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    Ji Ling’s WeChat profile picture was the jpg of a bowl of brown soup. Sui Cannong recognized that this should be a screenshot from the game, because this bowl of soup was a food that players could cook, called Black Truffle Cream Soup.Most of the school teachers were foreign teachers, and usually communicated using the school’s internal email or software like Teams. WeChat, as a more personal contact method, was generally only exchanged between teachers who have a better relationship.

    Sui Cannong scrolled through Ji Ling’s Moments.

    Ji Ling set the Moments to be visible for only six months, so there were only two photos that could be seen. But the photos were just normal scenery pictures, and there were no obvious signs of depression. But Sui Cannong thought that people with depressive tendencies often hid themselves well and usually did not share their feelings openly on social media. When he asked Ji Ling if he had any worries or troubles at noon today, his answer was negative. Sui Cannong knew that he might not be willing to open up to him. Sui Cannong felt like he was going crazy, but right now he just wanted to prove that everything was his own misunderstanding.

    He paced back and forth in the room, hesitating to send a WeChat message to Ji Ling around seven-thirty: “Can you go online now?” After a while, Ji Ling replied, 

    “Okay.”

    Sui Cannong went online and found that Ji Ling’s profile picture was also lit up, so he directly formed a team. The character Ji Ling used today was a copy of petit butterfly that Sui Cannong gave him, and Sui Cannong noticed that he also bought a 98 yuan skin for petit butterfly, probably because he was more comfortable using it. 

    The new version was updated today, but Sui Cannong didn’t really understand the true difficulty of this new version at the time. He found an excuse to indirectly ask Ji Ling for his WeChat. He opened it without much preparation, but as soon as he entered the version, he was dumbfounded. It wasn’t just a bit difficult, it was really too difficult—twenty minutes passed and they hadn’t even encountered any monsters, because the puzzle at the beginning had trapped them in a cave.

    Sui Cannong ran around in the cave, while Ji Ling stood quietly holding a torch to light the way for him. But the more he couldn’t solve it, the more anxious he became, and the more anxious he became, the less he could solve it. Sui Cannong was sweating profusely in the virtual world. Normally, it would be fine, at least in the gaming world, he could conceal his embarrassment behind the screen, but now he was playing with a colleague in the real world.

    Sui Cannong hesitated for a moment, and then typed in the team chat: 

    “Shall we use voice chat? You could help me report the position of the stones, so we can solve it a little faster.” The version had been updated in the afternoon, so naturally, they could just go online and view a walkthrough. But Sui Cannong still wanted to solve the puzzle by himself. One, he didn’t want to lose the gaming experience, and two, he hadn’t forgotten his purpose, and it was a good opportunity to find out Ji Ling’s thoughts.

    [antelope]: Okay.

    So Sui Cannong turned on the microphone: 

    “Hey, can you hear me?”

    There was silence on the other end for a long time, followed by a rustling sound, and then Sui Cannong heard Ji Ling respond very softly.

    “I can hear you,” he said.

    “Yeah. Just wait for me.”

    Sui Cannong stared at the symbols on the stone wall, stepped on the mechanism again, but still didn’t open the door. He felt a little depressed: 

    “It’s like my brain has stopped working.”

    Ji Ling said, “Don’t worry.”

    Sui Cannong nodded, took a deep breath, and followed his previous thoughts to go through the mechanism again, but the door remained closed. Sui Cannong was getting frustrated.

    “Mr. Sui,” Ji Ling, who had been quiet for a long time, suddenly said, “Actually, you could start working with the stone on your left.” Sui Cannong paused and shifted his gaze to the stone on his left.

    “Then, go ahead and walk through the stones in order of shortest to tallest,” Ji Ling added. Sui Cannong followed his instructions and then heard Ji Ling say, “Now, take another look at the direction of the arrows on top, and try walking counterclockwise.”

    Sui Cannong: “…!”

    He pondered for fifteen minutes and still couldn’t figure it out. But Ji Ling’s lightly spoken sentences suddenly cleared his head. After the door opened, they transitioned to a normal monster-fighting phase. Sui Cannong worked hard to do good damage, but he felt that even his high damage couldn’t relieve his embarrassment. Ji Ling also sensed something was off in the atmosphere.

    After hesitating for a moment, he added, 

    “Actually, your previous solution was not wrong. It’s just that the lighting there is a bit dim. If you had more time…”

    Sui Cannong just wanted to beg him to stop talking. The rewards from the instance were plentiful, and the two of them left the instance feeling satisfied. After this half an hour, Sui Cannong also noticed that the atmosphere between them seemed to have become less restrained than at the beginning. He felt that now was a good time to hesitate and ask about the incident by the bridge that day.

    But how should he bring it up? He couldn’t just say, “I want to ask you something, were you going to jump into the river that day?” Or should he be more indirect and say, “If you have any difficulties, you can tell me”?

    But they were not familiar with each other. Did he really have the standing to ask such a question?

    “Teacher Sui.” It seemed like Ji Ling suddenly leaned closer to the microphone, and his voice became much clearer and slightly louder. His voice was clear and clean. Wearing headphones, Sui Cannong felt like Ji Ling was suddenly speaking directly into his ear. For some reason, he felt his heart skip a beat.

    Sui Cannong stuttered, “Wh-what’s wrong?”

    Ji Ling seemed to hesitate for a moment and then said, “Could you let me into your world?”

    Sui Cannong: “Oh, okay.”

    Neither of them mentioned the incident at the coffee shop that day. It was just like their daily routine of playing games together. After finishing the instance, Ji Ling entered Sui Cannong’s world to build a house. However, after knowing that Antelope was Ji Ling, Sui Cannong felt awkward just watching from the sidelines as before. So he brought petit butterfly into the team and joined in cutting down trees with Ji Ling.

    Petit butterfly’s character design was a cute and innocent girl with a pair of wings on her back, two little figures cutting down trees together was the current imagery of their gaming experience.

    Sui Cannong asked, “Do you really like building houses?” Most people play games to improve their strength or to feel the satisfaction of defeating monsters. Sui Cannong had rarely seen players like Ji Ling who simply enjoyed building and farming.

    Ji Ling paused and didn’t say whether he liked it or not, just making a vague sound of agreement. He asked, “Do you like this house that I built?”

    Sui Cannong replied, 

    “Of course, I haven’t seen such a beautiful house in real life.”

    Ji Ling made a sound of agreement and said, “Because if this house were to be proportionally replicated in real life, it would collapse within three seconds.”

    Sui Cannong: “…” Sui Cannong hadn’t met someone who could speak so eloquently in a long time.

    “So, I can’t really say that I like building houses.”

    He saw Ji Ling manipulating his character to jump a couple of times on the farmland, and after a while, he said, 

    “There are some things that may not be achievable in reality, but can be done in the game.”

    Sui Cannong was moved. Through these few interactions, Sui Cannong found that Ji Ling was not as aloof and taciturn as he appeared on the surface; he just had some difficulty expressing himself. For example, when he was asked a question, he would earnestly explain as much as he could, though he may come off sounding somewhat stiff and clumsy, like a child who doesn’t know how to read others’ expressions. Those who didn’t understand him may feel that his emotional quotient was lacking, but Sui Cannong found that he seemed to have some quirks and simply had difficulty speaking.

    Sui Cannong said, “Well, the house you built is indeed very beautiful.”

    Ji Ling remained silent for a long time, and Sui Cannong saw that his character was suddenly standing still. After a while, his voice came through somewhat faintly, 

    “Thank you for taking me through this dungeon, Mr. Sui.”

    Sui Cannong said, “Where did that come from? If it weren’t for you today, I wouldn’t even have been able to enter the door—”

    Before he could finish speaking, Sui Cannong was stunned. He suddenly saw a pop-up interface on the screen, displaying “Antelope has given you [100 Mercury Ore] and [Falling Maple Longbow], do you accept?”

    Sui Cannong almost couldn’t catch his breath, “What are you doing?” Sui Cannong didn’t even dare to touch the phone screen, afraid that he might accidentally press the confirm button, “Keep the ore for yourself, and why are you giving me such a good weapon?” On the other end of the screen, Ji Ling remained silent for a while, saying, 

    “I don’t need it.”

    “Your commonly used late-game panda requires at least 70 pieces of mercury ore, and you’re about to reach level 60 soon. The late-game monsters will have increased health, making it difficult to mine ore, so you need to stock up in preparation,” he earnestly explained to Sui Cannong.

    Sui Cannong still couldn’t understand.

    The ore is a material that cannot be bought with real money in this game, and players need to manually mine it piece by piece, and the refresh time is very slow. Moreover, weapon forging and hero refinement will require the use of ore, making it an extremely scarce resource. He was given a hundred pieces of ore at once, along with a small premium longbow. The way Ji Ling played the game, it was as if… he didn’t want to plan for his own future at all.

    “You may not need it now, but won’t your other heroes need it in the future?” Sui Cannong faintly felt that something was not right, “You can’t always be so charitable, have you thought about your own future? How come you’re giving it to me?”

    Ji Ling remained silent for a long time, and Sui Cannong felt like he had caught him off guard.

    Without further hesitation, Sui Cannong was about to click the “reject” button to return the items as they were. However, the next moment, he heard a chilling statement, 

    “There is no reason, please accept it, Mr. Sui. Because I truly don’t need it.”

    “I likely won’t need it anymore in the future either,” he said.

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