QZ Chapter 17
First Published on Ainushi.
The ward was quiet. No one made the slightest sound.
Ping Zong sat on his bed as if he had been petrified.
One second felt as long as a century, making everyone comprehend what “time crawls” truly meant.
“Mirror.” Ping Zong, who had stayed petrified, suddenly opened his mouth.
No one moved.
“I want a mirror,” Ping Zong repeated firmly. Ling Xiao had no choice but to seek help from Yao Tai, and the latter signaled the medical personnel accompanying them with her eyes. Soon, a mirror was handed to Ping Zong.
Ping Zong stared at himself in the mirror in a daze. The only thing that had changed was his eye color, yet he looked like an entirely different person.
Stimulated by the truth, he slowly regained his memory. The intense fight, the sweet taste of blood, the gradually fading grayscale in Lan Sheng’s eyes… The scene from last night was so vivid in his mind. Ling Xiao didn’t lie to him. He won. Lan Sheng was the one who lost.
“I have to see him.” Ping Zong lifted the blanket and was going to get off the bed.
“He wouldn’t want to see you.” Yao Tai, who had been silent till now, finally opened her mouth. “His current mental state won’t allow him to see anyone.”
Ping Zong’s pitch-black eyes were filled with disbelief. “But I’m not ‘other people’.”
“I think you are the person he wants to see the least at the moment. Now, there’s no time for you to reflect on it,” Yao Tai said with a serious expression. “What I am about to explain to you is extremely important. Please be sure to pay attention to every single word.”
Before Ping Zong was able to recover from the heaviest blow he had ever experienced in his life, he was already forced to accept new knowledge with high concentration.
“After a Qizi is defeated during the Adult Ceremony, his body will rapidly secrete a large amount of hormones. These hormones will affect his brain, causing him to have mood disorders. I know the result of your Adult Ceremony is different from what you two had expected, and because of it, the hormones that the patient’s body secrets are several times greater than that of a normal person. According to the test result, in the following 72 hours, the patient will experience extreme anger, irritation, panic, and self-denial. No medicine is able to cure or control these negative emotions yet.”
“How come?” Ping Zong asked nervously, “How did other people overcome it?”
“Qizhu is the only person who is able to comfort Qizi. After the Adult Ceremony, we would generally encourage Qizhu to accompany Qizi as much as they could and help him to get through this period. However, judging by Lan Sheng’s current mental state, he won’t allow anyone, including you, to have close contact with him,” Yao Tai’s voice became even more grave, “It means you must learn and master how to control you Qizi as fast as possible.”
Ping Zong’s eyes widened. “Control?”
“That’s right. Many Qizhu need several months, or even a year to master it, but I’m afraid you don’t have that much time. Lan Sheng’s psychological evaluation has already reached the high-risk level. In the past, this kind of people have a death rate as high as 50%.”
Ping Zong quickly tensed his body. “I’ll learn it.”
“Concentrate onto yourself. Try to invade the other person’s mental realm. Don’t care about what means you have to take, even if you have to control his brain by force. You have to have absolute confidence that you have the ability to dominate your Qizi. Remember, don’t put yourself in an equal position with him. You are controlling him. This is a compulsive means. Any mercy or soft-heartedness will cause the mental connection to fail.”
Ping Zong closed his eyes. One could tell from his tightly knitted eyebrows that he was attempting something extremely challenging. Yao Tai stared at him for a while with mixed feelings, then turned around and went out. Ling Xiao and the others were sensitive enough to leave the ward as well, leaving Ping Zong with an absolutely quiet environment.
“What do you think?” After they walked to a place with no one else around, Zhi Shang finally asked out worriedly.
Yao Tai shook her head. She didn’t seem to have high hopes. “I’m not very optimistic about it. Even till now, that kid still can’t face up to his identity as Qizhu. Even though I can feel he has very strong abilities, he is too sentimental and sensitive. I’m afraid that it’s going to be very difficult for him to break through the other person’s mental barrier.”
In a phrase that was widely popular among the Qizhu group — He was not heartless enough.
The more heartless a person was, the faster they could grasp this ability. But Ping Zong’s affection for Lan Sheng was obviously so much that it was almost going to brim over.
Zhi Shang had a hard time accepting the fact. He shook his head, “This is all my fault. What that student just said was right. I lied to them.”
Yao Tai put up her index finger and covered his mouth. “This is not your fault. Even if you hadn’t said that, they would still need to go through this stage.”
“But I gave them hope.” Yao Tai’s words failed to alleviate even the slightest sense of guilt in Zhi Shang. “I weaved for them a beautiful dream, but when they jumped in, it turned out to be a nightmare. If they had known that it was going to be a nightmare, they would have been mentally prepared. At least, they wouldn’t be completely crushed.”
For a long time, Yao Tai didn’t make any sound. In the end, she gathered him in her arms in silence.
The light on Yao Tai’s communicator finally lit up. “Dr. Yao, the student in ICU just woke up.”
The hug ended hastily. Yao Tai hurried to the next floor. When the two of them arrived, Ling Xiao and his classmates who had received the news in advance were already waiting outside the ICU. Ling Xiao’s tightly clenched fist which was pressing against the glass window trembled incessantly. It was hard to tell how much effort it took for him to restrain himself.
Yao Tai had expected such a scene already, but at this moment, she had no time to take other people’s feelings into consideration.
The medical personnel came up to report Lan Sheng’s condition, “His body is recovering extremely quickly, but his mental state was very unpromising. There have already been signs of his ability being overdrawn. If it continues like this, him breaking free from the confining device is just a matter of time.”
Yao Tai walked up to the window with a heavy heart. A chair was standing solitarily in the center of the room, and tied on the chair was Lan Sheng, with both his hands and feet shackled to it. He was struggling desperately. The shape of his mouth looked like he was screaming, but the scream was blocked mercilessly to the other side of the wall. He was gazing at a point on the wall with fixed eyes as if there was something abhorable that had to be penetrated.
Ling Xiao tightly closed his eyes, his forehead pressing helplessly against the icy glass. He couldn’t bear to look at the scene. The two students behind him didn’t notice that their eyes also became red-rimmed. This was the first lesson the Adult Ceremony gave them, but its cruelty had already exceeded what they could accept.
Lan Sheng’s strength was getting stronger and stronger. Even the chair which was fixed on the ground started to shake. His wrist joints were rubbing so violently against the handcuffs that it was not long before they became bright red.
“Give him a tranquilizer injection,” Yao Tai instructed.
Soon, a nurse went in with a syringe that was a palm long and two fingers thick. She injected a syringeful of transparent liquid into Lan Sheng’s body from his nape. Only then did the person inside finally calm down little by little, eventually hanging his head and becoming motionless in the end.
“Are you sure you want to wait here?” Yao Tai asked Ling Xiao who had already turned into a statue on the side.
As if he didn’t hear it at all, Ling Xiao stayed motionless.
Yao Tai sighed to herself and called the two students to the side.
“Which person in your class can fight against Ling Xiao?”
The two students looked at each other. “I guess only Ying Feng can…”
“Call him over to keep an eye on him. Don’t let him cause any trouble, and don’t let him approach the person inside. It would be the best if he can take him somewhere else.” It was rare to see Yao Tai looking so exhausted. “They are not the only students completing their Adult Ceremony these days. There are too many people who need to be taken care of. We don’t have enough hand or eyes to watch for unrelated people.”
One of the students said with some uncertainty, “But Ying Feng probably won’t take care of other people’s business.”
“Just tell him I said so.” Yao Tai’s tone was firm. They were not allowed to refuse.
Ying Feng still came in the end. When he arrived, Ling Xiao was standing outside the ICU in a self-destructive manner. The person inside was motionless, and the person outside was also motionless. Were it not for one of them standing and the other one was sitting, it would really look like he was looking into a mirror.
“Ying Feng,” The classmates called nervously as they saw him. “We’ve been trying to persuade him for a long time, but he just won’t leave.”
Without any hesitation, Ying Feng grabbed Ling Xiao by his collar and started walking downstairs. To their surprise, Ling Xiao didn’t resist. Just like this, Ying Feng dragged Ling Xiao, who was still out of his mind, to the first floor.
“No,” Ling Xiao finally sobered up when they were almost at the gate. “I’m not leaving.”
Ying Feng stopped walking and stared at him.
“I have to stay.” For the first time, his eyes which had always gleamed with confidence were now filled with panic and perplexion. “They are my friends. I can’t leave them here unattended.”
Ying Feng paused for a second, then dragged him towards the opposite direction until he had brought Ling Xiao to a bench on the side of the hallway.
“Then sit here and wait at least.”
Ling Xiao didn’t really put up a fight when Ying Feng pressed him down. After that, Ying Feng sat down next to Ling Xiao himself. The two of them sat there side by side in extreme silence, neither of them spoke.
Night slowly descended, and the surroundings gradually became quiet. The conscious silence became especially hard to endure.
“Ying Feng.” Ling Xiao’s voice was like a stone falling into a still lake. The person being called moved slightly, signaling that he had heard him.
Even though Ling Xiao called his name, he didn’t know what he wanted to say. After a moment of thinking, he said, “You don’t have to stay here.”
Ling Xiao said these words with such a duplicity. The other two students had already gone back a long time ago. He had never been in more need of having another person around.
Ying Feng glanced at him out of the corner of his eyes. Even though normally he doesn’t pay much attention to other people, he had never seen Ling Xiao like this in the past ten years.
In his impression, Ling Xiao would make threatening gestures every time they saw each other. He would come provoke him for no reason, and would never actively reveal his weak points. However, today’s Ling Xiao, every part of him was revealing a kind of fragility that was totally inconsistent with the person.
“I promised Dr. Yao.” What he was implying was that his stay had nothing to do with Ling Xiao.
Ling Xiao didn’t know why Dr. Yao had asked Ying Feng to stay, but after hearing his answer, he indeed let out a sigh of relief.
The atmosphere once again quieted down. Ying Feng subconsciously fished out the peach-pit from his bosom and slowly rubbed against its rough surface. This had already become a habit of his, he would feel his mood turning placid every time he did it like this.
Sensing his movement, Ling Xiao threw a glance at him out of curiosity. After seeing it, however, he couldn’t move his eyes away, “What’s in your hand?”
Ying Feng didn’t answer, but Ling Xiao became even more interested in the item in his hand. “Can I see?”
Ying Feng hesitated for a moment but still handed it to him in the end. When Ling Xiao took it, he felt like he saw a blue light flashing across, but just for an instant.
“Did you see?”
“There’s light inside.”
“I have carried it with me for almost ten years, I’ve never seen any kind of light.”
Did I mistake it? Ling Xiao put it in front of his eyes suspiciously. No matter from which angle he looked, it seemed like an ordinary peach-pit.
“What did you just say? You’ve carried it for almost ten years? Does that mean that you had it with you not long after you woke up?”
Ying Feng answered with a simple groan.
“Why are you bringing it with you?”
Ying Feng again hesitated for a long time before answering, “I found it in my energy capsule.”
Ying Feng had never told anyone about this secret, including the staffs in the Base. But in an atmosphere like the one tonight, even secrets seemed to become restless, wanting to share themselves with someone appropriate.
“What you’re saying is that it was next to you the moment you woke up? How is that possible? When a soul reincarnates, not even its memories can be retained, how could it leave a keepsake behind then?”
“I want to know the reason more than you do.”
Ling Xiao thought for a long time but still couldn’t find a reasonable explanation. He had visited the Base before, so he knew that it was absolutely impossible that the staff there would accidentally drop a peach-pit in some energy capsule after they finished eating.
Could it be that a person was really able to leave a mark by such means in their previous life?
“This is the reason you are trying so hard to find your lover from your previous life?”
Ying Feng didn’t deny it. “The moment I saw it for the first time, my intuition tells me it belongs to another person. I always feel that there is some kind of connection between them. If I can find the person, then this puzzle will be solved.”
Ying Feng didn’t explicitly point out who the “other person” was, but Ling Xiao already understood. He suddenly felt that the peach-pit in his hand became burning hot. His thoughts were in a whirl as he returned it to Ying Feng.
“Tianxiu is so big. How are you going to find him?”
Ying Feng took it back in silence. “I have a feeling that he’s somewhere around my side, at a place very close to me.”
“What if you can’t ever find him?”
“Then I’ll keep on searching for him till I do.”
Even the longest night would eventually end. As soon as Ping Zong came out from the room, he saw these two people who had always been incompatible with each other sitting closely on the bench outside his ward. Ling Xiao’s head was resting on Ying Feng’s shoulder, and both of them were fast asleep.
Ying Feng was on a very high alert. He woke with a start under the other person’s gaze. This was his first time seeing Ping Zong after the Adult Ceremony. Their eyes met, and his eyebrows furrowed for a split second. He was not used to this appearance of Ping Zong.
This slight movement alarmed Ling Xiao. Ling Xiao rubbed his eyes as he woke up. After seeing the person in front of him, he immediately jumped up nervously.
“How was it?” He asked urgently. It seemed like Ping Zong hadn’t slept the whole night. There were dark circles under his eyes.
“I still can’t do it.” Ping Zong sounded upset. “He resisted awfully bad. Whenever I get just a little closer, he starts to scream. The sound is too ear-piercing. I can feel how painful it is for him to have his mental realm invaded. I don’t have the heart to do it.”
Ling Xiao didn’t know what to say. All he could do was to put his hand on Ping Zong’s shoulder in consolation.
Right then, an alarm went off in the medical building, a long note following a short one. The three of them didn’t know what was going on, and looked around in surprise.
All doctors and nurses on the first floor ran out from their offices. Everyone looked nervous. Yao Tai was among them as well.
“Dr. Yao!” Ling Xiao stopped her. “Did something happen?”
Yao Tai turned off the communicator. There was a gloomy look on her face. “Lan Sheng went missing, together with his personal belongings.”