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Chapter 832: Forced Advancement

    Chapter 832: Forced Advancement

    Lan Jue and the others felt the pressure mounting when suddenly the alien offensive reached a wild crescendo.

    "Hmph!" The Pontiff lurched with a grunt, and the staff clutched in his hands cracked. The holy light that enveloped him dimmed visibly as a trickle of blood exited the corner of his mouth.

    The loss of his perennial adversary lingered in his mind, a sadness that ate away at him. After all, what was light without darkness?

    He fought with everything left in him, especially after witnessing the hell that had descended upon Europa. His heart broke to look upon the carnage, to know that the Pontiff's bloodline would likely end now with him.

    The power of his holy light was strong against the heathen alien force, especially under the empowering light of the Queen of Heaven. But his enemies were too strong. A momentary dip in defenses had left him open to a blast from one of the titans. This half beat of exhaustion made his protogenia unstable, it felt like his organs were on fire. Qianlin's Queen of Heaven Domain had, thankfully, prevented his loss of control from consuming him entirely.

    However the Paragons were only just holding their foes back. A single chink in their armor could spell disaster. Luo Xianni reacted quickly, tricking the enemy and sending several of the aliens into deep space. For the moment they were removed from play, but even then the Paragons were on the precipice of losing control.

    This wasn't the first fight these valiant men and women had fought, even within the last few hours. Each of them had fought hard against the Violet Prince and his coterie mere hours before. They had leapt from the frying pan to the proverbial fire the moment they returned to Middle Heaven.

    After the Pontiff began to falter, the Bookworm and Keeper began to show signs of fatigue. It was enough for the enemy's Domain to prosper. Both were blasted away, bleeding from serious injuries.

    All seemed lost.

    A terrible howl shuddered through everyone. Their eyes were stabbed by a light so bright and resplendent they winced against the intensity. A crystalline, purple blaze spread out all around them that was quickly followed by an incomparably powerful aura.

    Purple. A purple that swallowed the entirety of the universe. A noble, terrible purple spreading through the whole battlefield. Even the mighty warriors of the Infinite stopped to stare in wide-eyed wonderment.

    Lan Jue's heart sank, his face stern. The image of his dharma, the Middle Heaven Great Emperor of the North Star of Purple Subtlety, was clearer than ever. The myriad stars the twinkled in the distance dimmed. Even Europa and the three alien planets were less visible.

    The aura that enveloped him inflated with stunning speed and intensity, so intense that an entirely new consciousness seemed to spring up in the universe around them. Even the stars submitted themselves to it.

    This ubiquitous awareness appeared as Lan Jue's aura exploded outward by orders of magnitude. His dharma loomed large, golden runes blazing into existence upon the blade of Captus gripped in its hand.

    In the same instant a change overcome the image of Quanyin. The outline of an arrow was etched in her forehead and moments later Qianlin's image was painted a pale shade of gold. So intense was her light that it could be seen burning from the surface of human planets in the far distance. Not only was her dharmic image clearer, but ghost-like copies spread out behind her. Instantly the influence of her light surged and the Paragons each felt no less than ten percent more capable. Those that had been injured felt their protogenia quickly recover.

    This...

    Did they break through?

    The aliens stared in shock, but it was a state mirrored by their human enemies.

    Lan Jue's face vanished, replaced with one very similar but far more imposing. The golden runes etched into Captus flared and as their light spread out the tint of purple was washed away. A beautiful, starry expanse took its place.

    It was like the entirety of the universe was being pressed into this small space. The countless stars clustered around the powerful beings present, man and alien alike.

    Boom- -!

    The vibrations from the explosion reverberated through the souls of everyone present. The Emperor of Heaven expanded to a hundred times its size, making Poseidon look like a child's toy.

    It slowly carved a path with its weapon, leaving behind a curtain of red that covered everything.

    Weaker alien monsters felt their vitality vanish, burned away in an instant before the eternity of death overtook them. In the midst of everyone appeared a great portal of light. Three words hovered above it: Gate of Cataclysm 1

    Blood-red light flickered from the portal like a giant vortex. It drank up the souls of the monsters from every corner of the battlefield.

    The three Infinite-level alien generals were the first to react before being destroyed. They released the entirety of their power without reservation, spreading their Domain out to its limits to ward off the deadly glare of the gate. They were thousands of kilometers away before the gates was fully open.

    Other aliens also attempted to flee, but the hunger of the gate was more than they could contend against. The first to be consumed by its light - one of the titans - didn't even have time to scream before death came for it. One was quickly followed by two, then a third as the slower monsters were swallowed up. Three Nirvana-level generals lost their life to the Gate of Cataclysm.

    However in the midst of this terrifying display, the three alien home worlds suddenly grew brighter. Violet light erupted from their surfaces like a haze. It stretched all the way out to the beleaguered alien generals, and when it crested over them they were swept away. Vanished.

    The burning words above the portal began to weaken, the majestic image of the Emperor started to fade. Though it shrunk back to its former size the strange consciousness it had birthed remained all around them, omnipotent and eternal.

    Lan Jue reappeared among the others, kneeling in the vacuum of space hand in hand with Qianlin. Both of their faces were oddly flushed, eyes closed.

    Jue Di looked at them with furrowed brows. He swung his golden staff and a golden light surrounded the human Paragons. In a flash they were gone.

    The violet light from the alien home worlds dissolved and suddenly everything was back to normal. And yet it wasn't, for the aura of those planets was still palpable. Who could say if they were now capable of fighting back?

    A few breaths later the alien generals returned, though they weren't alone. This time they were joined by the Violet Prince and Princess, and their horde. They started for the main battlefield.

    Poseidon and Middle Heaven gave the enemy creatures no quarter. With the aid of their drones, the aliens were on the verge of destruction. Poseidon's trident was particularly devastating, obliterating anything unfortunate enough to be in the path of its light.

    Hummmmm! The buzzing sound came over them like a wave. Finally the aliens, until now indomitable in their will to fight, broke off their attack and retreated. The Violent Prince, riding his giant monstrosity, came bearing down upon the armada with his generals at his side. Their eyes burned with lust for destruction.

    The fighting stopped. Middle Heaven and Poseidon paused, waiting. The allied fleet had suffered significant losses over the last few hours, but the aliens had suffered far worse. In terms of sheer numbers the humans had come out of the battle victorious. But whether that would remain true if the fight continued was hard to say. After all, for all their strength the Paragons had proved incapable of defeating the alien commanders.

    The alien horde fell back behind the Prince, falling into formation. The two armies kept their distance, staring.

    Drones from the various bastions returned to their ships to charge. Once more, they found themselves in a stalemate. Their war shook the heavens, both sides needed a moment to catch their breath.

    Lan Jue and Qianlin were teleported back aboard Middle Heaven with the Photographer's help, though they themselves remained unchanged. They knelt across from one another as flows of protogenia whipped around them erratically.

    Qianlin's Domain appeared and disappeared in maddening flickers of power. From time to time her pretty face would twist into expressions of pain.

    In those last moments their situation had become critical. To save the lives of his compatriots, Lan Jue had decided to force a breakthrough.

    His cultivation had already been at the border of Reflection of Heaven and Earth, as had Zhou Qianlin's. Both of them had been trying to repress the draw of Nirvana.

    They had no choice. The only way to free themselves from the alien onslaught was to take drastic measures. They were in danger of being overrun, and the creatures had left them no opportunity to flee.

    They couldn't afford to die. If they did, if the Paragons were lost, then humanity was lost. Lan Jue was forced to decide, and he chose to break through.

    Rising to new heights of power galvanized his protogenia. It also solidified the disparate pieces of his inheritance and summoned the consciousness of the Emperor of the North Star. As Lan Jue had hoped, gathering the spirit of the emperor had temporarily catapulted him into incredible levels of power. The power and influence of his Boundless Starlight Domain soared, to the point where it unlocked the profound truths hidden with Captus and summoned the Gates of Cataclysm. Three of the mighty alien creatures were swallowed up by its terrible power.

    But this time his breakthrough was different. He was rising to a new level of Paragon, whereas before he was transforming from an Adept. Crossing the threshold to a new understanding of protogenia and the changes it wrought were distinct.

    Before he rose sharply as a result of accumulated learning. This time he forced a breakthrough. Power summoned from the vestiges of the Emperor of the North Star was less potent.

    1. The name of Lan Jue's sword in Chinese is directly translated as 'collapsing immortal sword' or 'trapping immortal sword'. The portal shares the same name, but I changed it to cataclysm due to the manifestation of the sword's power. You can see it in action when parts of reality collapse after its use.
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