Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Lu Zhiyu took a bottle, went to the courtyard, and filled it with some ants. Time and gravity were present in the painting space as were the sun and moon, the four seasons, and plants and oxygen, but there were no animals. Lu Zhiyu decided to put some specimens into the painting space himself.
At this moment, he heard a voice outside the gate, "Lu Zhiyu, what brings you home?"
Lu Zhiyu stood up and saw a girl with a wine red helmet, sitting on a motorbike outside the gate. She was staring at him, surprised. Lu Zhiyu put down his short-handled hoe and bottle and walked to the door. "You are?"
The girl removed her helmet at once and said, "I am Xia Fan!"
Lu Zhiyu was embarrassed. The girl was pretty and looked familiar, but he could not remember her and did not know what to say. Suddenly, he remembered a joke that he had read from the internet. A teacher met a student, but both of them could not remember each other's name. The student could only say, "I remember you, that—teacher!"
"You are that student!"
Xia Fan looked at Lu Zhiyu in disappointment for a while then she put the helmet under her armpit. "Hey, don't you remember me?"
Lu Zhiyu was extremely embarrassed. "I'm getting old and my memory has failed me. Can you tell me who you are?"
"I am Xia Yan's younger sister!"
Lu Zhiyu looked at her and said, "Xia Yan's sister?"
Lu Zhiyu gestured with his hand and said, "You have grown up!"
Xia Fan immediately replied, "Of course, I'm in high school now!"
Xia Yan was Lu Zhiyu's first love. Given his situation, Lu Zhiyu had no wish to meet any old friends or relatives and just wanted to spend his remaining days alone, not to mention a person like Xia Fan. When Lu Zhiyu was dating Xia Yan, Xia Fan was in primary school.
Lu Zhiyu had not contacted Xia Yan for six or seven years. Ever since they graduated from high school, they had gone their separate ways. Xia Yan went to Peking University, and Lu Zhiyu had gone to a normal university. Xia Yan had made things very clear when they broke up. Lu Zhiyu had not been able to get over it back then, but during the past two years, he was able to come to terms with it. However, that did not mean that he wished to see her again.
Lu Zhiyu nodded and said, "Oh, I remember you. Is there something you need? I have quite a lot going on here!"
Xia Fan knocked on the security grille and demanded, "You remembered me! So why haven't you opened the door! "
Looking confused, Lu Zhiyu opened the door, and Xia Fan pushed her motorbike in. "You have such a big courtyard. I've always thought of it as my ideal playground since young. Every time I pass by your house, I take a peep at it, but I never expected to see you here. What were you doing in the courtyard?"
Lu Zhiyu put away his tools and said, "Nothing, I was just tidying up. Since you are here, come in and have a drink!"
Xia Fan was wearing a pair of tight-fitting jeans and a large vest. Through the armholes, one could see her bra. Her outfit was sexy and daring. Lu Zhiyu did not expected the little girl to have grown up to be so sexy. Suddenly, he felt old.
"My family moved to the development nearby. From the street outside your house, you can make a detour to the back of the development. I just came back from Carrefour, and did not expect to see you in the courtyard!"
Xia Fan rattled on. Lu Zhiyu placed two bottles of drinks and some snacks on the table. "Time flies. How is Xia Yan? Is she married?"
Xia Fan looked dubiously at Lu Zhiyu and said, "Why? You still can't get over your old flame? Are you trying to to back to her?"
Lu Zhiyu shook his head and smiled. "It has been a few years, and the memories have faded. I asked only because we are still friends, and you happen to be here."
Xia Fan immediately replied, "My sister is studying in the United Kingdom. You won't be able to see her at the moment. Why are you back? I heard that you were doing pretty well in Beijing."
Lu Zhiyu tried to avoid the question and asked, "How did you know that I was doing pretty well? I was just an employee!"
Xia Fan narrowed her eyes and said, "Isn't everyone an employee? Don't tell me you want to be a boss!"
Xia Fan stayed in Lu Zhiyu's house for quite a while, leaving satisfied after finishing up a big packet of walnuts. Lu Zhiyu suddenly felt that the air had become fresher with Xia Fan's presence.
Lu Zhiyu let the ants into the painting space, but all of them died in an instant. This was not due to the environment. Those were natural deaths. He slapped his head and felt like a fool. Although the lifespan of a worker ant could reach six to seven years, it would be dramatically reduced if the worker ant left its colony and lived without its queen. Furthermore, time moved 10,000 times faster in the painting space. These worker ants could only live for a few seconds. It was not possible to form a colony.
Lu Zhiyu immediately turned to the internet. Hardly any of the items that he needed could be bought over the internet so he searched through the agricultural cultivation forums, found some people that worked in the related fields, and ordered from them after some discussion.
Two days later, Lu Zhiyu received his package. It was a special jar with lots of intersecting tunnels, where ants crawled around, and at the bottom of the jar was the queen ant. It was an ants culturing jar.
Lu Zhiyu opened the jar and let the queen ant into the painting space. The plants bloomed, and colorful trees and shrubs filled the area. The trees seemed to have shrunk, which could be due to the gravity and other environmental factors.
It was a pity that there was no sign of any animals. With enough time, Lu Zhiyu believed that the painting space might be able to generate its own two-dimensional animals. However, time was not on his side.
Lu Zhiyu buried the ants jar shallowly in the soil of a hillside and started making observations. He saw that under the accelerated time, the ants had started to spread out, filling up the hill.
The days and nights came and went, making one feel as though they were watching a fast-forwarded documentary movie. In less than two hours, two to three years had passed in the painting space and a new generation of the ants had replaced the original ones. It looked like the ants formed a unique civilization. They had precise and detailed segregation of duties. Just like human beings, each of them was like a screw that could not be removed from a machine. Should any ant leave the colony, it would not survive.
"Ants are amazing creatures!"
Four seasons had come and gone, and time passed by quickly. After a day, the original queen ant died, and new queen ants took over. However, there seemed to be two different colonies under two queens. Lu Zhiyu also found that the two colonies took difference evolutionary paths. One colony went down into the ground while the other had wings and built their nests on the mountain peak. Lu Zhiyu named them ground ants and flying ants.
On the fourth day, there was a huge transformation in the two colonies. Originally, there were the worker ants, soldier ants, male ants, and queen ants, but gradually, there was a further breakdown of their roles. The flying ants occupied the sky and took on a different form. If Lu Zhiyu had not been observing them, he would not have known that they were of the same origin.
The flying ants evolved into a species similar to bees. The color of the ground ants faded, turning golden, and then they went deeper into the ground. With this evolution, the two colonies split-up further. The different colonies gradually spread out to the entire island.
On the sixth day, some ants started to move close to the sea. The limbs of those ants started to become vestigial, and the ants evolved into a species that was able to survive in the water. The painting space was flourishing and diversifying. It amazed Lu Zhiyu that a small colony of ants was able to produce such a large variety of strange lives.
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