"Qiu Yanzhi?" He Zhou's voice suddenly came from behind him.
Qiu Yanzhi stiffened and turned around.
He Zhou looked confused: "Who are you talking to? Whose wings are you going to rip off?"
Feeling guilty, Qiu Yanzhi hid his hands behind his back. "I just saw a butterfly, so..."
He Zhou was silent for a moment. "It's the middle of December."
Qiu Yanzhi: "......"
He hastily changed the subject. "W-where did you park the car? Let's leave already..."
He Zhou: "Which hotpot place do you like?”
“Let’s eat later. I want to go home now.”
He Zhou sat in the driver's seat, but he didn't start the car yet.
Qiu Yanzhi: "He Zhou? What are we sticking around for?”
He Zhou eventually made up his mind. He turned and said, “Qiu Yanzhi...why don’t you come with me to see that psychiatrist, okay?"
Qiu Yanzhi: "......"
Qiu Yanzhi: "I'm fine. I just... My eyes were acting up again.”
He Zhou: "Don't be afraid to seek treatment. There’s no shame in having a mental illness."
Qiu Yanzhi: "......"
At Qiu Yanzhi's strong insistence, He Zhou could only drive home first.
When He Zhou was working in his study, Qiu Yanzhi grabbed Big Yellow and went into the room next door.
Qiu Yanzhi had investigated this room beforehand. It was close enough that he could still see the world while also being very soundproof.
Big Yellow was viciously squished in Qiu Yanzhi's hands the whole time, so he looked very haggard after being released.
Qiu Yanzhi was afraid that it would run away again, so he grabbed its little wings with his fingers and asked, "Tell me what’s going on already.”
Big Yellow was silent for a long while before he looked up at Qiu Yanzhi and whispered, "This game is broken."
Qiu Yanzhi grit his teeth and said, "Of course I fucking know the game broke. Would I be here otherwise?!”
Big Yellow shook his head and said again, "No, the game’s been broken for a long time."
Qiu Yanzhi was stunned.
Big Yellow said, "After an accident happened in game three years ago, the game was shut down… I thought there would never be another player again until you showed up.”
Qiu Yanzhi wanted to strangle Big Yellow to death: "I’ve been in this damn game for so long, so why didn’t you say anything?”
Big Yellow looked down with red-rimmed eyes. “I'm sorry...I thought at first that the company had fixed the bug and relaunched the game. I thought that the company hadn’t abandoned us…”
“I only discovered that you were playing this game by accident when you brought up that your friend gave you this copy of the game and how it was a new game developed a year ago.”
Qiu Yanzhi: "And then what happened?"
"I thought...I thought that if you had a good time playing and spent money on this game, the company would realize that they shouldn’t give up on this game...or me. I thought that, this way, the game would be reopened someday.”
Qiu Yanzhi said coldly, "But I didn't have a good time playing, and now I’m trapped in the game.”
Big Yellow slumped over and didn't speak.
Qiu Yanzhi asked, "Then what exactly happened in the accident three years ago?”
Big Yellow: "A player...got into a car accident in game. There was supposed to be a failsafe that logged players out if there was an emergency, but for some reason that player never left the game.”
Qiu Yanzhi still had one last shred of hope in his heart. "...Could it be that he's still alive, just trapped here like me?"
Big Yellow shook his head. "No. Our game’s privacy protection is very strong. AIs like me will only attend to one player at a time, and we can only go help another player when the current one deletes their account. But in the transfer process, all the personal information of the previous player will be erased.”
“After that player’s accident, I was wiped of all my memories of him. I don't remember his name, what he looked like, or anything else."
The game account would be automatically deleted if the player...died.
If that’s the case, then there was only one explanation left.
...That person died in the game.
Qiu Yanzhi instantly felt a chill run down his spine.
Qiu Yanzhi glared at Big Yellow, his voice a little harsh: "...What about me, what will happen to me?!"
Big Yellow hung his head and said sullenly: "I don't know, but for now, the reason you can’t see the entire world or leave the game probably has something to do with He Zhou. The hourglass exploding before the system malfunctioned might have been an omen. You acting too OOC could have caused He Zhou’s NPC system to bug out.”
“But all this is just speculation on our parts. Even I don’t know what the real cause is, much less the solution…”
Qiu Yanzhi: "So you can't do anything about all this, right?"
Big Yellow: "Not only that, my player service functions were all disabled. I can’t do anything to you.”
Qiu Yanzhi: "Same here. Even if I open the control panel, I can't adjust my body state or quit the game."
"Wait, you can still open the control panel?! I can't do that!"
"So what if I can? The log out button, the emergency button, the settings...none of them work.”
"Have you gone through and tried every button?" Big Yellow asked.
Qiu Yanzhi also suddenly realized something. He looked at Big Yellow before quickly opened his control panel and trying every single button.”
One window after another popped up.
Warnings covered every inch of his vision: “This function is missing.”
Qiu Yanzhi's heart slowly sank to a new low. Even his fingers were tired of tapping. He expressionlessly tapped the last button, not really expecting anything to happen.
---The VIP mall.
At that moment, the dark blue interface suddenly turned a golden yellow.
Qiu Yanzhi and Big Yellow looked at each other and saw surprise in the other’s eyes.
In the mall interface, all the cards were greyed out, meaning that they couldn’t be purchased, except one.
It shone brightly.
--The Reset Card.
Big Yellow was so excited that he wanted to jump up and down. His little wings fluttered wildly, "Buy it, buy it, buy it!!!”
Qiu Yanzhi's palms were sweaty, but he kept his cool. "What does this card do?”
“The name is self explanatory.” Big Yellow said, "After using this card, the system will reset. Everyone knows that most bugs can be fixed by restarting the device.”
"So how is this different from logging out and making a new account to play with?”
Big Yellow explained, "This is making a new account."
Qiu Yanzhi: "You need a card to make a new account?”
Big Yellow said: "Of course! Our game is monetized, after all. Nothing’s really free. If you want to pursue another capture target after playing once through, you need to spend money. And since all the accounts are linked to your ID number, you can’t just make a new account willy-nilly. If you want to play again, you have to buy our card.”
Qiu Yanzhi hesitated for a moment. "What happens if I use this card?"
Big Yellow: "The characters around you won’t change, which means Qiu Qingcang, Zhong Yabai and Zhang Yuxuan will still be your family and friends. Your identity won’t change either. You’ll still be a fourth-year German language student at A University. The only one changing will be He Zhou.”
"However, if you like, you can choose He Zhou as your capture target again.”
Qiu Yanzhi pursed his lips. "...It’s not like I’m set on him. Why would I choose him again? Besides, if the system works again after the reset and I can leave, I’m going to quit this for good. No game is worth risking my life for.”
Big Yellow: "It's all up to you, but it's risky to choose He Zhou again. After all...the bug this time might have a lot to do with him.”
Qiu Yanzhi looked up. "Is this card guaranteed to fix the bug and get me out? What if I’m still trapped after I use it?”
Big Yellow: "...Do you have any other choice at this point?"
Qiu Yanzhi paused. "Then I’ll buy it.
Big Yellow was surprised: "You didn’t even ask about the price! This isn’t like you.”
Qiu Yanzhi smiled wanly. "I’m not in a position to be picky about the price."
Big Yellow: "It’s $18,888.”
"So expensive.... "Qiu Yanzhi cringed as he paid.
Since he became an adult, he’s never spent a penny of his family's money. All the money in his account was earned by him.
Qiu Yanzhi was a fourth-year German language student in the game, but in reality he was three years older. His major was the same, and he worked part-time as a translator to earn money.
He actually had a lot of money in his account, but he spent very little because he was saving up to leave the country.
Anywhere in the world was fine, as long as it was far away from the Qiu family.
Qiu Yanzhi's debit card information was already bound to his account. In a few seconds, the transaction was complete. A card was now in his hand.
Big Yellow: "When are you going to use it?"
Qiu Yanzhi said, "Later. Be patient.”
Now that he might have to leave this world forever, Qiu Yanzhi was somewhat reluctant.
Only a little bit, though. A tiny, insignificant bit.
Qiu Yanzhi never considered himself a sentimental person. The last time they saw each other, Little Trash even told him, “Xia Yuan, a person like you will never find love your entire life. You don’t deserve to be loved.”
Qiu Yanzhi then replied, “Pah! Love is worthless, who cares!”
Little Trash glared at him with his pretty and dark eyes and cursed him: “You damn liar! Fine, keep it up. I hope you die alone.”
By the way, before he was taken in by the Qiu family, his name was Xia Yuan.
He never hesitated when it was time to say goodbye as a child, but as an adult he now felt complex emotions.
Maybe it's because he thought he was going to spend his whole life here, but now he suddenly had a chance to leave.
He opened the notes app on his phone to write down a list of names, places and delicious foods.
Unexpectedly, he didn’t even fill up even half a page in the end.
Dad, Mom, Zhang Yuxuan…
Hot pot, wontons, Hongming Island...
He paused and added He Zhou at the very bottom.
Qiu Yanzhi and He Zhou went back to his parents' house. He played a game of chess with his dad, and made dumplings with his mom.
He Zhou showed some documents to his father about the person who caused Qiu Yanzhi’s accident. Not only did he find out their name, gender and age, he even investigated where they lived and how many people were in their family etc.
But this person seemed to have vanished into thin air. The date of his disappearance happened to be the day he almost ran Qiu Yanzhi over.
Qiu Yanzhi didn’t pay it much attention. The driver who almost hit him was probably just another bug in the system.
He was about to leave this world anyways.
When Qiu Yanzhi was about to leave his parents' house, he did something very cringey.
He hugged his mom and dad and said, "Mom, Dad, you’re the best parents I've ever had.
Mom smiled and said, "Silly boy, how many other parents do you have?
Then he took He Zhou to a bar to have a drink with Zhang Yuxuan. He told Zhang Yuxuan the truth about his senior.
He said, "Zhang Yuxuan, your senior likes men. He married a man, and an especially scummy one at that.”
That night, Zhang Yuxuan cried.
After crying, Zhang Yuxuan said he would go confess to his senior tomorrow. Qiu Yanzhi slammed the bottle on the table and shouted, "You might as well do it now!”
Zhang Yuxuan called his senior and confessed. He was quickly rejected. He cried, “Senior, your husband is cheating on you.”
The senior replied after a beat of silence, “I know.”
Then he told Zhang Yuxuan to never call him again.
Zhang Yuxuan began to cry profusely again.
Then he said that he’s learned to accept it.
In the end, Zhang Yuxuan was a drunk mess. He slurred, “Qiu Yanzhi, I’ve already confessed, so why haven’t you?”
Qiu Yanzhi, who was also quite drunk, thought that this was a brilliant idea. He rushed to He Zhou and said, "He Zhou, He Zhou, I like you.”
He Zhou kissed him and pulled him into his arms.
If Zhang Yuxuan wasn’t here, things probably would have gone further than that.
Finally, Qiu Yanzhi and He Zhou went to Hongming Island.
They held hands and walked barefoot on the beach. The beautiful sunset that night dyed the sea in all kinds of vibrant colours.
Holding onto He Zhou's hand, Qiu Yanzhi could almost convince himself that he was in love.
...It was as if he had really experienced a pretty good romance in this game.
Qiu Yanzhi suddenly asked: "He Zhou, do you have a wish right now? "
“Hmm..."He Zhou turned to him and suddenly said, "I wish that you won't lie to me anymore."
Qiu Yanzhi was taken aback.
Then he heard He Zhou say, "I know you lied to me about having multiple personalities. I accidentally saw your browsing history in your phone.
Qiu Yanzhi felt a little embarrassed. "When did you see it?"
He Zhou: "The night you lied about having another personality."
Qiu Yanzhi: "......"
Qiu Yanzhi silently swore: He Zhou, how many fucking times have you watched Laozi make a fool of myself?!?
He Zhou suddenly stopped walking. He stood there and looked straight at Qiu Yanzhi.
Qiu Yanzhi suddenly felt a little nervous. He also turned, and found that the setting sun's rays were all gathered in He Zhou's eyes.
He Zhou looked at him with such eyes and slowly spoke, "Qiu Yanzhi, can you not lie to me in the future?"
Ten years ago, there was a person who looked at him with an equally beautiful pair of eyes who said dully, “Xia Yuan, can you not lie to me in the future?”
Qiu Yanzhi’s heart began to race for some reason.
So he nodded, making a promise for a future that would never exist.
He Zhou leaned in and kissed him ever so lightly on the lips.
Qiu Yanzhi closed his eyes and reached for the other man, voluntarily deepening their kiss.
Eventually, they made their way to bed.
Although he was leaving, Qiu Yanzhi decided to be sincere one last time.
So when He Zhou asked him again how his techniques were, he was honest and said that they were still pretty lackluster.
He Zhou’s expression darkened as he pounced and bit Qiu Yanzhi, who panicked and begged for mercy, saying that there were obvious improvements.
Then He Zhou started to kiss him very gently.
His every move was so light that Qiu Yanzhi was sent adrift. He dumbly asked, “He Zhou, could it be that you like me?”
He Zhou didn't answer, but he bit Qiu Yanzhi viciously on the lips.
Qiu Yanzhi was ready to use the Reset Card the next morning.
His lip still hurt a little.
He bared his teeth at He Zhou, silently cursing: "Is your zodiac sign the dog? Why do you only know how to bite people?!”
After using the Reset Card, five more cards appeared in front of him.
They each depicted a different person, one of which was He Zhou.
Big Yellow said, "You have to choose a person. The Reset Card can only take effect when you’re in the mainline capture phase.”
For some reason, Qiu Yanzhi happened to reach for He Zhou’s card.
"Don’t pick He Zhou, he might still be bugged." Big Yellow warned.
So Qiu Yanzhi took his hand away and chose the card next to his.
Qiu Yanzhi looked at the smiling picture of the sunny underclassman. Then he glanced at He Zhou, who was still lying in bed.
For some reason, he felt dull and dreary inside.
A mechanical voice echoed in his ears.
"The system is resetting. 1%, 2%, 3%, 4%, 5%......"
He Zhou suddenly shifted, He stretched out his arms as if to hug someone, but there was no one there.
Then he sat up and saw Qiu Yanzhi, neatly dressed and standing not far away.
Because He Zhou had just woken up, his voice was hoarse. "Qiu Yanzhi, what are you doing standing there?"
Qiu Yanzhi didn't expect He Zhou to wake up just now. He didn't know what to do.
At that moment, the mechanical female voice announced the reset progress was at 99%.
Qiu Yanzhi opened his mouth, but before he could say a word, a white light enveloped him.
When the white light dissipated, Qiu Yanzhi found himself in the university’s dormitory.
He Zhou wasn’t here, but he could still see the world-- meaning the bug was fixed!
Qiu Yanzhi breathed a sigh of relief.
Big Yellow also fluttered his wings and flew over, laughing and saying, "I was right, a reset is like restarting a computer, it can fix most of the problems."
"Okay, okay, you were right." Qiu Yanzhi gave him a perfunctory reply.
He then said, "Take out the holographic control panel."
“Are you quitting now?" Big Yellow was a little reluctant.
"Or what?" Qiu Yanzhi said coldly, "Should I wait for another bug to appear in the game and trap me again?"
The holographic control panel slowly unfolded.
Qiu Yanzhi turned to glance at Big Yellow: "Bye bye."
Big Yellow sullenly replied, "See you later."
Qiu Yanzhi corrected him: "There isn’t going to be a ‘later’."
Just as Qiu Yanzhi was about to press the button, Big Yellow hurriedly shouted, "As the game's AI assistant, I would like to complete one last task…”
“Honoured VIP player Mr. Qiu, since you are about to leave this game, can you tell me about your impression of it?”
Qiu Yanzhi was stunned. He turned to look at him.
His impression of this game?
Zhong Yabai smiling while admiring her new earrings, Qiu Qingcang intentionally showing him his new watch, Zhang Yuxuan laughing like a giant dope… All those scenes flashed past his eyes.
In the end, what came to mind was He Zhou's eyes that reflected the sunset on that beach.
Qiu Yanzhi slowly said, "It's like being in a very beautiful dream...the kind you want to drown in forever.”
Big Yellow was tearing up. The AI’s wings fluttered slower and slower until it finally landed alone on the floor and said, "Thank you for your cooperation. I wish you all the best in the future."
Qiu Yanzhi looked down and pressed the log out button.
There was a melancholic feeling in his heart as he bid goodbye to this world one last time.
After one second, two seconds, three seconds...
A familiar window popped up: "This function is missing."
Qiu Yanzhi: "......"
Qiu Yanzhi wanted to kill someone right now.
The faint and tender poet-like emotions in his heart from before all shattered into pieces.