Chapter 411: Secret of the Pontiff’s Citadel

    Chapter 411: Secret of the Pontiff's Citadel

    "The Pontiff's Citadel certainly looks righteous on the outside, even lead by a Paragon represented by the Holy See, but there's a lot of filth underneath that glittering veneer. It's one of the reasons I left."

    "Ever in search of greater influence, the Pontiff's men will often go out among their flock and choose young children. They tell their family that their sons and daughters will be raised by the church, but that's not the whole truth. Eventually what was really happening started to get out so they passed them off as bishops. Do you know why the West has genetic potions and the North experiments with machinery? All of that is because we can't compete with the East without it. Adepts are needed in every level of government and military now, and you can't grow strong without them."

    "So to increase their influence and strength, the Pontiff's Citadel passed down a special decree to the inquisition; a new task, to collect orphans. Under the guise of adoption the inquisition would bring them back for training. It starts with a genetic test."

    "The West has experimented with acquired Talent for many years. They have more experience and infrastructure for it than anyone else. Whether or not you get your Discipline from birth or have on created for you it has to agree with your genetic make-up as I'm sure you know. So they test them, to know what their Disciplines will be once the process is complete, and likely how strong they will become. They can even tell more or less the age the powers will awaken. Through this process about eighty percent of the children are filtered out and given to an orphanage. You can see, then, why they want to keep that quiet. Many of the clergy who remain and work in the Citadel started as orphans, but..."

    Her face darkened, "Those kids who get thrown away are the lucky ones. That twenty percent who pass their test stay, and live a miserable existence. They stop being children, and become experiments."

    "Faith, is one of the biggest differences between the West and the North. Here they have a wide range of ideologies that are followed, but in the West people follow the Pontiff, with a smaller group believing in Satan. The Dark Citadel is marginally better in their process. They choose their most fervent followers and subject them to doses of the fantascia genetica. They always seem to have enough willing subjects."

    "The North is even more systematic. There are many who choose the path of the Convert to gain more power, and the North accommodates. If their tests are passed, the new Convert will see their strength spike dramatically. If they fail, they can eventually recover their Talent like you are. The Pontiff's Citadel is especially lacking in this area."

    "Their faith is based on love, but these genetic experiments are not. They're dangerous, and the faithful would never accept them. They can't even request it of zealots, because it runs so counter to what they claim to believe. It would shake the faith of their followers - the faith their power is built on. Still they have to progress, to ensure that the balance of power between themselves and the Dark Citadel remains at least even. How else do you think they keep coming up with such gifts followers, all curiously with Light-based Talents? Their pump the next generation with enough drugs to turn them in to super soldiers. Crueler than anything the other organizations can dream up."

    Lan Jue knew where she was going with this and interrupted. "So all those people in the cages were the Pontiff's 'experiments,' or they were about to be. And you..."

    She cut him off with a pained smirk. "That's right. I was one myself. Of that twenty percent that get chosen, only ten percent make it to the end of these trials. The rest die in the process. Once you graduate through the program they brainwash you in to their religion and make you forget everything of who you used to be. I'd forgotten myself, but I remembered it all when they dragged me back there. My memory got clearer with each rank in power I lost. It was like watching a terrible movie you couldn't look away from. Every agonizing moment came back. I've been.... Struggling with this, since we left the Citadel. But I'm a little better now."

    Lan Jue's face was an ashen grey as he listened. Qianlin, who had been listening silently, was red with indignation.

    "How... how could they do that? To children?! Those poor orphans have already suffered terribly, and then..." She couldn't even find the words to express her wrong that felt, and curses weren't her style. Her chest rose and fell with every angry breath.

    Xiaosu just smirked. "Now you know how wicked our 'benevolent' Pontiff really is. They put the scary-looking Dark Citadel to shame. Master, if you really don't want me with you then I'll go. I'll find somewhere to hide and recover, and I won't bring you any more trouble."

    The trouble she mentioned was real. The Pontiff's Citadel may not know she has all of this information, but she was a former asset and has seen the dungeon. Her continued existence was a terrible risk.

    Lan Jue waved a hand almost in irritation. "You're coming back with me. You think I'm scared of a little trouble? Figuring out what to do with this information will take time. Relax, before long that torture chamber will be rubble."

    This was very important news, and much bigger than he could handle on bis own. What still puzzled him was how they reacted when they thought he was a disciple of Jue Di. That'd saved him up to his discovery of Xiaosu. At that point their fear become the rest of the galaxy finding out what they were really up to.

    Xiaosu immediately interjected. "Master I said not to be hasty! By now they've broken it all down. There would be nothing left to incriminate them."

    Lan Jue nodded his capitulation. "You can take it easy, I won't do anything rash. No decision will be made until we get back to Skyfire Avenue."

    He couldn't stop the Pontiff's despicable actions, but that didn't mean there weren't others who could. What they were doing was worse than monstrous, and if their true face were revealed they would have hell to pay.

    Lan Jue felt strange, like the air around him sizzled. There was a strange hum perhaps only he could hear, of the Arrow of Compassion resonating with his Discipline. It set him on edge.

    What was the saying? The darkest shadows reside behind the brightest light.

    The former mercenary was already forming a plan, but now was not the time to act. He showed Xiaosu out when they had finished, and turned back to the clearly upset Qianlin.

    "If we want to stop this travesty, then the first thing we'll need is power. Ready?"

    "Let's do it."

    Beside his fights and looking after Jun'er, Lan Jue spent as much of his spare time as possible cultivating his Discipline with Zhou Qianlin. This games were stimulating, and the pressure helped improve their training.

    After three days and three rounds of elimination, less than four hundred combatant remained in the tournament lists. At this point, there were no lucky standouts left - all the rest of these fighters were strong and hardened. Statistically no one they would meet from this point on would be below eighth rank.

    Like the last round, there was a 'resurrection' vote to see who would live on in to the next round. As the vote went on, information began to trickle out.

    The handsome and gentlemanly Chu Cheng has given up his place in the running to save the beautiful Lina Lee. Lina was defeated in battle against a lightning-based Adept some suspect to be the Divine Monarch Zeus. Wounded, having lost by the skin of her teeth, Lina Lee was met by Chu Cheng who valiantly give up his chances at glory to help her tend her wounds. They have since become good friends - a true Romeo and Juliet tale!

    The reports came out with recordings of Lan Jue's fight with the vampire princess. Towering images of Chu Cheng leading the bleeding Lina from the arena was plastered on every screen.

    The news catapulted their fight to the most watched fight of the third round. This time, though, the doughty hero saves the battered heroine from the villain.

    It was an underdog's tale that captured the hearts of most viewers. Zeus faced quite a lot of criticism for her villainous deeds on the net, while Chu Cheng earned a second chance at the crown.

    Why not Lina? Because she'd lost twice, and the chance was no longer available. If a fighter lost their resurrection match than they were finished. If they didn't do it that way, then the people would simply keep voting back their favorite people. Imagine if someone like Poseidon were to participate.

    The rabid fans would have been surprised to discover all three of these heroic souls together. Eating, like friends and normal people.

    Lan Jue was quite surprised and not a little impressed with Chu Cheng when he showed up with Lina. He had skills, he had to admit! Not two days and Lina was out with him. The man was on another level.

    Chu Cheng was clad in a blood-red suit today with a clean white shirt beneath. It was an aesthetic vampires could really appreciate. A white handkerchief peeked from the hem of his pocket and a black tie slithered down his chest. All in all he was the picture of classical charm.

    Those of a particular bloodline always thought of themselves as nobility. How noble they were was a badge of honor, a sign of quality. Part of this was making sure that one's outward appearance displayed that. Lina Lee showed off her own superiority with a long purple night dress. Her face was pale, but otherwise she looked in fine shape.
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