“The monsters outside would only get worse and worse. Maybe they would end up fighting each other. I plan to hide here until the end.” Dong Zheng looked directly into the woman’s eyes, and invisible strands of his spiritual power quietly approached her, though he had no intentions of attacking.
Murphy’s appearance gave him a new idea. Could he also use his own spiritual power to secretly interfere with other people’s thinking?
He didn’t need to be as powerful as Murphy. As long as he could adjust other people’s emotional and mental state to a certain extent, he would be satisfied.
In a sense, the abilities of mental developers were all connected. The only difference lay in their respective limitations. With Fu Zhe’s consent, Dong Zheng was able to explore his spiritual world at a shallow level, seeking ways to make himself progress. In Dong Zheng’s eyes, Fu Zhen’s spiritual world was also a kernel. The illusions he created were virtual models composed of countless data, but they didn’t explain the mechanism for his ability to hypnotize.
When Fu Zhe entered Dong Zheng’s kernel, he could only see the already formed firewall, the information superhighway, the shielding field, and other facilities. He couldn’t detect the more basic data, let alone manipulate those.
The strands lightly touched the woman and sank into her head. Soon, Dong Zheng discovered that she was more afraid than hostile.
She was afraid of him.
He was a young and strong man. She also didn’t know how he was able to directly open the door that was locked close. In this dangerous world, the unknown was the most terrifying.
“My name is Dong Zheng, and I entered this circus with my teammates, but they were assigned to other arenas.” The room was full of things. Since it was prepared in the event of an evacuation, there was sufficient food and water. Dong Zheng pulled up the chair beside him and sat down. He bent over to look for a medical kit in the cabinet, expressing his attitude with practical actions.
The woman saw that he left his back to her, and though she knew that he wasn’t completely defenseless, she still felt a little relieved. “My name is He Xiufang.”
“Sister Fang,” Dong Zheng greeted her. He successfully found the place where the medical supplies were stored and unscrewed the iodine to disinfect the cuts he’d gotten from the glass shards. “If there’s no accident, I don’t intend to leave this room. I hope you don’t mind.”
He Xiufang hummed in acknowledgement and sat on the other side some distance from Dong Zheng. Dong Zheng took care of the injuries around the back of his hands. Since he couldn’t see the situation on his face, he put the iodine and cotton swabs aside and said, “When I came, I found some information. This is a safe house specifically built to protect core members in the event of an accident. It is very safe.”
Dong Zheng was covered with Murphy’s blood, making him look quite frightening. He Xiufang looked at him, her wrinkled brows gradually smoothed, and she suddenly asked, “Do you want me to help with that?”
Since the other party also decided to express goodwill, the atmosphere finally eased. Dong Zheng had no reason to refuse. He nodded and handed the iodine and cotton swab to He Xiufang. “Then I’ll trouble Sister Fang.”
He Xiufang dipped the cotton swab in iodine and cleaned the tiny cuts on Dong Zheng’s cheeks. She acted carefully and skillfully; she’d obviously taken care of others before. She belonged to the group of middle-aged women with hands covered in thick calluses from doing heavy housework year round. The calluses were even thicker than anything Dong Zheng had ever had as a man. It’d been made by washing clothes, and although the chapping had healed, it left behind scars that had difficulties fading.
Since Dong Zheng’s stepmother, Su Daijun, had married his father, except for the occasional cooking, she’d lead a pampered life. All houseworks was done by a nanny, and indeed, that nanny who’d taken care of Dong Zheng since he was born also had such hands.
A typical pair of hard-working hands.
He Xiufang’s skin was tanned due to lack of maintenance, and it was covered in dark spots. Her gray hair was a little disheveled. No matter how you look at it, He Xiufang was the kind of obscure woman who was gradually aging.
But her eyes were sober and firm. Little by little, she wiped away the blood from Dong Zheng’s face.
“Was it cut by glass?” She stood in front of Dong Zheng. Due to her height, Dong Zheng had to raise his face so she could apply the iodine.
“A monster was after me in the administration building next door, and so I had to break through the window to escape.” Dong Zheng looked over He Xiugfang’s shoulder and stared at a spot in the ceiling. In fact, he was doing two tasks at once; he was also speaking to Murphy in his kernel.
“You can’t go to that place.” When he saw that the other person was walking toward the white area in the center, Dong Zheng stopped her on the way. Cui Zuojing was there. Although he’d allowed Murphy to observe the images in his kernel, even if the possibility was only one in ten thousand, he couldn’t allow her to touch anything that might harm Cui Zuojing.
He didn’t really trust Murphy.
“Okay.” Murphy shrugged and stopped. “Now that you’re safe as you don’t go out and run about, I happen to need to rest for a while.”
Murphy’s figure slowly disappeared in front of Dong Zheng. The data flowed continuously, running past him. Dong Zheng frowned, and with a thought, he came to the pure white area in the center.
Arabidopsis thaliana had grown a lot more than when it had first appeared. The small white flowers at the top were blooming and flourishing, looking very energetic.
Having confirmed that Cui Zuojing was in good condition, Dong Zheng secretly breathed a sigh of relief. With the young man’s strength, there shouldn’t be anything that would harm him, especially in the clown’s territory.
He reached out and touched the small oval leaf, and the grass trembled slightly.
“Okay.” He Xiufang threw the cotton swabs into the trash can. “I also took out some broken glass shards for you. It’s better not to get it wet.”
“Thank you.” Dong Zheng straightened in the chair. The room was shockproof and soundproof. Even though they couldn’t hear or feel the movements outside, they didn’t need to in order to know that the world was breaking around them.
Maybe the ten big monsters were already fighting, and after the three days were over and they could leave, they might still see their bodies outside.
What was the clown’s purpose in doing this?
He Xiufang looked at Dong Zheng. He’d changed into the uniform that had been left behind in the guard’s dormitory. He was over 1.8 meters tall, and his figure was tempered with physical training and was well formed. Wearing the guard’s blue shirt and black pants, he looked full of heroism.
“How old are you?” Before she came to the Pure White Realm, He Xiufang was living in a remote village. She’d never seen a person like Dong Zheng, who exuded such nobility. At a glance, it was clear that he didn’t belong in the same world as her. Once her hostility and vigilance had gradually decreased, she couldn’t help but feel a little curious.
“27 years old.” Dong Zheng was also willing to talk to her. “What about you?”
“I’m 53.” He Xiufang couldn’t help sighing. “How can you come here when you’re so young?”
“A traffic accident.” Dong Zheng saw the red string tied around He Xiufang’s wrist. On it was a small, round, iron plate with Chairman Mao’s portrait on it. He had a sudden realization, and he said, “Sister Fang, what year did you come in?”
He Xiufang said, “It was 1969. I’ve been here for almost ten years.”
Dong Zheng was somewhat surprised. If He Xiufang was 53 years old in the year 69, wouldn’t she have been born at the start of the previous century?
The timeline wasn’t quite right.
He Xiufang came here in 1969 and spent ten years here, but he’d entered in 2018, and it’d only been a year since.
So, if they were lucky enough to leave the Pure White Realm one day, what kind of world would they return to?
Cui Zuojing had spent three years in the Pure White Realm, but in reality, only half an hour had passed. Did that mean that if he and Linhai went out, he would wake up in a hospital bed shortly after the accident?
In this case, did he and Cui Zuojing really live on the same timeline? Would he have to wait to find Cui Zuojing outside. But what if the other party hadn’t yet entered the Pure White Realm and met himself?
Dong Zheng’s scalp was numb. Time has always been the most mysterious thing. Even Cui Zuojing, who had the power of time, couldn’t understand the mystery of time very well.
What should they do if their time was staggered?
But Dong Zheng soon realized that he was thinking too much. Whether he could succeed in leaving the Pure White Realm was another matter. Instead of worrying about the future that might never come, it would be best for him to focus on the present.
“It’s quite astonishing. I know you young people ought to have come here from the future.” He Xiufang smiled and continued, “I have lived here for a long time, and the people I met at the beginning were all basically gone now. I’m the only one left. At that time, we also talked about our lives in the real world. It seemed that the time when everyone came in was different. I met one person who came in during the late Qing Dynasty; he’d died as a refugee.”
Dong Zheng let go of his doubts, smiled slightly, and said, “Sister Fang, on account of seniority, you’re older than my great-grandmother.”
Thanks to the education and temperament he’d had since childhood, Dong Zheng was always very polite when dealing with outsiders. Not to mention, this face of his could easily capture the goodwill of female compatriots from as young as eight years old to as old as 80 years old. Therefore, the two of them put down their guards and talked easily.
He Xiufang obviously wanted someone to talk to, and now she found someone willing to listen to her. Therefore, she said a lot.
Dong Zheng learned that she’d been living in the western countryside. From her birth to her death, the farthest place she’d been to was selling eggs in the town in the nearby county. After getting married, she worked at home all day and night until her last day of life, when she was so sick that she couldn’t get up anymore.
The tragic fate of women in old age was vividly reflected in her. But now, in retrospect, He Xiufang didn’t feel too sad. After working hard most of her life, she’d experienced an unprecedented new life in the Pure White Realm.
This could be considered as giving her a new life.
“But I always worried about my youngest baby. She was my baby girl and had been feverish since she was born. We thought she wouldn’t survive. Later, she grew up slowly, then she fell sick again. Because of the disease, her legs were as thin as a reed pole. At that time, there wasn’t much food in the family, so I could only secretly let her eat an egg in the woodshed without telling the other children.” When speaking of her favorite little daughter, He Xiufang’s middle-aged womanly chattering was revealed. “I took her to the county town once. She really liked a white dress she saw there, but she knew we had no money at home and so she didn’t tell me. She was always very sensible.”
“Oh, that’s right, when it came to the child’s name, I asked the teacher in the village for his help,” He Xiufang said. “Her surname is Zhao, and her full name is Zhao Mofei (1). Isn’t that nice?”
There was a thud in Dong Zheng’s mind.
He Xiufang was still talking, but Dong Zheng couldn’t hear her clearly. He was thinking about the weak legs, the girl in the white dress, and the exact same name. Everything made him shudder with a dawning realization.
He’d never said anything to He Xiufang about Murphy, and from He Hiufang’s narrative, she never noticed anything wrong at all, as if there really was such a child in her past life.
When had He Xiufang become “infected”?
Dong Zheng finally realized that this self-proclaimed Murphy’s consciousness was probably an extremely dangerous meme (2).
(1) Mofei — a transliteration of Murphy.
(2) Meme — something that gets passed from one person to another through nongenetic means.