Your hometown status has always been set to the Capital, ‘Butterfly’ has the right to modify your marital status which is a very dangerous situation for you,” the old minister of the Navi Military Region Headquarters’ legal department trailed behind Adrian and babbled on endlessly, “Once you are married, your spouse will automatically receive a range of rights, including, but not limited to, debt sharing, common property processing, arranging the inheritance order—Commander! Are you listening? This is a very important—”
“I’m listening, I’m listening. Getting married is very scary, I can’t get married, I got it, I won’t get married.” Adrian stopped helplessly in front of his office. “And compared to that, I have some very important work to deal with right now, Minister Winter. Let’s continue our law class next time, alright?”
The old minister was very dissatisfied with his perfunctory attitude, so with a glare and a huff, he said to him, “Commander, it’s not scary to get married! What’s scary is marrying the wrong person at the wrong time! We are at an important juncture, we can’t have any mishaps now! If you have to pay a fine, then you should just pay it now. It is no big deal to surrender temporarily to the AI. Sometimes, you need to compromise to…”
Seeing that he was going to start another long speech, Adrian quickly interrupted him. “Yes, yes, I will definitely pay the fine as soon as I can, so I will be going now, take care, goodbye.”
Without even giving the other man a chance to respond, he slipped straight back into his office in a flash and shut the door.
The world was finally quiet.
Countless people were making speculations; was he dawdling on paying the fine because he was unwilling to send money “Butterfly’s” way? This saying was spread throughout the Navi Military Command, and after a high-level meeting, many people have tried vaguely to hint to him that things can be settled with a moment of tolerance and that he should not let money influence his emotions. For the sake of obtaining greater benefits, he should be willing to show temporary tolerance towards any person in the Federation, including “Butterfly”—if AI could also be considered human.
But not Zhong Yan.
He could endure having to pay several hundreds of thousands to “Butterfly” just to nullify the marriage contract, but he was unwilling to pay even a single penny for Zhong Yan. He used to spend a lot of time, money, energy, and care on Zhong Yan…but he would never do something stupid like that ever again.
The more he thought about it, the angrier he got. Adrian turned on the virtual screen of his terminal and dug Zhong Yan’s account out from his blacklist. With quick fingers, he typed out a line of words on the virtual keys.
“There are 27 days left to pay the fine. I’m warning you, if I don’t receive the money within the time limit, this will not end at a mere three hundred and sixty thousand.”
Anyways, it probably won’t be sent out; Zhong Yan must have blacklisted his contact information as well. Adrian casually clicked on ‘send’, and waited for the “Your message has failed to send” prompt to appear.
But that error did not appear. After being stunned for several seconds, Adrian finally realized what just happened.
The message actually sent out normally; he was not on Zhong Yan’s blacklist.
In just a few minutes, he received a response. “You may handle it however you wish. I have no money. I have a meeting to attend, it might take a while.”
Adrian stared at the reply with gloom looming over his face.
In the past, whenever Zhong Yan was unable to give him an immediate response, he would always tell him in advance what he was going to do and how long it was going to take, in case his response never comes.
Until today, he still retained that habit; even if that “a while” may be related to having a discussion on how to deal with him, he had done it so naturally that for a moment, Adrian could feel a jab of pain from it.
This is how he always was; as if nothing was wrong, he could accept the invitation to participate in the school’s celebration, return to that juice shop to take a look, and also mouth to him the ciphers they shared in the past; it was as if…nothing ever happened between them. That was how heartless he was.
I’m really making things hard for myself, Adrian thought. Once again, he returned that account to his blacklist.
The main building of the Supreme Council had a total of nine floors, and the eighth floor was the round table meeting room for those at the very top.
Zhong Yan had reached the eighth floor early. There were two parts to the room outside of the round table meeting room at the center, and the part closest to the conference room was a waiting area for the twelve council members to use before the conference begins. Here, they could participate in idle chatter, or make their final preparations. The outer part was the walking area, and all the assistants of the council members will be here.
Zhong Yan was walking on the eighth floor with Bayer right behind him. Two pairs of leather shoes stepped across the smooth marble floor, and the sound echoed in the silent space.
They stopped right before entering the waiting area. Bayer spoke, “Please check through the information again after you enter. You are proposing in this round table meeting, you must not be careless. Have you muted your terminal?”
Zhong Yan hesitated for a moment, and said, “One second.”
He opened his inbox to check; no new messages. The final message within was still the message he sent, which said, “I have a meeting to attend to, it might take a while.”
In the past, Adrian would never allow him to be the one to end a conversation, but that was all in the past. Zhong Yan pursed his lips and enlarged Adrian’s portrait. He cannot take any risks, what if a message suddenly comes from Adrian during the meeting?
It’s fine to just turn off that setting. When he comes out of the meeting, he can turn it on again.
Bayer watched as Zhong Yan’s fingers hovered over the terminal. His face was expressionless, and for a few seconds, he did not make a single move. Then the terminal was set to opaque, so nobody behind the screen could see the contents. Bayer could not tell what he was doing, but he could not help himself from asking in dissatisfaction, “Sir Zhong, what are you doing? The eighth floor is not a place for daydreaming!”
A trace of displeasure emerged in Zhong Yan’s eyes. He was just about to shut off the screen when he heard a collection of footsteps coming from not far away.
Two people emerged from around the bend. The one walking in front looked to be about the age of sixty or so, but his pace was steady, and his suit was well-fitting; clearly he was a man who put effort into maintaining his body. He had a broad jawline with dense brows, a look that exudes an air of righteousness. Even though he had already reached the end of his middle ages, and inevitably, signs of aging had also crawled its way onto his appearance, a faint shadow of youthfulness could still be vaguely seen. Behind him was his first-in-command: a younger middle-aged man.
Vahl Cayman greeted Zhong Yan and spoke to him in a polite tone. “I see the both of us are early. There’s still quite a long wait to go, so let’s go for a smoke.”
Bayer was just about to refuse him, but Zhong Yan agreed to his invitation.
Bayer’s face turned sour in an instant.
Zhong Yan tagged along behind Vahl and entered the smoking room. He shut the door behind him and plainly remarked, “I don’t smoke.”
“I know, me neither,” said Vahl. He sat down on the soft and comfortable sofa before calling out to Zhong Yan, “Don’t just stand, come sit.”
“No need, please speak.”
“That’s no good, you are my equal. It is not proper for me to sit if you do not,” Vahl joked, “Please give an aging old man some consideration, hm?”
Zhong Yan took a seat on the sofa opposite him. He was not sure what Vahl wanted to talk to him about, but after some hesitation, he still said, “Sir Cayman, there is actually not much difference be it here or outside.”
It seemed to be only the two of them within the smoking room, but they knew that it was just the same as the outside; this area was also under strict surveillance.
His words were laced with ambiguity, but Vahl understood him. He responded, “It’s fine, I just didn’t want that old codger outside to hear. I guarantee you, it will reach his master’s ears in less than five minutes. It’s distasteful.”
Vahl was also born within a noble family, and both the Cayman and Yate families were quite close originally, but Vahl Cayman had an old grudge with Stalvern. Ever since they rose up as their family’s patriarchs, the two families have completely broken off.
“It’s not that bad,” said Zhong Yan. After some hesitation, he continued, “From my observations, he seems to make his reports once every half hour.”
“Hahahaha, no kidding?” Vahl shook his head as he laughed, “That old man…Zhong Yan, I should have given you this advice a long time ago, but that old man has already reached an obsessive level in his megalomania, you should stay away from him.”
Zhong Yan did not respond, but Vahl did not plan to continue this topic here either. He did not care, and continued on himself, “Well, I’m stepping over my boundaries here. Zhong Yan, I asked you here today to ask about something…You’ve met up with Adrian, correct?”
Zhong Yan kept silent and looked at him quietly.
“I know you don’t like him, nor do you like being asked about matters between the two of you.” Vahl leaned forward and spoke in a sincere tone, “I won’t ask too much about the rest, but is he doing well?”
Zhong Yan had known of this council member before graduating, and they had also met once then.
It was during the time when they were going onto their second year and were moved to separate campuses. Vahl had come to visit Adrian with bags of snacks and daily necessities. Adrian had refused him several times, but finally, Vahl had given a bitter smile. “I know you’ve grown up. You have your own way of thinking, and you don’t take kindly to my work. But Adrian, just take it as…my apologies, treat it as a gift from your family.”
Only then did Adrian accept his gifts. Later, when they were sharing the snacks together, Adrian told him about the story of the legendary councilor.
Before Zhong Yan, the record of the youngest representative member of council was set by Vahl Cayman. He had reached that position at the mere age of thirty; but unlike Zhong Yan, he had the natural support of his family. He grew up within the Capital Star and had many contacts. For some time, he held unparalleled glory, but in less than half a year since he became an elected member of council, he refused “Butterfly’s” optimal marriage partner proposal on the reason that he had a lover, setting the highest divorce penalty in history: a base fine of more than ninety thousand.
In the unaccepting social environment of the time, and as a representative member of council, this act caused a great uproar. You could tell how much of a sensation it caused at the time just by looking at the price of the fines alone. But time proved that this move also caused the decline of the Cayman family. Currently, Vahl was one of the longest-standing members in the House of Representatives, but his right to voice his opinions was also considerably limited.
The lover of Vahl at the time was his childhood sweetheart: the only direct descendant of the Yate family, Kelly Yate.
The story behind it was very tragic. Kelly was deeply in love with Vahl as well, but it was pitiful that she had a weak character, and feared her own father very much. After receiving the marriage proposal in the next year, with tears flowing down her eyes, she was forced to marry a stranger under her father’s threats. This man also did not wish to wed her, but he was quickly given “Butterfly’s” suggestion to bear a child. Stalvern made the two of them copulate their marriage, which had completely strengthened the man’s resolution to escape. When Kelly was pregnant, the man knocked out the servants in the residence, and fled with their personal spacecraft, fleeing to the Navi System.
Perhaps, Stalvern was the only person who looked forward to Adrian’s birth. In Adrian’s memories, his mother was not close to him. Every day, her tears would wash down her face, and just a few years later, she ended her own life with a knife in her chest.
Vahl later refused another marriage proposal and remained single even till now.