Chapter 859: I Understand

    Chapter 859: I Understand

    Chapter 859: I Understand

    "Eventually our paths split. I chose the life of service and she wishes the peace of seclusion. If she did not studiously focus on her cultivation, she said, she would quickly fall behind me. It was the only way for her to keep up."

    "So, as you know, I became a highly sought after student in university. Many women were interested in me, but I never pursued any of them. It wasn't that I didn't like women, I had her. She had taken my heart and there would be no other. I liked it, this feeling. Although we only saw each other very rarely our feelings for one another never dulled. Our affection only grew stronger."

    "Later, when I graduated, I proposed to her. By then I was recognized as talented and nothing stood in the way of our union. In the end I regret... I regret focusing so hard on quick success. Destiny makes fool of people, maybe if there was fairness in the universe we would have lived long happy lives together. Instead I left on my mission and was captured by the monsters. My wife was left without a husband."

    "You see me now, know my condition - bodiless. In order to live on and preserve my consciousness I fused with Ultus. I became its sword spirit, though even now I cannot completely combine myself and the sword. I used to be its master, and no matter the circumstances the master can never become his own servant. A true sword spirit must be naturally occurring. Were it not for my obsession to see her again my soul would have passed into the nether long ago."

    "In helping them to defeat that avatar I used up the last of my energy. I can only remain a short time more, my final death will come at any moment. I felt her desire to die before, when she came and found me in the Shattered Starfields. If she learns that I am gone I fear she will lose all will to keep going. I needed time to think, and I believe I've come up with the only way for her to come around and enjoy life once more."

    Now there was pain clear in Li Ke's voice. There was so much hope he would somehow live on - to live with the Pharmacist forever! Instead his deep-held desire would need to go unfulfilled, replaced with the pain of hopelessness.

    He had been gone from the world of the living for too long. It was a small blessing that he did not know he had a daughter. His only concern was to find something his lost love could rely on.

    Lan Qing nodded. "How would you like me to help?"

    After a moment of silence Li Ke went on. "Marry her. I realize how this requests sounds, but I need to know she has someone solid to lean upon. I can't stand to watch her in pain, nor can I watch her sadness convince her to follow me in death."

    Lan Qing was stunned to silence. He had never been an overly emotional man, and had no experience in these matters. The thought had never even occurred to him until Li Ke made the strange proposition. Now he understood, this had been Li Ke's plan. It was inconceivable...

    "Why? Classmate, why choose me?" Lan Qing queried.

    "Because you are most suitable," came the spirit's answer. "I know you. I understand you. No one else was more like me when I drew breath. You are a commander, and command great potential. Most importantly your original yang is plentiful [1. A euphemism, I believe, saying he's never lain with a woman. Original qi is derived from the Kidneys in Chinese medicine, and excessive sexual activity can drain your 'pre-heaven essence', damaging your original qi. The Chinese do not believe there is a way to replenish this pre-heaven essence.] and you've known no other women. Thus you are the best choice. Ultus has also chosen you. It is not lost on me that this is unfair to you, but all I can offer is what remains of me locked within this sword - including knowledge of the Banishing Strategy. With this legacy you can break through your bottleneck to the next level."

    "I'm not sure this will work..." Lan Qing sighed. "I'm not refusing, it's just she's unlikely to accept this. She's already a Reflection of Heaven and Earth, and even if you request it of her directly she likely won't have any amiable feelings. I'm not you. I will tell you I will try, because it's the right thing, but I do have hopes for my own future. The Pharmacist is a good woman, but we're unlikely to end up together."

    Li Ke paused. "You have someone you love?"

    Lan Qing wasn't sure how to respond. A face swam up from the depths of his memory. She was part of the allied forces and had fought with them in fight after fight. He hadn't seen her for a long while, but he still remembered that time they shared a cigarette on Skyfire Avenue.

    Everyone saw him as a title; the God of Wisdom, or the An Lun super soldier. But beneath his shrewd, cold, calculating exterior there was a man struggling with his feelings. His heart was pure.

    The purer the experience the deeper its impression. The Pharmacist was much stronger than the woman he was interested in - and more beautiful as well - however if Lan Qing had his way he would choose to look into those silver eyes every day.

    Li Ke's stoic features gave way to a quiet sadness. "Then you would have her watch he die? I know her, she is unyielding in her moral integrity. When I die there is more than a passing chance she will try to follow. I only want her to live a long and happy life!"

    Lan Qing hesitated. He wanted to help Li Ke, and more than that he understood what the man was going through. As commander of the allied forces he had to make sacrifice in order for humanity to succeed. But when he opened his mouth he couldn't summon the words.

    Suddenly a thought sprang to mind. "Classmate, do you realize you have a child?"

    Li Ke looked back at him, surprised. "A child?"

    He turned his head toward the Pharmacist. Some part of him guessed when he saw Jun'er, but Lan Qing confirmed it. Jun'er was snuggled quietly in her mother's arms as she looked toward him, tears streaming down her face.

    A searing ache burned deep in Li Ke's soul. A child... we had a child! That is how she's persisted all these years!

    Lan Qing continued. "She was pregnant with Jun'er when you disappeared. Unfortunately the pain she experienced from Occisus also affected her infant child. She was born blind. Jun'er grew, and eventually the Pharmacist approached my younger brother..." He explained the situation briefly to Li Ke.

    Li Ke had no body, so no tears would grace his face. However, the look in his eyes spoke volumes. The intensity of it caused his spectral body to flicker. He knew that the Pharmacist's life must have been difficult after his disappearance, but he had no idea how bitter it had become for her.

    His own daughter could not see. Somehow she became the apprentice to Skyfire Avenue's Clairvoyant, and will one day grow into that title herself. Though her eyes were useless, she was still the Eye of Tomorrow.

    He never would have imagined it possible.

    And he, her father, would be unable to fulfil his obligations. He no longer had a physical heart, but the pain within him was chaotic and overwhelming.

    Lan Qing took a deep breath. "I think you should speak with her, just the two of you. She won't be convinced by anyone else. But do you think she'll ever pick someone else, after suffering so much waiting for you to return? It isn't what she wants, and trying will only cause her more pain. The two of you need to speak, if for nothing else than to let her say all the things she needs to say."

    A storm of conflicting emotions ran through the spirit's eyes. A calm gradually came over him as he fixed Lan Qing with a steady gaze. "Thank you, underclassman. I think I understand."

    There was a flash of light and Lan Qing was separated from Li Ke's small spiritual reality. The soul returned to its previous spot, steady in its human shape.

    "I believe Ultus has made a decision. Underclassman, you are the most suitable bearer." As he spoke the other Paragons all nodded in agreement.

    Lan Qing's abilities were evident to all, both in personal strength and his talent for command. Without him humanity wouldn't have come this far. Without him mankind would already be lost. It was his brilliance today, and Jue Di's sacrifice, that brought them to this critical moment.

    Li Ke's attention turned to the Pharmacist. "Little Yue [1. Literally 'small moon', it's the same name given to Si Xiaosu by Lan Jue. However, where in Su Xiaosu's case I think it was a nickname alluding to her title as Moonfiend empress, for the Pharmacist I suspect the character  is part of her true name.], I was hoping we might have a chance to speak. Is that alright?"

    The Pharmacist nodded.

    Lan Jue stepped forward without having to be asked, and took Jun'er from her arms. The small girl didn't struggle and hung upon Lan Jue's neck. Against all expectations, her face was calm.

    No one underestimated this small child, who had inherited the power of the Eye of Tomorrow. Although she said nothing many understood that she was likely to know what was happening.

    Lan Qing personally led the way, bringing the Pharmacist and Li Ke to a quiet resting room near the bridge.

    The Terminator watched Lan Qing go, some anxiety writ on his features. "Ultus. Is it really capable of destroying those aliens? If they succeed in creating Violet Dominion - a monster that can devour planets - it isn't just humanity in danger. The whole universe may be wiped out!"

    Lan Jue gently nodded his head. "The Banishing Blades are god weapons passed down from antiquity. If we can lay out the Strategy killing those monsters would be no problem. Father was sure of it. Ultus used to belong to the Pharmacist's husband, this Li Ke. He was captured long ago by the aliens when he went on a scouting mission..."

    He went on to fill in the rest of the Paragons about the spirit and the history of his blade. Finally they understood why Lan Jue, Qianlin and the Pharmacist had been absent all through the last battle.
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