Chapter 404: Zeus vs. Lina

    Chapter 404: Zeus vs. Lina

    Lan Jue was in trouble. Even returning to second rank wasn't going to assure him of anything against Lina. Winning this fight would not be an easy thing.

    His opponents were getting stronger one after the other! At this rate he'll be fighting Constantine next. He fault like he wanted to cry but couldn't shed a tear. Well, if this was to be the way, then this was the way.

    At some point Chu Cheng had slithered near unnoticed. He didn't fear speaking openly with Lan Jue. Most people - especially in the North - knew that Chu Cheng was Hades of the Divine Monarchs.

    "That's some stellar luck there, brother! You've got my woman!" He clapped a hand on to Lan Jue's shoulder.

    "'Your woman' already, eh?" He gave Chu Cheng a skeptical look behind the mask.

    The red-haired scoundrel chuckled. "Hey I learned from the best, am I right? Victory was easily won. Now I'm telling you, if you hurt her I will write you off for the rest of our lives. That woman is your future sister-in-law."

    Lan Jue snorted. "Do you think if my sisters-in-law and I linked hands we could make a circle all the way around the field?

    "I had no idea Big Brother was so popular with the ladies," Chu Cheng cooed.

    Lan Jue looked like he wanted to vomit. "How could you be so shameless."

    Chu Cheng gave an irritated sniff. "Lina asked me the same thing yesterday. What's the point? Pride isn't something a woman can hold, something to comfort her. Look at Big Brother. Anyway, you better be careful. Don't hurt her."

    "Hell, then how about you ask her to go easy on me," Lan Jue lamented.

    Chu Cheng looked like he was choking. "And you aren't shameless? A Divine Monarch even I have trouble trouncing sometimes and you're asking for protection from a woman? No courage, man. I'm ashamed to call you brother."

    "Ugh," Chu Cheng squared his shoulders. "Now get ready, you're early, right?"

    Indeed. Lan Jue and Lina were in with the first batch. Their time in the spotlight was nearing.

    Chu Cheng's face split in to a sinister smile as he watched his brother-in-arms leave for the arenas. He wasn't an idiot - he knew Lan Jue's Discipline had taken a hit. How much, he wasn't sure, but he'd seen Lan Jue's last fight. He looked like a match for Lina.

    Kick some ass, girl. Spank the crap outta this guy. Chu Cheng had no trouble cheering for his compatriot's opponent when she was a beautiful vampire princess.

    Lan Jue and Lina stepped in to opposite sides of the arena at the same moment. Dracula's heiress was not covered in the thick black coat from the day before. Today, her full figure was on display with a form-fitting cat suit. Her dark red hair fluttered at her back, flailing like tendrils of fire behind her cold face. Her sharp eyes were pinned to him, like a predator eying its prey.

    Lan Jue gave her the slightest nod of acknowledgement.

    In appearances, no one of the Divine Monarchs could come close to Hua Li's famed good looks. Lan Qing and Lan Jue looked similar - as brothers do - though the elder sibling had a much less hospitable face. He was like a robot, programmed to be as grim as a paranoid android and that meant the exciting element of chaos wasn't part of his charm. Lan Jue had the grace of a gentleman, with fine looks and temperament. He wasn't as handsome as Hua Li, but his heroic façade earned some heated looks.

    Chu Cheng and his brothers had their differences, but he wasn't counted any less. In terms of looks he was considered right there with Lan Jue and Lan Qing. His appeal came in uncertainty and juxtaposition. Although he was a descendant of Hades, he was a fiery and manly youth. That was, until he employed the Hades power, which was gloomy and cold. He was the proverbial wild card.

    Lina Lee couldn't see the small smile behind Lan Jue's mask, but she returned his greeting ith a nod of her own.

    "Three, two, one. Begin!" The familiar buzzer rang, and another round of fights began.

    Once more Lina was the first to react. This time, however, she didn't choose the high ground. Instead she raced along the ground at incredible speed, appearing a short distance from Lan Jue in the blink of an eye.  She waved her hands through the air. Time seemed to stutter, and cracks appeared in reality all around Lan Jue.

    He couldn't afford to be careless against someone so close to his own power. Like him, she also had two Disciplines so it was not an advantage he could depend on. He still had the advantage of experience, though, both in combat and in Discipline mastery.

    Dazzling flashes of purple preceded the flashes of Lightning that tore through the air around Lan Jue. It was a forest of terrible lightning that consumed everything in ten meters around him. A Forest of Lightning, on a small scale!

    Lightning's explosive power was hard to contest, and under the thunderous assault Lina's advance failed. She skidded to a stop when she saw her interdimensional tears dissolving away.

    The Vampire Princess reacted. It was clear she had absorbed the lessons of her last fight with Chu Cheng, for once again her shadow blade appeared and she joined with it. In the face of his Forest of Lightning she did not flee, but as the weapon of shadow pierced right in to its center. A hazy aura of black was the only thing protecting her from the chaotic storm. Where the blade went, a trail of darkness followed, and in its inky wake time rippled like water. Before long an odd and unsettling bubble had begun to form around her. Like a surgical strike, the shadow blade pierced straight through, right toward Lan Jue.

    What the... So aggressive.

    Lan Jue hadn't expected her to pull out such a strong counter attack right away. In the time it took for his face to fall in to a scowl, he had retreated to give himself some room. Almost instinctually, his hands sprang up and bolts of lightning congealed between them. Lan Jue leaned to the side and brought up the newly-formed spear of lightning to deflect the shadow blade away.

    Out in the bleachers, Qianlin carefully watched the battle from a good seat. She had been surprised to discover Lina Le would be Lan Jue's next opponent. It was fortuitous, because the two of them had discussed her fight with Chu Cheng the day before. They carefully analyzed her style, Disciplines and weaknesses.

    Who would have thought he'd have such sour luck! Yet here she was, a powerhouse... but not invincible.

    Qianlin wrung her hands as she watched. This was the first time she was really feeling regret. She blamed herself for Lan Jue's drop from seventh to second rank. If he were at his true level of power, this woman would be no problem. But now...

    Bang! Sparks flew and the black blade and shimmering spear met. Lina had him on the defensive, and was mitigating her power. Lan Jue, meanwhile, was simply trying to maintain. She had the upper hand.

    He stumbled back with a gasp. The spear in his hand had dimmed, and was growing darker still as a strange, infectious darkness consumed it.

    Both of their weapons were the result of condensed Discipline power. His weakness allowed her power to infect his own - another indication of his poor prognosis. The front of his spear turned black and fell away.

    Lina hung in the air for half a moment before plunging back toward her foe. The air filled with the thick scent of blood, a distraction that occurred just as the shadow blade vanished from view. Lan Jue felt his back tighten - in the same moment that impossibly sharp blade of shadow appeared behind him.

    For a split second the audience saw two Linas; one in front of her opponent, and one behind. They came at Lan Jue from two angles, cutting a deadly cross with him in the middle.

    Chu Cheng wasn't among the first batch of contestants, so he carefully watched the battle from the sidelines. He winced as he watched the scene unfold. "Ferocious," he muttered appreciably.

    Despite the violence of her assault, the strike would not land. She cut right through him like paper, before his image shimmered and vanished.

    An electric clone, to get him out of that tight spot. He appeared away from her pincer trap, safely across the field. Spots of golden light grew in his palms, them exploded toward the two Lina images.

    The two vampire princesses melded in to one ,and the shadow blade slowly pushed itself out from inside her.

    Ba-bang! Two deafening peals of thunder caused the arena's force shield to shudder. It was Lina's time to be on the back foot, because she had overestimated her abilities. She thought she could dodge, but obviously could not. The result was a bolt of lightning right to the gut that swallowed her up in a blast of electric light.

    She felt all the energy inside her scatter, like a panicking crowd. She'd used an interdimensional shield to protect her from the blast at the last minute, but it still had an effect. She was quickly losing her lead.

    Dodging the blasts individually was not a problem for Lina. Lan Jue's genius was in positioning; he'd used the blast to isolate her means of approach, so that she had no choice. She could dodge but that would give Lan Jue the space and time he needed to press the attack. She went for the most direct approach, and suffered for it.

    Lan Jue blasted forth a third ray of electricity. This one looked thicker and more robust than the first pair. He then leaped to the side, rushing for the far end of their arena and putting more distance between himself and the vampire.

    "Well are you a man or aren't you?! What are you running from!" Lina hollered after him. The offended Lan Jue sobbed inwardly at the injustice. She certainly shared Chu Cheng's biting commentary.

    Although Lan Jue bemoaned the curse, he was not still. His electric spear was back and strong as ever. He turned to face her, and instantly his persona changed.

    The calm, almost gentle aura he emitted was gone, replaced with a berserker rage. The roiling bolts around him flashes and began to shimmering with golden light. His majestic appearance was so strong as to cause Lina to stop in her tracks. She dodged his third blast, but did not approach further.

    This aura... Disgusting! Lina's eyes narrowed in loathing as she stared at her foe.

    Lightning - especially ­yang­-lightning - was a manifestation of Upright Qi 1. It was anathema to the yin-evils of the darker Disciplines. Unfortunately for Lina, that was precisely what category her powers fell in to. In that way, his Discipline was already a restraining force on hers.

    Lina, though, was also possessed of expansive combat experience. She knew that the fight would be more difficult against someone whose Discipline counters hers. She also knew how to react.

    1. That's the real English name for it in TCM. Zheng Qi, or true/upright qi, is what the body uses to combat exogenous pathogens. It is composed of both yin and yang, though it is a more yang-focused function.
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