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Jun’er left with the Wine Master. Li Ke’s eyes never left her small frame as she disappeared.
Lan Jue wanted to ask him why he didn’t want to meet his daughter, but a look from the Pharmacist kept him quiet. He wouldn’t press the issue - this was, after all, a matter between a husband and wife.
“Before we begin, I will explain the principle behind the Banishing Strategy. These years I’ve been locked within Ultus I was able to learn its secrets.”
“The Banishing Stance is known as the single greatest destructive power in the universe. Back in the ancient days the Grand Master of Heaven battled against the four great sages. They were as strong as he, and you can imagine the power at their fingertips. Even so the Banishing Blades were called the most lethal of the Grand Master’s weapons. Because of how powerful and dangerous it is, the Strategy has been hidden within Ultus ever since.”
“Not copper, nor iron, nor steel, the sword was hidden beneath the crushing weight of Mount Meru. What flame or fluid could quench its keen edge? Ultus - sharp, Occisus - death, Captus - universal red light, Demortus - the ever changing. The blood of the immortals stained their robes.” Li Ke’s eyes burned as he recounted the old tale of the Banishing Blades.
Turquoise light sprang up from Li Ke’s ghostly body and painted the room in its colors. A sharp and oppressive aura filled every corner of the room. Suddenly ‘the most lethal of the Grand Master’s weapons’ seemed more than apt to describe the power of these blades.
Suddenly the Pharmacist’s body reacted, releasing an aura of white light. A thirst of slaughter swelled and joined with Ultus’ cutting eminence. The two together were murder given form.
Next to react was Lan Jue and Captus. Its red light reached out and where it touched reality was rife with tears. Reality collapsed where the sword’s power prevailed.
Last was Demortus, a blue light which radiated around Zhou Qianlin as a tapestry of ever-changing power.
As the light of the four Banishing Blades intermingled they all rang with an ethereal hum. The resonance of it spread far and wide. More than just the residents of Middle Heaven, the whole fleet could hear the near-deafening ring.
Lan Qing was not protected by the power of a sword. He felt the tides of power most acutely. As the sonorous ring of the swords crashed around him he felt his spirit leave his body. It was like his body would break apart at any moment, caught in the joyous reunion of the godblades. He was not the target of their song, but he felt it may destroy him anyway.
What incredible power!
Lan Qing pressed his palms together before his chest, and a radiant golden Buddha appeared seated in the center of his heart. It quietly meditated, humming the Diamond Sutra, encased in the light of Variochana. A golden light, starting from the crown of his head, quickly spread down his entire body fusing body and soul. Blessings of the Buddhas of past, present and future filled him, protecting him from the deadly aura of the Banishing Blades.
As the song of the blades rang out Li Ke’s eyes were wide and fervent. This was the day he had hoped so desperately to see! As a bearer of Ultus - the unparalleled weapon of the Grand Master of Heaven - even universal protogenia couldn’t stand against him once the Banishing Strategy was enacted.
Now the swords were reunited, but he was no longer Ultus’ master. He had become a guide, despite the pain of regret that filled him. He steeled himself against the sadness, for now was the time for strength.
The turquoise light faded. As the deadly power of Ultus was restrained the other swords followed its lead.
The Pharmacist, Lan Jue, and Zhou Qianlin could faintly sense the stirring power within. The gathered swords supplemented one another and awakened something inside them.
Lan Jue’s understanding of his weapon ran deep, but in that moment he sensed something change completely. Its surge of power was so quick and intense it frightened him.
BANG! A bone-jarring shock shuddered through the realm of violet light. The Violet Prince, Princess, and the twelve remaining avatars knelt in this hollow place. In addition were two more Infinite-level figures, the remaining doppelgangers of the home worlds.
All of them had been deep in meditation, but the sudden impact forced them all to awaken. One of Monarch’s avatars, seated beside the Prince, shot to his feet. A surge of purple light gushed from it.
“I have felt something, a terrible danger that can impact our future. A rapid, destructive force.”
This wasn’t the avatar itself, but rather Monarch speaking through this echo of its power.
The Violet Prince looked upon the avatar in shock. “From those humans?”
Monarch’s deep voice answered. “No. The sword they stole. So thi is why they were so willing to put themselves in danger, so determined to abscond with that weapon. My first impression was incorrect, there is something more contained within it. The human who brought it to me was not dead, his spirit remained inside - otherwise we would not have suffered at the hands of the interlopers. All of you must recover that sword, no matter the cost.”
The Violet Princess answered, unconvinced. “The humans have proven strong, but your merger with Queen and Consort is nearly complete. Soon you will create what the humans call an immortal realm and a Domain for us to survive in. Then we will be able to travel through the universe at a whim, destroying any vestige of humanity without effort. Even if that weapon is dangerous, would it mean anything in the face of your future supremacy?”
Monarch’s avatar sniffed derisively. “You understand nothing. The mysteries of their species are revealed to me the more of their essence I consume. Many years ago humans had an immortal realm, stronger and more prosperous than what we will achieve. I suspect that sword is a relic of those times, conveyed to the humans from the gods they once served. The ones who came and took it from me also bore swords of similar caliber. I heard their song, and in the depths of my mind I sensed the danger they present. This danger is such that our power would mean nothing. Your task is to interrupt this power before it can be brought to bear against us. It must be thoroughly destroyed.”
The Violet Prince nodded. “As you wish!”
A cold light passed over the avatar’s face. “Remember - at any cost!”
“Of course,” the Prince replied.
Suddenly, the Princess felt a strange sensation trill through her. Such feelings had plagued her since they consumed human genetics for their own benefit. Monarch was unaffected by the Prince and Princess were more human-like as time went on. They even preferred to converse in human language.
She did not find these human weapons as dangerous as Monarch claimed. More dangerous was the assimilatory power of human genetics. They may have taken this genetic material from the humans, but it was changing them as much as they were using it to empower their abilities.
Once this immortal realm was established they would become more and more like the creatures they consumed. Maybe the human essence would completely replace what they used to be. What would happen then, she wondered?
The Violet Princess knew that much of this evolutionary process was derived from the latent memories of the humans, locked within their DNA. Monarch was trying to mimic what the humans had achieved thousands of years before.
“In ancient times but one bearer established the Banishing Stance, the Grand Master of Heaven Ling Bao. Beore his overwhelming power even the likes of Heavenly Sovereign Taishang and Celestial Master Yuanshi, along with two others, were at a loss as to what to do. But as the four clashed against the Grand Master they managed to defeat him. Thus the swords earned their titles as the most lethal under heaven. The Strategy, with the four swords as its pivotal center, directed this unfathomable power. From what we can understanding the Strategy focuses and guides a portion of universal protogenia.”
Li Ke shared all he knew of the Banishing Strategy with the four new bearers. As they listened intently it was as though gates hiding these secrets from them were opened before their eyes - especially for the three who were already familiar with their swords. Suddenly their knowledge and connection with these godblades was deeper than ever.
“Now we cannot rely on a single person’s power to establish the Strategy, of course. Nor can any of you fully command the power it contains. What you must do is approach the home worlds, establish the Strategy, then entice them forward. The enemy will react to you once the trap is in place.”
The sword contained profound knowledge, and even though Li Ke had been trapped within it for years he had only scratched the surface of its mysteries. Without the other three weapons parts of those mysteries had been locked away.
Knowledge of the Strategy had always been kept in Ultus, but many specifics of it were contained in the other swords. Only once all four of them were together was the entirety of the Strategy laid bare.
Lan Qing, Lan Jue, Zhou Qianlin, and the Pharmacist were all brilliant people. They could follow Li Ke’s information to its logical conclusion, comprehending the substance of his point and asking poignant questions.
Because they lacked the strength to control the swords’ power, they had only one chance to lay out the Strategy. Whether or not they could eliminate the enemy was a question too difficult to answer now.
After all, the full strength of these swords - the most lethal weapons under heaven - was unknown. No one knew what would happen once the Strategy was enacted. All they knew came from old legends and whispered tales. They had to rely on faith that these stories were true.
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