Chapter 851: Between Life and Death
In the midst of that gold and purple world a host of sparkling stars emerged, their light fighting past the haze. It was strange when the avatar's overwhelming power became a backdrop for such a beautiful display.
Beams of starlight descended upon Lan Jue, making him appear more substantial and dignified. His aura surged as well to ten times its typical strength.
Even here - deep in enemy territory, captured in an avatar's Domain, nearly lost in the immortal realm of these monsters - Lan Jue was able to summon the power of Boundless Starlight. Despite the terrible circumstance he was still successful in bringing his power to bear.
But his level of strength went beyond Nirvana, especially in comparison to aliens of similar rank. Lan Jue had inherited the essence of the Middle Heaven Great Emperor of the North Pole of Purple Subtlety and thus the power of the stars themselves.
Light from these stars permeated all of the universe, even in the hellscape that was Monarch's planetary body.
A small smile played on Lan Jue's handsome features. Through the power of the stars Monarch's influence was reduced.
A white light arose behind him. Within it were flecks of gold that hung in the air like sprites. The light of the Queen of Heaven. Qianlin was the first of her Discipline to reach such tremendous heights of cultivation, and as she broke through to Paragon her protogenia underwent another phase shift. Now her powers and Lan Jue's joined, filling them with that enigmatic golden light.
Golden thunderclouds gathered overhead, and bolts of lightning began to flash through the Domain. The air was thick with the promise of a storm. Despite the avatar's vast strength, even he couldn't hide a slight anxiety from crossing his eyes.
"Is this the power of your immortals?" He asked with genuine curiosity.
Lan Jue could not answer. In fact, he'd never experienced the realm of immortals and did not know what to expect. He became to approach the avatar, and with ever step the blaze of starlight that surrounded him increased. It shone out from points all over his body in patterns that echoes the stars overhead. Each passing moment saw his aura grow stronger.
If the Pharmacist's Slaughter Discipline augmented her strength, this was doubly true for Lan Jue. He had fought back as hard as he could against the Violet Prince and Princess but had not combined his skills.
Now he channeled his Boundless Starlight Discipline inward, swelling his power to the upper borders of Nirvana. That was the limit, for any further increase would thrust him into the realm of the Infinite. At that point the dangers of universal protogenia were too great.
Lan Jue advanced upon the avatar with Captus raised, choosing to make the first move. His movements were slow for he was fighting against the planet itself. However the purple Domain of the beast gave way, moving before Lan Jue and his Banishing Blade in a wave, pushed away by his determined charge.
Monarch's avatar watched him come and offered a small nod. "Interesting. We did not believe your species could be this strong, much less amplify your abilities. The fact that you've dared to come here reveals that you are in possession of sensitive knowledge. Unfortunately for you, it will not be enough."
As he spoke the avatar waved a hand, almost lazily. The waves that Lan Jue created were instantly calmed and the golden undertones gave way to an angry black that spread from earth to sky. Only the avatar himself retained that resplendent golden glow.
Lan Jue felt it acutely. Half a moment passed and suddenly the world around him was an inhospitable black hole of energy. Crushing pressure fell upon him from all directions and constrained the spread of Lan Jue's Boundless Starlight. The ubiquitous light of those burning stellar bodies was being blotted out.
Monarch couldn't stop the starlight entirely, but he could obscure and disrupt it. As it shone down into his Domain it was swallowed up, depriving Lan Jue of its aid.
Yet Lan Jue and Captus never stopped. They pressed ahead, slow but refusing to be denied. The reflected starlight coalesced around the godblade, creating ripples. Beneath those ripples were voids of darkness that drank from reality around them.
The starlight was absorbed and became a part of the weapon.
Captus began to shine brighter and golden runes burned along its length. Even without the starlight Lan Jue shone like a beacon, an authoritarian blaze. The essence of the Emperor of the North Star emerged around him once again.
Lan Jue was one with the will of the sword. For the first time he truly felt like the weapon was a part of him, inextricably bound to his mind and spirit. For the first time he felt capable of controlling the power within it. Captus' influence was fed back into him, and in a sudden epiphany he understood the meaning of the runes on its blade.
Red light coalesced at the tip of Captus, gradually deepening to a rich crimson and eventually black. If the avatar's Domain was an enormous black hole, then the darkness at the top of Captus was the singularity within it.
Captus moved ever forward. Small though the orb at its tip was, the sense of danger surrounding it was intense.
The Pharmacist, Occisus in hand, was right behind Lan Jue. Her Slaughter Discipline was different from before, forsaking its typical murderous style for a light and easy air. The light of Occisus even seemed to dim.
Her otherworldly weapon appeared for all the world like a normal sword, but the light in her eyes was anything but ordinary. They were filled with warmth, pain and hope. Her sword became an extension of her heart and soul, and all the conflicting emotions that roiled within her.
All three humans knew there was no room for leeway here. Holding back meant death - and not just for them, but possibly for all of humanity.
Right now, the Pharmacist's heart was filled with the thought of her lost husband, filled with all the beautiful things life had to offer. She poured all of it into her sword.
Behind slaughter was new beginnings. Life followed death. It was similar in some ways to the Birth and Destruction Domain of her enemies, but in contrast to those monsters the Pharmacist was a human with emotion. Her life was filled with pure love and sadness. All of these emotions coalesced in the intention of her weapon.
At first the weapon appeared entirely normal, like any old iron sword. However soon the golden runes appeared along its length much like Lan Jue's. They weren't quite so clear as his, but glimmered with mystical power. There was no murderous sense, but the fear it inspired was palpable. Suddenly, the Pharmacist understood the essence of the weapon she had carried for so long.
Only Zhou Qianlin did not raise her sword. She floated like a kite behind Lan Jue, bathing the three of them in the light of her Domain. The surge of strength Lan Jue and the Pharmacist felt was a result of Qianlin's abilities. Not only did it stabilize their Domains, but it amplified them - and further still, it deepened their comprehension.
Qianlin didn't pay the avatar any mind. Lan Jue was all that filled her vision, her sole focus. The memory of the first time they met rose from the depths of her memory. She was dressed in her beautiful wedding gown, and he descended like an angel from the sky. He was resplendent in gold from head to toe and stole her away. He took her into his arms then - firm, decisive, strong.
Qianlin's wedding had been a farce, organized by the Clairvoyant to spurn Lan Jue to action. But she had been uneasy. Of course she didn't really like Richard, she never had. Even back then there was some part of her that knew she had feelings for Lan Jue.
Perhaps it had started with curiosity. What sort of man was he that her sister loved him so deeply? Loved him so much that he was her last thought at the moment of her death? Was this man worthy of her?
Her body was given before an answer was received, much to her dismay. Yet afterwards she found she did not regret.
She still remembered his eyes on that day. She saw the pain that was writ deep in his soul that made her want to do nothing more than sooth him. That was the only time they were intimate, since afterwards their affections were blocked by the arrow of compassion.