into Domains, catapulting them into stratospheric levels of power.
However, this limited the path of future growth for these new super humans. The struggle for insights became harder and harder.
Jue Di was able to became Jue Di by coalescing pure, natal protogenia into an dominant dharma – the Great Sage, Equal Of Heaven. After he formed the Warrior Buddha dharma, he achieved Nirvana within ten years. Five years after that – the Infinite!
Essentially, the Monkey King. The Warrior Buddha and Great Sage, Equal Of Heaven were both him. This would fully explain his shittier qualities since the Monkey King was an annoying little shit with god-like powers.
Once Lan Qing had reached the peak of ninth level, Jue Di had begun to impart his knowledge of dharma creation. It took three years of careful cultivation, which resulted in his meteoric rise today.
Lan Jue was not at the peak of ninth rank, but his insights
into protogenia were many. He had been changed by the thunder essence as well, and its echoes of empyreal lightning. Jue Di used this knowledge to puzzle out the most suitable dharma for his second son. Something that would fuse well with his Taoist training and thunderbolt Discipline. He would even use the immortal qi of the thunder essence for its basis.
Lan Jue’s greatest hurdle lately was the search for a Path. He had experienced so much, there were too many options for him to see clearly which served him best. In three days, Jue Di solved this problem for him, ensuring his future would be smoother.
Three days of consideration opened Lan Jue’s eyes to truth. This was the benefit of having a wise master. Many were the torturous and wicked roads, and if Lan Jue had chosen himself he would never have found the right way. He would have no reference. But that was not the case. A fortuitous meeting with Jue when he was young, the things he was taught, the treasures he uncovered… things that were useless to the world at large, but priceless to an aspiring Paragon.
A clear blue light shone from his eyes, illuminating the room. Motes of silver danced on waves of deadly energy. After absorbing only a small amount, already Lan Jue’s Discipline had undergone a significant transformation. Completely
transformation would require time, but the absorption of the yin-yang lightning was speeding up. Once his Discipline became the yin-yang lightning, he would dissolve the thunder essence faster. Breaking through to Paragon could be expected soon after.
Lan Jue was most surprised to see how it affected Qianlin. With the accepting nature of her powers, it didn’t matter what energies flowed through them during joined cultivation. She was able to use whatever methods he was to improve herself. It was a burden off his shoulders, since he didn’t have to worry about her keeping up.
The blue light faded away until everything in the room returned to normal. Lan Jue unfurled his legs and rose to stretch. It’d been days since he awoke from meditation, but even still the thought of his brother’s success inspired him. Once Lan Qing mastered his dharma, it was unlikely there would be any Paragon that could contend with him! He shuddered to think of what his three mantras could do then.
I need to make sure A-Cheng and A-Li hear about this, Lan Jue thought. I shouldn’t be the only one to feel the pressure of falling behind. He trusted both of them implicitly, and didn’t fear either of them letting his brother’s success slip outside of their circle.
He dialed in Chu Cheng’s number. Soon his friend’s lazy voice answered. “Hello, this is Chu Cheng. I’m cultivating and can’t answer your call right now. If you have something that needs my attention please leave a message, but it will be a while before I get to it. Sorry.”
Cultivating? A-Cheng was still locked away? He hadn’t spoken to either of his close friends since returning to Skyfire, but he would have thought Chu Cheng would have awakened by now.
He tried Hua Li’s number and got a similar result.
Lan Jue couldn’t help but smile. Could this mean his distant brothers had also come to some realization of themselves? First my brother and now them. It’s starting to look like I’m at the back of the line!
Unfortunately he couldn’t stay here and cultivate. The alien menace still loomed large and humanity needed as much information as they could. He still had a job to do. They’d already spent six days on An Lun, and every day the scouting mission had been on his mind.
He stepped out of his small dorm and got in touch with the
Wine Master and Su Xiaosu. Lan Qing was still meditating and was unreachable. Soon afterward all of the Paragons converged, including Jue Di and Luo Xianni.
“Are you ready to go?” Jue Di asked.
Lan Jue nodded back at him. “We need to head in for a recon mission on the alien forces, and get back as quickly as we can with some information. We need eyes on them if we want to be prepared for their next attack.”
Su Xiaosu was definitely going with him. Her knowledge of the Starfields was unparalleled, and that would come in useful weather they were advancing or advancing or retreating. His Amazons were coming as well along with their resident tech genius, the Accountant. This would serve as their base scouting party.
The Wine Master and Epochrion had also pledged to come for security. The Pauper was also committed. He had just become a Paragon and was itching to try out his new powers.
“You don’t need to come, mom. You stay here with dad. “Lan Jue told her. He didn’t know what she did it, or maybe it was
Jue Di, but lately the two were as inseparable as new lovers.
“Of course that’s not ok. I’m going with you.” Luo Xianni’s refusal was immediate. “Those aliens are very dangerous. The only way I’m not going to worry is if I’m with you. You don’t call me mom for no reason! I’m responsible than others I could name.”
“If you don’t mock me, does it hurt?” Jue Di asked, honestly curious.
She gave him a mocking stare in reply. “I have years of complaints backed up.”
Jue Di just sighed. He knew that in a war of words, Luo Xianni would beat him handily every time. She had absolutely no filter, anything could come out of her mouth.
“I’ll go as well.” Jue Di said.
“What?” Lan Jue looked at his father with surprise. He hadn’t anticipated his father would want to come.
Jue Di explained. “A-Qing has completed his breakthrough. He is more than capable of protecting himself now, there’s no need for me here. I’m curious how strong these aliens are.” A cold, hard light shone behind the ultimate Paragon’s eyes. A flood of murderous intent hung over everyone, making them shiver.
Both the Epochrion and the Wine Master were thrilled by the news. With Jue Di with them safety was no longer a concern. Also, Jue Di’s power was known to them only by disreputable reports. It was said he was able to destroy whole planets by himself. IF that were true, what was to stop the man from dealing a killing blow to the aliens while they were out?
Lan Jue was, of course, ecstatic. Their party was a small but immensely powerful one. In fact, you couldn’t find a more capable team in all of human space. The Paragons with them spanned the gamut; one who walked the Infinite, one immersed in Nirvana, one Reflection of Heaven and Earth and two within the Realm of Protogenia. After them came a slew of ninth- ranked Adepts. At least in terms of individual ability, this was humanity’s dream-team.
“Don’t forget me! I’m coming!” The Driver was late getting the news, and came trotting over to them.
“You shouldn’t,” Lan Jue said. “With all of us gone the Star Division needs a commander.”
The Driver was firm. “No, I’m going. Star Division still has the Coffee Master and Bartender, that’s good enough. Besides we’re just leaving them here to drill.”
Of course he would be determined to go. After only a few days of instruction from Jue Di he felt the difference. Just like before, he wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass him by. Not to mention, he and Lan Jue still had work to do with the yin- yang lightning. This trip was going to take some time, perhaps enough time for them to complete the transformation of their Disciplines.
Chapter 617: Together
Jue Di had told the Driver about the yin-yang lightning. He’d said that by its nature, it was typically only used from the outside. That meant it was used for battle and not normally transferred into one’s own powers. However, because Lan Jue absorbed the thunder essence it had begun to evolve the nature of his energies. Now it was more like a derivative of empyreal lightning, far outstripping the capabilities of their taiyin and taiyang thunderbolts. It was small, but the wisps of mystical power stuck to them like glue, feeding them what they needed to grow as Adepts.
The Driver was a strict believer of ‘never let an opportunity pass.’ The things he learned from Jue Di, and the things he was accomplishing with Lan Jue strengthened him beyond expectations. Becoming a Paragon one day didn’t have to be a dream!
“Fine, if you feel that strongly then we’re all going together,” Lan Jue answered.
Lan Qing was not with his troops, but they were taken care of. The Coffee Master and the Bartender were left behind to care for Star Division while Lan Jue was gone. Rest was important, but they had also come to test themselves against the mighty
Eastern army and learn from their training methods. The two groups were slated to drill together for mutual improvement. Everyone would return to Skyfire Avenue together once Lan Jue and his team returned.
Before long, Zeus-1 was tearing through the sky like a blue hawk. A tail of water vapor traced its exit. Lan Jue had a soft- spot for this particular ship. They’d been through alot together.
It wasn’t as spacious as Majesty, but there were a few crew quarters to take advantage of. Jue Di and Luo Xianni would have one, obviously. The Pauper had helped himself to one already for cultivation, while Lan Jue and the Driver needed space to continue their process. With Jue Di present they didn’t need to be afraid of losing control.
That left one room open, and two Paragons; the Wine Master, and the Clockmaker.
Lan Jue gave his old friend a knowing look when they realized the problem. The Wine Master stammered a response. “Perhaps I should find the Pauper, squeeze in with him.”
But Lan Jue’s gaping expression stopped him. This old man
was the leader of Skyfire Avenue, a master of space and time. How was he so stupid when it came to women? How was he not losing his mind over this chance that fell in his lap?
The Clockmaker shot him a look. “You can come with me. You and the Pauper have different Disciplines, I’ll help you find the road. When we go back you can try to create a dharma, too.”
“Huh?” The Wine Master’s head shot up as he looked her way. The Clockmaker had already turned around and was heading back to her – their – new room.
“Will you stop being so stupid?” Lan Jue looked at his friend with resigned irritation. “How can you ever hope to even hold a lady if you keep acting like this? You’ll be a bachelor the rest of your life.”
“You don’t understand anything,” the Wine Master fired back. “She is a woman of high moral integrity. She has never agreed to contact with a man before. I respect her for that.”
Lan Jue was losing patience. “Crap. When you’re chasing women you need courage, caution, and a thick skin. Respect is when you make them your wife. Until then the greatest respect
you can show a women is how much you like her. Don’t waste time pussy-footing around, you’ve got to get out there!”
His voice was loud, enough so that the others could hear. He spied a pair of hard, sharp eyes sweep back toward him.
“Ehm….” He felt the bitter, soft, but indignant eyes pierce him. Then he ran. Personal safety was more important than yelling at the Wine Master.
The Wine Master couldn’t help but chuckle as he watched him flee. It didn’t hide the racing of his own heart. Did she… did she really invite me to cultivate with her in her room? He thought to himself. Like in most ships, cabins were very small. Space was limited, so two people together…
He took several deep breaths, then followed after the Clockmaker with resolute strides. Lan Jue’s words had motivated him.
“That nephew of yours is rubbish.” Jue Di was lying on the
best of his cabin, frowning at nothing.
Luo Xianni was lying beside him with her head on his arm. She laughed. “You aren’t? Who was it that made me wait so many years? You relax, when we get back I’ll stay at Skyfire Avenue. Whatever you want to do, I won’t stop you. I can’t ask you to give up your freedom.” She always knew in her heart that she would never completely control this man. It was better to stay close, and be together for as long as they could. At least she could see him from time to time.
Jue Di pulled her close and sighed. “Maybe I really am getting old. I’m less interested in freedom these days, more afraid of being lonely. You know me, with my character do you think I’d be calling my sons back? I started to miss them, and discovered that all along I was missing someone else too. I let you down.”
Luo Xianni’s body trembled. She looked up and stared into his face. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing, that those words were coming from Jue Di’s mouth.
After so many years she knew this old man well, or she thought she did. This wasn’t something the Chi Bupang she knew would say. She gently ran her fingers across his face. “You’re not old,” she said, “you’ll never be old.”
He smiled at her, at the warmth she was giving him. “I’ve been too stubborn, and it’s cost me a lot of wonderful things. Things get clearer as you age. When this alien business is over, come wander with me. We’ll explore the universe together, find a nice planet for our kids. Maybe a place like Earth, rich in original qi – a trace of the immortal realm.”
She watched the determination rise in his eyes. “You… don’t mind me coming?”
He took her face in his hands. “So long as you don’t abandon us, I want you to be the real mother of my children.”
Luo Xianni bit her lip to fight back the flood emotion, but lost.
She threw her arms around her neck and pulled him close.
She had waited for these words. Waited for so many years!
Jue Di laughed. Now he looked back at his obstinance and thought it was stupid. He preferred this feeling, warm and sweet. With her it felt like he had a home.
Ever since running into Luo Xianni on Ziluo, he’d felt out of
sorts. He’d raised Lan Jue and Lan Qing, taught them, but since they left he’d been living on his own. He had always been a lone wolf, but emotions were a universal trait. He was just as susceptible to missing his children, but he couldn’t tell them.
He’d known all about Lan Jue’s pain when Hera died. At the time he thought it was weak, it made him angry. He wasn’t going to reward such weakness with his attention. It took years, watching Lan Jue pull himself out of it step by step, hearing about him from Lan Qing. Only until his amazing performance at the Great Adept Tournament did Jue Di realize how much he missed his family.
He’d raised those two boys himself from the time they were children. They were his boys as much as they were his disciples, and he treated them like it. He was stern and unforgiving, but now as he got older he saw how these two young men fed his soul. Now, watching them continuing to improve every day was enough.
Jue Di longed for a closer relationship with them, but he knew it wasn’t in the cards. Who knew the strongest human ever recorded could be so sentimental.
But that day hen Luo Xianni showed up with his son, it was
strange. Something more appeared between him and his son when she was around. He’d heard someone say it in the factory once, and immediately recognized what it was. Without a mother, they never felt like a family. It had been an awakening for him. He saw the truth, a woman was the glue that held a family together.
Later, as he learned more about Luo Xianni and his son, and how they worked together, he saw everything clearly. She made him so angry sometimes he couldn’t speak, but he found he liked the life he led now. They spat barbs and their kids managed the casualties – that was family.
The words he told Luo Xianni sounded simple, but they weren’t. They were the result of long hours of thought, and difficult sacrifices. Now, with her wrapped up in his arms, he had no regrets. On the contrary, he was overjoyed with his decision.
That cabin was full of sweetness and honey. Next door the room was silent.
When the Wine Master stepped inside he spotted the Clockmaker already seated on one side of the bed. Her eyes were closed, like she was meditating.
He wavered for a moment, but steeled his resolve and walked over to stand in front of her.
“Ah, ehm… I’m here.” He stammered.
Her eyes fluttered open. Nothing was said, she just looked at him with smoky eyes.
Her look seemed to put him on edge. The Wine Master straightened. “I-if you feel like this is uncomfortable, I can leave.”
She let him flounder for a moment, then turned her eyes to the side. The Wine Master, crestfallen, turned to go.
“Get back here!” The Clockmaker’s voice was harsh.
“Ah?” He turned around to face her.
She glared back. “The Jewelry Master was right. Really a waste.”
The Wine Master grinned awkwardly. “I’m sorry, I… I’m afraid.”
The Clockmaker paused. “What are you afraid of? That I’m going to eat you?”
The Wine Master sighed. “I’m afraid you’ll leave. The last time you did, you were gone for years. My heart ached every time I walked passed that empty store. Missing you was a curse. I couldn’t focus to cultivate. The only time I could think about you was when I drank. The beauty of the wine always reminded me of you. I developed a taste for the richness of it, and the way it dulled the mind. I missed you every day, so every day I would drink.
Chapter 618: I’ll Never Leave Again
“I never thought you’d come back. Do you have any idea how happy I was to find out I was wrong? I didn’t touch a drop of wine. I just stood in the winery, watching you go back and forth on your errands. I told myself no matter what, I wouldn’t let you leave again. That’s why I’m afraid, because if I offend you you may leave Skyfire Avenue. You might leave me. So long as I get to see you every day, that’s enough for me.
“I came with you even though there is a lot to keep me busy on the Avenue. I realized I can’t go a day without seeing your face.”
The Clockmaker was silent, and dropped her head. “I’m sorry. Now I understand why you haven’t created your dharma, even though you were always more talented than I was. It was… because of me?”
He smiled. “This isn’t important. You need to be in the right frame of mind to create a dharma, and confidence. I’m just an alcoholic, I don’t deserve a dharma.”
The Clockmaker lifted her hand and extended it toward the Wine Master. He looked at her in surprise, but this time did not
hesitate. He slipped his hand into hers.
She pulled him closer, next to her.
“Time may be my realm, but that doesn’t mean I can control it. If I could I would make time flow backwards. I can’t say what was right or wrong, all I can do is promise you that I’ll never leave again.”
The Wine Master smiled, his first real, satisfied smile in years.
There was real joy in his face.
Zeus-1 was on its way at top speed. The Blinding Stone was activated, engaging their cloaking systems. They didn’t have to worry about being spotted by any radar. Lan Jue was very vigilant, especially since they’d once narrowly missed the main blast of a Bastion ship heading a similar route.
After two day of travel, Lan Jue returned to the pirate haven they’d vacated only ten days earlier. Su Xiaosu guided them through the least dangerous passes of the Starfield’s shifting
landscape. Lan Jue and his team inched closer to the galaxy’s heart.
Lin Guo guo, the Psychic Tide, was seated in Zeus-1’s captain’s chair with a helmet pressed to her head. She channeled her perception through the ship and out into space around them. No one knew if the alien planets were still here, or where they might suddenly appear.
It wasn’t unthinkable for them to stumble upon the enemy at any moment. That was their greatest fear.
Zeus-1 reduced speed, choosing safety over efficiency. The slower the ship ran, the less it affected its environment and the smaller its energy signature. With the Blinding Stone they were practically invisible.
Lan Jue was by the ship’s controls. Once they’d entered into the Starfields he couldn’t keep his concentration on cultivation. He had to be ready to react the instant danger reared its head.
Asteroids flitted by their windows constantly. Every few seconds one of the lumbering giants would pass at several thousands of kilometers per hour. If it weren’t for a crack pilot
and someone who knew the lay of the land, they’d be in real danger of being smashed to bits.
The asteroids varied in their gravitational pull. It was important to know how much distance was needed to clear them. It was not common knowledge.
“How far are we from where the three main planets used to be?” Lan Jue asked Su Xiaosu.
Her voice was soft. “At our current speed, about a day and a half.”
“We aren’t in a rush,” Lan Jue explained. “Safety first.”
“Aye.” She nodded.
The Driver came walking over with a whisky glass in hand. He handed another one to Lan Jue. “Relax. We aren’t going to run into the aliens so quick.”
Lan Jue didn’t even have time to refuse before Xiaosu’s voice
interrupted sharply. “Boss, look!”
His head snapped to the radar screen. There was a red dot rapidly closing in on their location.
“Analysis says there’s an eighty-six percent chance it’s alive,” the Accountant cried.
Lan Jue drained the contents of his whisky glass in a single gulp, then turned to the Driver. “You’re a goddamn harbinger!”
The Driver shrugged back at him. “You’re going to blame this on me? I wasn’t serious!”
They bantered, but Lan Jue’s mind was sharp. His eyes were plastered to the windows. He didn’t have to wait long before it showed up on the horizon.
The purple, shuttle-shaped body lurched into view. It was one of the carrier aliens, like the one they killed before.
This one looked bigger, and in his experience size was a good
indicator of strength for their species.
“It’s really a damn alien. You want me to deal with it?” Excitement was clear in the Driver’s eyes. He and Lan Jue already had a basic grasp of yin-yang lightning, and a tenth of his energy had been transformed already. He wanted to know the limits of this combined thunderbolt power.
But Lan Jue shook his head. “We mustn’t act in haste and alert the enemy to our presence. It doesn’t know we’re here, so we avoid it. It looks like the alien planets have chosen to use the center of the Starfields as a base. They’re sending out feelers to find other life-bearing planets in the system.”
Their mission was reconnaissance, not elimination. They had to focus on bringing back all the information they could about their foe. An alien that size was sure to have a crystal, but Lan Jue didn’t want to gamble their mission for greed.
A host of nervous eyes watched the alien slip through space. Its torpedo-like shape convulsed and contracted as it flew. Like the one before it, it belched plumes of gas to propel itself forward. It could reach several times the speed of light that way. Soon it was passing close by Zeus-1.
It was none the wiser. Lan Jue called out. “Maintain normal speed.”
“Boss, be careful. I can sense a consciousness.” Lin Guoguo warned.
Her boss’ eyes lit up. “Speed up!”
Su Xiaosu and the Accountant burst into action. Zeus-1’s engines flared as they were opened wide and shot off at three times speed. A dark purple beam of light tore through the space they’d just vacated. Cold crept up everyone’s spine.
With these Paragons gathered they could survive with a broken ship, but they only had one. It was a dangerous situation to be in, and one Lan Jue wanted to avoid.
The Driver, his jaw set, turned and entered into one of the ejection capsules.
“Be careful!” Lan Jue called at him.
“Relax!” He growled back.
Zeus-1’s attack capabilities were limited. Lan Jue had tried to use them to fight these aliens before to little effect. Their abilities as Adepts were far more damaging.
“Personnel cannon, preparing first stage.”
“Preparing second stage!”
“Third stage. Fire!”
A beam of light fired off the bow of Zeus-1 just as the ship veered to the side. It narrowly avoided another one of the alien’s attacks.
As the Driver raced through space his body was covered in an aura of silver light. In the next instant he was safely cradled in the cockpit of his mecha, Thunderclap.
The suit had undergone enhancements since the God Battles. Its hull was thicker, and no longer the same blinding bright color. Now it was bulky and dark.
Two rays of white light radiated from the machine’s eyes. It changed direction in midair and shot right for the alien carrier. A massive spear was gripped in its metal hand. It was white, and as the mecha held it a corona of power radiated three meters around the tip.
Lan Jue watched carefully from the bridge. He wasn’t too worried for the Driver’s safety. There were five Paragons on board ready to assist at a moment’s notice. They could dispatch of this problem with a wave of their hand.
As he watched the light blazing around Thunderclap’s spear, he nodded silently to himself. The Driver had improved quite a lot recently. That light was a sign of his control. Before his Discipline was taiyin based, but now he could draw out the lightning element and condense it into its essence. It was a wonderful achievement!
The carrier alien sensed Thunderclap’s approach but didn’t pay any mind to the tiny creature. Its lumbering body was still heading for Zeus-1.
Lan Jue turned to Ling Guoguo. “Analyze the consciousness you felt. How was it able to find us?”
Lin Guoguo replied. “It was a special kind of psychic pulse, sort of like sonar. It seems able to resonate with our own psyches, and it’s strong. It doesn’t appear to do any damage, but it’s wide-reaching. It didn’t see us, but it did sense us and attack.”
Lan Jue frowned in thought. No wonder all the earlier recon missions failed. They had top of the line cloaking equipment, but so long as they were people on board, the aliens could sense their consciousness. But what about the unmanned drones? There must be another reason they failed.
As his mind raced, Thunderclap clashed with their alien foe. Being ignored by the beast had sent him into a rage. His mecha became a beam of intense light as he picked up speed, enough to overtake the monster and bar its path. Thunderclap stabbed with its blazing spear.
Poof! The weapon cut into the alien like there was no resistance. Ripples of silver light undulated out from the wound. The resulting explosion flung the enormous alien away.
Chapter 619: The Might Of Lightning
The alien roared in pain. Its massive body was well-defended, by the Driver’s taiyin lightning swept right passed its guard. More proof that an Adept’s Discipline was the antithesis of these creatures.
These alien monsters consumed energy to survive and evolve. Adepts were similar in that their Disciplines relied on vital energies. However, the aliens harmed that which they took in.
The creature’s whole body shook and a purple aura sprang up around it. Thunderclap was quick, retreating quickly a thousand meters away. Thunderclap could outpace Thor when it came to speed.
The Driver brought his mecha back around, and pointed his glimmering spear at his target. The machine was surrounded by light, but the tip of its weapon wasn’t the same as it had been. The light condensed and became translucent at the blade, like a purple gemstone. Flickers of lightning buzzed within.
He was going to try.
Lan Jue narrowed his eyes and paid close attention. He was also eager to know what measure of damage the Driver’s combined lightning could inflict on their foe.
The carrier alien contracted, then with a burst of air thrust itself toward Thunderclap. Its nightmarish maw opened wide, revealing a hell-scape of razor-sharp teeth.
The Driver didn’t try to escape. A blinding electric light erupted from behind him, and Thunderclap was launched forward at top speed. As he raced ahead the light of his spear brightened until it hung over Thunderclap like a membrane of light. It parted the air in front of the mecha, creating a protective wake.
From afar all they could see was the purple light vanish into the creature’s body. They held their breath, but didn’t have to wait long. In a blink the light revealed itself again bursting out of the alien’s far side, then slowly faded into the darkness of space.
The carrier’s inertia sent it sailing into the distance. Soon it was almost too far to see clearly.
But then thunderous blasts, loud enough to wake the dead, broke the silence of the cosmos. A purple explosion blinded the eye. It was so fierce that all of the asteroids around it were disintegrated. A patch of clear space was left where the alien had been.
Thunderclap lowered its spear. It hung heroically in the middle of space, with the purple light of its handiwork reflected of its metal body.
“Why the hell are you posing? Get the crystal.” Lan Jue’s irritated voice interrupted the Driver as he was basking in how awesome he was.
“Oh… I forgot. I was tryin’ to be handsome.” The Drive cleared his throat then rushed over to the site of the explosion.
Back on the ship’s bridge, Lan Jue peered over the destruction and nodded his head. The yin-yang lightning was as strong as was promised. Strong enough to overcome an alien’s defenses.
As the aliens’ strength corresponded to their size, it was easy to imagine how strong an interstellar carrier would be. However, with the power of their combined thunderbolt
Disciplines, the Driver split the beast from head to heel. Then to rub salt in the wounds, the monster detonated in an explosion to rival the death of a star. Overall, more impressive than the fireworks from the one Lan Jue killed.
Few were the men and women who saw these beasts and lives. Most ended up like the many scouts or the North’s Seventh Fleet – devoured. The alien threat had always existed, but the war was only just starting. Humans still understood so little, but Lan Jue was growing wiser with each encounter. He could see that Adepts, more than the technology of man, were the most crucial weapons in the fight for their survival.
Take the Driver as an example. He was a powerful Adept, with exceptional piloting ability, amplified by a great mecha. He could take on a battleship and win. Take that same battleship and pit it against a carrier alien. The battleship had a good chance, but the Driver could put it down in half the time.
All of this data was priceless. The Accountant was quick to record everything he could for analysis. In the coming war, scores of soldiers like the Driver would be needed. This information would be used to train Star Division to fill that need.
“Boss, there was a massive psionic spike, something’s searching in this area. We should already be able to see it.” Lin Guoguo called over.
Lan Jue’s heart skipped a beat. He shouted at the Driver through the ship’s coms. “Get back as fast as you can, there are more coming.” He had to remind everyone that they were a recon squad. If they exposed themselves here, the losses would outweigh the gains.
The Driver urged Thunderclap back to the ship at top speed. The tell-tale purple flicker of a vital crystal pulsed in its grip. As he was boarding Zeus-1 specks of purple light flashed in the distance. They were getting bigger, and heading right for the ship’s location.
Lan Jue sucked in a breath. The radar showed at least three hundred of them, of all sorts. Some of them were over a thousand meters long.
“We’re surrounded, they came in from all around us.” The Accountant’s anxious voice cut in. “Our chances of getting out without a fight are less than three percent. Some of them are faster than our ship.”
Lin Guoguo reported again. “Another psionic sweep, it’s strong enough that they’ll know we’re here. Boss, what do we do?”
Lan Jue’s eyes hardened. “Full speed, Head to where they’re most spread out. Arm the shields, and prepare for battle.”
“No need, I’ll handle it.” A familiar voice contradicted the commander.
Lan Jue turned his head to find the Wine Master had snuck up at some point. His scepter glimmered in his hand.
Without waiting for an answer, a silver light bloomed from the Cosmagus. Zeus-1 was revealed to the dark universe, but enveloped in a mystical silver glow. The light flickered, and all at once, the ship disappeared.
Empty space was buffeted by waves of psychic force, searching for something no longer there.
Before long the alien force had converged, and hovered over a wide swath of space. They slithered and squirmed among one
another, looking. There was no trace for them to find.
Far in the distance, behind a lumbering asteroid, Zeus-1 reappeared in a flash. Its main engines roared to life, and they fled before the aliens could sniff them out. When they were a safe distance, Lan Jue shot the Wine Master an appreciative gaze and a thumbs up.
There were real benefits for taking Paragons along. Now the commander knew he could rely on his old friend to help them flee if a similar situation arose. If he hadn’t been here, Lan Jue was ready to fight. But that would have cost them. Thankfully all it took to solve the problem was a well-placed dimensional transport.
Fear didn’t tie Star Division’s hands. They had five Paragons ready to back them up in a fight. Killing so many would have alerted the alien planets, however, and subsequently would affect their reconnaissance. Retreat was the best option.
Lan Jue turned to his intelligence officer. “Accountant, look into how that first alien discovered we were there.”
The door to the bridge hissed as the Driver entered. He held a
large vital crystal, over a foot long. Waves of rich vibrant energy pulsed from it occasionally.
He held one of the most valuable objects to his species. The black market was already purportedly selling vital crystals for obscene prices. A piece like the one the Driver gathered could buy him a fully equipped battleship.
He grinned at the eyes that came his way. “Spoils of war. Not bad, not bad. I’ll just hang on to it for now, I promise I’ll give it back when we go home.”
“Stop screwing around,” Lan Jue answered. “Half a second later and we’d be buried in aliens. I think we can assume they’re trying to establish themselves in the Shattered Starfields. We aren’t out in the far reaches, but we’re not at the galaxy’s heart either. It looks like they’ve already spread pretty far.”
The Wine Master nodded. “This is not a happy situation. If they can see through our cloaks getting close enough to learn anything is going to be a challenge.”
Lan Jue’s lips were turned in a frown. This was a problem. They couldn’t fight their way in, even with all their Paragons.
The Violet Princess was stronger than Luo Xianni, and they had no way of knowing how many of her kind there were! There was only so much they could handle before it got too dangerous.
The Accountant called out to him. “Preliminary analysis is complete. It wasn’t that easy for them to pick us out.”
“Eh?” Everyone looked his way.
The Accountant explained. “According to my readings, we were first discovered by the alien because we got too close. Psychic pulses like that are a kind of energy, and one which required a lot of effort to employ. We may be a different species, but they can run out of steam just like us. So, they likely use it rarely and only in a limited scope. It’s deliberate, they have to energize their perception to scout long distances.”
Chapter 620: Simulated Pulse
The Wine Master nodded. “It figures their scope of perception would be limited.”
The Accountant went on. “So it’s likely we were only spotted because we stumbled into one another. It felt us when we passed close, and focused its perception afterwards to cast it farther. Then once it locked onto us, it attacked. They must have some way to communicate with one another that we don’t know about it. Or maybe when one dies it releases a powerful psionic pulse, which called its friends and they started searching. It was a cluster of problems that lead to that situation.”
Lan Jue nodded. “That makes the most sense, but we’ll need to confirm it. If your analysis is correct, than we can still slip in to continue the mission. We just need to keep our distance.”
The plan was amended, and they continued to penetrate deeper into the Shattered Starfields.
A few hours later they came upon another alien, drifting through space. They maintained a distance of about fifty kilometers away which appeared to be enough to keep them concealed. “It seems our determinations were correct,” the
Wine Master said, as the beast vanished into the distance.
A speculative look crossed Lan Jue’s face. “I don’t think it’s that easy. The Accountant is likely right, but we have to remember that there are different sorts of these creatures. The scope of their perception will also be different. Consider how quickly we were spotted by these. Now think about the alien planets. If size is power, how close is too close before one of those things see us?”
The Wine Master’s heart fluttered. This was a big problem, and if it wasn’t solved it could put them all in jeopardy.
“Stupid, can’t you simulate a psionic pulse?” Jue Di’s gruff voice drew their attention. It came from all around, though the man himself wasn’t present.
“Simulate a pulse?” Lan Jue inquired.
With a flash both Jue Di and Luo Xianni appeared in the bridge. Jue Di stared directly at his son. “Moron kid, a psychic burst like that is just another sort of energy. A thought given form. Theoretically you could manipulate energy to mimic an alien consciousness. We also have one of their cores, how could
they tell the difference?”
Lan Jue smiled apologetically. “But… how do you simulate a pulse?”
“You can’t,” he replied, “but that girl there is a psychic. She should be able to mimic it after experiencing the sensation a few times. Not a problem.”
He was, of course, indicating Lin Guoguo.
“Guoguo.” Lan Jue looked at her.
She nodded. “I’ll try.”
She was already adept at psionic manipulation. With the ship as an amplifier her Discipline rose to frightening heights.
Lan Jue gave her instructions. “You’ll need to get close enough to feel it. Search for peculiarities. Xiaosu, we’ll pause our ingress, switch the search to any nearby aliens. We’ll proceed once we’ve got our cover.”
“Aye!” Su Xiaosu responded. She quickly went about enacting his commands.
The Starfields were indeed rife with aliens now, it didn’t take long for them to find another target. This one was different from the others, however. It was a hexagonal shape a hundred meters in diameter and flat that spun unceasingly.
Zeus-1 crept to within ten kilometers of the monster before they felt its consciousness.
Almost immediately the alien inflated, expanded to several times its former size. The edges crept over and around Zeus-1 in attempts to envelope it.
“Xiaosu, evasion maneuvers. Guoguo, learn what you can.”
Under Xiaosu and Mika’s command, Zeus-1 darted around, keeping a safe distance from the alien but not letting it get too far. The alien couldn’t physically see their ship due to its cloak, but its perception wasn’t fooled. Luckily it seemed this breed wasn’t equipped for long-ranged battle. It needed to get close.
Zeus-1 used the advantage of its speed and small size to evade. The two rolled around one another like a game of cat and mouse. Lin Guoguo’s eyes were closed and a pale golden light surrounded her head. She was channeling her psychic power through the ship to learn what she could from the beast.
As she learned, she continuously tried to mimic what she was feeling. The world of phycics was particular, and stratified. Specific mental energies had a frequency, and these frequencies were unique.
The chase continued for an hour. By then Lin Guoguo was drained.
“Should I go deal with it?” the Driver offered.
Lan Jue shook his head. “This time I will.”
They could have used the Wine Master’s powers to escape as they had before, but part of scouting was to discover what they could about the different alien breeds. You learned the best way to kill them by actually doing it.
“I’m going!” the Pauper announced.
Lan Jue couldn’t bring himself to deny the eager new Paragon. He could only let him go.
The Pauper exited the ship. Once out in space, his body immediately started to glimmer with a blinding golden light. He drew his hands together in a circle, and from them was birthed a golden dragon. The mythical beast flung itself at the encroaching alien.
When the dragon first appeared it was only a few meters long. However, the farther it flew the longer it became until was several hundred meters in length.
“Aaaaaggghhhhhrrrr!” The thunderous dragon roar was so intense that they could hear clearly it through Zeus-1’s thick hull. The two crashed into one another.
The alien responded by contracting, swallowing up the dragon inside of it. It shook and shuddered, and a purple light radiated out from it. As they watched, the alien grew larger.
“Wha?!” The Pauper yelped. Surprise was clear in his shocked expression. The alien’s defenses were staggering, and when his taming dragon palm exploded, the beast only got bigger to accommodate. The Taming Dragon Arhat hadn’t left a scratch.
What a guard! For it to swallow up a Paragon’s attack, it was must be stronger than most of the creatures they’d encountered before. The alien wasn’t fast, and it had no ranged attack, but it could take one hell of a punch.
The Pauper didn’t simply watch. He thrust out with his palm again, sending another golden dragon toward his enemy. This one reached the beast as the blast from the first was still raging inside. As the second dragon detonated, its intense release of energy was enough to obliterate it. He waved his hand, and a Core about the size of his fist appeared in hand. He returned to Zeus-1.
Everyone on the ship knew what was coming. They wasted no time, Zeus-1 set all the engine to full throttle and escaped as face as they could. Lan Jue didn’t want to give their enemies any chance to sniff them out.
“This vital crystal seems different than the others.” Once the Pauper was back on the bridge, he showed what he meant to the
Jue Di took it from him, peering at it carefully. It was a hexagon, like the alien itself, and it flickered with that familiar purple energy. He was quiet for a time as he sensed the forces within it. “It contained natural energies, pure and strong. There are very few impurities and it’s tightly concentrated.”
The Pauper gave his report about the fight, and what he felt. Everyone agreed that this alien was one of the more powerful kinds. If those longer carrier aliens were scouts, than this one must have been a defender.
“The taming Dragon palm strike is full of my perception,” the Pauper stated. “Within the monster it had some sort of sucker that drank up the energy. It releases some as well in the form of a corrosive air. It was strong enough to influence the protogenia in my attack. If I were a normal man that air would dissolve me into nothing. From what I could tell, the thing was meant for close combat. If that stuff fell over a battleship, it would eat away its energy shields in a hurry.”
Lan Jue nodded. “This is exactly the kind of information we’re out here to get. The mmore data we get the easier it’ll be when we have to fight. However, if I might give his Majesty the
Taming Dragon Arhat a suggestion?”
The Pauper looked at him inquiringly. “What is it?”
“Let’s rein it in next time,” Lan Jue said. “We all know how strong you are, but we’re here to find their weaknesses, we can’t all blow them up with golden dragons.”
“Oh… alright.” He scratched his ratty head of hair. The Pauper was so eager to see how far he could push himself that he forgot their reason for coming.
Lan Jue turned his attention to Jue Di. “Father, this has given me an idea. I think we should skim the boundaries of the Galaxy’s interior before rushing in. We should focus on discovering the different types of aliens, I think that data would be priceless. With so many of these things around, we can already be sure the planets are nearby.”
Jue Di shrugged. “This is your business, you’re this outfit’s commander. It’s got nothing to do with me.”
“Alright,” Lan Jue said submissively. He knew it was his
father’s way of teaching him, but it certainly added to the pressure!
Zeus-1 continued to skirt the edges of the Starfields’ interior. It had plenty of energy stored, and an energy recycling system as support. Running out of fuel wasn’t one of their worries.
After consulting with Xiaosu, they settled on a decaying orbit around the outskirts that would bring them closer to the center with each orbit. As they did, the search would continue for new sorts of aliens to dissect.