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As he walked towards the Storage facility, to place his recent loot for safekeeping, Crucis found that one of the guards he killed had dropped an item named [Light Novel #5]. By selecting it, Crucis was presented with a passage of text:

<"Things may look hopeless, but do not lose hope! To redeem our poor academic performance, we must cultivate our inner energy from Rank F to Rank A. Though we are classified as the least-performing students, we must work on our cultivation until our study skills become God-tier!" said Lu Yuan, emphatically.

A couple of the students beside him had been demotivated, after their class was lectured by several teachers about how bad their study skill is because of their low level of cultivation.

However, Chu An's ears perked up and she replied, 'That is an ambitious but wise idea. Through punctual attendance, silence when the teacher is speaking, respect for elders, and dedicated hours of study, we may refine our inner energy until we reach the Rank A of cultivation. Then our study powers shall be even with that of the gods!"

On hearing the silent Chu An so enthusiastic, some of the others around were also enthused. However, a classmate named Yang was sceptical, asking, "We are condemned to our fate, for our inner energy is of a poor quality. The effort required to overcome this innate deficiency is immense, and perhaps impossible. For most of us, it would be better to focus on other walks of life or train in professions."

"The highest classes are already reaching Rank C. We are all at Rank F. Each of you should contribute so that we become the paragon of this school and master cultivators!" pleaded Chu An.

At this honest request, even Yang was hesitant. However, he quietly walked away. How were they to master cultivation and become a class of godlike swots if they could not get their class to participate?>

Crucis groaned in disgust, and discarded the light novel. The text after that excerpt had been garbled due to the bug, and he reflected that this might be for the best.

He had killed four guards out of the required five so far, after finding a weak level 3 guard on his way here. However, the fight with two guards earlier was slightly tense, and that made him cautious. He decided that it might be useful to find ways of attacking the guards more safely, as the Hashin had done when they hid before launching their unexpected assault.

He approached the Storage building, but glimpsed a pond behind it in a secluded, dark-green area. Walking up to the pond, Crucis was pushed back automatically. He recognised the feeling, as it resembled the mechanics that the game used to propel the Agile Step skill. While this skill begun as a simple step forwards drawing on Agility, once he had increased the skill to level 3 his step had seemed to warp forwards automatically and instantaneously. Seeing a [Wild Duck] in the pond, a creature that could usually be fought but was now often inaccessible due to the water deflecting players, Crucis attempted to use a [Slash] with [Agile Step].

The [Agile Step] was triggered, but as his step landed he found that he was still at approximately the same position as before, as if his step had warped into the same place he started. He hadn't noticed the water's deflection, meaning that the game had seemingly conflated the deflection with the warp from Agile Step and treated them as one instantaneous movement. This didn't happen to take him anywhere, but he still found it amusing that he could step forwards yet go nowhere. He waited a short while so that he could test what would happen if he stepped towards the water at an angle.

However, as he waited, he heard a footstep and turned around. It was a level 5 [Novice Guard], who was patrolling the area around the Storage building. This was a good opportunity to kill a guard without running into any friends of the player he had just killed, since going back to the Weaponry Store alleys could be risky for now. He knew that he would have to be cautious when attacking this guard, as guards in this area tended to be stronger than the ones elsewhere, and since there were plenty of guards here he could easily get mobbed if noticed. Regardless, he quickly drew out his dagger, and approached the guard. The guard was heavily armoured, so Crucis decided that an ordinary melee fight would be out of the question. However, he knew that the guards, like most land creatures, were programmed not to enter the water unless they were forced into it. He hence thought that he might be able to force the guard towards the edge of the pond. Since the guard would not enter the pond, the guard would instead be sandwiched between Crucis on one side and the pond on the other, with slippery ground meaning that the guard would become an off-balance, static target.

Kicking firmly at the guard's back, Crucis sent the guard falling towards the end of the pond. However, as Crucis walked forwards to further his offence, the kneeling guard firmly grabbed Crucis around the waist and used superior Strength to throw the Assassin to the ground. Crucis felt his hands and chest landing on wet mud, but used his high Agility to recoil quickly to his feet with a frog-like motion from his hands and legs against the ground. He saw the guard also standing nearby, a few steps away from the pond, holding a large mace. While Crucis sensed that this fight may not have been a good idea, he didn't think that he could escape easily when this guard would simply run after him quickly and call on some comrades along the way to help.

Crucis stepped cautiously towards the guard, but then leapt high towards the water as the guard approached him. He felt himself being teleported a few feet away from the water, and materialised in about a second hanging in the air just behind the guard's right shoulder. Since he was static for a moment in the air, he carefully aimed a [Ripper] at the confused guard, and tore a thick gash across the guard's neckline on the shoulder. The guard was unprepared for this aerial assault, and Crucis followed up by grabbing the guard's shoulder to remain in the air and stabbing hard towards the guard's face with [Stunning Dagger]. Blood spurted from the dark wound in the guard's forehead, and Crucis let his feet drift to the ground as the guard was briefly paralysed. The guard was on 20% HP now. As Crucis had expected, the water hotfix had been a hasty band-aid to prevent players from dying over water, and the AI had mostly not been adapted to take it into account.

Crucis kicked the guard to the ground, hoping it would weaken the guard's ability to fight back. However, he was surprised as the guard raised a kneeling leg and kicked Crucis above his own knee, sending the Assassin falling to the ground at 65% HP. As he tried to get up, he found himself thrown down again by a wild mace swing as the guard crouched up from the ground. Crucis was now at 45% HP.

Since the guard was bleeding, his HP was steadily declining. Crucis used his superior Agility to keep his distance from the guard, sidestepping around the pond and across the walls in order to weaken the guard before striking. The guard watched him carefully, and prepared to attack with the mace, occasionally charging in Crucis's direction to try and catch him.

However, the guard was now at 10% HP, meaning that Crucis could kill him quickly. Crucis knew that if he didn't attack quickly, he would likely be found by another guard, but he was reluctant after seeing the force of the mace. Using the [Stealth] skill, Crucis breezily ran up to the guard, and used a hasty [Ripper] from behind, which barely missed the guard's neck and scraped a small wound between the guard's shoulders. Cursing silently at this erratic strike, Crucis tried to back off but felt the guard shove him powerfully to the ground. Quickly getting up, Crucis saw the guard, with 6% HP remaining, bearing down on him with the mace. Crucis knew that close combat would be difficult, and stepped onto a patch of wet mud that he saw next to the pond. The guard followed him.

Due to the guard's lower Agility, Crucis assumed that they would be more off-balance on this slippery area. However, even Crucis was finding it awkward to walk across. Since [Agile Step] teleported him, he used it to avoid the difficulties of fighting on this terrain, and snuck a [Stunning Dagger] blow to the guard's right shoulder. Stepping quickly around the paralysed guard, Crucis grabbed the guard in a [Chokehold], and lifted his own feet from the wet ground to perch knee-first on the guard's back. The guard was already off-balance, so being kneed in the back sent him careening downwards in a wild fall forwards. The guard's fall was out-of-control like the lurch of a drunkard in a car crash. Crucis was surprised by the fall, and sprung off the guard as soon as he was near the ground. While Crucis rolled safely to his feet next to the guard, the guard had fallen face-first and his wounded face was bleeding profusely, along with cuts across his chest. He had died from the fall, and Crucis relaxed his body slightly.

Looking through his loot from the guard, Crucis saw a few pieces of Strength-based equipment, along with a potentially useful Strength-increasing string necklace. Leaving the dead guard's body, Crucis used [Stealth] and hiddenly ran back towards the entrance of the Storage building. Appearing at this entrance, he walked past a couple of guards and found a few 'Bankers' standing in the corners of the building. Storing most of his inventory with them, he tried to make sure to only keep items that he would need for practical reasons, like bandages which could heal small amounts of HP over time between fights. Other than necessary or combat items, it was safer to store things here such that they couldn't be lost on death. Crucis eventually looked at his near-empty inventory with some satisfaction, knowing that he could afford to be more adventurous. The killing of the guard had completed his Assassin class quest, and given him enough EXP to reach level 11.

Returning to the Assassin class trainer, Crucis was congratulated on completing the quest, and informed that he had unlocked a new optional quest by reaching level 10. This quest involved slaying a boss, a courtier from a faraway Kingdom who was visiting and was lodged near Kruxol. Crucis was initially hesitant, because he knew that bosses could now inflict actual pain. However, he remembered the level 10 optional Mage quest being fairly easy and giving high EXP, and its boss not being that impressive, so he decided that he might as well try. He was told to enter an old, grey building just to the East of Kruxol, where the courtier currently occupied a room which was marked with the letter 'A' on its door. If done carefully, the NPC further explained that the courtier could be attacked without alerting him first.

Crucis found the building quickly, and slipped in. He saw a door down a corridor to his left, with the red letter 'A' written on it. However, as he turned towards it, he felt a sharp pain in his left shoulder as an arrow grazed him from behind. Turning back, he realised that while he had been focusing on the door, the [Visiting Courtier] boss had been waiting on a nearby stairway with a bow and anticipating intruders. Crucis realised that he should have observed the location more carefully. Sprinting to pursue to courtier, he heard a shout as a level 5 [Coachman] emerged from the door down the corridor and rushed him. Crucis tried to ignore this new assailant, and focused on the courtier. The courtier had climbed higher on the high set of crumbling stairs, and had his bow prepared. Crucis knew that trying to follow the courtier up the stairs would just subject him to a hail of arrows, even if he tried to use [Stealth], because the narrow stairway would make him an easy target. The courtier let off a few wayward shots from the stairway, as he tried to balance on the crumbling stairs.

As Crucis considered how to attack the courtier, the large [Coachman] caught up to him and shoved him to his knees. Crucis didn't want to be caught in a brawl with this character, while being fired on from above. He used [Stealth] to get around the character, and grabbed the coachman in a [Choke Hold]. Holding the coachman as a shield in front of him, he began to walk up the stairs. It was an awkward climb up the narrow, crumbling stone stairway, but Crucis noticed that the courtier was hesitant to attack when his ally was in the way. Although the coachman was trying to push him away, the low-level character was not successful and would anyway have nowhere to run unless he threw himself from the stairway. Crucis used [Stunning Dagger] on his human shield to keep it stable, as he trekked up the stairs.

He saw the courtier launch an arrow using an attack named [Swift bolt], loosing a quick shot in Crucis's direction, but as Crucis expected the level 10 boss didn't have enough finesse to hit Crucis and the arrow instead collided with the [Coachman], reducing him to 10% HP. Seeing this, the courtier gave up and ran away onto the second floor of the building. Crucis tossed his human shield off the narrow stairway, and ran up the stairs in pursuit. The [Coachman] made a loud noise as he hit the cold ground and died.

When Crucis reached the second floor, he saw the courtier slip into a narrow corridor near the stairway. Crucis knew that he would be instantly attacked by arrows if he tried to enter the corridor. The boss seemed to try and lure the player into narrow corridors to make them easier targets and nullify the effects of Stealth. This could also make the encounter more difficult for teams of players. Crucis decided that he should try and find another way to reach the courtier, and thought back to the bug which Byron had showed him. He expected the courtier to be waiting in the corridor for him, based on what he had seen of the boss's behaviour so far, and so he waited by the stairway and quickly navigated to open his Character page. There, he saw that he had gained an extra two points to develop basic skills, after he completed the Novice Guard quest. He used both of these points to level up his [Agile Step] skill, unlocking the ability to use [Agile Step] even without an attack following it.

Having done this, he sidestepped briefly next to the walls of the corridor, until he saw a part of them bug out slightly and appear in two different places at once. Using [Agile Step], he moved to enter the extra wall that he had just seen, and found himself inside the wall after the step. He saw the courtier lying in wait on the far left of the corridor. Shuffling carefully along the thick, cold wall, making sure to avoid emerging into the corridor and being shot, he approached the courtier. When he reached, he used [Stealth] and entered the corridor, behind the courtier, then used [Stunning Dagger] to pierce a wound between the courtier's right shoulder and neck. Seeing the courtier temporarily paralysed, Crucis slashed hard at the courtier's exposed neck with [Ripper], tearing a bleeding gash through it. Using his right arm for a [Chokehold], Crucis applied further pressure to the courtier's wounded neck. The courtier was at 15% HP now, and it was reducing as he was bleeding and choking.

The courtier drew out a throwing knife from the side of his green coat, and tried haphazardly thrusting it at Cael. While Cael tried to avoid it, the courtier took advantage of the distraction by using his elbow to shove Cael harshly to the left. Colliding with the left wall of the corridor, Cael almost lost his grip, but managed to keep a hold of the courtier and drag him to the left. He tried to keep a hold on the struggling courtier, but soon felt the courtier's writhing and shoving end as the damage from bleeding erased his last point of HP. Cael knew that this fight would have been much more difficult if he had entered the corridor normally, becoming a target for the courtier's ranged attacks. Since he had attacked from an unexpected angle while the courtier was preparing to fire across the corridor, it was easy to aim for the courtier's exposed neck and lock them down. Without that, the courtier's use of the terrain made this fight quite difficult, for a level 10 boss.

Checking on his rewards, he found that killing the courtier had given him a large amount of EXP, enough to reach level 14. Further, the courtier had dropped some good Dexterity-boosting gear. He decided to wear the following:

[Fencer's Boots | Increase Dexterity by 80, and Agility by 40.]
[Trap Talisman | When you pin the enemy to the wall or terrain, your Dexterity is doubled.]
[Hunter's gloves | Dexterity increases by 100 during fights.]

The [Trap Talisman] sounded powerful if used in appropriate situations, like the walled hallways that he was in. Further, he considered that if he was using the bug he might be attacking enemies near walls anyway, and hence the ability to attack unexpectedly and gain additional speed would make him even more effective. Since 10% of the Dexterity stat was converted into Agility, this could become powerful if he had high Dexterity and Agility, which he would need to survive in the wild for now.

On reaching the Assassin trainer NPC to turn in the quest, he received enough extra EXP to reach level 15. As he recalled, the EXP dropped from these missions was very high. Due to the level gain and increased experience with the dagger, he had gained several points to unlock new skills. Checking his Character screen, he saw that his three dagger skill points were enough to unlock an additional ability, named [Black Spot]. At its base level, it would allow him to slit the opponent's throat and cause bleeding, with more precision than slashing with the [Ripper] move. He acquired this skill, and then scanned the area around the town for anything to test it on. Instead, he saw a party with several powerful players, returning to Kruxol from the West.

"To win, you need to adapt, and to adapt, you need to be able to laugh away all the restraints. Everything holding you back."
(The Batman Who Laughs.)
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MOROSE

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