“Did you…and that guy…fight?”
“No.” Adrian sat down next to Fayn and frowned. “Why do you always think that I’m going to hit him?”
While the school principal was still making his speech, Fayn covered his mouth with the commemorative album so that he would not be caught by the cameras, and said, “I’m not the only one who thinks that! The principal had just started talking and that guy suddenly entered with red eyes, looking like he’s about to cry, and then you came in a few minutes later…what happened between the two of you just now?”
Adrian snorted: “With red eyes? Your imagination is running rampant.”
Fayn rolled his eyes and said, “Everyone saw it! You can replay the recording when we get back if you don’t believe me. A few cameras hovered over to him just as he came in, so you can watch it from any angle you want. Let me tell you, the virtual community is like a wildfire right now. Nobody’s talking about what the principal is saying, they’re all trying to guess what the two of you were doing—Did you really not hit him? Then what’s he crying for?”
Adrian frowned and subconsciously felt the need to refute: No, of course he wouldn’t cry if I’d hit him, Zhong Yan is definitely not the type of person who would shed tears from physical pain.
But he swallowed those words down just as they reached his lips.
“Nothing, we just bumped into each other and said a few words.”
He thought back to it for a moment; they really did just say a few words, and Zhong Yan had only responded with a single sentence! Though, he didn’t pass his few cents directly to Zhong Yan.
Clearly, his deputy did not believe him. He snorted, “Come on, do you think you can really make a representative councilor cry with just a few words?”
Adrian stared coldly at Fayn, and the latter was given a shock by the complete lack of warmth in his silver eyes. Suddenly, he had a realization: he had just violated a great taboo—mentioning Zhong Yan repeatedly.
“How is it any of my business whether he’s laughing or crying? Did you forget how he treated me right here, right at this very hour, seven years ago? Fayn, you were sitting right beside me then just like right now! Zhong Yan, that guy, he’s…” Adrian gnashed his teeth and spat out each syllable one by one, “Com-plete-ly heartless!”
Fayn nodded nervously. Those sitting right around them were all part of Adrian’s clique and were all the current officers of the Navi Military Command. Everyone had originally perked their ears with great interest, but when they saw their commander breaking out in rage, all of them quickly averted their eyes and ears; suddenly, they felt great interest in the principal’s speech.
His ears were finally at peace, but Adrian could not restrain himself from mulling over what he said…Zhong Yan cried? What was he crying about?
He knew that Zhong Yan was a very sensitive person, and could become upset over one thing for quite a long time, but he would rarely see such a fluctuation in emotions with Zhong Yan. At the very least, he had never seen Zhong Yen bawl, laugh out loud, nor fly into a rage in all his three years of studying here. This black-haired and black-eyed youngster seemed to always be composed, reserved, and decent; it was hard to believe that such quality of nurture could come from an orphanage.
Without knowing it, Adrian was looking towards the guest table for the School of Social Sciences.
Seated in the seat of honor was the aged patriarch of the Yate family, Adrian’s grandfather, Stalvern Yate. The Yate family was a traditional pro-AI family, and during the past two centuries in the development of artificial intelligence, the Yate family had left a great imprint on the project. It wasn’t until more than ninety years ago when the first generation AI “Cocoon” was officially retired and replaced by the newer and stronger “Butterfly”, that artificial intelligence had officially begun to take full control of human society. The fame of this family who had consistently embraced the use of AI had also reached its peak.
In the eyes of many, nature still had to run its due course, the popularity of this family had already reached its end. The current patriarch, Stalvern, had only received one proposal from “Butterfly” in his younger days to procreate; during that time, he and his wife gave birth to a daughter, and that was Adrian’s mother.
After obeying “Butterfly’s” instructions to marry and procreate, Adrian’s father who had been adopted into the Yate family disappeared. In despair, his mother left the world early, leaving behind only a single seedling, Adrian. However, before this seedling had time to grow, it had started to sway towards a different path: he abandoned his grandiose family background and excellent academic resume to head towards the self-destructive future of the poorest region in the Federation.
But of course, nobody could have guessed at that time that any of this could happen. In just seven years, the cry of the public had engulfed the virtual community, and the remote and antiquated Navi System had already become a taboo existence for the Capital.
As a result, the Yate family that was not in a good relationship with the Supreme Commander of the Navi Military Command was put into an even more awkward position. The patriarch, Stalvern, was one of the predecessors of the twelve representing members of council. Three years ago, he left the Supreme Council, which vacated a seat amongst the twelve council members, and after more than a year of evaluation, the then twenty-six-year-old Zhong Yan finally received “Butterfly’s” favor, thus taking up that position.
There was a rumor amongst the people that it was the Yate family’s patriarch that referred Zhong Yan to “Butterfly”, thus influencing “Butterfly’s” final judgment. The reason why this young council member could be promoted at such an alarming rate was due to the great Yate family’s dredges and support that pushed him all the way to the current results. They seemed to have decided to use this against Adrian, who stood on the other side of the Federation and may ignite a conflict with them at any time.
It has been nearly a decade since Adrian had last seen his grandfather. Due to the differences in their positions, the social circle within the Capital Star back then was afraid of him, and his family had been disappointed in him since he entered the Supreme Institution.
His grandfather had clearly gotten old. He was currently speaking to Zhong Yan who sat to his right, and he appeared to be speaking to him with a very gentle attitude—he had never even shown such kindness to his own grandchildren—Zhong Yan was also listening to him with respect. Stalvern was also black-haired, so looking at them so suddenly now gave him the feeling that he and Zhong Yan were a harmonious grandfather and grandchild duo.
Adrian scoffed. Something like “leading a wolf into your own house” truly was something only his grandfather could do. He was not even afraid of the boat flipping over halfway through, sitting with an ungrateful wolf like Zhong Yan. Meanwhile, Zhong Yan had clearly been listening to a whole three years worth of his complaints towards that old bugger, but now he’s actually turned around to work with that old fogey. As expected, he was practically born for the political life.
On that side, the two simply exchanged a few words and kept it at that. Zhong Yan was dressed in a black formal suit and sitting in his own seat. Looking at him, he seemed to be listening diligently to the Principal’s speech, and his face looked just as usual, you could not find anything off about him at all.
He really was a hypocrite; so Adrian thought.
But some people were just that good at being hypocrites. Father Time seemed to be quite partial to this young man; he was already twenty-seven years old, but he still had a flawless face that was alabaster like fine white porcelain, and his eyes were still as clear and beautiful. Sitting there, he almost looked as if he had just reached twenty years old, and was a graduand waiting to receive “Butterfly’s” career proposal.
How did Zhong Yan feel when he was sitting in this hall at that time? He was a person who was good with planning in the long-term and would think carefully before he took a step. Adrian knew him too well, so he knew that his betrayal on the last day was not a sudden impulse coming from greed of power. So it must have been premediated. As for how long that plan had been brewing for, Adrian could not muster any guesses.
Seven years ago, when he walked with Zhong Yan to this very hall with his arm over his shoulders, Zhong Yan must have foreseen their falling out that would happen in the next few hours, but no ripples could be found in his expression at all during then. And what about before that? What about the time he spread that three-dimensional holographic star map over the entire dorm room and expressed his dreams to Zhong Yan? Had he already known then that the two of them would eventually part ways? Or perhaps even earlier, when they huddled together in bed during the first hours of sunrise, talking about their childhoods? Had Zhong Yan already planned to hear more about the Yate family, so as to lay the tiles for the path ahead of him? Or even earlier, when they had…just met?
Funny, he had given so much of his feelings, even more than that of a mere friend, only to be given a slap on the face by the other; only then did he realize that Zhong Yan might not have given even a little bit of himself to him from the beginning to the end.
Perhaps the reason why his eyes were red earlier was due to the rabbit specimen, Adrian sneered in his heart; God knows why Zhong Yan was so obsessed with those furry creatures and even fell in love with those giant space rabbits. In his opinion, those space-land amphibious rabbits were too big, stupid, and lazy too. He saw no merits in them.
Adrian’s mind drifted away. The graduation ceremony was long and boring. The criticizers and supporters of AI have been fighting against each other, and now the call for change was resounding even deeper amongst the younger generation; even this old and traditional institution was no exception. More than half of the graduates had refused “Butterfly’s” career proposal, and chose instead to pay the fine; this situation was nothing new in these past two years.
A few hours into the ceremony, only the last student was left. According to tradition, the order for the graduation ceremony should be based on the total ranking list in descending order and was concluded by the Student Council President.
There was a commotion at the rear of where the students were gathered. Many people were whispering to each other, and the noises combined were getting louder and louder, attracting the gazes of many guests sitting in front, all wondering what had happened amongst the students.
“What,” Adrian said with impatience, “is the Student Council President for this batch a real piece of work as well?”
Fayn looked over and waved to the student who had just rejected “Butterfly” earlier and expressed their wishes to request for a career in Navi System. That student looked to his left and right; chaos was already brewing. Everyone was busy whispering to each other, nobody cared about any rules anymore, so he ran over to the guest area.
Before Fayn could even ask, the student told him with a strange look on his face, “Adjutant Suster, here’s what happened, one of the girls in the School of Social Sciences found the ceremony too boring so she turned on her terminal and was secretly looking around the virtual community. It just happened to be ‘Butterfly’s’ weekly marriage proposal announcement, and you know how many people look at that every week…”
Fayn would not have imagined ever meeting anyone to top him in longwindedness. He cut him off, “Get to the point!”
“Councilor Zhong Yan’s name appeared on the list.”
When he heard this sentence, Adrian felt a heavy blow to his heart. He could not explain what it felt like; it was like a bee sting, but it also felt like he took a step on thin air, falling.
Fayn: “…” As one of the few who knew the deeper insights to the case from seven years ago, he turned subconsciously towards his friend with worry.
“What’re you looking at me for!” Adrian snapped. The deeper implications in Fayn’s eyes made him extremely annoyed, and he could no longer hold himself back. “What’s it got to do with me if some stupid c*nt with eight generations worth of misfortune has to get married to Zhong Yan?”
That student looked dumbfoundedly at Adrian and appeared as if he wished to speak, but could not.