With the sound of Adrian’s illustrious name, the people who had just clamored to be in front of Zhong Yan were now silently stepping back; none of them wanted to be caught in the possible flames of battle. Nobody dared to go up to them to say anything as these two were no longer the youngsters who had just graduated from the school, they were now heavyweights with enough authority to blot out the sun with just their hands, so nobody would dare to incur the wrath of any of them just for a moment of exhilaration.
Everyone was continuing their absent-minded chatter within their own circles, but whether it was intentional or not, their gazes would still be turned towards the two who were going nearer and nearer to each other. Nobody wanted to miss the opportunity to see a spectacular show, so they were all waiting for the reunion of the two after seven years. The curiosity, tension, and gloating in the air was so thick that it was nearly materializing, and they were all pressing down heavily on the formally-dressed Zhong Yan.
The men of the Navi Military Command walked right past him, heading straight towards the campus. The man at the center of them did not even spare him a mere glance.
Zhong Yan fell into a daze for a moment; he had thought that Adrian would mock or snide him, swear at him, or even…He would not admit that deep down, he still had a small hope or fantasy, hopes that maybe Adrian would come over and ask for a chat with him, and they may possibly even be reconciled in the end.
But through all that, he never thought that Adrian would just ignore him.
It has been seven years. He has seen countless pieces of news that if his name was so much as mentioned in the slightest in front of Adrian, that he would definitely fly into a rage on the spot. There was also a small rumor that since Adrian had taken the position of Chief Commander, Zhong Yan’s name had become a forbidden word within Navi Military Command.
So why was the Adrian now, who had seen the man in question, not angry? Zhong Yan knew him well. They once lived under the same roof, and for three years, they had been intimate friends. He once believed that he knew Adrian better than anyone else in this world, but he could not be so sure anymore. The Adrian he knew of was a spoiled young master who would never wrong himself by keeping his anger in. Seven years has been far too long, Zhong Yan could no longer guess the thoughts in this man’s heart—Has he already let go? Did he hate the idea of speaking with him? Or did he really not see him?
Perhaps, he did not see him. Adrian Yate and Zhong Yan were once the closest of friends, but now their positions as rivals were resounding. In any case, they were people who should not have such meager reactions when bumping into each other.
As if in denial, Zhong Yan started: “Ade.”
His voice was not very loud, and he thought he would never hear him, but that man turned around.
He had clearly been smiling when speaking to others, but to him alone, that smile was gone. His silver eyes had sealed off all his emotions with frost, exposing only an inorganic glow.
The adjutant by his side—Zhong Yan remembered him, this was Adrian’s friend, Fayn from the same batch as them—quietly caught Adrian’s arm and whispered something in his ear.
Zhong Yan could not hear him clearly, but Adrian heard it loud and clear. Fayn whispered to him, “Don’t be rash, there are at least six airborne cameras locked onto you, and I’m very sure more than one of them is broadcasting live…”
Adrian broke free from his hands impatiently and said, “Councilor Zhong Yan, you should be referring to me as ‘Commander Yate’.”
Zhong Yan’s face paled as he watched him, disbelief flowing out from his slender phoenix eyes.
A malicious thrill was surging within Adrian’s heart; he had not had enough, and thus continued, “Remember that. Don’t let me catch you calling me by that name ever again, it’s disgusting.”
The very last trace of blood drained from Zhong Yan’s face. He responded, “All right.”
But Adrian did not even wait to hear his answer; after throwing out that last sentence, he had already turned to leave without any hesitation.
After meeting with the reception staff from the school, they had a long break before the ceremony officially began. Adrian and Fayn broke away from the other invited guests from the army and began to stroll through their school that they had not seen in a long while. Due to what they’ve heard about the Navi Military Command behind Adrian that was said to be able to compete with the Capital, none of the reception attendants dared to stop them. In addition, everyone had already passed through the strict security check after landing on Institution Star. Patrol cameras were also laid across the entire school, so they figured that no accidents would happen. Thus, with one eye closed, the reception attendants decided not to bother them.
The two were chatting idly the whole way and seemed as if they were unintentionally walking down a sparsely populated path. Fayn’s eyes swept towards the only camera at the end of the path. He reached out to pick a flower on a low-hanging branch and brought it to Adrian.
“This flower looks pretty nice,” he signaled Adrian towards his hand. “What’s it called? Let’s see if we can plant it back in Navi Star as well. I wonder if it’s easy to take care of.”
He positioned his back to the camera to create a dead angle and opened up his palm to reveal an address written down in pen.
All virtual data transmissions were monitored, so the safest way to transfer information would only be the antiquated physical way.
Adrian looked down at it for two seconds, and the smile on his lips froze.
Fayn took his hand back and asked in curiosity, “What is it? Is something wrong?”
“Are you sure…this is the one?”
“I’m very sure.” Fayn took another look at the position of the camera. They were still within recording distance of it, so he could not say too much. Instead, he could only ask, “What’s not right about this one?”
Adrian responded, “Nothing. I don’t like flowers, don’t plant any.”
Fayn shrugged and tossed the flower away.
When they left the path, Fayn returned to meet up with someone else. Alone, Adrian walked towards the location pinpointed by the address.
This was an address that he was familiar with. The campus was not split up for the first years in the Supreme Institution. At that time, both he and Zhong Yan would agree to meet up at a fixed place every day when their classes were over before heading back to the dorms together. The place they chose was a vendor for fresh juice. During that one year, he would order two cups of juice every day and await for Zhong Yan’s class to end; or perhaps, whenever he reached the store, he would find that Zhong Yan was already waiting for him with two cups of juice.
The shop allowed one to choose a mix of three types of different fruits, with special seasonal fruits available each season. In that one year, they had tasted nearly every permutation and combination possible at that store; by the end of it, they had already gotten to know the flavors each of them loved and hated like it was the back of their palms. Those days were the happiest moments he had ever been through in his entire first year at the Supreme Institution.
And now, his adjutant had just informed him that this was the address of the largest stronghold for a civil resistance organization towards artificial intelligence within Institutional Star.
Adrian’s conjecture was verified when he arrive; that juice shop that was opened in the corner of the commercial district was really closed down—To be honest, that store had not been very popular during the days when he was still in school. He and Zhong Yan were practically the only regular customers they had—And now, it was currently a specimen store with the sign “Realistic Specimen Viewing” hung on top.
The display cabinets that presented the colorful fruits from the different star systems were now replaced with transparent cylinders of different sizes, with various lifelike animals inside of them. With business to handle, Adrian had no time to lament over the changing times. He rang the bell at the front desk.
“Welco…Oh, it’s Senior Yate!”
Quite clearly, the girl who came out from the door behind the counter was a student worker, even the badge of the Supreme Institution could be seen displayed in front of her chest. She recognized Adrian and a look of joyful surprise emerged from her face. “Did you come to buy specimens?”
Adrian smiled at her. “Hello, I’ve booked a course for making specimens.”
The smile on the girl’s face beamed with even greater sincerity. “So that’s the case. Our specimen course is very popular, may I know which particular course you’ve booked?”
Adrian responded, “The insect specimen course.”
The girl nodded and operated the virtual screen on the counter for a while. Then, she made a gesture towards the door behind her. “Your appointment has been confirmed, please come with me. And please rest assured, we are especially skilled in creating…insect specimens.”
Zhong Yan looked away from the words “Realistic Viewing Specimens”. The glass storefront had not been replaced, so the animal specimens could be faintly seen through the door, and there were a few animals that clearly had fur.
Zhong Yan frowned. He did not enter, and instead turned to leave.
He had always loved furry animals, so he felt quite uncomfortable looking at these specimens.
But before he could get far, someone had opened the door. The enthusiastic voice of a girl rung out from behind him. “Goodbye Senior Yate, come visit again whenever you’re free!”
A familiar low-pitched voice of a man could then be heard with a trace of amusement in his tone. “Alright, definitely.”
Zhong Yan turned around and saw a man dressed in a black and gold military uniform walking out from the store. The moment he noticed him, the smile on that man’s face faded away like the tide, leaving behind only a cold face.
That girl from the school had also recognized the one standing not far away. She saw the complexion of Adrian’s face and tried to get herself out of the awkward picture. “Well, Senior Yate, I’ll be…returning to the store now.”
“Hold on.” Adrian started slowly, “It’s a rare occasion to meet Councilor Zhong Yan here, let me present him with a gift.”
The girl stared at him with wide eyes, and her entire face was saying: Have you gone mad?
Zhong Yan stood without saying a single word, waiting for him to continue.
“Do you have any rabbit specimens? The larger the better.”
Hearing that, the girl’s face was filled with tension. Before Zhong Yan had become a member of the House of Representatives, he had been working hard to strengthen the laws against the hunting of giant space rabbits. And now, Adrian wanted to give him a dead rabbit, and he said the larger the better…She thought that Adrian had only made a deliberate jab at Zhong Yan because he had heard of that bill, but she would never know—Only Adrian knew how obsessed Zhong Yan was towards the creatures they call giant space rabbits.
Only the two of them knew, and this little secret that belonged only to them had now become the sharpest blade; its cuts would not draw any blood, but it hurt just the same.
Zhong Yan averted his gaze. “No need, thank you for your…kind intentions.”
He could not bear to stay any longer and turned to leave. From behind him, he could hear Adrian apologizing to that girl with a tone that was even gentler than usual, and he even said, “If it’s alright with you, please just call me Adrian.”
The ceremony was about to begin and he was going to be late. Zhong Yan thought about it with indifference; he was now one of the twelve people who stood at the peak of human power, so he was placed amongst the most eye-catching seat for the guests. He could not be late.
He quickened his steps and walked away from the specimen store.