Chapter 57: Bai Yingting
They tacitly avoided the graduate students and came to stand before the window of an empty office.
“Just tell me how bad it is,” Zhou Yu said.
“Actually, regarding the operation itself, I was able to perform it with near perfect success. I removed as much as I could while preserving as much of his brain function as possible…” Daniel hesitated to continue. After all, Zhou Qing was not just a patient to him, but also a friend.
“I know that no one else in the world could have done it better than you. What you’re capable of doing is already at the limit of our medical achievements, so just tell me the results. I can take it.”
“Zhou Qing has a high chance of being paralyzed. His left arm and left leg will lose their function and require rehabilitation. He may also lose his control over language… but that’s not the worst of it…”
“Please go on.”
“Zhou Qing once said that the composition of the air in Nibelungen had suppressed the growth of the tumor in his brain, so I studied it. The air quality in Nibelungen—that is, the concentration of oxygen in the air—is slightly higher than that of our world, so by principle, it should also provide more nutrients for the tumor’s growth, yet it did not grow. However, now the tumor is growing three times faster than before. Maybe Zhou Qing can only get better if he returns to Nibelungen, but…”
“But due to his current condition, Juli Corp won’t allow him to go back.” Zhou Yu finished what Daniel had left unsaid.
Dr. Daniel nodded.
“You did all you could and I appreciate it very much. I want to stay with Zhou Qing for a bit.”
When Zhou Yu came to the outside of the ward, the graduate students were still there. They were all very concerned about Zhou Qing and wanted to know the result of his operation, but Zhou Yu couldn’t give them an answer.
“What’s that?” Zhou Yu saw a graduate student holding onto a Petri dish. Two delicate leaves were unfurled from the seed within.
“It’s a plant that Professor Zhou has been growing. He seems to treasure it. We thought that when Professor Zhou wakes up, he’d want to see it, so we brought it with us. “
“Thank you.” Zhou Yu took it over.
According to principle, no plants could be taken into Zhou Qing’s ward, but Dr. Daniel allowed it.
Because many things were not necessarily meaningful to Zhou Qing.
Zhou Yu observed the dish carefully. No matter which angle he studied it from, the plant in the dish was no different from any other common plant.
Perhaps, as a seedling, its newly gained life had evoked feelings of special significance in Zhou Qing.
Zhou Yu put it down in a corner and pulled a chair over to sit at Zhou Qing’s bedside.
He didn’t know how different Zhou Qing would be once he woke.
Zhou Qing continued to remain unconscious.
His mind was sinking aimlessly.
Darkness surrounded him.
It wasn’t until someone caught him steadily did he open his eyes.
He found himself floating in a space lacking in any orientation. Before him was the S rank organism he had met in Nibelungen.
“It’s you! Why are you here?”
Zhou Qing opened his eyes wide, trying to see them clearly.
Those gentle features and his elegant and endearing smile seemed to float through in the eternal river of time, searching for a place to moor.
“I am wherever you are. Isn’t it good like this?” His arm wrapped around Zhou Qing.
It was the most weightless yet innately natural embrace Zhou Qing had experienced.
“But this is the human world, not Nibelungen…” Zhou Qing didn’t understand at all.
“You brought me here, don’t you remember?” The line of his lips deepened. When Zhou Qing’s gaze landed upon it, it captured him in an inescapable cyclical thought.
“You are… that seed from Elpis? How?!” Zhou Qing was stunned.
“I am what you’ve classified as an S rank organism. The organisms on this level are capable of mimicry… which is not limited to human forms, no? Our thoughts can also be transmitted through other things acting as an intermediary.”
That was to say, the seed was an intermediary for his thoughts?
“Then… what do you want from me? ” Zhou Qing asked him curiously.
“What can you give me?” He reflected back with a smile.
His smile contained too many things Zhou Qing didn’t know of.
“I can’t give you anything,” Zhou Qing said helplessly, “but I look forward to seeing you all the time. I really am greedy.”
“That is not greed, but your dedication. You still have much time, do not be terrified for all the things you have yet to do. Enjoy your life, trust me.” With that, he gently pushed him upward.
Zhou Qing stretched out his hand, but he was getting farther and farther away from him.
“Who are you?”
His lips moved, but Zhou Qing couldn’t hear what he had said.
Blinding light pierced Zhou Qing’s eyes, making him instinctively turn to the side.
His fingers trembled and his throat was dry and hoarse. “Water… I want to drink water…”
When he said that, Zhou Yu, who was by his side, suddenly started in surprise. “Zhou Qing, what do you want?”
Zhou Qing finally opened his eyes completely, and he stared into Zhou Yu’s eyes. “Brother… why are you here…? I want to drink water…”
“I’ll pour you some right away!” Zhou Yu quickly poured Zhou Qing some water. After watching him gulp it down, he immediately went out to look for Dr. Daniel.
“Dr. Daniel! Zhou Qing is awake! You were worried that his language abilities would be affected, but he spoke to me and understood what I asked him!”
Daniel’s eyes widened in shock and he rushed to Zhou Qing’s ward.
By this time, the doctors and nurses were already examining Zhou Qing.
“Heart rate, blood pressure, and pulse are all normal,” the nurse told Daniel.
Daniel came to Zhou Qing, pointed to himself, and asked, “Professor Zhou, do you know who I am?”
The corners of Zhou Qing’s mouth drew up in a smile. “You’re Dr. Daniel… I couldn’t forget you if I tried… Because if my tumor reappears, only you can save me.”
Dr. Daniel gulped. “Now, try lifting your left arm.”
Zhou Qing raised his left arm and moved around his left hand. Daniel checked his mobility in all four limbs and found that they had not been affected by the operation at all.
When Zhou Qing recovered slightly, another specialist came in to test Zhou Qing’s logical processing ability. Even his cognitive capabilities were the same as before.
“This… is a miracle…” Dr. Daniel covered his face in disbelief.
After an ordinary patient underwent such an operation, they would be greatly weakened after, but Zhou Qing recovered faster than the doctors had expected.
When he sat up and saw the dish in a corner of the ward, he asked Zhou Yu tensely, “what is that?”
“Your graduate students took it from your lab, saying that it’s some kind of plant you’ve been raising.”
“What! How could they bring it here?! The room temperature is too high…” Zhou Qing was in a hurry to get out of bed. Zhou Yu was going to reach out to support him, but he walked over by himself.
The fresh buds in the dish were withered.
Zhou Qing stood there for a long time, expressionless. The emotions in his heart were too complicated to describe.
“Zhou Qing?” When Zhou Yu came to him, he saw Zhou Qing wearing an expression he’d never seen before.
“How long did you kept it here?” Zhou Qing asked.
His expression and his concern for the plant after just having regained consciousness convinced Zhou Yu that it was no ordinary plant.
“When you were undergoing surgery, your students had been standing outside with it. Will it live? If it’s the room temperature, I can take it back to your lab now.”
The bud had already died and its roots were rotted.
Zhou Qing’s heart ached; it could no longer be saved.
He shook his head and said, “it’s not just because of the room temperature, there could be harmful substances in the water… There are too many exact conditions necessary for it to grow.”
“Is this plant special?” Zhou Yu asked.
“This is… This is something a very important person gave me. It’s hard to grow, so I was surprised when it sprouted, but it still didn’t grow up.” Zhou Qing looked gloomy. “Brother… can you take me back to the lab?”
“Okay, I’ll go tell Dr. Daniel.”
Zhou Qing sucked in a breath. When the S rank organism in his dreams pushed him away, had it been a goodbye?
Because the newborn plant had died, he lost the intermediary for his thoughts, so he disappeared?
If he didn’t return to Nibelungen, would he never see him again?
Although Dr. Daniel hesitated, Zhou Qing’s health was already better in condition than what he could understand. The examination results showed that he was healing from his brain surgery. Normally, the scars in brain tissue caused by such an operation would also lead to epilepsy, but Dr. Daniel felt that Zhou Qing’s brain was healing at a speed completely beyond that of an ordinary person. He agreed to Zhou Yu’s request, but only gave him three hours.
Zhou Yu drove Zhou Qing back to the laboratory. Zhou Qing took out the remaining Elpis solution and poured it into a new Petri dish.
He carefully peeled off the rotten portions of the seed and gently put the remaining piece into the liquid with tweezers. Shockingly enough, it completely dissolved in the liquid and disappeared.
Zhou Qing’s hand froze in place.
After Elpis’s death, part of its body had dissolved into clear water. The seed had blended into the water… so the water was the final state of Elpis’s death.
He’d lost it entirely.
Zhou Yu walked over. “How is it? Can it still not be saved?”
“Yes. There are some things that can’t be saved no matter how hard I try.” Zhou Qing put the dish away, everything before him a blur. “Brother… it was the seed of Elpis.”
Zhou Yu paused. “What did you say? You… brought the seed of Elpis here from Nibelungen?” Zhou Qing pressed against his eyelids. “I know that not only was this unprofessional of me as a researcher, but it was also a threat to our human world… but the voice in my mind convinced me. He felt trustworthy and safe to me, so I did as he said and brought the seed to this world.”
Zhou Yu was immediately alert. He clasped Zhou Qing’s shoulder and asked, “who do you mean by ‘he’?”
Zhou Qing opened his mouth and finally decided to come clean about the secrets hidden in his heart.
He recounted of how he had first met that S rank organism at the lakeside and how he was subsequently saved by them each time.
“I know what you’re thinking… you think he’s luring me in. Maybe he wants to eat me, or become nutrition for reproduction… But when I’m like this, as someone who may die at any given time, I have no value in being seduced by him. If that S rank organism had wanted to eat me, then it would be nothing more than child’s play to him…”
Zhou Yu crossed his arms, looking at Zhou Qing.
“You underestimate yourself, Zhou Qing.”
Zhou Qing raised his head. He thought that Zhou Yu would tell him not to approach the organism any more, saying that everything had been by the creature’s designs, and then bring up the example of the female researcher who had died during her pregnancy after being seduced. But Zhou Yu had said that instead.
“Brother… I don’t think he ever wanted to hurt me.”
“You know… What?” Zhou Qing asked, unsure.
“I know how it feels. Even though the world is telling you to be careful and stay away, your intuition tells you that you can’t turn back. Because you need him.”
Shocked, Zhou Qing looked into Zhou Yu’s eyes that were as deep as obsidian. He hadn’t expected Zhou to say such a thing.
“So… what should I do?” Zhou Qing asked.
Zhou Yu reached out his hand and pointed to where Zhou Qing’s heart was. “Always remember where your bottom line is. Always remember who it is that you will never hurt, even if you have to sacrifice everything. But before that, focus on feeling it, and sensing it.”
“Are you really my older brother?”
“Are you saying you want to be the older brother?” Zhou Yu asked jokingly.
Zhou Qing smiled. “Brother… let’s go back to the hospital.”
“Okay,” Zhou Yu nodded.
Looking after Zhou Qing’s retreating figure, Zhou Yu’s gaze lowered. Although he’d also been through such experiences and even maintained his vigilance at all times, Zhou Yu understood that the feeling of being stirred up could not be restrained.
He knew that although Zhou Qing looked like any other academic, he’d given up on hope on the inside. But the appearance of that S rank organism had brought comfort to Zhou Qing. If he were to force Zhou Qing to cut off his connection with that S rank organism, it would send Zhou Qing back into despair.
Rather than despair, Zhou Yu wanted Zhou Qing to be happy.
That was why he had to look after Zhou Qing even more carefully than before.
Even if Zhou Qing couldn’t see things clearly, as his older brother, he had to do it for him, especially before Zhou Qing was dragged down the cliff by temptation. He needed to hold on to him.
“But what about myself?” Zhou Yu smiled helplessly.
The image of that black-haired youth floating in the water flashed through his mind. With his hair gently swaying with the waves, his eyes seemed to draw Zhou Yu into the end of the world.
Zhou Yu closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He found that the harder he tried to push it down, the deeper the young man’s face was entrenched in his mind, until it became unfathomable.
In his office, Dr. Daniel had his arms crossed while studying images of Zhou Qing’s brain scan.
When Zhou Yu went back to make Zhou Qing porridge, Dr. Daniel came to Zhou Qing’s bedside and put down an image of his CT scan in front of him.
“Can you tell me what special organism you were in contact with in Nibelungen?”
Zhou Qing’s fingertips trembled. He knew that Dr. Daniel was very professional. He was probably the most difficult one to hide secrets from.
“Elpis,” Zhou Qing replied.
“I’ve been studying samples of Elpis. I don’t know if it affected my body because I often come into contact with its samples. Elpis is a creature with very special nerve structures… It has a complex neural structure, and a remarkable healing ability and memory. You’ve probably heard that it can pass on its memories to another living being before it dies.”
Zhou Qing tried to distract Dr. Daniel.
“If so, then when I have another chance to go to Nibelungen, I want to properly study this kind of organism.” Daniel accepted Zhou Qing’s explanation despite his misgivings.
A month later, Zhou Qing left the hospital. He did not continue to recuperate, throwing himself back into his research instead.
His paper on the evolution of the plant nervous system published in an academic journal caused great waves in their circle, many scholars having deemed it as the “conjecture from heaven.” Zhou Qing thought that in the distant future, plants would likely evolve the same nervous system as animals, and even develop cerebral structures unique to plants. It would not be limited to animal brains, but the nerves may spread throughout the entire plant or even store complex memories.
Some scholars directly commented that Zhou Qing should become a science fiction novelist.
Following public opinion, several organizations that had originally been sponsoring Zhou Qing suspected that he’d lost his mental capabilities due to brain surgery, and considered withdrawing his funding or suggesting that Zhou Qing receive psychological treatment.
This greatly depressed Zhou Qing’s graduate students, but Zhou Qing acted as if it was no big deal and continued on without any intention of changing the course of his research.
The number of times Zhou Qing was invited to participate in seminars and the number of people who offered to sponsor him decreased dramatically. Zhou Qing knew that his idea had grown from what he had witnessed in Nibelungen. He had seen the nervous system of the plants, had felt their thoughts, and even their ability to move. This was incomprehensible to the ordinary person.
But to Zhou Qing’s surprise, a professor in the same field from H University in the United States published another paper that further discussed Zhou Qing’s theory. Unlike Zhou Qing’s conjectural hypothesis, their paper was more logically sound and employed a large number of examples, pointing out its significance in relevant research of human neurological diseases.
Zhou Qing read the paper over and over. He really wanted to speak with the professor face to face.
The professor’s name was Bai Yingting. His English name was Constantine.
When Zhou Qing was still trying to look up Professor Bai’s contact information, Professor Bai’s assistant contacted his lab, saying that he would be coming to F University to visit Zhou Qing.
Zhou Qing was ecstatic.
That night, Zhou Qing sat in his lab watching the liquid from Elpis, lost in thought. His cell phone rang; it was an overseas call. Zhou Qing’s heartbeat suddenly sped up and he felt something akin to excitement.
“Hello, this is Zhou Qing.”
“I hope I’m not disturbing you, I’m Bai Yingting from H University. My doctoral student contacted you earlier. I’m at the airport right now and I’ll be arriving in your city tomorrow evening. I’m wondering if I can make an appointment with Professor Zhou for dinner?”
His voice almost made Zhou Qing’s heart leap out of his chest. It was a pure and honest sound, with a trace of a noble temperament in its gracefulness. It was a voice that had reverberated through Zhou Qing’s mind countless times before.
How was this possible?
How could he exist in this world?
“Of course… I can. It would be my pleasure.”
At this time, the announcement sound from the airport lounge came from the other end of the cell phone.
“Professor Zhou, I’m about to board the plane. Good night.”
That “good night” came with faint amusement, soothing Zhou Qing’s mind.
“Oh yes, Professor Zhou…”
“Are you still sitting in your lab?”
“Ah… Yes… “
“You should go home and rest. Have a warm glass of milk, take a bath, and sleep well… then you will see me.”
As if he had known Zhou Qing for ages and understood everything about him, as if, despite being on the other side the planet, he could see Zhou Qing.
The call ended and Zhou Qing suddenly felt empty. He went to the computer and looked up Bai Yingting. Other than his paper, Zhou Qing knew nothing about his personal life.
His early research was very traditional and his hypotheses and methods were careful, forming a wide gap with his most recently published paper.
His only picture was of when he had gotten his doctoral degree. Although the quality was blurry, he was very much a handsome, refined, and scholarly-looking man in terms of facial features.
Zhou Qing turned off his computer. It was the first time in many days that he had returned to his dormitories before nine o’clock. He heated up a glass of milk and then went to sleep after showering.
This night, he slept more peacefully than usual.
When he woke up, it was already ten o’clock in the morning. Zhou Qing kneaded his temples. It was the best sleep he’d gotten after leaving the hospital.
He looked forward to dinner all throughout the day.
When he received Bai Yingting’s call again at 5:30 p.m., his fingertips were slightly hot to touch.
He had a strong premonition of something to come, but he didn’t know what it was.
Bai Yingting’s voice was still as unhurried as before, with a trace of the familiar temperature Zhou Qing knew well.
The prev/next/toc buttons were giving me a lot of grief and I accidentally deleted the saved template for the table of contents. So it’s gone from all pages now. WordPress seems to insist on making things both difficult and slow to work with.
Happy 2nd birthday to this website! It was a few days ago.