Chapter 555: The Joining is Complete

    Chapter 555: The Joining is Complete

    Lan Jue and Qianlin were lucky. The sword-spirits guiding them were wise and powerful, helping them navigate the many problems in their path. They inhibited each other's tremendous power to ease the process. Together, they were also much stronger in Discipline than the Pharmacist had been. After-effects of the joining were few, and Lan Jue could feel Captus within him, everywhere and a part of everything.

    A gentle hum arose, rousing Lan Jue from his meditations. The stabbing torment spread from head to toe, a sign that Qianlin and the spirit were one. This pain was his own from a body battered by the power of the swords.

    "Is it finished?" The Pharmacist asked in wonder.

    Lan Jue took a deep breath. The energy inside of him was like a raging tide, healing his damaged meridians. He smiled. "The joinings are done. Though it will take time for me to understand everything."

    The Pharmacist returned his smile with one of her own. "You are much stronger than I was. It took me seven days and seven nights to complete my joining. You did it in three, with two swords. Rest and recover, I'll be right here to look over you."

    "I will in a moment," he said. "I should see how the troops are doing first."

    Three days joining with the swords meant his people had been sitting around for three days. These soldiers weren't here to help him cultivate, they were on a mission, and that had to take precedence. Besides, he had finished what he'd come to the planet to do.

    It wasn't until after the process that Lan Jue understood the swords' insistence on finding a suitable planet. They'd needed a stable place where the tides of energy and space were consistent. There was too much in flux out in space, which was dangerous when the swords contained world-cleaving power. A momentary loss of control could mean disaster.

    When he stepped out, the first thing that met the eye were mechas from all four brigades busy with drills. Star Division didn't have many - maybe eight hundred, half what you'd expect from a normal mecha division. Star Division stilled earned the name because it did more damage than a normal mecha division.

    There was a flash, and a shadow appeared by Lan Jue's side. He turned his head to spot the Gourmet.

    "Finished?" The Gourmet looked Lan Jue up and down. He was a little surprised to find little different on the kid after three days in meditation. Other than the fact his essence was gathered inside, there wasn't much else to speak of. It was his keen senses as a Paragon that told him there was something below the surface that was new.

    Before he was called an outstanding Adept of his generation. Now, he could sense that this young man was already on his level. He could feel the threatening power wafting from him, and the only ones to make a Paragon feel that were other Paragons. And yet Lan Jue was clearly still ninth level. Something was special.

    Lan Jue smiled and nodded. "You've worked hard. Have there been any more alien sightings?"

    The Gourmet shot him a thumbs-up. "Your guess was spot on, a carrier alien showed up not long after you started meditating. It seemed strong. We were its target."

    Lan Jue looked at him curiously. "Seemed strong? You didn't fight it?"

    This earned a wry chuckle from the Paragon. "I didn't even have a chance. What a terrible thing to hide from me, why didn't you say something earlier?"

    It was Lan Jue's turn to chuckle apologetically. "I only found out when we were in Tempest's orbit. Anyway the old lady was in deep sleep, I couldn't count on her to be reliable."

    The Gourmet chuckled. "I'd be careful with your words. You don't know how good a Paragon's hearing is."

    Lan Jue's face went white as a sheet. "I-I-I didn't say anything! Tell me what happened with the alien."

    The Gourmet fought his laughter. "'Take advice from Luo Xianni, a camera is all you need!'"

    He gaped at the Gourmet. "Even that thing she could just turn into a picture?"

    "You haven't reached Paragon yet," the Gourmet said. "You don't know what the true power of a Paragon is like. That woman is probably only just slightly weaker than Jue Di. Forget aliens, with a thought she could turn me into an ugly selfie. I remember once the Wine Master telling me the story of the time Jue Di came to the Avenue. He took the opportunity to test himself against the Photographer. Jue Di was at a disadvantage through the whole fight. She was called Skyfire Avenue's secret weapon for a reason. With her back, the Avenue is really back to its former glory."

    Lan Jue took a breath. He was learning more all the time about the woman who called herself his mother-in-law.

    He pulled up his arm and dialed a string of numbers into the communicator. "Xiaosu, Driver, Bartender, Coffee Master. Time for a meeting."

    The Gourmet looked at his commander. "So what's next on the agenda? Pirates, or aliens?"

    Lan Jue's response was quick and resolute. "We can't know if there are any more in the vicinity. And if there are, we won't know where they've taken a planet. Our only objective can be pirates. They also find the most hospitable places for life. If the aliens were looking for nutrient sources, they'll be looking for pirates as well. Stick to the plan, and if we run across any of the monsters we take them out. If we don't we still have miscreants to kill. For me I should stay put for a little while and stabilize the two swords. The Star Division doesn't have that luxury. Coming off the high of victory we need to keep their morale up. They need a new mission."

    It wasn't long before the leadership of Star Division was assembled. Lan Jue told them his plans.

    Su Xiaosu had long since prepared a plan of operations. "Let's just stick with our plan. We leave a small force here, and the rest go out hunting pirates. We'll sweep the surrounding systems using Tempest as a base, what do you think?"

    Lan Jue nodded. "You know these tactics better than anyone. The Division is under your command. There won't be many needed here, just leave First Division's Ace Squad and Zeus-1. You take the rest. With Majesty, I'm not worried about you."

    Su Xiaosu was a resolute and decisive leader. She immediately set about arranging everything.

    The Driver watched her go and huffed. "What kind of chick pheromones are you using? Beautiful women all around, each one more capable than the last."

    The Coffee Master Chortled. "Capable. Yeah, that's the word."

    "Screw off." Lan Jue scowled dubiously at the Coffee Master, who danced away with a snicker.

    Xiaosu was, as always, remarkable efficient. It wasn't long until Star Division was ready to board Majesty and embark on their next adventure. Lan Jue had the Gourmet go with them as well. Tempest would be left to the Pharmacist, Lan Jue, and his Ace Squad. He left Xiaosu in command of First Brigade.

    Majesty descended from above. Its ventral hull spat out a traction light that swallowed up the soldiers below one by one. Once aboard the ship returned to stealth mode and vanished into the dark sky to continue their hunt for pirates.

    "Ah, it's always best with your feet on the ground." The voice was drawled and lazy. Lan Jue didn't have to see to know who it was.

    "Mother, why did you stay behind?" Lan Jue faced the Photographer, who'd surreptitiously arrived from who knows where, with a pleasant smile.

    She pursed her lips and muttered like a malcontent child. "So inconsiderate, you miserable child. Don't you know I'm here to protect you? Chu Bupang, that lousy bum, he can throw you to the wind but I can't. It was a chore just to meet you, I need to make sure you stay safe."

    It was indisputable that Luo Xianni was a few flowers short of a bouquet, but her words were a comfort to Lan Jue. He'd never had a mom, or knew what a mother's love felt like. It was nice.

    "From now on I'm going to call you Ma," Lan Jue announced. 1

    Luo Xianni looked at him, stunned. Their eyes met, and she saw the sincerity in their depths.

    Lan Jue was careful to address her respectfully up to this point. He spoke to her in that way because of her relationship with Bupang. These words, though, were from the heart.

    "Good, good!" Luo Xianni laughed happily as she replied. The rims of her eyes had begun to get a little red.

    He did mean it and everything the word implied. Without Luo Xianni he and Qianlin would be dead. The whole reason she'd come on this long, uncomfortable journey was to make sure he stayed safe. She was a Paragon who had reached Nirvana! Everything she was doing was out of that inexplicable desire to protect him. How could he not be moved by that?

    Lan Jue approached her and took Luo Xianni gently by the arm. "My brother and I are orphans. After Jue Di took us under his wing, we spend all of our youth training. We had no one to turn to when it got hard. When we started going to school, the worst part of the day was always just before and just after classes. We'd watch other kids get picked up by their parents. We just had each other. He's never said anything about it, but I know Lan Qing saw it the way I did. Those were the times we wished we had a mom and a normal family. Now I have a chance to look after you as you grow old."

    Luo Xianni reacted to his sweet display by rapping her knuckles against his skull. "What do you mean grow old?! You think I'm old? Go and cultivate, I'm going to have a look around." She pointedly wrenched her arm from Lan Jue's grip and then vanished in a blink. The only evidence she'd been there were a couple drops of water.

    1. There are several words for mother or mother in law in Chinese. Previously TJSS was using mother in law for a lot of these addresses, but I shortened in to mom because it's clunky in English. Part of the wedding ceremony in China is to change the way you refer to your spouse's parents. You drop the more respectful term for the more familiar, like 'Mother' to 'Mom' or in our case, 'Ma.' It's a touching display of acceptance for someone, like adopting them as your mother and taking on the responsibilities that entails.
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