Chapter 610: About to Start
“I’ll do my best,” Lan Qing affirmed. “I’ll be content with whatever the result may be.”
Lan Jue shook his head. “That’s not like you at all! If you don’t hurry up I will catch up to you. I’m not lying, I’m coming up fast.”
Lan Qing gave him a flat stare. “Cocky.”
Lan Jue smirked. “In fact, you can’t even contend with me these days. Yeah I’m cocky – there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Lan Qing didn’t dare show his hand. He was at the cusp of a breakthrough, and drawing on even a little of his power might make him lose control. He had to find the perfect moment for this important event, one where he was prepared to face whatever would come. He couldn’t prove his little brother right, right now.
Lan Qing continued to stare. “We’ll talk again when I’ve broken through.”
“I like the pressure,” Lan Jue shot back. “When you break through then. Let me see how strong you end up.”
The Wine Master was curious himself. How strong would he end up? The God of Wisdom, Prometheus, was an Adept versed in the element of Wind. His protogenia and Paragon title would most likely have to do with that. What wasn’t clear was precisely what form and strength his Domain would reveal.
Jue Di and Luo Xianni didn’t return for the duration of the meal. No one knew where they’d disappeared to, and none of them were eager to go looking. When the food was gone everyone went their separate ways to cultivate and prepare.
For Lan Qing, now was the time for him to stabilize his cultivation as much as possible. Lan Jue didn’t bother his brother, and instead sought out the Driver. Lan Qing’s success was a catalyst for his own urge to catch up.
The two of them trained for about three hours before they had to stop. Their bodies couldn’t sustain any more yin-yang lightning for the day. They cultivated on their own, with Lan Jue returning to the realm where Jun Yongye and Xuanyuan Shishi could teach him and Qianlin swordplay.
Lan Jue was more diligent in his cultivation now than he ever was as a child under Jue Di’s strict guidance. He continued until the sun came back to light up the sky. He then meditated for an hour to rest and recover. For someone of his Talent, an hour was all he needed to arise refreshed.
The atmosphere surrounding the Star Division troops was abuzz. After their time fighting pirates, every unit had become like tight-knit family. There was healthy competition between units to keep spirits high and the soldiers hungry, inspiring them to push themselves as far as they could go.
Such was the way of man, if you were by yourself you grew lazy. IT was especially easy to fall into that trap the stronger you got. Few had the willpower and talent to keep up the pursuit for perfection. However, if you surrounded yourself with others who worked hard and were stronger than you, it was easy to keep up the effort.
That was the case for Star Division now. Lan Jue and the other leaders, along with the Paragons were undoubtedly powerhouses of the Division. However, there were also a number of ninth level Adepts and more eighth level Adepts than they could count. It was a crisis for the less naturally endowed warriors.
Every one of them hoped to earn enough through conquest to afford the exuvium process. Who knew how many alien Cores there were, or how many were needed for the process to be successful. The closer they got to the front of the line, the better their chances. For that reason, their military achievements were very important.
Fighting out in the Starfields taught the Division soldiers that how they performed on the field was directly proportional to their strength as an Adept. And not just their individual strength, but their strength as a unit. Every operation relied on the hard work of ten people. That was to say that if there was even a single weak link, it undermined everyone’s ability to do their job.
Who didn’t want to live longer? With the pace technology was increasing, a few more years could buy them enough time to see another life-extending process discovered. Eternal youth wasn’t unthinkable. The more years they had to live, the more time they would have to cultivate as well, and thus a higher chance at Paragon.
A Paragon’s lifespan stretched at least two hundred years, a fact that all Adepts were familiar with. Because of all of this, no one needed to urge these men and women to keep working hard. Especially after watching the ascension of the Taming Dragon Arhat and failing to grasp an insight, they were hungry. Jin Tao had eagerly begged for instruction, and he was hardly the only one desperate for improvement.
In the last year, Skyfire Avenue had produced three new Paragons. They practically grew out of the soil! It served as inspiration for many who thought that becoming a Paragon was a ludicrous dream. Others could do it, they thought, why not them? All they needed was hard work!
Seeing their companions blessed with epiphanies only made their desires stronger!
Naturally, this environment had been deliberately constructed by Lan Jue and Su Xiaosu. Now that they’d created a positive feedback loop they didn’t have to work to maintain it. All they had to do was let human nature take its course. Over the course of the last few months a large number of sixth and seventh level Adepts had broken through to new heights.
Another benefit of being part of the team was structure. Each unit had to have a high-level Adept as a commanding officer. Their job was to keep everyone in line and motivated so they didn’t fall behind. This helped the lower level members especially.
Up to now, no one outside of Division command knew what they were doing on An Lun. Lan Jue was careful to keep it a secret. It was revealed to them by message, when they were told to gather early in the morning and prepare to accept insights.
It was vague, certainly, but ‘prepare to accept insights’ were four words that could only mean one thing. Another chance to gain insight from protogenia? For these soldiers, it was a dream come true.
This was why, when Lan Jue exited the buildings for the trainings fields, he was greeted with the sight of all four Brigades neatly arrayed and ready. Every soldier had an excitement and fervor in their eyes.
The Driver, Coffee Master and Bartender were there with their teams. When they saw him coming they stepped forward to meet him.
“Boss, our people are all here.” Su Xiaosu approached from another direction, quickly trotting over to him.
“Good. They can relax in place while we wait for word from An Lun,” Lan Jue replied with a smile.
“Aye,” came her answer.
None of the Paragons had arrived yet. Lan Jue also noticed with some distress that neither of his adopted parents were around either. His father had a famously violent nature, and he’d gotten into physical altercations with his mother before.
Mid-thought, a flash of silver split the sky and three figures were deposited before him. With the arrival of the Paragons, the eyes of Star Division’s soldiers were bright with respect or envy.
They all felt safe, too, with so many of their best in attendance. They’d seen what the Gourmet could do, and now they had three with the lauded Cosmagus and Epochrion among them. Both of them were on the higher end of the Paragon list.
“How was your rest?” Lan Jue greeted them.
The Wine Master answered with a smile. “Not bad. It’s my first time coming to An Lun, it’s certainly different from what I’m used to.” He was right. This world of metal smelled of steel and gunpowder. An everlasting, ominous atmosphere hung over everything. As Paragons, their heightened perception could sense things from miles away, of course they could feel the tension.
The Pauper chortled. “Are you planning some joint military exercises with the An Lun boys, Jewelry Master? This is a great opportunity for it!”
“If we do it’s going to have to wait until they’re done here,” he answered. “I’ll talk to Admiral Lan about it.”
“Oh let me participate,” the Pauper said, jittering like he had ants in his pants. “Let me participate!”
Lan Jue frowned. “Stop, if you participate what’s the point of drilling maneuvers? You’re strong enough to take out a Division by yourself unless they’re equipped for it. If we let them put on the gear then it puts our guys at risk of getting hurt. You’re going to have to sit this one out.”
“No fun at all,” the newest Paragon grumbled.
A smirk split Lan Jue’s face. “You’re looking for fun? Easy. I’ll take you somewhere interesting, a place I promise you’ll like.”
The Pauper, suspecting no nefarious purpose, lit up in a smile. The Wine Master shot Lan Jue a glance, but held his tongue. The Epochrion smiled to herself.
Humanity was living under the dire threat of destruction from an alien force. The ascension of another Paragon was met with great joy because it meant a new protector. Lan Jue was bold, but he was also prudent. This wasn’t an opportunity he was about to miss.
Just then, two figures approaching them from the side caught his eye. When he saw them, Lan Jue couldn’t help but smile.
Luo Xianni had her arm linked around Chi Bupangs. She had a sweet smile on her face, which itself was an alluring shade of pink that made her look all the more beautiful.
Jue Di’s face was expressionless, though he had at least changed his clothes. Today he wore a black outfit that made him look like a rugged, battle-scarred veteran.
“Mom, dad!” Lan Jue hurriedly walked over to meet them. The other Paragons were fast on his heels.
Soldiers of the Star Division also curiously followed the volatile couple with their eyes. They didn’t know who the two were, but watching their commander and the other Paragons rush over spoke volumes. There had to be something special about them.
Luo Xianni let go of Jue Di’s arm and wrapped Lan Jue up in a hug. “Keep it up, kid. Don’t be discouraged, it’ll be your time to break through soon.”
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