Chapter 2: Conflict – translated by Erihppas
“It seems that there are plenty of people in the Central Continent who refuse to recognize Prince as a superior.” Nan Gong Zui frowned thoughtfully after listening to White Bird’s description of that day’s events.
“I think that this is due to several factors: First, Prince’s level isn’t high enough; second, during the final battle of the Adventurer’s Tournament, Prince did not survive; and third, being a spokesperson not only garnered the admiration of many, but also the jealousy of many others,” Wicked explained in detail.
Nan Gong Zui’s frown deepened. He looked at me worriedly, “Prince, the only thing you can do right now is train hard and raise your level.”
I shrugged. “That isn’t a problem. Compared to administrative work and military stuff, I’d rather train.”
“What’s even more important than leveling is building up your reputation!” White Bird declared decisively.
“Reputation?” Everyone was staring at White Bird, and apart from me, everyone appeared to agree with her. Really? Was I really not being respected enough?
“Wait a minute—how can I be lacking in reputation? Haven’t I always used the Blood Elf image in public?” I quickly argued. What kind of joke is this? I don’t want to be more esteemed! I would not be able to stand it if everyone worshipped me the way the five man band did.
White Bird looked at me with uncertainty and then hesitatingly explained, “My lord, your lack of reputation may be due to your appearance.”
“Appearance?” I was startled for the moment. What could be wrong with my appearance? Am I too handsome to be respected?
Yu Lian-dàsăo interjected suddenly, “You mean that Prince looks too young?”
White Bird hesitantly nodded her head. “If I may boldly ask, my lord, how old are you this year?”
At White’s Bird question, everyone shifted their gazes towards me, as though as they were measuring me up. Feeling uncomfortable under their scrutiny, I quickly answered, “I’m twenty.”
“Twenty? That’s older than I thought, but it’s still very young. Among the four other lords, it is said that the youngest is twenty-four. Not to mention that, my lord, you look like you are only seventeen or eighteen.” White Bird sighed with a disheartened expression.
Gui did not seem to agree. “His appearance is fine. More importantly, Prince rarely involves himself in the city’s day-to-day affairs. A lot of people have seen the other department leaders in the flesh, but they have only seen Prince as a photo on Second Life’s official website.”
I could not help but roll my eyes at Gui’s words. “It’s not my fault. Everyone pushed me into doing the concert tour before, and now I have to train hard. Where would I get the time to involve myself in the city’s day-to-day affairs?”
Everyone sighed at my words, and each of their faces held an expression of helplessness.
“This cannot go on. Our lord’s reputation must be established,” White Bird said, unusually determined. “And I will definitely think of something!”
For some unknown reason, I suddenly shuddered.
When I saw everyone kneeling before me, including the members of Odd Squad, Dark Emperor, Rose Team and others, I was totally at a loss on what to do. It didn’t make any difference that White Bird had already informed me of this event, this so called Oath of Allegiance ceremony.
As a preparation for the upcoming update, as well as the invasion of Sun City, Moon City, and Star City, it had been decided that we would hold a ceremony for everyone to swear fealty to me, as the Lord of Infinite City. Firstly, the ceremony would announce to the general public Infinite City’s intention to conquer the official cities, and secondly, it would establish that reputation thing that I never really understood.
“I, Ugly Wolf, swear to serve the Lord of Infinite City, Prince, with undivided loyalty.” Wolf-dàgē was looking at me with a solemn expression. Of course, he was also kneeling, and yet when I heard his declaration, I felt a bit…unhappy? Why must Wolf-dàgē kneel before me?
“I, Yu Lian…”
“Nan Gong Zui…”
One by one, my close friends swore fealty to me. Shouldn’t I be feeling happy? Why does my heart only feel as empty, as though I have just lost something important?
After everyone finished swearing fealty, I followed with the words that White Bird had told me. Replying in a solemn tone that I had never used before, I said, “I, Lord of Infinite City, Prince, accept your oaths. From now on, all of you are my loyal subordinates. I swear to lead you all to fame and glory throughout Second Life.”
Everyone exclaimed in unison, “All hail Infinite City!”
“All hail…Infinite City,” I repeated, with a mild sense of emptiness, both in my words and in my heart.
After the ceremony, everyone’s expressions were of happiness and pre-battle excitement. I had a forced smile on my face, but the bottom of my heart felt a bit heavy.
“My lord, how goes your training today?” Wolf-dàgē patted my back with a smile.
I smiled dryly when I heard his words. “Wolf-dàgē, why are you calling me ‘my lord’ as well?”
Wolf-dàgē scratched his head, shrugged and explained, “It’s because White Bird has ordered us to address you as such from now on in order to build your reputation as the Lord of Infinite City. That was the point of today’s Oath of Allegiance ceremony too.”
“I’m not used to this,” I said dejectedly. “Why does even Odd Squad have to kneel before me? I’d rather you guys bully me like before instead of kneeling before me.”
“Prince…” Wolf-dàgē called out hesitantly.
“It’s ‘my lord’!” Lolidragon reminded Wolf-dàgē as she ruthlessly whacked me on the head. “Wolf-gē, don’t forget White Bird’s order.”
She then turned and shot me a fierce glare. “Don’t think that I wanted to kneel before you. If it weren’t necessary to establish your reputation, I wouldn’t have kneeled before a brat like you.”
“Lolidragon! Don’t speak to our lord like that,” White Bird lightly reproached her, obviously dissatisfied with Lolidragon’s tone.
“Why must I establish my reputation?” I could not help but be angered as the suppressed resentment from these few days flared out all of a sudden. “Wouldn’t it be better if we were all friends? Why worship me as if I’m some kind of god?”
“My lord,” Wolf-dàgē and Lolidragon were looking at me with a shocked expression, as if they were startled by my sudden burst of anger. The noisy laughter from the crowd around us had quieted down as well and the people slowly started looking in our direction one after another.
“My lord…,” White Bird panicked, sweeping her eyes at the crowd who turned their attentive gazes towards us while frowning at me.
After seeing the members of Odd Squad together, Rose Team, Wicked and everyone’s expressions filled with concern. Seeing their expressions along with Nan Gong Zui’s and White Bird’s frowns, my heart suddenly felt like a deflated balloon, as though as all energy had been taken away from me. I tiredly waved my hand, “Sorry, I’m just too tired. I’ll go get some rest.”
I turned and left, without looking at anyone’s expressions anymore. I reached the main hall before realizing suddenly that I didn’t know where to go. Yun Fei and Jing—I’ll go look for them then, they would definitely understand my feelings.
I walked towards Lü Jing and Yun’s cottage in low spirits and kicked the door open with force. As expected, Yun Fei’s screaming followed.
“Prince, I have told you ten thousand times before, doors can be broken! And you’re paying for it if it breaks!” My mood suddenly brightened at the way Yun Fei spoke to me. He was the same as before, and he didn’t call me ‘my lord’.
“Is the Oath of Allegiance ceremony over?” Mom’s voice suddenly trailed into my ear.
“Dad, mom, you’re all here.” I turned, surprised. Not only were Jing and Yun there, but both of my parents were in the room as well.
“Of course, everyone was going to kneel down and swear fealty to you, but you can’t expect your parents to kneel before you too, can you?” Jing asked helplessly.
“Speaking of that ceremony, I’m starting to feel mad. Why must everyone kneel and pledge their loyalty!?” I could not suppress my feelings any longer and started shouting, wanting to vent out all my frustration. “They are my friends, why must they call me ‘my lord’, and why must they honor me!?”
Everyone was shocked by my outburst. It was only after a moment of silence that Jing spoke. “But it’s necessary.”
“Rubbish, we didn’t do that before, and we were okay, weren’t we?” I quickly argued. There was no need for me to establish any reputation. “Xiao Lan, it is necessary.” Dad looked at me with a serious expression. “Infinite City is growing stronger, and more and more people are joining Infinite City. What they need is a king they can follow, not a friend.”
King… Why do I keep hearing this word? Why am I always being crowned with such a heavy word?
“Xiao Lan, you’ve already embarked on this path, and unless you want to abandon everything, you can only continue to walk onward,” Mom said to me in all earnestness.
“I… I’m willing to walk onwards. I just don’t like how my friends have transformed into subordinates. Is even this too much to ask for?” I could not help but choke out.
“Xiao Lan!” Yun grabbed hold of my shoulders. “What the heck are you doing? You’re not acting like yourself. You’re supposed to be someone who boldly moves forward and doesn’t withdraw regardless of the difficulties! You’re the heart of this group; tears and confusion aren’t things you should be expressing.”
“But I do shed tears! I do get confused!” I closed my eyes and cried, “I’m not god, I’m not that great!”
“Xiao Lan…” Everyone stood up in surprise, all wanting to come over to comfort me.
I desperately freed myself from Yun’s grip, wiped my tears away, and walked out of the house without looking back.
The four shouted in surprise, “Xiao Lan, wait up!”
I did not even turn my head as I shouted back, “Don’t follow me, I don’t want to listen to anything now!”
Using the fastest speed that I could muster, I fled like a wind away from the place I originally thought I could find some comfort. I hadn’t anticipate that even Jing and Yun, as well as my mom and dad, would be unable to understand my feelings. Who else would be able to understand? I smiled humorlessly, looked up, and realized that I was standing in front of Infinite Restaurant.
Naturally, I stepped into the restaurant. Just as I decided to find a corner for a silent drink, I saw Kenshin and Cold Fox sitting by the balcony, quietly drinking with some side dishes on the table. I arrogantly strode forward, sat down, and immediately grabbed Cold Fox’s flagon, downing it in one gulp.
Cold Fox watched silently as I snatched over the flagon. After I downed it all at once, he mildly said, “That’s a vodka and whiskey cocktail.”
As Kenshin raised his eyes to meet Cold Fox’s, the latter then added, “Very strong. A normal human being would be drunk after a few cups.”
Kenshin and Cold Fox stared at me together. As I met their stares, I started to get mad again. “What are you looking at!? Don’t you know I’m the Lord of Infinite City? Start ordering more wine for me.”
Kenshin withdrew his gaze and calmly said a single sentence: “He’s drunk.”
“Mm.” Cold Fox also responded calmly.
Godamnit, they’re not ordering wine for me! I couldn’t suppress my rage and slammed my fist on the table. “Waiter, bring more wine and all the side dishes you have to this table immediately!”
“Have you decided to throw your life away? To waste money like that, you’d better be careful of Yu Lian-dàsăo’s wrath,” Lolidragon’s lithe voice came from behind.
I did not turn my head, nor did I wish to reply.
Lolidragon released a sigh and sat on the seat beside me, “What’s wrong? Why are you so angry? It’s only an Oath of Allegiance ceremony; you don’t have to take it to heart.”
I was so furious that I loudly retorted, “What do you mean by only an Oath of Allegiance ceremony? All of you are my friends; you weren’t supposed to kneel before me in the first place!”
“It’s true that we’re your friends, but we’re also your subordinates. What’s wrong with subordinates kneeling before you to pledge their loyalty?” Lolidragon gazed at me with furrowed brows.
“What do you mean subordinates… All of you are my friends! Friends!” After roaring until my voice was hoarse, I grabbed the wine flagon the waiter had just delivered and drank madly, as if only this action could wash away the unhappiness in my heart.
I seemed to have frightened her, as Lolidragon was speechless for a while. She wordlessly watched as I madly gulped down the wine.
Finally, she spoke in an earnest, solemn manner. “Prince, you’re no longer a carefree prince, but a king who shoulders heavy responsibilities.”
I stopped my drinking. Why do these words feel so heavy? King? Me? I said in all bitterness, “Lolidragon, I don’t like the current situation, I don’t like how everyone’s treating me, and those, those lordly titles.”
Lolidragon slowly stood up, took a deep breath and said, “Prince, you wanted to create a legend. Are you relishing the moments of happiness of the legend, but refusing to shoulder the responsibilities and pain?”
I was rendered speechless, and I could only watch as Lolidragon left the restaurant without looking back. I lowered my head and looked at the flagon blankly. The bottom of my heart felt so twisted up that even I did not know what I felt at the moment.
“Prince… Are you okay?” a female voice asked from behind me. My heart tightened, Did Lolidragon come back? Before my eyes Phoenix’s worried expression appeared. My once hopeful feelings died within me, and my heart became even emptier. I waved an impatient hand at Phoenix and adopted an extremely harsh tone. “Stop bothering me!”
After that, I turned my head and continued drinking and eating…but then I noticed Kenshin and Cold Fox staring over my shoulder, frowning. I quickly turned my head to have a look. Phoenix was silently shedding tears.
I was stunned, totally at a loss on how to react. But Phoenix was already speaking, and despite the two streams of tears trailing down her face, her tone was abnormally calm. “Prince, you have never actually cared for me, have you?”
“I…” What could I say? If Phoenix had not loved me, perhaps we could have been good friends, but since she just had to fall in love with me, she was destined to get hurt… Was it the right choice to have let her fall in love with me in the beginning? I suddenly realized in horror that I had never given any thought to the aftermath.
I found myself unable say anything and Phoenix did not seem to be expecting an answer. She closed her eyes, still silently crying, and turned and began walking away. “My passionate feelings of love burn like the flames of the phoenix, and yet the ones I meet always smother me with the chill of an iceberg!”
“Phoenix…” I could only numbly watch Phoenix’s extremely sorrowful retreating figure. Even after I could no longer see her, I still could not turn my gaze away.
“Prince…” Two voices called out to me at the same time, and at the door appeared the two silhouettes I knew best—Wicked and Gui.
Both of them came up to me at the same time, and I looked at them in a daze.
“Prince, you don’t have to bear those responsibilities. If you think it hurts, then don’t do it,” Wicked stroked my head comfortingly.
“Can I really?” I smiled wistfully. To leave just like that? To lose all my friends? To abandon the promise of creating a legend with everyone from Odd Squad? “Xiao— …Prince.” Wicked sighed softly and said nothing after.
“Your Highness, if you want to shed tears, then please do so on Gui’s shoulders!” Gui compassionately pulled me into an embrace. I was startled for the moment, but then I raised my head and looked at him. He was taking advantage of me as usual, but suddenly, I felt as if I understood something.
“Are you doing it on purpose?” I asked him.
“What?” Gui’s expression changed for a split second, and quickly returned to his normal, overly dramatic expression. “Oh, I just can’t control myself when I’m around you, Your Highness!” Gui said.
“You are always taking advantage of me—are you purposefully creating a reason for me to hit you?” I stared Gui in the eye, not allowing him to act dumb. “You are allowing me to hit you, so that I can vent my frustrations, right?” I cried out hoarsely, “Why do you need to sacrifice yourself like that? Why do you endure such pain and even humiliation?”
I grabbed hold of his collar and glared at him, not giving him an opportunity to escape. “To go to that far of an extent for me, is it really worth it? You don’t even know my real name!”
Gui’s expression suddenly became gentle. He lightly caressed my cheeks, and his eyes bore such pain and happiness that I felt confused after looking at them. “If my tears can be used to exchange for your smile, then it’s more than worthwhile.”
Suddenly, Gui was fiercely dragged backwards onto the ground. Although Wicked was trying desperately to glare at Gui, he could not conceal the hurt in his eyes and expression. Gui fearlessly returned Wicked’s gaze, his eyes conveying a regretless determination.
“Why do I keep hurting people?” I mumbled. My eyes were as empty as a black hole. “Will there be people who get hurt no matter what I do?”
“Prince?” Wicked and Gui gazed at me in shock. Their eyes were heavy with concern.
In a daze, I stood up and walked towards the door. Gui and Wicked followed behind, and I suddenly stopped, turned, and spoke to them, “Don’t follow me, I want some time alone to think. Please don’t follow me.”
Gui and Wicked both stopped, and even though they were both so different, their eyes revealed the same worry and compassion towards me at the exact same time.
Those two who love me so deeply, which one should I hurt? Which one could I heartlessly hurt? Zhuo-gēgē, who waited for me for eight years? Or Gui, who sacrificed even his dignity for me? The answer was difficult, so difficult!
Stepping out of the restaurant and walking on the streets of my own city, I was suddenly reminded of a conversation I had with my brother in the online game The World that we used to play.
“Aiyo, why do others have money, land and fame but we don’t have any no matter how hard we train?” After grinding an endless amount of incoming monsters, I could not help but complain.
Shielding me from the front, my bratty little brother rolled his eyes. “You call that training hard? You don’t know just how much effort people might have to put in before they manage to pull it off!”
“Are you sure? They might have just bought all of it with money,” I answered in disdain.
“Right, stop envying others already. Owning a city is not necessarily a good thing. Why don’t you think of the responsibilities they have to shoulder?” Wu Qing actually replied in a happy-go-lucky way.
“What responsibilities? You mean the responsibility of lying down and collecting rent?” I could not help but retort.
Wu Qing looked as though he was teaching a hopeless child. “Sis, you just don’t understand. My friend has a city. Every day, he worries about losing the city, about loss and debts, about tension among his companions, and about the people who don’t accept him and want to usurp his throne. Also, once you own a castle, you must have a second, and a third… Finally, you won’t be happy until you dominate the whole game, and that is a very heavy responsibility.”
I replied thoughtlessly. “I don’t want a second castle, I just want one. Why is it a must to dominate the whole game?”
As he was almost sliced apart by the monsters, Wu Qing dared not continue the debate. He only mumbled one last thing in return—words that I did not to take to heart at that time but which were now clear as day to me. “There are some situations that leave you with no choice. Only the people who have not walked the same path can speak so lightly.”
“Indeed only the people who have not walked the same path can speak so lightly!” I closed my eyes, allowing the tears to trickle from the corner of my eyes.
“Prince-gēgē…” Doll’s hesitant voice reached my ears.
Not wanting to let the young Doll see me like this, I did not turn to face her. “I’m alright. I just want to be alone for a moment. You don’t have to worry about me, Doll.”
“Prince-gēgē, can Doll take a walk with you?”
“I want to be alone for the moment…” I relentlessly rejected.
Instead, Doll stepped forward and grasped my hand, and using a quiet tone which I had never thought would come from her, she said, “Don’t dwell on it alone, you will only be going on a wild goose chase. At least let me accompany you. I think I can understand your pain: the pain of a ruler.”
I first stared, followed with an unbelieving, bitter smile. “How could you understand?”
“How could a real life princess not understand?” Hearing that remark, I turned to Doll in shock, and was met with her regal expression, which exuded elegance. She smiled lightly as she said, “Let me take a walk with you now, you will feel better about being a ruler.”
I will feel better about being a ruler? A princess is telling me that I will feel better about having the identity of a king? Before today, I would definitely have said that this would never happen, but now… I could only smile bitterly. “There’s no way I could feel better as a ruler; I have… entered a quagmire. I cannot advance, nor can I turn back!”
”That’s because you’re focusing only on the pain of advancing or the pain of withdrawing, and forgetting the joy that can be had in both choices,” Doll replied. She spoke in a resolute manner, and yet her words felt vague to me. “Nevertheless, let’s just take a walk. There will always be a way, as long as you don’t stay in a corner and simply brood over things.” Doll strongly pushed me from the back, and in the blink of an eye, we had reached the city gates.
“Where are we going?” I asked in astonishment.
“The sky is endless, the world is vast; we can go anywhere we want!”
Meanwhile, in Infinite Restaurant…
Cold Fox asked coolly, “What happened?”
“Something that does not concern us.” Kenshin drank his tea with indifference. Human emotions were far too complex; it was not something he would understand.
“It’s not entirely unrelated to us,” Cold Fox sighed.
“Even though he is our Liege Lord, we have no need to care for his private matters,” Kenshin ruthlessly replied.
“No, it does concern us.” Cold Fox frowned as he looked at the table full of food and wine. “We have to pay for his bill.”
Taking advantage of me: In Chinese this phrase was this phrase was 吃豆腐 (chī dòu fǔ), lit. “eat tofu”. This phrase is said to come from this: In olden times, Tofu shops are usually opened by married couples. The husband would make the tofu at night and the wife would sell them during the day. As they frequently eat tofu, their skins are naturally soft and smooth. This attracts lots of customers (mainly males, considering that the wife is doing business during the day), and the males would use the term ‘eat tofu’ as an euphemism for going to the tofu shop and flirting with the Tofu Shop wife. Hence, jealous wives usually reprimand their husbands with “Did you eat tofu today again?” Now, it’s used to describe perverted males or, well, males who want to take advantage of females.