Chapter 522: Blocking Daggers

    Chapter 522: Blocking Daggers

    This small victory was thanks to the One-Inch Guard. Without it the evil energies would have been far worse. The poison would have been injected right in to his organs.

    As things got more chaotic, Lan Jue grew calmer. He did not fluster, because losing his cool meant death. He reacted by shutting off all the meridians in his chest and creating a defensive net of electricity around his Core. Everything leading to it was locked down. The toxin and the rampaging force it rode in on couldn't invade.

    His eyes blazed as they filled with golden light. A stately and commanding aura poured from him.

    "Stagnate!" The deep voice boomed from Lan Jue. He was like a star, blazing in the center of the black and white vortex.

    Everything slowed, like they were stuck in a mire. He could see a black dagger in the air - the dark image that had attacked him.

    Ascension, and protogenic command! His One-Inch Guard had bought him the opportunity to call on his full strength. It had been some time since he'd had to use his Ascension, but it benefited from his deepened protogenic understanding just like everything else.

    "Eh?" The whispered gasp of surprise came from all around. The dark weapon became translucent, and from it radiated rays of impenetrable darkness. Gold and black fought in the skies overhead, while color returned to the world below.

    This showed the disparity between an Adept's comprehension and true Domain. After all, Lan Jue had not entered in to the Realm of Protogenia. He was simply an Adept, and fleeing the full force of a Paragon's Domain would be very difficult.

    His struggle continued as he shoved his palms forward, delivering nine palm strikes. They spread all over the area before him.

    This crucial moment was the time to go all out. The One-Inch Guard bought him time, so did the Ascension command. He could hit like a Paragon, but he had to join the powers of yin and yang with his lightning to get there.

    The first time he'd tried protogenic lightning was during the DreamNet battles. He led the Driver through the process of joining their Disciplines, yin and yang. Results were mixed.

    After some training he and the Driver tried again. His comprehension of Taiji was better by then, and he came to understand protogenic lightning more deeply.

    His Ascension, meanwhile, was protogenia - but there were degrees. The Domain he was fighting against could only be commanded by someone who had truly broken through. Protogenic lightning was different. It was a single attack, not a sustained state. He could cross the barrier to Paragon-strength if he could condense it in to a single attack.

    It was the same power he relied on to win the Great Adept Tournament.

    That time he'd been joined with Qianlin and commanded the power of a peak-level Adept, with one foot in the Realm of Protogenia. Now his Discipline was dropped to ninth level fifth rank. Summoning protogenic lightning was going to effort. His Ascension did serve to boost his abilities, but to bring yin and yang to its brink with protogenic lightning would require power he did not possess.

    He watched as the yin and yang energies reached their apex, could feel his internal energies failing to meet demand. It was ravenous, even the phylactery stone would serve no use. Lan Jue bit his tongue and drew upon every ounce of power within him. Success hung upon this singular moment. He would life, or die for his cause.

    He suspected his enemies would send men after him. His failure had been in underestimating how soon, and how violent their pursuit.

    Clang! The golden light scattered. The world regained normal speed as the Ascension command was overcome.

    The darkness closed in from all around. The dagger reemerged but translucent as before, details hidden beneath an unnatural blur.

    Just in time, for in that moment a column of lightning exploded out from Lan Jue. Protogenic lightning lanced out every which way, warping reality in its wake. Even the swirl of black and white behind him warbled threateningly.

    "Ay?" The surprise sounded as countless holes appeared in the shimmering world of black and white. The evil energies assailing Lan Jue seemed to calm, but only for a moment. Soon the world was back as it had been. Lan Jue had used up everything he could.

    He was finished!

    He'd done the best he could. Only once you faced a Paragon did you realize how powerless you really were. His protogenic lightning had been strong enough to cut through his enemy's Domain, but only for a moment. He thought it must have been enough to get Lan Qing's attention, but his brother was nowhere to be found. It was too late - the final blow was near at hand, and even Lan Qing couldn't contend against this Domain.

    Just as hopelessness was threatening to overwhelm him, Lan Jue was blinding by a beam of white light. All of a sudden, he felt like he was nothing. The enemy Paragon's Domain was slow to close, which allowed Lan Jue to slip through. The living dagger cut at the beam, but couldn't stop Lan Jue's retreat. In his place there appeared the stifling aura of a Paragon, and a rain of cyan energy.

    "Hmph!" The irritated grunt reverberated through the air. All of the hues of black and grey were swallowed up in to a single point, then blinked out of existence. It looked like nothing had happened.

    Lan Qing, his face pale and livid, descend from overhead followed closely by Chu Cheng and Hua Li. Another group of figures appeared swirling with protogenia.

    "Jewelry Master?"


    "No-!" Lan Jue's body bucked and shook, down to his very soul. He could describe it, other than to say it felt like his heart was being carved out of his chest.

    He was in a dim room with stone walls. Refracted colors danced across them as light filtered through stained glass windows. In the center of the room a pale figure rested in the arms of a woman in a snow-white dress. They were a dramatic centerpiece to a drab scene.

    A few moments ago Lan Jue was sure death had caught up with him. But then, a familiar energy. Summoning! Yes, it was the intrinsic bond he shared with Qianlin. Everything was gone, only Qianlin holding him protectively. Then, through that portal a tendril of evil power lurched through. It was quickly repulsed, but not before digging in to Qianlin's body. She threw herself between him and the killing blow.

    "No. No! Qian. Qianlin, wake up! Don't die! Wake up!" Lan Jue gathered her in to his arms now, holding her tight. Tears covered his face, his emotions unmitigated. He felt the soulless hand of death with its grip on his heart, strangling every beat.

    Qianlins' face was white as snow. IT was amazing how quickly blood left. Her eyes were wide and unfocused. He could see the light of life within them start to dim. She never said a word, all through the terror and pain. Not a single word.

    She knew it the moment Lan Jue fell in to the ambush. Right away she turned her whole focus to him, thinking only of him so as to summon Lan Jue out of danger. But the Paragon's Domain had cut him off.

    Her heart had been full of fear, much worse than Lan Jue's. She'd cried bitter tears as each attempt to summon him failed. She focused on the hate she felt for the idea of never seeing him again. She prayed desperately to exchange her life for his.

    Then, when that dagger struck, she was filled with an unspeakable sorrow. As the darkness came down on her, she welcomed it.

    In the end it seemed her prayers had been answers. Her desperate tries had summoned him to her side, but in exchange she took his place. It was a choice she made consciously and willingly by putting herself between him and that mortal blow.

    Fresh blood stained her favorite white dress. Flows of deadly energy slithered through Qianlin's veins. Their enemy had managed to infect her with his poison, and now she looked up at Lan Jue's tear-streaked face with no way to say what she felt. It was a cruel sort of torture.

    How did this happen... ?

    Qianlin's life was quickly slipping away. The poison had managed to overcome Lan Jue's blockages as well, and surged through his meridians. The Jewelry Master set his jaw, his face full of a grim resolution. If they were to die, then they'd die together.

    He'd watched helplessly while Hera died. He couldn't bear to have another woman he loved die in his arms. Dying together wasn't so bad.

    The morbid promis swam in his brain as Lan Jue looked in to Qianlin's beauty, hazy eyes. He dropped his head, and kissed her pale lips. They were cold, so cold it made his heart skip shudder. But he didn't pull away. He kissed her deep and long.

    We'll die together!

    This single thought echoed again and again in his head. A lone anchor as everything else slipped from his mind. Nothing existed anymore, just her lips and her smell.

    Sure as the rising sun, Qianlin's body was slowly consumed by light and fused with Lan Jue. They would bear this pain together, he inwardly assured her.

    As his meridians spread the rapid increase of power, he felt the cold and numbness consume every inch of him. IT was Qianlins' power, and that poison. It was all through him now, too.

    Lan Jue sat, his chest heaving. If today is the day it ends, then I'm ready to go with you!

    He stared ahead with hard, firm eyes. All the locks sealing the poison in place gave way.

    He felt the potent toxin flood through him like a tsunami. Soon it infested every meridian and every vein. A poison this strong would kill a normal man in under two hours.
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