"Find some monsters to kill nearby, and these guys will help you!" Kleoboule said to the children.

The children immediately spread out across the area, fighting groups of creatures at the edges of the boss' lair. A few children approached deeper into the woods, but were told to come back.

Crucis walked around helping the kids with occasional simple advice, such as to use area-of-effect attacks on mobs, avoid using [Lunge] on fast-moving opponents when they could easily dodge, and to use the sword's range to attack enemies while remaining distant with footwork.

The most talkative child here was Stacy, who was fighting a herd of [Stray Cat] enemies. Crucis playfully chided her for killing such cute creatures, but she soon asked him about her technique. He advised crouching down slightly, and keeping a distance from the cats' main weapons of claws and teeth. She continued asking questions, however, including miscellaneous ones about what kinds of swords he would recommend for her. Since she was a Ranger, he recommended a light, fast weapon with effective Dexterity bonuses.

As she hesitated for a moment between questions, he used the opportunity to approach another child who was asking for help. That child was named [Bacsuu], and was a young Englishman who lived in Thailand. Crucis had seen earlier that Bacsuu was a Mage, and was trying to use some kind of ice spell.

"Do you have any ice spells?" Crucis asked.

"Only a weak one, [Ice Flair]. It said it came with a donation package, I think?"

"I see. Well, there's a fountain nearby, you can use that to power up ice spells."

Bacsuu smiled at this information, then used the ice to power up his [Ice Flair] attack, which he cast on a pack of rabbits. The water froze into an array of ice that flew towards the rabbits, reducing them to below 30% HP. Crucis smiled.

"Thank you!" Bacsuu said, and the teachers looked impressed at this display.

However, a couple of children who had also been fighting the rabbits looked on with some consternation.

As Crucis expected, the children's increased use of area-of-effect attacks and combinations of moves had led to some children running out of enemies to attack, as one or two children could now clear a mob in a short time. Since children were killing more mobs each, the same amount of mobs was now cleared by fewer players. A few children broke off from the group and started to wander deeper into the woods, in search of mobs to kill.

Kleoboule ignored this briefly, as she was looking at the kids' increased power with a smile, but soon she was forced to attention as a child cried out limply from behind a clump of trees.

Crucis quickly ran behind these trees, and saw that the child had run into a group of level 25 [Anteater] enemies, and one of their bites had reduced the level 18 student to 85% HP. Crucis stabbed at the Anteater with [Lunge], to get it off the child's back.

"It's alright, just an anteater," Crucis called behind him. "I got it off him. He'll be alright, I'll watch over him and help for a bit. There's no space back there, so he's just trying to spread out, I'll see if I can find a better mob for him nearby as well."

"Are you alright, Steve?" Kleoboule called.

"Yeah! I'm killing an anteater!," said the boy, as Crucis directed him to use a combination of [Slash] and [Overhead slash] to pin the heavy anteater down and then strike them. Crucis killed most of the other anteaters, to keep them from interfering.

"Alright, take care! Make sure he stays nearby!"

Kleoboule took a quick look at the situation, then walked back to deal with some children asking for help. Crucis got the impression that, since the school was new and found it difficult to control the students, this child being protected and near the rest of the group was seen as fairly benign. Besides, the children did clearly need to span out slightly because of the lack of mobs, and would probably ignore requests to return.

As Steve was focusing on an anteater, he was surprised by a harsh, paralytic [Stunning Blow] to the back of the neck from Crucis' dagger, followed by a sharp [Silent Stab] slightly higher and a [Dagger Twist] high at the back of the neck. Steve fell limp and died without a sound, with Crucis lowering him silently into a bush nearby.

Crucis then drew out his [Silver Wasp] sword and began slashing across rows of anteaters, until a thick black mist began to fill the air. He used this period to change back into the shinobi shozoku, and prepared his dagger.

Soon, he heard light footsteps approaching from the direction of the children. An impatient Stacy was walking carefully into the woods to find him, taking care because she had heard bad rumours about the woods. Nonetheless, she kept going.

As she turned towards the anteater mobs, she was surprised by a [Chokehold] from behind and a [Stunning Dagger] strike beneath her chest. Her eyes darted to the side, where she saw a pair of monstrous red eyes and a large set of jaws which approached her neck. A large claw dripping blood seemed to be pulling away from her left side.

Due to the chokehold on her fragile neck, she could only manage a weak half-scream, before Crucis' blade slashed harshly across her throat with [Black Spot], causing a gash through her neck, and then beheaded her with a fierce [The Ripper] cutting through the wound. From her perspective, it looked like the large, white pair of jaws was tearing her neck apart, and tears rolled down her cheeks.

As the black mist spread across the area, the group of children heard a quiet, muffled noise like a large bear mauling and gnashing. However, the noise ended quickly, and may have just been one of the eerie noises that occasionally emerged from the woods. Further, it was difficult to make out for most of the group, who were busy engaging in melee combat and were surrounded by the noise of swords and collisions.

"Oh no, not the demon bear!" shouted Bacsuu, who had a clearer impression of the sound.

"No such thing!" HeroinEGirl responded stubbornly.

However, it was now silent in the direction of the noise.

"I'll check on it, I'm sure there's no bear! But please start walking towards the exit," Kleoboule said.

She took a few tentative steps towards the woods, prepared to run away if any noises or large shapes came into view. Like any seasoned purveyor of bogeymen, she herself sometimes wondered if they were real. As such, she was in doubt, but knew that she was expected to get the children to safety.

However, she was shocked when the silhouette of a bear materialised behind her, and used its right paw to shove her by the neck until she collided face-first with a tree on the edge of the woods. As she gasped, Crucis stabbed the back of her neck with an accurate [Panoramic Strike], which looked like a bear's bite to onlookers. He shrugged off a weak [Ice Air] from Bacsuu, then edged closer to Kleoboule to begin using [The Ripper] across the left side of her neck as she remained hoisted to the tree. As he leaned against her, he saw that her black eyes were gaping upwards, slowly dripping tears.

Her frozen, wide eyes seemed to suggest a sense of resignation, as if she was watching her hopes inexorably fade away but had lost track of the world around her. They would occasionally glimmer in fear.

The people nearby were also scared, at the sight of what seemed to be a bear mauling her to death.

As Crucis carved across Kleoboule's neck, he heard Abacur bravely approaching to protect her. He quickly used [Silent Stab] to stab painfully into the wound on the left of her neck, then grabbed her in a brief [Chokehold] and slammed her face bluntly against the tree, feeling her pulse fade as she died and fell leadenly to the ground. He edged around the tree to avoid the Knight Abacur's heavy blow.

Abacur's sword collided loudly with the tree.

Approaching Abacur, he drifted to the side slightly and drew the [Silver Wasp] sword. As Abacur used [Charge] and trudged forwards towards Crucis, Crucis ducked to the side and used [Agile Step] to reach behind Abacur's left shoulder. There, Crucis used a [Mordhau] to land a clear blunt strike on the back of Abacur's shoddy [Grass-Patterned Helmet], which sent Abacur to ground besides his broken helmet. Crouching behind Abacur, Crucis killed the teacher with a series of harsh stabs to the neck and back of the head.

Since the town lacked a Storage system, the teachers had been carrying a few pieces of rare technology donated to the school to assist with lessons, which Crucis noticed as it transferred into his inventory.

However, by now two level 45 guard players had come up to him, and were reluctantly beginning to strike at him. Though 'guards,' they were not [Guard] NPCs, just players asked to secure this area around the village. The sight of the mythical bear made them reluctant, as well as the fact that, though they were 'guards' for the school, their employment was barely formalised and their heart wasn't really in this fight.

Crucis swung around and released a fierce [Mordhau] at one of these guards, who Grisier had frozen in place with a [Breath of Ice]. It connected squarely with the guard's head, and a series of [Slash] and [Overhead slash] to the neck took the guard to 40% HP and sent them to the ground. Crucis then ignored the guard. Since the [Nightmare] effect here was strong, that guard was unsighted by the mist and now highly inaccurate. However, the guard behind Crucis was now landing a few desperate, trembling blows, and cut a small bleeding gash by Crucis' left shoulder.

Crucis grabbed this guard's weakly-swung sword, then delivered a fierce cut to the guard's hand with [Slash]. As the guard recoiled in pain, Crucis jagged back and used a fierce [Lunge] which cut straight into his opponent's lower throat. With his opponent now down to 32% HP and falling to the ground, he smirked and said, "You should have run. If you made it to Kaxil, nobody would care that you deserted."

The other guard had got to their feet and flailed at Crucis with a sword, but the strike was wide and Crucis easily swayed out of the way before stepping up and stabbing the guard in the face, then leaning up to them and shoving them to the ground.

He finished both guards off by kneeling over each of them, placing a [Chokehold], and using [Half-swording] to stab their strained necks. Blood littered the flowers and soft grass around them.

He saw that, by this point, the children had begun retreating heavily towards the tunnel, but were cut off by the DeathGang members. DicingDevil and Akshel had begun mowing down the children with swords, taking only a few slashes to kill rows of the low-level children. Grisier also made short work of the kids, using [Ice Blast] to clear out groups of them. Near the fountain, he was very strong, though he barely needed to be.

Dionarcy was using his shield to block the narrow tunnel entrance, and fend off two level 30 guard players who were trying to make their way through. Starfighter also held a harmless mock-fight with DicingDevil on the side, to block any other guards from attacking at that angle.

Crucis soon surged forwards and dispatched the remaining children, with his sword flitting between them like a butterfly as he struck with precision across their necks to kill them. They fell to the ground like daisies. Due to the [Nightmare] effect and high Agility, he could finish weaker enemies easily at this stage.

As a few guards blindly attempted to flee from the bear, Dionarcy shrugged and pushed them through into the tunnel, where they were sandwiched between Dionarcy's shield and the approaching guards. Crucis heard a large crowd beginning to gather in the tunnel, and DicingDevil bade a retreat.

Grisier cast [Breath of Ice] at the guards sandwiched in the tunnel, freezing them in place, and then the group began to run Northwards into the woods. As the crowd in the tunnel pushed through the runaway guards and trampled over them, the group of gankers had disappeared into the black mist.

DicingDevil safely led the group out of a small gateway which he had seen earlier, on the East side of the fencing.


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