Chapter 60.2 – Search
When Captain Xu arrived at the SIU in the afternoon, he received glances from everyone entering. Unlike usual, today’s gazes were oddly different.
Xu Gao from the Fourth Unit passed by and looked at him with the same look as the others. He very bravely asked the question that the others wanted to ask and said, “Didn’t Captain Xu take the whole day off today?”
Xu Tonggui briefly replied, “It’s okay now.”
The expressions others looked at him changed slightly.
The tasks were never-ending. He conscientiously returned to work and within such a short time, piled up tasks on his plate. He left, lifting his feet.
As the tall figure disappeared outside the door, members from various teams instantly gathered, whispering among themselves, sporting expressions ready for gossip.
The person who went on a mission to the hotel yesterday wasted no time upon return, describing in detail just how exciting it had been.
Their Captain usually kept a low profile. Yet yesterday, he got into a fight with Lu Dongcheng over a certain person, showing ruthless determination that no one could deter.
This person acted silently but resorted to physical confrontation with Lu Dongcheng to claim someone.
According to sources privy to the intelligence, after the incident, Captain Xu even took the person he brought out from the hotel and drove off.
And then, today, he took leave.
Everyone’s speculation converged on the same point. When Captain Xu arrived earlier, they were sneaking peeks at the only visible part of his neck, hoping to find something, but they didn’t see what they wanted.
A collective sigh echoed through the room.
Had they known that tailing to the hotel would lead to such a dramatic scene, they would have fought over the opportunity. Now, catching only the aftermath left them feeling regretful.
During the gossip session, someone who witnessed the entire incident last night finally resolved the follow-up events at the hotel. Upon returning, they were immediately grabbed and brought into the gathering.
Someone asked eagerly, “Rumors got mixed up, was that person last night a man or a woman?”
“He was wearing a skirt, long hair,” the witness said. “A man. He even called out Captain Xu’s name, I heard it.”
The witness blushed, “He was really good-looking.”
And had a pleasant voice.
They regretted not looking more closely yesterday and the others who hadn’t even caught a glimpse felt even more heartbroken.
Xu Gao quietly left the gossip session and, during dinner, promptly handed a large slice of melon to his gossip buddy.
However, the gossip buddy seemed occupied and didn’t respond to his messages for a long time.
Jiang Yujin received a message from Xu Gao. His emotions were hard to express, and he couldn’t decide how to respond at the moment. He chose to set it aside for now, opting to watch the evening news on TV.
The high schooler, back home from school, brought dishes out from the kitchen. Having had substantial meals both at lunch and dinner, Jiang Yujin gave a thumbs-up.
Watching TV while having dinner, Chen Jing casually dropped a bombshell, “I’ll be going to H City for a competition tomorrow, probably for five to six days.”
Translated, that meant no one would be cooking for the next five to six days at home.
Citizen Jiang, who had been engrossed in the TV, froze instantly.
After delivering such news, the high schooler asked, “Where did you go last night?”
Still reeling from the shock of the upcoming five to six days without meals, Jiang Yujin mechanically continued eating, saying, “Went to handle a commission, then… um, stayed at a friend’s place overnight.”
Chen Jing remained skeptical of his explanation but didn’t press further.
That night, Jiang Yujin sat on the couch, holding the goose, watching the high schooler pack things in the room, emitting a sigh like an old father. He then messaged the barber shop owner, reminding him to remember x2 when buying groceries in the future.
After a brief thought, he added a colorful “Thank you” graphic at the end.
The message sent, but a red exclamation mark appeared again.
Jiang Yujin sighed, “Tsk.”
What an unreliable friendship.
The next morning, Chen Jing woke up earlier than usual, prepared a simple breakfast for himself, and then prepared brunch for Old Father Jiang.
After finishing the meal and checking the time, he slung his backpack over his shoulder and left.
This time, there were only two teachers and two students sent by the school to attend the competition, a small enough group that they could pick him up directly downstairs.
At that time, the other neighbors on the street had already gotten up. They saw him getting into a stranger’s car on the street and worriedly asked about it. Later, they found out it was the teacher who had come to pick him up for a competition. They smiled and praised him for being successful.
Two teachers, one male and one female, went along with the student. During the journey, the teachers talked about precautions. Chen Jing, at such times, responded with a couple of words. During casual conversations, they hardly spoke, spending most of the time looking at the scenery outside the window.
“It seems like the prize money for this competition is quite high. Even the third prize is five thousand. The other reward rules haven’t been released yet. When they are, I’ll let you know right away.”
Chen Jing, who had been gazing at the scenery, shifted his focus back inside the car.
As the competition selection reached its final stages, only a few outstanding students from nearby schools were selected. Chen Jing saw the news, and Zhang Xin mentioned being on the way here too.
Xiao Pang was on a study tour in the neighboring city, quite nearby.
For convenience, all the schools participating in the competition were staying at the same hotel. When they arrived, the staff informed them that many people had already checked in earlier.
No.6 Middle School’s teachers and students were checking in at the same time. They nodded at each other and then went their separate ways.
Not long ago, Chen Jing had climbed over the wall of the No.6 Middle School. He stood behind the crowd, silent.
The competition was starting tomorrow; today was just for getting familiar with the venue and procedures. Once settled, the students either prepared or rested in their rooms. There was a meeting in the afternoon and rest at night.
Xiao Pang had previously exerted a lot of effort to finally secure a laboratory, researching tissues taken from various worms and One-eyed’s corpse for a long time. Finally, he discovered something unusual and hoped to meet tonight.
Chen Jing replied to the message and then spread out his book.
After the meeting in the afternoon, it was almost dark. Chen Jing met Zhang Xin outside the hotel.
At their first meeting, Zhang Xin was the first to notice the small calico cat head on the other’s shirt. Her eyes lit up, and she couldn’t help but laugh, saying, “I didn’t know you liked this.”
The two met with Xiao Pang on the bridge that connected the two cities. Xiao Pang’s first words were, “Your cat is oddly cute.”
Chen Jing’s lips moved, and finally, he uttered, “He bought it for me.”
It was obvious who ‘he’ referred to.
Xiao Pang and Zhang Xin were astonished; they couldn’t believe that Uncle Jiang would actually buy clothes for his son.
Chen Jing said, “Let’s find a place to sit down.”
They found a beverage shop with small private booths.
After the waitress left, Xiao Pang pulled out a messy stack of papers from his backpack, covered with various colorful annotations.
After quickly organizing the papers and with dark circles under his eyes, Xiao Pang took out a sheet of paper and said, “I’ve analyzed the nematode cells from the glass block, the cells from One-eyed, and also the cells from the worms crawling out of its body.”
He then pulled out a few more sheets, saying, “I couldn’t bring the petri dishes here, and they don’t reveal much to the naked eye. I took a few photos and printed them out for you to take a look.”
They swiftly glanced through several photos before getting to the main point.
Xiao Pang separately analyzed several different tissue fragments. First was the nematode cells labeled [C—A2—3.0], which, similar to One-eyed’s cells, had merged two different genes. However, in comparison, the fusion in One-eyed seemed more successful.
The nematode cells accumulated a lot of meaningless substances, indicating an error in fusion that led to expression errors. There were no parts within the cells capable of eliminating these meaningless substances, so even if left unattended, the nematode cell would eventually die on its own.
One-eyed’s gene was fused with the worm’s gene, and the effect seemed to be good. Both abilities were strengthened, and he could also control the synthesis and changes of the worm’s body based on his subjective will.
— At least that’s what it appeared on the surface.
However, he actually died because of the strange species on his body. They initially thought the controlling factor was the strange species, but Xiao Pang discovered a third set of foreign genes.
After a series of observations, he found that the true controller wasn’t the strange species or One-eyed, but this small segment of foreign genes. It linked One-eyed and the worms, exerting control over both.
The thoughts perceived by One-eyed or the strange species themselves were all outcomes of this small gene segment’s orchestration. Moreover, he noticed that the cells, when facing death, completely defied common sense. They didn’t resist the invasion of death but instead chose to prioritize protecting the foreign gene sequence with all their might.
It was a deeply chilling revelation.
“A preliminary assumption—because it’s just that, a hypothesis—I’m being bold here, so it might not be entirely accurate. The source of this gene segment can break isolation, merging different species. Based on our previous investigations, it can also merge different species with others, repair them—I mean each distinct species—and assert dominance in orchestrating them,” Xiao Pang stated.
It could merge various species, had reparative abilities, and exerted dominance in orchestrating them.
Inclusiveness, healing, absolute dominance. Xiao Pang asked, “What does this sound like to you?”
“…” there was a moment of silence before Zhang Xin raised her head and said, “Like a mother.”
More precisely, a mother of strange species.
High inclusiveness, high reparative abilities, high control.
—They might have an inkling why Zero has been increasingly active lately.
There’s more than one laboratory, progress could be made on One-eyed’s side, as well as elsewhere.
Zhang Xin fell silent for a moment, then said, “Could this be what we’ve been searching for?”
A continuous source of strange species, potentially driven by some rule or due to the existence of a “mother” capable of producing strange species.
However, these were all conjectures, and they didn’t have a clear understanding of the specifics.
After all the speculation, they circled back to 001, who was most likely to come into contact with the essence.
Zhang Xin said, “My uncle’s son works at the SIU. I heard Xu Tonggui got into a fight with Lu Dongcheng at a hotel in A City.”
Chen Jing pondered for a moment before saying, “Let’s discuss that later. First, find the source of the foreign genes.”
The involvement of Xu Tonggui and Lu Dongcheng might be related to 001, or maybe not. Even if it were, the chances of finding information were quite low. Instead of relying on luck, it was more practical to locate the actual source of the foreign genes.
The other two nodded.
Gossip always spread the fastest. By the time Hu Li returned to the office after a day out, people were passionately recounting the fresh gossip from the previous night.
After listening quietly for a while, Xu Gao, the perennial odd-job man, happened to pass by. Hu Li grabbed him and took him to an empty balcony.
At Hu Li’s request, he vividly recounted the story from the previous night.
Hu Li seemed quite interested after listening and playfully patted Xu Gao’s shoulder, “Can you find out who that person is for me?”
“I showed you the footage of 001 before, didn’t I? No one else got to see it, just you. Don’t I deserve a favor?”
“Isn’t that extra work?” Xu Gao’s workaholic radar beeped, cautioning, “Besides, wouldn’t it be faster to ask Captain Xu directly?”
“This matter needs to be investigated discreetly,” Hu Li smiled and continued, “Go ask Captain Xu about that person. If Captain Xu’s mind gets clear in the process, that person might dismantle the SIU, and the SIU will be disbanded tonight.”
Xu Gao was good at catching the point and innocently scratched his head, “Isn’t Captain Xu’s mind already clear?”
The corner of Hu Li’s mouth twitched: “Shut up and do as you’re told.”