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But while the arrow closed the door on their physical relationship, from that time on she’d felt him engraved deep into her heart. She burned with an internal fire, her heart thawed by the love she held for him. She forgot her pain as it was replaced by affection.
But it was bittersweet. She knew the love he had for her in their first meeting wasn’t hers, but Hera’s. Still she couldn’t help but be pulled in deeper. He seemed to have been imbued with some natural charm that just drew women to him.
This was proven when she saw so many beautiful women caught in his wake. But despite his wealth of choice Lan Jue was single-minded. It was part of what drew her to him.
Since then their tale had been written in the joy and pain they’d shared. However, looking back Qianlin’s fondest memories were of their time in the National Eastern University; her seated below as he lectured from a podium.
He was refined, courteous, suave, and witty… he shared a special sort of knowledge with her and her classmates. They couldn’t help but like him. Even Tang Mi was taken in by his charm.
But he is my man.
As the words crossed her mind Qianlin’s heart filled with pride. Her mind turned again to other memories, painful memories not of when Lan Jue refused her but of the day they shared that special bottle of white wine. The day he professed his love.
That day it was she who turned him away. It wasn’t him or anything he did that inspired her to turn him down. It was her, the fact she couldn’t forgive herself for the deceptions she maintained. She did love him, but she couldn’t abide a relationship built on a lie.
Her liberation came at the edge of the Astral Phantom’s knife. In her willingness to give up her life for him, she allowed herself to accept their circumstance as well. Their love was pure.
For a long time she was lost in a hazy world, on the edge of life and death. But when she came to everything was perfect - perfect but for one regret. She lamented over her stubborn determination, making such a big deal over something they could have put aside much earlier. If she had been forthcoming earlier perhaps they would have had more time. She felt like she missed out on any number of happy days with him - a beautiful if painful thought!
When the aliens appeared and began their aggressions Lan Jue became busy with the business of saving humanity, but they still ended up together. Now they faced a mission that may very well mean their death, but they faced it together. He didn’t explain everything to her either, but she was happy to be by his side.
She was happy because she knew she was part of his life, that he understood her. If he died she would refuse to live on. Now that they were together any alternative was unthinkable. They would live or die as one. Their spirits would remain inexorably tied, forever.
As she pondered the breadth of their past, present and future, Qianlin’s spirit entered an extraordinary state. Her soul and Lan Jue’s joined into one. She did not raise Demortus but the connection she felt to her man was deeper than ever. They were a single entity - now, and always.
Two hearts beating as one!
Those five words rang Qianlin’s mind like a mantra. She found she liked them, they reverberated deep within her.
Something changed in the avatar. Monarch realized there was something he couldn’t simply grasp in the emotions of these three humans. None of them could match him in strength - not even close. What’s more they were caught in his territory. Still, there was some mystifying sense that there was something he could not comprehend.
To call it uncomfortable did not speak to the depth of his disquiet. If there was one thing he could not abide, it was a lack of control.
A turquoise light sprang up as Ultus appeared in the avatar’s hand. This creature was still just a doppelganger of Monarch’s power, yet still was different from the others Lan Jue had encountered. This avatar was more than just a copy of Monarch. It was a piece of him - an important piece.
In order to prevent anything from interrupting their evolution, Monarch had left a portion of himself behind in the form of this doppelganger. It was the strongest of the avatars, unique, and in many ways it was much like the immortals from old human tales. However, in order to prevent universal protogenia from destroying it, the avatars powers were constrained to the Infinite. Here within the protective embrace of Monarch’s true form the powers of the universe were halted.
In fact this avatar was stronger than Lan Jue or the others could know. Still, he summoned the Banishing Blade to help defend himself from the humans’ attack.
Ultus became a flash of lightning and lashed out toward Lan Jue and Captus. But as the points of the two swords met, the avatar sensed that a part of his own weapon was swallowed up in Captus’ charge.
Ultus was the keenest of the Banishing Blades, and in the old texts was called the all-conquering. But this clash between swords wasn’t one force smashing into another. Captus wasn’t a wall, it was a void.
Lan Jue came to a sudden stop, but his Boundless Starlight Domain reacted by exploding out in all directions. Light from his All-Heaven lightning painted Captus in electric blue. The weapon spat a coiling blast of energy at Monarch like a pair of lightning dragons.
The Harbinger Faerie and her legendary sword reacted in the same instant. Blue light was complimented by a streak of gold, and though the murderous aura of Occisus was not present an inscrutable power made Monarch shake.
He was forced to lash out with his other hand, punching toward the Pharmacist.
An outpouring of solidified energy smashed into Occisus, but much to his dismay it was easily cleaved in twain. The flood of deadly power split apart and rushed passed the Pharmacist on either said, harmlessly passing her by. Where he thought he could finish this foe off with a single punch, now she was nearly right on top of him.
Squelch! Suddenly the whole world around Lan Jue was an ocean of purple, assailed by a torrent of the alien’s Domain. The impossibly sharp intent of Ultus ripped through Captus and into his body. It was so intense it threw Lan Jue backward.
It was as Monarch said; at a certain point pure force could overcome anything. Lan Jue bore one of the strongest weapons in the universe and understood its secrets, but there was simply too large a gap between his strength and that of the avatar.
It was simply the Infinite he faced! Lan Jue was certain this monster’s power went beyond such a simple explanation. The Violet Prince also commanded the power of the Infinite, but if it was that creature he faced instead of Monarch overcoming Captus would not have been so easy - even if this was their home turf.
Qianlin, who had been right behind him, also felt the attack land. She and Lan Jue collided as they were forced back. Her left arm flung out and wrapped around Lan Jue’s neck, but both of them still held out their right hands in defiance, blades firm. A deluge of rainbow light was summoned that surrounded the two of them.
Qianlin and Lan Jue stared deeply at on another. They looked upon the swirling emotions hidden behind their eyes.
They smiled. Then, together, they thrust forward with their swords.
Two hearts beating as one!
Harmonious Swords gave way to a new name they settled on in this moment of pure connection. A spiritual connection, two hearts beating as one! The light became a rainbow heading straight for Monarch’s chest.
It was more than their intent that was channeled through the swords. Lan Jue and Qianlin were one mentally, spiritually, even their Disciplines were completely integrated. The golden runes upon their blades burned as their hearts beat together.
This was the first time they used the paired sword fighting style since breaking through to Nirvana. Now it went beyond a tacit understanding they shared, it was true fusion.
You within me. Me within you.
Just as Monarch was preparing to turn on the Pharmacist, he sensed a power unlike any he’d experienced before. The beast was forced to face it, and deflected the Pharmacist’s attack with an absent-minded flick of his fingers. It was enough to cast the Harbinger Faerie away in a flailing heap. Monarch struck again with Ultus, this time holding nothing back.
Golden purple light replaced the turquoise glow of the sword. It was aimed at Lan Jue and Qianlin. The corrupted weapon rang with a sweet sound but never once did golden runes appear upon its blade. It was nothing but pure force.
Ting! The crisp, ringing sound peeled through the area. Lan Jue and Qianlin shook, but only for a passing moment. They remained steadfast.
The light of their combined swords swallowed up Ultus’ power. Monarch’s face betrayed shock as he was forced backward. The power he faced was at once solid and disperse and had within it a dynamism he’d never felt before. It wasn’t just attacking his body, but his very soul.
The pain was excruciating, eliciting a long scream of pain. A flood of power swept across the area, nearly blowing apart Lan Jue’s Domain.
But Skyfire Avenue’s leader did not retreat. He was not pushed back. Together with Zhou Qianlin the two of them draw out a circle in the air with their swords.
Although the Taiji sword style didn’t possess the same spectacular abilities of the Harmonious Swords, it easily neutralized the effusion of power released by Monarch.
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