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The Driver nudged Lan Jue with his elbow. He spoke in low tones. “So what about it, Jewelry Master? Do you dare acknowledge your relationship to the new goddess? I’m pretty sure these Westerners would rip you apart if they found it.”
Lan Jue’s response was tepid. “They’ll figure it out sooner or later. Even goddesses have lives to lead, and she’s mine.”
A chortle arose from the rugged Paragon. “I dare you.”
Lan Jue fixed him with a half-hearted glare. “Stop the nonsense. You should be working on crossing the threshold to Nirvana. The sooner you do the better things will go for all of us. I’m going to look in on our people.”
Star Division likely had a tough mission before them, staying here. There were ten Paragons to back them up, but if the aliens did come it would certainly be with considerable might. If that ended up being the case it was unclear who would come out the victor.
Lan Qing had told them that, if the battle should be more than they could handle, their first choice should be to flee through the teleportation array. Being hawkish in the face of destruction was unwise, even if it meant abandoning Angel.
Lan Jue, of course, did not want to see that happen. He wouldn’t leave until the last possible moment, when all other avenues had been exhausted. It didn’t matter how many powerful alien foes came for them, all it meant was there were less to impede Middle Heaven and the others.
Star Division had been separated into several companies, roughly a hundred soldiers each. Each one had a Paragons as its commander, responsible for their care and operation. Lan Jue himself led one chosen from his own brigade, the four Amazons, and several from the National Eastern University.
He wouldn’t be piloting Thor. After arising to the rank of Paragon the suit no longer aided him as much as it had before. In fact it had started to become an unnecessary burden.
The ten companies were spread out all across Angel. They quietly waited for the enemy to arrive.
The armada had disembarked, but left a cache of supplies for them to use in the planet’s defense. This included radar and defense systems, which were manned by specialists from An Lun. Su Xiaosu commanded Star Division as a whole.
While their mission wasn’t so dramatic and high-profile as the front lines, Star Division was populated with world-class soldiers. Protecting Angel was just as important as bringing the fight to the enemy. There was the potential for it to be even more dangerous. Still Lan Jue was not worried, for in addition to the many ‘normal’ Paragons they also enjoyed the protection of Jue Di and Luo Xianni.
Originally Lan Jue had hoped Jue Di would travel with his brother and keep him safe. However Lan Qing vetoed the request, as he felt his father and younger brother would be a more capable team. With Qianlin’s help, Jue Di could utilize all of his strength without fear of universal repercussions. If he was needed at the front they could be there quickly though the teleportation array.
In the end Jue Di remained on Angel with the others. Neither he nor Luo Xianni were tasks with leading a company and remained with Lan Jue and Qianlin instead. With two Paragons of the Infinite by his side, Lan Jue had total faith in their ability to deal with any problem. In fact he was curious - he’d never seen his father’s full strength, even so this day.
“Father.” Lan Jue finished his meditations and opened his eyes to see the man in front of him. He was standing by a window, looking out over the horizon. Lan Jue could see he was pondering something, but didn’t know what.
After absorbing the energy from the avatar’s vital crystal, Jue Di appeared younger than ever. Not much older than Lan Jue, in fact.
“You up?” Jue Di turned around and regarding both his son and Zhou Qianlin.
Qianlin was still struggling against the influx of faith energy, only barely managing to keep herself from breaking through to Nirvana. Thankfully she had Jue Di and Luo Xianni by her side to give her guidance. With their help she was able to restrain the power of her Domain and keep it stable. Meanwhile Lan Jue reaped the benefits. He was already at the border of Reflection.
Zhou Qianlin took a long breath. “I think I’ve finally managed to get my power under control. But I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep it that way.”
When he looked at her, Jue Di’s eyes were soft and fatherly. He looked upon this virtuous woman with affection, like a daughter. The sentiment wasn’t as simple as reacting to her aura, he remembered that she used her own body to protect his son. She had been willing to give her life for him. That meant a lot, and even though he knew their relationship had been a ploy by the Clairvoyant he didn’t mind.
Jue Di smiled at her. “Suppressing your abilities is an exercise is strength, laying the groundwork for future success. It’s a way to improve every aspect of your powers. Other people would be unable to do what you’re doing, but you have this great opportunity before you. When the time comes that you truly can’t hold it back any longer, you’ll be ready to take full advantage.”
“Yes, uncle.” She replied.
Jue Di turned his attention to his son. “A-Jue, your mother told me she spoke with you about the possibility of creating an immortal realm. What do you think?”
“I support it wholeheartedly,” he replied. “It would be a great day for all of humanity. If any more creatures like these aliens show up, we’ll be able to face them more confidently. If we didn’t have to worry about universal protogenia I’m sure you would have dealt with the alien home worlds already, father. We might have been able to avoid all of this suffering.”
Disappointment flit across Jue Di’s expression. “Indeed! As such I’m inclined to work toward creating a new immortal realm, but it isn’t something that can be built in a day. I’ve spent years studying the possibility, but haven’t learned enough. But after absorbing the power from that vital crystal, the benefits were wide. The method by which these monsters gain energy is entirely different from ours, but you could say it's different paths to the same result. There were memories sealed in the avatar’s crystal I was able to unlock, memories that were crucial. I have begun to glimpse their evolutionary method.”
Lan Jue’s heart rate sped up. “The way they intend to make their own immortal realm?”
Jue Di nodded. “Of course I’ve only grasped the general principle. However, if we can defeat the planets and retrieve the crystal from Monarch itself I believe I can extract the knowledge we need. The knowledge they possess was tempered from years of effort, and more importantly the creation of a new plane of existence will need a core of energy. A core about the size of a planet, which shows how near they are to success.”
“However in all their history the aliens have never achieved such heights - there have never been alien creatures to achieve what our ancestors have. We have a legacy in our DNA of when our forefathers built the immortal realm. Between our endowment from the achievements of the past, and the knowledge of the universe these monsters possess, we have fair shake at succeeding again. If we can create even a small realm, our powers can grow exponentially until we have the strength to spread it far and wide. One day we will be able to create our own heaven.”
His father’s words filled Lan Jue with inspiration and drive. It was a dream come true, if it were possible. The aliens were the key.
“Father,” Lan Jue began, “something has been inkling at me ever since I’ve broken through, something I feel through the Emperor of the North Star. I’m not sure if I’m right, but I should tell you. Universal protogenia and the immortal realm they created…”
Lan Jue explained his thoughts to his father, explaining the contentious relationship between the universe and the gods of old leading to their ultimate defeat. Jue Di’s rapt interest was clear in his face. Even at Jue Di’s levels of mastery he had been incapable of understanding the breadth of the ancient immortals’ power.
Jue Di’s own inheritance was very powerful, so he had some nagging perception, but not so deep as his son’s. He also hadn’t spent a lot of time pondering the issue. It was only recently that he had begun considering the possibility of creating another immortal realm. He had never sensed the essence of that eldritch reality, nor possessed Lan Jue’s insights.
“It seems likely your assumptions are true. This means our ancestors battled valiantly against the fury of the universe. Every universe has an age, and ours is young. The fact that our species survived after the universe wiped out the immortals is nothing short of miraculous.”
Lan Jue thought for a moment. “What if after the clash the universe assimilated the immortal realm in some way? What if it wasn’t destroyed but absorbed? It would answer why threads of the Emperor’s essence remain. The universe certainly has enough power to wipe every trace of the immortal realm - and all of us - out of existence.”
Jue Di’s eyes sparkled. “That’s possible. What if the immortal realm won? Have you thought about the result then?”
Lan Jue paused, shocked. In truth he’d never considered it. Yes! If the immortal realm of old triumphed over the old universe, what would occur? What would happen to the gods and goddesses and the heavens they inhabited? They would become the new universe, and then where would they be? The answer was ‘everywhere.’
Jue Di patted his shoulder. “We may never know all the secrets of the past, but we can achieve the same levels of strength. If we succeed perhaps one day we will achieve what they did, then all of the universe’s secrets will be ours. What do you say - are you interested in exploring the possibilities?”
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