Chapter 180 – Recruitment
If not for the substantial boost in Awareness from the blessings, Tuoba wouldn’t have noticed Nie Yan even if he had snuck up right behind him. Even then, he had merely felt a slight chill behind his neck, something the ordinary player wouldn’t notice.
“Hey, buddy! I know you’re there! Why don’t you come out?” Tuoba stared at the blurry figure beside the wall and couldn’t help but be taken aback. Just how high was this fellow’s Cloaking? His Eyes of the Divine could see through the stealth of most Thieves. Yet all he saw of Nie Yan was a hazy outline, almost as if he were looking at a mirage that would wink out of existence with a simple blink of the eye.
Nie Yan knew he had been exposed when he saw the light shining from Tuoba’s eyes.
He deactivated his stealth, revealing himself to them.
“It’s you?” Tuoba stared in shock, recalling the time he had met Nie Yan outside the Starry Night Potion Shop. He never expected they’d meet again here, of all places.
He estimated around two weeks had passed since they’d last met. Back then, the Starry Night Shop had just barely opened its doors. Now, it was a colossus in the concoction market of Calore. Truly no one could’ve predicted this was how things would turn out.
If they had met again in Calore, Tuoba wouldn’t have thought much of it. However, since Nie Yan had appeared in the Light Monastery, he had no choice but to take note of him. He was brazen enough to storm such a high level map all by himself, to say nothing of the fact he was only Level 17!
Nie Yan lightly shrugged his shoulders, and said, “I’m just passing through.”
He wished for nothing more than to avoid coming into conflict with Tuoba and Forthright. As Paladins and Berserkers, they greatly inhibited his ability to deal effective damage, especially with the thick plate-armour protecting them. On top of that, the quality of their gear was quite high, and they were a good deal higher level than him. Although he felt confident in guaranteeing his own safety, it was impossible for him to take down the both of them.
“Hey! Didn’t think we’d run into you here!” Forthright heartily laughed as he walked up to greet Nie Yan without thinking. “Looks like you’ve got a red name! …Crap! It’s that red!?” he cried out in shock. “Just how many people did you kill?”
Nie Yan brought up his guard. His name was currently branded a deep crimson, resembling the colour of blood. He couldn’t discount the possibility that Forthright might act against him, especially if he was one of those greedy types who coveted the equipment of others.
Tuoba quickly stopped Forthright from getting any closer to Nie Yan. With a faint smile, he apologetically said, “My friend here didn’t mean any harm. He just doesn’t think when he acts. Please don’t mind him.”
Nie Yan’s name was red, so a misunderstanding was bound to occur if Forthright rushed up to him.
Forthright realized the blunder he’d just made. He scratched his head and let out an embarrassed chuckle.
“Would you be interested in joining our party?” Tuoba offered. Nie Yan greatly intrigued him. He wanted to find out what exactly Nie Yan was doing here, and the simplest way to dispel any doubts between both sides was to form a party, since players within the same party, team, or guild were disallowed from attacking each other. This was a rule set by the game developers to ensure some trust during any activities that required cooperation. Otherwise, what was the point behind a partying system if anyone with vile intentions could force a run to fail by attacking fellow teammates during a dungeon run?
Nie Yan considered for a moment, then asked, “Are you guys planning to hunt mobs on the outskirts or explore inside?”
Entering the Light Monastery by himself posed a certain degree of difficulty. He could only rely on the Silk Spinner Ring and Crawler Ring to help him get past the hordes of Red Cloaked Heretics. However, with Tuoba and Forthright’s help, he could probably directly rush into the inner hall. As for the central hall, those two wouldn’t be able to enter; only he could access it.
“Of course we’re going inside,” Tuoba replied, though he couldn’t help but wonder. Why exactly did Nie Yan want to enter the Light Monastery?
“Good, then we can all enter the inner hall together,” Nie Yan said. He was trying to figure out the backgrounds of Tuoba and Forthright. Based on their gear and level, they definitely weren’t ordinary solo-players. Besides, having a few more powerful friends would only be beneficial to the growth of his guild in the future.
“Great, then it’s settled!” said Tuoba before sending him a party invite.
Nie Yan hit accept.You have joined Tuoba Time’s party.
After joining, the wariness between both sides almost all but dissipated.
“Let’s hunt some monsters. We can chat while we fight,” Tuoba said. With a Thief in the party, they could leave aggroing the mobs to him.
“What’s the most you guys deal with at once?” Nie Yan asked. By getting a clear read of Forthright and Tuoba’s strength, he would know how to proceed.
“Around dozen or so, I’d say,” Tuoba answered.
Nie Yan was slightly startled. Based on their current level, being able to take on a dozen Red Cloaked Heretics at once was an extraordinary feat. Such ability would allow them to effortlessly rise into the upper ranks of the leaderboards.
“Alright.” Nie Yan nodded before he walked up to a nearby pillar. He spotted around thirty or so Red Cloaked Heretics up ahead. Normally, Tuoba and Forthright would have to split a crowd of this size into three smaller, more manageable groups. However, now that he was in the party, he felt they could cope with just a few more.
Nie Yan took out his Crossbow of Blood, propped it up against his shoulders, and fired.「Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!」Three bolts shot out toward the crowd. After some of them were struck, all of the Red Cloaked Heretics discovered his presence, and they came rushing after him.
“Oh my God! You aggroed so many of them! Pal, do you actually know how to pull mobs!?” Forthright paled in fright when he saw over thirty Red Cloaked Heretics swarming toward them. He and Tuoba were already at their limits dealing with a dozen of them. Even with the addition Nie Yan, maybe they’d be able to cope with six or seven more. Who could’ve imagined that he’d aggro all of them in one go?!
Any person with half a brain would consider whether Nie Yan was trying to kill them with a borrowed knife.
“Go up and attack them, then you’ll understand,” Nie Yan replied as he regrouped with them.
“Listen to him,” Tuoba said after a brief moment of hesitation. He felt Nie Yan probably had his own reasons. Besides, if they really couldn’t cope, he and Forthright both possessed fleeing skills. So escaping wouldn’t be a problem.
Although Forthright felt a bit apprehensive, he trusted in his friend’s words. In any case, even if they ended up being surrounded, they could simply bulldoze their way out. He rushed forward to meet the crowd and activated Taunt, forcing the Red Cloaked Heretics to aggro onto him. As soon as he saw so many of them pouncing on him, he felt a cold bead of sweat drip down from his forehead.
「Clink! Clink! Clink!」Their daggers struck him quick succession but dealt less ten damage each, not even half of what it had been earlier. Quickly recovering from the shock, he brandished his greatsword.
−310, −305, −312…
A blanket of damage values floated up into the air.
What the hell? Why’s there such a huge difference? Forthright was flabbergasted. Previously, the damage per hit from the Red Cloaked Heretics ranged from the high tens to the low twenties. Yet now, they could barely deal ten damage. His attacks as well—earlier, he had dealt around two hundred damage, but now, he was was hitting in the three hundreds.
As he examined the maximum health of the Red Cloaked Heretics, he noticed they had been reduced to a little under a thousand. Three Whirlwind Slashes would be enough to finish them off.
Tuoba was also shocked beyond belief by this development. He glanced at the nearby Nie Yan who was also in the middle of combat. He was almost certain the sudden change in the Red Cloaked Heretics had to do with him. Just what kind of perverse ability could cripple a group of monsters so badly? The question lingered on in his mind.
Tuoba activated Divine Strike, chopping down on a Red Cloaked Heretic that had rushed up to him.
An instant kill! It was a critical hit! The Red Cloaked Heretic collapsed to the ground.
Prior to this, such damage was inconceivable!
Nie Yan took down a Red Cloaked Heretic after two or three hits. Turning to look at how Forthright was holding up, all he saw was a large pile of corpses lying on the ground around his feet. He couldn’t help but feel a little envious of Warriors with their AoE attacks like Whirlwind Slash.
“Haha, this is great! These Red Cloaked Heretics are so much weaker than before! Even if you threw thirty or forty more at me, I’d still have no problem dealing with them!” Forthright happily exclaimed as he relentlessly swung his greatsword at the surrounding mobs.
As the battle drew to a close, Forthright had killed the most with almost twenty Red Cloaked Heretics slain. Tuoba had also dispatched half-a-dozen or so himself.
Corpses littered the ground around them.
The harvests from this battle were quite generous. Nie Yan collected all the drops from the ground and set them aside in a separate bag. When the time came for the party to dissolve, they’d be divided up evenly between the three of them.
“What kind of skill was that? It’s so powerful, and the duration is so long as well. It should be an aura-type skill, right?” Tuoba asked. The effects of Nie Yan’s skill were simply too stunning. Even he couldn’t help but feel a hint of envy. With this sort of skill, levelling would be significantly faster. Out of any skill in the game, skill books for aura-type skills were the hardest to obtain.
“You’re right. It does have an aura effect.” Nie Yan nodded. “It reduces the health and defense of all evil creatures.”
As for the exact details of the skill, that was the other side’s business. Tuoba didn’t feel good about prying any further either.
The three players cleared out the monsters in the area as they slowly penetrated deeper into the monastery. An hour or so later, Nie Yan levelled up to Level 18.
As the two sides became more familiar with one another, the topics of their conversations gradually became more intimate.
“What guild are you two from?” Nie Yan finalled asked. If they weren’t part of a guild, he had a hard time imagining how solo-players could get their hands on such good equipment, unless they were people who had reincarnated into the past just like him?
“What guild are we from?” Tuoba chuckled, and said, “You must be very curious about why Forthright and I have such good equipment, right?”
“Right.” Nie Yan nodded.
“I was wondering when you were finally going to ask that! You couldn’t stand it in anymore, eh? ” Forthright chimed in, revealing a big wide grin. “We’re not part of a guild. Tuoba’s family owns a gaming org, so we have a pretty easy time finding people to party up with.”
“Which gaming org?” Nie Yan asked in surprise. Just which gaming organization of was capable of grinding out the full Dark Battle Armour Set so early on in the game’s life?
Nie Yan was taken by surprise once more after hearing the name of the organization. Withered Leaf was a top five gaming organization, on the same level as Battle Crazed. It was founded by a family financial group, more precisely the Tuoba Financial Group. According to hearsay, they had their hands in over twenty different markets, including hotels, boutiques, and virtual reality businesses. It was one of the few domestic entities that had the financial capital to rival Cao Xu’s Century Financial Group.
Tuoba carefully eyed Nie Yan. When he noticed that Nie Yan didn’t show much of a reaction, he revealed a faint smile. After finding out about his family’s wealth, if he saw any traces of greed in Nie Yan’s eyes—like those snobbish associates who fawned over him at his family’s financial group—he would unavoidably have a lower opinion of him.
“Well, what I got out of this is that you guys aren’t part of any guild! So… would you be interested in joining mine?” Nie Yan asked Tuoba and Forthright with a light smile.
“Asskickers United?” Tuoba examined the guild emblem on Nie Yan’s chest. Its logo was a tribal minotaur head.1 It was simple yet elegant.