Chapter 734: Before the Fight

    Chapter 734: Before the Fight

    Lan Jue scowled. "Right now we don't know what the enemy is up to. This feels too rushed. I was just telling the Clockmaker that I think we need another scouting mission, see if we can discover any new information. At the very least we confirm their status before beginning the attack. This doesn't seem right, why would they just wait for us to attack?"

    The Wine Master responded with a sigh. "There's nothing for it now, the North is under too much pressure to wait. A billion people! Already their society has begun to come apart. If this attack doesn't begin right away the government is going to lose control. Even though the chances of bringing anyone back is slim to none, it has to be attempted. It's the will of the people, the North will do everything it can to bring them hope. Tyrannosaurus hasn't been fully repaired from its last fight but they've already put it out on the field, along with their four other bastions. That's five from the North, and the West has brought another two. With Middle Heaven that brings the total number to eight - an unprecedented gathering of military power. That doesn't take into account the twelve interstellar fleets that accompany them. There are five hundred million soldiers waiting on orders to deploy, two thirds of all soldiers on active duty in every Alliance. It's time to finish this!"

    After listening to the Wine Master Lan Jue understood the plight the North found itself in. Losing four planets had put them in a precarious position with their own people, and already the bulk of humanity's soldiers had gathered for a retaliatory strike. If this didn't succeed, they were as good as doomed. To them, even if the aliens had some trick up their sleeve, this power they were bringing down on them would have to be enough.

    Eight bastion ships! And scores of warship as support. This time the fight was in home territory, with enough space for them to maneuver. No one doubted the strength of the planets, but they were facing an army the likes of which this side of the universe had never seen.

    For the North, their greatest worry was that the planets would teleport before they got close enough to deal a fatal blow. This was the reason behind their rush, the quicker they mobilized the less likely it was their enemy was already gone.

    But still Lan Jue felt they were going too fast.

    "We're setting out in an hour. The Northern bastions have already begun the approach." The Wine Master said.

    Lan Jue nodded. "So when do we join the fray?"

    "You arrived just in time," the Wine Master explained. "We're about to convene a Tri-Alliance meeting which we'll be attending. The East's forces will be represented by Admiral Lan Qing, who is acting as commander in chief for Eastern forces. He's already as the meeting hall. We should head over as well."

    "Alright." Never before had an operation of this scale been attempted. Be it manpower, resources or cooperation this war was unparalleled. It also meant it was incredibly involved, and even if Lan Jue spoke up it was already too late to stop the war machine from rolling. As leader of the charge, the North had already made up its mind. Things were unlikely to change this late in the game, especially based on the discomfort of one person.

    After bidding the various Paragons farewell, Lan Jue followed the Wine Master to a verticar. They quickly left for the meeting hall.

    "You convinced Bize? What about Aubert?" Lan Jue asked.

    The Wine Master addressed him calmly. "Master Aubert has come to his senses. However he is too attached to his wines and refuses to leave the Barrows. The West has already abandoned the planet, and its wealth of vital energy makes it a prime target for alien aggression. Aubert decided he needed to remain behind and protect his vineyard. Bize was also reticent to leave him behind, but I convinced her to come. Her reasons are simple; if they want to pass on what they've learned, there need to be humans to pass it on to."

    Lan Jue hadn't thought it possible. Not only were Bize and Aubert masters of their craft, they were artists. They had put their hearts blood into their work, he'd have thought they would prize it above all else.

    The Wine Master grew serious. "Aubert had me come back with a large bottle of wine. He asked me to protect it, and make sure this particular vintage survived."

    Lan Jue swallowed. It'd been some time since he'd had a good drink, he'd had no time. Hearing the Wine Master talk about it made him itch for a taste.

    A smile touched the Wine Master's lips. "When all of this is over you and I will celebrate over a bottle. I'm sure the gods of wine won't mind a few bottles to mark the occasion."

    "Alright! If that's the case I'm anxious to get this over with."

    The Wine Master returned to more serious matters. "It looks like a significant part of this fight will take place on land. The North wants us to to direct Star Division there."

    "What are they planning?" Lan Jue asked.

    The Wine Master glanced at him. "It seems the four former planets have become support for the enemy. We're not sure how, but the aliens seem restored after a visit to the planets' surface. According to the Keeper they're replenishing themselves on the captured planets' vital energy. So it seems that if we want to win we need to take the four planets back first."

    "For the first time we humans have the upper hand in sheer force. The North's strategy, therefore, is a slow but steady march straight in. First they want to recapture the planets, then move in for the alien home worlds themselves. We'll approach from four sides to make sure the enemy can't evade or escape."

    Lan Jue nodded his head thoughtfully. Though the North was being hasty, at least their strategy was sound. Recapturing the lost planets had to be first, otherwise they'd act as a protective screen.

    They were sure to face progenitors when they invaded. Perhaps they would be lucky and managed to save the planets from absolute death. After all, it took time for all the vital energy of a planet to be consumed.

    "It sounds good to me," Lan Jue said with a nod.

    When the verticar landed, Lan Jue and the Wine Master stepped off, then made their way for Middle Heaven's control center. After a series of checks, they were permitted to enter.

    Lan Qing was already absorbed in a video conference. The two new arrivals took seats nearby.

    Six large screens filled the meeting room, flickering between whoever had the floor. Representatives from all three alliances were heard. Lan Qing's face was among them.

    Lan Jue manipulated the acoustic currents to speak only to Lan Qing. "What's the situation? Is the plan all set?"

    Lan Qing gave his answer. "The chief commander of the operation is Admiral Kang Hui. He has experience facing the aliens in battle. For now everything seems rational. We lead with the fleets, which will spread out and engage the enemy on several fronts. They'll kill as many of the creatures as possible and soften things up for a ground incursion. The bastions will stay back as support and deterrence. Their cannons will be charged and ready to fire the moment the alien planets are in range. The second the enemy is in their sights, they'll let loose with all their strength."

    "When the landing operation commences the North will be responsible for two of their former planets. The remaining two have been left to us and the West. The North has asked us to dispatch Star Division to take the planet."

    Lan Jue nodded. "Not a problem. The Wine Master has already let me know, it' what we're good at. We'll need air support."

    "That's one of the problems we're faced with," Lan Qing explained. "Part of the North's requirements are that we don't lay down fire on the planet's surface."

    Lan Jue blinked. "Why? If that's the case our job just got a hell of lot harder!"

    Lan Qing remained stoic. "There's no other option. Our long-range telescopes have found people still alive. There are survivors down there. This changes things for the North, saving them is a priority. The Northern public is on the verge of rioting, and if they find out survivors were shot down by friendly fire the results will be catastrophic. Warships will have to handle things out in space. The planets' surfaces are going to have to be left to ground troops alone, with the hope we can bring some citizens back alive."

    Lan Jue's brows were wrinkled as he thought. "That definitely makes things harder. We're likely to suffer casualties. We also have no idea what's in store for us when we get down there. You know what will happen if we run into something like the Violet Prince."

    Lan Qing nodded. "That's why the North has called for Star Division specifically. They're hoping we can clear out a planet quickly then move in to support other incursion teams."

    Lan Jue frowned. "I guess we just have to make the best of it."

    The Wine Master chimed in. "That's the way it is. All of our Paragons are ready to fight. We should take a planet quickly, assuming there isn't a particularly powerful foe to face. With his Majesty Jue Di in the lead, finding a Prince or Princess may be a good thing."

    Lan Jue's heart skipped a beat. The Wine Master was right, aliens had vital crystals. The stronger the alien, the more potent the crystal. Lan Jue's father was suffering, but if they could get a crystal from a beast as powerful as him, that could turn Jue Di's condition around.
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