Liu Cheng stood to one side, his clothes in disarray and his collar wide open.
He looked down and tried to tidy himself up with trembling fingers.
Ye Hongyuan ripped Zhang Yuxuan's hand off his tie. “Fuck off, you lunatic!”
"He told you to let go of him! He said he doesn’t want you to touch him!" Zhang Yuxuan roared with red-rimmed eyes as he punched Ye Hongyuan in the face.
The two men descended into another bout of grappling.
Qiu Yanzhi immediately asked his bodyguards to separate the two.
After being pulled away, Ye Hongyuan wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth. He looked up and gave Zhang Yuxuan and Liu Cheng an ominous look. He sneered before walking away.
After the bodyguard let go of Zhang Yuxuan, Zhang Yuxuan took out a tissue from his pocket and handed it to Liu Cheng. His demeanour was notably politer than before. “....Are, are you okay?”
Stunned, Liu Cheng took the tissue and looked up at Zhang Yuxuan. He blinked. "I'm fine, ah."
Zhang Yuxuan scratched his head awkwardly. "Sorry, I must’ve misunderstood the situation. I thought you were crying…”
"How could that be?" Liu Cheng smiled brightly. "There’s nothing worth crying about."
With that, he used the tissue in his hand to wipe Zhang Yuxuan's nose.
"Don't move, you're bleeding."
Zhang Yuxuan stiffened for a moment.
Qiu Yanzhi walked over and asked, "What’s going on? What just happened?"
Zhang Yuxuan frowned and muttered angrily, "That man just took advantage of him!"
Liu Cheng was a little embarrassed. "It's fine, it’s fine. I was a willing participant at first but I chickened out halfway through.”
Qiu Yanzhi looked at Liu Cheng with some suspicion, feeling that something was not quite right here.
If all of the NPCs were reset, then this round should be an exact repeat of the first round. However, this scuffle over Liu Cheng has derailed all of his future progress with Ye Hongyuan.
...It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but isn’t this deviation way too drastic?
Anyways, it seems like Liu Cheng really doesn’t remember the last round.
Qiu Yanzhi tried to gather more information. “Why did you back out halfway through?”
Zhang Yuxuan loudly interrupted Qiu Yanzhi, "Yanyan! That’s a private matter!”
Liu Cheng had indeed followed Ye Hongyuan voluntarily at first, but Ye Hongyuan was just a tad too irritable and rough.
One kiss was all it took for Liu Cheng to regret it.
Reason number one was that he didn’t feel turned on. Reason number two was that he felt this person was really impatient while kissing him, like he was rushing to complete some sort of task. And last but not least, the face of the man in a dress that he had just seen flashed through his mind.
So then Liu Cheng pushed Ye Hongyuan off and said he wasn’t interested anymore.
But Ye Hongyuan refused to let go of him.
Zhang Yuxuan came in just as Liu Cheng started to struggle, which eventually lead to the scuffle.
But of course, Liu Cheng was reluctant to explain all that to other people. He mumbled a vague reply to Qiu Yanzhi’s question, “I just...didn’t feel like it. What other reason could there be?”
With Zhang Yuxuan there to muddle things up, Qiu Yanzhi never got to dig up the real reason.
Zhang Yuxuan and Liu Cheng even exchanged contact information. Liu Cheng smiled and said, “I’ll make you two free drinks the next time you come.”
Qiu Yanzhi was about to leave when an email arrived.
The list of people named ‘Tongfang’ that he requested earlier was here.
Liu Tongfang, Li Tongfang, Zhao Tongfang… (2)
Because he only knew the pronunciation and not the actual characters, the people that fit the criteria numbered in the thousands. (3)
Qiu Yanzhi paused and suddenly turned back to Liu Cheng. “How about we take you up on that offer today?”
Liu Cheng still made some pretty tasty cocktails, but Qiu Yanzhi only drank a third before pretending to be drunk. He threw an arm over Liu Cheng’s shoulder and started a conversation with him.
"...Liu...Liu Cheng, was it? I've heard, heard Tongfang mention you..."
"Tongfang? Who’s that, a friend of yours?"
Liu Cheng seemed confused. He didn’t have any reaction to hearing the name Tongfang. He didn’t seem to be feigning indifference either.
But according to Qiu Yanzhi's theory from the last round, Liu Cheng obviously knew the player called Tongfang. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have found out the player’s secret and been killed off.
Zhang Yuxuan also seemed puzzled. He asked Qiu Yanzhi, "Yeah Yanyan, who’s Tongfang? How come I’ve never heard you mention them before?"
Qiu Yanzhi waved his hand and stood up shakily. "It's okay, you guys keep hanging out. I have to go do something now."
Qiu Yanzhi didn’t drink that much. It wasn’t until he got up from the sofa that he felt himself swaying from side to side.
He decided to go to the washroom before he left to wash his face and sober up.
As a result, he ran into Ye Hongyuan as soon as he came out of the compartment. The man was on the phone.
His voice was gentle. "Zeyu, there are some domestic matters that I have to handle right now. I’ll come over to see you next week, alright? Good boy.”
Qiu Yanzhi saw Ye Hongyuan’s expression the moment he hung up and turned around.
It was ice cold, with not a trace of warmth in his eyes.
Ye Hongyuan glanced at the slightly drunk Qiu Yanzhi and the bodyguards behind him. He looked down and left.
Qiu Yanzhi turned to look at his departing figure. He frowned.
...What kind of trash is this?
Despite the Reset Card being used three times, some things never changed.
One being how disgusting this NPC Ye Hongyuan was.
What do you even call his behaviour, not forgetting his first love?
After Qiu Yanzhi sobered up, he headed to the hospital.
In the back of the car, he picked up a tablet and started perusing the information about Tongfang again.
But there were just too many people who fit the bill. It was difficult to eliminate any suspects.
Qiu Yanzhi rubbed his temples, a little tired.
When Qiu Yanzhi returned to the ward, He Zhou was sitting on the bed reading something on his tablet.
Qiu Yanzhi felt better the moment he saw He Zhou.
He went over to him and asked with a smile, "What are you up to?"
He Zhou showed him the tablet. "I'm reading the documents on Tongfang."
The person who helped Qiu Yanzhi find information about ‘Tongfang’ was actually the private investigation team that He Zhou worked with in the last round.
Since he and He Zhou commissioned this task together, they had shared access to the documents.
Qiu Yanzhi: "This is so hard… There are too many people with that name."
He Zhou: "But you only requested that they find people named Tongfang now. I just sent them an email telling them to search again for people who used to go by Tongfang.”
Qiu Yanzhi sighed, "Wouldn’t there be even more people on this list then?”
He Zhou smiled and tousled his hair. "This way we can be sure we’ve got everyone.”
"I know, I know." Qiu Yanzhi muttered, "I just don't know how long it’ll take to find him at this rate.”
"We’ll get him eventually." He Zhou said. Then he changed the subject:
"How’s your investigation into Liu Cheng going?”
Qiu Yanzhi shook his head. "It’s a complete dead end. Just like I thought, he was revived by the Reset Card but he lost his memories.”
Qiu Yanzhi told He Zhou about the situation he encountered today.
He Zhou frowned. "You mean Liu Cheng lost his memories, but things between him and Ye Hongyuan didn't play out the same way as the first round?”
Qiu Yanzhi nodded. "I also found that strange at first, but Liu Cheng really doesn’t remember anything. I’ve even tried to see if he knows someone named Tongfang but he doesn’t.”
"Then could it be the other NPC that’s the problem?"
"You mean Ye Hongyuan?"
He Zhou asked, "Was there anything off about Ye Hongyuan?"
Qiu Yanzhi shook his head. "I don’t think so? His personality was the same as the last round and the round before that. And Liu Cheng even said that he was the one who backed out.”
Qiu Yanzhi continued after a moment of consideration, "I think it might be because Liu Cheng grew close to Zhang Yuxuan. Those good feelings must’ve persisted after he was reset.”
He Zhou was silent for a moment. "We should do our best to use fewer cards in the future. Otherwise, more and more NPCs will become bugged."
Qiu Yanzhi nodded.
He Zhou stayed in the hospital for two more days before being discharged.
He had limited mobility now, so the two of them moved to live on the ground floor.
Qiu Yanzhi bought He Zhou a top-of-the-line electric wheelchair and a pair of crutches.
He also thought about when would be a good time to install an elevator in the house. That way He Zhou could go upstairs with ease.
When he spoke to He Zhou about this, the man was silent for a moment before rejecting his proposal.
"I can use the crutches to get upstairs."
He Zhou's mouth was pursed into a very tight, thin line after saying that. His pupils were especially dark, making his face seem a little pale in contrast.
Qiu Yanchi's breath caught in his throat. His heart felt like it was being squeezed tightly.
He never brought up the elevator again. Smiling, he asked He Zhou if there were any places he’d like to visit. Qiu Yanzhi could take him there using an Instant Transport Card.
Sometimes, He Zhou and Qiu Yanzhi would go to the beach. Other times, they went to a mountain or even the peak of the tallest skyscraper.
He Zhou also greatly enjoyed listening to Qiu Yanzhi's stories about the outside world.
At first, Qiu Yanzhi always chose to tell He Zhou fun moments from his childhood.
Like how he lived with his grandma as a child and frequently went down to the river to touch fish or climbed trees to steal bird eggs. In spring, he would break off willow branches and make willow flutes of non uniform thickness.
Like how one birthday, his ‘father’ bought him a cake that was too small and didn’t even come with candles. His father had stuck a big red candle (1) they had around the house into the cake. Even though it didn’t look the prettiest, Qiu Yanzhi still happily made a wish.
There weren’t many of these moments from his childhood. Only a handful.
And that was with him purposely omitting the endings.
Like how once, after he finished a willow flute, his grandma took a willow branch and whipped him just because he didn’t wash the dishes.
Like even though he wished that his father would always be in a good mood as he was that day, his father was enraged and refused to visit him after finding out he had been raising someone else’s son for so many years. He even roared at Qiu Yanzhi with bloodshot eyes, saying he never wanted to see him again.
There wasn’t much else to say about his home life after that.
So Qiu Yanzhi then told He Zhou about his school days.
He talked about how his middle school English class once acted out Snow White for the grade-wide assembly.
When the teacher asked who was going to play the princess, Qiu Yanzhi sneakily leaned over to his half-asleep deskmate and told him the teacher was calling him.
His deskmate jolted awake and immediately stood up.
That was how he became the most dazzling princess in the whole play.
Just talking about it made Qiu Yanzhi’s eyes curve into crescents.
He Zhou also smiled and asked, "Were you in the play as well?"
Qiu Yanzhi's smile froze. "...I was the poisoned apple.”
He Zhou: “Oh? Where did that princess bite you?"
Qiu Yanzhi pointed to his cheek and muttered pitifully, "He left a particularly large bite mark.”
He Zhou's smile dimmed. "What’s the name of your deskmate?”
Qiu Yanzhi’s heart skipped a beat as something suddenly dawned on him. However, he didn’t want to lie to He Zhou. He could only tentatively murmur, “...Qin He.”
As soon as Qiu Yanzhi said that, He Zhou bit him viciously on the cheek.
Then the man peeled off his clothes.
Then this and that happened. Yadda yadda...
When Qiu Yanzhi finally passed out on He Zhou's chest, completely drained of energy, he only realized when he was drifting off to dreamland that...
He Zhou didn’t ask him to explain anything about Qin He.
Actually, Qiu Yanzhi didn’t bring up Qin He on purpose. It was just that almost all of the fun moments in his life in the real world involved Qin He.
(1) - Yes, people just have these big red candles in their house in China. Don't ask me why. >.>
(2) - 刘统方，李铜方，赵同方
(3) - Chinese has many homonyms, characters with the same pronunciation. See the above note where all the middle characters are different