“What do you mean?” Sila’s voice got louder . He was enraged . His right hand, which had extended and was reaching for Himeko’s shoulder, was strengthened by his qi without him knowing .
Himeko didn’t dodge . She wasn’t even shocked by his sudden action . All she did was snap her fingers once .
The subtle sound of the snap instantly made Sila’s body feel icy cold while his hand was engulfed in flames . He instinctively pulled his hand back .
“Please calm down . ” Himeko’s voice was as light as a whisper, and it made the flame extinguish in no time at all .
Sila looked at his heavily-burnt hand . He circulated Recovering Qi to heal it .
Himeko took a Freezing Potion out and poured the liquid onto Sila’s hand, reducing the pain he felt .
Inspecting the injury, Sila found that it was made by his own qi .
“Goddess’ Resonance . . . ” Sila muttered to himself .
“Are you ready to listen?”
Against Goddess’ Resonance, Sila had to keep his cool, and possess an undisturbed state of mind . Sila recalled Moon Reflecting Mirror and calmed himself down .
“Explain . ”
Himeko didn’t find it strange that Sila chose to calm his mind . The Flaming Cloud Dojo used to be a part of Kimon . It was entirely possible that Elder Mora had already told Sila the characteristics of the four dark arts .
“My avatar name is Vata . Do you understand what this implies, Sila?”
Sila abruptly replied, “Don’t beat around the bush . Just explain . ”
Himeko showed a faint smile . “I will do just that . The truth is that the real Vata died two years ago . She died with her mother in the same car accident . ”
Sila frowned . He had a constantly growing list of questions, but he knew Himeko was about to explain more .
“At that time, the three of them—Vata, Varee, and their mother—went outside together . When the accident happened, the two girls only received minor scrapes, but their mother was heavily injured . The two of them were extremely worried about her, so only first aid had been applied to them before they rushed from their nursing room to their mother’s . When their mother died, Vata shouted at her father and left the hospital . ”
About this, Sila knew most of it from talking with Rashane and Varee . Still, he couldn’t see how Vata’s death was related .
“The main point is . . . I was nearby at that time and heard the sound of her injuries . Vata didn’t only have small injuries like everyone thought . In fact, her internal organs had been severely damaged, but this had gone undetected . After running for a while, she collapsed in an alley and eventually died .
“I took a chance to seize her persona, starting by calling Varee and telling her that I wouldn’t return home for a while . I spent two years becoming Vata . I underwent plastic surgery and investigated her background, including extracting her secrets by gradually talking with Varee . Finally, I reached the point where no one can tell that I’m a fake . Even Vata’s father has no idea . ”
Sila finally understood the real reason why Vata left for such a long time . Himeko belonged to Kimon . She would’ve had a lot of missions to take care of . That was why she pretended to not forgive Rashane—in order for her to have freedom .
“Why were you there?” Sila asked, straight to the point .
“Elder Mora only has a few friends, and Rashane is one of his close ones . We had many things to do back then, and stalking Rashane’s family was one of them . ”
“You said you heard the sounds of her grave injuries . Why didn’t you tell someone else?”
“As a spy, I have a strict duty to not leak my personal information . I wouldn’t risk meddling in others’ affairs and making things more complicated . ”
“ . . . Where is her grave?”
“There is no such things in Kimon . The dead simply return to the soil . I used Corpse-Disposing Powder to speed up the decomposition of her body in that alley . ”
Sila thought life was so unnerving . The more he knew, the more he became afraid of learning more about this underground world . How could life be this difficult and complicated?
The Vata he knew never existed . She had been Himeko the whole time . That meant Sila had never come into contact with the woman named Vata . Nevertheless, hearing that she had died still filled him with grief . Why did he feel this way? Could it be that he sympathized with her life, which was so lonely? No one close to her knew she had died . There wasn’t even a ceremony to honor her memory . No one ever mourned for her .
“Sila, if you don’t like that I’m disguised as Vata, we can change it after everything is done . We can find a fake corpse and create a fake accident for Vata’s death . No one will suspect a thing, I promise . ”
Sila released a sigh of exhaustion . “ . . . Leave it . I don’t want to hear anymore . I will fix this problem later . You can be Vata for now . Let’s meet again tomorrow at midday . ”
Himeko was aware that Sila was driving her away . She said nothing as she nodded once before leaving with the wind .
For a long time, Sila gazed at several dazzling stars in the sky .
He now had several comrades fighting alongside him . However, why did he feel even lonelier than the time when he fought by himself?
Sila reopened his eyes again late the next morning . He went over his profound arts in his mind and reminded himself of all the problems he faced . Even now, he could only come up with incomplete solutions, but every method he could think of always led to someone else suffering the consequences of his plan . No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t come up with a solution that would lead to a happy ending for all involved parties .
Could it be that there were no win-win situations for everybody in real life? Could it be that one’s happiness must always mean the other’s agony?
Sila jumped along the rooftops . The city’s people seemed to be more energetic than usual today . They were all checking their equipment and weapons, wearing serious expressions . Noticing Sila, they all slightly nodded at him before continuing to mind their own business .
Receiving their nods, Sila felt a strange sensation . No one had ever given him their respect in the past, yet today he had so many people who would follow him . To be honest, he was half proud and half scared .
Mamon was busy setting up a certain machine in the middle of the city . He even exerted his psychic power to assemble many machine-looking parts together, building a tall, illuminating pillar . In front of the machine was a control panel full of unreadable inscriptions . Many players, as well as Bul the Dwarf King, were looking at it with interest .
“Your item modification skill is truly otherworldly,” Earthy complimented . He was a member of the android race, so he possessed a moderate level of mastery regarding item modification, yet Mamon’s mastery was so far beyond his imagination .
“This is nothing . Materials in the New World are too shoddy compared to the ones found in the Monster Realm, so this is the most I can do . If I could use items from the Monster Realm, this thing would only amount to a mere toy . ”
Five holographic windows floated in front of Mamon, which he stared at while inputting more commands . All of the spectators was afraid of disturbing his concentration, so they fell silent .
Since he liked to know as much as he could about any and every item he came across, Burapha was among the players surrounding Mamon . When he saw Sila, he shifted his gaze from Mamon and walked over to greet his friend .
“Big Brother, are you ready?”
Sila nodded . He asked, “Is everything okay, Mamon?”
Mamon replied without looking back, “Everything is fine . I’m now tuning the frequency to match that of the Dragon Kingdom . ”
“How long can the spatial gate be maintained for?” asked Sila .
“In the best case scenario where it isn’t attacked? Around six hours . ”
Sila nodded . He had heard from Mamon before that Mamon was going to use the invitation card as a medium to connect the pillar to the Dragon Kingdom, forcefully expanding a spatial gateway—that normally only allowed one person to pass through—to become public transportation .
Sila didn’t tell anyone that he planned to leave the group to accomplish his own quest . His plan was centered around having several people act as vanguards to clash against dragons while he left to go take care of Aurora and Tiamat .
Sebastian and some players and monsters would remain in Belacia City in order to protect the city from external factors . As for those who would raid the Dragon Kingdom, they consisted only of the ones with enough confidence in their ability to survive . For the record, they were divided into five groups .
The first group was assigned the duty of protecting the machine until everyone had finished retreating from the raid . The leader of this group was naturally Mamon, who was most familiar with his creation .
The second group was an assault team, tasked with killing as many dragons as they could . The core members were Lookhin and several strong players from Belacia City .
The third group was a support team . Their duties included collecting dragon remains in order to extract materials . The core member was Clute .
The fourth group was quite special . Their role was flexible—doing everything they could to help the three aforementioned teams . The members of the team were Lord Rank monsters—Asura, Franz, Gigan, Saki, Karum, Margaret, Alex, and Kuroha .
The last group only had Sila and Himeko . He told everyone that he was going to provide help in the most dangerous spot when he was actually going to find the two dragons while Himeko would provide support .
Sila had told everyone that they would return from the Dragon Kingdom after a while . Sila’s ‘a while’ obviously meant the period of time required for him to kill Aurora and Tiamat . He would send a retreat signal to everyone, and that would be the end of this dragon-hunting event .
“Wow . What is everyone doing? The atmosphere is very lively . ” A voice that Sila hadn’t heard for a while rang out . Turning his head, Sila spotted a person who he hadn’t met for some time .
“This way, Mister Lomyok,” Sila called out to him .
Lomyok leaped through people at extreme speed . His feet precisely stopped in front of Sila yet left no trail on the snow . On his body was the usual Queen’s Spirit Raiment, with a coat made of beautiful white fur covering it . His body exuded an elegant charm . People began to notice him, but he was too used to being gazed at for their stares to bother him .
“Mister Lomyok . It’s been quite a while . Where have you been?”
“Oh, nothing much,” said Lomyok . He was looking around . “Where are you going? Everyone seems like they are preparing for war . ”
Sila smiled . Lomyok was still being Lomyok as always . “We are going to raid the Dragon Kingdom . How about it? Do you want to go with us?”
“The Dragon Kingdom? Interesting . I haven’t been there . Since you’re inviting me, I won’t decline your offer . ”
Sila nodded . “Mister Lomyok, you just got here so you won’t know we have already split into groups . Mind if I ask you to join the fourth group?”
“Oh, so there are many groups . What is the role of the fourth group, then?”
“Mainly giving your support to the remaining groups, I’d say . ” As Lomyok didn’t ask further questions, Sila got a chance to ask him back, “How was the Hall of Omniscience?”
Lomyok unfolded his fan and waved at himself . “More boring than I thought . It’s a giant library full of books . Altia said I was free to do anything in the hall as long as I stayed there for a day . I toured around, appreciating the beauty of the library until I was tired and fell asleep . Once I woke up, Altia said everything had finished . ”
“Eh? You didn’t need to do anything?”
“Mn . Altia said the hall would automatically temper me during the course of my stay . Well, I didn’t believe him at first . However, I admitted he was telling me the truth when I tried using my power . Every skill suddenly became easier to use . Thus, I seized the chance to visit the Monster Realm . ”
“You went to the Monster Realm?” Sila was surprised .
“Mn . . . What a coincidence . You know what? The place where we are standing connects to the Sunless City in the Monster Realm . That city is now the undead race’s territory, so I was welcomed nicely and eventually met the Zombie King . Hearing that the first human to step into the Monster Realm belongs to his race, the Zombie King was delighted . Not only did he teach me how to use the ultimate skill of the race—Immortal Corpse—which I took from a player with the name Vlad or something like that, but he also taught me Vast Sky Qi—his signature qi .
“We ate, drank, and played together for many days . Sometimes he even brought me to visit nearby territories belonging to other races . The Zombie King took the Bison King’s fur in my possession to have the Spider Queen who lived in the nearby forest make a coat for me, promising her that in exchange he wouldn’t invade the spider race’s territory for ten years . Many things happened . I stayed there until I was bored, then I bid him farewell and returned here . ”
Apparently, the ultimate skill of the undead race was once in Vlad’s possession, yet the system transferred it to Lomyok when he visited the Hall of Omniscience as it recognized him as the best player of the race .
Sila had already noticed that Lomyok was stronger than the last time they spoke . He could use Sky-Soaring White Horse Magical Qi so skillfully and magnificently, even better than Sila despite the fact that they both received magical qi at the same time .
Most people seemed to doubt Sila’s decision to invite a stranger into the raiding party . Some were even aware that he was Lomyok, the biggest clown in Monster Soul, the wandering martial artist who was first in the beauty ranking yet had never won a single combat-related tournament . Still, no one dared to object Sila’s decision . Eventually, as they belonged to the same group, Lomyok approached the Lord Rank monsters and initiated a conversation .
Seeing this, someone respected his bravery for fearlessly talking with Lord Rank monsters, and thought this could be expected of the man who the Monster Emperor recognized .
Lomyok had stayed with the Zombie King and his undead minions for a week . He even had experienced conversing with some Emperor Rank monsters such as the Fairy Queen or the Android King . Therefore, he didn’t think that talking with monsters was weird . He also didn’t even find it odd that people were giving him strange looks .
Noticing Lomyok’s arrival, Clute joined the conversation and greeted him . Clute asked about the Sunless City, which Lomyok gladly told the boy what he had seen . Asura also found the conversation interesting . The three of them then talked intimately .
“It’s time!” shouted Mamon . His words caused everyone to stop chatting .
Sila stepped forward, reaching the front of the glowing twin tower . He shouted, “Are you ready?!”
“Let’s go!” Sila declared when Mamon pressed the blue button . Soon, the atmosphere was shaking like space itself was going to crumble .
“Five minutes before the warp . Prepare yourself,” Mamon declared .