Chapter 337: Summing Up
Five minutes later.
Qianlin was wrapped in some of Lan Jue’s oversized clothing, making here appear like an undersized mannequin. A bashful pink tinted her cheeks. Luckily, Lan Jue had brought some spare clothes in his interdimensional pocket, otherwise he really would not have known what to do.
Lan Jue sat beside her, and the two of them remained in silence, ruminating over the bizarre circumstance they found themselves in.
Lan Jue muttered, “We have no idea what caused this. But at least I can try and explain what I know – what do you think?”
“Alright.” Qianlin nodded her head. Indeed these strange events had caused things to grow uncomfortable between them. Whether Lan Jue or Qianlin, both suddenly felt as though they were a piece of the other. Thankfully, however, they were unable to read the contents of the others’ innermost thoughts – otherwise, it would be a truly terrifying situation they found themselves in.
“My Discipline appears to be blocked by a special seal,” he explained. “I can only call on about a third of my total strength. About ninth level first rank. From what I can tell, the block has something to do with you because it vanishes whenever we have any physical contact. Then my power is back to normal. It seems like your powers aren’t effected when we come in to contact, at least in terms of strength. Instead, you seem capable of using my own Discipline when we touch. Follow?”
Lan Jue continued. “When we, uh…” he paused, and shot her a glance. Her face was already flushed. “When we show intimacy, our bodies meld together. I guess more specifically, your body melts in to mine. This increases my Discipline immediately and intensely. It was only for a second, but it felt like I was at the peak of ninth rank. So from what I can see, we can’t call what happened here an entirely bad circumstance. At least not for you, right?”
Qianlin’s eyes shot up and fixed him with her eyes. “How is this not a bad thing for me?”
Lan Jue blinked in surprise, while Qianlin’s face reddened further.
Lan Jue was a smart man, and after a moment he realized her meaning. There were side-effects here, not least of which being their need to be effectionate to unlock their powers. Even if they wanted to, she’d simply melt away in to his core. Aside from the very expensive cost of always replacing clothing, this had a slew of problems.
“I-I wasn’t finished. I mean, of course there are problems. Any time there’s any sort of deep contact our bodies join. So, th-there’s that. Right, and your clothes vanish. But it seems like metal and power gems are exceptions.” He’d spied the Spirit caller gem around her neck, and the pelagic pearl on her finger earlier.
Zhou Qianlin didn’t utter a word. She stared off in to the distance, resolutely ignoring him.
Lan Jue offered a half-hearted laugh. “I have no idea what to do about this either. But I promise I’ll figure out a plan, and I’ll ask around about it. This whole thing was strange. That Bess being a Paragon – and an unknown one! Plus, why did she do this? What was her motivation? What did she even do to us? I’ll back to the Avenue, and I’ll ask the Paragons there. Maybe they’ll know something. What do you think?”
She only shook her head. Her mind was a mess, and her heart fluttered with a flood of emotions. Everything was too strange, too sudden. She was entirely lost.
Lan Jue spoke on, helplessly. “I guess we’ll try this first. It’s already late, anyway. I’ll send you home.”
“Mh.” She nodded.
They rose to their feet, then stopped and stared at one another.
Lan Jue took the initiative, stepping forward. “Now that we’re here, we don’t have a choice but to deal with it. Now that you can use my powers, I’ll teach you the methods I use to control it. That way, so long as we’re together it’d be like having two of me.”
“Mh.” She acquiesced once again.
She was shy, he could see it in her face. He took up her hand. “We start now.”
The moment they touched he could feel it. His core opened up, unrestrained, and flooded him with energy. Qianlin felt light as they rose to the air under Lan Jue’s power
“Fix your attention on your core. Slowly coax the power free. If you immerse your will in it, you’ll turn in to a bolt of lightning. Now there’s no rush, take your time. Thunderbolt powers are fierce, so you mustn’t rush. It may reverse and harm you.”
As they soared through the air, Lan Jue carefully instructed her on control of his Discipline. Free of the forest, Lan Jue used his communicator to quickly pin-point their location. Luckily they weren’t far from Qianlin’s home.
They quickly and quietly made their way to the peak of the mountain. Along the way, Qianlin had had the opportunity to experience becoming lightning several times. By the time they arrived in her room through the electrical socket, she was more than a little surprised to find she was a little less shy with Lan Jue’s presence here.
Lan Jue spoke softly to her. “Change your clothes, then we’ll leave and come home the obvious way so we don’t arouse suspicion.”
“Alright. Turn around.” She’d only just gotten her emotions under control, and immediately her face flushed red.
Lan Jue entered the bathroom and closed the door.
Zhou Qianlin wasn’t alone. Even Lan Jue needed some time to process this very strange turn of events. What the hell was going on?! On the whole it wasn’t so bad, it just forced a very close relationship between him and Qianlin. Of course, she enjoyed the sweeter end of their bargain. While they were together, she immediately became one of a very few number of Adepts at the higher echelons. Although she couldn’t use the powers too effectively now, she was definitely strong enough to do it. And at this level, even the smallest missteps have reactions.
“Alright.” Before long, Qianlin’s voice gently called at him from the other room.
Lan Jue exited the bathroom, then brought Qianlin through the electrical sockets and to the front door. He bid her farewell with a wave. He wanted to get back to the Avenue quickly so that he could consult the Keeper and Wine Master. Hopefully they had some idea of what was happening.
Zhou Qianlin watched him go with her eyes, and only once he disappeared from sight did she go back inside. She composed herself, since she was hot from so quickly changing clothes, then called out to her family that she was home. She went to her room.
She lay on her bed, those beautiful shining eyes staring at the ceiling.
There was something she hadn’t told Lan Jue, and that was what Bess had told her.
“Granny Bess, you-“ Zhou Qianlin froze under the old woman’s grasp. When did this kindly old woman become so frightening!
Bess ogled the pearl on the younger woman’s finger. “That’s a finer means of defense there. Of course it won’t protect you from me. Don’t fret, puppet. I’m only here to help you.”
“Help me?” Qianlin couldn’t help but reiterate the assertion, skeptical.
Bess explained patiently. “You’ve gotten very strong recently. Unless I’m mistaken, you possess the very rare Silkworm Discipline. Am I right?”
Qianlin’s face changed suddenly. “You can see that?”
“Those who truly understand your abilities are few and far between,” Bess said. “I’d venture to say even you don’t really understand. Lucky for you, I’m one of those few. I’ve been observing you recently, you know. You’re a person of pure and good character. You have troubles, but you look after the elderly here with wholehearted, genuine care. It’s so unfortunate that you can’t properly use the powers. So, I’ve decided to help. I believe you used the power once on that young man you have following you around, yes? Is he worth anything at all?”
Zhou Qianlin was instantly calm. She gave the old woman a wry grin. “If there was anyone in this universe who deserved the benefit of my powers, it’s him. He had no idea I was a ninth rank Talent, Granny Bess, and I ask that you don’t tell him. We have a very complicated relationship.”
“I’m not interested in the plights of the young,” Bess muttered. “But I learned what I needed to know – he’ s deserving. You must know that after you used the Silkworm, you and the recipient created a… past-life bond. The two of you are inexorably tied, forever.”
“Even those who claim to know the secrets of the Heavenly Empress only scratch the surface. Your powers are derived from virtue, and compassion. But this life is a fair one. You reap what you sow. People just forget why they’re getting what they’re getting. My job in helping you, is to get you that payback. And to keep a promise.”
“Granny Bess… I don’t know what you mean. I don’t understand.” Zhou Qianlin gave her an inquisitive look.
“You don’t have to understand.” Bess waved her hand, and a light flashed in her palm. Zhou Qianlin fell to the floor, unconscious.
The memories played back in her mind. Qianlin’s eyes were awash with conflicting emotions. Bess hadn’t bore an ounce of maliciousnes, despite her act. She was there to help them. So that must mean that the changes she’d gone through were her ‘payback’? But this wasn’t anything she wanted! The two of them joining together, and the increase in ability, must only mean they ere meant to be partners.
Zhou Qianlin absently nibbled on her lower lip. She quietly focused on the subtle changes of her Core – sixth rank. Her Discipline certainly had grown stronger. With her powers of the Heavenly Empress, she naturally improved at a faster level, but even that didn’t explain this speed. It’d only been a couple months!