Chapter 291: Nine Opponents
The moment Thuram said that there was something he wished to discuss, Xia Fei instantly thought of Xiao Yu. Xia Fei had not forgotten her since that chance meeting of theirs in the Blood Matrix. Instead, he missed her even more after.
Thuram laughed somewhat awkwardly. “Sorry. The secret investigations, executive, headhunters, and all other relevant departments have been busy like ants on a hot pan, yet they can’t seem to find any trace of those people at all.”
Xia Fei was slightly disappointed. He lit a cigarette and held it between his lips. “When those people left, I noticed that their warship was fitted with a stealth system. The Alliance has strict control over all strategic equipment like stealth systems, so perhaps a look into the sales records of stealth systems from major companies may yield some clues.”
Thuram replied, “We are the Adjudicator Union, not the military. We don’t have the right to check the databases of other organizations. At best, we can ask them to hand over their data, and it will depend on them if they’re willing to give permission. After all, client data is considered confidential information. Most companies will rarely leak such data. It just isn’t that simple.”
Xia Fei thought about it and answered, “Since that’s the case, why don’t you make a report about the missing candidates to the military and let them assist in the investigation?”
Thuram burst into laughter. “You have to be kidding me. Who are we? The distinguished Adjudicator Union, the largest warrior organization in the Pan-Human Alliance, that has 175 combined fleets under our name, while our un-integrated fleets are uncountable. We have hundreds of millions of members, and it has always been the military who reaches out to work with the Adjudicator Union or the Monastic Order to solve whatever matter it comes across, never the other way around.”
Xia Fei pursed his lips. Compared to the other major forces, the Adjudicator Union greatly valued face. They had disregarded everything and investigated the candidates’ disappearance all for the sake of saving face, and it was for this same reason that they had not sought the aid of the military as well. Though they had managed to keep their reputation intact this way, their inability to work together with the other organizations meant that they were on their own if anything happened.
“Besides, stealth systems are no longer classified technology. Recently, there are various locations in the Alliance where small underground factories have been producing stealth equipment. It’s said that the biggest mystery behind stealth systems—its reverse coding—had already been cracked. As a result, there are quite a few workshops out there that have the capabilities to produce stealth equipment for warships, and because of how profitable these stealth systems are, many people out there are willing to take the risk and manufacture them despite the Alliance listing it as contraband.” Thuram sighed.
Xia Fei was quite surprised. It seemed that the core technology for stealth systems had already been secretly leaked to civilians. He inwardly considered if he should buy one and install it to Vampire, since having one would greatly increase his tactical flexibility in combat.
“Uncle, just why exactly did you come here in person to look for me?” Xia Fei asked.
Thuram answered, “Actually, I’m not here specifically to look for you. I happen to have something nearby, so I took some time to swing by as you’re along the way, but honestly, I do have two things I need to tell you.
“First, I heard that the warship modification finals in a few days’ time will have a bigshot from the Alliance military coming down to spectate in person. I have yet to learn who exactly he is, but I reckon that the person should be one of the Big Three. Haven’t you always wanted to promote your energy-shield boosters to the entire Alliance? This is a great opportunity.
“While the Union’s internal department’s response to the energy-shield boosters has been great, the military is still a different body compared to us. Our equipping of fleets we own is somewhat flexible, so not every warship has to use the same equipment, but it’s different for the military, and they will do huge bulk purchases of the equipment they set their eyes on, rapidly spreading across all their fleets. If you manage to vie for a purchase order from the military, I’m sure you’ll be smiling even in your dreams.”
Xia Fei nodded. “Thanks for telling me all this. As long as I’m able to get to the finals, I’ll be sure to perform well; that isn’t something you have to worry about.”
Thuram nodded. “Yes, having a calm mind is the most important. Do you know why it is so hard to acquire a purchase order from the military?”
Xia Fei had no idea. “Is it because they have a high technological equipment to meet?”
Thuram smiled and patted Xia Fei on his back. “Seeing you usually being quite clever, how could you not have made the connection? Go flip through the detailed purchase orders made by the military over the years and you’ll know that there are only a handful of companies that provide the military with the equipment they need. Plus, a large portion of that is actually made by themselves. After all, the military can’t afford to be sloppy with the equipment it uses. There must not be even the slightest flaws, so the military has greater trust of the products made by the companies under it.
“Actually, most of the businesses that can get a military purchase order are those which have plenty of funds. Take for example the four major warship companies; the four of them aren’t ranked highly in the Alliance, but everyone knows that their actual strength is enough to find themselves among the top ten businesses operating in the human-occupied territories, but why is it that their financial reports aren’t outstanding every year? The reason is that they get too many orders from the military as well as the other sovereign territories. Although the military will invite tenders every year, that will only apply for the purchase of insignificant equipment like logistics and ammunition. As for warships, cannons, and products related to the actual strength of the army, have these things ever been openly tendered? Everything is all done privately.
“The four major warship companies each have their ledger that can’t be made publicly known. Inside will be all the purchase orders from the military, and so there’s no way for them to reveal those to the general public since they’re all kept confidential. That is why when the list of top 500 businesses in the Alliance is published each time, the four major businesses always end up ranking low.”
After hearing Thuram’s explanation, Xia Fei asked, “Thank you for your guidance on this matter, uncle. What I’m getting is that it isn’t easy to obtain a purchase order from the military. I originally thought that the military would make a purchase as long as our product’s good, but it seems that I’ve been thinking too one-dimensionally this time.”
Thuram said, “These are all facts. Even if the military has their eye on your energy-shield boosters, they might mention some harsh conditions, such as having priority purchase rights, installment payments, and so on. I only hope that you’re already prepared for this.”
Xia Fei nodded. “What is the other thing you want to tell me?”
Thuram chuckled. “This second thing will be very beneficial to you. Raksha and I have discussed it and he wishes to transfer you to the secret investigations department, specifically to investigate the case of the missing candidates. This is a good chance for you to gain access to the core of the Union, affording you greater prospects within the organization.”
Xia Fei knitted his eyebrows. “Normally, department head Raksha and I hardly have any connection. Why will he want me to be transferred over to the secret investigations department at this moment?”
Thuram answered, “The reason’s simple. First, you saw Su Ruoyu with those people, and you’re a witness to the abduction back then. Raksha feels that this will be of help to the investigation. Second, your cultivation is still quite a distance away from joining the Union’s inner circle, but you’ve got good prospects, so you barely managed to qualify. Furthermore, given the relationship you share with the old coot Qin Mang, Raksha of course sees no reason to be against this, doing this on account of Qin Mang.
“You don’t have to give me your response now and can take some time to think about it. I know you dislike being fettered by constraints, but this is indeed a good opportunity for you. I can even reveal a bit to you that Qin Mang has had thoughts of pushing you up Union management all along, and it’s only because you are young and don’t have any contract with the Union that this hasn’t been implemented. Don’t doubt Qin Mang’s capabilities; even I can’t predict the lengths he is able to go.”
Xia Fei smiled. “Uncle Thuram, I won’t treat you as an outsider; I can tell you right now that I’ve got no interest in joining the Union’s upper management. Given the current circumstances, it is in my top priority to expand my own power. It is as the saying goes: ‘Better to depend on oneself than on others.’”
Thuram was not at all surprised to hear this. He exchanged a few more words with Xia Fei before leaving so as not to bother Avril and Xia Fei. She had been standing at the side, and upon seeing Thuram leave, she came over and took XIa Fei’s arm.
“Something on your mind?” Avril curiously wondered.
“Xia Fei replied, “It’s nothing, actually, but I was given a chance to search for Xiao Yu, which I rejected, so I can’t help but feel somewhat dejected.”
Avril was stunned. “Why did you reject it? Isn’t finding little sister Xiao Yu and bringing her home something you’ve always wanted to do?”
Xia Fei gazed at the setting sun. “You’re not wrong, but I know that there’s no way of achieving this with my current power, which is why I need to become stronger as soon as possible. If a thousand men isn’t enough to find her, then I’ll employ ten thousand men, even going to a hundred thousand if ten thousand doesn’t work. As long as I have the funds to do so, I’ll give it my all to achieve this.”
Avril leaned her head onto Xia Fei’s arm, softly asking, “If I were the one who’s gone missing, not Xiao Yu, would you do the same?”
Xia Fei answered lightly, “No.”
Avril was shocked. She did not dare believe his reply, but the words he spoke next made her smile brightly.
“If you’re the one missing, I’d find you even if I had to turn the entire universe upside down.”
The three days for the warship modification had passed, and every participants’ warships were sealed, no longer allowing any further modifications to be made until this event officially began.
Every participant was free to choose parts valued under fifty million star coins. Xia Fei had spent a total of 41.22 million star coins toward this end, leaving the rest of his funds in preparation for the final stage of the event. If the warship received damage at that time, he would be able to swap out parts at the last minute, so it was necessary for him to keep some funds in reserve.
Because Constantine and Li Mo were ahead in points, they had no need to participate in the ground elimination rounds two days prior, while Xia Fei, who was among those who ranked bottom, needed to participate in them. In a sense, Li Mo already held the upper hand even before the event began, whereas Xia Fei had to face a grueling match schedule.
Early in the morning, Xia Fei ate his breakfast and made his way to the warehouse. He inspected the warship once before setting off, knowing fully well that while his enmity with Li Mo might be considered over, it was not something that could be so easily resolved. In fact, there was no telling if Li Mo would make another attempt to sabotage him.
Unexpectedly, Li Mo had been as quiet as a house cat these past few days, bringing a host of underlings with him as he went about each day. Xia Fei had crossed paths with him several times, yet neither had said a word to the other.
Actually, there was nothing much for them to say to each other. Warriors would always be innately aware of their own enemies, and Xia Fei saw Li Mo as his enemy and had never once thought that this would be the end of it.
The crowd of bodyguards beside Li Mo actually revealed his unsettled heart; otherwise, there was no need for him to mobilize so many men here in the heavily guarded capital ring. Xia Fei was very satisfied with this, for this was precisely in line with his plan. He did not reveal the reason behind this, but it was Phantom’s guess that there was a deeper meaning to what Xia Fei had been doing here.
Li Mo was not taking part in the competition today, so he was nowhere to be found in the participant staging point. Surprisingly enough, it was Constantine who was present. Xia Fei chatted with him for a bit, stating that he had no relatives or friends here in the capital ring, so he decided to come and watch today’s event so he would have an idea of his opponent.
Xia Fei mentioned that he could have done the same by watching it on the interplanetary internet, yet Constantine said that the computer’s screen in the living quarters was too small and that it lacked the clarity as compared to watching it live.
Constantine and Xia Fei did not really have any deep animosity toward each other. With how much further ahead in points the former was, the latter practically had no chance of overtaking him, so the atmosphere the two men shared became very casual.
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The elimination round had ten participants in each group, and they would be thrown into a free-for-all combat, with only the first advancing to the next round.
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