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Chapter 554: The Ceremony

    Chapter 554: The Ceremony

    Hua Li turned back, his face calmer. His clothes fell away to reveal his perfectly sculpted form. A blue light suddenly shimmered to life between his brows. It looked like a drop-shaped power gem.

    A gentle blue light enveloped his entire body. With a single step, Hua Li was swallowed into the beam of blue light. As he vanished into it the star-shaped pendant on his chest, Cerulea, seethed with wisps of pale blue power.

    Hummmmm. The column of light intensified, as did the buzz of power. The people in Corinth all stopped and turned to face Poseidon's Palace.

    A massive pillar of light shot from the palace into the sea above, through the shield and the vast fathoms to pierce the sky. The whole city began to shake as waves of water elemental energy converged on that point. A flood of blue light responded that covered all. The central beam blazed majestically.

    The people here were either progeny or servants of the Poseidon bloodline. As the light fell upon them, one by one they piously fell to these knees in praise. This was the ancient rite passed down from generations, the ceremony that heralded the birth of another Poseidon.

    Hua Xu stood just outside the column of light. Slowly his hands rose, lifting the golden crown from his head. All the while, a faint smile of pride turned his lips.

    Although he wasn't perfect, he was his son. Hua Li was destined to take this step just as his father had before him. And he achieved it five years earlier than his father had.

    He hadn't attended, but Hua Xu had watched the Great Adept tournament from start to finish. He saw the emergence of many talented young Adepts. But where there were riches, there must also follow tragedy. He had also heard the Clairvoyant's prophecies.

    The future belongs to you, the youth. Go, my son, and put down your burdens. Chase your wishes. In my day I lacked the courage to seek what I desired. You are a stronger man than I was.

    A dark figure appeared silently at Hua Xu's shoulder. The only people allowed in this place now were those involved in the ceremony.

    "It is too late for regrets. He says he owes you too much." Hua Xu turned slightly to face Mo Xiao, clad head to toe in black.

    She was exceptionally beautiful today. Her full length black dress made her porcelain skin seem to shimmer. Upon her head sat a beautiful silver tiara, but that was all. That was all it took to make her look regal.

    Her eyes took on a far off look as she faced the pillar of light. Hua Li remained suspended within, surrounded by motes of light. She murmured softly, "I was destined to be his wife from the moment I was born. If he doesn't agree, or refuses for any other reason, in my heart that does not change the fact. I am his mate, forever. I will bear his children, and they will be the glory of the Poseidon bloodline."

    Hua Xu nodded slightly at her affirmations, but said nothing further. He turned away, but looked back once more to look upon his son, and Mo Xiao as her form became like crystal.

    ζ

    Lan Jue's consciousness returned to the room where the joining had commenced. All evidence of past tribulations were gone. He moved even easier than he had before Captus carved at his Core.

    The Pharmacist narrowed her eyes and focused on him. She could tell he was still at the peak of ninth level. She couldn't be sure how much his Discipline had improved when not joined with Qianlin, however she could sense that Lan Jue seemed completely different. It was a sensation she only ever felt from Paragons. Even then there was something unique about it, a gentleness that radiated around him. Even someone of her capabilities had to admire it.

    What she felt wasn't something that could be given by a Banishing Blade! The Pharmacist was surprised, for she could only compare it to her own joining process. His was much smoother and more complete by comparison.

    Part of the reason was Lan Jue was stronger than she and her husband had been when they attempted it. Jun Yongye was also a more vibrant spirit than the one who guided her. Then there were other reasons.

    What the Pharmacist saw, Xuanyuan Shishi saw as well.

    The sword-spirit looked carefully at Lan Jue. "You must have taken something, some special treasure. I can sense the essence of an immortal around you. Impossible! The immortals have left the realm of men long ago and passed into infinity. Things are different now - it is inconceivable an immortal could be born!"

    Lan Jue smiled. "Under Jun Yongye's instruction, I consumed some thunder essence. That aura you feel isn't mine, it must be from the essence."

    Surprise was clear in Shishi's voice. "The product of empyrean lightning, thunder essence?"

    Lan Jue nodded.

    Xuanyuan Shihi gasped in amazement. "Your luck is unbelievable! I couldn't fathom how you joined with Captus so well, but the thunder essence explains it. You'll be able to support Qianlin in the joining without any trouble. Very well, it's time to begin."

    Lan Jue looked back at him. "What do I have to do?" This time it was Qianlin who was receiving the sword, so he wasn't sure how the process would be different.

    Chortles issued from the spirit. "Nothing, just relax. I will take care of everything, you just need to shoulder the pain. I must find her spirit. Don't worry, I will be careful. Who knows, you may be surprised."

    Lan Jue was solemn. "I only have one request. No matter the outcome of the joining, do whatever you can not to harm Qianlin."

    Xuanyuan Shishi answered with a nod. "It's alright, everything will be channeled through you. It cannot fail. I will warn you, though, that what you feel will be different from what you experienced with Jun Yongye."

    "Fine, let's get going!" He was eager, and confident he could handle whatever was coming.

    The typical, lazy smile was gone from the sword-spirit's face. Instantly his aura changed. To Lan Jue, it was as though the world around them became dim and indistinct. He watched as Xuanyuan Shishi fractured into several copies, then rushed at him.

    It felt like being stabbed by needles from different directions. They were like his muscles were trying to twist themselves in knots, causing insufferable spasms. Lan Jue shuddered, and then the needles buried themselves deeper into his body. Then it felt like they reached his veins. The stabbing pain immediately flowed all through him, making him shake. Outwardly it looked worse than his joining with Captus.

    "Demortus is ever changeable, able to adapt and overcome. Steady the Core, bolster your will!" The Pharmacist's urgent advice filled Lan Jue's ears.

    He could sense the flickering red light from his Core. A quiet and unassuming aura radiated around it. In response, Demortuis' boring trek into his body seemed to slow. Captus was giving him an opportunity to get his bearings. Jun Yongye was very familiar with Xuanyuan Shishi and this process. He chose to involve himself now, at the beginning when the pain was most severe.

    Lan Jue's aura stabilized and the pain receded, but he remained steadfast and prepared. Qianlin had faced down death for him. It was his turn to suffer on her behalf. He knew she was strong, so the joining wasn't just to protect her. He knew she also wanted to grow and improve. That way, when she awoke she would not be far behind.

    Captus stabbing pain had been constant, strong and unique. Demortus' pain was like a hundred thousand biting cuts, all different but equally agonizing. It was appear first one place, then appear in another half a heartbeat later - like there was a barbed needle for every pore on his body.

    However, after the initial shock wore off, Lan Jue settled in to the discomfort. He had the experience of surviving Captus. And with the benefit of the thunder essence, he didn't have to fear damage to his Core as Qianlin underwent the joining.

    Lan Jue was pleased to find that as the process continued, Qianlin appeared to join with the sword seamlessly. Qianlin's Discipline was inherently adaptable and accepting. There was no conflict as their two spirits met. The sword was met with the genuine desire to be interconnected.

    Lan Jue silently nodded his admiration, not for Qianlin, but for the sword-spirits. They had indeed chosen well, as one might expect of a legendary sword.

    The rest of the process went uncharacteristically well. Under the sword's direction their Cores split; one was Lan Jue's, and the other was a milky white hue with innumerable specks of blue swimming within.

    Neither Core was the same as they had been when together. They seemed to yearn for each other, rely on one another. Qianlin's Core was the shadow image of Lan Jue's, the other side of the coin.

    The strength of their Discipline did not change. It remained steadfast at the peak of ninth level. Demortus exhibited remarkable precision in keeping them from Paragon. However, the changes were evident.

    Lan Jue was starting to understand the situation the Pharmacist had been in. She had just reached ninth level when she decided to join with Occisus. Ever since they were inseparably joined - she was a part of the sword. Cultivation became a very difficult exercise in resolve, as you constantly fought against the dominating will of the Banishing Blade.
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