The group were assigned to hunt in 'Area E,' a large subdivision of the hunting area.

As they began to explore the area, walking down a path between large, aged trees, they were surprised when a snake slithered out from a bush beside the path.

The snake had grey-green scales, like leaves in mist, and was slithering at a measured pace across the path. Its name was in orange, [Common Vine Snake], and it was level 60.

The group slowed to a stop to avoid confronting the snake, as even orange creatures could be easily disturbed by people passing by. Crucis used this time to check the snake's profile using his wristband, and found that it was classified as an 'Animal,' and its species had a Dexterity potential of 7 out of 10, meaning that it was likely to have an above-average Dexterity for creatures of its level. It was also marked as 'Possibly Venomous.'

Regardless, Starfighter walked forwards towards the snake, standing up straight to get its attention. He kneeled down as the snake slithered down the path, and lowered his hands carefully beneath the snake, allowing it to slide over without obstruction. He slackened his hands occasionally as it moved, taking care to give it way as it curled around his hands. Crucis noticed that it was still orange-named, and hadn't been provoked into aggression.

"It's alright, as long as you allow the snake to move freely, and don't obstruct it, it should remain orange-named, not go red," Starfighter told the group, as he carefully lifted the snake towards the side of the path.

DicingDevil nodded, and escorted the group across the other side of the path. The level 60 snake, especially if venomous, could endanger a few members of the hunting party. After the group was some distance away, Starfighter released the snake calmly onto a bush next to the path, and it sped off into the trees.

Some DeathGang members congratulated Starfighter or asked him how he had learned to do this. He said that he had spent a long time in the wilderness and interacting with villagers in the Northern forests, and he had become used to dealing with high-level orange-named creatures.

Crucis turned to DicingDevil. "If there are high-level snakes brazenly wandering here, it probably means that there weren't many hunting parties allocated to Area E before. If there were, they probably would have either fought it or reported it to the Rangers. So it might be a good sign, this area might be mostly undisturbed and most of its quests should be free."

"That's true, yes," DicingDevil said, "Nobody has cleared out the entrance yet. Should we report this snake to Rangers?"

"No, it's useful, it could endanger further parties entering this zone behind us."

"Alright, that's true. I saw a few footmarks beside the path, about a day old, so I'd guess that a few people have entered this Area but not many."

"People are levelling up quickly now, we're only just now reaching a good level for this Area. So I'd guess that any earlier parties mostly stuck to shallow, safe parts of the Area, and maybe a few whales went further. But that should still leave a lot for us to explore. We should press Northwards."


The group soon arrived at a clump of pale, green trees, where they could see a bunch of mice and small squirrels scurrying around between the trees. They had picked up a few quests from the Hunting Lodge, which involved killing or capturing these creatures.

A few DeathGang members swarmed in and began stabbing at the mice. However, Crucis had taken advice from Starfighter to develop his skills at trap-setting, because at early stages setting traps would by itself give a good amount of hunting EXP and allow him to develop faster.

He had a quest to capture 5 of the [Grey Squirrel-Mouse], a sort of miniature squirrel which looked like a mouse.

He observed that these seemed reluctant to spend time on the ground, and were more likely to flit between trees, possibly stopping to forage for food once they were near the base of a tree.

These creatures were all classified as E-class creatures, the easiest to catch. They would readily take bait, and made little attempt to avoid traps. They would flee from attackers, however, but were slow to notice any and react, unlike more advanced creatures which would typically flee easily.

Since they were stubborn, Crucis opted to use a type of trap named [Basic Tunnel Trap] which he had bought from the Hunting Lodge's Store. They were rectangular boxes with two open ends, with [Maize Bait] in the centre. He placed four of these between the trees, assuming that the squirrels would try to push through on their path.

He also tried a trap named the [Cardboard Box Trap], a small cardboard box which contained bait and would slam shut as creatures neared the bait. He placed three of these next to the trees.

As he waited, he saw with annoyance that the DeathGang members' struggle for mice was making the squirrels skittish. However, since they were E-class creatures, two of the tunnel traps had slammed shut within a minute with squirrels inside. Crucis carefully lifted these away.

Although he had placed the traps at slight elevation from the ground, to avoid mice sneaking in, there was still a mouse which managed to get caught in one of his box traps. Crucis flipped the trap over until its entrance was on top, which slid the mouse to the back of the trap. He then opened the trap and stabbed the mouse a few times until it was dead.

Replacing the [Maize Bait], he lay this trap carefully next to another tree.

After another minute, one more squirrel had got trapped in a [Tunnel Trap], and one had entered the replaced [Box Trap]. A few of the creatures were skittishly avoiding the bait. He figured that, with creatures that weren't just E-class, it might be useful to lay bait without a trap over a period of time first, until the creatures were accustomed to taking the bait from such sources.

Finally, the third minute saw a slightly tired-looking squirrel drop down from a tree and encounter a [Tunnel Trap] on its way, where it entered and approached the bait. Both of the trap's entrances closed, and Crucis now had the five squirrels he would need. He could take them back to the Hunting Lodge to complete the quest.

However, he still had a quest to kill off 20 of the [Dazed Mouse]. Observing them, he saw that they had small burrows across the area, which they would use to flee from attacks. He placed a few box traps at the burrow entrances, and saw that Starfighter had done the same. However, the mice were seemingly reluctant to take the bait, as they were busy fleeing from intruders.

For Mages like Grisier, killing off the mice quickly was easy due to AoE abilities. Most Mages had completed this quest. Others scampered after the quick-moving, dull-white mice with daggers.

Crucis observed which burrows were seeing the most activity, and crouched next to one of these which was next to a bush. Standing beside the bush, he stabbed at mice which were coming up through the burrow, then tossed them aside quickly. Although the mice soon stopped using this entrance, he had already killed 7 out of 20. Alternating between other burrow entrances, he killed the remaining mice.

He saw that some other DeathGang members were starting to take on a similar approach, instead of dashing anarchically after the mice.

As he waited, besides the squirrels scuttling around in his traps, he saw that DicingDevil had sent Starfighter to fetch something from the Hunting Lodge. Starfighter returned in two minutes, dragging a large, green trolley with slots for traps to be kept in.

Crucis, DicingDevil and Vladimir had managed to catch the creatures already. Vladimir, though young, still had fresh memories of catching and chasing squirrels. He had placed a few tunnel traps near trees, then nimbly chased the squirrels towards the traps. He had caught two of the squirrels by hand, and placed them into box traps, while the rest were caught in the tunnel traps. For most players, catching the fast, small squirrels by hand would be difficult and exhausting.

As such, these three loaded the squirrels into the trolley, and then followed Starfighter to the Hunting Lodge. A level 55 snake was coiled around a tree to their right, but with Starfighter's guidance they passed it by without event.

As they reached the Hunting Lodge, they proceeded to a room on the left, where an NPC looked through their squirrels. Crucis received a decent amount of hunting EXP, enough to gain 15 new skill points. He used this to unlock a few pursuit skills, such as [Jade Eye] which gave your attacks a 5% chance to slow a fleeing animal, and [Meat Preservation] which reduced the chance of spoiling a creature's meat with a strike. He also took the slightly unnecessary [Blunt Force] passive skill, which increased damage for players with heavy swords.

This took him far enough along the skill tree to learn [Dark Eye], a passive skill which increased Agility by 80. It was probably made to help slower warriors keep up with the pace of a hunt. However, Crucis still found it useful, and worth wasting skill points on [Blunt Force]. Decent Agility boosts were scarce, so he figured it was worth taking them if available.

Looking ahead, he saw that he could soon unlock a skill which would increase his Mount speed slightly. Though it wasn't possible to increase Mount speed much in this game, except by getting better Mounts and slowly levelling them up, it was still worth taking small boosts.

As he was scanning through the skill tree, Vladimir emerged from the room with the NPC. The EXP from this quest had barely moved Crucis towards the next level, but it had been enough to raise Vladimir to level 22. As such, the child was smiling, with a slight Muscovite coldness that was almost threatening.

Crucis congratulated him on the level gain, and then sat down to discuss the poem. He saw that Vladimir had already amended it slightly.

Here is green feeld thick
with black bush on fire
that wispers about magic,
what it say is lies.

but still a man kneeling
in front of bush will pray
to get power of magic,
insted he will be dead.

He looks out with light in his eyes,
then drops to eye-less corpse.

His magic staff is a snake
and its venomous bite kill.

"You got 'venomous' from the snake, and 'light in eyes' from the radio?" Crucis asked.

"Yes," Vladimir said with a laugh.

"Excellent. Maybe 'venomous bite' sounds a bit too fluent, but you're learning and soon can include things like that. Do you get many complaints about spelling?"

"Sometimes, but I think some mistake is expected from my class."

"Okay. Then we can leave the remaining mistakes in, probably. It looks more authentic. It's well-written, by the way."

Vladimir smiled.

"One thing that might help is to add a specific location. Even though these guys dislike Russians, this kind of school will often take kindly to an exotic location being mentioned. It suggests that you're somehow 'diverse.' Did you go to any states near Russia?"

"Um, Казахстан (kaazaa-h-staan)? Asian, South? Went there once."

"Yes, I know where you mean."

"We visited a few places, I think best known is Чимкент (sheem-k(y)ent(uh))."

"Alright, so could add 'South of Shymkent.' Maybe also namedrop - um, name Astana somewhere."

"Also, teachers said that it was okay to 'experiment' with 'format' of poem, not just use four line group. Does that mean is okay, or should?"

"It means 'should.' Westerners have no sense of restraint."

Vladimir scrawled over the poem quickly, as Crucis pointed out where alterations could be made.

South of Shymkent, on green feelds,

is a black bush on fire,
that wispers about magic,
what it say is lies,

but stil a man pray kneeling to bush,

voyajer from Astana, he crys
to get power of magic,
insted he will be dead.

He looks out with light in his eyes,
then drops to eye-less corpse.

His magic staff is a snake
and its venom has done kill.

"This should be okay. Maybe the last four lines have too few mistakes," Crucis laughed. "Perhaps 'drop' instead of 'drops' would seem more typical? Also a few more small changes, I'll show you."

"Okay, okay, now I am too good!" Vladimir laughed, then amended the poem. "So then good, will write this on fresh piece of paper. What title?"

"I guess something simple? 'Ghosts of Kazakh Night'? Or something that sounds a bit less exact."

Vladimir wrote 'Ghost When A Kazakh Night.'

"Alright, good. Now copy that over to a new paper. You might make slight mistakes, but that's fine. Since they don't know you much yet, and will be distracted by the deaths, this should be okay. I guess they'll complain that it is 'macabre,' but that is probably what they expect from you by now, the benefit is that the reputation lets you get away with writing more maturely than other students. The 'softball,' easy criticisms mean they won't emphasise other 'flaws,' so they might notice the positives instead."

Gastlem was walking over, but his eyes seemed to be on the Hunting Lodge door.

As Crucis looked up, he saw a large, brown horse with a golden saddle waiting outside the Hunting Lodge. This couldn't belong to a player, since at this stage nobody would have a horse that fancy. Crucis scanned the lobby, to see whom it belonged to.


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