Arc 6: Interstellar Art Soldiers Chapter 18
The cave base was only a temporary shelter, and its conditions were definitely inferior to the main base and the ships.
All the literary soldiers were arranged in a large resting area. Even though it was not comparable to their usual facilities, it was quite good. It was clean and comfortable, with each person having a comfortable bed, a small couch, a low table, and a small wardrobe. By pulling up the partition boards beside and in front of each bed, they could create a relatively spacious individual space.
The team leaders went to collect water and food, placing them on each person’s low table.
After Dean and Erman had finished washing up, they returned to their beds to get ready to rest.
Erman glanced at the water and sealed meal containers on the low table and said, “Brother, have something to eat before you sleep.”
Dean shook his head, took off his shoes, and lifted the blanket before lying down. “I’m not hungry. You go ahead and eat. I want to rest for a bit.”
“Brother…” Erman kept his head down, struggling to find the right words to comfort his brother.
“I’m going to sleep. If you have something to say, wait until I wake up,” Dean said, lying down with his back to Erman. As he closed his eyes, tears fell down onto his pillow.
Erman closed the partition board in front of his bed, kicked off his shoes, and went to bed. Although he felt extremely tired, he couldn’t sleep at all. He sat on the bed, hugging his knees, thinking why the relationship between the two brothers had been so difficult.
Dean, on the other hand, was well aware that all of this was a result of their own choices, something they had brought upon themselves. So, they could only bear the consequences.
After eating and taking a shower, Tao Yuan was led to Zuo Lei’s resting area. He lay down on Zuo Lei’s bed and fell asleep quickly. After not sleeping the entire night, and now, completely relaxed, he soon succumbed to exhaustion and drifted into slumber.
After receiving all the reports and ensuring that they could hold out until the storm passed, Zuo Lei returned to the resting area.
Seeing Tao Yuan already asleep, Zuo Lei sat down by the bed and gently stroked Tao Yuan’s face. The smooth texture of his skin made Zuo Lei smile. But he couldn’t help but worry about the future because after this experience, he knew that whenever he was away from Tao Yuan, he couldn’t help but worry about him.
Even though Tao Yuan hadn’t been injured this time, Zuo Lei still felt fear and heartbreak at the danger he had been in.
Zuo Lei took off his coat, climbed into bed, and pulled back the quilt. He then held Tao Yuan, feeling like his heart was being filled to the brim. He smelled the scent of Tao Yuan’s body, his eyes closed as he relished the moment. He even wished that they could stay like this forever.
To this day, Zuo Lei still didn’t know the source of the scent that lingered on Tao Yuan. All of the bath and grooming products he kept in his bathroom were fragrance-free. Moreover, this particular scent, which had a soothing effect on both the mind and body, didn’t seem like something that could be artificially manufactured or produced by a machine.
He wondered, what was this scent exactly? It was somewhat like the fragrance of plant flowers, yet it also liked the freshness of the purest mountain springwater from snowy peaks. He couldn’t quite identify the source of this scent, and so he slowly drifted to sleep with lingering doubts.
After Tao Yuan had slept enough and woke up, he leaned against Zuo Lei’s chest. The two of them exchanged words intermittently and would occasionally kiss each other on the cheeks and lips. Being close like this gave them a simple yet happy feeling.
Tao Yuan playfully bit down on Zuo Lei’s chin, and Zuo Lei immediately captured his lips – sucking and gently biting him. Their tongues danced together as if they were playing around.
Tao Yuan held Zuo Lei’s hand that was wandering between his legs and looked at him. “In the future, if there’s a chance, could you take me to different places with your mech? I’d like to experience the feeling of sitting in the cockpit, flying over the sea and through dense forests. Just one opportunity like that in my lifetime would be enough.”
“If you want to experience riding in a mech, I have plenty of opportunities to take you on such journeys. It’s not an impossible or extravagant wish. You’ll definitely have more than one chance in this lifetime,” Zuo Lei assured him.
“If you privately take me for a ride in the mech, would that be considered an abuse of power? What if someone finds out and it affects your promotion? That wouldn’t be good,” Tao Yuan expressed his concern. While he really wanted to experience riding in a mech, he didn’t want his personal desires to affect Zuo Lei’s career. He was willing to keep his regrets to himself rather than tarnish Zuo Lei’s record.
“In order to develop a stronger bond and tacit understanding between warriors and their mecha, we have a designated period each year when we can privately pilot the mecha to go wherever we please. But the condition is that we can’t be discovered, and we must return the mech in perfect condition. During that time, I can take you along, and even if our superiors find out, it’s not a problem as long as others don’t know,” Zuo Lei explained.
“Do you still need to develop a relationship with your mecha?” Tao Yuan asked, finding it strange, as he hadn’t looked into this information of military life.
“The main reason is to ensure that mech pilots can control their mecha during combat as naturally as they control their own bodies,” Zuo Lei explained.
“Can I take a look now? Could you explain what all those things inside the cockpit are for?” Tao Yuan asked with anticipation in his eyes.
“Of course,” Zuo Lei replied before leaning down to plant a gentle kiss on Tao Yuan’s forehead, his eyes filled with affection.
Inside the serene cave base, the chaos outside caused by the raging storm and flying debris formed a stark contrast. The wind sounded like the roar of a beast, and the debris flying through the air created a scene that was unsettling even when viewed through the screens.
Anything outside would be swept away by the storm. This mountain cave base was specifically constructed to defend against storms, making it even safer than other underground bases. The interstellar pirates who had hidden and failed to capture the literary soldiers as hostages would definitely rush to escape as soon as the storm was over.
After getting enough rest, the literary soldiers began to find things to do on their own. With the protection of the Special Operations Team, they felt much safer and more relaxed. They knew that as soon as the storm was over, they would be transported back to the fleet’s base on the spaceship.
Because the magnetic field of the storm disrupted communication signals, they couldn’t connect to the external network. They could only pass the time by playing some small games, chatting, or daydreaming.
Their conversation was about the relationship between Tao Yuan and Zuo Lei, which left them all shocked because they had no idea that these two were together. Although they might have thought Tao Yuan wasn’t worthy of Zuo Lei, considering his status as a “male god,” they couldn’t deny that Tao Yuan’s family background and appearance made them a perfect match. Plus, with Tao Yuan’s recent outstanding performance and growing popularity, they couldn’t find any reason why he wouldn’t be a good match for Zuo Lei.
But regardless of their thoughts, they can’t help but feel jealous and uncomfortable.
When they thought about the scene of Tao Yuan coming out of Zuo Lei’s mecha, someone suddenly proposed the idea of wanting to see those mechas again. They then approached the squad leader to ask if it’s possible for them to stand farther away and take a look. They assured that they would not get too close, just to satisfy their curiosity by seeing them from a distance.
Under the requests and pleas of the group, the squad leader had no choice but to inquire on their behalf. The guards of the mechas couldn’t make the final decision, so they went to ask for approval from Yi Bin. Yi Bin thought it wouldn’t be a big issue for them to stand at a distance, especially since the storm would last for several days and there was no sudden need for the mechas. He agreed without reporting to Zuo Lei but cautioned them not to get too close and definitely not to touch the mechas, as the mecha pilots had a strong psychological connection with their mechas and they didn’t like their mechas being touched randomly.
Upon hearing that they were allowed to see the mechas, the group of literary soldiers was thrilled. Normally, whether on the base or on a spaceship, mechas were stored in designated areas and not easily accessible for viewing. This rare opportunity excited them, and they hurriedly went together to get a good look.
When Erman heard that they could go see the mechas, he really wanted to go and take a look. But seeing his brother sitting on the couch reading through the communicator, without any intention of leaving, he didn’t get up immediately.
“Brother, aren’t you going to take a look? I remember you said one of the reasons you became a literary soldier was because there might be a chance to get up close to the mechas. It’s rare to have an opportunity like this, especially since we can’t get this close to mechas on the base or the ship. It would be a shame to miss it,” Erman said, looking at his brother.
“I don’t want to go. I’m already past the age for following the crowd for fun. I won’t regret not going. But I agree it’s a rare opportunity. If you want to see them, go with them. Don’t worry about me. I’ll just read a book and relax.”
“Brother, I know you probably want to see them too. Come on, let’s go together,” Erman said, reaching out to hold his brother’s hand.
“You go ahead. I just want to rest. I don’t feel like moving.”
“There are still a few days to rest, we’ll just go and take a look, then come back. Consider it as coming with me. I don’t feel at ease if you stay here alone,” Erman said, understanding how much his brother loved mechas and not wanting him to miss this rare opportunity.
Dean sighed and reluctantly got up to walk with his brother. He did indeed have a strong passion for mechas and was eager to see them, but he would rather be alone for a while than appreciate the mechas with a heavy heart.
The squad leader led the group of literary soldiers to see the mechas. They stopped at a distance from the mechas, and the squad leader instructed them to stay in that position. They weren’t allowed to approach any closer. Otherwise everyone would be banned, and they would have to go back to sleep.
This was the first time they saw so many mechas at the same time, and it was still in such a close range, so they were all excited.
“I feel like I don’t have any more regrets in life now. To see so many mechas up close all at once, it’s a dream come true for me as a literary soldier.”
“I wish I had extra pairs of eyes. There’s just so much to see!”
“All these mechas lined up together, it’s incredibly shocking. Even though they’re standing still, they are full of power and a domineering feeling.”
“They are so cool. I wish I could pilot one just once, to see what it’s like.”
“Driving once? That’s something that can only be achieved in dreams. Even for those soldiers, only a very small number become members of the Special Operations Unit. And even among them, only the strongest can become Mecha Pilots. For us literary soldiers, forget about driving a mecha, we don’t even have the chance to step inside the cockpit.”
“You’re right. Just being able to see them like this is an incredibly rare opportunity. We can consider it a silver lining to the current situation. Let’s make the most of it. For us literary soldiers, who may be retiring in two or three years, this might be an opportunity once in a lifetime.”
“That’s true, every one of them looks incredibly domineering, but if we’re making comparisons, General Zuo Lei’s mecha looks more handsome.”
“Of course, he’s the Captain of the Special Operations Team. He pilots the best mecha in our fleet.”
“This mecha really suits General Zuo Lei. If only he could just have the mecha and not bother with love and marriage.”
“Your idea isn’t bad, but it’s impossible. General Zuo Lei already has a partner now, and they might even get married soon.”
“Impossible! How can they get married so quickly?”
“Whether they get married or not is none of your business. Can you accept it or not? It’s also none of their business,” the squad leader scolded the others. “Don’t be so presumptuous.”
After the squad leader’s reprimand, although those individuals still felt dissatisfied, they didn’t dare to continue their discussion. They focused their attention on the mecha, determined to make the most of this rare opportunity.
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