The Wine Master shook his head in response to the Doctor’s query. “I’m not sure. What is clear was that the power radiating from it was intense. Even under strain from my Singularity, it was raising shields to protect itself. Keep an eye on that bit – even the small piece feels like it’s full of life. Jewelry Master, tell us what happened here.”
Lan Jue’s voice was deep and thoughtful. “From what I’ve gathered after these few hours, I don’t believe these beasts are from Taihua. They must have come from elsewhere. How they got here I can’t say. The mist they release is destructive, but it doesn’t destroy life – it devours it. They use the life force they steal to replenish themselves. The key to their enormous power and size was Taihua itself, and the sheer amount of animals and plants they could sap for strength. The one we just killed was likely their maker. It somehow released eggs across the planet, then used the surrounding life force to keep producing.”
“Your most pressing concern should be yourself,” the Doctor interjected. “How much longer do you suspect your body can hold out?”
Lan Jue plucked the golden mask from his face. “I have no idea,” he said through a tight smile. “I can’t tell you the state of my body. Before now I wasn’t recovered from an injury. I was at perhaps forty percent of my capabilities. After only a few hours of combat, I was nearly spent. I also hadn’t brought any recovery gems. I just had to keep going. Later I used the forbidden art 1 to temper and control the power the decoction granted me. The higher levels of energy needed to maintain it are staving off the decoction’s effects.
The Wine Master addressed the Doctor. “Just tell us what needs to be done.”
“Well, first we need to get back to ground,” he said. “Right now we’re all in danger. His powers could spiral out of control at any moment. You keep him in check.” The Doctor’s face was hard and serious. The undulating electric powers that raced through Lan Jue prevented him from doing any sort of examination.
“Wait a moment.” An azure light flashed from above, depositing Thor directly behind Lan Jue. The mecha was swallowed in to Thor’s Promise. Only then did Lan Jue indicate to the Wine Master that he was ready.
The old man waved his scepter. In the next instant, they vanished without a trace.
The world flashed around them several times before they were deposited to ground. Lan Jue’s body had still not reverted from his Ascension. As before he was still towering over the others, and emitting a dazzling golden light. Erratic bolts of lightning snaked over his body.
“How are you feeling,” the Doctor asked.
“Pretty crappy.” Lan Jue smirked. “It feels like my body’s energies will slip out of control at any moment.”
“Yup, that’s about right. One of the Fantascia Genetica Decoction’s frightening aspects is it’s variability. It effects people differently, and the stronger the adept the stronger the reaction. The potency of the energies it stimulates are also enhanced. You already possess a ninth level Talent, and so the decoction has granted you powers equivalent to a Paragon. However your body can’t sustain that amount of power. Not even close. If you’re going to survive this, we need to drain this excess energy immediately. But this method is extremely dangerous – by it’s nature it’s very difficult to control an entire energy dump. It could end up totally consuming you. Right down to your life force. Hell, even if you make it I can’t say what kind of damage your body will have sustained.” Hesitation was clear in the Doctor’s eyes as he finished.
Lan Jue didn’t appear interested in discussing consequences. He just smiled. “I knew what I was getting in to when I took the decoction. If I live through this it’s already better than I anticipated. Alright, just tell me what I need to do.”
The Doctor stared fixedly at the enormous Lan Jue. “I really don’t like you. You know that, right?”
Lan Jue cracked a grin. “Is it because I’m more handsome than you are?”
“Bullshit,” the Doctor spat. “Handsome as a pig’s butt-crack. If you hadn’t shown up, then management of the Avenue’s power gems undoubtedly would have fallen to me. I’d be Skyfire Avenue’s Jewelry Master. Worse, after you showed up the Beautician stopped calling me so much. Said you had more class than I did. You can’t understand how infuriating that is. Only now, seeing you like this, all I can say is the Clairvoyant made the right decision. I’ll get no relief for my sense of justice, but I’ll do right by my sense of duty. Now lie down.”
Lan Jue rubbed his nose and laid down on the ground. “Why does it feel like you’re giving me the ‘friendzone’ speech.” 2
“Shut the hell up,” the Doctor ordered. “At this point you’re lucky to be alive. I expect ten percent off all future power gem purchases just coming to this hellish house call.”
Lan Jue broke in to laughter. “You got it.”
“And a bottle of Romanee-Conti if you live,” he finished, walking to Lan Jue’s side.
“And when will you expect payment?”
“Immediately. Suffering that damned interspacial transfer has it’s price. Bottle of conti, no arguments.”
“How am I supposed to get you one?”
“Not my problem,” the Wine Master piped up. “So you better live. You also have yet to go with me for that bottle we discussed. Some gentleman you are.”
“I’ll need your help,” the Doctor said, speaking to the Wine Master. “I can’t get past his body’s defenses. Once an opening is established to drain the energy, it’ll also need to be controlled. We’ll need to guide it, then at the precisely right moment stem the flow. We need to get it just right – too little and the power will kill him. Too much and we’ll drain his vital force.”
“Alright, just let me know what needs doing and when.”
The Doctor hesitated, then fumbled at his collar. He pulled out a necklace, and removed it from around his neck. The swinging pendant strung on it was a purple gemstone that twinkled with a gentle inner light.
Lan Jue’s business was power gems, so his eyes lit up in interest as they fell upon the pendant. “Is that a phylactery stone?”
The Doctor frowned. “Of course it is, stop wasting your breath. You better pay me back for it, too! Any equivalent level power gem will do. But another phylactery would be nice.”
Lan Jue looked the young man in the eye and nodded.
Phylactery stones were c-ranked gems. Of all the known gems, their energy storage capacity was the greatest. Their energy stores were enough to power a command ship for an entire year. It wasn’t the rarest or most precious of the c-ranked gems, but it certainly was one of the most useful. Were a mecha’s core gem a phylactery, it could keep up constant battle status for one or two years nonstop.
Of course it’s rarity as in line with what one would expect for a c-ranked gem. They were only found on a small planet in the Northern Alliance. It took a hundred tones of the raw mineral to produce a single gem. The small planet only really had about a million tons available for refinement, so once all was said and done there would only be around ten thousand of these gemstones in circulation. A total of ten kilograms. But those ten kilos of gems could run a star bastion – though it wouldn’t, it was far too extravagant and wasteful. The North carefully regulated their sale and use.
The one clutched in the Doctor’s hand was perhaps thirty grams. It’s price couldn’t be measured in simple cash.
“Left hand, in the palm. Cut a cross.” The Doctor was stern and serious as he spoke to the Wine Master.
Lan Jue opened his hand, and the Wine Master’s scepter shined as it shrunk in to the form of a glimmering silver knife. The blade was only seven inches long, with a brilliantly shining surface. However if one were to look closely, they’d see threads of black interwoven with the silver. The opposing colors spun around one another, drawing the eye with their mesmerizing dance.
Lan Jue was keeping the tumultuous powers within him at bay, but not for long. Already the edges of his vision were growing dark. Soon, only the Doctor remained in a world of darkness.
The Wine Master’s hand moved with a quick flick of the wrist. A silver cross appeared, stark against Lan Jue’s golden palm.
The Doctor sucked in his breath. A bluish-green light flooded out and around him, filling the area with vitality. His right hand fiddled with the phylactery stone, then carefully pressed it against the cross-shaped slice. He turned his head and nodded at the Wine Master.
“Tear.” The old man’s voice was clear, but quiet. Lan Jue’s left hand suddenly shook and the silver cross vanished, replaced with a sudden and violent burst of energy.
The Doctor pressed the gem against Lan Jue’s palm with all his strength. Golden blood flowed from around the gem’s corners, splattering against the Doctor’s white coat. Where the droplets landed, they quickly began to fire off bolts of electricity. The Doctor began to shake and convulse from the shocks.
The Wine Master was at his side in an instant. He clapped a hand down on the young man’s shoulder, and a pale silver light wrapped around him like a protective membrane. The slithering arcs of electricity danced over the surface but did no further damage. Still the Doctor trembled, recovering after a few moments.
As he did, the gemstone pressed against Lan Jue’s hand had started to undergo a strange change of it’s own. It’s faint light had expanded in to a glimmering halo that radiated out from it. By virtue of the stone, the spurts of golden blood quickly slowed and stopped. It was acting as a sort of cork to stop up the wound.
The stone began to flicker, casting off sparks of light that appeared and vanished around them. It thrummed and flashed like it had a life of it’s own. As they watched, it began to fill with a golden light.
The Doctor released a sigh, no longer shaking from his shock. “Jewelry Master, right now you and the gem have established a link. Phylacteries are strange stones, with the ability to join with almost any form of life. It fuses with anything that possesses a genetic make up. Once it’s fused with the host, it’ll begin to absorb any energy released by it and release anything else. As a result every gem can only ever have one master. It’s for this reason they’re rarely directly used with machinery. They are not alive, and thus can’t make a link.”
This mean his Ascension. I’m not sure this is necessarily ‘forbidden’ but that’s how he describes it. Michael’s Adventus is another example. ↩
In Chinese this is called ‘playing the good guy card’ – equivalent to my generation’s ‘dear john’ letter. Oh, you’re a good guy and all, but why don’t we just be friends. ↩