Chapter 2 — Qin Shihuang
“Ding! Ding! Ding!”
Lin Che rapped on the door. “Wei Ge, we’re here. Open up!”
The unoiled hinges of the door groaned as it creaked open. The flavoured smell of instant noodles wafted out from the open door as Zhang Wei appeared behind the door in a loose, faded shirt. Although his face was pallid, his two eyes seemed to glow upon recognising us. He laughed and welcomed us into his apartment. “Big Chen Zi! Xiao Che! Why have you guys come?”
“We came to you for big things!”
Lin Che pushed open the door. With a pop, the door handle was broken off. Lin Che retreated hastily in fright. “What the fuck…Wei Ge, this place has archaeological value!”1
Zhang Wei touched his nose in embarrassment as he resentfully retorted, “You think I wanna stay here? With present house rent shooting through the roof, you won’t last with downtown housing unless you have three thousand. With such a small apartment, it still costs a thousand two. If it weren’t for me proactively doing diligent work, I would never have the qualifications to survive in a city like Suzhou.”
I looked around the room, discovering two computers beside a moth-eaten, cotton-wadded bed. The screens of the computer flickered with chat and information activity. I felt a sense of déjà vu rise within me. On a closer look, the computer android was frantically transmitting information, like: “Older Brother, wanna see little sister *?”, “More than a thousand videos of high resolution, does not require internet! Just insert your phone, and you will be able to watch! Supports Apple, Android, and other equipment. If you want to see more marvellous merchandise, please add-” I reddened.
Lin Che gaped. “Wei Ge, this is your job?”
Zhang Wei puffed out his chest proudly. Head high, chest out. “Becoming rich by relying only on one’s own efforts; relying only on a pair of hardworking hands!”2
Lin Che looked at me in dismay. “Chen Ge, “Bro, I’ve been wrong to think of recruiting this bastard into our studio. People are typically recruited into the (porn) industry, but we tried to recruit someone in the (porn) industry instead. It’s all my fault…”
I sighed. “Wei Ge, delete these softwares quickly.”3
“Don’t, I can earn a good several hundred in a day!” Zhang Wei seemed to be very reluctant.
“Just several hundred?” I seriously said, “If you follow Xiao Che and me, don’t speak about several hundred a day—we’ll have several thousand a day. Even several ten thousand isn’t impossible!”4
“Yes. Delete that now.”
Zhang Wei sat down, and with great reluctance, he began deleting the softwares on his computer. “You two don’t feel any remorse for deleting these software because they’re not yours. Just to make ends meet, I rise early and go to bed late. Do you think holding two jobs simultaneously is easy?”
“Holding two jobs simultaneously?”
Lin Che was surprised. “Other than selling porn, you have a second livelihood?”
“I still have another job. It’s called Qin Shihuang.”*
*Sorry to interrupt, but you need some backstory on Qin Shihuang. He was the founder of the Qin dynasty, and the first emperor of a unified China (something really impressive at his time). Basically, this bloke’s really famous for being ruthless and bringing an end to the Warring States period.
“Qin Shihuang?” I was flabbergasted. “What do you mean? You have to go to Xi’an to participate in the second archaeology expedition into Qin Shihuang’s tomb?”
“You’re too shallow. Look at this!”
Zhang Wei pulled open a drawer and chucked some advertisement flyer onto the table. On the flyer were the impressive words: “Qin Shihuang (Capturing Shit Emperor)! Professional maintenance of lavatory clogs. If anything leaking requires repair, dial 135”.
Lin Che and I were instantly petrified. An uneasy premonition rose within us as a sense of disquiet gripped us. This bastard was truly off the wall. Lin Che and I shared a look of regret.
“Speak, what are you two finding me for?” Zhang Wei drawled as he sat on the bed. He crumpled the flyer into a small ball and tossed it into a small rubbish bin.5
“Have you heard of Skyroad?” I asked.
Zhang Wei’s eyes lit up. “‘Within the wind, within the rain—I will wait for you in the world of Skyroad‘. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched Bei Mingxue’s publicised words. How would I not know?”
I coughed. “Lin Che and I plan to enter Skyroad, and establish a specialised money-making studio. Are you willing to enter?”
“Of course, I’m on!”
Zhang Wei slapped the table and stood up. “Whatever you do, I’ll follow you guys and do. However, let me warn you in advance that I don’t even have the rent for this month. I’ll be eating off you guys and living with you!”
“As unreasonable as ever…” Lin Che was speechless.
After he packed his things, we brought Zhang Wei to his future studio. When we entered the ‘villa-level’ house of mine, Zhang Wei’s eyes almost popped out from his sockets. “Looks like you two have been living pretty well!”
Night came, and I was left to personally prepare the food. I dished out a pot of yellow catfish soup.6
Zhang Wei seemed to be elated, downing cup after cup of beer. Lin Che and I were somewhat deep in thought. Zhang Wei did not need worry about the future of the studio, but we had to.
“Three people. We’re still short of one.”
I furrowed my brows. “Skyroad has already issued some game information online in advance. There are twelve primary professions, namely: Horseman, Swordsman, Spiritist, Knight, Assassin, Taoist, Gunman and et cetera. I’ll still be my old profession, the horseman. What about you?”
“I’m going for the Taoist.”
Lin Che seemed firm. “Previously, I played the magician profession on Skywarp. However, the control skills of the magician are too little. I feel that control is still the best, so I plan to become the taoist in Skyroad, in charge of the team’s damage and control.”
I nodded, continuing. “Wei Ge isn’t good at controlling his characters. He should play a heavier profession. If we have more tank we can damage more. This will be more appropriate.”
Zhang Wei piped up from the side, “What’s a ‘heavier profession’?”
“It means a tankier profession.”
Lin Che laughed. “Chen Ge speaks with tact. Have you ever noticed yourself controlling characters?”
Zhang Wei grinned. He could not deny that.
“Still missing one person.”
I thought for a while. “We need a magician, or we won’t be able to fight ranged battles. A gunman will also do. We also need a priest to heal us, or we’ll be unable to advance in the early stages.”
“Don’t bother with a priest. Skyroad has weird settings. Priests can only be selected by female players. Male players are totally unable to choose the profession. Unless…we castrate Wei Ge, and tamper with his hormones a bit. If we train him in three months, we should be able to make it. It’s possible that he can choose the class.” Lin Che said, a tad too seriously.7
Zhang Wei glared at us. “Why don’t you two castrate yourselves?”
I chuckled. “The issue of having priest is actually a big one. However, we have no way of settling this. As far as I know, Xiao Che and I are single, with no girlfriends to play the class of priest. Wei Ge, how about you? What happened to you and Luo Jiaojiao, the prettiest girl in school?”
“Broke up long ago.”
Zhang Wei waved his hand. “I’ve saw past her facade. Don’t bring it up anymore…”
Seems like there was a story behind. However, Lin Che and I had no interest to pry into his personal affairs. Zhang Wei seemed ready to answer our questions, but an embarrassed silence hung in the room instead.
“Then we’ll go along with the gunman…”
Lin Che opened his personal notebook, booted it up and logged onto Skyroad’s forums. “According to the way Skyroad is set up, players will be assigned to their respective novice villages based on their region. In other words, players who use the same USB cable to log into Skyroad are bound to be distributed to the same novice village. So we only need to search for around us for each other after logging in.”
He began to filter through the pages on the forum. A list of IDs of the neighbouring players popped up, ranked according to their points in the Skywarp arena. Lin Che scrolled through them tirelessly, finally stopping at one ID. “This guy isn’t more than two kilometres away from us. In the national servers, he is ranked among the top fifty of gunmen. I’d give his skill a passing score. Chen Ge, what do you think?”
“‘One Shot one head’. This username seems a bit familiar.” I raised an eyebrow.
“Probably someone you fought in the arena before.”
Lin Che went through his public information. “This guy’s name is Wang Jinghai, 25 years old. According to gossip and enquiries, he is a gamer that earns money through participating in offline underground gaming. Apparently, he is rather famous in the Qiuli district.”
Zhang Wei stared at Lin Che vacantly. “What’s offline underground gaming?”
“Something like underground boxing.” Lin Che replied.
“Participants challenge others, and people bet on the winner or loser. When the winner is made clear, cash transactions are made. It’s classified as an illegal method of gaming. However, people who like the thrill love it.”
I squinted at the person’s ID. “This guy isn’t bad. Check his current address, let’s go find him.”
“Ahead of you,” Lin Che’s hands darted across the keyboard, “half an hour ago, he was posted challenging someone. His address was an internet café by the name of “Dynasty Hegemony”, around two kilometres away from us. If we go now, we can catch him.”
“Let’s go then!”
The night was hazy, but the beauty of Qiuli district during nighttime was breathtaking. The fresh scent of lakewater lingered in the air. If one strained his ears, he would be able to hear the distant waves of Lake Tai crashing against the shore. The vehicles on the road were little. Flickering neon lamps stood along the streets. Beside a milk tea store, the large, glaring signboard with the words “Dynasty Hegemony” hung from above an internet café. It stood out like a sore thumb.
“We’re here. It’s over there, let’s cross over.” Lin Che pointed.
But as we crossed the street, sounds of a fight seemed to travel from the internet café. A group of people chased a man out of the internet café. The man who was chased out clutched a gaming helmet under his arm. The man looked scary, but his clothes were covered in footprints, matching with a few bruises on his face. He staggered and dropped to the floor, swearing like a drunken sailor. “Motherfuckers, unwilling to admit defeat even after being beaten 10:0. Since you can’t defeat me you decide to beat me? Do you guys at Dynasty Hegemony even have face?!”
The people in the internet café came out, answering the man with more kicks. The man frantically tried to escape, crawling out under the barrage of feet.
“That’s Wang Jinghai?”
I frowned disapprovingly. “Even if he’s trying to run, he should be less boorish in his actions…”
Lin Che rolled up his sleeves. “Wang Jinghai is the future talent of our studio. With just us, we can easily take down these bunch of hooligans from these dingy internet cafés.”8
I held him back.
“Why?” Lin Che was astounded.
I looked at the battered and exhausted Wang Jinghai. “Offline underground gaming isn’t played like this. He’s too proud by nature. Let his spirits get dampened first, or he’ll surely be arrogant and full of bluster when he joins our studio, showing off his ability. What we need is a brother that will fight shoulder to shoulder with us. Not some bossy professional. Not to mention that I also promised my old man not to fight anymore.”9
“Hmm, that makes sense.”
Post-translator’s note: Crazy wordcount…