Sila regained his awareness in a certain hut, where he recalled immediately that it was located within the Valley of Immortals. He quickly got up and touched his left arm, which was still intact. Regardless, the light ache told him that what he had experienced wasn’t just a nightmare. The Blade-Sharpening Dragon was far more fearsome than he had thought. He died just for having the intention to claim ownership.
The petite girl flew out from his armor and hopped to sit on his shoulder out of habit. Even though she didn’t say a word, Sila knew she was showing her concern for him in her own way.
“If you want to perch on my shoulder, can you at least transform back into your bird form?” Sila asked, chuckling.
Lookhin shrunk and transformed into a small sparrow hawk, though she seemed to be a bit fatter than she used to be. Noticing this, Sila couldn’t help but let out a laugh.
“Look, the human form must be a result of the skill, so the changes aren’t visible. Your real form is getting chubby. How about eating less snacks?”
Lookhin sunk her talons into Sila’s shoulder, expressing her objection to the idea. Sila smiled mildly as he strengthened his power to resist the pain. He then stroked her dotingly.
He walked outside and found that everyone was waiting. Kiryu, Rex, Crow, and Sanon were sitting around Crow’s old table.
Rex was glaring at Crow with eyes full of hostility while Kiryu and Sanon tried to liven the mood.
Spotting Sila, Rex and Kiryu stood up.
“Sila, you finally returned. Let’s head back,” said Kiryu.
Sanon also stood up. “In that case, we’ll send you off—”
“No need. We can go back by ourselves. Let’s go, Sila,” Rex declared.
Sila walked several steps forward. “Both of you can go first. I have an appointment with Mister Sanon. I’ll meet up soon.”
Kiryu shifted his gaze to Sanon, who nodded to confirm Sila’s statement.
“Don’t worry. I’ll personally send him off,” Sanon said to Kiryu.
Kiryu nodded and left. Meanwhile, Sila wondered why Kiryu had to wait for him and why Sanon would have to send him off. Unbeknownst to him, the reason was Kiryu’s pessimistic thinking. He was concerned that Crow might take revenge for his disciple’s defeat. Sila staying in this place alone was no different than living in the enemy’s den. With Crow’s art, it would take him only an instant to kill Sila if Sila didn’t expect it. Kiryu felt more reassured with Sanon volunteering to look after Sila.
Sila followed Sanon on the stone path. Both of them stopped in front the entrance leading to the Cave of Immortals, where Sila met Mora in the game for the first time. It was also this place where he started practicing Nine Sun-Melting-Fists.
After a few moments of silence, Sanon turned back to confront Sila and asked, “Sila, how certain are you that Montra has mastered Grand Deity’s Breathing?”
Sila understood Sanon’s concern. Actually, he wasn’t sure about that himself as he had heard about it from Joshua.
“I heard about it from another person, sir. Though I had a chance to spar with him later. If you can tell me what kind of art Grand Deity’s Breathing is, maybe I can help you judge whether Montra has mastered it or not.”
Sanon nodded. “Grand Deity’s Breathing has existed in the association for quite some time. Mora was the one who brought it. He said it was the Tiger God’s exclusive profound art that he got from someone else, though he didn’t tell me who they were.”
Sila guessed his teacher must have obtained it from Joshua, who must have gotten it from Hu Xian in order to experiment. He wasn’t exactly sure though since the information wasn’t enough.
“The Tiger God’s art could be nothing short of the ultimate profound art. However, after studying it for a while, we decided to forever lock it away as it was too dangerous.”
“Grand Deity’s Breathing is an art which unlocks the user’s potential and borrows the inner force that the user is supposed to acquire in the future to use right away—like borrowing the breathing from a deity, just as its name implies. Upon reaching the final stage, the user’s inner force and overall strength would be a few dozen times stronger than before. However, as it is borrowed power, it’s natural that the user has to pay it back. Soon, the entirety of the user’s life force will be consumed and they will die without even having a corpse. That is why we consider it a dark art.”
“Flaming Cloud Qi, too, has a stage which consumes the user's life force to strengthen their inner force. What is the difference, then, sir?” asked Sila.
Sanon shared his opinion, “Flaming Cloud Qi is like actual flames. You can use your life force as firewood to let them burn fiercer. You can also choose to stop adding firewood whenever you want, though you have to be careful not to let the flames become too strong so you don’t burn yourself. On the contrary, Grand Deity’s Breathing is like withdrawing all of your remaining lifespan in one go. It’s irreversible. What awaits the user is only death. They can stay alive for at most a week.”
Sila objected, “If it is the Tiger God’s profound art, that means he must have mastered it. But... as far as I know, I heard he stayed alive for longer than that.”
Sanon agreed, “I understand your point. We have our hypothesis that Grand Deity’s Breathing wasn’t the only profound art he had. Prior to inventing this art, the Tiger God had comprehended the Marvelous Bible and invented Chaos Devourer Art. It was possible that he consumed others’ inner force to prolong his life—similar to how you continue adding more water into a leaking cup. This way he could stay alive for longer than expected, but made numerous enemies in the process.”
A spark of thought rushed to Sila’s brain. “Mister Sanon, could it be that you plan to have Montra practice Chaos Devourer Art?!”
Sanon shook his head. “That’s not it. To practice Chaos Devourer Art, the Marvelous Bible of the Tiger Family is required. It’s inherited through the bloodline only, so no outsiders can learn it. The method I have in my mind is for you, Sila, to destroy Montra’s profound veins... with Flaming Cloud Qi.”
“What did you just say?!!”
Sila couldn’t believe his own ears. This kind of method shouldn’t be considered an option at all. Even though his martial knowledge was lacking, he thought he knew that having the profound veins completely crippled was a fate worse than death for profound practitioners. He was sure Montra would think the same.
Sila asked, “Why do I have to do that? More importantly... Montra is your son. Why will you allow such a thing to happen to him? He is a genius fighter. Do you intend to ruin his future?”
Although Montra was talented in many aspects, the path he pursued was none other than martial arts. He developed many skills just for the sake of this sole goal. If this goal had to be taken away, Montra would rather die in a battle.
“Sila, it’s you who doesn’t understand. Him being a genius is not important at all. I just don’t want my son to die. I’ll take responsibility for everything that happens afterward.”
“Why does it have to be me?”
Destroying someone’s future was a big decision. Sila was a mere human. If possible, he didn’t want to carry such a responsibility.
“Others can’t. Only Flaming Cloud Qi is able to do the task. I know better than anyone since I have personally experienced it with my body. It’s the only power that can burn only the profound veins without damaging muscles, tendons, or nerves—destroying only the part that the user wants to destroy, just making the target unable to utilize inner force.”
Sila frowned. “Your words are contradicting, Mister Sanon. Even if Montra’s profound veins are destroyed, it still doesn’t mean he can survive. Grand Deity’s Breathing already withdrew all of his inner force. This action will only accelerate his death.”
“I said I’ll take responsibility for everything that will happen. Sila, you don’t have to be concerned.”
Sila spoke, his voice became louder, “How can I not be?! If Montra dies, it’ll be like I’m the one who killed him!”
Sanon’s expression improved as he asked, “Sila... are you worried about Montra?”
“It’s true that I dislike him, but that might be because I don’t understand him well. A human’s life is important. If possible, I don’t want us to kill each other over this kind of thing.”
Sanon fell into a long silence. Sila simply waited as he had no idea what Sanon was thinking. After a long time, Sanon’s eyes gleamed with a blue spark. Calm and serene magic power poured out of his body.
“Sila, I want you to trust me... so I’m going to tell you a secret that I have never told anyone in my life.”
Sila took a step back, feeling troubled and pressured at the same time. “If you have never told anyone before, I think you don’t have to tell me, sir.”
Sanon slowly shook his head. “I’d prefer that since this secret involves many parties, especially my deceased teacher’s reputation. However, I won’t be able to persuade you if I don’t reveal it. Knowing this secret, it’s your choice if you want to tell someone else, but I hope you will consider it thoroughly before you do. Take me as an example. Once the secret comes out of my mouth, it’ll no longer be a secret.”
Sila didn’t know what kind of story Sanon intended to tell him. In any case, he could tell that Sanon was now cladding his body with water-attribute magic power. Sanon’s real body had his profound veins crippled, so Sila guessed the man could only use in-game power.
Sanon looked directly into Sila’s eyes. His gaze was extremely calm and cool. He opened his palm and extended it forward. What came with it was an intimidating new kind of aura that Sila had never experienced before—a comfortable aura which soothed his mind, possessing no menace and emitting no dangerous vibe at all.
“Although I look like this, I’m still the teacher of Kawin, Revin, and Montra. You shouldn’t let your guard down, Sila,” Sanon spoke once he saw that Sila lowered his vigilance.
Sanon’s body flashed and vanished from Sila’s line of sight as if he was using a trick. Shockingly to Sila, what Sanon did wasn’t the result of an in-game skill but a profound movement art. Out of the blue, he reappeared next to Sila’s right side.
Sila was aware that Sanon was a master-class expert and one of Independent NPCs. Thus, he didn’t have to worry he would be too heavy-handed.
Dual Overwhelming Attributes — Fire melts Metal, Crushing Sky.
After studying how to delicately control qi under Kiryu, Sila had learned how to efficiently control the radius and destructive of the move. He was now better at crushing his opponents. Even when he used the same level of power, it would result in a stronger attack. All destructive force poured down directly from above to below. There was zero waste of power.
Sanon leisurely waved his hands, but his movements were quick and continuously to Sila’s eyes—like a dragon coiling in the sky. Sanon’s power circulated and formed a perfect circle. An instant later, Sila found Sanon standing upside down. When he saw this, he immediately had to grit his teeth, preparing for an impact. That was because it wasn’t Sanon who was standing upside down. Instead, it was Sila who had been flipped in an instant.
The sound of the impact reverberated. Sila was shocked since Sanon didn’t put that much force into performing the action. The source of power that tossed him over came from Five-Attributed Cloud Qi. Apparently, Sanon countered Sila using Sila's own power.
Sila suspected that Sanon held back by adding more force into the rotation, speeding up the throw and causing Sila to land on his back rather than his head. Sila slowly got up while enduring the pain running through his body.
“Was that Ocean-Surrounding Dragon Technique…? Your profound veins were not destroyed...” Sila muttered, still recovering from his injury.
Sanon stood motionlessly as he replied in a friendly manner. “Only half of that is correct, Sila. That was indeed the Ocean-Surrounding Dragon Technique. However, you are wrong to assume that my profound veins were not destroyed. They were... but they have been healed thanks to my teacher.”
The Demon God had announced that whoever uses the Ocean-Surrounding Dragon Technique was subjected to instant execution. Sila was now aware that Sanon was risking his life by showing him the art. If this secret was revealed, Sanon would be hunted and killed according to the order. This meant Sanon really wanted to gain his trust.
“What I’m trying to say is that I have a way for Montra to restore his profound veins. You don’t need to worry about him.”
“What exactly happened in the past?” Sila asked with growing confusion. People regarded Sanon as the weakest Elder who possessed crippled profound veins. However, the fact was that his strength was at a level that Sila had no chance of handling. It was strength that didn’t fall behind that of his teacher, Mora.
Sanon raised his head, looking at the vast sky and recalling the events in the past. “Many thought I’d bear deep hatred against my teacher who unreasonably destroyed my profound veins. However, as his disciple, I knew my teacher’s personality well. Humiliating one’s teacher in front of an audience is a major crime for us of the martial world. My action deserved punishment. My teacher was a hot-tempered and impetuous person, but he cared for us deeply. His actions had the chance to be extreme in the heat of the moment. However, given his personality, he wouldn’t say sorry even if he realized he was in the wrong. Instead, he would do anything to compensate for his mistakes. In any case, the way he made it up to me was...”
Sanon fell into silence once again. He drowned himself in nostalgia, took a deep breath, and continued, “One day, Teacher called me over and told me to travel with him. He was the kind of person who would only explain on his own if he wanted to, so if he doesn’t say anything, it’s pointless to ask. I accompanied him without asking. In the end, we reached the Sky Tower Clan. He ordered me to wait in the lobby.”
“The Sky Tower Clan?” Sila felt like he had heard that name before from somewhere.
“Yes, the Sky Tower Clan in the past was a building located on a mountain. However, our world has become more modern than back then. In the end, only we profound practitioners still call it the Sky Tower Clan while on the surface it was the five-star hotel named Blue Sky Palace, a skyscraper located in the middle of the city. I knew where it was, but I didn’t know my teacher’s intentions back then.
“I waited in the lobby for a very long time, so long that I found it odd. In the end, I decided to take an elevator to the top floor. It was well-known that the top floor was the private room of the Sky Tower Clan’s headmaster. I didn’t have profound sense at the time so I didn’t realize… it was only when I opened the door that I found the room filled with blood, corpses, and flames.”
Sila gulped his saliva, feeling thrilled. On the other hand, Sanon could no longer hide the sadness in his eyes.
“I searched for my teacher, running around the entire floor yet finding nothing but death. The only confirmation I received that my teacher had been there were the scorch marks in the shapes of palms that were present on every corpse. Every one of them died by Flaming Cloud Qi...
“Then, I heard a crying sound. Following it, I found a baby lying next to what should have been its mother’s corpse. I picked it up with trembling hands. It was at that time when my teacher opened the door and came inside.
“Teacher asked what I was doing there... which I didn’t answer. Rather, I couldn’t. What shocked me more was what my teacher did afterward.
“Teacher tossed me a scroll and said, ‘You’re unsuited to practicing Flaming Cloud Qi, but this art should be most compatible with you. You can restore your profound veins if you practice it. Make sure you master it. Don’t let me down.’
“I took a look at the cover of the scroll, which was stained with the blood of the original owner. It’s Heavenly Reservoir Qi.”
Sila forgot how to breathe for a moment there. He could begin to guess what had happened next. Still, he was confused by the shocking, tragic truth.
“Sila, maybe you have heard about Heavenly Reservoir Qi before. This art is one of the Five Crown Jewels, specializing in healing power. Even on the verge of death, if one can master this art in their last moments, they can still prolong their life.
“Teacher did that for me, but at the cost of many innocent lives. Ever since that moment, I have regretted nothing more in my life.”
“W-What did you do afterward, Mister Sanon?”
Sanon sighed. “I was too ashamed to practice it at first. However, I eventually failed to suppress my desire as a profound practitioner. I practiced it just to the point where I could recover my lost power as I didn’t have the face to completely master it. As for Ocean-Surrounding Dragon Technique, I noticed a loophole in the Teacher’s order, so I decided to polish it further. Thinking back, I believed Teacher deliberately left the loophole himself. He must have wanted to apologize. It’s just that he didn’t say it.”
“What happened to the Sky Tower Clan after that, sir?”
“The members were all dead, with that baby as the sole survivor. Teacher used Flaming Cloud Qi to destroy all of the evidence. His white flames perfectly reduced it all to nothing. They were the Demon God’s signature flames. Everyone in the martial world knew, but no one dared to speak. The police investigated for a long time. However, the investigation didn’t go well since all of the victims were dead, with no witnesses other than myself. Ultimately, they concluded that what happened was an accident.”
Sila couldn’t help but find the Demon God’s character confounding. Sometimes he seemed kind and soft, even putting a stop to Kimon’s assassination business. On the other hand, sometimes his action was inhumanely ruthless. Could it be that this was the aftereffect of mastering Flaming Cloud Qi?
Sometimes you were a god, and sometimes you were a demon. Retaining one’s sense of self and balancing goodness and wickedness were the art’s basics recorded in the Cloud Part. Apparently, the Demon God Zenga excelled more at the Flame Part, thus he acquired unique and powerful qi. However, his mind became uncontrollable and drifted like a cloud. No one could understand what he was thinking.
“Mister Sanon, so you want to tell me that you intend for Montra to practice Heavenly Reservoir Qi after I have destroyed his profound veins, is that right?”
Sanon gave him a strong nod. “That’s correct. That’s why you don’t have to worry, Sila. The harder Montra falls, the quicker he’ll get back on his feet. I know my son well. He’ll recover in no time.”
Sila nodded. “In that case, I’ll help. But... I wonder...”
Sanon knew what Sila was wondering about. “You must want to know what happened to that baby, right?”
“Can I ask, sir?”
“Certainly. I myself plan to tell him everything once the time comes. I’m responsible for my teacher’s crime. When everything is settled, I’ll return Heavenly Reservoir Qi Scroll to its rightful owner and offer my life to compensate for all the lives of his family members,” Sanon said with eyes showing strong determination. Looking into them, Sila could tell that they weren’t just empty words. Sanon really meant to keep this vow.
“Who is he, sir?”
“You also know him, Sila. In fact, it’s because of my feelings of shame that I took care of him better than Montra. I even made him my successor in place of my own son. That was a part of the reason why Montra felt I wasn’t fair to him.”
Sanon walked away without Sila trying to stop him.
Sila was greatly confused with tons of new information in his head—including the grand secret which Sanon and the Demon God had never told another soul.
Godamnit hell!!! More conspiracy revealed. Dats why i luv diz novel. The back stoty itself is cunning n cruel. Like godamn reality. Thx Sinless-sama fo da meal
Sanon’s departure left Sila with many questions unanswered. In any case, the path ahead of him was long and there were no shortcuts. He only had to take one step at a time until he reached his goal.
Ocean-Surrounding Dragon Technique was indeed a supreme profound art. It was no surprise that people considered it equal to Flaming Cloud Qi. It was especially awesome when used by Sanon, the art’s original inventor. Thinking up to this point, Sila realized that the martial world was indeed a huge place.
He was particularly interested in the character of the Demon God Zenga, his teacher’s teacher and his grandteacher. The Demon God seemed to possess an extreme personality. Sila was concerned that it was due to Flaming Cloud Qi, famous for being the Most Bizarre Art. An important factor when wielding the art was to maintain the balance between the Cloud Part and the Flame Part. His teacher, Mora, specialized in the Cloud Part, so he could retain his true self, though his flames weren’t unique like Zenga’s who specialized in the Flame Part.
Sila ignited qi flame on his palm. The black flame burned fiercely. Such a unique flame implied that he specialized in the Flame Part more than the Cloud Part. He wondered if this could mean that he was turning into the second coming of Demon God Zenga. Will Flaming Cloud Qi consume his personality and turn him into a totally different person? Will he one day completely lose himself and become Dark Self?
Sila silently exited the Valley of Immortals. There were many thoughts occupying his mind. Regardless, they all disappeared once he heard a familiar voice.
“Where’d your mind go? Be careful not to walk into a tree, Sila.” The goddess in a blue kimono stood in front of him. Standing next to her was Vata in a green magician robe.
“Varee? Miss Vata? Why are you here?” Sila approached the two and greeted them. He had thought they were in Siaferia City. Although the city was close to the Single-Horned Dragon Forest, people rarely visited the forest since it was rumored that the dragons became more violent.
Lookhin flew from Sila’s shoulder and landed on Varee’s palm. She chirped in a good mood. Varee stroked her once and turned to Sila.
“Nam accidentally met Big Sis Vata this morning. Big Sis speculated that Sila must be in the Single-Horned Dragon Forest, so we decided to come and search.”
“Hm? Didn’t you encounter Single-Horned Dragons on your way?” Sila looked left and right and didn’t find any Single-Horned Dragon. Expanding his profound sense, he discovered that they were staying at a distance without approaching. It was very unnatural.
Vata came closer and held onto Sila’s left hand, which made his body immediately heat up. His qi became frantic, prompting him to cool his head using the Cloud Part. As he had calmed down, he wondered why she dared to take this kind of bold action in front of Varee.
“I was very scared, but my feelings of wanting to see you were stronger. Maybe it’s because I’m a member of the dragon race that there was no problem.”
Varee’s expression changed from cheerful to emotionless. Even a thoughtless person like Sila could tell that her mood worsened. However, shaking his arm off Vata would be rather rude. When he was still contemplating, he sensed a circulation of inner force. He quickly stared at Vata.
As Vata’s power was circulating within her body, she opened her mouth and let out a sound. The sound coming out of her mouth wasn’t an ordinary voice, but the Goddess’ voice that could charm listeners to obey her. Vata was manipulating Varee who had lowered her guard.
“Varee, you wanted to see Sila as well, did’t you? It’s been a while since you two last met. I’m sure you must have a lot to talk about.”
Varee’s expression became a lot brighter. She nodded. The anger she showed previously completely left without a trace, replaced by the feelings of joy.
“That’s right! It’s been a while, Sila. How have you been?”
Varee walked to Sila and hugged his right arm tightly while showing her sweet smile. Sila’s body jerked by a soft touch. Both his arms were sealed. He circulated qi to control himself while ensuring his power didn’t harm the two women.
“What did you do, Himeko?!” Sila sent her a sound transmission.
“Do you like it?” The reply was teasing. Vata was like the wind. Sometimes she was playful, sometimes she was serious. Sila couldn’t read her intentions.
Actually, Sila only asked out of reaction. He was aware that she had used Goddess’ Resonance on Varee. This dark art could control the target’s emotions and feelings to a terrifying degree. It could cause a person to hold a deep grudge against someone they had only just met for the first time, or make a person fall in love with their enemy like they were soulmates in a past life.
It was the most mysterious dark art among the Hell’s Gate Islands. The art which could manipulate people’s emotions however the user wished and also the art which Flaming Cloud Qi was weak against. Hence, Sila had to handle her with extreme caution by constantly maintaining his sense of self.
Sila requested, or rather ordered Vata. Then, the power in his body began to cool down as Vata let go of his hand and stepped back.
“Sila, you are going to plan how to raid the Android Kingdom, right? In that case, let’s move to a spot I just found. We can see the city from afar that way.”
Sila gave a silent nod. Finding that Varee was still clinging to him, he frowned. Again, he sent a sound transmission to Vata.
“I said stop, Himeko.”
Vata turned back, looking at him with her mischievous eyes. “But I already have.”
Sila felt his temperature rising again. He took a side glance at Varee, who was silently walking by his side while avoiding eye contact. Her body temperature seemed to become slightly higher.
Witnessing so, Sila decided to say nothing more about it. He gradually followed Vata to the place she mentioned.
After walking for fifteen minutes, the three arrived at a certain edge of the forest, which was quite a high hill. Looking down, they could see Siaferia City, the city which was twice as large as the old Grea City. There was a giant semi-transparent golden barrier dome surrounding the city.
“That’s a protective barrier. Until this day, no attack has ever succeeded in penetrating it. It’s speculated that only an extremely powerful qi will have a shot at breaking it,” explained Vata.
“It’s based on the natural order. Psychic power is strong against magic power but weak against qi. So, it must be easier to destroy a protective barrier made of psychic power using qi than any other energy type. Anyway, the barrier is supplemented by an enormous amount of energy, so I guess a similar amount of qi will be required.”
“How about we sneak in using skills?” asked Sila. Monster Soul was a game with a high degree of freedom. There shouldn’t be only one way to raid the city.
“That’s not impossible, but Siaferia City is the metropolis of psychic power. There is a huge psychic-jamming device set up in the center of the city. People entering the city by using items or skills will likely end up being forcefully teleported into an area surrounded by enemies. We may be able to pull it off if the levels of the skills are higher than the device’s. However, that means only high-level psychic-type players will be able to enter. We can’t go in as an army.”
Sila scratched his head, giving it a thought. “Well, a few are still better than nothing. We should at least have some spies in the city. Including the citizens of Belacia City, how many of our people do you think would be able to get inside?”
“I have seen some of them fighting in the Dragon Kingdom. Even with them included, there should still be less than ten people capable of pulling it off.”
“Enough to cause some chaos, but not enough to conquer the city, is it?”
Vata nodded. “Yes, especially since Siaferia City is managed by artificial intelligences. Android Soldiers always strictly follow the procedure. Just causing chaos will be difficult.”
Sila looked at the problem from a different perspective. “Following procedure strictly means their countermeasures are fixed and predictable. If we know their countermeasures in advance, we can exploit them during wartime.”
“What is your plan?”
Sila opened his system window. A hologram of Julia soon appeared. She asked, “What can I do for you, Master?”
“Julia, how much money do I have left?”
Several smaller system windows floated up in front of Sila as Julia explained, “Most of your assets are in the form of items. If we are talking about cash on hand, Master has 189,547 gold and 3,544,589 silver that you can use right away. In addition, with your credit, you can loan 2,000,000 gold from the bank, Master.”
This level of wealth was undeniably a lot for an individual. Sila had the option to abandon everything, exchange all his money for real cash, and live a comfortable life for four to five years. However, Montra was putting everything on the line for the war, so how could he just back off?
Sila turned to Vata, “Miss Vata, please use my 150,000 gold to hire players who don’t plan to participate in the war event, forming a small army. They will have their levels reduced once, but the money should make it worthwhile. The army’s objective is not to win, but to test the city’s countermeasures.
“Regarding the barrier, I’ll request the union to borrow Shueria’s strength. He is a psychic-type expert, so I hope he can help the army sneak into the city. At the same time, we should ask him to try testing the barrier’s power. If he can’t break it, we will have to find other methods.”
Vata listened attentively while Varee said nothing. In the last war event, Varee didn’t take a side. She didn’t have any particular expectations from the event. It was just that she liked to participate. In her opinion, Sila’s strategy was moderately decent against such a firm stronghold. Nevertheless, there was a certain someone who disagreed with Sila’s method.
That someone was none other than Dark Self.
“Why do you have to make this overly complicated, Sila? Isn’t there a far simpler method? Just tell Kawin about Sanon’s secret, and their strong bonds of loyalty will be shaken. He may even join ours if you promise you’ll help him get his revenge once you become the Wulin Lord.” Dark Self’s voice echoed in Sila’s head.
“I will not use that kind of method...” Sila argued through mental communication.
“The essence of war is cruelty. Anything is acceptable during the war. Even murderers are called heroes in wartime. Humans are animals. War is just a wild jungle.”
“That method is wrong.”
“Right or wrong, who gets to decide that? Is it your conscience? Revin was right about you, then. Sila, you are such a fake, pretending to be a good person,” scorned Dark Self.
“I’m not pretending to be anyone. I just feel that it’s wrong to do that.”
“Rather, you’re just afraid to dirty your hands. Instead of becoming a sole bad guy and minimizing your losses, you choose to send tons of people to die for you. Is this right for your conscience? What is goodness, then? What exactly are you doing good deeds for? Fishing for compliments? Isn’t doing good deeds supposed to be for others instead of yourself? With my method, you may look like a shameless villain who sells people’s secrets for your own interests. However, this action will prevent thousands of lives from dying in this war. Isn’t that a genuinely good deed?”
“They won’t die for real. This is a game.”
“Don’t make excuses. What if this wasn’t a game? Are you saying you would choose differently?”
Sila frowned. “What you said was right. Even if this happened in real life, I would do the same. I will try to find the best solution.”
“The best solution. The so-called happy ending, huh? That kind of thing exists only in fiction. In real life, sometimes only terrible options exist for you to choose. Oftentimes there won’t be such a situation where everyone gets along happily ever after. One way or another, there will always be someone who suffers. If a happy ending can be found so easily, a word like miracle wouldn’t exist.”
“If there isn’t one, I will make it myself, that miracle you’re speaking of. Just you wait,” Sila abruptly put an end to the conversation.
Dark Self was considered one of Sila’s long-term problems. An unsolved time bomb. His suggestions always hit the marks and were effective, yet severe and excessive at the same time. He represented the cold and calculative side of Sila. At first Dark Self was just a small voice of conscience and a subtle feeling of tenacity inside Sila. However, his state of existence became clearer lately, which Sila suspected was due to Flaming Cloud Qi. If there was one day that his state of existence became too strong, Sila would become Dark Self before he even realized.
Sila looked at the Android Kingdom in a daze. He hadn’t read many books in his lifetime, but there was a certain book he repeatedly read until every word was ingrained in his memory. It was the Story of A Hundred Swords. He wondered that, in this kind of time, against the impenetrable city, what would his father do?
“Miss Vata, can I have a look at the map again?”
Vata handed him a scroll, which Sila unwrapped and opened it next to Varee, who was also taking a glance at it. Exactly as Vata had described, the city had no openings to exploit. It was impenetrable at first glance.
Sila furrowed his brows. He flipped the map up and down. Seeing his action, Varee was doubtful, so she asked, “What are you doing? Why are you flipping it?”
“Ah, it’s nothing. I’m trying to look at the map from different perspectives. By the way, Miss Vata, is this the entirety of the map?”
Vata tilted her head. “Yes, that already includes the entire structure of the city.”
Sila opened the map again, showing the two. “This map is written in a top-down perspective, right?”
The two women looked at each other, confusion clearly shown in their eyes. “Isn’t that normal for maps?”
“That’s true, but that’s in-the-box thinking. I want to see the city in three dimensions. Is it possible? That way, we will know whether there is something above...” Sila paused as he smiled, “...or underneath.”
Sila recalled the Story of A Hundred Swords regarding the fourteenth sword dojo that Pumin defeated. The dojo’s swordsmanship centered around perfect defense using dual swords. Pumin eventually succeeded in his attacks by aiming at the opponent’s ankle, which was out of the dual swords’ range.
Sila was trying to adapt Pumin’s problem-solving ability in a sword duel to use in the raid.
“I’m curious. Since the underground Lost Grea City has been lifted up and combined with Grea City to make Siaferia City, what is underneath Siaferia City right now? An empty space or what? If we can’t raid the city using normal means, will it be possible for us to raid it through an underground tunnel?”
Vata could understand Sila’s idea instantly. “Not a bad idea. Anyway, digging a tunnel to raid the city is a method that has never been done before. We don’t know whether it will work. In addition, I have never heard of any player possessing digging-related skills. For us to make a tunnel that an army can march through, who knows how much manpower is required? This method’s strong point is its surprise factor. If we plan to hire a large number of players, just one spy can ruin the entire plan.”
“What if we don’t rely on players?”
“Are you planning to use monsters? That’s a decent idea,” Vata gave her opinion, “Nevertheless, your monsters are being monitored as well. While it’s true that the dwarf race would be a great help, if many dwarfs were to suddenly disappear, it’s almost certain that people will find it suspicious. It risks them finding out that we’re working on something under the surface.”
“What if Lookhin is the only one missing?” Sila pointed at the sparrowhawk on Varee’s palm. “There is no need for us to hurry. Let her use her magic to gradually dig a tunnel. We can declare that we’ll raid Siaferia City first, while, in fact, our real target is Zhongsuyuan City. Maybe we will have our secret force attack Colossia City at the same time. Siaferia City will be our next target after those, and Lafesta City will be the last.”
Varee frowned. “You make it sound easy and possible, but your plan lacks a lot of details.”
“We’ll think about it later. The more complicated the plan is, the more it is prone to error. Better make it simple. It’s only a general outline anyway. We’ll have to come up with strategies according to the situations at hand.”
“Well, I guess our business here is done, then,” said Varee.
Sila shook his head as he took out the metal box containing the problematic black dragon scale. He opened the box to show the two what was inside.
“Not yet. I want you two to help me with something. This will be related to the final battle between me and Montra. I’ll explain now.”
In the Dragon Kingdom, near the edge of the Coiling Forest.
Asava and Himeko emerged next to a giant tree. Himeko observed their surroundings as she lifted her hand from Asava’s shoulder.
“This place is the Coiling Forest. According to Sila, we have to go to the Sacred Temple. Under the pool inside is where the Chaos Emperor Dragon, or rather the Tiger God, lives.”
Asava showed a smile. His smile was the complete opposite of Mamon’s. It was a smile so kind and warm that people can’t help but let their guard down around him.
Smiling was the first art Asava learned from his teacher.
“Unexpectedly, I’ll have a chance to encounter the living legend. This is delightful.”
Himeko led the way. “Be careful. This place can be said to be Montra’s territory. Our operation today is supposed to be top secret. That was why I brought you with me.”
Asava followed her closely. “I know, I know. It’s your fault for neglecting leveling up your character. This is a game anyway. It’s quite fun if you give it a try.”
For the record, Himeko traveled to the Dragon Kingdom at Sila’s request. However, she judged that the task Sila entrusted to her was beyond her ability. Thus, she went to ask for Asava’s help.
Sila intended for her to meet the Tiger God in order to ask him the method to conquer the Blade-Sharpening Dragon. Nevertheless, the Dragon Kingdom had become a forbidden ground after being raided. There was a strict procedure to be followed when anyone, even people from the dragon race, wanted to visit the Sacred Temple.
Realizing that their kingdom wasn’t as invincible as they had thought, dragon-race players began to take turns guarding the place. They were aware that the first raid could lead to another. As players came to know that raiding the Dragon Kingdom was possible, some groups might want to try it as well. Dragons were rare creatures that dropped valuable items and large amounts of money. The Dragon Kingdom was a dream place for many adventurers who sought profits.
Right after the first raid ended, the dragon-race players established a new law, indicating that everyone entering or exiting the Dragon Kingdom had to send a request for permission to the Heavenly Dragon Guild at least a week in advance. If they didn’t, they could receive a warning or even be killed. This rule emphasized that their kingdom was a sacred place, not a location to be taken lightly.
Himeko naturally possessed enough capability to avoid being detected, both from players and monsters. However, she took Sila’s request seriously and wanted to avoid possible errors. She was aware that her level was still at Level 1,000 Knight Rank, which was too low based on the current average level of dragon-race players. Thus, she invited Asava, the master of killing who had reached Marquis Rank, to join her covert mission.
Asava was, in a sense, her trump card in case something went wrong.
“It’s regretful that you belong to the dragon race. You missed the chance to meet your teacher,” Asava initiated the conversation as they walked.
“We’ve met, though I didn’t realize at all that she was my teacher. As expected of the Hell’s Gate Islands’ best spy,” Himeko replied as she was paying attention to the surrounding sound.
“That’s true. Don’t be disappointed though. She didn’t even go to visit her own son.”
Himeko stopped her feet. “There is an outpost ahead of us. Two high-level players. Can you handle them?”
Asava’s body gradually became transparent. “It’s not a fight, so there will be no problem. Killing targets without letting them know what happened is the ultimate level of assassination."
Himeko waited behind a tree. She focused on the sound of Asava’s heartbeats, which were stable and calm like those of cold-blooded animals, approaching the two targets. Given their abilities, Himeko and Asava had a choice to make a detour around the players. However, they judged that it might become a problem if they had to be wary of every direction. The option of silently assassinating everyone they met on the way was far better for their journey.
Asava activated Sage of the Six Disasters, the Gambled Disaster, to determine the best timing and positioning for taking out his targets. His invisible body casually strode forward with no sign of haste. There was neither sound nor leakage of power. Once he had reached the suitable spot, he lightly rubbed his fingers together, sending faint aromas into the two players’ noses. Instantly, those two slightly jerked, their eyes gradually became hazy as they felt like they were going to paradise.
That was the last feeling they got to feel. The Blossoming Disaster was the technique regarding the use of poisons. At a higher level, Asava could kill them neatly with the poison alone. However, he didn’t want to waste such a precious poison on ordinary targets. Thus, he opted to use a more common poison, making the targets temporarily become absent-minded, since an instant was more than enough for him.
Sage of the Six Disasters — Death Disaster — Killing Art.
Asava’s sabers slithered out of his hands like two crawling snakes. Each of them penetrated the joints between parts of armor and stabbed into the target’s heart, exactly one inch deep. The tips of the blades made small scratches on the fragile hearts, turning the two players into white light and disappearing without a single drop of blood being spilled.
The Eminent Immortal was the sole person in the Hell’s Gate Islands who could make a perfect kill without leaving any traces. If he willed it, he could even leave behind a corpse that, according to any autopsy done, had resulted from a heart attack.
Asava was the heir of the Eminent Immortal from the Hell’s Gate Islands, so he had inherited those skills. Himeko borrowed his strength to sneak in without leaving any trace behind.
“Mn. I got nothing aside from money and experience points. Unfortunately, my level has already hit the cap,” Asava complained as he reappeared next to her.
Himeko stepped away from the tree. She walked passed Asava and entered the strictly forbidden area. “The next shift will come soon. We have less than half an hour.”
Asava nodded and followed her silently. Once the two arrived in front of the temple, worried expressions could be seen on their faces. The cause was the wreckage in front of the temple. The entrance was blocked off by piles of giant boulders.
Asava showed a dry smile. “We should have brought Vlad with us. I’m not good at physical labor. What should we do?”
Himeko closed her eyes. Asava didn’t want to disturb her so he simply sat down on one of the boulders. Having known each other, he could guess what she was doing. Himeko was listening to the sound of the wind passing through gaps between rocks, searching for a path that could lead them inside.
A moment later, she reopened her eyes and shook her head. “It’s no good. These rocks completely block every available path that humans can use to enter. I definitely heard the sound of something moving underneath the temple, but it was very strange. I didn’t hear any heartbeats.”
“You heard the sounds of something alive yet there was no sound of heartbeats? Such a freak creature can be none other than the Tiger God, I’m sure. The Marvelous Bible is renowned in its ability to turn the impossible into reality,” Asava commented, “Well, we can’t proceed further, so I guess we’ve gained nothing from this trip.”
“No, just the fact that my voice can reach him is enough,” said Himeko. Her eyes were sparkling. Noticing that, Asava couldn’t help but feel worried.
Himeko and Vlad were like Asava’s little siblings. Although they didn’t share the same bloodline, the bonds between them were stronger than what others could expect.
Asava was aware that there was a taboo for using Goddess’ Resonance Dark Art, and that was for the user to hold real attachment to their targets. The users must be able to abandon anything regardless of place and time, similar to how a goddess could freely ascend and return to Heaven according to her will. If the goddess felt attached to lowly mortals, she would simply lose her wings and fall.
Based on Asava’s observation, Himeko seemed to care for Sila too much. He inwardly hoped that her feelings toward Sila wouldn’t develop into love, otherwise a grave consequence would await her. If something were to happen to his precious siblings, Asava was prepared to do whatever it takes to protect them, even if it meant fighting against the Wulin Masters Association or the Hell’s Gate Islands. He would handle the problem with the only method he specialized in. The cause of the problem wouldn’t live to see tomorrow.
Himeko concentrated her mind to envision the room below the temple. In the center of the room was the silhouette of a person. The air around the person seemed to be constantly sucked inward. Based on Sila’s explanation, this phenomenon might be the result of Grand Deity’s Breathing. She sent her whispering voice to the person’s ears.
“The Tiger God Hu Xian, I’m Sila’s friend. Can you help us please?” Her voice was very supple and beautiful as if it belonged to the ethereal celestial goddess. Those who listened to it could even be willing to abandon their lives and souls to make her wishes come true.
However, the voice she got in return from someone under the temple was hoarse and placid.
“Your dark art is useless against me, young lass from the Hell’s Gate Islands. It seems Kimon’s members are still as intimate as ever.”
It was a given that the Tiger God knew about the Hell’s Gate Islands and their four famous dark arts. Knowing that Sila used Flaming Cloud Qi, the Tiger God was aware that Himeko was indeed Sila’s comrade. In any case, it wasn’t clear to Himeko the reason why her dark art didn’t work against the Tiger God—whether it was due to the Tiger God’s higher inner force or a special trait of Grand Deity’s Breathing.
Changing her voice back to normal sound transmission, Himeko apologized, “I’m terribly sorry, Senior. The thing was... I was asked by two parties to seek your assistance regarding two different matters. You’re the only one who knows the answers to both questions. I beg you to share some of your wisdom.”
“I’m free anyway. Let me hear what you want to say.”
“Firstly, we want to know how you got your hands on the Classic of Sinew Metamorphosis and its current location. Secondly, Sila wants to know how you won against the Demonic Dragon in a state where you couldn’t use your power.”
Both questions were indeed mysteries that only the Tiger God knew the answers for. Each answer was extremely important.
The Classic of Sinew Metamorphosis was mentioned only in legends from a thousand years ago. However, it suddenly emerged during the Tiger God’s era and ended up in his possession.
“Fufufu. I was wondering what you might request. It turns out to be these trivial matters I can handle easily. No problem. I’ll grant your request, though there is a condition.”
“What kind of condition, Senior? Just say the word, and we’ll do anything we can.”
“No, I don’t want you to do anything for me. I desire nothing. My condition is I’ll answer only one of your questions. You must choose which question you desire the answer for more.” The Tiger God’s voice came in a challenging tone, as if he was having fun teasing people.
Himeko was startled. “Didn’t you say they are just trivial matters you can handle easily?”
“Yes, they are, but hardships in the world shouldn’t be solved too easily. In order to obtain something, you should be prepared to let go of something else. I’m always here, so you don’t need to hurry. I don’t mind if you want to go back and think things through before returning.”
Himeko paused the conversation and consulted what she just heard with Asava, who could make a decision instantly. “It’s a no-brainer. There is such a large gap of level of importance between the two matters. As far as we know, the Classic of Sinew Metamorphosis is the last antique profound art available in the present era, and he is the only one who knows its whereabouts. We, as members of Wulin Masters Association, have a duty to preserve and guard it. The question that Sila asked is of utmost insignificance in comparison.”
“Exactly as that young lad said. So you have decided? Ask me then...” This time the Tiger God’s voice could be heard by both of them. Even without a profound art related to sound, the Tiger God could achieve this kind of feat with his vast amount of experience, inner force, and talents.
Himeko weighed the options in her mind for a minute. Finally, she opened her mouth, “Please tell me the method to acquire the Blade-Sharpening Dragon, Senior.”
Asava was shocked. “What did you do, Hime?! Why—?!”
The Tiger God interrupted, “Since you have chosen, don’t regret it later. Now, I’ll tell you alone.” The Tiger God’s answer came as a short sentence. It flowed into Himeko’s ears, surprising her as she heard it.
“Is it that easy?”
“I have told you nothing but truths. Do you regret your decision now?”
“No, Senior. Rather, I’m glad I can be of help to Sila.”
Himeko stood up and touched Asava’s shoulder, who was showing an upset expression, before both of them teleported away from the Dragon Kingdom. The last thing they got to hear was the Tiger God’s mischievous laughter.
Sila was panting heavily. He raised his sleeve to wipe the sweat on his forehead. Piled on the ground next to him were dozens of broken E-grade swords. He looked at the sword in his hand, which was now broken in half, before shifting his gaze to the similar sword in Varee’s hands.
“Do you understand yet? Everyone can use a sword, but only a few can use it efficiently,” said Varee. She didn’t seem the least bit tired.
Sila was neglecting qi circulation, stopping himself to alleviate fatigue and recover stamina. Regardless, for him to be dead tired despite having the skill Way of the Hermit, it proved that fighting without the support of qi was indeed difficult.
“That was already the thirty-third sword you broke. On the other hand, my first one is still intact. Do you understand why?”
Sila nodded. “I’m starting to get it. You didn’t block my attacks directly even once, right?”
Hearing Sila’s reply, Varee felt amazed. “You got that right, Sila. You put too much force into your actions, though normally you would have to spend months to notice that. Sword handling is an important skill, especially for my Japanese katana which has a curved and slender blade. It can be easily broken if you use it incorrectly.”
For the record, Sila was now learning traditional swordsmanship. He wanted to be better at using swords, but he didn’t have a proper teacher. The only one in his mind was Varee.
True, his sword arts belonged to Pumin, the Sword Prodigy. However, Heaven’s Decree was a high-level sword art Pumin came up when he had high mastery at using swords. On the other hand, Sila learned it without even basic knowledge like how to hold a sword properly. Although Pumin had taught him some of the basics when they were in the Desert of Death, their time together was limited, so Sila couldn’t learn all of it.
Sila’s weakness would be exposed when he fought against others. He was like a game character with ultimate skills but lacking basic attacks. Between each use of the moves would be a gap his opponents could exploit. In addition, each style of Heaven’s Decree used up a great deal of energy. He might be fine in a one-on-one duel, but he wouldn’t last using Heaven’s Decree against a hundred enemies.
Hence, he was returning to the basics. Just like when an arrow fired straight into the air returns to the ground, Sila decided to go from using his highly skilled art to training the fundamentals. He asked Varee to teach him standard swordsmanship, starting from the most basic level performed by ordinary people without the support of the inner force. In the process, many of his swords had broken while Varee’s was still in good condition despite using the same kind of sword and not relying on any energy reinforcement.
“The trick lies in the blade's direction and the direction in which you apply the force at the very point of contact. If you don’t rely on techniques and only use your arm strength, you’ll get tired easily. Swinging a sword and missing the target is even more tiresome than hitting the target. My mom taught me how to brandish the sword gently yet swiftly. With enough mastery, even a wooden sword can be used to handle real swords.”
“Apply the force straight along the blade, is it? I see,” Sila repeated the lesson.
“That’s not all to it. A sword is an extension of your body, but it’s not a part of your flesh. It doesn’t have flexibility like your muscles, so you need to be flexible in its stead by exerting a suitable level of strength—not too weak and not too strong. Redirect the force of the opponent’s attack away instead of letting it affect your sword.”
Sila scratched his head. “Won’t the force come to harm our arms instead, then?”
“It won’t if you do it properly, though this level of mastery would require experience and the ability to seize the timing. Let the impact flow past you like water flowing through rocks. For you to reach this level, three or four years experience with using a sword is normally required.”
Sila nodded as he took out a new sword. “I don’t have that much time. Now, let’s continue.”
“Welcome back. I hope you’ll have something new to show me today,” the black dragon announced in a voice that echoed throughout the room.
Sila didn’t reply as he simply nodded. He looked around, observing the waiting room. This marked the third time he had come to this place, which he hoped would be his last.
Spotting the bloodstain from his last visit, he felt relief. It seemed the intel he had gotten was true.
He didn’t think that the method would be so easy. Well, people sometimes cannot see the forest for the trees. If he wasn’t told the method, the difficulty level of the trial would be unbelievably high.
Sila clenched his fist, digging his nails into his flesh. Then, he flicked his hand, spraying his blood toward the dragon. It quickly moved away to evade before glaring at Sila, its eyes showing surprised expression.
Sila nodded. “The scale that I dropped my blood on is just a gateway for me to come find you. I need to place my blood on your actual body in order to claim you as mine. This means it doesn’t matter how powerful you are, just coming into contact with a drop of my blood is an instant loss for you.”
“Did the Chaos Emperor Dragon tell you that?”
Sila shook his head. “He only said that using the Dragon Record is enough to win against you. Though that was the troublesome part since the Dragon Record has already transformed into the Slime Record.”
The dragon twisted its body. It looked at Sila and released a sigh. “So you have the Royal Record in your possession. Now I see why the Chaos Emperor Dragon deemed you as someone worthy of wielding me.”
Sila was still vigilant. He took a short step as he continued, “At first I didn’t know that this book is called the Royal Record. Fortunately, Varee has a high-level inspection skill. Although its tier isn’t as high as the skill Bluebird has, it was enough to inspect the book and discover its other usage. It turns out that the Royal Record is an item that will change its name and its abilities according to the holder’s race. For the slime race, the holder can collect skills performed by other slimes. For the dragon race, the holder can access the details of any dragon that they look for in the book. I had Vata hold onto it for a while, and once I described you, your information soon showed up.”
The dragon moved in a circle and appeared behind Sila. It said, “You shouldn’t know anything about me.”
“I didn’t at first, but you gave me too many hints, Zarnak the Cursed Dragon.”
The dragon snaked around Sila and stared at him directly from the front. “...How did you find out? I have never made an appearance in the world as a dragon.”
Sila swept his eyes around, following Zarnak’s movements. “Because I know more about dragons than you think I do. Dragons are elite monsters. When I encountered them, the system would notify me. The fact that you directly showed up in my waiting room without notice implies that you’re a psychic-type. Many players would find it impossible since dragons are magic-type mythical creatures. However, if even qi-type dragons can exist, why can’t there be a psychic-type one? Your information showed up as soon as we searched for psychic-type dragons. It turns out that you’re the only psychic-type dragon that has ever appeared in Monster Soul.”
Zarnak’s laughter reverberated throughout the room. Just its mental oppression alone could cut Sila’s flesh, though it wasn’t as dangerous as the last time. This outcome prompted Zarnak to become aware that Sila had learned how to resist its power.
Sila stabilized his mind, not swayed by the fearfulness of Zarnak’s transcendent oppression. The dragon grated its teeth together and stuck out its tongue, licking its lips. Its scales rose up, showing the sharpness that could slice Sila and turn him into rags with a mere touch. Even so, Sila wasn’t afraid.
Sila observed the dragon’s actions. “Usually, Dragon Scales strengthen the user’s stats and grant them additional abilities. Demonic Dragon Scales is a psychic-type skill. It highly strengthens the user’s stats in proportional to the opponent’s fear and makes the opponent’s dragon-race passive skills unusable when coming into contact.
“Dragon Domain grants the dragons the ability to create their own terrain. However, you aren’t a magic-type dragon, so the skill was replaced by something else, similar to how Rex has Tiger Dragon Qi. For you, it’s a psychic-type skill, Executing Dragon Eyes, which can nullify dragon-race active skills and inflict damage to the targeted dragon at half the amount of magic power they used to activate the skill.
“Once I got my hands on your information, I then realized why all dragons fear the Chaos Emperor Dragon...”
“...Because I’m the dragon who exists to slay other dragons. I possess the abilities to kill even Infernee, the so-called Immortal Dragon. You know this, yet you still dare to challenge me?”
“The more I fear you, the stronger you’ll become. I wouldn’t stand a chance if you were an actual dragon with a physical form. However, the current you is in a half-weapon state. If I can simply claim ownership, I win.” Sila pointed at the pool of blood on the corner of the room. “Moreover, things are in my favor. My blood in this room won’t disappear as long as you’re here. That means as long as I don’t give up and gradually increase the volume of my blood in this room, you’ll ultimately end up with no space left to live. My success is inevitable. This trial doesn’t test my fighting ability, but measures how many times I’m willing to die without giving up. That’s the true aim of the trial.”
“The trial is testing your unyielding determination and the courage to advance into the unknown... Yet you know the answer beforehand. Isn’t this against the trial’s purpose?”
Sila shook his head. “You never forbade me from discovering the answer beforehand. You can’t blame me.”
Zarnak looked at Sila from his head to his toes. “Your body contains approximately five liters of blood and this room is quite spacious. You’ll have to die hundreds or thousands of times before I have no space left. Each time the pain you experience will be different. Are you mentally prepared?”
“I have the Lordship of Time, enabling me to reduce my respawn time. I come here to die, come back again, and repeat. Dying from dropping my blood on the scale only decreases my level by 10. My rank won’t be demoted. I’m prepared to die. No matter how many times it takes, be it a hundred or a thousand, I’ll come back again. Time is short. I’m urgently in need of the Demonic Armament.”
A roar reverberated. Zarnak slithered through the air at a speed that Sila’s eyes could follow but his body couldn’t. His body turned into bloody mincemeat scattered all over the room. His blood sprayed over like rain. The dragon stared at the rain of blood landing on its body with eyes showing some hint of gentleness.
“...Since you said time is short, let’s not waste it. The current you might just be a rough mineral, a rock, or worthless dirt. However, I’ll melt, smith, and sharpen you until you become an excellent sword—until you become the strongest weapon in Monster Soul...”
That was the last thing Sila heard before he disappeared from the room with a frown, believing he was being satirized. In any case, he was glad. Finally, he had become the second player next to the Tiger God to truly possess a Demonic Armament. Although Sila was not aware of it, this was the linchpin setting off a series of great changes in his life that the him from before he entered the game would never have been able to consider.
Sila regained consciousness in the Mansion of Secrets since he had died in this place. It was a special dimension separated from the outside world, thus he revived here.
His memory of what had happened a moment ago was hazy like a dream. His brain wasn’t yet fully awake, though the leftover pain constantly reminded him that what he saw had truly happened.
He had already overcome the trial to conquer the Blade-Sharpening Dragon.
Zarnak, the Cursed Dragon, floated up from Sila’s shadow. Its body was as large as his bedroom, so many appliances in the room broke by its long body when it fully emerged.
“Conquering me is equal to conquering my power. On your command, I shall activate my skills from inside you.”
Sila felt delighted. With Zarnak’s Demonic Dragon Scales and Executing Dragon Eyes in his possession, it meant he held an extreme advantage over opponents of the dragon race. They could no longer use dragon-race skills in his presence.
“So these are the abilities I got from equipping the Blade-Sharpening Dragon, right?”
Zarnak snaked around the room, shaking everything inside and making cracks in the wall. Apparently, it seemed to be the type that didn’t like the idea of staying still.
“They’re only a part of my power. Those powers belonged to the Cursed Dragon part of me. As for the powers belonging to the Demonic Armament part, twenty percent of each of your resources will be suppressed in order to feed me, as I have no physical body...”
“I already know that. Twenty percent of my health points and special points, right?”
“...Health, qi, psychic, magic points, and also special points and Unison Percentage. In exchange, I’ll sharpen and push you to the very pinnacle of Monster Soul, similar to what the Chaos Emperor Dragon had reached.”
Even after listening to Zarnak’s explanation, Sila still failed to understand. “Can you please explain more?”
“I’m a Demonic Armament. For all equipment you wear, if they have any negative effects, I’ll be the one to bear them. You’ll only gain their benefits. I will also impart to you knowledge that will allow you to unleash your full potential. I can even push you into the bizarre world of Flaming Cloud Qi’s Nirvana Part.”
Sila was greatly surprised. “How do you know about Flaming Cloud Qi? Moreover, the Nirvana Part is the part which no one has ever successfully wielded with the founder—the first generation Demon God—as the sole exception. I don’t think...”
Flaming Cloud Qi had a total of four parts—Foundation, Cloud, Flame, and Nirvana. The Demon Gods from each generation could specialize in different parts, resulting in diversity in their power. According to the record, only the first generation Demon God specialized in the Nirvana Part. Demon Gods of the later generations mostly specialized in the Foundation Part or the Flame Part. Only a few specialized in the Cloud Part like Mora.
“My weak master... I retain memories of my past owners. I can also determine the method to efficiently polish their abilities and put them to the best use. It’s the innate talent I was born with. I’m aware of Flaming Cloud Qi, Formless Martial God, Five-Attributed Cloud Qi, Heaven’s Decree Sword Art, and even the existence of Dark Self. If you prefer, you can even start practicing Omniscient Evil God Qi...”
Sila stared at Zarnak, feeling blown away. He could finally understand why Crow had said the twenty percent reduction was too low. If the dragon really did possess the talent it had mentioned, even if the price he had to pay tripled, he would still be willing to equip it.
“Ah... right. Since I already have my hands on the Demonic Armament, I’ll need the Elixir.”
Sila took the Elixir out from his system window, followed by the dragon egg and the four Soul Crystals. Zarnak took a look at them briefly.
“My foolish master, you still have four swords, right? Bring them out.”
“Hm? Do you know what I’m aiming to do?”
“You want to create high-tier armor out of top-grade items through the art of alchemy. Nevertheless, you don’t have skills relating to alchemy. This means it’s not a method you came up with yourself and you want me to do it in your place.”
Sila placed the four swords on the ground before scratching his head. “Yes, someone told me to do this. Though I didn’t know before that you can perform alchemy.”
“I said I retain memories of my past owners. Before I was in the Chaos Emperor Dragon’s possession, I had been in the hands of many monsters—including gods and demons. I inherited their pieces of knowledge as I was the one teaching them how to bring out their potential. My wisdom might not be the best, but it surely is at least greater than yours, my moronic master.”
Sila couldn’t help but express his doubt, “Why do you have to keep nagging me? Saying I’m weak, foolish, and moronic.”
“I don’t understand your question... You’re genuinely weak, foolish, and moronic. What about my words was incorrect, my curious master?”
‘His tone didn’t sound mischievous at all. Could it be that he really didn’t intend to be sarcastic?’ Sila thought.
Zarnak ignored Sila as it stared at the items on the floor. “You have to remove your current armor too, my dull-witted master. Isn’t the armor what you want?”
“Oh, you’re right.” Sila unequipped the Mechanical Evil God’s Protection. Detaching from his body, it transformed back into a cross bag like it originally used to be.
“The Elixir is the connector. A high-grade armor is the core. A Gem of Catastrophe is the central energy generator. Weaved with the thread created by Eleanor the Raiment Dragon. Use four swords as weapons while the souls of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are additional components...”
Sila only just found out that the souls residing inside the Soul Crystals he got from Mamon belonged to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Well, he didn’t know what kind of beings they were even if he knew their names.
“Still lacking your blood to mark the armor as yours, my negligent master...”
“Enough. Just call me Sila. Or simple ‘Master’ will suffice,” Sila complained as he slit his finger.
“...Whatever, my picky master,” replied Zarnak. To be honest, Sila had a feeling that it tended to pay no mind to his words.
Unbeknownst to Sila, the actual reason why the Chaos Emperor Dragon removed the Blade-Sharpening Dragon and kept it away wasn’t because he didn’t like using weapons, but because he couldn’t stand its personality. Zarnak was one of the living weapons, and a very talkative one at that. In addition, its tone of voice was lifeless and devoid of emotion, like it was blandly reading from a script. It also liked to mock its master whenever it saw a chance.
The lid of the Elixir was removed by invisible force and the rainbow-colored liquid flew to fuse with Sila’s blood in midair. The tiny splash from the impact sprinkled on every other object. The Curse Dragon moved its body around three times to begin the alchemical process. All of the materials were then absorbed into the dragon egg, which Zarnak then proceeded to swallow whole.
“Eh?! Why did you eat it?”
“Dragon eggs can only be hatched by dragons. Alchemy is a procedure that requires time, so you’ll get to see your new armor tomorrow. Now, sit down and circulate qi through the acupuncture points I point out.”
“Circulate qi? Why?”
“Didn’t you just say you don’t have time, my forgetful master? I’m about to open the gate for you to enter the world of Nirvana, and also the world of Omniscient Evil God Qi...”
Sila sat down on the floor, still feeling distrustful. “Can you really do that?”
“If things go smoothly, you’ll unlock the full potential of all of your half-baked powers in three days...”
“Just in three days?” Sila became even more doubtful than before. Things shouldn’t be that easy.
“Unless you plan to interrupt my speech every single minute, in which case the process may take months or years, my ever-interrupting master...” Zarnak said with a voice that held no emotion at all.
The dragon flicked its body and sent its scales to attach to parts of Sila’s body. It repeated the action several times on other parts of his body, prompting Sila to circulate qi according to the points it specified.
After following the suggested circulation method for a while, Sila stopped. He realized that this circulation pattern was unique as it didn’t belong to any of his qi arts—be it Omniscient Evil God Qi, Profound Qi Circulation Art, Five-Attributed Cloud Qi, or even Flaming Cloud Qi.
“What is this qi art? Didn’t you just say—?”
Zarnak fell into silence. It paused its action and squinted its eyes, glaring at Sila. “Aren’t you in a hurry? I’m leading you through the shortest and most efficient route for your cultivation. Your qi arts are all over the place. Even though some of them have been merged thanks to Flaming Cloud Qi, you must know that Flaming Cloud Qi is ultimately a qi art of the hot element. To master the Nirvana Part, you have to possess two polar opposite qi arts with equal strength. Now that your mastery over the Flame Part has far exceeded the Cloud Part, unless you intend to completely erase your entire inner force and start cultivating anew, you have to rely on a qi art of the cold element to stabilize your power. Only then may you enter the Nirvana of Samsara—the cycle of death and rebirth.”
“Practicing a new qi art? Will I be able to do that in a short time? Moreover, for me to cultivate a qi art that is equally powerful to Flaming Cloud Qi, won’t the same amount of effort and time be required? Do you know how difficult it was for me to achieve this level of mastery over Flaming Cloud Qi—?”
“You already possess a sufficient amount of inner force and a strong foundation. Just using a different circulation pattern is enough for you to obtain a new kind of power. It shouldn’t be difficult with the help of the Cloud Part. In any case, although I said you are going to rely on a different qi art, the art is none other than the reverse of Flaming Cloud Qi, practicing from the Flame Part to reach the Cloud Part in order to obtain the power of the cold element.”
“Isn’t randomly doing that dangerous? Every qi art has a specific circulation pattern. If we make even a slight error, it may lead to injuries or even my profound veins being crippled.”
“‘Understand the box to think outside the box’ is the tenet of the Flaming Cloud Dojo. So how come the dojo’s exclusive qi art can’t be modified in the application, my trapped-in-the-box master?”
Sila immediately comprehended Zarnak’s words. “I see! The tenet of the Flaming Cloud Dojo is ‘Understand the box to think outside the box’, but all Demon Gods of previous generations always practiced the art according to the scripture! This is what they say ‘Overlook the Obvious’—the reason why no one aside from the founder has ever mastered the Nirvana Part!”
“Since you have finally understood, let’s continue with your cultivation. Our time is short, right?”
“Sure, let’s do that. Thank you, my annoying dragon...” Sila closed his eyes and concentrated on circulating his power. Meanwhile, Zarnak fell into a short silence, seemingly shocked to hear that it was annoying. Then, it unleashed its psychic power to erect a barrier, preventing anyone from entering for three days.
Zhongsuyuan City, the Land of Twilight, also went by the title of the Qi Kingdom.
Some leading figures of the Wicked Union—mainly Lone Wolf and Beluga—gathered as they were waiting for someone who had requested a meeting. In addition to the two aforementioned members, only Elso and Hong Tong accompanied them.
Elso was standing uptight, his gaze wandering around in search of danger. As for Hong Tong, although he looked like a weak scholar on the surface, his position in the Victorious Wolves Sect was one of the vice-leaders. He rarely appeared in public due to personal reasons such as being available at different times, out completing solo quests, or simply considering the public appearance too troublesome. In any case, his strength was highly commendable. In the Victorious Wolves Sect, each vice-leader specialized in different departments, and regarding strength, he came out on top. Even though he wasn’t as well-known, everyone in the guild knew that his ability was only slightly below Lone Wolf’s.
The four of them were waiting inside a sloppy house with a Chinese pattern located at the border of the city, next to the wasteland which led to the Desert of Death. The usual uncomfortable heat during the day turned into a chilling cold at night. The icy wind breezed past their skin as their breaths became visible.
No one said anything yet. They simply waited.
“He came,” Beluga suddenly spoke up, “He really did come alone.”
The four originally stayed in complete darkness because no one needed a source of light to see in the dark. However, once the person they were waiting for approached, each of his steps left a cluster of flames on the ground shortly before disappearing. It was the sole source of light in the vast wasteland.
“Actually, it’s not in my nature to arrive late.” The playful voice was tinged with the feeling of friendliness.
“The great city ruler said he had something to discuss with us lowly peasants, so we had to make haste when coming here, so as to not displease you, Venerable Flame Monarch.” Beluga smiled.
Revin opened his system window, which prompted Elso to immediately stare daggers at him. Noticing the gaze, Revin slowed down his action. “Hey, calm down, man. I’m not doing anything suspicious. I’m just trying to take out a torch. Do you guys like staying in the dark or what? How weird.”
Revin was searching for half a minute and eventually closed his system window. “I can’t seem to find it. I was sure I put it there though.”
Lone Wolf placed his palm on a wooden table. Flames soon ignited on it and spread around, expanding into a ring of flames surrounding the entire house. The darkness was replaced by warm light. For the record, the control over these flames was top notch as the intensity of the flames was only at the level to brighten the room, neither damaging it nor spreading elsewhere.
“This should be enough, right?” asked Lone Wolf.
Revin approached the four without paying their doubtful eyes any mind. He sat down on a wooden bench, right between Lone Wolf and Beluga, as if they were intimate companions.
“By the way, I forgot to mention that I’m only the deputy ruler. The actual city ruler is still Montra. Well, I can issue one or two orders in this city though.”
A smile was still hanging on Beluga’s face, but he became noticeably less talkative. “In that case, what do you want from us, sir deputy city ruler?”
“I’m here just to seek the answer of a single, short question.” Revin held up one finger and spun it around in circular motion. “What is the Wicked Union?”
Lone Wolf declared, “The Wicked Union is a group of people who gathered with the intention to oppose the Heavenly Dragon Guild. We hold virtue in high regard and won’t yield under greater power being used for incorrect paths. If what the Heavenly Dragon Guild does is considered actions of the righteous side, we’ll gladly take on the role of the wicked villains.”
Revin nodded. “Interesting. Truly interesting. And what exactly is the virtue you spoke of?”
Beluga smirked. “Didn’t you say you came here to ask a single question? That was the second one.”
“Don’t misunderstand. I genuinely want the answer to that one question. However, the answer provided by Lone Wolf still has a part that I don’t understand. I need to ask further to clear the possible confusion. I heard that Lone Wolf gave people virtuous speeches during the gathering party in order to convince players to join your alliance. Regrettably, I didn’t attend that party, so I hope I can get to hear them once today.”
Lone Wolf still sat with his back up straight. His eyes were determined as if they were two suns that wouldn’t ever lose their glow. “Being virtuous is acting with moral and personal beliefs, while not harming others. The Heavenly Dragon Guild threatens, kills, plunders, collects protection fees, and causes troubles to a majority of people. We can’t accept those kinds of actions.”
Revin nodded. “Oh, I see, I see. Hm? But—?”
Beluga began to dislike the current atmosphere. Although Revin acted in a friendly manner and didn’t show any malice, something about him made Beluga feel restless. His intuition warned him to be watchful around this man named Revin.
“I just think that maybe there is some misunderstanding between us. The Heavenly Dragon Guild in my eyes doesn’t seem to match what you said. What we do is for the sake of the community at large. Actually, the guild’s goal is for creating Heaven on Earth, opening up the opportunity for players to fight and grow together. Even though we conquered the three main cities, we haven’t prevented entry or exit. Our products are reasonably cheap, even cheaper than what you can find elsewhere. About the protection fee, it’s like how its name suggests, it’s a fee for being under our protection. Compared to having to wander in the wild and risk encountering monsters, paying some small cash to support the army guarding the cities is quite logical.”
Beluga argued, “Those are mere facades you’re putting on. The Heavenly Dragon Guild in the past is far from being virtuous. It’s still the same even now. You’re just becoming more brazen.”
Lone Wolf smiled at the usual sharp-tongued Beluga. In any case, he was worried as Revin, too, was smiling. It was a smile that seemed like it belonged on a mask rather than someone’s face—a smile that made him feel a sense of discomfort.
“Is that bias I’m sensing? Our guild is large. We admit our backbone players sometimes failed to keep every guildmate in check. It’s possible that they might be off track and do bad deeds sometimes. However, as everyone knows, we’re always trying our best to punish those players and prevent others from following in their footsteps.”
After keeping his silence for a long time, Elso spoke, “Are you saying that all those evil acts, performed by the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s members, always went unnoticed by Montra, the guild master, and that they had nothing to do with him? Isn’t that too irresponsible?”
“That wasn’t exactly what I wanted to convey. Montra noticed some, but not all of them. That was why he had to spend time investigating the bad seeds, then focus on getting rid of them all in one go, which I must say was quite effective. You guys know that most if not all of the bandit gangs targeting new players have been taken care of by us, right?” Revin spun his finger around, his red eyes gleaming as if they were flickering candles.
Lone Wolf interrupted, “The guild leader must be held responsible for the actions done by their teammates.”
Beluga let out a hearty laugh. “Hahaha! What a bullshit excuse! So you’re saying Montra is actually a good guy and we should go back to sleep, huh? We all should stop fighting. Easy peasy like that, huh?”
Revin also joined in the laughing. He opened his system window and took out two discs, before sliding them to Beluga and Lone Wolf.
“Four years ago, someone in the Victorious Wolves Sect used your name, Lone Wolf, to extort money from new players in the Town of Beginnings. As for the Mountain Thieves League, one group of players in your guild plundered a small trading caravan traveling from Zhongsuyuan City to Colossia City. More details can be found inside. You can keep it. No need to return them.”
Lone Wolf and Beluga tried opening the files and found the details of the investigation, including the testimonies of victims and eyewitnesses. Upon coming to know this information, they were doubtful. They had never heard of this kind of thing before.
“This is the first I’ve heard of this,” said Lone Wolf as he turned to Beluga, who was reading the information thoroughly with an expression saying that he, too, had never known about such a scandal before.
Revin continued, “I’m so jealous. The Victorious Wolves Sect and the Mountain Thieves League have such skilled vice-leaders like Miss Ratri and Miss Nednapha, who are capable enough to shove these kinds of things away behind their guildmasters’ backs.”
Following that line of thought, Lone Wolf and Beluga realized those two women were indeed inclined to do whatever must be done in order to preserve the guild’s dignity and prevent them, the guild leaders, from feeling unnecessary worry.
Now Beluga was aware. Revin had long since unsheathed his sword and pointed it at the two’s necks. He was simply waiting for them to advance.
“I believe that the two of you were really clueless about these events. It’s not like you intended to overlook them to avoid taking responsibility.” Revin paused for a moment, allowing everyone to follow his flow of speech. “It’s difficult to completely control a guild with a large number of people. It’s normal for some guildmates to lose sight of the guild’s vision and go out of control. What I’m saying is Montra has been trying his best to fix that.”
Now the two realized that Montra was indeed superior to them. At the very least, Montra was aware of the problem and tried to fix it. Meanwhile, both of them were completely clueless about the bad seeds in their guilds. It could be said that they were even more irresponsible than Montra.
While speaking louder, Revin stood up. “Now I understand what virtue is for the Wicked Union. It’s discrimination. You are merciful toward your own side, overlooking your own mistakes while finding faults in others and totally ignoring the good actions that the Heavenly Dragon Guild performs. You used your convenient bias to judge that they were facades. How interesting.”
“What are you trying to say?” Lone Wolf stood up, his brain still unable to completely process the new information.
Revin gazed into Lone Wolf’s eyes, which used to radiate calmly and steadily, and noticed the hint of uncertainty in them. His assignment was already half-finished. Switching his gaze to Beluga, he realized that the second half of the assignment would fail. Beluga didn’t show any signs of confusion. He simply absorbed the new information without swaying.
‘Uwah~ I can’t do it after all,’ thought Revin.
Revin divided people in the world into two categories: those seeing the world in black and white, and those seeing the world in gray. Lone Wolf was among the first category. They clung to the concepts of absolute right and wrong. For them, things must always be judged to be either just or wicked. There was a strong pillar separating goodness and malignance. If this pillar broke apart, their beliefs would crumble. These people were like a white sheet of paper, easily stained.
The second category meant the people who lived without such a fine line separating good and evil, such as him, Montra, or Beluga. They looked at the world in gray, knowing that everyone has their own reasons and beliefs. It was difficult to shake the resolve of this type of person. At the same time, they were often rather pessimistic.
Revin didn’t mean to judge which type was better than others. He just thought that people of the first category were more suited to a peaceful world. They were unsuited to the world where tons of people were striving for survival.
And especially unsuited to Monster Soul.
That was the reason why Montra wasn’t concerned about Lone Wolf as much as he was about Cross or Beluga. He judged Lone Wolf as someone being in the wrong place and at the wrong time. Given his personality, Lone Wolf didn’t belong to the black world like Monster Soul from the beginning.
“Ahem.” Revin cleared his throat. “Sila brought harm to a lot of people just for the sake of obtaining power and skills. When Lost Grea City was under his management, he exploited his rights by selling items at an unreasonably high price, greedily pocketing the profits. The truth is right in front of you. As soon as Montra conquered the city, the price of every item sold in the city dropped immensely. Everyone can enjoy a happy life and live with all of the necessities. However, you guys disregarded our contributions and framed us as villains using your fake virtue.”
Of course, Revin was bluffing. He didn’t know for certain whether Sila sought power, skills, money, or whatever. Nevertheless, that wasn’t important anymore. The main point was that he had successfully shaken the Wicked Union’s core, which was ‘Virtue’ and also what was binding the alliance together. As long as he could take it down, the alliance would fall apart without him having to wage war.
Revin believed that everyone in the world was considered half good and half bad, and that their actions were the result of their circumstances.
“What the hell do you really want?” Beluga kept the disc with him and asked. There was no longer a sense of playfulness in his eyes. He finally came to understand Revin’s goal. He got it once he looked into Lone Wolf’s eyes.
Doubt was clearly written on Lone Wolf’s face.
Revin spun his finger again. “I already said it though. I came here to ask. What is virtue?”
“My question must have been too indirect, then. What exactly do you want to obtain from the answer to that question?” asked Beluga.
“Cease the war. We don’t have to spill any more blood. Anything that the system will give to the winner, we will distribute them evenly to all guilds we don’t consider our enemies. This deal is present for every guild that is a part of the Wicked Union. In addition, if you are afraid that the Heavenly Dragon Guild would be too powerful if left unchecked... once the war event ends, Montra will dismiss the guild, hand over the three cities to suitable people, delete his avatar, and never return to the game. This is the most we can offer.”
The proposal was extremely beneficial to them. Too beneficial, in fact, to the point where Beluga doubted its integrity.
“What will Montra get from all of that?”
Revin shook his head. “Montra won’t get anything, except for the long-lasting peaceful era of Monster Soul... Erm, I personally disagree with him in this regard though. I think the peace will last for only three or four years at most until a new tyrant steps up and everything goes back to how it was. Well, the point is that he is willing to sacrifice his self-interest for the well-being of everyone else. That is Montra’s virtue.”
Virtue? What exactly is it? Beluga questioned it and was still in the middle of seeking the answer. Is it the act of being good or being kind to others? What if the receiving side doesn’t want said goodwill or kindness, then? Will the same action still be regarded as a virtuous act?
Beluga declared resolutely, “That sounds too naive for someone like Montra. War was never an act of virtue since the very beginning. I play this game, seeking excitement and thrilling moments, enjoying the experiences I can’t find in real life. If I truly wanted such a long-lasting peaceful era, I would have played dating simulators or farming games instead and wouldn’t be standing here in Monster Soul.”
“Well, I already expected you, Beluga, to say something along this line. So the negotiation failed, I take it?”
“This was never a negotiation from the start. I heard that killing the deputy city ruler is equivalent to killing the city ruler themselves. This house is located within Zhongsuyuan City. How can a mountain bandit like me miss such a great opportunity, don’t you agree?”
Revin still showed the same playful expression despite being in the center of four powerhouses of the opposing side.
“What will you do, Lone Wolf? I won’t mind if you abandon virtue and stoop so low as to gang up on me. I would consider it an achievement if I can manage to drag a person like you into the mud.”
“I have something to ask Ratri. Please excuse me.” Lone Wolf leaped out. Meanwhile, Hong Tong showed a sign of hesitation for a brief moment but ultimately decided to stay.
Beluga’s gaze followed the departing figure of Lone Wolf, feeling disappointed in the man. Does it matter if what Revin said was true or false? No man can change the past.
Lone Wolf was too pure. He was a perfectly white sheet without stains, a good guy among good guys. However, the more white the sheet was, the easier it is to spot any dirt on it, and Lone Wolf wouldn’t stop until it was spotless.
What Beluga was trying to say was, for him, virtue was something judged by others. Even if you eternally lived your entire life as a good guy, you can still be considered a villain if people in the world said so, maybe out of jealousy, envy, or whatever. Hence, it was best to ignore others’ opinions. Just staying true to your beliefs is a virtue by itself.
“Three against one, then. Well, war is not about fairness.”
Revin turned his back, showing openings. “Easy, men. I’m in a good mood today. Let’s fight for real in the real war—having only one life, dying means the end. It will be more fun that way. I won’t take advantage of you today.”
“Take advantage of what?” Beluga asked, trying to pull Revin’s attention.
Even without orders, Elso and Hong Tong immediately took actions. Elso’s black saber jabbed forward, shooting a thin line. Meanwhile, Hong Tong fired a qi bullet using Yizichan. Both attacks flew to Revin’s back and neck.
Two metallic sounds simultaneously rang out. The black saber and the qi bullet were stopped one inch away from Revin.
Revin spun his finger again. His smile seemed dangerous and tempting. He was like a flame. It wasn’t strange that many women had fallen for his enticing charms.
“I spared your life three times already. This time makes four... Let’s part without trouble today and see each other again in the war event. My Zhongsuyuan City will always welcome you.”
The silhouettes of more than ten ancient warriors in ethereal forms emerged inside and around the house. Among them, two were guarding Revin, blocking the previous attacks.
Revin walked away, leaving the system notification to inform the rest of consecutive and endless monster appearances.
“Like I said, it’s not in my nature to arrive late. That was why I sent these guys to welcome you before you arrived.”
Beluga swallowed his saliva as the soul warriors gradually faded away. The soul race could become invisible at will. Every time that Revin spun his finger meant he could have killed the four once. Even though these monsters were weaker and lower in quantity compared to Siaferia’s Android Army, they were nonetheless fearsome invisible assassins staying active in Zhongsuyuan City.
“Why didn’t you—?” Elso was about to ask why Revin didn’t use this chance to kill them, but Revin’s reply came with the wind before he could finish the sentence.
“I’m like Beluga, entering this game to seek thrilling moments. It’ll be more exciting this way. However, the next time there will be no warnings. If you die, you will only have yourself to blame.”
What a weird one. In the world where survival of the fittest and only power comes first this make me frustration. Cmon man how long are we just keep doing this in chapter one into another. It is already 300 chapter dude. Please tell me the next chapter will be action not useless politic where nobody is wrong and enemy is always right.
The sound of a long sigh flowed along the wind. The source of such a depressing sigh was Thief555, who was sitting on a large rock while resting his chin on his hand. Surrounding him from afar were his lackeys, who were looking at him with concern.
“Boss has been sighing a lot lately. What’s wrong with him?”
“That’s worrisome. Even though we took out his favorite Portable Karaoke Box to enjoy the other day, Boss said he wasn’t in the mood and kept sighing.”
“Let’s have someone among us go ask him what’s wrong. Thief555 will become the Sighing Thief at this rate.”
T/N: A small reminder. “5” in Thai is pronounced as “ha,” so the name “Thief555” is equivalent to “Thief Hahaha.”
After some debate and dispute, a kick finally sent one of the henchmen out of the circle, flying to Thief555. The victim turned around, trying to find out who kicked him, yet everyone systematically put up an innocent face.
The man braced himself as he took two steps forward. He muttered a sound, “Ermm... Boss...”
“What?” Thief555 replied with a soulless attitude, his eyes looking off into the sky.
The victim turned his head back to his comrades, his expression showing that he wanted to run away. However, their return gazes locked onto him, forcing him to confront Thief555 again.
“...The weather is nice today, no, Boss...?”
“Sigh... The weather is always the same every day.” Thief555 let out a sigh.
“Ouch!” A small magic arrow hit the man in the back of his head, almost knocking him down. He turned back to identify the shooter, wondering if they were the same person who kicked him. However, the only thing he could see was a collection of gazes that all told him to cut to the chase.
‘Oh, right! Robbery! One of the many things Boss loves to do!’ The man recalled that Thief555 always laughed after a good robbery.
“Boss, shall we go out and rob those players around Colossia City? Only a few days are left before the war event starts. Merchants must be hoarding a lot of merchandise. We can loot tons of gold from them!”
Thief555 stared into the distance and said in an absent-minded voice, “It’s gonna be boring. Sigh.”
“Boring? How is that boring, Boss? It’s your true calling to perform evil acts! Especially when you scared the newbies, plundered the elders, and bullied the girls, you always laughed merrily. It’s the job of commoners and merchants to wipe their smiles off their faces once they hear your name. Where is my usual Boss who always did whatever he pleased?”
Thief555 opened his system window. “I feel like I have become weaker lately...”
The underling made a confused expression. “We have never seen you grind levels even once. Just your face alone can already scare the shit out of people. Why are you worrying about that now?”
Thief555 raised his hand and knocked the man in the head. “...I already know that, you bastard. You don’t need to remind me. What I mean is... while I have become weaker, our bandit group is instead rising higher in the unofficial rankings for bandit groups. Look.”
The man stared at the ranking and spotted their bandit group, the White Dragon Thief Gang, ranked in the top ten. Usually, such a high rank only belonged to large bandit groups and was completely out of their reach. The man hurriedly beckoned his friends to see the same ranking.
“Oho! Second place? We are only below the Mountain Thieves League! Awesome, Boss!”
“Awesome your ass. I left the game for several days, and you lot did nothing, right? Out of nowhere, our ranking shot up. Do you know what this implies?”
One of the henchmen raised his hand. “I know! I know! I know, Boss!”
Thief555 knocked that man on the head. “This place is a bandit hideout, not a classroom. One of our rules is that you mustn’t show courtesy. Whatever is on your mind, just speak it!”
“I’m sorry...” The man showed a sad face, looking pathetic.
“You also mustn’t apologize!! We are bandits, making mistakes is normal!” Thief555 scolded the man a second time. “Anyway, what did you want to say?”
The underling opened his system window and explained, “Recently, the Heavenly Dragon Guild has been serious about wiping out bandit gangs. Coincidentally, Boss has been offline for a long time. We had nothing to do, so we hunted monsters and grinded levels to kill time. As it turns out, we ended up finding this spot. It has good terrain but no one seemed to be using it. So, we invited you to seize it as our camp. Then, we heard that...”
Thief555 interrupted, “Wait, wait. Did you just say you have been grinding levels?”
“Yes, Boss. We were afraid we will become hindrances for you in the future. Like that time in the Port City... we died too quick, missing the chance to see you bravely fight back that fiend Sila.”
“Great. And what are your levels now?”
“We helped each other to push ourselves to the limits, so we have hit the cap at Level 1,000 Knight Rank already, Boss.”
While Thief555 nodded in a reserved manner, his mind drifted, thinking, ‘Shit... These guys’ levels are even higher than mine. It seems I will have to grind in secret later.’
“Continue. What happened later?”
“Yes, Boss. Due to the Heavenly Dragon Guild seriously eliminating bandit groups, it became difficult to live as thieves. Many former bandit gangs quit being bandits. On the other hand, we survived the purge, so our ranking rose.”
Thief555 shook his head, stood up, and looked at the setting sun. However, realizing that looking into the sun hurt his eyes, he turned back, letting sunlight shine through him. He shook his head once to adjust his blurry vision before speaking his mind.
“You’re wrong, you fools. The actual reason why those weaklings quit being bandits is because they revered my grandeur. They placed their hope on me, wishing for me to change the world of Monster Soul. In conclusion, I’m bored because Monster Soul is not exciting for me anymore. Everything is predictable, thus my mind grows weak.”
The underlings looked at each other. “That shouldn’t be the case, Boss. Our group is awfully weak. Even Beluga’s...”
Before he could finish speaking, the man’s face was met by Thief555’s foot. The bandit leader declared loudly, “You don’t know a thing! What about Beluga? Our group isn’t weak. It’s just that two tigers can’t live in the same cave. Beluga doesn’t go robbing people even though he calls himself a bandit. How shameless!”
“We only target helpless citizens though.”
“That is exactly because I am a virtuous thief.”
“A virtuous thief? You? Boss?” The underlings looked at each other again. Every one of them blinked in bewilderment. The word virtue seemed to be the concept furthest away from defining their Boss.
“Why do you think I have always targeted the weak? Sometimes I left things with them, not completely robbing them. I just pulled a prank, took a little, and left. Do you understand my profound acts?”
“No, I don’t think I understand, Boss. Ouch!!” A naive-looking underling gave an answer then was hit on the head.
Another underling took a few steps back to be out of Boss’ reach before replying, “We robbed the weak because they couldn’t fight back, and the reason why we left after robbing only a few things was because Boss said the other items were difficult to find buyers for.”
“That’s partly true, but not completely correct. Monster Soul is a cruel world. What I did was teach those gullible newbies a life lesson. For me to give those people such a precious lesson, it’s logical for me to collect tuition fees. Actually, they should be thanking me for it.”
“Totally illogical. Why would they have to show someone their gratitude for robbing them?”
“Ouch!!” This time it was Thief555’s turn to let out a painful cry. He stroked his fist while shedding some tears. His fist became sore like he had just hit a rock with his bare hand. “Why did you have to clad your body with energy reinforcement?!”
“I would be hurt otherwise, Boss.”
Thief555 rubbed the back of his fist, which began to swell up. “Now, now. What I’m saying is that Monster Soul is getting boring. Without bandits robbing them, people are living too comfortably. Just opening my system window and wandering my eyes aimlessly, I can already spot several fat goats in the game forums.”
One of the underlings leaned far over to take a look at Boss’ system window. “Where? I can’t see a single goat. And what does the goat have to do with us?”
“You fool!!! Fat goats are a metaphor, meaning those careless rich people. Why would I open the system window to watch a goat?!! Use your brain for once!!”
“Boss, I’d prefer you didn’t come up with more weird metaphors. A lot of times, they never worked. What was it back then again? If you want to eat chicken, you have to find an egg?”
“You said we were going to be rich for sure, but we ended up in the slimes’ den, dying over and over again. Those cute-looking monsters were so sadistic,” another one added.
Thief555 unleashed his qi, prompting his underlings to jump backward. “You bastards! Now that I told you not to have manners, you are going overboard! How disrespectful! Watch your mouth, or I’ll slash you down one by one!”
Thief555 went back to sit on the rock and released another sigh. Seeing his behavior, the underlings looked at each other again and became speechless. Even when their Boss was in a bad mood, or shouted and directed his anger at them, it was still far better than him sitting lifelessly. However, for a long time, he still hadn’t laughed even once.
“Sigh... It’s too boring...”
It was then. Another one of the group members rushed from the outside of their camp to the gang.
“Boss~! Some people with stupid faces have strayed into out territory!”
For the record, Skull Mountain Pass was located next to Colossia City. Formerly, the place had been seized by a large alliance of many bandit gangs. However, it seemed a mysterious and inexplicable misfortune befell them, causing them to abandon the pass.
The event of that day was still fresh in Thief555’s memory. Their bandit group had arrived at Skull Mountain Pass when things were becoming hectic. However, upon their arrival, the death domain suddenly vanished. Noticing that running away became an option, people began to make a desperate escape. He, too, was among the few survivors of that situation.
Many weeks had passed, then he was urged by his underlings to come back to Skull Mountain Pass so they could raid it. Arriving at the place, they found that it was neglected and unoccupied. Then, they decided to make a camp there. Time passed, and the White Dragon Thief Gang eventually and dumbfoundingly became the ruler of the place when the system introduced the territory feature. No one had come to snatch it from them even after that either.
“Are they fat goats?”
“Fat goats?” The one who brought the news wondered. “No, Boss. They’re people. Why would there be goats wandering around?”
Noticing another sigh from Thief555, the group of underlings realized that their Boss was going to lash out again instead of cheering up. Everyone rushed to kick the newcomer, once per person, and whispered next to his ear.
After hearing the explanation, the newcomer nodded while brushing off dirt, in the form of footprints, from his clothing.
“They’re fat goats, Boss! Three fat ones, and they’re the kinds that you like to bully!! One of them is a skinny baldy, seemingly weak-willed. Another one is a weak girl with a fragile figure. She walked cripplingly like she was about to fall all the time. The last one is a flower boy wearing a butler uniform. He seemed dandy, looking around admiring nature as he walked, completely defenseless.”
“This time the prey are coming to our front door, Boss. The great Thief555 we know always laughs even when facing danger. Why don’t you stop thinking about anything for the time being and go out there, laughing with us to your heart’s content, Boss?”
“Yeah, let’s go, Boss! Laugh then commit a crime. Commit a crime then laugh. Only that way you are our great Thief555! Please! Boss!”
Looking at his many underlings trying to encourage him, Thief555 was moved. He wiped lingering tears in the corners of his eyes. “You guys...”
“Laugh, Boss, let’s laugh.”
“Exactly so. Thank you, everyone. Now, let’s give some life lessons to those fat goats. Let’s show them fear that they have never experienced before!”
“Everyone! Follow me! Hahahahaha!”
Thief555 laughed his heart out. His laughter was followed by more laughter from his underlings. They bravely went out of their camp, fully intending to educate those fools who were living too comfortably—to teach them that Monster Soul wasn’t a peaceful place like Heaven.
Since they, the scariest group of bandits in Monster Soul, were here!
In the Mansion of Secrets.
One of Sila’s living rooms had long since been refurbished to be a temporary meeting room for the Wicked Union’s core members. Presently in the room, there were three members representing the Mountain Thieves League—Beluga, Elso, and Nednapha—and two members from the Royal Armament Guild—Cross and Fargo.
The five of them were sitting with serious expressions on their faces. Sitting alone at the end of a table was Hong Tong, who came as the representative of the Victorious Wolves Sect. He placed down many black invitation cards for the Mansion of Secrets on the table. They were the cards Sila had issued to the members of Victorious Wolves Sect who wanted to use his dojo to transmit and practice Qi of Little Divine Beings.
It was a clear display of Lone Wolf’s will. He and his guild seeked to withdraw from the alliance.
Cross slammed the table heavily. Such simple wooden furniture couldn’t resist the strike, so it broke into a large amount of debris as if it was cut into pieces by psychic blades. The invitation cards were torn apart by the same impact, flying around the room. No one picked them up though. In fact, they didn’t even move.
“What does Lone Wolf take us for?!”
Hong Tong politely replied, “Mister Lone Wolf didn’t betray the union. He has just become aware of his standpoint and realized his mistakes. He intends to step out of the circle of fights and conflicts, and plans to give his support and protection to players who aren’t interested in the war. He doesn’t intend to join the Heavenly Dragon Guild.”
“Heh! Even if he doesn’t join them, his action still greatly reduces our forces. How does it differ from helping the enemy?” Cross scoffed.
Beluga gestured to stop Cross and turned to Hong Tong. “We don’t constrain anyone. From now on, we’ll discuss the Wicked Union’s next courses of action. Since Lone Wolf has left the union, you are not welcome here. You should go.”
Hong Tong nodded as his body faded away, contrary to his growing feelings of conflict. The news he brought would cause many problems for the Wicked Union. If the problems weren’t solved, the alliance might fall apart even before the war starts.
Cross had been briefly informed about the meeting with Revin from Beluga, and he honestly thought that the aforementioned meeting was ridiculous. Virtue is an abstract concept. For Cross, it was just a mere word without any worth.
“So damn pointless. So he quit because he didn’t want people to see him as a bad guy?”
Beluga could still maintain his smile despite being in this kind of situation. “What if it were you, Cross? If your subordinates exploited your fame as the Sword Emperor to commit a crime, what would you do?”
Cross replied without a moment of hesitation. “I’ll let others know that it was me who ordered them to do it.”
“Even though you actually didn’t?”
“Certainly.” Cross was resolute in his reply. “I’m more willing to be labeled as a bad guy rather than an incompetent commander who can’t control his own men. The latter will affect the guild more negatively in the long run. Well, the involved subordinates will still be punished, simply in private.”
Beluga considered this before replying, “That must be because you view your guild as an army. It’s the reason Montra is most wary of you in wartime. He knows war is the stage where you shine the brightest. On the other hand, Lone Wolf views his guild as a group that is dedicated to shared purposes, like—”
“Heh. Lone Wolf’s fan club, is it?” Cross nagged.
Beluga threw a small laugh. “I was about to say a group of friends. Well, your definition also works. Since he felt he was a subject of idolization, he felt a heavy sense of responsibility, and that led to him choosing to shoulder his guildmates’ mistakes. Everyone has their own beliefs. Don’t blame him too much.”
“Where the hell is Sila during this kind of critical time?” asked Cross.
“Mister Sila is secluding himself to practice in his bedroom, sirs.” Out of nowhere, Julia suddenly appeared, a broom in her hand. She used it to sweep the debris and shredded paper. Apparently, no matter how skilled you were, as long as you were in the mansion you wouldn’t be able to detect her presence at all. The members had been startled at first, but by this point they were mostly used to it.
“Practicing? At this kind of time? Does Sila know that a single person can’t win a war by himself? He should pay more attention to the army during this time.” Cross disapproved of Sila’s decision.
Beluga didn’t completely agree with the statement. “One person can change the flow of the war though. The stronger the general is, the more confident the soldiers become, don’t you agree? I heard that you, too, are nurturing a certain player to become another vice-leader, no?”
Cross grinned. “I really wonder how many spies you placed in my guild.”
Beluga chuckled. “Our people lurk everywhere. Well, I can retract the order if you don’t like it.”
“No need. The matter about Tiger is not a secret. True, the guy’s level is still low and his fighting ability is subpar. Nevertheless, his commanding ability and leadership can’t be overlooked at all. I have to get this kind of person into my guild no matter what.”
“He is the kind of vice-leader you always dreamed of, then.”
Cross turned to Fargo. “That’s right. The other vice-leaders are too unreliable. They needed me to order them around every single time, otherwise, they wouldn’t do a thing.”
Fargo laughed, as did everyone else. They were trying to joke around to reduce the tension in the room. However, they eventually had to tackle the problem.
Cross sighed. “The most important decision we need to make right now is how we’ll handle Lone Wolf. He has a lot of intel about us and his army is by no means insignificant. I don’t want to wage war while being paranoid over whether someone will stab me in the back.”
Elso expressed his opinion, “I don’t think Lone Wolf will bring harm to us though. We don’t need to worry.”
Beluga sighed, concern written all over his face. “No, Elso. This time I agree with Cross. We can’t leave this problem alone. We have to do something.”
Elso frowned. “Why? I don’t understand. Someone like Lone Wolf won’t betray his friends.”
Cross interrupted, “What if he is forced to choose?”
“What does that mean?”
Cross explained it in more detail, “Based on Beluga’s story, I’ve already figured out Lone Wolf’s weakness. If I’m Montra, I will find some way to drive a lot of unrelated players into Zhongsuyuan City. This city may seem to not have many protections against the raid. However, I daresay that human shields are the best and cruelest defense.
“When we enter the city, invisible assassins will be hiding in the midst of people and secretly ambush them, bringing chaos and blaming us. Even when we don’t intend to harm unrelated players, it doesn’t mean they won’t attack us. If it were me, I would send some of my men to incite people and cause a riot. The more chaotic the situation, the better.”
Beluga added, “...The easiest method for us is to kill a few of them to demoralize the rest, making them flee from us. Kill some to prevent killing more. However, this method won’t work unless we possess military strength that is so superior that they think it’s useless to fight back, otherwise, they will be more eager to group up and rebel...”
Cross continued as if he could read Beluga’s mind, “...The problem is that the Victorious Wolves Sect is located in Zhongsuyuan City and they have been protecting the city for so long. If this kind of situation were to unfold, ordinary players will naturally ask the Victorious Wolves Sect for help. Now Lone Wolf will have no choice. Even if he doesn’t want to fight us, he still has to do it for the sake of protecting his so-called innocent citizens. As for the Heavenly Dragon Guild? They will just leisurely sit tight watching us fight each other, waiting until our forces have been worn down so they can strike us at our weakest moment. It’ll be their complete victory.”
Nednapha opened her mouth for the first time. She became rather apprehensive toward Beluga after he had caught her handling the guild’s scandal without reporting him. In any case, all Beluga did was calmly lecture her, and that made her more eager to make up for her mistake.
“I vote for us to crumble the Victorious Wolves Sect first. However, that presents another problem. Our numbers are lower than the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s. For us to win the war, there is a high chance that we have to seize two main cities before finishing the last, since they can always escape to other cities using the teleportation service they set up. It’s already difficult for us to divide our attention and forces between raiding Zhongsuyuan City and Siaferia City. If we split it further to attack the Victorious Wolves Sect, the risk will be too much.”
“How about we mess with them a little?” suggested Beluga.
“What did you have in mind? Say it,” Cross asked. He naturally had some ideas himself. However, given their current numbers after deducting the Victorious Wolves Sect members, all his plans became practically impossible.
“The basics of war are stratagems. Fake attacking when you aren’t going to, and stay put when you actually intend to attack. We’ll trick them, pretending to raid Siaferia City and shifting the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s attention there. At such a time, we will raid the Victorious Wolves Sect before they realize. The next will be easy—”
Cross immediately argued, “Easy? The one responsible for Siaferia City’s side is us, the Royal Armament Guild. Let me be blunt. My guild still has no clue how we should tackle them. The difference in technology between us is too large.”
Beluga put his hand into his pocket and tossed a certain item toward Cross. “I won’t send you on a suicide mission, my friend. Just use that, and it will be enough.”
Cross inspected the item in his hand. It reflected light and shone beautifully. “What is this?”
“One of the Gems of Catastrophe. Its name is the Nightfall Opal. Based on my study, I found that it should be able to temporarily shut down Siaferia City’s defensive mechanisms. If their defenses were to suddenly shut down, they will naturally order an emergency assembly. You can just do nothing during that time.”
“Hoh. Such a great item. Won’t it be better if we use it in the actual raid though?”
“That was what I planned originally. However, when considering that we have to take care of Lone Wolf too, everything changes.”
Cross smirked. “See? It’s his fault in the end. By the way, do you really dare to let me borrow this kind of precious item? Aren’t you afraid that I won’t return it?”
Beluga smiled back. “Sincerity and trust are the keys to working together. Our enemy will reap benefits if we are wary of each other. Let’s just say you can have it if you want.”
After listening to the whole conversation, Julia approached Cross and handed him a sheet of paper. “You can have this too.”
Cross received it and asked jokingly, “What? Does even Sila want to give me something? What kind of day is today?”
Reading the contents written on the paper, a crease soon emerged in between Cross’ brows. Julia casually informed, “No, sir. It’s a bill for the damages.”
“What kind of stupid table cost two hundred gold?!!” Cross roared.
Julia politely replied, “The one you broke just a moment ago, sir.”
Slamming his forehead with his palm, Cross groaned, “I know it’s that table!! What I really meant was...”
“Hahaha!” Beluga laughed merrily, followed by Fargo. Even Elso could hardly suppress his laughter.
Once the war event started, silly moments like this time—moments when they could laugh—might not exist for a while. Thus, Nednapha also joined in the laughter.
At this point of time, they still weren’t aware that their goals also alligned with Sila’s. He intended to launch his first attack at Zhongsuyuan City as well. With this, their first battlefield had already decided.
The Heavenly Dragon Guild’s base, Zhongsuyuan City Branch.
Revin wrote reports and sent them to Montra. His reports were written in his style—meaning sloppily. The most recent report was regarding the success of the negotiation. The Victorious Wolves Sect was no longer a part of the Wicked Union. This equated to the union having their right arm cut off. Their next course of action would be instigating the fight between them, further increasing the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s odds of victory.
“Lone Wolf, oh, Lone Wolf. Don’t you know that you can’t possibly help everyone in the world while being unstained? Montra’s ideology is right. Everyone has to rely on themselves. They shouldn’t expect help from others,” Revin muttered as he closed his system window.
“So you don’t want my help, then?” Another voice rang out from a dark corner.
Revin turned his head back. “Oh? You Venerable? How cool! You can get this close without me sensing a thing. As expected of the King of Souls.”
A pair of eyes flashed in the dark corner. The King of Souls said in a soft voice, “Let me warn you that what you intend to do is far more dangerous than you anticipate. The chance of failure is several times higher than the chance of success. So far, only a single player has ever succeeded in the quest, Fusion Souls, of Inverse Zhongsuyuan City.
Revin smiled fearlessly. “If Zero could succeed, I’m sure I can do the same, Sir God of Death.”
An illuminating light belonging to a soul flashed on the palm of the being in the dark corner, revealing the appearance of the King of Souls. He was a well-built muscular man wearing a jackal mask, though the mask failed to cover his overbearing and dignified aura. He was none other than Anubis, the God of Death who ruled over the entirety of the western region. Adjacent to him was an elegant female cat with clean white fur as beautiful as high-class silk and blue jewel-like eyes.
“As you are the deputy ruler of the city, I’m obliged to act according to your request. Still, as someone who has lived longer and experienced more, I advise you that this isn’t a smart move. Normally this quest exists for beings of low-tier or mid-tier races to develop their racial skills to compete against beings from high-tier races. Zero belonged to the horse race, which is classified as low-tier, so he could do it. However, for the dragon race, which is already high-tier, this quest will bring you more harm than good. In the case that two elite souls refuse to fuse together, your body acting as a vessel will fall apart.”
“Are you saying the worst-case scenario is I die?” Revin asked.
Anubis took a step closer to Revin. “No. If something goes wrong, it’s you who will ask for death, since that will be the most merciful and painless option available.”
Revin showed a smile. “Isn’t that exciting?”
Anubis released a sigh and extended his arm, giving Revin the red soul. “This one is the soul most compatible with you. If you’re prepared, take it. You better not regret your decision later.”
Revin took it with no hint of hesitation. Anubis shook his head before arching his fingers. The mass of sand on the floor spiraled around and formed itself into a three-dimensional magic formula shaped like an hourglass.
Revin, with the red soul on his palm, entered the formula without delay. The red soul soon began to gradually absorb the grains of sand inside, dyeing them, before releasing the red sand to progressively envelop Revin’s body from his toes up to his head.
As the pile of sand reached Revin’s neck, his curiosity got the better of him. He couldn't help but throw a question at Anubis.
“How come the King of the Qi Kingdom turned out to be a magic-type?”
“Your view of the essence of qi, fusion, is still too shallow. Qi, magic, and psychic power always relate to each other. If you succeed in the quest, maybe you will come to understand that nature has never divided energy into three. It’s us who categorized them. May luck be with you. See you again tomorrow,” replied Anubis.
“It’s gonna be okay. I feel like I’m on a lucky streak lately,” Revin gave an immediate reply a second before he was completely swallowed by the sand, becoming a statue who couldn’t hear anything else.
Once there were no outsiders, the white cat transformed into a charming woman. “Won’t Sila have a hard time at this rate, Darling?”
Removing his mask, Pumin approached his wife. “Irene... quests in Zhongsuyuan City are mainly based on fortune, or what others may call luck. Anyone has a chance at success. If Revin happens to achieve the quest for real, it will mean either he is extremely lucky or Sila is extremely unlucky. However, that is hardly the end of everything. Ultimately, those who can overcome fate with their true strength are the most excellent ones.”
Contrary to her worried speech, Irene appeared to be rather unconcerned. “No need to worry. Sila won’t lose. I’m confident that he can overcome any adversities.”
“I have never doubted Sila. The stronger his opponent is, the tougher our son will become. In addition, the reward for overcoming formidable obstacles will naturally be better than what you’d get from overcoming ordinary ones.”
Pumin’s lips curled up into a smile with a hidden motive. A small golden soul was dancing around on his palm. Irene looked at the soul with a smile on her face.
“Is that for Sila?”
Pumin nodded. “Yes. It’s the soul that is the most compatible with him. If he manages to conquer Zhongsuyuan City, this soul will be his.”
That idea to mess with wolf union is stupid.The best answer should be negotiating with lone wolf under a firm contract so he won't be able to mess the war.Why would they choose to expend more resources to do pointless thing?As the leaders, they don't see the bigger picture.
In Belacia, the Borderless City.
Burapha had never thought before that this place would become his second home. The players living in Belacia City loved to fight and they sincerely respected the strong. On the contrary, even though Colossia City was called the Battle City, the only battle-related activities to be found there were the tournaments regularly set up by the system. On the other hand, battles could erupt practically anywhere and anytime in Belacia City. It was the city in which battles truly never stopped occurring.
Anawin, the Medical Saint, wrapped a bandage around Burapha’s upper left arm, cast a healing spell, and tapped the man on his shoulder.
“Done. Even though I like treating people, if you plan to stop by every day, maybe you should consider staying in my clinic.”
Burapha smiled as he rolled his sleeve down. He proceeded to the clinic’s exit. “Thank you. I will try my best not to visit you too often.”
“All jokes aside, if you’re hurt, you have to get your body treated. Leaving a wound unattended is the same as pointlessly torturing yourself. Don’t do it.”
Anawin’s voice reached Burapha before he left the clinic. Afterward, the Medical Saint returned his attention to his other patients. Outside, Balaz was waiting for Burapha. There were a lot of wounded players every day, so the inside of the clinic was quite cramped and chaotic. Seeing Burapha exiting, Balaz approached and greeted him.
“How about it? Shall we stop for today?”
Burapha shook his head. “No, time is short. I’m starting to get the hang of this skill. Let’s continue.”
Balaz nodded and both of them took off. Their destination was the place Burapha had been spending all his time in after returning from the Floating Magic Kingdom. He analyzed the experiences he got from each battle, trying his hardest to polish his skills further so that he wouldn’t be a burden for anyone anymore.
Both of them took many turns, walking toward one of the unfinished buildings. Along the way, they saw many white sheets of canvas used to surround several buildings, keeping people from going inside. Giants and dwarfs were busy working on the construction.
The two walked past many monsters and went down stairs leading underground. The current Belacia City was no longer a simple city out in the open. Thanks to the Dwarf King’s city planning and tunneling, the city itself had become a large secret base with complexity rivaling a maze.
Balaz knocked the wall at a dead-end two times as a signal. Soon, the stone pile was moved away, revealing a spacious room behind. Even though they were underground, the ventilation was so good that they didn’t feel any discomfort.
Vogue, the Evil Eye King, had revived from his death some time ago. He greeted Burapha and Balaz, then pointed his finger toward an empty arena.
“This time you will have to fight Alex and Saki.”
The Sheep King was sipping tea from his mug. Vapor from the cup clouded his pair of glasses, so he had to take them off to wipe them. His suddenly revealed eyes were like those belonging to a sheep, making it difficult to read his expression. As for the Wind King, he was dozing in midair as if he was sleeping in an invisible cradle. He yawned so hard that his eyes watered slightly.
“Whatever~ Let’s hurry. I’m bored~”
Balaz turned to look at Burapha, feeling concerned. “I think you should fight normally this time.”
Burapha held his lance in both his hands. “For developing psychic abilities, it is faster if it is more dangerous, sir. Don’t worry. Please do it.”
Balaz said no more words. He took out his Dark Soul Mage Staff and placed it on Burapha for five seconds as it was a condition for triggering a certain spell.
“Curse of A Hundred Souls.”
Black mist poured out from the head of the mage staff. Burapha still found it uncomfortable even though he had seen it many times. The mist coiled around, making itself into a chain, and locked Burapha’s arms and legs. The chains then sunk into his skin, showing up as chain marks. Burapha felt his body suddenly become heavy as if a hundred souls were coiling around him and dragging him down. His stamina dropped and his muscles weakened as if he hadn’t rested for days. As his movements were constrained and suppressed, his psychic power overflowed.
Seeing the young human’s determination, Vogue the Evil Eye King couldn’t help but be amazed. While it was true that psychic power would develop better in crises, he had never seen someone be so reckless as to constantly and endlessly plunge themselves into danger to polish their strength like this.
Vogue’s eyes could see through Burapha’s physical strength that was drastically dropping.
“Same as always.” Vogue made a hand gesture. “Burapha will put his all into defending for a full minute, then he can take a break and get himself treated.”
Burapha repeatedly got himself into a corner. This was the only course of action that would allow him to catch up to other powerhouses who were far superior. He would no longer let himself become just a hindrance or a sidekick.
Soon, he would proudly advance to the front line of the war.
Saki and Alex were speedy attackers. Both of them mysteriously vanished as soon as the match started. Meanwhile, Burapha took deep breaths without changing his tempo. He was securing his tranquillity.
The ocean is most terrifying when it is grand and calm, yet surrounds every single thing on Earth as if all things are insignificant and small.
“Rhythm of the Single-Drop Ocean.”
In the Blue Pigeon Guild’s secret headquarters.
The Blue Pigeon Guild’s information storage room was a massive library within a special dimension. Its entrance was located in a place that no one would ever expect. There were more than a thousand books in the room, with the contents inside all of them being important pieces of intel and the guild’s main source of income. Every book was written by one of the vice-leaders or Boss herself. In any case, the contents of every book had to be confirmed and approved by Yardpirun before it could be stored in this room.
Any of the vice-leaders had the right to access the place in order to read, study, or make a copy of the information in the room. However, they had to inform Boss first about their purpose of visit and what information they sought. If such information would be used to generate revenue, they would have to pay a commission fee to the guild.
Bluebird had been in the room for several days, though naturally he was not there willingly. Rather, he was forced to do so since Yardpirun ordered him to summarize every report written by the other vice-leaders this month.
Knock, knock, knock.
The sound of someone knocking the door could be heard. Before Bluebird reacted or replied, the door was swung open. The people walking inside were the three other vice-leaders—White Swan, Noppakorn, and Rattana.
“Oh~ sorry! Are we interrupting?” White Swan asked as if she truly didn’t mean to interfere.
“Damn right you are!! What business do you have here?!” Bluebird replied without raising his head from the book in his hand.
“Boss just approved our reports, so we came to store them in the room.”
Bluebird gritted his teeth. Normally they would have simply left the approved reports with Boss. Personally coming to visit the room implied that the three intended to witness his pathetic state of being forced to read and summarize their reports.
“Place them and get out, then!”
White Swan showed a cunning grin. “Well~ Well~ since you have to read them anyway, I might as well place them here.”
A pile of books, with their stacked height being roughly one and a half meters, was placed on a table next to Bluebird. Their combined weight was so heavy that it caused the table to shake, almost unable to support the books.
Bluebird was agape and yelled, “Oi! The requirement is just one report per month! This many reports should be enough for the rest of your life!”
“Well~ We three just had a strong urge to finish them all within this month, right?” White Swan turned her head to ask Rattana.
“Absolutely right. I don’t know why, but various bits of news seemed to pop up a lot this month. Here you go, my reports.”
Rattana placed her reports down. Their stacked height might only be half compared to White Swan’s, but the fonts she picked were significantly smaller.
Pissed off, Bluebird picked up a book at the top of the pile and read its title.
“Colossia City’s New Wonder: The Night Where Fireflies Compete Against Stars. New Romantic Spot in Monster Soul.” Bluebird gnashed his teeth. “Who the hell would be interested in this bullshit?! Fireflies showed up, and you needed a report with 45 pages to cover it?! Are you taking your job seriously?! Don’t just write random piles of trash!”
Rattana showed a big smile. “But Boss said this news will become really useful. After the war event will be a period when players find this kind of news interesting. It will become a big hit at that time.”
Noppakorn sighed. “It must be rough for you.”
Bluebird shifted his gaze to Noppakorn. Spotting that the latter only carried one book with him, he was touched. He wiped tears from the corners of his eyes.
“You’re my true friend, pal.”
Noppakorn tapped Bluebird on his shoulder. “That’s for sure, pal. Here you go.” He handed Bluebird the book.
Bluebird received it with a smile spread across on his face. However, once he read the title of the book, a horrified look replaced his smile.
“D-Decoding the Ancient Language... P.S the attached sheet of paper is the list of reference books required to understand the context.”
One sheet of paper flew out from the book. Looking at the long list of names, Bluebird felt a sense of emptiness.
Finally, Noppakorn showed a smile as well. “Now, now. We were here just to see this look on you, cough, I mean to encourage you. Fight on, pal!”
White Swan and Rattana chuckled. Then, Noppakorn’s report fell from Bluebird’s hand to the piles of books on the table, which finally crashed down due to excess weight. Seeing the scene, the three couldn’t hold their laughter in anymore.
“Hahaha! It’s worth all my hard work just to see your face right now! Today must be a very good day~” White Swan said in a loud voice before leaving the room, together with the other two.
Finally alone in the room, Bluebird flicked his finger and cast a spell to lock the door. His body shivered as if he was crying. However, what came next was a burst of laughter.
“Hahahaha! Did you really believe that such pranks can budge me, the Great Bluebird? Watch your backs! I will have my sweet revenge later. It seems the time has come for me to use this thing.”
Bluebird took out two cards he had gotten from the Mysterious Tailorbird Mask Man. After he had them unsealed, he found that both cards had the ability to strengthen racial skills. The cards even clearly stated that they could only be used to strengthen tailorbird-race skills. For psychic-type abilities and objects, the more limitations, the better their performance would be.
Bluebird inserted both cards into his system window. He snapped his fingers and took a deep breath.
“Psychic Bird Dance.”
Thirty tailorbirds flew out from his ring. Bluebird looked at them, feeling pleasant. “Now try using my skills.”
All thirty tailorbirds transformed at the same time, each turning into a Bluebird with blue skin.
“Awesome!! Let’s segregate duties. I’ll sleep, and you guys do the reports, okay?”
All of the Bluebirds nodded with solemn expressions on their faces. However, as soon as the real Bluebird laid down and closed his eyes, the rest of them almost immediately laid down and slept—exactly in the same manner as the original.
In the Mansion of Secrets, Sila’s personal bedroom.
Zarnak’s domain vibrated slightly. Its body, which had coiled around the room, started to move. The black dragon opened its eyes, waiting for its new master to exit the state of enlightenment.
For the record, it knew full well that Sila had successfully mastered the Flaming Cloud Qi’s reverse circulation and already took the first step toward learning the Nirvana Part.
Sila opened his eyes shortly after. He didn’t sense any difference in his body, only in his feelings. His gaze wandered around, observing his surroundings. However, except for Zarnak, he saw nothing.
“Zarnak... How long have I been circulating qi for?”
“My got-a-lot-of-questions master... I don’t know. I’m a dragon, not a clock.”
Sila felt like he was being demeaned, but he didn’t feel the slightest bit angry. Rather, he was calmer than ever. It was as if everything had suddenly become trivial.
‘This must be the effect of the Cloud Part. My thinking processes, emotions, and experiences have been tempered and reorganized. My thoughts have never been this clear before.’
Considering how much the Cloud Part had improved, Sila was excited to know what the Flame Part had evolved to be. He opened his palm, and the black flames were continuously burning on top of it. The flames weren’t scorching hot on his skin anymore. In fact, they were comfortably warm.
Staring deeply into the flames, Sila didn’t see them as a simple cluster of flames, but flames which consisted of numerous molecules. Apparently, the flames’ offensive and burning power, along with the rate at which they would spread, all got an excessive increase. Yet the difference between the current and the prior version wasn’t as clear as what happened to the Cloud Part.
“Is this the Nirvana Part, Zarnak?” Sila felt rather disappointed. He had expected to witness something more majestic and extraordinary.
“This is only half of Nirvana Flame, my ignorant master. The flame which you have been using until now is called Demonic Flame. Its prominent point is its spreading power. Most Demon Gods of other generations were proficient in this particular flame. Anyway, Demonic Flame is more suitable against multiple enemies than a single opponent. On the other hand, if you materialize the qi flame in the reverse manner, you will acquire a different kind of flame.”
Sila attempted it immediately. Strangely, it was easier than he had anticipated. It was as if his body had long since become accustomed to the procedure like normal breathing. The black flames then spiraled in reverse and became dignified white flames—they were the most beautiful kind of flames Sila had ever seen. For a moment there, he even fell into a daze and forgot about his surroundings.
“This kind of flame is called Angelic Flame. It’s a similar flame to what the Demon God Zenga used. The flame burns the target and marvelously leaves no traces. The destructive power assembles in the center. The way it burns is irregular, burning from outside to inside. The burn will be so quick that the target won’t even feel the heat while so beautiful that they won’t feel a sense of danger. For both kinds of flames, only those who specialize in the Flame Part can wield either of the two. For you to be able to handle both flames, it implies that you have stepped into the realm of the Nirvana Part—the endless cycle with no start or finish—the final destination of all profound practitioners of Flaming Cloud Qi.”
“How can I use Nirvana Flame, then?”
“It can be achieved by using both flames simultaneously. Nevertheless, I advise that you don’t attempt it here unless you find your mansion and all your friends in this dimension boring. Lastly, this is the thing you left in my care. Take it back.”
Zarnak opened its mouth and spewed a dragon egg out. As soon as the egg touched the floor, everything scattering in the room suddenly floated up and stopped in midair. All sounds were lost as if they were absorbed into the egg. Sila jerked up, feeling as if he was just hit by a lightning strike. Soon, cracks appeared on the egg. Through these cracks burst forth intensely bright light that engulfed all, including Zarnak’s large body.
In the Dragon Kingdom, in the Coiling Forest near the Sacred Temple.
Everything was going well, or at least going in the direction that Montra could manage. Others probably thought that this was a good sign from Heaven. However, Montra didn’t like it when things went too well.
Montra traveled past the Coiling Forest with silence. He didn’t want to expose himself publicly for this particular arrival, which turned out to be quite an easy task since his power was perfectly concealed by Grand Deity’s Breathing.
Based on the report he had gotten recently, two players guarding the temple had died mysteriously. The situation called for an increase in the vigilance of dragon-race players. Still, it was a good chance for Montra. His arrival this time ought to be top-secret. Regardless of how the two died previously, Montra could use that excuse to cover up his actions in case he had to kill someone.
Montra stopped behind a certain tree. Even without any magic power reinforcement, he could see clearly that four players were guarding the sealed entrance to the Sacred Temple. Three of them were standing on a path while the last one was hiding behind a tree.
‘Based on the information I got from Joshua, the Tiger God has been secluded here for a while. I can’t completely trust Joshua, so I have to investigate it myself.’
Focusing his mind, Montra could practically sense four beating hearts as four red dots in his sea of consciousness. The heart of spearmanship was speed. However, unlike Sila’s arts—which focused on overall speed including how fast the practitioner moved and attacked—the only speed Montra needed to care about was that of his spear thrust. He didn’t need to strike over and over without stopping, but to change from being completely motionless to thrusting toward his target in a fraction of an instant.
The Sky-Splitting Dragon Magical Spear appeared in Montra’s right hand. He casted a certain short spell and delayed it, waiting for the right time as if he were a vicious beast waiting for its prey.
Darkness formed out of nowhere. The area within a one hundred meter radius was covered by black fog, completely blocking visibility. The four players couldn’t even see their own fingers. They immediately took out their weapons, but their actions were too late.
The magical spear flew out of Montra’s hand. At first glance it was done in a single action. However, the attack was actually four perfectly consecutive stabs. The four players suddenly felt chills around their chests. Only when they had lowered their gazes did they realize that holes had appeared where their hearts normally resided. The wounds were clean as if their hearts were neatly scooped out.
The black fog dispersed when Montra deactivated the spell. At the exact same moment it vanished, the four players disappeared, as if consumed by the fog.
Montra returned his magical spear to his system window before walking forward once more. It wasn’t like he wasn’t in a hurry. In fact, he was eager to reach the destination as fast as possible. However, while others might not sense it, Montra could feel distinctive psychic power, which attracted him yet also repelled him. Despite everything suggesting that there was nothing there, that what he sensed didn’t exist, he could clearly feel its existence with his heart. Undoubtedly, it must be the resonance between two users of Grand Deity’s Breathing.
Surely, the Tiger God must be staying below the Sacred Temple.
Arriving at a pile of wreckage, which was taller than Montra, he could clearly sense a source of bottomless power below his feet.
“This place has recently become less peaceful than usual. Even the one I didn’t want to meet the most has come to pay me a visit.” The voice of a man miraculously rang out next to Montra’s ears.
“Do you know me?”
“No, but I know Grand Deity’s Breathing. In the beginning I thought that you must be an extremely foolish person. The warning clearly forbade you from practising it. But now I know. You aren’t a fool, but a man who has a death wish.”
“As long as it’s worthwhile.” That was Montra’s reply.
“In this world, there is not a single thing worth dying for, kid.”
“Are those supposed to be the words from the one who was willing to die for the sake of becoming the martial world’s number one practitioner, Hu Xian the Tiger God? Rumor has it that it’s exactly thanks to Grand Deity’s Breathing that you unquestioningly became the true number one, though it was for a short period of time.”
The Tiger God fell silent for a moment. “You’re like me in the past... I hate my past self. Get lost while you still have a chance.”
Montra clad his palm with magic power reinforcement and slammed it down, sending out a shockwave. The pile of rubbish was blown away, revealing a set of stairs that led beneath the surface.
He said nothing to the great pressure emitting from below, which caused the ground to shake. Instead of backing off, Montra strode down in a manner that even Sila wouldn’t dare to do.
“I forgot for a moment that you’re like me in the past. People like us won’t get a peaceful death, I must say,” warned the Tiger God.
“About my death, I’ll be the one to decide that myself.” Due to the excessive mental oppression, Montra could hardly reply.
The stairs stretched longer than Montra had first thought. The Tiger God’s voice was so close, making him misjudge the sense of distance.
Once he had arrived in the underground room, lanterns instantly lit up.
The lower body of Tiger God, Hu Xian, was covered in black armor. His chest laid bare, showing an inscription that seemed to be a curse or a seal. There were many giant chains binding him.
His beard was messy all over his face, but his body was absolutely healthy. It didn’t look like the kind of body that belonged to a prisoner. In fact, it could even be said that his physique was an embodiment of perfection. His muscles were flexible and his skin was smooth and glowing with health as if it belonged to a baby.
“Could it be that you are among those people who desire the Classic of Sinew Metamorphosis to the point where they can die for it?”
Montra shook his head. “Such a non-existent object like that, I don’t need it. I just want to know what Grand Deity’s Breathing is exactly, and why you invented it.
“Non-existent?” the Tiger God repeated his words, wearing an amused expression on his face. “Hahaha! This is funny. You’re the very first person to figure it out by yourself.”
“It wasn’t actually that hard. People just tend to believe in what they want to believe without studying your personality. You were the only one who claimed that you had mastered the Classic of Sinew Metamorphosis. Such an ancient antique art... no one would realize what art it was even if you showed its might. The fact that there was a rumor about you having the Classic of Sinew Metamorphosis in your possession could only mean that it was none other than you who deliberately spread it.”
The Tiger God smirked. “You got that right. People always believe what they want to believe. At first, I told them the art I used was Grand Deity’s Breathing. However, back then I was just an ordinary man, not a rare genius like my little brother who was worshipped by people. No matter how many times I won or used it, they always believed that the art I used was derived from the Marvelous Bible. Well, there were still many secrets about Marvelous Bible people were unaware of, so it was easy for them to give it all the credit. The more I explained, the more they looked at me with disdain. They dared to look at me with eyes looking at a liar!
“Since they were so eager to not believe me, I then claimed that the art was one of the lost antique profound arts. This time the result was the opposite. They blindly believed my lie even with no evidence whatsoever. They came at me and eventually became prey to my Chaos Devourer Art, prolonging my life. Hahahaha!”
The Tiger God laughed crazily. This might be because no one had ever truly understood him. Even his own twin brother didn’t believe that he could invent such an art like Grand Deity’s Breathing. That drove him to prove it by stepping into the number one spot of the martial world amidst countless corpses, laughing solitarily at those fools who rushed to their own demise for something that wasn’t real.
“In conclusion, what is Grand Deity’s Breathing? Why did Joshua say that it isn’t a profound art designed for combat?” Montra repeated his question. He didn’t care about the Tiger God’s complicated feelings.
“It really isn’t a combat art. At least I didn’t invent it for the sake of using in battles,” the Tiger God revealed.
Montra kept his mouth shut as he was waiting for further explanation.
Looking into Montra’s eyes, Hu Xian found that the young man was indeed an exact copy of his past self. Montra was prideful, insolent, firm in his belief, never afraid of anything, and never regretted what he had done.
“Marvelous Bible is essentially the same as this game’s psychic-type power. It helps the user surpass their limits in moments of crisis. As for Grand Deity’s Breathing, it was born from my idea that... if being close to dying could strengthen my power, what would happen if I place myself in a state where I’m always on the verge of dying?”
Instantly, Montra understood the Tiger God’s meaning. “...You would be constantly breaking your limits. It isn’t a combat art, but an art designed for tempering your body, going over your limits, and increasing your inner force. But then—”
The Tiger God couldn’t help but smile. He knew Montra was smart and already aware of the art’s fatal weakness. “I knew you’d realize. This art can be practiced, but it can’t be stopped. While your limits are constantly being surpassed and you become increasingly stronger, your death is always just a step ahead. No matter how powerful you become, you’ll die soon. Grand Deity’s Breathing is easy to practice, but stopping it is several thousand times more difficult. Being able to stop using this art is the true mastery over it.”
“Even you don’t know how to stop it?” asked Montra.
The Tiger God shook his head. “This art is considered quite new. It was born from a sudden idea during my youth. Well, I’m willing to impart to you every method that I have tried but didn’t work. There may be a way if both of us brainstorm.”
Montra frowned. He didn’t like it when things sounded too good. “What will you get from this?”
“I’m a dead person. What can I possibly get? I just want to revise my art, bringing it to perfection. Even dead, my glory will forever be recorded. That is my last ambition... Come to think of it, you use a spear as your weapon, right?”
“What about it?”
“You killed four players in a single moment, but you still made four strikes. The real deal uses only one hit.”
As a person who specialized in various kinds of weapons, Montra doubted that statement. “No matter how perfect you move, if there is more than one target, you will need to perform more than one action. No matter how continuous your attack is, it is just consecutive strikes thrown at high speed.”
“I used to think the same. Until I met ‘him,’ the person who forever changed the lives of us brothers.”
The Tiger God opened his system window and operated a disc. A video file was playing in midair.
“This is my recorded memory. The only people who have seen it are my little brother, Joshua, and myself.”
The recorded memory was playing like a movie. The early part was lagging and so blurry that Montra couldn’t make anything out of it. The Tiger God explained that Joshua had been interested in the part and kept it, saying it was related to his experiment.
“Even if you see that early part, you will simply think that it’s CG. Anyway, it’s the last part that really matters. Watch closely.”
The video skipped to a scene showing a man with a similar appearance as Hu Xian.
”That’s my little brother, thirty years ago. That period was when we were both in our prime, at the top of the martial world. The memory is mine, so you see it from my perspective.”
“Do you want me to see the art that the Oceanic Tiger uses? It’s said that Encompassing Ocean Art is unrivaled—”
The Tiger God interrupted, “Not at all. I want you to see the art that our opponent used instead.”
Montra fell silent as he stared at the video, shifting his interest to the people on the opposing side of the twin brothers. Standing there was a man in a soldier uniform that seemed to belong to the World War II era. Montra couldn’t see his face clearly as if the quality of the video sharply fell only around the man. Standing next to him was a gorgeous woman.
On the man’s waist was a katana, its beauty so exceptional that Montra wouldn’t find it strange if someone told him it was a national treasure.
‘Unlike what I expected, this person used a sword, not a spear. Why did the Tiger God want me to witness his fight?’
The Tiger God mentioned a spear, so Montra originally thought that the person the Tiger God would like him to see must be using a spear. Each kind of weapon varied in application. Even weapons that are quite similar, such as a spear and a lance, still require different sets of proficiency.
“Is there no sound?”
“Joshua removed it. Well, having sound or not doesn't matter. Don’t even blink.”
Both sides seemed to be conversing. Then, the Tiger God took sudden action. He charged at the mysterious man, and the same was done by his little brother. No one would ever believe that the two of the Tiger Family simultaneously launched their attacks against one person. Even when Montra wasn’t there personally, he could still tell that the strength and speed of their attacks were flawless. In this world, he believed that there wouldn’t be a single person who could come out unharmed after receiving the combined attacks from the two.
Casually, the man in the record unsheathed his sword. That simple action shook Montra to the core.
It was the first time he couldn’t find the word to explain what he was seeing.
The twin brothers collapsed on the ground, along with the man's sword being sheathed. The Tiger God lowered his head to see his blood gushing out from his chest, then shifted his gaze to his little brother who had a similar injury. Apparently, the two lost the fight in a single move.
“What was that just now? Can you replay it?”
The Tiger God rewound the file and replayed it without saying a word. Montra’s request took him back to the moment shortly after he had experienced the event. Both him and his little brother kept recalling what had happened to them over and over again, completely losing track of days and nights. The same situation was happening, this time with Montra.
Each time the film was replayed, Montra would see the scene unfolding differently. What he saw was never once the same despite watching the same film and the exact same scene. This man completely overturned Montra’s definition of ‘martial arts.’ It was as if they were in different dimensions, or rather different worlds.
“He didn’t even have inner force. What you’re seeing is a pure martial move. As for what art, swordplay, or whatever he used... even until now I still can’t explain, understand, and much less comprehend it.”
“I see what you wanted me to see... his swordplay did indeed reach perfection. His single strike contained a hundred, no, at least a thousand subtle changes within. As long as he had a weapon in his hand—regardless of whether it was a spear, sword, axe, hammer, halberd, or whatever—the result would still be the same. He reached the pinnacle of weapon mastery.”
“The highest point always returns to the roots. All complicated techniques and weapon arts are fused together and returned to one core: one weapon, one art, and one hit. There wouldn’t be a second strike no matter if one opponent or a thousand opponents were his foes. I can’t even get a glimpse even after thinking about his move for twenty years. Meanwhile, my little brother comprehended a tenth of it, and that allowed him to master Encompassing Ocean Art within a span of five years. This recorded memory is probably useless to you right now, but who knows? Ten or twenty years later, it might become useful for you. I believe that people like you won’t die easily.”
The Tiger God sent Montra a friend request, which the latter accepted. “I don’t like staying in the same place with other people. Let me just say you can contact me if you have something to ask. I’ll answer if I can.”
The scene of the weapon master taking an inexplicable action was still replaying itself in Montra’s head even after the Tiger God had turned the film off. It was an action which only those who specialized in weapons could understand even a shred of. It was just a single swing of a sword, yet Montra knew he could watch it all day without ever becoming bored. His body felt a strange chill. Even though he didn’t acquire anything out of his arrival today, he felt as if he had obtained so many things.
The Tiger God’s voice rang out behind Montra’s back. “Lastly, I warn you to not trust Joshua too much.”
“Joshua isn’t on my side, but Sila’s. I have never trusted him.”
“You’re wrong. You still don’t know Joshua enough. Joshua isn’t on anyone’s side but his own.”
The war event was about to start. Many people were making necessary preparations and forming strategies. Montra looked up and saw the Magic Kingdom’s night sky full of stars. Finally, the end was approaching. He had already prepared everything he could possibly prepare. What he would do next was simply trying his best, then accepting the final outcome.
There wasn’t anything major happening on the last day. It was like the calm before a great storm.
At long last, the dawn of the next day arrived. The day which was unlike any other day.
The first day of Monster Soul’s second war event.
Question Please...So Sila in real world is already stronger than Montra right ? or because Montra use Grand Deity he will be stronger than Sila in real world ? Now i kinda confused about the different in strength in real or virtual. Cause many strong people use to be so strong in real and then come to virtual. After all in real world there is limit to their own Qi or other superpower unlike in game where you can upgrade it. And one more is there any reference to see what dragon blade looks like ? i really want to see the strongest weapon(?) or sword(?). i search google image but i can not find the one who looks close to it.