After sending off Lone Wolf and Hermit, along with letting Mamon take care of the Dimension-Rending Bomb, Cross ordered his people to inspect every corner of the Mansion of Secrets to ensure their safety . The dimension had become essential to the Wicked Union . It was a must for it to be a safe place .
Lone Wolf’s death occurred at the very start of the war event . This tragedy heavily shook Monster Soul’s players to their very cores and made them realize the severity of the war event . While war raged on, players dreamed of becoming heroes, but many of them would be swept away in the many battles to come .
War events were special situations . Monster Soul was already a lawless world to begin with . However, as the war event was going on, even virtue was used as a tool . The players’ consciences became twisted as they viewed evil acts as ordinary . The more people you kill, the more resources you plunder, and the more damage you cause—all became indicators for gauging a player’s level of achievement .
Small battles broke out all over the continent . Lone Wolf’s death was a direct catalyst . While he was alive, just his presence was enough to prevent fights from breaking out . At the very least, several small groups of players—who were afraid of the Victorious Wolves Sect—didn’t dare to make rash moves . Now that Lone Wolf was dead, there was no one who could stop them if they went on a rampage . The Victorious Wolves Sect without Lone Wolf was like a dragon without its head . There was nothing for them to fear .
Players flooded into Zhongsuyuan City, citing various reasons . Some wanted revenge for Lone Wolf while some claimed to be the murderer, hoping for their names to go down in history . Some even went in without clear purposes . Whatever the reason, Zhongsuyuan City now became the city for those who sought fame .
Among the three main cities, Zhongsuyuan City was considered the most free . There was no main army guarding the city . Revin, the deputy ruler, didn’t assemble his guildmates in the guild to protect the city . There were only a few of them, just enough for light management and trading . Rather, he made use of the monsters of the soul race to silently monitor activities happening in the city . If someone broke any of the rules he had set, no matter how insignificant the action was, the only punishment was death . He conquered the city with terror . Still, this method ensured that Zhongsuyuan City was Heaven for those who abided by the rules . Revin was a city conqueror who was both fair and ruthless .
During wartime, only Zhongsuyuan City’s policy remained unchanged regardless of the ever-changing flood of rumors . Even the news about the Victorious Wolves Sect, located a kilometer from the city, being infiltrated didn’t cause players in the city to feel anxious at all . On the contrary, they firmly believed in the city conqueror’s ability . As such, rather than going down, the number of players in the city only increased with each day that passed . The city became more lively as if a festival was being held .
Listening to the report of what was happening in the city from Beluga’s spies, Sila stopped to think . It seemed the three cities on Montra’s side were managed according to each conqueror’s style . Revin had a flexible personality, yet he chose to rule his city with terror . Any action that broke the rules, no matter how small or great it was, would always result in death . This method was easy to understand and easily established control over the citizens . Sila couldn’t help but wonder how Montra and Kawin conquered their cities . He wanted to examine the cities which projected their ideals .
In any case, Sila had to take one step at a time . Elso was waiting for him right now . Now that the war event had started, all of the union’s members made sure to handle their responsibilities . Currently, the most dangerous place for them was none other than Siaferia City due to the large army of high-level androids . As a result, most Wicked Union members gathered near the Single-Horned Dragon Forest .
“I want players with great mobility . The ability to disturb their opponent is more important than combat strength . It will be especially helpful if they’re experienced in trading . Even more so if they’re familiar with the layout of Zhongsuyuan City,” Sila explained as he made his request .
Elso was Beluga’s representative during his absence . For the record, the Wicked Union divided their attack force into three groups, with each watching one of the three main cities while waiting for the right moment to strike . Sila was responsible for raiding Zhongsuyuan City while Cross focused on Siaferia City . Lastly, Beluga was responsible for finding a way to tackle Lafesta City . Each of them had to form a strategy for raiding their assigned city, and the other two would provide support to the best of their abilities .
In terms of difficulty, Zhongsuyuan City was the easiest . Thus, Sila, who had zero war experience, was assigned the task of raiding it .
At a later point of time, the three great raids would be called the Battle of Martial Gods, the Battlefield of Conquest, and the Siege of Bandits .
“We, the Mountain Thieves League, can provide players that meet your requirements . How many do you want?” asked Elso .
“Around a hundred should suffice . Our attack force only has a few players . I shouldn’t ask for too much . ”
Elso frowned . “Isn’t a hundred players a rather small number for this task? With just that many, even seizing an empty city would be difficult . ”
“Just killing Revin while he is in the city is enough, isn’t it?”
Elso shook his head . “No, with Montra’s Emperorship of Guardian Spirit, each of his territories can’t be taken over even if the ruler dies in the city, so long as at least one comrade remains in the city . Anyway, just taking down Revin won’t be easy . There is an army of invisible warriors and several small groups of players trying to curry favor with him . It may appear that Revin’s force is not much, but the sum of all the above would be many thousands . ”
Sila nodded . “That’s true . However, the army I’m going to create is not for seizing the city . They simply have to light the first match . Zhongsuyuan City’s weakness is that there are many factions that are mere moments away from fighting each other . If we utilize our people to cause chaos and then retreat, we can just sit tight and wait for the players to kill each other . Once the battle spreads throughout the city, sooner or later Revin will have to find a way to stop them . If we seize that chance well, it could be our chance to take him down . ”
“Loot a burning house . One of the Thirty-Six Stratagems . ‘When a country is beset by internal conflicts, then it will be unable to deal with an outside threat . This is the time to attack . ’ Boss once mentioned it to me . Unexpectedly, you also know about such a strategy, Mister Sila . ”
“I honestly didn’t know its name, but I guess there aren’t many patterns for strategies in war . It’s just a matter of using what we have at the right time through schemes . When I noticed the aforementioned weakness in Zhongsuyuan City, I realized this strategy might work . ”
“If it’s only a hundred of people, it won’t take long for me to assemble them . I estimate that they’ll be ready by tonight . Do you want anything else?”
“I do . May I ask how the situation is between us and the Merchants Association?”
“I’d say it’s neither good nor bad . They don’t want to be our friend or our enemy . What do you want from them?”
“I want them to issue a letter of recommendation for us . We’ll infiltrate the city as a merchant group . It won’t seem suspicious since a lot of players have been arriving lately . ”
Elso began to understand Sila’s plan . “How about we do this instead . . . Our Mountain Thieves League has some connections . If we want to disguise ourselves as a merchant group, we should claim to be a group that actually exists . Let’s say we’re opening up a new branch . This way, our newly formed group will be even less suspicious . . . ”
Elso stopped his explanation as he heard the sound of light footsteps . In any case, Sila recognized the newcomer from afar .
“Nothing to worry . It’s Burapha . ”
“I heard people discussing merchants if I’m not mistaken . ” Burapha opened the door to the meeting room . “I hope you didn’t already forget that I have unsettled business with Revin, Big Brother . ”
Sila smiled . “The distance was quite far and we weren’t being careless, yet you still managed to hear us talk . Your skill seems to have improved a lot, Burapha . ”
“One way or another, yes . Well, don’t change the topic, Big Brother . ”
Sila nodded . “We’re planning to sneak into Zhongsuyuan City by disguising ourselves as a group of merchants setting up a new branch . We were just working out the finer details . ”
“I’d say your plan lacks one important thing,” Burapha raised a point .
“Actual products, obviously . You’re going to claim that you’re here to set up a new branch, but you’d be entering the city with no products . It’ll be crazy if they don’t suspect your behavior . ”
Elso proposed an idea, “Regarding our products . . . we can stall for time by claiming that we first want to find a suitable location for setting up a new branch and study the market . Well . . . this excuse won’t last long . We’ll eventually have to offer samples . ”
“Come to think of it . . . Isn’t expanding a business at this point of time weird?” Sila asked . Although the plan was his, it was ultimately just an excuse to infiltrate the city . He hadn’t considered the reasonableness of the plan before .
“Not really . Wartime is great for making profit since the prices of most products skyrocket . There won’t be a problem . ”
Burapha added, “I can help you regarding this merchant-related matter . As long as it’s a type of business that I know about, I assure you that I can be helpful if you give me a bit of time to look into it . ”
Elso opened his system window and showed it to Sila and Burapha . “This is a list containing all of the merchant groups that are secretly associated with us . ”
Of course, this kind of information was top-secret even within the Mountain Thieves League . If it fell into someone else’s hands, the league could be wiped out . The fact that Elso dared to show such classified information to Sila and his comrades meant Beluga trusted them a lot .
Burapha scrolled down the list and found that there were many groups that he knew about . Some of them were even trading with the Heavenly Dragon Guild on a daily basis . It was unexpected that they worked under the Mountain Thieves League .
“I didn’t expect it to contain this many groups . ”
“Most of them are small and medium-sized groups though . We have been doing our best to obtain funding . How about it? Did any of the groups catch your eyes?”
Sila raised a point . “Sebastian once opened a potion shop in this city . It’s trivial, but might be noticed . We should avoid that kind of business . ”
“No potion-trading groups, then . ” Elso input some filters, and about half of the names on the list disappeared .
Burapha also added his own thoughts . “I think we should use a group that is already on good terms with the Heavenly Dragon Guild . If we use a new group, they might keep an eye on us and we’ll waste time gaining their trust . ”
Elso and Sila agreed with the idea, so another set of filters removed more names, leaving less than ten . Burapha studied them one by one until he finally selected a group that he believed would work .
“Let’s use this group—Children of the Sea . They have a good trading record and relationship with the Heavenly Dragon Guild . Until now they’ve been focused on distributing seafood in the Magic Kingdom, and have never opened a shop in Zhongsuyuan City . ”
Elso showed Sila more information about Children of the Sea . Reading the details, Sila couldn’t help but ask .
“Why did you pick this group, Burapha?”
“Because it would really be my choice to open a new branch in Zhongsuyuan City if I’m the owner of this business . Zhongsuyuan City is located in a tropical zone . The residents mostly eat meat, fruits, and vegetables . Food is a basic need that people have to spend money on . It’s hard to find seafood in a city far from a harbor . Seafood’s price doubles when Children of the Sea transport it to Lafesta City despite the transportation route being relatively safe . If they take a risk and transport seafood to Zhongsuyuan City, the price might triple or even quadruple . The risk is quite high though since they have to pass through several small cities along the route, resulting in a higher chance of being robbed or plundered . One more reason is that a harbor is considered my home . Even if someone finds us suspicious and asks questions, I’m sure that I can answer them . ”
“In that case, I’ll have to leave for now to make preparations . I’ll ask the leader of Children of the Sea to contact Mister Burapha soon . ” Elso finalized the decision and left .
“Well, I’ll use this time to memorize Children of the Sea’s background and trading history . ” Burapha began to read the information Elso had left with him, along with reviews about the group that could be found in public forums .
Meanwhile, Sila took his leave, planning to recheck his available weapons, items, and skills, so that he wouldn’t be surprised in actual battles like he had been in the Victorious Wolves Sect . He went to his treasure room, where Mamon and Clute often stayed .
Everyone was doing their best . Even Lookhin had accompanied Varee to the edge of the Single-Horned Dragon Forest and started digging an underground tunnel . It pushed Sila to think that he should try harder as well .
Sila opened the door of the treasure room . Suddenly he felt a strong surge of qi . Clute’s body came flying at him, violently and powerfully . Sila hurriedly grabbed the boy and gently placed him down .
“Kiekkiekkiek! Did you become weaker, Clute?” Mamon’s laughter rang out .
Clute replied as blood dripped from his lips . “Mamon . . . you cheated . ”
“What are you talking about? I didn’t cheat . I’ll even swear on my name that I didn’t . That just now was a fair sparring match . I didn’t dump any strange Hidden Gifts on you . ”
“What happened?” Sila placed his hand on Clute’s back and started qi transmission to heal the boy . Strangely enough, he found that the wounds on Clute’s body were due to qi, and it must have been an incredibly powerful qi at that . Qi of this level would only belong to high-level qi-type beings who specialized in combat . It was extremely weird because Mamon wasn’t a qi-type .
“My apologies! It’s my—” A soft voice could be heard . However, before Sila could find the voice’s owner, a small silhouette became a golden light and was absorbed into a pocket on Mamon’s armor .
“Who asked you to blabber?!” Mamon scolded lightly through his gritting teeth . The boy then turned to Sila . “We just had a spar . Clute willingly accepted my challenge, for the record . ”
“Is that true, Clute?”
Clute nodded . “It’s true, but Mamon surely cheated . Our power should be on the same level . ”
“You just became weaker, that’s all . Or maybe I became a lot stronger . Kiekkiekkiek! You always play around . How can you hope to beat me, when I train diligently every day?”
“Mamon never trains . . . ”
“That means I train when you aren’t looking! You dimwit! Don’t ask so many questions!”
Sila examined Mamon and found that the boy was completely unscratched while his energy reserves were still full . Based on the observation, Sila agreed with Clute that Mamon must have cheated, as the difference between Mamon and Clute’s strengths shouldn’t have changed so suddenly . The silhouette just now resembled a monster, but its presence was so faint that Sila was almost unable to sense it . It meant that the monster either had a very low rank, or it possessed an insignificant level of power . It shouldn’t be able to make such a vast difference .
“Why did you come here? Do you have business with me?”
Sila took out a sheet of paper and gave it to Mamon . “Please help me create this thing or something familiar . ”
Mamon swept his eyes over the paper . “An air-conditioner? Seriously?”
“You’re almost right, but it has a small gimmick . The details are written below . Please create a sample of it by tomorrow . I’ll ask you to finish several of them within a week . ”
“No problem, but—”
“—It’s not free . I know . I’ll surely reward you handsomely,” Sila said before Mamon could finish .
Clute was healed to some degree . Sila left the boy to recover on his own as he asked, “And Clute . . . may I ask you to help me in Zhongsuyuan City?”
“Sure . Please just let me rest for a little more . ”
Sila nodded and left the room . Mamon and his trademark grin created some level of tension in his heart . The boy was essentially a time-bomb . If he failed to utilize Mamon, the boy would endanger him instead of being helpful .
“Zarnak, are you here?” Sila asked once he arrived at a place where there was no one else .
“Where can I go, my raising-stupid-question master?” A monotonous voice replied .
“Just now, could you feel that monster’s presence? What was it?”
“Of course I did . She is even older than me . There was a great purge of users of Ancient Magic in the past . I heard a rumor that she had died though . ”
“You’re referring to the small monster just now?”
“Her name is Seraphine,” Zarnak replied with a voice filled with awe and respect, completely different from the tone it used when conversing with Sila . “The Goddess of Betrayal and Disloyalty . ”