Chapter 196 A Bet
Purity Essence gulped. He was always nervous around Gongzi You. He felt nothing when they first met, but at this moment, his heart was gripped by anxiety and fear. To him, Ye Ci was the devil. Her appearance would spell disaster for his existence. Whenever she appeared, the tranquility of his life would be destroyed.
When Gongzi You was not online for a few days, Purity Essence tried his best to persuade himself that as long as she was not here, he could still return to his normal life.
But… she appeared.
It was just like that day when they first met. She appeared out of nowhere, catching him off guard.
Deep down, he knew that it was impossible for Gongzi You to stay offline forever. However, he still hoped for the impossible: As long as Gongzi You did not come online, he would be able to live in peace.
The presence of Gongzi You shattered that hope. He stared at her, with different emotions flashing through his mind. But in the end, the only thing he could do was to let out a sigh. The person standing in front of him was a reality that he had to face.
“I’ve only gotten a few. My luck is not that great it seems. I can’t seem to catch any of the Rainbow Seashells.” having nothing else in his mind, the only thing he could do was to give an answer to Ye Ci’s question.
Ye Ci raised an eyebrow, and the ghost of a smile formed on her lips. She was impressed by Purity Essence’s response. At least he did not flee upon laying eyes on me. She jumped onto the rock, and sat beside Purity Essence, who was alarmed.
“What? It’s not as if I’m going to eat you alive.” Ye Ci began fishing with her own fishing rod. After all, she was also equipped with the Fishing skill. It was all thanks to her two gluttonous pets, Ol’ Three and Ol’ Four.
As Ye Ci began fishing casually, Purity Essence was able to calm down. He did not sense any weird intention from Ye Ci, and resumed fishing as well, while subconsciously keeping a distance from her.
The two fished in total silence, as if they were in a fishing competition.
“That’s strange… I’m supposed to be the female among the both of us, right?” said Ye Ci with a slight sarcasm as she stared at her floater.
“What did you say?” Purity Essence who had grown accustomed to the silence was baffled by Ye Ci’s words.
“From the way we are right now, it seems as if I’m the pervert that wants to molest you, while you are a pure and innocent little girl, shivering in fear, hoping for mercy. Look at you, you are so tensed and so anxious when you are only sitting next to me. I even have the impression that I morphed into a guy now!” without giving much consideration to Purity Essence’s feelings, Ye Ci spat out the words.
As expected, Ye Ci’s words placed Purity Essence in an uncomfortable position. He stole a glance at Gongzi You, and found a face full courage and confidence, very different from his own expression. He was embarrassed by his behaviour.
Purity Essence chuckled, attempting to clear the awkwardness in the air, “No, it’s not that. I’m not scared or anything. I’m just…”
At this point, his frustration rose, and he continued angrily: “I don’t know who the hell is spreading rumors in the forums and blowing things out of proportion! I’m not afraid of you or anything. It’s just… It’s just that I don’t want my friends to have misunderstandings about the relationship between us.”
Ye Ci was dumbstruck. Her face darkened as she stared at Purity Essence, “I think you’re very bad at expressing yourself.”
“What?” perhaps because of his insomnia, or perhaps because he was slow, Purity Essence did not understand Gongzi You’s words.
“You spoke as if I’m the mistress who shamelessly clings on you and ruined your marriage.” Ye Ci’s words were full of sarcasm, “I, Gongzi You, am a nobody. But I will never do things like that. It is not in my nature.”
Noticing his mistake, Purity Essence immediately apologized to Ye Ci, and frantically tried to explain, but it just got worse and worse with each attempt in rectifying his mistake. Ye Ci was thoroughly pissed. She thundered, interrupting his excuses, “A true friend will never have a misunderstanding over something so trivial. Even if something happened, a true friend will still place their trust in you.”
Ye Ci’s words were like cold water splashing on Purity Essence’s face. He was stunned into silence.
In reality, he knew the meaning behind Gongzi You’s words. He was the one who refused to accept the truth. The truth, that his many years of friendship would be ruined by something so trivial. He could not bring himself to believe such a cold, cruel reality.
Silence loomed over the two, and their fishing competition resumed. Opposed to Ye Ci’s calm demeanor, Purity Essence was restless. It was as if his heart was being cut into pieces by countless knives. He refused to bring himself to accept Gongzi You’s words. In his mind, she was judging his friendship with a narrow minded point of view.
In the end, he could not hold himself back.
“I’ve been playing with my friends since we were 18! Our friendship is firm! We treat each other with sincerity. I trust them! I know they trust me!!” being distraught, Purity Essence was slightly incoherent. That, however, did not affect Ye Ci’s ability to understand his words.
Ye Ci cast an indifferent glance at Purity Essence. She then shifted her gaze to the surface of the water and said coldly, “I know what happened between you and your friends. I don’t care what happened, but I seem to be caught up in it as well. I did some research in the forums. I don’t know how many years you have been friends, or how firm you think your friendship is, but with my many years of gaming experience, I can tell you that nobody will treat you well for no reason. If you think there is someone who would do that, it simply meant that you’re still of use to that person.”
“Gongzi You! I know you’re someone who places benefits above all. I know you’re someone who is cold and distant and selfish! I know that! But please don’t judge my friendship with your values! It’s unfair!” Purity Essence anger soared. He clenched his fists. It was apparent that he was doing his best to hold back his anger.
Ye Ci was unfazed. She stared at him calmly, and spoke with sarcasm in her tone, “Yo, are you looking for a fight? If that’s the case, you might want to look for the right person. If you try to take me on, you’ll definitely lose.” She smirked in an impish way, “Why don’t you spar against your friends? You can prove the beauty of your friendship. Isn’t it nice?”
“Don’t force my hand.” Purity Essence was shaking with rage. He glared at Ye Ci with bloodshot eyes. It was apparently that he would take it out on Ye Ci with the slightest sign of provocation, “I never hit a woman, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t.”
Ye Ci snorted at the warning. She paid no more attention to Purity Essence who had lost his rationality. She focused on fishing. After all, it was a chore to feed her gluttonous pets back home.
“A true friendship is one that does not involve benefits. Once benefits are involved, your relationship will change. It will become the most despicable thing you’ll ever see. Such is the way of this world. If you care about a person or a friend, do not involve him or her in your circle of benefits, nor should you enter his. That is, if you want your friendship to last.” Ye Ci stared at the reddish-golden reflection of the sun in the water, as she murmured.
When the words left Ye Ci’s mouth, something in her heart stirred. It was a pain that would not subside. Was Purity Essence the only one she was talking about? Wasn’t she talking about herself as well? Her relationship with Dong Yin and Yi Cang crumbled in the face of benefits as well.
Purity Essence did not react to Ye Ci’s words with anger. He remained silent, staring at the ocean. He then spoke after a long pause, “I always treated my friends well. Benefits or not, I just like to treat my friends well.”
“But… You ran into me. I turned into the biggest source of benefit that you could give. Under the pressure of such a huge benefit, the balance was broken.” A fish was snagged by Ye Ci’s hook. In a smooth motion, she reeled in the fish, and cast her line out, “You know, even if I, Gongzi You did not exist, there will still be Gongzi One, Gongzi Two and even Gongzi Three. Your fragile relationship is bound to be broken.”
“I don’t believe it.” Purity Essence was a loyal and stubborn person. He was one who would cling stubbornly to his own ideals, “You and I are different. You will not understand what I’ve been through. I refuse to believe what you said.”
Ye Ci shrugged. She was not interested in keeping up the argument. A glint appeared in her eyes, “Since we’re both unable to convince one another, how about a bet?”
“So what will we be betting?” Purity Essence who was angered had lost all sense of rationality. He accepted Ye Ci’s proposal without much of a thought.
Ye Ci was very satisfied with the result.. As the saying goes, “impulse is the devil.” Ye Ci was once again able to witness the truth of the proverb.
“Why don’t you upload a photo of us fishing to the forums and see how your friends would react?” Ye Ci smiled. At that moment, she was as cunning as a fox. The sincerity and the innocence in her eyes, however, was able to deceive everyone, including Purity Essence, who had long lost his rationality. “If your friends trust you, as you said, I will apologize to them and to you in the World Channel, and help you with clearing the Castle Ruins.”
“No, I don’t need your help with the dungeon. All I need is your apology.” Purity Essence was, after all, a persistent person. He refused Ye Ci’s offer of clearing the Castle Ruins for his guild. The only thing that mattered was his friendship.
Ye Ci nodded, “Alright, as you wish.” she was not surprised by the response.
“Then so be it. I’ll post the picture right now.” Purity Essence was ready to take a screenshot and post it to the forums.
Ye Ci spoke up camly, “Why the rush? Are you so sure that I’ll lose?”
Ye Ci shook her head and sighed, “I don’t think so. Well, it doesn’t matter what we think anyways. Since this is a bet, and I’ve already placed my stakes, what about yours?”
Purity Essence was momentarily stunned. He had never considered the fact that he might lose, and had never thought about anything that could be staked into the bet. Besides, he did not have anything in his possession that might be of interest to Gongzi You, “What do you want?”
“Me?” Ye Ci’s smile widened, “Do you mean you’re okay with anything I say?”
“Yes. As long as it is within my power.” Purity Essence was very persistent, “You won’t win anyways.”
“Alright… If that’s the case, I’ll just think of something.” Ye Ci was beaming with happiness. She was waiting for him to get hooked. How could Ye Ci not be happy? At this point, her heartbeat was speeding up..
After feigning a thoughtful expression, Ye Ci spoke up, “You have nothing that I want. How about this then.. If you lose, you’ll have to join ‘Upwards Ho!’.”
Purity Essence was momentarily stunned. He would be able to analyze the situation and notice Gongzi You’s plot, if he would think calmly. However, the Purity Essence at this moment was incapable of such rational thoughts.
“What? You’re backing out?” Ye Ci raised her eyebrows, “It seems that you don’t have much confidence in this matter.” Ye Ci’s lips twitched, her disdain was very apparent.
Purity Essence could not hold himself back after the provocation. He grit his teeth and immediately agreed, “So be it! If you lose, you’ll make an apology to me and my friends in the World Channel. If I lose, I’ll join ‘Upwards Ho!’.”
Ye Ci nodded. She did not show her disdain for having to apologize. However, Gongzi You would never do something that she had no confidence in. It would not matter after she won the bet.
Paying no heed to Purity Essence, Ye Ci began fishing leisurely, waiting for events to take their course.
Purity Essence immediately took a photo of him fishing with Gongzi You on the rock. Although Gongzi You appeared naturally relaxed in the photo, he was somewhat stiff. Logging into the forums, Purity Essence was ready to post the picture online anonymously. He was hesitant with the title of the thread. What sort of title should I use as the best proof that my faith in my friends is rightly placed?
After a long moment of hesitation, he finally decided on the most provocative title, “Speaking with absolute facts: The truth behind the relationship of Gongzi You and Purity Essence” and posted the picture on the forums. He then added a description under the picture, “With so many rumors circulating around in the forums, a picture is worth more than a thousand words! It is by pure coincidence that I’ve managed to take this picture (don’t ask where this is taken)”
After writing down the description, Purity Essence realised that he was sweating profusely, as if he had just stepped out of the sauna. He logged off the forum, not even daring to keep it on. After taking in a deep breath, Purity Essence pretended to calm himself down and resumed fishing.
From the corner of her eyes, Ye Ci could see the anxiety written all over Purity Essence’s face. Ye Ci smiled quietly to herself, sighing. She saw her old self in Purity Essence. It was always the same for humans. When they became too obsessed with something, they would tend to lose more. Ye Ci’s experiences in her previous life were the perfect example. Her obsession with fame led to her downfall, and even to the loss of her life.
However, even when exposed to the truth, one would never understand the nature of such matters. Only someone who had experienced true anguish caused by his or her failure would be able to learn from this. She could only hope that Purity Essence could learn his lesson after the pain he suffered. She hoped that he could learn that not everything is perfect in this world, and one should not dwell on the past.. If he is not able to face the challenges of the present because he can not move on, her efforts in recruiting him would be wasted. It was as if time had stopped. Ye Ci and Purity Essence seemed to be the only ones in this world, fishing without worry on the huge rock. The occasional breeze carrying the scent of the sea brought a sense of euphoria to Ye Ci. She took in a deep breath. This is such a nice day!
Purity Essence, on the other hand, was not as relaxed as Ye Ci. He was extremely nervous. He was anticipating the response from his guildmates, but was afraid at the same time. Not everyone could endure such a torment. He felt like a fish being thrown into an oven. Fear and anxiety gripped his heart.
The moment lasted for half an hour before Purity Essence finally received a message. It was a message from his guild leader, who was also his best friend, Hometown Hero, “Purity, what are you doing right now?”
Purity Essence could feel his heart in his mouth when he received the message. He even had difficulty breathing. Taking in a deep breath, he was able to calm himself down, “I’m fishing. What is it? Did something happen?”
Hometown Hero replied after a short pause, “Oh, you’re fishing? You’re quite free aren’t you? Where are you? Are you alone?”
A feeling of desolation crept into Purity Essence’s heart, “I’m near the Hidden Treasure Gulf. And no, I’m not alone.” he began to regret his decision of taking on the bet. Will I be able to avoid the pain if I did not take on the bet?
“Who else is there with you?”
“It’s an acquaintance of mine. I happened to run into him here.” Purity Essence was telling the truth. But, unbeknownst to him, the truth could only be true when the other party chose to believe in it.
“Ohh…” Hometown Hero directed the conversation somewhere else. “Purity, have you given that thing a thought?” asked Hometown Hero after a brief small talk with Purity Essence.
Purity Essence’s heart clenched. In the end, it’s all about this huh? He grimaced, “What are you talking about?”
“Ask for Gongzi You’s help in clearing the dungeon. Since you’re so close, I’m sure she wouldn’t refuse. I know that the other guilds have asked for her help in the past as well, but there’s a chance that she would refuse our request. Since you’re friends with her, help the guild out. Ask for her help.” as the guild leader, Hometown Hero was always thinking about the benefits of the guild.
“Hometown, I’ll say this again. I really am not familiar with Gongzi You. We’ve only met for the first time during the battle that day. Before that, I’m just like you! I’ve only known her through the forums and videos of her!” Purity Essence was overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness, “Besides, can’t we just clear the dungeon slowly with our own strength-”
Before Purity Essence could finish his sentence, he was cut off by Hometown Hero, “Purity, you and I have been friends for so many years. Don’t you think you’re being stingy here? I’m not asking for much, I just want you to ask Gongzi You for help in clearing the dungeon.”
“If that’s the case, why don’t we just pay her like the other guilds?” Purity Essence finally voiced out his true feelings.
“If we’re going to pay her for that, I won’t be needing your help now would I? Besides, I don’t mind if you hid your friendship with her from everybody else. But to hide it from me… I’m disappointed in you Purity.”
“I told you, I don’t know her! We’ve never been friends!”
“Without a wind, there cannot be waves.”
A sense of futility washed over Purity Essence. In the face of misbelief, any explanation offered would be in vain. At that moment, his will faltered, and he became silent.
“Why won’t you believe me?”
“Purity, we’ve been brothers for so long. I wanted to trust you. I wanted to believe your words unconditionally. Just take a look at the forums. If it’s not because of that incident in the Swamp of Sorrows, the appearance of the Dragonia, the mistake you made while taking command, and the fact that Gongzi You managed to walk out of this ordeal unscathed, I wouldn’t have known that you’re friends with her!” he let out a frustrated sigh.
“He he…” Purity Essence no longer felt the need to explain himself in the face of Hometown Hero’s accusations. He sneered, perhaps at himself, perhaps at the past; or perhaps at Hometown Hero.
“You don’t have to do that. Before the post in the forums today, I did not even believe the rumors. But what’s the the photo that had just appeared?”
“What photo?” Purity Essence asked out loud with a voice full of weariness despite knowing the answer.
“I see you did not know what happened in the forums. Alright, I’ll stop beating around the bush. Are you fishing with Gongzi You?” Hometown Hero raised his voice, adapting a more forceful tone.
Purity Essence remained silent. He knew more than anyone else about about what was in the photo. He suddenly was unable to answer Hometown Hero’s question. He was just like a coward, too afraid to face an impending misfortune. At that moment, he felt as if he was not a man. He lacked the courage a man should possess.
Alas, he was afraid. After so many years of friendship, he knew his friends well. If he conceded, wouldn’t they have a fall out? If it happened, their already crumbling friendship would end. This was something he wanted to avoid.
Hometown Hero’s tone became even more forceful when Purity Essence kept his silence, “Purity, some things cannot be solved by remaining silent. Refusing to admit such a thing does not mean that it did not happen. I don’t know just what sort of relationship you had with Gongzi You, and why you have to deny it. Don’t you know that the more you try to emphasize your innocence, the more people will doubt you? If you admitted your relationship with Gongzi You sooner, would things have gotten this far?”
Weariness washed over Purity Essence. He did not even have the strength to deal with Hometown Hero left. He was convinced that there was no going back. The reddish-golden sun was slowly setting below the horizon, dyeing everything in sight in a shade of its beautiful color. Purity Essence could still remember the joys he had with his friends when they grew up. Since when have we grown so far apart?
Perhaps Gongzi You was right. Perhaps friendship would not last long in the face of benefits. Their friendship was firm as no benefits were involved. They would not be jealous of each other. Things have changed when they thought that he was close with Gongzi You. They thought that he received a lot of benefits from Gongzi You. This thought nurtured their jealousy, and slowly wither away their rationality.
As expected, friendship must not be mixed with benefits. He was unwilling to let go of his many years of friendship. The truth however, was clear. He lost his bet with Gongzi You.
He lost to his fake friendship, to his self-deceiving brothers, and accursed benefits.
At this point, Purity Essence was truly helpless, he let out a long sigh, “Hometown, just get straight to the point. Just tell me, what do you want?”
Hometown Hero was stunned by Purity Essence’s sudden straightforwardness. However, he was able to regain his composure in a short moment, “It’s nothing much. Go get Gongzi You to help us clear the Castle Ruins. I’ve heard that ‘Upwards Ho!’ has defeated the 4th BOSS. So she’ll have no problem with helping us against the 4th BOSS. I think my request is not that hard, am I right?”
“What if I tell you that it’s impossible for me to do it?” Purity Essence sneered.
Hometown Hero pursed his lips, and disdain was written all over his face, “If you can’t do that… Purity… Is there anything left to say between us? Our small temple is not befitting of a big buddha like you.”
Purity Essence felt as if he was stabbed in the heart. The pain was so tremendous that he creased his eyebrows, “Hometown, are you telling me to leave?”
“Purity, it’s not me who wants you to leave. Your heart no longer belongs to a small guild such as ours. So… See yourself out.” unwilling to give up just yet, Hometown Hero asked once again, “I’ll ask you one last time. Will you get Gongzi You to help our guild out or not?”
“I told you! I’m not that close with her! I can’t do that!” Purity Essence was pushed to his limits.
“Leave the guild. Don’t make me kick you. If I do that, we won’t even have our last shred of friendship left.” Hometown Hero was filled with rage.
“Friendship?” the word was suddenly very ridiculous to Purity Essence, “Do we still have friendship?” with that, he called up the Guild Interface, and selected the option to leave his guild.
[ Are you sure you want to leave Drunken Melancholy? ] a system notification appeared.
[Yes.] [No. ]
Purity Essence hesitated. Fragments of memories, all those times spent with his friends flashing by in his mind. They were like photos that had been ravaged by time, slowly fading in color, darkening, then crumbling to dust.
“Hurry up, don’t make this hard for the both of us.” Hometown Hero’s words were the last straw for him. He was devastated. As the saying goes “men only weep when deeply grieved”. Purity Essence felt like weeping, but he had no tears left. It seems that I’m the only one who truly cherished our years of friendship.
With that, his hesitation disappeared. There was no longer a sense of loss. Gritting his teeth, Purity Essence left the guild that was once his haven..
It’s just a game! It’s just a game! Why have these people who were once my friends in real life become so cruel? Purity Essence laughed. Isn’t this just a game? The game, this was the thing that has destroyed his friendship in real life.
Since when had they drifted apart? It was perhaps when he moved to another city. It seems that even friendship could dull with distance and time.
[Purity Essence has left Drunken Melancholy.]
The line of small yellow words appeared in the World Channel briefly before they were swallowed by the messages in the channel, disappearing forever. Ye Ci who has been paying close attention to the World Channel however, saw the words clearly.
No matter how stubborn Purity Essence was, everything went according to Ye Ci’s plan.
Ye Ci let out a faint smile. It was a smile those who were close to her described as her most beautiful smile. She was not in a hurry to disturb Purity Essence. She was a reasonable person who would not spread salt over somebody’s bleeding wounds.
It was better for her to wait for Purity Essence to act on his own accord.
As expected, Purity Essence was quick to recover from his sorrows. He was a career gamer who did not earn a lot, but enjoyed his time with his friends. Losing his guild meant that he needed a plan for the future.
After all, his friendship and fond memories paled in comparison to the hardship he will be facing in the future.
Of course, Purity Essence remembered his bet with Gongzi You. Joining ‘Upwards Ho!’ was his best option. Firstly, his income was guaranteed as he was invited over by Gongzi You to be a commander. Secondly, since it was futile to try and clear his name, he might as well join the guild and put an end to the rumors.
With that thought in mind, Purity Essence soothed his raging emotions and looked at Gongzi You. The girl was basking in the rays of the setting sun leisurely. Bitterness surged into his heart. He was so pained that it was hard for him to even speak up.