There was a spacious forest with wide gaps between leafless trees . It was difficult to tell whether they were trees locked within ice or just tree-shaped ice sculptures . The wind was blowing gently, dropping snow on the travelers’ clothing . It took Sila and his group two days to reach this place after leaving Grea City . According to Bluebird, they were three quarters of the way to their final destination . It was thanks to the Fairy Kingdom that they could make such exceptional progress .
Sila looked ahead blankly . His feet continued to move without him paying attention to the way he was walking . He sneakily summoned Moon Reflecting Mirror on his palm . He was conversing with Dark Self in secret .
“What kind of person do you think Montra is? Is he a good guy or a bad one?”
“What do you think yourself? Good or bad?” Dark Self asked back .
“Why do you like to answer my questions with another question?”
“You are doing the same—asking me a question instead of answering mine . Kukuku . ”
Listening to Dark Self, Sila frowned . He was seeking an answer and not in the mood to play around . In any case, Dark Self was aware of Sila’s thoughts . He sighed once and gave Sila a serious look .
“I have an answer, but I doubt you’ll like it . You’re biased and already have your own answer . You only want me to support your beliefs . In any case, my answer is Montra is just an average person . Rather, he leans toward the good-guy side . ”
Sila furrowed his brows . It was his first time hearing someone saying Montra was an average person . Surprisingly, that someone was Dark Self, or rather himself .
“Montra is a good guy? Do you think so because of Lomyok’s story? I’m sure he must be planning something . Maybe he planned to exploit Lomyok in the future . ”
“See? I told you wouldn’t like my answer . Since you so strongly believe your opinion, why did you bother asking for mine?”
Hearing Dark Self’s reply, Sila calmed himself down . “I’m sorry . . . Can you explain?”
Dark Self nodded . “We’ve been set up to be his enemy since the very beginning, so it wasn’t weird for Montra to show us hostility the way he did . If it were me, as long as the opposing person is my enemy, regardless of the kind of person he is, I won’t hesitate to eliminate him, just like Montra . However, what about unrelated people? For example, Lomyok, who Montra met accidentally . If it were you who stumbled on a stranger who was holding something very important to you, would you take violent action and snatch it from him?”
“I wouldn’t do that . ”
“Yes, I know . Montra was the same . Moreover, instead of acquiring the Hell Jade for free, he did a favor in return . That’s why I said he leans toward the good-guy side . For the kind of person Montra is, he is merciless against his enemies . However, against his comrades, he won’t complain even if he is betrayed and stabbed in the back . He is the type to repay favours and avenge grievances . We are his enemies, so we see only his merciless side . ”
“ . . . Is that so?”
“I’m never prejudiced . I look at things from many angles . Regardless, it isn’t important whether my opponent is a saint or a devil . As long as they obstruct my path, I will destroy them all the same . ”
Dark Self was Sila’s inner thoughts . He had no bias, so he could look deeper at things compared to Sila . However, at the same time, the way he didn’t care whether his opponents were good guys or villains meant he lacked morality .
Humans naturally have times when they want to do bad things . However, not all humans turn out to be criminals . There is a line separating those who do and those who don’t commit a crime . That line is called a conscience .
What stops us when we are about to commit a crime is the voice of conscience which reminds us of what is right and wrong, and prevents us from performing bad deeds .
Such a conscience is born from learning, experience, and discipline . It is also born from socialization .
Socialization was, in fact, another form of bias . Dark Self was devoid of it, so his point of view was broad and profound . Yet, at the same time, he didn’t fully understand the concept of ethics .
In any case, he was merely one half of Sila .
Sila fell into thought . If he followed Dark Self’s line of thinking, many suspicious things in his mind would be cleared up . For example, how could a seemingly good person like Kawin became Montra’s friend, and how some people said Montra was evil while others hailed him to the point Sila found it unbearable .
“What about Kimon?” Sila asked shortly .
“They are surely related to the Wulin Masters Association . Montra wouldn’t drive his guildmates away otherwise,” replied Dark Self . The matter regarding the Wulin Masters Association was a secret to outsiders, so he could infer this much based off Montra’s actions .
“Are they our friends or foes?” Sila asked again . In fact, he had his own answer . Still, he wanted a different opinion from Dark Self .
“Both,” replied Dark Self . It was the same answer Sila had in his mind . This meant their existences were slowly merging without them noticing . Sila started to think like Dark Self while Dark Self started to become like Sila .
Both friends and foes . This was the type of relationship Sila currently assigned to Kimon, or rather Hell’s Gate . Even though they acted like they were siding with him and clearly showed hostility toward Montra, Sila had never heard of them yet Kimon seemed to know him very well . It implied that they investigated him, which could mean they intend to exploit him somehow .
In short, until he knew what Kimon and their objectives were . . . he shouldn’t trust Kimon .
“Both Montra and Kimon have yet to realize that we accidentally know about their encounter . We can make use of this fact,” Dark Self proposed .
“Do you think the Three Elders know about them?” asked Sila .
Dark Self raised his brow and looked back at Sila as if asking him, ‘Do you seriously need me to answer that?’
“You’re right . . . If Montra knows about them, there is no way the Elders don’t . The problem is . . . how can we learn what they are?”
“If we seek the truth, the shortest way is to ask Teacher . Teacher Mora is the only person who won’t lie to us . At worst, he simply won’t explain . ”
“I will have to find a way to contact him, then,” Sila replied to himself and deactivated Moon Reflecting Mirror . He opened his system window . Although he didn’t have his teacher’s contact information, he remembered Mora once sent him a message from the outside world . He could simply use the reply function to send a message back to his teacher .
Sila searched his inbox and eventually found Mora’s message among the rest of the letters which he had never deleted . Sila wrote a message expressing his desire to meet Mora and hit the reply button .
It had been a while since Sila last met his teacher . If he included the time he spent in the Desert of Death, he had gone longer without seeing him than during the period of time when he thought Mora was missing .
‘The time in the game flows five times faster than outside . I will have to wait for a while before getting in touch with Teacher . ’
Sila smiled happily as one of the problems was going to be solved . To be honest, his life in Monster Soul was stressful as it was filled with battles . Knowing he would meet his respected teacher soon helped his mind relax .
Meanwhile, Bluebird, like others, was silently observing Sila’s suspicious actions through side glances .
“What’s up with him? He just made a serious face a moment ago but now he is smiling alone,” Bluebird whispered to Burapha .
“You should ask him directly, Big Brother Blue . Don’t interrupt my training,” replied Burapha . He was concentrating on his training regarding controlling his psychic power, so he was slightly annoyed by Bluebird nagging him .
Suddenly, the uninvited Lomyok walked in between the two . “I believe I know what Sila was stressing about . ”
Lomyok tucked his fan into his belt and nodded . “Of course . I used to be the same . ”
“You? Have you ever stressed?” asked Bluebird . He tried to imagine Lomyok in serious mode but his imagination couldn’t produce such a result .
“Occasionally, yes . Did you notice that Sila was hiding a mirror in his hand until just now?”
“I did see he was holding something shiny . It may or may not have been a mirror . ”
“It was a mirror, I assure you . Sila must have been worried that thinking too hard probably negatively affected his beauty, so he checked his face using his mirror . Then, seeing that there were no visible wrinkles, he felt relieved and smiled delightfully . ” Lomyok was absolutely sure in his deduction .
Burapha could finally maintain his psychic power . “I don’t think that was the case . I saw Big Brother Sila muttering something to himself as well . ”
“He was obviously encouraging himself through the mirror . It’s one of the techniques to boost your own confidence . I told you I used to do that a lot . Just take a look . ”
Lomyok took out a mirror from his system window without minding Burapha and Bluebird’s reactions .
“Mirror, mirror, on my hand, who’s the fairest of them all? . . . Aha!! What did you just say? Did you say the Deity Lomyok? Haha . That’s of course . Who else can it be?”
Bluebird was fed up . “How can a person become this shameless and narcissistic?”
“Oh, I truly want you to see your own face when you were retelling ‘Legends of the Sky Emperor’ . It made me embarrassed to be your acquaintance . . . Yeah, I also wonder how a person can become this shameless and narcissistic . ” Burapha clicked his tongue as he reprimanded Bluebird using his own words .
“I’m not narcissistic,” Bluebird argued .
“Yeah, yeah, Mister Selfless . Please don’t disturb my training, will you? I need to maintain my focus . I want to be skilled at this before we reach Belacia City . ”
“I am not disturbing you . . . By the way, do you really not intend to ride the Snow Bison? That sucks . You even managed to borrow it . Hahaha!”
Burapha was annoyed . He furrowed his brows . “I think I better walk with Mister Asura . Maybe he will teach me some psychic-type techniques . ”
Burapha didn’t wait for Bluebird’s response as he hurriedly walked up to Asura .
The Winter Forest was quieter than everyone expected . There was neither trouble nor crisis as Mamon predicted . Mamon was still very positive about his prediction though . He was always grinning as he swept his gaze, trying to find some enjoyment .
Finally, heaven seemed to respond to Mamon’s prediction . Sebastian, who was leading, stopped his feet, and the whole crew also came to a stop .
“We are surrounded . . . ” Sebastian announced curtly .
Hundreds of transparent blue silhouettes floated out from the trees, rocks, and slopes . They all shared the same appearance, which was that of a young girl with vacant eyes . They were classified as a type of fairy . Sila even had a chance to encounter them before when he fought the Snow Dragon Dorolia . They were snow fairies .
The Winter Forest was the habitat of the Snow Dragon Dorolia, who lived peacefully with snow fairies . Naturally, those who wanted to slay Dorolia had to fight the snow fairies as they were allies . Nevertheless, some players could avoid the conflict with the snow fairies by cleverly becoming a member of the fairy race like Ginny . She could fight Dorolia in a one-on-one battle that way .
“Alas, you made me panic for nothing . These snow fairies aren’t aggressive monsters . We can simply walk past them . ” Bluebird shrugged . Although he had never seen a large group of snow fairies before, he was still confident . It was obvious that he was . He had been to the Winter Forest twice .
Unfortunately, the cold wind that could freeze even souls told him otherwise . Bluebird jumped back in the last instant before the wind the snow fairies blew froze him into a statue .
“Oi! What are they doing?”
“Anguish . . . anguish . . . We resent you . . . ” A voice of anguish from each snow fairy resounded . They echoed and struck everyone’s hearts . The sound was lonely, depressing, and profound .
The temperature dropped sharply . The distance between each tree became blurred, so far yet so close . The energy reinforcement covering everyone's body started to malfunction . The group prepared for battle as they increased their energy output . Only Mamon remained unfazed as though the cold didn’t affect him while Franz ate one Purgatory Pellet to produce heat from within her body .
Sebastian looked around . “Mn . . . This is such a high-level spell . It is one of the Ancient Magics . ”
Bluebird grinned . “If they are the result of a spell, I will take care of them . I will send them all to their birthplace . ”
Sebastian smirked . He looked at Bluebird with a gentle gaze as if looking at a child who knew nothing . “Don’t waste your time, sir . I have seen your skill . An Ancient Magic is far more profound and complicated than elemental magic or even secret magic you can find throughout the world . The one in front of us is one such Ancient Magic . It is a maze-type spell named Ice Labyrinth of Resentful Spirits . I speculate that the spell must have been cast and installed here long, long ago . It seemed to activate only when certain conditions were met . Its source of energy must be these hundreds of snow fairies . Not only is it forbidding us from going outside, but the temperature will also continue to drop . I don’t think we can hope to survive unless we break the spell from the outside . ”
“Anguish . . . anguish . . . We resent you who bathed in the blood of dragons—our dear allies . . . ”
“You who bathed in the blood of dragons . . . ? Damn, Sila, you brought us more trouble again,” Bluebird complained . Indeed, he was aware that the fairy race and the dragon race were on good terms . However, he had never heard of instances when the fairies took offensive actions for the sake of avenging dragons, not to mention creating a domain to trap them inside like this .
Burapha argued, “We both once killed a dragon too . Did you forget, Big Brother? Maybe the spell activated because of all of us . ”
Sebastian nodded . “That is possible, sir . The spell shouldn’t be this strong in normal circumstances . Is there anyone here who has never slain a dragon?”
Franz, Asura, and Sebastian had all lived for a long time, so obviously they had killed dragons a few times . Bluebird and Burapha once helped Sila kill the Water Dragon Leviathan, and Sila’s history of dragonslaying clearly made him qualified for the condition . In the end, every gaze fell on Lomyok .
“Does killing Wyverns count?” Lomyok replied nonchalantly .
“It might, sir . I am not sure about it myself . Well, in short, everyone in this group has killed dragons before . That must be the reason the spell activated . What a coincidence,” said Sebastian .
Nevertheless, Burapha and Bluebird’s gazes alternated between Sila and Lomyok as they thought, ‘Is it truly a coincidence?’
Sila felt something was out of place . He couldn’t sense Mamon . He turned back and found that Mamon had really disappeared, though he didn’t know when .
“Where is Mamon?” asked Sila . Everyone started to look for him, but they couldn’t find Mamon even though he was there just a few seconds ago .
“Don’t tell me he got lost in the maze,” said Bluebird .
“I personally think he will be fine . We should be more worried about ourselves, sir . ” Not only Sebastian, but Sila also believed that Mamon would be fine by himself . He may have even escaped from the maze already .
Who knows? He might even be laughing as he looked down and mocked them from the outside as they spoke .