Chapter 259: Cattail Fan vs Spear of Destiny
The Pauper chuckled, and rubbed his nose with a dirty hand. When he pulled his hand away, he curled it in to a fist. “If you keep dispersing your power like that, I won’t be so easy on you next time.”
As his words hung in the air, the beggar took a single step forward. The motion launched him forward with an intense blast of power, that screeched like an angry bird as he barreled toward Constantine.
The Demon Hunter’s eyes were wide with amazement, and he raised the shield in his left hand just in time. The golden aura spread out around him coalesced, shrunk, until he looked like he was a statue made of gold. The stifling sensation that had come along with it also vanished.
Onlookers clearly saw the impact this time, free from any blinding golden light.
The Pauper’s fist connected with the shield. Constantine was forced back a step, and his aura shuddered from the blow. Grinning madly, he smashed his fist in to the shield once more, and again Constantine was pushed back.
Seven times this happened, and seven times Constantine survived solely by virtue of his massive golden shield. To the untrained eye they looked like simply exchanges, but a discerning viewer would note the changes in the golden aura of the defender.
Where those seven strikes really all the same? In fact, they were not – there was a distinct and unique power behind every one.
Constantine blocked each with his shield, but used different defensive maneuvers each time. Still he was being pushed back.
As they looked on, suddenly the beggar’s form shimmered and grew opaque – like an illusion. Where moments before there had been a deafening chorus of angels, now their heads buzzed with the sound of Buddhist chants. Where a vision of majestic mountains had appeared behind Constantine, a resplendent Buddha shimmered at the Pauper’s back.
The image radiated a sense of solemn grandeur, and rays of golden light shot out from him in every direction. The impish smile on the homeless Adept’s face was gone, replaced by a look of pious devotion. His fist unfurled, and using just his palm he began to slap at Constantine’s shield. Each one struck with the force of an explosions, and rang against the golden shield like as though he’d struck a great bell.
The shield managed to deflect each attack as they came, shuddering as one after the other the staggering palm strike were pushed aside. But each time, he was forced to retreat.
It was the first fight, and each side had dispatched an unknown soldier to represent them. The resulting power of their match-up shocked everyone looking on. And more surprising still, was the fact this dirty man was a stronger Adept than the Demon Hunter.
Bang! Another strike from the Pauper. As they disengaged, he pressed his hands together in a devout display, and a pious aura flooded the arena. The radiant Buddha at his back also changed, with his calm face suddenly revealing a peaceful smile.
The Pharmacist, watching with hard eyes, muttered as the sensations washed over them. “Arhat of the Descending Dragon.”
“Arhat of the what?” Lan Jue shot her a curious look. “What in the world is this guy’s Discipline?”
“The Western transfer and reception of the Western religious powers are done through medicines and other procedures,” the Pharmacist explained. “As it turns out, our own Alliance possesses similar Disciplines, but are hereditary. The Pauper appears to have the Arhat of the Descending Dragon bloodline. It’s one I’m familiar with. All of this happiness and posturing between the three alliances seems harmless, and the spread of Disciplines and ability seems fair, but it isn’t. I had no idea that the Pauper had such ability, and that he was here in Skyfire Avenue. You see, the Arhat’s powers are derived from the Buddhist faith. The Pontiff’s Citadel, meanwhile, has its roots in old world Christianity. You could say this fight in really a battle of two faiths. The difference is the Pauper’s powers are entirely obtained from congenital ability. Constantine’s, however, was gained from hard work, training, and pharmaceuticals. Acquired – as opposed to Natural – Talent grows quickly, but has its limitations.”
The Pauper’s body swayed, and he staggered away from his opponent. After retreating more than a dozen steps, Constantine finally found solid footing. Spider-webbed cracks and scores of dents dotted his shield.
The Pauper spreads his arms wide. “Should we keep this going?”
Constantine hadn’t yet given up, despite his inferior position. On the contrary, his eyes burned with determination. His golden shield flashed with light, then disappeared. Lifting his right hand above his head, the Demon Hunter curled it in to a fist.
In a flash, a spear appeared in his grip. The massive weapon stretched over seven meters 1. With its appearance, the whole of the Arena was bathed in a strange glow. It was like the special pocket the Arena was built in was struggling to sustain the manifestation of power.
“Oh,” the Pauper said, lifting a brow. “So the Pontiff’s Castle has given you the Spear of Destiny 2. So generous! It’s no wonder you refuse to give in. Very well then, we’ll continue.”
As he spoke, the Pauper waved a hand through the air. There was a flash of golden light, and suddenly he, too, bore a weapon.
It was a cattail leaf fan, patched and torn. By the look of it, flapping it through the air would be enough to reduce it to splinters. 3
The Pauper laughed gently, and with an almost dismissive gesture waved the fan toward Constantine.
As the fan materialized, something strange occurred. The reality they existed within, having been destabilized by the Spear’s appearance, settled down and returned to normal. The Pauper swayed on his feet like a drunk man, and suddenly there were six more of him. Amidst the sounds of guttural chanting, the figures raced forward, dashing in zig-zag patterns at their target. They surrounded Constantine.
The Pontiff’s secret weapon stood, unmoving, with spear in hand as the Paupers approached. Once they had, he lashed out with the spear – but his objective wasn’t the seven grimy beggars.
Where the tip of the spear ended, a small black dot appeared in the air. As Constantine retracted the weapon, the dot became an infinitely black hole, which immediately began to draw everything toward.
However, in the same moment a hundred thousand dots of golden light appeared all around them. The Pauper’s mirror images vanished, and in their place appeared a giant hand reaching forth from the void. The spectral appendage grasped at the head of the spear. The raggedy fan, appearing without foundation from nowhere, waved once again. The power it released sent Constantine flying.
“Bang!” Constantine’s body slammed against the far wall with enough force to break bone.
The massive spectral hand vanished, and the Pauper once again revealed himself. He stood calmly, gently waving the fan back and forth in front of his face. The Spear of Destiny was suspended in midair between them.
“You’ve lost.” The Pauper smiled amicably toward his distant opponent, turned, and walked toward the Arena’s exit.
Constantine clambered to his feet. He was by no means dispirited from the loss, however. With an indication of his hand, the spear flew back toward him. With the massive weapon in hand, he too left the Arena.
Metatron’s face was the very picture of astonishment. Evidently, he’d not expected to lose this round.
“Constantine,” he called.
The Demon Hunter simply shook his head. “I can’t match him.”
The Pauper left the Arena, and just kept walking. He left without a word, addressing no one. What they did not see as his figure disappeared from the Reaper Arena, was his hand which had been burned black. His victory had not come as easily at it had appeared.
The Wine Master’s voice thundered through the air. “Second round.”
The Pontiff’s Castle had chosen first in the last fight. This time, Skyfire Avenue would begin the proceedings.
No words were required, however, for the decision had already been made. The Pharmacist shot a sidelong glance at the Wolf King, then with graceful motions rose to her feet and made for the arena.
The burly man watched her go, brows furrowed. She’s actually going in to represent the Avenue? He thought. Direct as he was in interaction, he made no effort to hide his dour expression.
Lucifer, Fallen Angel of the Dark Citadel, waved a hand as the Pharmacist left. A dark shadow separated itself from him, like a piece of him was torn away and given form. The dark image vanished, appearing in the Arena moments later.
Lan Jue turned his face to the Gourmet, who stood at his shoulder. “Will the Pauper be alright?”
The Gourmet responded with a shake of his head. “It isn’t serious. He’s a very competitive man, our beggar. In truth both the weapons they employed had protogenic powers, but his mastery over it was more profound than Constantine’s. He’s also at a higher level of cultivation. The further down the Disciples’ path an Adept treks, the greater advantage a congenital Adept obtains. Simply the result of accumulation.”
The Pharmacist stood facing a figure encased in darkness. Nothing was clear, and even its aura was difficult to perceive.
“I am called the Pharmacist,” she softly proclaimed. Be they Citadelians or denizens of the Avenue, all onlookers were surprised to see this beautiful woman in a fine dress approaching for a fight. At the very least her fine clothing would make it difficult to move!
“I… am… Judas.”
The voice that rasped from the shadow was coarse and thick, like a snake slithering through sand.
As the name whispered through the Arena, every one of the Pontiff’s men sucked in a breath of surprise. Even Metatron, who was usually calm and composed, had his anger and surprised revealed as his aura took on a fierce undertone. His eyes, bright and haunting, slowly moved to regard Lucifer who stood a short distance away.
Jehova was the name of the man who’d created the Pontiff’s Citadel. The man had not been a Pontiff, and was instead reverently called the Father. During his reign, he had twelve disciples. The first among them had been named Judas, a man who betrayed his master for the promise of wealth. It was this treachery that lead to the capture, and eventual murder of Jehova 4. The act completely transformed Judas, and left a permanent, painful scar on the soul of the Pontiffs Citadel.
Not long after Judas’ betrayal, he hung himself from a tree. So of course, the creature they spied now couldn’t be the real Judas. But for him to simply use the name, was an unbearable provocation to the Pontiff’s men.
Lucifer did not react to Metatron’s dark glare. He spoke quietly, nonplussed. “He only possesses the image of Judas. Don’t forget why we came here.”
Metatron raised his hand, and little by little the others of his party restrained themselves. That didn’t stop them, though, from hiding the murderous intent in their scowls.
The tense exchange was interrupted by the sound of footsteps from behind.
Both groups offered their salutes as the Hand of God and King of Demons re-emerged.
Both their faces bore dejected expressions. Without addressing their followers, both walked to the end of the viewing platform to watch the exchange within the arena.
The fight had already begun.
It had started with the one called Judas, who’d dark form shimmered then raced forward. Like a putrid black fog, like a black storm it rolled toward the Pharmacist until it enveloped her.
The Avenue’s representative did not move or attempt to flee. She stood her ground, with that cutting glare in her eye. She gently waved her hand, and the motion birthed several rays of dazzling yellow light. There was a rumbling, like the stirring of some great beast, before a crackling bolt of lightning crashed down from on high directly in to the heart of the fog.
Lightning? This was her Discipline?
The dark figure, largely concealed by the fog, paused as the Pharmacist waved her hand. In the same instant a strange wave of power shuddered through the arena, bringing with it a silvery light that glimmered in front of Judas. It deflected the lightning strike, leaving the shadow unharmed.
After splitting the lightning and forcing it away, the silvery light rapidly expanded. It grew until it was clear – a silver coin.
Every one of the Pontiff’s men snarled in unison.
- That’s twenty-three feet long, for our American audience ↩
- Note: the translation describes this as the ‘Spear of Judgement,’ however it’s appearance, description and prestige rings true to a purportedly ‘real’ religious relic. This author’s done a great deal of research, since The Lance of Longinus – which I believe this spear is based on – is a pretty obscure thing, even among Westerners. I’ve elected to keep the Western name instead of the translation, due to these facts. ↩
- I was unable to find any reference to a particular relic in Buddhist mythology, but here is a small article detailing the role of fans in Buddhism. ↩
- You’ll recognize this as the story of Jesus, but TJSS specifically wrote Jehova, gave him the name Father, and set him as the creator of the future Christian faith. It is likely fair to assume, then, that this is some sort of agglomeration of God and Jesus. One could argue that Jesus is God, the Father, and so Jehova is actually Jesus and vice versa… but that’s a religious discussion for another time. We’re sticking to Jehova. ↩