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Marcello flinched upon seeing the level of the evolved hobgoblin. His body was telling him to stay and fight, but his mind was saying otherwise. He had a very hard time defeating that white dire wolf from before, and that was a lower level beast than this evolved giant hobgoblin.

“Stop!” he said out loud to his own body, which was just itching for a fight while under the influence of his armor.

He had to remind himself that he was not some action hero in the middle of a movie. He was just a regular human being. Well, maybe not so much anymore with the powers granted by the system in this new world, but in the end he started out as a human being and so the stench of mortality followed him wherever he went. One misstep and he could end up like Sarah, a half eaten gored mess that was a shell of her former self.

The correct choice in this situation was to retreat, reassess his strategy, and reevaluate how he would tackle on the grossly overleveled hobgoblin using whatever tricks he had up his sleeve.

The ridiculous level of the hobgoblin really put a damper on Marcello’s budding arrogance, grounding him back to reality, and reminding him that if he did not continue to accelerate his growth, imminent death was waiting in every burrow, around every corner. He needed to keep up with the level curve of the forest and the world itself, other humans be damned. Being higher level than other humans meant nothing if he was still so weak.

“Let’s run,” he said to his goblin shaman, grabbing the unfortunate goblin and dragging his pointy eared dark mana battery with him as he equipped his charismatic white spider silk pants for the additional movement speed.

Of course, the hobgoblin was not exactly welcome to the idea of allowing Marcello to escape after killing several goblins.

With an angered roar, the evolved hobgoblin and the other three regular hobgoblins thumped forward, chasing after him. Goblin arrows and other thrown projectile weapons whizzed towards him, prompting Marcello to summon his wooden plank shield and sling it over his back to cover his rear from the incoming projectiles.

He ran as fast as he could, dodging arrows and spear shafts from behind him. Several short breaths he took gave way to a wave of frustration; he just could not get out of this part of the forest fast enough! Pushing himself through the cover of the trees, Marcello swerved and dodged his way through the trees.

Faster, faster, faster! He thought as he ran as fast as he could. Focused on escaping the trail of hobgoblins and worker bee goblins in pursuit of him, he only paid half-attention to the forest ground beneath his feet. Marcello did not realize that he had almost stumbled into a small hole in the ground.

He tripped, his foot going right through the soft soil, causing him to tumble forward. Slowing down, Marcello finally realized that he had almost fallen into a small rabbit hole.

There was a glint of something shiny at the bottom of the rabbit hole, but he had no time to investigate.

The system was as fast as ever to record the event, though.

You have discovered a secret location.

Investigate the rabbit hole [0/1].

“Yeah, well, you can go fuck right off!” Marcello cursed at the system. It constantly teased him with extra stuff that he could explore for rewards, without even addressing the caveat that he was about to die to a level fifty plus hobgoblin if he slowed down to window shop.

From a tutorial wide perspective, not everyone was this lucky. The majority of the initiates were stuck splitting hairs over basic mobs for experience, and here Marcello was running into treasure after treasure, secret after secret. Out of the entire forest of initiates, only he had the luxury of running into so many secret areas and treasures. And that was because only he was able to clear the keepers of the forest and enter the inner section of the forest thus far.

But from his perspective, it was getting a bit annoying for the system to be basically dangling bait after bait above deathtraps. It was like one of those banners in a mobile game basically begging someone to use their crystals for something useless.

In other words, a honey trap. Clickbait. Thumb landmine. Whichever way you wanted to describe it, it was just bait.

“I’ll come back later, so go fuck off for now!” Marcello cursed angrily, casting aside the notifications for later review. He had lost precious time from tripping and being distracted by the notification, and the hobgoblin had caught up.

He even got his nice pants dirty, although the dirt and grime seemed to just float right off from the silky sheen of the pants. Such was the power of a pair of epic grade pants. He probably would never have to wash them, if washing machines were still a thing in this world.

A thick club came hurtling down from above, as Marcello just barely ducked underneath the normal hobgoblin’s blow. Several spear shafts came prodding towards him at the same time from goblin warriors.

Marcello jumped up from his crouch and engaged the oncoming mass of goblins and hobgoblins, deciding that he could fight a while as long as the evolved hobgoblin had not yet arrived into the fray.

He threw a half-swing downward as they charged and felt the large cleaver slice into a goblin from the back of the head as it passed by him. He landed, swung and hit another goblin coming in from the side of his helmet. The goblin, having been surprised by the sudden attack, lost its footing and fell to the ground with a crunch. The rest of the goblins scattered around him and he made a beeline to the oncoming goblin.

Two goblins jumped at him with spears in their hands, but were stopped in midair as the longsword caught the goblin coming from his left. As he pulled it to the ground, Marcello brought his foot up with all the force he could muster to smash into the goblin’s temple and crush his head. A hobgoblin saw him temporarily distracted as he did so and swiped at his knee with a fist, striking his unarmored silk pants and causing a significant amount of force on his kneecap. It was a powerful attack from a strong opponent, but Marcello was stronger at this point. He had grown so much since the initial area, and so he could absorb an unarmored blow like that without caving in.

Switching back to his plate legs, Marcello smashed another goblin warrior’s skull as he pulled himself up and drove the blade into the goblin’s face. It crumpled to the ground, blood leaking from the gaping wound in his head. He dodged another heavy handed blow from a second hobgoblin before yanking back his own goblin shaman slave Grute, who was attempting to escape.

All the while he was ducking and weaving and taking down goblin warriors, Marcello kept an eye out for the goblin shaman. The last thing he needed was for his local guide to be recaptured, leaving him with no information.

As the evolved hobgoblin finally showed itself in the near distance, Marcello grabbed Grute by the waist and hoisted the bone headdress wearing goblin onto his shoulder before switching back to his silk pants and taking off as fast as he could, with the evolved hobgoblin hot on his tail.

---------

“What? Really?” a worried looking woman asked Godfried.

“Yeah. Boss says we’re leaving. More experience for everyone this way.”

Alice listened on with her arms crossed to the woman speaking to Godfried. She didn’t like the sound of this plan, but as a healer she had no real choice in the matter but to go with the crowd.

She had thought that her previous black room squad was a bit eccentric and too crazy for her at times, but now that she had to deal with the likes of Eric and his goons, she kind of missed the comfort that they had brought. They weren’t together for such a long time, but in life-and-death situations, every minute felt like an hour, and hours felt like days. It felt a lot longer than it actually was.

“Ah…” Alice said with a sigh. Every time she thought about the previous zone, she remembered Sarah, Jason, and Marcello. All three of them were dead now, and she was guilty for letting them die.

She wondered how Emma was doing. Alice had heard whispers around camp of some kind of witch with black hair up north that had explosive mana bolts and killed men on sight, and she couldn’t help but think that it was Emma. That girl was a bit unhinged at times, but even she was kind of a saint compared to some of the unsavory men she’d met in her current camp.

Eric, for instance, kept on insisting that she follow his plan for her promotion. Just thinking about it made her shiver in disgust, and his insistence was only getting worse by the day.

Alice was worried that he might actually try to do something, so she stayed vigilant during the night. She hardly slept these days, only taking small naps here and there.

She saw that some of the guards were looking at her with increased interest than before, making her very uncomfortable. Alice walked over to her tent and began to pack her belongings. Eric must have told the guards to keep an eye on her, because they kept taking glances at her no matter what. Her heart was pounding, but she kept her cool as best as she could. It was getting dangerous here, but now was not the right time to leave camp just yet.

---------

He finally escaped the clutches of the goblins by rolling down a hill half an hour ago. It was a while since he heard anything, so Marcello double checked again, just to make sure that he was really in the clear. He was. There was no sign of a goblin or any other monster for the matter.

Having confirmed that, he dusted his armor and pants off, then began to scout the area around him. It was getting very dark now, and he lit a torch with some animal grease he still had left over in his inventory from earlier.

“We’re going to camp here for the night,” Marcello said to his goblin shaman slave. “This area is safe?”

The goblin shaman shook his head. “Grute is not sure. Not been here before.”

“I see,” Marcello replied. He took some pliable twigs that he’d collected from before and began to tie the goblin shaman to a nearby tree. He then fused a bit of it around his body, making absolute sure that the shaman could not escape, but it could still move around in a small radius like a dog on a leash.

“If anything tries to come bite me at night, make sure to bark for me like a watchdog, alright?” Marcello instructed the goblin shaman. “If you do this, I’ll feed you dinner tonight and tomorrow.”

“Need food!” the goblin shaman replied. “Okay.”

Maybe there was no need to get rid of the goblin shaman too soon, Marcello thought. It was nice having a decoy bait slave around when the forest was crawling with monsters.

After setting up camp, Marcello began to carve a few wooden sounders that he placed around the perimeter of his camp, and connected them all with a bit of sinew that he harvested from the deer earlier. That would act as a sound alarm in case anything tried to ambush him at night. Any hobgoblins or worse, for example.

Finally, after making absolutely sure that he tied the sinews properly, Marcello took out his sleeping tent and sleeping bag. He cooked some food over a small fire first, fed Grute and himself, then washed up and prepared to go to bed.

The night rolled as Marcello and his goblin companion slept unperturbed, until a particular sound began to emerge from the forest.

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HereBeTreasure

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