Chapter 5: Wicked, Part One – translated by Lily and lucathia
My real name is Zhuo Ling Bin, but in Second Life, I go by Wicked.
Second Life is a virtual game developed more than ten years ago. However, due to overdeveloped artificial intelligence, the game spiraled out of control. Since then, the government has explicitly limited the artificial intelligence level in games. In other words, Second Life, also called the Forbidden Game, is still the world’s most immersive game, especially since nearly half of the NPCs developed self-awareness. If not for the Dictator of Life’s aid in overseeing this place, I have no idea what sort of devastating consequences this game would have resulted in.
Although in reality, this game has already had dire repercussions. More than ten years ago, the developer of Second Life, Long Dian, contracted a terminal illness. Terrified of the idea of death, he even used the world’s most intelligent computer, the Dictator of Life, to threaten the entire world!
That particular event had huge consequences, including making Second Life spiral out of control forever, turning it into a world of only NPCs. However, the biggest consequence to me was that I lost my most precious person.
Feng Lan, my Xiao Lan, was Prince, the person who led everyone to stop Long Dian at that time.
That year, during the confrontation with Long Dian who had already made himself into an artificial human, we had been beaten into a retreat. In order to save Xiao Lan, I was sent flying and lost consciousness. When I finally woke up, the hospital’s bland white ceiling forcibly registered in my line of sight. I immediately remembered Xiao Lan and ran around madly, frantically shouting her name, afraid that my most beloved girl had…
I found her in Gui’s hospital room. Her eyes were swollen red from crying. Once she saw me, she flew into my arms and cried out, “Zhou-gēgē, what should I do? The doctor said Gui might never wake up.”
As I tried to mollify Xiao Lan, I looked over and saw Gui breathing through a ventilator, his body pierced with IV drips. My heart filled with irresolvable conflict. On one hand, I wished for Gui to quickly wake up so Xiao Lan would not have to cry anymore. On the other hand, I secretly wished for Gui to never wake up. Don’t… Don’t take away my Xiao Lan!
“Prince, why don’t you take a break? It’s been a while since you’ve been to class, right?” Lolidragon’s concern was plainly visible on her face. “We’ll take good care of Gui.”
“Never!” Xiao Lan refused immediately.
“If Gui never wakes up… I’ll always be by his side taking care of him.” Xiao Lan cradled Gui’s hand, eyes brimming with determination. No one could shake her resolve. Not even me.
Gui will wake up.
No one understood that better than I did. In order to bring a smile to Xiao Lan’s face once more, that man would crawl back to her even if he had sunk eighteen levels down into hell. That man was someone who would never surrender. He was so extremely determined that even I sometimes could not help but admire Gui’s resolution.
And so, I left the hospital room, paying no attention to the sounds of surprise and Gui’s hoarse voice calling out for Prince.
My heart understood. In the end, I still lost my Xiao Lan – my precious girl with her big, bright eyes.
What should I do? I could not help but feel at a loss.
“Roam the lands, forever leaving this land of heartbreak?”
My little brother, Zhou Ming Bin, known as Ming Huang in-game, attempted to give me suggestions while immersed with playing CS.
I shook my head, my heart heavy. “No, I haven’t received my diploma yet. I cannot leave school.”
“Drink away your sorrows.” Ming Bin clapped his hands before reaching for his wallet, about to rush out. “I’ll go buy you a beer.”
“No!” I sternly rejected his suggestion. “Alcohol can cause liver cancer.”
“Then…should I go buy you a packet of GENTLE cigarettes?” Ming Bin furrowed his eyebrows in thought.
“No, you would breathe in second-hand smoke.” I could not cause my little brother to get lung cancer just because of a broken heart.
Ming Bin propped his chin up with both hands. “Then why not weep your heart out under your covers? I’ll even pretend not to hear anything.”
I seriously considered it before replying, “No. I have a laboratory experiment with my professor tomorrow. I cannot appear with swollen red eyes. I’ll cry some other day.”
Ming Bin looked defeated. “You’ll cry some other day? Ha, only my brother would say something like this. Bro, can you not be so collected? I think only the brother who has lived with you for over ten years can tell that the you right now is hurt such that you would much rather die. Bro, you’re too reserved. No wonder you couldn’t win Prince over.”
My face fell. Was being calm the wrong course of action?
“Prince is so dense that there has never been, nor will there ever be another like her. In my opinion, I think you should have run up to her and confessed ‘I love you’ every day for an entire year. Only then would she truly believe that you love her.” Ming Bin murmured to himself, “That gay guy really used the correct method to steal Prince away.”
Later, I thought the sight of Professor Min Gui Wen practically exuding happiness at school would be the most painful thing I would have to endure. However, I was wrong. On the day of Xiao Lan’s graduation, I brought her her favorite tulips to congratulate her…
The graduation ceremony went by smoothly, with congratulations from the president, then a valedictorian speech and everyone bidding farewell to the graduates, until Professor Min Gui Wen appeared on stage in his strange outfit. Everything changed. The entire school screamed and even the teacher’s faces went red in embarrassment.
I could not be any more familiar with his outfit. That was Gui’s wandering bard attire, and even his guqin and earrings were the same. His overall appearance made the originally serious Professor Min Gui Wen look charmingly handsome. With everyone’s gaze on him, he walked to Xiao Lan’s side. Nearly dumbstruck, Xiao Lan asked, “Gui? Do you think we’re having a masquerade?”
Gui coughed twice, put down his guqin, and took out a heart-shaped, pink box. After opening the box, Gui knelt down on one knee and used a voice full of love to say, “My dearest highness, Xiao Lan. I am no longer your teacher, and I would like you to use another name to address me from now on.”
“What name?” Xiao Lan, who had always been slow on the uptake, also came to an understanding about what Gui was trying to do at this time. Her face could not be any redder than it was.
Gui gently picked up the ring. On top of the silver ring was a tulip whose petals were made out of diamonds. Undoubtedly, Gui also knew that Xiao Lan’s favorite flower was the tulip.
“Are you willing to call me husband, and to let me call you my dear wife?” Gui asked sincerely.
Please forgive me for being unable to tell you what happened after this. I could no longer stay there. With tulips in my hand, I walked home, hand shaking so much that I was nearly unable to open the door. I walked inside my house, and like always, took out a vase and put the flowers inside it. I placed the vase next to the front door.
Then, I planned on returning to my room. When I turned, Ming Bin was staring at me with large eyes. At a loss, he blurted, “Tomorrow… You don’t have to do an experiment tomorrow?”
I shook my head and walked past Ming Bin. He reluctantly said, “Ah, Bro… I’m sorry for your loss.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell Ming Bin that “I’m sorry for your loss” wasn’t used that way.
In the following months, I did my best to avoid Xiao Lan. Even if she specifically came to my house, I would have Ming Bin tell her that I wasn’t home. I was deathly afraid to hear from her mouth that she had already decided to marry… Someone who wasn’t me.
Just now, Xiao Lan had come again. I heard her voice. It had been months since I saw Xiao Lan. I heard her say regretfully, “Really? Zhuo-gēgē is still not home?”
Finally unable to hold back, I climbed out of bed and rushed downstairs to the door. Unfortunately, the door had already closed, and Ming Bin was holding a pink invitation as he lamented, “Man, this is cruel. Isn’t my brother already in enough misery?”
“Give it to me!” I was nearly shaking as I said this.
Ming Bin finally realized that I was standing behind him. He turned to face me, and then he hid the invitation behind his back. His smile was forced as he said, “Trust me, Bro, you don’t want to see this.”
“Give it to me!” I persisted. Even though I very much agreed with Ming Bin’s words, that I definitely wouldn’t want to see that invitation, I still had to see it no matter what.
Ming Bin sighed. He handed the invitation over. I think I will never forget the moment I saw that invitation that left me no room to doubt. It was a wedding invitation, and on it were Feng Lan’s and Min Gui Wen’s names… Droplets of water fell next to Xiao Lan’s name.
“Bro… Um, Prince wants you to look at the back,” Ming Bin said cautiously.
Trembling, I flipped the invitation over. The back had a few handwritten lines. I could tell at a glance that it was Xiao Lan’s handwriting. Messy and squiggly handwriting like this was not common.
I went to your house several times, but you were never home. I guess I can only leave words for you on the back of this invitation for now because I’m afraid you won’t be home again. Although Gui told me I shouldn’t give you an invitation, that you would be very unhappy, I can’t not give you one. You are someone very important to me. You are Zhuo-gēgē who loves me the most. I would very much like for you to attend my wedding. Really. I really hope you can come. I hope that I can receive your blessing.
My entire body froze. I only dared to gently hold onto the invitation by the corner, afraid that I would accidentally damage it. I did not want to even damage a single corner of it.
Suddenly, a drop of water dripped onto the invitation and dirtied Xiao Lan’s message. I frantically tried to wipe away the droplet but only made it worse. The water droplet had blurred several words. I wiped my face with my hand in frustration. I was afraid that yet another accursed water droplet would ruin the message that Xiao Lan had personally written.
“Bro…” Ming Bin’s eyes were large. He was frantic and didn’t know what to do.
However, the door was loudly kicked open. Feng Yang Ming stood outside. He was pulling along a full cart, holding a can of beer. He lazily said, “Want some Heineken?”
On the day of Xiao Lan’s wedding, I went. No matter what, I could not miss seeing Xiao Lan wear a wedding dress, even if the man standing beside her wasn’t me.
The wedding was a large occasion. Different colors of Xiao Lan’s favorite tulips were spread all over. I nodded my head in satisfaction and walked over to people I recognized. Wolf-gē, Yu Lian, Lolidragon, and even Doll, who was a princess, had come dressed in everyday clothes. Nan Gong Zui brought with him people from Righteous Blades, and of course Dark Emperor would not miss the occasion, but my teammates were all unable to look at me.
Xiao Lan was already wearing her wedding dress and standing before the priest, waiting for Gui. The white lace veil on her face concealed her appearance, but I believed that my Xiao Lan must be the most beautiful bride in her wedding dress.
“Strange. Has Prince always been this tall?” Yu Lian asked in confusion.
“Probably because she’s wearing high heels. Don’t brides usually wear high heels?” Li Tian Lang said matter-of-factly.
“Doll recalls that it should be the groom standing before the priest to wait for the bride, right?” Doll asked while biting on her fingernails.
“Could it be that Gui is late?” Nan Gong Zui guessed.
“Impossible!” Everyone… Even I, shouted in unison.
“He’s getting married to Prince. Even if Gui were to get killed by a sandstone truck on his way here, his spirit would float here on time,” Lolidragon earnestly claimed.
Even I had to agree with Lolidragon’s words. Gui was exactly that sort of person.
The doors to the church finally opened, and like we thought, a person wearing a white tuxedo walked in. Upon seeing me, the person’s face lit up and she walked over. “I knew that Zhou-gēgē wouldn’t miss my wedding.”
“X-Xiao Lan. Why are you dressed like that?” Losing my composure, my mouth dropped open. Actually, everyone present had their mouths open quite wide. In comparison, I hadn’t lost my composure all that badly.
Indeed, Xiao Lan was wearing a white tuxedo, and she had her hair done in a ponytail. She looked very dashing, and the look suited her… But a bride should wear a bride’s dress!
“Huh, this?” Xiao Lan pulled on her tie. “It looks good, right? The more I looked at it, the more I thought that Gui’s tuxedo looked better than my wedding dress, so I had him swap with me.”
Everyone’s mouths dropped open even wider. In unison, we turned our heads to look at the person wearing the wedding dress.
Xiao Lan strode over to the bride… No, the groom, and then smiled happily at the priest whose mouth was wide open. “Father, quickly read the testimony. I can’t wait to eat food from my wedding reception. It’s a buffet from a five-star hotel.”
When I saw Xiao Lan lift the veil from Gui’s face, my heart twisted in doubt. If Xiao Lan had wanted to exchange with me, would I have agreed? I probably…would have. As long as I could marry Xiao Lan, even if I had to wear a wedding dress, I would do it.
However, when Gui came over to talk to me in his low-cut wedding gown, I could not help but admire him just a bit.
“Thank you for coming to the wedding.” Gui muttered quite reluctantly, “Xiao Lan was very happy you could make it.”
“You don’t have to worry. I graduated as well. In the future, I’ll stay far away from your family,” I replied icily, like usual.
Gui looked as though he was struggling for a moment before sighing sadly. “Don’t go, I need your help. Xiao Lan hopes Kenshin and the rest can come to the real world, especially Sunshine. Fairsky can’t live without him.”
“We’re producing artificial bodies?” I asked, somewhat shocked.
Gui nodded his head. “Lolidragon and Doll will cover all the costs.”
I was a little hesitant. If I did this, I would constantly have to see Xiao Lan…
“Xiao Lan will be very happy that you’ll be around to help,” Gui muttered unwillingly.
Upon hearing his words, I couldn’t help but nod my head.
Once Sunshine, Kenshin, and Celestial came to the real world one by one, I wondered if I should go out and find a job. Despite Lolidragon’s offer of a job at her company, I did not want to work near Xiao Lan’s house anymore, so I found a job overseas. I decided to give Xiao Lan my final goodbye.
Xiao Lan opened the door, happily crying out, “Zhou-gēgē, welcome! I was just about to tell you, Gui and I are having a child.”
“Oh?” I couldn’t help but sneak a peek at Xiao Lan’s stomach, already feeling envious of the child’s father.
Xiao Lan followed my line of sight down to her stomach, but she quickly declared, “Not here.”
Xiao Lan took my hand and dragged me inside.
“Over there.” Xiao Lan pointed to the Gui, whose stomach was sticking out. He wore maternity clothes and was sitting on the sofa, busy knitting.
I lost my composure again, my jaw dropping. Once Gui saw me, he jumped up and shouted, “Hey! You shameless guy! Don’t you dare hold hands with my wife.”
After speaking, Gui rushed over but got tangled in the yarn he held, looking like he was about to fall on his back. I immediately rushed forward and caught Gui at the last second, thankfully avoiding a fall that could have caused them to lose the child. My heart on the other hand felt like it was about to jump out of my chest.
“That was close,” Xiao Lan commented, eyes wide. After that, she turned around as if she had nothing to do with the conversation. “I’ll go and bring you something to eat. Don’t fight, okay?”
Both Gui and I sat down on the sofa as he resentfully started knitting again. Unable to hold back, I asked, “Are you really pregnant?”
“Obviously!” Gui snapped, “You think I like wearing maternity clothes for nothing?”
“Why?” I asked before remembering that Xiao Lan was afraid of pain.
“I can’t help it, Xiao Lan is afraid of pain. But this is good as well. If you ask me to listen to Xiao Lan’s labored cries during childbirth, I might as well be the one giving birth. This way I actually don’t have to worry as much,” Gui nonchalantly said as his hands worked on knitting a small cap.
I almost couldn’t speak. This man’s love for Xiao Lan had even exceeded my expectations. I had to pause to think. If it were me, would I be able to stand ten months of pregnancy for Xiao Lan? I…couldn’t.
“I heard that you refused Lolidragon’s offer of a job at her company?” Gui questioned.
“Yeah, I’m planning on leaving the country.” I had finally given up completely. Perhaps Xiao Lan would be happier with Gui than she ever would with me.
“What! Why?” Xiao Lan was holding a pot of soup. After hearing my words, she rushed over, momentarily forgetting that she was holding a pot in her hands. She stumbled, and the entire pot flew toward Gui who was resting on the sofa.
Almost as a reflex, I flung myself to the side and used my body to cover Gui so that the hot soup would not burn Gui’s stomach. Thankfully, I was wearing a full suit. The material was very thick…
“Zhou–gēgē, are you really leaving?” Xiao Lan asked worriedly.
I was leaning a few inches away from Gui’s belly, afraid to actually touch him, feeling the hot waves dripping down my back. Face white and voice shaking, I mumbled, “No, I won’t be leaving the country. I’ll actually move in with you two.”
If I don’t move in, I’m afraid that Xiao Lan’s child will not survive until childbirth.
“Finally I don’t have to watch Gui all day. I’ll be cleaning now,” Kenshin said coldly as he passed by the corridor, holding a vacuum cleaner.
Still, I had the feeling that even after the birth of the child, I would not be able to leave this couple alone. Not unless I never wished to see Xiao Lan’s child grow up.
“CS”: Short for Counter-Strike, a first person shooter.
“GENTLE cigarettes”: GENTLE is a brand of cigarettes found in Taiwan. The original name used to be LONG LIFE, named to celebrate the seventieth birthday of the president of the Republic of China, Jiang Zhong Zheng. Launched in 1958, the product was a way of wishing for the president to live a boundless, long life. The product was officially renamed to “GENTLE” in 2007.
“I am sorry for your loss”: Used to console someone when someone they know has passed away.