Chapter 172 – Hellfire Cavern
「Bang! Bang! Bang!」
Several dozen spells battered Broad Blade’s group, instantly killing five of them as they were transformed into brilliant rays of light. Two of them had red names, so all of their gear dropped to the ground when they died. Only three survived the barrage of spells with just a sliver of health remaining.
The survivors tried to escape from the area, but several dozen Fighters and Berserkers caught up and surrounded them before they could take a single step.
With the sheer disparity in numbers, Broad Blade’s group wasn’t able to put up the least bit of resistance.
They were immediately slaughtered.
“Thank you, brothers!” Paladin of the Elegy shouted to the crowd. Without the timely and enthusiastic assistance from his fellow guildmates, his party would’ve been wiped out by Broad Blade’s group.
“Ah, it feels good to finally blow off some steam after being pushed around by those bastards for so long.”
“Sooner or later, we’ll wipe them all out!”
“There’s a report from our brothers stationed at the East. They say they’ve spotted roughly three to four hundred Victorious Return players heading towards us!”
All of the Asskicker United members’ faces turned ashen. They hadn’t even been here for five minutes, yet Victorious Return somehow already deployed forces to their location. The response was just a little too fast to be a coincidence.
“We definitely have moles in our guild; there’s no way they could’ve reacted so quickly!”
“So what! Let’s take them on!”
“No, we’ll suffer heavy losses if we try to clash with them. Let’s just go back.” Paladin of the Elegy shook his head. Even after that frantic battle, he still managed to remain level-headed. Guo Huai had repeatedly warned them that now was not the right time to start a full-scale conflict with Victorious Return.
“Pick up all the equipment they dropped! We’re withdrawing!” shouted an influential Warrior among the crowd.
Everyone took out a Return Scroll, and after twenty seconds, the crowd disappeared in a symphony of flashing lights.
Several minutes later, a large group of Victorious Return players arrived at the area. They were led by Underworld Flame.
“The bastards ran away!” Underworld Flame cursed in frustration. “These runts have been reacting too quickly lately. I can’t rule out the possibility that we’ve been infiltrated by them…”
“Boss, what are we gonna do now?”
“What are we gonna do…? What do you think we can do!? We’re going back!”
Just because a battle didn’t break out this time didn’t mean that everything would calm down. With so much friction between them, it was obvious to everyone that both sides hated each other. Asskickers United was constantly suppressed in the conflict and suffered far more than Victorious Return did. There were only a few skirmishes where they got off lightly. Despite all of this, Asskickers United endured patiently. They were slowly raising their strength, waiting for the day when they would finally have the power to fight back.
In a vibrant forest—a beautiful paradise lush with green where various wildflowers bloomed abundantly, giant Golden Beetles carrying pitchforks whizzed about. The sunlight reflected brilliantly off their glossy carapaces. They flew around the forest, occasionally landing to rest on the ashen-coloured bark of the trees.
Nie Yan activated Stealth, blended into the forest background, and made a detour around the Golden Beetles. He found a certain tree and uncovered a locked silver chest by its roots. He crouched down and started opening it with Lockpicking Specialist.Opening… Estimated Completion: 3%… 37%… You’ve unlocked a Silver Chest! Lockpicking Specialist has gained 1 point of proficiency!
The chest popped open with a click. Nie Yan dug around and fished out a Warrior’s chestplate and a Paladin’s spiked hammer, both of which were Level 20 Silver-grade. Not bad… he thought after examining their properties and tossing them into his bag.
Perhaps alerted by the sound of Nie Yan opening the chest or just plain bad luck, several dozen Golden Beetles in the vicinity charged at him, brandishing their pitchforks.
The Golden Beetles were Level 21 mobs. Nie Yan wouldn’t last a second against such a large swarm. Just as he was about to be skewered by the pitchforks, he vanished from their sight by activating Shadow Dance. He fled for his life, while the Golden Beetles looked around for him.
Once they lost sight of their target, the Golden Beetles returned to flying around aimlessly.
Nie Yan ran through the forest for about ten minutes before he reached the base of a mountain. After searching around the rubble for what seemed like half-a-day, he finally found another locked silver chest tucked away behind several boulders. He dropped down on one knee and proceeded to open it.
The chest opened with a click a short moment later.
After rummaging through the contents of the chest, he took out a Lesser Heal skill book for Priests. It was a good find for the guild. Only players that contributed heavily to the guild could obtain skill books and other similar items.
He threw the skill book into his bag.
「Nie Yan, are you there?」Guo Huai sent a message.
「Yeah, what’s up? Need anything?」Nie Yan cloaked himself in stealth before proceeding to his next destination.
「I want to apply for a couple of guild quests. We’ve gathered a little over 10 gold, but it’s still not enough.」
「How much do you need?」
「About 3 gold.」
「You can head over to the Starry Night Potion Shop and withdraw 10 gold.」Nie Yan replied. Applying for guild quests required a huge sum of gold. During the initial phase of a guild’s growth, guild quests were like a black hole where money disappeared. Despite their exorbitant cost, they were quintessential to raising the overall quality of the guild.
「Has there been any activity from Victorious Return lately?」Nie Yan asked.
「Minor skirmishes… they don’t seem to stop,」Guo Huai answered before letting Nie Yan know what had happened with Paladin of the Elegy’s group earlier in the afternoon.「It’s a pity four of them died. They were too rash; otherwise, they would’ve all lived.」
Nie Yan thought about the incident for a minute. These sorts of disputes occurred frequently among the major guilds. If repeated calls for help from a fellow guildmate were ignored in the guild chat, that was a sign that the guild was done for. He was quite pleased that so many guild members joined forces to help out a fellow guildmate and decided that this was something that should be encouraged. After going through situations like this one, everyone, especially those rowdy players that always looked for a fight, would grow devoted to the guild and each other.
「Four for eight, and three of the enemies even had red names! Not a bad trade!」Nie Yan laughed.
「Reward every member that participated in the battle with 10 merit points!」
「Are you sure? Over a hundred players joined in. That’s more than a thousand merit points!」Guo Huai cried out in shock.
「I actually think 10 merit points is still a bit too stingy. Tell them… since the guild was only recently established, we can’t give out too much. Thank them for their understanding!」Nie Yan said.
Honestly speaking, 10 merit points was quite generous to ordinary members of the guild. They needed 200 merit points to get decent Silver-grade equipment from the treasury, and Nie Yan’s generous gift brought them all much closer to that total.
To earn 10 merit points, they would normally have to contribute many ingredients, materials, and other items to the guild. The alchemy ingredients supplied by the guild members would be given to the Starry Night Potion Shop and turned into concoctions. The profits from selling these concoctions would be spent on buying equipment to stock the guild treasury. The new equipment in the treasury could then be exchanged for even more ingredients, materials, and so on. This created a self-sustaining cycle that allowed the guild to grow.
The guild treasury was rapidly expanding, not through the contributions of guild members, but because Nie Yan was investing extravagant sums of money. It seemed like he could continue investing for a while, but it wasn’t wise to depend on one person to keep the guild afloat. The sooner the guild became self-sufficient, the better it was for everyone.
「I think they’ll be delirious with joy,」Guo Huai said with a smile.
「If that’s all, I’ll close the chat. I’m a little busy right now,」Nie Yan said.
He was near Hellfire Cavern.
A crowd of over one hundred players gathered together in a hall at the Asskickers United guild headquarters. They were all discussing what happened today and basking in the excitement of the moment.
“What are we going to do about the equipment that dropped from those Victorious Return players?” Sugar Cane asked.
“We’ll auction all of it off for merit points. Then we’ll split the merit points evenly between everyone that showed up to help us.” Paladin of the Elegy staunchly replied. Without the aid of his guild brothers, his party would have definitely been wiped out. He wasn’t about to forget them now that he was safe. He even planned to auction off the drop from the Wild Boar!
Sugar Cane nodded. “We’ll have to give a bit more to Bean and the others, though. They went down a level and lost a piece of equipment when they died.”
A brief moment later.
“Thank you everyone for your help today. We’ll be starting the auction now. The first item up is the Silver-grade Warrior chestplate that dropped from the Wild Boar. As all of you know, there’s only a small chance for Silver-grade equipment to drop from Leader-class monsters!”
The crowd burst into furious bidding.
“I bid 70 merit points!”
“96 merit points!”
“129 merit points!”
The chestplate wasn’t too spectacular, so the bidding hit a ceiling of 130 merit points. Paladin of the Elegy auctioned off the other items after that. The equipment that dropped from the Victorious Return players with red names was fairly decent. All of the equipment was auctioned off for a total of 1,860 merit points, which was then evenly divided between all the members that participated in the battle.
“The amount of merit points everyone receives will be fairly small because there are so many of us, so I’m hoping none of you mind.”
“Nah, it’s not a big deal. We just joined in for a bit of excitement. Besides, I didn’t even get to cast a spell. All I did was show up, and then use a Return Scroll to go back. So you don’t need to give me any merit points.”
The crowd burst out into cheerful laughter.
“Next time you run into Victorious Return players, if they try to make a move on you, you better not keep it from us. Just give us a holler in the guild chat, and we’ll all come running over to teach those bastards a lesson!”
Paladin of the Elegy had a warm feeling in his heart. Joining this guild was the right choice.
“Did you all have your fill of fun?” Guo Huai entered with a stern expression.
The atmosphere suddenly turned silent.
“It’s Watchful Snail…”
“You guys acted too rashly today. Four of you died pointlessly for a single piece of equipment!”
The crowd stayed taciturn. From their perspective, if someone died, then so be it. A piece of Silver-grade equipment was worth it. Guo Huai looked furious, so none of them dared to voice their disagreement.
Seeing how he intimidated everyone, Guo Huai continued with a faint smile, “But… a fellow guildmate was in trouble and all of you banded together to help him. That’s something worth commending. So Nirvana Flame has decided to reward all of you with ten merit points each. This guild was only recently established, so don’t think this is too little.”
“Woo! Long live Nirvana Flame!”
“The executive guild leader is the best!”
The crowd burst out in cheers. Ten merit points was already more than they expected. More importantly, it signified that their actions had won the approval of Nie Yan and the other higher ups.
There were over one hundred players in the hall. If Nie Yan was rewarding each of them ten merit points, that was a grand total of over a thousand merit points! With that many merit points, a person could take out five pieces of Level 10 Silver-grade equipment from the treasury. He considered this a small reward? They were all left speechless.
Nie Yan’s actions generated a lot of goodwill towards the guild. In his eyes, gold was of secondary importance. If it could be used to gain a person’s loyalty, then it was well worth it. If this enabled him to create a group of absolutely devoted followers in the guild, even if it was only 10,000 players, it would far surpass the value of 100,000 ordinary guild members. Battle Crazed Alliance was clear proof of that.
The excitement in the guild eventually settled down. Everyone went back to working their hardest to level.
…You’ve discovered Hellfire Cavern.
Nie Yan examined the area around the cavern. The rock was charred black without any plant life growing on top of it. A scorching wind blew out from the entrance. Every so often, a burst of flame would shoot out of the cave.
Nie Yan drank an Intermediate Fire Resistance Potion he picked up from the Starry Night Potion Shop. He glanced at his status bar to confirm that his fire resistance was increased for the next five minutes. It was more than enough time for what needed to be done. He activated Stealth, his body turning transparent, and snuck into the cavern.