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Chapter 784: Infinite Violet

    Chapter 784: Infinite Violet

    As the light dimmed, the air around them suddenly felt thicker. Its quality changed, and the presence Lan Jue felt wasn't moving toward them, but instead toward the progenitor.

    A doppelganger? From Monarch. Lan Jue knew the chances of running into one of them was high, but all the same his heart began to beat faster. These monsters were at least equivalent to a Nirvana-level Paragon, and if the progenitor was as strong as they suspected this fight wasn't going to be easy. They were deep in enemy territory, beset on all sides by danger.

    "Everyone be careful!" Lan Jue cautioned. His mother was close, but they had to rely on their own strength too.

    A violet-gold light flashed in the horizon, and a sense of foreboding that difficult to describe swept through the area. The oppressive pulse of intention even sent Occisus' sword array into chaos, causing them to vanish and revealing the people that had been hidden within.

    Lan Jue stared with wide eyes. The strength of Nirvana couldn't do what they just witnessed. A terrifying thought occurred to him - what if the home worlds were disguised as humans, and were hiding on these planets? What would they do?

    If this was their ploy it would be a good one. Foregoing evolution to draw the humans in for a sneak attack... it would spell the end of their species, without question. What sort of carnage could a creature on the cusp of immortality produce?

    As the thought wormed through Lan Jue's mind he narrowed his eyes. It was the nightmare scenario, but he was wise enough to know the chances of it happening were slim. Prior to evolving they were subject to the restrictions of universal protogenia. They would be putting themselves at tremendous risk if the alien home worlds chose to fight. But, what if?

    They had been surprised before. They thought the aliens couldn't teleport twice in a short time, but they were wrong. The beasts spent a great deal to do precisely what the humans weren't expecting. Who was to say they wouldn't make a similar gamble if it meant destroying the humans' final line of defense?

    "Careful!" He urged again.

    The Pharmacist seemed to understand his worries. "That isn't him, it's fine." She had had the same thought, but it was different for her. She knew Monarch better than Lan Jue did.

    She had come face to face with him in the Shattered Starfields, during her failed assassination attempt. His riposte had been weakened, having just teleported, but she could feel him through her connection to Ultus. She knew Monarch's aura as well as she knew her own.

    What she felt from the nearby aura was very similar, but lacking in one key component. She couldn't feel Ulttus, and that meant this couldn't be him. At worst the creature had powers of the Infinite - not an immortal. They had a chance.

    Lan Jue shook off the fear that had gripped him. Excellent, this wasn't the real thing!

    In the distance the image of the Violet Monarch glared coldly at them. Forsaking needless chatter, it stepped forward and greeted them with a single punch.

    Everything between them and the alien doppelganger warped. It was like reality was compressed then exploded in all directions. Instantly the humans were bombarded with a painful sensation that threatened to drive them mad.

    The Pharmacist was in front. She lifted her right hand to defend herself and Occisus appeared in her grip, milky white like it was made of flawless jade. In response her dharmic image appeared, and the boon of her Slaughter Domain once more transformed her into a Reflection of Heaven and Earth.

    In an instant woman and sword were one. The promise of murder hung thick in the air as her image swelled. As it did, Occisus grew and brazenly swiped the air before it.

    A flash of white energy tore through the sky. The power from the doppelganger's punch was cut in half and pushed to the side. In the same instant a dull grey light burst from behind the Harbinger Faerie and shot into the distance, evading the enemy's punch.

    It was the Gourmet, Infernal Vanguard. Using Hades' unholy flame he'd paved an escape route for them. It removed them from the scope of the doppelganger's attack. The backdrop greyed as suddenly the humans were deposited closer to their attacker.

    The Monarch doppelganger grunted, vanishing in a blink and appearing before the humans. Its hand shot out, fingers bent like hideous claws as it groped for the top of Lan Jue and Qianlin's head.

    It was incomparably fast. By the time the humans were delivered from the Infernal Vanguard's route of escape, it was waiting for them.

    A dragon's roar shook the earth, and a golden serpent coiled up around the two non-Paragons. Instantly the doppelganger's attack destroyed it, but Lan Jue and Qianlin were spared for the moment.

    Gripping tightly to Qianlin's hand, Lan Jue didn't hesitate. Both of them became bolts of lightning and fled. Before the doppelganger could follow it was surrounded by an expanse of white energy from the Pharmacist. This time Occisus' power was deadly frigid.

    Monarch's doppelganger held its ground. Both of its hands lashed out, one toward the Pauper and gourmet, the other reaching for the Pharmacist's Banishing Blade. The two men were thrust away.

    Just as it seemed ready to grab Occisus, its hand turned over and it flicked out a finger to strike the flat of the blade. "Ding!" The Pharmacist and her weapon were knocked away, but the doppelganger didn't follow.

    It was finding Occisus' deadly power to be troublesome. It showed the truth, this beast wielded the power of the Infinite!

    In only this brief exchange the truth was revealed to them. The doppelganger's powers were inferior to Jue Di, though indeed ranked among the Infinite. Still, in a blink it had forced three Paragons to retreat. Its strength was clear.

    Only one more of their number was close enough to engage. The Driver.

    He engaged a step behind the others. Bolts of crystalline purple light coiled around his fist as he delivered a simple and unobtrusive punch.

    Captus appeared in Lan Jue's hand and his eyes burned with fervent light. Likewise there was a flash of blue by his side when Qianlin's Banishing Blade was summoned. The two of them looked silently at one another, looking at their reflections in each other's eyes.

    In perfect harmony both sword were thrust forward, toward the dominating alien.

    A bright light burned in the doppelganger's eyes, red and violet and angry. It stood in defiance of the Driver's punch, reaching out to grab him with its own hand.

    Its purpose here was clear; to destroy all the humans. Of course killing a handful of Paragons was certainly easier said than done. Even at the doppelganger's level a human's Talent had a constraining effect. And indeed this creature was just a shadow of its true self, and did not possess the protogenic comprehension of its victims.

    The monstrous effigy moved in to destroy the Driver, before turning its attention to the others. However, much to its surprise, the moment its hand clapped onto the Driver's fist it felt lightning rip through it. As though struck by lightning the doppelganger shook and shivered from thousands of empowered volts before retracting its arm. The Driver fled before it had time to recover.

    As its prey ran the beast lifted its arm. The hand that had stopped the Driver's attack was partly hidden beneath burning coils of electricity, but the damage was clear. Of course the Driver himself was not nearly strong enough to cause lasting damage to something so strong. However, it was important to remember that his combined yin-yang lightning was sanctified with immortal qi.

    Immortal qi, an enduring legacy from the immortal realm of the ancient days. What alien creature could match it? It bore the power of tribulation lightning in its depths.

    What Lan Jue and the others did not know was that tribulation lightning was created from universal protogenia. It was the foundation of that terrible, destructive force. The realm of immortals was used to shield the universe's most powerful from this.

    Defending oneself from the constant threat of elimination was taxing, so the wisest of the ancient conceived of methods to protect themselves. Among them was channeling universal protogenia, transforming it at just the right time into a weapon.

    It became necessary that one needed to know how to manipulate universal protogenia to become an immortal. Only if it was proven they could command those forces would they be allowed to serve their functions in the immortal realm and contribute to their shared protection. Thus where they able to call upon the power of the immortal realm.

    For the alien home worlds, that which they feared most was what they fought so fervently against - universal protogenia. Monarch's copy could not defend itself from the echoes of tribulation lightning that lived in the Driver's Discipline. It had surprised the beast, for it thought it knew the scope of the human's power. Carelessness had brought consequences.

    Its reprieve was short lived, as a moment later Lan Jue and Qianlin's sword attack caught up with it. Focused flow and a thousand swords as one - Harmonious Blades, without reservation!

    Against a foe as powerful as this, Lan Jue didn't dare hold back. It was now or never - the time to break through had come.
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