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Chapter 52: Matchstick Puppet

Taking advantage of how everybody was standing in front of the city gates, waiting for it to open, Cao Qian and Xing Ye, the two disabled puppets, quickly found an empty cranny to hide in. The mirror used his huge, two-meter tall body to hide the two small puppets, his hands on his hips proudly. He felt super cool- this time, he was the one protecting Xing Ye.

“What’s this?” Cao Qian looked at the mirror and leaned into Xing Ye, speaking in a quiet voice so only the two of them could hear. “Who is he? Is he a following fate player you just met?”

Cao Qian was truly self-aware of her own luck. She instantly knew that there was no way that the mirror, with his big, strong body, could possibly be an opposing fate player.

“No,” Xing Ye whispered back, “He’s my current body’s brother. He seems a bit foolish, very easy to deceive, so you don’t have to avoid him. Creak.”

Xing Ye supported his chin, “Creak, Sorry, my engine oil needs to be changed. Creak.”

“A fool? He shouldn’t be the only truth speaking puppet that we’re supposed to find, right?” Cao Qian asked.

Creak, do you really think our luck would be that good? Creak.” Xing Ye held his chin with one hand and looked at Cao Qian’s broken, frail arm. “Can you use your starting abilities with your body like that?”

“I already tried, but this body’s too fragile so I didn’t dare to use too much force. I can lift heavy objects, but it’ll crush my arm.” Cao Qian said dispiritedly, then looked at Xing Ye’s own broken arm. “Can you still use your starting abilities?”

Creak, writing with my left hand isn’t a problem, but my finger joints are all rusted, so it’ll be hard for me to write. I’d probably need half an hour to draw a QR code.” Xing Ye said.

The two pieces of red phosphorus on Cao Qian’s matchstick head that made up her eyes filled with despair, “Half an hour? That’s enough for them to smack us down three times! I’d already be lit on fire by then!”

Xing Ye fell silent for a moment before deciding to change the topic, “Let’s exchange information.”

He told Cao Qian what he had heard in the morning.

Cao Qian also said, “Your information is even worse than mine. I have a mother in this world, an iron sheet puppet.”

“Huh? A matchstick puppet’s mom is an iron sheet puppet?” Xing Ye felt like logic really couldn’t be applied to this world.

“Who knew what Benedict was thinking,” Cao Qian gnashed her teeth, “I’m from a single parent family, with my mother fostering three children. My big brother and my mother are both iron sheet puppets. My sister’s an ordinary wooden puppet, but I heard she’s the most beautiful girl in the city, with many pursuers. Of course, I can’t see how she’s very pretty, so I guess their aesthetics are different. I, the third child, am a matchstick puppet, with shoulders that can’t be raised and hands that can’t be held. Every day, I break an arm or a leg. My mother said that she’s spent all the money she’s saved on maintaining my body and told me I needed to pay her back, so she forced me to go out to get primary ore and provide for myself.”

Xing Ye: “... It looks like Benedict really did want to create a wonderland, a city filled with beautiful and loving puppets. Normally speaking, you would be the delicate, weak child in your family, and should be spoiled with extra care by your mother and siblings. However, after he gave the puppets human nature, everything went the opposite direction. As the puppets started to lie and deceive each other, affection would also turn into judgement of whether you’re useful or not.”

Cao Qian: “...”

Alright then, at least Xing Ye’s brain hadn’t gone rusty yet. His reaction speed and analysis was as strong as ever- even under this situation, he could speculate about the plot. That was their only good news today.

“I think the biggest thing the system should seal isn’t your starting abilities, but your brain.” Cao Qian said.

Xing Ye’s blood ran cold when he heard that. “You can’t say stuff like that casually. If the system really finds a way to limit my brain, what will we do in the next world? Just lie down and wait for defeat?”

Cao Qian knew she had misspoken and poked out her tongue, which was made of a matchbox.

“There’s no place of friction on your body, right? Your whole body’s a matchstick head, so it only takes a bit of heat before you burn up.”

A thick matchstick formed the torso of Cao Qian’s body, with little match heads forming the rest of her body. Her head was a huge match, with some thin matches on top, which seemed to serve as her hair.

She wore a shabby-looking skirt. It was also why Xing Ye guessed that she was probably a girl earlier.

In fact, Cao Qian’s circumstances were still a little bit better than Xing Ye’s. At least she had family members who would spend money for her. Although her mother always scolded her, she at least raised her and would help fix her arm when she broke it.

Xing Ye gave the snapped off arm for the big mirror to hold and used his own left hand to support his chin. Not only would doing so support his constantly creaking chin, it also gave him a profound and dignified look, although that profound and dignified look only existed in his imagination.

“Who fixed your arm for you?” Xing Ye asked.

“There’s only one repair shop in the city, Old Nect’s house. I heard Benedict gave that puppet his own ability to repair in hopes that the puppet city could stay forever clear of death and illness. Thus, he also gave half of his own name to Old Nect.” Cao Qian answered. With family members to ask, she could obtain much more information than Xing Ye.

“Go home and ask your mother for money. Say that your arm got broken by somebody and you need repairs. After that, go scout out the repair shop and tell us about it. I think we can start from there.” Xing Ye proposed.

Seeing how Cao Qian didn’t seem to understand, Xing Ye explained, “The system said Master Benedict put his heart in one of his puppets. Even if he turned into a puppet, he would still want Puppet City to become the wonderland he had always imagined.

“Although the mission never said they had to find Benedict, he was definitely an important character we have to talk with.

“Even if Benedict isn’t useful at all in the plot, we still need his help to change our bodies, so we have to go. If we keep using our current bodies, I’d might as well burn you to death right now and then find a player to kill me so I can leave the world. There’s no way we can win with our current bodies.”

Cao Qian found Xing Ye’s words reasonable, but she didn’t quite understand his last point. “If you’ll kill me, you’ll get 1000 points and upon losing the game, I’ll lose 2050 points. Then, if you’re killed by somebody else, although you’d also lose half your points, wouldn’t you still get a return of 500 points from me?”

Xing Ye’s face didn’t change as he complimented, “Great, you can already see through the snares in my words. There’s progress, you aren’t like a machine just following whatever other people say anymore.”

Cao Qian didn’t get angry. In the last world, Xing Ye said that he might end up needing to stab her, but after she was beaten black and blue by Bai Xu, he didn’t give up on her and even forced Guan Ling to heal her.

“I know what you’re talking about now and earlier, in the previous world, is all only in the worst-case scenario.” Cao Qian said, “In the last world, even before we found the true ending, you had the confidence to defeat Di Kuang’s group. The only problem was that we didn’t have enough points, so we couldn’t use our starting abilities. I managed to get 1000 points by killing Ms. Li, so the worst-case scenario was just Di Kuang killing us. Facing such a situation, rather than letting them kill us, it’d be better to go all in and kill me to get points to use your Redrawing Pen to kill them.”

That was indeed what Xing Ye had been thinking. He didn’t think Cao Qian would actually get it.

Cao Qian continued, “You should have some other aim apart from finding Master Benedict, right?”

“Yeah, I think there might be a following fate player there.”

Cao Qian blinked her matchbox eyelids, waiting for Xing Ye to explain.

“There’s five following fate players in this round. Anybody with money, power, technology, or connections could all be following fate players.” Xing Ye said.

Looking at her own and Xing Ye’s pitiful, broken-down and pitiful appearances, Cao Qian completely agreed.

“Your sister might be a following fate player.” Xing Ye said, “The most popular female wooden puppet in the whole city, with countless male puppets pursuing her and an extremely unlucky opposing fate player as a sister. Such circumstances are very characteristic of a following fate player’s luck.”

Cao Qian thought back to her sister and found Xing Ye’s analysis reasonable.

“Boom!” The big mirror, who was hiding them under his body, hit his own chest forcefully.

“What happened to him?” Cao Qian thought someone came and asked nervously.

“Nothing, he’s just getting a little impatient waiting.” Xing Ye said.

He understood the mirror too well and completely understood the mirror’s current mood. The best looking puppet in the city could only be a copper mirror puppet like him, not a female wooden puppet! The mirror was protesting.

Xing Ye asked, “You haven’t given yourself away, right?”

“It should be fine. This body’s position had always been very low in the family and didn’t like to speak much. Besides, we don’t have many expressions in the first place. Look at my face, it’s just a big red face with eyes, ears, a nose and a mouth pasted onto it. My face can hardly even move, so what expressions could I make?”

“Then just keep an eye on your sister,” Xing Ye started lecturing, “Your mother and brother could also be players, so investigate them on a whole and don’t just focus on your sister. If you want a scale of where to focus your attention on, I’d say 70% on your sister, 17% on your mother, and 13% on your brother. Raising three children alone is hard for a single mother, so she could be an opposing fate player. The newest iron sheet type puppet is very strong, so they could be a following fate player.

“Observe the way they talk, how they assess other people, how different people treat you, others’ impressions of them, habits at home, the arrangement of commonly used goods and how they use them now, etc.  

“People will always be connected to other people and things. Even identical twins that grew up together would have minute differences. After switching bodies, no matter how perfectly they cover it up, there will inevitably be traces.

“Of course, don’t forget to protect yourself while you’re observing them. For example, when you sleep, if you have a bed, look at the grooves in the bed sheets and mattress to know how you should sleep. Make sure you take care of every detail, understand?”

Cao Qian: “... I’ll try my best.”

No wonder Xing Ye could find all the other players so fast in the last world, it was actually like that!

The lecture was a bit difficult. She felt like she would have to study a long time before she could pass.

After carefully instructing Cao Qian, the little matchstick puppet covered her arm and went home. Xing Ye watched her leave and said, “I hope she can find clues there.”

The big mirror asked, “What do you need me to do? My body’s pretty good. The door’s about to open, so why don’t I go mine outside and get money to raise you? Look at my body. Although I can’t stoop down, it’s still pretty strong. My limbs are a bit rusted, but it won’t catch fire.”

“We’ll go to the mines, but not now. Don’t worry for the time being, let’s just observe our surroundings first. It’s already great for us to have ran into Cao Qian at the city gates.” Xing Ye said.

Although the mirror wanted to raise him, Xing Ye was really worried about the mirror.

The mirror always said he was a high level player, but with how silly and gullible he was, Xing Ye was worried he’d get bullied if he went to the mines.

Since there might be a player in Cao Qian’s family, they needed to avoid Cao Qian’s family and find a reasonable way to keep in touch with Cao Qian.

After finding Cao Qian, Xing Ye got another sense for just how awful the circumstances opposing fate players were given.

The last world, he and Cao Qian were novice players with little points, so the system didn’t place too many restrictions on them. That gave Xing Ye a chance. This world, the system tightly restricted their starting abilities and gave them very fragile bodies that could easily be killed.

The match heads on Cao Qian’s body were all real, made of chemicals like potassium chlorate and manganese oxide. The matchstick that made up her body was also very flammable, so no matter how strong her abilities were, just one flame could take her life. It’d be very easy for their opponents to kill her.

His state was even worse. At the very least, Cao Qian had a family who could protect her and didn’t have to deal with rust. In comparison, Xing Ye was a clearly poor and pitiful puppet without a single cent. He had no family or money to top up on engine oil.

Xing Ye sat on the ground, pondering over what to do.

He was joking when he told Cao Qian they’d kill each other, but in the worst-case scenario, that was what they would have to do.

However, losing wasn’t Xing Ye’s style. How could you give up without giving it your all first?

According to his understanding of the system, it still gave opposing fate players a bit of assistance. For example, Claire’s status as the most beautiful girl and the money he had in the previous world. However, such assistance was nowhere near as obvious as it was for the following fate players. Opposing fate players needed to find it on their own.

The mirror saw Xing Ye thinking and sat beside him, resting his chin in his hand as he accompanied Xing Ye.

His body was flat, so it looked more like his mirror head had grown an extra leg.

Although it looked ridiculous, at least the mirror finally had a body… wait a moment!

Xing Ye looked at the mirror and realised he had overlooked something.

Right now, the mirror was defined by the system as a prop and could only switch bodies between different types of mirrors. He wasn’t like other people who were assigned a body by the system. Logically, he could only possess a soulless mirror.

Xing Ye’s line of thinking earlier was wrong. He never thought copper mirrors could be alive and mistook the copper mirror puppet as an object. However, this world was different. Master benedict could grant puppets life. In Puppet City, all the puppets were alive.

But in his house, filled with heaps of junk like a warehouse, actually laid a copper mirror puppet without a soul.

Taking the real world as an analogy, it’d be equivalent to a poor man finding a corpse in his home- how could that not be shocking? If it was a normal person, seeing it would probably make them jump and scream in fear.

However, this was in Puppet City, so Xing Ye had just overlooked the fact like it was only normal.

There was another important point- Master Benedict dreamed of the puppet city as a utopia where there was no death. Puppets just needed to be fixed and they could live forever. The copper mirror puppet’s body was especially so strong, so then why was it dead in his house?

If it couldn’t have died, then it meant the copper mirror puppet had never been alive. It was an incomplete puppet that Master Benedict hadn’t given life to yet.

In other words, the copper mirror puppet might be a puppet that Master Benedict died before giving life to, or, a failed product that he didn’t want to give life to.

How could a puppet like that be in a poor wretch’s home? This poor wretch had to have some kind of secret, or maybe, there were clues hidden on the copper mirror puppet itself.

Sure enough, all the clues were hidden in the details. As long as players could break through their usual line of thought, they would be able to find the issue.

Xing Ye used his barely hanging left hand to hug the mirror, “Thanks for your help. Now, let’s go home!”
Mirror: “Huh? When did I help you?”

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