323 I’ll Take You Home (Final Chapter)
“After you were sent to the experimental grounds…” He smiled mysteriously. “You can try to recall what happened then.” He then stood up and headed for the door!
I realized that I finally could speak at this point!
I called out. “What do you mean! You’re saying that everything was just a dream?”
Mr Blond smiled as he waved a finger at me. “Nope. Even though it’s just an experiment, it can’t just be a dream… As for what happened, think about it. Li Shen, what are you going to do now that there’s no one by your side and no one else to protect you?”
I screamed, “You are all mad! I want to go back! I want to go back to the Split Zone! What’s happening here?!”
“Go back? Li Shen, look at this and think about it properly. You’re from this world. How can you keep leaving this place?” That smile was still on Mr Blond’s face as he spoke.
I kept telling myself to calm down, but my hands were shaking non-stop, and I just couldn’t control them. According to what Mr Blond says, everything was just an experiment? It was an experiment that was named Split Zone No. 13 in my head? And I’m merely subject number 13?
“You might not be able to accept and digest what I’ve just told you. If you’re not able to come to terms with being an experimental subject, then just treat it like it was a dream.”
Mr Blond was about to leave at that, but I got up from the bed and rushed to grab him in a bout of sudden energy. I stared at him and asked, “What about them? Where are they?”
Mr Blond looked at me. “They’re obstacles in your brain that I’ve created. Even though they are also experimental subjects like you are, and their brain waves might have interacted with yours, I’m unable to reveal any information about them to you.
“Li Shen, you can’t remember what happened at the very end, can you? Since you’ve completely accepted your second personality through this experiment, your life will return to being peaceful and normal. Why are you so hung up on what happened in the end?”
“What did you say? My life will return to being peaceful and normal? Are you kidding? This is called peaceful? Everything was a sham and I’m left alone now. I’m still lonely like I was before. Tell me how this is peaceful?” I asked in a hysterical manner, laughing and crying at the same time.
Sorrow flashed past Mr Blond’s eyes. “Your friends were among the other twelve experimental subjects, and whether it’s Jiao S or Guan Nie, they’ve both already returned to reality and are living their own lives. You just need to know that they are living well, and there’s no need for you to learn about anything else.”
“How about Nie Zun? What about Nie Zun?!” I cried.
Mr Blond responded with confusion. “What Zun?”
My heart twisted in a knot. “Nie Zun!”
Mr Blond gave me a meaningful look. “No one called Nie Zun had ever existed in the world that I’ve created for you.”
Darkness blanketed my vision as I passed out.
I was discharged half a month later. While I recovered, I finally wrapped my head around all that had happened.
Everyone there did not exist, except for the other twelve poor experimental subjects. Our brain waves were connected in this space called the Split Zone, and I was subject number 13. Our subconscious were sent there so that we were able to conquer ourselves and find meaning and value in being alive, after which we’ll be on the road to recovery once we woke up.
This was the aim of the Split Zone experiment.
Mr Blond was the one behind everything in the Split Zone, be it the space, the environment or the monsters, and even the random passers-by. Now that I think about it, I kept harping on protecting my residents, but when have I ever met an ordinary resident?
It was my brain that was fooling me, because there had only been thirteen people in the Split Zone, including me.
I didn’t know if the rest had recovered, nor did I know where they were. The hospital staff did not tell me how I could contact any one of my friends since they said it was confidential patient information.
Pomelo and my parents picked me up from the hospital, and I promised them that I’d live well from now onwards.
There’s no reason I wouldn’t cherish something that I had once lost.
I forced myself to forget about everything; to forget about Jiao S, to forget about Gaoqin Jiuye.
Oh there’s something else I forgot to mention. Gao Qi did not die. He was seriously injured after the stabbing, but the doctors managed to save his life eventually.
When I met him again, I realized that he and Gaoqin Jiuye were completely different people, and it was something that I had not realized in the past.
Mr Blond told me that Gaoqin Jiuye wasn’t among the thirteen experimental subjects. This meant that Gaoqin Jiuye did not exist and he was merely a dream that Mr Blond had created for me.
However, Gao Qi told me in secret that Gaoqin Jiuye existed, right there in his heart.
I no longer wanted to uncover the truth about this. I was like a puppet whose outer shell looked pristine while its core was full of holes. In my greed to ease back into real life, I forced myself to forget everything that had happened. Except for one person.
Many times, I simply squatted and cried in the middle of doing household chores.
How could it be? How could it be that no one else knew you existed?
Even for Gaoqin Jiuye, Mr Blond could still tell me that he was someone who did not exist, that it was merely an illusion he created.
But Mr Blond said he had never created someone like you, and that was also corroborated by the nurses, by the other parties who were involved, by the professors and the interns.
Everyone who could see what happened in my dreams and subconscious mind all told me that they had never seen someone called Nie Zun in it.
How could it be? They can’t acknowledge your existence when they could acknowledge the existence of my second personality whom I had vehemently refused to accept? They even said that there had never been anyone called Nie Zun?
I could never accept that, but I had to accept it.
I cannot continue being insane.
I had my family waiting for me.
But many times when I thought of you, I ended up crying. The only outlet to that pain was an impulse to engage in self-harm again.
I always hugged my knees and curled up in a corner of the house to cry my fill when no one else would see and realize it.
I didn’t know how many days passed like this, but I began to ease back into real life. The Split Zone wasn’t merely a dream. It taught me how to socialize with others, and it also taught me that I wasn’t lonely.
Until one day.
“Ah Shen, Gao Qi has fully recovered, and his graduation ceremony is coming up soon. You really aren’t going to send him off?” Pomelo was by my side, as usual.
I smiled faintly. “I’m not going.”
“But you said you’re fine. You’re still… uncomfortable about it?”
Uncomfortable? It’s not that.
I just felt that it was better for me to be missing him than to see him in person.
Of course, there’s a more important, personal reason to it. I was afraid that I might think of him.
“Well, Duff said she met someone she liked and she wants me to go and help pick out her clothes. You grab a bite first while I make a quick trip. You okay on your own, Ah Shen?”
I smiled at Pomelo’s face of concern. “It’s fine. Have you forgotten? I’m now the number one sunshine girl in the entire universe!”
“Suit yourself! I’m off.” Pomelo then left.
I finished my lunch and left the fast food restaurant soon after.
The sun was bright outside the restaurant, and instead of going back to the hostel, I sat by the roadside. I lifted my hand to shield my eyes from the sun as I looked at the continuous traffic and took in the sounds from the road. I didn’t realize this before, but I now found these sounds to be rather beautiful.
Because, they were all real and alive.
“Nie Zun, you exist, right…” As I looked at the sunlight shine upon the land, I suddenly felt like crying. I took a deep breath to stop myself. No, I can’t be upset.
I heard a familiar voice beside me as I tried to calm myself down by taking deep breaths.
I turned to the side immediately.
There was a pair of starry eyes under black, wispy bangs. The only thing that changed was that he was no longer in a black jacket. He was dressed in a simple tee-shirt and jeans.
“You…” My eyes widened.
“Shh.” Nie Zun lifted a hand to seal my lips.
“I know you have questions. Listen carefully to whatever I have to say, Shen’er.”
Hearing ‘Shen’er’ made me emotional all over again.
“What Mr Blond said is true, but there’s something he doesn’t know. There’s another participant in this experiment, and that was Jie Pa. He joined it as a psychologist after learning about the research in order to cure me, but this was without Mr Blond’s knowledge. Jie Pa connected to the experiment on his own, that is, to the equipment that transported our consciousness to the Split Zone. This is why I was there. I only regained consciousness recently because Jie Pa had some loose ends to tie regarding that experiment.
“Anyway, the me in front of your very eyes is definitely real. The rest of them still exist as well. Jie Pa had given me their information, so let’s go look for them. The very last part of the experiment made everyone forget what happened in the end, and I suspect that it’s because Mr Blond had found a loophole in the experiment. This loophole might be that they’ve realized that the Split Zone is a place that actually exists.”
“What?” I stared at him with wide eyes.
“As for the details, come with me. I’ve already contacted Jiao S and the rest, and they are already at Jie Pa’s clinic. You’re the only one who’s left. Let Jie Pa begin the experiment again and we’ll go back together to look for that piece of lost memory.”
Nie Zun took my hand in his, and I realized he was no longer wearing gloves.
Nie Zun’s eyes were bright, just like how they were when I met him for the very first time. “I know you’re still wondering if Gaoqin Jiuye really exists. I’ll be going back with you this time.
“Shen’er, I’m taking you home.”