Skyfire Avenue Chapter 571-580

Chapter 571: I’m Not Your Woman

“Hey gorgeous, you’ve got some damn fine curves! See what you’re doin’ to me baby, c’mere and let me see what ya got. I gotta know if those are real. Your cheeks look so soft… beautiful. Know what, real or not I don’t care. Let me enjoy your goods, beautiful. You’ve aroused my interest.”

The pirate stretched a hand toward the woman’s face. She glared at him with an icy-cold stare and stepped just out of his reach.

“Move!” Her voice sounded strange. Sweet, but awkward.

“Where we goin’?” The pirate asked with a grin full of dark promise. Then, he lunged forward to grab her.

“Screw off.” A dark voice growled from nearby. A moment later the offending pirate felt an intense power tear through his chest. The others around him watched as the pirate was fired away like a missile.

Lan Jue stood where the scallywag had been. The leg that had launched him away slowly returned to the ground. The
Monarch positioned himself between the other pirates and the young woman. The light in his eyes promised violence if they tried anything else.

“Bastard!” The remaining two pirates tried to rush him.

“I said, screw off!” Lan Jue’s eyes flashed brilliant gold.

The two men staggered to a stop, like they’d hit a wall. Dumbfounded, their hearts filled with an indelible terror, they began to retreat. In the pirate world, power was the most important currency. They didn’t know why they were suddenly so frightened, but they knew it had to mean this newcomer was a strong Adept.

“Daring to touch my woman, are you guys tryin’ to die?” Lan Jue’s eyes flashed again. These guys were stronger than average. His first word of command didn’t completely overwhelm their will.

This time, Lan Jue let his aura flare. When the radiance of his strength washed over the pirates, they didn’t dare say anything else. Both of them turned around immediately and fled.
Lan Jue also surprised himself. He seemed incapable of not getting involved when a pretty damsel was in distress. The Amazons were proof of that. He shook his head in resignation and turned back. The woman was still standing there.

“If you want to avoid trouble, you should cover up. Hide your figure. There are pirates all over, after all.” Lan Jue offered.

She looked back at him blankly. Eventually she awkwardly responded. “I’m not your woman.”

“Oh…, that was just a red herring.” Lan Jue lamely explained.
She was a naïve one.

She blinked at him. “What’s a red herring?”

He looked back at her, helpless. Naïve didn’t begin to describe her.

“It means I was trying to keep you out of trouble. I lied on purpose. I’m off, take care of yourself.” He didn’t want to spend his time involved with the young woman on the eve of their operation. He was  able to confirm  her strength, standing  so
close. Definitely second or third level.

She watched him go back into the coffee shop. She thought for a moment, then strode off.

In the end Lan Jue couldn’t finish the murky water that passed for coffee before Xiaosu returned. Lan Jue exited and seamlessly fell in step beside her. “How’d it go?” he asked.

“Not bad, we can use it.” she answered. “When I snuck in everything seemed normal. None of the traps were tripped, so it looks like it was never discovered. But go ahead and guess boss; what else do you think I found?” A strange look flitted across her eyes.

“What?” He asked.

She set her jaw. “The ones from their prison.”

Lan Jue almost staggered. “The ones from the Citadel? It’s destiny!”
Xiaosu was, of course, referring to the poor children they’d found in the dungeons of the Citadel – the ones she was sure had been moved. How fortuitous that they’d choose to bring them here. It was a wise decision on their part. Who would believe that the Pontiff’s dirty secrets would be out here in the Shattered Starfields? If they get caught, they can punt the responsibility on to the dirty pirate menace. All this before one even took into account how strong the Moonfiend Pirates were, how much clout they had in the area. The Pontiff’s Citadel was protected out here.

“Boss, I’m not going to make things harder for you.” Su Xiaosu suddenly affirmed.

Lan Jue fixed her with his gaze. He understood what she was saying, and shook his head. “No, anyone with a shred of decency would do this, because it’s the right thing to do. No matter what happens, we’re going to get them out of here.”

It had been on Lan Jue’s to-do list ever since they discovered the Citadel’s dungeons. He was too weak to take on the whole organization, but here they were presented with a golden opportunity. How could he pass that up? This was his responsibility as a human being.
Xiaosu hung her head. “You’re too soft-hearted, boss. I appreciate it.”

Lan Jue looked into her reddening eyes. “We need to rework our plan if we’re adding a rescue. Is there anything like a safe room in your palace? When the fighting starts we won’t be able to spare anyone to protect them, they’ll need to be somewhere locked away. At least until the battleship arrives.”

“Yes!” She was suddenly fervent and resolute. She fluidly slipped back into being Empress.

Lan Jue nodded. “Excellent. Modify the plan, and let’s get back so we can tell the others what we discovered.”

First and Second Brigade had gathered in several of the more popular night attractions throughout Luna. They were the best places to escape notice. The Adepts of the Star Division went out of their way to show worth, silently slipping into the city by whatever means were open to them. Some slipped in through invisibility, others transformed their bodies as needed. They did what had to be done because that was the mission.

Jin Tao, for instance, transformed into a mastiff. Another one
of the soldiers who looked like a pirate led him through, like a pet. Tang Xiao was even more flagrant. He morphed himself into the image of a pirate mecha, but hollow so that his team could fit inside. The pirates themselves loaded Tang Xiao and his team into a ship and ferried them to Luna.

These were only a few examples of the Division soldiers’ tricky exploits. One by one they slipped in, unseen an ignored. After all, what was a few hundred people? The Moonfiend Pirates commanded tens of thousands, with over ten thousand mechas ready at any given time. What did they have to fear from numbers so small?

Confidence in strength was why security was so lax. For all they knew, there wasn’t anyone in the Starfields that could challenge the Moonfiend Pirates for dominance. Defense changed with psychology.

Their biggest concern was the pirate fleet. If they could avoid them, everything would be fine. If, on the other hand, they did show up, then the planet’s defenses would give them something to consider.

Lan Jue and Su Xiaosu made their way to Luna’s biggest bar. Right away they spotted the Driver, playing a drinking game
with a group of people. Lan Jue smirked and muttered to Xiaosu, “It looks like he was born for this life.”

The tactician chuckled. “So it seems. He’s an arrogant man, and there are a few he looks up toy. You have his respect.”

Lan Jue smiled, and nodded his head. “We’re friends, it’s not about respect.”

“Ey? If it isn’t Lil’ Lan come rollin’ in? Come have a drink with Brother Sai, yeah?” The Driver waved and shouted boisterously. His naturally vocal nature was catching a few sidelong glances.

Lan Jue sighed. “Can I take that back? I don’t want to be his friend anymore.”

Despite the complaints, he made his way over to his drinking buddy.

“Ah, this is the famous Brother Sai!” Lan Jue bowed and scraped dramatically. Brother Sai? The hell kind of address is that.
The Driver’s face went stiff for a moment, but he quickly recovered. “Take a seat, little Lan. The booze here isn’t bad. Hey there, girl, we’re gunna start my friend off with five Long Island iced teas, that’s a fair start.”

It was Lan Jue’s turn to wince. Five Long Islands! Did he want to kill him?

The name was a deceptive. Long Island iced teas were among the most destructive cocktails created. It was a mix of several types of booze that when imbibed, tasted no different than a sweet and refreshing beverage. You couldn’t even taste the alcohol.

The delayed effect was infamous. Even seasoned drinkers were floored by their third one. Five was clearly an assassination attempt.

“We don’t need that much, venerable elder. One is enough for me. I actually have something to talk to you about.” Lan Jue looked at his brigade commander pointedly.

Just then an explosive presence joined them. A fiery woman, svelte and beautiful, laid a hand on the Driver’s shoulder. “If
Brother Sai offers you a drink, it’s to give you respect. He offers a drink, you drink. You don’t want a drink, you drink!”

She was dressed in a way that spoke to her flagrant personality. Her long legs were hidden beneath skin-tight leather pants. Her ample gifts were restrained only by a couple palm-width leather straps crossing her chest. Her skin was pale, and her face was caked in make-up. Still, Lan Jue could see she was attractive despite all that. Her voice was high-pitched, and several eyes turned to see what the commotion was about.

Lan Jue took a quick glance at Su Xiaosu. The pirate queen quietly shook her head. This woman wasn’t one of theirs.

Lan Jue then turned his curious gaze to the Driver. Damn!
He’d managed to snag a pirate girlfriend in a matter of days.

The Driver extended an arm and the women slipped into his embrace. He stuffed a freshly clipped cigar in his mouth and lit it. “Five glasses,” he growled, “and not one less. Otherwise don’t blame me for your loss of face.”

Chapter 572: A-Mei

“Five glasses, then. I’ll help,” Su Xiaosu intruded tepidly.

The Driver sat with the busy women plastered against his chest, arms encircling his neck. “Who’s this skanky bitch,” she complained, looking Xiaosu up and down. “Skulking around, who the hell do you think you are? Get the hell out of here.”

Xiaosu answered the woman’s hostility with a small smile. “You want to know who I am?”

The woman disentangled herself from the Driver and rose to her feet. “I don’t give a shit who you think y-“ Before she finished her sentence, Xiaosu remove her mask and pulled back her hood.

The bar’s interior was dark, at first she couldn’t see clearly. Soon, though, Xiaosu’s face was revealed by  the neon lights. The pirate woman visibly shook.

She tried to scream, but before a sound could come out, a giant hand clamped down on her throat. The five Long Island iced teas arrived, soundlessly placed on the table.
The Driver took a drag of his cigar before brazenly blowing the smoke into the pirate woman’s face. He nodded at Lan Jue. “Drink.”

Xiaosu didn’t wait for her boss. She snatched one up, and guzzled it down without a second thought.

The Driver, seeing this, chuckled and looked at her with respect. “She’s quick! Little Lan, are you gunna let a girl outpace you?”

Lan Jue, helpless to convince them otherwise, took one of the glasses himself.

The effect of the iced tea had already brightened Xiaosu’s eyes. “A-Mei… that’s your name, isn’t it? Redbeard’s woman. Back in the day you were quite the seductress. Hard to count how often you made poor Redbeard a cuckold. Then you turn right around, and sick him on your poor unsuspecting lover. It’s a fascinating hobby! I hear you like to castrate them too, before they die. Or am I wrong… you’re that A-Mei, aren’t you?”

The Driver jerked. With a cigar in one hand and A-Mei’s throat in the other, he listened with increasing horror as Xiaosu
revealed her identity. A chill ran up his spine.

“Goddamnit, your Majesty, don’t scare me like that!” His voice was a little too loud. Several nearby patrons were still watching out of the corner of their eyes.

Xiaosu grinned. “Lying? Everything I’ve said is true.”

She flicked her wrist, and suddenly the whole bar was illuminated by a column of golden light. The pirates within were accustomed to the dim interior and were blinded when it suddenly changed. What followed was a chorus of grunts and muffled screams.

Over the course of a few seconds, the light dimmed and the bar darkened once again. Now, however, it was eerily silent. The only people left standing were Division soldiers.

The Driver unceremoniously chuckled A-Mei to the side. “That big chest hides one poisonous bitch. I don’t kill woman. Empress, it’s up to you.”

Mei shook uncontrollably. At first she’d thought she was
wrong. She hoped it was a trick of the light. But when that golden column appeared there could be no mistaking it. This was the Moonfiend Empress.

When Xiaosu commanded the Moonfiend Pirates, A-Mei and Redbeard were some of her eldest enemies. Their clans battled often until the Moonfiend Pirates clawed themselves up from an inferior position. Little by little she wrestled control from Redbeard and his murderous lover, nearly killing him in one encounter. They were Xiaosu’s mortal enemies.

“Empress..! Y-your Majesty!” A-Mei wailed.

Xiaosu regarded her with a cold, heartless expression. “Is Redbeard in the palace?”

A-Mei quickly nodded.

“And other than him, who else is there?” She pressed.

A-Mei’s face twitched, but she didn’t answer.
Xiaosu laughed and crouched so she was level with the pirate’s face. Her small pink tongue traced a line across her lips. “I could make you very happy. Or, I can give ten days and ten nights where you’ll wish for death. It’s your choice, but you don’t seem like the kind of woman who’d commit suicide. Especially when there’s a way out… Think about it.”

Su Xiaosu stood back up, after her ultimatum had been delivered. She snatched another Long Island iced tea, and swallowed it down without taking time to taste it.

The Driver shot Lan Jue a glance. “I’m just now seeing how dominating our Empress can be.”

This made her smirk. “What do you mean, Empress? Just a pirate boss. And when you’re a pirate boss, you have to be without scruples.”

The Driver was seeing her with new eyes. Up to this point she had stood meekly at Lan Jue’s side, like a kitten. She’d proven herself to be a brilliant tactician, but seemed to rely on Lan Jue like a servant. At last she was bearing her teeth, and his esteem for her and Lan Jue grew. For his commander to have a woman like her under his command, it meant he had some skill!
“I… I’ll tell you.” A-Mei pulled herself up on shaky legs. With a weak laugh, she added, “Your Majesty, beck to reclaim your crown. Good! That’s very good. Kill them. Every. Last. One. Hah..haha! Haha hahaha haha!” She broke into a hysterical fit of laughter.

Xiaosu rapped her knuckles against a table to get her attention. She didn’t want to waste any time. After a moment the cackling subsided and A-Mei spoke again, somewhat dazed. “Empress, may I ask for one thing?”

“Speak,” Xiaosu replied curtly.

“When I’m dead, take my ashes away from this place,” she said. “Out of the Shattered Starfields. Anywhere will do, just scatter me and leave. I don’t want to spend an afterlife in this dirty, diseased place.”

Su Xiaosu seemed struck by the comment. After a moment of silence, she nodded. “Alright.”

Mei went on. “You’re here to kill Redbeard. Then you better be careful. There’ve been a number of strong people around him lately. I think I remember hearing they were from the Pontiff’s
Citadel. Redbeard’s Discipline is his beard. He recently broke through to ninth level fifth rank. He’s much stronger than he was when you fought him. More cunning, too. Redbeard doesn’t get his hands dirty unless he absolutely has to, so only a few people know how strong he really is.”

Thanks to A-Mei’s unusual cooperation, the team was told everything about Redbeard’s organization and the state of the Moonfiend Pirates today. She gave them everything with razor- sharp clarity. The dullness in her expression before was gone, and her eyes were bright as diamonds. Halfway through she even grabbed one of the Long Island iced teas, drank it, then continued.

“ … There are two people of note around Redbeard. The obvious one is Knives. The one you don’t see is called Shadow. Both are ninth level Talents, though Shadow is stronger. You’ll need to be careful. Redbeard’s also made some additions to your Palace. There’s a hatch below his throne. At the push  of  a button it’ll open up below him, and he can escape through a tunnel. I don’t know where it leads.”

Lan Jue and the Driver exchanged looks. They figured Xiaosu would get some information out of her, but this was a wealth of inside data. If all of what she said was true, it was going to make the scouts’ jobs much easier.
“That’s all I know, do what you gotta do. Don’t forget your promise, take my bones away from here. I can’t stand the thought of staying in this piss hole.” She heaved a bitter laugh as two glittering tears rolled down her cheeks.

“What were you before you came here?” Xiaosu asked softly.

A-Mei reluctantly opened her eyes. “What does it matter?”

“If what you’ve told us is true, then I’ll think about bringing your ashes back to your hometown,” Xiaosu affirmed. “You know that the Moonfiend Empress’ word is her bond.”

“My hometown?” A-Mei’s eyes sparkled, but quickly sadness overtook her and she shook her head. “No, no need. I don’t want to tarnish my family name.”

Xiaosu scowled at her. “If you know what you do is shameful, why do you still do it? At last count a hundred men have died painful by your hand. Every one of them tortured, mutilated. Your name is bloodier than anyone’s, even Redbeard’s.”
“Hahahaha! HAHAhahahaha!” A-Mei doubled over as she howled with laughter. This time tears flowed freely and splattered against the floor.

“You’re right, my reputation is well known. Over a hundred men were my victims, even I’ve lost count how many exactly. But do you know how they treated me when I was first taken? They took turn ravaging me, disgracing me, until there wasn’t a clean inch of my body left. They wouldn’t let me go. If I was any weaker, I would have died.

“I wanted to die. I keep living just so I can take revenge on these filthy animals. An eye for an eye. One by one I stalked them and took them down. What power did I have? I had to rely on my charms. The pigs couldn’t control themselves when they saw my body. Then I told Redbeard, hoping it would eat him up inside. But to my surprise he didn’t want to kill me. On the contrary, he loved it. That crazy bastard… he didn’t kill me, and instead I helped him kill many more. The manner didn’t both me – I was happy just killing pirates.”

In China, a man whose wife is sleeping around on him is said to be ‘wearing a green hat.’

Indelible ties to one’s ‘hometown’ is a crucial part of Chinese
culture. Hometowns, however, are somewhat ‘passed down’ from parents. Many people move from villages into cities then have children. Even though their children were born in the city, they still identity their hometown as that of their parents, and return there with them every year for holidays.

Chapter 573: I’ll Send Her Home

Tears trickled down A-Mei’s face. Everything she’d lost flashed before her eyes. She had had parents she loved, a prosperous family, a childhood sweetheart… All of it was lost the day the pirates took her. It was like she’d fallen into the depths of hell. Worse, a world of pirates.

In three painful years she was transformed from a sweet girl to a deadly spider, willing to do whatever it took to get vengeance. By the end no man dared come near her.

Today had been dry until at least a new mark from off-world came wandering into her clutches. Good, she’d thought, another victim. It was the only thing that got her poison heart racing anymore.

The other soldiers looked on, silent as A-Mei wavered between sobbing cries and mad laughter. Their missions through the Starfields had filled some of them with hesitation.  This  had been a one-sided slaughter, and they hadn’t seen much evidence of how terrible the pirates really were. This woman’s story was a reminder of why they were here.

The Driver slowly rose to his feet. He pushed his seat back,
and walked with heavy, thudding steps until he was in front of A-Mei.

“You’re going to do it? That’s fine, come on then. At least you’re not a real pirate.” A-Mei pulled her shoulders back and looked the Driver in the face. There was no trace of fear in her eyes.

Bang! The Drive pulled back a fist, then it came crashing into the bronze skin of his own face. Welts were his knuckles made contact were starting to show.

The pirate gasped and staggered back. The Driver’s eyes never left hers. “I’m sorry,” he growled.

He extended a hand and pulled A-Mei behind him before turning back to Xiaosu. “This woman is under my protection. I want to send her home.”

Xiaosu regarded him with a hard gaze. “You agree to accept all responsibility for what she does? Have you thought about if she’s a spy? Or if she kills again?”
The Driver was quiet for a time before answering. “She’ll be by my side the whole time, under my supervision. If she is a spy, I’ll kill her myself. For now, I’m protecting her.”

Unexpectedly, Xiaosu replied with a nod and a sweet smile. “Alright.” She wandered back over to Lan Jue. There was one more Long Island iced tea, and she had no qualms taking it for her own. She drank this one with slower sips.

The Driver looked at her with a dumbfounded expression. “That’s is?”

She waggled a hand at him dismissively. “She’s all yours, I’ve given my answer. What else do you want?”

He looked at Xiaosu’s placid expression, then to the motionless Lan Jue seated nearby. “Why do I feel like I’m being tricked,” he muttered.

A-Mei was just as surprised. She was ready to pay with her life for her crimes, but life had other plans. This large, scruffy man intervened to spare her and bring her home. And the Moonfiend Empress agreed!
Lan Jue nodded at the Driver. “When things kick off, bring her along. One more person in your mecha shouldn’t be a problem, should it?”

The Driver shook his head.

Xiaosu then turned to Lan Jue. “Boss, we need to talk. With A- Mei’s information we can perfect our plan.”

“Hm,” he grunted in agreement

Su Xiaosu quickly gathered the Division leaders together in the bar. A-Mei stood beside the Driver in a daze. Where they really just going to leave her to her own devices like this? And was that man being honest? Was he really going to take her home?

“May I change my clothes?” She suddenly asked.

“Go ahead,” the Driver responded.

She didn’t move. “You’re just going to trust me? You’re not
afraid I’m going to run?”

“First, you can’t run,” the Diver said bluntly. “And if I misjudge you then I’ll gouge out my own eyes. I bullied you terrible when I ran into you. I hit myself as an apology. Relax, so long as I’m breathing you will get back home. I may not be a good man, but when I make a promise I stick to it the best I’m able. You’re also no fool, and you know the alternative is to stay here. Let me tell you, we are not pirates. We’re here specifically to kill them. Now go change clothes.”

The pirate mistress turned and left. The Driver didn’t even watch her go. True to his word, he trusted her.

A-Mei’s face was wet with tears even before she reached the back of the bar. Could this be the start of another dramatic change in her life?

Su Xiaosu got the meeting underway. She laid out everyone’s next tasks in detail. The attack would once again commence at dawn, when the pirates were at their least attentive. She shared their decisions with Majesty one and confirmed when to start.

Their primary target didn’t change, they were hitting the
main planet first. Majesty and the Photographer were to handle the rest.

Everything had to work in perfect harmony. If a single thing went wrong, the whole plan could collapse.

Mei returned. When she went back to her spot at the Driver’s side, her new protector could only stare. He couldn’t draw his eyes away.

She was even more beautiful without all of the makeup. Purer, almost delicate. Her body was encased in a tracksuit like she was preparing for a spring stroll. With her new wardrobe she looked like she was in her mid-twenties. She certainly turned heads.

To think of what happened to her lit a fire in the Driver’s chest that threatened to explode. Redbeard, ey!

A-Mei didn’t stand around. She knew the bar well enough, and handed out drinks to the soldiers. Everyone treated her well. She found that when they looked at her, it was with pity, not contempt. The madness within her fizzled away. No matter what was going to happen, they’d given her hope.
The meeting lasted an hour before the details were ironed out. Once it was complete everyone went about their own business. Aside from a couple guards to keep the curious at bay, the Star Division soldiers rested before the operation began.

Third and Fourth Brigades had also arrived at the bar. Zeus-1 was ready to lend support. The Gourmet and the Pharmacist were waiting near their targets.

Everything was in place.

Darkness hung over the city like a specter, bringing silence in its wake. Strange sounds would echo from time to time as illicit dealings happened in dark corners, but these were common. This was a corrupt city in a corrupt world.

Su Xiaosu sat by the entrance to the bar with her arms wrapped around her knees. She stared out onto the streets with a far-away expression.

“What’s up? What are you thinking about?” Lan Jue took a seat beside her.
She sighed. “There are so many women in the Shattered Starfields with a story like A-Mei’s. I can’t tell you how many I’ve heard, each one like a dagger in the chest. Most women kill themselves after they’ve been raped. Only the beautiful and the strong survive.”

“That comes from corruption and evil. When we’ve cleaned up the Starfields, all of that will stop. I know there will always be evil, but after the aliens are dealt with, they will be cleansed again. Whether it’s five years, ten years, twenty years down the line, we will keep this place free from the nightmare these women had to live through. We’ll erase the pirate infestation wherever it crops up.”

Xiaosu’s eyes lit up as she gently placed her head on his shoulder. “You know boss, I’ve always liked you. I love your kind heart.”

Lan Jue jerked. He could tell she was in a vulnerable place right now. Did she not have her own life full of misery and despair? Only she knew the breadth of torment she’d had to endure just to survive initiation into the Citadel. Every day in the perilous world of piracy was a test of willpower. Every decision had to be met with strength and ferocity or she would drown in their sin.
Right now she didn’t need to be told no. All she really wanted was a solid shoulder to lean on.

Su Xiaosu shut her eyes. She stayed like that with her head on his shoulder, silent, hardly moving. Eventually Lan Jue felt her breathing deepen, and she fell asleep.

Exhausted didn’t begin to describe the former Empress. She was the true force behind the Star Division.

Sometime later Xiaosu shot awake with a gasp. In a blink she was wide awake with murder in her pretty eyes.

“It’s time!” She shot to her feet and let out a shrill whistle.

Lan Jue looked at the vibrant Moonfiend Empress at his side. Her enthusiasm brought a smile to his face. This was their true Queen! She never felt like she fit in before, but Archangel or Empress she did not wish to be lonely. Perhaps the Star Division would be what she sought.

Lan Jue stood as well, then silently launched himself into the air. He gently landed on the roof and cast his eyes into the
distance. He could see them, shadowy figures racing through dark streets. It was starting!

The Driver appeared at his side. “Let’s go. We’ve got this.”

“Yeah.”

The two of them rose into the air. Their task was simple; enter the palace and take the enemy’s seat of power. When they had the palace, they had their hands on the controls, including the railgun. With the fortress’ defenses they would be fortified for the next attack.

The Moonfiend Palace appeared on the horizon. Dawn was approaching, but the evening lights surrounding the palace twinkled charmingly.

Lan Jue and the Driver tumbled to the ground silently like leaves on the wind. They vanished in the dark corners of the streets. Lan Jue narrowed his eyes, nodding at the Driver. The two men became bolts of lightning, and in a flash vanished from sight. The ring of lights surrounding the structure flickered, but quickly returned to normal.
When Xiaosu built the palace, she made it look like an old fortress. However, beneath the stones were a great number of metal instruments and alloy supports. They were for all intents and purposes storming a castle.

Chapter 574: In Full Swing

When the Pontiff’s men came for her, they came in the guise of friendship. Had they been an obvious foe, invasion would have been difficult. However, it wasn’t proving impossible for Lan Jue and the Driver. Any metallic structure was like a house with paper walls to them. Trying to insulate a place this large from electricity was difficult, there were bound to be openings. Xiaosu also confessed that it wasn’t a concern for her when designing the structure’s defenses.

She still remembered the architecture like the back of her hand. While they went over the plan, she’d drawn out maps for Lan Jue and the Driver. They used it to direct them to the fortress’ heart, where the defenses controls were kept. It also showed them where the leaderships’ chambers were located.

Their highest priority was disabling the planetary defenses. With their fortifications down, Majesty could take the fight to the other planet. They raced through the structure as bolts of lightning until they reached the control center. Because it was to be manned constantly, the center also boasted a fully equipped dormitory.

Fundamentally similar to the Red Widows’ systems, this control room was responsible for the planetary and fortress
defenses. However, its expanded scale needed thirty men to manage instead of a handful. At night, though, they split the shift in half.

Every corner of the control room had a mecha standing as silent sentinels. The roof was peppered with turrets – internal security measures. Xiaosu was a ninth level Talent, so she knew what kind of havoc an Adept of that level could do if they got in. She had no illusion that these mechas and turrets would stop an Adept. But they would delay them.

She told them that the control room was designed as a self- sealing prison. If the alarm was tripped everyone inside was locked in, but the defenses switched to autopilot. A strong upgrade from the one they encountered from the Red Widows.

The take-away; don’t trip the alarm.

The Accountant was in charge of that. He designed their response to this problem using the building’s circuitry. That’s why Lan Jue and the Driver were necessary. Lan Jue’s task was to disable all eight alarm triggers before they had a chance to go off. Meanwhile, the Driver stood by ready to insert the Accountant’s code into the system once Lan Jue was done. That would give their jittery hacker complete remote access.
The two tasks had to be done at almost precisely the same moment. If not, the recursive system checks would spot a problem.

The mechas were a non-issue.

“Go!” Lan Jue whispered. Eight bolts of lightning slithered away in one blast. For a moment the control room went dark, but quickly returned to normal.

“What the hell was that?” The pirates had begun to doze off, but the sudden flash had shaken them awake.

“Am I going blind or did we have a blackout?” Another pirate asked.

“You’re probably blind, it was nothing. Everything looks normal to me, and there’s an hour left on our shift. Next time you’ll know better than to drink so much before work.”

ζ
Space around the three main planets.

The Accountant’s face was lit by one of the many flickering screens aboard Majesty. His fingers were a blur as they made their way back and forth across the keyboard. Strings of data filled his eyes. The rest of his team were just as busy, silently toiling away at their stations.

“We have control. Battle preparations are complete.”

“Locked on. Target; secondary planet alpha. Awaiting orders.”

The Accountant didn’t hear their reports. All of his focus was on the screen in front of him. Two minutes later his finger triumphantly jabbed the enter key. His screen became alive with scrolling lines of code.

“Got it! Whew, that’s one hell of an encryption. You’re lucky you know me. Anyone else, and this would have taken them three whole days. By then the whole system would have reset itself a dozen times.”
“Jewelry Master, it’s taken care of. Begin!” He shot a quick message to Lan Jue then took control of Majesty. Under the veil provided by the Blinding Stone, the battleship slipped through the darkness of space toward their target.

In the palace control room, two flashes of lightning heralded the appearance of Lan Jue and the Driver. In a brief hail of electricity, the pirates inside collapsed. The mecha suits began to react, but the two Division leaders were faster.

Lan Jue’s palm shot out, and a pair of golden lightning bolts impaled two of the mecha sentinels. They were normal military issue, and no hope of defending against his attacks. The controls inside were instantly destroyed. The Driver’s attack was the same, though his lightning was a bright silver in hue.

“Majesty. Control room secured.”

The Accountant’s voice replied. “I’ve shut off all monitoring and alarm equipment. You’re clear.” With root control of the systems, disabling anything was quick as a thought for the Accountant. Their defenses were frozen.

Lan Jue pulled his communicator up to his face. “Star
Division, move out! Go, go, go!”

A host of dark figures converged on the Moonfiend Palace. From a nearby building Su Xiaosu opened a hidden tunnel that would lead her into the heart of her former seat of power.

Outside of the city, the planets’ five airship hangars also found themselves the center of unwanted attention.

The Coffee Master took the last sip of his Blue Mountain coffee. With a small, self-satisfied smile he waved his hand.

“Boom–!” A thunderous explosion shook the ground. An hangar some yards away had its roof blasted clean off as blames belched from the ruin. The energy containment systems of one of the battleships had detonated. They were like fireworks. The blast was followed by another, and another, as the hangar became burning fields of debris.

Installing and detonating the explosives had gone without a hitch – smoother than the Coffee Master had expected. His Third Brigade consisted of thirteen units, each with unique sets of skills. One of them had an Adept, seventh level, who could travel through the ground and bring people with him.
Another Adept could condense their Discipline into a delayed charged electrical bomb. He could maintain them for three days, and detonate them with a thought. He was ninth level second degree, one of the Brigade’s strongest.

Another had X-ray vision strong enough to penetrate anything up to the hull of a Mothership.

In combat, these Adepts had limited utility. However, they were perfectly suited for this sort of guerilla warfare. For instance, they had a sixth level Adept as well who was proficient with locks. Fingerprint, retinal, digital, combination – it didn’t matter. With such a wonderful utility, installing the bombs took less than three hours.

The beautiful pillars of fire were their reward for a job well done.

“Start the ship, we’ve got places to be.” The Coffee Master chortled.

With their mission complete, the soldiers piled into the battleship now humming beneath their feet. This was their prize, a trophy they could ride into battle.
In another hangar, the Bartender gave him commands at the same time. His dual-headed, red and blue hued mecha exploded into the sky. Two beams of lights were belched from the mechas mouths, reducing everything before it to rubble.

This wasn’t the mecha itself that produced such destruction. The Bartender had coalesced his power while they waited. All of his power was put into this one attack, strengthening it to the level of a battleship’s main cannon.

Boomm-mm-mm. The rumbling explosion draw the eye. Where once was an airship hangar, now roiled a smoldering mushroom cloud. The pirates inside didn’t even know what hit them.

Priorities were different out here. The pirates were trained to protect assets, not jump at the first sign of battle. There were only enough pirates to man the boats when they were preparing to attack. They did not anticipate a strike from within.

The Bartender was pleasantly surprised by how easy infiltration had been. His Fourth Brigade was specialized in reconnaissance. It was not difficult to stealthily sneak into the hangar and begin preparations.
Bahamut’s attacks first made contact with the hangar’s air control center. With it in ruins, the pirates had no way to contact the outside world. Their complete annihilation was assured. A series of explosions continued as the fires raged in what remained of the airship hangar.

In addition to the Coffee Master’s group, Fourth Brigade only had enough men to man a single battleship. It was the only way to avoid problems down the road. More explosions ripped through the air as friendly mechas flew by, solidifying their hold.

Third and Fourth Brigade proved today how effective they were at commando missions.

Chapter 575: Underworld

Ten-man teams of mechas converged on the hangar, blowing apart anything in their path. The wholly unprepared ships were quickly dealt with. They also had plenty of explosives to get the job done. The Bartender and the Coffee Master had done their parts.

It was all too fast, too furious. They didn’t even have time to respond before their lives were snuffed out, mounting no measure of defense.

The Gourmet was suspended in air, five hundred meters above the hangar below. It shed the darkness thanks to a host of flickering lamps. The Paragons face was calm as a lake surface. The hangar he was responsible for was the largest one.

His communicator vibrated. It was a sign – his eyes narrowed, and he pressed his hands together in front of his chest.

Waves of dull grey light gushed from the Gourmet, swallowing up the world around him. On a dark night like this, even pirates looking straight up wouldn’t have noticed anything different. All of their detection equipment meant nothing when considering a Paragon.
Far far away they heard the rumble. Moments later, the hangar descended into chaos.

A tall pirate stumbled from his room, howling to his compatriots. “What the hell is that? Did two hangars just get attacked?”

The pirate brought up his left arm and hurriedly dialed in a number. “Attention personnel of Devil Razor hangar. Attention personnel. Man your ships as fast as you can. Engage, find the enemy and engage!”

Each of the hangars and their ships were placed under a single clan’s command. This hangar belonged to the Devil Razors, who were famous for their speed and ferocity. Two battleships and a dozen patrol boats were under their command.

The leader of the small armada was also the pirate chief. They called him Archdevil. He was a ninth level, first rank Adept with a wealth of combat experience and no moral compass. His masterful command was only matched by his poisoned reputation. Man, woman, young, or old – not a soul was left when he was dispatched.
Pirates began to burst out of the dormitories. The battleships hummed as they prepared for lift-off. Archdevil then ran to his flagship. They didn’t have a plan or anyone to save but themselves. A pirate’s priority was always their own safety first.

Startled at first, the pirate chief was calm and collected now. Two of the hangars had been attacked. He knew these clans and their leaders. His first instinct wasn’t an outside foe, but internal conflict. After all, their planetary defenses were impenetrable! You’d need a lot of people to hit two hangars at once. How would you get them in unseen?

The Moonfiend Pirates had been in control for a while, but not everyone walked to the beat of the same drum. The Moonfiend Pirates were an alliance of clans that shared a common interest. As big as they were, they couldn’t compare to a hundred smaller clans working against it. That’s why many of the clans joined, but weren’t behind them one hundred percent. Without Redbeard’s decision to dissolve his own clan into the Moonfiend Pirates, there’d be a lot more unrest and cessation.

With these considerations in mind, Archdevil’s snap judgement was that this was a purge – Redbeard clearing the deck of possible mutineers. He tried to get in touch with Luna for more information, but communications seemed to be down. They were in the dark.
The silence made him all the more nervous. Archdevil quickly boarded his battleship, his mind racing. At least as commander of the small fleet he had a bargaining chip. Fleeing was not an option, however. The moment they rose to a certain height the planet’s guns would be trained on them.

Archdevil’s mind raced, considering various strategies and consequences when suddenly he felt a crushing pressure bearing down on him. He was a ninth level Talent, with all the perception enhancements that came with it. He lifted his head and was surprised to find the stars hidden beneath an overcast sky. That was where the pressure was coming from. An indescribable fear crept into his heart as he watched the ominous heavens.

What… what is that?

He cast his eyes further, toward the horizon. Far away he could see the stars twinkling dimly against the night sky, but here they were absent. The airspace over the hangar was blanketed by some ineffable power.

“The enemy is attacking!” He voice boomed across the field, empowered by his Discipline. In the same instant there was a flash as he summoned his mecha – a jet-black suit darker than a
shadow.

He made the right decision. Battleships were lumbering, they reacted slowly. Although he didn’t know what this grey sky heralded, he knew it was beyond his scope to handle alone. In situations like this, you fled to fight another day. Mecha suits were more reliable for that then bulky battleships. Archdevil was confident his Discipline and the support of the suit would help him escape unscathed.

There wasn’t any time to worry about anything else. All he was interested in was staying alive.

He almost didn’t notice when the world around him changed. The lights illuminating the base brightened for no discernable reason. They glowed with an uncomfortable sanguine light.

The brighter the red light became, the harder it became for the pirates to move. They struggled mightily, but it was like trying to swim through molasses. Everything felt immediately claustrophobic. Some felt it hard to breathe. Now, every eye was straining to peer at the sinister sky.

The scene that greeted them was the strangest they would
ever see. The air had become crimson, and orbs of dark red slowly descended from on high. They were dazzling, and shimmered with red light. Their interior was smoky and mysterious, like some mysterious power trying to disguise the light.

IT all felt so strange, difficult for them to put into words. They watched enthralled and helpless as the orbs descended upon the hangar.

The first orb silently fell upon one of the battleships. There was a saying that went, ‘the heavens fall upon the highest point first.’ This was proven true, as one of the pirate battleships became the first to enjoy the ‘fun’ these crimson bubbles bore.

“Poof!” The intimidating bubble popped in a way that would delight any small child. As it did, the cloud of mist it bore spread out. From the ground pirates watched in horror as the mighty hull of their battleship was soundlessly eaten away. It was as though the aimless cloud had taken an enormous bite out of it.

One after the other the bubbles fell. There were no explosions, or screams, or blasts. It was silent as the grave, and that made the scene all the more terrifying. The mist was as destructive as a magma flow. The pirates helplessly watched as they were
devoured, piece by piece, by the slow-moving bubbles.

The smart and lucky ones – like Archdevil – were in their mechas before the bubbles started falling. They fought against the clinging air to escape before they could become victims of the evil mist.

The pirates in their battleships were the unlucky ones. They had nowhere to run. This was the Infernal Vanguard’s Domain – the Underworld!

The Gourmet remained suspended in air. The red light poured out of him. He paid no mind to the pirates who attempted to flee, and in fact looked at nothing. His eyes were cast calmly into the distance. At this level in his cultivation he could command protogenia, but he also had to obey it. It was just as Luo Xianni said, Paragons had rules. They couldn’t kill carelessly if they wanted to hold on to their humanity. So he let the ones who were fast enough escape unmolested. His purpose was to destroy the hangar. That would be enough.

Five minutes later, the skies were clear. There was no mist and no ominous red light. All that remained was a strangely jagged landscape. It looked like the hangar had been the victim of a meteor shower. All signs of ships buildings or people were
gone – swallowed by the Underworld.

The Gourmet grinned, then vanished. Stillness was all that remained.

ζ

The Pharmacist walked unhurriedly toward the metal door. It was locked, which was to be expected of an important pirate installation in the dead of night. Of the five hangars, this one was the smallest.

“This is a restricted area. Please vacate immediately.” A harsh electric voice called the warning. A red light snapped to life, illuminating the Pharmacist from above.

Chapter 576: Pitched Fighting

The Pharmacist was in her preferred garb, an old-style qipao. Aside from when necessary under Lan Jue’s command, she preferred comfortable civilian clothes.

The stopped in her advance, fixing her eyes on the hangar’s watchtower.

Within the airship hangar.

“Ey? Who’s this lady? She looks like she’d be a good time!” The scene was revealed two a couple pirates, looking over the security monitors. They stared in curiosity.

“Should we tell the boss? It’s weird for a woman to show up in the middle of the night like this.” A somewhat older pirate asked.

“Ah, why should we. What do we get from telling them anything? Look, it’s early, no one’s around. I’m sure we could find a quiet place to show the lady around, you know what I’m saying? Would having a good time be such a bad thing? Then we get rid of her – what the boss doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”
The pirate who was trying to coerce them was an obscene, evil man. Rotten thoughts swam through his head when suddenly, much to his surprise, the woman became the center of a blazing light. Then their screens went dark.

“An attack… ? Attack!” The few napping pirates in the surveillance room were sharply awakened by his cries. Alarms began to screech across the whole hangar. The sides of the watchtower nearby fell away, spewing dazzling waterfalls of sparks.

As the alarms rang, the Pharmacist was on the move. She rose into the air as though she were treading on clouds. In a few long strides she was inside the hangar.

Twinkling lights set stark shadows as seven brilliant stars blinked into existence. Radiantly they burned, an enormous sword appeared in their midst. Woosh! One of the patrol boats nearest to the weapon was sliced cleanly in two. As the pirates looked on in terror, the massive sword fractured into hundreds of copies. Deadly whirlwinds of steel lashed out in every direction.

Staff in the monitoring room had engaged all of the small hangar’s defenses. Curtains of light flashes as the systems
reacted to the incursion. Shields crackled to life around the remaining ships. The Pharmacist soared into the dark sky and vanished from view. Yet the light she discharged, and the army of blades at her command, descended upon the hangar like the apocalypse.

Spears of light pierced everything, buffeting the hangar’s interior with raging tides of energy. Many pirates were caught up and thrown hundreds of meters away from the force. None had an opportunity to get into the warehouse’s mecha suits.

The shields proved to be worth their cost. Not all of the ships were immediately destroyed when the Pharmacist’s swords made contact. At least, so it went for their initial contact. When the second wave of swords arrived the ships were reduced to strips of metal. Then the swords were headed for the battleship.

The first sword struck the shield. It flickered, but held. The second hit, then the third, and the fourth. Every single one struck in precisely the same spot. In the blink of an eye a hundred of them overwhelmed the shield.

Boom–!
An explosion ripped through the battleship, sending burning debris everywhere. A hundred more of the Pharmacist’s frightening weapon carved at the beleaguered hull. By the time mecha reinforcements arrived, their battleship was an unrecognizable hunk of scrap metal.

Altogether, the small airfield was around a hundred square meters. The Pharmacist turned it into a junk heap with a flick of her wrist. Every living thing was summarily silence. Their tomb was the jagged husks of their ships and mechas.

She didn’t have the same restrictions that bound the Gourmet. She wasn’t a Paragon who had to adhere to protogenia’s morals. Besides, her Discipline was rooted in righteousness. It was her path to Paragon, something she discovered with the help of her Banishing Blade.

Her conscience was clear. Let this be a massacre. Have these wicked men purged. Their work was good in a place consumed by evil!

She gave them no quarter. Every cutting sword was an extension of her will, going where she commanded. The hangar’s defenses might as well have been turned off.
Fifteen minutes later the Pharmacist calmly walked from a silent air field. She looked like an old painting, a maiden taking a summer stroll through a courtyard. She dialed a number into her communicator.

“It’s done. They’ve been exterminated.”

ζ

“Prepare for battle!” Mika’s fierce voice shouted through the bridge of Zeus-1. Engines roared as the ship took off from planet Moonfiend. Stealth was engaged the moment they  were airborne.

There was a considerable gulf between the battle capabilities of Majesty and Zeus-1. They were different classes of ship, after all. However, Zeus-1 did have its advantages, and that was agility. It excelled for infiltration, evasion and combat on a planet’s surface.

Majesty couldn’t fight in confined quarters, for the fact that their weapons were too destructive. In such close proximity, there was a danger it could destroy itself. Majesty was better suited for orbital bombardment, or interstellar combat.
Lan Jue determined Zeus-1 was better for the job of laying waste to an airship hangar. In fact, Zeus-1 had the most important mission. Not only was it crew responsible for the base, they had to run support for the whole  Division  and support logistics as well. When the main assault began, Zeus-1 would be needed even more.

Their target was fast approaching.

“Charging is complete. Weapons are primed and ready!” Xiuxiu’s sweet voice gave the report. Weapons systems were her and Ke’er’s responsibility. Lin Guoguo, the Psychic Tide, was their intelligence and communications expert. Mika had the master controls.

Zeus-1 soared through the air like a nightingale, a silent breeze. No radar would see them through the Blinding Stone. Hidden away from view were the crackling barrels of the ship’s primary and secondary weapons.

After the Keeper and Bookkeeper got their hands on it, Zeus-1 was a whole new ship. Calling it an upgrade wasn’t going far enough.
“All weapons, prepare to fire.” Lin Guoguo sat in Lan Jue’s usual chair. The familiar metal helmet was fitted on her head. Channeling her psychic powers through the ship, there was nothing in the airfield hidden from her sight.

Beeps chirped through the bridge, confirming locks on the pirate ships below. The unshielded battleship was in the center of their crosshairs.

“Fire!”

Beams of radiant blue light erupted from Zeus-1’s weapons, turning the dim cannons into fountains of death. Sixteen turrets and its main gun released their payload all at once on the unsuspecting pirates.

Lin Guoguo set the targeting; five smaller turrets per patrol boat, and the main guns right on their battleship. In total, thirteen pirate ships were removed from action after the initial barrage.

Star Division prided itself on unconventional tactics. One could argue it was the key to their continued success. What enemy would expect to have the skies over their airfield open up
and rain destruction on them, without any warning from their radar?

Cloaking was taxing for the ship’s energy reserves, so it was mostly used to evade enemies during attack. However, there were circumstances when it could be used offensively. The suddenness and the violence of their entrance knocked the pirates off guard. The enemy ships were struck by the light- based weapons so fast their ships couldn’t switch on in time.

The scene below Zeus-1’s bridge was a vision of blooming fireballs. Explosions rolled like thunder. An afterimage of the main cannon’s payload burned a path all the way to the remains of a battleships. One pirate battleship remained.

If this had been in space with the pirate battleship’s shields in place, a direct hit like that would have caused some damage. One could imagine what happens when Zeus-1 catches a ship unprepared.

Ke’er, her eyes ablaze, began charging the weapons for a second volley. Her hands gripped the table, and through it she poured her Discipline into the ship’s systems. No ninth level Adept could match the destructive power of a battleship, but they could use their Discipline with one for tremendous results.
Aside from piloting mechas, strong Adepts were also well suited for battleship weapons control. The technology in weapon systems for Command ships or better far outstripped what one or even two Adepts could conjure together.

Mika scowled. “It’s like they’re made of paper. No push-back whatsoever.”

Xiuxiu smirked. “They’re not weak, we’re too strong! Too much for them to handle.”

“Yeah,” Mika nodded, accepting her sister’s determination.

Previously, they’d been so careful to use their full strength during training. Their soldiers were still green, so they’d held back against the smaller foes. Typically, their earlier missions could have been finished in a matter of minutes.

This time was different. Everyone was involved, even the Gourmet. The full might of Star Division was on display. When Lan Jue said this would be a test of the Division, this is what he meant.
The campaign was in full swing. IT was time to show the Starfields was Star Division could do.

Chapter 577: Crossing Paths

Their mission was done. Most of the ships were in flames. The battleship that was spared Zeus-1’s barrage sit in the middle of a burning ruin. Soon the ships beside it would explode. With the destruction that would cause, it would be days before the ship could fly. The air field’s defenses were obliterated before they could be turned on.

On Luna, at the Moonfiend Palace, the mission continued.

The Driver and Lan Jue took over the main controls, then began passing orders to their troops. They still had a lot to do.

Lan Jue rushed to the main controls, connecting to Majesty to help decrypt the pirate’s systems. Su Xiaosu had given the Accountant a wealth of information on them, which made cracking in a breeze.

“I’m in,” the Accountant confirmed.”

They could hear explosions in the distance. Alarms were going off all across their monitors. This was the central control room for more than just the palace. It monitors the planet’s defense
systems and satellites, too. Once an alarm was tripped on an airfield, it showed up on their screens.

A grin spread across Lan Jue’s face. He shot the Driver a thumbs-up. The Driver responded with a nod to say he was ready.

“Xiaosu, how’s it going on your end?” Lan Jue spoke into his communicator.

Su Xiaosu’s voice returned. “We’re in the tunnel, all set.”

“Good. When you’re ready.” Lan Jue then turned back to the main controls. “Majesty, engage the fortress’ defenses.”

“Got it!” The Accountant was frugal with his words when needed. In fact he was less a man and more a robot. His eyes flashed erratically with strings of code, and a dim light hung over him.

Moonfiend Palace.
A deep, low rumble shuddered through the palace. The earth quaked and shook dust from the surrounding buildings. Outside, the walls that separated Luna from the palace began to rise from the ground. The whole structure was lifting into the air.

Floodlights cracked as they sparked to life. They shone from the palace towers like a dozen eyes. Inside, metal walls shot up from the floor, compartmentalizing everything. A dim, reddish- orange membrane of light hung over the exterior.

A few minutes later, Moonfiend Palace was clear of the ground. Alloy walls and energy shielding turned the  quaint castle into a scaled-down Bastion ship. As if to prove the point, a massive gun emerged from the peak of the  palace’s  tallest tower. Slowly it extended, ominously preparing to annihilate whatever it pointed at.

Within the control center, Lan Jue turned to the Driver. “Head to the railgun, I’ll take care of things on this end.”

The Driver was surprised. “I thought the plan was to defend this place. Where are you planning on going?”
Lan Jue smirked. “I sense a presence; a presence of an old friend. I’ll stay here, you go ahead. Don’t delay.”

The Driver was wise enough to know this was not the time for nonsense. He didn’t know why Lan Jue suddenly changed the plan, but he changed into a bolt of electricity and shot toward his new target.

Star Division’s objectives were straight-forward; take the Palace, and engage its defenses. First and Second Brigade were to flood the halls and deal with the pirates within. Once the Palace was under their control, they would use it to eradicate the remaining enemy forces. Moonfiend air fields lay in ruin. So long as the Star Division kept their cool, their chance at victory were good.

Of course, this was easier said than done. There were a lot of moving parts that had to work in perfect harmony. If any of the pirate ships got off the ground, it would put a great deal of pressure on the Division’s ground forces.

Taking the palace was integral to their plans, but was not an easy target. The foes within were the best of the clan. Enemies would be strong, and numerous. The Clan’ leadership was certain to be here. Taking it without losing a soldier would be
tough.

Meanwhile, Majesty was responsible for pinning down a whole planet. The Photographer had to erase one from reality for several hours. Every cog in their war machine had to do their job flawlessly. It was the only way their plan would succeed.

As Lan Jue looked over the monitors, there was a flash of light in the control room. He was joined by another man. When Lan Jue saw who it was, he grinned.

“My old friend, it’s been a while.” He smiled amicably to the newcomer.

Gabriel’s reaction to seeing Lan Jue was different. He was stunned, never having imagined he would show up here. The angel’s heart sank.

The sudden alarms had interrupted his cultivating. He’d felt an ominous wave pass through him, an inexplicable fear that spread through his whole body. It had been a long time since he’d felt anything like that. He couldn’t imagine what would cause it.
After his earlier correspondence with Redbeard, Gabriel later heard from the pirate that the main control room had come under assault. The fortress’ defenses were under enemy command and they had to get them back. Gabriel, the Messenger of Death, rushed to the scene.

The last person he expected to run in to was Zeus.

Gabriel had been there with Michael and Raphael, right here on this planet, when the trap had been lain for Lan Jue. They had been dispatched here to kill him. The old adage rings true that every dog had its day, and fate had chosen now to bring these two old enemies together on a familiar battlefield. By why? Shouldn’t Zeus have been on Skyfire Avenue? What was he doing all the way out here?

Gabriel was very much aware of how terrifying the man before him could be. He’d seen it with his own eyes at the Great Adept Tournament. Honestly, the angel knew he was no match for the Monarch.

A corona of holy light sprang up around Gabriel. His shields.

“Why are you here?” Gabriel demanded.
Lan Jue replied with a smirk. “Why are you here, Gabriel? Strange that we should meet here – us and the most righteous Pontiff’s Citadel. My, if your followers ever found out it would be catastrophic.”

Anger flashes in Gabriel’s cold eyes. “Did you come for me?”

Lan Jue shook his head. “You think too highly of yourself. Certainly not special enough to have me drag myself all the way out here.”

The Archangel’s eyes narrowed, but expertly stifled his anger. “Then why in the galaxy have you come?”

Lan Jue tepidly explained. “I’m a bit of a confessed germophobe. If something’s dirty, I have a compulsion to wipe it clean. The Moonfiend Pirates used to be clean, but they’ve since come under new management. Things have gotten murky.”

Understanding dawned on the Pontiff’s man. “So it was your treacherous hand that’s strangled all those pirate clans. You…”
Lan Jue’s stare hardened. “Treacherous hand? Eliminating evil is the work of good men, or is that not something they teach you in the Citadel? Perhaps I should show you what I’m talking about.”

Gabriel’s heart was racing. His dark eyes were pinned to Lan Jue’s. “Your goals are exactly the same as ours, just different methods. If Skyfire Avenue is here to stake a claim I’m sure something can be negotiated. Have you forgotten our shared enemy? Did you know that I had gotten several of the pirate clans to agree to join in the defense of humanity when those aliens arrive? But you’ve slaughtered them all. Was that Skyfire Avenue’s intention?”

This made the Monarch chuckle. “Are you afraid? Nothing you say means anything. All I know, is that you need to make sure you’re running a tight ship if you want it to weather a storm. If we don’t cut out the cancer of piracy now, they’ll rise against us when the aliens arrive – right when we’re at our most vulnerable. You’re right – we share the same enemy. So if you behave yourself and stay right here, then I’ll return you to the Citadel when we’re finished.”

Gabriel was stunned. “You’re that confident? You’re standing on planet Moonfiend! It’s called that for a reason. Do you have any idea how many pirates there are stationed here? My best
guess is you’ve brought no more than three battleships!”

Another chuckle shook Lan Jue. He turned away from Gabriel and tapped at the keyboard before him.

Screens all throughout the control room flickered to life. Each one showed scenes of desolation and raging fires. Gabriel’s time on Moonfiend was long, he knew he was looking at.

Gabriel opened his mouth to speak when suddenly a group of men burst into the room. A telling flood of energy surrounded them. Their leader was a large man with a fiery red beard, who looked to be in a very bad mood.

“Master Gabriel!” Redbeard was surprised by the angel’s presence, but before he spoke further he noticed Lan Jue. The pirate leader’s eyes narrowed, and in an instant his face changed. He saw the images of the screens, and like Gabriel knew right away what it meant. He’d only just gotten news of the attacks.

“Grab him!” Redbeard charged at Lan Jue with four of his men.
When the palace’s defenses had suddenly engaged, Redbeard was shocked. He was used to these leisurely days now, the Moonfiend Pirates weren’t near as vigilant as the Red Widows. After his communicator started to buzz and reports of attack came in did he come to his senses. He immediately gave the order to engage, informed Gabriel, and brought his strongest subordinates to the control room.

Chapter 578: One Swipe

Lan Jue didn’t move, even as the four Adepts charged at him. They were abnormally fast, like four bolts of lightning. Each one of them bore a dark red dagger in their palms, which glinted in the light as they surrounded the Monarch. He had nowhere to go.

“Assassins are the absolute worst,” Lan Jue sneered. A moment later the four attackers were flailing wildly through the air like sacks of grain. Golden electricity crackled across their bodies, causing them to jerk and shudder violently before being reduced to ash.

Redbeard, a few steps behind, stopped dead in his tracks. He was amazed by what he’d just seen. He was no slouch in his Discipline – ninth level fifth rank! The men he’d brought here strong, too. Two were over ninth level, and the rest were no less than eighth. They were his closest people.

Those four were quadruplets, very rarely seen. Each of them shared the same expertise in speed and a Discipline involving daggers. The four of them against a ninth-level Adept should have been easy pickings.
Redbeard couldn’t feel any hint of Discipline from Lan Jue, and yet he’d witnessed his people incinerated. With a wave of his hand, four powerful Adepts saw their defenses overcome and their lives snuffed out, effortlessly. He’d never seen anything like it.

No wonder… no wonder Gabriel wasn’t fighting! Now Redbeard understood. He staggered back a few steps until he stood beside the Archangel.

“Master Gabriel…” Redbeard offered uncertainly.

He got no response from the sour-faced Messenger of Death. Hesitation had him frozen. He had almost joined in when the four other Adepts surrounding Lan Jue. However, the flood of power he’d felt made him stop. It felt like a Paragon’s.

Could Lan Jue have broken through?

Gabriel shook his head like a dog shedding water. He was seeing this clearly, but that made the situation even more frightening.
Redbeard’s communicator began to ring. Everyone’s eyes went to him

“Boss! Boss, we can’t hold them back. The enemy’s come out of nowhere. They’re too strong and too many. Their mechas –“ The voice cut out after an ear-piercing screech.

The Moonfiend Pirate’s new boss felt his breathing quicken. He snapped his head to Gabriel. “Master Gabriel, you have to make a decision. If we don’t take control of this room  our people outside can’t get in to back us up!”

Gabriel took a deep breath. It was the moment of truth. It was time for him to make a decision.

Under Lan Jue’s hard gaze, Gabriel took a step to the side, and hung his head.

The Star Division commander smiled. “A wise man submits to the tides of fate. No wonder they call you the Messenger of Death.” This was precisely why Lan Jue sent the Driver off to deal with the railgun while he remained here.
Their enemies were many, and this place was the heart of their organization. The Driver’s personality favored confrontation. With him here the potential for problems rose. As important as this place was to their mission, he chose to remain behind and handle things personally.

He’d elected to speak with Gabriel at length, in the hopes that he could avoid having to face every pirate. The control center was large, but not large enough for him to take on the whole clan. What Redbeard and Gabriel didn’t consider was how desperate Lan Jue was not for these controls to get destroyed.

Redbeard was right, this place was the only location where you could control planetary defenses. With them engaged, the pirates from outside couldn’t get involved and Star Division had all the time in the world. But if the controls were broken, things became a lot more uncertain. For instance, no one knew how the defense system would react without a central control to direct it. Because of this, he had to protect the controls as much as control them.

Gabriel’s promise not to interfere made dealing with the other pirates much easier.

Redbeard recognized his precarious position right away. He
roared like a beast, and his body began to swell. His already impressive beard lengthened, while his muscles bulged. Even before Redbeard’s battle cry ebbed, he’d become a three-meter tall behemoth. A Wildman.

No… a lion?

His Discipline was metamorphosis. He channeled the spirit of the lion, one of the strongest transformations for shifters. The remaining Adepts around him also flared their Disciplines threateningly.

Redbeard didn’t know what agreement Gabriel and Lan Jue had come to, but he could see that the Archangel wasn’t going to join in the fight. He had to fall back on his own capabilities, but they weren’t enough! This new enemy was after the Moonfiend Pirate clan. As the current leader of the clan, he knew that meant him.

In this circumstance he hadn’t any choice but to call on every ounce of his power. To mount a comeback, this man needed to die and this control room had to come back under their control. He fell back on his last resort, a final effort to win.
Mei’s words returned to memory. She’d told him that Redbeard had a secret escape tunnel, but it wasn’t here. Thinking back on her piteous cries, Lan Jue couldn’t help but feel a surge of murderous rage. Punishing these men was righteous work!

Lan Jue hardly reacted. His right hand waved halfheartedly. Instantly, the whole room was filled with red light. Whatever strange power he’d called had an intense vacuum-force that tugged at everyone.

Gabriel wasn’t in the light, but was greatly frightened by what he saw. He threw himself away as far as he could get. His holy shields blazed as he poured his whole Discipline into them.

Poof! The gentle sound was that of several pirates being reduced to dust. Several of the faster ones managed to summon their own shields. All the others were killed outright. Redbeard roared as he struggled forward. His temper flared out of control.

How could this be? Redbeard was at a complete lost. He was a shifter! His Discipline was strongest when he focused all of it into his transformation. Yet, beneath that red light even breathing was a struggle.
A sword had appeared in Lan Jue’s hand. The dim crimson light surrounding it was strange to behold. Finally he moved, rising to his feet and taking a single step forward. The sword swept out in an arc, and from it came a flood of power more intense than a tsunami.

The flush of deadly power cleansed everything in its path. That which Lan Jue deemed unworthy was swept from reality. Redbeard, and all of his strongest allies, were gone. Nothing remained to prove they ever existed.

The greatest failings of these pirates was in their taste for war
– or lack thereof. Ever since the start their foes had been hesitant. None of them fought with resolve, desperate to escape. In a single, effortless swipe of his sword Lan Jue put an end to their evil ways. Outwardly they could not know, however, that it was far from effortless. That one swing had consumed perhaps thirty percent of Lan Jue’s energy.

Captus! A thousand strikes as one!

Gabriel watched it all. Even from a safe distance his body shook uncontrollably. A single swipe! He… he really has become a Paragon!
He was wrong, of course. Lan Jue still had a long path to walk before he became a Paragon. However, he wasn’t entirely wrong. Lan Jue was peak-ranked with Qianlin. Adding the power of the sword, first degree Paragons would have a hard time besting him.

A number of pirates watched from outside because the room had limited space. After seeing their leadership slain, however, they didn’t dare enter. They were stupefied after watching the red light erase their mighty leader – all at the hands of this young nobody. It was entirely outside of the realm of comprehension.

No one knew who started it, but suddenly the pirates started to scream and run every which way. None of them were particularly keen in joining Redbeard’s fate.

However, unbeknownst to them their fates were sealed. Lan Jue’s face bore a faint smile.

The fighting still raged, and his Division would need more time to get things under control. Further, the surviving pirates were beginning to come to their senses. Lan Jue guessed they had begun to break into groups and converge on the palace. It was likely the last order Redbeard had given before his death.
However, none of that was important now. The enemy air fields were destroyed and they had control over their fortress. The preliminary steps of their plan were complete. Now they had to wait for news from outer space.

So long as they could keep the other planets and their reinforcements tied up, this victory was assured. Already, he was sure, the smarter pirates were planning their escape.

Gabriel appeared absent-minded. When he eventually emerged from his haze, he wandered over to a chair and quietly took a seat.

Lan Jue continued on like the Archangel didn’t exist. He pulled up his communicator. “Redbeard’s been dealt with. Xiaosu, how are things on your end?”

Su Xiaosu’s voice returned. “The rescue’s complete. We have complete control over the Moonfiend Palace. The enemy was routed after the initial strike!” She sounded somewhat conflicted with her last words.

Was this organization so weak when it was under her control?
They were like sheep to the slaughter.
Xiaosu’s report made Gabriel quake. In order to retain any semblance of dignity, he sat listlessly in that chair. A rescue operation? Who were they rescuing?

Nevermind Gabriel, none of the leadership in the Pontiff’s Citadel expected this to happen. They thought the Starfields would be a safe place to put their captured experiments. However, Lan Jue had shown up and ruined all their plans.

Chapter 579: Battle In Outer Space

Gabriel knew that the survivors of their genetic experiments hated the Pontiff’s Citadel. They hadn’t been brain washed, their memories were fully intact. Most of them had already undergone the process to improve their potency. They were supposed to be the bedrock upon which the Pontiff’s Citadel flourished. Now it was all over. All over…

Lan Jue ignored him. He focused on drawing in energy from the Phylactery Stone to recover what the Binding Blade had devoured. He put a little bit of his energy into the gem every day during his cultivations. Still to this day he hadn’t managed to top it off.

Lan Jue felt much the same as the rest of the Star Division; this had gone a lot easier than expected. He thought back to Xiaosu’s disappointment. He knew that if she had been in control, taking it would have been much more difficult. Their success so far was largely due to her expertise, and disunity within the pirate ranks.

After killing Redbeard in one strike, none of the pirates dared step through the control room door. With such broken spirits, how could they defeat the Star Division?
ζ

The Shattered Starfields, Outer Space.

The crew of Majesty watched as explosions sparked to life on the planet’s surface. From where they sat, it didn’t look all that impressive. However, they knew it meant the attack was underway.

“The main gun is charged!”

Excitement lit up the Accountant’s face when he heard the report. “Our target is the first airfield on secondary planet alpha. Prepare to fire!”

Majesty remained in geostationary orbit above the planet. It was hidden from view thanks to the Blinding Stone. They didn’t need to fear any radar giving their position away.

The front part of the ship rotated and parted, while from within an enormous cannon peaked its head out. The barrel of the weapon was fifty meters in diameter. It was a dreadnaught’s weapon, but not overly large. There were other differences that
made it special. Jue Di had designed it personally: it was both anti-matter cannon and isolated energy gun.

Antimatter guns were like positron cannons. They were made specifically for use in outer space because the beams were fragile and exploded on contact. Firing one on a planet’s surface would ignite its atmosphere.

However, by isolating the energy projectiles from the environment, the problem was resolved. Now they could rain anti-matter destruction on any target they wished.

“Fire!”

An incandescent color swelled then burst from the mouth of the cannon. It pierced the planet’s atmosphere without a sound and found its target – the planet’s largest airship hangar.

The planet was smaller and less developed than Moonfiend. Each of the secondary planets had two airfields each. Majesty’s first target was the largest one.

The easiest way to stop them from coming to Moonfiend’s aid
was to destroy their ships. If they were grounded there was nothing they could do. Good enough for now. After the shot was fired Majesty blasted off into the distance without waiting to see the result.

The planet’s defenses were nothing to sniff at. Although the Blinding Stone kept them hidden most of the time, it was easier for AI systems to lock on once they started their attacks. Staying still was asking for death. They had to keep themselves away from the railguns’ crosshairs.

A white dot bloomed and grew across the small planet’s surface. Before long it was a blazing white blemish visible from space. When it receded a crater was left behind, smooth as glass.

Golden light shimmered to life between the layers of the planet’s atmosphere. That was its defenses kicking into gear. However, it was already too late. Majesty’s blast wiped the planet’s surface clean.

For the second hangar, Majesty didn’t need to engage in combat. The ship silently expanded its orbit and waited in the darkness of space. Each of the hangars was supposed to have one battleship and seven or eight patrol boats as an entourage. If they dared to leave for planet Moonfiend, the Accountant would
be there to meet them.

However, pirate courage wasn’t something one commonly encountered. They were at their most arrogant when attacking cargo ships that couldn’t defend themselves.

The pirates in the remaining air field were dumbstruck. The planets’ defenses had immediately turned on, and at their highest levels. Safe Moonfiend? They’d gotten the message, but right now their own skin was more important.

“Ai, pirates are boring. I wonder how they’d react if they were a real military unit.” The Accountant muttered the questions to himself as he stared at the screen, head cradled in his palms.

“Let’s go. We’ll be backup for Mistress Photographer.” The ship maneuvered for an encounter with secondary planet beta. They lift a small stealth satellite behind to keep an eye on the pirates. Then, they were gone.

“Why aren’t they here yet? Why aren’t they here yet?” Luo Xianni floated lazily in the vacuum of space. She looked terribly bored.
It felt like she’d been waiting for half a day. She’d left Majesty when he announced the start of their operation, and took position out by the planet. There she waited.

If someone were to come across her like this, they’d be mortified. She floated in space without any suit or protective equipment. She wore a pretty dress, and that was all. She leisurely watched the planet below in the perfect silence. She was beginning to look resentful, and impatient.

“They’ve already started! Why hasn’t anyone reacted over here? Ugh, pirates are so boring!” Luo Xianni complained.

“I wonder what Chi Bupang is doing. I’m sure Little Qing’s told him about what we’re up to. Hehehe, Chi Bupang, just you wait. I’m never going to let you out of my palm. If these two kids are your charges, then they’re mine too. Later we’ll see where their affection lies! Hmph!”

Luo Xianni felt better. Now she could sit here and silently praise herself on her clever plans. Just then, she noticed things starting to stir on the planet’s surface. Twenty ships were coming her way.
Luo Xianni had told them she could seal the planet, but after discussing it with Xiaosu Lan Jue felt it was unnecessary. The most dangerous were the pirate battleships. So long as they were handled and didn’t get involved in the fight, they would be fine. So, her target changed from the whole planet, to just its armada.

“Stupid pirates. They could eat shit and complain about the temperature.” They certainly seemed oblivious. She’s received news from Lan Jue that all of the airfields were destroyed. Taking the Moonfiend Palace would be difficult, especially if the opposition didn’t have any battleships to back them up. The battle was already decided. For them to come rushing over was stupid, simply put.

Luo Xianni flicked her wrist. Suddenly, the familiar pink camera was in her grip. She vanished, appearing once again a short distance away. What she saw was four battleships and twenty five patrol boats coming her way. But as an Adept who could shrink a planet to an inch, this was weak-sauce.

It wasn’t that the pirates were slow to react. It took time to prepare a battleship for launch and get it airborne. In addition, their attack commenced at dawn when the pirates were deep asleep. They had to wake up and get ready, all under the specter of destruction from an unseen enemy. They could be forgiven
for taking a little bit of time.

The near thirty-strong armada looked intimidating as it lumbered through space. Luo Xianni looked like a tiny speck beneath their notice.

That lasted only a moment.

Luo Xianni began to shake and quiver. Soon the tiny woman was a full three thousand meters tall. She’d been standing inconspicuously between the two planets, then suddenly was a significant blip on the pirate radar.

“What… what the hell is that?!” The pirates were dumbfounded. They couldn’t believe what they were looking at.

A person, this big? ‘Giant’ didn’t do her justice, especially as pretty as she was. Where they witnessing some god, come down to the planets of men? Pirates were athiests, practically by definition. But whether they believed in gods or not, it didn’t mean they didn’t fear them.

A particularly fierce looking man was the first to come to his
senses. “Kill her! Prepare the guns to fire!”

The armada hurriedly prepared to engage. The enormous woman lifted something in her hands. A pink camera.

Ka-cha! The clear and crisp click of a shutter rang in the ears of every pirate. Everything around them stopped suddenly – frozen in place.

The universe became a pink-hued cosmic storm, with the battleship in its center. Reality warped, chopped into a hundred million tiny slivers. Then it was gone, quiet as a summer breeze.

The Photographer lifted her enormous hand, which now bore an equally large photograph. Something as massive as a battleship would need a picture large enough to fit it.

I shudder to think what she would have done if they stuck with the ‘photograph a planet’ plan. So here’s one for r/theydidthemath. Apparently the average height of a Chinese woman is 1.6 meters, and they weigh 57.3 kg. While we don’t know the size of a battleship, we can steal. They’ve moved six thousand (?) troops through the Starfields on two ~battleships, so let’s say something like a UNSC Frigate – 478 meters long and
unknown mass. Luo Xianni had to grow three thousand meters to get a picture big enough to get the battleship. With this information, A. How large would Luo Xianni have to be to have a poloroid big enough to capture a planet say half the mass of the earth and B. how big would that poloroid be?

The picture was a thousand meters long and eight hundred meters wide. It didn’t look quite so large in the hand of a three- thousand meter tall woman, though.

She looked at the photo in satisfaction. She didn’t even seem out of breath.

Chapter 580: Is She Even Human?

The Accountant sat in Majesty’s bridge, watching everything going on outside. He was literally speechless.

Is…is she even human?

He wasn’t alone. Everyone onboard Majesty stared in utter disbelief. Everyone who saw it was at a total loss.

The ship arrived just as Luo Xianni became her present size. By then Majesty was going hundreds of meters per second toward a sudden obstruction. To her, Majesty was about the size of an infant.

Luo Xianni waved pleasantly at Majesty. To a Paragon of her standing, Blinding Stones might as well have been glass baubles. Majesty obediently headed her direction and removed its cloak.

She gently patted the ship as it nearly. “Hehehe,” she tittered. “This picture’s for you, little math whiz. Do what you will, but I won’t have blood on my hands.” The picture was released and remained frozen in space in front of her.
“What should we do, Mistress Photographer?” The Accountant asked dumbly.

She smirked. “Attack! Destroy the photograph. Everything in it will be destroyed as well. I’m not doing it, understand?”

Luo Xianni then shrunk before their eyes back to her normal height. The Paragon sat cross-legged on top of Majesty and prepared for the show.

“Captain?” The members of the Accountant’s team looked at him, at a complete loss to understand what they were supposed to do. It was the Adept in charge of the weapons systems that nervously called for his attention.

“Didn’t you hear Mistress Photographer? Fire, all guns!” Majesty had been equipped with a number of luxury installations, like phylactery stones. Soldiers in charge of the vessel were under standing orders to charge them up when time allowed. It gave them an excuse to cultivate more.

They held the energy of eight hundred soldiers, infusing them twice a day. One could imagine how much of a reservoir they were.
Majesty’s main guns had charged on the flight over. Its cannon’s flared to life again, unleashing a beam of energy right into the photograph.

The picture rippled from the impact. After the blast, it looked crumpled but otherwise unhurt.

Destroying one of Luo Xianni’s pictures wiped out everything within it, even space. However, pictures like this had their limitations. By its nature the picture’s sturdiness was proportional to what it was a picture of. Put another way, Majesty needed enough firepower to take a battleship if it wanted to destroy this picture.

Simply put, Luo Xianni only acted to seal their enemies away. She eliminated their ability to fight back. As a result her own side could fire to their heart’s content. The battle was won, so long as they had the firepower to destroy their objective.

As far as control-type Disciplines were concerned, hers was among the best.

It took three blasts from Majesty’s main gun to destroy the photograph. When it did finally rupture, the picture and
everything around it was devoured into a black hole. Majesty crew were briefly afraid they would be swallowed up as well. They swiftly retreated, leaving nothing behind of the pirate armada.

ζ

Planet Moonfiend.

The Moonfiend Palace was surrounded. After all, the pirates who called this place home were the strongest in all the Shattered Starfields, even before you included the smaller clans it’s incorporated. Planet Moonfiend was their playground.

The leaders of the clan spent the bulk of their time here, and some were allowed quarters. On the one hand it was a symbol of status, but it was also a means of control.

The smaller clan surrounding the palace got word of the attack, and began to gather their forces. They marched to retake the seat of their power. However, what they met was Moonfiend Palace’s overwhelming defenses.
Their attack was coordinated. Pirate clans assaulted the palace’s shields from every angle. More than five thousand mechas milled around like a host of angry ants. Beams of energy ceaselessly struck the shields, making them undulate. However when the shields were designed, they were made to withstand assault from battleships. Even the pirates’ armadas would need time to break through, if they still existed.

The shields started to dim under the sustained attack. The pirates outside, though, were losing contact with more of their brothers inside. As they shouted into communicators their eyes were drawn to the palace’s tallest tower. There, a bright flash blinded them as its cannon fired. Scores of other guns peaked out from various windows. The fortress was veritably bristling with firepower. They started to fire every which way, at anything that got too close.

Pirate mechas exploded all around the palace like fireworks. The palace’s defenses were active, which meant their fortress had fallen into enemy hands.

The largest ray of light from the palace’s tallest tower swept through the airborne mecha suits. After one pass the hundred or so suits were nothing more than wisps of steam. That was their railgun – a mini-railgun, to be precise.
Many of the five thousand pirates who’d come to retake their palace were taken off guard. As the Moonfiend Palace’s defenses ramped up, the pirates that survived were the ones fast enough to engage their shields and find cover.

Within the Moonfiend Palace control center.

Su Xiaosu had replaced Lan Jue in front of the control panels. Her eyes were fixed on the screen while her fingers danced across the keyboard. The Moonfiend Empress’ lips were pressed tightly together, making her look irate.

Lan Jue sat beside Gabriel.

The angel was quiet as a monk. He watched the situation outside evolve, pirates running every direction like  headless flies. He knew the clan was finished. After all the time, effort and resources they put into the Moonfiend Pirates, this was how they ended.

“No need for anyone to rush back. Instead go clear out the other cities on Moonfiend. They won’t be getting passed our defenses.” Lan Jue delivered his orders to Zeus-1 and Brigades three and four.
Star Division had total control over the palace now. The pirates who were within when the operation commenced were tenaciously hunted down and eliminated. The pirates they ran into were strong, but routed. They were fumbling to find a means to flee, and had no will to fight. Once they discovered there was no way out, their only option was to fight to the death.

Unfortunately they had met their match in Third and Fourth Brigade. The two brigades together numbered five hundred souls. Wherever they went, enemies fled in terror! Nothing the pirate possessed could halt the Star Division’s inevitable march. The fighting was quick.

The Driver was the one in charge of the railgun. He had control of the high ground, and was in contact with Lan Jue in the control room. His last blast had been at Xiaosu’s command. The gun was so powerful that it needed to cool down after each shot. It took around thirty seconds for it to be prepped for another round. However, in that one blast the Driver reduced the pirate’s fighting force by two thirds. The others weren’t eager to be vaporized.

“What in the world were you and the Citadel thinking? Light and righteousness doesn’t seem to be your aim – youe boss has chosen to walk a dark path. Why?” Lan Jue was genuinely
curious as he asked the question of Gabriel.

The Messenger of Death shot him a glance but didn’t say anything. Lan Jue was a predator, and saying anything to him wasn’t going to help the situation.

Lan Jue patted Gabriel’s shoulder, then stood and walked over to the former Moonfiend Empress. “Don’t grieve,” he told her. “The past is the past. When we leave here, it’ll be the beginning of your new life.”

She gently nodded her head, but a pain flitted across her eyes. “This place is a product of my blood, sweat and tears. It’s hard to give it up.” She kept typing as she spoke. Her fingers never slowed and the palace’s defenses continued to wreak havoc on the forces outside. Their forces didn’t engage the enemy, they didn’t need to. So long as they kept swapping out old gems with new ones, the defense systems could fight indefinitely.

Lan Jue didn’t say anything more to try and convince her.
Some things had to be decided personally.

“The two secondary planets have been handled. The mighty tortoise has become an empty turtle shell. The armada for the
other planet’s been silenced.” The Accountant’s voice reported. Lan Jue’s communicator was on speaker, everyone could hear him. Xiaosu snuck a furtive look at her boss and nodded her head.

It was a proclamation. It meant they’d won.

Zeus-1 and the battleships taken by the other divisions were scouring the planet, eliminating any resistance they found. Three battleships against a routed host of mechas – the results were easy to guess.

The pirates fighting to gain entry into the palace didn’t have the firepower to do it. The railguns on the secondary planets couldn’t reach them here. Even if they couldn’t, they’d be firing blindly.

In the end this was different from their excursion against the Red Widows. The asteroids around Arachnid were more like satellites or small moons than partner planets. They were smaller, and closer together.

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