The Valley of Immortals and the Single-Horned Dragon Forest were located on the east side of the Main Continent . The stone valley was great in size and connected to the ocean, acting like a natural border separating the land and the sea . The shape of the valley was similar to a calabash, mainly due to the fact that it had only one bottleneck entrance .
The sun rose in the morning, showing itself at the edge of the ocean . Since the stone mountain blocked most of the sunlight from entering, flame torches were always required for brightening the area inside .
Shueria, Crow, and Sanon were standing inside the valley, next to its sole entrance . They belatedly realized that the appointed time was ambiguous . By dawn, it could be now or the time when the sun went over the stone mountain, which would be in the next two hours .
They couldn’t see any traces of Sila or Kiryu, not even a glimpse of their shadows .
Sanon and Shueria calmly waited for the two’s arrival . However, it seemed Crow wasn’t the type to like the idea of sitting around doing nothing . Actually, that was the reason why he volunteered to help his niece, Lucy, during her absence . He got bored easily and liked to play around . In fact, he always felt irritated when seeing Kiryu do nothing but sit around all day .
“They’re late! We might as well take this as their loss!” Crow was fed up . The precious rare sake, which he planned to enjoy sipping while watching the fight between Shueria and Sila, had already been emptied while he was waiting .
Sanon showed a dry smile . “It’s my fault for not specifying the time . It is still dawn . We just arrived too soon . ”
In fact, they had yet to select even the location for the duel . Even though Sila and Shueria were not at Kiryu and Crow’s levels, the two were still promising fighters . Fighting in the valley would risk damaging the terrain while the same applied to the Single-Horned Dragon Forest . Ultimately, Sanon decided the fight would take place in the mountain pass, the spot between the two places .
The sound of heavy footsteps, belonging to a single person, could be heard from the entrance of the mountain pass . The sound echoed in an annoying manner, being both slow and loud . The dim light and the morning mist caused the approaching figure to blur . It took a while before the three could see that it was Sila who was walking toward them—in an amusing manner at that .
“What are they doing?” Crow expressed his doubt out loud . In fact, Shueria and Sanon were no less puzzled . They just didn’t reveal it .
Sila was carrying a log horizontally . Both ends of the log almost touched the two sides of the mountain pass . On each side of the log sat a person; Kiryu was on one side and Rex was on the other . Sila’s face and body were totally drenched in sweat . Each step he took cracked the stone tiles underneath . Following behind him closely was Lookhin, who casually floated along with the wind .
Actually, the total weight shouldn’t be a problem for Sila to carry at all, as Kiryu was lean and skinny while Rex’s muscular physique wasn’t that heavy . However, the two were utilizing Tiger Dragon Qi to pressure Sila . Sila had experienced being pressed down under qi by Rex in the dragon form before . However, at that time Rex had exerted qi pressure in a vast radius, while this time the weight was focused on a single point and pinned down vertically, with Kiryu adjusted his qi to equal Rex’s . Both Sila’s shoulders were so heavy as if he were carrying an entire mountain .
Kiryu opened his mouth only when Sila reached the middle of the mountain pass, “Enough, Sila . Put us down . ”
Sila rarely complained about how hard his training was . Despite this, as someone who had never trained a disciple, not only was Kiryu’s training program unorthodox, he also had a tendency of trying whatever strange idea came to mind . He deliberately set up harsh conditions for Sila to overcome . It made Sila wonder whether he had become stronger or not .
“What the hell is going on?” asked Crow .
Kiryu ignored Crow and turned to Sanon . “Let’s do it here and now . ” He then shifted his gaze to Sila . “Prepare yourself, Sila . ”
Sila wiped away the sweat on his forehead using his sleeve . “Yes, sir . ”
Crow put a hand gesture to stop everyone . “Wait, wait . What is wrong with all of you? Even without an inspection, I can still tell that Sila is exhausted and his stamina is depleted . ”
“That’s our own problem . This way, your disciple will have an even greater advantage, won’t he?” Kiryu asked back .
“That’s true . . . But . . . ”
“Even Sila himself isn’t complaining . ” Kiryu tapped Sila’s shoulder . “How about it, Sila? Do you have any words?”
Sila shook his head while gasping for air . “No, I have no problem . We can start anytime . ”
Shooting his gaze around, Sila measured the mountain pass . In terms of length, he had no clue as it went on for a while, but in terms of width he estimated that it was eight meters . The path wasn’t completely straight either, instead more like a snake . This kind of terrain would limit the use of Twelve Celestial-Traveling-Steps to a small degree .
As the referee, Sanon spoke, “Both sides still haven’t decided on the winning condition . What should it be?”
Kiryu proposed, “No need to complicate things . The losing side is the one who dies . ”
Sila turned back . “Do we have to fight to the death?”
“What about it? Dying in the game is fine, isn’t it?”
“What I’m worried about is how Shueria belongs to the Royal Armament Guild, which is a part of the Wicked Union alliance . We ought to fight the Heavenly Dragon Guild together . If we fight to the death, there will be a loss in levels, and it may also lead to unnecessary conflict, sir,” Sila explained .
Kiryu made a calm argument, “Sila, you still don’t understand . This is not a personal duel but a miniature war with you as the Single-Horned Dragon Forest’s representative and Shueria as the Valley of Immortals’ . This is not a joke . War is without mercy . Kill or be killed . Plunder or be plundered . ”
After keeping his silence for so long, Shueria also spoke his mind, “Mister Kiryu is correct, Sila . I can separate personal matters from work . The one who dies today has no right to complain, as it’s their own fault that they’re weak . You should be careful . No matter how many advantages I have over you, I still don’t plan to hold back . ”
Seizing the chance, Sanon concluded, “In this case, the result of the battle will be decided when one of you is dead . Please note that both Mister Kiryu and Crow are not allowed to give any support, not even a word of advice . There will be no time limit—”
Crow raised his hand, “Wait! No time limit? What if their fight lasts for three days? Do I have to sit here forever, then?”
It was Sila who was the quickest to support Crow’s opinion . “That’s right . I also don’t have that much free time . ”
Sanon shot Crow a glance . “Since you brought it up, I take it that you have an idea, no?”
Crow smiled . “Easy peasy . The time limit is twenty minutes . If the fight is still undecided by then, it’ll be the turn of us teachers . ”
“Isn’t that too—?”
Crow was upset that his speech was interrupted . “Just listen to the end . I’m not saying we will fight . Only, when the twenty minutes is up, I’ll intervene in the fight by killing Sila . On the other hand, Kiryu should do the same to Shueria . The rule is that we can’t fight or hinder each other . The condition is the same . The losing side is the one who dies . If both of them die, the one who dies even a split second later will be the winner . ”
Crow’s suggestion was both simple and terrifying . Given his and Kiryu’s master-class abilities, the fight would be over in less than a second . Sila could hardly swallow his saliva . The worst result was both he and Shueria dying together .
“What do you think, you two?” Crow urged Sila and Shueria for an answer .
“It’s completely up to you, Teacher . I’ll surely not lose,” Shueria gave a determined reply, while Sila simply nodded .
Seeing the two coming to an agreement, Sanon prepared the fight . “Okay, then . Please step back, everyone . As for you two, Sila and Shueria, you can decide how you will start . ”
Sanon and Crow took several steps back, as did Kiryu, Rex, and Lookhin . The border of the battle stage was originally undecided, but the spots where the five stopped their feet seemed to indicate the edges of an arena . Sila and Shueria would have to be mindful not to go too deep into the opposing side . Otherwise, that action would be bringing them closer to death’s door in the case that twenty minutes had passed .
Shueria opened his palms . His body was enveloped by silver psychic power and his armor started shining . The surge of his power gently blew the wind away .
Sila had witnessed Crow utilizing Dignified Palm Blade before . At Crow’s level, he could exert his art from any possible posture . Sila guessed that Shueria’s current battle stance was the starting form of the art—the same stance Crow displayed when he was younger . In any case, Sila was by no means looking down on Shueria despite having won against him before . In fact, he was fully aware that his first victory was due to many things other than strength .
Evil God’s Essence — Transcendent Qi Circulation .
Sila’s stamina was recovered as golden light flashed from the center of his body . His qi circulated throughout his body, fiercely like a flash flood yet he could perfectly control it .
The battle stage was narrow yet long, so Nine Sun-Melting-Fists would be most suitable . Sila took a battle stance, ready to lunge at the enemy .
“You made a mistake in using your skill, Sila . Evil God’s Essence can raise one normal skill to transcendent rank for five seconds, but can be used only once per day,” Shueria announced as he pointed at his blindfold, “My blindfold is a high-level item . Not only does it help me train Psychic Eyes, but it can also tell me the details of any skill my opponent is using . You should have kept a skill this good to use at a more crucial time . ”
Sila shrugged while simply replying, “I think that was the best time to use it though . ”
Sila activated the attribute of fire, stimulating his body with qi, and leaped to Shueria . His take-off was quick and done at the right timing, making eyewitnesses look at him with eyes filled with admiration, including Crow . Even though he said he was disappointed in Sila, the fact was he held Sila’s strength in high regard . By no means did he look down on Sila . Every item he provided Shueria was for the sake of making Shueria’s strength equal to Sila’s .
“Wings of Hermes . ” Shueria activated the item skill which came with his grade shoes . Tiny wings were soon added next to his ankles, scattering feathers with every step he took . He soared to the sky and stayed in mid-air with ease . Crow had told him that most of Sila’s arts were based on human anatomy, most suited for fighting players . Crow had advised him to perform moves that were possible only in Monster Soul, forcing Sila to use the skills he wasn’t proficient at .
True enough, Sila’s arts were invented and developed based on real-life implementation . Standing freely in the sky is impossible in reality, hence Sila didn’t have any martial arts effective against such a situation . Nevertheless, his arts were versatile . He fired a dozen hidden weapons at Shueria .
Through Psychic Eyes, Shueria could clearly see all of the hidden weapons . He flicked his wrists and cut every single suntetsu into two before they had reached him .
Sila’s body was wrapped in a white-blue aura, followed by all of the suntetsu pieces spreading out around Shueria and connecting to each other with rods of ice that suddenly formed out without warning . Sila had relied on Orbiting Cosmos and Element-Changing Nightmare Magical Qi to materialize a net of ice in mid-air, trapping Shueria inside .
Dual Generating Attributes — Earth bears Metal, Genesis Beam Punch .
A beam in the form of a punch flew toward Shueria . However, instead of dodging it, Shueria simply clad his body with qi reinforcement .
Seeing this, Sila couldn’t help but wonder . Genesis Beam Punch possessed power equivalent to Genesis Punch . It was one of his strongest moves . Shueria blocking it head-on meant he was very confident in his ability to negate Sila’s attack power .
Shueria’s qi compressed and crystallized into an object similar to a sturdy silver shield . Meanwhile, familiar-looking letters were shining from his heart . His qi surged as if there was no limit . Upon contact, Sila’s Genesis Beam Punch had its power reduced before eventually dispersing .
Shueria then brandished his hands, cleaving Sila’s ice net in only three moves .
‘The Heart of the Sealed One? It seems to be a qi-type item . Qi type relies on simplicity, so I guess its ability is not as complicated as Illuminus’ . From the looks of it, it seems to grant the user bottomless power . ’
The Heart of the Sealed One possessed the ability to recover qi, magic, and psychic points at an incredible rate that made them seem like they would never run out . Such a seemingly fraudulent ability would discourage tons of Shueria’s opponents, but not Sila . He knew the extent of abilities attached to items from the Sealed One set, including the weakness of wielding dual types of energy .
‘The heart must have some restrictions, similar to how Illuminus forbade me from equipping main weapon . Oh! Cards, probably . Shueria said he couldn’t utilize cards . ’
As Sila thought to this point, he found his discovery quite lackluster .
Because he, too, currently couldn’t equip cards!!
‘Being able to wield two energy types seems great at first glance, but the inability to acquire supportive skills is still an issue . Hmm… Let me recall qi-type supporting skills . . . ’
With only a few moves, Sila could discern that Shueria was using Qi of Little Tiger and Qi of Little Bird as the foundation, so he speculated Shueria’s main qi was Cloudy Tiger Qi, one of Ten Supreme Qi . Regarding the eight qi techniques, Shueria had displayed only Tortured Soul so far even though he should have utilized more of them .
Now that Sila thought about it, since he acquired Dark Psychic Corrosion from Shueria’s Bomb Lurking Psychic, it was to be expected that Shueria would have acquired Tortured Soul from him during their past exchanges .
Sila got all eight qi techniques from Illuminus, so he had been unaware of the normal method for obtaining the skills until he heard about it later from Lomyok and Bluebird . Given Shueria’s strength and Crow’s support, Sila wouldn’t be surprised if Shueria possessed all eight of them . Despite that, the fact was Shueria seemed to have only Tortured Soul and no more .
Shueria spread his fingers into ten blades . His heart emitted powerful qi aura, acting as a topnotch protective armor . Sila observed his opponent’s actions without saying anything, but his brain had worked out Shueria’s skill pool .
‘Aside from Cloudy Tiger Qi, Shueria is only using Basic Qi, Recovering Qi, and Qi Circulation . All of them are in the elementary stage . Considering the time, they are supposed to reach an advanced stage or at least an intermediate stage already . This means Shueria can’t develop qi . Furthermore, the reason why he deliberately exerted his qi is not only because he wants to intimidate me . It’s to hide the fact that he doesn’t have supporting skills such as Qi Concealment and Soundless . ’
For these kinds of weaknesses, in all of Monster Soul there would only be about five players able to discover them . Unfortunately for Shueria, Sila was one among those five .
Qi type heavily relied on balance and fusion . Each skill relates to the others and can be honed until they all become one with the user . They would eventually fuse with the user’s main qi and allow the user to use them simultaneously . No matter how great of a qi art one possesses, if the user lacks high-level supporting skills such as Qi Advanced Circulation, Full Body Restructuring Qi, Advanced Qi Transmission, or Immortal Qi, they would be unable to utilize qi to its full potential . If Sila had to make an analogy, he would say it was like having vast resources but lacking the tools to efficiently utilize them .
Bottomless power was merely an illusion . Shueria’s attack power was limited at the maximum value of his qi points . Without high-level supporting skills such as Full Body Restructuring Qi, his qi pool was bound to be relatively shallow . That was why Shueria constantly clad himself with qi reinforcement while letting the heart recover his qi . He was putting up the pretense that he had an endless amount of power .
Indeed, with the heart, he could refill his qi and psychic points in a short period of time . However, being able to refill special points and being able to recover health points were different stories . Unlike Sila, Shueria didn’t possess Qi Advanced Circulation and Immortal Qi, so it would take Shueria significantly more time to convert qi into health points or alleviate his fatigue . This was the true reason why Shueria chose to reduce Sila’s attack power . It was in order to let his body suffer the least amount of damage .
Discovering a path to victory, Sila’s lips curled up into a smile . This battle wouldn’t be decided by him showing a single powerful attack . Rather, he had to constantly penetrate through Shueria’s qi protection and chip away the man’s health points .
The longer the battle went on, the thicker Shueria’s qi reinforcement would become . It was a wasteful and tiring method to utilize qi reinforcement that Sila would never bother attempting . Nevertheless, it was Shueria’s unique point—the method that only he could use .
Sila sighed . Shueria probably didn’t know that while he was still training himself to become stronger, Sila had already crossed the boundary that separated him from ordinary players .
Shueria was strong, but not strong enough . He still had weaknesses that Sila could exploit, unlike the flawless Montra .
“Good grief . This fight would’ve been fairer if your rank was Lord,” Sila muttered .
Shueria replied on the spot, “Rank isn’t what determines the victor . It all depends on strength and circumstances . ”
Sila nodded . “Fair enough . I used to think the same . I realized something recently though . Both Montra and I, no players can stand a chance against us anymore . There is a certain gap between Marquis and Lord Rank that I’ve failed to notice before . Ultimately, Monster Soul is a game . Levels are inevitably important . It’s a no-brainer, though I, too, just noticed that last night because of Mister Kiryu’s words . ”
“What do you mean?”
“It means you have already lost . ”
Sila opened his palm, showing the crest of his Lordship . He stamped it on his chest . Soon, the same symbol showed itself on the center of his back while the familiar golden essence continued to shine even though the five seconds had long since passed .
Lordship of Time — Incarnation of Chronos — Evil God’s Martial Essence .