Chapter 549: Sea Cucumber

    Chapter 549: Sea Cucumber

    Lan Jue awoke from his quiet contemplation of Hera and Qianlin. He suffered the pain of the joining with no more trouble. He had begun to change, influenced by the power of the sword. Under Jun Yongye' direction the thunder essence and Captus melded flawlessly to wash through Lan Jue's body and soul.

    His skin flickered with red light, flashing from his pores. Skin, bones, blood, meridians... everything felt changed by the harsh addition of this light. Soon his whole body was a blazing red dot in the darkness. Sometimes it was strong, sometimes soft, and it brought to mind the young progenitor they'd recently slain.


    The Gourmet stood nearby, staring into the sky. He silently allowed the energies of the planet to flow around him like a river. Upon becoming Paragon, many changes reforged an Adept. They were no longer purely human, but beings of energy. This extended to their perception, which was thousands of times better than even a normal Adept. That's why a peak Adept couldn't content with even the weakest Paragon. Breaking through was to evolve into something else. It was a whole new world.

    The Infernal Vanguard, the Gourmet - a newly made Paragon! He wasn't old either. There was room for growth in his future.

    However, there was regret in the depths of his heart. Regret for a wasted youth. Once he'd become the Infernal Vanguard his thinking changed. His mind opened, and that allowed him to eventually realize that his painful past was manufactured - designed specifically to hurt him and his family.

    At one time he was the greatest hope of the Hades Bloodline. He was to be their next Paragon, and was destined to lift the family back to its former glory. The Dark Citadel was very aware of this. However, while everyone knew Satan was ruthless, cunning and evil, they'd seen how he treated Mika. He was a protective father, how could such a man ever visit harm upon his own blood?

    It wasn't Satan, and it wasn't his own family. Then who? The Gourmet had his suspicions, and even guessed the aim. In the end he'd achieved Paragon status, but the damage was already done. After more than ten years he didn't have the gall to face his family, nor could he represent them as Hades.

    He was the Infernal Vanguard now, watching in defense of his former family though years of depression had weakened him. Breaking through had seemed sudden, but it was an accumulation over years. Even now his comprehension was as solid as it should have been. There was still time for growth, but the Gourmet suspected his limit would be second level.

    But that was by no means a slight. Paragons who were Reflections of Heaven and Earth were among the strongest beings in humanity. Even the Terminator was second level. However, there was something about Lan Jue... about Lan Qing, too, and even Chu Cheng.

    Lan Qing, Chu Cheng and Hua Li all left Skyfire after the meeting with the Clairvoyant. Before he left, Chu Cheng's revelations changed him thoroughly.

    Because of this, the Gourmet sat and spoke with his nephew at length. He shared everything he'd learned from years of experience. It was time to pass the mantle to the next hope for the Hades bloodline, Chu Cheng.

    From his Paragon's perspective, they were all powerful potential leaders. But even though Lan Jue was the weakest of them in Discipline, in the end he would surpass them all. He watched the young Jewelry Master explode in strength and display a deep and comprehensive understanding of the world. When it rains it pours - it was just as true for Paragons. The Pharmacist was the same.

    He saw it during the tournament. So long as Lan Jue and the Pharmacist kept improving, they would join the ranks of those like Jue Di and Celestial Master Qian - the next generation of super humans!

    The thought brought a small smile to the Gourmet's face. He was eager for the day they would grow into a leadership role. He was looking forward to a long vacation with the Seamstress, where he could forget about his long years of gloomy solitude. He'd earned some relaxation time.

    Just then his spine straightened, and the Gourmet's eyes snapped to Lan Jue. The Seamstress, seated beside him, yelped in surprise.

    "What is it?"

    The Gourmet looked back at her, with a complicated and awe-struck look in his eyes. "Such a strong aura."

    The Seamstress was no slouch as an Adept, but her perception could not compare to her lover's.

    Another shock came when the base's alarm system started wailing. Ree! Ree! Ree! The urgent bells were deafening. The resting soldiers were immediately on their feet, Disciplines flaring. Contingents of mechas rushed to prepare for battle.

    "This is Majesty. This is Majesty reporting in. We've picked up an unidentified object closing in on Tempest. Preliminary data suggests an alien carrier ship, one thousand two hundred meters long. Power readings are similar to a human capital ship. ETA one hour before it enters Tempest orbit. Prepare for battle!"

    The Gourmet's eyes became hard and cold. "You stay here and make sure they mount a stable line of defense. Don't act rashly. Let me take a look at what we're dealing with."

    Even before he finished speaking, the Gourmet dissolved into a beam of light and shot into the sky. He didn't bring his mecha. If he had to fight, the suit would just get in the way. He wasn't sure he'd be able to take an alien that large. It was capable of interstellar migration, after all.

    Their fears would soon be confirmed. The alien was an enormous oblong thing that was crimson red from front to back. Its whole body seemed to slither through space like an accordion, contracting then expanding rhythmically. It raced ahead at subluminal speeds, it's six crimson eyes fixed on Tempest.


    Su Xiaosu stared out of the bridge's windows. "What's the analysis?"

    The Accountant's fingers were feverishly jabbing away at the controls. "According to the data recovered from the Jewelry Master's first encounter, it's a ninety-one percent match - only stronger. Data indicates two levels higher. We have no other way to scan for information or energy readings."

    Majesty hovered above the planet. With the Blinding Stone equipped and running only on essential systems, the ship was virtually a specter. They were taking all precautions to remain unseen by the invader.

    "Charge the main cannon!" Su Xiaosu barked the command. She knew Lan Jue was in the middle of the joining. It fell to her to make sure this beast didn't interrupt her boss' cultivation.

    Meanwhile the Accountant and his team deftly controlled their flagship, bringing everything online. Their objective changed from observe to intercept. The cannons hummed as they prepared to black the creature's advance. Confidence in their ship and its crew was high.

    A lazy, admonishing voice chattered through the ship's speakers. "There's no need for that cannon yet. Let me take a look. I need a chance to move these old bones."

    The Accountant, upon hearing the familiar voice, relaxed immediately. He chuckled and brought his hands back to the armrests. Su Xiaosu saluted from the center of the bridge.

    On Tempest.

    The Gourmet soared through the sky. In a blink he was five hundred meters above ground, any higher and he'd be in the stratosphere - then space. That was precisely where he was going to fight this thing. As a Paragon he had the ability to fight and survive in space. He wasn't sure which direction the alien was approaching from, but the Gourmet wasn't out to look for it. He just had to protect Lan Jue.

    Then something caught the corner of his eye. A red dot was quickly getting bigger. Half a moment later the undulating, oval figure was in full view. It had already pierced Tempest's atmosphere and was falling fast.

    It was here!

    The Gourmet took a deep breath and spread his arms out at his sides. The skies around them darkened and were quickly replaced with a swirling world of grey. The Paragon immediately called upon his Domain.

    He would hold no punches in keeping this thing at bay. But where was Majesty? Why hadn't it intercepted it? Could it mean the ship was already...

    He didn't have time to think about that, there were more pressing matters. His heart was anxious, but that didn't stop him from preparing for an all-out confrontation.

    Here it was! At last the beast surged in to view. As Gourmet, once his eyes fell upon it he was consumed by a singular thought.

    That's one hell of a sea cucumber.

    The world of grey ignited, and a burst of energy like a supernova issued forth.

    The Alien creature sensed the danger from below and slowed its approach. Its body swelled up defensively. Below the Gourmet watched as the burning hell he'd created grew sluggish. The patch of inferno above his head was invaded by a strange pink hue. Then, a deafening crack!

    The fires leapt to life, burning normally. The pink was gone. So, too, was the alien...

    How could it be? The Gourmet's surprised eyes searched the sky but found nothing. Some kind of shift?

    "Little cook, relax. It's taken care of." There was a flash of light, and someone else was with him in the hellfire. The pink camera caught his attention first, but then he saw the dark-rimmed eyes, like they'd slept poorly.

    "You..." The Gourmet just stared dumbly at Luo Xianni.

    She fiddled with the camera hanging around her neck, then sang, "Take advice from Luo Xianni, a camera is all you need. 1 What? Don't you feel well?"

    1. This is a super cute rhyme in the originals too. It took me forever to think up this paltry equivalent.
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