Qiu Yanzhi felt lightheaded.
He barely knew when it all started or when it should end.
He Zhou's lips were a little thin but very soft. Being kissed by him was like biting into a marshmallow.
In the end, Qiu Yanzhi didn't even know whether it was He Zhou kissing him or he kissing He Zhou.
Qiu Yanzhi was still a little out of it when He Zhou released him. With slightly glittering eyes, he stared dully at He Zhou and blinked.
He Zhou couldn't resist learning over and giving him another peck on the lips. “Done.”
Qiu Yanzhi: ...Done? So soon?
Qiu Yanzhi finally snapped back to reality. A faint flush spread across his ears. He opened his mouth but didn’t know what to say.
reacted, his ears were faintly hot, but he opened his mouth, not knowing what to say.
He Zhou seemed to notice Qiu Yanzhi's tongue was tied. He reached out to touch the tips of Qiu Yanzhi’s flushed ears and smiled. “Don’t let your mind wander, Qiu Yanzhi. There’s no need to reciprocate either. I just couldn’t hold back. Push me away if you feel uncomfortable.”
After saying that, He Zhou gazed at the sky outside. "It's getting late. Do you want to sleep here tonight or go home?"
"I want to go home." Qiu Yanzhi blurted out.
But then he pursed his lips and looked up at He Zhou, tentatively asking, "To whose home?"
He wasn't going to be dropped like a hot potato back at his flat, right?
If that was the case, he would rather sleep at the hospital instead.
"Mine." He Zhou replied.
Qiu Yanzhi breathed a sigh of relief.
There were still large bloodstains on He Zhou's clothes. Luckily, his jacket was a dark black so no one would notice anything unless they took a close look.
The hardest part was avoiding all the nurses and doctors on the way out.
After all, they had no way of explaining why the Mr. He who just came out of surgery was trying to sneak out of the hospital.
He Zhou's car was still parked in front of that bodyguard company, and there weren't many taxis passing by on the road.
Qiu Yanzhi happily stepped forward when they finally managed to flag one down. However, he dropped the object in his arms as he opened the door. It fell to the floor with a clack. The taxi driver’s face immediately blanched. Then he sped off.
Qiu Yanzhi looked down and realised he had dropped the handgun.
He picked it up and handed it to He Zhou. "You take it."
He Zhou tucked the gun inside his jacket and looked at Qiu Yanzhi. “Were you scared today?”
Qiu Yanzhi nodded.
He Zhou subconsciously reached for Qiu Yanzhi's hand, but he forced his arm back halfway. He put his hand into his pocket. “We’re not far from my house. Let’s walk back.”
He Zhou asked, "Did Bug #3 send you any more texts after I got shot earlier?”
Qiu Yanzhi nodded and took out his phone.
He synced the messages from his old phone and showed them to He Zhou. "Bug #3 isn't an NPC. He’s a player."
He Zhou frowned. "A player?"
He quickly responded after a moment of contemplation, "Is he the player you told me about last time, the one who died in a car accident in this game three years ago?"
Qiu Yanzhi nodded. "En. Turns out he didn’t die back then. He was trapped here like me.”
He Zhou skimmed the texts. "He most likely put a bug on you.”
Qiu Yanzhi: "I've already found it. He put a listening device in my watch.”
"What about your phone? Did you take it apart to check? Not only can hardware surveillance devices be installed on a phone, spyware programs can also be installed."
Qiu Yanzhi pointed at his phone. "I just threw my old phone away. This one’s brand new, it’s just the same model.”
He Zhou smiled and ruffled Qiu Yanzhi's hair. "You’re finally getting smart."
Qiu Yanzhi took He Zhou's hand off his head and said with a straight face, "I’ve always been smart."
"En." Warm amusement coloured He Zhou's tone.
Qiu Yanzhi had grabbed his hand and didn’t seem keen on letting go anytime soon, so He Zhou went with the flow and clasped the other person’s hand more securely. They continued forward.
Qiu Yanzhi didn't struggle or move away. He obediently let He Zhou take his hand as they walked shoulder to shoulder.
When he was almost home, Qiu Yanzhi received an email, a surveillance video from Cheng Yi.
Qiu Yanzhi received an email when they were almost home. It was Cheng Yi with the surveillance footage.
The footage did show a man in a baseball cap push the door open and walk in a minute prior to the incident.
However, he never came out again.
In her email, Cheng Yi apologized for her company’s mismanagement allowing such a serious incident to occur. She also stated how their surveillance might have been tampered with since there’s no sign of that man coming out. For that, she once again apologized.
Still, Cheng Yi was able to tell them everything about that man. She even mentioned how no one could get in contact with him at the moment. It was like he had vanished into thin air.
"He used some cards." Qiu Yanzhi said, "That's why he disappeared and never came out.”
What a familiar tactic.
Qiu Yanzhi thought back to the two hit-and-run drivers who had also vanished afterwards.
If there were no unknown variables in play, those incidents should also be the work of that player.
But why would he do such things?
If he had killed Liu Cheng because he was afraid of the truth being exposed, then why did he orchestrate a car crash for He Zhou in the last round?
And why would he send someone to kill Qiu Yanzhi, a fellow player?
As a player who had been trapped in this game for years, shouldn’t he reach out and try to work together to leave the game when he suddenly discovered another player in the same situation?
Why did this player instead place him under surveillance as well as try to kill him?
Qiu Yanzhi remember the first time he heard Big Yellow mention that a player had gotten into a car accident three years ago and never left the game. At the time, the news sparked hope in his heart. He hoped that this person hadn’t died because then he would have a kindred spirit in the game and they could work together to leave.
He found them now, but he never expected them to be after his life.
They arrived home in the middle of Qiu Yanzhi’s musings. No sooner had he stepped through the door when his phone rang.
It was an employee at the bar calling to tell him that Zhang Yuxuan was drunk again and needed to be picked up.
Qiu Yanzhi felt like him going to the bar to fetch his friend was becoming routine. He hung up and said to He Zhou, “I have to go to the bar. Zhang Yuxuan’s drunk again.”
"I'll go with you." He Zhou said.
He Zhou changed out of his bloodstained clothes and retrieved his car keys. He drove Qiu Yanzhi using a different car to the bar.
Before he went in, Qiu Yanzhi’s first thought was that something must’ve happened to Zhang Yuxuan’s senior. After all, that had always been the reason Zhang Yuxuan went to the bar.
...He never expected it was because of Liu Cheng.
Zhang Yuxuan was so drunk that he could only slump across the table, his face streaked with dried trails of tears. He was a drunk mess, but he still called out Liu Cheng’s name and whimpered how sorry he was.
Qiu Yanzhi walked up to help him up, but Zhang Yuxuan grabbed onto his waist and started nuzzling the area like a giant dog. With red-rimmed eyes and nose, he sobbed, “Liu Cheng… I-I’m sorry. I-I said I would protect you…”
He Zhou frowned. He walked over and pulled them apart.
As He Zhou and Qiu Yanzhi supported Zhang Yuxuan on either side and guided him step by step out of the bar, He Zhou’s footsteps suddenly came to a halt. His eyes narrowed slightly.
He saw Shen Xingwei sitting in the corner of the bar, kissing an unfamiliar woman.
Zhang Yuxuan was now staying at his parents’ house, so Qiu Yanzhi and He Zhou brought him there.
He obviously snuck out to drink without telling anyone.
When the maids there opened the door and saw what a drunken mess he was, they frantically ran over and helped him inside.
Seeing his state, Zhang Yuxuan's father frowned at him with a mixture of disgust and disappointment.
Then he turned to Qiu Yanzhi and He Zhou, rumbling in a deep voice, “You must be exhausted after taking care of this brat the entire way back. Xiao Zhen, come and bring Yuxuan's friends some tea."
Qiu Yanzhi spoke, "Thank you Uncl--"
"Thank you Mr. Zhang, but there's no need. We still have things to do so we’ll be leaving.” He Zhou interrupted Qiu Yanzhi's words.
Qiu Yanzhi glanced at He Zhou before saying to Zhang Desheng, "Goodbye Uncle."
He asked after they left Zhang Desheng's house, "What was that?"
He Zhou turned to look at Qiu Yanzhi. "That bodyguard company today is one of Zhang Desheng's properties."
Qiu Yanzhi: "You’re...suspecting him?"
He Zhou was quiet for a moment. He sighed very softly as he ruffled Qiu Yanzhi's hair. "Because of you, I don't dare to trust anyone right now."
He Zhou opened the car door for Qiu Yanzhi. As Qiu Yanzhi was about to get in, a blue sedan slowly drove by in front of him.
Its windows were open. The youth seated inside looked out with a face covered in bruises. His eyes glared straight at Qiu Yanzhi.
...It was Ye Mingxu.
Only then did Qiu Yanzhi remember that Ye Mingxu lived with his brother in a home not far from Zhang Yuxuan's.
Qiu Yanzhi took out his phone and opened the dormitory group that he had disabled the notifications for a long time ago.
He scrolled for a bit and frowned. "Ye Mingxu actually got into a fight and was disciplined."
He Zhou glanced at him. "Why are you still so concerned about him?"
"No, that’s not it." Qiu Yanzhi said, "I just find it surprising. It seems out of character for him."
Ye Mingxu’s settings said he was supposed to be a warm and sunny junior student. Qiu Yanzhi never expected that one day he would see Ye Mingxu with a face full of bruises, glaring at him coldly.
Qiu Yanzhi’s brows furrowed even more. “Zhang Yuxuan’s acting strange too. I thought he would only get drunk for Jing Zeyu after all the times he got wasted across these two rounds. This is the first time didn't call out Jing Zeyu's name when he’s drunk. I think he’s in love with Liu Cheng, but he’s supposed to be completely infatuated with his senior alone based on his settings.”
He Zhou was silent for a moment. "Shen Xingwei is asexual, but I saw him kissing someone in the bar just now. Additionally, he still has vague impressions of what happened last round. He feels a sense of deja vu when similar events occur.”
Qiu Yanzhi's heart sank. He looked at He Zhou a little nervously. "...Does this mean more and more NPCs are breaking free of their original character settings? Or does it mean they’re becoming bugged?”
A shiver ran through Qiu Yanzhi’s body.
Before he had time to carefully think it over, his thoughts were disrupted by a phone call, it was from Qiu Qingcang.
"Yanyan, did your mother go to your flat?"
"The flat? I'm not at my flat right now. What's wrong?"
"She went to the beauty parlour in the afternoon but she hasn't come back yet. She's not answering her phone either, so I thought she's at your place."
Qiu Yanzhi frowned. "Then I'll go to the flat now."
Qiu Yanzhi and He Zhou soon arrived at his flat. His phone vibrated as soon as he opened the car door. A text message popped up.
[Does your mother know you like to curse people out so much?]