Chapter 20.1 – Xuejian Flower
“The Martyr” was well received, and even in this day and age, it made a name for itself.
With fame, there would be audiences. Qin Luoluo counted the money every day, grinning from ear to ear; Cheng Youwen was smug, bragging about how good the script is; Wolfgang kept silent, he took advantage of the momentum and rented out another performance hall to make a small profit, also, the aphrodisiac oil renewed three months of advertisement; Xia Fang still lived a life of doing odd jobs, acting, and meeting men in bars by the way. He still complained about the lack of money, but a generous bonus at the end of the month blocked his mouth.
The liveliest performance, with an audience of hundreds of people, was a dark and oppressive scene.
When Shi Yuan was on stage, he performed normally, but when he got off the stage, his tail was tied to a knot because of his fear.
Humans were still too scary for him.
Shi Yuan originally thought that he had to go home to let Lu Tinghan untie it, but as soon as he followed the crowd out of the theater, he heard someone calling him: “Shi Yuan.”
He turned his head and saw Lu Tinghan behind him, in a well-fitting white shirt and black suit pants. He put one hand in his pocket and rolled up his cuffs at will. He was obviously standing in the crowd, so handsome and tall that people couldn’t take their eyes off him.
Shi Yuan’s eyes lit up: “I thought you didn’t have time!”
This was Lu Tinghan’s first time watching a complete performance, since he didn’t have time to come before.
“I finished my work early, and you just happened to be on stage when I came,” Lu Tinghan said.
Shi Yuan: “Have you been looking at me?”
“Hmm,” Lu Tinghan said. “It’s a good performance.” He touched Shi Yuan’s head, and after getting in the car, he helped him untie his tail.
“You are so amazing,” Shi Yuan praised his human for the millionth time.
Lu Tinghan seemed to chuckle lightly.
The audience gathered in groups of threes and twos on the street not far away, talking about the plot while walking, and they couldn’t get enough of it. The street lights were on, and the lights and shadows outside the car window flickered and fell on the two of them. It was another very good day, Lu Tinghan had a rare moment of leisure, Shi Yuan’s tail was not tied in a knot anymore. They were going home, talking about what to eat tonight, as ordinary and common as everyone else.
On the first day of winter, Tracy fell ill again and was hospitalized in Gleaning No.1 Hospital. Wolfgang was taking care of her and members of the troupe would visit her when they could.
Shi Yuan went to the hospital with Qin Luoluo on Friday after work.
Qin Luoluo took a small handful of flowers, wrapped them in paper, and prepared to give them to Tracy.
Shi Yuan didn’t know anything about flowers, but when he saw the pink, white, and creamy yellow mixed together and was full of vitality, he thought it was very beautiful. He asked, “What kind of flowers are these?”
“Baby’s breath and hyacinth, the flower language is ‘care and longing’ and ‘happiness and prosperity’ respectively,” Qin Luoluo explained. “Flowers are already extremely expensive, and the flowering period of these flowers is not in winter, so they cost me a lot of money—look, it costs 6 yuan for just such a branch of baby’s breath, which is still a discounted price.”
Shi Yuan looked at the little flower and said, “It’s really expensive ah.”
“Isn’t it? There is often a price but no market. Rich people want to buy it as a gift for their little lovers. Fortunately, I know the flower seller well, so I can still buy a few,” Qin Luoluo said again. “Speaking of which, in a month’s time, it’s time for the ‘xuejian flowers’ to bloom.”
Shi Yuan had heard of xuejian flowers.
That kind of gorgeous white flower only blooms in winter. The colder it is and the heavier the snow, the more fragrant it is and the more vigorous it blooms. The Alliance designated it as the Alliance flower, which means to carry forward its spirit of not being afraid of difficulties and dangers.
For a long time, xuejian flower has been the most popular flower species, without exception.
Qin Luoluo and Shi Yuan got on the bus. She held the flowers in one hand and the railing in the other, and said, “I bought a few xuejian flowers to keep in the theater. When they bloom, I will give them to Tracy. She likes xuejian flowers.”
When they arrived at the hospital, the two walked through the corridor full of disinfectant and went to the fifth floor. As soon as the ward door opened, Tracy suddenly raised her head and cheered: “You’re here!”
There were five patients living in the ward, which was slightly crowded, and some people were coughing loudly. When Qin Luoluo put the flowers on the bedside table, Tracy kept looking at the flowers, her cat ears were up and very excited.
Her left eye was normal, but her right eye turned into an animal-like vertical pupil with a slight gray underneath, which looked distinctly bizarre. Shi Yuan felt a very faint fluctuation, it was chaotic and restless, and words could not describe it – it was the breath from infection, it was the distortion of the same origin as him.
The sequelae of infection have worsened.
The illness ate away at her.
In fact, all the patients in the room were hospitalized because of sequelae. Some had hairy skin, some had swollen necks, and some had gorgeous scales. It’s like the previous “radiation disease”, but it’s much more serious. Their genes have changed, and their appearance and even preferences have become different.
And all this was irreversible.
Even the best military inhibitors could only ‘suppress’ it and not cure it.
A ball of wool lay at the foot of Tracy’s bed – it was a feline favorite, and she loved it. Other than that, there were a few storybooks, fruit and candies, all shrouded in a faint floral scent.
Wolfgang went to the corridor to get some air, Qin Luoluo sat by the bed, reading a storybook with Tracy. Shi Yuan sat for a while and became thirsty. When he went out to fetch water, he saw Wolfgang standing at the end of the corridor, facing the narrow window. Wolfgang was diligent in his exercise. Usually, he would carry more than a dozen buckets of water up and down without panting. His body was stalwart and strong, like a small mountain.
Shi Yuan walked over with water in his hand: “Mr. Wolfgang, what are you looking at?”
Wolfgang was silent as always, did not answer, smiled at him, and shook his head.
Shi Yuan didn’t know what this shaking of his head meant. He also stood by the window and followed Wolfgang’s gaze out. The window faced the alley at the back of the hospital, dark and without streetlights.
There was nothing.
Shi Yuan didn’t ask Wolfgang what he was looking at. For him, many human actions were incomprehensible, and he included Wolfgang’s gaze. But he felt that Wolfgang’s heart was heavy.
To be precise, he had been more reticent since Tracy was hospitalized.
Shi Yuan went to pick up another glass of hot water, handed it to Wolfgang, and then stood side by side with him.
Wolfgang took a few sips, and after a long time, he said, “…I met her in the orphanage in Fengyang County.”
Fengyang County was another city. It was far away. Lu Tinghan went there not long ago. Shi Yuan had only heard of the name.
It was a long night, perfect for talking. Wolfgang talked about his story for the first time and went on to say: “At that time, I followed Isabella to perform in Fengyang County and lived there for six months. One day, we happened to go to the orphanage and saw Tracy.”
Shi Yuan asked: “You adopted her?”
“Yes. The other children were afraid of her appearance and didn’t play with her. The first time I saw her, she was sitting by the window reading a fairy tale book. She read every line, mimicked the tone of the different characters, and made herself laugh,” Wolfgang said. “The dean said she played like that so often she could act out the whole book’s plot.”
“Oh—” Shi Yuan suddenly understood. “Like a stage play?”
“Yes, just like a stage play. Both Isabel and I can see that she is a talented and good actress.” Wolfgang was still looking out the dark window.
His gaze seemed to travel through time, through the city walls, to Fengyang County six years ago.
It was a sunny day at that time, the orphanage was full of sunshine, and the chain of the swing rattled in the wind. Tracy was wearing the children’s uniform pure white clothes, sitting alone by the window, with cat ears up, reading the lines in the book aloud.
She said, “I’m going to beat you! I’m going to be the hero!”
She turned to lower her voice again: “No, I, the great squirrel magician, will turn you and your horse into turtles!”
She danced around with her hands, her twist braid hanging down in front of her, her bow hair ribbon flapping along with her movements. The dean on the side explained that she and her parents had an accident outside the city. The monster attacked their convoy and her parents died on the spot. Tracy ran far, far away holding her little orange cat.
By the time she found out that the orange cat’s hind leg bones were exposed, it was already too late.
The docile little animal was bitten by the monster, and slowly died and mutated in her arms.
It opened its muddy eyes and bit Tracy’s right shoulder blade.
The Alliance army arrived in time to save Tracy and injected her with inhibitors. Her infection was suppressed, leaving behind the mutated cat’s ears and tail, messy long hair on her back and legs, and pain all over her body.
Isabella Garcia was kind-hearted and almost wept when she heard this story. But her health was not good, and she was busy in the troupe, so she really didn’t have the energy to take care of one more child. She wiped away tears and said, “Tracy will be a good actor, we all know.”
Unexpectedly, Wolfgang, who had been silent, adopted her.
Later, Isabella concentrated on recuperating in Fengyang County. She gave the Garcia Grand Theater to Wolfgang and the Wild Rose Troupe, and Wolfgang and Tracy stayed in Gleaner City until today.
Shi Yuan listened to Wolfgang finish the whole story.
Except on stage, this was the first time he had heard Wolfgang say so much.
Shi Yuan asked, “Can her illness be cured?”
“There is hope,” Wolfgang said. “I talked to the doctor and he said he can arrange the surgery in six months.”
“Does the surgery cost money?” Shi Yuan asked again.
“Well, it’s going to be a lot of money, I have a solution for that – don’t tell Tracy about it, I haven’t told her yet.” Wolfgang took a sip of hot water, his calloused fingers unconsciously rubbing the wall of the cup. “It’s not just about money, the surgery is also risky… no matter what, Lady Isabella will bless her.”
Money is needed everywhere, Tracy needs money, Isabella needs money, and both of them are for medical treatment.
When Shi Yuan returned to the ward, Qin Luoluo just finished reading a story.
Shi Yuan sat on the edge of the bed, he also read the story of “The Raven Knight” to Tracey, making her giggle.
Before leaving, he looked at the flowers on the bedside again. It was the first time he had seen such beautiful flowers, completely different from those strange and infected flowers in the wilderness, they were just in full bloom, bright and full of life, without any impurities.
Perhaps he glanced at these a few more times, and Tracy said, “Shi Yuan, would you like to take a few flowers home?”
Shi Yuan said, “This is for you.”
“It’s okay, just take it away if you like it, just leave me two branches,” Tracy said. “We are friends.”
Qin Luoluo also said, “She said so, you can take it if you want.”
There was a total of five hyacinths, Shi Yuan took two of them and a small bunch of baby’s breath.
Humans value these very much, and he thought Lu Tinghan would also like flowers.
After getting off the bus, he walked through a small square.
He saw the protesters again.
Men and women held up signs that read: [I implore the Alliance to dismiss General Lu Tinghan]
[Oppose the euthanasia bill, oppose the power of the Watchers!]
[We should never compromise!]
[He can think like a monster! Can we really trust him?]
Shi Yuan stood still and looked at them for a while.
After the birds flock attack, there had been rumors in the city about the infection’s peak period, and many believed that the peak was about to return after a 20-year low period. But after two months, there was no large-scale infection tide, and the distortion values of each abyss also stabilized, and this rumor gradually disappeared.
With the rumors gone, life returned to stability, as it had for the past 20 years. The number of protesters and the frequency of marches increased again.
In recent weeks, Shi Yuan saw them from time to time.
Shi Yuan saw the love of humans in the troupe – Cheng Youwen always had a smile and light in his eyes when he talked about the stage play; while the faces of the protesters were resentful, as they stood under a cloud of gloom, the Alliance flag hunting behind them, the protest slogans in their hands were shocking, their brows tight, and there seemed to be an unknown fire burning in their eyes, making Shi Yuan think of the flock of black crows in the forest, or the jagged rocks in the wilderness. Then, Shi Yuan understood that love and hate are equally fiery.
A few passersby stood by and watched as the protesters marched silently down the long street.
Shi Yuan didn’t like to see this, and was about to leave, when suddenly a man shouted hoarsely at passers-by: “Why do you believe him?! He stayed by the Abyss for ten years, for ten years! The Abyss is a demonic creation that changes the mind and corrupts the soul! He will one day be on the side of the monsters!”
Seeing his agitation, the passersby took a half step back, but to their surprise, the man did not relent and pressed on: “It’s not like you haven’t seen the Watchers out of control, they are mentally unstable! Would you let a potential madman control the life and death of an entire city?!” He waved his hands. “I wouldn’t anyway, I’ll die…ah!”
Shi Yuan stretched out his tail and tripped him.
The man fell to the ground and was stunned for two seconds, then he looked up and saw Shi Yuan running away, and yelled: “What the f*ck is wrong with you?! Looking for death, huh?” He threw the placard aside and limped after him.
And Shi Yuan ran fast down the alleyway, holding the flowers.
It was his first time doing something bad, his heart was beating so fast that it was about to pop out from his chest, and he was afraid of being caught up. Fortunately, he was very nimble, he walked the streets and alleys faster than the wind, and buildings swept past him, the man was a cripple and was unable to keep up with him.
When he ran back to the gate of the community, the man had long since disappeared.