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Chapter 860: Husband and Wife, Face to Face

    Chapter 860: Husband and Wife, Face to Face

    Chapter 860: Husband and Wife, Face to Face

    The Wine Master's face darkened. "It was dangerous for you to do this without alerting us first. If you-"

    Lan Jue smirked at him. "Alright, it's done and it all worked out. I'm here, right? Don't be angry, right now we need to focus on defeating our enemy."

    By now Lan Qing had returned. He bowed before the Wine Master. "I apologize, Wine Master - to all of you from Skyfire Avenue. Dangerous as the task was, there were no other alternatives. After making my plans I knew that our chances of winning the last battle were very slim. Even if we did, we wouldn't be strong enough to destroy the home worlds ourselves. We had to attack the problem from two sides. It was an opportunity we couldn't ignore."

    The Wine Master and the other members of Skyfire Avenue didn't respond. The exhaustion in Lan Qing's face was apparent to everyone. All throughout this war their commander of the allied forces had had to shoulder tremendous pressure. The fate of humanity rested on his shoulders!

    Lan Qing had to bear the knowledge that his decision to send Lan Jue into harm's way could have meant his death. The struggles he faced were no less dire than the soldiers out on the fields. He just had no choice.

    In the end his gambit was successful. Not only did humanity win the day against the alien horde, but Lan Jue returned victorious from his desperate quest. Now humans had a way to fight back, and with Ultus their chances were even better.

    The Keeper spoke. "Admiral Lan. In the last fight we held the advantage. Should we rally our troops and move in for another offensive? With the power we bear now we should at least be able to stand toe to toe with the monsters. The Banishing Stance is said to be powerful, but none of us have witnessed it. None of the bearers are yet strong enough to succeed, either. If we put all of our hopes in one method and fail, all will be for naught. I think we should diversify our tactics."

    Lan Qing nodded in agreement. "That is also my thought. However, we suffered significant losses in the last exchange. Assuming we do not consider the fact that Poseidon cannot use its mecha transformation again, Middle Heaven will need a minimum of five days before it can return to battle. The core is already unstable and pushing it any farther could be disastrous."

    The Keeper nodded, apparently satisfied. The Bookworm spoke next. "So we hope that the alien home worlds don't complete their evolution in the next five days."

    Then came the Wine Master. "I have a thought. Admiral, now that you have been chosen to bear one of the Banishing Blades it is integral that you return to Angel and cultivate with the Jewelry Master, Qianlin, and the Pharmacist. It is counterintuitive to have you commanding the troops. Leave command of the forces to us. Certainly we lack your tactical brilliance, but we should at least suffice to weaken the horde. Our goal would be to present you four with the best opportunity to complete the Banishing Strategy."

    The Wine Master offered the suggestion with calm dignity. However, Lan Qing could clearly hear the note of authority in his voice.

    Lan Qing considered for a moment. "I understand your thought process, but give me some time to weigh the options. I will also need to assess whether Ultus can do what they claim, and then I can make plans. When I can I'll ask Li Ke when, precisely, he suspects the aliens will complete their evolution."

    The Wine Master nodded. "Alright, we will go by your decision. No matter the circumstances you have our full support."

    As the others spoke, tears had begun to tumble down Jun'er's smooth cheeks.

    "Daddy, I saw him," she whispered in his ear.

    "Saw who?" He asked.

    Her response was muttered. "I saw another daddy, but he wasn't really here. He was very sad, and so was mommy. I think that daddy has to go soon. What should I do?"

    Lan Jue fondly stroked her hair. "I don't know either. But no matter what, Jun'er is daddy's little girl."

    "Yeah. Jun'er loves daddy." She hugged tightly to Lan Jue's neck. Her tiny body shook against his.

    Lan Jue was speechless. This little girl understood much.

    ξ

    Within the sitting room.

    Li Ke and the Pharmacist stood, facing one another. Tears continued to stream down the Pharmacist's face.

    The Pharmacist looked at the faint image of her husband through hazy eyes. How many years? How long had it been since she'd seen him? She was ashamed to admit that she'd begun to forget what he looked like.

    All this time she'd gone it alone, no one knew the pain she'd borne. Without help she raised a little girl who was blind, all the while bearing the memory of her lost husband.

    When the pain of her lost was almost unbearable, when she discovered that it'd been these monsters that took her husband from her, the Pharmacist had been ready to give her life in vengeance. For love. She had decided that living was far more painful than dying. Now at last her wish was granted and the man she loved was returned to her, at least in spirit. But it was transitory, for he could vanish at any moment - gone, just like before.

    For now, however, his body was more distinct. Still how could he keep the pain and sadness from his eyes? She knew how much it must have cost him to battle the aliens, to retain his will locked within the sword. All of that, to see her. After years of struggle they looked one another in the face, but neither was sure what to say.

    "Are... are you alright?" It was Li Ke who ventured the first question. But the moment the question left his lips he scowled. How could she be?

    The Pharmacist looked back at him in silence. She wanted desperately to throw herself into his arms like she did in years past. But she couldn't. His stoic aura, his strong shoulders, his body... gone.

    "I miss you so much!" She choked. "I think I've lost my will to live. I'm so lonely all by myself. I miss you, every day. I thought about the days we shared all the time, hoping for a miracle that would bring you home to me."

    "Day followed day and I hoped that feeling would ease, but it didn't. I told myself to be strong, to wait. For our daughter. Together we would wait for you to walk back through that door. When Jun'er was small she would always ask me why daddy wasn't back. Every time she asked my heart would ache, because just like her I was wishing so much for that day."

    "Jun'er is our daughter, born eight months after your disappearance. Because you were gone, the pain was too great and Occisus turned inward. My daughter lost her vision because I was weak. I'm sorry."

    "No. No!" Li Ke shut his eyes tight in pain. "It was me. All of it is my fault. I didn't need to go on that mission, I was ambitious and impatient. If I'd have just been content I could have stayed with both of you. Jun'er is blind because of my decision. I should be the one apologizing to both of you!" His voice was choked with emotion, but there were no ghostly tears.

    The Pharmacist rigidly shook her head. "As time went on I couldn't stand her questions. I asked the Jewelry Master to pretend to be you. His aura was similar to yours, and he was of Chinese lineage like you. Jun'er was so happy believing her father was back. Thanks to him her heart was filled with the joy of having her dad returned. And I saw a glimmer of hope. I began to take Jun'er out of the house so she could experience the outside world. Her mood improved."

    "I found a way to solve her longing, but I could think of no way to ease my own. I couldn't make it go away, or even make it less acute. I couldn't stop asking myself why you never came back. For a while I was so angry I was out of my mind, blaming you for taking that mission. In the end I just pleaded with whatever god would listen and begged them to bring you back to me. I just wanted you back, whatever the cost!" She fought against her crying to get the last few words out.

    Li Ke hurried forward to hold her, but could not. There wasn't even any way for him to show her how deeply he felt her pain.

    After a few moments the Pharmacist regained some composure. She lifted her head and peered through red, watery eyes at him. "When I heard from the Violet Prince that you had been killed by Monarch, the last hope within me died. The pain was gone, all feeling was gone. That was the moment I broke through to Paragon... when I achieved the dream you and I shared. But you weren't there anymore. Without you, it wouldn't matter if I became the strongest human alive."

    "I thought about dying. No matter what I wanted to lay my eyes on Ultus one last time. I had no expectations, just the determination that I would die and be with you again. I was only thinking about myself, even our daughter didn't enter my mind. Was that selfish?"

    "No. No it wasn't." Li Ke's voice shook when he answered. The spectral image of his long dead body quivered.
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