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Chapter 837: Before the Final Conflict

    Chapter 837: Before the Final Conflict

    "Five days."

    Lan Jue was shocked when he heard his brother say it. Five days? Had he been gone so long?

    "Already? That means you've been waiting for me, so..." Lan Jue realized he and Qianlin had probably delayed the whole army while recovering.

    "We weren't just waiting for you. Victory and defeat are determined by a large number of factors. However, it is nearly time. Come see me, we'll go over the plan."

    "Alright!" Lan Jue's response was resolute. He and Zhou Qianlin left for Lan Qing's office immediately.

    The army had not been idle the past five days. Soldiers busy collected the dead, repaired ships and recovered energy stores. When they weren't doing that they were training. Humanity's war machine never stopped.

    Over by the three alien planets, the creatures were preparing for anything but made no overtures to attack. After all, time was on their side. Humans were the ones racing against the clock.

    Indeed Lan Qing had been honest when he said he wasn't only waiting on Lan Jue and Zhou Qianlin. There were many things he needed to prepare before the final assault. For instance, Poseidon needed time to recover the energy it'd spent during transformation.

    The bastion' fantastic transformation had been an integral part of their victory over the aliens in the last fight. However, it had been draining and the Poseidon Group needed time to recover. It went without saying that their impressive strength would be needed in the fight to come.

    That was merely one example of dozens Lan Qing had to manage, each one another piece in the puzzle needed to win victory over his enemy. Five days had been enough to handle nearly all of them.

    Although they were closer now than ever, it was still difficult to tell precisely what situation Europa and the alien home worlds were in. All they had managed to record were the flows of energy from that direction, gathered by long distance radar.

    Part of the failure in learning more specifics was the alien army. They were so thickly spread across space that they blocked vision of what lay behind. They were specifically arrayed to keep the human armada blind.

    Lan Qing and his brother spoke privately for about an hour. Afterwards, Lan Qing called together the leaders of the human resistance for another meeting before their assault began.

    Twelve hours later, everyone was gathered in the conference room.

    Everyone was under the assumption this would be their final push. Under Lan Qing instruction every soldier was given an electronic document. In it they could say whatever they wished, and address it to whomever they pleased. These documents would then be given to the Northern and Eastern governments for safe keeping. For those who died on the field in the fight to come, their final words would be delivered as requested.

    No one had any illusions that these documents were anything but their last wishes. Lan Qing didn't want any lingering doubts to hide in the hearts of his soldiers. It was a way for them to come to peace with the possibility of their death.

    Everyone - from Lan Qing down to the lowest private - prepared to meet their end. Fear of death was prevalent in everyone's heart, but behind it was the hot-blooded determination of these warriors.

    After three hours all of the documents had been gathered and sent off. Then, starting with Middle Heaven, all contact with the outside world was cut off.

    Nothing that might affect morale could be allowed to reach them for the next nine hours. Until the fight was done they had to maintain a singular focus. The ban would be lifted once the operation was complete.

    All training ceased, and weapons were readied. All preparations were nearing their end. The drums of war were beating, and the soldiers were moving frantically to their pace.

    The nervous atmosphere was palpable, even the aliens were agitated.

    ζ

    The room was a large, semicircular area with a ceiling that stretched a hundred meters high. Its walls and floor were covered in metallic casing. An intricate and archaic pattern scrawled across the floor, ultimately coming together in a complicated diagram. There was something scientific about its perfection, and the placement of the nodes painstakingly set within the pattern.

    A power gem sparkled within each node, making the whole room seem strangely mystical.

    This room was the most important location on all of Middle Heaven. No one - not even admirals - were permitted to enter without express permission. Right now five people were standing within.

    "Have you really thought about this? This mission is especially dangerous. You also aren't bringing enough power to make it back if things go wrong. I should go with you." Luo Xianni fussed over Lan Jue.

    Lan Jue answered with a shake of his head. "No, mom, this time you'll be staying here. Once the final battle starts you and dad will need to be in the center of it. Without you the main force will be at a massive disadvantage and will likely fail. It's fine, even if we can't destroy the enemy we have a chance to protect ourselves."

    Luo Xianni scowled at his assurances. She couldn't understand why Lan Qing would choose now to dispatch his younger brother on a scouting mission. What in the world was he scouting for?

    But Lan Qing had his father's support, and Lan Jue was more than willing to do his part for the cause. Luo Xianni could only go along with their foolish plan.

    The room they stood in was Middle Heaven's teleportation array, created by Luo Xianni's own hand. It was constructed to transfer people over long distance - like from Angel. It was also capable of casting people over vast distances without a landing pad, though with reduced accuracy. Still, with Luo Xianni's interdimensional Discipline at the level of the Infinite, accuracy was not a concern.

    Besides Luo Xianni and Lan Jue, there were three others in attendance. Lan Qing, the Pharmacist, and Jue Di stood around him with stony expressions.

    Qianlin was not with them.

    Jue Di looked upon his son with burning eyes. "You're sure about this?"

    Lan Jue resolutely nodded his head. "It's our best chance. The risk is worth it if it means we can end this war."

    "Good, then we await your triumphant return." Jue Di said nothing more than these final words of encouragement.

    Lan Jue turned to the Pharmacist. With a shared nod, they stepped forward into the center of the teleportation array.

    Lan Qing followed him with his eyes. "You may have reached Nirvana first, but that doesn't mean you've beat me. You better come back to prove it. You said it - it's an opportunity you've long been waiting for. Right?"

    Lan Jue smirked at him. "Of course. Relax, I'll make it back."

    Lan Qing sighed, and the two brothers shared a quiet look. A thousand words were shared in that gaze alone.

    "Mother, it's time." Lan Jue knelt upon the ground.

    Luo Xianni's eyes had reddened at the edges, but the pink light came regardless of her fear.

    Jue Di stared at his youngest son, trying to commit his face to memory.

    Suddenly the power gems sparkled to life. Reality around the two Paragons shifted uncomfortably as beams of light shot upward from the array.

    Luo Xianni's expression was one of unspoken pain. She turned to look at Lan Qing. "Why must Lan Jue go on this scouting mission now?"

    Lan Jue grew solemn. "I'm sorry, mother. I can't go into detail. You'll find out soon, but for now I must return to work." The final battle was upon them, and as Admiral there was still a lot for him to do. With all that responsibility came no small measure of stress.

    His answer wasn't good enough, but when she moved to say more Jue Di held her back.

    Lan Qing turned and left the teleportation array with a quick and purposeful stride. The decision was made. Now, for his brother's safety, he had to make sure everything was perfect.

    "What are you grabbing me for? Aren't they brothers? Why is he always sending A-Jue off for these dangerous missions? Especially now, isn't this a suicide mission he's sent him on? Sending them behind Europa to spy on the planets... if they're caught you know what will happen to them."

    Jue Di was silent for a moment before answering. "I know, and they told me why it must be done. When they first came to me with the idea I wanted to say no, but I knew I couldn't. It really is our best chance. Don't fret over their relationship as brothers - remember that I am not their real father. In all the universe they only have each other. They're blood. If there was any other choice do you think Lan Qing would let his brother risk his life? Have you noticed that Lan Qing's hair has begun to go white at the temples? No one has borne more for humanity than he has - no one has had to shoulder the pressure he carries every day. Right now the only thing you and I can do is support our sons with everything we have."

    Luo Xianni was speechless. Eventually she turned and pressed herself against Jue Di's strong chest.  "Perhaps I'm biased," she muttered to herself.
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