Chapter 81: The Pontiff’s Castle
The imposing figure drew ever closer, and with each step their features became clearer. At least two meters tall, and clad in plate armor reminiscent of the ancient Middle Ages. In their left hand, a shield. A sword in their right.
With each step their imposing aura became stronger. It was as though they were the center of the universe, the master of this reality.
Lan Jue’s face was calm as he greeted him. “It’s been a long time, Raphael.”
“Indeed. A long time, Zeus. We’ve been looking for you for… ages.” Raphael’s incessant march towards Lan Jue never ceased. Strangely, despite his heavy plate armor, he made not a sound as he trekked towards the small group.
Mika had already undergone a change; her eyes narrow, the red in their depths growing darker with each passing moment. “The Archangel of Healing… Raphael, of the Pontiff’s Castle.”
Lan Jue turned then to face Mika, and placed his hands gently
upon her shoulders. “Mika, promise me. Unless there is absolutely no other choice, do not use your abilities. Understand?”
She looked in to his eyes in silence, and moister began to collect at the corner of her eyes. “Boss…”
He gently ran a hand through her hair. “You call me boss, it’s my job to protect you. Trust me.”
Mika took a deep breath, and straightened her shoulders. “Right!” The red that had crept through her eyes had dissolved.
“Zeus. Really, there’s no reason it has to be like this. If you want to leave there are none among us who will stop you. All we want is the Stygian Succubus. It was never our intention to feud with you. Give her to us, and you may leave. The Pontiff’s Castle will even owe you a favor.”
Lan Jue laughed, almost as though the exchange brought him joy. “Raphael, you keep calling me Zeus. So you know the kind of person I am.”
“But you’re no real supreme being.” This sentence came from another voice, clear and melodious. Another towering figure appeared, this one not in armors but an impeccably clean white robe. Long golden hair flowed to his back, with sapphire blue eyes set in a handsome face. He looked regal, elegant, like an artist.
Lan Jue gave them a lopsided smile. “We’re all old friends. I figured with Raphael around you’d show up. Gabriel, you haven’t changed a bit.”
Gabriel gave him a small smile in return. “Oh? And how would you describe me?”
“Cheap,” Lan Jue said without hesitation.
Gabriel’s features grew rigid, but he quickly recovered. “Ah Zeus, all you have is words? I am curious, though, how you knew it was a trap. In return I’ll tell you how we set it up.”
Lan Jue spoke, appearing almost bored. “Your trap was flawless, actually. But, you shouldn’t have sent that little angel my way. I know what kind of person Little Yue is, as well as I know her relationship with your lot. But I also know her heart –
and she wouldn’t let any one of your number near her. Unless I’m mistaken, you likely offered something she dare not refuse in return for setting this up. This Clash of the Seven Stars was your doing, a snare you knew I’d have to walk in to.”
Gabriel sighed. “You really are a special breed. In this instant you really do seem like the real Zeus. Even now you still seek to protect your Little Yue. You’ve got the one right, but there was also Gao Yong. But those aren’t even the most important. What made it in the end was Yue seeing the look in your eyes. We’d originally thought you’d been fooled, but she noticed how you spoke to Gao Yong; relaxed, at ease. So we decided we’d settle this today.”
“Of course, you can still choose to leave. All you have to do is agree to leave the Succubus to us. You can take the others and go,” Raphael added sincerely.
Lan Jue leisurely pulled his cigar from his breast pocket, producing with it a cigar cutter from his windbreaker. He clipped the end, and spoke over his shoulder to Mika. “Let me get a light.”
Mika smirked. She pressed thumb and forefinger together, and with a snap a flame appeared hovering before Lan Jue’s
Lan Jue leaned forward and drew upon the cigar, sucking the flames in to it. The pungent aromas of the fine cigar began to fill the area.
“Who else, hm? Come on out. In this Holy Light it’s hard to pinpoint your exact locations. Just the two of you isn’t enough for what you want, I think.”
He looked around with an expression of boredom, his mood almost dismissive. But there was a clear arrogance in his mannerisms.
“So you wish to be our enemy, Zeus?” A magnetic, rumbling voice filled the air. The voice changed something in Lan Jue. His arrogance slipped, and a quiet dignity crept in to his eyes.
A fiery red figure gradually appeared between Gabriel and Raphael. He walked towards them at an average, leisurely pace, but his presence flooded the area with radiant light with each step closer.
Mika’s face blanched. “Michael – the Angel of War!”
Lan Jue gave a throaty laugh, and took a long drag of his cigar. The plume of smoke slowly extricated itself from his lips. “You all think so highly of me! Three of the Pontiff’s Seven Archangels. Anyone else?”
Michael was covered in a set of fiery red armor. Brilliant and divine his features, however, were as hard as carved stone. A great cloak of crimson flowed at his back, and he wore no helmet which permitted his golden hair to shimmer brilliantly in the holy light.
“Uriel. He’s at your airship. You must know the Blade-Maiden is no match for him,” Michael said matter-of-factly.
“So just you four then,” Lan Jue asked.
Michael continued. “The Succubus is an important matter to us. She will inherit the Dark Tower.”
Lan Jue looked towards Gabriel. “You found me after what I did on Skyfire I imagine. Then you discovered I was on the
Avenue. Then, after the conflict with Gao Yong and the pirates, you figured I’d come to the Shattered Starfields. And so here you plan to end things. Am I right?”
Chapter 82: Ascension
Gabriel fixed Lan Jue with his eyes. “Zeus, I’ll stress again – we don’t want to be enemies.”
Lan Jue laughed softly in response. “But I already am, aren’t I. I really don’t have a choice, and neither do you. The only thing left to say can be said through power. If you want to take Mika, you’ve got one road – and that’s over my dead body.”
Michael’s response was calm. “If that’s the case, there’s nothing more to say. Gabriel, you handle these. Zeus is mine.”
Brilliant pillars of light erupted from the three angels. Their pure white wings splayed out to magnificent lengths. Each bore six wondrous wings. Each were Six-Winged Seraphim!
An Angelism resulting in a six-winged seraph meant they were at least a ninth-level Talent, seventh ranked. And Michael, the Angel of War, lead the Seven Archangels as a ninth-level ninth- ranked master. He’d attained the peak of cultivation.
Gabriel, the Messenger of Death was ninth-level, eighth- ranked. Raphael, the Angel of Healing, ninth-level seventh-
Great beams of golden-red light shot manically from Michael’s back. “Zeus, the widely renowned. I’ve long awaited this battle.”
Lan jue lazily puffed on his cigar. “You’ve thought about this, Michael? You know me, you know I don’t let a slight go unpunished. Let this be the end, for if I leave here alive, the Pontiff’s Castle will never know another day of peace.”
Michael’s eyes flashed dangerously. “Still you threaten me.”
Lan Jue’s response was cool, collected. “I’m telling you what will happen. If I die here, you’ll create some scene to confuse any who come to investigate. But if I don’t, if I walk out of here, you know what the consequences will be. If you didn’t, you’d have come for me long ago on Skyfire Avenue.”
Michael huffed. “Since when did Zeus resort to talking to solve his problems?”
Lan Jue laughed, though it was an expression that never
reached his eyes. “You know? I actually want to stamp my cigar out on that irritating face of yours. Unfortunately it’s a method that doesn’t fit with my noble decorum. But it sure would make me happy.”
“Guoguo, Ke’er. Protect Mika. Leave these three to me!” As he spoke, he took a single stride forward to meet his assailants.
In the space of that single step, the lackadaisical and indifferent Lan Jue underwent a dramatic change.
A golden mask appeared from nowhere, covering his features. In the same instant there appeared a brilliant golden cape. His hair grew long, like spun gold. Once more he appeared as he did that day on the mountain top, ‘rescuing’ Zhou Qianlin from her marriage.
This man wasn’t Lan Jue. In this moment, he truly was – Zeus!
But the angels didn’t look on in stillness. In those few moments they, too, were in motion.
A dazzling flash of golden red like the rising sun burst in to bloom before Zeus’ face. The explosion released an incomparable blast of light and heat.
The holy fire reflected off of Zeus’ golden mask. His right hand short forth, and a terrible blast of blue light erupted towards his adversaries. It charged forth like a spear, piercing to the depths of that golden orb of light and fire.
Terrible bursts of energy issued from the point of contact. The electric energies cast forth by Zeus seemed to devour the orb. With the air still crackling from the power of the impact, he took another step forward. Surrounded by the remnants of their opening salvo, his approach seemed even more menacing.
The Messenger of Death deftly avoided the blast, floating effortlessly in the air as though he were taking a leisurely stroll. Suddenly, a holy light expanded from his body, pure and brilliant, and raced towards the three women. The chorus of angels rang from it’s depths.
Mika hadn’t moved from her original spot. Her red hair hung lose, framing her pretty face. With head slightly bent, she stood still and silent – as though the events of the world around her didn’t exist.
Lin Guoguo strode forward until she stood between Gabriel and Mika. Her right hand was pressed against her forehead, and a sharp golden light flashed from her eyes. Behind her appeared a golden faceless figure, surrounded by a blazing ring of light. In the blink of an eye the halo burst in to innumerable golden bolts, which launched themselves violently towards the assaulting angel.
The aura around Gabriel shifted perceptibly, created a black void between them. Guoguo’s arrows of light fired harmlessly within and vanished.
It wasn’t a second later that reality ruptured between them, and from the depths of the tear a great azure hand swiped at Gabriel’s halo of light. The attack landed to the side, succeeding in tearing it asunder.
“I said leave the three to me,” Zeus’ roaring voice thundered forth.
Boooom! Earsplitting peels of thunder rang through the heavens. Threading bolts of blue lightning became encased in golden light, and furiously detonated from between Zeus and the Angel of War.
The fiery red figure of Michael staggered out.
Another step forward, and Zeus reached his hand in to a void in space. When he retracted it, a great spear of golden lightning writhes in his grip. He jabbed the weapon towards the red angel.
The air shimmered and parted like water before the tip of Zeus’ spear. Michael grunted and, exposed from the assault, staggered back a few steps.
Zeus wasted no time. The opening allowed him to turn his golden spear of lightning to Gabriel.
Suddenly, dual beams of holy light descended form on high, encasing Michael and Gabriel. The light served as a shield, divine intervention, which also caused the energies pouring from their bodies to become enhanced.
“Let the skies open!” Zeus’ penetrating roars resounded around them.
At his call a terrible boom of thunder followed, and the air above them became riddled with scores of golden fissures.
The white shield of light before Gabriel split like paper in the face of Zeus’ golden spear. The crackling bolt veritably screamed as it made for his face.
Gabriel’s eyes grew wide, and his face paled in terror. Instinctively he drew his six wings before him like a barrier, and his body became consumed in blessed white light.
A shrill cry filled the air as the blinding light receded. Gabriel’s body fell from the shell of brilliance, collapsing to the floor. Two of his six wings had been horribly mangled. Golden rivers of blood sputtered from the angel’s mouth.
“Ascension… ?” The Angel of Healing, Raphael, was struck dumb as he watched the scene.
Slowly, Zeus turned to look at Raphael. Slowly, his right hand lifted to point to the roiling, shattered skies.
“The heavens shall splinter!”
The world grew bright as day. With Zeus at it’s center, scores of searing golden lightning erupted from the skies to obliterate
everything they fell upon. In the face of this abominable tempest, even the three great angels of the Pontiff’s Castle had to devote all of their power to self preservation.
The heavens indeed fractured, in from the blue skies and white clouds there radiated forth a great beam of light.
“Hmph!” The grunt was cold and angry. Michael, Angel of War, stood unmoved, his six wings keeping him aloft.
Each beat of his great wings radiated powerful, holy light. The shimmering glow spread across his pure white wings until they, too, shone gold with power.
As the last feather of his wings absorbed the golden glow, they split apart. Twelve glorious wings beat furiously at Michael’s back. But more than that, behind the mighty warrior a shimmering ethereal figure with twelve wings of it’s own hovered.
The true angel had emerged. Adventus.
Chapter 83: The Variable
Twelve powerful wings beat against the air, and Michael vanished from view. The respite was short lived, though, for he appeared moments later high above them. Thus extricated from Zeus’ line of attack, he made a charge for the three women.
Raphael rushed to Gabriel’s side, and laid his hands upon him. Gentle white light emanated from the contact and began to heal the fallen angel’s broken body. Raphael’s browse knitted as he worked. “Zeus… it’s a fitting name. Resolute, unwavering. To use his Ascension from the onset. His level of cultivation is comparable to our own, despite the fact we’ve lived for more than a hundred years. But it isn’t true mastery. He draws too much from himself, and I doubt he’ll be able to hold it for long.”
Gabriel’s face was pale and pained. He coughed speckles of golden blood. “It’s a… powerful Ascension. And his judgment is impeccable. He didn’t hesitate to draw so much energy to command the battlefield. The Thunder Discipline is worthy of being called the most explosive of powers. He even forced … Michael to employ Adventus. He is… also an arrogant one. In his Adventus form, Michael can also break the barrier into tenth level. Enough even to rival his Majesty the Pontiff’s un- enhanced abilities. And Zeus, drained as he is, will have no chance to run.”
The golden light surrounding Zeus flickered, and began to fade by degrees. Golden hair, golden mask, golden robes… each of them melted away like rippling water until they vanished. Lan Jue hadn’t employed any gems or enhancements – this was his own innate power. However, he could only maintain this ultimate form for ten seconds before it ran it’s course.
His face was pale, and blood had begun to collect at the corner of his lips. But his eyes retained that calm attentiveness.
“Boss! Let me,” Ke’er shouted resolutely. Undulating waves of light shimmered in her eyes.
Lan Jue turned to look at her, and something in his expression stopped any further debate.
Mika remained still, silent, with head bowed. Lin Guoguo stood dutifully by her side, fists raised and eyes flashing gold.
“Xiuxiu, do you copy.. Xiuxiu!” Lan Jue growled in to his communicator. Only static responded.
The signal had been blocked.
“Wa-hah! Tell me how awesome I am! The Jewelry Master asked, and I have delivered! I’m nothing short of a genius. Now, there’s absolutely nothing that can crack your protections. The only way someone’s breaking in is if they can survive a blast from Zeus-1’s main cannons.” The Accountant practically wriggled in his seat with self-pride.
Xiuxiu sat a small distance away, but acted as though she hadn’t heard. Her hands supported her pink cheeks as she stared towards the city through the porthole, preoccupied with her own thoughts.
“Man, I am something else!” The Accountant continued to toot his own proverbial horn.
Thrumm! Suddenly, a shudder ran through Zeus-1
Xiuxiu was drawn from her silent contemplation to stare quickly at the screen before her.
“Eh? What’s with this interference signal. It’s so strong… it’s
like our communications array has just broken off!” The Accountant scratched his head, muttering indistinctly to himself.
Xiuxiu spoke up. “Something not right. The boss must have run in to some trouble.”
The young woman’s classical, even temperament grew sharp in the space of an instant. Though it would take exceptional perception, someone looking close enough would discover the pupils of her big eyes had elongated like dual razors.
A shadow covered her screen, and a figure appeared.
He was a graceful man, elegant, but the smile upon his face held a dangerous quality. He was tall, stood straight, and from his back extended six magnificent white wings which slowly undulated to keep him aloft.
“Salutations,” he spoke through the screen. “Unless I’m mistaken, the only one of Zeus’ amazons remaining on the ship is the Asura Blade-Maiden. I, am called Uriel. I’m unsure whether you’ve heard of me, but I’d ask you not do anything… rash. You are currently surrounded by four battleships, and four
more stand by in orbit. What I need you to do, is simply remain calm and quiet, until matters are settled. I am loathe to act violently towards a woman, as any gentleman worth his salt can attest. And so, Blade-Maiden, remain just as you are and things will remain copacetic.”
A hard glint shone in Xiuxiu’s eyes, but her face remained calm and betrayed nothing.
“The Cherubim Uriel, of the Pontiff’s Castle? What are you doing all the way out here? What’s happened? What in the world did the Jewelry Master do now?! Why would the Castle send people to come after him?” The Accountant sputtered question after question, staring worriedly at Xiuxiu.
Xiuxiu lowly turned her head to look at him. “We’re likely trapped. The whole thing probably was – even from the day we got that gem from the hooded man on the Avenue. The others are certainly in danger – but between Mika and the boss’ power, they can hold their own for the time being. Luckily he doesn’t know you’re on board. After all, neither did we. Uriel’s made his calculations based on all the information he has. You, are the variable.”
“I’m going to get out and draw the Cherubim away. Its your
job to find a way to get this ship out of here and provide support for Lan Jue and the others. Understand?”
The Accountant stuttered. “B-b-but what about you?”
“Don’t worry about me,” Xiuxiu responded casually. “Help the boss, and he’ll come for me.”
Xiuxiu interrupted before he could finish his thought. “No time for ‘buts’. If you want to live you need to get out of here, and do as I say. You’re already as familiar with this ship as any of us. You’re going to have to do this. Just remember, I can’t hold him off for long.”
With her final command issued, Xiuxiu turned and left without hesitation.
He watched her back as she left and said nothing. Contrary to his nature the Accountant sat silent, deep in thought.
Uriel hung in the air by virtue of his six beating wings, a hundred meters before the bow of Zeus-1. That diabolical smile never left his lips.
However, he didn’t remain alone outside for long. As he looked on, the ship’s hatch opened to reveal a figure silhouetted by the ship’s interior light.
Black flight suit, black hair, and black eyes met his gaze. Xiuxiu exited the ship atop a small personal aircraft that made it’s way towards Uriel.
The Angel laughed. “I’d certainly heard Zeus commanded four beautiful maidservants. Today I find truth to the rumors. The Asura Blade-Maiden, I presume.”
Xiuxiu’s response was curt. “Did you lackies of the castle figure you can assault my boss without consequences?”
Uriel’s dark grin grew wider. The taint of sinister schemes lived in that smile. “With all of you dead, there wont be any consequences. No one will know what happened to you. After all, this is the Shattered Starfields.”
Chapter 84: The Asura Blade-Maiden
“Fine,” Xiuxiu responded coolly. “I hadn’t thought the boss’ actions would bring you lot. It’s good, really – it make things more interesting.”
Uriel tilted his head, and looked at her with a hint of curiosity in his dark eyes. “And you aren’t the least bit afraid?”
Xiuxiu shot him an impish grin. “Why should I be afraid? Do you honestly think you and your people can defeat my boss?”
Uriel’s laugh was deep, and sinister. “It appears you aren’t interested in standing idly by. But I’d advise you against taking any reckless actions. As far as I can recall, the Amazons were Talents ranging from eight-level, to ninth-level first-rank. Simply put, that isn’t enough to stop us.”
Xiuxiu looked at him earnestly. “Data, words on a paper. How can you really know unless you find out for yourself? Am I right?”
Her dark eyes shone like lacquer. A flash – but not black, white like a terrible heat. It was quickly followed by a sudden
and violent burst of power, and a curtain of light erupting from behind her.
It coalesced in to a shimmering white sword, and a thunderous sound like tearing filled the air as it solidified. Uriel felt himself stiffen in response, and from his wings there emitted a gentle golden glow which shielded him from the worst of the ensuing blast.
“Impressive – worthy of being called Zeus’ right-hand. Quite the powerful aura! I’m going to assume your Discipline lies in the domain of piercing. It’s a rare thing to find someone who’s cultivate this sort of power to the eighth level.” As casual as when he first appeared, Uriel lazily motioned with a finger. Tendrils of golden light, thin as spider silk, slowly slithered from his body. They had no rhyme or reason, nor did they stretch towards Xiuxiu. Instead they blossomed like groping fingers, like threads of fishing net.
The undulating blade on Xiuxiu’s back slowly manifested itself, growing until it stretched a meter and a half in length. Decorative designs etched themselves upon the blade, and a crimson fuller stretched down to the impossibly sharp tip.
[ TN : The indented part in the center of the blade that –
contrary to their secondary name ‘blood gutters’ – is actually to make the sword lighter, not promote the flow of blood.]
The light emanating from Xiuxiu’s eyes shone brighter, yet her form began to grow hazy and indistinct. She faded until, surprisingly, the blade swallowed her in to itself.
The great blade shuddered, and swelled a hundred-fold. Now an enormous, blazing sword of light, it carved a deadly path towards the net of golden tendrils.
[ TN : hundred-fold = A five hundred foot sword is ludicrous, but that’s the translation, so that’s what ya got ]
The grating sounds of impact arose as blade met spindles. A great tear appeared in the net, and with a sharpness that threatened to tear reality at the seams, it continued it’s dangerous arc directly towards Uriel.
“”Ninth-level, then?” Uriel looked at the dancing blade in mild surprise. According to his research, the Blade-Maiden should have been the weakest of Zeus’ Amazons – no higher than eighth-rank. Simply following at Zeus’ side had apparently caused her to increase in strength and ability.
As he watched, he realized also that it wasn’t just the data that had been wrong. In these last few years, the Blade-Maiden had crossed an Adepts most important threshold, advancing from eighth, to ninth level. Moreover, it almost seemed as though she were holding back.
Lost in his thoughts and under assault from the living blade, he hardly noticed when Zeus-1 shuddered in to motion. Without any indication of the engines spooling, the ship immediately began to rotate. It was quick, small, only fifteen degrees or so – but it was enough to catch Uriel off guard.
Not far away, the deafening roar of engines arose. As the air whipped violently around them, the sensation of compression from the engines sputtering to life was nearly crushing. Uriel’s threats had not been empty, for now four great battleships were rumbling to life. Slowly each began to rise in to the air. High overhead, only partly visible through the clouds were revealed several more enormous figures. A classic dragnet.
The great blade paused for but a moment in midair, but only long enough for it’s edge to adopt a golden glow. It struck anew at the embattled angel.
In the face of the great blade, even Uriel had no choice but to retreat. A radiating white light arose to shield him.
Sword never met shield, but the guard pulsed with power regardless. Uriel had grown angry, and with a growl his great wings unfurled, launching him above the Blade-Maiden. His figured dipped, aiming a vicious punch towards the living weapon.
Boom! Zeus-1 moved anew, this time it’s five massive engines firing all at once. In a space of time that should have been impossible, the engines roared to full power, and the thin white light of it’s shields buzzed over the ship’s length.
But the ship didn’t lift off as expected. The roaring engines this close to ground screamed like banshees as the ship lurched backward.
Zeus-1 had maneuvered back, slamming directly in to a building situated behind it as weapon blasts from the battleships overhead rained down. The resulting impact razed the obstacle and left the ship with a clear path of escape. By virtue of it’s speed and shields it was able to complete the motion. Almost instantly the ship launched up a thousand meters, then rose abruptly towards the skies.
Crack! Countless streams of white light shot forth from Uriel’s extended fist, followed by a dizzying hum.
Xiuxiu had appeared again in the air between them, the great blade situated at her side. Streaks of blood covered her nose and mouth, but her battered face still looks delighted. Finally realization dawned on Uriel’s face.
“There was another on board.” Uriel’s face was dark with rage. In his time as Cherubim, never had he been so deceived. He found it difficult to keep his emotions hidden.
Xiuxiu only laughed. “You think I’d tell you?”
Uriel opened his fist and reached out to grab Xiuxiu. Once more numerous threads extended in to a web, enveloping the Blade-Maiden in their depths.
Xiuxiu grunted, reaching up to pull a necklace from around her throat.
It was a thin thing, unadorned and not visibly special in any way. The pendant, however, drew the eye. It was a small golden
sword, that shimmered with it’s own internal light.
She held the pendant gently between her fingers and, her eyes growing soft, she called forth: “Asura!”
A piercing golden light flared from the small sword. As it receded, an inky void appeared before Xiuxiu, and from it’s depths arose an colossal figure.
White, with two seven meter blades affixed to it’s back. A massive mecha, which when it arrived blinded the eyes with scores of dazzling prismatic rays. Uriel’s net shattered harmlessly under the strain.
From the mecha’s chest a light shot forth to embrace Xiuxiu. As the light dissolved, so did the Blade-Maiden. What remained was the mecha. It’s eyes shone as it came to life.
Asura stretched thirteen meters – not tall by ordinary mecha standards. However a nearly indescribable, palpable sense of dread accompanied it’s arrival. Scores of tiny black fissures appeared in the air around it, growing larger and more numerous as the mecha’s power flooded the surroundings.
Chapter 85: Asura
The arrival of Asura sent Urial reeling. Sometime during his staggering retreat, he’d produced a golden cross with a yellow gem which he clutched in his hands.
A golden light shimmered to life around him, crackling with power. It served to ward against the sudden and vicious slice from Asura’s dual blades.
The highest level Talents certainly possessed the ability to contend with mechas on their own – but that was against your average pilot. If the enemy was of a power comparable to one’s own, that was another matter entirely.
And of course, an adept was at their strongest when they were in their mecha. The white mecha he faced now, Asura, was piloted by the one he knew as the Blade-Maiden. Xiuxiu, one of Zeus’ amazons. A strong adept, in her own mecha.
The suit was large, and constructed to look like your perfect human physique. It bore no superfluous parts, no needless weaponry – only that pair of monstrous swords. As he looked on appreciably, said weapons were already gripped in the mecha’s hands. With a burst of speed it rushed forward, directly towards
that golden shield – the only thing protecting Uriel from it’s deadly blades. They lashed out in savage chops. Where they slashed the air, great arcs of white energy in the shape of a crucifix charged forth.
The shell cracked, great gashes appearing where the attack had landed. Beams of golden light spilled out, and as the shell shattered away a second giant figure was revealed.
Yellow, streamlined, with six great extended wings. The latter clearly indicated what it was – an Angelic mecha of the Pontiff’s Castle – a Seraph, with Uriel at it’s helm.
[ TN : The translation states that the Cherubim Uriel’s title is synonymous with the title of it’s mecha – Seraphim. I believe this is an author mistake as the two are separate classes of angels. Cherubim are the second class of angels, whilst Seraphim attend directly to God in catholic canonical works. If that’s the case than Uriel, an archangel (the highest order of the seraphim), is misnamed. Still, as that’s the way it’s written that’s the way I’ll translate it – just be aware that Cherubim is Uriel’s title, not status.]
The Cherubim mecha stretched eighteen meters high, with shimmering spar minerals affixed to the center of it’s chest. The
heart of the crystal pulsated as though a tempest roiled in it’s depths. A great shield was poised before it, blocking Asura’s blades from finding their mark.
[ TN : Again, he’s used the names Seraphim and Cherubim interchangeably. ]
Crack! Sparks of energy paired with a shock wave as the two indomitable powers collided, swirling around them like a storm.
Asura pivoted effortlessly around the raised defense, as lithe and mobile as any human. It moved like a white shadow, spinning about and tearing the air with it’s blades. The weapons rained blow after blow upon the Cherubim, interweaving until it seemed like it was a dozen swords he faced now.
Within the Cherubim’s cockpit, Uriel’s face had curdled. His fingers danced over the control panels like raindrops. Golden light still burned in his eyes. The mecha’s shield seemed to move slowly, but was always just where it needed to be to block the ceaseless assault from Asura.
Each impact set the world ablaze in hard light, and deafened the ear with harsh cracks.
Zeus-1’s sudden take-off had set the battleships in to disarray. They were ten times heavier than the sapphire gunboat. Though they bore superior weaponry, they simply didn’t have the maneuvering capabilities of their prey.
Theoretically eight battleships would be more than enough for an effective dragnet against a single gunboat. But there are always exceptions.
Zeus-1 had risen, twisted and launched quicker than they were able to react. In the end it launched directly skyward like a rocket.
The battleships already in flight hadn’t wasted any time in utilizing their tracking systems to get a lock on the fleeing ship. However, as they scrambled to take action, their quarry did something a ship of it’s class simply shouldn’t have been able to do; it tumbled through three complete horizontal rolls, shut off it’s engines, and began to plummet towards the earth in free- fall.
The result was the same across all ships – the lock was lost.
As the ship floundered, screaming towards the earth for impact, the engine on it’s left wing sputtered to life. Zeus-1 was wrenched forward, twisting back around.
The undulating maneuvers gave the gunboat enough stability to spool up it’s primary engine and fire in to the distance. By then the great blasts fired from the battleship’s cannons were already way off their intended mark and crashed to ground ineffectually.
“What the hell kind of ship is that!” One of the battleship’s captains, a man in his forties, looked on slack-jawed and wide- eyed as Zeus-1 slowly vanished in to the distance.
“WOO! Now that was satisfying!” The Accountant was practically devoured by his seat, strapped tight by the safety harness. That didn’t stop his fingers from pounding away at the keyboard in front of him, though. Odd flashes of data slithered across his eyes, eyes that had a strangely manic expression. The tail engine continued to accelerate, and Zeus-1 shot ahead like a bolt of lightning.
Xiuxiu watched Zeus-1’s retreat, her red lips pressed tightly together. In the next instant she was back on the offensive, lashing out at Uriel through Asura, at one with the mecha’s electronic brain to have it dance around the field of battle like quicksilver.
Rage was etched clearly on Uriel’s face. Against Xiuxiu alone his power was enough to overwhelm her. But now, with Asura, the danger to him had grown considerably. He clearly recognized several avenues to gain the upper hand in their battle, but he had to know Asura would use any means necessary to fight back. She had the will, and he wasn’t keen on destroying his own mecha to achieve this victory.
He’d let Zeus-1 escape! Though they’d blocked nearly all of Moonfiend’s electronic signals, Zeus-1 appeared to be on track to breaking atmosphere. With the speed and control he’d just seen, he wasn’t sure the safeguards they had in place would be enough. It wouldn’t be long before word got back to Skyfire, and then the Castle would certainly be at risk of retaliation from the Avenue. They’d learned already Zeus was on their inner council – ignorance would not be an effective excuse.
It can’t happen like this. I need to get to that ship and disable it. Uriel was resolute – he’d get to his airship, and chase that gunboat down.
Cherubim descended until one foot made contact with the ground. It crouched, and with it’s six great wings splayed out like knife-blades, it launched itself at Asura.
Xiuxiu’s mecha slid to the side and parried, the steel in it’s left hand rebounded off of the enemy’s wings. The lithe figure darted backwards. As the weight of the deflection spun it around, Asura pointed it’s blade forward and launched ahead. Mecha and weapon blurred in to one, a whirling cone aimed at the Cherubim’s heart.
Behind the controls of a mecha, Xiuxiu was no less capable than the angel she faced.
But before the final blow could land, Uriel’s Cherubim straightened. It’s six great wings expanded farther still – until they exploded out from it’s back. What was six solid wings now became a hail of golden arrows, heading straight for Asura.
Chapter 86: The Duel
Lan Jue floated in silence, suspended in the air. Wordlessly he stared at the glimmering figure similarly suspended before him
– Michael, the Twelve-Winged Angel of War.
“Hand over the devil and you can still leave.” Michael addressed his opponent calmly. Red-gold flames smoldered from his eyes, and he hovered over them like a demi-god above the masses.
Lan Jue’s expression was flat and uncaring. “From where I stand, it looks like only one of us will be breathing by the end of the day. As that’s the case, let’s settle this like gentlemen – with a gentlemanly challenge.”
Michael’s heart rate quickened. He knew he had the upper hand, and knew the man he faced was several degrees inferior in Talent. However in spite of those facts he also felt something inexplicable, something undefined that inspired fear to grow within him.
“You’re sure you want this, Zeus?” Michael asked in his growling voice.
Lan Jue only nodded in response.
Michael’s ears pricked up, as though he’d heard something. A subtle change came over his expression. “Very well. I accept your challenge. But this doesn’t have to result in death. It is my wish that concession end combat; if you succeed, you may leave unhindered, but if you lose the demon stays with us and you may go.”
Lin Guoguo and Ke’er both looked on in wonderment.
Michael’s conditions were uncharacteristically generous.
Lan Jue smiled knowingly. “So it looks like Uriel wasn’t able to keep Xiuxiu contained, am I right? Hypocrite.”
Michael’s flaming eyes glared down at them. “Make your choice, Zeus.”
I don’t agree,” came the replied. “I am the master of my destiny. It is I who will be your challenger, Michael.” Through the chaos her head had remained bent, her powers contained, but now Mika lifted her piercing gaze to the angel.
“Mika!” Lan Jue hissed.
“Boss, I’m sorry. I can’t let you keep bearing responsibility for me. You’ve already sacrificed, suffered too much. There’s no way I can pay you back. Originally I’d planned to follow you forever, but I bring nothing but trouble. You don’t belong to me, I can’t continue to be so selfish. If something were to happen to you because of me… I’d suffer the pain from that for the rest of my life.” Glistening teardrops, reflecting the shimmering red light form her eyes trickled down her cheeks.
Lan Jue gently shook his head. “I couldn’t protect her on that day, and I lost the most important person in my life. If I fail to protect you today, and live to dwell on it, it would be a fate worse than death. You say you’d suffer pain, would you wish that on me?”
“No, no, no! That isn’t what I mean, boss!” Mika vigorously shook her head, scattering her glittering tears in all directions. The world before her eyes grew indistinct from the water welling up within them.
Lan Jue moved to her side, and took her up in an embrace.
“It’s alright Mika. Be calm.” He gently stroked her fiery red hair, and before she realized what was happening his finger brushed against the collar around her neck.
Lan Jue turned, handing Mika’s incapacitated form to Lin Guoguo.
The Psychic Tide said nothing. She moved forward to take her friend from him. Ke’er reached out to grip Lan Jue’s arm.
“Remember boss, your life isn’t just important to you. What happens affects all of us. If something really does happen, it isn’t just Mika whose life will be ruined. Zeus’ Amazons and Zeus, live together or die together.”
A pang ran through Lan Jue’s heart, and with warmth in his eyes he ruffled her head of blue hair. He turned once more, fixing his gaze on Michael.
“Come on then, Michael. It’s time to decide the victory. If I win, I won’t kill you. But if you do, you better make sure the job is finished.”
Lan Jue raised his right hand to the heavens, and they in turn grew dark and ominous. Countless tendrils of lightning snaked by overhead in a cloudless sky.
Michael’s eyes hardened in resolution. He, too, raised his right hand, and a pillar of flame lept to life in his palm. A great sword of light and fire appeared from the pyre’s depths.
It was then two more figured made their presence known; Gabriel, the Messenger of Death, and the Angel of Healing Raphael.
Gabriel was still pale, weak, but the wings upon his back had been repaired.
The Archangels of the Pontiff’s Castle shared a special connection, one which allowed them to know intrinsically what the others encountered. Despite just re-entering the fray, they knew precisely what was about to occur. They stopped a short distance away, silent and watchful.
With a flourish of Lan Jue’s hand, it begun. Great, searing columns of lightning crashed down from on high towards Michael’s position.
Not a moment later radiant flames burst from around Michael’s body. The holy fires expanded like a sun, and the lightning it came in to contact with harmlessly dissipated in to nothing. Not a single bolt managed to find it’s mark.
Michael’s growling voice boomed through the thunder. “You should know this has no effect on me, Zeus. These powers I command – powers of a ninth-level ninth-ranked master of cultivation – I can maintain for half an hour at the least. You have already spent your energies, and cannot call your Ascension. You simply have no chance.”
“A load of nonsense,” Lan Jue spat back at him. He vanished, only to appear suddenly directly before the angel. He hand lashed out, and gripped within was a whip of crackling lightning. Thunder roared as the whip snaked towards his adversary.
Michael’s divine sword – a simple weapon of no ornamentation – lashed out to meet it.
Lan Jue immediately felt something indescribable. The blade seemed to be drawing him in; not just his powers, but it was as though his very soul was fighting not to be drawn in to the sword’s depths.
A booming chorus of holy sermon filled his ears. Darkness clouded his vision.
Deaf and blind, his flailing whip could not find it’s mark. However, with the slightest motion of his left hand the whip fractured in to a score of sizzling lightning bolts and raced back towards him.
A deafening screech tore through the air. Michael struggled to maintain position as a vacuum threatened to suck him in. Lan Jue had in that moment vanished from sight. The Adventus Michael lost his hold.
Great peels of thunder roared before the angel, as behind him there appeared an azure figure. An enormous hand raced towards him, reaching with tearing fingers for his twelve golden wings.
Chapter 87: The Second Discipline
Blinding flashes of electric light preceded Michael’s inelegant tumble forward as the disembodied hand found it’s mark. But as the strike landed a plume of golden fire issued forth from the splayed wings to fall over Lan Jue.
As the fierce flames consumed him, a flash overtook Lan Jue’s body and he vanished. He reappeared in the air a short distance away, covered in golden flame. Little by little they died away as lightning crackled around him.
Michael had already recovered by the time Lan Jue reappeared, and the snaking bolts of lightning that had been coiling around him were burned away by the holy fires. Shock and confusion were behind those flaming eyes.
No ordinary Discipline had produced that speed, or else he wouldn’t have lost the Adventus hold. It was as though Lan Jue simply tore apart space to appear elsewhere, folded reality.
Whatever it was, it didn’t fall under the domain of Thunder Discipline.
Lan Jue glared icicles at Michael, as his arms raised slowly on either side of his body. Slowly the violet bolts of lightning around him vanished, but with each passing second his body grew more and more luminous. He shown with a glaring, white- hot splendor.
In all of the Three Alliances there existed ten Great Paragons, absolute masters of their Talent. They were possessed of a power so great, so terrible, that they were known to be capable of facing down warships by themselves. Both Lan Jue’s Ascension and Michael’s Adventus temporarily pushed them to the boundaries of a Paragon. Others of the Archengels weren’t capable of reaching such a level.
But Michael, at the cusp of Paragon himself, was stunned as he watched Lan Jue. He had underestimated him, this man who he knew not to be greater than a seventh-rank. It was a mistake that lost him his edge. And he wasn’t even employing his supreme form!
Michael beat his twelve marvelous wings, launching him forward. His holy blade stretched forth towards Lan Jue as the
air around the angel shimmered with ghostly shadows. As he drew closer, the shadows became great whirling tornadoes of holy light that filled the skies, threatening to devour Lan Jue.
A mocking sneer turned the Jewelry Master’s lips. The white light encapsulating him pulsed, expanding tremendously as the tornadoes of holy energy fell upon him. He melted in to a pillar of light, shooting up in to the air. Despite the number and ferocity of Michael’s blasts of energy, none could compete with Lan Jue’s speed and he escaped unscathed.
The skies above were washed in white light. A single peal of thunder washed over them as a streak of lightning plunged from above.
CRACK! Michael’s body flashed white, and lightning coiled around him like a hungry serpent thrusting him backward.
He toppled back with another figure, awash in rose-gold light. Lan Jue. None but Michael had been able to see where the attack had come from.
The Angel’s wings began to fade from sight. The dancing fires surrounding Lan Jue slowly started to extinguish. Both figures
plummeted towards the ground in free fall.
They didn’t manage to gain some semblance of control until they were a hundred meters from the rapidly approaching ground. Lan jue stabilized, stopping the descent and casting free the golden fires that had surrounded him. Michael, too, recovered. Embraced by an orb of holy light, the electric tendrils that had sent him falling crackled in to nothingness.
Lan Jue looked silently at his enemy, his features cold and calm. Michael looked back, dark and imposing.
“The speed of light. So, it’s not just thunder you command, but also electricity. It’s no wonder, then, that you were capable of achieving your supreme form. That you were such an illustrious figure in the mercenary world. In truth your power is no less than mine. Thunder and lightning. They complement each other – and that’s how you’ve reached ninth-level, ninth- rank.”
[ TN : So here, my head exploded. All throughout the former chapters Lan Jue has been using lightning. His moniker – Zeus – was the gold of lightning. Thunder is simply the sound that accompanies it. Here, however, the author reveals to us that his Discipline was in fact thunder, which makes no sense, while his
second discipline is in fact lightning/electricity. Sooo… yeah, dunno what to do with that there. ]
Lan Jue listened as Michael ruminated on the situation, and offered words of his own in a calm, quiet voice. “I was interested in finding out just how long you could hold the Adventus. Your form’s specialty isn’t speed, but overcoming fortifications and disadvantages.”
Michael’s face was hard and mean. “So this was all part of your plan. Right down to using your Ascension. All to get me to employ Adventus. I imagine it didn’t even drain you all that much, if you drew on both your Disciplines. All you had to do was endure… wait until my Adventus was spent. Then you’d have your victory, am I right?”
A smile finally crept on to Lan Jue’s face. “Life’s easier when you don’t have to explain everything.”
“Worthy of the name Zeus,” Michael stated. His face had once more adopted a calm mask. “As smart as you are powerful. Good… very good. A man can only use the supreme form once in a period. Now it looks like you have the upper hand. But our fight isn’t over.”
As he spoke the undulating rays of red and gold diminished until they were no more. His majestic wings were once again that pure, unblemished white of origin.
Lan Jue’s eyes flashed and, without hesitation, his vanished once again in a column of light.
Michael raised his right hand. Thereupon there rested a golden bracelet, bearing a golden angel charm.
The sky thundered, and lightning flashed. But this time no bolts of electricity assaulted Michael. His shield of light remained intact. The world behind the hovering angel grew dark as a black hole quietly rent reality asunder and opened. From within emerged a colossal figure, glimmering golden red. The white light that had warded him from harm shone bright, glowing from the center of the massive figure’s chest.
Lan Jue appeared once again, looking down upon Michael with a biting glare. “The Angel of War – a fine mecha. Very fine.” He responded by lifting his left hand, looking towards the ring on his little finger.
Chapter 88: Thor Joins The Fray
The ring was forged of a silvery material. It’s top half was relatively wider than it’s base, giving it an almost trapezoidal configuration. The surface was inlaid in a leopard print pattern of crushed diamond and sapphire. The very center was inset with a vibrant triangular green gemstone.
As Lan Jue looked upon it, the gem shone with a quiet power. It wasn’t unlike the glowing force living in his eyes. He flourished with his left hand, calling forth a blue bolt of lightning which lit the sky.
The air between them split. The fissure grew as two great hands reached out from within and tore it further. The mammoth figure that emerged moved majestically to Lan Jue’s side.
“Thor!” A booming voice ripped through the area with the mecha’s arrival.
It wasn’t solely by virtue of Zeus’ Discipline that he was able to dominate the mercenary world. It was likely more due to his status as a God-Ranked pilot.
By Michael’s estimation, even his Adventus would be no match for the combined might and speed of Zeus’ powers. Thus had he chosen to drop the transformation and conserve energy, instead calling forth his Angel of War. In this way he could minimize Lan Jue’s speed advantage. However, this didn’t mean that Lan Jue would be an easy foe to defeat.
The angel of War was covered from head to foot in a golden red alloy. It’s expansive wings were embossed with threads of crimson. The six appendages rose and fell as the twenty-one meter monstrosity hovered in the air. In all, it looked like a an ancient, angelic knight dressed for combat.
Zeus, on the other hand, looked as though it was carved from a single massive piece of sapphire. It’s entire length and breadth shimmered like a jewel. It rose twenty-three meters, stretched eight meters across, and stood tall and slender like a bolt of blue lightning. It’s shoulders where adorned with tri-layered armor; the top-most layer was large and tapered upward in to a point, the middle layer was smooth and slid beneath, and the final layer was mostly hidden beneath, pressed against the mechanical arm.
Thor’s peculiar construction and polished, gem-like appearance made it appear more a work of art than an instrument of war. The navy-blue coloring refracted the light
around it. Where the armor drew to spikes or corners, certain angles almost made it look purple. As bolts of lightning raced overhead, they flashed off of the mecha’s armor and added to it’s ominous appearance. As it’s chest plate closed, and Lan Jue took up position in the cockpit, a dazzling azure corona of light issued forth from it.
Ke’er and Lin Guoguo looked on with a burning fanaticism in their eyes. “Thor… Thor,” they chanted, louder with each call.
Thor, the great beast of thunder, under Zeus’ command.
Two magnificent mechas, two tremendous Adepts, stood suspended in the air in a stand-off. The Angel of War reached slowly behind it’s back, producing a blazing sword of light gripped tightly in it’s mechanized hand.
When employing a top-level mecha in combat, there was really only one avenue available to achieve victory in a situation as this. Because these machines were practically immune to laser weapons and even cannon fire, close-range combat was almost required. A top-level mecha was defensive, fast, and legendary in their close-quarters capabilities. As a result almost all of them were just that – close range fighters. In the end, though it came down to the skill of the particular pilot.
Zeus responded to the Angel of War’s actions with it’s own. Two giant hands stretched out, their palms glowing. Soon they were filled with a thirty-meter long, double-edged lance. The weapon was shaped like a bolt of lightning, and glowed with a gentle blue light.
The Angel’s wings spread in a smooth movement, and with a single thrust sent the mecha rocketing forward. In no time it came upon Thor. The sword of light tore through the air, leaving behind it a radiating trail of golden-red light. It’s sinister arc looked set to behead the sapphire colossus.
A mecha’s construction naturally included a bevy of power gems. These gems, paired with the abilities of the pilot that controlled it resulted in the aggregate power of a single mecha. The quality of the gems also played a significant role. The result was that a suit’s combat prowess and the Discipline cultivation of the one who commanded it were inexorably connected.
Thor swayed to the side, out of the blade’s path. In the same motion it’s spear lashed out. Contrary to expectations, however, the spear didn’t seek to block the golden sword’s path. Instead it swept around and knocked it aside at the flat of the blade.
Ting! Sparks flew at the weapons collided, the piercing ring a
result of their clash.
Gabriel, Raphael, Ke’er and Lin Guoguo scrambled back out of harm’s way. Two mechas of this caliber were known to destroy everything in a large area during the course of their battles – more than your average Adept, to be sure.
The Angel of War struggled visibly from the counter. The slight motion had set it off balance. Thor took advantage of the opening. Electric power raced over it’s form, as it dropped it’s shoulder and rushed in for a body-slam.
The Angel of War didn’t even attempt the dodge. To do so would have increased it’s unfavorable position. Instead it swept out it’s arm, aiming the spike jutting from it’s elbow directly with Thor’s shoulder. A dangerous red light extended forward from it.
A millisecond before collision Thor shifted ever so slightly. It was just enough to avoid the spike and it’s curious red light. The collision that followed was tooth-rattling.
The Angel of War was launched back from the impact. Thor hung in the air like it had rammed an iron wall. The Angel had also managed to land a strike. The sword’s thrash had set the sky afire, and a shock wave of energy raced from between them. Thor’s shoulder plate had crumpled. A spike from the Angel of War’s couter was missing. The giant machine buzzed with electric energies as arcing bolts snaked over it.
[ TN : Angel of War’s couter = The piece of armor that covers a knight’s elbow]
“Oscillation!” The Messenger of Death hissed under his breath.
“Michael’s in dire straights. He’d oscillated in that last second to avoid Michael’s defensive strike. Zeus really has that level of control…”
Thor’s robotic eyes shone. It’s massive arm lifted and with a mechanic creak threw the spear towards the Angel of War. It cut through the air, becoming a sizzling bolt of lightning. Thor was right behind it, catching up with the weapon just before thrusting it towards it’s enemy’s chest.
The golden mecha abruptly lifted it’s hand, in attempts to deflect the spear with it’s sword. The two weapons tore through the air at each other – the spear of lightning pointed directly at the Angel’s cockpit, and the sword of light racing to deflect.
No man – not even one as powerful as Michael – could survive a direct blow from a mecha’s weapon. Especially not Thor’s.
The Angel of War’s arm hung in the air, it’s blazing sword still. Just a moment too slow, a fraction of a second. Thor’s spear found it’s mark. The terrible screech of shredding metal combined with eruptions of light as the attack tore through the Angel’s chest.
But, unexpectedly, a powerful aura of light surrounded the impaled machine. The light heralded an immense magnetic attraction, which shot out to cover Thor. It was locked in place. Zeus had no means of retreat.
Chapter 89: Vacuums And Positron Cannons
The moment of impact, Michael understood completely that there was a clear discrepancy between he and Zeus in mecha control.
Michael had vastly more experience with mechas than Lan Jue. He had spend his life around them, changed by them. Now, he was over a hundred years old. When he’d reached the age of sixty he’d begun vigorously cultivating his powers, searching for ways to prolong his life. In short, he was well past his ‘prime’ physically. Mecha manipulation not only required skill and intelligence, reflexes were also important. In this, he was clearly inferior to Lan Jue.
But he was the Angel of War for a reason, celebrated for his combat abilities, and first of the Castle’s Seraph.
He’d had a revelation during their relatively short exchange. Thor was simply too fast – though he had the benefit of experience, the longer the battle raged the more difficult it would be for him to emerge victorious. His golden Angel was difficult to injure, but it was only prolonging the inevitable. The more he fell behind Thor, the more dangerous his predicament became. He had to do something drastic.
Michael’s sluggish defense was deliberate. Thor’s spear had indeed run the Angel through, but instead of pinning Michael to the back of the cockpit it had merely struck his shoulder. The electric energies coursing through it had paralyzed him, but it didn’t prevent Michael from employing his own Discipline.
Michael sat bleeding in the mangled Angel’s cockpit, his body alive with orange flame that filled the cockpit. The maroon power gems situated in the mecha’s head, knees, elbows and stomach drank it up – the source of the powerful vacuum.
The gems were called Abyssal Flame gems. When injected with power, they produced a flame, but contrary to normal fire they created a potent vacuum in their area of effect. The increase in fuel and oxygen made the fires burn at a frightening temperature. Your average alloy couldn’t stand the heat for long.
These gems were the exclusive property of the Pontiff’s Castle. They went to enormous lengths to protect and procure them, even going so far as to sacrifice capital ships. They were considered A-ranked gems.
Even the most cutting edge of mechas couldn’t support installation of an S-ranked gem. They were simply too powerful
to be safe – the machinery couldn’t support them. A-ranked gems were overall a better call. When linked with others they even approached the power of a single S-gem.
The burning flames that encircled Michael were known as the Fires of Sacrifice. They empowered his holy fires to even greater heights. No one had ever escaped the powers of the Abyssal Fire gems, and with his sacrifice they became that much stronger.
The drawback to employing such powerful abilities was considerable. Each moment drained his fundamental vitality, worse even than the drain from his Adventus. The golden Angel of War was also affected, as the gems wreaked havoc on the mecha itself. It would cost a fortune to repair the machine – if he got the chance.
But Michael was resolute, assured in his decision. A decision born of fear – fear of what Zeus could do in the future.
A man with two disciplines, congenital and powerful. If he were allowed to cultivate his powers, to master them, he would be the most powerful Adept in history. This was something the Pontiff’s Castle… in fact, the entire Western Alliance couldn’t allow.
For this reason he’d lit the fires of sacrifice. His heart had already hardened; to his own death, and the death of his enemy.
Crrrrunch. The two gigantic mechas pressed violently against each other. Thor trembled visibly, but this time the Oscillation did nothing for him. In fact, under the intense pressure, the mecha had become plainly more sluggish.
Undulating bolts of electricity raced along the length of Thor’s armor creating a shield. It served to temporarily withstand the heat of the abyssal flames. But with the added power of the sacrificial fires from Michael, the heat proved too much. As the mecha’s shields began to fail, Lan Jue sat fuming in the dark cockpit.
The white columns of light served as an effective cage to reign in Asura. No space existed for even the slightest motion. Despite this, the Cherubim Uriel sat in glowering at the scene from his cockpit.
A giant gash marred the mechas surface from shoulder to abdomen. It was deep enough to reveal the cabin he sat in now.
He’d misjudged Asura’s capabilities, so much so that it almost cost him his mecha and his life. The large cut that nearly split him in two punctuated the fact. Even though he’d come out victorious, his victory had cost him more than it cost Xiuxiu.
Asura was an inferior machine to his Cherubim, but her sheer attacking force meant that his victory had come at a great price. It would take a minimum of three months to repair, and even then the Cherubim would never be the same.
“Have you found Zeus’ ship? Did it attempt to break atmosphere?” Uriel spoke in to his communicator.
“Master Cherubim, no ships have attempted to leave Moonfiend’s atmosphere. The ship was fitted with a superior cloaking device. We’ve found no sign of it.”
Uriel growled at the voice crackling through his communicator. “Keep up surveillance. Moonfiend and all it’s satellites. If anything tries to break through, you shoot it down.”
“Hm!” A deep grunt tickled at Uriel’s ear. He shot his eyes around, but neither he nor his mecha were able to determine the origin of the strange, hoary voice.
It became considerably more disconcerting when the lights went out. All the space between he and Asura went dark, and the columns of light seemed to slither away like they were being swallowed up.
His fingers jabbed at the controls of his mecha, running an external diagnostic. The results caused his eyes to grow wide.
“A vacuum singularity?” Somehow, in the space between he and Asura, a powerful vacuum had spontaneously arisen. It wasn’t unlike the void of space, but did not continue to expand.
“Positron cannon!” The aged voice returned, stronger than before.
His reaction was swift, and without hesitation. A hissing noise filled the air, and Uriel immediately dropped his control over
Asura and bolted wildly in to the distance like a meteor.
A beam of blinding light lanced through the spot he’d just vacated. In it’s wake all manner of reconnaissance and radar equipment shut off.
“Singularity… positron cannon… that was the Arcane Magnate! It was really him!” Uriel flew in retreat as fast as his Angel could manage. His face was pale from fear.
The Arcane Magnate – one of the Great Paragons! And more, in the top three of their order in terms of simple destructive power.
How did the Arcane Magnate come to be here? Uriel couldn’t shake the confusion muddling his brain. A battleship’s shields couldn’t survive a blast from a positron charge, much less a mecha. It was a weapon employed by capital ships. Capital ships, and the Magnate – a man who could discharge positron charges with his body alone. A man who could fold space to attack from anywhere.
The same was true for the singularity.
But there were no energy fluctuations – just light? His heart skipped a beat, and his features once more turned dark.
“No… I’ve been tricked.”
Chapter 90: Electro-Squall, Thor’s Starfall
The abyssal flames burned, consuming Thor’s shields for every moment they licked at it’s surface. The overwhelming heat of the fires had begun to turn the mecha’s sapphire blue exterior to a pale red.
Michael’s face was grim. Those self-same fires were devouring him in the same way he hoped they were destroying Zeus. He could already hear the frame of his Angel of War groaning, growing weak as the alloys softened. But where he was slowly being melted to slag, the situation was rapidly worsening for Thor.
The red of it’s surface had darkened to an angry maroon as it’s shields began to fail. However, despite the heat Thor had yet to display any signs of melting. Whatever alloy it was composed of was valiantly resisting destruction. The cockpit of the great mecha was similarly protected by virtue of a thin, pale shield.
The area around them had become indistinct. The air rippled like waves of water, making anyone outside the area of effect unable to clearly distinguish what was happening within. They could only feel the fires as they burned.
Lin Guoguo looked at Ke’er, who in turn looked back. They did not exchange any words, but they didn’t need to. Their concern was clear as day on their faces.
Guoguo gritted her teeth, the gold in her eyes shimmering dangerously. Mika began to stir to consciousness in her arms.
Mika shook the confusion from her muddled head. Once clarity returned she shot to her feet. The quick motion startled Lin Guoguo, and as she pulled at Mika she almost feel from the air. At the eight level, an Adept could rely on their Discipline for flight. One’s speed and control was reliant on their particular set of abilities.
“Mika…” Lin Guoguo whispered towards her.
“What do we do?” Ke’er looked at the two questioningly.
Mika had a hard look in her eyes. “We wait, and watch. The boss’ discipline may not be a match for Michael, but we know how strong Thor is. If it’s too much for him we’ll engage the knights ourselves. Even if it means our death.”
Ke’er nodded resolutely. She leaned close, whispering softly in to Mika’s ear.
Mika’s body trembled at the words. “No! You…”
Ke’er shot her an impish smile. “You said it yourself – you’d give everything to save the boss, to pay him back for what he’s done. If you’re willing to go to such lengths, how can we not also? Not to mention in this situation, my discipline would be the right move. Right now, I’d be more effective than you would.”
Contrary to expectations Mika wasn’t angry with Ke’er’s estimation. Instead, she opened her arms wide and embraced her sister in a tight hug. “You’re a wonderful person. I’ll try not to fight so much with you in the future.”
Lin Guo gently bit her lower lip. “The boss will win, he has to!
Because he’s ours!”
The words weren’t a few seconds past her lips when the two mecha burst in to an eruption of white light. As the light- warping waves of heat dissipated, and the fires burned out, no trace of them remained.
“That’s…” The Messenger of Death and the Angel of healing stared at the empty space. The light was similar to one they’d seem before, emanating from Lan Jue. Only this time is encapsulated Thor, and Zeus along with it.
In the ensuing silence seven twinkling lights appeared. They shone like diamonds, flaring with white light. They descended in the shape of the Big Dipper. Seven glimmering stars falling from the heavens.
“The Big Dipper… ? That’s… !” Gabriel and Raphael nearly mirrored each others’ scowls. The constellation was not one native to the Scattered Starfields. Whatever these lights were, they weren’t what they pretended to be.
“Thor’s Starfall! It’s the boss!” Lin Guoguo called out.
Boom, boom, boom. Boom boom, boom boom! Seven thunderous blasts, one on top of the other. It almost sounded like one continued blast, but in the distance seven distinct mushroom clouds roiled towards the atmosphere. It’s distinct shape was maintained through the display.
The lights began to move again, interweaving as they raced
across the sky. The blasts continued as though the entire world were tearing at the seams.
“Electro-squall, Thor’s Starfall!” Mika, Ke’er and Lin Guoguo shouted towards the lights. Pride and surprise lit their eyes.
Incandescent light, no less dazzling than the sun, lit half of Moonfiend in it’s glow.
The Moonfiend Empress stood at her balcony, squinting in to the distance as the blinding lights arose. Tears stung her eyes, fuzzy from the stabbing light. She covered her mouth as the scene unfolded, attempting to quell her sobs.
Blinding rays of light shot past, filtering through the porthole.
Xiuxiu shot up from her seat, belting a triumphant yell.
The Accountant watched also, slack-jawed. “By the… it’s like
grandpa’s positron cannon! Ah Jewelry Master – so full of secrets.”
The awesome display continued for half a minute before slowly beginning to fade. High above a white outline of lightning refused to vanish, but eventually it too began to die away revealing the two massive figures within it.
“Michael!” Gabriel and Raphael raced towards the hovering figures. But before they could get far, their advance was cut off.
Mika stood before them, her eyes blazing a deep crimson. Behind her hovered an indistinct figure exuding a suffocating ferocity.
Lin Guoguo hovered peacefully with hands pressed before her chest. Her eyes were shut, and her body was encased in a golden aura. She almost looked like a statue cast in gold.
Ke’er soared before the other two, arms outstretched. Fierce winds whirled around her. With her short cut blue hair flitting
in every direction she had a distinctly pixie-like demeanor. A blue light arose from the center of her chest. It strengthened and expanded until it overcame even Mika’s murderous aura.
The pulsating waves of energy radiating from the three women threatened to swallow the two angels by virtue of their fury alone.
Even thirty minutes before this moment, neither Gabriel nor Raphael would have been these women could content with them, even together. But now, seeing the pure destructive capabilities of Thor, they didn’t dare make any further assumptions. Who knew what kind of disciples the madman Zeus would dare to create.
And now, with this blue-haired girl’s aura blotting out the world around them, their fear and uncertainty grew. Stronger even than the vicious aura of the Stygian Succubus – they genuinely feared for their lives.