Proofreaders: Zephynel, Amalice
In the year 2105, countries are on the decline and the Earth has been divided between some hundreds of financial organizations. These organizations, in the name of pursuing profit, have gathered under numerous trade cartels. Out of these, the first and foremost is the Solaris Federation, controlling 30% of the world’s economic flow. The leader of the Solaris Federation is thought to hold the greatest power and influence on Earth.
It’s not that no one thought to attack the existence of this supreme being; it’s just that he seemed to be able to foretell the future. When danger is imminent, he rises above, either preemptively striking down the opponent or waiting like a lion in the bush and pouncing on the enemy, right when their victory seemed complete. Those who plot against him often discover that at the crucial moment, it was they who were plotted against. Everyone who collapsed before being able to beat him would cry that they had only been one step away from defeating him.
Once, twice...it was the same every time. At last, everyone understood that it was neither luck nor fate: everything was under his control! All who had once competed against him swore to never oppose him again.
They say that all things happen within his plan and that no scheme nor trickery ever escapes his notice. On this planet he exists like a god. He will never fall. They deferentially call this legendary figure the Solaris Emperor.
Devon Solaris glared at the computer screen but was constantly distracted, his thoughts always floating to a certain silver-haired youth.
“Solaris Emperor? Solaris Emperor?”
After being called two or three times by his most commonly used title, Devon finally snapped back to the present. He glanced at the computer--his secretary Kyle was calling him relentlessly from the screen. Impatiently, Devon snapped, “What?”
Finally! Kyle suppressed a sigh and proceeded to report. “Please sign this document, the contents of which I have just detailed,” even though the Solaris Emperor only caught half of it.
As soon as Kyle stopped talking the screen shifted from his face to a crowded and wordy form. Devon lifted his electronic stylus and, without a single glance at the screen, signed his name on the indicated spot.
“Today’s official business has now come to an end, Solaris Emperor. Please rest soon.”
The screen was once again filled with Kyle’s face. He put away the file as he began a new task. The day’s work had been completed, but only for the Solaris Emperor. For Kyle, the time had not yet come to pack up and go home.
Ten minutes later Kyle raised his head, since the Solaris Emperor had yet to close the signal: evidently he had an errand for him. The Emperor would definitely not have needed ten minutes to contemplate any work-related assignments. Therefore, the matter must have involved young master Daren Solaris.
“Dar’s not back yet.”
Another ten minutes passed. Kyle had already answered five messages requesting assistance when the apprehensive Devon Solaris finally opened his mouth. “What if something happened? Last time he went to the supermarket, he met a terrorist. This time, he’s at the opera. What if, what if he encounters a flood? Or a tornado? An explosion?”
That was actually possible!
Even though Kyle sincerely believed that due to Master Daren’s...how to describe it? Bad luck? Frequency of accidents? Whatever it was, nothing that happened to the young master surprised him anymore. However, he couldn’t respond to the Solaris Emperor this way. Chances were, nothing good would happen.
He could only be sympathetic. “Emperor, you worry too much. Young master Daren is only going to the opera. There will be plenty of business and political elites, not to mention the best singer in the world. Security is no doubt watertight: even if there were to be an explosion, it would never affect the theatre.”
At least, it should be this way, right? He added to himself.
“Is that so? But then why is he still not home? It’s already past eleven.” Devon said, emphasizing the word “eleven.” Taking into account the length of the opera and the distance from the theatre, it was quite unlikely, even if the young master were to rush out immediately after the show, that he would arrive home right now. The Emperor should have been able to reason this out himself. Indeed, when it came to the young master, the Solaris Emperor’s IQ seemed to halve itself.
Kyle gave a mental sigh and reminded the Emperor, “Maybe he went out for a late night snack. Doesn’t the young master often enjoy eating midnight snacks when he’s together with his friends?
“That is true.”
Still, even after saying this, the Solaris Emperor did not end the conversation. Kyle had no choice but to continue with his tasks, raising his head occasionally to check if Devon’s expression had changed.
Finally, after another ten minutes or so, Devon Solaris’s eyes began to drift and he muttered as if to himself, “Would he think I were too overbearing if I called?”
“You could ask Mr. Avery to call the young master instead. He often asks the young master to bring home late night snacks, so he could use the same excuse this time. Young master wouldn’t suspect anything at all.” Kyle suggested calmly while silently overturning his previous statement. He had been truly mistaken--when it came to Daren, the Emperor’s IQ didn’t merely have itself. It had seemingly jumped off a cliff without a parachute. It wasn’t merely halved, but also divided by 10.
Devon Solaris finally made up his mind and shut the connection without hesitation, tossing aside the now-defunct secretary. He then entered the communication signal for home. However, he had absolutely no desire to see Theodore Avery’s zombie-like face, so he did not open a display screen. As such, only Avery’s voice came through the phone: “Solaris Emperor? Did something happen to Dar again?”
“What are you talking about! Nothing happened to Dar...do you want a midnight snack?” Devon went straight to the point after that reprimand.
In the basement Avery was speechless for a moment, then turned to glance at the clock on the wall and sighed, “I understand. Then I’ll phone Dar.”
“Don’t hang up on me. Use the other line instead. I want to hear Dar’s voice.” Devon Solaris immediately added.
“Yes, yes!” Unable to disobey, Avery typed in Daren Solaris’s cellphone number.
The phone rang again and again, but no one answered. Finally, Avery hung up the phone, ending the ceaseless tone at last.
“How could no one pick up...Dar!”
It took several minutes after the ringtone stopped for Devon Solaris to snap out of it. His expression changing drastically, he urgently pressed the button connecting him to the secretary, intending to order the immediate activation of the Special Task Force.
“Wait a minute! Don’t be too hasty! He only missed a phone call. What if he was riding the bike and couldn’t take the call...Oh!” Avery hurried through half of what he was going to say, only to remember what kind of person Daren Solaris was...He is the half-cyborg Dark Sun! Even if he were accosted by a dozen or so modified humans, he would still be able to fight and talk with Devon over the phone simultaneously, not to mention a measly bike ride. Dar’s capabilities definitely exceeded taking a call.
Could something really have happened?
Avery hesitated--it couldn’t have, right? It was just an opera, and furthermore he was accompanied by Elian and the others. But then, last time he went to the mall, they were also there, and then they met terrorists...Oh! This time, even Avery shut his mouth.
Seeing how Avery had no more reassuring comments, Devon Solaris became even more restless, instantly shouting to the bemused secretary: “Bill! Hurry, mobilize the Special Task Force at once and find Dar’s location!”
“Yes sir.” Bill began the process without delay, at the same time exclaiming silently: so something had happened after all.
Ah! For the world to remain at peace, maybe they should just install a tracker and listening device in Daren’s body next time. Avery mused upon some awful ideas.
“Gege, Papa Avery, I’m back! I also bought some snacks! Why don’t we eat them together?”
Bill halted the task force mobilization.
Devon Solaris was dumbstruck.
In the end, it was Avery who showed some presence of mind, pressing the button which connected to the living room and answering, “You’re back, Dar. Are you in the living room?”
“Yup...Ah, right! Papa Avery, why did you call my cellphone? I was just parking the car so I didn’t pick up.”
“So that’s what it was.” The corners of Avery’s mouth climbed higher and higher. This time the Solaris Emperor messed up big time.
Hearing Daren’s reply, Bill immediately typed ‘NO’ in the reply box of the Special Task Force’s inquiry as to whether they should deploy. He then turned and pretended to grab another file, all the while smiling secretly.
However, Devon Solaris did not mingle among economic circles for ten years for nothing. Having had his mettle tested many times, he instantly returned to normal, as if nothing at all just happened and spoke very naturally into the phone: “Oh, you’re back, Dar. Bring the snacks upstairs and we can eat them together. Avery just told me he wasn’t hungry anyway!”
I am very hungry! Avery wailed internally, yet he was too timid to speak the truth out loud. He could only grudgingly console himself with the thought of making some instant noodles later.
It was only when Daren Solaris pushed open the study door and walked into the room that Devon truly let out the breath he had been holding. It wasn’t enough to just hear his voice; he needed to see his little brother safe and sound to finally relax.
“Was the opera good?” He smiled.
“Oh, Elian-ge and the others said it was pretty good, but I couldn’t tell…” Daren looked a little frustrated.
Devon hurried to reassure him. “Not a problem. I could never tell if they sounded good or not either. Only a few boring people like listening to that stuff anyway.”
“Really? Gege can’t tell either?”
Daren looked much more relaxed. Walking in front of big brother’s desk he put a bag on top of it and smiled, “Tonight’s snack is BBQ chicken skewers! Does gege like chicken?”
As long as it was Daren’s snack, it doesn’t matter if it were chicken or even human flesh, he’d eat it all with a smile, thought the secretary and the doctor on the other ends of the phone.
“I like it. Of course I like it.” Indeed, Devon immediately declared his love of chicken.
Daren grinned. “Then gege you eat first and I’ll go make some coffee for you.”
Suddenly, Devon Solaris had a feeling that true happiness was no more than this, right here.
However, as Devon came to the doorway he paused for a bit, then turned back and said: “Does gege still drink black coffee? Could you not drink black coffee anymore?”
“Huh?” Devon, not expecting to hear this, was startled.
Daren, concerned, said, “I saw on the news that black coffee is not good for the body, so it’s better to add a bit of milk. Is that okay?”
Habits established for many years are difficult to change, so Devon finally frowned at his brother’s request. But his little brother promptly lowered his head. “If gege got sick, or if his body is not well, I would definitely be sad…” He said this in a low, worried voice.
“Oh...Alright!” Devon surrendered at once. When his most precious little brother was distressed, he would comply even if he drank only milk from then on, not to mention a bit of milky coffee.
“That’s great! Then I’ll go make gege’s coffee now!”
“Sure.” Devon smiled.
Avery stifled his laughter on the other end until Devon said coldly, “What are you laughing about?” He hurried to compose himself, then sighed with emotion, “Dar really has grown up, even looking after his brother now! You must be very touched, Emperor.”
It looked like the Solaris Emperor would definitely be bossed around in the future. If a mother were too strict one would call her a ‘tiger mom’. What, then, would a strict brother be called? Tiger brother? Hahaha! Ah, but these thoughts could only be laughed about in silence, since they can never be said aloud.
On the other end, Kyle’s tension eased. In the end, the Emperor was simply overthinking things. Maybe the Emperor and the young master stood a chance in living a normal family life...ah! Disregarding Devon Solaris’s extreme brother complex and the fact that Mr.Avery obviously could not be their father, these three could grudgingly pass for a normal family, right?
“Avery, come upstairs and have some snacks.”
Devon was a bit reluctant to offer. Although it would be great to eat the food with Dar, just the two of them, Dar would definitely be delighted if Avery were there.
Hearing this, Avery was overcome with gratitude. Compared to chicken skewers, instant noodles were not fit for human consumption, especially since even pigs wouldn’t want to eat the noodles he made.
When Daren returned with coffee, Avery was already sitting in the study, staring bug-eyed at the skewers with his stomach growling. However, he didn’t dare raise a finger under Devon’s cold and watchful eyes.
“Dar, you’re back.” Avery pouted. “Your brother refuses to eat without you.”
Seeing this, Daren hurried to sit down. Smiling, he shouted with the others: “Let’s begin!”