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Chapter 507: Meeting Mother Again

    Chapter 507: Meeting Mother Again

    Lan Jue stepped out of the Jewelry shop out on to the Avenue. The Gothic Winery was only a few feet down the lane. The walk was short, but the familiarity and comfort of home helped put his mind at ease.

    Lan Jue was a little surprised to find the Wine Master waiting for him in the foyer. He welcome him in with a smile. "Thank you."

    "Eh?" Lan Jue blinked. "Why so cordial?"

    "Come with me and you'll find out," the Wine Master cryptically replied.

    Lan Jue chuckled. "Well whatever the reason you can keep your thanks. I'll take a bottle of wine."

    This made the Wine Master chortle, too. "Fine, then we'll share a bottle later. Whenever you have time."

    Lan Jue was well and truly shocked, but he kept it to himself. He followed the Paragon deeper in to the Winery.

    They made their way back to the familiar long table they often drank at. This time, there was already someone waiting for them, seated at the place of honor. When Lan Jue saw who it was, he stared with wide yes and an open mouth. It'd been no time at all!

    "M-... what are you doing here?"

    Seated on the other end of the table was none other the bane of Jue Di, the same woman who vanished at his request. Luo Xianni, Lan Jue's new adopted mother.

    Evidently this had been her destination after leaving Ziluo.

    She shot him a sidelong glance. "Call me what you're supposed to call me. We're away from Ziluo and suddenly I'm not your mother anymore?"

    The Wine Master, hearing this for the first time, slowly turned to Lan Jue and lifted a curious brow.

    Lan Jue met his gaze with a sheepish expression. "So, what are you doing here, mom?"

    The Wine Master continued to look from one to other, so stupefied he couldn't think of anything to say.

    "This used to be my home," she answered. "The shyster and I founded it. Why wouldn't I come back? You came back just in time. Take a seat."

    Lan Jue shot another look at the Wine Master, who was still trying to process what was going on. The Jewelry Master made his way over to the chair beside his mother, and took a seat.

    The Wine Master had a plethora of questions, but this was not the time or place. He took a seat on Luo Xianni's opposite side.

    When everyone was settled, she went on. "The fortune teller's life has neared its end. We used to be close, so I wanted to come and pay my respects. I expect both of you to keep all of this secret.

    Lan Jue couldn't help but interject. "Will you be leaving after this?"

    She turned her wide eyes his ways, the threat of violence ever twinkling in their depths. "Are you saying you want me to leave?"

    Lan Jue couldn't shake his head fast enough. "Of course not! With you at the head of the Avenue, things are looking up!"

    Her face lit up in a pretty smile. "Good, then I won't be leaving."

    "Truly, aunt?" The Wine Master asked excitedly.

    The sniffed. "My baby is here, I'm not going anywhere."

    Lan Jue was resigned. What could he do? She certainly didn't look like she could be his mother on the outside, by the age difference alone. She was old enough to be his grandmother's grandmother, but people only paid attention to what they could see. For the Avenue, though, there could be no better result. For a Nirvana-level Paragon of her strength, none of the other Alliance groups had an answer. Beyond that, it was an excellent boon for humanity in their preparation against the alien invaders.

    The Wine Master fixed Lan Jue with a look. He knew it was completely ludicrous that the two would have a blood connection. He couldn't fathom under what circumstances he would send Lan Jue out to bring back his aunt, only for the kid to turn her in to his mother. It was something he would have to ask in private.

    Luo Xianni went on. "Again, my presence and the things I do here must be kept a secret. Whatever you all were up to before, keep it that way. When that palm reader wakes up, I'll go say hello."

    "Of course." The Wine Master was quick to answer. Although he himself was a Paragon, he had been growing up with his aunt since he was very small. A lot of what he knew had been imparted to him by her. He had a great deal of affection and respect for this woman.

    Luo Xianni turned her attention to her nephew. "You haven't improved much these last few years. You still haven't been able to let it go?"

    The Wine Master's face changed, and a hard bitterness crept in to his expression. "You still remember?"

    "Enough. Time changes all things. You need to put aside everything that isn't important. There are always more opportunities, so long as you look for them. She has run off to the North, and it's been years. It's clear there's no place for you in her heart. What's the point of obsessing over it so much? I'll introduce another to you, don't you worry. I hear A-Jue mentioned this woman called the Pharmacist. She sounded nice, what do you think?"

    The Wine Master suddenly looked very uncomfortable. "Aunt, let's not rush in to making you a matchmaker!"

    She sniffed dismissively. "What's this nonsense, don't you know I used to be known as First Among Matchmakers?"

    "Never," the Wine Master begged. "A hundred thousand times, no. I'm scared of you."

    She changed the subject. "You've been looking after my shop. How are things? When can we start business again?"

    "More or less ready," he assured. "In a couple days you can head over and take a look."

    Lan Jue looked over to his mother with a bit of surprise. "Mother, what store will you be managing?" According to the rules of the Avenue, every councilor had to have a shop under their direction. At least one was the prerequisite, either on the Avenue or the Underground. The Clairvoyant and the Wine Master, despite being Paragons, were no exception. The only ones who saw a slightly different circumstance were the Keeper and Bookworm. They worked together.

    Luo Xianni tittered. "Your mother used to go by 'the Photographer!' When you're ready to get married, I'll take the wedding photos for you 1. My shop is called 'Luo Xianni's Wedding Photography Studio.'"

    Lan Jue stared blankly at her. His mind went back to when he'd first seen her, and the power she commanded. Connecting that with her designation as the Photographer, he was starting to understand. Her Discipline was some variation on dimensional manipulation. "Alright, I'm leaving. I'll be back when the shop's ready. By the way, this place stinks like booze. It makes me sick. I prefer my man Bupang's cigars." With her opinion given, she rose to her feet, and strut out the door.

    My man Bupang...

    Lan Jue didn't know how Jue Di would have reacted if he'd heard, but he sure as hell wasn't going to take his place by contradicting her.

    The return of Luo Xianni to the Avenue was a tremendous boon. Especially now, as the Eye of Tomorrow was closing, there could be no better news. Her return was also important for the Avenue's strength, if nothing else. Not only did it swell their Paragon numbers, she was also damn strong.

    "Ahem... So, Jewelry Master. What in the name of the multiverse is going on?" The Wine Master quietly waited until he was sure his aunt was gone before whispering the question.

    1. Pre-wedding photos are a required part of the wedding process. I have two thousand. They involve several location changes including an enormous set warehouse, wherein there were as many outfit switches as there were rooms to take pictures in. There were a lot of rooms. The other half took place in a pool. We spent so much time gazing longingly in to each others' eyes that the chlorine blinded us for a whole day. I'm not exaggerating.
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