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Intergalactic Aristocracy

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Beneath the vast expanse of a cosmic era, where trade conflicts, interstellar warfare, and cutthroat competition for resources unfold, a tapestry of noble clashes intensifies with each passing moment. This is the best of times, a period that grants people the liberty to harbor dreams. Yet, paradoxically, it is also the worst of times, as aspirations are buried one after another by the relentless march of progress. In the heart of the sprawling slums, a youth named Lin Hai emerges. With an insouciant demeanor that belies his tumultuous surroundings, he becomes a razor-sharp blade, unapologetically piercing through the fabric of this age. In the recesses of every man's heart lie dreams of the stars and the vastness of the oceans. Consequently, in this world, heroes must rise. Lin Hai, a seemingly carefree lad from the impoverished districts, embarks on a journey that will alter the course of the stars. His irreverent spirit serves as a beacon in a universe entangled in the webs of power, greed, and aristocratic strife. As the narrative unfolds, the reader is drawn into a captivating exploration of a society teetering on the brink of both utopia and dystopia. Lin Hai's audacious exploits echo the collective desire for something greater, something more profound than the shackles of societal constraints. In the backdrop of stellar conflicts and noble duels, the narrative paints a vivid tapestry of a world oscillating between hope and despair. Lin Hai's journey becomes a testament to the indomitable human spirit, a tale of dreams defiantly pursued in the face of a daunting reality. In a universe where every heartbeat echoes with the longing for the celestial and the boundless, heroes are born. Lin Hai stands at the forefront, an embodiment of the undying quest for freedom, justice, and the realization of dreams beneath the grandeur of an epoch that beckons for its champions. As the cosmos unfurls its secrets, the saga of Lin Hai becomes a celestial symphony, resonating with the dreams etched into the heart of every soul in this remarkable era.

Chapter 1

**Volume One: B*st*rd of the Slums**

**Prologue: Crimson Nine**

In the stellar year 2013, the twelfth satellite of the Riverside Stars, known as Sea Zone Twelve, lay as a forsaken celestial body, a garbage-laden star within the renowned slums. Contrary to the refined impressions held by the aristocracy in the capital, it was a synonym for filth and decay.

This desolate realm, distinguished by its notorious atmospheric turbulence due to temperature differentials, was vividly depicted in the chapters of the "National Geographic of the Great Eagle Empire." Picture, if you will, the relentless onslaught of electronic debris and sandstone under the influence of a formidable cyclone—a scene reminiscent of Caesar's conquests, sweeping across the lands of ancient Earth with an imperial grandeur, a spectacle of devastating proportions that commanded reverence.

In this harsh environment, seemingly inhospitable to any form of life, humanity exhibited its peculiar ingenuity, creating tools that defied the constraints of the formidable forces of nature.

Amidst the swirling black canvases covering Sea Zone Twelve, twelve intermittent crimson lights flickered ominously. These sources of pulsating red amidst the storm were none other than twelve colossal entities—the pinnacle of contemporary human technological prowess—the Mobile Armors!

These towering machines, with broad shoulders and slender frames, pushed forward against the tempest. The crimson glow from their rear-mounted thrusters indicated maximum propulsion, yet in the face of near-apocalyptic natural disasters, these Mobile Armors appeared minuscule and fragile.

Suddenly, an alarm echoed through the ranks, disrupting the already precarious formation. The once-sturdy array of machines rapidly dispersed, each Mobile Armor urgently maneuvering within the storm. The source of their disquiet lay not far from the impending disaster—a dilapidated mining facility emerged within the tempest.

However, this was no refuge for weary travelers amid the storm, but an ominous sign heralding the onset of the dreaded "Metal Tide Burst."

The mining facility was on the move.

What was once an immobile behemoth within the storm, now floated as if a colossal steel leviathan, dragging its colossal and grotesque form through the tempest.

"Warning!" "Warning!" "Unidentified object approaching warning!"

"Unit 1, evade! Evade! Beep... Buzz..."

"Unit 3! Unit 3!"

"Danger, collision warning! Repeat, danger, collision warning! Beep..."

...

On the horizon, the suspended mining facility, akin to a steel behemoth, spewed forth countless metallic objects into the storm.

Beams, lathes, twisted and distorted steel frames that once comprised unrecognizable office chairs, cranes, discarded fuel canisters—this profusion of items danced in the vast storm, converging upon the twelve Mobile Armors like a tidal wave, greeting these voyagers akin to the deluge of debris in a torrential mudslide.

Such was the nature of despair.

...

The following day, major imperial media outlets, including the Great Eagle Empire National Television, Riverside Star Region Television, and East华 News, concurrently broadcasted a news report that shocked the populace:

"...Military spokespersons report that dozens of the Empire's 333rd Squadron's tenth-generation Mobile Armors, known as 'Sky Cavalry,' encountered a pressure storm during routine exercises on Sea Zone Twelve. The Mobile Armors' whereabouts are currently unknown, and the fate of the personnel onboard remains uncertain. The Imperial military is actively engaged in search and rescue efforts..."

This incident ignited public demonstrations, with some protesting against the empire's military and technological extravagance, while others mourned the perceived loss of these valiant machine pilots. Internationally, the incident garnered attention beyond the confines of the empire, leading to speculation and commentary.

Nevertheless, the focus was not on the imperial military's words but on that enigmatic term—the 333rd Squadron.

It was common knowledge that the so-called 333rd Squadron was, in reality, the guard contingent belonging to the Norman House. The history of the Norman family traced back to the founding of the empire, having produced three sovereigns and five prime ministers. They stood as one of the four major houses, a family of dukes with a legendary and illustrious lineage.

No one questioned the elevated status of the Norman family within the imperial aristocracy. Consequently, this seemingly routine accident involving the Mobile Armors became a national news sensation, evoking a mixture of anxiety among well-wishers, schadenfreude among rivals, and speculative curiosity from the enigmatic few watching from a distance.

Regardless, this unforeseen incident provided a myriad of elements for the soap opera of the day, a narrative that, despite its conclusion within a month, continued to echo within the imperial echelons.

A month later, information extracted from the wreckage of the fallen Mobile Armors, stored within a black box, landed on the desks of the Imperial Cabinet and the investigative team.

In the grand office hall, several military officials in their mid-fifties occupied the room. Their uniform shoulder badges adorned with uniform golden stars, coupled with the myriad medals embellishing their chests, emitted an aura of weighty authority. However, the most captivating figure in the hall wasn't one of these venerable military figures; it was a woman with a black mole adorning the corner of her lips.

Draped in a flawless black ensemble, devoid of a single crease, she exuded an air of regal sophistication that seemed inadequate to encapsulate the mystery and nobility emanating from her. If forced to describe, the elusive and noble air she carried could perhaps be likened to a mysterious flower from ancient Earth known as the violet.

She was the current Duchess of Norman and the Grand Lady of the Empire, bearing the surname Su. Throughout the Great Eagle Empire, meeting the Duchess was a privilege granted to fewer than a hundred individuals. Creating a list of these select few would likely reveal names frequently gracing the pages of the empire's mainstream media and magazines, becoming familiar faces to the public. However, for more than half of them, the general populace remained oblivious to their names, identities, and occupations.

Yet, in a society where traditional forces dwindled with humanity's expansion into the cosmos, and power and assets were consolidated by rising entities, this elite few, wielding influence over various facets of societal life, could impact the lives of thousands with a mere thought.

They were referred to as "nobles." However, this was not in the traditional sense of nobility. Instead, it encompassed those at the apex of the entire human societal hierarchy, forming the small triangular echelon above the pyramid. In modern human society, they were the collective term for those wielding power.

The hall darkened, and the projector played information from the wreckage in front of the screen. Silence fell upon the audience. The scenes unfolding on the screen shook everyone present to the core.

In the recorded footage, the mining field resembled a colossal steel beast dragging itself across the surface amidst a raging storm, its menacing "body" continuously releasing a dense swarm of metallic frenzy towards the formation of mechs.

It was a spectacle of death, with a mech being instantly pierced through its cockpit by a basketball court-length girder, splitting it in half along with the pilot, reduced to a pile of debris.

Other mechs pierced through the metallic rain, impaled by iron javelins, taking a few determined steps forward before collapsing, engulfed by the storm, becoming a splash in the composition of the tempest.

There were mechs firing cannons into the metal onslaught, only to be dismembered by the relentless metallic frenzy.

As if an invisible reaper was entwined within the metallic storm, harvesting the advanced mechs of the empire, reaping the lives of these mech pilots, whether young or weathered by time.

Most unbearable to witness was a mech about to evade the approaching metallic frenzy, intending to take cover in a pit provided by the heavens. Unexpectedly, a crane swung by the storm swept in from the side, instantly hurling the mech into the storm, as if devoured by a giant beast.

Seeing this, almost everyone in the hall could hardly bear to watch. Although human society had developed to its current level, no one dared to confidently assert "man conquers all" under the harsh conditions of nature.

Yet, the onlookers strained their eyes to continue watching. The recorder's footage jumped again, captivating everyone's attention as they awaited the appearance of a particular mech.

It was a mech with the designation "9." Unlike the other mechs, the number "9" on its coating was red.

It stood out, and precisely because of its distinctiveness, everyone in the room wished they could clutch their hearts in their hands at this moment.

This mech, designated as 9, was currently utilizing its back thrusters to the fullest, attempting to move carefully and precariously along the ground.

The significant air resistance and thrust from the thrusters clearly surpassed those of other mechs, allowing this particular mech to move close to the ground, avoiding the most disastrous metal chaos in mid-air.

However, this had visibly depleted all the mech's strength, akin to a wealthy young lady cautiously lifting her gown while walking on a muddy rural road. Perhaps this young lady had strained so much to maintain this both elegant and terrible state that she wrinkled her forehead, preventing herself from becoming filthy.

The people in the hall watched the projection, clearly not having the leisure to appreciate this ballet on the edge of a knife. The Duchess, who had maintained a stern expression, finally showed signs of emotion, her fingers gripping tightly, sinking into the flesh of her palm.

The old monsters present, their palms slightly sweaty, and even their breathing becoming heavy.

No one knew who broke the silence with an exclamation. On the recorder's screen, the misfortune of that mech finally arrived. The main body of the mining field, like a dinosaur, moved toward the red 9 mech. It was like a dinosaur about to step on a person with only a toe's height!

People dared not even breathe.

The footage shook violently, and the mech piloting the recorder, obviously highly skilled, rushed toward the 9 mech at the critical moment, seemingly wanting to rescue it. However, it was akin to a mud statue crossing a river; at the moment when the red 9 mech was about to be crushed by the mining field, a sudden black shadow emerged seemingly out of nowhere.

Before anyone could see who or what the black shadow was, it, like a bandit robbing a flower girl, lifted the red 9 mech on its shoulder, smashed its thrusters with a reverse swing, and then rushed forward, facing the floating debris of the mining field.

"Seeking death!"

"A madman!"

Someone in the room gasped. Under the severe shaking of the recorder, the identity of the black shadow, which seemed to have "kidnapped" the red 9 mech, became vaguely visible.

Everyone present swore they had never seen such an "ugly" mech! Its main body was an irregular sphere, resembling a refurbished single-person landing pod, covered with marks, patches, and repairs. The mech's arms were hideous, exposing hydraulic drive structures, with even the crankshafts clearly visible. Even the two legs looked like a hodgepodge.

Compared to the empire's red 9 mech it carried, which seemed like a well-dressed and perfectly proportioned aristocrat, this scrap mech couldn't be described as anything less than a disabled person!

However, the subsequent scenes left everyone dumbfounded.

Despite their eyes finding this mech, which they perceived as blasphemous to mech fluid aesthetics, and externally ugly, the fact remained that it owed its success to its understanding of the terrain! When it needed to lie down, it did so decisively; when it encountered cover, the mech always found the most opportune moment to exploit the gaps. Its familiarity with the terrain and mastery of timing allowed it to survive in the storm with another mech for such an extended period.

Every time it couldn't avoid the chaotic metal flow, this mech could always, at the most critical moments, evade the most lethal harm.

Until the recorder was interrupted. The final image showed the mech carrying the recorder suffering heavy damage, crashing to the ground, and then the ragged and ugly mech, with the red 9 still in tow, traversing through the debris. Although it had lost limbs and was clearly in a dilapidated state, it was still running at an astonishing speed, leaving everyone else in its dust. A trail of dust and debris marked its departure.

The illumination revived, bringing with it a renewed sense of vitality. The room, which had remained silent for an extended period, finally stirred.

The Duchess took a deep breath, suppressing the lingering emotions that had been unmanageable since moments ago. Surveying the individuals present, she inquired, "What are your impressions?"

"Fortune smiling... how splendid!" exclaimed an elderly figure adorned with a display of distinguished medals on his chest. After a thoughtful pause, he continued, "I have no intention of passing judgment on this individual's mech proficiency. Some of the techniques employed appear somewhat crude to my seasoned eyes, and certain errors might even be deemed amateurish by academy novices. However, I must acknowledge the rarity of achieving such feats with a mech that, despite its impressive functionality, exhibits a structural peculiarity inconsistent with fluid dynamics. Yet, the adept navigation through the storm, apart from the mastery of terrain displayed, bears witness to a unique prowess. There's something extraordinary, a touch of divine favor, if you will."

"Had it not been for the superfluous assemblies on that unsightly contraption and the skewed cockpit, the mech would have long been consigned to the scrapyard, and its pilot would have met an untimely end," remarked another speaker with a composed yet slightly mocking tone. "This is pure farce. I oppose investing resources to investigate the origin and whereabouts of this person! While gratitude is owed to whoever rescued the Red-9 mech, it requires the willing cooperation of the rescuer. If this individual vanishes into thin air, it implies a forfeiture of the bounty!"

The assembly erupted in commotion. Rather than shock at the video, the prevailing sentiment was more of marveling at the mech's struggle for survival, akin to a wretched toad desperately clinging to life in a muddy pond.

Unbeknownst to the pilot of the dilapidated mech, his actions had piqued the interest of these dignitaries, signifying a potential turning point in the fate of ambitious officials climbing the ladder, corporate magnates eyeing boundless influence and wealth, and an ordinary individual steering a broken mech toward an opportunity that their ancestors might never have touched—a chance at a life never to return to tranquility.

Of course, all this ephemeral promise hung in the balance due to the lack of information about the mysterious pilot.

"Regardless of whether this person possesses exceptional qualities or not, one irrefutable fact remains unchanged from the recorder's data. Throughout the process of evading the storm, there was a profound familiarity with the local terrain of Sea Zone 12, evident in adeptly utilizing topography to evade tidal surges. This is beyond the capability of a newcomer mech pilot. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume he is a local of that forsaken star," concluded an intelligence officer, placing the final verdict on the table. "However, despite a month of investigation, we have failed to locate the wreckage of the mech, nor any trace of the pilot inside."

The Duchess nodded, rising from her seat. Her security advisor immediately accompanied her. With the dust settling, all she sought were results.

Upon reaching the door, she gracefully bowed to the individuals in the room. "I appreciate your efforts in the ongoing investigation and the events of the past month."

The audience stood, watching as the Grand Duchess exited. Subsequently, the attendees dispersed, leaving only one stern-faced middle-aged man in military uniform, still seated in contemplation, with the recorded image frozen on the display.

Several people remained in the room, not departing, as they observed the thoughtful demeanor of the middle-aged man. His imposing "Golden Leaf Violet" Imperial Combat Hero Medal adorning his lapel commanded awe—only five individuals in the entire empire held such an honor. Thus, his silence carried an extraordinary weight.

The middle-aged man interlaced his fingers, his features concealed beneath the prominent ridge of his hooked nose. After a prolonged silence, in the now nearly empty room, his resonant and strangely captivating voice spoke.

"This is not a coincidence."

The lingering individuals exchanged glances, understanding that if everything recorded on the screen was not a coincidence, then what did it signify? What astonishing conclusion did it herald?

"Find him!"

The directive from Imperial Combat Hero Tian Yinche would never find its way into official meeting records.

However, shortly after issuing this command, a fleet of the finest personnel, comprising an Imperial reconnaissance squadron equipped with advanced Peregrine-class space reconnaissance craft, soared into the vast expanse of the glittering galactic stars. Their fiery trails painted a captivating picture as they set forth toward the gray celestial body—a celestial body known as the Junk Star.

...

Capital of the Great Eagle Empire.

Ducal Palace.

The modern-retro architecture faced a meticulously manicured lawn, stretching beneath the azure sky of the Imperial capital.

On the third floor, before a French window, stood a young woman.

She wore a simple, form-fitting V-neck loungewear that accentuated her flawless skin, radiating an ethereal beauty that stirred envy even among those in the empire who deemed her the reigning goddess of television. No matter the aspect—her figure or her countenance—gazing upon her invoked a twinge of jealousy.

A knocking sound at the door.

The butler of the Ducal Palace entered in a well-tailored suit.

Upon seeing the young woman standing beside the vast window, her gaze profound, the butler couldn't help but sigh from the depths of his heart. Regardless of how optimistic and cheerful she usually was, witnessing such a terrifying scene must have cast a shadow over her spirit. Perhaps, for a time, even the most optimistic souls would succumb to a period of despondency.

"Miss Nolan, your Red-9 mech has been sent to Nan Corp for repairs. According to the severity of the damage, they estimate a minimum of three months for complete restoration. This mech saved your life. Even if it becomes inoperable in the future, it can be preserved in the estate warehouse as a permanent keepsake and commemoration..."

"...I understand," the young woman nodded gently, her voice akin to the flow of tranquil water.

The butler hesitated, then proceeded to say, "...Although I'm unsure whether it's appropriate, I feel compelled to express that everyone experiences terrifying events. However, those frightening occurrences should ultimately transform into sources of growth, not shadows. I hope you overcome these shadows swiftly, as it is merely a stage of growth."

The young woman looked out at the sunny sky beyond the window, her beautiful face reflecting in the glass. "They're all dead."

The butler fell silent.

"We share the same mechs. But we are not the same. How many generations advanced is my Red-9? Thirteen or fourteen? If the mech I piloted was of the same model and performance as theirs, perhaps, now, I would be dead as well."

The butler realized he couldn't meet her gaze and lowered his head. "It's not the same. We must prioritize your safety. At all times."

"Because of my status?"

"Due to my elevated status, I was born into everything—protections and resources beyond comparison to others. So, under identical circumstances, they all died, while I still live. Does that mean my life is nobler than theirs?"

The butler shook his head. "The deaths of those pilots do not imply that your life is nobler. We did not abandon them, and it's not

your fault. It was a consequence of the disaster. They perished due to the calamity, and your survival was because someone intervened to save you. Otherwise, irrespective of the mech's advancement, the crash probability would have been exceptionally high. Please, don't entertain unwarranted thoughts. In the eyes of your family and even in our view, your life is indeed more precious than anyone else's."

"...Over the past month, despite the investigations, we have not located any traces of the mech or its pilot. Today, representatives from the Intelligence Department are here. Aware that you are unwilling to meet them, they entrusted me to inquire if you recall any additional clues—such as the gender, age, appearance, or any distinctive features of the pilot at that time. Otherwise, our investigators will lose this lead."

The butler clearly observed a hint of renewed interest in her eyes when he concluded his statement.

"What do you mean by not finding any traces?" she asked.

"It means he and his mech, in that Junk Star, vanished as if they had never existed, leaving no trace behind."

"For the past month, apart from discovering some faint clues from that night, we have had no further leads."

The woman fell into sudden silence.

The butler sensed a trace of disappointment in her, and he nodded slightly, taking his leave.

As the door closed, she gazed at the sunny sky outside the Ducal Palace, her reflection visible in the glass. It was as if she could see through the window, witnessing the journey of that ragged mech through the storm, a journey defying all odds.

Under the star-studded night sky, the broken mech, emitting sparks, stood beside her equally damaged machine. Despite its battered appearance, it had just bravely guided her through the storm—through the impossible.

Yet, she couldn't shake the deep wariness that gripped her. Understanding her own identity and realizing that the unfamiliar mech was not of imperial origin, she suspected that its seemingly agile movements and its intentionally disheveled exterior might be an elaborate ruse. What was the purpose behind seizing her from the storm, and what did the unimpressive mech aim to achieve?

She did not believe that a mech of this kind happened to be in the vicinity just to play the role of a selfless savior. Thus, as she sat in the cockpit, she tightly clenched her teeth, her graceful figure pressed against the snug seat, hands crossed to protect her ample, alluring chest beneath the form-fitting attire.

The dilapidated mech stirred again, this time without resorting to any untoward actions. Just like when it arrived, it gracefully walked into the boundless night.

The silhouette revealed as the mech departed under the cover of darkness, reflected in her deep brown eyes, appeared like a sculpture.

Over the past month, she often found herself lost in contemplation, tossing and turning in troubled sleep.

Chapter 2

In the span of a mere month, denizens of the Imperial Riverside Star Sector heard the name "Sea Zone 12" for the second time. For this remote, almost forgotten celestial refuse within the imperial borders, it was as rare as witnessing the simultaneous descent of two meteorites into a crater.

The first occasion, of course, transpired a month prior—the sensational Sea Zone 12 incident, where twelve mechs of the Imperial Norman Family plummeted, with only one purported survivor. And just as the repercussions of this event were yet to settle, another occurrence burst into the public eye with lightning speed: Lord Lin Wei, the helm of the Wayne Industrial Group of the Riverside Star, brought back his illegitimate child abandoned on the junk planet Sea Zone 12.

While the former news might have prompted lamentations, the latter, akin to a plague, swiftly spread through the upper echelons of Riverside Star society.

Ticks were the bane of Rive

Heroes

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