Chapter 488: Four Paragons Meet
The Gourmet’s threat was not an empty one. If a Paragon consumed their own life force, the destruction they were capable of was unimaginable. Even both the Terminator and the Epochrion wouldn’t be able to contain it all. None of the many mechs surrounding them could survive the ensuing power. The North would pay dearly if they chose that route.
What’s more, the Avenue’s representatives were few, but strong. All four of the tournament’s finalists were present, and everyone had seen the strength that they possessed. Each of them could touch the border of Paragon, even now.
The tournament had forbade the use of protogenia, too, and that was no longer a restriction. Who could say what these fighters were fully capable of? The North’s timing was good, though. At least Lan Jue and Jun Yongye were not at full strength. They hadn’t had enough time to recover after the championship battle.
“And if we include me?” The cracking, aged voice was followed by a piercing beam of holy light. It illuminated the area around them from overhead, revealing a new silhouette beside the Terminator. A bejeweled crown sat upon his head that looked resplendent against the plane white cassock that covered him. It was the Eye of God, the Pontiff!
This was a real shock to the Gourmet’s small party. It blindsided them, more than any of the faces that appeared before.
The Pontiff was a lower level than the Epochrion and Terminator, but his power was no less terrible. With him here the combat effectiveness of the Citadel was increased a hundred fold. The Pontiff was the final straw to break the camel’s back. The Gourmet stopped his advance.
Three Paragons against one, each one stronger than he. The Gourmet was very quickly running out of options.
The Terminator watched his Eastern counterpart earnestly. “Make your choice, Infernal Vanguard.” It was the first time he addressed the man by his respectful title.
An inexplicable look came over the chef. “Such bully tactics – bringing so many against so few.”
None of the other Paragons reacted. However, he could see it in the eyes of those many soldiers who followed them. They thought the same. This was robbery.
The Terminator’s goal had always been to get what he wanted without bloodshed. At last, it was starting to look like he would have his way. He watched as the faces of the Eastern Adepts darkened with realization.
“There’s nothing worse than trying to win a fight by relying on all your friends. [1. Common practice in China. There is never a one on one fight. Sometimes you’ll see full on gang wars, complete with battle lines and everything.] Pontiff, you’re everywhere like a damn cockroach. No fear that I’ll tear apart that rat’s nest you call home?” A voice, filled with range and indignation, joined the conversation.
The Pontiff’s face froze.
The holy light blazing in the sky was suddenly gone, like someone flipped a switch. Everything was plunged in to darkness and a hundred millions stars twinkled overhead. They shone so brightly that the Adepts below could see everything. It was different from that holy light, though, like all of Luo had been plunged in to eternal night.
“The Arcane Magnate!” The Terminator cried. The Avenue had another Paragon, who’d arrived somehow on Luo completely unannounced. No wonder… no wonder the Gourmet was so calm. His backup was already here.
“Yes, it is I, you enormous iron pimple. Come, let’s see who’s stronger, out in space!” The Arcane Magnate wasn’t the strongest of the Paragons, but he was – without a doubt – the meanest. His present also struck fear in to the hearts of those present. There was no man alive capable of more destruction than the mad scientist.
It was necessarily advantages in combat that made him such a frightening foe. Instead, it was because his attacks were so all-encompassing. The North definitely couldn’t handle the aftermath of such a confrontation if it meant sacrificing Luo! It was the same tactic he’d used on the Pontiff in his own citadel.
The power the Gourmet would command if he sacrificed his body was enough to give the Terminator pause. What the the Arcane Magnate was capable of, would terrify the whole nation.
The Terminator’s voice grew cold. “I thought there was a saying where you’re from, scholar. ‘When the old don’t die it’s like thievery.’ You’re brave to come out here at your age. Aren’t you afraid you won’t be able to return? That you’ll lose the chance at a peaceful, natural death?” The sudden and menacing arrival of the Keeper caused him to lose his composure. The stress of the last few days was becoming evident, and a suddenly oppressive atmosphere descended around them.
The Terminator clapped his hands again, and the ring of mechs retreated.
Any contest between Paragons was no place for mechs. Removing them from play was saving their lives. It also looked like preparations for combat.
The Pontiff stood passively by the Terminator’s side. To him, conflict wasn’t something to fear. This wasn’t Reims, he wasn’t responsible for what would come. On the contrary, he was eager to teach the Keeper a lesson for past transgressions.
“Someone said bully?! Just the three of you? We’ve got numbers, too!” Another voice interrupted their exchange. This one was heavy with disdain, thick with contempt. He sounded even more ornery than the Keeper.
The skies were again the canvas for displays of power, as a sea of shooting stars burned across the heavens. The spectacular meteor shower filled the world with undulating silvery light.
A Paragon! Another Paragon!
The Terminator sucked in a breath. He was seeing just how important Jun’er was to Skyfire Avenue. Two more Paragons had come to fetch her apart from the Gourmet. This new Paragon was not one he was familiar with, but he could immediate feel his energy. It mingled with the Keepers, and their synergy birthed a dictatorial air. The Terminator could feel it constraining his Domain, fighting to keep it contained.
“The Karmic Scholar.” He growled.
“Correct, it is I – your elder brother. What was all this about old people dying? Let me tell you something, q-tip, we two old geezers will be kicking around long after you’re dead.”
The Karmic Scholar, once the mortal enemy of the Keeper, and in a former life called the Bookworm! Now, they were the twin pillars of strength underpinning the Avenue.
Towering images, each a thousand meters tall, stretched high in to the air. They were the projected images of the Arcane Magnate, and the Karmic Scholar. They stood in majestic pose, peering in to the distance like a pair of old heroes. To put it succinctly, they were peacocking.
Now it was even; three world-destroying super humans against three more.
In terms of pure numbers, the North still looked to have the upper hand. The Ecpohrion and Terminator were both in the Reflection stage of Paragon. Each of them individually were strong enough to handle both old men together. Strength wasn’t the problem… except it was. If they used their full strength, it would be the people of Luo who would suffer. The cost was unthinkable. Already, regret had wormed in to the Terminator’s mind. If he’d had known, the ambush would have been set in space. Out there it didn’t matter how devastating their clash became.
“You’ve done your homework, Terminator,” the Keeper said proudly. “In pure strength, we can’t compete. But I promise that the East’s memory is long. You will never know another peaceful day. And perhaps, sometime, I’ll appear around one of your Northern Planets. I’m sure a Positron Cannon blast through its core would be satisfying to watch.”
The Bookworm followed on his heels. “You know, I’ve been fiddling with a new device, and I’m fairly sure it can strip a planet of its atmosphere. I’ve yet to test it, though, for lack of an adequate test subject. The North does have the most planets, which makes it an excellent test environment.”
“Enough… it’s clear you two old madmen don’t have any shame. Do you have any integrity?” The Epochrion could no longer hold her peace. Her pretty voice was hard with anger. “You two are Paragons. They are called that for a reason – paragons of integrity, and honor. You should act like it.”
The sharp rebuke earned a rare moment of silence from the two crotchety old men. They exchange a look, but said nothing.
And then there was another voice. “You are no longer the Avenue’s Clockmaker. You are not the assistant to the Clairvoyant, or the Chairwoman of the Avenue Council. Not anymore. You are the Epochrion, and you belong to the Great Conclave.”
When she heard the voice, the Epochrion went rigid. The Pontiff, too, was visible shaken. They turned, and saw the man standing a few feet away, bathed in silver light. He held aloft a glimmering scepter.
The Cosmagus! The Wine Master! All four of Skyfire Avenue’s Paragons were gathered for war!
“Bold, bringing all four of you here. Aren’t you afraid to leave the Avenue unprotected, Cosmagus?” the Terminator asked.
The sudden arrival of the Karmic Scholar, Arcane Magnate and Cosmagus was no accident. They hadn’t even just arrived. Skyfire Avenue must have had time to prepare for this, and did so amply. Three Paragons were sent for a handful of Adepts and a little girl. The Terminator hadn’t counted on that.
Now the Northerners were outnumbered. The Terminator was confident they could still win, even down a man. After all, the Karmic Scholar and the Infernal Vanguard were only recently ascended. However, their appearance meant that his plan had been thoroughly ruined – there was no hope for a bloodless resolution.
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