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Chapter 489: The Cosmagus and the Epochrion

    Chapter 489: The Cosmagus and the Epochrion

    The Avenue's four Paragons didn't only represent their organization. They represented their whole Alliance. If something were to happen to them here on Northern soil, then the entire government of the East would be forced to retaliate.

    Things would have played out differently if the alien threat didn't exist, but they did, and they were coming. Once again the North would be first to suffer. It was unwise to start a war with the East under these circumstances.

    Hearing the query, the Wine Master's cold gaze fell upon the Epochrion. His voice was soft, but unfriendly. "The Clairvoyant isn't dead. That's hardly leaving the Avenue undefended."

    The Terminator was slow to react. He may have only been one level of Paragon beneath the Clairvoyant, but the gulf between them was immense. That was as true in their contributions to humanity as it was to their strength. This was also why he feared the idea of another Clairvoyant so much.

    The Terminator's voice was hard by contrast. "You thought bringing so many people here would frighten me in to letting her go, Wine Master? You forget - this is the North!"

    "That is exactly what I think," the Wine Master tepidly replied. "And now that I'm here, do you think we would put Jun'er in harm's way? Pharmacist... show him."

    A smile spread across her pretty face, and she set the bundle in her arms to the ground. Jun'er began to walk forward with a stiff and awkward gait.

    Everyone here was among the best Adepts of humanity. With their incredible powers of perception, it only took half a moment to realize the truth: this was a robot!

    The Terminator's face fell. "Impossible. I felt her powers myself in the Arena. I know she was real."

    "Of course she is," the Wine Master replied. "If she weren't why would we go through all this trouble? I was waiting in the corridors when the tournament finished. A quick exchange, and that was that. The details aren't important."

    Indeed they weren't, and to explain any further would be an insult to the Paragon's intelligence. The Wine Master's powers lie in interdimensional manipulation. Absconding Jun'er to safety was a simple matter, as was replacing her with this metallic substitute.

    Defeat was evident to the Terminator, and it was starting to fray his nerves. He'd been outsmarted, and all his strength couldn't change the fact. The Avenue had prepared well.

    Their objective wasn't here. What was the point of any further conflict? Especially when the Bookworm and Keeper seemed to have such little regard for Northern life. They were already prepared to inflict massive damage to Luo if provoked. They had defensive measures in place, of course, but who knew how well they'd fare against a cadre of Paragons.

    "Good, fine! You may go. But Jun Yongye and Xuanyuan Shishi are not your responsibility." The Terminator was grasping for a victory.

    "They are not part of the Avenue," the Wine Master confirmed.

    "But they are my fellow apprentices," the Pharmacist interjected.

    The Terminator's face darkened even further. The art of the sword was an ancient technique passed from master to student, so her assertions were plausible. It made him furious.

    Jun Yongye languidly sauntered over to the Pharmacist's side. He smiled. "You won't be keeping us here either, even if you're Paragons. Xuayuna, let's head out. We don't want to bring our friends anymore trouble. Sister, we'll find you when you get back." He nodded once toward his companion. Then, pausing for a moment, the swordsman looked toward Lan Jue and nodded as well.

    Xuanyuan Shishi arrived at his friend's side. There was an odd flash, and then the two changed before everyone's eyes. Two swords - one red, one blue - hung suspended in air. They glimmered brilliantly and then, piercing effortlessly through the ground, vanished.

    It was an unanticipated exit, to be sure. Neither the Terminator nor the Epochrion knew they could do that.

    The Pontiff waved his scepter, and an aura of holy light spread out around him. He looked prepared for battle. The Epochrion fixed the Wine Master with her silent, shimmering gaze.

    The Terminator's chest heaved, fighting his anger. After a moment, though, he eased. His voice was hard as iron. "I am honored to have so many illustrious Paragon guests on Luo, but you've taxed my hospitality. I ask that you leave as quickly as you're able. Men! Send them off!"

    The Terminator dissolved in to a jet black column of energy, then vanished. It had seemed frank, but it was more fatal than the Easterner's had known. He could feel the Pontiff's lust for blood, and letting that loose would have hurt his people as well as theirs. Everything would have been thrown in to chaos. In light of these unfortunate revelations, fighting would have achieved nothing. After all, there was their common enemy to consider. He would have to swallow the bitter pill of today's embarrassment.

    With the Terminator gone, it signaled the North's defeat.

    The Pontiff didn't stick around. He took his entourage and left. The Dark Citadel made their exit as well, in another direction. The Pontiff was here and Satan was not, so they weren't interested in starting trouble. They knew what kind of man the Pontiff really was, and given half a chance he would destroy them all.

    They had been on a razor's edge, but now the atmosphere cooled. The Avenue delegation could breathe a sigh of relief. The skies overhead brightened anew, which signaled the departure of the Keeper and the Bookworm.

    The Arcane Magnate's voice hung in the air after his figure disappeared. "We'll wait for you on the airship. Hurry up." It was also Jun'er's hiding place. They would need to get there quickly to protect her. Those last two words were deliberate.

    Lan Jue also heaved a sigh. Thanks to the Pharmacist's medicines he was recovering, but the fight against Jun Yongye had drained him. Complete recovery would take time. This was a much preferred alternative to fighting.

    The Gourmet broke his reverie. "Let's go. We'll have to fly there ourselves." Without regarding the Wine Master, he led them in to the air and toward the air hangar. Only two remained.

    The Wine Master and the Epochrion exchanged looks. The old man's calm face was belied by emotive eyes. They looked pained.

    "Have you been alright?" The Epochrion spoke first.

    "Very well." He answered.

    The Epochrion's small voice was almost a whisper. "It's been a long time. You haven't changed at all."

    A sad smile spread his lips. "Just older. But really it is you who hasn't changed. As young and beautiful as you ever were."

    "You should go, too," she quickly interjected. "The Terminator can calmly deal with a situation, but the military isn't so level-headed. You should be careful, even on the way home."

    A silvery flash sprang out from the Wine Master's hand, and the scepter it clutched vanished. "I didn't only come here to protect my people. I've had questions on my mind for the last forty-two years, and today I'm going to get answers. We may never get another chance."

    There was a moment of silence, before the Epochrion looked up at him. "Ask."

    The Wine Master took his time. His hands slowly clenched in to white-knuckled fists. "Why did you leave? Was it really just a disagreement in philosophy? Did you take our relationship in to account?"

    She didn't answer. The Wine Master couldn't hide the emotion from his face any longer.

    "My whole life I've only ever loved two things; wine... and the Clockmaker." "He fought to calm himself, managing to a degree. "There are a few shops on the Avenue that lie empty. The Horologium, and the photography studio still await the day their owner returns.

    There was a clear note of disappointment in her voice. "Go back? I'm sorry, Wine Master. I know how you feel about me. That's part of the reason I left."

    The Wine Master looked at her, shocked. "Because of me?"

    She sighed. "Time passes so quickly. People think I control it, but do I? I sure don't think so. No one is the master of time, because it cannot be controlled. Forty-two years... neither of us are young anymore.

    "There's a lot I never said for fear of hurting you. But you're insistent. The truth is, I never loved you. My heart always belonged to someone else, someone who loved my sister instead. I couldn't accept it and left. It wasn't all you, either. You were too good to me, and I couldn't repay you the way you wanted. I felt I had no choice but to go.

    "Those disagreements of vision were just an excuse. The real reason was I couldn't stand to face you, or even face myself. That's when I met the Terminator and decided to leave. Perhaps it was the best decision for me, at the time."

    The Wine Master was at a loss for words. He didn't know how convoluted the truth had been - or how cruel.
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