Chapter 5: Recover
The moment the notification tone ended, Zheng Luozhu, Fan Peiyang, and Tang Lin were all bounced back to reality.
The real-world coordinates corresponding to the Wishing House were in Xinjiang. The late-night temperature was bitterly cold. Zhang Qian, Wan Fangmang, and Teng Ziyun, who had already left, had stayed behind, thinking of having a farewell dinner with their boss. However, they never expected that the boss would bring an extra person out with them.
Fan Peiyang didn’t waste any time and immediately took Tang Lin to the airport.
The three of them were filled with questions, so they turned to Zheng Luozhu for answers.
Fortunately, Zheng Luozhu didn’t plan to run away so soon. The four partners who had been exploring challenge levels side by side for several months found a nearby place to have a drink and say their farewells.
“The boss’s wish was to bring someone in?” After Zheng Luozhu finished explaining, the three of them sat there in stunned silence, their expressions uniform.
“I can only say that boss went in alone, and two people came out. As for what happened inside the Wishing House, you’re free to use your imagination,” Zheng Luozhu maintained the role of a mere spectator, only transmitting information without embellishing it.
The three of them stared at each other with wide eyes but couldn’t discern anything. In the end, they gave up on trying to understand their enigmatic former boss and turned their attention to Zheng Luozhu.
“Zhuzi, why did you choose to continue?” Zhang Qian asked.
Zheng Luozhu put down his glass, hesitated for a moment, and asked cautiously, “If I say it’s for the money, will you all call me vulgar?”
Teng Ziyu was speechless, “Damn.”
Zhang Qian scorned, “Vulgar.”
Wan Fengmang sighed, “Incredibly vulgar.”
Zheng Luozhu squinted his eyes: “Since when did you all start treating money like dirt…”
Before he could finish his sentence, the three excited faces leaning in couldn’t hold back any longer, “Come on, how much money did you get from the Wishing House?”
“…….”He knew it; talking about money was the surefire way to build camaraderie.
They drank until dawn at their farewell gathering. Zhang Qian got quite drunk and kept asking, “Is it really over?” “We don’t have to go to that damn place again?” He asked so many times that Wan Fengmang wanted to stuff him back in there.
In reality, no one could guarantee anything. Even at this moment, the three of them didn’t feel a real sense of closure regarding the nightmare’s end. They dared not celebrate too much, fearing that things might take an unexpected turn.
Zheng Luozhu called two taxis, one to take the three of them back to the hotel and one to take himself to the airport.
“Are you leaving already?” Teng Ziyu was somewhat surprised. “After all the commotion tonight, shouldn’t you get some rest? You did say the new challenge level won’t open for another month.”
“It’s fine, I’ll sleep on the plane,” Zheng Luozhu yawned and advised, “As for you guys, if you’re not in a hurry to leave, stay a few more days and treat it like a vacation.”
Teng Ziyu playfully smacked him on the back. “President Fan should really give you an ‘excellent employee’ award.”
In Xinjiang, the day dawned later than in Beijing. When Zheng Luozhu arrived at the airport, the early morning flight to Beijing had already taken off a long time ago. Of course, that didn’t concern him much because he wasn’t planning to return to Beijing just yet. So, if his boss, as Teng Ziyu suggested, wanted to give him an “excellent employee” award, he would feel a bit embarrassed to accept it.
The plane’s engines roared as it rapidly ascended.
Zheng Luozhu stared out the window. The ground became smaller and smaller, buildings turned into tiny specks, and eventually, there was nothing but a vast expanse of white clouds.
He swallowed, and as the blocked ears due to the air pressure suddenly cleared, the once muffled airplane noise and the cacophony of the cabin became clear and vivid.
What also became vivid was his heartbeat.
All the ease, banter, and carefree atmosphere since leaving the Wishing House collapsed and peeled away at this moment. He stood amidst the ruins of illusion, his breathing unsteady, palms warm, revealing his most authentic self.
“Sir?” a sweet voice came through.
Zheng Luozhu blinked in surprise. “Hmm?”
The flight attendant pushing the beverage cart smiled. “Sir, would you like something to drink?”
“Water,” Zheng Luozhu instinctively replied. After a moment, as if snapping back to reality, he added politely, “Could you please add some ice?”
In the afternoon, the plane landed in a northern city.
Zheng Luozhu gave the taxi driver an address, and over forty minutes later, the driver accurately delivered him to his destination.
It was an old residential building that belonged to a state-owned enterprise. It had been around for quite some time, and many similar buildings in the area had already been demolished to make way for new residential complexes. Only this one remained, standing there like the workers from that era—simple and resilient.
While the building was old, it exuded a warm and homely atmosphere. Occasionally, residents would come out, mostly elderly, and if someone were to peer out a window from above, they would exchange greetings with those below.
Zheng Luozhu sat down near a flowerbed not far from the building and watched as the afternoon turned into evening. Finally, he saw an elderly couple come out, walking hand in hand.
He quietly observed them as they strolled away into the distance.
As the night began to fall, the elderly couple returned home together.
He quietly watched as they returned home.
Under the cover of the night, windows in the building started to light up with warm glows.
Streetlights illuminated the surroundings, dispelling the darkness beneath the trees, revealing the determination in the faces of those beneath them.
Zheng Luozhu booked a flight back to Beijing on his phone, then stood up and headed to the airport.
Three hours ago, in Beijing, at a private hospital.
“The brain tumor has completely disappeared, all the body indicators are normal. This is simply impossible…” The doctor wanted to maintain his professional demeanor and authority, but the shock brought by the examination report had pushed his knowledge to the edge of collapse.
“Are you sure there’s really no problem?” Fan Peiyang was only concerned about this.
The doctor quickly regained his composure, though the tremors in his heart remained. The gaze behind his glasses gradually became scrutinizing and suspicious. “What exactly did you do to him?”
The doctor was willing to believe in medical miracles, but that didn’t mean he could accept something that seemed like science fiction, especially when it concerned his own patient. He knew Tang Lin’s medical condition all too well.
Fan Peiyang’s expression remained unchanged, he didn’t even blink, as if he hadn’t heard the doctor’s sharp question. He earnestly asked, “Are there any specific precautions we should take in his ongoing care?”
“There are no follow-ups, no need for care. He’s a completely healthy person now,” the doctor said, rubbing his temples in pain. He knew there was no point in asking any more questions. After all, this family member of the patient, who’s difficult to communicate with, was no stranger to him.
“Thank you,” Fan Peiyang stood up. “My people will come later to handle the discharge procedures.”
Leaving the doctor’s office, Fan Peiyang didn’t hurry back to the hospital room. Instead, he stood by the open window in the corridor, quietly gazing outside.
It was a clear afternoon, a rare sight in Beijing with its deep blue sky, crystal-clear and dotted with fluffy white clouds.
Fan Peiyang stood by the window for a long time, so long that his knuckles turned slightly pale. Then, he slowly, deeply exhaled a breath.
Without further delay, Fan Peiyang turned and went back to the hospital room. As he pushed the door open, he saw Tang Lin sitting on the bed, still wearing the hospital gown from the examination, but his complexion showed no signs of illness. His skin was fair, and he looked healthy.
Fan Peiyang couldn’t help but smile, his tone revealed his impatience, which he hadn’t even realized himself. “Pack your things; we’re leaving the hospital.”
Tang Lin looked at him in confusion, his usual laid-back smile absent from his eyes, making him appear somewhat cold.
But it wasn’t intentional; he just couldn’t embrace the joy of recovery with his entire being like Fan Peiyang. Since waking up in that strange place, he had been surrounded by immense confusion. After returning to Beijing and undergoing tests, he was almost overwhelmed by these doubts. One moment he was suffering terribly under the pressure of a brain tumor, and the next moment he could run and move freely?
“Fan Peiyang,” Tang Lin tried to make his voice sound calm, “What exactly happened…”
His voice abruptly stopped.
Fan Peiyang used one hand to cradle half of his face, and his thumb gently pressed against his lips.
“Let’s talk somewhere else.”
Fan Peiyang’s villa was not far from his company, but it provided a tranquil oasis amidst the bustling city.
The surroundings were serene, and the warm glow of the evening sun bathed the living room.
Tang Lin sat on the sofa, his gaze fixed on a glass of water on the coffee table, absorbing the information he had received, needing time to process it.
Fan Peiyang waited patiently.
“So, what you’re saying is…” Tang Lin finally spoke, “You brought me into a world of challenges, used the tools from there to heal me, and in return, from now on, I’ll be just like you, venturing into these challenges every night and returning to reality in the early morning?”
Fan Peiyang nodded, “That’s a pretty accurate summary, except it’s not tools; it’s stationery.”
Tang Lin asked, “Is there a time limit?”
Fan Peiyang replied, “The healing stationery’s effects can be permanent.”
Tang Lin asked, “So, I won’t get sick again in the future?”
Fan Peiyang replied, “…As far as I know, it’s a one-time healing stationery, but it doesn’t come with a lifetime guarantee.”
Tang Lin inquired, “Can people die during these challenges?”
Fan Peiyang answered, “No, if you’re deemed to have suffered a fatal injury, you’ll be forcefully ejected back to reality. At most, you might sustain some minor injuries, but at the moment of ejection, you’ll experience the pain of death.”
Tang Lin questioned, “Can I report this to the police?”
Fan Peiyang said, “The feasibility is close to zero, because as soon as you try to disclose information to someone who isn’t participating in these challenges, you’ll experience excruciating headaches that make it impossible to speak.”
Tang Lin:”For my last question, will I start from the beginning of the challenges, or like you, do I only need to complete the remaining ten challenges?”
Fan Peiyang replied, “It’s currently unclear. If we are separated, I will find a way to reunite with you.”
The living room fell silent again, with the remnants of the setting sun casting dappled shadows on the greenery.
Things were far less dire than Tang Lin had imagined. The desire to cure a terminal illness, nearly a miraculous resurrection, had led him to believe that he might have to make a deal with the devil, sacrifice everything, or lose something of utmost importance.
But none of that had happened.
He was just in the same place as Fan Peiyang, doing the same thing. The challenges? He would simply face them head-on.
Taking a deep breath and then slowly exhaling, Tang Lin only now truly felt the warmth of life flowing back into him.
Fan Peiyang sat on the sofa opposite him, the person who had brought all of this into his life.
Tang Lin stood up and walked over to Fan Peiyang, bending down without hesitation to give him a solid hug.
“You saved my life.”
No fancy words, no elaborate expressions of gratitude, just a simple statement of fact, yet each word carried immense weight.
Fan Peiyang stopped restraining himself and hugged him back tightly.
In the next moment, the world seemed to spin.
Tang Lin didn’t react in time, and he was pressed down onto the sofa.
Fan Peiyang’s eyes were intensely black, intensely bright, with a burning light. It was almost in the moment their bodies pressed tightly together that he lowered his head to seek Tang Lin’s lips.
But he was thwarted.
A slightly cool hand pressed against his forehead.
Following it down, he saw Tang Lin’s slightly furrowed brows.
“Alright,” Fan Peiyang forcefully suppressed the restlessness within him, reluctantly conceding, “I’ll go take a shower.”
He got off the sofa cleanly and hurried toward the bathroom. However, before he could leave the living room, he heard Tang Lin’s question——
“Fan Peiyang, what exactly are you doing?”
The tone in his voice carried both confusion and resistance, causing Fan Peiyang to halt in his tracks.
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