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95 Ambush From the Nigh

 They said they had to pack up, but they had been toeing the line of poverty for months now, so there wasn't much of anything of value they had to bring.

Before the sky had fully darkened, the villagers were ready to go.

"You guys trekking through the night? Or are you staying until tomorrow?" Jom was standing guard at the village entrance and asked the village elder as the elder walked past.

"We leave immediately," the village elder replied without hesitation, "Although the bandits most likely won't come back that soon, I am responsible for the lives of my villagers, and thus we must leave as soon as possible!"

"What about this guy?" Jom pointed at the malnourished gray Shar-Pei sleeping near the village entrance. "Are you not bringing him along?"

The village elder was silent for a moment, he shook his head. "He's still waiting for his owner to come back, he's not leaving this place."

"But his owner..." Terry had got out before Jom elbowed him in the chest. "Some things are better left unsaid!"

The village elder watched the two quarrel, and turned back to look at the rest of the village, noticing every small detail of his home, his eyes filled up with nostalgia and longing.

From the day he was born, this village had been his everything, every corner of this village was filled with memories of his childhood, of his friends. He hadn't expected to be forced to leave the place he grew up in at such an old age, the old man was obviously devastated.

The village elder was quickly led away by his family.

Under his guidance, villagers carried their belongings and bid their home one last farewell, families who reared animals even had their animals carry miscellaneous items on their back.

Not long later, the village that had just had a noisy, bustling celebration mere hours ago, was now a complete ghost town.

With nightfall, the dead silence that hung in the air left Jom feeling a little anxious, he started to miss the other players.

He didn't like noise or loud sounds, but compared to that, this silence was much worse.

Compared to a place like this, he suddenly realized that he really enjoyed being with his rowdy gang of friends, joking and laughing their way through quests and missions.

He had originally wanted to avoid that sort of situation, that's why he was all the way out here.

"They really are different."

Terry was the first to break the silence, with him not speaking up until now, Jom had thought he was mad at him for elbowing him earlier.

"What's different?"

"If the town was under attack by enemies, I would definitely fight back, I'd never run away!" Terry replied.

"Duh, we can revive."

"It's not like that!" Terry struggled to articulate his feelings. "Even if we couldn't revive, even if we only had one life, I wouldn't let our town get destroyed by some bad guys, I wouldn't let them wreak such havoc!"

"..."

Jom gave the situation some thought, and found himself though not as determined as Terry was, he would still feel horrible about not protecting his home, he would do what he could to help-that is to say, even if there weren't any rewards and his equipment would lose some durability, he would still die about three times to the enemy if it meant protecting their town.

Even he didn't expect to care so much about an ordinary little town.

"Even so, we're in no position to judge the decision of those villagers. A village by definition is a settlement of humans, as long as the people are still here, the village will continue to exist... So to protect the people, giving up the village was the right choice." Jom let out a sigh and tried to change Terry's mind.

"I get what you mean, but they just gave up their home without any hesitation... It just sucks." Terry knew what Jom was saying, but he just couldn't understand who would do such a thing.

Jom was a little dejected. With Terry's IQ, Jom all but gave up trying to come to an agreement with him.

"Wait, Jom, do you hear anything?" Just as Jom was coming to terms with his less than bright teammate, Terry's expression went from confused to alert in a second.

Jom jumped a little, noticing that there was some noise closing in on them from afar.

At first Jom had thought it was some players, but he realized that the sound sounded nothing like players' footsteps, so he thought it was the villagers coming back to protect their village after coming to their senses, but after the sound got closer, he realized he was completely wrong.

"It's the sound of chocobos, the mountain bandits' second wave of attack is coming!"

When Jom went to alert Terry, his friend had already guessed they were enemy units, quickly unsheathing his long sword that never left his side.

Compared to Terry, Jom was thinking about a lot more.

They hadn't let a single bandit go during their previous fight, their enemies should have been completely wiped out. Based on general knowledge, the rest of the mountain bandits had to notice that no one had returned, realize something had gone awry, and then send people to reconfirm.

The whole process should have taken at least a day's time, but the sun had just set and their enemies were already back... This meant that either the mountain bandits could remotely supervise their members' conditions and noticed that something was wrong when their previous wave of enemies were killed, or that the mountain bandits' hideout was extremely close to the village!

Regretfully, neither option was good news for Jom and Terry.

"The ground's still stable, there doesn't seem to be any large creatures." Jom tried to give Terry a smile. "At least their trump card hasn't come."

"But there's a lot of people, from the sound of it about... thirty riders? No, it might be around fifty, that's five times the number of people from this afternoon!" Terry was troubled, with so many enemies, it would be difficult to fight them all of.

And their previous tactic of lowering their enemy's guard before they struck probably wouldn't work when their enemy came fully prepared.

"I should've become a mage, AoE damage is what they're best at..." Jom muttered, "Tsk, with so many people, we might not be able to hold them off for long, I hope those villagers can get away."

Just as the first chocobos entered their line of sight, an arrow whistled past Jom and Terry, landing itself squarely in front of the chocobo rider, causing the mountain bandit to instinctively pull on the chocobo's leash to stop it in its tracks.

Jom and Terry turned to see where the arrow had come from, finding that the villagers had returned. With Joey leading them, they wore pots and helmets and had farming equipment as weapons, each sporting a battle-ready expression.

"If we were to let two kind and innocent children die whilst protecting our abandoned home, we would forever live our lives in guilt!" Joey nocked an arrow with practiced ease, shouting loudly, "Although we are weak, we will give everything we have to protect our village! Everybody, charge!!!"

""Charge-!"