Chapter 224: Total Victory

    Chapter 224: Total Victory

    Coeus unexpectedly cast aside it's two moonblades. It's whole metallic figure shuddered as they fell to earth. The suit swept its left arm around Thor's electric spear, pinning the weapon against it. With a mighty pull Coeus forced Thor to lurch in to a shoulder smash.

    The juke and pull completely neutralized Thor's thrust. It was masterfully executed, effortless, and seemed as natural to Prometheus as breathing.

    Looking from a distance, one could see Coeus and Thor, devoured by the terrifying light of Triton's Parting of the Waters!

    Thor's defensive capabilities were second only to Tritons in their little band of pilots. However, the sapphire mecha had just expended all of its energy in the previous strike, leaving nothing left to protect itself. How could it be expected to sustain such a horrible attack?

    Zeus' enormous mecha went soaring, cast away by the Parting of the Waters. A series of shuddering explosions followed. Although the blasts didn't seem as apocalyptic as those Cerberus had suffered, it was clearly the end of the fight for Thor.

    Coeus' slowly turned in midair. Scrapes and dents had appeared all across it's formerly polished surface. Hovering overhead, it's dark cyan figure smoldering, the mecha looked like a demon come to earth.

    Under the circumstances, Prometheus had taken on three challengers and came out with significantly less damage than one would expect. Meanwhile, both Cerberus and Thor were defeated. Only one remained to face him.

    The expanse of arena was looking desolate and inhospitable to Triton, as it hovered in the air a distance from the terrifying Lan Qing. Although he knew Coeus had sustained severe damage in its fight against his two friends, Hua Li was also keenly aware that their leader had yet to use his strongest attacks. He calculated about sixty percent energy reserves remaining for his opponent.

    One-on-one. Hua Li was beginning to feel hopeless.

    "Boss, there doesn't appear to be any need to continue..."

    Triton lifted its metallic arms in surrender.

    Lan Qing huffed. There was a flash, and he was gone.

    Lan Jue and Chu Cheng were waiting outside by the door to the Arena. Both of their faces were similarly steeped in anger and depression. They were each very aware they couldn't take Lan Qing on individually, but they hadn't thought they'd be so handily beat on pure mecha combat alone 1. From the very beginning they couldn't find their rhythm. This was certainly one reason for their dour expressions, but more than that was the painfully large gap between the three of them, and their leader.

    Lan Jue had felt he'd impressed lately, both physically and in his Discipline. He should be equal to his brother! This fight served to clearly and incontrovertibly underline the difference that remained between them.

    The two young men said nothing, and waited until Poseidon and Prometheus appeared from within the ring.

    They didn't even need to ask - their fate had been sealed from the onset. The three of them sighed in unison.

    Prometheus displayed no pride in his victory. He swept his eyes over the other three. "Are you aware of why you lost so quickly?" his quiet voice expressed.

    Chu Cheng spoke first, his tone full of bitterness. "Even from the start, we knew in our hearts we weren't a match for you. We didn't give it our all, and we ignored our advantage."

    "You have a wealth of combat experience over us," Lan Jue interjected. "You knew to take every advantage posed to you."

    Hua Li thought for a moment before speaking. "We were at a disadvantage the moment it became three on one. We had no momentum. I believe that, if we'd come one after the other instead of together, each of us would have pushed to our highest point in the battle. You wouldn't have come out of it the winner in that circumstance."

    Lan Qing nodded with each determination. "You're all correct. However, even knowing this, even training until your hands bleed and you collapse from exhaustion, you still would never catch up to me."

    Lan Jue felt his anger flair. "Why?" he shot back.

    Lan Qing, unperturbed the tone, went on. "None of you have experienced true suffering. You haven't been tempered in the fire. Were you the leaders of men, your companies would be defeated in short order. Routed. If you had to fight off assassins an average of three times a week... if you had the level of crisis awareness and experience that I did, then you could be my equal 2. If you truly seek power, you need to step out of your comfortable existence. None of you have any less talent than I. The difference is your desire to improve. If that continues, you'll never even get close to me. A-Li is incorrect 3 - even if you came at me one at a time, in the end the only result is your inevitable defeat. You simply can't make me suffer enough."

    Were it anyone else, the three Monarchs would balk at their arrogance. But this was Prometheus. He was a different case altogether.

    Chu Cheng's laugh was hard and full of hurt. "So what, you want us all to be soldiers? We're all from different Alliances, if we did there's no telling if one day we'd face each other in battle."

    Prometheus' eyes softened appreciably. "Unlikely. At least for the next little while, we won't need to worry about civil human strife."

    Zeus' masked face hid his surprise, but his voice didn't. "You know something?"

    Prometheus nodded. "News from the proverbial horse's mouth. The Northern Alliance has lost contact with an armada of navy ships it'd dispatched."

    Zeus' surprise intensified. "This quickly?" As far as he knew, the North had only just recently sent the ships out to look for the monster planets! Could it really be possible for a fleet of ships to disappear so quickly? Unbelievable!

    These sorts of missions were always lead by a Capital Warship, an exceptionally powerful weapon of war. It was two classes above a common battleship, and with something so powerful at its head the combat group was capable of obliterating entire planets.

    Lan Qing went on. "It looks like our earlier conjecture has been proven correct. We have a violent and previously unknown alien species heading for galaxies under the protection of the Three Alliances. Our analysis indicates the attack of Taihua is connected. Under these circumstances, do you think the alliances will waste time and resources on fighting each other?"

    Lan Jue, Chu Cheng and Hua Li stood silent, their faces dark and brooding.

    The universe was ever a mystery, bringing both wonders and terrors. Humans were powerful, yes, but who knew how many unknown species were out there? Like these aliens, were they hostile? Could humans protect themselves if they should meet?

    In such an infinitely vast universe, who could say humans were the height of power? With an infinite space to explore, the chances of discovering something that could force humans in to extinction was not negligible. Even if they hadn't had faced these monsters already, their rapid and clandestine approach towards human lands could not be well-meaning. Over the last one hundred years of space exploration, one thing has been proven true; all creatures, human included, liked their personal space.

    The small group stood in silence for a moment, a cloud of depression hanging heavy over them.

    After a time, Lan Jue looked up towards his brother. "Do you want me to join the army?"

    Lan Qing responded by shaking his head. "No, that's not what I want for you. You have your own road to walk. If you came with me you'd unconsciously come to rely on me. This would be bad for your Talent. Your destiny lies further down the road. The decision is yours, and I can't interfere in it."

    Lan Jue silently nodded his head. His thoughts turned to Wu Junyi, and the pressure of the request he'd laid upon him. Now more than ever, he knew it wasn't something he could refuse. Soon it would be time for humanity as a whole to fight for their right to survive.

    "I'd like you to explain your experience on Taihua, in detail." Lan Qing asked.

    "Alright." Lan Jue nodded, then went on to explain everything that had occurred during his time on Taihua. No detail was left out.

    When his younger brother got to the part about the Fantascia Genetica, Lan Qing's eyes grey hard and harsh. However, he said nothing, and just listened carefully to the rest of the tale.

    "You did well. Of course, you are my brother, after all. You can bank on the reality that I will make the Pontiff's Castle pay for hurting you. This, though, is strange. Skyfire Avenue is the strongest of the Adept organizations, but it is also the loosest. I don't believe that doctor who claimed to heal you actually possessed the capabilities to do so. What do you think?"

    "I had the same thought," Lan Jue agreed. "The phylactery only served to drain the tempest of energy that was within me. Perhaps he would be able to heal my injured meridians, but the side-effects of taking the genetica would be to extensive for him. And now, not only aren't there any residual issues, but instead both my Talent and physical health have improved. Total contrary to reason. It may be possible if there was a paragon around specializing in healing, but in all the ten known paragons there is no such person."

    Lan Qing turned his attention to Chu Cheng and Hua Li. "When you two got there, did you discover anything out of the ordinary?"

    Hua Li pondered the question. "When we saw him, he was in some sort of grey stone 4. It was oval shaped... really sort of like an eggshell."

    "Yeah, I thought the same thing, "Chu Cheng added. "He was laying in it. When we got there, it looked like everything had just finished. The Cosmagus was there, so we didn't ask too many questions. At the time we were just concerned for A-Jue's health."

    Lan Qing looked them over. "So the Cosmagus would know the answers we seek. A-Jue, you'll need to find a way to get it out of him. If the Avenue has someone capable of healing such dire illness, this could prove invaluable in any number of ways. They shouldn't keep that hidden."

    Lan Jue nodded in acceptance. "It won't be easy. If they do really have someone with this ability, it's unlikely the Avenue will want to share that information. After all, that would be a very rare find. At any rate, I owe the Avenue my life. I'll need a way to pay them back."

    1. Guys. Seriously. He's a supersoldier. His job description is 'viciously murder-punch people'. You're somehow surprised?

    2. See comment 1.

    3. 'Even though I just said he was.'

    4. I can't recall whether or not I mentioned this before, but this is an allusion to a popular Chinese trope, wherein a powerful being is born or escapes from a strange cocoon. For the monkey King, he was born from a rock, was buried under a mountain, and then later escaped. He was powerful enough to challenge the whole of heaven. There was also a more contemporary example in Hulu Wa, or the Calabash Brothers. First a farmer drills open a hole in a mountain and evil demons escape, then grows seven calabashes from which seven powerful babies emerged.
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