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Chapter 452: Do You Even Know How?

    Chapter 452: Do You Even Know How?

    His Core's volume had been condensed by a third. Roughly speaking, it meant his energy was increased by the same amount. For a ninth level Talent this was unheard of! It was likely because of his re-cultivation, which improved his foundation for growth. His powers were more potent, now.

    He meditated upon the things he witnessed, like the sword styles of Jun Yongye and Xianyuanshishi. He liked the self-deprecating, simplistic style of Jun Yongye especially. Simple and direct was always powerful. To focus on it was to comprehend the true meaning of the blade. And the essence of swordsmanship... that was like a power all its own. The sword, king of weapons! This would be his path.

    By the time he opened his eyes, the street lights glowed beneath a darkening sky. A faint and pleasing odor met his nostrils. "Smells good!"

    "Eat. You haven't had anything since we came back this afternoon." Her gentle voice drew his attention. Here in the hotel, she was clad only in a long sleeping shirt. The bulky outfit hit her feminine figure, but each step revealed a flash of thigh.

    Lan Jue smiled softly, and pulled her in to his arms for a hug. He could feel her warm against him. "Yeah I wouldn't mind a bite," he said, looking at her suggestively.

    "Eating people is illegal," she said with a roll of her eyes.

    He chuckled. "I guess that depends on how." 1

    This earned a laugh from Qianlin. She fixed him with a charming look. "Do you even know how?"

    Lan Jue was instantly filled with the pang of regret. Could he? The moment their affections reached a certain degree, the two would meld and the act would stop there. He doubted their restrictions were limited to kissing.

    The barriers between them had quietly begun to dissolve as they spent more time with one another. Qianlin's silhouette was painted ever deeper in his heart. Their union allowed them to interact on a higher level than most.

    Adaptation to one's environment, Lan Jue made no attempts to resist. Hera was gone, and he could not spend his life wallowing in the tragedies of the past. Life was meant to be enjoyed. He decided to grow stronger, to reach Paragon, and to experience that which he had been putting off.

    Qianlin extricated herself from his embrace and brought over the little food cart the hotel had provided for them. She pulled away the lid and let a gust of aromatic steam escape. The scent of sumptuous meat filled the room.

    It was a big cut of steak. Wine-sauce was dribbled over it, with greens on the side. It was a fierce stimulation for his appetite. 2

    He took the knife and fork offered by Qianlin and immediately tucked in. He was clearly hungry, but was trying to remain refined.

    "It's been a while since we've had a drink," he said. "This would have gone wonderfully with a fine bottle." Lan Jue heaved a satisfied sigh once the steak was gone. A belly full of food and booze - a joy no one should have to do without.

    "You didn't get hurt in today's fight? I felt the danger, but it looked like it was on purpose." She took a warm cup of water in her hands and sipped from it.

    He shook his head. "I'm fine. I used the low temperatures to try again and concentrate my Core. The results were much better than I expected. The cold slowed my lightning powers, and made them more stable so I could condense my Core by a third. It's about as much as I suspect I can handle for now."

    Qianlin's eyes glittered in interest. "So it helped with control. But does it also make your attacks less potent?"

    "At the time, it looked like that was true," he answered. "But I'm not sure. Temperature has an effect on any Adept, it would take more experience to determine specifics. It's a shame I won't be fighting her any longer. Later we'll do some cultivation, and we'll see if we can't condense your Core as well. I believe that once we merge our Cores do as well, so maybe now that I've succeeded we can do something for you, too."

    Qianlin nodded in understanding. "The process may be easier since my Discipline is naturally more stable than yours. Then again, there's a great difference in power, too. So I'm lacking your power, and you're missing my stability. Before I couldn't even comprehend your level of Discipline so I couldn't help. Now, though, you've already managed to succeed. Helping me along shouldn't be a problem."

    Her prediction was proven true when they merged later that night. Qianlin's Core was condensed just as his was, without a hitch, as smooth and compliant as water. When they joined, her own Core shrunk to match Lan Jue's. At first, her Discipline was unused to the change and rebelled, but eventually settled down. Their formerly peak-level strength was reduced now, however. They could sense that there was more room for growth, expansion. It was nothing short of a miracle. Now, their Disciplines were rapidly trying to take advantage of the space.

    Lan Jue wasn't overly interested in that aspect. His interest lay mostly in purifying their Disciplines, so that they had an even stronger foundation for improvement.

    One night of careful cultivation earned them the same progress they would gain in three or four days. When the morning rays peaked through the curtains of their room, Lan Jue's eyes popped open. They glittered with promise and excitement.

    He walked to the bed and picked off the comforter. Holding it close, a soft white light radiated from him, and after a moment the lithe figure of Zhou Qianlin was wrapped in the blanket.

    He held her close, wrapped tight, and smiled. "It looks like we're pretty lucky!"

    Qianlin had become used to this. She huddled beneath the blanket, revealing only her beautiful face. "Yeah! Tonight's results were very good. But perhaps you should keep me along. You're fighting Qi Mu today, and with your Discipline where it is, I'm afraid..."

    Lan Jue's eyes sparkled. "You're my wild card. It's not time to show our hand just yet, but today I'll need to start pulling out some tricks, but not you. Besting Qi Mu without you isn't impossible. With enough motivation and pressure, anything is possible."

    Qianlin, as though thinking of something, said "Yes... ever since coming to the tournament your Discipline has been improving quickly. I can see it ever yday. But you must still consider your safety. If the odds are too great, then don't overdo it."

    "It's fine. Go get some clothes on and let's have breakfast!"

    They could feel the palpable air of nervous excitement as they walked through the city. The closer the tournament came to its conclusion, the more invested everyone became. After the first round of the quarter-finals, the tournament boasted a higher viewer rate than any time in human history - like the whole of humanity had their eyes glued to these young men and women. The event sponsors had spent an astronomical sum on the prizes, but it looked as though they would be recouping the loss and then some. Already the souvenir items had been selling like wildfire.

    Bookies, meanwhile, were also making a killing. Bets for the finals were already done, finished before the first round was over. Jun Yongye and Xuanyuan Shishi had sent the whole betting world in to a tizzy, with their sudden and dramatic rise. You could measure their success by the tears of gamblers. It was a guessing game, and they only earned a payout if all their picks for the finals got in. In Jon Yongye's last fight, Yan Ningya had been favored at 1/0.6. He was 3/1 3. Judging by just the numbers, many put their hard-earned cash on the Northern disciple. It cost them dearly.

    Now that more information was known, betting for the second round had increased. There were more gamblers than in any previous round. Now, in the early morning, bets had already started pouring in for an hour. Most of today's bets had been picked the night before. Few people would choose this time to come out and put down money.

    Of course, there were always exceptions.

    Two women in silver fleece walked in to the bookie's office. They were hidden beneath hats, sunglasses and facemasks. Their features were entirely hidden from view.

    "Are you ladies interested in betting?" A worker greeted them pleasantly as they entered. In his experience the only ones who liked to hide their faces were people with a great deal of money to spend.

    The woman on the left spoke first. "Yes. Qi Mu against Zeus."

    "How much would you like to bet?" The worker began to tap at the screen before him as they spoke.

    "Five hundred million dollars." 4

    Immediately, everything fell silent as she said the number. The woman on the right added. "What, is that not alright? That's the bet limit, correct? Or is that too rich for your blood..."

    1. 'Eat your tofu' is a euphemism for sex in China.

    2. The 'eat you' flirty thing was dumb, this this is an interesting Chinese phrase. It literally says 'the smell made them helpless but to move their index finger tremendously.' Nonsense, except when you realize the word for index finger in Chinese is actually 'food finger'. Chinese can be fun.

    3. Sorry if I get this wrong

    4. TJSS did NOT describe this as New Era Dollars as he had in previous chapters, instead describing it as 'northern alliance monies.' I chose dollars since the North seems more American to me.
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