Chapter 856: Jue Di’s Essence

    Chapter 856: Jue Di's Essence

    Kang Hui wanted to learn more about what happened, but he knew now wasn't the time.

    "Aye aye! We comply with your orders, Admiral." He made no further fuss and cut the connection.

    The control room was calm, and the only sound was Lan Qing giving his soldiers orders. The armada began to fall back while maintaining formation. They were heading back toward Angel.

    The human forces considered this exchange a victory, but it didn't come without significant cost. Battle damage reports quickly started crossing Lan Qing's desk.

    Drones from Middle Heaven and Poseidon suffered, with more than two thirds of their total number gone. Both bastions were running on minimum energy because their stores were almost entirely depleted. Poseidon wouldn't be able to deploy its mecha transformation for at least half a month. It had also run out of all Soft Water bombs.

    The greatest loss was the death of Jue Di.

    He was the strongest human alive, master of the Infinite. Through his own power and sacrifice he struck down scores of monsters, and kept the alien elite busy while Lan Qing decimated the enemy.

    Even Lan Qing did not know Jue Di was planning to give his life in this way. Although, he had felt that Jue Di was on the verge of collapse from the weight of universal protogenia even before making the decision to break through into immortality.

    Lan Jue stood in dumb silence. He knew something was amiss when he saw the Compliance Rod of Luo Xianni's back. Suddenly he realized what that dark and ominous feeling was he had on Monarch.

    His father. His father was dead. It was more than he could get his head around.

    All his life Lan Jue thought his father was unbeatable - a powerhouse without equal, towering as a mountain. There was no power in the universe that could stop him. And yet it was the power of the universe that laid him low, slain by universal protogenia!

    For the first time Lan Jue hated it. He hated the whole universe for what it took from him.

    "No, that's impossible. Dad can't be dead! I don't believe it - I can't!" Lan Jue muttered his rejection but the tears on his face told a different story. His body shook as he confronted Luo Xianni with long strides.

    "Mom... Dad, he...!" Luo Xianni immediately wrapped him in a tight hug. She shuddered with a painful cry.

    With Jue Di gone, the Photographer was the last Infinite-level Paragon left to humanity. But right now she cried like a child, consumed by pain and sadness. This despondency hung over everyone like a fog.

    The flows of protogenia around Luo Xianni were rough and intense. So much so, in fact, that Lan Jue worried for her. Universal protogenia was cruel and undiscriminating.

    After achieving Nirvana, Lan Jue had become more sensitive to the dangers of that ubiquitous power, though he was not a focus of it yet. His eyes burned with rage and pain. Damn universal protogenia!

    He was plotting ways to get back at the universe when a soothing energy descended upon him and Luo Xianni, isolating them. The threat of universal protogenia subsided at it seemed to lose its target. Under that gentle power Luo Xianni's protogenia stabilized.

    After achieving Nirvana, Zhou Qianlin's ability to sooth and steady one's powers had grown significantly.

    "Ah!" Qianlin gasped, and quickly moved to join the other two. "Aunt, stop crying."

    Like a petulant child Luo Xianni's head snapped up. She glared daggers at the girl. "What did you call me?!"

    Her face reddened. "Mother!"

    Luo Xianni's head returned to her son's shoulder and she continued to sob.

    Qianlin looked at her, then at Lan Jue. She spoke to them softly. "Mother, please stop crying. Father, he... he may not be dead... "

    The Photographer's body straightened, stuff as the rod on her back. Lan Qing also roused from his morose stupor. Suddenly the eyes of every Paragon were trained on Zhou Qianlin.

    "Qianlin. What are you saying? He isn't dead?" Lan Jue placed a hand on her shoulder and tried to keep the excitement from his voice.

    She glanced at her shoulder, caught in his slightly painful grip. She nodded. "Just now I could feel him, just barely. His body is gone but I can still sense his presence, like his essence has become part of my protogenia."

    The humans gathered in the control room were the peak of human ability. Wordlessly they turned their eyes to the Compliance Rod. If there was anything left of the man it would live in the astrum he'd created.

    Luo Xianni deftly reached behind and with a flick of the wrist brought the staff forward.

    "Qianlin, now isn't the time to delude your mother. My heart can't take it. Now you make sure your father didn't -" She couldn't go on, her body shook and sobs stopped her from completing the thought.

    Lan Jue felt hope and anxiety rise within him. The greater the wish, the deeper the disappointment. If there was a chance that some part of his father remained, he would be elated. But if it were not true, the death of hope would be cruel and acute.

    Qianlin solemnly placed her delicate hands on the staff. The white light of her Domain spread out and enveloped it. Lan Jue immediately stepped behind her and placed his hands on her back, lending his power to hers. Though their Disciplines were different, Lan Jue's help amplified both their abilities by several times.

    Under the light of the Queen of Heaven the Paragons felt their exhaustion melt away. The erratic pulses of protogenia that emerged from their battered bodies steadied. Those that were close to their bottleneck felt the pull of a breakthrough tugging at them.

    Qianlin's abilities were already near legendary, and their usefulness widely lauded. If she could somehow bring Jue Di back it would be nothing short of a miracle. The faith in her as a goddess would come from more than just non-Adepts.

    After ten minutes her white and gold aura slowly receded, then was gone. The look on her face was one of confusion.

    "What is it?" Luo Xianni asked, though she feared the answer.

    Qianlin looked at her mother in law. "It's fine. Father had reached the pinnacle of humanity long ago. In a way he's learned to evade universal protogenia, like the home worlds did by becoming planets. He had his own method, specifically this staff. It has a way to hide him from the universe. Father sacrificed himself, certainly, but he put his essence - his soul - into the Compliance Rod. I can feel him clearly, he's in there."

    Luo Xianni's words were growing more desperate. "Is there a way to bring him back?"

    She knew what it meant to speak of an Adept's soul. So long as her husband's will remained there remained a chance. Only, even she had been unable to sense him in the staff.

    Qianlin explained. "Father sealed himself away deep within the weapon. He had to, otherwise universal protogenia would still be able to find him. I was only able to sense him because my Domain isolated us from the threat."

    The Pharmacist was the next to speak up. "There is a precedent. In the ancient days immortals were somewhat of a misnomer. Their lives were limited, but lifespans stretched for thousands of years. Three thousand years was typical, I believe - of course, assuming they were protected in an immortal realm. Just as Qianlin said, like the aliens his Majesty Jue Di could have found a way to hide himself from universal protogenia. That should mean there's a chance to bring him back. Once one achieves immortality reforming a physical body shouldn't be too difficult. However I imagine it would require a tremendous amount of vital energy. The only way to withstand the power of universal protogenia is to have enough power to match it."

    Zhou Qianlin nodded in agreement. "I had the same thought, and gathering that vital energy shouldn't be a problem. In fact we just killed an Infinite-level alien and recovered its crystal. The real problem now is that we aren't strong enough to contend with universal protogenia. Perhaps, when I break through to the Infinite, we can try."

    Hearing them discuss the possibility helped Luo Xianni shed her grief. She had experienced the mysteries of Qianlin's power herself, even going so far as to rely on it to rise to the Infinite. So far it had protected her reliably from the wrath of the universe.

    "It would be a miracle if you could bring their father back. Qianlin, thank you. Without you we wouldn't have known his soul remained, much less have a hope of bringing him back."

    Lan Jue and Lan Qing openly gaped, and how could they not? Their father was not wholly dead, and there existed a chance to bring him back. They'd found fortune in the midst of tragedy.

    Lan Jue's eyes almost unconsciously turned toward the Pharmacist. "Sister, if we can do this with Father, could your husband...?"

    The Pharmacist's face bore signs of sadness as she lifted her head, and sorrowfully stared at Ultus.
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