Chapter 1: Prologue
"It just isn't fair!" Prince royally declared. He had whined… er, declared this during one of the meetings held by the department leaders of Infinite City. The meeting had almost reached its completion when he had declared this.
"You don't listen to my suggestions, you don't seek my advice." Prince counted off two fingers here as he stood impressively (not slouching, a liege lord didn't slouch).
"I'm supposed to be the lord Infinite City but I'm always the last to know about the plans." A third finger counted.
"I can't go out and just slaughter mobs." Four fingers now.
"I always need to keep up the blood elf façade." He stuck out his thumb to emphasize this point, but realized he had run out of fingers as Meatbun was happily snoozing in his other hand. Not wanting to break the flow of his moaning… or rather of his proclamations, he put his used up hand away and continued on.
"None of my friends treat me the same, calling me lord all the time." The famous blood elf was not pouting like a petulant child.
"You dress me up like a decoration and parade me around." This remark was especially directed at a certain thief but she feigned ignorance of that and continued to clean her nails with a knife.
"I am the liege lord yet what do I even do?" Finally Prince finished his royal proclamation—or tantrum if you will.
"Do?" White Bird parroted back after several minutes of silence. "You are the face of Infinite City."
"But what do I do?" Repeated Prince insistently.
"You take care of the ceremonies and you uphold the reputation of Infinite City," said White Bird
"That's it? That's got to be the simplest job in the entire city! Why can't I help with something else for a change?" Prince was still insistent.
"Because that is all you are capable of," Lolidragon replied simply, insensitive as ever.
The Odd Squad felt quite sure that they knew Prince better than anyone there and they felt that they could predict with near certainty all his actions. Yet none of them had ever seen Prince truly angry. They had seen him depressed and guilty. Happiness seemed more or less a usual state of affairs for him, but anger they hadn't seen. Prince had been annoyed before (usually directly preceding Wolf-dágē having to heal Gui) but the Odd Squad had all just assumed that by now he had resigned himself to his fate and would go along with whatever came. This being said, they were all noticeably surprised when Prince neither stormed off in a huff, beat up Gui or commented back. He just logged off.
Chapter 2: Yu Lian
Yu Lian logged in the next day and went immediately to find her beloved Wolf. She PMed him first thing and was told to head to the kitchen. Fluttering a bit in anticipation, Yu Lian walked to the kitchen. Or, at least she tried. How she ended up in the armory she had no idea. The second attempt landed her in a bathroom. Her third attempt succeeded only once she gave up on her sense of direction and followed her nose instead—which, incidentally, was remarkably accurate today.
After all the effort she had put in to getting to the kitchen, the very first thing she wanted to do was to hug her Wolf. And she did, collapsing onto him with a breathy sigh. She was quite content. However, it appeared her husband was much less so.
"Um… Prince?" Lolidragon was there too. Yu Lian hadn't noticed before. Nor had she listened to what Lolidragon had said.
"Hello Lolidragon," Yu Lian responded and snuggled deeper into her husband's embrace. Only, he wasn't embracing her. She looked up at him to see him speechless in a mixture of terror and confusion.
"Wolf," she began worriedly, "what's wrong?" She reached up to brush the hair on his cheeks when she caught sight of her hand for the first time. She jumped up with a small shriek.
"Wolf, Lolidragon," she said in a trembling voice. "W-what is happening?" Wolf and Lolidragon traded a look both looking very worried. Prince's eccentricities they could handle but this? This was too much.
"Are you ok, Prince?" Wolf asked hesitantly. Yu Lian started at being called Prince but she suddenly recalled that she had been called that earlier too.
"Why are you calling me Prince? I'm not Prince!" Yu Lian spun around, looking for Prince who was often to be found in the kitchen. She did see him, but when she did it elicited a horrified gasp from her. She saw Prince in the reflection of a pan. Her reflection.
"I'm Prince?" She muttered in confusion. Wolf and Lolidragon traded another look. Wolf stood up and moved into Yu Lian's line of view.
"Prince," he began slowly as if he was speaking to a child. "Are you alright?" Yu Lian shook her head violently.
"No. I'm not Prince!" Wolf and Lolidragon traded looks for a third time. This time Lolidragon sent a PM to accompany it.
'Is he having a mental breakdown?' Wolf shrugged his shoulders at her. Meanwhile Yu Lian was still staring at the organized looks of the elf in the reflection. She still refused to accept that it was her.
"Wolf," she cried, rushing once more into her husband's arms. "I'm not Prince."
"Then who are you?" snapped Lolidragon.
"Yu Lian." Wolf stiffened even more in her arms then he had previously (and he had been pretty stiff to begin with. He wasn't used to being hugged like this by a guy).
"Yu Lian-dàsăo? Not possible," breathed Lolidragon. She quickly checked and found that Yu Lian was not online.
"How…" Wolf began, still uncomfortable.
"Since I logged on. I don't know," Yu Lian sobbed into Wolf's chest. Wolf awkwardly raised his hand up to pat the white head as he would if it had been Prince, but stopped midway and lowered his hand again.
"Apparently there's some kind of glitch," Lolidragon said after a few minutes. Yu Lian had finally stopped sobbing and, after noticing how uncomfortable Wolf was, she sat down next to him at the table keeping a reasonable distance between them. Lolidragon sat across from them.
"How do you know?" Wolf asked her. Lolidragon quickly said something about asking a GM. Yu Lian really wasn't paying attention. The meat buns on the table were calling to her somehow. She was surprisingly hungry.
"Anyway," Lolidragon continued, "it appears that something was off about Prince's log off last time that corrupted the data. Though Prince never logged back on, Yu Lian was logged into his character. They aren't sure why it happened yet, but they say the problem should be fixed the next time you log in." Yu Lian breathed a sigh of relief.
"That's it? There are no side effects?" Wolf worried aloud.
"Some of Prince's traits may still be inside his character, but Yu Lian should be the same once she's out."
"Some of Prince's traits?" Wolf asked. Lolidragon didn't respond; she just looked at Yu Lian. Wolf turned his eyes to his neighbor and began to laugh, understanding dawning immediately. The bowl, once full of meat buns, was now empty. She held a meat bun in each hand while her mouth was full. Yu Lian gave her husband an indignant look.
"I'm hungry," she said after swallowing. Then understanding hit her too. "Why am I so hungry?" She asked with a groan.
"My Most Wonderful Highness," called a voice with overwhelming enthusiasm. The three in the kitchen had long gotten used to these effusions and it didn't faze them in the slightest. It was Lolidragon who first realized the potential problems. She was sitting across from Yu Lian and had a constant reminder of the problem they were facing.
"Ah, Prince…" Lolidragon knew her meaning had been understood by the sudden look of horror on Yu Lian's face. The understanding had only reached her seconds before she was glomped by the over enthusiastic bard. Yu Lian sent an apologetic look towards Wolf, but he was still in shock, having come to the realization of what was going to happen only once it had actually happened.
'Hit him!' Lolidragon PMed Yu Lian hastily. 'It's best if no one else knows about this now.' Yu Lian nodded at Lolidragon. Yu Lian peeled the clingy bard from her and sent him flying with a powerful kick.
But, the thing is, mages are much weaker than warriors. They must put in much more strength to do any sort of physical damage. That much is a fact. Yu Lian, a mage, was still not fully understanding of the strength of a warrior. She put in the strength she, as a mage, expected was necessary. And, somehow, she managed to trigger a special ability while doing so.
<Buddha's Mountain's Phantom Kick successful, player Guileastes HP 10/3500>
"Sorry," Yu Lian whispered, blanching. Wolf sweat-dropped. For the first time he felt somewhat frightened of Prince's physical capabilities. They could no longer see Gui, she had kicked him that far.
"Prince has been holding back on him this whole time. Who'd have thunk it? Maybe it isn't as one-sided as we all thought," Lolidragon commented to herself, amused.
"Wolf…" Yu Lian said slowly. He nodded and stood. Healing Gui seemed to be the main part of his job.
"How are we going to tell the others about this? I can't be Prince, I think that proves it," Yu Lian gestured back towards where Wolf had disappeared to look for Gui.
"I say we don't tell the others."
"Why not?" Yu Lian was a bit desperate. She hadn't even been on for an hour yet and it would be odd for Prince to log off so suddenly.
"Well, what will be the first question they ask?" Lolidragon asked.
"'Where is Prince?'… Oh." Yu Lian understood. It would be just like when Prince had disappeared to the Eastern Continent. They did not have a way to contact Prince so they couldn't tell him to come back and if he was still angry, who knows how long it would be until he logged back in.
"Wicked…" Yu Lian began, remembering the Eastern Continent fiasco. He had been the one to tell them where Prince had been. What a nightmare that had been. Five thousand crystal coins! There was no way she could be Prince. That sort of mistake was inconceivable to her. Yu Lian took a deep breath. At least this time would probably turn out to be cheaper, if no less troublesome.
"He said he'll be gone a while." Lolidragon said crushing the last hope they had of solving this problem.
"So, I have to be Prince," Yu Lian stated gloomily.
"It's just for today. And really, how hard can it be? Just be sure never to walk in the right direction for anything." Lolidragon snorted.
"I don't think that will be a problem," Lolidragon looked at her questioningly. "It took me three tries to find the kitchen.
Lolidragon was right. It wasn't hard. It was a full on nightmare. It was worse than her imagination was even capable of.
She was hiding out on the roof of the downtown bookstore. How she got there she still wasn't sure. She could see the castle but experience told her being able to see the castle and being able to find her way to the castle were two very different things. Plus the moment she allowed herself to step into public view she was surrounded by rabid fan-girls.
She had decided it was best to take a walk through Infinite City after narrowly avoiding Gui by hiding in a broom closet. But, as they say, she had jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Before she had only to deal with an overly affectionate bard, whom she was friends with, but on the walk she was faced with a hoard of fan-girls with much worse intentions.
And, to make matters worse, there was still another two hours before she could log off. And that would still be early. She couldn't hide on this roof forever, though.
Yu Lian stepped out into the main street and had only taken three steps when a female voice cried out.
"There he is!" Yu Lian didn't think, she ran. After only being Prince for a few hours, she automatically understood that this was dangerous. She didn't even bother to check if they were talking about her. Now she understood why Prince's agility was so high.
Twenty minutes later found her once again on the roof of the bookstore. Maybe she could stay there forever. It certainly didn't seem like she was going anywhere else anytime soon.
Yu Lian, in the midst of bemoaning her own existence (or rather, Prince's existence), spotted a familiar head of bright red hair. In her excitement she jumped down from the roof instead of climbing down as she had done before. It was a tall store, not one that people would commonly jump off of. A warrior would have enough health to survive the fall, right?
In the end, it wasn't necessary to answer that question. Yu Lian found that she had conveniently (at least for her) landed on the man she had been aiming for. Oops.
"Sorry Kenshin." Yu Lian awkwardly rolled off of him and shuffled her feet. Kenshin glared at her in response. She was a bit taken aback by this. While not very talkative she had never known Kenshin to glare at her before. That seemed a privilege solely for Prince. It was the littlest bit intimidating, she had to admit.
"Er… can you take me back to the castle?" Kenshin gave her another glare. He had been walking into Infinite City, but at her request he turned around and began walking in the other direction. He did not wait for her nor did he look to see if she followed. Yet Yu Lian felt a sudden rush of appreciation for the man. He didn't ask what she had been doing in order to fall on top of him like that. But, she supposed, for Prince that could even be considered normal.
The fan-girls were still there as she walked a step behind Kenshin, yet they hovered around the edges of the street and gave her room to breathe. She sighed heavily in relief. Prince would never forgive her if she allowed his body to be attacked by those terrifying fan-girls.
Yu Lian, who had been attempting to get back to the castle for over three hours, could not believe they had arrived in only ten minutes. Why had it been so difficult when she was alone? Prince's sense of direction couldn't be that bad, could it?
"Thanks Kenshin." He walked off silently without even glaring at her this time.
Yu Lian had a headache. And she was hungry again. She had eaten more in the past hours than she usually did in two days counting both game and real life.
When she had gotten back to the castle, one of the first things she noticed was a great hole in one of the stone walls. Seeing this had shocked her enough that she had forgotten her current predicament. Instinctively she began adding figures in her head as she wondered what it would cost to fix. How had this wall even been broken in the first place? A cold smile lifted to her face, looking fairly reminiscent to Prince's blood elf façade. That was how Wolf had found her.
"What's wrong, Prince?" He asked her.
"What happened here? Do you know how much it will cost to fix this?" Wolf looked surprised. It took him several minutes to remember that Prince was not actually online.
"Yu Lian," he whispered. "I forgot."
"How did the wall break?" She asked him again after a few minutes. "It wasn't like this yesterday."
"Gui was kicked through it," Wolf replied. Yu Lian had put aside any thoughts for her current appearance. Her demonic smile increased.
"Where is Prince?" She demanded of Wolf. "He's going to have to answer for this." Wolf was silent, unsure of how exactly to answer her. Yu Lian turned around, as though expecting to see Prince walk by at any moment.
But it was Nan Gong Zui who did walk by. He was exceptionally busy, having to take care of Wicked's duties as well as his own, so he only greeted the two of them and moved on. Such an encounter should have been insignificant, but once Yu Lian had been greeted as Prince, she turned back and observed the broken wall again. The one she had kicked Gui through. Oops.
That was when the headache started.
"The finance department will find a way to pay for repairs," she said, mostly to herself, rubbing her temples.
"Are you alright?" Wolf asked her with concern. "I know Lolidragon said you have to stay logged in, but that doesn't mean you can't go rest."
"Where can I go where no one will bother me?" She wondered aloud.
"Prince's quarters," Wolf told her simply.
"But how do I get there? I've gotten lost so many times," Yu Lian was almost to the point of breaking into tears. Wolf reached out to pull her into a hug but retracted his arms immediately when Broken Sword appeared.
"Wolf, White Bird needs you in the council room." Wolf nodded in response and quickly went with him, hoping Broken Sword would not see the silent tears running down Yu Lian's face.
Alone again Yu Lian just wandered around. She did not attempt to find Prince's rooms. But, oddly enough, she found herself directly outside her destination within a few minutes and she hadn't run into any players either. Apparently Prince's extraordinary luck was also carried through.
That was how Yu Lian ended up flat on Prince's bed with a massive headache and a growling stomach. She was not daring enough to brave leaving the room, however. She would have to remain where she was.
As she stared up at the ceiling, Yu Lian thought back to today's adventure and she realized just how little Prince really did have to do. She had spent her day without doing a single productive thing. Yet, somehow, that only made the day seem all the more pitiful. How could Prince stand this every day? Yu Lian had reached her limit in a few measly hours.
Yu Lian had not realized how long she had been lying on the bed until a PM from Lolidragon told her she could log off. Yu Lian did not reply, logging off before she had even finished the PM.
Chapter 3: Special Chapter 1: Kenshin Was...
Special Chapters are just silly plot bunny ideas I had. They have no importance to the actual story. These are just things that, for whatever reason, can/will not happen in the actual story. Mostly they are just for my amusement but I'll post them for you too.
People described Kenshin in many ways, but always the words quiet, stoic or taciturn were used somewhere in the description. They had become his key identifiers. But there was another description that fit him even more.
Some NPCs didn't need to sleep. Most did, of course—shopkeepers, pets and the like—but the higher bosses did not sleep so they could not be taken unaware. Kenshin was one of those bosses. But this rule did not exempt him from being knocked unconscious because the designers had figured that if the boss was tough enough that it became exempted from sleep then it should not be possible to knock it unconscious.
But, after becoming Prince's pet he could no longer just go around and kill players. Now he had to be observant of his surroundings or… a stone meant for fixing the hole in the wall could end up falling on him. Like it just did.
Kenshin woke up. It was a strange sensation. He had never done it before. His eyes hurt for some reason. Why did it seem so bright?
"My Most Gracious Highness!" Kenshin had pulled himself up so he was sitting on the floor when the bard practically threw himself into Kenshin's lap. By this time even Kenshin had gotten used to Gui's overly affectionate (towards Prince) behavior. But why the bard was in his lap, Kenshin had no idea.
"Your Highness?" Gui looked up at him through his eyelashes. Kenshin was unmoved.
"Why are you on the floor?" Gui was still looking at him strangely. 'Why are you?' Kenshin wondered.
"I have today off," Gui told him excitedly. "Why don't we go on a date?" The look had now turned beseeching. Kenshin's expression never changed.
Gui got off of him and began to drag him out of the castle. Kenshin did not resist. Somewhere along the way he spotted his own reflection in a mirror and wondered for a moment why he looked like Prince. He supposed Gui's behavior made more sense now. Not much, but a little.
For the next few hours, hand in hand, they went sightseeing around Infinite City. Kenshin was dragged around everywhere by Gui who seemed to know the city like the back of his hand. He did design it after all.
Kenshin was a regular to Infinite City yet he did not go to sightsee. The only place he really frequented was the bar. It was nice, he supposed. He liked having someone who cared about him. Someone who only wanted to spend this time with him. He had forgotten what it felt like to be loved.
They ended up in the Infinite Restaurant at Gui's insistence that he buy Kenshin lunch. Kenshin did not enjoy eating, especially not like Prince. He much preferred drinking. Yet here he was with the idiot bard staring holes in him. Gui ordered for them both and the mountain of food that arrived slightly alarmed Kenshin. Gui didn't expect him to eat all of that, right?
Kenshin was done eating when he had finished only half the food. He was in possession of Prince's bottomless stomach yet he felt a little sick looking at all the food he had to eat yet. What a waste.
Gui was looking at him expectantly.
"Go ahead," Gui hummed happily. "You don't have to hold back. I ordered it all for you."
"I'm not Prince," Kenshin said at last.
"Oh, I know." Gui was still smiling.
"Prince would have beaten me up ages ago," Gui informed him.
"Now," he continued loading his fork with food, "say 'ah'." Gui held the fork near Kenshin's mouth. Kenshin glared at him, but Gui continued to hum to himself. Kenshin understood now why Prince beat Gui up so much.
Gui pulled the now clean fork back with an even broader smile. He loaded the fork up again.
Kenshin was… remarkably tolerant.
Chapter 4: Gui
Gui woke up in an unfamiliar room. Waking up in an unfamiliar room is disconcerting at the very least and somehow it seemed to foreshadow unpleasantness to come. But, it wasn't until Gui recognized the room he was in that he truly felt afraid. He had too much to drink last night, it was true, but that hardly gave him an excuse to be in Prince's private chambers.
Gui looked desperately behind him on the bed he was sitting on. He breathed out a long sigh of relief. There was no elf beside him. If Prince knew that Gui had snuck into his bed while drunk… Gui didn't even want to think about the consequences.
He would take all of Prince's abuse if it made the elf smile but Gui couldn't bear it if the man he loved began to hate him. Gui really had nothing to say in his own defense. Technically, he supposed, it could be considered Prince's fault that he had gotten himself dead-drunk.
Gui really didn't mind that Prince enjoyed beating him up. He didn't mind it because Prince enjoyed it. Anything Gui could do for Prince's happiness, he would. Yet, that didn't stop him from noticing that Prince's attacks were gradually growing softer.
Before, Prince would beat him to the precipice of death and had even killed him twice (well… three times, he supposed, but twice on accident). Lately though, Gui only received a couple punches or kicks. Most of the time he only needed a health potion or two. He had thought—hoped—that Prince hit him less because he liked Gui more.
But, then there was yesterday. Yesterday had hurt in a variety of ways. Physically, obviously (he was kicked through a stone wall), but even more so emotionally. Prince had only kicked him once (not a usual beating) and it had been exceptionally strong. Prince had never used a special ability on him before (barring the Nine-Headed Dragon Strike he had used when they first met, but Gui didn't count that one).
What did it mean? That was the question he had asked himself all of yesterday. What were Prince's true feelings? Gui had pondered this particular question for the entire time he had known the elf and it wasn't what had brought on his drinking. No, that had been later, a little after spotting the telltale white hair duck into a broom closet to avoid him.
Gui stood up, only just realizing how long he had lingered in this room. He needed to leave as soon as possible. Prince may not be here now, but he could come back at any time.
The door burst open suddenly and Gui did not even think. He had dived under the bed. He couldn't see whoever it was that had entered. Though this room was not technically off limits to Infinite City officials, everyone respected Prince's privacy and did not come to his room. They certainly did not enter without knocking.
"Prince," called a voice that did not belong to the Blood Elf, "where are you?" It was Lolidragon. Gui was relieved. He almost crawled out from under the bed, but then he stopped and thought for a moment. Why didn't Lolidragon just PM Prince? Why was she breaking into his room to search for him? Gui felt a sudden temptation to remain hiding under the bed. But that was silly, he decided.
"I know you're in here," Lolidragon said fiercely.
"I'm sorry but I'm not Prince," Gui told her calmly while climbing out from under the bed.
"Why were you under the bed?" Lolidragon asked him skeptically. Gui opened his mouth to answer but Lolidragon shook her head. "That isn't important. What I meant to ask was: you aren't Prince? Really, you aren't?" Gui shook his head slowly. He thought that much should be obvious.
"Damn!" Lolidragon cursed. "Hold on, I'm calling Yu Lian-dàsăo and Wolf-dágē." Gui just stared at her in confusion. Lolidragon looked at him after she finished sending the PMs. There were several minutes of awkward silence. Gui tried to leave once, but Lolidragon was blocking the door. Didn't she understand that he was afraid Prince would catch him here?
Yu Lian-dàsăo and Wolf-dágē arrived at the same time, both out of breath as though they had run here.
"Lolidragon what is…?" Yu Lian-dàsăo stopped midsentence upon seeing Gui. "Prince? Prince is back?" Gui was confused again.
"No, it's not Prince." Yu Lian-dàsăo and Wolf-dágē looked disappointed. Gui continued to stand before them in awkward confusion.
"Who are you?" Wolf-dágē asked him. Gui took a step back worriedly. He knew he probably looked a mess from his drinking but that was too much. If nothing else, shouldn't his long purple hair make it obvious? Though, now that he thought about it, his hair seemed remarkably light and it didn't fall into his face. A cold chill ran suddenly down Gui's spine. He hadn't… cut it off, had he?
Worried now, Gui forgot Wolf-dágē's question and turned to the mirror on the wall at the back of the room. At first, upon seeing the white hair, Gui was worried he had both cut and colored his hair to be like Prince's. It wasn't until he looked deep into the scarlet eyes that were reflected back at him that the real confusion and terror started.
"What…? How…? When…? Why…? Who…?" Gui couldn't utter any more than question fragments but Lolidragon understood him well enough.
"You were logged in as Prince. There was a glitch once you logged in. We aren't sure yet why." Lolidragon covered the basics in as few words as she could.
"As to who," she continued, "that is what we'd like to know." Lolidragon, Yu Lian-dàsăo and Wolf-dágē were all looking at him expectantly, he could see their reflections, but he was too caught up in staring at the face of the man he loved. His face now, it seemed. He couldn't bring himself to say anything. There were several minutes of silence.
"Well," Lolidragon said, as it was apparent Gui was not going to answer, "judging where I found you I'll take a wild guess. Are you… Gui?" Finally Gui tore his eyes from his reflection and turned around.
"Yes," he said quietly. The other three all looked relieved. Of all the people it could have been (they discussed this before Gui logged in) he was certainly better than most others. Gui would probably be able to put up a fairly convincing show. Plus he had experience with fan-girls.
"Why are we having this meeting here with just the four of us?" Gui's three companions traded looks.
"We haven't told anyone else about the glitch yet. We decided it was better for Infinite City if everyone thought that Prince was here. We didn't want this to turn out like the Eastern Continent adventure. It is better if Infinite City—no, the whole of Second Life—thinks Prince has logged in." Yu Lian-dàsăo explained to him.
"Prince hasn't logged in?" His companions sighed. They should have known that was what he took away from the explanation.
"Not since his last tantrum," Lolidragon affirmed. Gui seemed to stop and think for a few minutes.
"Then… he wasn't on yesterday?" Lolidragon, Yu Lian-dàsăo and Wolf-dágē traded a look again. Yu Lian-dàsăo hadn't really wanted to talk about yesterday, especially not with Gui.
"No," Yu Lian-dàsăo said hesitantly. Gui seemed to be gaining energy rapidly.
"Who was that yesterday then?" he asked quickly. Gui really didn't care who it was. What mattered more was that it wasn't Prince. Prince hadn't hit him like that. Prince hadn't avoided him! He had only asked who was Prince yesterday as final proof that it was not Prince who had done those things.
But as the three others were silent, Gui's mood dropped. Every minute made him feel steadily worse. Finally he was slouched before them with his head bowed and a demon fire floating nearby. They had lied to him. Why, he didn't know. What other reason could they have for not telling him?
"Just hurry up and tell him. I feel like I just kicked a puppy," Lolidragon remarked, looking a little disgusted. Yu Lian-dàsăo sighed.
"I was Prince," she told him. Gui looked up suddenly, the demon fire fading away.
"Then it was you…" he trailed off. Yu Lian-dàsăo nodded hesitantly. If Lolidragon felt like she had kicked a puppy, Yu Lian-dàsăo felt like she had upended a whole box of them as she confessed to kicking Gui.
"Sorry," she began, but was cut off as she was tackled by Gui. He was… hugging her?
"Gui?" Yu Lian-dàsăo asked after a minute, flabbergasted. She had been prepared for him to be upset or even angry with her, but what was this?
In the end, Wolf-dágē had to pull the elf off his wife using strength a priest had no business having. The serious Gui they had talked to all this time was gone. He was suspended about a foot off the ground by Wolf-dágē's paw on his collar yet his face had broken out into an enormous smirk.
"He doesn't hate me," he muttered to himself. "Prince doesn't hate me!"
Gui was the last one to exit Prince's chambers. He had thought to take a moment to admire his own features because he may never get another opportunity to observe this face without fear of angering Prince. Yet as he looked it became painfully obvious that it wasn't right. The expression was all wrong. Gui rearranged his expression and tried again. But something was still wrong. There was nothing to enjoy about looking at this face when the right person wasn't inside it. There were no surprises, no cute gestures and his eyes could never reproduce that look Prince had. Gui shuffled out of the room the littlest bit disappointed.
He had only gone a little way down the hall when he heard footsteps behind him.
"Prince!" Gui turned around on instinct. He didn't really care who had called for Prince. Mostly he was looking for the elf himself.
Nan Gong Zui was approaching him and looking at him. Gui was puzzled for just a second before remembering. He was Prince. And he had to convince the rest of Infinite City of this. The trouble was, while Gui respected Nan Gong Zui, he didn't like him nearly as much as Prince did. Perhaps if Prince liked the man less Gui could like him more.
"Nan Gong Zui," Gui called back to him, forcing a smile onto his face. Instantly Gui realized that he'd spoken wrongly as Nan Gong Zui paused with a slightly confused expression. Prince only ever called him Zui. Oops.
"You look down, Prince," Nan Gong Zui commented. "I've got just the thing to cheer you up. I've got some time off now. Why don't we go grind some mobs?" Nan Gong Zui broke into a broad grin.
Gui was not pleased at the idea of Prince and Nan Gong Zui going out, just the two of them. Nan Gong Zui was a bit too handsome for Gui's comfort. Yet he wasn't Prince. If they went Gui would have the chance of a lifetime to observe the relationship between the two of them. And, if Nan Gong Zui did seem to feel that way at all Gui could give him signs that he was not interested. Too bad Wicked wasn't here as well.
"Let's go," he said with proper enthusiasm, placing one hand on his dao. No matter what, Gui had to accept. There was no way Prince would pass up a chance to kill something.
Gui was really getting the hang of this. But he missed his beloved guqin. He had discovered very quickly that he did not enjoy Prince's bloody style of fighting. The moves were easy enough to reproduce, having watched Prince fight enough, but some of the things he had done in the past hour disgusted himself.
They were fighting three-headed wolves. They weren't overly challenging mobs, which was good because they hadn't brought a priest along. Gui looked back at the destruction he'd caused and felt faintly sick. Intestines were drying in the sun partially inside their body, partly out. Pieces of intestines and even brains were flung all around the forest. There were some even on him. Ew…
Still, Nan Gong Zui did not seem to think there was anything weird about Prince. And Gui hadn't felt any suspicious glances or feelings coming from the man so he rose a bit in Gui's esteem.
"I think it's time we headed back," Nan Gong Zui said. "The wolves are all gone anyway." Gui quickly agreed. Anymore of this kind of fighting and he'd pass out.
Gui paused for a minute to get his bearings. Infinite City was to the East, right? So… where was East? Gui pulled up the map. After examining it for a few minutes he realized he couldn't really make heads or tails of it. They were only five minutes from the city. He was lost. Prince wasn't that bad, was he?
In the end he had to follow Nan Gong Zui.
Nan Gong Zui left him at the gates of Infinite City. He had to go back and work. Gui, as Prince, really had nothing to do. He decided to follow Nan Gong Zui's suggestion and take a walk in Infinite City.
Gui wandered up and down the streets happily. He supposed the first place Prince would have stopped (especially after just grinding mobs) was the Infinite Restaurant, but any thought of eating made his stomach lurch unpleasantly. He couldn't do it. Not after all that blood and dismemberment.
Besides, Gui wondered if he could find his way to the Infinite Restaurant. Gui should be able to, but Prince was another matter. Gui began to hum a little. It was a nice day.
"Look, it's Prince!" Gui froze. The humming stopped immediately. Surely fan-girls wouldn't attack the liege lord in his own city. Gui didn't have to worry, right? The sound of running feet quickly persuaded him otherwise.
While running Gui wondered how much trouble he'd get into if he fought them off with his dao instead of running. It would be self-defense, right?
But Gui was neither comfortable enough in his swordsmanship nor willing to brave the anger of White Bird and Yu Lian-dàsăo to stop.
Gui rubbed his temples with his eyes closed. He was exhausted. While doing that, there was a PM from Lolidragon.
"Where are you?" Gui sighed and stopped rubbing his temples but didn't open his eyes as he replied.
"How can you be lost?" Lolidragon demanded. "You designed this city!"
"I know where I am, I just can't get anywhere."
"Oh." There was a peaceful silence once again. Gui sighed.
"Where are you?" Lolidragon again.
"On top of the downtown bookstore." Lolidragon began to laugh.
"Not you too!"
"Yu Lian was stuck up there for at least an hour yesterday."
"How did she get back?"
"Have you tried walking?"
"So I can get lost again?"
"Well, ask for directions."
"The fan-girls are terrifying!"
"Yu Lian said Kenshin brought her back."
"So, what do I do?"
"What?" Lolidragon did not reply. Gui PMed her all kinds of obscenities but she remained silent. Half an hour later Gui was feeling terribly hungry. It was enough to brave fighting his way to the Infinite Restaurant. To hell with the consequences!
Gui stepped out onto the main road with a deep scowl on his face. He dared anyone stand in his way. No one did.
The fan-girls wilted under his glare and kept a good twenty feet away. Gui began to smile with still cold eyes. He had become the Blood Elf.
Lolidragon arrived by flying carpet five minutes later. She had spotted him through the window on her way to pick him off the roof. A bit peeved she marched up to him.
"I dropped what I was doing because you sounded like you were dying. Now I find you happily tucking in to a meal!" She was fuming.
"I was hungry," Gui replied pitifully. "Besides, look." He pointed to a fan-girl who glanced at him wistfully before reluctantly walking away. Lolidragon sat across from him with a laugh. She also began to swipe some of his food.
"This is what it took? Food? Just like Prince." They laughed together for a while. Sunshine had taken his carpet away to find Fairsky. The fan-girls could ogle Gui without getting too close. Everyone was happy.
"Tomorrow you're going to have to go back to work. Fairsky is about ready to have your head for not logging in today," Gui paled. Lolidragon sighed. "I suppose today has been a waste," she commented.
"No," Gui reflected. "I learned some very important things today." Lolidragon was surprised.
"One, I never, ever want to be a warrior. Two Nan Gong Zui has no interest in Prince beyond friendship. And third, and perhaps most importantly, when Prince is hungry get him food!"
"We already knew that last one," Lolidragon said. Gui's eyes widened and he shook his head.
"You have no idea."
Chapter 5: Ugly Wolf
The very first thing Ugly Wolf noticed when he logged in was that he felt shorter. Normally he'd have put this down to confusion after just logging in. But, after the past two days the first thing he did was PM Yu Lian and Lolidragon. After a minute he remembered that Gui was also in on the secret. None of them appeared to be online yet.
Ugly Wolf had been logged into the kitchen. Why Gui hadn't gone back to Prince's quarters he didn't know. They had discussed how that would be the safest place, especially since they didn't know who was going to become Prince next.
Ugly Wolf glanced over at the pots hanging on the wall. While there was no mirror in the kitchen, he could still use the reflective surfaces. He sighed as his reflection confirmed what he already knew. A little unhappy he left the kitchen, grabbing a bunch of bananas as he went.
He ended up in the entrance hall somehow. Ugly Wolf had heard from Yu Lian about how difficult it was to find anything as Prince, so he hadn't tried. Mostly he was just wandering around. That's what Prince did, right? He had just finished his last banana.
"Prince," called an excited voice. Ugly Wolf looked up to see Ice Phoenix running at him with hearts in her eyes. Oh dear.
"Ice Phoenix," he said trying his best to stay calm. Internally his mind was in uproar. Why of all people did he have to run into one of Prince's admirers?
"I haven't gotten to see you for a while. I really wanted to but there was never time. I'm very glad I ran into you here," she was blushing profusely.
"Me too," Ugly Wolf lied with a smile. To him it was a forced smile, but in Prince's body it was so natural and charming that Ice Phoenix melted right there, making him have to stretch out his arms to catch her.
"You care about me, right Prince?" Still in his arms she was staring up at him lovingly. A cold chill ran up Ugly Wolf's spine.
"Y-yes," he stuttered. He swallowed with difficulty. Forget acting like Prince. He'd be lucky if he survived this encounter.
"Then kiss me," she demanded. His entire insides froze. Prince would kiss her; he'd done it before…. But Ugly Wolf couldn't kiss a woman other than his wife… Prince enjoyed kissing… Oh dear God!
And so, he kissed her, hating every second of it. This was what he was supposed to do, pretend to be Prince. Yu Lian would forgive him (he hoped).
At the most inopportune time possible, Yu Lian stepped into the main entrance. She had only just logged on and hurried to find him the second she had finished Ugly Wolf's PM. Along the way she had met with Lolidragon and they both walked in at the same time.
Their entrance happened at the exact right moment for them to hear Ice Phoenix's request and when the couple was in their line of view, Ugly Wolf and Ice Phoenix were already kissing. The two observers made no sound at the scene. They were watching in silent horror. Wolf pulled back from Ice Phoenix and looked up straight into his wife's eyes.
Ice Phoenix, incapacitated in ecstasy, was taken back to her room by a helpful guard. Ugly Wolf and Yu Lian just stared at each other. Lolidragon coughed uncomfortably. This scene could not possibly get more awkward, she thought.
Then Gui showed up.
Gui had actually logged in before Yu Lian and Lolidragon, but he had gone to the kitchen as the PM had told him to. Once there it was quite obvious Ugly Wolf had moved on. And so Gui began to search. He came to a different entrance than Yu Lian and Lolidragon but, incidentally, the same one Ugly Wolf had used. When he saw the scene in the hall he couldn't help but speed up and began actually running. The situation there, he could see, was very bad.
Yet, because of Gui's haste, somehow he managed to trip on something. The object went skittering behind him and out the door while he went tripping and falling uncontrollably forward. Ugly Wolf heard the noise and turned to him. And, though each tried to stop it, it happened anyway. Gui was kissing Ugly Wolf!
Yu Lian and Lolidragon gasped. For several seconds everyone was all too shocked to move. Then Lolidragon began to laugh. At first they were a few awkward chuckles but quickly she began to completely guffaw. The collision had set both Gui and Ugly Wolf off balance and it seemed they would fall together in an even more awkward position. Ugly Wolf shoved the bard away.
The momentum of the shove combined with his unfamiliarity with Prince's body and his already precarious position caused Ugly Wolf to actually fall backwards onto his butt. Gui miraculously managed to remain on his feet.
Yu Lian coughed a few times, but it was obviously an attempt to hold in laughter. She used one hand to delicately cover her mouth in order to hide her rising smile. Lolidragon, next to her, was doubled over by the force of her laughter. Ugly Wolf still stared unseeingly forward from his place on the floor, a finger on his lips, still horrified. Gui had stars in his eyes as he bounded about the room. He had just kissed Prince after all.
Any passerby who saw this scene (and was acquainted with the Odd Squad members) could take a single look and immediately know what happened. Feng Wu Qing just happened to be that passerby. He was walking to another destination when he happened to glance through the doorway. He stopped. He stepped into the room. The four were too caught up in their scene to notice him.
In the end, it was Yu Lian who spotted him. She looked around at the chaos and sighed.
"Well," she began slowly, "we were—." Feng Wu Qing cut her off with a wave of his hand.
"Don't bother. I think I can guess what happened," he said. "What I don't understand is why some people are slacking off so others have to do her work." Lolidragon looked up sharply, no longer laughing.
"I'm sorry that some people are too slow to finish his work so they don't get a chance to play. It must be hard to be so incompetent," Lolidragon said with bitter sweetness. The two sent off sparks as they glared at each other.
Yu Lian decided it was probably safest if she and the other two left. She hastily pulled Ugly Wolf to his feet and shook him out of his daze. The two of them made their way to Prince's room. Gui followed them, still on cloud nine. All the while he muttered the same words to himself with euphoric glee.
"I kissed Prince!"
The three in Prince's quarters made themselves comfortable. Ugly Wolf sat on the bed while Yu Lian sat across from him in a chair. Gui was sitting on the floor. His two companions wondered if he had even noticed. He was still very much out of it. He offered nothing to their serious discussion, a dopey grin permanently etched on his face.
Both Ugly Wolf and Yu Lian had forgotten the kisses already.
"We need to find Prince," Yu Lian said sternly.
"He'll come back on his own, won't he?" Ugly Wolf argued. Yu Lian shook her head at him.
"It's been three days already. For as long as I've known him, he has never missed even one day. He enjoys Second Life more than all of us," a small fond smile appeared to Yu Lian's lips as she said this.
"All the more reason he'll come back," Ugly Wolf countered.
"But, for him to miss three days already…" Yu Lian trailed off.
"I'm sure he's fine," Ugly Wolf consoled her, hearing the unuttered worry.
"Then he must be mad at us."
"Let's just give him some time to cool off. I'm sure by the time he comes back he will be the same Prince we know and love." Yu Lian smiled at Ugly Wolf and took one of his hands in hers. It wasn't as comforting as it should have been. It wasn't hairy enough.
There was a sudden distant scream. Both Yu Lian and Ugly Wolf turned quickly to look at the door. They rose at the same time and ran to the door. Just as they opened it a figure came running past.
"Rose," Ugly Wolf called to her. She stopped and turned to see the two of them in the doorway.
"Good morning Prince. Good morning Yu Lian," she said a bit breathlessly.
"What happened?" Yu Lian asked her. Rose shifted feet a bit uncertainly.
"We aren't sure yet but it appears that there are banana peels all over the castle and they are causing people to slip. There have been four accidents already and For Healing Only was injured pretty badly. I guess it's lucky he's a priest." At Rose's explanation Yu Lian's brow had knit tightly as she wondered why there would be banana peels everywhere. She also considered the cheapest methods of clean up and whether visitors to the castle could ask for compensation should they get injured.
Ugly Wolf was puzzled by the banana peels too, yet strange things happened in castle more often than he'd like to admit. He supposed it could be blamed on the strange individuals living here. But the weirdest one of them all (actually that was debatable) was not here.
Then Ugly Wolf looked down at his hands and wondered something completely different. He had eaten bananas today, right. A while bunch of them. As he wandered through the castle. He wasn't holding any banana peels. And they had to go somewhere, right?
He hadn't. There was no way. Ugly Wolf wouldn't—couldn't—do something as simple-minded as to throw his banana peels on the ground after he finished. But then, where were the peels? He didn't remember throwing them away.
All this time Yu Lian and Rose had been talking about the problem from a financial stand point and quickly brainstorming solutions.
"Normally I'd blame Prince but that can't be. He isn't here," Yu Lian thought aloud. Rose looked at her questioningly then turned to look questioningly at Ugly Wolf who was not paying attention.
"But, he's right there," Rose pointed to Ugly Wolf. Yu Lian quickly realized her mistake.
"I meant that he wasn't anywhere near the kitchens. He's been here with me." Rose was still skeptical and kept looking back at Ugly Wolf as she walked off. Yu Lian sighed. As she turned she realized that Ugly Wolf had retreated back into the room and was sitting on the bed with his head in his hands. Her blood went cold.
On the bed Ugly Wolf finally conceded to himself that the banana peels were in fact his but he was still filled with great inner turmoil. It wasn't him; he would never make that kind of careless mistake. It was Prince's fault.
Yu Lian moved to stand in front of him and smiled down at him. But it was a devil smile. Ugly Wolf gulped audibly upon seeing it.
"You don't… know something about this, do you?" She asked him. The longer he sat in silence the more frightening her smile got.
"I ate bananas this morning…" Ugly Wolf trailed off, nervous. There seemed to be a black aura coming from Yu Lian now.
"And, the peels?"
"I don't remember," Ugly Wolf squeaked. She was still smiling.
"Then," she said, grabbing his ear and dragging him to the door, "perhaps you should go clean up your mess." With that, Yu Lian carted him out the door and sent him about to find each and every banana peel. Before she let him out of her sight she gave him a quick warning of what would happen if so much as one peel was left when he was done. The way Ugly Wolf cowered and scurried after that could not have been more like Prince if he tried (which incidentally he didn't, Yu Lian was just scary).
About ten minutes later, Gui shook himself from his imaginings and looked around. Why was he in Prince's room again? It seemed that this had happened far too often recently. Rushing out of the room he finally thought to wonder where Yu Lian and Ugly Wolf were. He looked around but didn't see them. Oh well.
Ugly Wolf sighed as he picked up the final banana peel. He had searched the entire castle three times at least. It was not possible for there to be any more. He stretched, working out some kinks in his neck. He would never eat a banana again for as long as he lived. The very sight of them filled him with dread. At Yu Lian's request (order) he had also cleaned the floors to the point where absolutely no trace would ever be found of a banana peel.
After those hours Ugly Wolf had no energy to do anything productive. All he could really do was limp to his quarters (he had slipped on his fair share of peels too). Or, perhaps he couldn't do that. He had reached a dead-end. Again.
"My most beloved highness!" Oh God! The very tired, very frustrated Ugly Wolf turned slowly towards the overly chipper voice. Gui managed to ignore his glare.
"Are you lost," Gui fluttered around him. "Gui's love will guide you wherever you want to go." Ugly Wolf paused a moment and considered.
"Can you take me to Prince's… er my room?" Ugly Wolf could put up with this as long as he could collapse in a bed and not move for the next few hours.
"I can," Gui said. Ugly Wolf almost managed a smile. "But…"
"But," Ugly Wolf repeated back with a bad feeling.
"You have to kiss me."
"What?" Ugly Wolf jumped back with a yell. Gui just grinned.
"You. Have. To. Kiss. Me." He said enunciating every word clearly. Ugly Wolf glared at the demon but the demon just kept up that infuriating smirk. Finally Ugly Wolf pulled back his fist and socked Gui right in the stomach. Gui was sent flying back into the wall and his smile turned into a grimace. It wasn't really that bad, however. Gui had grown to have a remarkably high tolerance for pain.
"Alright," Gui said as he got up. "Good luck." Gui began to walk down the hall away from him.
"Wait," Ugly Wolf called and jogged to catch up with him. "If it was Prince wouldn't you take him there simply because he wanted you to?" Gui turned and finally stopped walking.
"Of course," he replied without hesitation. Ugly Wolf nodded, thinking he might win this argument.
"Then, for me…?" Gui shook his head.
"You aren't Prince," he stated simply.
"Then why do you want to kiss me so much?" Ugly Wolf was frustrated but also a bit leery due to Gui's answer. Gui cocked his head and smiled at him.
"You are Prince," he stated just as simply as before. Ugly Wolf momentarily was awed by how Gui could say two contradictory sentences one after another all the while being equally and unquestioningly sure of both. Then Ugly Wolf realized how ridiculous it was.
"Make up your mind! I can't be both," Ugly Wolf said.
"Aren't you?"Gui asked him, looking almost as if he was speaking to a child. "You look, get lost and eat like Prince. Yet we both know that inside you aren't him. Therefore, you are Prince and yet you are not." Ugly Wolf couldn't argue with the logic Gui put before him. More to the point, he didn't want to. He had a headache.
"Regardless," Gui said after a few minute of silence, "if you want to go back to your room, you need to give me a kiss." Gui turned and began to walk away again. Ugly Wolf had just about reached his limit. His head pounding and his body aching he reached for the bard, turning him around and planted a quick kiss on his cheek. Gui raised a hand dazedly to touch the spot where he had been kissed. He didn't move for several minutes in which Ugly Wolf grew decidedly more and more agitated. Just before Ugly Wolf exploded, Gui grabbed his hand and dragged the priest behind him as he skipped down the hall.
It just so happened that Prince's room was no more than a hall length away. Once Ugly Wolf reached the door he bolted through it and slammed it shut in Gui's face.
"So cold," Gui whined outside but Ugly Wolf could still hear the smile in his voice. The wolf collapsed on the bed with a sigh.
"Next time," Gui called through the door, "it has to be on the lips." The bard giggled all the way back to the planning department. Ugly Wolf stared up at the ceiling and decided that he would not leave this room again.
"How are you?" A PM jolted Ugly Wolf awake. It was from Yu Lian.
"Exhausted." He replied.
"Can I come in?" Ugly Wolf replied in affirmative and the door opened a few seconds later. Yu Lian carefully opened and shut the door so as not to make noise. She came to sit beside his head. He was still lying down. Gently she ran a hand through his white hair. Even if he looked like Prince he was still her Wolf.
"Do you have a headache?" she asked quietly. Ugly Wolf closed his eyes.
"I did," he replied softly.
"I… I wanted to talk about something," Yu Lian said hesitantly. He made a questioning noise, asking her to go on.
"Do you know the date?" Ugly Wolf shook his head. He opened his eyes and called up system to check. February 10th, was it.
Wait… Ugly Wolf checked the date again. It was still the same. That couldn't be right, could it? There was no way that it was only four days until Valentine's Day. Ugly Wolf looked over at Yu Lian and they instantly saw that the other was thinking the same thing.
"He'll be back by… that day, right?" Ugly Wolf said slowly.
"If you were Prince, wouldn't you want to skip that day?" Yu Lian pointed out.
"I don't know. Even though I am Prince I still don't get what he's thinking," He thought aloud.
"I asked Lolidragon and she said that we can't become Prince again, something about the data corruption. At least there is that." Yu Lian said.
"That's even worse!" Ugly Wolf suddenly sat up. "What if someone we don't know ends up as Prince. We've been lucky so far that it is only been Odd Squad members. But it could be anyone!"
"Let's just take this one day at a time," Yu Lian said. "We have no way of knowing who will be next or when Prince is coming back."
"Yes," Ugly Wolf agreed taking deep breaths to calm himself. "Tomorrow then," he began, looking at her. "Of the four who know about the glitch, three of us have already become Prince. Unless it's Lolidragon tomorrow we've got a lot of explaining to do."
"Log in as early as possible tomorrow," she said. "We'll have to watch to see when Prince is online and corner him here. That will be the easiest way."
"I sure hope it is Lolidragon tomorrow," Ugly Wolf said, just before he logged off.
Chapter 6: OC: Twilight
This is an OC chapter where a non-cannon character becomes Prince.
Basic info: Twilight, mage, elf. An average guy who know very little about Prince, the Odd Squad, Infinite City, etc.
Twilight noticed something was wrong the moment he logged in. He was on a bed which was odd. He had never actually used a bed in Second Life. It was an exceptionally comfortable one, even more comfortable than his in real life. The feel of the bed and the look of the rest of the room made him realize that he was in somewhere not just fancy and lavish but, more worryingly, expensive. Even if he had gotten drunk or something last time he logged in, there was no way he could afford a room like this. That much was obvious.
He was just about to check if his teammates were online when there was a soft knock at the mahogany door. Twilight quickly looked around the room to check that he was, indeed, alone. This was disconcerting.
"Um… ah… come in?" The door opened to admit a pretty blond girl.
"Do you have a moment, prince?" The girl asked him after closing the door behind her. This was a dream, right. That was it. He must have forgotten to put his game helmet on. He was sleeping, not playing, and this was just a dream. After all, he was no prince. He was just an average guy with an average job and an average life having an average dream about power. And a hot chick. That was always a plus.
"Please," he said with an attempt at a royal hand wave. Why not? It was just a dream.
"Was there something wrong with Yu Lian yesterday?" The girl asked him. Twilight's brow furrowed. Who? In his mind faint alarms began to ring. There was no unquestionable understanding that usually accompanied dreams. He was confused.
"What do you mean?" He asked her. The girl gave him a strange look.
"She said you weren't logged in while you were standing right next to her." Twilight felt that this dream was getting a bit too complex.
But… wait. She had said "logged in". Did that mean he was in the game? How was that possible? There was no royalty in Second Life and, even if there was, he certainly wouldn't be one. Why had this girl, whom he did not know, called him a prince? But then… she hadn't called him a prince. She had called him…
Suddenly, interrupting the progression of his thoughts, the door burst open. Two human women, also beauties, came flying through the door. Twilight began to once again wonder if he was dreaming. He could be dreaming about Second Life. Why else would there be hot girls calling him a prince?
This idea was crushed as a third person entered the room. It was a beastman of the wolf race. And ugly! There was no reason for him to dream such a person. This had to be real, yet so surreal. Even if it was real, Twilight couldn't help but be a little regretful that the ugly wolf had marred his time with the exceptional beauties.
"Rose," one of the humans (a mage, Twilight guessed) began, looking at the blond. "What are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same question," the blond—Rose—replied. While the first had sounded polite with her inquiry, Rose seemed more hostile.
Before the mage could answer someone else burst through the door, panting and crying out, "I'm here". The man who had just arrived tucked some of his wild purple hair behind his pointed ears and stared at Twilight with deeply purple eyes. Twilight thought the man looked vaguely familiar. That could have been wishful thinking, though, for the man was beautiful. Why were there so many beautiful people here? Twilight was suddenly grateful for the ugly wolf as he was the only thing preventing Twilight from forming a massive inferiority complex.
"Who is he?" asked the newcomer. Rose was the only one who was surprised at this comment.
"What do you mean?" Rose asked. The newcomer turned and saw her for the first time. He blanched. The woman next to him (a thief?) rolled her eyes.
"Yes, let's blurt it out never mind that the whole idea was to keep it a secret," she declared sarcastically. The purple haired man looked abashed.
"Lolidragon," the ugly wolf spoke gruffly, reprimanding her.
"What do you mean 'secret'? Something is going on here," Rose declared. "Yu Lian was acting strange yesterday," Twilight figured she had to be speaking about the mage. "You all came rushing in here and began to go on about secrets." Twilight began nodding in agreement to Rose, feeling equally frustrated.
"What is going on?" they both cried at once. They were met with silence. The other four traded looks.
"Gui, close the door," the wolf said. The purple haired and eyed man quickly followed the instructions. Gui. The name sounded familiar. Rose opened her mouth to protest but the wolf raised a large hand and she stopped. It seemed the ugly wolf was well respected.
"Sit down, Rose," he continued. "Ah, you too." He gestured Twilight to a seat. Both took their seats silently. The wolf was respected here and Twilight didn't think it would be a good idea to defy him. Once they were all seated the wolf took a deep breath to begin.
"I will tell you what we know and then I'll need to know some things from you," the ugly wolf was speaking to Twilight. Twilight shifted uncomfortably and nodded.
Thus, the wolf began his explanation from the beginning. It is too lengthy an explanation to insert here but, if you would like, you may now return to chapter one and read through to chapter three (oddly enough chapter four was omitted by the narrator). No matter how much Rose or Twilight wanted to, neither made any comment.
"I'm Prince," Twilight clarified again. They had even given him a mirror but he still seemed to doubt.
"The Blood Elf."
"Second Life's spokesman."
"Lord of Infinite City."
"Singer of the Infinite Band."
"YES!" Lolidragon was getting annoyed.
"Wait," Rose began, confused. "I thought he wasn't Prince."
"He isn't," Yu Lian said.
"But you just told me I was," Twilight replied indignantly. Yu Lian sighed.
"You have been logged into Prince's character so you are Prince but you are not Prince," Yu Lian closed her eyes and tried to make sense of her own roundabout sentence.
"Who are you?" Gui wondered, still staring at him with those expressive eyes. He had been doing that all throughout the explanation. Twilight looked at him and suddenly remembered why Gui looked so familiar. One of his friends had shown him pictures of the Infinite Band.
"My name is Twilight. I'm from Flower City," Twilight said this to Yu Lian because Gui's staring had begun to creep him out.
"Flower City?" Rose wondered aloud. Yu Lian seemed to be thinking.
"That would be Northern Continent, right?" she asked of the ugly wolf. He thought a moment and nodded. Twilight felt a chill run through him. What exactly did that mean? Weren't they all on the Northern Continent?
"Where… where am I?" He was nervous now.
"Infinite City. Central Continent," the wolf replied simply. Twilight's mouth fell open as he struggled somewhere between horror and speech. Lolidragon snickered at him. Gui took one of his hands and moved closer.
"Your highness?" he asked tentatively. Twilight looked down at the hand and then back up at Gui. Then he jerked his head back down again.
"Ahhhh! What the hell? Why are you holding my hand?" Twilight yelled with outrage. He leaped back and knocked the chair backwards sending him sprawling on the floor and ripping his hand from Gui's. Gui looked startled.
"Twilight?" asked the wolf, Yu Lian and Lolidragon.
"Prince?" asked Rose.
"My highness!" yelled Gui in horror as he rushed around to Twilight who was still lying on the floor. "Are you injured?" He began rubbing the back of Twilight's head searching for bumps or bruises. Actually it felt more like caressing.
"Get off, pervert!" Twilight shrieked as he shoved Gui away. Gui obediently fell back but he still hovered searching for injuries.
"What the hell is his problem?" Twilight asked the rest of the company. The wolf rubbed the back of his head and looked helplessly towards Yu Lian who looked towards Rose who looked towards Lolidragon who looked towards the wolf. Clearly no one wanted to answer that question.
"Gui and Prince…" Yu Lian began but stopped quickly.
"From the beginning…" the wolf added.
"Their relationship…" Rose picked up.
"Is weird." Lolidragon concluded. Twilight looked tentatively at Gui who was still checking to make sure he was ok.
"Weird how?" Twilight asked though he felt he could guess somewhat.
"It isn't weird," Gui huffed. "I love Prince." Twilight flinched and crawled backwards a bit as his suspicions were proven. Gui was a homo! So, did that mean… Suddenly his estimation of Prince fell.
"Then Prince is…?" Twilight felt too disgusted to complete that statement. He looked towards the wolf and Yu Lian and Rose but they all looked confused as to what he was trying to say. Even Gui seemed confused. Only Lolidragon understood.
"Oh no," she laughed, waving her hand in a dismissive gesture. "Prince isn't gay." Twilight sighed, a bit relieved. So it was a weird relationship because Gui had a one-sided… thing (Twilight didn't want to call it love) for Prince. His estimation of Prince returned to its original level and then some. How could anyone be so gorgeous that they could make women and men fall for them?
But, wait. He was Prince right now. So… that meant…. Twilight glanced over at Gui. Yep, still staring. Creepy. Gui wouldn't do anything to him, right? Twilight suddenly found the need to move several steps backwards and away from Gui. His actions were noticed but not commented on by the others.
"So, what now?" asked Twilight after he was a comfortable distance away from Gui who had moved back over by Lolidragon and was pouting.
"As you heard earlier, we have been making an effort to hide Prince's disappearance from Infinite City and Second Life," Yu Lian told him in a very businesslike tone. "We would ask that you cooperate with us. It is only for today." Twilight nodded, having already expected this request. He understood that all of the people in this room (except him) were very famous and had a lot of influence. He had decided that it would be best to go along with their plan as they were not people he'd like for enemies, even if they were from a different continent. Besides, they were rich too and maybe something good would come out of this if he was friendly. Except to Gui. Twilight had decided to stay far away from Gui.
"How long has Prince been gone exactly," asked Rose. The wolf looked to Yu Lian who thought a moment.
"He logged off the seventh," she supplied. Rose nodded once and then stopped and did a mental count.
"So, Yu Lian, then Gui... But who was after Gui? Today is the eleventh," Rose wondered as she looked between the faces of the conspirators.
"Me," the wolf conceded with a sigh.
"But, the bananas…. How?" Rose asked looking directly at the wolf. Lolidragon made little attempt to hide her laughter. All but Twilight easily recognized the blush under the ugly wolf's gray fur.
"Bananas?" Twilight wondered aloud.
"Well," Lolidragon began dramatically, "it all started when this guy," she pointed at the ugly wolf. He coughed.
"That's enough stalling," the ugly wolf cut Lolidragon off, knowing her enjoyment of the story would lead to some exaggerations and outright lies. It was mortifying enough as it was. "We need to figure out exactly what we're going to do." Lolidragon was clearly put out by the interruption of her story.
"We all have actually jobs to do," the wolf reminded them. Yu Lian nodded. Lolidragon pouted. Twilight started.
"I'm the liege lord," he said with a cross between fear and awe. "That must be a difficult job. Is it really alright for me to take over, even for a day?" Twilight looked unexpectedly worried as his thoughts raced through an imagined series of overwhelming events and difficult paperwork. There must be so much work piling up, especially if Prince has been gone for four straight days. The whole city must depend on Prince being there to keep everything running smoothly. No wonder his teammates were so concerned. Twilight's esteem of Prince rose by several degrees. The others just traded looks.
"How much do you know about Prince, exactly?" the ugly wolf asked slowly.
"Only what's on the website," Twilight said indifferently, not thinking it mattered. "I also have some friends who are fans of the Infinite Band. They all talk about how dignified—even regal—he is, on top of being an unbeatable fighter and incomparably handsome." The rest of the room cringed several times over.
"Prince is…" the wolf trailed off and looked around for help. The rest shook their heads, except for Gui who opened his mouth but was stopped when Lolidragon firmly clamped a hand over it.
"You haven't told me my duties," Twilight reminded them after a few minutes of awkward silence. Twilight had thought it would improve their estimation of him if he praised their teammate and lord. All it really did was make things awkward. How odd.
"You don't have any," Yu Lian said at last. Twilight's brow furrowed.
"I don't understand," he said.
"Prince is mostly incompetent," Lolidragon said lazily, a hand still over Gui's mouth. He was making inarticulate protests but no one really seemed to care. "We take care of running the city while he eats, gets lost and generally screws things up." Twilight was speechless. He looked around at the others, waiting for them to deny what he had just been told. All of them, even Gui, nodded.
"Lolidragon," Yu Lian said in a mild but clearly warning tone. "If White Bird had heard you say that…. Remember we are trying to build Prince's reputation." While they bickered Twilight tried, and failed, to reconcile the famous blood elf with their description of Prince.
"Someone needs to stay with Twilight. Can anyone take the day off?" the ugly wolf asked finally, putting an end to the squabble.
"Feng Wu Qing was about to have my head yesterday. He won't let me off," Lolidragon declared. The ugly wolf looked at Yu Lian but she shook her head.
"I still need some time to process," Rose said and, rubbing her temples, she left the room. Gui bounced excitedly on his heels as the wolf turned to look at him. Twilight was filled with dread.
"Fairsky wanted to spend the day with Sunshine so today is the planning department's unofficial holiday," Gui informed them. Yu Lian narrowed her eyes.
"I may need to have a talk with her later," she said with a shadowy smile. Gui shrunk back and muttered something that sounded like "oops".
"I'm not going with him," Twilight said and made an attempt to back up even farther. He was hampered by the wall behind him.
"I'll come too. I don't think I'll be missed too much," the wolf said thoughtfully. Twilight suddenly liked him a lot more.
"Are you familiar with any of the Infinite City officials?" the ugly wolf—aptly named Ugly Wolf—asked a little while after the others had left.
"Just the band. My girlfriend is really into them," Twilight replied. He remembered looking at the pictures. As a guy he had, of course, focused a bit more on the girls so he knew Ice Phoenix and Fairsky but was doubtful if he could tell them apart. Prince… well, everyone knew Prince. Everyone. It didn't matter if you played Second Life or not. Gui had been there too but Twilight had never given him more than a passing glance. But the other guy…
"Do you know any of them on sight?" Ugly Wolf asked hopefully.
"The flute player, Wicked. That guy's cool. I like him," Twilight had figured this to be a harmless enough statement. He hadn't expected Gui to freak out.
"Don't say that! Prince can't like Wicked!" Gui yelled at him desperately. Twilight recoiled back automatically as Gui suddenly appeared closed to him. His chair tipped over again.
"Ow. Damn," Twilight said, rubbing his head. Gui began to hover worriedly. "Goddamnit. What the hell was that?" Ugly Wolf sighed.
"Wicked and Gui also have an… interesting relationship," Ugly Wolf supplied. Twilight was filled with horror again.
"You like Wicked too?" Twilight asked Gui, more than a little disgusted. Gui looked almost sick at the assumption.
"No! I hate him!" Gui cried. Twilight looked over at Ugly Wolf who nodded.
"They have something of a love triangle," he supplied. Twilight felt sick as he realized his idol was also a homo.
"I suppose it could actually be a love square if you count Ice Phoenix," Ugly Wolf continued. Twilight started a bit at this new information.
"Which I suppose is still better than the love pentagon it was before Fairsky fell for Sunshine," Ugly Wolf seemed to be musing aloud to himself. Twilight was amazed once again at the charisma Prince possessed. How did he get four people to fall in love with him? Twilight had trouble enough getting a girlfriend.
"Anyway," Ugly Wolf continued, "Wicked is currently busy with class work and has not logged in."
"Hey," Twilight said curiously, a remembering what Ugly Wolf had told him about the glitch. "Why don't you just tell Prince to log in? Wouldn't that fix it?" Both Ugly Wolf and Gui looked utterly confused.
"How can we talk to him if he isn't logged in?" they both asked. Twilight looked at the skeptically. They've been teammates for a long while now, right? Plus the entire world is looking for Prince. Somebody had to know him in real life.
"In real life. You can contact him, can't you?" The other two shook their heads.
"Currently Wicked is the only one who knows Prince's identity outside of the game," Ugly Wolf informed him. Gui looked away with a dark air.
"Huh," was all Twilight said.
"This is much more difficult than before," Ugly Wolf said tiredly, as he, Gui and Twilight were walking through the castle halls. They had put leaving Prince's room off as long as they could but when he complained of hunger Gui had offered to take him to the kitchen straight away. On the way there they had met several people Twilight didn't know but Prince evidentially did. Thankfully either Gui or Ugly Wolf stepped in.
On their way to the kitchen they passed a broken wall that seemed to be in the process of renovations. It was a nasty hole with the stones themselves broken. It looked as though it was caused by some major impact.
"Whoa, what happened here?" Twilight whispered to Ugly Wolf. Ugly Wolf seemed to hesitate before explaining.
"Yu Lian kicked Gui through it," he said at last.
"I thought she was a mage," Twilight said, impressed.
"She was Prince."
"Still, that was some kick." Twilight was still impressed.
"She kicked him from here," Ugly Wolf added as they crossed the threshold of the kitchen. Twilight froze completely in shock. That was one hell of a kick then.
"So, Ugly Wolf, are you married?" Twilight asked as he finished a second bowl of soup Gui prepared for him. At first he had been skeptical of the man's intentions when the bowl was placed in front of him, but his caution was overwhelmed by hunger after a while.
"An odd question," Ugly Wolf said. "Where did that come from?"
"It was just small talk. You are going to be my companion for today so…" Twilight didn't finish his sentence. Another bowl of soup had been placed in front of him by Gui who seemed oddly satisfied with his servant-like role.
"In real life, no. But I do have a wife in Second Life."
"Really, who?" Twilight was very interested. All the women he had seen were very attractive and he had a hard time figuring out who would marry this ugly wolfman. Maybe it was a beastwoman. Clearly it couldn't have been anyone he knew.
"Yu Lian." Twilight actually choked on his soup at this answer. Gui raced towards him and began pounding him on the back. Twilight quickly moved away from his hands.
"You are married to Yu Lian?" Twilight asked incredulously.
"Wolf-dágē is the only reason Yu Lian joined our team. He was always so oblivious. Prince had to tie him in chains and carry him to the chapel," Gui chuckled. Ugly Wolf blushed hard enough for even Twilight to see. Twilight tried to understand how such an ugly wolfman could get a beauty like Yu Lian to fall for him without even trying. It was just so odd.
"How about you," Ugly Wolf said, mostly to change the subject. "You already said you have a girlfriend, so how about occupation?"
"I'm a college student. You?"
"I am the doctor for OO University," Ugly Wolf told him. Twilight nodded.
"I work with Wolf -dágē. I'm a professor," Gui said. Twilight didn't believe that for a second. For one Gui didn't seem smart enough to be a professor. For another he looked almost the same age as Twilight.
"No way," Twilight remarked. "How old are you?" Gui looked a bit taken aback by the doubt.
"Twenty-five." That wasn't old enough to be a professor. There was no way, right?
"You can't be a professor at that age," Twilight argued. Ugly Wolf and Gui exchanged a look.
"Gui is somewhat of a genius. His IQ is around two hundred. He already has two PhDs," Ugly Wolf informed him. Twilight couldn't believe it. He refused to believe it. There was no way someone that smart could act like such a buffoon. Once again, odd.
Ugly Wolf and Gui had taken him to explore Infinite City. They had shown him the massive fountain, the book stores and just about everything else of note in the Infinite City. Well, actually, Gui did. Ugly Wolf followed them around offering the occasional comment but Gui led the tour. When he asked why he was told Gui designed the city. Holy crap! Maybe he was smarter than he seemed.
They ended at the Infinite Restaurant where Twilight was fed, again.
"So, you are both actually part of Prince's team," Twilight said, fishing for more information. Over the course of the morning all the information he had of Prince and Infinite City had been, not just smashed but, obliterated. He was curious to know more.
"Yes, the Odd Squad," Ugly Wolf said, completely straight faced. Twilight almost choked on his wonton. The Odd Squad? What kind of name was that? Though, when he thought about it, the name kind of fit. A little.
"Prince is our warrior," Ugly Wolf continued. An elf warrior was odd but an elf mage like Twilight was only marginally less so.
"Lolidragon is an elf thief." That seemed pretty normal.
"Yu Lian is a human mage." Once again, refreshingly normal.
"Gui is a demon bard." Twilight had to admit that one was odd. Who played as a bard anyway? Why?
"You haven't met her but our fifth member is Doll an angel necromancer." Twilight gaped and made a few inarticulate noises. What kind of person would become an angel and then wanted to raise the dead? Twilight became grateful he hadn't met this Doll. Twilight shook his head and closed his mouth. So they had a warrior, a thief, a mage, a ranged attacker and a necromancer. What was left? Hold on…. What kind of team didn't have a priest?
"You don't have a priest?" Twilight asked with both awe that they had made it so far and skepticism at their stupidity for not finding a priest. Gui and Ugly Wolf looked at each other through the corners of their eyes.
"I'm the priest," Ugly Wolf declared as though it was obvious. It really wasn't. People only became beastmen so they could be strong warriors. With their hideous looks there was really no other point to them. It was inconceivable to choose another profession with that race.
"I don't understand," Twilight concluded after trying to come up with the logic behind the decision. He got up and began walking out. "Thanks for the meal. I'll find my own way back." He really just needed to be alone to think.
"Wait! Don't go alone. You don't understand," Gui and Ugly Wolf cried, tripping over each other to stop him. Twilight looked back at them from the middle of the main street. There was a scream behind him. He turned quickly to see several girls eyeing him like a piece of meat.
"Run," cried Gui. This advice Twilight took.
Twilight had always thought he had possessed a good—perhaps even great—sense of direction. So he couldn't understand how he had managed to get lost in this city for over two hours. Currently he was on a roof somewhere. He was afraid to get down. Those fangirls had chased him for the better part of an hour before he could lose them. He had lost them for another hour but they had found him once again. That was how he ended up on a roof.
He figured he could PM someone for help but who? These people here were all weird! All he wanted was one, sane person. Ugly Wolf was a beastman priest. Yu Lian was physically attracted to Ugly Wolf and unmoved by Prince or Gui. And Gui… no.
There was Lolidragon. She was an elf thief and seemed pretty sane besides the fact she was teamed up with that odd group. He could ask her.
"Excuse me, Lolidragon. I could use some help." He was trying to be polite. She was his best chance at getting out of here.
"Where did you get stuck?" What? Was she some kind of mind reader?
"How did you know?"
"Prince can't walk twenty feet without getting lost." Oh.
"I'm on a roof somewhere in the city. Not really sure where."
"I'll grab Sunshine and be right over."
"How?" She didn't reply. Twilight didn't have a whole lot of faith in her at this point. How was she supposed to find him on the roof?
Ten minutes later Twilight saw something flying towards him. He rubbed his eyes. It was still there. A flying carpet. There appeared to be two people sitting on it. Once it was closer he recognized Lolidragon. Perhaps there was no sanity to be found in Infinite City after all.
It really was a flying carpet complete with what looked to be an Arabian prince. Twilight was too shocked during the ride to make any comments but the Arab, Sunshine, seemed to possess the ability to speak continually without any reply.
On the ground Twilight stumbled away from the carpet a bit seasick. Lolidragon approached him with what seemed like concern.
"Are you alright? You know, it helps if you take off tight clothing," she said as she began unbuttoning his shirt. Twilight was still too out of it to realize until all the buttons had been undone. When she started on his pants he leapt back in horror.
"What do you think you are doing?" he cried forcefully, quickly redoing the buttons. Why were there so many perverts here?
"Undressing you," Lolidragon said bluntly with a wicked smile. She crept towards him like a leopard towards a rabbit. Like the rabbit, Twilight felt his fight or flight instincts kick in. She looked very much like a hunter on the prowl. He fled.
Gasping for breath he crouched down somewhere inside the castle. Lolidragon had stopped hunting him it appeared.
"Prince-gēgē," a soft voice asked. A little girl who was cute like a doll entered the room. Like a doll, why was that familiar? The other Odd Squad member!
"Hello Doll," he ventured. She smiled at him. He was right then. Her smile made him relax, that is, until he remembered she was a necromancer.
"Can Doll play with meatbun?" Twilight blinked at her. She wanted to play… with a meatbun? Hesitantly he nodded and shuffled through Prince's bag. Ah, there's one. Twilight pulled it out. Something about it seemed odd. This whole adventure had him paranoid, Twilight decided. He was just about to give it to Doll when it yawned and looked up at him with sleepy eyes. Wait, what?
"Hello mama," the bun said as it bounced in his palm. Twilight froze completely. The bun had just moved. The bun had just looked at him. The bun had just talked to him. The bun was alive! The bun turned and saw Doll. It squealed and jumped to her.
"Do you want to see your wife, Meatbun?" Doll asked the bun as it began to bounce on her head.
"Yes, yes! Meatbun-bun want to see Firebirey." Doll took off, still talking to the bun. Twilight just stood there.
What. The. Hell.
He was still frozen there about twenty minutes later when Lolidragon found him. She wasn't alone. Both Gui and Ugly Wolf were with her and looked relieved to see him. They all paused before him but he still didn't move. Lolidragon waved her hand in front of his face.
"Hello? Anyone home?" she called mockingly.
"The bun," Twilight croaked. "The bun talked." That seemed to be the most he could say. The others neither seemed to be shocked or to doubt him.
"You met Meatbun, I take it," Ugly Wolf said. Twilight looked at them. Why wasn't any of this weird to them? What the hell was wrong with them?
"The bun had eyes. It talked to me," Twilight tried again. They just nodded, uninterested.
"Of course. What else is a pet supposed to do?" Ugly Wolf was still nonchalant. Twilight shook his head violently.
"We came to tell you that you can log off now," Ugly Wolf said. Twilight's eyes filled with unadulterated glee.
"Feel free to come join Infinite City," Lolidragon said with a smile. Twilight forced a smile too.
"Thanks," he said but internally he thought 'not a snowball's chance in hell'. They, everyone, was just too weird. Twilight had never thought that logging off could ever be so satisfying. Once he was gone Lolidragon sighed.
"Good riddance. He was so weird," she remarked. The others nodded in agreement.
Chapter 7: Cold Fox
There was an unusual silence in the castle and a stillness to the air. He could see no one, meaning there was no one here to bother him. A single bird chirped once, a jarring but not altogether unpleasant break to the muffled atmosphere. This was ideal. With closed eyes he listened to the silence and very nearly smiled.
Thus ran Cold Fox's daily fantasy as he entered Second Life that night. Sadly today, as all the days before it, he was disappointed. There was no silence to be found in this place. One was, more often than not, incapable of hearing himself think let alone the soft chirping of a bird. It was perhaps the most aggravating place he'd ever been, made even more so by the fact that he was allowed to leave at any time. It was his own stubbornness that kept him here.
Yet, somehow, it did seem marginally quieter today. That idiot Prince must not have logged in yet, Cold Fox assumed with some degree of relief. Still the excessive energy and noise of the people around him drove him quite mad, even without Prince. Their supposed leader was hardly the most energetic of the bunch. With a sigh Cold Fox sat on a bench, closed his eyes and tried to distance himself from the world around him.
He did not succeed. After only sitting for a mere couple of minutes, Cold Fox was put-upon by a group composed of those who were individually almost tolerable but as a combination he knew would leave him with an excessive headache.
"He's here," cried Lolidragon, overly loud. Cold Fox cringed almost unnoticeably. He opened his eyes to view the four standing before him. Heaving a great sigh he closed his eyes again and ignored them, already feeling more than faint annoyance.
"Definitely not Prince," Rose remarked, sounding faintly awestruck.
"Excuse me," Ugly Wolf began, "who are you?" Cold Fox's annoyance grew though he continued to ignore them.
"He kind of seems like Kenshin."
"Can't be. It has to be a player."
"Then what about Cold Fox?"
"Hey, Cold Fox?" He persisted in ignoring them, not even bothering to distinguish who was saying what. It was all mostly noise to him.
"We don't know it's him. Could be another player, like yesterday."
"But look at him. He hasn't said a word or even acknowledged our existence. Who else could it be." There was an almost heavenly silence following these words. Cold Fox's agitation fell off a little at a time.
"If it is Cold Fox," the voices started up again, building up his annoyance once again, "at least open your eyes." He did not move.
"I guess we just explain it to him."
"We just have to hope he's listening." He could hear someone take a deep breath as though preparing for a long story and he felt his control snap. He had no desire to listen to whatever useless information they intended to impart on him.
At last he opened his eyes, but did not really look at any of them. He stood and walked impassively away.
"Wait!" Cold Fox didn't stop. It was only when he sensed something flying at him that he turned and easily flicked his sword from his sheath to destroy the mirror that Lolidragon had flung at him.
The sword hit the mirror perfectly, shattering the glass and cracking the frame. He stayed in this position—his sword twisted out as though it were a mere extension of, not just his arm, but his full self. The whole world seemed to have frozen excepting the shards of glass that flew about, but they gave the feel of being slowed—floating, not falling, to the ground where they cracked and bounced.
Cold Fox was the first to move. He shifted his grip on the black dao that clearly was not his. Looking down infinitesimally at the famous sword his expression belied no shock. After a moment he smoothly returned the sword to its sheath. His gaze flickered up to the group that still remained in shock. They had come with some explanation. He didn't need it.
He had been sensible of the unfamiliarity of the sword the moment his hand first reached for it. A slightly different angle, a very different feel. He had never paid much mind to people but, rather, their weapons. You could tell everything necessary about a person by simply glancing at the weapon. Even if the dao had not been famous, Cold Fox would have never doubted whose weapon he was holding.
It was not a plain blade but, rather, an ugly one. There was no elegance or grace to be found in its flat black hue. But, just like its owner, appearances were quite deceiving. That it was a growing type weapon might have spurred Cold Fox's curiosity but that alone meant little. The blade ought not to have become so famous.
Yet, there was something in the way it was wielded; something that intrigued Cold Fox. Though he would never admit it, he had yearned for such a chance as he had now received; a chance to hold that blade and to become one, blade and man together lost in the euphoria of combat. The reality was… disappointing.
It worked as any blade should, moving with him, but it did not move as him. The dao flicked out in response to his movements but it lacked that graceful elegance of carnage that had drawn his eye and ultimately kept him here in this loud and highly uncouth place. Cold Fox was drawn to that elegance which was derived not from skill but from the energy and raw love of carnage that Prince displayed, even if his skills were less than they might have been.
The weapon and the style were a signature of Prince's, one he would not so easily let go. It was clear to Cold Fox the matter the group wished to explain but it was wholly unnecessary. Even in lieu of those painfully clear hints the matter must be obvious to anyone! Prince's face stared back at him one hundred times from the shattered pieces of the mirror.
Cold Fox looked at the group, still frozen in shock and nodded lightly to tell them he understood. With no other acknowledgement, he walked away.
"Hey, wait!" cried a voice behind him. Cold Fox refused to halt. "We haven't explained yet." He could hear them all; their bumbling steps sending mirror fragments skittering across the floor. When they were just behind them he stopped but did not turn. They would appear before him so there was no need to take the trouble.
The group did exactly as Cold Fox expected, sliding and stumbling to a halt in front on him. They were panting.
"Cold Fox," Lolidragon gasped. With a slight scowl he nodded lightly. Still panting they said nothing further. Cold Fox figured he could leave.
"Wait!" They would not let him go. "Stop running away! We have something to explain to you and you are going to stay and listen until we tell you that you can go," Lolidragon was shouting at him and he could feel his head begin to throb in response. Irritated, Cold Fox placed a hand on the hilt of the dao. Lolidragon's eyes followed this movement and she gulped.
"Please," she added hastily. Cold Fox took another step away.
"Hey!" Lolidragon called out again, forgetting the fear of moments ago. "You can't leave. Besides, someone has to clear up all this glass. It's dangerous." Cold Fox did not look at her and his expression remained as blank as it had been. He simply drew his sword in response.
"And I'm sure we can find someone to do that," Yu Lian stated in a quick and wavering voice, pulling Lolidragon away with one hand clamped firmly over the thief's mouth. Cold Fox slipped the dao quietly back into its sheath and walked off.
"White Bird wants you. Some guy appeared who wants to challenge you or something," Feng Wu Qing continued, not put off in the slightest by Prince's silence. Flapping his hand in a gesture meant to get Cold Fox to follow him, Feng Wu Qing went off.
"You coming?" Feng Wu Qing called over his shoulder. Cold Fox nodded. He would not miss a chance to fight for the world.
The walk was completed in silence for which Cold Fox was thankful. Feng Wu Qing seemed as indifferent to Cold Fox's company as Cold Fox was to his. All in all it was quite pleasant.
Upon arriving Cold Fox took a moment to notice that the room was quite crowded yet he did not bother identifying the people in the room. None of them were any kind of threat so they were discounted.
His attention fixated on the group in the center of the room, all wearing purple capes with some manner of insignia on them. He took a moment to examine the image. A golden lion with its claws raised and teeth bared in an attempt to be ferocious. How dull.
White Bird was speaking to the group but Cold Fox took no notice. It was hardly important to him. He took notice of the group, quickly discounting the weaker members to find the man he'd be fighting. Cold Fox might once have assumed that it was the leader's place to fight as he ought to be the strongest of his band. Yet his time in Infinite City with Prince had thought him that these ideals were not always found. Prince, for instance, was not the strongest member of Infinite City (were it not for Kenshin, Cold Fox would have claimed that title for himself without hesitation) yet he was an effective ruler.
And so, utilizing this new found knowledge, Cold Fox's attention was drawn to a warrior somewhere in the middle of the ranks. The man himself was unremarkable in appearance and figure but the way he held himself belied a kind of hidden strength. Of the hundred or so men and women in that room, Cold Fox identified that warrior as the one most comparable to his skill.
"Who will fight for you?" White Bird asked the leader.
Cold Fox was heartily disappointed as the leader stepped forward boldly proclaiming "I will."
White Bird turned to him but Cold Fox was already moving towards his opponent. His hand was already to his weapon. The group leader fumbled whilst pulling his sword out. Cold Fox drew his blade with the barest of whispers and relaxed and could not contain the enjoyment that spilled across his face. He was in his element.
Unfortunately, Cold Fox had not considered exactly how frightening Prince was. The reputation of the Blood Elf spread throughout every continent: violent, bloodthirsty and insane. The smile that resulted from Cold Fox's enjoyment, when coupled with the advancing blade was easily enough to cause the group leader to drop his sword and begin sobbing like a child. Cold Fox reeled back in disgust.
He had not meant to frighten his opponent. Cold Fox's reputation was much less well known making people less apt to fear him. Not once had he reduced a man to such a state without actually fighting him.
Cold Fox turned to the rest of the troop—specifically looking for the warrior—but they all cringed back in equal fright at the image Cold Fox presented. They would not fight him and Cold Fox did not fancy such a one-sided slaughter. He thrust the sword back into his sheath and strode irritably out of the room.
Once he was out of the room, the troop tripped over themselves in their haste to escape. They ran away with their tails between their legs and were not seen in Infinite City again. All throughout Second Life the rumor spread. Another facet was added to the great legend of Prince. He was the Blood Elf, capable of defeating a hundred and fifty men without ever once touching them.
Cold Fox didn't even look up at Lolidragon's boisterous approach. He was considering what to do with his day. He'd considered, albeit briefly, PMing Kenshin to suggest they meet for a drink in the Infinite Restaurant. This idea was quickly banished as Cold Fox was as disinclined to send a PM as Kenshin was to reply. For some reason, Kenshin seemed only to respond to PMs Prince sent, though Cold Fox had never tested this.
But Cold Fox was Prince. If it was true that Kenshin never responded to a PM from anyone else, then Cold Fox would never get another chance like this one. Despite detesting the form so much, he was very much considering it.
He was on the menu and very nearly about to send.
"Didn't you hear me?" Lolidragon bleated, in front of him now. Cold Fox realized what he was doing and quickly stopped.
"…" She actually had his attention now, anything to distract him from the act he had almost committed and the strange feelings that it invoked. He was relieved, of course, but somehow regretful.
"I have a surprise for you," Lolidragon gushed with sickening enthusiasm. She waited for him to inquire to the nature of the surprise but he failed to satisfy her.
"A photo shoot!" she continued at last, clinging admirably to her excitement even through the torrents of his indifference. He simply looked at her impassively. From behind her back, Lolidragon produced two miniscule articles of clothing, horribly adorned with sequins. Together they clashed horribly to the point that even he noticed. It took him a minute to understand that they were meant as separate outfits.
Even in the face of these horrific outfits, Cold Fox's expression never altered. In the calmest and simplest of movements, he stood and drew his dao, intimidating even the unshakable Lolidragon.
"Or not…" she said, quickly backing away to safety.
He opened the system panel and began sorting through Prince's menus, not caring a button for the privacy of his monarch. Cold Fox flipped lazily through Prince's general information and stopped to read a few PMs. It was a good fifteen minutes before Cold Fox paid enough attention to notice something odd.
On Prince's information screen under the heading 'pets' there were three names. Meatbun was, of course, the first. The third name was Sunshine, the mage, which made little sense to Cold Fox. But it was the second name that really threw him for a loop. His eyes even widened, actually expressing the emotion. Kenshin's name was written in the space that was supposed to be reserved for pets.
Cold Fox found himself still staring at the name several minutes later. Such a thing could not be a system error yet Cold Fox could hardly believe that Kenshin was not an actual player.
Except, how else could Kenshin have beaten him? Cold Fox had looked at the player rankings and Kenshin's name had been nowhere in the top one hundred. It should have been there. Cold Fox doubted he could be beaten by any player but the top five yet he had lost to someone who did not seem to exist. Now it made sense.
Cold Fox closed the system panel now, finding less enjoyment in it. He was much more content to sit in silence now. There was quite a bit to think over.
He had decided to go to the Infinite Restaurant. There too could he be lazy with the added bonus of being able to order drinks. Cold Fox had not put much thought into his current appearance and situation (except to note that it was quite troublesome) but that hardly stopped him from understanding the prospect of free drinks. Well, free for him anyway. Prince would have to pay for them.
Cold Fox's expedition landed him in the middle of some inner courtyard. It was actually quite peaceful there. He hadn't the slightest clue of how he had arrived at this particular place but, as he walked past the tastefully done flowerbeds and neatly trimmed trees, he made a mental note to find this place again.
Though enraptured by the beauty around him, Cold Fox was still as agile and aware as ever he was. Even when the ground suddenly cracked beneath him he retained his expression and composure. With the swiftness and grace of only the greatest of warriors, Cold Fox leapt back as a skeleton appeared in the place he had been standing.
Without any provocation, just the burn to fight, Cold Fox swung the dao in a smooth arc that severed the skeleton in two. As the skeleton burst into a cloud of dust a light chime sounded, informing Cold Fox of a system notice.
System notice: Prince has PKed Doll's minions, Skeletons, Reputation -75
Cold Fox gave the notice no more than a passing glance. Other skeletons were appearing quickly, a barrier between him and the exit. Tightening his hand around the hilt of his sword, Cold Fox prepared himself. With alacrity he dashed forward, sword arm outstretched, into the mass of skeletons.
It was a very one-sided battle. No, perhaps battle was not the proper word. They did not even fight back, simply standing dumbly watching as their comrades were shattered and awaiting their own inevitable fate. What they lacked in aggression, they made up for in numbers. Scarcely had he the time to kill one before another rose to replace it. They could not deplete his HP but his stamina… that was another story.
Thrusting his left hand into Prince's bag, he sought for something to restore his energy all the while still cleaving at the skeletons. By chance his hand happened upon a bun. Cold Fox figured that would be better than nothing.
His hand tore out of the bag but the bun was knocked out by a skeleton that burst from the ground just to his left. The bun flew through the air where it happened to be smacked by Cold Fox's sword in mid-swing. Much like a baseball from a bat, the bun flew hard and fast toward a skeleton a ways away. It smashed into the skeleton, reducing it into little more than a pile of bones and ricocheted off into another skeleton. Cold Fox continued his attacks unaware.
It was only when the bun bounced off the one directly in front of him that he was aware. Despite his shock Cold Fox's reflexes were still top notch. He smoothly caught the bun. It was not necessary for him to see the bun's eyes for him to understand. It was, of course, Meatbun.
"Hi mama. Meatbun-bun kill skeletons!" The bun told him excitedly, blinking its bright blue eyes.
"…" Cold Fox was indifferent to the cuteness.
Now he strode away from the courtyard toward (he hoped) the exit to the castle. For nearly an hour he walked on a tour of the castle traversing bedrooms, bathrooms, the armory (twice), the kitchen, the throne room, dressing rooms (there were a surprisingly large number), closets and the kitchen once again. He was very near breaking down to ask for directions. With his princely guise it could wound his pride little. No one would ever suspect him.
Yet, there was that one group; those four who knew and would mock him. Their loud, jeering faces haunted him, causing him to pass by a guard without a word. They would receive no such satisfaction from him.
"Prince? Prince!" Cold Fox did not think to register this call as important but his body naturally focused on the running feet that grew louder and nearer all the time.
"Prince!" the voice called again directly behind him. Cold Fox waited for the opportune moment and struck, twirling around with his sword already out and slicing through the air. Gui jumped back clumsily, expecting (and secretly hoping for) this kind of reception. He was not quick enough, though. A small gash in his side began to fill with blood. Gui looked to the gash and back up at Cold Fox who had not yet sheathed his sword.
"Prince?" Gui's eyes were filled with tears. He had not been told of Prince's identity today. Cold Fox recoiled slightly, more than a little disgusted by the bard's weakness. What man cried in the face of such a slight injury? Thinking thusly, Cold Fox was actually taken off-guard when Gui launched himself at Cold Fox.
"Is it really you? I missed you!" Gui murmured as he hugged Cold Fox and nuzzled his neck. The warrior, who fancied himself unshakable and always in control, suddenly lost it. His blade was still unsheathed and his body itched to kill.
Gui would find out later the real identity of the player he had hugged (and spend the better part of a month avoiding that person). But a minute later, waking up at the rebirth point in the middle of Infinite City, Gui was quite at a loss.
Cold Fox felt marginally better as he exited the confines of the castle. Finding his way ought to be simpler now. It ought to be, whether or not it would be was a whole other matter.
Walking through the streets, Cold Fox began to be sensible that he was being followed. There seemed to be no threats, so he discounted it as best he could. Yet the feeling continued to grow until he could stand it no longer. Cold Fox turned to face a group of girls thirty strong all staring at him with hungry eyes. He glared coldly, but somehow that only seemed to ignite their desire.
"It's the Blood Elf," one of them cried, which quickly led the other girls into a mass of incoherent screams and shrieks. Cold Fox was not pleased.
One daring girl pulled away from the pack and slowly made her way to him. The closer she got the closer Cold Fox's hand drifted toward his weapon. Finally he unsheathed his sword.
"He isn't running," another girl called. The girls traded looks and understood that this was the opportunity of a lifetime. Prince had never stood his ground before.
"Charge!" cried a tall elven mage. The girls, without hesitation, followed this order. Cold Fox stood his ground and tightened his grip on his dao. If they wanted a fight, they would get one.
In the end there were more than thirty girls. Like the skeletons, there seemed no end to them. He would kill one and another two would appear from the street. They ran back from the rebirth point even. And, this time, there was no Meatbun to help him.
To add to his frustrations, while they fought the girls would not be silent. They constantly shouting and shrieking their excitement. Much more disgustingly, they were yelling all kinds of comments about or directed to him.
"Isn't he handsome?" The elven mage.
"Stab me next!" A dwarven thief.
"Sooooooo hot!" A human warrior.
"I want his underwear!" An angel priest.
"Prince, I love you!" A human mage (and a male).
For every kill Cold Fox made there was always someone to take their place. He could feel himself tiring and his hit points were falling from the ferocity of the affections of Prince's admirers. Down to double digit health, Cold Fox dug into Prince's bag in vain for a heath potion. He found none.
There was one last blinding pillar of light to be seen and the battle was over.
Whispers followed Cold Fox as he made his way to the man in the corner. Was he really a man, Cold Fox wondered. To be a man did not one have to be alive? Were NPCs alive?
Kenshin looked up once more as Cold Fox approached but said nothing. Cold Fox also said nothing but made a minute gesture toward the seat across from Kenshin. Kenshin shrugged lightly. Cold Fox sat.
They sat in silence as Cold Fox received his first drink and Kenshin his fourth. Both were men of few words and content to be so. Still, there was something that had to be said.
"You are… an NPC," Cold Fox said slowly, more of a statement than a question. He sipped his drink calmly while speaking. Kenshin choked slightly in his glass but managed to finish his drink and calmly placed it down.
"Yes," was all he said. Cold Fox asked nothing more and the two continued in companionable silence. They would sit without speaking and order another round of drinks.