Cheng Xi and the hypnotherapist glanced at each other. The latter shrugged ambiguously while the former gulped anxiously. Cheng Xi hesitantly continued, asking, “What else do you see?”
Lu Chenzhou’s eyelids suddenly started fluttering wildly, and his breathing also became uneven. Then, he suddenly yelled out, “Step over it!” as he gripped the armrest with all his strength.
He had shouted this so suddenly that both Cheng Xi and the hypnotherapist were shocked by the outburst. Luckily, both of them recovered quickly, and Cheng Xi continued on without missing a beat. “This…… who said this?”
His prior shout’s tone had been so severe that it felt like he had subconsciously repeated what someone else had told him to do.
“......” Lu Chenzhou didn’t respond this time. His hand was still clutching the armrest tightly and his entire body had begun trembling slightly, all signs that he was still anxious.
Cheng Xi stared at Lu Chenzhou in a daze, completely forgetting about the hypnotherapist at her side. She continued on her own. “What happened after you stepped over? What’s below the cliff?”
“A fire. A very big fire.”
“How did the fire start?”
“......I was very hungry, and I wanted to eat.”
“You were hungry and wanted to eat?”
“Did you succeed?”
Lu Chenzhou became frightened and his voice turned shrill. “It started burning.”
They had finally reached the climax of the incident. Cheng Xi started fidgeting out of nervousness, causing the hypnotherapist to look at her and motion for her to calm herself. After she recomposed herself, she continued once again. “What did you do?”
“I tried to extinguish the fire… I had water next to me… I didn’t succeed, and the fire grew larger.”
“Did you run away afterwards?”
“Who? Your mother?”
“Yes.” When Lu Chenzhou said this, all the tension in his face melted away.
“So the two of you actually managed to escape, right? You were both safe?”
“No. She ran back in…… The data was very important, and if she didn’t bring it out, then all her suffering over the years would have been for naught.”
Lu Chenzhou writhed violently until he finally mumbled, “I can’t say.” His voice rose one pitch higher than usual as he repeated, “I can’t say!”
Before Cheng Xi could even react, the hypnotherapist took over. “When I count to ‘three,’ you’ll wake up and remember what you said during this session—”
But before the hypnotherapist could start counting, Lu Chenzhou suddenly raised his head and stared straight at the two of them, his dark ochre pupils slowly clearing up.
He woke up.
He actually broke free of the hypnotism, just like that.
Cheng Xi gasped in shock, and even the hypnotherapist was very surprised.
“You…… are you alright?” Cheng Xi asked softly.
Lu Chenzhou observed her face carefully, his gaze clear but distant. He blinked once and then shut his eyes. “I want to be left alone for a moment.”
Before the hypnotherapist left, he pointed at Cheng Xi and asked, “Do you still remember her?”
Lu Chenzhou nodded coldly.
The hypnotherapist then walked out of the room without saying another word. Cheng Xi stood there silently before also following him out.
As the door closed, she saw Lu Chenzhou sitting on the sofa, alone. The originally calming and quiet music seemed to take on a sorrowful timbre.
The hypnotherapist was waiting for her not too far away from the room. “Can we chat?”
Cheng Xi nodded.
The two of them walked to his nearby office. The hypnotherapist closed the door, poured Cheng Xi a glass of water, and then sat down in front of her. “You seem very upset, no?”
Rather than answering, Cheng Xi asked, “Was that a failure on my part?”
“No, it was really quite the successful session. Far more productive than I expected it to be.”
Cheng Xi slowly released a pent up breath.
The hypnotherapist smiled warmly. “You’re being too hard on yourself. Although it’s rare for the patient to wake up in the middle of a hypnotherapy session, it’s not unheard of either. What’s more, you’ve already gotten the most important piece of information from him, haven’t you?”
His words seemed to revitalize Cheng Xi slightly. “Are the memories recalled through hypnotherapy always a hundred percent reliable?”
The hypnotherapist nodded. “More so than one’s conscious recollection, at least.”
“So there really was something wrong with his memory. It turns out that he didn’t actually run away by himself. He first tried to extinguish the fire but failed. Then, the fire was discovered by his mother before the two of them ran out together.” After Cheng Xi recounted what Lu Chenzhou had said, she paused for a moment. “This chain of events should have left a heavy impression on him. How could he have forgotten all these details?”
In general, people often patched up and embellished ugly memories. This was the first time Cheng Xi had encountered a case like Lu Chenzhou’s, where someone deliberately debased their good memories. There was an astronomical difference between locking his mother up and letting her to burn to death and his mother voluntarily running into a burning laboratory and dying as a result.
The hypnotherapist tapped on the table to grab her attention before reminding her, “Do you remember the first thing he said after being hypnotized?”
“That he saw a cliff?”
“Right. And what did he say right before he woke up? ‘The data was very important, and if she didn’t bring it out with her, then all her suffering over the years would have been for naught.’ You then asked him who had been suffering, and he actually woke up because he was struggling to not answer. From this, we can conclude that this is the question he most wants to avoid—or perhaps a question someone important least wanted him to answer. It’s even possible that his memories were altered against his own will.”
They were so close to the truth that Cheng Xi’s fingers started trembling.
The hypnotherapist continued analyzing Lu Chenzhou’s responses. “You’re a psychiatrist, so you should know about the infamous ‘visual cliff’ experiment conducted back in the 1960s, a classic psychology experiment that tested when infants develop depth perception… I suspect that Lu Chenzhou’s mother did a similar experiment with him in that lab.”
He was being very tactful, because the “visual cliff” wasn’t a harmful experiment. However, Lu Chenzhou had clearly suffered from whatever experiment he participated in, and his mother had evidently tried to hide this experiment from her family. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have continued to bring him to the lab when he could have been dropped off with his grandparents.
She had even been willing to run into a burning laboratory for this precious set of data.
The hypnotherapist didn’t know all the details of Lu Chenzhou’s history, but he had clearly performed a basic background check on Lu Chenzhou beforehand. Thus, he was even able to propose a preliminary hypothesis that chilled Cheng Xi to the bone. “As I recall, one of the most famous drugs that Donglai developed was an anti-depression drug. As a pharmaceuticals company, it’s always been at the very forefront of depression-related research. In fact, if I recall correctly, the lab that your professor, Madam Cai Yi, constructed after she retired was also funded by Donglai.”
And Cai Yi’s research was on the relationship between genetics and depression—depression yet again!
Cheng Xi suddenly stood up, her face inhospitable. “That’s a completely baseless conjecture. Lu Chenzhou’s mother was already badly hurt by the time she escaped from the burning laboratory. Regardless of whether or not the data exists, I, and the Cai Yi I know, definitely wouldn’t stand behind any experiment that tried to turn regular people into madmen!”
“Is that true?” The hypnotherapist smiled superficially as he replied, “I’m sorry. I said more than I should have. I meant nothing by my words. It’s just that I like to provide as much of a service to my clients as I can. I don’t charge a cheap fee, after all.”
Cheng Xi gazed at him one last time before twisting her head away and leaving.
When she opened the door, she saw Lu Chenzhou. He had followed them out of the room at some point, and was silently standing in the corridor.