Chapter 356: A World Under Water
With his whole body immersed in the water, Lan Jue felt the nutritive energies grow stronger. It was pure, and became more prosperous as the water pressure increased around them.
Lan Jue absorbed the energies and coaxed Qianlin to do the same through their shared connection. It couldn’t be directly absorbed, since conversion was required to make it so. Even so, he gauged the special waters to have only about twenty percent impurities. To put it another way, an Adept who spent their time cultivating their abilities while in this water would improve by leaps and bounds over others. Simply, the planet’s special life-giving properties were especially prosperous here.
Filtered light from the surface grew dimmer as their depth increased. This was no problem for Lan Jue, however. With a thought, spiderweb coils of lightning began to wrap around him. It was enough to illuminate their immediate surroundings.
The water was exceedingly clean and clear. There wasn’t very much wildlife in it at all, though. Occasionally they’d see a sleeve fish dart by, but that was all. Like the creatures on the surface above, nothing in here could harm a human even if it wanted to. On the contrary, one particular fish hung around for a moment to watch them in curiosity. Lan Jue responded by ceasing his electrical light source, for fear of harming the fish.
The lake was much deeper than Lan Jue would have guessed. Before long they’d descended over two hundred meters, and still hadn’t reached the bottom. Lan Jue’s perception told him that the bottom was another hundred meters down.
Nothing. The quiet underwater world was still and beautiful, as though they were locked in a crystal. Sadly, no signs of the descendants were revealed.
Zhou Qianlin was just along for the ride, and wasn’t nervous about their depth or location. Lan Jue was helping to regulate her internal breathing, so that she wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. All she had to do was feel and accept the special energies of the water around them.
They swam on for another ten minutes before reaching the bottom. Lan Jue’s Discipline flickered to life once more, revealing the lake bed beneath them. It was flat, and littered with smooth stones. They came in all different colors, and glittered as the light of Lan Jue’s power revealed them. It was a beautiful, surreal scene. Like a sea of technicolor jade.
They each bore their own faint energy. While individually none were as strong as the weakest power gems, together their powers were amplified. Perhaps the water got it’s special qualities from these stones. Whatever the case, it was a magical experience. Although they still hadn’t found what they were looking for, the journey so far had been grand.
His musings were interrupted by an undertow, tugging at him. It wasn’t a physical current, instead something else that drew both their attention toward it. Lan Jue, surprised, ceased the coiling bolts of lightning and peered in to the darkness ahead.
Still nothing, but Lan Jue’s heart rate had increased. He couldn’t say for sure, but there was something different about this place.
Once more Lan Jue called upon his Discipline, but this time the lightning sprang up around them in a protective net. He inched them forward, closer to whatever power was tickling at the back of his mind. Slowly, carefully, both his body and perception converged upon the spot.
A hundred meters seemed to pass in a blink, and that was when he started to feel a strange physical current joining with the energy eddies. This time, it was their bodies that began to be drawn in.
Lan Jue and Zhou Qianlin exchanged a glance. Their concerns were the same; in this clear, calm lake, where would this undertow be coming from?
The former mercenary paused, looked at Qianlin, then pointed toward the water’s surface.
Through the Spirit Caller gem…
Lan Jue: I think we’ve found the right place. We should get to the surface and wait for the Wine Master and Pauper, as insurance. Then we can all come down and check it out together.
She nodded her head in agreement, and gave him a thumbs-up.
Prudence was a virtue.
Were Lan Jue by himself, then perhaps he would have continued through the current to discover more. However, with Qianlin in tow, safety had to be the priority.
But as they were preparing to leave and contact the Wine Master, that gentle current strengthened sharply. Before they could react, both were sucked to the center of whatever invisible vortex awaited.
The two of them were a pair of ninth level seventh rank adepts, the top one percent of their species! And yet, in the face of this strange current, their struggles were useless.
The two of them were swallowed further in to the crystal-clear depths of the lake. Lan Jue knew that they’d been caused in some sort of invisible whirlpool, where the eyes couldn’t see it but it could certainly be felt. The course and pressure sucked them deeper, ever downward, and they were powerless to stop it.
Lan Jue immediately pulled Qianlin close, hugging her tight to his chest. The net of lightning surrounding them flared intensely and became gold. It grew thicker until they were protected in a blazing golden cocoon of energy.
They pitched and rolled through the water, protected by the orb of light. The jerking motions were vicious, but Qianlin felt safe and secure in Lan Jue’s arms.
Suddenly, the darkness around them was dispersed with the arrival of a powerful light. The tearing current also dissipated without a trace. Both Lan Jue and Qianlin could feel the pressure from being under water recede. When they hit the floor, it was confirmed – they found themselves somewhere altogether different.
Lan Jue’s reactions were quick. He stabilized his energies and used them to help both he and Qianlin recover from the dizzying ride they’d just experienced. After a few moments, once both were acclimated, they stared stupefied at the scene before them.
With mouth agape, Lan Jue’s eyes followed a mountain range as it stretched in to the horizon. Every square inch was covered in grapes. They expansive vineyard was carefully arranged and tended, with the meter-high plants separated in to lines by big old trees. Somehow, they’d found themselves in an altogether different world of beauty and mystery.
The mountains and vineyards themselves weren’t anything to be overly stunned about. What was strange, was the air here. It seemed to ripple and undulate like waves, even though overhead looked for all the world like an azure sky. But it wasn’t, their ceiling was the bed of the river.
Stranger still, there was sunlight down here. A blazing orb hung suspended in the air like the sun he’d expect on the surface. Warm rays hung over the amazing scene, however, and the grapes knew no different.
There was more than just grapes stretching off in to the distance. Several other species of flora had also been cultivated here. Like the grapes, they had also been carefully tended and arranged in their own areas.
Of course, pretty as it was, Lan Jue and Qianlin had other concerns. Namely, the people surrounding them.
There were eight in all, standing around in a circle. They were dressed in crude farmhand clothing, and bore hoes and scythes. Eight pairs of suspicious eyes pinned them in place.
“Alright everybody, we aren’t here to cause any problems.” Lan Jue raised his arms, revealing no weapons. Meanwhile, he instigated his Discipline to dry he and Qianlin’s clothes.
All eight of their hosts were suspended in air, without wings to help them do so. It meant they were at the very least ninth level Talents. One in particular – the oldest of the crew – was surrounded by an aura as deep and vast as the ocean. That one was ninth level seventh rank or higher.
Lan Jue quickly determined that quietly adhering to everything these people said was the wisest course of action.
The elder looked at them with cold, hard eyes. “Who are you, and why are you here.” It was more a demand than a question. “And you’d better have an excellent explanation.”
Lan Jue grinned sheepishly. “We’re actually here looking for you. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure we would.” There was no reason to hide his objectives, Lan Jue felt. He couldn’t really lie about finding this place by accident, because what would they say? They were just diving? Where was their diving equipment?
“Looking for us?” The older man seemed surprised.
Lan Jue nodded. “Yes. We’re here looking for the descendants of the Gods of Wine. I presume that’s you all. We’re only here to talk.”
The man’s face darkened. He fixed them with hard eyes, but there was surprise at Lan Jue’s words as well.
“Take them down!”
The others dropped their crude weapons. Immediately, each of the other seven farmers were surrounded by a sinister blood-red aura. A sense of pressure, of crushing dread, poured from them with Lan Jue and Qianlin in the center of it all.
Even before they’d started talking, Lan Jue had carefully observed their attackers. He watched their every move, because he needed to be ready for a situation just like this. He would not simply stand by and wait for death.
An electric blue light flickered around Lan Jue and Zhou Qianlin. Lan Jue thrust his right fist into the air, and a solid blast of electricity tore upward.
It formed in to a golden orb, and rose until it hung over them all – another small sun. It expanded, pulsing his waves of energy before erupting with a thunderous blast.
The explosion tore out in all directions, flattening acres of vineyard. The others overhead had yet to fully combine their Disciplines, and the sudden shock of the blast completely dispersed their aggregated power.
Lan Jue couldn’t hesitate. He’d stopped their channeling, but that old man’s aura was still strong and growing. It flared large and encompassed his friends to protect them from the rapidly approaching flames of the explosion.
But Lan Jue wasn’t fighting alone. He had a partner, and as he was dealing with the others a speck of light no bigger than a fingernail sped toward the old man before them. Zhou Qianlin watched in anticipation as her own attack rushed forward. In the same instant, Lan Jue release a second orb in to the old man’s comrades.
Bo-Boom! Two shuddering explosions filled the air.