The knock on the door broke the silence in the room.
“Commander? There seems to be an issue with the internal communicator, I can’t get through. Are you in there?” The person outside asked.
Adrian glanced over at the communicator that had died gloriously in battle on the ground. He raised his voice and asked, “What is it?”
“We’ve entered the atmosphere, and we’re expecting to land on White Aegis’ landing pad in ten minutes.”
Zhong Yan gave Adrian’s chest a light push. This time, the other man took a step back following the ministrations of his force.
As he expected, Adrian had lost all interest in him—whether it be as a friend or enemy. As these self-deprecating thoughts floated in Zhong Yan’s head, he jumped off the desk. He had been sitting for a long time, so his legs had already gone slightly numb; when he landed on the ground, he couldn’t hold himself up firmly enough, so Adrian supported him.
“Thank you.” Zhong Yan kept his eyes on the space between his and the man’s feet. “Right, I didn’t get to ask earlier. Where are my men?”
This man had not dared to look at him since their conversation ended. Adrian suppressed his anger and asked, “That…I mean…why didn’t you tell me those matters earlier?”
“I’ve asked you about them since we were still on the bandit’s…”
“I’m not talking about that!”
Zhong Yan raised his head, and shot him a smile; a smile filled with bitterness.
“I know you don’t want friends like that. You like friends like Suster. Someone like you, passionate enough about changing the world that they’d give their lives for the cause. If I told you early on, you would have abandoned me long ago, would you have waited till graduation? I was fortunate enough to have those three years. You should hate me. It wasn’t as if I never thought of the possibility that…that something like what happened during our graduation would happen. I thought about it, but I still did it. You really should hate me.”
Adrian gnashed his teeth as he spoke. “I don’t like guys like Suster. You foolish idiot, you don’t know anything.”
“Don’t you like him enough? You told me how much you liked him the day you met, and you wouldn’t stop talking about him that day. Before even a month had passed, you said he was basically your best buddy, ” Zhong Yan reminded him with displeasure. “You’ve never even called me your buddy, and everyone else called us the Twin Stars back then. But anytime anyone mentions the best friend of the military academy’s Chief, everyone would instantaneously think of Fayn Suster.”
Who wants to be your buddy?! I wanted to…
“We’re not even talking about the same—”
A slight tremble shook through the hull of the ship, interrupting Adrian’s words, and also dragged him back to reality from the glimpses of his student days.
Adrian cleared his throat and said, “We’ve already settled your men down on the White Aegis earlier.”
Zhong Yan had also realized that with their current status, there were things more important to them right now than their relationship.
“Thank you. Then, let’s head out…”
“Don’t thank me so soon, I’m not done yet—Your boys are on the White Aegis but I never planned to let you see them.”
To Adrian’s surprise, Zhong Yan nodded without any hint of change in his expression; it was as if he had told him “I’ve prepared a banquet for you” instead. He calmly asked, “So, what are your next arrangements there?”
“We’ll talk after we get down,” Adrian responded.
Adrian went off to settle the captive space bandits they brought back and assigned two quiet guards to send Zhong Yan to their temporary stop.
To put it nicely, they were escorting the guest; but it was not much different from escorting a prisoner.
After he received their silence to his casual question of “where are we going”, he was able to fully understand the Navi Military Command’s stance towards him—or so to say, they were only following the example of their superior; this was Adrian’s thoughts on the issue of his visit.
But truth be told, this was much better than what he expected.
Zhong Yan didn’t feel bored when he was in the car. This was his first time coming to White Aegis. Even though the ownership issue of White Aegis Star had been loud and tumultuous the past two years, and having seen some videos of the place, this was still the very first time he had ever seen it in the flesh.
White Aegis Star was a semi-developed planet. The position here was not very good as it was in the corner of the Lebor System. The signal was poor all year round, and there were also barely any routes to get here—it was hard to land even when the spacecraft had arrived since the construction of landing pads were only funded for the sake of geological investigations.
There was an unbroken chain of mountains in the distance. Zhong Yan had never seen such a large plot of natural forestry in his life. The greenery of the Institution Star was also quite renown, but it was artificially created by humans; the elaborate creativity of mankind could barely compare to the magical wonders of mother nature.
Only when the car stopped did Zhong Yan realize that his temporary resting spot was actually the local council house of White Aegis.
Even the council house of the fourth-tier planet where Zhong Yan was born was much bigger than the one he saw before him. If not for the fact that Zhong Yan could see the sign hanging above the gates after they finally went closer, Zhong Yan would never imagine that this three-story residential-like building was actually the local council house.
It was currently early morning in the local time, so the gates of the building were still shut. One of the guards tried to push it, but it was locked.
“Hey, are you here for the council?”
An older man riding a rusted electrical bike passed by. He looked curiously at the strange trio—there were two Navi military soldiers in uniform, and a man wearing an oversized track jacket with formal slacks.
“It’s not time for work yet, you came too early.”
Zhong Yan asked, “Sir, can you tell us when they open?”
“Gosh, I’m no sir.” The older man quickly waved his hands. “Someone will come to work by lunchtime, but there are a few councilors nearby if you’re in a hurry…”
“It’s fine, we don’t have any important business.”
After bidding farewell to the passer-by, Zhong Yan turned to leave but was stopped by the two guards. Zhong Yan said, “We can’t get in right now, A…he probably wouldn’t be coming here so soon. I’ll go for a walk nearby.”
The two guards looked at each other, and one of them said with hesitation, “Sir Zhong, we need to request permission from our superiors, please wait…”
Right in front of them, Zhong Yan dialed Adrian’s number.
The two guards widened their eyes, and looked shocked at the terminal of he-who-must-not-be-named-in-Navi; Adrian’s voice flowed out of his receiver.
“You better not tell me you’ve got yourself in trouble again.” Adrian said, “And also, just cuz I haven’t had time to block you since we got off that pirate ship doesn’t mean you can harass me as you please.”
Zhong Yan ignored the latter half of his words very naturally and said with dissatisfaction, “What do you mean getting into trouble? The council only opens in the afternoon. How is it my fault you didn’t check before sending me here?”
The two guards sucked in a breath of cold air. Everyone in the federation knew that since the whole marriage proposal ordeal, Adrian’s mood had been rock bottom. The entire military department was careful, but recently, there have been too many military affairs related to the Supreme Council, and there were constantly people who would accidentally say the wrong things, rubbing their commander the wrong way, and were scolded to all hell.
But right now, he-who-must-not-be-named himself was actually speaking so rudely with their commander. He might…The guards were waiting at the side with gloom, but they never would have expected that though Adrian’s tone was in fact quite unhappy, it did not seem any different to his temper from before.
“That it? Can’t you just find a place to hang out for now? Didn’t you come to assess the place to see if it’s suitable? Your council people have already assessed the place in the past, so now you can review it.”
“I don’t have any detection devices on me,” Zhong Yan reminded him. “I’m even wearing your clothes.”
What?! The two guards looked strangely at Zhong Yan’s track jacket that was clearly not in line with his personal style. So this was the commander’s jacket? No wonder the commander was only wearing a t-shirt.
“That’s really reassuring. Well look as you please, nobody will care even if you slip and fall down a mountain. I’m blocking you, don’t contact me anymore.”
As soon as he said that, he hung up.
“…So fierce,” muttered Zhong Yan as he watched his terminal screen go dark.
Was that fierce???
The two guards were thinking to themselves silently. They heard that once the commander gets angry, he would generally send them straight into the hospital if they so much as say one thing wrong. Even civil officials would often be scolded by him to the point where their faces turned fully red or white as a sheet, whilst the more timid of them would just start to cry.
Before they could even recover from their shock, the two received an order from their terminals at the same time.
“Watch him closely, don’t let him go hiking on any mountains.”
Zhong Yan had originally intended to find a shop to buy himself a set of clothes. The track jacket was truly too big for him; he had to roll up his sleeves just to see his hand. He was also much skinnier compared to Adrian, and much less shorter him, so the loose hem of the jacket went down directly over his hips. It felt loose and flabby and was uncomfortable to wear.
There were not many people out on the streets this early in the morning. Zhong Yan walked through the streets slowly and aimlessly. There were only a handful of shops open, but none of them were selling clothes.
The two guards did not know why, but they felt much more nervous than they did before, and followed him as closely as they could, which puzzled Zhong Yan. Don’t even mention offensive power, Zhong Yan was not even able to receive proper nutrition when he was a kid, and now all he does is sit in an office all day after getting out of school. Right now, his physical qualities were so bad that it pissed people off, otherwise, he might not have gotten a cold in school after just being in the wind for a few hours. Right now, he was already nearing his limits even though he had only been walking for a short while. Fortunately, he just happened to chance upon a small round square right in front of him, so he decided to sit on one of the benches for a break.
Only after sitting down did he notice a small stall right besides the bench. An old lady with white hair was manning it.
It would be a good idea to inquire about where he could buy clothes.
As he thought of that, Zhong Yan went over, leaned down, and asked, “Hello granny, I’d like to…”
Before he could finish, a silver glint on the stall caught his attention.
Turns out that this was a stall selling handmade crystal jewelry. Zhong Yan did not have much insight on jewelry, but he could tell that these were not precious crystals, but rather cheap and processed artificial crystals. They came in a variety of colors, and amongst them was a clear piece of silver crystal
He couldn’t help but trail off mid-sentence. “…I’d like to ask, how much does this cost?”
“This is a cufflink.” The old lady spoke in a genial tone. “It comes in a pair. Hold on, I haven’t taken the other one out.”
As she said that, she rummaged through the large pocket at her side. Zhong Yan asked, “Can I pick it up and look at it?”
“I found it, here you go. Silver is rare, it looks very good with dark clothes.”
The old woman put the pair in Zhong Yan’s hands, and Zhong Yan brought one of them up to the sun to see.
The clear silvery color shone with a dazzling light.
“It does look very good.” Zhong Yan carefully returned it to the palm of his hand and said, “I’ll take it.”