Chapter 486: The Big Send-Off

    Chapter 486: The Big Send-Off

    Lan Jue leaned back against the bus seat, with his eyes closed. As the bus hummed along, the passengers all seemed lost in their own world. He could hear the Pharmacist and Jun'er beside him. The young one displayed her uncanny cleverness by sticking close to her mother.

    Eventually the traffic cleared up and the bus made it to the airship hangar. It was the largest one in Luo, and could accommodate nearly any class of ship. Private or commercial, most air traffic came through this place.

    The road widened up and the hangar spread out in front of them. But what he saw through the windshield widened the Gourmet's eyes.

    Before them, stretching back to the gates of the hangar, row upon row of mechas were revealed. They lumbered up from a downhill slope, and their vanguard was a heavy defense suit. A cadre of flying suits hovered above for support for the main force that followed.

    Their eyes were the only tool they had to count them, but it looked like over a thousand suits had been assembled.

    A thousand suits was a standard mecha division. If this was some kind of training maneuver, they wouldn't be doing it in front of the public air field.

    The bus was rented, and their driver stared at the scene with unbridled shock. So stunned was he that his first reaction was to bring the bus to a sudden stop.

    The Gourmet's face spread in to a bitter grin. "That's a big send-off."

    A murderous light simmered behind the Barber's eyes 1. The Beautician picked at her nails as though she hadn't noticed anything. The Driver and the Bartender were fighting over a glass of alcohol while the Coffee Master fiddled with his fingers. They tapped incessantly, so fast they blurred.

    "Open the door." The Gourmet said to the driver. "Then get as far as you can."

    The driver did as he was told. He didn't know what was going on, but he was no fool. Whatever was going on here was not going to be good. It was a problem he didn't want to be involved in.

    The encroaching mech suits had spread in to formation. All at once they stopped, as though nailed in place. Their guns rose and the telling buzz of charging cannons filled the air. A v-formation of flying suits hung overhead, but did not engage. They quietly awaited orders.

    The Skyfire Avenue delegation, together with Jun Yongye and Xuanyuan Shishi, filed off the bus. The Ten Thousand Swords rolled his shoulders. "Well, this isn't the best outcome we could have hoped for. It looks like traveling with you all will bring trouble."

    "Enough." Jun Yongye shot his companion a look, but said nothing else. Shishi seemed to fear him on some level, and kept silent.

    Lan Jue was apologetic. "I'm very sorry. We didn't know this would happen, either. It looks like we don't have a choice, though - we have to face them."

    Jun Yongye smiled. "Shoulder to shoulder."

    The Driver appeared beside Lan Jue. He glowered at the enemy, with his arms crossed before his chest. "I like the odds. It's better when things get noisy."

    The adepts lined up to facing their enemy. They quietly surveyed the mechs, knowing that these were no ordinary soldiers. The pilots would be some of the best, and in a straight-on battle it was unlikely they would win. However, that was not counting the Paragon among them. What's more, what Adept would be silly enough to fight a mech toe to toe? They had methods for facing off against mechanical enemies.

    Gusts of wind pulled at their clothes, born from the engines of the airborne mechas. Lan Jue looked to his left and to his right, peering down the line of his compatriots. He was excited to stand by their side in conflict. He was proud to have allies-in-arms. Together, they were a unified force.

    "The tournament just ended? Why are you in such a rush to leave?" The deep voice seemed to come from all around them. The day went from pleasantly sunny to a gloomy dark, without warning. A shadow fell over them Avenue denizens as a massive figure descended from the sky. It was the Terminator.

    The Gourmet, his pupils contracting, took a step forward. "Terminator. What is the meaning of this?"

    The enormous man's voice was low and passionless. "I've never been one to beat around the bush. I was very surprised, not least to discover that your Jewelry Master saved so many on Taihua. Our priorities are aligned - we do it for the species. I don't want to hurt an ally.

    "Leave Jun'er here and you can go peaceably. I give you my word as a Paragon that the North will not impede you on your journey home."

    Jun 'er... his target was the little girl.

    But that hadn't been his only goal. Before news of his heroics had gotten out, the Terminator had desired to keep the Jewelry Master from fleeing as well. That was no longer an option.

    It didn't take him long to notice the two swordsmen in their party. He nodded to them. "I would ask you two to remain as well. We would certainly like for you to join the Great Conclave. Here you would have access to limitless resources. With your Talent, you are sure to become Paragons, and the Conclave will come under your leadership. If you agree, I ask that you come stand at my side."

    Xuanyuan Shishi answered with a jovial laugh. "Big man, don't think your stature frightens anyone. You think you can force us to stay by yourself?"

    The Terminator grinned. "I'm not by myself. I have no desire to do this, but I am a Northerner. I must do what's best for the future of my Alliance. Gourmet, what is your answer?"

    That was all the acknowledgement Shishi would receive. The only one who could be counted his contemporary was the Infernal Vanguard. The Paragon returned the Terminator's gaze.

    "Jun'er said you weren't a bad man. Are you going to disappoint a little girl?"

    The enormous man sighed. "I am sorry, I do what I must for the North. The Avenue is already too strong. If you are led by another Clairvoyant we will have no leg to stand on, so my only choice is to keep her here. I promise you she will be treated like an heir. We don't have any soothsayers, but there are many with knowledge of the craft. We will spare no expense to train her, and I swear her abilities will never be turned against the East. Gourmet, don't let this be an end to an era of peace. Leave the girl, and go. In the future we will fight again side by side, when it matters."

    The Terminator had thought a great deal about this. Were it not for the threat of invasion from the aliens, then the North would have tried to keep every one of the Avenue's young Talents. It would have crippled the next generation of Eastern leaders.

    1. Reminder, this guy was one of the foremost assassins from the North.
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