Chapter 3: Mirror
Felica, a young sixteen year old girl with freckles and her hair in two braids, stood by the door.
When Xing Ye saw Felicia, a description of her instantly popped into his mind. He glanced discreetly at the black and white wristband, noticing it turned transparent. It looks like the NPC can’t see it.
A string of words only Xing Ye could see was displayed on the band: the plot is automatically updated.
Alright, at least the system wasn’t so bad as to not even give him the name. It looks like when he meets people Claire knows, the system will give him a basic introduction.
It really was basic: the name and that’s it.
Xing Ye lowered his head to look at the much shorter Felicia. She was holding a big wooden basin filled with clothes, her stature making the task much more arduous than it would’ve been. Xing Ye casually took the basin and carried it for her.
Felicia’s face turned red as she hugged Xing Ye’s free arm, burying her head in it. She praised cutely, “Claire, you’re the best!”
Xing Ye only ever had a working relationship with women so he wasn’t used to such intimate actions. However, to prevent her from discovering something was off, he forced himself to endure and didn’t push Felicia away.
However, this intimate action also gave him some benefits. For Xing Ye who didn’t know the way, he had just to follow Felicia to go to the riverbank.
Spring seemed to have just started in this world and so the river water was still ice cold. Felicia’s hands instantly turned red as she started to wash the clothes, pausing occasionally to cup her stomach bitterly.
Xing Ye was speechless.
The main market for their company were women so even though he’s never been intimate with them, the things he learnt during market research still made him figure out Felicia’s situation. For such a young girl who just bloomed, having prolonged contact with cold things like the icy river water during that time of the month would be bad for their health.
”Don’t wash it anymore.” Xing Ye said and realized his voice had become crisp and clear- it was a girl’s voice.
”I can’t,” Felicia’s face was pale as she shook her head, “We’re almost out of bread at home so I need to wash this fast to get money for food.”
So it turns out she was a poor young girl in medieval times who relied on doing laundry to make a living. Although she wasn’t a serf, her life was still very difficult.
”I’ll wash it, you should just rest here.” Xing Ye pulled Felicia up and brought her to a sunny spot before going to the basin and washing the clothes for her.
Xing Ye’s family was well-off but his parents were diligent in making sure he was self-sufficient. In high school, he was sent to a private boarding school and had to experience life under the military so things like cleaning and washing clothes were all easy to him.
Felicia looked at Xing Ye gracefully, “Thank you, I’ll be troubling you then. If you ever feel uncomfortable later, I’ll help you!”
You probably won’t have the chance… Xing Ye secretly thought as he washed the clothes.
Felicia found some hay to use as a cushion and leaned on a tree by the riverbank. Under the sun’s warm glow, she quickly fell asleep.
While Xing Ye was wringing water from the clothes, a prompt replaced the plot context notification: “The kindhearted Claire had just finished washing the clothes when she saw a shimmer of light glimmer not far away. She walked over curiously and found a silver mirror. Claire always wanted to have one of those legendary mirrors. She picked it up and saw her face.”
Xing Ye followed the indicators and saw a handle sticking out. The silver mirror was just about the size of a woman’s palm, lying half buried in the riverbank.
The prompts continued to sound in his head: “Claire carefully looked back and saw Felicia had dozed off, so she stealthily tucked the mirror under her shirt, her heart racing madly.”
Xing Ye turned around as the prompt said and sure enough, Felicia was asleep. He looked back at the filthy, mud cloaked mirror and raised his foot, lightly kicking it back into the river.
Just then, a static crackle interrupted the plot’s narration, as if it no longer had signal. The words on his wristband also changed to “Error: Waiting for Fix”.
Xing Ye lips curved slightly as he revealed his first smile since entering the game world.
His experiment succeeded.
He kicked the mirror, the plot’s most important prop, into the river for three reasons:
First, the game’s objective was to resist fate- to what degree, did he have to change his fate? He had to make small changes during important plot points of the game, using his status as an ordinary civilian girl to scheme a rebellion, a woman’s right movement, or make some innovations to raise his civilian identity. He had to break through his fate by ignoring or circumventing the plot points or rules without going out of character.
He didn’t follow the system prompts and make it break, yet he wasn’t penalized. This meant that the system was lenient towards “rejecting” or “rebelling” types of actions.
He traded his luck to be free from the rules’ restrictions.
Second, in a traditional RPG game, ignoring a major prop would generally trigger an incomplete ending. For example, the ending might become something like: “Claire was too afraid to pick up the mirror because of the law so like other civilian girls, she ends up getting married to an abusive husband and works all day, living her days out in poverty and tormented by illness.”
No matter what kind of ending the three from the fate camp might’ve set up for him, the precondition has to be that the plot unfolds. If Xing Ye doesn’t even enter the plot, then it wouldn’t be any conclusion.
Third, if the second point doesn’t hold and the plot continues, Xing Ye wanted to see how the system would revise the plot to make Claire pick up the mirror.
”I’m done washing, let’s go.” Xing Ye said.
”Eh? That fast?” Felicia looked at the clothes in the basin, “It normally takes me a long time to wash all of it.”
Felicia glanced down at the clothes and saw they were all washed clean. She happily took the clothes back home to dry it and in the evening, took the money she got to buy six loaves of brown bread. She gave Xing Ye five of them and just left one for herself.
Xing Ye knew Felicia lived with her mother and younger brother. Just one loaf of brown bread wouldn't be enough to eat.
He only accepted one and handed the remaining four to Felicia, who hastily shook her head, "Nonono, you washed all the clothes today and I just rested. Just one is enough to give to my mother and brother, I don't need any."
"I don't like it." Xing Ye pushed the bread at her and walked away, not giving Felicia another chance as he returned to his home and shut the door tightly.
Felicia wiped her tears and hugged the bread, shouting behind him: "I'll definitely pay you back!"
After arriving home, Xing Ye stood alone in the moonlight, pondering while nibbling at his bread.
Xing Ye wasn’t somebody who really cared about food. When it got busy at work, he would often forget to eat. He had always just regarded food as a tool to fill his stomach, but now, he found out he was wrong. Brown bread tasted way too bad!
After using water to force down the hard bread, Xing Ye sat on the hay bed and read through the information on his wristband.
He didn’t see the plot update the entire day. Now that the day’s almost over, there should be some sort of change.
Sure enough, when the full moon climbed up to the sky, a series of knocks sounded at the door.
A desolate and impoverished village, a simple wooden hunt, a girl living alone, and a knock on the door late at night; all these things together made for a terrifying scene. However, Xing Ye was prepared and carefully looked outside through a small air hole in the wooden wall.
Under the moonlight, he saw a silver mirror covered in dirt, propped up on its handle as it used its silver frame to rap arduously at the door.
Xing Ye: “......”
He felt a strange sense of hopelessness towards the mirror.
”Bang, bang, bang,” The knocks on the door got heavier and heavier as the mirror started using all its strength.
At the same time, the plot updated again, narrating in Xing Ye’s head: “Claire, afraid of the queen’s wrath, didn’t dare to pick up the mirror and timidly threw it back into the water. However, who would’ve thought that the mirror actually had a spiritual consciousness. During their short moment of contact, it felt Claire was a kind-hearted and charitable girl and decided to become Claire’s mirror. So, when night descended, it used the power of the moon to make its way to Claire’s door and with the last of its strength, knocked on her door.”
It looks like it was impossible to not have the mirror in the plot. Xing Ye opened the door and stooped down to pick up the mirror.
Narrator: “Claire opened the door and happily picked it up, looking at her face.”
Did he have to see his face?
Using the moonlight, Xing Ye saw his appearance in this world with the mirror.
Ah… the reflection of a dark face which hadn’t been washed for who knows how long and messy hair was a ghastly sight for the always neat and tidy Xing Ye.
There was some water in a nearby bucket so he immediately grabbed it and walked to the yard to wash his face with it. He really had no idea how Felicia had the courage to hug his arm when he had such a filthy face.
Narrator: “Claire is an orphan so unlike other families, she has nobody to help her wash her face and keep her appearance in check. She had always believed herself to be a beautiful girl and never knew that in other people’s eyes, she actually appeared dirty and sloppy. Luckily, the mirror saw Claire’s pure heart and braved the risks of being shattered to come to her side, letting her finally see her true appearance.”
After tidying himself up, Xing Ye picked up the mirror again and noticed that the girl in the mirror looked very similar to him, like a gentler and milder version of himself. If he had a younger sister, she would probably look something like this.
Xing Ye wasn’t sure if his own appearance was handsome or average, but he knew his younger brother Xing Shuo was very handsome. Wherever he went, there would always be people flocking around him. If the girl resembled Xing Shuo, she’s probably a beauty.
Just as he thought that, a large “UGLY” appeared on the mirror’s surface and it was even written in Chinese.
Xing Ye was speechless.
This mirror really saw “Claire’s” “pure spirit”, and was “extremely delighted” to become his mirror?
He couldn’t tell at all!