Chapter 722: Chu Cheng Advances

    Chapter 722: Chu Cheng Advances

    When he saw the strike Lan Jue quietly nodded his head. He wasn't the only one to advance, his companions were all getting stronger. For the Four Divine Monarchs, strength had always been a priority for each of them.

    Ting! The ringing sound brought Lan Jue's attention back to the fight.

    Lan Qing had lifted his right hand and, with only his middle finger, flicked away Hades' Falchion.

    The Astrum responded with a low rumble and the whole body of the blade vibrated. Chu Cheng's world of solemn gray grew dimmer and more obscure. In front of Lan Qing a single gray door appeared.

    Another sword slash burst out from the door as it opened. From overhead Hades' Falchion descended to join it. The two attacks supplemented each other as they raced for the center of Lan Qing's chest.

    Ting-! Lan Qing never flinched and fell back a step as his middle finger knocked the danger away. His body began to glow with a faint golden aura. The emanation of enlightenment and compassion swelled his oppressive aura at the same time.

    Even from their vantage Hua Li and Lan Qing were finding it hard to breathe.

    Such pressure! Hua Li even gasped audibly. What this big brother's true strength?

    Hades' Falchion flitted through the air, coming at Lan Qing with blinding speed from every direction to try and flip passed his defenses. Lan Qing never counter-attacked, and simply flicked or slapped away the blade whenever it got close.

    Still his aura strengthened. It swelled with every passing moment, rose with every breath to pulverize them in an indescribable power.

    In the midst of that pressure the whole arena started to quake. Chu Cheng's attacks had slowed as they tried to fight through the influence of Lan Qing's emulsions.

    Golden light shone brighter around Lan Qing until he was a blazing silhouette. Any time Hades' Falchion got close it to the deathly aura it bore was dispersed. Its desperate efforts were only getting weaker.

    This was clearly a one-sided contest.

    "Just this and already you can't keep up? Do you want to be a Paragon?" Lan Qing's disdainful taunt rolled like thunder through the room.

    A flash of light revealed Chu Cheng suspended in air. Lan Qing's call had forced him to appear. His grey eyes had become a seething blood red, and he burned with pride and a thirst for victory that made his aura flare.

    They all knew Lan Qing was their better, but deep in their hearts who didn't want to put the soldier in his place?

    The suffocating pressure collapsed. Chu Cheng threw his head back and released a wild scream into the air that summoned a majestic ashen aura. The influence of his power continued to spread through the area, and he slashes Hades' Falchion held tight in his white-knuckle grip. Each vicious cut birthed a blinding flash and the shadow of strange archaic runes.

    Chu Cheng himself was ripped apart. Splintering parts of himself were swallowed into the nine runes that hung in the air. As he vanished the runes overlapped one another, causing Hades' Falchion to blaze with a staggering light before shooting ahead. A streak of burning power was left in its wake.

    Lan Qing's lips turned up in a smirk. He stamped a foot forward and punched his right hand. The surreal image of Vairochana appeared behind him. The Buddha's resplendent light mingled with the glow of compassion from Lan Qing, and together they enveloped Hades' Falchion.

    The nine runes along the Astrum's surface burned as it struggled against the light. Then, Lan Qing's punch landed. First the falchion shook then thrown back. Its nine runes were shed and hung in the air.

    Suddenly, everything stopped. The crushing pressure, Vairochana, Lan Qing... everything vanished without a trace. In the ensuing stillness the gray light from Hades' Falchion bloomed. As though they were reawakened, the runes surged with pulsing waves of energy.

    Chu Cheng appeared in the midst of those runes, seated cross-legged in mid-air with his eyes closed. All around him the world roiled in a state of flux. Sometimes the nightmarish image of the river Styx and its fetid, poison water prevailed. Sometimes it was a blazing sun ready to swallow the world. All throughout the gray fires of the underworld rose in staggering columns.

    His powers were raging out of his control. Wild tempests of protogenia appeared and vanished in the same moment. But the period of calamity was short lived. Suddenly and with tremendous force, a pulse of pure protogenic effusion exploded through the arena. For a moment they were immersed in the underworld. Everything was drained of color, and a deathly stillness hung over everything.

    Success! Lan Jue's eyes lit up as he watched. He and Hua Li were protected beneath a shell of golden power - Lan Qing had joined them by their side.

    Lan Qing had slowly built pressure since the fight's outset. He urged on Chu Cheng's fighting will and then - when the pressure was at its greatest - he removed it. With nothing to contend against Chu Cheng's power gushed out to fill the vacuum and transformed him from an Adept into a Paragon.

    Lan Jue smirked as he watched the dramatic display. "I'm the last one. I never thought that'd be the case."

    Hua Li's response was less than sympathetic. "So what? You're not a Paragon but I still struggled against you."

    Lan Jue's chortling laughter responded. "Stop fussing. When I break through I'll protect you!"

    Hua Li stared at him. "So you say, but you better keep your word. You aren't going to meditate on the changes in his protogenia?"

    Lan Jue shook his head. "No need. My protogenia is solid and I know my path. I need no more guidance."

    He wasn't exaggerating, for with the addition of the immortal qi and all his experience with other Paragons, he knew precisely what he needed to do.

    Humanity now had a new Paragon among them. This time it was the North who would celebrate their good fortune.

    Chu Cheng's ascension also marked the return of the Hades' bloodline. First the Infernal Vanguard, now him. Unless things changed they had the power necessary to wrest the Dark Citadel from the hands of Satan.

    The three Monarchs remained to look after Chu Cheng. The process of breaking through was sometimes long and sometimes short, it depended on the individual's comprehension and protogenic control.

    For Chu Cheng, he had many benefits in his favor contributing to his rise. The Clairvoyant's gift of the Emberblossom pendant guided him. Recultivating at his peak had tempered his abilities further, culminating in the military training he'd undergone to lead his people. All of that helped push him to this point.

    Lan Jue quietly informed the Gourmet, who then alerted his family. Before long the old patriarch of the Hades Bloodline, Chu Yun, appeared with the current head of the family, Chu Dong. Several other notable members of the clan had also come.

    Chu Yun wept openly as he saw his grandson in the midst of his breakthrough. He had waited for more years than he could remember for this moment.

    After two days and two nights Chu Cheng completed his transformation. Once it was done the North rang with trumpets and cheering cries. No good news had come to their Alliance since the defeat in the Shattered Starfields. But now they had a new Paragon to protect them in this dark hour; Hades!

    He was placed at the bottom of the Paragon List.

    Once the Chu Family took over their friend's vigil, Lan Qing and Lan Jue left Luo and returned to Skyfire. There was much that required their attention.

    Once they returned Lan Qing left almost immediately. Lan Jue didn't know what business he had to attend to. As for Lan Jue, he didn't need to ask the Avenue what was needed before receiving some bad news.

    "Daddy, mommy wanted me to give this to you." Lan Jue looked at the small girl in his arms and felt his heart inexplicably seize.

    Jun'er had come to see him shortly after he'd returned to Zeus' Jewelry Shop. She'd come by herself. With the help of her psionic projection helmet Jun'er walked the streets like anyone else. A holodisk player was gripped in her tiny hands.

    Lan Jue thought back to when the Pharmacist left them on Luo. He knew what it was even before looking at it.

    "I'll check it later. How about you and me go get some food. What do you think?" He spoke tenderly. He didn't want to watch it with her, it would be too frightening and painful.

    But the little soothsayer shook her head and smiled. "No! Mama said she wants me to watch it with you. She said there's something for me, too, but that I had to wait for you daddy. I waited, am I a good girl?"

    He pinched her pudgy white cheeks. "Yes you are. Alright, let's see."

    Lan Jue set up the projector and hit play. It spat forth a beam of light that painted an image in the air before them.

    It was the Pharmacist.

    As always she was garbed in traditional Chinese clothing; a silken qipao with intricately woven flowers scattered across a white backdrop. Her long hair was meticulously kept in a bun on top of her head without a single hair out of place.

    "Lan Jue... I hope you don't mind me using your name instead of your title. I'm sorry I deceived you. All the years of suffering came crashing back in that moment. Breaking through also released the barriers I'd built in my heart, and I was flooded with all the pain I'd hidden away. I thought for a long time... thought about everything he and I went through. We grew up together, learned together, fell in love. In the end we were the most important people in each other's lives."

    "Ever since I have fought my hardest to suppress these feelings. Jun'er gave me faith to keep going on. I fooled myself into thinking he'd just encountered some accident. But he was strong enough to make it. I can't hold onto that lie anymore."

    The image of the Pharmacist paused as she fought the sadness welling up within her.

    "He'd dead. There's no escaping that fact. There probably isn't even anything left of him but my heart can't take it. I can't fight it anymore, I must find him. No matter the consequence... even if it means my death, I have to go. I know it's a foolish choice and will end in failure, but I believe you understand what I'm feeling. I need to find anything that remains of the man I love."
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