Chapter 883: General Offensive

    Chapter 883: General Offensive

    The ten fleets coasted forward, and spread out to either side of the bastions like wings. Their guns were primed, waiting for the order to fire. The four bastions also lit up as their weapon arrays were prepared.

    Just then, the remains of the alien horde were revealed. They came swarming around either side of Europa and right for the armada. They lacked the vigor and numbers from before.

    "Open fire!" At Kang Hui's order the bastions and their support fleets let loose. Spears of light crashed into the encroaching enemy force.

    The horde's formation was diffuse, and they used their speed to evade the human long-ranged attacks as much as they could. However the hail of cannon fire was tightly packed and avoiding it completely was impossible. The aliens began suffering casualties right away. Compared to the last encounter the humans seemed much more confident.

    Behind his control panel Kang Hui summoned his Discipline. Through his empowered eyes he read and analyzed the information that flooded his screens. Despite the punishment his enemy was facing in the opening moments of their conflict he did not relax. In fact his face grew darker as the moments stretched on.

    The aliens came at them with no direction. He read that to mean the home worlds were almost finished with their evolution. If that were the case their elite would be sticking close to their masters. They didn't need to command the troops, they were just cannon fodder.

    Should they throw caution to the wind and attack Europa at full force?

    His opponent still had a numbers advantage, although they were in disarray. Rushing ahead would expose his troops to a brutal counter offensive, and many would be lost. Besides, it could be a trap.

    Kang Hui's fighting style was always calm, and it'd served him well so far. Caution is what saved him from dying at the aliens' hands long ago in the Shattered Starfields.

    Instead of calling for the charge he ordered the ships to continue to pummel the aliens' front lines. However, he commanded the bastions to hold back on firing their main weapons. He wanted to save their strongest attacks for the planets themselves.

    Eventually the aliens gathered into some semblance of formation. More defensive aliens took the fore and their speedier brethren stuck close behind. The plan was to push ahead, and once they got within range the faster aliens would burst out and wreak havoc among the human ships.

    Mankind's armada was much weaker than it was when they first arrived in the system. After the last encounter the difference was especially marked, and especially now without Lan Qing's tactical genius. However, Kang Hui was also a lauded commander and he had no problem leading the human forces. His strategic plans were simple, but nonetheless took advantage of their ranged superiority to great effect.

    Kang Hui orders artillery fire focused on the stronger aliens. He wanted them to be pummeled as hard as possible as they pressed forward. Once the enemy was close enough for their fast attackers to emerge they would be met by the Paragon-led Star Division, the Bloodiron Khan's, and Chu Cheng's convert army.

    Against mankind's greatest Adept warriors and drones from their bastions, the aliens who dared attack were cut to ribbons. They were unable to cause any damage to the main fleet.

    With their considerable advantage Kang Hui's leadership was flawless. The alien forces met the humans and were cut down like they were flung into a meat grinder. Monsters were cut down by the dozens and their vital crystals captured.

    Kang Hui was keenly aware of the Violet Prince's absence, however. The three-headed, six-armed abomination was also nowhere to be found. They appeared to have disappeared after their failed sneak attack.

    Already the armada was extending an advantage that seemed irrevocable. Already the horde was begin pushed back. The armada began moving toward Europa was slow but indomitable progress.

    Soldiers who didn't know any better began to cheer, their cries reverberating off the hulls of their ships. After all these hardships and losses, they were beating the enemy! How could they not be overcome with joy? And as participants of this life or death struggle, they were heroes! In their mind's eye they could see the scene of their triumphant return, with ticker tape parades and flower petals descending from the sky. Humanity's allied forces, a ray of hope in a dark time.

    Cannons continued to bombard the enemy, never letting up. The enemy was steadily losing ground. Nothing indicated the home worlds were getting involved, either. Europa was still hidden beneath the cloud of caustic purple fog that made it look like a fantastical land from the story books. By contrast the three planets looked like hideous tumors affixed to the planet's surface. Aside from the roiling tides of the clouds, nothing moved. They seemed completely devoid of life.

    Kang Hui pressed a button on his control panel. In his deep voice he hailed the person on the other end. "Heron, prepare your main gun."

    "Heron receiving. Main gun is charging." The response came swiftly.

    Kang Hui refused to be lulled into a false sense of security by the scene before him. On the contrary, he was all the more vigilant. From the very beginning the aliens had enjoyed the advantage. Right up until this point humanity had been against the ropes, only to suddenly see a reverse in fortune. It was important to remember that it wasn't Lan Qing's brilliance alone that got them to this point, however. An important factor was the fact that the home worlds were not involved in the fighting.

    If they had been even Lan Qing couldn't have spun gold out of straw. Against the home worlds and its horde the humans would never have stood a chance.

    But not being present on the battlefield didn't mean their threat did not exist. Quite the opposite, the planets were laden with the life force of eight planets and all the vitality they stole from the Northern Alliance. They hadn't used any of that energy in battle against the humans and instead funneled it into their evolutionary process. Kang Hui shuddered to think what sort of power this new creation would wield once its evolution was complete.

    It went without saying that Kang Hui didn't find their chances appealing if the home worlds chose to fight. His loss at their hands was still acutely carved into his memory, an angry scar to remind him of his defeat. Their variable offense and impenetrable protection made them virtually impossible to shake off. They were as strong as they were cunning, and used whatever advantage available to win victory over their prey. As such humans had consistently been beaten back.

    And so Kang Hui called off his focus to bear. Heron was their weakest bastion, but also charged its main weapons system fastest. As the fastest ship in the fleet it made for a natural choice to use as an opening gambit.

    Lan Qing had told him that the home worlds had mostly fused with Europa by this point. The former Western capitol was the basis of their evolution and had been chosen as the site for these beasts' new immortal realm. With no hope of survivors left on Europa, it and the three home worlds attached to its surface were the main target.

    "Heron reporting. Main guns are charged and ready!" The alert was fast in coming across Kang Hui's speakers. The armada was getting closer to Europa with each passing moment.

    Kang Hui answered with a string of commands. The bombardment became even more intense as capital ships, up to now their cannons dark, joined the fight. The punishing offensive carved a path through the horde.

    Heron's main engines flared to life and in a flash the bastion shot ahead. It punched through the flimsy alien line and was at top speed in moments. Its three main guns were extended and aimed at Europa.

    The planet was a big target. Heron's gunners weren't afraid of missing.

    While Heron made its attack run Kang Hui continued to call out orders. Tyrannosaurus, Poseidon and Middle Heaven all began to charge their primary weapons. Heron's attack was a feeler, to see how the planets would react. Once they got a read they could follow up with shots from the others bastions. He was confident that one round of attacks, if it didn't destroy Europa outright, would at least severely affect the home worlds' evolution. That would be enough, and they could focus on a more comprehensive attack. The greatest result would be to damage the planet enough so that the evolution process was stopped entirely. Then, under concentrated fire, they could destroy the enemy outright.

    At least for the moment his plan seemed to be working.

    Heron shook as three beams of cyan light fired from its cannons. It erupted with such intensity that space rippled around the guns' barrels. While the weapon wasn't as strong as Tyrannosaurus', say, it was still a bastion's weapon. The damage it caused was more than considerable, and against any ordinary planet the results would be catastrophic.

    Nothing was in the way of the three beams of light. In a blink they pierced the fog covering Europa and a mushroom cloud surged in its wake. All three shots disappeared in the haze.
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