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Chapter 705: Senior Colonel or Admiral?

    Chapter 705: Senior Colonel or Admiral?

    She wrapped her in a hug and placed her head on his shoulder. "Cry. You'll feel better once it's out."

    The Pharmacist's tears fell like glittering pearls down her cheeks and moistened Lan Jue's shirt. Already he could feel the knot of pain and anger loosen within her.

    "I'm sorry." The Pharmacist pushed herself away and turned from him.

    "Do we need to say sorry to one another?" Lan Jue said softly. "I mean what I said. When the time is right, I'm going with you to get that sword back and kill those monsters. We'll avenge your husband's spirit - and think, if his spirit is watching he wouldn't want you to throw yourself into danger. He would want you to look after Jun'er, look after yourself, and live a good life."

    She gently nodded her head. "Don't worry, I'm not going. I feel much better after crying. You're tired, go rest. Call me when you're going out for food."

    After she promised not to run off Lan Jue was relieved. It looked as though she were returning to normal. Pain was still clear in her glistening eyes, but who wouldn't feel torment after what she'd been through?

    Lan Jue thought about his own tragedies, about Hera, and a stab of pain arose in his chest. Hera's death and Qianlin's stupor, were they not his fault?

    ζ

    Northern Ministry of Defense.

    The building was a six-sided structure on the outskirts of Luo city, ten kilometers in circumference. All matters concerning Northern military and defense were handled here. It was called the Hexagon by journalists and laymen.

    Today, security was exceedingly tight. Soldiers patrolled the grounds armed to the teeth, with meha suits in full view and fighter drones hovering overhead. It was in preparation for the Human Survival Conference, as protection and an honor reception for leaders of the East and West. This was the largest collection of Alliance representatives in over ten years.

    The purpose of the conference was to outline humanity's plan for survival, and pledge cooperation in the battle against the alien menace. The North's grievous loss had shaken the citizens of all nations, and brought the threat to the forefront of international discussion.

    Economies were on the brink of collapse and society was struggling to cope with the ever-present threat of destruction. If there wasn't some good news soon, it could put all three alliances in jeopardy before the enemy even arrived.

    The military was important in this time of crisis. News of their exploits and preparations filled the news feeds of every station. Only a strong and unified people would be able to weather this terrible storm.

    Lan Qing had changed into formal military attire, and Lan Jue was in a finely tailored blue suit. The North's invitation had only been for the two of them. The Astral Phantom drove them to the Hexagon, and it wasn't long before they were intercepted by drones and asked to provide credentials. Once their identities were confirmed they were permitted to continue.

    They proceeded to a parking area where they were asked to disembark, and had to go through another round of checks. Finally, they boarded the Hexagon's internal transportation system and entered into the heart of the structure. The Astral Phantom had to remain behind.

    With them in the transport was a Northern staff officer. He regarded the two brothers for a moment as they entered. They were familiar, he thought, but he could only verify their invitation, not their identities. All he noted was Lan Jue's face, and the fact that the stars on Lan Qing's shoulder didn't match his age.

    "Gentlemen, when you enter the Hexagon you will need to submit to an identity verification process," he instructed.

    Lan Qing nodded, but Lan Jue smirked at the man. "Is there a reason for all these checks? If only the normal folk got the protection military leaders enjoy."

    The officer's face changed, and he looked at Lan Jue a little harder. Lan Qing's expression never changed.

    Before long, the shuttle arrived at its final destination and deposited the two brothers in a room where a military escort waited. When they saw Lan Qing's shoulder bars, they struggled to hide their surprise.

    The transport officer was clearly ignorant and didn't represent the rest of the Northern armed forces. His age, rank and appearance were striking, and even if you didn't know him on sight it was easy enough to guess.

    The first person to greet them was a man whose epaulettes designated him as a Lieutenant Commander. He snapped to salute. "Hello, Admiral."

    Lan Qing returned the salute. "Hello."

    The Lieutenant Commander motioned for them to follow. "Please come with me." With no further adieu, he led them toward the door. This was much better treatment than Lan Jue had enjoyed aboard Tyrannosaurus. The Jewelry Master mused over this as he followed the other two deeper into the Hexagon.

    Their guide walked half a step ahead, speaking as he led them through the halls. "Admiral Lan Qing, I presume?"

    Lan Qing nodded.

    All of a sudden, the lieutenant was the very picture of respect. Lan Qing reputation was known far and wide, not to mention he was lauded as one of the most talented military leaders in all of humanity - and the youngest Paragon!

    "I'm honored to meet you, Admiral." He gave another salute before walking on. He dropped the honorary title of 'Your Majesty', since Lan Qing was a representative of the military.

    From behind Lan Jue smirked. Good, he thought, I don't know how Lan Qing would've reacted if he used his colloquial title.

    As they made their way, a second group came from another hallway. He was an elderly man in a smart dark green uniform A female soldier - likely his secretary - followed in tow.

    Three golden stars glittered on his shoulder, the mark of a general. The woman's insignias said she was a Colonel. Lan Jue was somewhat familiar with military dress and noted that they were Westerners.

    They met in the hall, headed in the same direction. Lan Qing, Lan Jue and the Lieutenant Commander greeted them with a nod before walking ahead. While each Alliance was independent there was a set of unspoken rules, such as allowing higher-ranked military officers to walk ahead of you.

    "You don't have eyes?" A cold voice called out.

    There was a blur as someone cut off their path. It was the young woman, the general' secretary. She made no effort to hide the potent energy roiling within her. Her sharp and threatening aura gave their guide pause.

    "Xiao Chen, stop causing problems." The Western general scowled and chastised her in his deep voice.

    "Sir," she pressed, "you should be walking ahead. These men clearly don't understand their lack of respect." Her words were cold and sharp, and she glared daggers at Lan Qing.

    The Lieutenant Commander who led them was apologetic. "I'm sorry Colonel. Please go ahead."

    Her eyebrows pricked up. "Is this how you Northerners receive your VIPs? Where did you learn military etiquette?  When is it alright to allow a senior colonel ahead of a general?"

    Senior colonel? The Lieutenant Commander was stunned, but turned to look at Lan Qing. Suddenly he understood what was happening. Typically Eastern uniforms were easily identifiable, but Lan Qing's dress was peculiar. Because of his exploits on An Lun, his shoulders were adorned with a pair of aiguillettes. They were marks of distinction, but if one didn't look closely they could be confused for the dress cords of senior colonels. Lan Qing's age added to the misunderstanding.

    He was going to explain, when suddenly another voice cut him off. "Get out of the way!"

    There was a blur of blue as someone else stepped forward and waved their hand. A soft energy filled the hall, but strong enough to make the Western colonel stumble to the side.

    Lan Jue had no patience or respect for Westerns. He didn't know the source of the woman's misunderstanding, only that she'd made his brother a target. They weren't always on the best of terms, but in public Lan Jue was certainly going to stand up for his brother!

    To him, this was a stand-off between the East and West. He was going to win it.

    In truth he didn't have much affection for the North either, after hearing they were in danger of being killed after all they'd done in the Starfields. He wasn't in the mood to suffer any more insults. His brother wouldn't raise a hand? Well he wasn't going to allow such disrespect.

    Still, he was as courteous as he could be with the colonel. He only used his powers to move her out of the way.

    All the while Lan Qing said nothing. Once the way was clear he walked on with Lan Jue by his side, shoulder to shoulder. In a rare display the two looked and acted like brothers. Cold and lethal. At least to the Colonel!

    Unfortunately, that didn't seem to be enough.

    "You want to die?!" The Colonel roared at them and launched herself forward. Her arms splayed out to the side and a pair of sharp blue lights appeared in her hands. She chopped at Lan Jue's shoulders. It was a conference in a foreign land, otherwise her attack would have been aimed at his head.

    The lights in her hand were a pair of foot-long knives that glowed with blue light. They weren't typical weapons, obviously, but instead condensed Discipline. Her swipes were unnatural sharp, so much that it sounded like they ripped the air in passing.
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