½ Prince Volume 2: Reality and Fantasy
Original novel in Chinese by: 御我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 6: The Truth, Revealed? – translated by Eilinel
“Prince! Prince, are you online? Quick, come to our usual place. We’ve got a huge problem.”
The instant I got online, Lolidragon PMed me with such urgency in her voice that, before I even got a handle on the situation, I had already begun to run toward the meeting place.
“What happened?” I demanded, as I charged into the restaurant booth with an anxious expression.
“Right, now that everyone is here, I can start talking. The officials have announced that today’s match will be cancelled,” Lolidragon said calmly. Everyone in Odd Squad widened their eyes in surprise. “The competition is delayed until next week, when all teams will participate in the melee to decide the champion team.”
“What will the melee consist of? And why did they suddenly change the competition method?” Wolf inquired thoughtfully.
“The rumor is that they made the change because this competition had too many participating teams, which caused the competition to drag on for too long and has severely affected normal game play. So the officials decided to resolve everything in one go.
“A melee is where all teams are gathered on one arena at the same time to fight. The team the last person standing belongs to will be declared the winner. No pets will be allowed to help out in the fight.” Lolidragon paused, then drew in a deep breath and said, “In total, there will be one hundred teams, which means this will be a melee with six hundred participants.”
Everyone was left speechless for a while.
“Surviving amidst six hundred people?” I muttered to myself. “I think in all likelihood I’ll be the first one to be hacked to death.”
It can’t be helped, but…Is it my fate to be so handsome that every man who sees me will want to hack me to bits? Can’t I go into the competition wearing a mask?
“That’s right; seems like it’s impossible to hope for Prince’s survival,” Wolf sighed. “Since I’m such a huge target, it’s likely that I won’t be able to hold out for long. Our best hope will be Lolidragon, I guess. Her agility is so high and her build is quite slender and small.”
Lolidragon laughed dryly. “Don’t pin your hopes on me. I heard that there are already five teams saying that they would be willing to give up the chance for victory just to watch me die a horrible death.”
Man… Lolidragon, what exactly did you do that was so serious that even your beauty couldn’t prevent trouble? The rest of Odd Squad stared disbelievingly at Lolidragon, but the person in question merely shrugged casually. “I’m just too bored when you guys aren’t here, so I used the Steal ability… I only wanted to help earn some team money.”
I leveled a trembling finger at Lolidragon and asked, “How much exactly did you steal?”
“One million, six hundred and fifty-five thousand, seven hundred and twenty dollars1… Plus a Soul-Heaven Royal Sword and a Taoist robe that she hasn’t sold yet,” Yu Lian-dàsăo meticulously reported. After a pause she added, “That’s just the portion that Lolidragon gave us to be used on team expenses.”
“Lolidragon, how much did you steal for yourself?” Both my menacing gaze and the blade of my menacing Black Dao were drifting between Lolidragon’s neck and heart.
“Not much…” Lolidragon’s face was artless and innocent. Hearing her words, I relaxed a bit. If it isn’t much, maybe we can just return all the money to the people that she stole from…
“I only bought two suitcases from LV and three evening gowns from Chanel…”
“Two suitcases and three evening gowns? That’s not too bad. We can just pool the money from all six of us to cover the cost,” Wolf and Gui, neither of whom knew the difference between life and death, commented lightly.
“You guys don’t understand!” four terrifying women roared simultaneously… and then everyone gave me a weird look. (Except for Lolidragon, who seemed happy… Grrr!)
I coughed fiercely in an attempt to cover my mistake. “Ahem, I’m somewhat familiar with popular brands…”
“So just how much does all that cost then?” Gui asked uncomprehendingly.
Yu Lian-dàsăo’s eyebrows furrowed as she calculated. “Two suitcases…? One suitcase costs approximately two hundred thousand dollars, so that’s about four hundred thousand… and if the three gowns are the latest season’s…” She rested her palm against her forehead and looked as if she was going to faint. Wolf quickly placed a hand on his wife’s shoulder to support her.
“LOLIDRAGON…” I growled, resting my Black Dao against her neck again. “How much is it exactly?”
“I guess it’s roughly one and a half million for the suitcases and the latest season’s gowns,” Lolidragon said, blinking her eyes innocently.
Everyone’s expressions turned blank.
“Let’s give up on Lolidragon then. We should try to think of a way to ensure the survival of the rest of the team; there’s a much better chance of that happening,” I said in defeat after a moment. The others nodded weakly in agreement.
“That leaves only Yu Lian, Doll, and Gui?” Wolf asked as he scratched the fur on his head. “Yu Lian and Gui both belong to physically weak classes – mage and bard respectively – so it would be kind of hard for them to survive, too. Doll has the best chances; she’ll have a lot of skeletons to protect her.”
Therefore, our chances for victory rest on Doll? We looked as one at the innocently smiling Doll. Yes! Our chances do look pretty good after all. Doll is so adorable… Surely no one would have the heart to bully her, right?
“It’s decided then. Everyone protect Doll!” Wolf said decisively.
“There is still another way, you know,” Lolidragon said, waving her forefinger. “Wicked from Dark Emperor just PMed me and asked if we want to form an alliance with them.”
“Alliance?” I asked uncertainly.
With a mysterious expression, Lolidragon explained, “Actually, it’s an open secret that a lot of teams have formed various large and small alliances in order to win. Once the competition starts, the alliances will fight each other first, after which the alliances will break up into their teams and face off. Finally, the surviving remnants of the team will fight to the last man in order to determine the winner.
“Hence, if we form an alliance with Dark Emperor, then we will start the competition by fighting against other teams first. If both our teams can survive until the end, then the final confrontation will be between our teams.”
“But the allied teams may end up being a hindrance to their allies,” Wolf remarked in a worried voice.
“That’s why we all need to decide whether we can trust Dark Emperor Team or not,” Lolidragon said as though that was the obvious answer.
“If my memory serves me correctly, our teams are sworn enemies,” Gui replied coolly. 100% disapproval was written all over his face.
“One vote against, one vote in favor, so it’s a tie for now. What about other people?” Lolidragon had begun to keep count of the votes with considerable enthusiasm.
The furrow between Wolf-dàgē’s brows grew deeper, and deeper, and deeper, until at last he said in a troubled voice, “I also vote in favor. We don’t know any other teams and surviving alone is too hard.”
“I’m with Wolf.” Yu Lian-dàsăo looked at Wolf lovingly. She always followed her husband’s opinions.
“Wow, that’s already half of us in favor of it. Prince, Doll, how about you two?”
“Doll doesn’t mind either way,” said Doll, an especially pure and ethereal smile on her face.
“Prince.” Everyone stared at me. But I… I really don’t want to see Wicked now, and who knows if he’ll suddenly see the light and recognize me as Feng Lan? My stupid brother already told him I’m a tranny… However, more than that, I don’t want to be mashed into a meat paste during the melee.
“Then it’s decided!” Lolidragon said happily. “We will undergo special training with Dark Emperor every day this week.”
“Lolidragon, what are you so happy about?” I asked Lolidragon with suspicion in my eyes.
Lolidragon winked at me, then PMed me her reply. “Feng Wu Qing will be there. When Wolf-gē and Gui see your brother, the misunderstanding will clear up. Haven’t you always wanted to resolve that misunderstanding? See how nice I am to you?”
The problem is, after solving the problem with my brother there’ll be a new problem, this time involving Zhuo-gēge… God, why are you so unwilling to go easy on me? Sigh, I don’t care anymore. After all, Wicked shouldn’t be able to recognize me…right? I tried to console myself uneasily.
“It’s been a while, Prince.” Zhuo-gēge… no, Wicked’s distant smile appeared before my eyes once again. At his back was a clearly annoyed Ming Huang, whom I used to call Zhuo-xiăodìdi, and at his side was the charming and suave Feng Wu Qing, who was fanning himself with a feather fan. My stupid brother…
No wonder they are my sworn enemies!
“Feng Yang Ming?” Gui looked at Feng Wu Qing, dumbfounded, before turning back to look at me.
“Hello, professor,” Feng Wu Qing said, grinning. “It didn’t cross your mind that I might be a member of Dark Emperor, did it?”
Judging by Gui’s disbelieving expression, I think the thing that he didn’t expect was you being a member of Dark Emperor instead of Prince in Odd Squad.
“You— Are you really Feng Yang Ming?” Gui still looked flabbergasted, as though he could not bring himself to believe that he had actually gotten the wrong person.
“Yes?” Feng Wu Qing queried, looking oddly at the professor who seemed to be a tad too shocked.
As for me, I realized I had thwarted my own plans, since I’d wanted to entertain myself with the scene of Gui and Wicked fighting over my brother and getting all jealous. What a pity! Still, looking at Gui’s astonished expression and my brother’s apparent confusion, I found a different entertainment…
With a considerable effort, I suppressed my laughter and said seriously, “We are very happy to be able to work with Dark Emperor. I hope that both teams can support each other till the end.”
“Let’s hope that is the case.” Wicked smiled faintly.
“When the time comes, don’t blame us for defeating you lot and winning the competition,” Ming Huang said with a face filled with malice. It was obvious that he hadn’t desired an alliance with Odd Squad in the least.
On the surface, I merely looked silently at Ming Huang, but in my heart I sighed, feeling infinitely regretful. Why has the cute Ming Bin from before become so bratty now? Should I help Zhuo-gēge teach his wayward brother some manners?
Wolf-dàgē suddenly clapped his hands. “Okay, that’s it for everything that is unrelated to the competition! The thing that is most important for us now is the battle next week.”
Hearing that, Gui, Feng Wu Qing, Ming Huang, and I – who were all either staring or glaring daggers at each other – reluctantly withdrew our gazes and paid attention to Wolf-dàgē as he spoke.
“It is my opinion that we should try to practice surviving in a situation where we are surrounded by enemies on all sides. Hence, I suggest that we find a training place that is filled with mobs,” Wolf-dàgē said.
“Dàgē, it’ll be very easy to become pillars of white light if we do that,” I said apprehensively, breaking out into cold sweat. The others also swallowed nervously, looking somewhat petrified by the thought.
“To win, one must always make sacrifices,” Wolf-dàgē said ruthlessly. “Of course, it’s also best not to lower our team’s level whenever possible.”
Sigh! Ever since I first met Wolf-dàgē, I had come to understand the phrase “To resign oneself to one’s fate”. Since Wolf-dàgē had determined that I had the lowest chances of survival in the team, he ordered me (Yes, that’s right! It was definitely an order!) to use my final moments to kill as many mobs as possible, so as to buy time for my other team mates to escape. This way, our team’s level wouldn’t be lowered by unnecessary deaths.
And that’s how I’ve ended up running for my life with a huge bunch of mobs hot on my heels right now…
Time really seemed to drag on forever, with every second feeling like a year… After a few thousand years, I finally accomplished my impossible mission and pulled2 dozens of monsters away from my team without lighting any fireworks (that is to say, turning into a pillar of white light).
I was so tired that I crawled back to my team on all fours like a dog. But just when I was about to sit down comfortably on the sidelines to watch Wicked’s Flawless Frenzied Sword-Dance and Feng Wu Qing’s Flexible Sword Technique…
“Prince, there are too many monsters again. Hurry up and pull them away,” Wolf-dàgē shouted at me from the other side of the Great Wall of Monsters.
My eyes glazed over like those of a dead fish and I was left speechless…
“Hurry up and pull them away! I’ve already cast Wrath of the Nine Heavens twice and we still can’t clear them!” Ming Huang shouted, his face clearly showing his annoyance.
I shot Ming Huang a savage glare, but took out Meatbun resignedly. “Meatbun, use Machine Gun Meat Attack.”
“Are we roasting meat again Mama? But I don’t see Fire Bird.” Meatbun said, eagerly hopping here and there, looking for Fire Phoenix.
“HURRY UP AND FIRE!” both teams — twelve people in total — roared together.
I boarded the “number 11 bus”3 once again and started running, and running, and running… Bloody hell! A devastated expression crossed my face and I mentally wailed in a tragic voice: There. Is. A. Cliff. Ahead!
For the first time in my life, I truly felt that my abysmal sense of direction was criminal.
What am I supposed to do about the horde of mobs that were eyeing my back with a predatory gaze? I stared at the cliff — it looks high enough that a fall would lead to certain death… — then turned back and stared at the huge number of mobs behind me.
They could probably just trample me dead… Plummet to my death? Or be trampled to death? This…seems like a difficult choice?
Hanging onto my final shred of hope, I switched to the team channel and asked, “Wolf-dàgē, how many monsters are there left at your side?” Do you have the time to come and save me?
“The monsters’ numbers are just fine; I think we can clear them in half an hour.” After Wolf finished replying to me, there was no further news from his end.
Half an hour? There might not even be ashes left of me by then…
I clutched my beloved Black Dao tightly and muttered under my breath, “Come and get me! You stupid monsters, even if I die I will drag some of you to the grave with me.” The first ones to rush at me were a Bosilimi,4 a spider monster with a human head, a huge slime monster, the very aggressive leader of a tribe of pygmies, and—
There’s just too many of them! I gulped and retreated a few steps, but I hadn’t noticed that I was already next to the cliff’s ledge, and in a moment of inattention…
“Done at last!” Lolidragon groaned as she sprawled beside the road. She was panting heavily; the distance she’d covered wasn’t any less than Prince! Due to her higher agility but lower attack power when compared to the idiotic Playboy Lord, Lolidragon ended up having to be the bait that lured the mobs to run in circles.
On the other side of the road, however, Wicked and Feng Wu Qing were even worse off. Not only had they had to chase the mobs, they’d had to fight mobs too until their arms had turned to jelly. Both of them were panting heavily and their faces were pale.
“Ok, is anyone dead or injured?” Wolf asked as he stood up and looked over everyone. “Report!”
“1,” said Human warrior Feng Wu Qing.
“2,” said Dark elf warrior Wicked.
“3,” said Human mage Ming Huang.
“4,” said Human thief Playboy Lord.
“5,” said Elf archer Ambusher.
“6,” said Angel priest Black Lily.
“Mm…all members of Dark Emperor Team are here.” Wolf turned to look at his own teammates. “Five people? Isn’t Prince back yet?”
“Prince, where are you? We’re done fighting!! Stop lazing around and come back quickly,” Lolidragon shouted through the team channel, but there was no response even after a long time.
“What happened? Don’t tell me Prince is dead?” Gui’s face became anxious.
“It’s possible,” Lolidragon said, recalling the huge amount of mobs that Prince had pulled away the last time… He might really have died.
“I’ll PM him to see whether he is online or not.”
“Well?” Wolf asked, concerned.
“Weird, he is online but he isn’t replying.” Lolidragon furrowed her brows.
“Perhaps he’s angry?” Wicked opined impassively. “We did force him to lure a ton of mobs away… Perhaps that was a bit too mean?”
Everyone in Odd Squad gave Wicked an odd look and said in unison, “That fellow has already resigned himself to fate!”
“Plus he won’t get angry at us; he’ll just vent all his anger on Gui,” Lolidragon added.
“Then what had happened to Prince-gēge?” Doll worriedly asked.
“Who knows? But he probably isn’t in any big trouble,” Lolidragon replied. It’s an online game, the worst thing that can happen is dying, right? Lolidragon tried to reassure herself, but at the same time she was slightly uneasy.
Ouch…Did I faint? I tried to raise my right hand to touch my head, which was hurting from a splitting headache, only to find… Why can’t I move my right arm?
Of course I can’t, I thought as I glanced at my right hand. It was covered in so much blood that it could pass for a hot dog covered in ketchup.
As for my left hand… I tried to move it, but the pain nearly drove the tears from my eyes. I glanced at my left hand and thought, Oh, fantastic! My white bones are already outdoors, shopping.
Next, I weakly opened my mouth to shout, but blood gushed out from my mouth like water from a tap. I no longer dared to verify whether my legs were capable of walking … God! Lying here half-dead is more painful than simply dying…
It hurts, it really hurts! I looked at the cliff that I had fallen off, trying hard to imprint on my memory the knowledge that a fall from this height isn’t enough to kill, and that I should remember not to fall off random cliffs anymore…
No! What am I thinking! I should be hurrying to PM other people to come and rescue me, before I faint again.
“Guys… save… save me…” The blood in my mouth…how salty…
“Prince?” Everyone in Odd Squad blanched. “Where are you?! Did you die?”
“Urgh… It hurts… Come and save me soon, or you can just come to kill me off!” The pain had made me delirious and I was starting to spout nonsense.
Gui was so worried that he shouted, “Prince, where are you?!”
“Cliff… Don’t jump off one for fun… It hurts…!” My head spun and I saw stars.
“Hang in there, Prince! Don’t go offline yet; we’ll come find you right away.” Is that Wolf-dàgē’s voice? It sounds like it’s so far away.
Pain… P… My consciousness no longer registered any word but “pain”.
All the members of Odd Squad looked as white as a sheet.
“I think Prince has probably fallen off some cliff. Everyone split up to find him, quick! Inform me once you’ve found him so that I can heal him,” Wolf-dàgē bellowed urgently. As soon as he’d finished speaking, everyone dashed off in separate directions.
“We’ll help you with your search,” Wicked offered, concerned.
“Prince, where are you?” Gui was in such a state that he seemed almost like a man possessed. Yelling frantically, he ran helter-skelter as he searched.
After instructing his team members to help with the search, Wicked surveyed his surroundings carefully. Given Prince’s speed and the direction in which he was headed last, where could he have fallen off?
In the meantime, I was mentally lamenting my situation.
Why can’t I just die? Could this be considered a miscalculation by the game developers? I have to keep lying here, in such pain and agony, just so that everyone can find me? I’m absolutely going to complain to Lolidragon – the hidden GM – when I see her later…
To divert my attention from the pain, I came up with all sorts of nonsensical thoughts and ideas, but… Why hasn’t anyone come to save me yet? Wuuuh, it really hurts! Someone save me! Please! Gui, where are you? Let me punch you to vent my feelings, waaah! …
Wait, who? Who is that? As the sound of footsteps reached me, I felt so touched that I wanted to see for myself who was approaching…
“I finally found you,” the person said as he kneeled down beside me. He took out a health potion and tried to feed it to me, but I barely managed to swallow two mouthfuls.
“Is it Gui?” My vision was so blurry that I couldn’t make out the person in front of me… Who is it?
“No, it’s Wicked. I’ve run out of health potions, so I’ll have to bring you back to the priests for healing,” Wicked said as he scooped me up from the ground.
“Oh… So it’s… It’s Zhuo-gēge!” I muttered to myself in relief.
Zhuo. Gē. Ge?! Wicked thought, stunned. He lowered his head to look at me closely, but I didn’t notice because I’d been rendered delirious from the pain.
After peering carefully at my features, he whispered, “The exact same pair of eyes… and last time Yang Ming had told me that she was playing a male character in Second Life. Plus he called me Zhuo-gēge… Don’t tell me you’re… Xiao Lan?!”
Wicked stared at my pain-riddled countenance with mounting alarm.
“Xiao Lan, is that you?” Wicked asked loudly, his voice filled with distress.
“Prince! We’ve found Prince!” Gui called as he sprinted towards us. “Thanks, Wicked.”
Gui reached out, thinking to take me from Wicked’s hold, but Wicked just gripped me closer to him. He ignored Gui and instead walked over to meet Ugly Wolf, who was running over.
“…” Gui could only stare in bewilderment as Wicked stoically strode past him, carefully cradling me in his arms.
Once Wolf-dàgē had finished casting a number of powerful healing spells on me, I finally revived and returned to my usual self – and boy was I pissed!
“Why did it take you guys so long to find me? I was in a lot of pain!” I snapped, remembering my earlier miserable situation with a shudder.
“Hey, you were the one who fell off the cliff on your own! We had to exert a ton of effort just to look all over the place for you. How dare you complain still!” Lolidragon retorted, brutally pointing out the facts.
“I…” I was feeling rather sorry for myself. It’s not like I fell off the cliff deliberately, I thought, pouting crossly. “Gui, Gui! Explain to me why you were slower than Wicked in finding me.”
“I…” Gui managed a weak, confused smile, but his eyes were filled with guilt.
Not bothering to waste any more time on pointless conversation… I’ll just start beating Gui up!
“Xiao Lan?” Wicked suddenly PMed me, his tone indecipherable.
I stopped dead in my tracks and then slowly turned my head back to look at Wicked. My identity’s been revealed? So in the end… With no other choice, I dropped Gui and PMed Wicked in reply, “You found out then?”
“Mmhmm.” Zhuo-gēge had a strange look in his eyes, leaving me uncertain about what he was planning to do.
“Could you not reveal the truth to anyone else, Zhuo-gēge?” I pleaded, and then added, “Especially that brother of mine, Feng Wu Qing. He’s got a mouth like a broadcasting station.”
Zhuo-gēge stared at me, silently considering my request.
Seeing the situation, I found myself forced to use my tried-and-tested, near-godly cajoling technique. “Pleeease, Zhuo-gēge! Don’t tell anyone, okayyy?” Ewww… even I find it disgusting to hear myself sweet-talk someone else with Prince’s masculine voice.
“Mm.” Zhuo Ling Bin helplessly nodded his head. Obviously he couldn’t stand being cajoled by a guy either.
“Why are the two of them gazing ardently into one another’s eyes?” Lolidragon remarked slyly. “Not to mention that Prince has such a bizarre expression… Looks like your love rival has finally appeared, Gui!”
I gave Lolidragon the evil eye for the nonsense she was spouting and then turned to Gui. The bard was looking at Wicked and me expressionlessly. To be honest, his blank face actually alarmed me far more than any other expression would have.
The next day our teams decided to train separately. As usual, we waited for everyone to arrive before starting. I glanced over at Gui – he had been in a state of depression ever since the day before, and was just stopping short of having two demon fires5 floating next to him.
Unable to resist the urge, I smacked him on the head and exclaimed, “What are you thinking about? You look terrible.”
Gui looked at me with a searching expression for a while, before replying in a heavy voice. “Nothing much…”
I thought about it for a moment, and understanding dawned. “Are you nervous about the competition? Don’t worry about it; as long as we give it all we have, the result is of no importance. All we can do now is work hard, anyway,” I said as I patted Gui’s back cheerfully.
I’m actually nervous too, but winning or losing isn’t really such a big deal to me. Of course, it’d still be nice to win!
Lolidragon rolled her eyes and shot me a look that clearly said that she thought I was a lost cause. “Prince, your brain is really missing a tendon!”
Hearing her comment, I replied seriously. “Lolidragon, don’t think that I’m completely clueless!”
“Oh? Then you do know?” Curiosity was written all over her face.
“I may not be a medical student, but I still know that there aren’t any tendons in the human brain. Don’t try to trick me!” I said crossly.
“You thick-headed moron!” A vein popped on Lolidragon’s forehead.
“Prince.” Just as I was about to retort, Gui suddenly grabbed me by the shoulders and looked at me apprehensively. “Tell me, just who is more important to you: me, or Wicked?” he asked.
“You’re more important to me, obviously,” I replied firmly.
Once I answered, Gui’s entire body seemed to glow brightly. Standing to one side, he blissfully replayed my answer over and over again in his head, even as I continued to mutter to myself.
“After all, you are my teammate! And while Wicked might be an ally, we’ll still need to fight him in the end.”
As I finished speaking, I suddenly noticed something. Eh? Why has the atmosphere around Gui gone all dark and heavy again? I scratched my head, and asked uncertainly, “Lolidragon, did I say something wrong?”
Lolidragon cast Gui a sympathetic look. “No, but it’ll be better if you don’t say anything else.”
“Oh…let’s not bother about Gui then. Wolf-dàgē, what should we do next for our training?” I asked anxiously. “Even Dark Emperor has gone for their secret training, so what about us?”
“Heh heh…” Wolf-dàgē’s sly laugh gave me goosebumps. “We’ll also be conducting our own secret training!”
Everyone went “ohhh” apprehensively and began to listen attentively.
“If the opponent team only consists of six people, then we would just need to train for higher levels, better teamwork, et cetera. However, when we’re squaring off against six hundred people, the most important thing is…” Wolf-dàgē drew a deep breath. “Escaping.”
I collapsed onto the floor… No, everyone collapsed onto the floor.
Escaping? We actually need secret training for ESCAPING?
“Don’t look down on the art of escaping. Even the Thirty-six Stratagems6 states that escaping is the best strategy, so you can see that escaping can be a really profound area of study. Not only must you possess leg strength so that you can outrun your enemies, you also must have keen eyesight, in order to spot the best direction to escape. In addition, you need to have good judgment to efficiently use every possible trick in your book in the process of fleeing, and to decrease the numbers of enemies that are chasing you.
“Lastly, and most importantly, you need to be good at stealth and be capable of blending into a crowd, so that others won’t think of killing you first.” Wolf-dàgē paused for breath before pointing at Gui, Lolidragon, and me.
“However,” he continued, “Our team has the misfortune of having three individuals who stand out so much that nobody could forget them, even if they wanted to… and one of them even stirred up trouble right before the competition and made herself stand out more.”
“Then what should we do, Wolf-dàgē?” I asked anxiously. At the same time, I thought to myself darkly, Actually, our team has FOUR individuals who stand out, including someone who’s two meters tall.
“I have already thought of a solution,” Wolf-dàgē replied. As he took out a sack filled with masks, I began to cheer mentally. Yaaaaay, I thought, I can go masked! I took out a mask and promptly put it on, feeling overjoyed that I wouldn’t have to be hacked to death by those jealous, sword-swinging living creatures.
“Does it look good, Lolidragon?” I turned and asked her.
“If you were planning to stage a robbery, then this black cloth mask that covers your whole head with only three exposed holes would truly be suitable.”
I took out another mask and put it on.
“If you thought you could blend into the crowd during the competition while wearing a safety helmet, then this one would be all right as well.”
“Right, the quality of this silk stocking is pretty good.”
“Even I had no idea that they sold Pikachu masks in Second Life…”
Wearing a Pikachu face, I watched speechlessly as Yu Lian-dàsăo grabbed and twisted her husband’s ear and warned him not to buy objects at random anymore. Wait a minute; I seem to remember that I have…
I rooted around in my pouch, finally found my first mask in my life — a masquerade mask. I took off the Pikachu mask and instead put on the old one that covered the upper half of my face.
“How about this?” I turned to face everyone.
“Much better,” Everyone said in unison — except for Wolf-dàgē, who kept muttering insistently that the masks he’d bought were better, since the people on TV always wore those kinds of masks.
“I have a question. Are we escaping separately or as a team?” Gui asked. He began to analyze the situation with a severe expression. “If we all escape together, it will probably have the reverse effect from what we want, right? However, the risks are higher if we escape separately… So how about we separate into three groups, with two people in each group? That way, we can keep a low profile and still have back-up.”
To think that Gui could actually say something that made sense, I thought, and had no choice but to give him a serious response. “How should we split ourselves up then?”
Gui deliberated for a moment, then said, “Prince with Yu Lian-dàsăo, Doll with Lolidragon, and Wolf-gē with me.”
I considered his words, but quickly realized that I couldn’t think of any reason for this particular arrangement. “The rationale being…?”
“You and Yu Lian-dàsăo can be considered a pretty strong combination, so you both shouldn’t have any trouble if it’s just a matter of escaping. In contrast, for our two groups, Doll can sacrifice Lolidragon in order to escape if necessary, while Wolf can sacrifice me.” Gui said impassively. “A warrior’s strength, a mage’s powerful AoE spells,7 a necromancer’s horde of skeletons, and the must-have Priest will all be very useful for our team. A Thief and a Bard are more secondary in importance.”
“I see… then between Yu Lian-dàsăo and me, who should be sacrificed?” I thought that I should ask first. Otherwise, what if the wrong person dies?
Gui’s brow wrinkled for a moment, then he looked at me and said firmly, “I believe that you’ll definitely protect Yu Lian-dàsăo and at the same time protect yourself. Is that all right?”
I smiled. “No problem.”
After that, Odd Squad began to practice the art of escaping — the recommended strategy of the Thirty-Six Stratagems.
To train our leg strength, everyone tried to come up with an ability similar to Qing Gong.8 Of course, Lolidragon and I didn’t need to learn it, since our agility was already extremely high. Then, everyone took turns being chased by Lolidragon, who was holding a torch, trying to scorch us… Lolidragon, was it just me or were you rather fixated on singeing my ass? Basically, we were trying in every way possible to make ourselves swifter.
Next, to train our eyesight, we went to a jam-packed street in the most crowded market in Sun City, the largest city in Second Life. There, we tried to seek out the best route that would allow us to worm our way through the street as quickly as possible.
The final winner was the petite Doll. I came to the conclusion that having a big body wasn’t always an advantage, because Wolf-dàgē never won. In fact, he never reached the end point, not even once.
To train our judgment, we first considered robbing a bank; that way we could improve our judgment and also increase our team’s funds, killing two birds with one stone. The infamy we would gain when committing the crime didn’t matter to us – after all, even Yu Lian-dàsăo didn’t look at our team’s fame level anymore. (We all knew that anyone who saw it would feel heartbroken…)
Our plan was to rob the bank, split into groups, and then – using various means and methods – we would hinder the guards in the course of escaping… However, after realizing that we might be jailed until long after the competition was over if we failed, we gave up this portion of our training.
Lastly, training the ability to conceal oneself was the easiest. Everyone just walked into the shop, paid one gold coin for a masquerade mask, and it was done.
The rest of our training consisted of killing mobs to grind levels.9 After some discussion with Dark Emperor, they too decided to employ our strategy. Since the latest rumors said that all of the remaining ninety-eight teams had formed alliances, with each alliance having five or so teams, it seemed like a smart idea…
In such a situation, what else can we do except to escape? Fight them head-on? We’d get decimated!
Although Ming Huang kept bellowing about how we should just slaughter them all with Wrath of the Nine Heavens, Wicked, Feng Wu Qing, and I all agreed that we didn’t have the ability to fend off tons of opponents at once while protecting our mages. Thus, Ming Huang’s “suggestion” was rejected.
Dark Emperor had split themselves up into three groups – Wicked with Ming Huang, Feng Wu Qing with Black Lily, and Ambusher with Playboy Lord. If necessary, the teams would cover for each other.
After finding out that Wicked was Zhuo-gēge, I had more trust in Dark Emperor. If Zhuo-gēge dared to go back on his promise, I would certainly give him hell.
There’s only one more day until the melee battle…
“Xiao Lan…” Zhuo-gēge said hesitantly.
I paused in the act of eating my noodles and looked questioningly up at him. Although I had known that Zhuo-gēge would come to find me to discuss my other identity, I never would have thought that he would ask me out for lunch the day before the competition.
“The competition will be very dangerous, so you should be careful,” Zhuo Ling Bin said. There was indecision in his voice and his eyes were filled with worry.
“I will; dying doesn’t feel good at all!” I replied.
What I didn’t tell Zhuo-gēge was that I had decided I would protect Yu Lian-dàsăo with my very life if necessary, even though I’d told Gui that staying alive would be “no problem”. While I didn’t know whether it was the right decision, at least without me they would still have Doll’s skeletons as a meat shield.
I smiled at Zhuo-gēge. “I’m going to use the restroom for a bit.”
As I stepped out of the washroom a few minutes later, I smiled happily. The main reason for my joy was that this restaurant’s food was delicious and, for once, I wouldn’t have to pay.
However, as I turned the corner to walk to my seat, Professor Min Gui Wen’s face suddenly entered my view. Alarmed, I immediately hid behind the wall and then stealthily poked my head out from behind it. To my surprise, I found that Gui and Zhuo-gēge were staring intensely at each other.
They sustained this standoff for what felt like five minutes, until even the surrounding customers were starting to look curiously at them. Still, they stared, without uttering a word. I grew so tired just from watching that I had to massage my neck.
“What’s going on? Did they fall in love at first sight?” I muttered to myself.
“Just you wait, I will defeat you,” Gui finally said.
“Oh? And just how will you defeat me? By playing your guqin?” Zhuo Ling Bin retorted disdainfully.
Gui smiled faintly, not backing down an inch. “Prince and I will defeat you together.”
I quickly poked my head out to eavesdrop after I heard their voices.
At Gui’s words, Zhuo Ling Bin’s expression changed and he said scathingly, “What do you know? You don’t understand her10 at all.”
“Although I’ve only known him for a short time, I understand his personality, his likes, and his tendencies,” Gui replied seriously.
“You understand her? Do you understand her as well as I do? I have loved her for eight years!” Agitated, Zhuo Ling Bin stood up abruptly, looming over Gui.
Eight years? A brief flash of white, hot pain stabbed through Gui’s chest, gone as quickly as it had come. He shoved the sensation aside and managed to retort, “Eight years and you have yet to win his heart… and you still believe that you have hope?”
His words wedged themselves into a crack in Zhuo Ling Bin’s heart. They’d found their mark, his weakness, with unerring accuracy.
The two men glared fiercely at each other, neither willing to back down first.
Meanwhile, I stood confusedly at one side, thinking, So they are love rivals? Who is that lucky girl?
Wait a moment, Gui is gay! That must mean they’re fighting over a man! Eh? Zhuo-gēge is gay too?! This is too complicated; I don’t understand it at all!
Eventually, Gui heaved a deep sigh. “Forget it,” he said. “We can continue this conversation after the competition. At the very least, I don’t want this to affect the competition, since it’s so important to Prince.”
Zhuo Ling Bin glanced at Gui briefly. “Yeah.”
After getting Zhuo Ling Bin’s agreement, Gui swiftly left while Zhuo-gēge sat down again.
Looks like it’s time for me to go out? I hurried back to my seat, trying to act casual, but Zhuo-gēge was just smiling as usual.
“Umm, I’m going to be late for my class, so I’ll leave first. Bye, Zhuo-gēge!”
After I got home, following the end of my classes for the day, I couldn’t help but keep thinking about the contents of their conversation. It was on my mind even as I cooked dinner that night.
Firstly, it’s someone Zhuo-gēge has known for eight years. Secondly, it has to be a guy… right? Gui is gay, so it’s impossible that he’d be fighting with Zhuo-gēge over a girl. I must say, though, that finding out that Zhuo-gēge is a gay gave me quite a shock; I hadn’t thought that this world had so many gays before. Thirdly, it’s someone Gui hasn’t known for a long time, but understands very well…
Who could it possibly be? I’m sooooo curious! Who could actually be so attractive that he charmed both Gui and Zhuo-gēge? Thanks to him, whoever he is, I’m feeling a tad sour and maybe even slightly pissed.
“Sis, I’m going out to buy drinks; what drink do you want?” Yang Ming asked as he suddenly poked his head out from behind the door.
I stared at Yang Ming, and immediately thought of their conversation—
A guy Zhuo-gēge has known for eight years, and whom Gui hasn’t known for long but understands very well. All of that adds up to… my brother, Yang Ming?
God, I should have thought of it earlier! It’s no surprise, then, that Zhuo-gēge suddenly came to our house. Maybe he knew from the start that Wu Qing was Yang Ming, and that’s why he invited him to be a team member?
And Gui… he must have fallen in love with Yang Ming during the period of time when he thought I was Yang Ming! That’s why he said he hasn’t known him for long, but understands him… was that how it happened?
Something felt out of place, but at the same time it all seemed to fit. I tilted my head to one side, trying to get my thoughts straightened out and figure out whether my deduction was right or wrong.
“Sis, do you have to think so hard about your choice of drink?” Yang Ming looked impatiently at me, even as my head felt like it would burst from all that thinking.
Arghhh, I don’t care anymore, it would be faster just to ask.
“Yang Ming, tell me, does Zhuo-gēge like…” I trailed off, finding it hard to actually say the words. After all, isn’t this like asking about what’s going on between Zhuo-gēge and my brother in a roundabout way? I thought, hesitating.
Yang Ming seemed overjoyed. “You finally get it? Sis, I thought you were so slow that you would never realize it!” At the same time, he thought, Poor Zhuo-gēge has liked you for a long time. Now his unrequited love can finally have a happy ending.
My head spun at the revelation his words brought. I guessed correctly? God! And my brother is so glad about it… Don’t tell me he’s interested in Zhuo-gēge too?! But wasn’t he hitting on girls all the time? Was that a cover? Even my brother is gay?
I stared at Yang Ming, torn. “Bro…Let me ask you then, what do you think of Zhuo-gēge?”
“Zhuo-gēge is a very nice guy, and he’s very loyal and gentle. He’s definitely someone you can entrust your future to,” Yang Ming answered, grinning.
“You like him?” I asked, clinging onto my last shred of hope.
“Yep, I like him very much.” With a sure expression, he added, “Don’t worry, Dad and Mom like Zhuo-gēge very much too, they approve of him.”
God! My mouth fell open. To think that my brother really is gay, and that two guys I know are fighting over him? In addition, my parents have given their approval? What kind of world is this?! “Be honest, sis, are you okay with this turn of events?” my brother asked seriously.
“I… what if I cannot accept it?” I replied timidly. But… can I choose not to accept the fact that my brother is a gay?
“Then someone will be heartbroken.” He shook his head with a morose look.
I looked at the sorrowful face of Yang Ming, and reluctantly thought, Sigh! My brother has grown up already. At any rate, the choice of the person he likes cannot be decided by his sister. It’s better to give him my blessing rather than telling him “no,” and making him unhappy. And besides, Dad and Mum aren’t against it, anyway.
“Sigh. So long as you’re truly happy with it…” I decided at long last.
I left my room sadly, mourning over the sister in law and cute nieces and nephews that I would never have.
Yang Ming watched me depart with a bewildered expression. Scratching his head, he mused aloud, “Odd, what did I come into Sis’s room for again?”
[½ Prince Volume 2 Chapter 6 End]
1 Dollars: It’s not very clear just what currency we’re talking about here (that is, whether this is in-game currency or real-world currency). If this is in-game currency, then this would be 1,655 crystals, 7 g (gold) and 2 s (silver). If this is real-world currency, then the dollars here would refer to the New Taiwan Dollar (TWD), and the sum here would be approximately 50,112 USD.
2 To pull a mob: Gamer lingo for luring a mob (or multiple mobs). This is usually done by either the meat shield (a.k.a. the tank) or a ranged attacker. As most mobs in MMOs tend to attack the first fellow who provokes it – either by stepping into its “aggro” range or by attacking it – this will ensure that the mob does not attack the other members of the group.
4 Bosilimi: Spider-bodied, human-headed monsters are in no short supply in most fantasy novels, although their names vary from book to book (alternative names include Spidrens and Dryders). An interesting side note: this is probably the very first hint in ½ Prince that the author is a fan of R.A. Salvatore. (Yes, Yu Wo loves Drizzt. She loves him so much that she event created a drow character similar to Drizzt in a later novel.)
5 Demon fires: You’d definitely have seen these hanging next to Gui if you’ve read the manhua version of this scene, or if you’ve ever watched the anime “Ghost Hunt”. They’re called “鬼火” (guĭ huŏ) in Chinese, “onibi” in Japanese, and they’re basically spirits.
6 Thirty-Six Stratagems: A famous set of Chinese writings relating to military strategy. The word “stratagems” actually means “ruses”, so you can see why escaping plays such a huge role in it. The writings were often attributed to Sun Tzu (of Art of War fame) or Zhuge Liang (of Three Kingdoms fame), but recent historians believe that the origins of the Thirty-Six Stratagems are not rooted in any particular era or writer.
7 AoE spells: AoE stand for “Area of Effect”, so AoE spells are basically spells that deal damage within a certain area or radius. Such spells tend to be more destructive, but also require more time to cast, hence are easily interrupted. An example of this is Ming Huang’s favorite spell, “Wrath of the Nine Heavens”.
8 Qing Gong: The two characters in “轻功” (qīng gōng) literally means “light” (as opposed to “heavy”) and “skill”. This is a special type of ability that only the top martial arts practitioners in wuxia novels are able to execute. To learn it, characters often have to go through some fairly harsh and unusual training, during which they must learn to channel their “qi”, a form of energy, through the proper channels. One example is Little Dragon Girl from Return of the Condor Heroes, who is able to sleep by lying on a single length of rope, as though it is a hammock. Qing Gong also allows its user to “fly” by stepping on the air itself or move very rapidly.
10 Her/ Him: In Chinese, the character “她” (tā) is used when saying “she” or “her”, while the character “他” (tā) is used when saying “he”, “him” or “his”. The two characters have the same pronunciation. As such, Gui does not realize that Prince is actually a girl.