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Chapter 495: The Chance of Harmonious Swords

    Chapter 495: The Chance of Harmonious Swords

    The Pharmacist smiled at Lan Jue. "Right now, you don't need to concern yourself too much with the Banishing Blades. The most important thing is to improve your Discipline. I have been and will continue to search for the Banishing Diagram. If all of this is true, and humanity is in dire straits, then we'll need to find a way to use this formation to our advantage. That is humanity's best hope for survival. And if we get it, we can use the diagram to find the location of all four swords. Perhaps..."

    She trailed off, but the light of hope in her eyes spoke volumes.

    Yes! If they could find Ultus, then they'd find her husband!

    "If you get any news about the diagram, let me know. I want to help," Lan Jue said.

    "Alright," she answered, nodding her head. "I did manage to learn something after running in to the other two swords. But right now your primary focus is perfecting yourself. Tell this to Qianlin, and have her begin preparations as well. Also, if you hope to uncover the lost knowledge of the harmonious swords, there mustn't be any barriers between you. The harmonious swords are built on the prerequisite of emotional connection, and a union of the heart. Only then is harmony achieved, and the style effective. If you can master the techniques, and if both of you manage to break through to Paragon before the diagrams are discovered and the aliens arrive, then humanity will be ready to face this terrible threat."

    Lan Jue took a deep breath. "So no pressure, right sis? I don't know if I can handle this..."

    The Pharmacist's voice suddenly grew hard. "Whether or not we think we can, we must. That is our destiny. Remember that no matter what, I am here to share your burden. Do not worry over whether the Clairvoyant has controlled your destiny, because I know you're thinking it. Everything the Eye of Tomorrow has ever done was in the best interest of mankind. He has sacrificed more than anyone toward this aim. Compared to what he's given up, our tribulations are nothing."

    Lan Jue sat up straight at her words. Slowly he nodded.

    "Alright," the Pharmacist said, "you're tired. Head back and rest. Do not tell anyone other than Qianlin about what we discussed today."

    "Yes." He nodded resolutely.

    Even after he stepped out from the Hall of Supreme Harmony and into Skyfire Underground, his heart was still racing beyond control. The Banishing Blades... legendary artifacts.

    The press of complicated issues surrounding him began to feel overwhelming. His thoughts were scattered. The Pharmacist's voice was clearest, and her words were a reminder of where he was meant to be. Indeed, the feeling of having your future determined by another was unpleasant. But if it was for humanity? What did one person's concern mean in the face of that?

    "Boss! Who do you think you are, King Yu? Thrice to the threshold but never inside?" 1 The hard voice caught Lan Jue's attention.

    He snapped his head around to find Ke 'er standing in front of Zeus' Jewelry Store with her hands planted on her hips. Her eyes were wide, and hard with anger. He'd walked right past the door to his shop, lost in his own thoughts.

    "Hey, Ke'er. Have you been keeping out of trouble these days?" Lan Jue smirked at her, easily shifting in to a more congenial mood. He was still wearing his face mask for fear of being spotted. Of course, Ke'er would never look past her own boss.

    "Hmph!" She sniffed meanly at him. "You're the one in trouble! Gone for so long, never getting in touch, this is not the behavior of a responsible employer! You all left me here by myself, busy all the time. Ke'er's so tired! Every day, so many people. I can't get a moment! Thank goodness An Liu was here to help me."

    An Liu? The security officer?

    But of course. Things must have been crazy around here with the sudden increase of traffic. Certainly Ke'er couldn't have managed by herself.

    Lan Jue looked at her apologetically. "I'm so sorry, Ke'er. I had no idea there would be so many people. Name whatever compensation you want, and you've got it."

    Ke'er straightened her shoulders, causing the fabric of her uniform to stretch against her well-endowed figure. "Kiss me, and I'll forgive you!"

    "No!" The door behind KE'er flung open, and three pairs of hangs yanked her in to the shop. Mika's face appeared around the door frame. "Get in, boss."

    Lan Jue smirked. Ah, home! Where it is always warm and sweet.

    Lan Jue almost had to fight his way in. There was a press of people from wall to wall, and the girls were all busy. Lin Guoguo and Xiuxiu were helping customers, and Ke'er had to race back to the counter. A lot of the merchandize was missing from within the display cases, and a line of people were waiting to get more.

    Lan Jue gaped at them. Since when was buying power gems like going to the cabbage market? 2

    Mika looked over at him. "Boss, I think we should close the shop after this wave of guests. We need to organize and restock."

    Lan Jue nodded. He'd been gone for a long time, so he'd need a minute to go over the condition of the shop. While he was out being productive, the business side of things had fallen on the girls' shoulders. He was out of the loop.

    Mika turned off the welcome sign, then set about helping. Meanwhile, the Morning Star stood in a corner and observed the raucous crowd. She looked confused, and a little disappointed.

    Lan Jue saw, and pushed through the people to get to her. "What's wrong? Not really your scene, I bet."

    Su Xiaosu shook her head. "It's not that I'm uncomfortable, I'm... hopeful. This is such a wonderful feeling, to have a place so lively and safe. Where you don't have to constantly be looking over your shoulder, or worrying over problems of life and death. It's so nice! I always wanted just a day like this. Thank you, boss."

    Lan Jue smiled at her, and didn't correct her address. She was here, so might as well prepare for her to stay. There wasn't really any other option. He couldn't force her to leave, especially now that the Pontiff knew who it was that took her. All eyes were on Skyfire Avenue now, and if it weren't for the state of things then retaliation would be expected.

    "If you like it, then stick around. You're smart and empathetic. You'll fit right in." Lan Jue said with a wide smile.

    Lightly shaking her head, Xiaosu said "I want to, and I'll try my hardest to make the other girls accept me. But I can't, not now. I have to say goodbye."

    "You're leaving?" Lan Jue's heart skipped a beat, but he hid it from his face.

    She nodded. "I had good people in the starfields, people who would have followed me through hell and high water. The Moonfiend Pirates may have been puppets of the Pontiff's Citadel, but I ran the outfit for years. I have my trusted people. Without me there, things have got to be hard. Gao Yong was the one who came to you, and if he hadn't I would have died. I wouldn't be able to help them. So I'm going back, and I'm going to rebuild the Moonfiend Pirates."

    Lan Jue's brows shot up in surprise. "You've changed your mind?" It wasn't long ago that she was begging to be one of his Amazons!

    She answered with a sigh. "You helped me make up my mind. When I saw your heroism on Taihua, I realized that people can't just live for themselves. Life isn't a careless walk through the park. I saw those monsters, and when I did I knew that we can't rely only on our Disciplines. We have to have real strength, inner strength. I have resources out there, and I'll turn them toward the fight against these alien predators. We will be an arm in the fight against eradication and throw off the shackles of the Citadel."

    The more impassioned she became, the more vociferously Lan Jue nodded his head. He looked delighted. "Seeing you like this makes me very happy. You have my support. But, going out right now by yourself is too dangerous, and I've got my hands full."

    Su Xiaosu shook her head. "I'm also not the girl I was before. I was still bound by the training and regulations of the Citadel when they came for me before. I have no such relationship them any longer. With your help, I'm no longer a slave to their faith. Besides, the universe is a big place. Finding me won't be easy." There was a bright light of wisdom and confidence in her face.

    Lan Jue gave her a big smile. "It looks like our Moonfiend Empress is going to make herself felt. If you're confident, I certainly won't stop you. Take Zeus-1 with you, I'm sure it'll be a big help."

    That was an understatement. The ship had just been modified to include the top-grade Blinding Stone. It was a mini warship that could pop in to existence practically anywhere. It was a telling sign of Lan Jue's commitment to her cause.

    "Boss, I can't accept that. That ship is too precious." Her face reddened.

    "Who said anything about giving?" Lan Jue said with a chuckle. "I'm lending it to you, you can return it to me later. And actually, there's something else I think I can help you with..." Lan Jue manipulated his Discipline so that his voice was directed to Xiaosu alone. He spoke a few sentences while she listened quietly. But with every word, her eyes seemed to get brighter.

    "Alright, so it's decided. Once everything's said and done, I expected a position here in the shop." Su Xiaosu said with a smirk.

    Lan Jue chuckled. "It would be my honor to employ the Moonfiend Empress. Zeus' Jewelry Shop will always be open to you."

    Xiaosu dragged her eyes over to the other girls, busily helping customers. "I won't say goodbye to them, they're still upset. The next time I come by, I'll show them that I would be just as good to the boss as they are." She suddenly spun around and wrapped Lan Jue in to a tight hug. It was just for a moment, then she quickly released him and left the store.

    She'd felt soft, almost like she was boneless. This was different than the countless other girls he'd hugged. He stood there stunned for a moment, and when he came to, Xiaosu was gone.

    1. This is a reference to the semi-mythical Yu the Great, and the story that he spent years in the ditches with the workers to control floods. He was always near home but never at it.

    2. Farmer's drive up to a market or neighborhood in dump trucks full of cabbage. The whole neighborhood - hundreds of people - will file out and swarm the truck for cabbage that's .02 cents cheaper.
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