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Chapter 509: ’s Star Division

    Chapter 509: Skyfire Avenue's Star Division

    Lan Jue heaved a sigh. "Is there any way I can get out of this?"

    The Wine Master theatrically extended his hands toward the younger man. "Look at you. After all the trouble you've caused the Avenue, not least of which stealing the Eastern chairman's daughter on her wedding day!"

    "Alright! I get it." Lan Jue pleaded. "I agreed, and even if I hadn't you would have found a way to make me do it anyway. But I'm telling you, if I'm running this than my commands have to be your commands. Whatever I need Skyfire Avenue will provide, agreed?"

    The Wine Master nodded his head. "We pay the money and you pay out in effort. The Avenue will do whatever it can to help."

    It was Lan Jue's turn to nod. "To start, any commanding officer will need to be a strong deterrent to breaking the rules. Otherwise controlling these adepts will be impossible. Do you agree?"

    "I wish there was something I could do there," the Wine Master backpedaled. "I'm just an old man... I'm sixty years old!"

    Lan Jue responded with a little irritation. "I'm not talk about you. The Keeper and Bookworm would be no help either, the three of you can help with logistics. The Gourmet isn't sixty. He can help me as assistant commander. The Pharmacist as well, with those two I should be fine."

    The Wine Master agreed. "I'll be responsible for getting the Gourmet on board. The Pharmacist you'll need to manage on your own. Her situation is special, you know more about it than I do."

    Lan Jue nodded, indicating he understood. "Alright. I think it'd be best if you called a council meeting and let everyone know."

    This seemed to amuse the Wine Master. "You haven't been to an Avenue meeting in days. We've discussed it already, several times. Relax, everyone knows it's your job to get the Avenue fighting ready."

    The Jewelry Master's eyes popped wide. "You guys have been whoring me out when I'm not even around?"

    "Well, you don't need to make it sound so crass," the Wine Master complained. "None of this was done on the sly, and we aren't hiding anything from you."

    Lan Jue shot to his feet. "I'm going!"

    The Wine Master was nonplussed. "We'll send all the relevant data to you, everything is more or less ready for you to begin. We just need you're A.R.C. students. When you bring them over here, we can start training."

    Lan Jue almost tripped over his own feet. Suddenly he had the overwhelming impression that he shouldn't have come to visit. Hell, he shouldn't have come back from Ziluo at all! This old bastard was ruthless!

    As he watched Lan Jue's retreating back, the smile slipped from the Wine Master's face and he sighed. "Foolish kid. You are the Clairvoyant's chosen. It's a heavy burden, but we'll help where we can."

    ζ

    Lan Jue stomped out of the Gothic Winery. A myriad of thoughts and emotions rushed through him, so much that he forgot about Qianlin. This was a big undertaking the Wine Master had laid at his feet. He suddenly felt heavy and tired. This was not going to be easy!

    He lost himself in thoughts and began to wander down the street. After a while, he came upon a familiar storefront: Wendy Wang's Haut Couture Clothing

    Almost unconsciously, he pushed at the doors and found them locked. Usually visitors required an appointment.  But, after knocking, the Barber pulled aside the blinds. He was surprised for a moment, then opened the door. "When did you get back?"

    Lan Jue chuckle. "Is that reprobate the Driver hanging around here?"

    The Barber answered with a nod. "Yeah. Come in."

    The room was filled with the smell of revelry, and Lan Jue picked out the Driver right away. He was seated with a glass of whisky in one hand and a cigar in the other, looking comfortable.

    "Ah, you're back." The Driver never missed a beat. He pulled out a glass from beneath the end table beside him, and place it beside a bottle of whisky. He poured Lan Jue a generous helping.

    Before anything else, Lan Jue plucked up the glass and took a sip of the golden liquid within. His lips spry in to a bitter smirk. "I shouldn't have! You people - not a soul told me what I was walking in to!"

    The Driver's chuckle was deep and mirthful. "Of course. If we had told you, would you have come back? You can't lay the blame on us, we were under orders from the Wine Master. And isn't this a good thing? They're grooming you for command of the whole Avenue. That's good, right?"

    Lan Jue gaped at him. "Good? I joined the Avenue so I could mind my own business. Now suddenly there's all this responsibility sat square on my shoulders. You think that's a good thing?"

    The Driver felt he clearly needed more whisky, and poured him some more. "Alright, alright - calm down. Things aren't as bad as you think, anyway. You've been around for a while and have a reputation here. And speaking of reputation, we weren't the only ones who saw your performance at the tournament. Everyone in the Avenue knows who you are and what you can do. Ever since the tournament ended, volunteers for the Star Division have increased by thirty percent. Who do you think they came for? You're underplaying your role on the Avenue."

    The Barber reappeared and placed a glass of ice water in front of Lan Jue with a nod. "He's right. There wasn't a breath of opposition to the idea of making you Colonel of the Avenue's Forces. Your qualifications were clear to anyone who watched that tournament. We saw the strength of your Discipline, damn near Paragon, but we also saw your strength of character. Your actions on Taihua were as telling as those on Luo. That's what their faith is built on, and why it won't be the nightmare you expect. And, since the council voted you in, we're obligated to make sure it works. You've got a lot of people at your back. You won't be struggling alone."

    The Driver's words were convincing, but it wasn't until the Barber chimed in that he started to feel more at ease.

    He was a smart man, and he quickly analyzed the truth of what they said. There were a number of strong Adepts, but all of the strongest he knew personally. He'd at least have Paragon support, and help from the original members of the Star Alliance. It was by no means going to be an easy task, but it didn't look as hopeless as it had before.

    The Driver went on. "Well, it is what it is. Worry about what you need from the council instead. And before everything, I think you need to consider how to direct your new army. We may not be tight-knit, but there are advantages. Nearly all of them have at least some experience with a mecha suit. A lot are legitimate mecha pilots. They may not know how to work as a unit, but they'll learn that with time. I think they're going to surprise you. But you can't treat them like soldiers. If you did I don't think you'll have much of a division left."

    Lan Jue's brows knit as he thought. "So you're saying we're going to need a different training method."

    The Driver shot him a thumbs-up. "That's the idea."

    Lan Jue's eyes shuttled back and forth as his mind raced. Yes! A loose structure had its own benefits. However, while the Adepts were strong individually they couldn't compare to a soldier's cooperation. Battle groups like on An Luo were not the way to go.

    All of these fighters would have already been customized through their own training, used to a style. There would be power discrepancies and more to contend with. But if they each fought together, but separate...

    There weren't any forces like this in any Alliance military. The only equivalent he could think of was...

    A tell-tale glint of excitement lit up Lan Jue's eyes.

    "Drink." The Driver lifted his glass, and gently struck it against his guest's.

    Lan Jue obliged. He could feel the whisky burn a path down in to his stomach, before that comfortable heat spread all through him.

    "I'll think on it, and call the original Alliance members together when its time."

    The Driver nodded. "Not a problem, everyone's already here to send the Clairvoyant off." His voice trailed off at the end, and his face darkened. It was clear to Lan Jue that the Eye of Tomorrow meant a lot to this man.

    Lan Jue gave a small sigh. He knew he could ultimately turn all of this down if he had to. Maybe if the Clairvoyant was in better health, he'd be more insistent. But things as they were, he had a responsibility to carry the task.

    Although it was hard to know his path was chosen for him, his hatred for the Eye of Tomorrow's meddling eased when he realized it had all been for his benefit. It smacked of servitude, but it was servitude to himself, and to all the worlds' people.

    The Driver saw Lan Jue's expression change. He said nothing further.

    Lan Jue sat for another half an hour before leaving Haut Couture Clothing behind. He hopped on his bicycle, and turned it toward Mt. Tianshan.

    Peace within to resist dangers without. He knew he would be very busy in the coming days, and now was the time to put his personal problems to bed. He needed to speak with Qianlin and clear up the misunderstanding. Otherwise, there could be no peace within.

    Lan Jue didn't steal up to the mountain top this time. He took the main road, tall and dignified. None of the checkpoints challenged him. He'd called the Wine Master on the way over, and had asked him to handle authorization. After the scan authorized his passage, Lan Jue continued the ascent.

    He pushed his bike along the road, and with every step closer to the peak his heart calmed. In his mind were two separate images, clear and distinct: One was Hera, and the other was Zhou Qianlin.
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