Having explained the plan to Sebastian, Sila walked up the stairs out of the room by himself . The underground room, which used to be Montra’s workspace, ended up being a giant crater in the middle of the Heavenly Dragon’s headquarters . He saw Montra standing on the rooftop of the highest building with a frightening magic spear on his back . The two of them stared at each other for a while . In the end, Sila removed his gaze from his foe and looked at Paiyuan, the master of the Heartless Steel Sword Dojo, instead .
Behind Paiyuan were many of his disciples . Sila recalled some of them as they had met before . Noticing Sila, they became enraged due to their previous loss and felt like jumping at him and tearing him to pieces . However, only their expressions displayed such a feeling . Their bodies did not move at all, indicating that they were obedient students and had been well-trained .
‘Dad had to encounter this kind of situation a hundred times, didn’t he?’ Sila wondered .
The first time he met Paiyuan, Sila still hadn’t gotten his hands on Pumin’s diary, which was in Mora’s possession at that time . Afterward, he got a chance to read his father’s journey filled with events he encountered in order to complete the mission he was assigned by the Three Elders . It was an adventure full of battles and profound experiences, written from Pumin’s perspective .
The mission Pumin had gotten was for him to defeat a hundred sword dojos, and Pumin decided for himself that all of them must be famous and renowned ones . In order to avoid conflict when Pumin challenged people for a duel, his mission was announced throughout the association .
Pumin was a man worthy of becoming the Wulin Lord, and no one had any doubts regarding that . Nevertheless, for the masters of targeted sword dojo, their pride was on the line . They didn’t want to be remembered as one of the sword dojo that lost to Pumin .
Considering the contents of the mission, Pumin’s mission was far harsher than Montra and Sila’s . As he was to become the Wulin Lord in the near future, he needed to prevent conflicts from occurring . He had to rely on his strength, his negotiation and communication skills, his tactics, and even his grace to control the level of hatred between him and all the sword dojo .
For this reason, Pumin kept the details of each fight a secret . Every time he defeated a dojo, he would simply add one mark into his notebook and inform only the Three Elders about his success . He promised to the ones he challenged that he wouldn’t reveal their dojo’s name, art, martial moves, or even the date and time of their duel . This made it acceptable for those losing dojo .
However, it wasn’t long before rumors started spreading in the martial world, claiming that Pumin was developing a new sword art and writing a book named Story of A Hundred Swords .
The rumors claimed that the book contained Pumin’s insights that he gained from battling against a hundred sword dojo . The book supposedly explained how to counter each sword art possessed by those dojo in great detail . This was a smack in the face to the masters of the sword dojo that lost . From then on, the losing dojo seeked to destroy it while unrelated dojo wished to study it .
Sila had yet to realize that Pumin’s diary in his possession was in fact the legendary Story of A Hundred Swords renowned in the martial world . In any case, the rumor was oftentimes an exaggeration, this time included . The diary wasn’t about Pumin’s profound insights of the way of swords . Rather, it was about his opinions regarding the sword arts he had faced and his thoughts on how to improve them . It was merely a record of his suggestions .
As expected, the Heartless Steel Sword Dojo was one of those hundred dojo . Sila circulated the Cloud Part of Flaming Cloud Qi and the information in his head became organized and ready to use . He would be able to search for the intel as long as he had read through it .
‘The 35th dojo, Heartless Steel Sword Dojo . The sword art was invented around two hundred years ago by the Aloof Juang Jing . His swordsmanship was fiendish and ruthless, using pure offense even when defending . His killing intent was as cold as a steel blade and followed his enemies like a shadow . Even though martial moves existed for the sword art, the most important factor of his swordsmanship was killing intent in the form of energy waves .
‘The current master of the dojo, Paiyuan, is talented but hesitant, loves to brag, and lacks decisive judgment . His nature thoroughly contradicts the art, resulting in a decline in the swordsmanship that has been passed on for several generations . He learned the art through reading the texts, down to every letter like a conservative bookworm . For such a killing art, his heart should be set on killing intent rather than blindly following standard movements . Even the renowned sword formation created in the Aloof Juang Jing’s time was downgraded into a formation that simply scatters people around and lets them strike together . Its effectiveness wouldn't reach the same height as the original, which was full of killing waves .
‘As for the result of the duel, I had to pretend to be hit twice and barely win against him, flattering him so he could save face in front of his disciples . Despite this, his words after his defeat were disgusting, almost unbearable . This guy . . . if his skill was half as good as his shamelessness, he would have already conquered the entire martial world .
‘Even though I dislike his character, I had no choice but to befriend him since he has good connections in the martial world . He may be a great asset for the association in the future . ’
Pumin was a prideful person, but he was smart enough to keep his feelings to himself, not expressing it . As a result, the Story of A Hundred Swords was filled with sarcasm directed at the arrogant nature of the many sword masters he had encountered . Aside from his opinions toward the sword arts and swordmasters, several harsh words that would have likely caused conflict could be found in the book .
Recalling the words his father used to define Paiyuan, Sila could hardly keep his smile from showing . He bowed his head slightly and displayed his courtesy to Paiyuan .
“Greetings, Senior Pai . You’re brimming with radiance just like always . The last time we met, I didn’t realize you were the master of the renowned Heartless Steel Sword Dojo, so my actions were quite rude . I’m deeply sorry . ”
Sila’s humble words caused people to look at each other . Only Paiyuan remained smiling . “Not knowing is not a sin . I forgive you . ”
“Today we are fated to stand on opposite sides . I’m weak, yet I’m afraid I’ll have to test my luck and pass through you . It’s unfortunate . I wouldn’t want to fight Senior Pai if I had a choice,” Sila continued speaking humbly .
Paiyuan stroked his grey bread under his chin as he said smilingly, “Yes, quite so . My swordsmanship is too scary . Sometimes I even wonder if I would lose to my reflection in the mirror . ”
Sila secretly took a side glance at Montra . Paiyuan’s remark was boastful, yet Montra showed no reaction toward it . This implied that Montra had the same idea as Pumin . No matter how disgusting Paiyuan’s character was, his connections meant they couldn’t disrespect him .
“How about this? If you can break through our formation and reach the guild’s exit, we promise we won’t follow you,” Paiyuan proposed .
Honestly speaking, this deal was absolutely pointless . If Sila really made it to the exit, he could easily escape using teleportation items . In conclusion, despite how it sounded like a good proposal, it didn’t really change anything .
“Don’t you have to consult with your guild leader first?” Sila asked, directing his gaze to Montra .
Paiyuan laughed . “Montra naturally agrees with me . Right, Montra?”
Montra’s eyes twitched slightly before becoming expressionless once more . Even he couldn’t afford to humiliate Paiyuan, especially in front of other guildmates .
“Everything will be up to Senior Pai’s decision,” replied Montra .
Paiyuan nodded and unsheathed his steel sword . “This is a battle between a young man and a sword formation, so I don’t mind that our side has a larger number of people . Sila, you will have to try harder . ”
Sila wanted to argue that it was he who was supposed to say that . “I’ll try my best, sir . ”
Paiyuan struck his sword on the ground several times, and his disciples began to move . They all moved according to the rhythm Paiyuan’s sword was making . Meanwhile, Sila summoned the Dorolia Sword in his left hand and the Solaria Sword in his right . The heat and cold emitting from both swords negated each other, giving him a nice and warm sensation .
“Ice Flame Dual Slashes . ”
Sila rushed at Paiyuan as he activated the item skill that was the signature move of these magical swords . One of his eyes glowed blue while the other let off an orange light . He crossed his swords and they unleashed heat and cold waves with a shade of black from Element-Changing Nightmare Magical Qi .
In the first exchange between Paiyuan and Sila, Paiyuan was still a newbie regarding games . However, more than a month had passed since then . With Montra’s guidelines for how to effectively improve oneself as a gamer, real swordsmen like Paiyuan had undergone training and their abilities had far surpassed ordinary veteran gamers who started the game earlier .
Paiyuan’s qi was ordinary, yet his swordsmanship was far from simple . He brandished his steel sword strengthened by qi with a composed mind . Realistically speaking, Paiyuan had followed the path of swordsmanship for fifty years longer than Sila . As far as the mastery of swords was concerned, he was undoubtedly superior to Sila .
When Paiyuan attacked, his disciples also took offensive actions . Eight steel blades simultaneously aimed at Sila from different angles .
In the past, the Aloof Juang Jing alone could unleash sword waves with nothing but his inner force, materializing the entire sword formation by himself . However, the same sword formation in this era replaced the use of sword waves with real swords .
Sword waves had no physical form . They were heartless pieces of energy that only existed to cut to the heart of the enemy . The formation probably had no weaknesses in the past, but the current version did due to the disciples—the wielders of swords themselves .
“Seismic Avalanche . ”
Sila unleashed the spell attached to the sword . Using an item skill was convenient as he could use it instantly with no casting required . Ice shards scattered around with him as the center . He couldn’t control them nor their trajectories at will though .
‘Magic is harder to use than I thought . ’
This was the first time Sila ever used a high-tier spell . Despite the fact that it was a powerful skill, the main characteristic of magic skills was that they had a fixed result . That was why the user had to constantly practise until they got used to the timing of skills . Magic skills were different from psychic skills, the results of which could be controlled and altered on the spot though at the cost of weaker raw power .
In any case, the bullets made of ice shards made up for their random trajectories with large quantities . Even if Sila couldn’t control their flying paths, just the amount of them was enough .
The incoming swords, that should strike at their enemy, were pulled back to protect their owners—contrary to the concept of Heartless Steel Sword Art . An opening appeared just like that . Sila pressed the flame sword on the ground as he unleashed another high-tier spell .
“Borderless Sea of Flames . ”
A ring of flames emerged from the sword and spiraled around Sila and Paiyuan . With qi being weak against magic, especially high-tier spells, the disciples had no choice but to step back from the intense heat .
The flames erupted and engulfed both Sila and Paiyuan within . Sila then focused his mind on activating yet another magic skill .
“Domain of Light . ”
A golden barrier locked both people within . Domain of Light was a defensive magic skill that Sila got from Illuminus’ side quest after he sealed Ramiel into his right arm .
Paiyuan took a battle stance while Sila simply held his swords by his sides . “Senior Pai, I have a proposal . This domain blocks anything from entering or exiting . No one can hear our conversation this way . We only have a few seconds . Please just listen to me and make a decision . ”
Paiyuan still remained ready for a fight . Sila quickly explained, “The Wulin Lord’s selection is still ongoing . Either Montra or I can be the victor . Regretfully I had a late start, so Montra managed to get you to join his side . To tell you the truth, Senior Pai is one of the people I deeply respect . ”
Actually Sila knew nothing about Paiyuan, though he flattered him to make things easier .
“Please join forces with me,” Sila proposed bluntly .
“You want me to betray Montra?” asked Paiyuan . Just the fact that he didn’t take action yet was already good news for Sila . At least Paiyuan was considering his options .
“You don’t need to do that . I just want to provide Senior Pai with more options to choose from . The future is uncertain . If Montra wins, we can think of it as this conversation never happened . However, if I win, I will honor the Heartless Steel Sword Dojo just like Montra would . I want to say this because I honestly don’t want us to become enemies, Senior Pai . ”
Paiyuan nodded . Sila’s proposal meant that, if Sila managed to defeat Montra against all odds, his dojo would hold no enmity against the new Wulin Lord . It was a good deal for him with no downsides .
“What do you want me to do?”
Sila inwardly heaved a sigh of relief . Exactly as Pumin had written, Paiyuan was hesitant and afraid of taking risks . It was natural for him to choose the safest path with no danger to his prestige and his dojo . That kind of path was naturally being on good terms with both sides .
“You have to do nothing . I’ll contact you later . ”
Sila sent a friend request to Paiyuan . He then lifted a sword up and slashed himself before jumping backward out of the sea of flames . The two of them had only been inside the flames for about ten seconds .
Sila rolled around in the dirt while the flames burnt out . He slowly got back on his feet . “Not yet . I can still fight . ”
Such a good opportunity for obtaining free credit laid in front of him . How could Paiyuan resist the urge to take it? “Still haven’t learnt your lesson, Sila? That was only my second move . ”
Sila quickly circulated qi to heal himself . He frowned as he thought Paiyuan exaggerated too much . There was no way Montra couldn’t guess the gap between him and Paiyuan . Hence, he hastily covered it up .
“If I get serious, you won’t have as easy a time, Senior Pai . Allow me to change my fighting style,” Sila said as he returned his swords to his inventory and took on a barehanded fighting stance .
It was unexpectedly easy to trick the smart since they oftentimes didn’t consider the possibility that they would be tricked . There was no need for Sila to give a detailed explanation . Montra’s brain would connect the dots himself .
Sila couldn’t utilize his racial skills and the time he had spent learning swordsmanship was less than a month . Furthermore, the reason Sila started practicing the sword was even orchestrated by none other than Montra himself . Montra intended to make Sila practice using a sword in order to slow him down . Things were going according to his plan . Everything made sense and was reasonable . Nevertheless, Montra still felt something was out of place .
Was it because Sila, who always defied expectations, was instead acting exactly how Montra expected this time?
In Montra’s perspective, Sila indeed seemed weaker when using swords . However, Revin and Kawin once told him that Sila was strong wielding swords . Could it be that Sila’s swordsmanship worked best in combination with his racial skills? Or could it be that there was some kind of limitation?
There were simply too many unknown variables . Montra couldn’t get to the answer at all .
Sila swiftly changed his target . He jumped at Montra, circulating Flaming Cloud Qi at full power . Meanwhile, Paiyuan’s disciples didn’t follow him since their teacher didn’t give any instructions . Nevertheless, every one of them was confident that Montra could surely take care of himself .
As he couldn’t come up with an answer, Montra decided to discover it personally . He tightened his grip on the magical spear in his hand as he took a deep breath . Soon his power vanished and became nothingness .
Sila accelerated the speed of qi circulation, burning his own inner force . His power silently radiated in the form of flames covering him .
It was necessary for Sila to make Montra fall into the state where he couldn’t pursue him . Otherwise, Montra would kill him using his terrifying magical spear if he decided to turn his back to Montra and try to leave as it is .
Stopping his feet on the corner of the same roof, Sila dropped into one of the stances of Nine Sun-Melting-Fists . His fists right now seemed like they could really melt the sun .
The user of Grand Deity’s Breathing and the user of Flaming Cloud Qi were confronting each other . Both were mysterious dark arts with fathomless might .
Sila was the first to move . His body blurred with Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps, splitting into twelve people . In response, Montra pressed his feet on the roof . Both his hands held the spear even tighter when he thrust it twelve times in an instant .