Qiu Yanzhi felt that there might be something wrong with Mr. He.
He ate nothing but rice at lunch.
Mr. He didn't eat any vegetables, he just picked up rice grains with his chopsticks and stared off into space.
He picked up two rice grains, sighed, and ate them.
Then he picked up two more rice grains, sighed again, and ate them.
Then two more...
"He Zhou," Qiu Yanzhi kicked He Zhou in the calf under the table, "what are you doing?"
He Zhou put down his chopsticks, looked up at Qiu Yanzhi, and sighed quietly.
"I was just thinking about how the secret love and experiences a person carves into their bones could amount to nothing more than a grain of rice on someone else's shirt."
Qiu Yanzhi: "..."
He Zhou set down his chopsticks and shook his head. "A rice grain is fine, at least it's something that can be eaten. But trash...? Sigh. It's just so sad."
Qiu Yanzhi: "..."
“All this boy in his teens did was secretly go see his sweetheart and collect some photos of them. He took just one picture, which was just of his sweetheart sleeping in the classroom. How could you label him a pervert based on that? Sigh. Isn't pervert too heavy a word to use?"
Qiu Yanzhi recalled what he had once said.
"Once a pervert, always a pervert."
“He Zhou, even if Qin He’s standing right in front of me, I wouldn’t give him a second look! In my heart, Qin He’s nothing more than a piece of trash! He doesn’t mean a thing to me!”
Qiu Yanzhi: "..."
...But didn't he say those things at the time.
Because he was afraid He Zhou would eat vinegar?
How was he supposed to know that He Zhou was Qin He?!
Qiu Yanzhi silently picked up a piece of meat using his chopsticks and put it in He Zhou's bowl.
"Um..." Qiu Yanzhi quietly explained, "Don't take all those things I said then to heart, ah. I was talking nonsense."
"Nonsense?" He Zhou turned to look at Qiu Yanzhi.
"That's right, that's right." Qiu Yanzhi frantically nodded. "I said those things because I was afraid you'll misunderstand. You were actually a very important person to me growing up. Otherwise, I wouldn't have picked you, who looked so much like you as a child, the moment I started playing the game, right..."
"Oh." He Zhou's expression became very cold, "So you were thinking of Qin He all along then, huh? And you deliberately lied and said you didn't, huh? Hmph, you liar!"
Qiu Yanzhi: "..."
He Zhou sneered: "Heh, I might've been fooled by you again if I wasn't Qin He!"
Qiu Yanzhi couldn't take it anymore. He slammed his chopsticks on the table and said through gritted teeth, "He Zhou, are you fucking done?!"
The haughty Mr. He immediately became as well-behaved as can be.
He sat straight in his chair and graciously filled Qiu Yanzhi's bowl with Qiu Yanzhi's favourite dishes. "Let's not talk about it anymore. It's time to eat..."
At night, when it was time for bed, Qiu Yanzhi put on his pajamas after taking a bath and burrowed under He Zhou's blanket. He looked up at the man and whispered, "He Zhou, are you still angry?"
He Zhou put down the book in his hand and held Qiu Yanzhi in his arms. He looked down and asked him, "Why would I be angry?"
Qiu Yanzhi looked down and touched He Zhou's hand, toying with his fingers before saying, "You know, about the things at noon."
Qiu Yanzhi paused, then looked up at He Zhou and said seriously: "I know you may be confused and want to know just who I like, but even I can't tell.""I used to be able to confidently say that Qin He exists only in my past and that I only liked you. Even if you and Qin He appeared at the same time, I would've chosen you."
"But now that I know you two are actually one person, even I get confused at times."
He Zhou was taken aback. "Have you been thinking about this all afternoon?"
Qiu Yanzhi blinked and said, "Yeah, because I have to think things through to give you a definitive answer, ah. Otherwise you'll be sad."
He Zhou ruffled Qiu Yanzhi's hair. He didn't know whether to laugh or cry, "Qiu Yanzhi, did you really think I wanted an answer? I just wanted to tease you.”
Qiu Yanzhi was stunned.
He Zhou touched his nose and said with some embarrassment, "I was going through the gameplay plan before lunch and there was a plotline somewhat similar to what happened with us. Then I suddenly remembered how you denounced Qin He in front of me. I just wanted to see how you would react if I brought it up again..."
"He! Zhou!" Qiu Yanzhi grit his teeth and glared at the man. "Don't you know that I spent the entire afternoon doing nothing but thinking about how to answer you?! Now you're saying you were just teasing me?!"
"I'm sorry." He Zhou apologized quietly before taking Qiu Zhi's hand and kissing it. "Thank you for caring about me so much that you tried to find an answer for me."
Qiu Yanzhi's anger deflated like a leaky balloon.
He looked at He Zhou before asking, "So you aren't feeling the least bit conflicted now?"
"I was conflicted when I first regained my memory." He Zhou said, "At the time, I was torn between feeling jealous of how deep a connection you shared with Qin He as a child and feeling upset over how He Zhou managed in a few months to end up with the person little Qin He pined after for years."
He Zhou paused. "But now I know that conflict was because I didn't treat Qin He and He Zhou as one person yet. But we are, indeed, one person.""The only difference is that one is my past and the other is my present. If you like the present me more but still feel connected the past me, that means you like me twice over.'
Qiu Yanzhi nodded blankly, feeling like He Zhou made a lot of sense.
He Zhou smiled softly, his dark eyes seemed to encapsulate entire galaxies.
"So, Mr. Qiu, who likes He Zhou twice over, would you like to marry me and become my only partner in this life?"
Qiu Yanzhi was stunned.
A second later, he saw He Zhou take out a box from nowhere which contained two pain men's rings within.
Qiu Yanzhi's nose suddenly became stuffy. He looked up at He Zhou. "This is such a sloppy proposal.”
He Zhou froze for a moment. "Actually, I did have other plans in mind like using 9999 roses or a hot air balloon to propose or doing it on a cruise ship...but I was afraid you'd call me tacky."
Qiu Yanzhi: "Actually, tacky isn't bad."
He Zhou declared seriously, "Then next time I'll..."
Qiu Yanzhi frantically stopped He Zhou when he was about to take the rings back. He put one on He Zhou's finger before gesturing for He Zhou to put the other one on for him too.
"But I like this very much too." Qiu Yanzhi said.
Qiu Yanzhi looked down at the ring on his hand. The more he looked at it the more he liked it. The corners of his lips turned up involuntarily. He raised his head and said to He Zhou, "He Zhou, this isn't the game, but the real world. You know that same sex marriages aren't allowed in our country, right?"
"I know.” He Zhou said, "But marriage is a contractual relationship willingly established by both parties on the basis of equality. The state is just the entity that grants legal benefits for marriage, but the contractual relationship in itself really only requires you and me."
He Zhou paused. "Qiu Yanzhi, are you willing to establish such a contractual relationship with me?"
Qiu Yanzhi closed his eyes and kissed He Zhou.
He said, "Yes, I am."
The next day, He Zhou dragged Qiu Yanzhi back to his old house to see his guardian.
Qiu Yanzhi didn't really want to go.
Mainly because he was too embarrassed to face He Xiaoqing.
He could still see her previous expression of mental breakdown as clear as day.
It was just too embarrassing.
But even so, he was dragged to the manor by He Zhou.
Perhaps because He Zhou notified in advance, but Mr. He Sr. was fairly calm about the matter of his heir marrying a man.
He even gave Qiu Yanzhi shares in the company as a monetary gift.
"He has a guilty conscience." He Zhou whispered in Qiu Yanzhi's ear. "If he hadn't gotten involved back then and deliberately given you information about your biological father, we might not have been separated for so many years."
Mr. He Sr. looked rather surprised at the uncharacteristically quiet He Xiaoqing.
He Xiaoqing had one leg crossed over the other. Her expression was indifferent like she had known for a long time.
However, once He Zhou took Qiu Yanzhi upstairs, they heard He Xiaoqing scream for a while before calling all her friends.
He Xiaoqing excitedly told them how awesome her brother was, fighting off his rival in love right after waking up from a coma and hooking up with his cherished white moonlight too.
... He Xiaoqing always thought that there was a tragic cannon fodder predecessor that came between He Zhou and Qiu Yanzhi, and her dear brother took said cannon fodder out through some underhanded means.
He Zhou took out a jade bracelet from a box upstairs.
He Zhou said this was from his mother and he was giving it to Qiu Yanzhi.
Ten years ago, he brought up using this jade bracelet to exchange for the jade pendant around Qiu Yanzhi's neck.
Xia Yuan didn't take up his offer at the time.
Ten years later, Qiu Yanzhi gave the jade pendant on his neck to He Zhou in the end, and carefully accepted the jade bracelet in return.
He Zhou showed Qiu Yanzhi where he used to live.
He pointed to the small window in the room and said with a smile.
"At the time, Grandpa said he was going to pick you up from the orphanage, so I camped out by this window. My hands were sweating, but it wasn't you who came back, it was He Xiaoqing."
"I had probably already been picked up by Qin Hongsheng." Qiu Yanzhi leaned on the windowsill and looked out. "But if I really had been taken back here by your grandpa then, we would've been brothers. So I would have to call you..."
Qiu Yanzhi turned to look at He Zhou with quirked lips and eyes twinkling with humour. He lightly called out:
He Zhou's heart immediately skipped a beat.
That day, He Zhou forced Qiu Yanzhi to call him big brother all night.
They also had a wedding later.
The very tacky kind.
With 9999 roses.
Plus a cruise ship, fireworks, and hot air balloons...
When the fireworks were blooming in the sky and people's ears were filled with the sound of explosions, He Zhou only heard his lover press his lips to his ears and say:
"He Zhou, I really like you, ah."
The gift Qiu Yanzhi gave He Zhou after the wedding was Jiujiu, the kitten from the grass that they had saved and He Zhou wanted to raise but gave up on.
And the gift He Zhou gave Qiu Yanzhi was 'Devour Dream'.
He spent an incredible amount of money and manpower to fix the bugs in Dream Eater, like the cherry falling on a schedule bug, the trash can erasing NPCs bug and, of course, the bug preventing players from logging out.
In addition, the technical team also altered the game in a way that didn't affect the existing game system.
They changed it into an open world game that could have two players enter at once.
"Oh, right." Chen Lesi said, "There seemed to be a string of violent incidents in the game due to the trash can bug. It seems like criminals were starting to kill people by abusing the bug. That's why we reset the progress of the world again after fixing everything."
Qiu Yanzhi nodded before taking a deep breath. Somewhat excited, he laid down with He Zhou in the duo game pod.
As the game's logo faded away, Qiu Yanzhi was able to see the environment he was in.
It was his room at home.
At the same time, the familiar notification sound rang.
"Welcome to the Devour Dream game. We hope that you will be able to have an entirely new game experience unlike anything else here. At your service in this game will be the non-living, auxiliary AI Big Yellow."
Qiu Yanzhi was taken aback by the familiar name. He looked around but didn't see any sign of Big Yellow.
Qiu Yanzhi didn't forget Chen Lesi's instructions before entering the game. He opened the game panel, tried other functions a bit, and tried to log out as well.
Qiu Yanzhi and He Zhou both tested the function several times before they could truly relax.
Qiu Yanzhi glanced around this familiar room that he hadn't see for so long. He touched everything from the cabinets to the bed before opening the door.
"Mom." Qiu Yanzhi called out.
Qiu Qingcang walked past him with a cup of tea. "What are you shouting for? Your mother’s still sleeping."
Qiu Yanzhi hadn't seen Qiu Qingcang in so long.
Looking at Qiu Qingcang's familiar face, Qiu Yanzhi's nose inexplicably became a bit stuffy. "Dad, do you want to play a game of chess?"
Qiu Qingcang agreed right away, but he frowned. "Yanyan, why are your eyes so red? Who bullied you?"
...It's been so long since an elder showed him such care.
Qiu Yanzhi smiled, but his voice was a bit choked up. "What? Who would bully me?"
The in-game time was still mid-August 2020. The current state of events after the reset was about the same as the first three times Qiu Yanzhi had reset the game.
But there were some changes.
The first change was related to He Zhou. After the bugs were fixed, He Zhou became very healthy and was no longer disabled.
The second was related to Ye Hongyuan.
Ye Hongyuan's data was not simply erased, it had been completely removed.
In other words, all traces of Ye Hongyuan in the game have been cleaned up, like he had never even existed.
Aside from He Zhou and Qiu Yanzhi, no one in the entire game world remembered there was once a person called Ye Tongfang who changed his name to Ye Hongyuan.
And the hole left by his absence were automatically filled by the game system.
The lonely old widow that Ye Hongyuan often went to visit was now looked after by another NPC.
Ye Mingxu never had a big brother. He was an only child. Because his parents died when he was young and he was raised by distant relatives, his personality became somewhat gloomy.
Jing Zeyu never met a man who fell in love with him at first sight, pursued him step by step, but hurt him in the end. He met a truly gentle person and walked into the wedding hall with them.
Zhang Yuxuan also didn't drown away his sorrows because of Jing Zeyu's marriage.
On the contrary, he wore a well-fitting suit and attended his senior's wedding with a carefully selected gift.
The second night after Jing Zeyu got married, Zhang Yuxuan said he was going to a bar.
Qiu Yanzhi was afraid he would overdrink so he hastily tagged along.
Unexpectedly, Zhang Yuxuan introduced a new friend to Qiu Yanzhi.
"Yanyan! His name is Liu Cheng and he's a bartender, a super good one! He makes delicious cocktails!"
When Qiu Yanzhi saw Liu Cheng, he was stunned for a long time before he came to his senses.
Qiu Yanzhi looked at the cocktail Liu Cheng had made.
This cocktail was light blue on top and gradually faded to a deep purple underneath. As the glass reflected the light, it looked like an entire galaxy was swirling within.
Qiu Yanzhi asked, "What's the name of this cocktail?"
Liu Cheng replied, "I haven't had the time to think of one yet.”
Liu Cheng had also been reset, including his memory.
But he and Zhang Yuxuan seem to have a natural attraction between them.
He and Zhang Yuxuan were always inseparable, and he confessed to Zhang Yuxuan in the spring of the following year.
Zhang Yuxuan blushed and kissed Liu Cheng, saying, 'I like you too'.
Although Qiu Yanzhi didn't like Liu Cheng, he had to admit that the man made Zhang Yuxuan happy.
Zhang Yuxuan wore an oversized and beautiful wedding dress at the wedding. He was as happy as could be.
At the dinner banquet, Zhang Yuxuan held the blue-purple cocktail Liu Cheng had made and whispered to Qiu Yanzhi:
"Let me tell you a secret. This cocktail is called Admiration because Chengcheng said he came up with it the day he found out he liked me."
Qiu Yanzhi was taken aback for a moment.
Meanwhile, Zhang Yuxuan blushed and ran off to tell other people this secret.
Qiu Yanzhi frowned at Liu Cheng, who was talking to Zhang Yuxuan's parents not far away.
"Liu Cheng didn't lose his memories.”
A yellow ball suddenly appeared before Qiu Yanzhi. It quickly flew away after saying that.
Qiu Yanzhi didn't move from his spot and finished his fruit juice.
The yellow things appeared again, said two words, and flew away. Again.
Qiu Yanzhi set his empty cup on a passing waiter's tray before walking towards Liu Cheng.
Liu Cheng just happened to finish talking with Zhang Yuxuan's parents as well. He saw Qiu Yanzhi coming over and went to meet him halfway with a smile, "Where's Mr. He? I saw him during the wedding. Where'd he go?"
"He had to get back to work." Qiu Yanzhi said.
He Zhou was a bit busy right now. While he technically didn't have time to play games, he took time off at noon just so he could attend Zhang Yuxuan's wedding in-game. Since that was done, he quickly went offline and continued his work.
Qiu Yanzhi didn't beat around the bush. "Liu Cheng, how much do you know?"
Liu Cheng was taken aback. "What do you mean?"
Qiu Yanzhi: "You remember, don't you."
Liu Cheng was silent for a while. Then he suddenly smiled. "And here I thought I hid it well. Seems you still found out."
Liu Cheng dispensed with the pleasantries. "I know this is a game, you and He Zhou's game, to be exact. And we're all NPCs in this game."
Even though he prepared himself in advance, Qiu Yanzhi was still stunned by how frank Liu Cheng was. He hesitated before asking, "Aren't you...bothered after finding out the truth?"
Ye Tongfang almost went insane after he found out that the world was a game.
Even He Zhou made a series of rash decisions at the time.
Yet Liu Cheng...was calmer than calm.
"Why would I feel bothered?" Liu Cheng said, "So what if this world's a game? The person I love and I, we still exist. As long as our mind and souls are under our own control, what does it matter if the environment we're in is real or not?"
Liu Cheng looked at Qiu Yanzhi and suddenly smiled.
"Our world may be a game, but how can you be sure yours is reality?"
Qiu Yanzhi fell into silence.
He spoke with He Zhou regarding this matter after logging out.
He Zhou said that as long as Liu Cheng has no intention of destroying the world or hurting others, there was no need to change his data or erase his memory. In the vast majority of cases, they should remain bystanders in the game world.
Qiu Yanzhi nodded at He Zhou's words and considered the matter settled.
Qiu Yanzhi would often log on to the game, but not for long each session.
They would occasionally use some tool cards, but never character cards. They never reset the game again or tried to alter the fate of other NPCs.
The game Devour Dream was a paradise for the two of them alone. They would not let themselves become destroyers.
Oh, right. Qiu Yanzhi and He Zhou also got married once in the game.
On the day of their anniversary, they also went into the game and held a grand banquet.
And of course, they didn't forget to invite Shen Xingwei.
That's the end of the extras!
Thank you all again for accompanying me on this journey! *bows*
Little friends who like it can give a five star rating, ma~
This book will be published in simplified and traditional Chinese. It will also have a manhua and radio drama. To check on the progress of any of these, head to Weibo @红口白牙, ya.
One last morsel for thought from Liu Cheng, followed by a happily ever after for everyone. Ahh, don’t you love the rollercoaster this novel has been?
Going to take a little break during exams. May our paths cross again in another novel!