One.

To Our Worlds

Her head hurts. Actually, everything hurts, like she’d just gotten beat up, even though she’d never actually gotten beat up before. She takes a deep breath and struggles to a sitting position, arm muscles screaming in protest. 

The first thing she notices is that she is no longer in her room. Instead of white-painted drywall, the walls of this room are made of dark panels of wood, with ink paintings of flowers hanging on the back wall. It’s a dim room, lit only with candles and oil lamps, and the bed set against a papered window reminds her of an ancient drama.

It might as well be, considering the clothes she’s wearing. The pink silk feels cool against her skin, and though she can’t tell which country it’s from, the fact is that it’s a very beautiful outfit. She can only imagine how beautiful it makes her look.

Fortunately, she has enough sense to return to the question at hand—what the literal ? Where is she? Who took her here? Did someone change her into this outfit? Who, what, when, where, why, how? In conclusion, what the  ?

That’s when she notices the scroll sitting beside her hand. Actually, she wouldn’t have noticed at all if she hadn’t tried to stand up and moved her hand on top of the paper. Great observation skills, that. 

Dear Miss Mihyun Yoo , the scroll reads in swirly letters. They know her name? Mihyun closes her eyes with a panicked groan. Oh, she’s definitely been kidnapped. Her parents have somehow ran up a huge debt with the Mafia which decided to kidnap her and torture her in return for her parents’ money. Oh no, oh no, she’s going to die.

On second thought, though, what kind of Mafia would put their victim in a nice room with a bed and a pretty outfit? The logical side of Mihyun’s brain takes over, and she goes back to reading the scroll.

 

Dear Miss Mihyun Yoo,

Congratulations! You have been chosen to take part in the alternate-reality game MultiExperience developed by Insomnia Games. This is an honor bestowed to few, and we hope you will enjoy the experience.

Insomnia Games started in 2013 as an indie game company. Though we did not garner much attention at first, we were blessed to have a brilliant scientist on our team. She learned of a rip in the fabric of spacetime which allowed realities to merge, and with her help, our company learned to harness this power and instill it into our games.

MultiExperience is the first public game that Insomnia Games has ever released. It welcomes players from across more than ten dimensions, with five game levels that all players must traverse, with or without allies. Levels and participants are chosen randomly, and after the required levels have been completed, players will be released back into their own world with no consequences.

But be careful! Due to the unstable nature of non-Minkowskian spacetime, players who die in-game will not be able to revive. However, levels are easy, and though Insomnia Games takes no responsibility for any deaths or injuries, we do not foresee many in the first place.

Good luck, and enjoy the MultiExperience!

Signed, Insomnia Games Crew

 

***

 

Tutorial: Welcome to MultiExperience!

 

Welcome, Player#544763! I have no doubt that you must be overwhelmed right now, so let me help you through the game basics!

First, let me introduce myself. I am Neo, the tutorial master. You can call on me at any time during the first level by swiping your hand up in the air while calling my name. Try it out!

[ACTION: Summon Neo]

[ACTION: Open Menu]

This is your Game Menu, an AR-type screen that can be summoned at any time during the game by swiping your hand up in the air while saying "Menu". From the Game Menu, you can access your profile and stats, your inventory, information about the current level, and current objectives. You can also message your contacts by tapping on the "Contacts" tab.

You don't have any contacts right now, but when you want to add one, simply tap on the "Add Contact" button. From there, you will see a list of players within a 500m radius, and all you need to do is click someone's name to send a Contact Request.

Change tabs by swiping left or right, or simply press on another tab. Let's go to your inventory!

[ACTION: Inventory]

This is your inventory. Oh no, it's empty! That won't do. Why don't I start you off with a few items?

Item Added: HEALING POTION (NORMAL) X5

Item Description: Recovers some HP.

Item Added: FRESHLY-BAKED BREAD x5

Item Description: Recovers full HP.

Item Added: APPLE x5

Item Description: Recovers some Stamina.

That should be good. Of course, your inventory can hold much more than simple healing items. As you explore each level, you will find it useful to place items into your inventory in order to keep them safe. Later on, you will also be able to purchase weapons and other useful items; these will also be stored in your inventory.

Let's go to your profile!

[ACTION: Profile]

This is your profile. It contains your personal information such as name, age, height, etc. It also contains your character level, amount of coins, and stats. Tap on each one to learn more!

Level: 1

Coins: 100G, 0S, 0B

HP: 1000/1000

Stamina: 1000/1000

Strength: 200

Intelligence: 200

Dexterity: 200

Perception: 200

As you proceed through each level, you will gain experience points (which are hidden from players for technical reasons!) and level up, thus gaining more HP and stamina. Each time you level up, you can choose to increase one of your stats. You can also buy stat-increasing potions later.

Oh, I almost forgot!

EDIT NAME?

Since this is a game, after all, you may not want to use your real name as your player name. The system has kindly given you one chance to change your name; whether or not you do is up to you. Choose wisely, as whatever name you choose will be your player name for the rest of the game.

Your name is now Mimi#544763.

You may be wondering why we kept the numbers after your name. Well, since this game includes players from more than ten universes, there are bound to be repeat names, and the system needs some way to identify each...

Ahem, anyway. Let's move on.

[ACTION: Level/Objectives]

This is the "Current Level & Objectives" tab. Here, you'll find information about the level that you're in, as well as your current objectives as you proceed through the game. 

Be careful, though: you only know as much as you find out. As you proceed to higher levels, the difficulty increases as well, and it may be harder to find information. 

[ACTION: Close Menu]

Be careful when pulling up the Game Menu; the game does not pause, and though no NPC will question you, you may be distracted enough to miss certain details or clues. That's why we've given you an inventory shortcut.

[ACTION: Open Shortcut]

This leather pouch on your waist is your inventory shortcut. It can store up to ten items--the first ten items in your inventory--and you can access any one of these items by opening the pouch and saying the item title.

I'll give you an example: if you were badly-injured during a battle, you can open the pouch and say, "Healing Potion!" Then, a Healing Potion will appear in the air in front of you. To make this fair for all players, only the player who summoned the item may interact with it while it is in the air. If you have different types of Healing Potions, you will need to specify which type you want; otherwise, the system will choose the first item that fits the general description.

[ACTION: Close Shortcut]

I think that's all you need to know for now. Once the game starts, I'll be able to introduce more game mechanics to you. I'll also be around for the entirety of the first level, so feel free to ask for help at any time! The game will pause when you call on me (though I can't answer any questions about the level itself!).

Remember, to call me, swipe up in the air while saying my name. Do you remember my name?

 

A: TRINITY

B: MORPHEUS

C: NEO

D: ZION

 

That's right, I'm Neo!

It was very nice to meet you, Mimi#544763. You'll be entering the first level now. Good luck!

 

***

 

Your first level is: Like Flower, Like Jade

As a wrongly-disgraced concubine, you have been imprisoned in a room by yourself. Not even maids are allowed to be around you. It is a miracle that you have survived months in what is essentially solitary confinement, especially when everyone else seems to fear you greatly.

Tomorrow, however, you will be taken to court for a crime that you did not commit. The emperor still holds you in some regard, which is the only reason you have not yet died. What did you do? And what can you say in order to prove your innocence?

Notice: As this is your first level, you will have two allies in this game. You will not know who they are, nor will they know you. Work together to free yourself and escape.

 

The only thought that Mihyun has after reading the information is what the  . The words scroll across her brain in big block letters, and she wants to lie back down on the ground and pass out. Nothing makes any sense—rip in spacetime? if you die here you can’t revive? levels?—and she pinches herself, wishing badly for this to all be a nightmare.

Pain lingers across her arm. The odd Asian room still stands. Mihyun sighs and struggles to her feet, taking a good look around. Guess it’s not a dream after all, and if it’s not a dream, then she has to escape from this room, without dying, with the help of two allies.

She could just kick the door down. The thought occurs to her in a flash of genius, but when she checks the seemingly-flimsy doors, they’re cold to the touch, almost burning her skin. After a pause, she quickly touches the other walls. They, too, are bitingly-cold, made of metal instead of wood.

That plan’s out of the question, then. But other than kicking down the door, Mihyun has no other plan. There’s nothing in the room except for a bed, a few candles and oil lamps, a low table with a plate of cakes, and the ink paintings hanging on the walls. There’s definitely nothing out-of-place about the bed—she carefully checks under the covers and pillows—and the paintings seem to just be large pieces of fabric, so she turns her attention to the cakes instead.

Truth be told, she is a bit hungry. Dimension-hopping must have taken a lot of energy out of her, even though she doesn’t remember how she got here. As she reaches out to take one of the cakes, however, she picks up on a slightly bitter smell. It’s not anything familiar, doesn’t smell like chemicals, but carefully, using a handkerchief beside the plate, Mihyun picks up a cake.

It’s small, round, wrapped in golden dough with a pretty flower pattern on top. Chrysanthemums, if she remembers her flowers correctly. It looks a little bit like a mooncake, and utterly delicious. Mihyun swallows, trying to stop herself from salivating, and examines the cake more closely.

At first, nothing seems inherently wrong, but the bitter smell still hangs in the air, and she’s pretty sure she sees a faint purplish tone to the glaze on the dough. Of course, it could be her imagination, but given that she only has one precious life, Mihyun decides not to risk it.

Carefully, she puts the cake into her inventory using the pouch shortcut. At first, it doesn’t seem like the cake will fit, but then it disappears in a flash of blue light. When Mihyun peers into the pouch, a glowing screen pops up. POISONED CAKE, it reads. TASTY, IF YOU CAN GET PAST THE TASTE OF MERCURY. 

“Handkerchief too?” she can’t help exclaiming out loud. Sure enough, beside the small box containing the cake, there’s an image of a handkerchief—TAINTED HANDKERCHIEF: MAYBE IT’S POISONED TOO, OR MAYBE IT’S NOT. CARE TO TRY?

Now that she’s gone through the basic tutorial, Mihyun spends a long time examining the room, flipping over the paintings and patting down the bed, looking for anything that might be helpful to helping her escape, but the only object that comes up is a set of silver acupuncture needles. USED TO RELIEVE PAIN, the description says. YOU WON’T FIND BLOOD ON THEM.

It’s not like she doesn’t know how they work. She’s seen the folk doctors in Chinatown carefully slide them into her mother’s waist at just the right pressure points. Thinking of her parents back home makes Mihyun take in a sharp breath. What if they check up on her and find the room empty? Will they think that she’s run away? Would they call the police, or would they despair? She’s their only child, the only one able to provide for them in the future. She can’t die in this game; she has to make it back.

But how can she make it back if she can’t even escape from a simple room? The walls are somehow made of metal, the windows covered with some sort of paste-strengthened paper, and the sliding doors are locked, with no way to access the lock from inside. She’s stuck, a fly in a trap, waiting for death.

Then again, the information scroll she’d read before had said that levels weren’t too hard and that few people were expected to die. Plus, she has two allies, right? The more Mihyun thinks, the more she calms down. Right, it’s not over yet. It’s only been an hour, maybe; the day is long, and possibilities endless. Maybe something interesting will happen soon, and then she’ll be able to figure something out.

Having comforted herself, Mihyun lies down on the bed, sliding her fingers along the cool satin of the covers. She’d never been good at solving riddles, or walking through logic problems, or doing escape rooms. Stressful events with time constraints never sat well with her; if she was going to do something stressful, she’d better have enough time to calm down first.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t have no time to calm down because the chains on the door rattle. Mihyun bolts up, fear trickling cold down her spine, right as the doors slam open.

“Concubine Mimi,” a tall, bearded man in red silk robes announces. He’s wearing a hat with beads hanging down in front of his face, a detail that Mihyun recognizes from ancient dramas. Immediately, she kneels, almost slamming her face into the ground in her haste to not offend the emperor. “Rise.”

She rises, chancing a glance up. The emperor sits down at the low table, surrounded by two guards in blue robes. One of them looks vaguely familiar… No, Mihyun realizes with a jolt as one of the guards looks up at her. They both do.

They’re Jaehyun and Kun, from NCT.

NCT , her brain babbles, unable to stop the flow of information. Neo Culture Technology, world-famous idol group formed by SM Entertainment in Korea, consisting of twenty-three members: Taeil, Johnny, Taeyong—

“Do you know why you’ve been banished to the Cold Palace?” the emperor asks, breaking off her train of thought. Mihyun’s eyebrows furrow. The Cold Palace? The place where disgraced concubines go? The scroll she’d read at the beginning of the game suddenly makes a lot more sense now. But she can’t answer the emperor’s question; she doesn’t know what she’s done wrong.

Her silence must annoy the emperor, because he clicks his tongue impatiently and gestures to Jaehyun. “Advisor Jay,” he says, and Jaehyun steps forward—it’s only now that Mihyun notices the faint blue glow surrounding him—opening a scroll.

“Concubine Mimi,” he reads, glancing at her pointedly. “Though it was your own bad luck that you were not able to produce a son for Our Majesty, it was uncalled for and unwarranted for you to steal a child from a poor family to claim as your own.” 

Wait, what? Mihyun’s eyes narrow; she would never do that! As if reading her thoughts, Jaehyun sends her a warning glance and continues. “You have thus been accused of wrongness of morality and breaking the peace of family. If you do not prove tonight that you were wrongfully accused, you shall go to trial tomorrow and punished accordingly.”

He shuts the scroll. “That is all. Advisor QianKun?”

A flush rises on Kun’s cheeks as he steps forward—no wonder; he must regret using his real name—handing a scroll to Mihyun. “You may write your defense on this scroll for the judge to read tomorrow. If you choose to leave your defense blank, then you will be indicted immediately.”

Something crinkles inside the scroll. Kun’s eyes narrow; he gives off the same blue glow as Jaehyun, and Mihyun knows that they are her two previously-unknown allies. She nods, hoping to convey both levels of understanding in that one small action.

When the emperor leaves, Jaehyun sends her one last look. It’s an odd one, a wide-eyed, hopeful, expecting one, that makes Mihyun’s heart beat faster in her chest and palms slick with a sheen of sweat. What the heck? She knows, deep in her heart, that it’s only because they’re allies, but some part of her wants to believe that Jaehyun was immediately struck by her blinding beauty.

Unfortunately, that’s only a fantasy, and the fact that two members of NCT are her allies does not change the fact that she is a wrongly-accused prisoner in this weird room in this weird world in this weird game. She has to do something.

The scroll! In the whole Jaehyun confusion, Mihyun had forgotten about the blank scroll that Kun had given her. Though it’s clear that she knows nothing and thus has nothing to say in defense of herself, it’s also clear that Kun had hidden a note inside. Mihyun unwraps the heavy cloth and sure enough, there’s a piece of delicate, beige-colored paper, words written on it not with thick brushstrokes but with thin ballpoint pen.

 

The game automatically translates anything you hear or read into your default system language! Your default system language is set to: English .

Is this correct?

 

Mihyun nearly curses out loud when Neo’s voice rings throughout the room. She’d forgotten that the AI would be present throughout the first world. “Yes, yes, English,” she mutters, shaking her head to clear her thoughts. “Thank you for that.”

 

To our ally:

Our names are Kun and Jay, and our roles are the emperor’s personal advisors. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about your situation, only that you are accused of a terrible crime. However, being that we are close to the emperor and others, we might be able to find out some things. We’ll come back later to discuss with you about what to do.

Keep safe.

 

What the ? They don’t know anything either? The hope that Mihyun had allowed herself to feel crashes down, and she flops onto the bed with a loud sigh. Time to scour the room even more.

 

***

 

“Mihyun!” Jaehyun bursts in through the window with a loud whisper. Kun physically winces, trying to smooth the window paper back in place. “I’m being quiet!”

Sorry, the thought forms in Mihyun’s head. Do I know you? Would that be rude? But it’s true that she doesn’t know him, even if it seems like he does. So she says it, looks Jung Jaehyun of NCT in the eyes and says, “Sorry, I don’t know you.”

Emotions flicker on Jaehyun’s face. Shock, betrayal, disbelief, panic. “N-no way,” he murmurs, almost to himself. “We’re best friends, Mimi, remember? University? We’re in the same major.”

“No?” He seems genuine, which makes Mihyun feel worse. “You’re NCT, you’re famous.”

“What’s NCT?” Jaehyun’s eyes flash and he seems to want to ask more, but Kun breaks in impatiently.

“Guys, I don’t care if you actually know each other or not, but can we leave it until later? We have to figure out how to escape together, otherwise it won’t matter who knows who because we’ll all be dead.”

He’s right. Mihyun clears and reaches into her pouch, bringing up her inventory. “The cakes on the table are poisoned, and I got a poisoned handkerchief too. Oh, and some acupuncture needles.” She closes the inventory. “That’s it.”

Kun’s eyes light up. “That’s great! Did you know? Silver was used to define poison in the ancient times. Maybe they’ll come in handy at some point.”

“So we know that you were imprisoned for stealing a kid from another family,” Jaehyun adds, setting down the scroll he’d read earlier in the day. “The information that we were given implies that you were framed, but we don’t have any evidence to prove it.”

“I know.” Mihyun grabs the scroll to read it through. “I just, I can’t believe they made me a criminal. A child-trafficking criminal.”

It’s written right there in bold red ink, stamped and previously-sealed. Concubine Mimi, child-stealer. Kun shrugs. “It is what it is. Do you have any evidence that can prove it’s not you?” he asks. “Because we can’t find any, and without evidence, you are going to die.”

“Kun!” Agitated, Jaehyun leaps up. He paces the room, grabbing his hair with his hands. “Don’t say that! She can’t die!”

Kun sighs, sitting down. “I’m sorry, I just don’t know what to do,” he admits, fingers clenching and unclenching. “I don’t want you to die either.”

Silence falls over the room. Jaehyun’s still pacing, muttering something to himself. It’s surreal to Mihyun, being so close to two people she’d always admired. Celebrities, in her world. 

Wait, that’s it. She clears . “I know why you know me and I don’t know you.” Both Jaehyun and Kun look to her, and she shrugs. “I mean, it’s not very useful, and it won’t help me from getting killed, but I thought we should know. It’s the different worlds. Remember the message they showed us at the beginning of the game?”

Clearly, they do not. Mihyun’s about to explain when Jaehyun perks up. “Oh!” he exclaims, clapping his hands. “Ten dimensions! We’re from different worlds.”

Kun gets it now too. “So in Mihyun’s world, Jaehyun’s a celebrity, but in his world, you’re just normal people.”

“You’re a celebrity too, in my world,” Mihyun points out. “You’re both celebrities.”

“What? No way.” Kun shakes his head. “Wait, no, back up. What’s more important here? That or this? This. Your trial. Are you sure there’s nothing else you can find?”

Mihyun shrugs, smoothing out her skirts. The pink silk is cool against her skin, like it was this morning when she woke. “Nope,” she says with a shrug. “I can’t go out. I don’t know how you managed to get in through the window but it won’t tear for me, and the door’s chained shut too.”

“Try now.” Jaehyun sticks his hand through the window. “Come on, maybe we can find something if we go out together.”

Mihyun tries, but now there’s some invisible force preventing her hand from even touching the window paper. “I guess I’m stuck,” she says, and it’s now that the panic sets in. “Oh, god. I’m going to die.”

“You’re not.” For the first time, Jaehyun’s voice is hard. Kun and Mihyun both look at him in surprise. There’s a stony set to his jaw and he grips Mihyun’s shoulders, looking her in the eye. “I know you don’t know me and I guess I don’t know you either, but we’re friends. I’m going to—we’re going to save you. Count on it.”

“Yes, we’re friends now,” Kun agrees with a nod. “Don’t worry, Mihyun. We’ll find the evidence tonight. Right now, in fact. Don’t worry about it.”

But how can she not? Jaehyun and Kun climb out of the window and disappear into the darkness, and all she can think is what if they don’t find it? What if I have to die here? I’ll never see my parents again I’ll never drink a soda again I’ll never even feel the sunshine again—

Her parents must be worried sick. Does this game interfere with time? It’d be good if the game only took, like, a minute long in real life. Otherwise, what would her parents think if she just disappeared into thin air, or lied there comatose? She’d only been lying on her bed reading some trashy romance novel, and that doesn’t warrant any sort of weird situation.

She really hopes that her death is quick. Not that she doesn’t trust Jaehyun and Kun, but if they’ve already searched for evidence and found none, there’s not a large chance that they’ll find any more.

Wait, aren’t these games supposed to be easy? Mihyun straightens her back. “Yeah!” she can’t help saying out loud, mind whirring with excitement. “The message said that the game developers didn’t expect any deaths! The games are easy!”

If she’s trapped and there’s definitely no evidence in the room, then Jaehyun and Kun must be in a position that’s able to find evidence. She’s the princess in distress, the role that someone has to be in for the game to work, but that just means that her companions have to work a bit harder.

“Neo,” she says, swiping her arm up. A little blue robot materializes from thin air. “I have a question.”

“Yes, Mimi#544763,” it answers in a chirpy voice. “What is your question?”

“These games shouldn’t be too hard, right? Like, we shouldn’t have to die for the game.”

Neo blinks a couple of times. “That is correct,” it says after a while. “These games are not so hard as to cause mass death. However, they are hard in subtle ways, and it depends on the players or player teams to find the way to win.”

“And after we win—” she breaks off, throat hoarse “—after we win, we get to go back to our own lives, right? Our real lives.”

“Correct.” The little robot bows. “There are five worlds, or five games, that each player must go through in order to win the entire game. These worlds are random for every player or player team, so there is no cheating to be done.”

Player teams? “What are player teams?” she presses. “Can I form a team with Jaehyun and Kun, or are we already a team?”

“You may add users Jay#674859 and QianKun#579544 as your friends. Then, in the Hub, which you will visit after you pass through this world, you may form a player team.”

The robot pauses. “Any player is able to form a player team, of which they will be the leader. Player teams are not limited by size but must contain at least two players. A player team will challenge a world together, and in the unlikely event that a player in a team dies, their username will disappear from the team roster. If the leader dies, team leadership passes to the second person on the team roster. You will be able to review these rules after you reach the Hub.”

Oh, so she found out about teams early. “Okay,” Mihyun says. She suddenly feels very tired. “Thank you, Neo.”

“No problem, Mimi#544763.”

 

***

 

The next morning, Mihyun is woken by rattling chains. Before she even fully comes to her senses, someone grabs her arms, yanks them behind her back, and ties her wrists. “What’s going on?” she yells, definitely awake now. “What’s happening?”

No one answers her. The guards marching her out into the chilly morning air are silent as statues, and Mihyun can read the atmosphere well enough to know to shut up. They march past the newly-green gardens—it must be spring right now—past the bubbling fish ponds, and into a large golden palace. 

The guards shove her down and Mihyun falls, hissing as her knees hit the carpeted floor. It’s red, and she can’t help but wonder if that was its original color or if it was stained with the blood of other players. She raises her head, looking straight at the emperor seated on his throne.

The bead curtain hanging down from his hat obscures his face, but if looks could kill, Mihyun feels like she would have died already. He must really hate her.

The panic returns. Mihyun tries to convince herself that it will be fine, that Jaehyun and Kun will stick up for her no matter what, but after a quick glance around, the two are nowhere to be found. Her heart almost stops beating before she finally spots them at the edge of her vision, standing in the shadows. 

Oh, thank god. They didn’t give up on her.

“Concubine Mimi.” The emperor’s voice booms across the palace without need for amplification. “Do you have any last defenses?”

What can she say? Is she sure that Jaehyun and Kun have the evidence? A bead of sweat trickles down her neck as she raises her chin. “Yes, Your Majesty,” she declares with confidence that she doesn’t feel. “Advisors Jay and Kun are able to prove my innocence.”

Gasps ripple through the crowd as Jaehyun and Kun step forward, sinking to their knees as well.

“Your Majesty,” Kun begins, pulling out a scroll from his sleeve. “We scoured the records last night and found this. Concubine Wanlin’s correspondence with her family. Shall we read it, or would you like to see for yourself?”

The emperor doesn’t get a chance to respond, because Jaehyun snatches the scroll and clears his throat. “Dearest cousin,” he reads loudly, “it is no bother to me to assist you with your plan. Soon, I hope Concubine Mimi will fall out of favor with His Majesty. Then you will be able to rise in rank and bring glory to our family. As for the child, you can either raise him as your own or send him back to us.”

Louder gasps ripple through the crowd. A scream as Concubine Wanlin, a beautiful girl, is thrown out of the crowd. “Your Majesty!” she gasps, scrambling to her knees to bow. “It is not true! They are trying to frame me!”

“Bring the scroll here!” the emperor demands. “Hold Concubine Wanlin!”

Mihyun stares at Jaehyun’s silk-clad back, willing him to turn around. It’d be rude to the emperor, but she wants some reassurance that things are going to plan. Instead, it’s Kun who turns slightly, giving her a look. She can’t decipher what it means, but it’s as good as she’s going to get for now, she supposes.

A slam echoes through the palace. The emperor stands up, robes billowing. “Search Concubine Wanlin’s quarters!” he commands. “Place her in the Cold Palace! I will deal with her myself. As for you—” he turns to Mihyun “—you, Advisor Jay, and Advisor QianKun can spend the rest of your life in the dungeons.”

“Wait, what?” Mihyun yells as guards drag her up again. “I’m free, though? I didn’t do it!”

The emperor slams his hand down on the table as he sits again. “You and the advisors searched the records without express permission. Searches must take place during the daytime, with permission from myself. Take them away!”

“Wait—what—” Jaehyun struggles against his bonds. “You didn’t give us time! You said she was going to be executed in the morning!”

“Jaehyun.” Kun’s quiet voice cuts through the noise. “It’s no use. It’s part of the game. There’s something else we have to do.”

Jaehyun curses, kicking at the guards marching him away. “ the game! We did what we were supposed to do!”

“It’s fine,” Mihyun reassures him quickly. “At least we’ll be together, right? We can play whatever game they want us to play. Three brains are better than one.”

She sure hopes that’s true. From all the NCT videos she’s watched, neither Jaehyun nor Kun seem to be particularly dumb—well, not that any of the members are—but does that transfer over to the Jaehyun and Kun of other dimensions too?

It has to, otherwise they’ll rot in the dungeons.


if you like my writing pls consider buying me a kofi!
these will NOT be beta-ed in the least lol so i'm sorry if there are grammar/spelling/logic mistakes

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