Chapter 464: A Good Hand

    Chapter 464: A Good Hand

    A bell-shaped aura sprang out around Titan, warding off Zeus' attack!


    Zeus was pitting his Discipline against pure Force, and had the upper hand. Empowered as he was, his control over lightning was supreme. He longer had to fight for control, and created a much more stable - and deadly - electric current.

    The VIP platform was silent. Even the Gourmet, knowing all he did, still looked stunned. The North's Paragon watched with a stone-faced glower. His premonition had turned out correct, and this Zeus was much more than he appeared. Their intel had been wrong, but he was shocked to find by how much.

    In the row behind, Metatron's eyes burned, and his eyes fists were clenched. If there had been any doubt before, the sudden rise in strength put them all to rest. This was the one who was so bold as to break in to the Cathedral. This man was the one who stole away their assets. Zeus was the one who had brought such public shame upon the Pontiff's Citadel. And - the bastard! - Skyfire Avenue's Jewelry Master!

    Every one of the Avenue's representatives just looked on, eyes wide and mouths open. The Accountant was as pale as a sheet. "W-what the hell happened," he muttered to himself. "When did he get so strong?"

    In the waiting area.

    Xuanyuan Shishi's eyebrows shot up. He, too, couldn't help but speak up. "With a little stamina... brother, what do you think?"

    Jun Yongye nodded his head. "Not bad. He's got a good hand!"

    The only one not taken aback by Lan Jue's sudden transformation, was the Pharmacist. Only she was fully aware of the young man's situation. Or so she thought - she had no idea he could join with Qianlin from so far away. That was a daunting revelation.

    Titan's eyes reflected the shock most everyone else felt. Part of that was for his own display. He'd hardly put a lot of power behind those three strikes of his, but they were each as formidable as his strongest attacks before the upgrade. However, his enemy's golden light pierced through like it was nothing more than a stiff breeze. This was in part because he had underestimated his foe, and partly because of Zeus' sudden rise.

    Titan roared and charge forward with earth-trembling strides. As he advanced, his energies poured in to the bell-shaped shield around him. It rotated around his hulking form, faster and faster.

    Zeus stood calm and collected. Electricity slithered out around him, some thin as tendrils as others thick as tree branches. They hugged the monarch tight, forming in to a twinkling suit of electric armor.

    The golden-masked being hovered in the air, with his golden cloak flapping behind and light bursting from his dazzling armor. He looked indiscernible from the mythical Zeus of old.

    Titan heaved his enormous girth in to the air. His fists rose with him, and as his trajectory brought him crashing toward Lan Jue those fists aimed to smash him in to the floor. Even before he hit the ground, its alloy surface seemed to bow in terrified anticipation.

    Zeus didn't move. Calmly, his left hand extended forward. Titan's fist first collided with that extended hand, but Lan Jue pivoted just as they made contact. His other hand stretched out, and radiating a strange energy, guided the massive convert away mid-air.

    Then Lan Jue moved again. To Titan, it just felt like he'd miscalculated and went barreling toward the prismatic shield. But under Lan Jue's subtle directions, he instead crashed unceremoniously in to the ground.


    The entire Conclave Arena trembled from the impact. Even with Titan's famously powerful defense, he certainly felt that.

    The Nine Strikes of Taiji; Parry, Block and Punch! 1.

    Lan Jue exploited the opening and, continuing the pivot, brought his right hand crashing down right on top of Titan. At the point of impact, a bolt of lightning thick as a tree hit right where Lan Jue's fist landed. BOOM!

    The force buried Titan further in the alloy floor of the arena. The lightning strike had been so intense it turned the whole thing gold. But he frowned. If his control was really at its peak than one hit should have been enough.

    The crowd saw it differently. They could only gape at precisely the opposite of what they'd all thought would happen. The scene was familiar, though the players were reversed. How masterful did this masked man's cultivation get?

    What Titan had undergone in the last couple of days, had been the next step in the Paragon manufacturing process. What many did not know, was that the North had their own form of fantascia genetica that they employed in their experimentation - a formula no less potent than the West's. Since the Terminator had trained him, he had avoided the trap of replacing too much of his natural body with machinery. This had allowed them to move forward with this next progression. Ultimately it was a failure though, and they knew it. Comprehension of protogenia was not something science could emulate.

    In his bid to win the crown, for the glory of his Master, Titan had taken this formula to stimulate the full breadth of his potential. He was already at his peak, so this was intended to force him right up against the barrier to Paragon.

    But the power and influence he gained through this wasn't real understanding, and thus not a real manifestation of Domain. This was the difference between Jun Yongye and himself. Although the blademaster wasn't a ninth rank, his understanding was deep. Titan believed the difference in Discipline would be enough.

    Yet in the face of Titan's upgrades, his faith, and his strength, Zeus was still controlling the fight. The convert could not know that Zeus' Ascension and Qianlin's Queen of Heaven transformations had joined entirely. This promoted not only Zeus' Discipline, but his protogenic command. Now it was all brought together here, the God of Lightning showed much more power than he had in the Pontiff's Citadel.

    Zeus also benefitted from two Disciplines. Just as thunder followed lightning, as one rose in power so did the other. He was two peak-ranked Adepts in one. Although Titan's pure Force was impressive, Lan Jue's Taiji skills made sure they weren't insurmountable.

    "Aaahhhhhh!" Another roar as Titan stumbled to his feet. He veritably poured with an oppressive aura. Zeus was not reckless, and retreated to assess the situation on the far side of the ring.

    From within the divot, the convert's body began to swell. Before the eyes of the audience, he stretched until he became as large as the titans of old. His clothes exploded in to shreds, with his modestly carefully protected by briefs of super-elastic material. His eyes blazed red, but his body was a union of silver and gold. His skin was a pure luminous white, and the gold flowed through his pulsing veins. Rays of glorious golden light painted the ring.

    This was the manifestation of Titan's greatest faith. His impenetrable defense grew with him, and the displacement of power caused the arena to shake once more. It shook as much from his strength as the cheers of his Northern compatriots.

    Zeus regarded his opponent with dispassionate eyes. Metalmorphosis? Or something else? He could clearly feel the tempest that was Titan's Discipline, swirling around them. It must be something granted through his conversion, some kind of installation to strengthen his abilities.

    It achieved the same effect Lan Jue experienced in compressing his Core, though not to the same degree. Still, Lan Jue had to acknowledge that what he saw before him was daunting. Titan was a hair's breadth from Paragon, and some aspects of his power were probably already at that level.

    Zeus took a steadying breath. He slowly extended his right hand forward and followed with a step. He flowed in this way like rolling clouds, difficult to directly face. If he wanted to overcome the strength of a Paragon, he had but one path; be yielding! Be fluid so that the full force of his power had nowhere to land.

    "Boom!" Titan's right foot stamped hard against the ground. A shockwave with the force of ten earthquakes rattled right for Zeus.

    But ten meters from him, the vibrations simply stopped. Distant areas of the ring tossed and buckled, like a sea in stormy weather. Zeus was unmoved.

    The enormous Titan roared again, and threw himself in a forward charge. His massive, metallic fist exploded through the air toward his opponent and fired a ray of golden light.


    Lan Jue lifted his arms, and gently allowed them stretch out; Apparent Close Up.

    A steady glow of black and white appeared in his palms. But as tendrils of electricity worked their way through the energies, both turned an incandescent gold. He effortlessly deflected Titan to the side, into the ring's shield.

    Titan responded with an apocalyptic hail of punches. Lan Jue danced around them, masterfully employing his Master's teaching: Grasp the Bird's Tail, Parting the Horse's Mane, White Crane Spreads Its Wings. Each one, at the very last moment, turned away Titan's murderous attacks. They weren't the nine strikes, but the basic moves and practice of leverage gave him the edge over overwhelming force.

    But while it looked effortless, one could imagine the kind of stress it put on Zeus to face off against a near-Paragon. He felt like a blade beneath the blacksmith's hammer, but the beating only resulted in tempering his mastery of Taiji.

    1. This is one move that happens all at once. I couldn't find a good example of this one move, but here's a good video of the practical application of Taiji by an American hippie
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