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“What lineage could be similar to the Banishing Blades?” Lan Jue asked.
Li Ke replied. “Simply put, any inheritance passed down from the immortal realm are similar. Yours, the young female soldier, little Yue’s… they are all derived from the ancient immortals.”
When he looked at the Pharmacist, used her name, her tears began to flow anew. It had been so long since she’d been called by her real name, especially in such an affectionate voice.
Lan Jue nodded. The Middle Heaven Great Emperor of the North Pole Star of Purple Subtlety was indeed a lineage of old. It was unlikely Li Ke knew precisely what Lan Jue’s powers were, but he could sense its profundity from his aura.
Lan Qing spoke up. “But their cultivation still isn’t sufficient. How much can this inheritance offset the deficiency?” The problem was less pronounced for Lan Jue and Qianlin - after all, they had recently achieved Nirvana. However, the Pharmacist was only a Reflection of Heaven and Earth.
Although being a Reflection was a terrific accomplishment among modern Adepts, Li Ke’s words proved it was not enough for the task at hand.
“Only one thing had quickly give you the power you need quickly,” Li Ke explained. “The alien planets have entered the final phase of their evolution, this I can confirm. The method involves fusing the three separate worlds into one, combining the powers of Monarch, Queen and Consort. Then, through the knowledge they stole from human DNA, they will create a single vessel to house this power. Thus will they achieve a qualitative leap, and finally can consume Europa to use it as the seed for their own immortal realm.”
“Creation of an immortal realm requires something real as a foundation, and a core of energy to support it. The aliens likely chose Europa because its core was more substantial than most. In catalyzing that core and fusing themselves with the planet, it is the equivalent to a gestation period. When the process is complete a new entity will be born - what they’ve come to call the Violet Dominion. This entity will simultaneously be their immortal realm. From then on its power will be concealed from universal protogenia and they can grow in strength until they reach Da Luo.”
“Violet Dominion?” The name lay heavy on everyone’s heart like a curse.
Li Ke continued. “These monsters specialize in consumption. We can assume their Dominion will possess the same ability. Once Dominion is created there will be nothing to hold them back, and we should expect it will not hesitate to destroy us. Pure vital energy will not be enough once their evolution is complete. Dominion will need to consume stars and planets to continue its rise. Their plan is to begin with the cores of living planets, then graduate to stars when their power requires it. It will continued to devour what it can until it is strong enough to contend against the whole universe.”
Everyone was silent, stunned and frightened by the future painted by this spirit. They knew that these creatures were a threat to their species, but few had guessed their aim was to supplant the entire universe. They would do it by stealing the hearts of the stars and planets themselves - like Middle Heaven and its molinite. The energy contained in those cores is what kept a planet alive. Consuming it would destroy them outright.
After listening to Li Ke’s explanation, the gathered Paragons understood why the aliens chose his place. Europa was a large and vibrant planet, and there were seven more nearby. How strong Dominion would be after devouring this planets was frightening to speculate. From there its evil clutches would extend to other human-occupied worlds, becoming a planet-destroying nightmare.
A beast capable of consuming whole worlds. Nightmare didn’t begin to describe it.
The Terminator listened with an abiding sense of shame. He was from the North, and hi government stubbornly kept to the fantasy that they could protect themselves with the bastions that remained. They were not aiming for success, only to protect themselves from blame. Indeed bastions were strong, but what could they do against a creature that ate whole planets?
“Dominion… that sounds more like hell.” The Wine Master muttered.
Li Ke offered a bitter smile. “Indeed. To us it would be hell. That’s why it’s essential we defeat them now before they get too powerful. Otherwise, the worlds of man will pass into oblivion.”
“Time is short,” the Wine Master confirmed. “You must choose who is most suitable to accept Ultus and its power, and complete the Banishing Strategy. Everyone here is willing to accept this responsibility.”
At any time in the past the Wine Master’s words would have been almost laughable. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to bear a legendary weapon, and become one of the most powerful beings in the universe? However, with it came tremendous responsibility. Who could know what would happen once the Banishing Strategy was employed? If successful the amount of energy produced was nothing short of apocalyptic. What happened if it backfired, or spun out of control? IF they failed, they would be the first victims of the Violet Dominion.
Yet one after the other the Paragons nodded their heads. All of them were willing to give their lives, if necessary.
Li Ke swept his eyes over the crown and nodded. “Very well, then I will begin.” His human figure shimmered and vanished, returning to the sword. Turquoise light radiated from the blade as it headed for the Wine Master.
The elderly Paragon stood before the sword, still and dignified as the cutting energy of the Banishing Blade fell upon him. He made no effort to avoid it. Once the light of the weapon reached him it stopped and swept around to his side.
The Pharmacist watched through tear-misted eyes. If only he were alive, she lamented. Then Ultus would have the bearer they needed to enact the Banishing Stance.
It did not escape her notice that Li Ke never mentioned resurrection. Before his death they had been together for many years, and she knew her husband to be a wise and rational man. If there was any way to bring him back he would have taken it. In saying nothing it meant no such possibility existed. He was gone.
“Mama.” Suddenly a tiny voice called out to her.
She looked down and saw that Jun’er had snuck up on her. Her tiny hand slipped into hers and tugged to get her attention.
Her face wet with tears, the Pharmacist lifted Jun’er into her arms.
She wanted to tell her daughter that her father was here. Here real father. But she could not, because she couldn’t be sure how long that would remain true. She couldn’t decide whether telling her would be better than maintaining the lie they crafted.
She was no fool, she suspected Jun’er already knew Lan Jue was not her father. After inheriting the prognosticating abilities of the Clairvoyant, how could such a secret be kept? But so long as she didn’t ask, the Pharmacist was in no hurry to tell her.
The light of Ultus made a circuit around the Wine Master before heading toward the next Paragon. It continued in this way through the control room, a carefully constrained stream of cutting power.
The last Paragon it examined was Lan Qing. It flitted around the admiral the same as all of the others.
At first Lan Qing felt nothing, but after a moment the outside world was suddenly lost in a sea of turquoise light.
“Classmate.” Li Ke’s voice called into his ear.
“Upperclassman.” He replied.
Li Ke hesitated for a moment, then spoke. “I knew you were the one to bear Ultus when I was brought here. I can feel that you bear the lineage of a great and ancient power. Buddhist in nature, but you may still command this weapon. The reason I wished to undergo this process was to consider a problem. I am still unwilling, but I must.”
Lan Qing furrowed his brows. “What do you mean?”
Li Ke explained. “When I lived I threw myself at my endeavors without sparing any effort. I was born into a normal family, typical in many regards. When I was ten my mother died, her dying wish was that I became a great man.”
“Everyone has the opportunity for greatness within them. It comes down to how much work you’re willing to do. I used this truth to spur myself on, to work the hardest I could without sadness or regret.”
“Despite my humble beginnings, my hard work paid off and I was recognized for my talent. I excelled and was rewarded with praise and scholarships. I worked hard through middle school and was accepted into a famous private school. There I realized there was a vast universe outside of my bubble, that there was an enormous gulf between my schools and others. I enjoyed vast returns for half the effort of what others required. The harder I strove the more I learned, I never stopped pushing myself. I can remember that I rarely slept more than four hours a night.”
“It was not in vain. Whether knowledge or cultivation, I was always at the top of the student achievement lists. I was a target for the most ambitious students. That’s when I met her. For the first time there was something outside of study that was worth appreciation. She was beautiful and arrogant, with a respectable lineage and a traditional flair. Our attraction to one another felt completely natural, it was almost like we were fated to be together. She even taught me the secrets of her lineage. During school recesses we would spend our time exploring ancient relics and ruined sites. Each discovery was a joyous celebration that made us strive even harder. It brought us closer.”
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