TW: Violence and its aftermath
A gunshot cut through the air without warning.
Immediately afterwards, a sticky liquid trickled down the back of Qiu Yanzhi’s neck to dye the front of his shirt scarlet.
Qiu Yanzhi froze.
He couldn’t stop trembling as he tried to turn his head. However, Zhong Yabai's head slammed down on his shoulder with a heavy thud a moment later.
"Mom..." Qiu Yanzhi cried out with a shudder.
But Zhong Yabai didn’t reply.
Qiu Yanzhi's legs gave out. He fell to his knees.
As a result, the Zhong Yabai he was carrying also limply fell to the ground.
The gunshot wound on the back of Zhong Yabai’s head leaked fresh blood everywhere. Her eyes were half-lidded. She seemed on the verge of death.
He Zhou raised his handgun and warily scanned the direction the shot had come from.
Qiu Yanzhi looked over as well. As he dragged Zhong Yabai away, he tremblingly called out a reminder to He Zhou, “Let’s go, He Zhou! That guy has a sniper rifle!”
"Get to the hallway." He Zhou ordered sternly.
The person on the other side was already aiming again. The three of them wouldn’t be able to get away.
Even if he couldn't kill them, He Zhou could at least distract them until Qiu Yanzhi made it to the stairwell.
He Zhou quickly crouched behind the electric wheelchair and fired towards the sniper.
However, due to the distance it had to traverse, the bullet pinged off that person’s cover, leaving them unharmed.
He Zhou fired another shot at them to no avail. On the contrary, the sniper’s next shot pierced through He Zhou's right leg.
He Zhou's body trembled. With his right leg unable to support him, he fell to his knees. Despite this, he grit his teeth, raised his pistol and pulled the trigger again.
This time, the sniper’s head finally snapped back. There was no more movement from him.
Intense pain shot up his right leg, almost enough to paralyze He Zhou. He wanted nothing more than to collapse to the ground right now.
But He Zhou forced himself to drag his wounded leg behind him over to Qiu Yanzhi's side.
Qiu Yanzhi listened to He Zhou and dragged Zhong Yabai to the stairwell during his fight with the sniper.
Zhong Yabai laid in Qiu Yanzhi's arms. Her eyelids struggled to open. Her lips moved ever so slightly as she faintly whispered, “Good boy. You have...you have to be good…”
Qiu Yanzhi held her hand. Tears flowed down his cheeks. "Mom, it's...you’re going to be okay. I'll save you, I'll save your--"
Qiu Yanzhi turned his head and called out to Big Yellow in a shuddering voice, “Big Yellow, get a Healing…”
But Zhong Yabai’s hand dropped to the floor before he could even finish his sentence. She wasn’t breathing anymore.
Qiu Yanzhi froze.
Big Yellow quietly stated, "...The character Zhong Yabai is dead. You can’t use a Healing Card anymore.”
Qiu Yanzhi's lips quivered. His face was bloodless.
His eyes listlessly turned to He Zhou. His mouth opened to say something before he suddenly noticed how pale He Zhou was and the large bloodstain on his thigh.
He Zhou was also wounded.
Zhong Yabai and He Zhou's blood stained the floor scarlet. Qiu Yanzhi sat in the middle of it all. His clothes were already half soaked through with fresh blood. There was a lump in his throat.
He gently brushed Zhong Yabai’s hair back from her temples. Then he wiped away the blood splattered across her cheeks.
Finally, Qiu Yanzhi turned around and used both hands to put pressure on the bloody hole in He Zhou’s thigh. He said softly, “He Zhou, wait for me a bit. I’ll use a Reset Card to bring my mom back and heal your wound too.”
He Zhou closed his eyes and nodded very slowly.
Qiu Yanzhi: "Buy the Reset Card."
After the Reset Card was successfully purchased, the five cards representing the capture targets appeared once more before him.
Qiu Yanzhi looked at He Zhou. "He Zhou, I have to choose another capture target. There’s a singer, a painter, a school idol, Ye Mingxu and you. Which one should I choose?"
After a pause, He Zhou replied, "Whichever one you like."
"Then I'll choose you." After Qiu Yanzhi said that, he tapped He Zhou's card.
"What if He Zhou bugs out again like in the first round?" Big Yellow sounded anxious.
"Then I'll just buy another Reset Card." Qiu Yanzhi closed his eyes, a little weary. "I'm so tired. I don't want to fool around with the other four anymore."
A mechanical voice broadcasted the reset progress in his head.
Qiu Yanzhi reached out and took He Zhou's hand. "He Zhou, does your leg hurt a lot?"
He Zhou: "Kind of."
"Bear with it just a little while longer, okay? Everything will be fine soon. There’s still..." Qiu Yanzhi listened to that voice and said, "...64% to go."
"En." He Zhou closed his eyes and tightened his grip on Qiu Yanzhi's hand.
65%... 70%... 99%...
The reset was complete.
That familiar white light enveloped everything.
By the time Qiu Yanzhi opened his eyes...
He was back at his parents' house, in his own room.
There was no white void bug.
Qiu Yanzhi was still wearing the same blood-stained clothes as before.
Before anything else, the first thing he did was opening the door to his room, poking his head out, and calling for his mom.
She didn't answer.
Instead, Qiu Qingcang walked past him with a cup of tea. "What are you shouting for? Your mother’s still sleeping."
Qiu Yanzhi changed out of his bloodied clothes and went to his mother's bedroom.
He knocked lightly on the door.
A voice brimming with warmth came from inside: "Come in."
Qiu Yanzhi pushed the door open. Sitting on the bed, Zhong Yabai rubbed her head. It seemed like she had just woken up.
Qiu Yanzhi walked over and suddenly embraced Zhong Yabai.
Zhong Yabai froze. "Yanyan, what's wrong?"
Qiu Yanzhi shook his head and hugged Zhong Yabai even tighter. There was an almost imperceptible tremor in his voice. "Nothing. I just want to hug you."
Zhong Yabai smiled and patted Qiu Yanzhi's back. "Mom seemed to have a nightmare just now. It made me restless, but Yanyan’s hug was the perfect remedy.”
"What kind of nightmare?"
Zhong Yabai shook her head. "I don't remember."
Qiu Yanzhi came out of Zhong Yabai's bedroom and dialed He Zhou’s number.
His phone, which was in his pocket before the reset, came back with him. He directly dialed his emergency contact, who happened to be He Zhou.
Still, Qiu Yanzhi would’ve been fine even if his phone didn’t come back with him. There’s no way he’d forget He Zhou’s number.
But there was no answer from the other side.
Qiu Yanzhi frowned. He headed for He Zhou’s house with phone and car keys in hand.
He tried again and again to get in touch with He Zhou along the way, but he was unable to.
Qiu Yanzhi was a little uneasy.
But then he quickly reassured himself that everything was fine.
Even if the Reset Card hadn't worked on He Zhou last time, his memories were the only things preserved. Every other aspect of him returned to the state they had been four months ago.
That has to be what happened this time too.
Qiu Yanzhi quickly arrived at He Zhou's house, where he entered the code and opened the front door.
The maid who was mopping the floor froze when she saw Qiu Yanzhi.
Qiu Yanzhi asked him, "Is He Zhou home?"
The maid: "Mr. He is resting upstairs, but you are?"
Qiu Yanzhi immediately headed for the stairs after hearing the first part.
The maid stopped him. "May I ask who you are? Mr. He isn’t one to allow just anyone to visit him.”
Qiu Yanzhi: "I’m actually very close with He Zhou. Didn’t you see me come in by entering the passcode just now?”
The maid still didn’t seem convinced, but at least she moved out of his way. “...Then go up if you want.”
Qiu Yanzhi flew up the stairs three steps at a time. He rushed to He Zhou’s room.
He Zhou laid on the bed like he was asleep, bundled snugly in a blanket.
"He Zhou." Qiu Yanzhi called out.
But He Zhou didn't wake up.
So Qiu Yanzhi approached He Zhou step by step.
Only when he reached the side of the bed did Qiu Yanzhi realize something was wrong here. He Zhou’s face, even his lips, were bloodless.
Wait, this outfit of his...
Qiu Yanzhi’s pupils constricted sharply. He immediately ripped off the blanket covering He Zhou.
Vast amounts of fresh blood soaked through the bedsheets beneath He Zhou’s lower half, dying them a sickening shade of scarlet. The source, that appallingly bloody hole, was still present on his right leg. It gushed blood with no signs of stopping anytime soon, making a mess of most of He Zhou’s clothes.
He Zhou was clearly unconscious and in critical condition.
Qiu Yanzhi's heart trembled in place for a beat.
Then he frantically scrambled to buy another NPC Healing Card.
"Please enter the name of the NPC that needs to be healed."
“Healing failed. Please try again.”
Cold sweat erupted across Qiu Yanzhi’s palms. He was about to shout He Zhou’s name again when he realized something.
This was an NPC Healing Card, but He Zhou was now the main character.
So that’s the problem.
Qiu Yanzhi breathed a sigh of relief.
Thank goodness purchased cards can be refunded if not used within an hour.
Qiu Yanzhi returned that card and paid double the price for a Main Character Healing Card.
But when he entered He Zhou's name, it still said, "Healing failed, please try again".
…Just like it did the last time he tried to use one.
Qiu Yanzhi grew more and more uneasy.
He licked his lips nervously before accessing the control panel and entering He Zhou’s name manually exactly like he had last time.
“Healing failed. Please try again.”
Qiu Yanzhi's finger trembled. Sweat trickled down his forehead as he glanced at He Zhou, whose breathing was growing weaker.
He entered He Zhou's name for the third time with no success.
Gritting his teeth, Qiu Yanzhi persisted in his efforts.
After the fifth time he entered He Zhou’s name, an icy cold voice came from midair:
“The selected character does not fulfill healing requirements. The Healing Card cannot be used. Please select another character to heal.”
The last ember of hope in Qiu Yanzhi's heart went out.
He didn’t have time to try again. Looking at He Zhou’s worsening condition, Qiu Yanzhi decided to return the card. Then he turned so his back was facing He Zhou and put both of the man’s arms around his neck. Qiu Yanzhi got He Zhou onto his back and stumbled his way downstairs.
The maid froze at the blood dripping onto the floor. Then her eyes trailed up to its source, the injury on He Zhou’s leg. She paled and asked frantically, “When did Mr. He get hurt? Where is he hurt? What happened?"
"Help me open the door." Qiu Yanzhi said.
The maid immediately opened the door and followed Qiu Yanzhi out. She also harriedly opened the car door with him when Qiu Yanzhi brought He Zhou to the car.
Qiu Yanzhi put He Zhou on the passenger seat and fastened his seat belt for him. Then he started the engine and drove as fast as he could to the nearest hospital.
He Zhou's current operation was longer than any of his past ones.
However, Qiu Yanzhi was also the calmest he had ever been.
Before, he had his cards as a safety net, a sure way to bring He Zhou back even if the surgery failed.
But this time, his cards had failed to work on He Zhou.
There was nothing he could do but wait for the operation to be over.
Qiu Yanzhi stood outside the operating theatre. He didn’t step between the tiles and count them like before, nor did he walk over to take a seat on the nearby chair.
He felt like all the strength had been sapped from his body, so much so that he could no longer move a single inch.
All he could do was stand in place.
Outside, the sun gradually shifted in the sky. Clouds gathered and dispersed. The sunlight waxed and waned in strength. People continued to pass by.
And Qiu Yanzhi just stood there, staring at the door of the operating theatre, as silent and rigid as a statue.
Some time after he had lost track, the doors finally opened.
Qiu Yanzhi tried to go over to the doctor to ask how the surgery went, but the long hours he spent standing had rendered his legs numb. His very first step sent him tumbling to the floor.
Undeterred, he scrambled back to his feet and limped over to the doctor.
Hearing his question, the doctor was silent for a moment.
"We got the bullet out, but I'm sorry to say that it pierced through and broke the patient's bones. He might never be able to stand again.”
"If his condition continues to worsen in the coming days, amputation may be required. Please prepare yourself for that possibility.”
Qiu Yanzhi froze. He felt like he had been dipped into an ice-covered lake. Flecks of ice relentlessly drilled into his heart and tore it to shreds. His limbs were impossibly heavy and his body stiff. He didn’t even know if he was cold or in pain.