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Chapter 712: The Trial

    Chapter 712: The Trial

    "Alright." Lan Qing's reply was simple. He shut his eyes and proceeded to meditate.

    A faint smile painted the Terminator's face, then he turned his eyes toward Lan Jue. "Do you have an interest in participating?"

    The Jewelry Master smiled back. "Absolutely, the more the merrier right? But it wouldn't be just me, I have a partner."

    "Fine, both of you together are fine," the Terminator assured him.

    But Lan Jue chuckled. "No, you misunderstand. Lan Qing is Lan Qing, I am me. My partner is not him. You can have your spar with Lan Qing first, then we can test our skills."

    Lan Jue wouldn't dare pass up an opportunity to test himself against the strongest Adept in the North. He knew it would be an interesting match, and beneficial to feel how the flows of protogenia changed around such a powerful adversary.

    He and Lan Qing were brothers, and thus were prone to pulling punches. What's more, Lan Jue knew his brother's abilities almost as well as his own. The pressure of not knowing didn't exist. However, it was different with the Terminator. The pressure from a famed Paragon would be great, which in turn would deepen his protogenic understanding even further. He was also reasonably sure the Terminator wouldn't do anything untoward after approaching them in public.

    In the end Lan Jue trusted Jun'er's assessment of the man - he was a good person. He believed it without a shadow of a doubt. Maybe she wasn't as adept in her prognostications as the Clairvoyant, but she had a natural acuity which he trusted. In fact the Wine Master had told him that the natural visions that came to Jun'er before she began cultivating would be clearer than a focused try, and truer. What she gained from the Clairvoyant was the ability to see farther.

    Lan Jue shut his eyes and began to meditate as well, modulating his Discipline for the fight ahead. In a spar against the Terminator he wouldn't dare to overestimate his chances.

    The Terminator looked at these two brothers who looked so similar. A small smile spread across his face, then he shut his eyes as well. These two men were more important to the Terminator than they would imagine.

    After half an hour the bus began to slow and descend to the ground. The roof of a building below slowly separated, just wide enough for the bus to pass through.

    Lan Jue and Lan Qing opened their eyes. In Lan Qing's there was a crystal clear light, and a strange sense of kindness. Lan Jue's eyes were sharp, and a crackling blue power flickered intermittently.

    The Terminator opened his eyes only once the bus touched down.

    "Come." He disembarked and began to walk.

    He led them through a set of large doors and into a long metallic hallway. For reasons unknown, Lan Jue felt somehow repressed in here. Although he couldn't pinpoint where it came from, for this sense to pervade it had to be from something strong.

    Lan Qing also seemed to sense something, judging by the slight surprise in his eyes. His sights darted to the walls slipping past them.

    The Terminator's deep voice reverberated of those walls. "This place is part of the Great Conclave. In a way it is an extension of myself. About twenty years ago I came across a strange metal that was derived from the collision of two comets. In the vastness of the universe it's common for asteroids to collide, but an event like two comets crashing into each other is exceptionally rare. Complicated influences from gravitational fields must line up perfectly for this to occur."

    "We can't know what the original composition of those comets were, but after their collision this metal was left behind. It was strangely complex and incomplete. When the Northern patrols found it they brought it to me because of the strange power it emitted. I was shocked to discover pulses of protogenic energy coming from it."

    Protogenia? Lan Jue looked at the Terminator in shock.

    He went on. "I was startled, there had never been a case of inanimate metal possessing protogenia. Certainly the power couldn't have come from the metal itself, but was somehow injected into it after their impact. No one knew how, precisely, but I could feel it. I began to study it in depth."

    "As time went on I discovered that the protogenia was in a constant state of flux, becoming stronger by the day. I was a Paragon by then, ascended through the transformation of my body. I always knew that life and protogenia were inexorably tied together, but I never expected a lump of metal to change my future. The more I understood the material, the faster my cultivation became. As it changed, so too did I. After ten years I became a Reflection of Heaven and Earth.

    "I thought it might continue to assist my perfection. However, I discovered its pulses weakening shortly after breaking through. Its protogenia was coalescing, stratifying, strengthening. As it began to settle the changes in it stabilized and its benefit to me diminished. I have had people scouring the sky for another chunk of metal like this, but to this day I've had no luck."

    "I took the heart of this metal and turned it into my Astrum. The remaining impurities were mixed with other metals and used to create this building. It was constructed as a place for Paragons to cultivate, as well as a place for Paragons to spar."

    Every Paragon had their own origin story, Lan Jue and Lan Qing knew. Such power never came easily to anyone. In all the history of mankind no one had been born a Paragon. However, they didn't expect the Terminator to be so forthcoming with his tory. It was frankly unbelievable considering the strained relationship between their two Alliances, not to mention the Conclave's contention with Skyfire Avenue.

    Over the course of his story the three of them had traversed the hall and passed through a set of thick metal doors. They entered into a spacious empty room.

    Here the pressure was even clearer. After the Terminator's explanation and careful concentration, Lan Jue could feel the flows of protogenia flooding this place. All of this using only the impure shell of metal, while the core had lifted the Terminator from the Realm of Protogenia. Its strength was undisputable.

    "Welcome, guests." An electronic voice greeted them, followed by the appearance of a flickering image.

    Lan Jue's keen perception had noted that the Terminator seemed much more relaxed after they'd entered. Like returning home. Clearly this was an important room for the Terminator, like his secret place.

    "Ah, Noah. Raise the shields to full strength." The Terminator said.

    The projected image was a large man, who after careful examination looked remarkably like the Terminator only younger.

    "I have no children, nor am I capable of producing any. So, I had Noah created. I had models created using how I looked in my youth with the image of the woman I liked the most. I sort of tribute, I suppose." The Terminator grinningly described Noah's history.

    "We're going to fight here, Your Majesty?" Lan Jue asked.

    "Indeed," he replied. "Then we'll talk after. Are you sure you won't be fighting together?"

    Lan Jue nodded his head without hesitation. "So long as you don't mind fighting a war of attrition."

    A booming chuckle issued from the Paragon. "You know good opponents are hard to find. When Huan Xue was here we sparred often. Though if I'm being honest, I didn't like her fighting style. Changing the flow of time was very uncomfortable for me. Really, my greatest honor would be to one day face off against Jue Di."

    Lan Jue shrugged. "That shouldn't be too hard. Beat Lan Qing bad enough and I'm fairly sure Jue Di will make an appearance."

    The Terminator's eyes lit up. "Really?"

    "You'd have to beat us both pretty bad, more like." Lan Qing chimed in.

    The Terminator grinned. "Let's give it a try. Peerless Light Emperor of Middle Heaven... that's quite a long name, but I won't hold it against you. Shall we begin?"

    When he heard his Paragon title Lan Qing's face twitched. It was only a passing moment, though.

    Lan Jue swayed for a moment, then disappeared in a bolt of lightning. He was conveyed to a far corner where his body was surrounded by a shell of blue energy that his everything within. A figure joined him within the orb.

    After cultivating for so long with Zhou Qianlin, both of their Disciplines had grown exponentially. He'd been long eager to find someone to really test his skills against, and see just how much he'd improved. Things had been so busy he hadn't found the opportunity, so the Terminator's offer and this special ring of his couldn't have come at a better time.

    With a smile on his dusky features, the Terminator looked at Lan Qing. "After you!"

    Without standing on any further ceremony, the battle begun!
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