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Chapter 618: I’ll Never Leave Again

    Chapter 618: I'll Never Leave Again

    "I never thought you'd come back. Do you have any idea how happy I was to find out I was wrong? I didn't touch a drop of wine. I just stood in the winery, watching you go back and forth on your errands. I told myself no matter what, I wouldn't let you leave again. That's why I'm afraid, because if I offend you you may leave Skyfire Avenue. You might leave me. So long as I get to see you every day, that's enough for me.

    "I came with you even though there is a lot to keep me busy on the Avenue. I realized I can't go a day without seeing your face."

    The Clockmaker was silent, and dropped her head. "I'm sorry. Now I understand why you haven't created your dharma, even though you were always more talented than I was. It was... because of me?"

    He smiled. "This isn't important. You need to be in the right frame of mind to create a dharma, and confidence. I'm just an alcoholic, I don't deserve a dharma."

    The Clockmaker lifted her hand and extended it toward the Wine Master. He looked at her in surprise, but this time did not hesitate. He slipped his hand into hers.

    She pulled him closer, next to her.

    "Time may be my realm, but that doesn't mean I can control it. If I could I would make time flow backwards. I can't say what was right or wrong, all I can do is promise you that I'll never leave again."

    The Wine Master smiled, his first real, satisfied smile in years. There was real joy in his face.

    ζ

    Zeus-1 was on its way at top speed. The Blinding Stone was activated, engaging their cloaking systems. They didn't have to worry about being spotted by any radar. Lan Jue was very vigilant, especially since they'd once narrowly missed the main blast of a Bastion ship heading a similar route.

    After two day of travel, Lan Jue returned to the pirate haven they'd vacated only ten days earlier. Su Xiaosu guided them through the least dangerous passes of the Starfield's shifting landscape. Lan Jue and his team inched closer to the galaxy's heart.

    Lin Guo guo, the Psychic Tide, was seated in Zeus-1's captain's chair with a helmet pressed to her head. She channeled her perception through the ship and out into space around them. No one knew if the alien planets were still here, or where they might suddenly appear.

    It wasn't unthinkable for them to stumble upon the enemy at any moment. That was their greatest fear.

    Zeus-1 reduced speed, choosing safety over efficiency. The slower the ship ran, the less it affected its environment and the smaller its energy signature. With the Blinding Stone they were practically invisible.

    Lan Jue was by the ship's controls. Once they'd entered into the Starfields he couldn't keep his concentration on cultivation. He had to be ready to react the instant danger reared its head.

    Asteroids flitted by their windows constantly. Every few seconds one of the lumbering giants would pass at several thousands of kilometers per hour. If it weren't for a crack pilot and someone who knew the lay of the land, they'd be in real danger of being smashed to bits.

    The asteroids varied in their gravitational pull. It was important to know how much distance was needed to clear them. It was not common knowledge.

    "How far are we from where the three main planets used to be?" Lan Jue asked Su Xiaosu.

    Her voice was soft. "At our current speed, about a day and a half."

    "We aren't in a rush," Lan Jue explained. "Safety first."

    "Aye." She nodded.

    The Driver came walking over with a whisky glass in hand. He handed another one to Lan Jue. "Relax. We aren't going to run into the aliens so quick."

    Lan Jue didn't even have time to refuse before Xiaosu's voice interrupted sharply. "Boss, look!"

    His head snapped to the radar screen. There was a red dot rapidly closing in on their location.

    "Analysis says there's an eighty-six percent chance it's alive," the Accountant cried.

    Lan Jue drained the contents of his whisky glass in a single gulp, then turned to the Driver. "You're a goddamn harbinger!"

    The Driver shrugged back at him. "You're going to blame this on me? I wasn't serious!"

    They bantered, but Lan Jue's mind was sharp. His eyes were plastered to the windows. He didn't have to wait long before it showed up on the horizon.

    The purple, shuttle-shaped body lurched into view. It was one of the carrier aliens, like the one they killed before.

    This one looked bigger, and in his experience size was a good indicator of strength for their species.

    "It's really a damn alien. You want me to deal with it?" Excitement was clear in the Driver's eyes. He and Lan Jue already had a basic grasp of yin-yang lightning, and a tenth of his energy had been transformed already. He wanted to know the limits of this combined thunderbolt power.

    But Lan Jue shook his head. "We mustn't act in haste and alert the enemy to our presence. It doesn't know we're here, so we avoid it. It looks like the alien planets have chosen to use the center of the Starfields as a base. They're sending out feelers to find other life-bearing planets in the system."

    Their mission was reconnaissance, not elimination. They had to focus on bringing back all the information they could about their foe. An alien that size was sure to have a crystal, but Lan Jue didn't want to gamble their mission for greed.

    A host of nervous eyes watched the alien slip through space. Its torpedo-like shape convulsed and contracted as it flew. Like the one before it, it belched plumes of gas to propel itself forward. It could reach several times the speed of light that way. Soon it was passing close by Zeus-1.

    It was none the wiser. Lan Jue called out. "Maintain normal speed."

    "Aye!"

    "Boss, be careful. I can sense a consciousness." Lin Guoguo warned.

    Her boss' eyes lit up. "Speed up!"

    Su Xiaosu and the Accountant burst into action. Zeus-1's engines flared as they were opened wide and shot off at three times speed. A dark purple beam of light tore through the space they'd just vacated. Cold crept up everyone's spine.

    With these Paragons gathered they could survive with a broken ship, but they only had one. It was a dangerous situation to be in, and one Lan Jue wanted to avoid.

    The Driver, his jaw set, turned and entered into one of the ejection capsules.

    "Be careful!" Lan Jue called at him.

    "Relax!" He growled back.

    Zeus-1's attack capabilities were limited. Lan Jue had tried to use them to fight these aliens before to little effect. Their abilities as Adepts were far more damaging.

    "Personnel cannon, preparing first stage."

    "Preparing second stage!"

    "Third stage. Fire!"

    A beam of light fired off the bow of Zeus-1 just as the ship veered to the side. It narrowly avoided another one of the alien's attacks.

    As the Driver raced through space his body was covered in an aura of silver light. In the next instant he was safely cradled in the cockpit of his mecha, Thunderclap.

    The suit had undergone enhancements since the God Battles. Its hull was thicker, and no longer the same blinding bright color. Now it was bulky and dark.

    Two rays of white light radiated from the machine's eyes. It changed direction in midair and shot right for the alien carrier. A massive spear was gripped in its metal hand. It was white, and as the mecha held it a corona of power radiated three meters around the tip.

    Lan Jue watched carefully from the bridge. He wasn't too worried for the Driver's safety. There were five Paragons on board ready to assist at a moment's notice. They could dispatch of this problem with a wave of their hand.

    As he watched the light blazing around Thunderclap's spear, he nodded silently to himself. The Driver had improved quite a lot recently. That light was a sign of his control. Before his Discipline was taiyin based, but now he could draw out the lightning element and condense it into its essence. It was a wonderful achievement!

    The carrier alien sensed Thunderclap's approach but didn't pay any mind to the tiny creature. Its lumbering body was still heading for Zeus-1.

    Lan Jue turned to Ling Guoguo. "Analyze the consciousness you felt. How was it able to find us?"

    Lin Guoguo replied. "It was a special kind of psychic pulse, sort of like sonar. It seems able to resonate with our own psyches, and it's strong. It doesn't appear to do any damage, but it's wide-reaching. It didn't see us, but it did sense us and attack."

    Lan Jue frowned in thought. No wonder all the earlier recon missions failed. They had top of the line cloaking equipment, but so long as they were people on board, the aliens could sense their consciousness. But what about the unmanned drones? There must be another reason they failed.

    As his mind raced, Thunderclap clashed with their alien foe. Being ignored by the beast had sent him into a rage. His mecha became a beam of intense light as he picked up speed, enough to overtake the monster and bar its path. Thunderclap stabbed with its blazing spear.

    Poof! The weapon cut into the alien like there was no resistance. Ripples of silver light undulated out from the wound. The resulting explosion flung the enormous alien away.
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