Chapter 263: The Power of the Avenue
What did this mean? That – aside from those with flying Disciplines – all of them who floated in the air were at minimum a ninth-ranked Talent.
There were thirty-nine ninth ranked Adepts in the West according to their records, counting both Citadels. Specifically, twenty-one in the Dark Citadel, and eighteen among the Pontiff’s number.
According to their former intelligence, Skyfire Avenue should have had about thirty of these powerful Talents, and then the three Paragons. The Avenue’s power was formidable, but they had thought if they joined forces it would be enough to frighten the Avenue in to capitulation.
In this moment, it was clear their assumptions were wrong.
There were perhaps seventy or more Adepts here who were obviously at that level of mastery or higher! Moreover, these were genetic Talents, not man-made.
Satan wasn’t blind to the circumstances. The Avenue’s power was far beyond what he’d anticipated. Now he figured, if he tried to openly steal Mika away, there he’d do it with most of his forces obliterated. But he was Satan, master of the Dark Citadel, lord of the world of darkness where only strength is respected. How could he just tuck his tail and flee?
Their stand-off was interrupted when a wave of strange power rushed past them, originating from the Avenue below. An odd voice followed.
“A mountain of books has many pathways to the summit, and the sea of knowledge is boundless.”
They were simple, if strange words. However, as the moving voice delivered them, the whole of Skyfire Avenue was embraced by a dim light, a hazy luminescence that hung over everything.
It had a milky quality, the light, with threads of inky blackness that meandered throughout. As the waves of power emanated outward they brought with them a refreshing fragrance, that filled them with a sense of scholarly integrity.
A column of white light beamed in to the heavens.
Satan, the Wine Master, and the Gourmet were the most affected by the interrupted, as their faces revealed. Satan’s features bore an even nastier scowl. Manifestations of surprise and relief were clear on the Wine Master and Gourmet’s faces.
But their differences in expression hid the exact same internal reaction. A single thought rang through their minds.
On the Avenue, the Pontiff was most affected. “How could this be?!” he cried in alarm. For the first time since showing himself here, the Pontiff couldn’t control his reaction.
The Gourmet reaching Paragon status was still within their scope of acceptance. After all, the Clairvoyant was no longer a threat, and he was more powerful than any of them. But this voice, this light, was a surprise.
This rich, scholarly aura could be nothing but pure protogenic power. And this abundant, overbearing energy could only come from one source. The birth of a Paragon!
Indeed, another was about to join the illustrious ranks of the Paragons.
Every Adept was different, and this was equally true for the demonstration of protogenic power that was released when one became Paragon. Some were even able to affect the whole of a planet’s aura. Others achieved it without any fanfare or dramatic revelation. How a Talent broke in to the Paragon level was dependent on their Discipline.
The Gourmet earned Paragon status when we ultimately and completely immersed himself in the territory his power was derived from, the Underworld. As this was a world of his making, no one else was made aware of the breakthrough. This new Paragon, having broken through right here on the Avenue, made his ascension remarkably obvious.
The gentle white light was pure and gentle, harmonizing with the energies of the world around it. The core of it was even restrained. Even the Pontiff wondered if he were capable of producing such a calming, peaceful aura.
Most younger Paragons weren’t ready for the awesome power a Paragon possessed, and required a period of adaptation so that they could train themselves to become conduits of this might. The older Adepts had had time enough to cultivate themselves to the required level, and their understanding was far more profound. The drawback was that the older Adepts had a much more difficult time advancing to higher levels of mastery. It was an unfortunate double-edged sword.
The whole of the heavens overhead adopted the milky-white light, and every student on Skyfire Avenue lifted their head as a wave of harmony and intellect inexplicably washed over them. Whatever problem they were working through instantly became clear – a universal eureka moment.
Even the embattled students of the NEU, struggling on West Hill looked to the skies in curiosity, unable to stop themselves. They were training under Hua Li’s direction, and though their Disciplines were still sealed the wave of unstoppable vigor forced their powers to the surface.
The arena filled with the sounds of clattering steel as the needles within them fell free of their own accord. They felt renewed, awakened as their power was restored.
Hua Li’s eyes widened as he spied the heavens, and without hesitation shouted out to his charges. “Cross your legs and sit up straight. Meditate on this changes in the atmosphere, let it wash through you.”
He took his own advice, dropped in to a meditative position with his chakras aligned, and closed his eyes to more clearly feel the sensations.
To be able to absorb and experience the radiant power of a Paragon breaking through was an exceedingly rare opportunity! The more profound an Adept’s understanding of their abilities, the more deeply they felt such expressions of power, but it helped all who experienced it with their future growth.
This was why Hua Li had remained for so long. These sorts of good happenings were so rare in the history of humanity, that it would be a tragedy to miss.
This is especially true when considering that this sort of protogenic expression wasn’t always this beneficial. If the adept had less than sublime control over its exuberance, disasters could easily follow. Especially for the common man.
Moreover, not every Paragon opened themselves up in this way for the benefit of others. At the very least this revealed their power to everyone, tipped their hand so to speak. The result was that this sort of thing had only publicly occurred four or five times in the history of humanity. But each time it did, everyone who experienced it became better as a result.
Though there was no way for Hua Li to know which Adept specifically had attained Paragon status, he was able to determine comprehension was the crux of the Discipline. It was something every living thing could benefit from, so how could he let the opportunity go to waste?
For the students involved in training, the benefits were immediate and intense. They, too, didn’t dare waste a moment. Over the last few days of needles and boiling water they barely felt human, but in this instant they felt renewed. Their eyes blazed with excitement and comprehension.
After Lan Jue had removed their second needle, he’d left the rest in for a protracted period, largely because their bodies needed time to adapt to their newfound strength. The third needle was removed by the seventh day, and the fourth needle just the day before. Before now, they all still had five needles to go.
Now, all five tumbled to the ground of their own accord. Every student was stunned, nearly floored, by the tremendous power that welled up inside of them.
Everyone sat in contemplative silence; Wang Hongyuan, Tan Lingyun, Lin Guoguo… everyone. A quiet tranquility hung over the training grounds.
Lan Jue immediately shut his eyes when the power came. Hua Li felt it, and so could he. Everyone hovering in the skies above the Avenue felt it clear as day.
This included the denizens of the two Citadels. After their surprise subsided, they quickly shut their eyes in attempts to capitalize on the opportunity themselves. However, despite their efforts, they felt nothing. Helplessly they opened themselves to the power, only to be denied.
A craggy, ancient voice reverberated all around them. “I seek benevolence, to share my gifts. Unfortunately, our guests came with evil intent. Satan, do you still see opportunity for retreat in the face of your transgressions?”
A point of light appeared amidst the gathered paragons, and grew in size until it was the dimensions of a man. The blinding light eventually receded, revealing the Keeper.
He was clad in a simple robe, giving the onlookers a sense of scholastic integrity, of knowledge and culture. He looked precisely like what his title implied, a Keeper of Knowledge. But strangest of all was his face, for while his voice was cracked and old, he appeared much younger than he had just a day before. His yellowed eyes were now bright and piercing, and now his youthful vigor was greater even than Satan’s unnatural youth.
The gentle white light dimmed and eventually vanished, though the skies above remained bright. The childish voice returned, though where at first it had been one, now it was a chorus of youthful cries.
“All men are righteous at birth, and close to their nature. They grow and change, their habits mold them. But through knowledge, through learning, that goodness is retained.”
There was another explosion of white light, and an image appeared before them that stretched hundreds of thousands of meters. It was the image of a Confucian scholar, with one hand behind his back and the other clutching a tome. His eyes were shut, and as the young voices spoke he nodded sagely. The very picture of leisure and contentment. 1
“Thrice Mencius’ mother moved, to provide for him a place of learning, but played truent, so his mother cut cloth from the loom. Dou of the Yan Mountains, trained his five children, and through their learning grew famed and knowledgeable, passing the imperial exams. 2
The young voices rose to a crescendo, and smaller figures appeared in the air before the massive scholar as they read the Three Character Classic.
“Uneducated children are a failing of the father, unindustrious students are borne of negligent teachers. Learning without passion is pointless, and forsaking knowledge in youth, how can one be successful in old age?”
The towering scholar opened his eyes. The light in those eyes became stern and commanding, much like a teacher instructing his pupils.
“An unpolished jade sculpture cannot be called a work of art; Men who do not study cannot comprehend the moral path, and will not become great men.”
A single small figure stood out, standing directly before the scholar. As the instruction continued, he grew.
“All children should show deference to their parents, it is the basis of humanity. Understanding the weal and woe of our ancestors shows piety, and cultivates a hardworking nature. When Kong Rong was four, he gave up his pear to his elder brother, this filial respect and admiration is something that should be taught from birth. Respect is the first and foremost measure of a man, fraternity the guiding principle, only then can we learn the ways of life; of numbers, words and wisdom.”
The scene changed again. Images of the stories they head, of the lessons that were taught, hung in the air around them. The charm and wisdom of the ancient Chinese philosophies filled the hearts of every onlooker.
- The old Chinese Confucian system of learning was to have children recite these ‘pearls of wisdom’ endlessly, over and over and over again until they were ingrained within them. This practice still goes on in every Chinese class – in essence, they have a textbook with quotes, which they read while the teacher listens and corrects. Today, this is used for pronunciation and grammar purposes, though they still pick many Confucian documents and phrases to do so, for cultural reinforcement (or indoctrination, however you want to look at it). This quote above, all the several following, are all real lines recited in classrooms to this day. ↩
- Which were basically the prerequisite to becoming a government Bureaucrat and setting your family up for life. ↩