Thirty pieces of silver. That was the bribe Judas took to betray Jehova. This one who called himself Judas, used the blood money in his defense. More than anything, this was an affront to the followers of their fallen leader.
Even the Pontiff’s face grew dark. “Explain yourself, King of Devils.”
“We both see this as heresy,” Satan returned, his voice cold and sinister. “What is there to explain?”
After deflecting the lightning attack, Judas advanced until he was very near the Pharmacist. But as he approached the beautiful young woman opened her mouth and a beam of brilliant light shot forth. It expanded and warped until it was a massive blade of light, then swiped viciously at the living shadow.
Lightning wasn’t her discipline? What was this light sword?
Judas launched backward in retreat, distancing itself from the blade. Not before the weapon had landed a blow, and where the impossibly sharp sword pierced the darkness that was Judas parted like melting ice.
The Pharmacist swept out her right hand, and the blade swelled larger still. Now, roughly the same size as Judas, the dancing blade raced forward anew.
Lucifer’s brows furrowed as he watched the exchange. He muttered, almost to himself, “Orient Discipline? Sword of the Emperor… a powerful ability from Former Era China. Is she somehow related to the Sage of the Heavenly way? No… there’s something strange. The light has a high-technology feel… waves of high-frequency oscillation. Very strange indeed.”
Venerated as second among all the great Paragons was the Sage of the Heavenly Way. The Sage was a powerful being that was intensely secretive in their doings and whereabouts, and hadn’t been seen in an age. It was said that the Sage was also the oldest among the Paragons, much older even than the Clairvoyant.
It had in fact been more than ninety years since the Sage of the Heavenly Way’s last sighting. But despite their long absence, the Sage’s reputation was still illustrious and far-flung. The story goes the man who would become Sage did so through the ancient cultivation practices of old China, and attained immortality as a result. His existence was legendary, and was as hotly debated as the existence of God or the Devil. However, his abilities had persisted, passed down among his disciples – the most famous being the Imperial Sword.
“That’s enough, both of you, stay your hand.” Satan’s voice boomed across the Arena.
Both the Pharmacist and Judas, who had been retreating under assault from the blade, stopped combat. There was a flash of light, and suddenly the Wine Master stood within the center of the combat ring.
All eyes turned to Satan.
The strangely geriatric sound of Satan’s voice was heavy with irritation. “All of this fighting nonsense. Cosmagus, deliver us to our lodgings – all subordinates of the Dark Citadel, any who dare to cause issue during our stay will face mummification by my own hand.” With his edict delivered, Satan turned to leave.
“Wait a moment,” a deep voice interrupted.
“Hm?” Satan stopped in his tracks, and shock a glance over his shoulder toward the one who’d dared to address him.
“We are in Skyfire Avenue,” the Gourmet said, staring at his family’s nemesis. “And this exchange was proposed by your organization. You feel you can just come and go as you please?”
Satan’s face grew dark as a thunderhead, and his eyes bore the threat of violence. He slowly turned back to face the Gourmet. “What are you going to do about it?”
The Gourmet didn’t back down. He met the great Paragon’s gaze with his own.
“I’m going to fight you.”
Five simple words tore through the gathered Adepts like a thunderbolt.
A challenge? Against Satan? This was the King of Devils, uncontested Lord of the Dark Citadel!
A laugh bubbled out from the dark Paragon, full of scorn and dismissal. “You think you – having just broken through to Paragon – have what it takes to challenge me?”
Paragon?! This was their second shock.
No wonder… no wonder he had sat across from the Cosmagus to represent Skyfire Avenue. No wonder he had dared to challenge Satan. He was a Paragon – Skyfire Avenue’s fourth.
The Coffee Master spat out the lollipop that had been in his mouth upon hearing the news.
The Driver scowled, and made to leave. He pulled the Seamstress after him.
The Gourmet’s face, by contrast, was calm as he met Satan’s stare. “I do. I believe I have the right.” The air around them was thick and gloomy. A deathly stillness radiated out from within him, and the entire area looked as though it were consumed in a pale mist, like color had drained from the world. It reflected the sensation in everyone’s heart.
Rivers of strange, brackish water trickled up beneath everyone’s feet, and where it touched them they felt a stifling depression fill them to their bones. They felt like they would simply sink in to the depths of these waters and drown.
“Trickling death… Styx! This is power derived from Hades.” The Pontiff muttered.
Satan’s eyes lit up with a dark hunger, and though he didn’t appear to do anything the turbid waters at his feet became a crimson red. It glowed like magma, and stretched out in all directions.
Whether it was the water of the river Styx or the magma flows of hell, both were manifestations of protogenic power.
“If you’re to fight, you will NOT do it here!” A beam of silver light shot down from on high, parting the opposing powers of grey and black. The threatening contestation of their powers were unceremoniously severed.
The silver beam stretched and became a portal, from which the Wine Master emerged. He stood directly between the two men.
“Hades… excellent!” Satan chuckled darkly. He said nothing further, then turned once more and left.
The Gourmet patted Lan Jue upon the shoulder. “Come. We’ll need a witness.”
Lan Jue nodded. “Let’s go.”
“And a judge,” the Gourmet continued, this time turning his head to the Cosmagus.
The Wine Master regarded his friend in silence for a moment. “Is this really what you want?”
The chef nodded, determination bright in his eyes. He followed Satan’s footsteps with eager strides.
Lan Jue followed, until they reached the elevator to the surface.
Satan had already walked inside, and was holding the door for the other two. They stepped in as well.
The doors closed, and they slowly rose to the upper Avenue.
Satan’s eyes flit between the Gourmet and Lan Jue, and that small smile never left his face. There was a sinister enjoyment in it, but also a biting chill.
“Was it you who took my daughter?” Satan asked.
Lan Jue and the Gourmet spoke in the same moment.
Satan blinked at the two of them. “Who are we talking about?”
“Mika is with me,” Lan Jue said, calm and collected.
“Mina was my lover,” the Gourmet followed.
Suddenly, the temperature in the elevator plummeted. All light was extinguished, and everything was plunged in to unnatural darkness.
“What… did… you…say?”
The whole of Skyfire Avenue shook, and a thunderous roar filled every corner. An elevator rocketed from its shaft, exploding in to the skies over the surface Avenue. Two flash followed, one black, and one grey.
As the elevator crashed to the ground, a figure pulled itself out of the elevator shaft, coughing and covered in grey ash.
“Hack! Cough! Is this retribution for those kids I tormented? Damn it… everyone I meet, I offend. Why am I always in the middle of this shit?”
Lan Jue sat upon the ground, covered in dirt and grime. He heaved a sigh.
The skies over Skyfire were dark and gloomy already. Without any indication or warning, the whole of the planet darkened. Dark clouds roiled overhead, swirling and congealing in to a massive, terrifying cortex.
The black skies and frightening winds threatened to tear the whole of Skyfire City asunder. Flashes of red shot out from the center of the vortex periodically, but in the very center of it all was a single point of grey ever expanding outward.
Without warning, a single massive column of blinding light exploded toward the heavens, originating from Skyfire Museum. About five hundred meters in to the air the column burst in to bloom, and created a photoshield that fell to envelope the whole of Skyfire City.
“What the hell happened?” The Wine Master appeared standing beside Lan Jue.
The Jewelry Master simply smirked. “The Gourmet’s former lover was Satan’s daughter.”
The Wine Master blinked, surprised by the revelation. As a Paragon, he was well aware of humanity’s trend toward resentment and grudges, and especially the history of it when it came to Adepts. At one point the houses of Satan and Hades has been mortal enemies, bent on the destruction of the other as they battle for supremacy in the world of darkness. It continued that way for generations, with its ups and downs, but neither house emerging victorious.
That is until modern times, where Satan occupied the higher position. Now he controlled the Dark Citadel, and because of this and their history Satan considered Hades his foremost threat. Even more so than the Pontiff.
Even if the Pontiff chose to attack the Dark Citadel directly, it would only unify the dark powers against it. But if it were the house of Hades that were to rise up, that was a different matter. Darkness only respected power, and if Hades could overcome Satan, allegiances would change in a blink.
So it was that the two bloodlines were ever in conflict. The Hades bloodline eventually fled to the North for protection, lest the Dark Citadel wipe them out entirely.
Therefore, for Satan’s daughter to fall in love with the enemy, one can imagine the fallout. What’s more, this descendant of Hades had achieved Paragon status. The Gourmet’s challenge against Satan made much more sense in this context, as did Satan’s fury. This wasn’t just a battle over control of the Adept underworld, but the result of generations of hatred.
“Let’s go.” The Wine Master grabbed Lan Jue’s arm, and the two vanished in a flash of light. A moment later, they were suspended in the inky blackness over Skyfire City.
As they did, Lan Jue took stock of his situation. The first thing he noticed were the six dimensional folds that surrounded them, keeping the terrible waves of energy that tore through the heavens from obliterating them.
But even with that protection Lan Jue could feel the terrible power of their protogenic energies wreaking havoc. Wave after wave of maddening power washed over them, threatening to tear them asunder. Pain, fear, death… all of the darkest parts of humanity swirled around them as the two Lords of Darkness fought for their lives.