Chapter 109: Where is This?
Over the week he spent with the mirror, Xing Ye's work remained busy. However, he felt a sense of liberation, probably because his previous interactions with the mirror were always accompanied by dangerous missions and players with ulterior motives. In comparison, these leisurely days in the real world were to be treasured.
The mirror seemed to have not experienced this feeling for a long time. He was excited at first before gradually settling down. But whenever he spoke, his voice filled with content, sounding similar to a lazy cat
Despite being a pampered young master, Lu Mingze adapted to life within a mirror with ease.
"It's probably because I grew up listening to my mom's lectures and studying philosophy with her. I've studied it a ton." Lu Mingze pondered. "A comfortable life is certainly desirable, but hardships are trials we must face. Besides, I'm not really suffering much anyways. This mirror might be small, but your house is big. I can't adjust the computer video speed, but my mom is nice to watch and listen to; it's comfortable listening to her slowly."
Xing Ye admired his outlook on life. This was what attracted him most to Lu Mingze.
Anyone else in his situation might have been resentful and thought themselves to be miserable beyond compare. Lu Mingze was aware of his plight. He also found the razor kit inconvenient, wished for a better situation and didn't hesitate to complain when necessary. But most of the time, he was grateful that Xing Ye hadn't used a rearview mirror and shared all his feelings, whether it was joy or sadness, with Xing Ye.
As the mirror said: "I may be in a prop, but my heart is free."
Even though he knew that Xing Ye had the power to erase his consciousness at any time, the mirror didn't suppress his favorability to Xing Ye.
"If I let fears and what-ifs control my emotions, what's the difference between me and the man in the idiom who feared the sky might fall? Worrying about things that haven't happened is just unlucky. Every day in the real world, people fall ill or die. Should I stop living because of that?"
TL's note: https://keatschinese.com/china-culture-resources/the-man-of-the-qi-state-who-feared-that-the-sky-might-fall-down/
Lu Mingze was narcissistic but accepted all of himself. He didn't think there was anything wrong with narcissism. After all, with such good looks, wouldn't it be a disservice not to admire his own appearance?
The more Xing Ye interacted with Lu Mingze, the more he realized that he was someone beautiful both in body and soul.
It was something impossible for Xing Ye. At the start, he was guarded against the mirror, fearing it was a trap set by the system. It wasn't until he knew the mirror's true identity as Lu Mingze that he gradually opened up.
After meeting Lu Mingze, Xing Ye did many things he never imagined he would. His frequent mirror-checking at the company, even during board meetings, sparked sideways glances and private discussions among colleagues about their boss's vanity. Especially Assistant Qi- even though he never showed any odd expressions, Xing Ye could tell what he was thinking.
But what did it matter? As the mirror said, if it harms no one, affects no one, doesn't interfere with work, doesn't mislead public opinion, and doesn't set a bad example, what’s wrong with looking in the mirror?
There was nothing wrong at all.
So, before 1:30 AM on the seventh day, Xing Ye fitted his phone with the mirror case and showed it off to Lu Mingze. He wanted Lu Mingze to see his new home and once they were done with the next world, he would let the mirror enjoy looking at the world freely.
"Not bad at all!" The mirror approved after examining it. "It's a bit small, but the lack of borders makes up for it. If possible, you should make some time in the next world to make a case like this."
Xing Ye fell silent for a moment, "... I'll consider it."
The two chatted and laughed as they entered the game world and once again faced the black and white rubix cube.
The black and white rubix cube spoke, "Player x8205, it's been seven days since we've last met. You look much better. You earned a lot of points and rewards by completing hard mode last time. If you get another perfect ending, you'll be able to enter the high level worlds. However, a friendly reminder from the system: high level worlds function differently from chaos worlds, with greater focus on competition than problem-solving. Your usual wits might not work next time. The system recommends gathering more points before advancing to the high level worlds. You'd best choose hard mode for this world~"
Xing Ye responded, "That makes sense. The little mirror also told me points are like trading chips in high-level worlds. After all, points can be converted into real money."
"Exactly!" The black and white rubix cube confirmed. "I know you're not short of money, but remember, the game's money and point exchange is one-way. Points can be converted into money, but money can't buy points. A player's own money is useless and can't be used for private transactions to clear levels. Such actions are prohibited by the game and will be punished."
"Only out, not in. Won't your money exchange here break the market? Does the system have the ability to earn money in the real world?" Xing Ye inquired.
He was a businessman- such questions immediately popped into his head.
"The player should not pry into the system." The black and white rubix cube warned. "You can ask these questions if you complete the final world. But rest assured, the money the system exchanges for players is completely legitimate and can be used in the real world without affecting the market. There's always a give and take, understand?"
"So you mean the system has a way to get money from players to give to other players."
Was it through death? After death, could the system take control of the player's money? No, Xing Shuo's assets hadn't changed. But cash... If it was just a few million less, Xing Ye wouldn't have noticed. After all, Xing Shuo's monthly expenses ran into the millions. Xing Ye cared about Xing Shuo's achievements but didn't scrutinize where every penny went.
He could investigate this when he returned.
The black and white Rubix cube asked, "So, will the player choose hard mode?"
Xing Ye said, "I already know how important points are. I choose normal mode."
The black and white Rubix cube:"..."
"I only need 1100 more points to enter the high-level worlds. It's easy to get enough points if I get a true ending. However, if I choose hard mode and fail, I'll lose over 20,000 points- how would that be worth it? Furthermore, the last world showed me you can tamper with my brain. If you can erase my memories, what happens if you limit my intelligence in the next world? I don't want to take that risk when I could beat normal mode comfortably." Xing Ye said.
After the Puppet City world, he had only 16,000 points. Even if he failed, he'd lose only 8,000. In the hospital world, he spent over 7,000 points on skills alone. That amount of points was trivial, so risking 8,000 points on hard mode was worth it.
But right now, Xing Ye saw no need to.
"As always, the player is committed to 'opposing fate' and fighting the system to the very end. Fine, such attitude deserves praise, but I hope the player can keep it that way." the black and white rubix cube said. "Now, let's draw the world. This could be your last challenge before advancing to the high level worlds."
Xing Ye watched the rapidly spinning Rubik's cube as a peculiar feeling started to grow.
He asked the mirror, "Did you encounter anything special in your last world before advancing to a high-level world?"
"Yes, I have a vivid memory of it!" The mirror responded furiously. "It was disgusting. I was thrown into a zerg world, where humans in combat suits fought against alien insectoids called zergs. The key clue was to enter the body of the queen insect and retrieve an item. The queen's digestive acids could dissolve our suits. I ended up soaked in the insect's body, searching for the consciousness crystal that controlled them. I was covered in stench and took over thirty baths back in the real world. My skin wrinkled from the water, and I still felt disgusted. I've been terrified of insects ever since! I'll never be able to forget that world!"
Lu Mingze's voice was filled with disgust and anger. He rarely expressed such genuine hatred for something- it likely traumatized him for real. No wonder he was so scared of bugs in the first world that he even preferred crawling into Claire's chest to falling on a potentially bug infested bed.
"Now that I think of it," Xing Ye said, "The last world was Yan Hebi's last game before moving onto high level worlds."
Lu Mingze had been with Xing Ye for a while now and understood him well. He knew Xing Ye wouldn't focus on irrelevant things and asked, "Did Yan Hebi encounter anything bad in that world?"
"Haha..." Xing Ye laughed weakly, "He probably has a trauma of women and maybe even women's clothing now."
Lu Mingze: "..."
That actually did seem plausible.
"Then will every player close to entering a high level world develop some sort of trauma?" The mirror asked.
Xing Ye said, "Not necessarily. I think it's more about facing one's weaknesses. Yan Hebi is a decent young man. He has good values, won't harm others for no reason, but isn't excessively kind either. His only flaw is probably being weak to beautiful women. I'm not talking about lust. He just treats women better by habit, whether they're teammates, enemies, or NPCs.
"In the last world, he encountered me, who cross-dresses. He might develop a shadow over women from now on."
The mirror understood what he meant, "Are you saying the promotion world challenges you to face your weaknesses? Some people overcome them, while others develop trauma?"
For Yan Hebi, it was unknown whether he could date normally again.
"It's just a guess." Xing Ye said, "Besides, I don't think I have any weaknesses. Or at least, I don't think I have any too difficult to overcome."
The mirror thought Xing Ye's words were a bit arrogant but then considered his own confidence in his appearance. Thinking that way, it only seemed right for Xing Ye to be confident in his IQ and EQ. In this regard, they were quite similar.
While they conversed, the Rubik's cube generated the world's QR code. Xing Ye scanned it to view the information—
Game Type: Where am I?
Player Role: Ordinary Person
Number of Players: 3 from the following fate camp, 4 from the opposing fate camp.
Victory Condition: In this world, you might be in a bustling metropolis, wake up in deep forests, or be floating around in the galaxy. You find yourself everywhere and nowhere. To win, identify where you are and successfully exit. Players who cannot discover where they are or leave will fail.
Reward and Penalties: The victors will receive points based on their discoveries. Losers will have 50% of their points deducted. The victors will also get 100 points and the opportunity to draw a random special QR code.
Difficulty Option: Normal, Hard, Very Hard
Although he said he would pick normal mode, the black and white rubix cube still listed all the options.
There were seven players taking part in this world. According to his past experiences, the true ending might yield 14,000 points, while the surface ending only gave 100. This was another world where there were more opposing fate than following fate players, indicating a higher level of difficulty.
The system had indeed made it harder for him.
Xing Ye clicked on general mode and immediately felt a familiar dizziness overtake him as he entered the game world.
When he opened his eyes, he saw somebody pile a stack of handwritten documents on his desk. "Please input this data into the computer and send it to me by tomorrow morning. I need them for a meeting in the afternoon."
Xing Ye didn't know the current situation. He avoided immediately checking his phone and raised his head to see a competent, intelligent-looking woman in a suit standing in front him. She pointed at the giant stack of documents. "You just have to tell me whether you can do it or not. Intern?"
Intern? Was he an intern at a company? Interns were usually one of two things; unessential, and would toil hard for the supervisor to fill out their internship report, or graduates on a probationary period, striving to perform well to get a full-time offer. In either case, they wouldn't refuse work.
Xing Ye nodded, "Yes, I'll get it done."
He decided to maintain this role for now. Apart from Guan Ling and Cao Qian, there were still four other players: 2 following fate and 2 opposing fate players.
His nod might've been too big, causing something to slip off his nose. Suddenly, the world in front of him turned blurry and the competent looking woman turned into a smear.
Xing Ye saw a pair of red lips moving on a beige mass. He could hear a voice, but it sounded muffled. Did he somehow go deaf too?
He closed his eyes and realized what the office lady was saying: "You'd better change your glasses. This is the third time they've fallen off today."
He has glasses. Was he near-sighted?
Xing Ye's self discipline had always been good. Since childhood, he had managed his time well, never indulged in computer games, the internet, and didn't even read in dim light. Every 40-60 minutes, he would take a break and look at something far away to relax his eyes.
As a result, Xing Ye's vision has always been perfect, with both eyes at 20/20.
Xing Shuo was different. He started wearing glasses after high school and would often stay up for days in university. He quickly developed nearsightedness, astigmatism, and eye floaters.
Xing Ye thought about arranging eye surgery for Xing Shuo, but changed his mind after learning more about the surgery. It was more for cosmetic purposes than actually corrective for the eyes, and even had the risk of permanently injuring the eye. Instead, he arranged annual vision checkups for Xing Shuo, ensuring his eye prescription was always accurate to prevent his nearsightedness from getting worse.
He even tried hiring a lifestyle assistant for Xing Shuo to help him manage his eye health, but Xing Shuo fired him and told Xing Ye he could protect his own eyes.
For the first time, Xing Ye experienced how it felt to be nearsighted. He picked up the glasses and internally sighed- his brother really had it tough.
Without his glasses, the world was a blur. He couldn't even tell men from women five meters away or animals from people ten meters away.
The glasses this body wore were old. Its arms were already loose, causing it to constantly skip down.
Why didn't the original body get better glasses? Xing Ye wondered in the same fashion Emperor Hui said Why don't they eat meat? He might've landed in a poor body again.
Well strictly speaking, he couldn't be called poor. He was able to intern at an office and wear classes instead of sweeping the streets. He was just an ordinary person.
Xing Ye put on his glasses. Instead of immediately checking his phone, he used the moment of putting on his classes to surreptitiously scan the room.
It was a large company. Every employee had their own desk separated by partitions so they could work interrupted, but still communicate easily if need be.
His desk didn't have any mirrors. Instead, there were a few anime figurines, a computer, and the just-delivered pile of documents.
Xing Ye listened to the chatter in the office and heard comments like "She's bullying the intern again.", "She doesn't even need that much data. All she has to do is skim through them, pick out the stuff she needs, and have someone input it onto the computer. Why make someone type up all of it?", "It's almost the end of the workday, the intern won't be able to get any sleep", "interns don't get paid overtime, so they're easy to exploit.". A clear picture of the situation was painted in Xing Ye's mind.
The woman's name tag identified her as Ren Tingman. She seemed to be a supervisor.
Xing Ye also had a badge that just listed him as Intern, Xing Ye, and didn't specify which department he was under. This probably meant he was the kind of intern that could be summoned to do any odd jobs for any department
The computer clock read 5:26. At this hour, most companies would be winding down for the day. Xing Ye wasn't a typist and didn't have any experience in that field. Even if he kept at it, it was unlikely he would finish typing the entire stack by morning.
The most important thing wasn't the workload or fatigue, but the fact that he needed to utilize every single minute in the game world. He couldn't waste time on this.
He glanced at his colleagues. They all seemed ready to leave. Some were on their phones, others were making calls, and a few were tidying their desks. It was hard to identify who among them might be players reading the game's introduction.
In such an ordinary company, how was he meant to discover where he was?
Nothing was clear enough.
Xing Ye flipped through the compute and only found work-related documents, none of significant importance. His daily schedule included tasks like printing, collecting office supplies, reinstalling computer systems for someone, and tallying the company's lunch headcount—typical intern tasks. Leaders often gauge interns' attitudes and performance on such mundane tasks before entrusting them with more important responsibilities. This wasn't bullying.
But that pile of documents was more like bullying.
Ren Tingman passed by Xing Ye with an air of arrogance. Amidst the scent of her perfume, Xing Ye caught a whiff of something foul.
Xing Ye couldn't help but turn back to look at Ren Tingman and watched as a lizard-like tail suddenly sprout out from the back of her blazer. Scales also began appearing on her legs.
What was going on? Was she a monster?
Ren Tingman seemed to sense Xing Ye's gaze and abruptly turned around. She no longer resembled a human. Scales covered the exposed skin, her eyes turned into golden vertical pupils, and her mouth resembled a gecko's, complete with white, drool-drenched teeth.
But the funny thing was, atop her vertical pupils were brown-colored contact lenses. It looked ridiculously out of place.
"What are you looking at!" Ren Tingman's haughty voice emanated from the monster's mouth. "Get to work. If one page is missing tomorrow morning, I'll have questions for you."
She also stuck out a long tongue, forked like a snake's but thicker and longer. As she spoke, it flailed in the air, flicking saliva.
It was disgusting and stank.
The foul odor emanated from Ren Tingman's mouth. After berating Xing Ye, she started scolding the other office workers.
"It's not six o'clock yet, and look at you all—already playing with your phones and changing clothes! Are you guys lacking work to do? If I see you all like this again, don't bother coming back here tomorrow!"
With that, she strutted away, her lizard tail swishing behind her.
She still wore high heels, but her feet had transformed into claws, piercing through her shoes with steel-like sharpness.
Honestly, the moment Xing Ye saw Ren Tingman morph into a monster, a chill ran down his spine. He almost used his initial skill, Redrawing Pen, to swiftly draw a circle of fire and incinerate this lizard creature.
But then he remembered he was in an office. If others had seen Ren Tingman's transformation, they would've screamed. Since no one reacted, it meant only he could see the monster.
This meant he had to be cautious and patient for now.
As expected, Ren Tingman showed no intention of attacking. After her tirade, she walked away, leaving a trail of sticky liquid on the floor that emitted the same rotten meat-like odor.
"Woof! Woof! Woof!" A dog's barking suddenly sounded in the office.
Surprised, Xing Ye looked towards the source of the sound. A person... no, someone stood up and barked a few times at Ren Tingman. She seemed pleased and nodded, "At least you're obedient. Keep an eye on these people for me."
The person had a furry tail and perked-up dog ears. After Ren Tingman left, he licked clean the liquid she left behind before starting to bark aggressively at the office workers like a mad dog. But his appearance wasn't of a cute pet dog; rather, he resembled an ugly looking hyena.
His barks sounded vicious, a complete 180 from the subservient tone he used with Ren Tingman.
Seeing a group of such things, Xing Ye couldn't help but rub his eyes. What the hell was this place?