Chapter 672: Communication
Kang Hui lapsed into a contemplative silence. He had tested Lan Jue’s Discipline for himself. As the Jewelry Master had deduced, Kang Hui’s Discipline was his eyes – through them he had precise analytical powers. Although he didn’t have much in the way of attack, his eyes were able to pick out the specifics of whatever he gazed on. Even ninth level Adepts couldn’t hide from him.
But when he looked at Lan Jue, he felt an incisiveness that went beyond the norm. So sharp he almost felt cut just by recognizing it, forcing him to retract his Discipline. It also made him look at Lan Jue in a new light. If he said he killed those aliens, he believed him.
“Would like you to describe what you saw when you witnessed the alien planets for the first them. As well as the situation when you encountered them next.”
Lan Jue obliged with a nod. He went over what they’d discovered, telling him about Star Division and their encounters with the West and Gabriel. The West and North already had some news of Star Division’s existence, but it remained a mysterious arm of Skyfire Avenue’s might.
“… We could hardly believe it when we saw what happened to Moonfiend. This Violet Princess and aliens like her are strong – similar to a Nirvana-level Paragon. If not for the concerted efforts of our Paragons and their teleportation specialty, we likely wouldn’t have gotten away as clean as we did.”
Kang Hui listened attentively the whole time, absorbing every detail. From time to time he would ask a question which Lan Jue dutifully answered. Just as Kang Hui had said, this was a problem facing all of mankind, a battle of survival against two opposing species. No matter the disagreements between East and North, they would need to band together to face it.
Lan Jue had some information of his own about Admiral Kand Hui. He had originally been an Eastern man, but walked a neutral path once joining the Northern Army. However, because of his lauded military exploits his position was never in danger. He enjoyed widespread support. So whether it was hawks or doves calling for his removal, none of them had any power to get it done.
He had a stellar record. Lan Jue thought if it had been the Arachnid’s commander, Admiral Holmen, their participation would have been more deeply debated.
After Lan Jue’s report was finished, Kang Hui fell silent once more. Then, “How confident are you the mission will be a success if you head out to scout again?”
“If we keep our distance and we’re there just to determine whether the planet has moved, about eighty percent. If we want to get closer it’s hard to say. Our earlier discoveries showed that the planet is a frightening living entity, stronger than any Paragon humanity has produced. There’s no way to hide from its psionic pulse. Because of this we have no way to guarantee success of a close pass.”
Kang Hui responded. “We don’t need you to get close, just make sure they’re there. The bulk of the action will be our responsibility this time, but I need to know where they are as soon as possible. Find out and bring back the information as quick as you can.”
“Absolutely.” Lan Jue replied without hesitation.
After a moment of consideration the admiral continued. “I have a somewhat unreasonable request. Because of the importance of this mission, I would like my people to accompany you. One as a trainee and one to help you complete your mission without incident.”
Kang Hui framed it as a request, but his mannerism made it clear he expected Lan Jue to acquiesce.
Much to the Admiral’s surprise, Lan Jue smiled and nodded his head. “An extra set of capable hands is always welcome.” This ‘help’ he was sending was certainly there to supervise and report back. Lan Jue was expecting it.
The Tyrannosaurus’ commander was well aware of how important scouting was. Even for Lan Qing and Lan Jue, they knew the value of confirming intelligence independently. If Kang Hui hadn’t insisted on sending someone with him, Lan Jue would have been suspicious.
“So long as you understand,” Kang Hui replied. “You’ve come a long way, we invite you to rest onboard. It will take us about a day to reach the border of the Starfields, then I will leave this important mission in your hands.”
Lan Jue recognized their meeting was over. He stood. “So long as you keep faith, we’ll make sure your army gets the information as soon as possible.”
Kang Hui didn’t rise as Wu Qiu led Lan Jue from the office. When they were gone he leaned back in his chair and lapsed into thought. His eyes flit back and forth, though what was going on in his mind remained a mystery.
After a little while Wu Qiu returned. “Admiral!” He called, announcing his arrival.
Kang Hui looked up at him. “What do you think of him?”
The secretary was thoughtful for a moment. “Inscrutable.”
“Oh? Explain.” Kang Hui urged. He had a lot that concerned him, but Lan Jue seemed of particular importance.
Wu Qiu obliged. “At first he seemed gentle, dignified. However quickly he proved to be quite intelligent. From what we could gather he’s in his thirties. Not a Paragon, but there’s certainly something unique about him. Little Ya wasn’t able to goad him into a fight, which was my hope, but after meeting with him it dispelled any thoughts of weakness.”
“Young men who are strong and in positions of power are often arrogant. However he didn’t appear prideful – maybe world-wise, someone who knows the pain of reality. Economical and careful with his words, but I found myself convinced with his pledge of support.”
Kang Hui nodded. “I also thought he was a different sort. Level-headed. I wasn’t able to get a strong read of him, but I could tell he was a righteous man. I think he’s trustworthy. Ask Ling Ya to go with them, watch how they do things and confirm the information. She’ll keep an eye on them.”
“Yes, sir.” Wu Qiu gave a salute.
Lan Jue and the others were given a lavish area to lay their heads. If this were in a hotel it would be a presidential suit, with all the fixtures of opulence. It was also, without question, riddled with recording equipment, but the Paragons’ Domain made sure to render them ineffectual. When they got there Lan Jue let Lin Guoguo know everything was fine.
Luo Xianni munched happily on some fruit. “Son,” she said, “What do you think? What are your thoughts on the admiral?”
Lan Jue looked her way. “He’s even-tempered, but beyond that I’m not sure. I didn’t sense a lot of strength from him – his Discipline is Sight, but what exactly I don’t know. He tried to scan me but I think Occisus bit back. In a day the Bastion will reach the Starfields and our mission will begin. They’ll be sending… representatives to come with us.”
The Gourmet nodded. “That’s expected. So what’s the plan? Are you going to let them see our strength?”
Lan Jue turned his attention to him. “There’s nothing for it, they’ll find out eventually. If we do encounter aliens we should fight as hard as if they weren’t there. If we get exposed then it was meant to be, let nature take its course.”
The Clockmaker cast him a glance. “The North fears Skyfire Avenue. If they know we Paragons are here it’s how to know how they’ll react.”
Five Paragons, Lan Jue, the Pharmacist, Driver, Su Xiaosu, Lin Guoguo and of course Zhou Qianlin were all here representing the Avenue. Altogether about half of Skyfire Avenue’s strength was in the belly of one of the North’s greatest assets. If the North threw caution to the wind and turned their guns on them, they wouldn’t be able to run.
Lan Jue nodded, aware of her meaning. “Be cautious. Right now they still aren’t sure of who we are. If they do make a move it’ll be when our mission is over. For the moment we’re safe. I’ve already talked it over with the Wine Master and we have a plan to ensure everyone’s safety.”
The Wine Master nodded. His right hand motioned in the air and his scepter appeared in a flash of silver light.
“Tyrannosaurus is the North’s second largest Bastion. Since we’re here, I figured a souvenir was appropriate. We’re protected against the small-minded.”
The members of the scout team gave each other looks. They understood his meaning, and couldn’t help the smiles that crept into their faces.
Typically Bastions were stationary; not because they were slow or ineffectual, but because moving them cost a great deal of energy. As it slowly lumbered through space it looks like a slowly moving planet, surrounded by ships that – from a distance – looks like a cloud of twinkling asteroids.
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