Chapter 692: The Verdict

    Chapter 692: The Verdict

    The Pharmacist answered with a small nod. "We've had several dealings with aliens ourselves, and they haven't been so impossible to overcome. However, now they seem particularly impervious. This is true for their awareness and combat prowess."

    Lan Jue nodded, thinking back to the many aliens he'd personally cut down.

    The Pharmacist went on. "There's no such thing as a flawless creature. We are governed by the same rules they are - we just haven't found their flaw yet. I believe that discovering this should be the focus of our reconnaissance mission, and even test it."

    "That makes sense. For example, we can use the same level natural strength and technological strength and see which has the better results." They were all intelligent people. The Wine Master puzzled out her meaning quickly.

    Zeus-1 made the journey quickly. Not long after leaving Tyrannosaurus they were back at the heart of the Starfields. Empty space greeted them where the system's three primary planets had been.

    Lin Guoguo, seated beneath the helmet as usual, stared into the distance with eyes that glittered gold. She continuously cloaked them in psychic obfuscation, while the Blinding Stone kept Zeus-1 out of sight. They stood out as much as space dust.

    In the distance they spotted a group of aliens, all headed in one direction. All the various breeds were represented, but most notable were the saucer-aliens - the kind that carried other smaller creatures with it as it traveled. The host of alien creatures thickly dotted that far region of space as they moved together toward some unseen target.

    Star Division looked on in surprise.

    Lan Jue shook his head. "Last time we came looking there were so few. I thought they were back within the planet, but that doesn't appear to have been the case. It looks like they'd been sent out... somehow outside of the Starfields."

    That would mean they had been dispatched with some sort of goal. They did not, after all, use these smaller monstrosities in the battle against the Bastions. So what was going on?

    Many in the alien horde were strong, strong enough to go toe-to-toe with human Capital ships and with about the same numbers. Why had they been sent out? And to where?

    A break in the throng revealed an alien planet. It was the same one that had attacked Tyrannosaurus.

    Its central vortex had vanished and a thick purple atmosphere hung over the whole planet. Somehow it seemed smaller than it had not long before - probably from the loss of Moonfiend. The alien creatures converged on it from all sides and vanished into the hazy light, like bees returning to the hive.

    Lan Jue and the others watched from a distance. With Lin Guoguo's help they could remain for about an hour without fear of being discovered. Immediately evident was the fact nothing seemed eager to chase after Tyrannosaurus. However Lan Jue didn't dare send this information to Kang Hui, for fear the energy use would attract attention.

    Star Division continued to watch, but as they did the sense something wasn't right began to nag at them.

    As the aliens continued to flow into the planet, the atmosphere around it darkened and it grew in size. The more aliens that came, the larger it got, and the darker its hue became until it was a deep violet. A suffocating sense of oppression could clearly be felt.

    "Could it have been pretending to be weak?" When the words left Su Xiaosu's lips, a cold chill ran up everyone's spine. Strong as they were, could the aliens really have been concealing their real strength? How powerful were they really? It had to be a trick, to lull the humans into believing they knew the truth when clearly they didn't. It would play to their benefit in the next fight, revealing strength the humans didn't think they had.

    "No... it can't be that simple." The Pharmacist watched with furrowed brow. "It's not just about deception. It could just as easily have held back instead of wasting energy to make aliens. There's another reason. Jue Di said that there are limits to how much power any living thing can possess - surpass that and the universe tries to... redistribute that power. If this planet is alive, like we suspect, it must be at or near that limit. It would mean that it had to limit itself by diffusing its energy into those aliens or it risked passing the threshold. This is a tool, an important means of controlling its own growth. What's more, the North's three Bastions could destroy these smaller ones easily. The planets probably sent them out because they cherish the energy these smaller ones contain. They rely on it."

    Lan Jue nodded as the Pharmacist gave her hypothesis. "All of that is a possibility. Let's keep watching."

    The aliens continued to return in an unending flow of purple bodies. Suddenly, their conversation was cut short by a heady burst of power. They looked back at the scene, and in the distance they saw another enormous silhouette come into view.

    Another planet!

    Everyone unconsciously held their breath. Where they going to gather here? It would prove everything they'd guessed. The aliens weren't planning on leaving the Starfields just yet, they would continue to sup on the vital energies of the system while enjoying its protection.

    The second planet was visibly smaller than the first. Its massive purple body slowly came to a stop not far from its twin.

    "Let's go," Lan Jue said. "We have to see if this is the one that destroyed Arachnid."

    Zeus-1 began its approach, slowly closing the distance.

    No scar! The planet showed no signs whatsoever of being in a fight. Either this wasn't the planet Holmen faced or the admiral's sacrifice had been in vain.

    Before they could tell for sure, another tyrannical aura made their hearts skip a beat. The third planet had arrived.

    It radiated an angry violet light, and a deep crater revealed discolored terrain beneath. It looked like a round piece of chocolate some enormous cosmic beast had taken a bite out of. Slowly it approached the other two while a strange and sick fluid flowed in the wound.

    Zeus-1 didn't need to do any more searching for the planet that'd destroyed Arachnid. At least they could confirm that Holmen's final order had caused some damage.

    Here they were, all together. As the humans quietly watched, they witnessed aliens leave from the largest of the planets and head toward the other two, changing them.

    "Boss, I can't hold for much longer." They'd been here for a while, and Lin Guoguo was starting to become exhausted.

    "Let's go," Lan Jue answered. Su Xiaosu swung Zeus-1 around and calmly brought them to a safe distance.

    The last few minutes had been very telling. For the North, it would be a relief to discover they weren't being chased. They were also able to confirm damage to one of them, though at the same time it was clear they could aid one another.

    Zeus-1 made its way to a larger asteroid and settled on its surface. Lin Guoguo immediately sank into meditation to recover her strength.

    "What do we do now?" The Wine Master asked Lan Jue.

    He pondered for a moment. "I want to grab one, bring it back. Like the Pharmacist says, we need to learn more about them if we're going to craft an effective strategy. If things keep going as they are now, we're just waiting for death - far too passive."

    The Wine Master looked at him. "Are you going yourself?"

    Lan Jue nodded. "We've got no Bastion as support and only ourselves to rely on. Without mother here you are the only one that can get us out of harm's way in a hurry, and you'll need time to prepare in that event. It would be too risky to put Zeus-1 in that position. I go out alone, secure a target, and come back - simple. Then we get out of here."

    The Wine Master frowned at the prospect. "You know the Violet Princess has you in her sights. Don't you think this is too dangerous? You don't have Guoguo's psionic pulse to shield you, making you easier to spot to the enemy."

    "It's the same for everyone," Lan Jue countered. "Anybody who goes out there runs the risk of being discovered. That's why you're staying here to prepare for a quick exit. We teleport out of here the moment I get back, no matter what's after me. That's how we stay safe and get out with mission accomplished."

    At last the Wine Master acquiesced. "Very well, just be careful."

    Lan Jue nodded. "Relax, I'll make sure I've got my head on a swivel. You don't think I can take care of myself?"

    "I'm going." The Pharmacist spoke up.

    Lan Jue looked her way, ready to deny her request. But he saw that there was no room for argument in the look she gave him. And there was something else.


    Lan Jue took Zhou Qianlin's hand and brought her to the back of the ship. She followed meekly, with no light of consciousness in her expression.

    When he looked at her beautiful face, Lan Jue couldn't help but sigh. He hesitated for just a moment, then spoke softly to her in a warm voice. "You need to stay here on the ship. You can't come with me this time." He gave her a gentle hug and alight kiss on the forehead.

    He helped her stand to one side. "Wait for me right here, I'll be back soon." He ran a hand along her silken hair, then left.
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