Chapter 236: The Clairvoyant’s Starry Sky
Skyfire Avenue. Gothic Winery.
“Wine Master. We just received news from the Pontiff’s Castle. They said they and the Dark Citadel will be arriving in ten days for the meeting.” The Barber gave his report solemnly.
The paragon nodded his head. “So be it. How goes the preparations? With the presence of both the Pontiff and Satan, the Clairvoyant will be in attendance as well. He’s decided to be part of the welcome party.”
The Barber continued. “Everything you’ve asked us to prepare is more or less ready. However, I do have some opinions about a couple of the greeters.”
The Wine Master smiled knowingly. “And who is it you’d like to discuss.”
“The Jewelry Master,” he answered. “He is also a councilman who’s been assigned to this duty, but he hasn’t once made an appearance. In fact, he’s never even in his store and is exceptionally difficult to get a hold of. Those women who run his store are impossible, each more arrogant than the last. They forced me out of the store, the last time. The Jewelry Master himself is prideful, arrogant, unreasonable and impossible to deal with. I suggest he be removed.”
The Cosmagus laughed in spite of himself. “Alright take it easy. Everything’s fine, you’re just being a little narrow-minded. I know all about the little competition you and the Beautician had with him in the Reaper Arena, just as I know who instigated the whole thing. Take care of your own business, that’s all we’re asking. As for the Jewelry Master, I would suggest you work on developing a better relationship with him. It is true that he hasn’t done anything to help prepare, but it is also true that the Archangel Michael won’t be in attendance.”
“Why?” The Barber seemed confused. The Wine Master’s gentle chastisement made him blush, but the mention of Michael made the slight all but forgotten. The Archangel was possible the strongest player in the Pontiff’s circle aside from the Pontiff himself, and the Lord of Angels 1. He was a terrifying, ninth-ranked ninth-degree Adept.
The Wine Master’s response was soft and conversational. “Because he and the Jewelry Master had a… run in. The wounds he suffered were dire, and in fact he’s still recovering.”
“What?!” The Barber was struck dump with amazement. “What did this happen? I just saw the Jewelry Master a few days ago!”
“Not long ago,” the Wine Master assured. “The Jewelry Master was injured as well, so I made him exempt from participating in the preparations. Wait until the two powers arrive, and he’ll be among the welcoming council members. This will not be the case for Michael. Need I explain further?”
He didn’t. In the time after their fight, Lan Jue had recovered fully whereas Michael still wasn’t capable of making the trip. What did this mean? It meant their Jewelry Master was even stronger than the Pontiff’s Angel of War.
The Barber already had a high estimation of the Jewelry Master’s power, but saw him as a pesky waste of space on the council despite their similarity in age. Could he really be so powerful as the Wine Master described? He felt a chill run up his spine as he thought back to their friendly match. They were never even close to competing with his abilities. This guy’s power…
The Wine Master rose to his feet. “There is also the matter of the Great Adept Competition occurring in three months, sponsored by the Northern Alliance with the West’s powerhouses in attendance. Undoubtedly, part of the reason the two castles are coming is to feel us out. Me and the other two elder councilmen will handle what we can there, so you needn’t worry. Handle your business, do the job you’ve been assigned, and things will go just fine.”
A hard, cold light grew in the depths of the Barber’s eyes. “If it were up to me we’d show them why the Avenue is a force to be reckoned with. Do they believe they can join together and that we’d be frightened? Skyfire Avenue is not so easily cowed.”
The Wine Master shook his head. “You shouldn’t always be so confrontational. We are a loose organization, remember, even down to our council members. We don’t have the sorts of restrictions – and thus planning – that they do. Remember also that this competition of theirs may have nothing to do with us. There are… other things to consider.”
“What sort of things?” the Barber asked curiously.
“Now it’s still too early to say, but I’m sure you’ll hear more about it later,” the Wine Master assured. “But that’s enough for now, you’re still busy I imagine.”
“Very well.” The Barber gave his response, then made his way from the Gothic Winery. His heart was beating as he thought upon the Jewelry Master’s purported fight with Michael. This was no small feat! It looked like he was really going to need to correct his attitude around the young adept.
A short time after the Barber left, the Wine Master also exited the winery. He made his way towards the Skyfire Museum.
Today, the Clairvoyant was clad in long, white robes tied at the waist with a simple cotton belt. The robes were interlaced with a veined pattern of thread, bearing twinkling gemstones that surrounded him in a dim halo of light. He topped off the ensemble with a tall, white hat.
He looked older, since the last time the Wine Master had met him. His skin was thinner, and his color pale. However, age hadn’t seemed to touch those piercing eyes.
Even as a Paragon himself, the Wine Master always felt strange in the Clairvoyant’s presence. It was like he was in a daze, somehow separate from reality when nearby.
“Clairvoyant.” The Wine Master politely nodded his head toward the older gentleman.
The leader of the Avenue offered a small smile in response. His warm voice flowed around his amicable smile. “I knew you were coming.”
The Wine Master made his way across the expansive chambers to stand before his old colleague. “How are you feeling?”
“Fine,” the Clairvoyant assured. “No need to worry over me. I’ve a few years yet before there’s any cause for alarm.”
The Wine Master looked at him skeptically, eying his strange small. “And what’s got you so happy?”
The smile spread further on the old man’s face. “One of my visions has been confirmed, the Bookworm is back in the Avenue, the Keeper is going through something similar and improving… it puts me at ease, after a fashion.”
Surprised crept in to the Wine Master’s face. “You mean the Keeper…”
The Clairvoyant nodded, without saying anything further.
“What about you?” the Wine Master hurriedly followed. “If the Magnate is improving, surely we can use his methods to help you get better?”
The Clairvoyant shook his head, though the smile remained. “No. My circumstances are… different. We’re both advanced in age, to put it mildly, but his troubles come as a result of exhausted vital essence. He’s little left. Mine own problems are similar, in a way, though my years were clearly delineated the day I became a Paragon. My end is a result of destiny. No matter what power or method we employ, there’s no escaping the master plan. When you achieve the same levels the Keeper and I have, you’ll understand.”
The Wine Master frowned. “But, you…”
The Clairvoyant raised a hand, cutting his companion short. “After the Castle and Citadel have come and gone, I will seclude myself. I’ll need to conserve my energy, and prepare for the Final Prophecy. It is something that may very well affect the lives of all future generations – and I am sure it will occur. My own life is a limited one, and I have always sought to use it where it was most needed. Now the Keeper, for all his knowledge, is not a leader of men… so when I begin my preparations for the end, I will need you to take over Skyfire Avenue.”
The Wine Master’s brows furrowed in concern, but he nodded his head nonetheless.
The Clairvoyant let loose a gentle laugh. “You’ve known me and this business for so many years, there’s nothing you won’t be able to handle. You’ll likely see it long before you get as old as I, but the truth of the world is that life and death are fallacies. All energy is permanent, it only changes form. So long as you keep me in your thoughts, I’ll live on.”
The wine Master huffed. “You’ve done so much for humanity, not to mention the Avenue. We won’t survive without you!”
This caused the old man to chortle. “Don’t be so melodramatic. You know the old adage; out with the old, and in with the new. As one generation passes, the youth shall rise to replace them, as they have always done. Humanity will thrive, it is an undeniable rule of the universe.”
The Wine Master looked apprehensive for a moment, then spoke. “The most important aspect of the Castle and Citadel’s visit is almost certainly to check on how you and the Keeper are faring. How should we respond if they should ask?”
“Go with it,” Skyfire’s leader replied. “The Keeper likely won’t make an appearance. It’ll be you and I who meet with them. Their purpose in coming may not necessarily be of ill intent.”
“Oh? Have you seen something?” The Wine Master inquired.
The Clairvoyant smirked. “No, just years of experience. It has been quite a long time since anyone seen the Pontiff or Satan out and about – having them make an appearance is a good thing.”
The Cosmagus nodded his head silently. He saw no further purpose in taking any more of the Clairvoyant’s time, so he left of his own accord.
The Clairvoyant remained where he was, and simply watched as his companion left. Afterwards, he made his way to the tallest level of the Skyfire Museum with unhurried steps. Now, with nothing but the walls of the museum to bear witness, he certainly looked like a man in his twilight years.
It took him several minutes to climb the twenty-odd steps to the top. He was met with a pair of massive double-doors. The old man stood before the seven-meter tall doors, dwarfed by their immensity.
Despite his frailty, the Clairvoyant only need gently push the doors to have them open. They moved soundlessly, as though they weighed nothing.
As the doors split, a strange light emanated from the fissure. Bathed in the sudden luminance, the clairvoyant’s body appeared to undergo a strange shift.
His body, bent from rickets, straightened. His white hair thickened and became black. Under the power of that strange light, his youth was returning. In the space of just a few moments, the old Clairvoyant had become a valiant looking young man in his thirties.
The myriad gemstones interwoven throughout his robes shimmered like stars.
The small, easy smile on his face never changed. He strode across the threshold, and the doors closed at his back, isolating him from the rest of the world.
Soft golden light followed his every footstep, expanding out in complicated flowery patterns. They expanded, twirling amongst one another until they filled the entire circular room. Were one to look up, they would discover a vast and endless expanse of starry sky. Everyone one of the twinkling suns shimmered with a golden light.
Endless skies, infinite light, countless stars… bathed in the soothing glow, the Clairvoyant strode to the center of the room.
The light hung over him like a blanket. He was coated in the golden luminescence as though it were shining out from within him. Behind him, in stark contrast, arose an orb dark as pitch. It floated upward until it was level with the back of the Paragon’s head.
Lifting his head to the heavens, the Clairvoyant’s eyes looked unnaturally clear. They reflected back every twinkling light he gazed upon.
The crystal ball at his back suddenly glowed with a furious glare. Rays of blinding light shot in every direction as it hovered like a terrifying eye. It’s expulsion of luminescence grew until it filled everything, even the skies above, until there was nothing but white.
The golden stars scattered like fireflies. One by one they fell to the ground and joined the magnificent patterns. The Clairvoyant stood amidst the stunning display silent, still, as though frozen. In a blink, the young man became encased in gold and stood there still. Like a statue.