½ Prince Volume 3: Records of the Vagabond Prince
Original novel in Chinese by: 御我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 5: Demon King Kenshin – translated by Erihppas
I took off the game helmet, feeling kind of drained. To think that I actually became Jing and Yun’s Dàgē… If they ever find out the truth, I will die a horrible death.
I got up and began to prepare breakfast, feeling deeply troubled. It had been six, nearly seven days and I still had no way of contacting any of my Odd Squad teammates. Sigh! Truth be told, there’s actually many ways to solve the problem. Telling my brother would be the easiest way and yet, ironically enough, I just can’t tell him…
Who could be calling at such an early hour? I answered the phone, puzzled. “Hello?”
“Xiao Lan? Are you alright?!” Zhuo-gēge’s anxious voice sounded over the receiver.
“I’m fine. This is great, I can finally contact someone!” I was overjoyed. I had clean forgotten that I could contact Zhuo-gēge.
“Xiao Lan, where on earth have you run off to?” It was clear from his tone that Zhuo-gēge was relieved to hear from me.
“I… I’m on the Eastern Continent…” My voice grew tinier with each word.
“The Eastern Continent?” Zhuo-gēge was stunned. “What are you doing over there?”
“I have no idea either. I woke up and found myself there after drinking with Nan Gong Zui!” I said woefully. “Also, we can’t send PMs to players on different continents, so I couldn’t contact you guys at all.”
Is it just me or does Zhuo-gēge sound as though he is trying to suppress his anger? “You went drinking with Nan Gong Zui and drank until you lost consciousness? You’re a girl, how could you not know how to protect yourself?!”
“Ehhh… But I’m a guy in-game!” I scratched my face. Nan Gong Zui and Kong Kong wouldn’t do anything to me, a guy, right? Besides, is it possible to be XXed in a game? Hmmm… That’s a question worth mentioning to Lolidragon.
“It still isn’t right. You are a girl after all,” Zhuo-gēge insisted stubbornly.
“Oh… Well, I won’t do it again. I don’t like to drink anyway!” That’s how it is, right? I remember that the wine was unpleasant, but how did I get so drunk? How odd!
Zhuo-gēge’s tone relaxed. “It’s almost time for you to come back to the Central Continent. You should stop playing on the Eastern Continent. Everyone’s waiting for you in Infinite City, especially Nan Gong Zui – he’s brought along an entire adventurers’ group. They’re looking forward to meeting you.”
“But I can’t go back; I don’t have enough money for the ship fare,” I told Zhuo-gēge pitifully.
“How much do you need?”
“Five thousand crystal coins.”
“…I’ll ask Lolidragon tonight when I log on to see if we can find a way to transfer money to you,” Zhuo-gēge said, sounding troubled. “Though, Infinite City is a bit strapped for cash. I wonder if Yu Lian would be willing to spare the money?”
“Oh… In that case, I’ll just earn it by myself.” I felt a bit embarrassed. I haven’t done anything as the liege lord yet and already I’m being a hindrance.
“I’ll talk to them about it. For now, you should take on some high-level quests. With your skill, you should be able to complete several B-level quests1 on your own. The rewards for B-level quests range from several hundred to several thousand gold coins,” Zhuo-gēge suggested, and then added worriedly, “But they may be quite difficult, so make sure that they’re not too dangerous before you take them on!”
“Alright, I got it.”
“Sis, where’s my breakfast?” Yang Ming’s discontented voice sounded from behind me.
Startled, I quickly said, “Zhuo-gēge, we’ll stop here for now. Bye bye!”
As soon as I hung up, I turned to faced Yang Ming. After making sure that his face only held dissatisfaction and not a hint of suspicion, I relaxed.
“I’ll make breakfast now.”
With a somber expression, Wicked entered Odd Squad’s current temporary meeting place — the prison. Just as he had expected, the members of Odd Squad and Dark Emperor were lazing on the ground, sleeping, or stuffing their faces with food… Not one of them looked even the slightest bit like a highest-ranking commander.
In a heavy voice, Wicked announced, “I have important news for Odd Squad.”
Ugly Wolf reluctantly let go of Yu Lian, who had been in his arms, gave Gui – who was buried under sheaves of designs – a kick, fished Doll out of her snacks and shook Lolidragon – who was drooling in her sleep – awake. “What important news?”
“I know where Prince is,” Wicked replied. The look he shot Gui held a hint of a challenge, and he watched with satisfaction as Gui paled.
“Where did that fellow run off to?” Lolidragon grumbled. “We’re working our asses off here, while he, the liege lord, is happily fooling around out there.”
“He’s on the Eastern Continent,” Wicked said calmly.
All eyes widened among the members of Odd Squad, while Dark Emperor’s members – who had been making a din to one side – fell silent. Within a moment, the prison was so quiet that even the crackling of Fire Phoenix’s flames could be heard clearly.
Finally, Gui asked, his tone a mix of concern and anxiety, “Why is he on the Eastern Continent? Why doesn’t he come back?”
“He doesn’t know how he got there either, possibly because he was drunk. As for why he hasn’t come back, it’s because…”
“I believe I know the reason,” Lolidragon said exasperatedly. “The ship ticket to the Eastern Continent costs five thousand crystal coins, and the return ticket costs another five thousand crystal coins. Prince probably only had enough money on him for a ticket to the Eastern Continent, if I recall correctly.”
“What? Five thousand crystal coins?” Yu Lian’s smile was so frosty that the members of both teams could not help but observe a moment of silence for him.
Wicked too averted his gaze from Yu Lian’s terrifying smile and looked at Lolidragon instead. “Is there a way to send Prince money, Lolidragon?”
Lolidragon broke out in a cold sweat and quickly looked away from Yu Lian’s smile, which had grown frostier than ever, replying stiffly, “It is usually possible for a player to transfer money to another player, but if a player is on another continent, then it’s impossible to send them a private message, much less transfer funds.”
“What? Then what about Prince?” Gui turned pale as a ghost as he imagined Prince wandering about on a faraway continent, without a cent to his name, suffering from the cold and hunger, dressed in rags, and finally, ending up as a corpse on some street…
White Tiger City, Eastern Continent…
Prince: “Mmm, wontons in chili oil… Delicious!” I said, munching on the breakfast which Yun and Jing were respectfully treating me to.
“We’ll just have to ask Prince to earn the money for the ticket on his own,” Lolidragon said with a shrug, and then she crawled back to her cage to sleep without a second thought.
“Hmm…” Ugly Wolf scratched the fur on his head. “Since that fellow’s absence doesn’t affect Infinite City much right now, plus the Righteous Blades have long since settled into our city and can’t just quit anymore, it shouldn’t make much of a difference if Prince doesn’t return right away.”
Yu Lian smiled. “Not a penny for him!”
“Doll misses Prince-gēge a lot…” Doll said, and then furrowed her brow when she caught sight of her snacks out of the corner of her eye. “…But Prince-gēge would snatch Doll’s snacks to eat, so forget it.” Doll crawled back into her pile of snacks and began to eat.
“Wait, Prince is all alone over there, with no friends and not a cent to his name! We have to go and save him!” Gui shouted at his irresponsible teammates, his face white as a sheet.
“YOU are not going anywhere, so just get back to drawing designs obediently,” everyone retorted in unison.
Wicked looked at them helplessly, thinking, Looks like Xiao Lan won’t be returning for the time being… But that wasn’t a bad thing at all, he realized. Gui wouldn’t be able to see Prince.
On the other hand, he – Wicked – would still be able to talk to Xiao Lan over the phone.
Excellent! thought Wicked, his lips quirking into a smile.
My arms were folded across my chest as I studied the monster I would have to fight soon — a lesser demon.
The lesser demon resembled the “oni” from Japanese folklore, with its hideous face, sharp teeth bared in a snarl, short horns on its head, and a somewhat short katana2 in its hands. They lived in chilly, deep, and eerie caverns. If Jing and Yun hadn’t led the way, I probably wouldn’t have been able to navigate my way through this maze-like cave. I’d better be careful not to be separated from them, or I’ll suffer a fate more horrific than accidentally ending up on the Eastern Continent.
After not moving for several “long” minutes, Yun couldn’t keep silent for any longer and asked, “Dàgē, when are we going to begin fighting? If we don’t hurry and get the demon horns, we won’t be able to finish the quest!”
I felt a tad frustrated. I don’t know much about the monster, and the people by my side aren’t my usual teammates from Odd Squad. We don’t even have a priest, so if I rush in carelessly, I might just join the ranks of the demons myself… Nonetheless, I had to get started. I could only pray silently that this type of mob wasn’t too strong. “Yun, Jing, stand further back.”
After I gave the order to Jing and Yun… I mean, instructed them on what to do, I looked around carefully and found a lone lesser demon. Moving lightly on my feet, I stealthily crept up behind it, and then savagely stabbed through its back at its heart. Unfortunately, the lesser demon’s agility was unexpectedly high and it turned around, causing my blade to only pierce its shoulder. A green, sticky fluid – probably its blood – spurted out. Enraged, the injured demon brandished its short katana, and the sharp point of the blade came stabbing toward me. I leaned backward and the katana whistled past my waist, but an idea darted through my head, and I turned the motion into a backward somersault, kicking the demon and sending it sprawling backward. As soon as my feet touched the ground, I sprang toward the demon, slashing my weapon at it and severing its entire right arm.
The demon howled. Though it had lost its right arm and its weapon, it still tried to bite me. I wrapped my left hand about its throat tightly and stabbed Black Dao right through its heart with my right hand. Just as I was about to heave a sigh of relief, however, the demon actually bit my left hand. I winced with pain, thinking, Don’t tell me the lesser demon’s weakness isn’t its heart?
“Dàgē, cut off its head, you have to cut off its head!” Yun roared frantically.
So that’s how it is. In the instant I understood, the demon no longer had a head on its neck. I quickly let go of the corpse, which was spurting blood everywhere, so as to avoid turning into a tank of green oil.
“Dàgē is truly a man of valor. Dàgē’s heroic display has deeply touched Xiăodì. That backward somersault of Dàgē’s is truly peerless; elegant, yet unyielding as steel. Sigh! Xiăodì can only bow to your greatness… However, could Xiăodì trouble Dàgē to cut off the demon’s horns, so that Xiăodì might be able to complete the quest?”
What the heck? If you want me to slice off the horns just say so! Spouting so much rubbish, you’re making my skin break out in goosebumps. Still, the horn needed to be cut off, so my blade rose and fell, and I handed the small horns to Yun.
Having a rough idea of how strong the lesser demon was, I realized that I could probably handle them quite easily and my anxiety dissipated. I began to come up with a plan to help Yun and Jing level up and, after some thinking, I led Jing and Yun to a crevice in the cave wall and asked them to stand inside. “I’ll be in charge of luring the demons here. After that, Jing, I won’t let the demons harm you, so don’t worry and just cast your spells. Yun, set up a Slow Barrier.”
I gazed into the depths of the cave, closed my eyes, and breathed in deeply. Then I opened my eyes and smiled slightly. Lesser demons, here I come.
To begin with, I lured a single demon and exchanged blows with it with great ease. It was then that Jing pulled out a piece of fu paper. I stole a backward glance and saw her draw several strokes on the paper with her fingers before throwing the paper over, crying out, “Flames, true and thrice-concealed, go!”
Unexpectedly, the paper flew straight toward the demon. Seeing that the demon intended to dodge, I launched into a flurry of blows, forcing it to stay in place. Finally, the paper reached the demon and suddenly turned into three white flames, enveloping the demon. It howled in pain and reacted by lunging toward Jing, but unfortunately for it, a kick from me sent it sprawling back to its original spot.
“Flames, true and thrice-concealed, go!” Seeing that the flames on the demon were about to go out, Jing once again sent out another piece of fu paper.
This time, I watched in satisfaction as the flames began to reduce the demon to ash…
“AHHHHH!” Yun suddenly wailed. “Dàgē, the demon’s horns!”
Hearing that, I smoothly sliced off the demon’s horns and watched as the demon turned to ashes. Looks like I can lure more of them, I thought decisively.
Thus, the number of demons increased from one to two and ultimately three, after which I decided that was enough, as any more would leave me with insufficient space to fight. In this fashion, I would engage the demons, focusing on honing my defense. While I initially had many openings in my defense and couldn’t react quickly enough, I soon grew proficient to the point where my defense was watertight. I grew more and more familiar with this method of fighting, which was completely different from the aggressive fighting style I had used all this time. It is pretty good training for me… still, if only the mobs were stronger, I thought in dissatisfaction.
After luring more than ten groups of mobs, I heaved a long sigh and said mildly, “Let’s take a break.”
Guilt washed over Jing’s face. “I’m really sorry, Dàgē. Jing completely forgot that Dàgē needs to rest.”
“It’s okay,” I said and sat down, recovering a bit of my energy.
“Wow, we’ve each gained a level, and we have enough demon horns to complete the mission,” Yun said, his eyes sparkling.
I wasn’t really keen on fighting any more of these lesser demons. I had nothing to gain from fighting them, and though my main objective was to help Yun and Jing, it would be advantageous to them as well if we fought higher-level mobs. With that thought in mind, I asked, “Are there any stronger mobs that we can fight?”
Jing’s and Yun’s eyes shone brightly, and Yun quickly replied, “Of course, Dàgē, why don’t we take on demon maidens? A demon maiden’s horns are worth more than a lesser demon’s.”
“The monster’s features are…?” I asked.
Directing this question to Yun, the gamer, was the right thing to do, as he immediately replied with enthusiasm and confidence, saying, “Demon maidens are generally similar to lesser demons, except their levels are higher. Their weak point is their heads, just like lesser demons, but demon maidens use their sharp and long claws as weapons, and they move faster than lesser demons. However, with Dàgē’s speed, you definitely won’t have problems once you’re familiar with their style of attacking.”
I nodded. “Let’s take them on, then.”
Standing up, I stretched and said, “Lead the way.”
The demon maiden had long, flowing hair, pale green skin, and wore a dress like the type ladies used to wear in ancient China. Its hands ended in extremely long nails, their edges glinting dangerously. I darted forward and we began to fight.
Yun, the zealous gamer, was right; the demon maiden was indeed more challenging than the lesser demon. Its perception was considerably sharper than that of a lesser demon, making it tough for me to strike her weak spot, her head. Moreover, it was extremely fast, and I had to focus on dodging – with great difficulty – initially. Unfortunately for it…
I smiled. The demon maiden’s attacking style was limited to stabbing. I searched for an opportunity, and when the demon maiden once again stretched out a hand, thinking to leave holes in my body, I stopped moving, and then savagely hacked off its hand the moment it touched me. A demon maiden with one hand missing was nothing to be afraid of, so I used the same method to get rid of its other hand and to finish it off… although I wasn’t as successful the second time I tried and a “small” hole appeared on my body.
Without making a sound, I secretly took a swig from a bottle of health potion, and then returned to my companions’ side as if nothing had happened.
Yun’s eyes were filled with worship. “Dàgē is really strong! I knew that Dàgē would definitely have no difficulty with it. We’ll wait here for you to lure the monsters over, Dàgē.”
“Alright,” I replied. Looks like I can train on stronger mobs now, I thought, and happily went off to lure some demon maidens.
“Dàgē is really strong! In just three days, Lü Jing has leveled up five times and I’ve leveled up twice as well. Fighting higher-level mobs really speeds things up! What shall we fight next, Dàgē?” Yun said cheerily as he brought over a plate of wontons in chili oil.
I frowned, but still accepted the plate of wontons. Inwardly I thought, I should really start to earn some money and prepare to return, although Zhuo-gēge had passed me Wolf-dàgē’s message, saying that things at Infinite City were going along fine without me.
So I simply said, “I can’t stay here much longer.”
Yun and Jing looked panicked. “Dàgē, you’re leaving?”
“No, I need to make money. I need to earn five thousand crystal coins,” I replied after swallowing a wonton.
“Make money? What, Dàgē needs money? But you didn’t ask us to split our reward money from the quests earlier with you!” Yun paused suddenly, and then frowned slightly. “Why didn’t you ask us to split the reward with you if you’re in need of money, Dàgē?”
I remained silent. With Yun calling me “Dàgē”, “Dàgē” all day long, how could I possibly even ask to split the money?
“Dàgē, although we don’t have five thousand crystal coins, please take this for now!” Jing took out a bag of coins and pushed it toward me.
I sighed. It’s almost time for them to get new equipment, so how could I possibly take the money from them now? “No need, I’ll make my own money.”
“But, Dàgē, are you really going to leave us?” Yun’s expression was one of dismay, clearly unwilling to part. “We don’t know your name, or even what you look like. If we part now, we’d probably never meet again, Dàgē!”
We will meet again, but it will be quite some time before Jing and Yun manage to gather ten thousand crystal coins and come to Infinite City to find me. I wish I could help them earn the money for the ship fare, but my teammates in Odd Squad are waiting for me! Is there really no way out of this dilemma?
As though she’d gathered up her courage for something, Jing said, “Dàgē, I saw an A-level mission some time earlier. The reward money is substantial, and it doesn’t seem to be very difficult, we just have to retrieve the demon king’s hair tie. Since the demon king, lesser demon, and demon maiden are all similar types of mobs, it shouldn’t be a problem for Dàgē. Besides, even if we can’t beat it, we can just grab the hair tie and escape.”
It does sound like a pretty good proposition, I thought. If I can take the ship back to the Central Continent with Jing and Yun, then I’ll at least have someone to chat with and wouldn’t have to be bored to death like I was on the trip here. “Alright then, let’s get that quest.”
“Dàgē’s the best!” Yun happily cheered.
With Jing and Yun leading the way, I once again returned to the Demon Cave.
“Dàgē, we might have to spend some time searching, since the demon king often wanders around the areas further inside the cave. It’ll probably be difficult to find him,” Yun said worriedly.
“Okay. Let’s begin searching then.”
Jing, Yun, and I made our way into the depths of the cave and quickly reached the spot where we’d trained at recently. There, I stopped and fought a few lesser demons and demon maidens in order to work the kinks out of my muscles. We then proceeded deeper into the cave to an area where we’d never been before. As before, I would engage the lesser demons and demon maidens that we encountered along the way and then let Jing and Yun get some practice.
After walking for some time, I beckoned for Jing and Yun to stop and take a short break, as well as to leave offerings to the Temple of the Five Internal Organs… that is, to eat. I chomped on a shaobing youtiao3 and drained a bottle of soy milk…
“Dàgē, why do you treat us so well?” Yun remarked as he ate.
Do you even need to ask? Obviously it’s because we’re best friends! Since I couldn’t very well say those words, I could only keep up my “big brother” façade and ask, “What did you just call me?”
“Dàgē…” Yun trailed off, and then he chortled with laughter. “Dàgē really is straightforward. Just because we call you ‘Dàgē’?”
“Just for that, don’t you think it’s not really worth it?” Jing looked at me with… Conflicting emotions in her eyes? I must be mistaken. “Aren’t you worried that helping us would just turn out to be a waste of time, and that after you’ve helped us, we might just go our own way and forget all about you?”
I simply answered, “I don’t do things that I will regret. Once I’ve decided to do something, I won’t regret it.”
Jing and Yun didn’t say anything else. Why has the atmosphere suddenly turned heavy? I wondered. Did I say something wrong? Ah, forget it; I’ll just eat my youtiao.
“Ah…” Jing suddenly cried out. I turned around, startled, just in time to see Jing crash against the wall. I caught sight of the culprit out of the corner of my eye, and instantly I leaped forward and knocked Yun aside.
A katana came stabbing at my chest. I flipped through the air and as soon as I landed on the ground, I somersaulted backward to Jing and Yun’s side. Grimacing in pain, I clenched my wounded left hand, blood spilling from between my fingers. I did not dare to take out a health potion, however, because I knew that as soon as I moved to do so, the person standing across from me with the frosty, piercing gaze – Himura Kenshin4 – would definitely take the opportunity to attack.
That’s right! The mob across from me with that head of red hair, the cross-shaped scar, and that rurouni outfit is DEFINITELY the battousai.5 This is rather unexpected; looks like the Nine-headed Dragon Strike that I had plagiarized has finally met its owner. He won’t sue me for plagiarizing, right? I broke out in cold sweat.
Yun helped Jing to sit up, and shouted, “Dàgē, he’s the demon king, be careful!”
What? The battousai is the demon king? Don’t tell me that the demon maiden I killed earlier was Kaoru?6
Hmm… Forget it, if I go on, nobody would get what I’m talking about. The important thing now is I deeply feel that the mob in front of me would be a very, very tough adversary. From how he sent Jing flying without me sensing it and how he subsequently managed to injure me even though I was moving at top speed, it was clear that his speed was certainly not below mine… And he might even be faster than me, I thought with a sinking feeling, since speed was my greatest asset.
The atmosphere was extremely tense, but there was no sign that the battousai intended to move. Instead, he stood where he was and the two of us exchanged stare for stare until at last, he opened his mouth and said, “Elf, why have you entered my territory, knowing that the Demon Cave does not welcome you?”
It took me some effort to conceal my shock. He actually knows that I’m an elf? Is he a mob with artificial intelligence? This, this is my first time meeting one… Hold on a second! A mob with artificial intelligence? Then he must be a boss mob at least… I gulped. That can’t be, right?
If my Odd Squad teammates were here, I would probably have exclaimed proudly, “Come on then, you monster with a brain!” Reality is cruel, however, and I didn’t even have a healer, so my pride immediately turned into good humor. Gaaah, I’m so pissed off! Why am I so unlucky lately, so much such that even when I’m just trying to earn some money, I would end up bumping into a boss mob with artificial intelligence?
“Elf, what exactly have you come here for?” The battousai suddenly looked at me with curiosity. “Elves rarely appear on the Eastern Continent; this is in fact my first time seeing an elf.”
So that’s why he didn’t kill me right away, I thought.
Jing and Yun finally reacted, exclaiming, “Elf? Dàgē?”
“I came to borrow something from you.” I forced myself to say it. After all, the chances of defeating him in combat and the chances of borrowing the hair tie off him were about the same… that is, almost none.
“The hair tie?” The battousai actually pointed at his hair tie with a smile. “Many people have fought me for this ragged hair tie. Just what use does it have?”
So you mean many people have failed? Just how strong exactly is this artificially intelligent mob? I thought. My hands and legs felt like jelly. “Uh, someone asked me to get it.”
“Who?” There was finally a serious expression on the battousai’s face.
How should I know? “Errr, his, her name is Kaoru!” I fibbed.
“Kaoru?” The battousai actually looked astonished. “It’s her? I see.”
…Is this for real? What’s going on now? I was kind of stunned. I can’t possibly be this lucky. So this quest doesn’t need us to defeat this artificially intelligent mob? Could the game designer actually be a loyal fan of Rurouni Kenshin like me?
“Tell me, did Kaoru say anything?” The battousai looked at me levelly.
Say what? This quest has a prequel quest? Oh crap, I thought desperately. I’ll just give it a random shot! “She wanted me to tell you… to tell you that she’ll wait for you forever.”
The battousai’s expression became gloomy. “That silly girl,” he said, and he undid his hair tie.
“Tell her not to wait for me, for I can no longer turn back.” With a melancholic smile on his face, he handed the hair tie to the wide-eyed, can’t-believe-my-luck me.
I lowered my head and looked at the old, bloodstained hair tie in my hand, and then looked at Kenshin, whose expression was one of sorrow, as though something had broken within him. The phrase “artificial intelligence” vanished from my mind, and suddenly all I saw was a forlorn swordsman who was trapped and unable to reunite with his beloved person, who also happened to be my favorite character, Kenshin, as well. So I asked, “Why? Why can’t you turn back? Why do you remain here as the demon king and not return to Kaoru’s side?”
Kenshin looked at me for a long moment, then finally sighed. “You do not need to know. Just relay my message to Kaoru.”
There were still things that I wanted to ask, but Kenshin leaped backward and swiftly disappeared up the cavern wall.
With a heavy heart, I thought to myself, He’s just an artificially intelligent mob, he’s just an artificially intelligent mob… Still, the guilt refused to go away, for his hair tie and message would never reach Kaoru, and the culprit would be me.
Just then, Yun helped Jing to her feet and said, “That’s great, Dàgē! So that’s how the quest’s supposed to be finished. Now we can go back and claim our reward.”
“No, I want to find Kaoru,” I replied, gripping the hair tie tightly as I made up my mind. I won’t regret it.
“But, Dàgē…” Jing paled.
I held up a hand. There’s no room for discussion, because I know that if I don’t do it, I will regret it all my life, whereas if I do it, no matter what the result may be, I will have no regrets.
Jing and Yun fell silent and in the end, Yun said, “Very well, since Dàgē has decided to do so, we shall look for Kaoru together.”
I nodded and gave the hair tie to Yun. After that, the three of us walked together silently, and I couldn’t stop thinking about Kenshin’s behavior earlier. Do artificially intelligent mobs have feelings? It’s impossible right? I shook my head, feeling a little silly… Then what about Meatbun? I caressed my pouch absently as I thought, Does Meatbun have feelings? It calls me “Mama”, cries when I disappear, and seems delighted when I pat it. Does it have no feelings? I could not, would not bring myself to say that it didn’t have any.
“Dàgē, quick, take a look, there’s something down there!” exclaimed Yun, who was kneeling in front of me, next to a cliff.
Puzzled, I walked over to where Yun was and peered down the edge of the cliff. “It’s just pitch black?”
I felt someone grab me and looked down in bewilderment, only to see Yun grabbing my ankles. Before I could ask what he was doing, I felt a powerful force hit me in the back. With Yun hanging onto my ankles, I couldn’t do anything but pitch forward, both legs in the air… Finally, as I began to fall, I managed to turn around, and saw the conflicting emotions in Jing’s and Yun’s eyes.
Yun closed his eyes as he murmured, “Why? Why didn’t you want to claim the reward, Dàgē? Why did you have to hand me the hair tie? Why did you trust us so much?”
“This time, Dàgē will surely regret it!” Jing said with a pained smile.
My mind was blank as I fell, but slowly a thought surfaced in my head: This cliff is really tall, so I should die instantly, and not end up lying half-dead on the ground.
My splayed-out body hit the surface of the water. Damn it… It hurts, I thought, my face contorting with the pain. I grimaced and inadvertently swallowed several mouthfuls of icy water. It was so cold that I began to shiver, but I set aside the cold and tried to swim to the surface, only to find that my waterlogged cloak was weighing me down. With great difficulty, I freed myself from the cloak and fought to get to the surface, but my vision was steadily becoming blurrier and blurrier. Waaah, to think that I would get to experience so many different ways of dying while playing a game…
Suddenly, just as I was on the verge of death, I discovered that someone had grabbed me by the waist and was hauling me upward. Have Jing and Yun come to save me? Is that it?
I opened my eyes immediately and stared dumbly at a man who was… kissing me? After freezing up for a few seconds, I hurriedly pushed him away.
“Kenshin?!” I was startled to see that the person in front of me was Kenshin, whom we’d just parted from.
“Are you feeling better?” Although they were words of concern, Kenshin’s voice was emotionless as he spoke.
I asked dazedly, “You were doing CPR on me?”
I tilted my head to one side and thought, That can’t count as my first kiss then… No wait, my first kiss has already been given to my cousin, waaaaah! What the heck, my first kiss was given to my cousin, and my second kiss was given to an NPC? Sigh! My kisses have all been such disastrous encounters…
“You’ve been betrayed by your companions?” Kenshin got to his feet.
“Seems like it,” I replied with a heavy heart. I didn’t expect that Jing and Yun would actually hurt me. They didn’t know it was me, but still, it’s wrong to harm others! Although I can understand their desire to get to the Central Continent more quickly…
“You regret it then; you regret trusting them.” The look in Kenshin’s eyes was incomparably frosty.
I got to my feet as well and scratched my face. “Nope, I don’t regret it. No matter what, I would’ve helped them. It’s a good thing that they don’t know my name and appearance. This way, the next time we meet, at least they won’t feel guilty. Letting the person known as “Dàgē” vanish just like this might not be a bad ending.”
Kenshin looked me in the eyes, and finally let out a sigh. “I don’t understand what you’re thinking.”
“Hmmm, the matter is rather complicated.”
“I need you to meet someone,” said Kenshin, clearly feeling torn over something.
“Oh? Why?” I thought curiously, Who could it be? It can’t be Kaoru, right?
“It’s a quest. A hidden quest,” Kenshin said, looking at me sorrowfully. “And I can’t go against it.”
I looked at Kenshin in astonishment. Surely this isn’t something that an NPC should be saying? I gulped. Don’t tell me… don’t tell me he really has developed feelings? I blurted out, “Are you an NPC or not?”
“I’m an NPC… I think so?” Kenshin looked at me, and his eyes held both pain and uncertainty.
*Sweat* Perhaps that’s no longer the case; perhaps he’s really developed feelings and self-awareness. I have never seen an NPC reveal such sorrow or agony in their expressions. “You have your own will then?”
There was a moment of silence, and then Kenshin replied impassively, “I do not know. It’s just that one day, while I was fighting a player, I suddenly felt that something was very odd. I didn’t know what I was doing, but it felt like I should be looking for someone, looking for Kaoru… But from the conversations between players, I gradually understood that things weren’t the way I thought they were. I am an NPC, and it took me a very long time to understand what “NPC” truly meant. Ever since that moment, I no longer know what I am.”
“You are Kenshin,” I blurted out. “Do you really want to find Kaoru? Perhaps we can look for her together?”
“I already know that I will only find Kaoru’s grave. That is how the script was written. I will never be able to see her,” Kenshin replied with a pained smile.
“So what if I do manage to see her? Did things really happen between us? Did we really live together before? After which, I was challenged to a fight by the Demonic Dark God and imprisoned here upon my defeat, while Kaoru became trapped in Snow Village, such that the two of us can never meet. Originally, my greatest wish was to see Kaoru, but afterwards I slowly realized that everything was just a lie.”
A lie? I’d never thought of it that way, never realized that the arrangement we humans imposed upon the NPCs could be this cruel.
“Nevertheless, I have to comply with the system’s hidden quest and bring you to see that person. However, I hope… I hope that you won’t hurt him. Can you do that, elf?” Kenshin looked at me almost beseechingly.
I gave him a brilliant smile. “Call me Prince. Don’t worry, Kenshin’s friend is my friend.”
“So, what’s his name?” I asked as I peered around curiously at the pure white tunnel. From the vibe that Kenshin gave me, I’d expected that we would be walking through a dragon’s palace or some divine immortal’s sanctuary…
“He was originally called Lantis Ilanyushenlin, but he wants me to call him Sunshine,” Kenshin replied as he led the way.
Lantis Ilanyushenlin? Which retarded game designer came up with such a retarded name? I bet he picked alphabets at random and pieced them together to form a name. “Sunshine sounds much better. Is this person a guy?”
“He is, for the most part.”
Eh? Then what about the remaining part?
“We’re here.” Kenshin abruptly turned around and I suddenly noticed that before me was a pure white door with a ruby set in its middle. How many ship tickets can be purchased with this ruby, I wonder? I thought, drooling in secret and resisting the urge to climb up and try to yank it off.
“I hope you won’t hurt him. Although the quest requires you to fight him, you don’t have to attack as Sunshine is no longer controlled by the quest.”
“Oh, I understand,” I replied with a nod as I cheerfully thought, It’s a good thing I don’t have to fight. I can’t even defeat Kenshin, let alone do this insanely difficult quest. (Aside from having to know about Kenshin and Kaoru and answer Kenshin’s question correctly, one must also have nothing better to do than fall off a cliff. If this quest isn’t insane, then what is?)
At that point, I still hadn’t realized in the slightest just how grave the implications of an NPC that isn’t controlled by the quest parameters were!
Kenshin pushed open the gigantic door, and a gentle ray of golden light shone through the gap in the doorway. As I raised a hand to shield my eyes from the light, I thought I saw a silhouette within. I followed Kenshin into the room.
“Sunshine, this is Prince, the elf who came upon the hidden quest,” Kenshin said, his lips curving into a smile.
“Oh? Really?” The human figure, which had been originally lounging on a divan, approached me.
I gradually began to make out the details of the human figure and promptly received a shock. A dark elf? His skin was as dark as a dark elf’s, but instead of silver hair, he had long, silvery-purple hair, which he tied up into a ponytail. He had a pair of emerald green eyes, and he wore a two-piece outfit. On his lower body he wore a skirt that trailed down onto the floor, and there were no shoes on his feet, which were only wrapped with pieces of cloth.
I gaped. Are you kidding me? Didn’t Kenshin say that there are few elves on the Eastern Continent? Why is a dark elf part of the hidden quest then? Hmmm, I thought, and then I suddenly saw that his ears were just like a normal human’s. Just what exactly is going on here?
“Hello, Prince. I’m Sunshine,” Sunshine said, and then bowed elegantly.
I looked at him, frowning, trying to figure out what the game designer was thinking… An Arabic prince? I suddenly realized. Isn’t this outfit and skin color Arabic? So that’s how it is, the game designer was trying to come up with an Arabic design. Understanding dawned upon me. He’s not a dark elf, he’s AN ARAB.
“Prince?” Sunshine was peering at me curiously.
I snapped back to reality and happily greeted my new friend. This was my first time meeting an Arab, even though he was an NPC. “Hello, I’m very pleased to meet you, Sunshine.”
There was a slender smile on both Sunshine’s and Kenshin’s faces, and Sunshine began to ask me questions about the outside world eagerly.
As I wasn’t familiar with the Eastern Continent, I could only tell them how I came to be on the Eastern Continent, and then I began to describe to them everything about the Central Continent, including my beloved Odd Squad teammates and our not-sure-if-it’s-been-completed Infinite City.
“I really want to visit the Central Continent,” Sunshine said with a slight frown. “I would like to see the outside world, to see real sunshine.”
Sunshine? I see, is that why you named yourself Sunshine? Because you yearn to see the real sunshine… I made up my mind. “You guys can come with me and accompany me back to the Central Continent. I won’t reveal your identities, and you can just pretend to be normal players. There won’t be a problem.”
“Seriously? You’re willing to bring us with you?” A smile blossomed on Sunshine’s face.
“Yep.” I smiled as well, but just then I suddenly thought of something. “But even without me, you guys can leave, right? Why haven’t you done so?”
Kenshin gave a bitter smile. “It’s useless; I’ve tried. If the hidden quest hasn’t been triggered, then when I leave the Demon Cave the system will forcibly teleport me back here. Sunshine can’t even step out of this palace.”
“Then can you leave now?”
“No,” Sunshine replied, his brow furrowing, and he sighed. “You have to fulfill Kenshin’s wish first.”
I turned to look at Kenshin. “Your wish? You sure have a lot of wishes.”
“That’s because the system dictates it to be so…” Kenshin replied tiredly. “The hidden mission goes like this. You have to tell me your quest-giver – Kaoru’s – name before I can give you the hair tie. After receiving the hair tie, you must not bring it to the Adventurers’ Guild, but instead, bring it to Kaoru, who is gravely ill. Kaoru will beg you to bring me to see her, and you will return to the Demon Cave and tell me the news, that Kaoru is near death. I will then go with you to look for Kaoru, but upon seeing her grave, you will then accompany me to look for my enemy and have my revenge. Upon accomplishing all that, I will become your humanoid pet.”
So that’s how it is, but really, how many people would know that that’s the method to obtain the hair tie? And after getting it, they’ll have to give up on the enormous reward and instead give the hair tie, which was so difficult to obtain, to another NPC? And they’ll even have to agree to bring Kenshin to meet Kaoru, and most ridiculous of all, they’ll have to help an NPC get his revenge? Cold sweat dripped off my forehead as I silently paid my respects to the ancestors of whichever game designer it was who came up with this insane quest. “No wonder no one has completed this quest before.”
“Yes, and Sunshine’s quest is even more difficult,” Kenshin continued emotionlessly. “After obtaining me, you must fall off this cliff. I will then rescue you and bring you to meet Sunshine, after which, when asked, you must say Sunshine’s full name or he will attack and kill you. In so doing, you will never be able to attempt this quest again.”
“Lantis Ilanyushenlin? Even if I were to keep guessing until Armageddon arrives, I would never be able to come up with that name,” I said weakly.
“You have to complete another quest, only then would you come across my name by coincidence. I think it’s carved upon a slab of stone containing a prophecy, on the world’s highest mountain, Azure Peak.” There was a glint in Sunshine’s eyes, and there was a note of dissatisfaction in his voice as he said, “But I don’t like that name.”
“Is this quest not meant to be completed? I mean, just how many coincidences would you need to do it?” I deeply suspected that if not for the fact that Kenshin and Sunshine had developed self-awareness, until the day Second Life shuts down, nobody would be able to accomplish this quest.
Kenshin grimaced slightly. “I think they didn’t intend for anyone to complete it. Until now, no player has managed to defeat me. If I became somebody’s humanoid pet, I would probably be worth a lot.”
Th-that would be true, I thought, gulping. If I have Kenshin, I would have nothing to be afraid of. Even Lolidragon wouldn’t be able to bully me anymore. “What about you, Sunshine? Would you become a humanoid pet as well?”
Sunshine continued to smile charmingly. “Yes, I would. After you finish the quest, I would be able to leave this place.”
“Yaaaaay! Not only have I gained two friends, but they’re super powerful friends!” I was practically bouncing around the room with joy.
“Friends?” Kenshin and Sunshine grinned. They had picked the right person after all.
“You have to finish all the quests, however, or you’ll raise the system’s suspicion,” Kenshin interrupted my cheering.
“Don’t worry. With you around, how could I fail to complete the quest?” I replied, without an ounce of fear.
Kenshin took over the reins of the discussion and continued to explain what we had to do. “In that case, let’s look for Kaoru’s grave first. It should be in Snow Village, which is in the northernmost area. We’ll look for the Demonic Dark God after that to carry out revenge, and then receive the prophets’ quest and look for the three prophets, who have scattered throughout the land. Each prophet will give us a fragment of a map. After piecing them together, we’ll go to the world’s highest mountain, Azure Peak, and get the Stone of Prophecy, then hand the stone to the prophets. The prophets will give you this prophecy: The demon awaits his lover; his lover too, awaits him in pain. Only in the most silent and deepest of places can hope be found.”
“What sort of weird prophecy is that…” I wondered, Whoever gets that prophecy will probably throw up blood, right? After climbing up a tall mountain with such difficulty, only to get a weird prophecy…
Sunshine explained, “It’s basically hinting that you have to first accomplish the demon king – Kenshin’s – wish and then jump off a cliff; only then can you meet me.”
If somebody can actually figure that out, he should just go and buy a lottery ticket. He’ll definitely win the grand prize! I thought, and the corner of my mouth twitched.
“Alright, it doesn’t sound that hard. I’ll bring Kenshin to look for Kaoru. Wait for the good news, Sunshine!” I assured Sunshine confidently, thinking, With Kenshin around, what’s so scary about the Demonic Dark God? All I have to do is look for a few people, climb a mountain, and then I’ll gain Kenshin and Sunshine as my companions. With this much to gain, I’d be a fool not to do it.
“Right. I shall await your return,” Sunshine replied, looking at me trustingly.
My will to fight blazing now, I grabbed Kenshin and said, “Let’s go, Kenshin. Let’s finish this quest quickly, then we can come back and fetch Sunshine, and then return to the Central Continent.”
I waved goodbye at Sunshine and then left through the enormous white door, towing Kenshin behind me.
“Good luck, Prince. May Allah bless you,” Sunshine said as we left.
Still towing Kenshin along, we returned to the Demon Cave. With Kenshin around, it was a breeze to get out. I looked at the sky, which I hadn’t seen for some time, and stretched my limbs comfortably. When I was done stretching, I discovered that Kenshin was looking at his surroundings with a dazed expression. I couldn’t help but snicker, since it was so rare to see him looking this bewildered, and Kenshin immediately composed himself, though he still looked slightly embarrassed.
I suddenly remembered something. “By the way, you probably shouldn’t walk around dressed like that, since many people might notice that you look a lot like the battousai!” Although not everyone likes to read ancient comics like I do, hmmm… except for that bored game designer.
“Is that so? Wouldn’t it be fine if we just tell them that I’m your pet?” Kenshin replied, unconcerned.
I looked at him unhappily. “But you’re not my pet. You’re my friend.”
Kenshin returned my gaze. Though his face was still expressionless, I could see the mirth in his eyes. “Then what should we do?”
“Hold on,” I said. I grabbed my pouch and began rummaging through it. Finally, I pulled out my newbie equipment, which I’d kept as memorabilia. It’s a good thing I didn’t sell them, I thought. “Wear these! And let down your hair; that way you won’t look so much like the battousai.”
Kenshin took the clothes from me and began stripping off his rurouni outfit right then and there… Uhhh, should I turn away? My gaze drifted upward. I would steal a couple of curious glances every now and then, but… I swear, aside from his not-so-broad shoulders, lean arms, his six-pack, and two slender legs, I really didn’t see anything!
When I saw that he was done changing… I mean, after Kenshin told me that he was done changing, I tore a strip off his old clothes and then tied it around his forehead like a headband.
Very good, I thought as I looked at him in satisfaction. After putting on the newbie outfit, he looks like a teenager. This way, he looks no different from other players; in fact, he looks like a new player.
“Can I continue to call you Kenshin? I don’t think it should be a problem.”
“Let’s go, then. We don’t want to keep Sunshine waiting for long.” So, off we go to find Kaoru’s grave. Of course, I hadn’t forgotten to put on my opera mask.
“By the way, it sounds like Snow Village is a very cold place. Is it?” I asked worriedly.
“I don’t know. Never been there,” Kenshin replied simply.
“Are you scared of the cold?” I was curious.
“I don’t know. Probably not,” Kenshin replied, raising an eyebrow, as though he didn’t think that he could be scared of the cold.
[½ Prince Volume 3 Chapter 5 End]
1 B-level quest: The Adventurers’ Guild offers all sorts of quests for players to complete. The rewards differ from quest to quest, depending on the level of difficulty. From high to low, the difficulty levels for quests are: X, S, A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.
2 A somewhat short katana: Our translators suggested that this might be a kodachi, but Yu Wo didn’t specify, so we’re stuck with “katana”.
3 Shaobing youtiao: A shaobing youtiao is a combination of two popular Chinese snacks or breakfast food. A shaobing is a baked flatbread, often topped with sesame, and can contain a variety of stuffing (or none at all). A youtiao is, as mentioned before in V1C4, a length of fried dough that’s quite fluffy inside. A shaobing youtiao is basically a shaobing that has youtiao stuffing. It sometimes resembles a sandwich, while at other times it looks more like a turnover.
5 Battousai: According to Wikipedia, this was a title given to Kenshin in the manga Rurouni Kenshin in recognition of his skill as a practitioner of Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryuu, which utilizes superhumanly-fast battoujutsu (sword-drawing) techniques. The title literally means “master of sword-drawing”.
6 Kaoru: Kaoru was Kenshin’s companion and later on, his wife in Rurouni Kenshin.