Chapter 791: Defeat
After sitting in stillness for over five minutes, Middle Heaven began to move again. It chased after its own armada in pursuit of the enemy, back toward Angel.
Solar Flare was a strong attack, but it had its drawbacks. The heat it produced was so intense all of the ship’s systems overheated after use. The ship needed at least five minutes to cool off and come back online. This was only possible because of An Lun’s rocky surface which acted as a heat shield. Without it the situation would be worse for the Bastion. Middle Heaven would have needed over an hour to let the heat radiate off. Right now Solar Flare could only be used three times in a day to ensure it didn’t damage important systems.
Poseidon’s Soft Water Bombs bore similar restrictions, they cost the ship a lot of energy to produce. The ship even had a specialized area where volleys were made and prepared, but even then they could only be used three times. Afterwards they needed three days to replenish energy stores and prepare another battery. The problem lay in soft water’s inability to be stored. It had to be used in a short time because there was no way to contain it safely.
In this way the balance was maintained; the stronger
something was, the more serious its consequences or challenges. It was the same for universal protogenia.
The aliens fled quickly and with wild abandon. They made the wise decision to try and spread out and run in all directions from the danger. The human pursuers could only clip off the stragglers, leaving the bulk of the alien force free to make their escape.
Still, humans made gains at their enemy’s expense. The value of the vital crystals they harvested was hard to measure. They simultaneously shot down the fleeing beasts and took their precious crystals, for the future betterment of their species.
Once the fight was finished the crystals would be divvied up among the three factions that had participated. How, precisely, had yet to be discussed but it all hinged on surviving the encounter.
A dim light brightened the sky, and Lan Jue lifted his eyes to observe. They could not know the state of the battle from their vantage on Angel, but there were clues that alluded to Middle
Heaven’s Solar Flare. It certainly wasn’t normal for half the sky to suddenly light up like the birth of a new sun.
Extensive tracts of the planet’s surface had already recovered from the progenitor’s poison touch. The release of vital energy from the creature’s destruction had reinvigorated it. The Paragons all gathered together. No aliens remained nearby, frightened away by what they’d witnessed.
The cloud that looked so much like Tribulation Lightning had filled their enemies to the bone with terror. Just the presence of it conjured images of their bodies being turned to smoke and ash, and inspired them to run for their lives. Even Monarch’s avatar wasn’t spared.
“I wonder what’s going on up there.” The Pharmacist said in curiosity. There was still a long way to go before a final human victory, and they couldn’t know what was happening on all fronts.
Lan Jue grinned. “Don’t worry, I trust that guy. He’s always got an ace up his sleeve. If we really didn’t have a chance he wouldn’t have brought us into this fight. Anyway, on with the plan.”
Now that the progenitor had been taken care of, they were responsible for helping the ground assault team take Angel and save the survivors. This included the humans that had already been turned, so that they could be brought to Middle Heaven for treatment.
The first part of their mission was done, and as of yet they hadn’t been met with a large number of alien forces. This hinted that the battle out in space was still being fiercely waged, that humanity was holding its own.
Luo Xianni spoke up. “Let’s go take a look. I’m sensing powerful waves of energy, and that means there’s a strong enemy nearby. I’ve checked and I can’t get any communications through, the interference is too great.”
As one they shot into the air, high above the ground so that they might get a clearer picture. From their vantage it was even more evident how quickly Angel was recovery. It virtually glowed with life. What was more surprising to the humans, however, was the lack of an alien presence even from their overwatch position. They were gone entirely.
“It looks like those beasts are really scared of you!” The Pauper said with a chuckle.
“No,” Lan Jue replied, “they’re afraid of the cloud. It’s gone but none of them are interested in making sure. Unless I’m mistaken, our armada is also on a winning footing.”
The Pharmacist’s heart raced. “I’ll go take a look and confirm.” There was no fighting on the planet’s surface for them to concern themselves about. Strong as they were, Paragons weren’t best suited for gathering up survivors. They had the ground team for that.
The turn-around on Angel was faster than any of them would have anticipated. No enemies remained to contest their control of the planet. Where they fled to, though, no one could say.
“Don’t engage them yourself, and be careful on the Monarch’s doppelganger,” Lan Jue reminded her.
“Let’s wait for the ground team. If they get here soon it means we’ve taken this sector. If not, then there’s been some kind of problem. We should be ready to go in either event.” Lan Jue decided.
As much as he wanted to help save lives, he and his team were the core of humanity’s strength against the aliens. They had to
keep up the pressure in order to win. Saving their strength and directing it wisely was more important that gathering survivors. They could protect more lives that way.
Just then, the communicator on Lan Jue’s wrist buzzed. He answered the call.
“The alien forces have been routed. The ground assault team will be arriving in ten minutes, prepare to join up with them. Once the planet is secure, continue with your mission.” Lan Qing’s voice was cold and even as ever, as though their victory was insignificant. But even his brother’s simple report caused Lan Jue’s spirits to soar. The faces of the Paragons around him lit up.
Lan Qing went on. “Jun’er has confirmed that Angel is in no danger of exploding. The Terminator has also led his team to their destination and Zeus-1 is landing as we speak. Father’s situation is as yet unclear.”
“Alright, got it.” Lan Jue answered, in the same sparring manner.
He hung up and pumped his fist. The others grinned and
chuckled, pleased with their initial victory.
“Winning any ground against these monsters is no easy feat!” Luo Xianni remarked. Lan Qing’s words may have been calculating and simple, but the fact of the matter was that this had been humanity’s greatest victory against their attackers to date.
The bulk of the aliens’ forces had gathered here to deter the human armada. They had to be dealt with before Angel could be retaken, and at present it seems like that’s precisely what Lan Qing had achieved. If this didn’t bring joy to the human fighters, what would?
“I don’t know how he did it.” Lan Jue sighed in relief. His brother hadn’t shared all the details of his plan with him, so he wasn’t sure what had happened while they were dealing with the progenitor.
Admiral Kang Hui’s face was a sea of emotion. This was an incredible victory! When he saw the aliens turn and flee, his legendary calm broke and he roared in triumph. They had been waiting for a victory like this for a long, long time. A series of painful lessons had put humanity against the ropes, but now they were fighting back.
Tyrannosaurus presence here was in defiance of the people’s wishes and without government support. Northern citizens demanded to be protected, ignorant of the fact that they were simply waiting to die.
They’d risked much to disobey the government and the people, but Tyrannosaurus and the Terminator had come to see this situation realized.
Lan Qing had demanded all information regarding their bastions from Kang Hui and Hua Li while making his plans. In truth Kang Hui had hesitated – after all, this wasn’t just asking for secrets of their strongest weapon, it could reveal much about the North’s construction and research processes. After discussing it with the Terminator, they conceded to Lan Qing’s requirement.
Then Prometheus made his plans.
Only Lan Qing, Hua Li and Kang Hui knew the full scope of their battle plan. They had been aware from the opening salvo, to drawing the enemy out, up to the sudden counter strike. All the while Lan Qing was the invisible hand that moved pieces across the board at just the right moment.
Kang Hui considered himself a first-class commander. However, in the face of Lan Qing’s victory he felt small and ineffectual. The An Lun super soldier, God of Wisdom, led his troops with the skill and finesse of an orchestra conductor. He was in complete control of every aspect of the fight, and they won with strength to spare.
He thought back to Middle Heaven’s omnidirectional blast, like the sudden birth of a small sun in the midst of the enemy forces. His soldiers had followed Lan Qing’s instruction and shielded their eyes, but not Kang Hui. The admiral’s Discipline lived in his eyes, he could modulate the effect of light on his cornea. He had stared in awe as Middle Heaven seared a path through the enemy – an attack on a planetary scale! That was the moment the tides changed in their favor.
Chapter 792: Confidence, Resolve
Admiration for Lan Qing and his abilities filled Kang Hui. Not only had he brought them victory, he restored humanity’s long- lost confidence! Through action he proved to everyone that their enemy was not invincible.
What’s more, it was the first time Kang Hui had seen such cooperation among Bastions before. Cooperation he didn’t know was possible. Without Middle Heaven’s cover Tyrannosaurus and Poseidon wouldn’t have been able to conceal their preparations from the enemy. What’s more, they never would have been able to put down so many aliens in the crossfire.
It was amazing to think that the East never had enough bastions for this commander to employ until now! How did he even think up this plan? Never in the history of humanity had there been a battle where cooperation on this level was necessary, leaving Lan Qing no precedent to lean upon. The bastions were so strong on their own there had previously been no need to think beyond dispatching one into a fight. Lan Qing showed them what they could do if they worked together.
Kang Hui believed that the experience of this battle had opened his eyes. If he had to describe Lan Qing’s fighting style,
he could only think of the ancient Chinese phrase; inscrutable as the spirits. Lan Qing’s tactics didn’t adhere to a single set of rules – sometimes it was radical, sometimes it was conservative. Sometimes he charged the enemy front lines, sometimes he appeared when he was least expected. He treated the battlefield like a chessboard, and he knew every maneuver ten moves in advance.
The aliens had been routed. They weren’t even fleeing to Angel, instead opting to abscond to farther harbors. They had other planets they could run to, but now humanity had broken their defensive encirclement and gained a foothold.
It was the first, crucial step. Whether what came next was good or bad, at least they’d won one victory and made the alien creatures hurt.
Next they were faced with recovering Angel and constructing an operating base. Now that they were in the lion’s den, there was no going back.
Despite their impressive triumph the aliens were not in an inferior position. They had created conditions that left humanity unwilling to blindly proceed, up to and including the possibility of facing the alien home worlds.
Today’s success was only the beginning.
Still, the significant of it was enormous. The human fighters were filled with confidence and momentum, morale ran high. For soldiers facing such overwhelming odds, the importance of high spirits was evident.
The twelve fleets had spread out into surrounding space. Eight of them were faced outward to stand guard against approaching foes. The three bastions remained in the center, maintaining triangle formation as they moved in on Angel. When they got within range they stopped, and their entourage formed up in an impenetrable wall of deadly technology.
The ground assault team had long been ready, awaiting deployment from Middle Heaven. Over five hundred assault ships were dispatched and burned their engines for Angel. Aboard these ships was more than thirty thousand troops, a combination of fighters from all three factions. Among them was the universally lauded Star Division.
Majesty led the ships to the planet’s surface, the vessels in its wake glittering in the light of the distant sun. Two hundred battleships flanked them, serving as an escort in the event of alien attack. Of course, the chances of that were low.
The aliens had not only fled nearby space, but Angel’s surface as well. They had given up the planet for lost, going to extreme length simply to ensure their own survival.
An encrypted single hailed Majesty. It was connected, and Lan Jue’s face appeared on the screen. A cheer rose through the ship. Before the operation they knew Lan Jue was infiltrating Angel before their arrival.
“Boss, how are things on your end?” Su Xiaosu’s face was red – not from embarrassment, but form excitement. They’d all watched the fight from screens within the belly of Middle Heaven. After watching the creatures flee for their lives, the soldiers were elated.
Lan Jue smiled. “We’ve taken care of the progenitor, everything’s fine. Land at the coordinates we gave you and proceed with the mission. It’s an arduous one; the aliens have retreated, but they left behind many infected areas and mutated humans. Be cautious, some of them may explode on contact, and they’re dangerous fighters. Make sure you let our allies know.”
“Aye, aye!” Xiaosu immediately relayed the report to the other officers.
It seemed as though their mission would be somewhat more relaxed than they anticipated. No powerful aliens remained to impede them.
“Boss, did you break through? The light we saw on the planet, was that…” She let her question trail off. Tang Xiao, Tang Mi and Jin Tao had gathered around the monitor. They were all invested in the success of their commander.
Lan Jue nodded.
Another cheer burst from the crowd. They’d been waiting for this day for a long time. Ever since Lan Qing’s breakthrough they had been waiting for Lan Jue to do the same. This made him the youngest Paragon ever. His compatriots Hua Li and Chu Cheng had also advanced, making Lan Jue the last of his crew to succeed.
At the time it had troubled them, since they knew their teacher was a prideful man. For everyone around him to become Paragons while he did not must have been difficult, they surmised, but they didn’t dare ask him about it. And then, before the operation began, Lan Jue had told them of his imminent breakthrough. They were ecstatic, overjoyed for their teacher’s future success.
A smirk split Lan Jue’s lip, and an ice-cold glint flit across his eyes. “We’ll talk more about it when the fight’s over. Be careful.”
A familiar face appeared on Lan Jue’s screen, the Savage Goddess – Tan Lingyun. The two of them stared at one another.
He broke through? He was a Paragon? Still so young, it was hard to believe! He was Lei Feng, the same man even without the mask – he was that man!
She took a deep breath, an attempt to get herself under control. She turned her face away. Tan Lingyun knew this man old never be hers. It was true whether or not he wore the mask.
Lan Jue cut the connection, then turned around the survey everything around them.
He stood in the center of the stadium they’d visited during the scouting trip. Not aliens were gone, for the beasts created by the progenitor which thrived on its corruption had nowhere to go. Without their master the creatures were mindless, out of control. Eventually they withered and died. However, the mutated humans remained.
When they saw Lan Jue and the others, they raced ahead to try and rip them apart. There was no time to lose, these poor souls could explode at any moment, and were dangerously feral.
The plight of these innocents dampened everyone’s spirits. If they found survivors in the midst of their rampage, the results would be unthinkable. Every moment that passed there was the possibility that the survivors were being picked off.
However in their flight to this place they had performed some quick checks. Up to now they had found no one that had been spared the mutation. Nearly if not all remaining humans had been changed into mindless beasts by the progenitor’s poison touch. Scores and scores of them had been left behind.
Luo Xianni used her interdimensional abilities to freeze the ones in the stadium. However that only stopped them from attacking, their sickness remained.
The Keeper’s research had reached an impasse. Human genetics was mysterious, and returning them to normal would take time. Nor could they remain sealed in Luo Xianni’s powers, that way led to death. What’s more there were more of them than they could count, thousands upon thousands just on a single planet. It was possible their numbers could reach into the
hundreds of millions, if not higher. This posed a real problem.
“Don’t think on it too much. Rest, you just broke through. You don’t have time to solidify your powers completely, but you can’t continue fighting with an unstable base.” Luo Xianni gently patted his shoulder.
“Yeah.” Lan Jue replied. He took her advice and removed himself to one of the observation platforms on the arena. He found a quiet corner, but did not immediately meditate. A strange look lived behind his eyes, revealing concern.
Indeed he was hesitant, for what he was about to see could affect him all the rest of his life. Among his reasons for wanting to break through, one of the most important was returning his love to consciousness. Yet now that the time had come he was filled with anxiety.
He and Qianlin had trained together, grown together. Now they had broken through as one and risen to extraordinary heights right from the start. So far, everything had gone right…
Chapter 793: Idiot
What Lan Jue discovered during their breakthrough was a sudden and intense emotional and psychic shift in Qianlin. He reacted by fusing the two of them into one. Clearly the breakthrough had had an effect on her, perhaps she even recovered her consciousness. But there was a chance she didn’t, or even gotten worse. In that event he didn’t dare release Qianlin into perilous surroundings. If it was revealed she wasn’t better it would influence everyone, affecting their mission.
Humanity had won an important victory, but what would he do with Qianlin? Would she remember anything about how they got here? Moreover, he had barely spoken with her since learning the truth about her and Hera. This made things far more complicated.
Now wasn’t the time to help her remember. Nor was it the time to discuss their relationship. Nothing was more important than winning this war against the aliens. And yet, if he didn’t help her through this period she couldn’t fully recover, and the Harmonious Swords would be inaccessible! Without cooperation between them, he feared they wouldn’t stand a chance against the alien home worlds.
Taking a deep breath, Lan Jue’s expression finally became
resolute. Whatever the result, he had to face it. He couldn’t run from the truth.
A light flashed in his eyes, and gradually a lithe figure emerged from behind him. The figure was white as snow as it separated from his body. It was Qianlin, but in contrast to before when she separated without clothes, this time she wore the robes that had concealed her during their breakthrough. The flowing gowns made her look all the more like an angel, stunning in her beauty.
He didn’t know why, but for a moment Lan Jue hoped she hadn’t recovered her memory. Yet he did know, he knew that he feared how she would react to him if she knew it all. Her reaction to the whole truth was important.
They cooperated well now, and the Harmonious Sword technique they’d learned together showed that. What would happen when she got better?
Zhou Qianlin stood there silently. She seemed no different other than the potent waves of energy that pulsed from her. All was just as it had been before their breakthrough. It didn’t work? Her consciousness had not returned? A sense of loss, of pain, filled Lan Jue.
“Qianlin,” he softly pleaded.
Her eyes slid toward him, calm and indifferent. Nothing different.
Reaching out with his perception he sensed no changes in mood. The burst of psychic energy he’d experienced when they became Paragon had given way to the same steadfast calm as before. A calm that broke his heart.
As they stared at one another moisture gathered in Lan Jue’s eyes. His hopes were gone, like a popped bubble. What he’d strived so hard for had not come to pass.
It was small consolation that he and Qianlin could continue to use the Harmonious Swords. A small and unsatisfactory comfort.
He took a deep breath and calmed his aching heart. He stepped forward and gently pulled her into his embrace. She was surrounded by a sweet fragrance he couldn’t put his finger on, comforting and gentle. As he held her he felt the swirling energy within him, vestiges of protogenic power still agitated by his breakthrough. They suddenly grew calm.
It was the influence of the Queen of Heaven, he suspected, helping to stabilize their respective abilities after reaching Paragon. He would rather have her mind returned.
“I’m so sorry I couldn’t bring you back, Qianlin. It breaks my heart, did you know? All of this is my fault – I did this to you. But don’t worry, I’ll be by your side forever. Only you are my wife. Hera is gone, and you are all that remains. I’ll be with you until the day we pass, caring for you, loving you. When I come to the end of my life, I’ll help you pass too. You and I will leave this universe together, so that no one can harm you to get back at me. Qianlin, I will love you no matter what condition you’re in.”
His body shook with silent sobs. The day he’d looked forward to for so long had not come, and his love was still lost behind a haze. The pain it caused him was unspeakable.
Qianlin’s hands had risen and encircled his neck, unnoticed during his vows. Her face rested against his shoulder.
“Do you really want a woman who lies to you?” A soft, somewhat hoarse voice answered him.
“I do, of course I do. You never deceived me, it was nothing but a white lie. After the Clairvoyant explained everything to me I just needed to straighten out my thinking. I held Hera’s love close, and I do the same now for you. You are not her substitute, not –“ Lan Jue spoke excitedly, obstinately swearing his love when all of a sudden he stopped. His body straightened and he held Qianlin out at arm’s length so he could see her face.
Qianlin stared back at him with a dull expression. There was no change.
“Am I hearing things? That wasn’t her just now?” Lan Jue stood, confused. He grinned sheepishly. “Maybe I miss her too much.”
“Idiot!”Qianlin suddenly spat, then jumped forward to wrap her arms around him. She pressed her lips to his in a desperate kiss.
As they lips touched Lan Jue felt her chilly, trembling flesh. It was followed by a surge of something inexplicable. All of a sudden his world was turned on its head. His mind went blank.
She kissed him passionately, venting all of the emotion that
had been bottled up for so long.
In her mind the words he’d said reverberated over and over.
When I come to the end of my life, I’ll help you pass too. You and I will leave this universe together, so that no one can harm you to get back at me.
They weren’t beautiful prose, but the sentiment filled her with warmth.
Lan Jue eventually recovered from his stupor. He no longer passively allowed her to kiss him. Instead he channeled all of the love, the loss, the pain and expectation into the kiss. He embraced her with all the strength of his affection, holding nothing back.
This time they didn’t merge. They remained two people, filled with love for one another.
All the unhappiness, misunderstandings, and misgivings were dissolved with this kiss. Their bodies did not combine but in this moment their hearts were as one. Everything they had gone through was absolved as this singular, heart-bursting moment arrived.
After an indeterminate period of time a cough interrupted the two lovers.
Luo Xianni looked at the two of them with a faint smile on her face. “Is this how you young folks ‘stabilize your domains’ these days?”
Qianlin dropped her reddening face, suddenly unable to meet the woman’s eyes.
A blush also crept into Lan Jue’s cheeks. Yet he never let Qianlin go, as though he were afraid that if he did she would disappear.
“My domain is stable, mother.” He said awkwardly.
“That’s emotional stability,” Luo Xianni chided. “Fine, I won’t bother you two. You two go on – ey?” She stopped mid- sentence, and in a flash was at Qianlin’s side.
Lan Jue jumped. “Mother, what is it?”
Qianlin lifted her head. Despite her pale cheeks painted red with embarrassment, her beauty was still breathtaking.
“Your aura…? This is…” Luo Xianni stared at Qianlin as though deep in thought. She muttered the words.
Lan Jue confirmed. “I felt it, too. Qianlin’s aura is especially gentle, I felt it when we held each other. When I said my domain is stable, it was because the protogenia within me reacted to her aura. She calmed it, and as far as I can remember from father, that means it’s stable.”
Luo Xianni nodded. “Just so, your protogenia is being released in steady waves. It’s incredible. I’ve never seen anything like this, arising from the Queen of Heaven Discipline ascending to Paragon. There probably never has been a Queen of Heaven Paragon before. Child, can you sense any new powers?”
Qianlin answered in somewhat of a dazed tone. “I’m not sure.” After breaking through she had merged immediately with Lan Jue. When they separated her mind was on other things. She hadn’t even thought about exploring her newfound strength yet! All she knew was that she was stronger, that she seemed able to sense all the world around her. Other than this, nothing seemed different.
But at Luo Xianni’s suggestion she began to feel it, a subtle difference from who she used to be. A rippling wave of protogenia spread from her.
Lan Jue and Luo Xianni were also Paragons, and she could feel the protogenia that came from them. However when their powers interacted with her own they softened. She didn’t know how or why, but all their energy seemed to assimilate as they mingled together.
Chapter 794: Zhou Qianlin’s Protogenia
This didn’t change the powers so much as sublimate them. It was subtle, but the increase in Lan Jue and Luo Xianni’s strength of Domain was measurable.
“This is like some sort of amplification protogenia.” Luo Xianni mused.
The Queen of Heaven discipline was known for its self- sacrifice in service of others. It was described as the most selfless power. Even before ascending to Paragon she could bring someone from the brink of death. Paragons, in a sense, were pure humans, did it mean she could influence other Paragons now?
Was her protogenia meant to empower others?
Luo Xianni’s brows were furrowed as she immersed herself in the waves of power emanating from Zhou Qianlin.
“Girl, release your Domain. Let me feel your power.” She said.
For Paragons, drawing their Domain into the real world was the strongest reflection of their protogenia. Having just broken through to Reflection of Heaven and earth surely she would not be proficient in the use of her abilities, but summoning her Domain shouldn’t be difficult.
Qianlin nodded. Now was not the time to gush affectionately over her love. Her eyes hardened, and a moment later pale light flooded the area around her. It surrounded Lan Jue and Luo Xianni, enveloping them in its embrace.
The warmth of comfort of her power became clearer. Lan Jue felt a sense of well-being that was difficult to describe. Nothing seemed strange or disconcerting. However, Luo Xianni’s reaction was much different. She stared at Qianlin in utter disbelief. “This is impossible!”
Lan Jue looked at her in confusion. “Mother, are you alright?
What is it? What is Qianlin’s Domain?”
Luo Xianni turned her head to look at him, fixing his eyes with a firm gaze. “You’ve sure chosen a fine wife, my son! I can sense two things from her Domain – truly stupendous things.”
“Stupendous?” Lan Jue was even more surprised by her dramatic description. “Why don’t I feel anything?”
Luo Xianni’s response was impatient. “That’s because you haven’t called your Domain. You’re already in your prime state. The first part of her Domain is stabilizing and recovering protogenia.”
“Domains by their nature are not stable. Protogenia changes due to influences in its environment. To put it simply, if an enemy were to attack with your Domain active, Qianlin’s abilities would prevent it from being overcome or dispersed. It wouldn’t matter how strong your foe is, your Domain would prevail – that is, until her strength is consumed. But that isn’t as important as protogenic recovery. With her by your side you could use your strongest attacks, and your stamina would be immediately recovered through her Domain. It seems to apply to everything within its scope. This is her Domain.”
Lan Jue blinked in surprise. “That’s incredible.” Lan Jue was well versed in the many types of Adepts. Many were involved in healing and recovery, like Skyfire Avenue’s Doctor. However, these Adepts did not become Paragons. Their Disciplines only applied to humans, and didn’t benefit super-humans like Paragons. Once an Adept broke through, they were considered an aspect of protogenia.
If they couldn’t manipulate protogenia, how could they became a part of it? Because of this, healers who reached peak level were already extraordinary. Still they could only apply their abilities to humans and Adepts who had not broken through. They could not help Paragons.
Luo Xianni’s surprise made her explanation less than perfectly clear, but Lan Jue understood. Qianlin’s ability to recover protogenia was extraordinary and immensely powerful. In a fight Lan Jue wouldn’t need to worry about holding back or maintaining stability. With Qianlin present, all of the Paragons within the scope of her Domain could fight with everything they had.
“There’s more!”Luo Xianni’s eyes burned as she looked at the younger woman. “And this second power is even more marvelous than the last – a firefly compared to the light of the moon.”
Something more powerful than protogenic stabilization and recovery? Lan Jue looked at his mother, almost disbelieving. “Aren’t you exaggerating?”
But she shook her head, denying his claim. She smiled. “With her ascension to Paragon, your father and I will not die. Do you
think I exaggerate now? Her Domain’s second ability is to shield against universal protogenia!”
Lan Jue froze. The face he made now was as shocked as Luo Xianni’s had been when she felt it.
Shielding against universal protogenia? This meant that his mother and father didn’t need to fear retribution when using their powers within Qianlin’s Domain. They could finally employ their full strength.
A firefly’s light before the moon indeed!
Luo Xianni went on. “So long as the two of you are together, it doesn’t matter how strong you become. The Infinite and beyond, her Domain will protect you! It’s amazing that such a Paragon could exist, much less that I would know her. When the two of you achieve Nirvana you will know it more clearly. What an incredible revelation. Chu Bupang, the old coot, won’t have an excuse to hold my powers back any longer. Look after me, I’ll prepare now.”
Lan Jue’s heart suddenly skipped a beat. Break through? She was already a Paragon at the border of Nirvana. That meant…
In all of human history the only one to have ever achieved such strength was his father. If his mother could rise to such heights, free from the tyranny of universal protogenia with Qianlin’s help, the benefit to humanity would be colossal.
“Auntie, shall I use my Domain to help you…” Qianlin hurried asked.
Luo Xianni’s response was crouch and discontent. “What’s this ‘auntie’ nonsense? You’re with Lan Jue, call me mother. You don’t need to call your Domain directly. Just be near me, that’s fine. Your presence will help stabilize the protogenia. I won’t need your shielding abilities until after I’ve broken through. When I need you to use your Domain, I’ll let you know.”
“Alright.” Qianlin replied. Her face was red, but Luo Xianni’s words had made her happy. It meant she accepted her. She stole a glance Lan Jue’s way, only to spot him looking back at her. The stolen moment made her blush all the more.
Luo Xianni’s style had always been dramatic and resolute. She
dropped immediately into a cross-legged position and a pink aura sprang up like a blanket.
The Infinite, she was about to break through to the highest degree of Paragon! Lan Jue looked upon his mother in awe and admiration. After becoming a Paragon himself, he sensed things differently. Only once the veil to protogenia had been lifted could one sense the scope of power being manipulated.
The changes to protogenia, the control of this power, was not about pure energy. To an extent, it required controlling the rules of the universe. The universe, in turn, strove for order and balance, and worked to suppress perversion of its rules. Thus when one person was able to manipulate reality in such a way, reality fought back.
In many ways the universe could be understood as an integral whole – a single ever-expanding body. It had its own rules and protogenia it lived by. Creatures within it that could change, ignore, and create their own rules were like a sickness. Like the human body it would try to protect itself by exorcising the offender and curing the ailment.
In this way Paragons could be compared to cancer in humans. Universal protogenia was like white blood cells. If the
mutations didn’t have a way to hide from the white blood cells, they would be destroyed.
There were only two results that could arise from this. The vast majority of the time universal protogenia destroyed the offending lifeform. But if it didn’t, if the Paragon grew strong enough to threaten the universe itself, then reality itself could detonate. A new Big Bang, with new rules to replace the old. The lifeform, if it survived, would be the new universe.
This was the theory of universal replacement.
Lan Jue’s familiarity with the idea deepened after becoming a Paragon. He was also beginning to understand, at least a little, how the destruction of the immortal realm came about.
According to legend, the immortal realm of ancient times was expansive. Powerful beings resided within it, not least of which the Three Pure Ones and other mighty gods. Together they created the immortal realm, and it was there they lived.
It served as a protective screen to separate them from universal protogenia – like how cancerous cells trick the immune system. The body that was the universe didn’t know it
had a sickness growing within it.
Chapter 795: You’re the Only One in my Heart
In the end, the realm of immortals was more than the universe could bear. The beings within it where too strong, and even the reality they carved out for themselves couldn’t contain the aura they collectively created. The universe at large sensed the tremendous danger, thus descended upon them with the full strength of its special protogenia. In the end the realm of immortals was destroyed, along with everyone living in it. All manifestations of it – heaven, the Buddhist realms, all of it – were gone in an instant.
The immortal realm was gone. With no immortal realm, the Infinite became the pinnacle of human achievement. There was no way to grow stronger.
Lan Jue’s mind was filled with revelations, a level of understanding he’d never known before. Everything seemed clear, reasonable. Now his mother was attempting to rise to this universally imposed limit.
Were the aliens not also constantly contended with the threat of universal protogenia? They were trying to create a reality they could survive in like humans had before. They wanted to live and grow strong, free from threat.
Growth was the goal of any living thing. It was as true for aliens as it was for humans, the creatures they fought against were just further along. If these monster’s succeeded in creating their own immortal realm, who was to say whether it would suffer the same fate as mankind’s had?
Lan Jue’s eyes sparkled. Here he realized it must have been the ultimate goal of the ancient immortals to design and enact their own universe. They would have been able to supplant the universe’s rules for their own and live in absolute freedom. A life without boundaries was their ultimate pursuit.
It was something Lan Jue also yearned, but would not strive, for. Right now he needed nothing beyond Zhou Qianlin. A life with his love and compatriots was enough. He knew that one day his goals may change, that when he reached that stifling level of power he might have to chase immortality. But that time wasn’t now.
For now he just wanted to eliminate these aliens, and live in peace.
These revelations would help his future improvement, for he had glimpsed behind the curtain and spied the truth of the universe. This knowledge greatly benefited his comprehension
The immortals may have perished, but had the echoes of their presence really disappeared entirely? Lan Jue didn’t think so. If it had, how would his breakthrough have produced the image of the Middle Heaven Great Emperor of the North Pole Star of Purple Subtlety? It meant that some piece of this mighty individual lived on, a portion of their energy injected into the universe as a whole. His breakthrough had galvanized that portion and awakened what the mighty immortal had left behind.
Faced with the destruction of everything they knew, Lan Jue was met with the weight of everything he wanted to pursue. There was too much he wanted to see and experience. Yet, this life of struggle was what made it novel, gave it purpose. It filled the universe with imagination and possibilities.
Lan Jue’s face bore a small smile.
Qianlin looked his way and saw the fleeting expression in his eyes. She smiled self-consciously, thinking he was smiling at her. She quipped at him. “What are you smirking about?”
He chuckled. “I’m smiling because I’m happy, of course. I’m thinking about our future, how could I not be cheerful?”
Qianlin’s face reddened. “Who’s future?”
“Yours and mine, of course,” he replied. “If not you, then who else? I’m no playboy, I’ve already begged after your affections. Besides, mom has approved of you. You want me to beg again?”
Qianlin paused. She wanted to tease him, to say she didn’t accept, but with the Photographer within ear shot she didn’t dare.
“You’re going to bully me.” She said, turning her face away.
Lan Jue’s eyes were full of warmth and affection. “How could I bully you? I love you, caring for you is all I want.”
Qianlin looked back at him, her gaze also soft and loving.
Lan Jue continued. “Do you know how anxious I’ve been this whole time you’ve been lost? Do you recall anything that’s
happened in this time?”
She gently nodded her head. “I felt it all, but it was like I was in a dream. I could see and feel everything you were doing, but I couldn’t rouse myself. I never stopped struggling but the haze never lifted, not until our breakthrough. Once the dream was over I could finally be happy.”
Lan Jue was suddenly enlightened. No wonder she never seemed put off by her surroundings or what they were doing, or why she so readily accepted him. She had been present the whole time, just unable to interact.
Lan Jue pulled her close, into another warm embrace. They remained close to the Photographer so that Qianlin’s aura could assist her in her breakthrough.
Qianlin wriggled in attempts to get free, a blush in her cheeks. “Mother’s right there.” She said it quietly, but hearing the words from her made Lan Jue smile.
He saw this is a good omen. Now, in the midst of this frightening time, when humanity stood on the brink of destruction, his lost love has returned. It meant good things
were on the horizon.
“It’s fine, you two love birds go on and display affection. Don’t mind me.” The Photographer’s voice echoed in both their minds.
A Paragon one with the Infinite was nothing if not ubiquitous.
Qianlin’s blush intensified. She wriggled again to free herself from Lan Jue’s embrace but he wouldn’t let her go. In the end she yielded and leaned in to his hug.
“What do you think about getting married once this fight is over?” He asked her.
“Ok.” She answered with a nod. Her voice was soft. “What about the other women with you? I can tell they all like you.”
Lan Jue’s own voice was low, contemplative. “I’ve thought about that for a long time. Other than Xiuxiu, I saved those girls from bad situations. I can’t face them, can’t bear to tell them to just go. I gave them a home, jobs, stability… so long as I’m around I will be the center of their lives. That’s why after we
marry we should just go. Without me around, perhaps they’ll realize everything they’ve been missing.”
“You want to run away?” She challenged.
He shook his head. “It isn’t running away. I don’t have to go anywhere, but I’ve thought about it and I see things clear. What they feel for me isn’t really love, and I can’t give them the affection they want. If we all stay together it will only cause unnecessary pain. It would be better to leave, and come by from time to time to check up on them. I’d make sure others around the Avenue would watch over them too. If they could just live their own lives I’m sure they would grow to be incredible women. I’ve thought of many possibilities, but this is the best one.”
For a few moment, Qianlin was silent. Eventually she spoke. “But after everything we’ve experienced, I don’t mind. If you liked someone else, I could understand…”
“But I wouldn’t find it acceptable. The only person I want to be with is you, for all the years to come. I don’t have a big heart, and the center of it is smaller still. Only one person occupies it, and that’s you.”
Qianlin smiled, a happy smile. She didn’t speak, only held him tighter.
Lan Jue looked down at her. “You should rest, I’m here. I don’t think we’ll have much opportunity to rest in the near future. Now that the war had begun there’s a lot we’ll have to take care of.”
Becoming Paragons didn’t just mean they were stronger. Their responsibilities also increased, something Lan Jue understood well. This was a stolen moment that wouldn’t last long.
Qianlin shut her eyes. She had no interest in cultivating now, she only wanted to lay like this against the chest of the man she loved. To feel his warmth and take joy in the moment.
The pink light hanging over Luo Xianni flickered in and out of existence. Although her aura wasn’t any more powerful, Lan Jue felt the difference in her. It was like she wasn’t there, and yet was everywhere all at once.
What he didn’t see was that the sky and environment outside of the arena had taken on a pink hue. It was silently spreading
out in all directions, while within it shadowy projections of Luo Xianni appeared. At first it was only one projection every ten thousand meters, but as time went on that shrunk to one every thousand meters, then everywhere. The waves of power that wafted from her kneeling true self weren’t powerful, but they were unique.
Majesty drilled through the atmosphere to witness the strange scene below.
The other fighter units didn’t know what they were looking at, but Star Division did. It was a branch of Skyfire Avenue and their leaders knew the face of Luo Xianni. They knew right away this was no enemy, but an ally. Although they didn’t know what she was up to, they knew it had to be for their benefit. They quickly told the other ships in their wake it was nothing to be concerned about.
Chapter 796: Controlling the Situation
Majesty deftly set down on Angel’s surface. Star Division immediately disembarked and spread out in all directions.
This time the ground assault team didn’t set about installing a defensive perimeter, since they didn’t bring the materials for it. Retaking the planet was the first step, followed by saving the remaining humans. Those were their primary directives.
This work was not nearly as entertaining as battling aliens.
Lan Jue had sent them all images of the mutated humans, showing how they fought and their extraordinary condition. Killing them wouldn’t have been a problem, of course – nothing a laser rifle couldn’t handle. But they were humans, compatriots! They had to do whatever was necessary to safely capture and return with them. That’s where things got hard.
Luckily Lan Jue’s last expedition had returned with many treasured resources. This time the soldiers had been outfitted with specially crafted weapons designed to capture instead of kill.
“Begin. Spread out, no less than five to a unit and keep all lines of communication open. Unit commanders keep your head on a swivel, you could be engaged any moment.” Su Xiaosu shouted the orders and Star Division leapt into action. Using radar to guide them, they went out searching for survivors.
Majesty lifted back into the air and provided them air support.
It’s more powerful radar equipment could scan farther.
The rest of the ground assault forces were dispatched similarly and without incident. They were greeted with a much different situation than they’d faced on Monteux. The aliens’ retreat had been complete, Angel had been entirely abandoned by the enemy.
The pink light in the air grew thicker and Luo Xianni’s mirror images more clear. At some point and from somewhere a deep chanting hum buzzed. For the soldiers it was just a curious sound, but its effect on the mutated victims of Angel was profound.
Star Division found the first group wandering through the streets of a ruined city. Scores of them came charging at the Avenue’s warriors. Compared to when they were human their strength had been multiplied tremendously. They could leap
cars and climb buildings. No terrain impeded their mindless desire for destruction. Some of them had even developed powers like Adepts.
Star Division’s long-range attacks began, with balls of light spouting from their mecha suits. As the orbs sped out they expanded into nets that ensnared their targets. The lightning nets immediately filled the unfortunate monstrosities with electric current. They shook so fiercely they couldn’t counterattack. Eventually they fell limp.
It was a very effective way to deal with their charges. It didn’t cause any lasting harm, but it effectively shut them down. Under Star Division’s disciplined assault it wasn’t long before most of the mutants were laying helplessly on the ground.
Then the hymns of Luo Xianni’s power began to echo.
A kindness spread through the chests of Star Division’s soldiers. A comfort beyond expression that refreshed their minds and bodies. The mutants had a different reaction, holdings their hands to their ears and howling in pain toward the heavens. They would eventually freeze in place like statues.
To say it surprised Star Division was an understatement. However, it was clear this was to their advantage so they didn’t stop. Majesty quickly collected the mutant humans.
Similar scenes popped up all around Angel. Countless mutant victims were frozen solid by the echoes of Luo Xianni’s power.
Lan Jue started to get reports five minutes later. He looked in shock at his mother, seated cross-legged nearby as though nothing was going on. He was filled with admiration for her, pride for his mother! With such an aggressive display of power, was it possible she could control the whole planet on her own?
But Lan Jue was quick to moderate his disbelief. What seemed sudden and incredible was, in fact, to be expected. He had just arisen to Paragon status, and in the process awakened spectacular power through the Middle Heaven Great Emperor of the North Pole of Purple Subtlety. His mother, on the other hand, was striding the gap from Nirvana to the Infinite! Two full degrees above what he was capable of. Amazing as all of this was, he had to remember the levels of power she was working with.
Lan Jue also had no idea what the limits were for a Paragon who joined the Infinite. He’d never seen his father employ the
full extent of his powers. Clearly, even planet-covering capabilities weren’t out of the question.
Indeed the truth of it was staggering, as Luo Xianni discovered. She had quickly slipped into the process, and with the Queen of Heaven’s stabilizing help propelled her forward without concern or misgivings. After all she had been at the cusp of the Infinite for a long time. It had been Jue Di who had helped to keep her powers repressed, for her own safety.
Jue Di was the most talented Adept to have lived in the last thousand years, and the last to join the Infinite. In fact, however, Luo Xianni’s talents were no less exceptional. She had helped to establish Skyfire Avenue, and was its strongest member for a long time. She had spent many grueling years perfecting herself while she searched Jue Di. For a long time her intention had been the beat the hell out of him.
After they reconnected and worked through their differences, Jue Di had told her about the dangers of growing her Domain. He told her about how universal protogenia was eating away at his life force, killing him despite a natural death being hundreds of years distant. He’d helped her to keep the final breakthrough at bay.
Now the fears had been assuaged. She opened her heart to the full extent of her interdimensional protogenia and spread herself farther than she’d ever dared before.
The mutant humans may have been corrupted, but they still possessed a soul. It was their tainted souls that Luo Xianni was sealing away. Interdimensional powers were extensive in their control once risen to a certain degree. Not only was she able to seal sections of space-time, but destroy or create at her whim. More incredible was the ability to control all manner of dimensions, including the spiritual realm.
Every living creature had spiritual energy, a power that resided in the spiritual realm. The name was mystical but its presence was real nonetheless. Upno striding across the divide into the Infinite, Luo Xianni felt like she was suddenly part of it all. She could sense every minute detail in all possible dimensions. Some were strong, others weak. Their size was related to the amount of power contained within. The spiritual realm was particularly active.
Coming to appreciate this truth, her breakthrough materialized. Nirvana was everywhere, but the Infinite was all- encompassing. All of creation was at her fingertips. Luo Xianni was the planet, and the planet was her.
Luo Xianni had her own Paragon title, though she almost exclusively went by the Photographer. Because she had been gone for so long most who had known her had forgotten it. She had once been known as the Continuum Conduit. Simple, at least compared to the likes of Lan Jue. But in her day the name resounded even louder than the Eye of Tomorrow.
The Photographer, Continuum Conduit, and the Clairvoyant, Eye of Tomorrow. The two of them together were the pillars of Skyfire Avenue. It was through them that the mighty adept organization was created and able to thrive.
Luo Xianni didn’t like the title – she never found it cool enough for her taste. Unfortunately once the populace knew of one’s name it was virtually impossible to change it. Still, her heart was never in it.
Now the title simply wasn’t applicable. Her powers had grown beyond the continuum. She was a conduit for the soul.
In another dark corner of the cosmos.
A tall man hung in the blackness of space, silent. His gaze was on a purple planet in the distance, unmoving.
Just as he was approach to approach something caught his attention. Shock was painted on his expression as he stared through the blackness.
She’s attempted to break through? She must have encountered a foe she was unable to contend with. Furrowing his brow, he cast his perception far into space. Strong as he was it was not difficult to pinpoint the source of his feelings. He frowned, surprise evident in his face.
“This woman never listens.” He wasted no more time, and in a flash was off toward the purple planet.
When Lan Qing got the news, he was also stunned. Nirvana, omnipresence! It was the first thing he thought of when word of the strange hymn reached his ears. Somehow his mother was able to project herself all across the planet – an act he thought must have been incredibly draining. He only knew of her decision to break through after calling his brother.
Undoubtedly this was a tremendous boon for the ground forces. Now the assault team’s mission had changed from ‘capture’ to ‘recover’.
However the sheer number of infected humans was massive, far more than they’d anticipated. The amount of them discovered while searching surprised even the ground troops. If it wasn’t for the three bastions, the twelve fleets would have been hard pressed to find space for them.
Lan Qing called Hua Li and Kang Hui for a quick meeting.
“We’ve already found one hundred million survivors among the wreckage, and the number keeps climbing.” He wasted no time in getting to the point.
Chapter 797: Guanyin, Queen of Heaven
Hua Li frowned. “This is good, but also troublesome. A hundred million people. Our bastions can accommodate them, but it’s like housing a hundred million ticking time bombs. One misstep and it can all blow out of control.”
Kang Hui nodded his agreement. “I also feel we can’t bring them onto the ships. We don’t know if there are alien spies among them, and the ones that take human form are their strongest. We can’t afford any trouble from within. I recommend leaving them where they are, containing them on the planet somehow.”
Lan Qing’s face was solemn, this was a problem indeed. They’d had a plan, but part of it had been contingent on some of the humans having avoided mutation. Now it seemed all of the survivors had been tainted by the aliens. This was a problem because these unfortunates now had to be contained and fed, and given adequate space.
The three bastions had brought along a lot of energy reserves for the fight, but its food stores were limited. Providing for so many people was impossible – maybe over the short term, but no one could know how long this war would last. Sending them to another planet presented a whole other set of problems, since
they couldn’t know how much trouble a hundred million aggressive mutants would cause. Then there was the time it would take to send them all.
What to do? It was a problem Lan Qing was struggling to resolve.
“Bring Lan Jue in on the conversation, see if he has any suggestions. He knows the aliens better than anyone.” Hua Li suggested.
“Right.” Lan Qing dialed in the number to his brother’s communicator.
“I understand.” Lan Jue quickly grasped the breadth of the problem his brother was describing. “I think Hua LI’s right, we can’t bring them onto the bastions. We are humanity’s last hope, destroying the aliens has to be our main priority. We can leave them on the planet for now and figure out what to do with them later. We can also contact the Eastern and Northern governments to send food and aid, they shouldn’t be too reticent to help with that. We just won a major victory, they
won’t have any choice but to help us.”
Lan Qing nodded his head. “This is an option, but remember it isn’t just this planet we have to consider. There are seven others where we can expect similar situations, and we don’t have enough soldiers to even keep an eye on them. We couldn’t even if we had twice the amount of forces. Not when we have the alien home worlds still to fight.”
Lan Jue’s face scrunched in thought. He seemed to come to a prompt decision. “If we can’t control them then we simply don’t try. Once we take care of the progenitors on these planets we just ignore the infected for the time being. We leave them to their own devices until the alien menace is handled, then we can tackle that problem. These mutants are hardier than normal humans after their infection, they’ll be fine for a while.”
The others mulled the idea for a moment. It seemed like the best option.
Suddenly, Zhou Qianlin’s voice intruded. “A-Jue, can you bring one of the infected here to me? I feel like there’s something I might be able to do for them.”
The other three heard her as well. When he heard the voice a small smile spread across Lan Qing’s face. He knew then that their breakthrough had been a total success, and Zhou Qianlin had awakened.
Hua Li was surprised by the revelation and rapidly blinked his eyes. “Qianlin’s back?”
Lan Jue nodded, smiling.
Only Kang Hui was out of the loop. “Who is this? She has an idea of how to handle the infected?”
“I’m not sure,” Lan Jue replied. “She and I have just ascended to Paragon. Her powers are focused on healing, so we can give it a shot and see if there’s some way we can help them. Keep the line open, we’ll try now.”
Lan Jue raced off. A few moments later he returned with two infected victims, a man and a woman. Both of them had had their spirits sealed away by Luo Xianni’s powers and had slipped
into a coma-like state.
When Lan Jue put the two of them before Qianlin, something strange happened. Even before she did anything the two victims seemed to sense her presence. They shook and jerked violently as a purple mist steamed off of them. As the toxic cloud was dispersed by the wind their bodies also began to change, shrinking back to normal proportions as the purple hue that tainted their flesh receded.
“This…” Lan Jue had believed her when she said there may be a chance she could help them, but he did not expect the presence of her aura to be enough. It was incredible.
He shut his eyes and extended his perception toward the infected humans, searching their bodies for mutations. Quickly he discovered that they both had something like a Core nestled in their chests. Both were fractured and an energy spilled from them, manifesting as the purple mist they’d witnessed. The toxic cloud dissipated without foundation wherever it drew near to Qianlin, all without her needing to do a thing.
Without this aberrant Core altering them, the victims’ bodies quickly returned to normal. Their blood flow slowed and the abnormal swelling of their organs was reversed, followed by the
rest of their bodies.
Qianlin waved her hand, birthing a wave of white light that settled over the two of them. Instantly the rate of recovery hastened. In a few short minutes they were back to normal.
Lan Jue and the others he was connected with watched the whole thing. The four men gaped at what they saw. This perplexing dilemma that faced them was dealt with after almost no effort, and in short order.
Lan Jue performed another quick check of the victims and discovered no residual problems. They were healthy as could be, but for the fact their spirits were still locked away. That was the only thing keeping them asleep.
Lan Jue called out. “Driver, bring more of the infected over here.”
But Qianlin shook her hand. “No need, I’ll handle it.” As she spoke she took a single step forward, remaining close to Luo Xianni. A white aura sprang up around her and slowly began to spread out. As it did an image appeared at her back, the dharmic manifestation that looked so much like her.
The image grew to several times the size of Zhou Qianling, its white gowns fluttering in an unfelt wind. As it hung suspended in air, arms spread, a saintly aura flooded the arena. All of a sudden the white aura surged in all directions.
The Driver, Gourmet, and Pharmacist had been grappling with the problem of how to deal with these poor souls when suddenly that white light swept by. To them it felt like their protogenia was stirred to life and all traces of exhaustion washed away. The Driver felt it with particular sensitivity. After gaining insight from Lan Jue’s breakthrough his powers had been tempestuous and wild, but the white light set them at ease.
They watched bewilderment as the mutated humans began to change, their monstrous appearance melting away as mists poured from their orifices. All traces of the poison were borne away by the white light and wiped from existence. The demon- like casualties were returned to normal before their eyes.
They were stunned as they saw the biggest humanitarian problem ever faced handled without explanation. Then they saw the image floating in the sky. The image of Qianlin was rich
his holy emanation, suspended above them like a faerie goddess.
“This… this is a living Guanyin!” A stunned Pharmacist said aloud to herself. She had a great deal of faith in her own Domain, but upon seeing Qianlin’s she couldn’t help but be filled with admiration.
Not only was she beautiful, but her presence brought with it a breath of nourishing warmth. Pathogens and evils of all sort were cleansed in the light of her aura, and the whole arena was blessed.
The three Paragons felt the urge to bow their heads in worship to the image, to say nothing of the normal forces that had come to join them.
“Guanyin, Queen of Heaven. What do you think of this name for a title?” The Gourmet offered.
The Driver’s smile was a ringing endorsement. “Not bad, it suits her.”
The image returned to Qianlin’s side, that welcoming smile
ever present on her perfect features.
“That sounds fine.”
Lan Jue took her into his arms and gave her a gentle kiss. “My love, you are incredible. The Gourmet thought we might call you Guanyin Queen of Heaven. I think that’s a fitting name.”
“I wouldn’t dare blaspheme the goddess of mercy,” Qianlin hurriedly said.
But Lan Jue was insistent. “How is this blasphemy? You help bring the goddess’ light to all people. Helping so many honors the Buddha and brings happiness.”
Qianlin couldn’t help but smile. She was a good person, and there was nothing more pleasing to her than saving lives.
Chapter 798: Luo Xianni of the Infinite
“Was summoning your Domain like this tiring?” Lan Jue asked.
Qianlin’s response was thoughtful. “At first it was, since I was using my dharmic image. But in the scope of this arena I don’t think it’s necessary, my Domain alone should be enough. The mist from these people seems to absorb my powers, but they return quickly. I’m not sure what happened, but it felt like my powers increased and became more stable.”
Lan Jue gaped at her. “Your protogenia is really something extraordinary. What is it? I mean, what is its true essence?”
Her response was somewhat vague. “I don’t know! I was always a little mystified by it, even before becoming a Paragon. I never really knew my Path, I suppose I’m lucky to have even broken through.”
Lan Jue was at a loss, for he wasn’t expecting such an answer. However, it was clear that Qianlin’s protogenia was something spectacular. Although it didn’t have much implication in a fight, its benefits to all was undeniable. The stronger she became, the more integral her presence.
“Her protogenia is Salvation.” The Photographer’s voice joined the conversation.
Lan Jue swept his eyes her way. His mother could speak while in the breakthrough process?
“Salvation? Deliverance? Guanyin, Queen of Heaven is certainly a worthy name.” Lan Jue mused with a smile.
“Wait until mother finishes, then we’ll go on saving people,” Lan Jue confidently told Qianlin. “With my help we’ll return them to normal as quickly as possible.”
After their simultaneous breakthrough, the two of them could still merge. In doing so their powers would rise to the level of Nirvana, which in turn would increase the scope of their Domain. This would certainly help them in quickly saving the victims of the progenitor. What’s more the fusion ceased to be one-sided. Now both of them could take control.
Angel had quickly begun to shed the purple hue left behind by
its alien oppressors. Without the progenitor’s support, the planet’s own restorative abilities were coming into play. After all, the progenitor had not been here long enough to completely drain the world of its energies. With the addition of the vital energy released at the moment of the progenitor’s death, Angel had the chance for a full recovery.
With the dissolution of the purple stain, a pink hue had come to take its place. At first the color was pale and hardly visible, but with time even the clouds above were painted pink. If one were to witness this through a telescope they would discover that the color was the result of many thousands of humanoid images layered one on top of the other. As they became clearer, the color deepened. The scene was nothing short of marvelous.
When Lan Qing saw it on his screens, he figured it could only be his mother rising to the next level. He just couldn’t believe she would chose this moment to do so. The Infinite… was this the extent of her newfound powers?
After learning that Qianlin could heal the infected, and in a large area, Lan Qing’s worries eased. This solves a serious problems, for whether now or later it would have proven a tremendous burden – a disaster waiting to happen. Hundreds of millions of people! Practically all of the people of the West, their leaders among them.
The West was gone, but its people could still be saved. If they could be healed then reconstruction efforts could be undertaken. Politically speaking Qianlin’s assistance would mean they would be beholden to the East. It would mean great things for their alliance in the future.
For now they would wait to learn more about the other planets. Many scout ships, equipped with cloaking devices, had been dispatched to learn what they could. This included the fate of Europa.
The chances were high that Europa was where they would find the alien home worlds. The last battle had been intense, yet the home worlds had never appeared. The ferocity and sheer number of the alien defenses spoke to the high probability that the evil planets were indeed in the midst of their evolution. The only question that remained was how long this process took.
All they could do was pray. Once the evolution process was complete humanity didn’t have a ghost of a chance, this was certain. How terrifying would immortal aliens be? Beyond anything they could contend against.
However his father’s determination, along with Lan Qing’s own and the opinion of several others, was that creation of an
immortal realm like what existed in the ancient days was no easy feat. It certainly wasn’t something that could be achieved in a short time frame. The alien home worlds had chosen this time to attempt it because they thought humanity no longer had the ability to stop them. Or lacked the desire.
They may have won their first battle, but there was still much to come. They had to tread carefully, for a single mistake could spell disaster. A single mistake could mean utter destruction for their species.
Lan Qing looked calm on the outside, but how could his heart not be straining under the pressure? The fate of humanity lay in the balance!
As he fretted over their task, he saw the color surrounding Angel suddenly thicken. Then the unthinkable happened. Angel vanished.
Indeed, the whole planet simply ceased to be. When the pink color had covered the whole thing it simply disappeared without a trace. All he could see was empty space and a backdrop of stars.
“What…” Lan Qing rubbed his eyes. It didn’t matter who witnessed it, no one would believe it. How was this possible? How could a whole planet simply evaporate into nothing?
Just as he was struggling to comprehend what had happened, the planet returned in a flash of pink light. He was surprised to note it had returned to its original rotation.
He witnessed it all in crystal clear clarity, and knew it meant Angel had recovered. This bode well for the future of the planet.
Did his mother do that? Lan Qing had some doubts. The three alien planets were immensely powerful, so it was conceivable they could halt a plant’s rotation. But his mother was just one person. For her alone to return the planet to its former state would have required tremendous ability.
A faint smile spread across Lan Qing’s face. His hands linked in front of him. Everything was beginning to go their way.
Suddenly he saw all the pink light begin to converge on a single point on Angel’s surface. They flowed like rivers until all of it was swallowed up. For a moment the planet was back to normal, then there was a blast of pink light, and once more the
Lan Qing just stared in disbelief. He might have been able to explain away the last one, but twice in a row? The planet was really disappearing. This…
What amazing power, to simply cut a whole world from reality! Was this what happened when interdimensional protogenia was perfected?
Angel reappeared and promptly disappeared for a third time. When it came back once again it seemed to finally return to normal.
This is the power a Paragon who joined the Infinite could command. The soldiers who witnessed it would surely remember the scene all the rest of their days. Lan Qing had to quickly alert the troops that Angel’s dramatic and perplexing behavior was the result of their own side and not to be alarmed. The planet was under their control.
After their recent victory, Lan Qing’s prestige among the allied forces was legendary. Their triumph over the alien forces had been nearly absolute, instantly making the God of Wisdom
a treasure of humanity.
Video of the battle quickly made it back to the Eastern and Northern Alliances. Copies of it were transmitted across video feeds throughout all the human occupied planets, including those in the West.
It served to pacify the fear and rage among the populace. Humanity’s victory would mean nothing without the support of the people. Loss after loss had eroded the people’s faith in their governments, which frightened their leaders terribly. Without the faith of the people, all was lost.
There was a flash of light, and Lan Jue smiled. As he watched the flows of pink light swirl around like a dream, looking upon the ethereal form of his mother, he knew she’d broken through.
The Infinite, boundless and eternal, present in all things. It was a sensation that could only be felt and not expressed, but Lan Jue could sense the astounding change in his mother. She was no longer like a Paragon. In this moment she was an arbiter of time and space.
A white light extended from Zhou Qianlin to settle over the Photographer. It isolated her from everything, especially universal protogenia.
Luo Xianni looked younger than before, no older than Zhou Qianlin in fact. Her breakthrough had restored her to a young woman.
Chapter 799: Salvation, Purification
Luo Xianni’s body became solid once more. A faint smile played on her lips.
“It feels pretty good. Universal protogenia used to be an ever- present ache. Luckily I have my daughter with me.” Her eyes opened and a sense of calm hung over her. Everything seemed normal, and Lan Jue could feel no surges of power or protogenic fluctuations wafting from her. His mother appeared no different than she had a moment ago.
To Lan Jue, Luo Xianni’s breakthrough was nothing spectacular. However he had been in the arena the whole time and was unaware of what had happened outside. His only metric was his perception, and there were no flashy displays of power or waves of energy he could feel. The most marked difference was physical, as his mother seemed in prime health. She seemed less inhibited.
Qianlin’s Domain had masterfully concealed Luo Xianni’s powers. It had allowed her to stretch, fully expressing her protogenia without fear of universal retribution. So long as Qianlin was near, Luo Xianni could use her full might in a conflict. It went without saying that this was good news, much better than the struggle Jue Di had faced during his
Luo Xianni lifted her arms and let it fall carelessly around Qianlin’s neck. “What a wonderful daughter-in-law. This feels wonderful. When the two of you marry I’ll hang around with the two of you, what do you think?”
Qianlin bashfully dropped her head. Lan Jue chortled. “That would be wonderful. Us and dad all together. But we still have a lot to do. Mother, Qianlin’s Domain is able to heal the aliens’ victims, so we’re going to go handle that problem. There are still the other planets we need to retake from the progenitors. Our mission is far from over.”
Mika had sent them correspondence saying Zeus-1 was on its way back to Angel. The planet was vast and there were many victims to heal before she returned. Lan Qing had already passed down the order for the ground team to try and gather the mutant humans as best as possible.
“This is not difficult,” Luo Xianni assured. “I’ll help you – twice the result with half the effort. Come.” As she spoke she waved her hand, and a pink light arose in the air before them. To Lan Jue and Qianlin it was like reality sped around them. Suddenly they were in a different place.
Luo Xianni continued to flit her hands back and forth, tracing lines of pink with each motion. Where they appeared the air rippled, but they didn’t move. However, below them vast numbers of infected humans vanished without foundation. They blinked back into existence crowded together in a mass of frozen monstrosities.
There were no limits to the influence of the Infinite. Clearly Luo Xianni’s breakthrough had catapulted her already incredible abilities to new heights. The entire planet seemed firmly under her control.
Lan Jue could faintly discern images in her mother’s eyes. They were scenes of other places around Angel, where Luo Xianni was picking up the infected and depositing them here. From their lofty vantage they could see the crowd below growing ever larger.
“Release your Domain!” The Photographer commanded.
Qianlin obeyed, and quickly the white light of her Domain spread out across the sky. The light of Guanyin settled upon the ten square kilometers of mutated victims below. It was the farthest she could extend her newfound abilities.
Lan Jue floated behind her, then wrapped his arms around her slender waist. Immediately upon contact Qianlin could feel her capabilities improve. The breadth of her Domain swelled to several times its former size.
This was the difference between Reflection of Heaven and Earth and Nirvana.
Qianlin’s dharmic image reemerged from nothing, and with Lan Jue’s help it was clearer than ever. Even people in space could see the rapidly thousand-meter tall manifestation of Qianlin’s power.
Its lily-white robes fluttered as white light poured out in all directions. To the allied forces it was like watching a true angel descend from heaven, spreading its holy light over the blighted landscape.
The victims below had begun to react. Tendrils of poisoned mist were expelled from the millions of infected bodies. It created a haze of toxic fumes, but the light of Guanyin quickly burned it all away. Within the span of a few seconds nothing remained of the progenitor’s corrupting influence.
Lan Jue’s perception was razor sharp, he could feel how draining Qianlin’s Domain was on her. However, that lasted only for a moment, for after the full extent of her abilities were released her strength rapidly recovered. She recouped more than she spent.
As their powers mingled Lan Jue could distinctly feel her protogenia flowing through him. It nourished him, feeding his cultivation. Just expressing her Domain could improve one’s cultivation – incredible!
Luo Xianni’s words echoed in his mind. Qianlin’s Salvation protogenia was not difficult to understand, saving others and delivering them from pain was what her powers excelled at. In performing this service her cultivation increased and her protogenia was perfected. Saving these pour souls from the hell of infection was precisely what she was meant to do. Though the changes to her protogenia were subtle and her improvement slight, her expression was perfectly stable.
The light of Qianlin’s Domain continued to grow. Flecks of gold had begun to mingle with it, interspersed through the calming light and although the gold wasn’t very obvious it lent a mystical air to the image.
“That’s…” Tang Mi sat in the cockpit of her mecha. She stared wide eyes and open mouthed at the familiar face suspended in the sky.
That woman, a thousand meters tall and resplendent as an angel… that was her.
Zhou Qianlin? When did she get so big?
“Damn! That’s Qianlin?” Tang Xiao’s voice crackled through her comms system.
The surprise was clear in Tang Mi’s voice as well. “It’s her, no question. By how is she so huge? What’s going on?”
They both knew Qianlin was with Lan Jue, but they had not seen her for a long, long time. They were also completely unaware of the trials she’d suffered, and to suddenly have her appear like this was shocking beyond words.
Tang Xiao’s voice adopted a strange tone. “Reflection of Heaven and Earth – that’s her dharmic image. That’s the only thing it could be. Man! Qianlin’s actually broken through to Paragon, incredible. If I was a woman it’d be so much better, I could marry the professor and he’d make me a Paragon!”
“You pudgy idiot, keep talking like that if you want the Professor to kick the crap out of you. Married my ass.” Jin Tao interjected.
Tang Xiao had no time to trade barbs with him. His eyes were trained on Qianlin’s image in the sky.
They didn’t just know Qianlin. They went to school together, joined Star Division together! Only, the Qianlin they saw now was completely different than the one they’d known. Just her image made them want to bow in worship.
Such pure beauty, replete with a benevolence that was hard to describe. The light of her presence felt cleansing, as though her gaze washed away negative emotion.
All of the soldiers stopped dead in their tracks with their faces turned toward the sky. Those who were closer could see the
infected victims returning to normal. They watched as their swollen bodies shrunk to normal proportions, their demonic appearance melting away, until at last they were as human as the rest of them.
Once the first batch was completely cured they vanished in a flash of pink light. Then, another group appeared to take their place. The white light washed away their illness, too, drawing out the toxins and dissolving it away.
Lan Jue, Qianlin, and Luo Xianni worked in tandem to heal the afflicted. Qianlin slowly closed her eyes and immersed herself in the changes her protogenia experienced. The smile on her face was all the more genial. Feeling these poor people healing under her cleansing light was wonderful.
Qianlin was happiest when she was helping people, staying true to her benevolent nature. She had been this way ever since she was small. But her kindness did not mean she was weak – she was strong of character, a soul of steel in a gentle shell. It was her compassion that allowed her to employ the Queen of Heaven Discipline.
When she grew older and the Clairvoyant told her to get close to Lan Jue, her mood began to change. They experienced so
much, and ultimately Lan Jue came to accept her. Yet all the while Qianlin knew it was based on a lie. She had concealed the most important parts of her from him. It had not pained her, for she had learned to separate herself from the reality of it. But she had always been reluctant.
When she had suffered the Astral Phantom’s poison, caught in the dream she could not stir from, she felt the tender care Lan Jue had given her. His meticulous and tender care made her hell-bent on waking up, but she could not. All the while she could feel the immortal qi conveyed to her through Lan Jue’s thunder essence. She sensed how it altered her Queen of Heaven Discipline and empowered her abilities.
Then, she broke through and awoke at last. By then everything was different. After being asleep for so long it all suddenly seemed unreal.
All of that brought her to this moment, where she could feel the people below healing from her efforts. Now her heart was still, everything felt true and right. It was beautiful. Yes, salvation. That was her protogenia.
Chapter 800: Reprocessing
This was not absolution or transcendence. It aiding that which needed to be aided. It was soothing ailments and helping the afflicting to a place of warmth and joy.
She opened her heart to and felt herself become one with the essence of her protogenia. In this moment she was truly Guanyin, the Queen of Heaven. She was truly a Paragon.
The white light continued to glow. Group after group of the afflicted were presented before her for cleansing, millions at a time. Once their bodies were healed the seal that locked their spirits was removed, and their consciousness returned.
The experience of having their bodies so thoroughly poisoned was catastrophic for these unfortunate people. The pain had been so tremendous they’d wished for death. Their minds were returned but that horrible experience was seared into their hearts. They tried to control themselves, to lock it away, but the progenitor had tainted them down to their genes.
Seeing the pain visited upon their friends and family they wanted to lash out, to destroy everything within reach. The will that was returned to them still followed the genetic
manipulation they’d undergone.
But as the light of Guanyin continued to shine upon them they felt like parched ground under a cool rain, felt the soothing energy flow through them. Its light helped them to find themselves beyond the haze of rage and pain.
Then they saw the beautiful image suspended in the sky. Beneath her gaze they felt an unprecedented sense of belonging. In all it lasted but a few moments before they were suddenly someplace else, but none of them would forget the angelic visage that had brought them back from madness.
Salvation. Real salvation! Whoever that was had shown them the path to a new life, a rebirth from the ashes of their suffering. They searched the skies and even from a great distance could see the thousand-meter dharma image shining her light upon the land.
It wasn’t clear who the first one to throw themselves on the ground toward the image was, but soon the others followed. One by one they prostrated themselves before their savior. Tears fell, and cries of pain and happiness rippled through the crowds. But this was only an expression of grief over their experience. All other negative emotions were washed away. No
rage or vengeance remained.
These Western believers had found new faith.
The golden light continued to influence the pure white of Qianlin’s Discipline. Her aura also continued to rise in strength and prominence and spread even farther toward the horizon. Lan Jue could feel the reprocessed energy from Qianlin surging through him in suffocating waves, purer with each passing moment. They had only just broken through, but also he sensed their Domains getting stronger.
Improving ones abilities once becoming a Reflection of Heaven and Earth was difficult, as the Terminator could attest. It required a deep understanding of one’s protogenia to progress. Lan Jue and Qianlin were already possessed of great insight, and this flood of unending energy was serving to galvanize their protogenia further. It was something neither of them could have anticipated, nor would they have believed it unless they felt it themselves.
Although it wasn’t near enough to evolve their protogenia on a qualitative level or promote them to Nirvana, it certainly would shorten the length of time necessary to reach the next level.
Up to now Lan Jue had lead them in their cultivation. Qianlin followed his direction and benefited from his guidance. Now, though, Lan Jue was the one to ride upon her coattails. He drank of her recycled energy to fuel his own growth.
Lan Jue had a peculiar sense, and peered out into the distance. There he was the scores of people kneeling before their goddess
– the one in his arms!
More and more of the infected were delivered into the cleansing light. As they did Qianlin grew stronger, and the scope of her influence grew. Minute after minute passed in this way, scores of Western victims returned to health. After recovering from the incredible scene, the ground forces set about gathering and consoling the masses.
The populace walked around in a daze. This was their homeland, and though the aliens had razed it to the ground, they saw that there was an opportunity to rebuild. The aliens hadn’t had control for long, not long enough to devour all the life that had existed here. If it had, the progenitor would already have moved on.
Once they were gathered together ships began arriving with food and drink, which were dispersed among the survivors.
Then the remaining Westerners set about seeking out friends and familiar places.
In the future they would still need much more help, but for now they were safe.
Lan Qing had taken the initiative in recording everything they saw on Angel and sending it to the other Alliances.
Both of them were still in the midst of conflict. The government had lost the faith of the soldiers and the people, and unrest was widespread. The victory over the alien forces had pacified some of that anger. This latest news, however, calmed them.
The vision of that woman, blazing like a goddess in the heavens, healing the afflicted, was inspiring. It caused tears to stream down the faces of the people all across human space. It was a scene that united humanity, an uplifting promise that they would always have the strength to save those in need.
The turmoil subsided. At last humanity began to speak in one voice, urging support for this righteous battle.
Lan Qing and Kang Hui hurriedly made their requests. Their initial appeals were not for more troops, but for food – a lot of food. There was undoubtedly more people to save on other planets, and they would need food and water. Other aid would mean nothing if they starved.
The keen observers knew, of course, that this was just the beginning. The enemy was still out there, and no one was safe until they were exterminated. Reconstruction would come when the alien menace was cleansed from the universe, but the weight of that responsibility rested solely on the army.
Lan Qing had finally earned himself a short rest. He sat on a nearby sofa and shut his eyes.
His mind raced, going over everything that happened and all that was to come. The first phase of their plan was complete. Now they had to wait for their scouts to return with news. Most important was the location and status of the three alien planets. They couldn’t proceed until they knew where their targets were hiding.
The possibility of the planets teleporting again was included in Lan Qing’s plans. In fact, he wouldn’t be very worried if they did.
The reason was simple; if they did teleport, it meant they weren’t evolving. No matter where they went the amount of energy required to teleport would be massive, and likely would capture the attention of universal protogenia.
In addition the aliens had suffered a significant loss against the humans in the taking of Angel. Many of the vital crystals they relied upon were now in human hands.
The Northern Alliance still had Bastion ships to spare. If the aliens reappeared in their territory they could at least defend themselves. The East also had their own countermeasures… Although they only had a single bastion, that didn’t mean it wasn’t without more furtive defensive capabilities.
The East had a high population, but they were concentrated in a relatively small area. They were the first Alliance to prepare for the alien invasion, so they’d had ample time to install planetary defenses like railguns at the places most likely to suffer an alien attack. The planets themselves would be their protection against the enemy.
It wasn’t enough to completely repel the aliens, but if it came to it this would at least buy them time.
As for the allied forces, they would retreat the moment confirmation came that the enemy had teleported away. The Eastern planets would be put on alert, and their railguns – though limited in capabilities – would come online to provide what defense they could. But in addition, the East had a trump card – an ace in the hole that Lan Qing had suggested they prepare.
In the most populated areas, the East had constructed enormous transmission arrays. The Wine Master and Photographer had been involved in their design and creation. The best transference power gems money could buy went in to their construction, and no effort was spared to put them together. In fact they were made to be used multiple times, if necessary. It functioned similarly to the one Lan Jue and the others had used in their excursion to the Shattered Starfields.
Its corresponding power gem array was built into Middle Heaven. It was modified so that molinite could be used as a power source.
With the Wine Master and the Luo Xianni working together, they could teleport targets over incredible distances. One trip could carry ten people.
That is to say the moment Eastern space was invaded by the enemy, ten of the most powerful Paragons could be transferred from Middle Heaven directly into the fight. They at least would be able to hold off the aliens for some time. The enemy home worlds would be too weak to attack with overwhelming force.
The Paragons would need only hold the line until the allied forces returned. Then, the military come close in on a weakened enemy fighting on two fronts.
Of course there was the possibility that a sneak attack would cause great devastation to Eastern worlds. But so long as they could survive until the military got back, they could turn the tide of battle.
According Lan Qing’s determinations, the risk the East would assume in such a case would not outweigh the possibility of a decisive human victory. After all, it was very likely the alien home worlds were attempting to evolve in this very moment.