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210 Recruiting An Army

 After they defeated the two humanoids of superior races one after another, the Players returned to the village where a situation was unfolding amongst the family of the Long Ears' chief.

"Uncle, you did what..."

Laybit was glaring in disbelief at Rangka, who still had the two broken pieces of the scepter he had snapped in two.

"Don't start. I was only trying to distract them." Rangka could not help looking embarrassed, aware that his nephew[1] had seen him 'swearing fealty'.

"Your father isn't dead yet," He added, clearing his throat.

"What..." Laybit turned towards his father, who still was not showing any signs of life.

How could he be alive? His heart has stopped, let alone the fact that he wasn't breathing!

But even when that thought crossed Laybit's mind, his hearing-several times stronger than human's-caught a faint sound.

Most wouldn't hear it, but it was rapid and short as it was faint and powerful.

The sound was intermittent, echoing only once after a few moments.

And that sound came from his father's chest.

A heartbeat.

Anyone not paying attention would never hear that exceedingly slow heartbeat.

"That's..." Laybit was taken aback.

"Tortoise breathing," Rangka explained then. "A martial sorcery passed down over generations in our tribe that allows the use to feign death for a moment. That said, Brother's injuries are real, and it would take a long time for him to recover and heal before he could wake from it."

He sighed, before continuing dejectedly and helplessly. "Even so, our kind is still too weak physically despite being able to learn martial sorcery. We would never win against the other despotic humanoid tribes."

***

Xi Wei almost spat out his divine attributes when he left the Invisible Pantheon meeting, returned to his divine kingdom and saw what happened.

Wasn't Tortoise Breathing supposed to be a wuxia thing? Isn't it a little out of character for something like that to appear in this world?

Be that as it may, Xi Wei himself was aware that his perspective differed from mortals. While they could see things on the surface, he could see it down to its essence.

Unlike Chinese martial artists where they use neigong or true qi, the essence of the Long-Ears' martial sorcery was the flow of a special mana around their bodies, and it would be closer to strengthening spells more than actual martial arts.

That wasn't unusual, however, since the nonhumans of the Western Continent had rather singular faith-they were either believers of Bellphon, the God King of Beasts or the spirits of their own ancestors.

However, sacred arts that were connected to Bellphon mostly had to do with taming or crossbreeding beasts. Any such orthodox sacred arts were also preciously rare, just as a clerical system did not exist for it.

On the other hand, for the other nonhumans who worship ancestral spirits, they would actually have different objects of worship since the 'ancestral spirits' of each nonhuman race was different.

That directly led to a blurring of the deity identity for all ancestral spirits, and religious schism had left it for dead even before the Third Divine War began-in fact, it could share the crown of 'most pathetic divine being in history' alongside Rotten Bones.

Therefore, the supernatural power that the Western Continent mostly used was sorcery, a system similar to magic itself. Naturally, martial sorcery is a branch of that sorcery system.

In direct translation, the technique that Rangka just spoke of was a martial art 'resembling a tortoise holding its breath and staying still to feign death'. But when it passed through Xi Wei's cognition, it was automatically translated by his mind into Tortoise Breathing...

That being said, Xi Wei still had his interest pique despite the difference of martial sorcery in contrast to normal magic and sacred arts, not to mention that it made him feel nostalgic about the various techniques in his former world.

Furthermore, the Players might obtain new classes by learning how to train in those abilities, though Xi Wei also really wanted to see the Players going bald for some reason as well...

And as mentioned before, the Western Continent could be considered as virgin lands: rarely any religion exists and it is perfect for preaching.

"Umu. Just when I'm out of ideas for Zonyan and the others should be doing. We'll do just that!"

With that thought in mind, Xi Wei's tentacles danced, the keyboard of the Pantheon Computer making cracking sounds as he started typing.

***

[Ding!]

[Side quest started: Recruit an army]

[Although you have succeeded in reaching the Western Continent, the power of your enemy remained hidden in mists. The God of Games therefore predicts that your adventure would not go smoothly, and you need support right this second! Neither fortune nor the lands are reliable-so try to earn favor of local citizens, laying the foundation and network for your operations in the future!]

[Quest objective: Curry friendliness with the Long-Ears above 'Respect', and convince the chief of the Long Ears to allow the construction of a Lifestone in their settlement]

[Quest Item: Lifestone blueprint (Throw it on the ground and it'll build itself)]

[Quest Reward: Certain EXP and game coins, Ring of the Lion King (Purple, rare item): Buff yourself with 'Splendor of the Beasts' when fighting against the target of your vengeance and his minions]

[Note: What King of Beasts are you if you can't deal with rabbits?! -an anonymous Player named Simba]

Zonyan and Vulcan shared a glance after receiving the quest, immediately understanding that they need to change their original plan of 'hiring a Long-Ear to guide the way→get to the Grayclaw Tribe→defeat Swordtail'.

Now, it appears that the course of their quest had turned to 'gain reputation with the Long-Ears→build a Lifestone→have them lead the way to the Grayclaw tribe→kick Swordtail's butt'.

Moreover, Zonyan understood that Swordtail might not be weaker than he was after fighting the Tigerman Warrior.

After all, that Tigerman Warrior did mention that he wasn't able to defeat Swordtail yet. Though Zonyan's level was higher, his overall ability was inferior if templates were accounted for-the only reason he won was the advantages of Game Rule.

The rich EXP rewards from killing the Tigerman made that very obvious.

As such, things won't fare well for Zonyan if he challenged Swordtail alone, nor would his tribe acknowledge his victory if Vulcan and other players interfered-to nonhumans, a duel with the title of chief in the balance was a sacred affair.

Besides, failing once or twice wouldn't matter if they failed once or twice. All he had to do was wait until he resurrects, sum up his experience in previous challenges and re-challenge Swordtail.

After all, Zonyan no longer lacked patience and the courage to face failure since he had become a Player.

***

In reality, every Player would have experienced the suffering of failure and horrific deaths, be it in their exploration of dungeons where every kind of danger lurks, or when they frequented the Living Dead Cellar of the Rotten Bones High Priest.

Even so, they would learn something from each of their deaths-be it the attacking pattern of their opponents, their vulnerability or a flaw the Player themselves had but did not notice before.

Those aspects are experiences and platforms with which Players defeat stronger adversaries, make up for their lacking and refine their strategies while they continue journeying towards success and new heights!

One could say that Players were Players not because they did not fear death, but because each death empowered them!

Aside from Marni.

Either way, Zonyan's group would have to win the Long-Ears' trust since they needed to earn their reputation. Hence, Zonyan took out a bottle of cola-cum-seawater and handed it to Laybit, who was holding on to his father's 'corpse'.

"If you trust me, please let your father drink this."

"What's that?" Laybit frowned slightly at the cola which no longer had bubbles-he remembered that he wanted to use that same bottle of liquid for barter to have him be their guide. There was curiosity on his face now, with one of his long pink rabbit ears dangling limply while the other was curved into a question symbol.

That look of wariness was as cute as a fluffy kitten.

"Forget it, Brother Vulcan." Joey tried his best to keep the Moe-struck Vulcan pinned, fearful that his beastly side would go into a frenzy and fail their quest entirely.

"It's a One-Time, Single-User Use Satellite Strategy Healing Potion (mixed with water)," Zonyan said, revealing the full name of the item instead of the shorter name that was more popular amongst the Players. "By the way, that blue one is called a Consumable Single-User Use Mini Reventilating Potion."

Laybit tilted his head, left confused by the long names while his eyes narrowed into two little dots. The pink frontal fringe of his hair dangled in a lovely bemused look, and 'I-don't-get-it-but-it-sounds-awesome' was written all over his face.

"By the way, Laybit, could you introduce us?" Rangka seized the perfect moment to interrupt as if it was only natural, just as Zonyan was about to make his potions play.

Unlike the young and less learned Laybit, Rangka was just three years younger than the Long-Ears' chief. As an elder of the tribe, he naturally had experienced much of the world.

From what he knew, Nedlan the Bloodclaw was manageable since he could try to compromise amicably with the Graywolf-man even if he couldn't win.

On the other hand, that Tigerman who had the ancient Saber-tooth bloodline was a completely different matter-his brother who was much stronger was downed with a single punch and barely survived with Tortoise Breathing. Rangka himself would probably be a one-punch kill as well.

And yet, those two fellows who came out of nowhere managed to take down those two with relative ease.

Leaving aside that weird human that smashed Nedlan to death with a tombstone, that Leo was clearly powerful-and brutally so.

The Saber-tooth Tigerman Warrior would bend steel with his heavy blows, and any normal blades would break from a single strike. Even so, the Leo handily parried the Tigerman's fist, before stabbing the Tigerman to death with that same blade which didn't look like anything special!

How much training did it take to get to such level!?

Rangka felt tremendous pressure at that very thought.

[1] the author wrote it as niece here, not sure if he's trying to confuse us on purpose or what