Chapter 396: Daddy’s Back!
Lan Jue had no recourse but to lifts his hand to block. Bang! His hand met the spiked shoulder piece to push it away, even grabbing one of the spines.
1724 stopped dead in his tracks in mid-air.
Lan Jue didn’t give him an opportunity to react. The moment his grip tightened around the spine, an explosion of electric energy raced through the Convert’s body. 1724 lit up like a purple holiday lantern.
Of course Lan Jue had been judging his opponent the same way he himself had been judged. Taking the laser blast to the shoulder was the only way he’d get close. Not the only way, of course – there were other methods – but he didn’t want to reveal too much of his abilities in the opening round of the tournament.
Waves of diffuse electric energy poured from 1724’s body as the current tore through him. The metallic half of his body was particularly susceptible. After a moment Lan Jue let the bulk of his Discipline recede to conserve energy.
With an imperious wave of his hand, 1724 was smashed violently to the ground. His metal construction sizzles, burned black from the electricity. The rest of him twitched uncontrollably.
Lan Jue brushed a hand along his right shoulder, where no trace of the Convert’s laser strike was visible. It was foolish to assume his electric net had had but one layer.
“Competitor 310: Victory.” The surrounding shields vanished and Lan Jue walked back to the waiting area like he was out for an afternoon stroll.
In the audience, Jun’er clapped her hands so ferociously she threatened to fall over. “Daddy won! Daddy won! My daddy’s so strong!” She spoke to the Terminator as though she were instructing him of some truth.
The Paragon gave her a sheepish smirk. “Are you sure big Uncle isn’t allowed to know who your daddy is? You can tell me…” There were a hundred battle going on below him, and he couldn’t keep his eyes on all of them. Jun’er wasn’t using her own to watch, so he couldn’t tell by her gaze. For all his knowledge and experience, the Terminator could not discover what he wanted to know in this moment – foiled by a little girl.
Jun’er tittered playfully. “Nope! You shouldn’t ask people to talk about the things they aren’t supposed to talk about, big Uncle.”
“Ehm…” The Terminator’s guilty grin deepened, faced with a simultaneously amusing and irritating quandary. “You’re quite the clever little thing.”
“I have to take my helmet off,” Jun’er announced. “Mommy doesn’t let me wear it for too long. I’ll be back tomorrow though, big uncle. Remember my present!”
The Terminator gave her a grandfatherly smile. “Oh, I won’t forget. I promise.”
“Ok, I have to go now. Gourmet uncle, is mommy back?” Jun’er turned her face back to the Avenue’s own Paragon.
The Pharmacist – who’d been carefully watching from a few rows back – rose to her feet and approached. Jun’er picked her out right away.
“Mommy you were great!” The little girl lung her tiny arms around her mother’s waist.
The Pharmacist lifted her up in to her arms. She gave the Terminator an appreciative and respectful curtsy. “I’m sorry for the trouble, Your Majesty.”
The massive Convert answered with a smile. “No trouble at all. She’s an adorable little one, we connected well. Her eyesight’s been lost since birth, I imagine.”
The Pharmacist couldn’t bring herself to talk, but nodded her head.
The Terminator nodded. “Medical technology can fix this, but there are significant risks. Find an Adept skilled in bio-electric Discipline that can help stimulate the nerves and tissue over the long term. I imagine it’ll have some good results. If there’s some traction, a minimally invasive surgery might be considered – a specialty here in the North.”
The Pharmacist’s usually stoic features broke in to a smile. Lan Jue was doing just as the Paragon recommended already. For such an illustrious Paragon to make the same suggestion, it must mean she was on the right track. The Terminator hadn’t made any promises, but she knew that if she did bring Jun’er here she would get the best medical care the North had to offer. This man was more powerful than the Pontiff and Satan put together, and not just in Discipline.
This man, nor fourth among the ten Paragons, was once a military man. A marshal, in fact. Now the entire army was effectively under his command. Even the upper echelons of Northern politics didn’t dare disturb him – oly the President, and only on certain occasions.
“Thank you very much, Your Majesty.” She curtsied again, this time lower and more formal.
“Bye-bye big Uncle!” Jun’er cooed, waving her tiny hand.
The Pharmacist hugged her little prize close and returned to her seat. The Terminator watched them go for a minute before returning his eyes to the field.
“Your Avenue has had a wealth of talent coming through lately, Gourmet,” the large man noted. “I couldn’t learn much from the Pharmacist’s fight either. Her cultivation method must have been a unique one. Limitless potential, though there are hidden scars that prevent her advancement.”
The Gourmet nodded knowingly. “That’s probable. At her level of power she was tapped for a position on the council, but she refused. She was only interested in running her shop, and in fact she wouldn’t even be here except that a councilor convinced her to.”
“I heard that the Pontiff and Satan brought their crew to the Avenue and Lost,” the Terminator continued. “I’d like to make a visit myself sometime in the future. It’ll give me an opportunity to see my old friend one last time.” Of course he meant the Clairvoyant.
The Gourmet offered a congenial smile. “The Avenue would be honored to welcome you.”
“I know there was some trouble with an unreasonable visitor,” the Terminator said, his tone becoming somewhat more serious. “He’s been spoken to. I hope you can relay to the Avenue that the North has absolutely no intention of making enemies. We have other threats to consider now, that effect everyone.”
The Gourmet’s face hardened, too. “That is something I’ve been wanting to discuss with you. The Clairvoyant’s vision revealed that this could be a catastrophe never before experienced in all the history of humanity. The only way to survive as a species is to work together. The Citadels didn’t come to intimidate us, they came to talk with the Clairvoyant about just this. After that the Clairvoyant locked himself away. I suspect he has about a month left before he passes on. If Your Majesty has the time, I’d suggest sooner rather than later. You can come help see him off.”
There was a sudden, soft red light that glowed behind the Terminator’s eyes. “Is it really that serious?” As a Paragon himself, he knew to trust explicitly the Eye of Tomorrow’s visions.
The Clairvoyant had also been a special case. Most Adepts grew weaker as time wore on – like any living thing, their life force became exhausted. However, the Clairvoyant was precisely the opposite – his Sight was strongest the nearer he came to death.
The Gourmet nodded again. “It is. So we’re starting to prepare now.”
“Indeed,” came the big man’s emphatic response.
The tournament went on. Due to the sheer number of competitors, the first day was exclusive given to getting through round one. Lan Jue was done once his fight was finished, so he made his way out. Earlier he’d made plans to spend some time with Jun’er, which was why she was so eager to leave once his fight was over.
Lan Jue plucked his mask off in the bathroom and threw on a coat. Suddenly he was like anyone else – just another tourist. He left for the spot he’d promise to meet them.
A few moment later; “Daddy!” Jun’er’s clear voice rang across the street.
Lan Jue turned to the sound with a big grin plastered on his face.
The Pharmacist lead little Jun’er toward her ‘father,’ since she was no longer wearing the helmet. She’d been told Lan Jue was here by her mother, hence the excitement.
“Jun’er!” Lan Jue called. He trotted forward a few steps and took her by the hand.
“Daddy, you’re so great! You put your hand out and boom! You beat up the bad guys. He was a very bad man, I was a little scared. I thought he might hurt my daddy.”
He smiled and shook his head. “No way. Your daddy’s too strong for that. How could he beat me up, huh? You know your mommy’s even stronger! She beat up the other bad man in just a couple seconds, right?”
Jun’er giggled. “Mommy and daddy are both amazing!”
Lan Jue looked over to the Pharmacist, who was also smiling. Every day she could sense the change in Jun’er with this trip, and every second eased some of her own burden. Anyone from the Avenue would say that it had been many years since they’d seen her look this happy.
“Congratulations on getting to the second round,” Lan Jue offered.
She shrugged. “I don’t care much about this sort of thing. I just want to make Jun’er happy.”
“I thought I saw the Terminator holding her,” Lan Jue said.
This caused the Pharmacist to laugh. “I don’t know what happened. It looks like he and she really hit it off. She calls him Big Uncle. You should have seen everybody’s face.”
Lan Jue’s own features were not much different from what she described. It was quite the scene, a man of his lofty status and the little blind girl playing together.
“That’s a very good thing,” he assured.
“Let’s go home,” Jun’er offered as she leaned against Lan Jue’s shoulder. She looked a little tired.
This was the reason she so rarely left the Hall of Supreme Harmony. Jun’er’s mood had increased dramatically, but even a little excitement often tired her out.
The Morning Star, Su Xiaosu, had spent the entire day in the hotel working on improving her Discipline. Qianlin, meanwhile, had a seat in the audience to watch the tournament courtesy of Lan Jue. She had no interest in joining herself, especially since her Discipline wasn’t combat focused.
When they got back to the hotel, Lan Jue gave Jun’er back to her mother. “Daddy,” she said, “why don’t you stay in the same room with us? Are you busy?” The little one asked.
The question caught him off guard. After a moment, she laughed. “Alright, daddy will go with you. Nothing is more important than my little princess.” He felt like he was starting to get this father thing down. Jun’er reminded him of the possibilities. If Hera were here, their own child would be quite big too.