Chapter 901: Shards of Primordial Spirits
Monarch and the Violet Prince had been destroyed, forever erased from the universe by the power of the Banishing Strategy.
Red light drained out from Lan Jue’s eyes. He had been the one to guide their concentrated power. Now that Monarch was destroyed, at last the threat of alien aggression had passed.
He revealed no pleasure from their victory, no excitement. There were still problems to address – chief among them, how to restrain the Strategy safely. They hadn’t been sure they could even succeed in establishing the attack, and thus had given stopping it not even a passing thought.
Through the power of faith they were ultimately able to overcome the enemy. The Banishing Strategy had been enacted and was stable, endowing them with a caliber of strength that far outstripped their wildest imaginings.
As the prayers of billions were continuously laid upon them, the swords thirstily drank of their gifts. The Banishing blades used it to complete what the sword bearers couldn’t do on their own.
In a series of flashes Lan Jue and the others appeared, standing at the four corners of the Strategy. However, none of them were holding their weapon.
Lan Qing looked from one to the other, his expression uncertain. “What now?”
Lan Jue smirked at his brother. “How do I know? Wine Master, could I trouble you to report Monarch’s death to Kang Hui? All remaining enemies have been destroyed. That should curtail the faith flowing into it. I’m afraid if we don’t do something to weaken it the Strategy will continue to solidify.”
The Wine Master interjected, curious. “What’s the problem with that?”
“Well, to start if it keeps getting stronger I’m not sure we’ll have the means to stop it,” he answered. “It would remain here forever, and this whole area would be too dangerous to ever go near again.”
His old friend nodded. “What do you think is needed to get it to stop?”
Lan Jue pondered out loud. “According to our estimates we would need to be Da Luo-level immortals if we wanted to exert that level of control. If one of us were that could be enough.” He sounded unconvinced even as he said it.
Lan Qing wryly added his voice. “And it has to be you. You were the one who led the Strategy.”
The Wine Master sucked in a surprised breath. “So you’re saying that anyone who enters this field will be instantly killed?” If the Strategy would bring down a god, he shuddered to think of what it might do to a normal person.
“Not necessarily,” Lan Jue answered. “If one of us – the sword bearers – guided someone through then they would be fine. After all, we’re part of the Strategy ourselves. But if someone were to enter without us it would probably end as you’d expect. I… don’t recommend you try it.”
The Wine Master’s brows furrowed in thought. “If it’s simply a matter of closing of a section of space that shouldn’t be too great of an issue. It’s impossible to expect you to reach the highest level of immortality any time within the conceivable future! Are there any other dangers we need to consider?”
Lan Jue explained further. “Right now the Strategy is still under our control, and there is no immediate problem. However, I think it’s fair to expect that the zone will expand once we leave and are no longer maintaining its borders. None of us can know how large it’ll spread, but if I had to guess I’d say it would at least swallow up Europa and everything around it. But before we consider that, it isn’t completely unthinkable for us to reach Da Luo.”
As he spoke, he swung his eyes toward Europa floating placidly in the distance.
Monarch and the Violet Prince had been vanquished, but the fruits of their evil labors remained. Basking in a pale golden glow the newly crafted immortal realm flooded the area with its aura. Lan Jue and the others, now risen to the Infinite, could feel it clearly from where they stood.
Indeed this was their next problem. What were they to do with the alien’s immortal realm?
“We can deal with that later. Right now there are more pressing matters.” Li Ke interrupted them. His voice bore a somewhat urgent tone.
Lan Jue turned his attention toward the spirit. “What is it, brother-in-law?”
After absorbing so much faith, Li Ke was almost indistinguishable from any of them. The Pharmacist was even holding his hand, and the smile on her face betrayed her happiness.
Li Ke, however, was not smiling. “You have to gather the spirit shards. Fragments of what remains of the Paragons’ souls. In a way what we call Paragons can be likened to ‘half immortals’, Taoist magicians of the ancient times. After spending so long cultivating, their souls become like primordial spirits. Primordial spirits don’t disappear so easily, just like the ancient gods whose essence remains even though they lost to universal protogenia. Even now, thousands of years later, we can still feel their echoes. If we hurry and gather these shards now, there’s a chance we could bring them back to life!”
Lan Jue froze when he heard it. If this were true and they could return their friends and loved ones to life, today’s victory would be absolute.
“How do we do that?” He asked urgently.
Li Ke explained. “The four of you have reached the Infinite. If you search your feelings you can sense them.”
“Excellent!” With such good news, how could Lan Jue ignore it? Even Lan Qing’s steadfast demeanor hid a buzz of excitement. If Li Ke was right they could bring Luo Xianni and the others back from the dead!
Lan Jue shut his eyes and reached out with his perception. He began to search the area for any sign of these spirits.
He was calm now, and no longer burdened by the dangers he’d faced before. His sense of his surroundings was different. Suddenly there was something more, hidden behind a veil.
In theory space was largely empty. Aside from relatively miniscule pockets of matter, space was defined by how much nothing there was. However when someone’s consciousness reached a certain level of understanding, they found this to be untrue. Their perception was more sensitive than even the most advanced instruments, telling them that there was something else.
Even up to now Lan Jue and the others radiated
polychromatic light, a residue from the Banishing Strategy. So almighty was the Strategy’s influence that universal protogenia still couldn’t apply its pressures on them.
Safe for the time being, Lan Jue searched his consciousness until he came upon a strange and arresting impression. However it was not human. Far from it, in fact – it was what remained of the three-headed avatar.
The pulses of primordial energy were odd and uncomfortable. They seemed desperate to gather together, as though hoping it could reconstitute itself. It made Lan Jue shiver, for he knew that somewhere within the six souls that had made up that beast was a whisper of Monarch’s consciousness.
Monarch was gone, completely destroyed by the Strategy, leaving these spirits on their own. It was almost pitiful to feel these fragments trying to piece themselves back together, like they had a chance to somehow come back.
Now that he saw them, how could Lan Jue give them even a shadow of hope?
Lan Jue lifted his right hand and summoned an electric blue
light from the ether. When they light fell upon the cluster of spiritual energy it released a haze of pale purple which blanketed the area, sparkling with points of illumination. It was Lan Jue’s Boundless Starlight Domain.
As Lan Jue became stronger, both his control over the Domain and its menace had increased exponentially. Heavenly Lightning began to crackle the moment his Domain manifested itself.
The blasts of lightning that tore into the cluster of souls was nothing short of harrowing. But before these evil fragments could feel fear, they were burned from existence. Nothing remained. They would never threaten the worlds of man again.
Lan Jue had called his Domain to prevent these fragments from scattering, but also – more importantly – so that his lightning would not hard the spirit shards he sought to save.
With the last vestiges of his enemy destroyed, Lan Jue breathed easier. When he began to search anew his perception settled on something nearby.
A copper-gold halo surrounded appeared. Near it, a fragment
nearly as strong as the ones Lan Jue had wiped out lingered. Though weaker, it was more persistent and slowly drew itself closer to the golden light.
Lan Jue raced over to where the light shimmered and reached out for it.
“Qianlin,” he called. She hurriedly came to his side. Lan Jue’s Boundless Starlight Domain could destroy nearly any enemy that crossed his path, but it was not built to heal or rescue. What was better for this purpose that the Light of the Goddess of Mercy?
The golden light was radiating from Jue Di’s astrum, the Compliance Rod. The spirit that was so desperately trying to stay with it was what remained of Luo Xianni.
Only the simplest desires were left to these broken spirits. It was clear what mattered most to Luo Xianni was finding the Compliance Rod, for within it she could be together with Jue Di.
Luo Xianni pointed with her right hand. She was also now of the Infinite and could sense what Lan Jue saw. With the utmost care she guided Luo Xianni to the rod and the spirit of her lost
When a primordial spirit left one’s body it was assailed by the cruel power of universal protogenia. It was torn apart, and ultimately dissipated into the vastness of space to be lost forever.
Chapter 902: Preserving Immortal Essence
Protected by an astrum, the fragment of a soul could persist for much longer than normal.
Once Luo Xianni’s spirit was recovered Lan Jue continued his search. He quickly found the Pauper, Keeper, Bookworm, and the gods of wine. They were also conveyed into the Compliance Rod.
However, when he looked for Hua Li he was surprised and saddened to discover there was no trace that remained of him.
“A-Li!” When he returned to the corpses of Hua Li and Mo Xiao his heart was a tempest of emotion.
Zhou Qianlin gripped his hand. She said nothing and only hung her head before the scene. To claim there was no animosity within her would have been a lie, but be it Xiuxiu or Hua Li, they gave their lives to try and make it right. They died protecting Lan Jue. Could hate survive in the face of such sacrifice?
A thought came to Lan Jue. He extricated his hand from Qianlin’s and reached forth to search the bodies for any residual parts of Hua Li’s soul. But then a blue light from the distance captured his attention. As it approached, he watched in shock.
The one who came looked a lot like Hua Li, if more mature. He regarded Lan Jue with a calm expression, and was wreathed in pale blue light.
He nodded once he was close. “We’ll take him. The Poseidon family has its own ways.” Hua Xu answered Lan Jue’s unspoken question. There was no indication any of this had affected him emotionally.
Lan Jue regarded him with a pained and conflicted expression. “Uncle, I…”
Hua Xu cut him off with a wave of his hand. “Destiny makes fools of us all. I can only hope that you see some way to forgive them. When the light of one’s life goes out, it should extinguish their follies.”
Lan Jue nodded his head. Hua Li and Mo Xiao were dead, harboring hatred and resentment would serve no one. He didn’t
bear any ill-will toward his fallen brother.
Hua Xu extended it right hand, and from it floated a deep blue crystal. It slowly floated through space glittering in the dim light until it came to the bodies of his children. It flickered with a blue light that hung over the bodies, and moments later when it vanished so too did Hua Li and Mo Xiao.
Hua Xu nodded a final time toward Lan Jue, then turned and left.
However, he did not go far before stopping. He turned back and fixed Lan Jue with his eyes. “After this fight, it will take a long time for the Group to recover. Hua Li hoped that you could help look after he and Mo Xiao’s child. It was his desire that their little one could live on Skyfire Avenue. Is there anything that might make this impossible?”
Lan Jue did not immediately reply, so Hua Xu continued. “You might not expect it from looking at our family, but our heirs are not immediately granted the full rights and powers of the bloodline. They employ the benefits of the family to choose their own path, and ultimately undergo the process of accepting the lineage. So it is destined. Of course none of us wish for this burden, neither I nor A-Li wanted to carry this mantle. I failed.
Under cover of this conflict, as Hua Li was leaving to join the fight, Mo Xiao sent a ship back toward Skyfire Avenue bearing their child. I ask that you seek his aura, and bring our heir to Skyfire Avenue so that he might grow and prosper. When he comes of age, if he so chooses he can return and take up his rightful place as leader of Poseidon Group. If he does not…” Hua Xu stopped, a smile on his face. He didn’t finish the thought before a flash of blue light conveyed him far away.
Lan Jue heaved a sigh. A piece of A-Li still existed somewhere! A-Li, he thought to himself, I’ll do whatever I can to grant your final wish. I’ll look after your son.
The battle was finally over, and the Wine Master left to spread the good news across all the human worlds. However when Lan Jue returned to his fellows his face was no less serious and burdened. They looked into the distance where the gold- blanketed legacy of the aliens remained. They silently regarded Europa, immortal realm of their enemy.
“Brother, what are we going to do about this?” Lan Jue asked.
Lan Qing’s deep voice replied. “Under the power of faith the Banishing Strategy is strong. As its guides we can direct its power to smother and destroy Europa. We can erase every last
trace of these aliens, once and for all.”
“No.” Li Ke answered quickly and firmly. Everyone turned their attention to him.
He explained. “Creating an immortal realm is phenomenally difficult. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it’d taken ten thousand years of preparation for the aliens to succeed here. It was based off of what Monarch could piece together from the ancient immortal realm of our history, so its existence isn’t actually a threat. Now that the aliens are dead, we can take this realm for ourselves. Think about it, all four of you have reached the Infinite and the moment you leave the protection of the Strategy universal protogenia will leech your vitality. The only way you can continue to grow as Paragons is if you do so under the protection of an immortal realm.”
Lan Jue bitterly shook his head. “I have absolutely no interest in continuing this journey. It was never my dream to become an immortal, all I ever wanted was a normal life. Besides, so long as he we don’t deliberately seek cultivation Qianlin’s Domain can protect us from universal protogenia.”
Li Ke paused, then wryly chuckled. “You still can’t destroy this place, even despite your personal desires. The immortal
realm is the only way in which you can bring the others back. You have your selfish motives and so do I. I want my body back, to live a normal life where I can be with my family. Small as that chance might be, I have to pursue it no matter how remote.”
Lan Qing blinked in surprise. “You’re saying we can use their primordial spirits in the immortal realm to bring our friends back?”
Li Ke answered. “Theoretically yes. An immortal realm is replete with immortal qi that circulates through it as ubiquitous as the wind. Its basis is in faith, and I could sense that Monarch’s intention was not to kill the humans once he’d succeeded in his desire to bring about the immortal realm. What he really wanted was for humans to submit and accept him as their god. Then he could feed off of our faith. Right now Europa is sustained by the faith of all those Monarch consumed. However, this had made the realm unstable. Immortal qi will continue to be consumed but not replenished. For you four, it would be different. You’re heroes, and if you claim the immortal realm as your own you can inject it with the faith of the masses. You are the only ones that can stabilize this place and replenish its power.”
“Not only will immortal qi protect you from universal
protogenia, it will also nourish and restore the fragments of primordial spirit you’ve gathered. I dare say that with the help of immortal qi you could bring Jua Di back to life quickly. The others may take more time but are likely to walk the worlds of man once more.”
Nearby, Chu Cheng extended the golden skeleton he carried, the remnants of the Terminator. “Is there a chance his Majesty the Terminator…”
Li Ke sighed and shook his head. “Too much time has passed, his primordial spirit has already dissolved. A Paragon’s spirit can only survive about an hour before it returns to the universe.”
Chu Cheng’s disappointment was visible. He could say that the Terminator had given him new life. Without the Northern leader’s help Chu Cheng’s rise would never have been so quick. With the Terminator gone, the responsibilities of being the North’s sole Paragon fell to him.
Lan Qing pressed the spirit. “So what do you suggest we do now, comrade?”
Li Ke’s response came without hesitation. “First we should go to Europa and see if anything remains of the three home worlds. If it does that poison must be removed. Using the Banishing Strategy to surround Europa was not wrong, for if we find that there is no saving this immortal realm it can quickly be destroyed. That responsibility will be left up to the four of you. In addition, if in the future anyone wants to enter the immortal realm they could only do so with your blessing and guidance. Until one or more of you achieve Da Luo status as immortals the Banishing Strategy will persist. In the meanwhile, you simply need to control it.”
Lan Qing looked at Lan Jue, who nodded back. “It sounds like the best course of action. Let’s go to Europa, and see if we can’t solve any problems we come across.”
With Monarch dead, in principle there should be nothing remaining of the three alien planets. However, they couldn’t be sure until they went to Europa and searched it themselves. With the backing of the Banishing Strategy they would make sure everything was in order.
Were it not for the possibility of saving his friends and family from permanent death, Lan Jue would much have preferred destroying this immortal realm. He’d have liked to see it pass into history and erase any possibility of future trouble.
The four sword bearers didn’t rush into the immortal realm. First they guided the Banishing Strategy’s power so that it settled over Europa, and only then began their trek to the gold- wreathed planet.
“Let’s go.” Lan Qing ordered.
The four of them entered into the newly remoulded planet’s atmosphere together. Immediately they were embraced by the multifaceted aura of the Strategy and the effects it provided. The golden light of Europa caused them no trouble, and they entered without issue.
All they felt was their bodies becoming lighter, and suddenly they were in what seemed to be a whole new reality.
Space was a vacuum, and while it didn’t threaten a Paragon’s life it could not be called comfortable. They left the distressing sensation behind as they slipped into Europa’s atmosphere.
They took their first breaths of Europaen air, filling them with delight. It seemed like just being here was increasing their cultivation by the moment.
Li Ke and the other Paragons didn’t come with them. It was dangerous until Lan Jue and the others discovered otherwise, so they were told to remain behind. Only Lan Jue, Lan Qing, Zhou Qianlin and the Pharmacist stepped foot in this immortal plane.
They looked at each other, nearly speechless.
“So this is the immortal realm?” Qianlin managed to say.
Chapter 903: The Immortal Realm
Lan Qing’s voice betrayed his awe. “No wonder they were so dead-set on creating it. There’s something… incredible, about this place.”
The immortal realm was replete with immortal qi that flowed like the clouds. In some areas it was rich, in others thin. Each of them could feel the power nourishing their bodies, and without question they knew that cultivating here would be more fruitful than anywhere else in the universe.
Any hint of universal obstruction was absent the moment they entered into this world. Here they no longer needed Qianlin’s Domain to protect them. They took to this place like a fish to water.
Lan Jue bit the tip of his tongue, fighting the bone-deep comfort. “We have to see if there’s anything left of the planets. This place has to be controlled from somewhere, let’s see if we can find its center.”
They didn’t split up, choosing instead to remain together and sweep the area with their combined perception. They search for dangers while simultaneously taking in the view.
They were surprised to find that while the immortal qi was immensely helpful, their perception was limited here. They could only extend their consciousness a short distance, which make their task more difficult.
However it was not anything more than a nuisance. They had time, and so they cautiously combed the picturesque vistas around Europa.
The planet was nothing like it had been before the aliens took control. Everywhere they turned were exotic flora, and flows of immortal qi whispered through valleys and over mountains. It was the definition of a fairyland, Heaven stretching out before their eyes.
After about ten hours they came to the peak of a mountain where they discovered a palatial building. Before its grand gates was a board upon which was inscribed two words; Heavenly Court.
“You can’t say Monarch didn’t do his homework. It seems he had a real appreciation for our ancient culture.” Lan Jue said wryly.
They’d search nearly everywhere around Europa and had found nothing until now. Even here there was no trace of any primordial spirit or malicious vitality. Clearly Monarch’s death had left this place without a ruler.
Immortal qi was thickest here in the Heavenly Court. This had to be the center of this immortal realm though it was less opulent than one might expect. All they found was a single gemstone that looked markedly like a vital crystal. The energy it produced was released in waves and quickly became immortal qi.
This had to be what was powering this immortal realm, the collected vitality reaped by the planets in their rampage across the cosmos. Somehow this crystal was supporting the entire planet, stolen vitality circulating through it like blood.
With no aliens left to fear Lan Jue didn’t give a second thought to delving deeper into the secrets of this place. He pulled forth the Compliance Rod and released the spirits contained within out into the air.
As they’d suspected, upon reaching the earliest levels of immortality Jue Di had maintained his consciousness even as a spirit within the astrum. Once his spirit was freed it immediately set about absorbing the immortal qi around it. The other souls did so as well, though more slowly.
The Pharmacist heaved a sigh. “Now that our victory is complete, I’ll collect my husband and bring him here.” Li Ke was a part of Ultus, but as a spirit was not bound to its precise location. With Ultus part of the Strategy protecting Europa, this was the best place for him to be. He could be here, and their family could be whole.
Lan Jue nodded. “Spirits should have no problem here. I’m not sure about the other Paragons, though.”
His fears were warranted, for although they could guide their friends here the moment they were left on their own the dangers of the Banishing Strategy would turn on them. The Heavenly Court could only control the flows of immortal qi, and not how accessible this world was. For these reasons it was difficult to say whether the Paragons could even get close.
When they returned to space the four sword bearers underwent a series of small experiments. As anticipated,
although Li Ke’s spirit was not strong it was sustained by Ultus and thus could enter into the immortal realm without issue. However this was not so for the Paragons. They were barred from stepping foot on Europa.
They also found that they could enter even after shedding the chaotic qi of the Strategy. This meant that only a Paragon who had achieved the Infinite could enter. The immortal realm was so named for a reason, there were standards for those who could witness its beauty. Lan Jue did not worry about what would become for this place for his mind was on returning to Skyfire Avenue. That was his home, it was where he planned to live out his days.
When his father returned he would certainly be interested in taking over management of the immortal realm. He would take on the mantle of being the modern Jade Emperor.
Lan Qing was supportive of his brother’s plan. After discussing it with Li Ke, the Pharmacist decided to remain behind with him here. For the time being Jun’er would be left under Lan Jue’s care. The Pharmacist would, of course, visit often until such time as her daughter reached the Infinite and was able to join them in the heavens.
“Well Qianlin, it’s starting to look like I’ve taken the job of a kindergarten principal. I’m now responsible for Jun’er and Hua Li’s son.”
Qianlin laughed prettily. “You have experience after working at the NEU, don’t you? Teaching children should be relaxing by comparison.”
Lan Jue wrapped an arm around her slender waist. “Teaching them won’t be a problem. But how is that going to influence having one of our own, hm?”
Her face reddened. “How many were you thinking?”
“The more the better!”