Chapter 200 A Thousand Times
“Steel-Blooded Battle Spear is not the only one. A lot of guilds are exploring the Castle Ruins.” noticing that his question was too abrupt, Unbridled Willow pushed the boat with the current and continued his small talk with Ye Ci.
“Yup. Isn’t this the most important thing in our beloved Eastern Continent right now?” Ye Ci did her best to appear friendly. After all, this would create the illusion that she was easy to deal with. Besides, even if it was denied by many, Ye Ci had always thought of herself as an easygoing person.
Unbridled Willow was unable to find an opening in Ye Ci’s words. He was unwilling to be the first to expose his real intention, but at the same time, he did not want to end the conversation just like that. Everybody was a potential enemy. His actions of contacting Gongzi You frequently would definitely arouse the suspicions of Thousand Sunsets and even Gongzi You herself.
“Oi, what are you still doing in Dark Clay City? Why are you not here yet?” Bai Mo went online at the same time with Ye Ci. When Ye Ci did not show up in the guild encampment, Bai Mo discovered that she was still in Dark Clay City.
“Ah, I’ll be right there. If you really can’t wait, you can head into the dungeon first. I’ll be there shortly.” replied Ye Ci.
Bai Mo knew Ye Ci very well. He knew that Ye Ci had something important to tend to after receiving her answer. But with the pre-agreed time creeping closer and closer, Bai Mo just had to give Ye Ci a reminder, “Is there something really important that you have to deal with? Can’t it wait until we’ve cleared the dungeon? We all gathered in the guild encampment, and they are ready to cast buffs before heading into the dungeon.”
“Yup, it’s rather important.” Ye Ci did not plan to keep any secrets from Bai Mo, “Unbridled Willow is looking for me. He’s still beating around the bush right now. I have to hear him out, don’t I?” Ye Ci pursed her lips, “Of course, I’ll take note of the time, don’t worry. I’ll be there before you enter the dungeon.”
Bai Mo let laughed heartily after learning the reason behind Ye Ci’s delay, “It seems that he can’t afford to hold back anymore.”
“I know, right.”
“Hurry up. We’ll be heading to the dungeon now.” said Bai Mo before ending the conversation. He knew that Ye Ci had a plan. He was a busy man, and had no time to spare on meddling in her business.
“Is your guild heading towards the dungeon today?” asked Ye Ci after ending her conversation with Bai Mo.
“Of course. We need to pick up the pace.” Unbridled Willow was straightforward with Ye Ci, “We’re stuck at the 4th BOSS. We can’t get through. The entire guild is troubled by this.”
“Ah… I see. I wish you good luck then. You can do it!” Ye Ci was amazed by her ability to keep up a pretense. She was able to appear oblivious even after Unbridled Willow dropped hints about his intentions. “My guild is heading into the dungeon as well, I need to go now.”
Unbridled Willow did not expect Gongzi You to be in a hurry. When Ye Ci intended to end the conversation, he immediately spoke up, “Gongzi You, wait!”
“What?” if Unbridled Willow could see Ye Ci’s expression, he would deeply regret his actions on this day. Ye Ci summoned Ol’ Four, who had a full day’s worth of rest and was very energetic. He was slightly restless due to his hunger. He nudged Ye Ci with his snout and wagged his tail as soon as he was summoned, asking for food.
Ye Ci was in a good mood. She fed pieces of roasted meat and other delicacies to Ol’ Four.
“Are you going to challenge the final BOSS today?” after a long moment of thought, Unbridled Willow finally spoke up.
“Yes.” there was no point of denying something that was known to the entire Eastern Continent.
“Do you have the confidence to defeat the BOSS?” Unbridled Willow visibly gulped as he asked the question.
Some questions were just too inappropriate to ask. The dungeon clearing progress of a guild was always its biggest secret. Asking such a question was just like inquiring about the readiness of a guild. Under normal circumstances, such questions would always be met with inaccurate answers.
Ye Ci narrowed her eyes. It seems that Unbridled Willow was very desperate. At least he did way worse than what Green Hill’s Moon had reported. He would not have been so rude if this was not the case.
He asked the question despite knowing that he would never be able to get a straight answer from Ye Ci. There was only one possibility: Unbridled Willow was in a tight spot. He might have the trust of the Old Master, but he was not Thousand Sunsets, the child that has been raised by the Old Master for more than 20 years. He was just the backup plan. Although the Old Master treated him well, his life was not as good as the life led by Thousand Sunsets. If he lost his competition with the man, he would definitely have to revert to his old ways of life.
When someone had been leading a moderate life for as long as he or she was alive, the person would never want to go back to such a way of life after experiencing the lifestyle of the wealthy. And because of that unwillingness, the person would fight tooth and nail to maintain his status.
And to Unbridled Willow, Ye Ci might be the straw that he was trying to clutch at when he was drowning.
If she could think of getting Green Hill’s Moon to investigate the relationship between Unbridled Willow and Thousand Sunsets, Unbridled Willow could do the same as well. This is definitely not a coincidence! Thought Ye Ci. He must’ve found out about my conflicts with Thousand Sunsets, and knew that I rejected Dong Yin’s request. That is why he’s seeking me out right now!
The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Unbridled Willow was unsure if if Ye Ci was willing to help him out, but he tried his luck anyways as he was sure that Ye Ci would not bring him trouble. Even if he failed to secure her help, she would never provide any form of aid to Thousand Sunsets. Even if Thousand Sunsets was buying any information about the Castle Ruins from the other guilds, he won’t be able to win without the help of Gongzi You.
After having an understanding about Unbridled Willow’s mentality and his desperation, Ye Ci decided to not cause too much trouble for Unbridled Willow. After all, if he emerged triumphant in his competition with Thousand Sunsets, they might be able to work together in the future. “Nothing is certain. Things might go wrong even in a well-laid plan.” Ye Ci replied calmly.
Unbridled Willow let out a laugh, “Yes, you are right. But with you, Gongzi you, joining this expedition, you’ll definitely be able to clear this dungeon.”
Ye Ci raised her eyebrows, “You think too highly of me. I’m just an average player.”
“Average?” Unbridled Willow chuckled, “Really? If even Gongzi You is just an average player, then I’m sure an ‘average player’ does not exist in Fate. To tell you the truth, I know you barely participated in the dungeon exploration when your guild was trying to take down the first four BOSSes. They had a hard time with clearing the dungeon. Your decision to head to the dungeon today is just too abnormal. If I’m not wrong, you are the key in defeating the fifth BOSS. Overflowing Ink and Mi Lu are just coming for the ride.”
Even after her plan has been seen through by Unbridled Willow, Ye Ci remained calm, “You’re overthinking this. Even if you’re right, I can assure you that I’ve never fought against the fifth BOSS before. There’s a chance that I might fail.”
“If this is said by anybody else, I would definitely believe it. But since it’s coming from you… I highly doubt that.” Unbridled Willow responded. He was here to seek a cooperation from Ye Ci. He would of course come prepared.
“Oh?” Ye Ci narrowed her eyes, “Why do I feel flattered after listening to your words? Have I been drugged? I’d like to tell you that I know what I’m capable of.”
“Gongzi You, how many players out there are able to take out the Armored Giant Tortoise alone? And how many of them can slay Werebeast Shaman Buru alone?” Unbridled Willow was always focused on his objective. He would never stray from his objective despite Ye Ci’s feigned ignorance.
Ye Ci remained silent. At this point, she would make more mistake the more she said. Remaining silent was the best option. She knew from the start that it would be hard to deal with Unbridled Willow, but in the the end, she had underestimated the man. Despite being blood related to Thousand Sunsets, he was way smarter than him.
Unbridled Willow grew anxious when Ye Ci remained silent. Although he knew that he would lose the higher ground if he spoke up first, he could not afford to delay any longer. Zero Arsenic had already sent him a message, telling him that his party was ready go explore the dungeon. If he was unable to receive confirmation from Ye Ci before then, it would be troublesome.
“Let me be honest with you. I’m not trying threaten you or anything like that. I have a deal for you.”
“What sort of deal?”
“I want your dungeon-clearing guide for Castle Ruins.”
Ye Ci sneered coldly, “Unbridled Willow, have you forgotten that you’re a member of Steel-Blooded Battle Spear, and that I have a history with your guild? Do you think I’ll give you a guide just like that? Isn’t Thousand Sunsets best friends with Sir Ditty? Why don’t you just get him to ask Sir Ditty for one? It’ll be faster that way! Why are you looking for my help?”
“I am indeed a member of Steel-Blooded Battle Spear. But you have to believe me, I have nothing to do with Thousand Sunsets. I can’t let you in on the details, because it’s a guild secret. But giving me the guide will definitely not benefit Thousand Sunsets.
“Oh really? Do you think that I’m dumb?” Ye Ci felt that it was a good time to put everything in the open. She did not want to be further entangled in the conflict between the two men. “From what I know, one of you is leading the first squadron while another is the commander of the second squadron of Steel-Blooded Battle Spear! Doesn’t it mean that giving you the guide is like the equivalent of handing it to Thousand Sunsets? I will never do something like that!”
“I know you and Thousand Sunsets find each other disagreeable, and I know that you’ve rejected to help him out. Please, believe me when I say that I’m not asking for your help in his stead. I’m doing this for my own sake.” Unbridled Willow was forced to reveal the partial truth in a bid to achieve his objective.
“Are you telling me that…” Ye Ci was able to read between the lines. She narrowed her eyes and smiled, “You’re at odds with Thousand Sunsets as well?”
Noticing that he has spoken too much, Unbridled Willow cleared his throat and redirected the conversation, “I just wanted a guide. Rest assured, I’m not after the First Blood. I am very clear on what I’m capable of, and I will definitely not cross the line.”
“Alright then. If I choose to believe you, what’s in it for me? You’ve mentioned earlier that you want to make a deal with me. From the way I see it, you’re the only one benefitting from this deal. So what do I get for entering this bargain?”
“I’ll pay you 5 million in real world currency.” Unbridled Willow thought of himself as a generous person. The price he was willing to pay would of course not be in a small sum.
The only respond he received was Ye Ci’s cold laughter, “Unbridled Willow, don’t you think your price is too low?”
“5 million is not a small figure. Gongzi You, we’re talking about 25 million in-game currency! Don’t be too greedy.” Haggling was a strong suite of Unbridled Willow. He knew that Gongzi You would never be satisfied with the price, but it would not hurt to lower the cost.
“A dungeon exploration party has 100 members. This means that each of us will receive 50,000 bucks. On paper, this sounds like a huge figure. But don’t you think you’re a little too stingy? Don’t you know that we have our rear echelon members as well? Don’t you know how much effort my members have put into preparing for the dungeon? What about the cost of the preparations that have to be done? The potions we’ve made just for this are not cheap. Do you know how many consumables we’ve prepared for this? How many efforts our commanders have put into this? Alright, even if I don’t charge you for this, do you think my sponsored clearing party will earn less than what you pay us?” Ye Ci sneered coldly, “5 million real world currency is the lowest price people pay us to clear a dungeon for them. If I managed to secure a First Blood right here, do you think I won’t have 5 million bucks? Seriously, I don’t think this small amount of money is worth the dungeon clearing guide. You’re just too insincere.”
Unbridled Willow had done extensive research on the medium and small scale guilds like ‘Upwards Ho!’. He knew that Ye Ci’s words were true. 5 million real world currency was really nothing compared to the pay they were going to receive after clearing the dungeon.
“Alright. 10 million, and nothing more than that.”
“20 million.” Ye Ci did not even blink as she spoke out the price. It was as if the figure she had spoken was just insignificant numbers.
Unbridled Willow let out a laugh, “Gongzi You, I see that the descriptions of you on the forums are very accurate. If I may, I think you’re a very greedy person.”
Ye Ci was not angry. She instead laughed at his words. One of them had the intention to buy, while the other had the intention to sell. It was a contest of perseverance, “I admit that I’m very greedy. But I’m doing this for my guild. I have a lot of things to worry about.”
Unbridled Willow sneered coldly. He did not want to respond, but was unwilling to hang up on Ye Ci. He waited patiently for what else she had to say.
Ye Ci was in no hurry, “If I secured a First Blood today, there will be only 4 spots of the First Five left. Do you think you’re the only one who will be buying a guide from me? There are a lot of wealthy guilds in our Eastern Continent.” she pursed her lips, “Besides, you’re in a different situation compared to the other guilds. If I make them pay at a lower price, they can do favors for me. But can you do that? I think not. You’re not in charge of Steel-Blooded Battle Spear. Besides, even if you’re running things in the guild, what will your guild members think if I sell the guide to you at such a low price? How will my own members see my action? How will the guilds in the Eastern Continent look at Upwards Ho!?”
She did not reveal her true intention through her words. She knew that as a higher up of a guild as large as Steel-Blooded Battle Spear, Unbridled Willow would be able to read between the lines and understand her words.
As expected, he was stunned silent by her words.
After receiving no response from Unbridled Willow, Ye Ci stopped beating around the bush as she needed to get into the dungeon soon, “Alright Unbridled Willow, with all said and done, it’s all up to you. To buy the guide from me or not is up to you, but selling it is my decision to make. This is a business that we willingly partake in after all. I’m heading into the dungeon, good luck.”
With that, Ye Ci used the City-recalling Stone and travelled back to Red Lake City. She paid no heed to Unbridled Willow as he remained and instead instructed Green Hill’s Moon to keep track on the progress of Unbridled Willow and Thousand Sunsets.
Her conversation with Green Hill’s Moon was short and simple this time. Green Hill’s Moon spoke up right after Ye Ci made her request, “They’re now locked in a very close competition. Although Unbridled Willow appears to be in the lead, Thousand Sunsets has the advantage of entering the game first and is the guild leader of Steel-Blooded Battle Spear. If I’m not mistaken, he’s already attempting to buy the dungeon clearing videos for Castle Ruins. If he succeeds in getting one, it’ll be the end for Unbridled Willow.”
“Isn’t Zero Arsenic working for Unbridled Willow now?”
“I’ve told you that Zero Arsenic is the Old Master’s henchman. Even if he’s with Unbridled Willow now, it only means that the Old Master is favoring Unbridled Willow. It does not mean that he is the heir apparent. Zero Arsenic is a smart man, he will not act at a moment like this. If he helped the wrong side, it’ll waste his years of effort by the Old Master’s side.” Green Hill’s Moon sneered coldly. He despised the power struggle of the wealthy.
Ye Ci nodded, “Alright, I understand.”
After cutting off the chat, Ye Ci knew that her assumptions were correct. If that was the case, she would not have to worry about Unbridled Willow calling off the due because of her price. He was already backed into a corner. If he did not seek help from Ye Ci, all is lost for him. The only thing Ye Ci needed now was Unbridled Willow’s courage to accept Ye Ci’s terms.
Perhaps because of the fact that she had cleared all the worries weighing down her heart, Ye Ci’s mood was great as the party cleared away all the monsters on their way to the 5th BOSS. She was actually helping out! Bai Mo’s curiosity was aroused. “Why are you so hardworking? Is it because you’ve realised that you’re as fat as the pig you’re rearing?”
Ye Ci rolled her eyes at Bai Mo and summoned Ol’ Four. She then whispered something to her pet, and Ol’ Four’s Intimacy Level with Bai Mo dropped. It started chasing him around. Although Bai Mo received no damage from Ol’ Four, its rows of jagged teeth caused him a world of pain. Bai Mo ran all over the place, pleading for Ye Ci to call off her pet. He was shrieking out in his heart: do not mess with women and people who have a black heart.
The sight lifted the gloomy atmosphere. Members of ‘Upwards Ho!’ were depressed after being bogged down by the BOSS for such a long time. The sight of Ol’ Four chasing Bai Mo around gave them a good laugh, lifting their spirits.
When the party has finally arrived in front of the final BOSS of Castle Ruins, Frost Queen Dani, their mood once again turned gloomy. Even Overflowing Ink who was normally calm and collected showed signs of anxiety. They have been bogged down by this BOSS for far too long.
Overflowing Ink cleared his throat, “The plan today is for me to take charge in the first try. If I fail, Mi Lu will take over. And if the both of us failed, our guild leader will take be taking command.”
The guild leader in question was of course Gongzi You. Even if she was a rare sight in the guild encampment, the name “Gongzi You” was the first thing that the members would think of at a time like this.
The party members cast their glances on Ye Ci. Excitement, trust, and hope were brimming in their eyes.
Ye Ci knew that it would be disappointing for her not to speak up at a moment like this. She gestured at Overflowing Ink, and the latter nodded, indicating that was okay for her to speak up.
“I’ve always been absent from dungeon clearing. In fact, I’ve never joined any sponsored clearing parties at all. This is one of the few times I’m joining you people in dungeon exploration. You can say that I’m not a responsible commander,” said Ye Ci with a smile, “I’m just a substitute on this day. I thank you for your trust. This is my duty to our guild.”
The party held their breaths as they listened to Ye Ci. Each and every one of them paid close attention to their leader. Even if Ye Ci was not a qualified leader in the hearts of many, she was definitely the spiritual leader of ‘Upwards Ho!’. It was a first time for some of the members, but many among them had explored dungeons with Ye Ci. They knew that as long as Gongzi You is in the party, nothing was impossible.”
The betting pool in the forums recently has crowned one player from each continent as the King of Solo Plays. Even if they might disagree on the 3 other players from the other continents, all of the players agreed as one that Ye Ci was definitely the Solo Queen of the Eastern Continent. Her title was, of course, not only recognised my players of ‘Upwards Ho!’, but the entire Eastern Continent.
“How many of them have been constantly exploring the Castle Ruins dungeon?” asked Ye Ci.
“Around 70 to 80 of them have constantly being with us during our exploration.” replied Bai Mo.
“What is the most amount of deaths suffered by these players? In this particular dungeon of course.” the smile remained on Ye Ci’s face.
She received no answer. Nobody remembered how many times they’ve died in the dungeon, and how much money they’ve paid for the maintenance of their equipment. The members of the party stared at Ye Ci silently.
“Some of you might’ve died for a hundred times, and some of you two hundred, or maybe more.” Ye Ci nodded, “I remember a question that someone asked me a long time ago: How many times have I died in a dungeon?” she lifted up a finger, and her smile broadened, “A thousand times.”
The unexpected answer caused an uproar among the party members. In their mind, they imagined Ye Ci to be undefeatable, and has never died even once during her dungeon explorations.
“You might not believe my story. But when I first started my experience in a VRMMORPG, I did not know left from right when I explored my first dungeon. My positioning was bad, and I could not control the aggro of the monsters properly. I made all the mistakes that could have been made, multiple times.I lost track of the numbers of parties that I had joined. I’ve been cursed and looked down on. I experienced the difficulties that all of you have faced in the past. In the end, nobody was willing to form a party with me. I was famous for my horrible skills. That was when I told myself that I must clear the dungeon, even if I had to do it on my own. I began my journey of soloing the dungeon. I counted my deaths as I tried clearing the Easy Difficulty 5-man dungeon. After dying for a thousand times, I finally took out the final BOSS.”
She paused her soliloquy. She studied each of the party members, and found them staring at her with shining eyes.
“I am not trying to gain your sympathy when I share my story today, nor am I bragging about my tenacity. I just want to tell you one thing, and one thing only.
In this game, there’s only one way a dungeon exploration will end. Either we take down the BOSS, or we die trying to take down the BOSS. There is no other way.” she pointed at Frost Queen Dani, the final BOSS of Castle Ruins, “So what if she’s able to defeat us again and again? Someday, she will fall. Such is the fate of a BOSS!
Remember, the designers will never place an invincible BOSS in a dungeon. The are only 2 reasons why you’re unable to defeat the BOSS. Firstly, there might be something wrong with your teamwork. Secondly, we have not found the correct strategy of dealing with this BOSS. Those are the only reasons.”
The entire party remained silent.
“I can see that all of your expressions started turning gloomy when we entered the dungeon. Why is that? Have you been defeated by yourselves before even reaching the BOSS? The BOSS is not that scary. The most scary opponent you’re facing right now are your own fears and worries. Do not be afraid of your opponent!” Ye Ci stared at each and every one of her party members. I, Gongzi You, am your third commander. I hope that I won’t have to take command today. You know what I like to do the most! I like to relax, because I am a lazy person initially. That’s all I have to say.”
With that, Ye Ci motioned for Overflowing Ink to speak. However, he was staring at Ye Ci with mouth agape. He snapped out of his daze when Ye Ci once again reminded him that it was time for him to take charge. It was apparent that he was very excited, “Alright, I’ll begin laying out our strategy to defeat this BOSS. Please pay attention and ask any question you want. I’ll do my best to answer any and all of the questions.”
As Overflowing Ink began his speech, Bai Mo walked up to Ye Ci and nudged her lightly, “Did you really died a thousand times when you were a newbie?”
Ye Ci let out a ghost of a smile, “What do you think?”
“I don’t think so. Someone as talented as you will not be that stupid.”
Ye Ci snorted, and paid no heed to Bai Mo. As she stared at Overflowing Ink, she thought about her first time in Fate. A thousand times. That’s right, nobody will believe that Gongzi You had once died in a dungeon for a thousand times. Even Bai Mo refused to believe such a fact. However, it was the truth. She really had died in a dungeon when she first started playing VRMMORPGs at the age of 14.
The thousand times of death had such a profound impact on Ye Ci. It was the reason why she’d grown to be so cold and detached when it came to interaction with other players. Her selfish nature in her past life might’ve been caused by that one thousand times as well!
Taking a deep breath, Ye Ci looked up into a sky. The weather was just so beautiful.
Overflowing Ink had a good strategy, but it was not enough. The party was able to make it through the first stage of the BOSS fight. But when the fight progressed to it second stage and Dani began creating clones of herself, all the party members were unable to dodge her Ice Blades that were causing huge amount of damage. Even Tanks were taken out with one hit. The party was severely demoralized.
Overflowing Ink racked his brains as he ate his food in a corner. He was unable to find a solution. Even after multiple tries, his best record was to take away 60% of Dani’s health at the second stage of the battle. He had not once progressed to the third stage. He let out a sigh, and handed command over to Mi Lu.
“Boss, do you think that I’m an incompetent commander?” Overflowing Ink sat beside Ye Ci. He was depressed.
Ye Ci let out a laugh and patted Overflowing Ink on his shoulder, “As long as you can see the bigger picture of things, and are able to bark out your orders into the Command Channel, then you have the talent to be a commander.”
“Ink, do you know how many commanders have had jitters when they spoke in the Command Channel?” asked Ye Ci as she stared at Mi Lu who was explaining his strategy to the party members not far away, “There is no incompetent commanders, only those who have not worked hard enough. As long as you are able to make yourself heard, it means that you are gifted! The rest is up to your hard work! Hang in there, I’m sure that you’ll make it into the Top 10 Commander Ranking of Fate some day!”
Overflowing Ink was touched. He lowered his head, trying his best to hold back his tears.
“You’ve tried your best. Getting too serious will backfire sometimes.” Ye Ci stood up, “Don’t be so tense. The members have faith in you.”
“Ok.” Overflowing Ink remained seated. He was deeply impressed by Gongzi You. She was tough, valiant, and careful. She had the aura of a leader. A person like her was born to be at the top.
Mi Lu has greatly improved from the last time Ye Ci was in the same party with him. His strategy was better than Overflowing Ink’s, but it was very complex. After making through the second stage, the flaws of his strategy began to show. The potion consumption of the party was too high in the first and second stages. This meant that most of the party members did not have enough mana for the third stage of the fight, and most of their skills were on cooldown as well.
The players fell into disarray when they had to simultaneously dodge Dani’s attacks while replenish their health. This brought countless casualties to the party.
After three tries, Mi Lu was devising an effective strategy against the BOSS. He let out a sigh, “I must’ve missed some details. I thought this would work…”
If Mi Lu’s strategy was adapted by larger, more experienced guilds like Wolf Pack and Tang Dynasty that have experienced members with great teamwork, it would have worked. However, he was in ‘Upwards Ho!’, and the players in ‘Upwards Ho!’ were unable to keep up with such a complex strategy.
HOLY SHIT MINNA-SAN! WE'VE MADE IT! WE'VE MADE IT TO THE 200TH CHAPTER!!! WOOHOOOOO!!!! GIVE JIMMI SOME HYPE IN THE COMMENTS YO!!!
I'd like to thank you all for your support! We've come a looooong way to be here! Thank you all! I've never expected to be able to come this far, but goddamn! This is a very meaningful moment for myself, a milestone that I'm able to achieve not just through my efforts, but the efforts of countless others as well, and of course, thanks to all your support!
And... As always... 200 Chapterversary... We have a troll chapter on the next page! Put your hands together for her hard work people! She worked really really hard to create the speshul chapter!!
Also... There will be a speshul event as well in the announcement post!!! Stay tuned!!!
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