Chapter 164: Spring
You Huo and Qin Jiu’s physical foundation was so good, they recovered at an alarmingly fast rate. After the last bottle of drip was finished, their physical data no longer showed any abnormalities.
While admiring the results, the director combed his fingers across his bare head and said, “The protocol still needs to be followed and full body examination will still need to be done. Who was that before, Gao Qi? As soon as he got out of bed he bragged that he could run a cross country without a problem and then what happened? The next day he got a fever and had to continue with the drips.”
Gao Qi, who was far away in the army, sneezed three times in a row. He had no idea he had just been used as an example.
“The observation period is one week. During this week, you should stay in the hospital and rest up. We have very good conditions and the scenery is also good so it will be beneficial.” The director said sincerely, “You are both currently being reviewed. Of course, this is just a matter of protocols and it doesn’t mean that your efforts are being discredited. As we all know, review periods can take up to several months and it won’t necessarily be over sooner if you go over there earlier so you can just take your time and rest up here, okay?”
Before the two could speak, the director smiled and said, “Alright, that’s settled then.”
You Huo: “…….”
“See, that’s why I said just looking at the data is useless. Just looking at your face, I can tell that you need some more rest.” The director added another anger-inducing line and then grabbed his thermos and ran away.
This middle-aged friend had never been so agile and healthy before.
You Huo sat blankly in bed for a moment. Without even needing to turn his head, he could see Qin Jiu laughing through the corner of his eyes.
“What are you laughing at?” He asked grimly.
“Nothing.” Qin Jiu coughed and restored his expression. His next words however couldn’t conceal his amusement, “Just realised that our Big Invigilator seems to have difficulty dealing with nagging middle-aged old people. It feels as if there is a hammer hidden under your sheets and you have one hand holding it wanting to smash him and your other hand is desperately restraining it.”
You Huo was silent for a moment. He then pointed at the door with his chin, “Scram.”
Qin Jiu smiled more deeply. He supported himself against the bed and leaned him to kiss him, “My legs are numb. Cannot oblige.”
Although the director liked to nag, he worked very efficiently. Soon afterwards, the little nurse who was in charge of taking them to be examined came and led them over to the examination building next door.
It took nearly an hour for the tests to be done.
When You Huo came out, the elevator door to this floor just happened to open and a figure immediately launched out with a cry, “Brother!”
You Huo didn’t need to see his face to know that it was Yu Wen.
Old Yu, who was still in the elevator, shouted, “He just woke up, don’t knock into him!”
And so Yu Wen quickly stepped onto his breaks and did a sharp turn, throwing himself into the waiting seats in the corridor instead.
Supporting himself with the chairs, he grinned back at You Huo, “Brother, Brother Qin.”
It was clearly winter but at this moment his forehead was covered in sweat, looking like a freshly steamed bun.
You Huo hummed a sound of acknowledgement and asked, “You two ran here?”
“Not really.” Yu Wen slumped onto the chair lifelessly and took some time to calm his breathing down, “Just ran a short distance. The hotel we’re staying at is just a street away, 700m, very close. It was mainly because I had to drag Old Yu.”
The days spent trying to survive inside the system was long and tormenting, but the time that had passed in reality was actually very short so the Yu father and son duo weren’t affected much. They were discharged after a week and had been staying nearby since then, waiting for You Huo and Qin Jiu to wake up.
“I just received a notice from the hospital saying that I can come see you two. I guessed that you two must’ve woken up.” Old Yu walked over as he pulled out a tissue to wipe off the sweat on his face. He pointed at the inpatient building, “We originally rushed over there and just happened to run into the little nurse downstairs. She said you two had come over here to be examined. Are you still waiting to be examined or is it done now?”
“It’s done. Waiting for the report.” You Huo said.
“Oh, that’s fast.” Old Yu nodded.
He walked around to the self-service machine to check the progress before returning and sitting on a chair nearby, listening to Yu Wen’s complaints.
Yu Wen said: “Brother, did you know that we have been coming here every day before this and would always be stopped downstairs?”
“Because the intensive care unit here doesn’t allow for visitors.” Yu Wen raised his chin and started to complain, “I, and also Old Yu, the two of us are also people who have stayed in the intensive care unit after all. Who would have thought that it would be easy to get out, but it would be more difficult going back in?”
Old Yu listened to his complaints for a while and interjected, “Don’t listen to this rascal’s nonsense. The hospital’s rules are like this. They’re not doing it to intentionally prevent us from seeing you. You see? They contacted us as soon as we’re allowed to visit.”
Yu Wen wasn’t angry despite his complaints being cast aside. He laughed instead, “Hey, I’m not really complaining. It’s just an exaggerated act to help my brother feel better.”
When he was saying the last half, his tone lowered, and he propped up one leg and stretched his back. When he sat properly again and stopped talking so exaggeratedly and he finally looked like a proper young man.
Old Yu at this moment realised that this brat of his had indeed matured.
You Huo asked them, “When will you return to Harbin?”
Yu Wen answered, “What are you talking about brother? You’re still hospitalised here so why would we go back?”
“No one is looking for you?”
“There are. Some high school buddies called me out to catch up and my roommate asked me when I will return to school.” Yu Wen said, “Fortunately I put my emergency contact as one of my close buddies. He probably thought I was skipping class as usual and helped cover for me.”
Old Yu who heard this sat up and glared at him.
Yu Wen covered his face with his elbow, “Don’t. I can explain.”
“Wasn’t it because…..You used to drink and wander around drunk all the time? If I left your number, it wouldn’t be much use if something really happened.”
If it was before, Yu Wen would say these kinds of things with confidence and without concealment. But now, he could only mumble and say it vaguely. The last part of his words seemed to be swallowed back down.
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Old Yu opened and closed his mouth, looking embarrassed and guilty.
Yu Wen scratched his head for a while and added, “Hey, I didn’t mean it like that. I meant you used to be like that. It’s not like that now.”
Old Yu sighed. He opened his mouth to speak.
Yu Wen quickly interrupted and said, “Stop. I really don’t like this emotional stuff. Anyway, don’t drink anymore. If you drink anymore, you’ll suffer. I’ll change my emergency contact number when I get back, sound good?”
“Alright.” Old Yu nodded.
“We better sign it as proof.” Yu Wen pretended to go through his backpack.
“Scram.” Old Yu slapped him on the back without much force.
Yu Wen happily cast his bag aside.
He said to You Huo, “Fortunately this whole matter didn’t take more than a few days. Old Yu and I don’t have relatives we have to visit every two or three days and there were only a few of Old Yu’s drinking friends who probably thought we went with you to Beijing.”
Old Yu nodded, “We can always clear up the situation later. It’s nothing to worry about.”
They chatted a little longer until Yu Wen’s phone suddenly sounded.
You Huo didn’t have the habit of looking at someone else’s phone. He turned to talk to Qin Jiu when he suddenly heard Yu Wen quietly throw out some profanities.
You Huo and Qin Jiu raised their brows and looked over at the same time only to see Yu Wen holding his phone sighing. He looked like his spirit was sucked up by a monster or something.
“What’s wrong?” They asked.
Yu Wen showed them his phone screen.
You Huo glanced at it. It was a chat interface. There was only a total of four lines:
You have become friends with ‘You have the ability to flip books’.
You have the ability to flip books: You are?
Yu Wen: Top student, it’s me, Yu wen.
You have the ability to flip books: ……..Who’s Yu Wen?
End of conversation
Qin Jiu found it a little funny. He asked, “Are you searching for that little top student?”
Yu Wen raised a finger, “Brother Qin, wait. I’ll show you.”
He flipped through his phone and found a photo. He zoomed in and showed it to You Huo and Qin Jiu. It was a string of characters made up of mixed English alphabets and numbers.
“This is the account Di Li gave me. He said I could add him when we get out and then I would have a reference no matter where I go.” Yu Wen poked at his screen and said, “I counted it. This account name has 22 characters and it’s a mixture of numbers and letters. And look, is this a zero or an o? Is this the number 5 or an s? And is this a 6 or a b? And this…..what is this?”
Looking at the string of chicken scratch characters, You Huo finally couldn’t hold back and asked, “Handwritten?”
Yu Wen: “Yeah.”
After that he laughed out in anger.
“Haa this top student! Can you believe that a top students’ writing can be so ugly?” Yu Wen looked very tired, “I’ve been trying out all sorts of possibilities and this is the sixth person I’ve added wrongly. I will probably only be able to successfully add him when I’m at deaths door.”
You Huo glanced at him.
Yu Wen understood the meaning of it and laughed mockingly at himself, “Am I being dumb?”
You Huo let out a hum and said, “You took out your phone at the time so why didn’t you let him type it in?”
Yu Wen: “…..”
Yu Wen: “………………..”
This fool suddenly lost all the strength in his body. He slumped in his chair and finally muttered after a long time, “Idiots. We’re both idiots.”
Just as he was about to become a corpse, his phone sounded again.
Yu Wen rolled his eyes and sat up. He muttered quietly as he checked his phone, “Ding my ass, ding…”
As soon as he was done saying this, he stared at his phone and cursed.
“What is it now?” Qin Jiu asked.
Yu Wen jumped up and yelled, “This fucker lied to me!!!”
He turned his phone around and showed them two more lines that had appeared on the chat interface.
You have the ability to flip books: Forget it, forget it. I won’t tease you, lest you block me.
You have the ability to flip books: Hello?
Yu Wen tapped heavily onto his phone: Hello, you and the user are not friends. Goodbye.
As he typed, he walked over to the window. He leaned against a railing and started a word battle with the person on the other end.
As soon as his idiot son left, Old Yu took control of the conversation and You Huo and Qin Jiu would occasionally answer back.
He was still not very good at talking to his nephew, so the content of their conversation was plain and simple. It was nothing interesting, just about normal everyday things.
But that didn’t matter. Just the word ‘normal’ was enough.
Old Yu and his son stayed in the hospital for about two hours. They had stayed until visitation time was over. After that, You Huo met another acquaintance —– Wu Cheng, his former attending doctor and one of the people involved with the system project.
He was a middle-aged man who looked thin and stern. Because his hair had turned prematurely grey, he looked a few years older than his actual age.
In You Huo’s memory, Doctor Wu was a little stern. The younger doctors were a little afraid of him as were the nurses. Even Yang Shu had said that she was a little afraid of this senior of hers.
But when he saw You Huo this time, he revealed a gentle but guilty smile.
He said, “I originally wanted Wu Li to come together with me. With her around, it might be easier for me to speak, but she’s still recuperating at the moment with Yang Shu and I am also unqualified elder so I should have the courage to admit to my mistakes.”
In fact, Qin Jiu and You Huo had communicated with the army after they had woken up and they had learnt about almost everything about the system—–
Just like they had deduced, the original project team leader was Du Deng Liu. When he was young, he had worked with the army many times and had participated in countless projects so the moment the idea of ‘developing a system for screening and training talents’ came up, it was immediately handed over to Du Deng Liu.
But everyone had forgotten that Du Deng Liu was now older.
It really was true that once people are older, they would think about things they have never thought of when they were younger, including the matter of life and death. Sometimes, these thoughts would make people lose sight of themselves and their focus would be on wanting to leave something behind, extend their life or leave proof of their existence.
Du Deng Liu was such a person.
So his design concept was biased from the very beginning. He wasn’t designing the system with the aim to train and screen army talents and was instead creating a world, a world that would allow him to continue living. At the same time, he ensured that the world also had the ability to screen and train.
The difference between the two may seem very big, but it was actually very subtle.
Except for the leader of the team, almost all the rest of the personnel were young people. Most didn’t know of Du Deng Liu’s hidden intentions. Afterall, they were still young, and their lives were very long.
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There were a few exceptions however, including You Huo’s mother. She had always been in poor health, like a candle that could go out any time, so even if she was young, she could relate with Du Deng Liu’s thoughts.
These exceptional researchers became supporters of Du Deng Liu’s hidden agenda. They shared his secret and guarded it even until death. Each of them left their own ‘shadow’s’ behind in the system and these shadows later became ‘Team S’.
When they all passed away, the system was already almost at completion. All that was left were minor adjustments and alterations.
Wu Cheng’s first point of contact with this project could be traced back to a long time ago. As an expert in the medical field, he helped with some related matters, but he wasn’t involved with the system design.
He only really got involved the past few years, after the system had lost control. He got in with the support of the military and was one of the main personnel tasked with dealing with the aftermath.
Outsiders however couldn’t do anything to the system as all external interference to the system may result in the system closing itself off and cutting all connection with reality. Once it become an independent space in an independent dimension, all the people inside would truly be unable to get out again.
That was why the death squad was formed. They were tasked with entering the system and dealing with it from the inside.
Wu Cheng had many things to deal with everyday but after much analysis, it really amounted to three main things——
Saving the innocent victims;
Saving the soldiers who have entered the system to complete their mission;
Saving the researchers.
They had a complete system that could search up any patients admitted to any hospital and they could also provide help and treatment remotely.
Through this, they could find almost everyone who might’ve been pulled into the system.
For those who have died in the system, their situation in reality was particularly bad and almost all were brain dead. One of Wu Cheng’s job was to keep them alive, even if there was only the smallest of hope left.
According to the director of the intensive care unit, the worst was in this hospital, staying in the special wards. Every once in a while, Wu Cheng would come and visit.
But they still showed no signs of waking up.
You Huo had at one point wondered what it would be like if he met Doctor Wu again, but he didn’t expect that the other party would apologise to him.
Wu Cheng said, “I am ashamed. When I was treating you, I used a very narrow mindset to understand your position. We detected signs of activity in your eyes and the last time was very recent so at that time I thought that you and the system were still one body. When we found out that you had lost your memory, we even felt a little grateful, thinking that there was one less troublesome person. We hoped that you would not be involved in this matter anymore and become an obstacle for us so we lied and said that it was an injury from an accident during training and didn’t mention a single thing about the system.”
You Huo listened quietly and said, “I could tell. Don’t worry about apologising, it’s enough that the outcome was good.”
Wu Cheng looked at this young man for a long time and suddenly felt even more apologetic. But he knew that someone like him wouldn’t care much about his guilt. He said, “I came here this time, besides apologising, is to let you know that the 26,921 examinees who have been mistakenly involved and adding to that the invigilator’s and other personnel, which amounts to a total of 28,114 people, are all under our care. Although some are in poor condition, we will do our best.”
After saying this, he saw the two young men in front of him smile. Their smile wasn’t deep, but it carried a sense of relief.
He saw the person called Qin Jiu nod and say, “That’s good. All that we did weren’t in vain.”
The army review lasted for three months and it ended in spring.
Almost all the early invigilators led by You Huo qualified. They were not only soldiers with excellent skills, they were also the first batch of settlers in the system and are familiar with its various training and screening mechanisms. After the review, they were directly put into a special team responsible for various pre-international military projects.
As for the death squad headed by Qin Jiu, they returned to the team after their successful review.
The once complicated and huge system had not become ‘a piece of rubble’. All design materials and records were filed away and there was only a box of program disks from the core which were safely stored away by Qin Jiu’s team.
As the seasons cycle on, everything finally went back on track. But there were still some people missing.
For example, Chu Yue.
Her eyes had been recovering and relapsing over and over and it finally recovered completely in April.
The day when the treatment ended was April 17th. Chu Yue sat on the bed as the little nurse smiled and said to her, “The weather outside is very good. All the roses outside is blooming. You just happened to catch it at its most beautiful moment.”
Chu Yue also smiled back, “Then I have really good luck.”
The little nurse then said, “Later you may not feel comfortable after the bandages are removed. We have already adjusted the light, but you may still find it a bit bright and everything will be white. But trust me, it will be better soon.”
Chu Yue smiled again, “It’s okay. Seeing white is commonplace for me.”
The little nurse thought she was just joking along but in fact, she wasn’t. She really did often see something like this. It was in her confinement room.
Whenever the confinement rooms take effect, she would see a patch of pure white scenery that extended endlessly in all directions. Alone, she would be sitting in the middle of all this emptiness.
For a long time, she had thought that this was a representation of her life; coming alone and leaving alone. She was most afraid of this, but she was also destined to live like this.
She once thought that she didn’t care. But every time she entered the confinement room, the white world would envelop her again.
Just like now, although she said that ‘it’s okay’, she still subconsciously hoped that the dazzling white world would not last too long.
She heard the friction of the little nurse’s clothing. She heard the scissors leave the metal tray. She heard the soft snips as the bandages over her eyes were cut.
And then, her face was uncovered. The restraints around her eyes were completely gone.
Under the nurses reminder, she slowly opened her eyes…….
The whiteness didn’t last very long. It was so short that before she could react, a blurry figure appeared before her.
Light penetrated through and her vision became clearer. She could finally see the world around her clearly——-
It was no longer a field of white, but people. Many, many people.
She saw A, saw 001, saw Gao Qi and Zhao Jiatong, saw Old Yu and Yu Wen, saw Yang Shu, Wu Li and Shu Xue…….
At that moment, she suddenly thought of a phrase: Friends until death.
But this phrase was too heavy. The word ‘death’ made it seem a little tragic and she hoped that these people will never have to have anything to do with the word ‘tragic’ for the rest of their lives.
Well then………sworn friends.
Chu Yue thought.
If that wasn’t enough, then she could add another two words after that.
On April 17, when she removed the bandages and opened her eyes, there was a group of people waiting for her outside. They were her sworn friends for life.
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