Chapter 380: The Dark Citadel
Lan Jue had come to the realization that he could use Qianlin’s Discipline just as she could use his. It was something he’d discovered the night they’d meditated together. The mother affect Qianlin’s Queen of Heaven powers bestowed was like a salve, and nourished the source of his power. Even more interesting, because of the nature of the Discipline – supportive, gradual – its use didn’t expend too much energy. Although it didn’t look like it would be all that useful in a fight, Qianlin’s Discipline was a great distraction when used suddenly.
Lan Jue was pondering the conversation he’d overheard between Gabriel and Uriel. They had come to precisely the conclusion he hoped they would. It was all by design – planting evidence to mislead an intelligent foe. Using what Jue Di taught him when confronted with the Pontiff had also been intentional. Everything, designed to produced a calculated response.
Although Lan Jue certainly wasn’t in complete control of the situation, he’d mitigated the potential damage well. What he told Qianlin before was true; if they were captured, the Avenue would help. By using the specter of Jue Di, the Citadel was even less likely to act rashly. True or not, they were afraid of awakening Jue Di’s ire!
Zhou Qianlin rolled her eyes at Lan Jue. “The more time I spend with you the more I’m afraid my heart can’t handle it.”
This earned a chortle from the Jewelry Master. “Take it easy, the best is yet to come. Next we leave for the Dark Citadel, to deliver Raphael and Uriel. I wonder if Satan will throw us a parade.”
“The Pontiff will probably be blocking travel,” Qianlin said.
“He can’t close everything,” he replied. “That would incite a panic. At worst they’ve increased checkpoints and monitoring. And what have we to fear of monitoring systems? Any mode of transportation we use will have electricity. We’ll be going in a few minutes.”
Although vast swathes of the city were in disarray over the disappearance of the two Archangels, that wasn’t the case in every corner of the city. At the end of the day the Pontiff’s Citadel was an Adept organization, and it demanded its power through faith.
Many official government offices were located here, so no doubt the West was aware of the situation over the past couple days. They’d already opened up channels of communication with the Cathedral. The next step was an official warning from the parliament, which they would have to act on. This was why the Lord Archangel and Constantine were so reticent for the Pontiff to ask them for help. An outside power would have control over how the Citadel reacts, and while their demands may not be overtly harmful to the Citadel it would result in restrictions. It would be a great blow to their prestige.
And so, the two Eastern Adepts checked out of their room and left as though they had nothing to worry about.
The Holy City of Reims was diametrically opposed on the opposite side of the planet by Gomorrah. Ever since anyone could remember, the two had been locked in a contentious stalemate. Eurmania was a large planet, but there existed no direct means of transport between them. It was a difference of faith. The Dark Citadel was an organization of faith as well, remember, though not to the extend of the Pontiff’s army. At least, so it was on the surface. Under normal circumstance, the best way to get one from Reims to Gomorrah was hitching a ride with someone passing through.
Of course, ‘normal circumstances’ never described Lan Jue. Travel would not be a problem at his level of cultivation. He was limited to the speed of light when transformed to lightning, but passing over half the planet would be a quick endeavor. However, he would need to make sure that they wouldn’t be picked up by satellite. Anyone who came across an object this close moving at the speed of light would undoubtedly get in contact with the authorities right away.
The public air hangar was likely the most carefully watched area in all of Reims, but that was where Lan Jue brought Zhou Qianlin. Often the safest places were considered the most dangerous. Plus, it was simpler.
Inquisition agents had Discipline-detecting equipment, and were scanning everyone who passed through their security check. They appeared to be paying particular attention to young couples.
Lan Jue paid none of this any mind. A flash, and they went from the security check to the boarding gates without alerting a soul. He presented the checking officer with the tickets they’d purchased online, and were waved right through.
They took their seats, and the airship left without further incident. If anything, this whole incident proved the fact that a government could not contend the world of Discipline. There was no blocking an Adept with the will to go on.
After an hour the scenery began to change. Another hour and the buildings slipping by beneath them began to adopt the characteristic black matte of Gomorroah.
Gomorrah was, like Reims, a very unique place. Not only was it the seat of the Dark Citadel, but the city was also a hot bed of tourist action for Eurmania. All of the planet’s most famous attractions and theme parks were located here. Surprisingly, the crime rate was very nearly zero – a figure even the Holy City couldn’t touch. But that was on the surface. In the seedy underbelly, where the official surveys never reached, things were different. The Dark Citadel’s support of the Western government made sure it stayed that way.
As passengers filed out from the airship, they were greeted with an unsettling broadcast on repeat: “Welcome… to Gomorroah.” For those who were interested in a novel traveling experience, it was hard to beat Eurmania’s version of Hell.
It was Lan Jue’s first time here. It was certainly unique, he thought, as they stepped in to a dark world. Things weren’t so much black, but muted. All colors seemed as though they had a black mist hanging over them. Bright was not an adjective one could use for anything in Gomorrah. It lent an oppressive feeling to the environment. As they walked the streets, strange scenes assailed them. People with mouths dripping blood might pass, but nothing too unsettling.
This place had no industry – it was just a giant playground. Characters ran around in bizarre outfits; as nightmarish beasts, pale vampires or hairy wolf men. The story goes that some of these performers were the real deal, but no one could say for sure. It made the place all that much more exciting for visitors looking for a thrill.
This place was more suited to the tastes of Western and Northern guests. Easterners didn’t appreciate the flavor. Their appreciations lay elsewhere.
“What do you think?” Lan Jue turned his head to look at Zhou Qianlin. They looked like any other couple on vacation.
She shook her head ever so slightly. “It feels overbearing.”
This made him chuckle. “They’ve worked hard to build that atmosphere. Come on, we’ll deliver our things then go, I’ve already got the return tickets. Look at us – door to door service, I’d call that exceptional!”
They hailed and boarded a maglev taxi as he bantered. The driver turned his head to look at the two of them. “Sir, madame. Where would you like to go?”
Lane Jue thought for a moment. “What’s the most famous building here in Gomorroah? We’re looking for something big and eye-catching, some kind of landmark.”
“Then you’re looking for the Dark Citadel,” the Driver answered. “That’s the most famous place in the city.”
“Dark Citadel? Sounds spooky, let’s go!” Lan Jue nodded for the driver to be off.
The two passengers settled back as the taxi began it’s steady trek. Zhou Qianlin spoke to Lan Jue through the Soul Caller gem.
“Is it a good idea to go straight to the Dark Citadel?”
Lan Jue shook his head: “It’s not the real one. He’s taking us to a tourist attraction. I’m not even sure where the real Citadel is. At least at this copy we might find some guards to relay our message.”
‘Landmark’ was an understatement for the fake Dark Citadel. It was the exact heart of the city. They could see it from miles away, situated on top of a mountain that spewed a river of magma. The mountain was about three hundred meters high, with the impressive structure perched on top.
A purple moon hung in the sky, directly over the Citadel. It cast everything in a ghastly light. Although Qianlin didn’t like the style she could appreciate the creativity. It was certainly worthy of being a famed landmark. The taxi driver told them that no buildings were permitted to rise above the six hundred meter Citadel – a rule that was rigidly enforced. He took them through a series of winding, gloomy back roads that arrived before the Citadel’s massive doors. Even though the structure was on the top of a mountain, a moat had been constructed around it which bubbled with a fluid that looked like blood. The tell-tale iron scent was absent, though.
Qianlin frowned at the images, and clutched tightly to Lan Jue’s hand.
He laughed disarmingly at her. “What an incredible place! Whoever designed it really put their soul in to the work. I guess it’s meant to look like the real Dark Citadel. Let’s go in and take a look!”
They stepped through the massive, maw-like doorway of the Citadel. The interior was dark as night, making that stifling sensation ten times more potent. When they reached the ticket booth, Lan Jue realized this entire place was a haunted house – probably one of the biggest ever made. The pamphlets boasted that walking through the whole thing would take three hours.
To Lan Jue, though, the most terrifying thing was the price of admission.