In the Dragon Kingdom, near the edge of the Coiling Forest .
Asava and Himeko emerged next to a giant tree . Himeko observed their surroundings as she lifted her hand from Asava’s shoulder .
“This place is the Coiling Forest . According to Sila, we have to go to the Sacred Temple . Under the pool inside is where the Chaos Emperor Dragon, or rather the Tiger God, lives . ”
Asava showed a smile . His smile was the complete opposite of Mamon’s . It was a smile so kind and warm that people can’t help but let their guard down around him .
Smiling was the first art Asava learned from his teacher .
“Unexpectedly, I’ll have a chance to encounter the living legend . This is delightful . ”
Himeko led the way . “Be careful . This place can be said to be Montra’s territory . Our operation today is supposed to be top secret . That was why I brought you with me . ”
Asava followed her closely . “I know, I know . It’s your fault for neglecting leveling up your character . This is a game anyway . It’s quite fun if you give it a try . ”
For the record, Himeko traveled to the Dragon Kingdom at Sila’s request . However, she judged that the task Sila entrusted to her was beyond her ability . Thus, she went to ask for Asava’s help .
Sila intended for her to meet the Tiger God in order to ask him the method to conquer the Blade-Sharpening Dragon . Nevertheless, the Dragon Kingdom had become a forbidden ground after being raided . There was a strict procedure to be followed when anyone, even people from the dragon race, wanted to visit the Sacred Temple .
Realizing that their kingdom wasn’t as invincible as they had thought, dragon-race players began to take turns guarding the place . They were aware that the first raid could lead to another . As players came to know that raiding the Dragon Kingdom was possible, some groups might want to try it as well . Dragons were rare creatures that dropped valuable items and large amounts of money . The Dragon Kingdom was a dream place for many adventurers who sought profits .
Right after the first raid ended, the dragon-race players established a new law, indicating that everyone entering or exiting the Dragon Kingdom had to send a request for permission to the Heavenly Dragon Guild at least a week in advance . If they didn’t, they could receive a warning or even be killed . This rule emphasized that their kingdom was a sacred place, not a location to be taken lightly .
Himeko naturally possessed enough capability to avoid being detected, both from players and monsters . However, she took Sila’s request seriously and wanted to avoid possible errors . She was aware that her level was still at Level 1,000 Knight Rank, which was too low based on the current average level of dragon-race players . Thus, she invited Asava, the master of killing who had reached Marquis Rank, to join her covert mission .
Asava was, in a sense, her trump card in case something went wrong .
“It’s regretful that you belong to the dragon race . You missed the chance to meet your teacher,” Asava initiated the conversation as they walked .
“We’ve met, though I didn’t realize at all that she was my teacher . As expected of the Hell’s Gate Islands’ best spy,” Himeko replied as she was paying attention to the surrounding sound .
“That’s true . Don’t be disappointed though . She didn’t even go to visit her own son . ”
Himeko stopped her feet . “There is an outpost ahead of us . Two high-level players . Can you handle them?”
Asava’s body gradually became transparent . “It’s not a fight, so there will be no problem . Killing targets without letting them know what happened is the ultimate level of assassination . "
Himeko waited behind a tree . She focused on the sound of Asava’s heartbeats, which were stable and calm like those of cold-blooded animals, approaching the two targets . Given their abilities, Himeko and Asava had a choice to make a detour around the players . However, they judged that it might become a problem if they had to be wary of every direction . The option of silently assassinating everyone they met on the way was far better for their journey .
Asava activated Sage of the Six Disasters, the Gambled Disaster, to determine the best timing and positioning for taking out his targets . His invisible body casually strode forward with no sign of haste . There was neither sound nor leakage of power . Once he had reached the suitable spot, he lightly rubbed his fingers together, sending faint aromas into the two players’ noses . Instantly, those two slightly jerked, their eyes gradually became hazy as they felt like they were going to paradise .
That was the last feeling they got to feel . The Blossoming Disaster was the technique regarding the use of poisons . At a higher level, Asava could kill them neatly with the poison alone . However, he didn’t want to waste such a precious poison on ordinary targets . Thus, he opted to use a more common poison, making the targets temporarily become absent-minded, since an instant was more than enough for him .
Sage of the Six Disasters — Death Disaster — Killing Art .
Asava’s sabers slithered out of his hands like two crawling snakes . Each of them penetrated the joints between parts of armor and stabbed into the target’s heart, exactly one inch deep . The tips of the blades made small scratches on the fragile hearts, turning the two players into white light and disappearing without a single drop of blood being spilled .
The Eminent Immortal was the sole person in the Hell’s Gate Islands who could make a perfect kill without leaving any traces . If he willed it, he could even leave behind a corpse that, according to any autopsy done, had resulted from a heart attack .
Asava was the heir of the Eminent Immortal from the Hell’s Gate Islands, so he had inherited those skills . Himeko borrowed his strength to sneak in without leaving any trace behind .
“Mn . I got nothing aside from money and experience points . Unfortunately, my level has already hit the cap,” Asava complained as he reappeared next to her .
Himeko stepped away from the tree . She walked passed Asava and entered the strictly forbidden area . “The next shift will come soon . We have less than half an hour . ”
Asava nodded and followed her silently . Once the two arrived in front of the temple, worried expressions could be seen on their faces . The cause was the wreckage in front of the temple . The entrance was blocked off by piles of giant boulders .
Asava showed a dry smile . “We should have brought Vlad with us . I’m not good at physical labor . What should we do?”
Himeko closed her eyes . Asava didn’t want to disturb her so he simply sat down on one of the boulders . Having known each other, he could guess what she was doing . Himeko was listening to the sound of the wind passing through gaps between rocks, searching for a path that could lead them inside .
A moment later, she reopened her eyes and shook her head . “It’s no good . These rocks completely block every available path that humans can use to enter . I definitely heard the sound of something moving underneath the temple, but it was very strange . I didn’t hear any heartbeats . ”
“You heard the sounds of something alive yet there was no sound of heartbeats? Such a freak creature can be none other than the Tiger God, I’m sure . The Marvelous Bible is renowned in its ability to turn the impossible into reality,” Asava commented, “Well, we can’t proceed further, so I guess we’ve gained nothing from this trip . ”
“No, just the fact that my voice can reach him is enough,” said Himeko . Her eyes were sparkling . Noticing that, Asava couldn’t help but feel worried .
Himeko and Vlad were like Asava’s little siblings . Although they didn’t share the same bloodline, the bonds between them were stronger than what others could expect .
Asava was aware that there was a taboo for using Goddess’ Resonance Dark Art, and that was for the user to hold real attachment to their targets . The users must be able to abandon anything regardless of place and time, similar to how a goddess could freely ascend and return to Heaven according to her will . If the goddess felt attached to lowly mortals, she would simply lose her wings and fall .
Based on Asava’s observation, Himeko seemed to care for Sila too much . He inwardly hoped that her feelings toward Sila wouldn’t develop into love, otherwise a grave consequence would await her . If something were to happen to his precious siblings, Asava was prepared to do whatever it takes to protect them, even if it meant fighting against the Wulin Masters Association or the Hell’s Gate Islands . He would handle the problem with the only method he specialized in . The cause of the problem wouldn’t live to see tomorrow .
Himeko concentrated her mind to envision the room below the temple . In the center of the room was the silhouette of a person . The air around the person seemed to be constantly sucked inward . Based on Sila’s explanation, this phenomenon might be the result of Grand Deity’s Breathing . She sent her whispering voice to the person’s ears .
“The Tiger God Hu Xian, I’m Sila’s friend . Can you help us please?” Her voice was very supple and beautiful as if it belonged to the ethereal celestial goddess . Those who listened to it could even be willing to abandon their lives and souls to make her wishes come true .
However, the voice she got in return from someone under the temple was hoarse and placid .
“Your dark art is useless against me, young lass from the Hell’s Gate Islands . It seems Kimon’s members are still as intimate as ever . ”
It was a given that the Tiger God knew about the Hell’s Gate Islands and their four famous dark arts . Knowing that Sila used Flaming Cloud Qi, the Tiger God was aware that Himeko was indeed Sila’s comrade . In any case, it wasn’t clear to Himeko the reason why her dark art didn’t work against the Tiger God—whether it was due to the Tiger God’s higher inner force or a special trait of Grand Deity’s Breathing .
Changing her voice back to normal sound transmission, Himeko apologized, “I’m terribly sorry, Senior . The thing was . . . I was asked by two parties to seek your assistance regarding two different matters . You’re the only one who knows the answers to both questions . I beg you to share some of your wisdom . ”
“I’m free anyway . Let me hear what you want to say . ”
“Firstly, we want to know how you got your hands on the Classic of Sinew Metamorphosis and its current location . Secondly, Sila wants to know how you won against the Demonic Dragon in a state where you couldn’t use your power . ”
Both questions were indeed mysteries that only the Tiger God knew the answers for . Each answer was extremely important .
The Classic of Sinew Metamorphosis was mentioned only in legends from a thousand years ago . However, it suddenly emerged during the Tiger God’s era and ended up in his possession .
“Fufufu . I was wondering what you might request . It turns out to be these trivial matters I can handle easily . No problem . I’ll grant your request, though there is a condition . ”
“What kind of condition, Senior? Just say the word, and we’ll do anything we can . ”
“No, I don’t want you to do anything for me . I desire nothing . My condition is I’ll answer only one of your questions . You must choose which question you desire the answer for more . ” The Tiger God’s voice came in a challenging tone, as if he was having fun teasing people .
Himeko was startled . “Didn’t you say they are just trivial matters you can handle easily?”
“Yes, they are, but hardships in the world shouldn’t be solved too easily . In order to obtain something, you should be prepared to let go of something else . I’m always here, so you don’t need to hurry . I don’t mind if you want to go back and think things through before returning . ”
Himeko paused the conversation and consulted what she just heard with Asava, who could make a decision instantly . “It’s a no-brainer . There is such a large gap of level of importance between the two matters . As far as we know, the Classic of Sinew Metamorphosis is the last antique profound art available in the present era, and he is the only one who knows its whereabouts . We, as members of Wulin Masters Association, have a duty to preserve and guard it . The question that Sila asked is of utmost insignificance in comparison . ”
“Exactly as that young lad said . So you have decided? Ask me then . . . ” This time the Tiger God’s voice could be heard by both of them . Even without a profound art related to sound, the Tiger God could achieve this kind of feat with his vast amount of experience, inner force, and talents .
Himeko weighed the options in her mind for a minute . Finally, she opened her mouth, “Please tell me the method to acquire the Blade-Sharpening Dragon, Senior . ”
Asava was shocked . “What did you do, Hime?! Why—?!”
The Tiger God interrupted, “Since you have chosen, don’t regret it later . Now, I’ll tell you alone . ” The Tiger God’s answer came as a short sentence . It flowed into Himeko’s ears, surprising her as she heard it .
“Is it that easy?”
“I have told you nothing but truths . Do you regret your decision now?”
“No, Senior . Rather, I’m glad I can be of help to Sila . ”
Himeko stood up and touched Asava’s shoulder, who was showing an upset expression, before both of them teleported away from the Dragon Kingdom . The last thing they got to hear was the Tiger God’s mischievous laughter .
Sila was panting heavily . He raised his sleeve to wipe the sweat on his forehead . Piled on the ground next to him were dozens of broken E-grade swords . He looked at the sword in his hand, which was now broken in half, before shifting his gaze to the similar sword in Varee’s hands .
“Do you understand yet? Everyone can use a sword, but only a few can use it efficiently,” said Varee . She didn’t seem the least bit tired .
Sila was neglecting qi circulation, stopping himself to alleviate fatigue and recover stamina . Regardless, for him to be dead tired despite having the skill Way of the Hermit, it proved that fighting without the support of qi was indeed difficult .
“That was already the thirty-third sword you broke . On the other hand, my first one is still intact . Do you understand why?”
Sila nodded . “I’m starting to get it . You didn’t block my attacks directly even once, right?”
Hearing Sila’s reply, Varee felt amazed . “You got that right, Sila . You put too much force into your actions, though normally you would have to spend months to notice that . Sword handling is an important skill, especially for my Japanese katana which has a curved and slender blade . It can be easily broken if you use it incorrectly . ”
For the record, Sila was now learning traditional swordsmanship . He wanted to be better at using swords, but he didn’t have a proper teacher . The only one in his mind was Varee .
True, his sword arts belonged to Pumin, the Sword Prodigy . However, Heaven’s Decree was a high-level sword art Pumin came up when he had high mastery at using swords . On the other hand, Sila learned it without even basic knowledge like how to hold a sword properly . Although Pumin had taught him some of the basics when they were in the Desert of Death, their time together was limited, so Sila couldn’t learn all of it .
Sila’s weakness would be exposed when he fought against others . He was like a game character with ultimate skills but lacking basic attacks . Between each use of the moves would be a gap his opponents could exploit . In addition, each style of Heaven’s Decree used up a great deal of energy . He might be fine in a one-on-one duel, but he wouldn’t last using Heaven’s Decree against a hundred enemies .
Hence, he was returning to the basics . Just like when an arrow fired straight into the air returns to the ground, Sila decided to go from using his highly skilled art to training the fundamentals . He asked Varee to teach him standard swordsmanship, starting from the most basic level performed by ordinary people without the support of the inner force . In the process, many of his swords had broken while Varee’s was still in good condition despite using the same kind of sword and not relying on any energy reinforcement .
“The trick lies in the blade's direction and the direction in which you apply the force at the very point of contact . If you don’t rely on techniques and only use your arm strength, you’ll get tired easily . Swinging a sword and missing the target is even more tiresome than hitting the target . My mom taught me how to brandish the sword gently yet swiftly . With enough mastery, even a wooden sword can be used to handle real swords . ”
“Apply the force straight along the blade, is it? I see,” Sila repeated the lesson .
“That’s not all to it . A sword is an extension of your body, but it’s not a part of your flesh . It doesn’t have flexibility like your muscles, so you need to be flexible in its stead by exerting a suitable level of strength—not too weak and not too strong . Redirect the force of the opponent’s attack away instead of letting it affect your sword . ”
Sila scratched his head . “Won’t the force come to harm our arms instead, then?”
“It won’t if you do it properly, though this level of mastery would require experience and the ability to seize the timing . Let the impact flow past you like water flowing through rocks . For you to reach this level, three or four years experience with using a sword is normally required . ”
Sila nodded as he took out a new sword . “I don’t have that much time . Now, let’s continue . ”