The iron door swayed open. Tang Erda stood in front of the door and was motionless.
He seemed to have transformed into a wooden statue in an instant, or perhaps he just wished he was a wooden statue at this moment.
The factory worker pushed him twice in confusion. However, Tang Erda was so tall that he couldn’t be pushed at all. At this time, the ‘perfume test paper’ in the cage suddenly moved his fingers and moved slightly toward him.
The ‘perfume test paper’ leaned against the wall and tried to focus his scattered eyes on Tang Erda. He asked in a very faint, questioning and hoarse voice, “…Captain?”
This soft sound caused Tang Erda, who had been sinking in place, to be hit hard. It was so painful that he had to grit his teeth and his face was ferocious as he tried to control his expression.
Tang Erda’s eyes were bloodshot and he had to hold onto the wall to stabilize his body. He stared at the person, or perfume test paper, in the cage.
Something drained Tang Erda’s strength, leaving him exhausted, scarred and unrecognizable, leaving him to rely on foreign objects to support his body as he stumbled step by step into the cage that trapped him and trapped Su Yang.
Tang Erda arrived in front of the perfume test paper and at this moment, he could clearly see what the other person looked like.
Su Yang’s entire face was ‘blooming.’ The roses in his eyes were as lush as a flower field and his face was full of lines of flesh and blood. He was wearing the uniform of the vice-captain of the Dangerous Heretics Bureau and even the badge was still with him.
The work photo of Su Yang on the badge was stained with blood and looked dirty.
This face and this work photo reminded Tang Erda of the time when Su Yang was shot by the clown. The heart-wrenching screams of the team members still seemed to echo in his ears.
Meanwhile, Tang Erda’s body seemed to have lost his soul as he stared blankly at the videotape that recorded Su Yang’s death. His brain seemed to be malfunctioning as it repeated only one sentence, ‘If only I was next to Su Yang.’
‘If only I had been captured with Su Yang or captured in Su Yang’s place. If only I had been captured for Su Yang.’
‘If only it was me who was tormented, who was in pain and who died.’
‘Why does it have to be Su Yang every time, every time?!’
Did it have to be the most important person that he, a coward for so many timelines, was afraid to talk to, afraid to face and afraid to take a second look at and say something?
Tang Erda closed his eyes. The veins on the back of the hand on the wall bulged and his entire body was almost unsteady.
There was a very faint, weak light in Su Yang’s eye. He didn’t seem to feel that he was in pain at the moment. His face with uneven skin looked pure. He even seemed to want to smile with trust and joy when he saw Tang Erda, his captain.
However, the severed skin and muscles blocked the movement of Su Yang’s smile.
Thus, the corners of his mouth only curved up halfway before falling down powerlessly. Even so, his tone was still happy. “It is really you, Captain!”
Su Yang wanted to reach out to touch the corner of Tang Erda’s clothes but failed several times. His hands trembled due to the excessive force.
The moment when Su Yang’s hand once again lifted up and fell, Tang Erda finally crouched down silently. He used his trembling hand to very lightly cross the distance and cover the back of Su Yang’s hand.
Su Yang gasped weakly. He leaned against the wall in a dying manner, looking at Tang Erda with half-closed eyes and a smile. Then he turned his hand to hold Tang Erda’s hand.
Tang Erda took a deep breath to suppress his turbulent emotions. For the first time in this timeline, he didn’t refuse Su Yang’s closeness. Instead, he held Su Yang’s hand back while his voice was hoarse and difficult. “Yes, Captain is here to get you out.”
“No, you can’t… get me out! Cough cough cough—” Su Yang’s expression was a bit annoyed while also filled with helplessness and amusement.
He seemed troubled by his captain’s reckless decisions, just like every time he previously cooperated with Tang Erda, but he was still patient enough to persuade the other person.
Su Yang’s voice was a bit intermittent due to his rapid breathing. “It is useless for you to get me out. I am really going to die.”
Su Yang’s eyelids lowered and his tone also fell. “My family, my parents and my team members didn’t survive and have all withered. Now I am the only one left and I can’t last long.”
“I’m just not reconciled. I’m not reconciled that I can’t do anything in front of this thing. I am too rubbish.” Su Yang’s tone seemed like he was in a trance. He looked up and the roses in his light-colored eyes were particularly clear. He tightened his grip on the hand that Tang Erda wanted to withdraw. “Captain, you are different! You are the one chosen by the prophet. You can definitely change all of this!”
At this moment, Tang Erda seemed to have the memories of all the timelines wrapped up in this sentence.
[Captain, you can do it!]
[Captain, I believe in you!}
[Captain, cough, as long as you live, we have hope!]
Countless, different Su Yangs all looked at him with bloody, broken, pale, scarred or blurred faces. They all looked at him with relief and bright eyes full of hope, calling him Captain.
Then the next moment, they died for him with a smile. His soul disappeared in the light in an instant, without any trace.
Tang Erda looked at Su Yang in a daze. For a moment, he felt that what he was receiving was no longer Su Yang’s entrustment and belief, but a desperate curse and distance.
Su Yang moved forward with difficulty. He leaned against Tang Erda’s shoulder and lowered his voice. “Captain, listen. It is pointless to save me. The fact that you are here means you have been promoted to factory worker. The next step is to be promoted to a perfumer. There is an antidote to the rose perfume but this antidote is known only to every factory manager.”
“You just need to be promoted from perfumer to factory manager and you will know the antidote.” Su Yang was a bit breathless after saying this. He leaned on Tang Erda’s shoulder and rested a bit. Then he quickly continued with a smile in his tone, “At that time, you can save these polluted people.”
Tang Erda couldn’t tell how long he was quiet before he asked in a hoarse voice, “…What about you?”
Su Yang didn’t speak. He just leaned quietly against Tang Erda’s shoulder, his eyes closed and chest slightly heaving.
Their tacit understanding meant they didn’t need to say anything else. Both of them understood what decision Su Yang had made. Su Yang decided to sacrifice himself to test Tang Erda and let Tang Erda be successfully promoted to a factory worker.
This was equivalent to letting Tang Erda kill Su Yang with his own hands in order to save the other people in the game.
Tang Erda couldn’t bear it, even if this Su Yang was just a character in the game, even if he was a fake Su Yang.
“But Captain…” Su Yang leaned against Tang Erda’s shoulder and opened his eyes in an empty manner, muttering softly, “I can’t be saved anymore. I am addicted.”
“Captain, you should accept this unpleasant fact. Things such as death… all humans will die.” Su Yang’s tone was casual and indifferent, as if he was coaxing Tang Erda to fight. “If I have to die, I hope my death will be meaningful to you.”
“I’m actually really happy to see you before I completely wither. It means that at least I haven’t struggled and suffered like a fool for so long for nothing. The self-torture from being unwilling to succumb to the rose perfume has meaning.” Su Yang turned his head on Tang Erda’s shoulder and looked at him very gently. “My meaning is to wait for you, Captain.”
Tang Erda could see that the cracks on Su Yang’s face were gradually deepening and falling off. Blood seeped from the edges and the Su Yang reflected in his pupils became more and more like a rose.
It was more and more like a monster.
He had never seen life flowing out so clearly in a person’s body.
Su Yang gazed at Tang Erda in a pleading manner.
Tang Erda gradually released Su Yang. He shook the hand, then he took the initiative to let go and lowered his head so his expression couldn’t be seen clearly. His voice was so hoarse that it could hardly be heard. “…How should I do the detection?”
Su Yang laughed heartily. “Thank you, Captain.”
“That’s right.” Su Yang seemed to remember something important and his expression became solemn. “Captain, do you remember the heretic Bai Liu that you caught and who then escaped. If you leave here and find him, please kill this person by all means.”
“He is the one who blew up the factory we went to inspect on the day he escaped from the Dangerous Heretics Bureau.”
In another cage separated by the wall.
Once Lu Yizhan figured out that the person in front of him was really Bai Liu who became Liu Jiayi, he wasn’t very unfriendly and chatted with the other person.
Bai Liu raised his eyes and looked at Lu Yizhan sitting across from him. “I blew up the Rose Factory?”
“Yes.” Lu Yizhan didn’t seem to think that what he was saying was very important. His body and tone were relaxed as he lay on the bed with his hands behind his head. “I saw it as well as the other members of the Dangerous Heretics Bureau. I used my 10 year knowledge of you to be certain that the one who stood on top of the Rose Factory and claimed to blow up the factory was you.”
“You said that you were going to cause an explosion and leak the Dry Leaf Rose Gas, destroying the world. I talked to you and finally determined that you are the person I know.” Lu Yizhan spoke while facing upward.
The timeline of the Rose Factory game was 10 years after reality.
Bai Liu combed through the timeline that Lu Yizhan told him.
The explosion that sparked the Dry Leaf Rose Gas spreading around the world occurred the day after Bai Liu escaped from the Dangerous Heretics Bureau.
On the same day, Lu Yizhan and the vice-captain of the third team of the Dangerous Heretics Bureau, Su Yang, came to the Rose Factory to investigate the factory that had been forcibly sealed but was secretly restarted. This was what Bai Liu saw in the factory’s newspaper and was basically in line with the reality speculated by Bai Liu. It was also in line with what Lu Yizhan told him just now.
As for what Lu Yizhan said happened later, Bai Liu just listened before raising an eyebrow.
Lu Yizhan said that once they arrived at the factory, they searched everywhere for the equipment suspected of storing the Dry Leaf Rose Gas. The entire factory was particularly strange. All the equipment was available but the people seemed to have disappeared out of thin air. It wasn’t known where they had gone.
They searched endlessly until the early hours of the morning and found nothing but a few iron pots and distillation devices containing rose residue.
At this time, Bai Liu seemed to have fallen from the sky. He appeared out of thin air on the roof of the rose factory, holding a big loudspeaker he got from an unknown place. He had one hand in his pocket as he lazily shouted at the group below him.
Lu Yizhan imitated the situation at the time by making his hands into a loudspeaker. “I am the sociopath Bai Liu. I have been laid-off for more than a month and can’t find a job. I can’t earn any money and I am very sad. I feel that the world should be destroyed together with me so I will explode this factory and let the Dry Leaf Rose Gas leak. This way, everyone will play with me.”
Bai Liu was eerily silent for a moment before asking, “Then the Rose Factory exploded?”
Lu Yizhan nodded. “Yes. Then you disappeared completely. Due to this, there was a time when the Dangerous Heretics Bureau’s bounty on you was 16 million. I was a bit tempted.”
Bai Liu looked at Lu Yizhan lying on the bed. “You don’t think I caused the explosion?”
If Lu Yizhan was really sure that Bai Liu caused the explosion then as long as he could still move, he would’ve shot off the bed and killed Bai Liu the moment Bai Liu walked in.
Now Lu Yizhan was lying calmly on the bed and chatting with Bai Liu. This proved that Lu Yizhan felt the explosion had nothing to do with Bai Liu.
Lu Yizhan was silent for a moment before saying, “I am sure that the person who shouted on the roof of the Rose Factory that he would blow up the factory was you. I am sure that after you finished speaking, less than 15 minutes later, the Rose Factory exploded and the perfume leak that endangered everyone occurred.”
Then Lu Yizhan gave a very brainless speculation. “However, I don’t think you caused the explosion.”
Bai Liu wondered with interest, “Why?”
Bai Liu rarely doubted Lu Yizhan’s guesses about him. Lu Yizhan might be more familiar with him than he was himself. Lu Yizhan would never lie to him.
Lu Yizhan said that the person standing on the roof was really Bai Liu so Bai Liu guessed it was himself.
Lu Yizhan stared at the top of the cage in a daze for a while before answering, “It is a very unprofessional and subjective speculation but I believe you wouldn’t do such a thing.”
Bai Liu squinted at him. “I never expected that you would trust my character?”
Lu Yizhan let out a slow ‘eh’ before turning to look at Bai Liu. “It isn’t because of this. I don’t trust in your character.”
If it wasn’t for the strange lines on Lu Yizhan’s face, their conversation would be as peaceful as a normal joke.
Lu Yizhan stared at Bai Liu. “However, I believe in your trading ethics. You traded 10 years of hot pot with me just the day before. You wouldn’t destroy the world before you could even eat a meal. This is a loss and I don’t believe you can do such a thing.”
“Hmm.” Bai Liu glanced at Lu Yizhan. “I also feel this way but others won’t think so, right?”
Lu Yizhan smiled and turned his head back again. He sighed lightly. “Indeed, I am the only one among the people who went to the factory that day who believes it. My reason for the speculation is too subjective to convince them. This was why a high bounty was placed on you later.”
“It is a pity that they couldn’t hold on and left one by one.” Lu Yizhan’s expression finally became a bit complicated and he sighed for a long time. “There seems to be one person left in this world who still believes in you and one person left who hates you.”
The person who believed in Bai Liu was obviously Lu Yizhan. According to the bad taste of the game designer, if Bai Liu wasn’t wrong, the person who hated him should be Su Yang. It meant that Tang Erda’s corresponding perfume test paper should be Su Yang.
Lu Yizhan continued, “In the 10 years I spent here, I have been thinking about the 10 years that I knew you, trying to find clues in it that would support my speculation that you wouldn’t detonate the Rose Factory. Meanwhile, the other person continuously emphasizes the evidence, emphasizing that he saw you blow up the factory.”
Lu Yizhan stared straight at the ceiling and his tone became very light, as if he was talking to himself. “The type of person you are has become the only reason for us to survive.”
“Later on, I started to wonder if you really existed, if you weren’t just a friend I imagined because I was too lonely here. A murderer that I redeemed in order to allow myself to stay awake. At the very least, I can endure with a bit of hope if I know that you exist.”
Bai Liu calmly tilted his head. “So?”
Lu Yizhan looked at Bai Liu in a complaining manner. “You should pity me. I am so miserable.”
Lu Yizhan fell silent for a moment before smiling. “So for a while, every time someone came to me to test the perfume, I would ask them: Do you know Bai Liu? What do you think of him as a person?”
“Maybe it is because I was cooperative with the perfume test that they all basically answered me. I got many, many answers about ‘Bai Liu’ but none of them could convince me that you really existed. There was no one who could describe the person that I knew.”
Lu Yizhan sat up on the bed with difficulty. He took two deep breaths and looked up at Bai Liu. “Now it is your turn to answer my question. Do you know Bai Liu?”
He stared directly at Bai Liu, who was standing by the bed. “What type of person do you think Bai Liu is?”
“I know Bai Liu.” Bai Liu calmly looked at the weak and breathless Lu Yizhan. “He is a shameless, despicable person who has no empathy, no compromise, no conventional social awareness or ordinary value orientation. He doesn’t accept the kidnapping of moral unspoken rules. To put it simply, he is a complete bastard. Combine this with his strong desire for money and he is dangerous in every way.”
“Mmm.” Lu Yizhan nodded solemnly. “That isn’t wrong with the Bai Liu I know. Go on.”
Bai Liu stared at Lu Yizhan for a long time before saying, “He is indeed your friend. So even if he is such a bastard, he will keep his deal with you. I won’t blow up the factory. If it was really me standing on the roof of the Rose Factory, there must be circumstances that forced me to say that and to make that choice. However, I won’t do anything that violates the deal.”
Lu Yizhan froze for a moment before laughing heartily. “Yes, I believe that as well.”
Bai Liu took a step forward. “Okay, the time for speaking nonsense with you is over. Teach me how to do the detection.”
Lu Yizhan was stunned for a moment before smiling helplessly. “You are too cruel, Bai Liu. I just heard the factory worker say that your talent is likely to kill me after testing it once!”
“You might die here.” Bai Liu glanced at Lu Yizhan. “But the real you won’t die. Do you want to make a deal with me? I can stop this explosion that has already happened and save you and the others.”
Lu Yizhan stared at Bai Liu for a long time. Even though he didn’t seem to understand what Bai Liu was saying or know how Bai Liu would stop what had already happened—
He knew that if Bai Liu made a deal then there was a 50% chance he could do it.
“Yes!” Lu Yizhan replied with shining eyes. “What is the content of the transaction?”
“Please treat me to 20 years of hot pot.”
“If I add the previous 10 years then it is 30 years! That is too much!” Lu Yizhan shouted bitterly. “Look at me now. I might not be able to live that long!”
Bai Liu looked at him. “Then make this deal with me and try to live until that time.”
Lu Yizhan was stunned. He saw Bai Liu’s indifferent expression and couldn’t help laughing.
The concern for him was so twisted and roundabout—it was really the person he knew.
Su Yang grabbed Tang Erda’s hands and showed a rare look of remorse on his face. “Captain, every day when I and the other team members were here, I regretted that I didn’t seriously carry out your orders. If I had killed Bai Liu on the day we captured him, so many people…”
His light-colored eyes filled with tears and his voice was hoarse and broken. “So many people wouldn’t have died because of Bai Liu’s revenge, because he leaked and spread such things!”
“Captain, if only I had prevented this from happening in the first place. It is all my fault…”
Su Yang seemed to be overwhelmed by an extremely heavy responsibility and emotion as he slowly bent down in front of Tang Erda.
He seemed to have aged ten years in an instant due to remorse and guilt. The bone joints on his back bulged like beads on his overly thin back. The bones were so thin that he couldn’t stand upright.
Tang Erda clenched his fists. It was all too late for the Su Yang in front of him.
But for him, it wasn’t too late.
He just had to clear the instance in time, find the antidote and kill Bai Liu. Everything that he saw, this Su Yang who was so miserable that he wanted to die—all of this wouldn’t happen again.
Tang Erda calculated the time corresponding to the end of the game in his mind. He lingered on the time when Su Yang told him that Bai Liu had caused the explosion. It was equivalent to Bai Liu immediately going to the factory after clearing the game and causing the explosion.
He had to kill Bai Liu in the game!
He already knew that the antidote would be available after becoming the manager of the factory. Bai Liu couldn’t be allowed to live any longer!