Chapter 14 – Close Friends
Nie Yan studied for an hour, then went back to training. Whenever he was hungry, he would take out a portioned tube of nutrition tonic from the fridge and then go back to studying. He continued this cycle of studying, training, and eating until one o’clock in the afternoon.
「Ring! Ring!」The phone in Nie Yan’s home rang out.
“Hello. May I ask who this is?” Nie Yan picked up the phone and asked.
“Nie Yan! How about we go out and play? I’m almost suffocating to death by staying at home.”
The voice Nie Yan had just heard belonged to Tang Yao. The pages in his memories once again began turning. Tang Yao was his best friend—the two had known each other since they were in diapers. Though Tang Yao’s family eventually became quite wealthy, and they moved away to the city. However, their family ended up purchasing a villa near this town. So every summer, he would come over to visit and stay for a while.
Tang Yao, this person was an especially loyal friend. In Nie Yan’s previous life, when he had become very poor, it was Tang Yao who braved the risks of being discovered by Cao Xu and secretly provided financial support to him. This allowed him to pass those harsh days much more easily.
However, Tang Yao had one fatal weakness; he loved frequenting bars and womanizing. One time while drinking at a bar, he got into a fight with another man over a woman and ended up being beaten to death by that person. Due to the other side’s background being too great, the case was left unsettled.
Tang Yao, you’re still alive! This is great. In this lifetime, I will definitely not let that sort of thing happen again.
All of a sudden, tears began gushing forth and pouring out of Nie Yan’s eyes.
“Hello? Nie Yan, don’t just die on me. Say something.”
“Where are we going?” Nie Yan asked after restraining his emotions.
“Let’s go to the PK bar. Are you interested? Recently, this Conviction game has been really popular. Have you play it yet?”
“I’ve been playing. I’m a Level 2 Tempest Thief,” Nie Yan replied. The PK bar is a gaming and entertainment club where players can transfer their characters from the game and compete with other players in various scenarios. This type of duel wouldn’t raise a player’s level, nor would it affect their progress in the game. Only occasionally were players able to win one or two pieces of equipment through gambling with other players.
“Not bad at all! You’ve already risen to Level 2. When did you buy a game helmet?” Tang Yao asked, somewhat astonished. He remembered Nie Yan’s family was not well-off at all.
“I’ve had it for some time now.”
“Let’s head out then. We’ll have a stroll over to the PK Lounge. I have a Level 3 Arcane Mage by the way,” Tang Yao flauntingly said in a somewhat proud tone.
Nie Yan faintly smiled. Eighteen- to nineteen-year-old kids all want to show off even the smallest accomplishments. Naturally, this was human nature. However, Nie Yan had already long passed that age.
At the current stage, anyone who was able to rise to Level 3 was a decently skilled player. Such players were in the top ten percent of the player base. However, Nie Yan knew that Tang Yao’s skills were still a bit lacking if he wanted to go to the PK Lounge. The number of experts at the lounge were not few. It was a place where all sorts of experts gathered.
“Us going there to play is fine. However, it’s best if you don’t gamble,” Nie Yan said. From his memories, Tang Yao loved to gamble, yet he would never win—not even once. This never dissuaded him, however, and he continued to enjoy it. Luckily, the amount of pocket money Tang Yao had wasn’t very much, so losing wasn’t that big of a deal. With the current teachings, the head of the family wouldn’t give their child too much money. This was to avoid having that child form bad habits and become a good for nothing in the future.
“Since when did you become such a naggy old lady? Hurry up, I’m heading downstairs.”
“Alright then,” Nie Yan reluctantly replied with a hint of helplessness in his voice. He understood Tang Yao’s character. Preventing him from gambling was definitely impossible. Nie Yan only wished to remind him to show a little restraint while he was by Tang Yao’s side.
In his past life, there was a time when he didn’t go with Tang Yao because he had fallen ill and didn’t feel well. He heard that during that time Tang Yao had lost over three thousand credits.
Nie Yan washed up his sweaty body, changed his clothes, and headed downstairs.
“That brat, why is he still dawdling around?”
By the time Nie Yan came downstairs, Tang Yao had already arrived in his hover-car and parked next to Nie Yan’s house.
Nie Yan pushed down the emotions stirring within his heart. He hadn’t seen his friend in ages. The current Tang Yao was still the simple short little fatty he remembered. He and Nie Yan were of the same stature; it wasn’t until their third year of high school that they would grow in height. The handsome and confident Tang Yao from that time was entirely different from the one currently before him.
“I was taking a shower.”
“Get in the car! Hurry up! It wasn’t easy slipping away, and when I get home my old man’s gonna call me to help him out with his work again,” Tang Yao urged.
Nie Yan opened the car door and got in.
“We haven’t seen each other in nearly a year, huh? You brat, you still haven’t grown at all.”
“You’re the same too,” Nie Yan said with a smile. This type of close and familiar feeling came back to him again. Tang Yao, it’s been almost three years since we’ve last met…
“I lost over a thousand at the PK Lounge yesterday. Now this Young Master is burning with anger. I definitely have to beat those several brats until they only have their underwear left,” Tang Yao hatefully said. He stepped on the gas pedal, and the hover car shot forward as if it were an arrow.
“Those guys, were they Wei Kai’s group?” Nie Yan recalled. He remembered those several people were the neighbourhood bullies. When he was still going to school in this area, he was bullied a lot by them.
“It was exactly them. Yesterday I wanted to vent out some anger towards them in your place,” Tang Yao gloomily said.
In Tang Yao’s mind, Nie Yan had always been very cowardly and timid—the type who didn’t dare to utter a word when they were bullied. Thus, Tang Yao was always very protective of him. However, he was unaware that the present Nie Yan was no longer the previous weak and afraid person he once knew.
“Yo! You’ve arrived Young Master Tang, and just on time.” An eighteen to nineteen-year-old youth came walking forward. He was dark-skinned, with a skinny build. The clothing on his body looked like it hadn’t been washed in several days. Once he spoke, he gave off a delinquent type of feeling.
His name was Wei Kai. Due to his dark skin—a shade that would make him seem invisible during the night—Nie Yan and Tang Yao had once wondered if he were of African descent. Secretly, they started only referring to him as “Black Person.” A nickname which ended up spreading later on. This caused Wei Kai to direct his hate towards both Nie Yan and Tang Yao. However, he was still a little afraid of Tang Yao, as Tang Yao’s father was the CEO of Linzhou Airline—someone he couldn’t afford to offend. Consequently, from time to time, he would look for Nie Yan to start trouble with instead.
There were also five others following behind him, though they were a bit younger. They were all a part of his group.
“Oh, this brat Nie Yan also came. Tsk, tsk. He still hasn’t learned enough of a lesson from last time.”
Those several brats grinned maliciously as they stared at Nie Yan.
In his previous life, Nie Yan heard that Wei Kai caused some trouble and was exiled to another planet. Afterwards, there was no more word of him. The current Nie Yan, after reincarnating, could barely be bothered to keep these few delinquents in his mind. Regarding the bullying he received back then, what meaning was there for him to collect his debts now?
“No need to worry, you have me here with you. They won’t dare do anything to you.” Tang Yao spoke in a low voice and attempted to comfort Nie Yan.
Nie Yan nodded his head.
Tang Yao couldn’t help but look at Nie Yan. The latter seemed especially calm today.This brat. Looks like he finally gained some courage.
“Less bullshit. Did you bring the money?” Tang Yao said to Wei Kai.
“No worries, I brought two thousand. However, you’ll be the one paying for our entry fee today.” Wei Kai took out a bank card, shaking it in his hand.
“Only a hundred or so credits and you’re making such a hassle about it.” Tang Yao slanted his lips in disdain as ruthless words came out of his mouth.
“I’m not like Young Master Tang right here who’s so well-off with money. Our little group of commoners has no choice but to bother about this small amount of money,” Wei Kai smilingly replied without the slightest bit of anger.
From an adult’s perspective, Nie Yan reexamined Wei Kai. He discovered Wei Kai, although simply a delinquent, still carried an air of shrewdness about him. There were many people like Wei Kai, fumbling through society, gaining a lot of knowledge and experience along the way.
“God damn. Isn’t it just him having a rich old man? What’s so amazing about that?”
The several youngsters behind Wei Kai couldn’t bear Tang Yao anymore, and began cursing at him one after another.
Tang Yao treated his friends very well. The reason his words were so unkind today was most likely because of Wei Kai and his group frequently bullying Nie Yan.
Tang Yao ignored those several youngsters and walked up to the counter. He took out two hundred credits, placed them on the reception desk and then said, “Boss, open up a private room for us. No need to return the change. Also, have the attendants send some drinks over. No coke please.”
“Room number six. This is the card for your room.” The manager handed over a card to Tang Yao as he spoke.
“Please. You lead the way, Young Master Tang,” Wei Kai said while laughing. Then briefly, he swept his gaze towards Nie Yan. Their eyes locked, as they met face to face. Nie Yan stared back at him calmly.
Wei Kai was mildly surprised. Today, Nie Yan appeared to be distinctly different than how he was in the past. Previously, whenever Nie Yan met him, he would be timid and afraid. Yet today, he was unusually calm.
The group of people went over to room number six.
Nie Yan and the rest entered the room. The interior was separated into two areas. Each area had five platforms with recliners and machines. Players could hold 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, 4v4, and 5v5 battles. If they wanted to hold larger team battles, they were required to rent out a larger room.
Nie Yan and Tang Yao entered one area and closed the door. Their area and Wei Kai’s were separated by a glass wall.
“What level is Wei Kai?” Nie Yan asked Tang Yao.
“A Level 3 Berserker,” Tang Yao replied. Yesterday they had fought ten matches, and Tang Yao only won three of them. After he returned home, he had his father’s underling find him an Arcane Blast skill book, as well as a Bronze-tier mage robe which he exchanged for his own. He was well prepared to beat Wei Kai in a few matches, and thoroughly return all the losses he had received yesterday.
Ten matches. The prize for every match was two hundred.
“What skills do you have?” Nie Yan asked. For good or bad, Nie Yan had played Conviction for many years. Even if you’ve never eaten pork, you’d still be able to recognize a pig. So although he never played Arcane Mage before, he had faced them countless times in battle. As such, he somewhat understood their abilities.
“Arcane Missiles, Arcane Fireball, Arcane Blaze, Arcane Blast, and Magic Return.” Tang Yao spoke without thinking. He never considered Nie Yan to know a lot about Conviction, as he had already trained up to Level 3, while Nie Yan was only Level 2.
“What’s your health and mana?”
“One hundred and twenty health, and one hundred and fifty mana,” Tang Yao replied. His equipment could be considered decent for a Level 3 Arcane Mage.
“Has Wei Kai learned Provoke yet?” Nie Yan asked. He was really confused. With this set of skills, just how did Tang Yao manage to lose in his previous life?
“He’s learned it.”
“No wonder.” Nie Yan suddenly understood. After a Berserker learns Provoke, if they were able to use the skill well, they could easily suppress an Arcane Mage.
“It’s about to begin,” Tang Yao said as he put on his game helmet.
Tang Yao was most likely going to lose. Nie Yan thought for a bit. He would continue observing for a while more. If Tang Yao started losing badly, then he would make a move.
They swiped their IDs over the machine and then put on their game helmets. The machines here would automatically extract the player’s character information from Conviction and duplicate it. They were able to conduct battles here, and since the data was only a copy, it would have no relation with Conviction.
Everyone entered the game. Nie Yan and those five youngsters were placed in an auditorium, and the arena chosen was random. It appeared the first one would be in the mountains.
The mountainous terrain was especially advantageous for Arcane Mages.
Tang Yao and Wei Kai both finished their preparations. Following the sound of a system prompt, the two began the battle.
“Hey, brat. Long time no see. A Level 2 Tempest Thief huh, not bad. Are you interested in having a match?” The one who spoke was one of the boys from Wei Kai’s group. Nie Yan faintly remembered that this guy’s name was Shi Feng (Stone Mountain).
A Level 2 Battle Thief!
There was an essential difference between Battle Thieves and Tempest Thieves. Battle Thieves had a more elegant title called Knight-errants. They were the same as Tempest Thieves in that they both had the Stealth skill. However, when fighting, they placed a greater emphasis on combat. Usually, they used weapons such as daggers and had decent close combat abilities.
The properties of professions are all unique. There was no division of strongest and weakest professions. Conviction had no weak professions—only weak players.
Nie Yan shot a glance at Shi Feng and said with indifference, “You’re still unworthy. Picking such a skilless profession like a Knight-errant, you have poor tastes.”
“Seems you’re missing a beating. Do you believe this grandfather won’t give you one once we leave the game?” Shi Feng cursed back at him. He didn’t expect that Nie Yan—who had always been a yes-man—would dare to speak rudely to him.
Nie Yan raised his eyebrow. They were just a few brats, nothing more. What did he have to fear? Even though his current body’s health was a little weak—to the point where it was poles apart from his previous peak condition—by relying on his fighting skills, he would be able to deal with these kids who had barely reached adulthood, and still have energy left to spare. These good-for-nothings were a level inferior to Wei Kai. They were still a bunch of students, yet they dressed like delinquents and poured obscenities out of their mouths—thinking of themselves as gangsters. They were very childish. Though, in reality, being a gangster was also a type of profession that required skill to make a living.
“If you have the guts, then come out and fight me next match.”
“Only one match? The stakes for this gamble are too small. I’m not that interested,” Nie Yan said. Wasn’t it too simple of a task to take care of Shi Feng?
“The brat’s grown up, huh? I have three hundred here on me. Let’s have a match. How about it?” Shi Feng took out a bank card. Nie Yan, this brat’s becoming more and more courageous. If I don’t teach him a lesson, he truly won’t know how high the heavens are and how thick the earth is.
“I’ll only play one game. I’ve got seven hundred.” Nie Yan brought out his bank card. He swiped it to show the amount of money in the card was seven hundred credits. This amount of money—to the eighteen-year-old Nie Yan—was an amazingly huge sum of money.
“Any of you guys have money? Lend me a few hundred.” Shi Feng turned his head and spoke to the friends beside him.
“I’ve got two hundred.”
“I’ve got a hundred.”
“I’ve also got a hundred.”
After borrowing four hundred, Shi Feng finally had seven hundred credits. He hung out with Wei Kai, but after all, he was still a delinquent and never had much money on him.
Nie Yan glanced at Tang Yao and Wei Kai’s battle. In the mountainous terrain, Wei Kai wasn’t able to fully display his Berserker’s abilities, and the match was won by Tang Yao. The next match was in open plains. Tang Yao would likely lose this one.
“Let’s go then.” Nie Yan withdrew his glance, then spoke to Shi Feng.
The scenery of the two people switched over. Soon, they appeared in a jungle. Thick vegetation surrounded them everywhere, and the two were separated by about fifty meters.
“Little brat. Watch this grandpa teach you how to respect others.”
Nie Yan faintly laughed. He didn’t even bother having a verbal showdown with Shi Feng.
Shi Feng muttered, whispering to himself, “Why is Nie Yan giving off a feeling that would make others feel unsettled today?”
「System: Match start!」
Nie Yan and Shi Feng both activated Stealth.
Stealth didn’t equal invisibility. When a Thief uses stealth, their body would melt into the background. If one didn’t observe carefully, it was really hard to detect. However, if one concentrated their attention, they could still make out the flaws in the camouflage.
Stealth was based on a Thief’s Dexterity and their ability to hide themselves. Being discovered would depend on the other player’s eyesight.
At this time, the two were approaching each other. Nie Yan’s footsteps were light and gentle. If he came across leaves and branches, he would carefully move around them. He left no footprints behind. After playing Thief for so many years, if he were to be discovered by a novice like Shi Feng, he’d be losing too much face. Nie Yan’s eyes moved like electricity as he scanned the area. On a branch in the far distance, there was a trace of unusual movement. Focusing his gaze, he was able to distinctly make out the vague figure of a person. He had quickly discovered his opponent’s position.
Shi Feng was moving about slowly and cautiously, carefully paying attention to his surroundings. However, to him, it seemed as if Nie Yan had disappeared completely. Shi Feng couldn’t find any traces of him whatsoever.
A Thief’s ability to conceal themselves was very closely related to their surroundings. The more complex the background, the easier it would be to find them. However, if the background were simple and only had one colour, even if the enemy carefully observed, it would be very hard to discover them.
Just like a stick insect sticking to bamboo, they would completely melt into the background. Even if a predator came up close to it, they would still be unable to discover anything.
Stealth’s effectiveness was also greatly related to a player’s ability to control their movements. While in Stealth, the route and pace you walked in were all things that required very careful attention.
For Nie Yan, he basically didn’t need to conceal himself in such a meticulous manner. The motions of concealing himself had become instinctive to him. These movements had long penetrated through the core of his being, down to the bone marrow.
After ten years playing as a Thief, even an idiot would still turn into an expert, let alone Nie Yan—whose comprehension abilities could already be regarded as quite decent.