QZ Chapter 24
First Published on Ainushi.
The first night of camping, Ling Xiao’s mind remained unsettled. He blamed it on starvation.
Upon realizing that he really couldn’t fall asleep after tossing and turning for some time, Ling Xiao decided to get up and look around. It would be nice if he could just find some mushrooms in the field to fill his stomach.
He started to walk towards Ying Feng’s tent almost subconsciously. It was late at night. All of his schoolmates were already in bed. Ying Feng’s tent, like the many other tents around it, didn’t have any sound or light coming out of it.
Ling Xiao pretended that he was just passing by and wandered around it a few times, until a little rock bounced over with a clatter and hit him right on the chest. The person clearly didn’t throw it very hard. It only served as a greeting.
Ling Xiao looked at the direction the rock came from and unexpectedly found Ying Feng sitting under a tree. Ying Feng had seen Ling Xiao as soon as the latter appeared. At first, he thought the other person was just getting up to answer a call of nature, but for some unknown reason, Ling Xiao kept lingering around and simply refused to leave.
“What are you sneaking around for?” Ying Feng asked a little hostilely as Ling Xiao jumped over in front of him.
“Why are you here then?” Ling Xiao asked back instead of answering. “Why don’t you go sleep in the tent?”
“I’m not used to living together with others.” Ying Feng made up an excuse, though it was actually true.
Ling Xiao’s internal sulking was now swept away. All he felt now was how fresh the air in the field was and how bright the stars were. His mind suddenly cleared up.
His mood was better, and his stomach was hungry. The grumbling that happened to resound reminded him of his goal for taking a trip outside.
Ying Feng already knew what it was all about when he saw Ling Xiao lacking in strength during the later half of their fight. “Run out of food again?”
Ling Xiao rubbed the back of his head, feeling embarrassed. “I came to look for mushrooms…”
Ying Feng looked at him as if he was looking at a retard. “With your IQ, are you sure you can find edible mushrooms? Even if there really are mushrooms, are you planning to eat them raw?”
Ling Xiao felt like he had been insulted. “There will always be other things if not mushrooms. I think I saw banana trees today in the jungle.”
Ying Feng was too lazy to explain to him that banana trees didn’t grow bananas all year round. He opened his own backpack and took out a portion of the food inside to share with him.
Ying Feng had helped him out quite a few times, so Ling Xiao saved all the drama and courtesy to himself. He sat down to enjoy it openly: “Living expenses will be distributed next week. I’ll pay you by at that time.”
“And then stay starved for another month?”
Ling Xiao felt wronged: “I’m not THAT bad at managing money matters, all right? I’m just not as good as you in terms of saving money.”
Ying Feng had no desire to comment on the financial ability of a person with no savings. He simply put the unneeded items back into his bag in silence. However, one of the bottles had escaped his attention and rolled to the side.
“What’s this? Vulnerary spray?” Ling Xiao picked it up. “Right, I haven’t treated my wounds from the day yet.”As soon as he finished, he quickly put the bottle over his left arm and sprayed it onto where the graze was. By the time Ying Feng seized it back, he had already finished.
“How come you were so fast? Aren’t you even going to ask what it is?” Ying Feng simply didn’t know what to do with him. The good news was that Ling Xiao only sprayed once, and it wasn’t a large amount.
“Isn’t it just medicine that helps with the healing of wounds? I’ve used it before.” Ling Xiao found it strange that Ying Feng had been so generous when giving him food but was now reluctant to share just a spray.
“Many sprays have similar bottles. Did you not read the label?”
“…Oh.” Ling Xiao just realized, “So what is it?”
Ying Feng thought about it. Since it was just a suppressant, there shouldn’t be any problem. Besides, Ling Xiao hadn’t even awakened yet. The spray should have no effect on him.
Hence, he took the bottle back. “It doesn’t concern you. You won’t need it even if I tell you.”
Ling Xiao didn’t ask anymore and solved his stomach crisis with a few more bites. After his stomach was filled and the load on his mind lifted, a drowsy feeling started to creep over him.
“Why aren’t you leaving yet?” Seeing that he had no intention to leave despite being full and was even going to fall asleep, Ying Feng immediately tried to drive him away.
“Oh.” Ling Xiao got up and dusted off the dirt on him. “Then I’ll go back to sleep.”He returned to his tent, half dreaming. That very night, he had another weird dream. Its content were comparable to the porno film he watched two days ago.
The consequence of sleeping late and having many dreams was a hard time getting up the next morning. The student sharing the tent with him had to drag him out of his sleeping bag.
“Ling Xiao! Wake up! We need to gather soon!”
Though extremely unwillingly, Ling Xiao opened his eyes into thin slits, but he suddenly realized that something was wrong. His eyes widened almost instantly, and the other student freaked out.
Despite being halfway out of the sleeping bag, Ling Xiao hastily wormed his way back in. “You… you go first. I’ll be there soon.”
“Are you okay?” The other student also sensed that something was wrong. How come Ling Xiao’s face suddenly became so red?
“I’m fine. I’m fine. You go first. Don’t be late!”
A person who was still in bed warning another person not to be late… It was such a bizarre scene no matter how one looked. The other student left, muttering along the way. After making sure that he was far enough and wouldn’t come back, Ling Xiao finally sat up. He secretly pulled up his sleeping bag and, from that little gap, saw his extraordinarily vigorous lower part.
This was the first time that Ling Xiao had to deal with such a situation. He had no idea what to do. Could he wear pants like this? It would definitely betray him, wouldn’t it? He would undoubtedly be disqualified from the field training if they found out about this.
All in a fluster, he tried to desperately recall how he solved it when he had this reaction last time. He was taking a shower at that time… Right! Cold shower!
Of course, the current situation didn’t allow him to take a cold shower. Ling Xiao hopped to his baggage while pulling the sleeping bag with his hand, rummaged through it, and finally found an emergency ice bag. Normally, the ice bag was room temperature, but once it was opened, the liquid inside would quickly drop to below freezing temperatures.
Without any hesitation, Ling Xiao tore open the seal. A layer of water vapor immediately condensed on the surface of the ice bag. Completely lacking in any common sense related to this area and without giving any thought to the possible outcomes, he applied the ice bag to it at once. Ice and fire came into contact and resulted in an explosive and shrilling cry.
Ying Feng, who happened to pass by, thought a massacre was taking place inside. He lifted the tent door at once. “What happened?!”
“Don’t come in!” Ling Xiao was so scared that he threw the ice bag brutally at the invader as he himself tried to turn around to cover that spot. The two different actions unbalanced him, and he ended up tripping over his own sleeping bag.
Luckily, Ying Feng reacted quickly and caught the weapon which was coming at his face. The iciness caused him to immediately shiver as well. He put down the item in his hand and a chaotic scene was revealed — the baggages were turned upside down; all kinds of items scattered across the room; Ling Xiao who was tightly wrapped inside his sleeping bag laid on the ground like a worm, his butt sticking upwards, as he stared at Yin Feng with helpless eyes.
Ying Feng’s mouth twitched. What was with this hideous mess? “What are you doing?!”
The gigantic caterpillar on the ground blinked at him innocently.
Forget it. Ying Feng threw the ice bag back at Ling Xiao. He didn’t want to bother with his business. However, right after he let go of the door, he heard Ling Xiao calling him from within, “Wait!”
“What’s wrong this time?”
The door was opened once again, but Ling Xiao waved his hand madly from inside. “Nooo, close the door first. Let me put on my pants.”
After all this tossing about, even the most vigorous part would have become dispirited already. Ling Xiao was finally able to get into his pants as he wished. He then hastily threw on a coat, grabbed his kettle, and dashed out. Sure enough, Ying Feng had already become quite impatient from waiting outside.
“There was a little accident.” Ling Xiao raised the kettle in his hand with a guilty conscience. “To wash my hands.”
Ying Feng wasn’t in a good mood. “Why?”
“Umm… I sprained my foot, so I was applying the ice bag to it just now.”
Ying Feng wanted to beat the crap out of him.
The morning farce finally came to an end. Ling Xiao and Ying Feng hurried to the gathering point. Just as expected, they were already late.
The military instructor was a straightforward man. With a simple wave of his hand, “Ten laps around the camping field,” he ordered them.
Ling Xiao was aware that he was in the wrong. Were it not for him, Ying Feng wouldn’t have been late. Seeing that Ying Feng had already set out without any explanation, he caught up, feeling embarrassed. “How about I run it for you?”
Ying Feng, who was in front, didn’t even turn his head. “Didn’t you sprain your foot?”
“…I recover fast.”
“There’s no need.”
After they came back from the ten laps, they found out that all of their schoolmates had already disappeared. Only the instructor was still there.
Actually, the instructor already had it planned out. He intended to recommend these two students to take the entrance exam for Yutian Military Academy. In that case, he must help them improve their abilities starting now, and their tardiness in the morning undoubtedly gave him a good excuse.
“Sir, where are they?” Ling Xiao glanced around and didn’t find anybody, so he asked in perplexity. The ten laps that they just finished were but a short distance for him. He was able to pace his breathing all the way to the end, and the same applied to Ying Feng. The instructor mentally acknowledged their endurance.
“We’re having endurance training today, loaded mountain climbing. They other students have already set out.”
“Oh,” Ling Xiao didn’t think that was a problem. “We can still catch up to them if we leave now.”
“You two will have a special training task today.” The instructor stopped him. “Endurance training is nothing for you guys. I hope you can use this opportunity to enhance your real combat skills.”
“Real combat?” Ling Xiao showed immediate interest.
The instructor took out a memory chip that was very similar to the one Shen He had given them before. He tossed it up, zoomed in, and turned it into a map.
“This is the map for the entire mountain area. Do you see the red dot on it? That’s where we’re at.”
“I see.” Ling Xiao nodded.
The instructor pointed to a light blue area to their southwest. “There’s a lake over there, and on its lakeside grows a very special kind of mushroom…”
Hearing about it, Ling Xiao proudly darted a glance at Ying Feng. ‘See? I told you there were mushrooms.’
“…I need you to find that lake and bring your target back. Here are two lots. Your target will be decided by the item inside the ones you draw.”
“I’ll go first.” Ling Xiao took one first, and Ying Feng took the other.
Ling Xiao opened his own box. It projected a white light from within, and amidst the light, a pattern gradually emerged.
“Mine is a red mushroom.” He said it out before looking at Ying Feng’s. “Yours is white. Why does yours look bigger than mine?”
The instructor suddenly mentioned, “No matter what kind of mushroom it is, as soon as it leaves its native soil, it will perish within three minutes. The only solution is to put the mushroom as well as the soil underneath into the box I gave you. Remember, you must bring them back intact. There’s one more thing to note. Since we’re out in the field, unexpected dangers can arise at any moment, so you two must act in pairs, understand?”
He showed them his tablet terminal. Every student’s position was marked by a dot. “I will be monitoring your positions at all times. If anyone acts by himself in spite of his partner, his grade for today will be cancelled.”
They dashed towards their destination, and only then did the team doctor, who had been listening at the sidelines the whole time, walk out.
“Did you ask them to collect the Qi-mushrooms ?”
“Yes.” The instructor’s answer was positive.
“And you asked one of them to collect the Zhu-mushroom while the other one collects the Zi-mushroom… Are you kidding?”
“It was also one of the questions in Yutian Military Academy’s entrance exam. Every student applying to Yutian was more than competent. Therefore, the school decided to give a problem that was neither hard, nor easy. It was intended to test the students’ ability to cooperate on the scene.”
“Both of them are good enough to take down a task by themselves when fighting alone. But the stronger their individual abilities are, the more self-centered they tend to be. I’m afraid that problems like this, which tests them on team coordination, will become their biggest obstacle in the entrance exam.”
“So you want to start training their coordination from now on?”
“I hope so. After all, there’s no way that one could obtain the mushroom that was named after Tianxiu’s unique spousal relationship alone.”
With the help of a map, they easily found the lake the instructor told them about. Two different colored mushrooms were growing everywhere in the forest next to the lake.
Ling Xiao was right. The white mushrooms were indeed a little bigger than than the red ones, but what was strange was that no matter which tree it was, you could find both kinds of mushroom underneath. No mushroom was growing by itself.
“There’re so many mushrooms.” Ling Xiao was a little surprised. “All we need to do is bring them back?”
He pulled out a red mushroom right after he finished, but the mushroom started to wither as soon as it left the ground, as if something had forcefully drained all of the water within.
“Watch out!” Ling Xiao was still wondering why the mushroom suddenly became like this when a strong force suddenly pulled him backwards.
Along with Ying Feng’s warning, the white mushrooms on the ground suddenly exploded. The explosion was quite severe. Had Ling Xiao remained where he was, he certainly would have been injured.
“What’s… what’s going on?” Staring at the remains of the red mushroom in his hand and the fragments of the white mushroom on the ground, Ling Xiao was utterly shocked.
Before they could probe further, a new enemy appeared. A savage looking creature formed at the place where the pair of mushrooms had grown, and it roared as it pounced on them.
Ling Xiao reacted fastest and kicked at it. Ying Feng circled around behind it just in time and gave it a hand-chop to the back of the neck. It was a very powerful attack. With a loud squeak, the strange creature started to exhale green smoke from its mouth.
“Be careful! It can spout poison!” Ling Xiao immediately held his breath and jumped backwards after hearing Ying Feng’s reminder. Ying Feng also leaped to the side while simultaneously drawing the dagger from his waist. He threw it out, successfully nailing the monster to the tree.
Hit by a fatal blow, the monster let out a shrilling howl, turned into a greenish haze, and disappeared in an instant. Were it not for Ying Feng’s dagger, which had pierced deep into the tree, everything that happened just now would have seemed like a hallucination.
After the lesson they got this time, neither of them dared to act rashly again. It was Ying Feng’s turn this time, and he carefully dug out a white mushroom. However, his expression changed at once as he quickly threw the mushroom in his hand into the air. The mushroom exploded in mid-air, and its fragments sprinkled onto the ground.
“Look!” Ling Xiao pointed to the ground. Ying Feng didn’t need him to explain before he himself realized that the red mushroom growing next to it quickly withered, just like what had happened a moment ago.
After taking down another strange creature that had appeared out of nowhere, they finally realized the nature of this kind of mushroom. Once one of them was picked, both would die simultaneously, and then a fury-like creature would be summoned. How could they bring the mushrooms back intact as the instructor had ordered?
 Qi Mushrooms: Like I have mentioned, Qi means ‘Contract’ in Chinese. ‘Zhu’ means ‘Owner/Master’, while one of the meanings of ‘Zi’ is ‘Subject/Subordinate’. Therefore, ‘Qizhu’ literally means ‘Contract Owner’, while ‘Qizi’ means ‘Contractee/One Bonded by Contract’. The mushrooms are named after ‘Qizhu/Qizi’, therefore I left them in Chinese for the correspondence.