Toron and Chak escorted Sila deep into the forest . The sun’s heat was being trapped in by the trees, so Sila felt warmer the further they went in . Meanwhile, Toron and Chak were drenched in sweat as they continued exhausting themselves by expanding their psychic sense to inspect their surroundings . In one hand they each held a sword, which they used to cut any tall grass that blocked their path, and in the other they held flasks . From time to time, they would sip some water to resist the heat .
The three had been traveling for almost an hour, yet the whole journey so far had been a silent one with no conversing between them . It wasn’t surprising though, since Sila wasn’t that close to the two while Toron and Chak were always focused on sensing any enemies .
Out of curiosity, Sila tried probing the surroundings as well . However, he didn’t find any notable danger . There were insects and small beasts at most . That made him wonder . “Excuse me . Do you enter this forest frequently?”
Toran moved forward without minding the question, while Chak replied without looking back .
“Around two times a month, sir . Why do you ask?”
“How dangerous is this place?” Sila asked . Honestly speaking, he wanted to ask ‘Why do you guys have to be on guard this much?’, but he was afraid that it might be too blunt .
“Quite so . With the exception of the Silver Griffins, all of the monsters living in the forest are qi-types . Even the low-level ones can pose issues . ”
“They are small venomous monsters . Although their health points are low, they’re fast and difficult to spot . They may attack the moment you let your guard down . Just so you know, their toxins aren’t that potent . However, the Summer Forest is quite a special place . You can say that it’s a special dimension . There are no restrictions on entering or leaving though . ”
Sila nodded, which proved to be pointless as Chak hadn’t turned back to see it . He waited for Chak to take another gulp of water and continue the explanation .
“The unique trait of this special dimension is that the system won’t inform us of a monster’s appearance even though they’re qi-type . The Blue Pigeon Guild has already confirmed this fact .
“As I mentioned before, the toxins of monsters in this place are not fatal . However, the law of the jungle in this place means they follow a cycle of killing other monsters and absorbing their venom . Some toxins are constantly strengthened as this cycle goes on . The terrifying aspect of this place is that we have no way of telling whether the monster attacking us is one that was born recently or one that had lived long enough to accumulate other toxins . If it’s the latter, it’s possible that their venom can deliver lethal damage .
“The reason why the system doesn’t notify us of their arrival must be because of that particular aspect . These monsters are constantly mutating . We can say that the entire forest is considered a giant monster with tons of parasites living inside . ”
Sila could more or less understand it . Just on the way here, he had already sensed hundreds or even thousands of monsters . Based on their strength, their level must be below Level 1,000 Squire Rank . In any case, considering their numbers, he would have been annoyed to death if the system kept repeatedly notifying him of monster arrivals .
“How about Silver Griffins?”
“Silver Griffins possess magic that helps them develop antibodies against the venoms they’re exposed to, so they can live in this forest . They feed on the local monsters, have moderately high attack power and defense, and can withstand many types of power . ”
“Withstand powers? Like Dragon Scales?” Sila asked .
“Ah, no . Dragon Scales can reduce physical attack as well as qi, magic, and psychic power . On the other hand, Silver Griffin’s magic focuses on resisting various kinds of debuffs and abnormal statuses . ”
Finally, Toron stopped his feet . He turned around to face the other two .
“We’ve arrived . ”
Observing the surroundings, Sila didn’t find this location any different from the parts of the forest they had walked past on their journey here . As if on cue, Toron explained before Sila could voice his confusion .
“The nest of Silver Griffins is two kilometers up ahead . This spot is the furthest we can reach without alerting them . The two of us are only at Knight Rank . If a battle breaks out, we’ll only become hindrances . ”
Chak added, “We aren’t combat-types . I specialize in collecting monster drops . My skill pool focuses on collecting a large number of items and extracting ingredients from monsters . As for Toron, he is a monster tamer . Most of his beasts are for gathering intel and collecting items though . Only one of them can fight . ”
Sila started to get it . “In that case, I will continue on my own . What are you planning to do next?”
Toron raised his hand, showing a ring on his index finger . It flashed once, and a falcon flew out . It had a noble look and it was twice as large as Lookhin . Sila guessed that they must be from different species .
“I can rely on ‘Big Bro Falcon’ to collect items . Its level is even higher than mine . Together with Chak’s help, we’re certain that we can collect all the items no matter how many Silver Griffins you kill . ”
Silently, Sila stared at Big Bro Falcon, who was perching on Toron’s wrist .
Noticing his gaze, Toron felt somehow awkward . He quickly gave an explanation, which was the same one he always clung to every time he introduced his pet .
“I got it from Boss . He came up with the name and won’t let me change it . ”
Unlike what everyone else did in the past, however, Sila was completely apathetic . “It’s a good name . ”
Toron and Chak looked at each other, speechless . Apparently, Sila was the first to compliment Beluga’s naming sense .
Sila expanded his perception to the south . “By the way, Silver Griffins are not the only monster I plan to hunt today . ”
Toron tilted his head . “Silver Griffins are the highest-level monsters in the forest though . The rest are small and insignificant . I’m afraid you’ll waste your time hunting them . ”
“Don’t mind me . I have my own plans . You can just wait for my signal . ”
As he finished the sentence, Sila leaped forward and disappeared, leaving Toron who shouted after him, “Wait! What signal?!”
Sila’s voice rang out next to the two’s ears . “You’ll realize it immediately when the time comes . ”
After moving forward five hundred meters, Sila stopped . His ability to conceal his presence was much more refined than Chak’s or Toron’s . Even if he advanced further, the Silver Griffins would still be unaware of his approach .
In any case, the reason why he stopped was to talk with Zarnak . He tried to avoid conversing with Zarnak in front of others . Just Dark Self alone was troublesome enough . Not only could he talk to his inner self, but he also was able to talk with his armor . If someone saw him talking to them, it wouldn’t be weird if they thought he had gone crazy .
“Zarnak, how should I start? Just jump in and start a fight?”
A monotonous voice replied, “My using-muscles-more-than-brains master . . . Although Lucifer is an incredibly powerful fighter, he always relied on his brain more than his brawn . Simply using Omniscient Evil God Qi in a direct fight is such a waste . Only by using it coupled with an intellect will it become invincible . ”
Sila closed his eyes, reviewing the Omniscient Evil God Qi’s circulation method, and started circulating it . His body soon emitted a faint golden aura, showing a majestic vibe that was worthy of qi belonging to the powerful Evil God .
“Omniscient Evil God Qi is too strong for your Qi Concealment to hide . Only Qi Concealment of Transcendent Rank can conceal its aura,” explained Zarnak .
Sila wasn’t used to it . He had never witnessed qi aura emitting from his body ever since he had acquired Qi Concealment . Engulfed in the golden aura, he found himself too eye-catching and didn’t quite like the sensation .
After Zarnak had guided him to master Flaming Cloud Qi’s Nirvana Part, Sila finally stepped onto the path of Omniscient Evil God Qi . Based on the dragon’s explanation about why he had never succeeded in cultivating it beyond Level 0, his lack of qi capacity was to be blamed .
Flaming Cloud Qi’s Nirvana Part brought about the required change . Sila’s body was like refined steel that had been smelted over and over, finally possessing the potential to learn Omniscient Evil God Qi . After cultivating it for a few hours in his bedroom, its skill level eventually reached 1 .
“The core aspect of Omniscient Evil God Qi is about attacking the connection between powers, which magic-type beings heavily rely on . However, it doesn’t mean that the qi is ineffective when it comes to attacking multiple targets of other energy types . In fact—”
“Hm? Does Omniscient Evil God Qi also work on groups of non-magic beings?”
Zarnak fell silent for a brief moment . “ . . . My always-interrupting master, if only you would let me finish . . . ”
“Oh, okay, you may continue . ”
With Sila’s interruption, Zarnak’s mood seemed to turn sour . Well, in fact, he wasn’t even sure whether it was moody or not . He had never been able to tell its emotions apart as it always talked in a monotonous voice and with a face devoid of expressions .
“Another prominent trait of Omniscient Evil God Qi is how hostility plays a role . It won’t harm the target until they put up a resistance . When that time comes, its strength will explosively increase . The qi works extremely well against magic-type beings as they often have connections by nature, especially those belonging to the same race or species . Even if that isn’t the case, there still exists a method to forcefully establish a connection . ”
“Entice them to use spells of the same kind,” Zarnak replied . “Spells of the same kind of magic naturally link and strengthen each other . The similarity can just be about the spells’ element, but the connection will be quite weak in this case . On the other hand, for establishing a connection between beings of other energy types, you will have to let Omniscient Evil God Qi invade the target’s body before spreading it via qi expansion or psychic power connection, increasing your target from one to hundreds, thousands, or as many as you want . ”
As the conversation was about qi-types, Sila could comprehend some parts of it . He would have to rely on Worlds Crossing Bridge and Cruise Breeze to transmit qi from one target to another . He had never attempted transmitting qi between enemies before, but he got the idea .
“Next, it’s about Omniscient Evil God Qi’s weakness . ”
“Does Omniscient Evil God Qi have a weakness?”
Zarnak replied with the same tone, “If it’s Lucifer who is using it, it doesn’t . However, it’s another story when you’re the user, my amateurish master . It’s you who—”
“Hm?!” Suddenly, Sila let out a yelp, calling for Zarnak’s attention .
“What is it this time?”
“It’s the same word . ’My amateurish master . ’ You have used it once before . ” Sila pointed out what he had noticed .
Zarnak fell silent again, this time longer than before . It quickly searched for a new word . “There shouldn’t be many adjectives left for defining you, my better-invest-your-brain-cells-in-more-important-matters master . Can you just let me finish my explanation without interrupting?”
“Sure, go ahead . Sorry . It just suddenly crossed my mind . ”
“ . . . Omniscient Evil God Qi’s weakness is the fact that it groups targets altogether . When you attack the main target, the damage of your attack will be shared among every target linked by the qi . That means the attack power that is deadly against one will become relatively weak attack power against many . Hence, if you plan to use Omniscient Evil God Qi, you mustn’t hold back . You need to attack with enough strength to kill many enemies rather than just one . ”
“You mean Angelic Flame, right?”
“ . . . and Demonic Flame as well, in the case that you intend to unleash Nirvana Flame . Both flames have to be fused into one . You and your Dark Self have to cooperate . ”
Dark Self’s voice rang out, “With pleasure . In fact, I also have new moves I would like to show you . ”
“Really? You have new moves?” asked Sila .
“You came up with Heaven’s Dismissal’s sword arts by adapting Heaven’s Decree’s sword arts, didn’t you? I, too, came up with new moves using Five-Attributed Cloud Qi as the foundation . My idea formerly couldn’t be put to practical use due to the problem regarding inner force capacity . However, as we have already mastered Flaming Cloud Qi, it now becomes theoretically possible . ”
Sila couldn’t help but feel disappointed . “Theoretically? So you have never used them in real combat, yes?”
“I’m you, so how could I have free time to test them out without you knowing? Just a concept is enough . Sometimes, just changing our method of utilizing power is more than enough for us to improve further . ”
Sila took a deep breath . He controlled the golden qi so that it became more difficult to detect it . The golden aura of qi became fainter as it spread over, starting from a small centipede, a venomous worm, a venomous frog, a viper, to a venomous butterfly . These monsters were small in size and their levels were significantly lower than Sila’s, so he could transmit qi between them at ease .
“Be careful around your two comrades,” warned Zarnak .
Sila manipulated the qi to detour around Chak and Toron, who were waiting for his signal . His control over qi had become excellent after mastering Flaming Cloud Qi . In just half an hour, the entire forest was enveloped by his power .
“Your power will work on small monsters, but not Silver Griffins . What will you do?” asked Zarnak .
“Just forcing them to use a poison-related magic ability is enough, right? It will be easy,” Sila replied as he opened his system window and took a certain item out .
It was a small round greyish pellet .
“This is Venom’s Heart, a medicinal pellet brewed by Franz . She said it can be diluted to produce Cleanse Antidotes . The power within the pellet version is too concentrated . Its effect is poisonous rather than being a medicine . ”
Sila activated Orbiting Cosmos to generate magical flames, vaporizing the pellet . It melted and turned into a black fog . The poison was merging with fire when he clapped his hands .
“Artifact Manifestation . ”
When Sila opened his palms, what came out were hundreds of flame-red butterflies . As he had expected, the result of Artifact Manifestation was correspondent to how he spent his magic power . That was the reason why he had divided the poisonous flames into several small layers . Fortunately, the result came out as flying poisonous insects . It was even better than he had expected .
“Now, go . ”
A group of butterflies flew toward the nest of Silver Griffins . Even Zarnak thought it was a rather smart method . It couldn’t help but be amazed that its master could sometimes come up with a new idea that it couldn’t think of .
Silver Griffins ate nothing but venomous monsters, as that was all they had access to . Encountering a new type of poison, it was natural that they needed to activate their magic ability to develop antibodies . That moment would be when all of the monsters in the forest were bound by the same connection: poison . Sila only needed to unleash his most powerful attack on any of the monsters for his hunt to work .
After waiting for a long time, Sila sensed the Silver Griffins’ magic power that they unleashed to fight off the poison . Looking around, he found an unfortunate centipede near his feet .
In his right palm was Demonic Flame while Angelic Flame was in his left . The more Sila tried to push them together, the more each flame exerted a repelling force to prevent their fusion, as if they were magnets of the same pole . He had to raise his concentration and speed up his qi circulation, rebalancing the powers in both hands .
When he finally managed to clap his hands, the two flames combined and emitted intense golden light, shooting a beam toward the sky, which became the signal Toron and Chak had been waiting for .
The repelling force intensified by several folds . Sila suppressed it, preventing the combined flame from exploding, before quickly lashing his hands on the centipede crawling around his feet .
An instant later, based on Toron and Chak’s testimonies, they swear to God that they saw the Summer Forest glowing golden from every corner . All monsters, no matter how large or small they were, were bathed in golden flames before bursting out, turning into mountains of items scattered throughout the forest . Even they, whose combined item collection speed was unparalleled, failed to collect them all .
Obviously, no one took their words seriously even when they insisted that the absurd scene they had witnessed truly happened .
. . . Come to think of it, even they, the direct eyewitnesses, still couldn’t bring themselves to believe what had unfolded before their eyes .