GOR Chapter 100: Entering Zero City
“This place is…”
They were in a circular plaza with passageways in all four directions, the front, back, left and right. Each of those passageways was metallic bridges.
In other words, this plaza resembled an island surrounded by a flowing river.
The plaza was not very big and was only about the size of a school’s sports field.
Observing his surroundings, Chen Xiaolian was somewhat surprised to find others appearing in the plaza. Occasionally, a beam of green light would flash out. After the green pillar of light has dissipated, someone will walk out of it. After identifying their current location, they will then show no hesitation and move towards a bridge heading towards a certain direction.
Occasionally, there will be those who turn towards Chen Xiaolian as he sized up the incoming people. These people would generally reveal a cold attitude and even traces of disdain in their expression.
It was likely that Chen Xiaolian’s expression of curiosity had revealed his identity as a rookie.
Beside him, all his companions were present. Lun Tai moved before Chen Xiaolian and smiled. “All right, we have now officially entered Zero.”
Lun Tai gestured at his surroundings and smiled. “This is the central plaza for entering Zero. It differs from other places in that this city’s Entrance and Exit Gates are all in the centremost area of the city. The act of entering or leaving this city would require one to go through this place. When we head back, we will be leaving from this place using the teleportation array. All we need is to go receive a teleportation card from the Service Office. With that, we will be able to activate the teleportation array when we are here and leave this city.
“The city is divided into east, south, west and north districts.
“The East District is private grounds and the place for the official institutions of Zero City. It is also the area used by the top teams with permanent residence qualifications. Although others are not restricted from entering the area, there is nothing to see there. Most of the places inside are designated private grounds. We will only be able to look at their door and buildings, a pointless diversion. The only places that are not off limits are Zero City’s Arbitration Centre and the Security Office. The former is used in the event of a dispute between Awakened ones. Awakened ones can go there to make a complaint and request for arbitration. As for the latter, the name alone should be enough to tip you off. Its function is similar to that of the police.
“The West District is the public trading area where you can find a flea market. All Awakened ones may enter that area. There, transactions of any kind of items would take place regardless if it were equipment, medicinal substances or peculiar props found within instance dungeons. The purchase may be done using points, bartering or even instalments.
“There is a Services Office in the flea market. Before any transaction takes place, both parties must obtain a contract from there. Once both parties reach an agreement regarding the transaction, Zero City will bear witness to the transaction and ensure that the transaction is completed. For example, in the case where instalments are involved, one may request Zero City to be the guarantor. Naturally, collateral such as certain items or others of the sort is required.
“For example, if you want to buy an item from an Awakened and that person only accepts points. Coincidentally, you do not have any points. When that happens, you can use other items that you have and pawn them at the Services Office, thereby taking a loan of a number of points from Zero City to buy the item.
“Naturally, there will be interest! The interest has to be regularly paid. Once you fail to pay, Zero City will confiscate the items you have pawned away.
“What I spoke of is only one of the possibilities… at any rate, there are a variety of transaction types. After going in, you will gradually get the feel for it.
“The South District is a residential district. Those who come to Zero City for a short duration could find a place to stay there. There are restaurants and hotels there. Zero City’s officials opened most of them while some others are opened by certain guilds. For the most part, the residential district accepts money as payment. It supports the many major currencies used in the outside world. Thus, you can use US Dollars, Euro and RMB here. Obviously, the price will be more expensive.
“However, certain special enjoyment could only be paid for with points.”
Chen Xiaolian was stunned for a moment. “Special enjoyment?”
Roddy who was standing beside exhibited an odd expression. “Could this residential district also have ‘that type’ of services?”
Qiao Qiao immediately threw a glare at him.
“What are you thinking of?” Lun Tai laughed out. “Naturally, those things will not occur. However, there are certain special services and enjoyment that does not accept money from the outside as payment. I won’t go into the specifics. When the time comes, you will understand.”
Pausing, he signed and slowly said. “The North District… is the most attractive place in Zero City.”
“The North District is the business area. Truthfully, its general function is about the same with the flea market in the West District. But, the North District’s business area is set up by Zero City officials and the top guilds with permanent residence in Zero City.
“If we are to consider the West District’s flea market as consisting of small private businesses, then the North District’s business district consists of the regular army.
“The officials of Zero City have many good items. They have accumulated these goods for years. As for those top guilds, each of them possesses extraordinary strength and have participated in many instance dungeons, allowing them to get their hands on various good items.
“Regardless of quality, quantity or types, the goods there are far superior compared to those brought out by the straggling Awakened ones in the West District.
“Right, Roddy. You can find those Mechs you like in the North District. There is a Military Arms Department there, opened by Zero City officials. From the variety of weapons there, Mechs can be found for sale amongst technological types.”
After finishing his words, Lun Tai looked at Chen Xiaolian. “Where do we head to now?”
Roddy looked at Chen Xiaolian with an eager expression – this fellow must certainly be thinking of running off to that Military Arms Department.
Chen Xiaolian pondered about it before shaking his head. “We have only just arrived here; it would be for the best that we familiarize ourselves with the environment. En, I doubt we will only stay here for a day. So, let us first head to the residential district and find a place to stay. Once we have that covered, we will discuss about the others.”
All of them agreed with Chen Xiaolian’s decision. Thus, all seven of them moved out in the south direction as they head towards the residential district.
As they walked through the metallic bridge to the south of the central plaza, they could observe the riverbank. There were actually places resembling outdoor cafes.
Some Awakened ones were sitting under patio umbrellas as they leisurely sipped their beverages.
Sounds of merriment rose up from the riverbank. Chen Xiaolian was surprised to see a man-made beach upon the riverbank, complete with artificially created waves. Males and females wearing swimsuits and bikinis were swimming and playing there.
“This… this is simply a resort,” Chen Xiaolian’s eyes bulged wide and he raised his head to examine the skies. The sun was shining high in the clear blue skies. “Right, we can see the skies here… this city is probably not situated underground, right? I had originally thought that it would be an underground city like the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang.”
“… I do not know,” Lun Tai shook his head. “Zero City’s location is top secret. Every time I come, the skies would be different. Sometime, it would be night, sometimes it would be day, sometimes you can see the skies and sometimes you can see only nothingness… Hell if I know what is going on. Perhaps the sun and sky are artificially created.”
“Why are those fellows vacationing here?” Roddy stared at a bikini wearing big-breasted woman who was on the beach. He stared for quite some time before retracting his gaze.
“Because this place is safe,” Lun Tai pondered for a while before forcing out a smile. “First: when you are here, you will not encounter those Awakened ones who… perhaps you are not aware of this. The relationship between Awakened ones in the outside world is not too good. A meeting with unacquainted Awakened ones could potentially lead to a battle for life. Surely you understand the concept of killing others for their treasures and equipment.”
Chen Xiaolian immediately recalled the incident outside the waterfall before he entered the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang. He nodded his head.
“Zero City is very safe. Furthermore, it is only here that Awakened ones could truly experience a certain… sense of realism. That is because everyone here is Awakened ones. Here, everyone can coexist peacefully.
“There is another important factor that you probably do not know of. Look at this artificially made beach. There is a special nickname for this place in Zero City.”
“Special nickname? What is it?”
“Sea of Love,” Lun Tai blushed as he smiled.
“Sea… of Love?” In that instant, Chen Xiaolian and the other youngsters were all left dumbfounded.
“Truth be told, most Awakened ones are very lonely,” Lun Tai sighed. He stared at the artificial beach and continued in a low voice. “After becoming an Awakened, many of them will feel a myriad of emotions from lost, hesitant, irrational and others. Additionally… after you become an Awakened, after you understand that this world and yourself… and so many others could potentially be nothing more but a creation of a higher Upper Plane world, a virtual object… would you still have the courage to pursue those so-called feelings?
“At that moment in time, if you were still single… will you be willing to find an ordinary other half?
“When facing an ordinary person, regardless if you are going out, meeting up or going to the bed together…
“Your heart will feel uncomfortable. You will always wonder: Is all of this real?
“From time to time, you will be required to enter the instance dungeon to commit acts of killings and could potentially die in any of them… under such circumstances, loving someone from the ordinary world would be very difficult.
“I heard from a friend that after becoming an Awakened, the act of going to bed with an ordinary woman made him feel as though he was doing it with an inflatable doll.
“These unshakeable feelings of internal anguish and loneliness would shroud the hearts of many Awakened ones.
“Under these circumstances, Awakened ones could only somewhat distract themselves from the sense of loss and confusion by being with other Awakened ones like them. Only then could they somehow avoid the unbearable illusion of reality and pretence.
“Awakened ones are lonely beings, that loneliness becomes even more pronounced for those who do not have their other half.
“That is why Awakened ones tend to only accept other Awakened ones as their other half – this Zero City is the safest place to be. Thus, Awakened couples would often be acquainted with one another thanks to this place.
“The cafes along this southern residential district riverbank and that artificial beach are the best place for Awakened ones to meet and get to know one another.”
After saying that, Lun Tai looked at Chen Xiaolian before turning to Roddy. “Guild Leader has no such need. But, Roddy and Xiaolei, if you two are fine with it, then tonight I will bring you two for a cup of wine in the riverbank’s pub. Perhaps, you will have a memorable encounter there.”
Roddy’s eyes suddenly flashed out! He discarded the thoughts about mechs to the back of his mind!
“Yes! Yes! Why don’t we go now?”
They walked down the main road of the South District. The road was extremely broad and yet, there were no vehicles on it at all, as the road only has pedestrian streets upon it.
The street area was highly standard and clean, devoid of any greenery on both sides. It was overflowing with a metallic science fiction feel.
The buildings here were not as bizarre as what they had imagined. Each of the buildings was either square or round in shape, showing not much difference when compared to the buildings of the outside world.
Lun Tai and Bei Tai who have been here before immediately brought them over to a hotel that they were familiar with.
The hotel was located within a bustling street in the South District – as for the street, it was not much different compared to the commercial streets of the outside world, where dining places and bars await.
The name of this hotel was ‘Tourist Lodge’ and it was considerably impressive. It sported transparent glass walls for its doors. Entering, they found themselves within a circular shaped public area. There, on the side of the main doors, was a screen wall.
Upon the surface of the screen were two lines of what appeared to be moving text, written using various different languages.
“This hotel is under the protection of Zero City officials and the Rodriar (luō délǐ yǎ) Guild.
“Reception in this place is handled by the cooperating Rodriar Guild.”
Rodriar, raw: ‘罗德里亚’, pinyin: ‘luō dé lǐ yǎ’.