When Luo Lan awoke it was already noon the next day. She was lying in a bed in the base’s infirmary.
She sat in a daze for a while before she finally recalled what had happened before she lost consciousness.
She’d actually fainted again! Moreover, of all the places she could have fainted, why did she so stupidly faint on Chen Sha?
Don’t tell me he was so angry he beat me up, and that’s why I’m in the infirmary?
(tofu: you know something’s wrong with the marriage when her first thought is that he beat her up)
“How did I get injured?”
“You just overexerted yourself,” Qing Chu said. “All the doctor says you need is some rest.”
“Oh.” Looked like she hadn’t given Chen Sha enough credit.
“Princess, you’re not a soldier, so why are you going about taking tests meant for new recruits? Those heartless people! Princess, don’t you feel sorry for yourself?” Qing Yue asked, aggrieved.
Luo Lan saw her bloodshot eyes and resolved to always protect her. Her heart warmed and she forgot about her rest, saying with a smile, “I made you worry. It was I who forgot my place; Feng Lin and the others aren’t at fault.”
“How can they not be at fault? They’re just a bunch of worthless mutants—”
“Shut your mouth!”
Qing Yue and Qing Chu were startled silent; this was the first time Luo Lan had raised her voice in anger.
Feng Lin got off the elevator, hurriedly walking towards Luo Lan’s room.
She abruptly stopped.
Zi Yan was standing outside the room, leaning against the wall, playing with a few tarot cards. He was using his sharp hearing to shamelessly eavesdrop on the conversation inside.
Feng Lin walked over and exasperatedly asked, “Don’t you have work to do?”
Zi Yan glanced at Feng Lin and blithely said, “Am I not doing work right now? Oh! Hush and listen. Apparently, we’re all just a useless bunch of mutants…”
“Did the princess say that?” Feng Lin’s face soured, and she moved to storm into the room.
“No.” Zi Yan grabbed her and grinned, motioning for her to stay silent and listen.
Inside the ward, Luo Lan stared reprovingly at Qing Yue and firmly said, “I never want to hear you say the word ‘mutant’ like that ever again!”
Qing Yue looked as if she were about to cry. “I’m not wrong, they’re fundamentally just ‘human carriers of mutant genes!’”
Qing Chu kept tugging at Qing Yue’s shirt, signaling for her to stop speaking, yet Qing Yue paid her no heed. She raised her chin and said, “If they weren’t worthless good-for-nothings, why would Princess have been made to come here? If it weren’t for them, we’d still be happily living with our friends and family in Aerdes. Don’t you hate them, Princess?”
Luo Lan found she couldn’t answer.
The real princess most certainly hated Odin. However, she was a fake.
If Odin hadn’t requested Princess Luo Lan’s hand in marriage, she would’ve died in base G9737. In that sense, Odin had saved her. She may’ve felt no overwhelming gratitude towards Odin, but she certainly held no enmity.
Furthermore, she’d lost all her memories, and had no prejudices against “mutants.” Her entire understanding was borne in her interactions with Feng Lin, Zi Yan, Qian Xu, and all the rest.
She didn’t think she was any smarter, more capable, or more superior in any way.
Qing Yue saw that Luo Lan had no answer and spoke with more confidence: “Princess, you clearly hate them, so why force yourself—”
“I don’t hate them!” Luo Lan resolutely spoke the truth. She’d simply borrowed the princess’ identity, but she hadn’t assumed the princess’ love, let alone her hate.
Qing Yue stared disbelievingly at Luo Lan.
“Odin only asked for a princess, they didn’t specifically target me. In fact, it was Aerdes who forced me to leave, not Odin! Speaking as an abandoned princess, if I were to hate Odin, I would also have to hate Aerdes. Shall I also seek out the emperor who ordered me to be knocked unconscious and thrown onto a plane and take my revenge?”
Qing Yue flushed and couldn’t respond.
Luo Lan harshly said, “As soon as I boarded the ship, I’d already decided, I’ll only live for myself from now on! The galaxy is wide and endless, is there any place where I can’t settle?”
Qing Yue muttered, “But we’re in Odin, and they’re all mutants!”
Luo Lan knew she shouldn’t project her own morals onto Qing Yue and Qing Chu, but this indeed was Odin, and for the sake of all their safety, she knew she had to correct their thinking.
“You said yourself that this is the Odin Federation. So, who will suffer if you speak out of turn? Qing Yue, you’ve been nonstop harassing An Da, who at most spoken has spoken coldly to us. Do you know why? Because he’s letting you off easy! If he were a more vindictive person, he would’ve already silenced you! If that does indeed happen, do you think the Aerdes emperor will come seek vengeance for you?”
Qing Yue’s face flushed further, and she angrily bit her lip, her tears flowing forth.
Luo Lan moved from the micro to the macro.
“Are your genes purely human genes?”
Qing Chu glanced at the silent Qing Yue before she carefully said, “I heard my grandfather was a famous explorer in the galaxy. In order to improve his night vision, he underwent gene editing using cat genes. He also underwent various cosmetic genetic surgeries.”
“And you, Qing Yue?” Luo Lan asked.
Qing Yue stiffly said, “How can our genes be as pure as the princess’? One of my ancestors wasn’t very tall, so he underwent a beautifying procedure.”
Luo Lan said, “Many years ago on Ancient Earth, there was a story of ‘fifty steps laughing at a hundred steps.’ In the story, a platoon of soldiers fought in a battle. Because they were scared, they fled. In the end, the soldiers who’d fled fifty steps mockingly laughed at the soldiers who fled one hundred steps. Do you think the soldiers who’d fled fifty steps had any right to look down upon those who’d fled one hundred?”
Qing Yue and Qing Chu’s expressions were complicated, and they didn’t answer.
Luo Lan grabbed Qing Yue with one hand and Qing Chu with the other. “We’re already here in Odin. If we only think negatively about this place, we’ll only make things harder for ourselves. Open your mind and try to find its positives and make things easier for yourselves, alright?”
Qing Chu immediately nodded. Qing Yue hesitated for a moment before she also dipped her head.
Luo Lan thought that this was enough for now. In the future, if they still couldn’t adapt, perhaps once she had the ability, she would find a way to send the two back home.
Outside the ward, Zi Yan was updating Feng Lin with everything he’d heard.
This was the first time Feng Lin had heard of the proverb “fifty steps laughing at a hundred,” and couldn’t help finding it fascinating.
Suddenly, a tall and broad figure noiselessly materialized next to them.
Feng Lin raised her head in shock and saw it was Chen Sha. The air immediately turned awkward. No matter how they explained it, the truth was that they’d still been eavesdropping on his wife.
Zi Yan had not an ounce of shame and nonchalantly conveyed all that Luo Lan had said. He grinned and asked, “Interesting, no?” He didn’t specify whether he meant the princess was interesting, or the story was interesting.
Chen Sha’s expression didn’t change, and he indifferently said, “The story is quite interesting.”
Feng Lin excitedly said, “Sharp, mean, and to the point! I’ve always thought those people themselves weren’t ‘clean,’ yet they still spewed that sanctimonious garbage. Next time I attend those interplanetary academic conferences, I’ll just borrow the princess’ words and educate anyone who dares look down on me.”
Feng Lin glanced at Chen Sha and her words took on a note of gratitude. “We’re quite fortunate. I originally thought she’d be a bother, but it seems that contrary to our expectations, the princess has a smart head on her shoulders and a good personality.”
“Quite to the contrary.” Zi Yan’s gaze was contemplative. He flicked out a tarot card, “If she hadn’t agreed to the gene test without an ounce of hesitation, I would’ve doubted that she was the real thing.”
Feng Lin kicked him. “Your chronic suspicion is truly a problem. I tested her myself—she’s one hundred percent human. She can’t be a clone; she’s most definitely a natural human.”
Chen Sha coldly asked, “Don’t you both have work to do? Or would you rather help me train the troops?”
Zi Yan waved his hand and stored his cards before turning to leave.
“Hey, where are you going?” Feng Lin asked.
Zi Yan didn’t even turn his head when he said, “To report for work! I’ll have to report the story of fifty steps to His Excellency the ruler.”
Feng Lin awkwardly said to Chen Sha, “I came to check the ward.”
Luo Lan dressed and was just about to look for the doctor when the doorbell rang.
“Come in,” Luo Lan said.
The door opened and Feng Lin walked in. She looked at Luo Lan, her eyes warm.
Luo Lan was perplexed. “What is it? Why’re you looking at me like that?”
“Congratulations!” Feng Lin said as she checked Luo Lan’s patient data. “Your ability level is E-level, but your potential is extremely high. If you train hard enough, you may be able to rise to A-level.”
Was there hope for this useless good-for-nothing?
Luo Lan thought for a bit and decided to ignore that she was a useless good-for-nothing and focus on the hope.
“Looks like I have the great potential to improve.”
“That’s an understatement. Do you know how long you lasted in the warp room yesterday?”
“…very long. How’d you do it?”
“You’re the one who told me to persevere until I couldn’t.” In that place, it’d felt like life or death, so naturally she’d persisted.
“It was just a test. No one thought you would last as if your life depended on it.”
“I also don’t know how.” Recalling yesterday’s struggle, Luo Lan felt uneasy. She tried to change the subject. “There’s nothing wrong with my body, right? Can I leave now?”
“There’s no problem, so you can go back now.”
Luo Lan was about to call a ride when Feng Lin pointed out the window. “Chen Sha’s come to pick you up.” She coquettishly batted her eyelashes and pretended to open her collar and puff out her chest. “Go get’em!” she mouthed.
Luo Lan immediately felt ill.
Luo Lan boarded the vehicle with Chen Sha. The two sat side by side.
Chen Sha remained silent, his face expressionless.
Luo Lan felt as if she were sitting on pins and needles. She inwardly cursed Qing Yue and Qing Chu for disloyally abandoning her like this.
The silence was stiflingly awkward. Luo Lan, trying to be polite, plastered on a smile and said, “Your work must be very busy, right? Sorry to trouble you like this—”
“Why?” Luo Lan felt her ire rise.
“Don’t be so fake, and don’t needlessly talk.” He paused before saying, “I didn’t want to come pick you up. The ruler heard that you fainted and so he ordered me to check on you.”
Did this man always have to be so blunt? Well, at least she no longer had to uphold the pretense. Luo Lan turned her head and gazed out the window, silently cursing the people who seemed to care more about the husband and wife relationship than the husband and wife themselves.
The vehicle stopped outside the house. Luo Lan said a quick “thank you” before immediately hopping off.
She was surprised to see Zi Yan when she walked into the foyer.
Luo Lan politely greeted him. “Duke.”
Zi Yan grinned. “Princess.”
She moved to pass him, not expecting that Zi Yan would smoothly move in front of her, looking as if he wanted to chat about something. Luo Lan could only humor him and ask, “What is it?”
Zi Yan’s smile was mysterious. (tofu: I was so tempted to put “sketchy” instead…)
“Yesterday in the warping room, as soon as you saw Chen Sha, you passionately fell yourself into his arms.”
Luo Lan was shocked. “What? Really? I don’t remember anything.”
Oh, my, god. How could she possibly say something as ridiculous as, “When I saw Chen Sha standing there in a ray of light, I thought he was an angel who’d come to save me, and so I threw myself into his arms, crying in gratitude.”
“You remember nothing at all?” Zi Yan looked regretful.
Luo Lan was also regretful. “I was exhausted to the point my mind couldn’t register anything. I can hardly recall anything.”
“Aiyo!” Zi Yan looked towards Chen Sha, who’d just walked in. “Poor Chen Sha, to be grabbed onto so mercilessly by someone who won’t even admit responsibility.”
“You have three seconds to get lost.”
Zi Yan immediately raised his hands in surrender. “The ruler has some words he wants me to convey to the princess.”
Chen Sha, ignoring them, walked up the stairs. It was clear he couldn’t care less.
Luo Lan looked questioningly at Zi Yan, unsure of what the big bad boss of Odin possibly wanted to say to her.
“The ruler said Chen Sha has never been in love before. If Chen Sha disappoints you in any way, the ruler asks you to please forgive him.” Zi Yan clearly knew Chen Sha’s hearing was no worse than his, yet he still leaned in and cupped his hand around his mouth, whispering in Luo Lan’s ear, “I’ll also tell you a little secret: Chen Sha’s still a virgin, so please enjoy.”
Chen Sha cut across the room like a flying sword. Zi Yan dodged and fled, jumping out the window to safety.
Luo Lan could only stare, stupefied. For her own safety, she could only pretend that she’d heard nothing at all.
Chen Sha looked at Luo Lan. She evasively said, “About what happened in the warping room…at the time I truly was exhausted to the point of incoherence. I’m sorry.”
Chen Sha said, “Don’t worry about it. It was only like carrying a sticky-skinned weasel.” His voice was indifferent as ever.
Luo Lan turned and slowly walked back to her room. She felt that she should be grateful for Chen Sha’s magnaminity, but she also couldn’t help feeling that something wasn’t quite right.
She thought for a minute before searching up “sticky-skinned” weasel.
This sort of weasel apparently grew to be 1.7-2 meters long and looked like a skunk without fur. Its body secreted a smelly green and black ooze which scared off other animals.
Luo Lan stared at a picture of it for a minute before she silently opened the fighter game “Dangers of the Galaxy.”
She pasted in a picture of Chen Sha, and soon all the monsters and enemies in the game took on his likeness. She then grabbed a blade and started mercilessly hacking away.
You’re the one who’s a slimy-skinned weasel! You’re all slimy-skinned weasels!
In the morning, Luo Lan lay on a sofa, perusing through History of Ancient Earth.
Apples, tarot cards, “fifty steps laughing at one hundred steps,” they all had some relation to ancient times. The first and second occurrences may’ve been a coincidence, but the third told her that there was some correlation.
She now knew that she had extensive knowledge of ancient culture and customs. Yet her understanding was scattered, not as deep as a scholar’s. Then what could possibly be the reason?
One possibility was if a person close to her had studied it extensively. By proximity, she would’ve absorbed some of this information.
Was it her parents that’d had this kind of passion…or perhaps, her lover?
Her heart sank as she mulled over the first possibility. She had no way of knowing if her parents even still lived, or if they were hurt and lost because of her disappearance. As for the second, she could barely entertain the thought.
“No way! No way.” Luo Lan clutched her head and vigorously shook it back and forth.
A notification sounded. Luo Lan saw it was Feng Lin and immediately accepted the video call.
Feng Lin appeared in front of her, dressed in white work clothes. “What’s up?”
Luo Lan questioningly looked at her. “Who do you think I should be with?”
“Chen Sha, of course. You two are husband and wife.”
Luo Lan sarcastically said, “Thanks for the reminder.”
Feng Lin shrugged. “Come to the research center. Let’s eat lunch and catch up.”
After thirty minutes, Luo Lan and Feng Lin met in front of the cafeteria and walked in.
The two asked for different options before they sat next to a window.
Feng Lin asked, “How’ve you and Chen Sha been lately?”
“Pretty good.” If she were being honest, “ice-cold interactions; no fighting” was about as good as it got.
“Don’t play dumb. I was asking if there’s been any progress in the feelings between you two.”
Luo Lan poked at the mystery food on her plate and slowly said, “If you truly hope for our feelings to progress, there is something you can do.”
“And what’s that?”
“You’re familiar with Chen Sha. You can tell him that if he passionately pursues me and moves my heart, maybe I’ll come to love him.” Luo Lan winked at Feng Lin. “I’m inexperienced in love; I’m sure I’m easy to woo.”
Feng Lin was stunned silent. Obviously, this was something that would never happen.
Luo Lan snickered. Chen Sha truly was a conversation stopper.
Feng Lin hesitated, unsure of what to say.
Suddenly, her face changed, and like an arrow she leaped up, broke through the window, and flew out the room.
Luo Lan was perplexed. What’d happened?
She looked this way and that, beginning to sweat in nervousness when she heard someone bellow, “A-level, abrupt mutation! A worker’s been seriously injured! Someone help—”
The cafeteria descended into a deathly silence. Every person’s face was solemn; no one moved. It was obvious they were worried about what was going on outside, yet not one person moved to leave.
Luo Lan asked of those around her, “Doesn’t Feng Lin need help?”
Their expressions were a strange mixture of pain and helplessness. No one deigned to answer her.
Luo Lan hated this feeling of being the only one left in the dark, so she gritted her teeth and carefully squeezed through the hole Feng Lin had left in the window. Anyway, Feng Lin had told her she could go wherever she had entry, so there was no need to worry about stumbling on any classified secrets.
Luo Lan followed the distant sound. She crossed through a forest belt and when she finally saw what was happening, she froze.
Amidst the flying rocks and sand, a massive beast over two meters tall stood on the road and roared in rage, its bloody maw wide open.
Not far away, a few soldiers were retreating, carrying a bloodied soldier between them. Another lay motionlessly on the ground. Feng Lin crouched over the fallen soldier, facing off against the beast.
The beast scented the blood in the air and grew even more feral, its claws arced towards Feng Lin. It attacked her almost methodically, as if it had been trained to fight.
Feng Lin raised a gun and aimed it at the beast. It seemed she were trying to sedate it rather than kill it. The beast’s attack was brutal and merciless, yet Feng Lin seemed hesitant to pull the trigger. She took aim again from the side, but the beast suddenly swung around, using its hind legs to propel itself as it barreled towards Feng Lin.
Its claws were about to pierce her chest when Chen Sha suddenly appeared. He flew forward and squarely kicked the beast, each foot landing in one of the beast’s eyes. The beast howled and retreated, backing off Feng Lin.
Chu Mo opportunely moved forward, moving to pull back the unconscious—or dead—soldier.
Chen Sha calmly asked as he exchanged blows with the beast, “Did you sedate it?”
“I’ve injected it with 70 mL.” Feng Lin said. Chen Sha said nothing more, his face cold and brutal.
Feng Lin pleaded, “Give him a bit more time.”
The beast leaped up once more to attack. Instead of retreating, Chen Sha moved forward, nimbly jumping over the beast’s head and landing on its back. The beast furiously shook this way and that, trying to throw Chen Sha off. Chen Sha, however, was as immovable as a rock. His eyes cold as ice, he drew his sword and with a movement as fast as lightning, plunged the blade into the beast’s neck.
Chen Sha fluidly leaped off the beast. Behind him, the creature let out a pained howl before it heavily collapsed to the ground. Amidst the cloud of dust that rose, Chen Sha turned and saluted the creature’s body.
Feng Lin bent her head in grief and wept, covering her face with her hands. The surrounding troops silently saluted.
Without another word, Chen Sha turned and strode away.
As he passed Luo Lan, he glanced at her horrified face, his expression chilling further.
Luo Lan, stunned, moved towards the creature’s corpse, intending to ask Feng Lin what’d exactly happened. She didn’t expect Feng Lin to suddenly move to block her way, her eyes alert, and her expression wild. Luo Lan, startled, retreated a few steps.
Feng Lin recomposed herself and eked out a stiff smile. She evasively said, “So you saw. A wild beast attacked some of our soldiers. There’s a lot to take care of, so you go eat first. I’ll meet you later in my office.”
Luo Lan quickly said, “All right.”
At that moment she’d never more clearly understood one thing: though she may’ve become an Odin resident in name, not one person had truly accepted her, not even Feng Lin.
Luo Lan silently returned to the cafeteria.
The room had already emptied, the only ones who remained were the cleaning androids. They bustled this way and that, cleaning and sweeping the room. Their normally unnoticeable whirring suddenly felt ear-splitting.
When Luo Lan thought of Chen Sha’s cold gaze and Feng Lin’s guarded expression, her body went cold. She unconsciously plopped down on a chair and hunched forward, wringing her hands.
It was said that when confronting the unknown, half-truths were the greatest enemy. Against her will, the doubts currently swirling in her head formed into bloody images. Luo Lan felt her fear only rise.
Luo recalled what’d she’d heard before and searched up “mutation” on the Starnet. She only came across useless information; nothing explained what she’d just witnessed.
Luo Lan wanted to find a person to speak to. Even if they couldn’t offer any explanation, at least she’d have someone to vent to. But everyone’s reactions had shown her this wasn’t a topic to be lightly discussed.
And she—she was just a pitiful fake. She had no country, no home, no family, no friends; she didn’t even have a person to confide in.
Luo Lan stared at the busy androids in a daze, feeling a prickle in her eyes.
When she’d been wandering alone in the desert, she thought all she needed was to glimpse someone, anyone. Yet even surrounded now by countless people, she was still one of those left behind.
As her tears silently fell, she suddenly thought of something. She hurriedly opened her contacts list. Only one person was listed as a friend: Qian Xu.
Did Qian Xu list “Luo Xun” as his friend? Could she truly ask him about this sensitive issue? Would he distance himself from her or even stop talking with her completely?
Luo Lan calmed herself and wiped her tears before sending him a message: “Can we video call?”
After a moment, Qian Xu appeared before her and warmly asked, “What’s wrong?”
Luo Lan stuttered out, “D-Do you know about mutation?”
“Yes.” He sat on a work chair, garbed in a blue patient’s gown, his expression calm and his voice gentle, as if the question she’d just asked was of no real consequence.
Luo Lan at once calmed. “I just saw a beast. A soldier said something like, ‘A-level ability, sudden mutation,’ and a soldier killed the beast, yet still saluted its body. Those injured by the beast weren’t angry at the beast, in fact, they seemed to mourn it.”
Qian Xu bluntly asked, “Do you wish to know why?”
Luo Lan nodded.
“A-level sudden mutation is when a A-level individual who carries mutant genes will, without warning, abruptly mutate, their mutant genes overtaking their human ones. Not only does this drastically change their appearance, but it also destroys their human consciousness, reducing them to a raving beast.”
Luo Lan’s face twisted in shock. The beast who’d almost killed three soldiers and Feng Lin had actually been a person?
Qian Xu’s gaze filled with pain. “The beast you saw was once an outstanding soldier. Perhaps they were those soldiers’ most trusted subordinate, or their closest friend.”
A chill ran through Luo Lan’s heart, and she couldn’t help but shiver.
A person who’d once been a trusted and close comrade could suddenly turn into a voracious abomination of nature. Their own companions who they’d trusted and survived with would have no other choice but to fight back with the intent to kill.
Luo Lan finally understood why’d Feng Lin had asked Chen Sha, “please give him some more time.” She also understood why Chen Sha had made the choice to slaughter the beast.
“Are you frightened?” Qian Xu asked.
Luo Lan’s mind was whirling, and she unconsciously nodded.
Humans were fundamentally social creatures. How frightening would it be if the person you trusted with all your heart, the friend with which you shared all secrets, or the lover you shared a bed with suddenly transformed into something horrible and unrecognizable?
“Is there a chance you may mutate?” Luo Lan regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth. She knew she’d overstepped and immediately backpedaled: “I-I…shouldn’t have said that…please don’t get angry.”
“Don’t worry. Your question is completely justified,” Qian Xu comforted her, smiling slightly. He openly said, “For those of below A-level physicality, the chances of mutation are basically zero. For those of A-level or above, the chance increases progressively with each level. I’m A-level, so indeed, there is a definite chance that I could mutate at any time.”
Luo Lan felt a prickle in her eyes. She couldn’t possibly imagine how the gentle and warm Qian Xu could turn into a raving, bloodthirsty beast.
Qian Xu gently said, “Those who find out about this are often frightened. Some fear that they themselves will mutate and harm others, some fear that their loved ones and family will mutate and hurt them, even isolating themselves from others due to their fear. If you wish, you should speak with a counselor. They can help you work through and relieve your fear.”
His honest and open words were like a gentle ray of sunlight, warming Luo Lan’s heart, dissolving the dark terror.
Luo Lan silently pondered for a bit before she softly said, “Let’s think about this another way. Even if there was no such thing as sudden mutation, would the galaxy be free of relatives turning into enemies, of friends forsaking each other, or of alienated couples? Only one beast takes a shape; another is formless and pervasively exists.”
Qian Xu was shocked. “This is the first time I’ve heard someone try to understand sudden mutation this way.”
“The more I think about it, sudden mutation isn’t truly that frightening,” Luo Lan mumbled. “Aren’t we humans constantly facing problems borne from our own making? Maybe it’s the formless beasts that are more frightening. That kind of pain or betrayal can’t be treated with medicine.”
Qian Xu pensively stared at Luo Lan. He suddenly reached out and patted her head. “You really are a smart and brave girl!”
She was only speaking to his image, so she naturally didn’t feel his touch, but Luo Lan still felt her head grow fuzzy and her face flush. She awkwardly said, “You just saw me scared out of my wits.”
“Bravery doesn’t mean never feeling fear. Conversely, it’s the acceptance of that fear and continuing to march on.”
An image appeared in Luo Lan’s mind: Chen Sha, his face indifferent, decisively plunging his blade into the beast’s neck. Did that icy mountain also feel fear? She immediately berated herself for overthinking.
Qian Xu saw that her mind was wandering and decided that she’d finally calmed down. He smiled and pointed at Luo Lan’s tray. “Finish your meal, it’s time for my treatment.”
Luo Lan sincerely said, “Thank you!”
“I only said a few words, what’s there to be thankful for?”
Luo Lan smiled and said nothing more. Qian Xu hadn’t just spoken a few words, he’d shown her that there was a person willing to listen to hear her thoughts , patiently answer her questions, and even considerately comfort and encourage her.
In the crowd of busy strangers, she’d finally found a friend. She was no longer alone.
Luo Lan left for Feng Lin’s office, specifically bringing along a few nutrition drinks.
“Thank god, I was starving!” Feng Lin accepted the drinks and set them on her desk.
Zi Yan appeared from nowhere and snatched a drink. He leaned against the wall and took a sip.
Feng Lin worriedly asked, “How bad is it?”
Zi Yan smiled and said, “Odin’s greatest doctor Chu Mo is here, what are you worried for? He says in three months, the most severely injured will have completely recovered.”
Feng Lin’s face immediately smoothed, her entire body relaxing.
Luo Lan was also relieved on their behalf. She tactfully bid goodbye, “You two are probably busy, so I’ll take my leave first.”
Feng Lin apologetically said, “Once I finish my work, we can set a time to meet up again.”
Luo Lan was about to call Qing Chu to come pick her up when Zi Yan unexpectedly said, “I’m also going back. Princess, you can just ride along with me.”
Luo Lan had no desire to interact further with this inscrutable and cunning trickster of a guy, but she couldn’t reject him for fear of dire consequences. Sometimes, one just needed to yield.
Inside the car, Zi Yan carelessly played with his tarot cards, his cheerful gaze fixed on Luo Lan.
Luo Lan could only try with all her might to ignore him, yet his stare only grew even more piercing. Luo Lan inwardly cursed and turned her head to face him.
“Is there something on my face?”
“On the contrary, it looks like there’s nothing of what should be on your face.”
“Nervousness, anxiety, fear.”
Luo Lan furiously cursed. When she was scared and nervous, Chen Sha had a problem. When she wasn’t scared or nervous, Zi Yan had a problem. What is wrong with you lot?
“I was shocked initially, but I calmed down afterward.” Is that a good enough explanation for you?
“The princess recovered very quickly,” Zi Yan said, his tone ambiguous.
Luo Lan pretended to be confused. “Was it not just a wild beast attacking people? It’s been resolved, how long is the Duke saying I should stay worried?” She had grown to treat interactions as something reciprocal: if you’re honest, I’ll be honest, and if you evade and deceive, I will evade and deceive!
Zi Yan didn’t reply and merely flicked his cards, holding up the glossy purple cards and watching them slowly fall back into his fingers. His lips wore a slight smile, but his gaze was unreadable.
Luo Lan inwardly started. His physicality was certainly at least A-level, so the chance of his sudden mutation wasn’t low. She unconsciously shifted away, closer to the vehicle door.
Zi Yan lifted his eyes to look at her. There wasn’t a trace of a smile on his face, and his normally bright eyes held a deeply hidden pain.
This was the first time Luo Lan had seen this side of Zi Yan. She couldn’t help feeling apologetic and pretended to fix her shirt, subtly shifting back towards him again.
Suddenly, Zi Yan scrunched up his face and let out a terrible shout. Luo Lan let out a scream, falling from her seat.
Zi Yan burst out laughing and looked down at Luo Lan. He nodded in satisfaction. “Ah, now that’s the right expression.”
Luo Lan was both furious and embarrassed. She turned up her nose and readjusted herself on the seat.
She truly was stupid, having fallen for his tricks again. She morosely thought, is there anyone this tricky bastard hasn’t fooled?
“Ah, she’s mad.”
No matter what Zi Yan said to provoke her, Luo Lan pretended she didn’t hear, refusing to say anything in reply.
Luo Lan returned home to find Qing Yue searching the net. She was currently studying Odin’s laws.
Luo Lan didn’t disturb Qing Yue and quietly left her to her work. It looked like her words last time had had some effect—Qing Yue would no longer close-mindedly look down upon everything related to Odin and slowly begin to learn to adapt to life here.
According to Dr. Mu’s information, Qing Yue’s physical ability level was E-level, and she was learned in both economics and law, so she was responsible for helping the princess with day-to-day tasks. Qing Chu was B-level and had received training in combat and firearms, so she was responsible with protecting the princess.
Neither of them had any noteworthy ability, yet Luo Lan herself wasn’t particularly talented, so she resolved that they would all work hard together.
Luo Lan returned to her room and started searching the Starnet, confirming that there truly was no news about sudden mutation.
It looked like she’d stumbled across a secret she had no business knowing, yet this secret was something that impacted her very life.
Luo Lan’s heart grew uneasy. She looked at the time and decided to make dinner to help calm herself down.
The Starnet told her that the best restaurant in Alikarta was the Everest restaurant, named after Ancient Earth’s tallest mountain. The restaurant’s most expensive offerings were soup dumplings and wintermelon eight treasure porridge, both made with ancient culinary methods. The flavor of the dishes was both outstanding and exotic.
Luo Lan decided to make those two dishes. In the worst case, if Chen Sha kicked her out, she could at least find work at Everest.
She didn’t have all the ingredients for the wintermelon dish, so she decided to make do by making four treasure porridge instead. She labored for over an hour before she finally poured the porridge into the melon gourds and placed the wintermelon into the steamer to slowly cook through.
Next were the soup dumplings. She poured flour into the bowl and mumbled to herself, “Don’t put in too much water.” As soon as she’d said the words, she suddenly felt faint. It was if there’d been a person who’d said those exact words to her, yet try as she might, she couldn’t recall whom.
Luo Lan stood there in a daze. Did the person who’d taught her how to cook say these words? The words had felt soft and warm.
Luo Lan returned to the present and found Chen Sha standing in front in her. It wasn’t clear how long he’d been standing there.
“Ah…” Luo Lan hurriedly moved to the side, overturning the flour bowl in her rush.
It was no big deal; worst case the android could just sweep it up. However, Chen Sha was of the 3A level, so he didn’t even glance down before carelessly kicking his foot. The bowl flew back upwards, but the bowl contained only dry flour. Thus, as the bowl made a perfect rotation in the air, landing back where it had sat on the table, the flour scattered everywhere.
With one movement, Chen Sha had already dodged and moved outside the kitchen. Luo Lan, on the other hand, had no such ability. She could only stand there, covered from head to toe in flour.
Luo Lan wanted to cry but couldn’t. She stared aggrievedly at Chen Sha. He expressionlessly asked, “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine.” Even if she weren’t alright, she didn’t have the guts to annoy him anyway.
“Let me know if you’re not feeling well.” He was gone before she’d even registered his words.
Luo Lan could only stand there in shock. She suddenly realized, he, who’d never eaten anything other than nutritional meals, didn’t know what simple flour was.
Was it too late for her to pretend to be poisoned and faint?
Luo Lan patted her hair, flour immediately rising in a plume.
What had Chen Sha wanted to do in the kitchen just now? It looked like he’d left before accomplishing whatever he wanted. If it were Zi Yan, it could’ve been anything, but Chen Sha…
Luo Lan looked around her before her eyes finally settled on the pantry. She pulled open the door to find a space mostly empty, save for a row of nutritional drinks.
Looks like he’d been intending to drink one for his dinner.
Had he felt awkward and had thus left without even picking up his drink?
Half an hour later, Luo Lan had prepared a plate and instructed an android to give it to Chen Sha.
On the plate was a melon gourd filled with wintermelon porridge, a steamer of soup dumplings, and two nutritional drinks.
Although Luo Lan was satisfied with her creation, she didn’t know Chen Sha’s tastes, so to err on the safe side she’d included the drinks. She’d made her intentions clear; whether or not he ate it was up to him.
Ten minutes later, the android returned. The plate was cleaned of everything except one nutritional drink.
Luo Lan smiled to herself and muttered, “So he has a hearty appetite.”
That night, Luo Lan dreamt that she was standing on a large street, surrounded by a great crowd of people. She looked this way and that, searching for something, when suddenly, every person around her had turned into a hideous beast. They snarled at her and stretched open their bloody maws.
“Ah—–” Luo Lan let out a scream as she woke from her nightmare.
Suddenly, the lamp turned on, and Chen Sha was standing at the foot of her bed, dressed in pajamas.
Luo Lan was scared witless. She reflexively scrambled backwards.
Chen Sha immediately stepped back to the door.
The two, now separated by a distance, silently stared at each other.
His gaze was ice-cold—though his eyes held no warmth, they also held no enmity.
Luo Lan had finally shaken off her nightmare, her pants for air slowly calming.
Chen Sha turned to leave.
Chen Sha stopped. Luo Lan apologetically said, “I had a nightmare. I didn’t mean to disturb you.”
Chen Sha turned back around. “So you know?”
His words were phrased as a question, but he didn’t seem to be surprised.
Luo Lan suddenly realized that while Zi Yan hid behind a hundred lies, Chen Sha was as straightforward as they came. Yet sometimes, this sort of bluntness was the harder of the two to respond to.
She hesitated for a moment before nodding her head.
Chen Sha coldly said, “You have two options: control your fear, or be tortured by it.”
Was this man a vampire? Try to feel a bit of empathy, will you?! Luo Lan said with the intention to provoke, “Who wouldn’t be scared when death is a constant possibility?”
“Aren’t you just scared of being eaten by a beast? If you don’t want to get eaten, then just kill it! Improve your ability until you’ve reached level 3A, so even if I mutate, you can still kill me!”
Luo Lan’s breath stopped. Was he being serious?
Chen Sha’s expression was like granite. He clearly hadn’t been joking.
Luo Lan couldn’t respond, so he expressionlessly turned and left.
Luo Lan expelled a breath and comforted herself. All Chen Sha meant was that she should build strength to protect herself, so she’d have no need to fear his sudden mutation. She decided to ignore his sharp words and take his intentions to heart.
Luo Lan lay back down. She tossed and turned, unable to fall back asleep.
She thought she’d already accepted her situation, but the dream had proved that she wasn’t as calm as she strived to appear. Furthermore, her reaction towards Zi Yan in the car had shown her that she was only convincing herself that everything was alright.
“Control the fear or be controlled by the fear?”
“Face your troubles head-on!”
Luo Lan abruptly sat up and shouted, “So what if you’re 3A? Feng Lin said I have great potential! Who’s scared of whom?”
At that moment, Chen Sha had been leaning against the balcony railing, staring at the night sky. He turned his head to glance at Luo Lan’s bedroom window before he gazed once again at the boundless heavens.
tofu: I swear these chapters are getting longer and longer, good lord. I can’t help but feel strong pity for Chen Sha, even if he’s being such a class act of douchery. Like what kind of poor fool doesn’t even know what flour is? On that note, I can’t imagine a life were there was no tasty food. Maybe that’s why Chen Sha’s so messed up, ha.