Xie Yu had always suffered from poor sleep quality. Not long after falling asleep, he was awoken by the sound of something breaking downstairs.
It was the crisp and earsplitting sound of ceramic shattering against the ground.
Accompanying the sound of shattering were familiar angry shouts. The person’s tone held the bone-deep pride of someone who had grown accustomed to holding a high position for many long years: “This is my house! All of you get out—pack up and get out! Remove your dirty hands! Who allowed you to touch me? You think you’re fit to—”
Xie Yu removed his eye mask but did not open his eyes; his temple faintly throbbed.
“Eldest young master, I’ve made some soup to help you sober up. Drink some.” It was A-Fang’s voice, deferential. “You’ve drunk too much…”
There was a muffled thud from something else being thrown, then the person’s shouting became more and more shrill: “I said get lost, all of you get lost! All you lower-class people, do you not understand human words?!”
“Oh, look at my memory. I almost forgot. This house doesn’t have a place for me to speak, right? Instead, certain people who aren’t surnamed Zhong still think so highly of themselves.”
Xie Yu tossed and turned on the bed. Finally, he sat up in frustration and cursed: “Fuck.”
It had been three years but this ugly scene was just the same as it had been then.
Three years ago when Gu Xuelan married the famous entrepreneur of A City, Zhong Guofei, the news had spread quickly throughout the city. Not only Gu Xuelan, but Xie Yu, too, was subjected to all kinds of nasty speculation.
The rumors spread as if they were truth.
Countless onlookers, who had just come to see a show and didn’t mind things getting out of hand, went ahead and wrote countless ‘biographies’ of his life. The most striking among them was that of ‘the third party and her illegitimate kid.’
Xie Yu had personally experienced many years of evading debt collectors and wondering where his next meal would come from, and had not even been able to pay his school fees for more than half a year. Otherwise, even he might have believed those endless ugly stories.
No matter which of the stories about this mother-son duo was the true one, Zhong Jie, who was Zhong Guofei’s biological son, couldn’t accept it. He didn’t care what the truth was, either.
He only knew the facts laid out in front of his eyes: after losing his mother, someone was trying to snatch away everything he owned, including the most important thing.
His inheritance rights.
After a long time, it finally grew quiet downstairs. For better or worse, the eldest young master Zhong was being helped back to his room. Xie Yu leaned against the headboard and listened to the sound of them closing the door to Zhong Jie’s room, their light sighs as they passed by his own door, and their footsteps as they walked back downstairs.
Xie Yu’s eyes were open; he was thinking.
Out of nowhere he felt thirsty.
It was as if a ball of fire was burning upwards through his internal organs until it reached his throat.
Gu Xuelan sat on the sofa in the living room, her eyes desolate. Her lace dressing-gown swept the floor. When she saw Xie Yu come down she glanced up only slightly, as if she was very tired. “You’re downstairs? Did we wake you?”
Xie Yu had guessed she would be here. He wanted to say, ‘How many times have I told you? If he wants to throw a fit, let him be. It’s none of your business.’ But seeing her like this, he forced the words back down his throat and said in a lukewarm voice, “Happy now?”
Gu Xuelan: “…His mother’s death anniversary is in two days.”
Xie Yu: “So you stood there for an hour and let him yell at you.”
Gu Xuelan said nothing.
Xie Yu’s voice held no emotion, but his words grew thornier with each sentence: “His mom—did you kill her? His dad—did you stealnatch him? If he wants to yell so much, let him yell. But you even went so far as to help him out. You’re quite encouraging.”
By this time Gu Xuelan was not nearly as tough as she had been in the car before. She sighed lightly. “Don’t say that.”
Xie Yu replied, “No one owes him anything. Doesn’t he realize that?”
Xie Yu went to the kitchen and poured two cups of milk. He handed one to Gu Xuelan and said, doing his best to keep his voice amiable: “Mom, drink this and go and rest. It’s late.”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear any of this tonight. Next time, if you stand there and let him shout at you, I’ll beat him until he can’t speak.”
”I’m a person of my word.”
Gu Xuelan took the cup.
Gu Xuelan was stunned for a moment. The boy standing in front of her—she hadn’t realized he had gotten so tall.
The youth took after her in looks. His appearance should make him look feminine, but something fierce, cold, and sharp had at some point overtaken his features. He looked like someone hard to get close to, and even she, his mother, felt that he was a stranger.
Her eyes finally landed on Xie Yu’s hair, where some strands were still sticking up from sleep. The strands were still so soft, just like when he was young.
She momentarily wasn’t sure what to say. By the time she recovered, Xie Yu had already turned and gone upstairs.
Xie Yu had always had trouble sleeping, and even milk didn’t help. He had been sleeping soundly before; now that he had been awakened, he couldn’t go back to sleep no matter how he tried.
He glanced at the pitch-black night outside the window and suddenly wanted to know what time it was.
He had intended only to look at the time, but after he got hold of his phone all drowsiness completely vanished.
[Barbecue Stall Prince – Lei] : Fuck it, I’m not playing any more! [Image]
[Barbecue Stall Prince – Lei] : This time I’m really quitting! [Image]
[Barbecue Stall Prince – Lei] : Last time! If I play again I’m a pig! [Image]
Two hours ago, Zhou Dalei had sent three screenshots in quick succession, all saying: Score too low. You cannot enter the game lobby, oh~ Please answer more carefully.
Xie Yu wrote a line of text and hit reply. You really think heaven will be moved by the persistence of a professional zero-scorer?
Zhou Dalei had probably long since gone to sleep and Xie Yu had no intention of waiting for his reply. After exiting the app, he hesitated between two options: to keep on pretending to be a corpse or to play a certain strange little game. Then he tapped on the app with the Apple of Knowledge icon.
Respected user [jsdhwdmaX], welcome back to Question King~ You scored full marks on your placement test. Please tap to continue and enter the game lobby!
It was 3 a.m. but the game was still very lively.
“Ilovestudying”: Anyone want to come to a private room and PK math mode? Waiting for a fated person.
“MyGoalIsBalancedSubjects”: For the Math C paper, is question three actually a wrong question? Is it wrong or am I wrong?
“FightingUpstream”: ……It’s so late. You all aren’t sleeping?
“StudystudystudythatsallIdo”: Sleep? What sleep? Do you know how many people will surpass you if you sleep just a minute earlier?
“ForABetterTomorrow”: Study-bro is right. Life’s so short and the time we have to learn is extremely precious. If we sleep, we’re wasting this wonderful time.
“Ilovestudying”: My thirst for knowledge leaves me unable to fall asleep. When I sleep, it’s like I’m dead. My brain stops thinking. What’s more terrifying than not thinking?
Xie Yu suddenly felt that he, who had opened this game again, was also crazy.
The topic quickly switched from sleep to something else.
“StudystudystudythatsallIdo”: Speaking of which, that guy ranked first. Did anyone ever knock him off it? He’s been an eyesore for a long time. How can somebody be that shameless?
The moment these words emerged, a surprising amount of lurkers emerged.
“TopTenInClass”: Shameless +1!
“EnglishClassRep”: Shameless +2!!
“Mydreamistobeaschoolprincipal”: Shameless +3!!!
The atmosphere was lively and the thoughts of the players were as one.
Ranked first, Shameless?
Xie Yu was actually curious—a rare occurrence.
The leaderboard was on the top right corner of the page. He tapped in. It was a simple, shabby list. And the one in first place…
“Damn.” Xie Yu glanced at the two words beside the little gold trophy and momentarily wasn’t sure what to say aside from, “Damn.”
First place: Question King.
Signature: No need to fight. Victory is mine.
Seven short words, arrogant yet polite.
In a game called Question King Tournament, he called himself Question King?
Many people had likely gone to ask customer service if this ‘Question King’ was a player or a bot, because the app had even made a note beside the name in first place: Don’t ask. This is a player. This is really a player. If you don’t believe it, challenge him orz.
Perhaps Xie Yu was frustrated at not being able to sleep, or maybe he wanted to find something to pass the time. Of course, he was internally already a little annoyed at this Question King.
Out of boredom, Xie Yu opened endless mode.
He thought: As long as it’s only in this game and no one knows… it should be fine.
Everyone knew that Xie Yu’s grades were crap.
Not only did he get bad grades, he also constantly got into fights. His rebellious phase had arrived aggressively and even Gu Xuelan had forgotten that even just three years ago he hadn’t been like that at all.
In his first year of junior high, Xie Yu even constantly brought trophies home.
Gu Xuelan didn’t know the importance of those trophies, and Xie Yu wasn’t the type who liked to brag, so he always glossed over it: “Small competition. Not a lot of participants.”
The month before Gu Xuelan decided to marry Zhong Guofei, she took Xie Yu and moved out of their basement apartment. That day, Zhong Guofei had employed a moving company to help. He was already past forty and had the meticulous manner of a businessman: all his workwas impeccable, yet held a personal touch.was watertight, yet personal. He had stood in the damp and dark basement apartment and eventually stopped in front of a wall. He bent down and the laugh lines at the corners of his eyes grew more prominent as he smiled and asked, “Xiao Yu, all these awards are yours?”
Once Xie Yu started doing the questions, he couldn’t stop. His painstakingly awoken competitiveness now thoroughly quashed all desire to sleep. Without rest or sleep, he did questions for several nights in a row and managed to squeeze into the top three on the leaderboard.
At mealtime, Gu Xuelan came upstairs to call him. The reply she got was always: “I’ll eat later, just leave it there.”
“What have you been doing cooped up in your room these two days?” Gu Xuelan stood in the doorway, keeping a tight rein on her temper.
Xie Yu was quite honest: “Me? Playing a game.”
“You have the cheek to say that… The home tutor I got is coming over tomorrow. You’d better clean up your act, do you hear me?”
“Didn’t hear you.”
Gu Xuelan was brimming with anger. When she returned to the dining room, Zhong Guofei smiled and put a piece of fish on her plate: “Don’t be angry. The boy’s still young and it’s usual to want to have fun. Try this—I got someone to fly it over from Hokkaido, fresh. Last time in the restaurant you seemed to like this, so I got Old Xu to watch out for it.”
Zhong Guofei put down his chopsticks and watched her eat, then raised a hand to tidy her hair. “If you’re so angry, you’ll end up getting sick and I’m the one who will be heartbroken.”
Gu Xuelan smiled and glanced at him, then sighed. “I hope.”
Recently, something really had been off with Xie Yu.
Quite a few times, Zhou Dalei had seen the messages his big bro had sent to the friend group in the middle of the night. The contents were all quite strange, as if he wasn’t quite in his right mind.
For example, tonight’s message from 4:23am.
XY: Someone, slap me awake. [/Smile]
Zhou Dalei was playing a game where a new tournament had started and he needed to earn points. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be checking his friend group messages because of his boredom at this time.
The atmosphere in the internet cafe was even more lively than during the day. Several containers of cup noodles surrounded the keyboard. Zhou Dalei blew out a smoke ring and pressed the cigarette butt into the ashtray before adding a message: Have you been drinking?
Xie Yu replied: I don’t drink. Fake alcohol is dangerous.
Zhou Dalei replied: Listening to you… Bro, I’m gonna guess. Have you… fallen into the abyss of love?
Xie Yu replied: Love, my ass.