Indigo’s restaurant resumed operations shortly after the other players confirmed the danger had passed. Burapha, Sila, and Lookhin reunited at the same table less than an hour after they originally split up. They were exchanging intel. Meanwhile, Bluebird was nowhere to be seen as he couldn’t show himself in this city.
Franz was sent off in search of rare herbs to use as ingredients. Meanwhile, Asura and Sebastian were sitting at the table next to Sila’s, discussing things in secret.
For the record, Lookhin had been trying to rub the rune on the back of her hand off ever since a moment ago. However, it didn’t come off no matter how hard she tried. In the end, she quit and focused on eating the Salted-Grilled Bats placed in front of her.
“This is only our first day here, yet so many things have already happened. It seems staying here for too long might not be a good idea,” said Sila.
Within an hour, Burapha had suffered an internal injury while Sila had lost a third of his power. His body was exhausted as if he had been fighting all day.
In addition, Mamon’s rank was demoted to Marquis due to his fight against Clute. He refused to come out from the armor until he finished repairing and upgrading himself, which he said should take at most two days.
“We also don’t know Mister Lomyok’s situation. Will he be okay?” Burapha wondered.
“Lomyok can take care of himself. We don’t have to worry about him. More importantly, what about you, Burapha?” asked Sila.
“I feel weird. My health bar is full, but I still feel uncomfortable as if some kind of negative energy is present in my veins. I can’t expel it no matter what I do. Big Brother Blue suggested that I visit the Medical Saint in the residential zone.”
Sila placed his hand on Burapha’s shoulder and transmitted his qi to inspect the latter’s body.
“Mm... It must be Revin’s qi. It has a similar characteristic to Montra’s. It’s even real-life inner force. You will have a more difficult time expelling it than usual.”
Among the three men from the Sky Dragon Dojo, Revin’s innate talent laid in physical mobility, so qi type was the most suitable for him. Kawin specialized in his calmness. His actions became one with himself, so psychic type would be the best for him. Lastly, Montra had a unique constitution and highly adaptive martial arts, so he was most compatible with a magic-type playstyle.
Even though their inner force—Triple Sky Energy—shared the same origin, each of them polished it differently and pushed it further through their own paths.
Triple Sky Energy was the very foundation of their strengths. Prior to acquiring it, none of them possessed high amounts of inner force due to their young age. They had to rely on the system-generated energy to show off their martial moves.
However, now that they had Triple Sky Energy, they could finally step into the realm of true martial artists who relied on actual inner force.
Indeed, Montra was a true genius of the era. He, who had little to no knowledge regarding the circulation of inner force, could borrow Sila’s Tiger Dragon Qi which had invaded his body and turned it into his asset by using himself as a lab rat. He had endured an unbearable, excruciating pain and slowly comprehended the flow of his opponent’s inner force, then refined it into a whole new qi art that had never existed before on Earth.
Regarding raw power, Triple Sky Energy was inferior to pure qi arts like Flaming Cloud Qi or Tiger Dragon Qi. Nevertheless, its prominent point wasn’t raw strength but its foundation.
Montra firmly believed that the most important factor in learning something was the basics. Triple Sky Energy was born through this ideology. This power wasn’t difficult to practice. The user could feel only a subtle increase in strength in the early days of training. However, its most important trait was that it would evolve itself differently for each user, depending on how they used it.
Triple Sky Energy would refine the user’s inner force into the form that suits them the most. It was the qi art that grows with the user, largely influenced by a matter of patience. No talent or luck was required. Most importantly, it could ultimately become the foundation for practicing other profound arts without any deviation.
Sila removed his hand. “As far as I see it, you have two choices, Burapha. First, let me help you force it out. Second, keep it.”
“What point is there in keeping it, Big Brother?” Burapha asked, feeling greatly confused.
“Umm... If you let me drive it away, you will no longer feel uncomfortable as your body will return to normal. On the other hand, if you keep it, your psychic power will naturally develop a resistance against it. This is a chance for your psychic power to make a breakthrough as it will try its best to strive for survival. However, I’m concerned that this choice will be too risky. This city is extremely dangerous. If you die, your overall strength will drop and you will have a harder time surviving.”
“You’re right, Big Brother. If I die even once and become weaker, the process may repeat and even my rank may fall.”
“That’s not the only concern. Revin’s inner force is real, meaning it will continue to stay in your body even after you die. The system considers it a part of your body. Thus, so long as you can't overcome Revin’s power, your strength will remain stagnant at this level.”
“Eh?! Isn’t that totally weird? It’s not like every player is a profound practitioner. No, even if they are, it’s not like everyone can control their inner force. What if normal players were to get hit by this kind of move? Won’t that be the end of their character? Where is the fairness in this game?”
“You raise a good point. I agree that this aspect is strange. I have never played other virtual reality games before so I always figured it was like this for every game. However, after I investigated it, I found that only this game affects our real bodies to this degree.”
‘For example... Bow’s case. It isn’t normal to allow an underage patient to use a brain scanner as it is too risky for their health,’ Sila thought without saying it out loud.
“Eh? You did an investigation, Big Brother?” Burapha was curious as he didn’t consider Sila the type of person to do that kind of thing.
“Yeah, I looked into it a bit,” Sila replied with a dry smile.
In fact, after he came to know that the game creator was Joshua, his teacher’s acquaintance, Sila had been wondering about the game Monster Soul Online. His curiosity intensified when he encountered his parents, who didn’t behave like AIs at all.
He searched for information due to this curiosity, rather than some obligation as a candidate for the next leader of the Wulin Masters Association. The fact that his personality was undergoing changes and he started to express curiosity showed that Dark Self’s existence was affecting him.
A notification informed Sila of an incoming message. Sila hurriedly checked his inbox and found that it was a response from his teacher, Mora. The message told him to log out five hours from now. The flow of time in the game and in reality was different. That meant Teacher Mora wanted to meet him in an hour, which was rather urgent considering Mora's personality.
“You got a message, Big Brother?” asked Burapha.
“Ah, right. Five hours later, I will have to log out for a while.”
“Log out? Come to think of it, I always see you online all the time, Big Brother. It’s good that you’re going to take a break. How long do you plan to be offline?”
“I don’t think it will be too long. Well, it may take a couple of in-game days. Don’t mind me. How about it, Burapha? Have you made a decision?”
Burapha replied without a moment of delay. “I will keep it, Big Brother. My goal is to go above Revin. If I can’t win against a meager amount of his power, how can I hope to win against him?”
Sila didn’t comment on Burapha’s decision. “Montra, Kawin, and Revin. These three are equally skilled. However, Montra is the most flexible, Kawin is the calmest, and Revin is the wildest. They are all formidable opponents. Remember that we always have the option to flee. There will always be another chance as long as we’re alive.”
“In fact, I wanted to flee, Big Brother, but Revin’s speed surpasses mine. It’s lucky that Big Brother Blue and Mister Kraizer lent me their help this time.”
“Speed isn’t the only factor in a successful escape, Burapha. Well, for this topic, I think you will be better consulting Bluebird. He is the only person who can escape from Zero. Even I’m not confident I can do that.”
“I’m not sure our Sky Emperor will be delighted if he knows people from all over Monster Soul hail him as the best escapee. Hahaha!” Burapha laughed, though his laughter ended early since a familiar voice interrupting him from the stairs.
“Well, that will be the last time you escape from me. I was just a little bit careless.”
Four more men came up to the second floor of the restaurant. Sila instantly recognized three of them. They were Revin who just spoke, Kawin who was walking slowly, and Zero who was becoming the center of attention. As for the last one, Sila had never seen him before.
Burapha quickly stood up from the table. “Revin?”
Revin took out a strap and used it to lazily tie his long hair. He joined Sila’s table without asking for permission. “Calm down, man. Don’t make a fuss in the restaurant. Don’t you know this city’s rules?”
“Revin, we aren’t here to pick a fight. The time and place aren’t right. We will come back later,” Kawin said to Revin.
“Easy, easy, Kawin. It’s a small matter. Sila won’t mind me joining his table, right?” Revin talked like Sila was his close friend. On the other hand, a feeling of disapproval was clearly shown on Kawin’s face.
“I don’t mind. You are free to sit with us,” Sila replied, and Revin shrugged at Kawin as if telling him, ‘See?’
Kawin ignored both of them and sat at another table with the man Sila didn’t know. Meanwhile, Zero approached restaurant’s balcony and stood there, alone.
Burapha sat down as Sila observed Kawin and the stranger—a tall man with a ponytail and amber eyes. The two of them were very prudent. It seemed they were having a conversation through their system windows. As a result, Sila couldn’t eavesdrop on their conversation. In any case, based on the looks on their faces, they seemed to be talking about some serious matters.
“We are here to invite players in Belacia City to join our guild,” Revin said, out of the blue.
“Pardon?” Sila was confused.
“Like you guys are doing, right? Belacia City is full of strong players who can be key assets for the team. No one can overlook their influence in wartime,” Revin explained while using chopsticks to feed himself the Salted-Grilled Bat. He chewed it deliciously. “Oh! it tastes better than it looks.”
“Why are you exposing your intentions to me?”
“What do you mean by exposing? You probably already guessed it before anyway. By the way, recruiting these players isn’t our top priority. Actually...”
“Revin!!” Kawin shouted from the table he was sitting. “What do you think you are doing? Can’t you just sit there silently?”
“Ouch, another lecture. Fine, fine, I won’t talk about this topic.” Revin stuck out his tongue to mock Kawin.
“What do you want, Revin?” Sila directly asked for Revin’s intention behind approaching them.
“Nothing in particular. I just want to know more about you since we have never talked before. How about it? What is your progress on sword training?”
“Sword training?” Sila panicked, though he didn’t express it. Could it be that Montra knew he was practicing Heaven’s Decree Sword Art? How? There should be no way Montra could know about it.
“I’m talking about my Black Dragon Sword. Could it be that you aren’t using it? In that case, can you return it to me?” Revin earnestly and shamelessly stated his request.
Sila released a sigh of relief. ‘Oh, so he meant the Black Dragon Sword. This means Montra really planned to let me practice using a sword, just like Teacher Mora warned me.’
“I must apologize. I already melted that sword down and forged a Chinese sword for Sangdao.”
“Is that so?” Revin didn’t seem to regret it. “Well, it’s cool. Montra is my friend. Sangdao and Montra are considered one and the same. Lucky for me. On their engagement day, I will just tell them that I have already given them my congratulatory gift. Saving some money~”
A cold and dangerous red light faintly flashed through Sila’s eyes. Revin said every word in a kidding manner, so Sila couldn’t read his true aim. In any case, he believed that Revin’s character was deeper than it appeared. His mind, which was usually calm, started to have ripples as if a rock was thrown into a still pond.
“Sigh. And here I thought we could have a duel, swordsman to swordsman. There is no one bad among sword users. Well, it seems this city only has Kraizer. I will snatch his title, Master of Swords, from him soon.”
Revin played with the chopsticks in his hand. He spun them around smoothly and freely. Based on how it looked, Sila could tell that Revin’s control of swords was superior to his by a great margin.
Heaven’s Decree Sword Art focused on directing the flow of nature to cause profound phenomena. There were no specific movements of a sword.
Thus, if disregarding the power borrowed from nature, Sila’s mastery and proficiency of the sword could never hope to rival Revin’s, who had been honing his swordsmanship for years.
Sila found the conversation engaging. “Actually, I can more or less use a sword. Saying that there is no one bad among sword users... isn’t that too extreme? Or are you saying that I’m not a bad guy in your eyes?”
“Let’s see... I’m not like Kawin who blindly hates you following Montra... Oh, sorry, pal.” Revin sent an apologetic gaze at Kawin. “Truthfully speaking, I don’t think you are a bad guy. It’s just that we are standing on opposite sides, so we are enemies. If we met each other in a different situation, we could have become friends instead. Well, let me tell you firsthand that, despite me telling you this, don’t expect me to take pity on you. If we face off, I will not hesitate to hit you as hard as I can with my sword.”
“Why is that?” Sila raised his brows. Revin seemed to possess the most playful and friendly personality out of the three men from the Sky Dragon Dojo.
“Because, when wielding a sword, I will have to clear my thoughts of everything except for the sword. There are no friends or foes, no winning or losing. Only this way can my sword shine the brightest. Every person has their own reason for fighting. Most people say they fight in order to protect something. However, they’re actually all the same. We all have something worth protecting. For some of us, it’s our pride. For others, our loved ones. Some people fight to protect their duty, while some fight to protect their lifestyle. Regardless, when I fight, I must only feel the weight of my sword. There is no need for me to carry someone else’s responsibilities or even mine. Just my sword alone is heavy enough.”
Sila began to understand what kind of man Revin was. On the outside, he appeared to be a playful, mischievous person. However, at his core, he turned out to be a man who saw things through, both objectively and subjectively.
Revin fully understood that each person or organization had their own situation. If two sides with conflicting paths were to face off, discord may occur. At that moment, he wouldn’t ever hold back out of sympathy. Harming someone else in order to reach one’s own goal may seem brutal. However, it is the most natural order of the world. If a certain job is open for recruitment, once someone gets that position, the rest who applied for the same job, be it a hundred or a thousand people, will have lost.
Likewise, only one person can step into the position of the Wulin Lord. Either Montra or Sila could acquire it, not both.
“Now I see why you say there are no bad people among sword users. With your ideology, everyone in this world is considered half good and half bad.”
Revin snapped his fingers. “You get it, right? Only Kawin says I’m weird.”
“Revin, our business here is done. Let’s go.” Kawin stood up, along with the man who accompanied him.
“Eh? I’m not full yet.” Revin placed two gold coins on the table. He used a chopstick to pierce another Salted-Grilled Bat, making it a Grilled Bat Skewer, before following Kawin. “Hm? Zero? Aren’t you gonna go with us?”
Zero didn’t give any reply. He simply stood still. His lack of a response clearly implied that he wanted to stay there.
Kawin had already gone downstairs while Revin stopped his feet on the staircase on the second floor.
“Oh, right, Sila. I also have a bad side. It makes up half of me. And I have told you that I won’t hold back against my foe.”
“Please pass my greetings to Bluebird, will you? Both of you are buddies, right? I saw you enter this city together. I take it that you must have some means of contacting him.” Revin deliberately said it loudly in order to make everyone in the restaurant hear him.
Several hostile gazes were soon directed at Sila and Burapha.
All the people here quickly thought about it and found that what Revin said was highly likely. The alert indicating the appearance of Bluebird rung when Sila had just arrived in the city. Everyone wanted to punish Bluebird from the very beginning, so they wouldn’t overlook even the smallest clue.
Some people searched the game forum and eventually found the connection between Sila and the Blue-Colored Catastrophe, especially in the columns written by the Bluebird himself, which expressed that he and Sila were ‘as close as real brothers’. The killing intent in the restaurant intensified.
The funny thing was, at that time, the words that came to Sila’s mind were ‘Kill With a Borrowed Sword’. It seemed Revin had already unsheathed his blade.
T/N: ‘Kill With a Borrowed Sword’ is one of the Thirty-Six Stratagems, meaning “Attack using the strength of another (in a situation where using one's own strength is not favorable). Trick an ally into attacking him, bribe an official to betray him, or use the enemy's own strength against him.” The idea here is to cause damage to the enemy by getting a third party to do the deed.
Revin’s words were as sharp as his sword and as wild as his sword art. They might seem warm and powerless at first, but fiercely blazed and burned once they erupted.
“See you again, Sila.” Revin bid his farewell as he left.
Obviously, the citizens in Belacia City were aware of the rule not to fight in the restaurant. They paid money for the food and walked outside, waiting in front of the restaurant. Looking below, Sila saw more than twenty people surrounding the building.
Revin’s sword was indeed terrifying. With this first sword, not only did it obstruct Sila from recruiting people to join the union, it also became harder for him to even stay in the city.
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