Sila regained his awareness in a certain hut, where he recalled immediately that it was located within the Valley of Immortals . He quickly got up and touched his left arm, which was still intact . Regardless, the light ache told him that what he had experienced wasn’t just a nightmare . The Blade-Sharpening Dragon was far more fearsome than he had thought . He died just for having the intention to claim ownership .
“Release Lookhin . ”
The petite girl flew out from his armor and hopped to sit on his shoulder out of habit . Even though she didn’t say a word, Sila knew she was showing her concern for him in her own way .
“If you want to perch on my shoulder, can you at least transform back into your bird form?” Sila asked, chuckling .
Lookhin shrunk and transformed into a small sparrow hawk, though she seemed to be a bit fatter than she used to be . Noticing this, Sila couldn’t help but let out a laugh .
“Look, the human form must be a result of the skill, so the changes aren’t visible . Your real form is getting chubby . How about eating less snacks?”
Lookhin sunk her talons into Sila’s shoulder, expressing her objection to the idea . Sila smiled mildly as he strengthened his power to resist the pain . He then stroked her dotingly .
He walked outside and found that everyone was waiting . Kiryu, Rex, Crow, and Sanon were sitting around Crow’s old table .
Rex was glaring at Crow with eyes full of hostility while Kiryu and Sanon tried to liven the mood .
Spotting Sila, Rex and Kiryu stood up .
“Sila, you finally returned . Let’s head back,” said Kiryu .
Sanon also stood up . “In that case, we’ll send you off—”
“No need . We can go back by ourselves . Let’s go, Sila,” Rex declared .
Sila walked several steps forward . “Both of you can go first . I have an appointment with Mister Sanon . I’ll meet up soon . ”
Kiryu shifted his gaze to Sanon, who nodded to confirm Sila’s statement .
“Don’t worry . I’ll personally send him off,” Sanon said to Kiryu .
Kiryu nodded and left . Meanwhile, Sila wondered why Kiryu had to wait for him and why Sanon would have to send him off . Unbeknownst to him, the reason was Kiryu’s pessimistic thinking . He was concerned that Crow might take revenge for his disciple’s defeat . Sila staying in this place alone was no different than living in the enemy’s den . With Crow’s art, it would take him only an instant to kill Sila if Sila didn’t expect it . Kiryu felt more reassured with Sanon volunteering to look after Sila .
Sila followed Sanon on the stone path . Both of them stopped in front the entrance leading to the Cave of Immortals, where Sila met Mora in the game for the first time . It was also this place where he started practicing Nine Sun-Melting-Fists .
After a few moments of silence, Sanon turned back to confront Sila and asked, “Sila, how certain are you that Montra has mastered Grand Deity’s Breathing?”
Sila understood Sanon’s concern . Actually, he wasn’t sure about that himself as he had heard about it from Joshua .
“I heard about it from another person, sir . Though I had a chance to spar with him later . If you can tell me what kind of art Grand Deity’s Breathing is, maybe I can help you judge whether Montra has mastered it or not . ”
Sanon nodded . “Grand Deity’s Breathing has existed in the association for quite some time . Mora was the one who brought it . He said it was the Tiger God’s exclusive profound art that he got from someone else, though he didn’t tell me who they were . ”
Sila guessed his teacher must have obtained it from Joshua, who must have gotten it from Hu Xian in order to experiment . He wasn’t exactly sure though since the information wasn’t enough .
“The Tiger God’s art could be nothing short of the ultimate profound art . However, after studying it for a while, we decided to forever lock it away as it was too dangerous . ”
“Grand Deity’s Breathing is an art which unlocks the user’s potential and borrows the inner force that the user is supposed to acquire in the future to use right away—like borrowing the breathing from a deity, just as its name implies . Upon reaching the final stage, the user’s inner force and overall strength would be a few dozen times stronger than before . However, as it is borrowed power, it’s natural that the user has to pay it back . Soon, the entirety of the user’s life force will be consumed and they will die without even having a corpse . That is why we consider it a dark art . ”
“Flaming Cloud Qi, too, has a stage which consumes the user's life force to strengthen their inner force . What is the difference, then, sir?” asked Sila .
Sanon shared his opinion, “Flaming Cloud Qi is like actual flames . You can use your life force as firewood to let them burn fiercer . You can also choose to stop adding firewood whenever you want, though you have to be careful not to let the flames become too strong so you don’t burn yourself . On the contrary, Grand Deity’s Breathing is like withdrawing all of your remaining lifespan in one go . It’s irreversible . What awaits the user is only death . They can stay alive for at most a week . ”
Sila objected, “If it is the Tiger God’s profound art, that means he must have mastered it . But . . . as far as I know, I heard he stayed alive for longer than that . ”
Sanon agreed, “I understand your point . We have our hypothesis that Grand Deity’s Breathing wasn’t the only profound art he had . Prior to inventing this art, the Tiger God had comprehended the Marvelous Bible and invented Chaos Devourer Art . It was possible that he consumed others’ inner force to prolong his life—similar to how you continue adding more water into a leaking cup . This way he could stay alive for longer than expected, but made numerous enemies in the process . ”
A spark of thought rushed to Sila’s brain . “Mister Sanon, could it be that you plan to have Montra practice Chaos Devourer Art?!”
Sanon shook his head . “That’s not it . To practice Chaos Devourer Art, the Marvelous Bible of the Tiger Family is required . It’s inherited through the bloodline only, so no outsiders can learn it . The method I have in my mind is for you, Sila, to destroy Montra’s profound veins . . . with Flaming Cloud Qi . ”
“What did you just say?!!”
Sila couldn’t believe his own ears . This kind of method shouldn’t be considered an option at all . Even though his martial knowledge was lacking, he thought he knew that having the profound veins completely crippled was a fate worse than death for profound practitioners . He was sure Montra would think the same .
Sila asked, “Why do I have to do that? More importantly . . . Montra is your son . Why will you allow such a thing to happen to him? He is a genius fighter . Do you intend to ruin his future?”
Although Montra was talented in many aspects, the path he pursued was none other than martial arts . He developed many skills just for the sake of this sole goal . If this goal had to be taken away, Montra would rather die in a battle .
“Sila, it’s you who doesn’t understand . Him being a genius is not important at all . I just don’t want my son to die . I’ll take responsibility for everything that happens afterward . ”
“Why does it have to be me?”
Destroying someone’s future was a big decision . Sila was a mere human . If possible, he didn’t want to carry such a responsibility .
“Others can’t . Only Flaming Cloud Qi is able to do the task . I know better than anyone since I have personally experienced it with my body . It’s the only power that can burn only the profound veins without damaging muscles, tendons, or nerves—destroying only the part that the user wants to destroy, just making the target unable to utilize inner force . ”
Sila frowned . “Your words are contradicting, Mister Sanon . Even if Montra’s profound veins are destroyed, it still doesn’t mean he can survive . Grand Deity’s Breathing already withdrew all of his inner force . This action will only accelerate his death . ”
“I said I’ll take responsibility for everything that will happen . Sila, you don’t have to be concerned . ”
Sila spoke, his voice became louder, “How can I not be?! If Montra dies, it’ll be like I’m the one who killed him!”
Sanon’s expression improved as he asked, “Sila . . . are you worried about Montra?”
“It’s true that I dislike him, but that might be because I don’t understand him well . A human’s life is important . If possible, I don’t want us to kill each other over this kind of thing . ”
Sanon fell into a long silence . Sila simply waited as he had no idea what Sanon was thinking . After a long time, Sanon’s eyes gleamed with a blue spark . Calm and serene magic power poured out of his body .
“Sila, I want you to trust me . . . so I’m going to tell you a secret that I have never told anyone in my life . ”
Sila took a step back, feeling troubled and pressured at the same time . “If you have never told anyone before, I think you don’t have to tell me, sir . ”
Sanon slowly shook his head . “I’d prefer that since this secret involves many parties, especially my deceased teacher’s reputation . However, I won’t be able to persuade you if I don’t reveal it . Knowing this secret, it’s your choice if you want to tell someone else, but I hope you will consider it thoroughly before you do . Take me as an example . Once the secret comes out of my mouth, it’ll no longer be a secret . ”
Sila didn’t know what kind of story Sanon intended to tell him . In any case, he could tell that Sanon was now cladding his body with water-attribute magic power . Sanon’s real body had his profound veins crippled, so Sila guessed the man could only use in-game power .
Sanon looked directly into Sila’s eyes . His gaze was extremely calm and cool . He opened his palm and extended it forward . What came with it was an intimidating new kind of aura that Sila had never experienced before—a comfortable aura which soothed his mind, possessing no menace and emitting no dangerous vibe at all .
“Although I look like this, I’m still the teacher of Kawin, Revin, and Montra . You shouldn’t let your guard down, Sila,” Sanon spoke once he saw that Sila lowered his vigilance .
Sanon’s body flashed and vanished from Sila’s line of sight as if he was using a trick . Shockingly to Sila, what Sanon did wasn’t the result of an in-game skill but a profound movement art . Out of the blue, he reappeared next to Sila’s right side .
Sila was aware that Sanon was a master-class expert and one of Independent NPCs . Thus, he didn’t have to worry he would be too heavy-handed .
Dual Overwhelming Attributes — Fire melts Metal, Crushing Sky .
After studying how to delicately control qi under Kiryu, Sila had learned how to efficiently control the radius and destructive of the move . He was now better at crushing his opponents . Even when he used the same level of power, it would result in a stronger attack . All destructive force poured down directly from above to below . There was zero waste of power .
Sanon leisurely waved his hands, but his movements were quick and continuously to Sila’s eyes—like a dragon coiling in the sky . Sanon’s power circulated and formed a perfect circle . An instant later, Sila found Sanon standing upside down . When he saw this, he immediately had to grit his teeth, preparing for an impact . That was because it wasn’t Sanon who was standing upside down . Instead, it was Sila who had been flipped in an instant .
The sound of the impact reverberated . Sila was shocked since Sanon didn’t put that much force into performing the action . The source of power that tossed him over came from Five-Attributed Cloud Qi . Apparently, Sanon countered Sila using Sila's own power .
Sila suspected that Sanon held back by adding more force into the rotation, speeding up the throw and causing Sila to land on his back rather than his head . Sila slowly got up while enduring the pain running through his body .
“Was that Ocean-Surrounding Dragon Technique…? Your profound veins were not destroyed . . . ” Sila muttered, still recovering from his injury .
Sanon stood motionlessly as he replied in a friendly manner . “Only half of that is correct, Sila . That was indeed the Ocean-Surrounding Dragon Technique . However, you are wrong to assume that my profound veins were not destroyed . They were . . . but they have been healed thanks to my teacher . ”
The Demon God had announced that whoever uses the Ocean-Surrounding Dragon Technique was subjected to instant execution . Sila was now aware that Sanon was risking his life by showing him the art . If this secret was revealed, Sanon would be hunted and killed according to the order . This meant Sanon really wanted to gain his trust .
“What I’m trying to say is that I have a way for Montra to restore his profound veins . You don’t need to worry about him . ”
“What exactly happened in the past?” Sila asked with growing confusion . People regarded Sanon as the weakest Elder who possessed crippled profound veins . However, the fact was that his strength was at a level that Sila had no chance of handling . It was strength that didn’t fall behind that of his teacher, Mora .
Sanon raised his head, looking at the vast sky and recalling the events in the past . “Many thought I’d bear deep hatred against my teacher who unreasonably destroyed my profound veins . However, as his disciple, I knew my teacher’s personality well . Humiliating one’s teacher in front of an audience is a major crime for us of the martial world . My action deserved punishment . My teacher was a hot-tempered and impetuous person, but he cared for us deeply . His actions had the chance to be extreme in the heat of the moment . However, given his personality, he wouldn’t say sorry even if he realized he was in the wrong . Instead, he would do anything to compensate for his mistakes . In any case, the way he made it up to me was . . . ”
Sanon fell into silence once again . He drowned himself in nostalgia, took a deep breath, and continued, “One day, Teacher called me over and told me to travel with him . He was the kind of person who would only explain on his own if he wanted to, so if he doesn’t say anything, it’s pointless to ask . I accompanied him without asking . In the end, we reached the Sky Tower Clan . He ordered me to wait in the lobby . ”
“The Sky Tower Clan?” Sila felt like he had heard that name before from somewhere .
“Yes, the Sky Tower Clan in the past was a building located on a mountain . However, our world has become more modern than back then . In the end, only we profound practitioners still call it the Sky Tower Clan while on the surface it was the five-star hotel named Blue Sky Palace, a skyscraper located in the middle of the city . I knew where it was, but I didn’t know my teacher’s intentions back then .
“I waited in the lobby for a very long time, so long that I found it odd . In the end, I decided to take an elevator to the top floor . It was well-known that the top floor was the private room of the Sky Tower Clan’s headmaster . I didn’t have profound sense at the time so I didn’t realize… it was only when I opened the door that I found the room filled with blood, corpses, and flames . ”
Sila gulped his saliva, feeling thrilled . On the other hand, Sanon could no longer hide the sadness in his eyes .
“I searched for my teacher, running around the entire floor yet finding nothing but death . The only confirmation I received that my teacher had been there were the scorch marks in the shapes of palms that were present on every corpse . Every one of them died by Flaming Cloud Qi . . .
“Then, I heard a crying sound . Following it, I found a baby lying next to what should have been its mother’s corpse . I picked it up with trembling hands . It was at that time when my teacher opened the door and came inside .
“Teacher asked what I was doing there . . . which I didn’t answer . Rather, I couldn’t . What shocked me more was what my teacher did afterward .
“Teacher tossed me a scroll and said, ‘You’re unsuited to practicing Flaming Cloud Qi, but this art should be most compatible with you . You can restore your profound veins if you practice it . Make sure you master it . Don’t let me down . ’
“I took a look at the cover of the scroll, which was stained with the blood of the original owner . It’s Heavenly Reservoir Qi . ”
Sila forgot how to breathe for a moment there . He could begin to guess what had happened next . Still, he was confused by the shocking, tragic truth .
“Sila, maybe you have heard about Heavenly Reservoir Qi before . This art is one of the Five Crown Jewels, specializing in healing power . Even on the verge of death, if one can master this art in their last moments, they can still prolong their life .
“Teacher did that for me, but at the cost of many innocent lives . Ever since that moment, I have regretted nothing more in my life . ”
“W-What did you do afterward, Mister Sanon?”
Sanon sighed . “I was too ashamed to practice it at first . However, I eventually failed to suppress my desire as a profound practitioner . I practiced it just to the point where I could recover my lost power as I didn’t have the face to completely master it . As for Ocean-Surrounding Dragon Technique, I noticed a loophole in the Teacher’s order, so I decided to polish it further . Thinking back, I believed Teacher deliberately left the loophole himself . He must have wanted to apologize . It’s just that he didn’t say it . ”
“What happened to the Sky Tower Clan after that, sir?”
“The members were all dead, with that baby as the sole survivor . Teacher used Flaming Cloud Qi to destroy all of the evidence . His white flames perfectly reduced it all to nothing . They were the Demon God’s signature flames . Everyone in the martial world knew, but no one dared to speak . The police investigated for a long time . However, the investigation didn’t go well since all of the victims were dead, with no witnesses other than myself . Ultimately, they concluded that what happened was an accident . ”
Sila couldn’t help but find the Demon God’s character confounding . Sometimes he seemed kind and soft, even putting a stop to Kimon’s assassination business . On the other hand, sometimes his action was inhumanely ruthless . Could it be that this was the aftereffect of mastering Flaming Cloud Qi?
Sometimes you were a god, and sometimes you were a demon . Retaining one’s sense of self and balancing goodness and wickedness were the art’s basics recorded in the Cloud Part . Apparently, the Demon God Zenga excelled more at the Flame Part, thus he acquired unique and powerful qi . However, his mind became uncontrollable and drifted like a cloud . No one could understand what he was thinking .
“Mister Sanon, so you want to tell me that you intend for Montra to practice Heavenly Reservoir Qi after I have destroyed his profound veins, is that right?”
Sanon gave him a strong nod . “That’s correct . That’s why you don’t have to worry, Sila . The harder Montra falls, the quicker he’ll get back on his feet . I know my son well . He’ll recover in no time . ”
Sila nodded . “In that case, I’ll help . But . . . I wonder . . . ”
Sanon knew what Sila was wondering about . “You must want to know what happened to that baby, right?”
“Can I ask, sir?”
“Certainly . I myself plan to tell him everything once the time comes . I’m responsible for my teacher’s crime . When everything is settled, I’ll return Heavenly Reservoir Qi Scroll to its rightful owner and offer my life to compensate for all the lives of his family members,” Sanon said with eyes showing strong determination . Looking into them, Sila could tell that they weren’t just empty words . Sanon really meant to keep this vow .
“Who is he, sir?”
“You also know him, Sila . In fact, it’s because of my feelings of shame that I took care of him better than Montra . I even made him my successor in place of my own son . That was a part of the reason why Montra felt I wasn’t fair to him . ”
Sanon walked away without Sila trying to stop him .
Sila was greatly confused with tons of new information in his head—including the grand secret which Sanon and the Demon God had never told another soul .
“ . . . Kawin?”