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Chapter 596: Sword Practice

    Chapter 596: Sword Practice

    Lan Jue slowly began to uncover the profound nature of focused flow. It sought victory through vigor. Each strike was as overpowering as though it had a roaring river behind it. His movements appeared slow, almost lazy, but each swipe of his word bore tremendous energy.

    Qianlin's thousand sword technique was the opposite. Demortus' power wasn't focused in one place, but spread out. Cunning manipulation of the energy flows is what gave her tide of weaponry its power.

    The two were calm, stable, ethereal. Neither was inherently stronger than the other. However, as their training continued Lan Jue entered into a marvelous state. He realized that the two styles were mirrors of one another, like feeling one's heart beat in someone else's chest. Every move was answered by the other person with perfect synchronicity. Likewise, Lan Jue moved effortlessly with each attack from Qianlin, masterfully deflecting the danger away.

    Gradually, Lan Jue came to understand the rules. He could only pierce her defenses with just the right move at just the right time. Similarly, Qianlin learned his tricks. He would find a way to overcome her, and she would just as quickly change up her style.

    The violent clashes of their styles became less intense with each meeting. Eventually, their interactions became almost friendly. They danced around each other like one was an integral piece of the other.

    The more they trained, the more Lan Jue came to understand. Unknown hours passed before Jun Yongye interrupted them. "That's enough for today."

    The two Adepts rested their sword arms. Lan Jue smiled as the light of their banishing blades played upon Qianlins' face. She still had as much expression as dirt, but Lan Jue could sense the cooperation in their training. To him it meant she was there, somewhere.

    "When can we begin to train the Harmonious Swords?" Lan Jue asked.

    Xuanyuan Shishi was the one who answered. "You both have a long way to go. Right now you train without the swords' powers. As you learn more, we can begin to unseal their potency and allow Captus and Demortus to intermingle. You will also need to empower them with your own strength. Once you both can command the power without hurting one another, you will be ready to direct its tremendous power. Then you will know the Harmonious Swords. Did you think it was that easy?"

    Lan Jue nodded ever so slightly. Xuanyuan Shishi was right. Clearly the Harmonious Sword style would need work. Having so much power at one's fingertips, it was important that they were capable of handling it. What's more, they had to be connected on a spiritual level.

    He was starting to feel that already, after only the first day of training.

    Lan Jue looked over Zhou Qianlin. She remained standing, peering sightlessly into the middle distance. "You're tired," he told her, "Let's wash you up then get you some food."

    If the nine circles of hell were a real thing, Lan Jue wasn't worries. There was no greater torture than giving Qianlin a bath. Three times they inadvertently joined before he could finished. He felt even more drained than he did after sword training.

    With some effort, he get her dressed in Hera's old clothes. He suddenly felt exhausted. Not physically, but deep down in his soul. Lan Je cooked up a simple meal and fed Zhou Qianlin before having some himself.

    The ritual was interrupted when Lan Jue's communicator began to ring. "Hey, what have you been up to all day? We've seen neither hide nor hair." It was the Driver.

    Lan Jue answered. "I've been cultivating, of course. What time is it?"

    "It's dark out," he responded. "Asking what time it is... do you want to get a drink?"

    He hesitated, taking a look at Qianlin sitting quietly nearby. "Alright, but I'll be bringing someone." When not cultivating he didn't join with Qianlin. It had to be better for her to smell the fresh air and see the world around her.

    "Come on over."

    Lan Jue changed his clothes, then guided Qianlin out into the shop.

    Zeus' five Amazons where in the store. Each of their faces was different when they saw their boss leave his chambers, Zhou Qianlin in tow. None of them looked entirely pleased.

    "I'm heading out, you all can head out." Lan Jue's greeting was brief. He gave the explanation, and was out the door.

    Su Xiaosu couldn't keep her thoughts to herself. "Little Mika," she began 1, "what is going on with Qianlin and the boss?" She knew Qianlin, of course, but she was never told their whole story.

    Mika glowered at her. "Don't call me little Mika. Big Mika, if anything. Sounds better. Ai... it's so annoying how single-minded men are."

    Ke'er whole-heartedly nodded her agreement. "No doubt. I don't mind being a mistress."

    "Hey hey, restrain yourself! Have you no shame? You're a woman!" Lin Guoguo couldn't help but share her distress.

    "So what if I'm a woman?" Ke'er huffed. "Women are also entitled to the pursuit of love. At any rate, I'm not entirely a woman, am I? I'm a manufactured woman."

    Su Xiaosu looked among the women helplessly. "I can't stand men who are fickle in love. That's one of the reasons I like the boss." She had no qualms expressing her interest in their employer.

    "Polyamorous or no, there's no place in his heart for us." Xiuxiu arose. Depression darkened her features, she moved to the back of the shop.

    "Where are you going, Xiuxiu?" Ke'er asked.

    She didn't turn back. "I'm going to clean the boss' room."

    Ke'er raced to her side. "You're too virtuous, sister. So much better than little Ke'er. I think we should probably just be lesbians, what do you say?"

    "Screw off..."

    ζ

    Lan Jue led Qianlin down Skyfire Avenue by the hand. The surface world was as quiet as ever, and their footsteps rang against the sturdy granite stones that comprised the street. For Lan Jue, it was the comforting feeling of home.

    "It would be great is there weren't aliens to worry about. I'd take you out for a walk along the Avenue every day. We'd swing by the Gothic Winery and have a drink with the Wine Master. Ah, to see his pained expression every time we open a new bottle... priceless. Then we could visit the Seamstress. She would make you beautiful new clothes. The woman had amazing skill. If the Gourmet doesn't agree to us bothering his wife, then he can cook us a fine meal instead. We finish off our meal with a nice glass with the Coffee Master. Then when we get married, we can go to mom's place and have her take our photos. What do you think?" Lan Jue lazily walked down the street with her hand in his. Their arms swung back and forth as they made their way.

    Zhou Qianlin dutifully followed, but nothing more. It appeared she was moving on instinct - going where the stimulus told her to. He didn't know her heartbeat had sped up with his words.

    Before long, they stood before the doors to the Seamstress' shop. The Driver was already waiting for them. Today he was dressed in a sharp suit with dark vertical lines. He looked for ll the world like a reputable gentleman.

    "Guests, please," He pulled open the door with a welcoming smile.

    The Seamstress stood inside, also smiling. She nodded to the two of them as they entered. "Welcome to the two of you."

    As Lan Jue and Qianlin made their way inside, they noticed that the table was already set up. There were dried fruits, a selection of chopped fruits, and a plate of fermented ham. Slowly moistening glasses of ice water and empty wine glasses were also on display.

    Lan Jue led Qianlin to a chair and they both sat.

    The Driver looked his way, then looked at Zhou Qianlin. "How is she?"

    "Better," he answered with a smile. "She'll recover with time."

    The Driver nodded. "Do you want something to drink?"

    "I think I'd like something mild today," was the Jewelry Master's reply.

    The Driver grunted. "That would be the Auchentoshan, then."

    "Alright."

    Auchentoshan was a brand of whisky, with a mild taste that contained hints of cream. It was smooth as silk.

    Once it was poured Lan Jue swirled the golden contents in his glass and watched. With a smile, he commented, "We've only been apart a day and already you miss me, eh?"

    The Driver picked a slice of ham from the plate and stuffed it in his mouth. "You wish. I want the alcohol you promised."

    Lan Jue chuckled. "I knew you didn't call me over here for a drink out of the goodness of your heart. You'll get it, don't worry. You think I can still screw you over?"

    The question was met with a teasing chuckle. "Hard to say." He lifted the glass and knocked it gently against Lan Jue's. The two men drank their glasses dry.

    A lull crept into the conversation as the Driver poured them another glass. Lan Jue took the opportunity to address the Seamstress. "The Beautician...?"

    Her eyes grew gloomy and she sighed. "She's a little better. Strong. Right now she's propped up by the prospect of vengeance. You don't need to worry about her."

    "Alright." Lan Jue gently nodded his head. He completely understood how it felt to have a loved one taken from you.

    The Seamstress sighed again. "She regrets not accepting his proposal."

    This made the Driver grunt. "Life is really too short to not be happy. Right, Jewelry Master, I must say I've got quite a fancy for Su Xiaosu. You think you can put in a good word for me?"

    Lan Jue stared at him blankly for a moment, but eventually nodded. "Alright. Just, I think it'd be better if you spoke to her yourself. She's got a powerful personality and a lot of experience. Steel up your courage, man."

    The Driver stared at him, wide-eyed. "You're joking! You think I'm a wuss? Where is she now? I'll go this instant, invite her over here."

    Lan Jue looked at him curiously. "Are you serious?"

    The Driver thrust out his barrel chest, and straightened his fine suit. "Of course I am."

    His friend nodded once he saw how serious he was. "She should be back in my shop."

    He said nothing. The Driver got up to his feet, turned around, and walked out of the Seamstress' shop like a man on a mission.

    1. She called her '', the same name Qianlin uses for Tang Mi. It's a very cutesy nickname, literally 'little grain of rice.'
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