Qiu Yanzhi was stunned.
The early morning sunlight poured through the thin window screen, shining down on He Zhou’s body and enveloping him in a halo of gold.
The air was filled with an indefinable scent.
Inexplicably, it made him feel hot and panicked at the same time.
He Zhou slowly opened his eyes. The sunlight reflected in his dark pupils was like specters of light sweeping across the surface of a still lake. He turned to calmly look at Qiu Yanzhi. "Qiu Yanzhi, are you satisfied?”
Are you satisfied?
“Step by step, you’ve forced me to admit that I, He Zhou, am a man with no self-respect or backbone to call my own. My heart belongs in your hands. No matter how many times you trample and humiliate it, it remains obsessed and unrepentant.”
Qiu Yanzhi opened his mouth, looking slightly confused. "He Zhou, I..."
He Zhou didn’t interrupt Qiu Yanzhi, he just looked at him quietly.
But Qiu Yanzhi didn’t know what to say.
The room became eerily silent.
At that moment, someone suddenly knocked twice on the door.
Qiu Yanzhi's first reaction was relief that someone had come to save him from his misery, so he blurted out, "Come in."
The next thing he knew, the door was opened. He heard a male voice that wasn’t completely unfamiliar to him, “He Zhou, you’re the one who told me to come find you yesterday, so how could you sleep in? And what’s with your voice--”
Shen Xingwei's question came to a sharp stop.
He froze at the sight of He Zhou and Qiu Yanzhi in bed together. His expression couldn’t be any more embarrassed. “This…this isn’t exactly a situation where it’s appropriate to invite people inside."
He Zhou turned to give Qiu Yanzhi an unimpressed look.
Qiu Yanzhi lowered his head and mumbled an apology.
Shen Xingwei relaxed somewhat when he saw that the two were still mostly dressed. He immediately recovered his normal demeanour.
He leaned against the door frame with crossed arms and teased, “What’s going on here, Big President He? I thought you said the engagement was called off? Didn’t you say that you had severed all ties with him? How did you two end up under the same blanket again?”
Qiu Yanzhi felt the temperature of his face sharply rise.
He bent down somewhat awkwardly and pulled the blanket that had falled off sometime last night back onto the bed. Then he busied himself, patting away the nonexistent dust on the blanket as he explained, “...T-that’s not true. We slept under different blankets last night.”
"Oh..." Shen Xingwei nodded as if that explained everything. “So you eventually ended up under the same blanket as the night went on.”
Qiu Yanzhi: "......"
His explanation just made things worse.
He Zhou looked up at Shen Xingwei and frowned. He said coldly, "Go wait for me in the living room for now. I'll be down later."
Shen Xingwei shrugged. "Then hurry up. I’ll have you know my time is quite precious."
With that, he turned and left, even kindly closing the door behind him.
He Zhou said to Qiu Yanzhi, "Shen Xingwei is Liu Cheng's former boss. He’s also quite informed on the latest gossip. That’s why I asked him to come over yesterday afternoon when I was looking into Liu Cheng's car accident."
Qiu Yanzhi nodded. "I'll go with you to meet him later."
He Zhou: "Okay. I'll go change first and you can come down when you’ve cleaned yourself up."
Qiu Yanzhi: "En."
He Zhou pulled back the blanket and went into the cloakroom.
Qiu Yanzhi watched his figure disappear from view before suddenly twisting to bury his head against the pillow.
He Zhou confessed to him! He confessed, he confessed!!
This was the first time in two rounds that He Zhou had confessed to him.
But it ended up like this under these circumstances.
Qiu Yanzhi punched the pillow once out of indignation.
...Why was this just a game?
If this wasn’t a game, and He Zhou wasn’t an NPC--
He would… He would...
Qiu Yanzhi reburied his face in the pillow, his arms limply hanging at his sides.
He held this pose for a while as a sour, bitter feeling flooded his heart.
"Qiu Yanzhi, what are you still doing here?"
He Zhou came out after changing his clothes. He frowned at Qiu Yanzhi, who was sprawled out on the bed like a zombie.
Qiu Yanzhi rolled over and sat up with a neutral expression. "I'll go brush my teeth, wash my face and change my clothes right away."
Then he opened the door and walked out.
When He Zhou came downstairs and walked into the living room, Shen Xingwei had already turned on the TV and started digging into the snacks the servants brought over.
When he saw He Zhou come over, he threw a chocolate bean into his mouth and laughed. “Yo. Finally pulled yourself out of your beauty’s arms?”
He Zhou’s eyes scanned him as he said indifferently, "Are the snacks not enough to stuff your mouth shut?”
Shen Xingwei pursed his lips. “I’m just curious how it all happened. Didn’t you say that you two were completely done with each other? How did you make up so quickly? And when’s the wedding?”
He Zhou: "We’re not in that kind of relationship now."
Shen Xingwei: "Then what kind of relationship is it?"
He Zhou: "We’re working together on some trouble he’s run into.”
Shen Xingwei laughed and chewed the chocolate bean in his mouth. "Alright, you guys keep on working together then. Don't forget to invite me when you get married."
Shen Xingwei paused in the middle of chewing the candy as an eerie sense of déjà vu suddenly overcame him.
He Zhou: "What's wrong?"
Shen Xingwei pressed his temples. "...Strange. I feel like we’ve had this conversation before.”
He Zhou frowned.
Shen Xingwei shook his head and didn’t give it much thought. "Nevermind. Why did you come find me to ask about Liu Cheng? I don’t think the two of you are close, right?”
He Zhou was quiet for a moment. "He's Qiu Yanzhi's friend."
Oh ho. He Zhou’s hopeless, hopeless, hopeless.
Shen Xingwei clicked his tongue softly and shook his head.
He said, "Hurry up then. Ask what you want already. I’m quite busy.”
He Zhou: "What are you busy with? Isn't your bar only open at night?"
Shen Xingwei: "Hey, I have a personal life too, you know. Are you the only one allowed to fool around with your little lover? Can’t I go out to find my soulmate?”
He Zhou: "Aren't you asexual?"
Shen Xingwei: "......"
He scratched his head and lightly coughed twice before admitting with some embarrassment, "...I ah, recently met someone interesting."
He Zhou looked at Shen Xingwei. The furrow between his brows grew a little deeper.
According to his ‘implanted’ memories, Shen Xingwei has always been asexual since he was a child. He’s never been attracted to anyone nor attempted to find his soulmate.
By this point in the conversation, Qiu Yanzhi had cleaned himself up and came downstairs.
He looked at He Zhou and asked, "How far did you guys get regarding Liu Cheng?"
He Zhou: "We haven’t gotten to him yet."
Shen Xingwei looked at his watch. "Hurry up, hurry up, I need to leave in two hours."
So Qiu Yanzhi sat down on the sofa and started asking about Liu Cheng.
Liu Cheng was an impoverished orphan, so he wanted to find a rich boyfriend when he grew up.
He came to work as a bartender at the bar when he was 18 and entered into his first relationship when he was 19. However, he considered the other person a boyfriend while they just saw him as one side piece out of many.
When he found out, Liu Cheng didn't cry or make a scene. Instead, he smiled and took his compensation from the break up to find a real sugar daddy.
Liu Cheng even once had a black credit card. He showed it off to others while flaunting how well-built and talented the man he had snagged was, how they were wrapped around his little finger.
Liu Cheng was both good looking and skilled. Most importantly, he had a sense of propriety. He knew what a mistress was supposed to act like and never stepped out of line. He found the majority of his sugar daddies himself, and they were all of fine quality.
His latest target was Ye Hongyuan.
Ye Hongyuan was hooked the very first time he and Liu Cheng met.
Qiu Yanzhi asked, "When did Liu Cheng get picked up by Ye Hongyuan?"
Shen Xingwei: "Several months ago, I think. Around mid-August?"
Qiu Yanzhi and He Zhou shared a glance.
Mid-August was around the time He Zhou returned to after the Reset Card was used.
And since Liu Cheng was a NPC of He Zhou's storyline who also had memories of the last round, it wasn’t surprising that he returned to the same point in time as He Zhou.
In other words...
Liu Cheng returned to the past with his memories intact. Then he chose to be with Ye Hongyuan again.
...Then he slept with Ye Hongyuan's partner, Jing Zeyu, which caused Ye Hongyuan to try and hunt him down?
Liu Cheng had played the role of mistress flawlessly for so many years. Why did he suddenly deviate to play with fire?
It was strange no matter how Qiu Yanzhi thought about it.
He suddenly recalled one of Liu Cheng’s memories that he saw.
Liu Cheng was apologizing to Jing Zeyu while being choked by Ye Hongyuan in a study.
A thought flashed through Qiu Yanzhi's mind.
He recalled what Liu Cheng had said when Ye Hongyuan first started going after him. He said he got into Jing Zeyu’s bed in just three days, where he was swiftly caught red-handed by Ye Hongyuan. He also mentioned how he wasn’t living with Ye Hongyuan at the time.
So was that last memory of Liu Cheng actually something that happened in the last round?
If that’s the case, it meant Liu Cheng chose Ye Hongyuan again, despite being choked by him in the last round.
Liu Cheng had to apologize to Jing Zeyu in such a haggard state in the last round, but he chose to sleep with the man again after being given a second chance.
…This looked like a case of simple, straightforward revenge no matter how you looked at it.
The suspicion cast on Ye Hongyuan and Jing Zeyu’s were cut in half at once.
After Shen Xingwei left, He Zhou looked down at the names of the people recorded in his book.
If things were as He Zhou speculated, Bug #3 killed Liu Cheng mainly to keep his mouth shut. This meant that they had to be close to Liu Cheng.
Liu Cheng's various sugar daddies, Liu Cheng’s possible friends, Liu Cheng’s coworkers, and the people who’ve had a problem with him in the past… Their names filled up nearly half the page.
However, this list wasn’t guaranteed to be 100% credible or exhaustive. Shen Xingwei only knew about some of the people here from inquiring yesterday.
It was natural for information to become distorted, perhaps parts of it exaggerated or omitted, as it passed from one person to another.
Now they had to let the search team parse this information using big data to clean it up.
Qiu Yanzhi took a pen and circled the columns for colleagues and possible friends. "He Zhou, these people are quite poor. They don’t have the financial assets to pull off a flawless hit-and-run. Let’s just cross them off.”
He Zhou: "I know. That’s why they were classified only as potential suspects. But it’s too soon to cross them off entirely. For the sake of being through, suspects should be eliminated only after closer investigation.”
Since they couldn't be crossed out in large swathes, they would be eliminated individually.
Qiu Yanzhi glanced at the column of main suspects. Ye Hongyuan and Jing Zeyu’s names were there. He told He Zhou about why his suspicion of them had lessened by half just now.
After that, he continued.
"He Zhou, I don't think either of them are Bug #3. If they were, how could they just sit back and let Liu Cheng take revenge? And why would Liu Cheng have voluntarily approached them then?"
He Zhou: "Qiu Yanzhi, it’s good to recognize connections, but lines of reasoning require evidence lest they overlook something. Liu Cheng might not have known that one of them was Bug #3, or they could’ve intentionally concealed their identity. Thus their suspicion still stands."
"In that case, we can’t rule out any of them.” Qiu Yanzhi sighed and turned to look at He Zhou. "Then who do you think is the most suspicious?"
He Zhou shook his head and said in his deep voice, "I have no way to draw a conclusion from the few clues we have."
Qiu Yanzhi threw the pen onto the desk and fell back onto the sofa.
Rather than saying they had few clues, it was more like they didn’t have any.
He Zhou's phone vibrated. He asked Qiu Yanzhi after taking it out ot have a look, "Qiu Yanzhi, what's the password to your flat? The investigation team is almost there."
Qiu Yanzhi muttered lifelessly, "It's still the same as before, 66..."
Suddenly, something occurred to him. He jerked up to a sitting position and asked He Zhou with bright eyes, “He Zhou, how about we go on the offensive to lure Bug #3 out?"
"Go on the offensive?"
Qiu Yanzhi nodded. "Since he’s installed hidden cameras in my flat, then we’ll deliberately say some things in front of them to lure him out.”
He Zhou: "Then what did you say and do after you found the cameras?
Qiu Yanzhi thought back to that time. He laid back down on the sofa, somewhat dispirited. “...After finding them, I mentioned the X-Ray Card to Big Yellow. I also looked straight into at least ten of the cameras really frantically. That person must know that I know now.”
Qiu Yanzhi messed up his hair out of frustration. "If only I could’ve stayed calmer back then. Why am I so easily flustered? I can’t believe I worked myself up like that just because of something like this. Then we wouldn’t have wasted an opportunity to beat him at his own game…”
He Zhou retrieved a fruit candy from the plate of snacks on the table. He peeled back the wrapper and placed it in Qiu Yanzhi’s mouth. “You’ve already done well. Not many people could remain calm in a situation like that.”
The sweet taste spread through his mouth. Surprisingly, he calmed down a bit. Qiu Yanzhi looked at He Zhou. “So what do we do now?”
He Zhou: "We wait. After the surveillance cameras are taken down, he’ll definitely make his next move."
Qiu Yanzhi: "So we just sit and wait?"
He Zhou shook his head. "No, we’ll be recruiting some bodyguards first.”
Qiu Yanzhi frowned. "But if there are too many bodyguards, won’t they scare that guy off and make him too afraid to make a move? I think it's best not to have bodyguards to mislead that guy into thinking I’m an easy target. Only then will he be more likely to expose himself…”
"Qiu Yanzhi, don't put the cart before the horse. Your safety is more important than finding that person." He Zhou said.
He Zhou sent the investigation team the password to Qiu Yanzhi's home.
Then, after sharing a meal with Qiu Yanzhi, he took him to the largest private bodyguard company in the area.
He Zhou led Qiu Yanzhi inside, where the receptionist immediately came up to greet them with a smile. “Hello gentlemen. What kind of bodyguard services are you looking for?”
Qiu Yanzhi: "We’re looking for a personal bodyguard."
The receptionist: "Then please follow me up to the fifth floor. How may I address you?"
He Zhou took a black card and handed it to the receptionist. His deep voice solemnly said, “We are looking to conduct S-ranked business."
The receptionist froze for a moment at the sight of this card. Then she received it with both hands. Her expression became much more respectful. “Please wait a moment.”
After saying that, she walked back to her desk and made a call.
About two minutes later, a woman in a black suit approached He Zhou and Qiu Yanzhi.
"Hello Mr. He, my name is Cheng Yi. Please follow me."
Qiu Yanzhi and He Zhou followed her into the elevator, which descended into level B2.
They soon arrived in an underground clearing
The area was empty and quiet. Only the sound of their footsteps echoed through the air.
It was also sparsely decorated. Most of the walls were bare except for a coat of white paint which reflected the lights overhead. It was somewhat disorienting.
When they finally reached the end of the clearing, they were greeted by an extremely large and tall door.
Cheng Yi swiped a work card on the door handle. The door slowly opened.
Behind the door was an even larger, wider space. Unlike the barebones exterior, there were all sorts of people inside.
White people, black people, oriental people, men, women...
They were all busy training, oblivious to the arrival of Qiu Yanzhi and He Zhou.
And further to the back, there were countless rooms with all sorts of labels on them indicating their purpose.
Cheng Yi then took out a case and opened it in front of He Zhou. "Mr He, here are the items you ordered in advance."
Qiu Yanzhi peeked at the contents. He froze.
--There were two handguns in there.
Qiu Yanzhi's heart skipped a beat. Then he leaned over and whispered in He Zhou’s ear, “He Zhou, it’s against the law to own a gun.”
He Zhou slightly inclined his head. His lips seemed to brush by Qiu Yanzhi's cheek, leaving behind an almost scalding warmth.
He paused for a moment before whispering back, “I know, but this is just a game.”
Qiu Yanzhi: "......"
Since when was He Zhou even more like a player than him?
He Zhou turned back and took the two pistols. He gave one to Qiu Yanzhi.
Qiu Yanzhi could feel his heart pound as he held the weapon. He was scared out of his mind. “Why don’t you hold onto it, He Zhou? I can’t. What if I accidentally shoot something?”
He Zhou smiled and said, “Don’t worry. There’s no bullets loaded in the chamber. Qiu Yanzhi, is this your first time seeing a gun?”
Qiu Yanzhi: "...Everything a good, law-abiding citizen like me knows about guns comes from shooter games. Is this not your first time as well?”
He Zhou chuckled. "Did you forget who I am? I have memories of going abroad with my parents to shoot guns and ride horses as a child.”
He paused for a moment. "I didn't expect those randomly implanted memories to be of some use after all."
He Zhou took Qiu Yanzhi to the indoor shooting range.
Qiu Yanzhi: "He Zhou, aren't we here to find a bodyguard?"
He Zhou: "Yes, but you have to carry this gun with you and at least learn how to shoot. This is the only way that you can protect yourself if something goes wrong."
Qiu Yanzhi pursed his lips. "...I think you're overestimating Bug #3."
He Zhou reached out and gave Qiu Yanzhi a not-so-gentle knock on the forehead. "Qiu Yanzhi, you should never underestimate your enemy."
A coach came to the shooting range. He greeted He Zhou before starting his lesson for Qiu Yanzhi.
He Zhou finally let him rest after an hour of practice. Qiu Yanzhi's arms were already sore. "Take a break first."
Qiu Yanzhi went to the sofa and unscrewed a bottle of mineral water, which he downed. Then he handed a bottle to He Zhou, who had come over to take a break as well.
Qiu Yanzhi shook out his sore arms and fumbled with his left hand to pick up his phone. A text message suddenly arrived from an unknown number.
Qiu Yanzhi frowned and tapped on it.
[Scared to the point of resorting to firearms already?]
Qiu Yanzhi stiffened for a moment.
"He, He Zhou..."
He Zhou turned in his direction.
But the next second, another message arrived.
[Shh, be quiet. I have a present for the two of you.]
Qiu Yanzhi felt cold sweat trickle down his back.
The door suddenly opened. An unfamiliar man walked in.
He was wearing a baseball cap and the same training uniform as the bodyguards outside.
The moment he raised his head, he exposed the gun in his hand and pulled the trigger towards Qiu Yanzhi.
He Zhou lunged in Qiu Yanzhi’s direction the moment that man brandished his weapon. The next moment, a bullet cut through the air and mercilessly dug into He Zhou’s abdominal region.
He Zhou let out a muffled grunt of pain. Then he quickly grabbed the pistol on the table and returned fire.
The bullet went straight into the man's head.
In an instant, a bloody hole was created there. The man collapsed to the floor, his blood gushing out all around him. His body violently seized before going still.
He was dead.
Qiu Yanzhi's face was bloodless as he covered the wound on He Zhou’s waist. Blood flowed out seemingly without end. Even with Qiu Yanzhi applying pressure, the liquid just seeped out from between his fingers.
The blood was so hot that Qiu Yanzhi felt like his palms were burning. The sensation made him lose all composure and panic.
Cold sweat trickled down Qiu Yanzhi's forehead as he screamed himself hoarse calling out for help.
A group of people poured in and saw He Zhou's wound. The scene descended into chaos. A stretcher was brought over from who knew where. He Zhou, whose upper body was just about soaked through with blood, was placed on it.
Despite his chaotic surroundings, Qiu Yanzhi could barely see anyone or hear anything. He just couldn’t tear his eyes away from the sight of He Zhou’s tightly shut eyes and the still bleeding wound on his waist.
Qiu Yanzhi staggered after the people carrying He Zhou’s stretcher away, but he suddenly came to a stop with one foot out the door.
Qiu Yanzhi turned back.
He looked behind the door.
He was surrounded by chatter and other people, but Qiu Yanzhi felt like someone had upended a basin of cold water on his head. The ice cold water soaked through his clothes and seeped right into his bones, causing him to shiver.
Where the man had just died.
There was nothing there.
Only a bullet mark on the steel plated door in front of him.
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