Chapter 410: The Four Degrees of Paragon

    Chapter 410: The Four Degrees of Paragon

    In Lan Jue's estimation the Pharmacist's power was only matched by her tragic story. Through all of this, though, she persevered. More than that, she saw the situation with clarity and calm.

    Lan Jue's face spread in to a sheepish smile. "It wasn't intentional, the result of a change to my Discipline. I suppose telling you about it won't hurt anything..."

    Over the next several minutes he recounting Qianlin's run-I with Bize, all the way to the God of Wine antics on the Burrows. He included the Clairvoyant's plans, as well as the method they would use to recover his Discipline.  He also explained their ability to merge and summon one another.

    The Pharmacist grew ever more curious and surprised as he explained. "Well that explains it, the Clairvoyant's touch as always. I can confirm that your situation is similar to the process I described. Qianlin has turned out to be a costly compatriot, but you're the one profiting most from another's expense. The Queen of Heaven powers are incredibly rare, and it's even rarer to see the Mystic Raiment in use. One of its limited uses was to make sure you lived. As for your reduction in rank, I don't think that was the intention but a result. There's only one reason that might have happened, and that's likely that the impurities were being removed from your Discipline. Rank one was where landed with nothing but pure Talent, and this  foundation will help your cultivation going forward."

    This was the first Lan Jue was hearing about this, and with surprise in his voice asked, "Really? I haven't felt like the intensity of my powers are any stronger."

    "That's simple," she explained. "Think about it. Your Discipline dropped dramatically, of course everything feels weak. But don't be impatient, you'll feel it clearly once your Discipline returns to its former strength."

    "No Adept has a naturally pure Discipline. In fact, becoming a Paragon is one process by which an Adept purifies it and leaves the vital essences behind. Once these impurities are removed, the Adept is able to sense even the slightest changes in the universe around them. That moment when they break through to Paragon is the moment of their ultimate success, when that purge and union are complete."

    "Another way to look at it is how it will affect your journey. You'll probably find it easier to reach Paragon since your Talent has already been tempered. Your bottleneck will be less severe as well, but the benefits don't stop there. Now with your Talent in a more stable state, and once your Destiny is realized as a Paragon, and your protogenic mastery solidifies, you'll be much further along than others. Your level of comprehension will be better than most Paragons when they started.

    Lan Jue nodded. "It sounds like you know the world of Paragons very well."

    "I know a little," she confessed. "You probably already know that Paragons are separated in to four degrees, similar to Adept levels. The difference in power between Paragons from one degree to another is a vast gulf, even though it's hard to tell when even the lowest degree Paragon can obliterate a star ship. The Gourmet said that if the Terminator wanted to do something there wouldn't be anything he could do to stop him. Each of these stages have been given a name to describe them: First degree is called the Realm of Protogenia, the second is Reflection of Heaven and Earth, third is Nirvana, and fourth degree is named the Boundless. Each one is a reality in and of itself." 1

    Although he was one of Jue Di's disciples, the great master had never explained this to them. At the time they weren't anywhere near their bottleneck - the information was useless at the time. The Pharmacist was rectifying the holes in his knowledge, which he appreciated. Now at least he knew what to call them.

    She went on. "Of the ten Paragons, it's suspected only Jue Di has achieved the Infinite, or maybe the upper reaches of Nirvana. My own teacher, Celestial Master Qian, is unlikely to break through Nirvana. If he did he'd live for at least another two hundred years. As for the Clairvoyant, he had the Talent and power to reach the Infinite,but he expended a great deal of energy in guiding humanity and the cost kept him from advancing."

    "Next beneath them are those who've reached second degree, the reflection of Heaven and Earth. The Terminator and his partner the Epochrion belong to this realm. The rest are at various places in first degree. The Pontiff and Satan, for instance, are at the border with second degree. The Wine Master and the Keeper are in the upper reaches. The rest like the Gourmet are still at the beginning of their journey in understanding protogenia. The goal of first rank is to make one's domain stable."

    Lan Jue felt like the door to a whole new realm of understanding had opened. The most important revelation, however, was confirmation that the Pharmacist was a disciple of the Celestial Master.

    "So you mean to say the Celestial Master is still alive...?" He couldn't help but ask. The Pharmacist was still young, so the Master couldn't have been gone for any more than ten years.

    However the Pharmacist answered with a shake of her head. "I don't know. I'm not actually a direct disciple. When I was still an infant I came in to possession of a jade pendant. Somehow master had imbued it with his consciousness, to pass his knowledge on to another. From that I learned his cultivation methods, and the eternal wisdom of the Dao. This knowledge helped bring me to where I am now, even influenced the kind of person I am. But I have never actually met him."

    A bitter smile crossed her features as she explained. She spoke about him like she would her husband.

    She heaved a somber sigh, and held Jun'er close to her chest as she went on. "The pendant went on to reveal that the old master left for another realm - the secrets of the Infinite. He would say that the one who achieved the Infinite would be capable of communing with the universe. They would be an integral, irremovable part of reality. To me this means that even though Jue Di is the strongest Paragon in combat prowess, it doesn't necessarily mean he will achieve the Infinite."

    Lan Jue shook his head. "I had no idea about any of this. And since you're being forthcoming it's only fair that I do the same. I am a disciple of Jue Di. We called him grandfather, he raised us when we were young."

    The Pharmacist smiled. "I know. I've known it for a while." At the Hall of Supreme Harmony, when he encountered the sanguine-Adept. That was when she learned of his abilities.

    The two looked at one another in silence for a moment. They could feel the barriers between them falling away as their secrets were revealed. He smiled back. "Thank you for telling me so much. I understand a little better what I need to do."

    "All of it was to tell you how good your prospects look. With your Talent, your foundation and the state your Discipline is in, things are looking very good," the Pharmacist claimed. "The mystic raiment and purification have prepared you better than perhaps anyone for what's to come. So long as you keep cultivating, you will achieve Paragon. From what I can see, third degree is a high possibility. Fourth degree, I don't know. Perhaps no one does."

    Lan Jue was starting to glimpse the great lengths and tremendous cost the Clairvoyant had expended. It was thanks to the old diviner that he had such a future!

    "I won't let anyone down. I hope that day comes soon," he said.

    Jun'er, who had been silent for a long while, finally spoke up. "Yes! So you can protect mommy and me!"

    Lan Jue laughed, deep and genuine. He took little Jun'er from her mother's embrace and gave her a peck on the cheek. "That's for sure. I'll do anything and everything to protect my little Jun'er."

    The Pharmacist felt a flood of warmth and appreciation fill her. "You must remember not to use any unnatural methods to increase your Talent. I was considering a pill that would return your Discipline to normal, but from the looks of things you won't need it. All of these outside methods are inherently impure, so they'll render all of this pointless. Do it the right way, step by step, and you'll realize this potency."

    "Ngh." Lan Jue grunted in determination. The Pharmacist had given him confidence today.

    He stayed to eat lunch with Jun'er, and eventually coaxed her in to falling asleep. He then returned to his own room, where he was surprised to find Su Xiaosu waiting.

    "You're back, Master," Su Xiaosu called out as he entered. She shot to her feet and bowed.

    Lan Jue chuckled nervously. "Cut it out, it's weird. Do you feel better?"

    Su Xiaosu smiled at him. "Luckily Master was able to grab that gem. I'm about eighty-percent back to normal. I'll have to spend time nourishing my Core before I'll be back to full power. I'll get there."

    "Eighty-percent is pretty good, let's not be hasty." For her that meant Su Xiaosu was back to about ninth level fifth rank - pretty damn strong.

    "I've been thinking a lot these last few days," she confessed. "I think there's something I need to tell you, but you have to promise not to react hastily."

    Her wrinkled brow and nervous expression set Lan Jue on edge. "About the dungeon?"

    Su Xiao su only nodded.

    1. I'll try to describe it according to my understanding. First degree is entering in to the world of protogenia, not a part but a denizen. Second degree is when the Adept becomes a reflection of protogenia, they aren't immersed in it but they begin to understand it's nature. Third degree, Nirvana, is when the Adept becomes one with the universe of protogenia. Finally fourth degree, The Infinite, is unknown and unknowable because no one's gotten there.
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