Underworld Playerchapter 46: sponging off? qianse? cappucino

In the end, Mu QianSe took her leave of Lin XiaoYi and Xia Wen, a little frustrated, quite bewildered, and altogether incredulous. Back in their dorm room, Xia Wen stared sternly at Lin XiaoYi for a long time.

During the last ten minutes of their conversation with Mu QianSe, it had been Lin XiaoYi's turn on the soapbox, and she had basically revealed all the hidden knowledge that she and Xia Wen had gathered about Bai Zhi thus far.

"Sweet Jesus, woman! Don't you know that you're just inviting competition by telling her everything?"

The long-suffering Xia Wen pressed her fingers against her temples and sighed in exasperation.

"Even if you weren't keen on Bai Zhi, he probably wouldn't appreciate you blabbing about his business… again!"

"Maybe Bai Zhi can suffer in silence, but I just can't stand seeing him mistreated! Why is it that, even after he's done so much good, he's still the villain in everyone's eyes? I won't stand for it!"

Lin XiaoYi buried her face in her pillow and complained bitterly.

"My beau is a savior of the people, not some—"

Xia Wen interrupted her friend unceremoniously. "Uh-huh, yep, your boo is a savior of the people, and one day he'll appear in a blaze of glory and claim your bitch-ass hand in marriage! And all before the eyes of an awed and adoring crowd... By the way, you know what it's like to own a puppy?

"He hasn't even put a ring on it—in fact, you don't even know what kind of "situationship" you got going on, and you're already fighting his battles for him? Jeez..."

After a long silence, Lin XiaoYi muffled voice came from the pillow. "...No, I'm— just... honestly, I'm baffled!

"Here we are, only able to live these peaceful days because someone is bearing the burden behind the scenes. How dare she come in, obviously knowing nothing, talking trash—and it's not like I'm asking her to bow in gratitude, but that's no excuse to shit on someone behind their back, based on completely biased assumptions...

"Isn't it enough that our hero fights—nay, bleeds—for us on the frontlines? Why should he be spat on as well? It's unfair, unethical... unconscionable!"

Xia Wen kicked her feet up on the desk and put her hands behind her head, saying with a worldly air, "Oh, Yibao*... you're too naive. This world is far more complex than you can imagine, and if naive is all you are, then the short end of the stick is all you get.

"How about this, allow me to recommend to you a manga I've read—after reading it, you should have a better appreciation of the hard truths and vagaries of the world."

"Hmm? What's the name?"

The curious campus belle raised her head off her pillow.

"Metamorphosis**," said Xia Wen with a poker face. "It's a classic work with deep, philosophical themes. Make sure you text me your thoughts after finishing it."

"Oh, okay..."

How could it be? That uncultured swine?

Mu QianSe was furiously pacing the corridors in the hospital.

Yesterday, she had, out of the kindness of her heart, gone out of her way to warn the girl currently dating her ex-boyfriend—his eighth victim now—about what a scumbag he really was.

Little did she know that she would end up getting an earful instead, and her frustration had chafed at her all night long. So much so that, the next day, she did not attend her classes but went to the hospital first thing in the morning, instead.

The things Lin XiaoYi had said to her yesterday had turned her world upside-down, but she would sooner believe that a giant meteor was headed straight for the earth than believe that a scumbag like Bai Zhi was some great hero, secretly protecting the world from the shadows.

"Hmph! You want proof? I'll get you proof... Telling me he was at the hospital to save those students, and his pale look was because he got hurt being the hero, and him not bothering to explain was because he wanted to keep me from getting involved with dangerous things...

Mu QianSe kept up this grumbling monologue as she opened the door to the ward.

"If he's really brought those students out of their coma, I, Mu QianSe, swear I'll… I'll swallow my cellphone!"

No sooner had she stepped in than she stood rooted to the spot in astonishment.

The once-tranquil room was now occupied by several doctors huddled around the bed of one patient or another, eagerly interviewing the students with barely-restrained excitement. Despite being physically weak after waking from their long slumber, the students seemed equally eager in spirit.

The student nearest the door was responding to a doctor's question, traces of fear flashing across their face as they relived the memories.

"What was it like when I fell unconscious? Uh... I felt... wooden? Like, I couldn't move, and I couldn't... speak. Like a puppet. And it was dark, so dark…

"I was aware of my thoughts, but I had no control over my body... just floating endlessly in... nothingness. Until I was picked up by a pair of warm hands—"

The doctor scribbled furiously as they listened, and at the mention of "hands", could not help inquiring further. "Hands? What do you mean?"

"Literally, like, hands..." The student raised their own, unable to express it any more clearly. "They felt like the sun—all my fear melted away and I felt a sense of peace like never before."

They spoke in hushed and reverent tones.

"Whoever saved us from that dark and dismal place, I believe they must be a noble, virtuous hero."

At that, the doctor attending to the student suddenly stopped writing and exchanged a glance with their colleague before resuming their furious notetaking.

In this world plagued by the proliferation of supernatural entities, while the average layperson was kept in the dark about such things, members of certain professions—such as police and doctors—were given special clearance to know something about them, since these professions were most likely to be first on the scene in the aftermath of supernatural incidents.

Even before this particular case, there had always been people who were able to survive attacks by supernatural entities. However, except for the extremely lucky few who escaped unharmed, most survivors suffered from unspeakable side effects.

There were those who had their organs mutated, or somehow re-assembled in unnatural ways. In some special cases, a person could have their entire body turned to something like rubber…

But by far, the most common side-effect was the long coma, where victims would fall as if into a deep sleep and remain completely unresponsive to external stimuli, all indications pointing to the possibility of them remaining comatose forever—which was exactly what the fifteen students had experienced.

Thus, from an academic point of view, the fact that these students had fallen into such a coma and subsequently awakened from it made them prime research subjects.

The doctors were so engrossed in studying their fascinating charges that not a single person noticed the figure who quietly let herself out and closed the door behind her.

Mu QianSe looked down at her cellphone with roiling, conflicted emotions.

*Reference to cub, see Chapter 40.

**NSFW, be warned.