The vast Zhongsuyuan City was reduced to nothingness, with only the ground left intact . The numerous pine trees, which symbolized the city, were all gone . Still, it took only a minute for some buildings to reappear out of thin air, showing up in their usual spots . These buildings were essential, such as the hotel and the quest building, so they were set to quickly regenerate .
The sky was still pitch black, so the light emitting from inside the buildings was especially bright . Now that the situation had calmed down, Sila finally found the time to wonder about the sudden darkness from earlier that was still present .
“Come to think of it, what happened? Why did it suddenly become so dark?”
“Probably the effect of someone’s spell . Well, to be able to darken the entire New World, the spellcaster must be very powerful,” Mamon guessed halfheartedly . His expression became serious as he was thinking of a certain person in his past . This shady phenomenon was quite familiar to him .
Opening a system window, Julia flipped it for Sila to read, together with giving him another bottle of potion . “Please take a look at this, Master . ”
Receiving the potion from Julia, Sila recalled Sebastian was a major potion distributor . Potions were abundant . For what reason should he waste time slowly circulating qi? Thus, he unreservedly drank the potion and took a look at the screen . It displayed a quest announcement provided by the system .
“Wanted: Light Stealer - Dead or Alive?”
Strictly speaking, the quest shouldn’t have been issued under normal circumstances . Nevertheless, the game management team deemed the darkness too impactful if left unchecked for a long time during the war event, so they generated a world quest, helping players to understand what was happening and how to solve the problem . Since the system had technically revealed the solution, the rewards for completing the quest got downgraded slightly to compensate for the reduced difficulty .
The storyline of the quest was that a strange situation had occurred . It caused the Light Stealer, who had been imprisoned in Hell, to escape to the New World . It used to be an Emperor Rank monster, but its rank got demoted to Marquis upon its escape . Considering its rank and the fact that it just got its freedom back, still in its weakened state, most players would have a shot at defeating it .
The quest clear conditions were split into two parts . The first was to reclaim the natural light, which could be done by breaking the Light Orb it kept in its mouth . Meanwhile, the second one was optional . It was to capture the Light Stealer and tame it as a pet . For the record, opportunities to tame a monster from the Monster Realm were insanely rare . Still, the system reminded players that since the Light Stealer was an escapee, if it was killed, it wouldn't respawn in the New World but return to Hell .
Strangely enough, while it sounded interesting to have a rare monster as a pet, players didn’t pay much attention to the second reward . The reasons were simple . Monsters were hard to tame and even harder to utilize . In addition, catching a Marquis Rank monster was a difficult feat .
It was the first reward that players desired . The one who brought natural light back to the world would obtain a magic-type passive skill, “Child of Light,” which grants the skill bearer access to an unlimited amount of light-element mana as long as they are under sunlight . How well the skill bearer can make use of this ability depends on their rank and level though .
“The Light Stealer? So it’s that jerk,” Mamon said to no one in particular, but it got Sila’s attention .
“Do you know them, Mamon?”
Mamon slightly lowered his head, making it hard to see his expression, as he replied, “I was the one who sent that jerk to Hell . Her name is Quasar, the Eclipse Fish . ”
Suddenly, everyone in the group sensed a disturbing vibe from the atmosphere . The surrounding darkness twirled, forming a massive silhouette with a strange shape . A big pair of black eyes, which were darker than anything they had ever seen, and a long, razor-sharp mouth appeared, floating in the air .
“Gigigi! Still remember my name, Mammon, my dear friend? Me too . Your appearance changed a lot though . ” The malignant voice, which was as disgusting as Mamon’s, rang out .
Sila tried to detect the speaker’s exact location but failed . It wasn’t that he couldn’t sense her though . Rather, he sensed her from everywhere . It was like the darkness in the area itself was her—a shapeless, fog-like monster .
“Don’t waste your time searching . She is a magic-type technician who specializes in the dark element . She can thoroughly hide in the dark, and that’s the reason why she hates the light . In fact, her title, the Light Stealer, came from her habit of rapidly swallowing the light from various places . She is the number one backbiter of the Monster Realm . ”
“You overpraise me, my dear friend . I’m no match for you in that regard . For it was you who managed to kill me in my moment of carelessness . ”
“I have no friends,” Mamon replied as he waved his hand, sending a bombardment of laser beams toward the surrounding darkness . Sadly, the lasers quickly faded away as if they had been swallowed by a black hole .
Annoyed, Mamon clicked his tongue . Back then it was Clute, then this time it was Quasar . The New World was supposed to be a peaceful place full of resources he could use to form the mightiest army, for the quest of conquering the Monster Realm in the future . However, his old foes kept popping up one after another .
Sila decided to try attacking as well . He brandished a qi sword at the foggy silhouette . His attack landed on nothing though .
“Quasar is sly . She is aware that she has no hope of winning . There is no way she will reveal her true body,” Mamon scoffed .
Her rank might have been demoted, but her wisdom and experience were still fully intact . Even though her stats were low, it wouldn’t be a smart idea to underestimate her .
Quasar was one of Mamon’s formidable rivals . The two of them were born in the same era and the same small pond in the Monster Realm . Both of them were sly and wicked, having a lot of bad habits . Sometimes they would help each other and sometimes they would use each other, never hesitating to use whatever methods they could to further their own cause, be it extortion, physical force, or simply betraying their comrades . They made their ways up from being small creatures to becoming the heirs to the Devil World—the figures that no one dared to offend .
They shared a common goal—becoming the true sovereign . As time passed and the goal was finally within their sight, their history of backbiting began . They both put on a pretense of being closest friends while going behind each other’s back whenever there was a chance . The situation lasted for dozens of years before the victor was finally decided . Mamon emerged victorious, sitting on the throne as the Devil Prince and reigning supreme in the Devil World . As for the loser, it was natural that their story would be forgotten . The name Quasar was erased from the Devil World’s history . Just mentioning her name was a sin .
Quasar’s physical body was that of a small blackfish, mostly swimming in a metaphoric lake called ambient mana . Her innate magical ability had the attribute to contaminate other sources of power, weakening her opponent’s power and also polluting the ambient mana . If one were to borrow the power of nature without noticing this, their flesh would be torn from the inside by her magical slash .
“Magic ability?” Sila snapped his fingers as an idea formulated in his mind . His right hand glowed with a golden aura, which he then used to smash the darkness .
“Gi!!!” A weird scream rang out from afar, followed by a thud . Silently shifting his gaze to where the sound came from, Sila noticed a small fish squirming in pain on the ground . It coughed, releasing the Light Orb from its mouth .
“ . . . Omniscient Evil God Qi!! How are you related to Lucifer? Who the hell are you?!”
Admittedly, Quasar looked surprisingly cute to Sila’s eyes, though that might be because of her low rank . She was an odd fish with smooth and slimy black scales, similar to a snake or an eel . Her pair of eyes were round and clear . Her two fins, which must represent her hands, were flapping against the ground .
Quasar panicked and quickly gathered her own magic power, instead of using ambient mana like she always did, and floated up . At that moment, however, Mamon vanished and reappeared behind her back . There was no friendly greeting .
“Die again, you damn jerk!”
Quasar expanded her body size, forming a cloud of black smoke . Cutting through it with a laser blade, Mamon found out that she had successfully gone into hiding again . What his laser blade connected with was merely her clone, made of magic power, which reacted to the attack by changing its form into a dagger and flying at Mamon’s face . This level of threat was nothing to Mamon, though it did annoy him .
Out of nowhere, a mysterious object dived from the sky toward the city’s square, in the same manner that Sila and the Lamentable Dragon had shown up before .
“Wah~! What is happening?” A familiar sound could be heard . Lomyok was descending, his arms holding a small puppy . He landed precisely on the Light Orb lying on the ground .
A flash of light illuminated from it, spreading everywhere and blinding everyone present . The entire New World was brightened, along with the return of the moon and stars . What followed was a system announcement, stating that the first part of the world quest had ended .
“I can finally return! I was right to follow that black thing that slipped out of the box . ” Lomyok nodded to himself .
“Tch . ” Mamon clicked his tongue, feeling upset . A small commotion just now had allowed Quasar to swim away . Given how sly she was, the next time she reappeared wouldn’t be until she was confident that she could kill him . No, her personality was more wicked than that . Instead of killing him right away, she would constantly ruin his plan . It was troublesome . It seemed one more obstacle to his grand plan to conquer the world had appeared .
Still, he could do nothing, at least for now, so he dismissed the concern . Mamon gave a word of goodbye to Sila and soon left with Seraphine, leaving Sila, Julia, and Lomyok—who was still holding the puppy—behind .
The previous system announcement brought a flood of complaints from numerous players . How could they not be upset? The quest had been active for less than an hour . They were in the middle of researching the information regarding the Light Stealer—such as its identity, appearance, history, or how to fight it . Even before they got their hands on any impactful discovery, however, the quest suddenly ended .
Sila heard the sound of a commotion from a distance . It seemed players were entering the city, with most of them being the Victorious Wolves Sect’s members who had been out of his Fist of Reversal’s effective range and managed to escape from it . He contemplated his options for a short moment . Spotting the Information Building, he eventually rushed inside, followed by Lomyok and Julia .
“Why are you following me?” Sila asked as he noticed Lomyok running behind him .
“Well, people are coming and things are likely going to be hectic . While I do love it when people praise me for my handsomeness, I don’t like chaotic situations . Seeing you flee, I think it’s a good example to follow,” Lomyok replied and he honestly meant it . He liked being the center of attention but dreaded being pulled back and forth by his fans .
As they entered the building together, a certain NPC walked up to them .
“Hello, Mister Sila . We meet again . ” Dan, the NPC responsible for bestowing system-generated abilities, greeted Sila .
“Hello,” Sila greeted him back, no longer paying attention to Lomyok .
“Hm? Mister Lomyok? You have been here before, haven’t you? Do you have further questions?” asked Dan .
“Eh . No . I just want to hide for a while . I will exit when things have calmed down . ”
Dan frowned . “Eh . . . Okay, sir . Please wait in the lobby though . Mister Sila, please come this way . ”
Lomyok nodded before sitting down on a couch, the puppy on his lap . Julia also accompanied him . For the record, as long as players didn’t enter the Information Building at the same time, they would end up in different lobbies . Thus, Sila and Lomyok didn’t have to worry about accidentally running into unwelcome guests .
Following Dan to the inside, Sila couldn’t resist his urge to glance back at the puppy on Lomyok’s lap with a strange feeling . Maybe it was just his imagination, but the puppy’s appearance looked just like the wild pups commonly found around the Town of Beginnings . He was surprised to find out that it could also be found on the Main Continent .
The room inside looked the same, which wasn’t surprising since Dan had explained to him that it was the exact same room, just connecting to different places through dimensional gates .
“I take it that you’re here today to receive Art of Qi, right, Mister Sila? Do you want an explanation regarding how to obtain it? It’s the same as Art of Magic though . ”
Sila shook his head . “There’s no need . I remember it . ”
“Well, let’s not waste our time, then . ”
Dan waved his hand, and the floor beneath Sila glowed for a brief moment before it faded away . Summoning a system window, Dan read the contents and scratched his head, a look of confusion written on his face .
Noticing such a look, Sila asked, “Is there a problem?”
“Ah, nothing . I’m just surprised at the analysis . Your playstyles are quite . . . unique . Back then it was magic . Not many players tend to use magic in melee range as you do . Your usage of qi is just as odd . I can’t help but wonder what your Art of Psychic will be like . ”
Sila opened his system window, taking a look at his main qi skill .
(S) Flaming Cloud Qi — Transcendent Rank
Qi with the great power of fire, melting various qi into one . The user can consume the maximum value of their health points in order to unleash tyrannical flames .
Flaming Cloud Qi shares characteristics with psychic and magic power .
***When in battle, you will gain special points every time you take damage, restoring a tenth of the amount of damage as special points .
“The damage I have taken will be converted to special points?”
The newly acquired Art of Qi astonished Sila .
Dan explained the system’s analysis to Sila, “The system remarked that you frequently had to suffer heavy injuries before you used your full power . With this Art of Qi, your special points will be recovered by a tenth of the amount of damage you have taken, allowing you to fight for a longer time . ”
“Really? Have I always been using qi in that manner? I never realized . ”
“Well, the system didn’t determine your Art of Qi based on the frequency alone . It also took the level of importance into account . One epic battle would weigh more than a hundred lame fights . ”
“I see . ”
“That should conclude everything, sir . Let’s meet again in Siaferia City . Just so you know, I like war events . I’m a secret fan rooting for the Wicked Union . I wish you luck . ” Dan smiled at Sila .
“Thank you very much . See you again in the Kingdom of Android . ”
Sila politely bid Dan farewell, which the man returned . Dan was an NPC, so he had to be impartial . Nevertheless, he was deeply interested in how the Wicked Union would win against the Heavenly Dragon Guild . Based on what he knew, Sila’s situation hadn’t changed since the start of the war .
Well, it might have become better, albeit by a very slight margin .
“With this victory, I guess he will stay delighted until tomorrow morning . I hope he won’t lose heart when he hears the news . ” Dan took a look at the war status screen, which was exclusive to only system NPCs . It updated war-related situations in real-time .
Apparently, Montra made his moves at the same time Sila did . While Sila was raiding Zhongsuyuan City, Montra used an unexpected method to perform two large-scale ambushes . Surprisingly, the manner of his ambushes was similar to Sila’s in the sense that he didn’t utilize his main army to avoid being spied . The large army of Heavenly Dragon Guild stationing in Lafesta City was simply a decoy .
Montra’s performance was even more outstanding than Sila’s though . While Sila mobilized a small raid party to destroy Zhongsuyuan City, Montra split his force into two . The first was himself, and the other was a human who had never made an appearance before other players—the Magic Kingdom’s Hidden Ruler, or rather the King of Spells, who was rumored to be the strongest human-race NPC .
Both of them were Level 1,000 Emperor Rank . Magic type regarded ranks as a huge and crucial factor, more so than the other two types did . Sila, who wasn’t aware of the depth of magic type, had no way to predict the outcome of Montra’s raids .
Qi and psychic type can do something that magic type can’t . The opposite is true, however . There is something that only the magic type can do that the other two can’t replicate .
Sila started small, delivering the first blow to Montra’s weakest link—the relatively weak city, Zhongsuyuan City . For Montra, however, his strategic advance was like a throwing spear—flying directly toward the goal . His ambushes targeted his opponent’s most vital point that would end their life in one go . When the news of his feats reached Sila the next morning, Sila would belatedly discover that both the northernmost Belacia City and the southernmost Island of Beginnings were already in danger .
It would be the first time Sila was made aware of the art of war’s significance . Waging war didn't necessarily mean attacking using brute force or implementing tactics . His arch-rival would be the one who personally taught him a lesson, albeit with an enormous cost, that “winning without fighting” is the greatest strategy of them all .