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*Sshk*

With a swift swing of its machete, the pointed eared goblin with sharp teeth slashed at Zack’s arm, right as Zack was trying to convince himself that if he stood still he would be ignored.

*Splat*

The goblin aimed at Zack’s right arm, trying to slice off his hand in a technique that Marcello quickly realized must’ve been used on the preacher from earlier. However, Zack was a warrior and not a healer like that dead preacher, so he had thick leather gauntlets on and higher constitution than a healer. The machete sank into the gauntlet as a glob of blood fell to the ground, but his arm was not severed like the preacher's.

“Gaaaah!” Zack groaned in pain, his sword falling to the ground with a clang as he clutched his injured sword arm. He had a foolish thought that the goblins would completely ignore him as long as he stood still. Maybe if he showed that he was harmless now without his sword, they would let him live. A theory that was quickly disproven as the goblin from earlier jumped onto his face and plunged its machete into his head, pushing hard to get the machete through the warrior’s tougher than normal constitution stat.

Sarah stepped forward for a moment with her healing staff in hand when she saw Zack injured, but quickly back stepped after another shrieking goblin jumped onto his face as well to continue the onslaught.

“Back off!” came a male voice from behind. It was Michael the businessman, this time finally figuring out how to use his skills after the demonstration from Emma. “Mana bolt!” he shouted, a bolt of mana searing through towards both Zack and the goblins on top of him. The bolt exploded upon impact, damaging both Zack and the goblins hanging onto him.

Marcello noticed that Michael was already preparing another mana bolt, even though the area of effect from a subsequent explosion would push Zack's health bar into near fatal range. “You're gonna kill him!” Marcello shouted, but his shout was ignored.

Marcello was preparing to remove the goblins with his own shortsword and in an attempt to save Zack, one of their group's two valuable warriors. With his [Quiet Footsteps (basic)] ability, Marcello could probably just sneak up to those two goblins and shank them from the back and save Zack. It was an ambitious plan, but it had a chance of working. Unfortunately, Michael had other ideas.

“Zack has served his purpose, grouping them all together like that for the explosion to hit more at once!” Michael retorted, a crazed expression on his face as the glare from a magic circle reflected on his thick rim glasses. With complete disregard for the warrior's wellbeing, Michael let loose another mana bolt towards the goblins crowding on top of Zack’s face, forcing Marcello to dodge to the side or face the explosion himself.

Whatever resistances Zack’s constitution put up against the goblins’ bladed assault on his face were quickly tipped over the edge by another intense explosion from Michael’s mana bolt. The glow of vitality left his body quickly, and the man named Zack who just moments ago was willing to selfishly sacrifice the lives of his teammates in an attempt to keep himself safe was now first to die.

Zack’s head rolled to the left lifelessly, as the gravity of the situation finally set in for the remaining survivors. This wasn’t just some carnival game where ranged combatants got to fire away happily from a safe distance.

“H-he’s dead,” Nolan said with ragged breath as he looked on in shock at the athletic warrior's dead body slumped across the arena's floor. The timid archer ran for his life, fleeing all the way back to the black door, his shaking hand placed hesitantly on the door knob. Each player received one Exit Pass in their inventory to retreat back to a previous area through the door from which they came. Currently, there were two visible Exit Passes retrieved from player inventories in the dungeon arena room. One was gripped in Nolan’s right hand, and the other was floating above Zack’s corpse.

Michael swooped in after killing the two goblins on top of Zack and grabbed the Exit Pass floating on top of his dead body, then slowly backed away in the direction of the entrance door while continuing to fire mana bolts.

“Hehehahahahaha!!!” Emma laughed loudly, the girl in school uniform twirling as she fired off mana bolt after mana bolt with ease. Marcello had no doubt in his mind after seeing her fight, the girl was a natural, completely unfazed by the death of a comrade and simply enjoying the thrill of the fight itself.

*Clank*

The second bear trap that Marcello set up just activated, trapping a healthy mace-wielding goblin by the leg. He quickly ran towards it with his shortsword in hand, approaching the trapped goblin from behind with [Quiet Footsteps] active. He plunged the shortsword into the goblin’s back. In this situation, if he had taken the [Backstab] ability back in the gray waiting room he could’ve done an extra ten percent, haha…

It was an instant kill nevertheless combined with the bear trap’s damage. In the end, [Bear Trap] was clearly the superior pick compared to [Backstab] during the beginning stages.

You have slain [Lvl 3 Goblin] - Bonus experience awarded for killing a higher level enemy. Tutorial points have been distributed between contributors.

Ding! [Thief] class has leveled up to level 2. Agility has increased by 0.1.

Ding! [Human] race has leveled up to level 2. All stats have been increased by 0.1.

*New Skill obtained*: [Identify (unique)] – A ubiquitous ability across all initiated races. Grants the ability to access information about a subject matter.

Marcello noticed the level up but did not have time to check his notifications in detail. At this point they had killed more than half of the goblins, the green corpses littering the way from the raised gate all the way to the center of the area.

A goblin swung a machete at Troy, who abandoned his longbow and simply threw a left hook at the monstrous fucker. Troy’s punch landed solidly on the side of the goblin’s head, disorienting it.

That gave Marcello the perfect opportunity to swoop in and steal or ahem share some experience. His shortsword dug into the side of the goblin, piercing its heart.

You have slain [Lvl 2 Goblin] - Experience has been awarded. Tutorial points have been distributed between contributors.

This time, since he was considered a level 2 now, he didn’t receive the bonus experience from killing something above his level.

But right now that wasn’t his biggest concern. Out of a party of eight, one person was already dead. To make things worse, two people were now right by the black door that they came from, ready to retreat to the first area and abandon them at a moment’s notice. Those two being Nolan and Michael.

Nolan seemed to have second thoughts about leaving, as he took his hand off the door handle and rearmed his longbow.

Michael likewise was just hedging his bets. If the fight went south he could escape due to his proximity with the door, and the cost of an Exit Pass meant very little to him since he now possessed both his own Exit Pass and Zack’s Exit Pass. But he originally chose to come through the black door to win, so he continued to sling mana bolts at goblins to help out as best as he could.

Marcello assessed Nolan and Michael’s intentions with just a passing glance. In other words, they needed to end this fight swiftly and effectively, or else they risked both the archer and the mage bailing. On the other hand, he was quite reassured that Emma, Troy, and Jason weren’t going to bail.

Oh, he forgot about Sarah. The poor blonde woman was being chased around in circles by two goblins, although one of those chasing goblins just took an arrow to the knee from Nolan.

*Ssssshk*

A toothy goblin managed to sneak up to Marcello and thrust a spear into his back. Were it not for his Light Brigandine (basic), he would’ve taken a severe injury. The spear thrust went through his brigandine and left a puncture wound in his back, but luckily it was not too bad.

It stung like hell though. “Shit,” Marcello grunted, spinning around to face the goblin that just shanked him.

He was just met with a toothy grin from the bloodthirsty little fucker, as it jabbed the crudely-made spear at him again.

With slightly heightened reflexes from before due to his power up from adopting a class, Marcello dodged the hasty spear thrust. The goblin adjusted the spear back towards him, nudging Marcello in the arm with the shaft.

Marcello stepped backwards, trying to find an angle to close the distance on the spear-wielding goblin. It was hard. When he stepped to the right, the goblin shifted his spear to the right. When he stepped to the left, the goblin shifted his spear to the left. All while this was happening, Marcello had to pay close attention to his surroundings as well, to make sure he didn’t get shanked in the back again by another sneaky fucker.

Instead of trying to fight the goblin with his shortsword and risk getting gutted, Marcello decided to turn his back and run a few paces back, before facing towards the goblin and drawing his shortbow.

Seeing the human thief raise his shortbow just a few yards away prompted the spear-wielding goblin to charge forward.

Marcello straightened his back and drew his bowstring, aiming at the goblin charging towards him. Steadying his aim, he aimed for the goblin’s chest and let loose the arrow.

The arrow buried itself in the goblin’s shoulder, just barely connecting. If he had been off by two more inches, the arrow would have missed entirely. With a howl, the goblin recoiled in pain.

That was the opening Marcello needed. Closing the final yard of distance with a sprint, Marcello grabbed the goblin’s crappily hobbled together bamboo and flint spear and pulled it away from its grasp. Dropping the spear on the ground, he swung down with his shortsword and buried the blade in the goblin’s neck, lacerating an artery and causing blood to spurt out uncontrollably.

You have slain [Lvl 2 Goblin] - Experience has been awarded. Tutorial points have been distributed between contributors.

“Raaaaah!” Jason bellowed, swinging his hammer into another goblin’s head. He dealt with hammers his entire life, so this kind of thing was nothing to him. A mana bolt from Emma landed beside him, frying a goblin which was trying to get back onto its feet.

The party of humans cleared the remaining goblins out bit by bit, with no further casualties. The fight turned out to be an absolute massacre, with dead bodies of goblins strewn everywhere, blood spilling onto the floor and broken arrows poking out of bodies en masse.

You have slain [Lvl 3 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.

Ding! [Thief] class has leveled up to level 3. Agility has increased by 0.1.

Ding! [Human] race has leveled up to level 3. All stats have been increased by 0.1.

Marcello killed the final goblin remaining with a dagger to the heart after it was wounded by Emma’s magic. Fifteen goblins were killed in total, and more than half of them were slain before they reached the inner circle. Were it not for the distance, Marcello shuddered to imagine how many people they would’ve lost.

“I think that’s the last of them,” Nolah said with a shaky voice, approaching them again.

Michael was not far behind him, staying awfully quiet for once. But his silence was short lived as he burst into a smile. “Let us rejoice, for we have overcome a trial of unimaginable difficulty!”

“That was it? Booooooringgggg,” Emma said callously.

“Tch,” Troy scoffed. “We lost one. His name was Zack wasn’t it?”

Sarah nodded, speaking up for the first time in a bit. “Yeah. I wanted to help him, but it’s not easy to heal during combat.” She walked up to Jason and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Here, let me help you.” Upon second look at Jason, the hammer wielding builder was hurt very badly. He was their last surviving warrior, and so he really could not die on them.

A warm glow emitted from her hand as her staff lit up as well. The nasty cut on Jason’s shoulder started to mend itself. He hadn’t said much after the battle concluded, as he was more concentrated on internally healing his various wounds. Unlike the rest of the combatants who were flying round the room kiting and using underhanded tactics, Jason was really the only person who actually stood his ground and fought no matter how many goblins surrounded him. It was a miracle that he was still left standing, but then again as a warrior class he had the highest resistances and physical strength out of everyone present.

Troy broke the silence with some chatter. “Overall not a bad job. Just one casualty in a fifty percent survival trial. That’s a passing grade if you ask me.”

“Yes,” Michael replied, that fake smile still hanging on his face. “This is without a doubt a most favorable outcome.”

Nolan had a frown on his face, shooting an accusatory glare at Michael. “How come you took his Exit Pass?”

Michael’s smile instantly faded, a blank expression replacing it. “Because it would have gone to waste otherwise. I had every intention of exiting this trial if it turned out to be unwinnable, just like you. After all, the first one to the exit was you, wasn’t it Nolan?”

Nolan shifted uncomfortably in place, well aware that Michael’s words were true. After their warrior Zack had frozen up, those goblins went directly for Nolan. He had no choice but to run, and the obvious direction to go was directly for the exit back to the first area. He even summoned his Exit Pass out of his inventory in case those goblins caught up, but in the end the goblins chasing him were beaten back by the mages and archers so he decided to stay for a bit longer.

The remaining seven survivors continued to bicker and review the fight, but Marcello looked around the room and frowned. Their fight was a hard won victory for sure, and Marcello surmised that the number of goblins here were way more than the equivalent in the easy difficulty room. But now that the fight had been settled, he noticed something strange– there were unlit torches in the corridor from where the goblins came. His sense was telling him there was something wrong.

“Guys,” Marcello said, staring right into the corridor. “So this is just a hunch, but you see how there are unlit torches in that corridor?” He pointed his finger towards them. “There, on both sides of the wall.”

“Yeah,” Troy replied. “I don’t get it. Any significance?”

“I think there is. So in video games, when you clear an area, the way forward usually gets lit up automatically,” Marcello continued. “If we really cleared this area, those torches should have been lit. It’s not like we were given flint or anything flammable either to light those torches by ourselves.”

“The only logical conclusion is that we haven’t cleared the area yet.”

Silence befell the party as they pondered what he had just said. Someone had already died, and yet the area was still not clear?

“Well, well, don’t we have mister overthinker here,” Troy said with a smirk. “But if I were a betting man, I’d bet that smartypants here is right.” He pulled his sleeve up, revealing a playing card tattoo on his forearm. "I happen to be a betting man, at least back in the day."

“Appreciate the support, goldilocks,” Marcello retorted.

“Ugh, will you two just get a room already?” said Emma in a playfully disinterested voice. “It’s like mom and dad all over aga–”

Her sentence was cut off by an intense killing aura, emanating from the unlit corridor. A tall figure stepped through the gate and into the arena, its feet crunching down on a goblin’s corpse.

Marcello quickly activated a skill that he just acquired in the last fight, [Identify].

[Lvl ? Hobgoblin]

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HereBeTreasure

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