Chapter 140 – It’s Always the Quiet Ones
As the pair walked into the Jaderiver Dining Hall, they were greeted by a fairly spacious and luxurious lounge. The ceiling, constructed out of a special glass, refracted the incoming sunlight in a peculiar way, causing the various plant life surrounding the rock garden fountain to flourish with vibrant colours.
After passing through the lounge, they walked across a winding hallway before arriving at the meeting place.
It was an outdoor tea garden specially designed to host gatherings of this sort. Right now, a large group of people were lounging in the area, drinking tea and chatting among themselves. They all appeared to be eighteen or nineteen years old, youthful and full of energy. Nie Yan scanned over the crowd with his eyes and recognized several familiar faces, Hao Cheng, Zhao Li, and Guo Huai. Even when he had hit rock-bottom in his past life, these three were among the few who didn’t abandon him, which was why he never forgot them. Along with Tang Yao, they were inseparable during their time in middle school.
“Tang Yao, Nie Yan! You two finally arrived.” Hao Cheng was the first to spot them and immediately walked over to greet them. As his eyes fell on Nie Yan, a trace of surprise flashed across his face as he bumped his fist into Nie Yan’s chest. “Wow, Kiddo! You’ve grown sturdier, taller as well! I remember you were such a shrimp back in middle school. Have you been working out recently?”
The Nie Yan in front of him barely resembled the frail and timid boy he knew from the past. Be it his height, figure, or temperament, everything seemed to have undergone a drastic change. He couldn’t help but feel somewhat startled.
Nie Yan smiled and said, “And you haven’t changed at all. You’re still built like an ox.”
Hao Cheng was very tall and quite robust as well. Back when the both of them were in middle school, he had earned a reputation for himself as a fighter by putting quite a few arrogant fellows in their places and served as the captain of the school’s mixed martial arts team.
Glancing back at Tang Yao, Hao Cheng broke into a smile and said, “Tang-boy! You’ve gotten even fatter! Haha!”
“Damn, can’t you be a little more tactful,” Tang Yao jokingly cursed.
A short while later, Zhao Li and Guo Huai walked up as well. Zhao Li was a little shorter than Hao Cheng. He had a slightly darker complexion and a square chin but was still passable in terms of appearance, making him quite popular among the ladies to the point where he had no lack of admirers during middle school. Guo Huai was the type of person who appeared outwardly cold but cared deeply for others on the inside. With a cold gaze that pierced through his glasses, he looked like a refined intellectual.
“Nie Yan, you came.” Guo Huai smiled.
“Hey, Nie Yan, long time no see! The gang’s finally back together, eh?” Zhao Li exclaimed in excitement.
Guo Huai pointed at a nearby sofa and said, “Come, let’s sit over there.”
They sat comfortably on the sofa and resumed their conversation.
While they chatted, a nearby group of girls were constantly shooting glances in their direction. A bit of their chatter leaked out and entered Nie Yan’s and the others’ ears.
“Ah? Is that really Nie Yan?”
“Wow, he’s really changed.”
“Right? He looks a lot more handsome now. I remember he used to be so scrawny.”
Nie Yan glanced over at the girls who appeared vaguely familiar and then acknowledged them with a smile. They were caught off guard by this gesture but soon regained their composure; slightly blushing, they smiled and nodded back. It seemed he was no longer the timid and quiet boy they remembered.
He had once been completely oblivious to the world and only knew how to study and go to school. As for when exactly his disposition began changing, he himself was unsure. Nonetheless, the him at present already possessed the wisdom of an adult. He would no longer get nervous over such trivial matters.
As their group chatted along, the conversation gradually progressed to the game that was taking the entire country by storm, Conviction.
“Are you guys playing? Where did you all start out? We should get together next time and train together! You remember the guys from Class 2? A lot of them entered the game together. I heard they’re pretty amazing now. Their best player is already Level 12. Also, a guy from Class 11 started his own guild. It already has several hundred people in it now.” Hao Cheng talked about the game with great enthusiasm.
“Hao Cheng, what class are you playing, what level too?” Zhao Li asked.
“I’m a Warrior, and I’m already Level 11. I usually tag along with a small group of players. Sometimes, we run dungeons together, but we always end up wiping because of the noobs in our team; otherwise, I’d be a bit higher levelled,” Hao Cheng replied.
“I’m a Level 10 Paladin. I ended up joining Radiant Sacred Flame. Sadly, they assigned me to a second-rate team. I’m not good enough to enter their elite one,” Zhao Li said with a wry smile.
Nie Yan was a little shocked by this revelation. He didn’t expect Zhao Li to join Radiant Sacred Flame.
“Screw Radiant Sacred Flame! I was nearly killed by those bastards two weeks ago. They kill stole a monster my party found first, then barricaded me and my party in a zone and hunted us down. I was the only one who survived.” Tang Yao’s expression soured upon mention of Radiant Sacred Flame.
“Hey, I had nothing to do with that!” Zhao Li hurriedly tried to smooth things over.
“Sigh, I know,” Tang Yao replied. It wasn’t worth taking out his anger on a good friend.
“When I log back on, I’ll leave the guild. I wasn’t enjoying myself there anyway,” Zhao Li said as he patted Tang Yao’s shoulder.
“Good Brother!” Tang Yao smiled. This was what being a good friend was all about.
“What about you guys? What level are you three?” Hao Cheng asked. He looked at Guo Huai, Tang Yao, and Nie Yan. Zhao Li’s level was high but still within the realm of his expectations. As for the other three, if not outright beginners, he figured they were mediocre players at best.
“I’m also Level 10. I’m a Holy Mage,” Guo Huai replied. His level was also nothing to scoff at.
Hao Cheng’s eyes lit up after hearing his response. Guo Huai was Level 10, not to mention a Holy Mage too. Being able to hit such a level signified that he was a decently skilled player. If three strong players were present, then they shouldn’t have any problems training as a party of five no matter how much of a burden Tang Yao and Nie Yan might be.
“Tang Yao, what about you?” Hao Cheng asked. He didn’t have high hopes for Tang Yao and Nie Yan. After all, these two never gamed much back in middle school. When he had heard earlier from Tang Yao that Nie Yan was also playing Conviction, he was quite amazed.
“Cough, cough…” Tang Yao gave Nie Yan a sideways glance. After seeing Nie Yan give a slight nod of approval, Tang Yao faintly smiled and said, “Arcane Mage, Level 14.”
“What, say that again? Level 14…?”
“You’re not joking around, right?”
After Tang Yao announced his level, the atmosphere of the conversation suddenly took a strange turn. Hao Cheng, Guo Huai, and Zhao Li were all staring at him with expressions of shock. Considering the average level of the playerbase, reaching Level 10 or 11 was a fairly impressive feat, no doubt, but even then, there were still many players around that range. Level 14, however… now that was a little mind-boggling. At present, such a level would place you right in the top three of the leaderboards.
After for what seemed like half an eternity, they finally regained their composure.
The reaction of these three friends satisfied Tang Yao’s vanity. He felt quite pleased with himself.
“Tang-boy, you really are good! You even managed to hide it from us for so long!” Hao Cheng patted Tang Yao on the shoulder.
“Right!? This is so awesome! Wow, Level 14, I still can’t believe it. Tang Yao, what’s your in-game name?”
“Young Sparrow Hawk,” Tang Yao answered.
“Wait, so you’re Young Sparrow Hawk? And I was wondering who could be so ferocious at levelling! From now on, we’ll just tag along with you. Brothers, what do you say? By the way, do you have any extra equipment lying around that you can pass on?”
“Wait guys, don’t misunderstand! I didn’t get to that level by myself. I’m also just tagging along with another person,” Tang Yao awkwardly cut in.
Hao Cheng stared blankly for a moment, then asked in a tone full of surprise, “You’re tagging along with someone else? At your level!? Bullshit! More like others tag along with you! Whatever guild you’re a part of, you should leave it immediately.”
“Right? Anyone that good can start a guild by themselves,” Guo Huai chimed in. “Look at the type of people who fill the top of the leaderboards: Heaven Breaker, the guild leader of Victorious Return; Sleepy Fox, the guild leader of Holy Empire; and then there’s the guild leaders of Holy Judgement and Battled Crazed Alliance…” He listed all of them out. Only then did everyone discover that excluding Tang Yao, everyone else in the top ten of the leaderboards was currently the leader of a major guild.
“Out of everyone I know, you’re the most amazing! If you make a guild, you can count me in! With your rank on the leaderboards, tons of people will come flocking over! Shoot, I’ll even pull in some of my friends!” Hao Cheng exclaimed.
“Same here,” Zhao Li added.
“In the first batch of people signing up, we’ll be guaranteed to at least get two to three thousand players!” Guo Huai exclaimed. For being known as a person of few words, seeing him talk so much in one sitting was quite amazing.
“Is it really that amazing?” Tang Yao asked in surprise.
“Of course! You’re already in the top three of the leaderboards. Can you imagine how much rallying power you have? With just our classmates, we’d be able to pull in two to three thousand people. The only problem is getting the funds to establish a guild. If we can’t build the guild treasury, then things will be a little troublesome. Without it, we won’t be able to recruit many players beside our friends and schoolmates. If we have it, it’ll show others that we have the resources to support the guild. After the first batch joins, they’ll pull others in, and then the number of people applying will skyrocket.” Guo Huai’s reasoning seemed fairly sound.
Nie Yan slightly nodded his head. Guo Huai’s words did indeed make a lot of sense.
Seeing Zhao Li and Hao Cheng looking at him with amazed expressions, Guo Huai felt slightly embarrassed as he adjusted his glasses and explained, “I’ve always wanted to establish a guild with some of my friends, but we chose to give up on that dream in the end. We had zero rallying power, and in terms of resources, we were nowhere near the level of those large guilds that have financial backers supporting them from behind the scenes.”
At this moment, Nie Yan suddenly recalled a certain piece of information. During their days in middle school, he had once heard that Guo Huai’s father owned a supermarket chain. With over two hundred large-scale super markets under one company, their financial resources were solid. So Guo Huai having such an ambition was fairly normal. After all, with Conviction growing ever popular by the day, it had the potential to bring about enormous economic benefits for his father if he started a large successful guild.
“Wow, Guo Huai… You’ve never once spoken about this in the past. It’s just like you to always do things without telling us.”
“So, Young Sparrow Hawk, what do you say? Let’s start a guild. You can be the leader. Just let me have some stake in the guild. As for funding, you can just let me handle it,” Guo Huai asked with an eager expression. If Tang Yao was able to stay at the top of the level leaderboards, their rallying power would be astonishing. By raising their banners, a steady stream of followers would join their guild. Even if they couldn’t grow into a guild as large as Victorious Return or Holy Empire, they would at least be able to expand it to a respectable size.
Tang Yao shook his head and said, “I am creating a guild, but I’m not going to be the leader. As for giving you a stake in the guild, that’s not my choice to make.”
“Wait, you’re not going to be the leader? Then who?” Guo Huai asked in surprise.
“Oh, I’ll probably be the leader of the guild in name, but the real leader will be… Nie Yan, because he’s the reason why I could level up so quickly,” Tang Yao said with a smile. For Guo Huai, Hao Cheng, and Zhao Li, this revelation was even more shocking than Tang Yao being Level 14.
With amazed expressions, the three shifted their gazes toward Nie Yan who had been silent this whole time. Only then did they realize that, in their excitement, they had completely forgotten to ask Nie Yan about his level. It couldn’t possibly be higher than Tang Yao’s, could it?
The previously unassuming Nie Yan had suddenly become the focal point of attention.
“Nie Yan, what class do you play and what level are you?”
“That’s right! We never got around to asking you!”
“Alright, stop keeping us in suspense. Hurry up and tell us already!”
Seeing their expressions filled with eager anticipation, Nie Yan chuckled and finally said, “Thief, Level 14.”
“Shoot, even a Thief can reach Level 14? That’s really impressive, but… why don’t I see your name on the leaderboards?” Hao Cheng asked. He knew full well just how difficult it was to level as a Thief. Even the highest level Thief on the leaderboards was only Level 12, and there wasn’t a single Thief in the top ten.
“He chose not to join the leaderboards, so no one knows,” Tang Yao explained.
“No wonder… it’s always the quiet ones that take you by surprise.”