The floor felt the same inside, but Marcello’s sense of space was completely thrown off by the endless darkness that seemed to continue in every which direction. For some reason, this pitch black area felt like a transitory zone rather than the final destination.
Emma was the next to follow, then Troy, and then Michael, as all eight members all made their way through the menacing black door into the room.
As the last person made his way in, the tattooed gangster Troy took the liberty to close the door. With the click of the door closing, the party was locked in as per the rules outlined by the tutorial guide. A familiar nauseating sensation took hold the moment the door closed, as the eight person party was transported to the trial area, wherever the hell that was.
Hard Trial has commenced.
Difficulty has increased significantly. Rewards have increased significantly.
Objective: Find the exit and proceed to the next area 0/1
The notifications flashed before him during the teleportation, appearing in clear rectangular boxes even though the whole world was spinning before him. But a moment later, the spinning sensation stopped.
When Marcello opened his eyes, he was in a large dungeon room, with torches lighting up the sides of the walls. It was spacious, and the ceiling was generously high up, but the ambience felt dark and gloomy as if a skeleton warrior would pop its head up at any moment.
The others were with him as well, staring at the walls and the floor. There were intricately painted decorative patterns on the floor, and simple patterns carved onto the walls. If Marcello had to describe it with one word, it was dungeon. But if he had to elaborate, he got the sense that this was like that one room in the very beginning of a video game, where they put a dummy enemy in front of you so that you could learn the combat controls.
A grated off corridor that looked like prison bars was blocking the only path forward.
“So what are we supposed to do?” Troy asked warily, still looking around at the surroundings with caution. His sleeves were both rolled up now, and his hands clenched into a fist.
“I have a hunch,” Marcello replied, still eyeing the grated off corridor carefully. “So this is called the tutorial, right? And we were given the option to choose between five combat oriented classes.”
“Look at the size and shape of this room,” he continued. “It’s fucking massive. Doesn’t it seem like an arena to you guys?”
The others shifted nervously, as they were beginning to understand what Marcello was insinuating. It was to be expected.
“So if I had to guess, we’re about to learn how to fight. And the enemy will be coming from that direction.” Marcello pointed at the grated off corridor.
“Heh, if it’s a fight they want, I’m more than happy to give it to them,” said the blonde gangster, stretching his right arm in a large circle.
Marcello sighed as he walked towards the grated bars. The arena room was so wide that it was taking a while for him to get to that end of the arena. “Dude, what was the point of picking a ranged class if all you’re going to do is fight with your fists?” he shouted over to Troy, but his concentration was focused more on the ground. A sense of familiarity guided his next action, as he recalled the skill he had chosen during the waiting period.
[Bear Trap (Basic)] – Traps are an essential part of a thief’s arsenal. Allows the thief to summon and arm a bear trap, which deals damage proportional to the strength used to crank the trap.
With a further bit of concentration, a personal pizza sized bear trap materialized in front of him on the ground, with a crank mechanism to the side of the trap. It had to be manually operated, so Marcello grabbed the handle and started turning it by hand. It was a lot harder than he first expected, and he had to put his entire body into it.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Troy snickered. “Old habits are hard to get rid of though. Fists are the best way to make someone talk, but we’re not here to make snitches squeal I guess.”
With that, he grabbed the longbow off his back and took an arrow from his quiver, the whole action looking a bit strange since you never really imagined a gangster wielding a bow. All the others drew their weapons as well, looking around cautiously for any signs of enemies, seeing as how it was way too quiet for comfort. Michael loosened his tie and readied his staff for casting, Nolan nocked an arrow with a practiced gesture, and construction worker Jason held a hefty hammer in his hand while pro swimmer Zack drew a sword. It seemed like the warrior class got to choose their starting weapon.
Sarah fumbled with her staff and positioned herself behind the rest of them, since her healer abilities were not particularly useful mid-combat. And then there was Emma…
“Are you even taking this seriously?” Troy barked at Emma, a look of annoyance on his face as his nose piercing twitched with annoyance. The highschool senior with bangs did not show a single sign of getting ready for battle, as she stood with her normal clothes on and not a single sign of her staff. Everyone else was dressed for war, and yet this one girl just stood there whistling away in her highschool uniform and skirt?
Marcello nodded as well as he briskly walked back to the center of the arena to join the other human combatants, showing his agreement with Troy’s annoyance with Emma’s lackadaisical attitude towards a life-or-death situation.
The hard difficulty challenge had already started, the same challenge that ripped a man’s hand off, so Emma had better get her shit together soon.
“I don’t need that junk to fight,” Emma replied as she happily tapped away at her system. Marcello found that action a bit weird too, since you could mentally control the system, and tapping the air did absolutely nothing.
He’d never get the chance to rebut though, as the grate began to move upwards with an awful creaking sound. With his feet planted solidly on the delicate patterns decorating the circular center of the arena, Marcello took the shortbow off his shoulder and withdrew an arrow from his quiver, preparing to get a few potshots off first. It was strange, but he instantly knew how to use a bow despite never having used one previously. It had to be the effect of that information deluge download from when he first selected his class. The system was a bit weird that way, and Marcello wasn’t about to question it right now.
“Do you hear that?” Emma asked the rest of them. She stopped tapping now, and stared into the corridor beyond the raised grated gate.
Gnashing teeth and strange ritualistic chants echoed through the corridor up ahead, and they got closer by the moment. Multiple enemies. Their outlines became more clear as they approached, and by the time they got to the raised gate, their green skin and bald heads were clear as day.
Goblins. Green patchy skin, large round noses that hooked downwards, and pointed ears that flared up to the sides. They were shorter than the average human, but their ferocity was not something that could be understated. Each goblin had the glint of a killer in their eyes and a devilish, toothy grin. A goblin carrying a machete entered first, and then a goblin holding a crude mace, as two more goblins emerged from the darkness into plain sight, entering into the effective radius of wall-mounted torch light.
Marcello smirked. Four was a manageable amount for them to handle. They’d just have to…
The smirk quickly faded from his face as more and more goblins poured out from the corridor. What started as just a handful slowly turned into a group, and then a small horde. Marcello gulped loudly as the number of enemies increased from manageable to dangerous, then from dangerous to ‘casualties guaranteed’. If this went on any further, it would result in an entire party wipe…
Marcello’s bear trap in the distance sprung on an encroaching goblin, clamping down on its foot and causing it to howl with pain. And with that, the trap drew first blood and combat began in earnest as the remaining goblins charged at the stunned party of eight.
Raising his shortbow, Marcello drew the bowstring back with force, then let loose. The arrow flew through the air in an arc, hitting a goblin in the forehead and instantly reducing its health to zero. It was definitely not his intended target, but there were so many of the green monsters at this point that it was hard to miss. The goblins seemed to be approaching more warily after that first bear trap was sprung. Unbeknownst to the goblins, there only ever was one trap, and so their own caution was buying time for the novice humans to let loose more ranged attacks.
You have slain [Lvl 3 Goblin] - Bonus experience awarded for killing a higher level enemy. Tutorial points have been distributed between contributors.
Tutorial guidelines: Experience and tutorial points will be distributed based on contribution.
Wow, Marcello thought, surprised by his own success. He claimed a kill on his very first try. An arrow from his shortbow straight into the noggin did the trick. Maybe he should’ve picked the archer class after all?
Nocking another arrow, he raised his shortbow for another shot, letting the arrow loose with a bit more confidence than before. Unfortunately for him, it was a clear miss this time around as the arrow soared way above the heads of any of the goblins. As much as he hated to admit it, that first shot was probably just a lucky shot and a good case of beginner’s luck.
Despite the results of his second attempt, Marcello felt a sense of satisfaction with his class choice. As a thief class, he excelled at mixed combat, meaning that mid-ranged combat with a shortbow, melee combat with his shortsword and dagger, and mixed-range trap utilization were all within his class proficiencies.
“Ooooorrrryaaa!!!!” Troy shouted while dramatically rolling the r syllable, as he and Nolan shot their arrows towards the bald and pointy eared monsters marching straight towards them.
Their archer-class exclusive longbows gave their arrows an extensive range advantage over Marcello’s shortbow. Their arrows flew in a long, graceful flight pattern as Troy’s arrow missed to the left, and Nolan’s arrow pierced a goblin’s leg. Hints of the longbow’s range advantage could be seen from the way arrows from their longbows soared in the air compared to the arrow fired from Marcello’s shortbow which kind of lobbed its way over, but what the shortbow gave up in range it made up for in firing speed.
The bearded construction worker Jason gripped his hammer tightly while staring down the impending goblins, while the clean shaven pro-swimmer Zack also waited silently with his sword drawn. Warriors were given a sturdy sling and pebbles weapon to aid them in long ranged situations, but neither of the warriors seemed particularly interested in using their slings. As far as Marcello saw it, that was just a tactical mistake. While not as strong as a bow at range, slings were still powerful weapons capable of delivering a blunt blow to enemies from a range. The weapon was not to be underestimated. The sling was the weapon type that allowed David to bring down the Goliath, after all.
Michael seemed to be having some trouble with his staff. Despite having such a calm and reasonable demeanor earlier, the businessman with thick rim glasses kept raising his staff in front of him without any results. “How does this even work?” he asked in a flustered tone. “What kind of tutorial is this that doesn’t even teach you how to use spells?”
To the left of him, crazy bangs highschool bitch sighed. “Are you stupid? Just use the spell from your skills list, dumbass.” She raised her palm at the encroaching enemies. “Watch and learn, old man. Mana bolt!”
Emma acted as if it was the most natural thing in the world for a magic circle to appear in front of her palm and for that circle to shoot out a bolt of energy that spiraled and curved wildly towards the goblins. The bolt of mana struck a goblin in the chest, searing it and leaving a charred explosive damage wound on its torso.
“Haha, these guys are pushovers!” Troy howled, laughing every time his arrow struck another goblin.
Arrows and mana projectiles rained down upon the encroaching green goblins, as they slowly came to realize that there were no further traps laid on the ground besides the lone bear trap Marcello set up at the very beginning.
You have slain [Lvl 2 Goblin] - Bonus experience awarded for killing a higher level enemy. Tutorial points have been distributed between contributors.
You have slain [Lvl 3 Goblin] - Bonus experience awarded for killing a higher level enemy. Tutorial points have been distributed between contributors.
Despite Marcello’s questionable aim, he managed to land two more killing blows with his shortbow with his last eight arrows. Troy was laughing maniacally at the ease with which the party was dispatching the suckers, and even the timid Nolan began to crack a smile. The fight was beginning to look a whole lot more winnable.
That is, until the first goblins broke through into the inner circle of the arena. So far, the human party was just using their ranged advantage to pick off the small monsters in the distance. But when they actually got close, Marcello felt a shiver down his spine. Their killing intent was palpable as the green buggers raised their machetes, eager for blood. Previous reservations due to the possibility of additional bear traps had all but faded from the goblins’ minds, and all those green buggers now had was the insatiable urge to kill.
Looming into the inner circle, the goblins sprinted straight for the archers and casters, completely skipping over the warriors. Ultimately the ranged damage dealers were the only ones to have dealt damage so far, so it was expected for them to be the first targets of the goblin’s lash out.
Jason the grizzled builder stepped forward and swung his hammer with both hands, slamming it into a goblin’s chest with a resounding crunch. It was clear to him that if the goblins got past the front line and killed off all the backline dps, he would be soon to follow. The blow of his hammer struck down a goblin that was reaching out towards Marcello, buying Marcello enough time to set down his shortbow and draw his shortsword.
Crazily enough, Marcello took the opportunity that Jason bought him to summon another bear trap. He also activated his other skill.
[Quiet Footsteps (Basic)] – A thief must travel quietly to complete his tasks. Lessens the noise made by walking and running, and makes the thief’s presence harder to detect.
This way, he could buy some time to finish cranking his bear trap.
“Aaaah!!” Nolan shouted, drawing Marcello’s attention.
Two bloodstained goblins rushed right past Zack and towards the defenseless archer Nolan, who turned tail and ran in the direction of the black door which marked the exit back to the first area.
Zack was frozen in fear, the former professional swimmer’s breath ragged and his eyes wide open in shock. There were so many of the damn goblins, already breaking through their formation mere seconds after breaking into the inner circle of the arena. His sword was in his hand, but he dared not move. It seemed like the goblins would ignore him as long as he stayed put, he thought.
He nearly shrieked when one of the bloodthirsty demons looked up at him, saliva dripping from its tongue as it raised its machete.