Sila slowly woke up . He couldn’t tell how long he had slept . Once he opened his eyes and sat down, he found that he was outside of the city . When looking back through his memories, he remembered he was hit by the fist of white mist . He still didn’t know the reason why he was here though .
“Are you awake? How are you?” Bluebird asked after approaching Sila, having noticed that he woke up .
Sila looked around for familiar faces, but he only saw people he didn’t know . From what he could tell, they were a bunch of Royal Armament Guild members, who stood some distance away while looking at him with mixed feelings between fear and respect . Sila somehow felt troubled by their gazes .
“Where are we?”
“The outside of Grea City . The edge of the Single-Horned Dragon Forest . ”
“How long did I sleep? And why are we here?”
“Around two days, I think . The reason why we are here is because of that . Look . ” Bluebird pointed his finger at Grea City .
Even though it was quite far, Sila could clearly see the white mist covering the city . Obviously, it wasn’t the mist that came from steamed engines like usual but the residual traces of magic power being emitted by a certain massive silhouette hidden inside .
“She is Infernee, the Dragon Empress . We believe she is just a materialized body from Montra’s skill, Dragon Soul, though . Do you remember the skill?”
“Is it fine for us to be here then? The distance is not that far . ”
“There seems to be no problem . . . I guess . Cross has tried sending people to investigate . It seems she won’t do anything as long as we leave her alone . ”
Sila stood up . His power was drained due to the disturbance during qi circulation . He tried to circulate qi anew but found that it was clogged up . In a sense, Five-Attributed Cloud Qi was similar to an entire structure consisting of spinning cogwheels . If something was struck between the cogwheels, its ability to spin and function would be hindered . It seemed an external force was required in order to fix it .
“Why are they standing so far away?” Sila asked Bluebird while shooting a side glance at other players .
“That can’t be helped . Look at what you have done . The city fell into pieces of wreckage . You shouldn’t have shown off that much . Fortunately for you though, Infernee completely annihilated the city . No one should care how much damage you caused . ”
Sila hurriedly argued, “No, that’s not it . That wasn’t me . I was being controlled . ”
Bluebird sighed . “You better come up with a better excuse . It’s a serious crime to force players to perform involuntary actions as it violates a human’s basic rights . Nothing in the game can physically control you . Every brain scanner has undergone strict investigation . ”
“But I really—” That’s all Sila could say before he stopped himself .
‘Is it because my brain scanner differs from others? Maybe Joshua’s brain scanner doesn’t have such protection . If that’s the case, I can’t explain what happened to me . This matter is even more confidential than the Wulin Masters Association . ’
“But what?” asked Bluebird .
Sila released a sigh . “Nothing . What I was trying to say is that I was being controlled by my anger and fell into a rage . That’s why I couldn’t hold myself back . ”
Sila had to take the blame for actions he didn’t commit in order to secure the secret . At this time, he still didn’t realize that this small secret would eventually escalate and ultimately have a tremendous impact . It was like the saying, “Tell a lie once, and you will have to continue lying in order to maintain it . ”
However, this wouldn’t be the only secret he had to keep . Before the war event started he would inevitably discover other secrets, along with the reason why Mora had to keep him in the dark all this time . Later on, Sila would sometimes come to wonder whether his life would have been better off without him knowing the truth .
Sila was like a newborn in the vast world, a dry, clean sponge ready to absorb all the things he saw, and learn from them . As his journey went on, his views and horizons would eventually broaden . On one side, he would see the novelty of the world and become excited . However, on the other side, he would get to see something he didn’t want to experience .
Still, such is life .
Bluebird nodded . He didn’t seem to be bothered by Sila’s words .
“Sure, yes, you reacted too strongly . Please be careful next time . Well, you may not get another chance to show off . If the Infernee we see is really the result of a skill, I can send her flying with just a touch . . . um . . . how to touch her will be a problem though . ”
Sila took a bit of time to try and regain his strength, but it didn’t work . Being attacked while using Forest God’s Body caused him more trouble than he previously thought . The next time he used this move, he would need to be extra careful .
Gossiping sounds nearby became silent as someone came to visit them . Sila and Bluebird turned to look at the visitor and found that it was Sangdao . It seemed many players found out what kind of relationship she had with Montra . The truth about her being Montra’s fiancée was one of the most popular pieces of news in the game forum right now .
Sangdao didn’t seem to mind their attention like Sila . She approached the two and asked politely .
“Mister Bluebird, if you don’t mind, could you please let me have a moment alone with Sila?”
“Oh, sure, sure . You’re welcome . ” Suddenly, Bluebird seemed to become a person with good manners . He left without even saying goodbye to Sila or waiting for his response . Instead, once he had moved a bit away from the two, he turned to Sila, winked, and gave him a thumbs up . It was like he knew what they would talk about while even Sila himself had no clue .
“A lot of people are here . We better talk over there . ”
Sangdao walked into the forest, Sila silently following behind .
As they went two hundred meters deep into the forest, Sila swept his eyes to look for the Single-Horned Dragons, but he couldn’t spot even one .
‘What’s going on with them? At this point, I should have seen at least two of them . ’
“This should be private enough . ” Sangdao stopped walking and turned back to Sila .
“What do you want from me, Miss Sangdao?” Sila asked flatly . His tone was icy cold .
Sangdao showed him a dry smile . “Are you angry that Dao didn’t tell you I’m Montra’s fiancée?”
“I’m not angry . I just don’t like being lied to . ”
“Well, I didn’t tell you any lies, Mister Sila . ” Sangdao’s tone of voice was as cold as Sila’s . She showed an expression like she and he were complete strangers .
Sila was overcome with anxiety, his breath gone . The sense of distance caused him to feel discomfort . It seemed Sangdao could sense that from him .
“That was Dao’s feeling when Sila acted coldly . So please, stop doing that, okay?”
Sangdao gave Sila her usual calm smile like she always did . In one way or another, women seemed to be mysterious creatures for Sila already . Their emotions could change at a rate which he couldn’t possibly keep up with .
“Are all women capable of reading minds?” asked Sila .
Sangdao giggled . “No, we can’t . Sila’s expression is just quite easy to read . Despite that, there are times when Dao couldn’t tell what Sila was thinking . ”
“I have my secrets as well . It isn’t like I should go out of my way and reveal my secrets to others out of the blue . ”
“Me too . For some matters, Dao also isn’t ready to tell anyone about them until it is the right time or it is to the right person . If you are curious, the easiest method is to ask . If Dao can tell you, Dao will tell . ”
Sila got to understand Sangdao better . Come to think about it, she always had a way of convincing Sila to understand things by comparing himself to her .
“Err . . . Is it true . . . ? About the fiancée . . . ” Sila half asked and half mumbled .
Sangdao lifted her hand up, indicating for Sila to stop . With that, Sila thought she didn’t want to answer his question . Then, Sangdao fired a kunai toward him, which he tilted his head to barely dodge .
“Err . . . If you don’t want to answer, you didn’t have to . . . ”
“You are not my target, Sila . Look behind you . ”
Sila turned back . He saw her kunai stuck in a tree behind him . There was a familiar-looking blue tailorbird perching on the tree’s branch .
“Mister Tailorbird, if you don’t stop eavesdropping on our conversation, the next one will pierce your head . Please believe me that I can really do it . ”
The tailorbird’s face turned pale . He thought his disguise was decent enough but he was still caught . He chirped as he tilted his head once, showing the bird’s cuteness and innocence, acting like he didn’t understand what Sangdao was saying . If some girls who loved small animals were to witness his action, they would surely want to tame him .
Sila sighed and took out three suntetsu . His energy was still clogged so his detection ability fell sharply and couldn’t sense the bird’s approach . However, just looking at it once was enough for him to discern the bird’s true identity .
“Or, do you prefer my suntetsu drilling into your head instead?”
The blue tailorbird, a . k . a . Bluebird, sighed and flew away without consent . It seemed he was going to miss an interesting gossip scoop .
“Your friend is funny, Sila . Honestly, if we weren’t going to talk about a matter related to the association, I would’ve just let him continue eavesdropping . ”
“The engagement between you and Montra is related to the association?”
Sangdao walked and sat on a fallen tree . She brushed away the dust next to her, causing Sila to have a feeling that he should be sitting there . Then, he actually went and sat down like he was bewitched .
“Sila, Are you aware that you are a very lucky person?”
Sila thought that Sangdao tried to change the topic because she didn’t want to talk about the betrothal . Strangely enough, he was fine with it . “Lucky? How?”
“As we are directly related to the Wulin Masters Association’s three Elders, all of us—Dao, Sila, and Montra—are considered people belonging to the underground world, which is the world of darkness .
“Yet, despite the fact that you live in the underground world, Sila is the only one who has never come into contact with the darkness . Maybe this is how Uncle Mora expresses his love for you . ”
“The Wulin Masters Association is the underground world?”
“Yes . Even though the association is not a villain organization that you might see in films, we are still a kind of secret organization hiding in the shadows . We have our own rules and our codes of conduct that take priority over the laws of the world . From an outsider's point of view, we are heretics .
“That’s why Dao doesn’t hate Montra . Dao lives in the same world he does . The brutal underground world where the ones who approach us might be spies in disguise while the ones we think of as our close friends may betray us when we need their support the most . If we show our weakness even for an instant, it will be exploited or we will be threatened . Thus, we have to become strong in both strength and mind in order to survive in the world without being devoured by it . ”
“Have you always been through these kinds of experience, Dao?”
Sangdao nodded . “Yes . That’s why we tend to keep our secrets with us as if they are something precious . Dao and Montra’s betrothal is just a way for us to borrow each other’s influence . Montra wanted to get support from two Elders . Meanwhile, my father and I have neither an influential dojo nor personal influence like Uncle Sanon or Uncle Mora . With just the two of us, we only had four hands and four legs to rely on . By betrothing, it means if someone were to bully Dao, the Sky Dragon Dojo could use that pretense to intervene and help us . ”
Sila listened silently . He just sat there, waiting for Sangdao to continue .
“Seeing you get angry last time, Dao was worried . As you already know, Sila, the three Elders shall evaluate the method you use to accomplish your mission, And I must say letting your emotions get the better of you won’t win you any points . ”
“I’m sorry,” said Sila . His face was dejected like he was a child feeling guilty .
“You don’t have to feel sorry, Sila . Everyone has the right to feel angry or hostile . It’s normal . However, Sila will need to learn to control those feelings . You might only be a potential successor right now, but when you fully enter our world, you will get to experience the world the way Montra and I do . ”
“So, Dao, you will have to continue being Montra’s fiancée like this?”
“It’s just a political status, Sila . In fact, Dao still has the right to love whoever Dao prefers . Montra also knows this . He just took advantage of the fact that Sila didn’t know . This betrothal thing might be something big in your eyes, Sila . However, for us, we think that it’s rather regular . We have already become accustomed to it . . . Well, maybe we are the abnormal ones . Actually, something like this isn’t something we should be apathetic about . ”
Sangdao might not realize it herself, but she always used the term ‘We’ when she was talking about her and Montra . Of course, she meant in the way that they both belonged to the underground world . However, for Sila, he felt like there was some kind of special connection between Sangdao and Montra that he didn’t have the right to access . It was enough for him to want to plunge into their world right here and now .
Sangdao’s expression that showed a grievous smile told Sila that everyone had their own problems . Even he himself had so many secrets such as Joshua’s special brain scanners, the Sila Sword, his parents, Teacher Mora, and tons of profound arts which he wouldn’t and shouldn’t impart to others . Who was he to reprimand Sangdao for the fact that she didn’t tell him about her betrothal? In comparison, his secrets were even more impactful than the Wulin Masters Association .
Sangdao’s secret was something that everyone in the association knew except for himself . On the other hand, he couldn’t whisper a word about his secrets to another soul . Was he angry at Sangdao for not telling him her secret? Or was he angry at the fact that it was Montra who revealed her secret to him?
Nevertheless, these matters were no longer important . Sangdao could always capture the moments they spent together and make them precious for both of them, be it the Evening Near the Misty Valley or the Night in the Single-Horned Dragon Forest . It made Sila want to savor the moments and engrave them in his memory so that he could look back at them again when he found himself lost in the dark .
The distance between the two was gradually reduced as if there was some mysterious kind of magnetic force pulling them . The atmosphere of the primeval forest at night was chilling and quiet . The moon’s pale light was blocked by clouds, regrettably hiding its gaze from a memorable scene . Only a single star, which was shining weakly in the night sky, was the sole witness of a certain scene .
Sometimes, an unforgettable moment happened and was over in an instant . It was because that single instant was the most blissful, sincere, priceless, and purest moment . It was undeniable that people would desire to keep that moment for the rest of their life .
The lips of the two people touched and then separated in a matter of milliseconds . It was a subtle touch as light as a butterfly touching a flower petal . Personally, Sila actually wondered if the touch on his lip was a real butterfly . Because, in that flash, he felt his body become weightless, his head blank, and hundreds of butterflies in his stomach .
The two people withdrew from each other, letting the silence do its work . They turned their heads to different sides and didn’t dare to look at each other . Even they themselves couldn’t tell who was the first to lean toward the other . Only the star got to know the truth as it had witnessed the entire process, though it couldn’t tell anyone .
It would forever be the secret of the star .