The prison guard watched the person who had been brought in not long ago get picked up again. He even kindly shouted from behind, “Happy wedding!” But he didn’t hear the “thank you” he expected. Neither of them turned around.
Even after they had disappeared from his sight, he still could not figure out why. Wasn’t the binding between two people supposed to be a happy thing?
They boarded the institute’s flying device. The principal worriedly looked at Ying Feng and Ling Xiao, who were sitting opposite him. The two sat on either side of the window with exactly the same posture and expression, both of their eyes falling onto the distant horizon. It was almost like they were reflecting each other through a mirror.
They hadn’t talked to each other ever since they left the detention center. There was neither physical interaction, nor eye contact. They were right next to each other, yet they seemed to be transparent in each other’s eyes. Even the normal friendship between classmates had completely disappeared, not to mention an intimate relationship between a Qizhu and their Qizi.
The sky had just turned dark. Outside the window was a clear moon and a few stars, and evening lights were being lit below. The flying device traveled through the night sky in complete silence, both outside and within. Even the power tried to conceal its mechanical noise as much as possible.
Ling Xiao just had the longest day in his life. So many accidents happened on the same day. Every second of it could be expanded into its own long story.
He still appeared calm, so calm that he didn’t really look like a Qizi who had just completed their Adult Ceremony. However, such a state made the principal worry the most. Even though he didn’t lose himself like Lan Sheng, the calmer he seemed, the greater the possibility that he was fighting his instincts internally. There was a high chance that this forced self-control would completely collapse when it reached a certain limit.
The oath that this strong and stubborn teenager made with tears in his eyes at his friend’s farewell ceremony still rang in people’s ears, yet less than half a month later, it was completely and mercilessly crushed in just one day.
The flying device quietly landed on Bikong Institute’s hanger. They were away from Bikong for only three days, yet it felt like it had been three years. It was not just the color of their eyes that changed, but the weight on their minds as well.
The three of them exited the flying device single file. Just as Ying Feng and Ling Xiao were about to leave, the principle stopped them.
“I know you already went through a detailed examination in the military’s medical center, but it’s still necessary to report to the school doctor. It’s a customary rule.”
The two headed straight over without any objections. Staring at them from behind, the principal fell into a daze. A tragedy had already fallen upon Bikong this year. Were they going to witness another one now?
Yao Tai was about to get off from work. As soon as she opened the door, she ran into Ying Feng, who was standing outside. After she saw the person before her, this experienced school doctor gave a gasp of astonishment.
“Oh, God…” Despite having heard rumours about it already, she still found it hard to believe when she saw with her own eyes.
She subconsciously searched behind him. When Ling Xiao’s existence once again confirmed the fact, her feelings became extremely complicated for a moment.
Ying Feng ignored her astonishment and began walking in. The person behind him wanted to follow, but he stopped them with a sentence.
“You stay here.” Ying Feng’s tone sounded almost like a command.
Ling Xiao’s steps faltered slightly. In the end, he still stayed outside the door.
Ying Feng once again lay naked on the physical examination table, letting Yao Tai run a complete examination on him. Compared to the health report from the medical center, his body had obviously recovered more. Already, no signs of injury could be seen. Although Tianxiu people generally had strong healing ability, such a degree was still rare to see.
However, clutching the report in her hand, Yao Tai appeared to be somewhat ill at ease.
“Is there a problem?” Ying Feng sat up and asked.
“Can you tell me how everything happened?” The campus was already flooded with rumors, but no two versions were the same.
Ying Feng knew she would find out sooner or later. He briefly repeated what he said in the investigation.
“…When the alarm went off, I was in a hurry to get back to join the group, but because I was unfamiliar with the environment, I took the wrong path. Ling Xiao was with me the whole time.”
“We accidentally discovered the laboratory. There was a sign on the door that read ‘Restricted research area — admittance to staff only.’ We were curious, so we decided to go in and take a look.”
“We didn’t stay there for long before you and Dr. Zhi Shang came in. We hid ourselves in fear, thus overhearing the conversation between you two, and therefore learned what was in the bottle.”
“Ling Xiao stole it only out of curiosity, and it was my fault for not stopping him. Dr. Zhi Shang and you are also involved in this. I guess there will soon be people from the military seeking evidence from you. They might even hold you accountable for improper supervision. I apologize for all of this, and I’m willing to take any punishment.”
The more Yao Tai listened, the angrier she became. “Boldness” was not enough to describe these two Nestlings’ actions. How dare they steal from the Base? And to steal something so important! But what made her even more angry was that Zhi Shang, as the head of the management team in the Base, didn’t even realize it afterwards.
“You two are really…” After she said those words, she couldn’t find an adjective to complete the sentence and had to leave it unfinished.
Ying Feng’s voice sounded as indifferent as if he was describing some other person’s business, “There was an accident during the field training, and we encountered a Kui in the mine. At the last moment, Ling Xiao injected Embers into himself and saved our lives.”
“But because of the cave-in, we were trapped in the cave. Ling Xiao lost control of himself due to the side effects. After that, everything is as you see now.”
At this point, Yao Tai was already feeling more ambivalent than angry. She hated the bold act of theft the two carried out, but at the same time, she was also afraid of what could have happened to them in that situation. If they didn’t have the Embers with them at that moment, perhaps the only thing that could come back to her was the news that they had forever lost two Nestlings’ souls in the training field.
Thinking about it this way, it was hard to say whether what they did was a mistake or not.
“Later, the military arrived in time and rescued both of us. That’s about it.” Ying Feng finished explaining.
Yao Tai was shocked speechless for quite some time. After a while, she finally said,
“The only reason that the Tianxiu people are strengthened during the Adult Ceremony is because of a special matter our bodies excrete. Not only does it enhance a person’s fighting ability, it also arouses their physical desires and makes them lose their senses. This is what causes two people in love to fight each other so desperately during the ceremony.”
“The inventor of Embers, who is also my teacher, extracted this matter from human bodies and made Embers out of it. Shortly after injection, it can bring a person’s battle ability to the same level as that during the Adult Ceremony while at the same time eliminating the negative effects that come with it. It could be said to be the greatest invention of that era.”
“But my teacher didn’t stop there. Not long after, he succeeded in raising the concentration of this extraction by twenty times and made it into Embers 2nd. However, he didn’t have the chance to fully perfect it.”
“This means that although Embers 2nd can bring people’s combat abilities to an unparalleled level, it has also completely retained its impurities. The negative effects of this material will be returned to its user exponentially.”
“That is to say that after the injection, a person’s ability to reason will be overtaken by physical desires. Nestlings who haven’t awakened yet will awaken immediately and even lose control of themselves — or what we call an auto-triggered Adult Ceremony.”
“But if a person has been injected with Embers 2nd but not its purifier, even an Adult cannot withstand its side effects.” Yao Tai couldn’t understand, “According to what you said, even if the military arrived in time, they could not have brought this special purifier with them. How did Ling Xiao come out alright?”
Ying Feng shook his head. He really had no idea. It looked like Yao Tai could only look for the answer on Ling Xiao.
She raised the paper in her hand. “Everything looks good on your report. There are still many things I need to tell you about, but I need to run some tests on Ling Xiao first.”
She opened the infirmary’s door and saw Ling Xiao sitting on a bench outside, all lone.
“Ling Xiao.” Right after she called his name, she thought of what he had experienced and her tone unconsciously softened, “Come in. It’s your turn.”
When Ling Xiao came in, Ying Feng was halfway through putting on his clothes. Ling Xiao threw a quick glance at the other person’s chest and immediately turned his face to the side.
Ying Feng slowly finished buttoning his shirt. When he passed Ling Xiao on his way out, Yao Tai once again reminded him to wait for her outside.
“Remember not to leave right away. I still need to talk to you afterward.”
Ling Xiao switched positions with Ying Feng. The equipment that was just taken off of Ying Feng was attached to Ling Xiao, but the warmth the previous person left on it had already disappeared.
“How do you feel?” Yao Tai’s attitude towards Ling Xiao was unprecedentedly gentle.
“Nothing really.” Ling Xiao answered honestly. If he had to use a word to describe it, it would be “numb”.
There was neither grievance, nor extreme rage. It was the other kind of reaction after being defeated in the Adult Ceremony. Overly calm, but also a sign of extreme danger.
Despite having witnessed various Qizi’s reactions after the Ceremony, Yao Tai suddenly didn’t have the heart to look at him. She turned to the side and said, “You may get up.”
Ling Xiao put his clothes on in silence while his examination report was printed out. Yao Tai looked at the data on it without a word, her expression rather grave.
“You can tell me the truth, Dr. Yao. I can take it.”
Yao Tai chose her words carefully, “I’m afraid that your mental state doesn’t look very optimistic.”
“Do I need to be shackled like Lan Sheng?”
Yao Tai’s eyes were evasive. “No, not to that extent.”
She put both of her hands on Ling Xiao’s shoulders, attempting to pass some strength to him through this method. “Ling Xiao, I know you must be very downcast, very sad right now. But those feelings are all caused by hormone disorders. You must not think of them as your real feelings.”
“Do you still remember Lan Sheng? He didn’t really want to jump off that building. It was just that he couldn’t act rationally anymore at that time. He was shut in his own world and couldn’t bring himself to listen to anyone. That wasn’t his true intention.”
Ling Xiao silently took Yao Tai’s hand off his shoulder. “I can tell.”
These three words could imply many things. Because he could tell, he knew better that his thoughts at the moment originated from psychology rather than physiology. It was even worse to think this way.
“I know you’re strong-minded and won’t easy yield to others, but you’re already together with Ying Feng. Only he can help you get through this stage. I think you know more about his character than I do. If you don’t take the initiative and ask him for help first, your relationship will remain at a deadlock.”
“I’m not asking you to show weakness. I just hope that you can soften a little, even if it’s just a little bit. I’m sure Ying Feng will not reject you.”
This time, Ling Xiao didn’t even reply. He only slowly shook his head to indicate that it was impossible. Yao Tai covered her face, feeling utterly helpless.
“Listen to me. Ying Feng is still here. Right outside. He didn’t leave. If he really doesn’t want to face you, he can just leave.”
“But he stayed, which means he is willing to take responsibility. For this reason alone, you should not abandon yourself. It’s just that he also has his stubborn side and treats everyone so coldly. That is also a personality defect. By taking the initiative to approach him, you’re helping not only him, but also yourself.”
“Your binding was a complete accident. It’s hard for anyone to accept the result in a short amount of time. Thus, it is normal for him to appear cold and indifferent. But no matter what Ying Feng’s attitude is, as long as he is willing to stay, you still have a chance to bridge the gap and come together.”
Ling Xiao shook his head. “There won’t be such a chance. Ying Feng has someone he likes. I’m the one who ruined his opportunity. He must hate me to the core by now.”
“Someone he likes?” Yao Tai was confused. “But not long ago, he just told me that he hadn’t found a suitable partner yet.”
“He hasn’t found the person yet. The one he likes is his partner from the previous life. I know he has been looking for that person all this time.”
Yao Tai tried hard to control the anger inside her, “His partner from the previous life?” She was so angry that she started nodding, “Do you know how many Nestlings have dreamed of reuniting with their lovers from the previous life? Almost everyone has had this beautiful wish in their Nestling stage. To be together with the same person generation after generation. How romantic is must be! Even I once had such unrealistic dreams before.”
“But what about now? Even if I find out that Zhi Shang and I were mortal enemies in our previous life, I’m still willing to be together with him. Because he is my loved one in this life. Each reincarnation is its own matter. The previous life doesn’t have anything to do with the current one.”
“I can’t imagine that even someone like Ying Feng will think like this. But trust me, no one will stay in this dream forever. Everyone will eventually find their love in this life. The lover from the previous life is like an innocent and ignorant wish. Sooner or later, they will be replaced by true love.”
Ling Xiao knew Ying Feng’s obsession toward his previous life was not as vulnerable as Yao Tai described. He was willing to spend a large sum of money on information that couldn’t even be confirmed. He always kept that peach pit in his chest pocket with the utmost care. Furthermore, he would rather fight a Kui to the death and have himself completely wiped from the world instead of enter into an Adult Ceremony — Between life and freedom, he had already made his decision a long time ago. It was just that Ling Xiao could not tell Yao Tai any of it.
On the other side, Yao Tai was still trying to convince him, “You need to have more faith in the future. If he can even share with you something as humiliating as his ideal partner being the lover from his previous life, then it means he has a spot for you in his heart. The two of you still have endless possibilities. Not to mention that you like him…”
A hand covered her mouth and stopped her last sentence.
“No, that’s not true.” Ling Xiao withdrew his hand. “I don’t like him.”
“You do. That’s what the report says. There were obvious fluctuations on your psychological wave when I mentioned Ying Feng.”
“I admit that I care about him.” Ling Xiao interrupted, “But that doesn’t mean I like him. It might be appreciation, disgust, envy, or some other emotions. It’s definitely not the result of affection.”
Yao Tai sighed, “Affection has different waveforms from dislike or any other emotions. You can lie to yourself, but you can’t trick the machines.”
“Your machine is broken then.” He calmly replied.
“My machine is never broken.” Yao Tai said helplessly, “Maybe you haven’t realized it yourself, but there is only one explanation for your concern.
The infirmary fell into a long period of silence.
“Will Ying Feng see the results of my physical examination?” He asked, his head hanging.
“Yes. He’s your Qizhu. He has the right to know.”
“Can you please not tell him about this?”
Yao Tai was caught in a dilemma. “This is his right. No one…”
Yao Tai seemed to have heard a word that sounded like that. She stopped in an attempt to confirm that it was not her imagination.
“Please.” Ling Xiao raised his head. His eyes glittered. Yao Tai was shocked. Anyone would be moved by the sight of such a proud boy saying this word tearfully.
“I was humiliated enough already. Could you please leave me this last bit of pride?”