Nighttime, outside of Astra’s window.
The masked man’s expressions were hidden. Black vines and scarlet blossoms were etched onto the mask, chaotic yet mesmerizingly beautiful, entwining on the cold metal surface like an untamed thicket of wild roses, giving an air of mystery and danger to the man behind the mask.
The code that Roux spoke of was none other than the one that Linus had just deciphered.
Instinct told Astra that the man in front of him was very dangerous. Slowly, he retreated two steps, readying himself in case Roux decided to enter through the window.
The man outside the window laughed. He extended an arm and knocked on the glass window. His graceful hands were encased in a pair of pure white gloves that made soft thumps upon the impact of his knuckles on the glass. “Are you scared of me?”
The words were spoken slowly, as if he wanted the person inside the room to hear more clearly.
This was a challenge to Astra.
Scared? As if.
Astra walked to the window and raised his palm to press it against where the Masked Pirate had knocked on the glass. “We don’t welcome strangers here.”
“My name is Roux.” The Masked Pirate’s deep gaze seemed to hold the darkness of an entire universe as he stared straight at Astra. His tone was teasing as he spoke to the boy in front of him, “Darling, do you know of me?”
His name had appeared too many times in the last few days. Astra glanced at Wen’s bed. The male lead was still buried under the blankets, sleeping like a log.
“My sweet,” The Masked Pirate tilted his head like a bird as he regarded Astra. The scarlet flowers on that fabled mask looked like blood under the moonlight. “It’s so late already. You should go to bed.”
The hand that was knocking on the glass suddenly stopped. The pirate tapped the glass with a fingertip, and the windowpane splintered with an audible crack.
“Bring it to me.” Roux’s voice sounded strange, as if his throat had been injured before. A slight accent made his words seem especially graceful as the syllables rolled off his tongue like honey. Paired with the smooth words, the gravelly undertones of his voice sounded unexpectedly attractive. “As a gift in return, I can give you a signature.”
Astra cringed. Why were all the pirates so narcissistic in this day and age?
Roux’s voice was gentle. “Go on, bring it to me.”
Cracks formed on the glass like spiderwebs, growing outwards from Roux’s fingertips. Solaris Academy’s special tempered glass seemed like tofu beneath his hands.
Astra’s expression chilled. He looked deeply at the pirate before he opened his computer device and projected the code in front of Roux’s eyes.
But Roux shook his head. “I want the original code.”
Fuck, Astra swore under his breath, but nevertheless he quickly found the piece of skin that they took out of the Medicine Man. “How are you going to take it?”
Roux, “Throw it down to me.”
Astra opened the cracked window. From this vantage point he was able to see Roux standing on an arc-shaped hoverboard. The pirate had his arms crossed as he waited on the side, as if waiting for Astra to throw the object down.
Astra didn’t even bother to look at the pirate’s face. He threw the object down and immediately closed the window before he turned to find a weapon.
All the lights in the room went out at curfew, only the small yellow lamps at their bedsides were left as a source of illumination in the room.
Astra stood rooted to the spot. Different expressions flickered across his face. This was the first time that he had felt so weak and helpless.
He took a deep breath to calm himself down before turning abruptly, and walking to Wen’s bed.
There was something that he needed to confirm.
Just as he took no more than two steps, the glass of the window suddenly broke with a loud crash. The cold night air flooded the room in an instant.
The alarm finally responded, blaring out its high pitched signal repeatedly. Not far from their apartment, the lights in the watchtower lit up. In the next second, a team of armed guards rushed into the apartment building.
The forcibly closed curtains billowed in the wind, exposing the broken glass on the floor.
Astra walked to the window once more, his gaze was immediately drawn to the ‘gift’ that the bold pirate had left for him.
There was only a small corner of the glass remaining in the empty frame. Someone had fogged up the glass with their breath before drawing a series of strange, interconnected symbols on the glass surface.
This was proof that Roux had been here.
Astra opened his computer device and took a video before the fog on the glass could disappear. When the guards arrived, the first thing they saw after entering the room was the glass sparkling like stars on the ground and Astra standing in front of the open window as the curtains billowed in the night breeze.
The guards arrived just in time. The strange writing on the fogged glass had yet to fade completely, so Astra pointed at it absentmindedly as he continued to think about his bizarre encounter.
This Masked Pirate was a wild card. Astra knew and understood nothing about him. Roux was undoubtedly very powerful, but he was also very mysterious. Astra didn’t like this feeling of not being in control.
Even on the Academy’s campus grounds, Roux had the gall to do something so outrageous. Did he really need the Medicine Man’s code that badly, or was there something else that he was planning?
The guards looked towards the direction Astra was pointing at, before their faces morphed into expressions of shock. Some of them had to squat down when the shock made their knees weaken. All of them looked like they were re-contemplating life as they loitered haplessly, unsure of what to do next.
What was this?
Why did it look so much like the language from the Masked Pirate’s mother planet?
After making sure that the symbol was indeed left by the Masked Pirate himself, the leader of the guards called the military with a grim expression on his face.
The commotion had startled the other inhabitants of the apartment. Simon, Jiyu, and Linus hurried into the room and gazed at the chaotic scene in shock. “…What— what happened here?”
“Just hold on for a minute.” Astra came back from his thoughts and walked to Wen’s bedside. He didn’t explain anything as he yanked back the blankets in a single, swift motion—
There wasn’t anyone or anything on the bed. There wasn’t a dummy or a pillow under the blanket to prop it up.
Just then, Wen walked out of the bathroom with a wet face.
There was a pair of small earbuds hanging on his ears. When he saw the mess in the room, Wen seemed very shocked. “I was just in the bathroom, what happened out here?”
Simon, “Wen, you really don’t know?”
“Mmmhmm,” Wen’s voice was soft with sleepiness. “I only stayed in the bathroom for a moment, what happened while I was in there?”
The sleepy gaze, the messy hair, and the red pillow mark on his face.
It actually wasn’t him.
Astra only had a vague guess. Even though the book didn’t mention it, he actually didn’t get to finish reading the book, so there might’ve been some plot twist he was unaware of. Roux seemed too powerful, everything about him just screamed ‘protagonist halo’, so it was no wonder that Astra became suspicious.
But it seemed that he was overthinking after all.
Astra grabbed a jacket and handed it to Wen, who was standing around clad only in wrinkled pajamas. After Wen had put on the jacket, Astra finally spoke, “You sleep like a pig.”
“…” Wen tried to blink away the sleepiness from his eyes. He sighed and asked for the third time, “What happened?”
Wen’s question attracted the attention of the guards as well. Everyone in the room looked towards Astra, curious as can be.
“Someone who called himself Roux,” Astra’s face held a displeased expression, “took away the code that we got from the Medicine Man.”
Linus froze. “Roux?!”
Wen wrinkled his brow, all signs of sleep gone from his eyes as his face shifted into his usual calm and cool expression. “Did he take the original code or a copy of the decoded message?”
Astra replied, “The original code.”
The guards were shocked. “What code? What decoded message?”
Jiyu replied, “We were going to inform the school about it. This way please, I will explain it to you from the beginning.”
The leader of the guards nodded and left with Jiyu.
The rest of them milled about. Linus, who might or might not be a die-hard fan of Roux, shuffled closer to investigate. Simon followed close behind just for the heck of it.
Wen looked at the window, something flickered in the depths of his eyes, too quick for Astra to decipher. He turned to Astra. “It’s only a galactic pirate. Sooner or later, the military will catch him.”
“Hopefully.” Astra sighed.
The next day, the military sent people to Solaris.
This time, it was still the young officer that they had met before, Edmund. Edmund took great strides as he walked briskly towards Astra. “We meet again.”
The five subordinates behind him were all in uniform. Astra had a pretty great impression of Edmund from their previous meeting, so he was able to maintain his patience despite having already been interrogated for an entire night. “Ask away.”
But Edmund pulled up a picture instead. The image showed the message that Roux had written on the fog.
“Do you know what this means?”
Astra replied, “I think it’s his name.”
Edmund was very confused. “Why would you think that?”
“He said he’ll give me his signature.” Edmund’s attitude made Astra feel that something wasn’t quite right. “It’s not?”
Edmund nodded. Then he placed a paper-thin device on the table. The machine’s display showed several letters, and as the machine’s algorithms got to work, the letters slowly shifted and congregated into Roux’s message.
“Roux.” Edmund snickered with a look of disdain. “All he knows is how to play little tricks like this one. What a piece of trash.”
Astra looked at the strange writing before turning his gaze to Edmund. “What does it mean?”
“This is the language from Planet Mandra,” Edmund replied. “An extinct planet that no longer exists. This message compliments your enthusiasm, and says that you warm the heart of others like a flame.”
“Haha.” Astra smiled warmly, yet his eyes were chilling. “He’s mocking how obedient I am for following his every order and giving him exactly what he wanted.”
Edmund thought otherwise. Even though the trash Roux was a piece of trash, after pursuing the pirate for so many years, Edmund was pretty sure that he wasn’t someone who would use his precious mother tongue to write mocking messages.
Edmund asked Astra, “Besides this message, did he say anything to you?”
The subordinates behind Edmund displayed awkward expressions upon hearing their boss ask such a question.
Roux had always displayed a taunting attitude towards the military. This time, the victim was a student from a prestigious military academy. What if Roux had said something offensive to the student and hurt his pride? Then wasn’t officer Edmund’s question similar to rubbing salt on a wound?
Edmund wrinkled his handsome brows. He looked very frustrated. Astra sighed and added, “He told me to go to bed early.”
“? ? ?”
“His original words were,” Astra lowered his voice in an impression of the pirate’s husky tone, “It’s so late already. You should go to bed.”
As he spoke, Astra remembered the odd behavior that the man had displayed last night.
He half suspected that Roux had been flirting with him.
Whether it was calling him darling boy, giving him his signature, or telling him to go to bed, everything the pirate did had been highly suggestive.
Plus, Astra knew that his current looks were very attractive.
The next time he encountered the pirate, he could test it out and see if his hunch was correct. But the pirate’s flirtatious behaviour cemented a single idea in his head — Roux and Wen were two different people.
Wen was basically straight as straight could be, the straightest in the world, but Roux didn’t seem to be so heterosexual.
Astra, “He’s very strong.”
Even though all he did was break a window, that aura of power and strength wasn’t something that could be faked. The original book didn’t use any words at all in describing this person, so how and why did someone as powerful as Roux just suddenly appear out of seemingly nowhere.
Edmund was oblivious to the rampant thoughts running through Astra’s mind. “He is very strong, but that’s no reason to do as he liked and disregard the lives of other people.” The expression in his eyes cooled. His black hair and dark eyes made him seem especially austere. “No matter how strong he is, he will never have what it takes to be truly powerful.”
There was definitely an interesting history between Roux and officer Edmund. Astra looked very interested, but Edmund didn’t elaborate more.
After making sure that Astra had reported everything he could recall, Edmund left quickly, leaving his subordinates scrambling to follow.
“Next time something like this happens, I hope you’ll get in touch with me at once.” Edmund’s gaze lowered. “Be careful and protect yourself well.”
“I will.” Astra nodded.
After all the people left, Astra returned to the apartment. His four handsome teammates were all waiting for him in the living room. When they saw him come in, they hurried to ask, “Did the military mistreat you?”
“Not at all.” Astra gave them a big smile. “Don’t worry, Edmund is a pretty nice guy.”
Not a single one of the people present believed Astra.
They had all seen Edmund the last time he paid them a visit. The guy was more serious than Linus, and basically every sentence he spoke contained the word ‘trash’. Plus, he seemed to have a bad temper.
“And the message that Roux left behind?” Jiyu remembered what the guards had told them. “They all thought it was Roux’s special symbol, but then later they found out that the details are a bit different — it seemed to be something else.”
“Yeah. Edmund told me.” Talking about this made Astra’s head hurt. He didn’t really want to tell his teammates.
But their eyes were literally sparkling as they looked at him expectedly.
When four hot guys were all doing it, the adorableness of the puppy eyes were magnified into a formidable force to behold.
“Erm, he also said ‘Good night’, and then he said I’m like fire?”
The more Astra spoke about his encounter, the more he thought…
This Masked Pirate guy is so damned gay.
The author has something to say:
Astra: He’s definitely flirting with me, and Wen never flirts with me. Roux and the protagonist are definitely different people!
T/N: the author doesn’t mention what Astra was before he transmigrated into the book, but I always like to assume that he was either a mercenary or an assassin in his original world.