QZ Chapter 3

Translator: MoMoePom

Editor: LadyBlue

Quality Checker: MochiMochi95

First Published on Ainushi.

 

 

 

Chapter 3

Yao Tai’s words set off a romantic fever throughout the Bikong Institute. Every single Nestling about to enter the awakening phase was actively looking for their future spouse; couples could be seen everywhere around the campus.

‘Tis the season of love, the most beautiful time of the year on Tianxiu Planet. Seeing the Nestlings who just had their first awakenings of love, shyly cuddling with each other, even the Adults working in the Institute were inevitably brought back to the old memories of their youth.”

Yet, not every piece of memory was as beautiful. The principal’s was actually one of the not-so-beautiful ones.

“Every year around this time, your psychological condition makes people worry.” Yao Tai anxiously stared at the report in her hands. That was the result she got from forcing the principal onto the physical examination table when he came to the healthcare room to pick up prescriptions.

The principal felt quite helpless as he pulled off the wire on his temple. “I’m just coming to pick up my medication from you. Those examination results can be predicted anyway, so why bother with the examinations when they won’t change anything?”

“I’m the school’s doctor. It is my obligation to find out the psychological condition of everyone in this institute.” Yao Tai asserted, not backing away at all despite the other person being the school’s principal. “Your current psychological evaluation has already reached the danger zone…”

“And it has been in the danger zone for over a hundred years now, with suicidal tendencies in practically every second.” The principal stopped everything Yao Tai was about to say with just one sentence. “But I’ve been doing pretty well till now and have never thought about giving up, even till this day.”

“You…”

The principal smiled bitterly, “Since science fails to cure me, then at least give me some medicine to alleviate it.”

For a while, Yao Tai was exasperated, but she surrendered in the end. Signing, she took out the drugs the principal often used from the medicine cabinet — most of them were tranquilizers to alleviate dyssomnia. He had taken away countless bottles of these drugs from her over the past thirty years. This man, who had a highly dangerous psychological evaluation, surpassed everyone’s expectation and lived for over an hundred years, but only Yao Tai knew what had kept him struggling to survive.

“Your dosage seems to have decreased recently?” Yao Tai happily discovered as she was making a comparison with the past record.

“Yeah. That’s because I need less sleep now.” The principal informed her honestly.

It immediately extinguished the little spark of happiness in her. Yao Tai pulled a long face as she pushed several large bottles of medicine towards him. “Only take them when it’s absolutely necessary. You know what tremendous damage these medicines inflict on people’s mental state.”

Despite her warning, the principal looked quite relaxed. “Of course. I’m trying hard enough to control the amount already.”

“Your psychological report is very dangerous. I’m still obligated to inform the Disease Control Center.”

“Sure, but don’t forget to tell them that I’m also showing great self-control.” The principal smiled, though the smile appeared slightly bitter. “Disease Control Center… I don’t ever want to go back to that kind of place again in my life.”

Yao Tai sat down to input the details of today’s examination result, and the dosage of medicine prescribed into the principal’s medical record, while the principal picked up a tablet on her desk to pass the time.

“Those are tenth graders’ student profiles.” Yao Tai said without lifting her  head. “It’s only part of it. I filtered them out. Those are the ones that need special monitoring this year.”

The principal touched and swiped on the screen with his fingers, until he stopped in front of one of the profiles. Looking at the photo on it, he was slightly stunned.

“His name is Ying Feng. He requires the highest priority among all that need close attention this year.” Yao Tai was already standing next to the principal without him noticing, so she also saw the file he was looking at. “One could see just by the look in his eyes that he won’t submit to anyone. If he ends up becoming a Qizi, the consequences would be disastrous.”

The principal switched to the next page without saying a word. The boy on the picture was smiling at the camera, brimming with such youthfulness that even the static 2D image could not conceal his confident and aggressive personality.

“That’s Ling Xiao. He’s not someone who is easy to deal with either. There is too much bravado and competitiveness in his character, and this kind of person also has a hard time accepting defeat. Luckily, both he and Ying Feng are strong. They are the top ones in their class, and it’s hard for a regular student to win against them in Adult Ceremony. Unless…”

Yao Tai did not continue, and the principal did not question further. He put the tablet back in its place. “It’s hard work again for you this year.”

Yao Tai shook her head. She wanted to say that she didn’t think of it as hard work, but she soon thought of something else. “For the next Health Class, I want to bring the students to visit the Base.”

“Oh?” The principal was surprised. “Why?”

“I think the students need to know how they came to this world. It would be very beneficial in terms of raising their self-concept.”

The principal pondered for a moment. “It’s a very good suggestion. I know you have connections in the Base, so I’ll leave you in charge of all the arrangements.”

Yao Tai nodded and agreed.

***

“Hey! Have you heard about it? There are rumors outside that in the next Health Class, the Institute will set up a trip for us to visit the…Base…”

Rashly charging into the other’s dorm without knocking, Ling Xiao became stiffer and stiffer as he talked, that in the end, he almost had to rely on inertia to finish the sentence.

Within his view, his best friend no.1, Lan Sheng, and his best friend no.2, Ping Zong, were sitting on the edge of the bed, hugging each other closely and K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

“Sorry.” Ling Xiao was so shocked that his feet rooted themselves to the ground. He dumbly spit out a word before he took a step back and closed the door in front of him. After a period of blankness, his brain finally started to process this complicated data segment.

“Shit!” After recovering from the shock, Ling Xiao kicked the door open for the second time. “What’s going on?!”

The two people within his line of sight had already parted. Lan Sheng was simply sitting where he was, while Ping Zong blushed and slightly turned his head away to avoid Ling Xiao’s eyes.

“Exactly what you just saw.”Lan Sheng openly flung his arm around the shoulder of the person next to him.  “We’re in a relationship.”

“Y-you…” Ling Xiao felt like a lightning bolt had struck him. “When did it start?”

To his surprise, Lan Sheng actually started counting with his fingers. “Hmm, let me think. One, two, three… About three years ago.”

Three years ago…

Ling Xiao went to the corner himself to draw circles, mushrooms were sprouting on his head. Lan Sheng glanced at him disdainfully, but Ping Zong thought he looked funny this way. He didn’t care that he was still feeling embarrassed himself and went to pull Ling Xiao up.

“Stop bothering me. I feel so sad now. How do you want me to accept the fact that my ‘gay friends’ [1] for the past many years suddenly became real ‘gay friends’ and even kept me in the dark for a total of three years!? I was made into a ‘third wheel’ for three years without even knowing about it. Were you even concerned with how I would feel…”

Ling Xiao went on muttering, while Lan Sheng was picking his ears with his little finger. “The reason that Ping Zong kept stopping me from telling you was precisely because he was always concerned with your feelings. He was afraid that we would break your glass heart.”

“That’s enough.” Ping Zong complained to him. “Don’t upset him anymore. He’s already like this.”

He simply dragged Ling Xiao up from the floor with force. “It’s mainly my fault. I found it embarrassing to tell you about it and was afraid that you would feel awkward in front of us, that’s why I asked Lan Sheng not to bring it up.”

Even if he said so, Ling Xiao’s head was still hanging. He still couldn’t feel happy about it.

“Look. We knew exactly that you would end up having this damn look. How could we dare to tell you about it?” Lan Sheng commented sarcastically.

“I wouldn’t be like this if you had just told me earlier!” Ling Xiao rebuked.

“Who’s gonna buy that?”

“You’re not a friend in need!”

“You’re just too obtuse!”

“You sacrifice friends for beauty!”

“You big turtle!”

Hearing that the two of them starting to bicker again with high spirits, Ping Zong secretly heaved a sigh of relief. This was exactly how Ling Xiao should normally look like.

“That’s enough.” Ling Xiao gave his own face a few hard pats with both hands as if he was trying to wake himself up from a dream. “Even though it won’t be easy for me to accept it immediately at the moment… What’s your plan afterwards?”

As if he had suddenly become a different person, Lan Sheng, who was normally all smiles, actually said sternly, “You too heard what Dr. Yao said. Ping Zong and I have already decided that we will hold our Adult Ceremony once we enter the awakening phase and then officially bond as partners.”

He spoke with an attitude that was both serious and solemn; at the moment he almost seemed too mature to be a Nestling.

Ping Zong quietly clasped his hand, their fingers tightly crossed. All of their actions were noted by Ling Xiao.

“Then I have to congratulate you in advance…” Ling Xiao seemed a bit lonely. “But who’s going to be the Qizhu between the two of you?”

Lan Sheng’s hand which was holding the other’s tightened. “That’ll be decided through sheer ability.”

Ping Zong gave a faint smile, but he didn’t state his position.

“Aren’t you two going to graduate after you complete the Adult Ceremony? I’ll be left alone by myself…”

“Speaking of that,” Ping Zong said with deep concern, “Ling Xiao, you should start thinking about finding a partner yourself too. A lot of people in the class have already confirmed their relationships with each other ever since Dr. Yao’s mobilization speech. There’s fewer and fewer single ones now.”

“I know.” Ling Xiao scratched his head in distress. “But it’s not like I can easily find someone just by saying so. At least I need to find someone I like first, right?”

“What about Ying Feng? Didn’t you say last time that you want to make him your Qizi?” Lan Sheng suddenly interrupted.

“Are you kidding?” Ping Zong elbowed him. “Those were just Ling Xiao’s angry words.”

“Is that so? I thought you were interested in him.” Lan Sheng gave a shrug. “Zhu Yue has been quite active recently running after Ying Feng. It’s almost like he’s afraid that other people don’t know about it.”

“Zhu Yue?” Ling Xiao went blank for a moment from surprise. “The one who can’t fight at all?”

“Right. I’m seriously doubting how could there be a weirdo as weak as him among us Tianxiu People. He brings shame to our entire race by simply existing. With his strength, he’s destined to become someone’s Qizi.”

“There’s nothing bad about becoming Ying Feng’s Qizi. He’s so strong. I would say that even among students of all grades, there are only few people who can win against him in the Adult Ceremony,” said Ping Zong.

“I won’t be so sure. Maybe the senior students will make him their target. Don’t forget that Dr. Yao once said, a Qizhu will gain the ability of their Qizi as an addition to his own. This alone is enough to make some daredevils itch to take actions.”

Ling Xiao caught every single word of their discussion. An emotion called “agitation” began to bubble up in the pit of his stomach. He wished that he hadn’t heard any of it, but he had, and there was no way he could make himself not care.

“By the way,” Lan Sheng finally remembered, “What were you saying when you came in? A trip to the Base? Is it true?”

***

In the next couple days, “Base” became the hottest word which was talked about the most among the tenth graders. For these Nestlings, the Base was both familiar and mysterious. It was where they had woken up and where they would go back to sleep. The first thing that every Tianxiu People saw after they opened their eyes for the first time in their life was the cover of the energy capsule in Base.

However, after a brief physical examination and registration, these newly awoken ones would soon be randomly assigned to various elementary institutes and start their brand new life there. The Base was a mere flash in their memories.

Every single tenth graders was inspired by the news that they were able to return to the Base for a trip. All of them were looking forward to the arrival of the next Health Class fervently.

Ling Xiao inputted the command into his terminal and logged in to the Sky-era Net.

The Sky-era Net was the public network on the Tianxiu Planet. Its original designer proposed the feasibility of a three-dimensional network, and he successfully constructed the first 3D virtual community, setting up the prototype for a virtual reality network. And that was five hundred years ago.

Unfortunately, he passed away at an early age before his initial grand prospect could be successfully constructed. Several decades later, new successors carried on his will, and continued to perfect the 3D network. They even succeeded in making it universal.

The third successor created a miracle in the history of networks. He developed a inter-dimensional transmission device that allowed real objects to transform back and forth between real and virtual worlds, opening the glorious era for 3D networks.

Nowadays, centered at the initial community, the Sky-era network had already extended into an endless territory. All professions were able to find their place within it, making it a bustling space parallel to the real world. It completely fulfilled the dream when it was first named——Sky-era Network, the new era of Tianxiu Planet [2].

The Nestling status of Ling Xiao meant that the scope of Sky-era Network, where he could move around, was restricted by the Network content rating system. He was not allowed to enter more than 80% of the adult-only restricted area. Luckily, the special areas that allowed the Nestlings to enter and exit were flourishing and well-developed, and alone could satisfy all of the minors’ needs.

Apart from a personal terminal, every Tianxiu person was also given a real-name ID after waking up. This card could be used in many ways, and one of them was to function as a debit card.

Every month, a certain amount of living expenses that was enough to cover all their expenses for the month was put into to each Nestling’s card. After they completed their Adult Ceremony and entered the advanced education institutions, the amount given would even increase, until they graduated, found a job and started earning their own income. By that time, they would need to pay an education tax. Like how their forbearers supported them, they would have to nurture Tianxiu’s next generation.

Ling Xiao swept his card and bought some daily supplies at the supermarket. After he finished buying what he needed, he started idling around the commodity street until a store named “Selling Anything” drew his attention.

“What do you sell here?” He walked into the store, but there was no merchandise inside apart from a Nestling.

The Nestling pointed at the sign above his head with a smile. “Anything.”

Ling Xiao looked him up and down with disbelief. “Are you a student doing part-time job here?”

“No. I’m the owner of the shop.”

“Owner?” Ling Xiao was shocked. “But you look just like me, a Nestling who hasn’t matured yet.”

“It’s true that I’m a Nestling. It’s just that I’ve been a Nestling for twenty-two years already.”

Just as Ling Xiao was unable to close his mouth due to the shock, someone else walked into the store.

“Dear student, what do you need?” Seeing that a new customer had dropped in, the owner greeted him passionately.

Ying Feng spotted someone he didn’t want to see the moment he walked into the store. Just as he was about to leave, Ling Xiao also saw him because of the shopkeeper’s greetings.

“What’re you doing in here?” He asked, his tone unfriendly.

Perhaps because it was on the Internet, Ying Feng was not as cold and indifferent as he usually was. He even replied with a question, “Why can’t I be here?”

“Anyone who comes in is a guest, so of course everyone is welcome.” The owner welcomed Ying Feng inside with a smile. “Order whatever you want.”

“But you have nothing in here.” Ling Xiao said to the owner.

“As long as it’s something you can put in words, I have the confidence to get it for you.”

“For example?”

“For example, the newest gaming terminal, the specimen of creatures from other galaxies, all kinds of autograph signed photos of celebrities, let me think what Nestlings in your age like the most… Ah, right.” He intentionally lowered his voice, “Even those hot adult movie discs, I could also get them for you.”

Ling Xiao found it quite embarrassing. Suddenly, he heard Ying Feng asking, “Aren’t you a student in our Institute?”

“What?” Ling Xiao’s eyes widened. “This twenty-two-year-old Nestling is a student in our institute?”

“He’s Shen He. You don’t even know him?” Ying Feng replied with some disdain.

Roaring in his ears like thunder, the name finally cracked up Ling Xiao’s memory—there was a famous person in Bikong Institute that everyone knew of. He was twenty two years in Nestling stage already, and yet he still hadn’t become an adult. Nor did he choose to pursue further education in higher schools; therefore, he stayed in twelfth grade, the highest grade in Bikong Institute.

Even though Shen He was quite illustrious, he was rather elusive. Most students had only heard of his name, but had never seen him in person, therefore it was no wonder that Ling Xiao didn’t recognize him.

Shen He didn’t mind being recognized at all. “I know you are my juniors in Bikong Institute. Ling Xiao. Ying Feng. Am I right?”

“Shit.” Ling Xiao was very much surprised to hear his own name from the other person’s mouth. “You even know our names?”

“Of course.” Shen He’s temperament suddenly changed. He was no longer the attentive and passionate shopkeeper, but rather picked up a somewhat frivolous look. “I sell everything, and of course information would be one of them. As an information personnel, I have to know a little more than other people do.”

“Unfortunately, I’m not interested in what you sell.” Ying Feng turned around and left. Seeing that Ying Feng was leaving, Ling Xiao followed up with a sentence at once, “I’m not interested either.”

“I remember that both of you are in tenth grade, right?” Shen He successfully kept the two of them from leaving with just one sentence. “I heard that the tenth graders are going on an educational tour to the Base in a few days.”

“That’s right. The whole institute knows about it, so it’s not at all surprising that you know as well.”

“Then let me sell you some information that you might be interested in, such as… the secret of the Base.”

“Secret?”

“The secret about how to find your partner from your previous life.”

 

Translator’s Notes:

[1] ‘Gay friend’ nowadays is a Chinese internet slang for close friend.

[2] Tian means Sky.

 

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