Chapter 3 — Surrounded By Danger!
Lin Xiaolu has been immobilised, and cannot see the invisible enemy’s incoming attack!
Edited by Planetes
Ding — Protected Player 4109874 is now online, we’re now assigning an exclusive customer service agent…
Ling Xiaolu stared at the waiting symbol in front of him, speechless. How did he end up becoming a protected player? Also, what was with that system-assigned number? If he did not know that this was a game, he would have thought that he was in prison.
The assignment of the customer service agent was pretty fast. In less than half a minute, an unknown creature appeared next to Ling Xiaolu.
“Hello! GM92735 is here to serve you wholeheartedly!”
“From today onwards, I’m your exclusive agent, I hope t-t-that put me d-d-down hey hey hey!”
Ling Xiaolu was grabbing onto the agent’s tail — if that was a tail — and lifted it up upside down. As it was suffering a violent treatment, the silver bodied little fellow struggled desperately, its claws scrabbling in the air wildly, and the long fur on the top of its head swayed back and forth.
“Maliciously attacking the GM, are you still keeping to the company’s regulation?!” That strange creature sharply denounced Ling Xiaolu’s wicked deed.
“This thing looks so strange yet it can speak,” Ling Xiaolu released it. “What exactly are you?”
The GM who finally regained its freedom tumbled through the air, flipping twice, and at last had its head facing up.
“Didn’t I just introduce myself? I’m your exclusive customer service agent that the higher ups have specially assigned to you, my ID is 92735.”
“That’s not what I’m asking. What sort of animal are you exactly?”
“Huh? Wasn’t this your special request? I’m clearly a cool, handsome Wind Pterosaur.”
“Thanks for your information. If you didn’t say it, I still thought you were a four-legged bug.”
The GM had a face full of tears, “I keep feeling like I’ve picked up a not very good task.”
“Then fine, Mr Pterosaur GM… I had always thought that the GMs would be human. Has technology already advanced so quickly?”
“I’m human! What you’re seeing now is only the disguise I made to hide my identity.”
“Hold on,” A spark appeared in Ling Xiaolu’s brain. “Manager Ke said that he’s going to give me a mini version of a Wind Pterosaur, don’t tell me that’s you?”
“Congratulations, you’ve got it right! Actually, what you’re seeing now is only an ordinary non-combative pet. But because from now on I’ll be responsible for guiding you in the game, as well as keeping your identity a secret, I’ve presumptuously borrowed your image as a pet to prevent you from attracting extra attention. Don’t you think that this is definitely the most suitable disguise?”
Ling Xiaolu was expressionless. “Can I invite you to leave my pet body?”
“Of course, but like that, I’ll resume my original human appearance. Would you prefer that from now on, in the game, there would be an adult man of 190cm and 90kg following you around? Of course, I wouldn’t mind at all.”
“I mind! Since the first time I saw you, I feel that you look extremely pleasing. Please remain inside and never take a step out!”
“As you wish. Then, next, shall I give you a beginner’s tutorial?”
“First, <Spirit Contract> is a VR game about battling pets. In the game, players can capture and train all sorts of pets to help them fight bosses, instances and PK. It can be said that the pet system is the game’s greatest selling point, and of course, all these have nothing to do with you.”
Ling Xiaolu stared at him, his face unfriendly.
“Hahaha — cough cough — of course, other than the pet system, there are still many other things to do in this game. For example, there’s the production system, the home system, the business system, as well as a rich interactive system with people. These are all highlights of <Spirit Contract>.”
“Can you be a little more sincere? Don’t just recite from the script.”
The GM did a somersault. “Then let’s head straight into the main topic. First, I have to teach you the basic controls in this game. Do you see a button on the top right corner that’s lit up?”
Ling Xiaolu had long noticed that flashing fake button. He reached out to touch it, and a menu appeared.
“I need to clarify that the interface you’re seeing now is only visible to you, unless you personally choose to share it with others. May I ask if you’ve seen the menu?”
“I see it.”
“Please select the first item, Personal Information.”
Ling Xiaolu tapped on the first selection. On his left field of vision, a panel appeared showing various characters. The panel was translucent, and the background behind it could still be seen clearly.
“Do you see yourself?”
Ling Xiaolu saw his 3D image in the character case. When he reached out to touch it, it even spun around.
“You may have noticed that there’s no name in your display name field, as you have yet to choose a name. Now, you can decide on a stupendous name for your own character.”
The GM shook its tail, and pulled out a very large piece of Xuan paper from somewhere. The paper floated in midair, and the GM sprawled upon it, satisfied. Its claw clumsily held a Chinese brush, and it was licking at the hair at the end of the brush.
Do the special effects in this game have to be so exaggerated?
Ling Xiaolu was very depressed. He had wanted to be a renowned god-like player in the game, but now he had no choice but to sneak around and be a commoner.
A god in the mortal realm. “We’ll go with Shen Fan.”1
The GM wrote crookedly as it agreed – Shen Fun2
“It’s the Fan from the mortal realm!”3
“Isn’t that what I wrote? The Fan from annoying?”4
Ling Xiaoly held his hand against his forehead. “Forget it, we’ll just use my previous username, Lu Bi. It’s the Lu from deer, and the Bi from Bambi. Don’t write it wrongly again!”
“This sounds nice too.” The GM wiped away its previous entry with its claw, writing down “Lu Bi” this time. The name also appeared in Ling Xiaolu’s display name field.
“Next, you can also assign a name for me. You will get a chance to change the name of every non-combative pet once. If you’d like to change the name again in the future, you can only use the resetting tool found in the market, so please be cautious when deciding on a name.”
Ling Xiaolu did not need to think, “We’ll just use Ling Goudan.”5
“Ah, you mean Ling Long? I got it.”6
“No, it’s Ling Goudan.”
“This name sounds so nice, I like this name.”
“But I said Ling Goudan.”
“The exquisite beginning of the song, but who knew the envoy did not understand it.7 What great literary talent, the person who came up with this name is really knowledgeable.”
“You don’t understand human speech?”
“Alright, the name has been changed. If you still have other ideas, please top up your credits and purchase the relevant tool from the market.”
“This is fraud, I want to make a complaint.”
“If you’d like to make a complaint, you will need to report my ID number accurately. Do you still remember my ID number?”
“…” Ling Xiaolu said, “I don’t remember it.”
“Then we should just get along harmoniously. After all, the path to the future is still very long.”
“Can I infuse you in liquor?”
“Don’t talk about infusing me in liquor, you can’t even infuse me in your foot bath. After all,” Ling Long tilted itself, resting its head lazily on its claws, “I have no medicinal effect.”
Ling Xiaolu decided not to drag himself down to its level, if not he really did not know how many more poses could this fellow come up with.
Ling Long cleared its throat, resuming its proper form. “The next one is probably the one you’re most concerned about. It’s your form in this game. Every player’s initial model is their real life image. Of course, if you’re unsatisfied with your 3D image, the game has also kindly provided a plastic surgery service.”
“If I want to change my looks, do I also have to buy a tool in the market?” Ling Xiaolu had already discerned this game’s money-scamming — no, money-making method.
“This is the case for others. However, for you, disguising your real image so that people you know would not recognise you would definitely help conceal your status as a pet. As such, the company has specially provided this for you.”
It pulled out a container that looked like a perfume bottle. The liquid inside was also transparent.
“What is this?”
“This is a high-tech product our company independently developed — an appearance nebuliser. With just one light spray, your appearance would look as though you’ve just edited it on MeituPic8. Even if your mother stood right in front of you, she also wouldn’t recognise you.”
Ling Xiaolu frowned. “Is it that amazing? Then, in the eyes of others, would I look better, or uglier? Would I be edited to the point where my nose just disappears?”
“This is the most miraculous thing about our product. After using the appearance nebuliser, in the eyes of others, you would just look like — nothing.”
“… What does that mean?” An image of a faceless person appeared in Ling Xiaolu’s mind, and he shuddered in fright.
“Simply put, when other people are looking at you, they will still see you with your current appearance. However, those who know you will not relate you with the person they know. The ones who don’t know you, after leaving the game, their memory of your appearance will also turn blurry. They’ll remember you, but no matter what, they won’t remember how you look like.”
“Really?” This was still the first time Ling Xiaolu had heard about an in-game tool tampering with a person’s memories.
“Of course. At most they’ll find you very familiar, but they would never be able to recall where they saw you.”
“All right, since that’s the case, I’ll just try it out for now.”
Ling Long raised the nebuliser, aiming it at Ling Xiaolu’s face and spraying it. It was colourless and odourless, and there was no feeling to it at all.
“Just like that?” Ling Xiaolu touched his face, “Is there a mirror?”
Ling Long really pulled a mirror out.
Ling Xiaolu looked into the mirror, “I can’t see any differences.”
“It’s right that you can’t see any difference, the nebuliser will not have any effect on your own memories… Ah, oh no, I’ve already started to forget how you look like already.”
Ling Xiaolu slanted his eyes at it, “Your acting is really very lousy.”
Ling Long shamefacedly kept the mirror, grumbling quietly, “That’s because I’m a dragon. If I had a human form, I’m sure to have won a few Best Actor awards.”
Ling Xiaoly suddenly found that the collar around his neck had disappeared, and on his left wrist appeared a bracelet.
“What’s this about now?”
“This is a camouflage that changes what is seen in the game. Your bracelet is only decorative, and the actual peripheral device is still on your neck, only that it’s been hidden. However, if someone touches the back of your neck, they will still be able to feel something different, so please protect this part well.”
Ling Xiaolu touched the back of his neck. As expected, he felt a strange bump, but when he touched it again, it seemed to have disappeared.
“If the collar is accidentally touched by someone, it will temporarily disappear. This effect will last for 15 minutes, and it’s already the best the developers can do.”
Fine, I can only say that a little is better than none.
“Is there anything else?”
“When other players are checking your character information, your data will appear just like an ordinary player. A benefactor would also be unable to find your location with the pet radar.”
“Now, what is this pet radar?”
“Every player here has a radar. The radar can locate the players and pets on a map, but only a benefactor’s radar can locate a human pet.”
Ling Xiaolu got the gist of it.
“This is what I have now for the introduction to the character panel. As for other abilities, we can go through it when in the game itself. When you touch the X in the top right corner of the panel, it will automatically close. You can only just do an X sign with your hands.”
Ling Xiaolu crossed his index fingers, and the panel vanished with a beep.
“This is the shortcut gesture to close the panel. You can also use a shortcut gesture to open the panel. Every panel in the game has a corresponding shortcut gesture.”
“What are they?”
“Using the character panel as an example, just touching your belly button will do.”
Accordingly, Ling Xiaolu touched his belly button. The panel that had just vanished instantly appeared again. He crossed his fingers, touched his belly button, then crossed his fingers again, finding it extremely novel.
“Other commonly used gestures are: tapping your temple once to turn on the radar, tapping your temple twice to open the map, and holding your finger to your temple for 2 seconds will turn the navigation system on. Snapping your fingers and ending with a heart gesture would open your social panel, snapping your fingers twice in a row means you’ll like to initiate a trade. Of course, when you’re performing the gestures, you also have to think about what you want to do at the same time. If not, it would also be very troublesome if you accidentally activated a lot of panels.”
“Very considerate.” Ling Xiaolu admired the ingenuity of the whole process.
“There’s also something very important. If you need to go offline urgently, silently reciting “force quit” 3 times can cut your connection. This is in case of an emergency, please don’t use it to go offline normally. As it can result in a loss of data, it can only be used once every 24 hours.”
“All right, I’ll remember that.”
“Now then, shall we can go into the game and experience it? I’ll answer any questions you have as we go.”
Ling Xiaolu was transported to a small town. Although it was referred to as a small town, it was not small at all. Looking at it, it was flourishing.”
“There’s a total of 24 main cities in <Spirit Contract>. As the maps of the main cities are bigger, if there aren’t any important events, players would usually choose to hang out in the towns around the cities. We’re near one of the 24 main cities — Jingzhe City, and this is Yuanting Town, the most prosperous town in the suburbs. This town connects to 3 big main cities, and is one of the game’s important communication hubs. It’s also referred to as the Free Trade Distribution Center.”
Ling Xiaolu and Ling Long were walking along the main road of the town. Both sides of the roads were lined with shops, and they often saw people opening roadside stalls.
Outside a pet shop, the shopkeeper had displayed a hundred pets for sale, occupying nearly half the street.
“Wow!” Ling Xiaolu who actually did not have much experience in life exclaimed in surprise over the wide range of pets.
“This is nothing,” Ling Long had a lot more experience with this. “There’s a limit to the number of pets you can display on a market street. If you walk all the way to the end of the street, the area selling pets there is as big as a parking lot. You wouldn’t be able to see the end with your naked eye.”
“So many? Will they all be bought?”
“Even if it’s the same type of pet, there’s also a difference in their values. Top quality ones will have a sky-high price, while the substandard ones will be sold wholesale to be used to increase the levels of their pets.”
“These shops are run by players?”
“Every single one of them. The player first has to sign a contract with the system, then they’ll gain a shop. A location like this on the market street would be charged accordingly, and if you’re not selling top quality pets, you’re bound to lose money. The area at the end of the street is cheaper, but not every single player would be able to rent a spot. Most of them are career sellers or they have financial backing from their families.”
“Interesting. Then, won’t people like me who can’t capture pets be unable to open a shop?”
“You think the bosses of these shops capture their pets themselves? It’s only that they have very good channels of acquisitions, which means they’re flipping items. Also, other than pet shops, there are also many other types of shops, like equipment shop, food shop, pet items shop etc., the difficulty of opening a shop isn’t in the capturing of a pet, but in…”
Ling Long’s claws shook and convulsed.
“What does that mean?”
“So that gesture of yours refers to money. I still thought you were getting a cramp.”
“Then I don’t have money, and I also can’t catch pets. What should I do now?”
“I’ll teach you. Each time you go to a place, you must first go to the pub.”
“All the buildings with a sign of a wine barrel on the doors are inns. After entering the inn, you will activate a waypoint. Other than this, the inn is also a vital place for players. Many information and gossip all go through the inns.”
Ling Xiaolu took one step into the inn, and a strangely dressed person came up to him warmly.
“Please come in, what would you like to drink?”
Ling Long plastered itself next to his ear. “He’s an NPC, just tell him activate.”
“I’ve recorded the honoured guest’s name already. Next time, it will be very convenient for you to come here, please come often!”
Ling Long then said, “Look for any table to take a seat, and listen out if there has been anything major that happened recently.”
Ling Xiaolu followed the instructions. He surveyed the surroundings, and was unable to distinguish who were the players and who were the NPCs.
“How do I know who are actual people?”
“You didn’t turn on the name display? Some people like to experience this as though it is reality, so they choose to turn this function off. However, before you’re familiar with the game, I’ll suggest that you turn this function on.”
Ling Xiaolu found the name display function in the game setting. After checking it, names appeared on everyone’s heads.
“In the game, the grey names are the neutral NPCs. The ones with the orange names are NPCs that can be attacked. As for the players, there are a total of 5 colours. Friendly players are in green, enemy players are in red, the ones who have accumulated a certain amount of murderous intimidation are in black, the benefactors are in gold, and the names of the combat pets are in a pretty pink.”
“Oh god! Don’t tell me my name is in pink!”
“Of course not. To hide your identity, the developers have already changed your name to green. It’s a nice, pretty emerald green.”
“Oh, then that’s still ok.” Ling Xiaolu heaved a sigh of relief. He could not bear to imagine how much fun it would be if he had his name hovering above him in pink.
Ling Xiaolu was a newbie without any power or influence. For now, all the names he saw in the inn were green.
Just like what Ling Long said, everyone liked to sit in the inn, drinking as they gossiped.
“Hey, did you guys hear? Recently there has been another person who has successfully worn the collar.”
Ling Xiaolu shuddered. It was true that he was here to listen to gossip, but why was he the main character of the gossip?!
This was very big news, and it grabbed the attention of many people in the inn.
“Of course it’s true. I heard it from my uncle working in Xinshan. Also…” The person’s voice trailed off, deliberately keeping the crowd in suspense.
“Also what? Quick, say it!” A person who could not wait quickly poked him.
“According to my deductions, that person is now somewhere around Yuanting Town.”
Yuanting Town, isn’t that where I am right now?
Ling Xiaolu really wanted to strangle Ling Long. Did they not say they were not going to leak anything out? He was only here for such a short while, how did other people end up finding out?!
“How do you know it so clearly?”
“I don’t know, but someone does. Don’t forget, each time a human pet appears in game for the first time, there would be a notice in the benefactor system. I just heard from a friend that there’s already quite a few benefactors heading this way. Recently, there hasn’t been any competition in Jingzhe City, why do you think they all simultaneously come this way?”
Ling Xiaolu lowered his head, pretending to be sprawling across the table, napping. Secretly, he gritted his teeth and asked Ling Long, “Didn’t you all agree to hide my identity?”
“No! To be more precise, it’s not hiding, but disguising!” Ling Long sounded clear and logical, “We did do a little editing on your data, but that’s only on the surface. If we were to change all the settings, it would be a very big workload. It’s impossible for it to be done in a short time, and we might even break the game engine!”
“What?” Ling Xiaolu was deeply aggrieved. “Then what should I do?!”
“30% cover, 70% acting, good luck!”
The person was still talking, “… Not only the few of them. Rumour has it that even Li Zheng is making his move this time.”
“Li Zheng?!” The inn erupted in exclamations. “He’s actually coming?”
Who is that?!
Luckily for Ling Xiaolu, another newbie asked this question for him. “What sort of person is Li Zheng?”
“You don’t even know Li Zheng? He’s the national Adonis of <Spirit Contract>! In the annual tournament of experts in the game, Li Zheng was last year’s runner up, but everyone believed that his abilities were actually above the champion.”
“Then why did he lose?”
“He lost because of his pets. During the quarterfinals, it was pretty much a battle amongst the benefactors. Those players who filled up the top 8 spots mostly had human pets. The only one who could get a runner up position with an AI pet was only an expert like Li Zheng. However, regrettably, at the end of the day, artificial intelligence is still unable to defeat a real life person. During the finals, he lost with only a point difference. If not for his much weaker pet, he would have been the champion.”
“Li Zheng rarely appears in places with many people. If he’s also coming, then I really believe that that person is near Yuanting Town. I wonder who would be the first to capture them this time.”
“Wuwuwu, my Adonis, if I could just see him one time…”
Ling Xiaolu could not bear listening to this anymore. He needed to quickly leave this goddamn place.
“You guys basically didn’t keep your words,” Ling Xiaolu ran as he complained. Unknowingly, he had reached the forest outside town. “You promised that I won’t be captured by anyone and become their pet. Now they’re all here, and I was nearly just about to be caught easily.”
“This can’t be entirely blamed on the company. My colleagues in the technological department have already tried their best,” Ling Long spoke aggrievedly.
Ling Xiaolu hurried away. Suddenly a strange noise exploded by his ear. It was not loud, but its impact was great. Just like a blast of air, it diffused.
At the source of the sound, a powerful soundwave diffused outwards, like an enormous wave crashing onto its surroundings. All the plants and trees in the area toppled over. The soundwave traversed through Ling Xiaolu, and disappeared far into the forest where no eyes could see.
“Wow,” Even the experienced Ling Long received a shock. “Such a powerful force of air, it must have come from an expert. If I’m correct, this is an immobilisation curse to seal all skills. It’ll immobilise all beasts within a certain radius, but I’ve never seen anyone with such a wide radius before. How impressive.”
It turned its head, alarmed to see that Ling Xiaolu did not look quite right. “What happened to you?”
Ling Xiaolu was frozen in his position, unable to move. With much difficulty, he spat through his teeth, “I… c-can’t… m-move….”