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Chapter 703: Arriving

    Chapter 703: Arriving

    Lan Qing paused for a moment, then continued. "But that doesn't mean their fight was without purpose. It was worth at least fifty recon sorties. They learned a lot about how the enemy fights and reacts, and that will make the war easier. The North must also have done their research, which is part of the reason I have to go to this meeting - to better understand. It can only help us in the long run."

    Lan Jue rejoined. "The North is still will make their attempts. As we were retreating we continued to field requests from Tyrannosaurus to meet - obviously a ploy to get us in firing range. You hold an important position in the East, don't you think this is dangerous walking into the enemy's clutches? What if..."

    Lan Qing waved his hand. "No time for 'what if.' I've told you, I trust in my intelligence. Right, it's time for you to cultivate. We can discuss more of this once you've become a Paragon."

    Shit, some brother! This is discrimination! Lan Jue speechlessly arose and left for his room. His Amazons snickered behind his back. The only person who would dare treat Lan Jue that way was his brother.

    Lan Qing stared out of the window with a thoughtful expression. Whatever he was thinking, though, remained a secret.

    Lan Jue couldn't remember how many times he'd visited Luo by now. Last time it was to participate in the Great Adept Tournament. To hide his identity he wore a hat and sunglasses, but declining the mask Poseidon preferred. Lan Qing also wore sunglasses, and a black outfit complete with a dark windbreaker. He looked like a fashionable tourist.

    At least it's not a military uniform, Lan Jue inwardly commented.

    The Pharmacist walked beside Lan Jue. Today she was dressed in a tailor-fit white dress. Half of her face was hidden behind a pair of large sunglasses, the rest expressionless. Her aura was constrained and the only person who would be able to sense her presence were the ones she allowed.

    Although they concealed their identities, the three of them were still the focus of some attention. The reason was simple - they were tailed by four beautiful women.

    Mika, the Stygian Succubus, was dressed in her typical work uniform; a deep blue fancy outfit, but with her glasses and fiery red hair she looked more the temptress.

    The other women were similarly dressed - perhaps intentionally, perhaps not. White blouses and skirts cut to the knees, only the colors varied. Xiuxiu's clothes were a pale maize, Ke'er wore aqua, and Lin Guoguo stood out especially in a hot pink outfit.

    They were the definition of eye candy. One alone would have drawn eyes, four together couldn't avoid them.

    Lan Jue couldn't help but ask if they were ready to walk some runway he wasn't aware of. They looked back at him with big eyes threatening tears, and he couldn't say no. At any rate it didn't matter what they wore, they still would have been a sight on Luo's drab streets. If they'd worn combat gear it would have been just as bad, if not worse.

    Lan Jue's sole point of gratitude was the fact Qianlin wasn't walking with them. They were safely melded together. Though Lan Jue's cultivations were curtailed, Xuanyuan Shishi was able to lead Qianlin in her own meditations to help her advance.

    As the Eastern representatives left the airfield, Lan Jue's first thought was how many people were out on the street. Luo was one of the largest planets to house humans, but it seemed almost jam-packed. Crowds jostled like ants packed in their tunnels, shoulder to shoulder. Peering into the distance, one could only see a sea of bobbing heads.

    Of course, large groups of people gathered the interest of those with less than savory intent. Gentlemen with impure intentions tried to saddle up to the Amazons, but they were on high alert and had little patience. An invisible, inexplicable shield surrounded them that kept the rabble at a safe distance. The bolder among them were quickly silenced by Mika's sour temper and hellfire.

    "No one's coming to meet us?" Lan Jue questioned his brother. Lan Qing was supposed to have arranged everything.

    Lan Qing glaned at him, a look like he was staring down an idiot. "You told me you were worried about safety, and now you're asking why our presence isn't being advertised. Do you want to paint a target on our backs? Are you not thinking?"

    "I..." Lan Jue felt defeated. After his brother's breakthrough to Paragon he couldn't even win a verbal argument.

    "So where are we going?" He asked instead.

    "I've arranged everything. Come with me." Lan Qing walked on without waiting for his answer. The seven of them walked for a short distance before stopping in front of a very average looking verti-car. It looked like a large taxi with more than a few hard years of service under its belt.

    Lan Qing opened the door and politely motioned the women inside. Then he and Lan Jue entered.

    Their driver was a large man in a baseball cap. He also wore sunglasses, and a cigar hung from the corner of his mouth. "Let's go," Lan Qing ordered.

    The driver didn't speak. Apparently already in the know, he urged the verti-car into the air and toward Luo City. Despite the run-down appearance of the car, the driver was skilled. The journey was quick and smooth. Verti-cars like these flew about ten meters above ground. That was about their limit, and was the main separating factor between them and high-altitude transport.

    The crush of people was even more apparent once they reached the city interior. Undoubtedly this had to do with the evacuation order. Luo was the North's largest planet, and one of its safest. It made sense, then, that people would choose to evacuate here. However, it looked like the planet was already at max capacity.

    "Status," Lan Qing softly asked.

    Finally the driver opened his mouth. His voice was low, but clear.

    "The city is close to capacity. Inflation is rampant, food and essential goods are three times more expensive than they were before the aliens showed up - even with the Northern government trying to stabilize markets. If they didn't things would be ten times what they are now. Resources have been brought in from other planets to manage demand. Things are fine for now, but population growth has been unchecked for years. Word is they can sustain this for twelve months before it collapses."

    "What about the North's resource planets?" Lan Qing asked.

    The driver replied. "No good. They're sticking to pre-war plans, meaning mining, refining and manufacturing haven't stopped. Products must continue to flow to protected planets. At least that's the plan, but stories of the aliens' savagery are rampant. No one wants to work on an exposed planet. Everyone knows if the aliens show up and there's no fleet or Bastion to protect them, they're as good as dead. Even soldiers don't want to be stationed on resource planets. All of this means production is stalling, and we humans consume a lot."

    "Right now it looks like we've got our heads above water, but that won't last. If the aliens don't show up within the planned timeframe there will start to be restrictions imposed. No entertainment, luxury items, less food... it'll lead to chaos."

    Lan Jue quietly listened to the driver, and his heart sank with every word. Skyfire wasn't even close to being in such dire straights even though it'd already opened its door to refugees.

    The North was strong, and had always encouraged childbirth. Because of this they had been in the midst of a baby-boom. They had planets that needed populating, after all. Now that population explosion was proving to be a problem. It was going to be difficult for leaders to find a solution.

    Lan Qing was nodding thoughtfully. "So the North must be anxious. Has there been any news of a second assault against the alien planets?"

    "Yes," the driver replied. "Congress has been mulling over a plan in the last few days, so has the army. Practically all available resources are being pumped into military production. The only way to fix their problems is to destroy the source, so no effort is being spared to find ways to destroy the aliens. It's the reason they called for the Human Survival Conference, so a solution can be found before the problem gets worse."

    Lan Jue was surprised, but he kept it to himself. Obviously the driver was a plant, arranged by his brother. How he learned so much about the inner working of the Northern government he didn't know, but this simple-looking driver was definitely more than he let on!

    In the space of their conversation, they'd arrived. The taxi stopped before a small building in the Western style, simple and innocuous.

    "Finding rooms is very difficult," the driver explained. "I could only find rooms for two, small apartments. Best I could do." He pulled to the side of the road and his passengers disembarked. Then, he relinquished his car to the valet and led them into the hotel himself.

    Now that he was out of the car his height was clear, only a little shorter than Lan Jue and his brother. Lan Jue didn't know why, but suddenly he thought the man looked familiar.
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