Fayn knew that the identity of the other person had changed, and perhaps, the only people left in the Federation who could stand on the same footing as him right now numbered no more than twenty; when it came to his peers, Adrian was the only one left that could rival him. But still, he could not resist taking a jab at him. “So you still remember that he’s your best friend, huh? Then why didn’t you think about that when you stabbed him in the back?”
“That’s something between me and him, not something…” Zhong Yan raised his head to shoot him a glance, “an outsider should be sticking their nose into.”
“Yes, I am an outsider.” Fayn said, “And even if it’s between the two of you, you still didn’t tell him beforehand. If you could’ve come out with the fact that you didn’t agree with human autonomy at all, and maybe brought it up when you were in your first or second year, and even if it was your third year, he…”
“Would have switched rooms immediately, and have nothing more to do with me. I don’t need you to tell me this, I know him better than you do.” Zhong Yan still remained calm, “Also, I have never personally expressed my position as a supporter of that so-called ‘human autonomy’ or otherwise, be it before or after our graduation, so I don’t know where you’ve misunderstood me.”
“You still should’ve told Adrian that at the very least, you could’ve told him that if ‘Butterfly’ were ever to bring you over to do her bidding, that you’d never even hesitate to agree!”
Completely unaffected, Zhong Yan responded to him as coolly as before, “That was an event with a very small possibility of happening, I fail to see what use it would be for me to bring it up.”
Fayn really had to admit, the possibility was in fact rather small. There were only a handful of posts in this world that were closely related to “Butterfly”, and within that percentage was the minority: the pyramid-shaped existence they call Supreme Council. There were no more than fifty formal members of the council, even assistants and candidate members were less than a hundred combined.
In the current era where the life expectancy of a person was over the hundred-year mark, the years a person spends working had also been extended. It was normal for a person to be retired by “Butterfly” only when they reached their seventies or eighties, and there were never any vacancies in the Supreme Council; it was quite common not to see any new members in the council even after many years have passed. Even if a new person joins the council, most of them would be other promoted in from other sub-councils below. For a student to be judged directly by “Butterfly” to enter the Supreme Council at graduation, this was a rare scenario that was hard to come by even for the top talents produced by the top universities through the decades.
On the day before his graduation, Zhong Yan had never thought about this possibility; on the contrary, he was practically mulling over it every night as soon as his eyes were closed during the busy later half of his graduation year. He knew that with the quality of his resume, that the position he would be offered would definitely not be low. Most likely, he would not be given any ordinary position your average joe would be thrown into. In which case, Adrian was not the extremist type that would force people to express their personal opinions before giving up. He may be a bit disappointed that his friend does not fully support his ideals, but he could apologize afterwards and slowly work things out; it should not have been a big problem.
But unfortunately, the dart managed to land on the smallest fraction of the turntable…
Fayn rebuked, “No matter how small the possibility, it still happened. You are the sole reason this has all happened, and if you could’ve prepared him for it, things would not have turned this bad. At the very most, he would’ve just put some distance between the two of you.”
“And you think that’s ‘not as bad’?”
No, that ending is terrible; for Adrian to no longer pay him any attention was a hundred times worse than what they had between them now.
When he first saw Adrian yesterday, he was suddenly ignored, and Adrian passed straight by him; that was the one moment in his life where he felt the most afraid. Compared to those years where he tried like a madman to get in contact with Adrian and found himself blacklisted through all their communication methods, he felt even more afraid—he was so afraid that after seven years, Adrian had already let go, and put away the enmity they had. But thankfully, he later found out that he had just been acting indifferent; Adrian still hated him, and he hated him so much it was spilling over his gritted teeth.
With that thought, Zhong Yan almost wanted to feel thankful for how he had handled it during that year. At the very least—
“At the very least, he still hates me right now,” he muttered under his breath.
Since the dart had already landed on the bull’s eye, there was no longer any hope for reconciliation. In that case, he can just hate him. Adrian is the very first person in his life, and the one and only person in this world who had truly cared for him. Even if they could not be friends, it was good enough for him to become his enemy. No matter what, he could not bear to lose the attention Adrian paid him.
Zhong Yan contacted one of his men to open the door, and Fayn drove the car directly into the parking lot of his spaceship.
A young man already standing in wait.
Even though he was wearing a suit, he looked like a mere student who was here to attend a presentation. With a fluffy head of short brown hair and a pair of black-rimmed glasses, his face presented a warm scholarly look.
The instant Fayn’s eyes focused on that man’s face, his hands slipped on the driver’s control screen, causing them to almost crash into the car ahead.
He could feel Zhong Yan moving his gaze away from his personal terminal to look right at him.
“What kind of sh*tty design do you have in your parking lot?” Fayn complained, “That reflective mirror is rearview! I mean—the rearview mirror is reflective!”
Zhong Yan swept his eyes around the parking lot, and his gaze landed on the other person besides them—his personal assistant—and looked at him for a few seconds, asking, “What’re you so nervous about?”
“We nearly hit that car! Didn’t you see it? I say, can you be any more calm than this? If something were to happen to you in my car, the headlines of the news in ten minutes would be ‘Senior Officer of the Navi Military Command Murdering a Member of Council’, do you think I could remain calm like that?!”
Seeing that the car had come to a stop, Zhong Yan’s personal assistant came over to open the door for him. He nodded to Fayn in greeting and said to him in a business-like tone, “Adjutant Suster, thank you for coming all the way here, and please convey our gratitude to Commander Yate. We very much appreciate the kind assistance he offered when he bumped into the Councilor last night.”
Fayn burst out in laughter and waved his hand, “It’s nothing…but I’m just curious, do you council people not get tired of keeping up formalities all the time?” He met eyes with the assistant for a few seconds. Then, the both of them quietly looked away. Fayn turned his gaze towards Zhong Yan and asked, “Say, Zhong Yan, is this the son of one of your council’s staff? Is he of age yet?”
The young man could not keep up the business smile on his face anymore. Without waiting for Zhong Yan to respond, he spoke with a tone laced with dissatisfaction, “I am already twenty-four this year. I have been of age for four years, Adjutant Suster.”
He looked as if he had more to say, but Zhong Yan cut him off plainly, “Intron.”
Intron bowed his head respectfully.
Zhong Yan said to Fayn in a perfunctory manner, “See you again.”
“No. Please, let’s not,” Fayn responded to him in a disgruntled tone. After booting up his car’s controls, he drove off.
“Why is it you?” As they were on the way back to the office area, he asked, “Where’s Bayer?”
Since the event they were attending this time was hosted by the Supreme Institution, the nature of it was considered special; many invited guests had also brought the schoolmates amongst their friends groups who were also graduates of the Supreme Institution as a means to offer them a ‘favor’, allowing the people who were similarly as outstanding at them, but still not qualified enough to be invited, a chance to attend. Zhong Yan was no exception. He brought his two direct subordinates who had come from the Supreme Institution, Bayer and Intron.
Bayer was here to join as he was Zhong Yan’s first-in-command, but Intron had just been invited because he was a little luckier than the rest. He had actually entered the Supreme Council by coincidence last year and was assigned to work under one of the council’s representative members. Even though he was only doing marginal work under the newly appointed member, who didn’t have to climb up from similar beginnings? The height of this starting point was already enough to attract the glares of his peers to his back.
“Senior Bayer is feeling a little unwell,” Intron answered him respectfully, “his stomach seems to be acting up, so I’ve come to receive you instead. Also…news came from the Capital Star this morning, he told me to report the situation to you in his place.”
Zhong Yan pulled out the chair at his desk and sat down before turning on the virtual screen on the table that he used for work. “Got it, call the doctor who came with us to take a look at him after this, and tell him to get more rest. Now, begin.”
Intron spoke, “Here’s the situation: we’re about to reach the end of the year—but for the whole of this year, we have received no, um, no news at all about the Navi System’s sub-council or Navi Military Headquarters. And well, the year is coming to an end soon…”
He may be sounding as if he was beating around the bush, but in truth, all the reports from the Navi System had been perfunctory just last year; not only were the routine monthly notifications clearly made up of forged data. Year-end reports from other star systems numbered about fifty pages on the short side, and about a hundred pages on the longer side. It was reasonable to say that Navi, as the only non “Butterfly” controlled region, should have even more detailed reports; but in the end, the report they sent in was only eight pages long—and out of those eight pages, two were content directories, and one of them was the list of authors.
During this year, however, the entirety of the Navi System had gone silent. In the first half of the year, the Capital Star had sent out numerous letters of inquiry, with each worded even stricter than the last, but they all ended up like sunken rocks in the sea. During the middle of the year, the Supreme Council had once sent a special commissioner over to investigate the situation. As a result, the commissioner failed to even get into the Navi System, much less reaching the main planet, Navi Star, to see the head of the sub-council—but everyone knew that the Navi System was now under the control of the Navi Military Command’s headquarters, the sub-council may not even exist anymore.
After the special commissioner reported the situation, the Supreme Council was roaring with fury. They mobilized their troops to enter the Navi System forcibly, and this incident made its way to the round table of the representative members of council. It was a pity that it happened during the first anniversary of the “AI suspected of malicious misjudgment incident” because the waves of public opinion within the virtual community had been riled up again. Much of their energy had been diverted to this issue, and, at the same time, they also had many deep concerns and fears—No matter what the cause, the first to move is always the first to lose. What’s more, the Navi System was now basking under the limelight of the people, and the rate of support for AI and the Supreme Council had been dropping year by year. If they were to enter into a conflict now, it would definitely cause a strong rebound from the entire Federation. Besides, how many forces could you mobilize for it to still remain appropriate? To what extent has the Navi Military Command developed? That remote star system was as concealed as a steel drum these days, both men and information goes in, but never out, nobody knows how the situation really is in there right now.
And things have dragged on till today.
“We need to come up with a solution by the end of this year,” Zhong Yan said.
He laced his fingers on the table and his face remained calm, nobody could tell what he was thinking. After a moment of thought, he gave his order. “Inform the cockpit, return immediately. As for the news from the Capita, tell them that I am proposing to start up the deadlocked ‘Butterfly’ break through inception project from seven years ago. I strongly recommend that we start before the end of this year. We have to get rid of the deadlock and enter the Navi System. Tell everyone to wait for my return to the council’s round table before we discuss further. Send the message.”
Intron seemed to be stunned, “That…sir, is that all right? About the Navi System, you…don’t you want to avoid suspicion?”
Zhong Yan raised his eyes to look at him and asked, “Avoid suspicion? Is it because I am at odds with the Supreme Commander of the Navi Military Command that they’re worried about me possibly using this as a chance for revenge, or do you think they’re worried about me seeking personal gains for being his optimal marriage candidate?”
Intron felt a little awkward. With some hesitation, he said, “I did hear some gossip from some of my other colleagues, and I’m afraid…it’s the latter. After all, it’s hard to refuse in your position, the council…”
“Is overthinking it.” Zhong Yan moved his gaze away. “That man from Navi hates me to the end of his life, he will definitely prefer to pay five times the fines over being tied to me. This marriage will not come to fruition, and there is no suspicion to avoid, just repeat to them what I told you earlier.”
Fayn was practically scrambling to get in contact with Adrian as soon as he left the surveillance range of the spaceship.
The call was cut off. While driving, Fayn did not waste a single second before redialling, and finally entered in conversation with him on the third try.
Adrian’s voice emerged, “You better have some important business. I’m currently with the liaison officer…”
“Leave the liaison officer be for now! My business is definitely more important than his!” Fayn was shouting out in a quick speed, “Do you know who I just saw in Zhong Yan’s private ship? The one who met with me yesterday in the school, that guy from ‘Specimen’!”