Chapter 7: The Battle Begins – translated by Amphrase
“Yu Lian, are we still lacking a lot of money?” Ugly Wolf asked. He looked at his wife – whose brows had been locked in a permanent furrow for the past few days – with some distress.
“A lot, a lot.” The furrow between Yu Lian’s eyebrows deepened as she discussed the financial accounts with Ice Phoenix. Both of them looked very pale.
“This isn’t working. We won’t last for much longer, not unless we come up with other ways of earning money soon,” said Ice Phoenix. She threw down a stack of documents and began massaging her temples.
“But we’ve already sent all the people who could be spared out to earn money. In another two weeks, the game admin will be withdrawing all the NPC guards, and then the members of the Righteous Blades who are out earning money will definitely have to return to protect Infinite City. At that time, our finances will be in an even worse state,” Yu Lian said, troubled.
“But won’t there be players visiting and spending money in our city at that time?” Ugly Wolf asked.
“No, the city would only just be starting out, so we definitely won’t be breaking even for some time. We don’t have enough people to work as shopkeepers, peacekeepers, or soldiers either, therefore we must continue to expand our staff… Just these expenses alone are shocking enough, not to mention the fact that we have to continue the construction of the city. The hundred thousand or so crystal coins that we have right now won’t be enough for our purposes,” analyzed Phoenix.
Ugly Wolf tilted his head to one side as he mulled the information over. “Gui’s blueprint of the city is almost done. Shall we send him to the other three cities to perform on the streets for tips?”
“Mm!” Yu Lian noted down the new method of increasing the city’s income with a serious look on her face.
“So how much money did you manage to swindle out of other players, Lolidragon?” Ugly Wolf asked Lolidragon, who was lounging nearby.
“The hundred thousand crystal coins I got from swindling others have been used up a long time ago,” Lolidragon replied. She rolled her eyes at Ugly Wolf. “I’m already a wanted fugitive. My appearance and methods are pretty much common knowledge throughout Sun, Moon, and Star Cities by now. It’s impossible to con them anymore.”
“What a pity…”
“If Prince was here, he could tag along with Gui to perform on the streets,” Lolidragon raised her eyebrows. “His voice is really good, and with that face of his, he would definitely earn a lot.”
“Does Prince sing very well?” Phoenix immersed herself in her imagination…
“Then when Prince is back, we’ll send him off to perform on the streets. With his abilities, if he takes the task assigned to him seriously and earns money, and if we sell a few small treasures, we should be able to earn all the money back!” Yu Lian calculated.
“The problem is, will that guy take the task assigned to him seriously?” Lolidragon disagreed.
…That is another big problem!
“We’re in trouble,” Nan Gong Zui said as he slowly walked in, his face somber.
“Can you not use such a shocking opening line? We all know that we’re in trouble with things the way they are,” Lolidragon said, rolling her eyes at Nan Gong Zui.
Nan Gong Zui ignored Lolidragon. There was a trace of anger in his voice as he explained, “Fan is recruiting soldiers. They’ll be invading Infinite City once the NPC guards are gone.”
“Fan?” Upon hearing her ex-lover’s name, Phoenix’s eyebrows furrowed, and a complicated feeling welled up in her heart.
“One disaster after another.” Yu Lian’s expression darkened. “Now we’ll have to recruit more soldiers as well.”
“Prince isn’t back yet?” Nan Gong Zui asked calmly.
“Uhhh, about that…” The members of Odd Squad began to stammer.
Nan Gong Zui turned to face Ice Phoenix. In a kind but firm voice, he said, “Phoenix, leave the room for a moment. There are some things which I have to discuss with the members of Odd Squad.”
Although she was reluctant to leave, Phoenix knew better than to argue. In a small voice she said “okay” and then obediently left the room.
Nan Gong Zui watched as Phoenix closed the door, and then turned around to face the members of Odd Squad.
“What exactly happened to Prince? Tell me.”
There was a long silence in the room…
“I am aware that although Prince is remarkably strong and values his friends and honor greatly, he is also scatter-brained, a little silly, plus he has no sense of direction.” Nan Gong Zui said steadily.
“You should’ve told us earlier!” Everyone else breathed a relieved sigh.
“So you already knew about Prince’s true personality; you should’ve told us earlier, we were worried half to death!” Lolidragon patted her chest, having yet to recover from her fright.
“Where exactly is Prince?” Nan Gong Zui asked again patiently.
“He’s on the Eastern Continent,” Ugly Wolf replied without hesitation now that there was no need to conceal the truth.
Nan Gong Zui frowned uncomprehendingly. “What is he doing there?”
“The result of his lack of a sense of direction and drinking.” Lolidragon’s expression darkened.
“…” Even though he was already aware of Prince’s true personality, Nan Gong Zui couldn’t help being stunned for a moment. “When will he be back?”
“We don’t know,” Lolidragon answered honestly.
“You guys don’t seem to care much about Prince.” Nan Gong Zui said mildly, but dissatisfaction was evident in his tone.
“It’s not that we don’t care, it’s just that we don’t want to imprison him yet,” Lolidragon replied calmly.
Nan Gong Zui gave her an uncomprehending look.
“You will understand in the time to come,” Yu Lian added with a smile.
Just then, Gui entered the room. The very first phrase to leave his mouth was “Bad news.”
He received several glares in response.
“What happened this time?” Lolidragon asked lazily.
“Wicked said that Prince might have to delay his return,” said Gui, clearly tormented by the news.
“Just what is that guy doing?” A vein popped on Lolidragon’s forehead.
Wicked, who had entered the room after Gui, was frowning. “He refused to say, but it seems to be of great importance. He said that he will hurry back as soon as possible.”
“As soon as possible? The enemy’s almost knocking on our door, yet our liege lord is still wandering around on the Eastern Continent?” Lolidragon stood up abruptly. “No, Wicked, tell him that he must board the ship within three days, no matter what he’s doing. How are we supposed to fight this war when our liege lord isn’t even around?”
“I will relay your message,” Wicked said with a nod, but after a moment’s thought, he added, “But I cannot predict what he will do.”
“That guy can’t even predict his own actions, so how could you?” Lolidragon replied, massaging her temples. In a weary tone, she continued, “We can only hope that he will return before Fan reaches the city. After all, Prince is still the heart of Infinite City.”
“Hahaha!” I laughed to myself, thinking, The map fragments sure were a piece of cake to collect. All I had to do was answer a few questions of the northern prophet in the wet market, and then win against the eastern prophet in a game of Sic Bo at the gambling den, and the three map fragments were all mine. This quest is so easy!
“How is it possible that somebody can actually differentiate twenty different kinds of vegetables and ten different kinds of fish meat from one another? And even spell out the names?” Yun asked disbelievingly. All the fish meat had looked exactly the same to him, and they even tasted alike.
“How can somebody manage to win ten games in a row of Sic Bo?” Cold sweat dripped down Jing’s forehead. Dumb luck couldn’t even begin to cover it.
“Kenshin, this map is too difficult to assemble. Help me piece it together and then pass it to Jing,” I said after trying in vain for while to piece together the three map fragments and tossed them to Kenshin to deal with.
Yet this person can’t even piece together three pieces of a map… Jing and Yun thought, staring dumbfounded at their companion. Isn’t this a bit too far-fetched?
Kenshin caught the map pieces and tossed them onto the table. Just when he was about to begin piecing them together…
“Wow, Kenshin, you’ve already pieced them together. That’s quick,” I said, staring at the completed map that was laid out on the table, and hastily beckoned Jing over. “Jing, quick, take a look and see where this is.”
“…” Kenshin looked at the already completed map and frowned, not saying a word.
“I can roughly tell where the location is,” Jing said thoughtfully.
“That’s good, let’s set off then.” My brow creased with thought. According to Zhuo-gēge, I had only about three days left to complete my quest and pick up Sunshine. I had to hurry.
“It’s so tall.” Standing at the foot of Azure Peak, which was so tall that its peaks were lost in the clouds, I had a dark premonition in my heart… With our skill, climbing a mountain shouldn’t be a very difficult thing to do. Right? I hope so…
I turned to Jing and Yun. “Since you two aren’t warriors, it might be rather difficult for you to scale this mountain, so just set up a camp here and wait for Kenshin and me to return.”
“Yes, Dàgē.” Jing and Yun nodded.
“Let’s go, Kenshin.” Kenshin too, gave me a nod, and I lifted a leg, ready to climb this mountain, but just then… I suddenly turned around and said to Yun, “Hey, return Meatbun to me.”
Shock, disappointment, anguish, and reluctance appeared on Yun’s face, and he bit back tears as he handed Meatbun back to me. “Meatbun-bun, you must return quickly, otherwise I will be very bored.”
“Meatbun-bun will return quickly. Don’t cry-cry, Yun-yun.” Meatbun’s eyes too, were filled with tears.
The atmosphere was that of a sorrowful parting. In this fashion, a human and a bun gazed at each other heartbreakingly, as though they were a couple who were being forced to separate. From time to time, they would even throw me pleading looks, as if they were begging me – the heartless murderer who was brutally separating two lovers – to show mercy and let them off… To hell with you! I gave Yun a smack on the head.
“Let’s go, Meatbun.” Two veins popped on my forehead as I turned and left.
“Yes, Mama.” Meatbun hopped after me, its eyes filled with happiness, leaving behind a plaintive Yun who kept shooting resentful looks at me.
“Right, let’s start climbing.” I gazed up at Azure Peak, and what I saw was not the cloud banks, but the faces of my teammates in Odd Squad.
“How much longer?” Nan Gong Zui asked Kong Kong and Lolidragon calmly.
“They’ll definitely be here in half a day.” Kong Kong replied angrily.
“Fan brought around seven hundred people. Warriors make up around two thirds of the force; the rest are mostly mages and priests. They’re very high on offense power. It’s going to be hard,” analyzed Lolidragon.
Nan Gong Zui’s thought went to Infinite City’s defense force, which had around two hundred warriors, fifty archers, fifty mages, twenty priests, and twenty thieves… and thought that if not for the fact that his opponent was Fan, whom he detested the most, he – Zui – would probably have surrendered right away.
Nan Gong Zui sighed softly. No matter what, he had to defend Infinite City for Prince. After all, the Righteous Blades had poured in so much of their heart and soul into building the city. “White Bird, here, chair the meeting.”
White Bird too, was frowning slightly. The situation did bode ill, but as they say, it’s easy to defend a city and hard to lay siege. She believed that so long as they planned carefully, capturing Infinite City would definitely be no easy task.
“All groups, report on your situation.”
“The eastern, western, and southern gates have been walled up and they definitely can’t be opened. Aside from the northern gate, the only other way Fan’s forces could enter Infinite City is by scaling the city walls, but we’ve prepared and placed hot oil on them. What I fear is that we won’t have enough oil for Fan’s forces…” Gui’s brow furrowed deeply with thought. “We’ve only finished the gates recently… Sigh, the cost for reopening the three gates and reconstruction alone when this war is over will be sufficiently alarming.”
In contrast to her usual willful self, Fairsky wore a pair of glasses with a black frame and held in her right hand a scroll of information, which was so long that it trailed along on the ground. In her left hand she held an abacus and she analyzed meticulously, “Fortunately, we’ve allocated an adequate amount of money to the construction of the city’s foundations. The city walls will definitely hold out. With a force of five hundred, it would take… about a month, fifteen days, three hours and forty-six minutes to break through the wall, but since this is a game, I seriously doubt that anyone can sleep for an entire month with the game helmet on without complications. Also, the city gate is extremely strong. Even taking into account magical attacks, it can last for at least several days.”
Yu Lian sighed and massaged her temples. “Where are we going to get the money for the three gates from?! Sigh, Phoenix, you guys report on your status. I need to get a cup of tea to calm my nerves.”
Phoenix hastened to speak. “Due to a severe lack of archers, every warrior has been equipped with a mid-level crossbow and arrows. Although their damage would be nothing compared to real archers’, they should be able to make up for it with their strength and maim or kill the enemy from atop the city walls… even though this increases the burdens of the finance department.” Phoenix too, felt faint when she finished her report.
“What about supplies and ammunitions?” White Bird asked thoughtfully. Regardless of the state of their finances, they had to have supplies and ammunitions. Without even just that much, there would be no way for them to win the battle outnumbered as they were.
“We’ve followed the list given by the military department and made the necessary purchases.” When they’d first received the list – which was as long and as horrifying as the cloth used to bind old grannies’ feet in ancient China – Phoenix and Yu Lian had just stopped short of huddling together and weeping. However, they were forced by the harsh reality (or rather, White Bird’s despotic rule) and could only force Lolidragon to head out and con more people yet again…
“How about the mages?”
In a gentle yet firm tone, Rose said, “I’ve already let the mages know that their main duty is to maintain the defensive barrier and prevent Fan’s mages from destroying the city gates, but I think we may not have enough mages compared to Fan’s forces. However, I can guarantee that all our mages are top-notch.”
“Even if they have to drink mana potions like water, they must hang in there,” White Bird said fiercely.
Both Rose and Phoenix sighed, but still they answered, “Understood.”
“Do we have any reinforcements, foreign affairs department?” White Bird asked, although she knew better than to hope for any help from that quarter.
Feng Wu Qing shook his head with a sigh as he fanned himself. “It’s not so easy to find reinforcements. Right now, Infinite City has nothing to offer, so how many people would be willing to come to our aid?”
A vein popped on Lolidragon’s forehead. “You jerk, were you just fooling around outside the city while I was being pressed into hard labor by the finance department? You couldn’t find even a single reinforcement?”
Feng Wu Qing replied coldly, “Hard labor? More like serving as a fox spirit!”
“You!” Just as Lolidragon was about to throttle Feng Wu Qing, Ugly Wolf grabbed her by the collar, so she was unable to strangle Wu Qing to death.
Feng Wu Qing’s cold expression thawed as he grinned slightly. “I didn’t find much by way of reinforcement, just a hundred and twenty warriors, thirty mages, and then some priests!” It’s a pity Sis refused to help; otherwise I would definitely have the help of yet another brother-in-law. She’s such a selfish sister to refuse to just help defend a city.
Lolidragon’s mouth immediately formed an “O” shape. She leveled a trembling finger at Feng Wu Qing and said, “You… you… Where did you manage to find that many players?”
Feng Wu Qing rubbed his nose and then admitted, “My parents also play this game, plus my mom’s a writer, so she summoned her loyal readers to help out.”
“Lazy fellow,” Lolidragon replied disdainfully.
“How did the trap-setting go?” White Bird ignored the bickering duo and turned to ask the thief Kong Kong.
Kong Kong nodded and said, “I’ve already gathered all the thieves beforehand and we’ve laid countless traps around Infinite City, only leaving a few narrow routes past them. Hmph, if that playboy Fan dares to draw close to Infinite City, I guarantee that he will either be blown to bits or buried alive.”
“Next is the most important group – our military department,” said White Bird as she turned to look at Nan gong Zui, Wicked, Broken Sword, and Ugly Wolf.
“The Righteous Blades have been training hard ever since we arrived in the Infinite City. Although the members who joined later are not as skilled or as united as the original members of the group, they’ve made tremendous improvement this past month. Their average level is fifty or so, which is pretty good,” Nan Gong Zui reported dutifully.
Ugly Wolf said confidently, “I’ve placed the extra men that Wu Qing recruited on top of the northern gate. Even if the gate is breached, these hundred players can hold out until others come to reinforce them. The remaining players will be positioned upon the city wall and defend it using magic and ranged attacks with their bows, thus slowing the enemy’s advance. Together with fifty selected strong players, Odd Squad and Dark Emperor will defend the central tower.”
Broken Sword looked at Legolas, and the latter nodded. “Legolas and I have already made sure that the warriors have learned basic archery skills. Although their accuracy and strength cannot compare with actual archers, they’ll have no trouble with bending a bow and shooting arrows.”
“I have already divided the players into smaller teams, taking into consideration how well they work together as well as other factors. I believe this will prove very useful during melee combat,” Wicked reported on his progress with a serious expression.
Seeing that all the departments were done with their reports, White Bird began to explain the strategy for the upcoming battle. “First and foremost, I want to say that during the battle, Infinite City’s rebirth point will be shut down to prevent enemies from resurrecting inside our walls, which would be very dangerous to us. Although shutting down our rebirth point will also prevent our players from getting back in, this is a necessary move. Does everyone understand?”
All the people present nodded.
White Bird continued with her explanation. “There’s another thing everyone has to note: We are the defenders, so our most important duty is to defend the city center. No matter what, we must protect the central tower and the Infinite City gemstone, as once it’s shattered Infinite City will no longer belong to us. I believe everyone understands the severity of this matter, so we must defend the gemstone to the death.”
(Author’s note: All player-owned cities will have a central tower. Within it is the city’s gemstone. Usually, the central tower cannot be entered, but during a siege, players can shatter the gemstone by force. Whoever shatters the gemstone will take over the city as its liege lord, and the original ruler will lose his/her control over the city.)
“Defend the gemstone to the death!” everybody roared.
Finally, White Bird couldn’t resist raising a question which Zui had forbidden her from asking. “Will the liege lord be returning?”
Everybody looked at the members of Odd Squad, who turned to look at Wicked in unison. Wicked merely said, “I don’t know.”
White Bird’s voice was filled with suppressed frustration as she said, “It’s one thing if the liege lord doesn’t show his face for an entire month, but to actually be absent when somebody’s laying siege to the city? Isn’t that too much?”
“Prince will be back, he definitely will.” Lolidragon gave White Bird a firm look.
White Bird too, looked steadily at Lolidragon. “Let’s hope so.”
Let’s hope so… Although Lolidragon’s gaze did not waver, her back was wet with sweat. May the heavens protect Prince from getting lost again!
“There must be around a thousand players in this crowd.” Even the calm and fearless Madame White Bird could not help turning pale at the sight of the alarmingly large force formed up neatly in ranks and dressed and armed with superior equipment and weapons that glimmered under the sun. In addition, there was a giant siege engine and nearly ten scaling ladders… If the shock was any bigger, she would probably have just jumped off the city wall straightaway.
Their faces were all pale, but Nan Gong Zui said coolly, “We have to hang in there. I don’t wish to disappoint Prince.”
Wicked raised his eyebrows. “I will never let disappointment show in his eyes.”
“A disappointed look does not suit Prince,” Gui said coldly.
Nan Gong Zui walked to a place where everyone could see him and then drew his sword abruptly. The ringing of cold steel calmed down the agitated defenders. After surveying them once with his eyes, Nan Gong Zui roared emphatically, “For our Infinite City, we shall fight to the death!”
“TO THE DEATH!” the warriors roared, echoing his words.
Nan Gong Zui stared at Fan, who was also staring at him from far away, and muttered, “Come on then, Fan. Let’s finish this.”
“Archers, nock your bows and wait behind the arrowslit for the signal. Get ready for the first volley of arrows,” ordered Legolas, who was the commander of the archers.
“Warriors, move the cauldron of oil into place and then attack using your bows first! Once someone begins to scale the walls, pour the hot oil on them immediately. Also, protect the archers and the mages well,” ordered Wicked swiftly and composedly.
“Mages, put up the barrier!” Yu Lian and the other mages immediately took their positions well behind the city walls, combining their power to cast a protective barrier large enough to envelop the entire Infinite City.
The battle was about to begin at any moment!
“Prince, I will bring you down from your position as the lord of Infinite City.” Although Fan was still smiling gently, those who were familiar with him could tell that there was an icy look and a deep thirst for vengeance blazing in his eyes.
“All men, prepare to attack. Infinite City will be ours!” Fan ordered as his forces advanced upon Infinite City, like a celestial general leading his immortal soldiers into battle.
“Quick, hurry! Pour the hot oil to stop them from climbing up,” Wicked bellowed frantically as he moved among the defenders. “Yu Lian, hurry and get the mages to help destroy the scaling ladders.”
Yu Lian hurriedly replied, “Right. Phoenix, stay here and take command of those maintaining the barrier. Team one, and you, Ming Huang, follow me.”
“God damn it, the difference in numbers is just too big.” To think that Fan actually had so many men skilled at dismantling traps; those traps were placed for nothing, Nan Gong Zui thought, swearing silently to himself as he looked at the densely-packed horde of enemy players – like a colony of ants – attacking the city walls. He could only forcibly suppress the rising panic in his chest and ask everyone else, in a steady tone, to remain calm, and then desperately fire arrow after arrow, hoping that he could take down a few more enemy players… Occasionally, he would raise his head and gaze into the distance as though he could see Fan’s face – impassive but for the trace of a smile that seemed to say that the city was already his.
“Zui, they’re about to breach the city gates,” Ugly Wolf said, struggling not to panic.
“What?!” Nan Gong Zui exclaimed. “Didn’t the mages get rid of the enemies in front of the city gates?”
“They did. Maybe it’s because the enemy has too many mages… I don’t get why the city gates were destroyed so quickly either; perhaps Gui and Fairsky estimated wrongly?” Ugly Wolf frowned. “In any case, we should redirect some of the players to defend the city gates now.”
“The defenders are already having a hard time fending off the players scaling the walls. There’s no way we can redirect anybody to guarding the gates,” Nan Gong Zui replied, panicking inwardly. Or should they get those defending the central tower to defend the gates instead? But no, the central tower was simply too important. There was no way they could decrease the number of players guarding it… but it would also be a disaster if the city gates were breached.
Ugly Wolf watched with empathy as Nan Gong Zui’s expression grew more and more troubled. After all, he too, couldn’t think of a solution, which was why he came to ask Zui, hoping that a miracle would appear, that he could think of a solution. “Zui… is there a way?”
“…” Nan Gong Zui stared at the sky and could not suppress a sigh. “If I had another month’s time or twice the funds, Infinite City’s forces and defense wouldn’t be in such a sorry state.”
Ugly Wolf scratched the fur on his head upon hearing that. “Hopefully that fellow Prince will hurry back in time.”
Nan Gong Zui smiled bitterly. “Even if Prince returns, we will only have one more defender. What difference would it make?”
“I don’t know,” Ugly Wolf replied as he scratched his face, “But… Prince himself is a synonym for a miracle.”
Nan Gong Zui frowned uncomprehending and gave Ugly Wolf a questioning look.
Ugly Wolf smiled. “Didn’t you come to Infinite City because of Prince’s miracles as well?”
Nan Gong Zui smiled as he shook his head. “Sigh, we can’t hope for a miracle this time.”
Wicked approached them from one side, and he seemed oddly calm in the midst of the chaos of war. “We’ve run out of oil, we’re losing the city wall, and the city gates are almost completely breached. I suggest we retreat and defend the central tower.”
Wicked and Ugly Wolf both looked at Nan Gong Zui questioningly.
With a heavy heart, Nan Gong Zui commanded, “All troops, retreat to the central tower!”
Upon receiving the order, all the various teams began to make their way reluctantly to the central tower. At this point, the benefit of training in smaller groups became clearly visible as team members smoothly assumed their respective roles in the team. Shielded and protected by the warriors, the archers and mages continued to attack the enemy even as they retreated, and even managed to take down quite a number of enemy players. Moreover, the teams could cover for one another and provide support for other teams that were having a hard time. In this fashion, the soldiers of Infinite City fought and retreated to the plaza in front of the central tower, putting up a final stand against those enemy players who had come to take over Infinite City.
“Archers, volley!” Nan Gong Zui had already lost count of the number of times he had given the command to fire. The streaks of white light in the skies were practically like fireworks, yet the number of enemy players didn’t seem to diminish at all. A thousand men? I’m afraid it’s more than that, he thought, troubled.
“You should just surrender, Nan Gong Zui. If you do, I might just consider giving you a small position.” The benevolent smile on Fan’s face held a trace of rage.
“Hmph!” Nan Gong Zui merely sneered. Although Fan’s troops greatly outnumbered Infinite City’s, he was still the invader. All those cauldrons of hot oil would definitely have cost him countless men. Besides, the members of the Righteous Blades had all received extensive training in large-scale fighting, so the situation wasn’t necessarily in Fan’s favor. With that thought, Nan Gong Zui’s spirits lifted.
“So you choose the hard way,” Fan said coldly. “Kill him!”
Just as suspicion entered his mind, Nan Gong Zui was suddenly sent sprawling to the ground. His shoulder went numb for a moment, and then flared with pain. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the one who’d pushed him down was Lolidragon, while Madame White Bird was looking incredulously at a panicky Phoenix. Nan Gong Zui sighed. “Phoenix, you…”
“Phoenix, what are you doing?” White Bird demanded, staring at her own sister in disbelief. Phoenix actually tried to kill Nan Gong Zui? And she was clearly listening to Fan’s order; hadn’t she already transferred her affections to Prince?
“I…” Although she’d panicked when she saw that Nan Gong Zui was still alive, her spirits lifted after she took a look at Fan, and once again, she fired a bolt of magic at Nan Gong Zui…
“Do you take me for a corpse?” Lolidragon coolly sent Phoenix sprawling with a kick, and then calmly pinned the latter to the ground.
Nan Gong Zui got to his feet without a word, his heart gripped in ice. He’d always sincerely treated Phoenix as his godsister, forgiving her mistakes time after time, protecting her, worrying that she would feel guilty, feel upset… yet the result was still like this.
“Zui…” White Bird looked guiltily at the dispirited Nan Gong Zui, and then at her sister, whose face was almost buried in the ground. She could only sigh yet again. Why did this sister of hers always have to choose to sacrifice everything else for her love? To even become a spy…
“You sabotaged the city gates, didn’t you?” Although it was phrased as a question, Gui’s tone was one of certainty. He knew that there could not have been a mistake in his calculations, so someone must have sabotaged them; otherwise, they would never have been breached so quickly.
Upon hearing Gui’s question, as all those present turned to look in sudden realization and anguish at Phoenix, the latter buried her face even more deeply into the ground.
Everybody had worked hard, pouring in their efforts to defend the city, and yet there was a spy, and it was actually somebody so close to them. At that thought, the defenders of Infinite City grew disheartened. Fan seized the opportunity and began the attack. It seemed that the defense of Infinite City was in a critical situation, as cracks appeared in the defense surrounding the central tower. Nan Gong Zui and his team were in particularly low spirits, wracked with guilt and uncertainty…
Uncharacteristically enough, Fan led the charge, and the defenders of Infinite City were actually so dispirited that the enemy managed to charge right up to Zui.
“Nan Gong Zui, in the end, you’ve lost,” Fan said lightly, a satisfied smile on his face.
Nan Gong Zui looked at Fan bleakly and said in a hoarse voice, “I can take whatever revenge you throw my way; just let Phoenix off!”
Fan broke into maniacal laughter. “Let Phoenix off? Hahaha, she doesn’t want me to let her off! As for you, Nan Gong Zui, I definitely will—”
“Wahhh! Whoever’s down there, make way!” A piteous cry from above could suddenly be heard. Why did the voice sound rather familiar?
Damn it, if I’d known, I wouldn’t have stood up as I pleased. So when they tell you to “sit on an airplane”, you should really sit and not “stand on an airplane”; the same holds true for flying carpets! I want to cry; my entire body feels like it’s about to break… I looked up into the sky at the crowd sitting on the flying carpet. Kenshin and Sunshine were idly sipping their tea, while Jing and Yun were staring dumbly at me, who had fallen off the plane… I mean, the carpet.
Oh, by the way, I should mention that such a uniquely Arabic object as a flying carpet is obviously a treasure belonging to Sunshine. It’s all thanks to that carpet that I could come back so quickly to Infinite City.
My entire body ached as I stood up slowly, only to see everyone from Infinite City staring at me. I said slowly, “Whew, good thing the ground was soft; I almost fell to my death.”
Everyone stared at me blankly, and then suddenly shifted their gaze to my feet. After a moment of confusion, I too, looked down at my feet… Oh, so I crushed a human cushion to death. Doesn’t this human cushion look rather familiar? I yanked the cushion dude’s head backward by the hair in order to see his face. Fan? I thought, scratching my head. So it’s him. Whew, my conscience can finally be at ease, then. Crushing this sort of person to death isn’t worth agonizing over.
“Prince!” Fan snarled, glaring at me as he spat a mouthful of blood.
“It’s you again!” I interjected quickly. “I’m sick of that opening line; can’t you change it to something else?
“Don’t glare at me like that. It’s not like I know why I’m always making things hell for you. Maybe it’s our fate?” I cocked my head to one side, thinking, Is it just me, or am I always subduing Fan? Maybe it’s because he’s called “rice”, so he’s destined to be cooked by me? “Oh yeah, what are you doing in Infinite City anyway? Sight-seeing? The city’s open to the public already?” I asked uncertainly.
“…” Everyone continued to stare at me wordlessly.
Lolidragon rolled her eyes and bellowed irritably, “He came to attack the city!”
“Our idiotic liege lord has finally found his way home,” Ming Huang – who could never say anything useful – shouted idly.
“Ohhh!” My eyes narrowed. He dares to attack our city? What nerve! I immediately threw a punch at Fan and sent him sprawling. Seeing that he was about to reach into his pouch for a health potion, I raised my eyebrows and then stomped on the back of his hand with one foot.
“You cowardly bastard; fight me one-on-one if you’ve got the balls!” Fan yelled desperately, seeing that he might be killed any time.
I gave him a bloodthirsty smile and then said nonchalantly, “One-on-one? Sure, just wait till I’ve cleaned up your friends.”
I looked at Fan’s forces and then suddenly remembered what Zhuo-gēge had told me over the phone, about how Lolidragon wanted me to put on the façade of the Blood Elf when I got back… Sigh! I’m not too keen on the idea, but since when have I been able to disobey Lolidragon? I’m resigned to my fate… So I drew my Black Dao and ran my tongue over the blade lightly, without forgetting to smile slightly. “So many people for me to kill, that’s great!”
I watched the enemy with satisfaction, seeing that some of them had widened their eyes, while others gulped… Hey, you, over there, is there need to wet your pants? Am I really that terrifying? I’m only twenty and in the prime of my youth, not to mention lovely and charming…
“Prince, the atmosphere over here on our side – among the defenders of Infinite City – isn’t too good. You should do something about it first,” Lolidragon told me over a PM suddenly, interrupting my moment of narcissism. Since she rarely uses such a serious tone, something major must have happened.
“Phoenix didn’t really fall in love with you, only pretended to do so. Her aim was to serve as a spy in Infinite City. She sabotaged the city gates and nearly killed Nan Gong Zui,” Lolidragon said heavily. “Prince, if you can, try and make Fan look bad by beating him up some more. Perhaps this way, Phoenix might really transfer her affections to you.”
I broke out in cold sweat. Phoenix… your luck with the opposite sex is about as “good” as mine; you have to fall for either a dastardly playboy or me, a transvestite? Still, as I said, there was simply no way I could disobey Lolidragon’s orders.
I looked at Nan Gong Zui. As expected, he looked as though he had lost all will to live, which seriously pissed me off. I stomped on both of Fan’s hands a couple of times to prevent him from secretly taking a drink from his health potions, and then marched up to Nan Gong Zui and, ignoring the astonished looks on everyone’s faces, I gave him a punch. Completely caught off guard, Nan Gong Zui hit the ground hard as a result and stared at me blankly.
I raised an eyebrow. “I’ll settle the business with your sister later, so just kill these guys and vent your hatred together with me first!”
Nan Gong Zui got to his feet with a forced smile, thinking, What can Prince do when it’s a matter of a person’s feelings? However, he was more than happy to vent his hatred by killing Fan’s soldiers. “Right.”
“Hey, up there, are you guys done with your tea? Coming down yet? The fighting’s about to start!” I said casually.
The flying carpet drifted down slowly. Sunshine, Jing, and Yun retreated to the rear while Kenshin, Zui, Broken Sword, Wicked, and I, being warriors, stood shoulder-to-shoulder at the front. With a smile, I said, “Game, start!”
[½ Prince Volume 3 Chapter 7 End]
Sic Bo: A gambling game originating from ancient China. Basically, you roll three dice and then bet on the total outcome. There are a number of bets you can place, but the two most common bets are “big” (that the sum of the dice is greater than ten and less than eighteen) and “small” (that the sum of the dice is greater than three and less than eleven) See Wikipedia for more information.
Fox spirit: While fox spirits do appear in a number of oriental mythologies, the fox spirits of Chinese mythology are rather unique. For one, they often adopt human appearances – to be precise, they often appear as beautiful young women and, occasionally, beautiful young men. In many myths, the fox spirits utilize their good looks to seduce or bewitch humans. This is possibly a contributing factor to the impression that fox spirits (in Chinese mythology) are often evil and unscrupulous. See Wikipedia for more information.
Sit on an airplane: Just to clarify, this is the Chinese way of saying “take an airplane”. We’re not referring to the act of sitting on airplane, but the act of taking the airplane as a mode of transportation.
He’s called “rice”: No, Fan’s name doesn’t mean “rice”, it’s just that “rice” is also pronounced as “fan”.