Qiu Yanzhi hailed a taxi to Ye Mingxu's home.
As he looked out the window at the passing scenery, his heart spasmed painfully for some reason. He had a very bad premonition.
Qiu Yanzhi massaged his chest. He thought the air in the car was too stuffy, so he opened the window.
The wind only made him dizzy and even more uncomfortable.
Qiu Yanzhi glanced down at the map and saw that he was only two kilometers from Ye Mingxu's house. He said to the driver, "I'm a bit carsick, so just drop me off here."
After walking for a while, Qiu Yanzhi felt slightly better.
What was that all about? He wasn’t the type to get carsick...
Qiu Yanzhi rubbed his temples, then turned to finally ask the question that had been on his mind for so long. “What do you mean the effects of the Isolation Card depends on the circumstances?”
Big Yellow: "That card is in effect right now. It’s about half way done. When progress reaches 100%, you can check the results.”
Qiu Yanzhi frowned. "Something doesn’t seem right… What could prevent He Zhou from directly bothering me ever again? Did you cause trouble for He Zhou’s company so that he had to go overseas? Did you send him to Africa?”
"Or did you find an underworld gangster and make him threaten to rough up He Zhou if he bothered me again?”
Big Yellow: ...
Big Yellow: "I think you’re letting your imagination get the best of you.”
Qiu Yanzhi sighed, unable to figure out how this Isolation Card worked. What strange method had been used to keep He Zhou from bothering him?
Qiu Yanzhi thought of something and suddenly turned around. "Did that card erase He Zhou's memory?!"
Big Yellow thought for a moment and said, "Maybe."
Qiu Yanzhi opened his mouth, suddenly feeling a little strange inside.
Qiu Yanzhi walked along the road in silence for a long time before speaking again, "Big Yellow, did I go too far by using that card?"
He used that card only because He Zhou had left him no choice by biting and threatening him. Qiu Yanzhi wasn’t quite in his right mind anymore after fleeing to the bathroom because he was so angry, scared and in pain.
Now, after calming down, Qiu Yanzhi realized that he would never see He Zhou again if that card really worked. He should’ve been ecstatic, but for some reason there was no joy in his heart.
“What do you mean ‘go too far’?!" Big Yellow raised his voice, “If that card really erased his memory, the bug would probably be mostly fixed! That’s a good thing, so how is it excessive??”
Big Yellow continued, "In my opinion, you chose the wrong card before. Instead of the Isolation Card, you should’ve chosen the Troublesome Character Vanishing Card. That’s the only way to guarantee a permanent resolution. Sigh, that card’s even $6000 cheaper than the Isolation Card…”
Qiu Yanzhi shot it a look. "Big Yellow, that's murder."
“He Zhou is an NPC, and a bugged one at that. How is taking him out murder? You’re just troubleshooting! Qiu Yanzhi, what’s wrong with you? I never took you for the compassionate type!”
Qiu Yanzhi said coldly, "Then what if I took you as the biggest bug in the game and got rid of you?”
Big Yellow flushed furiously, "I'm not a bug!"
“If you're not a bug, then why did both of the players assigned to you meet with accidents?”
Big Yellow opened its mouth but couldn't say a word. It turned around sadly and stopped talking.
Qiu Yanzhi suddenly noticed a girl passing by. Her eyes were fixated on his neck and her face was red.
Qiu Yanzhi reflexively touched the spot she was staring at. He felt that bite mark on his neck.
He had already turned down his pain sensitivity. Right now, it hurt as much as a mosquito bite.
Qiu Yanzhi lowered his eyes, pulled his collar up, and continued on his way.
"Since He Zhou can't bother you anymore, I’ll go ahead and delete the marks on your neck.” Big Yellow still sounded a bit off due to their recent argument.
“Nah, no need. What if we accidentally run into He Zhou again?”
"There won't be any accidents this time around. The Isolation Card will definitely work."
"Shut up." Qiu Yanzhi said.
But it really was inappropriate to meet Ye Mingxu with this mark on his neck. Qiu Yanzhi walked into a pharmacy and bought some sterile dressing to cover the wound.
Qiu Yanzhi was a little surprised when he reached Ye Mingxu's house.
He didn’t expect the cousin of Yang Fengcheng, the guy who moaned all day about how poor he was, to live in such a prestigious and wealthy neighbourhood.
Coincidentally, the villa of Zhang Yuxuan's parents was also in this area. But Zhang Yuxuan hasn’t been home for a long time.
As soon he thought about Zhang Yuxuan, Qiu Yanzhi remembered that his friend had gone to a hotel to pick up his injured senior last night.
He wondered how he was doing...
"Senior!" Ye Mingxu opened the door and smiled warmly at Qiu Yanzhi.
Ye Mingxu’s capture difficulty was really ridiculously low compared to He Zhou. Due to his cheerful and outgoing personality, he got along with Qiu Yanzhi like they had been long time friends despite only meeting a few days ago.
When he was with He Zhou, Qiu Yanzhi sometimes felt nervous or stressed out.
Qiu Yanzhi and Ye Mingxu went to the supermarket, bought ingredients, and sat down for dinner, chatting all the while.
Qiu Yanzhi learned that Ye Mingxu lived with his brother and sister-in-law on the weekends. He was usually at school during the week.
Qiu Yanzhi glanced around. Apart from the maids who were cleaning the house, there was no one else here. "Are your brother and sister-in-law not at home?"
Ye Mingxu said, "My big brother has gone to work. My sister-in-law is not feeling well and resting upstairs."
“So it was like that.”
Just then, they heard the sound of the door being unlocked. It slammed shut as a tall man walked in.
Qiu Yanzhi froze.
He had seen this man twice in the last round.
Once was at Shen Xingwei's bar, when he saw this man enter a room with an arm around the shoulders of Zhang Yuxuan's senior.
The other was at his wedding, where he heard him and his mistress messing around in a secluded place.
Ye Mingxu exclaimed happily, "Brother, you're back! This is my senior, Qiu Yanzhi. Senior, this is my brother, Ye Hongyuan."
Ye Hongyuan greeted him briefly befor heading upstairs.
Qiu Yanzhi followed him with his eyes. He turned to ask Ye Mingxu, "...When did your brother and your sister-in-law get married, ah?"
Ye Mingxu said, "My sister-in-law met my brother while he was abroad for a business trip. They came back about a week ago and immediately went to get a license. There hasn’t been time for a wedding yet.”
He hesitated for a moment, looked up at Qiu Yanzhi tentatively, "My brother and my sister-in-law are in a same-sex relationship. Are you okay with that?”
Qiu Yanzhi said, "Duh, I’m gay too.”
Ye Mingxu seemed to breathe out a sigh of relief. His eyes lit up with joy.
"What's your sister-in-law's name?" Qiu Yanzhi asked again, undeterred.
Qiu Yanzhi’s last hope had been cleanly extinguished.
Zhang Yuxuan's senior, Jing Zeyu.
To be honest, Qiu Yanzhi had been a little distracted during their meal because he was thinking about He Zhou. He could no longer sit around after this revelation.
He told Ye Mingxu that he had something to do and left.
For some reason, Qiu Yanzhi suddenly felt relieved when he stepped out of Ye Mingxu's house.
...Like he had finally found an excuse to convince himself to leave.
Qiu Yanzhi shook off this strange thought and called Zhang Yuxuan.
Before Zhang Yuxuan could say a word, Qiu Yanzhi heard the chaotic noises in the background. "Zhang Yuxuan, which bar are you at?"
Incredibly enough, it was still Shen Xingwei's bar.
..Is Shen Xingwei's bar the only one in this game?
Qiu Yanzhi sighed and went to pick up his friend.
Apart from Qiu Yanzhi and He Zhou, all the NPC storylines in the game were progressing the same as last round. However, he or He Zhou might’ve caused a butterfly effect with their actions. Now Zhang Yuxuan learned three months ahead of time that his senior liked men and even married one.
Zhang Yuxuan downed one glass after another, as if he wanted to drown himself in alcohol.
Crying and laughing, he told Qiu Yanzhi what happened yesterday.
He took his senior to the hospital’s proctology department.
His senior said that he had gotten into an argument with his husband.
Furious, Zhang Yuxuan wanted to confront that man, but his senior stopped him.
In a calm but cruel tone, his senior said to him, "Zhang Yuxuan, if I had known you would freak out like this, I wouldn’t have asked you to take me to the hospital."
Zhang Yuxuan was so drunk that he slumped on the table and passed out after he finished crying. Qiu Yanzhi couldn’t make him budge no matter how hard he pulled, so he had to call Ye Mingxu for help.
Qiu Yanzhi and Ye Mingxu then got Zhang Yuxuan back home. They were both out of breath.
By the time they got Zhang Yuxuan into bed, they were both sweating profusely.
Zhang Yuxuan was acting strange for a drunk person. He was like a rag doll on the way back, but now he was somewhat coherent in bed. His eyes were half open, and he spoke between sobs.
Zhang Yuxuan called out for his senior, then he called out to Qiu Yanzhi.
Qiu Yanzhi stayed by his side to comfort him.
Zhang Yuxuan then took Qiu Yanzhi's hand and started to cry again.
He said, "Yanyan, my senior doesn't like me at all. I’ve had a crush on him for so many years, way longer than you’ve liked Ye Mingxu…”
Qiu Yanzhi wanted to gag Zhang Yuxuan, but it was too late.
Ye Mingxu stood beside the bed with two bottles of water, looking at Qiu Yanzhi with glittering eyes.
Zhang Yuxuan cried out again in a daze: “Yanyan, you wore women’s clothing for your junior for a day, but I’ve been doing it for my senior for 10 years…”
Ye Mingxu’s eyes were already brighter than the lights above Zhang Yuxuan's head.
Qiu Yanzhi felt like nothing but further embarrassment awaited him here, so he took a bottle from Ye Mingxu’s hands and went to cool off on the balcony.
Ye Mingxu followed him.
His cheeks were flushed. "...Senior, when did you start to like me?"
Qiu Yanzhi took out his cigarette carton and read off his script, "Before you moved into the dormitory."
"Then...the other day, did you wear that dress for me?"
Qiu Yanzhi opened the carton, only to discover it was empty.
"Senior!" Ye Mingxu shouted.
Qiu Yanzhi turned to look at him.
Ye Mingxu's face turned a little redder. His eyes shone brightly. "...I, I like you too."
Qiu Yanzhi did not expect Ye Mingxu to confess so suddenly. He didn’t know what to do for a second.
Ye Mingxu looked at his dumbfounded senior, feeling that this side of Qiu Yanzhi was truly cute. He gathered his courage and leaned in for a kiss.
Qiu Yanzhi blinked. He knew he should close his eyes and accept the youth’s shy show of affection, but he leaned away the moment Ye Mingxu’s lips were about to touch his.
Realizing that his senior had actually dodged, Ye Mingxu looked slightly embarrassed. Even his ears were on fire. He awkwardly apologized, "...Senior, I'm sorry. I was too hasty."
Qiu Yanzhi was a little surprised by his reaction himself.
Even stranger, why did he feel like a stone was pressing down on his chest? Shouldn’t he be happy that his capture progress had reached a milestone?
Qiu Yanzhi pursed his lips, "Let's go back to the dorm."
Ye Mingxu looked down at his watch and hesitated. "Senior, the dormitory’s curfew is at 23:00. It's too late to go back now."
Qiu Yanzhi said, "Then let's sleep at Zhang Yuxuan's house tonight and go back tomorrow. This condo of his has two bedrooms. You can take the second bedroom, I’ll go sleep on the couch.”
"Senior, let me sleep on the couch!"
Qiu Yanzhi didn't argue with him anymore, "Okay, I'll get you a quilt then."
When Qiu Yanzhi laid down on the second bedroom’s bed, Big Yellow didn’t pop out.
Big Yellow had probably left because it saw him and Ye Mingxu getting intimate earlier.
Qiu Yanzhi didn't know what was wrong with him. Instead of thinking about how to completely capture Ye Mingxu, his mind kept wandering back to that Isolation Card.
He summoned the control panel, wanting to ascertain the exact function of that Isolation Card once more.
Qiu Yanzhi had not used the control panel much since Big Yellow was always with him, so he was not used to navigating it.
Looking at the glittering golden words on the card, Qiu Yanzhi frowned.
“This card’s progress is 60% complete. Tap to see the current effects."
What? You can view it now? Didn't Big Yellow say that you could only view the effects when the progress reached 100%?
Qiu Yanzhi tentatively tapped on it.
The control panel suddenly turned into a huge screen. He Zhou's figure was displayed.
Qiu Yanzhi took in the scene shown to him. The white light reflected off his face, making his skin look pale and bloodless.
He saw a truck come crashing in and killing him on the spot.
He saw He Zhou stagger to his side.
He saw He Zhou kneel beside him, kissing his hand and begging him to wake up.
He saw He Zhou holding his body by the side of the road, sobbing wretchedly.
He saw He Zhou kneeling in front of his parents.
He saw He Zhou staggering forward step by step, holding his ashes like a walking corpse.
The final location shown was He Zhou's living room. There was no one home and all the lights were off.
He Zhou sat alone in the corner of the living room in silence.
He was still holding the jar of ashes in his hands. His eyes were staring straight ahead, unfocused.
Qiu Yanzhi’s nose suddenly became stuffy.
His fingers trembled as he closed the control panel. He put on his shoes and prepared to rush out.
At this moment, Big Yellow flew over. "Where are you going?"
"I'm going to see him."
"Qiu Yanzhi, come to your senses!"
Qiu Yanzhi looked at Big Yellow with red-rimmed eyes, "You deliberately lied to me, didn't you? You knew what this Isolation Card would do, but you didn't tell me. You misled me into thinking it would just erase He Zhou’s memories."
“You know very well that He Zhou’s parents died before his eyes in a car accident! He’s still so traumatized after so many years, so how could you make me disappear in front of him in the same way?!"
"Yes, I lied to you, but was I wrong to do so? I just didn't want He Zhou to get in your way. Didn't you also not want to see him ever again? Qiu Yanzhi, don’t you dare forget that you were the one who brought up using cards to get away from He Zhou!”
"But I didn't expect this card to work in such a horrible way!”
Big Yellow fluttered his wings. It came to a stop before him.
"Qiu Yanzhi, listen to me just this once, okay? The Isolation Card is still in effect. Once the progress reaches 100%, he won’t recognize you even if you were right in front of him. You’ll just be a stranger to him. This is the safest way!”
Qiu Yanzhi sneered, "You mean it’s safest when he’s driven insane?”
"I didn't say he'll go insane. He’s just going to be trapped in the illusion of your death. Everything else would be normal--”
“How is that not driving him insane?!”
“Qiu Yanzhi, you can’t go there! The card is still creating the illusion of your death! He can still recognize you now! Have you thought through the consequences?! What will happen when he sees a person who should be dead standing in front of him?? What if the system crashes again?!?”
Qiu Yanzhi grabbed Big Yellow viciously and threw it onto the bed, "F*ck off!"
"Qiu Yanzhi!" Big Yellow suddenly shouted, "Could it be that you like him?!”
The only answer he received was the bedroom door slamming shut.
It was so loud that Ye Mingxu, who was preparing to rest in the living room, froze for a moment.
But Qiu Yanzhi didn't even look at him, he just opened the front door and ran out.
He ran for a long time before he saw a taxi and hailed it. Unfortunately, the car was stuck in traffic soon after. Qiu Yanzhi got off and continued to run in the direction of He Zhou’s house.
The night wind was cold. It felt like chilling knives were grazing his face. He ran so fast that a metallic taste welled up in his throat. His abdomen cramped and ached.
He ran like this all the way to He Zhou's house, where he entered the code and opened He Zhou's door.
The whole house was devoid of light.
A disheveled man sat on the floor in the corner, still motionless and unresponsive after hearing someone come in.
Qiu Yanzhi turned on the brightest light in the room.
He gasped, holding the door frame with one hand and covering his spasming, painful abdomen with the other.
His voice was hoarse.
"...He Zhou, I'm right here."