Sila’s feet landed on the flowing grass, which bounced back up after he stepped forward . Aside from a small hut in front of him, this dimension seemed to be a vast meadow with no boundaries . It was yet another peaceful place Sila had personally visited in Monster Soul .
So far, there were only three places that Sila had taken a liking to due to their tranquility . The first was the Cave of Immortals . It gave off a feeling of calmness and serenity like he was staying next to a still pond . The atmosphere was peaceful as he could become one with nature, admiring the beauty of the full moon hanging silently in the dark sky . He got to respect the greatness of nature without any interruptions . The next place was the Desert of Death at night . That place was cold due to the wind and the sky was an endless sea of stars with no clouds blocking it . No matter how strong he believed he had become, he would realize how insignificant he actually was under such a vast and beautiful sky . Compared to nature, his existence was but a small dot, like a grain of sand, yet it was still undeniably a part of mother nature . Lastly, there was this exact place . A gentle wind accompanied by the smell of grass subtly brightened his mood while the warm sunlight gave him warmth like the sun was tenderly embracing him .
Joshua showed no reaction as if he didn’t notice Sila’s arrival . He mildly enjoyed his cup of tea with Cynthia, the two sitting at the table located next to the hut . Nevertheless, once Sila probed his surroundings, he found that there were three cups on the table, indicating that the two house owners had anticipated their guest .
“Please sit, Sila,” Joshua said with a smile as he gestured to an empty chair .
Sila approached the two of them and leisurely sat down . “Mister Joshua, you said you would tell me everything I want to know if I managed to properly meet you face-to-face . ”
Joshua put his cup down . “Certainly . No matter what questions you ask, if I know the answers, I will hold nothing back . ”
“Please enjoy the tea, Sila . ” Cynthia poured tea into Sila’s empty cup, which he emptied in one gulp .
“I previously thought you would use a direct approach to reach this place, Sila . Unexpectedly, you relied on an unorthodox method I didn’t think of to meet me instead . ”
Sila instantly replied, “I didn’t have many choices . This was the fastest way . ”
Cynthia silently poured more tea into Sila’s cup . At that moment, Sila realized the etiquette of enjoying the tea . He lifted the cup up and sipped it, before putting it down . Since tea still remained in his cup, there wouldn’t be an attempt to refill it .
Joshua opened his system window . He swept his gaze over it shortly and said to Sila, “Your current synchronization rate is already at 67%, which is rather high . ”
“I don’t want to know about that . There are other things I would like to know,” Sila replied indifferently .
“If you don’t ask, there is no way I would know what answers I should give you, Sila . Don’t you agree?”
Sila stopped and pondered . Joshua’s way of talking was seemingly open-minded, yet tricky . He needed to ask directly, straight to the point .
“Mister Joshua, how are you related to the Wulin Masters Association?”
Joshua’s eyes expressed a hint of surprise . “Something else I didn’t predict . Flaming Cloud Qi is worthy of being ranked within the Five Crown Jewels . As expected of the most bizarre profound art . Do you realize that you have changed so much, Sila?”
Sila didn’t reply to that . He calmly waited for Joshua to answer his previous question .
“I don’t have any particular role in the association . You can say that I’m only half-related to it . My inner force is artificial while my martial arts are subpar . I’m just a scientist who is greedy for knowledge . Profound arts just happened to be one of the topics I’m interested in, so the association and I agreed to help each other . Our relationship is a kind of mutual benefit . ”
Joshua’s answer was quite clear, yet it triggered another question .
“In that case, what kind of exchanges do you and the association have?”
“I give them my technology while they grant me a chance to study profound arts in return . ”
Sila frowned as he found the statements contradictory . “If you got a chance to study the association’s profound arts, why did you tell me that your martial arts are only subpar?”
Joshua replied to Sila’s question with a gentle smile . “Sila, you’re misinterpreting what I meant by studying martial arts . I didn’t study profound arts in order to practice them, I just wanted to understand their mechanisms and characteristics . For example, what exactly are profound arts? How do they work? What is the origin of inner force? What kind of energy is it? Questions like those are why I am allowed to enter the Profound Library despite being an outsider . I swore I wouldn’t practice the arts or impart them to others . ”
“The Profound Library? This is my first time hearing about it . Based on how you’re talking about it, it must be a very important place . ”
“Yes . Only the Wulin Lord, the Three Elders, and a few selected individuals are allowed to enter . ”
“What kind of technology did you give them, then? For you to be granted such an important privilege . ”
“There are many, though you are personally experiencing one of them yourself, Sila . It’s Monster Soul . ”
In the past, Bluebird had told Sila that there were many martial artists playing Monster Soul compared to other virtual reality games . At that time Sila deemed the intel as insignificant, so he barely paid attention . Unexpectedly, Bluebird’s intel was proved to be spot on two times in a single day . Just thinking about it sent a chill down Sila’s spine .
“Could you please explain more?”
“Of course . ” Joshua sipped his tea . “Excuse me for asking, but have you heard about antique profound arts, Sila?”
Sila immediately shook his head . Not to mention the historical matters, he only found out about the current Five Crown Jewels recently .
“Let me tell you that profound arts have been around for more than a thousand years . I speculate that people in the past came up with them for battling against each other . They were then passed on to later generations . However, profound arts are not widespread these days . Do you know why?”
Sila felt like he was a kid who took an exam without preparing . He had no choice but to shake his head again .
“Based on my findings, I conclude that it was due to the mindset of people in the past . Profound arts were the result of their blood and effort, so they came to grow attached to them, maybe even dearer than their own lives . They imparted the entirety of the arts to only a few of their selected descendants or their most trusted disciples . ”
“That’s natural, isn’t it? There was no way they would teach their arts to strangers . ”
“Exactly . Profound arts are both dangerous and important, so the process of selecting a suitable successor was harsh and strict, which essentially led to a series of problems . A disciple with a good nature doesn’t always have the necessary talent . Some disciples in some generations might be unable to master the arts, making them incapable of passing the art on fully . More importantly, the martial world in the past was even more brutal than in the present . With profound practitioners’ mortal desires, small conflicts often escalated into fully-fledged battles, and eventually ended with the death of one side . When that happened, that would be the end of the road for another precious profound art .
“Then we add the passage of time into the mix . For a teacher to accept disciples, the teacher would spend five to ten years discerning the disciples’ dispositions and natures . Becoming proficient at using the art required at least five years of constantly practicing, though this depended on both the disciple’s talent and the arts . In addition, it often took another twenty years for them to fully master the arts . When that time came, they would already be getting old . It would take even more time to develop the inherited arts or come up with new arts . This concluded the reason why many profound arts got lost in the pages of history . ”
Sila began to understand how time has affected profound arts . “What about the antique profound arts you mentioned? What are they?”
“Before I start, I have to clarify that all the profound arts you know about are called modern profound arts, Sila . Those arts were made less than a thousand years ago . As for antique profound arts, all of them have been lost due to the reasons I have listed . ”
“What is the difference? Are antique profound arts superior to the modern ones?”
“That’s not necessarily the case . However, it is worth noting that the current era is much better for living in due to all of the public facilities and the laws we follow . There are also many aspects of modern life that don’t mesh with the usage of killing arts . Hence, I’d say antique profound arts tended to be more powerful than the modern ones . The society and environment in the past were about survival of the fittest . Battle and death were normal occurrences, resulting in the deadliness of antique profound arts . ”
“Have they all truly been lost?”
Joshua fell into a long silence, to the point where it was noticeable . “That’s right . I’d say the scriptures or scrolls containing antique profound arts no longer exist . ”
A sudden idea struck Sila . “Based on your answer, you must mean there are no records left, but the arts themselves still exist, right? Someone must possess or know about them . ”
Joshua felt surprised again . “You’re quite observant . You got it right, Sila . And you have already met that someone . He is the Tiger God Hu Xian, also known as the Chaos Emperor Dragon . ”
Sila was amazed . He recalled the conversation between Poluk, Viola, Divine, and the Slime King . The three Kimon seemed to be searching for a certain item from the Slime King, but the king had said he was also clueless . Could it be that the thing they were searching for was the sole and last antique profound art still remaining in the present era?
With mortal desire as a profound practitioner, Sila felt the urge to ask another question, “What kind of art is it?”
Joshua was deep in thought . “He didn’t announce it explicitly . However, the Tiger God’s art—Chaos Devourer Art—could absorb any kind of power belonging to others, despite such a phenomenon normally resulting in qi deviations or backlashes due to the different natures of the inner forces . Combine this with the fact that he seemed to be able to do so without an upper limit, and we can speculate that the antique profound art in his possession is Classic of Sinew Metamorphosis . The art that strengthens the muscles and tendons, enhancing strength, speed, stamina, flexibility, balance, and coordination . Mastering the art means the practitioner will possess the most perfect constitution for learning all arts, with extraordinary and flexible physical prowess . ”T/N: “Classic of Sinew Metamorphosis” or simply “Sinew Metamorphosis” (“Yijin Jing”, also known as Muscle-Tendon Transformation or Muscle Tendon Change Classic) is featured in a lot of wuxia novels, including “The Smiling, Proud Wanderer . ” Oftentimes, it is a legendary skill that purifies, strengthens, and develops the practitioner's body . One who masters it is virtually unbeatable .
It was an art that even Sila had heard of before, though not through his experiences in the martial world but from watching wuxia films . It made this conversation sound absurd and unbelievable .
Knowing what Sila was thinking, Joshua simply smiled and said, “Don’t mind it . Since the Tiger God died a while ago, we can assume the art has died with him . Nobody will ever come to know the contents of the art or how to practice it . It’s yet another loss for the martial world . ”
Sila agreed with Joshua, who continued, “With those reasons for the lost arts, I agreed with the Wulin Masters Association’s request to create a more reliable storage for any and all arts . Together we recorded the arts in both paper and digital forms . Even if the successor of any art dies or goes missing, we can still pass the art on to future generations . By the way, aside from the keeper duty, I also have one more role . That’s for me to use my research to improve existing profound arts . ”
“That sounds important and complex . No wonder you have many special privileges in the association, Mister Joshua . ”
“That’s not really the case . These matters are not complex at all . Let me show you an example by talking about the art you know . How about Vajra Qi of the Hell’s Gate Islands? What are your thoughts on this dark art, Sila?”
Sila had heard about Varja Qi from Mora, his teacher . In fact, it was the most ominous art he had ever come into contact with, especially regarding its inhumane training method which involved death and infants . Even though the users of the art he knew were the kind Poluk and the young Vlad, he still felt it was an art that shouldn’t exist .
“If possible, I personally don’t want more people to inherit it . It’s an art that shouldn’t have been invented . The fact that it was created was a mistake . ”
“Learning from our mistakes is necessary though, don’t you think? At the very least, we will get to know which method leads to failure . Many years ago I had a chance to personally pay the Hell’s Gate Islands a visit . I asked for the recipe for brewing the secret tonic from Mister Tetsu, who you must know as Poluk, for studying it . I then found that the recipe has been used for four hundred years without any changes . After I analyzed the chemical compound of the tonic, I distilled only the beneficial parts and removed the parts that caused side-effects . As a result, although the tonic became less powerful resulting in a slower development, it was made possible for Vlad to practice Vajra Qi despite not having gone through the special training that the previous users did as infants . Do you see? Science can be quite useful for evolving profound arts .
“Regarding the duty of recording profound arts, I helped to convert texts found in the Profound Library to electronic data, along with detailed illustrations and video files . With them, practitioners will have an easier time comprehending the arts . ”
Sila couldn’t help but feel amazed at Joshua’s works . On the contrary, despite being a potential Wulin Lord, Sila still had yet to do anything for the association .
“Do you have more questions, Sila? They can be either about the association or the game . ”
Sila took a deep breath and fell silent for a while, before asking the question that had been bugging him for a long time, yet he couldn’t bring himself to say it to the people in question .
“In that case, let me ask this . Did my parents actually die, or are they still alive?”
Joshua seemed to have already anticipated Sila’s question beforehand . “Not only your parents, but some Independent NPCs in the game are also dead people, Sila . The ones you encountered were merely their memories . . . ”
Sila had expected this answer beforehand, though it was still sad and painful to know the hard truth . Even though he respected and loved Mora like his real father, he still felt regret after hearing that his biological parents were truly dead .
“ . . . There is a way to bring them back though . ”
“Really?” Sila’s face was suddenly brimming with hope . Given how delightful he was, he failed to notice Joshua’s unusual smile, or Cynthia’s hand which had halted as soon as the words left Joshua’s mouth .
“Yes . ” Joshua fell silent for a moment and showed a distressed expression . “ . . . but this matter relates to Montra . He is the only one capable of helping them, yet he has already refused to be involved in any way, resolutely . ”
“Why? Why didn’t he help?”
Joshua stood up from his chair . He continued his speech as he slowly walked behind Sila . “It must be due to his ego, I guess . I don’t understand his reasons either . ”
Joshua’s psychic power extended from his shadow like trickling water . Sila wasn’t being vigilant, so he didn’t notice it . The black shadow silently and slowly moved as if it was a viper, before sinking its fangs into Sila’s shadow .
Sila suddenly felt anger without knowing why . His qi became hot as if he had fallen into purgatory . He immediately tried to calm down, balancing his chaotic state of mind .
Watching Sila’s reaction, Joshua furrowed his brows .
‘My psychic power didn’t work . Did I underestimate Flaming Cloud Qi too much? Well, I will just rely on a typical approach . ’
“I heard that the Tiger God mentioned me when he talked about someone sneakily practicing his profound art, right?” Joshua changed the topic, “Grand Deity’s Breathing . ”
Sila was clueless as to how Joshua came to know that . In any case, with the matter that he had forgotten mentioned, he asked, “That’s right . Who are they? I have got to warn them not to utilize the final stage of the art . ”
Joshua showed an awkward expression . “That would be too late . That person is Montra, and he has already reached the final stage . ”
“What did you say just now?” Sila asked despite having clearly heard the words .
“I did try to prevent him from doing so, really . I sent Altia to warn him that he shouldn’t attempt to reach the final stage, yet Montra didn’t listen . He is that kind of person . If he has set his heart on something, he would ignore everything and everyone else . Even when I was practically begging him for help, he did nothing but mercilessly refuse . ”
“How selfish of him!”
Hearing Sila’s words, Joshua couldn’t help but smile inwardly . The world is full of selfish people . It’s just that everyone tends to overlook their own selfishness, claiming that it is justified . Montra might be selfish in the sense that he refused to help Joshua’s research . Yet Sila was also selfish, wanting his family members to be returned to him . As for him, he admitted he was selfish as well . He even resorted to exploiting Sila’s lack of knowledge regarding Montra’s circumstances, all for the sake of achieving his ultimate goal .
Everyone has selfish desires, and they will claim whatever reasons to prioritize their desires over everyone else’s .
Personally, Joshua found Sila’s words, claiming that Montra was selfish, similarly selfish . He didn’t express it out loud though .
“It’s common sense to help people in need . Montra is capable of helping your parents yet he heartlessly declined to help . That’s unacceptable . ” Joshua stopped to observe Sila’s reaction before continuing his poisonous speech, “This makes it like he left your parents to die, no?”
Joshua’s words suddenly put Montra to blame . They even sounded like Montra was a part of the reason behind the deaths of Sila’s parents despite the fact that Montra wasn’t even alive at the time .
Sila felt furious, for real this time . Flaming Cloud Qi erupted like a volcano . Suddenly a cup of tea happened to fall on the ground and break . Hot tea slashed toward him . Although the tea’s temperature wouldn’t be able to harm him at all, he still instinctively stood up and dodged it .
“My apology . I’m such a clutz,” Cynthia apologized as she took a tablecloth out to wipe the stain while also picking up the broken pieces . Sila told her not to worry about it and helped her clean up . His mind became more stable as he picked up the pieces .
While Sila was cleaning, Cynthia directed her gaze at Joshua . She slowly shook her head as if she was telling him, ‘Not with this method . ’
No matter what he does, Joshua is still human . He has both good and evil in him . For the sake of his wife, he wouldn’t care even if everyone else in the world cursed at him about how mean or wicked he was . On the other hand, if it was for Cynthia, he was willing to even climb to Heaven or jump into Hell .
“Umm . I said too much just now . Maybe Montra has his own circumstances or reasons . For this kind of thing, we won’t know unless we properly talk things out,” Joshua clarified, his tone of voice milder than before .
Sila put the tablecloth down . “You’re right . I also jumped to conclusions just now . ”
“Do you have any more questions?”
“I have in-game matters to discuss, but there is one last question regarding the association . ”
“Let me hear it . Feel free to ask . ”
Sila considered how he should tackle the question . He wasn’t sure how much Joshua knew, so he ultimately decided to be indirect . He drew a picture of the tree, which Divine had shown him before, using the remaining tea stain on the table .
“Mister Joshua, have you seen this symbol before?”
Joshua smiled lightly . He tapped on the picture and drew more roots to the tree Sila had drawn . “The genuine one has to have nine roots . One root for the Boss, two for his left and right hand men, and the other six for the Six Executives . ”
“You know about them, Mister Joshua?” Sila was surprised . Joshua even knew the meaning of the symbol .
“I don’t just know them . I’m one of the Six Executives myself . Some call me the Future Maker, while others call me the Monster Maker . However, in this organization, I go by Frankenstein Joshua . ”