Part 3

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Chapter 18 Part 3
 
 
He didn’t have such high ethical standards. Perhaps his original image of a hero would demand for pure honest battles and disapprove of sneaky underhanded tactics, but that was simply the view from the past him. The current him had a different mentality. He simply believed that the end should justify the means.

By now, he had already lost his desire to become a hero inside Fantasy Edge. After all, he realized that what he wanted wasn’t for others to look at him in awe or for him to bask in glory. It was simply to become stronger.

As such, within limits, there was no need to abide by unnecessary moral rules. If he did, his two role models would condemn him for being so foolish.

‘This is perfect! I’ll put the boss to sleep! No, I’ll put the whole base to sleep!’

His mind was already formulating multiple scenarios where the little treasure could be used. Unlike his other plans, this suggestion by XiaoFan had an extremely high success rate. After all, even if it didn’t allow him to kill all bandits, it should at least allow him to empty their treasury.

“Hahaha!! Good, let’s have some breakfast before I leave.”

With excitement bursting from their hearts, Lin XiaoFan quickly made the decision to cook an extra large breakfast. It was an early celebratory meal since neither of them could see any fault to their plan. Yet, even with such a large quantity of food, the two were capable of wolfing down everything in sight. Their hearts were merry and their laughter was joyful. Soon enough, every dish was cleaned out and not a single scrap remained behind.

A short time later, Ace patted his stomach while leaving the inn with the sleeping powder stored snugly inside his Item Bag. Inevitably, his gait was quick and rapid.

However, his steps slowed considerably after reaching the outskirts of town. The reduction in walking speed wasn’t due to any hesitation nor loss of confidence, instead, it was for a completely unrelated matter. He had discovered a body.

Ten meters away from him, there was a body that lay prone on the dirt road. Originally, he had decided to ignore it, after all, it wasn’t uncommon to see dead bodies out in the open. However, upon a second glance, he knew he had to investigate.

It was the clothes. The dirty white outfit decked with countless azure-colored patterns felt eerily familiar. It looked particularly similar to Wu XingFu’s outfit.

Normally, Ace wasn’t the type of person to pay special attention to the clothing of others, after all, he was never extremely fashionable. He could care less about what others wore. Of course, the equipment worn by players inside Fantasy Edge was an exception.

But it can’t be forgotten that Ace had spent a considerable length of time staring at the back of Wu XingFu as he searched through dozens upon dozens of dead bodies. At the time, a great amount of his attention was devoted to staring at the scholar’s back, after all, he couldn’t bear to watch the crying man rummage through the bloody corpses. This was a necessary distraction that helped him divert the negative emotions that coursed through him. If he didn’t, tears would surely have flowed down his cheeks too.

Thus, he faintly recognized that particular set of colors worn by the immobile figure. As he walked closer, he felt more certain. Even if the man’s face wasn’t exposed, Ace knew it had to be XingFu.

Finally, he was close enough to inspect the man and quickly confirmed his suspicions. The body lying on the road was the NPC he knew.

‘What’s he doing here? Is he still alive?’

However, unlike confirming his identity, there was no way to confirm his mortality without a physical examination.

Ace quickly flipped the scholar faceup and placed a finger under his nostrils. When he felt a steady stream of air, he released the breath he unconsciously held and quickly returned to the inn.

“XiaoFan! Bring me some water!!”

Originally, XiaoFan wanted to ask about his unexpected return, but he quickly changed his mind when he saw the unconscious man in his arms. Immediately afterwards, he brought back a bucket filled to the brim with cold water.

“Thanks.”

Ace took the bucket and swiftly poured the entirety of its contents onto XingFu. Just as in the movies, he quickly woke up with a loud gasp.

“Brother SkyBlade, who is he?”

“He’s the friend I met yesterday. The one looking for his fiance.”

XingFu slightly jumped at the sounds of conversation next to him, however, his face quickly relaxed when he saw the face of his savior. But, before he could say anything, a loud grumbling noise echoed through the air.

After sharing a short laugh, Ace took out some rations and handed them to the starving man.

“XiaoFan, go make some breakfast for him too.”

When XiaoFan left, Ace took the chance to ask XingFu what happened.

“Actually, I was coming to see you. However, I never guessed that I would faint from hunger before seeing you.”

“To see me? Why?”

“I need your help.”

“Is it your fiance? You weren’t able to find her?”

The pained look on his face said it all.

“What do you want me to do?”
 

Rescue Su Yue Quest
Difficulty B
Wu XingFu’s lover, Su Yue, has been missing from his home village. After extensive searching, he has finally came to the conclusion that his beloved has been captured.

Infiltrate the Blood-Axe Bandits and rescue Su Yue.

Reward:
6 +1 Strength Pills
3 +1 Agility Pills
6 +1 Intelligence Pills
6 +1 Wisdom Pills
6 +1 Constitution Pills
3 +1 Endurance Pills

 
 
‘Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!’

To say that Ace was excited was an understatement. Originally, he had thought about asking the NPC for the quest to exterminate the bandits again. Now that he had a possibility of completing the quest, he yearned for the small collection of Stat increasing pills. However, this was no longer necessary.

Somehow, his rejection of the previous quest led to an easier quest for the same reward!

Ace wanted to quickly blurt out his acceptance, however, he couldn’t. He still had to wait for the end of XingFu’s explanation.

“So afterwards, I came to only one conclusion. They captured her!”

“I should have thought of this sooner, but a part of me didn’t want to believe it! They captured me because they discovered the Official’s Badge on me. Yue’er… with just one look, it’s obvious that she’s not a village girl! If they could capture me, then they could have captured her!”

“I’m not strong enough to bring her back, but you are! I saw how well you handled those bandits… You can also turn invisible! If it’s you… you could sneak into the base and save her.”

“Please… I know this is a lot to ask for someone you just met a day ago. Our friendship isn’t deep, but you are my last hope. Please, I beg you. Accept this selfish request of mine… I can’t lose her.”

The scholar was down on his knees and bowed low enough for his head to touch the floor. This act could be said to be the epitome of sincerness when requesting for outside help.

“I accept. Don’t worry, I’ll save her.”

At Ace’s reassurance, XingFu sat back in his seat and took out a small yellow triangle with bright red markings tied to an equally red string. The triangle was formed by folding a paper talisman that was blessed by heavenly saints.

“This is the item Yue’er gave me when we confessed our love. It can be considered as our most memorable item. If she doesn’t trust you, show her this and she’ll know it was me who sent you.”
 

Su Yue’s Good Luck Charm Rare
Quest Item
A good luck charm blessed by the Diety of Literature and contains the prayers Su Yue has for her beloved in passing the Imperial Exam.

However, due to the Temple Head’s inability to write magical talismans, this charm has no effect.

 
 
After a while, XiaoFan came out with a tray filled with steaming hot dishes. With both quest-givers keeping each other company, Ace soon restarted his journey up the mountain.

Under the guise of his invisibility, he safely made his way up to the bandit’s base. Luckily, the damages from yesterday’s attacks hadn’t disappeared, so the entrance was no longer barricaded by a thick solid door.

‘What should I do first? Find Yue’er or drug the bandits?’

‘Well, it’ll definitely be easier to search if the bandits are asleep.’

As he became concentrated on his thoughts, his feet brought him past the destroyed gates and he once again stepped foot into the base.

Suddenly, a scalding sensation exploded from below him. An electrical current shot through his boots and penetrated deep into his skin. Immediately, visible flashes of electricity coursed through his body as he felt his muscles contract tightly. As his body began to shake, he could feel himself losing control of various muscles.

“Ahhhh!!!!”

Finally, Ace couldn’t stand the uncomfortable feeling of having his body react to a heavy electric shock. His mouth parted wide open and he released a stressful cry. At the moment, he wished the system wouldn’t block off so much of the pain. If he could feel even a tiny bit more of the pain that would accompany such an attack, perhaps he wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable. At the very least, the pain would be a more comfortable distraction.

 

Invisibility Status removed.

 

You have been inflicted with the Stunned status.

Immobile for 180 seconds.

 
 
“Three minutes!? What’s happening!?”

As he forced his head to look around, he quickly spotted numerous bandits rushing out of their homes. They were fully armed.

Suddenly, his health dropped and he fell onto his knees. He had been attacked from the two bandits guarding the gate.

“The ground! This powder! It’s a trap!!’

“You bastards!!!”

However, he was only met with endless laughter as the two bandits raised their axes to attack once more.
 

Your Willpower has reduced the duration of the Stunned status.

 
 
‘Willpower! Yes… willpower! Only this Stat could help me!’

Ace quickly focused all of his strength into fighting against the stunned status. He forced himself to take back control of his body and fought hard to move his limbs.

Sadly, the bandits weren’t going to idly stand and watch him struggle. Their attacks struck him hard and he took another major hit to his health. Four consecutive hits from these bandits were enough to drop his health by twenty percent.

‘Thank god they didn’t use that spinning skill.’
 

Your Willpower has weakened the effects of the Stunned status.

Agility reduced by 30% for the remainder of the status.
Attack Speed reduced by 30% for the remainder of the status.
Movement Speed reduced by 30% for the remainder of the status.

 
 
With the display of the System Notification, Ace quickly discovered that he was able to move. However, he was appalled at the sight of the severe restrictions on his stats. Yet, there was nothing he could do. He had to escape. He couldn’t die here.

It’ll be too late by the time he could revive.

“Body Swap!”

“Haste!”

“Wind Sprint!”

The combination of skills allowed him to reach a normal running speed, but it wasn’t enough to leave the bandits behind in his dust. Instead, some of the bandits were noticeably faster than him and was slowly decreasing the gap between them.

Ace didn’t dare to look backwards. The only task on his mind was to run straight. He had to run till the negative status disappeared.

As he ran, he was horrified to discover one major side effect of the modified stunned status. He was no longer immobile, but as he moved, sparks would occasionally erupt from his body. Although these sparks didn’t damage him, they also weren’t mere cosmetic effects. Each time the sparks shot out, his muscles would contract and he would stumble a little.

“God damn! How many seconds are left?!”

As if to answer him, he suddenly gained an enormous burst of speed and the distance between him and the bandits finally increased.

‘Could there really be a weapon against invisibility?’

He couldn’t help cursing loudly at the sudden discovery of anti-invisibility weapons. He had grown too comfortable with his Shadow Cloak skill and saw it as a vital element of his skill arsenal. His reliance on it was further evident by how much he wanted to implement Canine’s stealthy way of fighting into his attacks.

However, this new discovery was too big of a shock. The crippling effect he received was too powerful.

‘But if I don’t use invisibility, then what should I do? How can I get in? Teleport?’

But he quickly dismissed that idea. The bandits weren’t stupid.

They laid an invisibility trap for him because they knew he could turn invisible. Originally, teleportation might have been viable, but he had already exposed that trump card when escaping. He wasn’t sure how, but he’s positive that the bandits would find a way to counter that too.

‘What other choices do I have? I can’t jump over that distance… BMW? If I climb on top of him while invisible and have him walk in…’

It wasn’t a bad plan, after all, it was a successful tactic that he had used before. However, when he pulled out the FireRock Golem’s housing sphere to command it to return, he discovered that this path wasn’t open for him either. The sphere had turned grey and the monster inside the sphere was surrounded by glowing white lights. This symbolized only one thing. His pet was currently recovering from death.

“Shit! BMW!! Why now?”

Soon, Ace led his pursuers back into the surrounding forest. Seeing this familiar scene, he was instantly struck by a feeling of deja vu.

Would he have to reenact the same events as yesterday? No, of course not.

Yesterday’s troubles only happened due to him protecting a defenseless scholar. Today, he was alone. He didn’t have to run.

“Shadow Cloak.”

He quietly stayed silent as he waited for the bandits to arrive. Rather than run, he had already came up with a new plan. After all, he realized that he did have one other special skill. This was a skill that the bandits would never expect.

‘One, two, three, four.’

There was a total of four bandits that ran considerably faster than the rest. Four was a good amount.

“Where did he go?”

“Invisibility! Everyone, be careful!”

Ace shook his head when he saw the four’s hesitation in entering the forest. He quickly dispelled his invisibility. After getting their attention, he ran deeper into the forest. Truthfully, he wasn’t sure where he wanted to lure the four unsuspecting bandits to, but he knew it couldn’t be a place too close to the edge.

“Body Swap!”

Suddenly, the bandits discovered that their target had disappeared into thin air, but before they could react, two painful screams exploded out from the two in the rear. Ace had appeared behind them and delivered a brutal slash to their unguarded necks. As a result of such a cruel attack, the two immediately dropped onto the ground. They were alive, but they couldn’t move a single finger. No, they couldn’t even feel their fingers.

At the sudden screams, the two bandits in the front quickly turned around and saw the attacker moving away from their rear support. Immediately, one of them threw his axe towards Ace’s retreating figure, but it was all for naught. He had disappeared once more.

Both bandits suddenly felt a horrifying chill go down their spine as they recalled this familiar sight. Immediately, they turned around as quick as they could, but it was already too late. They met the same fates as the other two.

At the sight of all four lying on the ground, Ace chuckled smugly as he picked up a small throwing blade. It was one of his throwing items.

However, since he didn’t need these four alive, he quickly ended their suffering while making sure his killing blows were all targeted to their throats.

“Okay, it’ll be you!”

“Transform!”

After changing into one of the bandits, he quickly utilized his highest speed to hide the body a further away. Upon returning, he summoned out Keki and told him to hide in the nearby bushes.

“Remember, when I tap the ground like this, start hopping that way okay? Don’t make any high jumps! Only short little hops!”

When he heard the voices of the remaining bandits, he silently lay on the ground and activated his Transformation skill once more to add a bloody wound to his throat.

“Fuck! We’re too late!”

“Is he still here?”

“Are they still alive?”

“You want to check?”

“Nah, they look dead to me.”

“Wait, I hear something! They’re still alive?”

One bandit walked over to the four, but after a quick check, he was disappointed to discover that only one was alive.

“Only this one is alive. He got lucky. The cut looks bad, but it didn’t cut through any of his arteries. Hey, did you see which way that brat went?”

Ace slapped the ground and pointed towards a spot to the distance. Sure enough, the bushes in that direction started moving.

“He’s there! That stinking brat, he was hiding while staying invisible!”

The other bandits quickly ran towards that direction, but without any more movements, they were unable to continue following.

“He got away again.”

“Let’s go back.”

“Boss won’t be happy…”

“What else can we do?”

“Should we stay out here longer? If we return return right now, doesn’t it seem like we didn’t put in as much effort as those guys from yesterday?”

“Hey! What are you two talking about? If we don’t return now, this guy’s going to die.”

“He’s half-dead anyway, just leave him here.”

‘Wait… what!? That’s not what I planned!’

“Look at that wound, he won’t be much help in the fight with the Revivers later. Why bother wasting medicine on him?”

‘Shit! These heartless bastards!! I should have just gave myself a cut on the arm or something… At this point, there wasn’t any reason to pick the throat!’

One bandit stepped forwards and looked down towards Ace.

“Sounds right. Hey, I don’t remember you and you probably don’t know me either, but as a fellow Blood-Axe Bandit, I won’t let you bleed to death. I’ll give you a swift death.”

Ace silently cursed as he glared at the man standing above him. His hand secretly moved towards his item bag.

“Wait! Stop! Stop!! This… it feels too wrong. Let’s go back.”

However, before Ace needed to make his move, one of the bandits quickly pushed his way to the front.

“Are you serious? Didn’t you remember how the guys from yesterday looked after seeing the Boss?”

“Let’s find Captain Guo. If it’s him, maybe he’ll help us.”

With the mention of Captain Guo, the bandits showed a heavy consideration over his words, but some still held hesitations. Seeing this, the bandit tried a different approach at convincing the group.

“Look. No matter how you’re going to say it, it’s a fact that we couldn’t catch the kid. We’ll be punished no matter how long we stay out. Let’s return now and bring this guy back. At the very least, we won’t feel bad about killing one of our own.”

“I won’t feel bad.”

At those words, the bandit quickly flew into a rage.

“Shut up!!!”

“Damn! We’re the Blood-Axe Bandits, not the Bloodthirsty Bandits! Why are you trying to kill him? Do you really need to!?”

“What’s wrong with you guys?!”

“I don’t know about the rest of you, but before Boss took over the entire mountain, I was a bandit at Flying Eagle Fort! Let me tell you, I fucking miss those days! I was happy! Although we only had around sixty people in total, everyone treated each other as brothers!”

“But here? We have over six hundred bandits, but no one trusts anyone. When someone dies, we don’t even bury their bodies. Even Captain Huo was just tossed off the mountain. All of us wouldn’t hesitate to stab each other in the back if it meant more rewards!”

“Is that what a bandit means to you? Is that the type of bandit you want to be? How many of you were originally a bandit from this mountain? Do you not miss those days before Boss came?”

These loud raging words finally shut everyone’s mouth. They couldn’t argue back. This was especially true for those bandits who originally belonged to other bandit groups. Each one of them remembered a much happier life. For the ones who weren’t bandits prior to being a Blood-Axe Bandit, they also shook their heads in sadness. They also wished for a different life. A more carefree life. This one was simply too stressful and tiring.

“But what can we do? I was originally someone from the Smiling Tiger Fort and we were well known as righteous bandits. But that life ended once Boss took over the mountain. If we don’t adapt to the rules, we’ll just be killed by those who do. The stuff that we’ve done over these past few years… I don’t feel good doing them, but what can we do?”

The bandit’s words soon caused others to reminisce their old days. However, at the sadness in their words, the previously raging bandit simply shook his head.

“There’s something we can do. I’ll let you guys in on a little secret. Right now, Captain Guo is planning a revolt. If he succeeds, we’ll be back to our old lives. You’ve all seen how Captain Guo treats us. He’s not like Boss or the other captains. Captain Guo truly cares about us and treats us as brothers. Every time one of us is in trouble, isn’t it always him who speaks up for us?”

“You’re right. Captain Guo is really different. If it’s him, I wouldn’t mind following him! But how do you know about this?”

“I won’t hide it from you guys, since I want to believe we’re all brothers here. Truthfully, I’m one of Captain Guo’s supporters and I’m helping him find more support inside the fort. The revolt won’t be easy and he can’t do it alone. What do you say?”

This reveal easily shocked the listening men. For a short moment, they didn’t know what to say. However, this moment of silence didn’t last long before the bandits began to nod in agreement.

“Yes. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can’t keep living like this. If I’m going to die, I might as well risk it all and revolt! Let’s go back and find Captain Guo.

The bandits shouted loudly in agreement. As such, they quickly bandaged Ace’s wound and retreated back to base.

‘W-what did I just overhear? This is… interesting…’

The small smile on Ace’s face went unnoticed.

 
 


 
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