Chapter 375: Fusion

    Chapter 375: Fusion

    "I have back-up plans," Lan Jue assured. "Anyway, according to what Little Yue told me, Sariel is different from the other Archangels. Her Discipline is the Light of Conscience. As part of her inherent energy, she can't do anything if her heart isn't behind it. Her Discipline is so integrated in to her being that doing so would cause her power to collapse, and may even driver her mad."

    Zhou Qianlin's face fell in to grouchy pout. "Why are you always so secretive? What's your back-up plan?"

    A smirk spread across Lan Jue's lips. "Raphael! If Sariel betrays us, we'll be caught for publicly humiliating the Citadel and capturing one of their own. But of course, they'll want their Archangel of Healing back. I'm a councilor in  Skyfire Avenue, and as we haven't caused any actual damage they'll be forced to deal with them - leveling inquiries, and so forth. At that point, we'll have to wait for the Wine Master or Keeper to come and retrieve us. We're not in much danger - you think I'd just bring you waltzing right in to the tiger's den unprepared?"

    Lan Jue's explanation served to ease Qianlin's concerns. She smiled back. "You've got quite an impressive mind. I wonder why I never noticed before?"

    He replied with a wry smirk. "I'm forced to, aren't I. Hmm, but I just had a thought - Little Jue won't be able to return to the Moonfiend Pirates once we rescue her. She had a solid foothold in the Starfields, but if the Archangels were able to drag her back, then it means she is no longer in control."

    Qianlin's eyes nearly popped out of her head. "So you're planning to bring her home."

    "Heh - if I don't, then I might as well just fold my arms and wait for her to die! You heard what Sariel said, they're in the process of suppressing Little Yue's powers. The Pontiff's Discipline is steeped in mysticism, and has been strengthened with genetic manipulation. Once the process is done, Little Yue won't remember anything about her former life. Without her to protect and lead the Moonfiend Pirates, they'll be wiped out. I also want to use the Starfields as a future training area for the ARC students, and we can't do that if it's a constant war zone."

    Zhou Qianlin didn't respond. Instead, she quietly looked out of their hotel room window, out over the city. Lan Jue took her hand and pulled her around to face him.

    "What are you doing?" She gasped.

    Lan Jue gave her a cryptic chuckle. "Adhering to Bize' rules of cultivation! We didn't do any cultivating last night, and we need to really grasp how our powers interact."

    Without warning, Lan Jue leaned down to place a kiss on Qianlin's lips.

    They were warm, and soft. But he couldn't even taste her before Qianlin melted in to a figure of light and melded in to his own body.

    Right away, Lan Jue felt his Discipline strengthen and begin to flow smoothly through him like a current. The opposite was also true, however - when she separated, he felt empty and constrained.

    He was back to the peak of ninth ranked immediately. Settling cross-legged on the carpeted floor, Lan Jue closed his eyes and sank in to meditation.

    The merging was thorough. He couldn't feel even a trace of some separate entity inside him. It was like the sudden explosion of his Discipline had no reason - and yet, he could still sense Qialin's consciousness somewhere deep inside. Now their communication became an exchange of thoughts and feelings without even needing the Soul Caller gem.Within his spirit, the Arrow of Compassion began to exude a pale white light and focused his concentration. He could feel himself connected to everything around him - his own energies communicating with the whole of the universe.

    Now, even as the cultivation process began, he could sense why this process would be beneficial for the both of them. Ninth level ninth rank Adepts possessed at least double the overall energy of a ninth ranked seventh level Talent. The source was stronger, as was their ability to absorb energies from around themselves. Peak-level Adepts had an elementary perception, an understanding of the real truth of things. All of this meant that cultivating at this level made things faster and easier with half the effort required.

    Most importantly, though, was the fact that his deeper communion with these truth brought him closer to a complete protogenic understanding. He could see it, sense it with a deeper clarity than before. Within, his core had doubled in size and shone with brilliant electrical power. Occasionally, threads of Qianlin's own pale white energies would appear and then quickly vanish.

    Anything Lan Jue felt, Qialin could sense as well. Their consciousness was joined and, when the two minds joined in concerted effort, the results were almost mystical. Any deviation from concentration, any anxiety, was found and eased with each other's help. All of this helped to bring them both deeper in to contemplative stillness, and closer to ultimate understanding.

    Qianlin especially stood to benefit from this. As they explored the protogenic energies around them, Qianlin was able to feel them the same that Lan Jue did. She was weaker than the former mercenary king, but that didn't mean she was ignorant of them - after all, the Queen of Heaven was a protogenic transformation, just like Lan Jue's Ascension! Perhaps it was the spirit of sacrifice, of dedication that made her protogenic transformation so pure. Certainly purer than anything Zeus had experienced.

    These were certainly cheap gains for Qianlin, but her presence in this helped Lan Jue a great deal as well. He could feel different aspects of this power, now. It was as though he were experience it from an entirely different perspective.

    Time passed quickly. When Lan Jue awoke from his meditations, it was morning on the second day after Raphael's capture. After two days of cultivation neither had eaten, but they didn't need to. Their connection to the universe had kept them satiated to the point they felt overstuffed.

    The actual rank of their Discipline hadn't budged. They were both ninth level ninth rank when fused together, so progress would not be so easily won. However, he could feel some changes in himself.

    Another of Zhou Qianlin's gains in this situation had been access to Lan Jue's Discipline. Naturally this was helpful since she was unable to use her own powers in combat. While her control was still lacking, her understanding had grown. She was able to feel it as Lan Jue grew his powers. The electrical energies flowed through their shared meridians and mingled with the power of the world around them. It was enlightening to see how the power was meant to be directed.

    Lan Jue found Qianlin's Silkworm powers fascinating. Her Discipline was an incredible nutritive force for the human body. After such a long period immersing himself in it, he'd come around to find himself in peak condition. His muscles, bones, even organs felt rested and ready. His body's ability to channel these powers also seemed to have improved.

    This likewise meant he could sustain more.

    Eventually, it was time for the awkward portion of their arrangement. He shut his eyes and waited for the telling sensation of Qianlin leaving his body. He heard her wrapping herself up in a blanket.

    He couldn't help but chuckle. "It'd probably be best if you undress first and go straight for the blanket next time. It's more fiscally responsible."

    Qianlin clearly didn't appreciate the humor. She glared daggers at him, but it only made her red cheeks more prominent. "You're in time-out! Face that wall, I have to shower."

    Lan Jue mirthfully did as instructed. Now, alone with his thoughts, he had time to ponder on their situation. The more time passed, the more he found himself used to their reality. There was a dependence now, but so long as they were together things were fine. Then there was the merging, but in the end this was good too. He needn't fear losing control in the heat of the moment, since intimacy was impossible.

    Sariel was dependable. Her Discipline made it impossible for her to betray her own good nature. The package he'd sought was delivered without incident. Afterward, he and Qianlin took a stroll through the market. They looked at the various things on offer, stopping in a shop on occasion to buy some. Once they were finished, they returned to the hotel.

    "Why are we buying extension cables," Qianlin asked.

    "This is our escape route," he said. "Getting Little Yue out is damn near impossible. The Pontiff's psychic force envelopes the whole Cathedral. The moment he senses that the ceremony to seal Little Yue's power has been interrupted, he'll appear. He'll lock us away from reality - there would e no escape. Other, cruder methods will be needed. We'll have things to do before we can save Little Yue. We'll need to do whatever we can to get the Pontiff away from the Cathedral while still keeping our objective a secret."

    By nightfall, the Great Cathedral closed its doors to the public. Every day, when the sun set behind the mountains, the Cathedral shut it's massive gates and lapsed in to contemplative silence.

    "Thank you for visiting. The Cathedral has now closed for the day." A woman's pleasing voice called out to the tourists through the broadcast system, as they filed for the exit.  Several members of the clergy were on hand, leading stragglers to the outside. However, they did miss the two people vanishing from a dark corner.

    There was a flash, and the two mysterious figures appeared in a dark room. From the looks of it, this was a storage room. Lan Jue peered in to the inky darkness. There were no lights, but at their levels of cultivation their perception worked better than their eyes.

    "The next step can get dangerous. We have to tread carefully. We should kiss, I'm thinking. It's dark in here as well, so you can remove your clothes beforehand" Lan Jue shared his thoughts through the Soul Caller.

    Qianlin huffed in irritation. Her hands shot out to grab both sides of his face, then she kissed him. In no more than a second she had merged in to Lan Jue's body. In the dark, he could clearly see a pale blue aura surrounding him after the fact - it was his own Discipline, overflow from rising in levels so suddenly.

    Their meditations had not been in vain. Already Lan Jue felt like he had more control over their combined powers. He slipped on one of the white robes from before and stepped out in to the Cathedral interior. Pulling the hood of his coat up to conceal his face, Lan Jue moved deeper in to the depths of the church.

    He came across several of the Citadel's number as he walked the halls, but none sought to block his way. Everyone here was used to the idea of peace. With the Pontiff here, they had nothing to worry about. No foe would dare plunge in to the heart of the Citadel. Or, so they assumed.

    Lan Jue's circuitous route brought him before a pair of large double doors. Two clerics stood guard. They were different from the other clergy - dedicated, devout soldiers of god. They stood like sentinels, eyes forward, faces calm.
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