Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
With the new year fast approaching, those yet to return to their respective hometowns each had their own worries.
Shen Xixi and Zhang Heng were just ordinary friends – although exchanging WeChat contacts since their camping trip together, they rarely talked to each other. After briefly explaining about the nonprofit organization she had joined and her daily activities, their conversation quickly switched to the finals.
This, however, was Zhang Heng's blind spot. To him, the exams that had taken place a week ago were a thing of the past, a good ten years ago, to be exact. He couldn't recall much of its details, and so, he merely played along, nodding at everything she said without much comment.
Shen Xixi noticed the polite obligation in his responses. Still, since they rarely interacted with each other, there weren't many different topics they could touch on other than the final exams. It was starting to get awkward, and although Shen Xixi had only finished half of her tea, the two decided to part ways. Somehow, she looked hesitant as she turned to leave. In the end, after a short pause, she quickly blurted, "Be careful."
"Be careful?" Zhang Heng stopped in his tracks.
Realizing how vague her statement sounded, she began to explain, "Yes, I mean, since many people will be on the move during Spring Festival, you should be careful on your way back."
Zhang Heng nodded. "You too," he replied.
Zhang Heng was back in his dorm room that he left a long time ago, and Ma Wei hadn't yet returned from his tutoring job. After turning on the lights, he set his backpack down and sat at his desk. Out of habit, he took out a piece of paper and a pen, and tried to organize the information he gathered from this round of the game.
Because of the lengthy duration of the game this time around, Zhang Heng had a lot of time to burn after completing its main task, using most of it to improve his skills (mainly language), and also to confirm some of his conjectures. Other than what he had told the bartender, Zhang Heng really wanted to know where Moresby and that wall that swallowed the old lady had come from. He was also curious if the game items with supernatural powers had anything to do with them. What secrets lurked within this mysterious game he was involved in?
Discounting Moresby's Bones, Betty's Shell was the sixth game item Zhang Heng found. As of now, it was also the most powerful one – able to change the weather at sea. At the same time, it was unlike the other game items he had, seeing how perilous it was to use.
Was the sailor on the carrack truly lost in greed and anger like what Seth said? Zhang Heng was still skeptical about it. However, there was one thing he was sure of – these game props were all related to ancient myths and legends. Aside from the unidentified Shadow Moment and Shadow Key, the Rabbit's Foot was a symbol of luck in many folklores. The necklace Simon gave him was connected to the Tapio, the Finnish mythical forest god. The Moresby creature, according to the old man in the Tang suit, was the guardian of a tribe from the remote Papua New Guinean islands called the Alkiz.
The Paris Arrow he carried with him originated from a Greek legend, and when he was on the Black Sail quest, he encountered an ancient god that he suspected to be part of Celtic mythology.
Unfortunately, that ancient god, Betty, was weak and drained when they met. Later on, Zhang Heng attempted to help her by expanding her pool of believers, but for some reason, she was unable to regain full strength. In the end, he was unable to communicate with her on a deeper level. But then again, during the auction, Zhang Heng saw game items that looked very much like Louis Vuitton handbags, and even iPhones. Also, the game item 'Escape Dagger' that sold for a hefty 2000 game points, looked, and sounded very much like a popular prop from another game. It seemed as if the conclusion he'd drawn wasn't complete.
Zhang Heng subsequently circled the words 'folklore' and 'myth,' then wrote a question mark next to them. Then on a blank space, he wrote Shen Xixi and Huang Yu's name, noting at the end that they too might be players themselves. He put down his pen just as Ma Wei walked into the room. Ma Wei removed the gray knitted gloves from his hands and rubbed his fingers, all red from the cold, and he was surprised when he saw Zhang Heng.
"Hey, you're back!"
Zhang Heng closed his notebook. "Yeah. How did it go today? Is the tutorship going well?"
Ma Wei shook his head. "That kid is tough to manage. His father is an executive in an organization, and the mother is a branch manager of a bank. They have two houses on the third ring road and one each in the fourth and fifth. I told him that since his family is so well-to-do, he just needs to study hard. With his parents paving the way for him, he can easily succeed in whatever he wishes to do. Guess what he answered me with? He said: my family is so rich that we can never finish spending our money. Why do I need to be successful anyway?'"
"That seems right in some kind of way."
Ma Wei sighed. "The kid's parents are very busy. They constantly entertain their clients and are only home very late. It was always just him and his nanny. The nanny, on the other hand, wouldn't discipline him, and he's always eating imported junk and snacks. He's only thirteen, and he's already 120kg! I also heard his schoolmates calling him the devil incarnate. His mom hired me to help him with his homework for one hundred and fifty yuan per hour. If he shows any improvement in his mid-term and final exams, she will pay me a hundred for each subject."
"So, how were his results?"
"It's the same as before. No progress at all," Ma Wei sighed, looking very glum. After all, when he was discussing his employer's pay, the particular topic motivated him a lot. It was evident that the little fatso had a weak foundation, meaning that there was lots of room for improvement. For this, Ma Wei had put in a lot of effort, even filling up a notebook with various learning strategies. Alas, the plump little boy sneered at the notes he was given, saying, "What's the use of learning? Look at you. You're so good at it, yet, instead of getting somewhere, here you are tutoring me."
Those words hurt Ma Wei deeply, but he never mentioned it openly. In fact, if it wasn't for the handsome salary, he would have chosen to tutor someone else. This was especially true after the little plump thing recently grew fond of a girl, and his mind was completely distracted, constantly thinking of ways to win her over. Ma Wei could already tell that the boy's results would only worsen come the next semester.
Ma Wei picked up a thermos next to his bed and poured himself a cup of warm water. Then after a moment's deliberation, he turned to Zhang Heng. "Oh, by the way, do you know how to repair bicycles?"
"The chain felt a little loose when I was riding back yesterday," said Ma Wei. "It felt like I was peddling air."
"I'll take a look at it with you," Zhang Heng replied. Back when he was in Tokyo Drift, he had learned how to modify cars, and considering how much simpler the transmission of a bicycle was, repairing it shouldn't be much of a problem for him.
Zhang Heng took out a flashlight from his drawer before grabbing a screwdriver that had been left by someone. Then, he went downstairs with Ma Wei to where the bicycle was parked.