Therapy Planet No.
13 – Chapter 5: Reward

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13-17 minutes 25.07.2022

In the end, Louie had some cereal with cold milk for breakfast. 

No sweetener was added to the cold milk, and the cereal contained no traces of white sugar.
She could only rely on the naturally occurring chemical breakdown of the cereal’s starches to detect any sort of flavor. 

The chilly liquid slid down her throat into her stomach.
As soon as she started drinking it, even a person such as Louie had to shiver. 

She expressionlessly finished off the rest of her meal. 

The culinary arts were only an elective course at the military academy, and nutrition was already taken care of by the military’s rations.
When necessary, a nutrient pack could provide nourishment for up to a month.
Even when reduced to the point of cooking for herself to provide adequate nutritional intake, Louie thought there was really no need for a culinary course. 

She had no intentions of becoming an orderly. 

Regardless of whether or not she had an innate talent, her abysmal cooking skills had, in short, never received any training and had thus degenerated to their current state. 

However, there was always a solution, Louie thought indifferently.
Worst comes to the worst, she would simply eat like this, not eat at all, or wait to eat in the military academy’s mess hall. 

There was always a way. 

And if one could not think of a way, just obey the collective.

False.
Rather, one was only permitted the will of the collective. 

This reprimand was also clearly proclaimed within military regulations. 

Just after she finished her breakfast, Louie received an arrival notification from the ship’s Sophus system. 

In terms of secrecy, security, or reliability, military starships were leaps and bounds above civilian vessels.
And for a starship manufactured by the military academy’s internal weapons plant, intended for use by the Avaricious Wolf?

Shaking during the docking process was beneath mention; passengers did not even feel dizzy executing transfers. 

After Louie saw the prompt, her previously lackadaisical movements quickened. 

She leapt up from the chair and yanked open the wardrobe.
Inside was an array of field uniforms, arranged from left to right.
Dyed with the inky blackness of space, adorned with overflowing decorations like falling stars, and laced with the howl of the avaricious wolf in the dark night, all emitted a foreboding air.
Perhaps the only thing that remained constant between them was the sizing. 

Louie’s fingers trailed along the row of hangers before selecting a uniform of proper size from among the unlabeled clothing. 

Every inch of the fabric fit her form seamlessly.
She stood in front of the mirror.
As she fastened the buttons, the slight trembling of her fingers betrayed her nervousness. 

Only after she had fastened all of the buttons up to her collar did Louie suddenly react. 

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Louie grumbled about her own uselessness under her breath, but still performed a military salute in front of the mirror to make sure everything was spick and span.
Bringing along the fruits of her latest mission, she left the room like an arrow leaving a bowstring. 

Jiang Wei had been waiting for her outside of the ship for a while now. 

The military vessel was docked in an Almian space port specifically designated for special forces units.
Louie exited the ship solemnly.
Her rank as colonel afforded her the highest of courtesies. 

At this moment, it was not yet eight o’clock in the morning.
The configuration of the space port and the distant Almian sun made it so that a faint gray light was only just cresting the horizon. 

The morning assembly had already begun.
Hearing the familiar bugle call, Louie’s tense body  could at last relax a bit. 

She exited the space port, verified her identity, then boarded a transport vessel heading toward the main academy building.
She disembarked at the entrance and jogged to the commander’s office. 

Within the academy’s grounds, only foot traffic was permitted, but the grounds were alarmingly expansive, so to make sure they were not late, students all exercised regularly to ensure they could make it in the allotted time. 

Louie looked at the wooden sign hung on the door.
On its front were the words ‘Commandant’s Office,’ written in both Almian and the Federation’s common tongue. 

It carried a dignified, imposing air. 

Louie took a deep breath.
She admonished herself that it was a normal mission debrief.
She could not feel panicked because the one she was facing was the commander. 

Obey.
Obey.
Never fear. 

She turned over these words from the school’s tremendously long motto.
Only after repeating them in her mind three times did she muster the courage to knock on the door. 

“Enter.”

A composed, sedate voice sounded from within. 

A turn of the handle, a push of the door, a click as it closed. 

A new pair of military boots made five steps of a regulation gait then halted.
A light tap of the heels then her right fist thumped her chest

A standard military salute. 

“Commander!”

A middle-aged man, a head full of gray hair and a plain military uniform, was before her.
He was not wearing any stripes or bars, a pair of spectacles resting on the bridge of his nose.
He looked to be about in his sixties—the prime of life in the Federation—and carried a refined, literary air. 

With androgynous features, all commanders throughout the ages, in actuality, looked relatively the same.
Regardless if man or woman, this type of face would be described in gender-neutral terms as elegant, fine, and stately. 

“You’re here.”

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A simple statement, spoken in a mellow, deep voice. 

The commandant took off his spectacles, his buoyant gaze flitting between Louie and the personnel file in his hands.
He smiled warmly, “Louie.
Born of Earth, brought back to Almia at the age of eight by Martha Philby.
Enrolled in the academy at the age of ten and graduated first in the cohort at eighteen.
Entered the Avaricious Wolf and was promoted to the rank of colonel within a short span of two years.
Accepted an undercover assignment codenamed Mithril, and now…you’ve brought me the spoils.”

Her hand, which had only just been at ease, resumed its salute position.
Louie’s body tensed, “Yes!”

“Young people don’t need to be so reserved…perhaps when you’re my age, you might be sitting in this position…you’re a twenty-one-year-old colonel, after all.
Quite rare since the foundation of the academy.”

In previous generations, supreme commanders would automatically step down and personally nominate five successors.
Afterward, the next commander would naturally stand out from amongst the five candidates, and the remaining four individuals would replace the heads of the four special forces divisions, becoming trusted subordinates of the commander. 

Almians only followed the strong. 

Facing the commander’s praise, Louie would never dare be remiss.
Just as she was going to resume her salute, she remembered his words ‘don’t need to be so reserved’ and had to straighten her waist, replying, “I thank the commander for his favor.
May the commander’s military career be prosperous and accomplished.”

“Young people just love to use these respectful expressions, that’s all.” The commander smiled as he shook his head.
His sharp gaze sliced through his smiling countenance, piercing directly through Louie’s eyes, “No need to state your report here.
Just file it when you return.
Now, give it to me.”

Louie affirmed, then quickly took out that ‘seed’ that had once been stuck inside her body. 

The commander took the ‘seed’ and turned it over in his hand.
He did not think that it would look like such an ordinary object. 

With a natural ease, he tossed it into the drawer and continued with a faint sense of commendation, “Well done.” 

Louie did not say a word. 

Because she saw the commander stretch out a hand to pick up the teacup from off the table and attentively blow away the steam rising off the surface.
He did not seem to be finished speaking. 

“Say…now that your mission has been completed, what reward should you receive?”

Louie’s eyelid twitched. 

These words were dangerous. 

All missions had fixed procedures.
When receiving the assignment, one would generally find out the grade of said assignment.
The merits would accumulate for a later promotion as part of a specialized process. 

And for the privileges of the highest levels, intervention in this process was even more impossible—with the exception of the person at the top. 

The commander had absolute power; even if a new recruit at the military academy was accomplished, without the express recognition of the commander, no one dared have their own opinion on the matter. 

Conversely, no reason was necessary to demote someone of high rank. 

The commander always had his reasons.
Soldiers need only obey. 

Louie did not dare accept his words, so she could only feigh that she had not heard. 

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“How about I promote you to lieutenant general?” The commander took a sip of tea, then smiled lightly, “You’d be the youngest lieutenant general in the academy’s history, forever memorialized in the history books.
What do you think?”

Louie knew that, at this moment, she ought to reply ‘I thank the commander for his favor.’ No agreement, no rebuttal—all of the power in the hands of the other dominant party. 

However, with a bravery of unknown origin, she unexpectedly opened her mouth and asked, “Why?”

It was like a bolt of lightning splitting the sky.
A single, ordinary word was like a ten thousand pound weight.
At last, there was a ripple in the commander’s calm, congenial expression. 

He held the teacup in his hands and, for the first time, looked at the young person across from him with a curious gaze, considering her with deliberation. 

The corners of his eyes crinkled.
He asked somewhat mirthfully, “Why?”

He repeated Louie’s question, as if he had just heard an enormous joke, and then repeated it once again, “You are asking me ‘why’?”

An immense pressure was unleashed. 

Louie was almost frightened into retreating a few steps by the chilly atmosphere taking form, but the fortitude she had developed over many years enabled her to simply lower her gaze, “Apologies! I overstepped!” 

Soldiers could never ask their superiors for reasons.
They could only answer yes or no. 

This was the code of survival for each and every soldier, engraved on their bodies. 

And at this moment, Louie had just asked the highest ranking man on the entire planet a brainless question like ‘why’—equivalent to the defiant attitude of illiterate disdaining a postdoctoral researcher for not knowing that 1+1=2. 

Louie’s back broke out in a cold sweat. 

She really was ill to ask an unexpected question like that!

Muddled by illness. 

If the commander forgave her, she would go receive a psychological examination as soon as she could. 

But there was no ‘if.’

“Rest assured.
My opinion of you remains unchanged.” In the moment when she was inattentive, the overwhelming pressure suddenly disappeared. 

Louie immediately lifted her head. 

…It’s fine?

However, she only saw the commander pick up her file and say mildly, “Every mission must have its conclusion.”

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He paused, then looked at Louie kindly, “You could become the first twenty-one-year-old lieutenant general in the academy’s history.
At the same time, you would become the first lieutenant general sent on an intergalactic exile mission from the academy…oh, it would be more appropriate to say the first ‘soldier’.”

“This was a hidden clause decided when you were sent on the mission.
To maintain secrecy, you would only be notified upon the completion of the mission.”

Louie’s pupils suddenly constricted.
She unconsciously wanted to plead.
Just as she was going to say ‘no,’ she saw the commander softly raise a finger and place it on his lips.  

“Soldier E49749, receive your orders.”

“Present!”

Louie responded with a military salute as a conditioned reflex. 

“Tell me.
What is intergalactic exile?” The procedural question resounded mechanically. 

“An Almian tradition from time immemorial.
For esteemed individuals, a testament of insurmountable glory!” As Louie finished her words, she found that her voice was shaking. 

“Very good.”

The commander gave her a look of praise. 

“However, the method of exile during the Federation Era has been slightly adjusted.
Unlike how it was in the past, now it is a lifelong mission with a specific purpose in mind.”

The commander’s voice was temperate, like he was chatting with someone over lunch.
He chuckled, “I couldn’t bear to do it at first, given the steeply declining population after the Great War.
However, it seems now that the younger generation should exert themselves more, right?”

This was the fifth question she had been asked since meeting the commander. 

As with the previous four questions, she felt her blood run cold.
She could not provide an answer. 

The author has something to say: 

*cough* Anyone know about Aristides 

Alright, I won’t keep you in suspense.
This old legend came from the exiling ostrakon…well, it doesn’t have much relation besides his name on it. 

I didn’t think everyone would care so much about the addresses.
I will explain a bit here:

The main character should be a colonel.
Any discrepancies is because I changed the text…some of the earlier parts were not changed in time, my bad;

Later, when she rises in rank to a lieutenant general, the difference is due to her change in title, but she did not acknowledge it, so the way she addresses herself and the way he addresses her are different;

The address ‘commander’ stresses its relation with the military, while the address ‘commandant’ stresses its relation with the administration.

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