Chapter 508: The Avenue Will Raise an Army?

    Chapter 508: The Avenue Will Raise an Army?

    Lan Jue rolled his eyes. "If you don't know, how should I?"

    The Wine Master pressed. "She's met your master?"

    The Jewelry Master nodded. "She has, but I don't know what's going on there. I only know what I've seen and heard."

    "Yeah, yeah, so it is." The Wine Master didn't push him any further. After all, this involved one of the strongest Paragon that has ever lived, Jue Di!

    Lan Jue went on. "I also don't know why mother would want to come back to the Avenue. At first she was dead-set against leaving father's side. She's the only one who knows why she came back."

    The Wine Master smirked. "Whatever the reason, it's good she's back. All of this, only you and me know. Even the Gourmet, Keeper and Bookworm aren't aware of everything. Their relationship is likely cooler, since she left shortly after they came to join the Avenue. They aren't aware of the plans for her Photography Studio either. I've been keeping that under wraps."

    The two of them exchange looks for a moment, sharing an unspoken understanding. None of this could leave this room.

    "How is the Clairvoyant?" Lan Jue asked.

    The wine Master's face stiffened, and a despondent look crossed his face. "Three days, that's how long he has left. On that day we'll gather and send him off. About a week ago he told me who he wanted to attend. Aunt was on there, as well as you and your four companions and the other Paragons."

    Lan Jue offered a gentle nod. He felt sad as well. The Clairvoyant had done miraculous things for humanity, for the Avenue. He spent countless years in defense of this place, and his time was nearly done.

    Lan Jue asked, "have my brother and the others come yet?"

    "Not yet," the Wine Master said, "but the air hangar has been alerted and spots are being held. They should be here in a couple of days. But to business. I called you here because of my aunt, but also to discuss something else."

    "Alright," Lan Jue said.

    The wine Master nodded. "As we're all painfully aware, the alien creatures will soon come upon human space en masse. From all the information we've been able to gather, we know this is going to be one mighty struggle. The Clairvoyant's visions have shown us all that needs to be prepared. We've followed his wishes, and have started to expand the Star Alliance. At present, all Avenue resident below the age of sixty have begun training with mechas."

    Lan Jue looked at him in shock . "All adepts under sixty?"

    He nodded. "Of course, this was voluntary. No one was forced or coerced to get involved, and the loose structure of the Avenue has been maintained. The Paragons are not part of this, since a mecha suit has little benefit in the face of our natural power."

    Lan Jue was assured of that fact. It wasn't that the suits weren't useful, but that in order to be of use to a Paragon, a great deal of top-shelf materials were needed. That kind of spending made Sovereign-class suit construction look like a cheap knock-off. Most important, though, none of the modern crop of Paragons had an interest in mecha piloting. As Paragons, they commanded power that would outclass a battleship. The saying 'A Paragon's reach surpasses the sky,' was no exaggeration.

    "So what's you're saying," Lan Jue probed, "is that the Avenue is making its own mecha combat division. With the aim of sending it in to battle against the aliens."

    The Wine Master grunted. "That's the basic idea. I also wanted your input. We Paragons will also be on the field. From what we know, while our numbers are few we can do tremendous damage to the enemy. We're worth far more than one mecha suit. However, when it comes to planning, that's where we're deficient. We need you and your brother for that."

    Lan Jue's brows furrowed tight as he thought. "This is a very serious matter. It'll need some time to think, so I can't give you an answer just yet. But that's not a bad thing. All of our Adepts here are solid, too - strong. However, a good, tailor-made suit will need time and materials!"

    The Wine Master grinned. "Don't worry over that. Our coffers are not just theoretical. The mechs suits are all being paid for by us. We've been in the process for some time already, with the Bookworm and Keeper in charge. They'll handle it."

    "So how many have joined the Star Alliance," Lan Jue asked.

    The Wine Master thought for a moment. "At first it was about one third of those eligible. After the tournament, it rose to fifty percent and growing." 1

    Lan Jue looked at the Wine Master in open surprise. He didn't think that so many people would be interested in joining the mecha alliance. This was a battle division being put together to face the alien menace. It was a dangerous posting.

    As far as he knew, Skyfire Avenue had forty thousand registered Adepts. About half of those were in the age range they were looking for. Half of a half still made for ten thousand new recruits.

    "There aren't as many as you think," the Wine Master could see the shock written on the Jewelry Master's face.

    Doubt started to creep in to Lan Jue's face. "How many really?"

    "We also have a power prerequisite," the Wine Master explained. "Recruits have to be a minimum of sixth rank. Under sixty, sixth rank - those are the requirements."

    Lan Jue gave the older man a flat look. "Stop running me around in circles, people are going to die, alright? With these restrictions we've got about ten times fewer bodies."

    The Wine Master smirked. "The Avenue may be strong, but do you think we have Sovereign-ranked pilots just waltzing around all over the place? What we're building is a strike force, the tip of the spear. Of course we'll need to make sure our people are strong enough to handle it."

    The minimum requirement for an Adept to register with the Avenue was fourth rank. Demanding that an applicant be sixth rank was cutting their pool by a huge margin.

    "So tell me straight, how many people are there actually." Lan Jue asked once more.

    "More than six hundred," the wine Master finally revealed. "With more joining every day."

    Lan Jue shrugged. "So why are you telling me all this?"

    To this the older man gave him a flat stare. "Isn't it obvious? You have been given the Star Alliance, did you think that you wouldn't be in charge of it? We've been helping to get it started, but later things will depend on you. Your first job should be to get them strong enough to make a difference. A good Adept doesn't instantly make a good mecha pilot. How you make that happen is up to you. I hear your training courses at the NEU were successful. You also have my approval to bring those young men and women in to the Avenue as full members. We'll create mecha suits for them as well, free of charge. What do you think?"

    "Wait, wait, wait, wait." Lan Jue lifted his hands, entreating the Wine Master to silence. He frowned at the Paragon. "It's starting to sound like you expect me to lead your army."

    The Wine Master nodded matter-of-factly. "That's exactly right. You've already promised the Clairvoyant, haven't you? It's a little late for regrets."

    "I..." Lan Jue stared at him, for a moment too stunned to finish his thought. "This was your plan the whole time, wasn't it."

    The Wine Master nodded again. "Right! What would be the point of having the Divine Monarchs and Star Alliance fight otherwise. Advertisement for the Star Alliance, which you agreed to inherit from the Clairvoyant."

    Lan Jue's face twitched. "You're a pretty direct guy, huh."

    The Wine Master grinned at him. "Always have been."

    "So what am I supposed to do now," Lan Jue asked.

    The Wine Master was the picture of astonishment. "How do I know? Like I said, we're just here to set you up. If you need money, we'll get you money. If you need resources, you'll have resources. What else could you possibly trouble us old men for? We're too old to do any teaching. The future belongs to the young!"

    Lan Jue could outright puke blood at this old man's nonsense. What kind of mafia did he get himself drafted in to? Lan Jue suddenly felt a lot less pity for the Clairvoyant.

    At first glance, training six hundred pilots didn't seem like a very daunting class. Lan Jue was a God-ranked pilot, and had the A.R.C. experience to draw upon besides. But were things ever really as easy as they seemed?

    Of course not.

    Adepts weren't students. The NEU kids were young, willing, and without the burdens of adult society. They were weaker, and Lan Jue could direct them as easily as the arm directs the hand.

    But Avenue Adepts were different. They were bound to be cunning, experienced, and strong. He still remembered when the Citadels came. In the height of conflict, a hundred Avenue Adepts came flying to their aid. Aside from Adepts with a flight Discipline, only ninth rank Adepts could traverse the skies. A hundred people that strong would not be quick to follow instruction.

    This didn't even take in to account the loose nature of Skyfire Avenue. These people were used to doing what they pleased. If he was expected to turn them in to soldiers, they would need a soldier's training.  That meant discipline. This division he fell in to was going to be a chore, be it in training or in battle.

    Seeing Lan Jue's crestfallen expression, the Wine Master piped up. "What's wrong? Is there a problem? Whatever it is let us know, and the council will do whatever it can to help you solve it."

    1. This was and is a little confusing. As far as I understand, TJSS meant that everyone under sixty is in the process of training with mechs. However, only fifty percent of those have joined the Star Alliance. I guess.
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