Chapter 500: Dad

    Chapter 500: Dad

    Lan Jue hung his head, like a child who knew he was wrong. "I... was too ashamed."

    There was a flash in the man's eye, and suddenly an unseen power warped the air around them. Lan Jue felt like a small bird caught in a hurricane, and the terrible winds could rip him apart at any moment. His Discipline flared subconsciously to come to his defense. A thin aura of blue hung over him.

    As quick as it had come, the inexplicable power vanished. Lan Jue swayed from the sudden change, but quickly regained his footing. A brief but visible swirl of black and white appeared to help keep him stable.

    This made the older man nodded in approval. Then, he said the five words Lan Jue least expected to hear. "So long as you're back."

    Lan Jue quickly lifted his head, overcome by something within him. Tears rippled at the base of his eyes, threatening to fall. "Father, I..."

    He shook his head, fighting a despondent look. "I don't blame you," he said in that gruff tone. "I was too intractable before."

    Lan Jue would have dealt better with a beating. He'd had countless dreams and nightmares over how this reunion would go. This was never one of them. He had prepared for the harsh, crazed, iron-hard father - this man was very different.

    Lan Jue was faced with the reality that he didn't really understand the man he called his father. This was the first time he'd ever seen him so calm, and yet he felt like this was the man's true face.

    "There was no need to avoid me. I called you home this time just to tell you one thing." The man's voice was even and soft.

    Lan Jue unconsciously shot to his feet.

    Slowly, the other man lifted his head. His eyes were strange, alive with a flowering power, and when he looked at Lan Jue the two held the gaze for a long time without speaking.

    Then the older man smiled. Lan Jue thought it looked strange at first, almost ugly, on this man's face. He never remembered him smiling once throughout the years. It didn't fit, but nevertheless it finally caused Lan Jue's tears to stream down his cheeks.

    "I've got a good kid! Gone for a while, but still comes home to visit." The man's low voice was earnest, and full of pride.

    "Dad!" Lan Jue cried out, his face covered in tears. He stumbled forward to fall on his knees, but the other man anticipated this, and used his burly arms to pull Lan Jue in to a hug.

    "I'm sorry dad. I'm so sorry."  No matter how thick their armor, everyone had their soft side. Seeing this man, Lan Jue's was on full display. 1

    The other man laughed, deep and happy. "Maybe I am old. I've been learning to let things go."

    And indeed that seemed to be true. In his harder days, this man would never have given a call the way he did. It was also fear of that hard man that had Lan Jue so unwilling to visit for so long.

    "Alright, enough crying. You're not a woman." He pushed Lan Jue to arm's length, then clapped a calloused hand on his shoulder. The young Jewelry Master sniffed and wiped the tears away with a laugh. That sort of talk was the father he remembered! But, where before his voice would have been terrifying, now Lan Jue could hear it was full affection.

    "Shall we go home, dad?"

    "Yes!" He slapped the desk before him, and the wall at the far end of the office split open. It revealed a capsule situated before a long tunnel that could seat four people. It looked like a cannon ball primed for use.

    They both filed in to the vehicle. Lan Jue settled in and clicked his seatbelt into place. The other man did not.

    Without warning, a thunderous roaring sound assailed them, so loud it shook the capsule. Then, just like a cannon ball, they shot through the tunnel at incredible speed. Without any gravity dampeners, Lan Jue was firmly plastered to his seat.

    The other man didn't budge, instead sitting there with a pleasant smile as though he were taking a Sunday drive. He took another drag of his cigar and slowly exhaled. Soon the interior of the vehicle was thick with scent of cigar smoke.

    "Still as extravagant as ever, huh dad. Those 1966's have a wonderfully rich smell." Lan Jue said with a smile.

    The other man grunted. "This is your old man's one vice, so don't you even think about it. None for you.

    Lan Jue chortled, but didn't say anything.

    "So talk." He continued.

    Lan Jue quickly put away his smile. He took a breath and composed his thoughts, then proceeded to tell his dad everything.

    He listened carefully as Lan Jue spoke, and puffed occasionally on the cigar. There was no climate control in their little ball, so it wasn't long before even their view of each other became somewhat obstructed. Lan Jue didn't complain, it was a hobby they both shared.

    Lan Jue's calm recollection of events did not match his hard expression, and though the tale was long, he wasn't in a hurry to finish. His father listened carefully, but silently. He had no questions, nor comments to share. He just listened.

    "Vrrrrrrm!" The vehicle hummed as it slowed and came to a stop. As the doors opened, a plume of cigar smoke heralded their exit. The two men walked to a nearby elevator and took it up. A few minutes later they were back on the surface.

    The elevator doors opened, and on the other side was a simple wooden door. The middle-aged man pushed it open, and Lan Jue followed him inside.

    They were instantly greeted with a refreshing scent. The whole place smelled like flowers and fresh plants. It was a cabin, constructed entirely of wood and without any trace of metal. The whole place looked very simple in comfort and construction. A practice eye might have noticed that all of the furniture was antique. They were beautiful and elegant pieces.

    Outside the window there was a picturesque scene, straight out of an old Chinese painting. Vast fields of green trees and swaying grass met the eye, while chirping birds sang somewhere nearby. This clean and pleasant scent was natural.

    There was a long time that Lan Jue hated his father. Those years were torture, in every sense. But, the man always said that if they wanted to be the best, they would have to suffer the worst. The road to greatness was not ordinary, and we would not allow them to be ordinary.

    That process forged both Prometheus and Zeus.

    Thinking back on it know, Lan Jue knew that his father was right. His methods may have been simple and crude, but yesterday's pain was today's strength. To live life to the fullest and experience all the great things the universe had to offer, one had to choose the hard path and get strong. This was something he'd learned many years ago.

    The middle-aged man opened another door and stepped out in to the world. Lan Jue was tight behind. As they stepped out, a vast forest stretched out before them.

    The log cabin itself was ringed with a field around seven hundred square meters in diameter. After that was where the forest started. It was almost like a fence that hid and protected the small home.

    Lan Jue took in great lung-fulls of fresh air. He could feel the elemental forces that permeated this place. All of these plants, he remembered, had been planted by his father. Ever since living here, gardening had been his way to relax.

    No one would believe him if he said it: Jue Di, who could bend the fabric of heaven and earth, who single-handedly took on the Alliance's greatest fighters and won, was living out here as a part-time farmer and scientist.

    He remembered that once he father said his dream was to experience as much as he could. He didn't just want interludes of experience, he wanted to throw himself in to every effort.

    He'd worn many hats through the years, and used his extended lifespan in pursuit of study. Lan Qing and Lan Jue both saw him as a vast sea of knowledge that knew no bottom. He was a living repository of all the greatest things humanity had produced. Sometimes he seemed almost omnipotent.

    "I cherish my memories of this place," Lan Jue said quietly.

    "And yet you didn't come back for so long?" Jue Di said. "Am I really that frightening?"

    Lan Jue gave him a sidelong glance. "Do you want the truth?"

    Jue Di nodded.

    "Absolutely." He didn't even need to think twice.

    Jue Di's lips turned down in a scowl. "Then maybe I should just kick your ass."

    Lan Jue chuckled. "That would be a normal day. You've already scared me with this new you. It's uncomfortable."

    This made the Paragon chuckle. I guess I'll never end up a good man, if you all prefer me from before."

    Lan Jue shook his head. "No, not that. I like the new you. It's just hard to watch you get old."

    Jue Di was quiet for a time, and then sighed. "Be they a normal human or the strongest Paragon, no one can escape getting old. I may have a long future yet, but my heart is old. You know, sometimes now I get lonely and frighten myself. Eventually that fear was so much that I had to give some things up."

    Lan Jue looked at him with surprise in his eyes. His 'father' had never once shared such intimate thoughts with him. He was the indomitable Jue Di!

    Now he had become an old man, happy to lose himself in old memories, even if he did still look young.

    "You know, dad, the world's changed a lot. If you're lonely then you should go and take a look! Humanity still needs you." Lan Jue said.

    Jue Di smirked. "What does it matter what they need, or what they don't need? Once you reach a certain degree of power, there is only fear. It's not just your enemies, but your companions, your friends. They all come to be afraid of what you can do. I like it here, and although I'm lonely I live a life of freedom. The people here know Engineer Chi, and they have no cause to fear Jue Di. I have what I need, and it's a life I've become accustomed to. Saving the world I'll leave to you young folk."

    1. To those who may view this as overly dramatic, there are two points to consider. The first involves familiar culture. Asian families are very tight-knit, and in China many have only one child. Children are expected to visit home as often as they can, and at a minimum of once a year. Lan Jue's actions would make him a pariah in China, and a scoundrel for not taking care of his elders. Second, this is probably one of the biggest Chinese TV tropes out there, and it makes me puke. Many, many, many dramas center around the struggles of parents as an impetus for the main character to do something or feel bad. Most of the time though, you can tell it's pigeon-holed in to a story just to make people cry. If you want to make a Chinese person, male or female, immediately begin to ball their eyes out, tell a sad story about your mother.
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