The sound of the second set of footsteps descending the staircase was much lighter; anybody could tell that it did not belong to a heavy job class. Was it a player or NPC that this Warrior was fleeing from in his bedraggled state?
Gu Fei pitched his head and was still unable to see anyone upstairs. All he saw was a Warrior searching left and right, before he found a pillar to hide behind as well. His two hands gripped on to that claymore tightly, his body tense like a taut bowstring. The man pricked his ears and was clearly intending to wait for his target to appear so that he could deal a heavy sneak attack.
In the end, the Warrior did not manage to catch the enemy but was instead the recipient of the enemy’s attack, instead.
Gu Fei raised his head to look for the Warrior’s opponent but only saw a fiery glow appear in mid-air in that hall. Descending Wheel of Flames.
F*ck me; how unrestrained! Gu Fei quickly determined that there was no escape for this Warrior, considering the area that this Descending Wheel of Flames covered; in fact, he himself would incidentally be within this spell’s AoE. He quickly shunted to the side and dove behind another pillar as that flame wheel came crashing down. With no chance of escape, that Warrior got caught in the flames. Shaking his head in resignation, the Warrior happened to see Gu Fei.
Gu Fei was dressed far more prominently than the man, since his face was covered and his number ‘9’ on his poncho was stitched in a fairly conspicuous spot. This Warrior was elated the moment he registered his features. “Nine!”
He’s one of us after all! Gu Fei thought to himself. Before he could even acknowledge this, that man eagerly dashed toward Gu Fei. It was as if he had come across a piece of life-saving driftwood just as he was about to drown.
In the end, before he could even touch this piece of driftwood, just in those few steps he had taken from hiding behind the pillar, the Warrior stepped on to the burning ground from a Blazing Tree of a Thousand Inferno. Gu Fei had retreated from this spell and was already incapable of helping this Warrior whom he still had no idea what the numbering of was. All he could do was watch as the man disappeared into the sea of flames before him.
The average Mage would surely be unable to finish off a Warrior with just two spells. Gu Fei was one such individual, but who else could?
Drifting? Slyris? Or perhaps there was a NPC Mage guarding the Government City Hall?
Gu Fei decided against acting rashly without uncovering this fact. It was still fine if it really turned out to be a veteran expert player like Drifting or Slyris; Gu Fei was not afraid of them. What he was truly afraid of was if it was some strange high-level NPC that the system had sent. If that was the case, it was better for him not to provoke it.
Gu Fei continued to hide behind the pillar, not moving an inch even while the footsteps from the stairs stopped. Silence returned to the main hall.
Gone? Or is he or she still searching for me? Gu Fei had no idea if the enemy had discovered his presence. After all, the Warrior had eagerly called out ‘Nine’ and moved toward Gu Fei before he died, and he was uncertain if the person on the stairs heard or even seen him.
Leaning in close to that pillar, Gu Fei slowly shifted and changed his scope of vision bit by bit. He still saw nothing, however. As such, Gu Fei picked out an apple from his dimensional pocket and heaved it up toward the stairs.
Plop! The apple landed on the stairs and began to tumble down each step, ringing clear across the hall with every drop.
Is that person really gone... Gu Fei stepped out from behind the pillar, walked to the bottom of the stairs, and caught the apple that was rolling down. He looked up, and sure enough, there was no one up the stairs.
After climbing the first few steps up the stairs, he heard more footfalls from down the main hall. Gu Fei turned and threw the apple in his hand in the direction of the footsteps.
“Ahhh!” While the apple Gu Fei had thrown dealt no damage, his accuracy was not dependent on any in-game skill. Therefore, it was only natural for the person to cry out in shock the moment the apple struck him square on the head. Upon realizing that what had struck him was just an apple, this person casually picked it up and examined it. That was the very moment when this newcomer saw a black-clothed man, wearing a face cover, flip off the stairs and agilely dart toward him.
“Nine!” the man hurriedly called out.
Gu Fei came to a screeching halt but continued to maintain his distance from this man. After all, he considered Three as an enemy, so he did not dare to drop his guard.
“It's me! Four!” The newcomer could tell that Gu Fei was suspicious of him, so he quickly donned on his numbered poncho and face cover.
“Ah, so it’s you…” Gu Fei chuckled. He could recognize Four as this one had spoken the most out of them lot. Even though he had no idea how he looked, Gu Fei could easily make out his identity through his voice after their exchange.
“Where are the others?” Gu Fei asked.
“We split up to do our respective quests the moment we stepped in, so I don’t have the faintest idea as well!” Four answered.
Four was standing right before him, and there was no way Six could be a Warrior. This meant that person who had just died could either be Three or Five. However, Three was the schemer that had hidden from the others his intention to enter the Government City Hall; there was no reason he would react as if he had seen a savior in Gu Fei like that Warrior had done previously. Taking all these into account, this meant that the man whom he had witnessed die could only be Five.
“Five’s a Warrior, correct?” Gu Fei asked Four to confirm his findings. He reckoned that there were probably not too many honest folks like him, who would refrain from appraising the job classes of their fellow trespassers.
“Yeah, that’s right!” Four was indeed dishonorable, something which Gu Fei did not forget to disdain him for upon receiving the information.
“Five’s been killed,” Gu Fei informed.
“Ah?! How’s that possible?!” Four was shocked. “Did the people from Flowergazing in the Fog follow us into the building?”
“I don’t know about that…” Gu Fei replied, “but that should not be the case…” He had been hiding behind the back door for over an hour. Aside from Three, no one else made it into the Government City Hall, so if there was someone from Flowergazing in the Fog who had chased them inside, surely that said person would not circle all the way to the main entrance by the courtyard to do so, right?
“So who could it be?” Four asked.
“I don’t know yet. Have you completed your quest?” Gu Fei changed the topic.
“It’s done, but it seems that I can’t get out right now.”
“Yeah… Did you see the people outside?”
“Or more appropriately, there’s nothing aside from people outside.” Four flashed him a wry smile.
Gu Fei appreciated someone who could still hold a sense of humor in such a situation. One, Seven, and Two were people who were easily flustered during crunch time. Gu Fei was pretty much used to seeing this sort of reaction from the gang, but Four seemed to be a little different at least.
“Did you come up with any solutions?” Gu Fei asked. Four had quite a few ideas and seemed to have assumed the mantle of a leader among them nine. He originally found this to be quite perplexing, but it became apparent after he understood the relations between these people.
Logically speaking, the person who first formed this sort of gang would be the leader, yet it turned out that the person among the nine was Three, who had other intentions in his mind. In order to better fish in troubled waters and divert the attention from himself, he could not pick up the role of a leader. Meanwhile, the person who became One, after his rightful number ‘3’ was taken, was already skeptical about this plan, so how would he make any sort of decision? As for Two, he seemed to be a manga fantasist… As such, Four automatically stepped up to the plate and became the leader as a result.
“I wonder if there’s any sort of secret passageway in this city hall directly leading to the outside?” Four wondered aloud.
Gu Fei instantly took back his opinion of Four. It seemed that this person was also another fantasist.
Four caught Gu Fei’s gaze and said sheepishly, “Actually, I’ve been searching for a while, but I still haven’t found anything like that even now. I doubt something like this actual exists.”
Gu Fei sighed. He got it. Four was not a fantasist. He was merely someone desperately grasping at straws.
“I have no idea where Six is either. Let’s find him first before we think of a solution,” Gu Fei suggested.
“Would that guy who killed Five gun for us as well?” Four anxiously looked around.
“It’s very likely!” Gu Fei was never the sort to mince his words, so he was absolutely clueless at how to console others.
“Oh, well. That’s most likely the fastest way to leave this place, anyway,” Four said wryly.
“Hehe…” Gu Fei admired his mindset. “Why don’t I bring you to a safe place first? I’ll go looking for Six myself, and we can all leave when the time comes.”
“Oh? What safe place?” Right now, Four was most interested in the word ‘safe’.
Hence, Gu Fei brought him to that dark corner behind the backdoor and instructed him accordingly, “Wait here for a while.”
“Ah, Two! How coincidental!” Four exclaimed when he darted behind the door before poking half his head out from behind. “Two’s also here.”
“I know…” Gu Fei said. “The two of you, stay here and wait for me!”
“Alright, come back soon!” Four waved toward Gu Fei.
D*mn. Do I have to find each of these lost children and bring them back one by one? Gu Fei thought to himself bitterly as he headed to the same corridor once more.
Returning to the main hall, Gu Fei once more made his way up the spiral staircase on the left. That person who had finished off Five disappeared from around that area, so Gu Fei decided that it was better to start looking there to see if he could find anything… At the same time, he could head over and take a look at his quest target: Giordano.
He found nothing after searching through the whole second floor, so Gu Fei went straight to the third floor and made his way directly to Giordano’s chamber. The scene left Gu Fei extremely disappointed, for that Vigilante Corps captain did not seem to care for personal space in its day to day life. A whole cadre of guards escorted it the entire day no matter where it went. Naturally, it made sense that something programmed would not have any sort of life to speak of.
Right now, Gu Fei did not have the time to sit on the couch and wait for the opportune moment to strike as he still had to find their friend Six.
As he opened the door to leave, a message suddenly came in, and Gu Fei saw that it was from Two, Scissorhands: “I died!”
“What happened?” Gu Fei was astonished.
“It was Four.”
“Four?” Gu Fei could not make sense of things.
“Yeah… We were chatting when he asked if I wish to take a bet,” Scissorhands recounted.
“He said our bet is on who will be able to leave the Government City Hall for a stake of 100 gold coins…” Scissorhands continued to narrate.
Gu Fei was at a loss for words.
“Not thinking much into it, I casually agreed. That was when he gave me 100 gold coins and told me that I won. By the time I could react…”
“Is that man… insane?” Gu Fei was baffled. He finally understood what it meant by the saying, ‘There’s nothing too strange in the boundless world beyond’.
“Sorry, it’s all my fault…” At this moment, all Gu Fei could think about the inhumane scene of the little red riding hood inviting the big bad wolf in.
“It’s fine. You should be the one to be careful. Perhaps, he’s toying with you in there,” the little red riding hood—no wait—Scissorhands said.
“I shall. I’ll definitely help you bring out that quest item of yours!” Gu Fei said.
The number of players inside the Government City Hall went down by one more count yet again.