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Chapter 573: I’ll Send Her Home

    Chapter 573: I'll Send Her Home

    Tears trickled down A-Mei's face. Everything she'd lost flashed before her eyes. She had had parents she loved, a prosperous family, a childhood sweetheart... All of it was lost the day the pirates took her. It was like she'd fallen into the depths of hell. Worse, a world of pirates.

    In three painful years she was transformed from a sweet girl to a deadly spider, willing to do whatever it took to get vengeance. By the end no man dared come near her.

    Today had been dry until at least a new mark from off-world came wandering into her clutches. Good, she'd thought, another victim. It was the only thing that got her poison heart racing anymore.

    The other soldiers looked on, silent as A-Mei wavered between sobbing cries and mad laughter. Their missions through the Starfields had filled some of them with hesitation. This had been a one-sided slaughter, and they hadn't seen much evidence of how terrible the pirates really were. This woman's story was a reminder of why they were here.

    The Driver slowly rose to his feet. He pushed his seat back, and walked with heavy, thudding steps until he was in front of A-Mei.

    "You're going to do it? That's fine, come on then. At least you're not a real pirate." A-Mei pulled her shoulders back and looked the Driver in the face. There was no trace of fear in her eyes.

    Bang! The Drive pulled back a fist, then it came crashing into the bronze skin of his own face. Welts were his knuckles made contact were starting to show.

    The pirate gasped and staggered back. The Driver's eyes never left hers. "I'm sorry," he growled.

    He extended a hand and pulled A-Mei behind him before turning back to Xiaosu. "This woman is under my protection. I want to send her home."

    Xiaosu regarded him with a hard gaze. "You agree to accept all responsibility for what she does? Have you thought about if she's a spy? Or if she kills again?"

    The Driver was quiet for a time before answering. "She'll be by my side the whole time, under my supervision. If she is a spy, I'll kill her myself. For now, I'm protecting her."

    Unexpectedly, Xiaosu replied with a nod and a sweet smile. "Alright." She wandered back over to Lan Jue. There was one more Long Island iced tea, and she had no qualms taking it for her own. She drank this one with slower sips.

    The Driver looked at her with a dumbfounded expression. "That's is?"

    She waggled a hand at him dismissively. "She's all yours, I've given my answer. What else do you want?"

    He looked at Xiaosu's placid expression, then to the motionless Lan Jue seated nearby. "Why do I feel like I'm being tricked," he muttered.

    A-Mei was just as surprised. She was ready to pay with her life for her crimes, but life had other plans. This large, scruffy man intervened to spare her and bring her home. And the Moonfiend Empress agreed!

    Lan Jue nodded at the Driver. "When things kick off, bring her along. One more person in your mecha shouldn't be a problem, should it?"

    The Driver shook his head.

    Xiaosu then turned to Lan Jue. "Boss, we need to talk. With A-Mei's information we can perfect our plan."

    "Hm," he grunted in agreement

    Su Xiaosu quickly gathered the Division leaders together in the bar. A-Mei stood beside the Driver in a daze. Where they really just going to leave her to her own devices like this? And was that man being honest? Was he really going to take her home?

    "May I change my clothes?" She suddenly asked.

    "Go ahead," the Driver responded.

    She didn't move. "You're just going to trust me? You're not afraid I'm going to run?"

    "First, you can't run," the Diver said bluntly. "And if I misjudge you then I'll gouge out my own eyes. I bullied you terrible when I ran into you. I hit myself as an apology. Relax, so long as I'm breathing you will get back home. I may not be a good man, but when I make a promise I stick to it the best I'm able. You're also no fool, and you know the alternative is to stay here. Let me tell you, we are not pirates. We're here specifically to kill them. Now go change clothes."

    The pirate mistress turned and left. The Driver didn't even watch her go. True to his word, he trusted her.

    A-Mei's face was wet with tears even before she reached the back of the bar. Could this be the start of another dramatic change in her life?

    Su Xiaosu got the meeting underway. She laid out everyone's next tasks in detail. The attack would once again commence at dawn, when the pirates were at their least attentive. She shared their decisions with Majesty one and confirmed when to start.

    Their primary target didn't change, they were hitting the main planet first. Majesty and the Photographer were to handle the rest.

    Everything had to work in perfect harmony. If a single thing went wrong, the whole plan could collapse.

    Mei returned. When she went back to her spot at the Driver's side, her new protector could only stare. He couldn't draw his eyes away.

    She was even more beautiful without all of the makeup. Purer, almost delicate. Her body was encased in a tracksuit like she was preparing for a spring stroll. With her new wardrobe she looked like she was in her mid-twenties. She certainly turned heads.

    To think of what happened to her lit a fire in the Driver's chest that threatened to explode. Redbeard, ey!

    A-Mei didn't stand around. She knew the bar well enough, and handed out drinks to the soldiers. Everyone treated her well. She found that when they looked at her, it was with pity, not contempt. The madness within her fizzled away. No matter what was going to happen, they'd given her hope.

    The meeting lasted an hour before the details were ironed out. Once it was complete everyone went about their own business. Aside from a couple guards to keep the curious at bay, the Star Division soldiers rested before the operation began.

    Third and Fourth Brigades had also arrived at the bar. Zeus-1 was ready to lend support. The Gourmet and the Pharmacist were waiting near their targets.

    Everything was in place.

    Darkness hung over the city like a specter, bringing silence in its wake. Strange sounds would echo from time to time as illicit dealings happened in dark corners, but these were common. This was a corrupt city in a corrupt world.

    Su Xiaosu sat by the entrance to the bar with her arms wrapped around her knees. She stared out onto the streets with a far-away expression.

    "What's up? What are you thinking about?" Lan Jue took a seat beside her.

    She sighed. "There are so many women in the Shattered Starfields with a story like A-Mei's. I can't tell you how many I've heard, each one like a dagger in the chest. Most women kill themselves after they've been raped. Only the beautiful and the strong survive."

    "That comes from corruption and evil. When we've cleaned up the Starfields, all of that will stop. I know there will always be evil, but after the aliens are dealt with, they will be cleansed again. Whether it's five years, ten years, twenty years down the line, we will keep this place free from the nightmare these women had to live through. We'll erase the pirate infestation wherever it crops up."

    Xiaosu's eyes lit up as she gently placed her head on his shoulder. "You know boss, I've always liked you. I love your kind heart."

    Lan Jue jerked. He could tell she was in a vulnerable place right now. Did she not have her own life full of misery and despair? Only she knew the breadth of torment she'd had to endure just to survive initiation into the Citadel. Every day in the perilous world of piracy was a test of willpower. Every decision had to be met with strength and ferocity or she would drown in their sin.

    Right now she didn't need to be told no. All she really wanted was a solid shoulder to lean on.

    Su Xiaosu shut her eyes. She stayed like that with her head on his shoulder, silent, hardly moving. Eventually Lan Jue felt her breathing deepen, and she fell asleep.

    Exhausted didn't begin to describe the former Empress. She was the true force behind the Star Division.

    Sometime later Xiaosu shot awake with a gasp. In a blink she was wide awake with murder in her pretty eyes.

    "It's time!" She shot to her feet and let out a shrill whistle.

    Lan Jue looked at the vibrant Moonfiend Empress at his side. Her enthusiasm brought a smile to his face. This was their true Queen! She never felt like she fit in before, but Archangel or Empress she did not wish to be lonely. Perhaps the Star Division would be what she sought.

    Lan Jue stood as well, then silently launched himself into the air. He gently landed on the roof and cast his eyes into the distance. He could see them, shadowy figures racing through dark streets. It was starting!

    The Driver appeared at his side. "Let's go. We've got this."

    "Yeah."

    The two of them rose into the air. Their task was simple; enter the palace and take the enemy's seat of power. When they had the palace, they had their hands on the controls, including the railgun. With the fortress' defenses they would be fortified for the next attack.

    The Moonfiend Palace appeared on the horizon. Dawn was approaching, but the evening lights surrounding the palace twinkled charmingly.

    Lan Jue and the Driver tumbled to the ground silently like leaves on the wind. They vanished in the dark corners of the streets. Lan Jue narrowed his eyes, nodding at the Driver. The two men became bolts of lightning, and in a flash vanished from sight. The ring of lights surrounding the structure flickered, but quickly returned to normal.

    When Xiaosu built the palace, she made it look like an old fortress. However, beneath the stones were a great number of metal instruments and alloy supports. They were for all intents and purposes storming a castle.
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