Chapter 112 – The Cycle of Karma, What Goes Around Comes Around (26)
Chi Xiaochi woke up coughing from the smoke.
He instantly shot up, jumping out of his bed barefoot and pulling open the door——
The source of the fire was the storeroom at the end of the corridor. Bright, burning flames snaked through the centre, letting out m.u.f.fled sounds of things collapsing as they were burnt to bits. Even ten feet away, the heat from the flames made the skin on his face tense.
Chi Xiaochi’s movement woke Yuan Benshan up.
He hurriedly got out of bed. “There’s a fire? Why is there a fire?”
Just as Chi Xiaochi opened his mouth to reply, the sound of people banging on the door and children’s cries for help sounded from the dormitory next to the storeroom. The cries had already changed in tone, so miserable that it hurt to hear.
“Laoshi save me!”
Chi Xiaochi’s expression twisted, thinking of what he’d found about the welfare centre’s past on the internet.
It wasn’t until the cold words turned into burning red flames and floating ashes did he finally get to personally experience what kind of nightmare that night had been.
Was the incident happening again?
There was no time to think about how the fire had started. Chi Xiaochi toed on his shoes and hurried next door to knock on Tuan Guangbing’s door. After making sure that they’d already woken up, he then started to run towards the fire.
His arm was caught by Yuan Benshan, who yanked him back. “What are you doing?!”
“I’m going to help.”
“Help who?” Yuan Benshan was truly both angry and distressed, wanting nothing more than to be able to knock this still-asleep idiot awake. “They’re ghosts! Can’t they escape by themselves?”
As they spoke, his survival instincts already had him subconsciously looking at the stairs. “Come with me!”
The children’s cries for help continued non-stop from the direction of the flames. From the looks of it, the door had already been completely sealed shut, red and black drops of molten metal dripping down from its top.
Chi Xiaochi pushed Yuan Benshan aside and hurried over to the sea of flames.
Soon, someone caught his right hand from behind once again.
Chi Xiaochi wanted to wrench his hand out of their grip, but when he looked back, he was met with Gan Yu’s quiet gaze.
He and Gan Yu looked at each other for a moment.
He asked, “……Can you help me.”
Gan Yu replied, “Alright.”
They didn’t waste time on any more unnecessary words.
Gan Yu let him go. Chi Xiaochi hurried over to the bathroom, while Gan Yu turned around, ignoring Yuan Benshan and speaking to Liu Chengyin and Tian Guangbing, who still hadn’t entirely gotten what was going on, “The women should take the injured downstairs and prepare medicine; men who want to stay and rescue people from the fire should do so, if not, go downstairs and don’t get in the way.”
Then, he turned and went back to the teacher’s dormitories.
While, Yuan Benshan stamped his foot, then chased after Chi Xiaochi’s back.
Tian Guangbing came back to his senses and shoved Liu Chengyin’s back, roaring, “Quick quick quick, bring Qin Ling downstairs!”
As Tian Guangbing picked up the unconscious Qin Ling, Liu Chengyin pushed open the window and looked outside, only to find that the two children who had originally been outside were nowhere to be seen.
She said, shocked, “They’re gone!”
Tian Guangbing, “Why do you care so much?”
She rushed up to him to support Qin Ling’s back. As she arranged her unconscious friend onto her boyfriend’s back, she asked anxiously, “The two of them didn’t go back to the dorms to sleep, did they?”
Tian Guangbing was silent.
He thought of the brat who’d talked on and on to his cabbage seed that day.
His eyes had been both big and bright, and full of hope towards life.
He grabbed onto Qin Ling by the legs and raised his voice, trying to persuade himself, “The fire’s already gotten this big, we can’t even be certain if we can survive, nevermind those two! Aren’t they ghosts? Wouldn’t it be easy for them to escape if they wanted to?”
Gan Tang, Tian Guangbing and Liu Chengyin all worked together to take Qin Ling downstairs.
The water pipe in the bathroom had exploded, spurting water in all directions. Chi Xiaochi was only wearing a shirt on top, which was completely soaked through.
He took off his contacts to avoid having them melt in the heat, and soaked his coat in water before running back outside, just in time to b.u.mp straight into Yuan Benshan.
Yuan Benshan was holding a shovel that he’d up in the corridor. His eyes were stung red from the smoke. He grabbed a nearby damp towel and gnashed his teeth and said, “……Idiot!”
Chi Xiaochi looked up at him.
“The door’s locked, what’s the use of getting yourself wet?!” Yuan Benshan pulled him out of the bathroom and rushed over to the burning dormitory door. “First think of a way to get the door open before doing anything else!”
He looked back and loosened his grip. His eyes were already teary from the smoke. “I’ll deal with you after we get back.”
Then, he bit onto the wet towel, breathing with his mouth as he picked up the shovel with both hands and smashed it onto the doorshaft of the security door in front of him!
The doorshaft and the place where it was connected to the door had already melted together in the heat. Yuan Benshan smashed it until his hands were numb, in the end knocking off the metal head of the shovel with the sheer amount of force, but it was still useless.
The little piece of gla.s.s on the door had exploded from the heat. Inside was almost completely covered by red and black smoke, making it impossible to see anything clearly. They could only occasionally see three or four small figures huddled together, hugging each other as they coughed and cried,
Chi Xiaochi shouted, “Run! Why aren’t you running!”
From inside sounded Pigtails’ hoa.r.s.e tears of despair, “I don’t dare—— The fire’s so big, Lou-laoshi, quickly save us——”
……They had been burnt to death by fire, and hence had a bone-deep fear of it.
At that moment, Gan Yu hurried over with two damp quilts.
Seeing that the door had yet to be opened, Gan Yu didn’t fool around, simply saying, “Tell them to get away from the door.”
Chi Xiaochi, “I already warned them to.”
Gan Yu took off his gold-rimmed gla.s.ses, placing them in his pocket in a gentlemanly and accustomed motion.
Yuan Benshan had a rough guess as to what Gan Yu was going to do. He threw away the shovel which only had its wooden shaft remaining, and retreated several steps, saying, “On three, we’ll all……”
Before he could finish, Gan Yu slammed his foot into the door.
The iron door fell out of its frame, falling to the floor with a bang.
Yuan Benshan, “……”
The children shrieked in fright from the loud noise. Those who still had clear minds and were still able to move, immediately rushed out from the exit.
Gan Yu ignored Yuan Benshan’s shock, throwing him one of the completely soaked quilts. “Cover yourself with this when you go in. Chunyang, stay outside and count how many come out, and confirm everyone……”
However, Chi Xiaochi didn’t listen to him, wrapping the other quilt around himself and rushing into the flames.
Gan Yu was given a violent shock, even sweating cold sweat. With a lightning-quick move of his hand, he s.n.a.t.c.hed the quilt back from Yuan Benshan with nary an explanation, shouted a “keep the exit free”, then draped the quilt over his head and followed Chi Xiaochi into the flames!
Yuan Benshan, “……”
But the current situation didn’t allow him the time to think more on this. He directed the little children, whose heads had been thrown into a tizzy by the smoke, out. As he did a headcount, he pointed them towards the way out.
There was only one staircase, but as they ran, they kept glancing at each other, all a little confused, as if they couldn’t believe that they’d already managed to escape from the inferno.
The room was filled with pungent smoke, little tongues of fire spreading all over, making it impossible to see anything clearly.
Chi Xiaochi picked up a half-unconscious child, hurried to the door, handed the child to Yuan Benshan, then hurried back in.
Only a few had escaped. As a result of the smoke and fear, some of the children had already fallen to the floor, including Pigtails.
In the smoke and dust where nothing could be seen clearly, it took Chi Xiaochi a long time before he was able to find her.
She was wearing a little nightdress, hugging a raggedy teddy bear and curled up in the corner, tears filling her eyes as she mumbled to herself, “There’s fire, there’s fire……”
When Chi Xiaochi had brought out the last child, he’d learned from Yuan Benshan that 23 children had already been sent out safely. There was only one left, so he’d brought the two children who couldn’t walk out first.
Gan Yu had not yet left the fire, coughing as he called out for Chunyang. Chi Xiaochi made a sound in reply as he pulled the mumbling Pigtails into his arms. The moment he got up, he heard a thunderous crash——
A part of the ceiling next to the door had fallen. Fiery steel and cement fell like a rain of fire, completely blocking off their path to the exit.
Chi Xiaochi let out an angry curse. He had no choice but to retreat towards the window.
Right now, that was the only safe place left, but it was a dead end.
Soon, he and Gan Yu successfully met up by the broken second window.
As the smoke became thicker, they were no longer able to speak.
Chi Xiaochi pressed Pigtails’ head to his chest. Using hand gestures, he asked Gan Yu if he could kick off the anti-theft cage like he had just now.
Gan Yu stepped up onto the windowsill, swiftly using his leg to sweep away the shattered gla.s.s before supporting himself against the top of the window with one hand and kicking at the anti-theft cage.
However, the anti-theft cage was of shockingly good quality. Adding on the fact that there was limited s.p.a.ce to move on the windowsill and there wasn’t a good point of weakness to aim at, the anti-theft cage didn’t budge an inch. Instead, it just caused another round of violent shaking in the precarious ceiling.
Pigtails started to cough.
She curled up in Chi Xiaochi’s arms. “Laoshi, I don’t want to die.”
Chi Xiaochi said, “No one’s going to die.”
Pigtails grabbed his collar. She said in a small voice, “My Tiantian hasn’t grown up yet.”
Tiantian was the cabbage she’d planted.
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Chi Xiaochi said, “Then let’s go see it right away, okay?”
At that moment, the situation changed.
The ceiling above where Chi Xiaochi was standing became loose!
In a flash, Gan Yu, who was sitting on the windowsill, grabbed Chi Xiaochi by the front of his shirt, pulling him forward. But because he used too much force, he lost his balance, and began to fall backwards!
Chi Xiaochi’s heart shuddered. He reached out and grabbed hold of Gan Yu’s clothes on the left side of his chest and, practically without hesitation, used the card which he had long since selected from the storehouse.
The two fell from the third floor window together, falling onto the gra.s.s.
Upon seeing this occur from where he’d been watching from afar, Yuan Benshan’s face twisted. He quickly ran over.
Gan Yu was within arms reach of Chi Xiaochi, but he was several times more panicked than Yuan Benshan.
He was the closest to him, so he was clearest on the fact that Chi Xiaochi had forcibly turned them over in the air, bearing most of the impact from their landing.
Gan Yu hurriedly crawled up from the ground and pulled Chi Xiaochi into his arms, frantically checking him for serious injuries in a near-crazed state. Only after he’d gotten halfway through did he remember that Chi Xiaochi had used a card, so the impact of landing had been nothing to him.
Chi Xiaochi was curled up in his arms, his eyes closed, like he’d fainted.
But he was very awake. He could even hear the tremble in Gan Yu’s voice, “……Chunyang, are you alright?”
Chi Xiaochi thought, even at this time, he was still calling him Chunyang. That meant Gan Yu really wasn’t his beloved Liu-laoshi.
As the last of that thought disappeared like smoke, Chi Xiaochi’s emotions actually became a lot calmer. “Are you alright?”
Gan Yu, forcing down his heartache, smiled and nodded. “……I’m fine.”
A surge of exhaustion had already slammed into Chi Xiaochi like waves against the sh.o.r.e. As his body became weaker and weaker, his voice also became softer, “Then that’s good. ……That’s good.”
His fingers were so weak that they wouldn’t even be able to hold onto cotton, but he still used all his strength to grab onto Gan Yu’s shirt, his knuckles pressed against his heart, feeling his heart beat.
Gan Yu, feeling his nervousness, tried to comfort him, “It’s only three stories, it wasn’t very high.”
However, upon hearing those words, Chi Xiaochi’s face slowly began to pale.
Half of it was because of the card, and half was because he’d thought of the past.
After Lou Ying’s accident, Chi Xiaochi often thought about how a person’s life could be simultaneously so light, yet so heavy.
It was so light that it didn’t even need three stories, the height of two stories was enough to end it.
It was so heavy that it rivalled the weight of Mt. Tai, pressing down on Chi Xiaochi’s heart for a full twelve years.
Yuan Benshan had already hurried to Chi Xiaochi’s side. Only after conducting a careful examination of his entire body, and finding that he didn’t have any serious injuries and was probably just stunned by the fall, did he reluctantly let out a sigh of relief.
Seeing that Gan Yu was perfectly fine, only having broken his gla.s.ses, his tone towards Gan Yu was rather unpleasant, “How’d you fall?”
Gan Yu didn’t answer, focused on Chi Xiaochi’s pale face.
Not liking Song Chunyang being stared at by someone like that, Yuan Benshan took matters into his own hands and picked him up, taking him away.
Gan Yu, “Xiao——”
He couldn’t say that last word. He couldn’t even call his name.
As Yuan Benshan glanced back at Gan Yu out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that Chi Xiaochi’s lips were moving, but he couldn’t hear what he was saying.
He moved closer, asking, “What?”
“Sorry.” Chi Xiaochi’s eyes were closed. He could only produce m.u.f.fled sounds with a breathy voice, “That year…… I wasn’t able to save you, I was useless.”
Yuan Benshan started. He couldn’t help but think, was he shocked to the point of having nightmares and was now speaking nonsense?
He comforted him, saying, “It’s alright, you already did very well.”
Chi Xiaochi leaned into his chest, asking in a soft voice, “Really?”
Yuan Benshan, “Really.”
“Liar,” Chi Xiaochi said, “He can’t see me anymore.”
Yuan Benshan’s heart was filled with a helpless softness. Even though he didn’t know what he was talking about, he still tried to keep up with his topic, “Don’t think like that. He can see you, he might even be looking at you right now.”
The author has something to say:
Yuan Benshan: Chi-niangniang, Twelfth Prince is still watching you!
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