Chapter 383: Rescuing Little Yue
Qianlin’s face turned beet red, and she swatted at him. They were nearing the Cathedral.
The guard was thick, and the entrance clogged with both clergy and Inquisitors. Of course guards were only useful at protecting what they could see. Lan Jue found one of the many electric outlets that powered the structure, and in a flash he was gone.
Within the Cathedral, the High Inquisitor’s office suddenly had a new visitor. It was empty, save for Lan Jue, and surprisingly spartan. In stark contrast to the lavish interior of the Cathedral, this metal-filled office was barely habitable.
Lan Jue expanded his perception. He could focus his eyes on the search, instead of defense. His Discipline would alert him of any living thing drawing near. Nothing! It looked like his plan was working – without the Pontiff here, there was no one who could threaten his life. The place was also absent the Paragon’s all-pervasive omnipotence.
A ninth level adept had quite the scope of perception, but it was the most discriminate power. He could tell if there were living things, but who could tell if they were enemies, or who were clergy? As far as Lan Jue knew, there was no power that could distinguish friend from foe, and certainly not one Metatron possessed. This was one of the numerous differences between a Paragon and a peak-level Adept.
Sariel’s intelligence continued to prove useful, and it took him no time to find the entrance to the Citadel’s dungeons. She’d told him that it was protected with particularly tough defensive systems that could even seriously injure a ninth level Adept. What those defenses were precisely, she couldn’t say. It was a closely guarded secret of the Inquisition that they operated in concert with the clergy.
This didn’t trouble Lan Jue. No matter what these defenses were, they would undoubtedly require electricity or metal. So long as his objective wasn’t hidden behind a layer of insulation, he could go where he pleased. Lightning coiled up his body as he found a way in. Then, with a crackle, he was gone.
Lan Jue reappeared in a distinctly more dismal locale. He stood in what could have passed as a sepulcher, with a long and dark hallway stretching out before him. The walls on both sides were composed of damp stone. There would be no more electrical corner-cutting from here on out, he thought.
With his perception feeling the way before him, Lan Jue walked on. He stepped carefully, feeling for any fluctuations in energy. However, it was starting to look as though his caution was unwarranted – there didn’t seem to be anything around to halt his progress. Twenty meters in to the darkness a stairwell appeared. His footsteps rang against the stone steps as he descended. When he reached the bottom, an expansive hall greeted him.
The chamber was ablaze with light, revealing the twinkling metal bars of prisoner cages. The cells stretched all the way to the far wall, numbering in the thousands. Amidst the chaotic din he suddenly found himself in, Lan Jue could spy a black-clad inquisitor wandering the lanes.
Lan Jue couldn’t help but balk over the scene. It wasn’t the existence of this place that surprised him – any organization had its secrets – but the sheer number of cages. What were they doing with all these prisoners?
Lan Jue took a cursory look around while still hidden from view. As far as he could tell, none of these prisoners were elderly, and nearly all of them appeared to possess a Discipline. It was a prison of Adepts, almost exclusively.
Why would the Pontiff’s Citadel detain so many Adepts? He didn’t know. The Cathedral was meant to be a place of faith! Who’d believe that, underneath, despair reigned.
Lan Jue crouched, concealed in a dark corner for a few moments. Then he was on the move. He knew he couldn’t remain in one place too long or the inquisitors would find him.
The distance between the two Citadels spanned a planet, but it was nothing to a Paragon. At that level of power, there was no science or machine that could match their speed. After all, a machine had to speed up, whereas a Paragon just willed themselves in to action. A round-trip from one to the other would not take the Pontiff very long.
The cells themselves were made of some sort of alloy. That helped Lan Jue move around a little easier. Some of the prisoners may have spotted him, but not in any form they’d recognize. A flash of electricity, perhaps, or a bolt of dim light. Downtrodden as they were, none paid it any mind.
Lan Jue reached his objective in little time. It was in the farthest reaches of the dungeon; a round altar, with a woman tied to a crucifix in its center. Her long black hair was splayed all around, and plastered to the sweat on her brow.
She hung with drooped head, from hands and feet that had been nailed to the cross. Strangely, though, there was no blood. A pale light swept over her incessantly, from head to the runic circle carved at her feet. The power would flow through her, through the dais to the eight pillars situated around it. The energies would rise and congeal at the peak of each column. Each identical beams of light shot from the pillars, to a golden gem over the prisoner’s head.
Four figured sat at four corners of the altar. They sat with straight back, unmoving, as though they were deep in meditation. Their auras were strong – ninth level Adepts almost certainly – and they were young. A holy light shimmered around each of them.
Ninth level Adepts, yes… but in the early ranks, from what Lan Jue could tell.
The mercenary king approached unhidden. That was no longer a priority. Time was of the essence.
He appeared out of nowhere in a nearby corner, and his appearance stirred the four priests. Each of them slowly opened their eyes, and turned their heads toward Lan Jue. However, before they could even see the details of his face the world was upended. Everything around them began to swirl and melt until thy had no idea which way was which.
Lan Jue’s hands swirled around one another then, pushing outward from the center of his chest, a pair of white and black beams raced forth. They intertwined to form a roiling beam of yin and yang energy.
The four Adepts felt themselves being wrenched forward. Then, an equally striking and powerful force sent them flailing away in to the distance. Lan Jue leaped up and grabbed the golden crystal from over the woman’s head. Channeling his yinyang powers through the gem severed it from the beams of light that held it in place. He dropped back to the ground, and placed a hand against the rune-etched crucifix.
The woman groaned pitifully as her body moved of its own accord. By some unseen power, she was lifted and detached from the cross. The nails in her feet and hands fell away.
She collapsed to the ground like a broken thing. For a moment, Lan Jue was afraid she was too far gone. He rushed to her side, and lifted her in to his arms. Her coarse breathing and pained whimpers filled his ears.
The four other Adepts were recovering. Shaking the haze from their minds, they looked toward the man and the woman they were responsible for. They watched just in time to see a large yin-yang symbol appear emblazoned on Lan Jue’s back. The power spread until his entire body was equal parts black and white.
It congealed around him, and just before it looked like it would consume him entirely, the dual and opposing forces burst out against the cross.
“Boom–!” A shudder tore through the dungeon as the startling shock wave ripped passed in all directions. They would be feeling that up top, he knew, even if just due to displaced dust. The blast sent the four channeling Adepts sprawling once again.
There was a flash of silver, and the Moonfiend empress vanished in to the interspacial containment ring Lan Jue always wore – the same he’d kept Raphael and Uriel in. He then raced back along the cages as a bolt of electricity to the exit.
No trace of the crucifix remained. Well, a crater smoldered where it had stood and that was all. The hurricane-force blast that tore through was gone as though it had never existed. The prisoners had fared well with the cages to protect them, but the inquisitors were a different story. None of them were strong enough to withstand the blast, which sent them face-first in to the stone walls. They lay comatose on the floor with enough injuries to keep them there a while.
By the time they came to, their attacker was long gone. A depressingly familiar ear-piercing alarm rang through the Cathedral.
In the inner hall, the meditating Archangels each opened their eyes. Constantine was the first to react.
“That’s the dungeon alarm,” he cried. “The terrorist must have struck there.”
Constantine hadn’t even finished, before Metatron was gone in a brilliant flash of golden light. The other Archangels followed close behind. One after the others, they raced toward the dungeons.
The upper echelons of Citadel leadership knew the significance of what they called the Tribunal. What went on down there was more important even than a few missing Archangels.
Now it was beginning to dawn on them that this stranger’s target may not have been them, but something they had. Something in the dungeon. But what? There were the prisoners… and the Morning Star.
Only the wise would rise to lead the Citadel, and it was true for all of the Pontiff’s Archangels. Now they knew what had eluded them before – this wasn’t about starting a fight. It was a rescue mission.
The stranger had performed a flawless feint, looking one way while moving in another to throw off his scent. Only in the final moments of his plan, when it may have been too late, was the whole picture revealed.
Constantine was overflowing with anger. The inquisition and its Tribunal were his responsibility. The Pontiff’s excursion had forced him here instead of with his men – and now he’d been made a fool of once again. His pride, the Tribunal, had failed in a matter of moments.