Chapter 732: You’re All Still Young

    Chapter 732: You're All Still Young

    Lan Qing heaved a sigh, staring at his father on the screen for a long while. He offered a firm nod. "I understand."

    "Then do what you need to do." Jue Di waved his hand in dismissal. Lan Qing cut the connection.

    "Father." Lan Jue called to him for a third time.

    At last, Jue Di looked his way and smiled. "I'm old, you're all still young." He patted his sons' shoulder with a calloused hand, then left his side.

    Lan Jue felt he saw a slight stoop in his father's back 1. Jue Di's persona was as iron-hard as ever, but Lan Jue knew his father was getting old.

    His lips tightened in a hard line, and his fists clenched. If he had another chance, he'd have worked harder in his younger years, focused more on cultivation. If only he had, he'd be able to support his father better!


    The Northern Alliance had fallen into disarray in a matter of days.

    Chu Cheng was perched on a seat, watching the towering man before him. Today the Chu family representative was dressed in a smart military uniform with three golden stars on his shoulder.

    His record of military service certainly didn't warrant general status, but Chu Cheng had risen to become the North's second Paragon. He had become one of the most important people in his Alliance almost overnight.

    In normal times Chu Cheng would have perhaps been a one-star general. After all, military ranks were not so easy to achieve typically. Anything beyond that would have been difficult with his qualifications. However, these were special circumstances and the North needed heroes to raise up their populace. Their propaganda campaigns were successful, they were good at advocating for heroism.

    However the dark news of disaster had stolen Chu Cheng's thunder. An unprecedented panic had swept the worlds of man, and only the North's prominent military presence had kept things from dissolve into outright chaos.

    Things as they were, the Northern leadership found themselves with their backs against the wall. They had rapidly begun to lose the trust of the people, and their soldiers were facing a threat they weren't sure they could overcome. Despite being humanity's mightiest Alliance, with a military that made the universe tremble and seven Bastions to their name, there were on the cusp of collapse.

    In a matter of a few short months things had changed dramatically. Arachnid was gone, Heron was no stronger than a Capital ship. Terminator - praised as humanity's greatest technological achievement - was brought low by those hellish living planets. Indeed the North had suffered more than anyone.

    All throughout these awful days, the North had had no time to catch a breath. Their Bastions had been reduced from seven to four, and their flagship had succumbed to the enemy. Two more were in the making but would not be ready in time. In a blink, the North had fallen into a dark pit they could not claw out of.

    "The army has made up its mind," Chu Cheng said in a low voice.

    "Mnh. They don't have a choice. If we didn't lead the charge our government would be dissolved. The people are scared, they need something to believe in. War has to be where their hope lies." Depression darkened the Terminator's face.

    He had completed his breakthrough, achieving the strength he'd dreamt of for so long. It also meant his life would be extended another few dozen years. After all, he wasn't like the Clairvoyant who continually suffered the scourge of constant protogenia use. Now that he had achieved Nirvana, he could lead the North for at least another half century.

    But that was under normal circumstances. These were not normal circumstances.

    "I will be taking command of Tyrannosaurus. You will command Heron 2." The Terminator said.

    "Alright!" Chu Cheng responded right away. He couldn't be said to take military matters as seriously as many other commanders, but he was a general now and had to follow his commander's orders. Besides, victory would be won through cooperation and unity against the aggressors.

    The Terminator smiled and nodded. "A miracle will come when it's needed. You might think I'm kidding, but the Clairvoyant was a man I had total faith in. If he said your man will lead us through this darkness, then he will."

    Of course Chu Cheng knew who the mountainous man was referring to. A smile emerged on his face. "Yeah! He's annoyingly good at miracles, that guy. But he still hasn't become a Paragon, and I'm not sure when he will."

    A cold light flashed through the Terminator's eyes. "Believe me, the longer he delays the better. When he does break through the results with shake the heavens. The darker the night, the brighter the dawn. Come, our forces are already gathered. Our presence is an important symbol to our people."

    Chu Cheng chuckles. "Suddenly I feel like a mascot."

    "That's exactly what we are," the Terminator replied. "Do you think you and I can face those monsters ourselves? No - in this battle, victory or defeat rests on Star Division."



    Zeus-1 closed in on Luo, and approached its appointed position. Lan Jue stared out of the window, hardly believing the scene unfolding before his eyes. He'd seen Bastions larger than planets, and fleets that stretched farther than the eye could see. But what he witnessed just outside the hull of his tiny ship was hard to describe.

    A planet. A whole other planet silently hovering in space near Luo. Its surface was pock-marked with craggy rocks and deep crevices, no different from the times he'd seen it before. But out here? In Northern space? Impossible!

    It was planet An Lun - the whole thing. How in the heavens had it made the trip all the way from the East? Lan Jue was at a total loss.

    "Are you here?" Lan Qing's face appeared on Zeus-1's screens once again.

    "Yeah." Lan Jue muttered. "That's An Lun..."

    When he saw the surprise on his little brother's face, Lan Qing smirked. "Now we call it Middle Heaven." 3

    "Middle Heaven?" Suddenly it made sense. Middle Heaven... Peerless Light emperor of Middle Heaven. A bastion ship named after Lan Qing. An Lun had been completely remodeled under the East's unique vision. Now it was a weapon of war.

    No wonder... No wonder there had been no new bastions for ten years. It wasn't because the East couldn't, it was because they were building this.

    Ever since their establishment the Eastern Alliance had been an inferior position. It'd had only two Bastions to its name. Without Jue Di as a deterrent, the North likely would have swallowed the small Alliance up years ago. Even despite the threat of retaliation by the Paragon the North had continued to harass its neighbor.

    Things were better for the West, they were somewhat shielded from Northern aggression so they paid them little mind. But the East was different - it was established from the foundations of the mysterious and powerful country of China. It had been a place of boundless secrets and mystical knowledge the North feared. So, though they did not dare attempt the East's destruction they worked to keep the Alliance from gaining strength. 4 This was compounded by an unceasing march of sanctions against them economically, militarily and technologically. 5

    If the East wanted to get out from under the North's thumb, they would need a show of force. Bastions were an important tool for just that purpose.

    The East was the first Alliance to suffer from the alien incursion, but it had thankfully suffered the least. Vital crystals pilfered from the enemy had purchased a whole new fleet for the East, while the North was forced to abandon their shadowy war of attrition. They needed Eastern support now, in the face of a foreign enemy.

    Because of this the East did not need to hide its hand any longer. Their newest, strongest bastion was revealed to all.

    Middle Heaven's name was a testament to Lan Qing's status among Eastern stratocrats. He was also the newest bastion's admiral. Surrounding were was a massive host of five interstellar fleets! Although the East had only dispatched one of its bastions, its support ships constituted the bulk of the East's smaller vessels. Only one fleet remained behind near Skyfire.

    A ship appeared before Zeus-1 to guide it toward Middle Heaven. As he was led closer to the re-forged planet he could see it clearer. Things certainly had changed.

    Its surface was still a landscape of craggy rock, but interposed among the peaks and valleys were the dark barrels of cannons. Middle Heaven was hardly a beautiful thing to look upon - especially compared to the likes of Tyrannosaurus - but it used to be a planet! It was larger than Tyrannosaurus, as far as Lan Jue could remember, and likely of higher quality.

    The sheer cost it must have taken to build this thing was staggering.

    Under the direction of the guide ship, Lan Jue urged Zeus-1 through the defensive line Middle Heaven's fleets had arranged and on to the bastion itself. As he came upon the familiar surface Lan Jue couldn't help but inwardly sing the planet-ship's praised. He didn't know the East's technology could achieve such a thing. To arrive in the North so quickly, it meant the ship was also fast. Its energy source and engines had to be something special.

    1. You know that picture you see all the time in Chinese/Japanese shows? The infinitesimally small Asian man or woman stooped so low they look like they're bowing with their hands behind their back? That's about right in real life. I also saw many people, women mostly, with severely bowed legs. I believe I read it was due to rickets and malnutrition. During the famines and wars at the early onset of modern China, people were eating bark to subsist in some places.

    2. I'm not sure yet whether this is Heron. It contains the same 'bird of prey' secondary character with the adjective 'little,' which could mean either another ship entirely or the weakened version of Heron.

    3. Metal Gear!

    4. There is still a fair amount of animosity against western civilization and the US in general in China, just below the surface, for their belief that the rest of the world is keeping them down. The Chinese point to the doctrine of encirclement specifically as an example, and more recently US efforts to curtail their claims over the South China Sea. Here is an article from a reportedly unbiased news source that describes some of the process, though it's now four years old. Of note is the fact that the US is doing precisely what is criticizes China for doing - building airstrips in non-militarized areas for local area control - though the Chinese presence in the South China Sea is a more complicated situation.

    5. Another popular gripe against the U.S., since they are constantly berating China for currency manipulation which results in trade disputes and threatened retribution. On the other hand, the wealth distribution in China is abysmal and most of the population is still rural and involved in farming. If China didn't keep its growth and inflation in check, it would mean they would leave 700,000,000 Chinese behind, when they're already living on practically nothing.
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