Chapter 752: Changing Course

    Chapter 752: Changing Course

    The barrows was one of those seven planets. Each one was - at most - two days journey from one another. Once the threat of alien invasion had become clear the West had urged nearly all their populace to migrate to this system. Though their population was the smallest among all the Alliance, that was still a billion people.

    That was enough DNA to prompt the alien evolution. A billion lives...

    An Lun changed course, pointing itself toward Europa. They were about to enter into the second phase of their war against the aliens.

    After two days Middle Heaven crossed the border into Western territory. All the while bad news was flowing in from their neighbors to the North. Their government and their people were clearly uninterested in sending troops to help them face the planets.

    They weren't alone in their thinking. So long as disaster wasn't on their doorstep people were content to bury their heads in the sand. But what did that help? Just as a tipped nest has no unbroken eggs, did the North not understand that disaster would be visited upon them all? But it seemed hopeless, they were already frightened beyond reason.

    Another day passed before they got any news. More specifically, it was a message from Kang Hui. He confirmed what Lan Qing and Lan Jue suspected, that the destruction of those four planets had descended the alliance into chaos. Distrust in the government had reached a fever pitch.

    Under these conditions the Northern congress felt it most important for their forces to remain close to home, protecting Luo. They couldn't dispatch any troops, no matter the problems others were facing. Although the Terminator was a respected man, he was but one person in a sea of dissenting voices. His reputation wasn't enough to sway the lawmakers to his point of view.

    However the Paragons, Chu family and the Admiral refused to be hamstrung by the cowardice of others. With Tyrannosaurus and two fleets they left Luo without approval, headed for the West. The Terminator brought all of the Great Conclave with him, including the adept army he'd established.

    By the time the congress found out, they'd already left. They ordered the remainder of their army to track down and take back Tyrannosaurus, but that was easier said than done. With the destruction of Terminator, Tyrannosaurus was the strongest ship they had. Heron had been their fastest, but its capabilities had been greatly reduced. Under these circumstances, what could the army do?

    What's more, how could the army not support its Admiral, and their mission to destroy the beasts that had slain so many of their countrymen?

    Lan Qing and his forces had another ally, but he wasn't sure it was enough. The weakest alliance had become the leader in this desperate - and possibly final - assault against the alien menace.

    Poseidon approached from a different corner of Eastern space and entered the West some distance away. They met up before continuing toward Europa.

    Lan Jue knelt on the floor of Zeus-1. Right now, the only people in the ship were him and Qianlin. It was the most quiet and private place on the ship.

    A pale blue light radiated from the center of his chest. A white light spread from Qianlin's. Both of them had come to the final part of their journey to become Paragons, reaching the final step. His father had continuously told him that he mustn't rush. Impatience was counterproductive.

    Only the golden core of the thunder essence was left to be absorbed. It was a crystalline in appearance, strange and beautiful. It no longer seemed to possess any elemental quality, but instead vast amounts of pure energy were contained within.

    After several attempts to understand it, Lan Jue came to the conclusion that he would only fully absorb this core once he broke through. It possessed the purest immortal qi he'd ever felt.

    Zhou Qianlin's beauty continued to evolve. Every time they cultivated she slipped effortlessly into meditation, and in fact she seemed to have entered into a strange and enigmatic state. It was almost as though she was hibernating. She was oddly sluggish and a sheen of white energy hung over her flesh. Lan Jue didn't know what it was, but he figured it must have something to do with her inevitable breakthrough.

    He'd asked his father if a Queen of Heaven Adept had ever broken through to Paragon. He'd said Qianlin may very well be the first. As a result, no one knew what to expect when she crossed that threshold. However, Xuanyuan Shishi was there for guidance, and said her condition was excellent. The immortal qi was holding and purifying her essence. The combination of her own abilities and the thunder essence was the reason for her rapid improvement and security. She had continued to change, quietly and furtively.

    The two of them sat in stillness, exchanging their energies between one another. Lan Jue's All-Heaven lightning forged their bodies, and Qianlin's Queen of Heaven Discipline nourished them. Over time the powers melded to construct a shell of power that encompassed them as they meditated.

    The Pharmacist was also cultivating. Ever since finding her new goal, she'd redoubled her efforts. She knew that galvanizing Ultus' power would not be easy, at least beyond the scope of her powers now. Even just recovering it from their foe was going to be a herculean task. But difficult as it was, recovering the blade was the only way for her to be reunited with some piece of her husband. One could imagine the significance that held for her.

    Her condition had been different from a normal Paragons from the outset. She stood on an abundant foundation and grew with the aid of a Banishing Blade. Occisus' deadly power was the elementary force of her abilities, the power that shored up her iron will. Her progress continued unabated, without the bottlenecks encountered by typical Paragons.

    In fact, with the understanding she had accumulated and Occisus' help, she would have broken through right to a Reflection of Heaven and Earth if she'd held back. Though she wasn't there now, she was close. Her Domain continued to meld with the lethal properties of the sword, becoming one.

    After drawing upon the essence of the sword more than once, she had used her comprehension of its nature to temper and perfect her protogenia. It served to stabilize and strengthen her own abilities, bringing her closer to the second-degree of Paragon.

    This was the benefit of using a legendary astrum. Once she broke through, she would continue to quickly improve by virtue of the Banishing Blade.

    The West was quiet, at least out in space. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, and though the mighty aliens lurked nearby they could see nothing but an expanse of calm darkness. From the point of view of their enemy, the aliens had continued on the most effective path. Their unerring aggression had served to strengthen themselves and preserve their own lives. Any species would choose a similar path if they had reached the limits of their potential.

    But to another race, the aliens were a scourge. For humans these mortal enemies would have to die, or they would.

    Lan Qing was clad in his black military uniform, sitting straight upon his chair. He stared at the screen before him with a gentle expression - an exceedingly rare occurrence on his hard face.

    Ever since he was small he had held himself to the highest standards. Compounded by Jue Di's influence, he had a dogged persistence toward perfection. While Lan Jue always looked up to his brother, he didn't know that Lan Qing's struggles were because his abilities were inferior to his younger brother's. He'd reached where he was today through obsessive hard work.

    But even the hardest men had soft spot in their hearts. Lan Qing was no exception, but the tremendous weight of responsibility on his shoulders forced him to hide it behind an iron curtain. He sacrificed his happiness and emotion for the unending pursuit of strength.

    Lan Jue had once told him walking that path would have driven him crazy. Thinking about it made Lan Qing smile. If his brother was here, seeing him grin from ear to ear, he surely would have wondered if this was his brother.

    He sighed. Perhaps, he thought, if they were successful against the aliens it was time for a rest. He'd never taken the time to live his life. Perhaps it was time for a chance. If only you knew how much I envy you sometimes, A-Jue, he thought. But someone needed to take the brunt of father's expectations. I'm the older brother, these responsibilities fall to me. I never thought you would have to shoulder the same burdens.

    An image swamp up from his memory, an old street lined by quaint buildings. Two-thousand forty eight meters top and bottom. Although he hadn't spent much time there, the place called to him. He liked it. When things settled he made the decision to visit.

    It wasn't time to retire, but a vacation wouldn't be out of the question. Inwardly he chuckled to think of his superior faces when the day came for him to apply for a few days off.

    People worked harder when they had something to work toward. At least, that's how Lan Qing felt.

    "Beep, beep!" His communicator buzzed.

    He connected the call and a pretty voice answered. "Boss, we've arrived at the designated area."

    Lan Qing's relaxed expression was put away in lieu of his icy default. "Wait for my orders, don't leave unless you have to, and don't act on your own accord. Wait for us to link up then you can continue your approach."
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