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Chapter 896: The Definitive Moment

    Chapter 896: The Definitive Moment

    In the space of an instant everything changed, and Monarch discovered that this chaos was far more profound than he'd thought. Even if he were ten times stronger this power would remain incomprehensible to him. The only explanation was that this was part of the fabric of the universe, but how could it appear here?

    Curiosity no longer superseded the fear that was creeping up within him. With his eyes dual points of golden light Monarch thrust his arms overhead to protect himself. He raced off to find an exit.

    He aimed to rely on his immortal-level powers to break out of this encirclement. Once he broke free it would be far easier to clear away these pesky humans. Once they were dealt with he could carefully begin to examine the intricacies of this chaos. Perhaps he could use it as a weapon in his quest to overcome the universe.

    He fixated on the idea as he charged, looking for a way to escape.

    Much to his surprise, however, there was no border in site. He could travel thousands of kilometers in a blink, but no matter how far or how fast he moved there seem to be no exit. He didn't know where to go, or which way to focus his power. Despite his god-like strength his attacks struck nothing but empty space wherever he directed them. Through his perception this reality he found himself was as stable as it was infinite, and there appeared to be no breaks for him to exploit. He found himself trapped in a never-ending expanse, a hostile territory with no border he could assault.

    What to do?

    The gravity of his situation began to dawn on him. He continued to fly in a direction chosen at random, all the while lashing out with his power.

    ξ

    After two whole minutes the Violet Prince managed to extricate himself from Luo Xianni's dimensional prison. He looked haggard and monstrous, and was missing his left arm.

    It was the result of Luo Xianni's final photograph. Though she did not kill him, she'd managed to injure him greatly.

    Elsewhere the avatar and the six remaining Paragons were near to the end of their conflict.

    The four who gave their lives had succeeded in wounding the beast terrible, especially the final push from the Gods of Wine. Their addition continued to drain the monster of its vitality while the living Paragons pressed the attack. By now its power was reduced to Nirvana levels, and it continued to sustain injuries.

    The six remaining Paragons were not having it easy, however. From the very beginning they had attacked this monster with their strongest abilities, never letting up. Exhausted, they were battling against a beast with its back against a proverbial wall, fighting for its life. No one was without considerable injury, but the humans were gaining ground.

    With the Violet Prince free from Luo Xianni's constraints, things turned bad. He chose not to assault the remaining Paragons and instead charged right at the site of the Banishing Strategy. Without Luo Xianni's help none of the intrepid soldiers could survive against this monster, the Prince would have already broken through their man-made barrier.

    Now, although the Prince was gravely injured, Luo Xianni was no longer there to dissuade him. He crashed into the defenders, killing dozens of soldiers with every wave of his hand as he searched for a way through.

    Humans watching from home felt their hearts leap into their throats. They knew the definitive moment was near, when it would be determined if humanity would continue or be snuffed out. Prayers were said for the North, the East and the West. They were spoken for the soldiers and the battle, for the Banishing Strategy. They didn't even know what the Banishing Strategy was, only that if it succeeded their species would be saved.

    Boom! A huge number of mechas and drones went flying in all directions. When the Prince crashed into the front line he sent them soaring with a vicious punch.

    The soldiers managed to ward him off for only a few moments. However, with the area of the Banishing Strategy nearby the Prince stopped cold.

    The Strategy was in its middle stages. Already the aura it produced sent a chill down his spine. He hesitated, but the consequences of inaction won out and he continued his charge.

    The stakes could not be higher[1. Interestingly, in Chinese this is 'without lips the teeth suffer cold.']. If Monarch perished the humans could use this terrible power to destroy everything they labored to build. Their immortal realm could be wiped from existence and all their dreams destroyed. More importantly the Violet Prince was not himself a full immortal. He still needed Monarch's help.

    He made the prompt decision that, no matter the cost, he had to help Monarch escape.

    This Banishing Strategy was the creation of just four humans. The one the monster Prince chose to deal with first was not Ultus' bearer, but Lan Jue. Of all these humans Lan Jue was the one he was most familiar with. There was no sense of kinship among the aliens, but the Prince and Princess had worked closely for years. She had been slain by his hand. It was also Lan Jue's deception that helped them abscond with Ultus, right from under their nose. He was the reason they were in such a precarious position.

    For these reasons the Prince hated Lan Jue, loathed this arrogant human meat sack. He had to die.

    In a flash he appeared before Captus' bearer. His face was savage and feral like a wild animal and he swiped at Lan Jue with his remaining limb.

    Recognition of the danger flashed in the Jewelry Master's eyes, but he did nothing. The mechas raced toward them to help but they were too slow. They had the heart but not the ability. Although Lan Jue was in many ways Captus after their joining, in the midst of the Banishing Strategy he could not defend himself. All he could do was pour all of himself into his task and hope it was enough.

    The light of his vitality blazed around him like an inferno. I was so intense it affected the Prince. But just as the beast's attack was about to find its target it was not the fires that stopped him. A figure flashed into view, appearing from nowhere and standing between them.

    A shield of rippling waves shattered beneath the Prince's attack. His fist buried itself in the newcomer's chest.

    BOOM! The blue silhouette was flung away like detritus, smashing into Lan Jue's body but blocked by Captus' power.

    "A-Li!" Lan Jue screamed.

    His friend had leapt in to take the blow for him. Crippled and bleeding, he regarded Lan Jue with a forced grin.

    "How about that, eh? Just in time." He smirked at his brother in arms, even as the sound of shattered glass echoed from his chest. It was the sound of his Core breaking.

    No one survived a deadly blow to their Core - not a human, not an immortal. A broken Core was a death sentence.

    Lan Jue's tears came again, bitter and profuse. Yet Hua Li regarded him calmly. Five more figures were quickly converging on their location. They'd finally managed to defeat the avatar and had come to fend off the Prince. Injured from his conflict with Luo Xianni he was once again caught in a struggle he couldn't free himself from.

    Hua Li struggled to turn himself around, facing Lan Jue. "You've already sacrificed so much for us. Now you're giving up your life!"

    Anguish was clear in his voice. "Aren't you doing the same? We would give it all so our people can continue. To the last drop of blood."

    "No," Hua Li retorted. "I'm not like you. I cherish my life. I'm not giving myself up for all people, or my family. Poseidon Group can find some quiet corner to survive, and I could have gone with them. We would have made it work. But I didn't... I stayed. My sacrifice isn't for humanity. It's for you."

    Hua Li's smile spread wide across his face, as though he were finally free from some unspoken burden.

    "There's a lot I never dared to tell you, A-Jue."

    Hua LI's expression surprised him. Lan Jue's voice was hoarse as he answered. "Don't say it A-Li. I don't want to hear it."

    But Hua Li shook his head. "No, I need to say it. This is the only opportunity I'll get."

    "Hera... I killed her."

    Hua Li spoke the words softly. But to Lan Qing, to Lan Jue, to Zhou Qianlin it was like a blast of thunder. Qianlin swayed and threatened to topple over. It was inconceivable that her sister would have been slain by one of Lan Jue's closest friends. Lan Qing and Lan Jue may have been family but his relationship with Hua Li was just as close.

    They were lifelong friends. Brothers!
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