No Money to Divorce
First Published on Chaleuria
Chapter 46: Specimen Ban
When he was young, Adrian’s favorite adult was definitely Vahl Cayman.
There were just those few big families within the upper echelons of the capital, so they would often meet during parties. This uncle, who had no blood relationship with him, would often secretly bring him snacks that children liked to eat. Adrian’s grandfather did not like this young colleague of his and warned Adrian many times not to talk to such people, but this, in turn, served to arouse Adrian’s rebelliousness. As long as he had the chance, he would try to talk to Vahl as often as possible. Vahl would not reprimand his outspoken and childish thoughts in harsh tones like Stalvern did, but would instead encourage him kindly, or coax him patiently.
The only time Vahl spoke harshly to him was when he was thirteen. He had a fight with the older kids in his school and was photographed by the patrol cameras. The parents of several of the participating students were asked to come discuss the incident with the school. Adrian knew what Stalvern’s temper was like; he would definitely fly into a rage on the spot. He did not wish to lose face in front of the other students, so he lied that something happened to his grandfather and called Vahl to come instead.
Sure enough, Vahl protected the boy’s pride. He rushed over with the other parents, and after listening to the matter, not only did he not reprimand him like the parents did with their children, he even said without a care, “I don’t hear anything wrong with what Adrian has done.”
Vahl had no rights to speak at the round table, but that was a matter within the inner workings of the Supreme Council so outsiders did not know much of it. The other parents were scared of his status as a council member and did not even dare to talk back to him, while the teacher had been in disbelief. “Sir Cayman! Mr. Yate has wounded two of his seniors!”
“So you mean to say that two sixteen-year-old kids tried to bully a thirteen-year-old, and got beaten up instead by said thirteen-year-old?.” Then, they could hear him speaking casually to Adrian. “That’s where you’re wrong then, Adrian. How could you be so harsh with your seniors? You need to give your seniors some face. Apologize.”
“Sorry, seniors, I’ll go easy on you next time,” said Adrian, following his advice.
The two sixteen-year-old senior students were so angry that their faces were flushed red with fury. The complexions of their parents also changed. The teacher would never have expected a proper council member like him to be so blatant in showing his favoritism. She was just about to say something, but Vahl went on, “Alright, he’s already apologized. So, Miss…”
“‘Butterfly’ is about to be implemented in its 51st and 52nd star systems soon. Everyone knows this. Roundtable meetings are becoming more frequent, so Sir Yate has to be relied on for many things. The children have only gotten into a small conflict with their fellow schoolmates…so you shouldn’t disturb him for such a matter now, right? How about this. I’ll bring this boy home, and I’ll have him reflect on what he did today. Then, we’ll just see this as the end of this matter. Is that alright?”
He spoke slowly, but his words show no acceptance of refusals; the teacher could only nod and let them go.
Adrian really believed with all of his heart that Vahl really thought him as blameless, and he even told him on the way out of school excitedly how he taught those two seniors who had come to provoke him a good lesson…he would never have expected Vahl to drop the facade once they reached the car, and ask him seriously, “Adrian, do you feel proud of yourself for winning over those two seniors in a fight?”
This was the very first time Vahl had ever spoken to him so harshly. Adrian was stunned, and nodded hesitantly.
“You clearly agreed to having a one-on-one fight, but the other party brought two people. They never wanted to have a proper fight with you at all. They wanted to teach you a lesson!”
“So what if they brought two people? I won!” protested Adrian. At thirteen, he was unconvinced he did anything wrong.
“Have you thought about this then? If that boy wasn’t sure of your strength, he might have called another person. Do you think you could win if there were three? What about five? Ten? What if they brought weapons? It’s very dangerous for you to rush headfirst into things like that. You were lucky today because your opponents were foolish, and their hearts were not completely corrupted! Adrian, you should be more cautious about your own safety. It pained me to hear from your teacher that you had gotten hurt. Your mother didn’t give you your life just so you could go on such risky ventures.”
Nobody has ever told Adrian that seeing him hurt pained them. Adrian raised his head and looked at the profile of the middle-aged man who was driving and muttered, “Okay…”
“Alright, your grandfather is probably going to be back late today, so I’ll send you home for now. Then, I’ll head back to school later to get this wiped from your record. It won’t leave a big impact, but…it’s a fierce competition, getting into the Supreme Institution. ‘Butterfly’ will be doing a full evaluation of your school performance, so it’s best to stay on the safe side.”
“Wiped?” Adrian said, “We learned in school that all the cameras are ‘Butterfly’s’ eyes. He won’t forget after seeing it, would he?”
“You’ve forgotten what your uncle works as,” Vahl chuckled, “This is just a small matter. It can be wiped, so don’t worry.”
Adrian raised his voice, “I’m not worried, but how could the records be wiped? Doesn’t AI represent absolute justice? If humans can change the records, then what’s the meaning of its existence?”
“There’s no such thing as absolute justice in this world, Adrian. However, ‘Butterfly’ has indeed become the closest to that standard. Many things may have come from good intentions, but…”
“But those good intentions can’t have been all that good, right?” Adrian pouted. “Since there’s no such thing as absolute justice, why did they have to forcefully make one?”
Vahl was stunned by this child who was only thirteen this year. After being immersed in the world of officials for so long, he found himself unable to answer for a short moment.
“Uncle Vahl, being cautious is not a solution either. It can’t solve our problems.” Adrian continued, “The only way to solve our problems is to get stronger. When I’m strong enough, so strong that I don’t have to care whether my opponent is one person or ten, then they’ll never dare to pick a fight with me at all.”
“That is what we call a deterrence, but I wasn’t trying to teach you that…” Vahl didn’t know whether he should laugh or cry at his answer, and a funny idea crossed his mind.
This child had the makings of a general. Even though every star system has military commands situated in one or more planets, going to war had long existed only in the history books. Ever since humans had come together to form a federation, peace had been maintained for many centuries. When thinking about the coming years, a real war fought with guns and ammunition was quite unlikely to occur.
At that time, Vahl would never have imagined that in just a short decade or so, the smoke of trouble would rise up once more for the Federation.
The frenzied comments of the public were unstoppable, and thousands upon thousands of ordinary civilians now had the guts to speak out for themselves, all in support of the Navi Military Command that was in distant confrontation with the Capital. That boy who said that “becoming strong was the true solution to problems” has now grown into a man who the Capital has to avoid provoking.
Adrian had not seen this uncle of his who treated him so sincerely for many years. Since entering the Supreme Institution, and announcing his stance, he never took the initiative to contact Vahl. Later, the situation became more and more tense, so there were even less chances for the two to talk. He always thought of Vahl as the one man in his life who truly played the role of a father. Even though they did not have frequent contact, it was Vahl who taught him tolerance and growth..rights and wrongs…love and hate. Meanwhile, all Stalvern could instill in him was the family’s honor and dignity.
It was undoubtedly a very fortunate thing that he was able to reunite with Vahl in this situation now, and to know that he was in the same camp as himself.
“Commander Yate,” Vahl spoke. He had not been able to continue when Adrian immediately said, “Uncle Vahl, please, there’s no need for such formalities between us.”
“Councilor Caymon, Sir Yate, please continue your chat. I will return to my room first,” Intron excused himself. Adrian told his guard to escort him back.
“You shouldn’t send away the only guard you brought.” Vahl disagreed with his actions. “It’s dangerous for you to stay alone here if I were to have any ill intentions.”
Adrian couldn’t help but laugh. “Uncle, please spare me. You’ve been nagging me since I was young. It’s been nearly ten years since we last met and you’re already starting.”
As he brought up the past, the distance that came from not having seen each other for many years melted a little. Vahl’s lips were curled up in elation, but he still said sternly, “In these years, ‘Specimen’ has repeatedly warned you to be wary of the intentions of anyone from the Supreme Council.”
“Oh, the warnings that Pearson is vying for my life?” Adrian disregarded it completely. “You don’t have to remind me. I know full well that he can’t wait for me to die. Which radical supporter of AI does not want my life? But they’ll need the capabilities to get it.”
Vahl was dissatisfied. “Adrian.”
“I know, I know. I do have my defenses up against people from the Supreme Council, really. Just look at Bayer, and…Zhong Yan. I’ve put them under house arrest.”
Vahl said, “Speaking of Zhong Yan, your fines will be expiring tomorrow, right? What happened? If you’re having any financial difficulties, I can…”
“No no, my financials are fine. Well…just leave that alone.” Adrian didn’t want to talk to others about his bad debt with Zhong Yan, especially with his own elder. It was too awkward.
“Adrian, tell me clearly…do you want to get married? Don’t be embarrassed about it. A marriage is a matter of a lifetime. So what if ‘Butterfly’ assigned a partner to you? If you know you’re following your heart, then that’s enough. To choose freedom in life, hasn’t that what you’ve been fighting for—”
“Uncle, what are you saying? I don’t want to marry him,” Adrian quickly interrupted. “I’ll pay the fines tomorrow. Time is limited, so let’s talk about the important things. I’ve always felt that someone from high above is operating ‘Specimen’. I should’ve known it was you early on, from the cautious style of…”
“What? Me?” After hearing half of it, Vahl realized something was wrong, and quickly denied it, “Adrian, you’ve misunderstood. I’m not ‘Specimen’s’ founder, nor the leader. I’m just their informant.”
“It wasn’t you?” Adrian frowned. “Then, do you have any clues? Time waits for no one. If we can work more closely with ‘Specimen’ that will be a great help. But before that, I really want to meet the founder myself.”
Vahl shook his head. “I don’t know much either. This organization operates with one-to-one contact, so I’m afraid only a handful of the senior members know the leader’s identity. I’ve been their informant for two years, and Intron is my minor. Him entering the Supreme Council was also done with my help as well. As for the founder, he is probably only in contact with the people directly under him, and he has only issued direct orders to the entire ‘Specimen’ organization twice since its inception. The first are the rules set at the beginning of its establishment. We are not allowed to infiltrate into the higher levels of Navi’s rung, and we must never set foot on Navi System. At that time, you were already beginning to climb the ranks over the others. I think this may be to show respect for the pioneer from the same camp. The second one is very strange, and it was only issued about half a month ago.”
“Half a month ago?” A strange hunch arose in Adrian’s heart. He suddenly remembered that he had personally contacted the organization nearly a month ago. At that time, outside of the specimen shop, he met…
“The order required all specimen stores to make immediate rectifications, all specimens of furry animals had to be removed.” Vahl retold the incident in confusion. “What do you think that means?”