Each Squad Leader needed to stay informed of the basic circumstances of players under them at all time. For example, if they were low level, then the leaders should arrange some team practices or carry them through grinding. But that didn’t mean the leaders needed to do all that themselves. As XiaoYu’s hidden Job was a secret few knew, I_Am_A_Poor_Man personally led the charge.
However, a certain someone also knew he was a certain Chief’s exclusive healer. If he didn’t notify the executive, what if he was summoned halfway through the grind? They’d have wasted a precious tool. Forget about how Sealed_Sword would strike him down in half. He himself would prepare a tiny knife for seppuku.
Truth be told, HereticKing heard the whole conversation between I_Am_A_Poor_Man and Sealed_Sword. His first reaction was also how he could bring XiaoYu to a high-level zone for experience. Thus, when I_Am_A_Poor_Man tried negotiating with him on taking XiaoYu to the Derelict Ruins of Natalis, HereticKing instantly agreed to Poor_Man’s request to not summon him for anything else for those five hours. Because HereticKing wanted to join in too.
I_Am_A_Poor_Man was always astonished at HereticKing’s attitude towards XiaoYu. It’s so rare to see Chief care so much about someone else. His mind thought of the bone-chilling winter dropping in from the north winds in reality. A saying popped into his mind: If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
He shook the saying out of his head. Poor_Man pondered on future plans. The year was coming to an end. The game would probably have plenty of events then. Why not take this chance to use up that XP Penalty Waiver? Otherwise, the night might drag on for too long. Too many dreams might come and go.
Two days later, I_Am_A_Poor_Man who’d been exploring the Derelict Ruins with a party received a message from Sealed_Sword. DrunkBed had logged on at noon the day after the meeting. He’d been told to send the XP Penalty Waiver over.
“Exams over?” Poor_Man seemed to recall DrunkBed was a university student studying fitness. He was truly amazing at sports. The job he picked, Assassin, had higher agility requirements than other jobs. It was the perfect class for him. While the base stats decided by the game were rather effective on deciding which job would be the best, each player’s reflex speed and ability to think on their feet was a type of hidden talent. They also effect whether the selected job was suitable for the player.
“Not that fast. He’s already called me to say he’ll be absent from the next treasure hunting session. I told him to log on tomorrow to lend his gear to another assassin for the time being.”
I_Am_A_Poor_Man then instantly started bothering XiaoYu over chat.
“Xiao-Yu, are you free tomorrow noon?” Poor_Man asked.
“Then come to the East Gate of Prole. I’ll take you exploring.”
“Not going to ask me where?”
“Mn. Because I believe in you. You wouldn’t sell me off.”
“Ah, you actually know how to crack a joke. I must still be asleep.”
“Hehe.” XiaoYu had been grinding at the Pyramids for the past few days with different healers. All those ladies kept chattering on about wanting to buy him so they can train it up. They’ll make sure everyone would love him then. Monsters would explode if they saw him. Drenched in such circumstances where the “selling” of a person was constantly talked about, he too could make similar jokes. This proved it’s very easy to lead someone astray.
But this was just some minor jokes thrown in during the boredom of grinding. They were all very caring of XiaoYu. Thus, they had a wonderful time together. Even the tiny cat learned to walk sedately through the stomping feet to pick up items. Occasionally, it’d accidentally blink its wide innocent eyes at the hungry wolves waiting to pounce on it, making them go crazy with how cute it was.
Time past swiftly and tomorrow was soon here. XiaoYu packed up his belongings and arrived ahead of time at the East Gate. Only he never would’ve thought someone else would be earlier than he was.
“Oh, Lil Lucky. Morning,” greeted Below_The_Moon.
“Ah. Chief’s here so early. I hope we won’t meet any berserk monsters today.” Below_The_Moon was shocked at the familiar silhouette walking to them from around the corner of a building. While Chief wasn’t one to arrive fashionably late, he would always appear precisely one minute before they were supposed to meet up.
“How rare for me to hear your cursed mouth so early in the morning.” A gloomy face rang out from behind Below_The_Moon. I_Am_A_Poor_Man stared grudgingly at the other as if Poor_Man was a haunted and mad man. “I’m working hard on getting through the last stretch to Level 100. If we do meet any berserk monsters, I will chop you down and make soup out of your bones.”
“Tsk. You were the one who came early,” Below_The_Moon retorted.
“Hmph. Without me, this team wouldn’t be grinding later,” said I_Am_A_Poor_Man in an exhausted voice which came from a lack of sleep. He was still confirming the last member of their grind party today just now. As there was a chance they’d have to use XiaoYu’s special skills, any players who they weren’t particularly familiar with were all eliminated.
“Is everyone here?” HereticKing asked.
“You don’t need to worry about my work, Chief. They’re already grinding at our destination. We just need to head over and join in,” Poor_Man replied.
“Xiao-Yu, we’ll be grinding ghost mobs at the Derelict Ruins later. Remember to stay close to me,” Poor_Man said. The mobs over there were all Levels 100 to 110. Basically, a second was all it’d take to give XiaoYu a free ride back to Prole. Poor_Man didn’t want them to lose levels instead of gaining them. But as long as XiaoYu stuck close to him, he, plus another healer’s buffs, would definitely be enough to guarantee XiaoYu’s safety.
“Okay. Got it,” XiaoYu responded.
“Here are the ten or so Bibles the Treasure Squad found. Keep them safe. We might need you to use your skills later.” Poor_Man dragged the books straight into the Transfer tab. There were too many people coming and going on the street. Shoving a pile of thick books into another player’s arms was a sure way to attract attention. Even though with Chief’s blinding presence around them, they’d already attracted the eyes of many female players =_=.
I_Am_A_Poor_Man received a message from DrunkBed. “Ah. DrunkBed’s online. Once he sends over the item, we can head to the ruins,” he commented. He then proceeded to explain to XiaoYu what the item in question was.
A player could mail items to another player, but it’d take half an hour before the parcel arrived. Only letters could be immediately received. So, to avoid wasting time, DrunkBed had to personally meet up with them.
If one ignored the prices, travelling through Portals between each city was one of the fastest ways to travel. Within five minutes, DrunkBed’s body, along with its mysterious purple glow, appeared before their eyes.
“Thanks for coming all the way here, DrunkBed,” Poor_Man greeted.
“No, no. It’s no big deal,” the other replied.
Strangely enough, when this purple-clothed assassin replied to Poor_Man, he kept staring at XiaoYu’s face.
XiaoYu was wary at the gaze. This player didn’t look familiar. They shouldn’t know each other.
“You’re…Xiao-Bai?” DrunkBed asked.
XiaoYu stared at the assassin in shock. How did the other know of his nickname in high school?
“I’m Xiao-Hong…Ah, no. I’m Hong HaoRan. Remember me?”
“Ah. You’re in the Sports Committee.” The name Xiao-Hong sparked XiaoYu’s memory. Someone, no one remembered who, once mentioned there were a lot of surnames which sounded like the names of the colours in their class. Thus, the gossipy girls began to call them by coloured nicknames.
The student with the surname Huang was immediately known as Xiao-Huang or Yellow. Sometimes, it felt as if it was a dog’s name. Naturally, XiaoYu didn’t escape their demonic reach. Everyone called him Xiao-Bai for white. There were Xiao-Lan (Blue), Xiao-Cheng (Blue), Xiao-Lü (Green), and the most pitiful of them all – Hong HaoRan, the Sports Committee member. All because his name was the homonym for red, a 185cm tall boy was affectionately nicknamed Xiao-Hong or Little Red Riding Hood. He objected hard and long but gave up in the end.
“Hehe. It’s normal that you didn’t recognise me. I spent over an hour adjusting my appearance. You, on the other hand, didn’t change at all,” HaoRan commented.
“I didn’t adjust anything.” XiaoYu didn’t think he’d meet anyone he knew in the game. What a small world.
“Xiao-Bai?” HereticKing knew XiaoYu could be rather absent-minded at times, it’s not to the point where others would call him a noob or an idiot, right?
“Ah. That’s because his surname is Bai, as in white. That’s why we all call him that.”
“Pfft. It’s the direct opposite of Chief’s,” Poor_Man chuckled.
“Chief’s surname is Hei, as in black.”
“Eh? What a coincidence. Fortunately, Chief wasn’t in our class back then.” Otherwise, HereticKing would be called Xiao-Hei. The thought of it just made HaoRan feel like he’s going to burst out laughing.
“You were classmates?”
“Yes. Ever since first year of high school. Xiao-Bai, you weren’t there at the classmate gathering last time. Someone spread a rumour around about how you look down on us now that you got into University C. I don’t think you’re that type of person. Did you receive the invitation?” University C was one of the top universities in City S. Their rate of employment was near 100%. Thus, everyone wanted to get in.
Ah, so he unintentionally caused a misunderstanding. However, someone still believed in him. XiaoYu was touched. “I did…” he said. “But some issues with my family came up.” He was frustrated and frazzled over his parents’ funeral and the court case back then. XiaoYu had no time to think about some classmate gathering.
“I see. Right. I heard you got into University C. What are you studying?” HaoRan asked.
“Hm?” XiaoYu sudden silence made HaoRan curious.
“What? That’s such an awesome opportunity!” It wasn’t just HaoRan who was shocked. Even HereticKing and the others who’d just been standing to the side were shocked.
“…A lot happened in my family.” XiaoYu really didn’t want to continue on this topic.
“Ah. I’m sorry.” The sight of XiaoYu biting on his pale lips made HaoRan realise he shouldn’t be that nosy. He seemed to have stumbled upon a thorny topic for XiaoYu.
“I’ll make sure to explain to the others on your behalf next time.”
“Thanks, but it doesn’t matter.” All he’d get in return would be a few brief comforting words. XiaoYu wasn’t close to anyone. He didn’t care much what they thought. “My inventory’s full. I’ll go clean it out,” he said.
Without waiting for a reply, XiaoYu left in the rudest exit he’d made in his entire life. The whole time, he was walking with his head drooped low. The mere thought of maybe seeing eyes filled with pity or sympathy gazing at him made his eyes stare resolutely down. He’d seen enough of the so-called sympathy when he was at the hospital and at the courthouse. He didn’t need a single shred of that at all.
1. If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?: Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley. As one might guess, this was the husband of Mary Shelley (Frankenstein). Percy was a good poet but a bad man. Here’s how his life went:
Expelled from Oxford for being atheist. Disowned because he was atheist. Eloped. Cheated on that wife with Mary (Shelley) who was the daughter of his friend. Eloped to Scotland with Mary. Returned with his new wife back to the house with his first wife and son because they ran out of money. Kept the one man, two wives household. Went on a holiday with Mary (leaving the first wife and two sons behind at home) where Frankenstein was created. First wife committed suicide just a year later. Officially married Mary. Lost custody of his sons by first wife. Travelled the world. Drowned trying to sail from one side of a bay to the other.
2. Night…too long…dreams…come and go: An idiom stating how the longer something is dragged out, the higher the chance of a harmful accident happening.
3. Colours and surnames: As explained in the text, the nicknames came about because the surnames were homonyms for the characters used for the different colours. However, some surnames used the exact same characters – like Bai and White.
4. Dog’s name: Xiao-Huang (Lil Yellow) was a common dog’s name as the average canine fur coat was a murky yellow-brown in Chinese cultures. In fact, names surrounding colours like Lil Black (Xiao-Hei) and Big Yellow (Da-Huang) are often used for pets. Hence why some Chinese gags like to go on about names and colours.
5. Xiao-Bai/Noob: Newbies are often called “Lil White”s as they were as blank as an empty page. This term was negative as it can imply the person in question is being called an idiot.