The bathroom’s door was pushed open without warning. Startled, Ling Xiao quickly withdrew his hand from the mirror before turning around to check on the sudden and unwelcome intruder. Their first eye contact since awakening happened just like that. Quietly, in a moment that seemed to be made of ten thousand centuries.
The opening of the door brought in not only the flow of air, but also Ling Xiao’s lost memories. Together with the appearance of the man in front of him, they rushed into Ling Xiao’s head abruptly. The intense, the barefaced, the desperate… All those scenes he had subconsciously forgotten were now pushing their way back from the dust-covered memory box, surging up like a stormy ocean ready to engulf the world.
The awkward silence claimed ownership of the piece of land it occupied, while a “Please do not disturb” sign coagulated by air stood at the entrance, stopping even the dust from floating in.
They stared at each other in silence for quite some time. Only when Ying Feng took a quick glance at Ling Xiao from head to toe did the latter finally remember he was still not fully dressed. He didn’t even have a top on.
“Why didn’t you knock first?” He blurted out.
Ying Feng replied by stepping forward and closing the door behind him. The room was not spacious in the first place, and it appeared to be even more crowded after the door was closed. The distance between them shortened into an arm’s length.
Ling Xiao barely succeeded in holding back the urge to step back. He wished he could grab a piece of clothing or a towel or something to cover himself up, but at the same time, he didn’t want to reveal his embarrassment in front of the other.
Ying Feng couldn’t care any less about Ling Xiao’s image and spoke straight up, “We don’t have much time, and I’m only going to say it once.”
“If the military finds out that we snuck into that laboratory on purpose, your actions will become intentional theft. This kind of statement will be very unfavorable to you.”
“Therefore, no matter how they ask you, you must insist that you got lost and went in by accident, or wait until I arrive before making an answer. You always have the right to remain silent as long as I’m not present.”
“Just remember what I said, and we’ll think about how to deal with other things. ”
He calmly finished giving his orders. There was not even a single line of unnecessary concern. It was almost like an attorney advising his client.
There was a short pause. “Get ready as soon as possible.” He said as he turned around and opened the door, ready to take his leave.
“Do you blame me?” Suddenly, he heard Ling Xiao’s voice suddenly from behind.
Ying Feng tightened his hand around the door knob. “It already happened. There’s no use in asking those questions anymore.”
He turned his head slightly to the side and said with the same cold and indifferent voice, “Anyway, if you hadn’t done that, both of our souls would have completely disappeared from this world. Speaking from this perspective, I still need to thank you for it.”
When Ying Feng left, he also closed the real world outside the door. Ling Xiao felt that the things he didn’t want to face would never come as long as he didn’t leave this place.
Unfortunately, one could not avoid what was destined to come. When he finished getting himself ready, a short man in military uniform followed by two subordinates was already at the door waiting for him.
“Are you ready to go back with us?” Despite being a question, it didn’t give an option to refuse.
Ling Xiao had already expected it. He glanced around and saw Ying Feng and the principal standing at the other end of the corridor looking this way, although he couldn’t discern the expression on their faces.
Seeing that Ling Xiao had noticed them, the principal returned a nod as if to assure Ling Xiao not to worry about leaving with those people. Only then did Ling Xiao realize whom Ying Feng was referring to earlier when he said “we”.
Ying Feng stood motionlessly to the side, so Ling Xiao withdrew his eyes in silence. He said to the person in front of him in a low voice, “Let’s go.”
They left in the direction opposite of Ying Feng while the latter stared after them in silence. As he walked, Fu Yao turned his head back and, with a smile on his face, mouthed some words at Ying Feng: I’ll wait for you.
After their figures disappeared behind the corner, the principal finally turned to Ying Feng and said, “Let’s go.”
One after the other, the military and the school’s flying devices steered away from the medical treatment center and headed to the same destination.
After they arrived at the detention center, Fu Yao personally sent Ling Xiao to the prison.
“Your mood seems stable so far. At least better than most of the Qizi. It’s probably because the scent that young fellow left on you has suppressed the disorder phase. However, no one knows how long it will last. I hope you won’t find it too unbearable in there.”
He signaled the guard with his eyes, and the jail door closed slowly before Ling Xiao. Both Fu Yao and the guards left, leaving nothing but an icy, bone-chilling window and silence all around.
Still in a trance, Ling Xiao sat down on the side of the bed. It was not long before his right hand started to tremble uncontrollably. He immediately clasped his wrist with his left hand, but very soon, his left hand was shaking just as violently. The tremor slowly extended to his whole body. He had no choice but to curl himself up into a ball to fight this sudden agony.
As Ling Xiao underwent the mental torment all by himself, Ying Feng and the principal conducted a negotiation outside.
“We would like to request a guarantor pending trial.”
The prison administrator searched for the name. “The one who was just taken in? But he’s only been here for ten minutes.”
“For a Qizi who has just completed his Adult Ceremony today, ten minutes is already long enough.”
“Adult Ceremony? Today? With whom?”
“With me.” Ying Feng who had been standing in the back all this time stepped up.
The administrator looked up at his eyes. “Congratulations to you.”
“It has been less than 24 hours since our ceremony. According to the regulations, Qizi must spend the 72 hours following the completion of their Adult Ceremony under the monitoring of either their Qizhu or a medical personnel. Any Qizi whose mental state is evaluated at highly dangerous level or worse must not be forcefully separated from their Qizhu. Here is his physical examination report.”
Ever since Fu Yao’s talk with him, Ying Feng had been rapidly searching through related legal provisions together with the principal. Up until now, he had memorized every single relevant clause by heart.
The administrator took the examination report and looked through it. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it.
“Those are medical regulations. He has violated the law.”
“Medical regulations override legal provisions. Even criminals sentenced to death are still entitled to the right of medical treatment during their imprisonment. If any prisoner or suspect’s health is not ensured during their custody, it will be considered the negligence of the detention center.”
The prison administrator sighed. To be honest, these kinds of circumstances were rather rare. No one would be sent here the moment after their Adult Ceremony. Not to mention the person was brought here by Fu Yao himself. The general only said that the person was suspected of theft. The administrator didn’t even know what he had stolen.
“In spite of that, since the suspect was escorted by Major General Fu Yao, you have to obtain his permission in order to bail the suspect.”
“We will get his permission,” interrupted the principal, “And could you please proceed with the paperwork as soon as possible? You know how serious it is to let a Qizi stay in there all by himself in his disorder phase. He could be in danger at any moment.”
“Well, it’s not something I can decide.” The administrator dialed the number of his superior and gave a brief report.
“Okay. I see.” He hung up the phone. “They need to ask him some questions first.”
“I require to be present.” Ying Feng added in time.
The administrator didn’t reject him this time. “Then fill out this form.”
After Ying Feng finished all the paperwork, the administrator motioned for him to enter, but stopped the principal who wanted to come along.
“You’re not allowed to go in.”
“I’m his principal, his school-side guardian.”
“The moment he became an Adult, he no longer has school-side guardians, only his Qizhu guardian. Please wait outside for a minute.”
His entry denied, the principal patted Ying Feng on the arm with concern. “Mind what you say.”
Ying Feng pushed the door open and entered the interrogation room. The inquisitor and Ling Xiao came into his eyes. Even though he spent only fifteen minutes in that environment, Ling Xiao’s mental state had already deteriorated immensely. Lips tightly pursed, he had to clasp his hands together in order to stop them from trembling too hard. However, one could still see his surprising willpower. Even under such circumstances, he still showed a strong unyieldingness. The mental torture had not intruded into his eyes yet, for his eyes were as sharp as usual.
Ying Feng walked to his side, pulled out a chair, and sat down. The inquisitor waited until he took his seat before he began.
“Your Qizhu insists on conducting the interrogation in his presence. Can we start now?”
The corner of Ling Xiao’s eyes twitched at the words “your Qizhu”. After some amount of self-control, he gave a light nod.
The inquisitor went straight to the point, “How did you obtain Embers 2nd, a medicine that is banned even in the military?”
“In the Base, during our field trip.” Ying Feng was the one who answered.
The inquisitor glanced at him in surprise, then turned his eyes to Ling Xiao. The latter nodded as as sign of acquiescence.
“Can you describe it in more details?”
“At the beginning of this month, the institute arranged a field trip for our class to visit the Base. There was an an accident while we were in there. We got lost on our way back to meet the rest of the team and entered a laboratory by mistake. That was where we found the Embers 2nd.”
“Is this true?” The inquisitor asked Ling Xiao.
Ling Xiao looked down. “It’s true.”
“Were there any obvious do-not-enter signs at the entrance to the laboratory?”
“Yes. It said ‘Admittance to Staff Only.’”
“Then why did you still enter?”
“Because I was curious.”
“Did you know the name and the effect of the stolen item before you took it?”
“How did you know?”
“Two people came to the laboratory during that time. We learned from their conversation.”
“Someone came to the scene, but they didn’t see you. I assume you were hiding?”
“Who were they?”
“Bikong Institute’s school doctor, Yao Tai, and the Base’s Chief Researcher, Dr. Zhi Shang.”
The inquisitor carefully recorded the information, “What were they doing in there?”
“They were also coming for Embers 2nd. It had something to do with an accident that happened at that time.”
“Give me more details on that.”
“We don’t know much more than that. All we know is that once injected, they could quickly get to the Lighthouse to open the protection shell, so we believed it to be something powerful.” Ying Feng intentionally left out part of the information he heard from Shen He.
“Continue,” said the inquisitor.
Just then, Ling Xiao suddenly took over the narration, “Before I left, I took one and carried it with me, secretly bringing it out of the Base.”
“Why did you take it?”
“Just strong curiosity I guess. I didn’t think of any purpose.”
“Was your companion, who is currently your Qizhu, aware that you secretly took items out of the Base?”
“I was,” said Ying Feng.
“He wasn’t,” replied Ling Xiao at the same time.
Ling Xiao jerked his head and looked at him in astonishment. Even the inquisitor’s expression was now full of suspicion.
“You better think carefully about the answer to this question. It will affect the judgement of whether you will be held guilty or not in this case. If you only entered the laboratory by accident, the penalty will be very light. But if are aware of the crime but failed to report it, it will be considered the same as mutual conspiracy. Do you understand?”
“I know he took from the laboratory, something that doesn’t belong to him, and I’m very aware of what it was that he took. I didn’t stop him or report him. I’m responsible for the consequences.”
He said it so affirmatively that the inquisitor couldn’t help but emphasize one more time, “The confession you just made may cause you to be detained as well. Are you sure that everything you’ve just said is true?”
Ling Xiao looked extremely puzzled and shocked. He had no idea why Ying Feng would say such a thing. However, Fu Yao, who had been listening next door all this time, laughed out loud.
“He’s an interesting fellow, trying so hard to take the blame whether or not there’s a blame to take in the first place. It’s almost like he’s afraid that we’re not going to put him in jail.”
Fu Yao’s Qizi was right next to him. “He’s probably thinking that if his Qizi cannot be released on bail, at least they could be put into the same cell. After all, it’s just too dangerous to leave a Qizi who just became an Adult in a detention center all by himself. Spending a night alone will be like killing him.”
“He’s such an idiot, taking the trouble to do that. Qizi who are in their disorder phase are not allowed to be imprisoned in detention centers. Even if the Qizi is confirmed to be guilty, they’ll just be sent to medical treatment under surveillance. Has he never thought of the possibility that his Qizi could be released whereas he ends up in custody?”
There was nothing a Qizi could do when he had a Qizhu like Fu Yao, who always had a wicked sense of humor. “So why did you bring him all the way here if we’re not allowed to detain him?”
“I just wanted to scare that fellow and see which side of him will prevail —— his sense of responsibility, or self-consciousness. Back then, when a certain someone left, I even stole a flying device to stop him. In fact, I did find him, but he told me that he could leave at any time if he really wanted to go. Even if I could stop him once, what about the next day, or the third day…? So I let him go. For so many years, I kept thinking about whether it was a mistake to let him go. If I had forced him to stay, perhaps things would be different now.”
His Qizi thought for a moment and said, “I don’t think you could have kept him. The tragedy of their Adult Ceremony was made by men. His heart was filled with resentment towards the person who caused it all, so there was no surprise that he didn’t want to take responsibility for it. Even though these two kids are experiencing a similar situation, this is a pure accident. Moreover, the lives of Nestlings are so much more precious than Embers 2nd.”
“To be honest, I’m quite glad they stole that Embers 2nd. They broke the law, but at the same time, they were able to save their lives because of it. I guess you can consider it fate, and the same for their binding.”
Fu Yao agreed, “Some people decide their own fates, while some are just innocently involved. We should still give people like them a hand.”
He waved his hand, “Go grant them the guarantor pending trial.”
Inside the interrogation room, the inquisitor was finishing up.
“I have one last question for you.” He turned to Ling Xiao. “For the testimony you just gave, did you tell the truth or did your Qizhu command you to say so using his rights?”
Ling Xiao remained silent for a long time. Just as Ying Feng started to worry that such a question might cause Ling Xiao to overthrow his previous testimony out of psychological reactance, he heard Ling Xiao speak in a low voice.
“It’s the truth.”
The inquisitor nodded and tidied up his records.
“You have a really special situation. I must report to my supervisor first. I’m afraid I have to ask each of you to go back and wait before I get a reply.”
Upon hearing that he had to return to that place, Ling Xiao’s expression stiffened. He was able to control it rather quickly, but Ying Feng was still able to catch a glimpse of it.
“With his current state, he can’t stay in the detention center for too long. I hope you can get it done as soon as possible.”
“We will.” The inquisitor expressed his understanding. “I’m also a Qizi. I know that feel.”
After he finished, he even tried to console Ling Xiao, “It’s just the first three days. Get over it, and you’ll feel much better. I’ll help with your application as quickly as I can, but the result still depends on the decisions made by the higher-ups.”
The two of them were forced to separate again. Ying Feng didn’t say anything, nor did Ling Xiao’s eyes never fall onto the other person again. They were like two strangers.
Only after Ling Xiao had been taken away did the inquisitor curiously ask, “It’s so weird. Are you guys in a good relationship or not? During the interrogation, I felt you two were quite an intimate couple, but after we came out, you looked rather cold to each other. At such moments before temporary separations, a hug can bring great mental comfort to him, but there’s not even eye contact between you two.”
Ying Feng turned around and said, “Instead of a hug, he needs to leave this place as soon as possible.”
The inquisitor shrugged with some embarrassment. “I’ll go right now.”
With Fu Yao’s order behind the scenes, the permission to post bail was quickly granted, but the principal still felt that it took a little too long.
“You may take him with you now.” The prison administrator handed the documents to him. “It says that considering your special circumstances, the trial will be held after the Qizi is out of danger, which is in ten days. Same to you.”
Still concerned, the principal reminded him, “For every second spent in the detention center, the negative effects add up. It will have very serious influences on a Qizi’s mental state if it was a long time. You must placate him well. Otherwise, there can easily be repercussions…”
Ying Feng took the documents and left immediately. Even the principal himself didn’t know whether Ying Feng took in what he had just said.
The guard was sitting in his seat in boredom when he saw a person with the figure of a Nestling but the black eyes of an Adult stride over. They usually didn’t get many people who completed the Adult Ceremony but had not developed yet around here, but this was the second one he saw today. The first was still imprisoned inside.
“Anything I can help you with?” The guard asked.
Ying Feng handed the bail permission to him. “I’m here to pick up my Qizi.”