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Chapter 833: Collapsing Crisis

    Chapter 833: Collapsing Crisis

    An important distinction was control. Although Lan Jue managed to regulate the flows of protogenia to some degree, management of it was difficult. If he and Qianlin had been on more solid ground, their Harmonious Swords technique would have slain a third of the alien hierarchy.

    He saved the lives of his friends by breaking through early. But now there were after effects to contend with.

    The couple were struggling against a sea of raging protogenia that threatened to swallow them up or shatter altogether. The pain of it was unimaginable.

    For Lan Jue the situation was slightly better because of a solid foundation. The problem was more serious for Zhou Qianlin.

    Their connection meant his breakthrough catalyzed hers. In many ways they were one entity, and one couldn't cross the threshold to another level without the other.

    Qianlin's foundation was less stable than Lan Jue's, and her protogenia sputtered as she struggled to keep it under control. If not for the Queen of Heaven's inherent ability to soothe these energies she would already have been consumed by the raw power.

    Lan Jue helped as much as he could, absorbing the excess energies and protogenia from her. He fought to help her assimilate these powers, taking on the pressure of two peoples' breakthrough. He would be able to stabilize his own ascension, but Qianlin needed his help.

    The alien horde was not aware of Lan Jue's precarious situation. All they witnessed was the breakthrough of the two young lovers. Fear of what they could do was part of what stayed their hand.

    "What can we do?" Luo Xianni asked of Jue Di.

    Lan Jue's father shook his head. "There is nothing we can do, only they have the power to get through it. Their breakthrough isn't complete until they've learned to control it. Their condition is dire, but they're managing for the time being. The more time we give them to sort it out, the more likely they are to succeed."

    Instead of being at ease from his determination, Luo Xianni was shocked. "Are you saying they could collapse?"

    Jui Di nodded solemnly. "He did it to save us all."

    At the time it was necessary. Lan Jue knew there was a risk he could lose control, but the aliens were too strong.

    His decision was well timed. The Violet Prince and Princess arrived only moments after their escape. If they had delayed any longer there was a good chance many Paragons would have died. Breaking through then would have been too late. Lan Jue's rash decision had saved their lives and given them a chance to keep fighting.

    "Is there nothing? No technique we can try?" Luo Xianni asked. "We can't help them bear the pressure?"

    Jue Di categorically refuted. "No, it would only add to the chaos of their protogenia..."

    He trailed off as Lan Jue and Zhou Qianlin's features changed. Thin cracks appeared in space-time around them and frightening gusts of errant protogenia surged.

    "No!" Luo Xianni gasped. Without hesitation she released her interdimensional powers, transferring her children and Jue, as well as herself, out into space behind Middle Heaven.

    She had no choice. Unrestricted power from two Nirvana-level Paragons could tear the Eastern bastion apart from the inside.

    Lan Qing had been given the news and stood within the control center with his hands clenched into fists. The screen in front of him flickered as it changed to the scene outside, focused on his little brother and future sister in law.

    Flickers of lightning snaked around Lan Jue. Qianlin, too, was surrounded by a blinding white light like a thousand thunderclaps. Both of them were on the verge of total protogenic collapse.

    Breakthrough's were a tricky thing. Too slow and you hampered development, but too fast and you risked losing control of the powers that used you as a conduit. That was the problem they faced now.

    Luo Xianni's chest heaved as she battled her fear. Jue Di's hands had curled into white-knuckled fists.

    Both of them could do nothing but fear for the lives of their children.

    Something he'd heard from the Clairvoyant suddenly sprang up in Lan Qing's mind. Lan Jue was the key to surviving disaster. So long as he lived there was hope. But if he died...

    The admiral shut his eyes tight. He fought the dread that roiled within him so fiercely he didn't notice his fingernails digging into his palms, drawing blood.

    A-Jue, endure!

    He was trying, but the intensity of his breakthrough with Qianlin was tremendous. Nirvana, vast and pervasive. It felt like his protogenia was fragmenting. All the different kinds of it, everywhere all at once. He could feel it spread out through the universe like an inseparable part of the fabric of reality.

    He knew so little of this truth, a knowledge that only scratched the surface. Qianlin was altogether unfamiliar with it. Neither of them knew what they faced or how to control it!

    The cultivation process was about deepening one's understanding. Through exploring one's own protogenia a Paragon uncovered the secrets of the universe as they pertained to them. Reaching milestones of knowledge was how one rose to higher levels.

    Lan Jue and Qianlin had reached Nirvana from being Adepts in the space of a few days. Their outstanding success in breaking through catapulted them to Reflections of Heaven and Earth. Then, through the power of faith they were ascended to the border of Nirvana. Climbing so fast was not just unthinkable, it was dangerous.

    Before them, there were only three other Paragons of comparable strength. The Terminator was an old master, one who had used many years of studious learning to achieve his strength. Lan Jue and Qianlin achieved the same realizations in a fraction of the time!

    Fissures in reality continued to appear around them as wild protogenia began to snowball out of control. Pain and pressure mounted as time stretched on.

    Protogenic collapse inevitably lead to mental breakdown. When their will collapsed, so would the rest of them.

    Despair crept into Lan Jue's heart. Although he'd been a Paragon only a short time, he'd experienced the world of protogenia through his Zeus ascension for years. He knew what collapse meant, knew what it felt like when it crossed the line into chaos. He'd reached a point of no return.

    If he was concerned for himself alone, he could prevail. But focusing on himself would abandon Qianlin to destruction. Could he give up the woman who so selflessly sacrificed herself for him? Of course not.

    Had the time come for the two of them to pass into history, as he promised they would, together? Lan Jue was unwilling to accept it, not because he feared death -crossing into the spirit realm with his love was not such a bad thing - but because he couldn't free humanity from the scourge of alien covetousness. Not even his death would give humanity a chance to survive.

    His body began to grow translucent. Cracks and fractures that had appeared around him were absorbed into his ethereal form to make him seem... incomplete.

    Jue Di could stand it no more and shut his eyes against the pain. He, too, knew there was no going back. Lan Jue had lost control of his protogenia.

    Qianlin was better off, but only slightly.

    It was done. Everything, lost.

    Luo Xianni's eyes were wet with tears. Why... why didn't she decide to sacrifice herself in his place? If she hadn't been so selfish with her own life perhaps these two could have lived. Why did she hesitate?

    Something began to flicker in the center of Lan Jue's chest. A sound like shards of shattered glass colliding hung over him. It was followed by a golden light which, though it was not brilliant, quickly spread out around him like a star's corona.

    It spread farther, encompassing both Lan Jue and Qianlin and painting both of them gold. The waves of erratic protogenia they released slowed, their figures becoming more substantive. 1

    Suddenly the universe around them seemed to light up. For a moment it was like all the stars in view burned brighter to bear witness. The alien forces, on the verge of continuing their assault, were taken aback by the unexpected change. They fell back for fear of reprisal at the command of their Prince and Princess, returning to the home worlds.

    As the starlight rose constellations were marked out on Lan Jue's body. Sensing something, Jue Di opened his eyes.

    He witnessed beams of starlight converging on the beleaguered body of his son and coiling around him. Like glue they fixed the fractures of reality around him and forced them shut and soothed his form.

    Lan Jue's ethereal form stabilized. Behind him the image of the Middle Heaven Great Emperor of the North Pole Star of Purple Subtlety emerged.

    Stars gleamed brighter as his dharmic image revealed itself, enhancing each other's beauty. The power of the stars concentrated upon Lan Jue and stabilized his protogenia - consolidating his ascension. Beneath the sublime starlight he was remolded, body and soul.

    Little by little his body started to glow. The light came from acupuncture points, where within each one seemed to burn a miniature star. All of a sudden Lan Jue's body was almost indistinguishable from the backdrop of glittering celestial bodies. Likewise Lan Jue's image was reflected in the light of every distant star.

    Nirvana, vast and pervasive!

    Jue Di stared with his mouth agape, the pain in his expression replaced with shock. It was inconceivable that his son should be saved in the moment of his destruction. Something had pulled Lan Jue back from imminent collapse.

    What he could not know was the pendant Lan Jue had on his chest, given to him by the Clairvoyant, had shattered and disappeared into the cosmos.

    1. An interesting phenomenon in human health occurs sometimes in the moments before death. I believe it usually happens more to people who've been sick for a long time. Suddenly there will be a moment of clarity, of perfect lucidity when for no discernable reason the things that ail them seem to melt away. Then they die. In Chinese medicine we call it the last light of a dying flame. The body stops struggling and releases the final stores of vital qi, granting a final few moments of life before yin and yang separate and the spirit leaves. It's infinitely cruel for people who aren't prepared for it, but an absolute gift for those who are.
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