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Chapter 845: The Art of War

    Chapter 845: The Art of War

    Conditions on a battlefield changed quickly. It took only a minute for Lan Qing to react with a string of commands.

    The right wing of the alien horde was blocked by the corrosive cloud they themselves created. Their left wing was coming under heavy bombardment from the armada that turned their frontlines into purple mist.

    Still, the aliens had the upper hand when it came to total strength. Their elites were more numerous and more powerful, though the number of lower tier beasts had been significantly reduced after the last encounter.

    With their right lost behind a deadly cloud and their left being punished by starship cannons, the aliens were at a disadvantage.

    Faint golden light flickered near the right wing, followed by a voice. "Bigger - bigger - bigger!" Each cry made the golden light gleam brighter until it was revealed as an enormous staff. The Chinese character  [1. Big.] was etched on its shaft.

    The Compliant Rod! [://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruyi_Jingu_Bang]

    The staff stretched thousands of meters in the space of an instant. It began to fall, then swept a golden path through space.

    The aliens behind the cloud had been scattered, their formation broken. Most of them were trying to move over the top of the deadly area when the staff appeared. The aliens directly in its path were slowly ground into nothing just by the presence of it. Jue Di's Compliance Rod had no special qualities, just unadulterated force. Enough to erase its foes from existence.

    Total annihilation! That was the only way to describe it.

    Jue Di's frigid expression was covered beneath a sheen of golden fur. Copper light flickered around him in a half-real shell. The Compliance Rod moved at his command.

    Lan Qing knew from the start that a direct confrontation - like last time - offered only a remote chance of victory. Even if they won here, their remaining forces were unlikely to be strong enough to destroy the alien home worlds.

    This time, his strategy would need to be different.

    His foes were intelligent, of this there was no doubt. However where they different from humanity was in their homogenous nature. Every alien was designed for slaughter, for consumption, in order to feed their evolution.

    Humans, however, were unique even on an individual basis. They didn't have the dogged, singular focus of the aliens but they made up for it in diversity. Each human brought their own advantages.

    Such is the art of war! Passed down from the ancient days of China was the knowledge of Sun Bin [2. A descendant of Sun Zi, who is attributed to be the author of the Art of War.], the lauded commander and author of the Thirty-Six Stratagems [3. ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty-Six_Stratagems. There is some debate as to the true author, though Sun Bin is one possibility.]. Even all these years later, the truth contained in the pages of that book applied.

    Lan Qing was employing a variation on Tainji's horseracing strategy. [4. ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tian_Ji]

    Your elite outnumber ous? We cannot face you directly, instead we shall avoid the weakness and strengthen our advantages.

    The allies' forces greatest advantage was their range. Even Infinite-level aliens didn't have a means to fight back from a distance. This was a fact Jue Di had revealed to Lan Qing long ago.

    Few were the adepts capable of contending against the alien forces. Nor were their soldiers in any great position. But at least as it applied to the normal aliens their range advantage made the gap negligible.

    Lan Qing's tactics were to remove the monster's fangs and claws; take away their strengths and then deal with the alien leadership on more even terms.

    Tyrannosaurus' main cannon was a distraction. Luo Xianni was the only Paragon aboard Middle Heaven. Jue Di had been hiding in the darkness of space awaiting the perfect moment to strike. As for the other Paragons...

    Once the armada's bombardment of the left flank ceased, several figures could be faintly discerned in its vicinity. Each one of these mysterious figures radiated with power.

    Two positron cannon explosions suddenly lit up the area like a pair of miniature suns. Half a moment later the Wine Master, Clockmaker, Terminator, Pontiff, Pauper, Driver, Gourmet, and the Wine Masters made their move.

    None of them held back.

    A nightmare of destruction descended upon the aliens, so inferior to the Paragons that they had no option but to die in agony. The humans spent nothing but sweat to put them down, and the whole process took no more than a dozen seconds.

    By the time the Violet Prince and Princess could react, both wings of their horde were decimated.

    Aliens had always maintained the advantage over human forces, ever since the start of this conflict. It made them complacent, their tactics weak. Especially after the crushing defeat they delivered to the humans in the North.

    The three bastions Lan Qing led now were a far cry from the eight the aliens faced before. Hardly worth considering, in their estimation. Yes, the humans had won some victories. However, as far as the Prince and Princess were concerned, they were flukes and easily reversed.

    But in the course of the last two battles humanity had proven more tenacious, more deadly. Only now was the Violet Prince seeing the allied forces for the threat they were. He was surprised at how cunning the humans had suddenly become.

    In truth Lan Qing's original plan had been more complicated, and arguably less effective. But the Violet Prince had been eager for a quick and decisive victory. Sacrificing one of his own had created an opportunity which the humans exploited.

    Who was Luo Xianni? It was important to remember that she was one of the founders of Skyfire Avenue. When she saw the opportunity to make the aliens pay she took it, and created the best situation for her people that she could.

    Above the cacophonous din of his soldiers dying, the Violet Prince released a howl of his own. The other elite - those not resisting Tyrannosaurus' cannon fire - split off to join the fight in either wing. Three made their way to Jue Di, while the rest left to deal with the other Paragons.

    Tyrannosaurus' sustained cannon fire was beginning to wane, and as it got weaker the murderous fury in the Prince's eyes grew. If his prey had the gall to invade his horde and slaughter his soldiers, he would do the same to them.

    But before he could retaliate his eyes were filled with shimmering blue light. Six enormous orbs were headed his way.

    Poseidon's Soft Water bombs were en route!

    The Prince and the others were too busy battling the power of Tyrannosaurus to keep track of Middle Heaven's exact position. The Violet Prince's first order of business was to pinpoint this bastion, which he determined was the most dangerous enemy. But Poseidon didn't give him a chance. Its Soft Water bombs came right on the heels of Tyrannosaurus' cannon.

    Want to fight back? It wasn't going to be that easy!

    There was no comparison between the lethality of Poseidon's Soft Water bombs and Tyrannosaurus' main cannon. The cost in energy and resources that went in to just six bombs was astronomical. They were also imbued with vital energy, making them particularly deadly to alien forces.

    The Violet Prince could not hesitate or delay. Now he had another bastion to contend with.

    Tyrannosaurus' energy beam was not yet completely depleted, so he couldn't dodge out of the way. Suddenly he felt like a spider caught in its own web. If he'd dodged Tyrannosaurus' attack from the outset he wouldn't be caught like this.

    Middle Heaven also engaged its primary weapons systems, just moments before Poseidon's bombs arrived.

    Lan Qing fired the weapons himself.

    If one looked closely, they might spy a faint golden haze hanging over Middle Heaven as it tore through space. That wasn't a manifestation of the bastion's power, that light came from Lan Qing's Vairochana dharma.

    Throughout human history there had never been a Paragon who was also a bastion commander. Lan Qing was the first. As such he was the only one who knew how to manipulate the ship with his own protogenia.

    This time Middle Heaven's main weapons were completely different than before. Roughly a third of its front-facing guns were fired, releasing a flash of orange light. They seared through space until joining some distance in front of the bastion. Once joined, the orange light became a strange conglomeration of hues.

    Pink and orange mingled among one other, encompassed by a faint sheen of gold. 'Orange-gold' was the best way to describe it.

    The threads of tungsten that came from Middle Heaven's guns were bright and non-transparent. When they combined they created a sustained beam no bigger than the light from a single small cannon, but the orange-gold energy was crystal clear. It was stunningly beautiful, but also incredibly deadly.

    The attack had a name: Terminal Ray.

    They'd come up with the plans for it when Middle Heaven was still An Lun. It took ten years of research to complete. Compression without explosion, cohesion and distillation. That was the only way to describe how Terminal Ray worked.

    Lan Qing urged Middle Heaven forward, risking the wrath of the alien planets, and it seemed about to pay off. The East's ultimate bastion was as versatile as it was powerful, and that was where its danger lay.

    To use Poseidon as a comparison, it was created through the blood, sweat and tears of the Poseidon Group. Nothing was spared in its construction. This was also true for Middle Heaven whose construction was driven by the Eastern Alliance. Once Middle Heaven's inherent benefits were revealed, Eastern scientists used all of their knowledge and analyses to reach a single conclusion: they could build the North's worst nightmare. A ship that was more terrifying than five of their bastions put together.
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