Zazae approached and knelt down in front of Montra, who asked him to stand up and explain what happened in Zhongsuyuan City .
Zazae stoop up and removed his hood, revealing a big scar on his face .
Seeing it, Montra was reminded of Zero, the one who created this scar .
After some discussion, Zero was made aware of Montra’s final objective and agreed to join the Heavenly Dragon Guild . Naturally, Montra was still wary of Zero, as he seemed to only care about finding his old friend in the game . Even so, it couldn’t be denied that Zero was among the few who understood him and agreed with Montra’s method .
When Zero died, Montra received an automatically generated email set to send upon his death, and somehow felt like he lost something . He felt as if he had lost someone who understood him, who was also one of his greatest friends and foes .
Now that it was his turn to die, he could understand why Zero was that self-centered . A human’s lifespan is a limited resource . It is each person’s choice to live conservatively or to the fullest .
“Sir Montra . . . Are you listening?” Zazae could feel that Montra had stopped paying attention .
“Ah, sorry . . . My mind wandered to other things . ”
Zazae didn’t find it strange . Montra was the guild leader, and he worked hard without much time for rest . In fact, he had never seen Montra resting before . He could say that Montra was his role model who he worshipped, so he wanted to reduce his workload .
However, realizing that he had just made a mistake in the mission, Zazae felt disappointed in himself . He quickly told Montra what had happened in order to not waste any more of his leader’s precious time .
This morning in Zhongsuyuan City, a cloaked Zazae was walking among many people in the shadows of the pine trees . After the Five Dragon Warlords raided the gathering party and the emergence of the Emperor Rank monster, the city became more strict in scanning people coming in and out .
Still, with the war event edging closer with each day, every faction naturally wanted more money . Through both bribing and his disguise, Zazae could easily pass through the gate and step foot into the city .
The Victorious Wolves Sect’s weakest link was the inner structure of the guild . Most guild members were people who shared the same idol rather than feeling like they belonged in the guild . The guild was more like Lone Wolf’s Fan Club rather than an actual faction . Thus, most members couldn’t be entrusted with important tasks . In fact, even if a guild core member ordered all of the members to assemble, the number of people showing up would be less than half of the total guild members .
Zazae followed the instructions given to him by Montra to get to his destination . He attentively counted the number of pine trees that he had walked past and stopped his feet once he reached the twenty-fifth one . His sudden stop caused a person behind him to bump against his back .
“Ouch . I’m sorry . ” The one walking into him was an ordinary-looking young man .
Zazae wasn’t wearing a mask or covering his face right now . Regardless, no one would be able to tell he was the strongest Warlord since he had never showed his face in public .
“No problem . I’m sorry too,” Zazae replied flatly while the young man bowed his head to him once again before leaving .
Zazae turned left and walked into a narrow alley leading to one of the main streets . For the record, Zhongsuyuan City had two main streets intersecting at the middle of the city like a plus sign . There were many alleys, some wide and some narrow, throughout the city . If one looked at the city from the sky, they would see that the city had a layout similar to a chessboard with many rows and columns .
Zazae sensed a subtle cold wind blowing past him once he stepped into the alley, exactly as Montra had said . He walked to the end of the alley before turning right at the last crossroad . Then, he walked past three alleys on his left and entered the fourth one . He felt another chill once he entered . The feeling was exceptionally clear since Zhongsuyuan City was a tropical city .
The air in front of him blurred for a brief moment . People were still walking on the street but no one could see him . At the same time, he couldn’t touch anyone and they also couldn’t touch him . This indicated that he had passed through the Soul Gate, the door leading to the Lost Qi Kingdom .
The layout of the city was exactly the same as Zhongsuyuan City . Zazae walked to the center of the city, which was an empty square outside of this place . Inside, however, the space was taken up by a natural spring .
Zazae jumped into the spring but his body didn’t become wet . The surface of the spring seemed to be just a sheet of paper . His body slipped through the spring and eventually arrived in the Lost Qi Kingdom—the unnamed netherworld existing between the borders of life and death .
It was the most mysterious city in the New World . Only two players, though actually three, had visited this place .
For the record, the necessary condition that had to be met in order to arrive in the Lost Qi Kingdom was luck . On the other hand, the Lost Magic Kingdom required knowledge while the Lost Android Kingdom required bravery .
The method to enter this place was actually not difficult . The visitor had to consecutively pass through two Soul Gates existing somewhere in the city . The location of Soul Gates was random and could change without notice . Although Soul Gates were called gates, they bore no real form or substance . The only way to determine whether one had passed through one of these gates was the chilling wind that suddenly blows past .
Even though entering the city required great luck, the quests in Monster Soul always had alternative methods of completion . The other method to enter the Lost Qi Kingdom was for the visitor to be invited by someone who had entered before .
That was precisely why Montra had to find Zero . Unlike what he made others speculate, he didn’t seek the secret of dual-energy type, but the secret route to enter the Lost Qi Kingdom .
For the record, Zero was the very first player to step into this mysterious city by pure chance . It was also the city where he had sublimated his racial ability .
Zero, the Shadow Emperor, was originally a member of the horse race before he stepped into the Lost Qi Kingdom . Like the rest of the main three cities, there existed many quests for a player to complete . Quests found in the Lost Qi Kingdom were about the essence of qi—Fusion . Upon accomplishing a certain quest, Zero’s racial trait was fused with the soul race . His Red Horse species evolved into the Nightmare species—a being that was half-horse and half-evil spirit .
As a side note, the other two who had visited this city were none other than Montra and—unbeknownst to anyone else—Shueria, who had been given a hint by Crow .
Zazae’s gaze wandered around the city . The atmosphere was lonesome, giving him a chill on his neck . There were broken weapons scattered on the ground . The city’s silence made Zazae’s footsteps echo . In addition, his ears could detect senseless rattle through the blowing wind .
Arriving at a certain alley, Zazae finally found what Montra had told him he would find . In front of him was a jade plate floating next to a gem .
Zezae seized the jade plate first as instructed . As soon as the plate was within his hand, the silence intensified . The city was so silent that he could even hear the sound of his own heartbeats .
With the ambient noises deafened, Zazae could hear the sound of footsteps in a place where he was supposed to be alone . He quickly extended his hand toward the gem . However, his palm was suddenly shot as a hole appeared in it .
An arrow made of psychic power had penetrated his palm . Its power wasn’t lethal but it was soundless and formless, shot from a long distance away .
Another arrow hit the gem, making the rainbow-colored opal fall to the ground .
Zazae rushed to the gem without minding the injury on his hand . Nevertheless, the mysterious sharpshooter seemed to have predicted this . More arrows continued to strike the gem, sending it sliding along the ground .
Zazae was getting worried . His opponent specialized in long-range attacks while his attack range was from up close to a short distance away . As his enemy wasn’t in his sight, he couldn’t do anything but become their prey .
Dragon Domain — Fallen Kings .
Zazae went into combat mode . Unfortunately, his Dragon Domain would take some time to power up and start noticeably affecting his enemy . He unleashed the power of the Skeleton Dragon Scales as the black fog slowly shrouded him . He then activated Cruise Breeze through Frost Demon Qi in order to materialize ice walls made of qi above him for blocking incoming arrows .
Zazae rushed toward the gem while the ice walls properly blocked two arrows . However, before he could be relieved, he suddenly sensed psychic power from all directions as hundreds of small arrows curved and flew at him from his sides .
Zazae’s qi excelled in speed and offensive ability, just like Zero’s . As for his magic, it had the trait of weakening any opponents in melee range . Thus, he wasn’t good at defending against long-range attacks . He wouldn’t survive against the arrow rain if he kept trying to get the gem .
Exerting his qi, Zazae stomped the ground and pulled cement plates up . He then utilized Cross’ object-controlling psychic power to form walls on both of his sides before strengthening them through his qi and accelerating his speed, sprinting after the gem .
Zazae’s hand was very close to the gem when it magically flew out of his reach as if it was being controlled by an invisible hand . Inspecting the gem, Zazae found that some kind of qi was enveloping it . He looked to the right and noticed Beluga standing in the distance, a playful smile on his face . The gem’s weird movements must be the work of his Distant Little Whale .
Zazae didn’t dare to underestimate Beluga . He concentrated his power into a metal ball attached to his chain through the Ray Assemble qi technique before throwing it at his target .
Beluga was still calm . He materialized invisible hands to parry the metal ball .
Suddenly, a black blade penetrated Zazae’s back, precisely avoiding his bones and stabbing through his heart .
Zazae lowered his gaze to the blade in his chest, yet it vanished the moment the thrust was completed .
Elso jumped back . The black sword was in his hand, and red blood could be seen on the blade .
Everything was a trap . Zazae realized it at that moment . In a direct confrontation, these three—Nednapha, Elso, and Beluga—wouldn’t be his match . However, Beluga had planned ahead by having Elso hide under the gem and lure him to target Beluga before dealing a finishing blow to him in an instant . Their teamwork and preparation were on a different level compared to Lone Wolf and Cross . As expected of the Mountain Thieves League, the guild that the Heavenly Dragon Guild had never managed to eliminate despite their long enmity .
Beluga pulled the gem into his hand with his qi while staring at Zazae’s collapsing body .
“No need to pretend to die, Zazae . You have the Dragon Heart skill . We won’t be tricked . ”
Zazae slowly stood up . Light flashed from his body once and every wound disappeared .
“Does Montra think he is the only smart guy in the world? The reason why a small guild like us has survived for so long is because we are attentive to details, more so than other guilds . Montra is a danger to my guild . Our men check the race rankings every hour . ”
Zazae glared at the gem in Beluga’s hand . “You don’t understand the importance of that gem . It may be damaged if I’m too heavy-handed . Give it to me and I will spare your lives . ”
Beluga exerted more strength in his grip . “It’s you who doesn’t understand a thing . This Gem of Catastrophe will disappoint me if it breaks so easily . Yet, even if it does, it won’t be a loss for us at all . ”
Zazae was anxious . Beluga was right . The gem belonged to the Heavenly Dragon Guild . Even if it was destroyed, it wouldn’t cause any problems for the Mountain Thieves League . On the other hand, the Heavenly Dragon Guild would lose a priceless asset .
“If you really want this gem back, tell Montra I’m willing to trade . Give the Mountain Thieves League this city . We can discuss after that . ”
“That’s such a scam!”
Beluga cleared his throat . “Ahem . I’m the Mountain Thieves League’s leader . Did you forget?”
Naturally, Zazae didn’t have the right to decide . In fact, he wouldn’t agree to Beluga’s offer even if he did . Conquering the three main cities was part of the master plan . Their value couldn’t be compared to the gem .
With how the conversation was developing, Zazae decided to threaten Beluga . “You still have a chance to choose . The world of Monster Soul is about to undergo great change . Return the gem to me if you still treasure your guild . Do so and I will act like nothing happened here today . You have been warned . The future of your Mountain Thieves League depends on your very next action . ”
“Oh? You are telling me the value of this one gem equals the entirety of my Mountain Thieves League? Indeed, I have to decide this carefully . Um . . . ” Beluga soon shook his head . “Unfortunately, we are just a small guild . We are only interested in what is actually in front of us today, not later . If you won’t accept my offer, then that’s it . The future is uncertain . I’m content with what’ve we stole here . We will get nothing from counting our chickens before they hatch . ”
Beluga and Elso took Crystals of Connecting out simultaneously . Zazae could do nothing when the two disappeared .
Without the gem, the guardians of the city soon woke up from their long slumber . Several souls appeared from nothingness . Even so, Zazae was safe from them since this city had already been unsealed and fallen into Montra’s hands .
To unseal Zhongsuyuan City, the jade plate was required . Meanwhile, to conquer the city, the challenger had to survive being chased by the city’s guardians for thirty days . They would deem the challenger qualified to become their ruler only when they couldn’t manage to kill the challenger within that time frame .
The guardians were monsters of the soul race . They were living incorporeal matters made of qi that could phase through solid objects . All physical attacks, and even some magic, would be useless against them . Even though they weren’t exceptionally powerful, they were the kind of opponents that were difficult to cope with, especially considering their numbers . They could follow the challenger everywhere and continue their attacks every night until the sun rose . Thus, the city-conquering quest was extremely harsh and bothersome .
That was why Montra relied on a strategy to accomplish the quest . He utilized the Nightfall Opal, one of the Gems of Catastrophe with the conceptual ability of ‘Sleep,’ to handle the guardians .
As soon as he initiated the quest, Montra activated the power of the gem to make every monster fall asleep . After that, he only had to wait until thirty days had passed before entrusting Zazae to finish the quest . Even though this move was risky because he had to leave the gem behind, he was quite confident that no one aside from Zero could enter the mysterious city .
Unbeknownst to Montra, after Beluga had listened to Sila’s warning about the Impossible Quest from the Goddess, he was the only one in the group to take this matter seriously .
Given a clue, the first thing Beluga did was assess the situation . Montra had to conquer all three main cities as a prerequisite of the quest . Thus, Montra or at least his representative had to go to the remaining two cities in order to unseal them .
Dividing his forces wasn’t something Beluga could manage given the small size of his guild, not to mention how most members had to handle logistics, trading, grinding levels, and protecting the guild headquarters . It was also a waste of time to assemble all of the members for an event that may or may not happen . As such, he could only watch over one city .
Grea City or Zhongsuyuan City—It didn't matter which one he should protect since either of them was the correct choice . In the end, Beluga selected Zhongsuyuan City due to three reasons .
The first reason was that Grea City was managed by Cross while Lost Grea City was managed by Sila . The Wicked Union was loosely established, so sending his people into the two cities could cause unnecessary conflict .
The second reason was similar to the first . Zhongsuyuan City was considered to be equally split between Lone Wolf’s guild and the Mountain Thieves League . Beluga had been on good terms with Lone Wolf for quite a while and the guild headquarters was located nearby . In addition, most of his guild members frequently went in and out of this city . They naturally had a good relationship with the residents .
The last reason was the higher chance of success . Zazae might think that he was unlucky to be spotted by Beluga and tracked down . However, the fact was Beluga had his men following every single stranger . Zhongsuyuan City was a trading city . Most players were merchants or middlemen who were entering and exiting the city regularly . Sure, there were some genuinely new faces, but this group of players wasn’t difficult to distinguish . Players who visited the city for the first time would naturally be interested in the items sold in every corner of the city or at least get lost occasionally . On the other hand, Zazae confidently walked down the street with a destination in mind . There were only a few dozen of such players who appeared in the city each day . It was totally possible to tail every one of them .
Having heard the entire story, Montra sighed . “Good grief . I understand now . The opposing side was Beluga . This guy is even trickier to cope with than Cross or Lone Wolf . ”
“Is Beluga that strong?”
Montra explained, “Regarding fighting ability, Beluga is undoubtedly weaker than those two . So he is surely no match against you, someone who has defeated the other two in one fight before . Even so, his personality is tricky . It isn’t that he is exceptionally smart but that he is good at using people, gaining favor from them . He also knows when to attack and when to retreat . In the last war, the Mountain Thieves League was the only guild aside from our guild that survived until the end of the event . If I have to describe him in one sentence, I would say that he is the person with the most flexible mind . ”
Montra was secretly worried . Just a single gem in Beluga’s hands was going to be more terrifying than the two gems in Sila’s hands . The reason he thought this way was because he knew Beluga walked a path similar to his, one all about achieving the impossible It was even the Mountain Thieves League’s motto .
“Tell everyone to assemble,” Montra declared after breaking his silence . Zazae nodded and started sending messages out, instructing all of the members to gather in the guild square .