The man in the corner heard a voice.
Only then did he slowly look up.
The moment he saw Qiu Yanzhi, the man looked confused, as if he didn't know how to react.
[Warning! Warning! This is an emergency! Interference to card function has been detected! Player, please step away from the target character!]
A cold, mechanical female voice could be heard.
Qiu Yanzhi ignored it. He stood up and walked towards He Zhou.
He Zhou watched in silence as Qiu Yanzhi approached him. Then he asked, "Are you a ghost?"
Qiu Yanzhi reached out and took hold of He Zhou's hands. "I’m not a ghost, I’m Qiu Yanzhi."
He Zhou regarded Qiu Yanzhi quietly for a very long time. Then he smiled and reached out to touch Qiu Yanzhi's cheek. "Thank you for visiting me in my dreams."
Tears suddenly fell from Qiu Yanzhi's eyes.
"Don't cry." He Zhou gently wiped away his tears, "Don't cry in my dreams, alright?"
Qiu Yanzhi shook his head, tightly holding onto He Zhou's hand on his cheek. His voice was already hoarse, "This isn’t a dream. It isn’t, you hear me?! He Zhou, I’m really here. He Zhou, I didn’t die, I’m still alive…”
He Zhou patiently comforted him, wiping away his tears with his fingertips. "Okay, okay, you’re alive. Don't cry, alright..?"
Qiu Yanzhi took his right hand and bit him lightly. "Does this hurt?"
He Zhou froze. "Yes."
Qiu Yanzhi asked again, "So is this really a dream?"
He Zhou hesitated. He dumbly shook his head. "Probably not."
He Zhou turned to look beside him. "But...you were clearly here."
Qiu Yanzhi took a look at the spot He Zhou was looking at. It was clearly empty, but he knew that in He Zhou's eyes, his ‘ashes’ were there.
Qiu Yanzhi said, "What do you see there?"
He Zhou: "You."
Qiu Yanzhi put his hand in the spot. "What do you see now?"
He Zhou: "Your hand...on the urn with your ashes.”
Qiu Yanzhi moved his hand down some more: "And now?"
“Your hand...went through."
Qiu Yanzhi: "So what does this mean?"
He Zhou blinked blankly. He said, with some uncertainty, "It means that...you...are a ghost?"
Qiu Yanzhi: "......"
Qiu Yanzhi took He Zhou's hand again and put it inside where that ‘urn’ was. “It’s not just me, your hand goes through too. Do you understand now?”
“...Yes, I understand."
Qiu Yanzhi finally let out a sigh of relief.
Then he saw He Zhou turn his head to look at him, blinking very slowly. “So I'm a ghost too."
Qiu Yanzhi: "......"
Was this really the same evil, overbearing, cold, brutal and disdainful psychopath who said he was going to scrape my neck?!? How did that guy become this stupid, slow dummy with a head filled with water?!?!
Qiu Yanzhi took a deep breath and said, "No, it means that the urn is fake! It doesn’t exist!!"
He Zhou: "...It doesn’t exist?"
Just then, the cold mechanical female voice warned Qiu Yanzhi again.
[Warning! Warning! Severe interference to card function detected! Player, please immediately step away from target character! Please immediately step away from target character! If the player continues to interfere, the Troublesome Character Isolation Card will fail to work. All abnormal reactions of affected NPCs will be the player’s sole responsibility!]
Qiu Yanzhi continued to look at He Zhou like he had heard nothing.
"Yes, it doesn't exist."
He Zhou was a little confused. "...Then what is the thing I see there?”
“That’s just an illusion." Qiu Yanzhi said softly, "I wasn’t in a car accident and I’m not dead. Look, I’m right here. I’m fine.”
“You’re fine, and that’s an illusion…” He Zhou muttered to himself.
He looked absolutely lost. His eyes drifted between Qiu Yanzhi and the urn like he couldn’t comprehend what was going on.
Qiu Yanzhi helped him get up from the ground. “He Zhou, let’s go to sleep. Everything will be fine in the morning…”
He Zhou obediently followed him.
When he was laying in bed. the man looked up and asked, "Qiu Yanzhi, was your car accident really just an illusion?”
Qiu Yanzhi covered him with the blanket and replied, "If it helps, think of it as a nightmare.”
"Qiu Yanzhi," He Zhou stared at him, "sleep with me tonight."
So Qiu Yanzhi lifted the blanket and got in too.
He Zhou pulled him into his arms and held him tightly, as if he wanted to merge their bodies into one.
Thankfully, the man soon fell asleep.
All the lights in the house were off. The only source of light were the shallow beams of moonlight coming through the window. They faintly revealed He Zhou’s silhouette.
Qiu Yanzhi quietly watched over his sleeping form.
He wondered if he had gone mad. Why else would he have run over to find He Zhou?
Qiu Yanzhi expected to regret his impulsive actions in the future.
However, he nuzzled into He Zhou’s chest for now, listening to the man’s heartbeat.
He closed his eyes.
Qiu Yanzhi tried to sleep, but his mind kept replaying the way He Zhou had hugged him and cried after his ‘death’.
Some said that the more successful a person was, the more they feared death since they had so much more to lose.
But Qiu Yanzhi feared death despite having nothing.
He started being afraid 10 years ago.
Qiu Yanzhi remembered how bustling his neighbourhood was during that year’s Chinese New Year. Women made dumplings in the kitchen while the men put up spring festival couplets on doorways. Children ran all over the place with 50 cent firecrackers in hand, creating quite a rancor in the streets.
Meanwhile, Qiu Yanzhi was dragged to the roof by his mother. She asked him, "Little Yuan, will you die with Mommy?”
She was smiling then. It would’ve been a nice expression, had her face not been so disfigured. The smile only pulled at the scarred and ruined flesh there, inciting fear in all who saw her.
So Qiu Yanzhi took a step back.
And his mother jumped off the roof alone.
When Qiu Yanzhi ran down from the roof and staggered towards her corpse, there was already a group of people surrounding her.
Someone said it was scary, too scary.
Someone said this woman was so selfish. She almost hit someone. Why couldn’t she have died at home?
Someone said that this woman seemed to be that Ge Ruoshu.
Someone said that she deserved to die.
“Oh, Ge Ruoshu was that woman who lived on the east side of Building 3, in 267. I heard that she divorced her husband three years ago, only to run into him recently. They got into an argument where she bragged about how their child wasn’t his and she was going to bring him to his actual rich father. Once the man found out, he beat her so bad that she was disfigured. Then that woman pressed charges and sent him to jail.”
“Before her face was ruined, she dressed up like a slut to hook up with men. She forced her child to shoplift clothes and jewelry at the mall everyday, but she wouldn’t even pick him up from the police station if he got caught.”
“After her disfigurement, she holed up in her home and beat her child regularly. She even screamed and wailed like a lunatic in the middle of the night yesterday. My child was so frightened, you know? Finally, this woman is dead. Now we can get some peace and quiet around here.”
"Finally, this woman is dead."
That's what the others said.
But then, Qiu Yanzhi heard himself repeat those same words.
“...Finally, Mother is dead." A cold and cruel voice said in his head.
After realizing what he had actually been thinking, Qiu Yanzhi could not longer move even a muscle. Self-loathing flooded his being. He felt like he was as dirty and disgusting as a maggot.
Ever since that day, he has feared death.
It wasn’t death itself that he was afraid of.
Qiu Yanzhi feared people glancing at his corpse coldly before turning away.
He feared someone would complain that his blood had soiled the road.
He feared someone would say that his death ruined what was supposed to be an auspicious day.
Most of all, he feared someone would stand in front of his corpse and sigh in relief, saying:
--Finally, this person is dead.
He Zhou made him realize something.
Ten years later, Qiu Yanzhi was still afraid of death.
But now, it was because he was afraid of hurting other people.
He was afraid that someone would kneel in front of his corpse and cry their heart out, that someone holding his ashes would sit alone in the corner of a dark room, that someone would nearly go insane because of his death...
Qiu Yanzhi's face gently nuzzled He Zhou's chest. Reaching out to hug his waist, he finally fell asleep as well.
Qiu Yanzhi seemed to sleep for a long time. He slept so much that his whole body relaxed.
Even when he finally woke up, he closed his eyes again because even the minimal lighting was intolerable. He buried himself in that person's arms like a lazy cat.
With half-closed eyes, He Zhou hugged the cat in his arms tightly. His voice was slightly hoarse as he had just woken up: "Qiu Yanzhi, I had a very long dream."
Qiu Yanzhi muttered rather drowsily, “...En, what kind of dream?”
He Zhou kissed Qiu Yanzhi on the forehead and quietly said, “I dreamt...that I had traveled back four months in time, that you pretended not to know me and refused to marry me, that you knocked me out and stole my documents and bit me. Finally, you got into a car accident in front of me..."
Qiu Yanzhi was instantly awake. He was no longer even a little bit drowsy.
Actually, that was an understatement. He felt like his entire body had stiffened into a block of ice. Every strand of hair felt like it was standing on end.
How was he supposed to explain the current situation to He Zhou?!
What was he supposed to say? “Oh, Mr. He, you really did go back four months in time, and I really did pretend to not know you. All that other stuff like knocking you out and stealing your documents and biting you also really happened. Only that car accident you saw me die in was a lie.”
That’s right. He Zhou continuing to interpret Qiu Yanzhi's ‘death’ as a dream was just fine with him.
But the problem was this: If he was the one who knocked Mr. He out, stole his documents, bit him, and refused to marry him…
Why was he lying in his bed then?!!!
He Zhou put his head against Qiu Yanzhi's hair and nuzzled him a few times. “En? Why are you so silent now?”
Qiu Yanzhi: "......"
Carefully, with a stiff expression, Qiu Yanzhi pushed He Zhou away.
He Zhou released his grip somewhat lazily, letting him shift away. He looked up at Qiu Yanzhi and was about to ask him what they should do today.
But before he could speak, his gaze fell on Qiu Yanzhi's neck.
He Zhou’s expression stiffened.
Then he reached out and suddenly tore off the dressing on Qiu Yanzhi's neck, revealing the shocking bite mark inside.
He Zhou liked to bite Qiu Yanzhi in bed, and he especially loved this spot in particular. But he wasn’t a pervert. How could he have used enough force to draw blood?
Only once did he bite this spot viciously enough to cause such a wound.
...And it was in that ‘dream’.
He Zhou's eyes gradually moved down to his own right hand, which was also covered in a dressing.
...The Qiu Yanzhi in that dream had bitten him there.
Qiu Yanzhi saw that the situation was getting worse and worse, so he panicked and covered the bite mark on his neck. Jumping out of bed and putting on his shoes, he prepared to make his escape.
But as soon as he took a step, he was pulled back onto the bed.
He Zhou rolled over and pressed him down, his two hands each imprisoning one of Qiu Yanzhi’s wrists.
“...What the hell is wrong with you?"
Qiu Yanzhi was panicking internally, but still managed to appear calm on the outside: "What do you think?"
He Zhou stared at him for a long time. He watched Qiu Yanzhi's heart nearly beat out of his chest and his palms become sweaty before he let go and sat back on the bed.
He wrinkled his brow in pain and reached out to press on his temples.
Qiu Yanzhi tentatively tried to say something, "He Zhou, how much do you remember from...yesterday?"
"I remember that you knocked me out."
"And then what?"
He Zhou closed his eyes and tightly held his head. He felt a headache coming on: "...Then...then I saw you have a car accident, but...but someone told me that...that wasn’t real."
Qiu Yanzhi was silent for a long time. He suddenly spoke.
"Mr. He, I'm sorry. I was wrong."
Qiu Yanzhi took a deep breath and said, "I'm sorry that I knocked you out in my panic last night, but..."
Qiu Yanzhi looked up at He Zhou and said carefully, "But after you fainted...you seemed to be hallucinating… You were actually acting a bit unhinged…”
“I was afraid something would happen to you so I brought you to your home."
"Then why are you in my bed?"
"You pulled me onto the bed yesterday...and you wouldn't let go."
He Zhou glared at him icily. "Do you really think I would buy that?"
Qiu Yanzhi blinked. "But what I said is the truth."
He Zhou closed his eyes. He only opened them again after a very long time.
Finally, he simply said, "Go away."
Qiu Yanzhi let out a sigh of relief. He grabbed his jacket and turned to leave.
He Zhou suddenly called out Qiu Yanzhi's name.
Qiu Yanzhi stopped and turned to look at him.
He Zhou looked up at him expressionlessly.
“Did you know you lick your lips when you lie?”
Qiu Yanzhi's entire body froze in place.
On a spring day ten years ago...
On his way home, Little Trash suddenly appeared on his bicycle and stopped him. “Xia Yuan, let me stay at your house, okay? I can pay you rent."
Qiu Yanzhi said, "You can’t. There's no room at my house."
"You're lying to me again." Little Trash said.
"Xia Yuan, did you know that you always do something when you lie?”
Qiu Yanzhi blinked blankly, "What do I do?"
"I'm not going to tell you, silly! If I do, I won't be able to tell if you're lying anymore."
"Trash Qin! You’re lying to me again, aren’t you?!”
“I'm not like you. I wouldn't lie."
"Then what the hell did I do? Tell me already!"
“Not telling, not telling, not telling…” Little Trash laughed and sped off on his bike. But he quickly circled back and smiled at Qiu Yanzhi. “Get on, Little Liar. I’ll take you home."
“...So my tell is that I lick my lips.” Qiu Yanzhi thought.