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Chapter 503: A Greeting Gift

    Chapter 503: A Greeting Gift

    Lan Jue glowered at the communicator. "You aren't telling the truth. Things must be worse than you're saying. When I was coming here I ran in to one of those things. It was strong, and could fight in space. I used Thor to take advantage of its carelessness and bore through its body, killing it. There's no way there isn't some record of this thing coming this far in to human territory. Bro, you don't need to hide anything from me. I don't want to go and help just because you're my brother. I'm doing it because humanity needs it."

    Lan Qing's low voice replied. "If you really want to help, then don't enlist. There's a lot more you can do in this fight. I'm sure the Avenue has plans for how they're going to act. All of our research shows that all Adept Disciplines work well against them - much better than all our guns and ships. I suspect it has something to do with biology. They evolved different from us, on a completely separate path. We've evolved our brains to build protections for our bodies. These creatures, through millions of years of tribulations and consumption, have perfected their bodies. The radiation out in space is lethal to us, by they were molded by it 1. All of our laser weapons, all of missiles, they are built to withstand that. The North's sacrifice showed that Adept-driven mecha - that union of Discipline and Technology - was what did the most damage."

    Lan Jue's heart started racing. "Was this one of the reasons for the Great Adept's Tournament?"

    "Yes, it was. It was a great excuse to get the best Adepts together and judge their abilities. From there, all you had to do was get them to enlist. Not just the North, but all of the Alliances were watching closely." Lan Qing affirmed.

    Lan Jue was beginning to understand. The Avenue delegation back on Luo had back-up, but the Terminator and Epochrion didn't even really try to discourage them from leaving. Everything had been the threat of force, but no punches were thrown. Now he knew why - because the future depended on Adepts.

    All of this information started what became a change of heart. His brother was right, there was more he could do.

    "I know what I need to do. After a few days, I'll go back to Skyfire Avenue. "Lan Jue said.

    "Right." His brother answered. "I have to get to a meeting. Keep in touch."

    "Yup!" Lan Jue nodded.

    Lan Jue cut the connected and lapsed in to quiet thought. The fate of humanity now lay squarely on the shoulders of all Adepts. He would need to improve, and be at his best.

    As his mind pondered, he allowed his eyes to slip shut. Soon he was deep in meditation. He wanted to firm up his foundation, then he could continue the trek to the peak of ninth rank.

    He couldn't tell how long he'd been there before an ineffable feeling caused him to open his eyes. He saw the familiar, towering silhouette across from him together with another smaller one.

    Jue Di had changed his clothes. When he saw that Lan Jue was back in the present, he nodded. "You've improved a little. Re-cultivated?"

    Dad would be dad. He was the kind to critique his cultivation methods and progress. But he didn't go in to the whole story, about all the things that had happened in the last year.

    "Let's head back. We'll talk there." Jue Di nodded curtly at him. There was a chill in his expression, a shadow of his old father.

    Luo Xianni walked by his side. The pissed off face Lan Jue knew her by was gone, replaced by all things with a gentle smile. That was one hell of a one-eighty! What did you do, dad?

    Although Lan Jue was critical of his father, he didn't dare let any hint of that escape. He didn't particarly fancy a beating, and dad wasn't in a great mood.

    As they made their way back in to the log cabin, Lan Jue took a minute to look over this mysterious woman.

    "Hey kid, what do you think you're looking at?" Luo Xianni snapped. "You're gunna be calling me mom before long, you hear me?"

    Jue Di visibly winced, but he didn't dare contradict her. Lan Jue thought he'd try again. "Em... Lady Luo? You're so young, calling you mother might make you seem older..."

    She sniffed at him. "It's fine, mother doesn't mind. So that's what you'll call me!"

    "Sure!" Lan Jue beamed at her. If his dad was going to be stuck with her, what could he do about it? Honesty was always the best policy.

    He addressed her with a gentlemanly air of respect. "Mother."

    "Good boy!" The overbearing dragon lady was immediately supplanted with a woman all smiles and sunshine. She thrust out her hand, and pressed something in to his palm.

    "Take it. Its mother's greeting gift." 2

    Lan Jue turned his hand over and opened his fingers to look at it. It was a lump of snow-white metal, about the size of a chicken egg. Its spotless white exterior looked thick, and he could tell it had been neither forged nor polished.

    This is...

    His eyes went wide. "Mother, is this power ore?" This time, Luo Xianni's new title sounded a lot more genuine.

    What was power ore? It was similar to power gems, in that they both were minerals that contained energy. But power ore had an advantage power gems didn't have. Malleability.

    A power gem could never change its size or shape without being destroyed. However, power ore could be shaped in to whatever form the use desired.

    They were much rarer than power gems. Normal metal could have special properties, but they couldn't contain any intrinsic energy within themselves.

    Lan Jue dealt with these materials all the time, but really only ever with power gems. He'd never had the opportunity to see power ore, due to its rarity. The uses of it were numerous, and only a few planets produced the stuff.  Manufacture and distribution were very carefully controlled by the Alliances, because it was an integral component in making power gem lattices. That was to say, that any time someone wanted to connect a series of gems together and really employ their full potential, this stuff was the way to do it. Only power ore could handle the strain.

    Another way to highlight its importance, was as a requirement for new generation core reactors in ships. Using it for the engine already makes that battleship a flagship. Using it in any other systems would be extravagant.

    Bastion and Mother ships had power ore as a necessary part of their construction as well. This little nugget looked small, but it was packed with pure energy. It wasn't enough for a battleship, but it was more than enough to make a lattice for a mech suit. Lan Jue had been searching for a way to get his hands on some, but it was ludicrously expensive. A chunk this size of power ore was equivalent to the cost of an S-ranked power gem. He'd never had an opportunity, until here of all places.

    "Seems like you know about it." Luo Xianni made no effort to hide her pride.

    "Hey, are you gunna talk or what!" Lan Jue reminded him.

    "Oh." Lan Jue then began to tell Jue Di and Luo Xianni all about what had happened in to him. Thankfully, news of Qianlin's forced marriage and the events proceeding had already been told to Jue Di. He would at least be spared that embarrassment. He started his tale from when he joined the National Eastern University.

    Jue Di and Luo Xianni quietly listened as he talked them through it. Neither of their faces showed any expression. That was, until Lan Jue got to the part where Bize fused he and Qianlin's powers together.

    The old Paragon's brows furrowed. "That old shyster. Daring reading my people."

    Lan Jue stopped and looked at him in curiosity. "What do you mean?"

    Jue Di huffed. "That fraud the Clairvoyant, always boasting he knows it all. Well he must have been in his visions, then. Qianlin suddenly appearing couldn't have been an accident. What a coincidence that you should run in to someone on Skyfire, who looks exactly like Hera. She has the power of the Queen of Heaven - practically tailor-made to prop you up. Do you really think all of this just happens out of the blue? He's got to be involved in this in some way. When you get back, you need to get to the bottom of this and make sure his motives are good. I won't have him turning my son in to a weapon."

    Lan Jue felt his heart skip a beat. Ever since Qianlin appeared, his life had turned upside down - the definition of chaotic. Her similarity to Hera clouded his judgement, but when Jue Di said it it all seemed clear.

    Yes! Everything did look like one big coincidence. Qianlin always appeared whenever he needed her most. He only got pulled out of his self-loathing when she arrived. Did that mean, she...

    He felt himself shiver right down to his core.

    Jue Di's soft voice intruded. "Continue."

    Lan Jue obliged, telling them next about the Gods of Wine and their experience in the vineyard. When he got to the Arrow of Compassion, he noted that Jue Di's pupils narrowed again, but this time his father didn't interrupt.

    Luo Xianni was entirely calm, almost detached. She sat quietly as he went about describing the last year of his life.

    All of the minutia in between, the conflict with the Pontiff's Citadel, the tournament, and even his interactions with the Pharmacist were shared. He told them everything he learned about the Banishing Blades, exactly as she had told it to him.

    When he got to the legendary weapons, both Paragons revealed surprise in their faces. Evidently, they knew about the swords as well.

    1. Fire

    2. It's customary in China to bring a gift, but usually only when you visit a friend's place for the first time.
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