Chapter 51: Puppet City
After working hard the whole night, the big mirror was also tired, psychologically tired. He turned around for a while before clearing out a space beside Xing Ye and leaning on him.
It was pretty good, having somebody… having a mirror to accompany him in this dark world.
With somebody accompanying him, the night no longer seemed as frightening. The two puppets, one big, one small, waited together for daylight.
Now, Xing Ye could finally see the room clearly. This was a very simple and crude wooden room, with junk piled everywhere. Shabby looking wooden heads, metal parts, tools, hammers, and wrenches cluttered the room.
It was like a discarded warehouse.
Now, Xing Ye could finally see what the big mirror looked like.
The big mirror was a puppet with two copper mirrors, one big, one small. The small mirror made up his head, with a big copper mirror welded on for his body. The copper strip that was his neck was very difficult to move, but it made it feel as if his head was always crooked. The big copper mirror also had four moveable frames, which should function as limbs. The little mirror also had two pieces of crystal on it, which looked like eyes. A piece of copper protruded under his eyes- it seemed to be his mouth and could move. Although he didn’t have any ears, there was a small wind-up coil behind his head.
He thought back to when he saw Lu Mingze earlier and the way he looked like an angel as he slept in the wheelchair. Then, Xing Ye looked at the mirror man in front of him and silently wrote a big, fat “ugly” in his heart.
However, he considerately chose not to say anything. If he did, the mirror might cry.
“Hahahaha, Xing Ye you’re so ugly!” Beside him, the big mirror issued a large, bellowing laugh, which sounded similar to a gong.
Although the bronze mirror was a little fuzzy, it was still enough for Xing Ye to see his own appearance.
He was a very simply made wooden puppet. His right hand had broken off, and a wind-up spring was placed on the right side of his body. His neck, eyes, nose, and mouth were all there, except he didn’t have hair. He was completely bald.
Yep, he was also bald down there.
But the mirror were the same. The two looked at each other’s baldness and both bursted into laughter.
Xing Ye stood up, his body issuing a series of creaking sounds as he did, like a machine that needed to be oiled.
After inspecting his reflection in the mirror’s body, Xing Ye said, “It’s too old, this body of mine needs to go in for maintenance.”
The big mirror was the same. His head was green, which should be from rust. Copper, when rusted, turned green.
He also didn’t know how Master Benedict managed to make these mirrors and wooden puppets move. Well, this was a fairy tale world after all. Who in the real world would be able to give puppets human nature, then put his heart in a wooden puppet before they died, making them continue their life.
“Let’s go look outside.” The big mirror proposed, “There’s nothing in the room.”
Xing Ye wanted to find some tools to reattach his right hand, but he still didn’t have a clear idea of how his body worked and didn’t know how Master Benedict made the puppets move.
“Alright then, let’s go outside and pretend to be puppets.” Xing Ye agreed with his idea.
He was very curious about the little city Benedict created and wanted to know what it was like.
He pushed open the moldy wooden door. Sunshine streamed onto the mirror’s body, reflecting light everywhere.
Hm… the big mirror needs to be polished, Xing Ye thought. The dust all over him was especially prominent under the bright sunlight.
The world outside stunned Xing Ye and the big mirror. It was actually a very busy little city.
“Engine oil, engine oil, come top up on your engine oil! We have a sale right now, buy one get one free! Top up one puppet and another puppet gets topped up free!” Not far away, a wooden puppet shouted.
There was also a coil spring shop next to the engine oil shop. The banner advertisement read: Master Benedict’s specially made coil spring puppets will personally help you set up your coil and winder. Enjoy the treatment of a master- guaranteed to be tighter than if you did it yourself!
The words weren’t in chinese, but Xing Ye and the little mirror could still understand it. The system probably already gave players knowledge about the language.
A bit further away was a clothing shop. The banner outside read: Are you still running around naked? You still don’t even have a scrap of clothing? In our puppet clothing shop, we make tailor-made clothing for your best fit. Wear civilized clothing, be a civilized puppet.
Xing Ye: “...”
The big mirror: “...”
They looked at their bare selves and suddenly felt very ashamed of their nakedness.
The big mirror quickly fled back into the house, but his body was too big and he forgot to turn sideways to get through the door, nearly getting stuck in the doorway. In the end, Xing Ye had to help him turn until he could finally squeeze through the door.
“What do we do? We don’t have clothes…” The big mirror told Xing Ye lowly, “We’re uncivilized puppets!”
Xing Ye: “... Wait a moment, I’ll go search through this junk and see if I can find something to cover us.”
He released a deep sigh… oh, wooden puppets couldn’t sigh, so it was just a mental sigh.
Xing Ye had previously thought that time after his parents died was the toughest period of his life, but then he had to crossdress. After becoming Claire, he didn’t think it could possibly get any worse. But now, he was a disabled, one-meter tall puppet, living in a house full of dust and heaps of junk, and so poor that he couldn’t even afford clothes.
While he was rummaging through the junk piles, Xing Ye suddenly had a philosophical awakening: He would never think his situation was miserable again, because the next second, it could get even worse. Humans would never be able to see through fate’s limits.
The poor, crippled one-meter tall puppet had just thought of that when an even worse situation befell him- after rummaging for a bit, he suddenly tumbled off the huge pile of junk, causing a landslide and trapping the crippled, one-meter tall puppet underneath.
Xing Ye: “...”
This was the first time he realized how difficult life was as a wooden puppet.
“Xing Ye!” The big mirror was leaning against the wall and jumped up when he saw what happened. Because he was too flat, he was like a wall mirror and didn’t get hit by anything.
“Creak!” Crushed under everything, Xing Ye could only make a sad, creaking sound. His coil spring was jammed, leaving him unable to speak.
The big mirror waved his two rusted green copper arms and arduously dug Xing Ye out of the junk pile before helping him clear out the little metal bits jamming his coil spring.
“I was too careless.” The one meter tall wooden puppet’s face was solemn as it stared at the pile of junk, “My house had never been this messy before. I’ve always had a nanny to tidy things up.”
“Same here…” The big mirror looked worriedly at the heap of trash that was almost like a mountain, “It’s depressing staying in a house like this.”
“Let’s go at it bit by bit, pop-” Even as a wooden puppet, Xing Ye was so calm that when his chin broke off while he was talking, he just cooly pushed his chin back with a pop.
The two puppets rummaged through the pile of junk for a long time before finally finding two sacks of cloth and happily threw it over their bodies. Even if they were poor, they were at least civilized puppets.
Now that they finally had clothes (a hemp sack), Xing Ye felt much better. As calm as he was, even he couldn’t bear other wooden puppets looking at him like he was a pervert.
Puppet Xing Ye sat on the floor and spoke, “Earlier, I heard the little puppet at the engine oil store shout that the engine oil cost one piece of primary ore, which should be the puppet city’s currency. Right now, we need to get rid of this rust, upgrade our coil springs, buy a normal set of clothes, and replace our engine oil… we need to make money.”
“We also need to find Cao Qian, your teammate. She’s also an opposing fate player and we don’t know where she is right now. We need to meet up as soon as possible.” The big mirror reminded him.
“Yeah,” Xing Ye agreed, “It sounds like primary ore needs to be mined. She’s very strong, so she can help us make money.”
Although they had different reasons, they truly did need to find Cao Qian.
The two puppets walked out of the wooden house again. When they saw the other wooden puppets wearing clothes like the ones seen in western fairy tales, they couldn’t help but lower their heads in shame.
The other wooden puppets were normal civilians, while they were beggars.
The one-meter tall disabled puppet stood by the engine oil shop, watching the customers go and fro. Puppets didn’t need sleep, so they just laid in bed and rose with the sun. Although it was still early morning, the puppet city was bustling with activity.
The 1.7 meter tall male wooden puppet walked in with his… his wife, probably? The two puppets entered the engine oil shop and took out a piece of primary ore, “This is one piece of primary ore. My wife and I want to top up our engine oil.”
Xing Ye and the big mirror pricked their ear like thieves- oh, the big mirror didn’t have ears, so only Xing Ye’s ears stood up.
“Alright, please come inside.”
Sounds of dismantling machinery sounded from the shop. After about half an hour, the adult male puppet and his wife walked out of the engine oil shop. He stretched his body comfortably, “Mmn, an engine oil change sure is nice. My whole body feels comfortable, and my joints slide much smoother where it kept making creaking sounds before.”
Xing Ye: “...”
Every time he moved, the creaking sounds were very loud.
“I’m glad you’re satisfied. Your bill comes to four primary ore pieces.” The wooden shopkeeper puppet said.
“What!” The adult male puppet almost shouted his voice box outside of his throat, “You clearly said one primary ore piece can buy one get one free, where did four come from?”
“Sire, you can’t just listen to rumors, you have to look at the prices on our shop’s signboard!” The shopkeeper puppet said, annoyed. “One piece of primary ore’s only enough to cover the price of the engine oil, what about the service fee for switching it for you? Two pieces of primary ore for one puppet is buy one get one free. It’s normally three primary ores for one puppet, but we're only taking five ores- it's a great deal!"
“Liar! Scammer! I won’t pay!” The customer puppet said angrily.
“Huh? You want to just walk away without paying?” The shopkeeper puppet suddenly opened his stomach, where a black rock laid inside, “If you want to take my engine oil for free, I won’t have any business so I’d might as well take you down with me!”
“You, you’re actually carrying coal? That’s illegal! I’m going to report you!” The customer puppet said furiously.
“We have a certificate to sell coal, it’s legal coal! New coal-powered wooden puppets are given a set provisioned amount, you uneducated hick!” The shopkeeper puppet took out a piece of paper, “Are you paying or not? Or else, I’ll burn the coal!”
“I, I’ll just pay…” The customer puppet was terrified and took out four pieces of primary ore from his stomach before running away.
Xing Ye: “...”
The big mirror: “...”
The big mirror was two meters tall and couldn’t stoop down, making it impossible for him to whisper quietly to Xing Ye. He could only press the one meter tall disabled wooden puppet Xing Ye up against the wall and lean his body diagonally to speak quietly, “This place is so uncivilized. Now I know why Master Benedict wanted the city restored back to how it was before.”
“Shh…” Xing Ye gestured at the mirror to not talk about that outside.
He waved his hand at the mirror before pretending to nonchalantly walk by the customer puppet.
The customer puppet was venting angrily, “How infuriating, all the ore I spent the past few days working for all got swindled away!”
The female wooden puppet in a dress consoled him, “Husband, don’t be angry. I’ll just buy a little less clothes. Just remember to go mine some primary ore outside the city today so we can replace our coil springs tomorrow.”
“Alright! For my wife, I’ll work hard!” The customer puppet kissed his wife as they walked further into the distance.
So you could actually go outside the city to mine primary ore for money.
After the customer puppet walked away, the engine oil shopkeeper puppet suddenly shouted furiously, “That cheat! He actually gave me fake primary ore! Out of these five pieces, only one of them is real! I’m going to report that swindler!”
The neighboring coil spring shopkeeper advised him, “Don’t be angry. If he denies it, you can’t do anything. The public security bureau knows that we all lie, so they won’t be able to tell who’s actually lying. It also costs two primary ores to report someone, so it’d just put you at a loss.”
“He’d better not let me see him again!” The engine oil shopkeeper was so angry that steam was coming out of his ears.
The coil spring shopkeeper looked at him enviously, “Sigh, the new steam type puppets sure are nice. You have internal metal protection and can heat coal to collect kinetic energy generated by the steam. Plus, your strength and speed are all much better than us old puppets. If we forget to wind up our springs for even a day, we won’t be able to move, but you steam puppets are 2x more efficient. How envious.”
“Ai, who let me be born later? You’re my big brother.” The engine oil puppet’s eyes were even letting out steam from all the coil spring shopkeeper’s praise as he returned to the store happily.
The moment he went in, the coil spring shopkeeper let out a ‘pooh!’ sound. “Every day, he swindles away so much money, yet he still refuses to go and get himself fixed. Sooner or later, that blockhead will get burned to death by the coal. Us old puppets are still better, coil springs are much safer.”
Xing Ye: “...”
Big mirror: “...”
It really was a chaotic city where everyone lied. They didn’t know how they would be able to find the one puppet who didn’t, or find their teammates and the other players.
“Let’s go mining outside the city.” Xing Ye said, “I need to replace the corroded oil, or there’s no way I’ll be able to use Redrawing Pen. My fingers won’t be effective.”
Nevermind ineffective, right now he could barely even bend his fingers.
Xing Ye’s body was made of wood, but all his joints were out of metal. Metal was easier to move and oil.
The big mirror, covered by his sack cloth, looked at the clothing shop enviously. He just saw a female puppet, who said she wouldn’t buy any clothes, pick out a set of clothes.
“Too dishonest,” The big mirror shook his head, “She clearly can’t afford it, sigh.”
“We also can’t afford it,” Xing Ye said, “But if we follow people outside the city, we should be able to find some kind of mine. There’s probably some rules to mine. I have a feeling Cao Qian’s also very poor, so maybe we can run into her there. Guan Ling probably isn’t. He’s a following fate player, so there’s no way he’d be in such miserable straits like us.”
They talked as they walked to the city gates. There, there were all sorts of different puppets waiting for the gates to open so they could leave the city.
There were very large, five-meter tall wooden puppets and 30 centimeter tall nimble little iron puppets. Everybody was human shaped, but there were all sorts of statures and sizes, with varying levels of quality and material as Master Benedict’s skill progressed.
The newer models of puppets which ran on dual kinetic energy sources were very proud. They raised their heads, looking high and mighty.
Suddenly, a skinny and shriveled wooden puppet got kicked out of the group by the other wooden puppets. Somebody shouted loudly, “Tut, a matchstick like you that combusts so easily shouldn’t go outside and bring everyone disaster!”
The matchstick puppet was just like its name, with a body made out of a huge matchstick. He… or maybe it was a she, had a very weak body. Just a kick was enough to snap off their arm.
They crawled up from the ground, looking pitiful as they covered their broken arm. They looked around and saw Xing Ye holding their broken arm in his left hand.
All it took was a glance to confirm that they were both puppets with ridiculously bad luck.
The matchstick puppet drew a symbol in the air, and Xing Ye immediately drew it back.
It was their secret signal- the matchstick puppet was Cao Qian!