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Only nine Paragons remained. They were all that was left of humanity’s greatest Adepts.
The Wine Master quickly relayed Lan Jue’s command. He also told Kang Hui aboard Tyrannosaurus, which thankfully could still fly. As commander of the armada it was his responsibility to give the order to fall back.
“Pass on my directive. Everyone is to fall back to Angel. Bastions take up the rear. Leave a couple reconnaissance vehicles behind.”
No more need be said. Everyone could see the dancing lights within the Strategy. Compared to when they first started the energy surging from it was inconceivable. Even laymen could tell that they were on the cusp of completion. Victory was eminent.
The five remaining Paragons stayed behind to bear witness while Kang Hui and his soldiers began to retreat.
Even though the soldiers were falling back, there was no decrease in the faith afforded to the four sword bearers and their Strategy. Though, it wasn’t just their Strategy anymore. Everyone, all throughout the galaxies, had a hand in its completion.
Monarch would never have believed that he would be caught by the wiles of man, but such was the case. He struggled and railed against his prison, sure that he could escape if only he found the right place to attack. Before his attacks felt blocked, like they were caught in a mire of that chaotic energy. Now that sense was gone. All of it was gone.
The confusion was gone and reality came back into focus, free from the flows of chaos. This lauded Strategy had its limits, he was glad to discover. Monarch was pleased that his golden immortal abilities were able to defeat their ploy. He grinned arrogantly to himself.
He glared at his surroundings as they once more became clear, and reached out with his perception. To his North was Ultus; to his South, Occisus; on his West arose Captus; at his East was Demortus. Before him arose a gate, and from it issued a murderous aura and an evil wind.
Something flashed behind his eyes. He wasted no time, moving quickly toward Ultus. It was the sword he was most familiar with, the one he’d left his mark upon. It would likely be the easiest one to conquer.
However as he moved forward to take the sword a portal appear. He slipped through, and was transported back to where he started. He hadn’t gained any ground toward Ultus.
The Banishing Strategy’s suffocating pressure had dissipated once his surroundings became clear again. It led him to believe the danger was passed. But he was wise, and understanding was clear in his face. Instead of moving forward to seize the weapons himself, instead he lashed out with a punch in each direction.
Faced with Monarch’s all-mighty powers the swords simply flickered. Monarch’s explosions of energies vanished without foundation. He was the most powerful being in a millennia, so he sensed the flows at they reacted to one another. He felt it as the manifestation of his power was shattered and swallowed up like it was nothing.
His manufactured human heart sank. Without question, he no longer possessed the power to threaten the trap he’d been caught in. It was in this moment a flash of purple caught his eye. It caught him off guard and he nearly fainted away, but turned fast enough to catch who it was. The Violet Prince was at his side.
The Prince was ablaze in violet light. Monarch recognized that he was consuming the essence of his Core to empower his abilities.
“Monarch!” The Prince greeted weakly.
The immortal regarded his progeny with an ominous glare. “Why are you here? Did I not order you to destroy the Strategy?”
“The humans staunchly resisted,” the Prince explained. “Moments before I could break free and attack the sword bearers, the Strategy changed. I was caught.”
Gazing upon the lesser alien’s beaten and crippled body, he knew it to be true. It meant that the humans had obtained some unknown power to aid them. Whatever it was, it had been enough to help them complete the Strategy.
Even now Monarch found it difficult to believe that his strength was incapable of breaking them free. The humans were no greater than Nirvana-level, how could they possibly contend against him?
It was well known that the gulf between an Adept of Nirvana and a denizen of the Infinite was vast. The difference between the Infinite and Immortality was larger still. The potential of an Immortal was vast as the heavens themselves.
At his level of cultivation it would require another ten thousand years before he arose to the next degree of domination. If crossing the threshold from one Paragon rank to another was a herculean task, rising in status as an immortal took eons.
Monarch’s face darkened. Finally he realized that perhaps he’d overestimated himself. At the final moment, when he thought victory was his, human beings proved their strength.
There was nothing in the genetic material he stole from mankind that told him what this trap was. How could it? There were so few humans who knew of the existence of the Banishing Strategy.
“Monarch, what should we do?” The Prince asked.
Monarch fixed him with a serious gaze. “The only thing we can do is try to break free. Perhaps we can overwhelm their ability to hold us here. I don’t believe these humans can maintain this trap for long. The amount of energy required to hold me here must be immense, and the moment they begin to falter that will be our chance. It’s a test of endurance, how can they challenge me in such a trial? This trap they’ve lain has only kept me stationary – it does not cause any harm.”
The moment these words left his lips, the four Banishing Blades glowed brighter. As more portals appeared all around them reality became less distinct. The areas around them started to change.
All of a sudden the swords seemed leagues away.
A deep and booming voice thundered through the interior of the Strategy. “In all of history you are the first to assume this trap lacks bite. Monarch, you must know what it is you face. Regardless, I shall tell you: it is called the Banishing Strategy. In the days of immortals it was called the greatest weapon under heaven. Is it not your goal to attain the highest state of immortality? I may as well tell you, even if you succeeded this very moment the Strategy would reduce you to dust. Were this not so, would its title be so audacious? What you face terrified the gods of old. You – will – die.”
The voice was Lan Jue’s. It was cold and callous, full of dark promise.
Monarch responded with a dismissive sniff. “Very well! I’m eager to see what your so-called super weapon is capable of!”
“Monarch. Are… are you sure we’ll be fine?” The Prince at his side sounded less than convinced.
Scorn dripped from Monarch’s voice. “This is nothing more than a trick to shake our confidence. Greatest weapon under heaven… they have no means to kill me-“
His haughty affirmation were cut short when suddenly reality began to tremble. In the distance eight glimmering portals revealed themselves. Shimmering around them the rainbow of color started to fluctuate. Monarch shook and the Prince quailed. The lights went out.
When the Prince looked at his master he was surprised to see shock on Monarch’s face. Before his eyes miniscule cracks appeared upon the immortal’s body, spurting golden light. They started on his head, but quickly spread until they criss-crossed every inch of him.
With a loud clap, Monarch’s body broke apart.
A beam of golden light escaped from where its head had been. It tried wildly to flee in any direction it could. However the flows of sword-energy that had vanished suddenly reemerged from the darkness. The moment the golden light crashed into these lights it froze, and revealed its true nature.
It was Monarch, though a miniature copy. The tiny golden homunculus was nimble, but was now frozen with an expression of disbelief writ plain on his face.
“No! Don’t kill me. I’ll surrender the immortal realm. I can teach you how to make one of your own. I can –“ Before he could finish Lan Jue’s voice rumbled from within the tempest.
“Your pleas are useless. Did you think we would allow you to live, after what you did to our people? With every murder you only thought about consuming more – you never spared a thought for those not of your ilk. Goodbye, Monarch. You should be proud to die by the might of the Banishing Strategy.”
As the last syllable hung in the air, an unending torrent of cutting light descended upon him. Monarch’s immortal spirit was cut to ribbons and drifted away to nothing in the emptiness of space.
The Violet Prince witnessed the whole scene. His face had gone ghastly pale.
Monarch – the ascendant, he who consumed the power of both Queen and Consort, the master of their immortal realm – was dead!
How was this possible? How could they have killed a god?
He stood still, frozen in place, shaking ever so slightly. No thought of confrontation entered his mind, for in the face of that terrifying storm he felt insignificant.
When it swept through the Violet Prince was rent asunder until nothing remained. He was beneath even a final word from Lan Jue.
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