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Chapter 422 - Turning the Ruse

 Since the situation had developed to such a point, the guild leader of Ordnance Works no longer dared to hide the matter. With the entire guild implicated as a result of his actions, the guild channel was set aglow as the many clueless members complained about what happened incessantly. Backed into a corner, the guild leader could only come clean to the other guild leaders: He did not get his hands on the Staff of Resurrection, and that the magic staff his men had picked up from that incident before was a fake.

None of the guild leaders was personally involved in the massacre on the streets and was actually still leisurely imbibing liquor by the beachside bar. There was no need for them to act themselves, after all. The sensation they received from deciding the fate of countless players with this casual meeting pleased them to no end.

All of them were stunned when they received the confession of Ordnance Works' guild leader. They could understand what had prompted Ordnance Works' guild leader to do such a thing, and while they unanimously condemned the man for his shortsightedness, all of them had secretly broken out into a cold sweat. They were certain that had their guild been in Ordnance Works' shoes, it was highly likely that they would have done the same thing, which meant that they would be on the receiving end of this bloodbath.

These guild leaders were congratulating themselves and were once more swept up by the possibility of acquiring the equipment when Tanzanite Shade, Blue Umbra's guild leader, coldly spat, "Does he take us to be idiots? Are we gonna believe that he doesn't have it just like that?"

They all felt that this was a valid argument and began to consider the possibility of Ordnance Works looking to pull a fast one on them. At this, Tanzanite Shade continued to stoke the flames. "We'll definitely not let these men off so easily!"

"That's right! Let's exterminate these b*st*rds!" Everybody was whipped up into a frenzy now.

All the guild leaders present were already on edge, and, adding the effects of the liquor they had just drunk, it was very easy to incite aggression in them. Tanzanite Shade watched them curse and command their troops into continuing their vicious hunt and inadvertently revealed the faintest smirk as he fired off a few instructions of his, "Act quickly! Before the jig is up."

Despite how agitated and riled up these guild leaders were, Tanzanite Shade believed that a few of them were cunning enough to prepare for both eventualities. While they continued to order their men to hunt down Ordnance Works members, they were sure to assign some men to locate Southern Lone Blade and his crew. The land outside Linshui City was not large and the line of sight was hardly obstructed. It was a terrain that was ill-suited to conduct any covert operation, so if his guild did not hurry, the plan he had conceived would be for naught.

Over by the beach outside the city, Gu Fei was still running along the shoreline by himself. He had long left that bunch of players behind, and the scenery presented before him was like reeling silk from a cocoon. Finally, along a seemingly endless stretch of the shore, he saw in the distance a five or six-man group of players. He had finally located who he was looking for.

Southern Lone Blade's squad made a beeline for where their boats were stashed when they left the city gate. Unfortunately, the group had a Warrior and two Priests in it, so the journey still took some time. The largely unobstructed view afforded by the beach had allowed them monitor every direction and they had not witnessed anything strange crop up all this while. Right now, they could see the waves lapping up from where they had hidden their boats. Just as their hearts surged with relief, Glue shouted as he pointed in a direction, "Someone is running toward us!"

"Someone?" Southern Lone Blade did not have Eagle Eye, so he could not clearly make out the approaching figure. Victory was almost within his grasp, so he did not tarry to ponder any further and just ordered the rest to quicken their pace.

Glue had kept his eyes on this figure the whole time. The more familiar the figure seemed, the more fearful he felt. Once he could make out the man with clarity, he bellowed, "Hot d*mn! It's the Video Mage!"

"That guy's like a ghost that just won't leave us alone!" Everybody took a sharp intake of breath.

"He's by himself, though," Flame Singed Clothes said.

A look of glee flashed across their faces. They had misgivings about attacking Gu Fei previously because he had Eternal Dominion by his side, but with him alone, they were confident that there was no single player out there that could go up against their elite group's teamwork.

"Continue onward. We'll take care of him if he comes over," Southern Lone Blade said.

"I wonder how many PK points he has on him now after escaping from that street before."

"If we are lucky, we may just be able to loot his equipment!" These men began to fantasize about a wondrous future.

The six continued to walk while taking note of Gu Fei's movement. Southern Lone Blade sent a message over to Blackwater to confirm his presence before telling the rest to be prepared for combat.

Gu Fei was closing in on them fast and was already within an Archer's attack range, but Glue did not bother to fire off an arrow, as they were very aware of how ineffectual that would be against him. They patiently waited for him to get close enough, so that they could cut off his path of retreat and slowly whittle his HP down.

One step, two steps, three steps... These men silently counted Gu Fei's every step as they constantly made eye-contact with one another, secretly checking his running pattern and already preparing the skills that they would unleash. Just as they mustered their determination to strike, he came to an abrupt halt.

He did not attack and merely lifted his hand to point right behind them, hinting for them to turn back.

"Do not fall for his trick!" Southern Lone Blade was convinced that he was trying to divert their attention and get everybody to turn, so that he could safely cover the remaining distance and attack.

Nevertheless, it was Blackwater, who was currently in Stealth Mode and slowly closing in on Gu Fei from behind, that quickly sent over a message upon seeing the shocking sight behind his comrades: "Big South, behind you!"

Southern Lone Blade had no reason to suspect his comrade, so he quickly looked over his shoulder and saw a pack of players swiftly closing in on them right by the shoreline. The vanguard looked to be lined with Archers, who were preparing to unleash an attack in just a few steps.

"How is this possible?!" Southern Lone Blade received the shock of his life.

The neat formation and carefully configured job-class composition seemed to have been prepared in advance as they headed straight toward them. This clearly showed that the enemies had not fallen for their ruse and had been aware of their movement all this while; they had obviously been lying in wait for them.

The piercing scream of an arrow was heard.

The man leading the pack released his Snipe, aiming it directly at Southern Lone Blade.

Southern Lone Blade blocked this shot and heard that man shout at the same time, "Brother Southern Blade sure is vicious! Who knows how many players have dropped levels fighting over that fake magic staff you dropped? Looks like it's all over for Ordnance Works all thanks to your trick."

Southern Lone Blade dropped his shield and looked at the man speaking, recognizing him to be Blue Umbra's vice guild leader, Reed Arrow of the Willows. He could be considered as the second Archer expert in Linshui City right after Glue, but after the latter lost a level, he could rightfully be recognized as the number one Archer now.

"It seems you guys weren't fooled in the least, though," Southern Lone Blade casually replied, yet his heart was filled with anxiety. At the moment, his group was up against a large number of players in front and the indomitable Mage Gu Fei was still standing right behind them. Escaping would be a huge conundrum. Even if they attempted to take their boats out to the sea right now, one spell bombardment from a Mage was all it would take to wipe them out.

Reed Arrow of the Willows was merely smiled at his words. "That's why we are very thankful to the help Brother Flame Singed Clothes has provided!"

"What?!" Flame Singed Clothes sputtered, thinking that the enemy was trying to sow discord within their ranks. Southern Lone Blade shared his sentiment but suddenly realized what the other meant in two seconds.

"You guys... followed him?" he posed his guess. Indeed, the clueless Flame Singed Clothes was the only one to be blamed.

In the previous battle, he was the only casualty. He was not impeded in the least when he respawned after. His comrades had thought that the enemies had only left men behind to prevent them from logging off, but how would they have guessed that their true intention was far greater?

When Flame Singed Clothes died, Blue Umbra was still the only guild that was on the hunt for them. They feigned ignorance of his respawning and secretly followed him to this spot. The seven had split up earlier, but the enemies had already guessed that they would be gathering once more. Even if that did not happen in the city, they would still have to get on the same boats if they intended to depart from Linshui City. Thus, they tailed Flame Singed Clothes from a safe distance until he led them straight to the other six.

They might have met up earlier than expected at Linshui City's west gate, and their charade had even fooled the others present, but Blue Umbra was not misled even in the slightest. Nevertheless, his guild continued to keep mum about it. This was like how Ordnance Works had tried to turn the trick into an advantage, allowing Southern Lone Blade to believe that they had successfully shaken off their pursuers when the reality was that they had been on their tail, waiting for the perfect moment to kill them in one fell swoop.

Naturally, they were waiting for the full seven-man squad to gather in one place, which would be when they were about to steer their boats away from Linshui City.

Blue Umbra had truly thought this through on a grand scale. They even considered Southern Lone Blade's entire seven-man squad to be in possession of the Staff of Resurrection, and their goal was to take them all down at once. This was the only way that they could ensure that the item would fall right into their palms. Southern Lone Blade was positive that the respective spawn points would be filled with Blue Umbra's members, waiting to ambush them. Essentially, regardless of who was holding that item from here on, the enemies would undoubtedly keep on targeting and looting that person until the Staff of Resurrection dropped.

Blue Umbra Guild Leader Tanzanite Shade had become the main antagonist in this for rallying troops to exterminate Ordnance Works just to complete his plan. Furthermore, he had gathered all the guild leaders together for the purpose of keeping tabs on their movements more easily. All along, they were secretly keeping their sights on the seven-man squad.

Southern Lone Blade was filled with remorse when he thought of this. Being sandwiched between two powerful forces, any compromise would be meaningless. Their only way out of this would be to fight until the bitter end.

The seven exchanged glances, and he saw the same determination from each of them. Reed Arrow of the Willows just happened to direct his men to begin their assault at this moment; the seven flawlessly evaded their incoming arrows, and the seamless coordination between Southern Lone Blade and Flame Singed Clothes was seen once more: With the former providing cover, the latter lay down his Palatial Balefire and Blazing Tree of a Thousand Inferno to quickly cordon off their attackers with a sea of flames.

"Quickly get on the boats!" Glue bellowed. While the two were providing them respite with their seamless coordination, his task was to attack Gu Fei to buy them more time.

In the end, all Gu Fei did was casually dodge that arrow Glue had sent his way, making the Archer feel as if his existence were insignificant and useless.

Southern Lone Blade and his crew took note of Gu Fei's actions even as they hurried toward the boats, but what left them surprised was that he did not even make any attempts to stop them from leaving.