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Chapter 702: Human Survival Conference

    Chapter 702: Human Survival Conference

    "It's because of what my teacher taught me, it helped me grow fast. He told me that when he leaves I must continue to improve myself in the starlight. Then I will understand everything. He left a lot behind for me, so I come in here to play every day."

    As Lan Jue looked upon her a seething pang arose in his chest. She said she was here playing, but how lonely she must be!

    "Daddy, I'm going to be strong soon. I can already feel that you and mommy aren't happy - there's so much for you to do. Don't feel bad, things will work out. But you have to be careful, be careful with yourself and the people near you. I feel there's a shadow following you, sometimes close and sometimes far. But it had a close connection to you. Not one... two. One is good and one is very bad."

    Lan Jue didn't know how to react. People near him? For some reason a chill overcame him and he was filled with memories of Hera's death. The same dark despair from all those years ago welled up in his heart.

    "Can you tell me if you see anything else?"

    But Jun'er shook her head. "No, I'm not strong enough. And you're my daddy... it's harder when you're close to the subject. But I can feel you are more threatened than in danger. It will be fine. The danger is for the person who wishes you well."

    Prophets were famously ambiguous. They had the gift of sight, but rarely was that sight clear. Lan Jue believed Jun'er without a shadow of a doubt anyway, though he wasn't sure precisely what she meant. They played for a little while until Jun'er said it was time to cultivate, then he left.

    When he returned to his room he called his brother.

    "What is it?" Lan Qing's voice bore that typical distant chill.

    "Hey brother, I assume you know our deal with An Lun?" He asked.

    Lan Qing coolly responded. "I just got the news. When will you arrive? How many men can we expect?"

    "We've got one thousand five hundred," Lan Jue replied. "From what I'm hearing we'll be sending most or all of them. Aside from the soldiers we're also sending a team responsible for overlooking Avenue resources. We'll probably need a sector for ourselves, seeing as altogether we'll be sending about three thousand people."

    "Alright." Lan Qing replied without hesitation.

    Were it anyone else Lan Qing likely wouldn't have agree to accommodating non-combat personnel, but Skyfire Avenue was a special case. It was Skyfire Avenue' vital crystals that had bought An Lun a second interstellar fleet! What's more, the addition of Star Division would double the strength of An Lun's forces.

    "When is it convenient for you for us to arrive?" Lan Jue asked.

    "You don't. We've been ordered to move our people there."

    "Here? You mean the fleet?" Lan Jue inquired.

    "Everything," Lan Qing replied.

    "What does 'everything' mean?"

    "That's a military secret. You'll know soon enough." It was clear he wasn't getting anything out of his brother.

    Lan Jue sighed helplessly. "Fine, then we'll wait for you to show. I'll get Star Division ready."

    "There's no rush," Lan Qing said. "As Star Division's commander you're coming with me to a meeting. Military conference. You'll represent your interests there."

    Lan Jue blinked. "What conference?"

    Lan Qing told him what he knew. "It's been organized by the North, a conference to decide the best way to deal with the aliens. They're calling it the Human Survival Conference and each alliance is sending high-level military leaders to discuss strategy. You've personal experience on top of being a commander, so you'll come with me."

    Grudgingly, Lan Jue agreed. "Alright, I guess I'm going."

    "That's all," Lan Qing said. "We'll be leaving for Skyfire tomorrow, and when I arrive we'll go together. The meeting's on Luo."

    "Got it!" He replied.

    After hanging up with his brother, Lan Jue dialed in the Wine Master's number. "Wine Master."

    "What is it?" The older man's voice returned.

    Lan Jue told him what he'd learned from Lan Qing.

    "You are most suited to go to the meeting" the Paragon agreed. "Go ahead, but be careful. You're going with a Paragon, yes? Who will you chose?"

    Lan Jue shook his head. "No need to rush into a decision, either the Gourmet or the Pauper. Probably the Gourmet since we have a better relationship. Someone needs to stay back and look after the Division, too - probably Su Xiaosu would be best for that. But I'll need to find someone to look after the Avenue's affairs."

    "Who do you think?" The Wine Master pressed.

    "Su Xiaosu's busy, the Driver's cultivating... the Coffee Master makes sense. He might be a little lazy, but he's got good attention to detail. There shouldn't be a problem," Lan Jue answered.

    "Alright, let them know."

    He cut the line. Lan Jue chuckled.

    Lan Qing arrived quickly on an FTL transport, the trip only taking him a couple of days. Lan Jue had prepared everything for Skyfire Avenue's eventual move to An Lun, employing the help of his four Amazons. Zeus' Jewelry Store was a simple matter, just a whole lot of power gems. Most of them had already gone t Star Division, but the remainder would be arrange for transport.

    When the time came for Lan Jue to leave he did indeed bring a Paragon, but it wasn't who he'd thought. It was the Pharmacist, not the Gourmet. She eventually left her seclusion, and offered to come after she'd heard that Lan Jue was headed for Luo.

    After her breakthrough the Pharmacist had grown quiet. Her illustrious persona was restrained, as was the sharp aura that so frightened the people she encountered. But what was present was a deep and abiding sensation, like peering into an abyss.

    From what Lan Jue could gather, she was likely the third most powerful Paragon on the Avenue currently. Now that she had broken through she was able to truly command the deadly power of Occisus. How far that command extended, though, they would only learn through experience.

    Zeus-1 lifted off from the airfield and toward their destination.

    In contrast to his brother, Lan Qing didn't bring any guards or entourage. As was typical, he chose to travel alone.

    Zeus' Amazons set about their separate duties, managing Zeus-1. The Pharmacist waited patiently in the waiting room, while the two brothers watched space fly by from a table by a window.

    "You've improved. You haven't been wasting time." Lan Qing nodded his head at Lan Jue in approval.

    Lan Jue nodded back. "I've been working hard. It won't be long before I catch up to you." His words were flippant, but determined.

    "I'm not waiting for you," Lan Qing retorted. "You better hurry."

    Lan Jue changed the subject. "You aren't the only one there representing the East, I take it? Our relationship with the North is less than stellar, so why did they pick you?"

    "Because I command the bulk of our army," he said. "They wouldn't dare provoke us now, and they're too busy with their own business even if they wanted to. Anyway I needed to come, it's the only way for me to understand the thought process of the other Alliances. It's important to understand your allies. I'll need you to tell me what you thought of the North's fighting tactics as well."

    Lan Jue shot him a glance. "Aren't you afraid for your safety? A single person's strength only goes so far."

    Lan Jue's response was tepid. "I'm not not afraid. I'm just confident in my intelligence."

    Lan Jue was at a loss for words. Had he always been so...

    He wanted to laugh... but...

    Lan Jue went on to tell his brother about everything that had transpired in the shattered Starfields, and his opinions on them. He didn't leave out any detail. Lan Qing listened attentively, nodding from time to time as though in thought.

    "The whole thing makes me look at the North with new eyes. Luck didn't make them the strongest Alliance, they strive hard for that distinction. Their soldiers are hard and determined. I still don't like them, but I admire them."

    Lan Qing nodded. "Indeed, they're good soldiers. They just see things differently than we do."

    Helplessly, Lan Jue added. "If it was you facing those planets, what would you have done?"

    Lan Qing looked at him for a moment before speaking. "You want to know?"

    Lan Jue nodded.

    Lan Qing was praised as the ultimate soldier, and the youngest admiral in the Eastern army's history. He was the next generation of military leadership. So what would he have done differently?

    "If it were me," he began, "I would have chosen a better battleground. Fighting within the Starfields was a poor decision. You had no ready support and retreating was slow and difficult. The enemy is largely a mystery, so even if they were evenly matched victory would have been difficult. With so little known about our foe I would have dispatched more scouts for better intelligence. Instead of a direct confrontation I would have continued to harass their outlying forces and captured more resources. Then I'd wait for the right time to strike, but even if I was in danger of missing that opportunity I wouldn't rush in. Strike when the attack would spell their demise!"

    Lan Jue silently mulled over his brother's words, eventually leading to a quiet admiration. Yeah! Rushing into a fight without knowing what you were getting into was a recipe for disaster. But the North had been under pressure to act.
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