Chapter 204: Riding on the Rumor
Sila, Sebastian, and Cross stationed themselves on a temporary lookout tower made of wood . They were monitoring several battles occurring throughout the city .
The city was bright even at midnight due to the firesignited during battles . Even though it wasn’t to the point where the flames engulfed the entire city, it was enough for people to panic and the situation to become chaotic .
Because the size of the wooden tower was small, only three of them had climbed up and got to see the widest view of the city .
Sila had a clear look at what was happening . The Royal Armament Guild’s members used guerrilla tactics; they only engaged in battles briefly before retreating, leading the enemies to traps or to where they could make use of the terrain .
Grea City had a lot of alleys and side streets, so those who knew the lay of the land had an overwhelming advantage over those who didn’t .
Sila now understood why Cross could manage to survive after his guild collapsed .
“Should we go help them?” asked Sila .
Cross calmly watched the situation . “No, we will wait . The opponent’s main force has yet to be dispatched . This group just wants to cause a ruckus . My men can still handle them . ”
Sila looked at the battles again . Even though it was true that Cross’ men could fend off the opponents, the number of enemies was too high . Among all the occurring battles, many were losing .
“I can help over there . They can’t hold off anymore . ” Sila pointed his finger at one of the battles below and was about to jump off . However, Sebastian disagreed .
“You shouldn’t go, sir . Luring us to engage in the current battles is supposed to be one of the enemy’s goals . ”
“But . . . they really can’t hold off . They are dying . ”
Even if they relied on traps, there wasn’t an unlimited number of them . As they continued using them, it was natural that the traps were running out . Furthermore, the opponents were getting used to how Cross’ men fought and could avoid some of their tricks .
Some of the enemy’ groups chased down a small number of the Royal Armament Guild’s members and forced them into a corner .
Soon, a loud explosion went off and the flame blasted everyone in the alley, annihilating both friends and foes in an instant . It was a nightmarish sight .
Sila looked at the situation with bewilderment . “W-What was that?”
“Suicide bombing . I ordered my subordinates to gather enemies in one place and incinerate them,” Cross explained flatly .
“People on your side were there! I can’t believe you would do that to your own people!”
Cross coldly stared at Sila . “Are you trying to say that I was cruel? Imagine yourself in a one-on-one deathmatch . Would you sacrifice one of your arms in order to obtain a complete victory?”
“I think I would, but it’s not the same . That’s a part of my body, so it’s my choice . Those, however, were the lives of others . ”
“My army is a part of my body! The war is a stage where armies kill each other! It’s the same everywhere whether you claim to be generous or cruel! To win a war, we must take a look at the overall situation and do whatever it takes to win in the end, even if it means making sacrifices . It is impossible to win a war completely unharmed!!”
“What about the innocent players? Some of them died . ”
“Our opponents are trying to make us fall into that line of thinking . That’s why they are causing a ruckus where most people gather . They want us to be concerned about the ordinary players and divide our forces in order to help them . ”
Cross took a glance at his system window . He read the incoming message without a frown . When he finished reading, he said:
“There is news about the Sword Emperor going crazy and slaughtering players in the south . ”
“Eh? How is that possible? Mister Cross is here,” asked Sila .
“Clearly, that’s an imposter . This is normal . If it were me, I would do the same . This means they want me to go help people while invalidating the rumor . It’s highly likely that they have set a trap for me, or have prepared to raid us from the other side . ”
“In that case, how can we go and help them without falling into their trap?”
“We won’t go . I’m no longer the conqueror of this city . My guild is just a small guild located in the city . These players didn’t pay me tax or anything . Why should I bother to help them? It’s their own life, they should protect it themselves . ”
“Huh?! Is that alright? By the way, is it okay to let the imposter do as they please?”
“It’s fine . A bad reputation is useful in its own way . These players already hate me from the start, I don’t care if their hatred for me intensifies . I will just ride on the rumor they make for me . ”
Sila could finally see the reason why Montra was more wary of Cross than Lone Wolf . Regarding individual strength, Cross might be the weakest among the Four Emperors . However, if it was about the ability to make decisions under pressure, Cross was as sharp as Montra and completely superior to Lone Wolf .
He wasn’t afraid of being misunderstood and becoming a villain . He didn’t fight for virtue . He fought to win .
“Is it really fine?” Still, Sila couldn’t help but feel worried .
Cross turned his head to Sila . “Do you think that it’s better for me to go help them? Listen . Even if I go, nothing will change . In the sea of rumors and confusing news, people will only remember ‘Cross was crazy and slaughtering players . ’ Trying to explain will just make me look like I’m making excuses . At a time like this, it is better to ride on the rumor and add some spice to make it more confusing . ”
Cross opened many screens of his system window and gave a command through the guild channel .
“Everyone at the south, retreat immediately . Don’t engage in combat with the fake Sword Emperor and don’t help anyone . Meanwhile, add more rumors in the forum that the Heavenly Dragon Guild has come . Even the Magic Emperor Montra has come personally . However, they do nothing and leave the Sword Emperor and his men to slaughter people without helping . ”
Cross closed two of his screens, still leaving some of them open to check the overall situation .
Sila wasn’t sure whether Cross’ plan would work . However, he received the answer in less than three minutes . The battles began to calm down and the enemies stopped slaughtering the ordinary players . Instead, their objective changed as they headed to the Royal Armament Guild’s new base .
From far away, Sila saw thousands of players wearing white clothing with a symbol of the Heavenly Dragon Guild entering the city .
“Just as I expected . Since they used an imposter and the army pretended to be mine, that meant they had prepared another army to put a stop to the first army, claiming righteousness . Kukuku . Playing the side of justice is hard, isn’t it, Montra?”
Sila got to see Cross from a different angle he hadn’t seen before . In the future, some players might see Cross as a villain, hating him to their bones, but little did they know that it was, in fact, Cross’ decision that saved most of the players here .
Trying to help would intensify the level of the battles . Instead, taking the blame that wasn’t true turned out to be the best choice .
Even though Cross’ real goal was to win, his decision brought a good result that prevented people from dying meaninglessly .
In the past, Sila was biased against Cross . However, he now realized that every person had both good and bad sides . He witnessed Cross’ good side today .
‘What about Montra?’ Sila couldn’t help asking himself . Had he been biased against Montra and overlooked Montra’s other sides?
Cross gave another command and closed his system window . He called one of his subordinates to come up on the tower, replacing him, while he dropped down . Seeing that, Sila and Sebastian jumped down as well .
The three of them were still inside the temporary camp . There were many people running around performing their duties . Some healed the injured people . Some commanded their subordinates . Some handed out weapons to others . Even though it was quite chaotic, everyone seemed to know what they were doing .
Sila looked around and saw that all of the people he knew were still in this place . The notable sight was Shueria and Fargo locking a certain player’s arms who was currently unconscious .
Based on what Sila saw, this particular player was quite normal and didn’t seem to be strong . He wondered why both Fargo and Shueria had to keep their eyes on this man .
“Our enemy forces consist of the ones pretending to be us and the ones showing up later as the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s army . They had to pretend to fight each other for a while . In addition, the latter team had to help people to show off their righteousness . They had to be wary of our traps and explosions on top of that . They must be pretty busy . During this time, we have to figure out which symbol these two groups are using to distinguish friends from foes . If we know that, we will have a way to exploit it,” said Cross .
Sila frowned . “Both of them are Montra’s forces . Maybe they just recognize each other’s face?”
“It would be possible if we are talking about a small force . However, with their numbers and how chaotic the battlefield is, there is no way they can recognize each other . They are sure to have some kind of symbol, mark, or signal . ”
With Cross’ rational explanation, Sila agreed with him . No matter how good they were at memorizing people, there was simply no way for all of them, an army of more than a thousand players, to recognize each other in the middle of the battlefield .
“Wake him up . ” Cross gave an order, and one of his men poured cold water in a bucket on the man’s face .
“Cough, cough, cough . ” The man choked on the water that entered his nose . He lifted his head up tiresomely and confusingly .
“What is the symbol?” asked Cross .
The man was still in a confused state . He looked around and found that he was in the middle of the enemy’s camp . The first action he took was to unleash his power, trying to commit suicide .
Shueria and Fargo were waiting for that . Both of them injected their powers into the man . One for healing and one for breaking . The pain was so strong that the man screamed .
“Arghhhh! Kill me! Kill me now!”
“That would be too comfortable for you . Answer me . What is the symbol you guys use to determine your allies?” Cross asked again .
“Puh!” The man spat his saliva and blood out at Cross’s face . Instantly, the sword in Cross’ hand pierced through his abdomen .
“I will add more swords, one by one . The energy clad on them will torture you from the inside . Even if you feel less pain compared to what you would feel in reality, that doesn’t mean it’ll only tickle . ”
“I . . . won’t . . . ”
One more sword was added into the man’s body . The female players in the camp began to shift their eyes from the hellish scene .
“The symbol . Tell me, and I will let you die neatly . ”
“No matter what you do, I won’t ever betray Sir Montra . . . ”
“Won’t ever betray? How nice . Bring me another one!” shouted Cross .
Soon, another man was carried and thrown onto the ground . He had several cuts and bruises all over his body, apparently caused by being hit and tortured .
Cross turned his head and spoke to the newcomer, “You are useless now . This young man admitted defeat and confessed to us what the symbol is . Now, die . ”
The man who just arrived stared intently and angrily at the traitor, engraving the man’s face deep into his memory . “You! Why did you do that!! We—!”
That’s all he could say before Cross cleaved him into two with a sword . The soulless body fell down on the ground and remained there as a gruesome corpse .
Usually, players would turn into light and disappear in three seconds after dying . However, with Jundtrathep’s passive ability, those who died within a kilometer radius around her would leave behind their corpse, opening up an opportunity to be resurrected .
“I didn’t confess…?” The remaining man muttered, feeling confused .
“Sure . . . But others won’t know that . Kukuku, since you are so loyal to Montra, I can’t wait to see your expression after that guy revives and tells the others about your betrayal,” Cross said apathetically .
“Humph! You don’t even know the symbol . How can you claim that I have betrayed him?”
“Is that so? What do you think, Fargo?” Cross turned his head to Fargo .
Fargo replied nonchalantly, “The pet storage bracelet on the right wrist . ”
Hearing that, the man’s face became pale . Cross turned his head back to him . “You really are useless now . ”
“How . . . ?”
“Why should I tell you, you bastard? Hey . . . Take him to the prison . Imprison him for two or three days before releasing him unscratched . ”
Under Cross’ command, Shueria exerted more power to knock the man unconscious . Then, one of the guild members dragged him away .
“How did you know?” Sila couldn’t help but express his doubt .
Noticing that Cross became silent, Fargo explained, “Actually, we had been looking for possible symbols on their bodies . Since they needed to distinguish friends from foes on a battlefield, we believed that the symbol should be something easily noticeable; one that was quite common but not too eye-catching . We narrowed it down by looking only at equipment, and noticed that they’re all wearing six to seven suspicious items .
“When the second person arrived, everyone shifted attention to him while I closely observed the previous man, checking to see where his gaze landed . It was natural for him to look for the symbol to see whether the person was his comrade or not . ”
Fargo, Cross, and Shueria were friends for ages . The three of them had come up with several secret signals that were only known among them . Just now, Cross had sent one such signal, informing Fargo to secretly keep an eye on the man .
Cross opened his system window and checked the item’s description . “Hm . It’s a normal bracelet but they aren’t sold in Grea City . Montra must have planned it so that we can’t find them in a short time even if we know about it . . . Damn . It seems we just wasted our time . ”
Julia stepped forward . “If you are talking about the previous C-grade pet storage bracelet, I would like to inform you that Master Sila has thirty-five of them in his possession, though twenty-five of them were damaged by Mister Mamon’s explosion . Only ten of them function properly . ”
“Do I have them?” exclaimed Sila, feeling confused . Lately, he had too many items . Since he didn’t use most of them, it was natural that he couldn’t remember everything he had .
“Yes, Master . Would you like Julia to summon them?”
“Mn, sure . Will they be enough though? It’s just ten,” Sila asked Cross .
Cross abruptly said, “Bring all thirty-five of them here . We just want to wear them . Their functionality is unnecessary . ”
Julia waved her hand once, and thirty-five bracelets appeared in front of her .
Cross ordered his men to take them and entrusted them with a certain task .
“Take out all twenty of the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s uniforms in the guild storage . Give them to two of our small units specialized in mobility . Go and instigate infighting while finding a chance to assassinate those who are alone . ”
“Roger, Leader . ” The guild members proceeded to do what they were told .
Sila turned his head to Cross, asking, “Mister Cross, do you have the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s uniforms?”
“Kukuku . Not only those . I also have ones for the Victorious Wolves Sect, the Mountain Thieves League, and the Merchants Association . I even have Zero’s Unjust Wuxia Clothing and the Beginner’s Clothing prepared . Montra isn’t the only one to think of using imposters . ”
‘He even has the Beginner’s Clothing? Did he intend to impose as me?’ Sila let out a dry cough .
“What is our next course of action, then?” asked Sila . Since the beginning of the battle, Cross only employed his men and held those who were highly skilled on standby .
“We will wait and change our strategy depending on the enemy’s actions . We are the defensive side . The longer we prolong the battle, the better . We will only dispatch the skilled ones when we absolutely need to . ”
Sila started to understand what war really meant . ‘We killed some of them, and they killed some of us . Sometimes we lose, but sometimes we win . Only the last, final battle decides the absolute victor . Before that, there are several less important battles . There is no such thing as a noble war . Both sides willingly slander, slaughter, demoralize an enemy, strategize, or strengthen the team’s morale . Even if we are in a disadvantageous position, we shouldn’t show any weakness . ’
The flow of the battle seemed to be with Sila and his team for now . However, who knew how long it would last? At the end of the raid, which side would emerge victorious?