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The Violet Prince watched all that transpired while he fought at the edge of the Strategy. Unbeknownst to the humans he was weakening. Luo Xianni’s powers had not only deprived him of his arm, but had also created fissured within him that were blocking his channels and tearing up his body.
This was certainly to the humans’ benefit, for if he’d not been so gravely injured how could they contend against an Infinite-level creature such as he? How could someone like Hua Li have completely blocked his attack?
He waited for Monarch to break free of containment, just as fervently as the humans were waiting for the Banishing Strategy to be complete. He wanted to see his master retake control of this situation and bring these lesser creatures to their knees.
This had been a battle of tragedies. More than ten Paragons were reduced now to single digits. This was before considering the very real possibility that Lan Jue and the other three sword bearers would be required to give their lives. If they did, only five Paragons would make it home.
Had they reached their limit? Lan Jue could feel that his body was near to bursting. It felt like his spirit was cracking, like crystal under too much pressure. Similar and equally uncomfortable sensations consumed Lan Qing, Qianlin and the Pharmacist as well. Worse, in fact, as they had reached their limit long before!
Li Ke appeared behind the Pharmacist. He did nothing – he could do nothing. He watched his wife with a tender gaze as she struggled mightily, and she looked back. She continued to fight, to struggle against the demands of the sword. Even without speaking she could see what was in her husband’s heart.
Keep fighting – for Jun’er!
Yes, for their child, their beautiful daughter, for all the mothers and daughters on every human world. They had to hold on until the last possible moment and keep this monster from destroying everything.
But Occisus demanded more. Its hunger for energy was fearsome and insatiable. Every moment sucked what little energy remained, pushing them to the edge of ruin. Powerful as the will of humanity was, it did not translate into energy. She wanted victory desperately, more than anything, but if she did not have what was required she would be destroyed all the same.
None of them expected to survive. They just wanted to hold on, long enough that their sacrifice could galvanize the Banishing Strategy.
All the pilots in mechas and drones, all the soldiers in distant warships bore witness to the battle. Prayers and desperate hope filled every heart.
Qianlin struggled as well, in some ways worse. Though her cultivation was not inferior to Lan Jue’s her Domain was not intended to be used in combat. Her inheritance wasn’t some almighty ancient god. In that way she was the weakest of the four, her spirit never having been tempered. She was the first one in danger of giving in.
A-Jue, I can’t hold on. She whispered the sad and desperate thought in her heart.
Lan Jue sensed it: Go, Qianlin. Wait for me on the other side. I’ll be there soon. It doesn’t matter where, we will always be together.
A small smile played on Qianlin’s face. Yes! So long as he was with her, not even death was something to be frightened of.
Tendrils of white light arose around her like threads of silk. They were cracks, coalescing together around her dharmic image as it began to break apart. She was one with her image, and once it was destroyed she would die as well, forever gone from this world.
Qian was ready, she’d prepared for this. She quieted her mind, and even Xuanyuan Shishi was silent. They put all their focus into the sword and Strategy. They were committed to dedicating all of themselves, no matter the result.
Suddenly, Qianlin felt a warmth flow from her limbs toward her center. It started gently at first, but became more intense as she neared her final moments. For some reason it reversed the pain she felt, going so far as to ease the pain in her soul.
She opened her eyes and looked toward Lan Jue. It was then that she saw all around her were dots of brilliant white light. They sank into her body. Demortus’ demands were lofty beyond what she could offer and though these motes of light were weak individually, there were too many to count. They were filled with the unique power of faith, and it served to slow her consumption.
This… this was…
The power of prayer. Qianlin understood immediately. The prayers of humans everywhere were sustaining her. And yet she was not filled with joy. Instead her eyes betrayed panic.
Perhaps this power would save her, maybe even survive. But what of Lan Jue? The people did not have the same faith in him. If he were to perish what would she do?
Her eyes desperately searched for Lan Jue’s form. When she did, to her surprise Lan Jue was also surrounded by small specks of light. They were pale blue, and through her perception she could sense that they were empowering him as she was being empowered.
She was at a loss? What was it? Could it be…
Yes. It, too, was faith. The faith of all the people!
When they saw Lan Jue and the others fighting, saw the Bloodiron Khans defending them, and heard the impassioned pleas of that Eastern announcer they were moved. People all throughout the galaxies began to pray. They prayed for the sword bearers and for all of mankind.
All of that faith united around them.
Lan Jue, Lan Qing, the Pharmacist, Zhou Qianlin. All the soldiers, the Paragons, the mechas and drones. They weren’t alone – they fought together on behalf of their species. They represented the determination of their people in seeing tomorrow. They were the instrument of every human’s desire to fight!
They had the strength and faith of everyone at their back.
The first wave of faith had come from Angel. Those hundreds of thousands saw their conviction manifest first. They wanted to see their representatives succeed from the bottom of their heart. They prayed loudly and earnestly for the Banishing Strategy to emerge.
This was the first time since the Banishing Blades appeared in the world of man that everyone wished to see its Strategy conquer the enemy. It seemed almost natural that it began to absorb the power of this faith, and not just around Qianlin but with all four of them.
Heavenly weapons were possessed of their own intelligence, and the Banishing Blades were the greatest heavenly weapons ever created. Of course it yearned to absorb the pure power of faith. More than any other energy, the faith of the masses could help to establish the Banishing Strategy – and maybe beyond.
Seeing their bearers earn the respect of all mankind, the swords were pleased. The esteem of these arrogant weapons soared. With these blessings the Strategy stabilized and began to grow again. It was nearing completion.
When he saw the light appear around them, the Violet Prince sensed things were spinning out of their control. At first it was insignificant but with time grew exponentially, feeding the swords and the chaos that they wielded. The first indicating Lan Jue and the others were consuming their own life force had been extinguished.
More frightening was the revelation that these four humans were getting stronger. All of a sudden their level of cultivation had surged to several times their original power. In a matter of seconds they were nearly ready to push through to the Infinite.
Each of them were surrounded by a halo of polychromatic light. It wasn’t coming from them, but from the Strategy itself. The flows of chaos also saw this mottled hue emerge within it, giving it a strangely beautiful appearance. Monarch, who was captured within it, was speechless and did not even attempt to escape.
How could this not cause the Violet Prince to be afraid? If Monarch perished he would be the last of his people. Caught amidst all of these humans he certainly would be unable to escape.
The Violet Prince made a prompt decision and acted on it without delay. A fiery purple light blazed from his chest and all of a sudden he was as strong as he ever had been. He knocked the Driver before him away with a single punch.
Even with the protection of Primordial Lightning the Driver’s bones cracked from the blow. He spat a mouthful of blood from the severe injury.
The Prince didn’t slow. In a flash he appeared once more before Lan Jue and threw a punch at the hateful human’s head.
No one expected the Prince to regain his power so suddenly. Among the five remaining Paragons the strongest were only Reflections of Heaven and Earth, hardly a match to a creature who commanded the powers of the Infinite. No one could match him for speed either, and by the time they reacted the alien’s attack was already reaching its target.
The Wine Master despaired – all their effort, too little too late!
However, just as the Prince’s fist reached Lan Jue the halo around him flared. He didn’t move and his body became instantly translucent. Thrown off balance by his zealous assault the Violet Prince toppled through Lan Jue and into the chaotic flows of the Banishing Strategy.
It all happened so suddenly everyone stopped.
The Clockmaker was first to snap out of it. Loudly she cried. “Everyone, pray for them! Pray the Banishing Strategy will work. Our unity is our strength, that is how we win the day.”
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