Arc 6: Interstellar Art Soldiers Chapter 17
Zuo Lei suppressed the tension and restlessness in his heart, walking quickly to the side of the command console in the ship’s command center. He looked at the large screen on the console and asked the soldier at the control panel, “What’s the situation now?”
“The group of interstellar pirates is quite huge, and they’re scattered during their forced landings. We have already taken one of them while they were still in the air, but there are too many of them, and a few have successfully landed,” the soldier replied quickly.
“What about the literary soldiers? Have they been moved to a safe location?” This was the most pressing concern for Zuo Lei.
“We received a message three minutes ago. The literary soldiers have successfully been relocated to a safe hiding place,” the soldier answered.
Zuo Lei turned and strode towards Deputy Captain Wei Ni De, who was sitting in the central command chair. He said to him, “Those interstellar pirates who successfully landed are definitely planning to escape after the storm passes. If they find the hiding place of the literary soldiers and take them as hostages, we’ll be in a vulnerable position.”
“You want to lead a team over there?” Wei Ni De looked at him, understanding the underlying purpose of his words.
“Please allow me to lead a rescue mission,” Zuo Lei earnestly requested.
“You’re the Captain of the Special Operations Unit, requesting to lead a team personally against a group of interstellar pirates? Where’s your rationality?” Wei Ni De looked at him and said, “The garrisons on the planets closest to A11 have already dispatched troops. You don’t need to worry. A group of interstellar pirates won’t hold out for long under our regular military’s attack.”
“If it’s an aerial battle, even ten groups of interstellar pirates wouldn’t last long under our regular military’s attack. But now that some pirates have successfully landed, the variables in ground combat are too significant. Even if we have a clear advantage, if they manage to find the hiding place of the literary soldiers before we do, then…” Zuo Lei trailed off, his concern evident.
Before Zuo Lei could finish his sentence, the soldier at the control console urgently reported to Wei Ni De, “Report, Deputy Captain! The A11 base has been seized! Several pirate ships are desperately protecting those who successfully landed, preventing our reinforcements from approaching.”
Zuo Lei clenched his fists tightly, trying to maintain his composure, and said to Wei Ni De, “It seems the pirate leader has successfully landed. Those ships of theirs are meant to buy time for their leader. As long as they delay until the storm passes, the pirates who landed will be safe.”
Wei Ni De lowered his gaze in thought. As the overall Captain of the Lion Fleet, he couldn’t issue any combat orders lightly, and he was well aware that Zuo Lei’s eagerness was driven by selfish motives.
“Deputy Captain! Only our Special Operations Unit going on this mission increases the chances of success!” Zuo Lei, seeing Wei Ni De’s silence, grew more anxious. Time was of the essence now. They couldn’t afford any further delay.
“The literary soldiers on A11 are our Lion Fleet’s people. It’s only right and proper for us to send someone to rescue them. Go ahead and lead the mission, but you must understand that we have even deployed the Special Operations Unit. The rescue mission must succeed,” Wei Ni De finally spoke.
“Yes!” Zuo Lei immediately turned and practically running out of the command center.
Yi Bin had already prepared his team for departure. Seeing Zuo Lei rushing over, he immediately approached and asked, “Captain, did you get the mission approval?”
“Depart immediately!” Zuo Lei didn’t waste any time with more words. He gave the direct order.
Everyone boarded the fast assault ships, with over twenty mecha on board, heading to A11 at top speed.
Zuo Lei felt an intense urgency, wishing he could transform into light and reach A11 directly. He couldn’t be at ease until they saw with their own eyes that Tao Yuan was safe. Zuo Lei also didn’t dare send a message to Tao Yuan, fearing that the interstellar pirates who now controlled the base might intercept the signal and discover their hiding place.
Tao Yuan and his team of literary soldiers, along with Dean, were hiding in the lowest level of the underground base, while the soldiers protecting them were stationed on the level above.
Ke Ning came down with supplies, distributing food and water to them.
“Don’t worry, it’s just a group of pirates. They won’t hold out for long under our regular military’s attack, and the rescue team will be here soon,” Ke Ning reassured the literary soldiers.
Tao Yuan opened a water bottle, took a sip, and then placed the water and food in the largest pocket of his combat gear. He glanced at the closed communicator. Until the most critical moment arrived, they couldn’t risk turning on their communicators.
“Are you scared?” Lin Ya asked Tao Yuan in a hushed tone.
“I’m a bit worried, but not scared,” Tao Yuan replied. He had a feeling that Zuo Lei would come to rescue him.
Ke Ning gave Tao Yuan a glance before turning and heading back up.
Dean turned to see Erman looking very nervous, and held his hand reassuringly, saying, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine.”
Erman nodded. Although he had undergone various practical training sessions at school, when faced with a real-life situation, he couldn’t help but feel nervous.
Sleep was out of the question at this point. Tao Yuan could only close his eyes and rest, trying to conserve his energy. In case they needed to fight or respond to a situation, being well-rested would be crucial.
Dean glanced at Tao Yuan, who was peacefully resting, and then at Erman, whose face had paled due to anxiety. He sighed inwardly, thinking that Erman couldn’t even match up to Tao Yuan in terms of composure, let alone others. However, how could he expect Erman to be stronger than someone who outshone even him?
The waiting time was the most difficult. Several hours felt like an eternity had passed.
Startled by hurried footsteps, Tao Yuan abruptly opened his eyes.
“The soldiers who will rescue us have arrived! Everyone, get ready to go up!” a soldier loudly informed them.
Everyone stood up and began to ascend one by one.
Zuo Lei stood with the soldiers at the concealed entrance to the underground base. Thei mecha and soldiers stood ready, weapons raised. He watched as people continued to emerge from the entrance.
When Dean stepped outside and saw Zuo Lei, he hesitated for a moment. He thought their eyes would meet, but upon closer examination, he noticed that Zuo Lei’s gaze was focused beyond him, looking at someone behind him.
Dean knew who Zuo Lei wanted to see, so he swallowed his feelings of heartache, lowered his head, and moved aside to wait.
After Erman emerged, he also glanced at Zuo Lei, then walked over to Dean’s side, gripping his arm and whispering, “Brother…”
Dean patted his hand, motioned him not to speak.
When Tao Yuan emerged,his eyes met Zuo Lei’s, and they both quickened their steps towards each other.
Zuo Lei embraced Tao Yuan tightly. He had never felt so on edge before, and even now, his heart was pounding rapidly. It was only when he felt the real presence of the person in his arms that the feeling of worry and fear slowly disappeared.
The sight of Zuo Lei and Tao Yuan hugging as lovers left the others stunned. They appeared surprised and taken aback, wondering when these two had gotten together and how they hadn’t known about it.
When Ke Ning saw this, he clenched his fists tightly, feeling a pang of pain in his heart. He gritted his teeth and refused to look at them, instead turning his head away.
“Are you okay? Are you injured?” Zuo Lei pressed on Tao Yuan’s body, and carefullychecked and observed his facial expression.
“I’m not injured. I’ve been hiding underground with the others until now. How could I be injured? You don’t need to worry about me,” Tao Yuan reassured him as he looked into his eyes.
“Captain, the storm is getting closer. Let’s discuss this later on the cave base,” Yi Bin reminded Zuo Lei.
“Everyone, get on the vehicles quickly,” Zuo Lei ordered and then led Tao Yuan towards his own mech.
After the vehicles were out, everyone boarded as quickly as possible. Special Operations Unit soldiers used their mecha to lift the vehicles and then took off, carrying them towards the cave base for shelter.
Sitting inside the vehicle, lifted by mecha in mid-air flight, wasn’t as comfortable and stable as being on a spaceship, but in such an urgent moment, they couldn’t afford to be concerned about comfort. They had to endure it, no matter how uncomfortable it was.
Only Tao Yuan sat in the cockpit of Zuo Lei’s mech, curiously examining the high-tech controls and the various-sized screens. This was his first real experience inside a mech’s cockpit, so he couldn’t help but feel curious.
Tao Yuan stood up and walked to Zuo Lei’s seat. From the front screens, he could see the outside environment in 360 degrees, and the tightly arranged, constantly flashing controls gave him a sense of novelty.
Zuo Lei pulled Tao Yuan onto his lap, holding him close as he asked, “Did you feel scared while waiting in the underground base?”
“I knew you would come for us, so I wasn’t really scared, but the waiting made it feel like time was dragging on forever,” Tao Yuan replied, looking at him.
Zuo Lei held Tao Yuan’s face and kissed him passionately, not only comforting him but also soothing his own heart. Zuo Lei told himself that this person was in his arms now, unharmed, and no one could hurt him.
Tao Yuan responded to his kiss, clinging to his shoulders as the kiss deepened, and groaned in protest.
The cave base was much larger than the underground one, with space on the lower level to accommodate their mecha and more people.
After entering the cave base, the people who left from the vehicles all felt dizzy, nauseous, and their faces looked pale due to the abrupt change in conditions.
When they gathered on the open ground and saw the last mech that had arrived, it looked even more advanced and impressive compared to the others. People couldn’t help but sneak a few extra glances.
Zuo Lei parked the mech in a single-knee crouch position. He exited the cockpit first, extending his hand to help Tao Yuan out. With one arm holding Tao Yuan and the other operating the lift, they descended to the ground. Only then did he let go of Tao Yuan.
The onlookers had complex emotions upon seeing this scene —jealousy, admiration, envy, and even resentment. The cockpit of a mech was a sacred place for a mech warrior, and it was psychologically challenging for them to accept anyone other than mech engineers entering it.
Zuo Lei, as the Captain of the Special Operations Unit, naturally had the best mech in the entire fleet. The opportunity to enter and visit it was a dream of many people but was nearly impossible to realize. Now, seeing Tao Yuan descend from Zuo Lei’s mech’s cockpit, they couldn’t help but feel a mix of envy and jealousy.
“Captain ,” Yi Bin approached Zuo Lei and reported, “All areas have been checked, and no abnormalities were found.”
Zuo Lei glanced at the literary soldiers and said to Yi Bin, “Initiate all defense systems first, assign personnel to their positions, and then make sure they have a place to rest. The storm will likely last for several days. Have food and water distributed in advance and then distributed to each person.”
“Understood!” Yi Bin acknowledged the orders and left to command the soldiers responsible for protecting the literary soldiers, instructing them to take their positions.
Here, Zuo Lei was the commander, and his orders were to be followed by everyone without question.
Under the guidance of the soldiers, the literary soldiers prepared to head to the rest area. Although Dean was neither an artist nor part of the Lion Fleet, in this situation, he was treated as one of the literary soldiers and received the same accommodations.
Dean glanced back at Zuo Lei’s mech. He has a wish he had harbored for a long time. It was to sit inside Zuo Lei’s mech cockpit and experience the feeling of riding a mech. Now, it seemed like that wish might never come true.
Erman watched Dean’s lonely expression and then looked back at Tao Yuan, who was being led away by Zuo Lei. He felt a pang of sorrow for his brother. Erman used to believe that he didn’t regret his actions, but now, he was beginning to feel otherwise. He thought that if he hadn’t taken Ke Ning away from Luo Xi, then Luo Xi and Ke Ning might still be together, and his brother might have a chance to get back together with Zuo Lei.
They had been at the cave base for less than half an hour when the storm arrived on the planet.
IT TURNS OUT I SCHEDULED IT MONDAY NOT SUNDAY ORZ
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