Qiu Yanzhi pulled his hand out of He Zhou's grasp and asked expressionlessly, "Why do you suddenly care so much about my hand?"
He Zhou pressed his temples. "I seem to be having some issues with my memory. Past events are either blurry to me or I misremember them. I thought I saw a pair of hands very similar to yours many years ago.”
Qiu Yanzhi put a piece of roast pork into the flaky lotus leaf pancake. “Don’t worry too much about it. After all, you were created as an adult, so your memories, especially those of your childhood, were probably implanted. It’s not out of the question for bugs to appear.”
He Zhou was silent for a beat. He looked down and slowly picked up a pea with his chopsticks before letting it go again. His words were tentative and tinged with bewilderment.
“...Then which of my memories, which of my experiences are real?”
The air seemed to become quiet for a moment.
Then he heard Qiu Yanzhi say, “At the very least, I can guarantee that everything you’ve seen, known, and experienced since I met you is real."
He Zhou froze.
He raised his head just in time to see Qiu Yanzhi stuff the entire flaky pancake in his mouth, making his cheeks puff up like a hamster.
He Zhou: "......"
He felt the butterflies that suddenly appeared in his stomach a moment ago vanish into thin air.
After a moment of silence, he asked, "Qiu Yanzhi, why did you eat it like that?"
Qiu Yanzhi was busy chewing all the food in his mouth. His cheeks moved up and down, up and down.
Only when he finally swallowed did he answer He Zhou.
He pointed at the braised pork with tears brimming in his eyes. “I was afraid the sauce would get all over me if I just took a bite. Do you want to try some? It’s so good…”
Saying that, he took another flaky lotus leaf pancake and packed it with braised pork, bringing it to He Zhou's mouth.
He Zhou turned his face away in disgust.
Qiu Yanzhi frantically urged him, "Hurry up, hurry up! The sauce is going to drip! It’s going to drip on my hand…”
So He Zhou had no choice but to open his mouth.
Qiu Yanzhi shoved the entire flaky pancake in at the speed of sound.
He Zhou frowned as his mouth was suddenly stuffed full. He seemed like he wanted to reprimand Qiu Yanzhi, but he couldn’t speak at the moment. He could only glare with puffy cheeks.
Qiu Yanzhi slapped his leg, beside himself with laughter. He took out his phone to snap a picture of He Zhou. “He Zhou, you prick. You were secretly laughing at me earlier, weren’t you? My god you look even funnier than I did hahahaha…”
He Zhou swallowed the food in his mouth. He reached out to grab Qiu Yanzhi's phone, but Qiu Yanzhi quickly stood up to dodge.
Before He Zhou's hand even touched the phone, Qiu Yanzhi tripped himself on his own shoelace in his panic, sending his entire body staggering towards the ground!
He Zhou immediately tensed and tried to catch Qiu Yanzhi. Unfortunately, he bumped into a chair on the way. He managed to pull Qiu Yanzhi into his arms, but they both fell to the floor together.
Thank goodness there weren’t many people around at this time and their table was blocked off by a screen. It would’ve been so embarrassing otherwise.
But Qiu Yanzhi felt like even his bones were rattling from the fall.
It really hurt.
He was also still being held by He Zhou.
Qiu Yanzhi slowly lifted his head, his breath faintly spilling into the nook of He Zhou's neck.
They were so close that he could hear He Zhou's heartbeat and see the stubble on his chin. Qiu Yanzhi even almost thought his lips were touching He Zhou's jaw with every breath he took.
He was a little nervous.
And when he’s nervous, he tended to babble nonsense.
So He Zhou saw the young man in his arms blink. “...He Zhou, why are you so useless?”
He Zhou: "......"
He expressionlessly pushed Qiu Yanzhi away.
Qiu Yanzhi muttered as he got up, "You should worry about yourself before trying to help others…”
A faint flush rose over He Zhou's ears. His tone was cold: "Qiu Yanzhi, shut up."
Qiu Yanzhi was up, but his phone was still on the floor.
"He Zhou, look!" Qiu Yanzhi held the phone out to He Zhou and complained, "The screen broke!"
He Zhou turned his face away. "...I'll buy you a new one."
Qiu Yanzhi sat back down and continued eating, "Nah. But you have to go with me to get the screen replaced later.”
"Okay." He Zhou said.
The phone repair centre wasn’t too far away.
The two of them arrived after walking for about ten minutes.
After Qiu Yanzhi explained the situation to the employee, he started to take off the phone’s case so it could be repaired.
But as soon as Qiu Yanzhi peeled back the case a sliver, he noticed the white sticky note inside.
His heart skipped a beat.
He frantically stopped what he was doing and put the case back on.
He Zhou: "Qiu Yanzhi, are you not planning on fixing it anymore?"
Qiu Yanzhi: "...No, that’s not it."
He nervously licked his lips before stiffly resuming removing the phone case.
Just then, He Zhou's phone rang. He stepped away to take the call.
Qiu Yanzhi breathed a sigh of relief.
He quickly took the case off and crumpled the sticky note in his hand before handing the phone to the employee.
He Zhou had his back turned to him, talking to someone a few metres away.
Qiu Yanzhi glanced at him again before neatly folding the note and sneaking it into his pocket.
After talking with the person on the phone for awhile, He Zhou returned to Qiu Yanzhi’s side. “The search team leader just reported that none of the people selected for the search were Liu Cheng.”
Qiu Yanzhi sighed in his heart after taking a look at He Zhou's expression.
How come He Zhou’s even more impatient than me?
He said, "It's okay. There's no need to rush. It's only been a day, after all. We'll definitely find him."
After they left the phone repair center, Qiu Yanzhi was taken back to his flat by He Zhou.
Qiu Yanzhi suddenly turned back when he was opening the car door. "He Zhou, do you want to..."
...want to go upstairs for a cup of tea?
He Zhou: "Want to what?"
Qiu Yanzhi bit his tongue and said with some embarrassment, "...Do you want to go with me to have a look at where Liu Cheng escaped?"
He Zhou frowned, but he agreed.
Qiu Yanzhi felt like he really had a brain hole.
The place in the neighbourhood where Liu Cheng scaled the wall was barren. What was there to look at?
And due to the cooling weather, cold winds rushed unobstructed over the sizeable barren area. It burrowed into people’s clothes and made them shiver.
Qiu Yanzhi: "He Zhou, I'm a bit cold."
He Zhou paused for a moment. "Me too."
So Qiu Yanzhi moved two steps closer to He Zhou.
He put his hands in the pockets of his thin jacket so that only his upper arm and shoulder were touching He Zhou's.
...Their relationship was no longer one in which they could hold hands.
The wind was still howling, but strangely enough, He Zhou’s body heat that passed through their clothes and their arms was enough to warm Qiu Yanzhi up a little.
They soon reached the wall that Liu Cheng had scaled.
Qiu Yanzhi looked up at the wall and sighed, "This wall is so high. Is Liu Cheng able to fly or something? Isn’t he afraid of breaking his foot?”
He Zhou glanced at the nearby tree. “He climbed down from that tree most likely.”
Qiu Yanzhi walked with He Zhou to the tree. "This tree seems quite old. Its trunk is so thick.”
He Zhou suddenly saw something and squat down.
"What's wrong?" Qiu Yanzhi also squatted.
He Zhou reached out and touched the soil around the tree. "Someone disturbed this patch recently."
Qiu Yanzhi looked down.
Sure enough, some of the soil under the tree was more yellow in colour than the rest.
The two of them shared a glance before reaching over in unison, digging through the area with their bare hands.
It only took five minutes before they found something.
He Zhou brushed off the last layer of soil to reveal a large, beautiful box.
There were a few words crookedly carved onto the box.
"Zhang Yuxuan and Liu Cheng's Time Capsule."
He Zhou: "......"
Qiu Yanzhi: "......"
Although no one knew why Zhang Yuxuan and Liu Cheng made such a childish thing, Liu Cheng had definitely opened this box before he left.
Qiu Yanzhi tried to open it, only to discover it had a combination lock.
Qiu Yanzhi then called Zhang Yuxuan, "Zhang Yuxuan, do you have any news about Liu Cheng?"
Zhang Yuxuan’s voice sounded a little teary. "No, I can't find him anywhere. What about you, Yanyan? Did you find something?”
Qiu Yanzhi: "Did you and Liu Cheng bury a box under a tree outside our neighbourhood?"
Zhang Yuxuan exclaimed loudly, "Yanyan, how did you know?! It's supposed to be a secret!"
Qiu Yanzhi sighed. "We just found traces of someone digging here recently. What's inside?"
Zhang Yuxuan: "There's a lot of stuff, ah. Like my favourite necklace, the matching earrings to my necklace, my limited edition princess style perfume and nail polish, and the model plane I made with Chengcheng..."
"Alright, alright." Qiu Yanzhi cut him off. "What's the password?"
Zhang Yuxuan: "I can't tell you that! I made a promise with Liu Cheng to only open this box after 20 years!”
Qiu Yanzhi tried 1234.
The lock opened.
Qiu Yanzhi: "......"
...What sort of complicated password was he expecting Zhang Yuxuan to set exactly?
He Zhou opened the box and immediately saw the clothes Liu Cheng was wearing during his escape messily strewn about inside.
Qiu Yanzhi looked at He Zhou. "He Zhou, what were the criteria that search team of yours used when identifying suspicious people?”
"They were looking for males of similar height and build to Liu Cheng."
Qiu Yanzhi handed He Zhou a piece of paper placed to the side in the box. “Then you guys should start searching for females from now on.”
The paper had a few words written in eyeliner.
"Sorry Zhang Yuxuan. I opened our box early and took your favourite dress and wig from your collection. I’ll definitely give them back if I have the chance. See you later -- Liu Cheng.”
There was also a stick figure blowing a kiss scrawled on the bottom right corner.
Qiu Yanzhi took a picture of everything and sent it to Zhang Yuxuan.
Zhang Yuxuan was shocked.
But he still sent them photos of the dress and wig in question.
He Zhou forwarded those photos to the search team, telling them to focus on women who were similar in height and build to Liu Cheng wearing these clothes.
After all that was done, Qiu Yanzhi closed the box again and buried it together with He Zhou.
Before he left, He Zhou said to Qiu Yanzhi, "There’s no need to worry anymore. We’ll definitely find Liu Cheng soon now that we know what he’s wearing.”
Qiu Yanzhi nodded, "En."
He only noticed that his hands were caked with dirt when he was about to open the door of his flat.
Thinking about it, He Zhou’s hands were probably no better.
...Damn. I could’ve asked He Zhou to come up and wash his hands before he left.
But I’m sure he has disinfectant wipes in his car.
Qiu Yanzhi sighed and let his head thump the door. Then he went inside.
He didn’t know why, but he just couldn’t sleep tonight. And he felt irritable and stuffy to boot.
Finding more lead on Liu Cheng was supposed to be a good thing, but his heart raced uneasily for some reason.
Qiu Yanzhi tossed and turned in bed until the early hours of the next day.
Then he rummaged through the clothes he had just worn, retrieving that small sticky note from his pocket.
Qiu Yanzhi slowly unfolded the note.
Inside was He Zhou's handwriting.
He Zhou said to put the meal in the microwave. He also said to not drink cold milk and that there was a bottle at room temperature on the table.
These words were nothing special. They were even somewhat stiff and awkward.
He’s so serious even when leaving notes.
Even when that Liu Cheng was running away, the note he left for Zhang Yuxuan still had a stick figure blowing a kiss on it.
But the corners of Qiu Yanzhi’s still couldn't help but curl up.
He refolded the note again and returned it to the compartment of his phone case.
Then he rose and got himself a glass of room temperature milk.
After drinking it, he laid back in bed and soon fell asleep.