When Qiu Yanzhi returned to the house, he charged his phone and turned it on.
He went through his missed calls from his Mom, Dad, Housekeeper and Zhang Yuxuan...
But when he took a closer look, he noticed something strange.
These calls were all from the first and second day of his disappearance.
After that, apart from some spam numbers, no one called him.
Qiu Yanzhi called Zhong Yabai again. Fortunately, someone answered this time.
"Yanyan? Is that you Yanyan?"
As soon as Qiu Yanzhi heard Zhong Yabai's voice, he felt his eyes prickle as he involuntarily sniffled. He almost started bawling.
"Mom, where did you guys go? I'm back."
Zhong Yabai said, "We took a vacation to Hongming Island. What's going on, didn't He Zhou tell you?"
Qiu Yanzhi forcefully held back his tears.
"...You went on vacation?"
"Yeah, don't you like this island? Your father and I stopped by to negotiate a deal to buy it... How’s your dissertation coming along? I heard you’re finally almost finished. Aiya, He Zhou said that you were concentrating on this recently so your father and I didn't want to disturb you…”
"Yeah. He Zhou said you went on a field trip to the Great Northwest with your classmates and professors for this project. I heard from him that the environment there wasn’t good and that there wasn’t even a place to buy a phone after you broke yours… Sigh, why are you always so stubborn? What am I supposed to do if you get hurt in a place like that? So where are you now? Are you back yet?”
Qiu Yanzhi: ...He Zhou!!!!
But Qiu Yanzhi had no way of explaining where he was the past fifteen days either. He couldn’t say that he left because of He Zhou because he didn’t want to worry his mom. He could only swallow his grievances and agree to He Zhou’s cover story. “...En, I’m back. Everything’s fine mom, don’t worry about me.”
“...But why did the house code change?”
"Aiya, Mom watched the news the other day and thought the world today was just too dangerous. Everyone’s out to steal your private information! Thieves try birthdays first, so mom changed it to your lunar birthday..."
After ending the call with Zhong Yabai, Qiu Yanzhi called Zhang Yuhuan back.
"Yanyan! You're such a bad friend! Even if you went with He Zhou on a makeup honeymoon, how could you not contact me for so long?"
Qiu Yanzhi: ...
Qiu Yanzhi’s heart was filled with sadness after he hung up.
He had disappeared from the face of the Earth for 15 days.
Yet no one had bothered to look for him, wait for him or worry about him.
He Zhou didn't call even once or send him a single message. He didn't care about him at all, and he went as far as to deceive his family and friends.
He just quit the game this time, but if he had really ran away from home then no one would even know if he died somewhere.
The more Qiu Yanzhi thought about it, the sadder he became, and the more he thought that He Zhou was the scum to end all scums.
He curled up shivering on the bed as he suddenly felt like he was freezing.
Qiu Yanzhi sneezed.
Big Yellow flew out again and spun around in the sky, his face full of excitement: "Yanyan! Congratulations! You were just soaking wet for over 20 minutes and unlocked an achievement: your first fever! Pay attention to how it feels! Aren’t you shivering right now? This aspect of our game was designed exceptionally well; there’s practically no difference from the real thing! It's literally the crowning jewel of our game! No other game can compare!!”
Qiu Yanzhi: "...F*ck off!"
The cold wet clothes stuck to his body made him ache all over. Qiu Yanzhi shivered and wobbled off the bed, dragging his weak body to the bathroom to take a hot bath and change into some warm clothes.
When Qiu Yanzhi came out of his room, He Zhou, who was sitting on the couch downstairs, also happened to look up.
Their eyes met.
In a split second, Qiu Yanzhi almost forgot what he was going to do.
He Zhou's eyes were the only things he could see.
The deep, dark pupils contained an unmatched purity.
He looked quietly at Qiu Yanzhi like that.
He didn't say anything, nor did he ask anything.
Everything was silent.
Qiu Yanzhi's left hand gripped the handrail an inch tighter. Then he turned his head to avoid looking at He Zhou and continued walking towards the bathroom.
He Zhou's phone screen lit up as a call came through.
"President He, we finally have news about Mr. Qiu! His phone was turned on an hour and 29 minutes ago and he used it to pay for a taxi ride. It turned off again 24 minutes later, but we were able to trace his location to Zhongshan Road in Qing Yu District, where his parents live..."
"You’ve all worked hard."
“Not at all, not at all. This is just a part of our job. We’ll head immediately to Qing Yu District! We'll definitely bring Mr. Qiu to you, sir!"
"No need." He Zhou said quietly.
The man on the other side of the phone spoke in a hurried and anxious tone, "...N-no need? But sir, you've been looking for him for so long, and you're so close to finding him! If he goes missing again..."
"He's already back." He Zhou’s fingers slowly massaged his temples as he let out a small sigh.
He hung up the phone and turned his head to look at the tablet he had just placed down on the table.
The video on top of the tablet was still playing on loop.
It was the surveillance video from the day Qiu Yanzhi disappeared after he left the office and went to the park.
There weren’t many cameras in the park. He Zhou had scrutinized every detail in those videos over the past few days, but he was unable to locate Qiu Yanzhi after he entered the park.
Qiu Yanzhi's passport, wallet and credit cards were all at home.
In the past 15 days, his phone had been switched off and there were no records of him spending a cent.
Additionally, none of his friends, family or classmates had heard from him.
But now he just walked in the door like nothing happened without a cent on him, still wearing the clothes he disappeared in and drenched by the rain.
He Zhou lowered his eyes and turned off the screen.
Qiu Yanzhi took a long hot bath, which relieved the chill in his bones.
Standing up, he reached for his bathrobe.
Where's Laozi’s bathrobe?
Qiu Yanzhi panicked a bit and got out of the bathtub barefoot. He tiptoed over to the cupboards and rifled through them.
The moment Qiu Yanzhi turned around, he felt his foot slip out from underneath him.
He fell back into the tub.
An immense wave of agony instantly washed over him. Qiu Yanzhi was about to cry from the pain, but he endured the urge to scream.
If he hadn't guessed wrong, he might've twisted his back.
And pretty seriously at that. The entire upper half of his body above the waist was in so pain that he couldn't move.
After not being ingame for half a month, the system had actually returned the pain sensitivity to the default value again.
Worst of all...
Since he was in the middle of a bath, the game had automatically turned on super privacy mode.
Big Yellow was nowhere to be seen, and the system settings couldn't be accessed either.
Qiu Yanzhi tried to get up, but his body slipped back down again. Half of his head became submerged underwater.
Qiu Yanzhi could barely breathe after a fierce struggle.
As the water fluctuated, it continued to pour into his nasal cavity.
A number flashed before Qiu Yanzhi's eyes.
It was the number of people who accidentally died every year around the world due to taking baths.
He Zhou, save me!
Laozi doesn't want to die yet, ah!
After playing for so long, Qiu Yanzhi was in disbelief that ‘slipping in the bathtub and drowning’ was going to be the way he left.
However, the cried for help that threatened to spill from his lips were strictly suppressed. The first thing that you need to do is to get rid of it.
He couldn’t do it. A person had to live with a degree of dignity.
So what if I've twisted my waist? Could this minor injury really stop Laozi from taking care of this himself?! I’ll definitely get up myself!
Knock knock knock.
Suddenly there were three knocks on the door.
Qiu Yanzhi’s entire body tensed, but his mouth was also half flooded with water so he couldn't say anything. He could only mumble vaguely.
“Bathrobe." He Zhou paused for an instant before continuing, "There isn’t one inside so I’ll leave one at the door. You can come out later and get it yourself."
There was no reply from inside.
There was still no reply from inside.
Just as He Zhou was about to leave, Qiu Yanzhi's hysterical screams suddenly came from the bathroom, "He Zhou! Glurp glurp… Help me! ...I'm going to drown blub blub..."
He Zhou's heart constricted. He gripped the door handle tightly and pushed down.
It was locked from the inside.
"Qiu Yanzhi?!" He Zhou panicked and shouted again, but there was no answer from inside, only the sound of someone struggling in water.
He Zhou was already panicking, and he didn't have time to get any tools either, so he stepped back and charged the door.
The lock itself was high quality, but fortunately the bathroom door was made of glass.
With a loud clatter, the glass shattered all over the floor.
He Zhou rushed in the door in a panic.
When he saw the pale Qiu Yanzhi who was almost entirely submerged underwater and struggling to breathe, his heart thudded painfully in his chest. He quickly strode over and lifted Qiu Yanzhi out of the water.
Qiu Yanzhi could no longer hold back his painful tears. “Ow! My waist…”
Only then did He Zhou realize that Qiu Yanzhi had twisted his back.
Almost at a loss for words, He Zhou shifted him into his arms and turned to hurry out.
Qiu Yanzhi called out to him with a red face, "...I-I'm still naked!"
He Zhou seems to have just noticed that the person in his arms was as naked as the day he was born. His also became a little embarrassed. He turned around again and picked up the bathrobe that was just placed at the door and haphazardly tried to put it on the person in his arms. Alas, he couldn’t manage it in the end.
Qiu Yanzhi flushed a deep crimson as he was held naked in someone’s arms. “...I’m not paralyzed, I just twisted my back. I can stand on my own."
He Zhou's movements came to a halt, and he quickly placed Qiu Yanzhi back on the ground. Without saying a word, he started dressing him in his bathrobe again.
"...Can you walk?" He Zhou asked.
He could, but only slowly. He shuffled along while holding his waist, but he came to a stop at the stairs.
He Zhou also seemed to understand the problem. He picked Qiu Yanzhi up again and whispered, "Don't move anymore."
Qiu Yanzhi wrapped his arms around He Zhou's neck and stopped moving.
As they descended the stairs, Qiu Yanzhi suddenly saw a few scratches on He Zhou's neck that weren't deep or shallow.
He took a closer look and found that one of them still had tiny glass particulates in it.
...These injuries were from the door that He Zhou just broke down.
Qiu Yanzhi pursed his lips, but he didn’t say anything. He just obediently rested his head on He Zhou's shoulder.