Summary: Lolidragon gets to know Kenshin and Sunshine.

The start's set just after the battle for Infinite City. Just before chapter 32.

The rating's for suggested themes, mild swearing.

Thanks to Lucathia Rykatu who told me that Lolidragon's real life given name is Shui Han. :3

*facepalm* Pronouns. Argh. I'm having Lolidragon refer to Prince as female, well, pretty much just because. I may have missed a couple of pronoun changes though. =/

Manhua-verse.


Step by Little Step

By Dark Ice Dragon


As soon as the red-haired player next to Prince had blurred into action, taking down dozens of players in the blink of an eye, Shui Han knew he wasn't a player. There was no way anyone could move like that and keep it up, no matter how many hours they'd trained. So that had to mean that at least he, and the white-haired bishie, were NPCs.

Shui Han huffed, shaking her head as she walked down the street. Good looks, a weapon that could level up with her, an incredible amount of recognition and fame, and now Prince had at least two insanely powered NPCs as pets. Just how lucky was she?

She then caught sight of Prince's back a little bit ahead of her. She must've somehow gotten away from the crowd, which was pretty surprising, seeing how many of the other players seemed intent with celebrating with their finally present City Lord. Prince was edging along the sides of the streets though, glancing side to side, and it was a wonder that she hadn't spotted Shui Han yet.

Hmm... Prince hadn't said anything about the 'players' being NPCs. Shui Han grinned to herself as she chased after Prince, trying to keep as quiet as she could.

She'd play along, just for a tiny bit.

* * *
Well, that had been interesting. Shui Han flopped into a chair, watching people charging off to prepare for the concert, hiding a smile. She loved it when people did what she told them.

But that did leave the interesting puzzle of Kenshin and Sunshine to think about. Self-aware NPCs, huh? She hadn't thought it was possible, but Second Life was the most technologically advanced program in years so who knew?

Shui Han could understand why Prince wouldn't want the higher-ups to know, but she wasn't intending to tell them. Why would she? Sure, the NPCs were 'buggy' but it wasn't like they were doing anything wrong or anything; they were doing the exact same things as players, really, so it wasn't a problem.

But now she was curious. Just how different were they to other NPCs? How similar were they to other players?

She hummed as she thought it over. The only way she'd find out would be to talk to them.

But first, she had to draw the clothes design that just popped into her head. She was going to have so much fun with this.

* * *
"What're you doing?"

Shui Han jerked up, startled, and then jerked back when she saw how close the other person was. Long, flowing white hair that looked better than what hers did at its best, dark tanned skin, and the biggest green eyes she'd ever seen.

And she thought that she'd have to go to them first.

"Sketching some designs for Prince," she answered, once her heart had settled down a little bit. 'Some' was a bit of a euphemism, because there were at least ten pieces of paper spilled around her, all of them double-sided, some of them even with splashes of colour because she'd run out of ideas at that particular point. 'Some' also depended on your definition, since you couldn't really fit designs on thin strips of fabric.

Sunshine stared at the paper, and then looked back at her. "Can I watch?"

Shui Han smiled at the curiosity that was radiating from the man. "Yeah, sure." She still wasn't entirely sure how she wanted to dress Prince up yet, but that was the entire point of brainstorming. And making them anyway and seeing what they looked like on Prince. And then possibly taking pictures. It was all for the sake of making money, of course.

Sunshine pulled out the chair closest to her and sat down. He didn't say anything else, so Shui Han busied herself with the papers as she thought about what to say. Well, there was always the easy questions.

"What do you think of Infinite City?" she asked, head bent over the picture she was working on. Damn, she'd made the arms too long again. Another good thing that was coming out of the concert was Shui Han could see her figure drawings were already improving, even after a couple of days.

"It's big," came the instant reply, wonder shining clear in his voice. "There's so many buildings here, and I keep getting lost," Sunshine added sheepishly.

From what Prince had told her, Sunshine either couldn't leave the palace, or he couldn't leave the one room inside the palace. Shui Han didn't know how he'd done it without going insane - she knew she would have after about a week.

"Well," she said, drawing the syllable out as she put her pencil down, an idea forming in her mind, "I could show you around."

Sunshine stared at her, eyes wide. "Really?"

She nodded. "Yeah." Why not? Rose and Fair Sky weren't on yet, but she'd post the sketches to them, just in case she was still with Sunshine when they logged on. And on that thought... "Where's Kenshin?" Shui Han glanced around, but didn't see any sign of red hair anywhere.

"I'm not sure." Sunshine was quiet for a few seconds, looking off to the side. "I think he'd be near the... outer walls?"

On one hand, it narrowed down where to look, but on the other hand, Infinite City was huge, so just following the circumference of the city would take a while. And who knew how close Kenshin actually was to the walls. That was also assuming that Kenshin didn't move while they were trying to find him.

But that didn't really matter. Whatever happened, she'd get to spend some time with Sunshine, and they'd find Kenshin eventually. Shui Han gathered up all her things in an untidy heap and stuffed them in her pouch. "All right," she said, checking she'd picked everything up before grinning at Sunshine. "Let's go find him."

* * *
Sunshine was trailing behind her, eyes never settling on one thing for more than a few seconds before flicking away again.

"So, what are these buildings for?" There didn't seem to be an end to his questions, but Shui Han didn't mind - it kept them talking to each other. At the start, when she continued to answer the questions, Sunshine grew bolder, asking more, about smaller things. It meant they were probably walking a speedy half-mile per hour, if not less, and at this rate, they were probably never going to find Kenshin today, not unless he was under two miles away and practically hugging the wall. Which, for all she knew, he could be doing just that.

"They're houses. They're for people to stay in when they're here," she explained. She was never sure exactly what Sunshine knew and what he didn't. Sometimes, as soon as she named something, he would nod, knowing what the object was and what it did, if it did anything. Other times, Sunshine would stare blankly at her, even after she'd spent five minutes explaining it in detail. He'd then frown slightly for a few minutes before blinking and asking more about it, or moving on to the next thing that caught his eye.

There wasn't really a system for what he asked about from what Shui Han could see; they had probably spent about two or three hours in the one shop alone, wandering around it a couple of times, just in case they missed something.

Sunshine was gazing up at the stone buildings, eyes trailing over the windows, the archways shadowing the front door, the reliefs carved into the walls. It just looked like a standard old-school fantasy house to Shui Han. "But why do you need them?"

"For..." She trailed off, not entirely sure what to say. Because they were there to be bought? Because it added a sort of realism to the game? That was another thing she didn't know of what Sunshine and Kenshin knew: to what extent did they think players were different from them, and did they know they were characters in a game? "It's something else people can do." Which made no sense at all, but she wasn't entirely sure what she could say.

"Hmm, okay." Sunshine stared at it for a little longer before he turned away. He cocked his head to the side and then beamed at her. "Kenshin's close by."

Shui Han didn't know how he knew, but she followed after him as he started to purposely go down an alleyway.

* * *
There was a whistling sound in the air, one that Shui Han could recognise instantly. There wasn't any shouting, explosions or metal screeches, so it wasn't a fight. And if it was one, the guards would have kicked the people out by now.

She nearly bumped into Sunshine's back when he slowed down without her realising. Curious why he'd done that, Shui Han peered around his shoulders and her eyes widened.

Oh... wow. Yeah, she'd seen Kenshin in action just a few days ago but she hadn't been paying too much attention since she'd been busy at the time. Now, she had no distractions and she could watch him as he flipped, twisted and just generally flowed from one action to another. She was surprised that Kenshin hadn't drawn a crowd yet, but right now, she didn't care, as she was completely and utterly mesmerised.

Disappointingly, he began to slow down after a minute, winding down. As soon as he sheathed his sword, he looked towards them, waiting. Seemingly taking that as a signal, Sunshine started to walk forward. Shui Han felt like either she'd been given permission to approach, or she was entering the biting zone of a very wary animal as she followed him. Possibly both.

"Kenshin, this is Lolidragon," Sunshine introduced them, waving a hand in her direction. "She said that she'd give us a tour of Infinite City."

Blood-red eyes flicked towards her, assessing her.

Shui Han took another step forward, so that she wasn't hiding behind Sunshine so much. She lilted a grin in his direction. "Yup. So do you want to start now or later?"

The stare cooled marginally, and Kenshin looked away. "Don't you have to log off soon?"

It wasn't a no, and that was what mattered. Shui Han checked the time. Huh, it was later than she thought - or earlier, considering she should probably be getting up soon.

"Yeah," she said, nodding slowly. First, breakfast, and though she wanted to get back on as soon as possible, she should probably have a shower before she did. "I'll be back on in about an hour," -and Kenshin glanced back at her, stilling even more- "so where can I find you when I get back on?"

Sunshine was looking at her in curiosity too. "Prince logs off for longer."

She flapped a hand dismissively. "Eh. Prince's got university to go to; I don't." It seemed like everyone was going to the same university, and they were all connected to Prince one way or another. "I'll be here most of the time."

"Well," Sunshine said, glancing at Kenshin, "we'll either be here or at the main inn when you get back."

Would they be able to find it? It was one of the easiest places to find (apart from the castle), being right by the city square, except they were now on the edge of the city and the reason why they'd been looking for Kenshin in the first place was so that she could show them around. Kenshin wasn't adding anything, still watching her from the corner of his eyes.

She nodded again, trusting them to find their way there. "All right. I'll be back soon, so don't wander off too far!" she said cheekily, waving a finger.

A tilt of head from Sunshine and no response from Kenshin.

With that goodbye, she logged off.

* * *
"Kenshin?" He had stood up from the table after they'd finished eating at the inn, and it looked like Sunshine was going to follow him.

He paused from stepping away, waiting for her to continue.

"We haven't paid for the meal yet."

The two men glanced at each other, seeing if the other would explain. When neither did, they looked back at her.

Okay... how did you explain the concept of money to people who probably hadn't had any experience with it? "The people here gave us a service, and we have to reward them for it." It sounded too simplistic to her ears but what the hell - if they understood it, that was all that really mattered. She doubted Prince would want her reputation going down because they had killed some NPCs.

"So that's why I was attacked," Kenshin said softly, almost so quietly she didn't hear it.

Would want her reputation going down any more that what it was before because they had killed some NPCs, Shui Han amended.

* * *
"Prince," Shui Han greeted, before slipping into the closest chair. Prince smiled back warmly in return, not slowing down in demolishing her food. There was the remains of a feast in front of her, and Shui Han picked up one of the few untouched items left. "So," she began instantly, Prince listening attentively, "is Kenshin always so... aloof?" The tour around the city had been relatively uneventful, though Kenshin had been eyeing some of the katana in one of the windows, but hadn't said anything about it. Sunshine, on the other hand, seemed to have a lot of fun wandering in and out of multiple shops, dragging her along for when he wanted to know something.

Prince snickered briefly, hunching over. "Yeah," she confirmed, one side of her mouth curling upwards. "He doesn't say much and Sunshine talks enough for both of them." That, she definitely agreed with. She wasn't quite sure if he had actually said anything while the three of them were walking together.

There was a little wariness in Prince's eyes when she stopped laughing, like she wasn't completely sure about something.

Shui Han snorted and lightly punched her on the shoulder. "I already told you: I'm not going to tell my bosses, so quit worrying." What she'd seen of them confirmed what she'd originally thought: they weren't doing any harm so there wouldn't be much point in getting their data reset.

Prince looked back, relieved, before starting back on the rest of the food. A couple of minutes later, there was a scrape as Prince pulled her chair away from the table. "Fair Sky and Rose want my measurements," she explained with a grimace.

"Measurements of what?" Shui Han leered.

Prince flailed at her and blushed furiously. "Lolidragon! For the costumes! For the costumes!" she backpedalled.

Shui Han cackled at her expression, and continued giggling when Prince ran out of the restaurant as fast as she could.

It was about an hour later that she left the restaurant herself, having eventually eaten her fill, and she decided to wander. There were a number of parks in the city, all of them sprawling with trees and various greenery, but each park had its own colour scheme - this one was purple. She could recognise some of the plants, like asters and hyacinth beans, but not all. She wasn't going to ask why there was a giant purple ribbon tied around a couple of the trees; who knew how the minds of programmers and game developers worked. She was fairly sure the other parks didn't have ribbons, but she hadn't looked closely enough at them to see if they had different quirks.

Shui Han stopped walking when she recognised the person sitting right in the middle of the park, face tipped towards the sun. Not that it was hard - she only knew two people with white hair, and only one of them wore loose fabric clothing.

"Hey," she said as she approached. Sunshine turned his head, and he smiled when he saw her. "What're you doing?"

"Looking at the sun," he answered simply.

She frowned, and tried to do the same. She was only able to do it for about a second before she had to stop, squeezing her eyes shut. "Ugh. Doesn't that hurt?" she asked while she rubbed her eyes - it didn't help and the bright spots didn't fade in the slightest.

A rustle of cloth as Sunshine shrugged. "A little bit, but I haven't seen it that much."

Huh. She hadn't thought of that. For her, sunshine and the sun was a normal part of life, something that was taken for granted, something that was always just there. Shui Han looked around them. Yeah, it was a pretty open space, but there was a couple of buildings close-by that were tall enough to block the sun, so it wasn't like Sunshine would be in the sun's light constantly for hours on end. But if his carpet was brought into it...

"How about a picnic?"

Sunshine's face became confused, eyebrows drawing together as he looked at her. "What's a picnic?"

That was an easy question to answer. "A picnic's a meal you have outside."

His face lit up. "Okay." He paused, looking at her. "Kenshin's coming as well."

She quirked a smile at him. "'Course. But now we gotta find him." It shouldn't be that hard. Or she could buy him a bell to wear. Or stick a tracker on him. She was sure he wouldn't mind.

* * *
"Ahhh!" She stretched luxuriantly, hearing her back crack loudly. Once she'd stretched as far as she could go, Shui Han flopped back onto the carpet just right, so that the fluttering material beneath her curved with her spine, rather than against it. This was probably the best idea she'd had in ages!

A bright, warm sun hung overhead, with only a few wisps of cloud that did nothing to cool the temperature. It was awesome. Next to her was a basket stuffed with food that could last her hours, even with her tearing through it at her usual pace. Which she wasn't, because that would involve moving and she really wasn't inclined to do that right now.

She turned over so that she was lying on her stomach and got an eyeful of Infinite City down below. It wasn't exactly a tiny speck in the far off distance, but they were high enough that the city could be seen almost as a whole -some of it was hidden by the carpet- but the view was fantastic. There wasn't a lot of sound apart from wind blowing around them, and that just calmed her down even more. If she wasn't careful, she could end up dozing off.

The shadow next to her moved as Kenshin reached over to the basket. Sunshine was on the other end of the carpet, staring up at the sun; he'd pretty much been like that the entire time they'd been there and Shui Han was seriously starting to worry about him.

"Hey, Sunshine," she mumbled into the fabric. Or she was already on the verge of falling asleep. A shake of the head, her hair whacking her in the face waking her up more than the action, and she hefted herself up on her elbows. "Sunshine," she tried again. This time she was able to make her voice sound clear, even though she just wanted to sink right back down again.

"Hmm?" He finally looked away from the sun and smiled at her. "I hadn't thought about doing this."

Shui Han waved a dismissive hand. "Eh, you'd've probably thought about it sooner or later. Anyway," she said, sitting up; leaning on her elbows had woken her up completely now and she didn't want to stay in that position until her arms hurt, "we don't want to leave all this food to waste." The food would have lasted her hours, but she wasn't alone at the moment, was she?

Sunshine's smile widened. "No." He turned around to begin the task of relieving the basket of its contents.

* * *
Well, that was weird. Okay, so she hadn't known Kenshin for that long but Shui Han thought he was too cautious to stand in the middle of the street, openly staring at a woman who was window shopping. There wasn't that many people about at that particular moment so she was fairly sure that she was right about who he was staring at.

The woman hadn't noticed the attention she was getting yet, so Shui Han used to opportunity to have a better look at her herself. She was wearing a loose blue tunic, one covered with large flowers, with a matching flowing skirt. The staff at her back probably meant she was either a mage or a priest. Shui Han wondered if her hair -black as midnight, but it was shining under the sun- ever got caught when she reached for her weapon since it was so long and unbound, but then the woman turned towards her and Shui Han quickly averted her eyes.

It was only because she'd done that that she noticed the slight stiffening of Kenshin's shoulders before they relaxed again.

Shui Han snuck behind him and lightly elbowed him in the side. Kenshin sharply looked over his shoulder and stared when he saw who she was, though she couldn't interpret what his expression was.

"Why don't you go talk to her?" she suggested.

Kenshin stiffened again before looking away. "I... She looked like someone I knew."

Oh, ouch. His tone conveyed everything that needed to be said. "Sorry."

He shook his head, still not looking at her. "I don't know if she... It's complicated."

Didn't know if she'd...? Shui Han wouldn't press the matter. "Sunshine's waiting at the main inn - you coming for lunch?"

It took a while for him to respond. Eventually, Kenshin turned towards her, his face more open than she'd ever seen. "Yeah."

"All right then!" she said, smiling at possibly making some progress with Kenshin. "We'd better not keep him waiting any longer."

She'd taken all of three steps before she heard Kenshin's voice behind her.

"Isn't it in the other direction?"

Blinking, Shui Han took a closer at her surroundings. There was the green weapon shop Sunshine had taken her into a couple of days ago, as well as the ice-cream parlour (Shui Han fervently hoped Yulian wouldn't find out just how much Sunshine and Kenshin could put away all by themselves), and that was the earring shop on the corner. That meant when she'd been looking for Kenshin, she'd gone around full-circle without realising.

She laughed at that. "And I've been saying Prince has bad direction skills," she said wryly.

There was a soft snort at her back, and she raised her eyebrows at that. Kenshin leaving himself open, talking a tiny bit about his past (or, even, talking), and now showing he had a sense of humour? In the space of five minutes? Shui Han wasn't sure what had happened, but now she wanted to know what had caused this, so she could get Kenshin to open up more.

* * *
"What's Prince doing?" Sunshine was standing to her left while Kenshin stood on her right. They were in the castle courtyard as Prince and the rest of the band practiced 'It's my Life'. Somehow (and she honestly didn't know how) they weren't sounding like a random mashing together of instruments and singing. It definitely sounded different, but that wasn't really a bad thing. Now, if they could just work on their timing...

"She's singing."

"Ah, okay." There was a pause as Prince tripped over the microphone stand. The rest of the band swarmed around her to make sure she was all right. "She's wearing the clothes you were drawing."

Shui Han was surprised that Sunshine remembered - she didn't think he'd gotten a close enough look at them. "Yeah, she is." Prince had flat-out refused even wearing some of the clothes, but those ones had been the drawings that she'd been proud of their anatomy, so she hadn't put much on. Fair Sky and Rose hadn't known that, and Shui Han had given them the papers in bulk without checking what was in them first, so it wasn't their fault that they'd been made.

The look on Prince's face when Fair Sky had pulled them out had been hilarious though.

"So, is there anything either of you want to do right now?" It didn't look like the band was going to finish any time soon and listening to them was nice, but there was a ton of other stuff that they could be doing, if they wanted to.

"There's a book in one of the stores that looked interesting."

Now that was unexpected. She turned to look at Kenshin. "Do you remember where it is?"

She got a slow nod in return. "It's near the pink staff shop."

The pink staff shop... As far as she knew, there were at least three or four staff shops in the city, but she hadn't really been paying attention. So, if it was a staff shop, that should mean that it was in the Magic Quarter of the city; sometimes, though, there were a few shops that weren't in the areas they were supposed to be in and those ones sold much better items than the others. Actually finding them, on the other hand, was something else altogether, but that was all part of the fun.

"Come on then, let's go." Knowing their luck, they probably wouldn't get there for another five hours, but Shui Han considered the trip there even more enjoyable than getting to the destination - especially with these two for company. You never knew what they were going to find, between Kenshin's sharp eyes and Sunshine's incredible amount of curiosity.

* * *
Kenshin was sitting cross-legged, leaning slightly back on the trunk of a tree, its overhanging branches shading him completely from the sun. His sword was nestled in the crook of his left arm, while his hands were occupied by the book he'd bought yesterday. Sunshine was, unsurprisingly, sitting a little distance away in the sunlight; he wasn't looking up though, more around at the park and the people in it as he played with a blade of glass.

The red-haired man raised his eyes from the book as Shui Han approached and gave her a nod in greeting. She blinked when she saw how far he'd gotten through it already. She should probably give them money to spend when she wasn't there, but she had a feeling that Sunshine would be a compulsive buyer seeing as she knew how much he pored over stuff once it had caught his eyes. But...

Yulian was going to kill her.

Ah well.

She dug into her pouch for a few seconds before getting what she wanted and lobbing it at Kenshin. He caught it one-handed and peered at it curiously. The jingling brought Sunshine's attention to it as well.

"It's money," she explained before they could ask. "Dunno how much is in there, but if you run out, tell me, all right?" She hummed as she stared at the purse, one hand on her hip. "Just give the person however much they were asking for - the coins have how much it's worth printed on one of the sides."

While she'd been talking, Kenshin had opened the purse and was cautiously poking at its contents. He eventually stopped that and looked up at her, his head tilted slightly to the side. Without looking, he passed the purse to Sunshine, who'd come up beside him.

"What?" Kenshin hadn't looked at her like that before; yeah, it was appraising -he'd done that before- but that time it'd been more of a threat assessment. This one had a bit more of seeing her as a puzzle that needed to be solved.

He kept eye-contact with her. "I'd wondered if there were other players like Prince." He didn't add to that, but with Kenshin, he could condense a lot of information into a small number of words.

She was like Prince though? Well, in some cases, she guessed she was; in others, she wasn't, but really, that was normal.

"It's probably why we get on so well." Not that she knew that the first time she'd met Prince. "But anyway," she said, changing the topic, "we were going to check out the river properly today, weren't we? So, we going?" They'd stumbled over it while trying to find the book store the day before, but they'd decided to explore where it came from and where it went later, after getting Kenshin's book. The river had been hidden partially by buildings and by being not near any shops, so players wouldn't normally be near that area to find it. That, and it also looked like it might have gone underground at some point too. Shui Han was starting to wonder if Infinite City was expanding and having different parts changed while people weren't looking.

Both Kenshin and Sunshine got up, Sunshine tucking the purse somewhere in his clothes. "Yeah."

There was always something new to discover in Second Life, and Shui Han wouldn't have it any other way.


The concert scene? About one sentence in, Swallowtail Butterfly came up on my mp3. XDD