Chapter 333: Save Me!
“Count me in,” the Pauper said. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, and I’m sorry for drinking your wine. It was truly an experience I’ll never forgert. I never thought I’d feel something like this in my lifetime. That explosion of taste, of flavor. So many layers. It was like having an epiphany. I think I may have found my path.”
“Oh?” The Wine Master’s eyes brightened. “If you have than it was no waste of a very fine wine.”
For ninth-ranked Adepts, finding one’s path had more meaning than the average phrase. Upon reaching the peak of their abilities, Adepts hit a sort of bottleneck – just as Lan Jue had said about Lan Qing. Once an Adept reached this point in their cultivation process, they began a lengthy journey of discover, to find their own path. They began to search through a parrallel world of protogenic energy, the root of things. Only once they themselves could fully integrate in to that world and learned to master their corresponding protogenic power did they become a Paragon.
It was a long and difficult process. This accounted for part of the reason as to why there were so few Paragons, and also why they were all so strong. Paragons and adepts were separated by orders of magnitude. Lan Jue at ninth rank seventh degree was a threat to an adept at their ninth rank peak. And yet, a group of ten such adepts wold be no match for a Paragon.
Like Lan Jue, Lan Qing’s future was bright because he’d already discovered his path. For Lan Jue that was his Ascension, which was also his corresponding protogenic image. As a result, upon reaching the bottleneck their torturous journey would be considerably shorter. Comprehension of the protogenic energies would be quick.
The Pauper wasn’t fortunate enough to have known his path beforehand, and as a result had been stuck at his peak for many years. A bottle of wine for a lifetime of self-perfection was a fair trade.
“I feel as though I should go and meditate on this, and really imprint this feeling on my mind. Please do bring me when you go searching for the descendant. I couldn’t pass up another opportunity to taste such a wine again. I’m confident that another chance will show me the correct path. I’ve been preparing for this for years – the chances of success are good.”
“Good.” The Wine Master’s response was concise.
“So it is for today, friends. I haven’t prepared anything to eat, and I think I should meditate as well. I don’t want to forget this either.” He was, after all, the Gourmet. His appreciation of finer cuisine was all-consuming.
“Wine Master,” Lan Jue interjected. “If I might have a word?”
They left the Gourmet’s shop, walking together toward the Gothic Winery. By now the Wine Master’s expression was back to it’s normal stately countenance. However, every few steps he’d stroke the empty bottle, and a flash of regret would pass over his eyes.
“I suspect I’ll never have another bottle like it, for all the rest of my days,” he sighed.
Lan Jue smiled. “Of course you will. I’ll help you. We’re all excited for another taste. The Pauper, the Gourmet, and myself all felt it. That explosive, sustained, complicated flavor… it was an astounding thing. I’d have never expected such a gentle aroma to hide a taste that rich. It had a wonderful balance of powerful and subtle. It was the most intense wine I’ve ever had.
The Wine Master nodded. “Indeed! It was the greatest wine I’ve tasted in my life. My only desire now is to find that descendant.”
“That’s actually what I wanted to speak with you about,” Lan Jue said. “Is your suspected location for the descendant far from the Barrows?”
“The Barrows? How’d you know that’s where we were going,” the Wine Master said, surprised.
“Ah?” Lan Jue was just as shocked. “That’s crazy coincidence. The university is organizing a teacher retreat to the Barrows. Now you’re saying that’s where the descendant is.”
“I don’t know if that’s where they ended up, only where the clues lead. I asked the Clairvoyant to see what he could discover and he said the Barrows would be my destination 1. He said the world which was most like our mother planet. The Barrows must be our destination.”
Lan Jue smiled. “This is good news. Two birds with one stone. I’ll arrive as a tourist, and I guess you’ll find your own how. Shall we leave in a few days?”
The Wine Master thought for a minute. “That’s fine. Luckily there’s nothing terribly important in the next few days. The Gourmet’s back as well. We’ll go and take a look, hopefully we’ll find something. You’ll be representing the Avenue in the North’s farce of a tournament soon as well. Are you sure you have the time for all of this?”
“I’ll be leaving for the tournament right after our business on the Barrows. The West is a closer journey. I’ll meet up with everyone on Planet Luo.”
“Very good then. You should have time. When precisely are you leaving for the Barrows?”
“Within the next couple of days – I don’t know the specifics. I’m going to the university this afternoon, so I’ll find out and sign up. Anyway, you arrive whenever you’re ready and we’ll meet up.”
“Alright, and I’ll let the Pauper know so we can go together.” The Wine Master said with a nod.
Lan Jue smirked. “At least make him change his clothes, otherwise we’ll start looking like a gang of homeless people.”
The Wine Master laughed. “You don’t need to worry about reputations with the Pauper. He is among the strongest adepts there are. He was once quite a dapper young man, actually. The power he inherited turned him this way. He became the Pauper to search for his path, and now he was lucky enough to find a hint of it.”
But it was more than that. Wouldn’t they stick out tremendously if they ere wandering around with a beggar?
Lan Jue chose not to discuss the issue of the Moonfiend Empress with the Wine Master. It was his own private affair he had to handle. The Avenue had already helped him tremendously in a myriad of ways. He didn’t want to trouble them any further. However, he knew they’d have his back if he couldn’t handle it himself.”
Lan Jue sen the old man back to the Winery then returned for his bicycle. He took the ride to work in order to prepare for the trip.
Lan Jue was puzzling over the best way to deal with the pirates when the faintest cry called at the back of his mind. His entire body froze.
His vision became sharp and focused, bolts of cobalt blue racing across his eyes. The cry had come from the Spirit caller gem.
“Come to the Grace Hospital.”
The last message came from a croaking, sinister voice.
Lan Jue was stunned. Once the Spirit Caller gem was bound, only those two people could use it. Hearing another voice meant whoever it was had enough power to penetrate Qianlin’s heart. Whoever had Qianlin was a master of the heart and soul.
No further communication came through the gem. The world around him was calm.
Who? Lan Jue’s pace did not change. He was in no rush. In these moments, he’d learned to be calm.
From the sound of the voice, they were old. He was well familiar with Grace Hospital from his visits, and a single image swam up at him from the depths of his memory.
The old and silent woman, silently staring out of her window. He remembered her strange aura, and her calm demeanor. Her?
A blinding flash burst around him as Lan Jue changed in to a bolt of lightning. He flashed in to the skies in the direction of Grace Hospital.
Moving at such staggering speeds, he was at the hospital doors in the blink of an eye. He was surrounded by an imposing chilliness, worse even than when he’d adopted his persona as the Demon Drillmaster. Zhou Qianlin wasn’t Hera, but she was a good person, and if she got hurt here because of her kind-hearted nature…
Lan Jue took a moment to bring his focus back to the present, then walked inside. He encountered none of the other elderly occupants, and quietly slipped through a nearby power outlet. His consciousness shot through the entirety of the hospital through the connections.
It didn’t take very much time or effort for Lan Jue to find his intended target.
Indeed it was the room he’d expected. As ever she was looking expectantly out of the window, but there was something far darker in her eyes now. Nearby, a terrifying blood-colored cocoon sat. It slithered gruesomely with undulating threads of sanguine light.
That must be her!
Sparks of errant electricity spat from the socket in Granny Bess’ room. In a flash, Lan Jue was standing in the gloomy room, his eyes alive with electric energy. He was careful to keep his powers hidden, but it was evident he was one wrong move away from bursting like a volcano.
Those flashing eyes fell upon the ancient woman in her chair. His voice was a growl. “Why.”
She didn’t move, didn’t even look his way. It was then Lan Jue noticed her left hand, resting on the table by the window. Each finger bore claw-like nails, as red as the cocoon nearby.
She looked normal, unthreatening.
Lan Jue was careful not to act rashly. He saw the cocoon, but was unable to get any sense of Qianlin’s location – but, maybe ever so faintly.
Bess finally turned her head and looked toward Lan Jue. Her bright eyes were the eyes of a young woman, but her voice was that of a crone. “No reason. I needed something. Both of you have it. Yours is somewhat better. So, if you agree to relinquish it to me, she will live. If you do not, I’ll need to take it from her.”
Lan Jue ground his teeth. “What do you want?”