Chapter 645: Buddha’s Revelation

    Chapter 645: Buddha's Revelation

    The two combatants stopped again. A flickering aura appeared and disappeared around Lan Qing, and a thoughtful expression was on his face. Was it really as simple as it seemed? After all, Lan Qing was called the God of Wisdom! Evolution was an integral part of Lan Qing's chosen path. Through training and battle he constantly evolved toward the most perfect version of himself.

    Of course his protogenia couldn't change. But Adepts were more multifaceted, like layers of an onion. At the heart of Lan Qing's abilities was the Prajna curses and Varochana. Wrapped around that was Wind. In effect, the general had been fighting with one hand behind his back.

    Jue Di had told Lan Qing that the universe shrunk after you became a Paragon. There were so few like you. A situation like that, new Paragons needed a whetstone to hone their abilities. Friends and training partners were no use. Paragons were exceedingly precise and sensitive, and only real danger catalyzed their potential.

    The Astral Phantom was a perfect whetstone. Lan Qing wasn't going to put him down so quickly. He used this opportunity to understand the deeper truths of his protogenia.

    The Phantom's body vanished in a flash of purple light. He didn't wait around for Lan Qing to attack. The Astral Phantom was a killer, a master assassin as they were called in the old days. No assassin worth their salt attacked a target head-on. Attack from the shadows, that was his specialty.

    Just as the Phantom vanished, a light arose in Lan Qing's eyes. He pressed his palms together at the center of his chest. Though his body didn't disappear, his aura ceased to be felt. The Phantom, however, was completely gone.

    Ting! The Astral Phantom appeared from the shadows behind Lan Qing's right shoulder. Lan Qing didn't have time to turn and face the assassin, the Phantom was too quick. All he could do was twist his ribs away and block the stab with his back.

    Sounds of shock rippled through the onlookers. The Astral Phantom's name and reputation were widely known. His strength was not in question, nor was the lethality of his Soulblight daggers. Meeting him was like being served a death warrant.

    Every ear perked to the sound of ringing metal, and wide eyes stared in disbelief. The Phantom's dagger didn't pierce the skin. A blinding halo of golden light appeared behind Lan Qing's head, and his heroic form swelled to several times his original size. He dropped to his knees and knelt among the glittering stars. A golden lotus appeared below to lift and support him. An impassioned hymn arose, rumbling all around them.

    When the Astral Phantom reappeared, it was far away from his target. He gaped at Lan Qing. "Reflection of Heaven and Earth. But how.... You... "

    Lan Qing's face remained even and placid. He spread his hands away from his chest, palms facing heaven. All of a sudden the chants grew louder. Lan Qing's golden halo became brighter. It expanded and shot out rays of light like a miniature sun. Wherever the beams of light swept past, nothing was hidden. The light illuminated everything within its scope. The Phantom was revealed and he was left nowhere to hide. He darted into the distance like a terrified ghost.

    This was his Domain! Buddha's Revelation!

    Indeed this was the true realm of Lan Qing's power, far more potent than what he'd felt at the beginning of their fight. The brilliant light of the Buddha revealed everything to the young Paragon. The Astral Phantom's Domain was what he'd just revealed, blinking. Within the scope of his power he could instantly move from any one point to another.

    Unfortunately for him, Varochana's power abolished all things duplicitous and negative. Their pocket universe was reset to its purest and simplest state.

    "Great Prajna Curse!" Lan Qing retracted his arms, then pressed forward with his hands. The pure light of the Buddha intensified still further, until the spectators outside could sense nothing from within their pocket dimension.

    The Astral Phantom juked and dodged as best he could. No matter how fervently he disbelieved, Lan Qing was showing the abilities of a second-degree Paragon! That's the only way he could have blocked the Soulblight daggers with nothing but his own skin. No wonder he was so eager to fight! Did he really jump an entire degree? The Astral Phantom didn't know what to believe. He couldn't understand why he'd been stuck for dozens of years, but for this young man it seemed effortless. It seemed too impossible an idea to entertain.

    He raced as fast as he could, searching for a way to escape Lan Qing's Domaine. No matter how fast he flew or how far he went, he couldn't get free enough to summon his own powers. Even if he could, the difference between first and second degree Paragons was outstanding. This was pure protogenic force. He had to get free if he wanted a chance.

    However, once Lan Qing croaked those three words, everything around the Astral Phantom changed. No matter where he turned or how fast he fled, the image of Varochana followed. Eventually the pure light swallowed him up entirely.

    There was nowhere to go!

    The Phantom took a deep breath then came to a halt. He knew nothing else would come from running. He knew that his own Domain would be suppressed by the overwhelming power of the general. He was completely at his prey's mercy!

    He reacted by throwing his arms back, although this time his shoulders were thrown back as well. The action was so sudden and violent it looked like his arms would be pulled out. Then he began to move. A shadow copy was left behind in his wake. His actions looked almost slow, so much that the spectators could see every movement clearly. The sharper among them, though, noticed how when he moved he seemed like a shadow. He wasn't really going so slowly.

    Thirteen! Including himself there were thirteen shadowy assassin's racing straight for Lan Qing. As the Phantom picked up speed his copies kept pace. They would occasionally collide with each other, and when they did the new copy was more defined. In front of him, the purple light of his empowered weapons blazed a path. It, too, seemed to become sharper and more real the farther he flew until it was carving apart space-time - and the pure light of the Buddha.

    This was the real power of the Astral Phantom. Assassins were known for keeping their deadliest attacks to the last. How much more terrifying was a Paragon assassin once trapped in a corner? The Astral Phantom seemed committed to showing everyone.

    He appeared to be little more than a gloomy shadow, somehow able to deny light from reflecting off of him. All of his strength, Discipline, perception, poison, speed, and Domain - all of them were focused on a single point in space. This was it; do or die. If this strike failed to finish his target, he wouldn't have enough energy to a second try.

    It demanded a full twenty percent of his total energy. Twenty percent of concentrate death.

    Cosmic Smite. This was the name he'd given the attack he used only in time of absolute necessity. In all his years he had never had to use it. Although, he'd never before tried to kill a Paragon.

    It was without pomp, without drama. It was pure, deadly power. Everything hinged on the tip of this strike.

    Lan Qing's hands shot out, for he felt the light of Varochana above him dim. The overwhelming sense of danger told him the precise moment to move.

    Supreme Incantation! Lan Qing's strongest Prajna Curse!

    Palms forward, sturdy as a mountain! No I, no they. In the boundlessness of the Buddha, with no up nor down, there is no fear.

    Suddenly Lan Qing's entire body took on the image of the Buddha, like the second coming of Varochana. The heat was so intense that distant stars melted in the face of it.

    Dang--! The crisp sound, like the call of a grandfather clock, hung for a long time in the air. The whole of the universe seemed to vibrate in response.

    Lan Qing's Varochana projection also shook. A large white scar appeared on it, stretching across the forehead. When he saw this Lan Jue rushed forward, but the calloused grip of Jue Di held him fast.

    "Prajna-paramitah!" The guttural chant filled the air, rolling like thunder. It was clear as a bell to everyone.

    The Astral Phantom was revealed again. His true form was picked out from the shadow doppelgangers. He'd been half-hidden before but was once again fully revealed - though, he was different. The emaciated assassin's suddenly grew to several times his size. Without warning his frail body filled out.

    Golden light enveloped him just as the resounding chants of Buddhist monks deafened the ear. The pale scar on Lan Qing's forehead disappeared. Meanwhile the Astral Phantom dropped his arms beneath the power of a blazing sun. The incessant blaze burned away the purple light surrounding the assassin.

    Lan Qing's dharmic image came to an end. When he reappeared his face was pale, and he looked drained. He'd sensed the mortal danger from the Astral Phantom's attack. He'd only just managed to protect himself from annihilation with his curses and defense.

    After all, Lan Qing was still very young as Paragons were concerned. He still hadn't grasped the full breadth of his abilities, especially since he'd jumped a degree. On the other hand, the Astral Phantom's Cosmic Smite was strong enough to nearly pierce a second-degree Paragon's defenses. In terms of attack power, the Paragons ahead of him on the list may not necessarily be his superiors. With all of the Phantom's strength focused on that one strike, Lan Qing had had a very literal brush with death.
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