Darkness enveloped the space around them at a terrifying rate . Joshua’s bottomless power was so overwhelming that it even blotted out the light coming from the sun . His qi, magic, and psychic power eclipsed and removed all color from the scenery .
At that moment, Montra felt he had fallen into the deepest abyss . He was like a small fish, lost at the bottom of the sea where it was so dark and suffocating . It was difficult for him to even move his finger .
Montra unleashed the power of Grand Deity’s Breathing . His body became incredibly stable as he didn’t even breathe . In fact, he had already become a part of the void as he had abandoned his humanity and entered the state of semi-godhood .
Joshua’s voice could be heard amidst the darkness . “Grand Deity’s Breathing is not a combat art . The more you exert its power, the sooner you will die . ”
Montra maintained his composure . Joshua’s words were in line with the warning written on the first page, stating that Grand Deity’s Breathing wasn’t invented for combat . Nevertheless, even when Montra had reached the final stage, he still didn’t understand the Tiger God’s intention .
“What makes Grand Deity’s Breathing a dark art is not its price for practicing it . That’s what people misunderstand . It’s a dark art due to the art owner’s objective . In fact, this art has no downside at all . . . Death is what the art owner sought from the very start . ”
A profound art that was invented just to make the practitioner die? Although Montra was smart, he had no idea why such an art existed .
“You may think it’s ridiculous . But I have seen Hu Xian’s memories . . . it’s an unbelievable story . It even helped my research a great deal . Unfortunately, I wasn’t there at that time . Otherwise, Cynthia would have been resurrected by now . ”
Joshua’s words made Montra wonder . What was it that the Tiger God had encountered? He was the embodiment of legends of the martial world, so Montra was naturally curious about his story . It was his desire as a profound practitioner, especially as it was a tale related to the person who created the very art that was sapping his life .
“I will tell you if you win against me . . . No, you won’t believe me even if I tell you . Even I initially dismissed it . I will let you see a part of Hu Xian’s memory then . Agree?”
Montra didn’t give a reply . He couldn’t afford to divide his attention anymore . He tightened his grip on his magical spear and unleashed most of his power .
A battle between spear masters often ended in a single move .
God’s Realm Spear Art — Spear Returning Isanami .
God’s Realm Spear Art only has ten moves, with each being based off a different mythological spear . They were Spear Readying Brionac, Spear Brandishing Sattaloha, Spear Shaking Gungnir, Spearless Longinus, Spear Pulling Gáe Bulg, Spear Throwing Mokkhasak, Spear Thrusting Shemao, Spear Dropping Eight Trigrams, Spear Spinning Rhongomyniad, and Spear Borrowing Izanagi .
Despite not being in the ten listed moves, Spear Returning Isanami isn’t a new eleventh move . The heart of Sky Dragon Dojo is the shape of a circle . Every art from each disciple always adhered to this concept—be it Kawin’s bare-handed art, Revin’s sword art, or Montra’s spear art .
The tenth and final move—Spear Borrowing Izanagi—was Montra using the other nine moves simultaneously in a sequential manner, cycling endlessly . On the other hand, Spear Returning Isanami was him reversing the sequence, cycling to the very beginning and abandoning all of the moves . Only the foundations of spearmanship remained . Although the move’s name sounded grand, it was ultimately a mere simple thrust with no following move .
“Rhythm of Martial Radiance . ”
Except for Joshua, the abyss and all it held gradually vanished from Montra’s perception . Even his trustworthy spear no longer mattered as it was released from his hand . The only spear Montra wielded was his own mind . His body became relaxed and his mind was no longer pressured by the tension .
The moment Montra’s power weakened, Joshua attacked . Joshua’s black spear thrust forward as soon as Montra’s magical spear dropped to the ground . The red tassel ignited, seemingly becoming a comet .
Just this single thrust alone could easily allow Joshua to be hailed as the Spear Prodigy of the current era .
Coiling Dragon Steps .
Montra slightly shifted his center of gravity, creating a subtle afterimage . Compared to Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps, which excelled in freedom of movements throughout a battlefield, Coiling Dragon Steps was the Sky Dragon Dojo’s basic movement art suitable for fighting in limited and narrow space .
Meanwhile, Montra’s Triple Sky Energy, which was strengthened by Rhythm of Martial Radiance and Grand Deity’s Breathing, poured out from his body and solidified, manifesting a mystic armor covering him . Coupled with his movement art, Joshua’s spear slipped through Montra’s side, missing its target by a miraculously narrow margin .
Sky-Rending Dragon Fist .
Sky-Rending Dragon Fist was the other basic martial art from the Sky Dragon Dojo, though Montra had never used it after he had developed and adapted it into Heavenly Destiny Fist . The art’s prominent point was its simplicity that allowed anyone to easily learn it, though it suffered from lacking the power to be a decisive move .
In fact, the three arts that Sanon personally invented—Coiling Dragon Steps, Sky-Rending Dragon Fist, and Six Moon-Grabbing-Claws—were all arts that focused on subduing an enemy rather than dealing a finishing blow . It was the reason why he was considered the weakest among the Three Elders .
Ironically, it was none other than Sanon’s arts that were more recognized and widespread . It wasn’t strange considering the current modern era . In the world of today, the arts that focused on self-defense were more welcomed than aggressive arts . Thus, Sanon’s social standings in the normal world and the underground world were as different as heaven and earth .
In the mundane world, Sanon was one of the most famous martial art masters . The arts he taught were renowned regarding self-defense . With them, even a woman could defeat a savage man . He was acknowledged by several people . However, in the underground world, he was forever the third .
Montra’s hands caught Joshua’s spear tightly as if they were dragon’s claws . His eyes gleamed powerfully . “Counter Spear!”
Despite his young age, Montra was considered a spear master . Disregarding inner force and considering only his mastery of the spear, it wasn’t an exaggeration to say that Montra’s spearmanship was already in the realm of a prodigy . He sent Joshua’s spear backward to attack the holder, thrusting the end of the spear handle at Joshua’s underbelly—the location of a human’s dantian .
The counterattack was neatly done . The impact of the strike pushed Joshua back three steps as Montra’s left arm vibrated again . The area on Joshua’s body where the attack hit generated black ripples .
Joshua opened his right palm and a potion Montra didn’t recognise appeared on it . The ripples that were as dark as ink flowed along his arm and entered the potion . The clear red liquid turned black in a matter of seconds before the vial shattered .
The wound on Joshua’s body seemed extremely negligible, as if to suggest that the momentum of the attack that caused it was a joke .
“ . . . The Torso of the Sealed One,” muttered Montra .
“That was close . Even that Emperor Rank spear wouldn’t give me a scratch, but the cursed spear materialized from Kararus is another story . I would need either Illuminus, the right arm, or Aurikga, the heart, to be able to block it . Sadly, I don’t currently possess those . I was lucky, as my torso could still negate the curse attached to the attack . ”
Montra took a look at his palms that were now completely black . Not only could he not move them, but it also felt like they were on fire . He had to constantly suppress the heat using his magic power .
Joshua took out another identical potion and tossed it to Montra . “Blood of Bahm . Use it . It can cure any kind of curse . ”
Montra used his magic power to support the potion in mid-air . A few drops of the liquid flew out from the bottle and landed on his palms . After a short period of time, his hands returned to normal .
The atmosphere became milder, yet Joshua’s surging power was as powerful as ever . His inner force capacity was as vast as the sky and as deep as an ocean . The quantity was too immense to believe that it to belong to a human . In any case, Montra felt a strange feeling coming from Joshua’s inner force .
It didn’t seem real, yet its power was no less than the real thing .
“You must have sensed the abnormality of my inner force . ” Joshua smiled as his black spear vanished . “One of my failed research results . ”
Joshua circulated his inner force slowly, in order for Montra to sense it easier . “There was a time when I had a hypothesis that someone with stronger inner force was healthier and lived longer than those who were inferior in the same regard . Therefore, I relied on my knowledge of human brainwaves to create an artificial inner force . Even I, who have never cultivated inner force, can become strong with it . Still, it isn’t what I seek . ”
Montra understood why Joshua said it was a failed result . Joshua’s goal was a human’s resurrection . Thus, no matter how complete or how huge his findings were, they would be nothing but failures if they couldn’t achieve his goal . Montra knew because he and Joshua were the same .
The scary part was the gigantic size of the scope of the research regarding human brainwaves . Montra guessed that Joshua must have experimented and tried tons of trials and errors, in every possible aspect—be it in the field of medicine or the military . Montra had no idea how many other failed results Joshua had done, though what he was absolutely certain of was that each of them would possess the possibility to greatly shake the world .
“You have never lost the most important person in your life . There is no way you will understand my feelings,” said Joshua .
Montra replied to Joshua’s words with a glare . Who in the world had never lost their loved ones? However, his resolve would never waver no matter how Joshua tried to persuade him . He would gladly fight to the death, but he would never give up .
Realizing the meaning behind Montra’s gaze, Joshua released a sigh and canceled his killing intent .
“I have lost,” admitted Joshua, “Rather, I don’t see how I can make you give up . Sila must be the only one who can make you lose . ”
“I have no desire to give up, no matter who I’m up against . ”
“I doubt it . You two are the stars of the new generation, but you are both still tiny fish in a very big pond . There are countless experts in the world, all over the globe . There are many people who can defeat you two, but they are also older and have more experience . You wouldn’t think you had lost even if you were defeated by them . However, if you lose against Sila who is inferior to you in every way, he will make you feel that you’ve lost, both physically and mentally . ”
Noticing that the fight had ended, Cynthia stepped between the two men . She deliberately stood in front of Montra to block Joshua from bullying him .
“Mister Montra . Please tell me your wish . If it isn’t too much, I will make it come true . ”
“Are the Goddess’ ability as universal and ambiguous as the Gems of Catastrophe?”
“That’s right . However, no matter what you ask for, every player in the game will also receive the same wish . This is the reward of the Impossible Quest . ”
Montra had already expected this, so it didn’t come as a surprise . “In that case, please get rid of the protection mankind receives from you . ”
“Eh?” Cynthia, the Goddess of Humanity, tilted her head as she couldn’t understand Montra’s request . She turned to Joshua, who only shook his head as he didn’t understand it either .
The only one who anticipated this was Pumin, though he refused to explain it to Joshua . He simply told Joshua that he would do the same if he were in Montra’s shoes .
“Can you do it?” asked Montra .
“It is certainly possible, though I don’t understand your intentions . May I hear why?”
Montra looked past the Goddess’ shoulder . His words were directed at Cynthia, but he wanted Joshua to hear it as well .
“The game creator’s views on humanity are too negative . Humans are not that hopeless . Although we have short lifespans, we possess the potential to do great things as well as bad things . We can’t truly blossom if we are always sheltered . On the other hand, we will shine brighter the greater the stakes . I just want a world where humans have to depend on each other . ”
Joshua smacked his fist against his palm . “I see! I have never understood before, but I do now . You founded a great guild enforcing justice, yet some of your members were evil . As it turned out, that was your intention from the start . ”
Montra replied, “That was the backup plan in case I failed to accomplish the quest . ”
“You created a guild with a hidden agenda . The Heavenly Dragon Guild has a good reputation while the high-ranking members and you, the guild leader, are notorious . Actually, this is extremely conflicting . Even so, that was exactly your plan . If Sila didn’t enter this game, you would have split your guild into two fractions . The first would be led by you, someone with a notorious reputation, attracting all of the negative reactions to you . Meanwhile, the other side would have been led by members who had never done anything wrong like Revin or Kawin . You planned to orchestrate the whole battle, playing both the hero and the villain . ”
Montra had planned since the start that he would play the game for only two years . He intended to use the war to create a peaceful era after he left . He was like Cross in a sense that he didn’t mind if his reputation became tainted .
Being pushed into a crisis that they couldn’t overcome alone—the Demon Lord Montra who was so ruthless and showed no mercy, people would have no choice but to join forces under Revin and Kawin’s lead . In the end, justice would prevail .
By sacrificing his own reputation, Montra would succeed in washing away the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s notorious fame and making it a good example for a powerful organization to fight against wrongdoers .
It was his way to unite people, showing how he was capable of bringing the association into the bright side of the world . What Montra was doing in the world of Monster Soul was no different than what he would do to the Wulin Masters Association when he became the Wulin Lord . The Three Elders were absolutely right about this .
“However, with Sila entering the board coupled with his past behavior, you changed your plan . Instead of making yourself the Demon Lord, you pushed that role onto Sila,” Joshua remarked .
Finally understanding Montra’s objective, Cynthia exerted her mysterious power to confiscate every privilege she had given to humanity . From now on, humans and monsters would be equal . No, humans were actually foreign creatures in this world belonging to monsters in the first place . Thus, the world of Monster Soul would be even crueler for them .
“May I ask you a question?” Cynthia said as Montra was about to leave .
“Although you have witnessed the power of the Gems of Catastrophe, you alone among the gem holders have never used them to harm other players . Why?”
“They are the gems that the Goddess created for the sake of protecting humanity, so I assumed you wouldn’t want them to be used against humans . I wasn’t sure if my anticipation would be right or wrong since only you know the correct answer, so I tried to avoid doing something that would make you upset . Moreover . . . ”
“Is there another reason?”
“ . . . I am going to create a society where humans live by relying on themselves and their human companions . Using the gems would make people think I’m relying on items . Take Sila for example . True, people fear him, but the true source of this fear is the gem he possesses . Society in the future will be one where humans can take pride in their own abilities . If such a society is created by the gems’ power, the hard-earned peace will crumble as soon as the gems are lost . ”
Montra’s body was fading away as he had already obtained the quest reward . Joshua spoke to him, “Don’t you want to ask me something else?”
“No . ” Montra shook his head . “I already have too many things to think about . ”
“There is one thing I have to tell you before it’s too late, though,” Joshua continued as he opened his system window, “About the association’s enemy . ”
He sent an illustration of a dead tree, along with some other information, to Montra’s system window . It seemed to be the symbol of a certain organization . Montra had never seen it before . The illustration looked familiar though .
Montra’s body vanished, but he still heard Joshua’s departing words in his ears . “Be careful . It’s highly likely that one of the Three Elders or at least someone very close to them within the association is a traitor . The day when the new Wulin Lord is crowned will be the very day they strike . ”