Within merely an hour, the Shadow Army had managed to successfully seize the city. The main reason was that they raided the city where no one was really into defending it. They surrounded the city from all directions and launched attacks at an unexpected time. Colossia City had once been under the Royal Armament Guild’s management, so the city layout was known by the Shadow Army’s upper echelon. They could avoid the chokepoints with heavy defenses and aim to strike at the weakest links, acquiring victory with as few casualties as possible.
The Shadow Army’s flags loftily flapped atop poles throughout the city. The flags had a simple yet imposing design: a pitch-black background with a white mask in the middle. The largest flag was set up above the Colosseum, replacing the previous one, which was an illustration of a white Chinese dragon. Its presence heightened the morale of the Shadow Army’s members.
Bluebird stood in the middle of the city, on the Colosseum’s roof. Meanwhile, the rest of the members affiliated with the Shadow Army were spreading out along the city walls, waiting for the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s attack force to arrive.
Originally, Sila’s plan had covered only important roles and tasks. However, after brainstorming with Beluga and Cross, the plan was upgraded, including more details. They weren’t afraid of the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s attempt to reclaim the city. Instead, their only fear was that the guild might not attempt it.
A city under their management was suddenly snatched away by a mysterious army led by Zero. Cross believed the Heavenly Dragon Guild would surely send an army to reclaim it, or at least test the strength of their new adversary. It was especially logical when taking into account that Colossia City was still regarded as Montra’s territory since some of their members were still hiding in the city and had yet to be wiped out. With Montra’s Emperorship, their army would get an insane increase of 50% in stats while fighting.
What was unclear to the three—Sila, Cross, and Beluga—was which army would come.
Colossia City was in between the three main cities, allowing easy access from any of them. While Zhongsuyuan City had the lowest possibility since their manpower was already lacking, the remaining two had no such issues. Both Lafesta City and Siaferia City had enough manpower to spare. The Floating Magic Kingdom was full of elite members of the Heavenly Dragon Guild while the Android Kingdom possessed the army of Lord Rank Android Soldiers. Both armies were equally potent, so the three couldn’t tell which would come.
Soon, red fireworks were shot up at the north side of the city, delivering a certain meaning.
Witnessing it, Bluebird accelerated his speed and dashed to the north gate. He let out a sigh of relief while sending messages to Beluga, Sila, and Cross.
The marching army came from the Floating Kingdom. This way, they would have a way to protect the city.
Not only did this raid act as a diversion for Sila’s raid in Zhongsuyuan City, but it also served as a confirmation of a certain vague fact. That was how much authority the city ruler had over the city’s monsters.
Among the various city monster types, the androids were the most problematic due to their high levels and their information-sharing network. The androids were disposable monsters and could easily travel in groups with the help of the teleportation service. However, the Heavenly Dragon Guild didn’t utilize them. It could be interpreted as they couldn’t.
For psychic-types, as long as there wasn’t an explicit restriction, that would mean the action was allowed. The fact that the android army didn’t come implied that there was a clear limitation to the android race’s mobility.
Bluebird’s confirmation served as solid evidence. Actually, it was logical. The army of Lord Rank monsters was something far from normal in the New World. If they could freely roam around, the city ruler would be able to more or less conquer the world. Thus, they had a limited range, preventing them from going particularly far from Siaferia. If they were too far from the city, they would lose the energy received from the city and cease to function, turning into nothing but a heap of metal.
At least the world of Monster Soul wasn’t too hard on Sila and his friends. This discovery meant the only army they had to be wary of was the one from Lafesta City.
Bluebird stopped his feet at the edge of the wall, trying his best to act like Zero. Narin wasn’t someone talkative from the start, so things should be fine as long as he properly shut his mouth and imposingly put on airs. Although he was the leader of the army, most people rarely dared to approach him, all looking at him with eyes full of awe and respect.
The flag showing the illustration of a dragon wavered in the wind. The Heavenly Dragon Guild army, which was usually stationed in Lafesta City, marched forward. It took them only two hours to arrive at Colossia City, which was unbelievably fast.
The citizens of Lafesta City were given full support regarding items, hidden quests, and special training. Just a glance was enough to know that each member was extremely skilled and loyal.
No one else could give them the same things that Montra had given, not even the Wicked Union. Thus, there was no way they would betray the Heavenly Dragon Guild.
Everything that Montra had provided to those affiliated to him was something beyond what other people could replicate. Only he—who monopolized wealth, items, and hidden quests from the three main cities—could attract people with benefits of this degree.
When Bluebird studied Montra’s series of achievements from the reports he was forced to read, he acknowledged that Montra was indeed a freak not inferior to Sila. No, the man might even surpass Sila by a great margin. While he had been traveling with Sila, witnessing several amazing feats and legendary tales, Montra was accomplishing task by task in the dark.
In fact, People’s responses to Montra’s achievements were especially dull. For them, it was dramatic when an ordinary person accomplishes an unexpected feat. On the contrary, it was quite normal for a genius to overcome obstacles beyond a normal human’s capability.
To conquer the unsealed cities, there were only two methods. The first was to kill the current city conqueror while they were in the city. However, thanks to Montra’s Emperorship—Emperorship of Guardian Spirit—in addition to granting his comrades a 50% increase in overall stats within his territories, it also prevented the city ruler from losing the city so long as at least one ally still remained within.
To hunt down every single ally, who could hide literally anywhere in the city, that was time-consuming and labor-extensive.
The second method was exceptionally difficult. It was to complete the conquering quest at a higher difficulty level than what the current conqueror had done. It sounded plausible... unless one took into account the quests which Montra had completed.
—Killed every single android unit in the city, including the Android King Orpheus, in a single attack.
—Discovered the King of the Lost Magic Kingdom, who no one had ever witnessed, and answered ten questions, which no players had answered correctly, and was given full marks. The scope of the questions covered all magical events in Monster Soul.
—Lastly, survived against the hunt of Warrior Souls, which lasted for thirty days straight, without hiding, counterattacking, evading, using skills, or receiving damage.
Just any of the three was already close to impossible, but Montra managed to complete all three of them. It wasn’t strange anymore to know that he also managed to successfully complete the Impossible Quest from the Goddess.
Recalling the contents of the reports, Bluebird released a heavy sigh. He thought about the unfairness of the world, which blessed some people with everything while making the rest ordinary.
Well, that might just be an excuse. If someone asked Bluebird whether he thought of Zero as someone with talent, he would say yes. However, he was aware that Narin, his close friend, had always been enjoying practicing martial arts. The man always dragged him to the dojo near their houses without skipping a day. As for the story within the game, based on his research, he found that Zero also had a hard time. The man was diligently doing quests and training, overcoming crises and discovering opportunities. It could be said that it took great effort before the man was recognized as the Shadow Emperor.
The members of the Shadow Army gathered along the north wall of the city. The arriving army was waving a red flag with a dragon symbol, indicating that it belonged to the Five Dragon Warlords.
Looking afar, they noticed that the leader of the army was Lost Ghost, the Black Star Warlord. The army he brought today consisted of elite members, all of them at Marquis Rank. Their weapons were of high quality. Their power had undergone changes due to the special quests. They were extremely eager to unleash their full strength.
Bluebird didn’t want to believe that hundreds of powerhouse-class players could pop up in such a short period of time.
In the world where everyone was special, no one would be special. All people were equal. This was the world that Montra aspired to create.
The title Shadow Emperor was revered among players. In any case, Zero was one of the strongest players, inferior only to Montra. Just seeing his figure on the edge of the wall, some Heavenly Dragon Guild members unconsciously slowed down, afraid that they might die to an ambush which was faster than the eye could follow.
Nevertheless, among the Heavenly Dragon Guild members, there were those who essentially weren’t gamers but martial artists belonging to the Wulin Masters Association. They held no fear toward the Shadow Emperor.
For them, Monster Soul was merely a world for gamers. It couldn’t hope to compete with the underground world they had been living in since birth.
‘Is everyone in position?’ Bluebird observed the people on his side and found that it would take a little bit longer before they were ready.
Although he had challenged Montra to take the city back, it was just a bluff. It had long been discussed that if the Heavenly Dragon Guild really came, Bluebird alone, plus groups of guildless players, would stand no chance. Hence, no matter what happened, a direct clash was the first thing to avoid.
The key point of their strategy was to appear invincible, instilling a sense of fear into enemies and making them not dare to attack.
They were ‘Shadows.’ Formless and untouchable, yet dark and fearful, striking terror in the minds of anyone and everyone they met.
As they were wary of traps, the Heavenly Dragon Guild had yet to launch an attack.
Lost Ghost took two steps forward and opened his mouth. His voice was loud, enhanced by psychic power. “Sir Zero, aren’t you a member of the Heavenly Dragon Guild? What does this mean?”
Bluebird, mimicking Zero’s voice, replied, “It means this city already belongs to the Shadow Army. That’s all.”
“What exactly do you want, Sir Zero? What about the agreement between you and Sir Montra?”
“Heh. Do you know the contents of our agreement? Just tell Montra that it has all been voided. Anyway, stop barking! If you want the city back, just come!”
Both Sila and Bluebird were clueless regarding the agreement between Montra and Zero, and they doubted Lost Ghost would know. Thus, they had discussed and decided that once asked, they would blatantly disregard and ignore the matter.
To prevent Lost Ghost from asking too many questions and reveal the fact that he was a fake, Bluebird had to stop the conversation.
“I have nothing more to say to the likes of you.” Bluebird crossed his arms.
A man behind Bluebird stepped forward. He didn’t wear a mask. Apparently, he was a guildless player.
“My name is Frenzy Sword, a spokesperson who is the representative of our two great leaders. From now on, every place under the flag of the Shadow Army will be regarded as ours. We yield to neither the Heavenly Dragon Guild nor the Wicked Union.”
“Wait, Sir Zero...” Lost Ghost spoke, but Bluebird no longer paid him any mind.
“I told you I’m the representative. If you want to say something, say it to me.”
Frenzy Sword was a player who admired Sila’s strength and personality. Their relationship might be shallow, having only met each other once or twice. In any case, he had met Sebastian and agreed to take part in the strategy.
His fighting ability was mediocre, but his charisma was impressive. In fact, during the crisis in Zhongsuyuan City, it was Frenzy Sword who persuaded players to help Tiger.
Lost Ghost shifted his gaze to Frenzy Sword, feeling humiliated. He rarely had to hold a conversation with no-name players.
“What did you mean by ‘two’ great leaders?”
Frenzy Sword was thrilled. The Heavenly Dragon Guild’s Five Warlords had always been aloof existences. They wouldn’t stoop and lower themselves to converse with him under normal circumstances. Now, however, Lost Ghost had to raise his head and talk to him, even showing a tinge of consideration. Sure, he was aware that the person Lost Ghost was afraid of offending was Zero, not him. Nevertheless, he couldn’t help but feel flattered.
“We are shadows. The Heavenly Dragon Guild’s greatness may reach the sky, creating a utopia on Earth and representing itself as a bright light. However, wherever light exists, there shall be shadows.
“While people siding with the Heavenly Dragon Guild are reaping many benefits, people who aren’t interested in joining a guild are abandoned—be it a wandering martial artist, a bankrupted merchant, or a group of bandits who were wiped out. We were but ordinary players who struggled to survive in the harsh world of Monster Soul. However, with the changes brought about by the Heavenly Dragon Guild, we could no longer go on, leaving us no choice but to band together.
“Our two great leaders gathered us, who were like grains of sand, to join forces. They gave us hope and a way to survive in this world full of despair.”
Listening to the speech, Bluebird thought it was overdramatic. Frenzy Sword’s praises almost made him fly. In fact, he would have already flown, if not for the fact that everything the man mentioned was done by Sebastian alone.
“...One of our leaders is Zero, the Shadow Emperor. As for the other one, while his reputation might be unheard of today, his fame will undoubtedly spread to every corner of Monster Soul. His title is... the Sword Prodigy.”
As soon as the speech had ended, heavy silence crashed on the people belonging to the Wulin Masters Association. They swept their eyes to a particular man standing next to Zero. He was an imposing man wearing a plain white mask.
The name Pumin, the Sword Prodigy, was a legend by itself. A few months ago, Montra had confirmed to them that the news about the man’s return was just a baseless rumor. However, for the Sword Prodigy to make an appearance in this place... maybe that wasn’t the case.
Of course, the Sword Prodigy in front of them was a fake. The reason why it was a norm for the Shadow Army’s members to wear masks wasn’t something complicated. It was to lower people’s suspicions about why the Sword Prodigy didn’t remove his mask.
While the man’s clothing seemed simple and his sword looked ordinary, his stance was that of a master-class fighter. The flashes in his eyes, in which flames seemed to have been trapped, were fierce yet serene.
The martial world’s living legend was standing before them. The Wulin Masters Association’s members instantly became breathless. They were speechless and had no clue as to how they should respond.
Pumin was the candidate who had already completed the mission before he left. His strength and level of accomplishments were beyond Sila’s and Montra’s combined.
They heard that Pumin’s personality was decisive and ruthless, showing no mercy to anyone. He had only recently started playing the game, yet he already had his own army. If they were to offend him, their dojo might be wiped out before they know it.
The thought of checking the validity of the man’s identity never crossed their minds. Just the name Sword Prodigy was enough to make them lose their will to fight. No one dared to be the first to step up and prove his identity.
Lost Ghost’s system window suddenly popped up. It was an emergency message from Montra, ordering him and his army to withdraw right away. The order came directly from Montra. Lost Ghost was clueless about what was happening.
Personally, he thought the so-called Sword Prodigy was just Zero’s puppet. On the contrary, the association’s members thought that Zero was just the Sword Prodigy’s puppet.
Unbeknownst to them, both were Sila’s.
Sila relied on the fact that the Heavenly Dragon Guild was divided into two main factions: gamers and the association’s members. He secretly founded a third force, which had low combat ability but fame equal to the biggest players in Monster Soul. No one would dare to offend them, not even Montra himself. They were fearful Red Pieces, suddenly showing up on the board where Blacks and Whites were competing.
Montra had investigated news about Pumin for a long period of time. So far, there had been no sign of the man, making him feel a sense of relief.
Now, however, Pumin suddenly emerged and joined the war. It was a big smack to Montra’s face. He had to re-evaluate the situation from scratch.
The names of people are sometimes greater than their abilities. The name Shadow Army shook the world of Monster Soul in the span of a single night, becoming a new army who had a shot at winning the war event aside from the currently dominating Heavenly Dragon Guild and the challenging Wicked Union.
The game forum was filled with discussions and anticipations, speculating which one will come out on top. Will it be the residents of Heaven, the Wicked ones, or the Shadows?
The discussions were especially active when they centered around the dark horse, the Shadow Army, which was like the darkness engulfing a land with insane speed, soundlessly and mercilessly.
Nine o’clock at night, Zhongsuyuan City was peaceful as usual, but its atmosphere wasn’t the same as when Sila entered the city.
On the first night when Sila roamed around the city, the Warrior Souls patrolled while citizens behaved. Even at war, people still lived peacefully, not causing any trouble. In fact, the same applied to all main cities under the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s management.
However, for the past few days, Sila’s people had ambushed several factions and framed others for their actions. Time had passed, but the Heavenly Dragon Guild had yet to discover the mastermind. The citizens’ belief in the city’s way of delivering justice was starting to shake. Players started to show their weapons to protect themselves. Their gazes were filled with paranoia, looking at others like they were foes. Bad intentions and malice spread like plagues, filling the hearts of the residents with hatred.
As Sila’s military strength was far inferior to Revin’s, if a direct clash were to break out, the fate awaiting his troops would surely be total annihilation. Thus, he had to work behind the scenes, stirring conflicts in the city and creating an opportunity to strike.
His ‘Red Pieces’ strategy shared the same concept. Sila noticed that Montra was a perfectionist. The man was a long-term planner, unlike Sila, who was flexible and tactful against problems at hand. As such, when new variables showed up, especially ones which would disrupt the status quo heavily, Montra wouldn’t dare to make hasty decisions.
The real objective of Red Pieces was to add chaos to the board. While Whites and Blacks were busy competing with each other, with Whites being vastly superior, Sila tossed a handful of Red Pieces onto the board.
Seizing the chance when everyone else was focusing their attention on the Red Pieces, his Blacks would make several more moves. By the time his opponents realize that the Red Pieces were merely a diversion, it would already be too late. His Blacks would have already surrounded the Whites.
Undeniably, if this was actual Go, what Sila did would clearly be regarded as cheating. However, there was no fairness in the game known as war. On the board filled with Whites—due to Montra having a head start—there would be no way for Sila to catch up if he played by the rules.
Sila closed his system window, ending his conversation with Cross and Beluga. The updates about the Shadow Army and Zazae’s death were extremely helpful to him. The night was still young, but the Heavenly Dragon Guild was already in a stressful state.
Sure, someone like Montra would be able to calm the situation. However, before he did, the raid in Zhongsuyuan City would have already concluded.
The Heavenly Dragon Guild had Montra, Kawin, and Revin ruling the Qi Kingdom, the Android Kingdom, and the Magic Kingdom respectively. They were like giant pillars supporting the guild, convincing their guildmates to have absolute faith in the guild’s supremacy.
If Sila managed to break one of the pillars today, the guild would undoubtedly be shaken. Their assurance would be crushed, bringing him a step closer to the final victory.
Sila, along with his teammates, blended into the crowd throughout the city. They were waiting for the signal. Closest to Sila were Burapha and Clute. The three of them were hiding near the discovered mysterious gate, ready to jump into Inverse Zhongsuyuan City.
Himeko, Asava, and Vlad were at the center of the city. Sila had asked them to provide assistance to the other raid members. That was because the outcome of the raid didn’t only rely on the battle between him and Revin. Their plan was to simply bring down Zhongsuyuan City’s government, not conquer it.
In fact, Sila didn’t have the desire to conquer the city. The Wicked Union was already shorthanded. Even if they really managed to seize Zhongsuyuan City, they wouldn’t have enough resources to manage it.
The goal of the raid was to deal a decisive blow to the Heavenly Dragon Guild, killing as many of their members as possible, especially Revin.
“Everyone, get ready. Don’t forget to wear the amulet,” Sila ordered through his system window.
Burapha took out a necklace and placed it around his neck. The necklace was simple, just a pebble with a hole in it for the cord to pass through and a rune engraved on the flat side of the rock. Everyone else followed suit by putting their own necklaces on.
“Will it work, Big Brother?”
“Of course. Clute’s amulets are very potent. I believe they can withstand the magic for at least a couple minutes.”
However, Burapha didn’t mean the amulet. He was knowledgeable when it came to accessories. An accessory attached with Rune Magic had excellent performance, this much he knew. Well, calling it a piece of equipment seemed incorrect as it didn’t have options on its own. It required magic power from the Rune Magic’s user and could function for only a short period of time. One could say that it was a disposable item.
“Actually, I meant ‘the magic’ you talked about, Big Bro.”
To avoid mentioning the dark art—Goddess’ Resonance—to others, Sila informed his teammates that Vata possessed a kind of Unique Magic that could make people go berserk. The number of Unique Magics was no less than the number of stars in the sky. No one would doubt his statement.
“Whether it works or not, we will have to try to find that out,” replied Sila. “Everyone must be ready by now. Miss Vata, please start.”
On the roof of a certain building located in the middle of the city, Himeko awaited Sila’s command. She stood where her voice could cover the entire city. Under the roof was Vlad, who would guard her as she did her job, while Asava was doing the same on the roof, invisible.
Neither of them wore Clute’s amulets. They were aware of Himeko’s capability. Goddess’ Resonance was a delicate dark art. In any case, given her mastery, Himeko could perfectly control the scale of her power.
Himeko closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Reopening her eyes, they gleamed with a miraculous aura devoid of feelings. It was the profound state that the practitioner of the art had to achieve, cutting themselves from emotions of thirst, desire, longing, and greed. It was the mental state necessary for mastering Goddess’ Resonance. It was this aspect that made it a dark art, bringing mental suffering to the user.
Himeko’s mouth widened as if she was sending some sound. The environment, however, fell completely silent. Even the natural chirping sound of crickets was lost—as if they were attentively listening to the heavenly sound.
The starlight, up in the night sky, was blinking temporarily due to the effect of unseen profound energy. It might have only been for just a fraction of an instant, but the entire world seemed to fall silent, listening to her voice.
Goddess’ Resonance — A Goddess Mesmerizing the Bloody Moon.
The players residing in the city seemed to fall into a daze for a second. Their eyes gradually became bloodshot. No matter where they looked, they would be displeased by everything. The feelings of anger and hatred uncontrollably surged inside them, burning their hearts with flames of vengeance.
Thirst, desire, longing, and greed are emotions commonly found within everyone. No matter who they are, they will have someone they hate so much they have a thirst to use violence, something they covet to the point they want to steal it, someone they love to the point they want to confess their feelings, something they were attached to and don’t want to let go of.
However, humans also have consciences and mental control, restraining them from taking actions that they would later regret. They may want to use violence, but they can stop themselves from actually doing it. They may want something belonging to others for themselves, but they can let it go. They may want to confess their love, but they can suppress the urge. They may feel an attachment to something, but they can release it and move on.
Goddess’ Resonance didn’t do anything much aside from sending a whisper using the voice of a celestial goddess, telling people to “go ahead and do it.” It quietly removed the target’s restraint on their emotions. What would be the result? They would run wild.
It was a killing art which left the hands of the mastermind—the ‘Goddess’—unsullied. Not a single drop of blood would fall upon them.
A wandering male player unsheathed his sword. He unleashed his qi, letting it explode out of him. People around him were blown away.
The man strengthened his sword with maximum qi reinforcement, before striking another man, who seemed to be his comrade, walking next to him.
“Die!! You bastard!!”
The sword was remarkably powerful as its user didn’t reserve any power for protecting himself. The target was cleaved in half, dying without putting up any resistance.
The man pointed the sword to the sky, declaring with a deafening shout.
“That guy borrowed a hundred Baht from me and hasn’t returned it! He deserves to die a thousand times!!”
The previous strike was, by any standards, too severe to be used against a close friend for such a petty crime. However, the man, as well as the surrounding bystanders, failed to notice it.
It was then. Another male player clad his mace with qi reinforcement and delivered a hit to the aforementioned swordsman. Fortunately, the swordsman blocked it in time. The fight between them broke out.
Both people constantly strengthened their weapons with qi without sparing any for protecting their bodies, so each exchange of blows was almighty, damaging nearby stalls and buildings.
After the tenth exchange, the mace user cursed at his opponent.
“I remember you! You bumped into me yesterday but didn’t apologize! You deserve to die a million times!!”
Suddenly, a qi-strengthened arrow flew and stabbed into the swordsman’s forehead. Apparently, a woman standing at a distance had interfered with their fight. She took out another arrow and nocked it on her bow.
“It’s annoying seeing you guys’ play around. Just die, both of you!”
A knife penetrated the back of the female archer. She coughed out blood and turned her body, using the bow in her hand to strike back at the one ambushing her.
The ambusher, a man holding a knife, was blown away by the strike. Both of them were greatly injured as they also didn’t try to defend themselves with energy reinforcement. The man showed a pleased and wicked smile.
“That stab was for the cup of noodle that you cut into line for and bought ahead of me this morning!”
“Come to think of it... the noodles of that shop tasted normal, not delicious like the rumors say. Joining the queue was such a waste of time. That noodle chef deserves punishment!”
The female archer changed her target, firing the arrow at the chef of the aforementioned noodle stall.
The chef’s eyes gleamed with anger. He transmitted Qi of Little Bird into a cleaver in his hand and threw it, smashing the arrow before the cleaver flew back to him.
“Grrr! Saying my noodles are not delicious? Your tongue has a problem, I see! Let me sever it!!”
A rolling pin, in the hand of a young man, smacked into the chef’s head. The amount of qi clad in the rolling pin was low since the young man wasn’t a skilled player. However, it still dealt considerable damage.
“You stingy head chef!! When the hell will you impart to me your cooking techniques already?!”
The chef took out another cleaver and bisected the young man, who seemed to be his disciple, from shoulder to hip. Three seconds later, the young man’s body turned into light and disappeared.
“Learning my superb cooking techniques requires patience!! Remember that as you go to hell!!”
Concurrently, a similar eccentric situation also occurred in a different corner of the city. A muscular man with a bulky physique leaped forward, his cheeks soaked in tears of resentment. In his hands was a metal hammer. His target was a fine-looking young man who stood next to a beautiful young woman.
“I can’t stand your gut anymore! Your girlfriend is pretty, so what?! The worth of a man’s life is measured by the amount of muscle, you nerd!!”
The young man unsheathed his saber and dashed to meet the muscular man. Another fight broke out. Sparks kept coming from their traded blows. Their bodies were soon covered in blood, making it hard to distinguish whether it belonged to themselves or their opponent.
Anger and resentment fiercely burned and spread like flames on dry leaves. Small conflicts became unsolvable messes. A battle between two people became four, and even more as time passed.
Zhongsuyuan City echoed with the sounds of clashing weapons and energy usage, dyeing the once peaceful city blood red. Even Sila was taken aback, thinking that the result was beyond his expectations.
“This is bad. Our people will get caught up in the battles at this rate. Tell everyone that no further actions are required anymore. Retreat!”
True enough, Sila’s men were speechless. They never thought that Vata’s ‘magic’ would be this effective. People’s reasons for starting fights seemed absurdly trivial. However, as their minds were blinded by wrath and fury, reasons were buried by hatred. Nothing was more important than releasing it.
Some of the members had already gotten caught in the cycle of strife and bloodshed. Once they received Sila’s order, they tried their best to escape the scene.
All remaining players fought in full offense mode. They completely disregarded defense. Thus, even mediocre players could exert attack power rivaling great martial heroes, splitting the sky and overturning the land.
As per their assigned duties, the Warrior Souls scattered to intercept the fights. However, battles were occurring all over the city. Their numbers couldn’t keep up with players’, so the riots still raged on.
Burapha’s eyes widened as he looked at the unfolding situation from a roof. He didn’t expect the riot to escalate to this degree.
“Burapha, the riot already turned into a war. Don’t be distracted. It’s our turn.” It wasn’t until Sila reminded him of their mission that Burapha could calm down. Still, he was bewildered by the ferocity of the first war he had ever witnessed.
Meanwhile, there weren’t any obvious changes in Clute’s expressions. The boy seemed to dislike the result, but this kind of thing had happened over and over in the Monster Realm on a daily basis. He believed he wasn’t in a position to give any comments.
In fact, this raid was also Sila’s first legitimate war. However, the Flaming Cloud Qi’s Cloud Part helped him keep his cool. Dark Self, who lived inside him, seemed to give him a silent push, informing him that this was the only way they could have a shot at winning. The more chaotic the situation became, the more likely they would be able to complete their mission.
“Let’s go!” Sila shouted.
Burapha, Sila, and Clute stopped in front of the spatial gate. Sila tried pushing his hand through the gate and found that his hand sunk inside, feeling like he had dipped it into cold water.
“Just the three of us? Are you sure?” Burapha asked again.
“Our only target is Revin. If he is alone, we will besiege him to end the fight as soon as possible. Then, we will immediately withdraw from the city.”
“What if there are more, Big Brother? I hope you haven’t forgotten that there might be a boss monster protecting Zhongsuyuan City.”
The boss monster of the city. It was a factor that couldn’t be ignored. Except for Orpheus of Siaferia City, players had never seen boss monsters protecting other cities, including the other two main cities. Zhongsuyuan City only had Marquis-Rank Warrior Souls while Lafesta City was even weirder, with not a single monster to be spotted.
Nevertheless, if a boss monster truly existed in Zhongsuyuan City, its rank was likely to be Level 1,000 Emperor Rank. Coupled with Revin, they would be a force to be reckoned with.
“That is why more people will only lead to casualties. In that case, I will take care of Revin. As for you, Burapha and Clute, please work together and hold the boss monster off for ten to fifteen minutes.”
Burapha wanted to fight against Revin to settle the score. However, the union’s business came first.
“Okay, Big Brother Sila.”
The three of them leaped into unknown territory. Once they passed the gate, they stumbled into a ghost town with no signs of life. They observed their surroundings and found that this city was an exact copy of Zhongsuyuan City, with the differences being the eerie atmosphere and broken weapons scattered along streets, as well as all of the pine trees being replaced by bamboo of the same height.
Hundreds of small clusters of flames suddenly lit up. The color of the flames was strangely blue. The system then notified Burapha that they were Souls of Defeated Warriors, Level 1 Squire Rank.
“These monsters aren’t aggressive. They are still very young.” A voice, which was familiar to Sila’s ears, rang out next to the three. They quickly turned back, preparing for battle.
Monster Anubis, the Guide of Souls, Level 1,000 Emperor Rank, has appeared.
Sila had set his system window to only inform him about monsters with higher levels than him. That was why the notification startled him. Listening to its contents, as well as seeing the arriving monster, the three’s souls almost left them.
The monster came in the form of the male adult. Even with a black jackal mask covering the upper half of his face, one could still tell that the man must be handsome. The presence that the man gave off was as if he were the God of War.
“Worry not, you three. Follow me. The city ruler is waiting for you.”
Sila had a desire to speak to his father. However, he knew there would be no point. While Independent NPCs had a high degree of freedom, they had to abide by the roles that the system assigned to them.
Pumin was the boss monster of Zhongsuyuan City, attending to the city ruler. This meant if Revin ordered him to kill, Anubis would have no choice but to attack Sila.
“Let’s just follow him,” Sila said, prompting Burapha to lower his lance. The three gradually followed Anubis to the innermost room of the governor’s residence.
Noticing a secret message sent by Sila, Burapha silently read it with a stiff expression. He said nothing in response, only tightening his grip on the lance. Both of his hands were drenched in sweat.
‘If a battle breaks out, you fight Revin. I will handle Anubis.’
Sila didn’t have many choices. He was aware that even when Burapha and Clute joined forces, Pumin might be able to defeat the two in less than a minute.
It had to be him to be able to have shot at dragging the battle on. At the very least, he knew every move of Pumin’s Heaven’s Decree Sword Art.
While Anubis didn’t know the contents of the message Sila sent to Burapha, he could take a guess. A mysterious smirk emerged on his lips.
Sila, Burapha, and Clute followed Anubis, their hearts sinking. The worst-case scenario that Sila had anticipated turned out to be real. Not only did they fail the assassination attempt immediately, but Revin was also aware of their arrival. The man was even waiting for them.
While the layout of Inverse Zhongsuyuan City was the same as Zhongsuyuan City’s, the governor’s residence was a building that only existed in the former. As Sila was the raid leader, he remembered the city map like the palm of his hand. The governor’s residence in inverse city was in the same location that one would find the Information Building in the normal city.
Sila raised his head, looking at the moonless night sky. The positions of the stars seemed to be different than normal as if the city existed in a separate world. He had a hypothesis that Inverse Zhongsuyuan City was a special dimension where souls lived. It was likely that this place was experiencing an endless night. The sun was a foreign concept.
Burapha and Clute were extremely on guard. They didn’t dare to make any rash moves. Fortunately, Sila’s calm expression reassured them. No sign of panic could be seen on his face.
Anubis opened a door to a room with a throne. The size and layout of the room were similar to ones Sila had seen in the Android Kingdom. The differences were the decorations and construction materials. All in all, Inverse Zhongsuyuan City’s throne room looked like a majestic palace where Chinese emperors met their subjects.
A massive red dragon chair stood tall at the far end of the room. Sitting on it was Revin, giving off the imposing aura of a sovereign. A heavy sword leaned on one arm of the chair. It was red and black, similar to the man’s outfit. There was only one sharp edge, but it was serrated like a shark’s teeth. Its size was even bigger than the Black Dragon Sword he used to wield. If Revin put it in front of him, the heavy sword would totally block his view, as it was twice his size.
“I didn’t expect you to come, Sila. I thought Beluga would be the one to challenge me,” Revin said in greeting.
Revin seemed to be different than before, in a way that Sila couldn’t exactly pin down. His appearance, clothing, and the vibe he gave off were the same. In fact, even Revin’s power, which Sila secretly probed using his qi, didn’t change much from their previous encounters. Well, Sila’s uneasiness might come from the fact that they met in an uncommon situation. Or else, it might come from Revin’s tone that was confident and calm, contrasting the tense atmosphere.
“If the chaos in the town is part of a plan you came up with by yourself, I must say you have my respect, Sila. Maybe I should look at you in a new light.”
The three visitors said nothing in response. Sila expanded his qi perception and found that, as far as he could tell, there was no one else in the governor’s residence except from Anubis and Revin. It was strange. For such an important place, it wouldn’t be weird if an army was gathered.
As if he could read Sila’s mind, Revin explained, “There is no one else. I don’t like crowded places. I prefer playing solo.”
“The situation outside seems very dire though. Won’t you need to go out and help?” Sila asked.
“Nah~ some citizens die, but someone else will come. Players are everywhere.” Revin shrugged. “Do I have to worry about other people’s lives and deaths?”
Being a city ruler was a task unsuited for Revin. He rarely cared about others as he believed that people’s lives were something they ought to treasure themselves. If one can’t protect one’s own life, that means they don’t qualify to expect help from others.
The people who were helpless and always expected help from others, hoping a hero would come to their aid, were the ones that Revin despised the most.
“Anyway, don’t worry. I don’t like taking credit for someone else’s achievements. Everyone in the game will surely know that this riot is your doing, Sila.”
While Sila intended to slander Revin, Revin intended to return the favor to him. It seemed neither of them would like to be held responsible for the mass-slaughtering happening in the city.
“Come to think of it, the city ruler’s duty is boring as hell. I didn’t get to stretch my body at all. How about we have a spar?”
During wartime like this, it shouldn’t be the time to play around. Sila couldn’t predict Revin’s thinking process at all. He couldn’t tell whether Revin was either cunning, mischievous, or overconfident.
‘Be careful. He is wild, but isn’t a reckless person. Revin is smarter than he appears to be. He is doing this in order to stop us from fleeing,’ Dark Self warned.
True enough, Revin wasn’t stupid. Sila had personally experienced it firsthand. In Belacia City, Revin relied on just a single sentence to turn Sila into public enemy number two.
As he had heard the warning, Sila’s mind became clearer. He tried to find the reason behind Revin’s actions.
This was undoubtedly the time of war. It wasn’t the time and place to have a sparring match, especially a fair one.
Revin and Anubis’ combined strength were obviously superior to Sila, Burapha, and Clute’s combined. However, if the three of them focused on escaping, even Revin and Anubis wouldn’t have an easy time taking their lives.
Thus, Revin presented a ray of hope to Sila, knowing that Sila wouldn’t run away easily as long as the situation wasn’t desperate. If Revin and Anubis managed to kill either of the three, it would already be too late for them to flee at that point.
Sila had only two choices. Fleeing, ending his plan in failure, or fighting, risking their lives for a chance of victory.
Sila admitted that Revin was truly smarter than he appeared to be. His strategy that stirred the town into chaos wouldn’t work twice, so he had to grasp at the last straw even if he was fully aware that it was a trap. If he decided to leave despite there still being a chance ahead of him, it would negatively affect his self-confidence, slowing his speed of growth in the future.
It wasn’t that Revin didn’t have an army to utilize. However, he risked his life, reducing his manpower to the point where Sila thought he had a shot at winning. It might be a very risky move, but Revin loved excitement. He found dangerous situations enjoyable.
Furthermore, the higher the risk, the higher the potential reward. If he could end Sila’s life today, the victory of the war event would be no different than within his side’s grasp.
Sila risked his life to raid Zhongsuyuan City. Similarly, Revin risked his to seize the chance to kill Sila.
“If you’re bored, how about we have three one-on-one matches? The side with two victories wins. You just have to find one more contestant. I’ll be the one pairing up against you in the first match,” Sila proposed, trying to give his side the advantage and make it harder for Anubis to interfere.
If he really won and was successful at killing Revin, never mind the two victories, he and his team would flee right away.
Revin nodded. “Sure, having three duels sounds fun, I agree. Well, it’s still too straightforward. Since you have specified how we fight, surely you won’t mind if I add some conditions, right?”
As long as he could duel against Revin, given his current strength, Sila was positive that he would win. Thus, he didn’t mind some unfavorable conditions.
“Of course, but they have to be one-on-one duels,” Sila emphasized. The fight had to be one-on-one for him to be absolutely sure of his victory against Revin.
Sadly, Sila overlooked the fact that Revin was a quick-witted person. There was no way the man wouldn’t see through his intentions. It was too naive of him to accept the conditions without hearing about them.
Revin smirked. “Sure, let’s do three duels. However, to add some fun, all three duels will start at the same time. Such is my condition.”
Sila was speechless. They might be able to escape if they stayed with each other. However, with this condition, his forces would be split. The only fate awaiting them would be death.
As Sila was about to refuse the condition, Burapha—who had been keeping his mouth shut—suddenly spoke up, “I agree to that.”
Revin delightfully nodded as his smile brightened. “Good, good. As you are my guests, I will let you pick your opponents.”
Sila shifted his gaze to Burapha, who didn’t look back at him. The man’s eyes were fixed at Revin, expressing neither anger nor anticipation for victory. It was a pair of eyes that were completely undisturbed like an ocean under the clear blue sky. Actually, they looked so calm that they were scary.
Since mood and emotions at any moment are fundamentally related to psychic power, Sila couldn’t risk retracting Burapha’s agreement. Now was the critical moment when Burapha shone the brightest. Psychic power relied on flexibility and creativity more than raw power. Maybe this was the only moment in which Burapha had a shot at winning against Revin. If Sila interfered, Burapha’s mental state might waver and weaken, affecting his psychic power.
In theory, there exists an easy way to win when it comes to tournament-style duels, given that both sides possess equal overall combat prowess. One only has to abandon the general-rank duel, matching one’s weakest team member against the opposing side’s strongest. The rest of the duels will be easy, matching one’s strongest against the opponent’s number two and matching the second strongest against the opponent’s weakest.
However, Sila didn’t know who the ‘third member’ in Revin’s team was.
“Who is your third contestant?”
“It’s a secret for now. Well, he is weaker than me and Anubis, that’s for sure.”
“In that case, Burapha will fight you, I will fight Anubis, and Clute will fight your last contestant,” Sila decided.
As he didn’t know who Revin’s last member was, he appointed Clute to be their match. Clute was powerful and versatile. Among all of the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s members he knew about, only Zazae, Kawin, or Montra would stand a chance against the boy. In any case, Sila was aware that neither of the three aforementioned people were in Zhongsuyuan City, so he didn’t have any concerns.
Revin’s smile remained intact, making Sila feel restless, wondering whether he was being pulled into Revin’s game.
Sila’s expressions turned grim once Revin brought out his third member and started the introduction.
“My third member is someone you have met, Sila.” Revin took out a metal plate. “Pochi, do you remember this guy?”
The tall, black body of a werewolf was released from the metal plate. Its neck, wrists, and ankles were chained. Its crazy red eyes were bloodshot. It was none other than Fenrir, the Black Werewolf King, from the Town of Beginnings.
“This king is not... Pochi... RELEASE ME!!” The Werewolf King let out a deafening roar. It swept its fervent eyes, scanning everyone in the room with malice.
Revin summoned a Flame Blade of Underworld using his magic power and stabbed the Werewolf King’s back with it. Fenrir screamed due to the scorching pain. Its qi was abundant though, constantly healing its body.
“I’m embarrassed. This wolf is so damn stubborn. Believe it or not, he still refuses to become my pet after all this time. Shockingly, he became able to talk recently. Well, it’s good that he is tough, making him a great punching bag. Sadly, I can’t tame him no matter what I do.”
The Black Werewolf King had undergone a bizarre evolution thanks to Sila’s Eternal Onyx. Back then, his body wasn’t in sync with its abrupt increase in qi, so he was easily defeated by Sila despite its high rank.
Now that time had progressed, with the monster’s learning instinct, he grew stronger and learned how to make use of its racial skills. The qi exclusive for its race was Blood Wolf Qi, which allowed the user to maintain qi reinforcement for a long time without any side effects.
Lord Rank qi-type monsters were fearsome in a sense that they had terrifying stats, notably an insanely high amount of health points. With the racial skill, Blood Conversion, members of the werewolf race could always convert their qi points to health points and vice versa without the help of qi circulation. Even though they didn’t possess any fancy moves, their vitality was something that shouldn’t be underestimated. There was a record that, under a full moon, the Black Werewolf King would be a creature close to being immortal.
It could be said that Fenrir was a werewolf version of Infernee. That wasn’t a perfect analogy though. Infernee was magic-type while Fenrir was qi-type. Also, Infernee mainly focused on defense while Fenrir was more or less a berserker.
“If you kill that boy right there, freedom is yours. I promise.”
The Black Werewolf King swept his gaze to Clute, his eyes gleaming with malevolence. He had been imprisoned for so long, missing both sunlight and starlight. His chance at obtaining freedom was right in front of him. He would never hesitate to seize it.
Revin turned to Anubis and nodded once, pointing at the Werewolf King.
Anubis’s shadow extended in length as he muttered a spell.
“Under the influence of the great me, the Guide of Souls, I shall grant you, poor souls, the way to reincarnate through this vessel.”
Thousands of tiny souls emerged from Anubis’ shadow and flew into the Black Werewolf King, competing against each other to dwell inside a target. Many parts of the werewolf’s body enlarged, swelling in an ugly manner. His qi was surging non-stop.
Just by cladding his body with qi reinforcement, cracks appeared throughout the governor’s residence. His muscles tore themselves apart, soaking his black fur with blood.
His health points and qi points shot through the roof, several times higher than his usual limits. As soon as Revin snapped the chains binding him, he dropped to all fours and roared. His voice directed at Clute.
His roar was strengthened by Ray Assemble and Cruise Breeze, heavily blowing Clute away as if the boy had been hit by an invisible sledgehammer. The blow sent Clute crashing into a wall, shattering it in an instant, and flying further with no loss in momentum.
Using Ray Assemble a second time, the Werewolf King’s calves bulged. With a single leap, he chased after Clute to the outside at a speed that even Sila’s eyes couldn’t follow. It was a transcendent speed, superior to even Zero’s.
It was already too late to change decisions. Sila was worried. Clute had become his pet only temporarily when he raided the Heavenly Dragon Guild. Now that Sila’s armor couldn’t register and seal objects or pets inside anymore, coupled with the fact that he didn’t like forcing someone to do something they’re unwilling to do, Clute was no longer his pet. The boy was just his Monster Follower.
When monsters in the wild fought each other to the death, the loser would permanently cease to exist.
Revin was aware that Clute was only a Monster Follower. Thanks to his role as the city ruler, the system had notified him about two players and one monster—not a pet—as soon as Sila and his gang stepped into Inverse Zhongsuyuan City.
Their situation immediately turned grim now that one of their members was missing. Sila and Burapha were tense. They had to try harder to keep their calm.
“Follow me. For our duels not to disrupt one another, we shall fight elsewhere.”
Anubis jumped outside as he finished speaking. Sila didn’t want to waste time, so he quickly followed the Guide of Souls without even sparing a glance to consult Burapha. Similarly, Burapha didn’t remove his gaze from Revin.
For now, all they could do was have faith in each other. There was no room for words of encouragement or anything.
Sila relied on his speed to follow Anubis to a square with a fountain located in the center of the city. The sound of buildings collapsing and an intense battle could be heard from the south, informing him that at least Clute was still alive and in the middle of a battle.
Anubis removed his mask. “Since it’s an order, we’ll have no choice but to do it. Come, Sila. Show us how much you have grown.”
Anubis placed his palm on his chest and activated his exclusive skill. “Spirit Vessel.”
A beautiful white cat appeared. Sila’s system window then informed him that Anubis’ rank had fallen from Level 1,000 Emperor Rank to Level 1,000 Lord Rank while a new monster, White Cat Queen, Level 1,000 Lord Rank, had appeared.
The noble white cat soon transformed itself into a blonde woman in a white suit.
It was none other than Irene, his biological mother.
“Too bad, Sila,” said Irene.
Sila was confused. His mother was supposed to be a scientist, not a profound practitioner. He couldn’t imagine a scene where his mother, who looked reserved and well-mannered, was involved in a fight.
“Mom, you can fight?”
“You better not underestimate me, my son. Your father, who has never accepted a disciple, personally taught me.”
Sila became more stressed. Having his father, the renowned Sword Prodigy, as a personal mentor and living in a game world where in-game energy was available, he didn’t doubt that even a weak person could become strong if they put in a sufficient amount of effort. In fact, those who had reached Lord Rank couldn't be weak.
“You’re in a hurry, aren’t you, Sila? Let’s not waste time,” warned Pumin.
Sila exhaled and stayed focused, circulating Flaming Cloud Qi. The light in his eyes became calm and stable.
“Excellent. As expected of Mora’s main disciple,” Pumin complimented.
Pumin and Irene’s breathings were in perfect sync. Sila realized it immediately that the foundation of their power must be Profound Qi Circulation Art.
Grains of sand swirled and crystalized in Pumin’s hand, becoming a sword with the exact same design as the Sila Sword. Concurrently, a vortex of wind was constantly whirling around Irene’s wrist, resembling a ring orbiting around a planet.
Sila materialized tiny blades made of qi, extending from all his fingers. Using swords in front of the Sword Prodigy sounded like a foolish idea. Even a hundred famous sword dojo weren’t Pumin’s opponents. Thus, Sila abandoned his sword arts and relied on what he best excelled at—barehanded combat and yizichan—ones which he invented himself under the guidance of his teacher, Mora.
Formless Martial God and Five-Attributed Cloud Qi.
As Sila was ready to battle, a mysterious silhouette seemed to waver, overlapping him. The light in his eyes subtly flared up.
Sila hadn’t made any moves yet, but Pumin could sense deep pressure emitting from his son.
‘So he has entered the realm of Nirvana Part... Dark Self’s existence is starting to resonate with the original’s.’
Pumin pointed the tip of his blade forward. He didn’t make any preemptive strike either. However, it could also be debated that he had already done so. Even without further movements, his sword art was showing its invisible and profound effect, changing the atmosphere around Sila.
Heaven’s Decree — First Sword Style, Inverted Ground.
Irene utilized Profound Qi Circulation Art, absorbing power from the Great Flow. The number of orbiting rings increased from two to eight, sliding away from her wrists and hovering around her body. They spun and swirled with different speeds and orbits, never once colliding with each other.
Gentle Moonbelt — Flowing Destiny.
Sila steadily circulated qi, accumulating power within himself while stimulating his senses using the Attribute of Fire. He was raising his concentration to prevent potential effects from Pumin’s Heaven’s Decree Sword Art, which was of a manipulative kind.
The first style, Inverted Ground, was the most basic move of Heaven’s Decree. It forced the opponent to take on the role of an attacker. Pumin’s sword clearly couldn’t reach Sila, but Sila felt like it was pressing against his neck. His instinct was fighting against his rationality. He had the urge to rush to Pumin, but he had to constantly suppress it.
Sila’s feet firmly stood on the ground as if he were a tree with strong roots. He exerted the Attribute of Wood and strengthened it with one more element. Blades made of qi enveloped his fingers, then combined into a bigger one as he fused them together. He waved his hand horizontally in a straightforward manner, breaking himself free from the contrasting feelings.
The Attribute of Fire supplemented the Attribute of Wood. The qi blade ignited, being engulfed in flames. Powerful waves of sword intent spread over, changing the climate from chilling cold to dry and scorching. Small trails of flames danced in the sky.
Pumin didn’t move from the spot he was standing. His right hand holding the sand sword stayed firm, while his left was clad with qi reinforcement. He flicked his index finger upward and the sand on the ground was pulled up, crashing against Sila’s sword waves and changing their trajectories.
Sila clad his palms with qi reinforcement, using qi to control qi. Abruptly changing the attributes from fire to water, the waves of sword intent dispersed and descended as a rain of swords. Each of the droplets fell at different speeds and sizes. They also didn’t focus solely on Pumin but spread over the area, closing off his escape route.
“Changing the form of already released sword energy? What a surprise! To think that you have reached this level of mastery!” Pumin praised his son. “The number of your opponents isn’t just one though.”
Irene, who was standing behind Pumin, waved her hands. The rings, which used to hover around her and act like moving barriers, scattered. The raindrops of swords were pulled into the rings, spinning around their edges. The sword energy gradually lost their power as they did more laps around the rings. In the end, they were completely extinguished. No traces of the powerful attack from before were left.
“...A defensive art!” Sila let out a soft exclamation.
Irene’s Gentle Moonbelt seemed to be similar to Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws, at least in the sense that the core of the art was the shape of a circle.
Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws relied on physical contact, allowing the user to add their own power into performing a counterattack, though it came with the risk of having to fight at close range. Meanwhile, Gentle Moonbelt began with using Profound Qi Circulation Art to borrow the power of nature, the Great Flow, to manipulate wind and materialize circular objects possessing a power similar to that of a magnet. They could attract and repel the opponent’s force from a distance.
Gentle Moonbelt was several times inferior to Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws in the counterattacking aspect. However, it was better for the user’s safety, making it more suitable for female profound practitioners.
Based on Sila’s observations, his parents’ arts shared the same foundation. Their arts had low energy consumption rates. It was safe to say that they were technique-type profound practitioners.
Small attacks would never work against the two. Sila had to rely on martial moves that were either so complex that his parents couldn’t find a way to reduce his power, or so powerful that they could harm the target even when their power was reduced.
Nevertheless, he had to make sure he could actually land the hits first.
Sensing their power up close, Sila noticed that their type of energy was magical qi. Sila had seen Anubis using his power before, but he didn’t have magical qi back then. Now that he had Element-Changing Nightmare Magical Qi, he became aware of the differences between traditional qi and magical qi.
“You no longer have to rely on movements to exert the power of the five elements. Your growth exceeds my anticipation, Sila,” Pumin complimented again.
Sila didn’t dare to accept the compliment though. The technique he just used was what Dark Self imparted to him. Of course, Dark Self didn’t do it through verbal communication, but a silent sense of enlightenment.
Sila immediately came to realize what the ‘new moves’ Dark Self had mentioned were and how to use them. Dark Self must have judged that the situation was urgent, so he revealed the trump card he developed to Sila.
Dark Self’s new moves weren’t exactly new. It was simply a method of using Five-Attributed Cloud Qi in a way that was noticeably different from how Sila normally used it.
Originally, Sila had invented Five-Attributed Cloud Qi by focusing on achieving a bizarre qi art that allowed the practitioner to change their elemental affinity. However, at the time of creation, his strength was limited. For him to bring out the power of respective elements, he had to perform specific movements.
Now that he had completely mastered Flaming Cloud Qi, the Cloud Part helped him adapt his existing martial moves while the Flame Part purified and enhanced the quality of his inner force. Lastly, the Nirvana Part stabilized the duality between his body and mind. At long last, Sila’s Five-Attributed Cloud Qi evolved, becoming what Sila originally envisioned during its creation. Only the attribute of elements mattered while movements became meaningless. Sila could exert the power of five elements through everything. Even his unleashed sword intent was not an exception.
The same explanation applied to Weapon Subduing Fist. Sila possessed strong grip and finger strength from studying under Mora for years. Thanks to his diligent training and his level of mastery over Flaming Cloud Qi, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that he had completely mastered Mora’s Nine Sun-Melting-Fists at this point.
Nine Sun-Melting-Fists focused on damaging the opponent’s acupuncture points, so it could be classified as a yizichan art. However, now that Sila had reached Mora’s level of mastery, he could exert its power through any part of his body, or even through objects he materialized using qi. This aspect elevated both Weapon Subduing Fist and Nine Sun-Melting-Fists beyond mere barehanded arts.
Understand the box to think outside the box. They were originally barehanded arts, but such a scope of understanding was simply too shallow for practitioners of the Flaming Cloud Dojo.
Sila moved his feet, surrounding the two with his twelve afterimages. The Attribute of Earth was hiding in his series of movements. One couldn’t discern which of the afterimages was actually him. A second later, he stomped and leaped forward. Qi blades poured at the center from all directions.
Gentle Moonbelt — Caring Embrace.
The rings overlapped and enlarged, spinning around Pumin and Irene. Sila’s qi blades delved into them, then sprang back.
Sila was still calm as one of the blades flew right between his eyebrows. He opened his mouth.
Racial Skill — Slime’s Roar.
Sila’s roar reverberated. The rings might be able to block and reflect his qi, but they couldn’t possibly block an attack with no form like sound.
Nine suntetsu flew at Pumin as Irene’s concentration broke and the defense line collapsed due to the ringing sound in her ears.
Clang! Clang! Clang!
Pumin’s sand sword stood tall, neatly blocking the hidden weapons. Well, Sila had anticipated that hidden weapons wouldn’t work on Pumin. At the same time, he had anticipated that Pumin would block them using the sword.
Sila heavily stomped the ground, breaking a massive stone plate. His posture was upright. He rode on the impact of the stomp, throwing a fist using the entirety of his body weight.
The move was called Nail Punch, one of Nine Sun-Melting-Fists’ martial moves. Not only did it shift the power of the entire body into the fist, but even the flow of qi circulation was used to strengthen it.
Pumin had just used his sword to intercept hidden weapons. The distance between him and Sila was too narrow for him to swing a sword, so he slightly moved the sword, using the flat surface of the blade to block Sila’s punch.
Upon impact, cracks appeared on the blade made of sand. Yet Sila didn’t stop. He relied on the recoil, retracting his punch, and stomped again.
This time, however, Sila’s stomp was like a spring. A knee instead of a punch came flying at Pumin.
Pumin had a difficult time coping. Still, he was glad to know that his son had grown this far.
‘He is using Mora’s fighting style. This will be troublesome.’
Before he lost his life, Pumin had sparred with Mora a few times. The first few times when he revealed Heaven’s Decree Sword Art, Mora was defeated. However, Mora soon adapted to Pumin’s profound sword art and the rest of the spars were close fights.
Nine Sun-Melting-Fists was intensely offensive and highly continuous. Each attack led into the next. As time passed, the series of attacks would become quicker and more intense. The opponent would feel like they were surrounded by nine suns, being forced to stay defensive without a chance to counterattack. In the end, even their defense would be melted down.
At melee range, while Pumin couldn’t swing a sword, a sword master like him naturally had a method to widen the distance, using only the hilt of his sword. However, Sila was hyper-aggressive and left no room for Pumin to take even the slightest of offensive actions.
Defensive martial moves were a foreign concept in Nine Sun-Melting-Fists. That meant the art’s original inventor, Mora, was confident that they weren’t necessary.
A quick decision-making ability, quick wit, and agility that allowed the user to dodge melee attacks. These three battle instincts were the qualities Mora had drilled into Sila’s body through hard training.
In the past, Sila’s body couldn’t keep up with his battle instincts, resulting in his constant losses against other disciples and competitors. However, he now had full control over his body and mind. The two of them were united as one.
Heaven’s Decree Sword Art might be peerless, but Sila didn’t offer any windows of opportunity for Pumin to unleash its might.
If this was a typical battle, Pumin would have no reason to stay defensive. He only had to step away to widen the distance. However, regardless of whether this was within Sila’s calculations or not, Irene’s eardrums had been damaged. Her sense of balance was a bit off, slowing down her reaction speed, which wouldn’t be as severe if not for her lack of experience with fighting.
Sila deliberately forced her to become Pumin’s burden, pouring all of his attacks at Pumin while Irene was behind him. If Pumin dodged the attacks, Irene would be the one to receive them. The level of these attacks wasn’t something to be taken lightly. Even when their power was reduced, it would still cause serious injuries.
Getting injured in the middle of the fight against a user of Nine Sun-Melting-Fists was equivalent to hanging outside death’s door. She wouldn’t be able to escape the endless series of offensive attacks.
Irene was aware of it and was trying to assist her husband, using the rings to reduce the intensity of Sila’s attacks. However, her son was more competent than she had expected. He used Pumin as a shield, refusing her attempt to show her ability.
His fighting style that heavily pressed on his opponents was reminiscent of Mora’s, making him worthy of being named the main disciple of the Wulin Masters Association’s strongest Elder.
Pumin realized that the battle had turned into a war of attrition. The one who made the first mistake would lose. Nevertheless, with the Cloud Part of Flaming Cloud Qi, Sila wouldn’t make one easily. When getting serious, Mora could maintain his peak condition and keep attacking for an entire day. Sila wouldn’t be too different, especially when he was in the game.
Well, with his vast amount of fighting experience, Pumin wouldn’t make a mistake that easily either.
However, what about Irene? She gained levels from fighting monsters, not human opponents. The art he helped her come up with was a long-range defensive one. When it came to dynamic melee combat, it wouldn’t be wrong to call her an amateur. Because of this, Pumin couldn’t afford to wait for Sila to make mistakes. A chance was something he had to create himself.
Great Flow — Earth Form.
Using his feet as a medium, Pumin borrowed the power of the Great Flow. White vapor enveloped his feet as he stomped. The Great Flow delved into the ground, changing it into a desert in an instant. Sila, who had been relying on the recoil of his stomps to accelerate his movement speed, lost a bit of his momentum.
“Nine Sun-Melting-Fists’ weakness is that a firm foothold is vital for maximizing its efficiency.”
Pumin drew the sword, slashing vertically at an insane speed. It was the opportunity to attack that he attained with hardship. There was no hesitation in his sword, not even out of parental sympathy.
Heaven’s Decree — Third Sword Style, Swirling Vortex.
The slash was simple and straightforward, yet it fully represented every component required for a killing move.
Sila’s posture momentarily broke due to the sudden change to his foothold. He wasn’t in a state where he could defend against this slash.
In that instant, time seemed to slow down in Pumin’s perspective thanks to his keen sense. He noticed the look in Sila’s eyes, which were filled with a refusal to give up. With the instinct he had honed from countless battles, Pumin retracted some of his power behind the sword to clad his body, raising his defense. His action was a good call, helping him, the God of Death, escape from death.
The moment when victory is within their sight is when people lower their guard, opening up a perfect opportunity to counterattack. This was what Pumin had taught Sila. Unexpectedly, his son used the same tactic against him.
Racial Skill — Moon Reflecting Mirror.
The attack power was too much for Sila to reflect all of it, returning only half to its sender. Nevertheless, that was enough to force Pumin to be preoccupied with negating the power in the counterattack. As a result, he had no time to defend against that thing he had just noticed from the corner of his left eye.
A large black panther suddenly appeared out of nowhere. It looked imposing and dangerous. Its body seemed to be purely made out of qi, so its presence was concealed perfectly thanks to Sila’s Qi Concealment. In any case, its dignified form was tangible as if it were real. No, it was even scarier than a real black panther.
Tiger Dragon Qi — Avatar Manifestation.
The black panther mercilessly lunged at Pumin. Even master-class fighters will be defeated if they are forced to receive a powerful blow when they can’t defend. Pumin would be in a very tough spot today if not for Irene using Gentle Moonbelt to intervene.
Gentle Moonbelt — Longevity.
Sila’s power in the form of the black panther shrank by forty percent before crashing into Pumin and Irene, blowing the two away.
Sila didn’t continue his attack as he stood in place, circulating qi of the wood element to heal the wound he had gotten from Pumin’s previous slash.
Pumin got up. The sand sword in his hand completely crumbled. He activated the Great Flow to crystallize another one.
“That black panther was very shocking. Its presence was concealed so well.”
Sila flatly explained, “Heaven’s Decree isn’t suitable against many opponents, so I tried out this method.”
“Performing a combination attack by yourself? What an intriguing idea. A living manifestation of qi was also amazing. Hmm... I didn’t expect to be cornered to this degree.”
“Dad, you were cornered because... you didn’t fight alone.”
Common sense says that fighting with comrades is usually better than fighting alone. However, for Pumin, who had fought solo his entire life, fighting together became a burden.
“Right... sorry about that, Irene. Can you just stay put for now?”
“It’s okay, sweetheart. I’m sorry I was a burden.”
“Don’t say that. You’re just inexperienced. This kind of thing takes time to learn.”
Irene stood still while Pumin strode forward, pointing his sword at Sila.
“Sila, you remind me of a certain someone. Can you guess who?”
Sila took a battle stance. His mind didn’t waver. “Do you mean Teacher Mora?”
Pumin nodded then shook his head. “That’s also true, but you remind me more of someone else. He is a man who I deeply respect.”
A person who the Sword Prodigy, a prideful and lofty sword master, deeply respects? Naturally, Sila was curious about the identity of such a person.
“Do I know them?”
“You’ve heard his name before. He is Zenga, the Demon God—Mora’s teacher and also your grand-teacher.”
The Demon God Zenga, again. His name had always been mentioned by many of Sila’s mentors, and each time he learned something new, his opinion of the man changed. He couldn’t guess at all what Zenga’s inherent personality was.
“Can you tell me more about the Demon God Zenga, Dad?”
“Of course, I will, but you have to win first,” Pumin replied as he took three steps forward, reaching the distance where Heaven’s Decree Sword Art could maximize its power.
The sound of intense fighting coming from where the Black Werewolf King had kicked Clute indicated that at least one duel was still ongoing. As for the duel between Sila and Anubis, there was no response. The fact that no one had come back implied that it was ongoing though. Regardless, Burapha’s mind was deeply concentrating on his own duel. The outcome of the other duels could no longer affect his state of mind.
A minute had passed, but Revin still showed no sign of wanting to separate himself from the red throne. He simply opened his system window and checked its contents as if his opponent didn't deserve his attention. Truthfully, though, he was testing Burapha’s patience, tempting the man to attack so he could end it with a decisive counterattack.
Contrary to Revin’s expectations, however, Burapha became even calmer. His art relied on using stillness to subdue motions. Even when his or his friends’ lives were on a thin border between life and death, keeping his cool was an absolute must. He must be as calm as an ocean, encircling lands with his embrace.
For some matters, slower will be faster. Sila had taught Burapha this concept.
Revin was more experienced, stronger, and had a higher level than him. Thus, Burapha couldn’t afford to put himself into a more unfavorable situation, no matter how trivial it would be, including abandoning his strong point and going up to attack.
“Your name is... Burapha, right?” Revin started a conversation. “The first time we met, it was in Zhongsuyuan City. Unexpectedly, it will also be the last.”
“This encounter may not be our last though. Who knows? We may meet again after the war event.”
“Nah. All of us, Montra, Kawin, and I, already gave our word to the other guilds affiliated with us that we will disband the guild regardless of the war event’s outcome. Then, we will quit the game.”
In fact, Burapha had heard the rumors from Beluga and the game forum. With Revin’s confirmation, he now knew that Montra and his gang were serious about it.
The Heavenly Dragon Guild was among the earliest guilds founded in Monster Soul. It always ranked as the number one guild, possessing the greatest manpower and influence. The amount of profit that they had made and would make must be astronomical. As a merchant, he didn’t understand why Montra would abandon such a big source of revenue for nothing.
“I see... so this is the last time.”
Revin nodded. “Yep. You won’t get another opportunity.”
Burapha inwardly screamed, ‘What a sly move!’ in his mind. On the surface, it might look like Revin was babbling pointlessly. However, it was actually a mind game, pressuring Burapha to believe that this was a deathmatch with everything on the line. Kill or be killed. There was no third option, mentally blocking the option of escape.
True, Burapha didn’t have any desire to escape from the very start. However, having options and having no choice obviously put different kinds of pressure on him.
Revin smirked and suddenly stood up. He gently stroked his heavy sword, showing many openings. Nevertheless, Burapha was aware that those were traps. Even if he rushed at Revin, it wasn’t guaranteed that he could succeed at delivering the first strike. Revin’s speed was quite high.
Every time Burapha encountered Revin, the latter seemed to always change his main weapons. He used his inspection skill to identify the heavy sword in Revin’s hand from afar and found that it was the S-grade Lamentable Dragon Sword, which was a weapon bound to its master. It didn’t have any special options though.
An S-grade weapon with no options? Burapha doubted it. He raised his vigilance. There must be something fishy about that sword.
“Don’t waste any more time. Come. I still have to severely punish those players in Zhongsuyuan City later. Examples must be set, or else they won’t realize how much trouble they have caused.”
Burapha tightened his grip on the lance. His ring, which Lala was sealed inside, let out a faint glow.
“You must know those players were tricked by us to cause a riot. Don’t you think they are guiltless?”
“Guiltless?” Revin chuckled. “How innocent you are. Everyone in the world is always guilty. Even if they don’t commit crimes, they are still guilty for not stopping the criminals. Even if they do try to stop, they are still guilty of being unable to stop them. If someone argues that they are clueless about crimes so they can’t possibly stop them, they are still guilty for not doing anything. A kind kingdom where everyone lives oh-so-peacefully only exists in cheap melodramatic novels that adults write to trick kids. The real world is not and won’t ever be like that.”
Burapha didn’t agree. “Some people are trying their hardest to make the world a better place though. That kind of person does exist. The world in your perspective is too dark.”
“Rather, it’s the world in your perspective that is too shallow. People do good things to fish for compliments. Furthermore, them doing good deeds doesn’t always mean they have good intentions. Even if they do, it still doesn’t mean those on the receiving end will feel good about it. Well, for argument’s sake, even if the result becomes win-win, it’s still an act of seeking self-benefit. Even if they sincerely desire nothing material in return, at the very least, they still subconsciously hope to get the warm and fuzzy feelings from doing it.”
If put that way, Revin’s world really wouldn’t have even a single ‘good person’. Burapha was curious. It was a wonder how the same world could be so different when looking from different angles.
Revin held his heavy sword. “That’s why... the only things I trust in my world are myself and the sword in my hand.”
Once his hand touched the hilt, bits of the blade started to fall off, letting out a lamenting cry. Revin’s magic power poured into the sword, then the sword converted it to qi. The sound of the blade slowly chipping away was so sad that it was heartbreaking. Every time a dent appeared on the blade, Burapha would feel so sorrowful that tears dwelled in his eyes.
“The Lamentable Dragon Sword. I got it from a special quest. Only I can wield it. Every time I use it, it will gradually implode.”
Such a negative option implied that one shouldn’t underestimate the power of the sword. The more serious and permanent the downside of an item was, the more powerful it would be.
Nevertheless, Burapha, too, was confident in his Eastern Sea Evil Lance. His pure psychic power flew into the black lance, causing the golden letters on it to glow. Only when battling against an opponent of the dragon race would the lance display its maximum potential.
Burapha dismissed every unnecessary thought. His mind focused solely on a droplet of water in his sea of consciousness. Although it was a single droplet, its size was as large as an ocean.
“Rhythm of the Single-Drop Ocean.”
There were no visible changes except for Burapha’s eye, the one which wasn’t covered by his eyepatch. It gradually lost focus and looked dazed.
“Interesting! So you can use Rhythm, huh? Even I can’t do it.” Revin dragged his heavy sword along the floor. The sword’s wailing sound and the sound of the friction were frantically distracting.
Among the three top leaders of the Heavenly Dragon Guilds—Montra, Revin, and Kawin—the one who was the most reliant on his battle instincts and quick-wit was Revin. He was adventurous and disliked troublesome paperwork. Even though he was a magic-type player who could technically use Solaria’s spells, the number of spells he had memorized was less than ten. Among those spells, not even one was high-tier. He only remembered spells which were easy-to-use, convenient, and could be cast quickly.
When in battle, there were only three things that he fully trusted: the sword in his hands, Flame Phoenix Sword Art, and Flame-Dancing Dragon Steps.
For Revin, the sword in his hands was a reliable comrade—the companion who wouldn’t ever betray him. It was one of his favorite pastimes to fight together with different friends, also known as different swords. That way, he would have to constantly adapt his sword art to suit each sword he was using, broadening his views as a swordsman.
Flame Phoenix Sword Art was the art he personally came up with, with guidance from Sanon. He had been improving it non-stop for years and it was the art he was most confident about.
Lastly, Flame-Dancing Dragon Steps was the art developed from Coiling Dragon Steps, the Sky Dragon Dojo’s basic movement art. While Montra excelled at barehanded art and developed the dojo’s Sky-Rending Dragon Fist into his Heavenly Destiny Fist, Revin took more of a liking to Coiling Dragon Steps.
Revin had sought Sanon’s guidance. Together, they had brainstormed and reformulated Coiling Dragon Steps into a movement art that focused more on movement speed within a limited range. Finally, he got a movement art that flashed around his opponent like a cyclone of flames. It eventually became one of Revin’s personal profound arts, together with Flame Phoenix Sword Art.
Revin’s magic power spread to his feet. His figure blurred as if one was looking at him through waves of heat. Hellfire Dragon’s Scales and Dragon Domain were both activated.
“Let me see how much stronger you have become since the last time we fought.”
Revin lifted up the heavy sword and put it over his shoulder. His movements were smooth as if the giant sword was weightless. His grip on the sword’s hilt was quite loose. He swung it once, generating hot wind that blew toward Burapha.
Burapha held his lance with both hands. His vision blurred thanks to Revin’s flashing movements which were shrouded in flames. Fire sword energy encircled him, preventing him from reading the trajectory of the swinging sword.
“I don’t mean to find faults, but aren’t you holding your lance the wrong way? You’re wielding it like it is a staff.” Revin’s voice came from all directions.
Burapha didn’t answer. He simply rotated his lance once, flipping the back of his lance to block the blade coming at his right ankle.
The sound of the impact told Burapha that his defense was effective. Revin used a giant sword, so people would normally think that he would have swung the sword from top to bottom in order to hack his opponent. Revin was sly, however. His first strike unexpectedly aimed at Burapha’s ankle.
“Dang~ Kraizer was also able to block this move of mine. Am I getting weaker lately?”
There was a catch in Revin’s statement though. While Kraizer could block his sword, the man still got some injuries. Burapha, on the other hand, was perfectly fine after receiving the attack. Well, to be fair, part of the reason was Kraizer also counterattacked Revin as he was defending. As for Burapha, the man only defended firmly.
Burapha wasn’t in a hurry to strike Revin, whose position had been exposed. He knocked the end of his lance on the floor, spreading a ripple of psychic power. The ripple was faint and powerless, but it echoed back to him once it had come into contact with Revin, informing him about the man’s actual whereabouts. It turned out that Revin had shifted position. He was no longer behind Burapha but on his right.
After receiving another incoming attack, Burapha pressed his lance on the sword, locking it to the floor. The ring on his hand flashed, and Lala flew out. She thrust her trishula toward Revin.
“Heh~ Did you really think this would work against me?”
Revin swayed the hilt of his sword to parry the trishula and threw a fierce kick as a means to counterattack. Burapha calmly removed his lance from Revin’s sword and blocked the kick. Meanwhile, Lala tossed a large metal barrel at Revin. The two of them made their moves simultaneously without exchanging any words. Performing combination attacks was the strength of psychic-type beings.
At first, Revin thought the barrel contained bombs. However, a split second later, he doubted it. He didn’t think the two would use bombs at such a close distance. No, even if bombs were really inside the barrel, the Hellfire Dragon’s Scales would be able to significantly reduce the damage.
With that thought, Revin flipped the sword, pointing the sharp edge upward. He then grabbed the hilt with one hand before kicking the back of the blade, swinging the Lamentable Dragon Sword up using the force from the kick. The blade neatly cut the barrel in half.
The barrel broke, and a large volume of water poured out. As it turned out, the barrel was a water tank used by armies, loading enough freshwater for an army to last a week.
Racial Skill — Water Spirit.
Lala activated one of her racial skills. The water, which was splashing throughout the room, wrapped around Revin, trapping the man inside.
Burapha’s eyes gleamed with killing intent. He clenched his lance and thrust it into the water dome.
Eastern Sea Sailing Lance Art — Undercurrent.
The surface of the water dome shook heavily. Undercurrents were echoing inside the dome, compressing Revin. Blood gushed out from many parts of his body, dyeing the water red. Honestly, he didn’t expect Burapha’s attack to be this powerful.
Burapha’s Rhythm of the Single-Drop Ocean enhanced his overall control over his psychic power. Under the Rhythm’s effect, his mental connection with Lala would become clearer and he would be better at using his power, as if the system was assisting him. The experience he was feeling right now was like how the game’s difficulty level suddenly dropped from insanely hard to beginner. It was a suitable Rhythm for someone like him who was quite lazy and tended to seek shortcuts. The duration of his Rhythm was extremely short though.
The overall situation indicated that victory was already in Burapha’s bag. However, he just noticed that Revin’s hands were empty. The Lamentable Dragon Sword, which should have been in them, was nowhere to be seen.
“Watch out!!” Lala cried as she exerted her greatest strength to push Burapha away from his current standing location. Apparently, Burapha was too fixated on attacking Revin. He was counterattacked in an instantaneous moment of carelessness.
The sound of the slash came after it was done slicing. Lala, who had just saved her Partner’s life, was bisected from her shoulder to her waist. She dispersed as white light and returned to the ring. Meanwhile, Burapha frowned, staring at the Lamentable Dragon Sword, which was floating despite no one holding it.
The mass of water wobbled and collapsed. Burapha had no time to regret what had already happened. All he could do was tighten his grip and refocus, controlling his breathing.
Revin extended his hand to grab the floating sword. He pushed his wet hair up using his other hand. The heat from his Dragon Scales caused the water to evaporate, his body covered under vapor.
“Whoa, I almost died. I really am quite vulnerable against in-game skills with strange abilities.”
Even without inspecting the man, Burapha could tell that Revin was greatly injured. That series of attacks were his trump card that he had spent weeks developing. He had tested them several times until he was confident that he could enhance his attacks using water. If Revin was hit by those attacks and came out unscratched, Burapha would really consider committing suicide to not waste their time.
The water was leaking out of the room through doors. Without Water Spirit being active, no amount of water would be enough.
As the water level had dropped to their ankles, Burapha tossed out five more barrels. He spun his lance, breaking all of them. He had to keep the water volume to at least at knee-level, reducing the sharpness in Revin’s Flame-Dancing Dragon Steps.
Revin wouldn’t fall for the same trick. This time, however, Burapha didn’t imprison Revin inside the water dome. The target was himself. He spun his lance from the inside of the dome, sending waves at Revin.
“What kind of move is that?” Revin became more vigilant. He stabbed his heavy sword into the ground before stepping on its hilt, using it as a foothold. He jumped to one of the pillars in the room and kicked it, soaring toward Burapha.
The Lamentable Dragon Sword cried once as it flew to its master’s hand.
Refusing to come into contact with the water surface, Revin performed a move in mid-air.
Flame Phoenix Sword Art — Gliding Phoenix.
Relying on the momentum of the sword flying his way, Revin grabbed it and turned a somersault. He swung his sword at Burapha’s back.
In response, Burapha controlled the water dome to spin, deflecting Revin’s sword. He was relying on the six techniques Sila had imparted to him to reduce the fierceness of Revin’s attack.
Revin flicked his other hand, his magic power pouring into his ring, and activated a spell that he used often.
“Flaming Blades of the Underworld.”
Dozens of blades made of hellfire were summoned. They surrounded Burapha from all directions. The water dome was slowly boiling, scalding him.
The throne room was soon filled with water vapor, greatly reducing visibility. No one could witness the result of the duel.
Sila stood before the greatest opponent he had ever fought. Pumin was superior to him in all aspects, be it level, combat strength, stats, skills, and even experience. Sila had to wrack his brain, searching for a way to win the fight. Otherwise, he must at least drag on the fight for as long as possible. The so-called duels were just pretenses, which both Revin and he knew. Once someone won their duel, they would be free to join their teammates and help. In any case, the most decisive match was the one between Revin and Burapha.
Sila’s feet were on a soft cushion of sand. Pumin had previously decomposed the ground using the power of the Great Flow. Without stable footholds, Nine Sun-Melting-Fists, Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws, and even Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps couldn’t display their full potential. Coupled with Pumin’s Heaven’s Decree Sword Art that continued putting a mental strain on him, Sila knew his overall strength was greatly suppressed. Even when he was completely uninjured and full of qi energy, he could exert only twenty percent of his full fighting capability.
Sila no longer doubted how his father could manage to subdue a hundred sword dojo despite Pumin having just crippled himself and reformed his own cultivation back then. In front of the Sword Prodigy, who utilized the Heaven’s Decree Sword Art, no matter how great his opponents were, they wouldn’t be able to show their best.
The qi blades in Sila’s hands began to disintegrate. Pumin had yet to use Heaven’s Decree, but the art’s concept alone was threatening enough. The principle behind Heaven’s Decree was to redirect the Great Flow, which was profound energy existing in nature. In the game, said energy was classified as magic-type.
Anubis’s Soul-Eroding Magical Qi was expanded using Galaxy Eclipse, enclosing Sila and himself within a giant sphere.
Soul-Eroding Magical Qi had the property of gradually eroding intangible substances, including basic energies such as qi, psychic, and magic power. The eroded power would disintegrate and become a part of nature. The scary part was that the eroded power would never recover, with the exception of beings who had attained the essence of magic. Such beings could absorb mana in nature and utilize it.
Among the players who knew about the essence of magic, Sila was one of the few talented ones who had actually received enlightenment regarding it and could use the essence. There was a problem, however. He had always been heavily reliant on using his own magic power. Utilizing ambient mana was a foreign concept for him, though not completely. In fact, the art he inherited from Pumin, the Great Flow, was technically an art that involved using ambient mana to bend reality.
Sila felt his special points slowly dispersing. The longer the duel dragged on, the worse his situation would get. On the other hand, Pumin, who could proficiently borrow mana, would only become more formidable.
Sila tried borrowing the power from the Great Flow. However, it didn’t work. Mana seemed to have a will. It refused to listen to him, and he didn’t understand why. Mana was abundant in the air. He could feel it, so why couldn’t he use it?
“It’s useless, my pertinacious master.” Zarnak revealed the answer, “Anubis’ Union Percentage is higher than yours. Magic power and magic-types pay close attention to the differences in levels. If he doesn’t use it, then it’s fine. However, if he wills it, there is no way you can borrow even a measly amount of mana in his presence.”
Mana, also known as the power of nature, was necessary for unleashing the might of Heaven’s Decree Sword Art. This meant Sila wouldn’t be able to use Heaven’s Decree against an opponent who possessed a higher Unison Percentage than him. This was a vital piece of information to know.
“Since you don’t plan to escape, your chance of victory is quite slim, I must say.”
Zarnak was right. Against such a formidable foe, the best and logical course of action should be escaping. Nevertheless, Sila never chose an easy path. Even if stepping back was easier, he would still choose to take a step forward, pushing himself into a dangerous corner. He did that literally. At first he had only been in Heaven’s Decree’s effective range, but now he was also within Pumin’s reach.
No words were needed between profound practitioners. Pumin’s lips curved up satisfyingly. Sila witnessed the instant when rivers of mana flowed into Pumin’s sand sword. It was a breathtaking scene. For Sila, however, he didn’t have the luxury to admire the mesmerizing sight even for a split of a second.
Heaven’s Decree — Fifth Sword Style, Triple Lightning Bolts.
The attack’s blinding light was like a flash of lightning on a day with a clear sky. The slash split from one to three. Lightning bolts rarely hit the same place twice in quick succession, but Heaven’s Decree Sword Art disregarded probability. Three lightning blades darted at Sila from different angles. It was a killing move that combined three strikes into one blow. Used by the Sword Prodigy, the move seemed to be able to shave off three lives from a single target.
Formless Martial God — Nameless Spirit.
Sila’s body bent and turned unnaturally. He evaded the three strikes altogether at a distance that should’ve made dodging impossible. His bodily movements were completely strange to the eyes.
Many martial artists could predict their opponent’s future movements by reading the flexing and contracting of muscles. However, what Sila had just done defied common sense. His actions indicated stepping back, but he bent his upper body instead.
Being reminded by Zarnak, Sila got an idea. Since he currently couldn’t rely on most of his martial arts, he should rely more on in-game skills. Magical qi was more qi than magic power, so it should be weak against magic skills.
Fortunately, magic was the only energy type for which Sila had acquired the special boost—Art of Magic.
Usually, the results of magic spells were fixed and inflexible. They also disregarded laws of physics. For example, Fire Arrow, a spell that had 100 attack power and could fly for 50 meters, would vanish the moment it passed the 50 meter mark. Also, regardless of the distance between the spell caster and the target, it would deal exactly 100 attack power before taking the target’s defense into account.
With Sila’s Art of Magic, however, the distance became a factor to determine the amount of damage that his spell could deal. If he were to cast Fire Arrow, the spell would materialize an arrow with 300 attack power, but the said damage would decrease in proportion to the distance between him and a target. If it hit the target standing at the edge of the spell’s effective range, its attack power would fall to about 10.
Sila intended to depend on Formless Martial God, which had a low power consumption rate, to stay near Pumin. The martial art lacked decisive attack power though, so he had to rely upon his magic skills to win against Anubis, who was ultimately classified as a qi-type monster.
Sila circulated Element-Changing Nightmare Magical Qi throughout his body, shrouding his body with a layer of black aura. The skill had a mixture of magic power, so it got partially enhanced by his Art of Magic.
Stating the spell’s name was a must for magic-type skills. Unexpectedly, Artifact Manifestation had a great synergy effect with Sila’s Art of Magic. Since the artifact was technically manifested near him, he would always obtain an artifact that was three times more powerful than the spell would normally produce.
Seven magical elements exploded and solidified, transforming into a jet black axe. Its size was so large that it didn’t seem like a weapon designed to be used by humans.
Sila had intended to summon a sword, so the spell’s result startled him. He had gotten too close to Pumin though. It wasn’t a distance suitable to swing an axe. Having no choice, he had to step back before he could swing it.
It was when the axe had finished solidifying that Sila discovered yet another surprise. The axe was so heavy that he could hardly lift it up. He had to exert every ounce of his arm strength plus use Formless Soldier in order to swing it once.
The opportunity to strike was long gone. While Sila wasted time having difficulty swinging the axe, Pumin had already moved. He jumped backward to secure some distance.
The axe crashed onto the ground with immense force, shaking it. The nearby buildings even collapsed due to the aftershock. A large crater, at least 500 meters in radius, appeared on the ground. The impact was beyond imagination. Not only Pumin, but even Sila himself was also at a loss for words.
“Why didn’t a sword come out?” Sila wondered.
Again, it was Zarnak who unraveled the mystery. “The artifact produced by Artifact Manifestation will always correspond to the type and amount of magic power spent creating it. You compressed seven elements of magic power with the dark element as its core, so the spell determined that you desired a heavy weapon that focused on attack power, like an axe.”
Artifacts created from Artifact Manifestation were considered items, so a system inspection was possible.
(S) Thousand Ruptures Axe
+ Increase physical attack points by 10,000,000.
+ Completely ignores defense, including energy reinforcement.
- You can’t strengthen its attack power, including by using energy reinforcement.
*Its attack power is fixed. The damage that it delivers will not be higher or lower than the aforementioned value.
- The wielder will always feel that it is too heavy to wield no matter how strong they are.
A weapon with ten million attack power!! Sila doubted his eyes. The highest value he had seen so far from weapons was around 10,000—and that already included A and S grade weapons. Well, to compensate for its ridiculous amount of attack power, the Thousand Ruptures Axe came with the inability to be affected by energy reinforcement. Sila could clad it with all of his special points but nothing would come out of it.
Its greater disturbing aspect was its absurd weight. Its weight was so heavy that Sila’s arm muscles spasmed after just a single swing. Zarnak further explained that using qi to strengthen the arms would be useless since its weight would increase accordingly. The axe always adjusted its weight to make whoever was holding it feel that it was too heavy.
Pumin observed Sila and the axe. “What a terrifying weapon. Its attack power is at the level of gods living in the Monster Realm. In this New World, no monsters will survive if hit by it once or twice. Well, you can’t hope to hit anyone with that level of speed.”
Sila dropped the axe on the ground. “This won’t do. Let me try something different.”
“Artifact Manifestation.” Sila compressed the same amount of magic power, this time selecting the Magical Arrow form. A short, illuminating arrow appeared on his hand. Its length was shorter than ordinary arrows by half. Its arrowhead seemed to be made of rare minerals and jewels, looking quite ornamental.
(S) Seven Luminaries Arrow
+ Increase magical attack points by 7,000.
* Although the Seven Luminaries Arrow is tangible, it deals magical damage instead of physical one.
* When the Seven Luminaries Arrow hits a target, the target will receive seven consecutive strikes, cycling through the elements. The attacks will be of the earth, water, wind, fire, lightning, ice, and dark elements respectively.
- The Seven Luminaries Arrow will be negated when it comes into contact with any spell of the light element, even if it is of the lowest tier.
- During the day, the Seven Luminaries Arrow will lose half of its power.
Sila was delighted by the result. The Seven Luminaries Arrow quickly ranked among one of his favorite hidden weapons. Its size and shape were similar to suntetsu.
He slipped it into his sleeve, ready to fire it once the timing was right. Anubis was a qi-type monster while the time in Inverse Zhongsuyuan City was forever night, so he didn’t have to worry about the Seven Luminaries Arrow’s weaknesses.
Pumin quit waiting, refusing to give Sila more time to prepare. Logically speaking, under the effect of his Soul-Eroding Magical Qi, the longer the fight dragged on, the more advantageous the fight would become for him. However, his intuition warned him otherwise.
Heaven’s Decree — Fourth Sword Style, Sword Storm.
A stormy wind blew. Pumin’s sand sword connected to the Great Flow, changing mana into wind blades. They violently circled around Sila, who was about to try out another form of Artifact Manifestation.
Since he was already halfway done compressing his magic power, Sila decided to risk it. He didn’t stop what he was doing but instead accelerated the process.
‘Give me something good!’
Sila was in a hurry, so the amount of magic power he input into the spell was higher than what he had intended. As a random element was used for the core, a particular monster emerged and howled.
The magical monster had the same physical appearance as a human’s but was twice or thrice the size. Looking closely, Sila thought its looks resembled Karum, so it was likely to be a member of the giant race, though most likely a different kind within the same race.
Berserker, Level 1,000 Lord Rank, has appeared.
The system’s notification made Sila realize that its level was even higher than his.
For the record, the Berserker was a kind of giant that had already gone extinct. Sila’s Artifact Manifestation hadn’t revived the creature, just recreated its form and characteristics. The reason for its extinction was due to its frenzied nature. In any battle, they always fought in a trance-like fury, attacking anyone in its sight except its lord.
The Berserker’s racial qi was Berserk Sky-Cutting Magical Qi, which would constantly generate wind blades out of its wounds. The more severe the injury, the more powerful the generated blades.
Additionally, the Berserker possessed a passive racial skill known as Fiendish Moment, which delayed any form of damage done to it by a minute. Thus, even when it took an attack that could take its life, its death would be delayed and it would continue fighting for another minute.
The Berserker rushed at Pumin without minding the buzzing cyclone surrounding it and Sila. It recklessly broke through the sharp blades made of wind, getting numerous scars on its body as a result. No matter how Pumin attacked it, it didn’t care. It literally threw its life at Pumin for the sake of delivering one strike after another.
Pumin mercilessly waved his sword through the Berserker’s neck. However, instead of seeing its head flying away, only a large scar appeared around his neck. Its maddening qi poured out from said scar, forming into numerous wind blades. They chopped Pumin’s sand sword into pieces as easily as a warm knife cutting through butter.
Sila couldn’t help but be amazed. He had to put so much effort just to cause some cracks on Pumin’s sword, which was formed by mana. On the other hand, the Berserker could break it effortlessly.
Sila had recovered a bit of his magic power. He opened his palm, activating Artifact Manifestation yet another time, this time selecting the last form.
A small ring box soon appeared on his palm. Its size was similar to all of the other item boxes that Sila had seen in the game. Imprinted on the front side of the box was a pair of wings, with one looking angelic and the other looking demonic.
(S) Pandora’s Box.
Will a Goddess’ smile emerge, or will it be a punishment from demons?
The item description was short and practically useless. It didn’t explain anything. Sila hesitated over what his next course of action should be.
Noticing Sila doing something, Pumin avoided the Berserker and sent a qi blade to knock the box from Sila’s hand. The box rolled on the ground. Pumin sent another qi wave to send it flying out of sight. At the same time, using his magical qi, he trapped the Berserker within a sandpit.
The duel continued in that manner.
Concurrently, the flying box flew and smacked against a certain someone.
“Ouch!” Being an expert, one shouldn’t feel pain so easily. However, the man still let out a groan out of habit.
“I have been lost for two days. Where is the exit? And who dares to throw things at this handsome one?” The Deity Lomyok exclaimed as he inspected the object that had hit his head.
Reading the box’s description, Lomyok smiled, the temper from just moments ago gone as if it had never existed. “Aha~! I have been on a lucky streak lately. Undoubtedly, this box will bring me another fortune.”
Lomyok slowly opened the lid of the box. It let out a silent *click* sound, then his vision turned dark.
In fact, this phenomenon didn’t only occur to him. All beings in Monster Soul were experiencing the same thing.
Artifact Manifestation was the ultimate skill of each Horseman of the Apocalypse. The four of them had a duty to prevent monsters from escaping the Inner Hell, so the spell they possessed was bound to be extremely powerful. Arguably, the same spell in Sila’s possession was classified as an item skill, meaning its ability was weakened, or nerfed in game terms. If used right, however, the power it displayed would still be tremendous.
Regretfully, Sila did it all wrong. It was natural though. Magic was the type that relied on knowledge and experimentation. The result of each spell was fixed and reliable regardless of place and time. It was the opposite of qi which was flexible and versatile, depending on the user’s aptitude and understanding. Meanwhile, psychic power was unpredictable, greatly influenced by the user’s state of mind.
While Zarnak was knowledgeable and wise, its scope of knowledge was limited to what its masters had experienced. Among its former masters, some had witnessed Artifact Manifestation, yet no beings fully comprehended the ability as much as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse did.
Artifact Manifestation’s actual usefulness didn’t lie in the ability of the artifact it summoned but how quickly the user could convert their magic power into an artifact. It could be done in an instant. In that sense, the user could compress a spell that normally took an entire day to cast into an artifact then deform it, unleashing said spell right away. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse relied on this exact ability to reign over hordes of monsters trying to escape.
However, not only did Sila not define which spell he wanted to manifest, but he also randomly expended his magic power. In fact, if Artifact Manifestation was a qi-type skill, he would have already suffered from qi deviation. Or else, if it was a psychic type, his power might have become unstable and exploded right in front of his face. It could be said that the current results were fortunate enough.
Since he started the game with qi and had high aptitude for psychic power, Sila didn’t understand the amazing qualities of magic. He didn’t even care about why most monsters, including all gods except Lucifer, belonged to the magic type category.
Magic type was arcane, fair, and loyal. It never bit its master like qi and wasn’t unpredictable like psychic power. By spending magic power, the user would always get something in return. Also, there was no way a caster would be harmed by their own spells unless there were external interruptions. Even if a spell caster cast an AOE fire spell to burn the entire area, including where they were standing, they would still be fine.
Sila had paid his magic power, mixing seven elements together, to trade for an artifact, yet he had no clue what kind of results he could expect from it.
Since Sila spent his magic power randomly, naturally, the system generated a random artifact for him in return.
Pandora’s Box wasn’t designed to be opened. If it was in the hands of one of any Horseman of the Apocalypse, they would have thrown it at their enemy and deformed the artifact, changing it back into a compressed mass of magic power. The power of seven elements would then explode. In a sense, the ability of the box held no meaning.
Even in the Monster Realm, only a few monsters would know the name Pandora. She was a being who had lived in a primal era. Most of those who knew her name would have already forgotten her or died.
Thus, no one knew what was inside the original Pandora’s Box—the inheritance she left behind. Its ability remained a mystery.
The reason why all players’ vision snuffed out wasn’t because they had died, but because all natural light was gone, completely. It was as if someone had spilt black ink on the canvas called the sky. Be it the sun, the moon, or the stars, none could be seen in the sky.
The world was under a veil of darkness that was darker than any nighttime.
Players all over Monster Soul panicked, thinking that they were under a blind curse. Some who were in the middle of fights got injuries or died. It took a short while before they discovered that they could light fires. If someone were to look at the Main Continent from up in the sky, they would see that small dots of manmade flames were gradually lit up on the land below.
The game’s management team had to urgently hold a meeting, consulting for a long time over what to do about the unexpected situation. It hadn’t happened yet, but in half an hour, there would be a system announcement about a certain event. Since there was no precedent of the system holding another event during the time of war event, the meeting became quite hectic.
Sila was aware that he wasn’t blind. Qi-type players possessed sharp senses, so he knew for a fact that there were no abnormalities within his body.
Amidst complete darkness, his eyes caught a glimpse of mana coiling around a sand sword, so he retreated barely in time using Formless Martial God.
Sila’s chances of victory were dimmer than the current natural lighting. There was no light of hope. His body, experience, and intuition all admitted that much. Still, his brain’s amazing clarity reminded him that hope always existed as long as he was alive.
There was a certain verse in the Flaming Cloud Qi’s Flame Part, saying, “If a path can’t be found in the dark, light a fire.”
The mentioned fire referred to the Flaming Cloud Qi itself. Normally, the practitioner would master the Cloud Part before the Flame Part for them to obtain wisdom. However, if the time came when they encountered a foe who they couldn’t defeat with only wisdom, they must overwhelm it with power.
Naturally, Flaming Cloud Qi was classified as an art of the fire element according to the principle of Five Elements. The qi would stimulate the user. If Sila didn’t circulate it, he would be like an ordinary person. However, once he circulated it, the Cloud Part would enhance his cognizance while the Flame Part would stimulate his inner force from within.
Fire is one of the classical elements of nature. Flaming Cloud Qi had the power to control fire, so it was undoubtedly almighty and powerful.
Angelic Flame and Demonic Flame began to merge. Sila intended to use white flames while Dark Self wanted to use black ones. Their struggle for survival led to a perfect synchronization, subconsciously leading them into the deeper world of Flaming Cloud Qi.
Flaming Cloud Qi — Nirvana Part.
A swaying aura enveloped Sila. Saying the aura was like a group of flames would be an understatement. It was like Sila had become light itself. His aura spread and got rid of the darkness in an instant. Inverse Zhongsuyuan City became even brighter than what it would be if the sun shone down upon it.
Pumin felt both joy and surprise. It seemed he had greatly pressured Sila to the point that his son achieved a breakthrough sooner than expected. Sila’s current level of power was comparable to the Demon God Zenga’s—whom even Pumin in the past couldn’t get a single win against.
The brainwave technology and profound arts were supporting each other. No one could predict what would happen to the Wulin Masters Association in the future. The era where profound arts reached their apex might be arriving soon.
Even mana in nature was burnt, vanishing without leaving a trace. There was nothing the Nirvana Flame couldn’t burn. No one could borrow power from nature anymore.
Sila looked at his palm. A golden aura of light coiled around it and would move according to his desire. Even the air was burnt to nothing, leaving nothing for breathing. Despite there being no oxygen, the golden qi flame didn’t disappear since its fuel was Sila’s lifeforce. The only time that the Flaming Cloud Qi’s user couldn’t exert the Nirvana Flame was when their lifeforce had run out.
If this phenomenon were to happen in the real world, Sila’s inner force would constantly go down until he reached his death. In Monster Soul, however, the cost of using the Nirvana Flame was none other than his health points. No, they weren’t just his health points but the maximum value of them.
“My master, you’re not ready for this power. Stop using it. If your health points reach zero, you will permanently cease to exist in Monster Soul,” Zarnak warned.
If the health bar reaches 0/0, the character naturally can’t survive. The user will have no choice but to delete their avatar and start anew.
Sila quickly extinguished the Nirvana Flame. Despite that, 200,000 of his maximum health points had already been consumed. The reason why Zarnak had never brought up the constant use of Nirvana Flame to Sila was because it knew that Sila was still unable to properly control the flame. The power that should have been used sparingly was instead rapidly consumed.
There was no air left for breathing. Luckily, Sila, Pumin, and Irene had mastered Profound Qi Circulation Art. They could rely on the inner-breathing technique to prevent themselves from suffocation. However, regardless of how great they were as profound practitioners, no one could continue to survive in a place with no air. Given their masteries, they could hold their breaths for at most an hour.
Both sides were more concerned about Revin and Burapha’s match. One of them was a magic type while another was a psychic type. Unlike qi type, they wouldn’t have a way to survive for long in this kind of environment.
Nevertheless, their own fight had yet to come to a conclusion. To give their aid to Revin or Burapha, Pumin and Sila had to finish their battle as soon as possible.
“Irene, go and help the city ruler,” Pumin requested, to which Irene nodded. She turned her head to look at Sila once before she left.
Sila could only watch as she disappeared.
Heaven’s Decree Sword Art could no longer be used since the mana in the air was gone, leaving none to be borrowed. Still, the title Sword Prodigy wasn’t so simple. Pumin wielded the sand sword using both hands as he took a common-looking battle stance. A powerful qi reinforcement was clad around the sword while a gentle breeze coiled around him.
One against three. If someone fights barehanded, those are the odds of winning against someone with a weapon. In order to increase his odds, Sila unwillingly took the Thousand Ruptures Axe into his hands. He regretted that he didn’t have Lookhin’s Oceanic Mind or Cross’ Psychic Armament. If he did, he wouldn’t have to lift the axe up using his arm strength.
‘I hope that art will work... Well, I doubt it. I have never tried it before.’ Sila reluctantly pinned his hopes on a certain art that he had learned in passing.
It was an art living in the deep corners of his memory. Sila went over its utilization in his head, switching his Flaming Cloud Qi circulation method from the Flame Part to the Cloud Part. What he needed right now wasn’t raw strength but keen insight.
The sand sword came at Sila as violently as a hurricane. The strike was simple. There was no waste of energy. Pumin was aware that Sila wasn’t proficient at using an axe. There was a big difference between how to use a sword and an axe. A different kind of weapon wasn’t something a fighter could use skillfully the first time they picked it up. Thus, he pressured Sila from the first strike, forcing his son to block it head-on and lose momentum. He decided to finish the duel by the second strike.
Sila took a short breath to relax his mind. His Five-Attributed Cloud Qi changed his elemental affinity to water. His eyes didn’t look at the sword but Pumin’s center of gravity.
He raised his hands slowly, swinging the Thousand Ruptures Axe upward. Since his movements were slow, he could pinpoint a target accurately despite the axe’s troubling weight.
Once the sword and the axe collided, Sila exerted all his strength. No, he didn’t try to forcefully break apart Pumin’s attack by lifting the axe up. Quite the opposite, in fact. What he did was push the axe down.
What to do when the axe was too heavy to wield by oneself? What to do if one’s own strength was insufficient to take down a foe? Simply borrow the opponent’s strength, then.
Sila was using the final part of knowledge recorded in the Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws scripture, which explained the martial moves’ various applications once the user had built up enough inner force.
Previously, he had believed that he had nearly mastered the art. However, after witnessing Sanon’s Ocean-Surrounding Dragon Technique, he came to a realization that Sanon’s skills at counterattacking were a hundred times scarier than Kawin’s. For Sila, whose proficiency of the art was below even Kawin’s, thinking that he had nearly mastered the art was quite shameful.
The axe descended in a curve. Sila used his body as a center of the circle, swinging the axe centrifugally. The axe spun around him in a fraction of a second, thrashing Pumin in the most straightforward manner. Before Pumin could be aware of it, the axe was already an inch away from his head.
Apparently, Sila borrowed the force behind Pumin’s strike to accelerate the speed of his swing. The attack neatly connected, dealing exactly 10,000,000 points of damage to Pumin.
Witnessing the result, Sila came to be aware of the terrifying aspect of the art that focused on counterattacking. He now knew the reason why the Ocean-Surrounding Dragon Technique was hailed as one of the Five Crown Jewels despite it being used only once.
When Pumin was attacking, his defense naturally weakened. While people are running forward, they can’t move back without coming to a stop. The art focusing on counterattacking carried high risks when being used. However, if the counterattack was successful even once, it could immediately turn the tide of the battle.
Pumin’s body was cleaved in half, scattering as grains of sand.
Sila wiped the sweat on his chin. “Pim’s hammer art is surprisingly useful. I will have to thank her later.”
In fact, Pim had insisted that her art wasn’t a hammer art but a mace. Sila had exchanged combat-related knowledge with Pim for one night during his stay on the Island of Beginnings. How to use a hammer wasn’t complex, so he could learn it relatively easily. Unexpectedly, he finally got a chance to use it today.
The uses of a mace were simple, yet powerful; the simplest attack could naturally exert the most powerful might. How to use it well heavily relied on how to make use of its weight, unlike swords or sabers which focused on how the user applied force into their wrist.
Having a chance to personally experience Ocean-Surrounding Dragon Technique through his body, Sila realized how amazing the counterattack art could be. Well, unlike before, the current Sila had become more humble. He didn’t dare to call his strike just now the Ocean-Surrounding Dragon Technique. Actually, without the ridiculous attack power of the Thousand Ruptures Axe, he was certain that his previous counter would be simply hard to dodge but lacking raw power. Calling it a Fountain-Surrounding Small Snake Technique would already be pushing it.
“Umm... I think I have mimicked Mister Sanon’s move properly though. Why didn’t my move show the same might as his? What am I lacking, I wonder?”
“I see... So it’s Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws. I was too careless, thinking that it’s not your forte.”
Pumin’s voice rang out as the pile of sand recombined, forming into an uninjured Anubis. The unfolding scene made Sila become restless. He was shocked to see that his last attack was ineffective.
Noticing the change in Sila’s expressions, Pumin knew what his son was thinking. “Don’t be discouraged, Sila. Don’t you know that all Gods of Death are undead? We won’t die unless our health points reach zero. The previous attack was amazing, dealing exactly ten million damages. It’s just that I have twenty-five million health points total. Hit me with it two more times and I will die. Actually, your attack would cause more damage if you reinforced it with qi. Well, I guess you would have already done it if you could. This means that the axe has some restrictions.”
The Thousand Ruptures Axe’s downside was that while the ten million damage might sound life-threatening, it wasn’t enough to kill boss-level monsters at Lord Rank or higher, especially when they were qi type.
“Regretfully, our duel can no longer continue,” Pumin declared as he looked behind Sila.
Sila turned back and found Irene returning. With a soft voice, she announced something to her son.
“By the time I arrived, the match between your friend and the city ruler had already come to a conclusion.”
Even when steam had covered the entire room, both Revin and Burapha continued to trade blows. The Lamentable Dragon Sword’s howls were unpleasant to hear, also shooting several qi waves outward. The waves were strengthened further by Revin’s fire magic power, pushing Burapha to the edge.
Burapha brandished his lance left and right, reducing the aggressiveness of Revin and the Lamentable Dragon Sword’s combination attacks by using all six techniques of Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws. His psychic power was gradually declining since he had to constantly clad the lance with it, keeping his defense high enough to avoid fatal blows.
Many profound arts shared similar characteristics. Thus, Revin said nothing despite thinking that Burapha’s movements were like those of Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws.
Revin’s Flame-Dancing Dragon Steps allowed him to flash around, making it difficult to track him with the eyes. As a result, Burapha had a hard time defending. Fortunately, the floor was still flooded with water, so he could read the ripples to predict Revin’s movements.
‘I have to take a big loss!’ Burapha made a decision. He opened his black-screened system window.
The black screen couldn’t be seen through. Its sudden appearance made Revin temporarily flinch. Burapha seized the chance to stab his lance through his system window. The stab intimidated Revin, making him take three steps back.
“You really have a bag full of tricks,” Revin sneered.
Twenty wooden boxes, each one the size of a cubic meter, poured out. They lined up, side by side, forming around Burapha like walls.
Calculating that there was no point to avoid them, Revin horizontally swung his sword, sending an energy blade of qi and magic to attack them all.
Lamentable Dragon — Purgatory Fang.
The Lamentable Dragon Sword was a special qi-type weapon. When clad with energy reinforcement, most weapons would unleash the same kind of energy. However, the Lamentable Dragon Sword was quite different. Regardless of the kind of energy one poured into it, it would always unleash qi. This peculiar characteristic enabled Revin to deliver an attack of dual energies by strengthening the unleashed qi with his magic power.
Burapha knocked the end of his lance against the floor, generating a powerful vibration that burst the water surface. All of the wooden boxes broke and the contents inside gushed out. As it turned out, they were containers containing large batches of vials. The liquid in the vials varied in color, with most of them being light-blue.
Activating Water Spirit, Burapha controlled the leaked liquid to form a defensive dome around him.
The scary-looking flame from the Purgatory Fang extinguished once it collided with the dome made of light-blue liquid, being weakened to a simple energy blade. Burapha easily parried it away. The time for him to be on the offensive had finally arrived.
“Wait? What is that?” Revin frowned.
Obviously, Burapha didn’t reply. There was absolutely no reason for him to reveal his trick.
Burapha’s attack was different from Revin’s. He stood still while the pink liquid coated his body, followed by more layers—yellow, then purple. Meanwhile, the light-blue liquid kept assaulting Revin. In total, there were four colors of liquid in the room.
Just a small touch from the light-blue liquid greatly weakened Revin’s Hellfire Dragon’s Scales. On the other hand, he noticed Burapha’s wounds were getting healed at a fast pace despite not being a qi type. In addition, Burapha’s psychic power, which had been almost depleted, was recovering at an unusual rate.
The Dragon Domain constantly lost its power. The steam condensed into droplets as the temperature of the room dropped. The source of the cold came from none other than the light-blue liquid Burapha was controlling.
For the record, those vials were potions sold in Sebastian’s shop, which Burapha had secretly brought from Asura. Given their lazy personality, Asura and Franz often stole Sebastian’s products for themselves. Franz was adept at poisons, so she ignored finished products while focusing on stealing Seven-Form Serum and the main pellets. On the other hand, Asura couldn’t make proper uses out of the main pellets, so he had to be content with stealing potions during the time when Sebastian was injured by Lucifer. At a later point of time, he met Burapha and could tell that the human was interested in trading, so he discreetly sold them to Burapha and obtained some cash to squander on booze during his stay in Belacia City.
Burapha managed to get his hands on many potions at cost price. However, they were stolen goods. Asura forbade him from openly selling them, or Sebastian would suspect where he got many of them from otherwise. In the end, Burapha decided to keep some for self-use and lock the rest of them in boxes, planning to gradually resell them when Sebastian’s goods had circulated through the market.
The light-blue liquid came from Freezing Potions. It was a freezing liquid that didn’t solidify into ice. Its main uses were to preserve food and reduce heat. The liquid could be diluted in plain water, so it flooded the room when the vials broke.
The pink came from high-grade health potions. The yellow came from Strength Potions that could temporarily amplify the consumer’s stats. Lastly, the purple came from psychic-recovering potions.
It could be said that Burapha was emptying his wallet in order to win against Revin.
Burapha no longer intended to engage in direct combat. He changed his approach, using Water Spirit to form some liquid into a clone of himself. His water clone wielded the lance that was two times larger than the one in his hands.
The clone was a mass of his psychic power, so Burapha could strengthen it at will. He was technically using Eastern Sea Sailing Lance Art through a medium.
Even Burapha himself was surprised that this action was doable. Psychic types indeed had no limits. He was thrilled at this new discovery. At this rate, he could just stay in the water and send his clones to fight in his place. It was a fraudulent way to grind levels and farm items.
Revin whistled, feeling amused. Witnessing Burapha’s advancement from a mere merchant to a level where he needed to put his all into the fight, his eyes sparkled with excitement.
He deactivated his Dragon Domain to reduce his wasteful magic power consumption and instead put more power into the Lamentable Dragon Sword. The sharpness of its emitted qi blades increased, bisecting Burapha’s water clone.
Still, the water clone had no fixed shape. As it was falling apart, its splash of water changed shape into numerous tiny lances, flying at the enemy. Revin wasn’t good against attacks that covered a wide area, so he was bombarded by many of them. He had Dragon Scales to reduce the damage, fortunately. Still, his internal organs eventually got bruised from the accumulated damage. He forcefully coughed up some blood, which helped him weaken the level of pressure in his body.
Hellfire Dragon’s spells became essentially ineffective. Revin’s ability to use in-game skills and items proved to be inferior to Burapha’s. Things wouldn’t have gone so wrong if he could use movement arts and wasn’t surrounded by heavy unfavorable environments.
‘I guess I’ll have to take some risks.’
Revin made a decision. No matter how well Burapha had cornered him, the fact that there was a large gap between their levels still stood firmly. Revin’s level was Level 1,000 Marquis Rank while Burapha’s was Level 1,000 Knight Rank. With a gap of an entire 1,000 levels and the fact that Revin was a member of the dragon race, Burapha’s psychic points couldn’t hope to compare to Revin’s magic points. This difference made Burapha be vulnerable to Revin’s full-power strikes. If only one of them connected, Burapha would surely die.
Revin took a battle stance, holding his sword at his waist and pointing the sharp edge upward. He deliberately reduced his power supplying Dragon Scales, receiving greater damage from Burapha’s water lances as a result.
He waited until his health points reached a tenth before he maximized the power of Dragon Scales.
Solaria, as well as Revin who inherited its characteristics, had a peculiar trait that caused its offensive power to explosively increase when near death.
Revin’s eyes gleamed red. He, along with the Lamentable Dragon Sword, let out a war cry. The wavering flames on his skin, which had formerly been extinguished, blazed back to life.
Triple Sky Energy — Triple Peaks.
Triple Sky Energy, as its name suggested, provided its user with three sources of power. Revin usually used one for attacking, one for defending, and the last for regeneration. Now, however, all of Revin’s sources of power channeled into the sword, ready to kill Burapha in one blow.
The sky inexplicably and suddenly turned dark. Still, that wasn’t something that the two cared about right now. The flames lingering on Revin’s skin dimmed while the Lamentable Dragon Sword let out a sorrowful and weeping cry. The blade broke apart as if it were a splashing droplet of tears. Every scattered fragment shone orange. The light reflected on the water in the room, creating an arcane sight.
Flame Phoenix Sword Art — Red Phoenix Soars Through The Heavens.
It was a simple move. Revin drew his sword, no blade attached to it anymore, upward once and remained unmoved afterward. His motion had ended, apparently, but the real move had just started. Under the water surface, the silhouette of a large phoenix caused ripples. Its blurry eyes glared at Burapha with malice.
The silhouette swayed. The heat emanating from it caused the water to rapidly boil. Burapha could no longer stay in the water dome he had created. He was forced to use Psychic Impact twice, performing double jumps while bringing the water dome with him. However, that was exactly what the red phoenix intended.
No one could avoid the flame phoenix in the air.
The phoenix, manifested from Triple Sky Energy, launched itself into the air, leaving destructive trails in its wake. The floor’s stone plates disintegrated while the water vaporized.
Having no room to dodge, this kind of attack would undoubtedly burn Burapha to charcoal. Followed by numerous qi blades which were essentially what the flame phoenix was made of, even his remains would be cut into small pieces.
Alas, man’s schemes are inferior to those made in heaven. Luck wasn’t on Revin’s side, it seemed. When the flame phoenix had reached out to Burapha, already cutting his left leg and burning it to ashes, a mysterious golden flash of light emerged out of nowhere and effectively wiped away all of Revin’s efforts.
Apparently, all of the flames in the room got snuffed out by Sila’s Nirvana Flame.
Revin, now extremely defenseless and worn out, choked and suffocated. Small amount of blood bled from the corner of his eyes, nostrils, and mouth.
Meanwhile, Burapha was far luckier. He was inside the water dome made of liquid. Thanks to the merpeople’s racial ability, he could breathe underwater. Although most of the liquid had vaporized, the remaining amount was just enough for him to survive.
The threatening red phoenix was gone without a trace and Revin was full of openings. It was Burapha’s best opportunity to strike.
Eastern Sea Sailing Lance Art — Mountain-Scouring Wave.
Psychic power spread out in the form of movable walls, smashing into Revin. The man was blown away like a kite that had its strings cut. He crashed into the throne, cold and still.
Poor Revin. If he had made his move just five seconds earlier, the loser of this battle would certainly have been Burapha.
The system notified Burapha that he had killed Revin. It reminded him that the experience wasn’t just a delusion. Overcoming a struggling deathmatch pushed him past his limits, promoting his rank to Level 1 Marquis Rank.
The system also informed him that Revin was just a deputy city ruler. With Montra’s Emperorship of Guardian Spirit, the city didn’t fall into his hands.
The current result was satisfying enough, though. Burapha finally managed to take down Revin, the team’s main target. This victory alone implied that the raid in Zhongsuyuan City ended in the Wicked Union’s favor. All he had to do next was to safely retreat.
Then again, things don’t always go the way humans want them to.
The lamented, weeping cry never died down. Rather, it got increasingly louder as if it represented some kind of curse. The handle of the Lamentable Dragon Sword floated in the air, all by its lonesome. Its depressing cry was so sorrowful and sad that even the most adamant man would feel as if their heart was breaking.
The last and ultimate ability of the Lamentable Dragon Sword was triggered in that manner.
Lamentable Dragon — The Last Blade of the Perished.
If it was broken before its master’s demise, that would be fine, since that would mean it had completed its duty as a loyal sword. However, now that its master had died before it, its grievance intensified and developed into resentment, ready to hunt those responsible for its master’s death to the ends of the earth.
Revin’s body didn’t dissipate into the light as it should have. Instead, his entire being dissolved into a red sphere of fine dust, representing his soul. It flew and fused with the sword.
Formerly he had overcome the quest provided by Anubis and gotten the Lamentable Dragon Sword as a reward. The sword had contained half of his soul. Now, however, each half was about to fuse according to the essence of qi and return to being a single entity.
The result of the fusion was a male human, his long red hair flickering frenziedly. His eyes were devoid of light, constantly bleeding bloody tears. The man was wearing wuxia clothing with flame patterns. Where humans have arms were instead long and beautiful blades.
His emergence was followed by world messages.
Notice to all players in Monster Soul. The new Demonic Armament—Lamentable Dragon—has been born!
As a matter of fact, the Lamentable Dragon is the first Demonic Armament ever born in the New World. The fact that the conditions for creating Demonic Armament have been fulfilled proves that the New World is ready for the next phase of the game episode. Therefore, the system will unlock seven random Demonic Armaments so that players can compete to conquer them.
All seven Demonic Armaments have been scattered throughout the New World. Each of them possesses abilities far greater than other ordinary S grade items.
Still, please bear in mind that their powerful abilities come with severe drawbacks.
The overall situation in Monster Soul would soon go haywire. The fact that Demonic Armaments sprang into action in the New World introduced bad omens to the whole world, even including the gaming company that operated Monster Soul Online. Their meeting, which was originally held for the matter regarding the darkness covering the entire Monster Soul, intensified by several levels. The sheer pace of the game development severely shocked the management team.
Even by their wildest predictions, the birth of a Demonic Armament was supposed to occur when at least 5% of total active players had managed to enter the Monster Realm, which was estimated to happen in another fifteen in-game years, meaning three years in real life.
It was especially troublesome that such a drastic change was to occur during the war event. It was worth mentioning that not all players decided to participate in the event. Some logged out before the start of it and those who had died had to wait a long time before they could re-enter the game. As a result, the management team had a hard time providing help to existing players regarding the release of Demonic Armaments, since doing so would be unfair to inactive players. They had no choice but to wait until the war event ended.
The human form of the Lamentable Dragon screeched. He crossed his blade arms, breaking the residence’s roof and tearing the space. Dimensions broke apart, revealing the chaotic views of Zhongsuyuan City projected upside down in the sky. Air and ambient mana poured into Inverse Zhongsuyuan City. He took a deep breath, consuming a large amount of mana, and his entire body was soon bathed with intense qi.
Still processing the new announcement provided by the system, Burapha realized he no longer had the time. The Lamentable Dragon had already locked his eyes onto him.
Looking into the lifeless pair of eyes, no words were necessary. Burapha knew from every fiber of his body that no good things would come from this encounter.
Clute looked up, staring at the faint crack in the sky. Frowning, he shifted his gaze to the Black Werewolf King, his eyes filled with pity.
His match had ended even before it could properly start. Except for the first blow that sent him away, the rest of Fenrir’s attacks had been countered by the power of “Gebo (Gift)”, one of the runes he was best at using since it was one of his original letters.
Gebo symbolized giving and taking. With it, Clute could create a clone to take damage for him. Still, the copy has a few limitations, such as not being able to move too far away from the caster and it dissolves once the opponent realizes that it is just a copy. Those were the reasons why Clute had to hide his presence and observe Fenrir from nearby.
Every time Fenrir inflicted damages to Clute’s copy, the Black Werewolf King would receive the same amount of damage.
Berserk monsters were easy to cope with, as long as one possessed suitable countermeasures. Their attacks were often simple and predictable. The more Fenrir attacked, the more injured he became. And as his pain increased, so did his rage, causing him to attack even faster. His craziness was cornering himself.
If Fenrir were to trade places with any monster living in the Monster Realm, any single monster, not even one of them would be doing as poorly as him. The Monster Realm was a cruel place, making every monster become more shrewd and vigilant than usual. No one would fall for such a childish trick.
Fenrir was badly battered, his qi dispersed. His body shrunk and became a small black puppy, panting heavily, though his eyes still expressed the previous madness. He continued to plunge at Clute’s copy.
“Enough. If you die on your own, it won’t count as dying to a wild monster like me. You’ll be able to return to your brethren.” Clute deactivated the rune, dissolving his copy. The boy put the puppy down on the floor. It didn’t get up, or rather, it couldn’t. It twitched and eventually lost consciousness.
Clute was more worried about the other matches. The sky had suddenly turned dark and an unfathomable golden light had burned all of the mana and air. The Black Werewolf King had formerly clad his entire body with qi, so he was unaffected. Meanwhile, Clute was a golem. He was a magical being that didn’t require oxygen for surviving. He didn’t even need to borrow ambient mana, since Rune Magic forced the users to rely only on their own magic reserve.
Then, the sky was ripped apart and ambient mana from another dimension was sucked into the governor’s residence. From there, a massive amount of qi exploded. The shockwave reached from afar to where Clute was standing, prompting the boy to manifest a domain around the puppy, as it would die if he did nothing.
Clute’s frown deepened. He quickly soared back to the governor’s residence.
Burapha dragged his limping body away, using his lance as a walking stick. The regeneration of his left ankle was a lost cause. Even qi types, who were known for their high recovery power, still required special qi to heal missing organs, especially for body parts bigger than a finger. It was even more troublesome when it came to healing others since that meant they had to possess Qi Transmission of a very high level as well. It was worse that the missing organ was not only cut away, since reconnecting limbs were easier than regrowing them. His ankle was completely pulverized.
Another option was a healing spell. However, powerful healing spells were insanely rare.
In the entire game, Burapha could only think of two people who had a shot at healing him and were willing to do so. They were White Swan and Anawin, the Medical Saint.
The Lamentable Dragon descended. His feet silently tapped on the floor. He whistled, firing a qi blade from his mouth. The blade shot through the air as if it were fired using a powerful yizichan art. Both its travel speed and sharpness were top-notch, leaving no chance for Burapha to dodge.
Fortunately, his main weapon was the Eastern Sea Evil Lance. It acted as an invisible barrier so long as Burapha reinforced it with psychic power. As a result, the qi blade didn’t penetrate his head as its attack power was reduced. Still, the remaining power blasted him away, his health points all but gone.
Burapha felt pain all over his head as if he had been hit by a sledgehammer. To think that a mere qi blade was this powerful... If the Lamentable Dragon was more serious, he would have died before he blinked.
Myth-Splitting Dragonic Qi — Cathedral of the Dead.
The Lamentable Dragon turned his face upward and let out a cry. The entire land trembled in response. Cracks started to form on Burapha’s skin, his ears bleeding. He immediately clad his body with psychic power reinforcement and soon found that it didn’t help. The Lamentable Dragon’s qi was incomprehensible. When becoming a form of attack such as an energy blade, qi was supposed to be tangible. With enough mastery at energy handling, one could normally drive it out from their body with an equal amount of power. However, the qi that attacked him at the moment came with the sound, seeping into his body. His tears flowed for no reason while his organs were attacked from within. Even the invisible armor formed by the lance was unhelpful.
Arriving at the scene, Sila let out a roar that was louder than the Lamentable Dragon’s cry. The target of the roar was Burapha. The result of the skill made Burapha’s ears buzz, hearing only a ringing sound. However, in exchange for this, the pain from before subsided significantly.
Sila knew from experience that Burapha wouldn’t be able to hear in his current state, so he used yizichan to write “Retreat!” on the floor.
Soon, Clute caught up to Sila. The boy looked at the word before he grabbed Burapha, jumped into the sky, and disappeared into Zhongsuyuan City without saying anything.
Sila guessed that the boy planned to bring Burapha to the Summer Forest, which was the Mountain Thieves League’s hiding place.
More cracks appeared in the sky as the upside-down Zhongsuyuan City moved closer to him, or rather to the entire Inverse Zhongsuyuan City. The two cities were about to overlap.
Taking a look at the red man in front of him, Sila was unsure as to who he was. The system informed him of neither his level nor his name.
“Be careful. It’s a Demonic Armament like me,” Zarnak warned after sensing the energy signature of the enemy.
Sila recalled the previous system announcement. Could it be that this red man was the aforementioned Lamentable Dragon, the newly born Demonic Armament? He was totally clueless about how such a development happened in this place and at this time.
The Lamentable Dragon let Burapha go easily because his true nemesis was right before him. The conditions for his birth were easy but tricky to be fulfilled. In a sense, Sila played a major role in making him come to life.
Solaria had a few titles aside from the Hellfire Dragon. Sometimes it was regarded as the Dragon of Swords since its flesh, bones, scales, and horns were ingredients for producing elite swords.
One of the conditions for the Lamentable Dragon’s birth was that Solaria had to be killed by the user of another Demonic Armament.
One of the other conditions was for Solaria to be killed while holding an extremely deep resentment. In this case, Revin was technically defeated by Sila’s Nirvana Flame then finished off by Burapha. It wasn’t fair. Of course he would resent such a manner of defeat.
Normally, the sword’s final skill, the Last Blade of the Perished, would transform its master’s soul into flying sword energy, hunting its master’s killer for thirty days straight.
However, since all of the conditions had been met, what came out of Revin’s soul wasn’t mere flying sword energy, but the Demonic Armament.
Like how it did to Burapha, the Lamentable Dragon’s qi affected Sila. However, he was more experienced. Instead of trying to drive it out directly, he relied on his qi to circulate it through his body before letting it out through his ears, in a similar manner to how it got in.
He noticed that the harmful qi was similar to his Dark Psychic Corrosion. While Dark Psychic Corrosion corroded from outside to within and spread, Myth-Splitting Dragonic Qi corroded from within to outside, destroying its host in its wake. For this kind of power, it was best to avoid a direct clash. Using a high-level energy circulation technique was the proper countermeasure.
“Wait a minute.” Sila kept his distance and studied his opponent. “If he’s a Demonic Armament, where does his qi come from?”
If what Zarnak said was the truth, that meant the Lamentable Dragon’s existence was something similar to Julia, which was an item. Even if he could move, he was supposed to have neither health points nor special points.
“To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure. Maybe it has something to do with it being a combat type,” Zarnak replied, its voice monotonous.
All battle gears in Monster Soul were divided into three categories—qi, magic, and psychic power—depending on their energy types, obviously. Each category had different distinctive features. Qi-type battle gears were often simple, possessing high attack or defense power and enhancing stats. Magic-type battle gears often came with unique options or item skills. Lastly, psychic-type battle gears varied in abilities, most of them tricky to use but potentially fraudulent. It was to be expected since item utilization was a strong point of psychic types.
Demonic Armaments were categorized like so as well. Still, they could also be categorized by their main utilization—combat, and assist.
Combat-type Demonic Armaments directly enhanced their user’s fighting abilities while assist-type supported users in other manners. For the record, both Sila’s Blade-Sharpening Dragon and Sebastian’s Manifesting Soul Lantern were assist-type Demonic Armaments.
Ambient mana continued to flow into the Lamentable Dragon’s body. Apparently, he had the ability to convert mana to qi. Furthermore, similar to Zarnak, he could pull some memories from his past masters for his own use, albeit in a different manner. Zarnak obtained the memories and experiences while the Lamentable Dragon obtained fighting techniques.
The Lamentable Dragon’s legs blurred as he flashed left and right, approaching Sila. He was using Revin’s Flame-Dancing Dragon Steps. His footwork was confusing, making his body sway as if he were a flame flickering in the wind. It was a movement art very different from Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps. Witnessing it, Sila couldn’t help but be amazed.
Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps was, sadly, an art that could only be fully utilised by others. When using it, Sila might be able to generate twelve afterimages, yet all of them would eventually disperse when he delivered an attack. Thus, he mostly used it for temporary camouflages in order to get up close to his opponents.
On the other hand, Flame-Dancing Dragon Steps was an art developed from Coiling Dragon Steps, which was one of the Sky Dragon Dojo’s main arts. The dojo emphasized the importance of meaning behind the shape of “circle”. The continuity and smoothness of the red man’s footwork broadened Sila’s view. Even while approaching, the Lamentable Dragon could maintain his battle stance, ready to attack at any opportunity.
Unsure of how to cope with the man’s incoming attacks, Sila eventually chose to step back. It was the reason why Revin liked Flame-Dancing Dragon Steps. Even though it wasn’t excellent in terms of traveling a long distance like most qinggong, its offensive capability was high.
‘I see. He converted mana to qi. Should I use Nirvana Flame again to get rid of ambient mana?’
Sila’s overall speed was, fortunately, a bit faster than the Lamentable Dragon’s, so he could keep his distance. However, it was as if the Lamentable Dragon held an irreconcilable grudge against him. No matter how Sila tried to withdraw, he would stubbornly follow.
“It’s useless, my short-sighted master. Firstly, you shouldn’t attempt to use Nirvana Flame when you are incapable of controlling it. More importantly, you could previously burn away all mana just because you did it in an enclosed dimension. Now that this dimension connects to the outside world, you can’t. Ambient mana is like the air. Even if you suck it away from a spot, mana from other areas will simply flow into it. You can’t possibly burn it all away.”
Far away from the scene, both his parents were quietly watching Sila without any intention of helping. They had formerly informed him that they, as Independent NPCs, could do nothing about the situation, since that was the basic rule.
‘It’s one on one... How about Heaven’s Decree Sword Art?’
Sila attempted to gather the power from the Great Flow. However, the result was disappointing. Ambient mana refused to come his way. This meant the Demonic Armament in front of him, despite not being a monster, had a higher Unison Percentage than him.
“He is an item, so I guess he has no vital spots, yes? How can I defeat him, then? Will splashing my blood on him be enough?” Sila mused out loud.
“I’m afraid not, my shallow master. Demonic Armaments are prideful items. They, or rather we, have the right to select their masters out of the quality they are looking forward to. For me, it’s the determination that won’t yield even against death. For him, however, it can be anything. Even if you break him by brute force, it is still uncertain that it’s the right way to defeat him.”
Sila disagreed though. “I don’t think so. You said it yourself that he’s the combat-type, so the condition for his defeat must be more direct than yours. He is also wearing wuxia clothing. See? For us martial artists, we communicate through strength. I believe I must defeat him in a fight.”
Sila began to notice something else: The Lamentable Dragon’s attacks were becoming increasingly sharper. The blade, that used to miss Sila by a palm span, started to miss him by an inch. The fact that he was a combat-type Demonic Armament seemed to make him learn how to fight at a drastic rate. If Sila didn’t change his approach, he would be in a tough spot.
Myth-Splitting Dragonic Qi — Abysmal Breeze.
The qi blade suddenly extended. It slashed at Sila’s chest, cutting his flesh. There was no visible scratch on the Twin Souls Weaponized Protection, yet his blood soaked it from within.
“His attack penetrated armor!” Sila exclaimed in shock. He was injured despite having properly maintained his qi reinforcement and Formless Soldier.
Through his qi, Sila closed his wound. He became stressed. He didn’t think the swords in his arsenal could take on the Demonic Armament, but he was reluctant to engage a fight bare-handedly.
So far, he had been fine fighting bare-handed against weapons, but that was because he was confident his powerful qi could protect his body. However, the Lamentable Dragon’s attacks made him lose that confidence. The red man’s speed had already caught up to Sila’s level and his attacks cut through his flesh as easily as cutting tofu.
“Are you scared, Sila?” Dark Self raised his voice. “Are you scared at the possibility of a quick death?”
Without a hint of shame, Sila readily admitted, “Yes, I am. We will die if we make even the slightest mistake.”
“Such is a true battle, Sila. Lately, even when you were up against a superior opponent like Anubis, you were still unafraid of being killed in one swift attack. You’ve become so strong that you’ve forgotten the old feelings. The feeling of being constantly one step away from death. The feeling that you had to struggle for survival with all the effort you can muster. The feeling that you had to risk your life in order to deliver a single attack...”
“...The feeling of wanting to achieve new heights,” Sila finished.
“Don’t be content with your current level of power. Nirvana Flame, so what? There is no absolute limit. It’s not that our power has to stop at this level. Always remind ourselves that we’re weak. Always seek to become stronger. Recall our old feelings. Evoke our true potential!”
Dark Self’s mental speech became louder, turning into a shout. Sila’s eyes gleamed with Flaming Cloud Qi. He was using the Cloud Part to recall his old experiences.
The desperate fight against Shueria at the harbor on the Island of Beginnings, the intense battle against the Water Dragon amid the vast ocean, the struggling duel against Sebastian in the Mansion of the Seven Deadly Sins, the exchanges of blows with Fargo in Colossia City, and the continuous deathmatches with Montra in the Town of Beginnings—all of these experiences were fierce, brutal and tough, since they happened in his early moments when he was still weak. Each of his opponents could kill him in one attack.
“Unleash our inner beast—the one who fights for survival!” Sila’s voice synchronized with Dark Self’s. They were recalling a particular forgotten art.
A long time ago, Sila had invented a certain barehanded art to cope with weapon users, though he later dismissed it as he had come up with a new art. Admittedly, he, at that time, was unable to unleash the art’s full potential.
The power in his body divided into two parts. One flowed normally while the other flowed in reverse, both supporting each other. Together, they represented the duality. Sila used to call this display of power Yin Yang Energy.
Nine-Styles Weapon Subduing Art — Lesser Styles — Armament Trampling.
Sila bravely entered the Lamentable Dragon’s attack range. Once the arm blades drew toward him, he countered them with continuous kicks, subduing the weapons under his feet.
It was an old move, but the current display of power was different. Unlike before, he could now exert the move’s full capability.
Sila moved closer. He uppercut the Lamentable Dragon’s chest, his fist exploding with power in an instant.
Nine-Styles Weapon Subduing Art — Middle Styles — One Above All.
The heavy fist slammed into the Lamentable Dragon, sending the living weapon into the sky. The red figure crashed against the forming dimension, breaking it apart and creating a giant hole. He reappeared on the upside-down ground of Zhongsuyuan City.
Without waiting for the Lamentable Dragon to recuperate, and with no fear of dying to the Demonic Armament’s counterattack, Sila bent his knees and circulated qi throughout his body. His eyes gleamed with malice, ready to take off after his prey and continue his attacks.
Nine-Styles Weapon Subduing Art — Greater Styles — Lone Soul.
An hour and a half had passed since the start of the raid in Zhongsuyuan City. Considering the overall process and the end result, it was satisfying. The Wicked Union successfully brought chaos to the city, utilized teleport-jamming devices, and defeated the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s members in the city. Most importantly, they victoriously sneaked into Inverse Zhongsuyuan City and killed Revin, the deputy city ruler.
The raid was far from over though, so it was hard to say that it was perfect. There was a Chinese proverb saying “A longer night creates more dreams”, which emphasised the importance of the passage of time. The longer an operation drags on, the riskier it becomes for the participants. Even a good dream can become a nightmare without warning.
In this particular case, the proverb was spot on.
Sila’s plan failed to take the potentially long duration of the raid into account. The teleport-jamming devices could only run continuously for an hour straight, meaning the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s members could send their reinforcement during the devices’ downtime. Furthermore, the Victorious Wolves Sect’s headquarters was located near Zhongsuyuan City. Without Lone Wolf’s lead, the members might take advantage of the chaos and march an army to the city. They could justify their actions as an act to solve chaos while their real aim might be to conquer the city temporarily, though ‘temporarily’ in this case could either be for a day or ten years.
At the time when the Lamentable Dragon fell from the sky and slammed into the fountain in the city’s square, Sila’s teammates had already withdrawn from the city. Only Himeko remained out of concern for Sila’s safety. Unsurprisingly, Asava and Vlad chose to stay with her.
The three Kimon members stood on pine trees somewhere in the city. They didn’t hide their presence, though the situation was too confusing for someone to notice them.
The army belonging to the Victorious Wolves Sect had marched into the city thirty minutes ago. They could easily handle and subdue the situation at first, but the situation changed once Revin died. The transportation device near the center of the city flashed several times. The Heavenly Dragon Guild’s army, consisting of a thousand players and led by Trick Master and Shuran, rushed out.
Eventually, both armies collided. The number of the Victorious Wolves Sect’s members was lower, but they were exceptional at qi. Most of them had obtained Qi of Little Divine Beings during their stay in Sila’s Mansion of Secrets. Also, they knew the city like the back of their hands, so they could make use of the terrain to perform ambushes. As a matter of fact, all of their elite members, including all vice-leaders, had been deployed.
Still, the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s members were all at Marquis Rank. In addition, they got a powerful buff from Montra’s Emperorship. Behind the lead of the two Dragon Warlords, the fight raged on.
The Heavenly Dragon Guild had a difficult time inflicting fatal wounds on the other side. The Victorious Wolves Sect’s elite members were experienced, allowing them to avoid serious blows. They fought while using Qi of Little Turtle to recover and making use of the city’s many alleys to their advantage.
Unfortunately, while they were fundamentally stronger, they had inferior battle gear. Their attacks weren’t as effective as they had hoped. Furthermore, the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s members had superior teamwork. They relied on their higher numbers to slowly corner their opponents. The battles had no signs that they would end soon. In fact, it was possible that they might have dragged on for days.
What changed the stalemate of the situation was the abrupt crashing sound as if a meteor had hit the ground. In the center of the city, a red silhouette of a long-haired man in wuxia clothing appeared in the midst of smoke. He looked up to the sky while unleashing powerful qi.
Myth-Splitting Dragonic Qi — Flame of Doom.
The man’s pale skin began to darken. Shining cracks appeared on his body as if he had become overheated molten rock. Orange flames erupted from those cracks. The man directed his arm blade to the sky, ready to cope with the incoming attack that was about to descend.
“Isn’t that... Sir Flame Monarch?” One of the players asked, confused. “What is he doing?”
The Lamentable Dragon’s outward appearance was quite similar to Revin’s, especially his long red hair and the outfit. The difference was more so difficult to spot now that his entire body was covered in molten flames. It was understandable that some players might have mistaken him for Revin.
Players followed the Lamentable Dragon’s line of sight, looking up. On the empty dark sky, suddenly there appeared a light-blue flash descending at incredible speed. While the people in Inverse Zhongsuyuan City side could see Zhongsuyuan City, it seemed the reverse wasn’t the same, and the players on the mortal side could only see the sky.
If not for the complete darkness, people would have overlooked Sila, whose entire body was cloaked in qi aura and descending rapidly.
The Lamentable Dragon raised his arms, covered in flames, to block. Meanwhile, Sila stopped his descent at the last possible moment. He rolled his body in mid-air and delivered a powerful kick.
The kick, greatly enhanced by his qi in his Lone Soul state, was countered by the Lamentable Dragon’s quick counter. Sila felt his ankle hurt.
The Lamentable Dragon’s other arm blade shone with qi aura. He mercilessly swung it at Sila, who was still in mid-air.
Nine-Styles Weapon Subduing Art — Middle Styles — Stellar Wheel.
Stellar Wheel was a defensive move that could simultaneously perform a counterattack. A cyclone of qi circulated around Sila’s left hand as he parried the incoming attack upward. Concurrently, his foot, wrapped with cycling qi that acted like a drill, landed on the opponent’s chest.
The hit fractured the Lamentable Dragon’s chest, albeit just a small crack. Still, it eased Sila’s mind as he discovered that his opponent wasn’t unbreakable. He accelerated his speed, focusing more power and adding more spin into the tip of his foot. This time he wanted to pierce through the dragon’s human body.
As he had expected, his sharp kick drilled a small hole through the Lamentable Dragon’s chest. He had no time to celebrate this though. Sensing an incoming attack toward his head, Sila swiftly circulated his qi to increase his defense.
The arrow clad with qi collided with his temple, making Sila feel dizzy. Sila relaxed his body, utilizing the weaken technique of Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws to let himself go along with the momentum. He was sent flying, spinning away from the Lamentable Dragon and violently smashing into a building. The wall collapsed. He took a quick moment to circulate qi to dismiss his dizziness. Sila didn’t even have to look for the shooter to know their identity. There was only one player who could shoot powerful qi arrows with such accuracy. The Sun-Extinguishing Warlord, Shuran.
Being a qi user himself, Sila deeply respected other qi-type players, be it Zero, Lone Wolf, Beluga, Fargo, or even enemies such as Zazae and Shuran. Although some of them possessed a fewer number of qi techniques than him or were even outright weaker than him, they could rely on their limited number of qi techniques to develop unique play styles that even he had a hard time fighting against. This must be what Kiryu meant by “proficiency is key”.
Sila silently recovered himself, his pair of eyes locking onto the main foe—the Lamentable Dragon. He considered whether he should flee now that the raid had succeeded. However, on second thought, he didn’t believe he could get away from it considering the Lamentable Dragon’s strength and speed.
Myth-Splitting Dragonic Qi — Bloody Aqua.
The hole on the Lamentable Dragon’s chest started to heal at a moderate speed. From Sila’s observation so far, he noticed that the Demonic Armament had been utilizing various qi techniques in his unique way. The attack that harmed Burapha was similar to God’s Cathedral. The extended-range attack that ignores defense, which previously cut Sila’s flesh, was Cruise Breeze. The molten flames that were enveloping him were Flame of Torturing. Lastly, the healing power just now was Unblemished Aqua.
Monsters could learn skills on the fly using their instincts. It seemed the same applied to Demonic Armaments as well, though the latter’s learning speed was alarmingly fast. The Lamentable Dragon’s abilities were simple but versatile. None of his skills were fanciful. As a matter of fact, he could use Eight Inverse Qi Techniques, which were the upgraded versions of the traditional Eight Qi Techniques. Fortunately for Sila, the dragon was still very young, so his experience was still lacking. Still, it wasn’t like Sila could rest easy. The Lamentable Dragon was learning quickly from the actual fight against him.
The Victorious Wolves Sect’s players began to notice Sila. “Isn’t that Sila? He is injured. What should we do?”
Ratri approached the main team. Spotting Sila, she issued an order, “He was the one who killed Lone Wolf! Our leader considered him a friend, but that fiend Sila betrayed his kindness! We should punish him! For our leader!!”
The Victorious Wolves Sect’s players had assembled with Lone Wolf as the center of their admiration, so the matter regarding Lone Wolf could easily infuriate them. Lone Wolf was their guild leader, a grand figure they always looked up to. He had been hailed as the Qi Emperor even before Sila entered the game. It was obvious that the only possible reason for Sila to be able to take down such a man was by playing dirty, attacking Lone Wolf behind his back. With their pride as martial artists, they refused to let this matter go. Sila shall be hunted.
Likewise, for the Heavenly Dragon Guild, Sila was their main target. Shuran and Trick Master were aware that the red-haired man wasn’t Revin, but they made eye contact and decided to ignore that fact for now. They decided that using Revin’s name would be useful for incitement.
“The Flame Monarch shall reign supreme! Sila is a cornered rat that refuses to admit defeat. Let’s join Sir Revin and kill him!”
In the eyes of other players, the current Sila was no different than a cornered, exhausted dog. He was a subject waiting to be killed. Whoever kills him would make a name for themselves. Thus, the two armies came to an unspoken agreement: they wouldn’t attack each other until Sila had died. Their combined killing intent, bloodlust, and mental oppression were directed at Sila, greatly pressuring him.
War indeed emitted a strange atmosphere. All these people, individually they might not stand a chance against Sila, but their combined might under the same objective generated pressure not inferior to an Emperor Rank monster. Sila took a deep breath. The merciless nature of the situation forced him to understand what war truly meant. There was no room for kindness.
The Lamentable Dragon completely ignored others. The world in his perception consisted of only him and Sila. All his vengeance was directed toward Sila, not minding the surrounding players. Just his intense gaze and his qi that locked onto Sila were enough to considerably intimidate him.
Sila’s heart was beating louder and faster under the pressure and excitement from being on the border between life and death, pumping blood all over and making his body feel hot. In fact, it beat so fast that his chest hurt. Still maintaining the state of qi circulation, Sila slowly got up. His face cast downward, yet a small smirk on it was visible to some players, dreading them.
Sure enough, more so than ever, he was on the border between life and death.
Sila’s power was a mixture of the three energies, mainly qi and psychic power, with magic power acting as a bridge that connected the two. As a life-threatening danger approached, Dark Psychic Corrosion let itself loose, blanketing his skin. Meanwhile, his qi tried to keep up with it by speeding up the qi circulation. The magic power began to fail to undertake the burden. As a result, the residual traces of power finally leaked out and injured him. Even though his stats were increasing, his health points were declining gradually.
Without further ado, Sila took out Royal Blood and consumed it. His power relied on all three energies as its foundation. It seemed the magic power counterpart couldn’t keep up with the other two anymore. He would have to consult Zarnak on how to fix this problem later.
Hundreds of magic arrows flew toward Sila as the opening bombardment. Still, he didn’t spare them a glance. The brown parts of his eyes slowly turned pitch black, his hair lengthening. He was going to the dark side since the atmosphere during wartime greatly stimulated Dark Self.
Sila poured his power toward his feet. He stomped heavily and loudly, using Orbiting Cosmos of the earth element to pull up a row of giant stone walls to block the arrows.
The sound of arrows slamming into stone rang out continuously. The stone walls could only maintain their form for a brief moment before they collapsed. However, Sila, who should have been behind them, had already disappeared by then.
“Where did he go?!”
The people swept their eyes over the battlefield, searching for Sila. Only Shuran immediately shot an arrow to the right side. The Lamentable Dragon, too, shifted his hateful gaze to the right. However, that spot was empty, confusing them both. Shuran was shocked. He swore his God’s Cathedral sensed Sila’s power there.
Nine-Styles Weapon Subduing Art — Lesser Styles — Martial Formless.
His power ran to the right while his real body evaded to the left. Sila silently made his move by firing the Seven Luminaries Arrow at Shuran during the moment when the shooter was bewildered.
Shuran managed to jerk away at the last moment, making the arrow miss his head, though still hitting his shoulder. Seven waves of magic power exploded, sending him further away and inflicting severe injuries. He quickly went into hiding to recover himself.
Meanwhile, Trick Master exerted a domain to lock Sila in a small area. Several players lunged at him.
Sila relied on Armament Trampling to walk in the dead zone. His feet moved non-stop while his hands flipped with different arts simultaneously. The Lesser Styles of Nine-Styles Weapon Subduing Art consumed an insignificant amount of power as they mostly focused on martial movements. He could use them in quick succession. They were suitable for chaotic battlefields, where he had almost no time to concentrate his power.
Nine-Styles Weapon Subduing Art — Lesser Styles — Bone Claws.
Bone Claws had a low power consumption rate. The art relied on knowledge of human anatomy to effectively twist, snap, press, and crush bones and joints. It saved Sila a lot of power while his opponents fell like leaves from a tree in the fall. Similar to how he suffered during Divine’s training, energy reinforcement was mostly useless to cope with this art, because the logic of the art was to redirect the opponent’s power and momentum to injure themselves. If Sila had to make an analogy, he would say using and defending against Bone Claws were similar to playing a puzzle game rather than engaging in a battle. If one wanted to survive against his moves, they had to use their wit to correctly loosen the parts of their bodies, otherwise, their bones would interlock and harm themselves.
Sila conserved his strength since his real enemy was still the Lamentable Dragon, who had jumped in and joined the fray. The man wasn’t a genuine human, so Bone Claws didn’t work on him. Just a touch allowed Sila to know that the human-shape skin was merely a shell. There were no veins for blood to run through or bones and muscles to hold the body together. The Demonic Armament was a mass of metal, which could move thanks to powerful qi.
Now that the Lamentable Dragon had joined the battle, Sila could no longer afford to go soft on it. Dark Psychic Corrosion unleashed from his feet, kicking the man to put a stop to the incoming strike.
Witnessing Sila’s battle, Kimon’s members wondered why Sila didn’t retreat like they had planned. Seeing Himeko insist on going to help Sila, Asava sighed in resignation.
“Hime, your art is not suitable for this kind of situation. You’ll just become a burden.”
“But Sila is fighting by himself. Will we do nothing but watch?” Himeko pressed.
“Exactly because Sila is fighting alone that he can control the flow of the battle. It may look like he is having a hard time, but if any of his comrades join the fray, his opponents will immediately exploit it.” Asava analyzed the situation by using his dark art. “Anyway, I don’t think Sila’s situation is desperate. All ordinary players can do is put some pressure on him and cause light injuries. The real danger is the red man who Sila is focusing on. Sila himself is aware though. That is why he allowed some attacks from players to land on him in order to conserve his power to cope with the man’s attacks.”
Sila suffered some light injuries from surrounding spells, qi, and psychic power. Still, he couldn’t mind them too much since he had to direct most of his focus at the Lamentable Dragon.
Looking at the Lamentable Dragon, a worried expression was seen on Himeko’s face. “It’s very odd. My art has no effect on that man.”
“Maybe he has some kind of protection skills, or he is a member of some strange race. Else, he may not be human. Your art is a bit too specific. It is mostly effective on humans, so it loses some merit in the game,” Vlad guessed nonchalantly.
Asava nodded. “That man is tough, but Sila can handle him. A more important issue is that Sila focuses on the current battlefield too much. He can see only what is ahead of him but fails to see the future. Well, I guess I can’t blame him. Considering the state of the battle, he can’t really spare his concentration to think things through. He is unaware that there is another enemy about to bite him.”
“Who is it?” Himeko asked with anxiety.
Asava took a moment before revealing the answer, “Trick Master has disappeared. He is hiding himself to cast a spell. Based on the look of his expression, he must be pretty confident that the spell can surely take care of the situation.”
The other two Kimon members tried to search for Trick Master. However, they failed, even when Himeko used her art.
“He is in a magical domain. He must be very careful. You won’t be able to pinpoint him. I guess he will show up only when he has finished casting the spell. Mm. Magic type is indeed troublesome. Some spells are so unique that even profound practitioners like us can’t keep up with them,” Asava commented.
“Sila must really be unaware of the danger, then...”
Asava gritted his teeth, trying to hide his displeasure. “Don’t tell him, or he will simply lose his concentration.” He fell into silence and made a decision. “Let me handle this. Vlad, you look after Himeko.”
Himeko showed a bright smile. Under his usual expression, Asava sighed inwardly. ‘It’s not fair making a face like you’re about to cry. Good grief.’
Vlad called out, “Are you sure you don’t need our help? The battle below is quite hectic.”
Asava donned a white mask. “I’m more suited to this kind of job. Trick Master is at most a street magician. I will show him the difference between sage arts and combat arts.”
Asava descended to the ground. His body vanished along the way in mid-air as if he were a profound sage using the art of invisibility.
I'm starting to hate this ratri. Incompetent woman who can only hide behind lone wolf but trying to scheme wicked plan. I mean this is just a game, she can just go offline for a bit to check her bf condition.
Trick Master was a very skilled magic-type player. Aside from the title Illusionist Warlord, he was also regarded as the King of Delayed Spells. Sadly, when it came to magic type, Montra was too outstanding, making him pale in comparison. That was why people often underestimated Trick Master’s true abilities.
Most players tended to look down on pure spellcasters, thinking they weren’t able to fight solo, but Trick Master had proved them wrong by showing that he could cast two spells simultaneously. Most of the time, he would start with low-tier spells to protect himself then gradually cast bigger ones to gain the upper hand. Eventually, he would reach the point where he could unleash high-tier spells to wipe out groups of enemies.
In Trick Master’s eyes, Sila was no different from other martial artists who entered the game and relied on their martial skills to take advantage of the realistic nature of the virtual reality game. This kind of player was abundant in Monster Soul. It made sense though. In a fight between players of equal strength, the side who possessed superior martial techniques would win.
Noticing such a fact, Trick Master had been honing his skills to counter martial artists. He focused on in-game spells to make them feel powerless. A man, even a great martial artist, couldn’t hope to fight against the miraculous power of magic spells. There were many martial artists who had died to Trick Master’s magic.
The powerful move Trick Master intended to use this time was one of his ultimate moves. He named it “Multi-Spells: Martial Slayer” based on the basis of having five high-tier spells merged together. He depended on Magic Delay to delay one spell after another, leading to him singlehandedly performing a difficult feat that normally requires five spellcasters.
As he was casting the third spell, Trick Master felt a chill run down his spine. He quickly shot thirty-five magic arrows in the direction of the danger he sensed.
The magic arrows slightly deviated, hitting nothing but walls. The fact that his invisible opponent could change directions of already released skills implied that they were a high-level psychic-type player.
Delaying the current spell he was casting, Trick Master activated magic power reinforcement while searching for his foe.
“Elso?” Trick Master guessed the attacker’s identity out loud. Based on the situation, it wouldn’t be strange for the Mountain Thieves League to send people to assist Sila.
Mysteriously, a young man suddenly appeared out of thin air. His plain white mask blocked Trick Master from seeing the man’s expression. The clear and clean psychic aura cloaking the man completely nullified the pressure Trick Master was emitting, making him break into a cold sweat.
The man wasn’t Elso. That was certain. Trick Master had never met anyone possessing such bizarre psychic power—a colorless one, reflecting its surroundings like a mirror made of clear water. The man didn’t give off an intimidating aura, yet his presence alone shuddered Trick Master.
The reason Trick Master could detect the man was because the latter had stepped into his magic domain, which was a small hidden world. Still, something wasn’t right. Outside of his domain, there should have been his trusted subordinates, namely the Twelve Illusionary Units, guarding him.
“Where are the others?”
“They’re dead,” Asava replied in a calm and peaceful manner.
Trick Master quivered from something he couldn’t explain. “I-Impossible! If a fight broke out, I would have sensed it!”
“You’re already dead, too. You just haven’t realized.”
Trick Master discharged a spell at Asava, trapping the man inside a cyclone, then shot a ball of electricity. The two spells combined, generating electric cyclones. Not only did it deal continuous damage, but it would also paralyze the target.
Sage of the Six Disasters — Reflecting Disaster.
The Reflecting Disaster was about the arts of borrowing and controlling the opponent’s power. Asava’s psychic power contracted into his body, changing his skin to become transparent, his bones almost visible. Trick Master’s combined spells didn’t merely phase through Asava, but were reflected back by Asava’s will.
“Argh!!” A painful cry rang out, though it came from Trick Master, not Asava. He was hit by his own spells. On the other hand, Asava leisurely walked closer, going through the spell effects without a single injury.
“Too bad for you. It would have been more fun if you were a martial artist.” Asava shrugged.
Trick Master might dare to proclaim himself as an expert at killing martial artists, but his claim amounted to nothing in front of Asava, who was a genuine killing expert.
Sage of the Six Disasters divided into six sub-arts, and each branched off into countless assassination techniques. Eminent Immortal’s inner force reserve was low compared to other profound practitioners. Despite that, everyone in the martial world dreaded fighting against him. His opponents must face off various sinister techniques such as stealing, swindling, hidden weapon art, yizichan, hypnosis, concealment, gambling, poisons, or even a seemingly unrelated art like architecture (Asava was able to analyze buildings with a keen eye, seeing through the possibility of the existence of a hidden room and accurately guessing in which room important figures are likely to stay). In conclusion, Asava, or rather the Eminent Immortal of any generation, was the best assassin a client could hope for due to the variety of techniques at his disposal.
Unsurprisingly, some profound practitioners looked down on Asava’s art, claiming that its discreet nature was a disgrace. The man himself didn’t care, however. For Eminent Immortals, their dignity came in the form of successful assassinations. The success was especially satisfying if their targets died foolishly without a single clue as to why or how. Such was the proudest moment for assassins.
“I’ve warned Montra, so it won’t be just a warning anymore.”
In fact, Trick Master’s eyes were already bulging under the mental assault of Drunken Disaster, the sub-art about hallucination and hypnosis, so Asava was technically talking to himself.
Asava took out a pellet, which he had brewed according to a traditional recipe. Flowers, plants, and poisonous insects in Monster Soul were very different from what one found in real life. This fact rendered most of the recipes of Blossoming Disaster, the sub-art regarding the use of poisons, useless. From a total of 108 recipes, only 14 were usable with the ingredients found, and even then their effects deviated from the norm. He had gone through trial and error to determine that the one pellet in his hand couldn’t be cured by ordinary means, including by healing spells.
Asava shoved the pellet into Trick Master’s mouth and forced him to swallow it. Soon after that, Trick Master’s body convulsed and his skin turned a sickly green. Asava took out a vial, removed the cap, and let the man sniff it. Trick Master’s complexion then returned to normal.
Checking the effectiveness of the pellet, Asava stared into Trick Master’s right eye and found a tiny red dot on the white of the eye. It seemed the unique symptom, which indicated the silent work of the poison, still showed up even in the game.
Still absent-minded, Trick Master’s eyes looked directly into Asava’s, unfocused.
“You’re heavily injured. Understand?” Asava planted a suggestion, to which Trick Master nodded in a daze.
Satisfied by his work, Asava vanished, leaving Trick Master behind.
Trick Master regained his consciousness a moment later. He felt like he had dozed off for a couple of seconds, his head a bit hazy. He shook his head to clear his mind and began to continue his spellcasting. As soon as he attempted it, however, he coughed out a mouthful of blood.
The magic domain collapsed. His headache came back, together with a high fever. He weakly fell down on the ground, lacking the strength and concentration to maintain his already delayed spells. He reappeared on the battlefield.
Noticing their leader falling over, Trick Master’s subordinates quickly ran to assist him.
“Sir Warlord! What’s happening?”
“I’m heavily injured. Leave this place to Shuran. Quickly bring me back to the guild.”
“Yes, sir!” Two of the players cast healing spells on Trick Master, but they had no effect on him. It was natural since Trick Master was basically fine and unscratched. Only, the psychic power that Asava left behind inside him brought him exhaustion. It also stimulated his bodily system to vomit blood periodically, making it look like he was injured.
Looking at the result of his work from afar, Asava felt content. His poison was incubating in Trick Master’s body and would show its dreadfulness in a week. Those who came into contact with Trick Master during this period would unknowingly help spread the virus. It would already be too late when they were aware of the outbreak. When the time came, the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s members would show symptoms of extreme headaches, vomiting blood, and losing consciousness. It would greatly help the Wicked Union’s situation.
The lines of players surrounding Sila became thinner out of the blue. While the fierce battle against the Lamentable Dragon was still ongoing, Sila noticed that some players had left the encirclement. He was clueless about why, but glad. He finally got some breathing room to recover his qi.
The Lamentable Dragon was the toughest opponent Sila had ever fought, the living weapon’s vehement attacks slowly but surely cornering him. Having no time to gather his power, Sila had long since reached the point where all he did was use the Lesser Styles to fend off attacks.
Myth-Splitting Dragonic Qi was so ridiculously aggressive that it gave no openings for Sila to use magic-type skills. Whenever he was about to mutter a single word, the Lamentable Dragon would whistle, and that simple action would make the magic power in his body become frantic, even temporarily immobilizing him. To make matters worse, that flinch led to another deep cut on Sila’s chest. He didn’t dare to try using active skills again after that.
In fact, the Lamentable Dragon’s action was a critical ability that qi-type beings should have in order to put up a fight against magic-type creatures. The clearest weakness of magic-types was the fact that almost all of their active skills require the user to say the skill name. The most obvious counter was to forcefully interrupt their ability to speak.
Magic spells were fair and loyal. Even when the casting was interrupted, the already spent magic power would not be wasted, but instead return to the owner. Still, the process would halt the user’s movement for 0.1 seconds.
It was a well-known exposure—a split second weakness—among magic-type players. In any case, spell handling required timing, so high-level players rarely had problems with it. Most players belonging to other energy types didn’t know this though. In their eyes, the magic type was all about mindlessly casting and firing spells, which couldn’t be more wrong.
As the battle dragged on, players continued to bombard spells, masses of energy, and weapons at Sila without minding their surroundings. It was logical since the two armies weren’t on friendly terms. They were ready to seize any chance to weaken the opposing side in the form of collateral damage.
The Lamentable Dragon’s main target had always been Sila, but he was starting to find the surrounding weaklings annoying. Eventually, he learned to disregard where his stray sword qi might land.
The more intense and bloodthirsty the battlefield became, the more Dark Self and the Lamentable Dragon could display their true power. The central square of Zhongsuyuan City ended up becoming the two’s exclusive arena. The surrounding players were like background characters and stage props, whose sole purpose was to die in order to highlight the battle of two peerless war gods.
Nine-Styles Weapon Subduing Art — Greater Styles — Fist of Reversal.
Because of this, Sila finally obtained a window of opportunity to gather qi in order to unleash his finishing move. He drew his hand, sending palm energy forward. The Lamentable Dragon instinctively tilted his head to dodge it. The palm energy curved upward to the sky, ready to exert its mighty power that had once slain the Thunderbolt Dragon Raidola. Sila at that time needed the stacked effects of three pellets to reach the same level of power he was about to perform today. He lost a significant amount of qi in the process, but he was very confident in the move.
The palm energy exploded into a cyclone of powerful gravitational force. The ground, rubble, piles of battle gears, and numerous players were pulled up into the sky.
The players tried to escape from the ominous gravitational cyclone, but only a few managed to resist the force. Some of the Victorious Wolves Sect’s members possessed the Universe Momentum qi technique, so they activated it to bind themselves to the ground. Some tried to increase their weight using qi. Sadly, all their actions were in vain. They couldn’t resist the inevitable, only delaying their demise.
“NOOO!!” Many players screamed in desperation. Some begged for help and mercy. It was as if a typhoon was annihilating Zhongsuyuan City, lifting everything up from the ground and slowing grinding them together.
Among the players being pulled up, Ratri was one in the effective range.
“Ahhhh!!” Already halfway to the compressed gravitational mass, Ratri screamed. A whip formed by qi extended from somewhere, wrapping around her body and pulling her back down. Apparently, the wielder of the qi whip was Hong Tong. He had sensed something ominous the moment Sila shot palm energy and had retreated several steps back, out of the cyclone’s effective range. Still, Ratri was too close to it, so grabbing onto her slowly dragged his feet closer to the absurd pulling power. He quickly yelled at her, informing her to activate a special emergency teleportation item she had on her to get away from the predicament.
There were only two figures who managed to stay on the ground despite the immense pulling power. The first was Sila, who was the move’s owner. Fist of Reversal inclined more toward the principle of psychic power than it did toward qi’s, so he could control the scope of the effect it had on him. In any case, the presence of the other one brought him a headache. Sila essentially unleashed this move in the hopes that it would defeat the Lamentable Dragon. However, the dragon’s feet stood firm on the ground. They sunk into the ground, even. It seemed the Lamentable Dragon was using his version of Universe Momentum to pin his body to the ground. His weight seemed to increase by several tons.
Myth-Splitting Dragonic Qi — Grievous Momentum.
Still, forcing him to lock his feet in the ground was an achievement on its own, meaning the dragon could no longer use Flame-Dancing Dragon Steps. While Fist of Reversal failed to deliver a fatal blow, it did make the Lamentable Dragon lose a fearsome trait that caused Sila to be terrified at the start of the battle.
Sila had time to gather his power yet again. He maximized his qi circulation speed, his power fiercely running through his entire body. This was a golden opportunity, so he didn’t dare to waste even a split second.
“You’re just a mere weapon...! Be crushed!!” Dark Self roared in the place of Sila. Exerting his full strength, he punched the Lamentable Dragon’s solar plexus.
Nine-Styles Weapon Subduing Art — Greater Styles — Psychic Crush.
The punch landed in the pit of his enemy’s stomach, but the destructive psychic power inside it spread to every part of the Lamentable Dragon’s body. The psychic power contained black particles of qi, corroding the target from within. Sila poured all of his power into this move with absolute confidence that it would slay the dragon. The Lamentable Dragon’s skin was cracking non-stop, Sila’s power erupting from within. Eventually, his body exploded into sharp sword fragments, flying everywhere.
Sila was forced to step back and guard himself from the flying debris. The flash of the explosion was exceptionally bright. The remaining survivors soon all died from it. Just resisting the pulling power took all of their efforts, so they couldn’t save themselves against the sudden exploding qi swords.
Most parts of Zhongsuyuan City ended up as a gigantic deadly empty square, with not even a single piece of wreckage remaining. The battle today was the first decisive one of the second war event and also the one that players regarded as the most destructive despite it fundamentally being a fight between two people. At some point in the future, players would regard Sila and Revin as “Martial Gods” and refer to this epic battle as “The Battle of Martial Gods.”
Sila was panting heavily where he stood. Expanding his qi perception, he found that there was no one nearby, so he calmed his breathing and started to circulate qi to heal wounds and regain his strength.
An ominous sound suddenly rang out. Slowly turning his head back, Sila noticed the Lamentable Dragon, whose body was full of cracks but obviously still alive. The dragon’s right arm had penetrated Sila’s back, sticking out from his chest and sending sharp sword energy into his body.
Sila collapsed on the ground.
“Could it be... previously...?” Sila muttered weakly. His brain ran wildly, thinking about what might have truly happened.
Apparently, the Lamentable Dragon didn’t explode into pieces but used Worlds Crossing Bridge to drive Sila’s power away through his skin. He later hid himself in the group of smoke. The dragon was a weapon like Julia. As long as his Qi Concealment was active, Sila’s qi wouldn’t detect his presence.
You have died. As you died during the war event, you won’t be able to log in again until the event has come to a conclusion.
Sila was agape, totally speechless. Everything he had done fell apart. His participation in the war event had come to an end. The feeling he was experiencing right now was what people called “despair.”
But then there was a voice from heaven—or from hell, to be precise. It was a familiar, disgusting voice.
“What are you spacing out for? Cut the drama and get out of my way. I faked your status. You’re now regarded as dead. This thing won’t attack you.”
Sila was surprised to see that his body still remained intact, not dispersing into the light. Meanwhile, the Lamentable Dragon stood still. As he had killed Sila, he no longer had any clear objective.
Mamon walked through the group of smoke, a small female angel flying above him. She was sprinkling glitter on him, emphasizing his grand arrival.
“What a fool you were. Why did you fight a fighting maniac like that thing head-on? Against qi-types, I wouldn’t resort to using violence.” Mamon stopped in front of Sila and pointed at his own head. “I would use my brain.”
Seraphine landed herself on Sila’s shoulder, and the invading power in his body disappeared instantly. He felt warm and comfortable. All the wounds on his body were healed.
“Oi! Oi! Enough! Who told you to do that? Just saving his life would be enough,” Mamon complained.
“My deepest apologies, Your Highness.” Seraphine repeatedly bowed her head.
“Are you okay, Master?” Julia, who appeared out of nowhere, came to support Sila’s weak body, trying to feed him a health potion.
Sila observed the Lamentable Dragon, who tried to move his body but seemed to be unable to. All he did was slightly shake his body. There was no trace of his enormous qi reserve that he had used to fight Sila. His body was restrained by a strange psychic power. He glared at Sila, his eyes expressing madness and vengeance.
“What are you staring at, huh?” Mamon kicked the Lamentable Dragon in the face, knocking him down. The dragon fell backward without any part of his body reacting individually to the impact, as if he were a statue that had been knocked over. “Stay like that for a week, you fool.”
With his Sky Seer skill, Mamon had already discovered the condition that had to be met in order to conquer the Lamentable Dragon. It was to last for seven days in a battle against him and win. He possessed boundless fighting potential and an almost unlimited amount of power. To achieve such a feat in a fair fight, the only being capable of pulling it off that Mamon could think of was Lucifer. Other players or monsters had no hope at all.
“Julia, take this thing to the mansion,” Mamon ordered, and Julia obediently complied. She walked and tapped on the Lamentable Dragon, then they both vanished. She soon reappeared though.
“How could you do that?” Sila raised a question as he tried to get up. Julia shouldn’t be able to travel around so freely like that. Even Sila couldn’t come and go to his mansion as he pleased. Under the war event’s rules, there were many limitations to the usage of invitation cards. They must be used in a safe environment and there was a one minute delay before it would teleport the user.
“Nothing important. Just my crappy item summoning and reverse summoning skills,” Mamon shrugged.
Julia pulled Sila up and gently wiped the dust from his body. “I didn't know where I should keep him, so I put him in the garden as a decoration for now.”
Sila couldn’t even laugh at that statement. His previous grand battle turned out to be worthless and anticlimactic. He bet the Lamentable Dragon would feel the same.
“Anyway, why are you here, Mamon?”
“Clute said he met a strange item, so I came to take a peek. I arrived when you two were fighting and decided to steal all the glory. It’s weaker than I thought. I didn’t get to shed even a single drop of sweat. Well, I guess I’m just simply too strong. Kiekkiekkiek!”
No one responded to that remark. Until Mamon shot a glance at Seraphine, that is. She flinched as if she just suddenly recalled something and took out a pile of notes. Flipping it to the desired page, she began to read aloud.
“You are obviously the strongest in all three worlds, Your Highness. There shall never be someone who can stand up to your majestic might.”
The vast Zhongsuyuan City was reduced to nothingness, with only the ground left intact. The numerous pine trees, which symbolized the city, were all gone. Still, it took only a minute for some buildings to reappear out of thin air, showing up in their usual spots. These buildings were essential, such as the hotel and the quest building, so they were set to quickly regenerate.
The sky was still pitch black, so the light emitting from inside the buildings was especially bright. Now that the situation had calmed down, Sila finally found the time to wonder about the sudden darkness from earlier that was still present.
“Come to think of it, what happened? Why did it suddenly become so dark?”
“Probably the effect of someone’s spell. Well, to be able to darken the entire New World, the spellcaster must be very powerful,” Mamon guessed halfheartedly. His expression became serious as he was thinking of a certain person in his past. This shady phenomenon was quite familiar to him.
Opening a system window, Julia flipped it for Sila to read, together with giving him another bottle of potion. “Please take a look at this, Master.”
Receiving the potion from Julia, Sila recalled Sebastian was a major potion distributor. Potions were abundant. For what reason should he waste time slowly circulating qi? Thus, he unreservedly drank the potion and took a look at the screen. It displayed a quest announcement provided by the system.
“Wanted: Light Stealer - Dead or Alive?”
Strictly speaking, the quest shouldn’t have been issued under normal circumstances. Nevertheless, the game management team deemed the darkness too impactful if left unchecked for a long time during the war event, so they generated a world quest, helping players to understand what was happening and how to solve the problem. Since the system had technically revealed the solution, the rewards for completing the quest got downgraded slightly to compensate for the reduced difficulty.
The storyline of the quest was that a strange situation had occurred. It caused the Light Stealer, who had been imprisoned in Hell, to escape to the New World. It used to be an Emperor Rank monster, but its rank got demoted to Marquis upon its escape. Considering its rank and the fact that it just got its freedom back, still in its weakened state, most players would have a shot at defeating it.
The quest clear conditions were split into two parts. The first was to reclaim the natural light, which could be done by breaking the Light Orb it kept in its mouth. Meanwhile, the second one was optional. It was to capture the Light Stealer and tame it as a pet. For the record, opportunities to tame a monster from the Monster Realm were insanely rare. Still, the system reminded players that since the Light Stealer was an escapee, if it was killed, it wouldn't respawn in the New World but return to Hell.
Strangely enough, while it sounded interesting to have a rare monster as a pet, players didn’t pay much attention to the second reward. The reasons were simple. Monsters were hard to tame and even harder to utilize. In addition, catching a Marquis Rank monster was a difficult feat.
It was the first reward that players desired. The one who brought natural light back to the world would obtain a magic-type passive skill, “Child of Light,” which grants the skill bearer access to an unlimited amount of light-element mana as long as they are under sunlight. How well the skill bearer can make use of this ability depends on their rank and level though.
“The Light Stealer? So it’s that jerk,” Mamon said to no one in particular, but it got Sila’s attention.
“Do you know them, Mamon?”
Mamon slightly lowered his head, making it hard to see his expression, as he replied, “I was the one who sent that jerk to Hell. Her name is Quasar, the Eclipse Fish.”
Suddenly, everyone in the group sensed a disturbing vibe from the atmosphere. The surrounding darkness twirled, forming a massive silhouette with a strange shape. A big pair of black eyes, which were darker than anything they had ever seen, and a long, razor-sharp mouth appeared, floating in the air.
“Gigigi! Still remember my name, Mammon, my dear friend? Me too. Your appearance changed a lot though.” The malignant voice, which was as disgusting as Mamon’s, rang out.
Sila tried to detect the speaker’s exact location but failed. It wasn’t that he couldn’t sense her though. Rather, he sensed her from everywhere. It was like the darkness in the area itself was her—a shapeless, fog-like monster.
“Don’t waste your time searching. She is a magic-type technician who specializes in the dark element. She can thoroughly hide in the dark, and that’s the reason why she hates the light. In fact, her title, the Light Stealer, came from her habit of rapidly swallowing the light from various places. She is the number one backbiter of the Monster Realm.”
“You overpraise me, my dear friend. I’m no match for you in that regard. For it was you who managed to kill me in my moment of carelessness.”
“I have no friends,” Mamon replied as he waved his hand, sending a bombardment of laser beams toward the surrounding darkness. Sadly, the lasers quickly faded away as if they had been swallowed by a black hole.
Annoyed, Mamon clicked his tongue. Back then it was Clute, then this time it was Quasar. The New World was supposed to be a peaceful place full of resources he could use to form the mightiest army, for the quest of conquering the Monster Realm in the future. However, his old foes kept popping up one after another.
Sila decided to try attacking as well. He brandished a qi sword at the foggy silhouette. His attack landed on nothing though.
“Quasar is sly. She is aware that she has no hope of winning. There is no way she will reveal her true body,” Mamon scoffed.
Her rank might have been demoted, but her wisdom and experience were still fully intact. Even though her stats were low, it wouldn’t be a smart idea to underestimate her.
Quasar was one of Mamon’s formidable rivals. The two of them were born in the same era and the same small pond in the Monster Realm. Both of them were sly and wicked, having a lot of bad habits. Sometimes they would help each other and sometimes they would use each other, never hesitating to use whatever methods they could to further their own cause, be it extortion, physical force, or simply betraying their comrades. They made their ways up from being small creatures to becoming the heirs to the Devil World—the figures that no one dared to offend.
They shared a common goal—becoming the true sovereign. As time passed and the goal was finally within their sight, their history of backbiting began. They both put on a pretense of being closest friends while going behind each other’s back whenever there was a chance. The situation lasted for dozens of years before the victor was finally decided. Mamon emerged victorious, sitting on the throne as the Devil Prince and reigning supreme in the Devil World. As for the loser, it was natural that their story would be forgotten. The name Quasar was erased from the Devil World’s history. Just mentioning her name was a sin.
Quasar’s physical body was that of a small blackfish, mostly swimming in a metaphoric lake called ambient mana. Her innate magical ability had the attribute to contaminate other sources of power, weakening her opponent’s power and also polluting the ambient mana. If one were to borrow the power of nature without noticing this, their flesh would be torn from the inside by her magical slash.
“Magic ability?” Sila snapped his fingers as an idea formulated in his mind. His right hand glowed with a golden aura, which he then used to smash the darkness.
“Gi!!!” A weird scream rang out from afar, followed by a thud. Silently shifting his gaze to where the sound came from, Sila noticed a small fish squirming in pain on the ground. It coughed, releasing the Light Orb from its mouth.
“...Omniscient Evil God Qi!! How are you related to Lucifer? Who the hell are you?!”
Admittedly, Quasar looked surprisingly cute to Sila’s eyes, though that might be because of her low rank. She was an odd fish with smooth and slimy black scales, similar to a snake or an eel. Her pair of eyes were round and clear. Her two fins, which must represent her hands, were flapping against the ground.
Quasar panicked and quickly gathered her own magic power, instead of using ambient mana like she always did, and floated up. At that moment, however, Mamon vanished and reappeared behind her back. There was no friendly greeting.
“Die again, you damn jerk!”
Quasar expanded her body size, forming a cloud of black smoke. Cutting through it with a laser blade, Mamon found out that she had successfully gone into hiding again. What his laser blade connected with was merely her clone, made of magic power, which reacted to the attack by changing its form into a dagger and flying at Mamon’s face. This level of threat was nothing to Mamon, though it did annoy him.
Out of nowhere, a mysterious object dived from the sky toward the city’s square, in the same manner that Sila and the Lamentable Dragon had shown up before.
“Wah~! What is happening?” A familiar sound could be heard. Lomyok was descending, his arms holding a small puppy. He landed precisely on the Light Orb lying on the ground.
A flash of light illuminated from it, spreading everywhere and blinding everyone present. The entire New World was brightened, along with the return of the moon and stars. What followed was a system announcement, stating that the first part of the world quest had ended.
“I can finally return! I was right to follow that black thing that slipped out of the box.” Lomyok nodded to himself.
“Tch.” Mamon clicked his tongue, feeling upset. A small commotion just now had allowed Quasar to swim away. Given how sly she was, the next time she reappeared wouldn’t be until she was confident that she could kill him. No, her personality was more wicked than that. Instead of killing him right away, she would constantly ruin his plan. It was troublesome. It seemed one more obstacle to his grand plan to conquer the world had appeared.
Still, he could do nothing, at least for now, so he dismissed the concern. Mamon gave a word of goodbye to Sila and soon left with Seraphine, leaving Sila, Julia, and Lomyok—who was still holding the puppy—behind.
The previous system announcement brought a flood of complaints from numerous players. How could they not be upset? The quest had been active for less than an hour. They were in the middle of researching the information regarding the Light Stealer—such as its identity, appearance, history, or how to fight it. Even before they got their hands on any impactful discovery, however, the quest suddenly ended.
Sila heard the sound of a commotion from a distance. It seemed players were entering the city, with most of them being the Victorious Wolves Sect’s members who had been out of his Fist of Reversal’s effective range and managed to escape from it. He contemplated his options for a short moment. Spotting the Information Building, he eventually rushed inside, followed by Lomyok and Julia.
“Why are you following me?” Sila asked as he noticed Lomyok running behind him.
“Well, people are coming and things are likely going to be hectic. While I do love it when people praise me for my handsomeness, I don’t like chaotic situations. Seeing you flee, I think it’s a good example to follow,” Lomyok replied and he honestly meant it. He liked being the center of attention but dreaded being pulled back and forth by his fans.
As they entered the building together, a certain NPC walked up to them.
“Hello, Mister Sila. We meet again.” Dan, the NPC responsible for bestowing system-generated abilities, greeted Sila.
“Hello,” Sila greeted him back, no longer paying attention to Lomyok.
“Hm? Mister Lomyok? You have been here before, haven’t you? Do you have further questions?” asked Dan.
“Eh. No. I just want to hide for a while. I will exit when things have calmed down.”
Dan frowned. “Eh... Okay, sir. Please wait in the lobby though. Mister Sila, please come this way.”
Lomyok nodded before sitting down on a couch, the puppy on his lap. Julia also accompanied him. For the record, as long as players didn’t enter the Information Building at the same time, they would end up in different lobbies. Thus, Sila and Lomyok didn’t have to worry about accidentally running into unwelcome guests.
Following Dan to the inside, Sila couldn’t resist his urge to glance back at the puppy on Lomyok’s lap with a strange feeling. Maybe it was just his imagination, but the puppy’s appearance looked just like the wild pups commonly found around the Town of Beginnings. He was surprised to find out that it could also be found on the Main Continent.
The room inside looked the same, which wasn’t surprising since Dan had explained to him that it was the exact same room, just connecting to different places through dimensional gates.
“I take it that you’re here today to receive Art of Qi, right, Mister Sila? Do you want an explanation regarding how to obtain it? It’s the same as Art of Magic though.”
Sila shook his head. “There’s no need. I remember it.”
“Well, let’s not waste our time, then.”
Dan waved his hand, and the floor beneath Sila glowed for a brief moment before it faded away. Summoning a system window, Dan read the contents and scratched his head, a look of confusion written on his face.
Noticing such a look, Sila asked, “Is there a problem?”
“Ah, nothing. I’m just surprised at the analysis. Your playstyles are quite... unique. Back then it was magic. Not many players tend to use magic in melee range as you do. Your usage of qi is just as odd. I can’t help but wonder what your Art of Psychic will be like.”
Sila opened his system window, taking a look at his main qi skill.
(S) Flaming Cloud Qi — Transcendent Rank
Qi with the great power of fire, melting various qi into one. The user can consume the maximum value of their health points in order to unleash tyrannical flames.
Flaming Cloud Qi shares characteristics with psychic and magic power.
***When in battle, you will gain special points every time you take damage, restoring a tenth of the amount of damage as special points.
“The damage I have taken will be converted to special points?”
The newly acquired Art of Qi astonished Sila.
Dan explained the system’s analysis to Sila, “The system remarked that you frequently had to suffer heavy injuries before you used your full power. With this Art of Qi, your special points will be recovered by a tenth of the amount of damage you have taken, allowing you to fight for a longer time.”
“Really? Have I always been using qi in that manner? I never realized.”
“Well, the system didn’t determine your Art of Qi based on the frequency alone. It also took the level of importance into account. One epic battle would weigh more than a hundred lame fights.”
“That should conclude everything, sir. Let’s meet again in Siaferia City. Just so you know, I like war events. I’m a secret fan rooting for the Wicked Union. I wish you luck.” Dan smiled at Sila.
“Thank you very much. See you again in the Kingdom of Android.”
Sila politely bid Dan farewell, which the man returned. Dan was an NPC, so he had to be impartial. Nevertheless, he was deeply interested in how the Wicked Union would win against the Heavenly Dragon Guild. Based on what he knew, Sila’s situation hadn’t changed since the start of the war.
Well, it might have become better, albeit by a very slight margin.
“With this victory, I guess he will stay delighted until tomorrow morning. I hope he won’t lose heart when he hears the news.” Dan took a look at the war status screen, which was exclusive to only system NPCs. It updated war-related situations in real-time.
Apparently, Montra made his moves at the same time Sila did. While Sila was raiding Zhongsuyuan City, Montra used an unexpected method to perform two large-scale ambushes. Surprisingly, the manner of his ambushes was similar to Sila’s in the sense that he didn’t utilize his main army to avoid being spied. The large army of Heavenly Dragon Guild stationing in Lafesta City was simply a decoy.
Montra’s performance was even more outstanding than Sila’s though. While Sila mobilized a small raid party to destroy Zhongsuyuan City, Montra split his force into two. The first was himself, and the other was a human who had never made an appearance before other players—the Magic Kingdom’s Hidden Ruler, or rather the King of Spells, who was rumored to be the strongest human-race NPC.
Both of them were Level 1,000 Emperor Rank. Magic type regarded ranks as a huge and crucial factor, more so than the other two types did. Sila, who wasn’t aware of the depth of magic type, had no way to predict the outcome of Montra’s raids.
Qi and psychic type can do something that magic type can’t. The opposite is true, however. There is something that only the magic type can do that the other two can’t replicate.
Sila started small, delivering the first blow to Montra’s weakest link—the relatively weak city, Zhongsuyuan City. For Montra, however, his strategic advance was like a throwing spear—flying directly toward the goal. His ambushes targeted his opponent’s most vital point that would end their life in one go. When the news of his feats reached Sila the next morning, Sila would belatedly discover that both the northernmost Belacia City and the southernmost Island of Beginnings were already in danger.
It would be the first time Sila was made aware of the art of war’s significance. Waging war didn't necessarily mean attacking using brute force or implementing tactics. His arch-rival would be the one who personally taught him a lesson, albeit with an enormous cost, that “winning without fighting” is the greatest strategy of them all.
Sila exited the room and regrouped with Lomyok. Taking a peek outside, he saw there were still many players wandering around. Sila recognized some faces. It seemed most of them were the Victorious Wolves Sect’s members. They were searching for surviving allies or possible enemies. In a far corner, Sila spotted people who he knew very well. Ratri was showing a delighted expression. Next to her was Hong Tong, acting as her bodyguard. The two of them were conversing with Anubis, or rather Pumin with his face behind a jackal mask.
“What are they talking about?” Sila wondered.
“Let’s go back in for now.” A feminine voice rang out from below. Lowering his head, Sila saw a spotless white cat strolling inside the building he had just exited, prompting him to close the door behind her.
The white cat was bathed in a faint qi aura before slowly transforming into a blond-haired woman in a white dress.
“Greetings, Mister Sila. We meet again. As for Mister Lomyok, this must be our first time talking. Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Irene. I’m Anubis’ soulmate.”
“Oh? You’re a monster?” Lomyok observed Irene and commented, “Your dress is beautiful.”
Irene showed a friendly smile. “Thank you. This dress was tailor-made by the Fairy Queen, just like your clothes.”
Lomyok nodded. “I see. Having such fabulous taste, you must be a good monster. By the way, do you have business with this handsome one?”
Irene was a sociable person even when she was alive. Feeling how casual Lomyok was, she quickly took a liking to him. “I don’t have particular business with you. It’s just that there is something I would like to share with you two.”
“What is it?” Sila asked. He suppressed the urge to call her Mom. It wouldn’t be appropriate now that there was another player nearby.
“Your competence and personalities caught Anubis’ eyes, so he sent me to warn you that the city will belong to the Victorious Wolves Sect by dawn. They plan to temporarily close down the city in order to stabilize the situation and begin repairs. As such, guildless players like Mister Lomyok and opposing players like Mister Sila will be in big trouble if you are still in the city by then. On the other hand, you can avoid conflicts by leaving the city before that time comes.”
“Ho? Has the city fallen into Lone Wolf’s hands? Not bad, that guy,” Lomyok remarked.
Irene explained, “Mister Lomyok, you seem to have missed some news. Mister Lone Wolf died, so the city will be under the management of the guild deputy, or rather Miss Ratri.”
“Really? He’s already dead? This year he died quite fast.” It seemed Lomyok really had no clue about it.
Sila frowned. “Ratri will be the next city conqueror...?”
“That really is the case.” Irene could note the dissatisfaction in Sila’s voice. “Mister Sila, I understand you may find this result dissatisfying since it’s you who put in a lot of effort. At the time when Mister Burapha killed Mister Revin, he didn’t get the position of the city conqueror due to the passive ability of the Emperorship that prevented the city from changing hands. However, within a war event, there is a separate rule that overwrites said ability. Once the number of members of the city conqueror’s side in the city reaches zero and the situation has calmed down, the side that has the most members remaining in the city will automatically conquer the city.”
Conquering the city had never been Sila’s objective. Originally, he intended to put the city into the same state as Grea City after the Royal Armament Guild’s fall, meaning there was no clear ruler, letting citizens live on their own. He just wanted Montra to lose one of his important bases and didn’t care about the aftermath. However, it turned out that the city would end up being run by the last person he’d wish to have it.
Lomyok smiled merrily. “The Victorious Wolves Sect is very familiar with how the city operates and Ratri has always been good at taking care of the guild. I guess the city will recover from this quickly. How fortunate~”
Lomyok wasn’t aware that his casual speech had just saved Zhongsuyuan City from a huge calamity. Sila, who had recovered all of his power, had the capability to hunt down every single injured player in the city. If he was the last man standing in the city, Zhongsuyuan City would become his. As he was contemplating this, Lomyok’s words made him realize something, leading to him abandoning this cruel idea.
Ratri was vicious toward him out of her fear of his power, thinking he was a potential threat to her guild, and decided to deliver a preemptive strike. The Victorious Wolves Sect was vicious to him alone but was virtuous to the townspeople. While he could justify killing her, claiming that it was his right to own the city, the citizens were innocent and didn’t deserve any of it. If he started the hunt, the cycle of vengeance would continue. Someone would try to take revenge for those he had killed, and if he killed them as well, more would come. The more people he killed, the higher the pile of corpses he stands upon would become, preventing him from getting down. Ultimately, he would be the one trapped in the everlasting cycle. By the time he realizes it, everyone in the world might have already become his enemies.
The hardest thing to let go of in this world is a grudge. One of the easiest things to give, yet one of the rarest ever given, is forgiveness.
Somehow freeing himself from mental impurities and attaining inner peace, Sila felt relief. It was as if a shackle had fallen from his body, reducing the burden carried on his shoulders. “You’re right. This is probably for the best.”
Thanks to this decision, Zhongsuyuan City under the Victorious Wolves Sect’s management would flourish and be peaceful in the following years. Sila and Revin would be mentioned in the city’s history as the two powerful villains who clashed and eventually died altogether under the Victorious Wolves Sect’s army led by Ratri. They strategically marched into the city at the right time and successfully seized the city from Montra. Many truths would be distorted and eventually be lost to the passage of time. Still, Sila was content. What was important for everyone wasn’t the truth but peace.
Knowing that her son didn’t cling to a false sense of pride, Irene was glad. The desire to win is a feeling that the Wulin Lord ought to get rid of. The most important thing wasn’t oneself but the well-being of everyone in the association.
“Mister Lomyok also caught Anubis’ eyes. You have quick wits, managing to use a unique qi to save that puppy’s life. Anubis shares some bonds with the dog race, so he felt gratitude. He told me to give this item to you, hoping that it will be beneficial to you.”
Irene extended her hand, showing an ornamental dog collar. However, Lomyok didn’t take it. He showed an uncomfortable expression as he lifted the puppy up to eye level.
“I... can’t take my hands off it.”
“Ah, I see. Sorry for not noticing that. Please let me.” Irene put the collar on the puppy. Its body flashed once, before the light faded to reveal the same appearance excluding the second head.
“Members of the soul race have the power to alter a monster’s species. This collar is the Dog God’s Collar, having the ability to transform the species of this particular puppy from a black wild dog to an Orthos, a two-headed dog. Its basic qi is also changed to magical qi. It’s a really good pet to keep.”
“Arf-Arf!” The bark from the puppy’s two heads were adorably in harmony.
Lomyok showed an awkward expression. “How troublesome. Reject. Reject. I said reject! Reject.”
Noticing that Lomyok was being weirder than usual, Sila asked, “What’s wrong?”
“I prefer cats over dogs. Dogs are too energetic for my taste. More importantly, I already have a few cats in the real world, so I don’t want to have pets in the game as well. I have rejected the system several times now. Why does it keep asking?”
Lomyok wouldn’t call himself an animal lover. However, he won’t just walk away if he sees an animal dying in front of him and knows he can help. Thus, when he saw a blood-soaked black puppy shivering in the dark, he couldn’t help but rescue it. The one who injured the puppy must be very heartless, for them to even create a domain to imprison it. Lomyok used his saber fan to destroy the magic domain and transmitted qi into the puppy to heal it.
As soon as his qi entered the puppy’s body, Lomyok instantly realized that he couldn’t save it. The puppy’s body had some strange power erupting on inside, tearing its veins apart. However, with his quick wits, he soon found a solution. He exerted the power of the zombie race’s Vast Sky Qi, which had the ability to consume energy, and started absorbing the surplus power inside the puppy into his body through his palms. With this method, not only did he manage to save its life, but the maximum value of his health points and special points also slowly increased. Although his rank was still Squire, his health points had already reached ten million while his special points had reached three million.
Still, the puppy was far from danger. There were too many souls running wild in its body. If Lomyok let go of it, it would suffer greatly. He also couldn’t absorb the power from it too fast since its body, which was acting as a bridge, couldn’t bear the speed. He had no choice but to gradually absorb its power, forcing him to continue holding it in his arms. The most troublesome part was that he didn’t know how long he had to continue doing this.
Lomyok’s level was higher than the puppy’s, so technically he could reject becoming its master. However, as he was holding and helping it all the time, even if he did reject it, the system would ask him again. It seemed the system would continue pestering him as long as he was saving its life.
Lomyok suddenly got a bright idea. “Oh, right! Sila, you are an animal lover, aren’t you? Let me give this little guy to you, then.”
Sila pointed a finger at himself. “Me? An animal lover?”
“You have a lot of monsters that you play with. Adding one more won’t make a difference. Take it, please. I travel all the time. I can’t take care of it. I don’t even own a house in the game. This guy won’t survive if I bring it along with me to the Monster Realm.”
Sila quickly refused, “It’s inconvenient for me to have it. I don’t have time to take care of it either.”
Seeing her master in trouble, Julia immediately volunteered, “I can take care of the puppy in your place, Master.”
Lomyok grinned. “Yes! Now the problem is solved. It finally found a caretaker. Ready? Take it.”
Sila had yet to agree, but Lomyok had already lightly tossed the puppy his way. Sila received it using both hands. Once it landed, he immediately realized that it was gravely injured. Its small body squirmed in pain, letting out pitiful cries.
Sila transmitted his qi to the puppy, but it was useless, like how Lomyok had experienced. “Ah? What do I have to do? It can’t be healed with qi.”
“You have to use this qi.” Lomyok placed his palms on Sila’s back and started a session of qi transmission. “Follow my lead and try to remember the circulation pattern.”
He exerted the power of Worlds Crossing Bridge, redirecting qi to go through Sila’s veins in a specific way. Apparently, it was Vast Sky Qi’s circulation pattern. Lomyok absorbed the puppy’s surplus energy by using Sila as a bridge. Meanwhile, Sila was surprised at how clearly he could sense the flow of qi and learn from it.
That was because Lomyok possessed the maximum level of Qi Transmission skill, making it easy for him to dictate the flow of qi. In addition, this wasn’t the first time someone transmitted qi directly to Sila. Regarding the experience of receiving qi directly from monsters, Lomyok had experienced it once from the Zombie King while Sila had done it twice, from Rex and Lucifer, so it could be said that Sila was more experienced.
Vast Sky Qi was a strange qi. Not only was it difficult to detect, but it also made his body feel empty when circulating it. In any case, thanks to his mastery, it took Sila only five minutes to get the hang of the qi’s characteristics. He believed he could do it now even without Lomyok’s aid.
“I see. It turns out that this qi emphasizes the power of Freezing Soul, Worlds Crossing Bridge, and Universe Momentum.”
Lomyok nodded as he replied with a cheery tone. Not even the slightest amount of envy could be detected from his voice.
“That’s correct. It took me two days back then, but you only needed five minutes. It is probably because my qi foundation is inferior to yours. As expected of my rival. Well, try doing it on your own.”
Lomyok removed his palms from Sila, allowing the latter to rely on his own proficiency to achieve the same result. It took a few tries before a system notification rang out in Sila’s head.
You have inherited (A) Vast Sky Qi - Level 1.
Using Vast Sky Qi, Sila could feel that the overflowing power within the two-headed puppy streamed into him, increasing his maximum value of health points and special points, albeit at a snail’s pace. In any case, he would more or less come close to immortality if he kept doing this. As expected of the signature qi belonging to zombies.
“Oh! The Zombie King warned me that you have to be careful when using this qi since there is a speed limit for the absorption rate. If you are too greedy and consume too fast, you will suffer greatly. The incoming energy will counteract against you. It will be as if you are attacked without putting up a defense,” Lomyok quickly warned Sila.
Sila listened to the warning, though he already knew that much from what his body was telling him.
Lomyok had finally finished all of his business in the city. Without the puppy, he could leap to the Desert of Death. Even if someone spotted him, they wouldn’t be able to pursue him.
“I’ve taken care of everything now. I am going, then. Bye~ See you again.”
“Wait a minute,” Sila called the man. “Receiving such a gift for free doesn’t sit well with me. Do you want anything in return?”
Sila meant Vast Sky Qi, obviously, but Lomyok thought Sila was referring to the puppy.
“Eh? For something like that, there is no need to compensate me at all,” Lomyok refused, but he later came up with an idea. “Oh? Do you happen to have Cosmetic Random Boxes?”
Naturally, Sila didn’t have that kind of item. He turned to ask Julia nevertheless, “Erm... Julia, do I have something like that?”
Julia shook her head. “You don’t, Master. You do have some cosmetic-related skill scriptures though.”
Upon seeing Julia shaking her head, both Lomyok and Sila were disappointed. However, Lomyok’s expression quickly brightened once she finished her sentence and brought a small pile of scriptures out. He inspected some of them and almost couldn’t stop his tears of gratitude from falling.
“You even have the Dry Skin Prevention skill? As expected of my rival. Having this, both strong heat from deserts and the cold from snow can no longer harm my skin. Thank you very much, pal.”
These skill scriptures were luxury items greatly desired by female players, so they were expensive despite being totally unhelpful in combat.
Lomyok handed one of the scriptures to Sila. “I already have this. You should use it. Your hair is so dry, man.”
Inspecting the scripture, Sila found that it was ‘Special Skill: Damp Spa Hair’ and thought to himself, ‘What the heck? Is this a skill or a hair conditioner?’
“Erm... thanks, I guess?” Sila received the gift and passed it to Julia. Meanwhile, Lomyok poked his head out of the building, looked left and right, before dashing out.
Irene chuckled lightly. “Your friend is quite funny.”
Sila sighed. “Actually, we aren’t friends, Mom.”
“You two seemed to hit it off to me though. It’s been a long time since I saw a person like him—the kind of person who genuinely enjoys the game. Most people in Monster Soul seek money or power. It is rare to see someone earnestly seek adventures.”
‘It seems I don’t have to worry anymore. As long as you can still show a smile like that and retain your sense of self even in this cruel world, I’m sure you can definitely overcome any obstacle coming your way, my son.’
Even though Sila had missed the reward for conquering the city—the golden soul of gods— Irene was confident that her son had already obtained a valuable lesson from the raid. In a sense, it was a grand reward that even the system couldn’t bestow upon him.
Sila wasn’t aware how he had changed or what he had obtained. Still, he somehow knew something within him had changed for the better.
You have obtained the Two-Headed Orthos, Level 1 Squire Rank as a pet. Please submit your pet’s name.
“Doggy?” Sila tried.
Both heads of the puppy simultaneously bit Sila’s fingers. It didn’t hurt him, and Sila couldn’t help but find the fact that it clearly disliked the name hilarious.
“Hahaha! I put in so much effort and almost died, but what I get in the end is a single puppy? Well, it’s better than nothing.”
Sila lifted the puppy up to the sky and laughed happily. Amidst the harsh war where he didn’t know what would happen tomorrow, Sila was satisfied with clinging to the small happy moments like this one.
The Sky-Breaking Canyon was a row of tall mountains, acting like a wall of nature separating Zhongsuyuan City from Lafesta City. The southwest side of the canyon, which connected to Zhongsuyuan City, was a high cliff. The location was always surrounded by clouds. Hidden somewhere inside the group of clouds was an ancient city, which had been reduced to ruins. The Cloudy City was the name people used to refer to it.
Once a year, some clouds would form into a tangible staircase, allowing people to climb the cliff without having to pave their way through aggressive flying monsters. At the same time, the Millennium Bird would appear, meaning people could hunt it to obtain Qi of Little Bird. On the other hand, the slope on the northeast side of the canyon was easier to travel. In order to reach the Magic Kingdom, players oftentimes took a detour from Zhongsuyuan City to Colossia City, then went north.
Doing so, however, players would have to pick one of the two options—the left or right side of Skull Mountain Pass. There were obstacles and dangers lurking in both choices, but the difficulty depended on a player’s aptitude.
Choosing left, players travel along a wide, long slope, facing various kinds of bird-type monsters, whose energy types varied by species. These monsters are quite fast and they can fly freely, so the players have to keep that in mind. This route is suitable for players traveling as a team, or ones confident in their speed. If they reach three-fourths of the way to the canyon, they will be able to spot a cloudy road leading to Lafesta City.
Going right, on the other hand, means the distance is half that of the left side’s. However, the route is narrow and complicated, sometimes forcing players to vertically climb a ladder. The entire route was prepared by wild goblins, who settled in numerous small caves on the side of the mountain. These caves have narrow entrances, but the structure inside is deep and complex like a maze.
Goblins are psychic-type monsters, specializing in using various tools and weapons, including bows, spears, swords, metal balls, or even bombs. They are small, so their mobility is great, which proves to be troublesome for players since their favorite tactics are guerrilla warfare and ambush. Players choosing this route must be quite confident in their solid defense since space is limited, forcing them to receive attacks head-on. They also have to be mindful of steep slopes, where goblins don’t hesitate to push them over, resulting in the players dying from the fall. In fact, goblins are not afraid of dying, so sometimes they even drag players down with them, commiting double suicides.
Members of the bird race and the goblin race live together on the Sky-Breaking Canyon, and they have a neutral relationship. The birds live on the mountain peak, flying freely in the sky, while the goblins live inside their caves hidden in the canyon. They are neighbors who agreed not to meddle in each other’s business. They live their own lives and rarely interact.
This day was very special, however. The representatives of both races gathered in the same place, on a certain small cliff, in order to decide the fate of their races and most of the players in Monster Soul.
There were a total of six Bird Kings, each of them at Lord Rank. They each had strangely colorful feathers, with one having violet, one having indigo, one having blue, another having green, one of them having yellow, and the last having orange. Red was missing, or else the set would be complete.
On the other hand, there were only two Kings of Goblins. Their appearances were exactly the same. There weren’t twins though. It’s just that all members of the goblin race share similar appearances. The two had rather small figures, each wearing crooked metal armor. One of them had a mace behind his back while the other had a hatchet and a shield hanging from his belt.
Out of everyone present, the most outstanding one was a white-haired young man in a magician’s cloak. A mage staff, or maybe a spear, rested on his shoulder. The tip of the beautiful weapon was a spearhead-like red jewel, constantly emitting a faint magical glow. The handle was golden. Just its presence alone exuded a great sense of pressure.
The man was none other than Montra, surrounded by eight Lord Rank monsters, but with his rank being higher, they were wary of him, especially since his status was technically that of an Emperor Rank dragon.
The night was young but shrouded in complete darkness. In the evening of this day, the news about the Shadow Army greatly troubled Montra. The more he was troubled, however, the more likely his enemies would think that he wouldn’t dare to make his move. That was exactly why he must be on the move, intending to turn a crisis into an opportunity.
This very day happened to be the day Sila raided Zhongsuyuan City. Montra coincidentally picked the same day to counterattack, meaning both of them were neglecting defense while delivering a heavy blow to each other.
“Just to be sure, we don’t have to become your pets or form a Monster Follower pact with you for this deal, right?” asked the Goblin King who carried a mace.
“I want neither pets nor followers. Today we are just exchanging what we can offer. Tomorrow we may join forces or become foes, but the deal we make today won’t be invalid. I won’t talk about repossession.”
The Great Lightning Eagle in a blue coat scoffed. “The Sky Emerald originally belonged to us, the bird race, as a sacred object. You robbed it from us, so it’s only proper for you to return it. Why must we follow your conditions?”
“I didn’t borrow it, I obtained it with my own ability. On top of that, the bird race was unable to fully utilize the ability of the Sky Emerald. However, now that it has been in the possession of someone from the human race, if I return it to you, the bird race will be able to unleash its full power. The six of you can awaken your dormant power to reach Emperor Rank. Since you get this much from me, you ought to offer something equally valuable.”
“Let me get this straight. You simply want us to do that one task you spoke of in order for you to return the Sky Emerald to us. After the deal is done, however, we will be like strangers, correct?”
Montra nodded. “You got that right.”
The six kings looked at each other and started discussing in private. Montra was willing to wait. He knew that they would eventually accept the deal. His offer was something irresistible for them.
“We accept.” The reply came after the discussion. Montra nodded and read aloud his side of the bargain for the second time.
“You have to destroy Belacia City in the north within seven days in return for this.” Montra tossed the last Gem of Catastrophe on him to one of the bird kings. “I know the bird race keeps their word, so I will let you have it from the get-go. Even if you fail to destroy Belacia City within seven days, you don’t have to return it to me.”
The Bird King cherished the gem, gently holding it. Since Montra placed his trust in them that much, they would naturally have to keep their word.
“Within seven days, we assure you Belacia City will be nothing but rubble. Residing near that place is Gigan, the Firebird King, who betrayed our kinsmen by killing his former king and running away after that, so this matter is half personal. We will start immediately.”
The six Kings of Birds soared into the sky and screeched loudly to gather their subordinates. Millions of birds soon left their nests. Their march would have blocked the entirety of sunlight if it wasn’t the middle of the night. Their flight speed was terrifyingly fast. Before the dawn of the next day, Belacia City would already be under assault.
One of the Goblin Kings spoke up, “What we are about to give you is the secret that our race has been guarding for a long time, having never once told an outsider. You are the first, and we really hope you won’t pass it on.”
“Certainly. I will only use the intel for myself. Even if I can’t make use of it, I assure you I won’t tell anyone else,” Montra promised. “To show you my sincerity, I will let you have the city right now.”
Montra offered Colossia City to the goblin race. As a matter of fact, the city used to belong to goblins. Even the buildings, including the Colosseum, were built by them. They had ugly appearances, but kind hearts. When foreign outsiders such as players came to visit their town, goblins had welcomed them in a friendly manner, imparted their knowledge, made weapons, and given the players their support. However, as the number of players increased, they soon viewed the non-aggressive goblins as weaklings. Coupled with their ugly appearances, players claimed several bullshit excuses to drive the goblins away from their homeland. The goblins were innocent creatures. At first, they thought there was some kind of a misunderstanding ongoing, so they backed off to temporarily settle on the Sky-Breaking Canyon. It took them a while before they finally realized that humans had intended to seize their city from them all along. Colossia City was an important strategic location on the Main Continent where one could travel to and from the three main cities relatively easily, making it suitable for trading and marching. This discovery made goblins harbor resentment against humans from that point onward.
Montra, who was the current ruler of Colossia City, naturally had the right to hand it to someone else. He willfully returned it to the goblin race. From now on, goblins would gain a special ability while inside the city, as it would count as their territory.
“I already bestowed upon you the city. However, there are still some people who refuse to leave. They are also the ones responsible for stealing the city from you ten years ago.” Despite this being a lie, Montra’s expression didn’t change whatsoever.
The Goblin King, who had a hatchet hanging from his belt, snorted with rage. “No problem. Now that the city is ours, we have our way to claim it back. The ten-year-long grudge will have to be settled by our own hands. Those who robbed us of our hometown will have to pay.”
Montra no longer cared. He knew goblins would handle it goblin-style. “What about your side of the deal?”
The Goblin King handed Montra a scripture. “This one is a copy. Written in it is the intel you’re looking for. When you finish reading, please destroy it.”
Montra opened the scripture and took his time reading it. “I see... Hmm? I was only missing a few things, it seems. It’s a lot easier now that I know the method. I would have had to rely on pure luck if I didn’t.”
The Goblin King could guess what Montra was talking about. “You’re correct. Based on what I see, your spear is only one step away from being reborn into an Angelic Weapon—the kind of creation that has been lost from the world of Monster Soul.”
The intel that the goblin kings traded for Montra’s city was the origin of Demonic Armaments. Written in the scripture was a history of Demonic Armaments, explaining what exactly they are and how they came to exist. It also explained the birth of Angelic Armaments.
Angelic and Demonic Armaments were like light and shadow. Both were mutually powerful, not superior to one another. Still, the law and nature of the world were more helpful to the birth of Demonic Armaments than their counterparts. It was stated that both types of ultimate armaments were equal in strength, with the difference being Demonic Armaments always come with side effects while Angelic Armaments had no such things, though Angelic Armament’s creation procedure was more difficult.
“Angels and Demons cannot coexist. If you get your hands on an Angelic Armament, all Demonic Armaments will reject you. Likewise, if you conquer a Demonic Armament, you will no longer be able to possess an Angelic Armament. You have been warned,” the other Goblin King gave Montra a warning before he left, along with his comrade.
Montra reread the scripture until he was sure that he didn’t miss anything before shredding it. He then opened his system window to search for particular information—the sacred place to hold a ritual. He kept searching for a long time before he eventually stumbled on a certain place.
“Found it. So it’s this place. If I didn’t read the scripture, I would have surely overlooked it.”
His system window still left open, Montra skimmed through various channels to assess the situations all over the world of Monster Soul. He was waiting for the approaching calamities which he had instigated.
War is a stage upon which generals duel through strategies, not brute force. The key to gaining the advantage in the war is to oppress an opponent while letting oneself rest. With a single gem, he acquired a large army willing to raid Belacia City on his behalf. Since the Sky Emerald was in their hands, the bird race would undergo drastic changes. Given their numbers, seven days was simply too much time.
The deal was secretly coated with lethal poison, however. The bird race had always been the Sky Emerald’s protector, but they had never comprehended its true power. They were technically keepers, not the intended users. The power granted by the Sky Emerald was the forceful awakening that would later backfire for the target. Even the gems of the same category couldn’t bear the damage it caused, so never mind monsters.
Montra’s objective was to use monsters to hunt other monsters. Not only did it cost him practically nothing, but it also reduced the number of monsters in both the Sky-Breaking Canyon and the Northern Region. In the future, players would have an easier time conquering these two territories.
The bird race had the potential to wipe out the monster community in Belacia City, though they would die soon after that.
The victory would ultimately belong to humanity.
Regarding the other deal with the goblin race, he traded Colossia City for knowledge relating to the highest tier of weapons—Demonic and Angelic Armaments. The deal seemed like a huge loss at first glance, but it was exactly the opposite. He just abandoned a city that had lost its value and was on the verge of being seized by the Shadow Army for something useful.
Driving goblins away from their home was something done by players during the first year after the game had launched. Montra didn’t directly participate in it, though he did nothing to prevent it from happening. At that time the highest rank that players could attain was Knight Rank. The goblins didn’t fight back even though they could because they were tricked, believing that humans were kind creatures and the conflict was simply a misunderstanding. It marked the first great victory as players had seized a city from monsters, which led to the birth of Cross’ fame. The event took place when he wasn’t regarded as the Sword Emperor yet. He was the raid leader at that time. The success contributed a lot to his efforts in gathering people for the Royal Armament Guild, which was founded after they took Colossia City.
Goblins hold a deep grudge against humans, and the ones residing in Colossia City were none other than Montra’s enemies. The goblins would take care of them for him, without even knowing that they were doing him a favor. Since they were monsters, they wouldn’t fear Zero—the Shadow Emperor—like most players, or be wary of Pumin—the Sword Prodigy—like the association’s members. It would simply be the goblins wanting their home back.
All Montra had to do was control the flow and make the situation happen when it was the best time for him.
If the Shadow Army wins, they would at least suffer a lot, and the Heavenly Dragon Guild would benefit from it. On the other hand, if the goblins win, Montra would present himself as an envoy, asking for their forgiveness toward humanity and gaining a good public image. He would be the middleman who remedied the conflict between two races.
Knowledge is the most powerful weapon. Montra could make use of the two monster races because he had studied Monster Soul’s history and learned about the monsters’ civilizations and their cultures.
This also applied to what he had learned about the King of Spells. He was a sole Independent NPC who fully sided with Montra and had been teaching him spells for a while now. Now that Sila had gathered various forces against him, Montra eventually returned to his in-game mentor and asked the man to do him a favor.
Montra was the Magic Kingdom’s city ruler. If he ordered, even the King of Spells would have to obey him. Montra didn’t do that though. All he did was ask politely. He knew that this particular Independent NPC only joined the game out of enjoyment. The King of Spells was the sole Independent NPC without any profound arts, but was still able to roam free in the Monster Realm.
The King of Spells knew neither profound arts nor even traditional martial arts. He only utilized in-game skills. Most players didn’t know him, but he was very well-known among the group of Independent NPCs.
They would never forget the only ordinary man, who was a no-name in the underground world but managed to survive in the world full of vicious monsters.
If they had to make an analogy, the King of Spells was like a docile small sheep living in a den full of beasts. The fact that the sheep could stay alive without any beast trying to trouble it greatly highlighted the horror hidden under its simplicity.
While Montra was in the Sky-Breaking Canyon, the King of Spells was already alone near the Island of Beginnings. He was about to wage a war between himself—a single person—and the entire slime race on the island.
Naturally, ‘the entire slime race on the island’ included the Slime King and the three Guardians.
Thus, it wasn’t strange to hear that the war was pretty much one-sided.
However, the ‘one-sided’ in this context was surprisingly the opposite of what people would think.
It was the slime race that was beaten one-sidedly.
If it was another title, montra would be a returner mc with god knowledge.Now im curious how sila could win.
For a while, many people online debated the reason why Monster Soul Online wasn’t more popular with gamers despite having the highest currency conversion rate, which in turn makes it the most profitable game to play for a living.
The replies from gamers rarely differed from each other. They refused to make a profit from the game because “Monster Soul Online is too lawless.”
The principles they followed in other games didn’t apply in this game. Basically, the game had no rules to prevent, or at least discourage, players from harming other players. There were no punishments, no chaotic status, nothing. Only a lame bounty system existed. As such, the game was a storm of chaos. Players could do whatever they wanted. It was difficult to establish a business system that could keep money flowing consistently.
The game was unfair even at the very start. Players who learned martial arts were heavily favored. They could even beat a stronger opponent if the level difference wasn’t too large. It was especially lethal if you were a non-martial artist who started the game late. If you had nothing special, there was no way you would make a name for yourself.
Thankfully, Kritsana was special. Joshua invited him to test the game during its closed beta. The reason he was invited was entirely different from others. Joshua didn’t want to test how profound arts would fare in the game. Rather, he wanted to see how well it played as a game rather than a battleground for martial artists.
Kritsana was a Thai gamer who made a name for himself five years before Sila entered the game. He was only sixteen at the time, but his name had already invaded the top of the rankings for the ten most popular games in the world. Surprisingly, he played all of them simultaneously and was always ranked within the top three in each game.
He had become something of a celebrity after that. Even international media acknowledged his gaming skills, praising Thailand for being one of the leading forces in e-sports.
Kritsana’s early days in Monster Soul were full of hardships. He kept dying over and over again in the Monster Realm. There were no guidelines or walkthroughs for Monster Soul Online during its closed beta, so he tried and tested various things. He took pride in his gaming skills. Monster Soul Online was a game, so he would beat it even though the game clearly favored martial artists.
While other players went outside to test their martial limits, Kritsana buried himself in piles of books. He gradually studied all available knowledge regarding the Monster Realm, calmly looking for monsters’ strengths and weaknesses, places, quests, and any possibilities to grow stronger.
He was the first player to discover that Orichalcum could be used to make a high-tier weapon. He shared this particular knowledge with Zeref and requested the man to craft a mage staff for him. Later on, he started picking several quests around the beginning area and studied nearby monsters’ characteristics before going out to hunt them. He would frequently return to the beginning area to receive more quests whenever he believed his level was sufficient. Slowly but surely, the area he could hunt in expanded. Eventually, there were no places in the Monster Realm that Kritsana had yet to explore.
He relied on the human race’s advantage. It was the only race that allowed a player to directly receive quests, albeit mostly miscellaneous, from the Quest Building. He acquired all 50 skills exclusive to humans that way. He also asked a monster of the merpeople race to craft him an accessory from another piece of Orichalcum, and requested a dark elf to make him a dagger out of yet another piece.
Kritsana performed all of the available quests, traveled everywhere, collected countless items, and studied every accessible legend. Thanks to his achievements, he was granted the title King of Spells and got the side job as a librarian stationed in the Magic Library, secretly sharing his knowledge with visitors.
When the closed beta came to an end, he was asked to become an Independent NPC, getting a high salary in return. Still, the New World was not as exciting as the Monster Realm, so he rarely connected to the game. Most of the time, he would let his AI control his avatar while he played other games.
In any case, the war event happened once a year, so he didn’t miss out on participating.
As a matter of fact, he thought all he could do was observe what players were doing. Thankfully, the law and the seal were broken due to certain people, lifting some limitations and granting him some degree of freedom.
Kritsana’s avatar was surprisingly an old man in his eighties despite his real age being twenty-one. He was sitting cross-legged on the Arch-Mage Staff like it was a chair, twenty meters above the ocean’s surface. He lifted his left hand to place his glasses over his eyes, using them to look at the Island of Beginnings from two kilometers away.
On his left wrist, there was the Arch-Illusionist Bracelet decorated with eight small round jewels. Five of them were black while the remaining three were pure white. Strapped to his belt was the Arch-Ritualist Dagger, the beauty of which was as captivating as the two aforementioned items.
All three of them were made of Orichalcum, already at Emperor Rank.
Kritsana could cast all spells under the eight basic elements. He also had extensive knowledge regarding magic, psychic power, qi, and every race of monsters in Monster Soul. Still, the most dangerous weapon in his possession was neither his powerful equipment nor his knowledge, but his mindset.
Kritsana always believed that he was extremely weak and vulnerable. An ordinary person like him could be killed practically at any moment. As such, he never underestimated his foes and always did things heavy-handedly.
He wasn’t arrogant and would never be stupid enough to send a warning or a letter of challenge to his enemy. Once he arrived at the destination, he silently but immediately took action according to Montra’s request.
“Please prevent the slime-race Independent NPCs from helping Sila in the war.”
The request was short and clear. Kritsana wondered why Independent NPCs like the Slime King would be interested in joining the war between players.
Based on the information he had gathered from the game forum, Sila entered the game only recently and intended to win the war just like everyone else. Sadly, with such a late start, he severely lacked manpower. The solutions he came up with were to join the alliance with all of Montra’s enemies and clear the racial master quest in order to create an army of monsters.
Even Kritsana thought it was an interesting idea. In return, Montra countered Sila’s strategy by doing the same thing Sila did—mobilizing an Independent NPC.
“Four against one, huh? That’s too much,” Kritsana mused. He knew he would have literally no chance if he fought them head-on. “I guess it’s time for me to say goodbye to the Arch-Illusionist Bracelet. That’s regretful. I’ll surely miss it.” He looked at the three white jewels in the bracelet.
The Arch-Illusionist Bracelet was a magical artifact with a fraudulent ability that enabled the user to completely ignore the resources normally required for casting a spell. All restrictions—be it a sacrifice, magic power, health points, place, and time—wouldn’t matter. The user could cast a spell instantly no matter how complex it was. Regrettably, it could be used only eight times, and Kritsana had already used it five times during his adventures in the Monster Realm, all five times falling in the first six months after he received the bracelet.
Kritsana knew this battle wouldn’t be easy. Thankfully, he was fully aware of the slime race’s racial characteristics—including its weaknesses. He would be a fool if he didn’t use this knowledge to his advantage.
His mind prepared, Kritsana took the Arch-Ritualist Dagger out from his belt and poured his magic power into it. The inscriptions on the blade let off a golden glow. Kritsana pulled seawater up high and compressed it, before stabbing it with the dagger.
The Arch-Ritualist Dagger was a magical artifact that enabled the user to perform any ritual-based spell—barring only Ancient Magic—even if the user had never learned it, though the user must know the name of the spell and its effect.
Spells of the eight basic elements were all Kritsana could normally cast, so the dagger played a major role in letting him use unique spells that belonged to other types of magic.
“Death Magic — Summoning the Sovereign of Grave Keepers.”
One of the white jewels immediately turned black. Death Magic was versatile and powerful, but most spells came with many conditions of use, greatly limiting how to utilize them. Kritsana had to sacrifice one of the priceless jewels in order to unleash a certain spell that was ranked fourth hardest to use among all 666 spells of Death Magic.
The Sovereign of Grave Keepers wasn’t a monster, but a mass of compressed magic power. Its form was a pile of human skeletons that formed into a massive ball. Black magic power flowed through them, acting like a pulse and making it look like black plasma with bones hidden inside. It silently floated in front of Kritsana. Its pair of eyes, devoid of emotions, stared straight into its master’s. It gradually absorbed seawater, expanding its size in a manner similar to a balloon. Soon, it took off, flying toward the Island of Beginnings.
“Most spells from Death Magic are hard counters for armies. The Sovereign of Grave Keepers enhanced by my Art of Magic should be able to buy me some time.”
Kritsana’s Art of Magic tripled the effectiveness of a spell that he normally should have been unable to cast. Its utility sounded oddly limited, but he could always make use of it through the Arch-Ritualist Dagger and item skills attached to eight of his rings.
“The slime race was bound to live on the Island of Beginnings because its members, especially the low ranked ones, are extremely vulnerable to salt. Up against the Sovereign of Grave Keepers that I combined with seawater, their overall fighting ability should drop by around twenty percent. It’s far from enough though. This kind of spell can only inflict damage to mobs, but it’s mostly ineffective against Independent NPCs. I must add at least a couple more spells just to be safe.”
Kritsana descended, bringing himself closer to the sea surface. The Arch-Mage Staff slid from beneath him and instead hovered in front. The man was still sitting on the air in the same posture though. He spread his arms, pulling ambient mana to coil around him, ready to cast a high-tier water-element spell.
“O, Monarchs of Rivers, Twin Monstrous White-Scaled Fish Kings, who swam in the River of Death. This humble one asks the two of thou, who symbolize birth and extinction, bestow upon me a part of thy breathing and vision. Twin Fish’s Domain.”
Kritsana’s body submerged into the ocean, diving several hundred meters. He could breathe underwater as long as the spell was in effect and could also see things through the vision of the Twin Fish he had summoned. Eight massive dragon fish made of seawater jumped around, swimming to the Stone Forest and causing heavy rainstorms in their wakes.
Actually, the spell Twin Fish’s Domain should normally have manifested two dragon fish, which would blast fierce water jets at each other, causing the enemy in between them to get caught up in the attacks. However, Kritsana relied on the Arch-Mage Staff’s ability that quadrupled the number of spells he cast through it, though it came with a price, making the spell consume four times more magic power than usual. As a result, there were eight dragon fish instead of two, increasing the amount of water being blasted. Instead of continuous streams of water jets, what came out were numerous cyclones surrounding the Slime Kingdom.
“Directly slamming them with seawater like this, it should lower their fighting ability by yet another thirty percent. The Guardian Poluk is a qi-type direct fighter. He will most likely have a hard time. However, the Slime King and the Guardian Divine are psychic-type. They must have some means to reduce the effects of my spells. Lastly, the Guardian Viola has magic that can manipulate elements, so my spells must be the least effective on her. To be sure, I must exploit the slime race’s other weakness.”
Kritsana had studied the slime race’s characteristics beforehand, especially about the race’s four Independent NPCs. While they were indeed strong, they were classified by the system as genuine monsters, not humans who underwent race-changing quests. Thus, unlike players who were always classified as humans even after the race change and got the Goddess’ Blessing, Independent NPCs had no ways to overcome the race’s weaknesses predetermined by the system. It was one of the reasons why Kritsana didn’t change his race.
True, some races had many advantages and only a few weaknesses. When properly exploited, however, such weaknesses could be fatal.
“The slime race is similar to the goblin race in the sense that there exist many racial skills. There are hard rules about them though. A goblin’s skill pool changes according to the weapon they wield. As for a slime, no matter how diverse their skill pool is, they can’t possibly possess magic-type skills of the light and dark elements.”
Being able to use six of the basic elements was already a lot. Only a handful of people would view that it was a weakness, especially when a slime could easily swap their element’s affinity to reduce the opponent’s damage, which they could do rather quickly. Nevertheless, a weakness was still a weakness. The eight basic magic elements each had special traits that only a few players were aware of.
The earth element is the most balanced. Most spells are direct in application, meaning they are easy to use, but also inflexible. Many spells come in a solid state, making the attack and defense partly physical. There are many useful spells, including disguises. Still, the weakness of the earth element lies in its speed, which is the slowest among the elements.
The water element is about cleansing and purification. Its most distinct trait is its shapeless nature. Most spells of the water element come with strong blasting pressure, making them excellent choices when it comes to pushing an opponent off-balance. Regretfully, the element doesn’t have many lethal spells that can finish off an opponent.
The wind element is the most versatile. There are offensive spells as well as healing, support skills, and buffs. The element also has the longest reach. Aside from those aspects, however, its overall strength is subpar. Basically, it’s a mixed bag element.
Spells of the fire element have a wide area of effect and the damage they inflict always lingers. They leave the target with burns even if the spell has been completed. The combined amount of damage it deals is second to none. Its weakness is its high magic power consumption.
The lightning element has the quickest speed. There are many spells for crowd control and disturbing the opposing side’s tempo. Some spells are quite powerful if used right. Sadly, unlike the fire element, most lightning-element spells are single-target spells. There are only a handful of AOE spells, which is troublesome since spellcasters are normally in high demand for siege battles.
The ice element is bone-freezing cold and long-lasting. It is neither fast nor slow, but difficult to block or interrupt. Ice-element spells are significantly easier to delay compared to other elements. The element’s offensive capability is subpar since its strength mostly lies in debuffing.
The light element is special in the sense that the damage is often predetermined. If the spells connect, they inflict the same amount of damage no matter where they land on the target. Aside from this trait, the light element is naturally great at healing and recovering.
The dark element is purely offensive. The attack power of dark-element spells might be slightly lower than those of the fire element, but they normally ignore the target’s defense. In addition, the dark element has many curses that other elements lack. The weakness of the element is well-known, however, being that it doesn’t have a single defensive spell.
“Slimes can’t use the light and dark elements, so they can neither use curses nor remove them. If I affix four consecutive curses on them, their fighting ability will be reduced by another twenty to thirty percent.”
There was no need for him to approach the island in order to cast a spell from a close distance. Kritsana was aware that he was weak, so he refused to show up, opting to keep bombarding the slimes with spells from a long distance. Through the effect of the Twin Fish’s Domain, he was regarded as the ninth identical fish. He could fire off a spell from any of the eight fish without personally being there. The slime race’s members would have a difficult time finding and coming at him, who was hidden underwater.
“Coming from the West is the chain of judgment which shall bind all prisoners. It is vaster than the sky and darker than the night. It brings forth more suffering than what one must experience in Purgatory. The Apocalyptic Shackle.”
Even though it was a high-tier spell, Kritsana managed to shorten the chant and cast it. His shadow on the seafloor bended and snaked around like living chains, before each of them branching into four and then into twelve, flaring like a fishnet. All twelve shadows flew into the rainstorm, causing a great upheaval.
Magic spells were different from psychic power and qi. They could be stacked as long as they belonged to the same spellcaster. Even when Kritsana overlapped one spell after one another, the spells wouldn’t become unstable or break down.
The Sovereign of Grave Keepers exploded in mid-air, generating an army of a hundred thousand black skeletons from up high. Each skeleton’s strength only amounted to that of a Knight Rank monster, but it was immortal, unable to be killed by normal means. They roamed free in the middle of the rainstorms and curses, totally unaffected by the sinister domain. Once they found an enemy, they would rush at them crazily. If they realized that they couldn’t win, they would simply detonate themselves and later come back to life. As a result, even after the morning of the next day had arrived, the situation on the Island of Beginnings showed no signs of getting better.
The most enjoyable game was the one he was winning. Kritsana didn’t rush things even though he could. He prioritized staying hidden. If he were to engage in a direct clash, his timing for casting spells would be greatly interrupted. Magic type was unfavorable against psychic type, so he especially didn’t want to be detected by the Slime King. He analyzed that he could put up a fight if it were a one-on-one duel, but he had no chance of survival against the four of them at once. There was no need to take unnecessary risks. Under the pressure of the magic bombardment, the Slime King could never find him.
The great power of magic continued to imprison the Slime Kingdom in a manner that made people feel the situation was hopeless. Despite that, a small ray of hope was sent away from the darkness. The Slime King and Divine joined hands, secretly pushing the only slime that had a chance at averting the crisis, and rescuing the rest of his comrades, out of the domain without Kritsana noticing.
There was still hope left for the Slime Kingdom. The Slime King had activated his psychic skill and found a player possessing a particular skill. It was fortunate that such a person was currently on the Island of Beginnings.
The little slime’s mission was to search for a certain player who possessed a high-level monster-commanding skill and ask for their help. With the help of such a skill, his Way of Slime would exert enough power to shatter the magic domain.
“Luaid”, or rather the little slime who Sila had secretly named “Orangey”, turned back to glance at his kingdom one last time before using Psychic Impact to hop forward like a bowling ball. His destination was the southern side of the Island of Beginnings.
At dawn of the next day, Sila appeared in the garden in front of his mansion together with Julia, who was preparing a table and chairs. They were waiting for Cross and Beluga.
Teleportation using an invitation card had some delay but didn’t take long. It took only a couple of minutes before the two arrived, prompting the start of the meeting.
It would take a long time before the war came to an end, so they agreed to keep exchanging intel on a daily basis. If a day wasn’t eventful, they would just send messages. However, many things happened last night, so the need to call for a meeting arose. They needed to discuss what sort of future actions they should take.
Cross sat on a white chair made of metal. His body was still in an injured state from the last fight he had. Every time he spoke, an icy breath from Frost Demon Qi would come out of his mouth. Zazae’s attacks were the kind that invaded and weakened a target, so it would take a while before the wounds healed.
“What kind of joke are you going to pull this time? Why the hell did you bring a puppy into a meeting?” Cross scolded immediately after he spotted the two-headed black puppy in Sila’s arms.
Sila was troubled. “I really have no choice. If I let go of it, it will die.”
“How about finding someone to remove the curse, Sila? I can contact my people to do that later,” Beluga proposed.
Sila wondered, “Curse? Why do you think it’s suffering from a curse?”
“Hm? Based on how you described it, I thought it’s a negative effect from some kind of curse. Was I wrong?”
Sila shook his head in denial and began to share the puppy’s backstory, how it used to be a Lord Rank monster, but later its rank decreased and it suffered from the overflowing power of its own qi. That was the reason why he had to keep absorbing its power.
“It’s not a curse, then. From what you just told me, it seems to be a kind of qi deviation. When something goes wrong in utilizing qi, the user’s body will suffer from a backlash. In the case of this puppy, it seems its power stays at Lord Rank while its ability to control qi has worsened. If it’s like what I’m thinking, the puppy won’t recover no matter how long you keep at it.”
“How do I fix the problem, then?”
“Traditionally, the gap between qi and physique can be narrowed down by cultivating. However, that only works when the gap isn’t substantial. Lord-Rank qi within a Squire-Rank body is too much of a difference. I suggest you feed it a Black Baby Mantra Ray or teach it how to circulate qi and how to let go of the excess power.”
“I see. Thank you for your suggestions.”
Beluga was a qi-type player like Sila, so he was knowledgeable when it came to topics about qi. On the contrary, Cross didn’t join the conversation, only waiting for when they could start the actual meeting.
“Stop talking about a dog already. We’re having big problems right now. Let’s start with me. The situation on my side seems better at first glance, but overall we are still disadvantageous in various aspects, especially regarding technology as theirs completely outclasses us.”
Cross briefly explained how, together with Jundtrathep, he took down Zazae—though he deliberately skipped over some of the details—and placed the spoils of war he got from Zazae on the table. They consisted of the Spatial-Sealing Bracelet, the Dragon Tail Chain Whip, the Elite Dagger, and the Envy Card.
“This bracelet is the most problematic. I already had my men test it. When active, the bracelet will emit a sphere, usually around five meters in diameter, but this can vary depending on who uses it. I speculate it’s relative to the level of the wearer’s Psychic Mastery skill. Within the sphere, all skills and items related to dimensions will be sealed, including Crystals of Connecting, invitation cards, shunpo, or even Psychic Manipulation skill since its ability is quite ambiguous.”
“Why is it the most problematic?”
Cross frowned, feeling it was a waste of time to explain things to Sila. However, Beluga knew that Sila honestly didn’t know the meaning, so he briefly explained.
“Cross is worried because psychic-type skills oftentimes work well together. Unlike qi-type players like us, a psychic-type player’s strong suit lies in the synergistic effect of their skills, activating several skills at the same time. Thus, if one of their key skills is sealed, their overall fighting ability will drop sharply. Furthermore, psychic power is sensitive to changes. In the worst case, it won’t just weaken but outright act up against the user.”
Cross ignored whether Sila understood the meaning or not. He continued before Beluga turned the strategy meeting into a classroom for explaining psychic abilities.
“The bracelet won’t work on the wearer if their Psychic Mastery level is above 80. Zazae had bad luck. He copied my skills when my Psychic Mastery’s skill level was at 70. Unfortunately, Android Soldiers seem to be able to equip these bracelets and the level of their Psychic Mastery skill must be high. Our psychic-type players will have a very difficult time in the raid.”
Sila realized something while thinking about the strange bracelet. “But... if this bracelet really seals dimension-related abilities and all of the Android Soldiers equip one, won’t that make them seal each other?”
Sila’s doubt was natural. Would their abilities work against themselves and seal the dimension-related skills of the entire android squad? Cross also had the same doubt.
“We only have one bracelet, so we can’t test that hypothesis. However, my guess is that each bracelet will protect the wearer from the effects of other bracelets, meaning their abilities won’t be sealed. Well, to be sure, I want you to ask that boy to inspect it.”
Cross obviously meant Mamon. To be honest, he wasn’t sure if Mamon was Sila’s pet, partner, monster follower, or whatever, so he seriously wondered how he should refer to the boy.
“Sure, I will have Mamon study it. Have you set the schedule for when to attack Siaferia City?”
“We’re currently testing the waters, dragging the raid on by attacking every couple of days, though we quickly retreated before the enemy mobilized a large army. It’s to train my men to follow military orders and formations, including honing Tiger’s leadership skills. This way, the enemy will have a hard time predicting when we will do it for real. Unbeknownst to them, we will invade them from the tunnel. It should take around a month before it will be finished though.”
“A month? Will it be that long?” asked Sila.
“It’s already too quick in my opinion. War isn’t a short battle where victory is decided in a day. It’s a long battle of wits.”
“Do you need my help?” Sila volunteered. His duties in Zhongsuyuan City had come to an end, so he was quite free.
“You’ll only slow us down. If you really want to help, just wait until the raid day, and I’ll even let you be a general of the spearhead units. For now, just wait, or go help Beluga instead.” Cross hurriedly rejected Sila’s willfulness to help. He knew Sila was strong and capable, having insane battle sense and quick wit. However, he had heard that Sila was an ill-fated jinx, bringing calamity everywhere he went. He wouldn’t dare to guess what kind of tragedy would befall his team if such a cursed person were to live in his military camp for a month.
Beluga showed a dry smile. The war event was a long game, but Sila was so quick with his assigned tasks, clearing every one he was assigned already and ending up with no immediate plans. Although Beluga wasn’t like Cross, not believing in the superstition that Sila was a disastrous jinx, his guild focused on working as groups in a well-trained manner, so he would rather not add Sila into the current working system and make things complicated.
“The Mountain Thieves League’s tasks are forming relationships, spying, negotiating, and distributing commodities to various groups. I don’t think these jobs suit you, Sila.” Beluga didn’t blatantly decline. He honestly believed that the jobs were unfit for Sila.
Cross mused, “Your current status is dead, right, like Lone Wolf’s? In that case, staying hidden will be more beneficial for the team. Attack when the enemy gets complacent. You can just spend time in the mansion. I will call you in a month when we’re ready.”
“So, I should do nothing at all? Sounds like quite a waste though.”
“Better than pointlessly going outside and risking the truth getting out that you’re still alive. Making the enemy think you’re already dead can be one of our trump cards.”
Beluga suggested an alternative, “Why don’t you join the Shadow Army, then? Just disguise yourself as an ordinary player wearing a mask. Or maybe switch places with Zero and the Sword Prodigy from time to time. Bluebird’s movements will be more unrestricted that way. At least this is better than you doing nothing. Furthermore, it’s likely that Colossia City will need reinforcements soon.” Beluga showed a stern expression. “My men just informed me last night about strange behaviors of monsters living in the Sky-Breaking Canyon. An army of goblins is moving to surround Colossia City as we speak while bird monsters are heavily assaulting Belacia City. Also, there are weird fish attacking the Stone Forest. All of our important armies are having problems.”
The Wicked Union’s key armies—Belacia City’s army and the slime’s army—were both being attacked at the same time. Even the new army—the Shadow Army—that no one should know is connected to the union, had been surrounded by goblins.
These events could simply be regarded as monsters going wild. However, for monsters to suddenly take offensive actions against three locations, with each belonging to the union, it was most certainly suspicious. Despite there being no evidence, Beluga’s intuition screamed that this must be the work of an enemy.
He expressed this opinion to the two, and both Sila and Cross agreed without hesitation. The assaults occurred at the same time Sila raided Zhongsuyuan City. The damage was extremely severe.
Cross nodded. “It makes sense. Both Belacia City and the Stone Forest are already under attack, but the most worrisome is the Shadow Army. That army is at the heart of our strategies. It is the key piece we need to turn the tables on Montra. If you really want to help, you should go to Colossia City as Beluga suggested.”
“Mn. Colossia City is surviving thanks to the fame of Zero and the Sword Prodigy. The army is not as capable as the other two armies.”
The citizens in Belacia City excelled at fighting against monsters. There were a lot of competent players armed with brains and fighting prowess. Sebastian, Asura, Franz, and the Eight Rulers were also there, so they would surely find a way to cope with the situation.
As for the Slime Kingdom, the place was completely unsealed. With the strength of the Slime King and the Three Slime Guardians, Sila wholeheartedly believed that they would definitely overcome the crisis.
Although he was more emotionally attached to the Slime Kingdom and Belacia City, Sila ought to act for the benefit of the union. He decided that he must go to Colossia City and do his best while believing in his comrades.
“Very well. I will travel to Colossia City immediately after I wrap things up on my end. I will see what I can do when I arrive there.”
“The last topic of the meeting is about the sudden announcement last night regarding the birth of a Demonic Armament and the introduction of seven more of them. This may be a problem for us,” Cross mentioned another issue.
“Indeed. Such an unpredictable factor is problematic to not only us but every side in this war. From the sounds of it, Demonic Armaments must be difficult for us to tackle. Let’s just instruct everyone to avoid them. We’ll wait until the war event ends before trying to conquer them. Well, we’ll keep an eye on guildless players who want to collect them so that we can gauge the difficulty level of the feat.”
Sila hurriedly pointed at the mentioned Lamentable Dragon and explained. At first, Beluga and Cross thought it was a statue wearing a wuxia outfit, secretly thinking that Sila had weird taste in decorations. However, they soon panicked when Sila told them it was none other than the newly born Demonic Armament.
“Is it safe to put it in the mansion?” asked Beluga.
“Mamon told me it can convert ambient mana into qi, meaning it normally has unlimited power. However, he restrained it with his psychic ability to block that conversion. It’s the item that can move by utilizing qi. Without qi, all it can do is stand still.”
The Lamentable Dragon swept his eyes, full of malice, over them. Noticing that the statue could move his eyes, a weak-willed person would have been shocked senseless. Cross couldn’t help feel that Sila always had another strange possession to show him each time they met.
“What do you plan to do with it?”
“I will just let it stay like this for now. The current me can’t possibly conquer it. The condition to conquer each Demonic Armament is insanely difficult. To avoid the risk of failing and dying, it’s the best to postpone the idea, at least not attempting during the war event when you have only one life,” Sila replied.
The three eventually ended the meeting. Sila asked Julia to keep him updated about the monsters’ assaults on the three places.
Once he was alone, he summoned Zarnak. The black serpentine dragon spun its body, hovering around him.
Sila asked it how to control his power to not make it harm himself.
Zarnak replied in a languid manner, “My lazy master, to achieve better control, you must spend time practicing. Your power is a mix of three energies. Your qi and psychic power are outstanding, but the magic power counterpart is lacking. If you don’t increase your aptitude in this area, it will be like you are carrying a particular barbell, with weights called qi and psychic power while the bar is made of a fragile wooden branch called magic power. Only, the three of them are parts of your body, so the damage is constantly occurring.”
“I don’t have time to spend practicing. To fight Montra, I need to be able to use my full power without reservation at the very least. Isn’t there another method?”
“I didn’t say there wasn’t. What I suggested is the standard method, safe and effective, just requiring some effort and a lot of time. You’re free to choose a different path, but do know that I am against the idea. You might be qualified, but it’s unsafe.”
“If I have to wait until the predicted result is completely safe before doing things, I would have achieved nothing in my life so far. Just tell me. What is the different path you mentioned?”
Zarnak coiled around Sila, turning itself into a black dome. Sila felt he was floating in mid-air. He had experienced this before, so he was rather indifferent about it. Zarnak projected an image of a silver straight sword with an ornamental white hilt. Mana, in the form of silver vapor, was covering the sword, making its appearance blurry. Despite that, anyone could tell at first glance that it was a masterpiece weapon made with exquisite craftsmanship.
“The Demonic Armament, Dichotomous Crucifix Sword, is a powerful magical sword. It’s a secret treasure hidden in a mysterious dimension. With its unique power signature, I could sense that it was one of the Demonic Armaments that appeared in the world. It contains mana within itself. Wielding it means you have mana reserves not inferior to a pure magic-type being.”
“Does something this good exist?”
“Absolutely. Subjectively speaking, it’s a great Demonic Armament even considering its drawback. However, its last master caused other beings to find it dreadful. It’s to the point which they all decided to throw it away from the Monster Realm.
“It’s like me, growing stronger according to its previous masters. In fact, most Demonic Armaments grow stronger the more times they change owners. For me, it’s about the experience. For the Lamentable Dragon, it’s about fighting skills. For the Dichotomous Crucifix Sword, it’s mana capacity. In any case, it’s a combat-type, so you simply have to show that you’re superior to its last master if you want to conquer it.”
“If it’s that great, how come it’s ownerless right now?”
“Its last master deliberately abandoned it. That person merely wanted to make use of its ability once, not desiring to conquer it. After that, no one ever overcame its trial.”
“To do such a thing... Who were they?”
Zarnak’s reply was monotonous, but Sila could sense that it was mocking him. “That person was Lucifer, back when he was still an archangel. If you’re confident that you’re stronger than Lucifer in that era, you’re welcome to try overcoming its trial. I will do my best to guide you. Just don’t blame me and say I didn’t warn you.”
I find it boring all answer that sila need is given by his colleagues. At this rate i think he doesn't deserve to win
Reminded of Beluga’s suggestions, Sila tried to teach the puppy how to cultivate qi. He absorbed the qi in its body using Worlds Crossing Bridge and gradually returned it, reducing the power of the qi and fine-tuning it so that it would be easy to circulate. He repeated this process for hours. There were no signs of progress at first since all the puppy did was play around, but it eventually followed his instructions.
Cultivation was the most standard procedure for stabilizing qi. In the puppy’s case, it was a Squire-Rank vessel filled with Lord-Rank qi, so Sila redirected its qi to flow into his body, stabilizing it for the owner, then returned it to the puppy. He also taught it how to circulate qi to disperse the excess power. Before long, the puppy’s body adapted to its own qi and finally found it bearable.
Sila was shocked to discover that a qi-type monster was able to learn its skills this quickly even when it played around a lot.
Now it wouldn’t be injured even if Sila removed his hands from it. Still, its maximum qi points weren’t enough to properly control its powerful qi, so he also transmitted Bone Restructuring Qi to help it and left it in the dojo.
As for the puppy’s name, Sila was clueless. He requested Julia to come up with a name in his place. She accepted the task and told him that the pet’s information would be available immediately when the name was set.
Now that the puppy’s matters were all settled, Sila was relieved. His next goal would be to acquire the Dichotomous Crucifix Sword. However, he soon stumbled into a dead end.
Zarnak was clueless about its exact whereabouts.
“Didn’t you say you can sense it? Why are you saying you can’t find it now?” Sila frowned.
“Knowing that you don’t know anything about the topic, I will overlook your insult, my uneducated master. That sword is so special that you can’t possibly imagine its power. Do you know how a Demonic Armament is born?”
It took no time for Sila to shake his head. He only knew that Demonic Armaments were very high-tier battle gears used by players and monsters. He wondered why their origins mattered.
“Demonic Armaments like us were originally items or monsters. At some point of time, we developed a strong negative energy that consumed us and turned us into Demonic Armaments. For example, an item that was taken away from its master a thousand times, a weapon that drank the blood of a million beasts, or a powerful monster that met an early death yet its soul had strong attachments, refusing to go to Hell. The stronger the feelings, the higher the chance they will become Demonic Armaments, coming to life in order to fulfil their last wish.”
“What is your wish, then?”
Zarnak shook its head. “That’s the irony. Once a Demonic Armament is born, it will forget its past life, including the things it was attached to. Well, for some of them, they might forget their past, but understood their goals with their hearts, such as the Lamentable Dragon. It strongly wanted to kill you. The feelings were still fresh since it was born only recently. However, as time passes, it will find that nothing matters, including its last desire. In the end, we live in order to be used and taken away, ending up in the same cycle.”
“What will happen if the wish is fulfilled?”
“You probably think that we will cease to exist, don’t you? But no, you’re wrong. As I told you, once we became Demonic Armaments, even our wishes no longer matter. Success or failure is not important. This rebirth is both a blessing and a curse that forces us to stay like this forever.”
Sila listened and pondered. Even if some Demonic Armaments were fortunate enough to recall their past memories at a later point of time, let’s say a hundred years later, it would still be sad. Their mortal enemy might have already died, or their wish might have already been fulfilled long ago.
“I brought this topic up because it’s related to the Dichotomous Crucifix Sword’s abilities. I bet you’ve never heard of Igsia, the Goddess of Weapons and Craftsmanship.”
There was even no need for him to try to remember. Sila shook his head. He never bothered with Monster Soul’s history. It was his first time hearing the name. The only goddess he knew about was Cynthia, the Goddess of Humanity.
“If you intend to stick with the path of swords, I recommend you study her. Igsia is the mother of all weapons in Monster Soul. She is a prodigy at using all kinds of weapons and also the best blacksmith. Her name is always engraved on important anvils. Even some spells of the fire and earth element mention her name and borrow her power. If your weapon mastery skills or craftsmanship skills reach level 100 and you pay homage to her in front of her altar, they will be evolved to transcendent rank.”
“Goddesses aren’t monsters, are they? Or they are high-level ones?”
“Goddesses are existences above monsters. They don’t directly interfere with worldly matters but will share their powers with the races that worship them. For example, the wild dog and the rabbit races worship the Goddess of the Moon, so their stats grow stronger when they are under moonlight.”
“What about the slime race? Which goddess do they worship?” Sila asked out of curiosity.
“Not every race worships a goddess. The ones that do are mostly ancient races with a long history. Compared to other races, the slime race only formed around a couple of hundred years ago. Currently, there are only a few races left that still worship goddesses.”
“Your explanation is getting rather long. How do all those things you said relate to the Dichotomous Crucifix Sword?” Sila nagged. Zarnak had explained to him the stories regarding the origin of Demonic Armaments and the goddesses’ roles, but he still failed to understand why he had to hear all of it.
“Because the Dichotomous Crucifix Sword used to be several swords rather than just one, all masterpieces created by the Goddess Igsia. A long time ago, back in the era when monsters were still in direct contact with goddesses, Lady Igsia spent several hundred years teaching the arts of making and using weapons to the race worshipping her. A few hundred years later, the arts spread to other races, causing even the races that didn’t worship her to be able to use weapons.”
“So, its importance is the fact that it’s a sword personally made by the goddess, right?”
“What she made that contributed to the sword wasn’t just one sword, but seven of them,” Zarnak explained. Seeing the dumbfounded expression on Sila’s face, it continued, “During the time she taught monsters the art of blacksmithing, she created seven swords, referring to them as the Seven Blade Daughters, and gave them to the races under her care as tokens of her good will. However, the tragedy happened after that.”
“The same one that repeatedly occurred in the Monster Realm: The fight to seize territories. Having learned how to use weapons, some races became arrogant and started a massacre. The seven races used to be on good terms, but betrayal was also a normal occurrence. They turned against each other in order to get their hands on all seven swords made by Lady Igsia. The fate of the Blade Daughters in the hands of various wielders was to fight among themselves against their wills. In the end, with their extreme frustration and resentment, their negative emotions turned and combined into one Demonic Armament. The sword’s killing intent scattered around the battlefield. When the bloodbath ended, only the sword itself stood alone atop a pile of corpses that reached the sky. Even the sword’s last wielder became a dead man.”
“Ah, I see, so they were weapons made by the goddess before becoming a single Demonic Armament.”
“That was the reason why I told you that you couldn’t possibly imagine the power of the sword. It’s a sword, but holds the power of seven swords. Each of them was a masterpiece made by Lagy Igsia in order to impart her profound knowledge. With them combined into one, it is more than a sword. The term S-grade is used to define the tier of a weapon that is above A-grade. If you let me define a new term for S-grade weapons, however, I would say this sword is an S-grade among S-grade. Compared to it, I’m just a mediocre item.”
Sila started to understand the point that Zarnak was trying to convey. “So you mean it’s not an easy task to find it. The world of Monster Soul is a vast place. We can’t just wander and hope to find it.”
“You finally get it.” Zarnak sighed. “We have wasted a lot of time, my slow-witted master. The sword contains tremendous power, so I could immediately feel it once it appeared. However, exactly because it has tremendous power, it can control its power in an instant, secluding itself in silence. To find it, you have to be extremely lucky, or receive guidance from Lady Igsia.”
Sila blinked. “Is that kind of thing possible?”
“I, too, formerly thought that it was impossible. However, your friends said something that made me think of a certain possibility. It’s about the goblin race.”
“The goblin race? Do you mean those goblins that are currently surrounding Colossia City?”
“Exactly. The goblin race worships Lady Igsia and they also once had one of the Blade Daughters in their keepsake. I thought they already went extinct. However, based on the fact that they are here, some of them in the Monster Realm must have survived and fled to this world.”
“Goblins, huh?” Sila opened his system window, searching for information about goblins while also listening to Zarnak.
“Goblins are highly friendly creatures. Lady Igsia saw through their ugly appearances and noticed their kind hearts, so she imparted her techniques to them, which they later willingly shared with other races without expecting anything in return. Ironically, that led to their race’s downfall.”
Reading the information gathered by the Blue Pigeon Guild, Sila frowned.
“It’s strange. You said goblins are kind creatures, but this article said they are wicked and selfish monsters. The first time players encountered them, they found goblins hoarding all resources in Colossia City for themselves. They monopolized the weapons trade in order to sell crappy gear of low quality at a high price. Eventually, various groups of players joined hands for the first time and drove these creatures, who were ugly both in appearance and mind, away and liberated the city from the outrageous monopoly. As a result, Colossia City became a lively city after that. The event led to the birth of two future influential factions. The first was the Knights of Colossia, who later grew in numbers and moved to Grea City and turned into the Royal Armament Guild. The other one was the Justice Traders, which later changed its name to the Merchants Association.
“As for the goblins, they retreated in defeat to the Sky-Breaking Canyon and made their home there. Still, their behaviors are the same, sneakingly ambushing players. They only drop low-quality items, so it isn’t worth hunting them. It’s still uncertain as to what their racial skills are. Only, the player changing into this race will have their height reduced by a tenth.”
“It must have been written from a human’s perspective, that’s all. Goblins don’t need human currencies. For what reason would they exploit humans? To fill a hole with all the money they earn?” Zarnak replied lethargically, “This kind of thing always happened in the Monster Realm. History is written by the victor. The losing side is often painted as the villains. The winners can come up with any kind of story they want. If you truly want to study the world’s history, I suggest you read from various sources. The information you get will be more accurate that way.”
“In any case, if we can take care of the goblin race, there is a chance that we will get a clue about the Dichotomous Crucifix Sword’s whereabouts, right?”
“That’s right. Anyway, your definition of ‘take care of’ can be anything for all I care. I’m a weapon, so it isn’t my job to coach you. Just know that whichever path you chose, you must be prepared for the consequences.”
Although the dragon said it wasn’t its place to coach him, Sila was aware that it already tried. It seemed to him that there were creatures who could retain their merit even though they might be born in a vicious environment such as the Monster Realm.
Nevertheless, in the midst of the approaching conflicts and war, where both sides aimed to strike at each other, would he alone be able to become the bridge between the Shadow Army and the goblin race, healing the past? Still, he decided he would give it a try.
Thus, by the end of the day, Sila had contacted Bluebird and teleported to Colossia City. He requested Bluebird to hide the fact that he came to Colossia City. The less people knew he was alive, the better. Still, he had to notify the city’s key figures about it. They consisted of Bluebird, Yardpirun, and Frenzy Sword.
Frenzy Sword’s duty was to become the former two’s representatives, speaking on their behalf to reduce the risk that people might suspect the two. Bluebird was disguised as Zero while Yardpirun was disguised as the Sword Prodigy. Although her rank was lower than before, her mastery at using skills stayed at the same level. Albeit only for a short period of time, she could fake her psychic power to make it seem overbearing.
Sila informed the three of his intention to befriend goblins. They were shocked at first, though Yardpirun recovered the fastest.
“Maybe that’s for the best. Only defeat awaits us if a war really breaks out. We have to try everything we can think of to prevent the fight.”
Frenzy Sword was restless. “I never heard that befriending monsters can be done easily, more so when it comes to goblins. They are vicious.”
On the other hand, Bluebird felt relieved that this idea required him to do nothing.
“Rest assured. Sila’s title, Monster Emperor, isn’t just for show. He is already on good terms with many monsters. I’m sure we can let Sila handle it.”
Yardpirun somehow agreed. “In that case, let’s disguise Sila as a new member. The Shadow Army may not have a military hierarchy since we are more or less a gathering of mercenaries, but we have our in-house system to group people into teams in order to maximize mobility. If you become someone’s underling, your movements will be restricted. However, we also can’t assign you a high-rank position since it will look suspicious. I think I will appoint you as the leader of the 99th squad. That squad doesn’t have a leader yet.”
The Shadow Army was split into a hundred squads. The closer the number was to zero, the more capable they were. While they were called squads, they didn’t follow the typical structures. Some squads had a hundred men while some had only a couple of people. The Shadow Army used a mercenary system. The more feats a squad accomplished or contributions they made, the closer they would get to zero. The lower the squad’s number, the more chance its members would get more impactful jobs with bigger rewards.
Sila being assigned to the 99th squad, which ranked at the bottom, meant he would become the member of a group that wouldn’t get any important jobs. At most, he would be just a backup. It was the role that suited him the best, allowing him to freely wander around.
“You can have this mask, Mister Sila. Since you can’t use a disguise skill, this mask will be more useful to you than to me. Firstly, you should go and introduce yourself to your team. You can do whatever you want afterward.” Yardpirun handed Sila a white mask. There were three tiny marbles attached under the eyes but above the nose. Some parts of the mask were painted with curvy black lines.
(A) Thief Lord’s Mask
The mask dropped by the Tanuki King. Allows the wearer to change their face and appearance. The effect will stay for ten minutes even after the mask is taken off.
Increases movement speed by 10%.
You can use the Item Skill: (B) Substitution Jutsu.
(B) Substitution Jutsu
A jutsu that is derived from Mind Concealment and Psychic Body, allowing the user to turn invisible for a short time and swap position with a newly manifested Psychic Body. Your Psychic Body will have 1% of your maximum health points and special points, which are siphoned from you. The Psychic Body has low combat abilities. It can follow simple commands such as fight, flee, defend, or stay still. You can give more specific instructions with command-related psychic skills. If its health points deplete, the Psychic Body will disperse as a leaf.
Sila also got his hand on a diamond-shape black badge with the number “99” printed on it. Since he was appointed as a leader, his badge had a white edge as opposed to the traditional black. It looked quite similar to Sebastian’s brooch. Sila guessed Sebastian was the one who came up with the design.
Zarnak was hosted inside the Twin Souls Weaponized Protection, so Sila could order it to change his armor’s appearance to look dim and shabby. He took out his Beggar’s Cloak and donned it together with the white mask. He left the headquarters and went to the building where his future teammates lived.
T/N: Unfortunately, I don't have illustrations for the chapters beyond 338.
Colossia City used to be a city full of merchants, fighters, and travelers. Areas within buildings had always been in high demand and fully rented. However, those rental zones were now occupied by the Shadow Army’s members. Each zone’s luxuriousness depended on the squad’s budget. The squads with higher wages could spare money to upgrade their rooms.
The low-digit squads were more reliable, meaning they were more likely to get jobs with better pay. Such a system encouraged competition within the Shadow Army. Each squad tried to improve themselves without the need to follow any traditional training program. There might be some conflicts among squads, but that was quite normal for every army.
Yardpirun came up with only a single rule for the Shadow Army: “If a person causes another person to die, the number of their squad will immediately be demoted by ten. If the squad’s number is within 90-99th, the whole squad will be expelled.”
Sila was assigned to a small squad, which people nicknamed ‘the miscellaneous squad.’ Its rank was the lowest, so the squad couldn’t expect any important tasks. With the mercenary system, it was difficult for the members to get to show their abilities and be promoted, so the 99th squad technically had no future. The Shadow Army had no qualms in members transferring between squads, so the newcomers often chose to enter other squads.
There used to be a certain building located in the northwest corner of Colossia City. It had been destroyed and returned to an empty plot of land during the previous raid, however. The size of the area was around sixty square meters, surrounded by three-story buildings and city walls. To approach the area, Sila had to pass through a narrow alley with barely any room between his shoulders and the walls.
Thankfully, he had been informed that his badge had the ability to search for his teammates. The badge pointed him around the area, making him walk in a circle for a minute before he noticed a hole in a wall next to a plain-looking building. Walking through the hole, he came across a note that had “The 99th squad” scribbled on it
Sila had heard from Yardpirun that there was nothing much for him to expect. However, seeing the place with his own eyes, he came to realize that her speech was completely an understatement.
The squad had literally nothing, really.
Well, to be fair, there were a few miscellaneous objects. The open area was small in width, surrounded by walls in all directions. Midday would be the only time when the people living inside could see sunlight without leaving the hole. There was an extinguished bonfire in the corner, seemingly used for cooking. The opposite corner had four sleeping bags, while yet another corner had a DIY dining table, apparently made from stone debris.
Immediately after Sila entered the hole, all of the room’s occupants paused what they were doing and locked their gazes on him at the same time. Based on the number of sleeping bags, the squad must have four members, and all of them were present.
Two males were playing a game of chess on the ground, with a female spectating. As for the last member, he was leaning against a wall, his eyes blurry as if he was half-sleep.
The sole female member of the squad stood up and walked toward Sila. She had long black hair, which swung behind her in a braid. Both of her fists were wrapped in bandages. Sila had lived in a dojo before, so he noticed right away that the bandages were properly wrapped for combat. Thus, he guessed she must have some training in martial arts. Her outfit was quite plain as it seemed to be made from fabric, barring the left metal shoulder guard that was quite eye-catching.
She pointed to the south. “Are you lost? If you want to visit the Quest Building, you have to walk a bit further that way.”
The member who seemed like a sleepyhead wore a black magician robe. In the entire squad, he was the only one wearing a mask. Resting on his shoulder was a cross-shaped mage staff, though the tip was sharp, meaning it could also be used as a javelin. From Sila’s perspective, he saw black magic power leaking from the man’s body, though the quality was mediocre.
Believing that Sila was lost, the two chess players resumed their game. In any case, Sila noticed that the man on the right secretly moved a piece using his magic power.
“Hm?” The man’s opponent tilted his head in confusion. “Mister Alpha, when did you move this rook?”
The man, whose name was Alpha, acted innocent. “It was always there. Are you feeling unwell, Isaac?”
“Is that so? That’s weird. I remember it was there before. Well, my eyes must be playing a trick on me, then.”
Alpha seemed to be a magic fighter. He had short hair and orange eyes, which subtly glowed with magic power. His outfit was tidy, a dagger hanging from his waist. Aside from that obvious weapon, there were magical rings on his quick fingers. Sila guessed the man’s fighting style must be similar to Revin’s, directly relying on the attribute of the element to strengthen a part of his body. Still, Sila couldn’t see through what kind of magic the man wielded.
Isaac was the same. His neat light green magician outfit indicated that he was also a magic fighter. He had white hair, not too different from Montra’s. He had no weapons on him, but that hardly implied anything since he might keep them in his system window. There were rings on his fingers as well, though the quality of them seemed to be subpar compared to what Bluebird or Alpha wore. The magic power that leaked from the man was green in color, which Sila had never seen before.
Sila was deep in thought, so the young woman assumed he was still confused about where he was. She pulled his hand and wrote a map on his palm using a permanent marker.
“See? We’re here. You have to go back and turn right. The buildings all look the same, but the Quest Building has a wooden sign in front of it. Keep your eyes open and you won’t miss it.”
Looking at the map on his palm, Sila frowned. He scratched his head. “Is this the 99th squad?”
“Eh? Is this place your destination, really?” The young woman belatedly realized her mistake. She took out a wet handkerchief to rub Sila’s palm. “My bad, my bad. Not many people come to visit us, so I thought you were lost.”
Sila’s palm became stained. He jerked his hand back and rubbed it against Beggar’s Cloak.
“It’s fine. I will clean it myself.”
“Well, what did you come here for?” She asked. “Wait. I think I know! You have a job for us, right? Wow. What a surprise. We rarely get jobs.”
“That’s not it. I’m—”
“Hm? Are you from the 16th squad, then? I told you I would find a way to compensate! Don’t rush me!”
“That’s also not it. I—”
“Still not it? How about—”
The young woman repeatedly interrupted Sila, not giving him a chance to introduce himself. Knowing her personality, Alpha put a stop to the cycle of interruptions.
“Miki, why don’t you just keep your mouth shut for a second and let him talk?”
The young woman, whose name was Miki, turned to send a sharp gaze at Alpha, who simply stared back at her. Meanwhile, Isaac swept his eyes across the chessboard, searching for a way to turn the tables.
Noticing an opportunity, Sila quickly introduced himself, “I’m this squad’s new leader. I was appointed just a moment ago.”
“The squad leader?” The three of them repeated the words simultaneously, their tone clearly coated with suspicion. On the other hand, the other member said nothing. In fact, Sila thought the man had fallen asleep.
Sila pointed at the badge on his cloak. “I’m not lying.”
Alpha took the chance to move another chess piece while conversing with Sila to misdirect Isaac’s attention.
“Oh, no. We didn’t think you were lying. Our squad ranks dead last, so no one would want to claim to be our leader. We’re just surprised that we got a leader.”
“Had this squad never had a leader?” asked Sila.
“Kind of. Our squad rarely has work. We mostly join other squads to help with their work, asking for some gold in exchange. Whenever we get new members, they become bored rather quickly and ask to transfer to other squads. For example, there is the 40th squad that focuses on quantity. I heard they have around a hundred members already. The members’ abilities are mediocre, but they always get the tasks that require manpower.”
Miki reached out and shook Sila’s hand. “Alpha, you have no manners. We should introduce ourselves first. Hey, hey! My name is Miki. That’s Alpha, and that’s Isaac. The one sitting over there is Midnight. What about you, Leader? What is your name?”
Sila silently panicked. He quickly tried to come up with a name. Sadly, thinking of a proper name proved to be a difficult task for him.
This time, however, someone came up with one for him, though time would tell whether it was a stroke of good fortune or bad luck.
“Nero, right?” Midnight finally started talking, his voice quite hoarse, like he was sick.
Miki turned to Midnight, asking, “Do you guys know each other?”
Midnight shook his head. “No, I don’t. I’m just guessing from his gear—Beggar’s Cloak and the Thief Lord’s Mask—that he must be the Thief Monarch, Nero, who was infamous during the first year after the game launched. He was the one who established the first bandit gang in Monster Soul. Well, I heard that he lost to the leader of the Blue Pigeon Guild and left the game afterward, causing the members of his band to break into several small bandit gangs.”
“Is that so? You’re a renowned person, then. Unfortunately, I just started the game, so I don’t know early players like you.” Miki blinked.
Isaac seemed uncomfortable. “So... you’re a bandit?”
Seeing that Isaac’s attention was elsewhere, Alpha secretly moved yet another chess piece. “Hey, easy. We of the Shadow Army don’t mind the past and you can’t discredit anyone because of it. Wearing a mask is optional, but no one will force you to take it off. That’s the kind of army we’re in. The past isn’t important. What’s important is that the Shadow Emperor guarantees to protect us as long as we abide by the rules.”
Sila realized immediately that the Thief Lord’s Mask had been taken from someone else by Yardpirun. As for his Beggar’s Cloak, it wasn’t that rare of an item. Well, since he didn’t need to bother coming up with a name, he followed along. Exactly as Alpha described, the Shadow Army always overlooked one’s past.
In fact, this regulation was what Sila personally came up with, in order to prevent people from asking about the Sword Prodigy’s past.
“That’s right. I’m Nero. Well, let’s stop with old stories.” Sila quickly made a declaration, preventing someone from asking him about a past he hadn’t lived.
Miki smacked her fist on her palm. “I see! You used to be the leader of a bandit gang, so you were appointed as a Squad Leader. I guess it makes sense. What do you think, guys?”
Midnight fell silent, a light snoring sound coming through his lips. It was as if his participation just now was his sleep-talking. Alpha and Isaac had no comments while Miki had a ‘whatever’ attitude. Apparently, having a leader held no meaning for them.
Not that the squad would get a job simply because they had a leader anyway.
Having introduced himself, Sila wanted to slip away and survey the city. Zarnak suggested that he investigate the Colosseum or the blacksmith workshop made by goblins, searching for clues. While he was at it, he would try to understand the city’s structure and the Shadow Army’s mercenary system. He had declared he would negotiate with the goblins. It would be awkward if he knew nothing about his own side.
Written in the Story of A Hundred Swords, Pumin remarked that, for a negotiation to come out successful, both sides had to possess equal levels of strength and power. What we offer must benefit the other side while the same applies to us. Maybe the goblins were trying to raid the city because they wanted something in particular. If he found what it was, he might be able to solve the conflict.
However, it turned out that he didn’t get to follow his plan. Two hours later, Sila was still in the same place. Miki half-forced him to witness the chess match between Alpha and Issac while telling him about the squad’s backstory. She even took out a bottle of strong liquor and offered to treat him. Funny enough, both chess players snatched it from her hand and poured it into their mouths. Alpha seemed to be fine, apparently having reasonable tolerance for alcohol. On the other hand, Isaac’s face turned red, his eyes hazy. Of course, Alpha didn’t miss the chance to cheat. Frowning, Isaac admitted defeat. It was already his fifth defeat.
“I will go get booze. I heard that the 15th squad just got a new member who is very good at brewing. I have to get at least one sample. Leader, stay here. Don’t go anywhere. Got it?”
Miki rushed out, not even asking whether Sila wanted to drink with her or not. In fact, she would drink it all herself even if he were to decline.
Isaac summoned peanuts using his magic power and tossed them into his mouth, chewing happily. He was more or less already sober. He set up the chessboard again for another match.
“Will it be fine letting her go alone, Mister Alpha? She just got involved with the 16th squad the last time she left.”
“It’s gonna be fine~ We have no connections. The most she can do is get into the line. She can’t buy it.”
“Is there anything I should know?” asked Sila.
Alpha set up the chess pieces on his side and started to explain.
“Ah... about that...” Alpha explained, “Miki’s nickname is the Rampage Girl. Don’t get her wrong. She is quite a good person, just a bit too talkative. However, when she is drunk, things get a bit hectic. The last time, she even stormed out of our squad, going on a rampage at the 16th squad’s headquarters and breaking a lot of things. Fortunately, the 16th squad’s leader understood that she was drunk, and as we’re in the same army, he didn’t take matters seriously. He only asked for 1,000 gold as compensation, which is already very kind. Still, we have no money, so we have been putting it off.”
“Why don’t you go out and hunt monsters?”
“Monsters won’t drop items during the war event, so we told them we would pay for it after it finishes.”
That reminded Sila. The fact that monsters dropped items normally was still a secret. Well, it was only a matter of time before all players realized it. In fact, he believed that many leaders of other squads must have discovered it already. It was just that no one bothered to inform his dead-last squad.
Sila changed the subject. Based on Miki’s previous introduction, everyone in his squad seemed to be magic-type players.
“You all seem to have strange magic.”
Peering at the chessboard, Isaac started the first move. “Well, it’s because Unique Magic can be easily acquired in the Magic Kingdom. Mine is Wood Magic, allowing me to summon various kinds of vegetation. Alpha’s is Weapon Enchantment Magic. He can temporarily add special options to his weapon. Miki’s is Curse-Bless Magic, which passively reverses the effects of any blessings or curses she receives. As for Midnight, he only has traditional Dark Magic. It seems he has yet to receive the quest for acquiring Unique Magic. That’s regretful.”
Alpha also moved his own chess piece. “Since we are at it, what kind of power do you use, Leader?”
Sila summoned a magical sword. “I can convert my magic power to weapons. It’s called Artifact Manifestation.”
“Quite similar to mine,” Alpha commented as he observed Sila’s summoned sword. “It turns out Midnight is the only one with basic Element Magic. Well, Unique Magic is popular right now since everyone can acquire it.”
Sila didn’t bother to fix Alpha’s misunderstanding that his magic ability was some kind of Unique Magic. It was better this way. He intended to make this Nero persona be as distant as possible from his actual self.
Suddenly, Sila’s badge vibrated. He didn’t understand its function, so he wondered what happened. “Hm? My badge suddenly vibrated?”
“Is that so? Is it malfunctioning?” Isaac tilted his head.
“Is it some kind of hidden function that only leader badges have? We have never had a leader, so we don’t know.”
“If a squad member is injured, the leader badge will vibrate to inform you about it. That’s all.” Again, Midnight’s speech sounded like someone talking in their sleep. The remaining three turned to him, noticing the man was brushing off dirt from his clothing. He prepared the cross-shaped javelin and stood still as if waiting for anyone to say anything.
“Who is injured? We’re all here, aren’t we?”
Alpha sprung up. “Miki!”
Everyone else also sprung up. Except for Midnight, who was walking leisurely, the three started to run in the direction that Miki had gone.
A day hadn’t even passed yet, but it seemed the squad—which normally never got jobs of their own—was already adding to Sila’s workload.
Sorry for the slower release rate, everyone.I'm going to have my first child in a few weeks and my schedule is overturned!