Skyfire Avenue Chapter 581-590

Chapter 581: Total Control

The secondary planets were planets in their own right, though not as large as Moonfiend. Still, they needed to maintain a stable relationship with their star the same as any other planet, lest they run into a whole host of problems.

The Moonfiend Pirates had reached their end. Already Second Brigade was divvying up their spoils from the palace. Su Xiaosu turned her head toward Lan Jue. “Boss, are we leaving when the operation is over?”

He nodded. “We’ll be done here. We’ve caused quite a dent in the pirate population, and I’m not looking for a genocide. News of what we’ve done here will get out. They don’t know where we came from, but eventually the West and North may react. When we’ve finished our mission, we’ll return to Skyfire Avenue. The troops need time to rest and recuperate.”

“Alright.”

The thunder of the cannons slowed. The third shot from the railgun turned the ground around the palace into a sea of fire. Just as a third of the city collapsed around the palace, the pirates’ morale crumbled. They fled, as far and as fast from the
murderous palace as they could go.

Their first instincts were to head for the airfields. There they could board ships and make an escape. News of their destruction had never reached them, though. They were fleeing right into the arms of the enemy.

“First and Second Brigades, leave small units each to keep control of the palace. The rest, go out and clean up the remaining pirate forces.” Lan Jue gave the order through his communicator. It was time to take the fight to them.

Star Division soldiers set out to make sure the pirates couldn’t mount a quick recovery. Lan Jue wanted this place cleansed. It was inevitable that pirates would return, but any clan looking to dominate the planets would need time and resources.

Finishing the pirates off wasn’t as easy or quick as their initial attack. They had to hunt them down first, which they did with the help of airships.

Meanwhile, Lan Jue ordered Zeus-1 to return. Their riches from the raid would be stored on the nimble ship. About the only thing that improved after the Moonfiend Empress’
removal were their coffers.

Xiaosu counted it as three times what it was before she’d left. Densely packed riches won from Moonfiend’s enemies. Ever since the Pontiff’s Citadel had taken over, their path of destruction had been even more thorough than the Star Division’s.

Why would so many pirates agree to subjugation? Simply put, the Moonfiend Pirates gave them no choice. They relied on superior resources and firepower to eliminate all the clans around them. It was join, or die.

The Pontiff’s Citadel would be loath to give up these resources. They’d come to rely on the riches from the Starfields. They wanted to build it up as a subordinate state, so much that they expended tremendous effort to develop it. The railgun was proof of their commitment.

Lan Jue wasn’t greedy. Although the big planetary defense railguns were powerful weapons of war, taking all of  them would be impossible. There were enemies waiting on the other planets with their defensive measures at full strength. They would have to be happy with what they got from Moonfiend.
Star Division’s commander wasn’t much interested in the railguns, but they would fetch a good price. The East could probably use them in the construction of a Bastion ship. The soldiers left behind found themselves recruited as temporary porters. Boxes upon boxes of resources from Moonfiend were loaded up and stored in Zeus-1.

In times like these, having a master of interspatial Discipline was of great benefit. The Photographer had provided Lan Jue with something she called the Hungry Bangle. As she described it, there was enough space to fit the Wine Master’s whole Reaper Arena inside. IF it weren’t for this gift, it would take an armada to fly their winnings home.

However even with the Hungry Bangle, Zeus-1 couldn’t take it all. Luckily, they’d also spared a couple battleships that could take the spillover.

The Citadel’s victims were directed onto Zeus-1. They’d been there when the Citadel dragged Su Xiaosu into the dungeons, and watched what how she was punished. They’d also seen her daring rescue. Now she was back with the savior to free them, so they gave her and her people no trouble.

These poor, tortured souls had been promising youths to
survive this long. The fantascia genetica was heartless and deadly, but it’d made them strong. Others weren’t so lucky.

Those that survived were injected with medicines that sealed this power. Before they were brainwashed into service, they were dangerous if left unchecked. Once they got back to the Avenue, it shouldn’t take their doctors long to flush it out of their systems.

Gabriel could only watch in silence as Lan Jue gave his commands. All of their efforts, the result of their own hearts blood, were being undone with every word. He felt numb. A lot of the news going on outside was unknown to the angel, but it was clear Zeus had brought an army. A strong army, otherwise they couldn’t have pulled any of this off.

Was this an arm of the Avenue, flexing to show its strength? He remained lost in silent thought, contemplating how wrong they were in assuming invulnerability. The moment he realized it was burned bright in his memory; he’d lost faith when he saw Lan Jue destroy Redbeard with a single strike.

There was no chance, not even the ghost of a chance. Putting up a fight would be suicide. All he could do was shut his mouth and open his ears. Hopefully someone would let something slip
that he could bring back to the Pontiff.

Gabriel shuddered to think of the Pontiff’s rage when he discovered what happened here. It would be meaningless, because no amount of rage would change what happened today. They would have to suffer this tremendous blow to the Citadel in silence.

It wasn’t like they could petition the Western government for help. Wrangling these pirates had been the Pontiff’s pet project. What benefit would the West have in getting themselves mixed up in this?

They had been thoroughly knocked down from their perch. As far as Gabriel could see, the Citadel would serve as the Avenue’s punching bag for a long time to come.

The Dark Citadel and the Conclave had similar misgivings. Losing the Epochrion was unforgivable to the North. Even if she chose not to lift a hand against them, losing a Paragon was a disaster. The Conclave could rely on nobody but the Terminator now.

By contrast, the Avenue was lousy with powerful Adepts. This
one who was a constant thorn in their side was as strong as Metatron, or the fallen angel Lucifer. He might even be stronger. After all, Metatron and Lucifer had been striving for years to break through to Paragon. But the power he’d felt from Lan Jue was closer to the protogenic realm than what he’d felt from either of the two Westerners.

Even if Lan Jue wasn’t a Paragon now, it was assured he would become one in the future. Gabriel knew that after seeing the tournament. The East was smaller and poorer than the other Alliances, but the Avenue was a force to be reckoned with. With these Adepts at their back and aliens at the gates, who would dare say the East wasn’t a rising force?

Gabriel’s mind was in chaos. His greatest worry was his own safety. It was only a year since they ambushed Lan Jue not far from here, and in a year he’d become a nightmare to the Citadel. No wonder he could defeat Michael, even then.

Lan Jue had no what idea what the Archangel was thinking about. The Star Division commander just sat nearby, and waited. A short while later another familiar face joined them in the room. The Infernal Vanguard, the Gourmet!

This is definitely a display of force by the Avenue! They’re
even sending Paragons!

A poisonous jealousy wormed through Gabriel’s chest. The Avenue had so many Paragons they could just send them out thoughtlessly on excursions like these. The Pontiff’s Citadel? They had the Pontiff, still reeling from the chaos instigated by Lan Jue.

Skyfire Avenue would never have to face that problem. How many Paragons did they have now?

The Gourmet was not here to end lives, something he’d expressed to Lan Jue before. So, he would assume command of the palace. With a Paragon here, even a host of battleships wouldn’t take this place back.

Gabriel felt thoroughly hopeless. He shut his eyes, trying to shut out the world.

Eventually day broke, revealing a gorgeous morning. Light from the Starfields’ distant star illuminated and warmed the planet. However, the golden light only fell upon destruction. Two hours later, most of the city was stripped bare. Trenches were the railgun had made landfall smoldered, black and angry.
The radioative wasteland was frightening to look upon.

Star Division’s work wasn’t over. With the help of the battleships, they continued to sweep the planet and remove all traces of pirates. Majesty did not participate. Instead it remained in orbit and watched for any sign of action from the two other planets. Anyone who tried to get off the planet was quickly silenced by the Division battleship.

The Gourmet pulled out several small cakes from his personal interdimensional storage device that he’d made himself. Each one was about the size of a hand, and golden-brown. Even cold they had a faint, pleasing aroma.

Chapter 582: Nasty Middle-Aged Man

Lan Jue’s eyes lit up. “Ah, how’d you know I was starving?”

The Gourmet gave him a flat stare. “Because I’m hungry.
Would you like some?”

He replied with eyes wide with shock. “On what condition?”

Skyfire Avenue’s chef chuckled. “I remember that cache we found with all the goodies. By the time I got there it was practically empty, but I seem to remember a bottle. The label was silver. A deer’s head? I’m not sure I’m remembering that correctly.”

Lan Jue looked at him indignantly. “You scoundrel! If you think I’m trading my Dalmore whisky for some cake, you’re dreaming.”

The Gourmet harrumphed. “Who says it’s yours? That was won for the Division in war. As commander, aren’t you afraid of how it looks when you line your own pockets like this?”
“Lining my own pockets?” Lan Jue whined. “I haven’t even opened it! I was planning to share it with everyone when we got back!”

The Gourmet didn’t appear to believe him. “With everyone, when we get back? How much did you get, exactly? Is there an inventory somewhere?”

“No one likes to drink it anyway,” he weakly replied, scowling openly.

Passion crept into the Gourmet’s voice. “You must be fair! Uphold justice! How can you convince your men you are righteous if you bend the rules for your own benefit?”

Gabriel’s eyes popped open when he heard the Paragon’s impassioned words. Surprise and hope briefly flitted across his face. If the Gourmet and Lan Jue continued their bickering – or if they got drunk – he might have a chance to escape. He knew they couldn’t have taken the entire planet so quickly. Gabriel was confident that if he could slip away, he’d just need to wait until they left. Then he could return safely to Europa.

Lan Jue saw his friend’s intractable bearing, and sighed.
“How much do you want?”

The Gourmet produced a platter from somewhere unseen. He placed the cakes atop it and cradled the metal container with his hands. They began to glow with a red-hot, infernal heat that warmed the treats. The control room filled with the smell.

Lan Jue wrinkled his nose happily when the scent reached him. “Did you use butter? IT smells amazing!”

Next the Gourmet took up a cut of spiced beef. With a knife in his other hand, he quickly sliced thin pieces off of the cut and over the top of the cake. Gabriel swallowed a mouthful of saliva. He hadn’t eaten, either.

Lan Jue helped himself to a piece of cake with a slice of beef draped over it. He took a might bite, anxious to enjoy the treat.

Su Xiaosu also slunk over. She blinked at the Gourmet with big doe eyes and a pathetic expression. The Paragon chuckled and motioned for her to help herself. “I’m not a miserly man. ISn’t that right, Jewelry Master?”
Lan Jue busily scarfed down the cake. When the Gourmet confronted him again he sighed. A wave of his hand and a bottle appeared.

The bottle looked a little like a clock pendulum. The liquid within caught the light, and glowed with a rich golden hue. The label was just like the Gourmet described; a silver stag’s head. It was definitely flashy.

Dalmore whisky, among some of the most  expensive whisky in the universe. The taste was sublime – on a whole other level than the competition.

Dalmore whiskies were rarely found on the open market. They were produced in small numbers. Older bottles were especially scarce. The one Lan Jue produced had the number ‘thirty’ written clearly on the label.

Whiskies were different from other spirits. They were bottles and sealed at very specific times. The age of a whisky was how long it’d spent aging in barrels before being bottled. The years after bottling didn’t mean anything. Rather like rice wine, the taste became more mellow and savory with time. However, the differences were slight.
In fact, Lan Jue had found crates full of whisky in the hidden cache they’d confiscated. Apparently, that pirate chief was a real fan.

A lot of the ancient bottling techniques had been lost to history, and were likely never to be rediscovered. This bottle was one of a treasure trove they’d uncovered, full of a precious liquid most even from Skyfire Avenue have never seen.

The Gourmet picked up the bottle to open it.

“Wait, wait! Do you have proper glasses?” Lan Jue cried in a final, desperate gambit. High-class whisky needed the proper glasses to really enjoy. They trapped the spirit’s aroma. That was the only way to fully enjoy it.

“Nonsense! As a self-professed glutton, how could I come unprepared?” In a flash, two traditional Scottish whisky glasses were on the table beside the bottle.

Lan Jue sighed, defeated. He had no recourse but to gnaw of the cake and beef in consolation.
“Add another glass!” The Driver’s boisterous voice heralded his arrival. They turned their heads to see the rough-looking man stride their way.

“Not cool, you guys! You were gunna drink such a fine bottle without me! Don’t you have any shame?” He roared.

Fight! Come on, fight! Someone inwardly prayed.

Unfortunately, another glass joined the other two. Soon they were sloshing with a sip of golden liquid, enough to cover the glass’ bottom.

The Gourmet then recorked the bottle, and tucked it away in his storage ring.

“You’re a thief! Who was just going on about fairness and righteousness and all that?” Lan Jue cried indignantly.

“Enough,” the Gourmet coolly remarked. “I wanted this bottle, and was gracious to give you both a taste. There was never any sort of agreement about anything else. What are you doing, slandering me like that?”
Lan Jue paused, and the anger drained from his face. “Seeing as you’re the senior here, go right ahead.”

A spark of surprise lit up the Gourmet’s expression. “You have something better, don’t you?” The Gourmet didn’t see everything in the cache they’d found, only the empty bottle of Dalmore. He didn’t think there might be something better hidden inside. And yet, Lan Jue had been relatively quick to give up this bottle.

The Jewelry Master chuckled sheepishly. “Old bottles of Talisker and Bowmore. What do you think, do they match up to the Dalmore?”

Both of them were fine whiskies, but really they couldn’t match up to a fine Dalmore.

The Driver didn’t involve himself. He snatched up the glass, lifted it to his nose and took a deep breath. He looked enchanted by the aroma.

Lan Jue and the Gourmet followed his example. They each took a moment to appreciate the smell, then sipped.
Their first reaction to the whisky wasn’t the flavor or texture. It was a pleasant warmth that started in their bellies and spread outward. It took with it the heady flavors and aromas. The sensation was so pure it made the hairs on their arms stand on end.

No conflict, damn! Gabriel sat glumly to one side, his mind still searching for a way out. The alcohol was of no interest him, but the cake was a bit of a distraction.

Unfortunately for him, he’d been entirely forgotten by the others. In mere moments, it was all scarfed down by Lan Jue and the others while they enjoyed their drinks.

“Well, I’m going to look for the Seamstress,” the Gourmet stated, after he’d finished eating. “I got a message from her earlier. She should be somewhere nearby.”

People often considered the Seamstress a gentle and soft- spoken lady, but that was only part of her persona. In fact, she was an accomplished mecha pilot – god-ranked. She’d been called Windbreaker during the god battles, and had given them the Monarchs a great deal of trouble piloting Skyshade. She’d hidden her identity so well everyone assumed Windbreaker was a man. She was also the Gourmet’s wife.
With a fine drink in hand and a full belly, of course the Gourmet would want to go find his wife. As he got up and left, the Driver quietly watched him go. When the coast was clear, he scooched closer.

“So you got anything better?” He said, looking at his drinking buddy.

Lan Jue cautiously drew his eyes to the Driver. “What about those cigars I saw you snatch from the cache?”

“There’s enough for you! Fair.”

”Fine, then it’s agreed! We’ll split it up when we get back,” Lan Jue said with a grin.

“I knew you two were up to no good!” There was a flash of light, and the Gourmet reappeared in front of them.

The Driver almost fell out of his chair. “Shit! It’s a trap!”

The Gourmet grunted in irritation. His dark gaze settled on
Lan Jue. “Come clean!”

Lan Jue threw up his hands, entreating silence. “Quiet! There are a lot of people who want this stuff. How about this, when we get back we split it three ways. Everyone gets a fair cut. How’s that sound? And no one hides anything else. But! I would like some Australian lobster. Gourmet, it’s on you.”

The Gourmet’s serious expression melted away and he chuckled. “No problem. Then it’s agreed. I’m off!” He trotted out again.

Lan Jue and the Driver waited until his back was turned before flagrantly flipping him off. “That nasty old man,” the Driver said, out of earshot. “So treacherous!”

Lan Jue sighed. “I blame you. If only you could have kept your mouth shut.”

Gabriel closed his eyes, looking almost pained. These guys…

Blasts were still fierce and often. The fighting had spread out and pirates were being rooted out as they finished their drinks.
Star Division’s ships appeared above the holdouts heads and rained death from a safe distance. Every explosion eroded the pirates’ resistance.

Chapter 583: The Death Of The Barber

The pirates had weapons, certainly, but without the help of a planetary defense system they would never get through an airship’s hull. All they could do was try and survive the beating. They had to watch as their fellow scallywags were reduced to ash.

All of the Star Division soldiers from every brigade were immersed in battle. They were strong together and alone. Whether they fought in groups or on their own, the Star Division soldiers swept away all opposition. Air support watched over them from above.

A day on Moonfiend was roughly sixteen hours long. Eight hours after dawn, when the sun was at its zenith, the sounds of fighting began to subside.

Moonfiend Palace, main control room.

“Boss,” Su Xiaosu called, looking at Lan Jue, “it’s more or less finished.”

Lan Jue nodded back at her. They weren’t trying to kill the
whole planet. There were too many, and a lot of the population weren’t pirates. Discussions were held on the topic of taking some of these slaves with them. In the end, though, they couldn’t work it out.

There were too many people. With only the few ships they had, there wasn’t enough space to take them all. Besides, there was nothing to stop pirates from hiding among them as normal folk. It was a recipe for future disaster.

They need a proper military to solve this problem. The Moonfiend Pirates were no more, and the Shattered Starfields no longer had a dominant force. When they returned, Lan Jue would urge the Eastern military to send a few ships and pick them up. It wasn’t unthinkable that they would want to set up an outpost here.

The Accountant had been busy these last few hours as well. He’d been busy at the code for the defense system, supplanting their defenses with an encryption program of his own. It was phenomenally complicated, and any would-be hacker would have to get passed it before they could assume control of the system.

“Tell people to start packing it up. Time to withdraw. We’re
gather on Moonfiend then head out,” Lan Jue told Xiaosu.

“Aye.”

The battleships they’d captured from the pirates were theirs now, and though they weren’t large enough to take everyone they did afford them more space. The miners, for instance, were undoubtedly innocent victims here. Lan Jue had already ordered the Coffee Master to head to the mines with his new ship and gather them up. Those unfortunate souls who were kept in the Citadel’s prison were also brought aboard. Those two groups alone filled Star Division’s two new battleships.

The battle for Moonfiend was easier than they’d thought. Su Xiaosu’s intimate knowledge of the terrain and enemy forces had been integral. The pirates were sluggish, untrained, and lacked unity. It was a recipe for quick collapse.

Of course this is not to detract from the skill of the Star Division. Months of excursions have made them a true fighting force. A string of victories had made them confident, and the benefits they reaped solidified their faith in the organization. Despite months of danger, Star Division hadn’t lost a single soldier. It was miraculous, and filled Lan Jue’s men with conviction.
Skyfire Avenue’s young warriors had been tempered in the flames of battle. Lan Jue’s Star Division was made out here among the broken stars. It filled Lan Jue with joy.

“Jewelry Master. Jewelry Master, if you’re hearing me, respond.” An urgent voice was calling him from the main monitor.

Lan Jue was stunned for a moment. Xiaosu answered and called up the feed. The Accountant’s anxious face came into view.

“What is it, Accountant?” Lan Jue asked inquiringly.

The Accountant’s voice was low. “See for yourself.” The sound of his fingers on the keyboard preceded a change of video.

From the picture they could see an expansive asteroid belt. It was surging through pace like a rocky tidal wave. Massive slabs of metallic rock smashed into each other at thousands of kilometers a second. As the space between them filled with debris, faint undulations in reality caught their eye.
“What is this?” He asked the distressed hacker.

“I have no idea,” the Accountant replied, “that’s what makes it so frightening. At first it just looked like cosmic turbulence. With so many small planets and asteroid fields to get in the way, though, that should be impossible! For safety I think we all need to get out of here right away. We can’t delay.”

“Got it!” Lan Jue snapped his attention to Xiaosu. “Send out the command, immediate evacuation. Get everyone back as soon as possible, have the ships ready to pick them up.”

“Aye aye.” The Division’s second-in-command didn’t question or hesitate. This was her first time running into cosmic turbulence. Everything the Accountant said was true, they shouldn’t have anything like that so deep in the Starfields!

Su Xiaosu shot to her feet once the orders were given. The Accountant took up remote control of the planet’s systems. She then turned to Lan Jue. “Boss, we need to go too. Mika will bring Zeus-1 around to pick us up.”

“Alright, let’s go.” The Driver and Xiaosu were on his heels as he walked out of the room. As he passed Gabriel, he muttered,
“Are you coming with us or staying here? There’s cosmic turbulence coming this way.”

Gabriel, who had until then been sitting quietly with his eyes shut, jumped to his feet. “I’m coming,” he said without a moment’s hesitation.

OF course he hadn’t been meditating, though it had appeared that way. The Archangel had been quiet and attentive the whole time. He’d heard the exchange between Lan Jue and the Accountant. He didn’t believe it either, but better to doubt and live. What if it were true? It would mean cosmic turbulence was bringing enough asteroids in its wake to obliterate the whole planet. Moonfiend’s defenses couldn’t contend with that.

The decision to leave with Lan Jue was an easy one. Gabriel was confident from their earlier exchanges that the Star Division commander didn’t have any intention of killing him. It was humiliating, but it was better than dying.

Fourth Brigade followed their leaders from the palace, as did the units left behind by First and Second Brigade. The Accountant shut down the defenses around the palace to allow for approach. When Lan Jue stepped out with his people in tow, he was greeted with a landscape of devastation.
Su Xiaosu’s eyes hardened. She’d built this place through her own effort. It would be strange if she felt joy at watching it burn.

“Xiaosu.” Lan Jue put a hand on her shoulder.

She shook her head. “I’m fine, boss, relax. Tearing it down is better than giving it to them.”

Lan Jue smiled supportively. “I like your thinking. You might have lost the Moonfiend Pirates, but you got the Star Division in return. We’re a larger arena for you to showcase your skill.”

Xiaosu smiled, and nodded.

There were still people on the street, though much fewer than there had been. He looked in the distance to see a familiar figure.

“Her?” Lan Jue muttered in surprise.

Purplish-red hair, matching leotard… it was the same
beautiful young woman from before.

The others followed his gaze to the woman. The Driver’s eyes in particular lit up. “Nice! I didn’t girls who looked like that were in this pirate hell.”

Lan Jue narrowed his eyes. “I don’t think she’s a pirate. I saw her in Crescent City, then again in Luna. How did she get here?”

At first he’d felt compassionate for the young woman, compelled to help. However, each time he saw her, Lan Jue felt something wasn’t right. He couldn’t say what it was, but the feeling was real.

“I’ll take a look.” A figure appeared at Lan Jue’s side. It was one of Skyfire Avenue’s eighteen councilors, the Barber. His eyes were bright, clearly interested in getting a better look at this beauty.

The Driver muttered. “Aren’t you afraid the Beautician will be jealous?”

The Barber chortled over his shoulder. “There’s nothing
between us. She looks down on me. How do you think I’d look if I’m a savior, eh? What do you say, Jewelry Master. Let’s bring her with us. Leaving someone so beautiful here would be a terrible waste.”

He didn’t wait for Lan Jue’s permission. The Barber was adept at speed, and was off in a flash.

Lan Jue could only helplessly shake his head. “This guy. In such a rush…” He stopped mid-sentence.

The Barber arrived before the woman in a few short moments. Meanwhile, the girl was staring up into the sky, peering at something only she could see. As the Barber appeared she seemed to sense it, and waved at him with her hand.

A ray of blinding red light flashed. In an instant, the Barber was reduced to a cloud of blood. Whoosh! They watched in horror as what remained of the Avenue councilor was sucked into the woman, and vanished.

Lan Jue, the Driver and the others felt the wave of power from the ray. It washed over them, making every hair on their body stand on end. The tell-tale pressure of someone with a
superior Discipline descended upon them.

“Barber!” Lan Jue screamed. He charged. Now he understood why she’d felt so wrong. That power was not something any human could produce.

How could the terror they felt be produced by any normal person? No wonder she was so unnaturally beautiful, and here alone in a world of pirates.

The Driver and Xiaosu were right behind him. They rushed right for the Barber’s murderer.

She had her head down as she slurped up what remained of her kill. A violet aura rippled around her that seemed to make her brighter.

Her eyes snapped up, and she saw Lan Jue heading her way.

Chapter 584: You Are Food

Golden light flashed behind Lan Jue’s eyes. He didn’t know anything about this woman or where she came from, but her actions clearly made her his enemy.

The Barber had been one of the weaker Skyfire councilors, but he was still ninth level third rank, maybe fourth. Yet, this terrifying woman ended him with a wave of her hand. How strong was she?

He was afraid she was a Paragon! Lan Jue asked himself, if he had to kill someone of the Barber’s strength as quickly as he could, then he would have to rely on the power of Captus. She did it with her hand.

She watched Lan Jue rush toward her. Confusion was evident in her gaze, but Lan Jue was already there. A bolt of electricity as thick as her waist came crashing toward her.

The blinding lights flickered as they ran up and down the girl’s body, making her shake. The violet aura around her flashed, and suddenly the lightning was gone.
The Driver’s attack was on the heels of the first. Silver lightning lashed out like a deadly whip. However as the young woman’s eyes narrowed the bolt was reflected back! It struck the Driver so hard he went flying away.

Golden light swirled up Su Xiaosu, then was ejected as a ray of holy light at their foe.

The girl frowned. The confusion in her eyes gave way to untamed ferocity. Her right hand shot out, and a beam of violet light fired toward the Morning Star. IT was the same attack that had slain the Barber.

Lan Jue threw himself between the ray and Su Xiaosu without thinking. In the same instant, his body bloomed with a searing golden light, like a small sun. Lan Jue’s commanding voice rang out. “Harden!”

His voice of command had no effect on the death ray other than to make it pause for a breath before continuing. Lan Jue’s arms rose in a circle, and within it was birthed a familiar vortex of black and white power. The yin-yang vortex pulled at the ray, knocking just far enough off course so that it missed Xiaosu and landed nearby.
The building it struck was evaporated.

“Xiaosu, get the others to Zeus-1! The Driver and I will handle her. Go!” Lan Jue shouted.

He’d managed to cast off the last attack, but it had taken effort. His yin-yang abilities could only defend him so much. He feared that if her next attack was any stronger, he wouldn’t be able to protect himself let alone another.

They were facing a fierce beast in human form!

Su Xiaosu was a military commander, and former Empress of the Moonfiend Pirates. She did not hesitate to take a life when she needed do. She was not known for freezing at decisive moments. However, as the ray of power from the young woman came her way the Morning Star didn’t budge. So complete was the ferocious intent that every pore in her body squeezed shut. Only once Lan Jue broke the line of sight did Xiaosu recover.

This was more than she could handle. Finding reinforcements was the best way she could help.
Contrary to Lan Jue’s expectations, the young woman did not continue her attack. Rather, she watched him with curiosity and interest, engrossed.

The Driver quickly returned to Lan Jue’s side. He’d been struck by his own Discipline, so certainly he could defend well against it. Lan Jue could see him jerk from time to  time, but there was no lasting damage.

“What the hell is she?” The Driver just looked at her stunned. He and the Barber hadn’t been on the best of terms, but they were the same. Both of them hailed from Skyfire Avenue, both councilors, both soldiers in Division. The Driver watched him die without rhyme or reason, how could he not be affected?

Lan Jue shook his head. He was just as much in the dark as his comrade. What he felt from her violet aura was an intense fear. The blasts of energy seemed like reactions, but were strong enough to be considered Paragon-level. Whatever her Discipline was, it was incredibly potent. Lan Jue wasn’t sure his protogenia-infused lightning would be enough to deal with her.

His uncertainty called to Captus. A pale red aura swam around the Monarch. The woman’s curiosity turned to shock when she saw the change in his aura. She stumbled back a few steps,
appearing to be frightened of Captus’ light.

“Who are you?” Her voice was strange, like she was unused to the words.

Lan Jue glared at her. “Why did you kill our friend?”

She looked back at him, confused. “What is ‘friend’? ‘Kill’? Ah, you must mean my last meal. You are also food, though I do not wish to eat you.”

Food? Eat?

Lan Jue and the Driver exchanged confused looks.

Did she say she ate the Driver?

The odd, beautiful young woman frowned as though considering something. Then, without warning, her hand shot out to grab at the Driver’s chest. Her arm stretched unnaturally, bathed in that violet light that made her arm look like it was cut from a gemstone.
Once more that overwhelming terror gripped the Driver. It felt like every nerve and blood vessel froze solid, going so far as to make his movements jerky and uncoordinated. However, the Driver was not the Bartender. Lan Jue wasn’t the only one who’d gotten stronger after the Great Adept Tournament.

He bit the tip of his tongue, the sharp pain sharpening his focus. A blast of silver lightning erupted from him. Taiyin thunderbolts slithered over him from head to toe as he let loose a feral roar. His Discipline surged into his chest where it became a cluster of resplendent silver light.

The Driver coalesced his power into a pure barrier. The undulating line of silver was all that stood between him and that groping hand.

When they met, the woman’s arm swiped away the lightning like it was paper. Errant bolts of lightning arcs into the sky only to disappear, others found their way to both the Driver and Lan Jue.

The woman seemed to be attacking directly, a slave to instinct. Each strike was heavy with lethal power, so much that everyone was almost too startled to speak.
But Lan Jue was prepared. Just as she lashed out for the Driver, Lan Jue’s hand flashed red. Captus appeared in his grip. He swept his hand almost gently to the side, but what issued from the weapon was a rift of intense interdimensional collapse headed right for the woman.

She had no option but to retract that horrifyingly long arm.
Her palm shot out instinctively to deflect the blow.

Poof! The interdimensional rift caused by Captus shuddered and made the world before them warp uncomfortably. Lan Jue felt the space around him constrict, and it was then he realized. She was not only deflecting his attack, but counter-attacking as well. He reeled back a few steps.

Lan Jue grit his teeth and forced himself to be still. He could not give her ground, not even an inch more. If he did she might grow bold and attack with all her strength. It wasn’t just his life on the line, or the Driver’s. They had ten units of soldiers who would be decimated if she got passed them.

The Monarch’s eyes blazed, as reddish-golden light erupted from him. He drew upon every ounce of his power, planted his feet, gripped Captus with both hands  and  thrust  himself forward blade first.
The young woman’s wide eyes couldn’t come away from Lan Jue. A flood of emotion crossed her alluring face. But through all of that, there was nothing violent. No fear or rage. Instead he saw confusion. She seemed almost pitiful.

Lan Jue grit his teeth and steeled his nerves. He would not be dissuaded by the enchantment of her eyes. After what he witnessed, what he felt, how could she be considered pitiful on any level?

The red light around Captus blazed. Along its blade runes shimmered archaically. A column of reality collapsed where he pointed.

The Driver had been ready to join forces with Lan Jue. He remembered how strong their Disciplines were, yin and yang together. They could rely on that to contend with this surprise enemy. However, the moment he saw the red light of Captus, felt the flood of power that came from his commander, he knew he was no longer needed.

He dissolved into a bolt of silver lightning and retreated. Staying behind he was only good as a spectator. This fight was above his pay grade.
Just then the sparkling hull of Zeus-1 came into view. Without delay, its traction beam burst to life and began swallowing up the Division soldiers. Inside, one of the bridge monitor’s beeped as its main gun locked onto Lan Jue’s target. All the while the woman never noticed. She never took her eyes away from Lan Jue and the weapon he was pointing at her.

She won’t defend? Something stirred in Lan Jue’s chest. Just as it seemed the blade would impale her Lan Jue stopped dead. The woman’s brows furrowed prettily for a moment, then she smiled.

She was visually perfect. Even under these circumstances her smile was stupefying. Two delicate fingers, soft as spring onions, pinched Captus’ tip between them. All of a sudden it felt like he was against an impenetrable barrier. Captus couldn’t move an inch.

She could stop a Banishing Blade, with her fingers alone?

Lan Jue stared at her, too shocked to say or do anything.

She tilted her head to the side as she regarded him. Her features were calm, charming. With a flick of her finger Lan Jue
and Captus were flung a hundred meters away before crashing to earth.

The Banishing Blade flickered and shuddered of its own accord. Lan Jue’s expression could only be defined as stupefied.

Since accepting Captus, Lan Jue’s power had reached previously unknown heights. Until now, he had met no foe who could defy Captus’ deadly edge. Never did he think he’d encounter someone capable of choking the sword’s power – it was one of the Banishing Blades!

Chapter 585: The Violet Princess

Lan Jue knew the failings were not with the sword, but with how much of its power Lan Jue was able to command. The woman lifting her head and looked up at Zeus-1, hovering overhead. Mika had been appraised of the situation. She knew the Barber had been slain by this woman’s hand, and now with her boss out of the way she had a clean line of sight.

Zeus-1’s main cannon fires a dazzling beam of blue light!

Mika knew Lan Jue was in the strike zone at only a hundred meters away. She was counting on his peak cultivation to help him avoid the brunt of the attack.

Boom! A thunderous boom resounded. The resulting shockwave sent Lan Jue hurdling away once again. A massive crater where the ship had fired. All the buildings around it had been summarily leveled.

A red flick flickered around Lan Jue – Captus, protecting itself. Even with his constitution shored up by the Banishing Blade, the blast threw him a thousand meters from the crater.
A moment later, a dark red lung spread out over the sky. The crimson hue painted everything around them as rivers of lava tumbled from the heavens. The boiling rock converged on the crater.

The Gourmet hovered in the sky, hand in hand with Seamstress. His face was hard and imposing.

The ground still trembled from Zeus-1’s blast. The crater it left behind was now a lake of molten lava. Its surface bubbled with poisonous fumes.

Lan Jue recovered from the two blow-backs and rose into the sky. There he hovered and watched his team take on their inhuman opponent. An inexplicable disquiet filled him, though. He suspected the woman wouldn’t be put down so easily.

“Coffee Master, Bartender. When you’ve gotten everyone get back in atmosphere and meet up with Majesty. ” Lan Jue shouted the command through his communicator. He was beginning to suspect meeting her here was no accident. He’d felt it in their clash. There was something familiar…

The blinding lights eventually receded. The waves of energy
and clouds of dust settled. Clear skies hung over the red-hot lake of lava. But the beautiful woman was nowhere to be seen – like she’d indeed been swallowed up by the lava.

The Driver appeared at Lan Jue’s side. His voice was low and uncertain. “Where the hell did she come from? A Paragon? She didn’t seem like it! I didn’t sense any protogenia.”

Lan Jue frowned. “I don’t know, either. But I feel…”

Before he could explain any further, both men snapped their eyes to the lake. Pfoo! A figure breached the bubbling stone and shot into the air.

The woman looked angry. A strange frost covered her face, but otherwise she seemed unchanged from the mighty attack. There wasn’t any indication the lava touched her at all.

She cast a venomous glare at Lan Jue as she soared higher. Then, she whipped her hand out to swipe at the Gourmet. In the same instant her body erupted in a blinding red light that shot right for Zeus-1.
Lan Jue’s battleship was shielded, but nevertheless careened out of the way of the red light. Thankfully, its upgraded defenses were comprehensive. The wild evasion maneuvers sent the ship reeling, but Mika’s expert piloting kept them safe and in control.


The Gourmet withdrew a meter meters, pulling the Seamstress back with him. He retracted his hand from hers, and traced a circle in the air before him with his arms. Color drained from an extensive patch of reality around him. He thrust his palms forward, inciting a beam of pale-white light to fire out. The beam and the woman’s encroaching palm met halfway.

Silent as the grave, the woman’s arm started to melt when it clashed with the Gourmet’s power. His Domain consumed her like snow in a furnace.

His protogenia was… corrosive? What power was this?

The Gourmet’s face changed when he witnessed the effect. A guttural hum vibrated through the air while the grey light poured from the Gourmet like a font. His body adopted a similar ashen-grey hue, and an elaborate crown sat atop his head. The rules of life and death were perverted around the Infernal Vanguard. He pressed the attack, pumping his fist in seven
successive strikes to erase the woman entirely.

But the beautiful monster clenched her fist, and punched through. She struck the Gourmet like a lightning bolt. He went flailing through the air, and the grey light of Domain dissipated like a host of spirits.

This…

Even the Gourmet, a Paragon in his own right, was no match for her. How strong was she?!

She was given no breathing room, as in the next instant a blast of white light was almost upon her. A roar like some unspeakable beast preceded it; the sound of air being ripped apart as the white light came crashing over her.

The woman looked on with wide, shocked eyes. Instinctively her hand shot up.

Boom—! The light – a hundred millions sword-strikes as one – hit her like a torrent. Then, it turned around and came back for another pass. She grunted as the violet light surrounding her
flared. The aura protected her, forcibly shoving the deadly flood to either side. She lightly stamped her right food, and in response the whole planet trembled.

The white light was scattered and the figure that summoned it staggered back. One moment the white light was searing through the air and the next it was not. She cut it off herself to keep her stability.

It was the Pharmacist, appearing in their time of need. The righteous light of Occisus made a nimbus around her.

The Driver gaped at her from Lan Jue’s side in complete and utter disbelief.

Star Division’s three mightiest warriors descended upon the woman one after the other, and yet they were still outclassed. It was unlikely she’d summoned the whole of her power yet. And what power it was! Although she was no Paragon, it was the only means of comparison they had, and she was at least of the second degree. Maybe even stronger.

Lan Jue shot the Driver a telling glance. He knew it meant he was to fall back to the ships. Lan Jue then shot forward to join
the Pharmacist.

The light of Captus and Occisus flashed and twinkled. They’d were hungry for the destruction of the beast.

The beautiful woman seethed with anger. She glared daggers at Lan Jue and, with a petulant pout, seemed almost resentful. “I didn’t try to eat you! Why do you hit me?”

Lan Jue scowled. The girl seemed to measure her world in what could be eaten.

“Who are you?” Lan Jue demanded.

The woman was bewildered by the question. After a moment, however, her resolute answer was given. “The Violet Princess.”

“The Violet Princess.” Lan Jue stared at her. Princess was a rare title even among humans. Western Alliance royalty saw its frequent usage, but otherwise it was a novelty from the old world.
“Is this incorrect? In your human history, is it not proper to refer to your high status females as ‘princess?’” Her words were strange, but she spoke with confidence and fluency.

Lan Jue’s expression grew only more confused. “Are you not human?”

“I am,” she said, “and I am not. My people eat yours.” She delivered it as point of fact. And then, she opened her mouth wide…

It stretched grotesquely, revealing rows of razor sharp teeth. She belched a plume of violet air at Lan Jue and the Pharmacist.

Her attacks before were more reactions, self-defense.  This time was different. This time there was intent. Her  maw stretched over a hundred meters wide, and within swirled a vortex as violent as a black hole.

There it was. Now Lan Jue remembered where he’d felt this before.

Ashen pockets of air descended from above. They cut Lan Jue
and the Pharmacist off from the Violet Princess’ assault. The Gourmet came down to join his compatriots, but his was not idle. His hands tirelessly contorted into archaic runic shapes while behind him, a gigantic image flickered in and out of reality.

It was humanoid in shape, and peering deep into the surrounding darkness one could spy hair the color of bone dust. An ornate black robe concealed its figure, with dim silver light tracing designs cross its surface. He was majestic, imposing, and radiated with the essence of death.

This was…

Hades’ Effigy! A phenomenon of the Reflection of Heaven and Earth!

Reminder; Paragon levels. 1.Realm of Protogenia 2. Reflection of Heaven and Earth 3. Nirvana 4. Unknowable

But it was faint, and the effigy unstable. It was evident he hadn’t reached the comprehension needed to master it fully. He was managing with every ounce of effort he could muster.
The nightmarish image behind the Gourmet extended a palm. A world-shuddering terror spilled out like a tide. The Violet Princess whirled and bit at the enormous ashen hand.

The effigy’s light was devoured, but likewise the sea of violet energy within the princess’ maw had also been extinguished.

“Withdraw!” The Gourmet grabbed up his two companions and shot into the air.

But the Violet Princess’ figure shimmered and vanished, reappearing in their path.

“Delicious morsels. I can’t let you go.” She mumbled the phrase again and again, like a psychotic mantra. She waved her arms in circles, and the motion birthed an orb of red light. It fired itself at the three of them, a prison of crimson light.

The Pharmacist’s first reaction was to bite hard on her tongue. She felt her mouth fill with blood as Occisus’ resplendent light blazed around them. The runes etched on the blade’s surface flickered, while buffeting winds roared. The image of an enormous sword appeared in the air and cut the orb of light in two. It opened enough of an avenue for the Gourmet
to pull them into another retreat.

Another hair-raising sizzle filled the air as Zeus-1 let loose another blast from its main gun. This time everyone could see clearly how she’d avoided the first salvo.

She waved her hand like swatting away a fly. Her aura thickened into a red shell that warded off the blast without a scratch. All it served to do was slow down her pursuit for a few seconds.

But an important fact was revealed. With her speed, dodging it would not be a problem. Instead she took every hit directly. Did she find them so beneath her that dodging was unnecessary?

Chapter 586: The Terrifying Violet Princess

“An alien. Her aura, it’s just like an alien’s!” Lan Jue’s voice wormed into the Pharmacist’s and Gourmet’s ears.

An alien? An alien this strong?

Their hearts sank. If this was true the princess chose her name aptly. She would have to be among the strongest of her kind. And if she was here, did that mean there were others?

The Violet Princess reeled at Zeus-1. She appeared to have lost patience. Throwing her head back, the alien screamed into the heavens. A pair of wings ripped open her back and spread wide. It was a precursor for an unfathomable scene.

The beautiful face was twisted in a mask of ferocity and anger. Lines of mystifying violet light slithered across her skin, while her body swelled to over three meters tall. Her figure retained its alluring shape, however layers of violet scales slithered out to encase her. She glared at Zeus-1 hovering nearby, then lashed out.
Suddenly the sky – no, everything around them changed. Their surroundings became painted violet. The fleeing Division leaders felt sluggish and the air was like moving through soup.

A beam of light erupted from the princess, coalescing into the shape of a mouth intent on swallowing up the airship.

“No–!” Lan Jue screamed, but he was helpless to stop it. He could hardly move in this violet universe. Even Captus’ light was dimmed.

Ka-cha! The crystal-clear click of a shutter hung in the air.

The color palette of their new reality shifted from violet to pale pink. On the heels of that sharp camera shutter came another sound. Awesome and dreadful, the violet light was stopped dead and shattered into a hundred thousand shards of class. Pieces of it glittered as they tumbled from the sky.

Zeus-1 fled like a robin from a hawk. It swung dramatically askew in its hurry to flee. Mika was just getting the writhing hellfire around her back under control. She had stared into the jaws of death. A moment later, and everyone onboard would have been smoke and ash.
It was unthinkable. Their complicated and daring raid of Moonfiend had gone without a hitch. Only in the final moments, as they made for a victorious departure, did they met with disaster. How could this be? It was outside their ability to predict.

The Photographer didn’t either. She’d saved the lives of everyone on that ship, but only just. She wasn’t any more prepared than anyone else.

The Violet Princess’ eyes were filled with incredulity. She looked at Luo Xianni with doubt written on her pretty face.

Luo Xianni hovered in midair, with her camera in one hand.
She looked back at the princess, eye to eye.

Her sudden arrival made Lan Jue feel like he could breathe again. He called out to his mother. “I think she’s an alien. Only, I don’t know why she looks like a human.”

An alien? When he said the words, the Pharmacist and the Gourmet shuddered. This beautiful woman, an alien? The level of power she displayed would back that up, as would her brutal aura.
Luo Xianni sniffed. She lifted her camera once again. But the Violet Princess sensed something was coming. Her beguiling figure trembled, then vanished. She reappeared in the next instant in front of the Photographer, throwing a fist toward her face.

Just as the attack was ready to land, her figure became dim. The princess swiped right through an empty image. The real Paragon was a thousand meters away.

Ka-cha! The familiar sound of her shutter came again. The skies went pick, and the Violet Princess felt her movements stiffen.

It didn’t last. A tremendous burst of violet light vented off of her that halted the Photographer’s power. It didn’t extend to the pink skies, but for now the princess evaded becoming a photograph.

Every onlooker was struck dumb by what they witnessed. They had just seen the Photographer handily transform a battleship into a thin sheet! Apparently, the princess was too strong for even the mighty Paragon to seal away.
The Violet Princess thrust with her palms. A tide of violet energy surged from her, threatening to swallow up the vast pink sky. Forlorn humans watched the comforting pale hue began to dissolve. A shimmering figure appeared behind her.

It was a globe, enormous and violet as the rest of her kind. Despite its hazy image, they could see writhing tentacles lashing around the orb. Its presence boosted the princess’ aura, making it stronger. She was calling on her full power.

Reality crackled where the embattled colors met. Cresting waves of energy filled all the space in between.

“Zeus-1, we’re retreating!” The Gourmet said, making the call.

He knew more than most that they couldn’t be around for what was about to happen. This fight wasn’t one any of them could sway in any positive fashion. He was thankful the beast hadn’t used her full power immediately, otherwise it would have been a very short fight.

The three of them withdrew as quickly as they could to the waiting airship. They were gathered up the by tractor beam and brought aboard. Lan Jue wasted no time making his way to the
captain’s chair and ordering Mika to get them out of there.

The planet’s surface was too dangerous. They would wait for the Photographer in orbit.

Mika grit her teeth and navigated them through the tempestuous winds. When she caught a moment of calm air, Zeus-1’s engines flared to life. An impressive wake of flame followed their escape.

Lan Jue’s face was dark. Coming off their victory over the Moonfiend pirates, everyone had been ecstatic. Now the atmosphere was bleak and somber.

Lan Jue had seen all kinds of aliens; from progenitor seeds to common beasts. He felt like he had at least a working knowledge of what they were up against. The Violet Princess showed him how wrong he was.

He’d been operating under the assumption that the size of any given alien was proportional to their strength. Humanity was shoring up to steel themselves for a conflict, thinking they need only survive a simple assault. It would come down to a battle of attrition.
The Violet Princess changed the game entirely.

She was incredibly strong, seemingly invincible. The Photographer had become a Reflection of Heaven and Earth, and yet all she could do was dissuade the foe. Lan Jue determined that she must not be entirely familiar with her abilities. If she was, she’d have killed them all from the start, because she had the power of a Paragon as strong as Luo Xianni!

Chapter 587: Retreat

Neither Captus nor Occisus could harm the Violet Princess. She was on a whole other realm of dominance. If there were many like her in her species, then when the battle came…

Lan Jue thought back to the Clairvoyant and his earliest predictions. If this is what he saw in those visions, he could understand why the situation was so dire.

“Did you record the fight?” He asked Mika.

She nodded. “Everything after we arrived.”

Su Xiaosu interjected, standing nearby. “I have the first part on my communicator.”

Lan Jue’s voice was low. “Clean it up and send a copy to Majesty. Tell them to relay it to the Avenue immediately, highest priority.”

“Could she just be a powerful Paragon, not an alien?” The Driver said, hesitant to jump to conclusions.
Lan Jue’s lips turned in a bitter smirk. “I hoped so. But her aura, the savagery, her fighting style, the fact she ate the Barber… it all confirms my suspicions. We fought the aliens on Tempest. We know they can get into the Starfields. If…”

He trailed off when something outside caught his eye. His pupils contracted. “What is that?”

The others had been keenly watching when they saw his expression change. They followed his shocked gaze out the bridge window. Instantly their faces matched Lan Jue’s, filled with shock and disbelief.

Zeus-1 had shed Moonfiend’s atmosphere, and the vista of outer space was revealed from the airship’s windows. What they saw was the encroaching asteroid hail. Three swirling cyclones of violet energy had appeared among the crashing stones.

They were ten thousand kilometers across at least. From the vantage of their tiny airship, it was a truly spectacular scene. Light stopped at they neared the borders of the vortexes, photons ripped apart. It was apocalyptic.

The Accountant’s voice crackled through the bridge’s
speakers. “Zeus-1, Zeus-1! This is Majesty. Powerful, unknown energy fluctuations have appeared. Requesting permission to retreat!” His voice was beginning to sound desperate.

“Granted,” Lan Jue affirmed. “Majesty and everyone else. Get out as fast as you can, make your way to Skyfire.”

“Acknowledged. Jewelry Master, are you coming?” The Accountant sounded much relieved by the order to withdraw.

Lan Jue hesitated for a moment. “Yes, we’re all pulling out.”

“I anticipated your order and took the liberty of having the Coffee Master and Bartender take their ships back first. They move slower,” the Accountant confessed.

“No time for that,” Lan Jue replied. “Everyone needs to get out, immediately.”

“Aye aye!” The Accountant felt a weight lift from his chest, appearing to have avoided Lan Jue’s wrath. Majesty briefly shed its cloak and twinkled against the dark backdrop of space. The battleship then reengaged its invisibility and headed toward
Zeus-1. Mika turned their ship around to prepare for their exit.

“I’m getting in the ejection capsule. Mika, shoot me out,” Lan Jue ordered.

Her head snapped around to look at him. “Boss, you –“

He narrowed his eyes, catching the words in her throat. He didn’t speak, he didn’t need to. But Mika resolutely shook her head. “No. No!”

Zeus-1 picked up speed.

Lan Jue’s voice was hard with anger. “So you’re going to force me to disgrace myself? My mother’s down there. You fall back, and I’ll go down to help. After a little while come back to pick us up.

“I’m going too,” the Pharmacist announced.

Lan Jue shook his head. “You have Jun’er to look after, we can’t risk you. Gourmet, everyone, I’m ordering you to retreat.
No one will follow me. You’re all necessary for the war against these aliens. If you believe the Clairvoyant’s predictions, then no harm should come to me. I’ll just be there to support the Photographer as much as I can. Someone needs to be there to record what happens. I’ll make sure to send all the data and keep updates. I’m the only one who can do this. Now don’t worry, my mother’s strong. Even if she can’t  defeat  the princess, escaping shouldn’t be too difficult. When we’re out of danger, we’ll get in contact.”

Lan Jue was calm. He was addressing the leadership of Star Division.

The Pharmacist opened her mouth to protest, but the Gourmet put a hand on her shoulder. “Commander’s orders!”

Lan Jue was a God-ranked mecha pilot, and third strongest in their group. With Zeus’ help he could survive longer out in pace than the Gourmet could. It was clearly the right choice.

Lan Jue looked at the Gourmet with a grateful eye. He turned and made his way to the ejection pod.

Suddenly, a soft voice caught his ear. “Don’t go. Don’t waste
your effort, good child.” There was a flicker of pink, and the Photographer appeared on the ship’s deck. Her face was pale and she stumbled, nearly falling but for the support of the Pharmacist beside her.

Everyone was relieved to see her, Lan Jue particularly. He rushed to her side.

“Ma, are you alright?” He asked with deep concern.

She smirked at him. “I won’t die. Let’s get out of here. In all my life I’ve never seen interspatial fluctuations as strong as these – not normal cosmic turbulence. We need to get clear as quick as possible.”

Mika didn’t need to wait for instructions. When the Photographer appeared she was overjoyed, and wasted no time in pulling Zeus-1 into an escape trajectory.

Lan Jue returned to the main control console. “Majesty, this is Zeus-1. Release all your probes and get as much data from the surroundings as you can.”
“Aye aye, Majesty acknowledges!” Came the Accountant’s reply.

Both ships made their final preparations then beat an escape as fast as their engines could muster. In no time they were tearing through space at the speed of light.

Probes silently spun in orbit around Moonfiend. Linking eyes watched the surrounding chaos and sent the images back to the Division armada.

ΞΆ

On the surface of Moonfiend.

A violet shadow was frozen solid. A series of clicks issued from it over and over until suddenly, a burst of violet light erupted from it. The shadow was shattered, revealing none other than the Violet Princess.

There was confusion in her eyes. However, the pursed lips and irritated expression spoke to her displeasure. In another circumstance she looked like she might be a beautiful woman
irritated with her boyfriend. It was an insidious mask, hiding the terror beneath.

The swirling whirlpools of energy around the planet continued to expand until the asteroid belt threatening Moonfiend was swallowed up and vanished.

Chapter 588: Transferring Planets!

The asteroid belt was gone, like it had never existed. One of the defining features of the Shattered Starfields was that at any given time, in any given direction you could find asteroid belts and dwarf planets in scores. The clearest band was near the galaxy’s central star.

This area was traditionally not so lucky, and yet now the space around it was completely clear. That is, but for the three enormous vortexes. They swirled around the planet, emitting waves of energy that grew stronger by the moment, while they spun ever faster.

Lan Jue and his team weren’t the only spectators. All the pirates and slaves left on Moonfiend, and especially its two sister planets, were spectators to the event. Unlike Lan Jue, however, they had no means of retreat. The surviving pirates had watched the destruction of Moonfiend from their surveillance equipment only half a day ago. Moonfiend Palace, the seat of their power, was under enemy occupation.

So they didn’t dare move, even if they could. Whatever terrifying enemy obliterated Moonfiend was somewhere out the galaxy. Who knew what sort of devious traps they’d planned? This was especially true for the second planet whose entire fleet
had been decimated. At least on the planet they had the defense system to offer protection.

Without warning, a massive column of violet light shot from Moonfiend’s surface. It pierced the atmosphere and fired into the darkness of space. I was visible from the other planets with the naked eye.

The vortexes spun at incredible speed. Then, all of a sudden, they collapsed in on themselves like they could no longer sustain their existence. In a scene as strange as any in the last half a day, the cyclones of violet energy condensed to a single point of light. The buffeting tides of energy threatened to throw all three planets out of orbit. Rays of light struggling to fight their way out of that infinitesimally small space.

Zeus-1 and Majesty were far from the dangers of this turbulence. At light speed, even those deadly rays couldn’t catch them. However, everyone’s eyes were glued to the monitors. They wanted to discover all they could about what it was they saw, to discover is the Violet Princes was indeed an alien. Not least of which, they needed to know what she was doing there.

Reconnaissance equipment was limited in how far it could transmit data. Although Majesty and Zeus-1 were comparatively
small for their respective classes, their equipment was top of the line. They could maintain this speed for a full day and still see everything going on around Moonfiend.

When Lan Jue saw the whirlpools contract, his eyes went wide. He audibly gasped. In a few breaths all of that terrible power… stopped. It certainly was not normal cosmic turbulence.

What was left behind was something none of them would ever forget.

The three points of light seemed to gain in volume. They struggled and grew, reality around them warped erratically.

Then everything went dark. The probes were obliterated by the shockwaves.

On the bridge, you could hear a pin drop. It was like everyone’s breath was caught in their throat. They’d seen it… they’d all seen it! In those moments before the probes were destroyed, they’d witnessed the scene with their own eyes.
The communication’s controls flickered. The Accountant’s voice broke the silence. “Jewelry Master, accept my feed,” he said.

Mika connected the line.

The video that flickered onto their monitors showed the area around Moonfiend. He was still close enough to remotely access the main controls on Moonfiend Palace. With some finagling he could gain access all the way from Skyfire.

It was coming in handy now.

Lan Jue swallowed. “Did you see?” Lan Jue turned his head to look at the Pharmacist and the Gourmet.

They nodded, both their faces dark and solemn.

The Jewelry Master shut his eyes as though in pain. “Why… why does it have to be like this?”

The Pharmacist’s voice was curt and dispassionate. “We
should consider ourselves lucky. We found out early. At least we can bring the information back and give them Alliances time to prepare.

The violet light became more distinct on their monitors. A yellow shell crackled over the planet – the planetary defenses engaging, under the Accountant’s command. The shields and railguns alike prepared for any encroaching threat.

The night sky was clear. All the asteroids had been blown away, leaving an obstructed view of the heavens. It made the three enormous shadows that much clearer.

Three gargantuan violet planets hovered in space, flickering with caustic light.

The three alien planets! These were the harbingers of humanity’s destruction they had been desperately preparing to meet. All of them had seen what happened to the North’s Seventh Fleet when they encountered these planets.

Planetary transfer!
This was one thing humanity was certain was impossible. But here they were, in human space, defying what everyone thought to be true. Alien invaders had flagrantly appeared in the heart of human occupied space.

This was the first news they got of the planets since the Seventh Fleet. Up this point they had disappeared without a trace. Some optimists suggested the aliens were never after them, and had moved on. The universe was large, there was space enough for everyone.

What they experienced proved this false.

Not only did the alien planets reappeared, they reappeared right in their backyard. They knew they could fly, now they knew they could transfer through space. Lan Jue had heard of the ability before. The Wine Master had performed it, though he only transferred himself and the doctor. These aliens, meanwhile, had found a way to move three whole planets!

The leaders of the Star Division knew what that meant. Their enemy could show up anywhere, at any time. They could begin exterminating the human race tomorrow if they so pleased. They had seen what it did to the Seventh Fleet, and knew that each planet was about as strong as a Bastion Ship. This meant
there were three hostile bastion ships that could be appear anywhere.

Human Bastion Ships could move, obviously. However, large as they were it took energy to get them moving even slowly. If their enemy could jump from one place to another, Bastions would never catch them.

The alien menace hadn’t tipped its hand against humanity yet, but Lan Jue and the other Star Division warriors knew what was coming. Their hearts were filled with trepidation.

When the planets first appeared they seemed thin and transparent. Soon, however, they solidified. As real as the planets they were surrounding. The central planet – the largest of the three – shook softly, then began to approach Moonfiend.

It was at least five times larger than the pirates’ playground, which was itself the largest planet in the Starfields before these foes arrived. It was comparable to the largest of the human planets, including Skyfire, Luo or Europa.

Reminder: the three capitol planets of their respective Alliances.
The column of violet light that burst from Moonfiend’s surface gradually faded, and disappeared. The yellow shell that indicated the planet’s shield was easily picked out.

The other two alien planets followed the first’s lead and advanced as well. Their targets were the two other pirate home worlds.

Lan Jue and the others tapped into the planet’s telescopes and watched the hungry planet approach.

“Are they going to collide with it?” Xiaosu wondered aloud.
She clearly still had affection for the planet she once led.

Crash? What kind of fighting style was this? It was inconceivable.

Everyone wracked their brain for answers. Every eye was glued to the monitors for any clue. As they looked on, the alien planet came within range of Moonfiend’s railguns.

“Planetary defense systems, engage!” They heard the Accountant’s voice call over the communications equipment.
Flashes of light followed from the screens, as the railguns released their payload toward the encroaching threat.

Everyone was aware of how destructive a full-sized railgun could be. Even a Capital-class vessel with all its power wouldn’t dare get within range of one of those guns, lest it was blown apart. Without question, Moonfiend had the most robust defense system in all of the Shattered Starfields. The Pontiff’s Citadel spared no expense in protecting their assets.

Light from the monitors painted everyone’s face in hard, stark light. The railgun blasts found their target.

But then…

When the blasts struck, the planet reacted by shimmering with violet light. When the light of the railgun blasts burned away, it revealed that no damage had been done. There wasn’t even an explosion.

Lan Jue stared fixedly at the planet and its violet aura. He could feel it all the way from here, the sense of that strange aura. It was the same as the one he’d felt from the Violet Princess. The power made Lan Jue heave a breath.
It wasn’t just defending. It was consuming the attacks. If the Division soldiers were shocked before, now they were petrified.

Chapter 589: Swallowing The Planet

As the Star Division leadership watched, the largest central alien planet split apart like a giant mouth. They’d witnessed these planets before after the Great Adept Tournament, when the North shared it’ footage of their first encounter. At the time the video didn’t have any frame of reference and they couldn’t tell how gargantuan these planets actually were. Juxtaposed against the Shattered Starfields’ primary planets, there was no more confusion. The planet descended like the maw of a hungry beast.

The planet had been moving slowing, but seemed to pick up speed. The surface of Moonfiend went dark as the alien planet blotted out the sun. Its atmosphere buzzed with yellow light as defense systems were dialed up to eleven, but as beams of light were siphoned from Moonfiend and disappeared into the depths of the alien planet, that darkness grew until it was absolute.

Worse than the darkness was what it heralded. It was simply an absence of light. Wherever the darkness touched, the earth was turned into a churned wasteland. Buildings collapsed as the crust of the planet heaved. Whole skyscrapers disappeared into impossibly deep fissures.

It took no time at all for the darkness and stillness to consume
Moonfiend. Not a single light twinkled on its surface. Safely on the bridge of Zeus-1, the only sounds were the ship’s crew manipulating controls. Aside from them, it was as though everyone’s heart had stopped.

“It…. It ate it?” The Accountant’s stunned voice broke the silence. It shook the others from their stunned disbelief.

Yes! Moonfiend had been eaten. That was the only way they could describe what they’d seen. But it wasn’t a slab of meat they were talking about. Moonfiend wasn’t a head of cabbage. It was a giant, fully formed planet that supported life! Regardless, it was swallowed up like an hors d’oeuvre.

The aliens were terrifying before this fact. This only solidified their reputation as the stuff of nightmares. Eating an entire planet? How were they supposed to contest against that? They couldn’t even begin to think of an answer.

They had been first hand witnesses to what these invading planetary bodies could do. Although they had no feed to witness the end of the other two planets, they could guess their fate. Three planets… three whole planets, gobbles up! The aliens had effectively taken the Shattered Starfields.
Lan Jue had been blessed with circumstances that rapidly improved his Discipline, culminating in joining with the Banishing Blade. He could clearly sense his proximity to the realm of Paragon. His Star Division had swept away their enemies with legendary efficiency. It filled him with pride.

However, all of that fled like a candle flame in a hurricane when they witnessed this scene. After what he’d seen, Lan Jue wasn’t even sure his father could stop them!

“A-Jue, come here.” Luo Xianni’s voice sounded like it was right by his ear though she was in her room. Lan Jue regained his composure and hurried to where she was waiting.

When she returned from her fight with the Violet Princess, she’d immediately sunk into a meditative state. She had to recover the energy she’d expended. She was awake now, but her face was still sallow and tired.

Lan Jue rushed to her side. “Ma, are you alright?” He asked.

She shook her head. “I’m fine. That woman was very strong, but she seems unable to fully control her powers. I waited for an opportunity and locked her down before making my escape. I
can tell you that the power I felt coming from her was no less potent than your father’s. If he were here, he would be able to put her down.”

No one knew Jue Di better than Luo Xianni. He’d been her hobby for years, she knew all about him.

Luo Xianni seemed to know Lan Jue’s heart. She fixed him with an earnest stare. “Do not despair. Given enough time humans are capable of overcoming anything the universe can throw at us. There is no other species with more intelligence or potential than us. I watched the creature carefully while we fought. I suspect she designed that body she wears. You’re right in that she’s definitely not human, you can feel the differences in her aura. Everything seems to point to alien, and one of their leaders if they can be said to have such roles. She devours life force to empower herself, that’s why she sees us as food.

“An Adept’s vitality is higher than an average human’s. Our kind must be particularly scrumptious to her. While I watched her, I wondered why she would choose a human body like hers. If she wanted to, she could have destroyed Moonfiend and no one would’ve been able to stop her. The form puts some constraints on what she can do, as well. It constricts her power, and it’s probably why she seemed so clueless all the time.
“According to evolution, every species develops and enhances the most beneficial traits. There’s no reason to believe the Violet Princess and those or her kind are any different. She didn’t adopt a disguise to immerse herself in human culture – that’s not what these aliens do. They’re invaders, and learning about what your food likes isn’t helpful. I think she must have chosen her body because it was advantageous. It was more than skin deep, too. Her body systems and organs – everything was the same as you or I. Similar, actually, to a Paragon, but not completely. What this proves is that we humans are admired by these beasts. There’s something about us that they want to emulate. Something that makes us better than them.”

Lan Jue was an intelligent man. He knew that Luo Xianni’s was earnest, but intended to keep him from losing faith. If her adopted child lost confidence, the outcome would be catastrophic.

“She’s right.” A light shimmered in the middle of Lan Jue’s forehead, projecting out into the room. The semi-transparent image of Jun Yongye appeared among them.

The Photographer was taken by surprise, she hadn’t expected a man to pop out of her son’s head. She recovered quickly, though. “A sword spirit?”
Jun Yongye turned his attention to Luo Xianni. His expression was crestfallen. “In ages long past, the demons of highest ability would take on human form. They did so because their natural bodies couldn’t survive the process of breaking through to new levels of power. The creature you fought can be considered a Greater Demon, is they styled them in the old days. They are not the same species as those monsters which roamed the old world, but their essence is the same. If we were to use the measures your ancestors created, I would determine that the Violet Princess strives for immortality. She has not reached the threshold, but she is close. She has likely chosen a human form for this purpose. When feeding on humans she must have sensed their potency.

“It is impossible for me to tell what her naturally body looks like. All I can say is it must have some benefit for her development. Her true power is likely much more awesome than what we witnessed. We know this simply because only the most powerful of these creatures take human form.”

Upon hearing this, Lan Jue couldn’t help but interject. “What do I have to do to defeat her?”

Jun Yongye was silent for a moment. “At her current strength, you would need to command at least five percent of Captus’ potency to oppose her. If and when she comes to
understand the nuances of her new body, you will need ten percent. This I so that you might stand a chance.”

Lan Jue heaved a heavy sigh, because he recalled Jun Yongye’s earlier words. When he broke through to Paragon, he would only be capable of handling one percent of what the Banishing Blade contained.

How strong, then, would he need to be to call on five percent?
Ten percent?

“Except…” Jun Yongye suddenly added.

“Yes?” Lan Jue fixed him with a curious look.

“When you become a paragon, you shall be able to manipulate the sword. Your mastery of a sword style and your comprehension of the essence of the sword, will sharply enhance your combat prowess. You may not need to draw so much on what the sword can offer, which changes our calculations. When you have learned the secrets of the focused flow then your demands of the blade will reduce. If your lover awakens and you master the Harmonious Swords, then you both will have command of a tenth of your respective weapons.
Together, you might be able to contend with her. If you ever witness the Harmonious Swords, you will understand.”

The Harmonious Swords?

Lan Jue’s eyes lit up when he heard it, but it was short lived. Directly afterward a depression set in his face. Zhou Qianlin was still in her coma, and he didn’t know when she would awaken much less learn the Harmonious Swords with him!

Jun Yongye looked at him with a steady gaze. “Do everything in your power to improve yourself. Take no shortcuts in your cultivation. The Greater Demon is strong, but she is not perfect. Her energies are muddled. She has found some way to separate herself from the dangers of it, but the dangers are still there. When you have absorbed all of the thunder essence, with its righteous lightning and immortal essence, you will be able to constrain the impure powers of the Violet Princess.”

The most urgent task ahead of Lan Jue was becoming a Paragon. Otherwise, the next time he met the Violet Princess he might not survive. However, even with as much potential as he had, becoming a Paragon was no easy feat. At any rate, he had to wait for Qianlin so that they could cross the threshold together.
Jun Yongye vanished in a flicker of red light. The spirit returned to its silent vigil within Lan Jue.

Veeeery common in Eastern mythology. ‘Demons’ are a catchphrase for all many of mythical creatures, not necessarily ‘evil’ either. Normal critters can get magical powers, cultivate them and adopt a human body. The White Snake is probably one of the most famous – a snake demon who became a beautiful woman. Foxes and birds are also fairly prevalent in fiction. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they usually prefer the body of a beautiful young woman.

This is the name of Lan Jue’s chosen sword style. It translates at ‘ten thousand floods surge toward the sea.’ I believe this is meant to evoke an image of overwhelming power, converging on a single point from many directions.

Chapter 590: Did You Birth Him?

Luo Xianni looked distracted, as though she were considering something. “The first thing we need to go is get the word out. Then, we need to find a way to get in touch with your father. He’s the only one who can face the Violet Princess. The scariest question now is, how many ‘princesses’ do they have? If there are enough of them they won’t need to rely on anything else. A handful of these Greater Demons and humanity will be wiped out.”

She wasn’t exaggerating. Someone with Jue Di’s power could destroy a planet. His power was so terrifying that nearly all the leading Adepts of the time felt he needed to be killed. They were so convinced that they waged war against him.

What they saw from the alien today was on par with what Lan Jue’s father could do. One shuddered to imagine the damage she could inflict on humans when the battle began in earnest.

Third and Fourth Brigade were still in the dark. They had been ordered to retreat before the fight had really begun and were not aware of what had happened.

The Star Division had performed a miracle by defeating the
strongest pirates in the Starfields without any losses. The Barber’s tragic death was as sudden as it was unexpected. Though he did not die at the hands of pirates, his was still a devastating loss for the Avenue.

The Barber had been one of Skyfire Avenue’s esteemed council members. He had been an influential voice, with the potential to reach as high as ninth level fourth rank. Youth was on his side, and already he’d been an influential voice among his peers. All of it had been senselessly taken away.

He never even got the chance to defend himself. How could he have known the monster beneath that pretty face?

The Beautician was attached to the Third Brigade. Her illusion Discipline allowed for very potent manipulation of the battlefield. Therefore, she was with the Coffee Master on one of the battleships and still didn’t know her partner was dead.

Lan Jue decided to keep it a secret. It would have to wait until they got back to the Avenue. Communication was difficult since the planets and their communication equipment were no more. The background noise of the Starfields and all its broken stellar bodies made the signal distorted. It meant they would have to bring the information back to the East, they couldn’t transmit it
from here. Luckily the alien planets did not give chase. Xiaosu navigated them into Eastern-controlled space as quickly as possible.

“Boss, I’ve got An Luo on the line.” Xiaosu looked Lan Jue’s way with a tired expression.

With the threat of alien attack looming over their head, Lan Jue hadn’t rested for more than forty-eight hours. He had to be ready to react at any moment. As leader of the Star Division, whom the Clairvoyant placed great hopes on, one could imagine how much stress the Jewelry Master was under.

“Connect with Admiral Lan Qing,” he said.

“Aye, calling him now.”

Their screens were white, but eventually a figure appeared.

“A-Jue?” Lan Qing’s surprised voice answered. The An Luo super soldier had given standing instructions to his communication officers to alert him immediately if the Avenue called. Still, getting word from Zeus-1 was a surprise.
“Brother.” Just seeing Lan Qing’s face on the screen made him feel better.

Lan Qing narrowed his eyes. Lan Jue almost never called him that in front of other people, especially since he was a military commander now. He could also see the fatigue in his sibling’s face.

“What’s happened?” He asked.

Lan Jue looked briefly at Xiaosu, then turned his eyes back to Lan Qing. “We managed to win a couple battleships, we were hoping to trouble you for some identification so they move around unmolested. I want to bring them back to Skyfire Avenue. In a moment you’ll be getting some images and data packets from Xiaosu. You have to get this to government leaders as fast as possible. Then, you need to prepare for invasion. Things have gotten bad.”

Lan Qing’s heart sank when he heard his brother’s report. He motioned for a subordinate to begin the download. “Where are you now?” He asked.

“We’re on our way back to Skyfire,” Lan Jue replied. “When I
get back I need to get in touch with dad. We came across one of the leader aliens, we figure. She was incredibly strong, even mother couldn’t beat her.”

“Mother?” Lan Qing paused.

Luo Xianni suddenly appeared on another screen. “A-Qing, you ungrateful brat! Don’t pretend you don’t know who he means when he says mother!”

In an exceedingly rare display, embarrassment spread across Lan Qing’s face. “Now, don’t be angry. It’s just sudden, that’s all. I’m a little absent-minded. Oh, right – dad’s here.”

Prometheus was economical with his words, but that didn’t mean he was dim. He changed the subject as quickly as he could.

As Lan Qing hoped, this took Luo Xianni by surprise. Laugh wrinkles scrunched up around her eyes. “Oh, so suddenly Chi Bupang decided he wants to look after his kids, eh? He’s not so bad, that old coot. Let me talk to him.”

“He says he’s not here.” Lan Qing’s eyes darted off screen for a
moment and he muttered something inaudible.

“You little shit, are you looking for an ass-kicking?!” Jue Di’s tyrannical voice shrieked through the speakers. Lan Qing flew out of frame.

“What do you want?” Jue Di’s curdled expression filled the monitor.

“Hey dad,” Lan Jue greeted ardently.

Jue Di just stared at him for a moment. He then fixed his hard eyes on Luo Xianni.

She, in turn, scowled. “Want? The hell would I want from you, you crotchety turd. Stop imagining yourself so sentimental. All I wanted was to see my son.”

Jue Di gaped at her. “When the hell did he become ‘your son’?
Clearly you mean my son!”

Luo Xianni’s eyes narrowed to accusing slits. “Did you birth
him?”

“Did you birth him?!” Jue Di indignantly shot back.

Luo Xianni flippantly replied. “Well, that was because you aren’t man enough.”

Jue Di looked like a choking fish. He fought with his words until they flatly eked out. “Not man enough?”

She sneered demeaningly at him. “If you were, how come you never got me pregnant?”

The Paragon was speechless. “I… How can… even at this age, know you no shame?”

Luo Xianni waved her hands as though swatting a fly. “’At this age’ my ass, old man. Your whole family is old! Fine – fine. Let’s stop this nonsense. You are allowed to take them as children and for some reason you won’t allow me to. This is gangster logic. Why don’t you just focus on being a father, and I can focus on being a mother. How does this get in your way? When your son faced a damn demon, where were you? And you still
have the nerve to say I’m not their family? Out of the two of us, who has no shame?”

“I…” This time, Jue Di really had nothing to say.

Lan Jue saw his opportunity to intervene. “Dad, mother’s been injured.”

Jue Di stopped, appearing skeptical. “Hurt? What in this universe can hurt her?”

“Horse-shit!” Luo Xianni spat. “Nothing’s hurt me more than you, don’t act like you give a shit.” She spun on her heel and left without giving anyone a chance to speak.

Jue Di stared at the screen for a moment, but recovered quickly. He suddenly looked like a man ready to handle business. “What in the hell is going on? Who hurt her?”

Lan Jue gave him the short version of their meeting with the Violet Princess. In truth, Lan Jue wasn’t sure if Luo Xianni was injured. However, it was clear that her condition wasn’t the best. Sometimes a little embellishment was unavoidable to keep
those two on the same page.

Jue Di’s face gradually darkened as he listened. “Have you sent the video?”

Lan Jue nodded. “I sent them to Lan Qing.”

His father took a calming breath. His eyes narrowed. “Now it really looks like we’re in trouble. I’ll go take a look, then we’ll plan our next move. I’m off.” Like Xianni before him, he turned and trotted off before Lan Jue could get a word in.

Lan Qing’s face returned to the screen. He, too, looked dispirited. While his adoptive parents were bickering he looked over what Lan Jue had sent. It wasn’t an overstatement to say that the alien presence in the Starfields was catastrophic news for humanity.

Everyone’s eyes were turned outwards. Their guns and shields and ships were anticipating a foe from the depths of uncharted space. Suddenly that enemy was in their midst, and no one was prepared.
“Hurry back and we’ll figure out what to do about it. I need to report your findings.” Lan Jue’s brother gave him a nod, then added. “Take care of yourself.”

“Yeah,” Lan Jue nodded in return. The brothers looked at one another for a moment, each seeing their fear reflected in the other’s eyes.

Of course there would be fear. All of a sudden, the enemy was at their throat. To simply transfer, right into the heart of human territory… unthinkable.

“Brother,” Lan Jue began, “if possible I think you should send some unmanned spacecraft to the Starfields to try and keep an eye on things and confirm our findings.”

“It’s serious, I’ll make sure it gets done,” Lan Qing affirmed.

His heart was heavy as Lan Jue hung up. If only he’d known what he had lead the Star Division into. Now humanity would have to reassess everything. War hadn’t descended upon them yet, but the strength of their foe was on full display.
Star Division’s two new battleships were quickly assigned An Luo identification hails. Passing through Eastern Alliance space, they would not be hassled. With them in hand, the four ships made for Skyfire as quickly as they could.

Their ships were laden with riches from their conquests. Most of the Division was well pleased with their haul. It had been months of grueling combat in hostile territory, but they’d gained more than just valuables – more than they’d expected.

For the moment, only a few people knew what fate had befallen Moonfiend. Lan Jue decided to keep it that way. Otherwise they risked a panic.

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