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Chapter 535: Star Division, Dispatch!

    Chapter 535: Star Division, Dispatch!

    The search for information never ceased. A great deal of what they learned was a direct result of the the North's Seventh Fleet and their sacrifice. Comprehensive intelligence estimated that humans would now be able to stand their own against the monsters, when they came. A fair amount of that confidence came from the mighty Bastion ships. Be it offensive or defensive, the capabilities of those technical marvels outstripped a whole fleet. Strange though these creatures and tactics were, they still had to resign themselves to the law of conservation. There were only three alien planets as opposed to humanity's seventeen Bastion ships. All they had to do was surround them and their chance at victory was great.

    "Parliament has approved your request. You can begin whenever you like." The Wine Master informed the bright-eyed Lan Jue seated across from him.

    The commander nodded. "Good. Give us three days to get our things in order, then we'll set out."

    "Keep damage to a minimum," the Wine Master urged.

    "I know," Lan Jue replied. "Every soldier is a son or daughter of the Division. Still, they're soldiers. The best way for a soldier to learn is in combat. This mission isn't about making them hard, but to make them confident. We'll see how they're coming along."

    The Wine Master still looked dubious. "Be quick. Those things will show up any day and we'll need to react immediately. Remember also that no matter what you're doing the East will disavow any knowledge of your existence. As we prepare for the invasion, this fragile peace must be maintained."

    Lan Jue returned with a soft laugh. "Relax. I'll bring them back in the same condition they left in. I'll need Majesty and Zeus-1. We'll need to hurry with upgrades to Zeus-2 and 3 as well."

    The Wine Master rubbed his wrinkled forehead. "Do you have any idea how much money we've spent since you started this Division?"

    Chuckling, Lan Jue shrugged. "What's that got to do with me? My only responsibility is to turn them into a fighting force. Anyway, who's to say we don't come back with some plunder of our own."

    This earned a wry smirk. "Fine, go prepare. We'll cover your departure. Strike quickly and decisively, then get back."

    "Yeah." Lan Jue nodded, then left.

    Four months had passed since the establishment of the Star Division. The bulk of that time the cadets trained in DreamNet. Later they added real mechas, but still leaned on DreamNet for most of their drills. With their training beginning to bear fruit, it was time to test them and deepen their comprehension with a live exercise. It was time to show off this lauded troupe they'd created. It was like Lan Jue said, they didn't need to be thrust into the fray. They needed confidence and unity. Victory would give them confidence, and shared investment would forge unity.

    Two days later, two ships quietly slipped out of Skyfire's public hangar. They roared through the atmosphere and into the darkness of space.

    Lan Jue stood in the center of Majesty's bridge. He looked at the soldiers of his Star Division milling about. After its upgrades, Majesty was able to house a thousand soldiers onboard. In regards to mass it wasn't any less spacious than a standard battleship, with a flashier hull. The hull's strength wasn't its only improvement, though. If the military brass knew the full specs of Majesty they'd probably faint from all the blood rushing from their head.

    Lan Jue had allowed the use of his ships, but with conditions of course. Majesty had been Jue Di's creation, and while he was certainly not lacking in scientific prowess, his resources were limited. With the Avenue's agreement all of its older core gems had been replaced. Even with Lan Jue's experience as Jewelry Master, he visibly gulped when he found out what they'd put in it.

    "After four months I'm sure you're all stir crazy. Now it's time to see if you've learned anything. So, we're on our way to a live exercise. Now take note, this is not practice. You're about to face a real battle." His face was serious, stoic.

    The four brigade commanders looked back at him with eager expressions, ready for battle. To keep their journey a secret, only a few had known their purpose. Once they'd gotten the soldiers on the ships some had their suspicions, but now they were confirmed.

    Lan Jue was pleased with how they'd turned out. There was little chance of finding cowardice among these men and women. They were Adepts with solid Disciplines all, and sure in their abilities. Adding months of training had honed their mecha control, and every one of them had seen great improvement. With cutting edge equipment, overwhelming power, and shrewd leadership, they didn't need to shrink from combat. It was time to go find it. Lan Jue wasn't the only one who wanted to see what these warriors were capable of. They needed to see it for themselves.

    Lan Jue's authoritative voice returned. "This time our target is weak, and soft. This should not be a difficult fight for you. I will stress that any resources captured will be evenly distributed as determined by Division leadership. You will follow orders, and if you don't you will be summarily dismissed. Are we clear?"

    "Yes, commander!" The soldiers called back in a single voice.

    Lan Jue nodded in satisfaction and smiled. "Then with that said, it's time to raise the black flag. We're the Star Pirate Clan, now. Our operation zone is in the Shattered Starfields. Our goal is to create the largest pirate clan in the system within one month. We're going in there to fight fire with fire."

    The Division soldiers shared looks of confusion. Starfields? Pirates? Combat in the Shattered Starfields was mostly ship-to-ship. How was this going to involve a mecha division?

    There were a lot of questions, but the four months of training had not been in vain. Squad commanders had a tight control over their people, and the weaker leaders had been swapped out long ago. Questions though there were, no one disobeyed.

    Majesty soared through the vacuum of space at a moderate speed with Zeus-1 at its flank. Lan Jue's ship was piloted by the Accountant and the commander of his operations intelligence squad. The Accountant's men were responsible for intelligence gathering and missions, and had Disciplines suited for the task.

    Zeus' Amazons were the crew of Zeus-1. Su Xiaosu and her main crew were aboard, along with the other Division trainers. If they were going to the Starfields than it was important to bring someone who knew the place well. It was a complicated place with more clans than common sense. There was nowhere better to learn pirate tactics.

    At present the largest of the system's three planets was under the thumb of the Pontiff's Citadel. The former Moonfiend Empress had come in beneath their radar thanks to Zeus-1's cloaking capabilities, but it was a single ship and a lone woman. For her to walk away with her people was pretty impressive.

    In addition, simply being a clan represented strength. You needed resources and information to grow large. Constant problems you needed a strong handle to handle.

    The Pharmacist approached Lan Jue with a smile. "I have good news."

    "What news?" Lan Jue asked.

    When they'd started he had hoped the Pharmacist would agree to more important duties. He'd wanted her to be the second in command, or even commander of the First Brigade. She refused, stating that she was only interested in dealing with matters of the Ace Squad.

    She looked at him. "They're here."

    "They...?" Lan Jue was confused for a moment before recalling who she meant. His voice immediately dropped to a whisper. "Where?"

    She grinned back at him. "Come with me." She turned and left the bridge.

    Majesty's battleship construction meant it had spacious room as sleeping quarters for the soldiers. Zeus-1, by contrast, had only a cramped cabin. The Pharmacist lead him to a private room and shut the door behind them. With a wave of her hand, three blazing lights joined them.

    They were a glimmering white, blue, and red. As the light receded they were revealed as three swords suspended in the air before Lan Jue. The flood of power he expected from them was conspicuously restrained.

    The white one he knew; that was the Pharmacist's Occisus. The other two were simple-looking aside from the hue until one looked closer. A strange aura hung around the red blade that drew the eye and focused concentration. Lan Jue fought the desire to reach for it. The blue sword seemed fuzzy and unreal, like it was a thousand possible realities of itself forced into one place.

    "You can come out," the Pharmacist assured.

    The swords shuddered in response, and then with a flash of light they became two familiar faces. They were none other than the White Blademaster, Jun Yongye and his companion, Xuanyuan Shishi the Ten-Thousand Blades.

    "Ah, gentlemen. It's been a long time." Lan Jue greeted them with some surprise.

    The two swordsmen nodded back.

    The Pharmacist went on. "You boys chat. I'll be around." Her delicate mouth opened and Occisus became a beam of light that vanished down her throat. Then she left.

    "Please, sit." The cabin wasn't large, and it was a little tight with the three of them.
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