The silence in the courtyard was disrupted by the doors opening. Everybody moved when they heard this sound, their weapons all aimed toward the Government City Hall. Even those handful of melee players standing right by the entrance raised their weapons, ready to strike.
However, everybody soon went rigid as the man who had come out was none other than their quest-giver, Giordano.
Nobody dared to delay this esteemed man, and every player consciously made way for Giordano. Having been guarding this courtyard for so long, they were all very familiar with the route that this revered Giordano would take. However, right behind this NPC was another figure; Gu Fei was beaming as he followed Giordano in step.
The crowd clamored and was just about to attack but saw Gu Fei lift his hand. Soon, the blade of his Moonlit Nightfalls was leveled beside the NPC.
"Everyone, stay your hand!" They heard Gu Fei shout.
While everyone was momentarily shocked, they suddenly heard their guild leader Three Sighs of Flowing Maple order across the guild channel: "DON'T MOVE!"
To think that this scoundrel would actually do this, how truly despicable! As Three Sighs of Flowing Maple gave the command to halt, he was grinding his teeth hard inwardly. He had a strong wish to just tear Gu Fei into pieces, but he could hear himself repeating a line in his mind: Gotta properly consider the entire situation; a lack of forbearance in small matters may very well end up upsetting the bigger picture.
Giordano did not seem to be bothered by the current situation, as it continued to walk forward at his own pace. Gu Fei was right beside it; his sword was leveled against the NPC. His hand was steady and the blade was really close to Giordano…
"Retreat…" Gu Fei reminded the lot of players watching with a pained expression below the stairs.
At this moment, everyone was fully aware just what was at stake with Gu Fei's action. What sort of punishment would they receive if their quest-giver was attacked? This was something they did not wish to even imagine.
It was through this very opportunity that Gu Fei planned to use the NPC as a hostage.
This was an unprecedented hostage situation. The hostage itself did not seem to be aware of its current circumstance, not even resisting or coordinating as it continued on its route without a whit of care to the world.
Meanwhile, the kidnapper's life was not in the least bit of danger. He lazily lifted that sword of his and maintained his distance with Giordano. All it would take was a tilt of the blade, and it would be considered as an attack.
The courtyard became quiet once more. No one dared to act rashly. They all stared dumbfoundedly at Gu Fei and Giordano as the two continued on their way together; the shuffling sound of their footsteps was particularly grating to everybody's ears.
Juxtaposed against the silence pervading the courtyard, Flowergazing in the Fog's guild channel was ablaze with activity. Everyone was zealously condemning Gu Fei's shamelessness as they immediately tried to think of possible ways to deal with the situation, with only a few of their suggestions being viable – Archers' Snipe and Stealthed Thieves creeping close…
Amid the heated discussion, the Thieves and Archers each volunteered to do the deed with great enthusiasm, but the final decision nevertheless lay with Three Sighs of Flowing Maple.
Three Sighs of Flowing Maple's face was black with anger, but he was unable to come to a decision as well. This was entirely because Gu Fei was too close to Giordano and he did not need to kill the NPC – just the slightest touch would probably do – to void them of the guild quest entirely. Such an easy act on his part made it that much more difficult for them to mount a rescue. Be it a Snipe from a distance or closing in with Stealth, either option was extremely risky.
Three Sighs of Flowing Maple had managed to get through that initial impulse of launching an attack in retaliation to Gu Fei's shameless deed and was now calmly contemplating the matter. There was no need to take this risk, since killing the man right now was purely for the sake of vengeance and would not benefit the guild. To the guild as a whole, it was the completion of the quest that mattered most. This was precisely the time when Giordano would appear to announce the quest progress. That band of men had caused quite the scene today, so there was no telling how much the completion progress had fallen as a result. If it had dropped to zero, then there would be no need for them to be concerned with Gu Fei's threat.
With such a thought in mind, Three Sighs of Flowing Maple made the final decision of not ordering his men to attack. Instead, he allowed his fellow guild members to rationally make way for the pair and even made sure to clear the whole bunch of players that were standing in the way on the path toward the gates of the courtyard..
Gu Fei managed to save himself the trouble at this. The route Giordano would take was not something he could influence, so he would have to travel a short distance from the main entrance. Gu Fei had originally thought that he would have to threaten these men from Flowergazing in the Fog into making way for him at this point, but it seemed that they had already expected this and, instead, voluntarily cleared the path for him. As such, he no longer had to expend his breath by speaking further.
"Guild Leader Flowing Maple sure keeps his eyes on the bigger picture. Ha ha ha…" Gu Fei playfully laughed it off the moment Three Sighs of Flowing Maple and several of his men entered his vision. This laughter was rather forced since he was not particularly pleased with what he was currently doing despite it being able to contain the members of Floewrgazing in the Fog so thoroughly within their ranks.
Three Sighs of Flowing Maple was of course unable to laugh at this matter as he calmly said, "We're all prioritizing the quest; that's all."
"Long live comprehension; long live comprehension," Gu Fei mockingly praised.
Three Sighs of Flowing Maple's eyes glowed but did not reply to the man. At the moment, he was already at the spot where Giordano would halt halfway during its route and inform the players of their completion progress; meanwhile, Gu Fei, who had already selected the route he was going to escape through, did not discover anything suspicious about the path…
"In that case, I'll take my leave," Gu Fei said.
Three Sighs of Flowing Maple was mute. He had no wish to see Gu Fei ever again.
Gu Fei took a deep breath and sighed. He had no ill intent toward Three Sighs of Flowing Maple or anyone from Flowergazing in the Fog. It was only how the quests were sequenced that pitted both sides against one another. More importantly, the quest that Gu Fei had, in Brother Assist and the others' words, was something that he had made up for himself. Gu Fei could not help but feel a little remorseful inside with his quest affecting the guild quest that all these men had put so much effort into completing.
What made him even more remorseful was that he had nothing to show after all this mess. That meant that if he really intended to continue with this, he would have to come back and stir things up once more, creating further headaches for Flowergazing in the Fog.
I think it's best if I keep that to myself… I doubt they would see that as good news… Gu Fei harbored such thoughts in his sigh as he swiftly ran off from Giordano's side. He took a quick look over his shoulder and found that no one seemed to be making any sort of move to attack him.
They are actually trustworthy… Gu Fei thought even as his guilt worsened.
However, before he could stew in his regret any longer, when he was about thirty or so meters away from Giordano, which was a range where a Mage's spell would be unable to reach him, a litany of curses burst forth from behind him like a raging tsunami.
Gu Fei experienced the close shave that came with being targeted by the crowd.
What followed were arrows that came speeding over like dragonflies from the Archers – the only job class that could still attack him at this range.
Gu Fei also saw several players appear from the gates of the courtyard in the next moment, firmly blocking this exit, as Stealthed Thieves along this path revealed themselves, each flagrantly hurtling toward him.
"Sure enough, things are not gonna be that simple…" Gu Fei sighed. He was hardly panicking by this show of force, though, as this was well within his realm of expectation. He had not harbored any hope that Flowergazing in the Fog would continue to quietly watch him walk right out of the gates after seeing him send Giordano off half of the way.
This was why he had been very surprised when these players did not immediately pounce on him the moment he left Giordano's side.
This was most likely due to Flowergazing in the Fog's prudence in ensuring that their hostage was entirely out of harm's way before attempting to take down the kidnapper.
Such an attempt was hardly unexpected; it would be far more surprising if they had not made any attempts at all.
Gu Fei abruptly turned around and changed the direction he was going. Those players from Flowergazing in the Fog who had all shifted their focus on to the gates were shocked by this change.
This new path Gu Fei had turned toward was also the very same he had previously set his sights on. It was a shortcut that no one was guarding; a path that led directly to the walls that cordoned the courtyard.
Along the way, he came across three Thieves obstructing his escape. He did not kill these men. Instead, he did a feint and relied on some fancy footwork to get away from them. By the time these Thieves turned around to give chase, none of them was able to catch up to Gu Fei as they were too average to possess the movement speed to match his.
Gu Fei's grappling hook was already in his hands before he even got to the wall, and a single throw was all he needed to snag the top of the wall securely. With a running leap, Gu Fei's feet found purchase on the vertical wall and began his ascent. He nimbly made his way up and had soon cleared five meters in the blink of an eye. Furthermore, he collected this rope of his even as he continued his climb, so those Thieves hot on his heels could only raise their heads and sigh.
Archers were the only ones who could threaten Gu Fei, since climbing and dodging incoming arrows was not a particularly simple affair even for him. By the time he successfully made it up the wall, he had already taken two direct shots.
"There ain't a lot of experts here…" Gu Fei noted the damage he received from these two shots and was relieved. The damage for these two arrows was nowhere near the sort that a powerful expert like Royal God Call could dish out.
Pulling both arrows out and throwing them off the wall, Gu Fei turned to the other side and leaped off. He used his Blink to land safely on the ground, dive into the fog, and successfully made his escape.
Nobody from Flowergazing in the Fog sought to continue their chase. This was because Three Sighs of Flowing Maple had already concluded the exchange with Giordano. He received quite the shock when he saw that, even though the completion progress of his guild's quest had dipped, this decrease was a lot less than what he had originally predicted. After this huge debacle, Three Sighs of Flowing Maple would not have been surprised to see their completion progress reduced to zero, so he was rather happy to have received such an outcome, instead.
Their completion progress had only dropped by 5%. Everyone was equally satisfied once Three Sighs of Flowing Maple announced it to the guild.
"It's only 5%! That's not a lot. I thought we'd lose it all." There were plenty of them who shared this sentiment, so they were all delighted at this conclusion.
"Looks like we've been a little too anxious!" someone said.
"Those guys were not here to cause trouble, after all. They were probably really in here for some quests," another added.
"Still, we've lost 5%!"
"Perhaps, we would not have lost anything if we had just allowed them to do their quest in peace."
"But who could even verify their claims?"
"Ah, it's really hard to tell a man's true intentions…"
The discussion that ensued got deep. Meanwhile, Three Sighs of Flowing Maple was knitting his eyebrows. That was because he had found out from Drifting that the person whom they had difficulty dealing with would surely return, and the quest he had was sure to devastate Flowergazing in the Fog.