Chapter 152: Lan Jue’s Uncertainty

    Chapter 152: Lan Jue's Uncertainty

    Lan Jue was propped up in one of Poseidon 1's spacious and comfortable lounge chairs. He had come to about an hour earlier, but still felt out of sorts.

    Poseidon 1 had already entered Skyfire orbit by this point. It would be perhaps another hour before they were on the ground. He'd used Hua Li's communicator earlier to get in contact with Jin Yan - hers was the only number from the NEU staff he could remember.

    Wang Hongyuan, this guy... A smile crept across Lan Jue's face.

    He turned his head and looked at the Doctor, sleeping fitfully nearby. He shook his head, deeply impressed.

    He had no idea the young physician possessed such talent in healing. At the time he could feel the cold grip of death reaching out for him. He could sense his own body and the damage it had been dealt; the broken bones, the fractured meridians, the injured organs. After the decoction, he certainly should have died. Just the fact he was still breathing was a miracle. But here he was...

    The golden tint that had overcome him after taking the potion remained, but it had dimmed considerably. Now, only a closer look would reveal something out of the ordinary. It became more apparent, however, if the skin was palpated.

    His various meridians and collaterals were firm and unobstructed, in better condition than they had been for years. The benefit extended all the way to his Core, which was safe and stable in the hollow of his chest. Shadows of golden lightning still hung around it, but there was no danger. He'd been awake only an hour, but he could feel himself improving rapidly. Already he gathered he was about halfway to total recovery. All in all he couldn't be healthier - not a scratch remained from his earlier fight with Michael or his time on Taihua. Even the secondary effects of the Fantascia Genetica decoction were absent.

    Could this be because of the Genetica? Could it have remolded him after he survived the initial rush of power? But that would simply be too amazing to fathom. The Western Alliance have had this technology for an age, but their research never uncovered anything like this. So the more practical answer was that the Doctor somehow brought him back from the very brink of death.

    The questions rattled around in Lan Jue's brain. Unfortunately, he couldn't get an answer out of anyone. Chu Cheng and Hua Li claimed the Doctor had completed his treatment before they arrived. The Doctor himself was asleep. The Wine Master would only tell him it was a miracle.

    It was quite the damn miracle.

    "We're about to encounter atmosphere. Please return to your seats and fasten your seat belts." The electronic voice filled the cabin and shook Lan Jue from his reverie. The smile on his face spread further.

    Whatever the causes he was still breathing, and the experience was certainly something. Going through it brought him a strange sense of peace. Perhaps this was part of a new beginning, a fresh start. There was still so much in the universe for him to enjoy. Not to mention, acting the hero felt pretty good. He was starting to understand why his big brother had stayed in the army all these years. He'd gotten a taste for what it was like to be a guardian.

    He lifted his left hand as he pondered, and stared at his palm. The slightest hint of a purple stone stuck out, no more than a centimeter. Occasionally bolts of golden lightning would flicker in its depths.

    The Phylactery Stone! Already the power gem was becoming a part of him, inexorably tied to his life force, like it's been there all along. The frightening power of the Genetica - the power that catapulted him in to the realm of the Paragons - was safely contained within. If he concentrated, he could feel maddening fury of it.

    What he owed the Doctor couldn't be rectified with simple things, not just for saving his life but all the other positive side-effects he'd accrued here. He had just been saved from the brink of death - good things were sure to follow. The stored energies in the phylactery were only secondary, for there remained the protomorphic abilities he'd gained while a Paragon. Of course he wasn't a real Paragon, not yet, so the powers were weak. But they were there. Whether when employing his Ascension or achieving Paragon status in the future, what he'd lived through would certain prove to be invaluable.

    Hhrrumnnn... Poseidon 1 shuddered gently as they struck atmosphere. Half an hour later they were in the Public Hangar, with a private Gobi cars already waiting for them.

    "So how are you feeling, A-Jue?" Hua Li rose to his feet and stretched, dispelling the travel fatigue.

    Lan Jue smiled. "Can't get any better than where I'm at. Maybe too good, actually. I'd really be curious to know how it is I'm not a cripple."

    Hua Li's response was sans his usual flippant demeanor. "Best not to look a gift horse in the mouth. You have no idea, when we couldn't get you on your communicator we were sure you were dead. Luckily the Cosmagus and the Doctor were around to save you. How about the next time you go out to handle business, you keep your suicidal impulses to a minimum?"

    Lan Jue lifted his hands in front of his defensively. "Alright, I concede. I'm still in recovery, don't go teaching me any lessons."

    Hua Li stuffed his hands in his pockets, and flipped his fop of blue hair dismissively. "Fine, I have to go prepare for the concert anyway. If I miss any more rehearsals, I'm afraid Mo Xiao will bite me. Alright Chu Cheng, this bastard's your responsibility now."

    Chu Cheng chortled. "I'd heard from A-Jue before that there was this old coot of a Wine Master on the Avenue who operated out of a Gothic-style winery. I've been wanting to take a look for myself since forever. It's supposed to be full to the rafters with excellent spirits. What kind of drunkards would we be if we didn't raid the place at least once?"

    The Wine Master, himself just arrived from a nearby seat, stopped in his tracks to glare at the red-haired young man.

    Lan Jue shot Chu Cheng a warning glance, but the airhead didn't notice. He had to cough a few times before his fellow mercenary got the hint.

    The Wine Master clapped a hand on to Chu Cheng's shoulder before taking the lead and exiting the airship. His pleasant voice wafted towards them from over his shoulder. "The Gothic Winery welcomes you."

    "Eh..." Chu Cheng may have been an airhead, but that didn't mean he was stupid. He slowly turned his head to stare at Lan Jue, eyes wide.

    "Don't tell me the Cosmagus..."

    Lan Jue grinned, apparently pleased with his lot. He patted Chu Cheng on the shoulder as well. "I'm not sure if I should call you homie or halfwit. Think about it, if you're planning to store fine wines from the former area, wouldn't interspacial abilities come in rather handy?"

    "Ah, I guess you're right."

    Hua Li suddenly interjected. "A-Jue, Jin Tao's situation is good. Normal. He's currently in Deep Sleep, triggered from the genetic changes. I have Mika monitoring him. You should go talk to all your ladies, actually. Are they aware of what happened on Taihua?"

    This caused Lan Jue to laugh. "Of course not. If they did I'd already be getting an earful."

    Chu Cheng's shot him a cool grin. "No? I'm pretty sure they do. I just heard the recent news reports, they're even streaming pictures and video from Taihua satellites. They're even saying stuff about these heroes that were there for the fight. Are you sure they didn't get any footage of Thor? On top of that your communicator's been offline. How do you think they'd react if they couldn't get a hold of you?"

    "W-well..." Lan Jue stopped, his face changing to a look a distress as he snatched Hua Li's communicator and dialed in a set of numbers.

    "Boss, are you ok?" Mika's voice arose from the other end.

    "fine, fine. I'm already back on Skyfire. See you in a little while." He was working hard to keep any fatigue or worry from his voice. He sounded the very spirit of ease.

    "The boss is back," she said to someone next to her.

    "Long live the boss!" A second perky female voice answered.

    He didn't expect her voice to change to a threatening growl so quickly, but when she spoke again he could feel the anger. "So you sneak off to Taihua for a vacation, run in to this catastrophe, and then lose your communicator. Do you have any idea how worried we were? We're already aboard Zeus 1. Any later and we'd already be on our way to Taihua."

    "I'm sorry, forgive me!" Lan Jue chuckles sheepishly. "My communicator was broken in the scuffle. I'm fine, really. Perfect condition. Oh, and then that means you guys are here at the hangar. I am too, on Hua Li's Poseidon. Let me go out and join you."

    Chu Cheng couldn't hide his mirth, and chuckled heartily at Lan Jue's side. "That's what you get for getting enjoyment from other people's misfortunes! At least you're treating those ladies well. By the way, Hua Li was telling me their full on babes. Xiuxiu's off the table, but you definitely should introduce me to those other three. Mmm mm."

    "Get lost!"

    Despite Lan Jue's desperate hopes, not a single happy face met him when he joined his Amazons. Even Xiuxiu, the sweetest and warmest of the bunch, stared at him with a cool indifference.

    "Ugh, A-Li! Look, we just have the one verti-car. Too tight. How about we call another to come take me back." Lan Jue sounded guilty, a dog with his tail between his legs.

    "Boss!" As a single, pissed off unit the girls stamped their feet and glared at him, hands on their hips.

    "Forget I said anything." Lan Jue hastily bade farewell to Hua Li and Chu Cheng before clambering in to his own verti-car.

    Whoosh! In a flash they were on their way back to the safety of the Avenue.

    Chu Cheng watched him go, then blinked like he was slapped in the face. "This guy, no humanity! He just left me here!"

    "Right?!" Hua Li glowered at the rapidly vanishing verti-car. "Come on, I'll take you in."

    Chu Cheng answered in lilting tones. "How about you eh? Other than Mo Xiao, you got any hotties following you around? Just a little eye candy, amiright? That guy there's trying to build a harem, I tell you. Worse, it's a harem he doesn't even use. What a waste1! He obviously doesn't realize that waste and corruption are man's greatest sins."

    "See ya!" Hua Li clapped his hands, then turned on a heel and made to leave.

    "H-hey now, A-Li, you can't just throw me away here! Look, I didn't say nothin'. Worse comes to worse I suffer a dry spell for a few days, right? Wait up..."

    "Get lost!"


    Within the McKelly P12 Verti-Car

    The atmosphere in the car was stifling. Mika and Lin Guoguo sat up front, while Lan Jue sat between Xiuxiu and Ke'er.

    All four women stared ahead with sour expressions. Not a word was spoken.

    Lan Jue wanted to say something, but every time he opened his mouth he couldn't summon the words. All he could do was shut his eyes and try to nap.

    1. Lol, what a pig.
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