Translator: SaltyTank  Editor: SaltyTank

The surroundings became dimmer as Soran ventured deeper into the forest, and the sounds of various wild animals could be heard. An elk was nearby, looking around alertly while munching on grass. When it noticed the abnormal shadow at Soran’s location, it immediately fled out of the forest. Due to the lack of humans in the area, there were plenty of wild animals here. The dense vegetation also played a large part in supporting such a large population of wild animals. There were so many wild rabbits around that they often appeared in the fields in villages.

Soran stopped in front of a puddle. He knelt down to grab a handful of soil and smelled it.

It reeked of blood; the place where the kobolds were staying should be close.

Kobolds were timid yet brutal humanoid monsters. They had scales of various colors ranging from dark rusty brown to black, and a few of them had scales of other colors. The scales provided them with some protection (Natural Armor +1). They had red eyes which granted them decent night vision and stubby tails. Most of the kobolds wore tattered clothing from the victims they killed, mostly in red or orange as those were their favorite colors. They were about three feet tall and weighed around fifty pounds. Kobolds conversed in Draconic Language, but they sounded like puppies barking when doing so. Similar to lizardmen, kobolds laid eggs—a nestful of them every time they did—which was why it was common to see kobold eggs here and there in the wilderness.

Even though they were short and small, it would be a mistake to underestimate them; they were stronger than typical commoners. Their Strength was mediocre, but they were agile beings which had up to 15 Dexterity. They also had the special abilities Miner and Trapmaking, giving them the ability to create simple traps such as pitfalls and tripwires. With 20 points in Trapmaking from birth, their traps were on par with those made by human hunters. Due to their timid nature, they rarely acted alone and usually roamed in packs of three to five. They would attack when they outnumbered the enemy by two or three times and would either call for support or give up when their numbers were equal. They were similar to goblins in the sense that they would flee when things went awry.

One more thing: they ate humans.

Soran followed the footprints further into the forest while taking out his enhanced crossbow. This time, he opted not to use the poisonous bolts he purchased from the shady shop; the loot would not be able to cover the cost of the bolts if he did. Instead, he brought along some normal bolts. He also had half a vial of wyvern poison left. Just to be safe, he smeared the poison on three bolts and kept them in the quiver; he would only use them if he encountered kobold sorcerers.

Among all monsters, sorcerers appeared among kobolds the most. Despite kobolds’ low profession level, the rate of them appearing was not low at all. Kobolds were faithful believers of the theory that deemed sorcerers to be the descendants of dragons. This was because kobolds had some dragon blood in them, and for this reason, they conversed in Draconic Language.

_Better safe than sorry,_ Soran thought. After all, spellcasters were formidable enemies regardless of their levels.

There were more and more bloodstains on the ground. Soran stopped in front of a patch of grass which had obviously been tampered with. He poked around the area with his sword and quickly found a rope. It might be the trigger for other trap devices, such as rock dropping devices, or it might tangle the victim’s legs and send the person who triggered it dangling in the air.

Back when the game first launched, many players, Soran included, thought it was just like every other game where kobolds were easy prey. Plenty of players learned otherwise the hard way.

Something was making loud noises ahead, most likely kobolds. At least, Soran could hear what sounded like dogs barking. Holding his weapon tightly, he slowly and sneakily approached the origin of the noises. Kobolds had a greater sense of smell than humans, but it was still far from as good as that of real dogs.

Soon, a group of kobolds numbering around thirty could be seen. Half of them were commoners, while the other half were armed warriors. A kobold with crimson scales was holding a staff while standing near a large pot; Soran could not be sure if it was a sorcerer or not. It was difficult to tell if the enemy was a spellcaster or not if they camouflaged and hid it. A priest could be fighting in close quarters combat with a staff, then all of a sudden release a divine spell. There was no way to tell them apart unless they were dressed and equipped with items like robes and wands; it went down to observing and analyzing the opponent most of the time.

Some kobolds were stirring the pot with wooden rods, while others tossed firewood into the fire beneath it. Soran could not see clearly what they were cooking, but it was probably a stew of something like goblins, beasts, mushrooms, and weeds. Kobolds were omnivores; they ate pretty much anything. They usually hunted beasts and wild animals for food, but they would also eat mushrooms and weed stew when they failed to catch any prey. When food was scarce to the point that even mushrooms and weeds could not fill their bellies, they would even negotiate with the nearby goblins for a fight; both sides would aim for a draw, and the two parties would each end up with a few corpses from the other side as food. The corpses could support them for a week or two.

A group of kobolds was staring at the pot with watering mouths, some even barking like dogs in anticipation of the food. Soran could see chunks of what seemed to be goblin meat in the pot, but then realised it was something else after noticing the corpse of a human woman. His expression darkened in a split second.

Kobolds never attacked villages head on; they only dared to sneak inside and aim for women and children, as they were afraid that the men might retaliate and kill them. They would locate women and children who were alone, then quickly kill them and drag their bodies back to their settlement in the forest.

It was not easy to fight against thirty kobolds.

Soran hid and observed the kobolds from the bushes, trying to gauge how dangerous they were. There were ten kobold warriors, each equipped with either short swords, short spears, or clubs. Some wore leather armor as well; as humanoid monsters, kobolds knew how to produce leather products. On the sides were five kobold archers, each equipped with a shortbow and dagger. The shortbows were roughly made with wood and animal tendons. Even though the shortbows were lackluster in terms of power, it would still hurt if a shot landed. The commoners had weapons as well, but most of them were either poorly made clubs or thick branches; it would not be a problem even if they managed to hit Soran.

One question remained—was the crimson-scaled kobold just the leader of the group, or was it a sorcerer? Regardless, Soran could tell it posed the greatest threat among the group.

Kobolds (Large group) (Grade 1)

Challenge Rating: Level 3 (Monster Level: 5), kobold leaders and sorcerers may be present

Highest and Lowest Attributes: 17 and 8 (Total Attribute Points: 60-75)

Specialty: Natural Armor, Trapmaking, Night Vision, Mining, Gathering

Difficulty: C+

Treasure Rating: +1 (Due to: Mining, Gathering)

The treasure rating was increased by one because kobolds had a habit of collecting shiny objects. Of course, not all of their treasures were Gold Derahls; there were also grains of gold and minerals they found when mining. From what Soran knew, different monsters had different treasure ratings in accordance with their habits. In this case, that the treasure rating was +1 meant that the items Soran would get by slaying the kobolds were one level higher than the items obtained from killing other monsters of the same level.

Soran made slight noises as he circled from the side toward the firepit, but the kobolds did not notice him. He had to take out the crimson-scaled kobold first in order to make things easier in the fight afterwards. The group of kobolds had a challenge rating of 3, meaning it would take five people with Level 3 professions in order to slaughter them easily. Now that Soran was alone, it was considerably harder; he also had to pay attention not to get surrounded.

A bolt cut through the air and struck the crimson-scaled kobold standing near the pot. It let out a squeal of pain, alerting the entire settlement. After frantically running around for a while, the kobold warriors and archers finally calmed down a bit and reached for their weapons while searching for the enemy. With their night vision, it did not take long before they spotted Soran. The group of kobold warriors growled, then all rushed toward him. When they outnumbered the enemy, they were always ready to initiate attacks.

Soran did not approach the incoming kobolds, but instead rolled backward. Immediately afterwards, his original location was struck with a barrage of arrows. The kobold archers definitely posed a threat to Soran.

Soran slashed the curved sword, opening up the stomachs of two kobold warriors who led the charge. As he stopped momentarily after the slash, a kobold saw the opening and leapt toward him in an attempt to bite his leg with its sharp teeth.

Soran twisted his waist and delivered a turning kick at the kobold, sending it flying five meters away. Another kobold lunged at him with a short sword in hand, but he twisted his body with the momentum from the turning kick to dodge the attack and sent another nearby flying with a back kick.

In thirty seconds, Soran had already killed six kobolds, but the other combatants had now gathered and were all attacking him frenziedly. A kobold warrior managed to graze his leg with its short sword, but thankfully it was merely a small wound. Another barrage of arrows came flying toward Soran; one of the arrows struck his leather armor but failed to penetrate. One of the kobolds near Soran was struck by the arrows and dropped dead. The kobold warriors, who had comparable combat prowess to Grade 1 human warriors, flooded toward Soran, slashing and hacking at Soran’s legs. The three-foot-tall monsters were hard to deal with in the sense that they were too short; he had to bend his waist or crouch to attack them. They were also using their short height to their advantage, rolling around to avoid his attacks.

Getting attacked from all directions, there was no room for him to dodge. Soran grit his teeth as he endured the hits on his leather armor, then tightly held onto his curved sword and swung it horizontally, twisting his waist to bring out his full power.

—Crescent Moon Slash!

Three kobolds fell to the ground, all with their stomachs cut open.

Just as Soran was about to break out of the encirclement, the crimson-scaled kobold that had been struck with a poisonous bolt somehow stood up, albeit shakily. It chanted some weird sounds, then pushed its palms toward Soran. Flames spread out in a sixty-degree fan shape and came rushing toward him. He was the first to get hit by the unexpected spell, and his clothes all lit on fire. The kobolds surrounding him then followed, all howling and squealing as they were burned alive.

—Burning Hands!

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*[Long Taos]: side characters in Chinese operas who perform acrobatics and fight scenes

*[12.47 to 13.07]: don’t ask me about the tree sap