A chill crept up Qiu Yanzhi’s spine. All the hair on his body stood on end as goosebumps prickled across his skin.
Ye Hongyuan had used Qin He’s body to come to the real world. Knowing this made Qiu Yanzhi feel like a blindfold had been ripped from his face. The haze faded away, baring the naked truth before his eyes.
All his questions and queries have now been answered.
It wasn’t that his childhood friend suddenly changed into a real disgusting piece of trash. His body had just been stolen by someone.
And as for how Qiu Yanzhi was able to leave the game back then?
It must’ve been because he killed Ye Hongyuan in-game, triggering the physical control device in his hand, making the game mistakenly think a player had died inside the game which led to an emergency safety feature activating and forcing open an exit from the game.
Thus the blue hole.
Yet there wasn’t just one emergency exit in the game. For example, if a player died in-game or got stuck somewhere, then that rather cliche hole would be useless. In that case, the game had to have another exit, one that allowed players who died in game to immediately log out.
And that was how Ye Hongyuan got out.
Because he took away the player, aka Qin He’s, identity, he was able use Qin He’s body to leave the game.
This would explain why he insisted on only sending He Zhou back into the game, as well as his reluctance to destroy the game’s data.
After all, how could he be sure nothing would happen to him if he did?
He might be occupying Qin He’s body now and living as a human.
But he was still a NPC in the end.
Plus Qin He’s body was by no means a perfect fit for him. How else could He Zhou have been able to accidentally wrest control from him?
It was more than likely that Ye Hongyuan already knew he wouldn’t be able to take full control of Qin He’s body. That’s why he schemed in-game to try and take Qiu Yanzhi’s player identity. He was searching for a more suitable body.
...Then what about Qin He?
If an emergency function that forcefully logged players out was supposed to activate when they have an accident in the game…
Then why didn’t Qin He come out when he got into a car accident in-game?
Was it because...his identity had already been stolen before the function could activate?
Then where was he right now? Ye Hongyuan came out using his body, so what happened to Qin He? Was he trapped in the game? Or…
Qiu Yanzhi involuntarily tightened his grip on the blanket.
He Zhou’s phone suddenly started ringing in his pocket.
He took it out and glanced at the international number on the screen with a frown. In the end, however, he still picked up.
“Mr. He, why did you help me regarding the matter of ‘Virtual Love’?”
It was the leader of the German IT team speaking.
Didn’t he already return to his country?
He Zhou intoned, “I remember choosing to remain anonymous.”
The team leader chuckled. “Mayhaps Mr. He has forgotten my profession.”
That’s right. Even if he chose to remain anonymous, He Zhou couldn’t erase all of his traces. There was no way he could fool one of the world’s greatest technicians.
The team leader glanced at his watch, after which something suddenly occurred to him. His tone was a bit chagrined: "Sorry, I forgot about the time difference. Did I disturb your rest?"
He Zhou: "No worries. I was occupied with other matters.”
The team leader: "Mr. He, feel free to contact me at any time if you require my assistance.”
He Zhou paused for a moment before suddenly saying, “Do you have time to spare at the moment? I would like to rehire you and your team to handle some issues I’ve run into.”
After hanging up, He Zhou found Qiu Yanzhi looking at him with a tilted head. Perhaps it was just the warm yellow light his forehead was bathed in, but the corners of Qiu Yanzhi’s eyes were slightly reddened.
“....You’ll be exposed.” Qiu Yanzhi said.
He Zhou bent down and ruffled Qiu Yanzhi’s hair. “I’ll completely destroy Ye Hongyuan’s data.”
He lightly pressed his forehead to Qiu Yanzhi’s, looking into the other’s eyes as he spoke in a voice as soft as riverbed silt, “If Qin He is trapped in the game, I’ll help you get him back again."
"But you'll be exposed in the process." Qiu Yanzhi repeated, "This is so dangerous."
If He Zhou wanted to thoroughly search every inch of the game, then the technicians would definitely find out that he escaped from it.
After all, every action in-game left traces.
He Zhou was a NPC, and those technicians were humans who create NPCs.
They were naturally on opposing sides.
“I’ll be careful.” He Zhou stood up, his expression one of serene calm.
Looking at him, a profound terror suddenly seized Qiu Yanzhi’s heart.
The more calm He Zhou appeared, the more afraid he became.
...Almost like he was about to lose this person.
“Be good.” He Zhou tousled Qiu Yanzhi’s hair and said, “Rest well tonight. Don’t worry, I’ll have this matter resolved as soon as possible.”
Qiu Yanzhi suddenly reached for the corner of He Zhou’s shirt; his voice dry and hoarse: “...He Zhou, let’s leave it be, okay…? Things are fine as-is… We don’t need to do anything. This is fine… I’ll be with you always even if you never leave Qin He’s body. And if, one day, you manage to leave it, we can run away together. Far, far away to a place where no one can find us… Not Ye Hongyuan or anyone else… Let’s just leave things be, alright...?”
He Zhou: “Then Qin He…”
Without warning, tears started to fall from Qiu Yanzhi’s eyes. “Leave him be… No matter who, let’s leave them be…”
He gazed up at He Zhou with red-rimmed eyes, a slight tremor in his voice, “...You...You’re the only one I need.”
He Zhou froze for a moment. After blinking a few times, his lips curled up into an absolutely radiant smile.
"You saying that is more than enough."
He Zhou reached over to sweep Qiu Yanzhi into his arms. He stroked the other’s soft, dark hair again and again. “But we can’t just run away. Even if it’s not for Qin He, I need to do this so I can remain by your side forever. Ye Hongyuan is a vengeful, shameless person. Before he left the game, he even used the trash can bug to get rid of Liu Cheng, someone who betrayed him. He most likely took care of Jing Zeyu as well; we just don’t know about it. Even if he came to the real world regardless, he tormented you so extensively because you killed him in-game…If we don’t take care of him for good, he will use every means at his disposal to harm us. This isn’t something that we can run away from.”
"Since we now know he’s the root of the problem, as well as the fact that his name was originally Ye Tongfang, we just need to find the code that Ye Tongfang came from and destroy it completely to take care of Ye Hongyuan.” He Zhou paused for a moment, "After dealing with Ye Hongyuan, I’ll make discrete inquiries about the player Qin He. This is for you, but I’ll still take measures to conceal my identity. Even if I’m exposed, I won’t let anyone hurt me.”
He Zhout touched Qiu Yanzhi’s cheek, brushing away some of the moisture there with a fingertip. He smiled a little helplessly before whispering, “Believe in me, okay?”
“...Okay.” Qiu Yanzhi hoarsely replied.
He Zhou pressed Qiu Yanzhi down onto the bed and tucked him in again. “Get a good night’s rest. You’ll need to help me get in contact with Chen Lesi tomorrow and invite him to join the technical team as well.”
Qiu Yanzhi nodded.
"Good night." He Zhou turned off the light.
Then he quietly turned and left.
Qiu Yanzhi blinked in the darkness and turned to look in the direction He Zhou left in. He whispered, “See you tomorrow, He Zhou.”
"See you tomorrow." He Zhou replied softly before closing the door behind him.
It was only when He Zhou walked out of the apartment building that he realized that it had started raining at some point. Frowning slightly, He Zhou adjusted his jacket before striding quickly towards the car.
There he ran into another dilemma.
He drank at the banquet tonight. Not a lot, but enough so that he couldn’t drive.
It almost slipped his mind on the way over until he got in the car. In the end, he found a chauffeur to drive him here.
But now the chauffeur had left, so he needed to find another one.
It was already very late. The ice cold rain pelted people’s faces and made them shiver uncontrollably. He Zhou opened the passenger side door and took a seat, after which he retrieved his phone and opening the app for finding a chauffeur.
The phone screen was too bright at first, almost blindingly so.
A few second after He Zhou recovered, a news article cycled onto his feed.
[A criminal who spent 11 years on the run has turned himself in due to a mountain fire] On March 23rd, a man surrendered himself to the Lifeng county police station in Haichuan city. The man surnamed Zhou said he was a native resident of Haichuan City’s Lifeng County. A truck driver 11 years ago, he hit a sedan during one of his cargo runs due to fatigue, instantly killing the driver of the sedan as well as a couple seated inside. Afterwards, Zhou escaped deep into the mountains and led a solitary life there until March 21st. On that day, without warning, a mountain fire destroyed his home and vegetable fields. Left with no food or options, he was forced to surrender himself at a police station. According to our sources, the couple that unfortunately passed away 11 years ago in the accident was the only daughter of the Shengyuan Group’s founder, He Pingfeng, as well as his son-in-law. For more details, please click: ...
He Zhou froze. He involuntarily clicked on the following link, but the associated web page refused to load no matter how many times he refreshed.
And when he closed the browser, that news article had vanished as well.
As he continued to subconsciously tap the refresh button on screen, a single line from the article he just read filled He Zhou’s mind.
“...According to our sources, the couple that unfortunately passed away 11 years ago in the accident was the only daughter of the Shengyuan Group’s founder, He Pingfeng, as well as his son-in-law.”
There was a buzzing sound in He Zhou’s head that made it almost impossible to think. Something shone a stream of white light directly into his brain, giving him a splitting headache. His phone fell from his hand and slid to a stop on the floor.
He Zhou’s face contorted in pain, his fingers applying tremendous pressure to his temples.
The sound of a strong impact rang by his ears.
A shiver ran down He Zhou’s spine. Sweat dripped down from his forehead, coalescing into beads on his eyelashes.
Yet something other than sweat also fell onto his face.
So much water coated his face that he wasn’t able to see clearly when he opened his eyes again.
He Zhou wiped his face off and opened his eyes again.
Only to find that he had gotten out of the car at some point. He was currently standing out in the open.
The downpour seemed to have quickly intensified.
The multitude of droplets smashing into his cheeks almost seemed to sting.
Dazed and confused, He Zhou looked up just in time to notice the passenger door of the familiar car nearby opening.
A man who looked exactly like him stepped out and circled around to the driver’s seat.
The sight made He Zhou stiffen. Looking down, he found that he was wearing the same suit that he wore when he first came out of the game.
...He came out of the game.
Before He Zhou could think of anything else, the high beams of the nearby car turned on before heading straight for him!
He Zhou's eyes widened, his entire being fixed in place.
Yet his mind kept coming back to the news article he just read.
At the same time, memories of a rainy night, the sound of a blaring horn, blinding light, and the scream of a woman…
It all flooded his mind.
He saw the light source getting closer and closer. The very next moment, he felt an huge, ice-cold, metallic object press against his body. His whole body was pushed back, an intense, numbing pain radiating from his lower back an abdomen.
He felt himself being thrown into the air, before heavily crashing, crashing down.
Fresh blood oozed from his body.
Yet He Zhou could not move a muscle. The last thing his dazed eyes saw was a slightly dim star in the sky.
Another drop of rain smashed into his eyes, forcing him to close them.
When he opened his eyes again.
He could no longer see that star.
The car ran over him again.
Every part of him hurt, like he had been smashed into smithereens.
The black car finally came to a halt.
The driver’s side door was opened.
A tall man stepped out of the car.
Then man turned to glance at the deader than dead body behind him. He cracked his neck, seemingly a bit fatigued.
He twirled the Swiss Army knife he held skillfully about his fingertips before advancing step by step towards Qiu Yanzhi’s apartment.
And the corpse that no one noticed behind him? The entire body soon turned transparent beginning from the fingertips, followed by a slow coating of deep blue. On close inspection, you would see how the deep blue colour was actually made up of densely clustered ones and zeroes.
After a while, those numbers slowly scattered like a cloud of butterflies.
There was nothing left on the ground.