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Chapter 700: Skyfire Council

    Chapter 700: Skyfire Council

    The Clockmaker's face reddened. "Who'd want to go with you on a honeymoon?" 1

    ζ

    When Lan Jue returned to Zeus' Jewelry Store, his smirk was gone. In the space between his shop and the Gothic Winery, a depression had set in.

    He understood what the Wine Master meant. He wanted to gather all of Skyfire Avenue's strength for when it was needed. Really, Star Division was already just that. Skyfire's greatest Adepts made up the heart of the organization. But Paragons were difficult to manage. What duties could he assign to them befitting of their station?

    They weren't suited to being Division leaders necessarily, since personal strength wasn't what made a good leader. None of them were particularly good mecha pilots, either. These were problems.

    Lan Jue mulled over the problems until Ke'er greeted him.

    He had to break through soon, Lan Jue told himself. Things would be easier to manage once he could count himself among the Paragons. It was rather silly for him to assume people would listen, even as vice-chairman, when they bore so much power. And yet, becoming a Paragon wasn't something you could just choose to do and make it happen. Ascending to such lofty heights didn't happen in the course of a day.

    He also wondered how his father was doing.

    Jue Di had remained on Skyfire Avenue, locked away within the Photographer's shop to cultivate. Since coming back Lan Jue still hadn't seen hide nor hair of him. He only knew his father was cultivating thanks to Luo Xianni.

    When his father came out of his hermitage he would ask him for more instruction. Lan Jue already had his feet firmly planted on the road of the inheritance his father promised, but only Jue Di knew the specifics.

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    Night fell upon the Avenue.

    Skyfire Avenue's councilors gathered for their meeting in the depths of Skyfire Museum. Nowadays the Clairvoyant was Jun'er. She had inherited the Eye of Tomorrow's legacy and powers, and she was growing stronger every day. All of this had been told to him by the Wine Master.

    Meanwhile, the higher-ups in Skyfire Avenue had already determined Jun'er would ultimately be successor to the Avenue's leadership. Once the Wine Master formally stepped down the title of chairman would pass to Lan Jue. Then, when she was ready, Jun'er would assume the mantle.

    The Wine Master had told Lan Jue something the Clairvoyant had told him before his death. He'd said that Jun'er talents were even stronger than his own when he was her age. She would one day become a truly incredible Seer.

    Skyfire Avenue's future looked very good indeed. Part of this was due to luck, otherwise Star Division's growth wouldn't have been so quick. It was staggering to think that in only a short time, the Avenue had gone from three Paragons to eight.

    Stepping into the museum - with its refined atmosphere and the scent of books - makes visitors feel as though they were awash in a sea of knowledge. This place was filled with treasures, including tomes passed down from the ages. It was this extensive library that had attracted the likes of the Bookworm and Keeper. Most of them were eventually relocated to Skyfire Library, but some still remained here.

    Lan Jue had come early, yet already all the councilors but those in seclusion had arrived. The Wine Master sat at the head of the long table with the Keeper to his right. The space on his left was empty, then came the procession of Paragons and finally the Avenue's councilors.

    As Lan Jue approach, they each greeted him in turn. He walked over to the Wine Master and sat in the unoccupied seat to his left. He returned the hails as he walked across the room.

    The council chambers were thick with a sense of solemn duty. It was no wonder, the alien threat was a burden on everyone's mind. Skyfire Avenue was in as much risk of destruction as anywhere else.

    Lan Jue spotted Jun'er quickly. She was seated in the back, away from the others. Although she could not see, her little face broke into a warm smile when Lan Jue looked her way.

    He smiled back. Lan Jue fought the urge to walk over and give her a hug - now wasn't the time.

    "Daddy will speak with you when the meeting's over, clever Jun'er." Lan Jue called out to her.

    "Alright! I haven't seen you in a long time." Much to Lan Jue's surprise Jun'er didn't call out, but relayed her response directly to his ears alone. Transferring sound like that required the Adept to compress the sound waves and release them within the desired scope. It was impressive enough that she could do this without the gift of sight, but remember how old she was!

    An inexplicable feeling surged within Lan Jue's heart as he looked on Jun'er beaming face. No matter what, he had to protect the Avenue - protect mankind. He had to leave something good for future generations to build upon.

    Everyone who would be participating had arrived and taken their seats.

    The Wine Master cleared his throat, drawing all eyes his way. "Hello everyone. I am happy that you were all able to make it. It has been quite a while since we've had a gathering like this. Besides the Pharmacist and the Driver, who have locked themselves away, everyone else has managed to come."

    Everyone was silent, listening carefully as their chairman spoke.

    "I would like to begin with the Keeper. If you would please tell us the results of your research?" The Wine Master turned to address the scientist.

    The Keeper nodded his head. "We have undergone a series of experiments using the alien specimen our Jewelry Master has acquired. Preliminary results have already been aggregated."

    "We have determined that these creatures - like us - are composed of vital energy. However, where they differ is in an ability I have called genetic assimilation. Through our research we have noted that alien breeds can differ wildly, but their cores retain the same traits. Namely, their ability to absorb and assimilate genetic code from whatever they devour."

    "To oversimplify, by consuming a living creature the aliens are able to take specific traits from their DNA and apply it to themselves. In this way their genetic make-up becomes very complicated. However, there is no doubt that this is the process by which their species evolves and strengthens. It is their most terrifying ability, taking what they wish from their victims and transferring it into their genetic material through their cores. Thus it affects every aspect of their live; combat, feeding, breeding and so forth."

    "An alien's strength is directly correlated to the genetic assimilation process. Through constant modification they perfect themselves and their offspring. They are living representations of 'Survival of the Fittest.' Frankly speaking, I continue to be amazed by the perfection of their genetic strands. Through it you can clearly map the evolution of each alien and what they consumed. Each one is unique, risen from the ranks of their weaker kin to become the apex of their species."

    "The Jewelry Master and others have encountered some of the most potent examples of this process. They have chosen to assume human form because - according to them - the potential of the human body surpasses their assimilating capabilities. We suspect this is their ultimate motivation in coming in such large numbers to consume us. It is the enemy's hope that in devouring us they can reach new heights of genetic perfection. Their appearance was not a fluke - it was premeditated. Put another way, the conflict between our two species is inevitable."

    For a moment, the Keeper paused as though to collect his thoughts. "All of these are the advantages we've managed to uncover. This does not mean they are without flaw. Their genetic composition is complicated, and the speed with which they can adjust their DNA structure makes them strong and adaptable. However, by the same vein the complexity of their DNA is a weakness. It is susceptible to mutations and other problems. Because of the immediacy of their evolution, damage to their DNA is immediately reflected through their bodies as a whole."

    "An Adept's Discipline is itself a type of vital energy, inexorably joined with our own ancestral make-up. When it comes in contact with alien genetic structure, the bonds become uncertain - sort of confused. In a sense, our Disciplines are a genetic weapon. Conventional weapons are well-defended against, even mechas. However, if they are infused with Discipline they can bypass the creature's' natural guard and throw their bodies into chaos on a genetic level, causing catastrophic damage."

    At last some good news. The gathered Adepts breathed a little easier knowing their powers' efficacy was backed up by science.

    The Gourmet interrupted. "So you're saying that our Disciplines are these monsters' bane?"

    The Keeper nodded. "In more ways than one. However, this is not an absolute truth. Penetrating an alien deep enough to affect genetic change isn't as easy as it sounds. They have perfected their defenses through constant evolution. They have acquired the ability to isolate their inner environment from all manner of external forces. So, in order to make the most of our inherent advantages, we must discover their vulnerabilities. Once we discover how to bypass their natural defenses, we can better attack them on a genetic level. As is typical with all creatures their brains and eyes are vulnerable."

    The Gourmet nodded thoughtfully.

    The Pauper interjected. "Are we able to create some sort of genetic weapon to fight these things? Do we have the technology?"

    "In theory, yes," the Keeper said. "But it needs to be affixed to some sort of delivery system that gets it passed their defenses, or can affect them mentally. The first option is difficult because getting around their guard is a problem, as we discussed. The weapon needs to be effective already to deliver the anti-gene payload. So far Adepts are more effective than weapons, which is why they must be at the forefront of future weapons design. Ultimately the Jewelry Master's suggestion is best - we use mecha suits to supplement and enhance our Disciplines, making combat against the aliens easier."

    The Wine Master spoke up next. "What about combat ships? Can't they be empowered by Discipline as well?"

    1. This is a very common tease from Chinese women. 'Who would want to...' then whatever the suggestion was. 'Let's go to the movies?' Who'd want to go to the movies with you?' Do you want to eat pizza?' 'Who wants to eat pizza!'. Sometimes it doesn't make perfect sense, but then I don't suspect it's supposed so.
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