Chapter 83 – The Variable

Twelve powerful wings beat against the air, and Michael vanished from view. The respite was short lived, though, for he appeared moments later high above them. Thus extricated from Zeus’ line of attack, he made a charge for the three women.

Raphael rushed to Gabriel’s side, and laid his hands upon him. Gentle white light emanated from the contact and began to heal the fallen angel’s broken body. Raphael’s browse knitted as he worked. “Zeus… it’s a fitting name. Resolute, unwavering. To use his Ascension from the onset. His level of cultivation is comparable to our own, despite the fact we’ve lived for more than a hundred years. But it isn’t true mastery. He draws too much from himself, and I doubt he’ll be able to hold it for long.”

Gabriel’s face was pale and pained. He coughed speckles of golden blood. “It’s a… powerful Ascension. And his judgment is impeccable. He didn’t hesitate to draw so much energy to command the battlefield. The Thunder Discipline is worthy of being called the most explosive of powers. He even forced … Michael to employ Adventus. He is… also an arrogant one. In his Adventus form, Michael can also break the barrier into tenth level. Enough even to rival his Majesty the Pontiff’s un-enhanced abilities. And Zeus, drained as he is, will have no chance to run.”

The golden light surrounding Zeus flickered, and began to fade by degrees. Golden hair, golden mask, golden robes… each of them melted away like rippling water until they vanished. Lan Jue hadn’t employed any gems or enhancements – this was his own innate power. However, he could only maintain this ultimate form for ten seconds before it ran it’s course.

His face was pale, and blood had begun to collect at the corner of his lips. But his eyes retained that calm attentiveness.

“Boss! Let me,” Ke’er shouted resolutely. Undulating waves of light shimmered in her eyes.

Lan Jue turned to look at her, and something in his expression stopped any further debate.

Mika remained still, silent, with head bowed. Lin Guoguo stood dutifully by her side, fists raised and eyes flashing gold.

“Xiuxiu, do you copy.. Xiuxiu!” Lan Jue growled in to his communicator. Only static responded.

The signal had been blocked.

ζ

“Wa-hah! Tell me how awesome I am! The Jewelry Master asked, and I have delivered! I’m nothing short of a genius. Now, there’s absolutely nothing that can crack your protections. The only way someone’s breaking in is if they can survive a blast from Zeus-1’s main cannons.” The Accountant practically wriggled in his seat with self-pride.

Xiuxiu sat a small distance away, but acted as though she hadn’t heard. Her hands supported her pink cheeks as she stared towards the city through the porthole, preoccupied with her own thoughts.

“Man, I am something else!” The Accountant continued to toot his own proverbial horn.

Thrumm! Suddenly, a shudder ran through Zeus-1

Xiuxiu was drawn from her silent contemplation to stare quickly at the screen before her.

“Eh? What’s with this interference signal. It’s so strong… it’s like our communications array has just broken off!” The Accountant scratched his head, muttering indistinctly to himself.

Xiuxiu spoke up. “Something not right. The boss must have run in to some trouble.”

The young woman’s classical, even temperament grew sharp in the space of an instant. Though it would take exceptional perception, someone looking close enough would discover the pupils of her big eyes had elongated like dual razors.

A shadow covered her screen, and a figure appeared.

He was a graceful man, elegant, but the smile upon his face held a dangerous quality. He was tall, stood straight, and from his back extended six magnificent white wings which slowly undulated to keep him aloft.

“Salutations,” he spoke through the screen. “Unless I’m mistaken, the only one of Zeus’ amazons remaining on the ship is the Asura Blade-Maiden. I, am called Uriel. I’m unsure whether you’ve heard of me, but I’d ask you not do anything… rash. You are currently surrounded by four battleships, and four more stand by in orbit. What I need you to do, is simply remain calm and quiet, until matters are settled. I am loathe to act violently towards a woman, as any gentleman worth his salt can attest. And so, Blade-Maiden, remain just as you are and things will remain copacetic.”

A hard glint shone in Xiuxiu’s eyes, but her face remained calm and betrayed nothing.

“The Cherubim Uriel, of the Pontiff’s Castle? What are you doing all the way out here? What’s happened? What in the world did the Jewelry Master do now?! Why would the Castle send people to come after him?” The Accountant sputtered question after question, staring worriedly at Xiuxiu.

Xiuxiu lowly turned her head to look at him. “We’re likely trapped. The whole thing probably was – even from the day we got that gem from the hooded man on the Avenue. The others are certainly in danger – but between Mika and the boss’ power, they can hold their own for the time being. Luckily he doesn’t know you’re on board. After all, neither did we. Uriel’s made his calculations based on all the information he has. You, are the variable.”

“I’m going to get out and draw the Cherubim away. Its your job to find a way to get this ship out of here and provide support for Lan Jue and the others. Understand?”

The Accountant stuttered. “B-b-but what about you?”

“Don’t worry about me,” Xiuxiu responded casually. “Help the boss, and he’ll come for me.”

“But –“

Xiuxiu interrupted before he could finish his thought. “No time for ‘buts’. If you want to live you need to get out of here, and do as I say. You’re already as familiar with this ship as any of us. You’re going to have to do this. Just remember, I can’t hold him off for long.”

With her final command issued, Xiuxiu turned and left without hesitation.

He watched her back as she left and said nothing. Contrary to his nature the Accountant sat silent, deep in thought.

Uriel hung in the air by virtue of his six beating wings, a hundred meters before the bow of Zeus-1. That diabolical smile never left his lips.

However, he didn’t remain alone outside for long. As he looked on, the ship’s hatch opened to reveal a figure silhouetted by the ship’s interior light.

Black flight suit, black hair, and black eyes met his gaze. Xiuxiu exited the ship atop a small personal aircraft that made it’s way towards Uriel.

The Angel laughed. “I’d certainly heard Zeus commanded four beautiful maidservants. Today I find truth to the rumors. The Asura Blade-Maiden, I presume.”

Xiuxiu’s response was curt. “Did you lackies of the castle figure you can assault my boss without consequences?”

Uriel’s dark grin grew wider. The taint of sinister schemes lived in that smile. “With all of you dead, there wont be any consequences. No one will know what happened to you. After all, this is the Shattered Starfields.”

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