Chapter 258 Peeking
The comfort of the budget hotel chains was only averagely comfortable, but way better than sleeping on some woven fabric or straw on a hard wooden floor. It had been the longest time since Zhang Heng slept on a proper bed. During the Black Sail quest, he spent more than half of his time out at sea and usually slept on a hammock on Jackdaw. Only after returning to Nassau would he be able to sleep on a bed. That said, it was a bed made out of two blankets and a cotton cloth.
According to history, European royalties would typically sleep on feather mattresses. As for pirates, they didn’t have many options to choose from. When Zhang Heng’s first entered the quest, he did experience a few sleepless nights.
This was Zhang Heng’s first night returning to the real world. After doing some simple cleaning, he turned off the lights and went to bed. By the time he opened his eyes again, it was already afternoon, with bright rays piercing through the curtains flooding the room. When he got up from the bed, he felt warm sunlight caressing his face. Thirst hit him hard, and immediately, grabbed the complimentary water bottle from the table and gulped its contents down. Fragments of last night’s dream still lingered in his mind.
The ferocious ocean, salty sea breeze, and crimson hair… all these memories were like a longspun dream to him. Everything disappeared the moment he opened his eyes. After that, Zhang Heng grabbed his cellphone and saw there were two unread WeChat messages. One came from Wei Jiangyang. He informed Zhang Heng that he’d arrived in Qingdao with his girlfriend and planned to stay there for two to three days. Before leaving, he intended to head to the wholesale market to buy some raw seafood and asked if Zhang Heng wanted anything, also offering to send it to him by express delivery.
The other message was from Hayase Asuka. She told Zhang Heng that she had bought a return ticket to Japan and was set to fly on the 1st of next month. Before she went home, she wanted to ask if he could accompany her to buy some souvenirs for her family.
Zhang Heng replied Wei Jiangyang first. After that, he changed his keyboard language to Japanese and replied Hayase Asuka. She texted back within a second, seeming as if she had been anxiously waiting for his reply. Zhang Heng replied to her, and once again, she texted back almost instantly.
“I haven’t thanked you properly for helping me win the giant doll! You haven’t had lunch, right? Can we meet after one hour at Xidan? My treat!”
She even inserted a smiling bear emoji at the end of her message. In his current state, Zhang Heng didn’t want to walk around the streets. It wasn’t the first time he experienced such a sensation, though, for when he returned from the Mannerheim quest, his character and temperament had changed. Some small habits from the battlefield had stuck with him, and even his friends from the hostel could sense that he was different. However, he was slowly recovering after reintegrating himself into the daily life of the natural world.
To neutralize the memories and habits of his ten-year piracy tenure, Zhang Heng knew that he had to socialize with as many people as possible. After a brief consideration, he replied Hayase Asuka with a ‘yes.’ He then set his phone down and headed for a shower. After checking out at the front desk, Zhang Heng proceeded the pharmacy to purchase a 3M face mask. With the industrial boom of the era, developing cities would usually be engulfed by a thick layer of noxious haze, especially true for the cities up north. For obvious reasons, many had taken to putting on masks, and the way Zhang Heng presented himself was nothing out of the ordinary.
However, a mysterious sensation hit him as he paid his items with his Alipay, feeling that someone was staring at him from the back. When he turned around, he saw an old grandma searching for some over-the-counter flu remedies for her grandchildren. She had to put on her glasses to read the description that was printed on the packaging. The pharmacy was rather small, and other than the pharmacist, cashier, and the elderly grandma, there wasn’t anyone else around. Zhang Heng could finally rule out that an enemy was lurking around the corner.
It was almost time for Zhang Heng to meet up with Hayase Asuka, and hence, did not dwell further on the matter. After boarding the metro, Zhang Heng arrived in Xidan on time. On the other hand, Hayasa Asuka took full advantage of studying abroad and traveled to as many places around her as she could. After feeling that taking pictures with the phone was simply not engaging enough, she bought an instant camera, voraciously capturing photos of life on the subway and streets. Those around her must have had the impression that she had all the money in the world to buy the unlimited rolls of films to feed her polaroid.
“Ah! I’m glad that you are here!”
Hayase Asuka tucked the camera and photos into her bag. With a sniffle, she rubbed her demure nose and said, “This morning, I was thinking about what to buy for my family. My mom asked me to buy her fermented tofu soaked in red oil and tea leaves, and my father wants white wine. Sigh… this is so troublesome. They should know how to shop online, right? They told me that only the locals would sell me the original stuff. But, then again, I’ve never bought those things before. Luckily, you’re here to help me. Before that, let’s get some food. Do you have anything in mind?”
“Nothing in particular. What about you telling me what you feel like eating, and I’ll take you to the best restaurants where they serve it.”
“Really?! But… is this appropriate? After all, you’re the guest here.”
As she talked, Hayase Asuka pulled out a flyer from her bag.
“What is this? It looks so yummy!”
“Ah! This is a hotpot. Follow me. I know of a place that serves delicious hotpot.”
However, right after saying that, Zhang Heng couldn’t take a step forward. Only half a month ago, he was here to purchase something, but right now, everything felt so foreign and awfully disorientating to him. He had no idea how to go to the restaurant that served the famous hotpot. In confusion, he had to use his cellphone to search for it.
This was one of the drawbacks of staying in a quest for too long. There were limitations to how much a human could retain memories, and upon absorbing new sets of knowledge, the person would gradually forget the past. Zhang Heng was lucky enough to enter the Black Sail quest right after his final exam, or he would have failed by now.
There was only a short line outside the restaurant when Zhang Heng and Hayasa Asuke arrived at the place. After all, it wasn’t lunchtime. He then took a number from the reception. That was when the feeling of being watched hit him again. What happened at the pharmacy was perhaps, an accident, but having the same feeling twice was enough to alert him. With his current skills, he wasn’t afraid of thugs or gangsters. He recalled that when he attended the auction, the professor and Ding Si warned him that the circle of players wasn’t always peaceful and pleasant.
Humans were the most complicated creatures to step this planet, and once its population reached a specific number, a variety of people and characters could be found in society. Ding Si once told Zhang Heng that there were crazy players that would hunt down other players for game items. Until now, he had been playing the game alone, making sure that he laid low and as inconspicuous as possible. He hadn’t even revealed his identity to any players in the system. It wasn’t logical that anybody would target him.