Like A Double Edged Dao
Chapter 1: Infiltration and Crisis
[A/N]Disclaimer: 1/2 Prince and all of its characters belong to Yu Wo.
Hi all, this is my first fanfiction. I’m used to roleplaying, so forgive me if this is too wordy. Additionally, the first chapter was initially written in third person while the rest was in first so I switched it for consistency, hope it doesn’t sound too awkward! Because of this awkwardness, I left the prologue in its original point of view, it is the prologue, after all.
This chapter is meant to occur IN PLACE OF Volume 5, Chapter 1 of the novel, which equates to Chapter 39 of the manhua. This is when White Bird first sends Prince off to increase his level to better his reputation, before Central Continent is united, before the NPC revolution begins.
Enjoy. – Torchide
It hadn’t taken Prince very long at all to discover the true horrors that came with being the liege lord of a city. It seemed like an endless cycle of listening to speeches, trying on new clothes, listening to more speeches, and making speeches himself. He had a lot of support, that much was true, but there was only so much of it his sanity would allow for. Thankfully, Yu Lian seemed to realize this and immediately banked on the excuse of him being under-levelled to allow him to go blow some stress.
And of course, attempting to train brought him to an entirely new level of stress. It felt amazing to him, the feel of his blade effortlessly slicing through the neck of a high levelled dragon and even better to feel and smell the patter of blood from the creature splash against his face. However, the undisguised cries of fangirlish delight did not feel the same.
“Will you just leave me alone?” Prince roared at the people that White Bird had deemed ‘skilled’ enough to help him train. Whatever skill they may have originally had clearly disappeared in the face of Prince’s battle presence. Scanning the crowd angrily, he spotted XiMen Feng idling around in the back, looking irritated for having been chosen to guard Prince. In a swift motion, he had darted through the crowd, grabbed his arm, and began dragging him off in a random direction.
“The hot babe and I will be training alone,” he declared. “So don’t you dare follow!” Immediately, Prince turned his back and began running as fast as he could, pulling XiMen Feng along behind him.
“I’m a guy!”
Immensely relieving it was, Prince noted, to be in the company of somebody who wanted to punch him in his beautiful face rather than kiss it, for a change. His mood lifted so quickly that his run soon turned into a casual stroll. Silence was a beautiful sound. It reminded him of the time spent running away from home (the others refused to let him refer to the incident otherwise) with Doll. It really made a person think: maybe running away really was the best solution.
All of a sudden, Prince instinctively leaned backwards and narrowly dodged a sword swing that would have taken off his nose. He turned to the source of the danger, staring innocently. It was too optimistic to think silence would ever last longer than a minute in his life.
“Will you let go of me, sonny?” XiMen Feng snarled, bringing his sword back up for more.
Whoops. Prince immediately released his grip on the beautiful woman’s shoulder. As soon as he did so, XiMen Feng sheathed his sword and began to stride in a slightly different direction – not back towards the castle – without a second glance. Intrigued, Prince jogged to catch up.
“Hey, where are you going?” he asked like an excited puppy. “You know a good place to train?”
“Like hell I’d help you train willingly, sonny. No bitch-lady to boss yer daddy around here.” XiMen Feng snorted and continued on his way, ignoring the armor-clad warrior who kept trying to intercept him.
“Going to get rid of this damn curse, that’s where,” he replied, irritation clear in his voice, knowing well that Prince would never leave him alone until he got some answers. “Didn’t expect yer daddy to stay like this forever, did you?” Secretly, Prince did. All the fun would be gone if XiMen Feng went back to normal.
“Aww, C-cup messing you up in combat?” he teased. “Must be a lot of extra weight, those huge things bouncing on your chest while you swing your sword, I never understood how-”
The next thing he knew, there was a sizeable bruise on his head and XiMen Feng was once again a few feet ahead of Prince. He smiled. This was nothing like the tense aura that seemed to surround Wicked, the constant paranoia that came with being around Lolidragon and Gui, and the complete annoyance that he felt around just about everyone else. For the first time in a while, Prince felt completely at ease. His head throbbed painfully, but he felt at ease.
“Soo, about that curse,” he babbled, jogging to catch up once again. “You mentioned it before, right? Something about chasing Gui off a cliff and triggering a hidden quest… with a hidden boss? We get to fight a hidden boss?” Prince’s eyes glowed in anticipation.
XiMen Feng stopped abruptly, making Prince nearly trip. “Look, kid,” he began. “There is no we in this. It’s my curse, my quest, and yer daddy can finish this boss, alone. So do me a favour and fuck off, will ya?” With that, he jumped off a ledge that Prince had not been aware of (that was why he had stopped so suddenly in the first place) and slid down to the bottom, using his sword to slow his descent.
Prince was speechless. He blinked, shuffled over to the ledge, and sat down, pulling out a yao tiew from his inventory and munching on it as he waited. He might have heard the enraged screams of the she-male warrior, and maybe the clinking of swords, but it might have been his imagination. It sounded more like the sound of a sword hitting rock than two swords together, on second thought.
Five minutes later, XiMen Feng came flying through the air up the cliff at top speed and disappeared somewhere in the distance, swearing loudly as he made his exit. Prince stared. He quickly wiped his hands clean of oil on the grass and leaped down the high ledge. Since the ‘owner’ of the quest had already failed, the hidden boss was free game, right? He slid down a little less gracefully than XiMen Feng, forgetting to slow his descent with his sword, and ended up doing a few unintentional somersaults as he reached the bottom, landing awkwardly on his stomach, face to face with-
Yes, Prince was now staring up at what he could describe as nothing less than a giant clam. With eyes. That were clearly staring at him with an angry, piercing gaze. If this wasn’t one of the most bizarre things he had seen in all of Second Life, Meatbun being one of the others, then he didn’t know what was.
Do you have a problem with clams? Prepare to be divinely punished for your insolence, small mortal.
A talking, giant clam. Even better.
Prince decided that talking was safer than gawking, and hurriedly shut his mouth and peeled himself off the ground. “No, not at all, s…ir?” He had a sudden brainstorm. If this boss was anything like Kenshin, then fighting was not the answer.
“In fact,” he started, drawing himself up proudly and reaching under his cape, “I would never have a problem with talking clams as I acknowledge a meat bun as my own son!”
He brought his hand back out. It was empty. A little too late, he remembered that he had left Meatbun back at Infinite City with Doll. Then he realized that he had probably just dug himself into a deeper hole. It was evident in the giant clam’s eyes that it thought that Prince was mocking him, and honestly, what else could it have been? Prince was suddenly less than confident, looking up at the huge aquatic creature with what seemed to be an impenetrable shell, and decided to keep talking.
“So, er, my teammate back there?” he said, inclining his head slightly to show who he had meant. “I love that curse you put on him. Just hilarious. I bet he secretly enjoys it too, but of course he wouldn’t say anything, y’know? Being a woman is great and everything. You did a good job!” With every word, Prince inched away from the giant clam, hoping it would not notice. Little did he know how much he would regret his words in the future.
Prince froze in place as the deep voice penetrated his thoughts.
So I did a good job with my spell? I’m glad he likes it. I think it looks good on him.
He let out a sigh of relief. The giant clam began to chuckle and suddenly seemed a lot less intimidating. Maybe this boss wasn’t as scary and mean as it looked. Then it continued.
I hope you like my spell too.
“Wait, what?” Prince let out a shriek as he was suddenly enveloped in a wave of blue light. He fell backwards to the ground and rubbed his eyes, attempting to clear his vision of yellow spots. The giant clam was nowhere to be seen. “What did you just do?” he hollered, then quickly stopped as he heard the sound of his own voice. Instead of the sharp alto tones of Prince’s voice, it was the slightly higher pitched voice of Xiao Lan.
“Some sort of glitch?” she mused, more to hear her own voice again and be certain than to help track her thought processes. “Odd, this shouldn’t be happening this long after the game was released. But since I’m the only one, maybe they haven’t ironed out everything yet? Except for XiMen Feng, but his was just part of a…”
Sudden realization sinking in, Prince sprinted to the closest reflective object, which happened to be the surface of the water that housed the giant clam, heart pounding rapidly, knelt down, and looked.
Staring straight back was what was undeniably the face of Xiao Lan, albeit with white hair and red eyes.
Chapter One: Infiltration and Crisis
I stared at the backs of the hands I knew so well, while sitting up in bed with my VR helmet on my lap. My first instinct had been to log out, but logic had slowly started to sink in, probably the logic that existed in reality but never seemed to show itself in the boundaries of Second Life. It was the middle of the night, it was too late to call anyone, and to knock on the door of her brother and ask for advice? The idea was laughable. Best thing to do, I reasoned, was to get back in game and find Lolidragon as quickly as possible. I, Feng Lan, took a deep breath, a swig of water from the mug I left by my bedside before I logged in, then put the helmet back on.
Never again would I let anybody hear me complain about the cluttered mess that was my inventory in-game. Admittedly, it was a pain to find anything that I didn’t remember the name of, scrolling through endless screens of loot and random items, but I finally found exactly what I was looking for: the long, hooded cloak that I had used while playing ‘dàgē’ for Jing and Yun back on the Eastern Continent. I quickly pulled it on and pulled down the hood, then after thinking for a moment, unequipped my warrior’s armour and donned a low level mage’s robe that had dropped while training a few weeks ago as well as my trusty old masquerade mask. Unfortunately, I could think of nothing I could do about Prince’s unique hair and eye colour combination, nor my strong physical resemblance to Prince. “Waah, why did I have to do this in the first place?” I complained, and set off for Infinite City. “I could have been a normal looking bishie, but somebody just had to make me special.”
I took my first step towards Infinite City, which… was where? As far as I could see, I was still by the ocean, which seemed to stretch for miles and miles with no signs of civilization. I also happened to be standing at the bottom of a cliff. How did I even get there?
I sighed and did what I should have done about ten minutes ago. “LOLIDRAGON, HELP MEEEE,” I PMed urgently. “I’ve.. got a problem…”
I was a fool to have expected any differently, but Lolidragon did not come charging out of the city immediately to find and console me after hearing about my situation. Instead, I was making the long trek back with detailed directions left by the laughing thief who claimed to be busy with political manners that were left behind by an irresponsible overlord – right, that was me. As punishment, I was to stealthily infiltrate my own city while in disguise, sneak into my own central tower past my own guards (I had guards?) and up to Lolidragon’s room inside, all the while avoiding all my teammates and especially XiMen Feng who more than likely was already back, tearing up a storm in rage of being unable to defeat a giant clam.
It also didn’t help that I absolutely could not answer any of my PMs. Being under a curse that left you female wasn’t a terrible thing, whether or not the moonlit side effect that XiMen suffered was in effect, but what I was ultimately worried about was being recognized. The second I let my guard slip and the wrong person saw my face and recognized me was the last second of peace she would ever find in life. Seriously, though. What were the chances of almost everybody I knew in real life being born on the same continent as me? There was a solution, though. If I could just hold out long enough to find one. For the time being, Lolidragon had strongly advised that I set my player status to invisible so that everyone would just assume Prince was offline and not go searching for him.
Oh yes, extra people searching for me. Just what I needed.
Slipping past my gate guards was embarrassingly easy. Only about half of them were on shift, the others gathered in one of their watch towers playing gambling games most likely. Being so thinly spread out, although I was completely unequipped, my high warrior’s strength stat was more than enough to knock two or three out with quiet punches to the head and I sprinted into the city before anybody noticed something amiss. This was ridiculous; for all I knew, my city could have been invaded numerous times already. I made a mental note to bother White Bird into increasing the quality of guard patrols. I had often thought it was strange the city’s population was increasing so rapidly, now I knew.
Things were going a little too smoothly. This was strange. Different in gender I may have been, my character was still registered under the name ‘Prince’ which made entry into the central tower effortless. My high agility stat allowed me to drop in neatly behind the guards, just the same as I had often done while sneaking out to restaurants just before boring meetings. However, I became infinitely more cautious the moment I was inside. Members of Odd Squad, Dark Emperor, and the Rose Team lived in this tower and would be parading through the halls at completely inappropriate times. If Rose, my real life cousin, for instance, was to see my face, then all hell would break loose. I nervously pulled my hood lower down my face.
With no other approach, I decided to treat the situation like an arcade game. I had some general knowledge of the building and knowledge to some degree about which were the more commonly traversed corridors. For a moment, I also considered that I was now the suspicious person in a cloak. The idea was to never act suspiciously while wearing a cloak, but all things considered, that was hard to do.
Things were going well. That was, until I carelessly walked head first into Wicked. Before I even had time to panic or draw a weapon – which would probably have given me away in a second, so that was a good thing – a sword touched the base of my neck.
“Who are you? If you’re here to hurt Prince, your life ends here,” he hissed. My eyes widened, it had been a long time since I found myself on the receiving end of Wicked’s wrath. I had forgotten how intimidating he could be. The last time this had happened was the time we had first met, before we had officially teamed up for the adventurer’s tournament. So much had happened since then. Although Wicked was strong, Prince was stronger. Just one problem: I wasn’t Prince right now, and to reveal my identity? I considered; it was just Zhuo-gēgē, after all, but the silent commotion drew attention and more people were quickly coming – I had to get out now.
Staying silent, I left my weapon unsheathed and abused my higher agility to twist out of his grasp. I held the hood of my cloak on with one hand, kicked off the wall in that super-villain style I had often admired but never got the chance to try, and sprinted off for the stairs. So much for being stealthy. I heard Wicked yell for reinforcements some distance behind me; soon, all of my very own specially employed security guards would be after my blood. Oh painful irony.
“Lolidragon, I don’t care what you’re busy with now, but if you don’t come now, I’m going to die to my own bodyguards,” I PMed frantically, turning on my messenger system briefly. “Do you have any idea how hum—”
I was cut off suddenly by the recipient of my PM forcefully dragging me into a room by the back of my cloak and shoving me under a desk. Seconds later, a mass of people stormed past, one warrior pausing at Lolidragon’s room. “Ma’am, by any chance did the intruder pass through here?” Seeing the irritated expression on her face as she moved sheets of paper from one side of the desk to the other, the guard muttered a quick apology then ran off in a feeble attempt to apprehend me.
Her timing could not have been better. “Where did they all come from?” I asked, figuring it was safe to come out. I crawled out slowly from under the desk and shuffled over to a spot behind the door, not trusting it to stay shut. “And what took you so long?”
“Nobody better to test the liege lord’s new security than the liege lord himself.” Lolidragon smirked, then started forwards. She yanked down my hood and stared at my face with a puzzled expression, easily recognizing the eyes as distinctively belonging to Prince especially by the tell-tale colouring. “Yeah, this could be trouble for you,” she agreed.
“Can’t you talk to the higher-ups? Get them to remove the curse? Protect the identity of their beloved spokesperson?” Now that I was out of immediate danger, I began to fully realize the long term implications of my situation and started to panic. I grabbed Lolidragon’s shoulders for support. “Anything?”
“You’re that afraid of being recognized, huh,” Lolidragon replied, surprisingly sympathetic. “I can talk to them, but I doubt they could do anything – I mean, this was a hidden quest. You did get beaten by a boss, right? Even after I told you to keep your bodyguards with you at all times. Not a glitch or anything that they can undo just like that.”
“So, in other words…”
“This is all your own fault. Idiot.”
Lolidragon’s cruelty knew no bounds. She did, however, seem to realize the seriousness of the situation, and had prepared help. “Well, for starters, you can’t keep wearing that cloak around. Even I want to arrest you, don’t mention your own guards,” she started, darting around me and stripping me with less eagerness than usual, just as I felt less violated than usual. “And mage equipment? You have the right idea, but…” She trailed off and stared at the completely mismatching pieces. Flame-magic enhancing boots, wind-magic enhancing cloak, with a set of ice-enhancing bracers?” The system of Second Life would not allow that much diversity; such combinations of equipment only lowered the overall stat, which was the reason most mages were driven into specialization. “Do you know a single thing about the mage class? Have you ever been to the official website, like I told you to when we first met?”
That earned me a painful smack to my head and I eyed Lolidragon dryly as she continued to pull off my clothes. “I thought your urges to undress me were only for my male self,” I muttered, but allowed the now taller girl (Prince was taller than Lan) to equip me properly and I listened properly as she explained the basics of the mage class. I was to be a newbie elf mage, specializing in ice magic with a sub-element of thunder (“So nobody will ask you to demonstrate,” Lolidragon explained,) who had moved into Infinite City using the influence of her brother, classmates, and childhood friend.
“But what about, you know, this?” I gestured vaguely at my face that was still distinctly Prince’s face, especially with my blood red eyes and snow white hair. “Whose idea was it to make me so distinctive looking, anyways…”
My comments earned me yet another painful smack on the head which seemed to be swelling into a small lump. “With the number of people who know you in real life, it’s pretty much impossible for you to stay unrecognized,” said Lolidragon. “So it’s best if you just be, you know, you. It just means less acting for you because honestly, you’re lousy at it. As long as you don’t try any magic or reveal that you are actually a warrior, you should be fine staying out of combat. And you’ll be staying out of combat if you know what’s good for you.”
I shot her a glare, but breathed a sigh of relief. If Lolidragon said I would be fine, then despite any mixed feelings that I had for the hidden GM as a trustworthy human being, I was probably going to be okay.
It was around that time that Wicked conveniently burst into the room. “Lolidragon, the intruder got in and out without a trace! All quarters have been searched, she’s nowhere to be found, and all of the watchtowers reported nothing! What could they be – ”
As he caught sight of me stepping out from behind the door where I had been standing, glaring at him with red eyes and equally red blood dripping from my nose, his jaw dropped, rendering him incapable of further speech. He only managed to find his voice again a few seconds later. “So, you were the intruder… Xiao Lan?”
I gracefully wiped the blood from my face and tucked a strand of hair behind my ears. “That’s Feng Xiao Xiao you’re addressing. I’m a mage and brand new to this game, so won’t you pleaaaaaaase help me, Zhuo-gēgē?” I cajoled, batting my eyelashes in a calculated way that was once very familiar in a game called The World while leaning towards him with my hands clasped. Just because I hated such actions so much that I joined a new game as the opposite gender and got myself into a heap of trouble, it didn’t mean I didn’t remember how to fully control men with just a few words.
“She’s better at this than I thought,” Lolidragon remarked dryly as Wicked blushed and sputtered, still unable to comprehend exactly what it was he saw in front of him. Brash and naïve as Prince was, the girl was quite good at acting when the situation called for it. Or was the innocence of Prince an act, and the manipulative girl in front of her the true reality?
“I… you… What is going on?” Wicked exclaimed.