Chapter 81: The Pontiff’s Castle

    Chapter 81: The Pontiff's Castle

    The imposing figure drew ever closer, and with each step their features became clearer. At least two meters tall, and clad in plate armor reminiscent of the ancient Middle Ages. In their left hand, a shield. A sword in their right.

    With each step their imposing aura became stronger. It was as though they were the center of the universe, the master of this reality.

    Lan Jue's face was calm as he greeted him. "It's been a long time, Raphael."

    "Indeed. A long time, Zeus. We've been looking for you for... ages." Raphael's incessant march towards Lan Jue never ceased. Strangely, despite his heavy plate armor, he made not a sound as he trekked towards the small group.

    Mika had already undergone a change; her eyes narrow, the red in their depths growing darker with each passing moment. "The Archangel of Healing... Raphael, of the Pontiff's Castle."

    Lan Jue turned then to face Mika, and placed his hands gently upon her shoulders. "Mika, promise me. Unless there is absolutely no other choice, do not use your abilities. Understand?"

    She looked in to his eyes in silence, and moister began to collect at the corner of her eyes. "Boss..."

    He gently ran a hand through her hair. "You call me boss, it's my job to protect you. Trust me."

    Mika took a deep breath, and straightened her shoulders. "Right!" The red that had crept through her eyes had dissolved.

    "Zeus. Really, there's no reason it has to be like this. If you want to leave there are none among us who will stop you. All we want is the Stygian Succubus. It was never our intention to feud with you. Give her to us, and you may leave. The Pontiff's Castle will even owe you a favor."

    Lan Jue laughed, almost as though the exchange brought him joy. "Raphael, you keep calling me Zeus. So you know the kind of person I am."

    "But you're no real supreme being." This sentence came from another voice, clear and melodious. Another towering figure appeared, this one not in armors but an impeccably clean white robe. Long golden hair flowed to his back, with sapphire blue eyes set in a handsome face. He looked regal, elegant, like an artist.

    Lan Jue gave them a lopsided smile. "We're all old friends. I figured with Raphael around you'd show up. Gabriel, you haven't changed a bit."

    Gabriel gave him a small smile in return. "Oh? And how would you describe me?"

    "Cheap," Lan Jue said without hesitation.

    Gabriel's features grew rigid, but he quickly recovered. "Ah Zeus, all you have is words? I am curious, though, how you knew it was a trap. In return I'll tell you how we set it up."

    Lan Jue spoke, appearing almost bored. "Your trap was flawless, actually. But, you shouldn't have sent that little angel my way. I know what kind of person Little Yue is, as well as I know her relationship with your lot. But I also know her heart - and she wouldn't let any one of your number near her. Unless I'm mistaken, you likely offered something she dare not refuse in return for setting this up. This Clash of the Seven Stars was your doing, a snare you knew I'd have to walk in to."

    Gabriel sighed. "You really are a special breed. In this instant you really do seem like the real Zeus. Even now you still seek to protect your Little Yue. You've got the one right, but there was also Gao Yong. But those aren't even the most important. What made it in the end was Yue seeing the look in your eyes. We'd originally thought you'd been fooled, but she noticed how you spoke to Gao Yong; relaxed, at ease. So we decided we'd settle this today."

    "Of course, you can still choose to leave. All you have to do is agree to leave the Succubus to us. You can take the others and go," Raphael added sincerely.

    Lan Jue leisurely pulled his cigar from his breast pocket, producing with it a cigar cutter from his windbreaker. He clipped the end, and spoke over his shoulder to Mika. "Let me get a light."

    Mika smirked. She pressed thumb and forefinger together, and with a snap a flame appeared hovering before Lan Jue's face.

    Lan Jue leaned forward and drew upon the cigar, sucking the flames in to it. The pungent aromas of the fine cigar began to fill the area.

    "Who else, hm? Come on out. In this Holy Light it's hard to pinpoint your exact locations. Just the two of you isn't enough for what you want, I think."

    He looked around with an expression of boredom, his mood almost dismissive. But there was a clear arrogance in his mannerisms.

    "So you wish to be our enemy, Zeus?" A magnetic, rumbling voice filled the air. The voice changed something in Lan Jue. His arrogance slipped, and a quiet dignity crept in to his eyes.

    A fiery red figure gradually appeared between Gabriel and Raphael. He walked towards them at an average, leisurely pace, but his presence flooded the area with radiant light with each step closer.

    Mika's face blanched. "Michael - the Angel of War!"

    Lan Jue gave a throaty laugh, and took a long drag of his cigar. The plume of smoke slowly extricated itself from his lips. "You all think so highly of me! Three of the Pontiff's Seven Archangels. Anyone else?"

    Michael was covered in a set of fiery red armor. Brilliant and divine his features, however, were as hard as carved stone. A great cloak of crimson flowed at his back, and he wore no helmet which permitted his golden hair to shimmer brilliantly in the holy light.

    "Uriel. He's at your airship. You must know the Blade-Maiden is no match for him," Michael said matter-of-factly.

    "So just you four then," Lan Jue asked.

    Michael continued. "The Succubus is an important matter to us. She will inherit the Dark Tower."

    Lan Jue looked towards Gabriel. "You found me after what I did on Skyfire I imagine. Then you discovered I was on the Avenue. Then, after the conflict with Gao Yong and the pirates, you figured I'd come to the Shattered Starfields. And so here you plan to end things. Am I right?"
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