Sila’s room was ablaze with white light so bright that Sila couldn’t see even the tip of his own nose. He didn’t put up any energy reinforcement as he acknowledged that the light was harmless to him. Once the light started to fade, he could see pieces of broken eggshell on the floor. The object, which must have previously been inside the egg, was floating in midair.
It was a white egg.
Sila scratched his head. “In the egg is another egg. Is this supposed to be a prank?”
Zarnak lowered its head to stare at Sila up close. “I don’t like pranks, my impetuous master. The Twin Souls Weaponized Protection is still missing one key ingredient, which is me.”
Zarnak’s body slowly transformed into a cloud of smoke before submerging into the egg. The egg’s pure white color looked like it was tainted with a drop of ink, spreading from one point to another. Looking closely, Sila noticed that it wasn’t an egg like he had thought previously. Rather, it was a ball of thread rolled in the shape of an egg.
The ball of thread spun at incredible speed while releasing itself from the core, becoming a cyclone that was half black and half white. The thread swirled around Sila and weaved itself, eventually becoming armor mainly made of elastic fabric.
Sila felt his power reduced noticeably. It must be the negative effect of wearing the Blade-Sharpening Dragon. On the other hand, his body felt the warmth generated from the tremendous strength imbued in the armor.
Not long after, Sila’s armor finally finished weaving itself. For the record, Sila didn’t feel like he was wearing armor at all. The Twin Souls Weaponized Protection gave him a sense of it being a weapon rather than armor. It could be said that his body itself had transformed into a powerful weapon.
The armor was a combination of white magical metals and a lustrous black fabric, which greatly sublimated the metals’ beauty. The outstanding part of the armor was truly distinguished while the supplemental parts eminently added a striking elegance. Even Sila, the wearer, felt he wasn’t worthy of the armor.
You have successfully created (S) Twin Souls Weaponized Protection.
You have acquired item skill: (A) Artifact Manifestation.
The Twin Souls Weaponized Protection was created out of the souls of Eleanor and Zarnak—one transcendent raiment and one cursed fang. Apparently, it required both the main weapon slot and armor slot to wear it.
(S) Twin Souls Weaponized Protection.
The armor’s attack and defense are always equal to the difference between the wearer’s current health points and their maximum value.
*One percent of the wearer’s health and special points will be consumed every minute.
The Twin Souls Weaponized Protection was born from the fusion of the souls of Eleanor, the Raiment Dragon, and Zarnak, the Cursed Dragon. As it was combined with the souls of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the wearer shall acquire the exclusive skill that belonged to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Item Skill: (A) Artifact Manifestation.
An exclusive magic belonging to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, granting the ability to temper souls or magic power under the user’s control into four forms of magic artifacts.
The magic artifacts produced by Artifact Manifestation are considered items, so you can carry them with you.
First Form: Magical Arrow
The efficiency of magical arrows produced by Artifact Manifestation depends on the distance between the user and a target. The artifact will stay in this form until the spell is deactivated. Upon deactivation, the artifact will return to its original form before it was manifested.
Second Form: Magical Weapon
The attributes and characteristics of magical weapons produced by Artifact Manifestation are determined by their magical sources. The artifact will stay in this form until the spell is deactivated. Upon deactivation, the artifact will return to its original form before it was manifested.
Third Form: Magical Beast
The physical appearances of magical beasts produced by Artifact Manifestation depends on their magical sources. The artifact will stay in this form until the spell is deactivated. Upon deactivation, the artifact will return to its original form before it was manifested.
Fourth Form: Magical Box
The magical boxes contain magic power according to their magical sources. The artifact will stay in this form until the spell is deactivated. Upon deactivation, the artifact will return to its original form before it was manifested.
Sila didn’t find it surprising that his health and special points didn’t decrease despite a minute had passed. It must be the result of him wearing the Blade-Sharpening Dragon. All negative effects from equipment would be ignored under Zarnak’s influence. In any case, he bet he had to spend some time to understand his newly acquired skill. Deep down, he had a feeling that the skill must be difficult to use.
“What are you unsatisfied with, my insatiable master?” Zarnak’s voice rang out in Sila’s head.
“Hmm? It’s not that. I just got a new skill. Is it any good?”
Zarnak released a long sigh that contained a hint of boredom. “My clueless master... This skill can easily push you to the pinnacle of Monster Soul. Artifact Manifestation is a magic-type skill, which is the energy type you have the least skills for. You may not know this, but magic is considered the best when it comes to skills. The skill that belonged to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is exceptionally powerful. Each of them could use only one form of Artifact Manifestation, yet that was enough for them to become the Keepers of Inner Hell. You, who can use all four forms, are naturally matchless... if only you know how to use them properly.”
The door was violently swung open. Cross, Beluga, Fargo, and Elso stood on the other side of the door. Looking inside, they found the room appliances scattered all over the floor and Sila standing alone.
Beluga entered the room, asking, “What happened, Sila? We heard an explosion.”
“It’s nothing, everyone. I just mastered a new power,” Sila replied honestly.
“That’s good... But, umm, how should I put it?” Beluga was hesitant, prompting Cross to speak out.
“What Beluga is trying to say is that you should never do this kind of foolish thing again. The war event starts tomorrow, you imbecile!”
Beluga turned his head. “I didn’t mean it like that... umm, but what Cross said was reasonable.”
Sila still failed to understand. “Why not?”
Noticing that the previous two failed to deliver the message, Fargo decided to explain, “The thing is, Sila, it’s widely known that you shouldn’t do something risky right before the war event, especially on the last day. If something went wrong, you might not revive in time. Both of them are simply concerned for your safety.”
Cross argued, “I’m not. What I really meant was for him to not die pointlessly like a fool.”
Beluga nodded. “Exactly like Fargo said. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Pushing ourselves too hard may result in a negative outcome rather than a positive one. You have comrades, so you should learn to put down some of your burden and start relying on them.”
Sila understood the two more. Although they phrased it differently, their intentions were the same. He wasn’t alone anymore, so he shouldn’t attempt to do everything as he pleased. He now had friends who shared the same goals and preferred to solve problems together.
“I’m not your comrade,” argued Cross.
“Don’t mind Cross. We have a big problem, Sila. Follow us downstairs and we’ll tell you about it.”
Everyone, with the addition of Sila, returned to the meeting room. Beluga then informed Sila about the matter regarding Lone Wolf and their plan to tackle the problem.
“Cross and I have an opinion that we should target Lone Wolf first in order to reduce the risk to the overall plan. What do you think, Sila?”
It could be said that the core leaders of the Wicked Union were reduced to three. The latest news brought by Beluga informed them that the Merchants Association had come into contact with the Heavenly Dragon Guild. Their conflict about the Heavenly Dragon Guild setting the price too low was about to be solved by Montra’s promise that he would transfer all trading rights to the Merchants Association after the war event in case he came out as the victor. On the contrary, if the Wicked Union happened to turn the tables and come out victorious, Monster Soul would enter an era that destroys the previous balance. The Merchants Association could take advantage of such a chaotic economic state to profit as much as they’re capable of doing.
No matter who won the war, the Merchants Association would end up benefiting from it. Hence, they decided to use the wait-and-see approach, not lending their help to either major side.
“I agree with the direction, but I don’t agree with the plan. Can you let me handle this problem my way?”
Beluga frowned. “It’s not that I don’t trust you. However, can you tell us first what your plan is?”
“As for me, I definitely don’t trust you. You have never come up with a plan. No way in hell did you suddenly become smart overnight,” Cross said without any reservation.
“I want the number of people to know the plan to be as few as possible. It’s not that I don’t trust everyone here, but the more people who know, the more we have to be watchful. If you want me to explain the plan, I ask that only we three know it,” Sila requested sincerely.
Beluga nodded. “Elso, please go out for a minute.”
Meanwhile, Fargo exited the room without Cross having to say anything. Silence then filled the room. After Sila had ensured that no one was eavesdropping, he took out a map of Monster Soul and looked around.
“What are you looking for?” asked Cross.
“This is weird. Where is the table?” Sila intended to place the map on the table.
Beluga showed a mild smile while Cross coughed. “Forget the damn table! Just put it on the floor!”
Sila did as Cross said. The three ended up having to squat while having a conversation. By no means did they look like the Wicked Union’s key leaders discussing important topics regarding the world of Monster Soul. If someone were to find them meeting like this, their images and reliability would be damaged.
Sila took out white and black Go pieces from his system window. Like Pumin, he liked to use them to represent the positions of their armies.
“Oh? We are blacks?” Beluga teased.
Sila smiled. “Yes. To be honest, after thinking about it many times, while the Heavenly Dragon Guild has three main cities as strong bases, we only have two new territories—the Island of Beginnings and Belacia City. Worse off, the two are located very far from each other. We can’t possibly run from one place to another to reinforce our army, unlike the three main cities located in a triangular manner.”
“It’s not certain yet. We can use dimension-crossing devices,” informed Cross.
“But that kind of item is hard to obtain. In fact, it’s safe to assume that only Siaferia City can produce it. We have to make an assumption that the Heavenly Dragon Guild can mobilize their forces between their cities in an instant,” guessed Beluga.
“It’s a perfect tool for mobilizing an army. If they really have this kind of tool, they can send a small detachment to reach one of our bases, then guide their main army to us in an instant without having to go out of their way. Not only can their main army fully rest prior to battle, but they can also easily perform a surprise attack.”
“Montra has a larger army and can freely mobilize it. He is in a rush to end the war, so he will have to handle many duties simultaneously—attacking Belacia City in the north, raiding the Island of Beginnings in the south, and protecting his own cities...”
Cross interrupted, “If I’m in his shoes, I won’t be hurried to go on the offensive. I will gradually expand my army and corner the enemy. It might take longer, but it’s a lot safer.”
Sila shook his head. “Please trust me. Montra has his reasons for ending the war quickly. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t try sending Revin and Kawin to negotiate with both of you. I can’t tell you the details, but I can tell you that Montra has around two weeks in real life to end the war. Converting that into in-game time, I’d say he has around two months.”
Beluga decided to trust Sila regarding this point. “We can make use of this knowledge. How about we focus on defense and wait until two months have passed?”
“No can do. Our army is lacking. If we use that method, Montra will combine his army from the three cities to raid our territories, one by one. We have to stay on the offensive to prevent that. We’ll keep attacking to gradually reduce the number of Montra’s troops, before ending the war with a surprise factor.”
“What factor?” asked Cross.
“Red Pieces?” Cross and Beluga looked at each other.
Sila nodded. “I have been thinking what we might overlook. What is it that no one has spotted on this board? And the answer for that question is Red Pieces.”
“The heck? Only your house would play Go with Red Pieces,” Cross scorned.
“It’ll make a great strategy exactly because it’s unheard of.” Instead of feeling angry, Sila felt he was getting closer to Cross.
“Excuse me, Sila. I don’t understand,” Beluga interjected.
Sila nodded and started to explain. “Someone told me that war is like Go. The black pieces are us, and the white pieces are the Heavenly Dragon Guild.”
“What do red pieces represent, then?”
“That’s the important point. Go is a game where only two players are competing against each other, like how the Wicked Union is battling the Heavenly Dragon Guild. The two of us are the only sides with a chance of victory. Players have to either support us or support Montra, becoming either black or white. However, what if a third force appears? Another force with a shot at victory—the red.”
“That will only make it another target. In the previous war event there were many sides as well, but that fact amounted to nothing. For Montra, the white, he just has to handle the red like it is the black.”
“The main point is... the red never existed. I just made it up.” Sila grinned as he explained his plan to the two. After some discussion, Beluga let out a laugh, and even Cross agreed with the plan.
“Awesome! With this, Montra won’t know what he is up against,” Beluga continued laughing.
Cross fell silent. “I’d rather not say it, but I agree with this plan.”
Sila noticed Cross’ faint smile. However, aware that he was being looked at, Cross abruptly changed his expression to a grumpy one.
“When will we start this plan, then?” asked Beluga.
Sila smiled and confidently said to the other two, “Actually, I already started it a week ago.”
So what happen to the sword his dad give him and the sword gift from the association elder. both of them is rank S sword right. it's pity he can equip it but can use it without gaining the stats or attribute of the sword. I thought after he lose the right hand he will equip the sword his father give him, but i think the author want Sila keep fighting without weapon huh.
For several days now, Sila’s treasury room had been arranged and used for rituals and alchemy. Surrounded by darkness was dim light that was being generated by flames underneath a small pot. The scent of the smoke and the smell of the boiling liquid made the room feel eerie. Runes were glowing very faintly across the entire room, forming arcane magic formulae. The sound of evil laughter echoed throughout the entire room, acting as background music.
“Kiekkiekkiek! Nearly finished! My ultimate masterpiece!”
Clute stood right beside Mamon, who continued to laugh. Personally, the boy didn’t like this kind of atmosphere. However, he was aware that alchemy was not his forte. Thus, he didn’t dare to interrupt the procedure.
Mamon’s silhouette in the dark looked like a devil who rose from the depth of the abyss. With each wave of his hands, the color of the liquid in the pot would change.
“Kiekkiekkiek! Great! This is great! Almost!”
A sound like a switch was flipped rang out, and the room soon brightened.
Julia entered the room and placed a plate of cookies on a short table. “Why do you like to stay in the dark? By the way, it’s snack time, you two.”
The space for the plate was made by sweeping Sila’s items on the table to the edges. Seeing this, Mamon immediately stopped working on the potion.
Seeing Mamon show a strange reaction, Clute felt restless and asked, “What’s wrong? Did the ritual fail? Was it because of the light?”
Clute was aware that many rituals, including alchemy, were quite sensitive to external factors. Just a small change or error can lead to total failure. Julia’s interruption at the very last moment might make everything they had done become for naught.
Mamon tossed a cookie into his mouth. “No, light is unrelated. I just liked it more when the room was dark.”
Clute was agape. He didn’t like dark places, but he had endured it for several days without a word of complaint. It turned out that the moody atmosphere was just Mamon’s preference.
“What is wrong with you, then, Mamon? You look... strange.”
Mamon indeed behaved strangely. At the very least, he didn’t scold Julia for interrupting his work like he would normally.
“I’m in a good mood, that’s all. We’ll demonstrate the result of the alchemic process after we finish eating these snacks.”
“Really, Mamon?!” Clute exclaimed, feeling elated. Noticing that there were still a lot of snacks left, he quickly stuffed them all into his mouth.
“Oou aey ar-art, Ar-aon. (You may start, Mamon.)”
Mamon, who had eaten only one piece of cookies, frowned. “You developed such a bad habit from that gluttonous bird.”
Clute choked, and Julia quickly served him tea. Witnessing such a pathetic scene, Mamon shook his head once before opening his palm, showing a certain Soul Crystal. He called out to the soul residing in it.
“Yes, Lord Mammon, the great Devil Prince, the sliest and evilest in all—” Seraphine immediately recited the hailing script.
“That’s enough for today. Save the rest for later. From now on, I’ll try something on you.”
Seraphine shut her mouth and simply stayed still in the crystal, obediently listening to Mamon. The Devil Prince used his analysis skill on her again, but the result was the same. He got nothing.
“Can you remember your appearance, power, race, or anything about yourself?”
“I cannot, my Lord.”
“It will be difficult, then. Resurrecting someone without a body requires a strong image that resembles your actual identity. Well, if you really did die many thousands of years ago as you believe, the monsters in that primordial era must have been gods.”
Mamon projected an image of a small goddess as a hologram. “It might not actually be your race. In any case, it’s believed that all monsters came from a similar origin.”
Clute opened his mouth to ask, “But you don’t know that for sure, right, Mamon?”
“It’s just a theory and a guess. However, it’s the theory I believe is closest to the truth,” Mamon replied honestly.
For an ancient race to become extinct, Mamon had two theories. The first was that the race was too weak to continue existing in Monster Soul, and the second was that the race was too powerful or there were some special circumstances that caused the rest of the monsters to gang up on the race, eliminating them in order to ensure a degree of peace in the world.
In any case, what had happened to Seraphine didn’t matter to Mamon at all. He simply wanted a lab rat.
The Minotaurs residing in the Soul Crystals were both his friends and his most loyal subordinates. A revival was something Mamon had never done before, so he wasn’t confident about it. He would never risk his own people in such a procedure. In the worst-case scenario where the revival failed, the targeted soul might disappear forever.
“Do you have any last wishes?” asked Mamon. He decided not to tell Seraphine that if something went wrong, she might cease to exist even as a soul.
“No, my Lord. I don’t want anything in particular,” Seraphine replied innocently.
“Well, I shall start. Focus your mind on the previous image of a goddess. Close your eyes and imprint that image in your head.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
Mamon carefully scooped the liquid within the pot using his psychic power. He flicked his finger, and a drop of golden liquid flew onto Seraphine’s Soul Crystal, which broke apart the instant it was touched by the liquid.
The treasure room was ablaze with golden light, flashing non-stop. Mamon and Clute waited for the result with excitement. Once the golden light faded, sitting on the floor was the small figure of a young maiden.
Seraphine turned out to be a small angel the size of a fairy. The only features that set her apart from usual fairies were her white angelic wings, as fairies typically had wings resembling those of dragonflies.
“It’s a success!” Clute exclaimed delightfully.
Mamon grinned as he lifted Seraphine onto his palm. “Everything went well. As we have agreed on, we will split the rest of the liquid equally. Once you find the souls of your golem friends, all you need to do is drop a bit of the liquid on them. You have seen the whole procedure.”
The liquid in the pot was shared among the two. Clute kept it attentively and guardedly. For him, this was just the beginning. He would have to travel to Hell in order to search for his friends’ souls. However, no matter how many hardships awaited him, he wouldn’t be afraid as there was a ray of hope at the end of his path.
Mamon quickly scanned Seraphine’s ability. He frowned at first but soon showed a smile once he realized what she could do. He unconsciously clenched his fist.
‘Kiekkiekkiek! I see! This woman’s ability is strange but splendid. I’ll put it to good use.’
Suffocated, Seraphine cried out, “I-I c-can’t breathe, Lord Mammon.”
Mamon loosened his grip. Seraphine was starting to become important to his great plan. Her level might be low currently, but that was hardly a problem. He could easily help her grind levels.
With this, he would be one step closer to punishing the bastards who had trampled on his subordinates after his disappearance.
At dawn of the first day of the second war event, unlike most small guilds out there who assembled people and strengthened their morale, the Wicked Union members did things differently. Sila and his comrades intended to launch their attack immediately. On the day people normally used to prepare their operations, Sila would launch a pre-emptive strike.
Lone Wolf was the Qi Emperor. Even if they were confident in their ability to take him down, Sila and his comrades wanted to avoid taking unnecessary risks. Both sides engaging in combat and suffering was what the Heavenly Dragon Guild desired.
Thus, an assassination became a viable choice.
Sila organized a small assassin group consisting of Asava, Elso, Tsunji, and himself. He selected only those who could conceal their presences well, optimizing their survival ability and success rate. He made a smaller team as he wanted to avoid drawing attention.
The four of them donned white masks, which were popular in Zhongsuyuan City. Everyone changed into black outfits. As for Sila, he simply had to command the Twin Souls Weaponized Protection to wrap him with another layer of black fabric. Meanwhile, Elso had a collection of black outfits for performing this kind of task, so he shared them with Asava and Tsunji.
At first glance the four of them were almost identical—four white-masked assassins in black suits.
Zhongsuyuan City in the morning was beginning to become hot. The heat reflected on the desert surface would cause people’s vision to blur. However, such a thing posed no problem to the four. They took a detour around the city and gathered on the west where the defense was weakest as no one would predict an ambush coming from the Desert of Death.
Sila was the first to voice his opinion, “We wear black clothing and even a white mask in the middle of the day. Isn’t it too eye-catching?”
“Black is the standard color for assassins, Sila. Hiding only works well in the dark. Trying to hide during the day will be counterproductive. In times like this, if someone decides to chase us, we can change the outfit to easily blend in with the crowd,” explained Asava.
Elso was clueless as to who Asava was. He only knew that the man was someone Sila trusted. He added, “Certainly. A black outfit is eye-catching. If we are chased, the pursuers will only remember that they are following a person in black. If we change clothes, we’ll shake them off easily.”
Sila nodded while Asava spread out a detailed map of the Victorious Wolves Sect’s headquarters. “This is a blueprint drawn up by a reliable source. Its accuracy is one hundred percent guaranteed. Please memorize it well. We can’t afford to make a mistake.”
The remaining three stared at the blueprint and made sure to remember everything. It would be very beneficial for them, both for sneaking in and for escaping.
“Remember that if someone chases us, we have to ‘accidentally’ drop this.” Asava handed the three a few daggers.
“What are these daggers?” asked Tsunji.
“They belonged to Heavenly Dragon Guild’s members. I stole them some time ago.”
“Won’t that be too obvious? It’ll be clear as day that we intend to frame them.”
Asava shook his head. “No, it won’t be. These daggers are of a higher grade than traditional ones despite their appearances being the same. It’s a well-known fact that only the Heavenly Dragon Guild can produce this kind of item. Even if our pursuers don’t wholeheartedly believe our lies, they will at least consider this probability.
“Our main target is Lone Wolf. Don’t make unnecessary kills if possible, or the situation may become more of a mess otherwise. If you are caught, please swallow this pellet. Not only will you not be tortured, but no one will know who you are.”
The remaining three took the daggers and pellets from Asava’s hands. Each of them kept both items hidden in their sleeves.
“Lastly, we currently don’t know where Lone Wolf is within his clan, so we’ll split up. Each of us will do it in our own way to eliminate the target. Keep in mind again that the main target is Lone Wolf while those vice-leaders are secondary. We may choose to kill them if doing so won’t expose ourselves.”
The four of them divided the clan into four zones and each took an area for themselves.
Actually, Asava had voiced his opinion to Sila that assassinations were delicate jobs which oftentimes required more time to prepare and form strategies, including studying the target’s behaviors for at least a month. In any case, there were times when the jobs were urgent, so he didn’t put up much resistance. In fact, it was more like he just seized the opportunity to teach Sila about how assassinations worked.
The Hell’s Gate Islands were closed down by the Demon God Zenga, so no one dared to contact them, resulting in the deteriorated state of Kimon. There had been times when they greatly suffered due to having only expenses without any source of income. However, after the Demon God’s mysterious death, his order lost its full effect. Some groups started to secretly contact the Hell’s Gate Islands, providing them a leeway to survive with scraped out profits.
Even though it was just in the game, it had been so long since Asava got to enjoy doing his job. In the past couple of years, Kimon members had been spending their time watching the Elders’ movements, so they rarely got a chance to do real jobs.
Lone Wolf was an important figure in Monster Soul. If Asava managed to assassinate even the man in question, he might consider using Monster Soul as a base for nurturing and training new generations of assassins, then converting in-game currency into real cash and sending it back to support the family.
“Now, the Victorious Wolves Sect must be thinking that they are neutral and that no one would attack them on the very first day. This increases our odds of success. Let’s split up and go.”
Tsunji jumped vertically. His jump was so high that it took no time at all for him to become just a small dot in the sky. Meanwhile, Elso mysteriously became a cloud of black smoke, spreading through sand and slowly disappearing. As for Asava, all he did was wave his hand, then he vanished, leaving Sila alone.
Sila scratched his head. Surrounding the Victorious Wolves Sect was a desert, so there weren’t many hiding spots. He pondered his choices for a bit, then transformed himself into a small slime, gradually and sneakily hopping forward while hoping that no one would spot him.
The first day of the war event was the day on which everyone made preparations. Players were excited about the event that was held only once per year, and about the many developments that were to come. However, it could be said that this was one of the days with the most developments, both obvious and behind the scenes.
The four assassins relied on their unique methods to sneak into their assigned areas responsibly. Naturally, it wasn’t an easy task. The Victorious Wolves Sect was the home of martial artists. There were always players who excelled in the God’s Cathedral qi technique, expanding their senses to detect any approaching abnormalities.
Tsunji stood in the air, far above the ground level. His pair of eyes cast downward, calmly watching any movements as if he were a great eagle watching its prey. Seeing it all from a bird’s eyes view, he could locate all of the guards from outside their detection range. He waited silently and calmly while memorizing the patterns of their movements and work shifts.
As for Elso, although his current outward appearance looked like a cloud of smoke, it was still merely a disguise. His body could still be detected by qi. Hence, once he approached the clan, he switched to disguising himself as one of the clanmates.
Out of the four assassins, Asava was clearly the most superior regarding the art of stealthiness. Utilizing Stealth Disaster, which focused on infiltration, he could practically roam free inside the clan, with not a single person noticing him. His dark art allowed him to release some kind of faint profound wave, making people fail to recognize him. Even when they did see him, they would only think that he was simply a roadside rock that they saw every day. As long as they didn’t know what they were looking for, they wouldn’t be able to detect Asava’s presence.
Sila was the last to arrive. He brought his small and gelatinous body to the top of the wall by crawling. He took a moment to observe the area, but could not see even the shadow of Lone Wolf.
In fact, searching for Lone Wolf was exceptionally easy. Sun God Qi was a unique qi with an outstandingly radiant aura. All Sila had to do was expand his senses, and he could spot the Qi Emperor in practically no time.
However, doing so would mean exposing himself. There had been a time when Sila expanded his senses to probe Paiyuan’s strength using Galaxy Eclipse, and the latter noticed his detection instantly. It implied that if the opponent was skilled, they could counter-sense him. Lone Wolf was the Qi Emperor, so Sila was more than sure that he would end up being detected first before he could locate Lone Wolf if he released his qi.
The Victorious Wolves Sect’s members were mostly wuxia players. They relied on their profound sense more than their vision. That made them fail to notice Sila, who perfectly concealed his qi while crawling slowly in his transparent slime form.
With some difficulty, Sila managed to crawl into the space underneath the headquarters. He began to envy Himeko’s Goddess’ Resonance. With that dark art, she could rely on just sound to pinpoint a target or determine the shape of a room through echolocation. It was as if she was a living map and also a compass.
Now that he thought of it, Sila realized he could mimic her to some degree. Even if he couldn’t do exactly what she did, just heightening his senses could be doable.
Sila hid behind one of the wooden pillars supporting the building. He internally circulated qi while covering his skin with Divine Raiment, which was the art derived from Goddess’ Resonance by Viola. Supposedly, it was the best detection art available for Sila right now.
Sila’s five senses were heightened temporarily. Still, that was far from what he needed to pinpoint Lone Wolf’s location. It was mainly because Sila needed specific skills or experience with heightened hearing to distinguish the sounds he heard. In the end, he chose to gamble on following the faintest footsteps, hoping they would belong to Lone Wolf.
The Victorious Wolves Sect’s main building was a three-story wooden house with wings on the left and right sides, making it look like a horseshoe building from a bird’s eye view. There was a yard in the middle and a small porch connecting it to the building. Upon reaching here, Sila decided to transform back into his original human form in order to optimize mobility.
He reached a corner of the building, where the staircases leading to the second floor were located nearby, and stopped. The footsteps he had heard came from this exact spot.
Sila activated Moon Reflecting Mirror on the tip of his finger, making it become a substance similar to a mirror. He stayed low and moved his finger away, watching a reflection from the other side of the corner.
‘Sigh. It’s a miss.’
Looking at the reflection, Sila was disappointed. The other side of the corner was not Lone Wolf, but a handsome young man in a scholar uniform. He seemed neat, but not physically fragile like Lomyok. Actually, he seemed very strong and confident.
“How is Lone Wolf?” the man seemed to be conversing with someone else.
“Let’s talk in Hermit’s room, Hong Tong. I have something to discuss with Hermit as well.” The reply belonged to Ratri.
The two of them walked toward where Sila was standing, so he quickly but quietly went upstairs and slid the door panel next to him open and jumped inside. He then leaped up to a ceiling beam and hid to the best of his ability.
Hong Tong and Ratri soon entered the room. Taking a look at the room, Sila found that it was a middle-sized room with a bookshelf in one corner and several rows of pots, ranging from small to large ones, at the other end of the room. There was also a desk in another corner.
He simply wanted to avoid being found. However, it turned out that he had entered Hermit’s room.
“Hermit is not here. Maybe he is with Lone Wolf?”
Hong Tong looked around the room. “Please wait for a moment.”
Hong Tong spread his perception to where Sila was hiding. Fortunately, it seemed Sila’s concealment ability was higher than Hong Tong’s detection ability, so nothing happened.
“Nothing. I just checked the room. I noticed that the door wasn’t tightly closed.”
“Hermit might have been in a rush. By the way, what was it?” asked Ratri.
“The installation of the Dimension-Rending Bomb was successful. Cross also destroyed the invitation cards without checking that one card was missing. He must have subconsciously believed that Lone Wolf would return all of them. Once the switch is pressed, all people in the dimension will die. Presently, no one among them has seen it coming.”
“Good job. Now that there is a conflict between us and Cross, Lone Wolf’s life is in danger. Sila is also dangerous, so we should avoid direct confrontation. Sometimes we have to strike first to secure our safety.”
“Personally, I don’t like this method at all. However, for the sake of the community at large, I will overlook it.”
“Sila, Cross, and Beluga. These three’s lives can be traded for the peace of the public. For us, the righteous side, this is something we ought to do. We have to prioritize the great cause over a personal conscience. Once we can ensure that all three of them are in the mansion together, we’ll detonate it.”
After staying in the room for a while, Hermit still hadn’t come back. Hence, the two went outside. Sila waited for more time to pass, until he was quite sure that they wouldn’t come back, before sighing and landing himself on the floor.
Sila secretly broke into a cold sweat. It seemed he had totally underestimated the Victorious Wolves Sect far too much. If Lone Wolf was warm sunlight, Ratri would be the sun’s shadow. She carried out missions that she believed would benefit the sect from the darkness without Lone Wolf finding out. Sila was clueless regarding what a Dimension-Rending Bomb was, including what it could do. However, just based on the name, it didn’t sound like a good thing.
Sila opened his system window and brought up a search bar, inputting ‘Dimension-Rending Bomb’ as the keywords.
The words you have searched for: “Dimension-Rending Bomb.”
Dimension-Rending Bombs are S-grade psychic-type items with complicated usages. They are unpopular and uncommon in Monster Soul due to their difficult installation methods. However, if they are successfully installed and activated, they are incredibly dangerous.
Dimension-Rending Bombs will completely erase a dimension that belongs to a player, removing it from existence. All items and facilities within the dimension will be destroyed, and all living creatures will die.
During the installation, the Dimension-Rending Bomb will expand into a cube that is at least a hundred cubic meters large. It takes a week for the installation to be completed. The detonation switch is made out of an invitation card, which has to be obtained directly from the dimension’s owner.
To think that this kind of thing was in the Mansion of Secrets without Sila’s awareness... The Wicked Union’s most important headquarters was currently sitting on a giant bomb that could explode at any moment according to Ratri’s will.
Sila felt that hearing about this was a stroke of good luck. Otherwise, he and his comrades would die like fools. The bomb might explode at the last moment when they were about to secure a victory, turning them into losers by surprise.
This topic immediately became the most urgent. Through his system window, Sila sent everyone a signal to withdraw. The signal was of the highest priority. The receivers had to follow the instructions, no questions asked. As all of them were masters of concealment, Sila was sure that just escaping would be easier than entering.
Although their original mission was a failure, they instead got their hands on important intel. Sila believed his decision was correct.
The sound of approaching footsteps entered Sila’s ears. Assessing that he couldn’t exit the room in time, Sila had no choice but to return to the ceiling beam. He felt a bit regretful that he had spent time using his system window instead of fleeing.
The ones entering the room turned out to be Lone Wolf and Hermit. Sila didn’t know if he should be happy or not that he came across the main target after having already decided to retreat.
Lone Wolf spoke up, “As I said, Hermit. What do you think?”
Hermit showed signs of feeling burdened about the conversation. “Why don’t you go and ask Ratri directly, Leader? Why did you come to ask me?”
“There is no way Ratri will give me an honest answer. I want to hear your opinion regarding this decision of mine, Hermit.”
“My take is that each of you have your own reasons. You better discuss it among yourselves before coming to consult me.”
Out of nowhere, an object or structure, probably a wooden one, made a harsh, high-pitched sound. Maybe something was moved, or maybe the wood shrunk due to the change in temperature. Perhaps someone on the upper floor applied too much weight while walking, or maybe it was simply Sila’s misfortune. Whatever the cause, the sound prompted the two to look up at the ceiling. Given Lone Wolf’s ability, if he locked his focus onto one particular spot, even Sila wouldn’t be able to escape his perception.
Lone Wolf was familiar with Sila’s qi, so he didn’t even have to guess. He simply smiled, “Sila, it’s you. Why don’t you come down so that we can have a proper—”
All of the attention was directed at Sila on the ceiling beam. Lone Wolf knew Sila’s personality, so he lowered his guard a bit, while Hermit was still startled to hear that someone was hiding in the room. It was at this exact moment that an unexpected development occurred.
One of the upside-down large pots hanging on a shelf shattered. A black silhouette leaped to Lone Wolf with incredible speed. The figure tapped his right hand on Lone Wolf’s shoulder, which caused the latter’s qi reinforcement to weaken, before using a dagger in the left hand to stab through Lone Wolf’s chest. The blade of the dagger exploded shortly after, severely injuring the Qi Emperor further.
Lone Wolf brandished his hand, but the mysterious assassin dodged it with ease while also kicking Hermit, sending the latter to crash against the wall and fall unconscious.
Even Sila couldn’t make heads nor tails about what was happening. In any case, he decided to descend and rush to Lone Wolf. Meanwhile, the assassin took out many swords, tossed them to the wall, and commanded them to explode.
“Intruders!!” The assassin shouted, making Sila frown. What kind of an intruder would shout to inform the house owners that there were intruders?
However, Sila soon realized the assassin’s intention as soon as the man removed his black cloak. He wore the Victorious Wolves Sect uniform. The ‘intruder’ that the assassin mentioned just now was none other than Sila.
“Zazae, right?” Only one person came to Sila’s mind. Zazae, the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s best assassin who had never revealed his true face. According to the intel, Zazae could use psychic power like Cross and utilize qi like Lone Wolf.
How long had Zazae been hiding in the room? He must have arrived before Sila. Sila believed it was likely that Zazae had been waiting inside Hermit’s room for quite a while, maybe even before the war event started. Zazae must have predicted that Lone Wolf would come to this room sooner or later during the event. Now Sila was aware that assassination was a delicate job not to be taken lightly. He might be superior to Zazae regarding fighting ability. However, when it comes to assassinations, he was a mere amateur.
“Consider this a gift from Sir Montra.”
Zazae strengthened his fist with Sun God Qi and threw a punch at Sila, causing a blazing trail. Sila evaded the punch and counterattacked by materializing a blade out of qi, shooting toward Zazae.
Strangely enough, Zazae took the blade head-on even though he should have been able to dodge it. He increased his defense with Dragon Scales, weakening the power in the qi blade. It still left a wound on his chest though. Relying on the Worlds Crossing Bridge qi technique, Zazae redirected the rest of the attack power toward Lone Wolf while he himself jumped back, following the impact.
The door slid open, and the Victorious Wolves Sect’s members rushed in. Among them, Hong Tong and Ratri quickly approached Lone Wolf and inspected the state he was in.
Zazae spoke up, “They came to assassinate Lone Wolf! They also injured Hermit! His comrades already left through that hole!”
Sila swept his gaze over the room. Zazae’s Sun God Qi—which was identical to Lone Wolf’s—had destroyed half of the room while sword debris—which resembled Cross’ fighting style—scattered around, especially near the big hole. Everything in the room could be easily interpreted as Lone Wolf was fighting him a moment ago, then Cross had shown up, injured Lone Wolf, and fled.
Hong Tong stared at the hole on the wall. “It was done by Cross’ Psychic Boost.”
Zazae smirked while standing in a way so that no one other than Sila could see his expression. “He is Sila! Hermit can confirm it! Lone Wolf said he is Sila!!”
Of course Hermit would verify Zazae’s claim when he woke up. In fact, either simply removing his mask or showing his strength, and it would be none other than Sila himself who proved it to others that he was Sila.
Sila was racking his brain out. It seemed both the Wicked Union and the Heavenly Dragon Guild wanted Lone Wolf to die. However, neither of them wanted to be held responsible. Montra had the same idea as Asava, using Zazae to frame Cross for Lone Wolf’s murder.
Montra wouldn’t have predicted Sila would come. Zazae’s duty was supposed to be assassinating Lone Wolf and blaming the Wicked Union for it. However, the fact that Sila was here turned out to be a nice bonus.
Sila no longer waited. He flicked his wrists, firing bullets made of qi toward Zazae. He might as well take this chance to at least take down the Three Stars Warlord in order to reduce one of the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s powerhouses.
Hong Tong took a similar action, firing yizichan from his fingers. The power in his yizichan was inferior to Sila’s, but he relied on fine control to redirect the path of Sila’s qi bullets, causing them to miss their target. In any case, if someone looked closely, they would have noticed that Zazae had moved from his original position.
“He intended to shut the man up! Kill him!” One of the players shouted.
Sila didn’t have many options to choose from. Now that it had come to this, he wouldn’t be able to come clean no matter how many rivers he jumped into. Among everyone here, Ratri was the one with the highest chance of holding onto the detonation switch. If she kept it in her system window, it was necessary for Sila to eliminate her to make it disappear. Otherwise, the longer he waited, the riskier the situation became for everyone residing in his mansion.
Ratri was right. Sometimes people have to strike first to secure their safety.
Coming up with a goal, Sila no longer held back as he unleashed his killing intent. Such intent naturally stimulated Dark Self. This time, the voice was so clear, as if Dark Self was speaking right next to his ears even though he hadn’t activated Moon Reflecting Mirror yet.
“Finally we agree on something, Sila. Let’s secure our safety... Let’s go at it until there’s nothing left!”
Are all flame cloud art master have dual personality? Like demon god who is kind but ruthless.
Sila immediately assessed his situation, searching for a way out. By circulating qi in his head, the Cloud Part helped him formulate a plan. He became aware of what to do first and next.
Spears, swords, sabers, halberds, lances, axes were drawn and poured toward Sila. He spun his body like a spinning top while striking the weapons down using his hands. While he was at it, subtle flashes glittered from his fingers. Flying out of them were materialized hidden weapons. The clan’s members had to retreat a few steps to block them tumultuously.
Having secured some distance, Sila called forth one of the swords in his collection provided by the Twin Souls Weaponized Protection. One of the armor’s abilities was to let Sila summon artificial swords out of cards.
The Twin Souls Weaponized Protection was a strange kind of set item, apparently influenced by the Mechanical Evil God’s Protection. Based on the main ingredients used in its creation, the Twin Souls Weaponized Protection was supposed to be the combination of armor and a sword, or at most two swords for dual-wielding. However, as Sila used four swords as ingredients, the system couldn’t determine a solution for him to wield all of them simultaneously. Thus, it came up with a compromise.
(S) Twin Souls Sword Collection.
A set item. Has to be equipped together with the Twin Souls Weaponized Protection.
The user can convert a monster card into a card containing a sword-type weapon. The converted card can neither return to its original form nor be transferred to others.
The user can summon a sword out of the card. In the sword form, the card will not show its effects.
A glass-like card appeared on Sila’s palm. In fact, he had never tried using this ability before. He felt the situation was like when he used the Greed Card though. The card broke and a sword was materialized in his hand. Still, it wasn’t the sword he pictured. He intended to summon the Crystal Divine Sword, not this one.
The sword currently in his hand was a short sword, only reaching one cubit in length. Only one side of the blade was sharp. The blade itself curved slightly. Just a quick glance could tell that it was created with great craftsmanship as it looked so beautiful that one might mistake it for an ornamental accessory. A light blue glow of mana stably enveloped the blade.
Sila wanted to ask for a time-out, but there was no way his request would be granted. The next wave of attacks was coming. He struggled to brandish the sword as he had never used a short sword before.
Blue sword waves formed themselves around Sila before flying away, ramming into players on the frontline and knocking them down. No one was injured though.
“What kind of skill is that?” Someone asked while some others muttered, “What is that sword?”
Let alone them, even Sila himself also asked himself those questions. Luckily, he had a certain knowledgeable dragon accompanying him. As he was pondering how to make use of the sword, Zarnak’s voice rang out in his head.
“Don’t you know how to use a sword, my amateurish master? That sword is a magic-type weapon. It can form sword waves in mid-air. The longer you delay their release, the stronger they will be when they strike. You’re really poor at using magic, aren’t you? For magic-type skills, you have to rely on—”
“—Timing. I got that. However, why did the Crystal Divine Sword become like this?”
“The explanation will be quite long. Are you sure you have time for that, my hasty master?”
“Tell me while I deal with this!” Sila gritted his teeth as he replied in a hurried manner.
Now that he knew what the sword was capable of, Sila quickly waved it around, forming more than a hundred sword waves. They became a wall, blocking off his opponents’ lines of sight.
The attacks from players soon flooded once more. The sword waves disappeared with just a mere touch. It made Sila realize that those sword waves weren’t meant to block incoming attacks. It wasn’t a sword suitable for the situation he was in.
‘Let’s go with the Crystal Demonic Sword, then.’
Sila intended to summon the Crystal Demonic Sword into his left hand. The same situation unfolded. A glass-like card appeared and broke, becoming a physical sword in his hand. Fortunately, this time the sword was the standard length. It was a black knightly sword resembling a sword used by knights in medieval times. The sword was a straight, double-edged weapon with a single-handed, cruciform hilt and a blade length of about eighty centimeters. However, this sword was also weird. Its blade seemed nicked, rusty, and old, making the wielder think that it might break as soon as it comes into contact with just about anything.
‘What the heck? Again?’ Sila let out a groan, barely managing to suppress it so no one heard. He didn’t have many choices though. He strengthened the sword with his qi and struck the nearby players. Their blood splattered on the ground, and the sword seemed to let out a happy grunt. For the record, Sila felt his power rise ever so slightly. It was so subtle that he wasn’t sure if he had imagined it instead.
“That sword is a psychic-type weapon. The more you kill, the more powerful it will become. It’s the sword that is best suited to this kind of situation.”
“Zarnak, I said explain!” Sila pressed for answers.
“You indeed say so, my obsessive-compulsive disorder master. Please take a look yourself.”
A small system window floated up, showing Sila’s set of equipment. The two swords were currently registered in the main weapon slot.
(S) Morning Star Sword [Artificial Weapon]
It has an extremely low chance to drop from the King of Thousand Weapons, Maximus, also known as the Emperor of Magical Objects.
The Morning Star Sword can slice through anything, given that the charging time is sufficient. The time that the sword waves formed by it can remain functional is relative to the user’s Delay Spell skill. The sword waves’ attack range is exactly ten meters.
If the unreleased sword waves are attacked, they will be easily destroyed.
[Morning Star Card]
+ Increase the duration of your Delay Spell skill by 100%.
- While you’re delaying a spell, your movement speed is reduced by 10%.
(S) Bloody Demon Sword [Artificial Weapon]
It has a 100% drop rate if you slay the Demon Lord in the Castle of Pain.
The Bloody Demon Sword can accumulate blood from creatures that are harmed by it. The sword’s attack power will increase by absorbing the blood. The wielder can use the accumulated blood as a resource when a skill requires you to sacrifice health points, your own blood and flesh, or take damage. The accumulated blood will be used in place of these, provided enough has been absorbed.
The accumulated blood is a temporary resource. It will be reset to zero once you unsummon the sword.
[Bloody Demon Card]
- The value of your maximum health points is decreased by 1.
+ Converts 50% of the damage done to the target into health points.
Sila quickly swept his eyes over the descriptions. Meanwhile, the Bloody Demon Sword let out a howling scream as its blade sliced through the air and generated friction, making his opponents tremble with fright.
“Your swords were converted into cards. However, there is no such thing as a card that represents an actual sword in Monster Soul. Thus, the Creation God confiscated your four swords and compensated them with three existing cards in Monster Soul, with each of the cards possessing an ability closest to the sword they replaced.
“The Crystal Divine Sword had an ability that was related to Delay Spell, so the card that is closest to it is the Morning Star Card.
“As for the Crystal Demonic Sword, you’re truly lucky. The Demon Lord is one of the ultimate life forms who has never made a direct appearance. There are only legends about him, claiming that he lost to the Sealed One and possessed might comparable to God. Out of all the items that drop from him, even the worst one would still be S Grade.
“Lastly, the Magic Discord Card is a special card that can normally be obtained by exchanging the Solaria Card and Dorolia Card for it at any card shop. You can summon dual swords out of it.”
After hearing Zarnak’s explanation, Sila became more confident. He was now the Victorious Wolves Sect’s mortal enemy. However, it was still the first day of the war. He didn’t want to feed them too much information about him.
His main objective was to stop the bomb. As for killing, he wouldn’t hesitate, but he also wouldn’t bite off more than he could chew.
Using an unfamiliar sword turned out to be Sila’s new challenge. The black sword was in his right hand and the short sword was in his left. He activated the Great Flow and brandished the Bloody Demon Sword, beginning his counterattack with a heavy blow.
Heaven’s Dismissal — Fourth Sword Style, Demonic Gales.
A rapidly expanding black whirlwind of power, caused by the sword, was so fierce as if a typhoon exploded in the room. All items inside the room broke into pieces and spun around with Sila as the center. Some players were blown away while the others had a hard time standing. The pressure from the cyclone was already bad news. However, the complexity of Sila’s move didn’t stop there. Rather, he was using two Demonic Gales in a single instance.
Generating a fierce cyclone through his right while creating gentle breezes with his left.
Small sword waves as calm as gentle breezes intermingled with the cyclone. They were two different kinds of wind. In a state where the players had to push through the pressure from the fierce vortex, some light wind breezed past them and cut them on their wrists, ankles, and necks. Dozens of slashing wounds appeared on their bodies. The lifeless bodies continued to collapse on the floor one after another.
A terrible bloody stench was enveloping the entire room. Sila pulled his swords back and thrust them down into the floor.
Heaven’s Dismissal — First Sword Style, Vast Underworld.
The Great Flow exploded, tearing apart the floor made of wood into sharp debris. The floor could no longer support his weight as it cracked and broke apart.
The ankles of some still surviving players shattered from the impact of landing. Sila cancelled the sword in his left hand before materializing a whip made of qi. He dragged the unconscious Hermit down with him to the first floor.
For the record, all of his opponents had prioritized protecting Lone Wolf from the start. That was why Sila could easily make his move on the abandoned Hermit.
Meanwhile, Hong Tong had been busy redirecting Sila’s attacks away. He had burdens called Ratri and the injured Lone Wolf, so he had little room to perform a counterattack. All he could do was use Yizichan to nullify Sila’s attack power coming at him. In any case, he couldn’t help but be amazed that such a powerful player they were up against was someone who started the game not long ago.
“Hahaha! Hermit is done for!” Sila’s roar came from the hole.
The players became enraged. Seeking revenge, they unleashed their qi and jumped down without a care for their lives.
Hong Tong shouted out a warning, “Don’t go! It’s a trap!!”
However, Hong Tong was too late. The players, still in mid-air, took a look and found that Sila was holding Hermit in his left hand while his right removed the white mask. His lungs were filled with air.
Racial Skill — Slime’s Breath.
A burst of fire came out from Sila’s mouth. At such a close range, Sila’s magic skill became significantly more powerful. In addition, magic power dominated qi by nature, so the players’ qi reinforcement turned out to be quite ineffective. Most of them were burnt to ashes during their descent.
The building was set on fire. A pillar of flames shot toward the sky, brightening the entire city. Sila didn’t allow anyone except for himself to make a move. Constantly be on offensive and shut down the opponent’s chance to strike back. Such was the concept of Mora’s Nine Sun-Melting-Fists.
The wooden pillars supporting the building began to collapse. The building itself sent out a creaking sound and showed signs of breaking apart. Sila pressed his feet on the ground and jumped high into the air. He landed Genesis Punch on the ceiling, turning it into a mass of dust before compressing it into a ball. His eyes wandered around the place, looking for Zazae and Ratri.
“Shit. He’s gone,” Sila swore in a soft voice.
It was to be expected. In such a chaotic battlefield, it was an easy task for Zazae to escape. Sila still had a little hope that the truth might come to light if he could just manage to capture Zazae. However, now that Zazae had left, no one could prove Sila’s innocence regarding Lone Wolf’s injury anymore. Even if he were to explain, he bet everyone would think that he had killed that lone eyewitness in the previous exchanges.
In any case, Ratri became the last problem Sila absolutely had to take care of. In fact, killing Ratri wasn’t a difficult task for him. Even though Hong Tong was protecting her, there was a limit to how much the man could prevent. To be honest, Hong Tong would have a higher chance of victory if he abandoned the woman and confronted Sila directly.
What brought a headache to Sila was the fact that he wasn’t sure who was holding onto the detonating switch.
If it was with Ratri, killing her would solve everything. However, if it wasn’t, killing her would be for naught.
There was a high probability that the switch was in Ratri’s possession. However, Sila still couldn’t rule out the possibility that Ratri had kept it somewhere else other than her system window. At a time like this, Sila missed Mamon’s presence. With Mamon’s ability, finding the switch would be a piece of cake.
“It seems I have no choice.”
Sila tossed the compressed ball of wooden dust toward Hong Tong, who was especially vigilant and refused to take the ball head-on. Such a choice was what Sila had anticipated. Hong Tong parried the ball with Yizichan, but the ball broke so easily as soon as Hong Tong’s power touched it. It was too easy, even.
Hong Tong observed the mass of dust, then looked at the flames. A certain thought rushed to his head, making him clad his body with qi reinforcement in a hurried manner.
The dust caught on fire and exploded. The explosion tore the room apart and finally brought the building down. Meanwhile, Sila had protected himself with qi reinforcement in advance. He even extended his range of protection to Hermit.
On the other hand, Ratri had been sharing a part of her power to protect and heal Lone Wolf. The injury on him showed no signs of disappearing though. When Sila noticed this, Zarnak quietly informed him that the Skeleton Dragon’s Scales had the ability to weaken a target upon contact. However, if the target was attacked in that state, the inflicted injury couldn’t be healed using ordinary means, leaving the target to a slow and painful death if they weren’t treated by a healing expert.
Seizing the moment when the explosion started to subside, Sila leaped to Ratri. Her protective aura became thinner due to the force of explosion. He flicked his wrist using the spin technique of Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws, throwing Ratri to where Hong Tong was, then pulling Lone Wolf into his right hand.
“Release him, p-please!” Ratri shouted, her eyes welling with tears.
“Don’t worry. Lone Wolf and Hermit will be taken care of to the best of our hospitality... in the Mansion of Secrets.”
Sila spoke apathetically before hanging the two of them over his shoulders and departing. Given his current speed, if he set his mind on escaping, no one aside from Zero could easily catch up to him.
Sila took Lone Wolf and Hermit as hostages. He was certain that as long as Lone Wolf was staying in the mansion, the Victorious Wolves Sect’s members would never dare to detonate the bomb.
What the description of crystal divine and crystal demonic sword ? it's been so long that i can not remember the description or ability of the two sword ? Anyone ?
(S) Crystal Divine Sword [Zeref]
A sword made from crystal refined from a certain meteor by the legendary weaponsmith Zeref. It possesses the ability to draw out power from nature. When the power of nature is imbued in it, the sword will let off a light blue glow and can exert twice as much attack power.
- One cannot wield the Crystal Divine Sword alone.
(S) Crystal Demonic Sword [Sila]
The sword produced by Player Sila with help from the reward from the Valley of Immortals. It represents the wielder’s mind. It possesses the ability to devour dark energies such as poisons, curses, illusions, or negative emotions. Once the wielder clads it with energy reinforcement, it will absorb light and generate darkness. Increases the damage done by wielder’s psychic power.
When being wielded, the Crystal Demonic Sword will constantly consume the wielder’s health points.
In the Mansion of Secrets.
Sila carried Hermit and Lone Wolf to the garden in front of the mansion. Both of them had severe injuries, but of differing types. Hermit had bone fractures and cuts all over, but through qi transmission from Sila, his external injuries were completely healed. However, Sila’s efforts to tend to the fractures were hopeless. Sila could heal himself well, but he didn’t excel at healing others. The level of his Qi Transmission skill was 55, which was one of the lowest among his qi-type skills. At this level, the efficiency of qi would drop to one-fourth in the procedure of qi transmission. As such, Sila was unable to perform complex healing like tending to internal organs.
In any case, it was Lone Wolf who caused more concern. His body had stopped moving ever since he was stabbed. Upon inspection, Sila found that Lone Wolf’s qi was trying to fix his wounds even though the man was unconscious. However, once it flew to any of the injuries, the aura coming from the Skeleton Dragon’s Scales would significantly weaken it, rendering it practically useless. Fortunately, Lone Wolf was at Level 1,000 Lord Rank and he was a qi-type player, so he had a tremendous pool of health points. He could hang onto his life for a long period of time.
Sensing Sila’s return, everyone exited the mansion and came to him. Among them were Beluga, Cross, Elso, Tsunji, and Asava. They were surprised to see Lone Wolf and Hermit.
“What happened? How come the assassination turned out to be such a mess?” asked Beluga. He had heard about the situation almost immediately from the spies he placed in Zhongsuyuan City.
“Why did you bring this guy back?” Cross pointed at Lone Wolf.
Sila briefly explained to everyone about what happened, making sure to include the intel he heard accidentally. With the exception of Asava and Tsunji, who seemed to be clueless about the function of a Dimension-Rending Bomb, everyone showed stern expressions.
“You made the right decision, Sila. This matter is far more important than killing Lone Wolf.” Beluga turned to order Elso, “Assemble everyone in the mansion. Find the bomb right now!”
Elso nodded, while Crossed interrupted, “Don’t waste time. The dojo... Under the dojo’s floor.”
Elso turned to Beluga, who nodded and added, “It’s highly likely that the bomb is there.”
After Elso left running to the dojo, Sila asked, “Why are you so confident?”
Beluga explained, “The Dimension-Rending Bomb has a size of at least a hundred cubic meters. There are only a few places you can hide such a large item.”
Cross gritted his teeth as he clad his foot with psychic power reinforcement. Out of rage, he was about to kick Lone Wolf in the face, but Beluga took immediate action by materializing a qi wall to block it.
“Why did you stop me?” Cross glared at Beluga.
“I understand why you’re angry, but I’m sure Lone Wolf is unaware of it.”
“So you’re saying it’s not his fault? You’re dead wrong. He is to blame. His crime is his inability to control his people. He is the leader, so of course, it’s his fault.”
Beluga couldn’t argue with that. “Anyway, look at the state he is in... I don’t think he’ll last much longer.”
After secretly chatting with Zarnak through mental communication, Sila said, “There are only a handful of people who can heal this kind of injury caused by such a peculiar skill. As far as I know, there are only five people in the game who can do it.”
“Who are they?” Beluga asked.
“The first is Zazae himself. If he deactivates the skill, Lone Wolf will recover. The second is Montra. Infernee’s healing spell can easily heal him. The third is Anawin, the Medical Saint of the Borderless City. The fourth is White Swan of the Blue Pigeon Guild. I heard that her qi excels in healing power. She once healed Burapha after he was burned by Revin’s flames.”
Beluga agreed, “Her healing qi is indeed splendid. I have witnessed it. Who is the last person, by the way?”
Sila continued expressionlessly, “The last one is me. I have a certain skill that can cancel out Dragon Scales.”
Everyone seemed surprised. However, Beluga and Cross realized the hidden meaning in no time. “I see... You intend to keep this trump card against Montra’s Reversed Holy Scale, don’t you?”
Sila nodded. “Lone Wolf’s fate now lies in our hands. I want to know your opinions.”
“If we’re going to vote, I’ll vote for killing him. It’s pointless to keep him alive,” Cross immediately replied.
“I think it’s more beneficial for us to keep him alive though. It’s possible that we can recruit more people if we talk things out with him.”
Cross frowned. “Why bother recruiting those guys? Don’t tell me you were not aware of the reason why I was angry just now, Beluga.”
“I know. The Dimension-Rending Bomb requires time to set up. It’s not something that could be implemented without thinking things through. This means Ratri must have planned it a long time ago. She must have exploited the time when the dojo was closed for the Victorious Wolves Sect’s exclusive use. While they used the dojo’s benefit to transmit Qi of Little Divine Beings to their comrades, they must have realized that as long as this kind of place exists, their guild’s influence would diminish in the future since anyone could learn Qi of Little Divine Beings from here. Moreover, seeing Sila is virtually outmatched in strength, skills, wealth, and power, they intended to eliminate such a powerful threat in its entirety.”
Cross snorted. “You know this, yet you still intend to release him back to them? It’s them who asked for our cooperation in order to create an alliance, and it’s them again who tried to screw us over. Lone Wolf probably believes from the bottom of his heart that his guild is a virtuous organization preserving justice. However, the rest of them are beyond redemption. They tricked us to share resources, seized everything they could, and mercilessly planned to uproot us.”
Everyone silently listened to the conversation. Even Sila seriously considered the matter. As things stood, he had a final say in the decision.
“I’ve decided.” Sila broke the silence. “Lone Wolf must die.”
Sila had been on really friendly terms with Lone Wolf for quite a while, so everyone was surprised hearing such a declaration. Sila lightly swung Lone Wolf’s body up in the air using his foot, before powerfully slamming his hand into the man.
“Still, it has to be a kind of ‘death’ defined by me.”
Lone Wolf felt dizzy, along with a pounding sensation in his head. His body felt incredibly weak as if something was binding it. No strength in his arms and legs could be mustered. As he opened his eyes, he discovered his vision was blurry. His ears started to pick up familiar noises.
“This pathetic little bomb is nothing. I can take care of it in no time. Kiekkiekkiek! In any case, your other request is far more interesting. You’re quite sadistic, you know? Although I like torturing my enemies, I have never done so against my underlings. You have such a wicked soul. Kiekkiekkiek!”
Sila asked, “Can you do it?”
“Certainly. There is nothing I’ll lose anyway. Well, my services aren’t free. I want—”
Sila suddenly cut short, “I’ll overlook the fact that you seized my items in the treasure room to use in your creations, then.”
“Oi!! You can’t do that! You allowed me to use whatever I wanted, didn’t you?!”
“I didn’t say it was free though, right?” Sila squinted his eyes.
Strangely enough, Mamon didn’t start an argument. Instead, the boy stared back at Sila as if he just found a respectable rival. Grinning, he muttered, “Well, well. How interesting.”
“Lone Wolf, are you okay?” Hermit’s voice rang out from nearby. Lone Wolf turned his head to the left.
“Hermit? Why are you here? What happened?” Seeing Hermit bound by rope, Lone Wolf was confused. In fact, he himself was bound the same way.
Looking around, Lone Wolf found that he was in front of Sila’s dojo. The door was left open. Inside, the entire floor had been removed, revealing a gigantic red metal plate underneath. Aside from Sila and Hermit, next to him were Mamon, Clute, Cross, Beluga, and Elso. Everyone locked their eyes onto him.
“Glad you finally woke up. We have been waiting for you,” said Sila.
“Sila? What is happening?” asked Lone Wolf, as he tried to restore his body by circulating qi. However, he found that it wasn’t as effective as it should be.
“Just listen for now. Don’t bother trying to circulate qi. You two are now under the effect of Rune Magic. Look at your arm.”
There was a small letter written on each of the two’s arms. The letter was “Nauthiz (Resistance)”, representing constraint and the obstacles one had to overcome. It rendered the target to a weakened state, incapable of exerting their full strength. Rune Magic was noble and powerful. However, its weakness was the fact that the effect would instantly wear off if someone simply scratched part of the letter off.
Lone Wolf and Hermit were unaware of such a weakness. In any case, Lone Wolf didn’t try to put up any resistance while Hermit was aware that he would be powerless even if he managed to break free.
“Sure. Let’s hear what you want to say.”
Sila nodded and turned to Elso, who walked to cut the rope binding the two. Elso then stood behind them.
“I’ll start with this.” Sila pointed his finger to the red metal plate under the dojo. “This thing is a Dimension-Rending Bomb...”
Sila continued the story with all honesty, including the Dimension-Rending Bomb’s characteristics and the reason why he went to the Victorious Wolves Sect—to assassinate Lone Wolf. He also confessed that he had slain several sect members during his escape, and informed him of Cross and Beluga’s speculation regarding Ratri’s vicious plan. He didn’t choose to lie even though he could have done so easily. He wanted Lone Wolf to trust his words, and telling someone the truth holds some kind of profound power that is never present in lies.
Hermit was as shocked as Lone Wolf upon hearing the whole story. Based on his reaction, Sila could discern that the Medicine Master must also be another one who was unaware of the Victorious Wolves Sect’s dark side.
“I understand, so you guys want me to take responsibility as a leader, right?” asked Lone Wolf, “If my death will—”
Sila interrupted, his tone serious, “You understand nothing. You don’t even understand what the problem is.”
“What is the problem, then? We’re guilty, so it’s natural that I must receive punishment.”
“The problem didn’t come from Lone Wolf, leader of the Victorious Wolves Sect, it came from Lone Wolf the person. I believe that this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. The Victorious Wolves Sect is a place where people who admire you gather willingly, so there are no concepts of reward or punishment. Every time someone steps out of line, you shoulder the responsibility, thinking that it is the duty of the leader. If you don’t change this mindset of yours, your guildmates will never change.”
Beluga added, “Hence, Sila is offering you a chance to change yourself. However, if you don’t want it, we will give you a painless death.”
Sila continued, “Guilds are places where people with the same goals connect to each other. The goals can be either wealth, power, honor, or whatever. In any case, you have been looked up to as Lone Wolf for so long that you have forgotten your roots as a lone player. If missing only you will cause the Victorious Wolves Sect to crumble, I’d say it should’ve crumbled a long time ago.”
“Wolves don’t hunt alone, you know? Shouldering everything by yourself is not always the best course of action. People look up to you as Monster Soul’s light. However, that light is artificial—bright and useful. People admire you, but no one wants to be like you. That’s because they can’t relate to you. Even though you are wolves living in a pack, you’re still alone,” Beluga explained.
“I will give you a chance to become an ordinary player. Travel on foot at an average speed from Zhongsuyuan City to Colossia City. I forbid you from acting as Lone Wolf during your journey. You have to see other players’ lives, problems, and how they handle them with your own eyes. Everyone struggles to survive. You alone can’t help every person in Monster Soul.”
“You want me to walk from Zhongsuyuan City to Colossia City? That’s all?”
“Hermit will go with you. In addition, don’t contact the Victorious Wolves Sect at all.”
Hermit couldn’t help but interrupt, “Lone Wolf’s face is well known though.”
Sila wrapped it up. “I have a way as long as you agree to do this. How about it?”
Lone Wolf considered it. What Sila said made sense. The Ratri he knew in real life and the one he knew in Monster Soul were like totally different people. Did her personality change, or is this her true personality behind a mask? Could it be that the lawless nature of Monster Soul reveals a human’s true self? Whatever it was, everything would stay the same if he didn’t change himself. History would simply repeat itself over and over.
“Let’s hurry, then. Without qinggong, traveling to Colossia City will take weeks,” Lone Wolf decided.
Sila and Beluga showed happy expressions. If everything went well, Lone Wolf would return to be their comrade. In any case, Cross personally didn’t agree with them. Killing Lone Wolf right here and now would instantly conclude things, instead of dragging it on and unnecessarily complicating the situation.
Sila gave Lone Wolf a red Go piece. “When you are near Colossia City, please visit the Skull Mountain Pass. Show this to the people guarding that place, and they will let you in. Give it to Sebastian, and he will tell you what to do next.”
“Elso, do it,” Beluga ordered.
Elso placed his hands on Lone Wolf and Hermit’s backs, then muttered a skill's name, “Disguise.”
Sila nodded. “Now your statuses will say that you are dead, even if your guildmates check. It should be able to trick most players unless someone with a powerful inspection skill stumbles upon you. Please keep in mind that the player Lone Wolf has died. Mamon, you’re up.”
Mamon grinned and extended his hand to touch Lone Wolf. As soon as the small hand pressed against his body, Lone Wolf felt sick and dizzy.
“It’s done. With the undead race’s Hidden Gift, your appearance will become uglier. No one will recognize you.”
Lone Wolf’s face became haggard and pallid, yet his facial features seemed mostly unchanged. Noticing this, Mamon didn’t approve of his own work.
“Wait a second.” Mamon approached Cross. “Let me take yours.”
Cross felt something inexplicable being pulled out from his body. He felt his body become lighter even though his weight was obviously the same. Apparently, his facial features returned to what they were before he changed his race to the undead. He lightly tapped his face, then unsheathed his sword to use the blade as a mirror before smiling at his own reflection. However, noticing Beluga’s smirk, he stopped it immediately and coughed once before returning his sword to his waist.
Mamon touched Lone Wolf a second time. This time Lone Wolf’s face changed so much that even the man wouldn’t recognize himself.
Clute approached Lone Wolf and gave the man a mirror attached to a pendant he made himself. The boy asked out of sympathy, “Are you okay?”
Lone Wolf was touched. He showed a weak smile after he looked at his reflection in the mirror.
“This can be undone, right?”
Mamon showed the most friendly-looking grin he could, though it still looked unsafe and wicked. Such a grin could only belong to a money-sucking merchant.
“Certainly. This time I did it for free, but the next one will cost you.”
After sending off Lone Wolf and Hermit, along with letting Mamon take care of the Dimension-Rending Bomb, Cross ordered his people to inspect every corner of the Mansion of Secrets to ensure their safety. The dimension had become essential to the Wicked Union. It was a must for it to be a safe place.
Lone Wolf’s death occurred at the very start of the war event. This tragedy heavily shook Monster Soul’s players to their very cores and made them realize the severity of the war event. While war raged on, players dreamed of becoming heroes, but many of them would be swept away in the many battles to come.
War events were special situations. Monster Soul was already a lawless world to begin with. However, as the war event was going on, even virtue was used as a tool. The players’ consciences became twisted as they viewed evil acts as ordinary. The more people you kill, the more resources you plunder, and the more damage you cause—all became indicators for gauging a player’s level of achievement.
Small battles broke out all over the continent. Lone Wolf’s death was a direct catalyst. While he was alive, just his presence was enough to prevent fights from breaking out. At the very least, several small groups of players—who were afraid of the Victorious Wolves Sect—didn’t dare to make rash moves. Now that Lone Wolf was dead, there was no one who could stop them if they went on a rampage. The Victorious Wolves Sect without Lone Wolf was like a dragon without its head. There was nothing for them to fear.
Players flooded into Zhongsuyuan City, citing various reasons. Some wanted revenge for Lone Wolf while some claimed to be the murderer, hoping for their names to go down in history. Some even went in without clear purposes. Whatever the reason, Zhongsuyuan City now became the city for those who sought fame.
Among the three main cities, Zhongsuyuan City was considered the most free. There was no main army guarding the city. Revin, the deputy ruler, didn’t assemble his guildmates in the guild to protect the city. There were only a few of them, just enough for light management and trading. Rather, he made use of the monsters of the soul race to silently monitor activities happening in the city. If someone broke any of the rules he had set, no matter how insignificant the action was, the only punishment was death. He conquered the city with terror. Still, this method ensured that Zhongsuyuan City was Heaven for those who abided by the rules. Revin was a city conqueror who was both fair and ruthless.
During wartime, only Zhongsuyuan City’s policy remained unchanged regardless of the ever-changing flood of rumors. Even the news about the Victorious Wolves Sect, located a kilometer from the city, being infiltrated didn’t cause players in the city to feel anxious at all. On the contrary, they firmly believed in the city conqueror’s ability. As such, rather than going down, the number of players in the city only increased with each day that passed. The city became more lively as if a festival was being held.
Listening to the report of what was happening in the city from Beluga’s spies, Sila stopped to think. It seemed the three cities on Montra’s side were managed according to each conqueror’s style. Revin had a flexible personality, yet he chose to rule his city with terror. Any action that broke the rules, no matter how small or great it was, would always result in death. This method was easy to understand and easily established control over the citizens. Sila couldn’t help but wonder how Montra and Kawin conquered their cities. He wanted to examine the cities which projected their ideals.
In any case, Sila had to take one step at a time. Elso was waiting for him right now. Now that the war event had started, all of the union’s members made sure to handle their responsibilities. Currently, the most dangerous place for them was none other than Siaferia City due to the large army of high-level androids. As a result, most Wicked Union members gathered near the Single-Horned Dragon Forest.
“I want players with great mobility. The ability to disturb their opponent is more important than combat strength. It will be especially helpful if they’re experienced in trading. Even more so if they’re familiar with the layout of Zhongsuyuan City,” Sila explained as he made his request.
Elso was Beluga’s representative during his absence. For the record, the Wicked Union divided their attack force into three groups, with each watching one of the three main cities while waiting for the right moment to strike. Sila was responsible for raiding Zhongsuyuan City while Cross focused on Siaferia City. Lastly, Beluga was responsible for finding a way to tackle Lafesta City. Each of them had to form a strategy for raiding their assigned city, and the other two would provide support to the best of their abilities.
In terms of difficulty, Zhongsuyuan City was the easiest. Thus, Sila, who had zero war experience, was assigned the task of raiding it.
At a later point of time, the three great raids would be called the Battle of Martial Gods, the Battlefield of Conquest, and the Siege of Bandits.
“We, the Mountain Thieves League, can provide players that meet your requirements. How many do you want?” asked Elso.
“Around a hundred should suffice. Our attack force only has a few players. I shouldn’t ask for too much.”
Elso frowned. “Isn’t a hundred players a rather small number for this task? With just that many, even seizing an empty city would be difficult.”
“Just killing Revin while he is in the city is enough, isn’t it?”
Elso shook his head. “No, with Montra’s Emperorship of Guardian Spirit, each of his territories can’t be taken over even if the ruler dies in the city, so long as at least one comrade remains in the city. Anyway, just taking down Revin won’t be easy. There is an army of invisible warriors and several small groups of players trying to curry favor with him. It may appear that Revin’s force is not much, but the sum of all the above would be many thousands.”
Sila nodded. “That’s true. However, the army I’m going to create is not for seizing the city. They simply have to light the first match. Zhongsuyuan City’s weakness is that there are many factions that are mere moments away from fighting each other. If we utilize our people to cause chaos and then retreat, we can just sit tight and wait for the players to kill each other. Once the battle spreads throughout the city, sooner or later Revin will have to find a way to stop them. If we seize that chance well, it could be our chance to take him down.”
“Loot a burning house. One of the Thirty-Six Stratagems. ‘When a country is beset by internal conflicts, then it will be unable to deal with an outside threat. This is the time to attack.’ Boss once mentioned it to me. Unexpectedly, you also know about such a strategy, Mister Sila.”
“I honestly didn’t know its name, but I guess there aren’t many patterns for strategies in war. It’s just a matter of using what we have at the right time through schemes. When I noticed the aforementioned weakness in Zhongsuyuan City, I realized this strategy might work.”
“If it’s only a hundred of people, it won’t take long for me to assemble them. I estimate that they’ll be ready by tonight. Do you want anything else?”
“I do. May I ask how the situation is between us and the Merchants Association?”
“I’d say it’s neither good nor bad. They don’t want to be our friend or our enemy. What do you want from them?”
“I want them to issue a letter of recommendation for us. We’ll infiltrate the city as a merchant group. It won’t seem suspicious since a lot of players have been arriving lately.”
Elso began to understand Sila’s plan. “How about we do this instead... Our Mountain Thieves League has some connections. If we want to disguise ourselves as a merchant group, we should claim to be a group that actually exists. Let’s say we’re opening up a new branch. This way, our newly formed group will be even less suspicious...”
Elso stopped his explanation as he heard the sound of light footsteps. In any case, Sila recognized the newcomer from afar.
“Nothing to worry. It’s Burapha.”
“I heard people discussing merchants if I’m not mistaken.” Burapha opened the door to the meeting room. “I hope you didn’t already forget that I have unsettled business with Revin, Big Brother.”
Sila smiled. “The distance was quite far and we weren’t being careless, yet you still managed to hear us talk. Your skill seems to have improved a lot, Burapha.”
“One way or another, yes. Well, don’t change the topic, Big Brother.”
Sila nodded. “We’re planning to sneak into Zhongsuyuan City by disguising ourselves as a group of merchants setting up a new branch. We were just working out the finer details.”
“I’d say your plan lacks one important thing,” Burapha raised a point.
“Actual products, obviously. You’re going to claim that you’re here to set up a new branch, but you’d be entering the city with no products. It’ll be crazy if they don’t suspect your behavior.”
Elso proposed an idea, “Regarding our products... we can stall for time by claiming that we first want to find a suitable location for setting up a new branch and study the market. Well... this excuse won’t last long. We’ll eventually have to offer samples.”
“Come to think of it... Isn’t expanding a business at this point of time weird?” Sila asked. Although the plan was his, it was ultimately just an excuse to infiltrate the city. He hadn’t considered the reasonableness of the plan before.
“Not really. Wartime is great for making profit since the prices of most products skyrocket. There won’t be a problem.”
Burapha added, “I can help you regarding this merchant-related matter. As long as it’s a type of business that I know about, I assure you that I can be helpful if you give me a bit of time to look into it.”
Elso opened his system window and showed it to Sila and Burapha. “This is a list containing all of the merchant groups that are secretly associated with us.”
Of course, this kind of information was top-secret even within the Mountain Thieves League. If it fell into someone else’s hands, the league could be wiped out. The fact that Elso dared to show such classified information to Sila and his comrades meant Beluga trusted them a lot.
Burapha scrolled down the list and found that there were many groups that he knew about. Some of them were even trading with the Heavenly Dragon Guild on a daily basis. It was unexpected that they worked under the Mountain Thieves League.
“I didn’t expect it to contain this many groups.”
“Most of them are small and medium-sized groups though. We have been doing our best to obtain funding. How about it? Did any of the groups catch your eyes?”
Sila raised a point. “Sebastian once opened a potion shop in this city. It’s trivial, but might be noticed. We should avoid that kind of business.”
“No potion-trading groups, then.” Elso input some filters, and about half of the names on the list disappeared.
Burapha also added his own thoughts. “I think we should use a group that is already on good terms with the Heavenly Dragon Guild. If we use a new group, they might keep an eye on us and we’ll waste time gaining their trust.”
Elso and Sila agreed with the idea, so another set of filters removed more names, leaving less than ten. Burapha studied them one by one until he finally selected a group that he believed would work.
“Let’s use this group—Children of the Sea. They have a good trading record and relationship with the Heavenly Dragon Guild. Until now they’ve been focused on distributing seafood in the Magic Kingdom, and have never opened a shop in Zhongsuyuan City.”
Elso showed Sila more information about Children of the Sea. Reading the details, Sila couldn’t help but ask.
“Why did you pick this group, Burapha?”
“Because it would really be my choice to open a new branch in Zhongsuyuan City if I’m the owner of this business. Zhongsuyuan City is located in a tropical zone. The residents mostly eat meat, fruits, and vegetables. Food is a basic need that people have to spend money on. It’s hard to find seafood in a city far from a harbor. Seafood’s price doubles when Children of the Sea transport it to Lafesta City despite the transportation route being relatively safe. If they take a risk and transport seafood to Zhongsuyuan City, the price might triple or even quadruple. The risk is quite high though since they have to pass through several small cities along the route, resulting in a higher chance of being robbed or plundered. One more reason is that a harbor is considered my home. Even if someone finds us suspicious and asks questions, I’m sure that I can answer them.”
“In that case, I’ll have to leave for now to make preparations. I’ll ask the leader of Children of the Sea to contact Mister Burapha soon.” Elso finalized the decision and left.
“Well, I’ll use this time to memorize Children of the Sea’s background and trading history.” Burapha began to read the information Elso had left with him, along with reviews about the group that could be found in public forums.
Meanwhile, Sila took his leave, planning to recheck his available weapons, items, and skills, so that he wouldn’t be surprised in actual battles like he had been in the Victorious Wolves Sect. He went to his treasure room, where Mamon and Clute often stayed.
Everyone was doing their best. Even Lookhin had accompanied Varee to the edge of the Single-Horned Dragon Forest and started digging an underground tunnel. It pushed Sila to think that he should try harder as well.
Sila opened the door of the treasure room. Suddenly he felt a strong surge of qi. Clute’s body came flying at him, violently and powerfully. Sila hurriedly grabbed the boy and gently placed him down.
“Kiekkiekkiek! Did you become weaker, Clute?” Mamon’s laughter rang out.
Clute replied as blood dripped from his lips. “Mamon... you cheated.”
“What are you talking about? I didn’t cheat. I’ll even swear on my name that I didn’t. That just now was a fair sparring match. I didn’t dump any strange Hidden Gifts on you.”
“What happened?” Sila placed his hand on Clute’s back and started qi transmission to heal the boy. Strangely enough, he found that the wounds on Clute’s body were due to qi, and it must have been an incredibly powerful qi at that. Qi of this level would only belong to high-level qi-type beings who specialized in combat. It was extremely weird because Mamon wasn’t a qi-type.
“My apologies! It’s my—” A soft voice could be heard. However, before Sila could find the voice’s owner, a small silhouette became a golden light and was absorbed into a pocket on Mamon’s armor.
“Who asked you to blabber?!” Mamon scolded lightly through his gritting teeth. The boy then turned to Sila. “We just had a spar. Clute willingly accepted my challenge, for the record.”
“Is that true, Clute?”
Clute nodded. “It’s true, but Mamon surely cheated. Our power should be on the same level.”
“You just became weaker, that’s all. Or maybe I became a lot stronger. Kiekkiekkiek! You always play around. How can you hope to beat me, when I train diligently every day?”
“Mamon never trains...”
“That means I train when you aren’t looking! You dimwit! Don’t ask so many questions!”
Sila examined Mamon and found that the boy was completely unscratched while his energy reserves were still full. Based on the observation, Sila agreed with Clute that Mamon must have cheated, as the difference between Mamon and Clute’s strengths shouldn’t have changed so suddenly. The silhouette just now resembled a monster, but its presence was so faint that Sila was almost unable to sense it. It meant that the monster either had a very low rank, or it possessed an insignificant level of power. It shouldn’t be able to make such a vast difference.
“Why did you come here? Do you have business with me?”
Sila took out a sheet of paper and gave it to Mamon. “Please help me create this thing or something familiar.”
Mamon swept his eyes over the paper. “An air-conditioner? Seriously?”
“You’re almost right, but it has a small gimmick. The details are written below. Please create a sample of it by tomorrow. I’ll ask you to finish several of them within a week.”
“No problem, but—”
“—It’s not free. I know. I’ll surely reward you handsomely,” Sila said before Mamon could finish.
Clute was healed to some degree. Sila left the boy to recover on his own as he asked, “And Clute... may I ask you to help me in Zhongsuyuan City?”
“Sure. Please just let me rest for a little more.”
Sila nodded and left the room. Mamon and his trademark grin created some level of tension in his heart. The boy was essentially a time-bomb. If he failed to utilize Mamon, the boy would endanger him instead of being helpful.
“Zarnak, are you here?” Sila asked once he arrived at a place where there was no one else.
“Where can I go, my raising-a-stupid-question master?” A monotonous voice replied.
“Just now, could you feel that monster’s presence? What was it?”
“Of course I did. She is even older than me. There was a great purge of users of Ancient Magic in the past. I heard a rumor that she had died though.”
“You’re referring to the small monster just now?”
“Her name is Seraphine,” Zarnak replied with a voice filled with awe and respect, completely different from the tone it used when conversing with Sila. “The Goddess of Betrayal and Disloyalty.”
“Ancient Magic? It’s related to Joshua’s Left Arm, right?” Sila offered his theory. He had heard about this kind of magic a couple of times, such as when Clute’s Rune Magic was mentioned by Sebastian. However, he still failed to understand the difference between Ancient Magic and other kinds of magic. It was probably due to the fact that magic was the type he used the least and had the weakest understanding of, on top of it being his least compatible energy type.
“Master Joshua’s Left Arm is literally an embodiment of Ancient Magic, which is the ultimate tier of magic in existence. There are twenty-three magic abilities classified as Ancient Magic. When they don’t have an owner, Master Joshua can freely wield the unowned magic. It can be said that the magic returns to its leftful owner.”
“Joshua must be incredibly powerful, right?” Sila asked.
“Rather, Master Joshua is Monster Soul’s weakest. He abides by the rule of non-possession. Be it magic, qi, psychic power, items, or equipment, only if no one possesses them will they be in Master’s possession. His power is bottomless but there is a limitation. If everything is owned by other beings, he will be powerless.”
“That doesn’t sound weak to me.” Sila showed a dry smile.
“Absolutely. The highest and the lowest points are the same place. Magic is what Master Joshua most excels at. That’s because magic is nature itself and no one can own the entirety of nature. When Nixroth, the left arm, is utilized together with Albalos, it will be unbeatable.”
“The Left Leg of the Sealed One,” Zarnak briefly replied.
“You seem to know everything. Why?” asked Sila. He used to search for Joshua’s information in the past when he obtained the quest: Search for the Sealed One. However, he found next to nothing.
“I know only what my masters know. I have lived for a long time and have had many masters, each of them seeking to become the strongest. Master Joshua was, is, and probably will always be the one standing at the zenith, so it’s natural that my masters sought information about him. You’re wrong to assume that I know everything. All of my knowledge came from my masters. Some personally witnessed Joshua while some only heard rumors. There are many more things that I do not know. Take Seraphine for example. While I know that she could use Ancient Magic, I do not know what kind of magic it is nor what it is capable of. She lived and died before I had even come into existence. I only heard rumors about her. The chants of some spells even mention her name.”
Information about Joshua used to be unattainable for Sila in the past. Ironically, it became easily accessible now that he didn’t need it. Sila didn’t think he would get to meet Joshua again. However, out of curiosity, he asked without thinking.
“There are seven parts of the Sealed One. Do you know all of them?”
“If it’s about the name and its general ability, I know about almost all of them. However, if you meant detailed information, I can only describe one.”
“Which one?” Sila asked, interested.
“Illuminus, obviously, my silly master. I just told you I know everything my masters know. Illuminus was once in your possession, so it’s a given that I know its details.”
“Oh, you’re right. Well, tell me about other parts.”
Zarnak slithered out from the armor and coiled around Sila, turning itself into a black dome. Inside, Sila could see only darkness. He suddenly felt weightless as the darkness faded away and was replaced by a 360-degrees bright screen. It was as if he was watching a movie in a theater.
“The Right Arm, Illuminus. You already know about it. Its main abilities are protection and confinement, using the absorbed damage as its source of power.”
The screen showed the movements of Sila, when he still had Illuminus, in several actions. It could be said that he was watching a documentary about himself.
“Impressive. You’re very versatile.”
Zarnak ignored Sila’s reaction. The scenes changed, showing Joshua and Montra. Their left arms were pitch-black as if the darkness itself had been swallowed up by it.
“The Left Arm, Nixroth. You have seen it with your own eyes. Nixroth can exert the power of Ancient Magic while completely disregarding the conditions required to learn them. Like I said, there are a total of twenty-three magics classified as Ancient Magic. I have only seen six of them throughout my life though. The first one is Lord Yama’s Abysmal Punishment Magic, which will be inescapable if your eyes have met Lord Yama’s even once.”
The image showed Lord Yama making an appearance from a first-person point of view. The instant that Sila’s eyes met him, the scales in Lord Yama’s hand moved, then the image shut off.
“That was the last scene that one of my masters saw. Abysmal Punishment Magic will become more powerful according to the number of lives that the target has slain. Only victims sharing the same race as the target are counted though. Also, the magic can’t be used on the same target twice. If you have killed more than ten thousand humans or slimes, you will die in one hit.”
Sila quickly tried to recall how many slimes and humans he had killed. However, before he could start calculating, the next scene had already unfolded. it seemed Zarnak didn’t mind his thoughts at all.
“I have seen Master Joshua use two other Ancient Magics in the past. The first was Spell Manipulation Magic, which can manipulate magic spells to a high degree, including altering their elements and conditions. For example, the user can change a single-target spell to become an area-of-effect spell, or vice versa.”
The image showed a scene where Joshua cast a spell named ‘Death Arrow’ and delayed it in his right hand. Angels, who were surrounding him, stopped in their tracks.
Zarnak explained that Death Arrow was a deadly single-target spell that came with a downside. The user could cast it only once in their lifetime. However, when Joshua exerted the power of Spell Manipulation Magic with his left hand on the arrow, it multiplied and flew into the sky before raining back down by the thousands, massacring the angels and turning them all into light.
“The other one is...”
The scene changed, showing a certain someone Sila already knew. Although the man’s appearance was somehow different, Sila could still tell who the man was.
“That’s Mamon, right?”
“One of my masters secretly watched the battle between the devil race and the Sealed One from afar. That time, the magic Master Joshua utilized was Borrowed Time Magic. It’s a magic that specializes in delaying buffs and debuffs. It has the ability to postpone the effect of any skills for a period of time, after which it forces the caster of the delayed skill to pay the required resources again, though it’ll think the spell is being cast twice and still use the original resources for two casts. If the skill’s owner is rendered incapable of using the skill before the period is over, the skill will become invalid.”
“Watch, and it will be easier for you to understand, my never-understood-a-thing master. As you can see, Mammon tried to use his skills on Master Joshua. However, with Borrowed Time Magic, Joshua postponed the skills’ effects to a later point in time...”
Mamon continued using his skills while swearing ‘You cheating bastard!’ non-stop. A few minutes later, he was defeated and sealed within a card.
“Now that Mammon was defeated, the time finally came for Master Joshua to accept the debuffs. However, as the skills’ owner was no longer in a state where he could use the skills, they ended up in vain. This is just a rough explanation, by the way. There are many other ways to utilize the magic. Let’s say if someone sacrifices an item to place a curse on the magic’s user and the user postpones it using Borrowed Time Magic... even if the curse is cast a second later, the skill may still fail if the curse’s user lacks the required resources to cast the curse again, such as insufficient magic points (since they just cast the curse), lacking the item that is sacrificed (if they only brought one), or failed to fulfill other conditions required by the spell (like a specific time has passed, or the environment has changed).
“As for the remaining three Ancient Magics I have seen, you have also seen them. It can be said that, among all of my masters, you’re the one who has seen Ancient Magic in action the most.
“Rune Magic belonging to the ancient golem race. It’s a ritual-based magic with a total of twenty-four letters. Each of the letters is powerful and can be used together to show a synergistic effect. The downside of the magic is how easy it is to destroy it. Just a small scratch on the letter will render the rune ineffective.”
The screen showed scenes where Clute used Rune Magic in various applications. Sila had personally seen them before, so he wasn’t interested.
“The next is Fairy Raiment Magic, which can create an eternally-lasting light armor using a soul. Item creation is usually an area of expertise for psychic-type beings, but this magic can produce goods that aren’t inferior in any way to those produced by the highest-tier psychic skills. That is why it is classified as Ancient Magic.”
The Fairy Queen extracted a soul from a Soul Crystal to weave glamorous clothing for Lomyok. Sila had seen it with his own eyes, so he didn’t feel very excited about it.
“The last one is maze-type magic, Ice Labyrinth of Resentful Spirits, which you personally encountered in the Winter Forest. I have no clue who the caster was though. This magic can be delayed for a very long period of time. In fact, if there is a sufficient amount of mana supplementing it, it can continue to function eternally. It will activate automatically when the conditions, set by the caster, have been met. The magic has the characteristics of a confinement domain. It will imprison targets until it runs out of mana.”
The screen showed the scene where hundreds of snow fairies surrounded Sila, Burapha, Bluebird, Lomyok, Asura, Franz, and Sebastian while blowing freezing winds. However, the magic domain eventually collapsed thanks to Mamon. The scene where the snow fairies cried as they were slain was so sorrowful that Sila somehow felt sad.
Returning to his original explanation, Zarnak began to describe the next Part of the Sealed One. “The Right Leg, Kararus, can create a replica of any weapon that the user has seen before with their own eyes. The replicated weapon will possess the same characteristics, options, and attack power as the original. The disgusting part about it is the fact that the user can create an unlimited number of replicas. I didn’t see it with my own eyes, but I heard that when Master Joshua fought against God, he summoned the Godly Spear Longinus, that God himself was holding in his hand, before throwing it at God with the spear’s item skill: Miraculous Beam of Light. Just so you know, the skill is unfathomably powerful, but with the downside that the spear will break upon using. Joshua then summoned yet another Godly Spear Longinus and repeated this until God had no choice but to flee. I’m guessing there must be some condition for utilizing the Right Leg, but I’m clueless as to what it is.”
“I agree, otherwise it would be too fraudulent.”
“The Left Leg, Albalos, was the part that Master Joshua used as often as Nixroth. The leg connects to all of nature, granting him the ability to instantly move himself to anywhere he has been before. With it, not only could he borrow mana from the surrounding environment, but he could also utilize mana and make use of special environmental characteristics from everywhere he had been. Even if he was in a place where using a skill is forbidden, he could still use them with complete ease or even receive environmental buffs from places he had visited previously. With the Left Leg, the user is considered to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time.”
The more he heard, the more Sila understood why Mamon didn’t like Joshua. If Mamon was the greatest cheater, there would be no words left to define Joshua. Fortunately, Joshua seemed to fight against monsters solely for the purpose of balancing the game, and has never bothered players directly. If not, the number of complaints the game company received every day would skyrocket.
“The Torso, Bahm, is truly a torso befitting the ultimate being. It is divided into Bone, Muscle, and Blood. Bone allows the user to use all three energy types without any setbacks. Muscle helps the user break through their limits, meaning every skill reaching Level 100 will immediately become Transcendent Rank. As for Blood, it flows and circulates differently in each battle. Upon being attacked, if the user meets the requirements, they will immediately acquire the skill most suitable for surviving the attack.”
Sila naturally understood the significant difference between a skill at Level 100 and Transcendent Rank since he had some skills at those levels. It was totally possible that every skill in Joshua’s possession had already reached Transcendent Rank.
The next scene shown was when Shueria fought against Sila on a narrow path in front of the Valley of Immortals. As Sila had expected, Shueria exerted the power of the Heart of the Sealed One in the battle.
“Aurikga, the Heart, is a source of bottomless power. Its ability isn’t as complicated as the other parts. It simply grants the user absurdly high resource regeneration. Your friend, Shueria, has yet to bring the Heart to its final stage. At the final stage, the Heart can even accelerate the speed of a skill’s cooldown time—enabling the user to spam a powerful skill—and accelerate the duration of a skill’s effect—rendering any abnormal conditions rather ineffective.”
Zarnak slowly retracted and returned to Sila’s armor. Counting, Sila found that only six parts were mentioned.
“Hm? What about the Eyes? You forgot to mention the Eyes of the Sealed One, didn’t you?”
“I don’t have any information relating to the Eyes for you, my greedy master. Actually, the Eyes of the Sealed One is the most puzzling artifact. No one knows its whereabouts, its ability, or even its name. From the very beginning of time, it’s speculated that Master Joshua has never used it, not even once. Some said that it has never been in Joshua’s possession, even until now. According to the rule of non-possession, this means the Eyes have belonged to someone else for a very long time.”
“Well, we have to wait until Burapha comes into contact with Children of the Sea. It will take some more time for them to prepare people and products. I guess it won’t be until tomorrow that we can depart. This is just noon. What should we do for now?” Sila asked Zarnak.
“My forgetful master, even though you complimented me for being versatile, I have already told you that I’m a dragon, not a clock nor a guidebook. You can do whatever. I’m not interested.”
“Can’t you just give me some suggestions? I have never had free time, so I’m clueless about what to do now that I suddenly became free.”
“...” Zarnak was speechless for a moment. “In that case, how about going out and hunting some monsters? Based on your memories, you have never taken hunting monsters seriously. So far, it’s all about monsters who were unfortunate enough to block your path or specific ones that you were looking for. Your current level is Level 430 Lord Rank. For you to win against the man named Montra, who is at Level 1,000 Emperor Rank, you should at least close the gap as much as you can.”
“You mean... hunting monsters just for the sake of grinding levels?”
“Correct. At the same time, it will benefit you as you can search for monster cards. There are still five empty card slots in Twin Souls Sword Collection. Leaving the card slots empty is obviously not a smart idea.”
“I guess you’re right. I haven’t equipped monster cards for so long that I forgot this game has this function.”
“In a high-level battle, sometimes the victor is decided by a small factor such as what cards the combatants have equipped or what support items they use.”
Sila frowned. “But... Monster cards won’t drop that easily. I don’t have the Greed Card anymore.”
“Just use the traditional method used by ordinary humans, my unthoughtful master. Quantity over quality. Hunt a lot. Among thousands of monsters, one will surely drop a card.”
“Thousands of Lord Rank monsters? Can I handle them? It will be like fighting against a thousand Sebastians.”
“...” Zarnak fell silent a second time. “Did you seriously think that you could find that number of Lord Rank monsters? I know you rarely fight against monsters with a lower level than yours. However, the hunting method you have used so far is incorrect. Traditionally, grinding levels should be done by hunting a lot of lower-level monsters, or gathering many comrades to gang up on a higher-level opponent. There aren’t many places where a group of Lord Rank monsters gather. With Siaferia City as an exception, I doubt you can find them.”
“Oh! That! I remember I almost got a chance to experience that with Tiger and his teammates on the Island of Beginnings. They invited me to hunt Elves. Well, I missed it as Varee asked me to return to the Town of Beginnings.”
“I don’t want to listen to your story. Did you forget that I already know everything about you?”
“Ah, you’re right, I forgot.” Sila scratched his head in embarrassment. “Where should we go, then?”
“We are around Zhongsuyuan City. If you go north, you will arrive at Sky-Breaking Canyon where you can find various species of bird-race monsters. I heard that the Golden-Eyed Great Eagle has some unique ability, so a useful reward can be expected. On the other hand, if you go south, you’ll reach the Summer Forest where many monsters, mostly venomous ones, can be found. The notable ones are Silver Griffins, as they are the only magic-types in the forest. Arrows that are enhanced by their feathers will be able to fly twice the usual distance.”
“Which one should we go to?”
“I told you I’m not...” Zarnak stopped briefly before continuing, “...Whatever. I don’t want to haggle with you anymore. If it were me, I would go south since the Mountain Thieves League’s turf is nearby. In addition, the monsters living there are more diverse and higher in number. If you hunt the entire forest, you’ll get at least a dozen cards and your level will increase by about one hundred.”
“An entire forest? That will be impossible.” No matter how inferior the monsters were compared to him, Sila still only had two arms and two legs. He couldn’t possibly wipe out all of the monsters in the entire forest.
“Ordinary people can’t, but you surely can. Think of it as a chance to put that skill to practical use. You better learn the extent and the limitations of the skill so that you won’t make a mistake when you actually have to use it.”
“Which skill are you talking about?”
Zarnak released a heavy sigh of boredom. “My never-once-taking-a-hint master... The aforementioned skill is none other than Omniscient Evil God Qi.”
Sila traveled from Zhongsuyuan City’s outskirts to the south. The environment slowly changed from a dry landscape to green plains, and along the way he eventually started walking down a road rather than across grass. The further he went, the more trees he would see. The amount of sunlight that reached him gradually decreased. Continuing his journey for several minutes, he stopped his feet at a crossroad splitting the road into two, not including the one he was on, with both still leading to the south. The reason why he stopped was due to a certain realization that the vision in front of him was nothing more than an illusion.
A second later, Sila sensed that he was being watched and inspected. He looked up and found two people hiding in the trees.
“Umm. Are you the Mountain Thieves League members? My name is Sila. I want to ask for directions.”
The two men in the trees whispered to each other for a bit before throwing a rope ladder down. Both of them climbed down while Sila calmly waited for their descent. Touching the ground, the two stared at Sila one more time.
“It’s really you, Mister Sila. We have seen you before in Colossia City,” one of the two said.
“My name is Toron, and this is my friend, Chak. We’re members of the Mountain Thieves League. May I ask what you want from us?”
Chak seemed a little friendlier than Toron, who was quite on guard. Sila politely informed them of his intention to grind levels in the Summer Forest.
“Grinding levels? Now of all times?” Toron wondered and started whispering to Chak. At this distance, Sila easily overheard their conversation even though he didn’t mean to.
“How does he know?”
Toron shook his head. “I’ve no clue. Should we bring him to the vice-leader?”
Sila waited for the two to finish discussing. Soon, both men turned their heads to him.
“We can’t decide that ourselves. Could you please spare some of your time and follow us to meet the vice-leader?” Chak asked in an apologetic manner.
Honestly, Sila wondered why he had to ask for permission just to hunt monsters. He agreed to go with them without asking this though.
“By vice-leader, do you mean Elso? I have him on my contact list. Should I just call him?” asked Sila.
“Ah, no, Vice-Leader Elso is responsible in other fields. When it comes to internal affairs, Vice-Leader Nednapha is the one that handles them. She is in the guild’s base right now.”
Truth be told, Sila hadn’t gotten as close to Nednapha as he had with other Mountain Thieves League members. Maybe it was due to the fact that she always seemed serious and busy.
“This way, please.” Chak knocked a certain rock three times, then waved his hand to an area without footpaths between the two roads. Toron led the way, followed by Sila and Chak respectively.
Even though it was known among players that the Mountain Thieves League’s important base was located within the Summer Forest, it was rare for anyone unaffiliated to be able to reach said base. That was because the Mountain Thieves League implemented a special device to conceal the entrance. In the case that someone took one of the two roads leading south, they would waste as many as three days taking a detour around the forest before ending up back in the same place.
Once inside, Sila felt several hidden presences. Although their strengths weren’t notably high, they had a synergistic effect with each other. He could somehow tell that this was some kind of profound formation. If he were to engage in a battle with them, their positions would support and supplement each other, elevating the overall strength of the group to four or five times that of their combined individual might.
The Mountain Thieves League’s base in Sila’s imagination was different from the one he was witnessing right now. They seemed more militant and rigorous than he had expected. Dozens of tents, varying in size, were scattered around the area. Aside from the differences in sizes, each tent had no unique characteristic that set them apart, including the leader’s tent. Sila guessed they must have arranged it this way in order to camouflage where the leader slept. He tried expanding his senses to pick up the most powerful presence, but realized he couldn’t find it. Based on the Mountain Thieves League’s level of wariness, he bet that the pattern of how the tents were scattered was a profound formation as well. It must be a formation that helped conceal the positions and strengths of anyone within the area.
Toron and Chak brought Sila to one of the ordinary-looking tents. Chak went inside, before the entrance flapped open once more and Nednapha stepped outside.
“Welcome, Mister Sila. Please come inside,” Nednapha greeted Sila in a friendly manner before inviting him inside her tent.
Sila obediently followed her. Toron also went inside, closed the curtain, and waited near the exit along with Chak.
Nednapha turned back to Sila. “First things first, allow me to ask you this question: Mister Sila, how did you know about the secret regarding monsters?”
Sila frowned. “What secret?”
“No need to feign ignorance, Mister Sila. Killing monsters during a war event normally doesn’t give items or experience points. The fact that you came to hunt monsters implies that you already know the secret.”
Sila was still confused. He hadn’t participated in the previous war event. Well, he could faintly recall that Bluebird had explained the special rules that apply during the war to him at one point. Nevertheless, Sila had let most of them pass through his ears as he found that they were not important back then.
While observing Sila’s reaction, Nednapha continued.
“It’s nothing much. I’m just wondering how much you know. Maybe we can exchange information.”
Still clueless as to what Nednapha was talking about, Sila decided to seize the chance to obtain intel. Mimicking Bluebird, he showed a solemn expression.
“If we’re going to exchange information, could you, as the host, please tell me what you know first? Think of it as giving me, a guest, a small favor. If I know anything that you’re unaware of, I’ll fill in the gaps.”
Nednapha considered the proposal briefly, then nodded. “Agreed. Well, you already know this much, so I doubt you will get anything new from us.”
“I won’t be so sure about that.”
Nednapha showed a faint smile as she opened her system window. “Just recently, before the war event started, there were two strange key phrases that showed up in the forum under the name of this person.”
Sila took a look at her system window and found that it was showing a certain public forum. Nednapha was visiting a particular discussion thread created by a user with the name “The Head Maid”, which was obviously an alias.
Seeing Sila’s eyes glued to the contents of the thread, Nednapha quickly explained, “You don’t have to stare at it. The contents of this discussion are encrypted. Aside from the user, it’s unreadable.”
“Unreadable?” Sila became more doubtful. He wondered if Nednapha was playing some prank on him. For him, the thread was fully visible and readable.
“Yes, we can only read some highlighted words: The Law Breaker and the Seal Breaker.”
Sila began to get the gist of it. The clues linked to each other like dominoes. The Law Breaker. The Seal Breaker. The Head Maid. And the reason why he could read the supposedly unreadable texts.
Sila remembered he had once asked Bluebird to search for information relating to the Law Breaker and the Seal Breaker a while ago. Considering Bluebird’s carefree personality, the man must have passed the work to Julia. At Bluebird’s request, Julia must have sought information from many sources, including asking people in the game’s public forums. Apparently, after everything was done, she seemed to conclude her findings in the discussion and wait until she was asked about it.
The reason why Sila could read the supposedly encrypted thread was because Julia was his AI. Everything she did was considered to be done by him.
Sila opened his system window to prove his theory and found that his account name in the relevant forum was indeed ‘The Head Maid’. It seemed Julia had searched far and wide, then summarized the obtained intel in one discussion. It was still quite long, nevertheless.
Seeing Sila trying to read the texts by sweeping his eyes down the system window, Nednapha didn’t comment on what she considered futile. She simply continued, “Even though we can’t directly read the contents, we investigated what we could and found that some ‘laws’ had indeed changed. Strangely, unlike other times, the system didn’t announce the changes as if it wanted players to discover them ourselves. In addition, monsters throughout Monster Soul started exhibiting suspicious behavior. Some became more aggressive while some became reserved. Some even suddenly disappeared. I believe that this strange phenomenon is due to the Seal Breaker.”
Not wanting to take advantage of Nednapha too much, Sila proposed, “I have information regarding the Seal Breaker and its meaning. If you can tell me everything you know about the Law Breaker, I’ll tell you what I know.”
“In that case, okay. To be honest with you, our investigation has reached a dead end. We still have no clue who the Law Breaker is. However, the laws have surely changed. Not many players have noticed the changes yet, but it’s just a matter of time.
“The first change is that monsters still give away items and experience points upon being hunted, even during the war event. In fact, they give more experience points than usual.”
“More than usual?”
“Yes. The weird thing is... monsters in the same place normally had the same level as long as they were of the same species. However, their levels vary now. I speculate that they became capable of leveling up.”
“Eh? Couldn’t monsters level up on their own even in the past?”
Nednapha shook her head. “No. No matter how many players they killed, their levels always stayed the same. Only monsters with the King or Queen title were exceptions to this law. As the boss monster’s level went up, the number of its minions would increase, yet the minions’ wouldn’t grow any stronger. I don’t know why this is happening. However, if this goes on, it will soon become a big problem.”
“What kind of problem?”
“Think about it. A forest, where you normally encountered only Level 500 Squire Rank monsters, suddenly became a place where each monster can level up and become a sub-boss or even an additional boss. With the increasing number of bosses, so will the number of minions—who similarly can level up and possibly become the next boss. If this cycle were to unfold... Can you imagine it?”
Sila finally got the hang of it. He didn’t know what kind of laws Montra broke, but the surest thing was that misfortune for players had been a result of his actions.
In truth, the law which Montra “broke” was the one that involved the privileges given to humanity by the Goddess of Humankind, Cynthia. Monsters were normally suppressed by the system intervention, preventing them from growing too fast. That was in order to ensure some degree of safety for players in the New World. The locations unvisited by players would stay unchanged. However, after Montra’s wish, monsters were no longer bound by the law. Each of them had individuality, could collect experience points, become stronger, acquire skills, and had the right to become the king or queen of their species.
Humans hunted monsters for experience points, while monsters could now do the same.
The changes might be unnoticeable as of now. However, it was almost certain that the world of Monster Soul in the future would become even more brutal.
And that was the result that Montra desired: a critical situation where there was no way out of a predicament. Players would have no choice but to abandon their grudges and hatred towards each other, then join forces as one to fight back the threatening monsters. Past enemies would become comrades-in-arms while vengeance would transform into friendship. Conflicts would change into unity. Although Monster Soul represented a brutal world during the dark era, humans would be the light of hope illuminating the darkness. It was Montra’s utopia emphasizing ‘equality.’ There would be no factions or sides.
Only “the human side” would remain.
Montra had a belief that humans have the potential to change for the better, though a suitable environment is necessary. For a candle to show off its light, it must stay in the dark. The world where humans can live together without inner conflicts is precisely one that is filled with chaotic conflicts.
Nednapha added, “What’s more, we discovered that how items drop has changed. Many have yet to notice that items drop differently than before. Originally, in team play, items would automatically enter each player’s system window according to the amount of contribution or how the party had set the item distribution method. However, recently, if the number of players in the party is more than one, items will drop on the ground. It was as if the system intends to test our greed.”
Sila always fought alone, so this particular change went totally unnoticed.
Nednapha sighed. “It must be lacking, but that is all we know.”
Sila nodded. “That was plenty. Now is my turn. Firstly, the Law Breaker is Montra. As for how he made all of those changes... I guess it must be related to the Impossible Quest from the Goddess.”
Nednapha paused for thought. “I guess so. For the changes to be this impactful, it must be related to a quest of that caliber and was done by a player of Montra’s caliber. The game become harsher, so this must be the aftereffect. Montra might have obtained some dreadful S-grade item, and its downside negatively affected all players in the game.”
Sila shook his head. “I’m clueless as well, regarding what kind of reward he got.”
Listening to the conversation, Chak expressed his thought, “For his own benefits, he caused the rest of the players to become victims and suffer. Montra is a selfish bastard!”
About to reveal that he was the Seal Breaker, Sila stopped short. Looking from others’ perspective, the fact that Montra and he waged war in the game indeed brought trouble to others. In the end, he swallowed his saliva and didn’t reveal the Seal Breaker’s identity. Still, he explained to them the meaning of the title and what it brought about, all of which he had heard from Kiryu.
Nednapha became even more frightened than ever. “Mister Sila, you mean... Emperor Rank monsters are wandering around the world as we speak?”
“I have met at least two of them, by the way. Well, monsters at Lord Rank or above can take human forms and have individuality, so it’s hard to tell them apart from players. Anyway, I don’t think they like to meddle in our affairs unless it’s necessary.”
“Why do you think so?”
“Try putting yourself in their shoes, Miss Nednapha. If you’re Level 1,000 Emperor Rank, would you like to spend time hunting some Knight Rank monsters?”
“I guess I wouldn’t.”
“Well, as I said, it also depends on their personalities. Some of them may disdain humans or maybe they’ll just feel like killing us. On the other hand, some may be lazy and don’t want to get involved with us even when we challenge them. The surest fact is that we can’t predict what might happen. We don’t know which monster races got their Emperor Rank rulers back. If we thoughtlessly attack monsters, their Emperor might come at us for revenge later.”
“In conclusion... we have no way of knowing what will happen?”
“In fact, something might have already happened and we just haven’t realized.”
Nednapha was deep in thought. “This news is even more fatal than the Law matter. Thank you for sharing it with us. At the very least, for any of our future hunts, we’ll try to investigate whether there is an Emperor Rank monster guarding the place. In return for your valuable information, I’ll have Chak and Toron lead you all the way to the inner part of the Summer Forest. It originally had only Knight Rank monsters, and the strongest right now are Marquis Rank Silver Griffins, so I doubt they will give you any trouble. Think of these two as guides or porters. We, the Mountain Thieves League, are willing to buy any items you don’t want. We have ways to resell them.”
Sila didn’t see the need to decline, so he bid Nednapha farewell and followed Chak and Toron outside, preparing to enter the Summer Forest’s inner area.
Toron and Chak escorted Sila deep into the forest. The sun’s heat was being trapped in by the trees, so Sila felt warmer the further they went in. Meanwhile, Toron and Chak were drenched in sweat as they continued exhausting themselves by expanding their psychic sense to inspect their surroundings. In one hand they each held a sword, which they used to cut any tall grass that blocked their path, and in the other they held flasks. From time to time, they would sip some water to resist the heat.
The three had been traveling for almost an hour, yet the whole journey so far had been a silent one with no conversing between them. It wasn’t surprising though, since Sila wasn’t that close to the two while Toron and Chak were always focused on sensing any enemies.
Out of curiosity, Sila tried probing the surroundings as well. However, he didn’t find any notable danger. There were insects and small beasts at most. That made him wonder. “Excuse me. Do you enter this forest frequently?”
Toran moved forward without minding the question, while Chak replied without looking back.
“Around two times a month, sir. Why do you ask?”
“How dangerous is this place?” Sila asked. Honestly speaking, he wanted to ask ‘Why do you guys have to be on guard this much?’, but he was afraid that it might be too blunt.
“Quite so. With the exception of the Silver Griffins, all of the monsters living in the forest are qi-types. Even the low-level ones can pose issues.”
“They are small venomous monsters. Although their health points are low, they’re fast and difficult to spot. They may attack the moment you let your guard down. Just so you know, their toxins aren’t that potent. However, the Summer Forest is quite a special place. You can say that it’s a special dimension. There are no restrictions on entering or leaving though.”
Sila nodded, which proved to be pointless as Chak hadn’t turned back to see it. He waited for Chak to take another gulp of water and continue the explanation.
“The unique trait of this special dimension is that the system won’t inform us of a monster’s appearance even though they’re qi-type. The Blue Pigeon Guild has already confirmed this fact.
“As I mentioned before, the toxins of monsters in this place are not fatal. However, the law of the jungle in this place means they follow a cycle of killing other monsters and absorbing their venom. Some toxins are constantly strengthened as this cycle goes on. The terrifying aspect of this place is that we have no way of telling whether the monster attacking us is one that was born recently or one that had lived long enough to accumulate other toxins. If it’s the latter, it’s possible that their venom can deliver lethal damage.
“The reason why the system doesn’t notify us of their arrival must be because of that particular aspect. These monsters are constantly mutating. We can say that the entire forest is considered a giant monster with tons of parasites living inside.”
Sila could more or less understand it. Just on the way here, he had already sensed hundreds or even thousands of monsters. Based on their strength, their level must be below Level 1,000 Squire Rank. In any case, considering their numbers, he would have been annoyed to death if the system kept repeatedly notifying him of monster arrivals.
“How about Silver Griffins?”
“Silver Griffins possess magic that helps them develop antibodies against the venoms they’re exposed to, so they can live in this forest. They feed on the local monsters, have moderately high attack power and defense, and can withstand many types of power.”
“Withstand powers? Like Dragon Scales?” Sila asked.
“Ah, no. Dragon Scales can reduce physical attack as well as qi, magic, and psychic power. On the other hand, Silver Griffin’s magic focuses on resisting various kinds of debuffs and abnormal statuses.”
Finally, Toron stopped his feet. He turned around to face the other two.
Observing the surroundings, Sila didn’t find this location any different from the parts of the forest they had walked past on their journey here. As if on cue, Toron explained before Sila could voice his confusion.
“The nest of Silver Griffins is two kilometers up ahead. This spot is the furthest we can reach without alerting them. The two of us are only at Knight Rank. If a battle breaks out, we’ll only become hindrances.”
Chak added, “We aren’t combat-types. I specialize in collecting monster drops. My skill pool focuses on collecting a large number of items and extracting ingredients from monsters. As for Toron, he is a monster tamer. Most of his beasts are for gathering intel and collecting items though. Only one of them can fight.”
Sila started to get it. “In that case, I will continue on my own. What are you planning to do next?”
Toron raised his hand, showing a ring on his index finger. It flashed once, and a falcon flew out. It had a noble look and it was twice as large as Lookhin. Sila guessed that they must be from different species.
“I can rely on ‘Big Bro Falcon’ to collect items. Its level is even higher than mine. Together with Chak’s help, we’re certain that we can collect all the items no matter how many Silver Griffins you kill.”
Silently, Sila stared at Big Bro Falcon, who was perching on Toron’s wrist.
Noticing his gaze, Toron felt somehow awkward. He quickly gave an explanation, which was the same one he always clung to every time he introduced his pet.
“I got it from Boss. He came up with the name and won’t let me change it.”
Unlike what everyone else did in the past, however, Sila was completely apathetic. “It’s a good name.”
Toron and Chak looked at each other, speechless. Apparently, Sila was the first to compliment Beluga’s naming sense.
Sila expanded his perception to the south. “By the way, Silver Griffins are not the only monster I plan to hunt today.”
Toron tilted his head. “Silver Griffins are the highest-level monsters in the forest though. The rest are small and insignificant. I’m afraid you’ll waste your time hunting them.”
“Don’t mind me. I have my own plans. You can just wait for my signal.”
As he finished the sentence, Sila leaped forward and disappeared, leaving Toron who shouted after him, “Wait! What signal?!”
Sila’s voice rang out next to the two’s ears. “You’ll realize it immediately when the time comes.”
After moving forward five hundred meters, Sila stopped. His ability to conceal his presence was much more refined than Chak’s or Toron’s. Even if he advanced further, the Silver Griffins would still be unaware of his approach.
In any case, the reason why he stopped was to talk with Zarnak. He tried to avoid conversing with Zarnak in front of others. Just Dark Self alone was troublesome enough. Not only could he talk to his inner self, but he also was able to talk with his armor. If someone saw him talking to them, it wouldn’t be weird if they thought he had gone crazy.
“Zarnak, how should I start? Just jump in and start a fight?”
A monotonous voice replied, “My using-muscles-more-than-brains master... Although Lucifer is an incredibly powerful fighter, he always relied on his brain more than his brawn. Simply using Omniscient Evil God Qi in a direct fight is such a waste. Only by using it coupled with an intellect will it become invincible.”
Sila closed his eyes, reviewing the Omniscient Evil God Qi’s circulation method, and started circulating it. His body soon emitted a faint golden aura, showing a majestic vibe that was worthy of qi belonging to the powerful Evil God.
“Omniscient Evil God Qi is too strong for your Qi Concealment to hide. Only Qi Concealment of Transcendent Rank can conceal its aura,” explained Zarnak.
Sila wasn’t used to it. He had never witnessed qi aura emitting from his body ever since he had acquired Qi Concealment. Engulfed in the golden aura, he found himself too eye-catching and didn’t quite like the sensation.
After Zarnak had guided him to master Flaming Cloud Qi’s Nirvana Part, Sila finally stepped onto the path of Omniscient Evil God Qi. Based on the dragon’s explanation about why he had never succeeded in cultivating it beyond Level 0, his lack of qi capacity was to be blamed.
Flaming Cloud Qi’s Nirvana Part brought about the required change. Sila’s body was like refined steel that had been smelted over and over, finally possessing the potential to learn Omniscient Evil God Qi. After cultivating it for a few hours in his bedroom, its skill level eventually reached 1.
“The core aspect of Omniscient Evil God Qi is about attacking the connection between powers, which magic-type beings heavily rely on. However, it doesn’t mean that the qi is ineffective when it comes to attacking multiple targets of other energy types. In fact—”
“Hm? Does Omniscient Evil God Qi also work on groups of non-magic beings?”
Zarnak fell silent for a brief moment. “...My always-interrupting master, if only you would let me finish...”
“Oh, okay, you may continue.”
With Sila’s interruption, Zarnak’s mood seemed to turn sour. Well, in fact, he wasn’t even sure whether it was moody or not. He had never been able to tell its emotions apart as it always talked in a monotonous voice and with a face devoid of expressions.
“Another prominent trait of Omniscient Evil God Qi is how hostility plays a role. It won’t harm the target until they put up a resistance. When that time comes, its strength will explosively increase. The qi works extremely well against magic-type beings as they often have connections by nature, especially those belonging to the same race or species. Even if that isn’t the case, there still exists a method to forcefully establish a connection.”
“Entice them to use spells of the same kind,” Zarnak replied. “Spells of the same kind of magic naturally link and strengthen each other. The similarity can just be about the spells’ element, but the connection will be quite weak in this case. On the other hand, for establishing a connection between beings of other energy types, you will have to let Omniscient Evil God Qi invade the target’s body before spreading it via qi expansion or psychic power connection, increasing your target from one to hundreds, thousands, or as many as you want.”
As the conversation was about qi-types, Sila could comprehend some parts of it. He would have to rely on Worlds Crossing Bridge and Cruise Breeze to transmit qi from one target to another. He had never attempted transmitting qi between enemies before, but he got the idea.
“Next, it’s about Omniscient Evil God Qi’s weakness.”
“Does Omniscient Evil God Qi have a weakness?”
Zarnak replied with the same tone, “If it’s Lucifer who is using it, it doesn’t. However, it’s another story when you’re the user, my amateurish master. It’s you who—”
“Hm?!” Suddenly, Sila let out a yelp, calling for Zarnak’s attention.
“What is it this time?”
“It’s the same word. ’My amateurish master.’ You have used it once before.” Sila pointed out what he had noticed.
Zarnak fell silent again, this time longer than before. It quickly searched for a new word. “There shouldn’t be many adjectives left for defining you, my better-invest-your-brain-cells-in-more-important-matters master. Can you just let me finish my explanation without interrupting?”
“Sure, go ahead. Sorry. It just suddenly crossed my mind.”
“...Omniscient Evil God Qi’s weakness is the fact that it groups targets altogether. When you attack the main target, the damage of your attack will be shared among every target linked by the qi. That means the attack power that is deadly against one will become relatively weak attack power against many. Hence, if you plan to use Omniscient Evil God Qi, you mustn’t hold back. You need to attack with enough strength to kill many enemies rather than just one.”
“You mean Angelic Flame, right?”
“...and Demonic Flame as well, in the case that you intend to unleash Nirvana Flame. Both flames have to be fused into one. You and your Dark Self have to cooperate.”
Dark Self’s voice rang out, “With pleasure. In fact, I also have new moves I would like to show you.”
“Really? You have new moves?” asked Sila.
“You came up with Heaven’s Dismissal’s sword arts by adapting Heaven’s Decree’s sword arts, didn’t you? I, too, came up with new moves using Five-Attributed Cloud Qi as the foundation. My idea formerly couldn’t be put to practical use due to the problem regarding inner force capacity. However, as we have already mastered Flaming Cloud Qi, it now becomes theoretically possible.”
Sila couldn’t help but feel disappointed. “Theoretically? So you have never used them in real combat, yes?”
“I’m you, so how could I have free time to test them out without you knowing? Just a concept is enough. Sometimes, just changing our method of utilizing power is more than enough for us to improve further.”
Sila took a deep breath. He controlled the golden qi so that it became more difficult to detect it. The golden aura of qi became fainter as it spread over, starting from a small centipede, a venomous worm, a venomous frog, a viper, to a venomous butterfly. These monsters were small in size and their levels were significantly lower than Sila’s, so he could transmit qi between them at ease.
“Be careful around your two comrades,” warned Zarnak.
Sila manipulated the qi to detour around Chak and Toron, who were waiting for his signal. His control over qi had become excellent after mastering Flaming Cloud Qi. In just half an hour, the entire forest was enveloped by his power.
“Your power will work on small monsters, but not Silver Griffins. What will you do?” asked Zarnak.
“Just forcing them to use a poison-related magic ability is enough, right? It will be easy,” Sila replied as he opened his system window and took a certain item out.
It was a small round greyish pellet.
“This is Venom’s Heart, a medicinal pellet brewed by Franz. She said it can be diluted to produce Cleanse Antidotes. The power within the pellet version is too concentrated. Its effect is poisonous rather than being a medicine.”
Sila activated Orbiting Cosmos to generate magical flames, vaporizing the pellet. It melted and turned into a black fog. The poison was merging with fire when he clapped his hands.
When Sila opened his palms, what came out were hundreds of flame-red butterflies. As he had expected, the result of Artifact Manifestation was correspondent to how he spent his magic power. That was the reason why he had divided the poisonous flames into several small layers. Fortunately, the result came out as flying poisonous insects. It was even better than he had expected.
A group of butterflies flew toward the nest of Silver Griffins. Even Zarnak thought it was a rather smart method. It couldn’t help but be amazed that its master could sometimes come up with a new idea that it couldn’t think of.
Silver Griffins ate nothing but venomous monsters, as that was all they had access to. Encountering a new type of poison, it was natural that they needed to activate their magic ability to develop antibodies. That moment would be when all of the monsters in the forest were bound by the same connection: poison. Sila only needed to unleash his most powerful attack on any of the monsters for his hunt to work.
After waiting for a long time, Sila sensed the Silver Griffins’ magic power that they unleashed to fight off the poison. Looking around, he found an unfortunate centipede near his feet.
In his right palm was Demonic Flame while Angelic Flame was in his left. The more Sila tried to push them together, the more each flame exerted a repelling force to prevent their fusion, as if they were magnets of the same pole. He had to raise his concentration and speed up his qi circulation, rebalancing the powers in both hands.
When he finally managed to clap his hands, the two flames combined and emitted intense golden light, shooting a beam toward the sky, which became the signal Toron and Chak had been waiting for.
The repelling force intensified by several folds. Sila suppressed it, preventing the combined flame from exploding, before quickly lashing his hands on the centipede crawling around his feet.
An instant later, based on Toron and Chak’s testimonies, they swear to God that they saw the Summer Forest glowing golden from every corner. All monsters, no matter how large or small they were, were bathed in golden flames before bursting out, turning into mountains of items scattered throughout the forest. Even they, whose combined item collection speed was unparalleled, failed to collect them all.
Obviously, no one took their words seriously even when they insisted that the absurd scene they had witnessed truly happened.
...Come to think of it, even they, the direct eyewitnesses, still couldn’t bring themselves to believe what had unfolded before their eyes.
Late the next morning, on a certain route southeast from Zhongsuyuan City, a disguised Burapha and a group of Mountain Thieves League members were waiting for Sila’s arrival. They used this time to recheck their belongings and the condition of the convoy.
There were four carriages, each with two horses. Three of them were for carrying products while the last was for passengers. Everything was prepared by the Mountain Thieves League. For them to be able to pull it off on such short notice, Burapha couldn’t help but admire the League’s motto, Achieve the Impossible.
The latecomer finally showed up. However, Sila wasn’t alone. There were three people accompanying him. One of them was Vata, whom Burapha remembered was Varee's older sister. As for the remaining two, they were people Burapha had never met.
“You’re quite late, Big Brother,” Burapha started the greeting.
“I’m sorry. I happened to have many things to take care of. I also went and recruited more people. How about it? Is everything ready?”
“Overall, it's pretty okay. Do you have any concerns?”
“Did Mamon come by and install the air conditioner?” Sila asked. This matter was of utmost importance. He was prepared to postpone the schedule if this hadn’t been done.
Burapha opened one of the passenger carriage’s doors. Cool air immediately poured out as if they were inside a room with an air conditioner.
“Mamon stopped at dawn. In addition to this carriage, the ones holding products also had one installed. By the way, what is the point of the air conditioner?”
The carriages already had coolers that could keep raw food fresh for a long time. There was no need for such a thing like an air conditioner.
“I can’t go into details yet. In any case, if someone asks, just tell them that we aren’t used to the heat, or claim that it helps keep the food fresh, or whatever excuse you think will work. Just tell them that it’s a prototype. If anyone is interested, tell them we’ll consider making ones for sale later.”
Sila observed the convoy. “By the way, isn’t it strange for us to suddenly show up near the destination?”
Burapha was quick to answer, “No worries, Big Brother. The Mountain Thieves League already made fake trails for us. If someone investigates, they will find that we started the journey five days ago. There are many eyewitnesses seeing us departing from Lockheart City. If they follow our trails, they will simply find traces of many of our resting spots along the route. We even have a letter of recommendation with the signature of the Merchants Association and Children of the Sea’s leader.”
Sila nodded understandingly before introducing the people accompanying him. “Oh, let me introduce these people. They’re guildless players and also Miss Vata’s friends. This guy is Asava, and this is his little brother, Vlad. They’ll be joining us in the operation. Everyone, this person is Burapha.”
Asava was a humble-looking man. His gaze was filled with a warmth that induced good feelings from others. Mysteriously, even though the man was quite handsome, Burapha still thought that Asava was rather plain with no outstanding features. If someone were to ask him to describe Asava, Burapha would have nothing to say except ‘He is a polite-looking guy.’
On the other hand, Asava’s little brother, or rather Vlad, stood out much more. He was short, with his height only reaching Burapha’s shoulder. However, he had a grim aura around him, as if he were a blackhole preparing to devour anything in sight. His eyes were icy, displaying his unfriendliness and utmost caution. It was as if he always stayed on guard.
“Hello, Burapha. I’ve heard a lot about you from Sila. It’s nice to finally meet you.” Asava greeted him in a friendly manner.
As for Burapha, he had never heard Sila mention anything about the two newcomers. In any case, he politely returned the greeting.
“Ah, me too. It’s nice to meet you.”
Sila examined the air conditioner and found that it worked exactly as he had requested. Its appearance was a bit off though. Nevertheless, such a thing wasn’t important. Apparently, regarding inventions, relying on Mamon was always a good idea.
“What about Clute?”
“Clute arrived at dawn. He came together with Mamon, to be exact. He is in the hidden room. As for Mamon, I don’t know where he went.”
Burapha reopened the door to the carriage and led Sila inside. The inside was bigger than what it appeared to be when looking from the outside. It was a common occurrence in Monster Soul though, so Sila was no longer surprised.
“Big Brother Sila, your reputation is too distinguished. Even if you wear a disguise, there will be a risk if they perform a detailed inspection. That was why I asked for a carriage with a hidden room. Look here.”
Burapha tapped his foot on the floor three times, then a wooden door slid open. The room below was a small compartment that ten or so people could fit in. Clute was waiting there.
“You should hide down there. If they perform an inspection, please do your best to conceal your presence. By the way, about your friends...” Burapha shifted his gaze to Vata, Asava, and Vlad.
Sila waved his hand, indicating that there wouldn’t be a problem. “No worries. Everyone can take care of themselves. Shall we go now?”
Burapha nodded. “Yes. Now that you’ve come, we’re ready to take off. Our destination is a recently constructed building in the city that we’re renting.”
Sila, Asava, Vlad, and Himeko went downstairs. Meanwhile, Clute did the opposite as he wanted to take in the scenery. The other members of the team began to take their places inside the carriage. Before he closed the hidden passage, Burapha gave Sila a piece of paper.
“This is the latest information about Zhongsuyuan City, including the current relationships between various factions as well as the hierarchy, all of which was obtained by the Mountain Thieves League and the Blue Pigeon Guild, so you can trust the accuracy of this information. It includes a map with locations where you can hide as they belong to the Mountain Thieves League. Please take your time studying it, Big Brother.”
The hidden door was closed. Soon, the convoy began to move. The hidden room was a small room with no lights. In the center of the room was a table with a candle on it. Sila pointed his finger at the tip of the candle, igniting a fire.
As the convoy slowly advanced, the atmosphere in the hidden room became more serious. Just to be safe, Sila exerted qi to block sounds from escaping the room.
Sila roughly skimmed through the paper before giving it to Asava. “This is the same as what I got from Bluebird last night. You can have it.”
Asava swept his gaze down the paper. Sila sensed that the man was utilizing a dark art. He guessed it must be a part of Sage of the Six Disasters, Gambled Disaster, which was about possibility calculation. The entire map and all of the safe spots were quickly engraved into Asava's brain. In addition, he could define the structure of the relationships between denizens in Zhongsuyuan City in a short period of time. It greatly resembled the Cloud Part of Flaming Cloud Qi. Maybe it had to do with the fact that both arts originated from the same place, the Hell’s Gate Islands.
Asava passed the paper to Himeko, who also took a very short time reading. Based on how it looked, Sila guessed she didn’t depend on any arts. It must be her personal specialty. The Heaven’s Heiress’ main duty is covert operations, so the ability to quickly memorize and make use of information was to be expected.
Lastly, the paper was given to Vlad. The young man only looked at some parts before placing it in his pocket. Maybe it was because his role was different from others.
It was Sila who had requested their assembly, which was the reason why he came late. In any case, with the whole crew present, he was more than confident about the operation to raid Zhongsuyuan City.
“I haven’t told you the details yet, but the reason why I asked everyone to be here is that this raid will largely depend on us four. This time, the people of the Hell’s Gate Islands will take action together, seizing the first victory of the second war event.”
The phrase ‘people of the Hell’s Gate Islands’ seemed to brighten Asava’s mood as it implied that Sila thought of himself as a part of the family.
“No problem. I’m sure that you already have a good plan, Sila. In any case, let’s discuss it to see if there’s any way to improve it.”
Sila didn’t know whether Asava sincerely meant it or simply doubted his plan. Because, in a sense, Asava was practically asking him to tell them the plan. In any case, Asava’s tone wasn’t offensive at all, so he wasn't sure.
Sila nodded. “Mn. I already have an idea about how to approach this. However, I want to know how members of the Hell’s Gate Islands operate and complete the missions they receive. Can you elaborate?”
Himeko and Vlad looked at Sila briefly before shifting their gazes to Asava almost simultaneously. By telling Sila’s their procedures, that would mean revealing secrets known only to Kimon’s members which even the people of the Wulin Masters Association weren’t aware of.
Asava simply smiled. “Sila, you’re like our brother, so I always planned to tell you when the time was appropriate. It’s just that I didn’t expect you to want to know about them now. As you already know, our organization is one that lives in the underground world and carries out assassinations. We also have a cover for appearances’ sake, but as it is totally unrelated to what we are going to do, please forgive me for not telling you about it now. You have my word that, when everything is finished, I will personally bring you to visit every single one of our branches.
“Basically, after our business had been shut down by the Demon God Zenga, our revenue plummeted as no one hired us. As a result, we had to accept jobs without middlemen under different names. Even then we still made quite a bit of money. No matter what the state of the world is, assassination is always a profitable business.”
Sila considered what Asava said. “Didn’t you tell me that the Hell’s Gate Islands were struggling financially? Since you continued your jobs despite being officially shut down and you said the profit was good, why did you say that you were broke?”
Asava responded to Sila’s question with a bitter laugh. The other two’s expressions also subtly changed.
“Hahaha. This is one of the most ridiculous jokes, Sila. Based on your question, I take it that you’re unaware of how the Wulin Masters Association handles its finances.”
“It seems so. Can you please explain to me, then?”
“Certainly. The Wulin Masters Association’s objective is to pass on profound arts, preventing them from being forgotten. Basically, they will give support to every dojo, regardless of whether the targeted dojo is rich or poor. However, Sila, the world runs on money. Everything needs money to be done. Obviously, money can’t be created out of nothing, so the association collects money from every dojo and distributes it back, depending on each dojo’s financial status. It’s a tax-like system where the rich support the poor.
“The funny part is that, even though the Wulin Masters Association shut down the Hell’s Gate Islands, they still ask us to pay them. Moreover, according to the regulations, the Hell’s Gate Islands was founded for solving the association’s crisis. In the current situation where the association is quite chaotic, we have been asked to pay ten times the usual amount. They completely ignore whether we have any way of paying it or not.”
Sila found Asava’s joke depressing. “And... the Hell’s Gate Islands chose to pay?”
“We don’t have a choice. The money is for protecting ourselves. If we don’t pay, the association will label us as rebels, giving them an excuse to eliminate us. While it’s true that we have what it takes to deal a significant blow to the association, it’s also true that the association possesses the strength to permanently annihilate us.”
“I will change this. I promise,” Sila declared this in response, and truly meant it.
However, Asava seemed nonchalant about it. “You don’t need to promise anything. Just don’t forget that we are siblings. For assassins like us, we only have each other to rely on. Betraying family members is a grave crime. The Flaming Cloud Dojo doesn’t get much respect from the Hell’s Gate Islands because the Demon God Zenga betrayed us despite the fact that it was us who had carried him forward to become the Wulin Lord. It’s your role to fix this problem; regain our trust. Don’t let history repeat itself.”
“Let’s return to talking about how the Hell’s Gate Islands handle missions. As I said, I will skip administration procedures for now. Regarding assassinations, we divide them into four kinds according to each Island Master’s specialty. However, it became three after the Demon God Zenga’s generation, as Flaming Cloud Qi was no longer something we could rely on.
“For spying, instigation, agitation, or the kind of jobs that are about pinning the blame on someone close to the target, they would be done by Heaven’s Heiress. As for the jobs that need to demoralize or terrorize a target, they would be the Earthbound Reaper’s responsibility. Lastly, regarding the jobs that need a variety of skills or when the client wants it to look like an accident, they would become the Eminent Immortal’s duty.”
“What about the Demon God? What was his role in the past?” Sila couldn’t help but be curious.
“My teacher told me that, in the past, the Demon God’s duty was to complete the impossible jobs. It’s said that, at a high level of mastery, Flaming Cloud Qi can burn even the ashes of its victims to nothingness and it possesses various utilization methods, as many as the number of shapes a cloud can take in the sky. It’s also said that the jobs handled by the Demon God had the highest success rate.”
There was one more thing which Asava didn’t explain to Sila. According to the law, a murder case can be regarded as such only when there is a corpse. Even when they used the Corpse-Disposing Powder, there would still be traces left to investigate. However, the high-level Flaming Cloud Qi could obliterate literally anything, including the victim’s DNA. It would appear as if the victim had simply been spirited away from the world. It was the reason why people of the underground world always respected and feared the Demon God. He was an existence untouchable by laws of the normal world.
The generation where the Demon God Zenga was crowned as the Wulin Lord was one of the greatest times for the Wulin Masters Association. No one could stand up to his power. However, the generation after he left consequently became the worst era for the association.
The convoy came to a stop. It was likely that they had arrived at the immigration checkpoint. The four were naturally aware that this was a critical moment. Sila snapped his fingers, putting off the flame on the candle to prevent the light from reaching outside the room.
No signals were required between them. Sila, Asava, Vlad, and Himeko simultaneously closed their eyes and suppressed their auras. Even their breathing was as faint as that of a small creature.
They caught the conversation between Burapha and the guards. Zhongsuyuan City didn’t have tight security like Siaferia City. The guards mainly used qi perception for inspections. Unfortunately for them, the four lurkers in the hidden room were the heirs of the best assassins in the world. Preventing an amateur’s detection ability from noticing them was as easy as breathing for members of Kimon.
It seemed that the entry process was going well. Everything went so smoothly that Sila almost let out a sigh of relief. The convoy started to move again. Finally, they were about to safely enter Zhongsuyuan City with no problems whatsoever.
However, when the convoy had only advanced a few meters, a certain voice rang out and put an end to their efforts.
“Oh? Isn’t that Burapha? Why are you dressed like that? Is it a new fashion trend?”
Sila inwardly lamented destiny. It was exactly like that old saying; the planning lies with man, but the outcome lies with Heaven.
He had never imagined that they could come this far and successfully pass through the checkpoint, only to have everything thrown into chaos by Lomyok.
Even though the awkwardness only lasted a moment, it felt like a minute had passed before anyone reacted. Amidst the darkness, Asava seemed untroubled as if he had encountered this kind of situation more than a thousand times. It was the calmness of a professional. No matter what kind of situation he was in, he could always stay level-headed.
Without further ado, Asava suddenly made a move.
The hidden room’s entrance opened slightly. Asava squashed a certain pellet using the tips of his fingers before controlling the crushed powder through psychic power. The powder flew to the noses of every guard, making their consciousness blur for a brief moment.
Sila quickly sent a sound transmission to Burapha, urging him to invite Lomyok into the carriage, which Burapha immediately complied with.
“Big Brother Lomyok, please get inside first.”
“Mn~ Sounds good to me. I just arrived. Going on foot is quite tiring.”
Regaining their consciousness, the guards shook their heads to stay awake. They felt like they had dozed off for a second just now. By the time they shook off the sleepiness, Lomyok had already entered the carriage.
The guards swept their gazes around before asking.
“Little Brother, did you see a man in green wuxia clothing?”
Burapha shook his head. “Eh? No. Who are you talking about?”
“Hmm. That’s strange. Well, let me check your carriages again.”
Burapha didn’t reject it directly. Although it was a nerve-wracking moment, he responded in a bored manner.
“Alas, Big Bro. You just checked. Why bother checking it again and again? I’m already late. My boss will scold me to death at this rate.”
One of the guards nodded. “Well, I guess it’s fine. Come to think of it, the Heavenly Dragon Guild has been doing business with Children of the Sea for a long time. There shouldn’t be any problems. You may enter.”
“Thank you, Big Bro.”
The convoy was on the move again after Burapha finished expressing his words of gratitude. He returned to the interior of the carriage and found Lomyok talking to Sila, who had just exited the hidden room.
“Wow. You’re here too, Sila. Only my number one fanboy is missing, otherwise, it would be a reunion of our dream team,” Lomyok said smilingly.
The “dream team”, which consisted of people who did nothing but attract trouble, was the last thing Sila wanted right now. He greeted Lomyok and asked, “What are you going to do in Zhongsuyuan City, Mister Lomyok?”
“I heard that the new city ruler gives people the freedom to participate in the recently unlocked game content for free, so I came. I heard that just having attained the essence of qi is enough to acquire Art of Qi.”
It was one of the three hidden abilities, which Montra was allowing any qualified players to obtain easily. In fact, Sila had acquired Art of Magic when he visited the Magic Kingdom.
“I’ll be frank, Mister Lomyok. The stakes are high for us right now since the war event is currently active. Can I ask you to keep the fact that you met us today a secret?”
Sila said it in a pleading tone. However, if the listener wasn’t too dumb, they would realize that all people inside the carriage were ready to take action against Lomyok, subduing him right here and now and preventing the secret from being spread.
“The war event? Oh? Has the war event already started?” Lomyok exclaimed.
The war event was a major aspect of Monster Soul, occurring only once per year. There had been many advertisements and announcements. It was incomprehensible that any player would be oblivious of it. Nevertheless, based on Lomyok’s expression, he didn’t seem to be playing dumb.
“Yes, it has. The city ruler of this city is Revin, who is our enemy. It will cause problems for us if he knows we’re here.”
Lomyok lightly tapped Sila’s shoulders. “It’s fine, it’s fine. No problem. I don’t like war, so I won’t involve myself in your business. I will just go and grab Art of Qi, purchase some accessories, and visit the Monster Realm again. I heard that there are tons of beautiful places there.”
Those who had inspected Lomyok frowned. They doubted that Lomyok, a Squire Rank player, could easily come and go the Monster Realm as if it was his playground.
In any case, Sila was glad that Lomyok didn’t want to get involved. Reducing the number of potential risks was better than increasing how many there were.
“When do you plan to go, then?” Personally, Sila didn’t want to rush Lomyok or anything. However, Lomyok’s strength was more formidable than it appeared to be. The man was also a great troublemaker. He would prefer to start the raid after Lomyok had left town.
“Four or five days, I guess. Shouldn’t be longer than that. I gotta spare some time to travel to Bistem Desert. A junction to the Monster Realm can be found there.”
As Lomyok mentioned the Desert of Death, Sila couldn’t help but miss his parents. However, the passage of time in that place was fluctuating. He didn’t know how long it would take for him to return if he went to visit them. Problems regarding the war event were now piling up above his head. It wouldn’t be until after the war ended that he would get a chance to reunite with them.
“I see. Thank you for telling me.”
“Oh! Let me hop down here real quick. I want to stop by the market. Good luck, guys~”
Lomyok bid them goodbye as he stepped down from the carriage. As he did so when it had yet to stop properly, he lost his balance and fell. Fortunately, he managed to support himself using qi, preventing his face from hitting the ground.
“Whoa! That was close!” Lomyok let out a short exclamation. He stood up and brushed his clothing. It was an act out of habit, of course, as it was totally unnecessary. The Queen’s Spirit Raiment on his body was an object that couldn’t be stained by literally anything.
In addition to the elegant clothing, his facial features were magnificent. Thus, Lomyok became a center of attention immediately after he made an appearance. As a result, Sila’s convoy could move forward relatively unnoticed.
The branch of Children of the Sea was a building located next to Zhongsuyuan City’s third most popular restaurant, which went by the name Pine Leaf Restaurant. Apparently, most restaurants in Zhongsuyuan City seemed to include the word ‘pine’ in their names, in accordance with the name of the city. The one that Sila had been to last time was called Pine View Restaurant. In addition, there was Pine Branch Restaurant, Pine Tree Restaurant, and even Pine Root Restaurant, which focused on customers with a tight budget.
The branch building used to be an empty warehouse, keeping rarely-used materials and relatively worthless items. However, the Mountain Thieves League repurposed it into a temporary building for the union members who would be acting as salesmen for Children of the Sea.
Group members were unloading the carriages while Sila and the raid core members moved inside. A small table was quickly prepared as a meeting spot.
Sila waited until every seat was taken. The number of chairs seemed to not be enough, so some had to stand.
“First things first, let me announce that we will postpone the time of the operation. Instead of in three days, we will begin one week from now.”
Honestly speaking, from most members’ point of view, starting a raid in three days was simply too soon. War wasn’t something so simple like jumping into battles and obtaining victory. Now that Sila decided to postpone the time, it became a relief for them. However, they still thought that it was inappropriate to suddenly make changes to a plan that had been worked on for a while.
Burapha seemed to understand Sila the most. “It’s because of Big Brother Lomyok, right?”
Sila nodded. He also explained this fact to other members. “Yes, Lomyok is an uncontrollable variable. We should start making a move only when we’re certain that he has left the city. In short, we’ll wait until Lomyok is gone before taking real action.”
“Is he that strong?” One of the members asked. In fact, this question was in everyone’s mind. Both Lomyok’s rank and demeanor didn’t imply that he was strong no matter how they looked.
Sila’s reply showed no hint of hesitation. “Lomyok’s strength is erratic and unpredictable. However, even when we look past his strange behaviors, he is someone I prefer not to fight against. In fact, he is the first and only player as of now to have visited the Monster Realm.”
Sila decided that it was the time to reveal this fact to the other members, so that they would be aware of Lomyok’s achievements and not provoke the man.
From the system announcement, everyone knew that there was at least one player who had obtained the right to visit the Monster Realm. However, they all thought that such a person was undoubtedly Montra. Never in their wildest dreams had they ever considered that player to be Lomyok.
“Now, let’s talk about the plan. Please listen carefully. I’ll tell you only once. From today until D-Day, every one of us will surely be busy.”
Everyone fell silent, their attention completely given to Sila. Noticing that the time was appropriate, Sila started explaining his plan.
“From now on, we will split into three groups, working in conjunction. The first group will act openly while the other two will work behind the scenes. Let me talk about the first group first. Members of the first group will be responsible for selling this air conditioner. Do anything you have to do in order to distribute them, the more the better.”
Sila placed the prototype of said air conditioner on the table for everyone to see. Even Burapha found this confusing. Regaining his senses, he asked the question that everyone else most likely thought in their minds.
“Don’t tell me... Big Bro... You want us to be salesmen?”
Sila nodded. “I do. The number of sales also has to reach a certain amount.”
Many of the raid members began to look at each other, confused. “I’m sorry to butt in, but I’d say this is not the right time to make a profit, sir.”
Once they finished replying, Sila realized his explanation was lacking.
“Oh, sorry. Money is not important. You may even sell on credit. I just want to distribute the air-cons throughout the city. From the outside, they may look like ordinary air conditioners. However, in reality, they’re our trump cards. They’re jamming devices for obstructing teleportation. I had them made for preventing the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s reinforcements from coming to their aid.”
For the record, Sila got the idea from Ratri’s Dimension-Rending Bomb. While she relied on a massive bomb, Sila realized there would be no way he could transport such a large item to set it up in the city. Based on Julia’s explanation, the size of the device had to be relative to the size of the location. For him to prevent teleportation to Zhongsuyuan City, he would need an extremely large device that couldn’t possibly be hidden from watchful eyes.
Hence, Sila decided to use a totally different approach. Instead of using a large-sized device, he opted to use many small-sized ones. He asked Mamon to disguise them as air conditioners that were easy to set up, suitable for a tropical city like Zhongsuyuan City. His action would be no different from hiding leaves in a forest. Once the time came, he would activate the jamming function and block off any teleportation, preventing Heavenly Dragon Guild members in other locations from arriving via spatial gates.
“In conclusion, you’re free to sell them or give them away. Just make sure that they are scattered throughout the city. Do keep in mind that giving too many away for free will seem suspicious. As for the air-cons, you can pick them up here. I will ask Mamon to keep sending them to me.”
Burapha raised his hand. “I can take care of this part of the operation, Big Brother. Within a week, every household in the city will be using our air-cons. By the way, I think that this group should also be responsible for selling our seafood products, otherwise it will look strange since we opened a new branch yet we’re not selling any fish.”
Sila nodded in agreement. “Let’s do it that way. On the other hand, the remaining two groups will have similar roles, focusing on making moves behind the scenes. I noticed that the city under Revin’s management has a certain weakness. Both groups will aim to strike it.”
“What weakness is that?”
“It’s the law enforcement aspect. Revin’s law enforcement is short and concise, governing the people through fear. It’s simple yet effective. However, for it to work, the enforcement mechanism must be properly maintained. We shall strike there.”
Sila stopped briefly, observing their reactions to see if they could understand what he said or not. It seemed some got it while some were still confused. In any case, Sila knew they would understand if he explained more, so he continued.
“Revin is using people as meat shields, taking advantage of citizens’ fear to keep each other in check and to oppose us, the outside threat. However, I believe that, as these players are from different factions, there will surely be conflicts between them. The reason why such conflicts are being suppressed is that they fear Revin’s rules and harsh punishments.
“We’ll destroy the root of their fear, making people realize that Revin’s laws are ineffective and can neither protect nor control them. The second group will have to memorize the structure of relationships between players and exploit it. We will make the animosity between them become more severe. You may disguise as one side and perform a sneak attack on the other side, then flee, setting off conflicts between them.”
“But, if that kind of situation happens frequently, people will think that there is a third party pulling the strings.”
Sila smirked. “Even so, that will be fine. The fact that there is a troublemaker roaming the city but Revin can’t do anything about them will show that he and his subordinates are incompetent. When that time comes, it will be the third group’s turn to act. The members of the third group will be responsible for planting seeds of doubt toward Revin in citizens. You will do so while acting naturally such as expressing your dissatisfaction to a bartender in a bar, complaining with your customers, or the like. We will keep spilling oil around in the form of these seeds. Once the time is ripe, we will toss a lit matchstick onto the oil and watch Zhongsuyuan City be engulfed in flames without us having to do anything.”
Sila’s plan was both simple and complex by itself, though it was undeniable that it had a chance of working. The plan focused on striking at Revin’s weakness regarding the laws he enforced. More importantly, if the plan was successful, their side would keep their losses at a minimum.
“Now that everyone has understood the plan, let’s split up and get to work! The clock is ticking!” Sila declared.
As everyone came to know what they ought to do, it was time for them to group up and divide their tasks, putting the plan into motion.
“Mister Asava, Mister Vlad, and Miss Vata, can you please stay behind? I have something to discuss.”
Sila sent everyone else away with a gaze. It was after they had left that he spoke up.
“Do you know why I asked to mobilize all four of us Kimon members?”
As if he had long anticipated Sila’s question, Asava swiftly replied, “Your plan just now might work in theory. However, there is a certain flaw.”
Sila couldn’t help but admire Asava’s prudence. As expected of the current chief of Kimon.
“Mn. Since even I can think of this plan, there is no way that Montra or Revin cannot. This means Revin must have prepared a defensive measure. Our duty is to eliminate whatever countermeasures he has prepared.”
Sila unfolded the map of Zhongsuyuan City, the one which everybody present had long since memorized.
“This is a map of Zhongsuyuan City. There are two main roads intersecting in the middle and there are many alleys throughout the city. The city looks somewhat like a simple rectangle. However, something is missing.”
“The governor’s residence,” Asava replied immediately since it was the first thing he looked for, but he couldn’t find it.
“Yes, Revin must be somewhere in the city. However, we don’t know where he is. On that note, when I was talking to Mister Beluga, I found out that Zhongsuyuan City hasn’t changed at all despite being unsealed. It is extremely strange considering the other two cities greatly changed; Lost Grea City combined with Grea City and rose up from beneath the ground while Alkedia City floated up above the clouds and its territory expanded into five islands.”
Finally, after staying quiet for a long time, Vlad spoke up, “So, it’s our duty to find out the change, right?”
“No... I think I have already found it. Based on Mister Beluga’s findings, there is another city similar to Zhongsuyuan City hiding somewhere. I bet that Revin is there. Also, that city must be where the army of souls hide themselves during the day.”
“Where is that city located, then, Sila?” asked Himeko.
Sila pointed his finger at the ground. “I believe that we’re already inside it. The city is another kind of special dimension: an inverse city.”
After sunset was when the souls became active. Players were well aware of this fact, so they were especially careful not to cause problems. As a result, Zhongsuyuan City was a strange place where it was safer to walk around at night than it was during the day. Warrior Souls were hiding in every corner of the city, watching over it.
The time when people avoided causing trouble turned out to be the time Sila decided to act.
Zhongsuyuan City was a city of qi, and none of the buildings were particularly tall. As such, it was a common sight to see people jumping from rooftop to rooftop, and right now Sila was among the people traveling this way.
Sila wasn’t wearing his disguise. He judged that it wouldn’t be a problem even if someone managed to identify him as long as they didn’t capture and interrogate him, revealing his connection to Children of the Sea. Given his strength, that task would prove to be quite a challenge. If he set his mind on escaping, only a few players would be able to catch a glimpse of his figure.
A certain Warrior Soul flew in Sila’s direction. It looked at him shortly before removing its gaze, flying past him without paying him any mind.
For the record, these souls were always showing up and disappearing during the night.
Sila gained more confidence. He had risked exposing himself to a soul in order to confirm something, and the result was as he had expected it to be; these souls couldn’t recognize him.
Sila had a hypothesis that these souls were qi-type monsters while he was a superior qi-type being, so anything that he couldn’t achieve through qi must be out of their capability as well—unless it was a racial ability, of course. If these Warrior Souls were to swap places with Androids—which were psychic-type monsters—he was certain that there would be the information-sharing network between them; his face, appearance, habits, and even the skills he had used must have already been registered in their database. If that was the case, he would already be surrounded by them.
Sila asked himself how he would identify an enemy if he could use only qi, and the answer he came up with was through qi perception, detecting the energy imprint emitting from the target’s body.
If he combined Qi Concealment with the fact that he was an internal utilizer, Sila’s presence was practically plain and ordinary in the Warrior Soul’s perception.
On the other hand, going by the same logic, he could sense them relatively fine even when they were invisible. This discovery implied that their ability to turn invisible was a result of one of their qi-type racial skills.
Since their abilities focused on secrecy, their fighting power was likely to be subpar. That was Sila’s belief. He thought the soul race’s terrifying aspect was their ability to perform ambush and sneak attacks. Thus, there should be nothing to fear if he remained vigilant.
Beluga had already informed Sila of both the location where he had met Revin and the destination Zazae had traveled to while being tailed. However, from Sila’s observations, he found that there was nothing out of ordinary at both spots. He speculated that Revin, as the city ruler, had already changed the location of the governor’s residence.
If there was one thing that Sila had learned from staying with Beluga, he would say it was the ability to stay patient and calmly observe the situation. Beluga had a strong belief that a solution to any problem could always be found as long as one took enough time to look for it.
While observing the Warrior Souls’ movements, one question after another began to appear in his mind. Was the hidden gate the only way the souls could enter and exit the city? Are there any restrictions for the gate? How many can pass through the gate at the same time? Do other members of the Heavenly Dragon Guild know about the existence of the gate connecting to a hidden city? Can Revin change the location of the gate any time he wants?
However, as nothing had changed so far, leaving his questions unanswered, Sila’s decision was to personally make some changes to the board then continue his observation.
Sila jumped to the highest pine tree in his area and swept his gaze around to ensure that no souls were in sight. Then, he started.
Firstly, Sila activated Domain of Light around himself, preventing beings outside from detecting his aura. He subsequently activated Orbiting Cosmos, summoning black flames in his hand. Finally, he finished the deal by casting Artifact Manifestation, converting the magical flames into a weapon.
An orange dagger then appeared in his hand. Noticing the result, Sila repeated the process and summoned a few dozen more. He collected them all in his system window, deactivated the domain, and gently descended to the ground without anyone noticing.
Sila stabbed one of the daggers into the body of a pine tree. He then took out the Beggar’s Cloak to wrap around his armor, before walking by the main road.
From his previous surveillance, Sila had noticed several locations where the Heavenly Dragon Guild members were stationed at and patrolled regularly. He went to one of said spots while blending in with the crowd.
As Sila strolled along at a normal speed, he found a two-man patrol. Keeping some distance, he simply walked past them. Yet, he seized the timing right after that to take action.
Sila deactivated the artifact from a remote distance, converting a specific dagger back to its original form. The pine tree from earlier was soon covered in flames. As it turned out, the power was more serious than he had anticipated. He originally wanted it to attract some attention. However, it seemed the fire would soon spread out if left unchecked.
“What is happening?!”
Everyone shifted their gazes to the source of the flames. It was at that exact moment when two more daggers flew from Sila’s hand, from right under his cloak. Not only did he fire them backward, but his arm also didn’t even twitch.
The two daggers hit the two aforementioned patrol guards in the backs. Again, Sila deactivated the artifacts, changing the two people into flame pillars in the middle of the city.
The surrounding pedestrians became panic-stricken, evacuating frighteningly. Sila pretended to be shoved away while, in fact, observing the overall situation.
The two guards were pitiful. They had no chance of surviving at all. Not only did Sila’s strength far outclass theirs, but he also attacked while they were distracted. They must have been stationed in the city for too long to have forgotten that the war event was active, or they were overconfident that no one would dare to cause trouble in Zhongsuyuan City.
At the first crime scene where the pine tree was burnt to crisp, there appeared four Warrior Souls. They extended their palms forward and Sila’s magical flames finally died down. This action alone made Sila realize that these souls possessed Cruise Breeze qi technique and their exclusive qi was of the cold element.
“Step aside! Out of the way!”
A commotion rang out from afar. Players stepped aside and allowed another two-man patrol to investigate the situation. The two stared at the scorch marks where their comrades had passed away.
It seemed that all patrols were split into groups, with each group containing two people. The reason why each group only had such a small number of people must be due to the fact that there were soul patrols as additional guards during the night.
“What happened? Anyone will do. Explain it to us.”
Three nearby players tried to explain the series of events that had unfolded. They pointed at the burnt pine tree before pointing at the spot where the two guards had been burnt to death. Sila tried to observe everyone’s reactions, no matter how subtle they were.
“It must be the work of some of our enemies.”
“Sir Revin is in seclusion. That place forbids communication through the system. We will have to personally inform him.”
Sila’s interest was piqued. Wartime is the period where manpower is greatly required. Despite that, Revin chose to seclude himself. It was unnatural.
“Well, let’s follow protocol,” One of the two said. Then, the two of them split up and went different ways.
Based on their actions, Sila thought they must have split up to inform others about the incident. However, such a simple task could have been done by using the system window. He didn’t understand why they were doing this. In any case, this must be a part of the ‘protocol’ they had mentioned.
Something unexpected had occurred but the Heavenly Dragon Guild members were relatively calm about it. Just this fact alone implied that Revin indeed had prepared some countermeasures.
Sila couldn’t make a decision regarding who he should follow. One of them walked his way while the other headed in another direction.
The clock was ticking, forcing Sila to decide. He took out another dagger made of Artifact Manifestation.
“Oops, sorry, sir.” Sila lightly bumped against the guard who went his way. Although people were stepping aside, making a path for the man, there were some people who couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. Thus, his action didn’t look too suspicious.
Furthermore, the patrol was deeply thinking about his duty, having no time to mind such a trivial matter.
“It’s alright. Just step aside.” The patrol pushed Sila away, totally unaware that the latter had secretly inserted the dagger into one of the belt loops on his pants.
Sila stepped aside, making way for the patrol to pass by. He then quit paying his attention to this patrol and started following the other one. Relying on Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps, he could follow the man with ease.
Artifact Manifestation was a magic-type skill. Among the three energy types, magic was the one Sila understood the least. However, it was an undeniable fact that magic had the largest pool of skills for players to learn. Magic skills were also usually better than those of other types.
One feature of Artifact Manifestation that Sila had discovered by chance during his use of it in the Summer Forest was the fact that he always knew the location of each artifact he materialized.
Of course, unlike psychic-type abilities, he didn’t know their precise location or what was around them. However, he could somehow tell which direction they were in and the distance between him and the artifact. The knowledge didn’t come in a form of numerical values, but feelings. To be honest, Sila believed that this feature must be a little supplemental ability of Artifact Manifestation. Otherwise, the user would have a difficult time choosing which artifact they wanted to deactivate.
It was only recently that Sila was made aware of the brilliance of magic. In fact, what he was experiencing was a form of Essence of Magic: Unison.
The patrol led Sila to encounter another two-man patrol. They exchanged a few words and hand signals before all three of them headed different ways, similar to the previous time.
‘Umm... It seems they relay a message from one to another when an unexpected situation occurs. They might have come to an agreement beforehand about how many people had to be reached before one of them goes to Revin. Still... I wonder why they don’t just use the system window.’
As a matter of fact, this procedure was something Montra and Revin had come up with to counter Beluga. The two thought that the one responsible for attacking Zhongsuyuan City must be Beluga since the Mountain Thieves League knew a lot about the city. Unexpectedly, the one responsible for the raid turned out to be Sila.
During last year’s war event, Beluga had utilized psychic-type players who had the ability to intercept messages sent through system windows, eavesdropping on the opponents’ conversations. As a result, the Mountain Thieves League’s movements were always a step ahead of the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s.
Hence, for this year’s war event, Montra chose to rely on a traditional method, relaying messages through an unknown number of players. Beluga’s weakness was his lack of manpower. The Mountain Thieves League couldn’t possibly follow all of the messengers. Among the messengers, some were there to relay a message while many were simply decoys.
One of the three guards went back the same way while the other two split up.
Sila relied on the same tactic. This time, however, he was more prepared. He materialized magic power under his cloak, using Artifact Manifestation to summon much smaller daggers. As he passed the patrol walking his way, he fired one of the tiny daggers to stab deep into the heel of the guard’s shoe.
As for the other two who went different ways, Sila shifted his gaze between them. He was alone, so it was close to impossible to follow everyone.
At that moment, Sila was reminded of how Asava explained that the Demon God was responsible for the impossible missions that they received.
He decided to emulate the Demon God, attempting to do the impossible; simultaneously following everyone by himself through Artifact Manifestation. Although he was still clueless as to which one of them would go to meet Revin, he deemed that he must know all of their locations at the very least.
Sila internally circulated his power to the best of his ability without allowing any of it to leak out. He was extremely careful not to let the soul patrols notice his power.
Dual Overwhelming Attributes — Metal splits Wood, Surging Strike.
Sila’s qi exited from his heel and submerged into the ground. It dived six meters underground before splitting itself into two waves, each with different strengths. The smaller wave crashed into the ankle of a bystander, making them stumble and bump into one of the patrols. As for the bigger wave, it subtly hit the aforementioned patrol’s right ankle, making him feel pain. However, the man himself must think that his ankle was sprained due to the bump.
As the patrol’s attention was on the sprained ankle, Sila quickly fired the tiny dagger into the man’s left boot before leaving the scene without looking back.
Sila went to the third patrol and repeated the same action. Then, he took a quick detour to visit the first patrol who had his dagger hanging from a belt loop. He came just in time when the patrol was exchanging words with another two guards.
The same situations repeated again and again. Sila would tail one of the patrols and leave an artifact on all of the others. True, for him to revisit the patrols who branched off from the one he tailed, a lot of work was required. He admitted it was possible that he might have missed some while switching between targets. However, this was already the best he could manage. If today’s plan ended in failure, he would have to consult Asava and come up with other strategies.
As Sila reached the fifth split in patrols, who also went their separate ways after a few words and hand gestures, he sensed that his artifacts were scattered throughout the city, implying that there must be some pattern to their movements. He just didn’t know it yet.
When Sila was about to follow the next group, suddenly, he felt that a certain artifact had vanished without a trace. Thus, he stopped tailing the patrols and headed in the direction that the artifact went missing. It was five hundred meters north of his current location.
‘The reason why the artifact went missing must be because someone went into another dimension.’
Arriving at the destination, Sila memorized the spot where the artifact had vanished. It was a small alley next to the main street, its entrance so narrow that only one or two people could pass through at a time.
Sila decided not to get any closer for now. He was still clueless about whether Revin could change the location of the mysterious gate or whether the man could realize when people go through it. If only one of the two turned out to be positive, there was a high probability that Revin would change the location of the gate as soon as Sila went through. Everything he had done tonight would be for naught and he would put himself at too much risk.
Simply striding past the questionable alley, Sila took a quick side glance at it and found that the entrance was quite blurry, implying that some illusionary power was being used to conceal the existence of the gate.
Sila walked away, gaining more distance from it. He toured the city twice, ensuring that no one was tailing him, before returning to the hideout.
Five days had passed since Sila’s group had arrived at Zhongsuyuan City. Burapha had been busy delivering air conditioners to customers in every corner of the city. The distribution was going surprisingly well.
Zhongsuyuan City was a tropical city located next to a wasteland and a desert. Even though the shadows from the pine trees helped to block the sunlight, the heat still remained. The city was similar to the northern region, albeit not as severe. As long as one possessed some degree of mastery at energy reinforcement to protect themselves against the heat, they would be fine. It was different from Belacia City where you might freeze to death if you fail to constantly clad yourself with power. Zhongsuyuan City was famous as a trading city, so most players were willing to pay some cash to get their hands on an air conditioner, conveniently eliminating any issues with the heat.
During this period of time, Sila and Kimon’s members made no further moves, afraid that too much of their involvement would spoil the plan and ruin everything they had done so far.
Aside from the ‘Mysterious Flames’ incident that happened four days ago, Zhongsuyuan City had remained in a peaceful state. However, that was only on the surface. Recently, there were several small fights breaking out in the city. While the fights didn’t escalate due to the citizens’ fear of Revin’s influence, the minds of people were pent-up with anger and distrust, ready to explode.
As for Children of the Sea, they were steadily making a name for themselves. They were pioneers in selling air conditioners. While other merchants wanted to copy the idea and sell the same thing, they were aware that an air conditioner is the kind of item that, unlike consumables or weapons, won’t be purchased a second time for a while after the customer buys the first one. Considering the risk and reward, they decided not to jump into this market.
The Pine Leaf Restaurant was always filled with customers. Recently, the number of customers exceeded even that of the best restaurant, the Pine View Restaurant. The reason was obviously the seafood, which left a rare taste for players living in the Main Continent. It was quite unexpected since most if not all players had surely been to Port City. It was even the very first city they’d come across on the Main Continent.
The reason was simple. Most players kept all of their money to pay for the ship departing from the Island of Beginnings. They were short on cash once they arrived at the port, so they rarely chose to spend it on fancy restaurants located around the port.
Moreover, while Lockheart City was called a city, it was actually just a harbor. The reason why it was regarded as such was that some people set up shops and a few buildings around, targeting new players who took a few moments around the harbor before venturing outside. There were neither quests nor notable monsters, leading to players rarely returning to Lockheart City if they weren’t merchants.
The first batch of seafood was almost sold out after just five days. In addition, Burapha’s group received a lot of “reservations” for future orders, coming from not only direct customers but also middlemen and various restaurants. If Children of the Sea successfully secured the seafood market, they would undoubtedly rake in constant waves of profit. However, it was exactly due to this successful trading that Burapha had a severe headache.
In the afternoon, Burapha brought a pile of stacked documents into the hideout, his face clearly showing anxiety.
Inside, Sila was watching a small cluster of golden flames on his right palm. In fact, he had been doing this for four days straight.
Burapha personally didn’t want to disturb Sila’s concentration. However, the situation was urgent. He had no choice but to inform Sila, the leader of the raid operation.
“Ahem, Big Brother Sila.”
The golden flames wavered for a split second. Sila hurriedly covered them using both hands. A burst of bright light flashed through his fingers, so intense that Burapha had to cover his eyes.
Once the light faded away, Burapha noticed that Sila was healing his burnt hands. It took a few moments before the injuries were gone.
“Are you okay, Big Brother? What was that just now?” Burapha asked out of concern.
“Ah? That? It’s alright. I was just trying a new power that I still can’t completely control. It seems I can’t lose even a fraction of my concentration while using it.”
“Big Brother... we can’t revive during the war event. I don’t think you should take that kind of risk.”
“Taking a risk? No, I was just trying things out bit by bit. The worst that could happen would be just... losing an arm, I guess? But don’t worry. It won’t be fatal. By the way, was there something you needed?”
Burapha believed it was no point to persuade his weirdly stubborn big brother, so he gave up rather quickly. He placed the pile of papers on a table next to Sila.
“There is a big problem, one which we didn’t anticipate.”
Sila flipped the papers without reading them.
Burapha sighed. “It would be news worth celebrating if we’re doing actual business. However, for us, things will go terribly wrong at this rate. Our seafood sells too well. Our stock is running out. This is even taking into account the fact that I slowed down our sales. Otherwise, we would have sold everything two days ago.”
“What exactly is the problem, then? Can’t we just ask our source for more?”
Burapha lowered his head. “It’s my fault. I never considered a situation where we run out of seafood. Children of the Sea already gave us all the seafood they had. Even if we request more, there won’t be any within a short period of time. We claimed that we were going to launch a new branch in Zhongsuyuan City. It will look extremely suspicious if they find out that we don’t have the second batch of products prepared.”
Upon hearing the explanation, Sila’s expression immediately turned serious. Their reason for entering the city was for trading. However, it was just a pretense. They had no plans to keep doing business, so they didn’t prepare for a long-term trading scenario. If this fact was released to the public, they would instantly lose their chance to perform a surprise attack.
“No, it’s my fault. We originally planned to start the raid in three days, but I postponed it. Otherwise, this problem wouldn’t have occurred.”
Sila closed his eyes, considering his available options before opening his mouth to ask Burapha.
“What is the progress of each group?”
“They’re all finished. As you have just said, Big Brother, our strategy was originally planned to be done in three days.”
Sila let out a sigh as he made a decision. “In that case, go tell everyone that we’ll start the raid tonight. We have to take action before someone becomes suspicious of us, otherwise, we will lose our only advantage. I’ll send messages to Cross and Sebastian to proceed at the same time.”
Burapha was shocked. “Tonight?! What about Big Brother Lomyok, then?”
“Lomyok is quite eye-catching. I’ll search for him in the city. If we’re lucky, he might have already left.”
“What if he is still in the city?”
“Well, I’ll try to do something about it. Let’s hurry up and finish the preparations, Burapha. Go tell those who are free to look for Lomyok. On the other hand, those who will participate in the operation should go rest.”
Sensing the impatience in Sila’s tone, Burapha quickly left to do as Sila instructed. As for Sila, he was restless even when Burapha had left. It still couldn’t be concluded for certain that Lomyok was no longer in the city even if they didn’t find him. Maybe he was simply resting in a hotel room.
One thing for sure, however, was the fact that if he failed to raid Zhongsuyuan City tonight, everything would fall apart. The union’s plans were linked to each other like a row of dominoes. If they failed at the first step, the rest would be out of the question.
With his heavy state of mind, Sila opened his system window and sent a message to Cross, then sent the same one to Bluebird, who was closest to Sebastian.
Cross opened his system window and read the new message with no change in expressions. To be honest, he found Sila’s behavior of changing schedule time and time again troublesome. However, he understood that Sila must have some reason to do so.
Zhongsuyuan City was the place where the least number of Wicked Union members had been gathered. In a way, it could be said that it was the union’s most vulnerable spot. As such, their linked plans used Zhongsuyuan City as a starting point.
‘So it has to be tonight, huh. Too bad. It’s the worst possible timing for my side.’
While Cross might be complaining inwardly, he also understood that wartime is the period when things always change. No matter how difficult the sudden obstacles are, his only choices are to struggle and survive or die.
If there was one area in which Cross was superior to others, that would be his ability to make decisions swiftly. In fact, it was precisely because of this quality that Montra targeted him despite his fighting ability being the weakest among the Four Emperors.
‘If the raid had started a couple days ago, it would have been the best start we could ask for, since the Heavenly Dragon Guild was still perplexed about the news regarding Lone Wolf’s death. However, the time has passed and they are now on high alert. Their defenses are going to be in top condition. Actually, it would be wiser to wait a bit more until they lower their guard before performing the raid. Heck... the underground tunnel is still unfinished and will need several more days. What should I do now...?’
“Hm... I will have to take a higher risk, I guess.” Cross opened his system window and sent a command to assemble his people.
Someone blew a horn, generating a loud noise. Startled, a flock of birds flew away from their nests.
The camps of the Royal Armament Guild were always prepared to wage war. Once Cross exited his tent, he could see that all of his subordinates had stopped their usual activities and rushed to their makeshift meeting spot. In less than five minutes, the army consisting of five hundred players had finished assembling and was now waiting for Cross’ instructions.
For the record, Cross divided his entire army into seven battalions. Since they had no legitimate base, each battalion set up their camps along the edge of the Single-Horned Dragon Forest. The locations of their camps were spread out with some distance between each of them, reducing their chances of being eliminated together.
Cross stepped up onto a small stage prepared for him to make an announcement. He swept his gaze to observe everyone before starting his speech.
“Tonight we will attack Siaferia City. Prepare yourselves! Listen to my orders! Firstly, Shueria and Fargo, each of you will lead two battalions, going to the left and right sides.”
Shueria and Fargo noticed something strange, but they remained silent. Both of them simply acknowledged their assignments accordingly without raising a question.
Something strange was surely going on. Cross wasn’t the kind of leader who suddenly changed his plan without informing his teammates of the reason.
“...As for the main army, Tiger will be responsible for commanding the remaining three battalions.”
With their well-trained discipline, there were neither complaints nor arguments. However, the people’s eyes clearly showed that they were extremely confused regarding Cross’ decision.
Tiger had relatively weak fighting ability. In fact, commanders of some battalions were even stronger than him. Despite that, the man was assigned to command the main army, which meant he had enough authority to give orders to Fargo and Shueria. No matter how they looked at it—be it regarding fighting ability, seniority, or suitability—Cross’ choice of appointment this time was questionable.
“Now, Jundtrathep and Tiger, step forward,” Cross gave out another order while checking his system window.
Totally bewildered of the reason why she was called, Jundtrathep came out of the battalion in a dumbfounded manner. It was one thing for Tiger. However, she couldn’t find a single reason why she was called.
“Come up here.”
Receiving Cross’ command, the two went up onto the stage. Cross took out a sword from his system window and offered it to Tiger.
“This sword may not be high in quality, but it’s of utmost importance to me. I give it to you as a memento of your first time leading the main army.”
Tiger extended his hand to accept the sword, his gaze noticing small letters engraved on the blade. He speculated that Cross must have written them using psychic power.
Cross gave no further explanation, but just his previous words about how the sword was of ‘utmost importance’ were enough to give Tiger a clue. The reason why he was doing this kind of thing could only imply that someone was keeping an eye on this assembly. That much was certain.
“I’ll do my best, Leader.” Tiger received the sword with both hands.
Next, Cross took out a small item box from his system window. The way he gazed at it for a split second was hard to explain. He handed it to Jundtrathep.
Receiving the box, Jundtrathep opened it and found that there was a pair of silver rings inside. The system notified her that they were part of a set called Couple’s Rings of Commitment.
“Eh? Rings? Why?”
“You don’t have to give me your answer right away. However, I have something to tell you in private. Can we talk? Just the two of us. Please follow me if you aren’t against it.”
“E-Eh? W-What do you mean? C-Could this be...?”
While Jundtrathep was still confused by the situation, Cross had already left the stage and was walking along the edge of the forest. The surroundings turned deathly silent.
As people were paying attention to Jundtrathep and Cross, Tiger imbued his eyes with psychic power, strengthening his vision. He might be unable to see an object a dozen kilometers away, but reading the hidden message on the blade was well within his capabilities. As he finished reading it, he tapped Jundtrathep on her shoulder.
“You should go, Jund. Whether you accept or reject his will, you should at least give the man a reply.”
Jundtrathep was still confused. In all her life, she had never experienced this kind of moment before. In any case, it was exactly as Tiger suggested. She had to give the man her reply. The place and time seemed inappropriate though.
“Mn. I understand, Big Brother Tiger.”
Jundtrathep followed Cross, leaving everyone behind to feel confused about the situation. They began to wonder whether the reason why Tiger was assigned to an important task was related to how he was Jundtrathep’s close comrade. Some became interested in the Sword Emperor’s new love story while some were displeased by how their leader was playing favorites and abandoned his duties to flirt with a girl.
As a result, only a few people noticed that Tiger had approached Shueria and Fargo. Even if they did, they found it rather logical for three commanders to have a discussion before the raid.
Furthermore, Tiger was still inexperienced. It was natural that he would want to seek the two’s advice.
Concurrently, Bluebird sped up his journey to the Skull Mountain Pass. As he showed a red piece to the guards and they had been informed of his arrival beforehand, it took him no time to enter the inner area.
As Bluebird strode past the area, many players along the way intently watched his movements. Each of them might possess subpar fighting prowess. However, their faces were thuggish and scary, leaving the impression that this place was a den of thieves.
Well, it wasn’t totally incorrect to claim it as such. The place was technically a den of thieves, albeit orchestrated by Sebastian who set it up on Sila’s orders.
Bluebird pushed a certain door open. Inside, there were Sebastian and a group of players sitting around.
“Sila said the time has come,” announced Bluebird.
Sebastian nodded, while the rest of the people showed excited expressions. The butler turned his head to look at them.
“Make sure you remember your roles and duties, everyone.”
The people in the room responded with clamor. They left the room. A commotion could be heard from the outside. Soon, people began to exit the mountain pass.
Sebastian turned back to Bluebird. “What about you, Mister Blue? Have you remembered your role?”
Bluebird took out a skull-shaped white mask that once belonged to someone he called friend, and placed it over his face. He also mimicked the voice of the mask’s original owner.
“Certainly. I doubt the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s members will have time to rest tonight.”
Cross was waiting outside of his tent with a restless mind. To be honest, his confidence in the success of what he planned to do was less than fifty percent. If it was the old him, there would be no way he would do something so reckless like this. However, he had already begun. It seemed Sila’s presence also influenced him in a way that he didn’t realize.
The sound of weak footsteps came from the direction of the gathering. Jundtrathep was walking slowly, her mind nervous. Similar to Cross, she wasn’t confident in herself at all.
During the course of her travel, she was diligently practicing lines in her head. Jundtrathep sincerely hoped that her rejection wouldn’t be too harsh to the man.
Finally, Jundtrathep arrived at the destination. Witnessing Cross’ anxious expression, she took a deep breath and quickly declared her will before things became more complicated.
“E-Erm. T-Thank you very much for sharing your feelings with me. However, I believe we still don’t know each other that well. Also, I, umm, I-I already have someone I like. How about… we become... friends?”
In all her honesty, Jundtrathep didn’t even know what she was saying. She didn’t know whether Cross wanted to make a new friend. As far as she knew, Cross’ friends only consisted of Fargo and Shueria.
Nevertheless, Cross’ reaction was unlike any of her expectations. He looked at her as if he was looking at a freak.
“What are you talking about? Hurry up and put on the ring. We’re short on time.”
Jundtrathep panicked and instinctively replied, “Even if you force me, there is no way I will—”
Cross frowned at her words as he explained, “Oi! Don’t misunderstand. By putting on the rings, our stats will increase by twenty percent when we fight together, we can always teleport to each other, and it’s impossible to block communications between us. You’re extremely important to this war. No matter what it takes, I can’t let you die.”
“Eh? I-I see.” Jundtrathep followed Cross’ train of thought and became embarrassed at herself.
“It’s fine if you have understood. Hurry up and wear the ring. That guy will arrive soon.”
Jundtrathep took one of the rings in the box and put it on her left ring finger. Then, the other ring flew to Cross. The man held onto it, feeling hesitant. He stared at it with mournful eyes as he had originally prepared the rings for someone else. However, a moment later, he sighed and put it on his left ring finger.
Once both silver rings were equipped by the couple, the system added new social status, Lover, to the two players without their consent.
Realizing how she was valued in high regard, Jundtrathep couldn’t help but express her doubt. “Umm... Can I ask a question?”
“Just say it.”
“Am I that important? Even though I always stayed within Big Brother Tiger’s group, I noticed either Mister Fargo or Mister Shueria frequently came to look after us every hour.”
Cross nodded. He wasn’t looking at her though. Even before she had arrived, he seemed to always be on guard, surveying the area.
“Yes, you are. Your skills are very important, especially Land of Promises. It’s the reason why you’re being sent to Siaferia City’s battlefield instead of the other ones. This battle requires your skills the most. They will play a large role in determining who wins and who loses.”
Jundtrathep still didn’t understand. True, she knew that Land of Promises was a fraudulent skill. However, its weaknesses were big. Its duration was short while the cooldown was long. Moreover, the most glaring weakness was the fact that she couldn’t move while the skill was in effect. Raiding a city requires the attackers to constantly be on the move. Her skill shouldn’t be as helpful as Cross’ claimed.
“The duration of the skill is just half an hour though.”
“It seems you still don’t understand. An overpowered skill is not something that is only scary when it is active. There are many ways we can use it to our advantage simply by possessing it. Just your presence alone can reassure the army and heighten their morale. More importantly, do you know why we weren’t ambushed even once despite our army size being significantly inferior to Siaferia City’s?”
“Wasn’t it because our camp is in proximity to the Single-Horned Dragon Forest?”
“That was only a part of the reason. However, the real reason was because of your presence. Montra has seen the result brought by your skill. A battle that he could surely win, like the ambush in the Victorious Wolves Sect, can turn out to be a loss. He is a smart guy, so he won’t risk going outside of the fortified city. As long as you still haven’t used the skill, the situation will be like this for a while.”
It was exactly as Cross said. Despite having a long cooldown and a short duration when the skill is active, it possesses the potential to overturn the result of a battle. Land of Promises’ presence was especially powerful in an important battle where they couldn’t afford to lose.
Both Kawin and Montra had discussed beforehand that they would stay inside the city, gaining benefit from Montra’s Emperorship. Only when Jundtrathep had either died or expended the skill would they disregard the buff and march their army outside of the city. They planned to crush the Royal Armament Guild’s army within the span of a week before the skill’s cooldown finishes.
In this kind of situation, not using it was equivalent to constantly using it.
“Let me warn you. No matter what happens, even if any of your friends are dying—I don’t care, just don’t ever activate Land of Promises. I’ll personally tell you when to use it.”
“How will you tell me though?”
Cross showed the ring on his finger. “You’ll surely get the message. The timing is incredibly important. We can’t afford to be too early or too late, even by a minute.”
“I understand. Let’s head back to the main army, then. Everyone must be waiting.”
“No one is waiting. I ordered them to move without us.”
“Eh? We won’t participate in the raid, then?”
“This is essentially a mock raid, just for probing their defense. I let Tiger handle it so that he will get used to managing a large army. As for us, we also have our own battle. From now on, stay behind me. If something bad happens, use this crystal to teleport to Shueria. Understand?”
Cross pushed a Crystal of Connecting to Jundtrathep’s hand.
She held it, blinking confusedly. “What do you mean?”
Cross pulled her to his back, his eyes glaring at the forest. His reply was short. “He’s here.”
Cross’ short sentence didn’t require further explanation. Even though Jundtrathep had yet to see a silhouette of the arriving person, just a mass of darkness and the chilling wind, accompanied by drifting tree leaves in an unnatural way, was enough for her to realize that an ominous presence had arrived.
The sun had yet to set, yet it seemed like this area around them had already reached twilight. While wondering about the reason, Jundtrathep noticed that it was neither because of the sky, climate, nor the position of the sun. The murky atmosphere came from black dots of mana contaminating the air.
“Zazae, no need to hide. I know you’re here.”
The shadow of death, or rather the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s best assassin, made an abrupt appearance next to a tree. Zazae was fully covered in a robe, preventing everyone from seeing his face. Only his gleaming eyes, together with his naked feet, were visible.
Zazae’s approaching steps didn’t make any noise, but they exerted mysterious pressure that almost suffocated Jundtrathep.
“You can even detect my presence? You’ve improved from before, huh, Cross?”
“Heh. You hid in between my camp and the forest, taking advantage of the fact that my people didn’t dare to enter the forest and the Single-Horned Dragons don’t like going outside. You may be a prodigy regarding qi, but you’re an amateur when it comes to psychic power. No matter how well you conceal your qi, your mental oppression is out in the open.”
Apparently, all of Cross’ skills had been copied by Zazae. However, his skill pool focused on heightening his mental oppression and controlling weapons. Even he had a difficult time hiding his killing intent. For Zazae to watch him, it was needless to say that he would detect the man’s presence. Just sensing familiar psychic power from the forest was more than enough for him to identify the culprit. It was a no-brainer since Single-Horned Dragons couldn’t use psychic power.
“Are you saying that you realized, yet you didn’t run away?”
“Run away? Why would I? This is the perfect chance for me to get back at you for what you did.”
Cross emitted psychic power, pushing Jundtrathep further behind, and took out two ordinary-looking broadswords. His entire body was enveloped by psychic power reinforcement. He knew that Zazae had activated Dragon Domain. Refusing to fall for the same trick twice, he immediately took action.
“The fallen Sword Emperor. What a letdown. Even your swords are cheap tools. Regardless, no matter how pitiful you are in your final moments, you aren’t worthy of being my main target. Alas, as a show of thanks for the skills you gave me, I will let you die within three moves.”
Zazae’s title, the Three Stars Warlord, wasn’t just for show. With a few exceptions, he has never needed to deliver a fourth strike to an opponent
Zazae possessed Frost Demon Qi, one of Ten Supreme Qi, as his foundation. The qi was outstanding in its circulation speed and its freezing aura. Not only could he exert qi reinforcement in a short period of time, but his base movement speed also improved greatly. His ability to speedily shift his power in an instant was his deadliest weapon. He could swiftly pour all his qi into his dagger, achieving pulverizing attack power. While that moment would leave himself defenseless, he could always migrate the power back into his body, taking less than a second.
Another indispensable factor was the Skeleton Dragon’s magic power that had the ability to weaken, or even nullify, his opponents’ power. No matter how sturdy his opponent was, Zazae would just get rid of their defense by invalidating their energy reinforcement. Then, his dagger would fly to their vital spot, killing them neatly.
In addition to the above qualities, Zazae still had a chain whip to restrict his opponent’s movements. His proficiency at using hidden weapons also ranked among the top five of all players.
Unsurprisingly, Zazae’s main target was Jundtrathep. After he had finished taking care of Lone Wolf, he rushed to this place as his next destination. His duty was to travel all over the Main Continent, assassinating important figures that would become threats to the Heavenly Dragon Guild.
Zazae wasn’t the kind of a guy who looked down on his opponents despite his speeches giving off that impression. He was simply confident, and it wasn’t baseless confidence at all. Even when Lone Wolf and Cross joined forces to fight him, he could still win. With his estimation of Cross’ fighting ability, he was being honest when he said he could kill Cross within three moves.
Zazae was a player who possessed enough strength to be considered an Emperor. However, he didn’t like being in the spotlight. He was satisfied with the title Three Stars Warlord despite his fighting ability being far above that of the other Warlords.
Taking a side glance, Cross noticed that the Crystal of Connecting in Jundtrathep’s hand had stopped glowing after Zazae’s arrival.
Cross shifted his gaze to a faintly glowing bracelet on Zazae’s left wrist. Just a glance could tell that it was an item produced in the Android Kingdom. It seemed the unsealed Android Kingdom possessed advanced technology of unimaginable level. The bracelet must have some ability that prevents the use of dimension-related items.
“Rhythm of the Imperial Graveyard!”
The two swords flew out of Cross’ hands before two more swords appeared in their places. Seeing how Cross wielded dual swords, people’s common sense would think that he was a melee fighter. However, Zazae was aware that Cross’ fighting style was to control weapons in mid-air through psychic power. Thus, the distance at which he was the most dangerous wasn’t melee, but mid-range.
Zazae moved as fast as a shadow. He threw a metal ball attached to a chain whip forward while brandishing a scythe, which attached to the other end of the same chain whip, to the right. Both attacks were aimed at Jundtrathep.
The length of the chain whip seemed endlessly long. It also had irregular movements due to Zazae’s psychic power. One attack flew directly while the other one took a detour around Cross.
Cross had no choice. To protect Jundtrathep, he drew both swords in his hands, parrying both ends of the chain whip.
Coming into contact with the chain whip imbued with magic power generated by Zazae’s Dragon Scales, Cross’ psychic power sharply fell and his body felt heavy. It was only Zazae’s first move, but he had already been affected by Skeleton Dragon’s weakening magic power.
Unfortunately for Cross, he had a burden called Jundtrathep, so he was caught in Zazae’s attack in a single move. Honestly speaking, Zazae felt rather disappointed by it.
Zazae’s body vanished and miraculously reappeared in front of Cross. He unsheathed a dagger hanging from his waist, cladding it with qi. The length of the blade extended, becoming like a sword.
Zazae was aware that Cross was a member of the undead race. The man wouldn’t die easily. Thus, he intended to sever Cross’s neck once and for all.
As if it were a desperate attempt, Cross swung a sword at Zazae. It was the last struggle before death. The sword without psychic power reinforcement was no different from a wooden block. Zazae had no intention to even spare it a look.
However, in the very last second, Zazae noticed a strange light in Cross’ eyes and realized that something was wrong. Those eyes didn’t belong to a desperate man. His intuition ordered him to jump back, and that helped him to escape from death. Cross’ sword only managed to graze his face, leaving a long wound.
“Tch!” Cross let out a short exclamation, showing displeasure. He planned to exploit Zazae’s moment of carelessness, killing the guy. Well, he hadn’t let his hopes get too high. Mind Concealment was a skill he hadn’t had much success with.
Zazae noticed what had gone wrong only when he had stepped back. Apparently, Cross didn’t wield a sword in each of his hands, but two. Cross had been using psychic power, controlling two more swords to float near the two swords in his hands. What had come into contact with the chain whip were the floating swords, so the weakening power of Dragon Scales didn’t affect Cross’ body.
Cross had pretended to be weak, concealing his psychic power and waiting for Zazae to approach him. He had planned to kill Zazae at the range that favored the Three Star Warlord the most.
Cross kicked off the ground, leaping toward Zazae. However, his movement speed was inferior to Zazae’s. It was worth mentioning that Zero, Sila, Bluebird, and Zazae were the best when it came to pure speed.
Nevertheless, that was only when there wasn’t interference.
Jundtrathep activated the mid-tier supporting spell she had cast and delayed beforehand. Her ability to read situations and utilize magic spells had greatly improved compared to before. She had learned to use magic power reinforcement, Magic Delay, and seize the right timing. Moreover, with Couple’s Rings of Commitment combined with Cross’ command-type psychic power, the man could give her instructions through mental communication.
A pair of white wings protruded from Cross’ back. His speed got an abrupt boost. His entire body was like a flying arrow, the sword in his hand pointing forward as if it were an arrowhead.
Zazae gritted his teeth and fired several kunai, pressuring Cross to defend against them. However, unlike his expectation, Cross simply grinned. The man didn’t choose to dodge. In fact, he didn’t even bother putting up his defense.
The sword pierced through Zazae’s shoulder as Cross was stabbed by a dozen kunai.
The end had yet to come. Cross flicked both hands once, pouring dozens of swords from his system window. Given how close the distance between him and Zazae was, he could easily encircle Zazae with swords.
The swords vibrated heavily as Zazae tried to push them away while Cross pulled them in. The level of their psychic power was equal, so their actions only made the swords remain transfixed in mid-air.
The swords suddenly became red, blinking.
Zazae now realized his mistake. He didn’t expect Cross to pull off a suicidal attack, using a powerful skill at a distance where both of them would be affected.
In any case, Cross knew how dangerous and risky his strategy would be. He had considered the possibility that he wouldn’t survive this fight. That was why he had assigned all of the work to Tiger just in case.
With an ear-shattering explosion, fragments of swords scattered in every direction. Cross’ move was similar to what he had used against Sila. At that time, even Sila didn’t dare to receive the attack head-on. He had to rely on the many techniques of Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws to reduce the power of the explosion.
Zazae didn’t excel in defense. There was no way he could survive a move that Cross specifically designed to take down Zero.
Amidst the cloud of smoke, there appeared a faint light. A gust of wind generated by qi soon blew the smoke away, showing Zazae who stood alone without a single injury. Well, he would have lost if it wasn’t for Dragon Heart.
“A splendid last move, Cross. You have my respect.”
Zazae shifted his gaze to Jundtrathep, his main target who foolishly didn’t run away. In any case, given his speed, she wouldn’t be able to escape his clutch even if she ran.
“It’s now your turn.”
Zazae took a step forward. However, he stopped shortly after. He could sense dreadful power locking on him. Just the killing intent alone already grazed his reinforced skin, leaving shallow wounds.
It was a powerful killing intent belonging to a fearsome beast on the verge of dying. Turning around, Zazae noticed Cross leaning against a tree—the man’s legs were broken, his armor shattered, his right arm missing, his left hand snapped, and kunai sticking out of his chest, neck, and shoulders. Still, Cross’ eyes were unyielding. The level of Mental Oppression the man exerted was worlds apart from before.
The change in level of Cross’ psychic power was so fierce that Zazae didn’t dare to move despite his target, Jundtrathep, being only fifteen steps away from him. Given his speed, he could comfortably kill her in a couple of seconds. However, as mentioned above, he didn’t dare to move.
The pressure Zazae perceived was as if he was imprisoned within a cage together with a wild, vicious animal. This feeling had occurred to him once before when he faced off against Mamon.
It was a feeling of fear. The shadow of death—which had usually been his presence toward his targets—was now creeping toward him.
Zazae didn’t find it strange when Mamon was the one pressuring him. However, the man crawling in front of him was merely Cross—a man who not only was inferior to him but was also on the verge of dying. In fact, Cross might die in a matter of seconds even if he did nothing.
“What did you do?” Zazae asked reflexively. He was totally clueless as to what was going on.
“Told you. You’re an amateur when it comes to psychic power, Zazae. As I am now, even if I can’t move, I can still kill you within three moves, no doubt about it!”
Just the fact that Cross was still alive was already shocking enough for Zazae. Beyond that, he even sensed that Cross had become stronger despite being in a state where he couldn’t physically move. The scene prompted Zazae to go over what he knew about psychic power again.
It was common knowledge that psychic power was something that didn’t require extensive training to develop. Psychic ability will gradually strengthen itself through the user’s understanding. In addition, during moments of crisis, it has the potential to get a boost in power, surpassing the user’s current limits.
Zazae was aware of those aforementioned facts. However, he never paid them any mind.
Saying training is not required is just an excuse for lazy people, who want to slack off and hope they will become stronger by doing nothing. That was the very reason why Zazae selected qi type. His strength came from diligent training. Qi, which was the most stable and versatile, was naturally the most suitable for his playstyle.
As for the ‘breaking through limits’ part, Zazae guessed it was somewhat accurate. However, based on his experience in which he had slain over a hundred psychic-type players, he had never encountered anyone who received a boost in power as intense as Cross just did. At the very best, they only got a subtle increase in stats. Not even once had he seen someone actually break their limits and seem like a completely different person afterward.
Unbeknownst to Zazae, Cross had predicted this exact line of thinking from him. For someone extremely skilled like Zazae, even when he had copied Cross’ psychic ability, it was likely that he had never experienced a grave crisis. Even when Zazae was losing to Mamon, his psychic power still didn’t develop. The main reason for that was because he had assessed the situation and believed that he could survive by escaping. It was completely different from Cross at this very moment. Cross was on the brink of death and only felt desperation. For him, there were only two ways this could end: he wins, or he dies.
Due to self-confidence, Zazae had been neglecting his psychic power. Just his qi and magic abilities were already more than enough to overwhelm any of his enemies, defeating them within three moves. He rarely used psychic power in decisive battles. It was regretful though. Psychic power is something that will best develop when used in real battles rather than in training sessions. It could be said that the Envy Card lost most of its value in his possession.
Honestly speaking, the mistake didn’t lay in the card that Montra handpicked for Zazae. Regardless of which card from the Seven Deadly Sins set he was given, they would always be unsuitable for him. Zazae was the type to rely on himself rather than items. As such, the Envy skill failed to exert its full potential.
In fact, in the battle which Zazae fought against Cross and Lone Wolf, he believed he still would have won even without the Envy card.
It was really regretful. With just a single glance at the Envy card’s ability, it was very obvious that the Demon of Envy, the original Leviathan, was a psychic type creature. Its psychic power was incredibly unique, possessing the ability to completely change its property to become qi or magic power according to its will.
For the record, the Water Dragon Leviathan was actually one of its clones. The Demon of Envy had several clones, with each wielding a different kind of power. The Water Dragon was one of the few among them who developed their own egos, though it later got lost and ended up in the New World.
Since he was already so strong and confident, Zazae unknowingly stopped himself from struggling to become stronger. Deep down in his mind, he was already satisfied with his own fighting ability. Ultimately, that thought hindered the growth of the psychic power he copied from Cross.
Not advancing was the same as regressing.
In conclusion, it was safe to say that psychic power was the least compatible energy type for Zazae. If he had chosen to become a psychic-type player, his combat ability would have failed to develop as much and he would be stuck at the same level as Savage Killer, who was one of Lost Ghost’s henchmen.
Furthermore, even now, he was making another simple mistake. While it was common knowledge that psychic power can get a boost in power according to the user’s state of mind, only legitimate psychic-type players were aware that the reverse also applied. Psychic power can deteriorate according to the user’s state of mind as well. In a battle between psychic-type players, the side that could intimidate the opponent would have an overwhelming advantage.
The instant Zazae felt fear, the psychic power within him started to hinder his movements. Although the effect was subtle, it could be a key factor in an important battle, leading to one’s demise.
As the atmosphere intensified, Zazae had only one instinctive approach to handle the feeling of fear: eliminate the source of it.
Hidden weapons, clad with qi, were fired backward. Each kunai was imbued with Sun God Qi, emitting intense heat that one would also feel from fireballs. Even against Cross who had become a fixed target, Zazae still excessively fired more than ten kunai simultaneously.
Cross didn’t move a muscle, but his killing intent flickered. The two former kunai, stuck in his body, slid out and floated in mid-air. They flashed red before flying into the group of flame kunai and exploding. The explosion swept away all the hidden weapons fired by Zazae, knocking them to the ground.
Cross’ psychic power quickly spread like an epidemic. This time, all ten or so kunai were in Cross’ control. They floated up before three of them then flew back at their previous owner, Zazae.
Zazae had expected something worse. He had long since researched Cross. Cross’ Psychic Boost, when used on objects away from him, would require two seconds before detonating. For a hidden weapon expert like him, two seconds were more than what he needed.
As Zazae circulated Frost Demon Qi into both hands, his arms seemingly vanished. His wrists’ movement speed was enhanced, catching all three kunai without any difficulties.
However, what Zazae had expected suddenly went wrong. The kunai flashed red only an instant before they exploded, far faster than what his brain could process. They blew up as soon as his fingers touched them, leaving no time for him to throw them away.
Apparently, Cross had broken his limit about requiring two seconds before the explosion. He could do it instantaneously now.
One shouldn’t compare psychic-type players on the verge of dying to their normal state. It could be the difference between heaven and earth. Zazae’s information was far outdated. As a result, he received more injuries than he thought despite being capable of avoiding the attack.
As Zazae’s arms were clad with qi, the damage to them was negligible. Psychic power was weak against qi, so this level of damage was to be expected. However, the same couldn’t be said for his torso, which became relatively defenseless when he focused his qi on both arms. The blow from the explosion pressed on his ribs, cracking them. He felt pain in his chest while constantly coughing out blood.
Zazae came to a sudden realization. Cross wasn’t his main target anyway. Based on the man’s grave injuries, as long as he could kill Jundtrathep who was a support type, Cross would eventually die.
Considering the possibility that his assassination might fail if he continued wasting his time on Cross, Zazae changed his mind to target Jundtrathep.
In any case, Cross had already predicted Zazae’s courses of action. To be honest, things would have been really desperate if Zazae had ignored him and focused on Jundtrathep from the start.
“Too late, Zazae! She already finished her spell!”
With her improved Incantation Shortening skill, coupled with Cross’ stalling for time, Jundtrathep could unleash a high-tier spell against a speedy player like Zazae.
“Summon the Guardians of Light!”
Ten angels dressed like knights appeared, standing between Jundtrathep and her enemy. However, that hardly discouraged Zazae. Rather, he became more elated. Based on his research, all racial skills belonging to the angel species prevented the user from moving while the skill was active. The ten angels didn’t pose him a problem at all. On the other hand, Jundtrathep, who had become a fixed target, would be easy prey for the Three Stars Warlord.
Zazae threw several grenades forward. Aside from common grenades, he also mixed some smoke bombs and flash bombs with them.
Relying on Cruise Breeze, Zazae broke the angels’ formation and forced them to take several steps back. He then fired a dozen kunai strengthened by Frost Demon Qi through the openings they created.
The grenades soon blew up—generating blasts, smoke, and flash—filling the entire area. Nothing could be seen for a moment. Meanwhile, all of the kunai curved toward Jundtrathep as if they had a homing function.
As the kunai were about to hit the young woman, several small round shields suddenly popped up, deviating their trajectories.
The identity of those small shields was obvious. They were formed by Light Shield, one of the most common magic skills, on par with Magic Arrow, which required no casting time. Truthfully speaking, the shields could barely block anything. However, depending on the angle together with the fact that magic power was strong against qi, they were enough to deviate the trajectory of small objects imbued with qi.
Magic is about timing. In fact, Zazae had seen Montra and Trick Master using well-placed Magic Shields to achieve something similar. However, he didn’t expect others, especially Jundtrathep, to reproduce the same feat.
Well, the difficulty levels between their usages were vast. Montra could utilize the shield while on the move and even in close combat. Trick Master could use it as he was casting many other spells, all simultaneously. On the other hand, Jundtrathep used it when she was standing still and didn’t cast other spells in conjunction. That was why her work was done quite decently.
Zazae made one mistake after another. As he wasted time finishing off Jundtrathep, Cross’ attack had arrived. The remaining seven kunai broke into pieces and were replaced by psychic swords. As if ghosts were wielding them, the attacks bombarded Zazae from different angles. He had to constantly parry them with his dagger and chain whip.
For the best assassins like Zazae, it was typical for jobs to end quickly. Throughout his entire history as an assassin, he had never been in a brawl or engaged in a prolonged battle. Staying defensive had never been his forte.
Zazae had confidently declared that he would kill Cross within three moves. However, the number of blows he delivered had already exceeded thirty, yet no one had died.
Five of the Guardians of Light abandoned their usual duties of protecting Jundtrathep and joined the brawl. They surrounded the Three Stars Warlord and brandished their lances from a relatively safe distance. Their attacks were nicely coordinated with Cross’ bombardment, further driving Zazae into a corner.
“Why?” Zazae let out a short exclamation. Based on his intel, the user shouldn’t be able to control the Guardians of Light to this degree. At most, the guardians would only follow basic commands such as attack, defend, or select a target. However, the surrounding Guardians of Light were systemically attacking him as if they had undergone intense group training. All of their attacks were in sync with Cross’ in an unbelievable manner.
Cross showed a grin. It was the result of a synergy effect that even he hadn’t expected. The secret of the coordinated attacks came from him using a command-type psychic ability to finely control the Guardians of Light. What made his action possible was none other than the Couple’s Rings of Commitment. Anything that belonged to Jundtrathep also belonged to him, turning the Guardians of Light into something like a part of his own skill.
Members of the angel species were always pure magic types. There was no way for them to possess command-related skills which usually belonged to psychic-types. Unexpectedly, the synergy effect was so amazing that it went beyond both Zazae and Cross’ imaginations.
Even when he was busy battling against Zazae, Cross was already imagining how he would make use of this new discovery to break through the impenetrable Siaferia City.
The longer the battle dragged on, the more disadvantageous Zazae’s situation became. He realized that he couldn’t win this fight. His mission might fail today, but there were many days ahead in the future. The war event had only just begun, so he believed that there would be more chances awaiting him.
Zazae concentrated his qi for the last time, circulating it even quicker than ever with the help of the Ray Assemble and Cruise Breeze qi techniques. He unleashed Sun God Qi with himself as a center, turning himself into a human torch and burning the surroundings, including the Guardians of Light and psychic swords.
“I admit you’re something, Cross, but next time won’t be the same.”
“Next time?” The corner of Cross’ lips crooked up. “There won’t be one. You shall die right here and now!”
Cross was well aware that letting Zazae go at this time would lead to a big problem. The next time that Zazae attacked, the man would be more prepared. On the other hand, if he managed to kill Zazae today, not only would it heighten his army’s morale, but it would also shatter the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s plan to assassinate the generals of any opposing factions.
For the record, in the previous war event, Zazae didn’t officially show up or engage in a battle against any vice-leaders or guild leaders. His duty was to keep assassinating raid leaders on many battlefields. When someone else was elected as the new raid leader, that person would be killed by him the next day. These players were far weaker than Zazae, so they were always killed within three moves, which led to him having the title Three Stars Warlord at a later point in time.
In any case, Zazae must die today. Such a good opportunity wouldn’t come again so easily.
Zazae tapped the bracelet, shutting off its spatial-interfering function, and took out a Crystal of Connecting. His body was enveloped by the light of teleportation.
While Cross was still gathering his psychic power, Zazae had already become a pillar of light and shot up to the sky.
‘It’s a pity.’ That was Jundtrathep’s first thought. However, it changed once the ring on her left ring finger subtly informed her that the skill Cross was about to unleash wasn’t an offensive skill, but Psychic Manipulation.
Whether it was Mind Concealment or Psychic Manipulation, both were skills that Cross wasn’t proficient at using, so there was some delay before the results would show. He had to fully concentrate to make it work.
For the record, Psychic Manipulation is a skill that can divert the result of a skill or an item that has specific targets, changing the intended result. The less random the aiming is, the stronger Psychic Manipulation’s diversion becomes. It works especially well against single-target magic skills since they essentially lock on to a target and don’t miss.
As a side note, Divine once used the skill in a similar manner when the bandit group tried to invade the Slime Kingdom.
Jundtrathep perceived what she ought to do with her instinct. She ordered all of the Guardians of Light to encircle a certain area, waiting. Ten seconds later, the same white light shot back to the ground, at the same spot where Zazae had activated the Crystal of Connecting.
Zazae’s body had yet to become properly visible, but Cross didn’t wait and roared to Jundtrathep, “Do it now!!”
The ten Guardians of Light poured their attacks into the fading light, thrusting their lances at the exact same location.
Reappearing, Zazae was extremely shocked. He had thought he would return to the Heavenly Dragon Guild. However, as it turned out, he came back to the same place.
Frost Demon Qi was circulating throughout Zazae’s body, using his greatest speed possible. He relied on Worlds Crossing Bridge to redirect the courses of the lances, resulting in only one of them piercing him in the abdomen. As for the remaining nine, they interlaced around him, restraining his movement.
Even when taking the man off guard, they still failed to kill Zazae. Cross swore, “You’re sure damn hard to kill!”
Zazae used Hidden Weapon Firing, summoning another Crystal of Connecting into his hand. However, Cross also unleashed all of his killing intent with comparable speed. Even though it wasn’t a decisive moment between life and death, Cross’ psychic power acknowledged that if Zazae were to get away, the dead man next time would be him. He had to come up with a new idea, and fast.
An instant later, all of the Guardians of Light suddenly froze up and started blinking red.
Combination Move — Heroic Tombs of Light.
All ten of the Guardians of Light blew themselves up just before Zazae could use the item in his hand. Cross and Jundtrathep’s combined move wasn’t only powerful, but the explosion was also compressed into a smaller area shaped like a giant crucifix, as if the explosion served as a massive gravestone for the victim.
The forest became so bright that Cross and Jundtrathep couldn’t see anything for a while, before the light finally faded. As this happened they received the system notification, informing the two of the experience and gold they earned from defeating Zazae.
A pile of items was left on the ground. Among them, the most notable ones were (A) Spatial-Sealing Bracelet, (B) Dragon Tail Chain Whip, (C) Elite Dagger, and (S) Envy Card. Since Cross and Jundtrathep fought together as a couple, all of the items dropped on the ground instead of being directly transferred to their system windows.
Releasing a sigh of relief, Cross was glad that at least this breaking news would help to cover up what Sila intended to do tonight. The Heavenly Dragon Guild would have never imagined that the Three Stars Warlord, who was the strongest among the Five Warlords and had defeated countless generals, would die in the first week of the war event, without killing a single leader of opposing factions.
Colossia City was one of the important medium-sized cities on the Main Continent. Not only was it the city where the system always held tournaments regularly, but it also served as a strategic spot in a sense that it was located in the center of the continent. Hence, after the Royal Armament Guild lost control over the city, it had been conquered and managed by the Heavenly Dragon Guild ever since.
The city was the sole location connected to each of the main cities through relatively safe routes. Unless players traveled on these routes prepared by the system, they would have a more uncomfortable time reaching other cities.
From the city, players could take a shortcut through the Misty Valley, passing through a herd of poisonous spiders along a narrow path, to arrive at Siaferia City. Similarly, they could take a detour around Skull Mountain Pass, passing through Cloudy City, to arrive at Lafesta City. The route was especially troublesome as they had to climb many mountains in the journey. Lastly, to reach Zhongsuyuan City, they could take an irregular route leading to the Labyrinthine Forest Cathedral, the place with a constantly changing layout.
Unfortunately, the significance of Colossia City had been noticeably decreasing. The reason behind the change solely came from Montra’s actions.
Firstly, the system events were no longer desired by players. The rewards that the events gave out couldn’t be compared to the items that the Heavenly Dragon Guild sold at cheap prices. For them to risk their lives in the tournament, the incentive had to be more valuable. Some players had already sent a request to the game company. However, the reply was blunt: the system didn’t need to introduce new rewards simply because high-quality products were circulating in the market. Thus, the tournaments became desolate. Only a few beggars would participate.
The most decisive factor was due to the mass teleportation services implemented in the three main cities. Traveling became more comfortable and convenient. Just by spending a few gold, you’d reach your destination in an instant. Both troublesome shortcuts and normal routes couldn’t hope to compete. Naturally, as a city connecting all of the others via paths, Colossia City soon lost its value.
Colossia City was technically surrounded by all three main cities: Zhongsuyuan City, Siaferia City, and Lafesta City. It could receive reinforcements from any of the three, so no one in their right mind would dare to invade it. As such, even the Heavenly Dragon Guild members guarding the city barely put their mind into taking care of it.
“Yawn~ So bored~”
Savage Killer was yawning. He thought he was getting a promotion when he had received the order to manage Colossia City. However, there was almost nothing to do. Calling this assignment a demotion might be more accurate.
The city had changed so much from the era when Cross was managing it. As the tournaments weren’t popular, there were no participants, resulting in fewer merchants coming to make profits. One business affected one another. In the end, the city was left with the Colosseum and system-generated buildings, but nothing else. In fact, the number of players in the city might even reach zero in the near future.
For the guards stationed there, protecting an empty city was a boring job.
Well, it wasn’t that he was totally dissatisfied. At the very least, he received a raise with the new assignment. Calling it a promotion wouldn’t be too off the mark.
Savage Killer fell into a daze, looking out the window. The sky was turning orange, indicating that evening was coming to an end. Another day of guarding a boring and worthless city was about to end. However, he knew that the cycle of boredom would return tomorrow and the day after that. It would be the same even after the war event.
Getting a salary from doing literally nothing was good and all. However, Savage Killer first and foremost intended to enjoy the game. Assigning him to do nothing was toxic to his mind. He considered quitting the game. In any case, he planned to decide whether he would quit later when the war event ended, as getting a bit more money for free didn’t hurt.
“Sigh. Won’t anyone try to raid this damn city?”
Don’t talk about ghosts during the night. Don’t talk about tigers in the forest. Those are the common sayings. However, it seemed one more line should be added: Don’t talk about enemies during a war. Savage Killer didn’t anticipate that his joke request would be answered.
The sound of footsteps was approaching the room Savage Killer was in. The door was pushed open without asking for his permission. Through psychic power perception, he was aware that the arriving person was none other than his right hand man, Sinthop.
“Why are you barging in, Sinthop? Don’t you see that I’m taking in the scenery. The color of the sky is exceptionally beautiful.”
Sinthop anxiously roared, “It’s an emergency!! We need your assistance, sir!! And that isn’t the color of the sky, but flames! We are under attack!!”
Savage Killer was shocked. Focusing his vision, he found that it was indeed as Sinthop said. The orange color came from flames.
“Send our men to take care of them!” He quickly gave out an order.
“I already ordered them a long time ago! I wouldn’t wait! All of our soldiers are engaging in battles. We need your power, sir!”
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner, huh?”
Savage Killer took out a small lance and clicked a button. A laser extended from its tip.
Laser-based weapons imported from Siaferia City were reliable assets that boosted the team’s attack power. They could easily penetrate a monster’s flesh and a player’s equipment.
Savage Killer had been in a chill mode just now. However, his expression changed once the weapon was in his hand. His senses sharpened. Instead of jumping through the window to help the team, he spun his body and stabbed the wall. The attack blew a hole in the wall, but the force of the thrust didn’t stop there. It flew into the room behind the first wall, only stopping after putting holes in two more.
“W-What did you do?!”
Sinthop was shocked to see Savage Killer suddenly deliver a killing move, Smashing Lance, which was done by using Psychic Impact through a weapon. It looked like a simple stab, but the impact actually flew further in a straight line. As the move was used on a laser-based weapon, the attack power became several times more powerful than before.
“You were followed, you fool!” Savage Killer roared.
The two men stared at the hole on the wall. Amidst the faint smoke, the silhouette of a young man could be seen.
“I-I’m sorry.” The young man passed through the hole. He was wearing Beginner’s Clothing and a white mask. In his hand was a low-tier old sword.
“Why did you have to say sorry, you dimwit?”
Next to the young man was a young woman wearing a mid-tier magician cloak. In her hand was a short wand, which was quite an uncommon weapon of choice among magic users. Spellcasters who focused on speed usually relied on rings while those focusing on big spells would use mage staves. For a short wand to be her weapon, it was likely that she had yet to settle on one of the two other fighting styles.
Well, the most eye-catching part about her wasn’t the wand, but a costume with paw patterns and a cat mask covering her face.
“Who are you?! Which guild do you belong to?!” Sinthop roared.
“Oh, my name is— Ouch!” The young man was about to introduce himself, but he was kicked in the shin by the young woman.
“Don’t reveal your name! Can’t you remember the rules?”
“Oh, right! I’m sorry. Forgive me, The Sixteenth— Ouch!!” As her name was about to be revealed, he received another kick.
“If you’re just here to play around, I’ll take my leave.” Savage Killer shifted his gaze to Sinthop and issued an order. “Sinthop, you take care of them. Kill one and capture the other for interrogation.”
Savage Killer was confident in his order. He had probed the two’s strength using psychic power and found that they were only at Level 1,000 Knight Rank. Their qi and magic power capacity were well below Sinthop, who was a Marquis Rank player. Even if it was two against one, Sinthop would easily win. There was no need for him to stay.
The young woman turned to the young man, explaining through secret gestures that she had already contacted other people. However, it would take around five minutes for reinforcements to arrive. They had to rely on themselves for now.
A cage made of stone quickly formed around Savage Killer. It was a single-target spell that the young woman had delayed beforehand. Savage Killer’s entire body was locked inside the cage, preventing him from moving.
“How long?” The young man’s question was short.
The young woman looked at the Earth Cage and shook her head. “Not long.”
Earth Cage was only a mid-tier spell designed for temporarily restraining the opponent’s movement. For the record, the earth element was the least popular element among spellcasters. Not only were most earth element spells slow, but their attacks were very tangible, allowing the opponent to handle them using ordinary means. In any case, those shortcomings were compensated by a wide variety of useful spells, including the one for disguises.
Savage Killer used a lance as his weapon. As his movement was limited inside the narrow cage, he couldn’t swing it. He had to waste his time gradually chipping the stone using Psychic Impact. Fortunately, the cage blocked external attacks, so he didn’t have to be wary of possible attacks.
Sinthop unsheathed his laser-based sword and rushed at the young woman. His intention was clear. If the spellcaster was killed, Earth Cage would dissolve.
Naturally, the young man stepped up and quickly blocked the strike.
The two swords collided. The laser sword was parried, missing its target. Meanwhile, cracks appeared on the old sword. It then broke in half and fell to the floor.
Just the fact that the young man could rely on a low-grade sword to handle a laser-based weapon and come out unharmed already implied that his swordsmanship and his mastery over qi reinforcement were both quite decent.
“Ah... My first sword...” The young man looked at the remains of his sword. “Well, I better use this one.”
The young man took out another sword, which prompted Sinthop to widen his eyes. The sword was letting off a thin layer of light green aura. Although its appearance looked quite ordinary, just a glance was enough to realize that it must be extraordinary.
Surely Sinthop could recognize the sword. It used to be his.
“That’s my Emerald Sword!”
Sinthop frowned as he shifted his gaze between the young man and the sword. The memory of a particular event struck him.
“You’re the bastard who killed me that day!!”
“Y-Yes, that would be me. I’m sorry.”
Sinthop was enraged, and his psychic power started rising up. The laser sword in his hand responded by emitting brighter light. On the contrary, the Emerald Sword in the young man’s hand gleamed a mysterious faint green glow. It was a phenomenon that had never happened when it was in its former owner’s hand.
“I was careless back then. I will kill you to take my revenge and get my sword back!”
Sinthop tapped a bracelet on his left wrist, prompting it to generate a layer of psychic armor on his body. The idea behind the automatic psychic protection came from Mamon, which was stolen and adapted by the Android King. Apparently, after the city was unsealed, many restrictions were lifted and many new creations kept coming out.
Sinthop performed a horizontal slash. The laser blade was incredibly sharp. Since it had the power to cut through almost everything, he hoped to see the scene of the young man’s body cleaved into two.
Unlike Sinthop’s expectation, however, the young man circulated qi and his body was enveloped by a light blue aura. His hand, holding the Emerald Sword, seemingly vanished.
The blade split from one to three. The light green glow coming from the sword fused with the light blue aura. Even before Sinthop could finish swinging a sword once, nine consecutive strikes had already landed on him. He managed to block them, but the impact almost made the sword slip out of his hand.
“Q-Qi of Little Fish!!” Sinthop exclaimed while tightening his grip on the laser sword.
The Emerald Sword returned to its normal state. However, Sinthop was sure that the number of blades had temporarily increased to three just now. Unbeknownst to him, some swords possessed hidden abilities that could only be unlocked when the wielder’s Sword Mastery skill level reached 100. In the Emerald Sword’s case, its hidden ability allowed the user to divide the power in one swing into three. Together with Qi of Little Fish, the young man could deliver nine hits in a single swing. Although the power behind each of the strikes wasn’t exceptional, they were difficult to cope with.
The reason why the mysterious young man managed to get his hands on Qi of Little Fish was partly thanks to Sila’s actions. As Sila and Lone Wolf made use of the dojo’s high recovery rate to transmit Qi of Little Divine Beings to the Wicked Union’s members, the yearly quests to traditionally obtain them were abandoned. When the young man and his comrades went to the Transworld Lake at the event-specific time, they found no other teams trying to hunt the Millennium Fish aside from theirs. There was no competition at all, unlike other previous years.
The young man leaped to Sinthop, his body splitting into three afterimages. He brandished the Emerald Sword, pouring attacks from all directions.
Each strike was quite weak, but they showered on Sinthop without giving him any room to breathe. The psychic armor broke within the first few hits and the attacks started to reach him. While he was busy hurriedly parrying them, he noticed that attacks at this level wouldn’t kill him as long as he properly protected his vital spots.
Unfortunately, his opponent didn’t come alone.
“O Devotees of Earth—the Sovereign of Stone and the Lord of Mountains—who are in deep slumber under the sacred ground. Please lend me your strengths to cleave my foe into half, just like what you have done to the Land of Absolute Beginnings. Globe-Splitting Axe!”
The stone axe, materialized out of magic power, was summoned and hung in the sky. It descended and split the roof of the building into two, diving with a powerful force that wouldn’t leave the target alive.
The power of the spell might be acute, but the speed of the swing was lacking. Sinthop quickly took evasive action.
A certain voice interrupted him, however.
Dance of the Emerald Strikes.
The young man unleashed the full power of Qi of Little Fish. As if the Emerald Sword hated its former wielder to its core, the speed of the strikes increased by threefold, bombarding Sinthop. The strikes were continuous, covering the entire spot like a fishnet. Flashes of light green and light blue were alternating non-stop, turning Sinthop into a small fish with no room to escape.
Then... the axe came crashing on him in the next moment.
Sinthop’s body was cleaved into two. It happened at the same time when Savage Killer managed to escape from his prison.
Savage Killer sensed everything that had been happening outside. These two little invaders might be excellent at working together. Still, they weren’t his match.
As he had observed their fighting styles, Savage Killer was confident that he could take down both of them in the span of a minute.
Suddenly, Savage Killer was kicked at the chest, sending him flying to a corner of the room. He was upset and intended to rush at the one ambushing him. However, once he had a clear look at the new uninvited guest, his body turned cold and he had a hard time swallowing his saliva. He didn’t dare to move a muscle, realizing that, in the time he would take to move a single step forward, the Shadow Emperor would’ve killed him at least three times over.
“Sir Zero...” Savage Killer exclaimed with a voice containing respect.
Bluebird, disguised as Zero, changed his voice as he opened his mouth. “Go tell Montra that all of my previous agreements with him are hereby canceled. Colossia City will now be under the flag of my Shadow Army. If he wants to take it back, come try me!”
Having his life spared, Savage Killer didn’t waste another second. He took out a Crystal of Connecting and teleported away.
“Are we done?” The young woman with the cat mask approached Bluebird and asked.
Bluebird heaved a heavy sigh. “This is just the beginning.”