Chapter 214 What Is Bella?
There were only two solutions for when a person ran into such a problem in the middle of nowhere: ignore the problem, as it was impossible to solve, or to rack one’s brain and think hard for the solution.
Of course, Ye Ci was not one to give up. Even if the quest felt rigged, it didn’t mean that Ye Ci would give up just like that.
Ye Ci would never give up without even trying to solve a problem. So, she dismounted from Ol’ Four and circled the tombstone. Once she started searching, she was able to find a clue on a slab of stone that was covered by a thin layer of soil.
The tomb was old and badly eroded by the strong winds in the Mausoleum of Blades; it was impossible to tell how long the slab of stone had existed. However, that wasn’t important. The most important thing now was for Ye Ci to find a small indentation that shared a similar shape with the badge.
If Ye Ci still couldn’t figure out what must be done, she would end up doubting her own level of intelligence. The solution was so obvious that even an idiot could figure it out. When the main characters in a TV show had to think hard for a solution to a trivial problem such as this, one could say that the producers of the show were lowering the IQ level of the audience and challenging their patience at the same time. Oh, we seem to have strayed off topic, but I’ve wanted to say this for a long time: Please don’t think of the readers and audience as idiots, alright? Can the producers and script writers out there please increase the quality of your work?
Oops, I seem to have strayed very far off topic.
Alright, let us continue with the story of Ye Ci.
Ye Ci immediately took the badge out of her inventory and placed it in the indentation. She then waited beside the tomb, staring at it without a hint of emotion. According to all her knowledge of drama and movies, something would be happening soon. A rock hiding a hidden cave somewhere might be moved away, revealing the labyrinth hidden within. There might even be flashes of lightning and thunder accompanied by strong winds and awesome sound effects, announcing the appearance of something extraordinary.
This won’t happen in the game, will it? Ye Ci stared at the tombstone and waited… And waited…
One minute passed, and nothing happened.
Two minute passed, and nothing happened.
Five minutes passed, and nothing happened.
Ten minutes passed, and still nothing happened.
Ye Ci was enraged. You’ve got to be kidding me! Even if she hated the usual tropes employed in TV series and movies, weren’t they better than nothing happening at all? Wouldn’t it be less infuriating?
Flames of anger were burning in Ye Ci’s heart. She stood up and stared emotionlessly at the tombstone. If she was a man she would’ve pulled down her pants, pointed her ‘accessory’ at the tombstone, and peed on it to vent her frustration. However, she was female, which meant that she didn’t have that particular piece of ‘equipment’. She stomped on the tombstone and growled in anger, “Oi, Bella, I don’t care if you’re dead or alive, or even if you’re the f*cking tombstone itself! Get out now or I’ll dig you out of the grave!”
However, the only response to Ye Ci’s violent outburst were the strong winds in the Mausoleum of Blades.
The winds bellowing past Ye Ci’s ears were like taunts to her, causing her anger to continue to boil. She knew that the developers had a tendency to play pranks on the players, but as someone who’d never experienced it first hand in the past, Ye Ci had thought nothing of it. Now, when it had finally happened to her, Ye Ci felt that all the developers should be drowned in a whisker basket, especially that guy named Wang Jiangnan.
Wang Jiangnan, who was immersed in his work, felt a sudden gust of chilly wind on his back. He shivered at the sudden coldness and knocked his cup down in the process. With a loud clang, the cup shattered. The sound went unnoticed in the Fate office as it was bustling with activity. The only person alerted to the sound was Wang Jiangnan’s colleauge who was sitting right beside him. “What happened? Why are you shivering in this hot weather? Are you having a seizure or something?” Said the man as he stared at Wang Jiangnan.
Wang Jiangnan himself was puzzled as well; he wasn’t feeling ill at all. He then shook his head and brushed the incident off. “It’s nothing.”
“Did somebody place a jinx on you?” Wang Jiangnan’s colleague chuckled.
“No way! If I was jinxed, the lot of you would’ve already died God knows how many times!” Wang Jiangnan, of course, didn’t believe such a theory. After a small talk, the two developers resumed their work.
It was a small episode in the office in the middle of a hot summer. The sun was at its highest peak, and cicadas chirped merrily. The sunlight was so brilliant that even the flowers in a person’s heart would be in full bloom as they basked in the sunlight.
Ye Ci was a person who kept her word. Since she was being ignored by Bella, and unable to complete her quest, she immediately began digging up the grave. Filled with curiosity, Ol’ Four watched Ye Ci before catching on to her intention. It immediately rushed up to Ye Ci in glee and began pawing at the earth with its large claws.
The grave wasn’t deep. After a short while, a crude and simple looking coffin appeared. Before Ye Ci could think of her next move, Ol’ Four stepped on the flimsy-looking coffin with one of its legs….
With a loud crack, the coffin shattered.
Ol’ Four was excited. The sound was just like the snapping of twigs in the forest that it used to live in. For Ol’ Four, it was a memory of home. It began to repeatedly pounce with delight, as if it was performing a dance.
Ye Ci was baffled by Ol’ Four’s excitement. However, she had no time to ponder on the matter as something bewildering was happening: Ol’ Four was once again about to stomp down on the already shattered coffin.
“Ol’ Four!” Although Ye Ci had already uncovered Bella’s grave, she didn’t mean to defile her corpse. Ol’ Four’s actions would lead right to that outcome!
“Guhh?” Ol’ Four stopped in its tracks and stared at Ye Ci. There was a hint of dissatisfaction in its eyes, accusing Ye Ci of spoiling its fun.
“You can’t do that; get back here!” Said Ye Ci sternly.
For Ol’ Four, Ye Ci’s admonishment wasn’t much of a deterrent. It stared at Ye Ci while it continued to slowly extend its leg towards the coffin, and with another loud crack, he stepped onto the coffin.
“Ol’ Four!” Ye Ci screamed at the top of her lungs. What if there was good loot in the coffin, and they were smashed by Ol’ Four?
“Ahh! My face!” Another voice screamed out at the same time. It was the sharp, high-pitched voice of a female.
Where did that voice came from? Ol’ Four was stunned at well. It stood motionless and sniffed at the shattered coffin with great curiosity.
Ye Ci stared silently at the coffin. She could’ve sworn that she saw one of the many pieces of the coffin move.
A woman in a white dress climbed out of the coffin under the watchful gaze of Ye Ci and Ol’ Four. Judging by her semi transparent body, it was apparent that she wasn’t human. The woman began crying as she climbed, “My face! My youthful, gorgeous face! How could you step on it! I don’t want to live anymore! I don’t want to live anymore!”
Ye Ci was dumbfounded by the sudden change of events. Just what the hell is going on?
She was alone in the deserted northern fringes in the Mausoleum of Blades, standing in front of a small tombstone, a shattered coffin, and a wailing woman…or rather, ghost. Just what the hell was going on here?
Am I in a horror movie? A detective movie? Or a movie about literature and art? Or is this a comedy?
Ye Ci was finally able to figure things out after a long moment. Ye Ci cleared her throat, and asked in the most serious voice she could muster, “Are you Bella?”
Perhaps due to the sheer size of Ol’ Four, the ghost hadn’t even noticed the presence of another being before Ye Ci spoke up. She turned around and stared at Ye Ci after hearing the voice, and spoke up after a moment of pause, “Where did you come from?”
Ye Ci was almost driven mad by the question. What do you mean by ‘where did I come from?’?!
Ye Ci spent a huge amount of time and effort coaxing the ghost before she finally got the answer she wanted. She was indeed Bella, and was Andrei’s trusted aid. She has been watching over his hidden treasure and had long passed away. As a sign of loyalty, her companions had buried her in this place and set up a camp not far away.
A sudden realization hit Ye Ci. The camp selling provisions and consumables to players was actually affiliated to the Doran Thieves Guild… Just what the heck is going on?
When Ye Ci handed the badge to Bella, she stared at the badge for a long time before speaking up in an embarrassed tone, “What is this?”
What is this?
Ye Ci had the urge to let out a shout of frustration. What the f*ck? Who designed this quest? Who the f*ck was the one who made this NPC? Why don’t you just give me a knife so that I can kill myself with it?
Ye Ci inhaled deeply and spoke up after stabilizing her emotions, “Andrei wanted me to hand this to you.”
“This is from Andrei?” Bella looked at the badge with distress written all over her face, and finally spoke up after a long pause, “Can you let me think about it for a few moments?”
Shit! Ye Ci’s anger was so great that she was almost on fire. Why is this happening to me? I just wanted to receive my reward! Why do I have to do such a perverted quest? And this bitch right here wants me to give her time to think things over? It’s not like you’re trying to decide the fate of a nation or something!
Before she could shout out her frustrations, Ye Ci received a private message from Bai Mo. “Say, are you done with your Epic-tier quest?”
“If it could be completed so easily, it won’t be an Epic-tier quest!” Ye Ci’s voice was full of fury. She was like a barrel full of gunpowder, ready to explode with just the slightest of sparks.
“What is it? You don’t sound too happy,” A simple question from Bai Mo was met with a torrent of ranting by Ye Ci. He covered his ears. Ye Ci must’ve been driven crazy by her quest, or she wouldn’t be behaving like this.
“Give her some time then. Come, let us head into the dungeon. Nobody else has the means to obtain your quest item anyways,” Suggested Bai Mo when Ye Ci was finally done with her grumbling. “With an NPC as half-baked as that, I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be able to come up with an answer even if you visited her tomorrow. Besides, that’s a ghost we’re talking about. You know how bad their memories can be.”
“Alright. I guess there’s no other way,” Despite her overwhelming urge to beat Bella up, Ye Ci decided against it and accepted Bai Mo’s suggestion to go dungeon clearing.
The dungeon clearing process was surprisingly smooth that day. The guild was able to complete their task before 10pm, and the members were happy to receive decent loot. Once done, Ye Ci immediately returned to the Mausoleum of Blades; she wanted to check on Bella. However, much to her dismay, Bella was still sitting in a corner while staring at the badge with distress written all over her face. Ye Ci knew that she wouldn’t get an answer out of Bella right there and then, but she tried her luck despite the knowledge. “Bella, have you remembered anything?”
“No. I’ve just started to remember things. How can you expect me to be so quick? For the record, I’ve been dead for so many years! Those things are like a distant past to me now…” Ye Ci made a gesture as a sign for Bella to hold in her words with a grimace.
“Alright, Bella, take your time. I’ll pay you a visit when I’m free.”
“Okay. Sure, go on ahead. I’ll continue my meditation now.”
After casting a final glance at the nut job of an NPC, Ye Ci turned around and left.
She returned to Red Lake City and went offline. Bai Mo and Tan Polang were done bathing while Ye Nantian and Zuo Xiaolan were still logged into the game. This meant that Ye Ci was free to use the bathroom. When she was done with her shower, Ye Nantian and Zuo Xiaolan were already having a lively discussion in the living room.
“Dad, Mom, you came offline?” Ye Ci walked into the living room to see dessert already served.
Zuo Xiaolan waved at Ye Ci. “Little Ci, come, drink this and go to sleep.”
Ye Ci sat by the table and began slurping down the white fungus soup while Zuo Xiaolan was still having a discussion about the game with Bai Mo, Tan Polang, and Ye Nantian. After all, the couple was still new to the game, and despite their younger age, Bai Mo and Tan Polang were more experienced than the couple in this matter. This was why the couple had begun bombarding the two youths with questions about the game.
Ye Ci listened in on the conversation as she savored the white fungus soup. Life was so beautiful. It was as if all the beauty and happiness of life was gathered in her living room. Ye Ci realized that she’d never felt such happiness in her previous life.
“By the way, Little Ci, you need to wake up early tomorrow with Bai Mo.”
“Why is that?” Ye Ci was curious. She was in the middle of her summer holiday, and it was never her habit to dawdle in bed. Besides, Zuo Xiaolan and Ye Nantian were more lenient towards Ye Ci and Bai Mo who were already university students. Their attention was focused solely on Tan Polang, much to the youth’s dismay. Then again, the senior year of his highschool life was about to begin.
“School’s opening for Polang soon. I want the two of you to send him to school tomorrow and attend the parent-teacher meeting while you’re at it,” Zuo Xiaolan and Ye Nantian had always played such a role in past years, but with them enamored with Fate, they happily relinquished the task to Ye Ci and Bai Mo.
“Mom! You’ve gotta be kidding me! We’re not his parents!” Ye Ci was struck dumbfounded again and again on this day; be it in game or in real life.
“You pass as adults anyways, and I’ve already called his homeroom teacher. He’s doing quite well in his studies, so there’s nothing for you to be worried about. Just there for formality’s sake,” Despite Zuo Xiaolan’s reluctance to attend the parent-teacher meeting, it didn’t mean that she would neglect Tan Polang completely. Zuo Xiaolan raised her children the same way you would fly a kite. She would cling to the string, but also give them enough length to make decisions of their own.
Even Tan Polang was struck dumb when he heard Zuo Xiaolan’s words. He’d thought that he would receive less attention from Zuo Xiaolan who was busy with Fate, but it was apparent that things were still firmly under her control…
“What? Do you have any objections?” After noticing the silence from the three youths, Zuo Xiaolan raised her eyebrows, pressuring them into submission.
As one, the three youths of the family shook their heads and spoke their answers out loud and clear, “No.” An overjoyed Zuo Xiaolan then rewarded each of them with a bowl of green pea soup.
Ye Ci and Bai Mo were dragged out of their beds in the wee hours of the morning the following day. After making sure that they’d cleaned themselves up, Zuo Xiaolan sent them off with a warm meal in their bellies. Ye Ci was still groggy when they left for their destination.
“Say, why do you have to return to school so early? There’s still a long way to go before the summer holidays end,” Asked Ye Ci with a yawn.
“At least we get to have a short break,” Tan Polang yawned as well. “When can the college entrance exam be abolished in China? It’s like I’ve been living in hell on earth these days!”
Bai Mo stretched and replied, “Keep dreaming. We’ve had this thing going on since the 70’s, a time from when our grandparents were still young. It’s not that simple.”
“You should be doing what is expected of people of your age,” Ye Ci patted Tan Polang on the shoulders. “Stop asking for the impossible and study hard. One more year and you’ll be free.”
“Just like you?”
“Yup, you could say that.”
The three of them were able to keep up a lively conversation on their way. As Tan Polang’s school was quite a distance away from home, they had to travel to their destination by bus. Despite the day being a new term for students in their senior year, it still wasn’t the peak period of the school season. However, the three could only lament as they observed the tides of office workers rushing to work. Life sure is hard!
There was already a long queue at the registration counter when they arrived at the school. Tan Polang’s school was one of the most prestigious high schools in the entire province, and swarms of students flocked to the school each year. If school didn’t start at different times for students of different grades, the registration process would be hectic.
Ye Ci was also a graduate of this high school. Of course, it was a very distant memory for her. “Oh my God! You would’ve thought that studying at this school was free!”
“Did you study here for free?” Tan Polang rolled his eyes at Ye Ci. “Our school sure collects a lot of fees from us.”
“All the people lining up are just like money printing machines for the school,” Bai Mo shared the same sentiment. He’d also experienced such a scene back in his school days, but as a spectator, it was still an awe inspiring sight.
The three of them joined one of the queues that was considerably shorter and began chatting. The topic of their conversation eventually led to Fate.
“Polang, will you still be going online when school starts?” As Tan Polang’s Guild Leader as well as his brother, Bai Mo cared deeply about his education in addition to his activities in the game. Upwards Ho! had benefited a lot from Tan Polang’s presence. Dungeon clearing was made easier with his help.
The presence of a skillful Rogue in a party would give a significant impact to its combat capabilities and survivability. By joining Upwards Ho!, Tan Polang was able to boost the capabilities of the guild in terms of dungeon clearing, and was also able to contribute in training the other Rogues.
Bai Mo was faced with a difficult challenge when school started as he would need to find a replacement for the spot that Tan Polang had left open.
Ye Ci knew what Bai Mo was thinking, and Tan Polang wasn’t ignorant to his thoughts either. “Brother Mo, I’m in my senior year now, so I really can’t log into the game so often. I do have a gaming helmet in my dorm, but due to the sheer volume of homework that I receive, I can only log in for 3 hours at night on Saturdays and Sundays.”
“I understand, it’s just going to give me a headache dealing with it,” Bai Mo nodded as he said to Tan Polang. “Don’t worry about it; your studies are more important. We’ll get this sorted out.”
“Yup. We’ll sort it out. Polang, you should be focusing more on your studies. If you do badly on your midterm, being unable to go online will be the least of your problems. Just imagine what the female yaksha back home will do to you… Just think about it…”
The image of Zuo Xiaolan going red with anger appeared in their minds. It was… Too scary!
“Oh, by the way, what do you think of Fleeting Time, Sister Ci?” The name Fleeting Time was abruptly brought up by Tan Polang.
“Fleeting Time?” Ye Ci was baffled as she looked at Tan Polang. “Why are you asking about him?”
“Ahh… About that…” Tan Polang continued after a slight pause, “I’ve seen the interactions between the two of you in the World Chat. It’s quite a sight. That was why I’m asking if you’re…” Tan Polang could only chuckle at Ye Ci. Of course, he couldn’t tell Ye Ci that he was from the same guild as Fleeting Time.
“Young man… You’re quite talented in the way of gossipping,” Bai Mo nodded and looked at Tan Polang with an expression full of praise. “I never would’ve thought that you’d pay attention to the things going on in the World Chat, especially when you have to deal with such a heavy load of homework. I’d say that you’re the reincarnation of the God of Gossip!”
Ye Ci narrowed her eyes at Bai Mo’s mischievous grin, and her expression darkened when she was reminded of the conversation between her and Fleeting Time. “Do you really want to know?” Asked Ye Ci as she stared down at Tan Polang.
The look on Ye Ci’s face was enough to keep Tan Polang from nodding in agreement, and he immediately waved his hands. “No, not at all. I’m just asking. You’re both godlike players t-that’s why I thought…” His voice grew softer with each word and he eventually became silent.
“He’s an asshole! I’m going to kill him until he hits a negative level the next time I see him!” Ye Ci grit her teeth, and the flames of anger enveloped her. At that moment, she looked even scarier than the demons in hell.
Tan Polang faced Bai Mo with a pale face and a miserable scowl. He knew that he’d said the wrong thing, and wouldn’t repeat the same mistake again. Tan Polang decided to stay clear of the raging female jinx and opted to talk to Bai Mo instead. “Brother Mo, do you feel hot? I’ll buy you a drink.”
“You should’ve asked her about the development of her relationship with Fleeting Time. Their love-hate relationship is so cute~” Stated Bai Mo with a cunning smile.
Tan Polang’s already pale face became even paler. He stole a glance at Ye Ci who was still immersed in her own tiny world and inquired carefully, “What will happen to me if I do that?”
Bai Mo looked up at the sky, appearing to be deep in thought.
“Do you really need to think about it for that long?”
“I’m just thinking about all the ways she’ll kill you. Just imagine the possibilities…” Bai Mo shrugged as he replied with a relaxed tone, as if the incident had nothing to do with him.
Tan Polang’s expression darkened, and he silently turned around and stared straight ahead. Deep in his heart, Tan Polang wished that he didn’t know his two other siblings. Why were they so reliable?
His heart was filled with sorrow. What did I do wrong? I was just asking…
Tears streamed down Tan Polang’s cheeks.
It was already 5.30pm by the time the registration process and the parent-teacher meeting was finally finished. Ye Ci called her parents to inform them of what they’d learnt, and confirmed that they’d be eating outside. Zuo Xiaolan was happy to hear the news; this meant that she didn’t need to cook!
Ye Ci’s heart was filled with endless grief as she hung up the phone. Her Mother had given up on them in favor of playing Fate.
The area outside a school would always be full of restaurants. As a consolation for Tan Polang’s little heart that had suffered numerous horrors throughout the day, Bai Mo decided to treat him to a nice dinner. After ordering a lot of food in one of the restaurants selling cantonese cuisine, the trio began digging into their meal.
By the time they were done with their meal, it was 7pm and time for Tan Polang’s self study session. After saying his goodbyes, he immediately left for his dormitory. Ye Ci and Bai Mo took a short walk around town on their way home. They’d spent much of their time away from home and there was no way they could do anything productive with their remaining time. That was why they’d opted to have a walk after dinner.
“I’ve never thought that having a walk at night would be so good,” Ye Ci couldn’t even remember the last time she’d taken a walk at night in real life. It was extremely exhilarating.
“I know, right! We’ve been gaming all day long, and the weather conditions that we’ve felt were all generated by the game. We’ve forgotten what real life feels like,” Bai Mo deeply inhaled, closed his eyes, then slowly exhaled.
Ye Ci and Bai Mo leisurely walked around, enjoying the night’s cool breeze. Everything seemed to be so beautiful.
However, Ye Ci had a nudging feeling that something was off and kept casting glances behind them, but she couldn’t spot anything suspicious. Bai Mo had also started picking up his pace. When they walked past a section of the road that wasn’t lit, he grabbed hold of Ye Ci’s arm and began to run.
“Bai Mo, what is it?” Ye Ci had a feeling of unease as well. She cast a glance backwards, but to no avail. She couldn’t spot anything, but the panic in her heart increased.
“Don’t talk; keep running! We need to get to a place with a crowd. We’re going to call for a taxi,” Bai Mo dragged Ye Ci forward.
“I have a feeling that we’re being followed,” Ye Ci whispered her thoughts as she ran alongside Bai Mo.
“You’ve just noticed it? I realised that we were being followed about half an hour ago. Look at those young men wearing T-shirts. They might look normal, but don’t you feel that they’ve been following us around for quite some time now? I had a bad feeling about it, but we’re in a car-free zone, so it’s impossible to get a taxi,” Bai Mo’s face was pale as he dragged Ye Ci along. “Don’t say anything and just keep running! You’ll run out of breath if you talk! Hurry! Keep running!”
“Ok.” Ye Ci had also noticed the 8 young men who were tailing them. She wasn’t afraid of trouble, but if it did happen, they would be outnumbered and that was a huge disadvantage. After all, real life wasn’t like the in-game world; if she was in Fate she would’ve been able to take out the young men easily. But in real life, the only thing Ye Ci could do was avoid confrontation and try her best to run away.
The duo picked up their pace, and the small group of people who were following them disappeared. It seemed that they were able to safely escape their pursuers.
Ye Ci glanced backwards as they ran. “Nobody’s following us anymore. Are we safe now?”
Bai Mo stopped abruptly, his jaw tightly clenched. “Things are not as easy as they seem.”
“What is it?” Due to Bai Mo’s abrupt stop, Ye Ci almost fell onto the ground. She raised her head when she heard his words, and what she saw made her scalp tingle.
A scattered group of young men appeared in front of them, and although they were maintaining a casual pace, Ye Ci could tell that they were together.
There was nobody else nearby, and the place was exceptionally quiet. It appeared that the men had been waiting in this spot; waiting for Ye Ci and Bai Mo to come to them.