Cold dread flooded Qiu Yanzhi’s heart. He quickly sent a reply. "What are you trying to do?"
But no matter how long he waited, no reply came.
So Qiu Yanzhi dialed that number back.
His throat was dry and his hands were trembling slightly.
But that person hung up on him.
Then a message arrived.
[Are you panicking?]
Qiu Yanzhi: "My mother is with you, right?"
[I must confess I’m a bit confused. This is just a game, that’s all. Zhong Yabai may be your mother, but she could be the mother of any other player as well. Why are you treating this game with such sincerity?”
Qiu Yanzhi took a deep breath and typed: "I don't want to hear any of your nonsense. What do you want?"
[Zhonglin Street’s Shengming Building. I’ll wait twenty minutes for you.]
He Zhou pursed his lips. He pulled Qiu Yanzhi back. "I'll take you there."
Qiu Yanzhi's hands were still trembling slightly after he got in the car. He couldn’t even buckle his seatbelt several times in a row. He Zhou reached over and fastened it for him. He rumbled, “Don’t panic, Qiu Yanzhi.”
Qiu Yanzhi took in a deep, trembling breath. “...I’m not panicking.”
He’s a player with a lot of cards at his disposal.
So nothing bad would happen.
He’s about to come face to face with that person soon, so he should stay calm.
The Shengming Building had already been abandoned. Bathed in the dim yellow light of the roadway, the entire building seemed especially decrepit and eerie.
There were no lights on in the building. The only illumination came from the streetlights outside, but it was still quite dim inside. Trash and debris littered the ground. Lots of crackling and squeaks ensued as Qiu Yanzhi and He Zhou made their way across the room.
However, such a place that couldn’t be more rundown actually had a very clean glass elevator that someone seemed to have recently installed. The glass was clean and transparent, and there were even lights on inside.
There was a security camera too.
The doors of the glass elevator were wide open, as if welcoming Qiu Yanzhi.
"Let's take the stairs." He Zhou intoned.
[Get in the elevator. Only you.]
A new message arrived.
Qiu Yanzhi glanced at the security camera in the elevator. Then he let go of He Zhou’s hand and said, “Don’t worry. I'll be fine."
The elevator seemed like it was deliberately designed with him in mind. There was not a single button in sight.
However, when Qiu Yanzhi walked inside, the doors swiftly closed as the elevator started its gradual ascent.
It carried Qiu Yanzhi straight to the rooftop before coming to a stop.
Yet the doors remained shut.
Qiu Yanzhi turned around. Cold sweat immediately broke out on his back.
The entirely glass design allowed Qiu Yanzhi to see the entire roof of the building.
He saw Zhong Yabai facing him. She was bound to an electric wheelchair with her hair slightly in disarray and a rag stuffed in her mouth. The moment she noticed him, she shook her head, her face covered in tears.
And behind her--
--Was the edge of the rooftop where the railing had been removed.
Qiu Yanzhi immediately started to try and pry the elevator doors apart, but the electric wheelchair Zhong Yabai was secured to began to move simultaneously towards the building’s edge.
Qiu Yanzhi's heart seemed to stop beating as he threw his hands up and frantically shouted, “Stop! Stop right now!”
The electric wheelchair finally came to a halt.
Zhong Yabai was now only a few dozen metres away from the edge.
Qiu Yanzhi clenched his fists and glared straight into the security camera. “If you’re going to use my mother to threaten me, you should at least tell me what you want from me.”
Another text arrived.
[Since you treat this game with such sincerity, why not choose to remain here forever?]
Qiu Yanzhi frowned. "Whether I leave or stay is none of your business.”
[Of course you can choose to leave. But when you do, your family and friends, including He Zhou, will all be in agony, a fate worse than death.]
“But I’m not planning on leaving at all right now. You don’t have to be in such a hurry.” Qiu Yanzhi frowned as he sensed something off. “Your words...could it be? Do you know a way to leave?”
[No, I don’t.]
Qiu Yanzhi: "Since you’re a player trapped here too, shouldn’t you want to leave with me? Why are you trying to stop me from leaving?”
[I like it here. I don’t want to see this place destroyed.]
Qiu Yanzhi snorted. “You like it here, huh. You used a random NPC to cause accidents, and then you murdered them in cold blood. Sure could’ve fooled me.”
[I'm keeping this place in order.]
Qiu Yanzhi: "Don't talk so fucking high and mighty. You're just doing it to satisfy your selfish desires."
It took a long time for the next message to arrive.
[Seems you still want to leave the game.]
As soon as this message appeared, Zhong Yabai’s wheelchair started inching forward again.
Qiu Yanzhi lost his composure. He blurted out, “Stop! Stop!! Fine, I promise that I won’t leave. I won’t leave, alright?!”
The wheelchair stopped.
Qiu Yanzhi turned back at the camera. "Can I ask you something? Why are you so insistent on keeping me here? You can keep liking this place even if I leave, right?”
[Your departure will expose the existence of this game world.]
Qiu Yanzhi: "I promise not to tell anyone."
[I don't trust you.]
Qiu Yanzhi was silent for a moment.
Then he looked at Zhong Yabai, who was in the wheelchair.
He decided to promise for now. Zhong Yabai’s safety was his top priority, and it wasn’t like he could leave right now anyway.
So he looked at the camera again and said, “Fine. I won’t leave.”
[Open the control panel.]
Qiu Yanzhi didn't know what this person was up to, but he still grit his teeth and did as he was told.
[Select the Modify Personal Identification and Facial Recognition function.]
Qiu Yanzhi's hand paused.
This function was for players who had plastic surgery.
After activation, it would use fingerprint and voice recognition to bind the original identity’s information to another face.
This function could only be used once.
If he listened to that person and activated this function...
There was a high chance that he would lose his player privileges.
Not only would he be trapped here forever, he might never be able to use any cards ever again.
Qiu Yanzhi pursed his lips. He shut down the control panel and looked up at the camera. "This deal of yours isn’t fair."
[Do you think you’re still in a position to bargain with me?]
Qiu Yanzhi: "All you said earlier was that I had to stay here. You never mentioned stripping me of my status as a player.”
[If I don’t do that, how can I be sure you won't leave?]
Qiu Yanzhi frowned and stopped responding.
[Have you thought things through yet?]
Qiu Yanzhi: "...I refuse."
[So you chose to forsake your mother after all. In the end, this really is just a game to you.]
With that, Zhong Yabai's wheelchair resumed its journey.
Trembling uncontrollably, she looked at Qiu Yanzhi. The twine ropes left extremely deep marks on the smooth skin of her neck. Tears rolled down her cheeks to her chin, but she still summoned all her remaining strength to shake her head at Qiu Yanzhi with a smile.
Qiu Yanzhi was clenching his fist so hard they shook. He stared at Zhong Yabai, but he couldn’t give that person the answer he wanted.
If Zhong Yabai died in front of him, he could still use cards to revive her.
Surrendering his player privileges was like becoming a lamb to the slaughter.
But even if he understood this was the most logical course of action…
The sight of Zhong Yabai gradually approaching the edge of the roof still made his chest tighten.
His birth mother had jumped to her death in front of him.
His dearest mother was now going to die in the same way in front of him.
Qiu Yanzhi felt like his heart had been completely eviscerated by steel needles. Every breath he took sent a twinge of pain though him.
It was at that moment a gunshot was heard.
Qiu Yanzhi jolted and turned…
...Only to see that the lock on the wooden door leading into the staircase had been shot out. The door was violently shoved open. He Zhou's figure soon appeared.
Qiu Yanzhi felt his heart begin to beat particularly loud.
He Zhou obviously saw Zhong Yabai being carried forward by the wheelchair.
She drew closer and closer to the edge. Only three or four metres remained before He Zhou ran over and quickly stopped the wheelchair.
The wheelchair was stopped.
Qiu Yanzhi's heartbeat finally began to settle down. With a hand on the glass door, he slowly crouched down as what just almost happened caught up with him.
He Zhou turned towards Qiu Yanzhi. "Qiu Yanzhi, cover your ears and keep your head down."
Qiu Yanzhi did as he was told.
The next second, there was another gunshot.
Qiu Yanzhi's entire body trembled as the glass doors before him completely shattered.
By the time Qiu Yanzhi came out of the elevator, He Zhou had untied Zhong Yabai.
Qiu Yanzhi stumbled towards Zhong Yabai, wiping the tears from her face and whispering, "...I'm sorry."
Zhong Yabai held Qiu Yanzhi and smiled tiredly at him. “Yanyan, let’s go home.”
Zhong Yabai was stiff and sore all over. She almost collapsed when she tried to stand.
Qiu Yanzhi and He Zhou steadied her together. Qiu Yanzhi turned around and brought Zhong Yabai onto his back.
Zhong Yabai's arm weakly wrapped around Qiu Yanzhi's neck.
He murmured hoarsely to her, “It’s okay now, Mom. We’ll be home soon.”
Zhong Yabai rested her head against Qiu Yanzhi's body.
A gunshot cut through the air without warning.