While he was shopping, Xing Ye discreetly probed for some basic information about this world.
In this world, civilians were dependent on their land and rarely left their homes. Travellers were all wandering bards, knights who wanted to get stronger, and wealthy nobles with servants and horse-drawn carriages. They would generally stay at taverns, inns, farms, castles, or churches. Taverns were the worst of the lodgings, with noisy and unsanitary conditions. Usually only wandering bards or suffering church devotees would reside there. Unless knights needed somebody to watch their horses, they would rather sleep outside than in a tavern.
With regards to Xing Ye, a tavern was the best place to collect information. He wasn’t picky about his lodgings and could bear with it even if it was filthy.
This body’s chest was too big so even if he wrapped it tightly with cloth, there was still a visible bulge, forcing Xing Ye to wear a cloak over his clothes. After finding a place to keep his horse for the night, Xing Ye entered the tavern. He just ordered a big cup of beer, quietly finding a corner to eavesdrop.
Xing Ye took a gulp of beer and his face stiffened, using all his willpower to stop himself from spitting it back out. What kind of shitty beer was this? The nasty flavor could practically kill somebody. It was a wonder how everybody in the tavern gulped it down happily.
He heard a lot of stuff about what happened after Earl Luca’s manor burned down. The people in the tavern seemed to love talking about the wanton noble who killed himself in his fun. Everybody knew about how Earl Luca treated his maids and that during it, he accidentally set fire to curtains and bed sheets, causing the whole mansion to burn down. He didn’t have any children, only two younger brothers who were now rushing to Earl Luca’s manor to fight for the inheritance and title.
The two younger brothers didn’t care about how their brother died as long as he was dead. They didn’t punish any of the servants in the manor and even rewarded them to pull them onto their side.
That meant Claire’s village wouldn’t be affected.
Everything was done without a hitch… Xing Ye pondered. He only planned everything out roughly and although it had a high chance of success, it shouldn’t have gone this smoothly either. How did this happen?
A notification icon appeared on his wristband, presumably with more information. However, there were too many people here. Even if they couldn’t see the band, it was still inconvenient to check now.
Xing Ye gulped down the beer before ordering a cup of wine, enduring the strage sour flavor as he continued to listen for news.
Setting Earl Luca’s inheirtance aside, the other most discussed topic was the Queen’s birthday. In half a month, it would be the Queen’s 500th birthday and all the aristocrats would have to prepare a gift for her.
Wait, 500th birthday?
Xing Ye almost spat out the gross sour wine in his mouth. Although the narrator’s introduction did say a long, long time ago, he didn’t think that it would actually be so long as five hundred years ago!
Could it be that this world’s similar to the ones in fairy tales? But after listening for a while, he didn’t hear any talk about magic, dragons, fairies, dwarves, adventurers, and things like that. Furthermore, he was just a newbie with no magic or skills. If the first world’s settings were so big, there would be no way he could win.
After gathering all the information he could, Xing Ye retired to the single room he booked, frowning when he entered. Even if you ignored the gross moist air in the room, the bugs crawling on the wall were really indescribably disgusting.
He took off his cloak and spread it across the bed to make it a little more comfortable before checking his wristband. There was a new dull grey icon that suddenly lit up.
Game reward: Congratulations to the player for eliminating their first opponent. As a reward, the system will give the player a chance to change the plot settings. Because the player didn’t use the chance within the one hour time limit, the system automatically used it to cover Earl Luca’s death.”
So it was actually like this. The system notification explained Xing Ye’s doubts perfectly. The game reward didn’t pop up automatically like the narrator so he ended up missing the opportunity. However, even if he paid attention, the only choice he had was to use it to clean up Earl Luca’s aftermath anyways. The current usage worked fine.
It looks like he still needed to ask the mirror about the Queen’s lifespan.
Xing Ye fished out the mirror which had been hidden in his bag of spare clothes the whole time.
There was a crack on the mirror’s surface. Xing Ye rubbed it and found out it was still smooth. The mirror just changed its surface to look like that.
Why did it make itself look broken? Xing Ye didn’t understand.
Xing Ye followed the trail on the mirror and saw it illuminate a group of cockroaches crawling on the ceiling. They looked fat and seemed to be able to fly.
MIrror: Hurry up and cover me!
Xing Ye secretly added a mental note to the mirror: “Afraid of bugs”. With rarely seen consideration, he used the spare cloak to cover him and the mirror. The mirror slowly relaxed, the cracks on its surface fading away.
“When I was at the tavern earlier, I heard the Queen was already five hundred years old. Aren’t you a spiritual mirror? How did you become one?” Xing Ye asked.
The mirror’s surface suddenly changed, appearing similar to a video playing on a phone as it displayed a luxuriously dressed, beautiful woman wearing a set of equestrian gear. She twirled her body in front of the mirror and asked: “Magic mirror, magic mirror, who’s the fairest of them all?”
“It’s you.” The mirror spoke.
This was the first time Xing Ye heard the mirror speak. He watched patiently and noticed that the story was quite similar to Snow White.
The beautiful woman kissed the mirror with a smile: “Not only am I the fairest, I’m also the strongest. I beat all the men in the hunt today.”
The scene changed and this time, the woman’s face was covered in blood: “My face is destroyed. Am I still the most beautiful woman in the world?"
“You are,” The mirror replied, “Your beauty isn’t skin deep.”
“You’re lying... Hahahaha!” The Queen covered her face and stepped back, no longer asking the mirror about her appearance.
The Queen calmly set the mirror back in her bedroom. Scenes of the Queen viciously disfiguring countless beautiful palace maids flashed through the mirror as its originally shining frame slowly turned into a deep black.
Finally, there was a day where the scar on the Queen’s face disappeared, leaving her as beautiful as before. She asked: “Magic mirror, magic mirror, who’s the fairest of them all? I found a magic scripture that said if you boiled the hearts of 99 virgins into a soup and drank it, not only would all scars disappear, you could even attain immortality. Now, nobody can be more beautiful than me.”
However, the mirror replied: “I pledged my loyalty and devotion to the most beautiful person in the world, desiring to make their wishes come true. But you, my Queen, have already become too strong. I can’t find any reason to help you.”
”No way!” The Queen’s voice turned sharp, “You have to serve me! Every ten years, I need to use this world’s second most beautiful woman’s blood to wash my face, or the scar on my face will be revealed. I need you to help me find her.”
“No,” The mirror sounded sad, “Queen, look at your current face. You’re already no longer my master.”
In the mirror, the Queen’s appearance suddenly changed. The skin on her face started to peel off as her slender fingers sharpened into talons. Now, she was no longer a human, but a demon.
The Queen screeched when she saw her true face and picked up a sword, screaming as she hacked at the mirror: “Somebody come and burn this mirror down! Replace it with the most gorgeous mirror in the world.”
The shattered mirror could still speak: “Queen, did you forget? I’m a magic mirror, my spirit can settle in any mirror in the world. I’ll never disappear.”
”Then I’ll just shatter all mirrors and use blood to dye the rivers so no surface can reflect light. That way, you can't settle anywhere.” The Queen crushed the mirror with her heel as she spoke coldly: “Unless, someday, you’re willing to once again become my loyal servant.”
The video ended there as a line of text appeared on the mirror’s surface: When I was in the river and saw you, I knew you were the most beautiful girl in the world. Claire, please help me and awaken the Queen’s kind soul again.”
“I refuse.” Xing Ye’s face was indifferent, “She killed so many people. If she can be pardoned with just a few words, the law would be useless.”
Now back to normal, the mirror seconded his opinion: I agree.
Xing Ye: “...”
So it turns out this was also the mirror’s first time seeing the story and it was watching with him just now?
“Do you get the plot in stages?” Xing Ye asked, “So every time I trigger a plot point, you would show me some of the plot’s backstory?”
Mirror: Of course, you’re always right.
Xing Ye ignored the mirror’s jab. He wasn’t interested in the story’s plot but knowing it would make it much easier to prevent the four possible conclusions from the two unknown manipulators.
Actually, he was more interested in the mirror. It was originally an important prop in the manipulators’ plans, but what kind of prop would ignore the narrator’s words and call their own master ugly? Plus, it knew he was a player and even shared the same comments about the plot as the player. Finally, it was scared of bugs.
Putting its body outside, when Xing Ye thought about their experiences, he felt like he had always been interacting with a real person, not a prop.
He thought back to the black and white rubix cube which didn’t even try to conceal its malice and recalled the rewards and penalties of the first mission, an outrageous idea starting to form in Xing Ye’s mind. Although it went against all common sense, it was possible.
To find out the mirror’s true identity, just using clues, experience and logic wasn’t enough. He needed to carefully confirm his crazy idea. Countless inventions were borne from a scientist’s wild imagination. Nothing was impossible.
Thinking up to there, Xing Ye made a daring guess: “You… shouldn’t be a player who lost their game, right?”
It… no, he actually flew up and turned himself over, not letting Xing Ye see the mirror surface and even tried to squirm down into Xing Ye’ clothes.
Xing Ye was speechless.
It looks like he was right.