Chapter 476: Stabilizing Protogenia

    Chapter 476: Stabilizing Protogenia

    Xuanyuan Shishi's cries were heard clear throughout the arena, and it sent chaos rippling through the stands. Constantine was watching also, and he was full of a helpless disbelief. How could he have lost to this guy? And Zeus, what he was doing should be impossible. How was he sustaining such a taxing barrage?

    The more attentive onlookers could see how this man's Forest of Lightning was a problem. However, a competition was a competition, and victory was earned at any price. But what they did not expect was Lan Jue's cry.

    "Very well!"

    The overwhelming swell of lightning finally began to subside. Just as all rivers flowed to the ocean, the great bolts of electricity all flowed back toward Lan Jue - standing suspended in the air - and disappeared within him. That slender sword tumbled to the ground where it reformed in to the figure of Shishi.

    The swordsman looked at his opponent, refusing to believe what had happened. "Scoundrel... you must have a way to shore up your energy reserves."

    Lan Jue looked at him helplessly. "Can you relax?"

    "Fine," Shishi replied with a sniff. "Now we'll see what's stronger - your fist or my sword." His challenge came as Shishi flowed toward Lan Jue, himself very much like a cloud. Another misty sword had appeared in his hand.

    Lan Jue answered by sinking in to his stance. His hands rose up in the now-familiar and fluid motions of Taiji. He'd agreed to stop the forest of lightning because winning wasn't what he was after. He was in search of growth, and the best growth always came from pressure. What was there to be gained in a straightforward win?

    There was a flicker of light against Shishi's sword, then he was in front of Lan Jue. His weapon lashed out and birthed ten thousand copies that flowed like mercury. They slithered toward Lan Jue's shields while the swordsman himself seemed to become more incorporeal.

    Xuanyuan Shishi's weapon was like an extension of his own body. His movements were unpredictable and dangerous. For Lan Jue it was like everywhere he looked were swords. Every single one of those deadly blades were heading right for him, aiming to pin him to the ground. Shishi's title was more telling than he'd imagined.

    They hadn't reached him yet, but he could feel them. Every one of the acupuncture points dotting his body began to ache 1 But, he had a plan. He shrunk in on himself a little more, sinking lower in to his hands and bringing his arms around to form a vertical circle. Where Shishi's sword style was swift, guileful and enveloping, Lan Jue's response was to slow way down. It put the both of them in sharp contrast.

    Then, the scene became strange. Those ten thousand sword-shadows were drawn toward something - that circle Zeus was making with his arms.

    To Shishi it was like those swords were all piercing through a vortex. It was like they'd gotten lost in a quagmire, and even Shishi was starting to feel the pull. Years of extensive study led to Zeus being capable of completely fusing his Discipline with Taiji. Since electricity had its own vacuum force, it bolstered the Taiji vortex even further. This was his plan, combine them together to creation the appropriate reaction.

    Shishi, seeing this, had no recourse but to use all his strength to wrench those mist-blades free and attack again. He came at Lan Jue from a different angle of attack.

    Lan Jue's arm began to move, but maintained the circular shape. However, the Taiji power spilled free and started to conceal Shishi's attacks from view. The new center of gravity sent the sword master's weapons spinning, and ultimately unable to hit him. Gradually Shishi lost control, and his weapons were directed where Lan Jue wished. Their difference in Discipline also began to show. Xuanyuan Shishi's mists had started to grow sluggish.

    He inwardly complained at the situation. Whether the Forest of Lightning or the Taiji abilities, everything had him locked down and unable to fully engage his speed. The Taiji skills of a peak-ranked Adept were too strong. Even the atmosphere under the force field swirled at the behest of Zeus. Shishi was on a battlefield completely out of his control.

    There were still a few spectators that thought Lan Jue's victory over Titan was a fluke. The proof now overwhelmingly proved the opposite. No wonder he won, they thought. Taiji was much more capable than any ordinary person could have imagined 2.

    Lan Jue moved slower and slower, and the whole of the energy around them began to change by degrees. The shields surrounding the ring fluctuated as though it was under assault. Xuanyuan Shishi was losing control of himself to Lan Jue's flowing force.

    Lan Jue himself was a tool of it, he was a part of it and seemed almost separate from reality around him. For a moment, he even forgot he was in battle. Every moment saw his lightning Discipline and the Taiji powers more completely combining. His yang-style powers were brought in to the transformative properties of Taiji, and softened it. The overwhelming force of it felt more pliant, and yet the moment of release was as powerful as one of the Taiji Nine Strikes. It hit with enough force to shake the earth.

    This is what he meant! I remember master telling me, that the rage of yang lightning could be given peace by Taiji.

    He also remembered the words of his teacher: When he could bring those two worlds together, he would discover his Path.

    It was completely unexpected that he should have this epiphany now, in the midst of competition. It was not a revelation derived from this one fight, but the result of days - years - of contemplation. Only now was it revealing itself.

    Nor was this just his Discipline. He could feel it flowing all through him. As his Core gently rotated in his chest, an aura of radiating energy was pouring forth.

    This was not an aura of explosive electricity, but was infinitely gentle. Beneath his feet, the swirling image of the yin-yang, of white and black power, appeared and began to swell. It grew until every inch of ground beneath them was covered. If anyone could see the invisible flows of energy in the ring, they would see tendrils of power. Thin and pliant as a strand of silk, they flowed to the center of the enormous swirling image.

    The sense of it was not grandiose, but the intractable pull of the energies were undeniable.

    Xuanyuan Shishi's body had begun to spin out of control. His weapons could only blindly flail through the arena. Even he had lost his target.

    The results of the fight were already known. Lan Jue made no effort to press the attack.

    Jun Yongye watched carefully from the arena. He nodded, agreeing with some unspoken thought.

    Just then, Lan Jue bellowed a clear and righteous yell. It was as thunderous as a dragon, as fierce as a lion 3. In the space of a blink, the white and black powers flipped and collided around Lan Jue. Xuanyuan Shishi was buffeted every which way.

    In the midst of this overwhelming assault, a brilliant beam of light erupted from the swordsman. It was a sparkling red of pure sword spirit that fired through the top of the ring's shields. Within it descended a ruby-red blade.

    But it lasted only a moment. In a breath it was gone, forced shut by some invisible force.

    The Pharmacist and Jun Yongye's eyebrows shot up in the same instant.

    The vestiges of red power from Shishi vanished. He, too, disappeared, but only to spring back in to view in the center of the ring. He was no longer spinning.

    The spinning vortex of white and black power was also slowly reducing in size. It eventually retreated to reveal Lan Jue in it's epicenter, and vanished in to a spot on his chest. His skin fluctuated between black and white, flickering and melding in to one another. It shifted to dazzling gold and silver and, flickering thrice to the intensity of Lan Jue's screams, disappeared.

    It was like witnessing a staggering phenomenon.

    Xuanyuan was completely oblivious to the change in Lan Jue. He couldn't even tell where he was.

    Lan Jue had chosen to wear his mask for the fight. It was a part of Zeus' identity, and revealing his face one time was no excuse for abandoning tradition. But if people could see his face beneath the golden façade, they would discover that his face was covered by a glossy shimmer. The sense that came from him changed, too. It seemed more grounded in the natural way. He looked more like a Paragon.

    This was the sign that an Adept was on his first steps of the Path. If a peak Talent could fortify his understanding and work hard, he would ascend to the rank of Paragon.

    But Lan Jue's true power was only third rank! This was the benefit of re-cultivation. These were the benefits to his future that were promised. It was slow to start with a sudden explosion of growth to Paragon, much different from barely managing.

    "Do you still wish to continue?" Lan Jue asked his opponent. He still sounded vigilant.

    Lan Jue's transcendence had been well timed, for while he took that great stride he could still feel the staggering power Shishi had summoned. It had been just a moment, but the strength of it had made Lan Jue's heart race. But he was determined, now that his feet were on the path, he could overcome.

    1. The human body is absolutely lousy with acupuncture points. Maybe a little nsfw.

    2. This is largely true. Most people feel that Taiji is for old people, but I've seen/had my ass kicked by a Taiji master before. They don't mess around

    3. The tiger and Dragon are often depictions of yin and yang and are regularly pictures artistically with the yin-yang symbol.
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