Three Sighs of Flowing Maple quickly tried to wipe the dust off his face but only ended up dirtying it further. Everyone continued to hold back their laughter as best as they could; those with a higher tolerance gritted their teeth without revealing a smile and said, “Go and wash up!”
“HURRY UP AND FIND A SOLUTION. DON’T LET THEM GET AWAY!” Three Sighs of Flowing Maple yelled this out somewhat hysterically as he departed. Everybody looked at one another. In their minds, their guild leader was always calm and composed. No one would have guessed that he would actually become enraged over such a small matter that barely affected the bigger picture. It was truly difficult to fathom what was in the deepest recesses of one’s heart.
With Three Sighs of Flowing Maple temporary departure, these men continued to crowd around and examine the keyhole.
After making sure that none of them in the guild possessed the rumored lockpicking skill, everybody began to discuss the issue about the key. Being in such a large guild that had so many members, there were bound to be a few more attentive individuals. These few quickly mentioned seeing Gu Fei and Sword Demon seemingly going off somewhere just as they arrived, which happened to be the spot where Windchord was originally lying. Coincidentally, there was a sleeping NPC near that spot. These people openly wondered if there was any connection to this.
There was no need for them to guess if this link existed, as the NPC would remain asleep there forever. All they had got to do was head over and take a look themselves, which was precisely what several of them hurriedly did. Gu Fei happened to be peeping out of the same hole after tossing that handful of dust at Three Sighs of Flowing Maple and realized what was happening. “They are really quick on the uptake. It appears they’ve discovered there’s something fishy about that Sleeping Assassin.”
Sword Demon was taken aback. “Now what?”
“What else can we do. Pray that the key wouldn’t respawn yet, so they’d think that there’s nothing special about it!” Gu Fei said.
“Looks like this quest is rather complicated, so I doubt that the quest item will respawn so soon!” Sword Demon answered. Now that the reality was transpiring closer and closer to Gu Fei’s analysis, Sword Demon had already started to believe that, even though the quest had not appeared on their quest log, it nevertheless existed. He did not share the complete indifference toward the quest’s existence like Gu Fei, after all. he was a traditional MMO gamer, so he did somewhat care about this.
“Yes, let’s hope that this is the case. Have you found anything on your end?” Gu Fei asked.
“I’m just left with this here.” Sword Demon glanced ahead. They had already searched every nook and cranny of this small firewood shed. He was currently looking toward a tall stack of firewood piled high in a corner. As this was a VRMMO, those things could be moved, but searching such a spot would require quite a bit of effort. This was nothing like the games before, where all it would take was a move of the mouse pointer, clicking whenever they made any sort of discovery, for they would have to do actual work right now.
Outside the shed, everything was happening just as Gu Fei and Sword Demon had hoped. The players that went over to rifle through the Sleeping Assassin’s pockets came up empty-handed, so they could only keep mulling over this problem. Meanwhile, Gu Fei and Sword Demon worked up a sweat as they moved the pile of firewood. Finally, Sword Demon, who had devoted his effort without a complaint, made a discovery, and he excitedly yelled, “I found something!”
Gu Fei, on the other end, quickly threw that piece of firewood he had been carrying and dashed right over, only to see that beneath the pile of firewood was an entrance to a cellar. The two swiftly cleared out the rest of the firewood and stood there in a daze. While they had found a cellar after all their effort, the cellar door itself was also locked.
Sword Demon squatted down and tugged at the lock, finding it to be sturdy. He wanted to take out the key he had used for the door to the shed but soon realized that the size of the two did not match.
“Let’s search for the key!” Gu Fei suggested as he started sifting through the firewood pile. He had already carefully rummaged through the other places. If there was a key, it would most likely only be in this pile of wood. The two men had apparently run out of luck, however, as they were unable to find anything, even after turning over the entire firewood pile.
“What do we do now…” Gu Fei flipped through the diary and began searching for clues within. Sword Demon was also tired from all the menial work. Lying on the ground and taking deep breaths, he stared at the ceiling above when something came to him. “Could it be that the key is also on that Sleeping Assassin, but because the timing for the key to respawn is different, the players that picked it up messed everything up, so we were unable to find the pair at the same time?”
“That’s not impossible,” Gu Fei nodded yet added soon, “but, recently, only members from Flowergazing in the Fog have been coming and going to this place. If there’s truly such a key, it can only be in their hands. Unless the interval between the respawn of the keys is several days, and someone else picked it up before the guild quest started…”
“Oh, crap!” Sword Demon suddenly yelped. “Those players from Flowergazing in the Fog don’t seem to have found any key when they searched its body, but since their suspicions toward it have been raised, the entire guild would probably be discussing this matter. With a guild of that size, I’m sure one of them stumbled across that NPC before, and I’m afraid that the person that had coincidentally found the key would hurry over with it!”
“That’s not necessarily the case,” Gu Fei said. “I have a good understanding of the situation pertaining to the backyard here, and before their guild quest started, this is the only place in the whole city that has clear skies above, so it becomes their de facto marketplace. However, the space in the backyard is limited – look at the flora and fauna around here – so although the setting is marvelous, there isn’t any particular square or clearing to gather. Plus, it’s quite a distance from the entrance, causing this place to always be deserted. Even after Flowergazing in the Fog took over control of the entire compound, they did not assign a member to guard the backyard. It’s only after I had climbed over the wall from here that they began stationing men here.”
“From what you’ve said, I gather that not many players will have the chance to get that key from the Sleeping Assassin. Still, given how all these men from Flowergazing in the Fog are now active here in the past few days, I dare assure you that if any of them saw this NPC at any time in the past, quite a handful of these players would surely approach it to investigate,” Sword Demon said.
“You mean to say that there’s a possibility that someone in Flowergazing in the Fog is holding on to this key we need?” Gu Fei asked.
“A very high possibility. Furthermore, there’s even a good chance that he’s already on his way, unless this person happens to be offline.”
“Wait a minute. If someone had indeed discovered this key, he would have surely investigated on which door it could be used. From there, wouldn’t it have been obvious that it’s for opening this firewood shed?” Gu Fei asked.
Before Sword Demon could reply, Gu Fei already started examining the entire shed. “Even though the system is usually rather shameless, isn’t it a bit too much for this cellar to have been so thoroughly hidden underneath a pile of firewood like that?”
Sword Demon turned his head over. There was no need to discuss further the extent of shameless the system was capable of, but he, nonetheless, got the gist of what Gu Fei was trying to say. “What you are implying is that someone found the key and used it to open this door to the shed. What’s more; this person discovered this locked cellar and suspected that there might be something good hidden in it; unfortunately, he was unable to open it at that time, so he piled up all the firewood to hide it from prying eyes?”
Gu Fei nodded. “That’s why it’s been so thoroughly buried till it’s impossible to tell from a glance.”
“Yes, that is extremely likely.” Sword Demon had a very good grasp of the different types of mentality players would have. “If that’s the case, this person will most likely not wish to stand out at a time like this.”
“Mmmm… I, on the other hand, feel that a man of such scruples will surely stand out at this time!”
“Why is that?”
“Because the longer we stay inside this shed, the more likely it is what we will discover this cellar he’s painstakingly hidden by pilin the firewood on top of it. Furthermore, he’s probably worried that this cellar is our actual goal for coming here. Wouldn’t this person be all the more anxious to take care of us as soon as he could?” Gu Fei asked.
“But wouldn’t that mean he’s pretty slow on the uptake?”
“That’s why it is highly likely that this person is as you’ve described: currently offline,” Gu Fei answered.
Sword Demon was quiet for three seconds before saying, “So what sort of conclusion can we arrive from this analysis?”
“We are safe for the moment, but we need to quickly leave. This is currently the peak period when players will log in; there’s no telling when this person will come online,” Gu Fei said.
“Leaving might be a little difficult…” Sword Demon peeked at the hole in the wall and saw that they were heavily surrounded.
“Come, let’s tidy up the place first.” Gu Fei pointed over to the cellar. “When that guy gets online and hears that people made it into the firewood shed, he’s bound to get suspicious and come over to check. If he discovers that the firewood pile has been moved, he’ll likely increase his means of defense, and that’s detrimental to us. It’d be best if he discovers everything is still as it is, and nothing has changed.”
Sword Demon moved the firewood even as he asked, “But what if he remembers the original state that he left the firewood in?”
Gu Fei was momentarily speechless. “I’ll have nothing else to say if that man has that degree of dedication…”
The two quickly gathered the firewood in a pile, hiding the cellar properly and dusting off their hands afterward. Seeing as they had no way of opening the cellar, and that there was always the looming danger of someone opening the door from the outside, they simply could not afford to loiter here and must seek to leave the premise as soon as they could.
The two men were very busy. While Gu Fei checked on the movement of the enemies through that hole, hoping to find an opportunity to make a break for it, Sword Demon was busy detailing the entire situation over to Young Master Han, wondering if there was any way he could lend a hand from the outside.
“Wouldn’t you be out if the both of you die?” Young Master Han would always first take the chance to ridicule anyone whenever possible.
Sword Demon was used to this side of him, so he calmly ignored his taunt and continued to steer the conversation to the matter at hand. “I reckon there are about 300 plus players outside at the moment.” There was a limit to the number of people they could see from that small hole, but Sword Demon made this estimate based on the crowdedness he saw before him and the area that he could recall right outside them.
“Let Miles kill them all!” Young Master Han continued to jest cruelly.
“Any ideas?” Sword Demon continued to ignore him.
“I don’t have anything at the moment, since what you told me isn’t the full picture… I’ll at least need to observe the overall situation personally,” Young Master Han replied.
“We don’t have the time for that,” Sword Demon said. “The enemies can obtain the key at any time and open up the door.”
“If you have no other choice, forcefully log out then…”
“I think I’m fine with that idea myself,” Gu Fei interjected.
Young Master Han was merely making yet another ridiculous suggestion, but who would have guessed that Gu Fei would agree with this assessment? This gave Young Master Han and Sword Demon quite the surprise. However, Sword Demon would rather be beaten to death than even consider doing such an act.
“How about this, then. Miles will unleash the beast within him and kill his way out, attracting everyone’s attention. You will then use this chance to slip away with your Stealth. Letting one die is surely a better result than letting the two of you die,” Young Master Han suggested.
“That’s another option as well.” Gu Fei nodded yet again.
“Definitely not!” Sword Demon was fine being the one drawing the enemies’ attention so that others could escape, but he was unwilling if the roles were reversed in his favor.
“Then, let’s just kill our way out. Kill as many as we can; make it out as far as we can go. We’ll just die if we don’t.” Gu Fei began to simplify the complex situation they had found themselves in.
“I agree. Who’s to say we will die, anyway?” Sword Demon could feel his blood and adrenaline pumping.
“Death is almost a certainty. The only question is how many others will we be dragging down with us.” Gu Fei had always been uninterested in dreaming up of a miracle happening. He was completely certain as to how far he could make it with his strength. Given the situation that they were currently in, the only thing that would make it possible for them to make it out alive was if he possessed an unlimited supply of mana.
“Alright… Sit tight you two; a chance will present itself,” Young Master Han suddenly said.