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Chapter 491: Joint Statement

    Chapter 491: Joint Statement

    Zhou Qianlin's gains through this ordeal were even better than Lan Jue's. Her Discipline had exploded to ninth level, fourth rank. Lan Jue might have risen by more ranks, but the qualitative change was the same. Passing third rank was the first major bottleneck in a ninth level Adept. Now, she was in the middle ranks.

    Zhou Qianlin had never risen so high in rank before. The tribulations of this ordeal had helped her cross the gulf. Months of her life had been saved, that otherwise would have been spent in arduous meditation. Lan Jue had already traversed this path, so the way was clearer.

    It was also great that they should break through like this together. Still, Lan Jue didn't spend too much time marveling over it. He smiled at her, then opened the door of the bathroom and slipped out first.

    She watched him go through the closing door. A myriad of conflicting emotions flitted across her face. But she pulled herself together and followed him out.

    "Eh? Are we pulling beautiful women out of thin air?" The Coffee Master blinked at Zhou Qianlin when he saw her.

    "Not bad, right? They should call me the Magician." Lan Jue dodged. The Coffee Master didn't need to know about his relationship with Qianlin.

    The Pharmacist looked to Qianlin for a moment, then waved the Jewelry Master over. He trotted over and sat by her and her daughter.. Jun'er smiled him when he came, and opened her arms to be held.

    He snatched her up in to his arms. "What's up?" He asked the Pharmacist. He reminded himself to be careful how he addressed her in front of Jun'er.

    "Aren't you curious why I forfeit, and pitted you against Jun Yongye?" The Pharmacist asked.

    He nodded. "A little. But I know you have my best interest at heart."

    "Indeed," she replied. "In many ways they really are my fellow disciples. That wasn't entirely untrue. The fight you had with them was also a test, one which you passed. Soon you'll reap the rewards."

    Lan Jue looked at her. "That submersion technique, to go underground... they must still be on Luo. Will they be safe?"

    She shook her head to assure him. "Don't worry. Nothing will happen to them. In reality, there probably isn't anyone in the galaxy who could hold them if they didn't want to be held. I believe they'll come looking for you soon."

    Lan Jue sighed in relief. "Then we can go home at last. After so long, this trip has become exhausting."

    How could it not be? First it was the Burrows, then from there right to the Holy City of Reims. Luo was only the last stop in a whirlwind tour, culminating in a knock-down, drag-out tournament. It had been more than a month of running, fighting and training. Now that he was finally heading home, he could feel the fatigue settle in to his bones.

    The Pharmacist chuckled at his side. "When we get back, be sure to work hard at your cultivation. You've learned a lot, and you'll need time to absorb it all. All of this will help you when it comes time to break through to Paragon."

    He was suddenly curious. "Sis... could you really become a Paragon whenever you want? Why are you holding back?"

    She gave him a wry smirk. "If only it were that easy! I let the Terminator believe a deliberate misconception. He mistook the power of my weapon, with my own strength. It's true that I am at peak rank. I also know my Path. However, the weapon I use is too much for me. It will take time to master, and until I bring it fully under my control I cannot break through.  When we get back I'll be shutting myself in as well, to see if I can finally succeed."

    The Pharmacist's weapon was that enormous white sword, spied briefly during the fights. He was only more curious, but it felt inappropriate to press her further on personal matters.

    She went on. "Have you decided that your astrum will be a sword?"

    He nodded. "Actually, I used a sword when I was younger. Xiuxiu there, she was arranged for by my master. Her Discipline is the sword, and she can become the Asura Godblade.  Master told me that he would teach me the sword when my Taiji was good enough. I guess when I took on the name of Zeus, I just decided to use the spear to keep up appearances. It looks like my first inclination was the right one.

    The Pharmacist smiled softly. "Be firm in your conviction and harbor no regrets. Your astrum will help determine your success or failure on the Path to Paragon. In fact you don't have the luxury for regret, so you need to believe in success with every fiber of your being. Do you understand?"

    He nodded. Lan Jue had had the same thought: this sort of decision was final, and he couldn't afford to feel uncertain. His eyes swung over to Xiuxiu, and there was where the uncertainty lie. To create an astrum, he needed a base - something to build it on. Xiuxiu was perfect, but she wasn't a weapon, she was a person. If he chose her as his astrum, their fates would be forever linked. That would cause problems. He knew how she felt about him, but sometimes even time couldn't grant love's wish.

    That wouldn't work. If he took that path, things were bound to get very messy.

    A strange, dim light hung around Lan Jue. An icy-cold expression sat on his face, while the light in his eyes mimicked his aura. When they would fluctuate, so would the bubble. He pressed his hands before his chest and foxed his gaze. This was a problem he could have to think carefully on.

    Zeus-1 cruised along at double subluminal speed 1. Luo quickly vanished behind them. They were distant now, but the Accountant still kept the radar operational. It was, thankfully, silent.

    Interstellar travel was always an arduous and tiring process, but Zeus-1 was a far sight faster than commercial travel ships, and a lot nimbler. They didn't have to worry about orbital assists or gravitational fields. The Accountant already had them locked into the quickest, safest route home.

    Half an hour later, the Keeper and Bookworm returned to the bridge. They were all safely in the depths of space, and were no longer needed on guard. They had busied themselves with the installation of the S-ranked invisibility gem, which was now complete. Nothing short of a Paragon, actively channeling their Domain, could pick them out from the blackness of space.

    Autopilot took over. The only thing the crew needed to do was take shifts, watching the radar.

    Lan Jue found himself a deserted corner, and dropped cross-legged to the floor to meditate. There was too much to do and not enough time, so every moment would be needed if he really wanted to take advantage of everything he'd learned.

    Things would also slow down for a while. This was good - he didn't want to rise in rank too quickly. The whole point of re-cultivating was stability, and purity. It was not about break-neck advancement. Now he would need to focus on consolidating the strange and mysterious energies he'd come to experience, and join them together.

    ζ

    While the Avenue delegation hummed through the vacuum of space, the worlds of humanity were thrown in to turmoil. The North, the West and the East all announced plans to prepare for war, plans that they released in a joint statement to the people.

    It pledged to fight the alien menace together. The Alliances would turn their strength to the defense of human kind. In the meanwhile, probes would be sent to the three planets, to watch their progress.

    In addition, all of the Alliances would be instituting a draft. For the east, their conscription efforts would be overseen by someone who commanded a great deal of respect. He was the Supersoldier of An Lun, the one they called Prometheus. Lan Qing. With the backdrop of the miracle battle, the tournament and the threat of immanent destruction, the recruiting centers had lines out the door.

    This was not to say there wasn't worry. Many feared for their safety. But, if there was one resource humanity never lacked it was hot-blooded, able-bodied youths. The military was always an attractive option, and they were treated well. Especially in times of war, however, they became heroes. This stirred even normal people to take up arms.

    Everything raced ahead to the beat of the war drums. The differences between the alliances already seemed to start melting away as they worked to avoid destruction. Humanity would need to become a well-oiled military machine to survive.

    The resolve to fight quickly spread to every corner of human-occupied space. Mining planets saw their output surge as demand increased. Military institutes were preparing themselves as well, and recent enlistees were brought in at a higher rank. However, this was also met with a much more stringent training regimen.

    ζ

    Seven days later, Zeus-1 pulled in to the public air hangar on Skyfire. As he disembarked, Lan Jue couldn't help but stop and take a deep breath. Really, though, the trip had flown by. He'd spent most of it in quiet contemplation.

    Maybe it was because he wasn't joined with Qianlin, or perhaps it was just that he'd risen too fast, but whatever the case he could sense his Discipline's progress slowing. There was a change, though nigh imperceptible. He could feel it, but he couldn't quite describe it. All he knew was it was a good thing.

    "Ah! Only the air on Skyfire can make a man feel at home." The Coffee Master called out what everyone was thinking.

    A maglev bus silently awaited passenger a few feet away. When the doors opened, a familiar face peaked out. It was the Seamstress.

    1. I have no idea what that means, but that's what he said. You'd expect double subluminal speed would be full light speed.
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