Chapter 4: Nightmare (Pt.
1)

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In the vast universe, there was saying left over from antiquity: 

The Kun is so large that it will not fit in one pot; the Peng is so large that one needs two stoves.[1]

It is said that, in its early days, this was just a humorous bit of mockery from Earth.
Back in that time, the Kunpeng was just a creature of legend.
However, the unexpected thing is, after the invention of the first space-faring vessel and the rise of the Great Interstellar Era, these legendary creatures had genuinely been discovered out in the universe. 

The social structure of Kunpeng was similar to that of the Acarids[2]. 

The only difference was in their behavior as a collective.
If one said that the Acarids formed groups around a queen, then Kunpeng were more like Earthen blue whales. 

The young took the form of a Kun and the grown took the form of a Peng.
When mature, they produce pheromones that can only be detected by the opposite sex to find each other.
Then, after they complete the mating process, they soon separate and become lone wanderers of the universe, devouring the trace elements of scattered meteors for sustenance. 

When the people of the past had discovered Kunpeng, the Great Interstellar Era had barely begun before the first war against alien races almost broke out. 

However, they had later discovered that the Kunpeng were docile, and moreover, that they were delicious.
After the first taste, the already sparsely populated Kunpeng were swiftly hunted into near extinction.
Kunpeng became the first creature protected by the Association for the Protection of Interstellar Organisms, the APIO, which gave strict orders banning the hunting of Kunpeng——especially for the Earthens of East Asian descent, who rounded them up to cook with various culinary techniques. 

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To symbolize their importance, even the insignia of the APIO was in the shape of a Kunpeng.   

Under the imposed sanctions and harsh penalties for violators, the remaining Kunpeng were conserved at last. 

But, when humans developed the technology to pass through wormholes, Kunpeng loved to appear at these transfer points, giving no end of trouble to humans. 

If the wandering Acarids were nature’s creators of transfer points, then Kunpeng, the universe’s consumers of trace elements, were nature’s destroyers. 

It was fine if no one used the transfer points, but if someone was passing through just as a Kunpeng wandered over, then the transfer would inevitably go wrong. 

Anyone passing through that transfer point would be routed to a completely different location than intended.
If that location was within the Star Link network, then they still had a chance, but if not, then they could only leave it up to fate. 

And so, when Louie saw the news, for a moment, she did not know what to say. 

Kunpeng, which were constantly under the threat of illegal poaching, were rare animals in the universe.
Even the APIO had not recorded a sighting of Kunpeng in decades.
How did Hyde manage to have this chance encounter?

This kind of luck was really something else. 

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Louie reclined in the bathtub as she considered the situation.
She gave Jiang Wei a decisive reply: “Send the report and prepare his genetic data.
If he doesn’t return within the next ten years, an order of accidental death will automatically be issued.”

She spoke without a hint of hesitation.
Even as she was just considering the issue, she was already calculating the odds of Hyde’s survival. 

To be a preeminent graduate of the Military Academy, it was impossible for her to spare any sentiments for a subordinate. 

Almians did not need pity or sympathy.
Rather, they completely lacked pity or sympathy. 

In their eyes, there was only the division of rank and their utter obedience. 

This also made Almians—and by extension, the students of AIMA—excluded from other races and species in the universe.
Aside from certain biological characteristics, what difference was there between these kinds of people and the coldness of robotic machinery?

Having flesh and blood only made them even more frightening. 

Louie soon cast this little interlude to the back of her mind.
She took her left arm out of the bathtub and discovered that, with the application of the hyperplasia ointment, the wound from tearing open her own arm was as good as new. 

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Her finger slowly slid along her smooth arm, the slightly coarse whorls of her fingerprint leaving a lingering, wet trail like the serpent of Paradise Lost languidly flicking its tongue. 

In that moment, Louie thought of that child on the Crimson Sand Planet who had shown her kindness. 

The serpent was tempting Eve to eat the apple. 

Sentiment was a poisonous snake, desire a forbidden fruit.
But she was not Eve. 

She suddenly withdrew her fingertips.
She felt an abrupt pain in her heart, which was almost always calm.
It was only for a moment, but the completely foreign sensation left Louie a bit uneasy. 

Perhaps her lengthy time undercover had caused this kind of illness. 

Right, in the motto each student at the Military Academy needed to recite, thinking for yourself too much was deemed an ‘illness’. 

One that required therapy. 

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As soon as she became aware of this feeling, she immediately distanced herself from it. 

Ever since she had left the Military Academy, this kind of feeling had never appeared. 

After the Great War, Astronomical Time 423[3], the same year that the Federation government and Almia Interstellar Military Academy was established, the method of tracking time was changed to reflect the new Federation era. 

Pure-blooded Almians were decimated during the war, and to ensure the continuation of their civilization, they had no alternative but to reconstruct the academy.
To expand enrollment, admission to the Military Academy was opened up to other races, and the traditions of Almia carried on as before. 

Louie was both unfortunate and fortunate. 

She was the descendant of Earthens and Almians.
Apparently, her Almian ancestors had perished in the Great War, and she would have to trace her lineage back who knows how long to find her Earthen roots.
Her blood was mostly of Earth, but this ratio seemed a bit unreasonable. 

But this was just something she had heard about.
In the misty clouds of water vapor, Louie reminisced about her childhood, a period which was not particularly happy for her. 

Cold-blooded parents who died in a scuffle on a street corner somewhere, leaving her with some strangers at an interstellar shelter.
And a woman, who, upon taking a trip to Earth, had been fervently ecstatic to discover that Almian blood flowed through her veins. 

Martha Philby.

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