This was the power of Paragons! Lan Jue was secretly awed by what he witnessed. No wonder mechas were useless once Paragon status was achieved – at this precipice of power, their bodies and abilities far surpassed anything mecha suits were capable of.
Lan Jue thought back to his time in school, and one of the great professors he studied under. He’d said that the most awesome, most terrifying power in the world of man was a Paragon flying a Bastion ship. Only a Paragon was able to employ such a destructive weapon of man to its fullest potential.
Horrific waves of power wreaked havoc over Skyfire City. The Wine Master hovered beside Lan Jue, watching the battle unfold with unblinking eyes. There was much hidden from Lan Jue amidst the dark clouds, that the Cosmagus had no trouble spying.
This was a scarce opportunity, Lan Jue thought as he fought to see what he could. If he had hopes of ever breaking through to their level of mastery, he had to feel the fluctuations of protogenic power as they were used in combat.
The heart of this unnatural darkness looked like another world entirely. It was comprised of black mountains, scorched earth, lava flows, and stygian rivers.
It was a world constructed by the unbridled protogenic force of these two powerhouses. They were its creators, and its destroyers.
At Lan Jue’s level of power, he was able to touch upon these powers that underpinned reality, but only just barely and for a short time. It was what powered his Ascension, but it was nothing compared to what was happening before his eyes. This was Paragon territory – literally, as this level of power could allow a Paragon to create a world all their own.
Or destroy one.
To describe a Paragon’s power in relation to other adepts, was like comparing a God-ranked pilot to a Sovereign. The difference was enormous. As a result, even Adepts at the peak of ninth rank were irritating gnats before a Paragon. Resistance to their whims was futile.
Columns of nightmarish flame, larger than the avenue itself swirls like hungry dragons through the heavens. The gourmet let the fires wash over him, but was not harmed. The fires were his, and were birthed from strange, still, grey fires that surrounded him.
The King of Devils, too, cast out vicious tendrils of dark red fire. However where his opponent was wreathed in grey, he stood in a corona of purple fire – deep, and regal.
The difference between them could be condensed to one simple differentiation; the Blood of Hades derived its power from the souls of the dead. Satan’s was demonic in nature. The manifestations of their abilities may look similar, but their origins were anything but.
Clearly the magma flows were dominating in this terrifying hellscape, taking up more than seventy percent of the overall area. At this level of power, it was indicative of absolute dominance. Satan was right; the Gourmet may have been a Paragon, but only just, and had yet to fully realize the power of the Paragons. He didn’t even have an Astrum, yet.
The end result was a clear advantage for the master of the Dark Citadel. For at least fifty years he’d been learning the scope of his reality-altering powers, equivalent to the Pontiff.
The blood-red eyes of the King of Devils glared with hatred and the promise of violence. The Gourmet’s own eyes were grey and dim like the eyes of a corpse, seeing far beyond in to the abyss.
“It was you who brought Mina’s corpse back?” Satan’s voice boomed through the world they’d created.
For the briefest instant, the Gourmet’s face looked pained, as though recalling a terrible memory. “It was.”
“Then you killed her, to show us your intent. To weaken the Dark Citadel.” His voice had risen as Satan’s anger flared. Around them, the rivers of molten stone erupted high in to the air. Impossibly hot sprays of lava fell to earth like hundreds of thousands of falling stars.
“I was going to make the same accusation against you,” the Gourmet growled. “If I had, why would I still be searching for the person who killed her. Ten years later, and I still can’t let it lie. I suspected my family, suspected her death was them flexing their power – to make me hate you. But I’ve recently come to the conclusion that it wasn’t them. I loved Mina… it didn’t matter where she came from, or who her family was. She was mine, more important to me than anything. It’s time to stop the lies, Satan. Don’t pretend you didn’t know about she and I – she told me, you sent her after me. She was your temptress.”
Satan screamed at him, the roar beastial and untamed. He reached out with his right hand, fingers curled like claws, and a beam of caustic purple light tore through the at the Gourmet.
He reacted by lifting his arms in defense, and a vortex appeared before him, born of a spectral grey light. As the beam of demonic energy collided with it, the vortex adopted the purple hue.
There was no sound, not even a whisper, but the collision of the two powers was cataclysmic.
The craggy mountains and lava flows, the flood of life-stealing water and the acres of dead land were a result of the two Paragons and their battle. It was a world created from, and reflecting their decades-long conflict.
Already occupying most of the surrounding power, the manifestations of the King of Devil’s mastery expanded even farther. The Gourmet’s eyes changed as well, their color deeper and more clouded.
“Bastard! You think I’d kill my own daughter over you?! Mina was my successor! My child! The most talented of us all. She had the capability of awakening the full potential of our Bloodline. Even a vicious tiger will not eat its own cubs. We live in a world of darkness, but we are not savages. How could you not understand this?!” Satan bellowed at his ancestral enemy over the calamitous din.
For a moment, the Gourmet said nothing. A few seconds passed before he spoke again. “Mina’s death ruined me, for ten years I wallowed in self-pity. During that time I thought a lot, I went over every scenario and possibility. I even sought retribution. I found nothing – no clues, no trace. Even the slightest chance, I took. The smallest lead, followed. Nothing. Then I brought her body home to you. Tell me, have you tried to find her murderer?”
“Search?” Satan responded incredulously. “Why? You were her killer! I searched for YOU for over ten years. I hadn’t suspected you’d flee to the Avenue, and if I had you’d be long dead. What you do now just proves it: my daughter is dead because of you. YOU are my Mina’s killer, and I will end you to bring her spirit rest!”
The mountains erupted in fiery explosions, spewing columns of lava hundreds of meters in to the air. The rivers of molten stone below overflowed their banks and bubbled furiously as Satan’s fury blazed. The deadly flows became purple, as did the King of Demon’s eyes, and the overpowering waves of his power overtook everything around them. The skies split, the mountains crumbled, and the world came apart around them as corrupted permeated everything.
“Satan.” A craggy old voice interrupted the dramatic display.
Everything froze. Crimson, black, purple and grey – all were covered in a dim golden light that brought a momentary respite to the chaos.
Sunlight, like the rays of a new day pierced the inky veil that covered the sky. Dots of starlight blazed like gemstones, and where their light touched the world was remade. The tempestuous terrain was made still and beautiful. The maddening auras that threatened to undo the planet settled and disappeared.
As the great columns of molten fire descended and vanished, the unnatural purple light in Satan’s eyes slowly disappeared.
“Do you not see that he has yet to fight back? How do you think you’ve gained the upper hand so quickly?” As the words filled the heavens, a giant wrinkled face was projected against the starry backdrop.
A nigh imperceptible change overcame Satan’s angry features. A paragon was at their strongest just before their death, and if this was a display of the Eye of Tomorrow’s powers, it was as frightening as it was awe-inspiring.
The Avenue’s founder and protector faced two of the deadliest Bloodlines, steeped in the highest demonstration of their power, and stopped both dead in their tracks.
“What is the meaning of this interference, Clairvoyant?” Satan hissed.
The old man’s disdainful huff rushed past them like a gale. “I had no interest in your squabbles, but what I have just learned concerns the both of you, and your conflict.”
“This man did not kill your daughter. Nor was she killed by his hand, Gourmet. Unfortunately, this is all I can see. The visions are… complicated. Even in my last moments I cannot see the answers to this mystery. Things are clearer, as I prepare to leave this world, but not enough.”
The murderous intent fled from Satan’s eyes as the Clairvoyant revealed his vision. He glared at the Gourmet. “Even that being the case, he is not without blame! Were it not for him, Mina never would have- “
“You speak of blame, King of Devils,” the Clairvoyant interrupted. “Are you not her father?”
Satan visibly shook, and lapsed in to silence. An array of emotions tormented his features.
The ensuing silence hung between them, and as the Clairvoyant’s starlight projection slowly faded, the world around them was back to normal.
Satan recovered enough to star at the Gourmet, that hard light never leaving his eyes. “We’re just getting started – don’t think this is over. The truth will come out, and if I find that you were at all responsible for her death, no one will stop me from getting retribution.”
Grey and black separated, and the darkness that hung over Skyfire finally abated. As azure blue took the place of inky black, the two Paragons became clearly outlined in the air.
There was confusion in the depths of the Gourmet’s eyes, but more than that there was pain. All the fear and pain and hatred in those old memories had bubbled to the surface, as had the longing that had lived in his heart for so many years. But as the vestiges of Satan’s power receded, the gourmet came to his senses. In his mind’s eye a beautiful face emerged, that filled his heart with hope for a better life.
The Wine Master slowly allowed his arm to drop, and his white-knuckle grip on his scepter to loosen. Had the Clairvoyant not intervened in that moment, he’d have had to get involved himself. The gourmet was a member of the Avenue, and more than that one of their Paragons now. No matter the circumstances, family had to be protected.
Satan’s eyes slowly swept to Lan Jue, floating by the Wine Master’s side. “My quarrel with him is done, for now. What, then, shall I do about you? Where is Mika.”
Lan Jue met the Citadel’s master with a calm stare. Though he had just witnessed the extent of Satan’s power, he faced the man fearlessly.
“Mika has chosen another path for herself. She had chosen to forsake your blood, and the conflicts of your world of darkness. If you truly love your daughter, as you claim, you will respect her decision.”