“Since we don’t really plan to push for ‘Butterfly’s’ envelopment of Navi, we don’t need to pay any attention to the special commissioner.”
Another officer added, “Yes, the meeting record shows that they are quite eager to obtain reliable information about the situation here. Both the spacecraft and the special commissioner will be carrying a lot of hidden video recording devices, but we can simply forbid them from entering. They can just take their videos at the border.”
“That’s not appropriate, ” a young military officer voiced his objections, “Let’s not talk about the authenticity of the meeting records for now, but even if it is authentic, how would the tides of the public change? ‘Butterfly’ is about to enter Navi and we’re choosing to remain silent and refusing to communicate. We know that it’s just a pretense, that it’s fake, but the masses don’t know that. What’s more, I still have my doubts on the authenticity of this information. Is it really possible to obtain such a detailed meeting record from the round table? There isn’t a traitor within the twelve representative members, is there?”
The other officer interjected, “Come on now, that’s no traitor, that’s a man of insight!”
“So you’re gonna fight me no matter what, huh?”
Adrian rapped the table. “Enough! Have you two ever not bickered during a meeting? Why don’t the two of you fight it out outside?”
The two officers quickly shut their mouths.
The liaison officer by Adrian’s left spoke, “About this…from the unexpected information we had somehow gathered a few days ago…” As he spoke, he shot a glance towards Fayn who was seated right opposite of him. “Even though I’m not sure what the specifics of the operation is, but it is indeed possible for the record to be leaked.”
Fayn nodded in agreement.
Quiet sounds of bickering and whispered discussion filled the room. Another officer suggested, “Then, what about meeting outside of the Navi System?”
“The other party is a special commissioner sent over to investigate whether the capital star of the Navi System is suitable for establishing a base signal station. I’m afraid they may not agree to meeting outside of it.”
“But as long as they enter Navi, isn’t it our call on where they go? Can they even make a forceful landing in the capital?”
“The problem isn’t whether or not they’re going to enter Navi! The recording devices they mentioned in their meeting that would be installed in the spacecraft will be able to detect any laser weapons present within an area that is almost half that of the planet. And which of our planets aren’t equipped with any laser weapons?”
Adrian suddenly spoke, “White Aegis Star.”
There aren’t any laser weapons in White Aegis! Don’t even mention laser or quantum weapons, there aren’t many weapons there in the first place. They can investigate that planet however much they please.”
The White Aegis was a very controversial planet; it was located on the border between Navi and its neighbouring star system. Strictly speaking, it belonged to the Lebor System right beside Navi. Three years ago, a large number of rare ores were discovered beneath the soils of this little planet. “Butterfly” made its judgement and transformed it from a residential planet to a resource planet. Migration proposals were then issued to the small number of residents on the planet.
This was not a very wealthy planet, and transportation was very inconvenient, but the customs of the people were simple, and the residents felt a strong sense of belonging; they were unwilling to have their homes demolished in order to transform the entire planet into a cold mining facility. The sub-council within the Lebor Star Division had made countless appeals to the capital to request the retention of their residency status on White Aegis, suggesting to turn the planet into a half-and-half of both, but they were all rejected.
A year later, when a contracting company had been selected, the mining plan drafted, and the original inhabitants about to be forcefully evicted, White Aegis turned to the Navi System for help. In less than a week, the White Aegis’ planetary region’s sub-council announced its separation from the Lebor System to merge with the Navi System instead. The Lebor System feigned ignorance and allowed it, claiming that they were being threatened by the military force of Navi’s troops and that it was only for security reasons that they will silently allow the separation of White Aegis. By the time the people from the capital had arrived, the planet had long been under Navi System’s control, and they were stopped by the newly-expanded boundaries.
The capital did not recognize this private agreement, so the planet was still classified within the Lebor System in their officially released star map. But in reality, it had already become one of the outermost planets in the Navi System.
“Don’t wait for them to enter Navi. What they talked about in the meeting is clear. The special commissioner’s ship will not be taking the fixed route; they are prepared to avoid the public eye by taking a detour to the south of the Lebor System. In other words, they will be entering from the southern borders directly opposite of us. We will intercept them directly near the Lebor System, and force them to change their route, making them land on White Aegis,” said Adrian in a firm and steady tone.
They remembered very well the particulars of this plan that they had heard of in the records where Zhong Yan described in detail the route he was going to take. He was even ridiculed by Bard, saying that he could “tell it to your own men instead, there is no need to tell us this”.
The officers present were all a little surprised. With some hesitation, Fayn spoke. “Commander, do we intercept them with direct force? Those are the people from the Supreme Council, should we not at least show them a little courtesy…?”
“No,” Adrian firmly refused. “If he wants to come to my territory, he will play by my rules.”
“Commander! Boss, boss! Hold on!” Fayn rushed to catch up with Adrian, following him into his office. “Don’t walk so fast. Come on, tell me, how do you feel about that special commissioner?”
“What do you mean?” Adrian was straightforward. “No comments whatsoever.”
Fayn pushed on. “What do you mean ‘no comments’? It’s not up to us to say what happens when he enters Navi. You have to tell us whether you want your order braised or fried after we catch him! What if we do something you’re not satisfied with?”
Adrian’s voice was deep. “Don’t touch him!”
As soon as he spoke, both of them were stunned. Adrian added on uneasily, “Zhong Yan is a civilian, he’s never fought in his entire life. On the other hand, you lot are people I’ve personally brought up as soldiers. Even if you don’t feel ashamed to be raising a hand against someone like that, I would…what’s that look on your face?”
“You’re hopeless. Do you still like him?”
“Don’t be so jumpy about the topic.”一Despite having a good temper, even Fayn was starting to feel a little disgruntled. “When you first came to Navi, that sullen look on your face was pitiful! You said later that you got over it, but I’m not blind. When we were on the Institution Star…You’ve never once forgotten him. Listen, if you can’t get over him after all these years, then I’m afraid you’ll be cursed with it for life. And since you can’t let him go, then don’t pay those damn fines. Get married to him, find some reason to settle him down in Navi, and shut him into a dark room. What do you think?”
Adrian hissed coldly, “Are you mad? That’s illegal imprisonment.”
“Ille…what? No, but you’ve already illegally taken over an entire star system…”
“Fayn, I will not see him.” After some hesitation, Adrian still decided to add on, “He will interfere with my judgment.”
Fayn probed, “What judgment?”
“Can’t you see? I could barely control myself when I saw him. What’s more…” Adrian remembered the look of Zhong Yan’s red eyes and tear covered face. Then, he remembered the scene in that surveillance room where he saw how he had curled up on that chair. Recalling back to what Fayn said about shutting him in a dark room…he gulped unconsciously. He closed his eyes and said, “Anyway, he’s going to bother me, so I’ll just leave this to you and the liaison officer. I’m not seeing him.”
“Xiao Yan,” Adrian circled his arms around Zhong Yan from behind and buried his face between the nook of his shoulder. “I’m so hungry, how much longer do I have to wait…”
“Almost done!” With quick hands, Zhong Yan added a spoonful of seasoning into the pot. Adrian was much taller compared to him, and he was practically covered by the man’s embrace, making it quite inconvenient for him to stir the pot. But he did not ask the other man to release him and instead continued to cook in such a difficult position.
“Are you really very hungry? Why don’t I get you a small bowl to start with? Sorry, my class ended a little late today.” He continued on a little uneasily, “I’ll be quicker next time, then I’ll definitely have food waiting for you when you come back…”
There was only half a year to go before they graduated, and the unease he felt was growing stronger by the day. Adrian had put forward his idea of heading to Navi, and starting from scratch; Adrian had even told him that Fayn would be going with him.
Fayn Suster, Adrian’s good friend and classmate since their campuses were separated. On the first day of their second year, Adrian had told Zhong Yan about it when he returned, telling him that he had met a like-minded friend that he had easily hit it off with.
Adrian was the only friend that Zhong Yan had, but Adrian had many besides him. Amongst them, Fayn was declared a good brother that he could confide in. He had even discussed with Zhong Yan once about whether he could invite Fayn to their dorm to hang out.
Their dorm room was a place for only the two of them, how could anyone else be let inside! Zhong Yan knew that he came from a simple background, and he was worried that if he did anything wrong to incur Adrian’s dislike, that he could not be close with him anymore, so he rarely refused Adrian and had always satisfied all his requests, whether it was big or small, as much as possible. However, he was very determined to refuse him that one time.
The military division’s campus was located far away from their dorm, and Adrian did not know how to cook, so Zhong Yan had taken up the responsibility of preparing dinner every night. Later, Adrian complained that the food in the canteen of the military division was too awful, so Zhong Yan decided simply to just buy a lunch box, and prepared his breakfast and lunch as well.
Fortunately, his results were already dazzling enough. Not only were his tuition fees paid by scholarship, he even received ample pocket money, which was more than enough to cover the burden of feeding two mouths.
“Adrian,” During dinner that day, Zhong Yan tried to ask, “if…somebody had different ideals, and goals from you, but for the sake of their own goals, had to do the same as you…would you work with a person like that?”
Adrian responded very simply, “No. Naturally, I would look for like-minded people to work with, why would I have to bother with people who held different ideals? What’s wrong? Is it one of your debate topics again?”
“Uh…yeah.” Zhong Yan lowered his head and pushed the plate of sweet and sour pork ribs in front of him. “This is your favorite, but I’m using a new brand of vinegar today. Give it a try, tell me what you think.”
Just lie to him. Say that you are indirectly trying to save your nation, so you wish to collaborate with him. He can work towards the goal from the outside, and you can work on it from within. A small voice emerged within Zhong Yan’s heart: What we wish to do is the same anyway, and since he trusts you so much, he won’t be able to tell!
But that was not true. Zhong Yan tossed and turned in the middle of the night. That’s not it, I know I’m not trying to save anybody. I’m not doing it so I can help him, I’m just doing this for myself. You could try to fool anybody, but that was Adrian…How could he lie to him?
“…Sir! Sir Zhong! Sir Zhong!!”
The sound of banging could be heard coming from his door. Zhong Yan had been woken up from the noise, and it pulled him out from his dreams of seven years ago back to reality—He was now on a spacecraft heading towards the Navi System, and this was the fourth day of their travel. They were only one small region away from Navi.
As he hurried to change his clothes, he shouted to Bayer behind the door, “What is it?”
“Somebody has stopped our ship!”
This was quite in line with Adrian’s style, so Zhong Yan was not very surprised. He opened the door and asked as he walked side by side with Bayer, “What are their demands? Are they asking to discuss outside of the Navi Star System? I said it was impossible…”
“Sir Zhong, it is not the people from the Navi System who stopped us.” Bayer’s face distorted bitterly as he cut him off. “They’re space pirates, and they’re demanding money.”