“The box is gone,” he whispered.
“The Space Box that was used to contain the meme.” The Space Box was replaced with a similar box of the same color, and this was why the clown hadn’t discovered it right away. “Chang Hui wanted the meme.”
“Ah, it’s a pity that they’re a step too late.” Cui Zuojing was relieved when he heard this. “Dong Zheng told me the meme is called Murphy, and that it is residing in his mind. It had successfully infected me, and the people in your circus probably weren’t spared either.”
“Fortunately, we’re one step ahead.” The clown held the replacement box in his hands. “This was probably Worm of Mystery’s idea.
Cui Zuojing asked, “Does it want Murphy’s remaining power?”
The clown was a little surprised. “Yes, how do you know this? When those things happened, you hadn’t even come to the Pure White Realm yet.”
“Luo Yan told me.” Cui Zuojing didn’t hide it. He picked up the vodka, took another sip, and almost choked to tears again. “If only the box is taken away, then there’s no big problem.”
The clown nodded. The two of them didn’t speak for a while. It was also at this time that the clown realized that Cui Zuojing had really grown a lot after the seal was lifted. He was no longer the 16-year-old child who only reached up his chest.
After some time, Cui Zuojing rubbed his face and lazily staggered two steps, apparently a little buzzed.
The emotions in his chest were so strong, so uncontrollable, so unbearable, and he most especially wanted to see that person now.
He couldn’t bear it anymore.
“Where’s Dong Zheng?”
Victor followed behind the dwarf. The audience had all left and the staff were busy cleaning up. The animals were backstage with the performers. Everyone was doing their own thing.
Victor slipped under the drapes and found the magician inside, changing clothes. He’d taken off his top hat, removed one arm, placed it on his lap, and was now applying rosin oil to it. Next to him was an opened box, which contained many puppet limbs. With his white gloves off, his joints were now exposed.
Victor stopped and touched the magician’s pant legs with his paw. When the other person looked at him, he said, “Sir, if you have time, can you help my friend remove the curse of Busby’s Chair?”
“That lady.” The magician remembered. He bent down to touch Victor’s head, and smiled. “Sorry, I forgot. I’ll go right away.”
Another identical magician came out from behind the curtains. Under the white light, the faint reflection of a silk thread could be seen on the magician’s joints, where it was tied to a knot. He’d asked Victor about Wang Que’s location and went looking for her.
The last time Victor came to the circus, he was still in human form. Therefore, the magician didn’t recognize that the white cat was someone he’d known before, and Victor also didn’t say anything. Once he’d confirmed that Wang Que would be fine, Victor continued to follow the dwarf.
He was taken to a room that looked different from the rest of the circus.
The room was bright, though not blindingly so. It was filled with spotless equipment, and the scent of disinfectant lingered in the air. Victor knew that moment he entered through the door that this was an operating room. There was no place that he was more familiar with than an operating room. Since he’d been admitted to the Moscow State Sedonov Medical College 25 years ago, he’d been serving at the operating table.
The bandaged doctor stood in the room and whispered, “Long time no see.”
“Long time no see.” Victor walked over and saw the person lying on the operating table. The rest of his body below the waist had been blown off, but he was still painfully alive.
The shadowless lamp shone on his gray face and dilated pupil, but the medical instruments next to him displayed various vital signs. Victor took one look and knew that unless the gods descended to the earth, it would be difficult to save this man with just the power of modern medicine.
He never said no, and since he wasn’t completely declared dead, how could Victor, as a doctor, abandon any chance of life he might have had?
“He wants to live and doesn’t care if he becomes a monster,” the doctor said as he opened the freezer on the side. Liquid nitrogen vaporized and released a cloud of white mist. The light blue mask covered most of the doctor’s face, leaving only his two ruthless eyes exposed.
In the freezer was the headless body of a horse.
“He would make a good performer,” the doctor murmured.
“You want to transplant this thing on him?” Victor stared at the man’s thoroughly cleaned wound. The disconnected aorta was very delicately connected to the extracorporeal catheter to form a blood circulation circuit. The important internal organs also remained in the abdominal cavity, while it’s heart continued to beat gently.
There was no life-sustaining device, no blood transfusion to stabilize blood pressure, and no strict disinfection. He even allowed a cat in. All this self-confidence and seriously irregular operations stem from the doctor’s ability, called [No death].
An injured patient would never die on his operating table. Even if the patient wanted to die, he would never die.
Many of the freak show performers were transformed in this way. They’d been injured for various reasons and had agreed to allow the doctor to save their lives. The only caveat was that they had no control over what they will end up looking like once they’ve managed to survive.
“Don’t you feel guilty like this?” Victor whispered. “When he wakes up and sees himself like that, he would wish that he had not asked you at all.”
“I’m not like you, I only find it interesting.” The doctor moved the horse’s body onto the operating table and began to mark where each blood vessel and nerve should correspond. “So that’s why I never call myself a doctor.”
He paused and then looked at Victor. His voice was filled with an uncontrollable excitement as he said, “As a creator, it is exhilarating to watch new creatures being born in my hands.”
Victor didn’t speak and stared quietly at the doctor. The doctor saw the disapproval and severe condemnation in his amber eyes.
The doctor smiled. He took the surgical forceps, knelt down, and touched Victor’s head. Tilting his head, he asked, “Then what do you want to do? What’s the difference between watching him die and killing him? And if he doesn’t want to die, what qualifications do you have to deprive him of the rights to live?”
He sneered, stood up, and pointed to a spot on the operating table specifically prepared for Victor.
“Come and help.”
Victor finally jumped up, listening to the sound of the forceps colliding.
Skin, flesh, bones, blood vessels, nerves, internal organs.
Everything reappeared in Victor’s eyes. The last time he saw this on the operating table was ten years ago.
He was just a cat now, unable to really help. He could only sit and watch, and at the same time remind the doctor who had never received systematic medical instructions that blood vessels cannot be sutured in this way.
Of course, the doctor wouldn’t listen. Because of his ability, even if he stitched as roughly as sewing clothes, it would still be alright.
The veins in Victor’s forehead jumped. If this was his student, he would have been driven out of the classroom long ago.
The man on the operating table had fallen into an anesthetic coma, and the white horse’s body was gradually stitched together with his. Victor recalled the many operations he’d done in the past. The patient was lying on his operating table, under the shadowless lamp, clinging to the edge of life and death.
It would be great if he had this kind of ability. He wouldn’t have to spend so much time putting the equipment down helplessly, before walking out of the operating room and shaking his head painfully to the relatives waiting outside.
Victor didn’t watch the doctor’s operation. He stared at the patient’s pale face and mutilated body. His nasal cavity was filled with the scent of blood, and the long-lost problem resurfaced.
What was life?
When he sat in the bright classroom of Sedonov Academy for the first time, the old professor with white hair and white beard asked this question to the students in the audience.
And even earlier, when he was cutting woods with his father in the pine forest of Siberia, and upon seeing frozen birds in the snow, Victor first asked himself this question.
What was life?
He’d thought about it for forty years, had heard his daughter’s first cry as he waited outside the delivery room, had sent away his father who’d died unexpectedly, had watched countless joys and sorrows, and had finally ushered in his own death.
There had never been an answer.
Then he’d come to this world after death. Whether as a senior surgeon with precisive surgical skills or a pilgrim with a medical ability, Victor found himself the most sought-after person in the Pure White Realm. In the face of countless olive branches from various teams, he shocked everyone by choosing to join an unremarkable team.
The team had a not-so-strict German, a weak math teacher, and a cowardly child who was only 16 years old.
When they were in Zone IX, he put on a beak mask and became a plague doctor. With his ability and excellent professionalism, he’d saved many injured pilgrims in various boxes. He was the Afternoon Tea Party’s strongest backer.
In the palace corridor, Midnight stood in his path and turned him into a cat, but Cui Zuojing took him out of the Pure White Realm. He became a cat raised by a teenager who would never grow up.
He was alive again.
They met new friends and found their past close friends, and they carried their dreams and longings close to their hearts. And then, in Doll’s House, Pan nearly broke him. As he lay close to death, he ended up breaking through the first seal and gained the strength of body.
But Victor never really understood what life was.
It was said that only by walking the edge of life and death could you realize what the true meaning of life was. He had walked back and forth so many times, dying, living, dying, and living again.
But he still didn’t understand.
Victor began to realize that he might never find an answer, because not all questions have definite answers.
His eyes gradually blurred, and the only thing he saw was the man’s eyes that were slack due to the anesthesia but still had a fierce, desperate desire to live.
A faint purple light emerged from the white cat.
He suddenly thought back to the summer when he was 18 years old.
“Victor Vladimir Morozov.” The old professor on the stage stared at the young man who’d stood up hurriedly, looking back at him with panicked, violet eyes, and he asked, “What do you think life is?”
The classmates who had yet to fully meet each other stared at the hapless guy who was being spotlighted on the first day of school. With amused expressions, they quietly waited for his answer.
“I don’t know, teacher.” After a few moments, Victor heard the sound of his young voice thirty-eight years later. Unlike the professor’s standard Moscow accent, his pronunciation seemed to have come from the deepest depths of Siberia, back to howling wind and the pine forest weight by snow, back to tears he’d shed as he buried the frozen birds in the snow.
“I don’t have an answer to such a profound question…but I think that it is something that cannot be defined.”