Chapter 369: Eurmania
“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, boarding will begin shortly for the Holy City of Reims, capital of Eurmania. At this time we’d like you to gather your personal effects and prepare to disembark. We’d like to invite our first- and business-class passengers to please board the aircraft at this time.”
Lan Jue and Zhou Qianlin were recovering from their large meal when the broadcast came over the loudspeakers. They were staring at each other, smiling.
“Good timing,” Qianlin commended. “Just as we finish, it’s time to go.”
“Not really. Eurmania’s the capital of the Western Alliance, so there are many flights a day. Come, we should get on,” he said.
Lan Jue certainly wouldn’t skimp on his own comfort, so he’d bought the two of them first-class cabins. He figured he deserved it. They scoured a planet, got in to a fight, drank poison, then almost died. It was a busy few weeks, so when he sank in to that comfortable chair Lan Jue immediately sunk in to slumber.
Qianlin curled up in the chair beside him, and watched him sleep. Her face bore a small, delicate smile, but her eyes were troubled. There was something she was pondering.
Eurmania, thankfully, wasn’t far from the Barrows. The flight would take them two days. Lan Jue slept for near a full day before finally waking.
Airships were not friendly spaces for cultivation. The passengers cherished peace and quiet above all things, but they didn’t always get it. Like their narrowly avoided calamity on the way to the Barrows, sometimes things happen. When meditating to cultivate one’s Discipline, absolute silence was needed but – more importantly – so was stillness. The gently bumping and rocking airship wasn’t a good choice.
But Lan Jue refused to be idle. Deep meditation was off the table, but a lighter introspection would suffice. He could also use this opportunity to teach Qianlin a little bit more about controlling his Discipline.
“All your deception really caused me a lot of extra work. Had I known you were ninth-ranked… Qianlin, I have a question,” Lan Jue Said.
“When you sister…” Lan Jue began. “She was a ninth ranked Adept. I never did find out what her Discipline was. Was it the same as yours?”
Qianlin looked at him for a moment before speaking. “Probably, but maybe a little different. Neither of ours were much use in a fight, though.”
Lan Jue nodded in understanding. “Hera was one hell of a pilot. God-ranked. Her Discipline didn’t amplify her suit’s attack, but it did pump up it’s energy stores. You’ve got a talent for piloting, too. With effort you could be just as good.”
Qianlin shot him a glance. “You want me to be better than her?”
“No…” Lan Jue’s eyes stared off for half a second. “That’s not what I’m saying. I just want to make sure you have the ability to protect yourself. With your sister gone…”
Zhou Qianlin was silent, and Lan Jue didn’t further disturb the stillness. Both of them stared at the carpeted floor, lost in their own thoughts.
Although the trip wasn’t long, Lan Jue felt like they’d made good progress in improving Qianlin’s control. Two days passed quickly, and before they knew it they were on approach to the Holy City of Reims.
In stark contrast to the natural beauty of the Barrows, Eurmania was overflowing with modern flavor. It was a gorgeous place, very similar to tales of what old Earth looked like. It had been discovered one hundred and eight years ago by the West. Development of the planet began immediately afterward, and no expense was spared. To ensure it’s resources and further development, the West made Eurmania its capital.
One particularly special characteristic of this place was its days. In a forty-eight hour day, thrity-six of them the city was bathed in sunlight.
They wasted no time once the ship landed. They followed the crowds out in to the streets of Reims. Throngs of people wandered along the pristine streets, and many of them wore the traditional black pastor’s smock. They walked with gentle grace, easy smiles, and the light of fervent devotion in their eyes.
Lan Jue felt the Spirit Caller gem warm against his chest. Zhou Qianlins voice filled his mind:
Qianlin: The person we’re here to save lives in Reims? Not in the Cathedral, I hope…
Lan Jue: Clever girl.
Qianlin stopped in her tracks and stared at Lan Jue with open shock. He grabbed her hand and tugged her along quickly, which brought Qianlin back to her senses.
Qianlin: The Pontiff’s Citadel?
Lan Jue: It looks like you know quite a lot about the world of Adepts!
After a moment of silence, her voice replied: This is really dangerous. What’s your plan?
Take it easy, first we’ll wander around town some. We’re not going to find our target right away. The Pontiff is in the Cathedral, he commands it personally. Safety has to be priority. Obviously a direct play is suicide, so we’ll have to succeed through wit.
Qianlin nodded her agreement, but didn’t say anything else.
Lan Jue used the GPS on his communicator to find a nearby hotel, choosing something mid-range. Once they got settled, they could continue their conversation.
“Hello, and welcome. May I ask what sort of room you’re interested in?” The receptionist greeted them with a friendly smile.
“A suite please, with a queen-sized bed,” Lan Jue answered.
Qianlin, upon hearing the arrangements, couldn’t keep her face from reddening. Although the situation with their Discipline meant nothing could happen, the prospect made her bashful.
After a few more moments the keys were handed over, and Lan Jue took up Qianlin’s hand. They sought out the door to their new living arrangements, on the top of the six-floor building. Lan Jue had requested it specifically because it allowed him to look out across the whole city.
At the Northern edge there was the Reims Square, a massive public square capable of accomidating three hundred thousand people. It was three hundred and forty meters long, and two hundred and forty meters across 1. It was constructed in a semi-circular fashion, where the edges were bordered by a covered walkway. It was supported by two hundred and eighty-four white marble doric columns. Underneath the canopied path, one hundred and forty-two statues of influential Citidelian saints and sages watched passers-by. Their eyes in particular were masterfully carved, so that it seemed as though they were sentient. All of this was right outside their hotel window.
When they entered the room, Lan Jue shut the door and wandered over to the window. He let his eyes scan out over the horizon, while Qianlin inspected their suite. It was essentially an apartment; with a bathroom, bedroom and living room. It wasn’t an overly large space – maybe fifty square meters, average for a suite.
Once Qianlin was done looking things over, she walked to Lan Jue’s side. She peered out the window as well. “What can you see from all the way up here?”
Lan Jue grinned. “I can see the whole Cathedral. First we observe, then we find a way in. I’m afraid the front door isn’t an option.”
“Is there anyone who might recognize you?” She asked.
“Um… Maybe.” Lan Jue said. “Probably more than a few, if I’m being honest. We aren’t on the best of terms.”
Qianlin folded her arms. “Are you ever going to tell me who we’re here to save?”
“The Moonfiend Empress, mistress of the Shattered Starfields’ Moonfiend pirates.”
Qianlin blinked at him.
“A pirate? We’re here to save a pirate? Don’t you hate pirates?” She said incredulously.
He shook his head. “She’s different. The Moonfiend pirates are the biggest and strongest pirate clan in the Starfields. They control one of the three ruling planets. Since she took over, there have been much fewer raids. The Moonfiends also don’t kill – they’re only interested in plunder. Things are much calmer and much safer, in comparison, with her in charge.”
She still looked skeptical. “No other reason?”
Lan Jue gave her a helpless, exasperated look. “Does there need to be any other reason? We used to be friends. Back when I was a mercenary, I was in the Starfields to eradicate the pirate threat. I came upon the Moonfiend Pirates – at that time still small – battling against a stronger clan. I didn’t think any of these scum deserved to live, so I was just waiting for my opportunity to end both groups. But then I saw her out there. She was young, my age.”
Qianlin chuckled and patted his shoulder. “Being a little generous with ourselves, aren’t we?”
This brought a chuckle from Lan Jue. “You want to hear or not?”
She nodded. “I do,” she said through her grin.
He went on. “I was still with your sister then, but she hadn’t come with me. I just continued to watch, and to my surprise the tides turned. The Moonfiend pirates were outnumbered and outgunned, but well organized. Eventually, they managed to win. I was curious, and still preparing for my assault. So, once all was said and done, and the Moonfiend were victorious, I showed myself. She met me face to face, already injured from battle, and demanded a dual for the lives of her people. Of course, I won – but I found that her Discipline was strange. It was light-based.”
“As now I’m sure you know, an Adept’s Discipline is a reflection of who they are as a person – their spirit. More often than not, those with a light Discipline have good hearts. Of course, there are always exceptions. I asked about her history, but she didn’t tell me. Instead, she told me her cause. She said she wanted to bring order to the chaos of the Shattered Starfields. She would create humanity’s fourth Alliance. I liked how it sounded, and I thought it would end in a net positive for everyone.”
“The Starfields are a complicated place. Reaching a solution through brute force is impossible and ill-advised. Clearly, the area would do much better under some sort of governance. We wouldn’t have to worry about the development of dangerous weapons since the terrain prevented it. It both protected and restricted them. Who could say whether her miracle would come true, but at least it might reduce the number of pirate-related deaths, I thought. So, I told her they would be allowed to live if they followed three tenets; become the leading pirate clan within three years, don’t kill anyone, and maintain order to prevent any more massacres from occurring.”