Chapter 366: Three Hundred Year-Old Mistake
Bize swayed on her feet, as she looked at Aubert. After a moment, she limply fell to her knees. “Why must it be like this? I spend a great deal of time, energy and resources for that arrow. I’d created it specifically to torture you, and to discover what sort of monster you truly were. I didn’t expect this answer. The fault doesn’t just lie with you, Aubert. I bear some of the blame myself. You said it true, that our pride has brought us here. Not just yours – ours.”
The elderly woman weakly hugged her knees close, and began to sob.
The farmers, formerly under Aubert’s control, encircled the small group by this point. Many of them had been brought here and kept alive by Aubert’s power, all the way from the former era. Many stared blankly, standing still as statues and trying to come to terms with their new reality. Most simply rejoiced.
The poison that had consumed them was finally receding, after so many long years. The memories of what they’d done, and the things they’d went through gradually came back to them. It had been like a nightmare, but in the end they were still alive. Now, things were finally starting to look up.
“Three hundred years! Three whole centuries! Wasted, because of a moment of pride and envy.” Aubert de Villaine heaved a sigh, turning his head toward the others. “You two… come here, please.”
The Wine Master nodded, and with a wave of his scepter both he and Lan Jue floated over to the fallen god’s side.
Aubert looked at the younger Paragon, and nodded. “You love wine… I can feel it. All of you do. It’s a pure love, not like mine. I lost my way when wine became an instrument of dominance. That was my great mistake.”
Aubert weakly raised a hand. There was a flash of purple, and suddenly three grapes appeared in the air, covered in hoarfrost like the others.
“These grapes are absent the infection. I give them to you as compensation. They are the product of years of my own heart’s blood, and hard work. Through the purification of Bize’s arrow, they are free of impurities. Not only are they going to produce wonderful wines, they are also imbued with some level of my own protogenic comprehension. Anyone on the verge of breaking through to Paragon can take one, and it will help them along their Path. The removal of impurities has strengthened these effects, and more. A normal adept will be drunk for seven days and seven nights eating just one of these. A paragon would not get drunk, nor enjoy quite so effective results.”
Again? More of this fruit? Lan Jue looked toward the Wine Master for directly, but the older man had already taken them. He handed two to Lan Jue and kept one for himself.
“Thank you, honored predecessor.” The Wine Master bowed respectfully before the old god of wine. Evidently, he didn’t have any qualms about accepting the grapes this time.
Once more, Aubert sighed pitifully. “I’ve finally come to my senses. Do not fret, friends… the corruption that had consumed me is gone forever. With Bize at my side, I wouldn’t dream of it. You all may go… I’d like to, spend a little time with Bize, just she and I.”
The Wine Master simply nodded. At his level of cultivation, as with any Paragon, they were able to sense acute, and minute, differences in a person’s aura. He knew what he was hearing was truth – you couldn’t fake the reaction he had. The gods of wine didn’t have to resort to that sort of base trickery anyway. Against two Paragons, they didn’t stand a chance, so there was no need for falsehoods.
Lan Jue didn’t ask the Wine Master why he was given two, and simply put them away. They had a lot to talk about once they left.
“Wait a moment.” Bize, who had been quietly crying, raised her head. She tenderly rose to her feet, and faced Lan Jue.
“You must doubt that my arrival here was more than a coincidence. I will tell you the truth; it wasn’t. And you needn’t worry, all of this was the Clairvoyant’s design.”
“The Clairvoyant?” Lan Jue vaguely recalled something, lingering the back of his mind.
She nodded. “The Clairvoyant and I have been friends for a long while. He knew me I searched for years for de Villaine. Back then, when the Earth was dying, we didn’t want to leave. I thought I would return there to find my answers, but when I arrived at Beaune, it had been abandoned. Not a soul remained.”
“The signs pointed to an exodus, so I figured he must have relocated to another planet. I felt hopeless, after all where does one begin looking in the vastness of the universe? I sought out the Clairvoyant, and asked him to help divine some answers. He told me he couldn’t find him, because his status as Paragons shielded him from the power. He did tell me, though, that Aubert would find a way to extend his life. To achieve my own goals, I spend an incredible sum to make sure I would live. When you saw me in Grace hospital, I wasn’t just thinking as I sat by that window. I forced my body to consume as little energy as possible – that was the only way I could live this long. A month would pass like a day to me, but every day was like living in the body of a corpse. I lingered on like this, for years upon years. All because the Clairvoyant told me Aubert was still alive.”
“Eventually I came across something.. a sensation. Something had changed. I went to the Clairvoyant again, and begged him to expend his own precious energies to help me learn more. He confirmed my fears, that Aubert had fallen to corruption. It was he who taught me how to make the arrow. He said it would be the only way to clear your mind.
“It was an instrument passed down from the ancient days, requiring tremendous effort to create. With countless treasures needed, it took a hundred years to complete. But the most important thing this arrow of compassion needed… was altruistic blood. I approached the Clairvoyant one last time. He was old, nearing the end of his days. He must have known I was coming, he said that as his life faded, his powers grew. Strong enough, he said, to faintly see where Aubert might be. He asked me for a favor, for you. Meanwhile, I would get what I needed to finally get what I wanted.