Chapter 174: Lurkers
The atmosphere started getting lively when two people appeared on the stage . One of the two was Sila, whose face was being recognized by more people with every day that passed . The most eye-catching part of his appearance was the armor made of fabric that gave off a futuristic vibe . As for the other one, he was a man with a bear-like physique, wearing wuxia clothing made of leather with a giant axe on his back . Though he was a no-name player, people couldn’t easily underestimate his strength . Recently, with the help of a single ring, even a common player could become an expert in no time at all .
Sila deliberately showed his face to the masses so that he could get a proper look at the people below the stage . As he had expected, some players hurriedly concealed their powers upon seeing him . Unfortunately for them, since they were rushed the process, Sila had an easier time noticing them . He quickly swept his gaze over the crowd, his eyes lingering on each one he noticed .
He first directed his gaze toward the table at the back, where three people he was familiar with were currently sitting . One of the three was Fargo, who was sitting with his back straight . While the other two were wearing hoods, Sila could still tell that they were Cross and Shueria .
It seemed that, although they had parted ways at some point, when the guild they founded together collapsed, the three of them got together again like old times .
The other table that Sila spotted was one of the tables for honorable guests . The members of Tiger Team were all sitting happily around the table . It seemed they had safely arrived in Zhongsuyuan City, and all of them seemed stronger than the last time he saw them .
Still, Sila wondered why the person hurriedly hiding her presence turned out to be Jundtrathep . She even bowed her head down, refusing to have eye contact with him, instead of waving at him like the rest of the group .
He didn’t know anyone from the other tables . Well, that was to be expected . The number of players playing this game was in the millions . There was no way he would know every one of them .
Sila returned his attention to the man he was about to fight . Judging from the man’s outfit, weapon, and physique, Sila guessed the man should be the type of player that heavily relied on attack power; the so-called damage dealer . Sila also spotted the Cloudy Baby Dragon Ring on the man’s finger, so he assumed that the man’s rank was Marquis .
In a direct fight, Sila was confident that he could win against this man . However, the problem was: should he kill him? Wearing the ring didn’t mean the man was a member of the Heavenly Dragon Guild, lurking in the gathering party with bad intentions . Every player, regardless of their affiliations, could purchase the Cloudy Baby Dragon Ring for themselves .
‘Well, it won’t matter anyway . Even if he isn’t a spy, when he joins the alliance, he will have to remove the ring at the appropriate time and die . His level will drop regardless of what I choose . I will just fight without caring for his safety . ’
Sila stood with both of his hands behind his back . His sharp eyes were fixated on the man in front of him .
“My name is Sila . May I know your name?”
The bulky man put his palms together to show respect as a fighter . “My name is Brown Bear, though people mostly call me Crazy Bear . ”
‘Oh, his name really suits his physique,’ Sila thought while returning the salute .
His opponent stared at him, scanning his body . “I won’t hurt an unarmed person . Just bring out your favorite weapon . This way, you won’t have any excuses when you lose . ”
“My specialty is bare-hand combat . As such, even though I seem like an unarmed person to you, in fact, I’m never without a weapon . If I were to bring out a proper weapon, that would put myself at a disadvantage . ”
“Heh . You only recently became famous and here you are imitating Lone Wolf and Beluga by using your bare hands . Such a disappointment . Are you even aware that only a handful of people can successfully play qi type without using a weapon?”
“Imitating? I don’t think so . I have been practicing bare-handed my entire life . I believe that my efforts will not disappoint . ”
“Good . We shall see if that is true soon . ”
Crazy Bear firmly grabbed his axe with both hands and lifted it up . At the same time, he started emitting qi, enveloping his body and weapon with a red aura . Looking at such a sight, Sila smiled with a nostalgic feeling .
“You are indeed skilled . To think that you possess the Qi of Little Tiger . ”
Some of the spectators began to gossip . Qi of Little Tiger was one of the Qi of Little Divine Beings . It was one of the milestones for qi type players, who aimed to acquire one of the Ten Supreme Qi . Just possessing one was considered a fortune; it meant the player had taken the first step into the realm of experts .
It was a regrettable fact that each of the Qi of Little Divine Beings could only be obtained once per year . Since Monster Soul had launched, nine years had passed in the game . Therefore, theoretically, there should be nine scrolls for each of the four qi, totaling in thirty-six users of Qi of Little Divine Beings .
However, in fact, less than twenty players possessed such qi . That’s because some players possessed more than one of them, like Lone Wolf who possessed all four, or Zero and Beluga, who both possessed two . Moreover, there were some years that players failed to kill the Four Divine Beings, preventing anyone from getting the scrolls .
As such, there was only a handful of players who got their hands on the Qi of Little Divine Beings . This was without mentioning the number of players who obtained one of the Ten Supreme Qi . They could be counted with two hands .
For Crazy Bear, whenever he displayed this qi, people would usually be in awe or scared of him . However, Sila instead gave him a smile .
Thinking that he was being mocked, Crazy Bear’s started to get angry . His black axe turned reddish-orange as he infused it with qi . Its attack power increased enormously and the axe gave off an overbearing feeling .
Under normal circumstances, not to mention Sila, any players would have already acted . Leaving the opponent unchecked when he was clearly preparing a strong attack was undoubtedly a foolish move, especially when the opponent was a qi-type player . Everyone knew that qi type was capable of temporarily but exponentially reinforcing their stats without limit using qi reinforcement .
Sensing the accumulation of power within the axe, it would be a lie if Sila said he wasn’t anxious . Well, he had already made his move . While Crazy Bear was increasing his attack power in his axe using Qi of Little Tiger, Sila was similarly gathering Yin Yang Energy to increase the Mechanical God’s Protection’s defense . Since Sila’s front was facing the people below the stage, no one was able to see the spinning gears behind his armor . They were spinning so fast that they didn’t look like they were moving .
Crazy Bear wasn’t in a rush to attack . He planned to kill Sila in a single blow . Likewise, Sila didn’t plan to seize the perfect opportunity to strike his opponent . The energy being infused into the Mechanical God’s Protection increased by leaps and bounds with Yin Yang Energy and Shapeless Qi .
“Hey, such a big opening . Why doesn’t that guy Sila make his move yet?”
“Surely . . . he isn’t senseless enough to try and take that axe head on, right?”
The two fighters could clearly hear the voices of the spectators below . The more he listened, the more Crazy Bear felt he was being humiliated . He gnashed his teeth and jumped, before swinging his axe downward .
The axe cleaved the sky, generating a reverberating roar like thunder that accompanies lightning being sent from the heavens . It was a strike that, for many of the people there, was the most powerful they had ever seen . While some of the stronger players, such as Lone Wolf, had seen stronger attacks, this was still one that even they would not feel confident about taking head-on .
Sila was still motionless . Everyone showed a panicked expression and the tension grew, some of them even got up from their seats . Nevertheless, among them, Lone Wolf, Beluga, and Elso could tell that Sila should be able to dodge the attack at the last second, so they remained calm .
Right before the axe was about to hit Sila, he tilted his head . As a result, the axe smashed down into his shoulder . Even Lone Wolf and the rest were shocked that Sila didn’t choose to dodge . However, it was already too late for them to help .
Unlike people’s expectations, instead of Sila’s shoulder being cleaved into two, his body stood tall and firm . Rather, it was Crazy Bear who, upon his axe connecting to Sila’s shoulder, found the impact unbearable . He felt like what he struck was a mountain instead of a person . The rebounding power sent him flying backward, falling from the stage and crashing into the tables below . Both of his hands were twisted, the bones crushed, and blood spilled out of wounds all over them .
Crazy Bear’s cry woke people up from their dream-like states . Everyone alternated between looking at Crazy Bear and looking at Sila like this development was an illusion .
“This should be enough, right?” Sila said nonchalantly .
He intended to demonstrate the power of the gem used to create the Mechanical God’s Protection, so he wasted a lot of his power . Therefore, he quickly circulated qi to regenerate it . Originally, he wasn’t a tank, so welcoming the attack head-on was a new experience for him . If it wasn’t necessary, he wouldn’t do it again .
Beluga stood up and clapped his hands . “Excellent . What an eye-opener . I am now fully aware of Sila’s brilliance . ”
Though, the meaning behind his words was: he was now fully aware of the frightening power hidden within the Gems of Catastrophe .
Sila returned to the table and sat down like nothing worth mentioning happened . Now, the group of players planning to pick a fight with him came to an abrupt stop . The confidence they had built up had instantly evaporated as if they never had it .
The lurkers within the gathering party secretly exchanged signals . They judged that they couldn’t wait any longer . They needed to act now before their team’s morale dropped any further .
Burapha felt uncomfortable being the sole human among the table of three Lord Rank monsters . It was fine when the carefree Bluebird and the innocent Julia were with him, but he felt abandoned now that he was left alone . He considered summoning Lala to alleviate his loneliness, but he decided against it, afraid that people would discover that he had a partner .
What made him feel the most restless was the trio monsters acted in an entirely different manner from when Sila was around .
“Oh, your master is quite decent, Sebastian . To think he could block that kind of attack directly without dying,” said Franz .
“Sure enough . Mister Sila possesses many qualities which he has yet to display to you two . ”
Asura asked, “Franz, you are qi type as well, aren’t you? If it was you instead of the kid, do you think you could block the previous attack?”
“Humph! I’m a poison user, not a frontliner . Anyway, I wouldn’t be stupid enough to expose myself and wait for my opponent to gather their power for an entire minute . If I really were to replace the kid, that bear man would die the moment his finger touched his axe . ”
“I guess Mister Sila had some kind of a plan . Maybe he is trying to show off in order to gather funds from people . ”
Asura snorted in response . “Heh . If he can actually do that, I will be very appreciative . It bores me to keep on working . I wonder why he alone could manage to spend a ton of money . Looking back, he only purchased some necessities, did he not? He wasn’t like that blue tailorbird who threw money away like trash . ”
“Actually, it was Mister Bluebird’s fault—” Sebastian was about to explain when Franz lifted her hand up with a serious expression .
“They have started,” she spoke plainly, and the other two quieted down . Burapha could tell somehow that Asura was enhancing his sensing ability through psychic power .
“Can you find them?” asked Sebastian .
Franz shook her head . “The poison isn’t being released from a single source . There are at least twenty spots throughout the party, and the smell of the herbs within this place disturbs me . ”
Sebastian gave Franz a disdainful look . “And you are calling yourself the Venomous Snake Queen? To fail at such a simple task . . . tch, what a letdown . ”
Franz’s eyes changed into those of a reptile and scales started to cover her skin .
“Don’t test my patience, Sebastian . True, we are afraid to kill you, but I know several ways of defeating you without letting you die . I just can’t do that in human form . In human form, our powers are limited so that we can control them easier . It’s a good thing for you since your power is hard to control . However, for me and Asura who have been good at controlling our powers from the beginning, staying in human form is no different from being sealed . We got our powers restricted without gaining any benefits . ”
“Franz is right . It’s your choice to take a liking to human form . You only have yourself to blame for your inability to control your power in monster form . I don’t like being insulted as well . If Franz takes action, I will do the same . You can’t stand a chance against us when we both use our true forms . ”
Asura’s hollowed eyes looked straight at Sebastian .
Burapha broke into a cold sweat . Even though all three of them didn’t emit any killing intent nor unleash their powers, the previous friendly atmosphere was already nowhere to be seen .
“C-Could someone tell me what is happening now?” Burapha took the risk and asked .
Sebastian’s expression changed into a smile . “I was just kidding . Anyway, let’s review what we’ve discovered so far . ”
The trio monsters still ignored Burapha as Franz began to explain . “It’s Energy-Dissolving Poison . No color, no odor . It won’t show any effect upon being inhaled . However, when the victim uses their power, they will suffer a backlash and won’t be able to move . This kind of poison is easy to brew, but the ingredients for making it are rare and it takes a long time to create . For them to release this poison from twenty-four spots in this open area, the mastermind of this operation should be quite generous . They should have spent a fortune putting this plan into motion . ”
Asura added, “No one is taking offensive action yet . Maybe they are waiting for the poison to spread throughout the party . By the way, there is an army of five thousand humans hidden in the rear forest far from this place . To be able to conceal their presence to this extent, they must be quite decent . With this level of preparation and this many troops, they might be able to defeat even a Lord Rank monster . What a surprise . How have humans attained this level of strength within such a short time?”
Asura’s last sentence was thrown randomly without hoping someone would answer .
Sebastian used his finger to carve the surface of the table, drawing a map of the party . Once he was done, Franz waved her hand once, and twenty-four needles were suddenly sticking out of the table, indicating the locations of the poison sources . Lastly, Asura broke the corner of the table as if he was breaking bread and placed it on the table, with the number ‘5,000’ engraved on it .
“How much time left?” Sebastian asked as curtly as always .
Meanwhile, Burapha wasn’t a fool, so he could guess what was happening from the conversation . He quickly took out a small bottle containing the Cleanse Antidote, which he purchased from Sebastian’s shop, and drank it in one gulp . (For the record, even though he was Sila’s close friend, Sebastian still sold it to him at the standard price . )
“Energy-Dissolving Poison doesn’t work well in an open-air space . It will take ten minutes before everyone is affected by it . You still have enough time to warn your master in the front since the poison is concentrated in the rear . ”
“That won’t be necessary . Mister Sila will be alright even if we don’t give him a hand, and I don’t care about others . What about the antidote? Do you have any that work against this poison?”
Burapha panicked and was going to stand up and shout to give everyone a warning . However, Asura, who was sitting next to him, pointed a sword at his flank . “Sebastian told us not to startle the snake by hitting the grass around it . ”T/N: “Don’t startle the snake by hitting the grass around it” is a proverb meaning “Don’t give away the plan by acting obviously and suspiciously . ”
“Energy-Dissolving Poison requires a specific antidote . Since it wasn’t a common type of poison, I only have two bottles of the antidote . Just a bit of powder from the bottle on the tongue will neutralize any of the poison within the consumer’s system and grant a temporary immunity . Other than that, you can choose to drink three bottles of Cleanse Antidote to be immune to its effects for thirty minutes . ”
Hearing that, Burapha immediately took out two more bottles of the Cleanse Antidote to drink . Now, he was more worried about others .
Franz put the two bottles of special antidote on the table, which Sebastian sent to Burapha’s hand .
“Mister Burapha, soon, you will have to bring these bottles to the main table . Sell one of them for a good price, as high as you can get, and give the other to Mister Sila for him to keep . ”
Burapha wanted to argue that this wasn’t the right time to be concerned about money, but he didn’t say it since he knew it would just uselessly waste time .
Sebastian turned his head to Franz, asking, “What about Venom’s Heart? Can’t it cure the poison’s effect?”
“It can . In fact, Venom’s Heart can cure almost any kind of poison . However its value is astronomical, so it would be a waste to use it on such a weak poison . Just one pellet of Venom’s Heart can be turned into five thousand of Cleanse Antidotes . Even I don’t use it unless it is an emergency, so there is no way I will give it to a stranger . ”
“Can I go now?” Burapha was dying to leave this place and inform the others about the poison .
Sebastian shook his head . “Let’s wait until everyone has inhaled the poison first . After that, our enemies will surely make their move, and it will save us from having to search for them . ”
Asura stared at the map engraved on the table . He had already memorized all of the key locations and had finished calculating the distance . Once Sebastian gave him the signal, he would make his move to kill all twenty-four people releasing the poison in one go, in order to stop the spreading of the poison .
Finally, Sebastian urged Burapha, “Now, go . Please don’t act suspiciously . Walk normally like you just want to pay Mister Sila a visit . ”
Burapha placed the two antidotes in his pocket and left . In the meantime, Sebastian turned his head to Franz and Asura .
“Get ready . If everything goes well, maybe all of your debt will be cleared at once . ”
Franz disagreed . “I still can’t see how we can make that much profit from doing this . Indeed, we can exploit the situation and sell Cleanse Antidotes for a high price . However, it shouldn’t be enough . ”
“The Cleanse Antidotes are just our first product . When the time is right, we will sell another one, which is what Julia and I made last night . ”
Sebastian placed a candy wrapped in a white sheet of paper on the table, which Franz inspected with curiosity .
“What is this thing?” asked Asura .
“A Miracle Pellet . ”
Franz furrowed her brows . “What? Isn’t it just a lump of sugar?”
“Yes, but we will sell a whole lot of them to everyone while calling them Miracle Pellets, an antidote for the Energy-Dissolving Poison . ”
Franz was getting more confused . “What do you mean? Energy-Dissolving Poison will naturally lose its effect within three hours without the victim having to do anything . Moreover, if the victim drinks three bottles of Cleanse Antidotes, the poison will even be cured in twenty minutes . ”
“Yeah, but none of the people here know that . We will just tell everyone that the Miracle Pellet can lessen the duration of the poison’s effect, and it can even help increase the efficiency of the Cleanse Antidote . We will sell only one for each person and urge them to eat it on the spot . It will be a special product that we only sell today . Even if anyone is suspicious later, the evidence will already be in their stomach . ”
“Oh! It's not cheating if you don't get caught . I love this idea . ”
“We will behave benevolently by selling Cleanse Antidotes at a discounted price while sky-rocketing the price of Miracle Pellets, claiming that we can’t afford to lower the price due to the ingredients being so expensive . With this, we will get both honor and money . ”
“ . . . We are like a group of villains,” Asura said to no one in particular .
Sebastian replied, “What are you talking about? We are obviously knights in shining armor who come to help everyone in the moment of crisis . It’s just that, the knights also need to make a living, so asking for a small donation should be fine . Everyone will understand . ”
Although that was what Sebastian said, he was thinking, ‘It is fortunate that someone is actually causing trouble . Otherwise, I would have had no choice but to execute the backup plan: Grim Reaper First, Benevolent Knight Later . ’