Chapter 693: Life and Death

    Chapter 693: Life and Death

    Just then Lan Jue felt his shirt tightened. When he turned around, he saw a pair of lilly-white hands gripping his clothes.

    "Qianlin!" Lan Jue gasped in surprise.

    Ever since falling into this state Qianlin could perform basic functions, but this was the first time she'd taken the initiative. However, her eyes still bore that dull look.

    Lan Jue tried to loosen her grip but she just held on tighter. He tried to convince her to let him go but she would not be swayed.

    Tears had begun to well up in Lan Jue's eyes. He pursed his lips, and after a moment sighed. "Alright, we stay together. Life or death, no matter what happens, we don't separate." He dropped his head and kissed her lips. The tell-tale light surrounded them and when it was gone, so was Zhou Qianlin. Lan Jue felt his Discipline surge to its peak.

    A few minutes later Zeus-1's cargo hold opened and two figures emerged; Lan Jue and the Pharmacist. They didn't wear their mechas, they would be too conspicuous. Instead they relied on their protogenic understanding to protect them from the vacuum of space.

    "Sis, why did you want to come? Did you sense something?" Lan Jue asked her.

    The Pharmacist's calm expression fractured, revealing uncertainty beneath. Her body shook ever so slightly.

    "What is it?" Lan Jue asked, concerned.

    She was silent for a time, fighting with herself to maintain calm. She bit her lower lip. "I felt... I felt it."

    He didn't understand. "It? What do you mean?"

    She sighed. "Ultus!"

    "Ultus?" Lan Jue gaped at her. "First of the Banishing Blades... the one your husband bore?"

    She nodded.

    Lan Jue stared at her in shock. "One of the planets?"

    Again, she nodded. "The largest one. I'm sure of it, Ultus is somewhere inside. If you don't believe me, channel your consciousness through Captus. You'll feel it, too."

    Lan Jue nodded and shut his eyes, searching his feelings.

    His mind sunk into the mystical blade. Therein was a world of marvels, thick with the sword's power. Reality existed in tiers, constantly emerging and collapsing before his eyes. Among it all was a faint sense, immortal essence so broad and profound that it seemed to permeate everything, its end and beginning.

    This was the root of the Banishing Blades' power. Therein he found Captus, shivering. He sensed it, felt it calling to something far away in the ethereal reality they inhabited. He could also sense Occisus and Demortus close by.

    Lan Jue gasped. She was right, the sword was there. But that meant her husband...

    His eyes opened and he turned his attention toward the Pharmacist. Her eyes were wet, and tears were suspended in space between them.

    She had spent so many years, desperately searching for any news of her lost love. Now she had it, but it was news of his death. If Ultus was somewhere inside the alien planet then the chances her husband still lived were minuscule.

    "Sis, it's alright. Maybe -"  Lan Jue tried to find the words to comfort her.

    She waved her hand. "It's fine, I've prepared for this day. I knew I was just lying to myself by hoping he'd come home. How could he still live? I just never thought it would be these cursed aliens that killed him! No matter the cost, I am going to get that sword back. It's the only thing he left behind."

    "I'll help you!" Lan Jue replied without hesitation.

    She paused, staring at him with glistening eyes. Three simple words, but they were a solemn promise. Both of them had seen the strength of these monsters with their own eyes and still Lan Jue was eager to help. It was moving beyond words.

    Lan Jue went on. "Do you have a plan? Maybe some way to awaken the sword?"

    "No one would know better than Yongye or Xuanyuan, you should ask them," she replied.

    "Alright!" Lan Jue wasted no time in seeking out the White Blademaster and asking for his help.

    Jun Yongye appeared at his side in a flash of light. His first action was to stare at the distant planets. He had been awakened when Lan Jue entered the sword's dimension and had also felt Ultus' presence.

    "Yongye, we believe Ultus is inside the alien planet. Is there any way we could call it out?" Lan Jue's voice was low and serious.

    Jun Yongye furrowed his eyebrows in thought. "Ultus... yes. That is Ultus' aura I sense. But it is sealed by some great power. I can also feel that the whole of its power has been stimulated. Strong... Ultus is the first of us. Individually it is just as powerful as any of the other blades, but it is the only one with knowledge of the Banishing Stance. If you could recapture it, the Stance may be achievable."

    "I've only ever heard of the Banishing Stance in tales and legends," Lan Jue said. "Is it really that strong?"

    Yongye chuckled politely. "The realms of gods have gone from this universe, but I can tell you that even the Three Pure Ones would be turned to dust if faced with the Banishing Stance. With the Blades at its center this Stance could create an entirely new universe. Is that 'strong'?"

    Lan Jur gaped at him. He could see the fervent light glint in Jun Yongye's eyes.

    "So how do we get it back?" He asked.

    Yongye replied in low, even tones. "It's difficult. We can locate its specific location by tracking its aura, but only a sword's master can control it. We can find it, but we can't take it away, to do so you would need to kill its master. The one spot of good news is that the swords cannot harm each other. You're protected from Ultus' power."

    Lan Jue was going to continue his line of questioning when suddenly he stopped. The Pharmacist had grabbed his arm, and he turned to look at her.

    She had recovered from her momentary sadness. "There's no rush. Now we know Ultus has fallen into the hands of the enemy. Once we break through to Paragon and can command the swords' power more fully it won't be difficult to track this planet down. If we reach the level of Jue Di, with our three Banishing Blades the planets would not seem so insurmountable."

    Inwardly, Lan Jue was moved by her words. After discovering her husband's weapon, no one would be more eager to recover it than her. She knew it was a terrible risk to try it now! To attempt it at their level of power would be like a moth leaping into the flames.

    "Sister, no matter what and no matter when, when you're ready to get that sword I'll be right by your side." Lan Jue's promise was full of determination and passion.

    She smiled at him and gently nodded her head. "Alright, we have a mission to complete. Let's get back as soon as we can, we have a lot of information to share with the East. Everything we experienced out here will be important."

    "Yeah," he said with a nod.

    The two of them raced ahead, approaching the planet while being careful to keep their approach hidden. But their target wasn't one of the planets, but a straggling alien. If they could grab one and bring it back alive their mission would be a success. At their strength it shouldn't be very difficult. The key was not to attract the attention of the planets.

    In the vast expanse of the universe, humans were infinitesimally small and hard to pick out. Lan Jue and the Pharmacist found a suitable place to lay in wait for their prey. Their protogenic mastery was more than enough to hide from an alien, even a wave or two.

    Their chance came a little more than an hour later.

    A saucer-type alien came floating by, majestically flitting through space like a jellyfish in the ocean. In its wake was another, smaller creature. It looked like a beetle with a dark purple shell, and stretched ten meters long.

    Lan Jue had seen this kind before. Compared to its other interplanetary cousins it was very small and easy to overlook. However, it would be a mistake to underestimate it because of its size. Its armor was strong, and moved quick as lightning. In battle three spines jutted from its mouth that it used as weapons. Lan Jue had seen one bite through an asteroid three hundred meters across.

    That seemed to be their specialty, cutting through asteroids. They were like mites that hid themselves on the bodies of larger aliens.

    It was formidable in both attack and defense, certainly nod bottom of the barrel when it came to the alien hierarchy. But it was small, and that made it easier to capture.

    "That's the one," Lan Jue gestured toward it.

    "Alright, I'll follow your lead." The Pharmacist replied.

    The Pharmacist and Occisus were potent killers - not best suited for taking prisoners. Lan Jue would have to do most of the work.

    He wasted no time. In a blink he was racing forward toward their target.
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