Skyfire Avenue, Chapter 323

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Chapter 323: Training Ends

At long last, the training was done!

Zeus-1 led their trophy, the pirate battleship, back to Planet Skyfire. When they arrived, the ship remained in orbit as Zeus-1 shuttled her occupants back to ground. It was, after all, rife with pirate markings and was an unregistered warship. The planet’s defensive systems would be on it immediately I they got too close.

This was also the seat of the Eastern government, and home planet to the Alliance. You could guarantee its defenses would be a great deal more troubling than the Crimson Star’s.

Lan Jue immediately got in to contact with the Wine Master, and they deliberated on what to do with the women. They would need a good deal more manpower at the very least. That went double for the battleship.

Through testing the Accountant had discovered that the battleship had undergone a series of significant adjustments. First, it’s energy stores were comparable to Zeus-1, and that was impressive. It was armed to the teeth, too, but unfortunately a lot had been damaged by Feng Ling and Lan jue’s acquisition. In its current state, they certainly couldn’t get the most out of the ship’s impressive armaments. Most importantly, though, was that its shields far outstripped anything else of its class – enough to ward that terrible blast.

Lan Jue stood with his arms crossed over his chest. His eyes glinted with a cold light that flashed intermittently, and each time it did space seemed to warp around Lan Jue’s face. It only appeared to calm when he watched the soldiers take away those poor women to safety.

The Wine Master stood at Lan Jue’s shoulder, and watched as well. He nodded his head, ever so slightly. “What you all did today was a great service. However, it would be very difficult to officially commend you, considering the fact this was done of your own accord. Still, private remunerations can be arranged. What do you think would be appropriate?”

He was obviously appraised of the situation by this point. There was nothing in it he felt inappropriate; in fact, if not for the fact Paragons had to be careful about revealing themselves he’d have done the same.

Lan Jue answered by shaking his head. “Nothing. Just look after these poor women. I can’t imagine what they’ve gone through. Also, help sell the power gems we recovered, and make sure they get all of it.”

The Wine Master shot his young friend a surprised look. “Are you aware of how many power gems you brought back?”

Lan Jue’s brows furrowed. “Is that important? Will any number be enough for these women to forget what they had to live through?”

A small smile appeared on the old man’s craggy face. “You know, it’s really no wonder the Clairvoyant was always ranked higher than I. Even his ability to read people was damn near superhuman. He told me once that although we couldn’t understand you, he knew you had a good heart.  This kind of personality roots you, keeps you grounded. Anyway, you don’t have to worry. The Alliance will make sure they’re very well taken care of. They’ll have specialists in traumatic psychosis on hand as well, using state of the art medical and psychological treatments. They’re families will be alerted and trained in how to help them reintegrate in to society. They will also be given compensation. So take those power gems you captured, and maybe you’ll find out why they say too much wealth can be a bad thing.”

Lan Jue’s features relaxed. “As for the battleship, I’d ask that you help me donate it to the Alliance. Don’t mention my name – I don’t want them snooping around.”

The Wine Master laughed in spite of himself. “Very well, I’ll have someone take care of it. I’m starting to feel like a fence 1.”

Finally a bemused smirk cracked Lan Jue’s glower exterior. “It’s not such a bad job, I reckon. In that case I’ll probably make another few runs in the near future.”

The Wine Master’s face suddenly grew serious. “Now considering what you’ve done here I’m willing to forgive your past transgressions. Except for that horse-pucky with the Gourmet and that vagabond. If you hear anything about it, you tell me right away!”

Lan Jue suddenly remembered the news, that the Gourmet and Pauper had stolen away with some extraordinary wine from the Wine Master’s vault. He gave a wry smirk. “Look, I didn’t benefit from any of that. I’m just suffering the result. Those fellas have definitely drank it all by now, anyway. Just don’t dwell on it.”

Lan Jue could actually see the Wine Master’s face twitch. “’Don’t dwell on it’? Did you know they took the single most prized bottle of my entire collection? But at least I can be sure that no, they haven’t opened that bottle.”

Lan Jue chortled. “Fine. You’ll be hearing from me soon anyway, to help find one of the Three Great Master’s descendants like I promised. Lately things have been… hectic, but they’re slowing down. Have you been able to discover anything?”

The Wine Master’s eyes flashed excitedly. “Yes, in fact. I’m organizing things now, and I’ll let you know when we’re ready. It looks like we’ll be taking a little trip to the West.”

“Alright,” Lan Jue answered with a nod. “I’ll wait to hear from you.”

 

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The students had all been sent home to their families. They were exhausted, and after being gone from home for so long they deserved a good long rest with their family. It had been Wu Junyi’s suggested after hearing about the entire ordeal.

Lan Jue’s first order of business had been to seek out the Wine Master and deal with the poor women they’d rescued, so he hadn’t seen the students as they left. He didn’t mind – after the explosion at the Crimson Star, and the memories they brought up, he wasn’t in the best of moods.

“Boss.” Mika’s voice at his shoulder caught his attention.

“Hm?” He said, turning his head.

“The students asked me to bid you farewell on their behalf,” she said. “That Tan Lingyun woman was looking for you, too.”

“I swear to God, I can’t get away from that woman,” Lan Jue moaned. “Anyway, this training regimen seemed to have gone very well, but they have to keep it up. If not, the whole thing will have been a waste. Let them rest for a little while, then Wu Junyi and I will see whether or not this training needs any work. I’m leaving those power gems to you to deal with. Might as well put them in the store first. After processing, we’re give a third to the Skyfire Council.”

Lan Jue had a great deal of experience in cultivating how to deal with people. Failing to share a windfall with others was not appropriate behavior, and he prided himself on propriety in this regard. The Avenue had its own needs, and he was happy to contribute. He had a clear conscience, but they shared in times of rain or shine.

As for the Accountant, he’d already grabbed one of the larger gems and disappeared. More than likely he was going to present it to his grandfather, to make himself look good.

When Lan Jue entered the doors of Zeus’ Jewelry Shop, he immediately felt himself begin to relax. That familiar scent filled his nostrils as he made his way to the back apartments. He took a shower, then sat on the bed to rest. Physically he felt fine, but mentally was another matter. They’d all gone through a great deal these last couple of months.

The god-battles, the Citadel visit, the ARC classes, then An Lun and the Starfields… one thing after another, entirely contrary to the life of comfort he’d sought on the Avenue. And although the entire experience had been an enriching one, he was certainly fatigued.

He slipped in to a deep sleep, and in his dreams he was once again assailed by the visions of that terrible explosion. He could still see Hera’s warm eyes, full of tender affection. She reached out with a spectral hand, as though to grab him, but was always just out of reach.

 

ζ

 

When sunlight touched his window, Lan Jue awoke. He felt refreshed, but the shadow that had crept in to the back of his mind was darker now, and clearer. He felt haunted.

With a bitter smile he took a cold shower, to wake him up for the day. He changed his clothes, then exited out in to the shop.

He still had a great deal he needed to do. The follow-up to the god battle was of the highest priority currently. He also had to visit the school and see what needed to be done there. His etiquette class was a total mess he’d need to deal with.

Thinking about normal classes, the smile on his face grew. More and more he was enjoying the life of a professor. It was never more true than when he was in class.

There was only one etiquette teacher on staff, and that was him. Everyone thought he was a normal man, and treated him as such. The life of a ‘normal’ professor was a nice one, relaxing and enriching. The dark cloud that hung over him dissipated somewhat when he was teaching.

Yeah, I have to go to school and check things out tomorrow. There are classes to prepare. Today, I’ll have to figure out what I want to teach them.

His leisurely stroll quickly brought him to his destination: Sunbucks Coffee.

Lan Jue pushed his way inside. It was early still, so the shop was empty. Two pretty young women were busily preparing things behind a counter. Both were clad in fine white button-down shirts and coffee-colored suit pants.

The Coffee Master was nearby as well, quietly enjoying a steaming cup of a pungent  brew. He jumped a little when he spied Lan Jue, then smiled.

Lan Jue approached and took a seat without invitation. He was smiling, as well. “You know, I really want to kick your ass.”

The Coffee Master’s face dropped. “What the hell?! You just got back yesterday and already you’re talking about beating people. You’re the leader of the Star Aliance now, too. Is this how you treat your compatriots? Your fellow warriors? Do you have any humanity?”

Lan Jue just chuckled. “Humanity? I guess it depends on who I’m dealing with. A clown, for example. I think I have the least humanity for clowns.”

The Coffee Master dropped it. He knew there was quite a large difference in ability between he and the Jewelry Master. Outside of a mecha suit, he was like a toothless tiger. His muscle speed and Lan Jue’s lightning were an unfavorable match-up, regardless.

“So did you just come here to threaten?” The god-ranked pilot asked in agitation.


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  1. For those who may not be aware: A fence is someone who specializes in moving stolen goods Thieves will come to them with their ill-gotten gains in exchange for untraceable cash.

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