“I can save him!” They were four simple words, but the resolution with which the masked woman said them was comforting. There was even a hint of relaxation behind the words.
The Wine Master was a fine judge of people, and immediately picked up on her easy mood. “Who are you,” he asked in a tepid voice.
In lieu of an answer, the girl arose to her feet and plucked a necklace from around her neck. It was simple, with a pale yellow crystal pendant that gently glowed in her palm. She wordlessly pressed it in to the Wine Master’s hand. She did the same for the identical gemstone around Lan Jue’s neck.
The evidence she provided him required no further explanation. Still, questions rumbled in the old man’s mind and his eyes adopted a curious silver light. He dropped them towards the soulcaller gem, which reacted with a strong and sudden golden flare.
“Why the mask?” He handed the necklaces back to the girl.
She clasped one gem around her neck before replacing Lan Jue’s. “Because I don’t want him to know it was I who saved him. If I am going to heal your Jewelry Master, my one condition is you keep this a secret. It’s like you’ve never seen me before. Once I’ve done what I can, I’ll leave immediately.”
Her voice was strange, deep. It appeared she had some means of modulating the sound, but it made her tone no less melodious.
The amazement in the Wine Master’s eyes only grew. However, before he could continue his line of questioning the Doctor had come around and begun to make his own commentary.
“I find it curious you have the self-confidence to claim you can heal him all by yourself. I find it hard to believe there’s anyone better than me at what I do.”
The masked woman slowly shook her head. “I’m no doctor, nor can I heal illnesses. My abilities and my healing methods can only be used with this man alone. I don’t know what happened that caused him to end up like this – he shattered like a pane of glass – but I’m confident I can heal him.”
The Doctor’s brows furrowed. “I don’t believe it. We can’t reasonably hand him over to this woman. Even with this ‘proof’ you showed, anything short of him waking up and personally telling us about your relationship I won’t accept. Until then his treatment is up to me. Our first priority is his safety.”
She was silent for a moment, but soon shot back with a response. “His current prognosis is grim, as you know. If we waste time the situation will only get worse. We need to begin right now. I’m asking you not to get in my way.”
Finally the Wine Master joined the exchange. “If you can do what you claim than do so, but first you have to tell us the method you’ll be using. We must also be sure you don’t mean any harm.”
This set the young woman to pondering for a moment. “I’ll lower my defenses. Your Excellency can scan my thoughts and Core for any sign of malice. If you do, I’ll be at your mercy, and you can end me in the space of an instant. As for my treatment method, there’s no point in putting it in to words. When you see me do it, you’ll understand.”
“You’ll open up your Core?” The Doctor was shocked at her preposition, and looked at her with considerably less suspicion. It was clear what opening one’s Core to an outsider meant – you were placing your life, everything you were, at the mercy of another person.
An Adept’s Core was the most important part of them, the center of their being. It was through the power of their Core that they were able to control the force and instability of their Discipline. It was like she said, if any ill will towards Lan Jue was discovered, it would be she who would suffer first.
“Fine. Get to it.” The Wine Master had no time for hesitation. The decision was made quickly.
She turned slightly away from him then, and gently tapped her forehead with her right hand. The small motion set her eyes to changing. The depths of her sky-blue eyes suddenly looked as though they housed a pale mist. What started small, however, quickly grew until it filled her eyes. In an instant they were white a snow, clear as diamond, with no pupil. Just a field of white.
Gradually a glimmering image like a snowflake appeared on her forehead where she’d touched. Gentle waves of energy pulsed from her.
“Energy concealment!” The Doctor whispered in astonishment as he looked on.
It was a surprise indeed, for even at his level of cultivation the Doctor hadn’t thought this girl was anything other than average. And yet here she was, veritably pouring with power. This really only had one explanation; she had learned and was employing some method of hiding her Discipline, to make her appear as though she was a normal person.
The snowflake image emblazoned on her head slowly began to rotate. It swirled until it became a milky vortex, and from it’s depths began to exude a powerful chill. It was a cold that transcended the body, threatening to freeze one’s spirit.
The sudden cold set the Doctor’s whole body to shivering. The cold went to his very bones, and yet his sense of exhaustion seemed eased.
What sort of power was this… ?
As the image on her head continue to twist and undulate, a crystalline object slowly revealed itself. It shone behind the snowflake like a star. It wasn’t white, but instead was entirely translucent like a shard of ice. It was a Core, and though not large was spotlessly clear – entirely pure.
“Such a chaste Core.” The Wine Master hummed to himself in consideration. His silver eyes flashed, and the tiniest spear of shimmering light shot from them to bore in to the woman’s Core. It was visible in the immaculately clear depths of the Core, swirling about within as it searched.
The young woman’s body shuddered. After a moment she recovered, and her Core vanished once again within her forehead.
She wasted no further time with speech. Immediately she was at Lan Jue’s side once more, kneeling beside his supine form. She glanced over him briefly, then blanketed his form with her own.
This close, she could see the contours of his face, how pale and bloodless his skin was. “You hateful bastard!”
She dropped her head to gently kiss his pale lips. Pale lines of light once more began to exude from between her eyebrows. They traced the lines of that strange snowflake.
The small threads of light reached out and hung in the air for a time before turning back in on one another. They pressed close and congealed until they became a single thread of silvery yarn that connected her to Lan Jue.
The Doctor looked on in silence, carefully watching her every move. He knew once she’d agreed to open her Core that she wouldn’t dare cause Lan Jue harm, however he refused to believe she had some sort of ability that could do more than he already had. His confidence had surely ballooned since earning the title of Doctor on Skyfire Avenue, and for good reason, so it was his interest and pride that had him burning to discover just what sort of powers this young girl claimed to possess.
The Wine Master’s eyes continued to flash with silvery energy. He was able to sense every pulse, ever flutter of the young woman’s core, opened as it was to him. Even the quiet, almost invisible pulses of her spirit weren’t hidden from him. However, he was careful not to disturb her in the midst of Lan Jue’s healing. He watched her, still as stone.
He was a Paragon, almost a god among men, and with that came a great deal of power. Power enough to react the instant this woman had an untoward thought. By virtue of his absolute power over space, he could cut her apart or send her to another solar system.
The mech suits that had been pressing around them at the arrival of the girl, began their withdrawal at Mo Yu’s command. They spread out and continued their vigilant guard. That old man was a Paragon, and his orders were to be followed. They awaited further instruction.
Mo Yu remained, and through the information updates in his army mecha’s monitor he was kept appraised of the situation. In just a few short hours most of the beasts found on Taihua had been annihilated. Those that remained were few, and scattered. Soon they’ll all have been swept from the planet.
The screen flashed as recent statistics came through. It was a calamity, compounded by the fact the planet was near saturated.
In order to protect the ecosystem, Taihua had stipulations as to how many tourists were permitted at any one time. That number was around a million souls. When a planet is considered saturated, that means it’s total population of tourists, security and service workers are near to or have met the occupancy limit.
The result of so many bodies and such horrible creatures was no surprise: a slaughter. Recent numbers put the missing at one hundred and fifty thousand. Another three thousand and sixty soldiers would also call this their last, eternal tour. However, headcounts at evacuation showed only about half of their saturated total were accounted for.
One hundred and fifty thousand was a high number, a frightening sum. But half a million…
The satellites surrounding Taihua had been blocked from spying the situation down on the ground. That thick grey mist had covered everything, until in the final moments a blast of air had revealed something. The satellites had caught the final moments of that battle over the sea. It caught only a glimpse, but in those moments the satellite caught three figures battling a colossal monster. The energy reading from below neared the blast power of an expeditionary cruiser.
Mo Yu watched the information filter past his screen, and instantly recognized it. The place he stood now was were the satellites caught their break. That burst of startling power was just a few meters from where he stood.
Without question, it must have been the Cosmagus himself who saved those that made it out. He was Taihua’s great protector, guarding against the invaders to keep losses to a minimum. Mo Yu felt his blood racing. He had the honor of guarding a man such as this, a great Paragon and guardian. It was likely the greatest mission of his life.
The countless silken threads of white energy lowly intertwined. As time went on it became an undulating cocoon around both Lan Jue and the young woman. It grew stronger and thickened. As the others looked on, the two figures within became more and more indistinct.
From beginning to end, that young woman didn’t move one hair. The Wine Master could feel her through their link, and knew that she was using the best and most gentle method available. She was channeling her own restorative powers to him through their kiss.