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All of the arteries and veins in Lan Jue’s body had become a sickly purple, especially the ones near his heart. They writhes as the corruption continued to flow through his body. Only his Core was spared, with a shell of pale blue light that kept the corruption from swallowing it up. It was the only part of Lan Jue that was yet to succumb.
After absorbing the power of the thunder essence, immortal qi flowed throughout Lan Jue’s Core. His inheritance from the Emperor of the North Star also imbued it with the power of the five lightnings. Although the Violet Prince was strong, and his power great, it was still difficult for him to overcome Lan Jue’s natural abilities.
Qianlin poured her Queen of Heaven Discipline into him, but found resistance from the alien influence. The Birth and Destruction powers they commanded had taken root deep within Lan Jue’s body and was radiating outward, blocking her powers.
Not good! Qianlin was stunned to discover that the problem with their plan wasn’t what was going on outside, but within Lan Jue’s body. The Violet Prince’s influence was strong and deep. She continued to try and force her Discipline into him, and noticed that the more she tried the darker her surroundings became. Soon the same toxic hue that flowed through Lan Jue had taken over the walls of the cavern. The environment had become a part of him, and he a part of it.
Qianlin, like Lan Jue, had achieved the lofty heights of Nirvana. Unlike him she was not adept at combat and really understood very little of her power now that she was a Paragon. Now was it her body she was trying to work with. One mistake could harm Lan Jue, and that was what she feared the most. That being the case she was hesitant to employ her full strength.
Her second most pressing concern was the changes in the cavern around them. The aliens would surely notice something had changed when they got back and their plans would be discovered.
She was running out of options. With a flash of light Demortus appeared in her hand. She planned to cut the vessels that connected him to the planet, then decide what to do from there.
She tenderly lifted him up. Then, with Demortus’ blue light flickering across its blade, she pulled the weapon across his back. They tenaciously clung to him, but Demortus was a Banishing Blade and severed the vessels from her lover. She held him close.
As she supported his weight she looked down in horror to discover blood oozing quickly from his back. It poured thick and black from the ends of the vessels, draining his life force.
“Ah!” Qianlin gasped. Much to her surprise the tubes that’d connected him to the planet had completely integrated themselves with his body and circulatory system.
Once again she summoned her powers to try and staunch the bleeding. It worked, but only in limited scope. The writhing ends of the vessels refused to close, whipping through the air like tony snakes. The power of the alien overlords was proving more than she could handle.
What could she do? What could she do?!
She was flustered and scared. Their plan was predicated on the hope that everything went perfectly, but their knowledge of these monsters was so limited - especially where the home worlds were concerned. It was likely they were the first living beings to make it here.
A flickering light appeared from Zhou Qianlin’s forehead. She felt a strange sensation rising from within her that cleared her mind. A focused golden light sprang from between her eyebrows and fell over Lan Jue’s back.
It was an arrow, bright and gold, and when its light hit Lan Jue’s back it spread over the corrupted skin. Where the luminescence fell the veins writhed sickeningly, in sharp contrast to the steady power she released. Lan Jue’s vessels changed from purplish-black to a healthy red. The wounds on his back began to heal. After a few moment he looked like nothing had ever happened aside from a halo of golden light that clung to him.
The Arrow of Compassion!
Zhou Qianlin understood the moment she saw it. The weapon had been the product of their combined blood, manipulated by the God of Wine Bess and imparted unto them. After their breakthrough to Paragon the arrow chose Zhou Qianlin and her Queen of Heaven Domain, searing itself as a rune on her spirit. Until now she hadn’t known what to do with it.
The gold light receded back into Qianlin’s forehead. With a groan Lan Jue’s eyes fluttered open. The first thing he noticed was the warmth against his back and a familiar presence.
“Qianlin, did we succeed?” Lan Jue pulled himself into a sitting position and searched his surroundings.
The cavern’s interior had returned to its previous violet tinge, like nothing had happened. The air was thin, and bore a faintly odor, but was otherwise fine.
Qianlin told him what had transpired. When he heard of the Princess’ plan to have her way with him, he gaped at her.
She looked at him, frowning. “You’re thinking about it, aren’t you! She’s gorgeous, after all.”
He looked back at her with slight indignation. “Nonsense. She’s not my breed much less my type, and my heart knows what it wants. I have my goddess and there’s no room for anyone else - human or otherwise.”
“Alright,” Qianlin conceded. “Save your sister. I’m not sure what to do.”
Lan Jue looked toward the Pharmacist who was still enveloped in an orb of alien power. He moved quickly to her side, and after a moment of thought, pressed his right hand against her head.
The tell-tale flicker of lightning traveled down his arm. The coalesced Domain of the aliens melted, but began to flow up his arm.
Lan Jue didn’t resist. Instead he took a few steps back and allowed it to continue to cover him. His eyes adopted a blue light, and within twinkled a galaxy of stars.
Poof! The crawling sludge dissolved into smoke and flitted away on the breeze. Without the Violet Prince to lend it strength, the Birth and Destruction domain could not hold up against Lan Jue’s All-Heaven Lightning.
He repeated this a few more times until eventually the Pharmacist was free. It was somewhat awkward when he discovered that she was also nude, and quickly had Qianlin lend her some of her own clothes.
Meanwhile Lan Jue looked over their two captured swords. Both he and the Pharmacist had fought hard against the Prince and Princess, even going so far as to attack with all their might. However, they did keep some things hidden, like the secret powers of their swords.
If they’d drawn on the potential of their Banishing Blades it would not have been so easy for the aliens to capture them. One of them likely would have escaped, if one were willing to sacrifice themselves.
But none of that was necessary, as their goal was to trick their foes. Even the seals on the swords were actually placed there by Lan Jue and the Pharmacist, insurance policies in case they needed to contend against their own swords. If they were taken they needn’t fear - they could summon the weapons back within a thousand kilometers.
He took Captus back into his hands. There was no need for his thunderbolt Discipline now, for the sword reacted immediately to his touch. It flared with power, radiating an angry red light, and the seal was broken.
Lan Jue hid the sword within himself right away, in order to conceal its power from Monarch. Ultus had to be here somewhere, and with Captus awake it would stir the sword. Monarch would know something was amiss.
For this mission his greatest fear concerned the planet itself. How much power could it employ, he wondered, while in the midst of its evolution?
Zhou Qianlin galvanized her Domain and used it to wake the Pharmacist. When she opened her eyes and noted her clothes were different, her cheeks reddened. She looked towards Lan Jue and saw his back turned.
Once she rose and recovered Occisus the three of them reconvened.
The Pharmacist spoke first to Lan Jue. “Alright, we’ve managed the first step. What’s next?”
Lan Jue’s tones were sober and earnest. “In a moment we’ll need to start searching for Ultus’ aura. Once we find it, we need to think about how we’re going to flee. We know nothing about this place.”
She looked back at him with firm expression. “I can use my connection to Ultus to find it. Then we cut our way out as fast as possible. There isn’t much time to think it over, we have to do whatever we can, quickly. Complete our mission and escape at once.”
Qianlin added her voice. “From what we saw in orbit, the planets have reached the key period of their evolution. These worlds are hollow, meaning most of their essence has been funneled into Europa. Their cores mustn’t be here, otherwise Monarch would have discovered us already. The fact we’re still breathing shows I’m right.”
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