Skyfire Avenue Chapter 716-717
Chapter 716: Harmonious Swords
A multitude of colors, a dazzling rainbow that connected the heavens to the earth.
Where it met the clouds they parted. Where it encountered rain the droplets broke - a stairway to heaven built on a shimmering rainbow lane.
The darkness was destroyed as the primordial essence borne by the swords swept through. The rainbow aurora hung in the air for what felt like a long time before finally dissipating.
Lan Qing had awoken from his meditations long before and gaped at the scene with unabashed surprise. Almost incapable of believing what he saw, he watched as the boundless destruction of the Terminator’' Domain fractured into dust. The ultimate convert employed nearly all of his power to keep himself from being swallowed up by the prismatic aurora, and that was when it curved up - piercing the comet-casted ceiling and into the sky.
The Terminator kneeled on the ground, covered in a hundred tiny wounds. Droplets of blood coated him like a sheen of sweat. His wide eyes stared in disbelief at the two figures appearing in the distance.
He hadn't used his full strength, and in fact the Terminator had held back. But he could feel it clearly, even the totality of his abilities wouldn't have been capable of saving him from that power.
Harrowing… the memory of that power was seared into his mind. The sense of uncaring finality he'd felt lingered in his heart. What in the world was that sword technique that resulted in such staggering power? How could two Adepts produce an attack like that?
Qianlin's sword had vanished. She leaned into Lan Jue's protective embrace. Lan Jue's face was pale as he fell to his knees, still managing to support his beloved. Both were soaked with sweat.
The Terminator had questions, but Lan Jue didn't have answers. He didn't know such awesome intensity could be summoned from their efforts. All he knew was that in that moment, it felt as though he and Qianlin were one inexorably tied entity.
It went beyond the body. The connection through blood and the Arrow of Compassion fused their very souls. Sharing every bit of each other also caused their swords to combine, and in their fusion the marvelous supernova had been produced. To Lan Jue it felt like a dam had burst, a great door had opened somewhere inside Captus. Although it had closed once the strike was delivered he could feel that it had fundamentally changed the godblade.
Was that… the Harmonious Swords technique?
He recalled the tales of Jun Yongye, telling him of the ancient days when the Harmonious Swords were an invincible reality. Through his and Qianlin's efforts it was a reality once again. Jun Yongye had called it the strongest force besides the Banishing Strategy.
At the time Lan Jue thought the sword-spirit was exaggerating. But just then, that wild animus channeled all of their energy, even their psyche into the strike. Like the Terminator, that sensation had left a profound impression.
At last they'd succeeded. At last they had achieved the Harmonious Swords. It had just been a moment, but a truly marvelous moment. If he had not used all his strength to divert the flow at the last minute Lan Jue feared it would have swallowed the Terminator. The only thing Lan Jue could compare it to was the attack Jue Di delivered to the aliens out in the Starfields, Upender. That was the only other attack he'd seen that could overturn reality, blot out the sun and moon.
But could Lan Jue really use such a potent ability already?
In that moment his comprehension of protogenia had also changed. This would have a significant impact on his future breakthrough. More and more he sensed the time approaching. More and more he found it hard to hold the power back. He prevailed only through the blood-connection with Qianlin and the Arrow of Compassion.
When the two of them joined he could also sense Qianlin's spirit. Her soul pulsed with intensity, and in that brief moment of total fusion he felt his own power pull Qianlin along. Like he had dragged her Discipline to a higher level.
He needed to experience it again to learn more, but Lan Jue already knew that this enigmatic power would play an important role in the growth of their Disciplines.
Lan Jue hadn't anticipated something like this would happen. Lan Jue's focused flow and Qianlin's ten thousand swords as one were techniques they'd employed for a while already. Through the help of their respective sword-spirits they had grown well versed in the styles.
The strength of their cultivation, their understanding of the Banishing Blades, deeper protogenic comprehension, and the flood of immortal qi between them all coalesced to their benefit. Jun Yongye had told them it was time to attempt the Harmonious Swords technique, and he'd been right.
Although technically not a Paragon, the immortal qi and All-Heaven lightning empowered Lan Jue's attacks. He fought with no less force than a first-degree Paragon, maybe stronger. Qianlin was not quite as strong, but also benefited greatly from the immortal qi they shared. That is what allowed them to attempt this legendary sword technique.
Lan Jue's interest in this fight had been to give the style a try. The foundation of the Harmonious Swords was the binding of a man and woman soul to soul, shared devotion and unequivocal love. Beyond that they needed a deep familiarity with their respective styles. Both prerequisites they'd met.
Still, it shocked Lan Jue how smoothly it'd happened. More shocking was just how indomitable the attack had been.
Only once he'd used it himself did he understand the power of the Harmonious Swords. Everything within him had focused to a single burning thought. His love for Qianlin.
Through that love their souls combined, closer than ever before. Captus and Demortus follows suit, being as much a part of them as their spirits were. Together they rose to a sublime place of perfect union.
In that union Captus and Demortus had awakened. He remembered a similar feeling from Occisus when the Pharmacist had ascended to Paragon. He and Qianlin's swords pulsed with it as they joined, it the source of their staggering power.
Lan Jue's uncertainty lay in whether he could call upon that state again. He felt so weak that even moving his fingers was a herculean task. It felt like the sword had drained him to his core.
The Terminator's muscles chest heaved. The shock in his eyes refused to abate.
"What… what the hell was that?" He could help but ask.
Lan Qing had come to Lan Jue's side. Although he didn't expect the Terminator to take advantage of their weakness he nonetheless was there to protect them. However, the look in his eyes was no less dumbfounded than the Terminator's. The only thing he could deduce from what he'd witnessed was it was not something taught by their father. Jue Di hadn't taught his younger brother whatever that had been.
Lan Jue fought to steady his breathing and racing heart. He dropped his head and placed a tender kiss on Qianlin's lips. She vanished.
He felt strange, for it was the first time they'd joined and he felt no increase in Discipline. It wasn't a blockage, rather there was no higher place for them to reach.
Lan Jue coughed weakly. "Your Majesty, do you happen…. To have something here to eat? I think… I need sustenance. Something to give me strength." He struggled mightily to get to his feet. He could only manage by leaning heavily on his brother.
The Terminator's face twitched. "Yes, wait a moment." The host of cuts along his body had, over time, healed and left no trace. Harming a Paragon was no easy feat, and through his constant upgrades the man had tougher skin than a Bastion ship.
The Terminator left with long strides. Once he was gone Lan Qing helped his brother back to the ground. He looked at him with a curious expression.
Lan Jue responded with a wry smirk. "I couldn't tell you. It's something we were taught from Demortus and Captus. Jun Yongye and Xuanyuan Shishi told us this was an elite style handed down from ancient times. Weaker than your Prajna style and my Taiji, but joined together it creates an incredible force. What you witnessed was called the Harmonious Swords technique."
"But at our level of cultivation, calling on the technique was only just manageable. The swords we use are too potent. We'll only be able to command the full breadth of the swords' abilities when we break through to Paragon. Although, if this accident revealed anything it's that we may not be able to command it even when that happens. It's strong, but incredibly draining."
He calmly described what had happened, but he did not let the potency get to his head. There was always a great cost for the use of great power. Without a doubt, however, the Harmonious Swords would make a wonderful ace in the hole.
A flood of energy flowed from his chest to enervate the rest of his body. It supplemented what he lost and made him stronger. The immortal qi that filled him, that made his Discipline more than a common power, pulled him from the cusp of collapse. Its subtle influence strengthened him, transforming him into something greater.
By the time the Terminator returned with some food, Lan Jue was back to normal. At least, he looked completely recovered.
Chapter 717: The Monarchs Gather
Suppressing the surprise he felt the Terminator handed Lan Jue some food. Steak, bread, water. Simple but nutritious fare.
He looked on with a conflicted gaze as Lan Jue ate ravenously. Though he clearly didn't possess the strength of his older brother, his marvelous display of skill had left a deep impression. What's more, experiencing this sword style had cleaved a fissure in the barrier between him and Nirvana. It was clear with each chop of the sword, as though cut into his own heart.
It felt boundless! As boundless as the potential of this young couple.
The Terminator couldn't help but feel jealous of the East's good fortune. If only his own alliance had this kind of talent. But hopes and wishes was all he had.
After eating, Lan Jue tenderly wiped his mouth. "Your majesty, I think it's time we got going."
"Forgive me if I don't send you off," the terminator said. "I learned a lot from this exchange and must meditate on what I learned. Someone else will see you out. On behalf of the Northern Alliance I hope we can continue to work closely."
Lan Jue and Lan Qing exchanged a happy glance. These words coming from the Terminator meant more than from any politician.
The two brothers returned to their hotel.
"How likely do you think it is that everyone will cooperate after this conference?" Lan Jue asked as they arrive back at their room.
Land Qing thought for a moment. "30%."
30%?"Lan Jue said in astonishment.
Lan Qing smiled softly. "How much do you think? They are all looking out for their own benefit. Believing politicians is like believing Hua Li has gotten more reliable."
As though to punctuate his brother's remarks, Lan Jue communicator started to buzz. "Speak of the devil. A-Li."
"A-Li." Lan Jue connected the call.
"Hey are you guys back? Is it alright if I come over?" Friends didn't need to rely on small talk.
"Come on over." Lan Jue sent him the address.
Ten minutes later, Hua Li appeared at their door. Another person they hadn't seen in a long while arrived with him, Chu Cheng.
After ascending to Paragon, the air around Hua Li was completely different. His stunning appearance never changed, but the vibrant aura was gone, replaced with something deeper and more mysterious. In a word, he seemed more manly.
Chu Cheng, on the other hand, was just as coquettish and free-spirited as he'd always been. However, closer inspection revealed a constant eruption of fire behind his eyes while he himself was surrounded by a sense of deathly stillness.
The four Divine Monarchs were together for the first time since the Clairvoyant's departure.
They sat, and Chu Cheng flicked his wrist. A bottle of whisky appeared in his hand. "This calls for a good drink, don't you think?"
Hua Li lifted a finger and four crystal blue glasses materialized. They weren't real glasses, of course, but constructed by Hua Li from elemental manipulation. They were thin and chilled, perfect for a good scotch.
Chu Cheng poured them each a glass. For a time they simply sat, smiling and enjoying each others' company. No words were necessary.
No matter what transpires in the world, the bonds of friendship never changed.
Lan Jue swung his eyes toward Chu Cheng. "You're close to a breakthrough, right?" He was sensitive to the flows of protogenia now, and could clearly sense the aura from his friend. It felt like a volcano on the cusp of eruption, like he could take the plunge at any moment.
Chu Cheng nodded. "I'm under constant guard lately, do you know how hard it was to leave? If you Easterners assassinated me the North would be deprived a great Paragon!"
Lan Jue couldn't help but laugh at Chu Cheng's exaggerated expression. The guy was cracking jokes, so it seemed his future breakthrough wasn't going to encounter any problems.
But then the Hades heir put away his smile and sighed. "Now that I'm here I finally understand what you told me. It's hard to hold back, I was too eager and the pressure is becoming more than I can withstand. I'm not sure how much longer I can hold out, although I know the longer I can withstand the further I'll ultimately get. I can see my road, but this revelation came too late."
"Before I used to think simply breaking through was enough, but now I've come to my senses. If I'm sure to break through, what's to stop me from getting stronger? Do you have any methods that can help, A-Jue? Some sort of seal or block maybe?"
Lan Jue rolled his eyes. "If only it were that easy. Short of taking your life you're just going to have to let nature take its course. Now that you're here you shouldn't get in your own way. What's most important is capturing your path and walking it without hesitation. Wandering will only delay growth."
Hua Li chuckled. "You sound like an old wise man. When did you become a spokesmen for the sages, eh?"
Lan Jue shot his brother a glance. Lan Qing sat stony faced and didn't utter a word.
Hua Li was the next to heave a sigh. "I thought I would have been the first. I'd clear the way for the rest of you to follow, but the Big Brother blazed the trail. That's some real talent! You shouldn't be depressed, A-Cheng - you're in a better spot than I am. I've known my path since birth, and the potency of the Poseidon bloodline is inexhaustible. Still it seems there are barriers I can't pass. There hasn't been a Reflection of Heaven and Earth in my family for over a century. If it weren't for these aliens I would have taken more time, but I wasn't left with a choice."
His three companions knew what he meant. A Paragon was a treasure to a family, and this was especially true for Hua Li. He not only represented the next generation of leadership, he was the new leader of the Poseidon Group.
"Ah, by the way, I'm getting married." Hua Li casually dropped the bombshell.
The other three gaped at him
"Married?" Lan Jue and Chu Cheng cried in one voice.
Hua Li's face was calm, bearing only a small smile. "Yeah! What, you think I shouldn't?"
Lan Jue gave him a strange look. "Is it that girl you told me about? If it is you sure screwed up never bringing her by for us to meet."
Hua Li shook his head. "No, not her. Mo Xiao."
"So you finally came around," Lan Jue teased. "She's an excellent choice. That girl would die for you. Seems becoming a Paragon made you grow up."
Hua Li's face changed, bearing something that seemed very unnatural for him. Disappointment. "Yeah, I guess I did."
"So when's the wedding?" Lan Jue asked.
Hua Li took a sip of his drink. "A month."
"Mnh. If I can't make it I'll send my gift with A-Jue. Congratulations." A rare smile touched Lan Qing's lips.
Hua Li nodded. "Thank you."
Chu Cheng looked at him with skepticism. "You say you're getting married but I don't see any of that newlywed joy! Mo Xiao's one hell of a woman! Ach, what a shame. Who knows when I'll find the love of my life."
Contempt was thick in Lan Jue's voice. "Are you capable? I'd be careful, with as many women as you've scorned hell will come calling one day."
Chu Cheng snorted. "I am chasing the realm of the stars! No woman can stop me."
Lan Jue looked at his brother and scowled.
Lan Qing replied. "A-Cheng, you're about to break through. Restraining yourself won't be as effective as letting us help you. It'll galvanize your potential and improve your end result."
Chu Cheng's face fell. He knew what he meant. "Look man I didn't offend you. Why are you threatening to beat me up?" He knew Lan Qing well enough to be very wary of his calm façade.
Lan Jue chortled darkly. "Because that's the exact same sentiment he has."
Suddenly Chu Cheng was all flattery prose. "Honored brother, forgive me. I'm just looking for a special woman. When I find her what's ambition by comparison? Right?"
Lan Qing cast him a withering glance. "I'm not kidding. Prepare yourself - tomorrow I help you break through."
"Damn… are you for real?" Chu Cheng looked back warily.
Hua Li shamelessly gloated at Chu Cheng's fate. "When have you ever known Big Brother to kid? Congratulations in advance, Hades."
Chu Cheng seemed unwilling. "Big Brother.. I mean, look… your own brother hasn't broken through yet you know? You shouldn't bother with me - you should be helping him! Playing favorites isn't in your nature!"
"He doesn't need my help," Lan Qing calmly replied. "You do. If you keep whining we'll start right now."
"I -" Chu Cheng looked to Lan Jue to save him.
Lan Jue, meanwhile, fluttered his lashes innocently at his beleaguered friend. "A-Cheng, are you familiar with the phrase 'you reap what you sow?' I think you should go and get ready. This is a great opportunity! I trust my brother, and if he says he can help you then I'm sure he will."
"I knew I shouldn't have come," he griped indignantly.
Hua Li chimed in. "Let's focus on the positive. Big Brother, the Poseidon Group is thinking about joining the East."
"How do you intend to help?" Lan Qing inquired.
Hua Li explained. "We've recovered the Poseidon-class Bastion from the West and are in the process of refitting it. We've also got two interstellar fleets and enough resources to keep ourselves going for a hundred years."
"We've transferring everything we can from our home planet to the Bastion - including Poseidon's Palace."
Lan Jue's heart skipped a beat. "It sounds like you're getting ready to evacuate."