Lan Jue gave her a wink and a sly smile. “Keep that a secret, eh?”
The Pharmacist offered a small nod. She faced him, and that disconcerting chill was gone from her face. Now her expression was like a warm spring breeze. “Thank you for coming. I thought you’d forgotten your promise.”
Lan Jue’s face fell in shame. “I’ve been off planet. I’m back for a few days, but I need to rush out again. I’ve come to see Jun’er, and also to speak with you about something.”
She nodded. “I already know all about it. You want me to go to the North and participate in this Adept competition. Originally I hadn’t planned to go because of Jun’er, but now that you’re here I can make the trip.”
“Perhaps you can take her with you,” Lan Jue said. “She may not be able to see, but keeping her cooped up in her home all day can’t be good for her. She’s a brilliant little one, but being locked up in a house isn’t good for her health.”
The Pharmacist looked at him in mild surprise. They were words she hadn’t expected from him – bring Jun’er? She was blind from birth, and the only thing remaining of her lost husband. She was a priceless treasure to the Pharmacist, and they helped each other through every day life like partners. This powerful woman was, in the inside, truly was a fragile thing when it came to her child. And she knew it. For fear of any harm coming to her baby, the two were inseparable. They hardly left the Hall, much less the planet.
Lan Jue proceeded. “Being blind doesn’t mean she isn’t healthy. But if she never leaves this place, that will definitely change. Bring her out, let her play. It’ll expand her world. Whether or not to participate in these fights, doesn’t matter – I’ll give the Gourmet some excuse. I’m not here to convince you, but I really do think it would be good for the little one to get out.”
The Pharmacist gave an anguished sigh. “Outsiders truly do see our personal matters the clearest. You’re right. I’ve lost sight of what my daughter needs, and she is brilliant. She’s never bothered me about it. I’ve forgotten that she is, after all, a child. Thank you, Jewelry Master. Really.”
Lan Jue answered with a sheepish smile. “You said it yourself, right? I’m the father of your child. Caring for Jun’er is my job.”
The Pharmacist smiled, too. “Don’t worry about any of that. I won’t tell others. Just now I reacted on impulse. Sometimes I have a little trouble controlling my emotions. Come, I’ll take you to see Jun’er. This last month she must have asked a hundred times for stories about you.”
At this, Lan Jue couldn’t help but chortle. “Today I’ll tell her a story about soldiers.”
With that, the two of them took the short trip to Jun’er’s room.
“Mama!” Jun’er shouted excitedly as they entered. “Daddy’s here too, right?”
“Jun’er! How did you know?” Lan Jue asked, his voice rich with emotion.
Jun’er launched herself off the bed, and her tiny feet pattered excitedly as she ran toward the sound of Lan Jue’s voice. Her face was brighter than a sunbeam. “Daddyyyyy! You’re back! I heard your footsteps!”
The Pharmacist’s eyes were wet with tears. Lan Jue, too, was moved by the scene. This beautiful little girl was too cute to bear. She’d heard his footsteps only once and remembered them. This was clearly the thing she longed the most for, a complete family.
Lan Jue heaved her up with a dramatic grunt and ruffled her hair. Jun’er naturally threw her arms around his neck. “I missed you a lot, daddy.”
“Daddy missed you too,” he assured her. Lan Jue fell in to the role of father very quickly, after only the second visit. He looked at the Pharmacist, and saw in her eyes the same emotions afflicting him. She was missing a husband, and he was missing a wife. If Hera was still alive, they’d probably have a child of their own.
Lan Jue held her for a moment longer, then sat down on her bed. “You know I’ve been out finding new soldiers to help protect us. I just got back. Do you want to hear some stories about what they do out there?”
“Yay! Yes!” she clapped her little hands together excitedly.
Lan Jue adjusted her on his lap. One hand gently stroked her hair as he spoke. “These new young recruits were really amazing, you know. All of them were Adepts! At least level five. But they were still young and had a lot to learn. So, I decided that they would need a very special class to make them stronger as fast as possible. I gathered them all up, and then taught them what I could.”
Jun’er sat and listened intently, careful not to interrupt or be rude. The Pharmacist could see a faint golden glow emanating from Lan Jue’s hand as he stroked her hair – undoubtedly a gentle current of bioelectricity. He was trying to stimulate her atrophied eyes.
The Pharmacist had exhausted all options in trying to help her daughter live a normal life. Nothing worked. She had aplasia of the optical nerve – it never grew properly. That was not something medicine could fix. She watched appreciatively as Lan Jue tried, knowing full well that the chances were small. Still, there was always a chance.
She had lived for years in a dull, dim world. But now, faintly, it was as though color returned. It was like they were a complete family again.
Lan Jue regaled her for an hour with the exploits of he and his students. No detail was too small for the ravenous Jun’er. The whole thing was told from beginning to end.
This time, Jun’er did not succumb to sleep. Admiration and excitement shone in her pretty little face. She could feel the strange power radiating from Lan Jue’s hand, but said nothing about it.
“I want to be like all of them, daddy. I want to be a machine pilot, too.”
Lan Jue laughed affectionately. “You’re going to have to wait until you grow up, sweetie. I’ll teach you, what do you think?”
But the small girl’s expression immediately fell. “I can’t see…”
“No matter what, your daddy will find a way to get those eyes working again,” Lan Jue promised. “Then you’ll be able to see it all, all the colors of the world around you. You’ll see what your mommy and daddy look like. Sounds good, right?”
Jun’er timidly nodded her head. She was a child, true, but smart. Her thoughts were simple, but her face still revealed doubt.
“Can you feel the tingly feeling on your back from daddy’s hand?” He asked.
“Uh-huh,” she answered. “My eyes feel funny.”
He chuckled. “That’s right. You have little nerves in your eyeballs that are weak. But you know, the last time I saw you I checked for myself. You know those weak nerves aren’t because you’re sick! What that means is, all we have to do is make them strong. Then they’ll start working with your eyes – and you’ll see! It’s going to take time, but we’ll find a way. 1
That shadow of doubt receded somewhat. “Really?! Will I really be able to see?”
Lan Jue nodded . “Yes you will. Little Jun’er’s such a pretty thing, she should be able to see how much.”
Jun’er threw herself against Lan Jue in a little bear hug, then kissed him on the cheek. “My daddy’s the best.”
Lan Jue gently stroked her hair. “So what would you think about going on a little trip, huh sweetie? In a few days daddy has to go out again. It might be a little while before I come back, like before. But I spoke to your mother, and she said we could all go together. We could go to a new place and play for a little while, what do you think? We’ll get to ride in a big airship!”
She gasped, and her big round eyes widened. Her chubby cheeks were a ruddy red from excitement. “Daddy! I love you daddy. I want to go! I want to go!”
Seeing her little girl so excited at the idea, the Pharmacist couldn’t control herself anymore. Streams of tears trickled down her cheeks, and she covered her mouth to stop the sobs.
Lan Jue stayed for a long time, until Jun’er fell asleep. Only then did he bid farewell to the Pharmacist. Children were pure, and spending time with his surrogate daughter had helped to ease some of the troubles in his heart. Things were also clearer. Now that it’d happened, acceptance was the only way. It is what it is!
When Lan Jue returned to the jewelry shop, he picked out a bundle of his choicest gems and relinquished them to Mika. She was to use them for upgrades to all their mechas, as well as all three Zeus ships. He knew he didn’t have to worry over management of the store.
Three days later, an enormous transport ship lifted off from the public air field. It was headed right for the Western Alliance.
Ships of this size were designed to transport three thousand passengers at a time, and a great deal of goods. All of them were equipped with FTL drives as well, for safety and commerce.
Like any transport, the ship was separated by class. First, business and economy as it had been for ages. The university teachers, naturally, sat in economy. After all, the university was footing the bill and their pockets weren’t bottomless.
Lan Jue hunched helplessly in his seat. Economy! It’d been years since he’d had to be subjected to this.
It wasn’t a luxury issue. He was simply too lanky. He sat with his knees practically by his ears. That hunch wasn’t from depression but because otherwise his head would strike the ceiling.
This certainly didn’t qualify as comfortable. Worse still, the trip would last five days and five nights. Although there would be periods of deep sleep as the ship passed through wormholes or made jumps, he felt like five days and five nights of this would either kill him or drive him crazy. Unacceptable! He had to find a way to upgrade!
It was made infinitely worse when one considered his company. Being economy class, passengers had no choice but to literally rub elbows. On his left was his most recent trouble, Zhou Qianlin. His sins from the past come to haunt him took the form of the Savage Goddess on his right.
Qianlin was slightly better than the alternative. Their relationship was strange, and her mood toward him was markedly cooler. But she was important to him, and that was clear from his lack of self-control.
Tan Lingyun was an entirely different matter. She had looked physically disgusted when she’d found out Lan Jue was beside her, as though he were an insect.
I turned this in to an ELI5 because he’s talking to an infant. TJSS wrote it in more medical terms. If you’re interested, a more faithful translation ensues; “Your optic nerves had atrophied. Last time, I examined them and discovered that the nerves were not pathologically damaged. That is to say, all we need to do is stretch these atrophied nerves and they will begin to interact with your retina.” She’s a smart kid, but damn. Interestingly, though, Chinese medical terms and the normal every-day use words are the same, so young children can effectively understand. But that’s not the case here, words like ‘atrophied’ ‘retina’, even the one he used for ‘stretch’ no child would ever know. ↩