The speed at which Mages grinded out experience had already begun to shine forth in the game. Having three Mages within the ranks of the Five Unyielding Experts meant that, aside from the top player from the Thief and Fighter job classes, the champions of the job classes were unable to secure themselves a spot anywhere near the top three if they were placed in the Mages’ leaderboards.
The Five Unyielding Experts title was merely symbolic. If the list was extended, the number of players from the various job classes were about even, though Fighters were still in the minority. It was only the Mages that saw a surge in numbers among the higher levels of players.
Brave Surge was a familiar name from Yunduan City, and had actually managed to quietly make his way to the top in Parallel World in such a short amount of time. This was also part of the reason why Oathless Sword was feeling unhappy today. While his guild had indeed reached Level 6 and now had a 300 member capacity advantage over Carouse, he had personally suffered a complete loss compared to Brave Surge.
With Southern Lone Blade’s drop from the Warrior experience leaderboard, Oathless Sword had also risen by a rank, currently resting at the 11th position on said list.
It was an extremely awkward position to be in, thanks to how the players in the game had came up with the term “Five Unyielding Experts, Ten Great Adepts, and Seven Bottlenecks”. Naturally, the legendary five players that ranked top five on the overall experience leaderboard were the Five Unyielding Experts.
The Ten Great Adepts referred to the top ten players in each of the seven job classes in the game, who also received quite a lot of attention from the masses. It just so happened that Oathless Sword had landed in the eleventh position, and while the amount of experience he had compared to the top ten was most likely insignificant, there was nothing he could do about it, since that difference served as the division between the two different realms the tenth and eleventh places were relegated to. Oathless Sword was right at the edge of this realm. The names ahead of him were all top-rated experts, while the people behind him were all experts that were seen as a grade less. He had unwittingly became the cheerless spokesman for the latter. Every single player that found themselves in the same position had all became cheerless spokesmen.
These seven spokesmen were conferred the title of The Seven Bottlenecks, since there were a total of seven job classes.
The seven dispirited spokesmen of the seven job classes were often brought up in conclusion, not mentioned out of reverence, but in ridicule.
After Oathless Sword had made a mockery of himself when he announced his guild as the number one guild in all of Parallel World, he was promptly being teased as the ‘Premier Bottleneck’ when the latest news of his position came to light. The fact that Oathless Sword could still smile when he met Gu Fei really showed some strong mental resilience.
Of course, it was unavoidable that Gu Fei’s mercenary channel lit up with a wave of derision towards Oathless Sword’s situation. Aside from Brother Assist’s level being average, the names of everyone in the mercenary group was now listed among the Ten Great Adepts. Sword Demon was now even ranked second on the Thieves leaderboard. Given how standing before him and taking the top spot was the pay-to-win warrior Svelte Dancer, who was still the lone star that dominated the overall leaderboard, everybody was convinced that as long as Svelte Dancer did not die, Sword Demon would have a really difficult time climbing any higher. War Without Wounds was another one who had managed to move up a spot after Southern Lone Blade’s fall from grace, and was also ranked second in the Warrior leaderboard. Royal God Call and Young Master Han were more middling, ranking seventh and eighth, respectively. They had also managed rise up in rank, as a result of players ahead of them dying.
The forums bustled with theories and talk, wondering just how so many names from the top ten had lost their levels in one day. However, Brother Assist managed to bring in a bit more news; the fearsome Mage in the squad of seven that Southern Lone Blade had brought, Flame Singed Clothes, had actually been in fourth place on the Mage leaderboard, and was a well known player in Linshui City to boot.
“So by that logic, it is possible that the squad he brought along were all part of the Ten Great Adepts, and it was likely their deaths created such changes in each job class,” War Without Wounds guessed.
Everybody agreed with this assessment. It was a pity that no one else among that squad stood out distinctively, making it difficult for the Information Expert Brother Assist to find out anything more.
“Speaking of which, that guy did mention he would be waiting for us in Linshui City…” Royal God Call mentioned.
“We gotta be careful! If we lose to them, changing the names of the Ten Great Adepts once more, we’ll just be giving more trouble to those players in the forums,” War Without Wounds spoke up.
“It’s no trouble,” Brother Assist laughed. “That’s how we find the joy in our work.” Brother Assist obviously understood the mentality of the players that came up with the terms Five Unyielding Experts, Ten Great Adepts, and Seven Bottlenecks.
“Southern Lone Blade must surely have heard that we’ve completed our mission, it’s totally possible that he’s anxiously setting up things in Linshui City right now. Shall we stay around Luori City for a few days and distress him?” Royal God Call’s mischievous spirit appeared once more.
Everybody laughed, but from a tactical perspective, it was also a method to dash the enemy’s spirit. Wait in Linshui City? Carry on waiting, then! Considering how free and leisurely their lives in Luori City were, they wanted to see just how long Southern Lone Blade could wait.
Southern Lone Blade was indeed waiting. However, these men from YME were being far too self-sentimental. Southern Lone Blade was not waiting for them at all.
When he discovered that those experts had actually thought he was harboring evil intentions after them, Southern Lone Blade did not bother to correct them, since such a situation would actually work in his favor. Thus, he played along and told them what they wanted to hear, so as to further cement their supposition as a fact.
But in truth, the only target Southern Lone Blade had his eyes on was Gu Fei.
Southern Lone Blade was considered to be an accomplished professional larcenist. He no longer dabbled with extortion or theft in the streets. Those players that had to find ways to sell off the equipment they got from their targets themselves were nothing but small fry in the business.
Southern Lone Blade, on the other hand, had painstakingly operated his business for such a long time had already created his own seller’s market, where people would often look for him to make requests and purchases. Usually, that meant the equipment he hunted for was far more unusual, exclusive to the point that such items could not be regularly found in the market.
Take, for example, those players who flaunted their one-of-a-kind equipment or skill scrolls they had in their possession on the forums. Such people were often the sort that would become Southern Lone Blade’s targets. Plenty of clients would reach out to him and indicate the particular equipment they were looking for. These clients of his would not care to ask how they acquired said item, and would only provide the expected payment for said acquisition, which was of course an exorbitant sum.
The income of those lowly robbers on the street depended on the items they fenced. But what Southern Lone Blade was selling was his labor cost. This really gave off the feeling that he was more of a bounty hunter for items, with some people even thinking he was rather cool, as if they were not just a bunch of malicious individuals hunting people for their equipment.
However, Southern Lone Blade was very well aware of his status. Within the Five Unyielding Experts, Svelte Dancer was a top pay-to-win warrior in MMOs, whose name was known across the whole scene; Deep Waters was a specialist, the leader of the most powerful guild in Linyin City; Eternal Dominion led his mercenary group, Eternal War, and possessed the ability to oppress even the guilds in his city; while the name Drifting was renowned, having travelled to many cities. He was the Five Unyielding Expert whom plenty of players had seen and met the most.
Southern Lone Blade was obviously the most low-key out of the five. He had neither a guild nor mercenary group to his name, spending his days like the average player, never causing too much of a scene. There were not even many players who knew him in Linshui City.
The reason why he had worked so hard to attain a spot as one of the Five Unyielding Experts was entirely for the sake of establishing a strong foundation for his business. While not everybody knew one another and only had distrust towards one another, the moniker as one of the Five Unyielding Experts would naturally be a powerful symbol of his strength. It was through this that he had managed to obtain so many of his clients.
Now that his business had stabilized, Southern Lone Blade no longer cared too much about his identity as one of the Five Unyielding Experts. It was just that he had worked too hard getting to the point he was at that no one had managed to surpass him after he had slacked off. Southern Lone Blade had originally aimed to be the number one in Parallel World, but the ferocity of the apex pay-to-win warrior made this an insurmountable dream. Meanwhile, the experience he had accumulated placed him far ahead of the other three in the top five, making it difficult for anyone else to eclipse him easily.
Purposefully losing his level would have been the most effective and simplest method to achieve this, yet Southern Lone Blade was afraid that doing so would simply damage the image of strength that he had managed to build to his clients, making him somewhat hesitant making the move accordingly.
Upon respawning back in Linshui City, Southern Lone Blade began to make preparations for the next step. While the players involved on either side remained unchanged, having the home ground advantage now made things much easier for him.
First, arrival at Linshui City would require a watercraft, and the system’s ferry service had a near faultless punctuality, becoming a uniquely impactful criterion when setting up an ambush in Linshui City. There were only a few hours where the ferry would arrive from Luori City, so all Southern Lone Blade had to do was watch and wait during these allocated times, and there was no way he would miss out on his opportunity.
The only problem was the fact that even though Gu Fei was his only target, he had plenty of other players accompanying him.
This was precisely the reason why Southern Lone Blade gave up striking in Linshui City and rushed to Luori City instead. He had hoped to capitalize during the mess that was the final segment of the quest to provide himself with a window of opportunity. However, he did not expect the other party to have seen through his intentions from the start, and was played like a fiddle. He may have made his way to Luori City, but he did not even catch a glimpse of his target, in the end!
There was even news from Luori City that the man had actually took up a PvP match against Eternal Dominion on the streets, and the rumor went that Eternal Dominion had actually made up an excuse and fled because he was not able to beat that Mage.
Linshui City neighboured Luori City, so players from Luori City would occasionally spend the time to travel all the way over to Linshui City to enjoy the beach, barbecued fish, and liquor. Naturally, that meant the matters of someone as famous as Eternal Dominion from Luori City would also be propagated rapidly throughout Linshui City.
In the words of these players from Luori City, did Eternal Dominion become part of the Five Unyielding Experts because of his level? That was not what was so scary about him. What made him truly fearsome was his prowess when it came to PvP. He was a Fighter who mainly engaged in melee combat with his enemies, and had never once suffered a defeat.
Saying that might be a little redundant. After all, if he had lost any PvP match, he would have then died and dropped his level accordingly. For someone in the Five Unyielding Experts to remain as indomitable as he was, would that not prove that he had never lost a PvP match, and consequently his level?
But what Eternal Dominion had gone through was far from this. According to players from Luori City, ever since that man was a newbie, he had fought against ten or even twenty players like it was no big deal. During those times, Eternal Dominion would be found holding his hand against his brow with a wry smile, surveying the street he was standing on that was now littered with the fallen bodies of other players, like a scene staged straight from the classics. That was how Eternal Dominion’s name became as renowned as it was.
In the hearts and minds of these players from Luori City, Eternal Dominion would be just as scary even if he was not considered one of the Five Unyielding Experts; he was just like an undefeated icon to them!
But this man had finally lost, and he lost to the Video Mage.
Looks like I must re-evaluate the capabilities of this Mage, Southern Lone Blade considered thoughtfully...