Kneel to MeChapters List
Chapter 26: First Arc 
"Isn't everything foolproof now?" Qin Wei reclined in his chair, a satisfied smirk spreading across his face. That woman would never call to scold him again!
The atmosphere of the production team was a bit stiff. Some of the staff members were dissatisfied with Director Qin Wei's approach, feeling sympathy for Song Juyao and finding his actions rather despicable.
Clearly, they had done similar things to the defendants in the past, without feeling any qualms. However, when it was done to Song Juyao, they found it despicable. Perhaps because so far, she had always been on the positive side—gentle, kind, hardworking, and amiable. So now, instead of experiencing any sense of accomplishment for punishing the wicked, they themselves began to appear as the villains.
"These people sent in this time... they are utterly disgusting," murmured a staff member quietly. Although the audience couldn't see those NPCs, the staff members could see it backstage.
The person who entered the role of the Director of the Education Bureau NPC was actually someone who seemed very obedient and henpecked in real life. But once he went in, he began to enjoy his power recklessly.
"Who made them rich? Keep quiet," another staff member cautioned. Naturally, they couldn't expose this to the audience, as it would undermine the program's credibility. If it were discovered that they leaked it, they would be in trouble.
The Huo family.
Huo Sen puffed on his cigarette while Luo Chao rang him up, "What are you doing at home? Come out for a drink! The brothers want to celebrate your success in passing the second round of the Cabinet exam. Come out quickly."
"No, thanks," Huo Sen refused as he looked at Song Juyao in the live broadcast room.
"What's the matter? Is there something more entertaining at home than chilling with brothers?" Luo Chao asked eagerly, seemingly prepared to rush over to have a good time with Huo Sen.
Huo Sen hesitated for a moment before saying, "The Judgment Trial show... Song Juyao, don't you remember her?"
"When we were in middle school, she was a special admission student at our school."
"What the hell? Really? That's why her name sounded so familiar! The girl who always used to eat instant noodles in the cafeteria, right? She's turned into such a beauty. If I had known back then, I would have made a move on her!"
Hearing this, Huo Sen lost interest in continuing the conversation and hung up the phone in annoyance.
He could intervene and put a stop to some of the things the production team was doing to Song Juyao, but...
Song Juyao approached the floor-to-ceiling window and glanced at the boys' apartment opposite, and turned on the mosquito repellent lamp on the balcony.
Jiang Baiqi turned his head to observe Song Juyao's apartment. The lights were on, and the balcony's mosquito repellent lamp was glowing. Normally, when that lamp was lit, it meant she was about to dive into her books and she would keep a telescope nearby, occasionally using it to steal glances at him.
Today, the lamp was on, but she didn't step out onto the balcony. Instead, she stood behind the sliding glass door, not even sparing a glance in his direction. Jiang Baiqi couldn't help but wonder if she was angry because of his bad attitude earlier.
But he hadn't needed to switch schools in the first place. The recent beating he endured was just an unfortunate incident. Typically, no one would pay him any attention, and this situation wouldn't improve even after transferring to the First Middle School.
Slightly worried, his mind once again became consumed by those twinkling starry eyes. They seemed to possess an enchanting magic, lingering in his thoughts and bringing back that sinking feeling.
Jiang Baiqi shook his head abruptly, managing to regain his composure and dispel the sinking feeling. He lightly patted his expressionless face, as if to shake off the lingering thoughts.
Curiosity about someone often leads to troublesome situations. The easiest way to quell that curiosity about a person is to ensure they have no secrets in front of you, leaving no room for imagination.
So, since it was Song Juyao who started it, Jiang Baiqi believed that no one could criticize him for doing the same.
With that thought in mind, Jiang Baiqi retrieved his telescope and aimed it at Song Juyao's apartment in the apartment building across the street.
This one glance made him struck motionless.
Song Juyao... Was she in tears? No, she wasn't crying, but her sorrowful expression was incredibly moving, tugging at the heartstrings and evoking deep sympathy. It gave the impression that her tears were on the brink of falling.
What could have happened? For someone like her, aside from life-or-death situations, most issues should be easily solvable. Considering Song Juyao's current relationship with her mother, Liu Yan, if Liu Yan were to pass away, she might feel grief, but it shouldn't be to this extent.
In that moment, Song Juyao suddenly crouched down in pain, her delicate frame contorting, exuding an air of fragility.
Is it a stomachache? Having witnessed it firsthand, he couldn't ignore the delicate curve of the girl's slender and fragile back. He realized that neglecting it would burden his conscience heavily...
Song Juyao heard a thud sound from the sliding glass door and turned to look. She saw a large, terrifyingly black insect suspended in mid-air.
【F*ck, scared the hell out of me!】
【What a big bug!】
【Ahhhh, it's so disgusting!】
Song Juyao stood up and approached the door. She blinked, her eyes devoid of fear, and focused on the lifelike mechanical beetle. There, she spotted a small white bag hanging from its neck.
She carefully took off the bag, opened it, revealing a box of stomachache medicine inside.
A faint smile appeared on Song Juyao's pale face as she gently brushed the cold antennae of the mechanical insect. Then, she cast a glance toward the boys' apartment building. The distance of around two hundred meters between the boys' and girls' buildings made it impossible to see anyone on the opposite side with the naked eye. However, among all the small windows, Song Juyao effortlessly locked onto Jiang Baiqi's window with just a single glance.
It was as if she instantly recognized the person behind this gesture.
"Hold on." she murmured to the mechanical beetle, as if it could understand. She turned around to fetch pen and paper.
Unexpectedly, the mechanical beetle remained suspended in mid-air, its wings buzzing as it patiently awaited further instructions.
Song Juyao slipped a note into the bag and hung it around the beetle's neck. Only then did the insect return to its place of origin.
Jiang Baiqi unfolded the note and saw a few elegant words written upon it.
[Thank you, Student Jiang ^^]
Peering through the telescope, Jiang Baiqi confirmed that Song Juyao had indeed taken the medicine he had sent. He reproached himself for having such a weak guard.
The bug swiftly returned to Song Juyao's balcony, carrying yet another note.
[Is Classmate Jiang worried about me? (#^.^#)]
Jiang Baiqi glanced at the note, the emoticon causing a slight blush to tinge his ears. He felt a mix of irritation and indignation, quickly stowing away the beetle. What did she mean with that playful and smiling face directed at him!
【Jiang Baiqi doesn't seem to be simple.】
【Jiang Baiqi must be closely observing Song Juyao. How else could he know about her stomachache?】
【What's going on? Are they spying on each other?】
【Ever since the incident with the mechanical mosquito, I've had a feeling that Jiang Baiqi is not an ordinary person.】
【Song Juyao has been hit too hard. I hope she can bounce back.】
Jiang Baiqi stored the beetle away and heard a burst of cheers coming from the apartment next door.
The students residing on these two floors were all specially selected students. They were celebrating the fact that tomorrow they would be able to transfer and escape from this school filled with nightmares, starting a new chapter in their lives.
None of this concerned Jiang Baiqi, and no one paid attention to whether he would transfer or not. After all, hardly anyone remembered him.
He paused for a moment, his thoughts drifting to Song Juyao. At least she cared. Tomorrow she would leave with the other specially selected students.
Li Zhao and Ming Shu approached Song Juyao, carrying the compiled list of transfer students from the first and second years. They sought her help in submitting the list to the headmaster and completing the transfer procedures together, before finally submitting them to the First Middle School. With Song Juyao as the intermediary, everything would be done quickly, and the students could depart together for the First Middle School.
Li Zhao was also going to transfer school. While she couldn't be Zhou Shuchen's classmate anymore, she was determined to enter the same university as him and become his junior.
"Sister, everyone is very happy. We've never experienced such happiness since entering this school." Li Zhao said, her face beaming with a smile as she entered the door.
"Sister, would you like to join us downstairs? Everyone is throwing a celebration party for the transfers!" Ming Shu suggested.
Song Juyao silently looked at them with a very forced expression on her face.
【Ah, my heart aches so much.】
【What would she do now? Everyone is counting on her.】
【Song Juyao must be feeling awful. Seeing those smiling faces, how could she possibly turn around and say that she can no longer help them transfer?】
【The production team is really going too far. Why did they do this? They are so annoying, I hate them!】
【Are those who believe the show went too far, watching the livestream in a daze? This is a trial show, and Song Juyao is a murderer! The families of the victims are still mourning the loss of their loved ones. Why should Song Juyao be allowed to lead a peaceful and trouble-free life in the virtual world? Support the program group!】
Song Juyao gazed at the two of them and suddenly uttered, "I'm sorry, it seems I won't be able to help them transfer to another school."
Li Zhao panicked, "Wh-what happened?"
Ming Shu shared the same confusion. Wasn't the matter concerning the specially selected students supposed to be resolved by now? The final step of their transfer should have been a simple task.
Both she and Tang Kai were wondering what to do next. Song Juyao was supposed to leave Jinke Duola Academy, and they might become the least accomplished real NPCs within the realm of real NPCs, never having conducted a single trial for the accused.
As a result, another moth has appeared now?
Song Juyao remained silent, offering no explanation. However, the truth soon came to light the following day.
Early in the morning, Jin Yu woke up seething with anger. He accompanied Jin Yao to the dining hall for breakfast and heard the news of the specially selected students' departure. His face contorted in displeasure. "Get lost! They should leave as soon as possible, a group of low-born idiots. Song Juyao better hurry up and take them away!"
Ironically, he used to want to eliminate the specially recruited students from Jinke Duola Academy, and now that it was actually happening, he felt no joy at all. It was the first time in his life that he felt so helpless. Song Juyao was truly something!
Jin Yao, who was seated across from him, abruptly straightened his posture, his attention drawn to the message that had just arrived on his mobile phone. "Yu, take a look at this."
Jin Yu took the mobile phone handed over by Jin Yao, his eyes changed instantly, "What?! Song Juyao was... how is it possible?"
Jin Yu immediately went to verify the news.
As members of the prestigious Blue Blood aristocracy, known for their delicate ties to the government, they always paid attention to the government's every move. Song Juyao was a big celebrity, and her popularity in the National Academy of Sciences was not low. Therefore, rumors about her had already started to circulate.
Although the Nobel Prize team did not make a public announcement about her expulsion, even fools knew what it meant.
When both the position and job responsibilities were replaced, what else could it be if not expulsion? Perhaps they were just waiting for Song Juyao's own resignation letter.
Jin Yu's thoughts raced as he swiftly made a phone call. Sure enough, misfortunes never come alone. Not only was Song Juyao expelled from the Olympic Prize team, but the plan for First High School to accept the specially recruited students had also fallen through. In line with the customary practices of manipulating power, it wouldn't be limited to just First High School blocking her. It was likely that she would be blacklisted nationwide. Consequently, not only would First High School refuse her admission, but it seemed that no prestigious schools across the country would accept her either. It was inconceivable for Song Juyao to force the students into those trashy schools.
"Song Juyao is truly amazing. Who has she offended?"
"If they are capable of intervening even with the Olympic Prize team, it must involve one of the top-tier individuals."
"What will Song Juyao do now? All the specially recruited students are relying on her. She can't transfer them, and there's nowhere else to go," Fu Meiling said with a frown.
"What else can she do? She has no choice but to stay," Jin Yu remarked with a glimmer of excitement in his eyes, eager to seize the opportunity. Finally, the time had arrived to counterattack against Song Juyao. In such a precarious situation, she would undoubtedly seek his assistance for the sake of those specially recruited students. This time, he would compel her to lower her haughty head! She had no other way out!
Jin Yu eagerly awaited Song Juyao's arrival, expecting her to apologize and implore him to let go of the past, ensuring a promising future for the remaining specially recruited students.
This news surfaced on the campus BBS, its source unknown. It detonated like a bomb among all the students, leaving them bewildered and shaken.
"Song Juyao is expelled by the Olympic Prize team?"
"Oh my God! How is that even possible?"
"Is this some kind of prank? How could our Senior Sister possibly face expulsion?"
"Did Song Juyao offend a powerful figure, so the plan for First Middle School... fell through too?"
"...Can't we transfer anymore?"
Someone immediately wanted to go and ask Song Juyao about the situation but was stopped by Li Zhao.
"It's true." Li Zhao now understood why Song Juyao said that yesterday.
The specially recruited students, who had been ready to transfer and were celebrating happily, suddenly fell into a profound silence.
Jiang Baiqi stood there in shock. Recalling Song Juyao's expression from yesterday, so that's why she had that look and felt stomach pain?
Ming Shu rushed to Tang Kai's side.
Tang Kai had a serious expression and nodded. "If I'm not mistaken, it's highly probable that temporary real NPCs have entered."
"Damn it!" Ming Shu couldn't help but curse. "How many of them came in? What kind of formidable NPC avatars did they possess to strip Song Juyao of everything in an instant?"
Ming Shu had always played petty tricks and schemed against Song Juyao in the past, but at this moment, she actually felt a tinge of anger!
"Now that they've entered, they must be here to eliminate her in one fell swoop," Tang Kai stated with a furrowed brow. Lately, he had been watching a multitude of variety shows, speeches, and inspirational stories featuring Song Juyao when he had nothing else to do. Initially, he watched them to ride on Song Juyao's popularity. Since he had no chance of seducing her anymore and found himself confined to the school infirmary, he needed to find a way to increase the popularity and viewership of his livestream. Watching programs related to Song Juyao became his only option, and he believed that numerous viewers would switch to the first-person perspective to witness her shows.
However, after watching so much, he couldn't help but acknowledge that this girl was truly remarkable, possessing great charisma. He even found himself admiring her to some extent. Therefore, when he witnessed the actions of the program team, he felt a twinge of discomfort.
He struggled to find the right words to describe this feeling. He simply believed that these methods were exceptionally underhanded.
Since they couldn't defeat Song Juyao directly, they resorted to such despicable tactics, dragging down the accomplished Song Juyao to their level for a PK, right? Of course, he had to admit that he and Ming Shu hadn't truly assisted the production team, but it wasn't because of their incompetence. It was solely because the opponent was too formidable.
But this was a result of Song Juyao's own efforts.
Ming Shu felt a surge of anger rush to her head, and she was about to voice her thoughts when Tang Kai quickly covered her mouth.
"Don't speak recklessly. Do you realize how many people are watching this livestream? Are you trying to ruin your career?" Tang Kai warned her through his eyes.
Ming Shu had no choice but to calm down. She silently turned around, and left. Yet, her eyes inexplicably held a hint of redness.
The atmosphere at Jinke Duola Academy became very strange.
With the failed transfer, the specially recruited students had no choice but to continue their stay at Jinke Duola Academy. As a result, the rich students taunted them relentlessly.
"How amusing! Weren't you all so haughty before? Behaving as if you had escaped from a wretched life, and now you return in such a pitiful state?"
"Hey, hey, how dare you show your faces here? Weren't you looking down on Jinke Duola, acting too superior to attend school with us?"
"Now that Song Juyao is gone, how are you going to be so arrogant?"
"If you ask me, you lot are nothing but scourge. It's probably because of you that Song Juyao ended up in trouble and left with nothing."
Mockery pervaded the air. Except for the third-year students who had chosen to stay from the beginning, the specially recruited students in the lower grades faced piercing gazes and derisive laughter wherever they went.
Following the previous incident that caused a big uproar and nearly resulted in all the specially recruited students transferring out, Jin Yu suffered substantial losses due to Song Juyao. Consequently, the student council became sensitive to the bullying of the specially recruited students, and many people perceived the subtle atmosphere. Therefore, they somewhat refrained from casually harassing the specially recruited students.
But it still made the specially recruited students blush, feeling embarrassed and extremely uncomfortable.
"I know it's not Senior's fault. She even got expelled from the prestigious team, but... but..."
"If you can't ensure something, don't make promises..."
"I should have chosen to stay from the start to avoid such painful embarrassment."
"Indeed, in this world, apart from ourselves, there's no one else we can rely on."
Some of the specially recruited students couldn't help but complain in private.
A few of them were conversing in the restroom when suddenly, the door of the adjacent compartment swung open, and a foot forcefully kicked one of the specially recruited students, causing him to crash into the urinal and fall to the ground.
They turned their heads in horror, only to see Jin Yao with a sullen expression on his face. His feral eyes filled with an emotionless gaze akin to that of a predatory beast.
Students in the hallway turned their heads and witnessed several students being kicked out from the men's restroom. Wow, who would dare to bully these "fragile" specially recruited students at such a time? Oh, it's Jin Yao!
That's all right.
"Jin Yao, what did we do wrong?" The student who was kicked didn't understand what they had done wrong. They felt like they were peacefully using the restroom when suddenly, they were attacked.
"I can't stand spineless individuals, and I especially can't tolerate ungrateful wolves like you," Jin Yao said as he kicked them once more. "Song Juyao didn't take you along with her, but why do you think few people beat you now? It seems like you prefer getting beaten rather than being ridiculed."
"We're sorry! Spare us, please..."
After giving them a thorough beating, Jin Yao's somber expression slightly eased. He ran his fingers through his curly, fluffy hair, adjusted his sports jacket, and turned around to leave.
"Did they badmouth Song Juyao?"
"Damn, really? That's impressive."
"Song Juyao went above and beyond for them, yet some people always want more. When they don't get it, they start harboring resentment."
"Idiots! They should educate themselves more. This situation can be summarized as 'giving ten pounds of rice gains gratitude, while giving five pounds gains hate'."
[T/N: The Chinese idiom '升米恩斗米仇' translates to "giving ten pounds of rice gains gratitude, while giving five pounds gains hate." The story goes that there was a kind and charitable rich man who would regularly donate ten pounds of rice to his poor neighbors. However, one day the rich man encountered financial difficulties and had to reduce the amount of rice he could give. He ended up giving five pounds of rice to his neighbors, which made them angry and led to accusations that the rich man had stolen something they deserved. This idiom is used to satirize ungrateful people.]
"There aren't many people in this world who possess both talent and a benevolent heart like Song Juyao. Sadly, these people fail to appreciate her worth."
"I haven't seen her these past few days. Is she wallowing in despair in her apartment?"
"She wouldn't do something reckless, would she?" someone suddenly panicked.
"You're a fake fan. Song Juyao isn't the type to commit suicide. Although I'm curious about what she'll do next, she certainly won't engage in anything reckless."
Having been expelled from the award-winning team, her bank account frozen, fired from her few regular shows that provided income, and her mentor ignoring her emails... Song Juyao had lost everything. She struggled to afford meals and the impact on her was devastating. She remained holed up in her apartment for days, refusing to go outside or even eat. The residential staff would knock on her door once a day, waiting for any response before leaving, as if they were afraid she might resort to reckless actions.
Other students didn't dare to approach her door. What could they possibly say if they saw her? Empty words of encouragement would be meaningless, and asking her who she had offended would only deepen her wounds.
Every day, a beetle would fly over from the boys' apartment, carrying a bag filled with easily consumable food. The bag contained sandwiches, pre-cut fruits, and some nutritious snacks…
She was like a wilting flower, evoking an irresistible urge in people to provide her with some water.
【Is this what you all wanted to see?】
【Who could endure such a devastating blow? In reality, encountering such circumstances might drive someone to contemplate suicide.】
【No, this isn't what they truly want to see. They want to see more than just this.】
【When even survival becomes a problem, what will Song Juyao do?】
【She's no different from an ordinary person. She might even give up on herself.】
【Hahahaha, as long as she doesn't smile, I'll be happy.】
【Indeed, I would find solace if she no longer smiles. It would be better to see her shed tears. How could she be laughing while the families of the victims are left in tears?】
On top of the lunchbox, there was a sticky note attached.
[Don't give up on yourself, stay strong.]
Not being good at comforting others, the words spoken were dry and lacking warmth.
However, Song Juyao's lips curled into a smile.
"It's not about giving up on myself, I'm just confused."
"I doubt if my life is real. I feel like something is off in this world."
In an instant, everyone watching the show widened their eyes.
In the program group, Tang Shan only felt his scalp tense for a moment.
"How is that possible? The virtual world boasts one hundred percent realism, with scarcely any loopholes. Someone like Song Juyao, whose memories were sealed and has been placed in this world since childhood, couldn't possibly sense that something is awry!"
The members of the production team panicked for a moment, feeling as if their secret had been discovered. Why did she suddenly utter such words? When and where did she feel this way?
"Everything should have logical explanations, yet at times, this world makes me doubt. How is it possible for someone to have parents like mine? The Prime Minister suddenly changed his attitude and expelled me from the team, the bank froze my funds for no reason, and the Education Bureau refused to let the student transfer... It's illogical and unreasonable, almost as if they are doing it all just for the sake of targeting me."
So that's the situation. The temporary live NPCs went too far; indeed, it defies reason. But only through these illogical acts of sabotage could Song Juyao lose everything and find herself trapped in this predicament. Fortunately, even if she harbors doubts, what could she really do about it? Without evidence, unless she resorts to suicide, she cannot escape this virtual world.
Regardless of how she ponders the situation, she could never imagine that she is in fact within an unreal world, with a live broadcast underway and billions of viewers observing her every move, criticizing and demanding her tears and laughter.
"But because you're here, I believe this world must be real."
This sentence could be rephrased as: "You are the only real thing in this world."
Jiang Baiqi gazed at the note, and these words, which were almost akin to a confession, caused a faint flicker in his otherwise dull eyes. His ears turned red in an instant.
"I want to eat sweet and sour pork." Song Juyao shamelessly made the request, as if they were very familiar with each other.
Make it yourself! Jiang Baiqi thought with an expressionless face. However, after school in the morning, he happened to pass by a supermarket and eventually decided to purchase the pork ribs.
Taking into account that she is going through a rough period…
Song Juyao peered through binoculars and saw Jiang Baiqi wearing an apron, cooking in the kitchen. A smile involuntarily blossomed on her lips.
And Jiang Baiqi knew she was watching him. His movements gradually became stiff, but unfortunately, the kitchen window had no curtains.
Lunch that day turned out to be quite satisfying. Jiang Baiqi used several beetles to deliver them together. After lunch, Song Juyao went to the bathroom to wash her face. As she looked at herself in the mirror, she said, "It's time to cheer up. Otherwise, if I get kicked out, I'll end up sleeping on the streets."
She switched on the computer to search for a job. The audience expected her to finally experience the hardships of job hunting, just like an office worker. However, to their surprise, she quickly found an urgent, well-paying temporary online translation job. With her proficiency in four languages and with very few technical terms in this document, it was fairly easy to translate.
Just as Song Juyao was about to earn the money in a few hours and improve her dire situation, the production team inserted a hacker from the virtual world. Song Juyao's computer suddenly went black.
Song Juyao stared at the computer in astonishment.
After finally managing to turn it back on, she discovered that the translated document had been completely deleted.
Song Juyao had to start over, but before she could finish, her computer was invaded once again.
"Hehehe, sorry, it's a request from the production team. I'm just following orders," the hacker muttered to himself, residing in a clean apartment.
"Hehehe, sorry, it's a request from the production team. I'm just following orders," the hacker muttered to himself, residing in a tidy apartment.
When he heard the production team say that Song Juyao was not giving up and starting again, he was shocked. Isn't this woman too persistent?? She is not giving up yet! So, he attacked again.
The expression on his face suddenly cracked. "What?"
As soon as he virtually touched Song Juyao's computer, a hand suddenly extended and seized his neck through the network. Realizing he was up against a formidable opponent, he immediately broke free and fled to clean up the trail, not realising that the other party was coming after him like a rabid dog all the way.
He swiftly attempted to shut down the computer, but the power button had malfunctioned. Hastily, he yanked out the plug, but since it was a laptop with a built-in battery, the computer still couldn't be turned off.
The files within the computer were rapidly copied and transferred. The hacker panicked, as creatures lurking in the shadows like him feared nothing more than having their masks torn off, exposing their true identities.
The transfer was over.
The hacker sat in his chair, disoriented and dazed.
"Director, I don't want to play anymore! I quit, I quit!" He shouted into the air. Although only the NPC he was controlling had been exposed just moments ago, he had become that NPC now! It felt as though a layer of skin had been peeled off him.
"No, once you enter the virtual world, you must fulfill the task and cannot quit at will," the program team replied coldly. "If you insist on quitting, you can choose to end yourself and subsequently pay for the breach of contract."
The production team didn't permit automatic exits. The only way to exit was to end the life of the NPC he controlled. Contemplating the penalties specified in the contract, the hacker immediately felt despondent. The contract stated that they could do whatever they want as long as they complete the instructions from the program group.
His instruction was to prevent Song Juyao from completing her work on the computer.
At that moment, two words appeared on his computer screen.
[Looking for death?]
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