Chapter 370: The Operation Commences

    Chapter 370: The Operation Commences

    "She agreed, and in the end it had taken less than three years. In that time, the Moonfiend pirates had become the strongest clan in the whole of the Shattered Starfields. About then, I also discovered that she had hailed from the Pontiff's Citadel."

    Afterwards, Lan Jue had come to rely on the Empress' intelligence to protect him from Citadelian patrols during his adventures.

    "I have a question," Zhou Qianlin said, after hearing Lan Jue's tale.

    Lan Jue nodded. "What's that?"

    "If we're going to face the Citadel, why didn't you bring the Wine Master?" She asked. "He's right there on the Barrows - I'm sure he'll help if you ask."

    Lan Jue shook his head at the suggestion. "I haven't told the Wine Master anything about all this. If it were just me then it wouldn't much of an issue. Even if I was captured, the Citadel wouldn't dare anger the Avenue. With two new Paragons in the East, they'd have to be crazy to harm me. There would be some sort of exchange or ransom, and that'd be the end of it."

    "Secondly, this is a personal matter and doesn't have any connection to the Avenue. If I did drag them in to this, then it'll be two powerful organizations at each others' throat instead of a few people's problem. The Empress is also an important part of their organization; she used Fantascia Genetica to empower herself to the rank of Six-Wing Seraph, the Morning Star. So this is an internal matter, making it even more inappropriate for the Avenue to get involved."

    "When we first came to the West with the Wine Master, I was considering asking him for help. With his help our chances of success are much higher, of course. But there are risks and consequences. If it was revealed that he was involved, the Citadel would undoubtedly have to respond. Although the differences in power between the Wine Master and the Pontiff aren't enormous, the leader of the Citadel is still stronger. Not to mention, this is his home turf. The Wine Master really wouldn't stand a chance under conditions like that - hell, we just saw what could happen on the Barrows. With the Wine Master preoccupied, we'd have to handle the rest; the Lord of the Archangels, Metatron - nearly a Paragon himself - and the six Archangels. Even if there were three of me, we'd be far outmatched. It'd be a hopeless, all-out fight to the death which no one wants. So after pondering, I decided it would not be a good idea to trouble the Wine Master about it. This is my own operation, and doesn't involve either the Avenue or the Citadel. I can't let my own issues instigate a conflict between two great Adept organizations."

    Qianlin nodded in understanding and agreement. It was indeed as Lan Jue had determined, everything here came down to on person. Elevating this to involve an entire group would make it a very different beast that could very well lead to confrontation.

    "So what's the plan? Direct force isn't an option, so we'll have to be clever as you said. Are you familiar with this place?" Qianlin asked.

    Lan Jue chortled. "Of course not. This is the first time I've ever set foot in Reims. But even the Pontiff's Citadel has to use electricity, and where's there's electricity there's a way in. We can't run in half-cocked, though. Not only are we getting Little Yue out, but we also need to protect our identities so it doesn't bring trouble."

    Qianlin shot him a sideways glance. "Little Yue, so intimate..."

    Lan Jue grinned at her. "When you're handsome you can't avoid getting some attention."

    She kind of wanted to punch him in his smug face, but she knew it wouldn't have ended well. Anyway, she didn't really want to hurt him.

    They had a bite to eat, then left the hotel room. Instead of going to the Cathedral, however, their first stop was the shopping mall. If they wanted to protect their identities, they'd have to blend in. A change of clothes was the place to start.

    Lan Jue bought what he assumed was a middle-income set of clothing and accessories for both he and Qianlin. Of course, Qianlin's outfit was a little more involved. It was necessary, considering the little they'd brought with them.

    All of the buildings and shops that they passed had a religious theme. A crucifix hung above every doorway. A handsome man and a beautiful woman captured quite a lot of glances as they walked from store to store, so Lan Jue decided to buy a pair of large glasses to help hide his face. Although they were just frames, it served to conceal him well 1. He would have preferred sunglasses, but those were not allowed to be worn inside the Cathedral. It was considered disrespectful.

    Once they'd made their purchases, they decided to leave. Exiting the shops, however, they were met with a very luxurious verti-car blocking the way. It was descending noisily from above, projecting light over it's intended landed spot. People hustled to get out of the way.

    Lan Jue felt his heart skip a beat. He grabbed Qianlin's hand, and pulled her to the side. The verti-car doors hissed open, and a man emerged. It was a man Lan Jue knew, had even confronted - the Archangel of Healing, Raphael.

    Today, he was clad in ash-gray pants and vest. A dark-colored tie sat against a white colored shirt. He looked for all the world like a perfct gentleman. The Angel of Healing entered the shop without loitering around. Luckily, Lan Jue had pulled Qianlin aside just in time. Had he not, they'd had have run straight in to him.

    An Adept's aura, their strength, intermingled with the strength of others when revealed. Strength attracted strength. Raphael had no need to hide his abilities  here in Reims. Lan Jue, however, had to be careful - revealing his aura would immediately give him away.

    "Who's he?" Zhou Qianlin asked.

    "Raphael, the Archangel of Healing," Lan Jue responded.

    Her face darkened. "He's one of the ones who ambushed you."

    Lan Jue nodded.

    "He's by himself," she whispered. "Should we just deal with him?"

    Lan Jue barely suppressed a laugh. "This is the Holy City of Reims 2. It'd be unwise to confront him here..." However, just as Lan Jue said this, a light shone in his eyes. A plan was forming. "Or would it..."

    Lan Jue knew that when facing enemies stronger than yourself, the first step is to conceal your objective. If the enemy doesn't know what you're after, they can't keep you from it.

    Raphael wasn't the weakest of the six Archangels, but he was lower on the roster. He was a support Adept, so his direct attack power was limited. With he and Qianlin hand in hand, Raphael wouldn't be much a problem.

    Lan Jue's mind worked quickly. He only had a second, and in that second his plan was formalized.

    "Let's go." Lan Jue pulled Zhou Qianlin back in to the store behind him. Raphael, as expected, wasn't taking any effort to conceal his powers - his aura pulsed visibly. Even separated by walls and floors, Lan Jue knew where he was. There was no rush, so Lan Jue slowly and quietly lead Qianlin upstairs toward where Raphael lounged.

    Third floor - that was their destination. It looked like a clothing accessories store, and the Angel of Healing was trying on a new wardrobe. Lan Jue turned right around and left the shop.

    "We're not going after him here?" Qianlin asked.

    "We are, but not this minute," Lan Jue explained. "These sorts of stores are almost certainly being monitored with surveillance video. We're always being watched, there's no hiding. All the Citadel would have to do is review the tape, and they'd know it was us. First, we'll have to solve the surveillance issue."

    Qianlin noticed a peculiar light in Lan Jue's eyes. "I never would have thought you're such a pro at this."

    "Pro," Lan Jue snorted. "This is all just common sense."

    Qianlin answered with a snort of laughter. "Alright. Common sense, then. Lan Jue, can you promise me something?"

    "What." He replied.

    "We're here to save people. I don't want anyone hurt. People who come after you, that's fine, but these shop owners are just living their lives..."

    Lan Jue smiled in the face of her kindness. "Relax. The Arrow of Compassion is still part of me. Like Bize said, if I do anything improper than the arrow will punish me for it. This is why she gave it to me, and not to you. She has faith in your kindness. For her, I'm still a question mark. She never said it, but I'm sure this arrow was her way of keeping an eye on me."

    Qianlin's response sounded anxious. "Will this have some sort of impact on you?"

    He shook his head. "No. At most it'll just limit some of my options. This was a weapon made through the power of a Paragon after all. I don't want to mess with that. I've never harmed an innocent anyway."

    They returned to the first floor of the shop as they spoke. The whole time Lan Jue searched for the surveillance control room - for him, it wouldn't be difficult to find.

    Electricity was everywhere, and Lan Jue's own electric Discipline helped to highlight where the energies were strongest. This shop - unlike the Cathedral of Reims - did not have defenses in place to keep Adepts out. So, Lan Jue did what would be considered suicide for any normal man and stuck his finger in a nearby socket. Through the coursing volts of electricity, he was able to follow them to the surveillance control room. Among Adepts with this ability, they referred it as creating a dynamic conduit.

    Through the sensations he picked up in the electricity, Lan Jue was quickly able to find the location of the security surveillance room. Taking Zhou Qianlin once more by the hand, he lead her quietly to their objective.

    1. Otherwise known as the Superman Effect.

    2. I'm not sure if this has been mentioned, but this is a very typical Chinese response for certain things. 'Ths is China' is used any time the speaker wants to apologize for their country or chastise foreigners. Holy **, is my taxi driver smashed on rice wine? 'This is China.' My boss just forced me to wake up at 5:30 to work an extra three hours with no pay. 'This is China.' What do you mean I can't pay my cellphone bill without showing you my passport? 'This is China.' Here, 'This is Reims' is used similarly to explain in a somewhat derogatory tone that her idea is stupid.
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