Chapter 200: The Bizarre Go
“It’s done, Sila . Try looking into the mirror,” Irene suggested while sweeping hair clippings off Sila’s shoulders .
An amateur barber handed Sila a small mirror, which he used it to inspect his new look . The new haircut was clean and decent, so Sila found it hard to believe that what was reflected in the mirror was really himself . The usual messy hair had been trimmed, revealing more of his facial features .
“Looks better, right? It seems you neglected taking care of yourself, leaving your hair frizzy and messy . You’re just like your dad in the past . ”
“Normally, if it’s too long, I will have it cut, Mom . However, I was in a hospital for a long time and I’m busy lately . ”
“Based on your haircut, you usually cut it yourself, right? I really can’t believe Mora . Haircuts only cost a few baht, why does he have to be so stingy?”
“Err . . . It’s not like that, Mom . Our dojo has been having financial difficulties recently, so we don’t spend money when we can do it ourselves . ”
“In that case, you should have let some girl trim it for you . Which girl will be the best~? Dao or Nam? Oh, or Jund, who is quite shy? You have many girlfriend candidates like your dad in the past~”
Sila felt his face became hot . He had found out earlier that his mother had acquired a special item from Joshua that allowed her to watch his movements, and had been following his adventures through the game . Therefore, she knew everything that happened to him even though he had yet to tell her anything .
A bright smile never left Irene’s face despite knowing that Sila had to leave this place tomorrow morning . If Sila exited later than that, he would end up in an extremely disadvantageous position with no way for him to recover and win against Montra anymore .
“You dad is waiting for us to have a meal together . Let’s go . ”
Irene led the way, followed closely by Sila .
A dining table was placed next to the pond which glowed at night . Sebastian served the plates of food that Irene had cooked and prepared beforehand on the table while Lookhin was eating non-stop, compensating for when all she could eat were Food Potions . Her cheeks were covered in grains of rice .
Pumin was looking at an eyeball on his palm, seemingly in deep thought .
“Sila has come, Darling . Look at him . His eyes are the same as yours,” Irene remarked as they approached Pumin .
Pumin stored the eyeball in his pocket and turned his head to Sila . “Umm . . . Come here, Sila . We have wasted so much time already . ”
“Yes, sir . ”
Pumin gave off an overbearing vibe like Mora, so Sila found it difficult to call him ‘Dad’ . On the contrary, Irene was so friendly that he addressed her as ‘Mom’ without even realizing it .
Lookhin tried to sit on Sila’s lap . However, Irene hugged her gently and put Lookhin down on her lap instead .
“Lookhin, please sit here for now, okay? Don’t disturb Sila yet . ”
Lookhin looked up to see Irene, who took out a handkerchief to wipe around Lookhin’s lips . The girl tried to resist at first, but she eventually gave in .
“You’re a girl, so you have to eat properly, okay? Let’s eat small pieces, bite by bite . Open your mouth . Say ahh~”
Irene cut the steak into small pieces and fed Lookhin . The smell of the meat was so great that Lookhin momentarily forgot that she was supposed to be a majestic great hawk . She obediently opened her mouth and ate it like she was just a docile baby bird .
Sila didn’t touch the food yet . It was the same for Sebastian . Based on Pumin’s expression, they guessed that the matter Pumin wanted to talk about must be of the utmost importance .
“Time is short, so I will cut to the chase . This place is the Desert of Wishes . Everyone entering this place will have their wish granted . However, they will have to pay for it with something of equal value,” said Pumin .
“What if many people enter together?” Sila couldn’t help but be curious .
“Bistem Desert can only be accessed by a single player at a time . When someone is within, others won’t be able to enter . Otherwise, the flow of time will become chaotic . ”
Pumin answered Sila’s question without leaving anything out, then continued what he was saying .
“Sila, your wish is to win against Montra . Actually, I can simply tell you the method . However, there is a problem with that . . . ”
“What is the problem, sir? Is it about a player’s personal secret?” asked Sila .
“No, that’s not it . I naturally have to keep a player’s personal information a secret, that’s a given . However, the problem is that the price you will have to pay for the information is all of the memories you have created since you entered this place . ”
Sila gaped . “What?!!”
“You don’t have to panic . I won’t do that . Otherwise, you will also forget the method to win, and that will count as me failing to grant your wish . ”
“That’s a relief . In that case, you don’t have to tell me, sir . I will find out a way to win by myself . ”
Pumin shook his head . “In that case, you will lose, Sila, in less than a week . You will lose even without knowing why . ”
“Less than a week? The war event will start next month, won’t it? How can I lose even before the event takes place?” Sila greatly wondered .
Pumin flicked his fingers, and the shape of the Go board was engraved on the stone floor . Then, he controlled several pebbles to fly and land on the board .
“Do you know about Go?” asked Pumin .
“I have seen Teacher Mora play it, sir . I know some of the rules . Mainly, it is a strategy board game for two players, in which the aim is to occupy more squares than the opponent . ”
Pumin nodded . “Think of this board in front of you as the current situation in Monster Soul . Montra has played this game longer than you, so naturally he has more pieces . Worse off, as soon as you entered the game, you made a grave mistake . Montra took advantage of that to increase his odds of winning . ”
“A mistake? What was it?”
“You caused the Royal Armament Guild to fall . . . that’s the main reason why you will lose . ”
Sila deeply furrowed his brows . True, he was a part of the reason why the Royal Armament Guild fell . However, he didn’t expect it to become the reason for his loss against Montra .
“I don’t understand, sir . How are they related?”
“Before you entered the game, Monster Soul had three influential factions: the Heavenly Dragon Guild, the Royal Armament Guild, and the Victorious Wolves Sect . Each faction was in the state of keeping the others in check . Montra had long been looking for a chance to completely crush one of them for him to become the true number one .
“Sila, you probably didn’t know this, but Montra is more afraid of Cross than Lone Wolf . As he saw that Cross had a personal grudge against you, he seized the opportunity . On the surface, he allied himself with Cross to kill you . However, when Cross spent his trump cards, Montra betrayed him and completely annihilated the Royal Armament Guild in one go . ”
“But . . . I personally think that Lone Wolf is stronger than Cross, sir . His guild also seems stronger than the Royal Armament Guild . ”
“You may be right . However, Montra noticed Lone Wolf’s weakness long ago . The only reason he didn’t make a move against the Victorious Wolves Sect so far was because he was afraid that Cross would attack him in the process . In Montra’s opinion, the Royal Armament Guild was more of a threat to his plan . ”
“What is Lone Wolf’s weakness, sir?”
“Lone Wolf . . . this kid’s name is extremely contradictory to his personality . He is simply too kind and indecisive . Every time he makes a decision, he will have to look back to see his comrades’ expressions first . On the contrary, Cross is more decisive . Even with an absurd order like hunting down a no-name new player, his subordinates wouldn’t disobey him . When at war, only terrible options exist for people to choose . The person who is decisive will shine more than those who aren’t . ”
Pumin waved his hand, and all the pebbles on the board turned black, leaving almost no room for the white . Then, he placed a single white piece in the center of the board .
“The white is you, who started the game late . Can you still see a way for you to win?”
Sila looked at the board with great worry . Meanwhile, Pumin seemed to have come up with an idea .
“I get it . Let’s go with this option . . . the equal price . ”
“I’m talking about the price you have to pay in exchange for the information . Instead of me telling you a way to win in great detail, I will just give you ambiguous suggestions . I will tell you ‘what’, but won’t tell you ‘how’ or ‘why’ . It will count as me giving you information yet also not giving you anything . This will be a suitable price . ”
It seemed Pumin had already decided since he didn’t wait for Sila’s response .
“Let’s go with this option . I will also include Sebastian’s mission in the suggestion . ”
Hearing that the God of Death mentioned his name, Sebastian began to take part in the conversation . Prior to this moment, he was just standing silently as he didn’t want to interrupt the family talk between a father and a child .
Sila was the God of Death’s son . . . just thinking about it, Sebastian knew that he didn’t make a mistake when choosing his master .
“Please feel free to entrust me with any mission, Lord Anubis . I will obediently do my best to succeed it . ”
“Your mission is to protect Grea City before the war event starts . ”
Sebastian was slightly surprised, while Sila asked, “Is that all?”
“Your correct response should be ‘Isn’t that too difficult?’ . Your alliance was just recently established and it is still unstable . Montra will rely on the moment when everyone is still careless, launching an attack on the second day after the Union’s establishment . His aim will be Cross, who is the current weakest link in your Union . Montra’s forces will infiltrate Grea City before you know it and deal a decisive blow to Cross, preventing him from founding the new Royal Armament Guild . ”
Sebastian bowed his head . “Roger, my lord . I will protect Grea City with my life . ”
“Given your ability, you won’t be up to the task . There is a high chance that you will have to fight Ramiel . As such, I will let you borrow my Demonic Armament . When Grea City is out of danger, you will have your genuine form back . You get it?”
“Yes, my lord,” replied Sebastian .
Pumin took out an extremely small lantern, only slightly larger than a thumb . The lantern’s inside glowed a mysterious light blue . Sebastian stared at it with wide-open eyes . He received it with great care .
“M-Manifesting Soul Lantern . . . ” Sebastian’s voice was shaken .
“Based on your reaction, I don’t think I need to teach you how to use it . ”
“T-This is simply too much, my lord . . . ” said Sebastian .
Pumin shook his head . “Believe me, this is still not enough . Proceed with the ritual . ”
Sebastian slit the tip of his finger and let his blood drop on the lantern . The lantern absorbed his blood, then a system notification rang inside Sila’s head .
You have achieved a certain condition . Sebastian’s status has elevated from being your pet to your partner .
Your partner, Sebastian, has gotten the Demonic Armament: Manifesting Soul Lantern .
The grim reaper symbol on the back of Sila’s clothing vanished as it couldn’t register a partner within . Sila replaced the empty slot with the Crystal Divine Sword .
“What happened?” asked Sila .
Sebastian politely replied, “There are many Demonic Armaments in the Monster Realm, sir . Most of them are wielded by supreme and mighty monsters . Every Demonic Armament possesses power in its own body . Therefore, even without any skills, I can exert the armament’s power by channeling my magic power through it . The power of the Manifesting Soul Lantern is even superior to my Grand Magic of Death, sir . ”
Pumin cut the conversation short . “My business with you has ended . Now, I shall talk privately with Sila . ”
Sebastian bowed his head and stepped back to join Irene and Lookhin, leaving Sila who was still staring at the Go board .
“From now on, I won’t tell you ‘how’ and ‘why’ but will only tell you ‘what’ . Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir . Please start . ” Sila prepared himself to listen to the advice .
“Sila . . . what is Montra’s goal? This is the most basic question . If you can’t answer it, you will lose,” asked Pumin .
“Win the war, sir, in order to become the Wulin Lord,” replied Sila .
Pumin shook his head . “Wrong . Montra’s goal is to become the Wulin Lord . It doesn’t matter whether he wins the war or not . ”
Sila was confused by Pumin’s words . “Eh? The condition for him to become the Wulin Lord is to win the war event, isn’t it? So why?”
“ . . . You have to come up with the answer by yourself . ” Pumin refused to answer .
“Ah, you won’t tell me ‘why’ . Sorry, sir . I forgot about it . Please continue . ”
“Win the war, and Montra will become the Wulin Lord . Then, what if there is no war, who will be considered the winner?”
Sila thought for a while before answering, “If there is no war, that means Montra can’t win the war, so it will count as my win, right?”
Pumin shook his head again . “A win without fighting is even more praiseworthy than winning the war . If Montra is the one to make it so that the war doesn’t take place, the Elders will consider him a winner . ”
“Eh? Is there such an option?” Sila was agape .
Pumin nodded . “Montra’s character is similar to mine, so I know what he is thinking . Actually, if he could just fix some of his habits, the Elders wouldn’t even consider others as Wulin Lord candidates .
“Next question . Lone Wolf, Beluga, and Cross . These three are your allies . However, who should you trust, and who should you be wary of?”
“Err . . . Trust Lone Wolf and Beluga, and be wary of Cross . . . ?” Since all of his previous answers came out incorrect, Sila began to lose confidence .
“Wrong . Believe in Cross, trust in Beluga, and be wary of Lone Wolf . My suggestion for you is to give your support to Cross, build up your intimacy with Beluga, and keep your secrets from Lone Wolf . ”
“W-Wait, Dad, why? You say it like this because you don’t know them,” argued Sila . He didn’t realize that he made a slip of the tongue and called his father ‘Dad’ a moment ago .
Pumin’s gaze on Sila showed a hint of gentleness . “You are still naive to the world around you, Sila . I know what kind of people they are and I didn’t say that Lone Wolf is a bad guy . I just told you to be wary of him . ”
“I still don’t understand . ”
Pumin pointed his finger at the pieces on the board . “The current situation in Monster Soul is like this board . However, soon, it will change into this . ”
Pumin waved his hand once, and all the black pieces turned white, while the single white piece in the center, representing Sila, turned black .
“Superficially, these three people have a common enemy . However, that’s not really the case . Cross’s enemy is Montra . Beluga’s enemy is boredom . Meanwhile, Lone Wolf’s enemy is the wrongdoer . ”
Pumin looked at Sila’s confused expression and continued . “Out of consideration for your words just now, I will explain it once . . . Cross’s enemy is Montra, so no matter what Montra’s color is, he will be the opposite color . Beluga’s enemy is boredom, so he will always choose the most interesting side . For Lone Wolf, his enemy is the wrongdoer, so his color will always be white . ”
Sila started to get the hang of it . While he was deep in thought, Pumin continued .
“Use Illuminus as frequently as you can . Use it before you lose the chance to use it . ”
“Lose the chance to use it?”
Pumin nodded . “Use it frequently so that Montra will think you always have to rely on it . He has the left arm so he is fully aware of your right arm’s weakness . The reason he still hasn’t used this weakness against you is that he wants to exploit it in the most crucial moment when you truly need it . ”
“How come Montra is aware of the right arm’s weakness? The left arm has such an ability?”
“No . Actually, he just realized it when you entered the game, Sila . Prior to that, he was oblivious of this weakness as well . Montra is attentive to details . To be honest, if you think deeply about it, you will notice its weakness too . However, don’t waste your time thinking about it because you can’t do anything about the weakness . You’d be better off spending your time on other things . ”
“Is that so?”
“Ultimately, Montra will give you two choices . The first is to admit defeat before even fighting . The second is to struggle from the bottom of the abyss, receiving hateful gazes and curses from all people . At such a time, the only people by your side will be your true friends and the enemy of your enemy . When the time comes, even if you don’t want to understand Montra, you will understand him . Because you will become Montra . . . ”
“I will become Montra?”
“I mean you will end up in the same circumstances as Montra,” Pumin explained slowly, “Looking at the board in front of you, you may think that there will be no way for you to win . However, there is, if you just do this . ”
Pumin waved his hand again . This time, numerous red pieces instantly appeared and surrounded the board . Sila was dumbfounded .
“Err . . . Isn’t that outside the board? By the way, red pieces don’t exist in Go . There are only black and white . ”
“Is that the full extent of how you, the Flaming Cloud dojo’s main disciple, can think outside of the box? Black is you . White is Montra . What is red? The Go board is the war . Then, what is outside of the board? If you can come up with the answers to these questions, even ten Montras won’t be your match, Sila . Montra can only see the board and black and white . He can’t see outside of the board or red . You have to use what Montra doesn’t predict and do something outside of Montra’s expectations . That is the way for you to win . ”
Sila stared at Pumin’s bizarre Go, deeply in thought . “This is not Go anymore . ”
“And who told you in the first place you have to play Go? Montra placed a Go board in front of you, so you thought you have to play it . However, no matter how well you play, you will certainly lose . ”
“ . . . ” Sila was thinking hard to the point he was feeling like his head was going to explode . He jotted down what Pumin told him to prevent himself from forgetting them .
“Now, let’s eat . We don’t have much time . Afterward, I will train you until morning . Seeing your qi, I have knowledge of Five Elements, so I think I can give you some guidance . As for your swordsmanship, you still have a lot to learn . How come the Sword Prodigy’s son can’t even wield a sword correctly?”
Sila nodded . “Thanks, Dad . ”
The two of them joined the table where everyone had a smile on their face . Sila temporarily dismissed all the problems in his head and began to create a precious memory as he immersed himself in happiness, in the oasis called ‘Family’ .