Chapter 174: Chu Cheng Goes On Stage

“Well gorgeous,” Chu Cheng said through a grin. “How about I show you what a real man looks like. Time to get on stage.”

Tan Lingyun was considering how to respond when suddenly she felt a scorching heat at her shoulder. Before she could say anything, a burst of thunderous laughter filled the arena.

“Ah ha ha ha ha!” The sonorous laughter was so loud it even drowned out Poseidon’s pleasant melodies. All eyes turned to the smoldering red light that appeared at the fore of the auditorium.

The sudden and un-telegraphed change was shocking. Even the school leaders were unable to resist the draw of the show, and nearly jumped from their seats when the sinister laughter began.

The swirling light looked infinitely hot, and flared angrily. As it did so, the crystalline figures suspended on high twinkled crimson. The peaceful underwater world was gone, now a sea of magma.

Poseidon’s face betrayed shock. The myriad fish that surrounded him fled in trepidation to his rear, desperate for shelter. The little mermaid followed suit.

“The king’s subjects were many, beautiful, and easily submitted to his rule.” The laughing subsided and the background music swelled as the voice narrated. It seemed constrained, devoid of it’s former carefree warmth.

Slowly the audience came to the realization that this flaming pillar was part of the act.

Tan Lingyun was perhaps more surprised than most. She turned her head to look for the man who had been at her side, only to find him now standing before the stage. She couldn’t see him clearly in the light, but she knew it was him. He was awash in red, like the god of fire given flesh.

Almost unnoticed, Poseidon’s voice started again. It strengthened until it filled every ear, demanding attention. It bore a distinctly regal tone, his voice. Majestic and commanding, and yet there was a note of condemnation as his voice roared with the power of the seas. The gentleness in his voice when he’d sung with the mermaid was gone, replaced with indignation. He gesticulated and cried, entreating the entire ocean to rise in protest against this invading evil. Ripples of light appeared throughout the auditorium in response to Poseidon’s calls. Compared to their lazy appearance before, this time they moved and rippled with vigor.

The living flame would not be cowed. As the scene rose against it, the fiery figure raged. It swelled from the human size it once was to a dozen meters or more. Even the temperature in the arena changed, heating up as the fires rose to almost uncomfortable levels. However, a keen observer might note that the fires weren’t causing any damage to the auditorium.

The fiery behemoth did not sing, like it’s underwater nemesis. There was only a deep and persistant growl that called out. It met and mixed with the powerful notes of Poseidon’s call, a cacophonous battle of sound. The crystal figures and glass walls of the aquarium flashed with the opposing fiery and the blue of the ocean. Everything was drawn in to the epic struggle for the soul of the ocean.

They lights clashed, crashed in to one another. They flashed and flooded the arena from floor to ceiling. A sorrowful note invaded the heated musical exchange as the battle raged.

In the midst of their exchange, the fiery giant rose from it’s feet. With a terrible roar it lurched forward, becoming a raging lance of fire that raced murderously towards the ocean king.

“Boooommm…!” The deep shuddering impact tore through the arena, shaking the entire structure and filling the audience’s ears with the unsettling sound. Those in the back assumed the shuddering was from the speakers, but those in front knew better. To their shock and amazement, the giant antagonist had actually rammed directly in to the crystal wall of the aquarium!

Poseidon’s cries were righteous, piercing. A sapphire blue light had begun to exude from him, prosperous and powerful as it filled the under water realm he inhabited. The intensity in his voice, and the dissonance of the blasts against the background music was harsh and nerve-wracking.

“Boom!” Once more the giant rushed against the crystal wall. This time even those in the back saw clearly what was occurring before them. To their trepidation they saw the cracks appearing along the wall’s surface. Under the audience’s frightened gaze, the cracks spread quickly in all directions. They crackled threateningly until it spread across the whole of the aquarium wall.

Cries of alarm ripped through the crowd, but Poseidon’s alluring voice called out to them. “Do not fear, my subjects! This evil shall never know victory. I am your protector, and I shall defend you in the face of this threat!”

“Bang!” he giant of fire struck the glass a third time, in defiance of Poseidon’s claims. The crystal fractured under the stress, and shattered in to a hundred million pieces. The water once contained within rushed out like a terrifying tsunami. The water’s roar was not enough to drown out the startled screams of the audience.

“Ahhh—!” Before anyone could move, every seat flared as a golden hoop fixed them in place. There was no escape as the wave barreled toward them.

Zhou Qianlin’s gasp of fear and surprise joined the rest of the crowd. She unconsciously scotched closer to Lan Jue, and wrapped her arms around his.

“Eh?” Tan Lingyun, seated in the front row was similarly surprised at what she was witnessing. A flash of power flared in her eyes. The leather of her seat cracked as he pressed her hands against it. Under the force of her pressure, the golden harness that kept her still broke free. Her hands shot skyward, inciting dual beams of green light to spring to life. It surrounded and enveloped her like a shield as she prepared to parry the force of the encroaching wave.

“Sit down, cut it out!” A voice light with humor captured her attention. That sizzling red light fell over her. Tan Lingyun felt no heat, but the oppressive force of the light pressed her back in to her seat.

She was not the only rebel. In fact there were many adepts in the audience, and several of them were strong enough to break the harness as she did. But like the Savage Goddess, the moment they succeeded in breaking free that fiery red light pushed them back down.

The fiery power that filled the auditorium grew stronger still, flaring with rage. It roared as the flaming power collided with the wave. Red and blue, fire and water. The colors became the arena’s dominant hue as they broke against one another.

Much to the relief of frightened onlookers, none of the resulting wave managed to reach the audience. The only thing that washed against their bodies was the conflicting red and blue lights.

“Unreal,” Lan Jue muttered. “No wonder A-Cheng’s been hanging around with A-Li for so long. He’s also in the show. And this fairyland they’ve created, that must be Mo Xiao. Flawlessly executed, perfect cooperation.”

The resonating sound of singing broke through the din. It was a warcry, filled with the promise of battle. This was Poseidon’s promise of protection, bringing the ocean to bear for his people. A will as strong as a fortress, calling the united powers of an entire world!

Red and blue, flashing incessantly, shining harsh and quick as they battled. The crystal statues swayed and shook. The lights filled them as well, flashing against their edges. Some twinkled a pale red, and others bore the soothing blue of their king.

Gradually the sounds eased, and the lights dimmed. Poseidon’s voice hung in the air, adopting a sorrowful air. Only the angry red pillar of fire remained vibrant.

Without warning, the entire arean was suddenly plunged in to darkness.

A moment later the world was revealed once again. The crystal wall had reappeared to protect the audience from danger. Where it had, moments before, been nothing but a multitude of fractured glass, now it looked as though nothing had happened. But the scene within had changed. Now in place of Poseidon’s awe-inspiring palace there was only rubble. The pained singing continued, howled from the mouth of Poseidon as he lay upon the floor.

A dark figured approached, black as though it had been burned. The water around it boiled furiously. It’s charred hand was wrapped around the little mermaid’s throat.

The audience had a chance to get their bearings. It had been an illusion, all part of the show. But it had been so real that many in the audience were still trying to recover from the fright.

Poseidon’s mournful voice was hoarse, thick with sorrow. The mermaid struggled against her assailer, her own voice a mixture of pain and fear. No small number of audience members reflected the tears in the little mermaid’s eyes.

Tan Lingyun was well aware that this was all a show, but she couldn’t help but clench her fists at the visions before her. She ground her teeth at the child’s suffering.

The enormous man of fire hoisted the mermaid in to the air. His hand squeezed tight.

Poseidon’s singing stopped. His eyes were wide and moist as he called out to the giant. “Nooooo….!”

But his cried fell on deaf ears as the mermaid was consumed by fire. Tears hazed the scene for many in the audience, but the mermaid’s death was clear – an icy dagger to the heart.

At his cried, Poseidon’s crown shimmered with power. The teardrop-shaped gemstone set at it’s center bloomed in to a halo of golden light that fell over him like a blanket.

His blue armor shone with the additional light, making the king of the sea appear more severe and dangerous than before. The golden light became a pillar, as with it there slowly dropped a jagged trident in to Poseidon’s hand.

Blinding beams of errant golden light shone in all directions. Poseidon rose brazenly to his feet to the rising crescendo of a battle march. His voice belted forth, strong and challenging, to mingle with the battaglia. There was a distinctly murderous sensation to it, now.

The two figured met in battle among the ocean waves. Vortexes of sapphire light fired out from the trident, forcing the fiery beast back.

At last the fiery monster’s defenses failed against Poseidon’s onslaught, and his great trident found it’s mark. It cast the giant backward, slamming it in to the aquarium wall. Once again the thunderous crash of an impact filled the auditorium, and once again the wall cracked and fell away. The antagonist flailed wildly as it flew across the arena and collapsed in the far reaches.

Poof! As they looked on, the audience witnessed the giant’s body burst in to flame. A blue light appeared moments later unexpectedly, the king of the ocean hunting his prey.

A deluge of water crashed against the flaming giant. Instantly the attack was met with screams of pain from the beast. Plumes of steam and smoke black as pitch towered towards the ceiling like a mushroom cloud.

The lights cut out. All that could be heard was that shrill, ear-piercing scream. The fight was over.

Poseidon had emerged victorious, and yet still his voice was thick with sadness. The depression from witnessing the death of the mermaid still weighed heavy on the hearts of all those present.

All were awash in sadness, so that at first none noticed the sound of gurgling water. It was like a bubbling stream, undercutting Poseidon’s laments.

A pale blue light, soft and dim, began to illuminate the arena. It gradually strengthened until, as though with a live of it’s own, the light congealed atop the stage.

The lights revealed the scene, with the crystal wall once more in tact and in place. The golden palace had somehow returned to it’s former glory. The once tumultuous sea waters surround it had calmed. Lights glistened off the water’s surface like a fine spring day. The light refracted prisms of sea blue throughout the arena.

Still Poseidon’s eyes were full of sadness.

The audience watched, fighting with themselves to squelch the dread and depression that Poseidon’s heavy expression inspired. Their desire to rise and comfort was almost palpable.

As the silence stretched on, the tiniest little fish appeared, wandering lazily towards Poseidon. It swum circles around the dejected monarch, growing closer with each circuit.

Poseidon’s doleful expression revealed a small smile, though the hurt remained clear in his eyes. His voice whispered forth through the silence, warm and beautiful once again. He sang longingly, as though calling out to the little mermaid who;d fallen at the hands of the monster. His song bade her farewell, giving voice to the pain in his heart but sending her to eternal peace with an assuring smile.

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