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Chapter 592: Parliament

    Chapter 592: Parliament

    "Aliens!" The Beautician hissed the word through clenched teeth. She spun around and ran from the airfield.

    "I'll go keep an eye on her," the seamstress said to the Gourmet. She hurried after the Beautician. What the bereaved woman needed most right now was comfort.

    Lan Jue swept his eyes over the gathered soldiers. "The Barber's was the first life given to Star Division. I hope he's the last. Go rest."

    "Commander, I don't need to rest. I'm ready to continue training." An Adept stepped out from the crowd, followed by a second, then a third. They didn't say anything, but the resolution in their eyes said enough.

    The Barber's death was painful motivation. These men and women were as smart as they were strong. They recognized that war with the aliens was inevitable. They saw the planets transfer, and knew it meant they had total control of the board. They could devour any planet, any time they wanted. If this was their enemy and a clash was fated, then they had to make themselves the strongest they could be. IT was the only way to survive.

    There were no tricks or shortcuts. The only thing you could truly rely on was your own strength.

    Lan Jue saw the fervor in their gaze. He nodded. "Very well, you have two days to get things in order, then reassemble for training! Dismissed!"

    Star Division dispersed, although the easy atmosphere had disappeared. The air felt ominous. The Accountant reminded everyone through their communicators to keep their mission a secret.

    Lan Jue, the Gourmet, and Su Xiaosu followed the Wine Master toward the parliament building. Remaining members of the Division were free to return home.

    The Eastern Parliament held their meetings in the center of Skyfire City. The building was in an old Chinese style, adherent to the old ways of feng-shui. It was very pleasing to the eye. By the time they arrived, a soldier with a Lieutenant's insignia on his shoulder was already there to greet them. He gave the Wine Master a salute and led them inside.

    The enormous rotunda where the Eastern government convened was a sea of people. In its center was a circular table around which sat leaders of government, headed by the speaker. Lan Jue and the others followed the Wine Master as he descended the steps into the rotunda and toward the middle. He stopped and sat in the first row, and they followed.

    As Lan Jue took his seat, he spotted a familiar face nearby. It was the Chairman of the Eastern Alliance, Zhou Xue Guan. He spotted Lan Jue as well, and after a moment's pause nodded in acknowledgement.

    Lan Jue returned the regards. In reality, he wasn't sure what his obligations were to the man. For all appearances he seemed to be the father of Hera and Zhou Qianlin, yet he knew the Clairvoyant had arranged that.

    As the Skyfire Avenue delegation arrived, a hush fell over the chambers. Boisterous conversation became curious whispers. All eyes followed them to their seats.

    Star Division's commander remained calm and dignified, like a placid lake surface. Underneath, however, his mind swirled with images of the heartbroken Beautician. She looked like he did after Hera died. Hadn't he been just as devastated? You never appreciate what you have until it's too late, and some things are lost forever.

    His pain through those years, and hers in this moment. Where they not the same? How wonderful it would be if there were some cure for regret.

    "Order!" A booming voice rang through the hall, followed by the sharp rap of a gavel. Silence quickly descended upon the congregation.

    Lan Jue lifted his head to look.

    The speaker of parliament was an elderly man with a head of grey hair. He looked to be in his seventies or eighties but his eyes were bright, and he looked well-kept with his slicked-back hair. A black Chinese-style tunic suite gave him a majestic and dignified air.

    All eyes fell upon the speaker. His deep voice continued. "Two days ago, we received very startling news. It was decided immediately to convene this hearing. Due to the gravity of these findings, we've invited several leaders from Skyfire Avenue who participated in retrieving this data. It is our hope that they can tell us, in detail, what transpired within the Shattered Starfields. We have dispatched probes to discover more, and can expect updated intelligence in the next three days. In the meantime, we would very much like to invite the Skyfire Avenue representatives to share their findings now."

    As he concluded, the speaker pressed a button. Lights flickered overhead as a holographic image of Moonfiend shimmered to life. It appeared as it had before the attack.

    Lan Jue looked at the Wine Master a moment. The Paragon answered his unspoken question with a nod. Skyfire Avenue's Jewelry Master then rose and nodded his acknowledgment of the speaker, who in turn motioned for him to approach the round table.

    It was Lan Jue's first time being in middle of such lofty government proceedings, but he wasn't nervous. As former Mercenary King, he was accustomed to matters of life and death. Legislation was in the realm of normal men. It gave him no pause.

    "Hello, Mr. Speaker." Lan Jue politely offered the man a greeting more suited to his station.

    The speaker seemed a congenial man. "Hello," he returned, "how should I address you?" You couldn't determine the status of an Adept by their age. As Lan Jue was here representing Skyfire Avenue, he must be strong. As far as these ungifted humans were concerned, he could be some reincarnation.

    "I am the Jewelry Master of Skyfrie Avenue," he announced. "I am also the one responsible for the Star Division. We were in the Shattered Starfields during the incident."

    The speaker passed the remote for the hologram to Lan Jue. "If you would please tell us what you found?"

    Lan Jue nodded and took the controller. He then turned to face the gathered assembly.

    "Ladies and gentlemen of government, hello. I am Skyfire Avenue's Jewelry Master. This is how you may all address me. Our ships have just landed at the public air hangar. I came as soon as we got the summons."

    He continued, pointing to the planet suspended over his head. "I imagine you've all had a chance to see the video we sent. Yes, we are the ones who witnessed this and brought it back, and if I had to describe the encounter I would say we were lucky. Before I saw it with my own eyes, I'm not sure I would have believed that entire planets could teleport. It goes against everything we know about physics and the energy requirements for moving something of their size. It's no exaggeration to say it's ludicrous. So believe me, I can understand that this may be a hurdle to overcome in gaining your confidence.

    "However, I must assure you ladies and gentlemen, that everything in those videos is true. We paid for them with the blood of one of our own councilors. I must say before anything else, that these beasts are far more deadly than any of us thought.

    "On the ride back I wracked my mind, trying to puzzle out how they could move entire planets. Having the capable to move even one is frightening enough, they could appear at will at any moment, in the heart of our most populated areas. If they can destroy Moonfiend, then no planet in the Alliances is safe.

    "Skyfire Avenue's late Clairvoyant was better known as the Eye of Tomorrow, one of the names on your Paragon List. He told me humanity would face a danger unlike any we'd encountered before. I always trusted what he said, but I couldn't help but be skeptical. The achievements humans have made with our technology and tenacity are incredible. We have the ability to destroy a planet if it came down to it. It is our destiny to dominate the universe. I know there are many of you in the audience who share a similar idea.

    "But seeing those planets appear out of nothing, that changed my thinking. The Clairvoyant was right. If the aliens attacked tomorrow we couldn't defend ourselves with twice the number of Bastion ships."

    Lan Jue pressed a button on the remote control, and the hologram changed.

    The scenery changed to the streets of Moonfiend. It was their fight with the Violet Princess.

    "What appears to be a beautiful young woman is the one called the Violet Princess, self-styled. We assumed she was human and had no evidence to the contrary. This was why one of our councilors known as the Barber approached her to offer aid. The planet was currently in chaos as we were training our soldiers by eliminating pirate clans. Such being the state of things, we worried for her safety. But..."

    He trailed off when the video reached the final moments of the Barber's life. Everyone watched as the Violet Princess turned him into a cloud of blood.

    "Presumably you've all seen this. The Barber made no hostile movements, the woman just struck him down. Judging by how easily he was defeating you might assume he was weak, but if you look into his records you will see that he was one of the representatives for Skyfire Avenue at the Great Adept Tournament. He was a ninth level, third rank Talent - a powerful man.

    The chambers were a sea of hushed whispers once more. Few of the politicians were Adepts themselves, but they knew what an Adept that strong was capable of. Once Lan Jue mentioned the tournament, the audience also slowly began to recognize him. He had represented himself in the tournament as Zeus, but he'd won glory for the whole Eastern Alliance by being crowned champion.

    "I'm sorry to interrupt," the Speaker said, "but are you the Monarch, Zeus?"
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