Qiu Yanzhi was full of confidence in front of He Zhou, but his legs started to wobble as soon as he walked away.
"Qiu Yanzhi, you're amazing! I didn't expect you to be able to turn the tide. I thought we were dead for sure… Your ability to tell boldfaced lies is really something!! How in the world did you manage to be so confident without any basis?”
Big Yellow's tone was sincere. His eyes shone as if he really admired Qiu Yanzhi, but the words he said sounded strange, making Qiu Yanzhi want to slap him to death.
"Shut up, one more word and I'll strangle you." Qiu Yanzhi lowered his voice and said to Big Yellow.
Big Yellow shrank back and didn't dare to speak again.
"Senior?" Ye Mingxu was confused, "What did you just say?"
"Nothing, you misheard me." Qiu Yanzhi said without changing his expression.
Ye Mingxu hesitated for a moment, before glancing at He Zhou, who was still standing where he was. He quietly approached Qiu Yanzhi and whispered into his ear, "...Senior, did that person… Just now, did that person take advantage of you?"
Nope...it’s more like I took advantage of him.
Qiu Yanzhi lowered his eyes, his voice unconcerned, "No, don't worry about it. I’m not that easy to take advantage of."
Ye Mingxu hailed a taxi. "Senior, let's go back to the dorm."
Qiu Yanzhi hesitated for a moment, then handed the jacket he was wearing to Ye Mingxu: "You go back first, I have to go somewhere."
Qiu Yanzhi wanted to go back home and ask his father about He Zhou.
He also needed to talk to Big Yellow, which he couldn’t really do with Ye Mingxu by his side.
Ye Mingxu looked at Qiu Yanzhi's torn skirt. He wanted to say something, but he was interrupted by Qiu Yanzhi: "Take the jacket. I'll go across the street to buy some clothes later. Get in the car first since the driver is waiting. See you tomorrow."
Ye Mingxu sighed and took the clothes, "Alright then, I'll see you tomorrow."
Qiu Yanzhi patted Ye Mingxu on the shoulder. He casually tugged at his collar again as he headed towards the clothing shop across the street.
When he came out of the shop in men's clothes, Qiu Yanzhi felt like a load had been lifted from his shoulders. He immediately threw that dress into a nearby trash bin.
When Big Yellow saw that Qiu Yanzhi seemed to be in a better mood, he flew to him again and spoke carefully, "Can I...talk now?"
Qiu Yanzhi gave it a look. "What are you going to say? That the Reset Card worth $18,888 can easily erase all traces of the previous round, not to mention the memory of one little NPC?”
Big Yellow lowered its head.
Qiu Yanzhi: "Or are you going to say that my meeting with He Zhou was just by chance, that I will never see him a second time? Or that the mainline capture target overriding the existence of the other ones is another clever design choice of your game?”
Big Yellow's head drooped lower and lower, until it was almost buried into the ground by shame.
Qiu Yanzhi: "So can I get a refund for the $18,888 I spent?"
Big Yellow gave a small shake of its head, "Sorry, refunds are not within my jurisdiction."
"Your game is f*cking trash." Qiu Yanzhi cursed.
Big Yellow's face was more red than yellow now. He looked down with the guilty expression of a person sentenced to a thousand years in jail. “Sorry.”
Having cursed enough to vent his anger, Qiu Yanzhi took a deep breath and calmed down. He analysed the current situation. "So right now, I can’t log out of the game and I can’t call for help.”
“I used the Reset Card to go back to the week before He Zhou and I got married, but I also erased everything that happened between us in the process. All the NPCs lost their memories of the last round…”
"Except for He Zhou."
Qiu Yanzhi paused for a moment. "He seems to remember everything, but I don't know how he explained the sudden rewind in the timeline to himself. However, according to the current situation, he shouldn’t be able to guess that he’s in a game, so that part’s safe for now."
"Also, a lot of the bugs in this game are related to He Zhou. Examples include the hourglass exploding and me being unable to log out, not to mention the world turning into a void when I’m not with him. Oh, and the Reset Card having no effect on him.”
Qiu Yanzhi felt more and more angry as he spoke. He kicked a random tree and roared, “F*ck! What’s wrong with He Zhou, isn’t he supposed to be an NPC?! Why do all the problems have to do with him?!?"
Qiu Yanzhi ran a hand through his hair in annoyance. He said in a sullen voice, "Big Yellow, what am I supposed to do now."
Big Yellow said carefully, "First, you must never let He Zhou guess that this world is just a game. Second, You still have to advance the plot with Ye Mingxu. Be careful not to repeat your past mistakes and go OOC in front of him…”
"Finally, if you want to quit the game, you either have to wait and see if the system will eventually fix itself, or you can take initiative and try to--”
"Try to capture Ye Mingxu." Qiu Yanzhi picked up the gist.
Big Yellow nodded.
To be honest, there was no evidence that capturing Ye Mingxu would allow him to log out. It was merely a guess. The reason Qiu Yanzhi said this was because he had no other options.
Qiu Yanzhi recalled a time when he was in middle school, when Little Trash had come up to tell him about a very difficult geometry problem.
Little Trash pointed to the few given pieces of information stated in the question and said to him, "By eliminating all the other possibilities, the only one remaining must be the correct answer.”
Even though he did not know where this path would lead or how difficult it will be, he would have to walk down it if he didn’t want to wait for death.
For only then could he see even a glimmer of hope of leaving this game.
Qiu Yanzhi looked at Big Yellow. "When I proposed this method before, you thought I was bullshitting."
Big Yellow scratched his head in embarrassment. "At that time, anyone would have thought that you were just saying that because you were charmed by Ye Mingxu’s looks.”
Qiu Yanzhi snorted coldly, "Charmed by his looks? Am I that superficial?"
Big Yellow: "Did you forget what you did the first time around because of He Zhou’s beauty? You chose him without any hesitation right after seeing his face. If that’s not superficial then…”
Qiu Yanzhi scratched his head in embarrassment, "I had a reason for doing that..."
Big Yellow: "What reason?"
...Because He Zhou looks just like Little Trash.
Qiu Yanzhi coughed twice and avoided the topic. "Cut the crap, let's go. I need to go ask my dad about He Zhou. You can only fight a hundred battles when you know your enemy.”
Big Yellow was a bit puzzled. "Although He Zhou is difficult to deal with, why aren’t you worried at all about Ye Mingxu? It’s like you don’t have any interest in him…”
At that moment, Qiu Yanzhi received a text message.
It was from Ye Mingxu.
Ye Mingxu asked him when he was going back tomorrow and if he wanted to have breakfast together, adding that he had found a really great breakfast place.
Qiu Yanzhi showed his phone to Big Yellow, his tone careless, "Because he's easy."
Big Yellow looked at Qiu Yanzhi. It blinked and slowly said, "...You're so scummy."
It's just a game. after all.
Qiu Yanzhi shrugged and walked forward without a care in the world.
When Qiu Yanzhi returned home, his father was reading in his study. Qiu Qingcang was tired and ready to rest, but when he saw Qiu Yanzhi return, he was refreshed enough to pull his son into a game of chess.
Qiu Yanzhi had wanted to casually ask his father about He Zhou, but he also knew that he had never discussed business matters with his father before. It would be strange to suddenly ask about one of his business partners.
In this situation, the more he pretended to be casual, the more suspicious he became. So Qiu Yanzhi asked directly, "Dad, do you have a long-term business relationship with a man called He Zhou?"
“En? How do you know He Zhou?"
"...I met him by chance. Has he been out of sorts lately?"
Qiu Qingcang looked up at Qiu Yanzhi, setting down a black piece. "Yes, he has been somewhat out of it."
Qiu Yanzhi looked up at him and blinked, "How so?"
Qiu Qingcang suddenly said after a moment of silence, "Yanyan, are you and He Zhou in a relationship?"
Qiu Yanzhi: "......?"
Qiu Yanzhi jolted and almost flipped the chessboard over.
Dad, no, how the hell did you get to that conclusion??
Qiu Yanzhi dropped the white piece in his hand, unable to continue playing chess calmly. "Dad, what are you talking about? Of course not! I don't know him well at all!"
Qiu Qingcang: "Is that so? He's been visiting me more frequently these days. Moreover, he’s mentioned you before."
"What did he say about me? When did he say that? When was the first time he mentioned me? Was it today?" Qiu Yanzhi asked nervously.
Based on Qiu Yanzhi's reaction, Qiu Qingcang already knew a few things in his heart.
"Nothing much, he just asked why you weren't at home. And it wasn’t today, it was more than a month ago."
A month or so ago, in the middle of August?
According to the timeline of the previous round, He Zhou hadn’t met him yet in the middle of August.
Did that mean the Reset Card brought He Zhou back to a time before they had met?
Qiu Yanzhi laid on his bed, staring at the ceiling in disbelief.
The Reset Card took He Zhou back to a time when they hadn't met yet.
Everything was supposed to be perfect, but no one expected that He Zhou would somehow retain his memories.
Qiu Yanzhi got under the covers, but he tossed and turned, unable to sleep.
Turns out that he was not the only one left with memories of the four months that passed in the last round.
Turns out that He Zhou remembered him. He remembered every single detail.
Turns out that He Zhou had gone back to four months, but instead of trying to avoid Qiu Yanzhi for the rest of his life, he was doing his best to find him.
He Zhou clearly knew that Qiu Yanzhi was the mastermind behind the series of events leading to their forced marriage, but he still attended Qiu Qingcang's birthday party and even drank a lot there.
When it was time to leave the party, he stopped Qiu Qingcang and quietly asked why Qiu Yanzhi hadn't shown up yet.
Qiu Yanzhi laid silently in bed. The light from outside his window shone through the sheer curtains and littered his ceiling with stars.
Qiu Yanzhi blinked and somewhat unconsciously clutched at his chest. For some reason, a faint and shallow pain was emanating from his heart.
"This He Zhou bug is so hard to deal with." Big Yellow let out a long sigh as it flew to Qiu Yanzhi’s side and laid down on his bed as well.
“I guess you’ll have to pretend to not know him. As long as you insist he’s just a stranger, there’s nothing he can do. Maybe he’ll end up explaining it all away as a hallucination or a brainfart, or even something more metaphysical like transmigration. As long as you don’t say anything, he won’t find out that this is a game.”
Qiu Yanzhi didn't say anything.
"Qiu Yanzhi? Are you asleep?" Big Yellow asked.
It took a long time before Big Yellow heard Qiu Yanzhi speak in a very small voice.
"...Big Yellow, I'm so scummy."
Big Yellow turned to see Qiu Yanzhi pick up a pillow and cover his head with it. He remained silent.
Big Yellow found this situation utterly incomprehensible.
You described the sunny, enthusiastic and upright Ye Mingxu as ‘easy’. You pay him the bare minimum of attention and carelessly act like a douche around him. But when it came to the most rational way to strategically deal with the He Zhou bug, you think you’re a scummy person??
...What a strange person, this Qiu Yanzhi.
Qiu Yanzhi had a hard time falling asleep that night. When he woke up the next day the sun was already high in the sky. He still felt very tired.
He yawned and stretched, then slipped on his slippers and went to wash up with his hair like a chicken's nest.
As soon as he pulled open the bathroom door, he froze in place.
He Zhou was standing in the bathroom.
He was wearing a suit, in stark contrast to Qiu Yanzhi, who was dressed in pajamas with a bird's nest on his head.
Qiu Yanzhi was still muddled after waking up. When he saw He Zhou, he completely forgot what their relationship was now. He murmured dazedly, "He Zhou…move aside, I want to wash up."
He Zhou's eyes gradually darkened. He moved aside a step to make way for Qiu Yanzhi.
He turned and watched Qiu Yanzhi walk towards the sink with half-lidded eyes. At the same time, he reached out and closed the bathroom door.
He paused for a moment with his hand on the door handle.
Then his long fingers slowly drifted to the lock.
With a click, He Zhou locked the door.
Qiu Yanzhi sleepily took his toothbrush and squeezed out some toothpaste. But the moment he put the toothbrush in his mouth and the slightly cool mint flavoured toothpaste touched his teeth, Qiu Yanzhi suddenly realized that something was wrong. With a jolt, he looked up at the mirror to see He Zhou standing behind him.
Qiu Yanzhi's heart skipped a beat. The drowsiness that had enveloped him the moment before had all but disappeared.
He Zhou expressionlessly walked towards him, step by step.
Qiu Yanzhi’s heart started to race as he fell into a panic. He took a step back, saying sternly, "What are you doing here?!"
Of course, if we were to ignore Qiu Yanzhi's rather fluffy and messy bedhead, his pajamas with the collar open, and his mismatched slippers, his expression would have been quite convincing.
But his appearance, when paired with that stern expression, just made people want to laugh.
Qiu Yanzhi pointed the toothbrush in his hand like a weapon, his face filled with alarm. “T-this is my house! You, you're trespassing!"
He Zhou did let out a low laugh as he took two more steps forward, "So what are you going to do, shout for help?"
Qiu Yanzhi was forced back step by step, until his back was already against the cold tiled wall with nowhere left to run.
Qiu Yanzhi looked up coldly at He Zhou. "What are you trying to do? This is my home and my parents are here. Don’t act so unrestrained."
"Unrestrained?" He Zhou seemed to laugh lightly. Then his slightly cool fingertips touched the buttons of Qiu Yanzhi's pajamas, "What do you mean by ‘unrestrained’?"
With a gentle flick of his slender white fingers, he unbuttoned Qiu Yanzhi's pajamas. He Zhou looked up at Qiu Yanzhi and asked with what could be sincerity, "Like this?"
Although it wasn't the first time that He Zhou had unbuttoned his shirt, Qiu Yanzhi had always been the one to tease others. This was his first time being teased. Immediately, his entire face flushed red as he began to stutter. “He Zhou, y-you…”
Qiu Yanzhi was still holding his toothbrush. He could only use his other hand to push He Zhou away, but the other person casually shook off his hand.
He Zhou’s voice was very deep. “Don’t move. You buttoned your shirt wrong.”
Qiu Yanzhi looked down and realized that the buttons on his pajamas were all one space off. He Zhou just unbuttoned the first one he got wrong.
...No wonder he felt that the collar was so big today.
Qiu Yanzhi flushed even more. “I can do it myself! I don’t need you to do it!”
Qiu Yanzhi turned so his back was to He Zhou. He tried to fix the buttons, but for some reason, maybe because he was still holding his toothbrush or because he had an audience, he was unsuccessful after a long while. He couldn’t even button the one that He Zhou had opened.
Qiu Yanzhi’s ears were burning.
The next moment, he was held by the shoulder and turned back around.
He Zhou hung his head for a moment, his eyelashes leaving long shadows on his cheeks.
He wordlessly began to patiently unbutton Qiu Yanzhi's clothes one by one and button them up again.
His fingers were long and white as he fiddled with the buttons on Qiu Yanzhi's light blue pajamas. His movements were slow and elegant, like he was decorating artwork.
As Qiu Yanzhi looked at him, his breathing became disturbed.
When there were three buttons left, footsteps suddenly came from outside.
Qiu Yanzhi's heart tightened. He reached out to push He Zhou away.
He Zhou whispered, "I've locked the door."
Qiu Yanzhi let out a sigh of relief.
Yet, in the next second.
The door was pushed open.
In the doorway stood Qiu Qingcang, who was frozen in place, and Zhong Yabai, who walked over.
"Qingcang, hurry up and go inside to wash your hands. There are still guests here! I told you to not touch that--"
Zhong Yabai's words came to a screeching halt.
She looked at Qiu Yanzhi and He Zhou with an incredulous expression.
Qiu Yanzhi: ...Dad, Mom, would you believe me if I said he was just helping me fix my buttons?