Skyfire Avenue Chapter 811-820

Chapter 811: Bracing Domains

However, even though everything but the purest of their energies remained, Lan Jue and Zhou Qianlin continued their meteoric rise. Especially Qianlin, who was already trying to hold herself back from breaking the bottleneck to Nirvana.

This was wonderful on some level of course. Qianlin was the only one who need not worry about the dangers of universal protogenia. The suppression of the cosmos had no bearing on her – she was truly unique.

But her rise was too fast. For a Paragon to breakthrough directly to Reflection of Heaven and Earth was already shocking. Now it seemed she would achieve Nirvana in a matter of days. However if she did, it would make her foundation insecure. She would find it difficult to control her own powers, turning their benefits into a ticking time bomb.

A Paragon’s power was built on their ability to control it. A master with tremendous power who could not command it was inferior to the one with less strength but more control. What’s more, it was safer even for the Paragon as losing control could lead to harm – to themselves and the people around them.
When Jue Di returned and learned about Qianlin’s abilities, it was for these reasons he forbade her from rising further. For the time being she needed to keep herself firmly as a Reflection of Heaven and Earth until she could master her own capabilities. Once she could do that they might consider ascending to the next level.

Lan Jue’s condition was much better. It was true that the Emperor of the North Star’s lineage granted him tremendous power. However, it also demanded he accumulate even more energy and understanding than the typical Paragon before rising to new heights. Because of these requirements he was able to shoulder some of the energy Qianlin acquired through the faith of the masses. It prevented her from directly breaking through to Paragon and also helped him along his own path.

Lan Jue was also near the upper borders of Reflection. According to his earlier plans getting to this point would have required at least three years of studious cultivation to achieve – assuming he did so with Qianlin and everything went smoothly.

Up to now it had been Qianlin who had benefited from Lan Jue’s presence. Now the proverbial tables had turned. Through years of study Lan Jue’s control of his powers was solid. At this point he didn’t break through to Nirvana simply because he didn’t want to.
“Right now both of you need to work on control. If you don’t you invite danger.” Jue Di instructed.

And he was right. As the power of faith continued to flood into Qianlin her powers would only increase. If she didn’t learn to control them the situation would only worsen.

Qianlin was seated before him, surrounded by a pale golden aura. She also was not interested in breaking through just yet, but the faithful were multiplying faster than she could keep up.

Altogether humanity numbered in the tens of billions. Without question the people of these seven planets were converts to Guanyin, the Queen of Heaven. They were fervently devoted to their new savior. Where it began to get out of control was the scores of people who saw video of her actions, who chose to follow the light of the goddess though they were light years away from danger. This is what ultimately made Zhou Qianlin’s faith-amplified powers difficult to bear.

When she spoke there was concern in her soft voice. “Uncle would my transformation influence Lan Jue?”

“Certainly, to some degree,” Jue Di answered. “You are
connected by blood, and what happens to one will be reflected in the other. There are also the vows you made – set up by that old kook Clairvoyant. Thus in many ways the two of you are one entity. Injure one and both suffer, nourish one and the other benefits. You are inseparable, and what problems are visited unto you Lan Jue must bear as well.”

His response caused her to worry. “So what should I do? I’m already having trouble controlling my power.”

Jue Di smiled comfortingly. “Don’t worry, there is a way. First, you mustn’t show yourself in public for a little while. We have to limit your exposure to the masses, and that will limit the spread of faith. Likewise I’ll tell Lan Qing to get in touch with the leadership of the Alliances, and have them stop spreading news of your actions. The power of faith should abate by then. Still this only deals with the symptoms and not the problem.”

“For the two of you your priority needs to be stabilizing your newfound power and strengthening your control. At the Nirvana level, simply not wishing to break through is no longer enough. It comes down to how long you can fight back. But even if you do the faith of the people isn’t enough to push you into the Infinite. Once you achieve Nirvana you need only be careful when employing your Discipline and you shouldn’t get in too
much trouble.”

“Both of you should hole up and work on steadying your cultivation. Qianlin, your powers are steady by nature, and cultivating together will help Lan Jue bear the pressure better. You need to consolidate your internal energies, and your protogenia. Work on your mutual connection so that if you do break through, Lan Jue can help you manage it. With his level of control you shouldn’t have a problem. His own Domain is powerful enough as it is. After all, the Middle Heaven Emperor of the North Pole Star of Purple Subtlety was a king among gods. He has a long way to go before he can fully grasp that inheritance. This also means he can absorb far more energy. Wait until both of you have more discipline, then you will certainly have a way to deal with the enormous energies at your disposal.”

Jue Di had decades of experience in suppressing cultivation. In fact for the last several years it had been his sole focus. Due to this he was able to recognize and suggest the best method for Lan Jue and Qianlin to solve their problem.

La Jue chimed in. “But with the situation as it is, there’s a lot we need to do. Sequestering ourselves –“
Jue Di’s response was somewhat irritated. “Will there be no more pork without Lan the Butcher? We’ll be fine without you. Besides you won’t be gone for long. Already your Domains are stabilizing thanks to Qianlin’s abilities. I want you to seal yourselves off from distractions so you can learn more deeply about yourselves and what you’ve gained. You must cultivate the correct way and that will be enough. Did you think I wanted you to lock yourselves away to improve your cultivation?”

Despite his harsh tone Lan Jue noted that his father was in high spirits. Their missions had been successful, and the revelations of Qianlin’s abilities were a great boon to everyone. For instance, the influence of her light had been tremendously helpful for Luo Xianni. When Jue Di returned to the others the first thing he’d done is ask why his lover had chosen something so dangerous as breaking through to the Infinite.

Luo Xianni then explained to him what she’d learned of Qianlin’s abilities. Jue Di then sought her out to see for himself, and discovered that her abilities helped him as well. Of course, the discrepancy in cultivation meant the effects on him were less than on Luo Xianni. Even so, using his powers while within her aura stopped the universe from draining his life force.

Many Paragon-level vital crystals had been recovered after this last mission. Of particular note was the one that had
belonged to the Monarch’s Avatar before Lan Jue put it down. That orb of pure energy was a fragment of Monarch itself, born from its own body. While energetically it possessed the powers of Nirvana, it had come from something nearly immortal. Its benefits for Jue Di were considerable. It would increase his lifespan by at least a decade, while also allowing him to employ his full strength at least for a short period.

One day, if Qianlin achieved the Infinite, then she could conceal him from the dangers of universal protogenia as well. It was a pleasant surprise for him, for Jue Di had given up hope that an answer to his slow demise would be forthcoming. But an answer had revealed itself.

Lan Jue rose and, taking Zhou Qianlin’s hand, led her to a place where they could be alone. They requested three days of solitude from Lan Qing to complete the process, and for these three days Lan Qing would be busy.

Control of the seven planets surrounding Europa had been returned to the humans. The implications of this were important, it was the first time they had won a total victory in the face of this alien menace.

However, by the same token the responsibilities of liberating
these planets were taxing on the allied forces. Their enemy had not withdrawn entirely, and bands of aliens still harassed the planets from time to time.

They were populated by survivors. It took a great deal of trouble and energy to cure them of their illness, so the allied forces couldn’t simply leave them to their own devices. But protecting them meant the armada would need to split its forces. It opened them up to the possibility that alien bands would pick them off one by one. More importantly, their forces would need to remain stationed there.

This was a problem even Lan Qing’s lauded intelligence couldn’t solve with any satisfaction. The best they could come up with was to gather the survivors together on a single planet to better protect them. Of course this meant the others would be abandoned, but it was the only way their war could continue.

So far none of their scouts had returned from the inner recesses of the solar system with actionable intelligence. Some would disappear entirely while others would return with nothing of consequence. The only thing they could say with certainty was that any ship that headed for Europa didn’t come back. Whatever was happening out there they could not know.
While it looked like humans were on the cusp of victory, Lan Qing knew better. The aliens were still in control.

This refers to a story about Zhang the Butcher, who forced out all his competition so he was the only one selling meat on the street. He had the ignorant masses convinced that if he wasn’t around they would have no meat at all. Of course when he gets sick and dies, the street fills with butchers who had all been forced out of business by Zhang. The moral is ‘you ain’t hot shit.’

Chapter 812: Return, Discuss

If the alien planets were in the process of evolution than their goal was delaying the humans. Once their evolution was complete, nothing could stand in their way.

Time was the enemy of humanity.

Should they rush in, then? No one was sure how many of the alien forces had survived and pushed deeper into the center of the solar system. Aside from the progenitors, their only serious loss was Monarch’s avatar, which Lan Jue and Qianlin had killed on Heaven’s Light. The majority of their strength remained intact, and who knew what they were doing in the darkness around Europa.

Whatever ships and personnel they had in this hodge-podge group of soldiers was all that was left of mankind’s defense, they couldn’t be allowed to lose. If they did then all of their efforts up to this point had been for naught. It would mean the potential destruction of their species.

With risks so high Lan Qing had to keep his responses measured. What he needed was more precise data before they could plan their next step.
A series of discussions ensued between him, Hua Li, and Kang Hui. The talks were aimed at hammering out the next phase of their plan.

Right now the armada was busy shuttling people from the planets and gathering them on Angel. From there they would be able to protect them more efficiently. While they worked to evacuate the survivors, they were also waiting for backup and resources from elsewhere.

The first shipment of food and drink came two days later, and helped ease the anxious situation the allied forces had found themselves in. Without food and water the survivors were at risk of rioting, but now that they had sufficient stores all was well. It was still too early for them to ponder on everything they’d lost. What they wanted more than anything was to leave this place and flee the danger that haunted them.

Lan Jue’s decision was contrary to their wishes. For the allied forces, and in order to ensure the best chances at victory, none of these Westerners could be allowed to leave Angel until the fighting was through. They simply couldn’t spare the ships to get them to safety.

The Western government had been destroyed by the sudden
alien attack and no help was forthcoming. There were grumblings from the survivors who clearly didn’t like the decision, however they had been saved by these outsiders and had to accept reality. The root of their hope for the future was that these soldiers didn’t fail.

There was power in numbers, and as resources began to pour in the survivors set about caring for themselves. Thankfully Angel, though ravaged, had much that could be recovered. They set about restoring their homes.

Lan Qing ordered a simple census and found that the survivors were talents in their respective fields. That was to say that the alien only chose the more outstanding humans to keep for their mutation process – the weak, the infirm, the young were reduced to energy for consumption. Their reasons were clear – to look into their DNA and see what made them special.

There was a silver lining to the cruel efficiency of the alien selection process. After a brief period of chaos these elite citizens banded together and started to organize their own recovery. With the military’s support they began to rebuild.

Scant though materials were, Angel still had a fair amount left once its vital energy had been recovered. The aliens were only
interested in vital energy, so things like ore were of no practical use to them. The building blocks required to salvage the planet remained, though of course the process would be long and slow.

It was the best Lan Qing could hope for. At least the survivors had something to keep them busy instead of harassing the soldiers.

The second shipment arrived on the afternoon of the fourth day. It was also the day two of his most important agents appeared in his office. When he saw Lan Jue and Qianlin, his face relaxed from its typical stony expression.

“What did you need to see us for in such a hurry?” They’d received the summons to see Lan Qing the moment they stepped out from isolation.

Lan Qing pursed his lips. “I need you. We still don’t know anything more about the alien home worlds. We’ve sent out many scout teams but haven’t heard anything back, we suspect they’ve all been destroyed. We even sent a small contingent of five Paragons out to learn what they could, but they were met by five Paragon-level aliens. They only just managed to escape.”
Lan Jue furrowed his brow. “They’re still trying to cut off intelligence. This is a problem.” Without more information about their target they couldn’t formulate a plan. They didn’t even know if the planets were still there. They could just fly the whole armada into the center of the solar system and see what they could find, but that posed considerable risk.

Lan Qing was trying to turn the situation around, but if they lost this war Middle Heaven was the Eastern Alliance’s last hope. As admiral Lan Qing couldn’t ignore that fact. As a result his tactics were moderate, and heavily relied on Lan Jue.

The admiral explained. “I need you to go yourself, you have more scouting experience than anyone. Between you and Lin Guoguo, you have the highest chance of success. What we need you to confirm is that those planets are still here. If they are we can continue.”

As he’d mentioned, Lan Qing had asked a group of Paragons to go scouting during Lan Jue’s sequester. Lin Guoguo had gone with them, but they were nonetheless discovered. The alien blockade was dense, and the closer they got to Europa the harder it became to push on. A net of umbrella-type aliens stood vigil, in search of human scouts and backed up by the alien generals. So far no intelligence sorties had completed their mission.
Lan Qing was knew his brother very well. Lin Guoguo would perform differently with her boss present, and Lan Jue knew the aliens’ particularities very well. It seemed like his younger brother was the all-around best choice for the mission.

“Alright, I’ll be ready to head out soon. Has there been any change to the battle plan?” Lan Jue asked. He knew the dilemma they faced by the time he returned to Middle Heaven. How they broke the enemy lines would be critical.

Hesitation flickered in the admiral’s eyes. “The core plan hasn’t changed. However the aliens are more cunning than we thought. We may seem to have the upper hand, but they continue to determine the pace of the war. We’re being led by the nose. I have a sneaking suspicion that they haven’t used their full strength against us yet. They have suffered losses, but their strongest are still out there somewhere. This fight is still under their control, and I’m sure once we penetrate into the middle of the planetary system we’ll be under heavy assault. If I were them, I would have taken my cue from the fight around Angel. I’d stop any attempts at frontal assault and resort to guerilla warfare – picking off our numbers and forcing us to waste time until the home planets have finished evolving.

Lan Jue offered his thoughts. “I’ve been pondering it myself. They certainly didn’t leave these mutants here out of the
kindness of their hearts. They knew we’d have to deal with them, it’s part of our nature to help our own despite the trouble it’d cause. They probably hoped the survivors would riot and force us to change focus, dissuade us from our offensive.”

Lan Qing nodded. “Just so. Luckily Qianlin’s abilities saved us that headache. Otherwise we would have really been in trouble. But things aren’t all bad – at least I’m fairly certain the planets are near Europa and have started their evolution process. If they weren’t their current strategy wouldn’t make sense, they would have more than enough strength to wipe us out. Yet for now they haven’t made any move to fight back, which means one of two things. First, the planets aren’t here. Second, they’re evolving. It goes without saying that the second eventuality is far more likely, but we need to confirm it first and find a way to get close.”

After a moment of silence, a sagacious light glimmered behind Lan Qing’s eyes. When he spoke again his voice was even and low. “According to recent estimations there are two things that are integral to our future success. The first is to coax the enemy into a direct confrontation. If we can manage that I’m sure we can weaken their forces even further. We have an advantage with our bastions, but it isn’t absolute. In fact the alien forces are most likely to destroy them during an all-out offensive, but it’s also where our opportunities are greatest.”
“The second is to interrupt the alien home world evolution process. Right now that seems very difficult due to the sheer number of monsters protecting them. We also know they’re intelligent and cunning – I’m sure there’s some defensive plan they have in place we’re not aware of yet. Depending on what that is we may not cause them much damage even if we charge in with our full armada. In fact I’m fairly sure our earlier victory was achieved because our enemy allowed it.”

“Ah?!” Lan Jue was stunned by what he’d heard. “They lost on purpose? Why?”

Chapter 813: Difficult Situation

Lan Qing explained his reasoning. “If my guess is correct, then their goal is simple. They don’t want us to throw caution to the wind and rush in. They want us to have a false sense of superiority. Our bastions are superior weapons, they want us to think, and we have a chance – that’s already how the soldiers think. The East and North saw our victory and it gave them hope. Under these circumstances do you think they’ll send reinforcements to help us? The answer is no, of course not. They’ll want to keep their forces close to protect against the threat of them teleporting into their alliances again. Especially the North. What they want is to tie us up and make us forget the danger. If they waste enough of our time, they achieve their goal.”

A cold sweat lingered on Lan Jue’s back as he listened. If this was true the aliens were as undefeatable as they originally feared.

Lan Qing narrowed his eyes. “Their retreat  was  too disciplined and unhurried. I didn’t think we could  recapture these planets as fast as we did, either. Taking these worlds back may seem like a grand feat but actually it’s all a farce. The enemy didn’t anticipate we could revert the mutated humans so quickly, but the situation is still firmly under their control. If what I’m saying turns out to be right I suspect our chances of
survival are less than ten percent.”

Lan Jue heaved a shaky breath. Their victories had been a ray of sunlight in humanity’s darkest hour. Now, with his brother’s explanation, he saw that things weren’t so straightforward.

“Have you told anyone else?” Lan Jue asked.

Lan Qing regarded him with an impatient scowl. “Do I look like an idiot? I need to support morale not crush it. The fact is we have no recourse but to soldier on, even if we know we’re walking in to a trap.”

Lan Jue frowned at the prospect. “IS there really no chance?”

“Not entirely,” Lan Qing answered. “I have an idea, but it’s very dangerous.” He quietly explained his strategy to his younger brother.

Surprise was evident on the Jewelry Master’s face. He didn’t know his brother had been crafting such a plan, and while it was certainly a shot at the moon he could see how it had the makings of a brilliant reprisal.
“That’s the backup plan, the hope is my guesses are wrong. If I am we won’t need to try it, best scenario. But if I’m not…”

He trailed off, staring pointedly at Lan Jue. Hesitation appeared in the depths of his eyes, for just a moment.

But Lan Jue’s face was calm. “I understand. Whether you’re right or not it’s something we have to do. In fact I think we can improve our odds. I’m sure the aliens are watching us now, otherwise how would they know if we have the strength needed to defeat their home worlds. What if they break off their own evolution? I agree with your plan and I’m anxious to carry it out. I’m confident I can do it.”

Lan Qing’s breath became just a little more haggard. He turned to look at Qianlin. She smiled back at him. “He and I are of the same mind.”

The admiral heaved a steading sigh, and after a time his expression eased. “Go prepare. There’s scouting that must be done. The army is mostly ready, and we’ll follow the plan. Step by step.”

“Alright,” Lan Jue answered. Then he added, “Ah yes. I also
had something I wanted to run past you.”

“Oh?” Lan Qing looked at him in curiosity. “What was your idea?”

“Have you thought about employing Star Division directly in a space battle?” He asked.

This gave Lan Qing pause. “Star Division?” Actually he hadn’t. The aliens had fought tooth and nail when they actually engaged, and so had his soldiers. But he did have that trump card yet to pull.

“That’s right,” Lan Jue said. “Star Division didn’t do much during these last ground excursions. It doesn’t look like future encounters will need ground forces much, either, aside from Europa. As far as I’m concerned saving Star Division for that alone is underutilizing their abilities. The East and Skyfire Avenue have invested a lot in them, both in regards to their skills and equipment. I think they’d do quite well out there. Day by day they’re working better with one another. Their mecha suits are equipped to fight out in space as well. If you use the Paragons as the tip of the spear and follow up with Star Division, it’d be like dropping an army in the middle of their forces unexpected. Time and again it’s been proven that adepts
do more damage to these aliens than conventional weapons.”

Lan Qing’s eyes narrowed as he carefully considered Lan Jue’s proposal. It was no exaggeration to say Star Division was humanity’s strongest mecha division, and they were phenomenally equipped. He admitted that they weren’t as useful doing their current mission as they might be elsewhere.

Even Lan Qing was sometimes more conservative than was necessary and had been keeping his mechas for planetary operations only. Lan Jue’s suggestion opened up new possibilities.

It was better that Lan Jue came up with the idea. Though they were brothers, Star Division wasn’t under the admiral’s direct command. It was an extension of Skyfire Avenue’s  power, which was participating in a supportive role and not under the auspices of the Eastern government. Lan Qing couldn’t demand much of them with this being the case, but that was not so for Lan Jue. His brother was the chairman of Skyfire Council and commander of Star Division. He had decision-making powers when it came to the Avenue’s assets.

“If you think they can handle it, I have no problems. But discuss it with the Paragons. Establishing Star Division wasn’t
easy, I’m sure, and it is part of Skyfire Avenue. Fighting in space is dangerous, as I’m sure you understand.”

This was Lan Qing’s way of voicing his concern.

Lan Jue nodded. “I’ll talk it over with their Majesties. I don’t think it’ll be a problem. Qianlin’s powers are terrific support in a fight, we’ll see what sort of damage we can cause when the time comes. And while the aliens are fast, their advantage isn’t absolute. Majesty, for instance, is a match for any one of them if we push it to top speed. They’re trying to blockade Europa, right? A sneak attack might serve, but with a whole fleet they’ll see us coming. Not so with just one mecha division.”

Once more Lan Qing was surprised by his brother. He was a smart man, and at Lan Jue’s suggestion his mind filled with corresponding strategies. They were sure to be particularly effective against the enemy.

A small smile spread across Lan Qing’s face. “Alright, go talk it over with the others. Then I’ll speak to them myself and formulate a plan. Afterwards we’ll be ready to put it into effect.”
Lan Jue bid his brother farewell then led Qianlin away. They sought out the other Paragons and explained his idea. Everyone agreed. So far Star Division’s use had been limited, but they were about to show how good Skyfire Avenue’s people were in a fight.

On land mecha suits were towering and imposing war machines, but out in space they seemed almost miniscule. Even the smallest space ship – even fighter drones –  were considerably larger by comparison. However their size did not speak to their fighting capacity, which was no less impressive than the ships that dwarfed them. Star Division enjoyed the full support of the Eastern government and Skyfire Avenue, and was populated by talented Adepts that put the equipment to good use. They knew how to hold their own.

Lan Jue’s soldiers were also itching for a good fight. Their mission on Angel had been downright depressing without any enemies to test themselves against. There were only mutants, which Luo Xianni quickly dealt with on her own. They were given no opportunity to show off their competence.

Not only were the aliens worthy adversaries, they were also the bearers of treasure! The vital crystals they earned from killing the monsters were their prizes for meritorious service, and Admiral Lan had relayed the order that all crystals earned
by a division were theirs to keep. They could be used to strengthen the unit as well as be allocated among the soldiers.

It was effective encouragement, directed at the soldiers of the landing teams. The ships and their crews had a unified system of allocation, and their actions were tightly bound to the overall battle plan. Thus, they were not given the same incentives. Still, crew members were still given the opportunity to take from the crystals their ships took in battle.

Proper rewards and punishment inspired soldiers to fight with their all. Lan Qing knew this well.

Star Division had a wealth of experience fighting aliens by this point. They were practically masters at identifying a monster’s crystal and how it corresponded to their power. Also, many of the aliens they encounter during ground missions aren’t true aliens at all, but puppets of progenitors. They don’t have vital crystals. Any creatures they encounter out in space would be different – they’d be the real deal. Even the weakest ones had vital crystals. The more powerful the creatures they encountered, the better the prize.

If they were allowed to take their skills to space, Star Division could once again assert their dominance as humanity’s greatest
mecha division. Whatever vital crystals they obtained would be theirs. Star Division was over a thousand strong. To allocate enough for so many…

Chapter 814: Action

What Lan Jue didn’t know, was that his suggestion to Lan Qing instantly had the support of all the unit leaders. Not a single member of Star Division protested.

Normal people were frightened of the aliens, but that was never a sensation that crossed a Division soldier’s mind. In all the encounters they had with these beasts, they’d never been defeated. On the contrary, every fight had ended in total victory. In addition they had many Paragons at their backs in case things got out of hand. As far as they were concerned, any risk was worth the reward.

Not to mention these men and women had been training for this fight for a long time. They were only too anxious to have something to show for it.

Their eagerness pleased Lan Jue. After speaking with Lan Qing it was decided that the Paragons would lead his troops into battle. They would be dispatched in smaller units as they had always been, and their efficacy evaluated in this new battleground. Their loadouts would be adjusted accordingly.

Star Division was raucous in their excited preparations.
Meanwhile Lan Jue quietly left Middle Heaven to begin his scouting mission.

Lan Jue’s plans were not the same as Lan Qing expected. His present self could not be compared to the past, for now he was a true Paragon. Some of the Paragons still needed to be acclimated to working Star Division, so he wished to bring only four others with him. Nor would they take Zeus-1. With nothing but the clothes on their back, they would fly through the vacuum of space toward Europa.

Aside from Lan Jue and Qianlin, the other two participants were the Pharmacist and Luo Xianni.

Lan Qing was too busy with his other duties to follow the state of Adepts closely. Luo Xianni had broken through to the Infinite, and her interdimensional abilities were nothing short of legendary. At full strength she could spirit them away, even if the alien home worlds themselves appeared. For a scouting mission who could compare to the might of the Photographer!

But Lan Qing didn’t ask her directly for a reason. Now that she was part of the Infinite she had to be careful. After all, she had begun to come under scrutiny from universal protogenia. But with Qianlin in attendance she could use her powers
without reservation. In the end, after discussing everything with Lan Qing, they agreed on the small team. Three Banishing Blades and a near god-like Paragon were enough to deal with most problems they were likely to face.

As for Jue Di, he was currently absorbing the power from the doppelganger’s crystal to extend his own life. He would lend his full strength to the final battle.

A pale white light hung over the four infiltrators as they began their journey. Under the Queen of Heaven’s power they didn’t even need to breathe. Cosmic radiation was absorbed and transformed to sustenance to keep the small group healthy.

Exhaustion wasn’t a concern for Zhou Qianlin. After three days of isolation she and Lan Jue had emerged with a new and deeper understanding of their powers. Qianlin was also able to exert some measure of control over her cultivation, though of course this was only temporary. The power of faith was always flowing through her, empowering Guanyin. In fact, because of the surplus it was to her benefit that she use as much energy as she could. Not only did it bleed away the excess but it also made it easier to control her rate of cultivation. Rising too quickly was counterintuitive, so it was better to delay as long as possible.
Meanwhile the energies derived from Qianlin also benefited Lan Jue. They fed his own cultivation, vicariously through the faith in Guanyin, and pushed him closer to the upper border of Reflection of Heaven and Earth.

The vastness of space stretched out before them. Swaths of glittering starlight twinkled at them from the far reaches of the galaxy in a beautiful display. Lan Jue couldn’t remember how many times he’d seen scenes such as these, but somehow this time it felt different. After inheriting the wisdom of the Emperor of the North Star these distant lights seemed like a part of him. With every breath he drew in their essence, becoming one with the stellar cavalcade.

The power of the Middle Heaven Emperor of the North Pole Star of Purple Subtlety was as vast as the cosmos. After three days Lan Jue was only just peeking behind the curtain. But even just this preliminary understanding aided him greatly, guiding him to a new heights.

The Pharmacist, flying by their side, looked at Lan Jue from time to time. Her younger brother had become quite a presence! After becoming a Paragon his every move bore a mysterious impact. It wasn’t strong, but it was enough that she couldn’t help but hold this younger man in high respect.
She’d never experienced anything like it before.

In her heart there was little that could compare to Occisus and the power it bore. However, she couldn’t forget witnessing Lan Jue’s breakthrough. She could still see the image of the Emperor of the North Star with Captus in hand as though it had just happened. The blaze of light from Lan Jue’s godblade was overwhelming, a sign of allegiance to the might of Lan Jue’s dharma.

The Emperor of the North Star was not inferior in any way to the earlier master of the Banishing Blades, Celestial Master Lingbao. They were cut from the same cloth! If Lan Jue could truly master his inheritance, his future prospects were bright indeed.

“What are you plans, Jewelry Master?” The Pharmacist couldn’t help but ask, now that her mind was on what was to come.

This gave him pause. “Plans? To kill the aliens, obviously.”

The Pharmacist chuckled. “I mean for the future. After these monsters are dealt with.”
He cast her a curious look. “Sister, don’t be anxious. We will certainly survive this!”

“I’ll admit I used to be worried,” she revealed. “But not anymore, not after watching your breakthrough. Even if we’re somehow defeated I don’t think it will mean the end of humanity. After all, we’ve been masters of this corner of the universe for ages. No matter how powerful the aliens become, they can’t track us all down. So long as there are survivors we have the opportunity to retake our rightful place. But more importantly we have you. Once you grasped the inherited knowledge of the Emperor, that was the moment we became invincible.”

Lan Jue paused, then chuckled with a wry smirk. “I’ve only grasped a shadow of what the Emperor of the North Star commanded. The difference is astronomical.”

She chuckled politely. “You shouldn’t underestimate yourself. The fragments of the Emperor you gathered the day you broke through was no ‘shadow.’ That was a part of his eternal spirit, a living part of our history. There has never been anything like what you achieved in all of history. You must understand that if you continue to walk the path, one day you will be the next Emperor of the North Star. Then the alien planets would be beneath contempt, hardly worth notice.
This caused Lan Jue to chortle. “You overestimate me, sister. Even if I did have that sort of potential, universal protogenia would never allow it. I wouldn’t be able to hide that sort of power from the cosmos.”

But Luo Xianni answered him with a derisive snort. “Why not? I won’t pretend rising to such a height would be easy, but for you it certainly isn’t impossible. You have your wonderful wife to thank for that! Her Queen of Heaven Domain can go a long way in protecting you. All you need to do is live, and through your Boundless Starlight Domain you can continue to grow strong. Do that and one day you will achieve what she says, then even creating your own immortal realm wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility. They did it before, why can’t it happen again?”

Luo Xianni’s assurances struck a chord in Lan Jue. If current trends persisted he and Qianlin had a very good shot at achieving the Infinite, and evading the universal protogenia that would come seeking them. But if there really was a path to immortality the benefits to humanity’s Paragons went without saying. Mankind would be masters of the universe, and if another threat like these monsters should appear the immortals would need only wipe them from existence.

Of course creating an entirely new reality was easier said than
done! Lan Jue shook his head. “A story for another time, mother. We can discuss the possibilities later, but for now our focus has to be overcoming the alien threat.”

Luo Xianni smirked at him. “Who’s to say this is another story? Your father is already considering the opportunities. You and your brother are growing quickly, it won’t be long before you meet us in the Infinite. None of us have experience in molding reality, but that’s not to say it’s impossible.” Her face revealed an inscrutable and enigmatic expression.

Lan Jue gaped at her. “Are you telling me father has an idea?”

She snickered. “Why did the aliens choose us to attack? Because there’s something in our DNA they need to evolve, right? Their ‘evolution’ is just an equivalent to the power our species used long ago to create the immortal realm. But if we can’t do it, how can they? Because they know something we don’t – but it’s something we can learn and emulate. Yes these beasts have been a disaster for our species, but they also pose an opportunity. Let’s see if it’s an opportunity we’re able to grasp.”

According to what I’ve been able to learn about the Taoist pantheon this is categorically false. The Three Pure Ones (of which Lingbao is one) were the penultimate masters of the
universe, subordinate only to the Tao itself. The Four Divine Minsters (including the Emperor of the North Star) were attendants to the Pure Ones, themselves led by the Jade Emperor. EotNS is like on the third rung.

Chapter 815: Establishing an Immortal Realm?

This was the first time Lan Jue heard the aliens regarded in this way. Surprise lit up his face. His mother and father were wise, their thinking profound.

Luo Xianni went on. “Don’t look at me that way. I’m sure your father will discuss this with you when we’re almost done dealing with these monsters. The vital crystals have helped him to contend against the restrictions of universal protogenia, and I’m sure they’ll be of use to us as well.”

The two women opened his eyes, revealing a whole new realm of possibilities to him. Creating a new immortal realm would be wonderful for humanity, certainly. Whether or not it was possible, at least it was a valiant goal to strive towards. The first to benefit from it would be his father and mother!

The four Paragons continued to soar through space, with Angel shrinking into the distance. Getting their bearings out in space was not a problem for a technologically advanced species like theirs, so they need not worry about the distance between where they were and where they were going. Typically it would take five days to reach Europa from Angel.
However, the small group didn’t have to haul much of anything. What’s more they had the benefit of Luo Xianni’s tremendous power. It only took a few long-range interdimensional shifts to get them in the vicinity of their target.

“Aliens!” The Pharmacist cried out, her eyes narrowing. Instantaneously a thick and murderous aura surrounded her. As her righteous Slaughter Domain continued to improve, it was easier for her to call it to bear. Especially when her foes were the aliens, victims of her irreconcilable hatred.

Indeed, in the distance some dozen or so creatures had spotted them. They were quickly moving in to intercept.

When compared with the inconceivable scale of space, a single human meant nothing. This was true even compared  to  the bulky alien warriors. However when the shuttle aliens  drew close they slowed, proving that the humans  had  been discovered. Powerful beings had a powerful presence, and this was true of the four Paragons even if they weren’t employing their Domains.

The Queen of Heaven’s light gave them pause, however. They felt its cleansing power even from a distance. Once they sensed
something was amiss they reacted quickly, adjusting trajectory to try and swing around from behind. The aliens they came with had longer range attack capabilities, leaving them to flank the humans from behind.

It was a solid plan. But the humans they were unfortunate enough to come across were some of the strongest who ever lived.

There was a streak of white light that split the starry sky, like a bolt of cosmic lightning. Each of the here shuttle aliens caught within it were sliced into four equal parts. The other creatures that had been slower to approach turned without hesitation and fled.

Or, rather, they tried to. Unfortunately for them they were never given the opportunity.

A dazzling streak of blue came on the heels of the white beam. This time it was true lightning. Of course lightning didn’t exist in space, and it was so bright the solar system’s central star dimmed in the face of it. Lan Jue felt something surge into his body, instantly strengthening his abilities by some inexplicable power. The emulsion of electricity didn’t seem to drain him at all.
With Master of the Stars as his lineage, space was undoubtedly the best arena for Lan Jue to use his powers. Here the Emperor of the North Star was most frightening, for through the latent power of the cosmos he could empower his own attacks.

It was only the beginning. Fast as the speed of light the remaining aliens were painted cobalt blue before being vaporized. When Lan Jue returned to the others he held several vital crystals in his hands.

For him and the others these crystals held little practical purpose, but he couldn’t simply leave them lying about. For every crystal they pilfered the alien planets grew weaker. At the very least it was irritating for their enemy. And while they had no use for them, there were many who did.

It had taken them only a few short moments to put down the alien cluster. They had been no threat, but now they knew they were entering enemy territory.

As expected, their deaths had attracted attention. Already Lan Jue could see scores of alien coming toward them from the distance. Through his heightened senses he figured there was about a hundred of them, with no lack of stronger breeds.
The small team was in no hurry to leave, and hovered silently as their enemy drew near. Indeed they were here to scout, but if that was all they accomplished it was a waste of their talents.

A hundred or so aliens was not terribly exciting.  They were led by a beast roughly three thousand meters long that looked like an enormous cockroach. A set of translucent purple wings fluttered from its back, and with each beat a hazy violet mist was expelled. Somehow it seemed to increase its speed, but more impressively the creatures it led were also hastened by it.

Lan Jue looked toward the Pharmacist and smirked. “Shall we?”

Her response was nonchalant. “Leave it to me. My Slaughter Domain isn’t suited against righteous humans. Against beasts such as these, however, it serves to great effect.”

A she spoke, the Harbinger Faerie stepped out of Qianlin’s protective Domain.

Right away her body stretched to great heights. Out here she didn’t need to worry about causing a planet harm. With her Reflection of Heaven and Earth powers released she rose over a
thousand meters tall, and a sword of equal magnitude glittered in her hand. Dharma and astrum as one, she raced ahead to meet the mutant cockroach as it came.

Her foe felt the terror creep into it the moment her dharma appeared. Its wings disappeared behind a dark carapace as the monster curled into a protective ball. Meanwhile the aliens around it scattered in all directions, but only so that they might surrounded the Pharmacist.

Occisus and the Slaughter Domain fed each other, pouring through the Pharmacist and empowering her cultivation. She held nothing back, lashing out with the full might of her Domain!

The blast of white light lasted only for a moment. The cockroach was sliced in two as though it were made of tofu, leaving it only just enough time to cry out in pain. In the next instant countless thousands of white rays erupted from the Pharmacist like a white rose, spreading out in all directions.

Bloom of a Thousand Swords! The Pharmacist flooded the area with the full force of her mighty Domain.
The remaining aliens were shredded beneath the lily-white onslaught. Clearly the Pharmacist’s mastery of the godblade had improved greatly after her breakthrough.

With righteous purpose, justice was ruthless.

But just then something crossed Luo Xianni’s expression. Her right hand shot out and clawed the air. The vital crystals left in the wake of the massacre, the recently reverted Harbinger Faerie, and the others vanished in a flash of pink light.

Not a moment later the place where they had stood was flooded with violet light. Two figured appeared in the space they’d vacated.

It was the Violet Prince and Princess. The aura that came off of them in waves was more powerful than ever.

The Violet Prince openly scowled. “This aura… human.”

The Princess crinkled her nose prettily. “It is familiar. I believe that man is nearby.”
For a moment something crossed the Prince’s face. “You mean the one who evolved on the human planet?” The faintest echo of fear hid behind his eyes at the mention of Lan Jue. The presence of the Emperor of the North Star was strong and made him shiver.

The Violet Princess nodded her head. “This is his scent, I am not mistaken. I fixed his presence firmly in my memory the first time we met. I am determined to couple with that one. His genetics are the best I’ve encountered among the humans.”

The Violet Prince frowned, unconvinced. “But he is strong. The power he released during his evolution surpassed even Monarch. That might have been only a moment, but we don’t know how much of it he can command now. After all, were it not for that would I have abandoned our first line of defense so readily? Perhaps he used some special methods to achieve it, but I can sense that the human will cause it quite a lot of trouble. We should kill him the moment we get the chance.”

“No, you are wrong. We mustn’t kill him!” The Violet Princess was uncompromising. “His genes are different from all the others. I was not presence for his evolution, but from your description I know it is different – special. What he possesses must be of great use to us.”
The Prince’s expression was almost petulant. He was appearing more human by the day. “Perhaps. They must be trying to learn what they can about the place they call Europa. We should go as well and make sure they don’t learn too much.”

Haughtily, the Princess replied, “What does it matter what they discover? Do you think they have the ability to stop what’s in motion? I don’t think they have what it takes to do what is necessary.”

Chapter 816: Europa and the Home Worlds

There were two beams of purple light, marking the withdrawal of the Violet Prince and Princess.

ζ

The second flash of pink light deposited Lan Jue and the others in a different sector of space. After achieving the Infinite, Luo Xianni’s transference capabilities could send her charges over vast distances. She could teleport between planets without aid, though distance did play a factor.

The moment she sensed the two Infinite-level beings closing in, she gathered the other three and fled.

“We should be near Europa.” She glanced at the map on her communicator.

“Mother,” Lan Jue said, “there are going to be no small amount of aliens nearby. If you wouldn’t mind...” His perception was itching with the presence of many powerful beings.
She nodded. Another flash and they were gone. A few moments later a host of aliens swept into the area after sensing the humans, but found their targets vanished.

Lan Jue and the others arrived at their destination. When they were safely within the bounds of reality again, Star Division’s commander checked his map. However his glance was quick, for out of the corner of his eye the silhouette of Europa caught his attention.

But was it Europa?

As he gaped at the scene, his disbelief was mirrored by Qianlin, the Pharmacist and Luo Xianni. The planet occupied the same space it always had, but that was where the similarities to the Europa they knew ended. It had been a large planet – larger than Skyfire – that boasted the famed city of Reims, its beautiful cathedral, and the Dark Citadel as its opposite. It was the capital of the Western Alliance, replete with resources and citizens to use them. It was considered one of the greatest planets colonized by humans after their stellar migration, second only to Luo.

Evaluating a planet occurred on several levels. These included economic status, political environment, and individual military
strength. It was only recently that Skyfire had begun to close the gap between them. Some recent evaluations even put the Eastern capital above Europa, after its recent meteoric rise in strength and influence.

The planet Lan Jue and the others gazed upon now was not that same jewel of the West. Its beauty was gone, and what lay there now was grotesque and uncomfortable to look on.

The entire surface of the world wriggled and  squirmed, making it look like some kind of mutated uterus. The planet beneath was hidden from view beneath what could only be described as a placenta that sported large black arteries pulsing along its surface. Some indescribable viscous fluid pumped through the vessels.

At last they were able to confirm the presence of the three home worlds, so long absent from view. They surrounded Europa while tentacles thick as mountains penetrated into the afflicted planet’s surface. Purple light hung over all three of them as they appeared to inject Europa with their energies. The power that radiated from them was intense and seemed to hum through the vacuum of space.

The home worlds were so close to Europa it seems like their
atmospheres were shared. It wasn’t as simple as draining Europa of its vital energy this time. They were changing it, somehow.

They’d learned from the spirit of the Pharmacist’s husband that the planets were planning to evolve. But no one knew what that evolution looked like, or how the process worked. Looking on this strange scene the only conclusion they could come to was that their assumptions were correct – they were evolving, and it somehow involved the Western capital.

Their first thought was the human cost. Europa had been one of the most populated planets in human space. Now it seemed all of its population had been sacrificed for alien domination. A stabbing melancholy settled in the hearts of the human scouts. Europa and everything it used to be was gone.

Lan Jue was tight lipped and glared with hatred at the scene. Qianlin could bear it no longer and looked away. Indignation burned in the Pharmacist’s eyes, and she seemed to only barely contain her need to rush in. It was understandable, for the last remnant of her fallen husband was in Monarch’s clutches – right in front of her. It took everything within her not to try and take it back.
“We have to go!” The Photographer’s face was expressionless. She didn’t wait for them to recover. They absconded in a flicker of pink light.

Countless lumbering bodies surged toward the now empty space. They were led by the Violet Prince and Princess. Unfortunately for them there was nothing to be done against a Paragon with Infinite interdimensional power. Only the home worlds would have been able to stop her.

Luo Xianni and the others hopped fissures in space-time. Although her face was even, Lan Jue could see the coldness in her eyes.

They’d recorded everything. The intelligence they’d gathered was the most important piece of information in the whole operation. Their mission had been a success.

They had finally confirmed the planets’ location and condition, and the fact that they were indeed in the process of evolving. The decisive battle of the campaign was on the horizon. Their success or failure hinged on stopping the home worlds from completing their transformation.
Luo Xianni didn’t even let them play part of the distance. With help from Qianlin’s Queen of Heaven Domain, she continued to hop fold space around them until they returned to Middle Heaven. Lan Jue raced to Lan Qing immediately with the recording.

Half an hour later Lan Qing, Kang Hui, Hua Li, and all of humanity’s Paragons including Jue Di were gathered around the holographic projection. The image of Europa hidden beneath the pulsing membrane soured everyone’s expression. They could only imagine the devastation that had occurred.

The Pontiff had his eyes shut tight in pain. He knew Reims was finished, all of its people – his people - gone. Nothing could have survived. The others were not Westerners, but they scowled at the scope of the tragedy.

“It’s confirmed, the planets are evolving. We should immediately petition the North and East for more military support.” Hua Li’s voice was cold and thin. His family came from this territory, and though their relationship with the West was largely economical these were their former countrymen!

Poseidon, the Group’s home planet, was not yet a victim of the alien attack. However how long before it was? They could not
know what the next target of their insatiable hunger would be.

Kang Hui scowled and sighed. “I fear that will be difficult. ‘Distant water will not quench present thirst,’ they’re too far and too reticent. Even if they agreed to help it would be a while before they could send a sizeable force. We must act as soon as possible. Admiral Lan, you have to make a decision.”

The planets were confirmed to be near Europa and undergoing their transformation. Their single highest priority had to be stopping them. Kang Hui’s intentions were clear; they had to abandon the rescue efforts here and make for the heart of alien strength. Destroying the home worlds was the only way to eliminate the threat.

Lan Qing furrowed his brows. After a moment he slowly, but resolutely shook his head.

“Admiral, now is not the time for a woman’s kindheartedness!” Kang Hui’s voice raised a few decibels. “These monsters have killed an inconceivable number of our brothers and sisters. I share your pain, but consider the priorities. We cannot hide behind the guise of protecting humanity and hesitate when it’s time to strike. We will lose our best and possibly last opportunity to save our species. Everyone
here knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that if we allow their transformation to be completed we will all come to a violent and bloody end. We have a chance to fight back but that chance is now. Admiral Lan, you must decide!” He pressed the Eastern commander again, firmer.

Lan Jue couldn’t hold back, adding his voice before Lan Qing had a chance to respond. “Unacceptable. We  put  out tremendous effort to save these people – a billion people! How can we simply cut them off? Think about it, what would happen if we bring our whole force forward only to have them waltz behind our lines and retake Angel? What would that do to morale? Those people down there may be Westerners, but they’re fellow human beings just the same as you and I. How would you react differently if it was our families down there? I understand what you’re saying but under these conditions we have to find a way to have the best of both worlds.”

Kang Hui’s smirk was bitter. “I suggest haste, but only because our opportunities are limited and fleeting. Best of both worlds? Can you think of a way to make that happen?”

Many days had passed since their initial victory against the alien horde. The fervor of triumph had cooled. As an experienced and storied commander himself, Kang Hui knew to expect tragedy in the midst of achievement. The final battle was
yet to come, Armageddon still loomed on the horizon. What they decided right now could spell the end of their future as a species! This was not the time to take circumstances lightly, or be victim to one’s gentler feelings. Kang Hui had wracked his brain for days searching for a solution, but no answers had been forthcoming.

Chapter 817: Breaking the Lines

Lan Qing was an outstanding commander. However, even with his lauded intelligence he simply couldn’t see a way to make an omelette without the need to break a few eggs. There was no better option, and victory would come with a gamble no matter the circumstances.

Lan Jue opened his mouth to reply but was silenced when his brother lifted a hand. “Admiral Kang Hui’s determinations are reasonable. But that can’t be our path.” His tone was adamant. “We spent a lot of time and energy to save our Western brethren. We did not take them away, and instead promised we would keep them safe. If we go back on that promise now I can promise you it isn’t just the military that will suffer. The soldiers, and even I, will see victory as an impossible task. Yes, Angel was a trap – but we recognize its dangers and we can refuse to be cowed by them. We must protect this place.”

Kang Hui sighed, trying to maintain control of his excitable mood. “Protect? How do you propose we do that? Even at full strength, with all of our soldiers, our chances of victory are slim. If we separate our forces how can we hope to defeat the aliens?”

Lan Qing’s response was measured. “I’ve ordered all the
railguns we could spare from the three bastions to Angel’s surface. Most of them have already been installed  on  the surface. If we tried to salvage all seven planets then you would be right, protecting them would be a fool’s errand. But we are responsible for only one, and I’m confident we can keep these people safe. After all, if the aliens want to stop us they’ll need to focus their main force against the armada. If they are busy with us at the front, Angel will have far fewer concerns if the decide to split their own forces.”

Kang Hui frowned. “It’s the best we can do for the moment, but I’m not confident that railguns alone will protect them from the aliens. If that was the case these planets wouldn’t have fallen so readily in the first place.” Each of these worlds had to have had their own defensive installations prior to the aliens’ arrival. Clearly they proved insufficient.

Planetary defenses were a force to be reckoned with, but their disadvantage lay in their inflexibility. These creatures were particularly fast and used their advantage to overcome the deterrents.

Railguns were powerful and could be used at extreme range. However they were stationary, and cumbersome. Adding more didn’t ameliorate the problem. Any admiral knew this.
For railguns to have the best effect they needed to have an interstellar fleet tie up the enemy. If the enemy was kept at bay the railgun could pick them off from a distance. But that needed soldiers.

Kang Hui knew this, as did Lan Qing. When the Northern admiral heard Lan Qing’s plans he relaxed. Though Middle Heaven’s commander spoke with force and high authority, in the end they shared the same determination. There was nothing for it but to accept fate.

Lan Qing continued. “Planetary defenses alone aren’t enough to repel an enemy attack, but we have other assets we can leave behind to shore them up. We know that our Adepts are most effective in the fight against these monsters, their abilities are natural checks to their strength. We have seen that Star Division is particularly adept at doling out punishment, especially with the help of the Paragons. No less effective than an interstellar fleet, perhaps more. So I have decided to leave Skyfire Avenue’s mecha division behind to protect the planet and defend its installations.”

Kang Hui’s eyes went wide with surprise. Even Hua Li couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “No, how would that work? It’s too dangerous – you’re leaving those soldiers right in the line of fire. Once they’re annihilated the cost to all of
humanity’s collective adepts would be catastrophic!”

Lan Qing looked at Hua Li in surprise. He hadn’t expected such vocal opposition from him. Hua Li seemed strange to him, somehow.

“Admiral,” Poseidon’s leader continued, “I’m telling you the facts. Star Division is capable but their chances are slim to none against a large alien force. Besides we need these Paragons on the frontlines, otherwise how are we going to counter their generals? Unless you leave the Paragons here you leave Angel open to a sneak attack from the enemy. You see the contradiction.”

Lan Qing smirked and looked at Lan Jue. “You tell him.”

Lan Jue obliged. “It may seem like a contradiction, but we have a solution. We’ve already set up a large transference array on Angel’s surface. There’s another one here on Middle Heaven. So long as they don’t get too far apart we can use them to move resources. That is, we can put Star Division wherever they’re needed. After discussing it with Admiral Lan, we’ve decided this is the best course of action. The Paragons will be left on Angel to defend against a sneak attack, then will transfer to the front when they’re needed.”
Kang Hui’s eyes sparkled at the prospect. “Can this really be done? If so that’s an effective way to break their lines.” Kang Hui was also a wise commander, and recognized the worth of the strategy quickly. Indeed it was their best shot. Assuming several of the Paragons and Star Division remained behind, adding several fleets wouldn’t help much. The armada was free to engage at full strength.

Indeed there was no better option. However, it put a great deal of pressure on Star Division and the Paragons. They would more than likely be the crux of two major battles.

Hua Li looked at Lan Jue with some concern. “A battle on two fronts… do you think that’s too much for your people to handle?”

“Does it matter?” Lan Jue replied. “If we survive I’ll consider us blessed. There are no other choices, this is all we’ve got. I’ve already discussed it with the other Paragons and  they’ve agreed.”

Kang Hui nodded. “It’s the best way, even if it is difficult for our illustrious Paragons. Please keep yourselves safe. Without you we will not be able to achieve final victory.”
Lan Jue smiled at him in response. “Don’t worry, I would like to keep breathing.” No one laughed at him making light of the situation.

As this final, definitive battle neared a great pressure had settled on everyone’s heart. There was no leeway here; victory would be humanity’s greatest achievement, whereas defeat would spell their doom. If they lost here, mankind’s only course of action would be to flee, hiding in the deepest recesses of space and praying they can keep hidden from these new dark gods.

No one wanted to ponder that eventuality, but it lurked unbidden in the back of their minds nonetheless. They had to do their best, for everyone’s sake.

Kang Hui, Hua Li and the others left once the plan was hatched. Only Lan Jue and Lan Qing remained.

“A-Jue, have you thought enough about it? That plan is dangerous.” His face betrayed hesitation once more.

Lan Jue smirked. “Dangerous? I don’t think so. In fact, I think if we handle it well we have a good chance at success. When the time comes it’s not just me, you’re going to need to work hard as
well! I’m going to need you to provide me with the opportunity.”

Lan Qing heaved a sigh, and his eyes hardened. He reached out and rested his hands on his little brother’s shoulders. “We don’t have any other choice!”

Lan Jue firmly nodded his head. “That’s right. No other choice.”

ζ

When the allied armada began to move again, their stern engines were burning away from Angel, leaving the planet behind. Everyone was agitated.

This operation had garnered the attention of everyone, everywhere. When the aliens appeared in the North they had brought with them a cloud of panic and despair. Now, Lan Qing and his armada was bearing the hopes of billions deep into enemy territory.

Admiral Lan Qing had won victory over the aliens, and
liberated their human victims. Under his leadership soldiers from each of the Alliances were chasing down a bruised foe. If they succeeded in wiping out the alien threat, mankind could rebuild. Humans multiplied quickly, and with today’s technology it would not take long for them to recover their former strength. Ten years, the experts said. A decade would be enough to repair the damage these monsters had wrought.

The governments of the East and North watched with bated breath.

Twelve fleets and three bastions departed from Angel. Officially, the planet they were vacating had enough railguns to qualify it as a hedgehog. Enough, they hoped, to protect it against a large alien force. The common folk trusted in their power, though others with military backgrounds pondered how effective they’d really be.

Even if they had misgivings no one would dare utter a word of doubt. The mission these allied forces were on would decide everyone’s fate, some sacrifices might be necessary. After all, the West was all but destroyed, and the soldiers who were risking their lives came mostly from the North and East. Their higher military authorities had everyone’s lives in their hands. Western brothers and sisters would have to secondary to the survival of the species.
And so, strangely, there was no opposition to Lan Qing’s tactical decisions – almost unheard of in modern history. No democratic representative attacked their choices on the front lines. They understood doing so would subject them to the ire of their constituents.

Chapter 818: Goddess!

Every minute was a battle for a life and death, so no one spared any effort in supporting the soldiers on the front line. They cheered and praised even though the benefits were meager. At least the soldiers had no regrets, and they felt their odds were improved.

Lan Qing, Kang Hui, and Hua Li focused this passion. They were heroes to all of mankind, and their victory of the alien horde had imbued the people with hope. There were rumblings among the Northern populace, asking why they hadn’t sent more troops with Tyrannosaurus. The politicians had no words to answer them. Sometimes the people’s sentiment changed with the wind.

The nervous buzz was almost palpable as people waited for news – good or bad.

Middle Heaven, Tyrannosaurus, and Poseidon flew on in v- formation. It had proven to be the best arrangement, capable of defending against enemies coming from any direction. In a departure from earlier, the supporting fleets were not around the bastions but within their formation, flying in the spaces between them.
This had been Lan Qing’s idea, and the purpose behind it was simple. Bastions were the most defensible ships humanity had produced, and were best suited for protecting against strong alien offenses. The supporting vessels were more effective when they didn’t have to worry over protecting themselves. Nor did they get in the way of the bastion’s armaments.

The drawback was that this formation was anything but agile and their speed suffered. But, like a hedgehog, they could bristle up at the first sign of an enemy and be ready for battle. None of the fleet commanders found fault in the decision to use this formation, including Hua Li and Kang Hui. With so many lives under their command they were glad safety was considered. It cost them more time, but it was better than costing lives unnecessarily. In the vastness of space there was no shelter and their foe could appear at any time.

Another battle could erupt at any moment, one that could mean defeat for them and their species. Every soldier quietly waited for that moment to arrive.

Lan Jue, Qianlin, and the other Paragons had all been left on Angel. This time their group included the Master of Wine, Bize.

Granny Bess, as she had once been known, had absconded to
the Barrows while the army was making its preparations. There she explained their situation to Aubert de Villaine and both Paragons had returned together. It was strange to have the man among them, appearing as a sentient knot of vines, but he was still a Paragon. Any help was appreciated and improved mankind’s chances.

Star Division had also been left behind. Their role as rear defense was important, and no one knew what the aliens would throw at them, if anything. It was wise to assume the monsters knew the armada had left Angel, leaving their back exposed.

“Temporary residents of Angel, your attention please. Heed the recording.”

The planet-wide announcement captured everyone’s attention. Survivors from all seven planets had been gathered here, but it didn’t feel crowded. Many had lived, but many more had died as a result of the alien aggression.

Over the last several days the survivors had started to settle down and reestablish themselves on the planet. With the army’s help they’d managed to accomplish much in a short period of time.
As resources continued to flow in the residents were at least able to live with some small measure of comfort. They still needed to have food brought in to sustain their colony, however. Recreational areas had even been constructed, so that the people could gather and hear news from the outside.

Holographic images appeared all around the planet, piped through the existing infrastructure that survived the attack. There was no functional concept of family anymore, and everyone was huddled in homes with whoever else needed shelter.

“Our soldiers have been dispatched to Europa, ready to give their lives for the future of our species.” The image changed, showing the three bastions and twelve fleets advancing toward the system’s center.

The viewers answered with shock and anxiety. Could they win? Was there a chance? As the thought flitted through their minds an invisible fear gripped them. If the army is gone, what will we do, they thought.

Yet as the fear took hold the picture changed again. Rows of imposing artillery appeared before them.
“We know this can be frightening, but take heart. Our planet is well protected by a defensive array no less than ten times stronger than Angel’s had been originally. These installations will protect us from any enemy presence and guarantee your safety. We ask that you go about your lives normally and wait for news of victory from our heroic warriors abroad.”

The impressive guns calmed some of their fear, but these citizens were still survivors of a very recent catastrophe. The moment of confidence was short-lived, replaced with dismay over their future.

Of course they had planetary defenses before the aliens arrived! However even if they bolstered these system, would it be enough to protect them against another attack? Now that the allied forces were moving in for the final battle, did that mean they’d abandoned them?

The survivors of this tragedy were the elite. They were smart enough to recognize this problem after only a moment’s thought. But what could they do? There was nowhere to run, were they just to remain here and wait for death?

The holographic message wasn’t finished. The picture changed again.
“We have a message from a familiar person – or perhaps goddess is a better name.”

Goddess?

Through the haze of panic the survivors turned their attention back to the broadcast. They gaped in disbelief at the image that greeted them. It was a woman, in a spotless gown of lily white with black hair that fell down her back. Her azure eyes sparkled like stars and were full of warmth.

She was beautiful… a flawless beauty like the immortals of old. So absolute was her purity that no hint of profane contemplation dared cross the onlookers’ minds.

She really was the goddess!

None of them had forgotten, in their moment of great pain and desperate need, the face of this beautiful woman. That infinitely merciful face was forever burned on their soul. But at the time she had been a thousand meters tall, a blazing image suspended in air like a guardian angel. This time she appeared before them as a woman – a real flesh and blood person – though no less stunning.
Was it truly her? Their goddess? The question rattled through their shocked minds.

“Salutations everyone. I am Zhou Qianlin. My Paragon title is Guanyin, Queen of Heaven.” Her voice was soft and gentle as a spring breeze. The sound of it alone was soothing as the survivors listened, rapt. Some of them recognized the voice from the time of their salvation. It was even more soothing than they remembered.

Guanyin, the Queen of Heaven – Zhou Qianlin. A Paragon? This was their goddess? Paragon was a title that affected them profoundly, for to the common man Paragons were nearly indistinguishable from gods. It confirmed their conclusion that she was super human.

It was her, it was certainly her. She had been the one who saved their lives.

She smiled warmly, and to everyone watching it was as though she was looking right at them, right into their souls. As they watched she was surrounded by a halo of white light, followed by the appearance of the large dharmic image they knew well. There was no doubt she was their savior.
“Please, be at ease. I am here with you, along with ten other Paragons. You have not been abandoned, just left in our care. So long as we draw breath no harm shall come to you.”

The images of the other Paragons appeared beside her. Several of the faces were ones they knew, such as the Pontiff, the North’s mighty Terminator, and luminaries from Skyfire Avenue. Their presence confirmed their goddess’ status.

Many fell to their knees, faces streaked with tears. Life was precious, more important than anything, and this woman had gifted them new life in the wake of disaster. Now she stood before them and promised to live or die by their side. Their fear and panic was washed away, replaced with an abiding reverence.

She was a true goddess!

ζ

Even before the broadcast ended, Qianlin helplessly felt the surge of faith pouring into her. There was nothing to be done for it, after discussing it with the others everyone decided it should be her to soothe the masses. After saving so many it
didn’t matter that no one knew who she was, her influence was lofty as the heavens. Even the Pontiff paled by comparison.

Calming the populace was integral to keeping them safe. These intelligent and capable people would still play an important role in their fight. So it was she came before them and entreated calm, to great effect. Not only was their fear allayed, but their fervent support assured.

Called reverberated through the planet; I fight with the Goddess, they cried! Angel rang with the promise of duty.

Chapter 819: Do you Dare Acknowledge?

The Driver nudged Lan Jue with his elbow. He spoke in low tones. “So what about it, Jewelry Master? Do you dare acknowledge your relationship to the new goddess? I’m pretty sure these Westerners would rip you apart if they found it.”

Lan Jue’s response was tepid. “They’ll figure it out sooner or later. Even goddesses have lives to lead, and she’s mine.”

A chortle arose from the rugged Paragon. “I dare you.”

Lan Jue fixed him with a half-hearted glare. “Stop the nonsense. You should be working on crossing the threshold to Nirvana. The sooner you do the better things will go for all of us. I’m going to look in on our people.”

Star Division likely had a tough mission before them, staying here. There were ten Paragons to back them up, but if the aliens did come it would certainly be with considerable might. If that ended up being the case it was unclear who would come out the victor.

Lan Qing had told them that, if the battle should be more than
they could handle, their first choice should be to flee through the teleportation array. Being hawkish in the face of destruction was unwise, even if it meant abandoning Angel.

Lan Jue, of course, did not want to see that happen. He wouldn’t leave until the last possible moment, when all other avenues had been exhausted. It didn’t matter how many powerful alien foes came for them, all it meant was there were less to impede Middle Heaven and the others.

Star Division had been separated into several companies, roughly a hundred soldiers each. Each one had a Paragons as its commander, responsible for their care and operation. Lan Jue himself led one chosen from his own brigade, the four Amazons, and several from the National Eastern University.

He wouldn’t be piloting Thor. After arising to the rank of Paragon the suit no longer aided him as much as it had before. In fact it had started to become an unnecessary burden.

The ten companies were spread out all across Angel. They quietly waited for the enemy to arrive.

The armada had disembarked, but left a cache of supplies for
them to use in the planet’s defense. This included radar and defense systems, which were manned by specialists from An Lun. Su Xiaosu commanded Star Division as a whole.

While their mission wasn’t so dramatic and high-profile as the front lines, Star Division was populated with world-class soldiers. Protecting Angel was just as important as bringing the fight to the enemy. There was the potential for it to be even more dangerous. Still Lan Jue was not worried, for in addition to the many ‘normal’ Paragons they also enjoyed the protection of Jue Di and Luo Xianni.

Originally Lan Jue had hoped Jue Di would travel with his brother and keep him safe. However Lan Qing vetoed the request, as he felt his father and younger brother would be a more capable team. With Qianlin’s help, Jue Di could utilize all of his strength without fear of universal repercussions. If he was needed at the front they could be there quickly though the teleportation array.

In the end Jue Di remained on Angel with the others. Neither he nor Luo Xianni were tasks with leading a company and remained with Lan Jue and Qianlin instead. With two Paragons of the Infinite by his side, Lan Jue had total faith in their ability to deal with any problem. In fact he was curious – he’d never seen his father’s full strength, even so this day.
“Father.” Lan Jue finished his meditations and opened his eyes to see the man in front of him. He was standing by a window, looking out over the horizon. Lan Jue could see he was pondering something, but didn’t know what.

After absorbing the energy from the avatar’s vital crystal, Jue Di appeared younger than ever. Not much older than Lan Jue, in fact.

“You up?” Jue Di turned around and regarding both his son and Zhou Qianlin.

Qianlin was still struggling against the influx of faith energy, only barely managing to keep herself from breaking through to Nirvana. Thankfully she had Jue Di and Luo Xianni by her side to give her guidance. With their help she was able to restrain the power of her Domain and keep it stable. Meanwhile Lan Jue reaped the benefits. He was already at the border of Reflection.

Zhou Qianlin took a long breath. “I think I’ve finally managed to get my power under control. But I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep it that way.”

When he looked at her, Jue Di’s eyes were soft and fatherly.
He looked upon this virtuous woman with affection, like a daughter. The sentiment wasn’t as simple as reacting to her aura, he remembered that she used her own body to protect his son. She had been willing to give her life for him. That meant a lot, and even though he knew their relationship had been a ploy by the Clairvoyant he didn’t mind.

Jue Di smiled at her. “Suppressing your abilities is an exercise is strength, laying the groundwork for future success. It’s a way to improve every aspect of your powers. Other people would be unable to do what you’re doing, but you have this great opportunity before you. When the time comes that you truly can’t hold it back any longer, you’ll be ready to take full advantage.”

“Yes, uncle.” She replied.

Jue Di turned his attention to his son. “A-Jue, your mother told me she spoke with you about the possibility of creating an immortal realm. What do you think?”

“I support it wholeheartedly,” he replied. “It would be a great day for all of humanity. If any more creatures like these aliens show up, we’ll be able to face them more confidently. If we didn’t have to worry about universal protogenia I’m sure you
would have dealt with the alien home worlds already, father. We might have been able to avoid all of this suffering.”

Disappointment flit across Jue Di’s expression. “Indeed! As such I’m inclined to work toward creating a new immortal realm, but it isn’t something that can be built in a day. I’ve spent years studying the possibility, but haven’t learned enough. But after absorbing the power from that vital crystal, the benefits were wide. The method by which these monsters gain energy is entirely different from ours, but you could say it's different paths to the same result. There were memories sealed in the avatar’s crystal I was able to unlock, memories that were crucial. I have begun to glimpse their evolutionary method.”

Lan Jue’s heart rate sped up. “The way they intend to make their own immortal realm?”

Jue Di nodded. “Of course I’ve only grasped the general principle. However, if we can defeat the planets and retrieve the crystal from Monarch itself I believe I can extract the knowledge we need. The knowledge they possess was tempered from years of effort, and more importantly the creation of a new plane of existence will need a core of energy. A core about the size of a planet, which shows how near they are to success.”
“However in all their history the aliens have never achieved such heights – there have never been alien creatures to achieve what our ancestors have. We have a legacy in our DNA of when our forefathers built the immortal realm. Between our endowment from the achievements of the past, and the knowledge of the universe these monsters possess, we have fair shake at succeeding again. If we can create even a small realm, our powers can grow exponentially until we have the strength to spread it far and wide. One day we will be able to create our own heaven.”

His father’s words filled Lan Jue with inspiration and drive. It was a dream come true, if it were possible. The aliens were the key.

“Father,” Lan Jue began, “something has been inkling at me ever since I’ve broken through, something I feel through the Emperor of the North Star. I’m not sure if I’m right, but I should tell you. Universal protogenia and the immortal realm they created…”

Lan Jue explained his thoughts to his father, explaining the contentious relationship between the universe and the gods of old leading to their ultimate defeat. Jue Di’s rapt interest was clear in his face. Even at Jue Di’s levels of mastery he had been incapable of understanding the breadth of the ancient
immortals’ power.

Jue Di’s own inheritance was very powerful, so he had some nagging perception, but not so deep as his son’s. He also hadn’t spent a lot of time pondering the issue. It was only recently that he had begun considering the possibility of creating another immortal realm. He had never sensed the essence  of  that eldritch reality, nor possessed Lan Jue’s insights.

“It seems likely your assumptions are true. This means our ancestors battled valiantly against the fury of the universe. Every universe has an age, and ours is young. The fact that our species survived after the universe wiped out the immortals is nothing short of miraculous.”

Lan Jue thought for a moment. “What if after the clash the universe assimilated the immortal realm in some way? What if it wasn’t destroyed but absorbed? It would answer why threads of the Emperor’s essence remain. The universe certainly has enough power to wipe every trace of the immortal realm – and all of us – out of existence.”

Jue Di’s eyes sparkled. “That’s possible. What if the immortal realm won? Have you thought about the result then?”
Lan Jue paused, shocked. In truth he’d never considered it. Yes! If the immortal realm of old triumphed over the old universe, what would occur? What would happen to the gods and goddesses and the heavens they inhabited? They would become the new universe, and then where would they be? The answer was ‘everywhere.’

Jue Di patted his shoulder. “We may never know all  the secrets of the past, but we can achieve the same levels of strength. If we succeed perhaps one day we will achieve what they did, then all of the universe’s secrets will be ours. What do you say – are you interested in exploring the possibilities?”

Chapter 820: Hello, Goddess

Lan Jue looked at his father, eyes bright, but after a moment shook his head. “I’m sorry, dad. I don’t have such ambition. I only want one thing after this fight is done – I want to live quietly with Zhou Qianlin on Skyfire Avenue. Immortality doesn’t interest me, I think I’d be happier as a man.”

Jue Di was stunned. He spoke after a moment with a playful derision in his voice. “You lazy kid, you always have been. Fine, everyone has different aspirations and if this isn’t yours then so be it. We’ll talk more about it later.”

Lan Jue smiled back. Of course he would support his father in his attempt to create a new immortal realm, but he wasn’t interested in living there himself. He wanted the life of a normal man, to have a wife and children and friends. That’s all he wanted, a simple life of happiness.

Zhou Qianlin didn’t offer her opinion. She stood by his side and took his hand in hers.

Just then, Jue Di’s head snapped toward the window. His eyes narrowed. “They’re here. We should get ready to greet them!”
Lan Jue’s heart skipped a beat. He gripped Qianlin’s hand tight and lifted his communicator to his lips. “The enemy approaches, prepare to defend. Let’s go!”

Both he and Qianlin vanished from the room in a bolt of crackling lightning. In the next breath they were hovering in the sky outside.

Lan Jue narrowed his eyes and let his perception spread, reaching out past the sky into the cosmos beyond. A glint of understanding flit through his expression as he realized that if the enemy was here, it meant the frontlines were likely already embroiled in battle.

ζ

Space.

Middle Heaven began to slow down its forward momentum. In the distance the armada commanders could see the wave of purple headed their way.

The hue was, of course, from the scores of alien arrayed to
meet them. There were about half as many as what met them around Angel. They were spread out wide and approached slowly.

The atmosphere was instantly tense, battle would break out at any moment.

Lan Qing watched them come with frigid expression, glaring at the screen before him. His voice was cold when he gave the order. “Change formation!”

Middle Heaven stopped and the warships around it began to readjust their arrangement. Some rose higher and others dipped low to create a stratified formation with their cannons primed and pointed straight ahead. The benefit of this structure was in giving every ship a clear line of fine, with nothing in their way to dampen attack capabilities. On the other hand it gave their enemy access to every one of them. If the aliens got close enough the humans would be forced to take the full brunt, like a surge barrier before a tsunami.

The alien forces continued to draw close, expanding ever wider. Clearly they’d learned from past defeats and spread out to minimize the humans’ range advantage. They came to a stop just outside of weapon’s reach.
Attack? They were in no hurry, it was the humans who were racing against the clock. These monsters were here to slow them down.

Once the armada was in formation the two sides maintained their distance and stared at each other across the darkness of space. Neither was eager to act rashly, for the first side to act would be the one to suffer the greatest losses and lose battlefield advantage. Lan Qing knew it, as did whoever – or whatever – was leading the alien forces.

ζ

Angel faced a different circumstance. The fight started the instant the monsters arrived, so many that they blotted out the sun. From below the whole sky seemed to turn purple in a matter of seconds from the press of enemy numbers.

Lan Jue maintained a line of communication with his brother. From the Jewelry Master’s vantage there were far more alien attackers than when they first came to liberate Angel. His enemy was cunning, they didn’t begin the assault until they were all around the planet and could attack from all sides.
The An Lun engineers were masters of their craft. All of Angel’s new planetary defenses were online and primed to face the enemy. These were some of the same railguns they used on bastion ships so one could imagine the stopping power they possessed, but they weren’t without drawbacks. They had a long cooldown period, were less maneuverable and more.

However they tried to get around that with sheer numbers, with these reserve weapons spanning far and wide across Angel in only a matter of days. Now the planet resembled An Lun with its fields of bristling cannons. Energy rounds glittered in the dark barrels, ready to fire at a moment’s notice.

Star Division was already suited up and headed into battle.

Meanwhile Lan Jue and Qianlin hovered in the air. They surveyed the scene hand in hand, with their Godblades at the ready. Thankfully the common folk were not near enough to see. If they saw their goddess hand in hand with some strange man they might have been heartbroken.

A small smile played across Lan Jue’s lips. He turned his face toward Qianlin. “Hello, goddess.”
Her face reddened. “What are you doing?”

“I don’t know why,” he answered, “but knowing other people worship you and I am the one who gets to hold your hand makes me happy.”

Qianlin tittered a pretty laugh. “You and your naughty thoughts.”

Lan Jue’s voice dipped low. “Oh I’ve got naughtier, if you want to give them a try.”

She blushed furiously now. “You pick a fine time to talk about this.”

This earned a chortle from him. “You’re my wife, no matter what time it is! Is it not entirely normal for a man to be attracted to his partner?”

Qianlin had been nervous seeing so many aliens approach, but Lan Jue’s patter helped her to relax.
Their enemy was practically on top of them now. They filled their view, from earth to sky and all across the horizon. Leading them was a beast twenty thousand meters long that looked like a warship. It was larger than a human Capital ship and was just as imposing.

Behind the titanic creature was two figured, much smaller but no less terrifying; the Violet Prince and Princess.

When he saw them Lan Jue sucked a breath through his teeth. He knew that aliens were going to harass Angel, but he hadn’t anticipated the arrival of two of their strongest generals. Both of them commanded the powers of the Infinite. The monster they rode was just as mighty.

Was this their main force? Here to retake Angel?

The Violet Princess felt the unseeable attraction as well and looked toward him. A faint smile pulled at the corner of her pretty lips and a hungry light shone in her eyes.

Lan Jue’s heart beat against his chest. He remembered the first day he saw her on Moonfiend, back when he thought she was simply a beautiful woman. Later he would discover she was
a nightmare in the flesh. She’d proved that when she struck down the Barber, revealing her Nirvana-level power. She was even stronger now.

However, the Infinite wasn’t the advantage it seemed to be. Like Paragons, they had to be feeling the effects of universal protogenia.

Star Division was gathered and arrayed before the Paragons that led them. In both numbers and size these young men and women were like ants before the alien horde. Still, they faced their enemy fearlessly. After all, they had ten Paragons on their side – what was there to fear?

Tan Lingyun, NEU’s Savage Goddess, had been placed in Lan Jue’s group. Her heart ached a little when she saw her commander hand in hand with Qianlin. Her mind harkened back to the time she spent with the masked Lei Feng. From behind, was he not just the same? All he was missing was the mask.

Both sides watched each other from across the rapidly closing space. Out in orbit around Europa the humans and aliens stared at each other, buying time. But here their enemy hoped to split the frontline’s attention and collapse their rear. The
atmosphere was entirely different.

The Violet Prince thrust a hand forward and two wings of his horde came charging forward. More than five hundred wriggling purple bodies flung themselves at Star Division’s flanks.

A veil of rainbow-like color sprang into existence between the two forces. As the aliens crossed it their lightning-fast approach was brought almost to a stand-still, charging in slow-motion.

The Epochrion. As her powers manifested they were joined by a resplendent beam of white. As it swept past the unfortunate creatures were sliced in halves before they could react. They were dead before their bodies completely separated.

With her dress fluttering in Angel’s winds, the Pharmacist stood beside the Clockmaker, surrounded by Occisus’ bloodthirsty aura. The sudden death of five hundred beasts quickly boosted her Slaughter Domain, which spread out like a righteous tempest.

What was a terror for their enemies brought courage to allies. As the Harbinger Faerie’s powers washed over them, Star
Division’s soldiers seethed with the need for righteous battle. They could hardly hold themselves back.

Two Paragons had, with little effort, eliminated five hundred alien attackers. It made a strong impression.

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