“That’s definitely a possibility.” Young Master Han nodded in approval. “But an oak forest with a little log cabin? That’s too little clue to go by; who knows how many such locations exist in this game?”
“There’s also that NPC called Gru; I’ll go find out!” Brother Assist looked excited, as if he had just discovered the New World, when he got up and headed straight for the exit.
“Where are you off to?” Gu Fei hurriedly asked.
“To investigate the lead,” Brother Assist smartly waved his hand as he rushed out. Such moments were when he looked the coolest.
“And there he goes…” Gu Fei was in a daze as he stood holding that diary. These people sure were gamers. This diary was like a novel to him, so he actually wanted to carry on reading! He had initially thought that Brother Assist was a kindred spirit, but who knew that the latter would take off once he found even the slightest clue he could follow up on?
Quests. All these guys care for are just quests in the end!
Gu Fei thought of this in exasperation as he flipped over to the next page.
‘I am talking to myself again today. It’s becoming more frequent nowadays. I’ve always been alone, so I should’ve been used to this sort of loneliness by now. It seems that being alone isn’t so scary, but what’s scary is when you’re all alone and without help. Am I already in a state of panic deep in the recesses of my heart? I once more came across an oak tree; I find myself coming around here quite often recently. I don’t know why, but that oak tree feels familiar. Perhaps, it may jog my memory… Assassins should abandon everything, but I already am nothing. All I have now is this bit of memory, and I don’t want to lose it.’
“This is so depressing and tragic!” This diary was an account of a strong-willed and determined Assassin’s step by step descent into mental breakdown after getting lost in the fog, alone and without any reprieve. Even though this was clearly just a NPC, Gu Fei could not help but lament. What would the final outcome of someone like this be? Discovered by players and be slain for its loot? Of course, not, for that was just the fate of its role and not the fate of the character. Gu Fei’s curiosity was piqued, and he could not wait to get to the next page.
‘I woke up with a start and realized that snow is covering the land. Is it winter already? I immediately began searching for that oak tree as if I’ve gone mad. I’m afraid – afraid that it would lose the color I remember it for and I would no longer be able to recognize it. In the end, all is fine, as that oak tree looks the same as it was before. Just like me, a layer of white snow is covering it, but the color of its leaves remains the same. Do the leaves of an oak tree not fall come winter? If it doesn’t wither, what about me? Am I searching for a way out, or am I just searching for this oak tree?’
Gu Fei sighed deeply. It was apparent that this Assassin had started to give up, and it could only find solace from its past. The content of the entries that followed after only served to confirm Gu Fei’s thoughts, as the Andrew Su within the diary began to reminisce about the scenes of its 187 assignments one after another until, one day, it finally wrote:
‘I heard that the moment someone is about to die, their life will flash before their eyes like a movie, playing back every moment. I’ve actually been constantly thinking of my past these few days. Has that moment of death already upon me? Is the process of this really so slow?’
Is it about to finish… Gu Fei wondered to himself. He suddenly did not wish for this Andrew Su to die in such a manner, and he was hoping that he would chance on some sort of opportunity to turn its fate around.
It never happened, however. The content of the pages that Gu Fei continued to read through became more and more muddled. However, as the NPC continued to recall its past, the assignments finally reached the 187th count, which was also this very assignment that it was unable to accomplish until today – and quite possibly the last assignment it would get in this life.
‘Giordano; to think I’d actually still remember this name. He’s the captain of Xiawu City’s Vigilante Corps. This man doesn’t hold the highest position among all the people I’ve assassinated, but there may be some unforeseen difficulties given his identity! Thinking about this man now, my numb hands seem to tremble ever so slightly; looks like I’ve not lost all my fighting spirit, after all.’
“Here!” Gu Fei suddenly slapped the table.
Half the content of the glass Young Master Han was drinking from spilled with that slap; the heartache he felt was so severe he wanted to die. He furiously spat at Gu Fei who was sitting across him, “What are you shouting out for?!”
“Look here!” Gu Fei turned the diary over and placed it right before Young Master Han. “This bit here mentions the Assassin’s assignment target to be here in Xiawu City. From you guys’ line of thinking, we may be able to continue the assignment as a quest if we kill this man.”
Young Master Han casually scanned through it before he asked, “Did you receive a quest?”
“No…” Gu Fei shook his head. Not one prompt sounded from the system.
Young Master Han sneered mockingly.
“Not getting a quest doesn’t mean it can’t be done,” Gu Fei said.
“Then, what’s the point of doing it?” Young Master Han asked.
Gu Fei, instead, gazed right back at him and asked, “You’re drinking your liquor every day; what’s the point in doing that?”
“It’s my pastime.”
“Good answer!” Gu Fei nodded.
M*th*rf*ck*r! Young Master Han cursed angrily within him, for he had actually been verbally cornered. Challenging a difficult fight was naturally this man’s pastime.
The Shadowmist Assassin’s target of assassination, the captain of Xiawu City’s Vigilante Corps, indeed sounded like a rather challenging BOSS.
“I wish you the best of luck, then.” Young Master Han raised his glass toward him.
“Aren’t you gonna come and watch?” Gu Fei asked.
Young Master Han admired the glass of liquor in his hand and looked at the refracted Gu Fei within. “That is not my pastime.”
Gu Fei arched an eyebrow, picked up the diary, and got up.
“I reckon those guys won’t join you, either,” Young Master Han added. “You didn't even receive any quest prompt; they’ll all think that this is a meaningless pursuit.”
“I know that.” Gu Fei nodded his head and left the premise.
Meaningless pursuit? Then what will be a meaningful pursuit?
Kung fu was his personal aspiration—something that he considered as the most meaningful pursuit—yet the real world made it seem like a meaningless existence. Just thinking of the fact that his personal mission was deemed by others as a meaningless pursuit made it really quite lugubrious.
Did he wish to continue Andrew Su’s final mission so as to challenge an expert? That was actually not the main reason he had done so. To him, there was simply no way he would recognize this sort of AI that originated from the system as an expert. Contesting against a machine like this NPC was meaningless to him as it was no different from practicing his kung fu on a sandbag target. He had merely been somewhat affected by the content of Andrew Su’s Diary. He even wondered to himself, With such a noteworthy story in this game environment, why does everyone prefer to spend all their time grinding monsters and collecting gear? This is a fully immersive world, after all; people can pretty much live another life here. Grinding monsters to level up… Why does everyone walk this same route?
Gu Fei was playing this game for the sake of being in an environment and world where he could use his kung fu freely. Level and equipment were unimportant to him. After reading through Andrew Su’s diary, he suddenly felt as if he could also act a role in this world – a role that would allow him to demonstrate his kung fu. Doing something like this sounded a lot more interesting than grinding on monsters.
Pondering on this, Gu Fei tried to contact Brother Assist in hopes of troubling the man to inquire after this NPC Giordano, but upon pulling out and checking his friends list, he saw that the latter was apparently offline. As always, Brother Assist would have to go offline whenever he went hunting for information; he was able to have such a large pool of information precisely because he was active in various sites and places.
As such, the only option left for Gu Fei was to ask the people on the streets. Since it was unlikely for strangers he met on the street to patiently answer his queries, he decided to fire off a message to Slyris. “Do you know a NPC that goes by the name of Giordano?”
“I don’t know,” Slyris answered.
“What about Xiawu City’s Vigilante Corps, then?”
“Vigilante Corps?” Slyris was still confused.
Gu Fei sighed. Truly, plenty of players out there only sought to finish their quests at hand in the fastest time possible and get their rewards, so how many of these people would actually take the time to carefully savor the remarkable backstory and setting of Parallel World? Someone like Slyris, whose name made it within the ranks of the Five Unyielding Experts, would be especially mindful of her efficiency, so why would she waste her time on such aspects of the game?
In that moment, Gu Fei suddenly missed June’s Rain. If that lady had first spawned in Xiawu City, would the NPC Giordano have escaped her perceptive eyes once she carefully explored and researched through every quest available in the city? Even if she could not remember it, the quest notebook that she carried everywhere she went was equally as legendary as Royal God Call’s book of coordinates or Brother Assist’s information booklet.
“Then, sorry to trouble you with asking your friends to help me inquire about this matter!” Gu Fei had no choice but to implore Slyris’s help, hoping that this lady would know a friend who was as talented as June’s Rain.
Gu Fei was just pondering on what he should do while he waited for news to get back to him when Slyris unexpectedly messaged him back: “No need to inquire on others; my little sister knows.”
“Oh?” He was elated.
“Speak with her yourself!” Slyris said.
Gu Fei and Yan Xiaozhu had added each other as friends as well. This was a common practice in MMOs, which was similar to how people would exchange name cards in real life. It did not matter if they conversed with one another, since exchanging names to befriend one another was the courtesy practice in MMOs.
“I don’t know what group you’re talking about, but I seem to recall this NPC Giordano,” Yan Xiaozhu said.
“Let’s hear it.”
“He’s over by the Government City Hall,” informed Yan Xiaozhu.
“We can’t enter that place, right?” Gu Fei asked. He knew of the Government City Hall as well; it was apparently the central administration of any city and was where the city mayor and other such NPC authorities resided. However, the Government City Hall was inaccessible to players at all, and there were far more guards protecting its entrance than anywhere else in the city.
According to the officials, players who wished to enter the Government City Hall must attain a certain status in the corresponding city first. There was no further information beyond this, and the players themselves would have to work it out for themselves. Naturally, this invited plenty of swearing from the players, and those who had really conducted a research, saw no result to their work. Gu Fei had no idea if anyone had ever achieved the condition to enter the Government City Hall, but he gave it a shot when he was bored. The guards had stepped forth to block him just as he was about to show his intention of stepping through the doors; any further and he and the guards would be at swords’ points, which evidently showed he did not have permission to enter.
“Indeed, players aren’t able to enter. I once helped a friend out with a quest, and our team received temporary pass to the place, so I got to enter it once. There, I noticed a NPC called Giordano.”
“Oh, what made you take note of him?” he asked.