Zhong Yan observed his expression for a moment as doubt began to form in his voice. “Are you joking?”
Adrian looked at him, face devoid of expression. “Do I look like I am?”
The desk was very tall, so sitting on top of it, Zhong Yan had a rare chance to face Adrian on an equal level. A look of disbelief sprang upon his face as he enunciated his words all too clearly. “I will not take my clothes off in your office.”
“This office is the only place on this ship without any monitoring. I’m already showing you consideration.” Adrian was losing his patience. “So you won’t strip, huh?”
He grabbed Zhong Yan’s collar and began to unbutton his shirt. Zhong Yan subconsciously attempted to retreat, but as he was sitting on top of the large desk, his back fell directly onto its surface. Without any signs of rest, Adrian took a step forward in response and took hold of Zhong Yan’s hands that were desperately resisting him. With his other hand, he grabbed his shirt that appeared very expensive upon observation and tore it open roughly. Under his violent movements, one of the buttons gave in and landed with a crisp clink on the floor.
“Wait! Wait a second!” Zhong Yan tried to push him, but his efforts were in vain. Soon he had the realization that struggling against Adrian was a foolish decision. With his face red from struggling, he shouted, “I…I’ll take it off myself!”
Adrian bent over and pressed him down before confirming, “Really? Are you willing to strip now?”
Zhong Yan glared at him. “Yes! So get off!”
Adrian retreated. Zhong Yan sat himself up once more and tidied up his messy clothes and hair. His breath was still slightly haggard from the tussle they had just engaged in a moment ago, but Adrian’s breath, in contrast, was not affected in the slightest, and he was standing at the side with his arms crossed as if nothing happened.
Zhong Yan stared at him and observed him again, but felt as if he didn’t know him anymore. He muttered, “How did you turn out this way now?”
“Turn out like what?”
“You…you weren’t like this before. You used to be…”
Zhong Yan’s words were slightly incoherent, but Adrian certainly understood how he ‘used’ to be.
He used to want for nothing than to hold Zhong Yan in the palm of his hand. Don’t even mention how much he coddled him, he would even ask to see if he was okay if he so much as heard a cough; when had he ever been this rough and unforgiving with him in his life?
Adrian spoke. “Because we’re not in the past anymore.”
Zhong Yan’s expression changed. He opened his mouth, but he could not say a single word.
Adrian observed his face and felt as if someone had just poured oil over the bubbling magma beneath his heart.
He raised his voice. “What’re you sulking for?!”
“I’m not.” Zhong Yan turned his head away quickly, unwilling to look at him any longer.
Adrian warned him, “You better not cry.”
“I’m not going to!”
The one thing Zhong Yan hated the most in his life was for others to see his vulnerable side. The more he denied it, the more Adrian wanted to bring it up.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen you crying like that during the school’s anniversary celebration. Speaking of which, you’ve also changed in the seven years we haven’t seen each other. What, is crying the new pity play you learned after becoming a representative member? How come I’ve never seen you practice this in public?”
Before he could even finish talking, Zhong Yan had picked up the cup on the table and hurled it at him. His aim was not very accurate, so Adrian was able to easily avoid it by moving his head a little without even having to move his feet. Then, a loud crash could be heard as the cup smashed into the wall right beside his ears.
The calm and self-sustaining Zhong Yan was finally angry. Adrian felt a rush of pleasure from it and refused to let go of this weakness of his. He continued on, “Has your guts shrunk to so small now? You always look like you’re going to cry when I’ve been seeing you recently. Did you secretly cry when you got kidnapped by the space bandits too?”
Zhong Yan’s face was covered with a layer of frost as he spat out coldly, “That simply makes no sense, what’s there to cry about getting kidnapped by space bandits?”
Makes sense. When Adrian slipped into the bandit ship’s hall earlier, he saw how the other man’s face was filled with not a single shred of panic even when he was surrounded by hundreds of vicious bandits, much less any tears.
Then why did he cry in the stairwell last time? Could he be scarier than a hundred or so wicked space bandits?
As Adrian wondered about it in his gloom, he spoke, “This cup costs three hundred and sixty thousand. Pay me back in half a month.”
“My button costs four hundred thousand. You don’t have to pay the extra forty thousand.” Zhong Yan’s breaths came back to normal, and he touched his shirt which button had been torn off, and turned back to ask with reluctance, “What will I wear if I take this off?”
Adrian knew that they would be landing sooner than they realized if they continued their bickering, so without a single word, he took off his sports jacket and threw it to Zhong Yan.
He wasn’t in his military uniform today, and nobody knew whether this was due to him being in a rush, or that he just didn’t care to change, but perhaps he had only worn his casual clothes so he would not stand out as much when he tried to blend in with the bandits.
Zhong Yan grabbed the jacket and without even having to check it with on his own body, he said, “Your clothes are too big.”
This was not Zhong Yan’s first time wearing Adrian’s clothes. During their winter days in the Institution Star, Adrian would often take off his jacket for him when they walked together as Zhong Yan was sensitive to the cold. Adrian liked to buy loose clothes, and he was also tall. Not only was Zhong Yan half a head shorter than him, he was also very slim, so the jacket would end up as a long coat on his body.
But right now, he was not prepared to help him with the sizing issue.
“You can stay naked if you prefer.”
Right now, Zhong Yan knew that he really meant what he said; he was not joking. He quickly moved his hands to the jacket to protect it in his arms as if he was afraid that Adrian would go back on his word.
Zhong Yan spoke, “Then, you go outside, I’m going to change.”
Adrian raised a brow at him. “It’s only temporary, but this is still my office.”
“I know, what of it?”
“I am the highest commander of the largest armed organization of the anti-AI, and you are the direct subordinate of AI. You think I’m going to leave you alone in my own office? Dream on.”
“Isn’t the terminal in your office protected by a password?”
“And what if you manage to guess it? I’m not prepared to take that risk.”
“Guess it…” Zhong Yan repeated the line and felt so angry that he had to stop and take a breath. This man was too unreasonable. “Me? Guess your password? How am I going to do that? It’s not like it’s my birthday or something, is it?”
Adrian paused in his breath. This sentence stabbed right at his sore spot. He really was using Zhong Yan’s birthday as the password for his personal terminal. He was the only one who knew this, not even Fayn did. He thought that it would be too petty of him if he were to change the password, it felt like something only a little girl would do.
Zhong Yan had unsuspectingly made a strike at him without knowing it, but he kept his expression solemn, firmly refusing to show him any clues.
“You’ve been an official for so long, how do you still have no tact? I just don’t want you in here alone, it’s like leaving a thief next to a locked case, I just don’t like it.”
The faint blush on Zhong Yan’s face that came from his earlier struggles had now faded completely. The anger and humiliation that had been kept silent within him since his childhood was now roaring out and was almost spilling out from his eyes. He closed his eyes, and after catching a few breaths, he said, “Then turn around.”
“Zhong Yan, do you really think I’m here to play with you?” Adrian sneered. “You have a highly concealed recording device on you, and I can’t be bothered to bring in the high-precision detection equipment. The easiest way is for you to change, and now you’re trying to stop me from seeing the changing process? Then what’s the point in getting you to change?”
When Zhong Yan brought up this suggestion at the round table, he had only thought that this would help to increase the success rate of the plan; he never thought he would be pushing himself into this situation, but even worse was…
“There’s really nothing on these clothes! My formalwear is…” Zhong Yan hated that he didn’t tell it to him clearly from the start, he told him they were clothes, but never said which ones. He wanted Adrian to watch out for the probing devices on his ship, but who would’ve thought that he would be robbed by space bandits before he could even arrive at Navi? And now it had been taken over by the Navi Military Command.
After his ship was dealt with, Adrian shifted his attention and started to treat all his clothes as if they were enemies.
“It’s on the cufflink of my suit. It’s a miniature camera that can’t be detected by ordinary security detection devices, but you can find them if you use high-precision equipment! You can search my room, it’s right in my closet—”
“You’ll never get the chance to wear that suit in your life, so why would I have to bother? It’s enough for me that I watch you take this pair of clothes off.”
Zhong Yan’s face had turned into an unbelievable shade of white. Adrian had actually figured that these clothes he wore were likely fine, he was just doing it for insurance. But now it almost felt like a lottery; was there really some hidden device within his clothes? Why was Zhong Yan so desperate to keep it on?
“You can tell anyone else to watch me change. Anyone! As long as it isn’t you! Anyone would…”
Before Zhong Yan could finish, the internal communication device on the table rang.
Adrian picked it up and answered. “Speak.”
The person on the other end of the communicator spoke, “Commander, we’ve entered the White Aegis’ atmosphere. The cockpit sent me to ask if we’re ready to land.”
Adrian threw the communicator back on the table. It slammed down, bounced back up, and fell on the ground, but nobody paid it any attention.
“You heard it, now’s your last chance to do it yourself.”
Zhong Yan looked at him, and a look of despair welled up in his eyes. Adrian was getting more and more confused—Wasn’t it just a hidden device? Is there a need for this?
“Fine, I’ll take it off. I’m nothing in your heart now anyway, this won’t matter.”
What? What won’t matter?
Adrian was starting to feel as if things were much different from what he had expected, and it made him feel rather uneasy at the bottom of his heart. Zhong Yan did not delay and immediately went on to remove his buttons. When he pulled his shirt away, Adrian moved forth and grabbed his hand that was trying to cover himself up.
For a moment, he could not believe what he was seeing at all. He even reached out uncontrollably to touch it, and the bumpy texture on his feelings proved to him that what he saw in front of him was all real.
“What is this?! What—is this?!”
Right beneath Zhong Yan’s chest were dense scars on his ribs. The scars were gnarled and twisted, and they were very old, from the looks of it, but you could still clearly see the words they formed.