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Chapter 568: Channeling the Empress

    Chapter 568: Channeling the Empress

    Su Xiaosu turned to Lan Jue. "Commander. We will have brigades one, two and three break up and disseminate throughout Crescent City. Once we're in, we can keep in touch through our communicators. It'll take about an hour for a mecha to get from Crescent City to Luna, the inner city. Once we get there we regroup, then proceed to the next part of the plan."

    Eight hundred soldiers exited the mines. Fourth Brigade spread out to scout enemy positions while the rest made their way to Crescent City.

    Pirate cities grew organically around their bases. There weren't any checks and people were mostly allowed to go where they pleased. Slaves, though, were confined mostly to the slums.

    The working class typically had ten days on and two days off. They were given a small salary as well, something Su Xiaosu fought to implement. She had always been good-hearted, and pitied their suffering. Under her direction the laborer population on Moonfiend lived long and comfortable lives. Uprisings were rare things.

    Crescent City was the second largest establishment behind Luna. Pirates numbered a relatively small amount of the population here near the mines. Most were slaves.

    Slaves, though the alternative would have been death. The Moonfiend Empress had tried to kill as few as possible. Instead her prisoners were brought here to help build the city they would live in. The capacity to adapt was in every human, and in times of adversity we relied on habit. To most, life was more precious than pride.

    There was a reason Su Xiaosu chose to lead the troops in to Crescent City, of course. The slanted demographics worked in their favor - unlike Luna, which was largely occupied by pirates. It was calmer here, and easier for them to blend in.

    Pirates would be pirates, and expansion was as true here as it was in any other part of the Starfields. Planet Moonfiend was the jewel of pirate culture, and four or five cities had sprung up across its surface. Every one of them was still growing or opening mines or reclaiming land. Xiaosu's designs were inspired. With enough time she would have turned this planet into a metropolis as impressive as anything in the Three Alliances. It would have become a center of order and stability, radiating out through the system - for independence! The Morning Star had always been self-reliant, headstrong, and ambitious. Her goal had been to create a glorious pirate queendom.

    But as it turned out, her dreams were impossible in the face of power. The Pontiff did not give her time.

    Only consequences bring our failures in to focus. Su Xiaosu had to be betrayed and nearly killed before she would shed her pride. Lan Jue's daring rescue convinced her to give him her loyalty.

    While Lan Juo did his business on Luo, Xiaosu locked herself away and focused on cultivation, to return to her former strength. She had had so much time to think, about everything. All that she'd experience was on display like an old movie. Being faced with it all made her conflicted, and depressed. She realized she needed a strong shoulder to lean on.

    She knew Lan Jue had his heart set on another. He would never love her. Even if he was one to take several lovers, he had his Amazons. Mika and the others were amazing women in their own right. That's why she was so emotional when they'd returned to Skyfire Avenue. She could not be his lover, so she had to prove her worth. Otherwise, how could she measure up to the Amazons!

    She returned to Planet Moonfiend. She paid her dues through hardships, freeing her people from the Pontiff's clutches with the help of Lan Jue's ship. Eventually she got knew of the Star Division. Her heart jumped for joy.

    When the Archangels had her in their dungeons, they'd filled her with drugs to break her mind. However, they also spared no effort in keeping her body healthy. Su Xiaosu was the greatest military strategist the West had seen in a generation. She had proven her masterful command through her efforts in the Starfields. Su Xiaosu knew the time had come to prove her worth.

    The Star Division ended up surpassing her expectations. It was strong, adaptable, and in no time at all the soldiers were fighting like a veteran outfit. Step by step they were becoming a force to be reckoned with.

    A single unit could take on a hundred enemy mechas and walk away unscathed. They were also individually capable, giving her space to be creative with her pirate tactics.

    Once-in-a-generation tactician or not, her heart still swelled when she saw her city again after so long. She knew she shouldn't have any connection to this place, but she was just human, after all.

    Because most of the slum's populace were workers, the streets were deserted at this time of day. Lan Jue's soldiers were disguised well, and no one gave them any mind as they gathered within the city.

    "Xiaosu, are you alright?" Lan Jue turned his concerned eyes to the former pirate queen, standing beside him.

    She shook her head. "I'm fine. Once we get settled here, the next target it Luna. We'll spread out all through the city, and once everyone's in place the first place we hit is the Moonfiend Palace. That's where they keep the planetary defense hub. Once we have control, we hold this place with everything we got. I designed the Palace like a castle with all the tools we'll need to stave them off. Meanwhile, a second force will head for the airship hangars where they'll disable battleships controls. When those two things are done, planet Moonfiend is ours. The pirates will come at us, so all we need to do is fortify this position and wait until they exhaust themselves. Then we make our move."

    Lan Jue nodded. "Good. That's the plan."

    The Driver suggested taking the pirates' battleships and using them to take the city. It was more direct, he argued. However, Xiaosu vetoed the idea for the simple reason that they didn't have the people. Trying to man as many battleships as were here would leave no ground troops. Then there was the time it took to get the ships in the air.

    Once they took control of the ships news would have spread to the pirates. Suddenly they would have the entire pirate fleet against a few battleships, and that would throw off all their plans.

    Blowing them up was easier. A few timed explosives was simpler than flying a hundred ships around.

    After careful deliberation, everyone decided to go with Su Xiaosu's original plan.

    The troops settled down in the slums. They ate their own food and spent time in rest or contemplation, waiting for deployment. It would be some time before that happened, too. They had to wait for intel from Fourth Brigade.

    Going in blind was a recipe for disaster.

    Xiaosu approached Lan Jue. "Let me take in to the city, boss. After this operation, the Moonfiend Pirate Clan will be wiped from existence."

    Lan Jue saw the reticence hidden in her eyes. "Xiaosu," his deep voice replied, "we aren't taking everyone. I'd like to, but we have to consider everybody's safety. Our operation will not affect civilians. When we leave there is sure to be around pirate clan that wants the real estate. They'll need people, too. You don't have to worry."

    "Yeah," she answered with a soft smile. "You relax too, boss. I've made up my mind, or have you forgotten? I used to be the heartless and cruel Moonfiend Empress. I just want to take a final look at what I made. No matter the outcome of the battle, this is likely the last time I come here."

    "Alright, I'll go with you." The two, dressed in their dirty worker gear, walked further into Crescent City.

    A lot of the construction here was similar to other pirate bases; squat buildings made of metal. Metal was the most durable, easily produced material they had. Occasionally there were stone structures, peppered here and there. They had more personality.

    There were even fewer people the further into the city they went. Xiaosu explained that those who lived here usually had specific, specialized skills. Pirates, like anyone else, needed talent if they were to advance.

    As they wandered the streets, Su Xiaosu heaved a sigh. "So eager for quick success."

    Lan Jue cast her a sidelong glance. "What's that?"

    "Not much has changed since they took me away," Xiaosu said. "The population might have decreased. It means they aren't sticking to m plan. When I was in charge the population doubled every year. This was the epicenter, and other cities were dreamed up within these walls. At that pace we would have been self-sufficient in no more than ten years. It would have made up even stronger.

    "But the ones at the top were only ever interested in swallowing up as many pirates as possible, as fast as possible. It didn't matter if they could work together. They ignored the problems within and just let them fester. They think its power, but they contribute nothing. Instead they are like a cancer, rotting away from inside."

    Lan Jue smirked. "You sound like you're channeling the Moonfiend Empress!"

    Xiaosu blinked and shook her head. "You're right! I guess you can never really stop being a pirate queen. Oh my, look at that woman's figure." As she spoke, Xiaosu's eyes panned ahead.
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