In the Dragon Kingdom, in the Coiling Forest near the Sacred Temple .
Everything was going well, or at least going in the direction that Montra could manage . Others probably thought that this was a good sign from Heaven . However, Montra didn’t like it when things went too well .
Montra traveled past the Coiling Forest with silence . He didn’t want to expose himself publicly for this particular arrival, which turned out to be quite an easy task since his power was perfectly concealed by Grand Deity’s Breathing .
Based on the report he had gotten recently, two players guarding the temple had died mysteriously . The situation called for an increase in the vigilance of dragon-race players . Still, it was a good chance for Montra . His arrival this time ought to be top-secret . Regardless of how the two died previously, Montra could use that excuse to cover up his actions in case he had to kill someone .
Montra stopped behind a certain tree . Even without any magic power reinforcement, he could see clearly that four players were guarding the sealed entrance to the Sacred Temple . Three of them were standing on a path while the last one was hiding behind a tree .
‘Based on the information I got from Joshua, the Tiger God has been secluded here for a while . I can’t completely trust Joshua, so I have to investigate it myself . ’
Focusing his mind, Montra could practically sense four beating hearts as four red dots in his sea of consciousness . The heart of spearmanship was speed . However, unlike Sila’s arts—which focused on overall speed including how fast the practitioner moved and attacked—the only speed Montra needed to care about was that of his spear thrust . He didn’t need to strike over and over without stopping, but to change from being completely motionless to thrusting toward his target in a fraction of an instant .
The Sky-Splitting Dragon Magical Spear appeared in Montra’s right hand . He casted a certain short spell and delayed it, waiting for the right time as if he were a vicious beast waiting for its prey .
“Night Fog . ”
Darkness formed out of nowhere . The area within a one hundred meter radius was covered by black fog, completely blocking visibility . The four players couldn’t even see their own fingers . They immediately took out their weapons, but their actions were too late .
The magical spear flew out of Montra’s hand . At first glance it was done in a single action . However, the attack was actually four perfectly consecutive stabs . The four players suddenly felt chills around their chests . Only when they had lowered their gazes did they realize that holes had appeared where their hearts normally resided . The wounds were clean as if their hearts were neatly scooped out .
The black fog dispersed when Montra deactivated the spell . At the exact same moment it vanished, the four players disappeared, as if consumed by the fog .
Montra returned his magical spear to his system window before walking forward once more . It wasn’t like he wasn’t in a hurry . In fact, he was eager to reach the destination as fast as possible . However, while others might not sense it, Montra could feel distinctive psychic power, which attracted him yet also repelled him . Despite everything suggesting that there was nothing there, that what he sensed didn’t exist, he could clearly feel its existence with his heart . Undoubtedly, it must be the resonance between two users of Grand Deity’s Breathing .
Surely, the Tiger God must be staying below the Sacred Temple .
Arriving at a pile of wreckage, which was taller than Montra, he could clearly sense a source of bottomless power below his feet .
“This place has recently become less peaceful than usual . Even the one I didn’t want to meet the most has come to pay me a visit . ” The voice of a man miraculously rang out next to Montra’s ears .
“Do you know me?”
“No, but I know Grand Deity’s Breathing . In the beginning I thought that you must be an extremely foolish person . The warning clearly forbade you from practising it . But now I know . You aren’t a fool, but a man who has a death wish . ”
“As long as it’s worthwhile . ” That was Montra’s reply .
“In this world, there is not a single thing worth dying for, kid . ”
“Are those supposed to be the words from the one who was willing to die for the sake of becoming the martial world’s number one practitioner, Hu Xian the Tiger God? Rumor has it that it’s exactly thanks to Grand Deity’s Breathing that you unquestioningly became the true number one, though it was for a short period of time . ”
The Tiger God fell silent for a moment . “You’re like me in the past . . . I hate my past self . Get lost while you still have a chance . ”
Montra clad his palm with magic power reinforcement and slammed it down, sending out a shockwave . The pile of rubbish was blown away, revealing a set of stairs that led beneath the surface .
He said nothing to the great pressure emitting from below, which caused the ground to shake . Instead of backing off, Montra strode down in a manner that even Sila wouldn’t dare to do .
“I forgot for a moment that you’re like me in the past . People like us won’t get a peaceful death, I must say,” warned the Tiger God .
“About my death, I’ll be the one to decide that myself . ” Due to the excessive mental oppression, Montra could hardly reply .
The stairs stretched longer than Montra had first thought . The Tiger God’s voice was so close, making him misjudge the sense of distance .
Once he had arrived in the underground room, lanterns instantly lit up .
The lower body of Tiger God, Hu Xian, was covered in black armor . His chest laid bare, showing an inscription that seemed to be a curse or a seal . There were many giant chains binding him .
His beard was messy all over his face, but his body was absolutely healthy . It didn’t look like the kind of body that belonged to a prisoner . In fact, it could even be said that his physique was an embodiment of perfection . His muscles were flexible and his skin was smooth and glowing with health as if it belonged to a baby .
“Could it be that you are among those people who desire the Classic of Sinew Metamorphosis to the point where they can die for it?”
Montra shook his head . “Such a non-existent object like that, I don’t need it . I just want to know what Grand Deity’s Breathing is exactly, and why you invented it .
“Non-existent?” the Tiger God repeated his words, wearing an amused expression on his face . “Hahaha! This is funny . You’re the very first person to figure it out by yourself . ”
“It wasn’t actually that hard . People just tend to believe in what they want to believe without studying your personality . You were the only one who claimed that you had mastered the Classic of Sinew Metamorphosis . Such an ancient antique art . . . no one would realize what art it was even if you showed its might . The fact that there was a rumor about you having the Classic of Sinew Metamorphosis in your possession could only mean that it was none other than you who deliberately spread it . ”
The Tiger God smirked . “You got that right . People always believe what they want to believe . At first, I told them the art I used was Grand Deity’s Breathing . However, back then I was just an ordinary man, not a rare genius like my little brother who was worshipped by people . No matter how many times I won or used it, they always believed that the art I used was derived from the Marvelous Bible . Well, there were still many secrets about Marvelous Bible people were unaware of, so it was easy for them to give it all the credit . The more I explained, the more they looked at me with disdain . They dared to look at me with eyes looking at a liar!
“Since they were so eager to not believe me, I then claimed that the art was one of the lost antique profound arts . This time the result was the opposite . They blindly believed my lie even with no evidence whatsoever . They came at me and eventually became prey to my Chaos Devourer Art, prolonging my life . Hahahaha!”
The Tiger God laughed crazily . This might be because no one had ever truly understood him . Even his own twin brother didn’t believe that he could invent such an art like Grand Deity’s Breathing . That drove him to prove it by stepping into the number one spot of the martial world amidst countless corpses, laughing solitarily at those fools who rushed to their own demise for something that wasn’t real .
“In conclusion, what is Grand Deity’s Breathing? Why did Joshua say that it isn’t a profound art designed for combat?” Montra repeated his question . He didn’t care about the Tiger God’s complicated feelings .
“It really isn’t a combat art . At least I didn’t invent it for the sake of using in battles,” the Tiger God revealed .
Montra kept his mouth shut as he was waiting for further explanation .
Looking into Montra’s eyes, Hu Xian found that the young man was indeed an exact copy of his past self . Montra was prideful, insolent, firm in his belief, never afraid of anything, and never regretted what he had done .
“Marvelous Bible is essentially the same as this game’s psychic-type power . It helps the user surpass their limits in moments of crisis . As for Grand Deity’s Breathing, it was born from my idea that . . . if being close to dying could strengthen my power, what would happen if I place myself in a state where I’m always on the verge of dying?”
Instantly, Montra understood the Tiger God’s meaning . “ . . . You would be constantly breaking your limits . It isn’t a combat art, but an art designed for tempering your body, going over your limits, and increasing your inner force . But then—”
The Tiger God couldn’t help but smile . He knew Montra was smart and already aware of the art’s fatal weakness . “I knew you’d realize . This art can be practiced, but it can’t be stopped . While your limits are constantly being surpassed and you become increasingly stronger, your death is always just a step ahead . No matter how powerful you become, you’ll die soon . Grand Deity’s Breathing is easy to practice, but stopping it is several thousand times more difficult . Being able to stop using this art is the true mastery over it . ”
“Even you don’t know how to stop it?” asked Montra .
The Tiger God shook his head . “This art is considered quite new . It was born from a sudden idea during my youth . Well, I’m willing to impart to you every method that I have tried but didn’t work . There may be a way if both of us brainstorm . ”
Montra frowned . He didn’t like it when things sounded too good . “What will you get from this?”
“I’m a dead person . What can I possibly get? I just want to revise my art, bringing it to perfection . Even dead, my glory will forever be recorded . That is my last ambition . . . Come to think of it, you use a spear as your weapon, right?”
“What about it?”
“You killed four players in a single moment, but you still made four strikes . The real deal uses only one hit . ”
As a person who specialized in various kinds of weapons, Montra doubted that statement . “No matter how perfect you move, if there is more than one target, you will need to perform more than one action . No matter how continuous your attack is, it is just consecutive strikes thrown at high speed . ”
“I used to think the same . Until I met ‘him,’ the person who forever changed the lives of us brothers . ”
The Tiger God opened his system window and operated a disc . A video file was playing in midair .
“This is my recorded memory . The only people who have seen it are my little brother, Joshua, and myself . ”
The recorded memory was playing like a movie . The early part was lagging and so blurry that Montra couldn’t make anything out of it . The Tiger God explained that Joshua had been interested in the part and kept it, saying it was related to his experiment .
“Even if you see that early part, you will simply think that it’s CG . Anyway, it’s the last part that really matters . Watch closely . ”
The video skipped to a scene showing a man with a similar appearance as Hu Xian .
”That’s my little brother, thirty years ago . That period was when we were both in our prime, at the top of the martial world . The memory is mine, so you see it from my perspective . ”
“Do you want me to see the art that the Oceanic Tiger uses? It’s said that Encompassing Ocean Art is unrivaled—”
The Tiger God interrupted, “Not at all . I want you to see the art that our opponent used instead . ”
Montra fell silent as he stared at the video, shifting his interest to the people on the opposing side of the twin brothers . Standing there was a man in a soldier uniform that seemed to belong to the World War II era . Montra couldn’t see his face clearly as if the quality of the video sharply fell only around the man . Standing next to him was a gorgeous woman .
On the man’s waist was a katana, its beauty so exceptional that Montra wouldn’t find it strange if someone told him it was a national treasure .
‘Unlike what I expected, this person used a sword, not a spear . Why did the Tiger God want me to witness his fight?’
The Tiger God mentioned a spear, so Montra originally thought that the person the Tiger God would like him to see must be using a spear . Each kind of weapon varied in application . Even weapons that are quite similar, such as a spear and a lance, still require different sets of proficiency .
“Is there no sound?”
“Joshua removed it . Well, having sound or not doesn't matter . Don’t even blink . ”
Both sides seemed to be conversing . Then, the Tiger God took sudden action . He charged at the mysterious man, and the same was done by his little brother . No one would ever believe that the two of the Tiger Family simultaneously launched their attacks against one person . Even when Montra wasn’t there personally, he could still tell that the strength and speed of their attacks were flawless . In this world, he believed that there wouldn’t be a single person who could come out unharmed after receiving the combined attacks from the two .
Casually, the man in the record unsheathed his sword . That simple action shook Montra to the core .
It was the first time he couldn’t find the word to explain what he was seeing .
The twin brothers collapsed on the ground, along with the man's sword being sheathed . The Tiger God lowered his head to see his blood gushing out from his chest, then shifted his gaze to his little brother who had a similar injury . Apparently, the two lost the fight in a single move .
“What was that just now? Can you replay it?”
The Tiger God rewound the file and replayed it without saying a word . Montra’s request took him back to the moment shortly after he had experienced the event . Both him and his little brother kept recalling what had happened to them over and over again, completely losing track of days and nights . The same situation was happening, this time with Montra .
Each time the film was replayed, Montra would see the scene unfolding differently . What he saw was never once the same despite watching the same film and the exact same scene . This man completely overturned Montra’s definition of ‘martial arts . ’ It was as if they were in different dimensions, or rather different worlds .
“He didn’t even have inner force . What you’re seeing is a pure martial move . As for what art, swordplay, or whatever he used . . . even until now I still can’t explain, understand, and much less comprehend it . ”
“I see what you wanted me to see . . . his swordplay did indeed reach perfection . His single strike contained a hundred, no, at least a thousand subtle changes within . As long as he had a weapon in his hand—regardless of whether it was a spear, sword, axe, hammer, halberd, or whatever—the result would still be the same . He reached the pinnacle of weapon mastery . ”
“The highest point always returns to the roots . All complicated techniques and weapon arts are fused together and returned to one core: one weapon, one art, and one hit . There wouldn’t be a second strike no matter if one opponent or a thousand opponents were his foes . I can’t even get a glimpse even after thinking about his move for twenty years . Meanwhile, my little brother comprehended a tenth of it, and that allowed him to master Encompassing Ocean Art within a span of five years . This recorded memory is probably useless to you right now, but who knows? Ten or twenty years later, it might become useful for you . I believe that people like you won’t die easily . ”
The Tiger God sent Montra a friend request, which the latter accepted . “I don’t like staying in the same place with other people . Let me just say you can contact me if you have something to ask . I’ll answer if I can . ”
The scene of the weapon master taking an inexplicable action was still replaying itself in Montra’s head even after the Tiger God had turned the film off . It was an action which only those who specialized in weapons could understand even a shred of . It was just a single swing of a sword, yet Montra knew he could watch it all day without ever becoming bored . His body felt a strange chill . Even though he didn’t acquire anything out of his arrival today, he felt as if he had obtained so many things .
The Tiger God’s voice rang out behind Montra’s back . “Lastly, I warn you to not trust Joshua too much . ”
“Joshua isn’t on my side, but Sila’s . I have never trusted him . ”
“You’re wrong . You still don’t know Joshua enough . Joshua isn’t on anyone’s side but his own . ”
The war event was about to start . Many people were making necessary preparations and forming strategies . Montra looked up and saw the Magic Kingdom’s night sky full of stars . Finally, the end was approaching . He had already prepared everything he could possibly prepare . What he would do next was simply trying his best, then accepting the final outcome .
There wasn’t anything major happening on the last day . It was like the calm before a great storm .
At long last, the dawn of the next day arrived . The day which was unlike any other day .
The first day of Monster Soul’s second war event .