Chapter 603: Stingy Men Find No Women

    Chapter 603: Stingy Men Find No Women

    Lan Jue nodded. "Who are you talking to, of course I succeeded. He agreed, he's off cultivating now. By the way, I plan to bring Star Division to An Luo."

    The Wine Master didn't expect the news. "Now?"

    "My soldiers profited greatly from the Pauper's breakthrough," Lan Jue explained. "However, didn't kinds of protogenia are suitable for different kinds of people. The more we encounter circumstances like this, the better it is for everyone. My brother is about to break through, so I'd like to bring the Division by. Those who have already experienced an epiphany will stay. The rest of us will head out, and once their insights are experienced we'll return."

    The Wine Master was ecstatic. "Our An Lun super soldier is going to break through? That's excellent news. No problem, take them with you. We'll look after the ones you left behind."

    "Wine Master, you watched the Pauper break through. This is tremendous for the Avenue. What do you think, is it grand enough to drink a glass to?" Lan Jue asked playfully.

    "Aren't you and the Driver going to continue practicing? Why would you drink?" he Wine Master challenged.

    The Drive waved a hand dismissively. "Everything in moderation. There is time for work and time for pleasure, such is the way of civilian and military life. We've already succeeded to a point today, even learned something about protogenia. You know, Wine Master, stingy men find no women."

    The Wine Master's eyes flit quickly to the Clockmaker who sat beside him. She appeared not to have heard, and simply remained still and silent.

    "Very well, what do you want to drink?" The Paragon's tone was tight. He was fighting to hide his irritation.

    Lan Jue made as though to rise. "How about I go to the cellar and pick one out? Just whatever I find."

    "Over my dead body!" The Wine Master couldn't help himself. His hoary response surprised even the Clockmaker. She lifted her head and looked at him.

    His face reddened in embarrassment. "Sorry, I was a little excited. You don't know, these fellas are hardly human when they come by here! They've helped themselves to nearly all of my best wines. I'm not being stingy, these 'gentlemen' are taking advantage."

    A gentle laugh curled her lips. "Good things are meant to be shared with friends."

    Skyfire Avenue's leader paused, but ultimately nodded. "For the Clockmaker's sake,

    I won't be cheap with you guys." As he spoke the Cosmagus waved his hand. With a flash of silver light, several items appeared atop the table.

    There was a strange but pleasingly classical wine decanter and four crystal glasses. And of course, a bottle of wine.

    The Driver stared blankly at the bottle. His preference was for whisky 1. He wasn't as much a fan of the old wines as the other gentlemen were. He was largely here just to enjoy their company. Lan Jue, though, was clearly pleased when he saw it. He turned his eyes, full of meaning, to the Wine Master. "Definitely for the Clockmaker!"

    The woman paused, then looked at him curiously. "How do you mean?"

    Lan Jue smiled. "Comparatively, there's no better wine to please a woman than a sweet white 2 but the fermentation process sweetens them too much. It's a fine drink for a man and woman who share a deep connection. It's called Cos d'Estournel Blanc - from the second village of the Medoc region of France in 1855. The second village was a lauded producer of wines, no less favorable than the region's main fields. It's comparable to places like Leone and Ducru Beaucaillou.

    The Clockmaker turned her attention to pink label on the bottle. "That's this one?"

    "It is!" Lan Jue replied with a nod.

    Her face reddened ever so slightly. She understood what the young Jewelry Master was getting at. The Wine Master shot him a look. "According to you!"

    He laughed. "You're too aggressive. If no one said anything how would she have known? If she didn't know how would she know your heart was in it? I'm your friend, so of course I'm going to help you wherever it seems you need it. Now, Cos d'Estournel needs a relatively long time to decant. Shall we open it?"

    "Yeah," he answered, but was careful not to look the Clockmaker's way.

    Old wines needed to be decanted. Oxygen catalyzes the fragrance and flavor, essentially waking it up. When decanting wines, each one was a little different. However, there were ways to speed the process up like funneling.

    The Wine Master rose. In his left hand he took up the decanter, and in the other he cradled the bottle of wine by its base. He put the neck against the decanter's opening and slowly tipped the bottle over. Little by little he drew the bottle further away from the decanter, revealing a stream of ruby-red liquid.

    When funneling the wine in this way, the most important thing of course was not to spill any. The sommelier needed to maintain a constant, even stream. The further one pulled the bottle back, the most space the wine had to breathe and the better its overall taste.

    Without question, the Wine Master was the most suited to the task. Soon the wine end over end, and he held the decanter down below his waist. The trickle of wine remained unbroken. Its path through the air ensured it was as aerated as possible in so short a time.

    The Clockmaker smiled as she watched. She gently flicked a wrist, and suddenly a strange energy swirled around them. The liquid reacted to it somehow, but it was hard to see just how. It didn't interrupt the flow. The Wine Master gave her look that was both bemused and irritated.

    Lan Jue laughed and gently clapped his hands. Using time-manipulating protogenia for wine. Extravagant!"

    She smirked back at him. "They're my abilities and I've been wanting to use them. Nothing extravagant here. I'm anxious to try this wine you say girls like. I'm curious about the flavor."

    Five minutes later, most of the wine was sloshing safely within the decanter. He left about a finger-width of wine left in the bottle. That sip was thick with tannins and other harsh tastes, so it would not be imbibed.

    There was an unforgettable character to Cos d'Estournel. One could smell licorice and spice, with notes of cream, blackcurrant, blackberries and toast. The wine was full of body, pure and thick 3. The tannins had already melded perfectly with the wine.

    "It's a little bland for me," the Driver said.

    Lan Jue smiled at his drinking buddy. "You're used to drinking spirits, of course you'd think so. Next time we'll have the Wine Master bring us by for a Mouton-Rothschild. It's the most flavorful wine of the whole Bordeaux region."

    The Clockmaker quietly sipped the contents of her glass. She didn't say anything or engage in their conversation. It looked as though she were lost in thought.

    The Wine Master continued the conversation. "When do you plan on leaving?"

    "Soon as possible," Lan Jue stated. "I don't know how long he'll be able to hold back his Domain. Dad's there, but it would still be a good idea to get there as soon as possible."

    The Wine Master nodded. "Alright. The soldiers who weren't blessed with insight should be ready to wake up in a few hours. The earlier you leave, the earlier you can get back and resume training."


    Lan Jue's mind went back to the last time he brought guests to An Luo. His A.R.C. students had fought valiantly against his brother's crack soldiers, and learned a lot from the special opportunity.

    "Since I'm bringing them out there, we might stay for a little while. We've tempered them against the pirates, but I think it's about time they learned how to handle a straight fight. Since DreamNet and the sim pods have been upgraded, I think we can probably arrange that, we'll give it a shot."

    The Wine Master thought for a moment. "Alright, you can keep track of your own time."

    Just then, the paragon's communicator beeped. He dropped his head to take a look, when suddenly his face darkened.

    "What is it?" the Driver asked.

    The Wine Master's voice was low and solemn. "We've lost contact with the scout team in the Shattered Starfields. We got nothing back."

    His dour expression was quickly matched by Lan Jue and the Driver. They both knew what this meant.

    Lan Jue replied. "The North's scouts managed, they even sent a whole fleet. The planets must have some way of foiling spies, that's the only thing I can think of."

    The Driver chimed in. "The benefits of military intelligence go without saying. We know so little about them, almost nothing - we're too passive. If it weren't for our lucky run-in, the aliens would probably completely control the Starfields by now, including Moonfiend. I think we need to alert the Alliances, and tell them that we need to improve reconnaissance no matter the cost. At the very least we need some warning before the planets teleport. If we don't, we're just sitting here waiting to get smacked around."

    A sigh caused the Wine Master to heave his shoulders. "If only it were so easy! We sent our top scouts, and this was the result. I agree with the Jewelry Master's determinations. These aliens are intelligent, and they likely picked the Starfields because they knew we couldn't bring large ships in. They can feed without worrying over whether we'd interrupt. Large ships can't get in, and small ships are destroyed outright. Then there's the magnetic field that prevents communication. This is a very big problem.

    It was Lan Jue's time to sigh. "I'll go!"

    1. Man after my own heart.

    2. Every woman I know loves red.

    3. TJSS says 'like establishing a skyscraper in your mouth'. I know it's my job, but I haven't the slightest idea what that means.
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