Chapter 550: The Joining, Completed

    Chapter 550: The Joining, Completed

    "Yes! I'm convinced, you're the best!" The practiced phrase came almost unconsciously to the Gourmet's lips. He actually had no idea the Photographer was on board Majesty for this trip. How could she have gone so long without anyone knowing about it?

    The Gourmet may not have known, but Lan Jue did. That was the only way he had the confidence to begin the joining here. If Luo Xianni couldn't protect him, then there was no one in the galaxy that could. This was still human space so there wouldn't be a lot of these things appearing suddenly. A few of them before a mighty Paragon was nothing to worry over.

    She hadn't come at Lan Jue's request, but of her own volition. At first the Jewelry Master didn't know, either. Jun Yongye and Captus' sensitive perception had alerted him. When he confronted her, the Photographer's reasons her simple; she wanted to protect her son. Her exact words were 'So long as Bupang isn't around, I'll protect you. Nothing's going to happen to my baby."

    She was taking to her stepmother role with gusto, despite Jue Di refusing to acknowledge her self-given title. Lan Jue had needed her before, but now at the cusp of this important moment, he called upon her for help. Because of her assistance, the world-destroying, capital ship sized alien invader was now just a picture.

    "How'd you kill it?" the Gourmet asked.

    "Don't rush," she chastised. "When my boy wakes up we'll talk. He's the commander, after all. I'm going back to bed - ah, sleep has been so good lately. Sleep is very important for women, you know. It keeps them beautiful." She waggled her hand in farewell to the Gourmet, and was gone in a flash.

    The younger Paragon shook his head at the spot where she had been. She was a sneaky one! But also, there was no one he'd rather have on his side!

    The Star Division had taken a lot of resources from the Avenue. However, their existence and location were still a closely-guarded secret. Although they'd left the Avenue without an army, they did still have the Wine Master, Clockmaker, Keeper and Bookworm to keep them safe.

    Ever since the Clockmaker's return, the Avenue has continue to rise in strength and status. Although they'd lost a powerful guiding light in the Clairvoyant, the loss was countered by the return of the Photographer. With the Clockmaker back home, the Avenue was even more a force to be reckoned with.

    They were also united in defense against a common enemy. Neither the North nor West had the time or resources to put behind a campaign against Skyfire Avenue. The competition now was in seeing who could come up with a functioning exuvium process first. Who could get the most alien Cores?

    Ultimately, success in perfecting the exuvium process was good for all humanity regardless of Alliance. It would be a boon for the species as a whole. Everyone understand that, and it was that knowledge that fueled the research and preparation. Scientists everywhere were throwing everything they had at the problem.

    Purely from a technological standpoint, the Northern Alliance was head and shoulders above the pack. The West wasn't far behind. However, the East had its own advantages in the race. Eastern scientists had started research long before the other two, and the Neptune's Tears they needed were only produced on Lyr. Their sale was already tightly controlled. The Keeper and the Bookworm were also great minds who were Paragons. The things they could test went far beyond the capabilities of a normal researcher. They had also used themselves as guinea pigs for the first round of the process, which all together added up to a good head start for the East.

    The East may not have had it all figured out, but everyone knew this was their golden age. The North had coveted the Eastern territories and their riches for ages, and if they could use this as leverage for more power and influence, that would turn a dire situation into a beneficial one.

    All of this had been the backdrop behind the Eastern government's steadfast support of the Star Division. They spared no effort in giving whatever it was they needed for the guarantee of riches in the future, in the form of alien Cores.

    They were the crux of this life-giving process! Without them, everything was a waste of time.

    The Gourmet settled back on Tempest's surface and gave the order to shut off the alarms. With the crisis overcome, he could relax a little.

    Lan Jue was unaware of everything. He was focused on maintaining concentration and battling the deadly pain of Captus.

    After consuming the thunder essence, he could sense that the joining process was speeding up. The inherent powers of Captus were too great for it to flood Lan Jue with it directly. In all likelihood it would kill him. Luckily those who had come before knew how to do it safely; join auras, wills, and finally spirits.

    After this had been completed, and with Captus carefully policing its own energies, Lan Jue could manage the pain. As Jun Yongye had instructed, the deeper his comprehension became, the more of the swords power he would be able to command. Now he could only sustain himself through sheer force of will.

    For Qianlin! To avenge Hera! No matter what, the joining had to succeed. To stand as a model for human accomplishment he needed strength. He yearned for it, for power. He would pay any price for it.

    The seconds ticked by until eventually the red light around him began to dim. Slowly, the light seemed to recede back into his flesh. The erratic fluctuations were gone, replaced with an aura of peace and stability.


    Joy lit up Xuanyuan Shishi's face. "He's done it," the sword-spirit said to the Pharmacist. "It looks like everything went smoothly! I'm surprised they were so compatible. I always thought Captus would require an Adept with a dimensional-type Discipline."

    The Pharmacist heaved a sigh of relief. She'd undergone the joining herself, but couldn't tell from the outside if it had finished. Xuanyuan Shishi's assurances put her at ease.

    "I thought it was strange, too. Why would Jun Yongye choose him? His Discipline is Thunderbolt. Could they not have joined entirely?" The Pharmacist asked.

    Xuanyuan Shishi looked back her way. "He was chosen in part for his strength and potential. More importantly, though, was his character. Our final determination was made when we saw the footage from Taihua. He was willing to sacrifice his own life to save others. That is the type of person we require as bearers."

    A twinkle of admiration flitted through the Pharmacist's eyes. "He did a wonderful thing. The Clairvoyant said he had been in great danger. Qianlin and her Queen of Heaven powers saved his life. If not for her, he would have been consumed by his own Talent."

    "The universe rewards the good. I can sense that he and Yongye have joined well." Xuanyuan Shishi nodded thoughtfully. "It's not as easy as it looks, as I'm sure you know. It's likely he had some treasure squirreled away to help him through. Once it's done, his Thunderbolt discipline should have tendrils of dimensional power within it. You have work to do, sword-sister. You can't let him surpass you. Heh heh..."

    The Pharmacist answered with a soft smile. "If he manages to surpass me, that'll be a happy day. Why should I struggle against that?"


    The red light around Lan Jue continued to decline until it eventually disappeared. When it did, he became the picture of peaceful meditation. His body was slick with sweat, but it wasn't dirty. His body was purified from Qianlin's influence and his own daily wash of protogenia during cultivation.

    The aura of light around him receded, too, until it retracted back into the top of Lan Jue's skull. A strange rune flickered in the center of his forehead for a moment before vanishing. 1

    At last, Lan Jue's form was again revealed to the others. His aura was calm and even without any noticeable differences from before. His Discipline hadn't changed, either. He was still sitting at peak-level.

    Lan Jue's eyes popped open. They glowed with a dim red light.

    Looking down on him, the Pharmacist felt her spirit stir, like it wanted to stand up and just go. She focused inward to calm her emotions.

    Xuanyuan Shishi chuckled, as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. "Congratulations on your success."

    The red light slowly faded. The Jewelry Master looked perfectly normal. He smiled. "Thank you. Are you ready to join with Qianlin?"

    The sword-spirit's smile widened. "You're impatient. There's no rush, rest for a moment. Recover your original qi and we'll continue. If not how are you going to protect her!"

    "Alright." Lan Jue took his leave, going for a shower.

    He sighed contentedly as the warm water ran down his body. From outside there wasn't any different in his discipline, but Lan Jue could feel that he'd crossed an important threshold.

    And that was Paragon!

    1. The spot in the center of the glabella, commonly called 'the third eye' in English, is an acupuncture point called Yin Tang or 'heavenly palace'. It's used for problems with sinuses, the nose, headaches, and the face. Nowadays it has taken on a more spiritual function and it's widely used for emotional dysfunction.
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