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Chapter 330 - Whitestone Dust in the Jungle

 Chapter 330 - Whitestone Dust in the Jungle

The assault staged by Yunduan City's players caught Linyin City's players by surprise. Moreover, their human minesweeping method was something that Linyin City's players had not expected in the least. Right now, besides them being scattered all over the jungle, another weakness of theirs was revealed: Deep Waters was not with them.

It was not long since Deep Waters' death had sent him to the city's spawn point, so he had yet to make it back to their location. While players could still continue giving directives in MMOs without them being physically present in the location of the fighting, it would be difficult for said players to keep up with any sudden, unexpected changes on the battlefield. Too much time would be wasted just to update the commanders of their situations, discuss possible solutions, and receive their directives.

As such, in the time it took for Linyin City's players to relay the situation over to Deep Waters, the thirty-meter worth of traps that they had set up were handily swept away by the mopping team! There were not actually that many traps buried on the ground as what Yunduan City's players had initially presumed. In any case, their density was definitely at a different level from the thirty meters of traps Deep Waters was dragged through. It seemed that the traps the enemies had prepared alternated between loosely distributed and tightly packed in the various spots around Yunduan City's players. Deep Waters had apparently chosen an area where there was a denser cluster of traps to show up earlier, but that choice had backfired rather spectacularly now.

It was not that Linyin City's players had not worked hard on this, either. They were already doing their darnedest to hold them back; unfortunately, it was to no avail. Against the thousand-man army, the Thieves' attempt to harass and hamper their advancement was ineffective. The archer formation of Traversing Four Seas was truly terrifying as well, and any Linyin City's player that was the slightest bit careless would instantly incur a hail of arrows, even causing some of the Thieves to lose their Stealth when they were collaterally injured. The Yunduan City's Mages even held the upper hand when exchanging AOE spells with the Linyin City's Mages, albeit the former was unaware of this. After all, they were merely bombarding the areas around them with no particular targets in mind as they advanced forward. Only Linyin City's Mages hiding behind the trees knew of their suffering.

The Linyin City's players hid behind the trees and did not dare to move too much for fear of exposing themselves to Traversing Four Seas' archer formation. They looked no different from someone ensnared by the Hunting Trap, yet all they could do was grit their teeth and bear the damage inflicted on them by the cast AOE spells. Surviving through the spells was not impossible, but death was a certainty if they were to face that storm of arrows directly.

Despite this, the mopping team from Yunduan City still had a casualty. But since this person was someone who had been handling the mop, someone else readily stepped in place upon the man's death. One of the players acting as mops failed to hold after becoming loose during the mopping process, but this did not have much of an impact in the big picture of the battle, as the players at the forefront had already broken through the trap encirclement.

Although they had successfully broke through, the Mages did not stop their assault and merely continued to indiscriminately toss spells around them to provide cover fire for the players who had yet to successfully make their way out. Meanwhile, Youthful Reflection sent forth a command, and the Thieves he had previously prepared went into Stealth mode and dispersed themselves all over. Youthful Reflection had made this arrangement to prevent the enemies from setting up traps anew and entrapping them within a fresh web of traps. With these scattered Thieves and other well-placed lookouts silently observing the area, they should be able to notice any enemy movement.

Although the traps on their path had all been triggered, Yunduan City's players remained apprehensive on doing battle within the jungle. None of them was in a hurry to exact vengeance on their enemies, either, as they were unsure if they held any sort of advantage. As such, once all of them broke through the enemies' entrapment, the battalion merely resumed its forward advance with flustered appearances.

The players from Linyin City were actually feeling a lot worse than them. Even Deep Waters heaved a deep sigh when he heard that their initial plan to 'seal and siege' their enemies had failed. It was really not surprising for those players from Yunduan City to survive their assault if they could even bear to employ such a cheap and crude method like the human minesweeping. After all, was it not said that a man would be invincible if he did not care about his appearance?

"So what do we do now?" Facing Traversing Four Seas' powerful archer formation and Yunduan City Mages' reckless blasting of the area around them, Linyin City's men simply did not dare to clash head-on with them.

"Are they going in the right direction?" Deep Waters asked.

"Yes," someone answered. Before entering the Class 2 map, Oathless Sword had done his due diligence to keep track of the direction that they were heading, so all the expedition had to do was stay in the general direction by advancing forward to reach the city. Just like what was said before, even if they strayed from a straight path, they would still reach the vicinity of the city.

"It won't be easy to entrap them again like what we just did. Get everyone to retreat in small teams, harass them on a small scale, and confirm their route of advancement. Do everything you can to hamper their speed so as to buy time for us to conceal our men along their route ahead," Deep Waters ordered.

"Roger that!" The Linyin City's players began to move out. What Deep Waters meant by 'small teams' was actually teams with ten players each. Once they grouped themselves accordingly, each team moved deeper into the jungle in separate directions from their current location.

"Any opportunity to ambush?" Deep Waters asked.

"It'll be a lot harder..." There was plenty of hesitation on this end. "Their Mages are still casting AOE spells to check for hidden enemies."

"They are only checking with spells, so those should not be strong enough to kill. As long as no one makes a sound, they won't find out we're there. What I fear, however, is for the enemies to actually not have a clustered formation like what we thought. There are sure to be Thieves dispersed from the main body, so we may be in for some trouble if they discover our ambush beforehand. We must locate and eliminate these potential threats first. Did you bring the stuff?" Deep Waters asked.

"Of course!"

The 'stuff' that Deep Waters was talking about was naturally the Whitestone Dust that they had imported from Baishi City. This was a specialty of Baishi City from its unique geographical feature and could easily be found across that region. Not even 1 copper coin was needed to gather it. The game designers themselves might not have thought that it could be used by clever players in such a way to counter Stealth.

The neighboring Linyin City had obviously picked up on this particular method as well, so players from it would often travel to Baishi City to gather pouches of Whitestone Dust. However, since such a trip required over six hours, the Linyin City's players considered the item to be valuable and would not utilize it unless absolutely necessary.

Now that they were at the crucial stage of their operation, no one was holding back anything anymore, and the players from various teams each took out a small pouch and tossed it out, as though they were Maoshan Taoists exorcising the area around them of evil spirits.

This one move they did proved to be very effective. Just as Deep Waters had said, some Thieves from Yunduan City had indeed located a few of them and were presently observing their movement. Any Thieves from Baishi City would immediately understand what was happening if they were the ones experiencing this, but since these Thieves from Yunduan City were new to this part, they failed to understand that an anti-Stealth method was being used on them. Quite a handful of them were hit by the scattered dust and were forcefully revealed, with some reacting too slowly to this, remaining unaware that their Stealth had been broken as they stood out in the open in a perfect display of foolish brazenness.

There was nothing much that needed to be said when teams of ten faced only one Thief each. Youthful Reflection quickly received the scattered reports of the Thieves who had been eliminated. "Not good! It seems that the enemies have a way to counter Stealth!"

"No way. There are so many of them that can counter Stealth?" The death count continued to pile up, a clear indication that it was not just one player that could counter Stealth, which blew Oathless Sword's mind.

Still, his reaction reminded Gu Xiaoshang, who was standing not too far from them, of Baishi City's Whitestone Dust that her group had encountered earlier.

"Why didn't you say anything about this earlier?!" Youthful Reflection was angry.

"Nobody asked me." Gu Xiaoshang shrugged.

"Quickly call them all back!" Oathless Sword said.

"There's no rush for that." Youthful Reflection remained composed. "It's very easy to hide in this jungle. Our men only suffered a loss here because they were thinking that their Stealth was foolproof. I'll tell them to be careful, but their reconnaissance task continues."

"Are all the players you sent mercenaries?" Oathless Sword softly murmured to Youthful Reflection. Gu Xiaoshang was still nearby, and he had no intention of letting the woman he was fond of know about this calculated plan of his.

Youthful Reflection nodded his head with the slightest hint of delight. "And none of them asked for additional pay."

"Ha ha!" Oathless Sword relaxed when he heard this. He had an expression that showed his apathy toward their survival. Waving his hands casually, he said, "Let's have them continue their surveillance, then."

"Of course." Youthful Reflection disseminated this order to the various mercenary group leaders.

"Has anyone tabulated our losses thus far?" Oathless Sword asked Youthful Reflection.

"146 men so far!" Youthful Reflection replied, explaining, "This includes those players that did not turn up from the start and the cowards that backed down in the Oolong Mountain Range. Still, this trip to Linyin City has the most casualties as of date."

"D*mn! I'll make that guy pay for what he has done." Oathless Sword was extremely incensed, and the very thought of Deep Waters ignited a fiery hatred in his belly. "How's the losses from the mercenary groups?"

"This... I didn't calculate in detail, but their losses should be about the same as ours," Youthful Reflection answered. The number of mercenaries was substantially fewer than Traversing Four Seas' members to begin with. The fact that their losses were about the same clearly showed just how strong their sense of self-preservation was. This entire conversation had been discussed in hushed tones. Although those mercenaries in the know were aware of the nature of their employment from the very start, it was still not good to mention such matters openly.

While these two's hushed talk was underway, Deep Waters was attempting to get a handle of the situation on his end. Just as Youthful Reflection had said, once the Thieves learned that the enemies had means to counter Stealth, they became more careful with where they hid themselves. It was not easy to be discovered in this dense jungle, after all. Once Deep Waters received the count for the eliminated Thieves, he immediately understood that the enemies began to be more careful with where they hid. He did not have any direct solution to this problem, so he and his comrades could only adopt a casual approach to it and depended on sheer luck to stumble on the enemies.

Still, having played in this jungle of Linyin City since level 0, these local players were accustomed to this type of terrain. The skills that they had employed in this covert warfare clearly showed their experience when compared to the sloppy attempts of those from Yunduan City. Many of the Thieves carefully hiding themselves were still discovered and exterminated by those from Linyin City. Naturally, there were some that managed to get away thanks to their superior movement speed. Nevertheless, Youthful Reflection's expression was looking worse by the moment. It was obvious that the enemies were eliminating their comrade Thieves so as to conceal their movement from them, yet Youthful Reflection could not think of what sort of devious trap the enemies were planning to spring on their expedition.