NMD – Chapter 22: Side by Side

No Money to Divorce

Translator: Helliot
Editor: NH

First Published on Chaleuria

Chapter 22: Side by Side

Most of the doors within the council were locked, so they had to try a few rooms before they could find one open. It looked like a small auditorium, and there was only a single tall window in the room that was covered with thick curtains, leaving the entire room dark.

Adrian turned on the flashlight on his terminal and looked around the room, but could not find where the light switch was.

“It’s fine, it’s not like we can’t see anything at all,” Zhong Yan said. “It’s fine as long as we can sit down.”

It was not as if he was putting on airs, and only willing to talk if he could sit down; he was, in fact, getting a little tired from all the walking. When he saw the rows of chairs in front of him, he could not even bother about the lights and sat down on the nearest seat.

Adrian searched another wall, but his efforts were fruitless. He was not a very picky person anyway, so he shut off his flashlight and sat beside Zhong Yan.

But as soon as he did, he regretted it. The seating spaces in the auditorium were too small, and there was practically no space between them; every two seats shared a single armrest with each other, and they were also very narrow. When he sat on the seat neighboring Zhong Yan’s, their shoulders were practically touching.

He enjoyed situations where he could face Zhong Yan and suppress him while looking down at him from above, but he could not accept sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with him.

Fortunately, this was an auditorium, so there was no light. It would require actual visibility for him to see their current predicament, so it was not too hard to accept. Moreover, standing up again to change seats would be a blow to his image. Adrian pressed down his impulses and asked, “If you’re not planning to report to the Capital, are you here to talk about personal matters? I don’t think we have anything to talk about besides the four hundred thousand fine.”

“It’s not a personal matter.”

“And you’re not planning to report it to the Capital?”

But Zhong Yan did not answer his question. Instead, he brought up something that was seemingly irrelevant. “I’d originally planned to come to Navi to talk to you, but I never thought you would choose to bring us to White Aegis Star. Are you confident that White Aegis is safe?”

“What do you mean, ‘safe’?”

“Are you sure you’ve removed all of the AI base stations in White Aegis?”

The cogs in Adrian’s mind started to turn. Zhong Yan’s words held two meanings; first, that he was concerned that White Aegis Star might still be under some form of control by the AI; and second…if he were to get anything out of him, it could only be in Navi; or the so-called safe zone.

Why? Why would a representative member describe an area controlled by “Butterfly” as unsafe?

“Before White Aegis’ merger with us, our technical team had already probed the entire planet. Regardless, there is no way I would ever merge White Aegis without making sure.”

Zhong Yan shook his head. “The terrain in White Aegis is very complex, with mountains and vegetation covering more than half of the land, it’s not impossible to miss something. Whichever way, it cannot be compared with Navi where ‘Butterfly’s’ roots have not been planted at all.”

“In that case, I can, at the very least, assure you that the entire area around this building is completely clean. This is the place we put the most focus on.”

Zhong Yan looked towards Adrian and noticed that he was looking at him. Within the darkness, his face was a blurry sight; but his eyes were becoming more and more dazzling.

Zhong Yan took a deep breath and spoke very vaguely. “He has already gone crazy.”

“Who?” Adrian could not help but ask.

Zhong Yan did not respond. He looked quietly at him, and after a few seconds, Adrian could feel a slight chill running down his back.

Unconsciously, he shifted towards Zhong Yan, leaned forward, and asked with a burning gaze, “You’re saying…”

“Yes.” Zhong Yan met his gaze without shrinking back. “I originally came to Navi to show you something, but this is not Navi, and I do not want to take any risks.”

Adrian observed Zhong Yan’s expression for a moment, and said, “There is no way I will bring you into Navi just because of one sentence. I don’t trust you, Zhong Yan.”

Zhong Yan’s voice was so soft it was borderline inaudible. “The proposal will soon be upgraded into an order. The round table is going to be disbanded. These plans will be put forth next year.”

Adrian’s pupils constricted.

“I’m sure you definitely have your own intelligence channels, so you can find your own way to verify whether you want to trust me or not. There are still many things, but I will not take the risk by bringing out the evidence here.” Zhong Yan stressed the point in a whisper. “‘He’s crazy, completely so. If there’s even the slightest hint that he’s not, I would not have gone against the policies to come see you in Navi.”

Adrian had also suppressed his voice and questioned, “You didn’t say anything when we saw each other in the Institution Star.”

“Institution Star?” A chuckle leaked from Zhong Yan’s lips in the dark. “If we made…a ranking, how high do you think the Institution Star would be ranked?”

The most crucial keyword was omitted from his sentence, but Adrian was very sure about what he meant. It was the planet under the strongest AI control, and there was a consensus within the entire Federation; of course, it had to be…

“Is it not the Capital?”

“It’s not.” Zhong Yan let out a soft sigh. “We were truly too young when we were still students. Now, thinking about it…an artificial planet. That attribute in itself should have been the biggest warning sign.”

Adrian was silent for a moment before he asked, “Why are you seeking me out? What are you trying to achieve?”

“The round table will be gone.” Zhong Yan repeated. “The twelve representative councilors will soon have a real disparity in status. Moreover, it is still unknown whether twelve would still remain after the reformation. We can speak about the details when we enter Navi.”

This made things clear. Adrian sneered in his heart. Sure enough, this was his style; he was already caught up in the flames, but he only took the risk out of desperation when the fire grew out of hand. However, Adrian had to admit that this piece of news sent by the other man was much more credible. If Zhong Yan told him that he suddenly had an epiphany, and decided to take a vote on Navi for the sake of humanity, then he really would not dare to believe him.

Adrian stood up and left the auditorium in large strides. Zhong Yan heard him speaking with someone at the door about something, and repeated the information he had just heard earlier, asking the person to investigate its authenticity. Thinking about it, he might be someone from the Navi Military Command’s intelligence department.

The auditorium door was half-open, and a sliver of light shone in from the outside. Adrian was standing in that light with a firm posture.

“What’re you still sitting around for?” Adrian hung up his call and turned back to see Zhong Yan still sitting in the dark. “Are you waiting for the council to put on a movie for you?”

Zhong Yan looked dumbfoundedly at him for a moment, and responded, “Coming.”

……

It was noon when they left the building.

The sun was bright, and its rays striking for the two who had just come out from the darkness. For a moment, Zhong Yan could not get used to the sudden shift in brightness, and raised his hand to shield his eyes.

He had not managed to tidy up his clothes for some time, so his rolled-up sleeves had already unfurled. Adrian could see now that his clothes were too big for him. The only thing revealed from the arm Zhong Yan had raised up were only four of his fair and slender fingertips.

Zhong Yan took a few seconds to adapt to the light. He met Adrian’s gaze just as he put his hand down, and could not help but wonder, “What’s wrong?”

Adrian quickly moved his gaze away and said, “If you don’t want to take any risks, I don’t either. You will come with me on my ship and return to Navi at lunchtime. Besides your own body, you are not allowed to bring anything inside.”

“Wait a minute.” Zhong Yan finally realized something. “What about my clothes? I came with sincerity, and you should have some trust in me now. Only my formal uniform has…”

“Whether you’re sincere or not, you still have to wait for the verification results of my intelligence team, and I still have to see the evidence. None of us want to be making any mistakes. It’s a critical moment right now, and it’s better to stay safe. Isn’t that so?”

Zhong Yan glared at him with his beautiful phoenix eyes. After a moment, he requested, “Then, I want a set of new clothes. Yours are too big.”

“You still have money for clothes?” Adrian went on coldly, “If you’ve got money to buy clothes, you might as well pay me back the three hundred and sixty thousand you owe me. There’s only half a month left.”

“We’ve talked about this. My views have not changed.”

“A pity. In that case, don’t even think about buying new clothes, keep that on.” Adrian turned to the guard at his side. “Notify the fleet, we’re returning to base at lunchtime.”

“No—Why are you like this? Those are two different things!”

Adrian was unmoved, and responded plainly, “I do not differentiate between work and personal matters. That’s just how I am.”

“Can’t you be a little less unreasonable? Are you really a soldier? You’re practically no different from a space pirate.”

Adrian said, “You saw my dad this morning, blame it on my genes.”

Zhong Yan was suddenly at a loss for words. He knew that the reason Adrian could say this was because he did not care about that father of his anymore. After all, he had never seen his father, nor had he had many expectations for a man like that to begin with. A person he has no care for would never be able to hurt him.

If you knew Adrian as well as Zhong Yan did, then you would definitely be able to find words of rebuttal even for such a strong comeback. All he needed to do was to bring up his fatherless childhood, but Zhong Yan did not say a single word of it.

He and Adrian were no longer friends. In seven years, they’ve met twice, and exchanged only bitter words between them. Adrian frequently used their past as a weapon against him, but he would never do the same.

Those were the most precious memories of his life; he could not bear to use them in such a way.

……

When Adrian returned to his ship, the liaison officer from the intelligence department could be seen rushing over to him. Their previous call had been too short, so he wanted to clear up the situation with Adrian. Just as he was about to speak, he suddenly caught sight of the person right behind Adrian.

The liaison officer looked as if he had seen a ghost, and he suddenly paused.

“What’s wrong? Adrian asked in puzzlement. “Is there something you’re not clear about from my previous orders?”

“This…isn’t this…um…that…special commissioner?”

“Oh, I forgot to say, he’s coming back with us. Great timing, inform headquarters about it.”

What? The liaison officer was absolutely baffled; he-who-must-not-be-named-in-Navi himself was actually about to enter Navi! What is going on? But fortunately, he still had the identity of special commissioner. Otherwise, he would have nothing to call him by!

“Yes, and how long will the special commissioner be staying in the main star? Are there any arrangements for when we arrive?”

“No need for any arrangements, I’ll deal with it myself.” Adrian continued, “He’ll be there for at least half a month. Go pass on the message.”

“Hold on,” Zhong Yan who had been standing quietly behind Adrian stopped the liaison officer spoke up. “It won’t take that long. I only need to evaluate whether Navi is suitable for ‘Butterfly’s’ implementation or not. I’ll be done in a few days.”

The liaison officer looked at Adrian.

Adrian asked, “What’re you looking at me for? Am I your commander or him?”

“You are, sir. The special commissioner will be staying in the main star for half a month; I will inform headquarters now.”

As soon as he was done speaking, he quickly slipped off without hesitation, completely ignoring Zhong Yan’s attempts to stop him.

Zhong Yan could not get him to listen, so he could only turn to Adrian and said in surprise, “When did I tell you I was going to stay that long? The things I need to speak with you about will take no more than two days.”

“Do you think Navi is a place you can come and go as you please?” Adrian looked condescendingly down at him from above. “Pay your fines, or don’t even think about running away.”

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