Chapter 435: Lightning is Male and Female?

    Chapter 435: Lightning is Male and Female?

    There was a faint glimmer of light in the room, somewhat ominous. "If there's nothing else I'll continue with my meditations. Come find me tomorrow, Driver."

    The other quarter finalist nodded in response.

    The constant stress of the tournament continued to aid his cultivation efforts with Zhou Qianlin. Their unions were smoother, and the pressure helped to hone his focus. Going through the ranks again caused him to notice things he'd missed or didn't understand the first time. He felt like a novelist who felt one way when writing the first draft, but had matured by the time editing was done. In the China of the Former Era, a great novelist of the Tang family said 'every edit is a revelation. If one wishes to write a great piece, one must be dedicated to persistent self-reflection and adjustment.

    Lan Jue's situation was no different. It was bitter, to feel like you had to start over. But the benefits were obvious. As if to underscore his point, both he and Qianlin felt their Disciplines advance after a night of meditation. Qianlin's famously fast advance through the levels had slowed significantly since reaching ninth rank. However, with Lan Jue's help she was still much faster than anyone else.

    She'd been pressing against the boundary of ninth level second rank for the last few days. Her mastery over Lan Jue's thunderbolt Disciplines had also improved. The environment was appearing to have a transformative effect on her own abilities. The Pharmacist had mentioned this in her discussion with Lan Jue before. It was a sign that they were on the optimum path.

    The Driver came knocking early the next morning. Lan Jue and Qianlin had just finished their breakfast.

    "Early enough?" Lan Jue remarked dryly.

    The Driver huffed. "I don't have time to sit on my ass. I believe every word the Accountant said last night, so forgive me if my opponents have me a little stressed."

    "This is pretty unlike you," he answered. "With talk like that how do you have any hope of winning? Confidence and determination is what will help you rise to the challenge."

    "Or maybe it's because my defect has started to affect my mood," the Driver revealed.

    "Eh?" Lan Jue regarded his friend with surprise and concern.

    The Driver's voice grew somber. "You must already know that I'm stuck in a bottleneck. Each one is different, some big and some small. But this has been the worst block I've ever come experienced. I haven't been able to budge from the peak of seventh rank. If I could only break through, I have the perception of a ninth level ninth rank Adept. I may even have potential to become a Paragon. I'll never get there if I can't get through this bottleneck, though. It was too sudden, and too intractable."

    Lan Jue nodded reassuringly. "Whatever the case, I'll do whatever I can to help." Their Disciplines were two sides of the same coin. Thunderbolt and lightning 1, one yin and one yang but otherwise mirrors of each other.

    The Driver fixed him with a look. "In truth the bottleneck has to do with you. Usually, these bottlenecks appear to force an Adept to achieve greater levels of control over their energy. For those like us who have practiced for many years, those blockages are easily overcome. However, this is different. The bottleneck I'm suffering has infected my Heart meridian. It started after the god-rank battles, when you absorbed my Discipline. There was a sense... something there that I could feel, but not clearly. It's been nagging at me and affecting my Talent ever since. I've tried to tell myself to let it be, but my mind keeps returning to whatever it is. It's come to taint my cultivation; I can't focus, and I can't feel what I need to break through to the next rank."

    There was a glimpse of something in Lan Jue's eyes, and a smile spread across his face. "Got it."

    "Got what," the Driver asked.

    Lan Jue smirked at him. "You should be thanking me, actually. I went through the exact same process myself once. That sense you feel as a type of protogenia that resonates with you. That's why it has such a powerful effect on your heart. You should know that the earlier you experience the more effect it has on your future development, too. For instance, if you'd only started to sense protogenia when you were at ninth rank then your chances for breaking through to Paragon or no better than twenty percent. However, you've got an early start, which means your chances have increased significantly."

    The Driver's eyes lit up. "Protogenia? That's actually what I'm feeling?"

    Lan Jue offered a sagely nod. "We're both lightning-based Adepts, yin and yang - the basic energies of all the universe. Part of this understanding lives within you, you only need to cultivate a deeper understanding. So, in a way you're right - your bottleneck does have to do with me. If your goal is to break through to seventh rank, then your path must include developing a knowledge of protogenia. When you've put your feet on the Path, then you're ready to continue. Then you'll be ready for the journey to Paragon.

    The Driver nodded in understanding. There was a strange look on his face, though. "I guess that means I owe you. So when can we start cultivating, so I can understand the Path? And with your discipline so reduced, do you think it will have an effect?"

    To this, Lan Jue smiled. "You're in for a bitter surprise if you're worried about my Discipline."

    "Oh yeah?" The Driver asked.

    Lan Jue chuckled. "I've had more than a few fine whiskies of yours. I'll show you what I mean. Qianlin, let's go."

    Qianlin had been quietly listening, interested in their exchange. Lan Jue's sudden call caused her cheeks to redden. He knew what Lan Jue planned to do.

    As she moved in close, Lan Jue wrapped a hand around her waist and leaned it. He pressed his lips to hers.

    "I-I could come back..." The Driver's awkward reaction to their kiss was amplified when Qianlin dissolved in to a flash of light and vanished in to Lan Jue.

    Lan Jue lifted is right hand, and a bolt of lightning leapt from his fingers. It raced through the room, charging the atmosphere and masking their presence. Once they were hidden from prying eyes, he allowed the full extent of his powers to reveal themselves. The Driver was stunned to feel the tempestuous flows of Lan Jue's Discipline as it flooded the room. Somehow, the Jewelry Master was suddenly so much stronger than he was.


    This was Lan Jue's biggest secret; the power he wielded when he and Qianlin joined. Still, he shared it with the Driver, for two reasons. The first was their personal relationships - they were friends. Second, he trusted the clairvoyant's visions. Both he and the Driver had been the subject of the old Paragon's visions. He couldn't have seen it wrong, so he didn't feel there was anything he needed to hide.

    "Are you still worried about my Discipline?" Lan Jue regarded his friend with a self-satisfied smirk.

    "The change in your discipline had something to do with her," the Driver mused.

    Lan Jue nodded. "We underwent a very... interesting experience, too complicated to explain. When we're together, my discipline returns to normal or improves. When we're apart my discipline becomes weak."

    The Driver's expression adopted a pensive tint. "You shouldn't have told me."

    Lan Jue laughed it off. "We are among the 'strongest under heaven', right? That was the idea of Deimos' team. If I don't trust you, then who can I trust? Remember that a single man's power is finite. You're my brother in arms, and if I don't tell you the truth then how can you watch my back in a fight?"

    The Driver nodded again, his lips tight and face resolute. "Right!"

    It was a simple response, but Lan Jue could see a subtle difference behind his eyes. Men didn't need words to express themselves among other men.

    "So," Lan Jue asked, "shall we get started?"

    The Driver nodded emphatically.

    The two Adepts made their way to the center of the living room and folded their legs beneath them as they sat. They didn't touch, only allowed their Disciplines to emanate freely from their bodies. Their eyes were closed, but the room flashed erratically with the manifestations of their Talent.

    The differences in their powers became clear as the lightning raced around them. Lan Jue's Discipline was sky blue, sometimes a vibrant purple. The Driver's Discipline appeared as a deep blue, almost black. That was a product of their yin and yang nature, but the explosive properties of the lightning Discipline were precisely the same for both of them. Gradually they were brought under control, and brought in to contact.

    K-cha! The feral tendrils of power clashed and released a spider web of lightning overhead. The charged atmosphere caused both men to shake slightly.

    The Driver opened his eyes, brows furrowed. "A mountain can only have one tiger!"

    Lan Jue smiled. "True, unless one is female."

    "Who are you calling female?!" The Driver barked. Lan Jue chuckled.

    "Stop screwing around. I'm talking about the lightning, not you. Pay attention to their reaction, feel the changes. I'll take care of the rest."

    "Got it." The Driver was concerned with breaking his bottleneck, not the intricacies of energy gender. He nodded and focused on the swirling powers around them.

    Lan Jue, meanwhile, folded his hands in to an oval in his lap. A short while later, another sensation crept through to join with the others, something strange and subtle.

    Flashes of white and black flickered through the room. This strange power helped to constrain, and condense the electric energies. Lan Jue's own sky-blue tendrils of electricity were drawn in to the milky depths of the white power. Likewise, the Driver's Discipline was innately drawn to the darkness. Once joined by Lan Jue's Taiji mastery, the two opposing electrical forces began to gather.

    Although the Driver had his eyes closed, he could feel the ebb and flow of the universe. Whatever skill it was that Lan Jue commanded was like a vortex that swallowed everything up, including his Discipline. Now that they were bound to either yin or yang, the two Disciplines were separated as though by a moat. There appeared no way for the two to interact.

    1. Very very frightening
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