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Chapter 461: Comprehensive Response
The Epochrion looked at her compatriot, genuinely stunned. “Are you thinking of doing something?”
The Terminator heaved a sigh. “There always needs to be a bad guy. As leader of the North, that mantle falls to me. Anyway, I’ve been seen as an enemy to the East for a very long time already.”
She sighed, but did not respond.
He went on in a soft, detached voice. “If you don’t agree I won’t force you to get involved. You’re from the East, after all.”
“You must consider our real enemies,” she said in a low voice. “We should try to preserve all of humanity’s power for that fight.”
“Then let it be the North’s power!” He said, his voice rising in pitch. “NOT the East, do you understand?”
She regarded him in silence for a moment, then sighed. “We must think on it. Let’s wait and see what the rest of the tournament has in store.”
After lunch, Lan Jue made his way back to the hotel where Qianlin was waiting. She saw his pensive look and answered with high spirits. “You really showed them today! What a victory!”
He chuckled. “Qi Mu underestimated me. It’s an important lesson for you; never walk in to a fight with assumptions. His Discipline is much stronger than mine, and even with my martial arts I couldn’t keep defending myself completely. But he underestimated me, and that let me get the upper hand. I found an opening and was able to let loose with my full power. If this had been a real battle it would have been even worse for him.”
“There’s was another reason he lost, though, and that was faith. After his loss to Titan he was already in low spirits. It has affected is self-confidence, and for that reason the fight was easier than it should have been.”
Qianlin looked at him with a hint of anxiety in her eyes. “You’re facing Titan yourself, tomorrow. Should we join for the fight?”
Lan Jue shook his head. “Not yet. I want to feel it out first and see where his Discipline’s at. After that we’ll re-asses.”
She nodded. “So should we cultivate?”
“Yup.” Lan Jue needed to relax and take some time to reflect over the joining of his Taiji and Lightning skills and how they’d joined today.
A Coffee Shop.
Hua Li sat with a cup of dark coffee cradled in his hands. The brew had begun to chill, but he still took the occasional sip. He was still hidden beneath the glasses and hat, but the facemask had been removed for practical reasons. He was seated in a far corner, and seemed unconcerned about being discovered.
Mo Xiao sat across from him with a cup of juice, untouched.
“You’ve got to stop taking digs at Lan Jue. I’ve told you a dozen times.” Hua Li patiently explained.
Mo Xiao’s response was measured. “I’m a sports caster, I was narrating the fight. You’re imagining things.”
Hua Li sighed in exasperation. “I wish that was the case… I wish I was down there with him.”
She shook her head without hesitation. “Unacceptable. Poseidon cannot lose. Fans can guess, but they can never see you lose with their own eyes. You’re an idol and an inspiration, Lord of the Seas – do you understand?”
“More often than not, I wish I was just a normal guy.” The rock star pitifully lamented.
“Telling me doesn’t mean anything,” she said with smirk. “Tell that to your family. And if there’s nothing else then it’s time to go back, we still have to rehearse. Don’t forget that the Epochrion and the Terminator will both be at the closing ceremony.”
Hua Li’s face fell. “I never thought it’d get this serious.”
Mo Xiao nodded knowingly. “But crisis can also bring opportunity. I got news from DreamNet that someone had gotten an alien Core from Taihua. It was full of vitality, which could be processed for human use. An Adept who used it could have their vitality improved, and may even have their lives extended. It’s even more potent than the fantascia genetica. Once research is complete, this should be an incredible boon for humanity.”
Hua Li looked stunned. “Really?”
She smiled, then added softly. “I would never dare lie to you. I learn more than that, too. There was also news of an auction on Lyr where an s-ranked Tear of Neptune was sold. It didn’t earn much. Do you know how the Tear is used?”
Hua Li thought for a minute. “I think it purifies the energy of other power gems.”
She nodded. “That’s right. And those alien Cores? They’re a lot like power gems. With a Tear of Neptune it could purify whatever alien potency it has. The only thing left would be that pure enhancing essence. With that we could start researching in full.”
Anticipation twinkled in Hua Li’s eyes. He blurted, “Mo Xiao. You really have a head for business. I’m pretty sure you’ve evolved passed humanity at this point.”
She gave him a demure smile. “Of course. I speculate to accumulate. I’ve already presented the plan to the board of directors.”
Hua Li laughed. “Again I’m the last to know.”
“But you are the patriarch,” she said, suddenly solemn. “Everything I do, you have to know I do it for you.”
Hua Li sniffed. “Could you not? The more you put it the less it seems to pay off. I don’t want that for you.”
Mo Xiao fell silent. After a time, she replied in a low voice. “I have no expectations for you or what you will become. I only do as much as I’m willing to do, because seeing you happy makes me happy. That’s what you do when you love somebody, you do what you can to make them happy. If this plan works out, then it will be a victory for all of humanity. They will live longer, and I’m convinced that will not be the only benefit.”
Hua Li looked at her with a serious look. “Alright, let’s go and rehearse. It looks like the Gobi Entertainment Group will have to throw their gauntlets in to the fray.”
Mo Xiao looked right back. “I just hope when we’re ready it’s not already too late.”
“DreamNet upgrade is sixty-nine percent complete.”
“Continue the update. Maintain security.”
“Continuing DreamNet upgrade.”
Eastern Alliance, Planet Skyfire. National Eastern University.
“The Drillmaster won it! He’s the best! When are we going to be as strong as he is?”
“Stop daydreaming. At our age, we’re past due. The Drillmaster is on another level, still young – I think they say the cut-off is forty. Do you think we’ll be as strong as he is, even when we’re forty?”
“Who says? If we keep working as hard as we did in the A.R.C. classes then it’s a piece of cake!”
“Then you better pray the Drillmaster gets back soon to keep training us. All those needles and lightning and hot baths weren’t so bad.”
“You’re a damn sadist!”
“Heh, you’re one to talk. It was your idea, wasn’t it? If you want to be a hero, what’s a little hardship along the way? At least I’m gunna be ready – he cooked us once and he’s gunna cook us again. I’m gunna go cultivate, so that when the Drillmaster gets back he’ll see how much I’ve improved. Then I’ll learn even more!”
“H-hey! Wait for me!”
The Pharmacist sat by the window, staring out at Luo City as it twinkled in the night. Jun’er lay peacefully in her arms. She looked up at her mother and smiled. “Mama, I’m so happy I got to come. Thank you for bringing me, and daddy, too.”
The Pharmacist smiled down at the little one. “Mommy used to think differently. I should have brought you out much earlier. It was your father’s suggestion.”
Jun’er went on. “Mommy, I do miss home a little though. Skyfire Avenue is our home. When will we be going back?”
Her gentle voice answered. “When the tournament is over, sweetheart, then we’ll go home. Do you really think daddy’s going to be the champion?”
Jun’er nodded resolutely. “I saw it, I know it’s the truth. Daddy will be champion.”
“Alright.” The Pharmacist nodded at her and gently stroked the small girl’s hair. “Sleep little one. Tomorrow you can keep cheering us on. Especially daddy. If he’s going to be champion, then he’s got a big fight.”
“Yeah, but daddy’s still going to win.”
The room was dark, and cold. It stank of wet metal, like an alloy factory. A single figure occupied the center of the room. His bare back rippled with swollen muscles.
His face revealed traces of pain. A fine, metallic sweat trickled from his bald head. Most startling, though, was the sound they made – like metal scraping across metal as they popped from the pores.
Veins like writhing worms thumped below his skin. The rhythm was chaotic, and made the whole of him seem unbalanced.
His skin had become metal, from head to toe. The hue of it changed constantly; sometimes a radiant silver, sometimes an ashen grey, sometimes shimmering gold. He flickered between the three of them. The area around him also affected, and started to warp uncomfortably. At the borders of the light, a deep abysmal black appeared were reality was cracked. It was like he wasn’t really there at all, but somewhere between there and another dimension.