Chapter 321: Ruinous Blow

    Chapter 321: Ruinous Blow

    Lan Jue picked off his cloak and wig, then calmly walked to the battleship's control panel. He flooded it with current, and the ship came back to life.

    He wasn't happy with the obliteration of the pirates, on the contrary his brows were furrowed ominously. He conncted to Zeus-1 on the planet below through a secret cipher code.

    "Jewelry Master? Everything went smoothly? Don't worry, everything on the surface is normal. Beta squad has found fifty-six Eastern women who had been held hostage by the enemy. They've already escorted them to safety. The remaining teams are cleaning up the stragglers."

    Lan Jue's quiet voice responded. "Relay my command, Accountant: Everyone is to fall back to Zeus-1. Take off and pick them up. Once you've got 'em, come and get me. Quick, now."

    The Accountant felt nervous as he heard Lan Jue's urgency. He didn't dare dally, and performed his task without hesitation. The students, as well, felt strange as the commands were relayed. Didn't he say not to give any quarter? Wasn't their job to eliminate all of the pirates? They were well in control of the battle, and the pirates had no chance at victory. What's the idea?

    Although their were uncertain, their time on An Lun had taught them a little something about following orders. So despite their confusion, they did what they were told as fast as they were able.

    Zeus-1 rose quickly under the Accountant's command. Flashes of light sputtered from its thrusters as the ship swept by, landing just long enough to gather up the rescued women and the students. The ship - already near capacity - was downright crowded with the addition of fifty more souls. The students had to remove their suits before boarding, obviously, though it slowed the escape process.

    The seats were all given to the captives, who all looked relieved to be freed from their ordeal. But one could tell they were scarred. There was a vacuity in their eyes, like their souls were dead or locked away. A few wept silently, or stared blankly at nothing. Seeing them, the students couldnm't help but clench their fists and gnash their teeth. Who knew how much torment these poor women had to endure from these despicable pirates.

    "Quick!" Lan Jue's urgent voice pulled their minds back to the present.

    "Everyone's here," the Accountant said. "We're in flight, en route to your position."

    Lan Jea, meanwhile, was watching the the screens at the battleship's control panel. Sweat dotted his forehead.

    Lan Jue had used his Ascension powers and protogenic abilities to quickly deal with the pirates. Doing so that quickly, of course, drained a good deal of energy.

    Of course, his command to recall the troops wasn't a pointless endeavor. Despite his handling of the situation, a terrifying sensation washed over him as he did. Something that made it hard to breathe.

    It was a sensation he hadn't even felt on Taihua during the invasion. The fighting there had been more or less within his ability to deal with, however the feeling he had now was enough to rattle him. There was something... deadly.

    It was a feeling he felt only once before. The day Hera died.

    This was why he was so quickly commanding his students to retreat.

    Zeus-1 tore through the air under the Accountant's expert flying, headed for Lan Jue and the battleship. Lan Jue wasted no time with explanations, sending the ship on a speedy trip in to the recesses of the Starfields. The two boats followed the same path, one in front and one behind. The Crimson Star shrunk as they raced away.

    "We're boiling up in here, Jewelry Master. We're like a bowl of dumplings. Why don't you take some people with you on your ship! I can barely breathe!" The Accountant's voice was a little irritated.

    In fact, he was downright depressed. As far as he knew, the Starfields were positively rife with pirates but at least here they'd be handled. But they were ordered to leave before they could even divvy up the spoils!

    The students didn't care - they hadn't done this for riches. It was enough for them to have saved these women, some of whom clearly would need years of help to get over what had happened.

    Lan Jue didn't answer. He kept up the speed, forcing Zeus-1 to push full throttle to keep up. Before long both Zeus-1 and the battleship were at light speed. The ships weaved between the countless failed planets and fractured asteroids as they made their escape.

    The Accountant glowered with his brows knotted as he watched the pirate battleship. The Jewelry Master was too cautious, he thought to himself. There was nothing going on! According to the star maps, there weren't even any other pirates clans in the vicinity. What's more, how could any of these piddling pirates stand up to the Jewelry Master and his awesome power?

    As the confusion in his heart grew, the Accountant's eyes were stabbed by a fierce light outside of the window. It was pure white, and so powerful that the whole of Zeus-1's interior was blanched by it.

    The women cried out in alarm with one terrified voice.

    They could see it clearly from the windows. As they sped away a massive column of light - fifty kilometers long -  tore through the darkness of space, right toward the Crimson Star. As the pearly light struck it, the entire planet adopted the pallid hue.

    The Accountant's eyes grew large, and threatened to pop out of his head. The lollipop in his mouth tumbled to the floor. The planet disappeared in a stupendous explosion before the lollipop even stopped rolling.

    It was a small planet, but it was a planet. The Crimson Star disappeared as this enigmatic attack reduced it to space dust. So powerful was the blast, that even the errant asteroids in the vicinity were instantly vaporized. The resulting displacement of energy condensed in to a powerful wave. Both ships had their shields up and full of energy by the time it hit them.

    The Accountant's face was a sickly white, and his heart was absent any further doubt or blame. How could he even describe what he was seeing? Terrifying didn't cover it.

    The students were equally stunned by the display. Never had they seen something like this before. What the hell was that white light?! An entire planet was erased by this light, to the point where even the asteroids around it were destroyed.

    The women had stopped crying. They had been rendered speechless - had not these people come for them, they would have suffered the same fate as the Crimson Star.

    Lan Jue, meanwhile, took deep gasping breaths as the light show concluded. Finally, safe at least for now, he wiped the sweat from his forehead.

    Though the students and the rescued women didn't know what that light was, the Accountant and Lan Jue were well familiar. The Savage Goddess and Wang Hongyuan could guess some of it as well.

    Nothing in the natural universe could produce an attack that powerful. This was something beyond that, a supernatural power with enormous destructive power. In the realms of men there was only one thing that could produce power like that: A Bastion ship.

    The battleship slowly began to decelerate. When it slipped behind Zeus-1, it listed to the side and took the brunt of the shock wave. Immediately the souls on Zeus-1 felt her stabilize considerably.

    In all the vastness of the universe, the power of man was infinitesimal. But Bastions, those were different. Not even the strongest Paragon could survive a blast from a Bastion's main battery. It had the power to effect galaxies.

    "Boss!" Mika and Xiuxiu shouted as they saw the battleship shudder violently from the impact of the wave. There was nothing they could do.

    The harshest part of I was coming. If they could survive this, they would make it home.

    The students were stunned, and afraid. They could see the battleship on the main screens, protecting their rear and being pummeled in the process. It looked as though its shields would fail any second.

    It was more than fair to say that these students had endured torturous conditions since the beginning of the ARC classes. Especially Lan Jue's needles and electricity, it was a living nightmare. How could there not be a bitter hatred for their Demon Drillmaster?

    Eventually, however, they discovered the sweetness after the bitter. They saw what this cruel training had forged them in to. There would always be hatred there, but that and the fear were reduced as they got stronger. Now there was also respect.

    As they watched that ship behind them, protecting them from the worst of the blast, their fear grew but their resentment disappeared.

    They were smart, talented youths. They knew Lan Jue must have considered these things before making his decision. There were limits to the shields of a battleship that had already been boarded. Plus, who knew how long they'd have to defend against this aftermath? Regardless, he put himself between them and danger without hesitation, and they knew what that meant. There wasn't just respect now; he was like a strict father who - although stern - came to their defense in their hour of need.

    Zhou Qianlin watched with large, frightened eyes. Her hands held on to Tang Mi with a white-knuckle grip.

    Tang Mi grabbed her in a hug and held her tight.
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