Chapter 376 - Cripps Stronghold
Nie Yan walked out of the guild office. There was a vast crowd of players from Asskickers United gathered in the square outside. They excitedly greeted him in large waves.
“We’re going to capture an Intermediate Stronghold, right? How confident are you?” Smoke Stub walked up to Nie Yan and asked. He was puzzled by Nie Yan's insistence on taking on an Intermediate Stronghold when there were so many Basic Strongholds available. They didn’t even know what sort of monsters guarded an Intermediate Stronghold. However, Nie Yan had done his research. He wouldn’t make a rash decision.
“Don’t worry,” Nie Yan reassured with a smile. He had read up on Intermediate Strongholds in the previous timeline. It shouldn’t be too difficult for them to clear one.
Seeing the look of confidence on Nie Yan’s face, Smoke Stub didn't say anything further. Nie Yan wasn’t the type to act on impulse.
“Guo Huai, tell Sapphire Shrine and Holy Empire to closely monitor Victorious Return. We don’t want them pulling anything funny while we’re trying to clear the stronghold,” Nie Yan ordered. Although Victorious Return’s glory days were long over, even a dying viper could still deliver a nasty bite.
“Relax. I don’t think Victorious Return will try anything. Even Sapphire Shrine and Holy Empire are stronger than them now. With so many guilds joining forces to take them down, they won’t even know what hit them,” Guo Huai reassured. Since Victorious Return had gone radio silent, with their members steering clear of trouble, Asskickers United couldn’t be bothered to deal with them any longer. But if they tried anything funny, they would instantly face the combined wrath of Asskickers United, Sapphire Shrine, and Holy Empire. No matter how much of a fight Victorious Return put up, they would be crushed all the same.
“What’s our headcount?” Nie Yan asked.
“5,020 players in total, with 532 of them here and the rest on standby in United City,” Guo Huai answered. This was the most elite force Asskickers United had ever gathered together.
Nie Yan ordered Guo Huai to divide the players into 26 companies. He assigned at least one Priest with Junior Revive and a capable leader to each company. He also decided on some rules to follow when clearing the Intermediate Stronghold. All he had to do was pass down his orders to the company leaders.
There was also a special 20-man task force composed of 12 Fighters and 8 Priests, which included the likes of Bladelight, Lofty Shadow, Yi Yan, Black Heaven, Painted Muslin, Young Seven, and Moon Child.
This task force would serve as the shield of the expedition team. It was their job to engage powerful bosses.
It took an hour just to get everyone organized, but it couldn’t be helped since there were so many players participating.
Nie Yan stood off to the side, waiting for the administrative team to finish sorting everything out.
Nie Yan was chatting with the others when Yao Yao dressed in her light blue robes walked over to him.
“Nirvana Flame, do you need my help with anything?” Yao Yao asked.
Nie Yan turned around to look at Yao Yao. Her equipment ranked among the top in Asskickers United. He had only gifted her one piece of Sub Legendary-grade equipment. She had gotten the other two all by herself. Furthermore, the rewards for completing the first two quests in the Karsi’s Blessing quest line had probably raised her stats significantly.
Nie Yan had confirmed earlier in the day that Yao Yao and Xie Yao were one and the same. He couldn’t help but think back to his past life. Yao Yao’s previous timeline counterpart was nowhere near as strong as her present self. He recalled she kept her level roughly close to his, only ever really doing any levelling when he invited her to play, nor did she really care about her equipment. Given the Dragonsoar Financial Group’s resources, she could’ve easily left him in the dust. But instead she chose to stay by his side.
Nie Yan started to realize how deeply Xie Yao cared about him in the previous timeline. Yet all he had given in return was grief and pain. Thinking about how sad and lonely she looked during their class reunions back then, he was wrought with guilt, his heart aching.
“Share your stats and gear with me for a second.” Nie Yan took a deep breath to settle his mind. Xie Yao, let me atone for my past mistakes in this life!
“Alright.” Xie Yao nodded.
Nie Yan scanned through her character information. All of her Sub Legendary-grade equipment had pretty good supplementary skills, one with area-of-effect, one with crowd control, and one with high single-target damage. She had also learned Rank 1 and Rank 2 Templar Magic.
Rank 1 Advanced Magic was pretty common, with many players in Asskickers United knowing one or two skills. Rank 2 Advanced Magic was much rarer. Yao Yao was perhaps the only player in Asskickers United to know one. Her Rank 2 Advanced Magic was called Radiant Fetters. It could bind a single target for 15 to 30 seconds and had a cooldown of two days. Since it could be interrupted midcast, the player had to stay focused!
Nie Yan was shocked by the description of Radiant Fetters. It was definitely an extraordinary team assisting skill. It would be extremely useful against bosses.
“Yao Yao, you don’t need to go anywhere. Just stay by my side,” Nie Yan said. He planned to use Radiant Fetters to its full potential!
“Nirvana Flame, you’re not abusing your authority, are you?” Moon Child giggled. She already knew Nie Yan was Nirvana Flame. Staring at Xie Yao and then Nie Yan, she felt the two looked like a match made in heaven. After being close friends with Xie Yao for so many years, she had a good understanding of her friend’s personality, so she was shocked by what occurred earlier in the afternoon.
Xie Yao looked a little embarrassed.
Nie Yan chuckled. Even if he was, so what?
The expedition team was finally ready to set out. “We’re making a stop at our guild headquarters in United City first!” Nie Yan announced.
The crowd of players entered the transfer point in the guild office and returned to United City.
United City. Thanks to the efforts of Guo Huai working alongside the Dragonsoar Financial Group, this stronghold city flourished. Rows and rows of shops lined the main road as players crossed and weaved and pushed past each other, browsing through the goods on display behind the windows.
Such a large crowd gathering outside the plaza of the main guild headquarters naturally caught the attention of the regular players visiting United City.
“Is Asskickers United about to make a move on Bloodlust Blades?”
“It’s quite possible. They look like they’re all elites of Asskickers United.”
“An inter-city battle? Glory City is Bloodlust Blade’s domain!”
“Is there anything Asskickers United doesn’t dare to do? Remember when Nirvana Flame and his 20 companions ran amok in Glory City and still got away unscathed? Well now it’s not just 20, it’s 5,000!”
The news spread like wildfire and soon reached the ears of the enemy. Mad Blade anxiously dispatched forces to prepare for the incoming assault as all of Bloodlust Blades geared up for battle. Only a minute later, it was revealed that Asskickers United wasn’t going to war at all but simply setting off to capture an Intermediate Stronghold. Bloodlust Blades had gotten all worked up for nothing.
Nie Yan ran some drills with the expedition team. It was crucial that each company could execute his orders without delay. Only like this could they function as a whole.
Nie Yan found several capable players, such as Smoke Stub, Paladin of the Elegy, and Lustboy, and put them in charge of a company each. He also further divided the companies into squads. Like this, it would be easier to give out orders.
Only after running drills for roughly two hours did the expedition team set out for the Intermediate Cripps Stronghold.
The earth rumbled as more than 5,000 players streamed out of the gates of United City on horseback into the valley below.
Nie Yan rode ahead of the expedition team. As a Thief he could scout out the circumstances around the Cripps Stronghold before the others arrived. His Faulkner Warhorse was also fast enough to give him an hour’s lead over ordinary players.
The Cripps Stronghold was constructed during the Era of Shared Governance to guard against a possible counterattack from the dragons. It was later abandoned, falling into ruin through years of neglect, and then occupied by creatures of darkness.
This was the only information about the Cripps Stronghold given on the official website. Not much could be discerned. However, Nie Yan knew this stronghold was close to many well-known levelling spots such as the Lamia Lair, Spider Hole, and Infernal Everglades, all of which were Level 60–70 maps, and a little further were multiple Level 80 maps. In the previous timeline, the Cripps Stronghold became the go-to destination for players ranging between Level 60–80. And at the peak of its popularity, when the player base had reached Level 60, it was dubbed Mini Calore for rivalling the largest city in the Viridian Empire in commerce.
Capturing the Cripps Stronghold would be extremely beneficial to Asskickers United and the Dragonsoar Financial Group. To the former it was an endless source of gold, and to the latter there was no better location to set up a real-world business district.
In the previous timeline, Cao Xu had profited immensely from the Cripps Stronghold. In this life, Nie Yan planned to snatch it away for himself. The Century Financial Group would have no business here.