1277 Until Next Time
"Commander, the radar is not picking up any readings of the Core of Time in this planetary system. The only thing it's detecting is one freakishly old spaceship close to the third body from the star," someone replied, as soon as the scan was complete.
"Damn it! Have we been lied to?!" Alexis cringed in embarrassment. Jiang Fei was telling the truth after all!
"I told you so," said Jiang Fei, shrugging nonchalantly.
"So it seems," replied Alexis, calming himself down.
The two Terrans had given them false information. If it wasn't for those lying pricks, Commander Alexis wouldn't have bothered to travel so far, wasting precious fuel just to visit this godforsaken planetary system!
Not only would they be returning empty handed, they had even got a good beating from a slightly powerful Terran!
Alexis was a man who recognized and appreciated talent, so he wouldn't want to vent his frustration to a Terran that he wanted to recruit. As such, Ragnaros and Therazane would be the only people he would vent to.
"Fine then. Release Bal and join me. Do that, and I will spare your precious planet," said Alexis in a disappointed tone.
The Core of Time may not have even been in this system from the very start, but at least Alexis would be returning with some fresh blood.
"I understand," said Jiang Fei, acknowledging the offer.
The very thought of leaving Earth without her greatest defender made him anxious. He turned to look at Earth, the blue marble that was ever so fragile in the vast yet menacing void of space. What else was out there, waiting for him to explore and discover?
"I can tell that you probably have some unfinished business on your planet. Go. Settle your debts. You have three days. I do not want my crew to be weighed down by any baggage!" said Alexis.
He didn't come right out and say it, but he might as well have. Jiang Fei knew that Alexis wanted only him. The other girls, even Isabella, were too weak to join his force.
"Thank you," said Jiang Fei.
He was being humble. He knew his place. Though he was stronger than most, under Alexis' wing he would only be a lowly soldier. He might not even get to answer directly to Alexis!
But this was all the start of Jiang Fei's plan. Right now, it may seem like a desperate move, but one day it would pay off. He was going to make use of the Valsalrian bandits' reputation and strength to bolster his own. He would wait for the day he would finally be able to fight back, plotting his way to freedom once more.
After both beings returned to their respective ships, Jiang Fei flew his to Braveheart, while Alexis waited on Ceres with the other ships. He was not worried at all about Jiang Fei running away.
He would never desert his own planet. If had even the slightest intention to run, he wouldn't have stopped at Ceres just to have a go with Alexis.
On his way back, Jiang Fei was thinking about how to break the news to the girls — how he was going to leave Earth for a while, alone.
Sylphy was the first to flat out reject the idea.
"You need to understand my feelings as well," refuted Jiang Fei.
Alexis was not going to let him bring the girls along. And even if he did allow it, Jiang Fei would not bring them.
There were countless possibilities in the infinite space. There could be more powerful beings, beings that are a thousand, if not a million times stronger than Alexis. Jiang Fei might be able to handle it, but the girls… he wouldn't want to even expose them to such dangers.
"No! If you're going, I shall go as well!" roared Sylphy.
"Stop being unreasonable!" barked Nina. She was the only person, second to Jiang Fei, that could really put Sylphy in her place.
"My love, I won't say anything except that I love you, and be careful out there," said Ariel.
Even without reading Jiang Fei's mental wave, she knew well that Jiang Fei did not want this. But… for the wellbeing of Earth and all her occupants, Jiang Fei has to join the band of bandits.
"Go with pride. You need not worry about anything at home. I promise that we will all strive to be as strong as you. I do hope that you can get stronger yourself and someday, that band of bandits may even have a change of leadership!" said Isabella smugly.
"We need not hope! For it shall be true!" chimed in Sylphy.
Her logic was simple. If the Valsalrian were feared because of their strength, then Jiang Fei and the girls need only to become stronger too!
"I heard enough," said Jiang Fei said, rolling his eyes. He was getting sick of their words of encouragements that carried no weight.
"Captain, you need not worry about Earth. I shall take care of the planet until your return," blared 0541.
"That's reassuring. Oh, I almost forgot. I need to release Balris soon. Before I do, take as much blood as you can. Heal him again and again until the day of his release. His blood might be of use later," said Jiang Fei.
Jiang Fei didn't care about how he was treating Balris. After all, the deal only required him to release Balris alive, it didn't specify it what condition.
As only a low-ranking squad captain, no one would worry too much about his treatment. But for Jiang Fei, his blood was too important, as it could be used for other aspects of strengthening.
As soon as the order was made, 0541 had already started working. Balris' anguished screams of pain soon filled every corridor of the prisoner's bay.
Before Jiang Fei left, Nina strut in and gazed into his eyes.
"Know that I shall count the seconds until your return," she said with teary eyes.
"Please don't. I appreciate the gesture but knowing you, you might actually do it. Don't put yourself through that pain."
"Then, I shall count the rise and fall of the Moon and Sun," chuckled Nina.
"That's my girl," said Jiang Fei, laughing.
Once Jiang Fei was done talking to the girls, he returned to Earth to say goodbye to his parents.
"I would quote that famous poem. Rage against the dying of the light… or something like that… but I'm too old to remember such things. Anyways, be brave and remember what makes you human. I don't want you to come back behaving like a rebellious alien teen!" said his father.
He was proud of his only son, going out there to venture into where no man had even set foot. Most importantly, the young man understood the meaning of having power. He had paid the price for them all — the 10 billion humans on Earth.
"Child, be careful out there. And it may seem inappropriate, but I want to see a space daughter-in-law!" said his mother, laughing cheerfully.
Though she seemed to be taking it well now, the minute Jiang Fei was out of sight, she would break down in tears.
Jiang Fei didn't know what to feel. This felt different than all the previous times. Leaving for war, for a trip overseas, or for a battle of life and death, they were all different than leaving Earth. Yet, this somehow felt familiar. Like he had been through it over and over again without ever getting used to it.
Three days later, after spending every precious second with his parents, friends, and harem, Jiang Fei returned to Ceres, with a strapped up Balris at his side.
Balris was not having it. Three days of being tortured was more than enough to last a lifetime. He had been drained of his blood, rapidly healed, then drained again, over and over again for three days!
He couldn't even lose his consciousness though he desperately wanted to. His healing factor was too great, keeping him awake for the entire ordeal. At some point during the torture, his only wish was to be knocked out so he didn't have to feel anything.
Unfortunately, 0541 didn't have the proper medication to put him under, and so remained conscious for every agonizing moment of the process.
On Ceres, Alexis was just getting off his craft when Jiang Fei landed.
"Punctual. I like it."
"But of course," said Jiang Fei, lowering his head.
He could not behave as he previously would. He knew now that being a Level 5 Metahuman was nothing but the first step towards strength. He may have been treated like a God on Earth, but here in space, he was just a lackey!
"Get on board. We'll leave right away!" said Alexis.
Flipping the communicator on the side of his collar, he addressed his crew. "Prep for take off. It's time to leave this godforsaken quadron!"