#111 – Four Years
“Well…” Qing Shui sunk into a brief moment of silence. He didn’t remark about Zhizhi’s death but smiled instead. “You know that she is still alive.”
“I do,” Chang agreed. “We lived together for some time, I just don’t believe that she could’ve died that way.”
“She couldn’t, however, if I hadn’t conducted my research on her, she would’ve been dead a long time ago. I didn’t lie to you about the internal bleeding from the rupture of viscera.” Qing Shui stood up, patting Chang’s shoulder. “But then, since you’ve asked about this, I can’t betray your expectations. When the sun rises up tomorrow, I’ll take her to you.”
“Thanks.” Chang nodded. “Can I ask you something? Why did you choose Zhizhi as your experiment subject?”
“There wasn’t any particular reason. I didn’t know her beforehand, and she worked under Zhuo at the time, so I felt less burdened using her,” Qing Shui answered calmly. “That was my first reason; and the second is that EMs are rare, especially in the sensory category. We only have two or three of them here, and that’s why I developed an interest in her.
“After all, her ability is closely related to my current project – the Modifier. I was thinking that her mutation must have some sort of relationship with gene sequence. Thus, she made herself a great subject.” As Qing Shui spoke, his voice became lower and lower. “When I found her on the battlefield, she was indeed lingering on her last breath. I wasn’t confident about whether she could make it or not. Please, don’t blame me on this.
“I knew that she was your comrade, and I’m still conscience-stricken because I’ve tested on her.”
“Don’t feel guilty about it. I’m just glad that you’re willing to let her go.” Chang heaved a sigh, saying, “We all have our own plans and thoughts, and I’m forever grateful that you always make a concession on mine.”
“Thank you, Chang.”
The skin around Qing Shui’s eyes wrinkled as he smiled.
“But… I don’t want to live in the institute anymore,” Chang said. “Here… It’s not somewhere I belong to. I’m vigilant every second in the institute even if you’re here. I want to live outside this place.”
“No problem, you can do whatever you want to. Let’s keep in touch. When you are in trouble, or need help, don’t forget that I’m here. I can offer you food and weapons, anything that you ask for.” Qing Shui lowered his head. “I just hope that our brotherhood doesn’t end today.”
“I understand that, Zhizhi is neither me nor Jing, and she’s just a nobody to you, so there is no reason for you to take care of her anyway.” Chang smiled wryly. “I think this is what they call politics. And politics and friendship should never collide with each other.”
“So what’s your plan after you get out?”
Qing Shui quietly avoided the topic, lit a cigarette for Chang, and handed it to him.
Chang took the cigarette between his fingers, taking a deep inhale so that the nicotine reached the bottom of his lungs. “I don’t have one yet, we’ll see. I’ll inject the Modifier before I leave, then, I think my ability can at least keep me from starvation.”
“I do believe that, after all, you fond your own way to survive even in Kaifeng.” Qing Shui’s smile was warm. “About the Modifier, I have to remind you that the rearrangement of your gene sequences is a prolonged process, it won’t have instant effects. And I only learned that recently.
“For example, if you were to develop a sensitive olfactory system that skews at the right end of the normal distribution, you have to have more olfactory cells grow in your body. That means, even if your gene sequences are successfully modified, it will still take time to transform the structure. Only when you have a functional feature will the transformation is completed. Fish without gills can’t survive underwater.
“This is what I found these days. The effect cycle of the Modifier is as long as your life, so prepare yourself before the injection.”
“Understood.” Chang nodded. “Take good care of yourself as well after we leave here.”
“Don’t worry. No one would dare to touch me except for that source of the disturbance. No one is capable of causing harm to me.” Mentioning himself in the conversation, Qing Shui seemed reluctant. “I feel like that disturbance is targeting me as I can always feel its presence these days. It’s been wandering around the institute.”
“What do you think it is?”
“I’ve no idea, but that means it’s a formidable life form. It seemed to be interested in my research, which means it’s intelligent.” Qing Shui smiled. “It’s always observing me from far away, but it never initiates a rash approach.”
“You aren’t intimidated, are you?” Chang asked with deep concern.
“No need to worry, it is prudent. And I’ve also planned my counter-move. However, it’s always looking at me, perhaps my genetic research intrigues it,” Qing Shui said. “And then I was thinking, maybe it’s looking into ways of reproduction.”
“A life form like it has a low chance of mutation, and it must have gone through a rapid evolution during that period. The odds of another organism evolved in the same path that it has gone through is infinitely small, thus, it is one of a kind. That being said, it can’t mate with an opposite sex of its kind because there is none. No matter how intimidating it is, it’s still a singular organism that can’t cause harm on a large scale, unless it is the Willow.”
Qing Shui then continued, “Though, I don’t think it is the Willow. Then thing is just learning how to reproduce. From his behavioral pattern, it’s not its first time approaching a human.”
“What will you do now? To deal with the unknown,” Chang asked.
“I’ll do nothing. It’s good at disguising itself, and I don’t see a chance of capturing it. I can only sense its presence by the feeling of being disturbed dangling in my heart, which is almost always here,” Qing Shui replied. “However, you don’t need to worry about me at all. Firstly, if it’s as intelligent as I think it to be, it should never show itself. And secondly, if it reveals its identity to me, it’s doomed to die.”
“Good to hear all that.” Chang nodded for one last time. “My mind is at rest as long as you’re safe.”
“I’ll bring her to you tomorrow morning. And I’ll contact you when the news about your relatives comes.”
“I should leave, take a good rest.” Qing Shui took back the half of the cigarette and inhaled until his lungs bloated up. He squeezed out the last bit of flare on the windowsill and left without looking back.
The next morning.
Zhizhi was escorted to Chang’s room when the sun rose up. One of her arms was lost in the spider den and one of her remaining fingers hung on Chang’s pendant.
Zhizhi seemed to have recovered well from the explosion but her eyes were fatigued. Her expression turned grateful when she saw Chang standing in the hallway.
“I’m leaving with Jing, do you want to join us?”
A full washed-out backpack was on his back, and Jing was sitting on his forearm, though Chang’s facial muscles were still rigid.
“Let’s go together.”
Chang took the lead to step out of the institute.
Officer He followed suit without saying a word. The moment they ‘escaped’ from the institute, emotions surged in waves in their minds.
They had fled from the eye of the storm, and being away from which would lead them to a long period of peaceful life. Of course, it was merely an inner peace and temporary, from being freed from the political struggles. However, the rivalry between humans and nature was not going to stop, challenges would come repeatedly, leaving humans no time to take a breath.
The pace of global evolution won’t take a rest for anyone. Species who occupied this planet would continue to evolve and mutate, leading to a more complicated food web.
Yet it was still unknown whether humanity would be dragged down from the throne.
Four years later.
In the city of Zhengzhou
Inside the Chortle.
“Yo! Where are the strippers?” some drunkard swaying his tankard shouted out. “We live on the policy made in the Institute, selling them the new species that we found in the jungle. After all that hard work, you’re telling me that there is no stripper performance? What kind of sh*tty bar is this!”
“This bar is clean, they don’t provide services like that,” someone reminded the boisterous drunk, and his just as lively companions. “This is a place for drinks only, we never saw strippers here. I bet you’ve came from another Area.”
“First time here, we came all the way from Area 2.” The mercenaries burst out into vulgar laughter. “We had no idea that there was a bar at a backstreet like this, but once we saw it, we knew that there should be some nice services provided in a place like this. I’m really disappointed now, I want my strippers!”
One of the mercs hammered onto the table, cleaving out a hole. The quake sent the tankards crashing to the ground.
“You better not incur unnecessary troubles. We all know who takes care of this bar,” the person on the next table continued to warn them. “Perhaps it’s an urban legend, but we heard that the owner is close to the military, and he’s on good terms with the higher ups. Some juvenile gang attempted to merge this bar with theirs once but on the next day, their leader was beheaded, and his corpse was fed to the tentacle monster in the sewage… You better behave yourselves…”
It seemed like the person was reminding them with good intentions but his tone was actually threatening. Anyone with a clear mind would notice his provocation.
As expected, the outsiders were enraged by his remarks. One of the drunkest stood up on his chair, shouting with anger, “F*ck this sh*t. Everybody has some sort of connections these days, and they’re all yelling that they ain’t afraid of death. They’re all liars, liars!
“My name is Sanpang Mo, I shall see who dares to challenge me!”
The man behaved with unbearable insolence, attracting attention from everyone in the bar.