Several mechas had been maneuvering for a rush, but stopped in their tracks. These pilots were adepts themselves. They recognized their betters when they saw them. This beggar was able to ruin mechas with nothing but the strength of his own hands. How were they to win against power like that? What’s more, the black-clad man beside Richard was a ninth rank Talent. Reputedly, he was ninth rank second level, from the Dark Citadel. But even someone with his training and abilities had been knocked away like a child. There was an unsettling sense that they hadn’t even seen the worst these vagabond could dish out.
“You’re absolutely right, Elder. I beg you to please release the young lord.” The man had traded violence for pleading.
He knew this man’s power clearer than the others – he’d felt it. That simple and modest power felt like it scorched all of his internal organs. The Pauper didn’t even seem to be using much of his potential. He must be at least ninth rank seventh level, the black-clad man figured. There was nothing he could do to stop him.
The Pauper lazily looked around at the slowly approaching ring of mech suits. “You know,” he said in that lazy voice, “I get nervous when there are so many people around. And when I’m nervous, my hands tend to tremble.”
The Pauper sat, with Richard’s throat still caught in his grip. He pulled the young man down beside him. “It would be a real tragedy, you know, if my hand should tremble. There’d really be nothing I could do about it.”
“Everyone back off!” The man flailed his arms and shooed the encroaching mechas away. None of these pilots were a match for this man. They’d need a God ranked pilot if they wanted to stand a chance.
The Austin mecha pilots did not dare disobey. They quickly gathered their fallen comrades and retreated. In a matter of seconds, the outside of the hotel was cleared. Only the man in black remained.
“The men have all gone, elder. We’ve done as you asked and fled. Please release the young master, and I swear we’ll never return to this place. We won’t be coming after anyone.” Clearly this man had some clout with the Austin family himself, otherwise he wouldn’t be making promises.
Even if they did get those two, so what? This man could clearly murder anyone here without much effort. Capturing some woman wasn’t even remotely worth offending an Adept of this caliber.
The Pauper’s response was tepid. “Yeah, alright. I guess I wouldn’t get much pleasure from squishing this bug. Remember what you said, yes? I’m not a patient man, I will admit. And I especially hate people who lie to me. When I’m upset my hands tend to do whatever they want.”
The Pauper threw Richard, who flew threw the air as though he weighed nothing. The man in black was there to catch him. Only after a cursory glance revealed that the young Austin was unarmed did the man appear to relax.
“What is your name, honored elder?” Although they’d failed, he at least needed to provide an explanation to his bosses.
“I’m just a nameless beggar! The destitute have no names. But if that’s not enough for you, you can come asking around Skyfire Avenue.” Before his voice even faded, the Pauper was gone in a flash of golden light.
Once more the man’s face changed. At the mentioned of Skyfire Avenue, everything changed. Of course he would be! He had to quickly get back and let everyone know. A proper response could ameliorate the matter. Word of the Avenue’s five Paragons had of course reached the West by now – they couldn’t afford to upset them.
Richard heaved deep, gasping breaths. An all-consuming hatred burned in his eyes as his hands unconsciously clenched and relaxed. For the first time, he was confronted with the fact that only those who are individually strong get what they want. Power… I want that power! There will come a day when I will personally take Qianlin for my own.
Lan Jue, of course, couldn’t know of Richard’s sinister affirmations. Either way, he only had disdain for the boy. They ran from the hotel until they were a few yards in to the surrounding forests. They found a man standing beneath a tree. His hands were clasped at the small of his back. He was staring up at the canopy overhead.
He was in a swallow-tailed coat and a fine, tailored suit. A silver-haired wig sat on his head. He certainly didn’t fit in with these more rustic surroundings. However, the environment did seem to respond to him standing there. It warped continually, giving the unsettling sensation that the man was both very near and very far away. The entire scene was surreal.
“Well, we’re here,” Lan Jue said with a grin. “Shall we go?”
The man turned around, revealing himself as the Wine Master. “When the Pauper arrives.” The change in locale didn’t seem to have any effect on the Wine Master’s mood or choice of outfit.
Lan Jue chuckled as he looked his old friend over. “You couldn’t change your clothes? Or at least lose the wig.”
The Wine Master looked at him for a long time. “No.”
He could only shake his head. “Qianlin, I believe you both have met.”
The Wine Master regarded her for a moment with those penetrating eyes. He nodded. “Hello.”
“Hello,” she responded with a small curtsy.
None of them exchanged any further words. The Wine Master simply returned his attention to the rustling leaves above. Lan Jue followed the Paragon’s eyes to a patch of sky the trees couldn’t hide. Stars twinkled prettily across the velvet-black background. He also caught the faintest light of regret in the Wine Master’s eyes.
“You’re thinking about the Clairvoyant,” Lan Jue said.
He nodded, suddenly looking much older. “The man spent his life in servitude to the Avenue. You could say, to all of humanity. I truly wish there was a way to save him.”
“But is there?” Lan Jue asked. “If there’s any chance, you know we’ll all do whatever it takes.”
Yet the Wine Master bitterly shook his head. “He is a Prophet. No one knows the way of the universe better than he. If there was a way, he’d have found it already. There’s nothing that can be done about it now.”
Lan Jue went silent. He had a great deal of admiration for the Clairvoyant.
“So, where do we start our search for the descendants 1,” Lan Jue inquired. He needed to change the subject, before the mood became too solemn.
“I’ve already taken a look at the satellite images,” the Wine Master replied. “There was no new information to help us. If they are here, then they’ve found some special way of hiding their presence. It looks like we’re going to have to find them the old-fashioned way.”
Lan Jue frowned in thought. “That’s going to be very troublesome. This place is huge. The Barrows is even larger than Skyfire, so canvasing the place will be impossible. Are you trying to conceal your identity as well? If you use your Discipline, I’m sure we could find them.”
He knew the answer. The reason he’d asked the Pauper to intervene instead of the Wine Master, was because he didn’t want to reveal the current Skyfire Avenue leader’s location. A normal adept coming to the West would mean nothing. But a Paragon – that was something different, especially considering the Wine Master’s current appointment. Remember that, although the Wine Master may not have been as powerful as the Keeper for instance, his interdimensional Discipline was still terrifying. Who would want an enemy-affiliated, planet-destroying demi-god traipsing around their backyard unannounced?
If they needed to search this place inch by inch, than the best method would be the one they used on Taihua when fighting the monsters. A Paragon could soar high overhead and use their abilities as a sort of scanner. The method, however, produced a massive shock wave of energy pulses. Certainly any satellite would pick it up, and then the Barrows would be the center of some very uncomfortable attention.
The Wine Master responded. “I called you together precisely because this would be difficult. You’ve got the gift of gab, and good perception. We’ll be approaching the search from different angles. Here, I’ve made a map – there are twelve districts where the descendants are most likely holed up. You and the Pauper will take three each, and I’ll search through six. The goal is to find them within the week. Of course, whosoever find them first will alert the others through communicator.”
The Cosmagus fiddled with his communicator for a moment, and transferred the map to Lan Jue.
He looked it over. “Alright, so it is.” It would have to be this way. He only had three districts, but they were large. The Paragon’s interdimensional abilities would help him cover far more distance.
Just then, the Pauper quietly descended from overhead. “Situation handled, Jewelry Master.”
Lan Jue threw the crusty man a thumb’s up. “Thanks a lot.”
The Pauper chuckled. “No problem. A non-issue among drinking buddies.”
The Wine Master fixed him with a cold stare. “Let’s get going, divvy up the work. If we haven’t found them by the time we’ve swept these districts, it means they aren’t here. If you do find them, don’t act rashly. I believe there may be a Paragon among them. Wait for me to arrive before taking any action. Remember that we aren’t here to cause trouble.”
Lan Jue nodded. Of course they wouldn’t leap before thinking, especially with the Wine Master around. The Pauper shrugged, as the old scoundrel was wont to do, but he wouldn’t have hidden away in the Avenue if he didn’t have a great affection for it. The Avenue had a good many known adepts on their council like the Pharmacist. And while both she and the Pauper were both at the peak of ninth rank, the Pauper was a wild card – a hidden gambit. That made him exceedingly dangerous. He wasn’t the only one on the Avenue to hide their abilities, either.
The Wine Master strode forward, and just before he walked nose-first in to the tree before him, there was a silver flash and he was gone. The Pauper regarded Lan Jue and Qianlin for a moment. Then, with a laugh, he turned in to a beam of golden light and pierced through the forest toward the horizon.
Lan Jue was also in a hurry to begin. He’d made a promise, and his loyalties would forever lie with his friends in the Avenue. He couldn’t just drink a man’s cherished Jayer and not try to repay him!
Lan Jue took Zhou Qianlin’s hand. He could feel his powers swelling. Lightning sizzled around the both of them as he curled himself low. Then, with a grunt, he was soaring through the air with Qianlin beside him.
They dodged among trees, as Lan Jue spoke to Qianlin. “Pay to attention to how you feel when transformed in to lightning. Once you’ve mastered this and are able to completely transform yourself, then we’ll be able to reached our max speed – the speed of light. However, the strain on the body to go that fast is severe. Although you can command the same level of power than I can, your body is comparatively much more fragile. Remember that if you end up controlling the pace. Don’t go too fast. If you do ever need to pull out all the stops, make sure to reserves a portion to shield your body.
Alright, so I’ve been bad. In previous translations, I believe I described the descendant as singular. I may have missed something, or it may be this is the first time they’re clarifying it (sometimes in Chinese they aren’t clear about how many. It’s inferred unless specifically stated). At any rate, I apologize for the mistake. ↩