Disclaimer: 1/2 Prince belongs to Yu Wo.
A/N: I'm sorry for falling off the face of the earth! Life is busy as usual, and I'M SO BEHIND ON READING THE NEW 1/2 PRINCE CHAPTERS. So no one spoil anything for me in a review. Plz and thx. I haven't made it past Prince & Co. arriving on the Northern continent...
Chapter Nine: Re-ignition
Ice Phoenix logged into the game. She was irate and unhappy. Today was a terrible day. She'd fainted at school, figured out Prince was a girl, had probably ruined her first friendship in years, and was now in league with her most hated rival. And she was willingly handing over the man she admired to a stupid little girl who didn't deserve him. She appeared in her room upon log-in and immediately grabbed the closest thing next to her and threw it at the wall.
Her ornate hand mirror shattered against the stone and broke into a thousand tiny pieces. She finally let out a cry and fell to the ground, letting out all of her frustrations in heavy, wracking sobs.
She stared at the mirror morosely, her eyes filled with a haunting, hollow look. A broken mirror; seven years bad luck. She laughed at the irony even as she continued to cry. As if her life could get any worse?
She'd never climb out of this pit. She'd only continue to sink. She beat her palms into the floor, hands crunching against bits of glass.
Heavy footsteps came running down the hall. The door to her bedroom swung open. Nan Gong Zui stood in the doorframe, wide-eyed and worried. "Phoenix!" he exclaimed, eyeing his sister curled up on the ground. "What in the world—"
"Brother…" she barely managed to sob out. She always looked so pitiful in front of him. He'd never learn to take her seriously. He was by her side in an instant, scooping up her sobbing frame and pulling her tightly to him.
"Shhh, it's ok," he whispered gently as he stroked her white-blonde hair. "It'll all be ok."
As he continued to whisper soft words of encouragement and love, more footsteps came running down the hall.
"Nan Gong Zui, what's going on?"
"We heard a loud crash!"
"Was there an attack?"
Three figures stood panting breathlessly in the doorway, but all stopped short at the sight before them. Ice Phoenix clutched Nan Gong Zui's shirt tightly, and the man glared at the new entrants, daring them to make a comment about his sister's temper tantrum. Finally Prince stepped forward.
"Phoenix?" he ventured carefully.
Phoenix fought to compose herself at the sound of Prince's voice. She buried her face deeper into Nan Gong Zui's chest, willing the tears to go away and her breathing to become less erratic. No, it was too soon to be seeing Prince! That elf! That…that…girl! How was it possible that the most charming and handsome man in Second Life was actually a tiny, undergraduate girl that couldn't even handle her own love life?
"I'm fine!" Phoenix practically yelled into her brother's chest as her fists grasped the front of his shirt to keep herself upright. "Just startled. And the glass cut my hand."
Nan Gong Zui pulled away from her, quickly turning her hands over to examine the damage. Sure enough, her right hand was bleeding from a shard of glass that had embedded itself in her palm. A bright red bloodstain blossomed across the front of his shirt from where her hand had been. She stared at it, half in wonder and half in shock. She honestly hadn't even felt the glass pierce her skin. She was too upset to notice.
"Phoenix, your hand!" Prince cried out at the sight. His eyes widened as he stepped forward to reach out for her. "We should probably take you to Wolf-dage so he can heal you."
Phoenix jerked abruptly as she cringed away from his grasp. She saw Gui narrow his eyes in suspicion at her reaction and belatedly realized that it wasn't very Ice Phoenix of her to refuse Prince's help. Normally she'd look for any reason to launch herself at him. But she just couldn't do that now…knowing Prince's true identity. Knowing that Prince was Xiao Lan, the girl that Ling Bin had given his heart to.
"I'm sorry, Prince," she stated loudly so that everyone in the room could hear. "I-I just can't let myself bleed all over you. You're too perfect."
Gui's expression turned normal again. But Prince looked conflicted, as if he couldn't decide whether to be relieved or angry.
Phoenix was spared of anyone else noticing the elf's whirlwind emotions as Lolidragon cut into the dialogue. "Nonetheless, let's get you over to Ugly Wolf. I just messaged him and he said he'll meet us at the halfway point in the library." The thief gently took Phoenix's elbow and steered her to the door. Nan Gong Zui tore a piece of his sleeve off to make a makeshift bandage for her so she wouldn't bleed all over the carpet and down the hall.
"Phoenix, are you sure you're ok? You've seemed….less than well today," Nan Gong Zui whispered under his breath as the group made their way down the hall and up the stairs. His eyes were full of concern.
Phoenix shook her head. "It's fine. I'll get over it."
"Brother, I'm fine!" she said a bit louder than intended, earning her stares from both Gui and Prince. She flushed at the attention and then turned her eyes back to her brother. "Really."
That's when she noticed Prince staring at her again, glaring really. But why? She didn't think she was being more bratty than usual. She shrugged it off as Prince being annoyed that she'd thrown another fit and caused him to worry over nothing. Gui certainly seemed perturbed at having to help her out.
If only you knew we were allies. She would've smirked at the thought if she wasn't so disgusted with the idea herself.
Upon reaching Ugly Wolf, Prince spoke again in a rather forced voice, "So you're really ok?"
Phoenix gave a weak smile as Ugly Wolf began working his healing magic. "Never better."
That's when she saw it. Prince's eyes hardened, but in less than a flash, they'd turned normal again. Had she imagined the whole thing? Prince gave her a charming smile, and despite Phoenix knowing the elf's true identity, she couldn't help but melt as he stared deep into her icy-blue eyes. If one thing never changed, it was Phoenix's appreciation for extremely hot males. Especially ones that had turned their attention to her.
"Phoenix, it would be best if from now on you didn't fake sickness or injury to gain attention. You cause people like me to worry. You don't want that, do you?"
Phoenix shook her head in confusion. Why would she fake something? Yes, she wanted attention. But making someone worry over a false injury was just cruel. That was one area she never touched. Not after her parents…
Her eyes started welling up with tears. She blinked them closed. "No, Prince, I would never do that!"
Nan Gong Zui rushed to his sister's side. "Why would you say something like that?" he looked incredulously at Prince.
The elf blinked and the emotion on his face was indiscernible. His brows furrowed in confusion. "I'm sorry…I…it just seemed like—"
"It wasn't," Nan Gong Zui stated firmly.
"Brother, it's ok." Phoenix rested her uninjured palm lightly on his forearm. "I'm sure Prince just wants what's best for me. He always has."
But her voice wavered at the end, and she looked up into Prince's eyes with growing fear and suspicion. A hint of jealously resided in Prince's blood-red eyes. The same jealously that had appeared on Xiao Lan's face when she'd thrown herself at Ling Bin days prior.
Gui interjected, "Prince always wants what is best for his companions."
Prince smiled in agreement and Ice Phoenix could barely suppress the chilling shudders it gave her.
His demeanor said it all. Prince knew who she was, or was at least very suspicious and one thing was very clear: Xiao Lan did not approve of Sunnia in any way. Especially when it came to her acquaintance with a dear childhood playmate like Zhuo Ling Bin.
They both knew he deserved better.
But was Xiao Lan the right match herself?
That much remained undecided.
"He's not logging in!" Gui Wen cried out in frustration. Sunnia tapped her foot in annoyance. He'd called for a secret meeting between the two of them, so she'd skipped lunch in order to meet him in a rarely used corner of the library. "It's been over a week."
"I'm sorry," she hissed back. "But he's still not talking to me."
"Our plan is failing and we haven't even started yet," Gui rubbed his temples in frustration. "This is ridiculous."
"Forgive me, professor," Sunnia rolled her eyes, not feeling the slightest bit sorry at all. "This hasn't exactly been easy for me either."
Gui's expression softened at the weary look on her face. She looked exhausted, and she didn't even seem to realize she was projecting this to him. Usually she tried to hide all of her emotions under a mask of indifference or niceties. Gui never knew how she was truly feeling, only that she was incredibly insincere with him. For her to snap at him and openly look fatigued meant that she was tired beyond caring. He tried to remember back to when he was in graduate school and how stressful the workload must be for someone that wasn't a genius freak like himself. He paled upon remembering the vacant stares of some of his friends after a long week at school.
"I'm sorry, Sunnia," Gui Wen began his apology. "Sometimes I just get a bit carried away when it comes to Prince and his happiness."
Sunnia grimaced. "Tell me something I don't know."
Gui's eyes quickly turned hard again. Sunnia was so tired she couldn't even muster the strength to try to be civil around Gui. If anything, his presence just annoyed her even more and increased how much she missed Ling Bin. He was always so straightforward and considerate of her, even when she was being a complete brat. Why couldn't more guys be like him? She frowned deeply. Would she ever be able to make it up to him? Would he ever call her "friend" again?
Gui huffed angrily. "It's not like I'm making you do this. You can back out any time."
To his surprise, Sunnia only vehemently shook her head. Despite being forced to partner with Gui, she couldn't bear to end things as they were. Only by bringing Xiao Lan and Ling Bin together could she be happy because only then might she be able to get Ling Bin back. Granted, that was if Xiao Lan didn't cause Ling Bin to hate her entirely. Even if he still didn't acknowledge her, at least he'd be happy. As long as he was happy, she could feel some satisfaction.
If anyone deserved a moment of happiness in this world, it was Ling Bin. He was the first real person (she didn't count Prince because he was fake, and his real-life counterpart, Xiao Lan, hated her) who'd looked at her as a real human being after years of being an object or a sidestory. The girl that no one liked. Granted, he was not all that fond of her, but still, he at least had the decency to listen to her thoughts and treat her like she mattered.
Around him, she didn't feel like she needed to throw a tantrum to get attention because she already had it.
Damn it all, she was going to make him happy if it was the last thing she did.
She sighed loudly and with frustration. "I can't, Gui. Not yet. We made a deal and I'm sticking to it."
Gui did not look pleased. His face turned rather sour. "How are we going to do this if Zhuo Ling won't even talk to you?"
Sunnia stared at a stack of books sitting on one of the return carts in the library. How could she make this work?
So far this week she'd:
1. Made him brownies.
2. Left him a handmade apology card.
3. Offered to take over his extra lab shifts.
4. Returned his soon-to-be-overdue library books (though he probably didn't even notice this last one).
Nothing had worked. Ling Bin was still upset with her and she didn't know what to do. He hadn't openly yelled at her since their last argument. In fact, he hadn't done anything at all.
He wasn't speaking to her. He only worked with her when their advisor was present. He spent most of his time just being silent and sulking.
It was unnerving and she really didn't like it.
She supposed she could just march straight up to Xiao Lan. That would be the most direct route, bypassing Ling Bin altogether. But somehow, she doubted she could pull this off. For one, Xiao Lan would probably get upset that Ling Bin had told her that much about their relationship in the first place. Secondly, she physically could not do it.
She could not face Xiao Lan.
Much like all week she could not face Prince.
She'd been avoiding him this entire week. It certainly helped that Yu Lian always left her a constant and grueling stream of work. It was…for the best.
Knowing that Ling Bin only had eyes for that girl made her heart ache. Knowing that Prince disapproved of her only made her more conflicted. She'd always dealt with pain in much the same way—by ignoring it and acting like she was better than what she'd been left with.
"Gui, I just think that…"
But then her mouth dropped and she didn't finish her sentence, because at that very moment her solution to everything walked through the library doors. Her eyes lit up and her lips spread into an almost-vicious smirk as the boy in her sights proceeded to look around momentarily confused, as if he hardly ever came here and wasn't exactly sure where to go.
How could she not have thought of him sooner? She was such an idiot.
Gui followed her line of sight and upon reaching her "prey" he turned back to her with a wildly confused look. "Feng Yang Ming?"
"Of course! Why didn't I think of consulting him earlier? He's perfect."
Gui did not really see where this was heading.
"Yang Ming. He's the bridge—a connector—between Ling Bin and me." And Prince, she couldn't help but add in her head, though she would never say this out loud to Gui. He'd go bananas if he found out Wu Qing was Prince's brother. "He'll help me. I just know it!"
Gui raised a disbelieving eyebrow. "How can you be so sure?" he sounded doubtful.
"Oh, please, professor," Sunnia flipped her hair and grinned cheekily. "Everyone knows that Wu Qing can't turn down a pretty lady."
Gui rolled his eyes. "Do you even know him?"
"Of course," Sunnia grinned. "He practically loves me already."
Gui snorted. "Now that is something I have to see."
Sunnia's hazel eyes narrowed and she crossed her arms. After a moment's consideration she declared haughtily, "Challenge accepted. Just you watch." She was going to make Gui eat his words and show him just how crafty she could be.
Sunnia threw on a brilliant smile, one that was designed to make any man fall at her feet. Gui's mouth dropped. Just who in the world was this woman? She was beautiful, arrogant, self-obsessed, and conniving! She was like the Grecian Sirens made mortal.
"Yang Ming!" she called out, and as every male head turned each one melted into a puddle of adoration and desire. Gui could not believe his eyes.
The short, spunky redhead bounded up to Yang Ming, who for all purposes looked like he was thanking the gods for receiving the attentions of someone so gorgeous.
"S-Sunnia!" he managed to eek out in surprise.
She smirked. "You're just the person I was looking for. Do you have a moment to chat? Perhaps over coffee?"
He nodded in response, words having failed him.
Gui smacked his head repeatedly on a nearby bookshelf as Yang Ming followed Sunnia out of the library, trailing after her like a lovesick puppy. That girl was too much. She was too clever. Too brilliant. Too much a chameleon. She could shift her entire personality at will.
Meanwhile, Sunnia was congratulating herself on her newest victory. She would definitely continue to replay Gui's dumbfounded expression at her transformation and easy capture of Yang Ming.
This was beyond perfect. With Yang Ming in tow, she could kill two birds with one stone. Being seen with Xiao Lan's brother could only result in two very desirable outcomes. One, Ling Bin would have to notice her because he'd consider it his duty to save his friend from her clutches. Two, she had every reason to believe that it would piss Xiao Lan off to no end, which was something she very much looked forward to seeing.
For the first time all week, she felt a spark re-ignite within her. This was going to be so much fun.
Let the mind games begin.
A/N: Thanks again to my lovely beta astroelvengoddess. You will probably never like Ice Phoenix and that is ok, because you got sorted into Slytherin on Pottermore. *snickers* Though I'm jealous you guys won the House Cup and got CoS early. Boo.
Please review. Next chapter is already halfway written.
Lastly, I'm seeking fanart to use as story cover images. Please message if interested.