“ . . . The war event will start in a few days . Each side is relying on the moment before the event takes place to launch their final operations and deal significant blows to their enemies . The recent chaos in Lafesta City where people went into frenzies and fought invisible monsters is surely one such operation . People have begun to speculate that the war event this year is going to be the most intense one so far . . . Written by the Bluebird of Happiness . ”
After having finished reading the news article, Burapha turned off the screen and sighed . “Big Brother Blue, your article is . . . ermm . . . which word should I use to describe it?”
Bluebird puffed up his chest . “How about ‘Excellent’?”
Burapha shook his head . “Erm . . . I’m trying to recall a synonym of rubbish that doesn’t sound too harsh . ”
Burapha reopened the article . “The most intense one so far? This is a given and doesn’t need to be mentioned . This is the second war event since the game launched, and most of the participants of the first one didn’t completely understand the rules . I imagine they spent more time testing the waters during the last event . They were uncertain about the rules and the benefits of being the winner, so many players refrained from taking action . ”
It was the morning after the tiresome day . Sila and some of his friends gathered in the Mansion of Secrets, which didn’t seem to be a secret anymore, in order to celebrate the success of the rescue operation . The dimension was lively as the Victorious Wolves Sect members were transmitting Qi of Little Divine Beings in the dojo zone while the pool area was used by the Royal Armament Guild members for practicing psychic power . It could be said that the mansion had already transformed into a small military camp .
Only members belonging to the Mountain Thieves League had never stepped into the mansion despite having received permission . Beluga gave Sila reasons that his army had to work their asses off for money, so they normally did training while doing work or quests . Furthermore, their people were well-versed in guerrilla warfare . Their most important training was to follow the secret signs and gestures decided by Nednapha . A special training location wasn’t that necessary .
The rest of the members gathered in the luxurious living room, having Julia responsible for serving desserts and tea . Even though the background noise was loud due to the training outside, it was by far the safest place to hold a conversation .
For the record, Sila didn’t get a chance to meet Sangdao at all . She left as soon as the operation was finished . Meanwhile, Burapha and Bluebird were still arguing over the article that Bluebird had written in a hurry last night . Since he was directly involved in the event and the article was released earlier than the rest, the view count had surpassed a hundred thousand in just a few hours .
The real topic of discussion today was about how to raid Siaferia City . It hadn’t started yet since Sila told them to wait until Vata, Varee’s sister, arrived .
Similar to Burapha, Yardpirun was reading the article written by Bluebird . “Actually, I agree with Burapha . This article is badly written . ”
“Ow?! Boss?! You’re supposed to be on my side!”
“I just gave my honest opinion . Digging and searching for clues aren’t the only skills a truly skilled newshawk has to possess . Presenting your discoveries in an interesting manner is just as important . This skill needs practice . Bluebird, have you ever read articles written by other guildmates?”
Bluebird shook his head . “They’re not related to my line of work . ”
“In any case, you have to read articles written by White Swan, Noppakorn, and Rattana . Specifically, all of the ones that have been published so far this month . Please write up a summary for each one and hand your report to me when you finish . ”
“What?!!” Bluebird exclaimed, “There must be at least a thousand articles!”
“Don’t you think you’re overstating that a little? There are only 45 of them . Most of them are short articles that are only a page long . Actually, isn’t it weird for me to have to order you to do this? Aren’t you supposed to read your own guild’s articles? Could it be that you have never read any of them before?”
“I’m busy enough with my current tasks . The war event is very close . I don’t have time for that,” Bluebird said, trying his best to prevent work from being added to his plate .
“I’m not ordering you to read them all at once . Just read them one by one, but you have to keep updating me on the progress . There is no time limit . ”
“ . . . Fine,” Bluebird unwillingly accepted the job . Unbeknownst to him, this simple task would soon become harder and harder as time went on . After the other three vice-leaders came to know about Bluebird’s particular task of reading all of their articles issued this month, they would speed up their writing and release a lot more articles, including top news such as the emergence of several high-ranking monsters, and pointless news such as the mysterious disappearance of earthworms near Siaferia City . Even news unrelated to the game was rapidly being published, including speculation about the origin of the Deity Lomyok . All of this would supply Bluebird with endless work, making him curse his guildmates for their cruelty .
Sila and Yardpirun then exchanged tips regarding developing psychic-type abilities, with Burapha standing next to them and jotting down ideas . It took a while until the person they were waiting for finally arrived .
Vata appeared in her old clothing, which she had been wearing when Sila first met her in Port City . It was a loose light-green magician robe, similar to what Jundtrathep liked to wear . This kind of clothing made it easy for the wearer to move, though not as well as ones designed for magic fighters like Bluebird, Revin, or Kawin .
“Wow . There are many people here,” she greeted everyone in a friendly manner .
Vata was an energetic, cheerful, and easy-to-approach person, though she was always on the move and didn’t seem to like staying in the same place, just like the wind . If she didn’t reveal her identity as Himeko herself, Sila wouldn’t have known that both of them were the same person . It was to be expected from Goddess’ Resonance, the dark art belonging to the Hell’s Gate Islands .
Some of the people in the room had met Vata before, and some hadn’t even heard her name . Thus, there were short introductions before everyone sat down .
Bluebird whispered to Sila, “Sila, you and her seem rather intimate . ”
“Vata is intimate to everyone, I’d say,” Sila replied in a whisper as well .
“That’s true . But, Vata is Varee’s big sis, right? She is pretty and easy-to-approach, yet her reputation is quite weak compared to her sister’s . That’s strange, don’t you think? Well, it might be because she gives off a friendly vibe causing people to think of her as a friend more than a woman . Anyway, she seems to be particularly supportive of you . ”
Sila replied hesitantly, “It’s only because I’m her friend that she is supporting me . ”
“Is that so? Hmm . . . Are my senses getting dull? I feel like I’m on the verge of discovering something massive . ”
Yardpirun interrupted, “It must be the result of you playing around too much . ”
“Um, um . Maybe that really is the case . Like when I was— Wah! Boss?!” Bluebird jerked as he belatedly sensed Yardpirun standing behind him .
“Can you please stay focused for just five minutes? Miss Vata even risked herself and entered the enemy’s territory in order to obtain valuable information . Please behave yourself and listen to what she is about to say,” Yardpirun scolded .
“Yes~” Bluebird replied as he secretly rolled his eyes .
Vata glanced at Sila while smiling slyly . Her eyes told him that she had heard everything Bluebird said . At that moment Sila felt his heartbeat become louder . He took a deep breath to calm down . In front of the dark art that he was weak against, he had to put more effort into controlling his emotions .
“It actually wasn’t that risky . Siaferia City didn’t forbid guildless players from entering . The only forbidden zone is the place where the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s force is stationed . The Earth Monarch Kawin is currently the city’s deputy ruler . The notable members staying with him are Trick Master and Red Sea, who is a new member they just recruited recently . The items being sold there are cheap yet high quality . Even I ended up buying some products . ”
Vata showed them the mage staff’s additional accessory with the same shape as a bracelet . She also told them if this thing was attached to the head of the mage staff, it could automatically generate a psychic barrier using its own energy to protect the spellcaster while they were casting a spell .
“This is one of the products Mamon came up with,” Sila added .
Apparently, all of the products resulting from the weapons development program he funded were seized by the Heavenly Dragon Guild as soon as Montra became the ruler of the city . Luckily Mamon had secretly taken some items for himself . Despite this, most of them were items that Mamon personally took a liking to . Hence, they were items of the highest quality, but they weren’t suitable for mass production .
“What about the raid? Is it doable?” asked Sila .
Vata shook her head . “Kawin is a patient person . He is exceptionally great at defense . I don’t see how you can possibly raid the city . Sila, you should quit your plan to seize the city back . It won’t be a raid, but a suicide mission . ”
Bluebird proposed an idea, “How about we use the same method used in the attack on Lafesta City? Since they don’t forbid guildless players from entering, we can sneak in and cause a ruckus inside . Easy peasy . ”
Yardpirun objected, “That method only works for cities that have never faced war such as the Magic Kingdom . Among the three main cities, Grea City is the one that has seen the most conflict . Their defense shouldn’t be underestimated . ”
“That’s right . ” They weren’t just empty words as Vata supported her statements with physical evidence . She took out a detailed map of Siaferia City, personally drawn by her .
The size of Siaferia City was three times greater than Grea City . It was praiseworthy that it took Vata only a couple of days to obtain information this detailed . There were many strange symbols on the map, their meanings known only by her . Witnessing such a map, Yardpirun couldn’t help but be amazed . She listened to Vata’s explanation attentively, yet she was also thinking about somewhat unrelated topics at the same time due to this surprisingly detailed map .
“The city is surrounded by a giant dome-like barrier, protecting it from air raids . The thickness of the barrier is over twenty meters . It is supplemented by electric energy with extremely high voltage . Just a mere touch will fry your insides . The only way to enter the city is through the gates, which are equally split around the edge of city . I should mention that only two of them—the south and west gates—are open right now . When passing through the gates, we have to go in one person at a time . Furthermore, your information will be scanned and stored in their database . If you are on their blacklist, you will be taken into custody straight away . Inside the city, there are more than a hundred Android Soldiers, Level 1,000 Lord Rank, patrolling 24/7 with no shifts or breaks . In the palace is the Android King Orpheus, Level 1,000 Emperor Rank, who will strictly follow all orders issued by the deputy ruler, Kawin . ”
Listening to the explanation, Bluebird, Burapha, and Sila became breathless . Yet the shocking news still continued .
“Those are only the fundamental defensive mechanisms, which don’t include Orpheus’ new creations . The scariest one is his living masterpiece named ‘Monster Cyborgs . ’ According to the rumors, they are hiding all over the city, secretly observing both residents and visitors alike as they seek to prevent any acts of terrorism or conflict . The rebirth zone was equipped with a psychic-jamming device, which redirects any teleportation attempts into a blocked off area . One more thing . There is a giant cannon that can shoot lasers outside, so it will be difficult to siege the city . ”
Sila tapped his finger on the table . “Where were these mechanisms when I was the city’s conqueror?”
“It’s suspected that these functions existed long ago . People believe they came back online after the city was unsealed . ”
At the end of Vata’s explanation, everyone fell into silence and waited for Sila’s opinion . He thought about it for a very long time before making a decision .
“Let’s put the raid on hold, at least for now . I want to see the area myself, as I may be able to come up with something . Luckily I have a matter I have to take care of in Madmen’s Valley, so I will take a look at the city from afar . As for you guys, it’s up to you if you want to do anything during this period . ”
Everybody agreed . Then, Vata suddenly blurted out as if she just recalled it, “Oh, right . I met Nam near Siaferia City . Don’t forget to contact her if you go there . ”
Sila nodded absentmindedly . He was ranking his priorities while the others departed . Eventually, Sila and Julia were the only ones remaining in the room .
“Julia . . . Where are the others?”
Julia gestured once with her hand, and all of the plates and teacups disappeared as if she had just cast some magic . “If Master means Mister Head Butler, he said he was going to visit his friends . As for Miss Lookhin, she said she was bored, so she went to the kitchen with Mister Clute, who said he would cook food for her . Lastly, Mister Mamon is secluding himself in the treasure room like usual . ”
Sila was reminded of Joshua’s suggestion . “Julia, could you please ask Mamon and Clute to come here? Tell them I have a really important matter to discuss . ”
Julia vanished as soon as she got the order . As he was waiting, Sila took out the bottle containing the strange liquid he got from Joshua and observed it closely . Like when he first obtained it, its color was constantly changing . It took around ten minutes before Mamon and Clute finally arrived . Even Lookhin tagged along .
Lookhin jumped into Sila’s lap as per usual . On the other hand, Clute remained standing, looking askance at Sila, while Mamon was constantly tapping his foot, implying that he wanted to get out of this room as fast as possible .
“Why did you call? I’m not so free like a certain someone who always eats and sleeps . ”
Lookhin kept her chin up as she tossed potato chips into her mouth and chewed, making a crunching sound . “A loser is barking . You better be dead . ”
“Grrrr! What did you just say?! You gluttonous birdbrain!!”
Clute walked between the two . “You two, calm down . We shouldn’t fight . ”
Sila also did the same . “Enough, enough . I called you here today for a very important matter . ”
Clute blinked . “What is it? If I can help, I will give you my assistance to the best of my ability . ”
Mamon grinned . “Kiekkiekkiek! You are free to be the best bootlicker for all I care . In my case, you have to pay if you want my help . Nothing is free in this world . ”
Sila nodded . “I never said you had to help for free . In fact, I want to make an exchange with you two, especially you, Mamon . ”
“Make an exchange? With me?”
“Yeah, with Clute too,” Sila clarified .
Sila still didn’t show them the thing he got from Joshua . “Anyway, I want to see the things I want first . The Soul Crystals and the dragon egg . ”
Clute took the egg out from his sleeve and put it on his palm . On the other hand, Mamon argued, “You already seized everything from me . I’ve got nothing left . ”
Sila slowly shook his head . “Quit putting on an act . What I want are the special Soul Crystals in your item collection . ”
Mamon gulped, though he quickly made a sad expression . He gently took out a certain Soul Crystal .
“That’s regrettable . I was caught . This is the Soul Crystal containing the soul of a rare monster that lived in the Monster Realm . It’s my most beloved treasure . ”
“Don’t lie to me, Mamon . I want the really special ones . You’ll be severely punished if I discover later that you tried to trick me . ”
Mamon gritted his teeth as he returned the Soul Crystal containing the soul of a weak monster, commonly found in the wild, to his pocket . “That depends on what you will use to exchange . Let me warn you . If you plan to make a trade using a junk item, you won’t get even the crappiest Soul Crystal from me . ”
Sila put the bottle on the table . “What about this, then?”
Clute and Mamon stared at it for a while . It was Clute who broke the silence first, “What strange liquid . I sense intense magical power from it . . . Hmm, or is it qi? Eh? Now it is psychic power . It’s changing non-stop . Very odd . ”
Mamon was in a daze . He then promptly extended his hand, trying to seize it . However, Sila was quicker . He utilized Yizichan to restrain Mamon’s hand .
Mamon pulled his arm back and asked loudly . “Where did you get it?!!” He then murmured to himself, “ . . . Why are there only a few drops?” before roaring, “You have more, don’t you?! Take it out right now!!”
“I got it from the Sealed One . This is all he gave me . ”
Mamon muttered, “The Sealed One? Grrr . Again . . . that cheating bastard . ”
“What is it, Mamon?” asked Clute .
“You fool! This is Elixir, droplets of blood distilled from the sorcerer’s stone . The most powerful and versatile liquid in the universe . Just a single drop can be used in place of almost any resource in alchemy . Elixir could only be obtained from a fully matured Ouroboros . However, this species went extinct even before I was born . I heard from others that Lucifer wiped them out because he saw them as ugly creatures after one of them curled around and chewed on its tail . All Ouroboros were linked together with a peculiar magical connection . Once one of them was hit by Omniscient Evil God Qi, they all died instantly . That foolish muscle-head bastard caused the downfall of the art of alchemy . ”
Sila actually didn’t know what they were . It was fortunate that Mamon took the time to explain .
Mamon stared at Elixir as if he was enchanted . He murmured in a trance, “An immortal body . . . Reviving the dead . . . Turning metal into gold . . . Fulfilling my bottomless imagination . ”
“Reviving the dead?” Clute suddenly asked, “Can it do that?”
“You’d be better off asking what it isn’t capable of . For this kind of thing, you can use it directly to get a power-up, though that will waste its value . Its great value can only be acquired by the person who can make use of it to its fullest—an alchemist, like me . Through the right process, it can even defy the most fundamental law of alchemy—the law of equivalent exchange . ”
Sila was surprised to hear how valuable it was . However, it seemed Mamon was the only one who could make the most of it .
“So, do you want to trade?”
Mamon emptied his pockets, pouring a mountain of Soul Crystals in front of Sila . “Only a fool would refuse . You can take whatever you want . ”
Four Soul Crystals flew to Sila as if some mysterious power pulled them to him . They had perfectly round shapes, but different colours . The feeling he got from them was similar to what he sensed from the Desert of Death . He knew with his gut feeling that what he needed were these four .
Meanwhile, Clute put the dragon egg on the table . “If sacrificing the life of this dragon is required for a chance to revive my friends, I’m willing to be a selfish person . I’m sorry, little dragon . ”
Lookhin licked her lips as she was about to seize the egg, but Sila snatched it up before she could do anything . “I’m not going to eat it, Clute . As for the crystals, these are all I want . You can keep the rest . There is only one bottle . Please share it equally . ”
“I don’t know how to use it . Mamon, since you do, I will give it to you . However, you have to help me find a way to revive my golem friends . I’ll keep an eye on you until then . ”
“Fine, fine . Whatever,” Mamon replied without care . He gently lifted up the bottle of Elixir, said nothing, and left the room . Clute quickly followed him .
Sila looked at Lookhin before stroking her head . “Those two will be busy for a while . Lookhin, you didn’t have a chance to show up yesterday . How about we go on a trip to Madmen’s Valley together?”
Lookhin nodded with a delighted look on her face . Sila packed everything he needed, and finally took off .