[This story is written by Maoni, the same author who wrote the story “Joy of Life”, which I am also translating in my blog. In my opinion, the author has great talent in storytelling. His writing style is almost like a mixture of many of my favorite writers, such as Gu Long, Orson Scott Card, and John Grisham. Unlike the story “Joy of Life”, which is set in an ancient Chinese world with an obvious Wuxia feel, this one is a Sci-Fi fantasy, with scenes reminding me of classic scenes from movies like Star Wars and The Matrix. However, this story is still a Wuxia story, as the author openly admits. I hope you enjoy it and if you do, don’t forget to share it with your friends. Set your imagination free and get ready for a great adventure! Note that it does take a few chapters for the story to warm up and become interesting and exciting. – The Translator]
Volume One: Eastwood Is All Stones
Chapter 1: Parade at the Bell-Tower Street
When viewed from high up in space, Eastwood appears to be a beautiful planet. Illuminated by sunlight shining through sprinkling space dust, the blue oceans, large strips of green wilderness, and those heart-throbbingly white mine craters almost seem to radiate with a dim aesthetic splendor beyond words, like an old painting that had been set aside for many years, covered by the dust of time.
However, for the many local residents and orphans of the Eastwood Grand District, this is only a planet full of stones, nothing but stones. In their once firm but now numb eyes, even those strips of green plains are only grass layers that cover up the true wealth and glorious history of the planet. They have grown accustomed to seeing right through the green sods and look straight at the mineral veins underneath, something longed for by every Eastwood resident.
According to federal district zoning, Eastwood is a Level Two Administrative Grand District, holding the same administrative ranking as those three dazzling planets in the Capital Star Circle as well as the Westwood Grand District. But in the minds of many Federation citizens, the far away Eastwood has become a forgotten corner. Except for rare occasions, such as the 600th anniversary for the founding of the Federation Government, the name Eastwood might still show up in celebration ceremonies, most of the time, for people who live in affluent civilizations, Eastwood no longer exists.
The Eastwood Grand District is made up of one planet only, the Eastwood Planet. This seems stupid to mention, but the name Eastwood Grand District came from the Eastwood Planet. That fact clearly indicates that in the ancient past, this lonely planet, hanging along the most outer region of the Triangle Galaxy, once held vital significance for the entire human civilization.
Nevertheless, ever since the various kinds of ores had been completely excavated, the Eastwood Planet gradually turned into a deserted planet. Now it only has stone, no more ore, just stone.
Those who were able to escape from Eastwood had left a long time ago. Either because of specialized skills, wealth accumulated over the years, or through sponsorship from relatives living in the Capital Star Circle or the Westwood Grand District, they successfully acquired their residence transfer approval. Taking the less and less frequent flights – due to energy shortage – they left this less and less alive place, never looking back.
After all, only a small percentage of the residents were able to get the residence transfer approvals. The partly-abandoned planet still has to support the lives of many. In a well-developed civilization, food and shelter are no longer problems people have to worry about. Residents of the Eastwood Planet still live a peaceful life. The many levels of social structures stay their vital roles just as before. Monetary currencies remain in steady circulation. This world still has businesses, airports, food processing factories, mech maintenance stations, supercomputer centers, and even an armory.
What they could have and what they should have, the Eastwood Grand District has them all. Yet, they fail to conceal that faint feeling of lifelessness. The smell of staleness keeps seeping out from every street, every building, and the faces of all those who have nothing to do but hold their coffee cups quietly and plant themselves in front of a television.
The several thousand years of ore production provided continued support to the Federation like how a large river kept nourishing the lands along the riverbanks. But when the large river gradually dried out and eventually turned into a foul-smelling small creek, the support coming back from the Federation was evidently insufficient – because for mankind, happiness is more than simply staying alive.
The many thousand years of history taught the Eastwooders to be resolute, hardworking, and tough. Countless mining accidents in the old days did not make them flinch, but the dull present filled them with sorrow and helplessness. There is no mine to dig and nothing to do. A plain life, without even the possibility of a mining accident, is not the kind of life an Eastwooder would desire.
Hardworking and tough Eastwooders earned themselves the nickname “Eastwood Stones” in the Federation, and today’s Eastwooders are stones that are even quieter and more indifferent, turning themselves into stone statues in armchairs and sofas at home, as though they would never move again.
“Stupid civilians! Soap opera is all they need.”
Holding a strict face, Bao Longtao, Deputy Chief of the No. 2 Police Substation under the Riverwest State Police Department, thought to himself as he walked in the cold breezes of the Bell-Tower Street and glanced at those numb-faced local residents drinking in taverns at the corners of the street.
Deputy Chief Bao was also one of the stones in Eastwood. His face was always as cold as a stone. For the gangs and mobs along the Bell-Tower Street who haunted the neighborhood in the dark, this face possessed infinite awe and terror. Every time he patrolled the Bell-Tower Street, those black-market wild-buffalo-meat peddlers always scattered with the speed of a galaxy battleship. With his sharp-looking black uniform and the seven subordinates following behind him, they always made an extraordinary scene.
Bao Longtao suddenly remembered that there were also three reporters by his side today. Feeling a sudden throb in his chest, he tightened his collar button without thinking, and then in a steady move, turned around to face the female reporter, a young woman holding a microphone. A forced smile quickly appeared on his face as if the surface of a stone had suddenly split open.
“Public safety at the Bell-Tower Street has always been excellent….” Bao Longtao said in a calm voice to the best of his abilities. He didn’t want to leave the slightest impression of carelessness. This assignment had come directly from the Riverwest State Governor’s Office, something Deputy Chief Bao dared not to handle hastily.
Sensing the uneasiness of the Deputy Chief, several subordinates from the public relation office of the police station naturally took over and carried on the conversation with the reporters. Bao Longtao secretly heaved a sigh and shook his head gently.
He had served in the Eastwood Grand District for thirteen years, still seven years before finishing his term, which was stipulated by the Federation Government’s Eastwood-Aid Act. However, he knew he couldn’t stand another seven years at a place filled with deathly staleness. Would he eventually resort to watching TV to kill time every day just like those jobless miners?
The Federation had very strict regulations. Although promotions come easily at the Eastwood Grand District, transferring back to the Capital Star Circle or the Westwood Grand District is only possible after a specific length of service. Bao Longtao did make acquaintances with a few outer circle members of the Eminent Families, but he knew all too well that none of those cautious Families would spare any effort on him, an insignificant Deputy Chief.
A better option would be to spend more effort on political achievements for his post. That was also part of his consideration when he decided to personally show these reporters around the Bell-Tower Street.
The tiny trace of frustration on Deputy Chief Bao’s face didn’t last long, and was quickly replaced by astonishment!
Even the curious questions from the female reporter skipped his ears. His murderous gaze shot right past the female reporter’s shoulder and landed at the junction where four alleys joined the Bell-Tower Street.
The reporters soon noticed the Deputy Chief’s unusual behavior, because his face was now so tense and purple, like a stone at the bottom of a river covered by decades of moss, which might transform into a terrifying monster at any moment.
Following Bao Longtao’s gaze, the reporters also glanced over, and then gasped immediately. The female reporter forgot all about maintaining her grace and let out a short cry.
Only moments ago, a cool breeze swept along the peaceful street, before the sounds of countless footsteps suddenly resonated in the streets. The footsteps were not in order, nor sounded like drum beats, but they were so dense that no one could tell how many people were marching out.
A moment later, the creators of the footstep sounds appeared on the Bell-Tower Street. Mobs of people streamed out from the four alleys simultaneously and soon occupied street corners and the majority of the sidewalks with amazing momentum. Faces of pedestrians, police officers, and reporters all turned pale; even those Eastwood residents wallowing in coffee and alcohol all looked out of the window in shock.
To be more precise, the mobs of people streaming out of the four alleys were a bunch of teenage boys. Amongst them, even the oldest were merely 15 or 16 years of age. Some of the younger ones still had patches of mud on their faces, making it hard to tell whether they were over ten or not.
The boys wore a variety of clothing, but they all had one particular trait in common, which was especially disturbing. Each one wore something black: black jackets, black sweaters, or black shirts. One boy probably failed to find a black piece of clothing from home, instead, wore a blue miner’s workcoat that was covered by black tar from mining, something that probably had not been washed for years.
There were over one hundred of them, all in black, funny looking yet forceful. They came out of nowhere, walked all the way to the middle of the Bell-Tower Street, right in front of Deputy Chief Bao and the reporters.
Deputy Chief Bao took a step forward without thinking and stared furiously at the boy in the very front of the group. He knew that boy.
The female reporter instinctively took several steps back and cautiously peeped at the faces of the boys, wondering what these boys in black were here for and whether her own safety was at risk.
“What are you doing here? You should all be at school right now!” Deputy Chief Bao roared sternly.
Usually, such a roar would have scared any gang leader of the Bell-Tower Street shitless, but all the boys only replied with scornful faces. No one paid any attention to him.
The leader boy obviously had maturity that did not match his age. He kept his eyes wide open and stared back at Bao Longtao without a cringe.
“We have the right for a petition!”
Hearing that word, the female reporter who was still hiding behind Deputy Chief Bao felt a surge of excitement in her heart. Sticking her makeup-covered pretty face out from hiding, she asked in a quivering voice.
The leader boy did not answer the reporter’s question right away, and instead, raised his fist high in the air. Seven or eight slogan banners rose immediately from the group behind him, each painted with large, clear, and striking words.
“Stop Local Protectionism!”
“No More TV Signal Censorship!”
“We Want Federal Channel 23!”
“We Want to Watch Jian Shui-Er!”
Even that youngest boy hastily wiped his dirty face and shouted a few slogans with utmost grief and indignation, but his still high-pitched voice and childish face made him look more likable and laughable than serious.
The female reporter had thought that she just got her hands onto some excellent news material, but when she read the demands on the banners, she was stunned. Turning toward Deputy Chief Bao with a lost look, she asked.
“Who…who…who are these kids?”
Deputy Chief Bao was right on the brink of a rage explosion. Taking his eyes off those silly banners, he cursed with clenched teeth.
“A bunch of bastard orphans!”
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It's better late than never. I am only 10 months behind. In another thought, I just made myself 10-month younger. Hahaha!