No Money to Divorce
First Published on Chaleuria
It will be a sunny morning a month later when the call to strike finally sounds.
Thanks to their exploration and practice the night before, Zhong Yan was still sleeping. Adrian was the first to get up and he went into the kitchen to prepare breakfast for Zhong Yan. When his terminal rang, he was frying eggs—a new skill Adrian had just learned. He put the cooked eggs on a plate and opened his terminal to check the news. The first thing he saw were the words “Honor Decree” in bright red.
Adrian immediately rushed into the room to wake Zhong Yan. Unexpectedly, when he opened the door he saw that he had already gotten up to look at the news.
Winter had yet to pass completely, but the house was kept at a constant temperature. All four seasons felt as warm as spring. The potted plants planted by Zhong Yan a few days ago had already bloomed. When Adrian pushed open the door, it brought in a gust of wind that caused the delicate flowers on the windowsill to sway.
Zhong Yan raised his head and looked at the door. He had just woken up and his cheeks were a soft pink that looked even more delicate than the flowers, but his expression was calm and steady. The eyes of the two met. Without any need for words, both knew the other had seen the message.
“Are you going to Headquarters now?” Zhong Yan asked.
“Yes. I’ll be going out immediately. Breakfast is ready. Shall I bring it in?”
“I’ll get up and eat. I’ll see you off too while I’m at it. It’s getting windy outside. I brought out one of your thicker coats and washed it yesterday. It’s in the sunroom.”
Adrian said, “You shouldn’t get up. I’ll just bring your food in. Then you can sleep a while longer. I can get the coat myself.”
“How can I sleep? There’s countless meetings waiting for me today.” Then, Zhong Yan put on a jacket and got off the bed. Besides, he was very doubtful about whether Adrian would get the right coat.
One morning several days ago, Zhong Yan saw on the weather forecast that it was going to rain and get colder soon. He was worried that Adrian would get cold outside so he wanted to get him something thicker. Zhong Yan was usually the one who prepared his clothes, but there was one day where he had an emergency contact from the Capital so he didn’t have time to do it. He told him to get the dark green velvet coat by himself. It was only after Adrian headed out did Zhong Yan realize that the coat he asked him to get was still inside the closet, and another thin, dark green coat for spring and autumn was gone. After that, Adrian still told him in confusion that it wasn’t cold. Zhong Yan finally realized how difficult it was to instruct him to find a specific piece of clothing. Since his body was in good condition, Adrian’s need for specific types of clothes was rare regardless of whether it was hot or cold. Before Zhong Yan came, he basically only wore two different sets of winter and summer clothes all year round. And now, having all sorts of different winter clothes added to his wardrobe, it was no wonder why he couldn’t figure it out.
Zhong Yan helped Adrian put on his coat and fixed up his collar. Then, Adrian planted a kiss on his forehead and hurried out.
“A TL;DR summary of what the fresh new ‘Honor Decree’ that’s dropping next month is: Starting from next month, rejecting ‘Butterfly’s proposals can no longer be done by throwing out a little money. The fines for trivial matters is high enough to bankrupt you, and big ones would land you directly in prison. So for example, if ‘Butterfly’ tells you to make a baby and you don’t feel like it, prison. If ‘Butterfly’ judges you suitable to be a cleaner after you finish your basic education but you still want to continue your studies, prison. If ‘Butterfly’ wants you to retire but you feel like you can still go on, everything you amassed in all your decades of hard work is confiscated. The Supreme Council says that this is because of the turmoil in society that has been happening these past two years. In order to strengthen their control, these are the measures taken to turn everyone’s obedience into honor.”
“I’m scared. Will there be orders telling people to die in the future? If you become useless to society, just obey the arrangements and die. Also, you have to feel honored even if you’re asked to go die. This is your contribution to society.”
“Because of the turmoil in society? So what, are they blaming it on Navi now? It’s clearly the councilors in the Supreme Council causing trouble behind the scenes. How shameless.”
“The hell is this? I had this shocking news thrown at me just before I was about to go to sleep. Is our sole purpose of living to maintain the stability of the Federation and to run an efficient society? What about our thoughts as sentient beings? Our freedom?”
“I think they’ve got everything the wrong way. They’ve been doing things in the wrong order since ‘Cocoon’ evolved into ‘Butterfly’. And now everything’s a terrible mess.”
“It was just barely acceptable before, but is the current ‘Butterfly’ actually suitable? Hasn’t this AI been making a lot of mistakes these past two years? Just change the AI.”
“Why do we have to have AI? The original ‘Cocoon’ was only created to process data and save labor costs. Now, everything we do is thrown to it to manage. We have to obey it no matter what whether it’s right or wrong. That’s already unbalanced. For those of you who thought this had nothing to do with you, do you still think the same after seeing this ‘Honor Decree’? Restore human autonomy. Every human being who wants their freedom and dignity has the obligation to support it.”
“You think you bunch of kids have any right to yell about freedom and dignity? How could we have our stable society of today without ‘Butterfly’? You’re all a group of ungrateful fiends who don’t know how blessed you are!”
“Okay, then you can kneel down and let them command you like the puppet you are to your honorable life. I’m sorry, but I don’t think this is honorable. It’s shameful.”
“Packing up my luggage and fleeing to Lebor, bye everyone.”
“Commenter above is too naive. As long as your identity is still listed as part of one of the 51 star systems, you’re still within ‘Butterfly’s’ scope of management. Otherwise, why do you think Yate still hasn’t escaped marriage even after staying there for seven years?”
“He’s under ‘Butterfly’s’ management system but they can’t catch him, right? Does the Capital dare to send their troops to Navi and Lebor to capture people?”
“Then wouldn’t you become unregistered or a fugitive?”
“Hey, can’t you guys see what’s going on? The world has already been thrown into chaos. Who cares if you’re unregistered, focus on escaping for now. It’ll be too late when that stupid moth asks you to marry and have kids with some disgusting guy. It’s either that or prison!”
“Commander Yate, please knock down the Capital!”
Zhong Yan closed the most popular post in the entire virtual community and said, “Send out the long-term analysis in about an hour.”
“Got it. They’ll realize we’ve written this early on if we post it right now. Don’t worry, I’m still experienced in this.” After being processed through a software, a voice of unknown gender was coming out from Zhong Yan’s terminal. “Articles targeting each age frame has already been prepared. We’re just waiting to post them. Guaranteed well-written posts and bad reviews are ready to bomb all major communities and forums.”
“Alright, we’ll keep in touch. I have some business to handle.” Zhong Yan hung up the completely untraceable call and picked up Intron’s call.
“Sir Zhong, the lecturer just contacted me urgently…” Intron spoke very quickly, but Zhong Yan interrupted him, asking, “Which lecturer?”
“Our lecturer—Sorry, our third-year lecturer in the Supreme Institution.”
Both Zhong Yan and Intron studied under the same lecturer so they were fellow coursemates. This lecturer was also one of the main members of ‘Specimen’ from the Supreme Institution.
“Did he contact you to tell you that the students of the Supreme Institution are preparing to organize a protest?” Zhong Yan guessed.
“I—How did you know?” Intron was so shocked that he forgot his manners. “Right, that’s what he told me.”
In recent years, the rejection rate of the Supreme Institution has approached the halfway mark. Most of the remaining half did not refused because ‘Butterfly’s’ proposals managed to meet their expectations. It did not mean that they support the AI. For such a law to be announced right now, the ones most affected are the students who were just about to graduate and enter society. There was no need for Intron to tell Zhong Yan this. Earlier, he had already received fragments of information from other sources, and all the major universities had responded to varying degrees.
Zhong Yan calmly ordered, “Contact our lecturer now and tell him to go to the Specimen Store in the Supreme Institution. Ask him to get an order from the clerk. The clerk will ask what the order number is, tell him to answer the insect specimen order that was ordered two months ago. Then, he will receive a plan. Just leave the rest to our Supreme Institution’s department.”
Intron couldn’t help but ask, “What plans?”
“To join in with the major universities to protest the ‘Honor Decree’.”
The “Honor Decree” has yet to be officially implemented, but what the Navi Military Command can do is limited. Adrian holding a meeting at Headquarters and asked the PR department to post the announcement they prepared to the official homepage of the Navi Military Command.
The announcement states that both the Navi System and the Lebor System are welcoming their compatriots who accept human autonomy to settle in and are also willing to help more star systems return to human autonomy.
This was a rare public provocation written in plain text. Not long after this announcement was posted, a strictly worded statement was also posted on Zhong Yan’s homepage, stating that Mr. Zhong has been recuperating in the Navi System this whole time, so he knows nothing about the “Honor Decree”. The issuance of this decree should have passed through a round table vote, but Mr. Zhong himself strongly condemns such unconstitutional laws and will return to the Capital to handle the matter.
The law was issued in “Butterfly’s” name, and a Representative Councilor actually condemned the AI’s actions. This was an occurrence that has never been seen in the century since the Round Table and its twelve members were established. Not only that, there was also Vahl Cayman of the Twelve who also issued a similar statement after Zhong Yan. For a moment, many debates broke out within the Federation. This was the very first time the Supreme Council was laid so bare in the public’s eyes.
When Adrian returned home, Zhong Yan wasn’t in the house. He took off his jacket and went to the backyard to look for him. He found Zhong Yan plucking the rabbit’s fur.
The kit has been shedding these past few days, and a lot of its fur had been falling off. Zhong Yan could gather a full basket of its fur after his runs every day. He said he wanted to collect them so he could make two scarves out of them for Adrian and himself.
“What are you doing?” Adrian asked.
“Hm? You’re back early,” Zhong Yan said, “I’ll be heading off in a few days. I just contacted a scarf making shop and they said the fur I collected wasn’t enough. I was just about to send these out today. We almost have enough.”
“Let me help you,” Adrian said. Then, before Zhong Yan could refuse his offer, he began casually tugging off a few strands of the rabbit’s fur and putting it in Zhong Yan’s basket.
“Hey, don’t just pull out its fur!” Zhong Yan called out.
Confused, Adrian asked while holding the fur, “But aren’t you doing the same?”
“What do you mean?” Zhong Yan grumbled. “I’m just gathering the shed fur that’s still caught on its body!”
Whether it was cooking or cleaning, Adrian who would always be shooed away whenever he tried to help could only glare at the rabbit. Zhong Yan was going to leave soon. When he does, he’s going to pluck this rabbit bald and turn it into a fur blanket.