Late the next morning, on a certain route southeast from Zhongsuyuan City, a disguised Burapha and a group of Mountain Thieves League members were waiting for Sila’s arrival . They used this time to recheck their belongings and the condition of the convoy .
There were four carriages, each with two horses . Three of them were for carrying products while the last was for passengers . Everything was prepared by the Mountain Thieves League . For them to be able to pull it off on such short notice, Burapha couldn’t help but admire the League’s motto, Achieve the Impossible .
The latecomer finally showed up . However, Sila wasn’t alone . There were three people accompanying him . One of them was Vata, whom Burapha remembered was Varee's older sister . As for the remaining two, they were people Burapha had never met .
“You’re quite late, Big Brother,” Burapha started the greeting .
“I’m sorry . I happened to have many things to take care of . I also went and recruited more people . How about it? Is everything ready?”
“Overall, it's pretty okay . Do you have any concerns?”
“Did Mamon come by and install the air conditioner?” Sila asked . This matter was of utmost importance . He was prepared to postpone the schedule if this hadn’t been done .
Burapha opened one of the passenger carriage’s doors . Cool air immediately poured out as if they were inside a room with an air conditioner .
“Mamon stopped at dawn . In addition to this carriage, the ones holding products also had one installed . By the way, what is the point of the air conditioner?”
The carriages already had coolers that could keep raw food fresh for a long time . There was no need for such a thing like an air conditioner .
“I can’t go into details yet . In any case, if someone asks, just tell them that we aren’t used to the heat, or claim that it helps keep the food fresh, or whatever excuse you think will work . Just tell them that it’s a prototype . If anyone is interested, tell them we’ll consider making ones for sale later . ”
Sila observed the convoy . “By the way, isn’t it strange for us to suddenly show up near the destination?”
Burapha was quick to answer, “No worries, Big Brother . The Mountain Thieves League already made fake trails for us . If someone investigates, they will find that we started the journey five days ago . There are many eyewitnesses seeing us departing from Lockheart City . If they follow our trails, they will simply find traces of many of our resting spots along the route . We even have a letter of recommendation with the signature of the Merchants Association and Children of the Sea’s leader . ”
Sila nodded understandingly before introducing the people accompanying him . “Oh, let me introduce these people . They’re guildless players and also Miss Vata’s friends . This guy is Asava, and this is his little brother, Vlad . They’ll be joining us in the operation . Everyone, this person is Burapha . ”
Asava was a humble-looking man . His gaze was filled with a warmth that induced good feelings from others . Mysteriously, even though the man was quite handsome, Burapha still thought that Asava was rather plain with no outstanding features . If someone were to ask him to describe Asava, Burapha would have nothing to say except ‘He is a polite-looking guy . ’
On the other hand, Asava’s little brother, or rather Vlad, stood out much more . He was short, with his height only reaching Burapha’s shoulder . However, he had a grim aura around him, as if he were a blackhole preparing to devour anything in sight . His eyes were icy, displaying his unfriendliness and utmost caution . It was as if he always stayed on guard .
“Hello, Burapha . I’ve heard a lot about you from Sila . It’s nice to finally meet you . ” Asava greeted him in a friendly manner .
As for Burapha, he had never heard Sila mention anything about the two newcomers . In any case, he politely returned the greeting .
“Ah, me too . It’s nice to meet you . ”
Sila examined the air conditioner and found that it worked exactly as he had requested . Its appearance was a bit off though . Nevertheless, such a thing wasn’t important . Apparently, regarding inventions, relying on Mamon was always a good idea .
“What about Clute?”
“Clute arrived at dawn . He came together with Mamon, to be exact . He is in the hidden room . As for Mamon, I don’t know where he went . ”
Burapha reopened the door to the carriage and led Sila inside . The inside was bigger than what it appeared to be when looking from the outside . It was a common occurrence in Monster Soul though, so Sila was no longer surprised .
“Big Brother Sila, your reputation is too distinguished . Even if you wear a disguise, there will be a risk if they perform a detailed inspection . That was why I asked for a carriage with a hidden room . Look here . ”
Burapha tapped his foot on the floor three times, then a wooden door slid open . The room below was a small compartment that ten or so people could fit in . Clute was waiting there .
“You should hide down there . If they perform an inspection, please do your best to conceal your presence . By the way, about your friends . . . ” Burapha shifted his gaze to Vata, Asava, and Vlad .
Sila waved his hand, indicating that there wouldn’t be a problem . “No worries . Everyone can take care of themselves . Shall we go now?”
Burapha nodded . “Yes . Now that you’ve come, we’re ready to take off . Our destination is a recently constructed building in the city that we’re renting . ”
Sila, Asava, Vlad, and Himeko went downstairs . Meanwhile, Clute did the opposite as he wanted to take in the scenery . The other members of the team began to take their places inside the carriage . Before he closed the hidden passage, Burapha gave Sila a piece of paper .
“This is the latest information about Zhongsuyuan City, including the current relationships between various factions as well as the hierarchy, all of which was obtained by the Mountain Thieves League and the Blue Pigeon Guild, so you can trust the accuracy of this information . It includes a map with locations where you can hide as they belong to the Mountain Thieves League . Please take your time studying it, Big Brother . ”
The hidden door was closed . Soon, the convoy began to move . The hidden room was a small room with no lights . In the center of the room was a table with a candle on it . Sila pointed his finger at the tip of the candle, igniting a fire .
As the convoy slowly advanced, the atmosphere in the hidden room became more serious . Just to be safe, Sila exerted qi to block sounds from escaping the room .
Sila roughly skimmed through the paper before giving it to Asava . “This is the same as what I got from Bluebird last night . You can have it . ”
Asava swept his gaze down the paper . Sila sensed that the man was utilizing a dark art . He guessed it must be a part of Sage of the Six Disasters, Gambled Disaster, which was about possibility calculation . The entire map and all of the safe spots were quickly engraved into Asava's brain . In addition, he could define the structure of the relationships between denizens in Zhongsuyuan City in a short period of time . It greatly resembled the Cloud Part of Flaming Cloud Qi . Maybe it had to do with the fact that both arts originated from the same place, the Hell’s Gate Islands .
Asava passed the paper to Himeko, who also took a very short time reading . Based on how it looked, Sila guessed she didn’t depend on any arts . It must be her personal specialty . The Heaven’s Heiress’ main duty is covert operations, so the ability to quickly memorize and make use of information was to be expected .
Lastly, the paper was given to Vlad . The young man only looked at some parts before placing it in his pocket . Maybe it was because his role was different from others .
It was Sila who had requested their assembly, which was the reason why he came late . In any case, with the whole crew present, he was more than confident about the operation to raid Zhongsuyuan City .
“I haven’t told you the details yet, but the reason why I asked everyone to be here is that this raid will largely depend on us four . This time, the people of the Hell’s Gate Islands will take action together, seizing the first victory of the second war event . ”
The phrase ‘people of the Hell’s Gate Islands’ seemed to brighten Asava’s mood as it implied that Sila thought of himself as a part of the family .
“No problem . I’m sure that you already have a good plan, Sila . In any case, let’s discuss it to see if there’s any way to improve it . ”
Sila didn’t know whether Asava sincerely meant it or simply doubted his plan . Because, in a sense, Asava was practically asking him to tell them the plan . In any case, Asava’s tone wasn’t offensive at all, so he wasn't sure .
Sila nodded . “Mn . I already have an idea about how to approach this . However, I want to know how members of the Hell’s Gate Islands operate and complete the missions they receive . Can you elaborate?”
Himeko and Vlad looked at Sila briefly before shifting their gazes to Asava almost simultaneously . By telling Sila’s their procedures, that would mean revealing secrets known only to Kimon’s members which even the people of the Wulin Masters Association weren’t aware of .
Asava simply smiled . “Sila, you’re like our brother, so I always planned to tell you when the time was appropriate . It’s just that I didn’t expect you to want to know about them now . As you already know, our organization is one that lives in the underground world and carries out assassinations . We also have a cover for appearances’ sake, but as it is totally unrelated to what we are going to do, please forgive me for not telling you about it now . You have my word that, when everything is finished, I will personally bring you to visit every single one of our branches .
“Basically, after our business had been shut down by the Demon God Zenga, our revenue plummeted as no one hired us . As a result, we had to accept jobs without middlemen under different names . Even then we still made quite a bit of money . No matter what the state of the world is, assassination is always a profitable business . ”
Sila considered what Asava said . “Didn’t you tell me that the Hell’s Gate Islands were struggling financially? Since you continued your jobs despite being officially shut down and you said the profit was good, why did you say that you were broke?”
Asava responded to Sila’s question with a bitter laugh . The other two’s expressions also subtly changed .
“Hahaha . This is one of the most ridiculous jokes, Sila . Based on your question, I take it that you’re unaware of how the Wulin Masters Association handles its finances . ”
“It seems so . Can you please explain to me, then?”
“Certainly . The Wulin Masters Association’s objective is to pass on profound arts, preventing them from being forgotten . Basically, they will give support to every dojo, regardless of whether the targeted dojo is rich or poor . However, Sila, the world runs on money . Everything needs money to be done . Obviously, money can’t be created out of nothing, so the association collects money from every dojo and distributes it back, depending on each dojo’s financial status . It’s a tax-like system where the rich support the poor .
“The funny part is that, even though the Wulin Masters Association shut down the Hell’s Gate Islands, they still ask us to pay them . Moreover, according to the regulations, the Hell’s Gate Islands was founded for solving the association’s crisis . In the current situation where the association is quite chaotic, we have been asked to pay ten times the usual amount . They completely ignore whether we have any way of paying it or not . ”
Sila found Asava’s joke depressing . “And . . . the Hell’s Gate Islands chose to pay?”
“We don’t have a choice . The money is for protecting ourselves . If we don’t pay, the association will label us as rebels, giving them an excuse to eliminate us . While it’s true that we have what it takes to deal a significant blow to the association, it’s also true that the association possesses the strength to permanently annihilate us . ”
“I will change this . I promise,” Sila declared this in response, and truly meant it .
However, Asava seemed nonchalant about it . “You don’t need to promise anything . Just don’t forget that we are siblings . For assassins like us, we only have each other to rely on . Betraying family members is a grave crime . The Flaming Cloud Dojo doesn’t get much respect from the Hell’s Gate Islands because the Demon God Zenga betrayed us despite the fact that it was us who had carried him forward to become the Wulin Lord . It’s your role to fix this problem; regain our trust . Don’t let history repeat itself . ”
“I understand . ”
“Let’s return to talking about how the Hell’s Gate Islands handle missions . As I said, I will skip administration procedures for now . Regarding assassinations, we divide them into four kinds according to each Island Master’s specialty . However, it became three after the Demon God Zenga’s generation, as Flaming Cloud Qi was no longer something we could rely on .
“For spying, instigation, agitation, or the kind of jobs that are about pinning the blame on someone close to the target, they would be done by Heaven’s Heiress . As for the jobs that need to demoralize or terrorize a target, they would be the Earthbound Reaper’s responsibility . Lastly, regarding the jobs that need a variety of skills or when the client wants it to look like an accident, they would become the Eminent Immortal’s duty . ”
“What about the Demon God? What was his role in the past?” Sila couldn’t help but be curious .
“My teacher told me that, in the past, the Demon God’s duty was to complete the impossible jobs . It’s said that, at a high level of mastery, Flaming Cloud Qi can burn even the ashes of its victims to nothingness and it possesses various utilization methods, as many as the number of shapes a cloud can take in the sky . It’s also said that the jobs handled by the Demon God had the highest success rate . ”
There was one more thing which Asava didn’t explain to Sila . According to the law, a murder case can be regarded as such only when there is a corpse . Even when they used the Corpse-Disposing Powder, there would still be traces left to investigate . However, the high-level Flaming Cloud Qi could obliterate literally anything, including the victim’s DNA . It would appear as if the victim had simply been spirited away from the world . It was the reason why people of the underground world always respected and feared the Demon God . He was an existence untouchable by laws of the normal world .
The generation where the Demon God Zenga was crowned as the Wulin Lord was one of the greatest times for the Wulin Masters Association . No one could stand up to his power . However, the generation after he left consequently became the worst era for the association .
The convoy came to a stop . It was likely that they had arrived at the immigration checkpoint . The four were naturally aware that this was a critical moment . Sila snapped his fingers, putting off the flame on the candle to prevent the light from reaching outside the room .
No signals were required between them . Sila, Asava, Vlad, and Himeko simultaneously closed their eyes and suppressed their auras . Even their breathing was as faint as that of a small creature .
They caught the conversation between Burapha and the guards . Zhongsuyuan City didn’t have tight security like Siaferia City . The guards mainly used qi perception for inspections . Unfortunately for them, the four lurkers in the hidden room were the heirs of the best assassins in the world . Preventing an amateur’s detection ability from noticing them was as easy as breathing for members of Kimon .
It seemed that the entry process was going well . Everything went so smoothly that Sila almost let out a sigh of relief . The convoy started to move again . Finally, they were about to safely enter Zhongsuyuan City with no problems whatsoever .
However, when the convoy had only advanced a few meters, a certain voice rang out and put an end to their efforts .
“Oh? Isn’t that Burapha? Why are you dressed like that? Is it a new fashion trend?”
Sila inwardly lamented destiny . It was exactly like that old saying; the planning lies with man, but the outcome lies with Heaven .
He had never imagined that they could come this far and successfully pass through the checkpoint, only to have everything thrown into chaos by Lomyok .