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Chapter 881: Cultivation and Strategy

    Chapter 881: Cultivation and Strategy

    The soldiers were once again busy with preparations. Repairs became the highest priority. Damage to the bastions both big and small were attended to while their energy stores were rebuilt. As a newly arrived asset Heron was in prime condition, and would likely hold an important role in the fight to come.

    Kang Hui ordered Middle Heaven be given priority treatment. He was hoping to gain An Lun's favor. The Northern leader could see the East's rise to prominence, inevitable assuming they were able to defeat the aliens. Considering their high-powered fighters alone, the North could not catch up or hope to contend. They had an advantage technologically, but maintaining a force of notable Adepts was going to be difficult.

    If Middle Heaven was any indication the East's technological mastery was not as backwater as they'd expected. In fact there were systems on that bastion that perplexed Northern scientists. It seems the only thing that'd been holding the East back was access to resources.

    In this moment it was important for humans to be united against the universal threat of the alien horde. Kang Hui knew this, and it was for this reason that Lan Qing chose him to command the armada while he was cultivating. Kang Hui was more than an experienced and talented commander, he was also a good man deserving of respect.

    ξ

    Lan Jue was out of the public eye for more than a day before he emerged from his room. He seemed composed, at least on the surface Lan Jue appeared back to his former self.

    Mika had returned to the area designated for the Dark Citadel's representatives. Lin Guoguo and Ke'er remained behind, and they had also regained their composure. When they saw Lan Jue again they didn't bring up Xiuxiu.

    "Lan Qing and sister Pharmacist have locked themselves away to cultivate. They wanted me to bring you to them when you came back out. "Zhou Qianlin said in her soft voice.

    "Alright, I'm fine - let's go now." Lan Jue nodded for her to lead the way. She took his hand and smiled sweetly at him. She used her actions to soothe his injured spirit.

    A loaded look crossed Lan Jue's face, heavy with emotion. He lifted his other hand and gently pressed it against her face.

    When they arrived at the room where Lan Qing and the Pharmacist were cultivating they found the Wine Master and Clockmaker seated by the door. They were there to look over them.

    After the recent tragedy who knew when the Violet Prince might try to strike again? They knew it to be unlikely, though. If he did dare to come he would be marching to his own demise. Aliens no longer enjoyed an overwhelming advantage of super-powerful fighters.

    "Wine Master. Clockmaker." Lan Jue greeted both of them.

    His old drinking companion answered with a smile. "What is past is past. Try to remain positive, and focus on exacting revenge for our fallen friends. For our people. The fight to come may require more sacrifices, but we are prepared to fight to the last man and woman."

    Lan Jue nodded firmly. He knew this was the Wine Master's effort to soothe him, but the wound was still too fresh. What words could make him feel better?

    "Let's go in." He said, nodding to the two Paragons.

    The Wine Master moved aside from the door and entered a password. The metallic portal opened and Lan Jue stepped in. Qianlin was close behind.

    Stepping inside, they were struck by the sensation in the air. It was thick with vital energy, almost stifling. Lan Qing and the Pharmacist were seated in the middle of the room with a strange device between them.

    Nestled in the device was a single golden-purple vital crystal. Lan Jue could tell at a glance that this crystal was at least Nirvana-level. The rich sense of vitality was coming from there. Situated around the apparatus were twelve Tears of Neptune, all comparable in size. Their presence galvanized the remains of the alien to release its vitality. Once that energy was filtered by the tears it could be used safely.

    Lan Qing and the Pharmacist immersed themselves in the exuberant current, taking it in with slow and steady breaths. All the while their cultivation was slowly rising.

    Lan Jue nodded in appreciation. This was certainly a spectacular specimen of a vital crystal! After only a day the two of them were already near the upper reaches of Reflection of Heaven and Earth.

    There was another presence in the room with them. Li Ke observed the process, sustained through Ultus.

    No one else was in the chamber. As agreed, these few were the only ones permitted in order to keep the vital crystal transmutation process a secret. Lan Qing and the Pharmacist already had their mind wiped by Lin Guoguo prior to beginning.

    Lan Jue looked at Li Ke questioningly, but did not speak. The spirit understood and delivered his answer directly into Lan Jue's mind.

    "We've used two Nirvana-level vital crystals up so far, the results have been encouraging. In around five hours this crystal will be spent and they should be strong enough to make a breakthrough. From my analyses I suspect that once they join you in Nirvana they'll need time to stabilize their cultivation. Qianlin's Queen of Heaven Discipline should help them significantly there. Afterwards all four of you should undergo this process. We won't push you into the Infinite, but we have to bolster your abilities as much as we can. The stronger you are, the more likely it will be that you can survive using the Banishing Strategy."

    Lan Jue had experienced what it was like when ones foundation was unstable. There was no small measure of trepidation in his voice when he queried Li Ke. "Are you sure this won't cause any problems? The moment something goes wrong..."

    Li Ke smiled reassuringly. "It's fine, I don't suspect any complications. At your level and with the help of the Queen of Heaven, so long as we don't cross the line into the Infinite there is nothing to worry about. To be safe we won't reach the peak of Nirvana. Halfway should be sufficient to beginning attempting the Strategy."

    "Alright!" Lan Jue affirmed. He and Qianlin made their way to a pair of seats nearby and waited.

    They were careful to shut themselves off from their environment so that they did not absorb any of the vital energy. Qianlin let her Domain reach out and embrace them. Lan Qing and the Pharmacist had not yet broken through, but her presence helped strengthen and stabilize their protogenia in preparation for the moment they did. The two were almost immediately more relaxed, and were able to take in more of the vital energy.

    Lan Jue and Zhou Qianlin passed the time in quiet meditation.

    The moment of breakthrough was the most dangerous moment for Lan Qing and the Pharmacist. They were sure to experience some measure of what Lan Jue and Qianlin had had to suffer when they attained Nirvana. Unlike them, however, they had Qianlin's help. The power of Nirvana-level Queen of Heaven abilities meant risks were kept to a minimum. Without her help Lan Jue would never have agreed to this.

    ξ

    Time passed quickly. Before they knew it three days had come and gone.

    The armada's three bastions were almost back in full service. Those ships that were still heavily damaged and soldiers too wounded to serve would remain behind on Angel. Troops were reorganized into ten fleets for the coming operation. Their three mighty bastions were joined by a fourth.

    Tyrannosaurus, Middle Heaven, Poseidon and Heron led the way as the war party embarked. Ten fleets worth of support vessels spread out around them as they made their way toward Europa.

    Tyrannosaurus was in the center of the formation, taking Middle Heaven's place. It wasn't a power move, but one of practicality. Tyrannosaurus had the most resources left after their last campaign. What's more, without Lan Qing to stabilize Middle Heaven's molinite core the more advanced maneuvers were too dangerous to perform. With Tyrannosaurus in the middle it gave the other bastions more leeway.

    No attempts to impede their progress troubled the armada. If they didn't know better they might suspect the horde had left. Kang Hui knew that the enemy force was still formidable, they just weren't wasting their strength on intercepting them.

    He remembered that commander Lan Qing also suspected the alien home worlds were still a threat. Though they were busy with their evolution, they could still exert their influence on the battlefield. How much of an influence was as yet unknown.

    They left Angel with Lan Qing and the others still locked away. Three days had passed without so much as a peep from the Paragons. Lan Qing had told him to expect a full week before they would emerge. Kang Hui used this estimate to craft his strategy. The four sword bearers should be completing their transmutation just as the armada was reaching Europa.

    Kang Hui sat at his control desk looking over the information on his screens. But his mind was not on the data scrolling by.

    Prior to this excursion he'd received tacit agreement to participate by the North. The day they set out he made peace with the idea that he might die. Chances were low that anyone would make it back. At that time humanity had yet to win a single victory over the aliens. Losses were already in the millions.

    When they first arrived at Angel and saw the nearby planets occupied, his hope was all but gone. It felt like a pointless endeavor against an overwhelming enemy. Fighting was just increasing the number of casualties.

    But fighting was their only choice. A desperate choice, certainly, but all that they had left.

    He thought back to the outset of their war. Lan Qing was the youngest commander ever, an Easterner with command of three bastions and twelve fleets against a vastly superior enemy force. And then he started winning.
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