DISCLAIMER: All credit for 1/2 Prince, it's original ending/storyline and cast of characters go to the very talented Yu Wo.
The End of The End
The Blood Elf bit back his anguish and fury, jaw clenched and tears burning hot behind his glass resolve. His fingers tightened painfully around the hilt of a sword that felt foreign in his unmarred hands. It all felt so wrong, this was not the way things were supposed to be. Endings were meant to be happy, kings and overlords were meant to defy the odds, spit in the face of gods and sculpt the fates to their own designs.
The life drained out of the Dictator of Life's gentle gaze, his expression utterly serene as he succumbed to the inevitability of his own demise. He looked into the eyes of the creature he loved one last time and smiled.
And then he was gone. No one would remember, no one would know. He was the true hero here, but at the end of the day, players would be dancing over his grave and chanting the name of their proclaimed savior. They would celebrate his murder.
Lolidragon was at his side, she touched his shoulder softly. He knew she was speaking but he couldn't hear the words. He thought of Wicked and Gui. The pain of their loss still ached in his chest, the wound pulsed heavily and bled freely with nothing to staunch it.
But they would wake up, they would go on, hell they could even start over if they wanted to.
Not the Dictator of Life. Not the Four Heavenly Kings. They were gone forever and no one would ever see them justice.
White knuckles, his bones felt like they were about to snap under the pressure of his grip on the stranger in his hands. His tears had dried and the fire burned in his veins. He sought out his friends' worrying gaze one last time and each one of their faces was like another stake driven straight through the beating lump of flesh hidden deep beneath his breastplate.
"ND Ultimate Techique: Activate."
One year later…
Yang Ming expertly sidestepped the small barrage of pillows-turned-deadly-weapons as he charged into his sister's room, his voice purposely raised to a rather… obnoxious volume.
A nearly visible aura of pure malice crackled, dark and sinister, around the frumpy looking figure rising out of a pile of twisted pink bedsheets.
"Morning!" Yang Ming chirped, pulling up a shield as a rather vicious looking alarm clock made a beeline for his face.
"Ow," his protective barrier complained loudly.
"Oi, nice going, stupid sister. I don't know why Zhuo-dage keeps bothering himself to get such a violent woman every morning. Good luck finding a husband with that kind of attitude–"
Faced with a crabby twin wielding a much more intimidating looking lamp, Yang Ming weighed his options before beating a hasty retreat… but not before pulling one last, annoying face at his sister.
The door fell shut with a quiet click, leaving the remaining two in relative peace.
Feng Lan took a moment to glare daggers at her closed bedroom door before her attention was drawn back to the latest (and repeated) victim of the siblings' perpetual war. "Oh, Zhuo-gege, I'm so sorry!" She hopped out of bed and trotted over to the young man nursing what was sure to be a rather fine bruise centered perfectly behind his bangs.
Ling Bin shrugged and grinned a forgiving smile. "At least it wasn't the fish bowl this time."
Feng Lan frowned but didn't say anything, having long since given up trying to get the boy to hold her to her faults. She stood on her toes and brushed his hair away from his forehead, fingers ghosting over the angry red skin carefully.
"We ought to get some ice on this," she announced before flitting off to the kitchen to collect a cold compress, she shot her brother a dirty look as he lounged on the couch like a lazy child watching morning cartoons.
"Here." She wrapped the pack in a small cloth and pressed it against the abused flesh gently. "Hold this here."
Ling Bin did as instructed as the girl took a step back, still looking rather guilty.
"It's fine," he soothed, ruffling her already mussed hair. "I think I'll live."
Lan gave him a bit of a sour look but decided to drop it. She grabbed a few of her morning supplies from a nearby chair and started towards the bathroom, tossing her head over her shoulder briefly to inform him that she would be getting ready and to make himself comfortable.
"You can lie down on the bed for a while and rest if you like," she suggested before disappearing into clean white tile and the promise of a nice hot shower.
Things between her and her childhood friend had been a bit strange since… well, for the past year or so. Where Zhuo Ling Bin had always gone out of his way to spend time with her, walk her around university, tag along on the odd recreational outing, so on, somewhere along the way he'd become a constant in her daily routine.
Almost overnight, he had started showing up every morning to drag her sorry butt out of bed, he walked her to and from the city transport every day, met her in the hall after classes, took lunch with her and dinner most nights. They studied together, went grocery shopping together, laughed together, and generally just did well… everything together.
She wasn't complaining at all. Zhuo-gege had become a real grounding force in her life… Back on her worst days (the days she really didn't like to think about), where her heart sat so painfully heavy in her chest she thought she would suffocate under its weight, Zhuo-gege had been the one that pulled her back up on her feet and march her back out into the living world.
She honestly didn't know where she would be without him.
So that's why she tried… really hard… not to think too deeply about the nature of their relationship. Of course, that didn't stop the whisperings and her brother's usual loud and rather rude commentary. But Feng Lan was just not ready to be thinking of her childhood friend in that way and Zhuo Ling Bin didn't seem too hard-pressed to push the subject so she decided that it was fine to ignore it completely. At least for now.
Feng Lan plodded back into her room, dressed and ready to go, only to find a thoroughly amused Zhuo-gege examining the trinkets decorating the top of her bureau.
"You still have this?" he chuckled, gesturing to an old bottle filled with a myriad of shiny pebbles and snail shells.
"Well yeah, why would I ever get rid of that?" she smiled, remembering a day many years back, running through the woods as kids when they had happened upon the old glass beer bottle buried almost all the way up the neck in dirt. "They haven't made real glass bottles in years. Since our parents were kids. That thing is practically a national treasure."
"Uh huh," he intoned, sounding thoroughly convinced, smiling in that twinkly eyed way that made her stomach feel all fluttery and queasy at the same time.
"Yeah, well, go ahead and diss on my bottle. That thing is going to be worth a fortune by the time I cash in on it." She gave him a devious smirk before twirling back towards the door.
As soon as the two entered the main living area, they were immediately met with an outpouring of hungry complaints from a certain couch-dwelling, cartoon-watching loudmouth.
"Stupid, it's the start of the new term today. We have to get there early." Lan snatched a foil wrapped protein bar off the counter and threw it at her twin with only slightly less than deadly force. "Go cry to Shui Han and see if she'll spare you some sympathy." Fat chance.
And like that they were off. The trip to school was rather uneventful – save for the insistent whining from a certain unruly brother.
"Oh, hey, Xiao Lan, who's your professor for Intro to World Philosophy?" Ling Bin asked curiously. He'd been surprised that a girl like Feng Lan had even been anywhere near remotely interested in taking such a course. She was so restless and strong-willed, he wouldn't think she'd take much enjoyment in sitting through something as existential and wordy as philosophy.
"The directory says it's located in the Literature building."
"Oh," Feng Lan muttered distractedly… the campus sure was a lot more confusing than she remembered, she was sure she would get lost trying to find her classes. "Uhh, I don't really know, I just kind of glanced at my schedule and the hall numbers last night. Let me check."
She dug around in her bag for a moment before producing the crumpled and uncrumpled, folded and torn little roster that outlined the new term for her. "Let's see, let's see… Mathematics, Science, Literature… Intro to– "
She cut off with a tiny squeak, her skin growing paler as she read and reread the name listed on her paper.
"Ah, ahaha… hah." Feng Lan finally looked up from the little sheet of paper, meeting her companion's concerned gaze, "Well, it's funny you ask."
Ling Bin raised an inquisitive brow.
"It looks like..."
"Well, as it were..."
"That is to say..."
She scratched the back of her head nervously, not sure if she was more anxious because it was Zhuo-gege she was talking about this with or if it were just the subject itself. She decided to just cut to the chase. "It looks like Gui is back from his sabbatical."
Even just saying the name made the back of her throat itch like an old prisoner was trying to claw its way back to freedom.
Needless to say, Zhuo Ling Bin did not look thoroughly pleased. A number of emotions, some darker than others, flashed across his face before he seemed to force himself to settle on 'sympathetic'. "Do you want me to stay?"
Feng Lan shook her head, her thoughts growing distant and clumsy.
"No, that's okay. It should be fine, I've wanted to talk to him for a while now anyway."
Her friend didn't appear very happy but he didn't argue. His animosity towards the literature professor was never something they took much pleasure in discussing and it usually started a pretty heated debate. Hell be the day, the ex-warrior actually found herself on the side defending the moron.
"Actually, I think I might go in early. Better to get it out of the way now or I won't be able to concentrate." Feng Lan shook off her nerves in favor of some of that steadfast determination she was infamous for and turned, bid her friend a quick farewell, and started making her way back towards the lecture hall, squashing every little nagging fear that begged to drag down her heels.
Really this was something she had wanted to do almost a year ago. She owed this to him and it didn't sit well with her to leave her obligations buried under her own problems.
Despite her angry words to him that day, she had never meant to break her promise. He needed to know, whether he still cared for her or not after learning the truth, he deserved to know. Even if things hadn't turned out the way they did, she would have determined at that moment, the moment where he'd bound her in a way that he shouldn't have been able to, that he deserved to know the person he loved so deeply wasn't the person he was seeing before him.
After the… incident… Xiao Lan had been so paralyzed with grief she hadn't been able to bring herself to even get out of bed, let alone attend classes where she would see him and be able to explain herself.
After returning from her own leave of absence, she'd come back to discover that the professor Min Gui Wen had been issued a forced sabbatical after having a "hysteric episode" on school grounds.
She'd never been able to gain much insight on the specifics of what had happened, but she didn't need to be told that it had something to do with Prince.
Call it cowardice, but she couldn't bring herself to try to seek him out through alternative means.
Maybe he'd finally moved on?
Lan's brow furrowed. Somehow the idea was a bit disheartening and she couldn't pinpoint the exact reason why. Maybe it was because Gui was still so firmly rooted in her memories of then versus now. The idea that Gui had really let go of Prince put a certain sense of finalization to her departure from the world she had loved so dearly, and as much as she clung to that conclusion, she wasn't sure she was entirely ready for it to be real.
Settling things with Gui would be her last dealing in anything directly related to Second Life.
She came to the door that led to the room and she hesitated. How should she approach him? Like Prince or like Feng Lan? It seemed like a silly question, they were both inherently her, but then, around him at least, she'd turned them into two completely different entities.
Prince, captain of the Odd Squad and Overlord of the Central Continent, would stomp in, place a few choice kicks in a few select spots, and tell the bard to promptly get his head out of his ass. Student Feng Lan might take a slightly more… reserved approach.
She decided it might be best to walk the line.
Tapping on the door lightly to alert her quarry of her presence, the girl pushed her way into the room. What she found wasn't quite what she was expecting.
While Gui had always been a bundle of emotional ups and downs, Professor Min always exuded a rather collected atmosphere. Calculated, controlled, visibly relaxed, Feng Lan had always found it curious how completely different he could be from his in-game counterpart. So it was strange, finding him with his hands buried in his hair, eyes wild and desk a mess of loose papers and various other office supplies.
She cleared her throat as she stepped closer to her one-time comrade.
His eyes swung up to hers, almost frantic in their haste, and she had to bite back the sudden wave of nausea that swept over her twitching stomach.
He seemed confused for a beat before something seemed to click by the way his expression suddenly cleared, a strained smile pulling up the corners of his lips as he straightened stiffly. "Student Feng Lan, what a pleasant surprise." Min Wen forced a tense chuckle. "I wasn't really expecting any visitors this early," he admitted gesturing to the chaos that was his desk.
His demeanor very thinly veiled the unspoken request that she make this venture quick.
Feng Lan glared at him briefly, a look that seemed to take him a bit off guard, barely resisting the urge to attempt collaring him for the insinuation that she was in the way. She doubted it would be anywhere near as effective as it was in Second Life anyway.
"There's something I wanted to talk to you about."
She watched as his gaze flitted nervously to a small picture frame seated safely away from the rest of the clutter, his fingers tapped impatiently. He stifled a tiny huff before sliding it closer. She was pretty sure she caught a glimpse of white hair. "What is it?"
"Well, I guess it's actually something I wanted to tell you."
He seemed confused and perhaps a bit annoyed. "I'm sorry, but does this have anything to do with academics? If not –"
"Shut up, Gui," Xiao Lan rolled her eyes, crossing her arms over her chest as he balked at her sudden crass.
The professor bristled at the girl's blatant disrespect. He opened his mouth, probably to chew her out for speaking so informally with teacher, but was cut off once more.
"I came here to tell you I'm Prince."
That shut him up.
"Or, I was."
His teeth clicked together as he sucked in a sharp breath, his fingers were like claws around that tiny, fragile picture frame. The guy looked like a cat that had just been doused with a bucket of ice water.
Feng Lan felt for him.
"I'm sorry," she sighed, "For taking so long, I mean. I always intended to keep my promise but… some things came up that made that hard to do."
She looked up at him with all the memories they shared together, good and bad, exhilarating and infuriating, heartfelt and tragic. She wasn't sure if she still wanted him to care for her as he did Prince, she wasn't entirely sure if she was deserving of that after all she'd put him through, but at the same time she realized she didn't want to lose him entirely.
Maybe that was selfish, maybe it didn't make sense (what was Min Gui Wen to her other than a literature professor, after all).
But it's what she wanted and when she looked into his eyes she saw something different.
It was anger.
The professor got to his feet. He didn't yell, he didn't knock things off his already haphazard work station, he didn't throw down his chair or try grab her by the front of her shirt. He just looked down at her with the coldest eyes she had ever seen.
It was the first and only time Feng Lan could honestly say she was afraid of the usually gentle Gui. A shiver ran up the length of her spine.
"Gui, I –"
The student backed up a step, her instincts for once leaning more towards flight… before all the fight came roaring back to her blood with a resounding crackle of menace. How dare he! All she had gone through, all the heartache and torture and guilt, and he, the one that had clung to her like an annoying, whiny tumor was going to spit venom back at her apology?
Oh, hell no.
"What the hell, Guileastos?!" she growled, standing on her toes and leaning as far over the desk as her slight frame allowed.
"Don't you dare..." his breathing was heavy, the sound of cracking glass pinched her ears. "Don't you dare call me by that name."
Feng Lan reeled back, clutching her face as though she'd been physically struck. Could that goofy, gooey lump of a bard have really come to resent her so much?
"Don't you dare. I know… His Majesty..."
"Stop jerking me around! Do you think I'm some kind of idiot?! How many more of you are going to come in here pretending to be someone you're not because… What because you think it's funny?!"
Realization dawned on her like the first blinding rays of light filtering through the darkness following a solar eclipse. "Wait a second. You don't believe me?!" The second portion of her words were a barely comprehensible screech of pure rage.
The man didn't even flinch. He scoffed. "I know Prince. I'm in love with Prince. How desperate do you think I am that I'd just fall for your obvious lies?"
"Oh, you have got to be shitting me..."
"Now, if you're quite done, I'd really appreciate it if you'd leave, Miss Lan. I've got a lot of work to do in preparation for my first lecture today."
"Gui, you're making a real ass of yourself here. If you'd just sit down for a minute and listen, I could –"
The literature professor raised his hand, effectively cutting her off. All his turbulent emotions had finally been reigned in, once again the picture of professionalism, but Xiao Lan could feel his words seething just below the surface. "I don't want to hear it. This discussion is over."
The girl was practically shaking, she was so mad. And to top it off she was hurt… was Gui really so blinded by Prince's good looks that he couldn't look past her gender to see it was her personality that lie beneath the elf's handsome face?
"You want to know what? Fine." Lan shouldered her bag and turned, shrugging snobbishly. "I tried. If you want to keep living in your delusions that's your problem, Guileastos."
She moved to leave then, determined to walk away from the world's most pathetic, moronic excuse of a genius with her head held high and only the very slightest twinge of disappointment in her heart.
"Oh, and Miss Lan?"
The girl stopped, looking back at him with as bored an expression as she could master.
"It may be in your best interest to transfer out of my Intro to World Philosophy class." He sat at his desk, hands folded seriously as he leveled her with a very measured gaze.
Her eyes widened and she blinked. Did he just…?
"Did you just threaten me?"
Min Gui Wen waved a dismissive hand. "Of course not!" he replied lightly, almost sounding like his normal, cheerful self.
"But allow me to pose to you an important philosophical question: Are you willing to bet your GPA on that?"
The grin he flashed at her was downright evil.
She grit her teeth, breathing in short, angry puffs as she deliberated her next move. Like hell she was going to give him the satisfaction of having the last word. But it didn't seem like there was much she would be able to do aside from casting empty threats. She was a student and he a professor. He held all the power here.
An idea suddenly dinned in the back of her head and she smiled deviously. She stalked back towards the professor like a cat circling an injured bird.
Her hand struck out as she finally succumbed to the desire to haul the man up by the front of his shirt. He swallowed nervously, abruptly much less self-assured than he had been only moments before. He didn't even struggle to free himself.
The literature professor stared into the girl's eyes for what felt like a small eternity. He could almost detect small flecks of red in that terrifyingly familiar glare.
"Pr… ince…?" he squeaked, horror suddenly breaking over the man's entire form as a spark of hope lit in his eyes. Oh gods, what have I done?
Feng Lan's grin widened to the point it nearly looked as though she had fangs. "Rest assured, Guileastos. You will regret what you have said to me here today."
And then she dropped him and left. Her words still hanging over him in a confused daze as his grip on the broken frame finally loosened.
AN: Gah! I am so excited about this story! I've been wanting to start this for the longest time, but could never get the introduction right. While not perfect, I think this finally does what I'm trying to say justice. Will be starting on chapter two immediately, so will hopefully be able to get it out fairly soon.
If you enjoyed this or would like leave your critique, I would be immensely grateful for a review :-)