What were they to do with a seemingly normal, if unconscious, Little Qi?
When Head Elder Ling first led Little Qi in the study of medicine, everyone knew of the news. Now that two years had passed since his disappearance, everyone was asking when Little Qi would come out of “seclusion.” After all, Little Qi’s knowledge had created a whole slew of all-new medicine plants. He was a fiendish genius and well known throughout the entire academy, so many people were interested in his exploits.
If they killed Little Qi and spread word that the pestilence was to blame, they could protect themselves. But Academy Head Gu wasn’t willing to take that choice. He still held out hope in his heart that Little Qi’s body would return to its former state so he could use it in the service of their medical academy. Moreover, until he figured out why Little Qi’s constitution had changed, he wouldn’t kill him off easily.
But keeping Little Qi alive like this was no long-term solution. Suppose this child ended up in someone else’s hands one day? Suppose he had heard everything he talked about last night and found out the truth about the past? While Academy Head Gu was still feeling conflicted, Little Qi’s eyes abruptly flew open.
His gaze was clean and pure as he looked curiously at Academy Head Gu and Head Elder Ling without saying a single word.
“Little Qi…” Academy Head Gu was pleasantly surprised.
“Little Qi, you… What happened to you?” Head Elder Ling pretended to feign concern.
Little Qi stared at them both for a long time before stuttering out, “You guys...just who are you two?”
Both Academy Head Gu and Head Elder Ling were rather surprised by his words. But they quickly exchanged glances and calmed down. They erased Little Qi’s six years at the Poison Sect’s forbidden grounds and told him he was a foundling adopted by Head Elder Ling, an inherent genius with a unique constitution who ate large amounts of medicine and ended up discovering hundreds of new plant species for the medical world.
Little Qi nodded along as he listened docilely. In the end, he affectionately called out to Head Elder Ling, “Daddy!”
Head Elder Ling was stunned. After all, this child had refused to call him ‘daddy’ ever since his entering the medical academy eight years ago. Academy Head Gu was surprised as well. ‘Daddy’ was his special moniker and Little Qi’s entire world. But over the past two years, Little Qi had long stopped calling for him. Now this stubborn, unyielding boy had said the word so easily once again.
It doesn’t seem like he’s faking his amnesia.
Still, neither Academy Head Gu nor Head Elder Ling were ready to trust him just yet. They sent Little Qi outdoors so he could wander freely about the courtyard. The boy didn’t run away, but instead came back to ask them for food instead.
“Daddy, I’m hungry…” he looked at Head Elder Ling while completely ignoring Academy Head Gu.
“Little Qi, you can only eat medicine,” Head Elder Ling personally carried over a bowl for Little Qi, who took a sip before spitting it out.
“So bitter! I don’t want to drink it.”
Instead, he headed for a nearby stack of pastries and started devouring that instead. He didn’t spit any of it up. Now that he had no aversions to regular food, he seemed just like an ordinary person. Both Academy Head Gu and Head Elder Ling felt a jolt in their hearts at the sight, their expressions growing complicated. Little Qi savored the tasty sweets as he almost cried from happiness. He could finally, finally eat real food again.
He had spent eight entire years taking nothing but medicine because he was physically incapable of ingesting food. Nobody realized how many times he’d tried and snuck some in in secret, only to throw it all up again. He even thought he’d be barred from normal food for the rest of his life.
Academy Head Gu and Head Elder Ling had both been obsessed with nothing but medicine for all their lives, so they wasn’t familiar with schemes or plots. When they saw Little Qi acting like this, they stopped suspecting him.
“This is good too,” Head Elder Ling muttered in a low voice.
“This way, we can still keep him around,” Academy Head Gu exhaled.
Head Elder Ling paused before venturing to say, “Academy Head, I have a plan.”
Compared to Academy Head Gu, Head Elder Ling wasn’t as crazy about Little Qi and could keep his reason around the lad. There was no way they could guarantee that Little Qi’s amnesia would last forever. Moreover, there were lots of people in the academy concerned with his matters, so they needed to have a backup plan. Very soon, Head Elder Ling spread the news that Little Qi was coming out of seclusion, but didn’t mention anything about his memory loss. After all, Little Qi had been doing nothing but living in his courtyard for the past eight years, so he very rarely interacted with outsiders or even had any friends. Whether or not he had amnesia, no one else could tell.
He brought Little Qi back into his courtyard and life returned to normal besides the fact that Little Qi didn’t eat medicine for his three meals anymore. Despite his ‘amnesia,’ Little Qi hadn’t forgotten any of his medical skills. Just like before, he spent days in the medicine fields of the backyard to take care of his precious plants. When faced with Head Elder Ling or Academy Head Gu, his eyes were as guileless as before and equally innocent towards both. In the past, his purity came from the fact that his daddy was his entire world. Now, that world was filled with nothing but pure, unadulterated hatred!
Like this, everything passed as before for a month. But one day, Little Qi suddenly discovered a poison plant in his beloved medicine patch. He pulled it up by the roots as a crafty smile broke across his face. Then he ran towards Head Elder Ling and cried, “Daddy! Poison! This is a poisonous plant!”
Naturally, it was Head Elder Ling himself who had placed the plant in his field. But he acted alarmed before asking sternly, “Little Qi, how did you know that this was a poison plant?”
How? Of course it was because Academy Head Gu’s been teaching me about them since I was small.
But now he had to pretend he had amnesia.
“I…I… I don’t know either, Little Qi said innocently, before adding, “But...it really is a poisonous plant.”
“Someone, come! Capture Little Qi and take him to see the Academy Head!” Head Elder Ling ordered coldly.
“Daddy…” Little Qi’s face was stunned. He acted so well that the expression matched the same one he wore when first seeing his father in the secret chamber. He looked both lost and uncomprehending.
“I’m not your daddy! I don’t have any sons like you!” Head Elder Ling’s act felt even more authentic than Little Qi’s.
Very soon, Head Elder Ling sent Little Qi off to meet with Academy Head Gu. At the same time, he summoned over the Vice-Head and other Elders of the Council of Elders. All of them were here to interrogate Little Qi.
“Tell us, how did you recognize this poison plant?”
“Who taught you the poison arts?”
“Besides the one in your field, where else have you hidden or planted those poison plants?”
“Little Qi, have you ever gone to the Poison Sect’s forbidden grounds?”
“Little Qi, do you have any liaisons with the remnants of the Poison Sect?”
The questions came one after the other. Little Qi could perfectly answer every one, but he only chose to say, “I don’t know.”
Each of the questions drove a knife into Little Qi’s heart, white blades that came out red with blood. He subconsciously glanced above him to Academy Head Gu, who hadn’t spoken a single word, as his breathing grew difficult.
Daddy, weren’t you the one who taught me all these things?
At the end of the inquest, they even used torture---or rather, a severe beating. Yet Little Qi still shook his head and only said, “I don’t know…”
Head Elder Ling actually played out an act of placing righteousness over family ties and provided all the “evidence” to show how Little Qi had stolen large amounts of medicine over the years and was suspected of colluding with the Poison Sect survivors.
Finally, Academy Head Gu spoke up. “Little Qi studied poisons in secret, stole ingredients on the sly, and harbors evil intentions. All of these crimes deserve punishment, so...he shall be expelled forevermore from the medical academy.”
The fact that he ‘studied poisons in secret’ was already a crime that would ruin Little Qi’s prospects forever. Why did Head Elder Ling accuse him of stealing ingredients too?
That was because the poison arts were a taboo topic in Cloud Realm Medical Academy. It wouldn’t be convenient for crimes like that to be publicized. But since Little Qi was to be expelled, they could do it under the pretext that he was a thief instead. The entire medical community was stunned by the news. Those with brains knew there had to be more to it, but the Council of Elders kept their mouths shut and forbade the disciples from discussing the matter. Thus, the fiendish genius Little Qi turned into a forbidden mystery once he was banished.
On the day of his expulsion, Little Qi was released from custody while wearing ragged robes and sporting injuries. He endured his pain to walk step by step towards the medical academy’s gates. Crowds lined the path on both sides, filling the street to the brim. Many of them took pity on the boy, but more were inclined to ridicule and mock him. Over the past eight years, Little Qi had earned a reputation for being snooty and aloof just because he didn’t talk in front of other people. The medical academy was full of ambitious types from good families, so they always held Little Qi in disdain. They were waiting for the very he fell from favor!
“What ‘fiendish genius?’ In the end, he’s just a thief,” someone shouted from the crowd, followed by a ripple of laughter.
“I’ve heard he’s just a foster son, not Head Elder Ling’s own child. He’s nothing but a bastard picked up from the streets, so it’s no wonder he’d do such disgraceful things!”
“He’s lost all face for the medical academy!”
Jeers and scorn came from all sides as Little Qi walked with his head hung. Nobody could see his expression. Suddenly, someone from the crowd threw an egg at him, which smashed against his head. Following that, more roars of laughter came from the people. Little Qi finally raised his head and looked at them. He was acting so superbly that his eyes showed nothing but utter confusion despite his mounting loathing.
“What are you looking at?! Can’t take the blow? Yeah, I’m the one that hit you! You’re just a bastard but you still call yourself a ‘fiendish genius?’ Don’t make me laugh!”
As the person spoke, he tossed another egg that smashed straight into Little Qi’s face. Egg white and yolk stuck to his skin, making his vision blurry. Gradually, more and more people joined in the fray, covering Little Qi in egg goop before he ever made it through the gates. As it became harder and harder to see, his eyes began to...tear up.
Didn’t I promise not to cry? Why am I crying now?
But maybe I’m not. It’s just that there’s something in my eyes, that’s all. Something that hurts.
What should have been a high-spirited boy at the height of his youth turned into a bedraggled figure who was mocked and left wretched for his entire trip out. Even after he had walked through the gates, many people chased after him. This time they didn’t throw eggs or spit at him, but tossed stones and pebbles instead.
Little Qi had no choice but to run for his life all the way deep into the woods. He knew in his heart that Head Elder Ling and Academy Head Gu’s schemes wouldn’t end here. All that fuss and fanfare were only for the people in the medical community to see.
He wouldn’t let them off easy!
He...had to run away as fast as he could, and truly leave Medical City behind him!