During late spring, the flowers in school had already begun to wilt.
Adrian was leaning back on the arch of the corridor’s exit with one hand in his uniform’s pocket and the other swiped idly down on the floating virtual screen of his personal holographic terminal.
“Another expansion! ‘Butterfly’s’ feathers will soon cover the Navi System! In the past 90 years, within the fifty-two systems inclusive of the capital system, the citizens from more than a hundred planets in the Federation have been enjoying an efficient and convenient life under the guidance of the second generation AI, ‘Butterfly’. The Supreme Council announced at a press conference today that the Navi System, located within the most remote corners of the Federation’s star map, would finally usher in a new dawn of civilization…”
At the words, “dawn of civilization”, Adrian snorted without any reservation. Impatiently, he opened up the comments section:
“Hooray! The Federation is finally complete!”
“The Navi System is finally returning to Butterfly’s control. I heard it’s poor and chaotic there.”
“That’s the only place that’s not under Butterfly’s management—there’s fugitives running all over the place. Relying on human governance without AI surveillance, that place is simply a criminal’s paradise! Could it not be chaotic?”
“What??? Am I transmigrating into the ancient Earth period? There are still places not governed by AI??? How do they even live?”
“Stop embarrassing people if you’ve never experienced it! Isn’t that an exaggeration? ‘Butterfly’ was implemented only ninety years ago. Didn’t people still carry on living before that even without ‘Butterfly’?”
“But there was ‘Cocoon’ ninety years ago! These two generations of AIs combined have already been managing the Federation for more than two millennia! If you go even further, that’s already the ancient period!”
“Commenter above is obviously from the capital. The last generation’s “Cocoon” did not cover the entire Federation, only the area around the capital system.”
“This is also the first time I found out that there are regions managed by people…then how do you work and get married?”
“They just get random jobs and get married casually, why else do you think the Navi System is falling so far behind?”
“For the sake of boasting about their wicked little moth, the Supreme Council has even thrown away their common sense. Can you even call those butterfly flaps feathers?”
“Where the hell did this braindead AI anti come from? Without AI, you’d be even less than garbage!”
Bored, Adrian continued to swipe through several pages, and sure enough, it was filled with abuse.
The Federation of today consisted of fifty-three star systems, and the inhabited planets within that numbered over a hundred. The capital system, alongside several other developed systems nearby, had already been under the management of the second generation super artificial intelligence “Butterfly” for over ninety years, and the fifty-second system to enter “Butterfly’s” control range had already been within it for thirty-seven years. The Navi System was truly too far away, and it was also due to some complicated historical issues that matters had been dragging on till now.
And right now, was this last system going to…fall as well?
Adrian gave the “wicked little moth” comment a like and turned off the news.
Thanks to AI, life as a human came with practically no privacy at all; be it in reality or on the net, all your actions were transparent. Soon, the major media outlets will have to post a news release: From the Federation’s Supreme Institution, one Adrian Yate of the Twin Stars, liked a comment written in criticism towards “Butterfly”.
But Adrian did not care about that. As he came close to graduation, he became one of the most highly observed youngsters who was set to enter society this semester. Countless people watched over his each and every move, and he had long since gotten used to this. Though he was the eldest son of the traditional and ancient Yate family, he had repeatedly expressed his position of being against artificial intelligence ever since entering college, standing on opposite sides against his own family as well as the Supreme Council. Though the young master had yet to officially set foot in society, his name had long since been known throughout the entire Federation.
A class had just ended, and a group of lower grade students came out through the arch.
Amongst them, a few girls were constantly peeking over at Adrian, grinning secretly and laughing as they nudged each other playfully. Soon, one of those lively girls came over and asked, “Senior Yate, are you waiting for President Zhong?”
Adrian gave her a broad smile, “That’s right.”
As they continued to whisper and gossip with each other, the girls left. Finally, Adrian’s mood improved—the President Zhong that they had mentioned was the person he was awaiting, Zhong Yan.
Another legendary figure within the Federation’s Supreme Institution, a young civilian orphan with no family background but still achieved an eye-opening high score, bringing him into the Federation’s Supreme Institution. After entering the school, his performance was still dazzling, and he was elected as the Student Council’s President in his second year. While dealing with the various chores from the school, he was still able to maintain his position as the first in his major. Alongside the chief student representative of the military division, Adrian Yate, they were given the nickname of the Twin Stars.
Everyone was making their guesses; they were the Supreme Institution’s Twin Stars, where were these two big names of the Federation going to go after they graduate?
“President.” His seatmate jabbed silently at Zhong Yan with the tip of his touch screen pen. “Your Chief Yate is waiting for you outside.”
Yan Chen glanced at their unceasing professor and whispered, “How do you know that?”
“I saw it in the school forum. Sending it over to you—”
Zhong Yan adjusted the transparency of the holographic screen in front of him, turning on his own personal terminal secretly, and clicking into the campus forum link his seatmate had just sent to him.
“#TwinStars Caught a Senior Yate who was waiting for President Zhong: photo.jpg”
Zhong Yan did not read the comments. Instead, he scrutinized the photo for a little bit.
Three years ago, when he first met Adrian, they were both only seventeen years old. The seventeen-year-old Adrian was dressed in a brand-new school uniform, surrounded by a few schoolmates from affluent families. There was that smile in his eyes that looked both distant and courteous; it was only until Zhong Yan appeared that his eyes brightened, and he shouted, “Zhong Yan!”
Thanks to the highly developed modern network, the full-body image of that year’s top scorer was spread over every corner of the Federation as soon as the results were announced. In an instant, the public was loud with opinion, and everyone was bustling in discussion about the orphan identity and shocking beauty of the new champion.
In contrast, the second place of the year seemed to be left out. And so, he paid special attention to the number two, Adrian Yate, who had been suppressed before he had even entered school, and this was also the reason why he recognized him at first sight.
At seventeen, Zhong Yan had none of the tact that he had today, but due to his own innate character, he was still unperturbed. Standing under the watchful gaze of those affluent kids, he nodded his head in greeting, “Hello, Mr. Yate.”
“Just call me Adrian.” The earlier uppity grand young master seemed as if he was a whole other person; he was both passionate and easygoing. “We’re from the same dorm, let me bring you there.”
Zhong Yan followed him, but not before turning to face the crowd of young master and misses with distorted expressions and saying, “Please excuse me.”
For a very long time, Zhong Yan had always thought that Adrian had done this out of some unmentioned intentions, but he later found out that this was just how the great young master Adrian was in general—if he did not like them, or did not stand in the same footing as them, then he would not even bother to put on a decent expression, nor would he care about whether his actions would embarrass those people or not. In his own words: “The coolest and most good-looking person is my roommate, why should I care about that lot?”
Three years have passed since then. That handsome young man in the photo had long faded away from his youth of that year. The lines and curves of his gruff features were very majestic when he was not smiling, but he would never not be, just like in that candid photo of his: A light smile played by the corners of his lips, and a pink petal had fallen on his black hair. Completely oblivious to that fact, his head was dropped down to view the screen of his own personal terminal; his silver irises, a specialty of the Yate Family, were hidden beneath his half-lidded gaze, and his thoughts were unperceivable.
The photo was posted in the gossip section, and it was easy to figure out what people would say in the comments section. Through the past three years, the “TwinStars” tag contributed to about one-fourth of the threads in the school forum’s gossip board. Without even bothering to look at it, Zhong Yan shut off his terminal screen.
In a hushed voice, he said to his seatmate, “Stop looking at the forum, this professor has really sharp eyes.”
Even though he was reluctant, his seatmate shut off his screen as well, and said, “I’m almost inclined to believe what all these girls are saying. Say, are you two really—”
“We’re not.” Zhong Yan responded.
“Sorry for making you wait!” Zhong Yan was slightly panting. “We haven’t finished going through our topic, so the professor dragged it on for a while…”
Adrian took his bag and slipped it over his own shoulder while he rested his other arm around his shoulder, “It’s fine, you didn’t have to run.”
Zhong Yan smiled at him, “I was worried I kept you waiting too long.”
Since he had ran over from class, Zhong Yan’s usually fair face was now laced with a light tinge of red. Adrian watched him; his usual appearance that had already been quite delicate and handsome now seemed even younger; not looking much at all like a young man at the age of twenty. Instead, he looked like a new student who was only sixteen going on seventeen.
“Let’s head back.” Zhong Yan fixed his clothes. “The cameras are coming.”
Adrian came back to his senses and finally saw the pair of daily patrol cameras around the area. After having identified a pair of students who were loitering around, they descended steadily to their height and were zooming over, one in the front and the other at the back.
Adrian struck a pose for the small spherical cameras that were heading their way, and the two broke out in laughter. Walking side by side, they headed back to the dorms.
The sound of cheering burst out in the hall, which was enough to prove how popular the aforementioned person was. Adrian jumped up onto the stage in one smooth movement, and clearly, this move was a little informal for the solemn occasion.
But very quickly, nobody bothered with the issue of his etiquette any longer. They watched as he reached the center of the stage in a few quick steps, and without even waiting for the huge virtual screen behind him to announce the results, he announced in resolution, “I refuse the optimal career proposal of the AI. As for the fine, please send me the bill, thank you.”
The amplifying system on the stage caused his voice to resound throughout the auditorium of the Supreme Institution, “Fellow friends! I will see you again in Navi!”
The sounds of the crowd’s reactions—cheers, whistles, and the voices of doubts—were intertwined into a large ruckus. Adrian jumped off the stage in high spirits, bumped shoulders and shared a hug with his classmates from the military division, and turned back to see the very last student on stage.
The legendary Student Council President, Zhong Yan.
When Zhong Yan refuses the AI’s proposal…Adrian watched that person standing on that stage with a smile on his face: A young man who had just turned twenty, with his black hair and black eyes, his fair skin and red lips, a beauty as grand as a painting. Very soon now, just a few more seconds—
Zhong Yan glanced at the optimal career proposal displayed on the screen. He looked neither below the stage, nor at anyone, and he did not even seem to have considered quite as long as most other students.
The crowd roared. Half of them were whispering and gossiping, while the others looked towards Adrian.
Adrian’s smile had been replaced with a look of astonishment. Only then did he remember to look at the words on the virtual screen. On it displayed the position Zhong Yan had just accepted: Capital Star, Supreme Council, Member.
For more than two hundred years, this was the council that single-handedly pushed forth the AI project. This was the Supreme Council, also known as the “Butterfly Cabinet”.
In that instant, rage burned through his limbs.
“Boss…Um, about that plan, are we still moving forward?” His diehard brother, Fayn, asked in a stutter.
Adrian glared at Fayn with utmost coldness in his eyes, and under the gazes and chatter of the scene, he left the graduation ceremony indignantly.
He went straight to his dormitory and grabbed his luggage. Without even waiting for the graduation ceremony to end, much less for Zhong Yan’s return, he left the school alone.
With that farewell, it had been seven long years, and they had not seen each other since.