QZ Chapter 1
Quality Checker: Kittsune, Rei
First Published on Ainushi.
In the principal’s office located on the second-floor of the Bikong Institute, the principal watched a group of lively students clamoring from his window with his light gray eyes as they walked towards him from far away.
“I once met a visitor from a distant galaxy when I was young,” the principal opened his mouth leisurely. “His eyes were like clear blue crystals, as if they held the entire ocean in them. It was something impossible to forget.”
The corner of his mouth curved up slightly as he recalled those pleasant memories. “I once told him, ‘you must have the most beautiful eyes on your planet’, but guess what he said?”
The other person in the room did not respond, but the principal continued anyway, as if he was not expecting a reply. “He said that back in his hometown, everyone had different colored eyes. Some had jade green, some ruby red, others amber gold… Even though I cannot witness the scene myself, imagining it is quite pleasant.”
As the group of students approached, their faces became increasingly visible. They were all different in appearances and body type, except for their eyes, which had a uniform smoky gray color.
There were so many pretty colors in this world, but they all gathered here and were unified into the most blatant one. All colors on the light spectrum had been partially absorbed and the rest were mixed and reflected back as a cloudy gray, spreading into the entire pupil.
“Compared to theirs, how dull the colors of our planet are,” the principal sighed.
Not far behind him stood the dean, a man much bigger in size. His eyes were dark as ink, as if even light could not escape once it was trapped in. However, a color as deep and insightful as this had also become one of the “dull” colors in the principal’s world.
The dean secretly shifted his eyes from the students to the principal’s face. Even though this man always started sentences with phrases like “when I was young” or “those old memories”, there was not much of a difference between his body and appearance and those of the students in the institute. One would not be able to tell his real age without looking at his eyes.
This was the Tianxiu Planet. There were only three types of eye colors here, which also served as an important indicator of one’s identity. Most of the students in Bikong Institute, regardless of their gender, had smoky-gray eyes, a color unique to juveniles. Only a handful of the students’ eye color had changed, indicating that they had already awakened ー transformed from a Nestling into an Adult ー and soon would no longer belong here.
The people on this planet consisted of neither children nor elders. They were born into the world through an extremely special process. After a long period of hibernation, they woke up with juvenile appearances. They were born with the abilities to survive, thus there was no need for them to learn how to stagger or stutter. They even managed to keep their fundamental memories of survival through their endless reincarnations.
They had neither parents nor siblings. Everyone was born equal, and there was no difference in their social status. In their Nestling stage, all adults shared the responsibility of raising them together, letting them spend the first few years of their life in elementary institutes like Bikong. After their Adult Ceremony, they would enter the second phase of maturation and transform into Adults, then remain in their adult forms until the next hibernation.
These were the Tianxiu people, who had neither real birth nor true death. They had been living on this planet for thousands of years, generation after generation.
“They are tenth-graders, aren’t they?” The principal watched as they passed by. Since it was impossible to tell people’s age from their height and appearance alone, almost all educators had developed some kind of photographic memory.
The dean glanced at them quickly and soon locked onto a few targets. “Yes, most of them are nine or ten years old in Nestling stage, a high-incident phase for awakening.”
“It would be nice if they can pass their awakening phase light-heartedly, like they are now.” The principal knocked on the window a few times with his knuckle. “I don’t want to see another repetition of those past tragedies. For this year’s Health Class, we should send over someone who is gentle enough…”
The group of students who had just passed by now gathered into clusters of twos and threes as they discussed the recent fitness test.
“I heard that there were two students in our grade who scored over 300 in the last fitness test. Is it true?”
“Who else could they be? I’m sure it’s Ling Xiao and Ying Feng. I’ll bet!”
“Which of them do you think had the higher score?”
“I guess it’s Ling Xiao.”
“It must be Ying Feng. Even though Ling Xiao is quite strong, Ying Feng is just slightly better…”
They were having such a lively discussion that they failed to realize that not far behind them walked one of the two people at the center of their conversation.
Ling Xiao pulled a long face. The result of the fitness test was directly sent to everyone’s personal terminal from the server. Even though other students were not aware, the officer had told him implicitly that although his score was good, it was not the best in his grade.
There was only one person who could possibly have a higher score than him in his grade, Ying Feng.
He and Ying Feng awoke within an hour of each other, were both assigned to study in the Bikong Institute at the same time, and stayed as classmates since first grade. It had been ten years. They had almost every premise to be good friends, but because of Ling Xiao’s competitiveness and Ying Feng’s indifference, they were still strangers to each other even today.
Ying Feng could beat Ling Xiao in almost all fields by just a bit, but this “bit” was enough to shackle Ling Xiao to second place forever. The only thing that could save Ling Xiao’s face was the fact that he was two or three centimeters taller than Ying Feng. This had already become the only win he could get between the two of them in ten years.
“Why do you have such a long face?” Lan Sheng, one of his best friends, threw his arm around Ling Xiao’s neck. “Let me guess, did you lose to that guy again?”
Ping Zong, who was walking on the other side, elbowed Lan Sheng. ‘Why is this guy so straightforward?’
“What are you afraid of? Our Little Ling Xiao is the best at turning sorrow into motivation. This small failure is hardly a breeze to him, isn’t it?”
“Of course.” Ling Xiao’s fighting spirit was aroused by him again, “The officer said we were only two points apart. If I just work a little harder, I’ll definitely outclass him.”
Lan Sheng punched him right on the chest. “Absolutely! I have faith in you.”
The three of them returned to the classroom together. When they stepped through the door, Ling Xiao was still quarreling with Lan Sheng: “Also, I’m older than you. Don’t call me Little Ling Xiao.”
“You woke up only half a year before me, not to mention that age doesn’t mean anything in Nestling stage.”
“Why are you so confident that I won’t mature earlier than you?”
The two of them chatted happily, and soon more boys started to joined them, flooding the classroom with their chattering. When Ying Feng appeared at the door, Ling Xiao was the only one who noticed him.
Ying Feng’s seat was located in the last row of the classroom, therefore he had to pass by Ling Xiao’s group on his way. When he was walking by, Ling Xiao, who was initially leaning against the desk, suddenly stood up perfectly straight. He raised his chin and congratulated him with a tone that could hardly be called flattering.
“Congratulations to you.”
Ying Feng didn’t even turn his face. He coldly glanced at Ling Xiao, who was trying to make himself look bulky, from the corner of his eye and passed him without a word. The surrounding students knew by heart how the two of them had never been able to get along with each other, so they just turned a blind eye to what was happening and pretended not to see anything as always.
Seeing how Ying Feng ignored him completely once again, Ling Xiao fumed with rage.
“Sooner or later, I’ll…I’ll…” Ling Xiao came up with the dirtiest parting shot he could ever think of as a Tianxiu Nestling: “I’ll take his heart-tip blood and make him my Qizi, so that he will submit himself to me for his entire life!”
These brave words that Ling Xiao threw out with such confidence were like an atomic bomb dropped inside the classroom, blowing everyone’s mind. In these juveniles’ perception, the Adult Ceremony was merely a vague concept. Although many of them would soon face their own awakening, the relationship between Adults was still a matter of the utmost mystery to them.
Everything they knew about Adults came from those vulgar readings they managed to sneak out from somewhere. In those distasteful descriptions, the Qizi were no different from sex slaves manipulated by the power of their Qizhu and were by no means able to resist. It was obvious how bold and improper Ling Xiao’s words sounded in the ears of a group of unmatured juveniles.
“Haha.” After a long period of silence, someone squeezed out a few awkward laughs. “Ling Xiao, you really have guts to be able to say that.”
Once the deadlock was broken, the group of students immediately seconded it as they resumed their clamoring again. This was similar to how children in puberty sometimes brought up dirty jokes unintentionally, felt embarrassed, yet could not stop probing further.
“Nah, yesterday, I heard that the teacher in the equipment department said…” Lan Sheng suddenly lowered his voice mysteriously. Taking it as a hint, everyone else immediately gathered around him in a circle. “…said that he was done four times in one night, and his legs were still shaking when he got to work.”
“No kidding!” Someone screamed. Someone laughed. “Why would he talk about it?”
“I swear it’s true! I heard him complaining to his Qizhu over the terminal. There was no one in the office at that time. Even I could only eavesdrop on the conversation outside the door.”
It was hard to close that gate to the restricted world once it was open. “What else did he say?”
“Don’t know. That’s all I’ve heard. I was afraid he would see me, so I ran away.”
“Tch’’, everybody sneered at him. It was a great opportunity to peek into the Adult world, yet he had ruined it.
Ling Xiao sneered with disdain, “Four times a night is nothing. Just wait till I become someone’s Qizhu. I’ll do him seven times a night, until he won’t be able to get off the bed for three days.” After he finished, he intentionally gave a certain someone’s seat a glance. Surprisingly, the other person raised his head, and his eyes met Ling Xiao’s for a brief moment.
Some kind of strange wowing bursted out among the boys, filled with cheers such as “amazing” or “good luck”, washing the room like recurring waves. The girls retreated further to the side. They could not wait any longer to draw a line between themselves and those shameless ones.
Yao Tai walked into the classroom just in time to hear every word of Ling Xiao’s arrogant speech, spatting at his words in her mind.
‘These boys don’t know enough to be prudent. Look at them talking so wildly, even though their lower bodies do not yet know how to grow hair. Instead of an education on mental health, that leading Nestling is in more need of a good whipping while tied up. That’s going to teach him a lesson.’
She stepped onto the platform in her high heels. Seeing that the teacher had arrived, the giggling students scattered and returned to their own seats.
Yao Tai was one of the few in the institute whose body shape could make one feel proud of, and her eyes had that deep and insightful black color as well. Many students referred to her as Queen Yao behind her back. Strictly speaking, she should not be counted as one of the teachers in the institute.
Indeed, right after she stepped behind the podium, some students had already raised their hands.
“Dr. Yao, are you substituting today?”
The school’s doctor Yao Tai crossed her arms: “From today on, we will add a Health Class to the curriculum for all tenth graders. I will be your teacher for this class. If you have any related questions, feel free to ask me.”
Health Class? The student’s eyes lit up, but no one dared to ask.
“What’s wrong? No questions? Wasn’t there a lively discussion just now?”
Knowing that they were caught in the act, a few of the boys who had shooed scratched their heads in embarrassment.
Yao Tai didn’t want to go further on this incident with them. She turned around and drew two body outlines on the action-sensor-board. Because of the curves, they could be easily distinguished as a man and a woman.
“I believe everyone already knows that we Tianxiu people are very different from most of the other species in the universe. Our reproduction method can be classified as asexual reproduction, which is very rare. We only have two phases throughout our life: the Nestling stage and the Adult stage, and this is also the reason why we have developed a unique system to account for our age.”
“You,” She randomly pointed at a student in the front row. “How old are you this year?”
“Nine years old in Nestling stage.” The student answered fluently.
“Very good. I am eighty-seven years old in Adult Stage this year. How many years older am I than you?”
“Eh…” The student who was asked could not come up with an answer.
“You should say, ‘I don’t know’.’’ Yao Tai continued, “The span of everyone’s Nestling stage is different. The earliest record of the completion of an Adult Ceremony occurred at four years old in Nestling stage, yet some people are still not awakened even at their eighteenth. These are all extreme cases though.”
“Over eighty percent of Tianxiu people will reach their sexual maturity around the tenth year after they wake up, which means–” She intentionally dragged out the last syllable, glancing at the faces of the students one by one. “For everyone who is sitting here right now, I’m afraid that a majority of you will soon enter your sexual awakening phase.”
At this point, the girls who were shy had already blushed, but Yao Tai continued without any change on her face. “Although we reproduce asexually and there is no need for us to mate in order to reproduce like other species, it doesn’t mean that we have no physical desires. The main reason for our sex is to complete the second phase of maturation, so we can become real Adults.”
What Yao Tai was lecturing was the knowledge that these students wanted to know the most yet were unable to get their hands on normally. Therefore, everyone now concentrated with all of their might, their ears pointing up.
However, as if she wanted to tantalize their curiosity to the greatest extent, she changed her topic abruptly into an introduction of the cultures of other planets.
“Many of our neighboring planets, or even distant galaxies, have very different social structures from ours. The most obvious one is that they have families. People can be born into different families ー Someone born into a wealthy family can be overwhelmed with luxury while someone born into the slums suffers their life without a penny. They are born with gaps in status and wealth and are treated with utmost inequality.”
“Their lives were born unequal from the very beginning and were differentiated into superior versus inferior, born of wife versus born of concubine, high status versus low status, noble versus peasant. Even if a person can change his fate through nurtural efforts, the difference between their starting points can be as huge as heaven and earth. I’m afraid that the only thing that can be said to be equal between them is the fact that no one is able to choose their background.”
What Yao Tai said opened a door to the recognition of a new world. This was the first time the students were told that some people were forcibly divided into different social classes right after they woke up ー Actually it was birth, but they did not understand the concept of birth. Their views were broadened, yet at the same time they felt extremely lucky.
Yao Tai knew exactly what was in their minds at the moment, and she pointed out directly,
“In contrast, our Tianxiu people are born equal. After waking up, we have equal material compensation, share the same public health and education system, and own the same political rights. No other galaxy can compare with us. We are unique and peerless in this universe.”
At this point, some students even straightened their backs proudly.
“However,” Yao Tai immediately crushed the pride they just built up. “If this makes you believe that we are a nation founded upon equality and human rights, then you could not possibly be more wrong.”
“In order to prevent laziness, which tends to derive from this kind of natural equality, we are much more strict and demanding towards nurtural efforts. In fact, Tianxiu people have the cruelest social hierarchy in the entire universe. That is—“
Her hand slapped on the whiteboard, “The Dom-Sub relationship between spouses!”
The Tianxiu Adults were divided into Qizhu (契主) and Qizi(契子). Qi(契) means contract in Chinese. Qizhu literally means the owner/master of the contract, while Qizi means the one bonded to the contract. I cannot find a pair of English words that are both suitable in meaning and sounded good, so I decided to use leave them in Chinese instead.
PS: Qizi (契子) sounds almost the same as 妻子(Qizi), which means wife in Chinese, except the tones were slightly different. XD