Chapter 58: Secret of Monster Soul
It took Sila an hour to finish his story. That was because after he had told them about how he had met Montra, Bluebird and Burapha were urging him to tell them what he had done since he first entered the game. Sila told them everything except what happened in the Mansion of Seven Deadly Sins. He didn't forget that his reward would be confiscated if he told anyone. Sila didn't care about his card, but as that was a duo quest, he was more concerned that Lone Wolf's card might get confiscated if he were to tell them.
Because Sila took an hour to tell his story, he missed his chance to reunite with Poluk, Viola, and Divine who had appeared in Lockheart City.
"I finally understand," said Bluebird.
"Hm? What do u understand?" Sila asked.
"Many things. But there are still puzzles left."
"What are they then? Just tell us already. Stop acting like you know everything," Burapha said.
"At least, I now understand the bigger picture more than Sila himself."
"More than me?" Sila wondered. He was the one who told the story. How could Bluebird be confident with saying he understood the story better than Sila?
"Sila still doesn't know the secret of Monster Soul. It isn't strange that you can't connect the dots in your own story."
"Wait. Please stop. Are you sure you're not spouting nonsense here, Big Brother? I can't see how Big Brother Sila's story is related to Monster Soul Online," Burapha argued.
"Is that so? Then, let me ask you this: There are tons of virtual reality games out there. Why did Montra pick this game to play?" Bluebird tried to give a hint.
Sila and Burapha were really curious. Right after the brain-scanning technology had been approved by the masses ten years ago, the era of virtual reality games came. Monster Soul Online was launched two years ago, but it was not very popular due to its degree of freedom being too high. Its level of harshness was just not suitable for everyone to enjoy playing. Despite this, there are still many hardcore players that like it as it is. Hence, even though Monster Soul Online has never been the most popular virtual reality game, it has never fallen from the top ten rankings.
"Is this matter really related to Montra?" Sila asked.
"It is related to all of us," Bluebird said.
"Let me ask one more question. Why do you play this game, Burapha?" Bluebird inquired.
"It's because of my dad. He ordered me to play this game. My home is a lance dojo. My dad was once invited to play this game during its testing period. Once he came back, he suddenly ordered me to play it. Nevertheless, my dream is to become a businessman in real life so I kept declining. I ended up playing it a few months ago though," Burapha answered.
"As for me, I started playing because my friend recommended it to me. He is my sparring partner," Bluebird said.
"I still can't see how all of these things are related to each other," Burapha wondered.
"Let me firstly tell you about Monster Soul. Do you guys know how many years have passed since this game started operating?"
"There will be a celebration campaign for their second anniversary soon, so two years, am I right?" Burapha guessed.
"You're close. Actually, this game has been operating for three years already. It's just that the first year was its closed beta."
"Closed beta shouldn't be included. It was purely for testing the system, wasn't it?" Burapha argued.
"If they just wanted to conduct a normal system testing, how come your dad was invited to participate?" Bluebird pointed out.
Burapha was speechless. Thinking about it, he really couldn't understand the reason. His father also didn't explain anything to him. He just left home for several months until he came back and invited Burapha to play the game as well.
"Is this conversation still about Montra?" Sila asked. He had listened for a long time but still didn't see how things connected to him or Montra.
"Keep listening and you will see soon. What I am about to say is classified information that our guild doesn't sell to anyone. This matter is top secret. There are many people who know about this though."
"Wait, wait. How come there are many people who know about the secret? Isn't this contradicting?" Burapha argued.
"Don't interrupt me, man. Listen to me first. The thing is, this game's creator had a dream to create a lawless virtual reality world. He wanted to build a world that will become a battle stage of monsters. In the end, he was successful in creating a virtual reality world named Monster Soul. However, he discovered that this world was missing something. Although there were vicious monsters and humanoid artificial intelligences, he wasn't satisfied. The thing that was missing was the life."
"The life?" Sila pondered.
"Yes. You can call it the flow, emotion, diversification, life, or anything else. The thing is, the game was lifeless. Despite having the most advanced AI, ultimately, they are just machines. Despite how it seemed like they could think for themselves, their ability to think was merely a product of a machine learning. The game creator wasn't content with his world. Thus, the game began to change.
"The thing that computers cannot replace is humanity. Although humans aren't perfect like machines, isn't that imperfection 'life'? Once he had this idea, he invested a lot of money to contact and invite master-class experts from all over the world to participate in playing this game during the closed beta. Burapha's dad must have been one of them."
This conversation reminded Sila of one thing. Three years ago, his teacher had indeed left the dojo for months. His teacher had mentioned about going to do some business abroad though.
"During the closed beta, the game was much harsher than how it is currently. There were no levels, health points, or system windows. Only personal ability mattered. The game creator had collected such data and later implemented the skill system.
"As you may know, using a brain scanner affects the user's physique. The brain, mind, and physique are connected to each other. If the brain registers pain, the physique will also feel pain even if there is no external wound. In other words, if the brain thinks the body is being developed, the physique will also be developed."
"You mean, if we keep playing this game, one day we will become superhuman?" Burapha asked.
"You have been reading too much manga. How can such a thing be possible? What I am trying to say is, this game can help you gain experience that you can't obtain in real life. There is a risk of dying in actual combat but you can die anytime in this game. Don't you agree that this game is very suitable for practicing actual combat?"
"You're right. Some techniques of martial arts are too dangerous to be used on a real person, meaning the user can't properly learn it or improve it. However in this game, you can freely use them," Sila agreed.
"That's correct. So, after the closed beta had ended, there were many experts that didn't want to return to their home but wanted to continue playing this game."
Burapha couldn't comprehend the thoughts of those experts, but Sila could fully understand. He said, "I can understand them. To us martial artists, there is always the longing to fight against a skilled opponent. Therefore, a world where we can fight for real without having to hold back, where there are tons of monsters, where there are experts all over the world gathering, it is like heaven. No one would want to leave such a place."
"That's true. Though, not all of them decided so. Sixty percent of those people have family or important matters that required their return to take care of. Nevertheless, the game creator created the AIs based on their personalities. Although they are not as talented as the originals, they are enough to be their substitutes. As for those who decided to stay, if they remained as players, the normal players would have no way of competing with them. Thus, the game creator defined roles for each of them to play."
"Yes. A role regarding the backstory of Monster Soul. These roles would prevent them from leaving some place or forcing them to perform some duties. However, outside the restrictions befalling on them, they can do whatever they want. These people are called independent NPCs.
They're kind of like the individual players who aren't affiliated with any guilds. The independent NPCs are not controlled by the system. This aspect makes this game more complex and realistic, which is what the game creator wanted."
"I still can't see how this story is related to Montra though," Sila said.
"You're looking at the leaf without seeing the tree, and looking at the tree without seeing the forest. The related thing is, those experts are influential people in real life and tend to have tons of disciples. Most veteran players in this game are either those who know nothing of this game's history or those who had it suggested to them by others. Based on Sila's story, Montra is likely to be the latter."
"Regarding Montra's reason for playing this game, I don't see how it is connected to Big Brother Sila," Burapha argued again.
"It is surely connected. This world is the center of reality's battleground, so Montra being the strongest player is like saying he is more skilled than other martial artists. Most people wouldn't dare to offend such a person. Sila, aren't you curious how your teacher has been missing for many days, yet there aren't any clues? This is because many people are on Montra's side.
"Be it the real world or Monster Soul's world, there is one fact that will always be true. Power reigns over everything. In the real world, power might come in many forms like wealth or fame. But in Monster Soul, only strength matters."
"But this is only a game. How can real life be related?" Burapha couldn't help but argue once again.
"This world might be nothing but a game in your opinion. For many other players however, this game is a reality and the reality is instead just a game for them. This game is too real. People deeply immerse themselves in it. For those who don't want to be Montra's in-game enemy, they would feel the same in real life. Among them are influential people in real life and are likely to have authority over a trivial investigation into a missing person."
Sila was speechless and didn't know what to do next. At first, he just wanted to get revenge on Montra. Later, he changed his plan to ask for his teacher's whereabouts before obtaining his revenge. How come the problem had become this complex?
"There is a solution to this problem though," Bluebird said.
"Is there a solution?" Sila wondered. The issue seemed too big for him to handle alone.
"The solution is simple yet difficult.
"The simple part is, you just have to defeat Montra in a fair fight. The majority would change their standing and become yours. Montra uses his single hand to cover the sky, declaring himself as the strongest in Monster Soul. His distinctive point is that he has never lost in a battle. However, this is also his weakness. If he loses even once, his sphere of influence would collapse. There will be no more support from others. After that happens, it will depend on what you would like to do next."
"What is the hard part?"
"The hard part is the same thing as the simple part. Montra has never lost in a battle because he is a genius fighter. I despise Montra's face too but I have to admit that his superior fighting ability is real. He is among the earliest players of this game. Based on our guild's latest information, Montra is currently at Marquis Rank, level 1000. He has yet to choose an element so he can use spells of all elements. Despite that, he miraculously possesses hundreds of high-tier spells. He has also learned and mastered more than thirty types of martial arts. He is a genius among geniuses. Other early players like him cannot achieve half of what he does."
"Martial arts, more than thirty types!?" Burapha exclaimed.
Sila was as shocked as Burapha. There are many martial arts in this world, each of them different from each other like languages. Some are similar, while some are completely different. For Montra who had mastered thirty types of martial arts, it wasn't the least bit exaggeration to hail him as a genius fighter.
Silence fell over the group. Sila felt like he was facing a very big hurdle; a mountain named Montra that was too tall for him to see the top. Sila couldn't help but inwardly question: if Montra was this skilled, why did he have to play dirty in the match? Sila might not have been Montra's worthy opponent even if that was a fair match. Is this related to how his teacher went missing?
"Well, don't stress yourself out. Don't just focus on the end of the road. Try solving the problem bit by bit. The problem will eventually become smaller." Bluebird hit Sila's shoulder.
"I just realized how serious the problem that Big Brother Sila faces is. Anyway, I will try to help you, at least financially. A huge amount of money might be needed to pick a fight with a large guild like the Heaven Dragon guild," Burapha said.
"As for me, I'm poor and broke. But I know a lot of people. I will try searching for your teacher's whereabouts," Bluebird said.
"Really? Can you do that?" Sila wondered.
"I also have some connections even in real life. I might find some clues if I'm lucky."
Sila smiled. "Thanks, you two. I will surely return this favor."
"The gratitude is accepted, but the return is not. For friends, helping each other is natural," Bluebird said, which Burapha nodded in agreement.
The first assembly of these three players was the beginning of a new legend that would cause the world of Monster Soul to undergo a drastic change in the future.