In the Mansion of Secrets .
One of Sila’s living rooms had long since been refurbished to be a temporary meeting room for the Wicked Union’s core members . Presently in the room, there were three members representing the Mountain Thieves League—Beluga, Elso, and Nednapha—and two members from the Royal Armament Guild—Cross and Fargo .
The five of them were sitting with serious expressions on their faces . Sitting alone at the end of a table was Hong Tong, who came as the representative of the Victorious Wolves Sect . He placed down many black invitation cards for the Mansion of Secrets on the table . They were the cards Sila had issued to the members of Victorious Wolves Sect who wanted to use his dojo to transmit and practice Qi of Little Divine Beings .
It was a clear display of Lone Wolf’s will . He and his guild seeked to withdraw from the alliance .
Cross slammed the table heavily . Such simple wooden furniture couldn’t resist the strike, so it broke into a large amount of debris as if it was cut into pieces by psychic blades . The invitation cards were torn apart by the same impact, flying around the room . No one picked them up though . In fact, they didn’t even move .
“What does Lone Wolf take us for?!”
Hong Tong politely replied, “Mister Lone Wolf didn’t betray the union . He has just become aware of his standpoint and realized his mistakes . He intends to step out of the circle of fights and conflicts, and plans to give his support and protection to players who aren’t interested in the war . He doesn’t intend to join the Heavenly Dragon Guild . ”
“Heh! Even if he doesn’t join them, his action still greatly reduces our forces . How does it differ from helping the enemy?” Cross scoffed .
Beluga gestured to stop Cross and turned to Hong Tong . “We don’t constrain anyone . From now on, we’ll discuss the Wicked Union’s next courses of action . Since Lone Wolf has left the union, you are not welcome here . You should go . ”
Hong Tong nodded as his body faded away, contrary to his growing feelings of conflict . The news he brought would cause many problems for the Wicked Union . If the problems weren’t solved, the alliance might fall apart even before the war starts .
Cross had been briefly informed about the meeting with Revin from Beluga, and he honestly thought that the aforementioned meeting was ridiculous . Virtue is an abstract concept . For Cross, it was just a mere word without any worth .
“So damn pointless . So he quit because he didn’t want people to see him as a bad guy?”
Beluga could still maintain his smile despite being in this kind of situation . “What if it were you, Cross? If your subordinates exploited your fame as the Sword Emperor to commit a crime, what would you do?”
Cross replied without a moment of hesitation . “I’ll let others know that it was me who ordered them to do it . ”
“Even though you actually didn’t?”
“Certainly . ” Cross was resolute in his reply . “I’m more willing to be labeled as a bad guy rather than an incompetent commander who can’t control his own men . The latter will affect the guild more negatively in the long run . Well, the involved subordinates will still be punished, simply in private . ”
Beluga considered this before replying, “That must be because you view your guild as an army . It’s the reason Montra is most wary of you in wartime . He knows war is the stage where you shine the brightest . On the other hand, Lone Wolf views his guild as a group that is dedicated to shared purposes, like—”
“Heh . Lone Wolf’s fan club, is it?” Cross nagged .
Beluga threw a small laugh . “I was about to say a group of friends . Well, your definition also works . Since he felt he was a subject of idolization, he felt a heavy sense of responsibility, and that led to him choosing to shoulder his guildmates’ mistakes . Everyone has their own beliefs . Don’t blame him too much . ”
“Where the hell is Sila during this kind of critical time?” asked Cross .
“Mister Sila is secluding himself to practice in his bedroom, sirs . ” Out of nowhere, Julia suddenly appeared, a broom in her hand . She used it to sweep the debris and shredded paper . Apparently, no matter how skilled you were, as long as you were in the mansion you wouldn’t be able to detect her presence at all . The members had been startled at first, but by this point they were mostly used to it .
“Practicing? At this kind of time? Does Sila know that a single person can’t win a war by himself? He should pay more attention to the army during this time . ” Cross disapproved of Sila’s decision .
Beluga didn’t completely agree with the statement . “One person can change the flow of the war though . The stronger the general is, the more confident the soldiers become, don’t you agree? I heard that you, too, are nurturing a certain player to become another vice-leader, no?”
Cross grinned . “I really wonder how many spies you placed in my guild . ”
Beluga chuckled . “Our people lurk everywhere . Well, I can retract the order if you don’t like it . ”
“No need . The matter about Tiger is not a secret . True, the guy’s level is still low and his fighting ability is subpar . Nevertheless, his commanding ability and leadership can’t be overlooked at all . I have to get this kind of person into my guild no matter what . ”
“He is the kind of vice-leader you always dreamed of, then . ”
Cross turned to Fargo . “That’s right . The other vice-leaders are too unreliable . They needed me to order them around every single time, otherwise, they wouldn’t do a thing . ”
Fargo laughed, as did everyone else . They were trying to joke around to reduce the tension in the room . However, they eventually had to tackle the problem .
Cross sighed . “The most important decision we need to make right now is how we’ll handle Lone Wolf . He has a lot of intel about us and his army is by no means insignificant . I don’t want to wage war while being paranoid over whether someone will stab me in the back . ”
Elso expressed his opinion, “I don’t think Lone Wolf will bring harm to us though . We don’t need to worry . ”
Beluga sighed, concern written all over his face . “No, Elso . This time I agree with Cross . We can’t leave this problem alone . We have to do something . ”
Elso frowned . “Why? I don’t understand . Someone like Lone Wolf won’t betray his friends . ”
Cross interrupted, “What if he is forced to choose?”
“What does that mean?”
Cross explained it in more detail, “Based on Beluga’s story, I’ve already figured out Lone Wolf’s weakness . If I’m Montra, I will find some way to drive a lot of unrelated players into Zhongsuyuan City . This city may seem to not have many protections against the raid . However, I daresay that human shields are the best and cruelest defense .
“When we enter the city, invisible assassins will be hiding in the midst of people and secretly ambush them, bringing chaos and blaming us . Even when we don’t intend to harm unrelated players, it doesn’t mean they won’t attack us . If it were me, I would send some of my men to incite people and cause a riot . The more chaotic the situation, the better . ”
Beluga added, “ . . . The easiest method for us is to kill a few of them to demoralize the rest, making them flee from us . Kill some to prevent killing more . However, this method won’t work unless we possess military strength that is so superior that they think it’s useless to fight back, otherwise, they will be more eager to group up and rebel . . . ”
Cross continued as if he could read Beluga’s mind, “ . . . The problem is that the Victorious Wolves Sect is located in Zhongsuyuan City and they have been protecting the city for so long . If this kind of situation were to unfold, ordinary players will naturally ask the Victorious Wolves Sect for help . Now Lone Wolf will have no choice . Even if he doesn’t want to fight us, he still has to do it for the sake of protecting his so-called innocent citizens . As for the Heavenly Dragon Guild? They will just leisurely sit tight watching us fight each other, waiting until our forces have been worn down so they can strike us at our weakest moment . It’ll be their complete victory . ”
Nednapha opened her mouth for the first time . She became rather apprehensive toward Beluga after he had caught her handling the guild’s scandal without reporting him . In any case, all Beluga did was calmly lecture her, and that made her more eager to make up for her mistake .
“I vote for us to crumble the Victorious Wolves Sect first . However, that presents another problem . Our numbers are lower than the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s . For us to win the war, there is a high chance that we have to seize two main cities before finishing the last, since they can always escape to other cities using the teleportation service they set up . It’s already difficult for us to divide our attention and forces between raiding Zhongsuyuan City and Siaferia City . If we split it further to attack the Victorious Wolves Sect, the risk will be too much . ”
“How about we mess with them a little?” suggested Beluga .
“What did you have in mind? Say it,” Cross asked . He naturally had some ideas himself . However, given their current numbers after deducting the Victorious Wolves Sect members, all his plans became practically impossible .
“The basics of war are stratagems . Fake attacking when you aren’t going to, and stay put when you actually intend to attack . We’ll trick them, pretending to raid Siaferia City and shifting the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s attention there . At such a time, we will raid the Victorious Wolves Sect before they realize . The next will be easy—”
Cross immediately argued, “Easy? The one responsible for Siaferia City’s side is us, the Royal Armament Guild . Let me be blunt . My guild still has no clue how we should tackle them . The difference in technology between us is too large . ”
Beluga put his hand into his pocket and tossed a certain item toward Cross . “I won’t send you on a suicide mission, my friend . Just use that, and it will be enough . ”
Cross inspected the item in his hand . It reflected light and shone beautifully . “What is this?”
“One of the Gems of Catastrophe . Its name is the Nightfall Opal . Based on my study, I found that it should be able to temporarily shut down Siaferia City’s defensive mechanisms . If their defenses were to suddenly shut down, they will naturally order an emergency assembly . You can just do nothing during that time . ”
“Hoh . Such a great item . Won’t it be better if we use it in the actual raid though?”
“That was what I planned originally . However, when considering that we have to take care of Lone Wolf too, everything changes . ”
Cross smirked . “See? It’s his fault in the end . By the way, do you really dare to let me borrow this kind of precious item? Aren’t you afraid that I won’t return it?”
Beluga smiled back . “Sincerity and trust are the keys to working together . Our enemy will reap benefits if we are wary of each other . Let’s just say you can have it if you want . ”
After listening to the whole conversation, Julia approached Cross and handed him a sheet of paper . “You can have this too . ”
Cross received it and asked jokingly, “What? Does even Sila want to give me something? What kind of day is today?”
Reading the contents written on the paper, a crease soon emerged in between Cross’ brows . Julia casually informed, “No, sir . It’s a bill for the damages . ”
“What kind of stupid table cost two hundred gold?!!” Cross roared .
Julia politely replied, “The one you broke just a moment ago, sir . ”
Slamming his forehead with his palm, Cross groaned, “I know it’s that table!! What I really meant was . . . ”
“Hahaha!” Beluga laughed merrily, followed by Fargo . Even Elso could hardly suppress his laughter .
Once the war event started, silly moments like this time—moments when they could laugh—might not exist for a while . Thus, Nednapha also joined in the laughter .
At this point of time, they still weren’t aware that their goals also alligned with Sila’s . He intended to launch his first attack at Zhongsuyuan City as well . With this, their first battlefield had already decided .
The Heavenly Dragon Guild’s base, Zhongsuyuan City Branch .
Revin wrote reports and sent them to Montra . His reports were written in his style—meaning sloppily . The most recent report was regarding the success of the negotiation . The Victorious Wolves Sect was no longer a part of the Wicked Union . This equated to the union having their right arm cut off . Their next course of action would be instigating the fight between them, further increasing the Heavenly Dragon Guild’s odds of victory .
“Lone Wolf, oh, Lone Wolf . Don’t you know that you can’t possibly help everyone in the world while being unstained? Montra’s ideology is right . Everyone has to rely on themselves . They shouldn’t expect help from others,” Revin muttered as he closed his system window .
“So you don’t want my help, then?” Another voice rang out from a dark corner .
Revin turned his head back . “Oh? You Venerable? How cool! You can get this close without me sensing a thing . As expected of the King of Souls . ”
A pair of eyes flashed in the dark corner . The King of Souls said in a soft voice, “Let me warn you that what you intend to do is far more dangerous than you anticipate . The chance of failure is several times higher than the chance of success . So far, only a single player has ever succeeded in the quest, Fusion Souls, of Inverse Zhongsuyuan City .
Revin smiled fearlessly . “If Zero could succeed, I’m sure I can do the same, Sir God of Death . ”
An illuminating light belonging to a soul flashed on the palm of the being in the dark corner, revealing the appearance of the King of Souls . He was a well-built muscular man wearing a jackal mask, though the mask failed to cover his overbearing and dignified aura . He was none other than Anubis, the God of Death who ruled over the entirety of the western region . Adjacent to him was an elegant female cat with clean white fur as beautiful as high-class silk and blue jewel-like eyes .
“As you are the deputy ruler of the city, I’m obliged to act according to your request . Still, as someone who has lived longer and experienced more, I advise you that this isn’t a smart move . Normally this quest exists for beings of low-tier or mid-tier races to develop their racial skills to compete against beings from high-tier races . Zero belonged to the horse race, which is classified as low-tier, so he could do it . However, for the dragon race, which is already high-tier, this quest will bring you more harm than good . In the case that two elite souls refuse to fuse together, your body acting as a vessel will fall apart . ”
“Are you saying the worst-case scenario is I die?” Revin asked .
Anubis took a step closer to Revin . “No . If something goes wrong, it’s you who will ask for death, since that will be the most merciful and painless option available . ”
Revin showed a smile . “Isn’t that exciting?”
Anubis released a sigh and extended his arm, giving Revin the red soul . “This one is the soul most compatible with you . If you’re prepared, take it . You better not regret your decision later . ”
Revin took it with no hint of hesitation . Anubis shook his head before arching his fingers . The mass of sand on the floor spiraled around and formed itself into a three-dimensional magic formula shaped like an hourglass .
Revin, with the red soul on his palm, entered the formula without delay . The red soul soon began to gradually absorb the grains of sand inside, dyeing them, before releasing the red sand to progressively envelop Revin’s body from his toes up to his head .
As the pile of sand reached Revin’s neck, his curiosity got the better of him . He couldn't help but throw a question at Anubis .
“How come the King of the Qi Kingdom turned out to be a magic-type?”
“Your view of the essence of qi, fusion, is still too shallow . Qi, magic, and psychic power always relate to each other . If you succeed in the quest, maybe you will come to understand that nature has never divided energy into three . It’s us who categorized them . May luck be with you . See you again tomorrow,” replied Anubis .
“It’s gonna be okay . I feel like I’m on a lucky streak lately,” Revin gave an immediate reply a second before he was completely swallowed by the sand, becoming a statue who couldn’t hear anything else .
Once there were no outsiders, the white cat transformed into a charming woman . “Won’t Sila have a hard time at this rate, Darling?”
Removing his mask, Pumin approached his wife . “Irene . . . quests in Zhongsuyuan City are mainly based on fortune, or what others may call luck . Anyone has a chance at success . If Revin happens to achieve the quest for real, it will mean either he is extremely lucky or Sila is extremely unlucky . However, that is hardly the end of everything . Ultimately, those who can overcome fate with their true strength are the most excellent ones . ”
Contrary to her worried speech, Irene appeared to be rather unconcerned . “No need to worry . Sila won’t lose . I’m confident that he can overcome any adversities . ”
“I have never doubted Sila . The stronger his opponent is, the tougher our son will become . In addition, the reward for overcoming formidable obstacles will naturally be better than what you’d get from overcoming ordinary ones . ”
Pumin’s lips curled up into a smile with a hidden motive . A small golden soul was dancing around on his palm . Irene looked at the soul with a smile on her face .
“Is that for Sila?”
Pumin nodded . “Yes . It’s the soul that is the most compatible with him . If he manages to conquer Zhongsuyuan City, this soul will be his . ”