Sila was drifting in darkness . He felt his body was light and very relaxed, but he couldn’t breathe, feeling like something was pressing on his face . He tried to take a deep breath but the air couldn’t enter his nose .
Did he die again?
“Lookhin, don’t sleep on Mister Sila’s face . He will die if you keep this up . ” Sila could hear Sebastian’s voice .
“Boring~!” A kid’s voice rang out . Sila heard it clearly as if it were ringing on his face .
“Aot’s aap-ening? Aoo-earn-aof-er-aight? (What’s happening? Who turned off the light?)” Sila mumbled .
“Ah? Mister Sila has regained his consciousness . Lookhin, please move away . ”
The weight pressing on Sila’s face vanished . He quickly took a deep breath into his lungs . Recalling what happened before he lost consciousness, Sila instantly circulated qi to inspect his body .
‘Normal . . . No, it returned to the very start . I really lost the inner force that I built up and have to accumulate it again . This means I actually met Anubis . ’
“Mister Sila, you have been unconscious for . . . um, two days, I guess? Lookhin was the one who brought you inside the tent, sir . ”
Sila swept his eyes around the tent, searching for Lookhin, but couldn’t see the sparrowhawk . Instead, the person standing next to him was a girl around the same height as Mamon . She was playing with her hair .
The girl had emerald-like eyes, an oval-shaped face, long and disheveled brown hair, and was wearing green clothes made of linen . The most eye-catching features about her were the sharp, hawk-like eyes and her straight lips devoid of a smile .
“Lookhin? Is this your human form?” Sila said while pulling himself up to sit properly .
“Yes, sir . She has maintained this form ever since she brought you into the tent . May I ask what happened to you, sir?”
Lookhin took the liberty to sit on Sila’s lap and continued playing with her tufts of hair . Sila didn’t mind however . He gently stroked Lookhin’s head and answered Sebastian’s question .
“About that, I encountered Anubis . He is the God of Death that you’re looking for . ”
“Excuse me? Such a crucial event . . . how was I unaware?”
Sebastian thought he fell asleep due to accumulated fatigue from being hard on himself . He was always practicing and the time in the Desert of Death was unstable . It was normal for him to doze off sometimes .
“Anubis said he used his power to make you sleep,” Sila explained .
“I see . By the way, did he hurt you, sir? Why did you fall unconscious? Generally, Gods of Death aren’t aggressive . ”
“The thing was . . . Eh? Sebastian, did you just say that Gods of Death aren't aggressive?”
“Yes, sir . Actually, this is common knowledge among us monsters . However, humans use their own common sense to judge that Gods of Death must be evil . That’s a misunderstanding . In fact, they are helping humans more so than the other gods who humans worship . ”
Sila scratched his head . “Erm, I don’t understand any of that, Sebastian . ”
“It’s actually easy to understand if you think about it, sir . All beings have to die . This is inevitable . Gods of Death pity the dead if they have to find their own ways to Nirvana, so they command grim reapers to guide souls to where they belong without losing their way . However, humans can’t see the grim reapers’ good intentions and hate them, even going so far as trying to banish them, despite how we grim reapers work hard without expecting anything in return . We want neither praise nor a word of worship . ”
“Don’t grim reapers normally lead humans to Hell? It’s natural that humans fear them . ”
“Mister Sila, we grim reapers are merely the guides . We aren’t the ones who choose the destination for the souls, sir . Whether a human goes to Heaven or Hell, that depends on their actions from when they were alive . The Lord of the Gods of Death, Lord Yama, is considered the deity who upholds extreme fairness and uprightness, more so than those angels in Heaven who tend to take the side of those souls who worship them . Humans do evil deeds themselves . It’s simply absurd for them to blame us for guiding them to Hell . ”
Sila was pondering Sebastian’s logic when he suddenly remembered something important . He quickly stood up with excitement, causing Lookhin to fall down . She upsettingly glared back at him .
“The sword! Where is the sword? Sebastian, did you see the stone sword? It looked ordinary but . . . ”
Sebastian gestured for Sila to stop panicking and said, “Calm down, Mister Sila . The stone sword you are talking about is outside . I was about to ask you where it came from . ”
Sebastian followed Sila outside with Lookhin tailing behind . The sky was dark, and the stone sword was still in the sand where Anubis left it .
Sila approached the sword and released a sigh of relief . He turned to Sebastian .
“Even though we are the only ones in this desert, you should at least keep the sword inside the tent, Sebastian . ”
Sebastian lips twisted into a dry smile . “I would have done that if it were possible, sir . However, I couldn’t pull it out . ”
Sila frowned, feeling doubtful . He extended his hand to grab the sword’s hilt .
“Are you kidding me? The sword is embedded in sand, not a stone . Hmm . . . ?”
Sila exerted his strength, trying to pull the sword from the sand . However, it didn’t even budge . He tried it from a different angle . Since it was stuck in sand, and not a stone, Sila tried to move the surrounding sand away from the blade .
“It’s no use, sir . I have already tried,” said Sebastian .
The sand around the sword was tightly clustered like the grains formed a chunk of metal . Sila snapped his fingers . He believed it would eventually work if he continued digging into the sand .
However, Sebastian’s next statement crushed his hope . “If you plan to dig deeper, I’d advise against that, sir . Lookhin tried sending insects down . It seems the deeper we go, the larger the crystallized area of sand becomes . I’d say that the sword has already become part of the desert . ”
Sila sighed . “To be honest, I also think that I got it too easy . Ah, what should I do to take it out?”
“There is a message next to the sword, sir . Every time the sand was removed, the letters always returned . It seems to be a hint, though I can’t comprehend it . ”
Sila got down on his knees and really found the message . The handwriting was bold and neat, giving off an imposing vibe .
“ . . . One cannot wield this sword alone . . . Is that it?”
Sebastian said, “Yes, sir . And . . . ”
Sila interrupted . “It’s quite easy! This means we have to wield it together . Sebastian, please come and help me . ”
Sebastian sighed . “I was about to ask you if you really think it would be that simple . Lookhin and I have tried pulling it out together and it didn’t make a difference . ”
Sila was ashamed to express his stupid idea . If the sword could really only be wielded by two people, it would be an extremely awkward way to use the sword .
“Wait . . . One cannot wield this sword alone . . . ?” Sila recalled Anubis’ statement .
“Did you understand something, sir?”
“A little, I guess . By the way, Sebastian, do you know which energy type Anubis belongs to?”
“I guess he is a magic-type being, sir . His specialty should be wind and earth magic, though I’m not sure . ”
“In that case, can we say that a sword stuck in a desert is a magical phenomenon?”
“Isn’t that obvious, sir? The reason we can’t pull the sword out of the sand must be due to some kind of magical phenomenon . ”
Sila nodded . “The essence of magic is Unity . Isn’t it plausible for us to think that the sword is currently united with nature? By ‘cannot wield it alone’, it probably means we can’t wield it with our own strength but have to borrow power from nature to do it . ”
“That can be right, sir . However, borrowing power from nature is a sublime ability . Even for me, when I cast a spell, I could only borrow power from the Gods of Death, not the great nature . Does that mean we can’t do anything about it?”
“I think I can find a way, though I can’t do it right now . Let’s leave it alone for the time being . ”
“Certainly, sir . I have been training magic skills with Lookhin in the past two days . I suppose it’s your turn to train her how to use qi . ”
“Okay . From now on, you should focus on your own training, Sebastian . We still don’t know what kind of mission Anubis will give you when we encounter him again . Maybe it will be a mission that Lookhin and I can’t assist with, so you have to become stronger . ”
“I had the same thought, sir . Please excuse me, then . ”
Sebastian bowed his head before returning to his tent, leaving Sila with Lookhin who was chewing on a pellet of luxury pet food .
There were times when some kids came to his dojo to practice, so Sila had some experience taking care of kids (though Mora said that he was quite bad at it) .
“Lookhin, come here . ” Sila sat down on the canvas and tapped the spot next to him, inviting her to join him .
“ . . . ” Lookhin slowly walked and sat down on his lap instead, which Sila didn’t object to . He stroked her head gently .
“Lookhin, are you tired? Do you want to rest?” asked Sila .
“ . . . ” Lookhin shook her head, and placed another food pellet in her mouth .
“In that case, do you want to train qi circulation? If you do well, I will teach you a martial art . Well, let me think of an art suitable for a girl . ”
“ . . . ” Lookhin nodded as she was chewing on the food .
Sila raised his hand to kindly wipe the leftover food from her mouth using his sleeve .
“Stop eating for a while, okay? I don’t know about your qi, so let’s start with basic qi circulation . ”
Sila placed his hand on Lookhin’s right shoulder and transmitted a small amount of qi into her body . His qi flowed through Lookhin’s veins, slowly guiding the natural process of qi circulation .
“Mn, according to Five Elements Book, you have a good affinity with the metal element, Lookhin . You should start circulating qi in the lungs . When you utilize your qi, it will be most efficient if you exert it from your skin . Understand?”
Lookhin nodded and started circulating qi while following Sila’s guidance . As she circulated Great Sparrowhawk Qi throughout her body, her body gradually became lighter and lighter . Soon, she entered a state of enlightenment as she stopped paying attention to her surroundings . Her body slowly drifted up and floated two feet above Sila .
‘Mn, she can really fly . It’s natural, I think, since Lookhin was originally a bird . By the way, do I have any suitable arts for her to learn?’
Sila retreated a few steps from Lookhin and took all the books containing his arts out, trying to select ones that were suitable for her .
“The decent ones will be Armament Trampling, Stellar Wheel, and Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws . . . But will they fit well with a girl?”
The only great female martial experts Sila knew of were Sangdao and Varee . Sangdao’s fighting style was gentle and continuous while Varee’s was quick and simple . Based on Sila’s guesses, he thought Sangdao and Varee must have great affinities with the water and the metal elements respectively, so both of their fighting styles would fit well with Lookhin .
Sila pictured their martial moves in his mind and jotted something down on blank sheets of paper . He used the arts he had as a foundation before removing the aggressive parts and replacing them with Sangdao’s gentle part and Varee’s simple and nimble part . Finally, he came up with one more new martial book .
“I will have to organize the contents first . Let’s wait for Lookhin to familiarize herself with qi before teaching it to her . . . Don’t be impatient . I will waste more time if I act too rashly . ”
His last sentence was a repeat of what Anubis had said .
“Who exactly is Anubis? Is he an Independent NPC? Is he a real human or an AI? Why was the sword with him?”
Sila looked at the stone sword in the sand, feeling regretful that he didn’t ask Mora for more details regarding his biological parents .
“ . . . there is something in that dimension that you need to find . It’s a gift that I left for you and also the reason why I accepted the position of Independent NPC . . . ”
Mora’s words repeatedly echoed in Sila’s mind . Now that he thought about it, Mora didn’t explicitly say that the gift was a sword .
Could it be that the gift wasn’t a sword?
Could it be that the gift his teacher had mentioned was a ‘person’ rather than an ‘item’?
This wasn’t the first time Mora concealed some truth from him, though Sila trusted that his teacher would have a good reason for holding back information . It implied that it would benefit him more if he was oblivious to the truth .
The stone sword was in the sand . At first, Sila didn’t realize it . However, Heaven's Decree Sword Art was the art of borrowing power from the great flow to cause phenomena .
That meant, if he could use Heaven’s Decree, he would be able to pull the sword out .
Is this really just a coincidence?
Anubis had the stone sword, possessed a profound understanding of Five Elements, and could embed the sword in the sand . The latter was a phenomenon that Sila had read about before . Not from some random literature, but from Heaven’s Decree’s second sword style .
“Crashing Mountain . . . As firm as a mountain . Seemingly staying still but actually slowly moving forward . Using the great flow through the sword’s movement . ”
Sila could almost recite every word he had read in the Heaven’s Decree book . He just hadn’t started seriously practicing it, as Mora instructed him to wait until he entered the Desert of Death .
Sila looked at the stone sword . As his gaze fell onto it, his mind became calmer and his useless thoughts broke away . He began building up inner force again, slowly this time .
His plan was to succeed in creating his new qi art over the next two weeks before proceeding to practice Heaven’s Decree Sword Art .
His qi was slowly building up in his spleen . Sila didn’t forget to share parts of his inner force with his heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys as well . All of his organs resonated and reacted to each other .
Sila touched the stone sword and felt the power within it resonating with his body . Some portion of power from the sword got absorbed into his body due to the ‘digestive’ characteristic of the earth element .
‘We are not alone . As we receive some, we need to return some . ’
Sila sent his power into the sword, and the power eventually returned to him . Every organ and every part of his body cycled the power from one to another . Sila didn’t focus his power into one specific part of his body, but his spleen naturally built up inner force at a quicker rate than before .
A pair of eyes was watching from a far distance . He muttered to himself, his voice sounding as if the wind itself was whispering .
“Good . Although you’re stubborn, you’re learning . You will waste more time if you act too rashly . On the contrary, if you are calm, things will go faster . It seems he will use less time than I first anticipated . ”
Anubis opened his right palm . There was an ancient, magical eyeball on it . He stared into the eyeball and witnessed something .
“This kid won’t be a problem anymore . However, the other one is . . . ” Anubis let out a long sigh .
He looked up at the stars in the night sky . Each star shone brightly, trying to burn brighter than the others . Together they created a dazzling sight of the captivating night sky, decorated with innumerable twinkling stars . It was a beauty incapable of being created by a single star .