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Chapter 778: Guardian Angel

    Chapter 778: Guardian Angel

    "Heh heh!" Tang Xiao chortled. "We just wanted to show off a bit for you, Professor. We haven't been lazy! You should blame Jin Tao, he's overzealous. It was him who damaged your mecha."

    Lan Jue also chuckled. "Enough finger-pointing, tell the truth. The claw thing was your suggestion."

    Jin Tao spoke up without giving Tang Xiao a chance to answer. "Professor is so wise!"

    Tang Xiao yelped at the injustice. "I'm not responsible for everything bad!"

    Lan Jue scowled at him. "If not you, then who? You're right, you both have improved quite a lot lately, it was I who was lacking. I haven't been around to guide you. Later I'll make sure to direct your cultivation." As he spoke, an insidious grin spread across his face.

    Never mind Tang Xiao, the markedly tougher Jin Tao also shook at the prospect. "Professor, we have cultivation to attend to. We have to go."

    The two of them fled, with the others from their team in hot pursuit. The Demon Drillmaster's particular brand of instruction was well known throughout Star Division. They weren't anxious to experience it unnecessarily!

    "Boss," Su Xiaosu's voice interrupted. "Are they up to your standards?"

    Lan Jue looked her way. "They were one unit?"

    She stuck out her tongue at him. "Leaders from ten units, but I didn't have a choice. Everyone wanted a chance to spar with you when they heard you were here. I had to pick the best representatives. Their cooperation was less than perfect, as I'm sure you noticed."

    Lan Jue watched his soldiers as they fled. "They have pretty good battlefield experience. That puts me at ease." Indeed he could tell that group only just started working together. However, although their teamwork could use some polish, they were still able to play off each other's strengths. A battle rhythm can't be rehearsed, it comes through cooperation. That was the only way to kick their efficacy up to a new level.

    With this in mind Lan Jue was very pleased with the result. If all of Star Division's unit leaders were like them, his group of fighters was in excellent shape.

    "Let's go," Lan Jue said to her. "I want to look in on their training."

    Su Xiaosu led him to another area. He didn't join them, but instead looked down from his bird's eye vantage as they drilled below. He could tell at a glance that the individual units' tactics had been trained into their marrow. Surprisingly, this training area was a lot like Monteux, complete with simulated alien foes.

    These sorts of war games were especially helpful for Star Division. They must have recorded the environmental data of Monteux and the aliens themselves to use in their training, so that it was as true to the real thing as possible. It was clear this hard work over the last few days was a result of their passion and resolve.

    As he looked down from on high, the battlefield was like a raging fire that spread out in all directions. His soldiers were stable, methodical, and worked well with their brothers and sisters in other units. Close-range and long-range specialists were well coordinated. Then there were support fighters and their myriad abilities which counteracted alien attacks.

    "It looks like there are even more aliens than when we were really on Monteux!" Lan Jue swept his eyes over the horizon.

    Su Xiaosu confirmed. "Yes, by quite a lot. This is a prerequisite for this maneuver. The more pressing the odds, the more likely they are to fight to their full potential. Anyway, who's to say how many enemies we'll face when the real fight begins? Right now they're simulating a situation where they have to fight a vastly stronger enemy force on limited energy reserves to see how long they can hold out. I think it's very useful for them."

    Lan Jue nodded in agreement. "Very good. It's also integral that they learn as much as they can about alien fighting styles. You all have been working hard."

    Xiaosu beamed at Lan Jue. All of their progress was, of course, under her direction.

    Lan Jue looked back down at the others. "Our offensive begins in forty-eight hours. Let them rest for the last twelve hours before we're dispatched. No training, let them regain their strength. We want them to be in top shape to avoid casualties. I won't be commanding them in the beginning, Xiaosu. I need you to do that for me."

    "Of course, boss!" She responded without hesitation.

    Lan Jue left without interrupting his soldiers' hard work. He was impressed by what he saw, pleased by progress he hadn't anticipated. He was even more confident of their chances now, when the final hour arrived.

    He wasn't privy to all of Lan Qing's plans, there were some aspects of the assault he wasn't clear on. He didn't know anything about how he intended to face the creatures outside the planet. Lan Jue wouldn't be involved in that part. Most importantly for him was taking care of what he was responsible for.

    When he returned to his cabin, Lan Jue looked more relaxed than when he'd left. Qianlin was seated on the bed in silent meditation. A pale white light hung over her. It wasn't bright, but thick with mystical energy like the aura of an immortal.

    Lan Jue walked over to her side and sat, but did not meditate. Instead he just sat there and watched her.

    Lately the sense of manifest destiny pushing things along had followed him wherever he went. Everything the Clairvoyant had told them had come to pass, all but the end result. Lan Jue had been striving now for a long time to help humanity's chances. For his friends, for Qianlin. No effort would be spared to save them from a gruesome death at the hands of a heartless enemy.

    I dragged Qianlin into this, he thought. But she isn't the only one - everyone's affected. Everyone must be considered. She will be safe by my side.

    After some time, seated cross-legged across from her, Lan Jue also slipped into a meditative state. These last few days he had refrained from cultivating with her, since they were both at the border of ninth level. If they continued to work together as they had, it was likely neither would be able to hold back their breakthrough. It was better to work independently to stabilize their own Disciplines and prepare for that fateful moment. They had to hold back as long as they could to get the best result.

    ζ

    Two days passed quickly. For forty-eight hours a strange calm settled over the human armada, although troops moved consistently from one place to another. On the eve of the attack Lan Qing had his people within view of a mid-sized planet in the outskirts of Europa's system.

    He moved like this to keep the aliens guessing and confound their planning. If they didn't know what the humans were up to they couldn't formulate a plan of defense. Lan Qing also knew that many aliens were hiding on the far side of the planet, a fact he wouldn't be aware of were it not for Lan Jue's scouting data.

    Forty-eight hours may have sounded like plenty of time at first, but the soldiers soon found the time vanished like a message written in water. Their preparations were done quietly and orders were often given in person to prevent interception by enemy forces.

    Each division, brigade and unit was only given enough information to perform their part of the plan. Only a select few had all of the information.

    Zeus-1 quietly slipped out of Middle Heaven's hangar. The moment it was free of the small planet's orbit the ship engaged its Blinding Stone. Aboard were all of the Paragons who were to participate in the operation, as well as Lan Jue and Qianlin. Zeus' Amazons were responsible for piloting the vessel.

    Everyone's face was hard and solemn. For good reason - the task before them was daunting, perhaps more important than any other part of the plan. The main force could retreat if the situation started to sour. Lan Jue and his people didn't have that luxury.

    Several days had passed since their last scout mission, and it was impossible to know how many survivors remained on the planet before them. But Lan Jue held out hope that there would still be many lives to save. Innocent humans were being kept as hostages, as experiments, harvested for their genetic material. They would be saved, even the ones that had been twisted by the poison of the progenitors.

    Zeus-1 approached the planet from the side. A direct assault would result in failure. There were too many aliens for that to succeed. They had to slip in, and avoid psionic detection to the best of their abilities.

    The planet that was chosen had an auspicious name; Angel. Snow covered vast swaths of its frigid land mass, which was shaped like a seraph with its wings spread wide. Sadly, its once pure white hue had been corrupted and stained purple.

    The second part of Lan Qing's plan had a code name. He called it operation Guardian Angel.

    Zeus-1 approached at a forty-five degree angle relative to the armada. It came to a stop when it got close and cut all electronic systems. There, in darkness and silence, it quietly waited for its chance.

    Jue Di had not come with them. He was strong enough that there was no need for him to use a spaceship. He had left before them to prepare, for he was responsible for taking three of the planets by himself. No one knew how he intended to do it, but everyone had faith that he would succeed.
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