Chapter 1: QR Code
It was a cool, late autumn night in the funeral hall. Xing Ye stood beside the transparent coffin, his fingers resting on its edge. His hand had already lost all feeling, numbed by the biting cold.
He stared at the man lying in the coffin. The man appeared 50% similar to Xing Ye, but his features were much warmer than the always icy expression on Xing Ye’s face.
Your character would affect your face. Just like his appearance, Xing Shuo was a very gentle and kind man to whoever he met.
He was Xing Ye’s younger brother, five years younger. This year, he would’ve only been 24, yet he was already lying in an ice cold coffin. Xing Ye stood alone in the empty funeral hall, keeping vigil through the night.
Since their parents met with an accident nine years ago, the two depended on each other for survival. They were each other’s only family.
And right now, Xing Shuo had also left him.
When he heard news of Xing Shuo’s death, Xing Ye was abroad. No matter what, he simply couldn’t believe that his own, young, healthy brother had left the world just like that.
He immediately left all his work to his subordinates and returned to China, using his status as the deceased’s sole family member to investigate Xing Shuo’s death. Yet, whether it was the police or the hospital, they all gave Xing Ye the same answer- a sudden cardiac arrest.
Xing Shuo had been preparing for his master’s thesis, spending every day in the library and never fought with anybody. The forensic investigator’s complete examination also eliminated any chances of pills. His death truly was an acute myocardial infarction.
”There are many cases of sudden cardiac arrests even when the patient is completely healthy and has no special conditions. Mr. Xing Ye, I understand your mood, but Xing Shuo’s death really is just a heart attack and nothing else.”
The policeman’s reply echoed in Xing Ye’s mind as he reached out, his hand frozen stiff, to gently touch Xing Shuo’s face. Under the mortuary artist’s skillful hands, Xing Shuo looked just like he was alive, with a slight smile as if he was just having a beautiful dream.
Xing Ye raised his hand, looking at the stars outside the window. He was afraid that his tears would land on his little brother’s corpse.
From now on, he was alone.
The vast, starry sky would never understand a mortal’s grief. No matter how many sorrows humanity goes through, they continue to shine brightly. Xing Ye clutched his expensive overcoat, wrapping it around himself tightly as he sat on a chair, dazed as he watched the stars.
The rustling of leaves against the autumn winds made Xing Ye’s eyes, which hadn't shut for three days, heavy as he was lulled to the land of dreams.
In his dream, he returned to his last meeting with Xing Shuo. At that time, Xing Ye was just about to leave the country when Xing Shuo grabbed him, cell phone in hand: “Brother…”
By the door, Xing Ye turned his head to look at him.
Xing Shuo’s phone was lit. He smiled just like always, “Have a safe flight.”
”I hope that by the time I come back, you passed your master’s thesis.” Just as before, Xing Ye kept a stern face in front of his younger brother, urging him on his studies before rushing to leave.
But after that, they would never meet again.
Another icy breeze hit him. Xing Ye opened his eyes in a flash and glanced at his watch- it was 1:30.
He rarely dreamed and even when he did, he wouldn’t remember the details. But the scenes in his dream just seemed to reappear, every slight action vivid in his mind.
In the dream, Xing Shuo’s left hand was toying with his drawstring. Back then, Xing Ye was in a rush and hadn’t noticed until now the dream just now.
Since he was small, whenever there was something Xing Shuo wanted to talk to him about but didn’t dare to, he would always toy with his drawstring like that.
At that time, Xing Shuo obviously didn’t just want to say goodbye. He had something to tell me, but since I was in a rush, he hesitated and decided to not mention it. Xing Ye secretly pondered, carefully recalling every scene in his mind.
He was wearing a dark grey sweater and black casual pants. His left hand was playing with his drawstring while he held his phone with his right. The phone screen was lit, and on it was...
A QR code!
Xing Ye thought back to that scene. At that time, Xing Shuo had a picture of a QR code on his screen and seemed like he wanted to talk to him about something.
He immediately picked up the briefcase that he had just randomly thrown into a corner earlier and took out the notebook he usually used for important work matters before fishing out a pen from his pocket. He slowly started to sketch out the QR code in his memory.
Xing Ye had a simple foundation in drawing. The notebook was in a grid layout so he just had to sketch in the black parts according to scale to form a QR code.
Since he was small, Xing Ye’s always had an amazing memory and he had even taken a memorization class in university. Even if his memory couldn’t be called photographic, it was pretty close.
After carefully filling in the last square, Xing Ye closed his eyes and compared the QR code he had just drawn to the one in his memory. After confirming they were the same, he took out his phone and scanned the QR code.
With a ‘ding!’, a black and white page he had never seen before loaded on his phone. A dialogue box appeared on the screen: Player Xing Shuo has invited you to join the Game of Challenging Fate. Do you accept? Yes/No
Xing Shuo was still playing games in the critical period of getting his master’s thesis approved? Impossible. Furthermore, there was no way he would talk with him about a game.
This “Game of Challenging Fate” can’t just be a simple game. There should be something deeper. But if he didn’t enter the tiger’s cave, how would he be able to get its cub? Xing Ye didn’t hesitate, directly clicking ‘Yes’.
The instant his finger touched the screen, Xing Ye watched in shock as his arm turned varying shades of black and white. It no longer looked 3D and almost felt empty, as if he had turned into a flat drawing.
Immediately after, Xing Ye’s whole body was sucked into the space, becoming part of the 2d plane. After a bout of dizziness, he found that he had moved from the funeral hall into a strange, black and white space.
There didn’t seem to be an end to this black and white space yet there also only seemed to be around ten square meters of space he could move. The space, made of interweaving black and white cubes, was painful to the eye. It appeared to stretch out indefinitely, with no end in sight.
However, Xing Ye’s range of motion was limited in the space. He tried walking out, but was repelled by an invisible boundary.
”Welcome to the QR Code world, 3D intelligent life form, Xing Ye.” A black and white rubix cube flew out from who knows where and floated in the space. Although it didn’t have a mouth, Xing Ye could hear it speak. It’s voice sounded just like Xing Shuo’s as it rang in the space.
Xing Ye stared at the black and white rubix cube calmly. He had no surprise, no fluster, nor raised any questions.
”You sure are calm,” The black and white rubix cube’s 90 tiles spun, “Blood pressure: 116-78. Heart rate: 68 BPM. You’re really not surprised or afraid, and you’re not faking your calm either.”
”Since I’m already here, I might as well hang on for the ride.” Xing Ye said unhurriedly.
”But you have to be at least a little bit curious, right?” The black and white rubix cube’s tiles spun madly, “There are many who aren’t afraid, but they’ll at least have some other emotions. For example, excitement, surprise, disbelief -there’s plenty, but you have none."
”It’s probably because my heart’s already dead so nothing can stir up my interest. This space completely subverts everything I know about the real world, but so what?” It’s not like it could bring Xing Shuo back to life. Xing Ye silently thought.
“Oh? Is that so?” The black and white rubix cube paused, its tiles appearing to form a slight, malicious smile. “I can tell that you’re using everything you have to suppress this emotion of 'sadness' inside you. Is it because of him?”
The black and white rubix cube started to change shape, slowly forming a face, using black lines to sketch out Xing Shuo.
Xing Ye sucked in a breath and forced his voice to sound calm. “I entered this world by scanning the QR code on his phone.”
He didn’t ask whether or not Xing Shuo’s death had to do with this strange black and white space. Xing Ye knew that when negotiating, revealing your weak point was fatal. If it’s discovered by your opponent, your mood can easily be manipulated.
Right now, he didn’t know anything about this world. He had to do his best to remain calm and observe, collect information, and analyze.
The black and white rubix cube flew a few loops around Xing Ye, its tiles constantly rotating to list data about Xing Ye: his heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, mood fluctuations. Xing Ye just observed it expressionlessly, not revealing any surprise from its detection abilities.
”What an impermeable person.” The black and white rubix cube stopped rotating as its voice changed from the crisp voice of a young university student into a deep and mature one’s like Xing Ye’s.
”Player Xing Ye, invited by ID S7903 Player Xing Shuo, please choose a camp.” The black and white rubix cube spoke as two choices appeared on it.
- Blessed by Fate Camp (Following Fate Camp)
- Opposing Fate Camp
Xing Ye didn’t choose immediately. He still knew too little. “Shouldn’t there be an explanation for new players? Do players not have the right to know?”
”When you’re born, do you have the right to choose your parents? When you’re alive, do you have the right to pick if you were born male or female? When you die, do you have the right to control your death?” The black and white rubix cube spoke eerily with Xing Ye’s voice. “You already made your choice when you tapped yes on your phone earlier. Just like a baby dropped on the ground, even if the road ahead is covered in brambles and thorns, wouldn’t you still have to go on?”
”True.” Xing Ye nodded, “I should’ve known when I entered this space. This is an area beyond human understanding- naturally, human laws and ethics do not apply.”
He raised his head, staring at the choices for a while, but was unable to find any more information. From the literal words, the Blessed by Fate camp should be easier.
But what a pity. From birth, he had never been blessed by fate.
An image of his little brother’s peaceful expression as he laid in the coffin flashed through Xing Ye’s mind. “I choose B.”
”Once you choose, that’s it. Are you certain?” The black and white rubix cube asked.
”Yes.” Xing Ye answered without the slightest hesitation.
A list of words appeared on the cube:
Player X8205 has joined the Opposing Fate Camp.
Camp’s fixed attribute: Luck value set at 1%
Personal Starting Skill: Impression Eye, Redrawing Pen (these skills are generated from the player’s original attributes and are currently locked)
The lines of text soon changed into a black and white QR code and appeared on Xing Ye’s phone.
Xing Ye suddenly discovered that his originally steel-grey phone had turned half black, half white, appearing just like a line separating the two camps.
”Friendly reminder: players blessed by fate have a luck value of 99%,” The black and white rubix cube said, “If a dice was thrown to get the highest number, people from the Following Fate Camp will get ‘6’ 99 out of 100 rolls. In comparison, players in the Opposing Fate Camp would only get it 1 out of 100 tries. Fate will always care for their own- do you regret it now?”
“There’s no point in regret. Since I’ve made my choice, I need to harden my resolve and forge on.”