When Qiu Yanzhi returned to Zhang Yuxuan's flat, Zhang Yuxuan was dazedly sitting on the sofa cuddling a pillow.
When he saw Qiu Yanzhi come in, he blinked and peered out the door. His gaze only withdrew when Qiu Yanzhi closed the door. "Yanyan...Chengch...Liu Cheng didn't come back?"
Qiu Yanzhi massaged his temples. He shook his head somewhat tiredly. "No, he got away."
Zhang Yuxuan still had a few questions, but he saw Qiu Yanzhi’s state. Instead, he went to the water dispenser and made Qiu Yanzhi a cup of tea.
On the small table in front of the water dispenser, there were five or six glass jars with various kinds of green and floral tea inside. Not only did they look aesthetically pleasing, they were also a delight to drink.
...Liu Cheng was the one who brought all of them.
Zhang Yuxuan pursed his lips before handing the tea to Qiu Yanzhi. here was a long period of silence before Zhang Yuxuan suddenly asked: “Will Liu Cheng come back?”
Qiu Yanzhi shook his head. "I don't know."
Zhang Yuxuan's brow furrowed.
"But, but his wallet and phone are still here. Ye Hongyuan’s people might still be looking for him too… How will he survive on his own?"
Qiu Yanzhi: "That Liu Cheng is quite crafty. You don't need to worry about him."
Zhang Yuxuan didn't respond. Only after a long while did he speak in a quiet, troubled tone, "Yanyan, I feel so sad right now."
Qiu Yanzhi turned his head and looked over. Zhang Yuxuan's eyes were red rimmed and brimming with tears. “Yanyan, I don’t know what’s wrong with me… Liu Cheng drugged me because he wanted to stay...but now I’m sad he’s gone.”
Zhang Yuxuan sniffed. "Yanyan, why am I so sad?"
Qiu Yanzhi had no answer. He froze, staring at Zhang Yuxuan for quite a while. In the end, the only thing he could do was reach out and tousle Zhang Yuxuan's hair.
The two of them sat in silence for a long time. Then Zhang Yuxuan suddenly remembered something. “Oh that’s right Yanyan, you were drugged too last night! Are you okay?"
Qiu Yanzhi said, "I’m fine. I soaked in the bathtub for half an hour."
Zhang Yuxuan nodded, "That's good."
Qiu Yanzhi stood up, grabbed a broom and started cleaning up.
--Liu Cheng had made a mess of everything on his way out in an attempt to hinder Qiu Yanzhi’s pursuit. He even pushed over a large vase in the hallway. Now pieces of ceramic littered the floor.
Qiu Yanzhi had just finished sweeping when he heard a familiar ringtone. He looked around and saw his phone on the coffee table. Zhang Yuxuan picked it up and handed it to him. "I think you left your phone and wallet in the room last night. Liu Cheng brought them back for you.”
Qiu Yanzhi took the phone. An unfamiliar male voice came from the other end. "Mr. Qiu? I'm from the Clean and Go moving company. I've already moved your stuff out of Mr. He's house. We're in front of your school right now. Can you please tell me what number your dorm is?”
Only then did Qiu Yanzhi remember that today was the day he was going to move out. He hurriedly said to the other person, "Wait for me, I'll be right over."
Qiu Yanzhi hung up and spoke to Zhang Yuxuan, "I'm moving my stuff over. I'll be right back." After that, he put on his jacket, grabbed his wallet and phone and ran to the university gates.
When Qiu Yanzhi arrived, the employee of the moving company greeted him warmly, "Mr. Qiu, right? Actually, you didn’t need to come all the way over here. Telling us which dorm over the phone is good enough. We’ll have your stuff moved in in a jiffy.”
“No need to put it in the dorms. Can you move my stuff to one of the flats across the street?"
"But Mr. He instructed us to..."
Qiu Yanzhi took out a few notes from his wallet and gave two to each of them. "Sorry to trouble you, but can you keep this a secret from Mr. He?"
"Ah. Sure, sure..."
Just as Qiu Yanzhi was about to turn around and leave, someone suddenly called out to him: "Qiu Yanzhi!"
Zhao Rui excited pulled Ye Mingxu over to him. Qiu Yanzhi looked at Ye Mingxu, who he hadn't seen for a long time. He was feeling more than a little awkward.
Ye Mingxu gave him a look before quickly turning his eyes away. Zhao Rui leaned closer and whispered, "Qiu Yanzhi, I heard that you broke up with Mr. He and even resigned?"
Qiu Yanzhi blinked. "You're quite well informed."
"That’s not it." Zhao Rui shook his head. “Everyone in the company knows by now… But why did you two break up?"
Qiu Yanzhi shrugged and sighed helplessly. “Do you need a reason to break up? We’re all adults here. I’ll have you know the breakup was amicable.”
Zhao Rui: "Amicable, huh? How come I don’t believe that for a second. Someone went to President He’s office last night and saw him throw out all those jars of candy he got you.”
Qiu Yanzhi froze for a moment before smiling. “Isn’t that even better? It’s best to have a clean break.”
Zhao Rui was about to ask something else when he was called over by his girlfriend, who was nearby. “You guys chat first. Little Zhen just called me over.”
Chat? Qiu Yanzhi was really not sure what to chat about with Ye Mingxu at this point. He looked up at and smiled harmlessly at the person in front of him. “Mingxu, how's it going these days? Are you still busy with your club?"
"No, not really."
Ye Mingxu said. Qiu Yanzhi was about to continue when he suddenly noticed the black headband on Ye Mingxu's left wrist.
Qiu Yanzhi raised his eyebrows and asked, "You got a girlfriend?"
Ye Mingxu followed Qiu Yanzhi's gaze. He pulled off the headband on his wrist and said, "No, this is mine." Ye Mingxu paused for a moment. "...I wanted you to see it.”
Qiu Yanzhi was taken aback. What’s going on here, ah? He thought Ye Mingxu’s feelings towards him had all but soured. Seemed like he still cared about him, ah.
Maybe there was still a chance for him to capture Ye Mingxu? At least a 10% chance of success?
Ye Mingxu suddenly spoke again, "But Qiu Yanzhi...last night I saw you--no. More precisely, I saw you two come out of a bar and go to a hotel together.” Ye Mingxu paused for a moment, his tone ridiculing. "You were making out the entire time."
Qiu Yanzhi: “......”
Welp. He basically just watched that 10% chance go down the toilet.
Ye Mingxu clenched the black headband tightly in his hand before throwing it in a nearby trash can. "Qiu Yanzhi, I wish you and He Zhou all the best.”
Qiu Yanzhi suppressed the words of thanks that were about to come out of his mouth and simply bid Ye Mingxu farewell.
Sigh. How sad.
Qiu Yanzhi shook his head and sighed as he walked towards the flat. He Zhou chose this moment to send a message. "Is everything in the dormitory yet?"
Qiu Yanzhi glanced at the workers who were panting as they moved his things to the flat. He replied, "Yes."
He Zhou: "How are you getting along with Ye Mingxu?"
Qiu Yanzhi got angry just thinking about it.
How shameless do you have to be to ask that? Getting me to a hotel was one thing, but why’d you have to kiss me??
...Qiu Yanzhi was completely oblivious as to who made the first move last night. Lucky for him, he kept his thoughts to himself.
After all, he did have some pride. He knew that he was to blame for the incident yesterday because he wasn’t cautious enough.
However, Qiu Yanzhi had no intentions for informing He Zhou that the chances of capturing Ye Mingxu were now lower than Hell itself. The failure rate was basically 100%.
Qiu Yanzhi was too embarrassed to douse He Zhou's desperate desire to kick him out of the game, so he told him a small, harmless lie.
Qiu Yanzhi: "We're getting along very well."
As soon as the message was sent, Qiu Yanzhi realized how cut and dry that sounded. It seemed so awkward and fake. So he embellished it a little: "Ye Mingxu also said he would invite me to dinner tonight."
After a moment of silence, there came a brief reply. "Keep up the good work."
The encouragement made Qiu Yanzhi want to dance. He almost wanted to run to the restaurant right now to take a bunch of pictures to send to He Zhou, showing him how good of a job he was doing!
Qiu Yanzhi found this a bit strange. He always ended up in a very good mood whenever he talked to He Zhou. Even if they ended up raising their voices at each other.
Qiu Yanzhi arrived back at Zhang Yuxuan’s flat before the movers were done. He plonked himself on the sofa, eating popcorn and as he continued chatting with He Zhou.
Qiu Yanzhi: "He Zhou, I discovered something strange today."
He Zhou: “What."
Qiu Yanzhi: "Do you still remember Liu Cheng, the guy who drugged Zhang Yuxuan yesterday? He appeared a few times in the last round."
He Zhou: "Yes, I remember. What about him?"
Qiu Yanzhi rolled over and sat down on the sofa, typing with a serious expression, "He remembers what happened in the last round too. He accidentally exposed himself while arguing with me today.”
There was a moment of silence on He Zhou's end. Qiu Yanzhi assumed he was typing a long message. He stared unblinkingly at his phone screen while retrieving another cherry from the fruit platter.
But then He Zhou called him. Qiu Yanzhi quickly threw the cherry back before standing up and taking the call. “He Zhou?"
He Zhou: "What did he say?"
Qiu Yanzhi scratched his nose and said, “...He pointed out that I resorted to underhanded methods like drugs in the last round to force you to marry me.”
He Zhou's tone was solemn. "And then what? Did you ask him how he knows that?"
Qiu Yanzhi: "He had a really strange look on his face after blurting that out. He even tried to say that he had a brain fart to cover it up. In the heat of the moment, I just straight up asked him why he knows. Then he panicked and ran off.”
"Where did Liu Cheng run out from?"
"From Zhang Yuxuan's flat around 7:30."
"What clothes was he wearing? What’s his phone number?"
"Liu Cheng was wearing a green-blue shirt and black trousers. He rushed out in such a hurry that he left his wallet and phone behind. Anyways, his phone number is 35715482359."
Qiu Yanzhi could hear the sounds of a keyboard clacking on the other end. Then He Zhou said, "There are surveillance cameras all over the city so it's only a matter of time before we find Liu Cheng. I'll contact a team of professionals to look for him. You don't have to worry about it."
"En." Qiu Yanzhi nodded. "I'll call my dad later and ask him to help too."
He thought for a moment before adding, "There's another thing I forgot to mention. Ye Hongyuan's people are still trying to catch him too so he might be purposefully hiding his tracks.”
"What does Ye Hongyuan want with him?"
So Qiu Yanzhi laid back on the sofa again and carefully explained to He Zhou Liu Cheng’s complex list of love affairs, along with all the differences he noticed between this round of the game and the last.
He Zhou was silent for a long time afterwards.
He Zhou didn't know these people well. He was only briefly acquainted with Ye Hongyuan when they worked together as business partners once or twice. Despite this, he never expected the man to be involved in such a complex web of relationships, much less being willing to break the law in order to seek revenge.
But Liu Cheng puzzled him even more.
He was currently penniless and risking capture just to escape from Qiu Yanzhi. There was no need for him to make such a hasty escape if he simply retained his memories of the last round. Liu Cheng clearly knew something more. That’s what He Zhou had to find out.
He Zhou suddenly asked again after a while, "Is Liu Cheng bugged like me?"
Qiu Yanzhi's tone was exaggerated: "No, you're much worse than him. You’re probably the worst bug in the entire game!”
He Zhou laughed. "Are you being sarcastic?"
Qiu Yanzhi popped a kernel of popcorn in his mouth. "No, I was complimenting you."
"Then should I be proud of that?"
"Why not? You’re the person who let me see the whole world again when the game crashed, ah. Besides…” Qiu Yanzhi paused for a moment, his eyebrows arched. "you're probably one of a kind, the only ultimate bug that can make players voluntarily talk to you about other bugs.”
"I'm honoured." The man's deep voice was tinged with humour. It almost made the ear Qiu Yanzhi had against the phone burn.
When Zhang Yuxuan came out of the bedroom, he saw Qiu Yanzhi staring blankly at his dark phone screen after hanging up. He got himself a glass of water and said, "Qiu Yanzhi, can you please stop canoodling with you little lover in my house when I’ve just lost both my senior and my roommate?”
Qiu Yanzhi retorted, "What lover? He Zhou and I made a clean break. We’re just talking about business right now and nothing more!”
Zhang Yuxuan gave him a look before pursing his lips and walking away.
Why does Yanyan like to lie even more than Chengcheng, ah? How can he say he isn’t in a relationship when his grin was almost touching his ears?!
Qiu Yanzhi called his father after talking to Zhang Yuxuan, asking him to join the search for Liu Cheng. He didn't say why but mentioned that it was urgent. His father didn’t ask too many questions before agreeing to help.
Qiu Yanzhi then called the management of the neighbourhood and falsely claimed that Liu Cheng was a thief who had made off with stuff from his house. He asked the management to send him the CCTV footage. The employee who answered said that he would report it up the chain and call Qiu Yanzhi back by tomorrow at the latest.
Qiu Yanzhi laid back on the sofa and thought about what else he could do. Calling the police was a no-go. First of all, there was no valid reason to call them. The other thing was that the police in this game were utterly incompetent.
But who knew how long this search of theirs would go on for?
At that very moment, Qiu Yanzhi got another text message.
He Zhou: “I hope your meetup goes well.”
Meetup? What meetup?
It was a moment before Qiu Yanzhi realized what he was talking about.
He had lied to He Zhou and said he was meeting Ye Mingxu for dinner tonight.
Qiu Yanzhi grit his teeth and sent He Zhou a brief, “Thanks”.
Qiu Yanzhi should’ve known by now that some lies would only snowball into a bigger problem.
Qiu Yanzhi tricking He Zhou into thinking he was going to eat with Ye Mingxu was the perfect example. Because of that, he had to trick He Zhou into thinking he and Ye Mingxu went to the movies after their meal.
To make the lie more believable, he actually searched up the movies currently playing and picked a random title to tell He Zhou.
He Zhou: “This movie, is it? Tell me what you think after you watch it. Our company was one of the investors.”
Qiu Yanzhi: “...Okay.”
So with tears in his eyes, Qiu Yanzhi bought two tickets and sent He Zhou a picture of them. Then he bought an extra large bucket of popcorn and took up two seats by himself.
He jittered and shook throughout the entire horror movie. There was a reason he never dared to watch these.
AHHHH IT’S SO SCARRYYYY!!!
Even his phone vibrating nearly had Qiu Yanzhi jump out of his seat.
With trembling hands, he opened his phone to see He Zhou’s text. “Is the movie good?”
Qiu Yanzhi: “It’s a bit scary.”
He Zhou: “All the better to huddle against that junior of yours.”
Qiu Yanzhi: “Already on it ^_^”
As soon as Qiu Yanzhi put down his phone and looked up, he saw a red clothed woman with a disfigured face viciously lunging at him!
Qiu Yanzhi let out a shrill scream. His popcorn spilled all over the place. In his panic, he looked around for something to grab on to and held whatever it was with a death grip.
It was only when he calmed down that he realized it seemed to be the hand of the man sitting next to him.
Embarrassed, Qiu Yanzhi let go and quietly apologized. He was just about to continue watching the movie when that man caught his elbow and brought his head to their chest.
A large hand pressed against the back of his head as a deep voice came down from above. “Don’t look.”
At the same time, a cacophony of screams erupted in the theatre.
This embrace held a familiar warmth. It surrounded him with a faint yet pleasant aroma of tobacco.
Qiu Yanzhi dumbly looked up.
With the weak light coming from the big screen, he could see that He Zhou was smiling.
“Qiu Yanzhi, where’s that junior of yours?”