Chapter 382: Luring the Tiger From the Mountain
The Pontiff’s Citadel.
Metatron had been in a sour mood the last few days. He hadn’t felt like this for quite a long time. The easy days of yesteryear were certainly passed, he thought.
With the kidnapping of two Archangels, the situation was dire. Not only was it a terrible disgrace, but the Citadel had been in crisis mode ever since. Raphael wasn’t so bad. He had been captured outside for the Cathedral, and he wasn’t much of a fighter anyway. But Uriel? He was the Cherubim, known his his wisdom. However, that didn’t mean he didn’t know his way around a fight. He was a ninth level sixth degree Adept, and the fight had taken place on his home turf in the Cathedral. Everything had occurred right under the Pontiff’s nose. Still he was captured.
Worst of all, their unknown enemy possessed the powers mastered by Jue Di. The prospect of what that meant was terrifying.
Who’s next? Will it be me, or another of the Archangels?
Although the Pontiff’s elite were silent, Metatron could tell from their faces that they shared his concerns. Their enemy possessed a power no less than his own, one that was as mysterious as the man himself.
“Lord Metatron!” A surprised shout tore him from his silent reverie.
“What’s all the commotion,” Metatron said in displeasure.
The clergyman, clad in the vestments of a Bishop, bowed low at the waist. The anxiety on his face only deepened. “Your Majesty, important news. The Citadel’s mainframe has gone dark.”
Metatron’s scowl turn vicious. “So call a technician! Why are you interrupting me for this?”
The Bishop sheepishly fiddled with his robes. “The mainframe was taken over. All of the screens showed a single message. Look.” As he spoke, the Bishop insert a holodisk into the nearby projector. A three dimensional image sputtered to life in the space around them.
The Pontiff’s chambers were turns in to a world of blood and severed limbs. The image of Uriel and Raphael beside a corpse was the main attraction. A voice, masked by modulator, boomed around them.
“If you want them back, the Pontiff will come alone to the Dark Citadel. The seal will begin to deal them harm in three hours. In twelve hours they’ll be permanently disabled. Hehe… the Dark Citadel isn’t even this intimidating.”
The sound cut off.
The whole city was in chaos. They’d seen it even before Metatron had. A short time later, the Lord Archangel was standing before the Pontiff with the video in hand.
“Bastard!” The Pontiff bellowed. He looked like he wanted to murder somebody.
Metatron looked no better. “What should we do Your Majesty? It appears he wants to provoke something between us and Satan.
The Pontiff sniffed. “He underestimates him, then. Satan’s… rabid exterior is an act. In reality, he’s more insidious than anyone I’ve ever met. If it were you there, then perhaps Satan couldn’t resist ridding himself of a powerful enemy. Raphael and Uriel aren’t worth it. He’ll make demands and ask a price.”
“We should get in touch with the Dark Citadel and confirm this information,” Metatron muttered. “If it is I’ll go take care of it.”
The Pontiff shook his head. “No, there’s no point in you going. Satan won’t use this to attack us, but he’ll certainly turn it to his benefit.”
“We’ll give it a try through our correspondence first, hear any conditions they may have,” Metatron said.
The Pontiff answered with a nod.
Ten minutes later, a holo-call was connected.
“Well, who is this?! If it isn’t my old friend, His Majesty the Pontiff.” Satan appeared in the room, languidly draped across the Demon Throne. A self-satisfied grin was plastered on his face.
“Satan.” The Pontiff greeted indifferently. “Are you holding Raphael and Uriel?”
Satan’s grin spread wider. “I am! Some… good samaritan delivered them to us early this morning. I pondered the meaning, then came to conclusion that it must be a gift. It’s really very generous of you – Your Majesty.”
The elderly priest regarded the shimmering image of his nemesis with calm façade. He looked impervious to any of the emotional jabs Satan threw his way. “This is the result of someone trying to provoke us to conflict. Return my men, and there will be no repercussions.”
The King of Devils shook on his throne, wracked with laughter. “No repercussions?1 Ah, you are a humorous old man. And for argument’s sake, let’s say I don’t. What would you do then, hm?”
The Pontiff’s voice remained calm. “The man doing this is likely a disciple of Jue Di. He took my Archangels, and used the God-King’s Taiji mastery to do it.”
Satan’s smirk slipped a fraction. His dark eyes narrowed. “Jue Di? What do I care if Jue Di himself did it? It was your house that instigated the siege all those years ago, and then fought from the back lines. That was what earned Jue Di’s ire. I remember my father forbidding me from revenge. He said he had a great deal of admiration for the God-King. He died of his wounds with those words. In his last hours, he gave me the Dark Citadel and tasked me with stamping out the Hades bloodline. He has no qualm with us. If he’s shown his hand, it’s to strangle you. We have nothing to fear.”
“But I will not waste time bantering with you. You want them back, fine – it will cost you one S-ranked power gem for each of them. Those are my terms, then they’re all yours. A Paragon will be needed to break this seal, and by the looks of it, if you don’t make a decision soon then they won’t be worth much in trade. It’s a pretty good situation I find myself in, you know? I didn’t even do the work, and I’m getting two s-ranked gems. Or I don’t, and I have two less Archangels to worry about. Anyway, none of this was our doing and we’ve let the parliament know as much. What’s next is up to you.”
Satan’s image shimmered and vanished.
The Pontiff’s calm was gone, swept away in the face of his fury. Fluctuating emotion caused him to forget him power, and unrestrained vestiges of his Discipline brightened the room like it was midday.
“I beg calm, Your Eminence,” Metatron entreated. The Pontiff responded with a curt wave of his hand.
“Satan isn’t stupid. This is all an act to humiliate me. So be it, even if it does disgrace me. Be careful, even though all of this was perpetrated by our mystery attacker just to ferment trouble. Adhere to the tenets of the Church, lest the devil take advantage of your weakness. The rest of you will remain together at all times while I’m gone.”
Metatron nodded. “Yes, Your Majesty.”
The Pontiff clapped his hands. A milky white orb of light surrounded him, and in seconds the old man melted in to a column of light. The beams vanished in to the center of the runic circle carved on the ceiling.
Metatron’s mood had soured even further. “Please call High Inquisitor Constantine back to the Cathedral,” he ordered.
This enemy was wily, and unpredictable. Even aside from taking two Archangels one after the other, he managed to evade the Pontiff’s hunt entirely to deposite their friends in the hands of a bitter enemy. Now, no one had any idea where these two terrorists were. It was like some terrible practical joke. No one had been hurt – yet – but the trouble they’d caused was infuriating. If Jue Di had their back, then what was stopping them from doing it again? He’d already had the courage to snatch up two Archangels, would he be next? Metatron pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed, fighting the headache he could feel coming on.
After a few minutes, the Archangels returned with Constantine. This was what remained of the Citadel’s leadership.
Metatron’s voice was low. “His Majesty has gone himself to retrieve our brothers from the Dark Citadel. To ensure everyone safety, you all be confined to this room until the Pontiff’s return. He should be back in around two hours.”
At the Pontiff’s level of strength, getting to Gomorrah would take a matter of seconds. The remainder of that wasted time would be spent negotiating with Satan.
The four Archangels voiced no objection. Everyone had been on edge the last few days, and that went double for the Cathedral’s upper caste. Although they knew no harm would come to any of them, the embarrassment was unbearable.
Sariel, Archangel of the Moon, was as expressionless as ever. She took a seat on a nearby sofa. No one noticed her fiddling with her communicator.
The Cathedral was closed to all visitors. It wasn’t the first time, but in addition to all the other frightening happenings, people were on edge. Rumors were beginning to spread.
Lan Jue and Zhou Qianlin idly strolled down a lane. She looked completely recovered.
“I prefer this place to Gomorrah.” Zhou Qianlin let her eyes wander over the religious-inspired architecture.
This made him chuckle. “It means you aren’t a psychopath. Only madmen like to live in the world of darkness. Come, our business here draws to a close. I owe you a new wardrobe.”
Qianlin shot him a flirtatious smirk. “Not bad… but is all this ‘for security’, or your own interest?”
Lan Jue heaved a sigh, and Qianlin’s smile fell away. Her big eyes looked concern. “What is it?”
Lan Jue’s morose tones hung between them. “All this kissing… what If I get addicted?”