Skyfire Avenue Chapter 731-740

Chapter 731: Preparing for War

“Alright!” Lan Jue answered without hesitation. He felt guilty for abandoning his home and responsibilities as Skyfire’s Chairman, but it had been for the benefit of humanity.

Lan Jue face now bore a steely look of determination. He folded his hands in front of his chest, and as his eyes flickered with power the air around him warped in return.

“Brother, I have intelligence to share with you. Something we’ve just learned. In it is a detailed analysis report on the planets – at last we got some good information. If it’s true, if they’re in the process of evolving, we can use this opportunity to assemble all of humanity’s strength and finish this is a single blow.”

Lan Jue’s voice was thick with solemnity and resolve. Humanity had already suffered worse at the hands of this enemy than from all former tragedies put together. What was borne from this was not a passing rage, but a deep and abiding hatred. No cost was considered too great in the destruction of these beasts, to bring order and peace back to the worlds of man.
Lan Qing downloaded the information then disconnected to go over it. Lan Jue stared out of a nearby window for a moment before dialing in another number. The Wine Master’s face appeared on screen.

“I’m sorry.” It was the first thing Lan Jue said to his old friend.

“Let’s not discuss that now. Are you safe?” He asked.

The Jewelry Master nodded. “The Pharmacist and I are fine. I’ve just gotten off the line with Admiral Lan Qing. I’m headed to Luo to join with humanity’s forces there, we’re to support the North in fighting the aliens. Star Division…”

The Wine Master cut in. “We’re also preparing an answer to the alien invasion. The East is sending a Bastion and five fleets, about half of our total military power. It’s headed to Luo as well. When you arrive I’ll pass over command to you. That’s all except to remind you that you represent more than just yourself now. Your sense of righteousness is important, but you mean more than that now. You have to consider what is more important.”
“Yes, I understand.” Lan Jue obediently replied. In hindsight it was clear his actions were rash and irresponsible, especially given the circumstances.

The Clairvoyant had once described Lan Jue as a link,  a person who connected people. This destiny was even more important than his fighting ability. Between him, Lan Qing, Poseidon Group and the Chu family, humanity had a mighty core with which to battle against the alien forces. When they showed their hand the universe reacted. But among all of them, it was Lan Jue that the Clairvoyant’s prophecies concerned. In them he claimed that Lan Jue was the key to success in humanity’s darkest hour. He was the light of the future.

The Wine Master was one of the Clairvoyant’s closest friends and staunchest believers. One can guess how highly he regarded the late seer’s divinations.

“Did you get your slap on the wrist?” The Pharmacist had listened in as Lan Jue spoke with his brother and the Avenue’s Chairman.

Lan Jue shook his head. “It’s nothing. If I could go back I’d make the same choice. I couldn’t have sat back and watched you charge off to your death!”
The Pharmacist answered with a smile. Her eyes sparkled with mirth. “You! I don’t know if it’s a ploy to make people like you, but it works. If I didn’t already have a husband you’d be next in line. You better not act this way with all women, though. You’ll give people the wrong idea. Don’t you already have enough poor girls owing ‘love debts’? I see how those young girls look at you, that’s no way to live. You and Qianlin are a good match, how can those girls hope to match up? Have you thought about that?”

A sheepish grin spread across his face. “It’s a problem I’ve been dodging for a while. I know how they feel, but they’re my friends – I see them as little sisters. I know I’m stringing them along but they needed help, what was I supposed to do?”

She regarded him helplessly. “Fine, fine. You’ve always been a good man, alright? Anyway, none of this matters if we don’t live through the alien invasion. Talking about it won’t  solve anything at this point.”

“Yeah.”

Once Lan Qing had the data from his brother, the admiral shared what he’d learned about Terminator’s destruction, as well as all the long-ranged surveillance they had of the four
planets that were in danger.

As expected, the planets were covered in a haze of purple after less than a day. Nothing of their former beauty was left. From experience they knew how aggressive alien progenitors were, to say nothing of the planets they were spawned from. Their enemy had prepared to take these planets quickly, and had done so unopposed.

From what they could gather from telescopes, the human planets had been forced into a new orbit around a central center of gravity – namely the three alien planets. That is to say, the unfortunate victims of the alien invasion had been turned into silent sentinels for the enemy, satellite stellar bodies arranged as protectors. Between them all was a host of smaller creatures that outnumbered ten human fleets. Undoubtedly, this was the enemy’s main force.

Their aim was clear; turn these four planets into their home base from which to expand. They had already had their life force devoured. How, it was impossible to know. But without question it did not bode well for the billion souls that had called them home.

Lan Jue’s heart was heavy as he gazed at those purple-hued
planets. It was a scene from his darkest nightmares! Wherever that purple color emerged, humanity had failed. Once that color covered all of the human territories it would mean his species was lost.

They had to destroy the aliens now, while they prepared to evolve, no matter the cost.

Beep-beep! The ship’s communicator called for Lan Jue’s attention. Lan Qing’s face appeared on the screen.

His brother’s straight posture and military attire emphasized his heroic appearance. His mood was calmer. “How possible is it that the information you acquired is real?” He asked with careful and even tones.

“Eighty-percent,” Lan Jue replied. “You know as well as I do that it matches perfectly with everything we’ve learned about them so far. Up to this point we’ve been lacking a cohesive understanding of our enemy, but now we’ve learned the gift of what they want. I don’t have to tell you how much that helps us fight back. They can’t teleport, we know, because it will cost them too much in life force, and they spent so much this time in order to gather human genetic material for their evolutionary process. Right now is our best opportunity to fight back, and we
can’t pass it up. We have to go at them with everything we’ve got.”

Lan Jue spoke with passion and decisiveness. The alien planets were at their most vulnerable now, after teleporting into humanity’s reach. Although he couldn’t be sure the planets planned to evolve, their battle formation suggested that was the case. It would be foolish for them to wait for their enemy to evolve into a stronger form. Instead, they had to follow any path to victory. On the one hand humanity’s soldiers would engage head-on, while at the same time Lan Jue would find a way to recover Ultus with Star Division’s help. It didn’t matter which method succeeded, so long as the aliens were destroyed.

Lan Jue shared his scheme along with all the data he’d given to Lan Qing. Hence his brother’s query.

Lan Qing’s low voice returned. “I’ll share this information with the other Alliances. We’re going in, but we have to make sure the planets won’t leave before we arrive. Are you sure about this? The North is going ahead full force, plus two-thirds of the West’s army and a large share of our own – not to mention your Star Division. If we fail…”

He didn’t finish his thought. He didn’t have to, Lan Jue knew
what was in store if this operation failed. He was silent for a time, how could he say he had one hundred percent faith in a situation like this? The cost was too high.

“No one ever knows for sure, all we can do is offer our best hypothesis. As far as I know it’s true that teleportation is costly for them. If they teleported again so soon it would probably cause them immeasurable harm. To put a number on it, I’d say there’s no more than a thirty-percent chance they’ll be gone by the time we get there.”

The deep voice had come from beside Lan Jue. Jue Di had awoken from his meditations and had joined him by the screen.

“Father!” Lan Jue said in surprise.

Jue Di looked at his older son on the screen. “Tell them exactly what I said, the planets are probably in the process of evolving. Every minute that passes brings us closer to our destruction. Besides, the North doesn’t have a choice. If they don’t take this opportunity, they may not get another one. They have a dagger in their ribs, you think they won’t try to remove it? The worst that can happen is the planets disappear again, but if they do it’ll make them weaker. Either they are there or they aren’t, but our only option is to attack now. Make sure
you’re ready and with enough provisions to spare. We should be ready not only to attack, but to hunt them down if they run.”

Lan Jue’s heart surged with emotion. They had to consider where the plan was coming from. Once Lan Qing let the other leaders know, he would be responsible for the result. That was why he needed as much assurance as he could get from Lan Jue. An Lun’s admiral would assume all responsibility. Except, by affixing his name to the plan Jue Di was taking all that weight on his own shoulders.

“Dad…” Lan Jue trailed off.

Jue Di waved a hand, silencing him. He continued to speak to Lan Qing. “Do you understand?”

A phrase describing a feeling of love and gratitude for his actions that can’t be repaid.

The translation is ‘thorn in their side’ but  dagger  seemed more applicable. If you get stabbed in the side don’t do like the North, don’t pull it out, go to the ER. Jue Di is not a source of sound medical advice.

Chapter 732: You’re All Still Young

Lan Qing heaved a sigh, staring at his father on the screen for a long while. He offered a firm nod. “I understand.”

“Then do what you need to do.” Jue Di waved his hand in dismissal. Lan Qing cut the connection.

“Father.” Lan Jue called to him for a third time.

At last, Jue Di looked his way and smiled. “I’m old, you’re all still young.” He patted his sons’ shoulder with a calloused hand, then left his side.

Lan Jue felt he saw a slight stoop in his father’s back. Jue Di’s persona was as iron-hard as ever, but Lan Jue knew his father was getting old.

His lips tightened in a hard line, and his fists clenched. If he had another chance, he’d have worked harder in his younger years, focused more on cultivation. If only he had, he’d be able to support his father better!
ζ

The Northern Alliance had fallen into disarray in a matter of days.

Chu Cheng was perched on a seat, watching the towering man before him. Today the Chu family representative was dressed in a smart military uniform with three golden stars on his shoulder.

His record of military service certainly didn’t warrant general status, but Chu Cheng had risen to become the North’s second Paragon. He had become one of the most important people in his Alliance almost overnight.

In normal times Chu Cheng would have perhaps been a one- star general. After all, military ranks were not so easy to achieve typically. Anything beyond that would have been difficult with his qualifications. However, these were special circumstances and the North needed heroes to raise up their populace. Their propaganda campaigns were successful, they were good at advocating for heroism.

However the dark news of disaster had stolen Chu Cheng’s
thunder. An unprecedented panic had swept the worlds of man, and only the North’s prominent military presence had kept things from dissolve into outright chaos.

Things as they were, the Northern leadership found themselves with their backs against the wall. They had rapidly begun to lose the trust of the people, and their soldiers were facing a threat they weren’t sure they could overcome. Despite being humanity’s mightiest Alliance, with a military that made the universe tremble and seven Bastions to their name, there were on the cusp of collapse.

In a matter of a few short months things had changed dramatically. Arachnid was gone, Heron was no stronger than a Capital ship. Terminator – praised as humanity’s greatest technological achievement – was brought low by those hellish living planets. Indeed the North had suffered more than anyone.

All throughout these awful days, the North had had no time to catch a breath. Their Bastions had been reduced from seven to four, and their flagship had succumbed to the enemy. Two more were in the making but would not be ready in time. In a blink, the North had fallen into a dark pit they could not claw out of.
“The army has made up its mind,” Chu Cheng said in a low voice.

“Mnh. They don’t have a choice. If we didn’t lead the charge our government would be dissolved. The people are scared, they need something to believe in. War has to be where their hope lies.” Depression darkened the Terminator’s face.

He had completed his breakthrough, achieving the strength he’d dreamt of for so long. It also meant his life would be extended another few dozen years. After all, he wasn’t like the Clairvoyant who continually suffered the scourge of constant protogenia use. Now that he had achieved Nirvana, he could lead the North for at least another half century.

But that was under normal circumstances. These were not normal circumstances.

“I will be taking command of Tyrannosaurus. You will command Heron.” The Terminator said.

“Alright!” Chu Cheng responded right away. He couldn’t be said to take military matters as seriously as many other commanders, but he was a general now and had to follow his
commander’s orders. Besides, victory would be won through cooperation and unity against the aggressors.

The Terminator smiled and nodded. “A miracle will come when it’s needed. You might think I’m kidding, but the Clairvoyant was a man I had total faith in. If he said your man will lead us through this darkness, then he will.”

Of course Chu Cheng knew who the mountainous man was referring to. A smile emerged on his face. “Yeah! He’s annoyingly good at miracles, that guy. But he still hasn’t become a Paragon, and I’m not sure when he will.”

A cold light flashed through the Terminator’s eyes. “Believe me, the longer he delays the better. When he does break through the results with shake the heavens. The darker the night, the brighter the dawn. Come, our forces are already gathered. Our presence is an important symbol to our people.”

Chu Cheng chuckles. “Suddenly I feel like a mascot.”

“That’s exactly what we are,” the Terminator replied. “Do you think you and I can face those monsters ourselves? No – in this battle, victory or defeat rests on Star Division.”
“Yeah.”

ζ

Zeus-1 closed in on Luo, and approached its appointed position. Lan Jue stared out of the window, hardly believing the scene unfolding before his eyes. He’d seen Bastions larger than planets, and fleets that stretched farther than the eye could see. But what he witnessed just outside the hull of his tiny ship was hard to describe.

A planet. A whole other planet silently hovering in space near Luo. Its surface was pock-marked with craggy rocks and deep crevices, no different from the times he’d seen it before. But out here? In Northern space? Impossible!

It was planet An Lun – the whole thing. How in the heavens had it made the trip all the way from the East? Lan Jue was at a total loss.

“Are you here?” Lan Qing’s face appeared on Zeus-1’s screens once again.
“Yeah.” Lan Jue muttered. “That’s An Lun…”

When he saw the surprise on his little brother’s face, Lan Qing smirked. “Now we call it Middle Heaven.”

“Middle Heaven?” Suddenly it made sense. Middle Heaven… Peerless Light emperor of Middle Heaven. A bastion ship named after Lan Qing. An Lun had been completely remodeled under the East’s unique vision. Now it was a weapon of war.

No wonder… No wonder there had been no new bastions for ten years. It wasn’t because the East couldn’t, it was because they were building this.

Ever since their establishment the Eastern Alliance had been an inferior position. It’d had only two Bastions to its name. Without Jue Di as a deterrent, the North likely would have swallowed the small Alliance up years ago. Even despite the threat of retaliation by the Paragon the North had continued to harass its neighbor.

Things were better for the West, they were somewhat shielded from Northern aggression so they paid them little mind. But the East was different – it was established from the
foundations of the mysterious and powerful country of China. It had been a place of boundless secrets and mystical knowledge the North feared. So, though they did not dare attempt the East’s destruction they worked to keep the Alliance from gaining strength. This was compounded by an unceasing march of sanctions against them economically, militarily and technologically.

If the East wanted to get out from under the North’s thumb, they would need a show of force. Bastions were an important tool for just that purpose.

The East was the first Alliance to suffer from the alien incursion, but it had thankfully suffered the least. Vital crystals pilfered from the enemy had purchased a whole new fleet for the East, while the North was forced to abandon their shadowy war of attrition. They needed Eastern support now, in the face of a foreign enemy.

Because of this the East did not need to hide its hand any longer. Their newest, strongest bastion was revealed to all.

Middle Heaven’s name was a testament to Lan Qing’s status among Eastern stratocrats. He was also the newest bastion’s admiral. Surrounding were was a massive host of five
interstellar fleets! Although the East had only dispatched one of its bastions, its support ships constituted the bulk of the East’s smaller vessels. Only one fleet remained behind near Skyfire.

A ship appeared before Zeus-1 to guide it toward Middle Heaven. As he was led closer to the re-forged planet he could see it clearer. Things certainly had changed.

Its surface was still a landscape of craggy rock, but interposed among the peaks and valleys were the dark barrels of cannons. Middle Heaven was hardly a beautiful thing to look upon – especially compared to the likes of Tyrannosaurus – but it used to be a planet! It was larger than Tyrannosaurus, as far as Lan Jue could remember, and likely of higher quality.

The sheer cost it must have taken to build this thing was staggering.

Under the direction of the guide ship, Lan Jue urged Zeus-1 through the defensive line Middle Heaven’s fleets had arranged and on to the bastion itself. As he came upon the familiar surface Lan Jue couldn’t help but inwardly sing the planet- ship’s praised. He didn’t know the East’s technology could achieve such a thing. To arrive in the North so quickly, it meant the ship was also fast. Its energy source and engines had to be
something special.

You know that picture you see all the time in Chinese/Japanese shows? The infinitesimally small Asian man or woman stooped so low they look like they’re bowing with their hands behind their back? That’s about right in real life. I also saw many people, women mostly, with severely bowed legs. I believe I read it was due to rickets and malnutrition. During the famines and wars at the early onset of modern China, people were eating bark to subsist in some places.

I’m not sure yet whether this is Heron. It contains the same ‘bird of prey’ secondary character with the adjective ‘little,’ which could mean either another ship entirely or the weakened version of Heron.

Metal Gear!

There is still a fair amount of animosity against western civilization and the US in general in China, just below the surface, for their belief that the rest of the world is keeping them down. The Chinese point to the doctrine of encirclement specifically as an example, and more recently US efforts to curtail their claims over the South China Sea. Here is an article from a reportedly unbiased news source that describes some of
the process, though it’s now four years old. Of note is the fact that the US is doing precisely what is criticizes China for doing – building airstrips in non-militarized areas for local area control
– though the Chinese presence in the South China Sea is a more complicated situation.

Another popular gripe against the U.S., since they are constantly berating China for currency manipulation which results in trade disputes and threatened retribution. On the other hand, the wealth distribution in China is abysmal and most of the population is still rural and involved in farming. If China didn’t keep its growth and inflation in check, it would mean they would leave 700,000,000 Chinese behind, when they’re already living on practically nothing.

Chapter 733: Confluence

Once Zeus-1’s wheels were safely on the tarmac Lan Jue, Jue Di and the Pharmacist disembarked. Lan Qing, the Wine Master and the Clockmaker were waiting for them. The welcoming party was not big, but not small. Of course they weren’t there to welcome Lan Jue, he knew. They were there for Jue Di.

Lan Jue walked forward quickly and with a pleasant smile. “Wine Master! It’s been a while!”

The Wine Master stared back at him with a flat, cold stare. He breezed right past Lan Jue and bowed before Jue Di. “Your Majesty, we’re sorry for troubling you.”

Jue Di waved him off. “It’s no trouble running after my own boy. Find me someplace quiet, and call me when the fighting starts.”

“Indeed, we already have something prepared for you. Aunt is there waiting for you, I’ll take you there.” The Wine Master rose and lead the way personally.

The Pharmacist walked over to Lan Jue’s side and nodded
respectfully to the Clockmaker. “I’m sorry. All of this was my fault. I’ve caused a lot of trouble.”

The Clockmaker smiled back at her. “Misfortunes may sometimes be a blessing in disguise. What is done is done. Come, everyone is waiting for you.”

Lan Qing walked over to Lan Jue, then. He patted his brother’s shoulder and offered a nod of acknowledgement for the Pharmacist. He said nothing, just turned and left, as cool as ever.

The Clockmaker led the two of them to a verticar. After clambering in Lan Jue spoke. “How’s the situation?”

“Unclear,” she answered with a low voice. “But we think the people on those four planets…”

Lan Jue’s face darkened. After so long, the chance of finding any survivors was close to zero. Five percent of the total human population, gone in a blink of the eye.

The Clockmaker went on. “The enemy is cunning. They’ve
turned the four planets into defensive fortresses with a huge number of aliens standing watch. They’ve managed to completely cut us off from any information. The North has attempted several scouting sorties but all have failed. Some of their Bastions have also tried to get close enough to harass them, but have been repelled by the defenses. The commands are also hesitant to bring their ships in too deep for fear they’ll be trapped. So, we find ourselves in a stalemate. Full-on assault is our only option.”

Lan Jue frowned as he thought. He hadn’t anticipated their foes might lay a trap like this. If they relied on the normal aliens alone they would be no match for bastions and their fleets. But, by virtue of the four planets as advance guard, no one knew the condition or actions of the alien planets themselves. If the planets were not yet distracted by their evolution an attack would be dangerously premature. No one could tell how much power their enemy would bring to bear.

“What’s the North’s plan?” Lan Jue asked.

She obliged. “After hearing you were on your way His Majesty the Terminator has chosen all-out assault on the enemy position. Whether or not the planets have begun their evolution, now is the time. Our hands are tied, but the North has faith our bastions can effectively fight back. This isn’t the
Starfields, its home territory and they don’t have the benefit of cover. Representative forces from every Alliance has gathered here for the final charge. Even if the planets aren’t distracted, so long as they don’t teleport away we have a chance to rout them.”

Lan Jue nodded in understanding. “So it is, but for some reason something doesn’t feel right.”

“Oh? How so? Is there a problem with the information you’ve provided?” The Clockmaker asked, surprised.

Lan Jue shook his head. “No, the data we recovered should be rock-solid. It seems like they’re waiting for us to come in for the attack. From everything we’ve seen we know the monsters are intelligent. So far they’ve had the upper hand in every encounter. They must know the sort of power the Alliances plan to throw at them, but they’re just waiting? To say nothing of the fact it seems outside of their character.”

The Clockmaker’s brows scrunched tight. “But the arrow’s already knocked. It wouldn’t make any sense to call it all off now, unless we can get some reliable information on the planets themselves.”
Lan Jue’s voice was resolute. “I want to try. Can we tell the North to let us try a scouting mission? We’ll slip passed the enemy’s lines and find the planets. Once we confirm their status we can begin the attack.”

“Alright,” she answered. “I’ll alert Admiral Lan. He’ll have the Eastern forces let the North know.”’

Lan Jue nodded, determined to succeed. While other missions may have met with failure, he knew the monsters well. All of Star Division and his five Amazons would be called on. Between Lin Guoguo’s abilities, Zeus-1’s technology and their familiarity with the aliens, slipping through the aliens’ defensive encirclement shouldn’t be impossible. After all, Skyfire Avenue was lousy with Paragons these days. On top of it all they had the full might of humanity behind them. If they ran into trouble they could call for the assault to begin and use that to their advantage.

The verticar found its destination and settled to the ground. When Lan Jue stepped out, he was met with a sight that stirred him deeply.

Row upon row of smartly dressed Star Division soldiers stood in perfect formation. They snapped to attention the moment he
appeared.

“Commander!”

Lan Jue stepped forward, standing before the fighting force he’d forged. His heart was filled with the mighty vigour that poured from them.

Standing at the fore were Skyfire Avenue’s Paragon, and another familiar face. A stooped figure, a head of white hair and a pair of sharp eyes drew his attention. It was none other than the one who forced the blood connection between he and Qianlin, the one who’d gifted him the Arrow of Compassion. One of the great Gods of Wine – Bize Lilou!

The Wine Master must have been successful in convincing her to help. However, absent was the other god of wine they’d met, Aubert de Villaine.

The Infernal Vanguard, Arcane Magnate, Karmic Scholar, Arhat of the Descending Dragon, and the Wine Master were all present. Of course, there was the Pharmacist and Clockmaker by his side. A host of Paragons.
The East’s representation in the world of Adepts could only be described as overwhelming. Do not forget that the Astral Phantom, Lan Qing, Luo Xianni and Jue Di also counted among their number. Ten Paragons arrayed for battle! That kind of power was able to shake the pillars of heaven.

Among them Lan Jue also felt another presence and a close friend. The Driver. He grinned at Lan Jue from the crowd. His gruff exterior had undergone a change, and the whole of him seemed more refined. Physically he was larger, and spiritually he was more restrained.

He broke through! He had become a Paragon, a fact that sent Lan Jue’s heart soaring. It meant an even stronger position for the East, and humanity. It was important to remember that he commanded yin-yang lightning, which made him stronger than your average Paragon. The Arcane Magnate and Karmic Scholarly likely wouldn’t beat him in a spar.

“I apologize for worrying everyone.” The Pharmacist spoke, not waiting for Lan Jue to address his soldiers. She took a step forward and bowed low at the waist.

“Mama!” The clear voice rang through the air like a ray of sunshine, and a little body pushed her way through the crowd
and into the Pharmacist’s arms.

The Pharmacist, a women wrought from iron, crumbled before the tiny girl. Tears streamed from eyes as she hugged Jun’er tightly to her.

Regret surged through her. “I’m so sorry, Jun’er. I’m sorry. Mama shouldn’t have left you, I won’t go running off like that again. I’m sorry, my baby.”

Jun’er’s eyes were dry, her tiny face beamed a smile at her mother as she patted her back with a small hand. “It’s ok, mama, everything will be fine. I knew daddy would bring you back. We’ll be together forever. I missed you mama.”

The Pharmacist kissed Jun’er’s cheek and didn’t speak further.

Lan Jue came over to the two of them and gently ruffled the girl’s hair.

The Wine Master interrupted. “No time for discussion. We need to prepare for the attack. How are you?”
Lan Jue paused. “I’m fine… what is it? Has the fight already started?”

The Wine Master nodded. “The North has alerted us that they will be starting soon. Star Division is to offer its support. We’re off to war.”

What would you call a group of Paragons? A gaggle? A murder? A school? ED: A hoard? A pack? … hmm, a pack of Paragons… I like the alliteration. Sounds kinda weak though. Plethora! A plethora of Paragons!

Chapter 734: Before the Fight

Lan Jue scowled. “Right now we don’t know what the enemy is up to. This feels too rushed. I was just telling the Clockmaker that I think we need another scouting mission, see if we can discover any new information. At the very least we confirm their status before beginning the attack. This doesn’t seem right, why would they just wait for us to attack?”

The Wine Master responded with a sigh. “There’s nothing for it now, the North is under too much pressure to wait. A billion people! Already their society has begun to come apart. If this attack doesn’t begin right away the government is going to lose control. Even though the chances of bringing anyone back is slim to none, it has to be attempted. It’s the will of the people, the North will do everything it can to bring them hope. Tyrannosaurus hasn’t been fully repaired from its last fight but they’ve already put it out on the field, along with their four other bastions. That’s five from the North, and the West has brought another two. With Middle Heaven that brings the total number to eight – an unprecedented gathering of military power. That doesn’t take into account the twelve interstellar fleets that accompany them. There are five hundred million soldiers waiting on orders to deploy, two thirds of all soldiers on active duty in every Alliance. It’s time to finish this!”

After listening to the Wine Master Lan Jue understood the
plight the North found itself in. Losing four planets had put them in a precarious position with their own people, and already the bulk of humanity’s soldiers had gathered for a retaliatory strike. If this didn’t succeed, they were as good as doomed. To them, even if the aliens had some trick up their sleeve, this power they were bringing down on them would have to be enough.

Eight bastion ships! And scores of warship as support. This time the fight was in home territory, with enough space for them to maneuver. No one doubted the strength of the planets, but they were facing an army the likes of which this side of the universe had never seen.

For the North, their greatest worry was that the planets would teleport before they got close enough to deal a fatal blow. This was the reason behind their rush, the quicker they mobilized the less likely it was their enemy was already gone.

But still Lan Jue felt they were going too fast.

“We’re setting out in an hour. The Northern bastions have already begun the approach.” The Wine Master said.
Lan Jue nodded. “So when do we join the fray?”

“You arrived just in time,” the Wine Master explained. “We’re about to convene a Tri-Alliance meeting which we’ll be attending. The East’s forces will be represented by Admiral Lan Qing, who is acting as commander in chief for Eastern forces. He’s already as the meeting hall. We should head over as well.”

“Alright.” Never before had an operation of this scale been attempted. Be it manpower, resources or cooperation this war was unparalleled. It also meant it was incredibly involved, and even if Lan Jue spoke up it was already too late to stop the war machine from rolling. As leader of the charge, the North had already made up its mind. Things were unlikely to change this late in the game, especially based on the discomfort of one person.

After bidding the various Paragons farewell, Lan Jue followed the Wine Master to a verticar. They quickly left for the meeting hall.

“You convinced Bize? What about Aubert?” Lan Jue asked.

The Wine Master addressed him calmly. “Master Aubert has
come to his senses. However he is too attached to his wines and refuses to leave the Barrows. The West has already abandoned the planet, and its wealth of vital energy makes it a prime target for alien aggression. Aubert decided he needed to remain behind and protect his vineyard. Bize was also reticent to leave him behind, but I convinced her to come. Her reasons are simple; if they want to pass on what they’ve learned, there need to be humans to pass it on to.”

Lan Jue hadn’t thought it possible. Not only were Bize and Aubert masters of their craft, they were artists. They had put their hearts blood into their work, he’d have thought they would prize it above all else.

The Wine Master grew serious. “Aubert had me come back with a large bottle of wine. He asked me to protect it, and make sure this particular vintage survived.”

Lan Jue swallowed. It’d been some time since he’d had a good drink, he’d had no time. Hearing the Wine Master talk about it made him itch for a taste.

A smile touched the Wine Master’s lips. “When all of this is over you and I will celebrate over a bottle. I’m sure the gods of wine won’t mind a few bottles to mark the occasion.”
“Alright! If that’s the case I’m anxious to get this over with.”

The Wine Master returned to more serious matters. “It looks like a significant part of this fight will take place on land. The North wants us to to direct Star Division there.”

“What are they planning?” Lan Jue asked.

The Wine Master glanced at him. “It seems the four former planets have become support for the enemy. We’re not sure how, but the aliens seem restored after a visit to the planets’ surface. According to the Keeper they’re replenishing themselves on the captured planets’ vital energy. So it seems that if we want to win we need to take the four planets back first.”

“For the first time we humans have the upper hand in sheer force. The North’s strategy, therefore, is a slow but steady march straight in. First they want to recapture the planets, then move in for the alien home worlds themselves. We’ll approach from four sides to make sure the enemy can’t evade or escape.”

Lan Jue nodded his head thoughtfully. Though the North was being hasty, at least their strategy was sound. Recapturing the
lost planets had to be first, otherwise they’d act as a protective screen.

They were sure to face progenitors when they invaded. Perhaps they would be lucky and managed to save the planets from absolute death. After all, it took time for all the vital energy of a planet to be consumed.

“It sounds good to me,” Lan Jue said with a nod.

When the verticar landed, Lan Jue and the Wine Master stepped off, then made their way for Middle Heaven’s control center. After a series of checks, they were permitted to enter.

Lan Qing was already absorbed in a video conference. The two new arrivals took seats nearby.

Six large screens filled the meeting room, flickering between whoever had the floor. Representatives from all three alliances were heard. Lan Qing’s face was among them.

Lan Jue manipulated the acoustic currents to speak only to Lan Qing. “What’s the situation? Is the plan all set?”
Lan Qing gave his answer. “The chief commander of the operation is Admiral Kang Hui. He has experience facing the aliens in battle. For now everything seems rational. We lead with the fleets, which will spread out and engage the enemy on several fronts. They’ll kill as many of the creatures as possible and soften things up for a ground incursion. The bastions will stay back as support and deterrence. Their cannons will be charged and ready to fire the moment the alien planets are in range. The second the enemy is in their sights, they’ll let loose with all their strength.”

“When the landing operation commences the North will be responsible for two of their former planets. The remaining two have been left to us and the West. The North has asked us to dispatch Star Division to take the planet.”

Lan Jue nodded. “Not a problem. The Wine Master has already let me know, it’ what we’re good at. We’ll need air support.”

“That’s one of the problems we’re faced with,” Lan Qing explained. “Part of the North’s requirements are that we don’t lay down fire on the planet’s surface.”

Lan Jue blinked. “Why? If that’s the case our job just got a
hell of lot harder!”

Lan Qing remained stoic. “There’s no other option. Our long- range telescopes have found people still alive. There are survivors down there. This changes things for the North, saving them is a priority. The Northern public is on the verge of rioting, and if they find out survivors were shot down by friendly fire the results will be catastrophic. Warships will have to handle things out in space. The planets’ surfaces are going to have to be left to ground troops alone, with the hope we can bring some citizens back alive.”

Lan Jue’s brows were wrinkled as he thought. “That definitely makes things harder. We’re likely to suffer casualties. We also have no idea what’s in store for us when we get down there. You know what will happen if we run into something like the Violet Prince.”

Lan Qing nodded. “That’s why the North has called for Star Division specifically. They’re hoping we can clear out a planet quickly then move in to support other incursion teams.”

Lan Jue frowned. “I guess we just have to make the best of it.”
The Wine Master chimed in. “That’s the way it is. All of our Paragons are ready to fight. We should take a planet quickly, assuming there isn’t a particularly powerful foe to face. With his Majesty Jue Di in the lead, finding a Prince or Princess may be a good thing.”

Lan Jue’s heart skipped a beat. The Wine Master was right, aliens had vital crystals. The stronger the alien, the more potent the crystal. Lan Jue’s father was suffering, but if they could get a crystal from a beast as powerful as him, that could turn Jue Di’s condition around.

Chapter 735: Battle Plans

“I’ve got no problems here.” Lan Jue said.

A steady procession of speakers flit across the screen. Each one described how they would deploy their forces to support the operation.

The plan was separated into three stages. First stage; control surrounding space by overwhelming enemy forces with superior firepower, and prepare for planetary invasion. At the same time, attempt to get any intel possible on the alien planets and their condition.

Stage two; deploy the ground troops and try to retake control of the human planets as quickly as possible. Save anyone left alive.

Stage three; order all ships to converge on the alien planets and begin their all-out assault. Continue until the enemy is annihilated.

That was the main idea. Discussions continued over details and planning. Through the process smaller command teams
were established, with their own objectives. Lan Jue and his crew were put in charge of taking the planets.

Primarily they were to eliminate any aliens they encountered, then Eastern forces would sweep in to clean up. Afterwards they would establish a planetary defense system. The North was bringing a host of railguns meant for installation on the planets, which would them be used as forward bases and reserve firepower. Once the planets were recaptured, the aliens would be surrounded.

The first step was the easiest. Although the  aliens  were strong, without the aid of their home worlds humanity overpowered them. Retaking the human planets would  be harder, especially without air support. It made Lan Jue’s task dangerous and challenging.

Discussion turned to scenarios and how to respond to them. For instance, what to do if the alien planets joined the first during the first stage. In that case, how many bastions would fight against which planet? These questions were carefully examined.

ζ
It would still be several days before everyone was ready for the final assault. In the meantime, soldiers were a flurry of activity, preparing for war. Everyday Lan Jue joined his brother for meetings and listened dutifully as plans were discussed. Over many hours the plan were hammered out, to the point where even Lan Jue didn’t hold any concerns.

Scouting missions would proceed once the human planets were retaken. For now that didn’t seem too late, and easier once the enemy forces were cleared out. The North had a detailed plan in regards to how they would proceed.

As the days progressed, Lan Jue also came to learn more about how Middle Heaven came to be. In truth, calling it a Bastion ship wasn’t entirely correct. It was, after all, still a planet. It was also one of the East’s best-kept secrets.

Once the East had taken An Lun they started with a detailed survey of the planet, as they did with any new acquisition. They discovered it was not suitable for widespread human habitation, but it did have a wealth of resources including rare metals. Because of its riches and it’s located in contested space, the East fortified An Lun with soldiers and defensive capabilities.

As the operations on An Lun continued, An Lun’s army was
born.

Much of An Lun’s refined materials were used to develop An Lun itself. Military leadership recognized the importance of an installation on the border with the North, even if An Lun’s wealth was depleted. Thus the plan was never to abandon the planet when its mines were dry. They would continue to develop it for military use.

Time passed, and one day a geological surveying team made a new discovery. Deep in the An Lun mines was a unique sort of substance. It was similar to the materials used to create nuclear weaponry from the old world, and thus very dangerous for humans to be around. However, the unstable element produced a tremendous amount of energy, and composed the planet’s core.

The scientist who uncovered the element was initialized frightened by what he’d found. The recommendation was made to immediate halt all mining activities on An Lun, and to pull the miners out of danger. Among the dangers was the possibility that one mining accident could cause a chain reaction, resulting in the obliteration of the whole planet. The blast would be so intense it would put neighboring star systems in jeopardy. In short, An Lun was a ticking time-bomb – the moment its core became unstable it could blow.
This came as a great shock to Eastern leadership. However, they had already poured a tremendous amount of time, energy and manpower into the planet. Simply abandoning it would be unpalatable. What’s more, without An Lun acting as a vigil it left their borders open. The decision was made to dispatch a science team to see what they could learn.

Research continued for two years. In the end it was determined the unstable element could be safely utilized. That meant they could stay on An Lun. As a result the government poured funds into learning everything they could about the element and its uses. It was named after the geologist who first discovered it; Molinite. It was defined by its instability, but under the right conditions it produced vast amounts of energy. The scientists’ first problem was finding a way to stabilize molinite and prevent it from harming An Lun’s population.

As research continued scientists discovered  that  stabilizing the element wasn’t too difficult. However, simply stabilizing it wasted its potential. So they set about finding ways to guide and utilize its potential.

It took five years for them to find the best use for molinite. Since the planet’s core was entirely composed of the material, the potential energy it stored was virtually limitless. Through ceaseless experimentation the rudimentary concept for Middle
Heaven was born. The East’s military deficiency made them determined to follow through with the plan. If successful, it would mean the East was in possession of the largest Bastion ship in human history.

Initially they’d called it An Lun Warplanet, and kept it secret from anyone not directly involved. All throughout the building process only the highest echelons of government and military were privy to the information. This was, in part, why An Lun was so stringent in its defense.

The first obstacle was stabilizing molinite on a large scale, and converting it into a power source that could move an entire planet. Research revealed that using too much of the molinite at once caused it to become dangerously unsteady. However, they could transfer energy to reserves. Then, once the energy was refined, it could be converted into stable energy.

To achieve this scientists developed a plan wherein the planet’s core would be hollowed out. Surrounding it would be a series of reactors and energy refineries to convert and store the energy. They used this energy to continue An Lun’s transformation, and ultimately as Middle Heaven’s source of power.
Over time the bastion took shape. When Lan Jue went to visit An Lun, the planet was in the final stages of conversion. It was for this reason Lan Qing required that he and Star Division be restricted to a small area of the planet.

Middle Heaven’s greatest advantage was its maneuverability. Through the tremendous energy molinite provided, Middle Heaven could maintain high speeds and fight, all while remaining relatively stable. The planet’s rocky exterior became its armor.

Precious ores were still present in large quantities on An Lun’s rocky surface, still available to mine. There was enough molinite in its core to keep the planet running for a thousand years, and that was if it was in constant flight.

Middle Heaven was the greatest technological achievement the East had ever produced. It was worth it just to see the shock on the faces of Northern officials. Unfortunately for them they couldn’t know about the molinite, or how the warplanet came to be.

Middle Heaven was the crowning achievement of eastern science. It had as much firepower as Terminator had before its fall, but for a slight reduction in fighter drones. That was to be
expected, of course, since the cost in creating this bastion was astronomical. Rumors of another bastion in production had been a lie to deceive anyone trying to look too closely.

Eastern hopes were lain squarely on the bulky shoulders of Middle Heaven. They hoped it would lift their Alliance from military inferiority.

Lan Jue also learned from his brother that Middle Heaven stored a lot of human, plant and animal DNA, as well as other important things from the East. If humanity lost and the aliens took over their section of space, Middle Heaven would act as their ark. The seeds of humanity would be conveyed to a distant star far from danger to start again. It was the same idea they shared with the Poseidon group.

As for Hua Li’s people, they weren’t going to directly participate in the battle. However, in secret they had their agreements with the East.

Chapter 736: Hmph!

If this operation was a success, then no more needed to be said about Middle Heaven’s stockpile – things will continue as usual. Poseidon Group would continue to live happily on planet Poseidon just as before. But if humanity’s gambit failed the Poseidon Group would announce their defection from the West, and leave for Skyfire where they would join with Eastern forces.

If that happened the West’s power would immediately suffer. They would be no match for the East at that point, and Poseidon Group wouldn’t need to fear retribution.

In addition, Poseidon Group had its own plans to flee if things went sour.

Humanity’s future hinged on the result of this war, a war they had to win. If they did not, no one wanted to think of the horror that would follow. Their only chance would be a desperate escape.

Warships covered the heavens, as numerous as the stars, surrounding the lumbering form of Middle Heaven as it flew through space. Lan Qing assured his brother that their current speed was only half of what the bastion was capable of.
Although the East had offered their Northern counterparts full support, they still had some reservations. If the North used this opportunity to assault its allies, the East would have to be ready. As a result, the Alliances were separated into their own areas, isolated and responsible for their own part of the plan.

It took three days for Middle Heaven to reach the launching area and get in formation. Then they waited, silent but vigilant, anticipating the order to begin.

Eight bastions and twelve fleets could cover an impressive area. Everywhere the eye looked it was meat with a sea of metal. Middle Heaven’s radar was filled with blinking red lights. In the distance their instruments could pick out the violet giants that were the four former human planets. Even the space around them seemed to have adopted a purple haze – aliens, countless scores of them suspended in space.

Never had Lan Jue seen so many gathered in one place. They were thickly packed but their numbers spread far and wide. Their psionic pulses were too intense to penetrate, effectively making everything behind them invisible. Long-range telescopes were the best way to get a read on the situation at this point. Their electronic surveillance had been rendered useless.
Inwardly Lan Jue sighed as he stared at the screens. The aliens were adept at controlling information. So far they had kept humans from getting any of the intelligence they needed to mount an effective defense. Alien strategy continued to outplay humanity’s.

Lan Jue hadn’t gotten any rest as they approached the staging area. He was too busy directing Star Division and preparing for the incursion. He hadn’t even had time to cultivate. Although at his level, even failing to cultivate didn’t stop his power from increasing on its own. Every day he felt his power struggling to expand beyond his control, bringing him closer to that final step.

He could sense the time of his breakthrough was near. It was the same for Zhou Qianlin. Once she had reached ninth rank, Lan Jue was surprised to discover Qianlin’s Discipline strengthening even faster than his own. Of course, their powers were different. Qianlin’s abilities were the purest Lan Jue had ever seen. Especially once combined with immortal qi, her Discipline was entirely free from impurities. It appeared to continue refining itself as time went on.

No one was more impatient to break through than Lan Jue. He was confident that once they did, Qianlin would awaken from her vegetative state. They could be together again. He had
looked after her for so long, and through the process the agitation that consumed his eased. To him, nothing was more important that being able to be with her. Without her, what use was anything else?

She wasn’t Hera, he knew that. But she had come to mean just as much to him.

She had to wake up!

“Boss?” A gentle voice interrupted his thoughts.

Lan Jue turned his head. Xiuxiu stood by his shoulder, offering a glass of water.

“Thank you.” He took it from her and sipped from the glass. “How has your cultivation been going?” He asked with a smile.

She smiled back, a sweet and gentle smile. “Very well. We’ve all been working very hard lately.”

Lan Jue regarded her apologetically. “I’ve been so busy lately,
I’ve had no time to look after you ladies.”

Xiuxiu smiled. “It’s fine! We don’t mind so long as you’re alright. We just hope you could bring us along more. We’re happy when we’re near you.”

Lan Jue’s brows furrowed. “Xiuxiu, you’ve been with me the longest. Ever since we were small father took you in and raised you with us. I’ve always seen you as a younger sister, equal in all things. That Zeus’ Amazons business was just something other people called you, you girls have always been my closest friends. But you know that a person can’t share their heart. There’ve been no shortage of people reminding me that I shouldn’t string you and the others along or there will be problems. Xiuxiu, my hope for you and the others is that you find places of your own when this fight is over. I want all of you to be happy.”

Xiuxiu’s face changed and turned pale. “Boss, you don’t want us? Because you have sister Qianlin?”

Lan Jue paused. “How could you think that? It’s not that I don’t want you, I don’t want to hold you back!”

Xiuxiu hung her head and muttered. “Happiness is different
for everyone. Having a family, a husband and children doesn’t always mean happiness. For me, happiness is being with you. Seeing you every day is enough. This is my only requirement, my small wish – and you want to deprive me of it?”

She lifted her head and fixed Lan Jue’s eyes with her own. “You say you can’t share your heart. But what about Hera? You loved her, now you have Zhou Qianlin. All this time I’ve been right by your side. Waiting, waiting… waiting for a day that never comes. Now you won’t even let me wait?”

Her voice rose with every word, thick with emotion. Her body was shaking. Lan Jue stared at her without knowing what to do. He thought back to the Pharmacist’s warning and realized she was right. He hadn’t realized Xiuxiu’s obsession had consumed her so.

“I’m sorry Xiuxiu. That’s not what I meant, It’s just…”

“You don’t need to say anything.” She shouted, tears streaming down her face. “I’m not going anywhere until the day I die. If you want me to go then you’ll have to kill me.” She swung around and sobbed as she ran out, giving Lan Jue no chance to respond.
As he watched her flee Lan Jue was struck with a pang in his chest. He felt like a coward. Ever since they were small Lan Jue knew she liked him, but he figured it would fade with time. Instead it was the opposite, and things had only gotten worse.

If Xiuxiu was like this, then what about Ke’er, Mika and Lin Guoguo? Could he expect the same reaction? It was unfair to them! But they didn’t want to go.

Lan Jue rubbed his forehead. He was at a total loss as to what he should do. Once the fight was over he would have to sit down with them and have a frank conversation.

Perplexing though the situation was, Lan Jue had no regrets. Xiuxiu had been with him always. Ke’er, Lin Guoguo and Mika had each been saved. If he had to do it all again he would, without question,

Setting the glass of water down, Lan Jue decided to spend some time cultivating. They had come to the calm before the storm, the perfect time to reflect on what he’d learned.

Just then, he heard determined footsteps approaching. The aggressive aura surrounding her was choking. Her body was
clearly outlined in the tight flight-suit she wore and her head of fiery red hair bounced wildly behind her.

Of all of the Amazons, Mika’s potential was the greatest. Even Su Xiaosu couldn’t compare. Her Discipline had improved the most recently, and she was now ninth level fifth rank. Lan Jue knew she had the greatest chance of all the Amazons to become a Paragon one day. But her potential was also her curse, the demon blood that was her lineage could easily spiral out of her control.

“Boss!” Her voice was high. Lan Jue didn’t have to ask to know why she was here.

“Mika, sit.” He pointed to a nearby chair.

“I will not sit.” Her hands were planted firmly on her hips and she glared daggers at him. “Why are you tormenting Xiuxiu? Do you know how much she likes you? How could you treat her this way?”

“I –“ Lan Jue opened his mouth, but found he didn’t know how to explain himself.
Mika was in a rage. “We don’t demand anything from you, why the hell are you forcing us to leave? We don’t need to go find some man. We don’t need another family. We have all the family we need at Zeus’ Jewelry Shop. Do you know I catch Xiuxiu staring at your picture on her communicator sometimes? She smiled like an idiot whenever you come up in conversation. But even she isn’t trying to get anything from you. Still you want us gone. Boss, I’m telling you now, if you tell us to go we’re taking our own lives. We’ll make you regret it the rest of your life. Hmph!”

Mika spun around and stomped off, her head held high like a queen. Lan Jue watched her go with his mouth hanging open. Was this… were they declaring war on him?

Chapter 737: It Begins

Mika swept through the door and down the hall as fast as her feet could take her. She began to wheeze once she was out of the boss’ earshot, gasping through a face twisted in anger. She muttered to herself. “He’d just keep doing it unless we show him we’re serious. Sooner or later it had to be done. Heh, see how he likes being bullied. He won’t be making us leave any time soon.”

Zeus-1 pulled out of Middle Heaven, with Majesty close on its heels. They took up position at the back of the fleet, and waited. The fight was about to begin, and Star Division needed to prepare for their part of it.

Star Division was more than prepared. Besides Jun’er, all of Skyfire Avenue’s elite were in attendance. All four brigades were ready for war, but the charge would be led by the First and Second, with support from Vanguard.

Vanguard squad was a team composed entirely of Paragons or Adepts with equivalent power. This included Jue Di of the Infinite, and Luo Xianni of Nirvana. Of course, the various other Paragons from Skyfire Avenue and the God of Wine, Bize. The power behind the small squad was, frankly, ludicrous.
They constituted the best humanity had produced – ninety percent of the strongest people in the universe. Jue Di was their leader. However, Lan Jue was the one who called the shots.

Vanguard and Zeus’ five Amazons were aboard Zeus-1. Star Division occupied Majesty. Everyone was waiting with baited breath for the order to move in.

Lan Jue stood by the window and looked out. The Paragons were all quietly meditating in their seats, maintaining their calm. Not only did they have to take the planet, they had to do it as fast as possible. When that happened they would leave Star Division behind to clean up, and Vanguard would go where they were needed the most. With the help of a squad of Paragons, retaking the planets was expected to happen swiftly.

They were also to keep a look out for creatures like the Violet Prince and Princess.

Lan Jue stared into the blackness of space with his arms crossed in front of his chest, eyes sparkling. This was likely to be the most important fight of his life.

Jun’er had attempted to forecast what would happen, but said
the future was unclear. She was, after all, still was still young, new to her powers, and there were so many involved. The alien planets were also nearly immortals. Difficulties seeing the future were to be expected.

The Driver stood at Lan Jue’s shoulder. His voice was low when he spoke. “How are you doing? When do you think you’ll break through?”

Lan Jue shook his head. “I don’t know, but it should be soon. I’m fighting it off as strong as I can. The more you accumulate the easier the process is.”

The Driver sighed. “Indeed! Even I was surprised at how easy it was. With the help of my Primordial Lightning, I didn’t encounter any real resistance. It seemed completely natural to join with my protogenia and become one with it. But it’s different for you. I can’t see where you’re at – it’s like looking into a deep pool.”

Lan Jue chuckled. “That’s because I’m more handsome than you are.”

The Driver sniffed disdainfully. “Stop talking nonsense. You
think you can hold a candle to me?”

He smirked at Lan Jue, but saw his commander’s pupil’s contract and stare straight ahead.

“It’s starting!” He said.

Yes, the war was about to begin!

Engines flared to life from the tail ends of the massive warships. It lit up space like the birth of a hundred thousand new stars. They maintained formation as the fleet began to close in on the four human planets.

Twelve fleets, specifically, and they moved as a single body.
Like Armageddon descending on the alien horde.

Behind them eight massive bastion ships began to press forward. The largest of them was of course Middle Heaven, though it must be said it was also the ugliest. It was also slower than its smaller counterparts.
Tyrannosaurus was nestled in the middle of them all. Admiral Kang Hui stood behind his control desk with solemn expression. He was determined to cast of the shame of his previous defeat with this second encounter! The fate of humanity hung in the balance, and the pressure lain on his shoulder made it hard to breathe.

“Begin!” Kang Hui’s face was dark, and his voice was curt. The light in his eyes was fierce – it was time to do or die! He was ready for the ultimate sacrifice if it came down to it.

Fallen comrades, by the end of today I’ll have either won you vengeance, or I’ll meet you in the hereafter.

Ships began to move. At first they moved slowly, but soon they were closing in on the enemy from all directions.

From a distance one couldn’t see the end of the human fighting force. Patrol boats charged at the fore, surrounded and protected by battleships, expedition ships and dreadnaughts. Capital ships came up from behind as an imposing rear guard.

Cannons began to charge. Firepower mighty enough to level planets pointed at humanity’s foes.
As though sensing the change, the alien forces began to react. They swarmed, but not toward the humans. Instead they pressed tighter and withdrew, leaving empty space behind. At the same time they closed in tighter around the human planets they’d taken, as though ready to die in defense of their newest acquisitions.

Kang Hui scowled. This wasn’t what he wanted to see. He had hoped the aliens was charge ahead to meet them, so they could be spread out and their power diffused. However, with the fleets of three Alliances and the support of the bastions, he was confident in their success.

On the other hand he was well aware of his enemy’s cunning.
Rushing in would not have been like them.

“Hold formations.” Kang Hui continued to call out orders. He had learned from their earlier failure that charging in was a sure path to defeat. Stay prepared, stay vigilant. The alien planets were still nowhere to be seen, and until they showed up anything was possible.

The fleets split up into predetermined formations and blazed toward the four planets as instructed. To avoid harming the planets, Capital ships were instructed not to have their main
cannons charged. This was also to save energy for the more difficult fight ahead.

As the human ships closed in, the aliens gathered even tighter together. The large aliens even hid behind the planets.

“Avoid hitting the planets. Open fire!”

With his order, ships spread around all four planets simultaneously began their attack.

Flashes of laser fire lit streaked through space. They sped passed and around the planets, aiming for the aliens trying to use them for cover.

Their enemy also pulled into formation. Turtle aliens brazenly appeared on the front lines, defending the others with their shells. The other creatures didn’t attack, but instead hid well behind the makeshift shield wall.

Human forces were arrayed well, keeping formations that allowed for maximum coverage. However their strongest weapons were checked by their proximity to the planets. They
had to rely on secondary weapons systems only.

Suddenly a purple light began to emerge from behind the turtle aliens. Streaks of purple energy blasted forth, not unlike cannon fire from the human ships. They didn’t have the impact of human weapons, but where the caustic energy struck it began to dissolve the ships’ shields, causing them to fluctuate erratically.

Ship captains reacted quickly. Dreadnaughts and Capital ships pulled to the front. With their stronger shields and heavy guns they could shield the smaller ships from destruction.

Both sides viciously exchanged fire. However, the humans were at a disadvantage since they couldn’t use their strongest weapons. The alien horde had no such restrictions.

Close inspection revealed that it was a particular kind of alien firing at them from a distance. They looked like hedgehogs, capable of throwing spikes of energy from their backs.

The human ships kept their distance. Just as the aliens had studied them, the humans had learned about their enemy. They knew the monsters were especially strong at close range, but
lacked strong long-range fighting capabilities. Of course, this didn’t include the planets themselves.

Humanity had prepared well for the battle. With the backing of all the alliances they didn’t worry about running out of resources or energy, and so maintained the long-distance attacks. Their goal was to destroy the hedgehog aliens quickly, and keep the other creatures from getting too close. Any alien who dared try to get close was instantly put down by the overwhelming hail of laser fire.

Though mankind had suffered numerous defeats, each time they had learned. Kang Hui’s plan was a simple one – make less mistakes! Use the strength advantage to beat back the enemy, don’t be too aggressive, but don’t give them any opportunities either. Grind them down, that was how you killed aliens.

Chapter 738: Landing

His execution proved effective. They were exchanging fire, but the humans were clearly in a superior position. The aliens’ tightly knit formations worked against them. While their proximity to the human planets prevented Capital ship fire, it also prevented them from using their own advantages.

Crack! A turtle-aliens shielding could no longer hold up to the sustained fire and fractured. The squishy creature below was swiftly reduced to mangled flesh. Its twinkling vital crystal appeared, but was quickly swallowed up by another monster nearby.

Where there was one others soon followed. Before long the defensive line began to collapse. The alien forces were being slowly pushed back as they realized they couldn’t stand up to the human fleets.

For each meter they retreated the human fighters inwardly cheered. Under Kang Hui’s orders they pressed forward, maintaining optimal distance and never letting up.

The universe was on fire, a sea of angry light. Streamers of lethal energy were exchanged back and forth across a dark
backdrop. For the first time in the history of their conflict, mankind was overpowering their enemies. So far things were going according to plan.

However, the aliens wouldn’t be so easily defeated. Under the cover of defensive-type creatures they continued to retreat behind the planet they knew their prey wouldn’t harm. Clearly they understood the mindset of the humans, they wouldn’t attack their own.

Kang Hui smirked coolly. Trying to draw them in deep? Not likely.

As the planet came within firing distance Kang Hui gave the order to hold. Ground teams were to prepare for landing.

He was more careful now after the bitter lessons he’d learned before. He wouldn’t easily give the enemy an opportunity to make a fool of him again. Kang Hui knew that the creatures wouldn’t retreat so easily unless they were clearly being beaten. It had to be a diversion, that was the only explanation. Since they didn’t know where the three home worlds were, there was always a chance they could show up when the humans were most vulnerable – like chasing the aliens deeper into their territory. He wasn’t going to allow that to happen.
They had to stick to the plan. Recapturing the human planets was their first priority, then they could go about exterminating the enemy.

“Admiral, ground teams are ready to move at your order.”

“Give them cover fire, clear out whatever’s in their path.” Kang Hui coldly commanded.

Lan Jue had received the order back on Zeus-1. Prepare for incursion!

“What do you think?” The Wine Master asked. They were provided the most up-to-date information. They knew that so far humans have suffered no casualties, while more than a thousand aliens had met their end. However, no vital crystals were left behind. They were all swept up and kept from the hands of their killers.

Lan Jue shook his head. “We’ve only just started, it’s hard to say. We’ll have to wait and see what develops. So far it looks like our strategy is paying off. Get ready, soon it’ll be our turn.”
“Mh.” The Wine Master nodded. One by one the other Paragons rose from their meditations. Their eyes burned, they were fighting on behalf of their species.

“Zeus-1. Zeus-1, this is Middle Heaven.”

“This is Zeus-1, go on.” Su Xiaosu was manning the controls and quickly responded to the hails.

“The incursion has begun, engage!” Majesty was also hearing the same command.

“Received, operation is a go!” She confirmed.

She rose to her feet and faced Lan Jue. Star Division’s commander nodded.

Zeus-1 was on the move, closing in on its target planet. With Majesty, they were responsible for the largest of  the  four worlds, Monteux. Obviously Paragons would be more effective on the largest planet, the North believed. The hardest task was delegated to the team with the highest chance of success.
Zeus-1 and Majesty closed ranks, and flew wing to wing toward Monteux. Behind them were ten more large transport ships bearing the markings of the Bloodiron Khans. Indeed, An Lun’s mighty adept army would provide aid for the mission. Monteux’s recovery had the lowest chance of failure, especially since Lan Qing was sending in his best people.

His faith wasn’t just in his own people, but in Star Division as well. He believed in Lan Jue’s command. His little brother would make sure their losses were kept as low as possible.

Zeus-1 pulled to the fore. A hail of cover fire kept them from being harassed by enemies on the way in. However, that air support would end once they hit the planet’s atmosphere. They had to be ready for a fierce battle once they reached the surface. The only backup they would be able to rely on was low-flying patrol ships or the odd battleship. Anything larger than that wasn’t going to risk friendly fire.

This presented a problem, but with the North in such a precarious position at home everyone agreed to manage best they could. Nothing was more important than saving their beleaguered compatriots.

As they closed in Lan Jue’s eyes blazed. This would be a true
test of Star Division’s capabilities. Behind him the Paragons had risen to their feet and gathered. They stood in silent support of the young commander.

“Let me go!” The Pharmacist called. There was a brutality smoldering in her typically calm face.

Lan Jue shot her a glance. He answered her with a nod. They needed to throw everything they had at this fight, and take advantage of every opportunity.

Lan Jue knew this was her way of apologizing for her actions. No one had spoken ill of her or chastised her actions, but her heart was filled with shame. Lan Jue was an important member of Skyfire Avenue, yet her actions had put him in mortal danger. If something had happened to him it would have been disastrous for everyone.

Lan Jue understood, and wouldn’t dare discourage her. He wanted to help clear her conscience.

She left, then the Wine Master spoke. “Do you want any of us to help her?”
Lan Jue smiled, and shook his head. “No need. She’s the Harbinger Fairy!”

The only Paragon still meditating was Jue Di. All the rest stood behind Lan Jue, watching Monteux grow larger outside the window.

It had used to be a beautiful and vibrant world, a treasure for the North. Although not as important as Luo, it had served as a center of economy and commerce. It was for this reasons Terminator had been stationed nearby. But the planet was different now. Its surface glimmered with a strangely beautiful purple hue. Sadly, it was a beauty rife with death and decay.

From high above they could see something on the surface, moving in surging waves. A host of aliens were waiting for them.

These weren’t manifestations of an infection, like what the progenitors created. These were true aliens. Evidently their strategy had always been to bring the fight to the surface and take advantage of their close-combat strengths.

Lan Jue knew from the briefings that the West and North
were sending over thirty mecha divisions and scores of small warships to the other planets. They were manned by their finest converts and acquired Talents. Here, however, the fight would be hardest and backed by the fewest infantry. That was because they had Star Division.

Closer. Their cover fire started to taper off. Five hundred patrol ships and sixty battleships continued to keep the aliens at bay with secondary cannons. Many aliens were hiding in the hazy purple atmosphere of Monteux, waiting for their chance.

Blasts of caustic purple energy were cast into the incursion force, but Zeus-1 deftly avoided them all. Two patrol boats that had pulled ahead to clear the way were not so lucky. They knew the horror they were signing up for, but they volunteered to fight anyway.

When the human ships entered the atmosphere and began to shake, the aliens made their move. Wave after wave of purple blasts streaked past them. Ten patrol boats were instantly dissolved, until the corrosion reached their engine and caused them to explode.

Lan Jue scowled. The enemy was perversely clever, they didn’t engage the humans in open space instead attack them
from the ground when they came in range. Without a doubt, what their telescopes had thought were humans were actually these monsters lying in wait. These evil bastards were smart.

Lan Jue saw the truth, but it was too late to change anything.
His only option was to soldier on.

Just then a white light overtook their screens. At first it wasn’t intense, but it moved with incredible speed. It cut through the atmosphere like a hot knife through butter, and toward Monteux’s poisoned surface. Whatever purple energy came close was dissolved and dispersed.

“Admiral Lan Qing, call the patrol boats and battleships back from Monteux’s atmosphere. They’re dying in vain. Leave the incursion to us.” Lan Jue called out.

Chapter 739: Bladestorm

The East had arranged for direct communication between Lan Jue and his brother.

“Alright!” Lan Qing’s answer was short and to the point.

Zeus-1’s warship entourage began to pull back. They continued to give Lan Jue cover fire but no longer pressed into the planet’s atmosphere. That blast of white light continued its headlong charge.

The light was, of course, the Pharmacist. She was dressed in white, in the style of ancient china. Her long hair was done up braids that made her seem all the more pixiesque. However, her tender beauty was paired with eyes that burned with murderous intent. Not wild bloodlust, but righteous determination to eradicate evil. She tore through the air on her seven-star sword, Occisus clutched in hand. She looked for all the world like the immortal faeries of old.

Streaks of violet-purple light shot at her, but never came close. She juked and dodged, and before long she was approaching the planet’s surface
As she swept her eyes to the horizon she was met with an unending sea of creatures. All kinds of monstrous faces sneered and howled at her. Some were as large as mountains. They focused attacks in her direction.

The situation was worse than they’d anticipated. The aliens had guessed recapturing the planets would be a main objective and had set a trap. But what did this mean to the Harbinger Fairy?

There was a flash of purple, and a shuttle-shaped alien launched itself toward the Pharmacist. She regarded it with as much concern as she would an insect.

A streak of white, the shuttle alien raced passed her and away. It erupted in a fountain of purple blood and savaged flesh as though it had suffered a thousand cuts. Chunks of it tumbled to the ground below.

A shimmering purple crystal was captured in the Pharmacist’s light. Their first vital crystal!

The shuttle alien’s demise brought more attention on the Pharmacist. She stopped in midair and glared down at them.
Her eyes were cast far toward the horizon, then back to the milling beasts below her feet. Her pretty lips moved, though her words were lost to the host of angry growls.

Aaaaoouuu–! One of the beast, standing three hundred meters tall, threw its head back and roared. Dozens more aliens threw themselves at the Pharmacist.

She faced them calmly, the hard light of murder glinting in her eyes. She lifted Occisus high, and pointed toward her enemies with her other hand. Her legendary sword reacted by dissolving into a column of white light that shot into the sky. All of a sudden, whether Zeus-1 overhead or the aliens below, everything was lost in a blinding white light.

It was like the whole universe was lost in Occisus’ glow.

Even the keen and powerful Paragons shuddered as the power washed over them. They could feel the lethal energy it contained. Even Luo Xianni stared with wide eyes. “This girl’s aura… packs quite the punch!” She muttered.

“Blaaadestooorm!” The clear and emotionless call rang from the Pharmacist.
The first blast of light emerged. It shot forth, obliterating anything in its path. It struck the closest alien and tore right through it, heading for the beast coming up from behind.

A second blast followed. Then a third, a fourth, a fifth…

The sword-shaped white lights were mirror images of Occisus, as though the sword had fractured into countless copies of itself and tumbled from heaven. They descended wildly to the unfortunate creatures below, brutally ending their lives. Even shelled beasts couldn’t protect themselves from the Pharmacist’s fury.

As far as the eye could see Occisus’ power descended in a deadly rain of white. Those aliens that weren’t immediately killed clambered over one another to try and flee.

Bladestorm was a technique of ages past, imparted to her through Occisus. Upon breaking through to Paragon the Pharmacist was infused with this secret knowledge. The murderous intent she bore galvanized her weapon’s power, and the result was widespread death.

Purple bodies continued to fall beneath flashes of white. The
air was thick with screams of rage and pain, but they did nothing to curb the slaughter. The Bladestorm of the Harbinger Fairy was sure to be spoken of in the annals of humanity for all time.

This patch of Monteux was painted dark purple, but now it was from the blood of their fallen enemies.

No less than five hundred aliens had fallen to the Pharmacist’s attack, including the massive one that had challenged her. Parts of it were strewn across a large swath of ground. Scores more approached from the distance but didn’t dare get too close. They, too, feared death. They may just have been cells shed from their home worlds, but they had intelligence and knew the pain this lone human promised.

Zeus-1 also kept its distance behind her. They didn’t want to be caught in the hail of death!

The Pharmacist vanished, appearing a moment later standing atop the sapphire ship. The manifestation of Occisus power shifted and raced for the distant alien observers. They fled for their lives as Zeus-1 searched for a clear patch to land on.
The Wine Master reminded everyone of the plan. “Everyone pick a direction. First order of business is securing the landing zone.”

Several figured separated from the ship as it continued its descent.

The smell of rot and decay filled the air, belched from the poisoned purple ground. If one looked closely they could spy what looked like veins snaking across the surface. The corpses of the monsters were quickly being eaten away and absorbed by the earth. Even vital crystal were being sucked up to feed whatever those veins were connected to.

Lan Jue knew that so long as the aliens could retain those crystals, they weren’t really losing anything. The Wine Master knew this as well, thus his first action was to brandish his scepter. The scores of mangled bodies beneath him shook and flashed silver. In the next moment their vital crystals were floating beside the Wine Master. Then they vanished into a vortex of glimmering light.

Every crystal they pilfered from the enemy made them weaker. Gathering them was a priority. Each alliance had agreed to allow all crystals to remain with the ones who’d taken
them. The North had two planets to farm for crystals, while the East and West had one each. Of course, Monteux was the largest, and part of the East’s promise to help with other operations was the potential to acquire more vital crystals.

The Paragons raced off, each in separate directions.

The Pharmacist remained kneeling atop Zeus-1. Her face was sallow and her appearance frail. Being only a part of the Realm of Protogenia, she had only just managed to summon Bladestorm. Occisus’ demands were high. She needed time to recover.

Lan Jue did not follow the Paragons but remained behind to survey the area. Jue Di and Luo Xianni were with him. Because they were susceptible to the ire of protogenic energy, they did not hurry to use their powers.

The Wine Master, Driver, Gourmet, Keeper, Bookworm, Pauper, Clockmaker, and Bize spread out in eight different directions.

The Wine Master arrived at his prescribed location in the blink of an eye. He held his astrum aloft, and the area before
him shuddered in protest. As aliens flew toward him and encountered the flux they were instantly ripped apart. Only a few particularly strong beasts survived passage.

A dragon-like colossus slithered through the air surrounded by a violet aura. It opened it’s maw, and spat from it a dazzling orb of purple toward the Wine Master. The fractured reality around it seemed unable to stop its advance. Clearly, this was one of the beasts that could survive in space.

The Wine Master grunted and waved his scepter. A piercing beam of silver issues forth, splitting reality in its passage and leaving a black void in its wake. First it consumed the orb of energy the beast had belched. Then, having not slowed at all, it crashed into the monster itself. The screech it released was loud enough to deafen, but lasted only a moment. The Wine Master callously looked on as the dragon separated into two equal halves. Its large vital crystal vanished in a flash of silver.

Like the Wine Master, the Driver rose sharply into the air when he reached his target area. Overhead a dark cloud of purple had gathered of similar hue to the planet’s plagued surface. But the bolts of purple lightning that issued from it were not of alien making. Where they landed, nothing survived. Without exception, any alien caught in the scope of the lightning storm was incinerated.

Chapter 740: Dominating Power

It was his first time releasing his powers in battle since ascending to Paragon. The feeling of protogenia flowing through him was intoxicating, and even his enemies were in awe of the primordial lightning flashing in the sky. Aliens witnessing their brood’s destruction from a distance didn’t dare approach the Driver.

The Gourmet walked idly along the ground. In his passage the world withered away and the sky blanched. A gray-hued stillness and death spread from him like a pestilence. Aliens that came to close were also painted in the monochromatic color then burned away in a painful and silent demise. Their bodies turned to ash and floated in the breezeless air. The Gourmet brought to them a universe of ruination and despair.

The Keeper and Bookworm made the most dramatic display. Above the Keeper’s crown was an array of small stars arranged in a matter. All of a sudden they shot out, spreading in all directions. They swelled into beams of energy ten meters in diameter. He looked like a human battleship.

Meanwhile, the Bookworm was not much  different.  The blasts issued from him were five meters wide and looked like beams of sunlight. The earth shook in their passage, belching
fire and thunderclaps. The two scientists were showing restraint, for if they used powers like the ion cannon it could clear away huge swaths of enemies, but the North may misunderstand and accuse the East of using Capital ships on the planet.

Where the Keeper and Bookworm were commencing their shock and awe campaign, the Pauper tore through the enemy with a ferocity to match a wild beast. He didn’t use any long- ranged abilities, deigning stead to throw himself in the thick of the alien horde. The loud and clear roar of a dragon hung in the air as he ripped a bloody swath through his foes. The image of a golden dragon slithered through the air around him.

An enormous but slow-moving monstrosity that looked like a turtle came trundling his way. The Pauper leapt into the air, arc high over the aliens’ heads, then brazenly smashed into the creature’s armored back. The impact forced the turtle monster to the ground.

It screamed in protest while the Arhat of the Descending Dragon lifted his fists high. When he brought them down, armor that deflected warship fire shattered like glass. A tempest of golden light swept through the area.
He sprung at the next alien, never pausing to catch his breath. He was a protogenic warhead, and where he went the cries of dragons marked the death of his enemies. As he moved through them the golden dragon pulled aliens within reach of his fists and were summarily exterminated.

In sharp contrast, the Clockmaker’s strategy was much calmer, though no less monstrous.

Gentle multichromatic colors danced across the field in waves. Some areas moved sluggishly while others were swift and abrupt. When the aliens tried to strike at the Clockmaker, they suddenly found themselves moving in slow motion to tear apart an ally that’d had inadvertently rushed in front.

It was absolute chaos. The monsters tore each other to shreds, and all the while the Clockmaker calmly walked among them unscathed.

Bize’s sector was the bloodiest. ‘Granny Bize’ swiped the air with claw-like hands, leaving crimson streaks were her long red-lacquered nails passed. The streaks lengthened and spread like bloody knives through the crowd. Moments later groups of aliens would tumble to the ground in several pieces  and fountains of blood.
Twinkling vital crystals flew over to her as her enemies were felled. According to the agreement, she got to keep whatever she got. They were an important factor in how the Wine Master had convinced her to come. Both she and Aubert had been around for a staggeringly long time. Both of them could benefit from the restorative properties of the crystals.

Eight directions, eight Paragons! They spread out like a fishing net, and not a single creature evaded them. This was the benefit of individual strength. Without cost or crisis, the initial stages of their mission were complete.

Majesty found a landing sight, relinquishing scores of figures the moment it touched down. Mechas, twinkling in the purple light. They quickly arranged into teams then spread out to secure the landing zone.

Compared to the last time Star Division took to the field, they had matured quite a lot as soldiers. Lan Jue, suspended overhead, nodded in approval. Retaking the planet would not be a problem.

Following on the heels of Majesty were the Bloodiron Khans’ transport vessels, and finally normal An Lun ground troops. Altogether there were five companies responsible for taking
back Monteux – the smallest operation force by comparison.

Scores of engineers had come with the soldiers. They deployed with machinery that had come with them on the transports and immediately got to work. However they quickly discovered a problem. As they tried to work the ground would wriggle and sway to throw them off, as though it had a life of its own.

Lan Jue spread out his hands and pressed them downward. A curtain of blue light descended and spread over the forces below. When it reached the ground it began to pitch and shake. The cancerous vessels buried deep underground atrophied under Lan Jue’s power, collapsing and cutting off its poisonous flow. Gradually the poison hue drained from the earth and its natural color returned.

All-Heaven Lightning – the evolution of Lan Jue’s Disicpline and the thunder essence – was a bane to all things evil. By virtue of its power he was able to overcome the toxic influence of his enemies. Clearing the vestiges of their sickness was an easy task.

Without the tendrils of the beasts to trouble them further, the engineers got back to work – installing railguns. Recapturing the planet was a priority not just in principle, but because they could be turned against their aggressors.
The guns themselves were provided by the North. The plan was to install them once an area was secured then press on to the next sector. Once they were ready to go they would be used to assist other teams until the planet was entirely under human control.

Lan Jue stepped forward. Thor appeared as though summoned from the ether, and its pilot was swallowed in a beam of sapphire light. Once Lan Jue was settled in its cockpit the storied mecha’s eyes lit up.

At Lan Jue’s levels of power a mecha suit was unnecessary. However, as commander he needed its communications equipment to keep in contact with his teams. It afforded him immediate command and control.

Star Division was on the move with Thor directing activities overhead. By now the Pharmacist had recovered. She was seated on Thor’s shoulder, but no matter how fast the mecha moved she did not struggle to keep her balance.

Flashes and explosions lit up the skies from one horizon to the other, signs of humanity’s spreading dominance. Star Division followed their leader as he raced forward in search of a specific target. If they wanted to retake the planet they had to find the
progenitor. Once it was slain, the tendrils of its influence would wither and die. If they were lucky they might find survivors as well. They would be alive only as bait, but saving them was a priority.

Lan Jue headed first for the Driver. The two of them were Brigade commanders, so he was the natural choice for a first direction.

“Feels good! My Primordial Lightning is pretty damned impressive, isn’t it!” The Driver called out to Lan Jue when he saw him approach. He needed no mecha, the sector he was sent to manage was already clear and the aliens routed.

“Save your energy. Let our people handle things, we’ll fill in the gaps.” He ordered. Performance was an important part of the Division’s structure. It was how rewards were decided, not the least of which being access to the exuvium process for them and their families. The promise of an extended life was at the core of their motivational strategy. If the Driver killed them all, how could their people prove themselves?

Battle was the best way to prove and improve themselves. If Star Division wanted to continue to better themselves, they would have to do it in the fires of war.
“Got it!” The Driver knew what Lan Jue was getting at and answered right away. Below them, Star Division spread out to take control of the situation.

First Brigade was in the lead, followed by Second Brigade as support. They nimbly set off to do their jobs. Lan Jue, the Driver and the Pharmacist followed. Now their task was to penetrate the enemy lines and hunt down their target.

“Guoguo, come here.” Lan Jue ordered.

A figured separated itself from the crowd below and rose to meet them. It was a beautiful golden mecha, Lin Guoguo’s newly refurbished war machine. She rushed to her boss’ side. “Your command?”

“Use your psionic abilities to scan the enemy,” he said. “See if you can find any human mental energy. We’re going to see if there’s anyone left to save.”

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