QZ Chapter 15
Quality Checker: Isalee
First Published on Ainushi.
Ling Xiao strode across the campus, struggling to wipe off the tears that were welling up unendingly in his eyes as he walked. But his tears were like a river breaching its dike, refusing to halt even for a second.
Were it not for Ping Zong and Lan Sheng’s sake…were it not for the parting that was about to come…were it not for the alcohol…
Ling Xiao ran all the way back to his dorm, and slammed the door shut with a “bang”. He stood with his back leaning against the door for a long time before his tears finally ceased.
For such an embarrassing scene, why did it have to be Ying Feng who saw it! How many times did he have to lose face in front of Ying Feng before it was enough?
Ling Xiao sniffled a few times and threw himself on the bed. He tried lying on his back, on his stomach, on his side, but he just couldn’t fall asleep.
He got up and paced back and forth inside the room, an uneasy feeling growing in his gut.
Forget it. He should just find a movie to watch — that might bring him some relief.
Ling Xiao connected to an online film library. Most of the movies on there came with a fee, and the free ones were either old movies which everyone had watched already or some weird low-budget productions.
Ling Xiao’s current financial situation only allowed him to pick from the free library. There really wasn’t much content to choose from. In the end, he reluctantly chose a translated foreign movie and he had no idea which planet it was filmed on. Judging by its cover, it looked like an action movie.
Even though it was free, the source was actually 3-D. Ling Xiao turned on the projector on the ceiling, and the entire room immediately turned into the stage in the movie. The actors were all vividly standing in front of him. The audience could walk around and watch it from any angle. They could even pass through the actors.
The opening scene of the movie was filmed in a mountain forest. The team did a very good job on the virtual effects: the early morning fog, the birdsongs, the dappled sunshine, the smell of trees, and the specks of dirt that came directly towards the face made the audience feel like they were experiencing a real world.
At first, Ling Xiao only saw the movie as something to pass time with, but the content unexpectedly caught his eyes. In particular, apart from the quick glance he had in the Base last time, this was his first time witnessing with his own eyes the maturing process of a species with the same appearance as him from its childhood to youth. It was simply a very fresh experience for him.The movie gave an account of an organization training a group of orphaned killers. They grew up together from childhood, trained together, and everyone was able to acquire some outstanding skills. As they grew up, they also developed deep feelings toward each other, including love.
The male and female protagonists were lovers. They were innocent playmates and childhood friends. As they reached puberty, they had their first awakening of love. By the time they became adults, they couldn’t stop making sheep eyes even when they fought with each other.
Finally, there came a day when their master gathered everyone together. Looking at how preeminent all these disciples he had raised by himself for the past many years had become, the Master showed sincere praise in his eyes.
“Everyone got excellent grades in the past examinations, and my effort to educate you over these many years wasn’t in vain. I’m very proud of you.
“Today is the day of your graduation, and it is also the last trial you have to go through before leaving the mountain. This is a test you have to complete with your life. Only those who pass the examination can leave here alive.”After hearing their master, who had been raising them since they were children, say something like this, everyone held their breath with rapt attention, ready to face this last challenge.
“This test requires all of you to find a partner and complete it together.”
The disciples quickly formed their own teams with people they were close with. The male and female protagonists also stood together. They even secretly hooked their little fingers.
The master’s sharp eyes slowly gazed across each pair of disciples.
“Your ability now is already flawless, but don’t forget, you are a killer, and for a killer, emotion is the most unnecessary burden.
“The goal for the last test is to for you to abandon all of your emotions. There is only one way in front of you, kill your partner and live on —— or die.”
“If anyone can’t do it,” the master slowly drew out his blade, “then I’ll do it for them.”
Ling Xiao threw himself at them recklessly, trying to stop the female protagonist’s blade that was piercing down from the sky. However, he soon found that all of this was but an illusion. In the end, her blade still pierced the body of the person she loved the most. Blood splashed and covered her face. As a person who had watched the scene at a close distance, Ling Xiao unconsciously wiped his own face.
The female protagonist went on and became a killer. After killing her love with her own hand, she became grim, heartless. She completely turned into a killing machine. No matter who she faced, she could kill them ruthlessly without stopping even a single second to think.
After she got rid of all the enemies for her boss behind the scenes, the last person she killed was herself. In the last minute of her life, the male protagonist’s image appeared in her hallucination. The film returned to that forest with the hazy mist, the dappled sunshine, the crisp birdsong, and the fragrance of the dirt that brushed against one’s face…Ling Xiao was originally low-spirited, and now it became even worse. A stuffiness that seemed to have materialized clotted in his chest and refused to go away. It was the worst night for him ever. He tossed and turned in bed, unable to sleep.
Dawn finally came; he desperately wanted to find someone to talk to. But to his grief, he realized in the end—apart from Lan Sheng and Ping Zong—he didn’t have anyone to open his heart to.
Mulling over it, he had to connect back to the Sky-era Network. It was still early, there was no one in Shen He’s store. “Please ring the bell if no one is in the store” was written on the trans-dimensional bell, so Ling Xiao launched a series of incessant harassment toward the other person.
“Do you know what time it is now?” Shen He’s figure slowly appeared, the frustration of being woken up by the noise was written all over his face.
“I feel bad. Why don’t you talk with me for a bit?” Ling Xiao latched onto him shamelessly.
Shen He yawned, and then laid down on his private recliner. “Since you look so pathetic, I’ll force myself to listen for a while. You can start, I’ll try not to fall asleep.”
As if it was urgent to share the cause of his bad mood with others so that he wouldn’t have as much a burden himself, Ling Xiao repeated the movie he watched last night to Shen He from beginning to end. When he talked about the scene that had given him the lasting impression, he had to stop several times before he could finally finish it intermittently.
“That’s all?” Shen He finished listening to it patiently, but he didn’t seem to be moved by it as much as Ling Xiao was.
“I’m finished.” He finished telling the story, but Ling Xiao didn’t feel the relief he was expecting.
“How do you feel?” Shen He was asking about his feelings at the moment.
“Not so good.” Ling Xiao answered honestly.
“You had such a serious mood swing. It’s not only because of one movie, right?” Shen He pointed out immediately, “Were you relating the story to anything while watching it?”
Ling Xiao sat down, feeling dejected. “My two best friends held their Adult Ceremony last night.”
Shen He didn’t even bat an eyelid. “Oh?”
“When I was watching the movie, somehow I kept thinking about them, especially when the male and the female protagonist were having the duel. I couldn’t stop substituting them into the picture. It made me feel restless.”
“Is that so?”
“Even though I know those were just random figments of my imagination, there was no way the same thing could happen between them. Because they are a couple who are so deeply in love that he is even willing to voluntarily give his heart-tip blood…”
“Hahahaha,” Shen He burst into a series of exaggerated laughter. It was like he had heard the most ridiculous thing in the world. He laughed so hard that there were even tears in his eyes.
“Voluntarily give his heart-tip blood…who taught you this?” said Shen He, as he wiped the corner of his eye. It completely baffled Ling Xiao.
“Dr. Yao’s Qizi. He said that it was what he did.” Ling Xiao replied rather blankly. “What’s funny about it?”
“Alright.” Shen He’s laughter gradually ceased. “Because the death rate was too high last year, the Institute decided to choose a milder education path. I heard about it too, but I didn’t expect that the school would say something like this.”
He thought for a moment and still found it funny, so he started to laugh again for a while as though there was nobody else present. It got on Ling Xiao’s nerves.
“What are you laughing about?”
Shen He suddenly held back his smile without any sign. His eyes were sharp and bright like a torch, and his body started to emit a threatening killing intent. Compelled by such an imposing expression, Ling Xiao, who was snuggled up in his chair, jumped up at once. His hair stood up, his mind on alert, and every cell in his body was mobilized as he subconsciously assumed a posture in preparation for a fight.
“Did you see?” All of a sudden, that killing intent completely disappeared. Shen He was lazily lying in his private recliner as if the person who had just deterred Ling Xiao wasn’t him at all.
Ling Xiao slowly put down his arm. He sat on the edge of the chair on high alert, while his eyes were still firmly locked on Shen He.
“When you sense danger, your first response is to protect yourself. Do you know what this is called?”
Ling Xiao shook his head attentively.
“It’s called instinct. Instinct is carved into our genes. No one can overcome it. Did you know? Even the desire of searching for partners after awakening is also one of the instincts of the Tianxiu people.”
“Then why are you still single today?”
“Yeah, even someone like me can’t oppose instincts. After holding on for such a long time, I also start to feel that my strength is falling a little short of my will.” It was rare for Shen He to show his softer side.
“What you just said, does it relate to what I was talking about?”
Shen He gave him a crafty smile, “You always want to know more about me, don’t you? Why don’t I satisfy your curiosity a little then?”
“You are not charging a fee for it today?”
“I’ll give you a grand discount, for free. Go ahead and ask anything.”
Ling Xiao thought for a moment, “Then, tell me about the person you like.”
Shen He started his habit of playing with the ring on his finger again. “The person I like… has someone she likes, and the person she likes happens to like her too. This is a misfortune for me, but from her point of view, it’s probably the luckiest thing ever.”
“Since you like her too, why don’t you at least strive for it?”
“Haven’t you heard the sentence before? True love is to give the person you want to imprison the most maximum freedom.”
Ling Xiao repeated the sentence in his mind. It seemed to have moved him.
“Unfortunately, someone that has lived over four hundred years still doesn’t understand such a simple truth.”
“What happened after that?” asked Ling Xiao.
“They fell in love with each other. Just like your little friends, they were wholeheartedly looking forward to the coming of the awakening phase. But no one had expected that the day of their Adult Ceremony would become the end of this life for her.”
Ling Xiao almost thought he had misheard it, “What?”
“She died.” There was no emotion in Shen He’s voice. “They didn’t follow the rules of the Institution and binded with each other in private. When people found them the next day, her soul had already reincarnated. Her beloved one had stabbed her in the heart with a dagger.”
Ling Xiao couldn’t believe it, “How…how come?”
“Dying from defeat on the Adult Ceremony…It sounds ridiculous, isn’t it? True, it has a very slim probability of happening, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, and of all people, it happened to her. Maybe I should be happy, because at least, she finished her Adult Ceremony in the last second before she died, at least she can still reincarnate, and at least her soul didn’t end up scattered.”
“How is that possible?” Ling Xiao couldn’t understand, “Weren’t they in love with each other?”
“No matter how deep their love for each other was, they could not resist their primitive instincts. It’s like how you will put up your guard when I let out my murderous intent, and to have one’s heart-tip blood being taken away is a threat that is a thousand times greater than that. No one can willingly submit themselves without putting up a fight. No matter how much they loved each other, how big a price they were willing to pay for each other, how much they wanted to sacrifice everything for each other, they couldn’t overcome the instincts that are carved into our genes.
“I don’t know what kind of sweet words the Institute has used to deceive you innocent Nestlings. Voluntarily offering one’s heart-tip blood? Huh, it’s nothing but a joke. Instincts can never be defeated. Those people can say all kinds of pretty words, but it won’t change the fact that Adult Ceremony is just for making people who are in love kill each other.
“Tianxiu’s spousal system is the most ruthless system in the entire universe, and the Adult Ceremony is the cruelest, the most inhumane battle ever. In order to establish a spousal relationship, not only are Tianxiu people forced into fights without any motives, their targets are also their most beloved ones. You will never know the reason for this fight because the real reason has already been completely erased by our predecessors. The Adults now only know how to use those ‘survival of the fittest’ stuff to trick innocent Nestlings.
“Every battle in this world has a reason behind it. Some people fight over resources, some to fend their territory, some only for the purpose of venting out their resentment. But whichever it is, these people have motives. No one fights without a reason, except for us.
“Have you ever seen two Tianxiu people who lost their minds murder one another? For someone like us who are titled the ‘battle machine’ in the galaxy, we can fight against mechas with bare hands and be exposed to outer space without the help of any supplements. If there is anyone who can win against a Tianxiu person in a one-on-one fight, then it must be a Tianxiu person who is out of control. Every Tianxiu person will lose control one time in their life, that is on the so-called Adult Ceremony, in order to become Qizhu, to conquer the other person, by fair means or foul.”
Shen He’s words poured down like a bucket of ice water. By the time Ling Xiao listened to the end of it, he could only feel his fingers getting so freezingly cold to the point that they were almost numb.
“Th-then Lan Sheng and Ping Zong, they…”
“Those two little friends of yours?” Shen He’s face was filled with indifference. “Relax, after all, losing one’s life in the Adult Ceremony doesn’t happen that easily. Not to mention, after that incident, the school side attached even greater importance to the aspect of safety.
“Rather than worrying about their physical health, it would be better to think carefully about how to explain such an ungodly lie like ‘voluntarily offering one’s heart-tip blood’ to them after they wake up. I hope that the insanely strong intention of killing one’s beloved person won’t overshadow their love for each other.”