Sour Apple could see White Fairytale’s face morphing from a mask of sadness into an expression of joy and excitement, and then into disappointment, and finally despair in the span of a minute. Her expression was just like a flower that bloomed and then slowly wilted away.
“Was that Fleeting Time?” asked Sour Apple.
She received no reply from White Fairytale who stood silently with tears streaming down her the fair skin of her cheeks.
Sour Apple then saw Fleeting Time’s message in the World Channel. She was curious about the reason behind Fleeting Time’s sudden decision to initiate a conversation with White Fairytale. Ah, so that’s why. One of White Fairytale’s suitors knows about Goblin Engineering, and had sold quite a number of Goblin Workbenches to Genesis at a very low price. It’s a shame that White Fairytale was not even interested in him.
Fleeting Time must’ve known about the Goblin Engineering player! That’s why he contacted White Fairytale for answers because he can’t find anybody else who is a Goblin Engineer. But for some reasons, Fleeting Time did not obtain the answer he wanted from White Fairytale, and ended up hurting her feelings. thought Sour Apple to herself.
“Fairytale, it’s quite late now. Let’s just go to sleep.” Sour Apple sighed. Love must be the most illogical and most complicated thing in this world.
“Why is he doing this to me?” White Fairytale’s felt as if Fleeting Time was pouring salt over the already gaping would in her heart. She was forced to acknowledge a truth that she had been ignoring for a very long time. Sadness welled in her heart and the dam that was holding her tears back broke, “I’ve always treated him well! He don’t have to treat me like this even if he don’t like me! Why must he hurt me like this?”
Sour Apple was lost for words.
What is love? It is something that some live for, and some would even die for.
Time passes quickly. Countless amount of time could pass in the blink of an eye.
Ye Ci sat by a bonfire in the depths of the Goblin Palace, slowly roasting chunks of meat over the warm fire. Ol’ Four drooled at the sight of the meat, and was wagging its tail at Ye Ci. As she looked up, Ye Ci could no longer see the roof of the Goblin Palace.
She did not know how long she had spent in the palace with Fleeting Time. Her surroundings were dark with the only source of light coming from the torches that lined the walls around her.
Even when Ye Ci had never completed an Epic-tier quest in her last life, she had read accounts of players who were fortunate enough to encounter such quests on the forums. Every Epic-tier quest was unique on its own way, putting different qualities and aspects of players to the test. Some Epic-tier quest could only be completed through teamwork, while some required players to have good mechanical skills, or high level of intelligence. There were also quests that would stretch the patience of players to their limits.
Ye Ci took in a deep breath and patted Ol’ Four on the head before tossing a chunk of roasted meat at her pet. Ol’ Four immediately let out a happy yelp as it began wolfing down its food. Ye Ci was envious as she studied her Ol’ Four. The life of a Hunter’s pet is actually pretty good. It’s so carefree and free of worries.
A set of steady footsteps rang in the darkness, heading slowly towards Ye Ci. “We still have a long way to go. You should eat something.” said Ye Ci without even turning to face the source of the sound.
Fleeting Time took a seat beside Ye Ci, with Little Five settling down not far away from its master. The man threw a chunk of roasted meat at his pet before stuffing a piece of meat into his mouth, “Yup. I’ve lost count of how many floors we’ve been to. Even travelling down the stairs is pretty time consuming.”
Ye Ci smiled at Fleeting Time, “I feel like I’ve not seen the sunlight for a long time, in game and in real life.” She was able to develop a mutual understanding with Fleeting Time after the days they spent in the dungeon. Despite their status as players from opposing continents, the duo was able to work together seamlessly in the dungeon.
“Hunters thrive in gloomy forests. I didn’t know that you like the sun.” said Fleeting Time with eyebrows raised.
“Even when I’m playing as a Huntress, I’m still me. I enjoy basking in sunlight.” replied Ye Ci as she munched on a piece of roasted meat. In truth, she hated the sun in her last life, but had grown to love it after her reincarnation. The sunlight that could sometimes be scorchingly hot and be warm at times was so beautiful in her eyes. “Do you like the sun?” asked Ye Ci.
“I do.” replied Fleeting Time almost instantaneously with a nod.
“Why is that?”
“I hate cold weather. This is why I love the sun.” chuckled Fleeting Time.
That doesn’t sound like something a man would say, thought Ye Ci. She was surprised by Fleeting Time’s answer as Bai Mo and Tan Polang were not at all afraid of the cold, “You can’t stand the cold?”
“Yup. I am.” Fleeting Time answered truthfully. Ye Ci could detect the hint of sadness in Fleeting Time’s calm voice. She stomached the question that almost left her mouth and responded with a smile, “It’s rare to see a man who can’t stand the cold.”
“Well, there are all sorts of people in this world.” Fleeting Time did not offer Ye Ci an explanation. He raised his head and was met with darkness. His surrounding felt gloomy, just like his past.
Ye Ci could tell that Fleeting Time had a past that was not known to many. It was something that belonged to him and him alone. It was just like how people would keep secrets in the depth of their hearts, just like how she was.
This was why Ye Ci shifted the conversation with a smile, “How long have we been in this dungeon?”
“Four days and seventeen hour.” Fleeting Time paid more attention to the time than Ye Ci, “We can’t even see the bottom from here yet. Will it mess with your timing?”
Plans could not keep up with the speed of change. thought Ye Ci to herself. Her plan to return to the Eastern Continent after seven days to check on the progress of Mithril mining in the Lesser Demon Sanctuary was foiled.
“Heh…” Ye Ci grimaced, “How I wish that I can control the flow of time. Then again, if I can do that, it means that I’m God.”
Fleeting Time chuckled at Ye Ci’s words. The flow of time was something that could be controlled by humans, just like how sudden changes could foil even the most careful planning, “Don’t think too much about it. Let’s just keep pressing on forward. We might be reaching the bottom soon.”
Ye Ci was not convinced by Fleeting Time’s words as she stared down at the bottomless darkness, but she knew that Fleeting Time was right. It was a wise choice to continue their journey towards the bottom.
The duo pressed on after their Stamina was replenished. They have slain countless Undeads and Orcs during their exploration of the many floors of the Goblin Palace, and was able to gain control of a large number of Goblin Robots. The dungeon, however, seemed so endless. Ye Ci could not help but feel a sense of helplessness as she continued onwards.
Thirty robots followed the advance of the duo. Despite the option to capture more machines, the duo chose to refrain from such an act due to the confined spaces of each floor. Having too many mechanical companions would only limit their own movements.
Their surroundings grew dimmer when they descended into yet another level.
This new level, however, was different from the previous floors. It was very wide, and its walls were decorated with more torches that brought light to the extreme darkness.
“Wait up.” the effective range of Hawkeye was greatly limited by the darkness. Ye Ci was able to put her Flare to good use in such a situation. She nodded at Fleeting Time, and fired off a Flare, which illuminated the road ahead with its dim light.
A crossroads loomed ahead of the duo. Both of its passages were dark and gloomy, as if they were pathway to despair.
“Let’s head into the one on the left first.” said Fleeting Time after a brief moment of observation.
Ye Ci followed Fleeting Time into the passage without much of an objection. The entire floor was eerily silent and devoid of monsters, but Ye Ci could still hear the faint grinding of metallic gears in the darkness. The movements of so many machines in an environment so dark and quiet was like a thunderclap to her ears.
The duo was unexpectedly bounced back by an unseen force when they headed into the passage to their left. It was just like what they experienced as they attempted to gain entry to Vo’sok.
Ye Ci immediately produced the Goblin Compass in an attempt to look for clues, it offered no additional hints other than the distance between the duo and De’frei.
“So we can’t go this way?” Ye Ci’s eyebrows furrowed, “How about the path on the right?”
The same thing happened to Ye Ci and Fleeting Time as they attempted to walk down the passage.
“There must be some sort of mechanism hidden someone.” said Fleeting Time and Ye Ci in near-perfect synchronization. They then shared a look with each other with a smile on their faces, “Where do you think it might be?”
Fleeting Time spoke up after a moment of thought, “I think there might be something hidden between the two paths,” and Ye Ci shared the same opinion as well, “So what are we waiting for?” she shrugged.
A statue of a Goblin clad in lavish clothing loomed over the duo. Shards of shattered jewels could be seen on the weathered statue. From afar, the statue looked very beautiful.
Fleeting Time lit a torch, and began reading the words written at the base of the statue.
Ye Ci was baffled by the strange language that was spoken by Fleeting Time. She inched closer to have a better look, only to find words that she could not understand, “What is this that you’re reading?”
Due to the limited lighting provided by the torch, Fleeting Time could barely read the words etched onto the surface of the statue. Ye Ci was in close proximity with Fleeting Time as he leaned closer to have a better look at the words.
Neither Ye Ci nor Fleeting Time realised that they were in close proximity with each other in the dark. Their attention was focused wholly on the writings on the statue.
When he heard Ye Ci’s words, Fleeting Time turned around reflexively and was surprised when he bumped into something. Ye Ci could feel something soft brushing against her cheeks. She immediately understood what exactly the soft sensation was, and backed away from Fleeting Time, as if she was jolted by electricity. Despite her shock, Ye Ci forced herself to remain calm as she stared silently at Fleeting Time.
Fleeting Time was stunned as well. He stared at Gongzi You who was centimeters away from him. Her cold gaze appeared so gentle under the dim light. Her silvery hair was tied into a ponytail behind her head, but there were still strands of hair on her forehead and her cheeks. He could even see the light of the torch reflecting in Gongzi You’s ember eyes.
Panic. It was something that Fleeting Time had never seen in Gongzi You. In that moment however, he could detect hints of panic in Gongzi You’s eyes.
Under the right circumstances, people would find themselves doing things that was out of the ordinary and was out of character.
As Ye Ci stared at Fleeting Time, she could feel her heart beating violently in her chest. She felt the need to act, or to at least speak up, but it was as if she was sapped of energy. She maintained her pose, and stared silently at Fleeting Time.
She stared silently at his slightly arching brows, and the slight smirk on his lips, and felt warmth in the depths of her heart.
Fleeting Time knew that he would scare Gongzi You away and create a ridge between them if he acted rashly. Then again, he was not able to hold himself back. At that very moment, the urge to inch closer to Gongzi You occupied Fleeting Time’s mind.
Ye Ci panicked when she felt the warmth of Fleeting Time’s breath. This was something that had never happened to her. She was always confident in her abilities to adapt to any changes that she might encounter, but why was she so lost right at this moment?
She could feel Fleeting Time inching closer and closer. She could feel her heart boil along with the warmth in his breath.
Ye Ci moved slightly to the back before the two could come into contact, putting in some distance between them. The gesture, however simple it may seem to be, required all of Ye Ci’s willpower.
Fleeting Time’s rationality returned to him at that moment. He stared silently at Ye Ci before backing away. He extended a hand at Ye Ci, brushed away the stray strand of hair that was in her mouth, and spoke in a soft voice that could only be heard by himself, “This, is good enough.”
Ye Ci could feel the scorching heat of Fleeting Time’s fingers as they brushed across her face. Her nails dug into her palms as she clenched her fists tightly.
Fleeting Time then turned around, and continued studying the words on the statue, “This is a statue of the current Goblin King, Ciel, and the writings here is actually a poem praising his great deeds. Well, it’s not like they’re important anyways.”
His voice was calm and collected, as if nothing happened between the duo. Ye Ci could also feel her thumping heart slowly calming down, and her strength returned to her.
She stole a glance at Fleeting Time who was busy translating the words that were engraved on the statue. Ye Ci’s focus, however, was not on Fleeting Time’s words. Her mind was occupied with something else. What will happen if I did not move just now?
Ye Ci did not have the courage to think about the possibilities.
Her mind was a jumbled mess.
The statue of Ciel held two scepters on each side. Ye Ci reached out to the scepter on the left, and was immediately hit with a gust of chilly wind.
Ye Ci’s wits returned to her in that moment, and she spoke up to Fleeting Time, “Try pulling the other scepter.”
“If that’s the case, we’ll have to split up.” Fleeting Time responded. He could see the determination in Ye Ci’s eyes, which was a direct opposite to her gentle side mere moments ago.
“Alright.” Ye Ci nodded.
“Will you be fine alone?”
Ye Ci turned around and stared at Fleeting Time. She knew that he was concerned about her. “Gender doesn’t matter in a dungeon, the class of a character does. I’m Gongzi You, a lvl60 Huntress. I won’t be having any problems.” said Ye Ci with a smile on her face.
Fleeting Time returned her smile after a brief moment of pause. This was the real Gongzi You. The Gongzi You who captivated his heart. The Gongzi You who always showed confident in herself. The Gongzi You who was always rational and decisive.
“I’m Fleeting Time, a lvl60 Hunter, and I’ll be waiting for you on the other side.” said Fleeting Time as he pulled at the scepter on the right. A strong gust of wind immediately blew out at him from the path on the right.
“I wouldn’t count on that.” Ye Ci one last glance at Fleeting Time and dashed into the darkness.
The only thing left in the darkness was Ye Ci’s captivating laugh.
It took Fleeting Time some short while before he could recover from his daze. He then dashed into the darkened path on the right as well, with the laughter of Gongzi You still ringing in his ears.
Ye Ci sprinted in the darkness with a dozen robots following close behind. Even when the number of her mechanical helpers was halved when she split up with Fleeting Time, Ye Ci could still put them to good use. The path seemed to be endless. The only thing that accompanied Ye Ci in the pathway that was shrouded in darkness was her own footsteps, and the footsteps of the Goblin Robots. Even the strong night vision capabilities of the Elves was no help to Ye Ci. She could only press on forward to the direction of the chilly wind.
After an untold amount of time, Ye Ci stopped in her tracks, and stood in the darkness.
Her surroundings were so quiet that she could hear the sound of a needle falling onto the ground. The silent that she was experiencing, however, felt slightly different.
Ye Ci closed her eyes, and listened intently to her surroundings. The howling of the wind was gone without a trace. Did the wind become calmer? Why did I not notice it earlier? Ye Ci’s long, pointed ears twitched as she strained to listen to the wind, but there was nothing at all.
What happened? Why did the wind suddenly stop?
Ye Ci popped her left index finger into her mouth and raised it high above her head in an attempt to detect the presence of even the slightest gust of wind. The wind, however, had stopped entirely.
With her options exhausted, Ye Ci pulled the last torch from her inventory and began studying her surroundings.
With the size of the place, it was impossible for the single torch to illuminate Ye Ci’s surroundings entirely. She cast a backwards glance, and found Roman style pillars and paintings depicting the former glory of the Goblin kingdom on both sides of the corridor that she passed through earlier on.
Ye Ci studied the paintings that told tales of the rise of the Goblin civilization. Not a single negative portrayal of the Goblin civilization was made in the paintings. One might even be awed by such a display, they were merely relics of the past buried in the dust of history.
She arrived at a gigantic metal door after walking for a full circle.
The rust covering the metal door could not hide the wonderful craftsmanship of its maker. Ye Ci studied the door intently, but could find no knob or keyholes. The seamless door loomed in the darkness silently. Ye Ci could find no way to pry the door open.
Am I going to be trapped here?
Ye Ci narrowed her eyes. I’ve been guided to this place by the hints offered by the quest. There must be a way through this door, but it’s very well hidden.
Fleeting Time’s voice rang out in the Party Channel as Ye Ci studied the door intently, “Little Gongzi, where are you right now?”
“I’m at the end of a corridor.” said Ye Ci after a brief moment of thought, “Well, it might not be the end of this corridor, but there’s a huge metal door in my way, and I don’t know what’s behind this thing. What about you?”
“Well, according to what you’ve just told me, we’re in the same situation.” said Fleeting Time with a carefree voice. It was clear that he was looking for a way to get through the door just like Ye Ci.
“I’m looking for some sort of mechanism that will get the door open. Have you found anything on your end?” Ye Ci began inspecting every inch of the wall around her for clues, but to no avail. If Fleeting Time is stuck in the same situation, maybe he might be able to find something useful on his end.
“I don’t see anything.” came Fleeting Time’s voice, “By the way, what’s in the painting on the wall at the right side of the door?” he asked after a brief moment of thought.
Ye Ci stared at the painting on her right, and found it different from its counterparts. While the other paintings were about the rise and development of the Goblin civilization, this painting was a portrait of a young female Drow. The Drow was standing in a beautiful garden as she stared ahead with bitterness hidden in her eyes while Ciel was standing behind her with a face full of happiness. From the blooming flowers, towering trees, and an elegant pavilion in the painting, one could tell that they were in the palace garden.
“It seems to be a wedding picture… A cross-species wedding.” Ye Ci described the portrait to Fleeting Time.
“Why does it sound so weird?” Fleeting Time stifled a laugh.
“What do you mean? They are from different races. One of them is a Drow while the other is a Goblin. I wonder what would their offspring look like…” Ye Ci’s curiosity was piqued, “Then again, from what I read in a book at the National Library, it is unusual for members of the royal family to marry member of other races. If I’m not mistaken, it’s to protect the purity of their blood. This is what makes this strange.”
“Heh, I don’t know much about that.” Fleeting Time chuckled and stared at the young Drow. Her dark skin was the feature of a Dark Elf, but her red eyes signified her status as a rare type of Elf. She was a Drow.
It was said that the combat prowess of the Drows was way superior than the Dark Elves, and their obsession with nature was unparalleled even by the High Elves. Despite the Drows’ status as a high-tier race, they lack in the capacity to breed, and most of them lived in seclusion. This was why any traces of the Drows began to disappear from the world. Even the Elves themselves were unsure if there were any Drows left in this world.
“It was said that Drows have higher innate Perception, Balance, Endurance, and Intelligence that us High Elves. They receive more stats when they level up as well. As expected of a high-tier race.” Fleeting Time was curious about the Drows, “Then again, this race does not seem to be made available to players.”
“Seems like it. I’ve never seen a live Drow before.” Ye Ci could still remember her playthrough as a Human Sorceress in her last life. She was lvl150 when she first encountered a Drow. It was a time when Fate was already released for nearly seven years. The Drow in question was but a fragment of memory of a Drow Sorceress, but she was impressed by the skillful mastery of spells by the Drow. The high innate stats of the Drows made them into powerful mages.
Ye Ci had only seen not more than ten Drows in her last life, but they appeared in the form of illusions, paintings, and even a corpse. She had never seen a live Drow. What if I can gather all the pieces of the map that will lead me to the Elven King Dau’er? Maybe I can ask him about the Drows!
“Do you mean that you’ve seen a dead one before?” asked Fleeting Time.
“Isn’t there one in the painting?” replied Ye Ci, who was slightly flustered. She sighed at her poor choice of word that almost revealed her identity as a reincarnator.
Despite his intelligence, Fleeting Time was unaware of such a thing as he could not directly see Ye Ci’s expression.
As Ye Ci stared at the young Drow, she noticed a beautiful red gem pendant on her neck. The large gem looked so real even when it was part of a painting. Ye Ci extended her arm to the pendant, and found the part of the painting to be softer than the rest of the painting. She then pressed down on the gem, but the metallic door did not budge.
Well, I guess it’s just my imagination.
Fleeting Time spoke up in the Party Chat just as Ye Ci was still deep in her thoughts, “Did you touch anything?”
“Not really.” Ye Ci was baffled, “I touched the necklace on the painting of the Drow girl because the gem encrusted in the necklace looks different. Nothing happened though.. Did something happen on your end…”
The grumbling of long rusted metal entered Ye Ci’s ears before she could finish her sentence, and the huge metal door in front of her slowly swung open.
“The door on my side opened as well…” Ye Ci was astonished, “Did the door on your side open as well?”
“Did you pressed the gem on the girl’s neck?”
“Yup. I can’t believe that this is where the mechanism to the door was hidden. The gem on your side is used to open the door on my side, while this gem right here opens yours.”
“Heh, it seems that a minimum of two players is required to explore this dungeon. If someone came here alone, then he or she would be trapped here.” said Ye Ci as the metallic door swung itself open slowly.
“Things will get harder from now on.”
“Yup. We haven’t encountered a single monster yet. I guess this is what they call the calm before the storm. Things will definitely not be as quiet from now on.” said Ye Ci as she brushed her hair away from her ears. She could see lights in the corridor behind the door. Unlike the torches used by the other races, the Goblins have already invented wall lamps that were powered by a tiny energy core. These lamps shone brighter than torches, and could illuminate a wider area.
The corridor was bright as day with the number of lamps that lined the wall.
It was glaring for Ye Ci who had grown accustomed to the dark.
There seemed to be no end to the corridor before Ye Ci. The ground was covered with blood red carpet, and the walls were lined with paintings. Of course, they were not as awe-inspiring as what Ye Ci saw when her eyes finally adjusted to the brightness.
She saw rows of mechanical warriors standing silently at both sides of the corridor. They were like an army standing at attention, guarding their master who was deep in slumber from any harm. 5 Best Chinese Romance Books of 2020 So Far