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Chapter 174 – Exchange

    Chapter 174 - Exchange

    Nie Yan didn't rely on potions too much, but still ended up consuming quite a few of them every day. His use was almost negligible when compared with the groups of players that sought to increase their mobbing speed or take on stronger monsters. Players in Calore consumed a potion every single day, on average. The Starry Night Potion Shop produced 60% of the potions available in the market. How many potions per day was that? It was no surprise that the Starry Night Potion Shop was having trouble accommodating its perpetually increasing clientele, even with all of the recent expansions. Nie Yan planned to open up several branch locations. Now that he found a few more high-end Alchemy Recipes, the Starry Night Potion Shop could further increase its profits and growth.

    After spending the entire day running around to find and open chests, Nie Yan's Junior Lockpicking Specialist was at 67/100. His progress was exceptionally quick. The skill would soon reach the Intermediate rank. Once it advanced, he could finally move on to higher level maps.

    Nie Yan took a quick glance at the level leaderboards. Tang Yao recently reached Level 26, but he was showing signs of slowing down. The Scaled Frogs didn't give him as much bonus experience anymore. Heaven Breaker, on the other hand, was still leveling as fiercely as ever, but he still needed a couple of days to overtake Tang Yao.

    I'll let Tang Yao grind Scaled Frogs for another day or two, Nie Yan thought as he continued his journey towards the Light Monastery.

    The Light Monastery was an ancient ruin from the Era of Shared Governance. It was an important stronghold for humanity's resistance against the dragons during the Dark Era. Countless dragons perished from its purifying light for over two millennia. It was eventually abandoned for some unknown reason, and turned into a bandit stronghold.

    A Level 30 zone, the Light Monastery was home to some hostile human NPCs that were a pain to deal with. Despite the hassle, Nie Yan had to go there and poke around in order to retrieve the Chapter of Justice. Once he collected all six chapters and merged them together into the first volume of the Book of Order, they would be permanently bound to him. He would no longer have to worry about the chapters dropping and being claimed by others in the event of his death.

    Nie Yan was making his way through a rocky region when he noticed a gorgeous, golden shimmer on top of a cliff in the distance, reflecting the sunlight. His mind trembled once he recognized what that particular shimmer represented.

    That's a gold treasure chest!

    Nie Yan had opened 67 chests until now, but very few of them were gold chests. The ones he did find all contained incredibly valuable items. He was passing through a Level 25 zone right now, which meant that the item contained within that chest would be Level 25 Gold-grade at minimum.

    Nie Yan dashed towards the shimmering cliff, running over the rugged and uneven terrain. Ordinary players would have a hard time traversing it, but it posed little difficulty for him. His Jump, Balance, Dexterity, and other movement stats were all very high, to the extent that he could disregard the terrain.

    He flipped and jumped over piles of boulders and jutting rocks, and finally reached the cliff face where he activated the Crawler Ring's ability. He stuck to the rock wall like a gecko, quickly climbing to the top. The golden treasure chest was within reach! He pulled himself up over the edge and started walking towards the chest. Right as he took his first few steps, he felt a strange tingling at the back of his head.

    Another Thief!

    Nie Yan quickly determined the general direction the other Thief was hiding in with his keen senses. Blood quickly filled the whites of his eyes, turning his gaze bloodshot.

    Eye of Truth!

    He searched the area with the enhanced vision from his skill, but couldn't discover where exactly his opponent was hiding! The Eye of Truth only gave him a chance of penetrating through an enemy's Stealth; there were also times it would fail. Nie Yan let the Eye of Truth fade, his eyes returning to their normal colour. He paid close attention to the ground around him for any subtle movements from the other Thief instead of going for the chest.

    He'd be immobilized and defenseless while opening the chest, leaving himself open to sneak attacks. If the Thief took advantage of that opportunity to stun him with a Smothering Strike, he was done for. Someone roaming around a Level 25 map wasn't an ordinary player. Average players wouldn't enter maps above their level; the risk wasn't worth it to them. Only expert players, like his opponent, would venture out into higher level maps like this one.

    Nie Yan activated Stealth while simultaneously erasing his tracks.

    ...

    Hapless Frog was a professional gamer-someone who made a living playing virtual reality massive multiplayer online games. With his recent foray into Conviction, although he wasn't ranked at the very top of the leaderboards, he was still somewhat well-known. Just because a player was skilled didn't mean they would place on the leaderboards. Strength in the form of a guild, financial resources, and so on also played an important role. Kill Love and Sleepy Fox placed near the top because they fulfilled such factors. But as a solo player who didn't have an organization behind him, Hapless Frog could only be ranked at the top two hundreds. However, one should not equate ability to statistics; based solely on skill, he was definitely ranked in the top ten. This rascal was pretty amazing at PvPing.

    Hapless Frog always played the Thief class in every game, and Conviction was no exception. He had a particular fondness for treasure chests. Seeking them out on high-level maps was both challenging and exciting for him. He sold the items from chests he found for real money. This provided enough income for his happy and simple life. That was how he happily passed his days. Many people were willing to spend real money to buy high-level equipment from him. His customers even included leaders from many of the large guilds. Regardless of what he sold, the quality of the items was high enough to entice many people.

    Hapless Frog rarely ran into players that could freely run around Level 25 maps alone. Whenever he did run into other players, they were usually in teams. He just discovered a new gold chest, and was about to open it when he spotted a Thief, off in the distance, heading straight for him. He stood around and watched as the Thief started climbing the cliff. When the Thief reappeared at the top and climbed over the edge of the cliff moments later, his eyes widened in surprise. What? How did he do that? Isn't this a cliff? How the hell did he get all the way up here from way down there so fast? It looks like he's here for the treasure chest too. Ugh, it sure is hard earning a meagre living these days. I actually met some competition... Hapless Frog sighed in dejection.

    Something else he couldn't help but notice was that his rival raced across the rugged terrain no slower than he would over even ground. What kind of equipment was that Thief wearing to ignore the terrain to such an extent?

    He debated if he should retreat or seize the treasure chest right away. He couldn't decide what he wanted to do, nor could he stop himself from bemoaning the loss of the chest. It was a gold treasure chest! Up until now, the vast majority of chests he found were ordinary or silver chests. He did come across a few low-level gold treasure chests before, but the allure of a Level 25 gold treasure chest was hard to resist!

    Should I kill him and take his stuff?

    Hapless Frog was badly frightened by the subconscious thought flitting through his mind. He scratched his head in vexation. No, no! I'm just trying to make a living and get by. There's no reason to stain my hands with blood. He looked on at the rival Thief who was about to snatch away his gold treasure chest and couldn't help but feel a little reluctant.

    While he hesitated over what to do, the rival Thief's eyes blazed with a mysterious light. Hapless Frog felt a piercing gaze sweep past him, threatening to reveal his location. His heart tightened, and he held his breath while activating Cover Tracks, which increased his Cloak by 30 points for two minutes.

    The other Thief didn't pinpoint his location yet, but they were definitely aware that he was here and looking for him. A split second later, the Thief faded out of sight. Hapless Frog gazed attentively at the location where the Thief had disappeared, but he couldn't even find a trace hinting at his existence.

    He still felt a sense of deadly crisis, which he used to confirm that the rival Thief wasn't far away. The truly terrifying part was that his opponent still found his general direction despite the Cloak bonus from Cover Tracks. What kind of Awareness did this guy have? Hapless Frog couldn't detect his opponent at all!

    Just what kind of hole did this guy pop out from? So amazing! Hapless Frog raised an eyebrow. He was seized by a sudden impulse for battle, wanting to cross blades with such a skilled adversary. Coming across another player that made his heart stir was a rare thing, one that almost never happened since he started Conviction. He compared himself to the other Thief, and concluded that he might come out worse in the exchange. He was absolutely confident in his ability to escape though.

    Only the best Thief deserves that treasure chest!

    ...

    Nie Yan glanced in the other Thief's direction before opening his bag, looking for what he could use. He still had two pouches of Revealing Powder left. This was a rare item that dispelled Stealth in its area-of-effect. It was impossible to find his hidden enemy without it, but did the situation really call for using such a rare item?

    As Nie Yan mulled it over, Hapless Frog activated a scroll that enveloped the entire clifftop with a blinding light.

    It's a Blossoming Radiance Scroll!

    The Blossoming Radiance Scroll dispelled Stealth from any Thief below Level 21. It was a Junior-ranked scroll that was worth about one silver, and it could sometimes be found in the treasure chests on low-level maps.

    The light that radiated from the scroll revealed Nie Yan's shadow. A hazy silhouette dashed at him, aiming a dagger at the back of his head.

    Smothering Strike!

    Nie Yan sensed the incoming attack and instantly dodged to the side. The dagger sliced through the empty space beside him, narrowly missing him by a hair. As it flew past, he spotted a bewitching, green lustre on the blade. It was coated with poison!

    Nie Yan circled behind Hapless Frog. He activated Intimidate, and followed it with a lightning-fast Smothering Strike! The whirlwind of attacks would be the end of this enemy's life.

    Hapless Frog saw Nie Yan circle around him and used Swing Slash to deal a surprise attack. His attack was cut short mid-animation. He couldn't budge an inch. Just what kind of skill is that? He had never met a Thief with such a skill before. Just as he was about to be stunned by Nie Yan, facing imminent death, he activated his cloak's Shadow Mantle ability.

    He was invincible for two seconds!

    A short ding rang out! Nie Yan's Smothering Strike failed.

    Hapless Frog made use of the small second Nie Yan left a gap open and struck out with a Concussive Blow.

    Nie Yan raised his dagger to block.

    「Clang!」

    Nie Yan effortlessly blocked the Concussive Blow. His dagger snaked around Hapless Frog's arm, and he countered with a Concussive Blow of his own. His dagger flashed towards Hapless Frog.

    By the time Hapless Frog noticed the surging dagger, it was already in front of his eyes. So fast! With no time to think, Hapless Frog dodged the blow on pure instinct alone.

    MISS!

    His trained reflexes allowed him to get out of the way just in the knick of time.

    Hapless Frog crushed a Haste Scroll and fled the scene. A cold bead of sweat dripped down his forehead. Is this guy a friggin' ninja? He was a step ahead of me the whole time! All I could do was defend. That last attack was way too quick. I didn't dodge it in time. Thankfully, it was a miss. If my luck was just a little worse... Hapless Frog didn't dare to imagine the consequences. He believed himself to be quite skilled at his current level. He never imagined that he'd encounter another Thief as skilled as him, let alone one that was even better than him. That brief battle was more than enough to convince Hapless Frog that he wasn't a match for Nie Yan, so he chose to retreat. He wasn't about to die because he got too greedy over a treasure chest. Hapless Frog shook his head with a wry smile.

    Nie Yan watched the other Thief retreat into the distance and decided to end the battle here. Both of them wanted the same chest, and he was the one who came out on top. There was no need to pursue the matter any further.
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